||delphia > Lectures on SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY by Charles G. Finney (page 5 of 11)
Charles G. Finney
A Voice from the Philadelphian Church Age
by Charles Grandison Finney
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LECTURE XXXIX. -- Moral Depravity--Continued.
Proper method of accounting for the universal and total moral depravity of the
unregenerate moral agents of our race . . Moral depravity consists in selfishness,
or in the choice of self-interest, self-gratification, or self-indulgence, as an
end . . Dr. Wood's view of physical and moral depravity examined . . Standards of
the Presbyterian Church examined
LECTURE XL. -- Moral Depravity--Continued.
Further examination of the arguments adduced in support of the position that
human nature is in itself sinful
LECTURE XLI. -- Moral Depravity--Continued.
The proper method of accounting for moral depravity . . Pres. Edwards's views
examined . . Summary of the truth on this subject . . Remarks
LECTURE XLII. -- Regeneration.
The common distinction between regeneration and conversion . . I am to state
the assigned reasons for this distinction . . I am to state the objections to this
distinction . . What regeneration is not . . What regeneration is . . The universal
necessity of regeneration . . Agencies employed in regeneration . . Instrumentalities
employed in the work . . In regeneration the subject is both passive and active .
. What is implied in regeneration
LECTURE XLIII. -- Regeneration--Continued.
Philosophical theories of regeneration . . The different theories of regeneration
examined . . Objections to the taste scheme . . The divine efficiency scheme . .
Objections to the divine efficiency . . The susceptibility scheme . . Theory of a
divine moral suasion . . Objections to this theory . . Remarks
LECTURE XLIV. -- Regeneration--Continued.
Evidences of regeneration . . Introductory remarks . . Wherein the experience
and outward life of saints and sinners may agree . . Remarks
LECTURE XLV. -- Regeneration--Continued.
Wherein saints and sinners or deceived professors must differ
LECTURE XLVI. -- Regeneration--Continued.
In what saints and sinners differ . . What is it to overcome the world? . . Who
are those that overcome the world? . . Why do believers overcome the world?
LECTURE XLVII. -- Regeneration--Continued.
Wherein saints and sinners differ
This lecture was typed in by Bob Borer.
LECTURE XXXIX. Back to Top
VIII. Let us consider the proper method of accounting for the universal and total
moral depravity of the unregenerate moral agents of our race.
In the discussion of this subject, I will--
1. Endeavour to show how it is not to be accounted for.
2. How it is to be accounted for.
- 1. How the moral depravity of mankind is not to be accounted for.
- In examining this part of the subject, it is necessary to have distinctly in
view, that which constitutes moral depravity. All the error that has existed upon
this subject, has been founded in false assumptions in regard to the nature or essence
of moral depravity. It has been almost universally true, that no distinction has
been made between moral and physical depravity; and consequently, physical depravity
has been confounded with and treated of, as moral depravity. This of course has led
to vast confusion and nonsense upon this subject. Let the following facts, which
have been shown in former lectures, be distinctly borne in mind.
That moral depravity consists in selfishness, or in the choice of self-interest,
self-gratification, or self-indulgence, as an end.
Consequently it cannot consist,
(1.) In a sinful constitution, or in a constitutional appetency or craving for sin.
This has been shown in a former lecture, on what is not implied in disobedience to
the moral law.
(2.) Moral depravity is sin itself, and not the cause of sin. It is not something
prior to sin, that sustains to it the relation of a cause, but it is the essence
and the whole of sin.
(3.) It cannot be an attribute of human nature, considered simply as such, for this
would be physical, and not moral depravity.
(4.) Moral depravity is not then to be accounted for by ascribing it to a nature
or constitution sinful in itself. To talk of a sinful nature, or sinful constitution,
in the sense of physical sinfulness, is to ascribe sinfulness to the Creator, who
is the author of nature. It is to overlook the essential nature of sin, and to make
sin a physical virus, instead of a voluntary and responsible choice. Both sound philosophy
and the Bible, make sin to consist in obeying the flesh, or in the spirit of self-pleasing,
or self-indulgence, or, which is the same thing, in selfishness--in a carnal mind,
or in minding the flesh. But writers on moral depravity have assumed, that moral
depravity was distinct from, and the cause of sin, that is, of actual transgression.
They call it original sin, indwelling sin, a sinful nature, an appetite for sin,
an attribute of human nature, and the like. We shall presently see what has led to
this view of the subject.
I will, in the next place, notice a modern, and perhaps the most popular view of
this subject, which has been taken by any late writer, who has fallen into the error
of confounding physical and moral depravity. I refer to the prize essay of Dr. Woods,
of Andover, Mass. He defines moral depravity to be the same as "sinfulness."
He also, in one part of his essay, holds and maintains, that it is always and necessarily,
voluntary. Still, his great effort is to prove that sinfulness or moral depravity,
is an attribute of human nature. It is no part of my design to expose the inconsistency
of holding moral depravity to be a voluntary state of mind, and yet a natural attribute,
but only to examine the philosophy, the logic, and theology of his main argument.
The following quotation will show the sense in which he holds moral depravity to
belong to the nature of man. At page 54 he says:--
"The word depravity, relating as it here does to man's moral character, means
the same as sinfulness, being the opposite of moral purity, or holiness. In this
use of the word there is a general agreement. But what is the meaning of native,
or natural? Among the variety of meanings specified by Johnson, Webster, and others,
I refer to the following, as relating particularly to the subject before us.
"Native. Produced by nature. Natural, or such as is according to nature; belonging
by birth; original. Natural has substantially the same meaning: 'produced by nature;
not acquired.'--So Crabbe. 'Of a person we say, his worth is native, to designate
it as some valuable property born with him, not foreign to him, or ingrafted upon
him; but we say of his disposition, that it is natural, as opposed to that which
is acquired by habit.' And Johnson defines nature to be 'the native state or properties
of any thing, by which it is discriminated from others.' He quotes the definition
of Boyle; 'Nature sometimes means what belongs to a living creature at its nativity,
or accrues to it by its birth, as when we say a man is noble by nature, or a child
is naturally froward.' 'This,' he says, 'may be expressed by saying, the man was
"After these brief definitions, which come to nearly the same thing, I proceed
to inquire, what are the marks or evidences which show anything in man to be natural,
or native; and how far these marks are found in relation to depravity."
Again, page 66, he says:--
"The evil, then, cannot be supposed to originate in any unfavourable external
circumstances, such as corrupting examples, or insinuating and strong temptations;
for if we suppose these entirely removed, all human beings would still be sinners.
With such a moral nature as they now have, they would not wait for strong temptations
to sin. Nay, they would be sinners in opposition to the strongest motives to the
contrary. Indeed, we know that human beings will turn those very motives which most
powerfully urge to holiness, into occasions of sin. Now, does not the confidence
and certainty with which we foretell the commission of sin, and of sin unmixed with
moral purity, presuppose a full conviction in us, and a conviction resting upon what
we regard as satisfactory evidence, that sin, in all its visible actings, arises
from that which is within the mind itself, and which belongs to our very nature as
moral beings? Have we not as much evidence that this is the case with moral evil,
as with any of our natural affections or bodily appetites?"
This quotation, together with the whole argument, shows that he considers moral depravity
to be an attribute of human nature, in the same sense that the appetites and passions
Before I proceed directly to the examination of his argument, that sinfulness, or
moral depravity, is an "attribute of human nature," I would premise, that
an argument, or fact, that may equally well consist with either of two opposing theories,
can prove neither. The author in question presents the following facts and considerations
in support of his great position, that moral depravity, or sinfulness, is an attribute
of human nature; and three presidents of colleges endorse the soundness and conclusiveness
of the argument. He proves his position--
(1.) From the "universality of moral depravity." To this I answer,
that this argument proves nothing to the purpose, unless it be true, and assumed
as a major premise, that whatever is universal among mankind, must be a natural attribute
of man as such; that whatever is common to all men, must be an attribute of human
nature. But this assumption is a begging of the question. Sin may be the result of
temptation; temptation may be universal, and of such a nature as uniformly, not necessarily,
to result in sin, unless a contrary result be secured by a Divine moral suasion.
This I shall endeavour to show is the fact. This argument assumes, that there is
but one method of accounting for the universality of human sinfulness. But this is
the question in debate, and is not to be thus assumed as true.
Again: Selfishness is common to all unregenerate men. Is selfishness a natural
attribute? We have seen, in a former lecture, that it consists in choice. Can choice
be an attribute of human nature?
Again: This argument is just as consistent with the opposite theory, to wit,
that moral depravity is selfishness. The universality of selfishness is just what
might be expected, if selfishness consists in the committal of the will to the gratification
of self. This will be a thing of course, unless the Holy Spirit interpose, greatly
to enlighten the intellect, and break up the force of habit, and change the attitude
of the will, already, at the first dawn of reason, committed to the impulses of the
sensibility. If moral depravity is to be accounted for, as I shall hereafter more
fully show, by ascribing it to the influence of temptation, or to a physically depraved
constitution, surrounded by the circumstances in which mankind first form their moral
character, or put forth their first moral choices, universality might of course be
expected to be one of its characteristics. This argument, then, agreeing equally
will with either theory, proves neither.
(2.) His second argument is, that "Moral depravity developes itself in
early life." Answer--
(i.) This is just what might be expected upon the opposite theory. If moral
depravity consist in the choice of self-gratification, it would of course appear
in early life. So this argument agrees quite as well with the opposing theory, and
therefore proves nothing. But--
(ii.) This argument is good for nothing, unless the following be assumed as
a major premise, and unless the fact assumed be indeed a truth, namely, "Whatever
is developed in early life, must be an attribute of human nature." But this
again is assuming the truth of the point in debate. This argument is based upon the
assumption that a course of action common to all men, and commencing at the earliest
moment of their moral agency, can be accounted for only by ascribing it to an attribute
of nature, having the same moral character as that which belongs to the actions themselves.
But this is not true. There may be more than one way of accounting for the universal
sinfulness of human actions from the dawn of moral agency. It may be ascribed to
the universality and peculiar nature of temptation, as has been said.
(3.) His third argument is, that "Moral depravity is not owing to any
change that occurs subsequent to birth." Answer:--
No, the circumstances of temptation are sufficient to account for it without supposing
the nature to be changed. This argument proves nothing, unless it be true, that the
peculiar circumstances of temptation under which moral agents act, from the dawn
of moral agency, cannot sufficiently account for their conduct, without supposing
a change of nature subsequent to birth. "What then, does this arguing prove?"
Again, this argument is just as consistent with the opposing theory, and therefore
(4.) His fourth argument is, "That moral depravity acts freely and spontaneously."
Answer. The moral agent acts freely, and acts selfishly, that is wickedly. This argument
assumes, that if a moral agent acts freely and wickedly, moral depravity, or sin,
must be an attribute of his nature. Or more fairly, if mankind universally, in the
exercise of their liberty, act sinfully, sinfulness must be an attribute of human
nature. But what is sin? Why sin is a voluntary transgression of law, Dr. Woods being
judge. Can a voluntary transgression of law be denominated an attribute of human
But again, this argument alleges nothing but what is equally consistent with
the opposite theory. If moral depravity consist in the choice of self-gratification
as an end, it would of course freely and spontaneously manifest itself. This argument
then, is good for nothing.
(5.) His fifth argument is, "That moral depravity is hard to overcome,
and therefore it must be an attribute of human nature." Answer--
(i.) If it were an attribute of human nature, it could not be overcome at
all, without a change of the human constitution.
(ii.) It is hard to overcome, just as selfishness naturally would be, in beings
of a physically depraved constitution, and in the presence of so many temptations
(iii.) If it were an attribute of human nature, it could not be overcome without
a change of personal identity. But the fact that it can be overcome without destroying
the consciousness of personal identity, proves that it is not an attribute of human
(6.) His sixth argument is, that "We can predict with certainty, that
in due time it will act itself out." Answer: Just as might be expected. If moral
depravity consists in selfishness, we can predict with certainty, that the spirit
of self-pleasing will, in due time, and at all times, act itself out. We can also
predict, without the gift of prophecy, that with a constitution physically depraved,
and surrounded with objects to awaken appetite, and with all the circumstances in
which human beings first form their moral character, they will seek universally to
gratify themselves, unless prevented by the illuminations of the Holy Spirit. This
argument is just as consistent with the opposite theory, and therefore proves neither.
It is unnecessary to occupy any more time with the treatise of Dr. Woods. I will
now quote the standards of the Presbyterian church, which will put you in possession
of their views upon this subject. At pp. 30, 31, of the Presbyterian Confession of
Faith, we have the following: "By this sin, they (Adam and Eve) fell from their
original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly
defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. They being the root of all
mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted
nature conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation.
From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made
opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions."
Again, pp. 152-154, Shorter Catechism. "Question 22. Did all mankind
fall in that first transgression? Ans. The covenant being made with Adam as a public
person, not for himself only, but for his posterity; all mankind descending from
him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him in that first transgression.
"Question 23. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind? Ans. The fall brought
mankind into an estate of sin and misery.
"Question 24. What is sin? Ans. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression
of, any law of God, given as a rule to the reasonable creature.
"Question 25. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
Ans. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consisteth in the guilt of
Adam's first sin, the want of that righteousness wherein he was created, and the
corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite
unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually,
which is commonly called original sin, and from which do proceed all actual transgressions.
"Question 26. How is original sin conveyed from our first parents unto their
posterity? Ans. Original sin is conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity
by natural generation, so as all that proceed from them in that way, are conceived
and born in sin."
These extracts show, that the framers and defenders of this confession of faith,
account for the moral depravity of mankind by making it to consist in a sinful nature,
inherited by natural generation from Adam. They regard the constitution inherited
from Adam, as in itself sinful, and the cause of all actual transgression. They make
no distinction between physical and moral depravity. They also distinguish between
original and actual sin. Original sin is the selfishness of the constitution, in
which Adam's posterity have no other hand than to inherit it by natural generation,
or by birth. This original sin, or sinful nature, renders mankind utterly disabled
from all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all that is evil. This
is their account of moral depravity. This, it will be seen, is substantially the
ground of Dr. Woods.
It has been common with those who confound physical with moral depravity, and who
maintain that human nature is itself sinful, to quote certain passages of Scripture
to sustain their position. An examination of these proof texts, must, in the next
place, occupy our attention. But before I enter upon this examination, I must first
call your attention to certain well settled rules of biblical interpretation.
((1.)) Different passages must be so interpreted, if they can be, as not to
contradict each other.
((2.)) Language is to be interpreted according to the subject matter of discourse.
((3.)) Respect is always to be had, to the general scope and design of the
speaker or writer.
((4.)) Texts that are consistent with either theory, prove neither.
((5.)) Language is to be so interpreted, if it can be, as not to conflict
with sound philosophy, matters of fact, the nature of things, or immutable justice.
Let us now, remembering and applying these plain rules of sound interpretation,
proceed to the examination of those passages that are supposed to establish the theory
of depravity I am examining.
Gen. v. 3.--"Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his
own likeness and after his own image, and called his name Seth." It is not very
easy to see, why this text should be pressed into the service of those who hold that
human nature is in itself sinful. Why should it be assumed that the likeness and
image here spoken of was a moral likeness or image? But, unless this be assumed,
the text has nothing to do with the subject.
Again: it is generally admitted, that in all probability Adam was a regenerate
man at the time and before the birth of Seth. Is it intended that Adam begat a saint
or a sinner? If, as is supposed, Adam was a saint of God, if this text is anything
to the purpose, it affirms that Adam begat a saint. But this is the opposite of that
in proof of which the text is quoted.
Another text is, Job xiv. 4.--"Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?
Not one." This text is quoted in support of the position of the Presbyterian
Confession of Faith, that children inherit from their parents, by natural generation,
a sinful nature. Upon this text, I remark,--
(i.) That all that can be made of it, even if we read it without regard to
the translation or the context, is, that a physically depraved parent will produce
a physically depraved offspring.
(ii.) That this is its real meaning, is quite evident, when we look into the
context. Job is treating of the frail and dying state of man, and manifestly has
in the text and context his eye wholly on the physical state, and not on the moral
character of man. What he intends is; who can bring other than a frail, dying offspring
from a frail, dying parent? Not one. This is substantially the view that Professor
Stuart takes of this text. The utmost that can be read of it is, that as he belonged
to a race of sinners, nothing else could be expected than that he should be a sinner,
without meaning to affirm anything in regard to the quo modo of this result.
Again: Job xv. 14.--"What is man that he should be clean, and he that
is born of a woman that he should be righteous."
(1.) These are the words of Eliphaz, and it is improper to quote them as inspired
truth. That Eliphaz uttered this sentiment, let what will be the meaning, there is
no reason to doubt; and there is just as little reason to receive his doctrines as
inspired truth. For God himself testifies that Job's friends did not hold the truth.
(2.) Suppose we receive the text as true, what is its import? Why, it simply
asserts, or rather implies, the unrighteousness or sinfulness of the whole human
race. It expresses the universality of human depravity, in the very common way of
including all that are born of woman. This certainly says nothing, and implies nothing,
respecting a sinful constitution. It is just as plain, and just as warrantable, to
understand this passage as implying that mankind have become so physically depraved,
that this fact, together with the circumstances under which they come into being,
and begin their moral career, will certainly, (not necessarily,) result in moral
depravity. I might use just such language as that found in this text, and, naturally
enough, express by it my own views of moral depravity; to wit, that it results from
a physically depraved constitution, and the circumstances of temptation under which
children come into this world, and begin and prosecute their moral career; certainly
this is the most that can be made of this text.
Again, Psalm li. 5.--"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did
my mother conceive me." Upon this I remark,--
(1.) It would seem, if this text is to be understood literally, that the Psalmist
intended to affirm the sinful state of his mother, at the time of his conception,
and during gestation. But,--
(2.) I made a remark that is applicable to all the texts and arguments that
are adduced in support of the theory in question; namely, that to take this view
of the subject, and to interpret these passages as teaching the constitutional sinfulness
of man, is to contradict God's own definition of sin, and the only definition that
human reason or common sense can receive, to wit, that "sin is a transgression
of the law." This is, no doubt, the only correct definition of sin. But we have
seen that the law does not legislate over substance, requiring men to have a certain
nature, but over voluntary action only. If the Psalmist really intended to affirm,
that the substance of his body was sinful from its conception, then he not only arrays
himself against God's own definition of sin, but he also affirms sheer nonsense.
The substance of an unborn child sinful! It is impossible! But what did the Psalmist
mean? I answer: This verse is found in David's penitential psalm. He was deeply convinced
of sin, and was, as he had good reason to be, much excited, and expressed himself,
as we all do in similar circumstances, in strong language. His eye, as was natural
and is common in such cases, had been directed back along the pathway of life up
to the days of his earliest recollection. He remembered sins among the earliest acts
of his recollected life. He broke out in the language of this text to express, not
the anti-scriptural and nonsensical dogma of a sinful constitution, but to affirm
in his strong, poetic language, that he had always been a sinner from the commencement
of his moral existence, or from the earliest moment of his capability of being a
sinner. This is the strong language of poetry. To press this and similar texts further
than this, is to violate two sound rules of biblical interpretation, to wit:--
(1.) That language is to be interpreted according to the subject matter of discourse.
(2.) That one passage is to be so interpreted as not to contradict another. But to
make this text state that sin belongs, or may belong, to the substance of an unborn
infant, is to make it flatly contradict another passage that defines sin to be a
"transgression of the law of God."
