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choosing right, and of doing all which is comprehended in working righteousness; and that on account of that righteousness he may be acceptable to God. I know of no words that Peter could have used which would have expressed these propositions more plainly and unequivocally,
But in opposition to this it is maintained in most of the Creeds and Catechisms of modern times, that man in the state in which God creates him, that is in his natural state, has no power to do any
thing of all this. It is said that he is totally dehe praved. It is said in eighteenth Article of the
Creed of the Church of England. “They are to be had accursed that presume to say that every man shall be saved by the law or sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that law and the light of nature.”
The tenth Article of that Creed is this: "The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength, and good works to faith, and calling upon God; wherefore we have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God without the grace of God, by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will.” Article thirteenth,"Works done before the grace of Christ, and the inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God; forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ, neither do they make men meet to receive grace, yea rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin.”
The Westminster Confession, which is the Creed of the Presbyterian Church of the United States, thus states the doctrine: “Man in his state of innocency, had freedom and power to will and to do that which is good and well pleasing to God. Man by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation, so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself or prepare himself thereto."
It is thus expressed in the Creed which the Professors of one of our Theological Seminaries are obliged to subscribe every five years: “By nature every man is personally depraved, destitute of holiness, unlike and opposed to God, and previously to the renewing agency of the Divine Spirit, all his moral actions are adverse to the character and glory of God, being morally incapable of recovering the image of his Creator, which was lost in Adam, every man is justly exposed to eternal damnation.”
Edwards, one of the most received theological writers of this country, says on this subject: “So long as men are in their natural state, they not only have no good thing, but it is impossible that they should ever have or do any good thing." "Man's nature is wholly infected with this enmity against God:
Every faculty and principle of action is wholly under the dominion of enmity against God.
Every faculty is entirely and perfectly subdued under it, and enslaved by it. The understanding is under the reigning power of this enmity. The will is wholly under the reigning power of it. All the affections are governed by enmity against God; there is not one affection, nor one desire, that a natural man has, or that he is ever stirred up to act from, but what contains in it enmity against God. A natural man is all full of enmity against God, as any viper or venomous beast is full of poison.” “Hanging by a slender thread, with the flames divine wrath flashing around, ready every moment to burn it asunder, you have nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you can do to induce God to spare you one moment.”
I submit it to the judgments of all who hear me, if these statements do not bear the marks of the wildest extravagance and exaggeration? Are they not more like the raving and hyperbolical expressions of a man in a passion, or suffering some violent affection of the mind, than of a calm intellect expressing the result of a candid and impartial examination. To my mind this might seem a true picture of a devil, but not of those men and women we meet with in common life. And when we reflect that these assertions are made to conform to an arbitrary system of theology, a mere hypothesis concerning Adam's fall, it is almost impossible to restrain our indignation against the authors of such rash assertions, which reflect equal dishonour upon God and man.
The first remark we make upon this doctrine is, that if it be true, man is not, in his natural state, in a condition of fair probation, nor indeed of probation at all. This appears on the very face of the doctrine itself. “Man in his state of innocency had power to will and to do that which is good and well pleasing to God. Man by his fall into a state of sin hath wholly lost all ability of will to any good accompanying salvation.” Now to put a person in a condition of fair moral trial, according to those ideas of justice which God has made a part of our natures, he must have precisely what Adam is represented to have possessed in the state of innocence, power to will and to do that which is good and well pleasing to God. If in consequence of Adam's sin, God brings all his posterity into existance destitute of this power, then they are not in a state of moral probation. It being impossible for them to will or to do any thing pleasing to God, they of course can do nothing acceptable to him. All the difference then that can be between one of their actions and another is, that it is more or less criminal. Until by miraculous agency this inability is removed, there is no power to will or do right, and where there is no power, there can be no fair trial, and no just responsibility.
Calvin, the great author and patron of this system in modern times has the hardihood to deny this consequence. He says, “The necessity of sin does not render man the less accountable for it, nor make it the less proper that he should be charged
with it; and on the other hand, its being voluntary is no proof that it could be avoided. Exhortations, admonitions, and expostulations are not administered to no purpose, though it be not in the power of man to obey.
We are not to infer from the commands of God, that man has any power of observing them. Conditional promises do not imply that man has the free power of doing that upon which the promise is suspended, and God is not chargeable with mocking our impotence, when he invites us to deserve his favour, though he knows our utter inability to do it.”
All we have to say of such assertions as this is, that they do infinite and indelible dishonour both to the head and the heart of him who made them, and could only have originated in those dark, iron and ferocious ages when might was the only source of right, and all human government was a tissue of cruelty and oppression. We say, that were this doctrine true, it would uproot and destroy all the foundations of religion, and end in a cold and cheerless fatalism. All religious affections are founded on the supposition of God's moral perfections. They are founded upon the supposition that he is infinitely good and just. These qualities are essential to the very nature of God as an object of religious regard. Take them away and we no longer have any God. We have a Being at the head of the universe, but a God no longer. Suppose him to require what men cannot perform, and then to punish them for not performing it, and we