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of him and his gospel was their sin, was by shewing them, that it could proceed from nothing but the badness of their hearts; and not by leading them to be. lieve it was primarily owing to a mere weakness or disorder in their understandings occasioned by the original fall. He readily admitted, that if men were blind, or if they had not sufficient means of information and conviction, their unbelief would be no sin. Nor does it appear that any unbelievers in those times, had refined so far as to reply in their own vindication, that they could not help hating the light, because their hearts were evil. This seems to be a cloke for unbe. lief, of a more modern invention.

2. We have seen that common sense, most readily and fully gives into such a difference as this, in all common cases; in every supposable case in which the vindication of our own character is not concerned. Yea, in cases where men are most interested, and most straitened for a plea in their own justification, they rarely think of pleading a bad intention and a very wicked heart. If a man, when questioned for a supposed faulty action, can shew that it was an oversight, and not owing to any ill design; or if he can make it appear, that he had not opportunity or capacity, to do better than he did ; these are always allowed to be things to his purpose. But it is rare that any one undertakes to excuse himself, as to any injurious conduct, or omission of duty with respect to his fellowmen, by shewing that he is, and always was, of an exceeding wicked and unrighteous disposition, and that his heart was quite as bad as his conduct. No one, unless he was out of his wits, would ever think of mal such a plea

this before a human court. It is only in matters of religion, and before the divine tribunal on their last decisive trial, that criminals them.

selves think of making this plea, or that it would avail any thing unless to their greater condemnation.

* And we have seen that the reason why sinners are ready to look upon a wicked heart as a good excuse in matters of religion, is because they mean no such thing by it, nor do they think they have any such thing as a heart at all wicked. When they talk of moral. depravity, deadness in sin, want of a disposition to that which is good, &c. they really mean by such expressions—they know not what. Something that is consistent with their sincerely wishing, desiring, and endeavouring to the utmost of their natural power, to do their whole duty. And this is all the reason they think a bad heart is an excuse with respect to these things, any more than in other cases. This is the reason why, in their view, “ sin is dead," and looks like such a kind of thing as must necessarily always, be dead; it not being possible in the nature of things that it should be alive, longer than just to bring itself into existence.

It may therefore, notwithstanding this seeming exception, well be considered as a quite universal dictate of common sense, that the want of a heart, and the want of natural capacity, in regard to excusing men, are entirely different things.

3. We have seen that reason discovers a just foundation for this decision of the moral sense, and of the scriptures, as clearly as it discovers any thing of a moral nature. We have seen that an ability to act otherwise than agreeably to our own hearts, would only be an ability to act unfreely and by constraint: that actions which are done contrary to, or without our wills, are actions for which we cannot in reason be ac. countable: that only taking away moral necessity, the necessity of men's acting or not acting accord ing to their own disposition and choice, unavoidably subjects them to a fatal necessity, a necessity of acting otherwise than they would choose, or whether they will or no. Reason plainly teaches, that things done under that necessity which arises from our own hearts, and that which is against them, are just as different, as things in which we are the agents, and things in which we are not:-just as different as Peter's girding himself when he was young, and going whither he would, and his being girded afterwards, and being carried whither he would not :- just as dif-: ferent as a man's wilfully murdering himself, and be. ing murdered by another, in spite of all he could do in his own defence. We have seen, that if want of holiness excuses a person in being unholy, and if a disposition to sin excuses a person in sinning, then every unholy creature, every sinner in the universe, is perfectly excusable.

Thus if scripture, reason, and common sense, all concurring in the fullest manner, can confirm any thing, an essential difference betwixt natural and moral inability, the inability which arises from our own hearts, and that arising from any other quarter, is most fully confirmed. Nor can any one say, that these two kinds of cannot, come to the same thing, as to excusing men, without contradicting the highest degree of every kind of evidence we can have, of any moral truth.He that hath an ear, let him hear.

The Perfection of the Divine Law, and its

Usefulness for the Conversion of Souls.

A SERMON, Delivered in the College-Chapel, in New

Haven, on the Morning after the Commencement, 1787.

BY JOHN SMALLEY, D. D.

PSALM xix, 7.,

The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.

OME are said to teach such doctrine concerning regeneration, as supposes that no means can be of any efficacy or use, in the case of the unregenerate. Many, undoubtedly, have no opinion of legal preaching, as adapted to promote the salvation of men. It will, however, very universally be agreed, that means are to be used for the conversion of sinners, as well as for the perfecting of the saints. And I believe there are few who will not admit that the law ought to be preached, for both these purposes, as well as the gospel.

Good men may dispute about words; and they may have different ideas, in many matters of nice speculation: But all good men delight to meditate in the law of the Lord; and all good gospel ininisters desire, by all lawful means, to be instrumental of the conversion of souls. For these reasons it is presumed that the words now read, if properly opened and illustrated, will not be uninteresting, or unentertaining to the present audience.

The general subject of this psalm, is the glorious manifestation which God had given of himself, by the light of nature, and by the light of revelation. In the first six verses are set forth, in lofty language, the illus. trious displays of the divine perfections, in the works of creation and of common providence. The Heavens, it is said, declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handy work. Day unto day uttereth speech, &c. At this seventh verse, the psalmist passes from the works, to celebrate the word of G as discovering yet greater glories, and as being productive of still more wonderful effects. The law of the Lord is perfect, says he, converting the soul : the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

By the law of the Lord may be meant, the whole revelation of God's mind and will, which had then been given to mankind. But what is here said of it is especially applicable to the moral law; and to this only, particular attention will be paid in the present dis

Two things are asserted in the text concerning the divine law. In regard to its intrinsic excel. lence, it it said to be perfect : respecting its use, in the present fallen state, it is spoken of as converting the soul. Accordingly it is proposed,

1st. To consider the perfection of the law of God; and

d. Its subserviency to the conversion of the souls

course.

of men.

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