Some suppose that, in the passage in question, the Psalmist referred to, and meant
to acknowledge and assert, his low and despicable origin, and to say, I was always
a sinner, and my mother that conceived me was a sinner, and I am but the degenerate
plant of a strange vine, without intending to affirm anything in respect to the absolute
sinfulness of his nature.
Again, Psa. lviii. 3. "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go
astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies."
Upon this text I remark,--
That it has been quoted at one time to establish the doctrine of a sinful nature,
and at another to prove that infants commit actual sin from the very day and hour
of their birth. But certainly no such use can be legitimately made of this text.
It does not affirm anything of a sinful nature, but this has been inferred from what
it does affirm, that the wicked are estranged from their birth. But does this mean,
that they are really and literally estranged from the day and hour of their birth,
and that they really "go astray the very day they are born, speaking lies?"
This every one knows to be contrary to fact. The text cannot then be pressed to the
letter. What then does it mean? It must mean, like the text last examined, that the
wicked are estranged and go astray from the commencement of their moral agency. If
it means more than this, it would contradict other plain passages of scripture. It
affirms, in strong, graphic, and poetic language, the fact, that the first moral
conduct and character of children is sinful. This is all that in truth it can assert,
and it doubtless dates the beginning of their moral depravity at a very early period,
and expresses it in very strong language, as if it were literally from the hour of
birth. But when it adds, that they go astray speaking lies, we know that this is
not, and cannot be, literally taken, for, as every one knows, children do not speak
at all from their birth. Should we understand the Psalmist as affirming, that children
go astray as soon as they go at all, and speak lies as soon as they speak at all,
this would not prove that their nature was in itself sinful, but might well consist
with the theory that their physical depravity, together with their circumstances
of temptation, led them into selfishness, from the very first moment of their moral
Again, John iii. 6. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that
which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
Upon this I remark--
(1.) That it may, if literally taken, mean nothing more that this, that the
body which is born of flesh is flesh, and that that which is born of the Spirit is
spirit; that is, that this birth of which he was speaking was of the soul, and not
of the body. But--
(2.) It may be understood to mean, that that which results from the influence
of the flesh is flesh, in the sense of sin; for this is a common sense of the term
flesh in the New Testament, and that which results from the Spirit, is spirit or
spiritual, in the sense of holy. This I understand to be the true sense. The text
when thus understood, does not at all support the dogma of a sinful nature or constitution,
but only this, that the flesh tends to sin, that the appetites and passions are temptations
to sin, so that when the will obeys them it sins. Whatever is born of the propensities,
in the sense that the will yields to their control, is sinful. And, on the other
hand, whatever is born of the Spirit, that is, whatever results from the agency of
the Holy Spirit, in the sense that the will yields to Him, is holy.
Again, Eph. ii. 3. "By nature the children of wrath, even as others."
Upon this text I remark--
(1.) That it cannot, consistently with natural justice, be understood to mean,
that we are exposed to the wrath of God on account of our nature. It is a monstrous
and blasphemous dogma, that a holy God is angry with any creature for possessing
a nature with which he was sent into being without his knowledge or consent. The
Bible represents God as angry with men for their wicked deeds, and not for their
(2.) It is common and proper to speak of the first state in which men universally
are, as a natural state. Thus we speak of sinners before regeneration, as in a state
of nature, as opposed to a changed state, regenerate state, and a state of grace.
By this we do not necessarily mean, that they have a nature sinful in itself, but
merely that before regeneration they are universally and morally depraved, that this
is their natural, as opposed to their regenerate state. Total moral depravity is
the state that follows, and results from their first birth, and is in this sense
natural, and in this sense alone, can it truly be said, that they are "by nature
children of wrath." Against the use that is made of this text, and all this
class of texts, may be arrayed the whole scope of scripture, that represents man
as to blame, and to be judged and punished only for his deeds. The subject matter
of discourse in these texts is such as to demand that we should understand them as
not implying, or asserting, that sin is an essential part of our nature.
This lecture was typed in by John and Terri Clark.
LECTURE XL. Back
FURTHER EXAMINATION OF THE ARGUMENTS ADDUCED IN SUPPORT OF THE POSITION, THAT HUMAN
NATURE IS IN ITSELF SINFUL.
- The defenders of the doctrine of constitutional sinfulness, or moral depravity,
urge as an additional argument:--
That sin is a universal effect of human nature, and therefore human nature must be
itself sinful. Answer,--
This is a non sequitur. Sin may be, and must be, an abuse of free agency; and this
may be accounted for, as we shall see, by ascribing it to the universality of temptation,
and does not at all imply a sinful constitution. But if sin necessarily implies a
sinful nature, how did Adam and Eve sin? Had they a sinful nature to account for,
and to cause their first sin? How did angels sin? Had they also a sinful nature?
Either sin does not imply a sinful nature, or a nature in itself sinful, or Adam
and angels must have had sinful natures before their fall.
Again: suppose we regard sin as an event or effect. An effect only implies
an adequate cause. Free, responsible will is an adequate cause in the presence of
temptation, without the supposition of a sinful constitution, as has been demonstrated
in the case of Adam and of angels. When we have found an adequate cause, it is unphilosophical
to look for and assign another.
Again: it is said that no motive to sin could be a motive or a temptation,
if there were not a sinful taste, relish, or appetite, inherent in the constitution,
to which the temptation or motive is addressed. For example, the presence of food,
it is said, would be no temptation to eat, were there not a constitutional appetency
terminating on food. So the presence of any object could be no inducement to sin,
were there not a constitutional appetency or craving for sin. So that, in fact, sin
in action were impossible, unless there were sin in the nature. To this I reply,--
Suppose this objection be applied to the sin of Adam and of angels. Can we not account
for Eve's eating the forbidden fruit without supposing that she had a craving for
sin? The Bible informs us that her craving was for the fruit, for knowledge, and
not for sin. The words are,--"And when the woman saw that the tree was good
for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make
one wise, she took of the fruit thereof and did eat, and gave also unto her husband
with her, and he did eat." Here is nothing of a craving for sin. Eating this
fruit was indeed sinful; but the sin consisted in consenting to gratify, in a prohibited
manner, the appetites, not for sin, but for food and knowledge. But the advocates
of this theory say, that there must be an adaptedness in the constitution, a something
within answering to the outward motive or temptation, otherwise sin were impossible.
This is true. But the question is, What is that something within, which responds
to the outward motive? Is it a craving for sin? We have just seen what it was in
the case of Adam and Eve. It was simply the correlation that existed between the
fruit and their constitution, its presence exciting the desires for food and knowledge.
This led to prohibited indulgence. But all men sin in precisely the same way. They
consent to gratify, not a craving for sin, but a craving for other things, and the
consent to make self-gratification an end, is the whole of sin.
This argument assumes as true, what on a former occasion we have seen to be false,
namely, that sinners love sin for its own sake. If it could be true, total depravity
would of necessity secure perfect blessedness. It would be the very state which the
mind supremely loves for its own sake. The sinner could then say, not merely in the
language of poetry, but in sober prose and fact, "Evil, be thou my good."
The theologians whose views we are canvassing, maintain that the appetites, passions,
desires, and propensities, which are constitutional and entirely involuntary, are
in themselves sinful. To this I reply, that Adam and Eve possessed them before they
fell. Christ possessed them, or he was not a man, nor, in any proper sense, a human
being. No, these appetites, passions, and propensities, are not sinful, though they
are the occasions of sin. They are a temptation to the will to seek their unlawful
indulgence. When these lusts or appetites are spoken of as the "passions of
sin," or as "sinful lusts or passions," it is not because they are
sinful in themselves, but because they are the occasions of sin. It has been asked,
Why are not the appetites and propensities to be regarded as sinful, since they are
the prevalent temptations to sin? I reply,--
(1.) They are involuntary, and moral character can no more be predicated of them,
on account of their being temptations, than it could of the fruit that was a temptation
to Eve. They have no design to tempt. They are constitutional, unintelligent, involuntary;
and it is impossible that moral character should be predicable of them. A moral agent
is responsible for his emotions, desires, &c., so far as they are under the direct
or indirect control of his will, and no further. He is always responsible for the
manner in which he gratifies them. If he indulges them in accordance with the law
of God, he does right. If he makes their gratification his end, he sins.
(2.) Again: the death and suffering of infants previous to actual transgression,
is adduced as an argument to prove that infants have a sinful nature. To this I reply,--
(i.) That this argument must assume, that there must be sin wherever there
is suffering and death. But this assumption proves too much, as it would prove that
mere animals have a sinful nature, or have committed actual sin. An argument that
proves too much proves nothing.
(ii.) Physical sufferings prove only physical, and not moral, depravity. Previous
to moral agency, infants are no more subjects of moral government than brutes are;
therefore, their sufferings and death are to be accounted for as are those of brutes,
namely, by ascribing them to physical interference with the laws of life and health.
Another argument for a sinful constitution is, that unless infants have a sinful
nature, they do not need sanctification to fit them for heaven. Answer:--
(1.) This argument assumes, that, if they are not sinful, they must be holy;
whereas they are neither sinful nor holy, until they are moral agents, and render
themselves so by obedience or disobedience to the moral law. If they are to go to
heaven, they must be made holy or must be sanctified.
(2.) This objection assumes, that previous sinfulness is a condition of the
necessity of being holy. This is contrary to fact. Were Adam and angels first sinful
before they were sanctified? But it is assumed that unless moral agents are at first
sinners, they do not need the Holy Spirit to induce them to be holy. That is, unless
their nature is sinful, they would become holy without the Holy Spirit. But where
do we ascertain this? Suppose that they have no moral character, and that their nature
is neither holy nor sinful. Will they become holy without being enlightened by the
Holy Spirit? Who will assert that they will?
(3.) That infants have a sinful nature has been inferred from the institution
of circumcision so early as the eighth day after birth. Circumcision, it is truly
urged, was designed to teach the necessity of regeneration, and by way of implication,
the doctrine of moral depravity. It is claimed, that its being enjoined as obligatory
upon the eighth day after birth, was requiring it at the earliest period at which
it could be safely performed. From this it is inferred, that infants are to be regarded
as morally depraved from their birth.
In answer to this I would say, that infant circumcision was doubtless designed to
teach the necessity of their being saved by the Holy Spirit from the dominion of
the flesh; that the influence of the flesh must be restrained; and the flesh circumcised,
or the soul would be lost. This truth needed to be impressed on the parents from
the birth of their children. This very significant, and bloody, and painful rite,
was well calculated to impress this truth upon parents, and to lead them from their
birth to watch over the developement and indulgence of their propensities, and to
pray for their sanctification. Requiring it at so early a day was no doubt designed
to indicate, that they are from the first under the dominion of their flesh, without
however affording any inference in favour of the idea, that their flesh was in itself
sinful, or that the action of their will at that early age was sinful. If reason
was not developed, the subjection of the will to appetite could not be sinful. But
whether this subjection of the will to the gratification of the appetite was sinful
or not, the child must be delivered from it, or it could never be fitted for heaven,
any more than a mere brute can be fitted for heaven. The fact, that circumcision
was required on the eighth day, and not before, seems to indicate, not that they
are sinners absolutely from birth, but that they very early become so, even from
the commencement of moral agency.
Again: the rite must be performed at some time. Unless a particular day were
appointed, it would be very apt to be deferred, and finally not performed at all.
It is probable, that God commanded that it should be done at the earliest period
at which it could be safely done, not only for the reasons already assigned, but
to prevent its being neglected too long, and perhaps altogether: and perhaps, also,
because it would be less painful and dangerous at that early age, when the infant
slept most of the time. The longer it was neglected the greater would be the temptation
to neglect it altogether. So painful a rite needed to be enjoined by positive statute,
at some particular time; and it was desirable on all accounts that it should be done
as early as it safely could be. This argument, then, for native constitutional moral
depravity amounts really to nothing.
Again: it is urged, that unless infants have a sinful nature, should they
die in infancy, they could not be saved by the grace of Christ.
To this I answer, that, in this case they would not, and could not, as a matter of
course, be sent to the place of punishment for sinners; because that were to confound
the innocent with the guilty, a thing morally impossible with God.
But what grace could there be in saving them from a sinful constitution, that is
not exercised in saving them from circumstances that would certainly result in their
becoming sinners, if not snatched from them? In neither case do they need pardon
for sin. Grace is unearned favour--a gratuity. If the child has a sinful nature,
it is his misfortune, and not his crime. To save him from this nature is to save
him from those circumstances that will certainly result in actual transgression,
unless he is rescued by death and by the Holy Spirit. So if his nature is not sinful,
yet it is certain that his nature and circumstances are such, that he will surely
sin unless rescued by death or by the Holy Spirit, before he is capable of sinning.
It certainly must be an infinite favour to be rescued from such circumstances, and
especially to have eternal life conferred as a mere gratuity. This surely is grace.
And as infants belong to a race of sinners who are all, as it were, turned over into
the hands of Christ, they doubtless will ascribe their salvation to the infinite
grace of Christ.
Again: is it not grace that saves us from sinning? What then is it but grace
that saves infants from sinning, by snatching them away from circumstances of temptation?
In what way does grace save adults from sinning, but by keeping them from temptation,
or by giving them grace to overcome it? And is there no grace in rescuing infants
from circumstances that are certain, if they are left in them, to lead them into
All that can be justly said in either case is, that if infants are saved at all,
which I suppose they are, they are rescued by the benevolence of God from circumstances
that would result in certain and eternal death, and are by grace made heirs of eternal
life. But after all, it is useless to speculate about the character and destiny of
those who are confessedly not moral agents. The benevolence of God will take care
of them. It is nonsensical to insist upon their moral depravity before they are moral
agents, and it is frivolous to assert, that they must be morally depraved, as a condition
of their being saved by grace.
We deny that the human constitution is morally depraved,--
((1.)) Because there is no proof of it.
((2.)) Because it is impossible that sin should be a quality of the substance of
soul or body. It is, and must be, a quality of choice or intention, and not of substance.
((3.)) To make sin an attribute or quality of substance is contrary to God's definition
of sin. "Sin," says the apostle, "is anomia," a "transgression
of, or a want of conformity to, the moral law." That is, it consists in a refusal
to love God and our neighbour, or, which is the same thing, in loving ourselves supremely.
((4.)) To represent the constitution as sinful, is to represent God, who is the author
of the constitution, as the author of sin. To say that God is not the direct former
of the constitution, but that sin is conveyed by natural generation from Adam, who
made himself sinful, is only to remove the objection one step farther back, but not
to obviate it; for God established the physical laws that of necessity bring about
((5.)) But how came Adam by a sinful nature? Did his first sin change his nature?
or did God change it as a penalty for sin? What ground is there for the assertion
that Adam's nature became in itself sinful by the fall? This is a groundless, not
to say ridiculous, assumption, and an absurdity. Sin an attribute of nature! A sinful
substance! Sin a substance! Is it a solid, a fluid, a material, or a spiritual substance?
I have received from a brother the following note on this subject:--
"The orthodox creeds are in some cases careful to say that original sin consists
in the substance of neither soul nor body. Thus Bretschneider, who is reckoned among
the rationalists in Germany, says: 'The symbolical books very rightly maintained
that original sin is not in any sense the substance of man, his body or soul, as
Flacius taught,--but that it has been infused into human nature by Satan, and mixed
with it, as poison and wine are mixed.'
"They rather expressly guard against the idea that they mean by the phrase 'man's
nature,' his substance, but somewhat which is fixed in the substance. They explain
original sin, therefore, not as an essential attribute of man, that is, a necessary
and essential part of his being, but as an accident, that is, somewhat which does
not subsist in itself, but as something accidental, which has come into human nature.
He quotes the Formula Concordantiæ as saying: 'Nature does not denote the substance
itself of man, but something which inheres fixed in the nature or substance.' Accident
is defined, 'what does not subsist by itself, but is in some substance and can be
distinguished from it.'"
Here, it seems, is sin by itself, and yet not a substance or subsistence--not a part
or attribute of soul or body. What can it be? Does it consist in wrong action? No,
not in action, but is an accident which inheres fixed in the nature of substance.
But what can it be? Not substance, nor yet action. But if it be anything, it must
be either substance or action. If it be a state of substance, what is this but substance
in a particular state? What a wonder it must be! Who ever saw it? But it is invisible,
for it is something neither matter nor spirit--a virus, a poison mixed with, yet
distinct from, the constitution. Do these writers think by this subtlety and refinement
to relieve their doctrine of constitutional moral depravity of its intrinsic absurdity?
If so, they are greatly mistaken; for really they only render it more absurd and
((6.)) I object to the doctrine of constitutional sinfulness, that it makes all sin,
original and actual, a mere calamity, and not a crime. For those who hold that sin
is an essential and inseparable part of our nature, to call it a crime, is to talk
nonsense. What! a sinful nature the crime of him upon whom it is entailed, without
his knowledge or consent? If the nature is sinful, in such a sense that action must
necessarily be sinful, which is the doctrine of the Confession of Faith, then sin
in action must be a calamity, and can be no crime. It is the necessary effect of
a sinful nature. This cannot be a crime, since the will has nothing to do with it.
((7.)) This doctrine represents sin as a disease, and obedience to law impossible,
until the nature is changed by a sovereign and physical agency of the Holy Spirit,
in which the subject is passive.
((8.)) Of course it must render repentance, either with or without the grace of God,
impossible, unless grace sets aside our reason. If repentance implies self-condemnation,
we can never repent in the exercise of our reason. Constituted as we are, it is impossible
that we should condemn ourselves for a sinful nature, or for actions that are unavoidable.
The doctrine of original sin, or of a sinful constitution, and of necessary sinful
actions, represents the whole moral government of God, the plan of salvation by Christ,
and indeed every doctrine of the gospel, as a mere farce. Upon this supposition the
law is tyranny, and the gospel an insult to the unfortunate.
((9.)) This doctrine represents sin as being of two kinds: original or constitutional,
and actual--sin of substance, and sin of action; whereas neither the Bible, nor common
sense acknowledges more than one kind of sin, and that consists in disobedience to
((10.)) This doctrine represents a sinful nature as the physical cause of actual
((11.)) It acknowledges a kind of sin of which no notice will be taken at the judgment.
The Bible everywhere represents the deeds done in the body, and not the constitution
itself, as the only things to be brought into judgment.
((12.)) It necessarily begets in sinners a self-justifying and God-condemning spirit.
Man must cease to be a reasonable being, and give himself up to the most ridiculous
imaginations, before he can blame himself for Adam's sin, as some have professed
to do, or before he can blame himself for possessing a sinful nature, or for sins
that unavoidably resulted from a sinful nature.
((13.)) This doctrine necessarily leads its advocates rather to pity and excuse sinners,
than unqualifiedly to blame them.
((14.)) It is difficult, and, indeed, impossible for those who really believe this
doctrine, to urge immediate repentance and submission on the sinner, feeling that
he is infinitely to blame unless he instantly comply. It is a contradiction to affirm,
that a man can heartily believe in the doctrine in question, and yet truly and heartily
blame sinners for not doing what is naturally impossible to them. The secret conviction
must be in the mind of such an one, that the sinner is not really to blame for being
a sinner. For in fact, if this doctrine is true, he is not to blame for being a sinner,
any more than he is to blame for being a human being. This the advocate of this doctrine
must know. It is vain for him to set up the pretence that he truly blames sinners
for their nature, or for their conduct that was unavoidable. He can no more do it,
than he can honestly deny the necessary affirmations of his own reason. Therefore
the advocates of this theory must merely hold it as a theory, without believing it,
or otherwise they must in their secret conviction excuse the sinner.
