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have the very essence of tyranny. All motive for moral action is taken away, and all ground for religious affection. We read of some savage nations who pay divine honours to the Spirit of Evil that he may not hurt them. And when you have clothed the Sovereign of the Universe with the attributes of the Spirit of Evil, there remains but one motive for worshipping him, and that is the motive of abject fear.
But where did Calvin and the Westminster divines, and the framers of the articles of the Church of England get the knowledge of this tremendous fact, that every action of every human being in the world is sin, and unpleasing and unacceptable to the Deity, with the exception of a few, whose natures he has changed? It is a hypothesis drawn from another hypothesis. It is founded upon the supposition that the children of Adam are brought into being with different moral faculties from those, which he had. Adam, they say, before his fall had power to will and to do that which is pleasant and acceptable to God. But his children are differently constituted. What proof have we of this, except the bare assertion of these men? It is not found in the original record, nor in any part of the Scriptures. The superstitious Jews went so far as to assert that man was mortal in consequence of Adam's sin, but they never said that all his actions were sin on that account.
This is a pure invention of modern days.
It is attempted to be deduced from the account
which is given of the flood. "God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” “And God looked upon the earth, and behold it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted his way.”
With regard to this representation, we remark, that it is made with respect to one period remarkable for its wickedness so as to be miraculously pun. ished. Is it fair to make this exception the general rule, and make all mankind as wicked as those, whom God declared to be peculiarly wicked? Would it be just in a father to say of his son, that he was totally corrupt, because he had just done something amiss and been punished for it? But it is said, there is a term of positive universality used, "every imagination of his heart.” But go on a little further, and you will learn how to interpret terms of apparent universality. “All flesh had corrupted his way.” But Noah and his family had not. "All flesh" then is not strictly universal. Why then should "every imagination be?" If there were some, who had not corrupted themselves, then in spite of this universality there might have been some imaginations in men's hearts which were not evil. Besides, such unmixed wickedness as literal universality would here assert, is entirely inconsistent with the existence of society or of mankind at all. Sin is a disease of the body politic, which like natural diseases cannot go beyond a certain point without producing dissolution and death. And in society,
this point is reached far short of total corruption, and I believe, even before the evil becomes more in amount than the good. A family can live together till they arrive at a certain pitch of depravity, and then they will either exterminate each other, or separate. There must be more truth than falsehood, or all intercourse must cease. There must be more industry than idleness, or men would starve. There must be more conjugal faithfulness than infidelity, or marriages would cease. There must be more parental love and care, than parental hatred and abandonment, or the race would become extinct. A community totally and thoroughly depraved, could not exist a single year.
Besides it is here said, that "all flesh had corrupted his way.” Could that be said of beings totally depraved by nature from the very beginning of the race? Must there not have been something good to have corrrupted? All then that we can infer from this passage is, that that generation of men were very wicked. It does not assert the doctrine of total depravity at all. And whatever inferences may be drawn from it are as much against this doctrine as for it.
The declaration that all men had corrupted their way, except one family which had remained pure, implies not total native depravity, but its opposite, that they all began existence innocent and pure, and might have continued so, as that one family did. Their corruption was not native, but induced
by their own voluntary agency, was not a corruption of nature, but a corruption of practice.
Another proof text of this doctrine is taken from the confession of David, after those two horrid crimes, which cast such a dark shade over his, otherwise, so exalted character. "Behold,” he says, “I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Does not every one discover in this exclamation, the poetic exaggeration of deep and passionate grief? Do we not perceive the same play of an excited imagination, which elsewhere declares, “Behold thou hast made my days as an handbreadth, and mine age is as nothing before thee?" It is evidently not the purpose of David to palliate, but rather to exaggerate his crime. It is an expression of his great guilt, wrung from him by his deep penitence. On the other supposition it would rather be offering an excuse, than which nothing could be further from his intention. The fact, that this passage has been drawn into the service, so entirely foreign to the subject, having so little relation to mankind at large, is sufficient evidence how few arguments can be brought from Scripture in favour of this hypothesis.
Other passages have been cited from the writings of Paul, such as this. “They are all gone out of the way; they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” But what is Paul attempting to prove? Not any thing with regard to man's natural state, but as he says a
few verses before; “We have proved both Jews and Gentiles to be under sin," that is, all stand in need of the Gospel, because all are sinful, not totally depraved. These passages are quoted by Paul from David, and by David they were used concerning his enemies and wicked men generally. You perceive then, that this awful and revolting doctrine of total depravity, and the inability of man to will or to do any thing good and acceptable to God entirely fails of support, both from the Scriptural account of the fall of man, and from those separate passages, which have been alleged to prove it. It therefore falls to the ground. And for my own part, I can scarce conceive a better refutation of it than the fact that men have suffered themselves to be insulted with it so often and so long, that they have submitted to hear themselves abused and vilified by worms no better than themselves, so patiently and with so little resentment.
The doctrine of total depravity is a mere hypothesis, a mere assertion, which dishonours God, and destroys the foundations of religion. It degrades man and takes away all ground of just responsibility. We assert and believe, on the contrary, that every human being, who is complete in all his natural faculties, is in a state of probation, that he has naturally, as the advocates of the other system describe Adam to have had, freedom to will and to do that which is well pleasing to God. That the only restraint which is ever put upon man's will to prevent him from doing the will of God, is that of