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Rom. viii., 7, 8. The Apostle James declares that the wisdom of this world “is earthly, sensual
, and devilish.” And, finally, St. John assures us that “ the whole world lieth in wickedness." The testimony that these writers have borne to the wickedness and corruption of the human heart, is in accordance with the uniform doctrine of the Bible. On this doctrine rests the whole scheme of redemption ; for the most striking feature of the Christian system is its remedial character. If mankind are not essentially corrupt, they need not to be regenerated ; if they are not lost, they need not to be saved. This doctrine, then, is interwoven into the whole Christian system, and forms one of the leading and essential doctrines of the gospel.
3. As a further confirmation of the truth of this doctrine, we appeal to the universal experience of all good men. Job says, “ I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes ;” and David, “ Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Isaiah exclaims, “Wo is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips.” The Apostle Paul, in his letter to Titus, observes, "For we ourselves, also, were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” And speaking of himself, and the Christians at Ephesus, he says: “ We were by nature children of wrath, even as others." The New Testament writers, furthermore, teach us that the primitive Christians were reformed characters. The apostle, in his letter to the Corinthians, after declaring that “ Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor theives, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God;" he then adds, “Such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” " For the time past of our life may suffice us,” says Peter, “ to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banqueting, and abominable idolatries; wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you; who shall give an account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead." In this passage the apostle plainly declares, that the primitive Christians, before they were converted, lived under the dominion of sin; and that, by conversion to Christianity, they were transformed in heart and life, and so became new creatures. Origen speaks of the same general corruption and wickedness among mankind, and of the salvation of Christ from it. “ We come to him," says he, " covetous, he makes us liberal; unjust and extortioners, and he makes us equitable; lascivious, and he makes us chaste; violent and passionate, and he makes us meek; impious and profane, and he makes us religious.” It is evident, then, in the opinion of all these writers, that the heart of an irreligious and unregenerate man
is placed upon sinful objects, and full of impure and unholy desires. This was certainly their own experience, and the experience of the primitive Christians, who composed the first Christian churches; and this testimony agrees with the experience of modern Christians of the religious denominations.
4. This doctrine is furthermore confirmed by observation. Jews, Pagans, and nominal Christians, are a living commentary on the truth of this doctrine. Mankind in a savage state, among all nations, and in every period of history, have been treacherous, fierce, cruel, and relentless, living under the dominion of passion and appetite, and rebelling against the great principles of moral rectitude. Among the most rude and barbarous of the savage tribes, cannibalism has prevailed from the remotest antiquity to the present period; and human lives have been sacrificed at the caprice of a tyrannical sovereign. And if we advert to the actual state of Hindostan and of China, which countries have been highly celebrated for their progress in the useful arts, we shall find that they are equally immoral in private life. The universal characteristics of these nations are, habitual disregard of truth, pride, tyranny, theft, falsehood, deceit, conjugal infidelity, filial disobedience, ingratitude, a litigious spirit, perjury, cruelty, private murder, the destruction of illegitimate children, and want of tenderness and compassion to the poor, the sick, the aged, and the dying. The description which the apostle gave of the Jews when Christianity was founded, remains true of them to this day. “They profess," says he, “ that they know God, but in works they deny him; being abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” The Jews among all nations in modern times, have been notorious for lying, cheating, and defrauding. And although the standard of public morals in Christian countries, is more highly elevated, yet all these countries abound with crime. The general defection of public morals among the irreligious portion of the community, both in Europe and America, is notorious. Pride and luxury, generally prevail among the rich ; and intemperance and profanity, among the poor. How many live as though they had never to die? and when thoughts of God and religion obtrude on their unwilling minds, every measure which a corrupt heart, under a satanic influence can advise, is adopted to drown reflection, and to bury religious thoughts. See the miser—the voluptuary—the debaucheethe drunkard; what is their life but a practical corroboration of the awful truths we have been considering.
5. The essential and radical corruption of human nature, is a truth to which the ancient heathen moralists, philosophers, and poets, have borne the most ample testimony. Thus, Pythagoras termed it, the “ Fatal companion, the noxious strife that lurks within us, and which was born along with us;" Sopater calls it, “The sin that is born with mankind;" Plato, “Natural wickedness ;" Aristotle, “ The natural repugnance of man's nature to reason ;"
and all the Greek and Roman philosophers, especially the Stoics and the Platonists, complain of the depraved and degenerate condition of mankind, of their propensity to everything that is evil, and of their aversion to everything that is good. Thus, Cicero lamented, that “ Mankind are brought into life by nature as a stepmother, with a naked, frail, and infirm body, and with a soul prone to divers lusts.” Seneca, one of the best of the Roman philosophers, observes: “We are born in such a condition, that we are not subject to fewer disorders of mind, than body; that all vices are in all men, though they do not break out in every one; and that to confess them is the beginning of our cure." And Hierocles called this universal disposition to sin, “ 'The domestic evil of mankind.” Even some of the sprightliest poet bear their testimony to the same fact. Propertius could say, “ Every body has a vice to which he is inclined by nature." Horace declared, that “ No man is born free from vices," and that, “ He is the best man who is oppressed with the least;" that "Mankind rushes into wickedness, and always desire what is forbidden;" that “ Youth has the softness of wax to receive vicious impressions, and the hardness of rock to resist virtuous admonitions ;” and, in short, that “We are mad enough to attack heaven itself," and that “ our repeated crimes do not suffer the God of heaven to lay aside his wrathful thunderbolts.” And Juvenal has furnished a striking corroboration to the statement of Paul of Tarsus, concerning the “ carnal mind,” when he says, that “Nature, unchangeably fixed, runs back to wickedness," as bodies to their centre.