((15.)) This doctrine naturally and necessarily leads its advocates, secretly at
least, to ascribe the atonement of Christ rather to justice than to grace--to regard
it rather as an expedient to relieve the unfortunate, than to render the forgiveness
of the inexcusable sinner, possible. The advocates of the theory cannot but regard
the case of the sinner as rather a hard one, and God as under an obligation to provide
a way for him to escape a sinful nature, entailed upon him in spite of himself, and
from actual transgressions which result from his nature by a law of necessity. If
all this is true, the sinner's case is infinitely hard, and God would appear the
most unreasonable and cruel of beings, if he did not provide for their escape. These
convictions will, and must, lodge in the mind of him who really believes the dogma
of a sinful nature. This, in substance, is sometimes affirmed by the defenders of
the doctrine of original sin.
((16.)) The fact that Christ died in the stead and behalf of sinners, proves that
God regarded them not as unfortunate, but as criminal and altogether without excuse.
Surely Christ need not have died to atone for the misfortunes of men. His death was
to atone for their guilt, and not for their misfortunes. But if they are without
excuse for sin, they must be without a sinful nature that renders sin unavoidable.
If men are without excuse for sin, as the whole law and gospel assume and teach,
it cannot possibly be that their nature is sinful, for a sinful nature would be the
best of all excuses for sin.
((17.)) This doctrine is a stumbling-block both to the church and the world, infinitely
dishonourable to God, and an abomination alike to God and the human intellect, and
should be banished from every pulpit, and from every formula of doctrine, and from
the world. It is a relic of heathen philosophy, and was foisted in among the doctrines
of Christianity by Augustine, as every one may know who will take the trouble to
examine for himself. This view of moral depravity that I am opposing, has long been
the stronghold of universalism. From it, the universalists inveighed with resistless
force against the idea that sinners would be sent to an eternal hell. Assuming the
long-defended doctrine of original or constitutional sinfulness, they proceed to
show, that it would be infinitely unreasonable and unjust in God to send them to
hell. What! create them with a sinful nature, from which proceed, by a law of necessity,
actual transgressions, and then send them to an eternal hell for having this nature,
and for transgressions that are unavoidable? Impossible! they say; and the human
intellect responds, Amen.
((18.)) From the dogma of a sinful nature or constitution also, has naturally and
irresistibly flowed the doctrine of inability to repent, and the necessity of a physical
regeneration. These too have been a sad stumbling-block to universalists, as every
one knows who is at all acquainted with the history of universalism. They infer the
salvation of all men, from the fact of God's benevolence and physical omnipotence!
God is almighty, and he is love. Men are constitutionally depraved, and are unable
to repent. God will not, cannot send them to hell. They do not deserve it. Sin is
a calamity, and God can save them, and he ought to do so. This is the substance of
their argument. And assuming the truth of their premises, there is no evading their
conclusion. But the whole argument is built on "such stuff as dreams are made
of." Strike out the erroneous dogma of a sinful nature, and the whole edifice
of universalism comes to the ground in a moment.
This lecture was typed in by Jim Boyd.
LECTURE XLI. Back to Top
We come now to consider--
- 2. THE PROPER METHOD OF ACCOUNTING FOR MORAL DEPRAVITY.
The term "moral" is from the Latin mos, manners. The term "depravity,"
as has been shown, is from de and pravus, crooked. The terms united, signify crooked
manners, or bad morals. The word amartia, rendered sin, as has been said, signifies
to miss the mark, to aim at the wrong end, a deviation from the divine law. In this
discussion I must,
(1.) Remind you of some positions that have been settled respecting moral depravity.
(2.) Consult the oracles of God respecting the nature of moral depravity, or sin.
(3.) Consult the oracles of God in respect to the proper method of accounting for
the existence of sin.
(4.) Show the manner in which it is to be accounted for as an ultimate fact.
- (1.) Some positions that have been settled.
(i.) It has been shown that moral depravity resolves itself into selfishness.
(ii.) That selfishness consists in the supreme choice of self-indulgence.
(iii.) That self-indulgence consists in the committal of the will to the gratification
of the sensibility, as opposed to obeying the law of the reason, and of God.
(iv.) That sin, or moral depravity, is a unit, and always consists in this
committed state of the will to self-gratification, irrespective of the particular
form or means of self-gratification.
(v.) It has also been shown, that moral depravity does not consist in a sinful
(vi.) And, also that actual transgression cannot justly be ascribed to a sinful
(vii.) We have also seen that all sin is actual, and that no other than actual
transgression can justly be called sin.
(2.) We are to consult the oracles of God respecting the nature of moral depravity,
Reference has often been made to the teachings of inspiration upon this subject.
But it is important to review our ground in this place, that we may ascertain what
are the teachings, and what are the assumptions, of the bible in regard to the nature
of sin. Does it assume that as a truth, which natural theology teaches upon the subject?
What is taught in the bible, either expressly, or by way of inference and implication,
upon this subject?
(i.) The Bible gives a formal definition of sin. 1 John iii. 4, "Sin
is a transgression of the law;" and v. 17, "All unrighteousness is sin."
As was remarked on a former occasion, this definition is not only an accurate one,
but it is the only one that can possibly be true.
(ii.) The Bible everywhere makes the law the only standard of right and wrong,
and obedience to it to be the whole of virtue, and disobedience to it the whole of
sin. This truth lies everywhere upon the face of the Bible. It is taught, assumed,
implied, or expressed, on every page of the Bible.
(iii.) It holds men responsible for their voluntary actions alone, or more
strictly for their choices alone, and expressly affirms, that "if there be a
willing mind, it is accepted according to what a man hath, and not according to what
he hath not." That is, willing as God directs is accepted as obedience, whether
we are able to execute our choices or not.
(iv.) The Bible always represents sin as something done or committed, or wilfully
omitted, and never as a part or attribute of soul or body. We have seen, that the
texts that have been relied on, as teaching the doctrine of constitutional sinfulness,
when rightly understood, mean no such thing.
(v.) The Bible assures us, that all sin shall pass in review at the solemn
judgment, and always represents all sin then to be recognized, as consisting in "the
deeds done in the body." Texts that support these assertions are too numerous
to need to be quoted, as every reader of the Bible knows.
(3.) We are to consult the Bible in respect to the proper method of accounting for
(i.) We have more than once seen that the Bible has given us the history of
the introduction of sin into our world; and that from the narrative, it is plain,
that the first sin consisted in selfishness, or in consenting to indulge the excited
constitutional propensities in a prohibited manner. In other words, it consisted
in yielding the will to the impulses of the sensibility, instead of abiding by the
law of God, as revealed in the intelligence. Thus the Bible ascribes the first sin
of our race to the influence of temptation.
(ii.) The Bible once, and only once, incidentally intimates that Adam's first
sin has in some way been the occasion, not the necessary physical cause, of all the
sins of men. Rom. v. 12-19.
(iii.) It neither says nor intimates anything in relation to the manner in
which Adam's sin has occasioned this result. It only incidentally recognizes the
fact, and then leaves it, just as if the quo modo was too obvious to need explanation.
(iv.) In other parts of the Bible we are informed how we are to account for
the existence of sin among men. For example, James i. 15, "When lust ('desire',
epithumia) has conceived, it bringeth forth sin." Here sin is represented, not
as the desire itself, but as consisting in the consent of the will to gratify the
James says again, that a man is tempted when he is drawn aside of his own lusts,
(epithumia "desires") and enticed. That is, his lusts, or the impulses
of his sensibility, are his tempters. When he or his will is overcome of these, he
(v.) Paul and other inspired writers represent sin as consisting in a carnal
or fleshly mind, in the mind of the flesh, or in minding the flesh. It is plain that
by the term flesh they mean what we understand by the sensibility, as distinguished
from intellect, and that they represent sin as consisting in obeying, minding the
impulses of the sensibility. They represent the world, and the flesh, and Satan,
as the three great sources of temptation. It is plain that the world and Satan tempt
by appeals to the flesh, or to the sensibility. Hence, the apostles have much to
say of the necessity of the destruction of the flesh, of the members, of putting
off the old man with his deeds, &c. Now, it is worthy of remark, that all this
painstaking, on the part of inspiration, to intimate the source from whence our sin
proceeds, and to apprise us of the proper method of accounting for it, and also of
avoiding it, has probably been the occasion of leading certain philosophers and theologians
who have not carefully examined the whole subject, to take a view of it which is
directly opposed to the truth intended by the inspired writers. Because so much is
said of the influence of the flesh over the mind, they have inferred that the nature
and physical constitution of man is itself sinful. But the representations of Scripture
are, that the body is the occasion of sin. The law in his members, that warred against
the law of his mind, of which Paul speaks, is manifestly the impulse of the sensibility
opposed to the law of the reason. This law, that is, the impulse of his sensibility,
brings him into captivity, that is, influences his will, in spite of all his convictions
to the contrary.
In short, the Bible rightly interpreted, everywhere assumes and implies, that sin
consists in selfishness. It is remarkable, if the Bible be read with an eye to its
teachings and assumptions on this point, to what an extent this truth will appear.
(4.) How moral depravity is to be accounted for.
(i.) It consists, remember, in the committal of the will to the gratification
or indulgence of self--in the will's following, or submitting itself to be governed
by, the impulses and desires of the sensibility, instead of submitting itself to
the law of God revealed in the reason.
(ii.) This definition of the thing shows how it is to be accounted for, namely;
the sensibility acts as a powerful impulse to the will, from the moment of birth,
and secures the consent and activity of the will to procure its gratification, before
the reason is at all developed. The will is thus committed to the gratification of
feeling and appetite, when first the idea of moral obligation is developed. This
committed state of the will is not moral depravity, and has no moral character, until
the idea of moral obligation is developed. The moment this idea is developed, this
committal of the will to self-indulgence must be abandoned, or it becomes selfishness,
or moral depravity. But, as the will is already in a state of committal, and has
to some extent already formed the habit of seeking to gratify feeling, and as the
idea of moral obligation is at first but feebly developed, unless the Holy Spirit
interferes to shed light on the soul, the will, as might be expected, retains its
hold on self-gratification. Here alone moral character commences, and must commence.
No one can conceive of its commencing earlier. Let it be remembered, that selfishness
consists in the supreme and ultimate choice, or in the preference of self-gratification
as an end, or for its own sake, over all other interests. Now, as the choice of an
end implies and includes the choice of the means, selfishness, of course, causes
all that outward life and activity that makes up the entire history of sinners.
This selfish choice is the wicked heart--the propensity to sin--that causes what
is generally termed actual transgression. This sinful choice is properly enough called
indwelling sin. It is the latent, standing, controlling preference of the mind, and
the cause of all the outward and active life. It is not the choice of sin itself,
distinctly conceived of, or chosen as sin, but the choice of self-gratification,
which choice is sin.
Again: It should be remembered, that the physical depravity of our race has
much to do with our moral depravity. A diseased physical system renders the appetites,
passions, tempers, and propensities more clamorous and despotic in their demands,
and of course constantly urging to selfishness, confirms and strengthens it. It should
be distinctly remembered that physical depravity has no moral character in itself.
But yet it is a source of fierce temptation to selfishness. The human sensibility
is, manifestly, deeply physically depraved; and as sin, or moral depravity, consists
in committing the will to the gratification of the sensibility, its physical depravity
will mightily strengthen moral depravity. Moral depravity is then universally owing
to temptation. That is, the soul is tempted to self-indulgence, and yields to the
temptation, and this yielding, and not the temptation, is sin or moral depravity.
This is manifestly the way in which Adam and Eve became morally depraved. They were
tempted, even by undepraved appetite, to prohibited indulgence, and were overcome.
The sin did not lie in the constitutional desire of food, or of knowledge, or in
the excited state of these appetites or desires, but in the consent of the will to
Just in the same way all sinners become such, that is, they become morally depraved,
by yielding to temptation to self-gratification under some form. Indeed, it is impossible
that they should become morally depraved in any other way. To deny this were to overlook
the very nature of moral depravity. It is remarkable, that President Edwards, after
writing five hundred pages, in which he confounds physical and moral depravity; in
answer to an objection of Dr. Taylor of England, that his view made God the author
of the constitution, the author also of sin, turns immediately round, and without
seeming aware of his own inconsistency, ascribes all sin to temptation, and makes
it consist altogether in obeying the propensities, just as I have done. His words
"One argument against a supposed native, sinful depravity, which Dr. Taylor
greatly insists upon, is, 'that this does, in effect, charge Him who is the author
of our nature, who formed us in the womb, with being the author of a sinful corruption
of nature; and that it is highly injurious to the God of our nature, whose hands
have formed and fashioned us, to believe our nature to be originally corrupted, and
that in the worst sense of corruption.'
"With respect to this, I would observe, in the first place, that this writer,
in handling this grand objection, supposes something to belong to the doctrine objected
against, as maintained by the divines whom he is opposing, which does not belong
to it, nor follow from it. As particularly, he supposes the doctrine of original
sin to imply, that nature must be corrupted by some positive influence; 'something,
by some means or other, infused into human nature; some quality or other, not from
the choice of our minds, but like a taint, tincture, or infection, altering the natural
constitution, faculties, and dispositions of our souls! That sin and evil dispositions
are implanted in the fetus in the womb.' Whereas truly our doctrine neither implies
nor infers any such thing. In order to account for a sinful corruption of nature,
yea, a total native depravity of the heart of man, there is not the least need of
supposing any evil quality infused, implanted, or wrought into the nature of man,
by any positive cause or influence whatsoever, either from God, or the creature;
or of supposing that man is conceived and born with a fountain of evil in his heart,
such as is anything properly positive. I think a little attention to the nature of
things will be sufficient to satisfy any impartial, considerate inquirer, that the
absence of positive good principles, and so the withholding of a special divine influence
to impart and maintain those good principles--leaving the common natural principles
of self-love, natural appetite, &c, to themselves, without the government of
superior divine principles, will certainly be followed with the corruption, yea,
the total corruption of the heart, without occasion for any positive influences at
all. And that it was thus in fact, that corruption of nature came on Adam immediately
on his fall, and comes on all his posterity as sinning in him, and falling with him.
"The case with man was plainly this: When God made man at first he implanted
in him two kinds of principles. There was an inferior kind which may be natural,
being the principles of mere human nature; such as self-love, with those natural
appetites and passions which belong to the nature of man, in which his love to his
own liberty, honour, and pleasure, were exercised. These, when alone, and left to
themselves, are what the scriptures sometimes call flesh. Besides these, there were
superior principles, that were spiritual, holy, and divine, summarily comprehended
in divine love; wherein consisted the spiritual image of God, and man's righteousness
and true holiness; which are called in scripture the divine nature. These principles
may, in some sense, be called supernatural, being (however concreated or connate,
yet) such as are above those principles that are essentially implied in, or necessarily
resulting from, and inseparably connected with, mere human nature: and being such
as immediately depend on man's union and communion with God, or divine communications
and influences of God's Spirit, which though withdrawn, and man's nature forsaken
of these principles, human nature would be human nature still; man's nature, as such,
being entire without these divine principles, which the scripture sometimes calls
spirit, in contradistinction to flesh. These superior principles were given to possess
the throne, and maintain absolute dominion in the heart; the other to be wholly subordinate
and subservient. And while things continued thus, all was in excellent order, peace,
and beautiful harmony, and in a proper and perfect state. These divine principles
thus reigning, were the dignity, life, happiness, and glory of man's nature. When
man sinned and broke God's covenant, and fell under his curse, these superior principles
left his heart; for, indeed, God then left him, that communion with God on which
these principles depended, entirely ceased; the Holy Spirit, that divine inhabitant,
forsook the house, because it would have been utterly improper in itself, and inconsistent
with the constitution God had established, that he should still maintain communion
with man, and continue, by his friendly, gracious, vital influences, to dwell with
him and in him, after he was become a rebel, and had incurred God's wrath and curse.
Therefore, immediately the superior divine principles wholly ceased; so light ceases
in a room when the candle is withdrawn; and thus man was left in a state of darkness,
woeful corruption, and ruin; nothing but flesh without spirit. The inferior principles
of self-love and natural appetite, which were given only to serve, being alone, and
left to themselves, of course became reigning principles; having no superior principles
to regulate or control them, they became the absolute masters of the heart. The immediate
consequence of which was a fatal catastrophe, a turning of all things upside down,
and the succession of a state of the most odious and dreadful confusion. Man immediately
set up himself, and the objects of his private affections and appetites, as supreme,
and so they took the place of God. These inferior principles were like fire in a
house; which we say is a good servant, but a bad master; very useful while kept in
this place, but if left to take possession of the whole house, soon brings all to
destruction. Man's love to his own honour, separate interests, and private pleasure,
which before was wholly subordinate unto love to God, and regard to his authority
and glory, now disposes and impels him to pursue those objects, without regard to
God's honour or law; because there is no true regard to these divine things left
in him. In consequence of which, he seeks those objects as much when against God's
honour and law, as when agreeable to them. God still continuing strictly to require
supreme regard to himself, and forbidding all undue gratification of these inferior
passions; but only in perfect subordination to the ends, and agreeable to the rules
and limits which his holiness, honour, and law prescribe; hence, immediately arises
enmity in the heart, now wholly under the power of self-love; and nothing but war
ensures, in a course against God. As when a subject has once renounced his lawful
sovereign, and set up a pretender in his stead, a state of enmity and war against
his rightful king necessarily ensues. It were easy to show, how every lust, and depraved
disposition of man's heart, would naturally arise from this privative original, if
here were room for it. Thus it is easy to give an account, how total corruption of
heart should follow on man's eating the forbidden fruit, though that was but one
act of sin, without God putting any evil into his heart, or implanting any bad principle,
or infusing any corrupt taint, and so becoming the author of depravity. Only God's
withdrawing, as it was highly proper and necessary that he should, from rebel man,
and his natural principles being left to themselves, is sufficient to account for
his becoming entirely corrupt, and bent on sinning against God.
"And as Adam's nature became corrupt, without God's implanting or infusing of
any evil thing into it; so does the nature of his posterity. God dealing with Adam
as the head of his posterity, as has been shown, and treating them as one, he deals
with his posterity as having all sinned in him. And therefore, as God withdrew spiritual
communion, and his vital, gracious influence from all the members, as they come into
existence; whereby they come into the world mere flesh, and entirely under the government
of natural and inferior principles; and so become wholly corrupt, as Adam did."--Edwards'
Works, pp. 532-538.
To sum up the truth upon this subject in few words, I would say--
- 1. Moral depravity in our first parents was induced by temptation addressed to
the unperverted susceptibilities of their nature. When these susceptibilities became
strongly excited, they overcame the will; that is, the human pair were over-persuaded,
and fell under the temptation. This has been repeatedly said, but needs repetition
in a summing up.
- 2. All moral depravity commences in substantially the same way. Proof:--
- (1.) The impulses of the sensibility are developed, and gradually commencing
from the birth, and depending on physical developement and birth.
(2.) The first acts of will are in obedience to these.
(3.) Self-gratification is the rule of action previous to the developement of reason.
(4.) No resistance is offered to the will's indulgence of appetite, until a habit
of self-indulgence is formed.
(5.) When reason affirms moral obligation, it finds the will in a state of habitual
and constant committal to the impulses of the sensibility.
