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then I assent to it. But I say also, that this is equally true of the most perfect of the saints in light. There is some mixture of imperfection in the best deeds of the best. There is every variety of motive, and consequently of merit, in the virtuous acts of accountable beings, from the lowest, abject fear, to the most exalted, spontaneous preference for that which is good and delight in doing it.
The last appeal we shall make to observation is this, and it seems to be decisive of the whole question. Is there in the mind of man a preference of wrong over right, of evil over good, when other things are all equal? I say nothing of the relative amount of good or bad actions in the world, I merely ask whether, when a man thinks he can attain the same amount of pleasure, or whatever else he seeks, by either a bad or a good action, he uniformly chooses the bad? If he chooses evil for its own sake, always and in all circumstances, then he is totally depraved. Is the prevailing character of the species pure malignity, then man is averse to all good, and only inclined to all evil. To me this seems a description of a devil and not of a man, even the worst. I do not think it is a pleasure to any man to do violence to his moral sense. I believe that men naturally love to see others do what is right and just, and take pleasure in doing it themselves. There is in man a natural love for what is just and right, which is gratified by doing right, precisely as any of the appetites or passions is gratified by enjoying its appropriate object. How then, it may be asked, does it happen that there is such a vast amount of sin in the world? How happens it that man sins at all? We answer, it is because the desires and passions are blind, have no discernment of morality or immorality in their objects. That which gives them pleasure seems to them good, without regard to its moral character. Sinful actions then are done, not because they are sin, but because they are pleasurenot from any love to sin as sin, nor from any desire to injure others, or to defy God, but from an eager though mistaken desire of happiness. Conscience, or the moral sense, that is, the perception of right and the desire to do it, is given us to regulate the action of the desires and passions, to direct them to proper, and call them off from improper objects. And the trial of man is which he shall obey. Sometimes one gets the mastery and sometimes the other.
This, if I mistake not, is the account which Paul gives of himself, even after his conversion. “For I delight in the law of God after the inward But I see another law in
members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members."
We now come to the fourth and last source of evidence that man has power to will and to do that which is good and acceptable to God, and that all men are in a state of moral probation,—the sacred Scriptures.
All the commands of God are so many evidences
of man's power to will and to do what is pleasing to him. For if man have not this power, one of these consequences will follow, either that God commands what man has not the power to perform, which renders the command nugatory, vain, and a cruel mockery of man's imbecility, or that he commands that which, when performed, is not good and acceptable to him.
All the promises of God are evidences that man has the power to will and to do that which is good and acceptable to God. “The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him.” But according to this theory man is incapable of having any righteousness, or doing any thing that is right. Is it said that man's righteousness is so imperfect that it is no righteousness at all? Then it will follow that God has promised to accept that which is unacceptable, and calls that righteousness which is not righteousness, a direct and plain contradiction in terms.
All the threatenings of God's word are so many evidences of man's power to will and to do that which is good and well pleasing to God. If all man's doings must of necessity be evil and sinful, from the very constitution which God has given him, can the Deity be represented in a more unworthy light, than as threatening man for doing that which he cannot avoid doing? Is it not adding insult to injury, first to bind man in adamantine chains, and then threaten him with whips and scorpions, because he does not rise up and walk?
Besides, the Scriptures expressly inform us that, “Whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord.” He who had received and improved the two talents was welcomed, inasmuch as he had been faithful over a few things, into the joy of his Lord. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness.' “He that doeth righteousness is righteous.” “God who will render unto every man according to his deeds; to them, who by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life. But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness; indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile. But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good; to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. For there is no respect of persons with God.”
"For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law are a law to themselves; which shew the work of the law written in their hearts; their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts in the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another.” “Many,” said our Saviour, seeing the faith of a heathen centurion, "shall come from the north, and from the south, and from the east, and from the west, and sit down with Abraham and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.” “Of a truth, I perceive that God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation, he that feareth him and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him."
You perceive then upon what venerable heads the curse of the authors of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England must rest, even those of Christ and his apostles for denying total depravity, and asserting that every man shall be judged according to that law which God has given him, and be saved, receive of God "eternal life" even though a "Gentile," a heathen, if he have conformed his life to its requisitions, if he have, “by patient continuance in well doing, sought for glory, honour and immortality.”
You have now before you the evidence for and against the doctrine of Total Depravity. I leave it in your hands to judge, each one for himself, whether it be probable or improbable, true or false.