There is, also, reason to suppose that the ancient Celtic Druids expressly taught the defection of the human soul from a state of original rectitude. The invariable belief of the Brahmins, in Hindostan, is, that man is a fallen creature; and it is well known that
similar opinion was inculcated by the classical mythologists, and especially by Hesiod, in their descriptions of the gradual corruption of the human race, during the period subsequent to the golden age. Catlulus represents the unhallowed period, when justice was put to fight, and brothers imbrued their hands in fraternal blood, while incest and sacrilege alienated the mind of God from man; and Tacitus marks out the progress of depravity, from a period free from offence and punishment, to a flagitious and abandoned wickedness, devoid even of fear. Thus providence seems to have drawn the evidence of the guilt of men from their own confessions, and to have preserved their testimony for the conviction of subsequent times. From hence it appears evident, that the heart of man is upder a corrupt influence, and devoted to a wrong object, agreeable to the doctrine of the Sacred Oracles.
If the foregoing views be correct, that change of heart which the Scriptures require, and which the sinner must experience, in order to be prepared for the service and for the enjoyment of God, is a much greater change than that change of heart spoken of by
Mr. C., which he admits to be greatly inferior to a change of state, which change of state does not even imply, in his own estimation, a change of character. By the heart, as the word is used in the Bible, we are to understand the soul, with all its powers, including the understanding, conscience, will, affections, and memory. When God, then, says, My son, give me thine heart, he calls upon each and every individual to dedicate himself unreservedly to him-not merely to render to him a few outward and formal services, but fervently to embrace his doctrine, to follow his injunctions with the warinest affection, and to reduce them to practice without delay. The heart is what God requires. He claims the understanding, that he may pour upon it the light of truth-the conscience, that he may purge it from dead works—the will, that it may be brought into subjection to the divine mind—the affections, that they may be purified and exalted, and set on things above—the desires, that they may be concentrated in himself—the memory, that it may become the depository of divine and useful knowledge. In one word. God demands the whole soul, that we may know, love, serve, and enjoy him for ever.
Hence, God says: “A new heart, also, will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of fesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them;" Ezek. xxxvi., 26, 27. ** And I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart;" Jer. xxiv., 7. " And the Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live;" Deut. xxx., 6. “I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them and of their children after them; and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good, but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me;" Jer. xxxii., 39, 40. In comformity to the doctrine taught in these passages, the Psalmist prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me;" li., 10. Hence the expressions, a pure heart, an upright heart, a clean heart, a sincere heart, are employed in the Scripture, to denote a true Christian; while, on the other hand, an evil heart, a gross heart, a stony heart, a wicked heart, a corrupt heart, a polluted heart, a depraved heart, an estranged heart, are used to designate a wicked and irreligious man. The terms, then, to change the heart, to cleanse the heart, to purify the heart, are employed in the Bible to denote that moral and religious change, which is wrought in a sinner, when he is truly converted to God.
Having considered the arguments which Mr. C. has derived from the Scriptures to sustain his theory, and having shown that they
are fallacious and unsustained by the true interpretation of the Living Oracles, we do not propose, at this time, having already extended these remarks to much greater length than was anticipated in the commencement, to prosecute the subject any further; being fully persuaded that the true doctrine of the gospel is clearly taught in the Holy Scriptures; and that no system of religion ought to be embraced and received as of divine origin, which cannot be sustained by the word of God. If Mr. C.'s theory of religion be essentially anti-scriptural, as we have abundantly shown it to be, then no pretended evidence derived from the Christian Fathers, or from the creeds of fallible and erring men, can possibly make it true. It is a sentiment universally embraced by the whole Protestant community, that the Bible contains everything necessary to the faith and practice of a Christian; and that all systems of religion, which are not derived from the Holy Scriptures, ought to be rejected as false and dangerous.
In the conclusion of my remarks on this subject, I most earnestly and sincerely recommend this article to the serious and candid perusal of my brethren in the ministry, especially in the western states, who may have fully or partially embraced the sentiments we have been canvassing, and, as we think, have fully refuted. The introduction of this new doctrine among our brethren in the west, has been the occasion of many evils, both to the ministry and to the churches, and has not been productive, to my knowledge, of any good. This doctrine is the grave-digger of experimental religion and practical piety; and, unless it be repudiated and abandoned, will certainly blast
, and wither, and destroy, the vitality both of the churches and the ministry. I must say, I feel deeply interested on this subject, because it is one of vast importance to the souls of men, involving, as it does, the vital principles of the Christian religion. With these reflections, I commit this article to the press, leaving the effects which it is destined to produce, to the operations of that superintending Providence, which extends to all events.
Reply to the Question, “ Shall we Receive Them?”
I have read, with deep regret, an article in the Christian Herald for December the 15th, from the pen of Br. Russel, one of the Editors of that Journal, entitled “Shall we receive them ?” This article is understood to be called forth by my “Strictures on Elder Hawley's pamphlet,” and, therefore, a reply from my pen has been earnestly solicited. I am aware that this is a subject in which I