(6.) The demands of the sensibility have become more and more despotic every hour
(7.) In this state of things, unless the Holy Spirit interpose, the idea of moral
obligation will be but dimly developed.
(8.) The will of course rejects the bidding of reason, and cleaves to self-indulgence.
(9.) This is the settling of a fundamental question. It is deciding in favour of
appetite, against the claims of conscience and of God.
(10.) Light once rejected, can be afterwards more easily resisted, until it is nearly
(11.) Selfishness confirms, and strengthens, and perpetuates itself by a natural
process. It grows with the sinner's growth, and strengthens with his strength; and
will do so for ever, unless overcome by the Holy Spirit through the truth.
- 1. Adam, being the natural head of the race, would naturally, by the wisest constitution
of things, greatly affect for good or evil his whole posterity.
- 2. His sin in many ways exposed his posterity to aggravated temptation. Not only
the physical constitution of all men, but all the influences under which they first
form their moral character, are widely different from what they would have been,
if sin had never been introduced.
- 3. When selfishness is understood to be the whole of moral depravity, its quo
modo, or in what way it comes to exist, is manifest. Clear conceptions of the thing
will instantly reveal the occasion and manner.
- 4. The only difficulty in accounting for it, has been the false assumption, that
there must be, and is, something lying back of the free actions of the will, which
sustains to those actions the relation of a cause, that is itself sinful.
- 5. If holy Adam, and holy angels, could fall under temptations addressed to their
undepraved sensibility, how absurd it is to conclude, that sin in those who are born
with a physically depraved constitution, cannot be accounted for, without ascribing
it to original sin, or to a nature that is in itself sinful.
- 6. Without divine illumination, the moral character will of course be formed
under the influence of the flesh. That is, the lower propensities will of course
influence the will, unless the reason be developed by the Holy Spirit, as was said
by President Edwards, in the extract just quoted.
- 7. The dogma of constitutional moral depravity, is a part and parcel of the doctrine
of a necessitated will. It is a branch of a grossly false and heathenish philosophy.
How infinitely absurd, dangerous, and unjust, then, to embody it in a standard of
Christian doctrine, to give it the place of an indispensable article of faith, and
denounce all who will not swallow its absurdities, as heretics. O, shame!
- 8. We are unable to say precisely at what age infants become moral agents, and
of course how early they become sinners. Doubtless there is much difference among
children in this respect. Reason is developed in one earlier than in another, according
to the constitution and circumstances.
- A thorough consideration of the subject, will doubtless lead to the conviction,
that children become moral agents much earlier than is generally supposed. The conditions
of moral agency are, as has been repeatedly said in former lectures, the possession
of the powers of moral agency, together with the developement of the ideas of the
good or valuable, of moral obligation or oughtness--of right and wrong--of praise
and blameworthiness. I have endeavoured to show, in former lectures, that mental
satisfaction, blessedness or happiness, is the ultimate good. Satisfaction arising
from the gratification of the appetites, is one of the earliest experiences of human
beings. This no doubt suggest or developes, at a very early period, the idea of the
good or the valuable. The idea is doubtless developed, long before the word that
expresses it is understood. The child knows that happiness is good, and seeks it
in the form of self-gratification, long before the terms that designate this state
of mind are at all understood. It knows that its own enjoyment is worth seeking,
and doubtless very early has the idea, that the enjoyment of others is worth seeking,
and affirms to itself, not in words, but in idea, that it ought to please its parents
and those around it. It knows, in fact, though language is as yet unknown, that it
loves to be gratified, and to be happy, that it loves and seeks enjoyment for itself,
and doubtless has the idea that it ought not to displease and distress those around
it, but that it ought to endeavour to please and gratify them. This is probably among
the first ideas, if not the very first idea, of the pure reason that is developed,
that is, the idea of the good, the valuable, the desirable; and the next must be
that of oughtness, or of moral obligation, or of right and wrong, &c. I say again,
these ideas are, and must be developed, before the signs or words that express them
are at all understood, and the words would never be understood except the idea were
first developed. We always find, at the earliest period at which children can understand
words, that they have the idea of obligation, of right and wrong. As soon as these
words are understood by them, they recognize them as expressing ideas already in
their own minds, and which ideas they have had further back than they can remember.
Some, and indeed most persons, seem to have the idea, that children affirm themselves
to be under moral obligation, before they have the idea of the good; that they affirm
their obligation to obey their parents before they know, or have the idea of the
good or of the valuable. But this is, and must be a mistake. They may and do affirm
obligation to obey their parents, before they can express in language, and before
they would understand, a statement of the grounds of their obligation. The idea,
however, they have, and must have, or they could not affirm obligation. It is agreed,
and cannot be denied, that moral obligation respects acts of will, and not strictly
outward action. It is agreed, and cannot be denied, that obligation respects intelligent
actions of will. It is also agreed, and cannot be denied, that all intelligent acts
of will, and such as those to which moral obligation belongs, must respect ends or
means. If, therefore, one has any true idea of moral obligation, it must respect
acts of will or intentions. It must respect the choice of an end, or of means. If
it respect the choice of a means, the idea of the end must exist. It cannot justly
affirm obligation of anything but choice or intention, for, as a matter of fact,
obligation belongs to nothing else. The fact is, the child knows that it ought to
please its parent, and seek to make its parent happy. This it knows, that it ought
to intend, long before it knows what the word intention means. Upon this assumption
it bases all its affirmations in respect to its obligation to obey its parents and
others that are around it. It regards its own satisfaction or enjoyment as a good,
and seeks it, before it knows what the words mean that express this state of mind.
It also knows, that the enjoyment of others is a good, and affirms not in word, but
in idea, that it ought to seek the enjoyment of all. This idea is the basis upon
which all affirmations of obligation rest, and if it be truly an idea of real obligation,
it is impossible that the idea of the good, or of the value of enjoyment, should
not be its base. To assert the contrary, is to overlook the admitted fact, that moral
obligation must respect choice, and the choice of an end; that it must respect intention.
It is absurd to suppose, that a being can truly affirm moral obligation, in respect
to outward action before he has the idea of the obligation to will, or intend, an
end. The idea of an end may not be developed in words, that is, the word expressive
of the idea may not be understood, but the idea must be in the mind, in a state of
developement, or there can be no affirmation of obligation. The fact is, there is
a logical connection between the idea of the good, and the idea of moral obligation,
of right and wrong, of praise and blameworthiness. These latter ideas cannot exist
without the first, and the existence of that necessitates the developement of these.
These are first truths of reason. In other words, these ideas are universally and
necessarily developed in the minds of moral agents, and indeed their developement
is the condition of moral agency. Most of the first truths are developed in idea,
long before the language in which they are expressed is or can be understood. Thus
the ideas of space, of time, of causality, of liberty of will, or ability, of the
good, of oughtness, or obligation of right and wrong, of praise or blameworthiness,
and many others, are developed before the meaning of these words is at all understood.
Human beings come gradually to understand the words or signs that represent their
ideas, and afterwards, so often express their ideas in words, that they finally get
the impression that they received the idea from the word, whereas, in every instance,
in respect to the first truths of reason, they had the idea long before they understood,
or perhaps ever heard, the word that represents it, and was coined to express it.
- 9. Those persons who maintain the sinfulness of the constitutional appetites,
must of course deny, that men can ever be entirely sanctified in this life, and must
maintain, as they do, that death must complete the work of sanctification.
- 10. False notions of moral depravity lie at the foundation of all the objections
I have seen to the doctrine of entire sanctification in this life.
- 11. A diseased nervous system is a fierce temptation. Some forms of disease expose
the soul to much trial. Dyspeptic and nervous persons need superabounding grace.
- 12. Why sin is so natural to mankind. Not because their nature is itself sinful,
but because the appetites and passions tend so strongly to self-indulgence. These
are temptations to sin, but sin itself consists not in these appetites and propensities,
but in the voluntary committal of the will to their indulgence. This committal of
the will is selfishness, and when the will is once given up to sin, it is very natural
to sin. The will once committed to self-indulgence as its end, selfish actions are
in a sense spontaneous.
- 13. The doctrine of original sin, as held by its advocates, must essentially
modify the whole system of practical theology. This will be seen as we proceed in
- 14. The constitution of a moral being as a whole, when all the powers are developed,
does not tend to sin, but strongly in an opposite direction; as is manifest from
the fact that when reason is thoroughly developed by the Holy Spirit, it is more
than a match for the sensibility, and turns the heart to God.
- 15. The difficulty is, that the sensibility gets the start of reason, and engages
the attention in devising means of self-gratification, and thus retards, and in a
great measure prevents, the developement of the ideas of the reason which were designed
to control the will.
- 16. It is this morbid developement that the Holy Spirit is given to rectify,
by so forcing truth upon the attention, as to secure the developement of the reason.
By doing this, he brings the will under the influence of truth. Our senses reveal
to us the objects correlated to our animal nature and propensities. The Holy Spirit
reveals God and the spiritual world, and all that class of objects that are correlated
to our higher nature, so as to give reason the control of the will. This is regeneration
and sanctification, as we shall see in its proper place.
This lecture was typed in by Vic Johanson.
LECTURE XLII. Back to Top
In the examination of this subject I will--
I. POINT OUT THE COMMON DISTINCTION BETWEEN REGENERATION AND CONVERSION.
II. STATE THE ASSIGNED REASONS FOR THIS DISTINCTION.
III. STATE OBJECTIONS TO THIS DISTINCTION.
IV. SHOW WHAT REGENERATION IS NOT.
V. WHAT IT IS.
VI. ITS UNIVERSAL NECESSITY.
VII. AGENCIES EMPLOYED IN IT.
VIII. INSTRUMENTALITIES EMPLOYED IN IT.
IX. THAT IN REGENERATION THE SUBJECT IS BOTH ACTIVE AND PASSIVE.
X. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN REGENERATION.
XI. PHILOSOPHICAL THEORIES OF REGENERATION.
XII. EVIDENCES OF REGENERATION.
I. I am to point out the common distinction between regeneration and conversion.
- 1. Regeneration is the term used by some theologians to express the divine agency
in changing the heart.
- 2. With them regeneration does not include and imply the activity of the subject,
but rather excludes it. These theologians, as will be seen in its place, hold that
a change of heart is first effected by the Holy Spirit while the subject is passive,
which change lays a foundation for the exercise, by the subject, of repentance, faith,
- 3. The term conversion with them expresses the activity and turning of the subject,
after regeneration is effected by the Holy Spirit. Conversion with them does not
include or imply the agency of the Holy Spirit, but expresses only the activity of
the subject. With them the Holy Spirit first regenerates or changes the heart, after
which the sinner turns or converts himself. So that God and the subject work each
in turn. God first changes the heart, and as a consequence, the subject afterwards
converts himself or turns to God. Thus the subject is passive in regeneration, but
active in conversion.
- When we come to the examination of the philosophical theories of regeneration,
we shall see that the views of these theologians respecting regeneration result naturally
and necessarily from their holding the dogma of constitutional moral depravity, which
we have recently examined. Until their views on that subject are corrected, no change
can be expected in their views of this subject. I said in a concluding remark, when
upon the subject of moral depravity, that erroneous views upon that subject must
necessarily materially affect and modify one's views upon most of the questions in
practical theology. Let us bear this remark in mind as we proceed, not only in the
discussions immediately before us, but also in all our future investigations, that
we may duly appreciate the importance of clear and correct views on the subject of
II. I am to state the assigned reasons for this distinction.
- 1. The original term plainly expresses and implies other than the agency of the
- 2. We need and must adopt a term that will express the Divine agency.
- 3. Regeneration is expressly ascribed to the Holy Spirit.
- 4. Conversion, as it implies and expresses the activity and turning of the subject,
does not include and imply any Divine agency, and therefore does not imply or express
what is intended by regeneration.
- 5. As two agencies are actually employed in the regeneration and conversion of
a sinner, it is necessary to adopt terms that will clearly teach this fact, and clearly
distinguish between the agency of God and of the creature.
- 6. The terms regeneration and conversion aptly express this distinction, and
therefore should be theologically employed.
III. I am to state the objections to this distinction.
- Objection. 1. The original term gennao, with its derivatives, may be rendered,
(1.) To beget. (2.) To bear or bring forth. (3.) To be begotten. (4.) To be born,
or brought forth.
- Objection. 2. Regeneration is in the Bible the same as the new birth.
- Objection. 3. To be born again is the same thing in the Bible use of the
term, as to have a new heart, to be a new creature, to pass from death unto life.
In other words, to be born again is to have a new moral character, to become holy.
To regenerate is to make holy. To be born of God, no doubt, expresses and includes
the Divine agency, but it also includes and expresses that which the Divine agency
is employed in effecting, namely, making the sinner holy. Certainly, a sinner is
not regenerated whose moral character is unchanged. If he were, how could it be truly
said, that whosoever is born of God overcometh the world, doth not commit sin, cannot
sin, &c.? If regeneration does not imply and include a change of moral character
in the subject, how can regeneration be made the condition of salvation? The fact
is, the term regeneration, or the being born of God, is designed to express primarily
and principally the thing done, that is, the making of a sinner holy, and expresses
also the fact, that God's agency induces the change. Throw out the idea of what is
done, that is, the change of moral character in the subject, and he would not be
born again, he would not be regenerated, and it could not be truly said, in such
a case, that God had regenerated him.
- It has been objected, that the term really means and expresses only the Divine
agency; and only by way of implication, embraces the idea of a change of moral character
and of course of activity in the subject. To this I reply--
(1.) That if it really expresses only the Divine agency, it leaves out of view the
thing effected by Divine agency.
(2.) That it really and fully expresses not only the Divine agency, but also that
which this agency accomplishes.
(3.) The thing which the agency of God brings about, is a new or spiritual birth,
a resurrection from spiritual death, the inducing of a new and holy life. The thing
done is the prominent idea expressed or intended by the term.
(4.) The thing done implies the turning or activity of the subject. It is nonsense
to affirm that his moral character is changed without any activity or agency of his
own. Passive holiness is impossible. Holiness is obedience to the law of God, the
law of love, and of course consists in the activity of the creature.
(5.) We have said that regeneration is synonymous in the Bible with a new heart.
But sinners are required to make to themselves a new heart, which they could not
do, if they were not active in this change. If the work is a work of God, in such
a sense, that He must first regenerate the heart or soul before the agency of the
sinner begins, it were absurd and unjust to require him to make to himself a new
heart, until he is first regenerated.
Regeneration is ascribed to man in the gospel, which it could not be, if the term
were designed to express only the agency of the Holy Spirit. "For though ye
have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ
Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel."--1 Cor. iv. 15.
(6.) Conversion is spoken of in the Bible as the work of another than the subject
of it, and cannot therefore have been designed to express only the activity of the
subject of it. (1.) It is ascribed to the word of God.--"The law of the Lord
is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the
simple."--Ps. xix. 7. (2.) To man. "Brethren, if any of you do err from
the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner
from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude
of sins."--James v. 19, 20.
(7.) Both conversion and regeneration are sometimes in the Bible ascribed to God,
sometimes to man, and sometimes to the subject; which shows clearly that the distinction
under examination is arbitrary and theological, rather than biblical.
(8.) The fact is, that both terms imply the simultaneous exercise of both human and
Divine agency. The fact that a new heart is the thing done, demonstrates the activity
of the subject; and the word regeneration, or the expression "born of the Holy
Spirit," asserts the Divine agency. The same is true of conversion, or the turning
the sinner to God. God is said to turn him, and he is said to turn himself. God draws
him, and he follows. In both alike God and man are both active, and their activity
is simultaneous. God works or draws, and the sinner yields or turns, or which is
the same thing, changes his heart, or, in other words, is born again. The sinner
is dead in trespasses and sins. God calls on him, "Awake thou that sleepest,
and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." Eph. v. 14. God
calls; the sinner hears and answers, Here am I. God says, Arise from the dead. The
sinner puts forth his activity, and God draws him into life; or rather, God draws,
and the sinner comes forth to life.
(9.) The distinction set up is not only not recognized in the Bible, but is plainly
of most injurious tendency, for two reasons:--
(i.) It assumes and inculcates a false philosophy of depravity and regeneration.
(ii.) It leads the sinner to wait to be regenerated, before he repents or
turns to God. It is of most fatal tendency to represent the sinner as under a necessity
of waiting to be passively regenerated, before he gives himself to God.
As the distinction is not only arbitrary, but anti-scriptural and injurious, and
inasmuch as it is founded in, and is designed to teach, a philosophy false and pernicious
on the subject of depravity and regeneration, I shall drop and discard the distinction;
and in our investigations henceforth, let it be understood, that I use regeneration
and conversion as synonymous terms.
IV. I am to show what regeneration is not.
It is not a change in the substance of soul or body. If it were, sinners could not
be required to effect it. Such a change would not constitute a change of moral character.
No such change is needed, as the sinner has all the faculties and natural attributes
requisite to render perfect obedience to God. All he needs is to be induced to use
these powers and attributes as he ought. The words conversion and regeneration do
not imply any change of substance, but only a change of moral state or of moral character.
The terms are not used to express a physical, but a moral change. Regeneration does
not express or imply the creation of any new faculties or attributes of nature, nor
any change whatever in the constitution of body or mind. I shall remark further upon
this point when we come to the examination of the philosophical theories of regeneration
before alluded to.
V. What regeneration is.
It has been said that regeneration and a change of heart are identical. It is important
to inquire into the scriptural use of the term heart. The term, like most others,
is used in the Bible in various senses. The heart is often spoken of in the Bible,
not only as possessing moral character, but as being the source of moral action,
or as the fountain from which good and evil actions flow, and of course as constituting
the fountain of holiness or of sin, or, in other words still, as comprehending, strictly
speaking, the whole of moral character. "But those things which proceed out
of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart
proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness,
blasphemies."--Matt. xv. 18, 19. "O generation of vipers, how can ye, being
evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and
an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things."--Matt. xii.
34, 35. When the heart is thus represented as possessing moral character, and as
the fountain of good and evil, it cannot mean,--
- 1. The bodily organ that propels the blood.
- 2. It cannot mean the substance of the soul or mind itself: substance cannot
in itself possess moral character.
- 3. It is not any faculty or natural attribute.
- 4. It cannot consist in any constitutional taste, relish, or appetite, for these
cannot in themselves have moral character.
- 5. It is not the sensibility or feeling faculty of the mind: for we have seen,
that moral character cannot be predicated of it. It is true, and let it be understood,
that the term heart is used in the Bible in these senses, but not when the heart
is spoken of as the fountain of moral action. When the heart is represented as possessing
moral character, the word cannot be meant to designate any involuntary state of mind.
For neither the substance of soul or body, nor any involuntary state of mind can,
by any possibility, possess moral character in itself. The very idea of moral character
implies, and suggests the idea of, a free action or intention. To deny this, were
to deny a first truth.
- 6. This term heart, when applied to mind, is figurative, and means something
in the mind that has some point of resemblance to the bodily organ of that name,
and a consideration of the function of the bodily organ will suggest the true idea
of the heart of the mind. The heart of the body propels the vital current, and sustains
organic life. It is the fountain from which the vital fluid flows, from which either
life or death may flow, according to the state of the blood. The mind as well as
the body has a heart which, as we have seen, is represented as a fountain, or as
an efficient propelling influence, out of which flows good or evil, according as
the heart is good or evil. This heart is represented, not only as the source or fountain
of good and evil, but as being either good or evil in itself, as constituting the
character of man, and not merely as being capable of moral character.
- It is also represented as something over which we have control, for which we
are responsible, and which, in case it is wicked, we are bound to change on pain
of death. Again: the heart, in the sense in which we are considering it, is
that, the radical change of which constitutes a radical change of moral character.
This is plain from Matthew xii. 34, 35, and xv. 18, 19, already considered.
- 7. Our own consciousness, then, must inform us that the heart of the mind that
possesses these characteristics, can be nothing else than the supreme ultimate intention
of the soul. Regeneration is represented in the Bible as constituting a radical change
of character, as the resurrection from a death in sin, as the beginning of a new
and spiritual life, as constituting a new creature, as a new creation, not a physical,
but a moral or spiritual creation, as conversion, or turning to God, as giving God
the heart, as loving God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves. Now
we have seen abundantly, that moral character belongs to, or is an attribute of,
the ultimate choice or intention of the soul.
- Regeneration then is a radical change of the ultimate intention, and, of course,
of the end or object of life. We have seen, that the choice of an end is efficient
in producing executive volitions, or the use of means to obtain its end. A selfish
ultimate choice is, therefore, a wicked heart, out of which flows every evil; and
a benevolent ultimate choice is a good heart, out of which flows every good and commendable
Regeneration, to have the characteristics ascribed to it in the Bible, must consist
in a change in the attitude of the will, or a change in its ultimate choice, intention,
or preference; a change from selfishness to benevolence; from choosing self-gratification
as the supreme and ultimate end of life to the supreme and ultimate choice of the
highest well-being of God and of the universe; from a state of entire consecration
to self-interest, self-indulgence, self-gratification for its own sake or as an end,
and as the supreme end of life, to a state of entire consecration to God, and to
the interests of his kingdom as the supreme and ultimate end of life.
VI. The universal necessity of regeneration.
- 1. The necessity of regeneration as a condition of salvation must be co-extensive
with moral depravity. This has been shown to be universal among the unregenerate
moral agents of our race. It surely is impossible, that a world or a universe of
unholy or selfish beings should be happy. It is impossible that heaven should be
made up of selfish beings. It is intuitively certain, that without benevolence or
holiness no moral being can be ultimately happy. Without regeneration, a selfish
soul can by no possibility be fitted either for the employments, or for the enjoyments,
- 2. The scriptures expressly teach the universal necessity of regeneration. "Jesus
answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born
again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."--John iii. 3. "For in Christ
Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature."--Gal.
VII. Agencies employed in regeneration.
- 1. The scriptures often ascribe regeneration to the Spirit of God. "Jesus
answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the
Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh
is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."--John iii. 5, 6.
"Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will
of man, but of God."--John i. 15.
- 2. We have seen that the subject is active in regeneration, that regeneration
consists in the sinner changing his ultimate choice, intention, preference; or in
changing from selfishness to love or benevolence; or, in other words, in turning
from the supreme choice of self-gratification, to the supreme love of God and the
equal love of his neighbour. Of course the subject of regeneration must be an agent
in the work.
- 3. There are generally other agents, one or more human beings concerned in persuading
the sinner to turn. The Bible recognizes both the subject and the preacher as agents
in the work. Thus Paul says: "I have begotten you through the gospel."
Here the same word is used which is used in another case, where regeneration is ascribed
- Again: an apostle says, "Ye have purified your souls by obeying the
truth." Here the work is ascribed to the subject. There are then always two,
and generally more than two agents employed in effecting the work. Several theologians
have held that regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit alone. In proof of this
they cite those passages that ascribe it to God. But I might just as lawfully insist
that it is the work of man alone, and quote those passages that ascribe it to man,
to substantiate my position. Or I might assert that it is alone the work of the subject,
and in proof of this position quote those passages that ascribe it to the subject.
Or again, I might assert that it is effected by the truth alone, and quote such passages
as the following to substantiate my position: "Of his own will begat He us with
the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures."--James
i. 18. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by
the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."--1 Peter i. 23. The fact
is, when Dr. Woods and others insist that regeneration is the work, or a work of
God, they tell the truth, but not the whole truth. For it is also the work of man
and of the subject. Their course is precisely like that of the Unitarian, who when
he would prove that Christ is not God, merely proves that he was a man. Now we admit
that he was a man, but we hold that he is more, that he is also God. Just so we hold
that God is active in promoting regeneration, and we hold also that the subject always
and necessarily is active in the work, and that generally some other human agency
is employed in the work, in presenting and urging the claims of God.
It has been common to regard the third person as a mere instrument in the work. But
the fact is, he is a willing, designing, responsible agent, as really so as God or
the subject is.
If it be inquired how the Bible can consistently ascribe regeneration at one time
to God, at another to the subject, at another to the truth, at another to a third
person; the answer is to be sought in the nature of the work. The work accomplished
is a change of choice, in respect to an end or the end of life. The sinner whose
choice is changed, must of course act. The end to be chosen must be clearly and forcibly
presented: this is the work of the third person, and of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit
takes of the things of Christ and shows them to the soul. The truth is employed,
or it is truth which must necessarily be employed, as an instrument to induce a change
of choice. See this illustrated in Sermons on Important Subjects, Sermon I. on Regeneration.
VIII. Instrumentalities employed in the work.
- 1. Truth. This must, from the nature of regeneration, be employed in effecting
it, for regeneration is nothing else than the will being duly influenced by truth.
- 2. There may be, and often are, many providences concerned in enlightening the
mind, and in inducing regeneration. These are instrumentalities. They are means or
instruments of presenting the truth. Mercies, judgments, men, measures, and in short
all those things that conduce to enlightening the mind, are instrumentalities employed
in effecting it.
- Those who hold to physical or constitutional moral depravity must hold, of course,
to constitutional regeneration; and, of course, consistency compels them to maintain
that there is but one agent employed in regeneration, and that is the Holy Spirit,
and that no instrument whatever is employed, because the work is, according to them,
an act of creative power; that the very nature is changed, and of course no instrument
can be employed, any more than in the creation of the world. These theologians have
affirmed, over and over again, that regeneration is a miracle; that there is no tendency
whatever in the gospel, however presented, and whether presented by God or man, to
regenerate the heart. Dr. Griffin, in his Park Street Lectures, maintains that the
gospel, in its natural and necessary tendency, creates and perpetuates only opposition
to, and hatred of God, until the heart is changed by the Holy Spirit. He understands
the carnal mind to be not a voluntary state, not a minding of the flesh, but the
very nature and constitution of the mind; and that enmity against God is a part,
attribute, or appetite of the nature itself. Consequently, he must deny the adaptability
of the gospel to regenerate the soul. It has been proclaimed by this class of theologians,
times without number, that there is no philosophical connexion between the preaching
of the gospel and the regeneration of sinners, no adaptedness in the gospel to produce
that result; but, on the contrary, that it is adapted to produce an opposite result.
The favourite illustrations of their views have been Ezekiel's prophesying over the
dry bones, and Christ's restoring sight to the blind man by putting clay on his eyes.
Ezekiel's prophesying over the dry bones had no tendency to quicken them, they say.
And the clay used by the Saviour was calculated rather to destroy than to restore
sight. This shows how easy it is for men to adopt a pernicious and absurd philosophy,
and then find, or think they find, it supported by the Bible. What must be the effect
of inculcating the dogma, that the gospel has nothing to do with regenerating the
sinner? Instead of telling him that regeneration is nothing else than his embracing
the gospel, to tell him that he must wait, and first have his constitution recreated
before he can possibly do anything but oppose God? This is to tell him the greatest
and most abominable and ruinous of falsehoods. It is to mock his intelligence. What!
call on him, on pain of eternal death, to believe; to embrace the gospel; to love
God with all his heart, and at the same time represent him as entirely helpless,
and constitutionally the enemy of God and of the gospel, and as being under the necessity
of waiting for God to regenerate his nature, before it is possible for him to do
otherwise than to hate God with all his heart?
IX. In regeneration the subject is both passive and active.
- 1. That he is active is plain from what has been said, and from the very nature
of the change.
- 2. That he is, at the same time, passive, is plain from the fact that he acts
only when and as he is acted upon. That is, he is passive in the perception of the
truth presented by the Holy Spirit. I know that this perception is no part of regeneration.
But it is simultaneous with regeneration. It induces regeneration. It is the condition
and the occasion of regeneration. Therefore the subject of regeneration must be a
passive recipient or percipient of the truth presented by the Holy Spirit, at the
moment, and during the act of regeneration. The Spirit acts upon him through or by
the truth: thus far he is passive. He closes with the truth: thus far he is active.
What a mistake those theologians have fallen into who represent the subject as altogether
passive in regeneration! This rids the sinner at once of the conviction of any duty
or responsibility about it. It is wonderful that such an absurdity should have been
so long maintained in the church. But while it is maintained, it is no wonder that
sinners are not converted to God. While the sinner believes this, it is impossible,
if he has it in mind, that he should be regenerated. He stands and waits for God
to do what God requires him to do, and which no one can do for him. Neither God,
nor any other being, can regenerate him, if he will not turn. If he will not change
his choice, it is impossible that it should be changed. Sinners who have been taught
thus, and have believed what they have been taught, would never have been regenerated
had not the Holy Spirit drawn off their attention from this error, and ere they were
aware, induced them to close in with the offer of life.
X. What is implied in regeneration.
- 1. The nature of the change shows that it must be instantaneous. It is a change
of choice, or of intention. This must be instantaneous. The preparatory work of conviction
and enlightening the mind may have been gradual and progressive. But when regeneration
occurs, it must be instantaneous.
- 2. It implies an entire present change of moral character, that is, a change
from entire sinfulness to entire holiness. We have seen that it consists in a change
from selfishness to benevolence. We have also seen that selfishness and benevolence
cannot co-exist in the same mind; that selfishness is a state of supreme and entire
consecration to self; that benevolence is a state of entire and supreme consecration
to God and the good of the universe. Regeneration, then, surely implies an entire
change of moral character.
- Again: the Bible represents regeneration as a dying to sin and becoming
alive to God. Death in sin is total depravity. This is generally admitted. Death
to sin and becoming alive to God, must imply entire present holiness.
- 3. The scriptures represent regeneration as the condition of salvation in such
a sense, that if the subject should die immediately after regeneration, and without
any further change, he would go immediately to heaven.
- Again: the scripture requires only perseverance in the first love, as
the condition of salvation, in case the regenerate soul should live long in the world
subsequently to regeneration.
- 4. When the scriptures require us to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of the
Lord Jesus Christ, this does not imply that there is yet sin remaining in the regenerate
heart which we are required to put away only by degrees. But the spirit of the requirement
must be, that we should acquire as much knowledge as we can of our moral relations,
and continue to conform to all truth as fast as we know it. This, and nothing else,
is implied in abiding in our first love, or abiding in Christ, living and walking
in the Spirit, &c.
This lecture was typed in by Vic Johanson.
LECTURE XLIII. Back to Top
XI. PHILOSOPHICAL THEORIES OF REGENERATION.
Different classes of theologians have held very different theories in regard to the
philosophy of regeneration, in accordance with their views of moral depravity, of
intellectual philosophy, moral government, and of the freedom of the human will.
In discussing this subject I will--
1. State the different theories of regeneration that have been held by different
classes of theologians, as I understand them; and--
2. Examine them in their order.
- 1. The principal theories that have been advocated, so far as my knowledge extends,
are the following:--
- (1.) The taste scheme. (2.) The divine efficiency scheme. (3.) The susceptibility
scheme. (4.) The divine moral suasion scheme.
- 2. I will examine them in their order.
- 1. The taste scheme.
(i.) This theory is based upon the view of mental philosophy which regards
the mental heart as identical with the sensibility. Moral depravity, according to
this school, consists in a constitutional relish, taste, or craving for sin. They
hold the doctrine of original sin--of a sinful nature or constitution, as was shown
in my lectures on moral depravity. The heart of the mind, in the estimation of this
school, is not identical with choice or intention. They hold that it does not consist
in any voluntary state of mind, but that it lies back of, and controls voluntary
action, or the actions of the will. The wicked heart, according to them, consists
in an appetency or constitutional taste for sin, and with them, the appetites, passions,
and propensities of human nature in its fallen state, are in themselves sinful. They
often illustrate their ideas of the sinful taste, craving, or appetite for sin, by
reference to the craving of carnivorous animals for flesh. Of course,--
(ii.) A change of heart, in the view of this philosophy, must consist in a
change of constitution. It must be a physical change, and wrought by a physical,
as distinguished from a moral agency. It is a change wrought by the direct and physical
power of the Holy Spirit in the constitution of the soul, changing its susceptibilities,
implanting or creating a new taste, relish, appetite, craving for, or love of, holiness.
It is, as they express it, the implantation of a new principle of holiness. It is
described as a creation of a new taste or principle, as an infusion of a holy principle,
&c. This scheme, of course, holds and teaches that, in regeneration, the subject
is entirely passive. With this school, regeneration is exclusively the work of the
Holy Spirit, the subject having no agency in it. It is an operation performed upon
him, may be, while he is asleep, or in a fit of derangement, while he is entirely
passive, or perhaps when at the moment he is engaged in flagrant rebellion against
God. The agency by which this work is wrought, according to them, is sovereign, irresistible,
and creative. They hold that there are of course no means of regeneration, as it
is a direct act of creation. They hold the distinction already referred to and examined,
between regeneration and conversion; that when the Holy Spirit has performed the
sovereign operation, and implanted the new principle, then the subject is active
in conversion, or in turning to God.
They hold that the soul, in its very nature, is enmity against God; that therefore
the gospel has no tendency to regenerate or convert the soul to God; but, on the
contrary, that previous to regeneration by the sovereign and physical agency of the
Holy Spirit, every exhibition of God made in the gospel, tends only to inflame and
provoke this constitutional enmity.
They hold, that when the sinful taste, relish, or craving for sin is weakened, for
they deny that it is ever wholly destroyed in this life, or while the soul continues
connected with the body, and a holy taste, relish, or craving is implanted or infused
by the Holy Spirit into the constitution of the soul, then, and not till then, the
gospel has a tendency to turn or convert the sinner from the error of his ways.
As I have said, their philosophy of moral depravity is the basis of their philosophy
of regeneration. It assumes the dogma of original sin, as taught in the Presbyterian
Confession of Faith, and attempts to harmonize the philosophy of regeneration with
that philosophy of sin, or moral depravity.
Upon this scheme or theory of regeneration, I remark,--
((i.)) That it has been sufficiently refuted in the lectures on moral depravity.
If, as was then shown, moral depravity is altogether voluntary, and consists in selfishness,
or in a voluntary state of mind, this philosophy of regeneration is of course without
((ii.)) It was shown in the lectures on moral depravity, that sin is not chosen
for its own sake,--that there is no constitutional relish, taste, or craving for
sin,--that in sinful choice, sin is not the end or object chosen, but that self-gratification
is chosen, and that this choice is sinful. If this is so, then the whole philosophy
of the taste scheme turns out to be utterly baseless.
((iii.)) The taste, relish, or craving, of which this philosophy speaks, is
not a taste, relish, or craving for sin, but for certain things and objects, the
enjoyment of which is, to a certain extent, and upon certain conditions, lawful.
But when the will prefers the gratification of taste or appetite to higher interests,
this choice or act of will is sin. The sin never lies in the appetite, but in the
will's consent to unlawful indulgence.
((iv.)) This philosophy confounds appetite or temptation to unlawful indulgence,
with sin. Nay, it represents sin as consisting mostly, if not altogether, in that
which is only temptation.
((v.)) It is, as we have seen, inconsistent with the Bible definition both
of sin and of regeneration.
((vi.)) It is also inconsistent with the justice of the command, so solemnly
given to sinners, "Make you a new heart and a new spirit, for why will ye die?"
((vii.)) It also contradicts the Bible representation, that men regenerate
each other. "For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have
ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel."--1
Cor. iv. 15.
((viii.)) It throws the blame of unregeneracy upon God. If the sinner is passive,
and has no agency in it; if it consists in what this philosophy teaches, and is accomplished
in the manner which this theory represents, it is self-evident that God alone is
responsible for the fact, that any sinner is unregenerate.
((ix.)) It represents regeneration as a miracle. This is affirmed.
((x.)) It renders holiness after regeneration physically necessary, just as
sin was before, and perseverance also as physically necessary, and falling from grace
as a natural impossibility. In this case holy exercises and living are only the gratification
of a constitutional appetite, implanted in regeneration.
((xi.)) It renders perseverance in holiness no virtue, as it is only self-gratification,
or the gratification of appetite.
((xii.)) It is the assumption of a philosophy at war with the Bible.
((xiii.)) Upon this theory regeneration would destroy personal identity.
Let us consider next,--
(2.) The divine efficiency scheme or theory.
This scheme is based upon, or rather is only a carrying out of, an ancient heathen
philosophy, bearing the same name. This ancient philosophy denies second causes,
and teaches that what we call laws of nature are nothing else than the mode of divine
operation. It denies that the universe would even exist for a moment, if the divine
upholding were withdrawn. It maintains that the universe exists only by an act of
present and perpetual creation. It denies that matter, or mind, has in itself any
inherent properties that can originate laws or motions; that all action, whether
of matter or mind, is the necessary result of direct divine irresistible efficiency
or power; that this is not only true of the natural universe, but also of all the
exercises and actions of moral agents in all worlds.
The abettors of the divine efficiency scheme of regeneration apply this philosophy
especially to moral agents. They hold, that all the exercises and actions of moral
agents in all worlds, and whether those exercises be holy or sinful, are produced
by a divine efficiency, or by a direct act of Omnipotence; that holy and sinful acts
are alike effects of an irresistible cause, and that this cause is the power and
agency, or efficiency, of God.
This philosophy denies constitutional moral depravity, or original sin, and maintains
that moral character belongs alone to the exercises or choices of the will; that
regeneration does not consist in the creation of any new taste, relish, or craving,
nor in the implantation or infusion of any new principles in the soul: but that it
consists in a choice conformed to the law of God, or in a change from selfishness
to disinterested benevolence; that this change is effected by a direct act of Divine
power or efficiency, as irresistible as any creative act whatever. This philosophy
teaches, that the moral character of every moral agent, whether holy or sinful, is
formed by an agency as direct, as sovereign, and as irresistible, as that which first
gave existence to the universe; that true submission to God implies the hearty consent
of the will to have the character thus formed, and then to be treated accordingly,
for the glory of God. The principal arguments by which this theory is supported,
so far as I am acquainted with them, are as follow:--
(i.) The Bible, its advocates say, teaches it in those texts that teach the
doctrine of a universal and particular providence, and that God is present in all
events; such, for example, as the following:--"The lot is cast into the lap;
but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord."--Prov. xvi. 33. "Lord,
thou wilt ordain peace for us; for thou also hast wrought all our works in us."--Isa.
xxvi. 12. "I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil.
I the Lord do all these things."--Isa. xlv. 7. "And all the inhabitants
of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army
of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or
say unto him, What doest thou?"--Dan. iv. 35. "Shall a trumpet be blown
in the city, and the people be not afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the
Lord hath not done it?"--Amos iii. 6. "For of him, and through him, and
to him, are all things; to whom be glory for ever. Amen."--Rom. xi. 36. "In
whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose
of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."--Eph. i. 11.
"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."--Philip.
ii. 13. "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus,
that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is
well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever.
Amen."--Heb. xiii. 20, 21.
These may serve as a specimen of the proofs of this theory cited from holy scripture,
and upon which great stress is laid by its defenders.
Concerning these I would remark:--
(a.) That they prove nothing to the point. The question in debate is not whether
God is, or is not, in some sense, present in every event, or whether there be not
some sense in which everything may be ascribed to the providence and agency of God,
for this their opponents admit and maintain. But the true question at issue respects
only the quo modo of the divine agency, of which these passages say nothing. It is
neither affirmed nor implied in these passages, nor in any other, that God is the
direct, efficient, irresistible agent in all those cases.
(b.) Other passages abundantly imply and affirm that he is not the direct, efficient,
and irresistible agent in the production of moral evil. For example: "Will ye
steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incence unto Baal,
and walk after other gods whom ye know not; and come and stand before me in this
house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?"
Jer. vii. 14. "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God
cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted,
when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Do not err, my beloved brethren.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father
of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." James i.
13-17. "But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not,
and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly,
sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every
evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle
and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and
without hypocrisy." James iii. 14-17.
These passages plainly teach and imply that God's agency, to say the least, in the
production of sin, is not direct, efficient, irresistible. Their scripture argument
then proves nothing to the purpose of their philosophy.
(ii.) Another argument by which the divine efficiency scheme has been sustained
is that divine foreknowledge implies it.
This is an assumption without the shadow of proof.
(iii.) Third argument: The divine purposes imply it.
This is also a sheer assumption.
(iv.) Fourth argument: Prophecy, or the foretelling of future events, implies
This again is assumption without proof. These arguments assume, that God could not
know what future events would be, especially what the free actions of men would be,
unless he produces and controls them by a direct and irresistible efficiency.
(v.) Fifth argument: The Bible ascribes both the holy and sinful actions of
man to God, and in equally unqualified terms.
This settles nothing of the quo modo, or the sense in which it does so, in either
(vi.) It is admitted, say some, that holy actions are produced by a direct
divine efficiency; and as the Bible ascribes the sinful actions of men to God in
as unqualified terms as holy ones, we have no right to infer a difference in the
quo modo of his doing it.
We are not only allowed, but are bound to infer that his agency is different in the
one case, from what it is in the other. The Bible has, as we shall see, settled the
philosophy, or the manner in which he produces holy exercises in moral agents. It
also everywhere assumes or affirms, that he is concerned only providentially in the
permission of sin; that sin is an abuse of his providence, and of the liberty of
(vii.) It has been assumed, that it is naturally impossible for God to create
a being that should have the power of originating his own actions.
This is surely an assumption, and of no weight whatever. It certainly is not an affirmation
of reason; and I cannot see any ground for such an affirmation. Human consciousness
is against it.
(viii.) It has been asserted, that if such a creature existed, he would be
independent of God, in such a sense, that God could neither certainly control him,
nor know what he would do.
This is a mere begging of the question. How can this be known? This argument assumes
that even Omniscience cannot know how a free moral agent would act upon condition
of his originating his own choices, intentions, and actions. But why this assumption?
To this theory I make the following objections:--
((i.)) It is mere philosophy, and that falsely so called.
((ii.)) It is supported, so far as I can see, only by the most unwarrantable
((iii.)) Its tendency condemns it.
(a.) It tends to produce and perpetuate a sense of divine injustice. To create
a character by an agency as direct and irresistible as that of the creation of the
world itself, and then treat moral beings according to that character so formed,
is wholly inconsistent with all our ideas of justice.
(b.) It destroys a sense of accountability, or tends to destroy it.
(c.) It contradicts human consciousness. I know it is said, that consciousness
only gives our mental actions and states, but not the cause of them. This I deny,
and affirm that consciousness not only gives us our mental actions and states, but
it also gives us the cause of them, especially it gives the fact, that we ourselves
are the sovereign and efficient causes of the choices and actions of our will. In
our passive states we can almost always recognize the cause of these phenomena. At
least we can very often do so. I am as conscious of originating in a sovereign manner
my choices, as I am of the choices themselves.
(d.) This theory virtually denies, or rather stultifies, the eternal distinction
between liberty and necessity.
(e.) If this theory were true, with our present consciousness, we cannot believe
it. We cannot but affirm to ourselves, that we are the efficient causes of our own
choices and volitions.
(f.) The philosophy in question, really represents God as the only agent,
in any proper sense of that term, in the universe. If God produces the exercises
of moral beings in the manner represented by this philosophy, then they are in fact
no more agents than the planets are agents. If their exercises are all directly produced
by the power of God, it is ridiculous to call them agents.
(g.) If this theory be true, what we generally call moral beings and moral
agents, are no more so than the winds and the waves, or any other substance or thing
in the universe.
(h.) Again: if this theory be true, no being but God has, or can have,
moral character. No other being is the author of his own actions. He is the subject,
but not the author of his actions. He is the passive subject, but not the active
efficient cause of his own exercises. To affirm moral character of such a passive
subject is truly ridiculous.
(i.) This theory obliges its advocates, together with all other necessitarians,
to give a false and nonsensical definition of free agency. Free agency, according
to them, consists in doing as we will, while their theory denies the power to will,
except as our willings are necessitated by God. But as we have seen in former lectures,
this is no true account of freedom, or liberty. Liberty to execute my choices is
no liberty at all. Choice is connected with its sequents by a law of necessity; and
if an effect follow my volitions, that effect follows by necessity, and not freely.
All freedom of will must, as was formerly shown, consist in the sovereign power to
originate our own choices. If I am unable to will, I am unable to do any thing; and
it is absurd and ridiculous to affirm, that a being is a moral or a free agent, who
has not power to originate his own choices.
(j.) If this theory is true, God is more than the accomplice of the devil;
(I.) Satan cannot tempt us according to this theory, unless God by a direct
divine efficiency, moves him and compels him to do so.
(II.) Then, we cannot possibly yield to his temptation, except as God compels
us to yield, or creates the yielding within us. This is a blasphemous theory surely,
that represents God as doing such things. That a philosophy like this could ever
have been taught, will appear incredible to many. But such is the fact, and such
the true statement of the views of this class of theologians, if I can understand
(k.) But this theory is inconsistent with the Bible, as we have seen.
(l.) It is also inconsistent with itself, for it both affirms and denies natural
ability. Its advocates admit, that we cannot act except as we will, and affirm that
we cannot will, except as our willings are created by a direct Divine efficiency.
How absurd then is it to maintain, that we have natural ability to do anything. All
that can truly be said of us, upon the principles of this theory, is that we have
a susceptibility to be acted upon, and to be rendered the subjects of certain states,
immediately and irresistibly created by the power of God. But it is absurd to call
this a natural ability to do our duty.
(m.) If this theory is true, the whole moral government of God is no government
at all, distinct from, and superior to, physical government. Then the gospel is an
insult to men, in two respects, at least:--
(I.) Upon this theory men do not, cannot deserve punishment, nor require a
Saviour from it.
(II.) If they do, the gospel is presented and urged upon their acceptance,
when, in fact, they have no more power to accept it, than they have to create a world.
(n.) Again: this theory overlooks and virtually denies the fundamentally
important distinction between moral and physical power, and moral and physical government.
All power and all government, upon this theory, are physical.
(o.) Again: this theory renders repentance, remorse, and self-condemnation
impossible, as a rational exercise.
(p.) This theory involves the delusion of all moral beings. God not only creates
our volitions, but also creates the persuasion and affirmation that we are responsible
for them. O, shame on such a theory as this!
(3.) Let us proceed now to notice the susceptibility scheme.
(i.) What this theory is.
This theory represents, that the Holy Spirit's influences are both physical and moral;
that he, by a direct and physical influence, excites the susceptibilities of the
soul and prepares them to be affected by the truth; that he, thereupon, exerts a
moral or persuasive influence by presenting the truth, which moral influence induces
(ii.) Wherein this and the Divine moral suasion theory agree.
(a.) In rejecting the taste and Divine efficiency schemes.
(b.) In rejecting the dogma of constitutional moral depravity.
(c.) In rejecting the dogma of physical regeneration; for be it remembered, that
this theory teaches that the physical influence exerted in exciting the susceptibilities
is no part of regeneration.
(d.) They agree in maintaining the natural ability or liberty of all moral agents.
(e.) That the constitutional appetites and passions have no moral character in themselves.
(f.) That when strongly excited they are the occasions of sin.
(g.) That sin and moral depravity are identical, and that they consist in a violation
of the moral law.
(h.) That the moral heart is the ruling preference or ultimate intention of the mind.
(i.) That the carnal mind, or heart, is selfishness.
(j.) That the new or regenerate heart is benevolence.
(k.) That regeneration consists in a change from selfishness to benevolence,
or from the supreme love of self, to the supreme love of God, and the equal love
of our neighbour.
(l.) That this change is effected through the truth presented by the Holy
Spirit, or by a Divine moral persuasion.
(iii.) Wherein they differ.
This philosophy maintains the necessity and the fact of a physical influence superadded
to the moral or persuasive influence of the Holy Spirit, as a sine quà non
of regeneration. The Divine moral suasion theory regards regeneration as being induced
alone by a moral influence. This theory also admits and maintains, that regeneration
is effected solely by a moral influence, but also that a work preparatory to the
efficiency of the moral influence, and indispensable to its efficiency, in producing
regeneration, is performed by a direct and physical agency of the Holy Spirit upon
the constitutional susceptibilities of the soul, to quicken and wake it up, and predispose
it to be deeply and duly affected by the truth. The arguments by which that part
of this theory which relates to a physical influence of the Holy Spirit is supported,
are, so far as I am acquainted with them, as follows:--
(a.) It is maintained by the defenders of this scheme, that the representations of
the Bible upon the subject of the Holy Spirit's agency in regeneration, are such
as to forbid the supposition, that his influence is altogether moral or persuasive,
and such as plainly to indicate that he also exerts a physical agency, in preparing
the mind to be duly effected by the truth. In reply to this argument, I observe,--
((i.)) That I fear greatly to disparage the agency of the Holy Spirit in the
work of man's redemption from sin, and would, by no means, resist or deny, or so
much as call in question, anything that is plainly taught or implied in the Bible
upon this subject.
((ii.)) I admit and maintain that regeneration is always induced and effected
by the personal agency of the Holy Spirit. The question now before us relates wholly
to the mode, and not at all to the fact, of the divine agency in regeneration. Let
this be distinctly understood, for it has been common for theologians of the old
school, as soon as the dogma of a physical regeneration, and of a physical influence
in regeneration, has been called in question, to cry out and insist that this is
Pelagianism, and that it is a denial of divine influence altogether, and that it
is teaching a self-regeneration, independent of any divine influence. I have been
ashamed of such representations as these on the part of Christian divines, and have
been distressed by their want of candour. It should, however, be distinctly stated
that, so far as I know, the defenders of the theory now under consideration have
never manifested this want of candour towards those who have called in question that
part of their theory that relates to a physical influence.
((iii.)) Since the advocates of this theory admit that the Bible teaches that
regeneration is induced by a divine moral suasion, the point of debate is simply,
whether the Bible teaches that there is also a physical influence exerted by the
Holy Spirit, in exciting the constitutional susceptibilities. We will now attend
to their proof texts. "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand
the Scriptures."--Luke xxiv. 45. It is affirmed, that this text seems to teach
or imply a physical influence in opening their understandings. But what do we mean
by such language as this in common life? Language is to be understood according to
the subject-matter of discourse. Here the subject of discourse is the understanding.
But what can be intended by opening it? Can this be a physical prying, pulling, or
forcing open any department of the constitution? Such language in common life would
be understood only to mean, that such instruction was imparted as to secure a right
understanding of the Scriptures. Every one knows this, and why should we suppose
and assume that anything more is intended here? The context plainly indicates that
this was the thing, and the only thing, done in this case. "Then he said unto
them, O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought
not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning
at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things
concerning himself.--And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved
Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day."--Luke xxiv. 25-27,
46. From these verses it appears that he expounded the Scriptures to them, when in
the light of what had passed, and in the light of that measure of divine illumination
which was then imparted to them, they understood the things which he explained to
them. It does not seem to me, that this passage warrants the inference that there
was a physical influence exerted. It certainly affirms no such thing. "And a
certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped
God, heard us; whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which
were spoken of Paul."--Acts xvi. 14. Here is an expression similar to that just
examined. Here it is said, "that the Lord opened the heart of Lydia, so that
she attended," &c.; that is, the Lord inclined her to attend. But how? Why,
say the advocates of this scheme, by a physical influence. But how does this appear?
What is her heart that it should be pulled, or forced open? and what can be intended
by the assertion, "that the Lord opened her heart?" All that can be meant
is, that the Lord secured her attention, or disposed her to attend, and so enlightened
her when she did attend, that she believed. Surely here is no assertion of a physical
influence, nor, so far as I can see, any just ground for the inference, that such
an influence was exerted. A moral influence can sufficiently explain all the phenomena;
and any text that can equally well consist with either of two opposing theories,
can prove neither.
Again: there are many passages that represent God as opening the spiritual
eyes, and passages in which petitions are offered to God to do this. It is by this
theory assumed that such passages strongly imply a physical influence. But this assumption
appears to me unwarrantable. We are in the habit of using just such language, and
speak of opening each other's eyes, when no such thing is intended or implied, as
a physical influence, and when nothing more than a moral or persuasive influence
is so much as thought of. Why then resort to such an assumption here? Does the nature
of the case demand it? This I know is contended for by those who maintain a constitutional
moral depravity. But this dogma has been shown to be false, and it is admitted to
be so by those who maintain the theory now under consideration. Admitting, then,
that the constitution is not morally depraved, should it be inferred that any constitutional
change, or physical influence is needed to produce regeneration? I can see no sufficient
reason for believing, or affirming, that a physical influence is either demanded
or exerted. This much I freely admit, that we cannot affirm the impossibility of
such an influence, nor the impossibility of the necessity of such an influence. The
only question with me is, does the Bible plainly teach or imply such an influence?
Hitherto I have been unable to see that it does. The passages already quoted are
of a piece with all that are relied upon in support of this theory, and as the same
answer is a sufficient reply to them all, I will not spend time in citing and remarking
(b.) Again: A physical influence has been inferred from the fact, that sinners
are represented as dead in trespasses and sins, as asleep, &c. &c. But all
such representations are only declaratory of a moral state, a state of voluntary
alienation from God. If the death is moral, and the sleep moral, why suppose that
a physical influence is needed to correct a moral evil? Cannot truth, when urged
and pressed by the Holy Spirit, effect the requisite change?
(c.) But a physical influence is also inferred from the fact, that truth makes
so different an impression at one time from what it does at another. Answer: this
can well enough be accounted for by the fact, that sometimes the Holy Spirit so presents
the truth, that the mind apprehends it and feels its power, whereas at another time
he does not.
(d.) But it is said, that there sometimes appears to have been a preparatory
work performed by a physical influence pre-disposing the mind to attend to, and be
affected by, the truth. Answer: there often is no doubt a preparatory work pre-disposing
the mind to attend to, and be affected by, truth. But why assume that this is a physical
influence? Providential occurrences may have had much to do with it. The Holy Spirit
may have been directing the thoughts and communicating instructions in various ways,
and preparing the mind to attend and obey. Who then is warranted in the affirmation
that this preparatory influence is physical? I admit that it may be, but I cannot
see either that it must be, or that there is any good ground for the assumption that
(4.) The last theory to be examined is that of a Divine moral suasion.
This theory teaches--
(i.) That regeneration consists in a change in the ultimate intention or preference
of the mind, or in a change from selfishness to disinterested benevolence; and--
(ii.) That this change is induced and effected by a divine moral influence;
that is, that the Holy Spirit effects it with, through, or by the truth. The advocates
of this theory assign the following as the principal reasons in support of it.
(a.) The Bible expressly affirms it. "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say
unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into
the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born
of the Spirit is spirit."--John iii. 5, 6. "Being born again, not of corruptible
seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."--1
Pet. i. 23. "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should
be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures."--James i. 18. "For though
ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in
Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel."--1 Cor. iv. 15.
(b.) Men are represented as being sanctified by and through the truth. "Sanctify
them through the truth: thy word is truth."--John xvii. 17. "Now ye are
clean through the word which I have spoken unto you."--John xv. 3.
(c.) The nature of regeneration decides the philosophy of it so far as this,
that it must be effected by truth, addressed to the heart through the intelligence.
(d.) Unless it is so effected, it has no moral character.
(e.) The regenerate are conscious of having been influenced by the truth in turning
(f.) They are conscious of no other influence than light poured upon the intelligence,
or truth presented to the mind.
(g.) When God affirms that he regenerates the soul with or by the truth, we
have no right to infer that he does it in some other way. This he does affirm; therefore
the Bible has settled the philosophy of regeneration. That he exerts any other than
a moral influence, or the influence of Divine teaching and illumination, is sheer
To this theory the following objections have been made.
Objection. 1. ((i.)) To represent sinners as regenerated by the influence
of truth, although presented and urged by the Holy Spirit, is virtually to deny total
depravity. To this it is answered--
(a.) It does indeed deny constitutional moral depravity, and therefore constitutional
or physical regeneration.
(b.) Adam and the sinning angels were changed or regenerated from perfect
holiness to perfect sinfulness, by motives presented to them, at least Adam was.
Now, if they could be regenerated from entire holiness to entire sinfulness by a
moral influence, or by means of a lie, is it impossible that God should convert sinners
by means of truth? Has God so much less moral power than Satan has?
(c.) To this it may be replied, that it is much easier to convert or regenerate
men from holiness to sin, than from sin to holiness.
(I.) This, I answer, seems to reflect upon the wisdom and goodness of God, in forming
the human constitution.
(II.) Should the fact be granted, still it may truly be urged, that the motives to
holiness are infinitely greater than those to sin, so that the Holy Spirit has altogether
the advantage in this respect.
Objection. 2. ((ii.)) If sinners are regenerated by the light of the truth,
they may be regenerated in hell, as they will there know the truth.
(a.) The Bible, I answer, represents the wicked in hell, as being in darkness,
and not in the light of the truth.
(b.) The truth will not be presented and urged home there by the persuasive
Spirit of God.
(c.) The gospel motives will be wanting there. The offer of pardon and acceptance,
which is indispensable to induce repentance and obedience, will not be made there.
Therefore sinners will not be converted in hell.
- 1. This scheme honours the Holy Spirit without disparaging the truth of God.
- 2. Regeneration by the Holy Spirit through the truth illustrates the wisdom of
God. There is a deep and divine philosophy in regeneration.
- 3. This theory is of great practical importance. For if sinners are to be regenerated
by the influence of truth, argument, and persuasion, then ministers can see what
they have to do, and how it is that they are to be "workers together with God."
- 4. So also sinners may see, that they are not to wait for a physical regeneration
or influence, but must submit to, and embrace, the truth, if they ever expect to
- 5. If this scheme is true, we can see, that when truth is made clear to the mind
and is resisted, the Holy Spirit is resisted, for this is his work, to make the mind
clearly to apprehend the truth.
- 6. If this theory is true, sinners are most likely to be regenerated while sitting
under the sound of the gospel, while listening to the clear exhibition of truth.
- 7. Ministers should lay themselves out, and press every consideration upon the
attention of sinners, just as heartily and as freely, as if they expected to convert
them themselves. They should aim at, and expect the regeneration of sinners, upon
the spot, and before they leave the house of God.
- 8. Sinners must not wait for and expect physical omnipotence to regenerate them.
- 9. The physical omnipotence of God affords no presumption that all men will be
converted; for regeneration is not effected by physical power.
- 10. To neglect and resist the truth is fatal to salvation.
- 11. Sinners are not regenerated, because they neglect and resist the truth.
- 12. God cannot do the sinner's duty, and regenerate him without the right exercise
of the sinner's own agency.
- 13. This view of regeneration shows that the sinner's dependence upon the Holy
Spirit arises entirely out of his own voluntary stubbornness, and that his guilt
is all the greater, by how much the more perfect this kind of dependence is.
- 14. This view of regeneration shows the adaptedness of the law and Gospel of
God to regenerate, sanctify, and save the souls of men.
- 15. It also demonstrates the wisdom of appointing such means and instrumentalities
to accomplish their salvation.
- 16. Physical regeneration, under every modification of it, is a stumbling-block.
- 17. Original or constitutional sinfulness, physical regeneration, and all their
kindred and resulting dogmas, are alike subversive of the gospel, and repulsive to
human intelligence; and should be laid aside as relics of a most unreasonable and
This lecture was typed in by Vic Johanson.
LECTURE XLIV. Back to Top
XII. EVIDENCES OF REGENERATION.
In the discussion of this subject I will--
1. MAKE SEVERAL INTRODUCTORY REMARKS.
2. SHOW WHEREIN THE EXPERIENCE AND OUTWARD LIFE OF SAINTS AND SINNERS MAY AGREE.
3. WHEREIN THEY MUST DIFFER.
1. Introductory remarks.
(1.) In ascertaining what are, and what are not, evidences of regeneration, we must
constantly keep in mind what is not, and what is regeneration; what is not, and what
is implied in it.
(2.) We must constantly recognize the fact, that saints and sinners have precisely
similar constitutions and constitutional susceptibilities, and therefore that many
things are common to both.
(3.) What is common to both cannot, of course, be an evidence of regeneration.
(4.) That no state of the sensibility has any moral character in itself. That regeneration
does not consist in, or imply, any physical change whatever, either of the intellect,
sensibility, or the faculty of will.
(5.) That the sensibility of the sinner is susceptible of every kind and degree of
feeling that is possible to saints.
(6.) The same is true of the consciences of both saints and sinners, and of the intelligence
(7.) That moral character belongs to the ultimate intention.
(8.) That regeneration consists in a change of the ultimate intention.
(9.) That the moral character is as the ultimate intention is.
(10.) The inquiry is, What are evidences of a change in the ultimate intention? What
is evidence that benevolence is the ruling choice, preference, intention of the soul?
This, it would seem, must be a plain question, and must admit of a very easy and
It is a plain question, and demands, and may have, a plain answer. But so much error
prevails as to the nature of regeneration, and, consequently, as to what are evidences
of regeneration, that we need patience, discrimination, and perseverance, and withal
candour to get at the truth upon this subject.
2. Wherein the experience and outward life of saints and sinners may agree.
It is plain that they may be alike; in whatever does not consist in, or necessarily
proceed from, the attitude of their will, that is, in whatever is constitutional
or involuntary. For example--
(1). They may both desire their own happiness. This desire is constitutional, and,
of course, common to both saints and sinners.
(2.) They may both desire the happiness of others. This also is constitutional, and
of course common to both saints and sinners. There is no moral character in these
desires, any more than there is in the desire for food and drink. That men have a
natural desire for the happiness of others, is evident from the fact that they manifest
pleasure when others are happy, unless they have some selfish reason for envy, or
unless the happiness of others is in some way inconsistent with their own. They also
manifest uneasiness and pain when they see others in misery, unless they have some
selfish reason for desiring their misery.
(3.) Saints and sinners may alike dread their own misery, and the misery of others.
This is strictly constitutional and has therefore no moral character. I have known
that very wicked men, and men who had been infidels, when they were convinced of
the truths of Christianity, manifested great concern about their families and about
their neighbours; and, in one instance, I heard of an aged man of this description
who, when convinced of the truth, went and warned his neighbours to flee from the
wrath to come, avowing at the same time his conviction, that there was no mercy for
him, though he felt deeply concerned for others. Such like cases have repeatedly
been witnessed. The case of the rich man in hell seems to have been one of this description,
or to have illustrated the same truth. Although he knew his own case to be hopeless,
yet he desired that Lazarus should be sent to warn his five brethren, lest they also
should come to that place of torment. In this case, and in the case of the aged man
just named, it appears that they not only desired that others should avoid misery,
but they actually tried to prevent it, and used the means that were in their reach
to save them. Now it is plain that this desire took control of their will, and, of
course, the state of the will was selfish. It sought to gratify desire. It was the
pain and dread of seeing their misery, and of having them miserable, that led them
to use means to prevent it. This was not benevolence, but selfishness. It no doubt
increases the misery of sinners in hell to have their number multiplied, that is,
they being moral agents, cannot but be unutterably pained to behold the wretchedness
around them. This may, and doubtless will, make up a great part of the misery of
devils and of wicked men, the beholding to all eternity the misery which they have
occasioned. They will not only be filled with remorse, but undoubtedly their souls
will be unutterably agonized with the misery they will behold around them.
Let it be understood, then, that as both saints and sinners constitutionally desire,
not only their own happiness, but also the happiness of others, they may alike rejoice
in the happiness and safety of others, and in converts to Christianity, and may alike
grieve at the danger and misery of those who are unconverted. I well recollect, when
far from home, and while an impenitent sinner, I received a letter from my youngest
brother, informing me that he was converted to God. He, if he was converted, was,
as I supposed, the first and only member of the family who then had a hope of salvation.
I was at the time, and both before and after, one of the most careless sinners, and
yet on receiving this intelligence, I actually wept for joy and gratitude, that one
of so prayerless a family was likely to be saved.
Indeed, I have repeatedly known sinners to manifest much interest in the conversion
of their friends, and express gratitude for their conversion, although they had no
religion themselves. These desires have no moral character in themselves. In as far
as they control the will, the will yielding to impulse instead of the law of the
intelligence, this, is selfishness.
(4.) Saints and sinners may agree in desiring their own sanctification and the sanctification
of others. Both may desire their own sanctification as the condition of their salvation.
They may also desire the sanctification of others, as the condition of their salvation.
(5.) Saints and sinners may both desire to be useful, as a condition of their own
(6.) They may also desire that others should be useful, as a condition of their salvation.
(7.) They may both desire to glorify God, as a means or condition of their own salvation.
(8.) They may also desire to have others glorify God, as a means of their salvation.
These desires are natural and constitutional, when the salvation either of ourselves
or others is felt to be important, and when these things are seen to be conditions
(9.) They may both desire, and strongly desire, a revival of religion and the prosperity
of Zion, as a means of promoting their own salvation, or the salvation of their friends.
Sinners have often been known to desire revivals of religion.
(10.) They may agree in desiring the triumph of truth and righteousness, and the
suppression of vice and error, for the sake of the bearings of these things on self
and friends. These desires are constitutional and natural to both, under certain
circumstances. When they do not influence the will, they have in themselves no moral
character; but when they influence the will, their selfishness takes on a religious
type. It then manifests zeal in promoting religion. But if desire, and not the intelligence,
controls the will, it is selfishness notwithstanding.
(11.) Moral agents constitutionally approve of what is right, and disapprove of what
is wrong. Of course, both saints and sinners may both approve of and delight in goodness.
I can recollect weeping at an instance of what, at the time, I supposed to be goodness,
while, at the same time, I was not religious myself. I have no doubt that wicked
men, not only often are conscious of strongly approving the goodness of God, but
that they also often take delight in contemplating it. This is constitutional, both
as it respects the intellectual approbation, and also as it respects the feeling
of delight. It is a great mistake to suppose that sinners are never conscious of
feelings of complacency and delight in the goodness of God. The Bible represents
sinners as taking delight in drawing near to him. "Yet they seek me daily, and
delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the
ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight
in approaching to God."--Isa. lviii. 2. "And lo, thou art unto them as
a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument:
for they hear thy words, but they do them not."--Ezek. xxxiii. 32. "For
I delight in the law of God after the inward man."--Rom. vii. 22.
(12.) Saints and sinners may alike not only intellectually approve, but have feelings
of deep complacency in the characters of good men, sometimes good men of their own
time and of their acquaintance, but more frequently good men either of a former age,
or, if of their own age, of a distant country. The reason is this: good men of their
own day and neighbourhood are very apt to render them uneasy in their sins; to annoy
them by their faithful reproofs and rebukes. This offends them, and overcomes their
natural respect for goodness. But who has not observed the fact that good and bad
men unite in praising, admiring, and loving,--so far as feeling is concerned--good
men of by-gone days, or good men at a distance, whose life and rebukes have annoyed
the wicked in their own neighbourhood? The fact is, that moral agents, from the laws
of their being, necessarily approve of goodness wherever they witness it. And when
not annoyed by it, when left to contemplate it in the abstract, or at a distance,
they cannot but feel a complacency in it. Multitudes of sinners are conscious of
this, and suppose that this is a virtuous feeling. It is of no use to deny, that
they sometimes have feelings of love and gratitude to God, and of respect for, and
complacency in, good men. They often have these feelings, and to represent them as
always having feelings of hatred and of opposition to God and to good men, is sure
either to offend them, or to lead them to deny the truths of religion, if they are
told that the Bible teaches this. Or, again, it may lead them to think themselves
Christians, because they are conscious of such feelings as they are taught to believe
are peculiar to Christians. Or again, they may think that, although they are not
Christians, yet they are far from being totally depraved, inasmuch as they have so
many good desires and feelings. It should never be forgotten, that saints and sinners
may agree in their opinions and intellectual views and judgments. Many professors
of religion, it is to be feared, have supposed religion to consist in desires and
feelings, and have entirely mistaken their own character. Indeed, nothing is more
common than to hear religion spoken of as consisting altogether in mere feelings,
desires, and emotions. Professors relate their feelings, and suppose themselves to
be giving an account of their religion. It is infinitely important, that both professors
of religion and non-professors, should understand more than most of them do of their
mental constitution, and of the true nature of religion. Multitudes of professors
of religion have, it is to be feared, a hope founded altogether upon desires and
feelings that are purely constitutional, and therefore common to both saints and
(13.) Saints and sinners agree in this, that they both disapprove of, and are often
disgusted with, and deeply abhor, sin. They cannot but disapprove of sin. Necessity
is laid upon every moral agent, whatever his character may be, by the law of his
being, to condemn and disapprove of sin. And often the sensibility of sinners, as
well as of saints, is filled with deep disgust and loathing in view of sin. I know
that representations the direct opposite of these are often made. Sinners are represented
as universally having complacency in sin, as having a constitutional craving for
sin, as they have for food and drink. But such representations are false and most
injurious. They contradict the sinner's consciousness, and lead him either to deny
his total depravity, or to deny the Bible, or to think himself regenerate. As was
shown when upon the subject of moral depravity, sinners do not love sin for its own
sake; but they crave other things, and this leads to prohibited indulgence, which
indulgence is sin. But it is not the sinfulness of the indulgence that was desired.
That might have produced disgust and loathing in the sensibility, if it had been
considered even at the moment of indulgence. For example: suppose a licentious man,
a drunkard, a gambler, or any other wicked man, engaged in his favourite indulgence,
and suppose that the sinfulness of this indulgence should be strongly set before
his mind by the Holy Spirit. He might be deeply ashamed and disgusted with himself,
and so much so as to feel a great contempt for himself, and feel almost ready, were
it possible, to spit in his own face. And yet, unless this feeling becomes more powerful
than the desire and feeling which the will is seeking to indulge, the indulgence
will be persevered in, notwithstanding this disgust. If the feeling of disgust should
for the time overmatch the opposing desire, the indulgence will be, for the time
being, abandoned for the sake of gratifying or appeasing the feeling of disgust.
But this is not virtue. It is only a change in the form of selfishness. Feeling still
governs, and not the law of the intelligence. The indulgence is only abandoned for
the time being, to gratify a stronger impulse of the sensibility. The will, will
of course return to the indulgence again, when the feelings of fear, disgust, or
loathing subside. This, no doubt, accounts for the multitudes of spurious conversions
sometimes witnessed. Sinners are convicted, fears awakened, and disgust and loathing
excited. These feelings for the time become stronger than their desire for their
former indulgences, and consequently they abandon them for a time, in obedience,
not to the law of God or of their intelligence, but in obedience to their fear, disgust,
and shame. But when conviction subsides, and the consequent feelings are no more,
these spurious converts "return like a dog to his vomit, and like a sow that
was washed to her wallowing in the mire." It should be distinctly understood,
that all these feelings of which I have spoken, and indeed any class or degree of
mere feelings, may exist in the sensibility; and further, that these or any other
feelings may, in their turns, control the will; and produce of course a corresponding
outward life, and yet the heart be and remain all the while in a selfish state, or
in a state of total depravity. Indeed, it is perfectly common to see the impenitent
sinner manifest much disgust and opposition to sin in himself and in others, yet
this is not principle in him; it is only the effect of present feeling. The next
day, or perhaps hour, he will repeat his sin, or do that which, when beheld in others,
enkindled his indignation.
(14.) Both saints and sinners approve of, and often delight in, justice. It is common
to see in courts of justice, and on various other occasions, impenitent sinners manifest
great complacency in the administration of justice, and the greatest indignation
at, and abhorrence of, injustice. So strong is this feeling sometimes that it cannot
be restrained, but will burst forth like a smothered volcano, and carry desolation
before it. It is this natural love of justice, and abhorrence of injustice, common
alike to saints and sinners, to which popular tumults and bloodshed are often to
be ascribed. This is not virtue, but selfishness. It is the will giving itself up
to the gratification of a constitutional impulse. But such feelings and such conduct
are often supposed to be virtuous. It should always be borne in mind that the love
of justice, and the sense of delight in it, and the feeling of opposition to injustice,
is not only not peculiar to good men, but that such feelings are no evidence whatever
of a regenerate heart. Thousands of instances might be adduced as proofs and illustrations
of this position. But such manifestations are too common to need to be cited to remind
any one of their existence.
(15.) The same remarks may be made in regard to truth. Both saints and sinners have
a constitutional respect for, approbation of, and delight in truth. Whoever knew
a sinner to approve of the character of a liar? What sinner will not resent it, to
be accused or even suspected of lying? All men spontaneously manifest their respect
for, complacency in, and approbation of truth. This is constitutional; so that even
the greatest liars do not, and cannot, love lying for its own sake. They lie to gratify,
not a love for falsehood on its own account, but to obtain some object which they
desire more strongly than they hate falsehood. Sinners, in spite of themselves, venerate,
respect, and fear a man of truth. They just as necessarily despise a liar. If they
are liars, they despise themselves for it, just as drunkards and debauchees despise
themselves for indulging their filthy lusts, and yet continue in them.
(16.) Both saints and sinners not only approve of, and delight in good men, when,
as I have said, wicked men are not annoyed by them, but they agree in reprobating,
disapproving, and abhorring wicked men and devils. Who ever heard of any other sentiment
and feeling being expressed either by good or bad men, than of abhorrence and indignation
toward the devil? Nobody ever approved or can approve, of his character; sinners
can no more approve of it than holy angels can. If he could approve of and delight
in his own character, hell would cease to be hell, and evil would become his good.
But no moral agent can, by any possibility, know wickedness and approve it. No man,
saint or sinner, can entertain any other sentiments and feelings toward the devil,
or wicked men, but those of disapprobation, distrust, disrespect, and often of loathing
and abhorrence. The intellectual sentiment will be uniform. Disapprobation, distrust,
condemnation, will always necessarily possess the minds of all who know wicked men
and devils. And often, as occasions arise, wherein their characters are clearly revealed,
and under circumstances favourable to such a result, the deepest feelings of disgust,
of loathing, of indignation, and abhorrence of their wickedness, will manifest themselves
alike among saints and sinners.
(17.) Saints and sinners may be equally honourable and fair in business transactions,
so far as the outward act is concerned. They have different reasons for their conduct,
but outwardly it may be the same. This leads to the remark--
(18.) That selfishness in the sinner, and benevolence in the saint, may, and often
do, produce, in many respects, the same results or manifestations. For example: benevolence
in the saint, and selfishness in the sinner, may beget the same class of desires,
to wit, as we have seen, desire for their own sanctification, and for that of others,
to be useful, and to have others so; desires for the conversion of sinners; and many
such like desires.
(19.) This leads to the remark, that, when the desires of an impenitent person for
these objects become strong enough to influence the will, he may take the same outward
course, substantially, that the saint takes, in obedience to his intelligence. That
is, the sinner is constrained by his feelings to do what the saint does from principle,
or from obedience to the law of his intelligence. In this, however, although the
outward manifestations be the same for the time being, yet the sinner is entirely
selfish, and the saint benevolent. The saint is controlled by principle, and the
sinner by impulse. In this case, time is needed to distinguish between them. The
sinner not having the root of the matter in him, will return to his former course
of life, in proportion as his convictions of the truth and importance of religion
subside, and his former feelings return; while the saint will evince his heavenly
birth, by manifesting his sympathy with God, and the strength of principle that has
taken possession of his heart. That is, he will manifest that his intelligence, and
not his feelings, controls his will.
(20.) Saints and sinners may both love and hate the same things, but for different
and opposite reasons. For example: they may both love the Bible; the saint benevolently,
and the sinner selfishly; that is, the saint loves the Bible for benevolent, and
the sinner for selfish, reasons. They may love Christians for opposite reasons; the
saint for their likeness to Christ, the sinner because he considers them the favourites
of Heaven, as his particular friends, or because he, in some way, hopes to be benefited
by them, or from a mere constitutional complacency in goodness. Now observe; the
Christian may have the same constitutional feelings as the sinner; and besides these,
he may have reasons for his love and conduct peculiar to the saint. The saint and
sinner may, for different and opposite reasons, be interested in, and deeply affected
with, the character of God, with the truth, the sanctuary, and in all the duties
of religion, and all the means of grace. They may alike, but for different reasons,
hate infidelity, error, sin, sinners, selfishness. A selfish sinner may deeply abhor
selfishness in others, and even in himself, and still persevere in it.
(21.) Again: selfishness in the sinner, and benevolence in the saint, may
lead them to form similar resolutions and purposes; for example--to serve God; to
avoid all sin; to do all duty; to do right; to be useful; to persevere in well-doing;
to live for eternity; to set a good example; to pay the strictest regard to the sabbath
and to all the institutions of religion; to do all that in them lies to support religious
(22.) Saints and sinners may agree in their views of doctrines and of measures, may
be equally zealous in the cause of God and religion; may be equally well-informed;
may experience delight in prayer, and in religious meetings, and in religious exercises
(23.) Both may be greatly changed in feeling and in life.
(24.) They may both give all their goods to feed the poor, or to support the gospel,
and send it to the heathen.
(25.) They may both go as missionaries to the heathen, but for entirely different
(26.) They may have equal convictions of sin, and their sensibilities may be similarly
affected by these convictions.
(27.) They may both have great sorrow for sin, and great loathing of self on account
(28.) They may both have feelings of gratitude to God.
(29.) They may both appear to manifest all the graces of true saints.
(30.) They may both be very confident of their good estate.
(31.) They may both have new hopes and new fears, new joys and new sorrows, new friends
and new enemies, new habits of life.
(32.) They may both be comforted by the promises, and awed by the threatenings.
(33.) They may both appear to have answers to prayer.
(34.) They may both appear and really suppose themselves to renounce the world. They
may really both renounce this world, the saint for the glory of God, the sinner that
he may win heaven.
(35.) They may both practise many forms of self-denial. The Christian really denies
himself, and the sinner may appear to do so, by denying certain forms of self-seeking,
for the securing of a selfish interest in another direction.
(36.) They may both have the faith of miracles: "And though I have the gift
of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all
faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing."--1
Cor. xiii. 2.
(37.) They may both suffer martyrdom for entirely opposite reasons. "And though
I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."--1
Cor. xiii. 3.
(38.) They may be confident of their good estate, and may both die in triumph, and
carry their hope to the bar of God. "Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten
and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say,
I tell you, I know you not whence ye are: depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity."--Luke
xiii. 26, 27.
- 1. For want of these and such like discriminations, many have stumbled. Hypocrites
have held on to a false hope, and lived upon mere constitutional desires and spasmodic
turns of giving up the will, during seasons of special excitement, to the control
of these desires and feelings. These spasms they call their waking up. But no sooner
does their excitement subside, than selfishness again assumes its wonted forms. It
is truly wonderful and appalling to see to what an extent this is true. Because,
in seasons of special excitement they feel deeply, and are conscious of feeling,
as they say, and acting, and of being entirely sincere in following their impulses,
they have the fullest confidence in their good estate. They say they cannot doubt
their conversion. They felt so and so, and gave themselves up to their feelings,
and gave much time and money to promote the cause of Christ. Now this is a deep delusion,
and one of the most common in Christendom, or at least one of the most common that
is to be found among what are called revival Christians. This class of deluded souls
do not see that they are, in such cases, governed by their feelings, and that if
their feelings were changed, their conduct would be so, of course; that as soon as
the excitement subsides, they will go back to their former ways, as a thing of course.
When the state of feeling that now controls them has given place to their former
feelings, they will of course appear as they used to do. This is, in few words, the
history of thousands of professors of religion.
- 2. This has greatly stumbled the openly impenitent. Not knowing how to account
for what they often witness of this kind among professors of religion, they are led
to doubt whether there is any such thing as true religion.
- Again: many sinners have been deceived just in the way I have pointed
out, and have afterwards discovered that they had been deluded, but could not understand
how. They have come to the conclusion that everybody is deluded, and that all professors
are as much deceived as they are. This leads them to reject and despise all religion.
- 3. A want of discrimination between what is constitutional and what belongs to
a regenerate state of mind, has stumbled many. Impenitent sinners, finding themselves
to have what they call certain good desires and feelings, have either come to the
conclusion that they were born again, or that the unregenerate have at least a spark
of holiness in them, that only needs to be cherished and cultivated, to fit them
- 4. Some exercises of impenitent sinners, and of which they are conscious, have
been denied for fear of denying total depravity. They have been represented as necessarily
hating God and all good men; and this hatred has been represented as a feeling of
malice and enmity towards God. Many impenitent sinners are conscious of having no
such feelings; but, on the contrary, they are conscious of having at times feelings
of respect, veneration, awe, gratitude, and affection towards God and good men. They
are also conscious, that they are often influenced by these feelings; that, in obedience
to them, they sometimes pray and sing praises to God; that they sometimes manifest
a deep veneration and respect for good men, and show them favour, and do many things
for them which they would not do, did they not feel so deep a respect, veneration,
and affection for them. Of these, and many like things, many impenitent sinners are
often conscious. They are also often conscious of feeling no opposition to revivals,
but, on the contrary, that they rejoice in them, and feel desirous that they should
prosper, and hope that they shall be themselves converted. They are conscious of
feeling deep veneration and respect, and even affection for those ministers who are
the agents, in the hand of God, of carrying them forward. To this class of sinners,
it is a snare and a stumbling-block to tell them, and insist, that they only hate
God, and Christians, and ministers, and revivals; and to represent their moral depravity
to be such, that they crave sin as they crave food, and that they necessarily have
none but feelings of mortal enmity against God. None of these things are true, and
this class of sinners know that they are not true. Such representations either drive
them into infidelity on the one hand, or to think themselves Christians on the other.
But those theologians who hold the views of constitutional depravity of which we
have spoken, cannot consistently with their theory, admit to these sinners the real
truth, and then show them conclusively that in all their feelings which they call
good, and in all their yielding to be influenced by them, there is no virtue; that
their desires and feelings have in themselves no moral character, and that when they
yield the will to their control, it is only selfishness.
- The thing needed is a philosophy and a theology that will admit and explain all
the phenomena of experience, and not deny human consciousness. A theology that denies
human consciousness is only a curse and a stumbling-block. But such is the doctrine
of universal constitutional moral depravity.
It is frequently true, that the feelings of sinners become exceedingly rebellious
and exasperated, even to the most intense opposition of feeling toward God, and Christ,
and ministers, and revivals, and toward every thing of good report. If this class
of sinners are converted, they are very apt to suppose, and to represent all sinners
as having just such feelings as they had. But this is a mistake, for many sinners
never had those feelings. Nevertheless, they are no less selfish and guilty than
the class who have the rebellious and blasphemous feelings which I have mentioned.
This is what they need to know. They need to understand definitely what sin is, and
what it is not; that sin is selfishness; that selfishness is the yielding of the
will to the control of feeling, and that it matters not at all what the particular
class of feelings is, if feelings control the will, and not intelligence. Admit their
good feelings, as they call them, and take pains to show them, that these feelings
are merely constitutional, and have in themselves no moral character. If they plead,
as they often will, that they not only feel but that they act out their feelings,
and give themselves up to be controlled by them, then show them that this is only
selfishness, changing its form, and the will consenting for the time to seek the
gratification of this class of feelings, because they are for the time being the
most importunate and influential with the will; that as soon as another class of
feelings come into play, they will go over to their indulgence, and leave God and
religion uncared for.
The ideas of depravity and of regeneration, to which I have often alluded, are fraught
with great mischief in another respect. Great numbers, it is to be feared, both of
private professors of religion and of ministers, have mistaken the class of feelings
of which I have spoken, as common among certain impenitent sinners, for religion.
They have heard the usual representations of the natural depravity of sinners, and
also have heard certain desires and feelings represented as religion. They are conscious
of these desires and feelings, and also, sometimes, when they are very strong, of
being influenced in their conduct by them. They assume, therefore, that they are
regenerate, and elected, and heirs of salvation. They are conscious that they often
have feelings of great attachment to the world, and various classes of feeling very
inconsistent with their religious feelings, as they call them; and that when these
feelings are in exercise, they also yield to them, and give themselves up to their
control. But this they are taught to think is common to all Christians; that all
Christians have much indwelling sin, are much of their time entirely out of the way,
and never altogether right, even for a moment, that they never feel so much as they
are capable of feeling, and often feel the opposite of what they ought to feel. These
views lull them asleep. The philosophy and theology that misrepresent moral depravity
and regeneration thus, must, if consistent, also misrepresent true religion; and
oh! the many thousands that have mistaken the mere constitutional desires and feelings,
and the selfish yielding of the will to their control, for true religion, and have
gone to the bar of God with a lie in their right hand.
It is a mournful, and even a heart-rending fact, that very much that passes current
for Christian experience is not, and cannot be, an experience peculiar at all to
Christians. It is common to both saints and sinners. It is merely the natural and
necessary result of the human constitution, under certain circumstances. Let no man
deceive himself by thinking more highly of himself than he ought to think.
- 5. Another great evil has arisen out of the false views I have been exposing,
- Many true Christians have been much stumbled and kept in bondage, and their comfort
and their usefulness much abridged, by finding themselves, from time to time, very
languid and unfeeling. Supposing religion to consist in feeling, if at any time the
sensibility becomes exhausted, and their feelings subside, they are immediately thrown
into unbelief and bondage. Satan reproaches them for their want of feeling, and they
have nothing to say, only to admit the truth of his accusations. Having a false philosophy
of religion, they judge of the state of their hearts by the state of their feelings.
They confound their hearts with their feelings, and are in almost constant perplexity
to keep their hearts right, by which they mean their feelings, in a state of great
Again: they are not only sometimes languid, and have no pious feelings and
desires, but at others they are conscious of classes of emotions which they call
sin. These they resist, but still blame themselves for having them in their hearts,
as they say. Thus they are brought into bondage again, although they are certain
that these feelings are hated, and not at all indulged, by them.
Oh, how much all classes of persons need to have clearly defined ideas of what really
constitutes sin and holiness. A false philosophy of the mind, especially of the will,
and of moral depravity, has covered the world with gross darkness on the subject
of sin and holiness, of regeneration, and of the evidences of regeneration, until
the true saints, on the one hand, are kept in a continual bondage to their false
notions; and on the other, the church swarms with unconverted professors, and is
cursed with many self-deceived ministers.
This lecture was typed in by Nancy Dozier.
LECTURE XLV. Back to Top
- 3. WHEREIN SAINTS AND SINNERS, OR DECEIVED PROFESSORS, MUST DIFFER.
- In discussing this branch of the subject, I will--
1. Make several prefatory remarks.
2. Point out the prominent characteristics of both.
1. Prefatory remarks.
(1.) The Bible represents all mankind as forming two, and but two, great classes,
saints and sinners. All regenerate souls, whatever be their attainments, are included
in the first class. All unregenerate persons, whatever be their profession, possessions,
gifts, or station, are included in the second.
(2.) The Bible represents the difference between these two classes as radical, fundamental,
and complete. The Bible does not recognize the impenitent as having any goodness
in them, but uniformly as being dead in trespasses and in sins. It represents the
saints as being dead to sin, and alive to God, as sanctified persons, and often speaks
in such strong language as almost to compel us to understand it as denying that the
saints sin at all; or to conclude, that sinning at all, proves that one is not a
saint. It does take the unqualified ground, that no one is a saint who lives or indulges
in any sin.
(3.) The Bible represents the difference between saints and sinners as very manifest
and as appearing abundantly in their lives. It requires us to judge all men by their
fruits. It gives us both the fruits of a regenerate, and of an unregenerate state,
and is exceedingly specific and plain upon the subject.
(4.) In treating this question, I shall endeavour to bear in mind, that I am inquiring
after the evidences of regeneration, and that I am to speak, not of high and rare
attainments in piety, but of its beginnings, and of things that must exist and appear,
where there is even the commencement of true holiness.
2. I will point out the prominent characteristics of both saints and sinners.
(1.) Let it be distinctly remembered, that all unregenerate persons, without exception,
have one heart, that is, they are selfish. This is their whole character. They are
universally and only devoted to self-interest, or self-gratification. Their unregenerate
heart consists in this selfish disposition, or in this selfish choice. This choice
is the foundation of, and the reason for, all their activity. One and the same ultimate
reason actuates them in all they do, and in all they omit, and that reason is either
presently or remotely, directly or indirectly, to gratify themselves.
The regenerate heart is disinterested benevolence. In other words, it is love to
God and our neighbour. All regenerate hearts are precisely similar. All true saints,
whenever they have truly the heart of the saints of God, are actuated by one and
the same motive. They have only one ultimate reason for all they do, and suffer,
or omit. They have one ultimate intention, one end. They live for one and the same
object, and that is the same end for which God lives.
Now the thing after which we are inquiring is, what must be the necessary developements
and manifestations of these opposite states of mind. These opposite states are supreme
and opposite and ultimate choices; and those opposite choices are ultimate. In whatever
the saint and the sinner respectively engage, they have directly opposite ends in
view. They are states of supreme devotion to ultimate and opposite ends. In whatever
they do, the saint, if he acts as a saint, and the sinner, if he acts as a sinner,
have directly opposite ends in view. They do, or omit what they do, for entirely
different and opposite ultimate reasons. Although, as we have seen, in many things
their opposite ends may lead them to attempt to secure them by similar means, and
may, therefore, often lead to the same outward life, in many respects, yet it is
always true, that even when they act outwardly alike, they have inwardly entirely
different ultimate reasons for their conduct. As it often happens, that the saint
in pursuing the highest good of being in general as an end, finds it necessary to
do many things which the sinner may do to secure his selfish end; and as it often
happens, that the sinner, in his endeavours to compass his selfish end, finds it
necessary to use the same outward means that the saint does in his efforts to secure
his end, it requires not unfrequently a good degree of candour and of discrimination
to distinguish between them. And, as saints and sinners possess the same, or similar,
constitutions and constitutional propensities, their desires and feelings are often
so much alike, as to embarrass the superficial inquirer after their true spiritual
state. As has been said, the sinner often, in seasons of strong religious excitement,
not only has desires and feelings resulting from the laws of his constitution, similar
to those that are experienced by the saints, but he also, for the time being, gives
up his will to follow these impulses. In this case it requires the nicest discrimination
to distinguish between the saint and the sinner; for at such times they not only
feel alike, but they also act alike. The difficulty, in such cases, is to distinguish
between the action of a will that obeys the intelligence and one that obeys a class
of feelings that are so nearly in harmony with the dictates of the intelligence.
To distinguish, in such cases, between that which proceeds from feeling, and that
which proceeds from the intelligence, requires no slight degree of attention and
discrimination. One needs to be a close observer, and no tyro in mental philosophy,
to make just discriminations in cases of this kind.
Let it be understood, that the fundamental difference between saints and sinners
does not consist in the fact, that one has a sinful nature, and the other has not,
for neither of them has a sinful nature.
(2.) Nor does it consist in the fact, that the saint has had a physical regeneration,
and therefore possesses some element of constitution which the sinner has not.
(3.) Nor does it consist in this, that saints are aiming or intending to do right,
while sinners are aiming and intending to do wrong.
The saint loves God and his The sinner is selfish, and chooses neighbour; that is,
chooses or his own gratification as an end. intends their highest good, for its
This choice or intention is right, This choice or intention is wrong; though right
is not the ultimate but wrong is not the end chosen, or thing intended. The good,
i.e., the the thing upon which the intention valuable to being, and not the terminates.
right, is that upon which the
They are both choosing what they regard as valuable.
The saint chooses the good of being impartially; that is, he chooses the highest
good of being in general for its own sake, and lays no greater stress upon his own,
than is dictated by the law of his own intelligence. His duty is to will the greatest
amount of good to being in general, and promote the greatest amount of good within
his power. From the relation of things, every one's own highest well-being is committed
to his particular keeping and promotion, in a higher sense than that of his neighbour
is. Next to his own well-being, that of his own family and kindred is committed to
his particular keeping and promotion, in a higher sense than that of his neighbour's
family and kindred. Next the interest and well-being of his immediate neighbourhood
and of those more immediately within the sphere of his influence, is committed to
his keeping and promotion. Thus, while all interests are to be esteemed according
to their intrinsic and relative value, the law of God requires, that we should lay
ourselves out more particularly for the promotion of those interests that lie so
much within our reach, that we can accomplish and secure a greater amount of good,
by giving our principal attention and efforts to them, than could be secured by our
practically treating the interests of every individual, of every family, and of every
neighbourhood, as of equal value with our own. The practical judgment of all men
always was, and necessarily must be, that the law of God demands, that every one
should see to his own soul, and should provide for his own household, and that the
highest good of the whole universe can best be promoted only by each individual,
each family, each neighbourhood, and each nation, taking care to secure those interests
more immediately committed to them, because more immediately within their reach.
This is not selfishness, if the intention is to secure the highest good of being
in general, and of these particular interests, as a part of the general good, and
because it falls particularly to us to promote these particular interests, inasmuch
as their promotion is particularly within our reach. The law of God, while it demands
that I should will the highest good of being in general for its own sake, and esteem
every interest known to me according to its intrinsic and relative value, demands
also, that as a pastor of a church, I should give my time, and influence, and energies,
more particularly to the promotion of the good of the people of my own charge. More
good will, upon the whole, result to the world from pastors taking this course, than
by their taking any other. The same is true of the family relation, and of all the
relations of life. Our relations give us peculiar facilities for securing good, and
impose on us peculiar responsibilities. Our relation to our own highest well-being
imposes peculiar responsibilities on us, in regard to our own souls. So of our families,
neighbourhoods, &c. It should be well considered then, that the precept, "Thou
shalt love they neighbour as thyself," does not require every one to pay just
the attention to his neighbour's soul that he does to his own, nor the same attention
to his neighbour's children and family that he does to his own. He is bound to esteem
his neighbour's interest according to its relative value, and to pursue his own interest,
and the interest of his family and neighbourhood, and nation, in a manner not inconsistent
with the interests of others, but in a manner as highly conducive to the promotion
of their interests, as in his judgment will, upon the whole, secure the greatest
amount of good. If I have a life to live, and a certain amount of time, and talent,
and money, and influence, to lay out for God and souls, I am bound to use all in
that manner that, in my honest judgment, will upon the whole secure the greatest
amount of good to being. I am not, certainly, to divide the pittance of my possessions
among all men of present and coming generations. Nor am I to scatter my time and
talent over the face of the whole globe. But, on the contrary, benevolence dictates,
that I should lay out my time, and talents, and influence, and possessions, where
and when, and in a way, in my honest estimation, calculated to secure to being the
greatest amount of good.
I have said thus much, as might seem, by way of preparation; but, in fact, it is
necessary for us to have these thoughts in mind, when we enter upon the discussion
of the question before us; to wit: What are evidences of a truly benevolent state
of mind? For example; suppose we should enter upon the inquiry in question, taking
along with us the assumption, that true benevolence, that is, the disinterested love
of God and our neighbour, implies that we should not only esteem, but also treat,
all other interests of equal intrinsic value with our own, according to their intrinsic
and relative value. I say, should we, in searching after evidence of disinterested
benevolence, take along with us this false assumption, where should we find any evidence
of benevolence on earth? No man does or can act upon such a principle. God has never
acted upon it. Christ never acted upon it. Why did God select the particular nation
of the Jews, and confine his revelations to them? Why did Christ preach the gospel
to the Jews only, and say that he was not sent, save to the lost sheep of the house
of Israel? Why has God always acted upon this principle of accomplishing the greatest
practicable good under all the circumstances of the case? He esteems the good of
all, and of each, of his creatures according to its intrinsic and relative value,
but does good when and as he best can. If the greatest amount of ultimate good can
be secured by choosing Abraham before all other men, and making him and his posterity
the objects of peculiar effort and spiritual cultivation and the depositories of
the holy oracles, which he intended should ultimately bless all nations, why then,
he does it. He exercises his own discretion in his efforts to accomplish the greatest
amount of good. Good is his end, and he does all the good he can. In securing this,
he does many things that might appear partial to those who take but a limited view
of things. Just so with all truly benevolent creatures. Good is their end. In promoting
it, their intelligence and the law of God dictate, that they should bestow their
particular efforts, attention, influence, and possessions upon those particular interests
and persons that will, in their judgment, result in the highest good of being as
a whole. The whole Bible everywhere assumes this as the correct rule of duty. Hence
it recognizes all the relations of life, and the peculiar responsibilities and duties
that grow out of them, and enjoins the observance of those duties. The relation of
husband and wife, of parent and child, of ruler and subject, and indeed all the relations
incident to our highest well-being in this life, are expressly recognized, and their
corresponding obligations assumed by the inspired writers; which shows clearly, that
they understood the law of supreme love to God and equal love to our neighbour, to
imply an obligation to give particular attention to those interests which God had
placed more particularly within the reach of our influence; always remembering that
those interests are to be pursued impartially; that is, in consistency with the promotion
of all other interests, by those to whom their promotion is particularly committed.
For example: I am not to pursue my own good and that of my family, or my neighbourhood,
or my nation, in a manner inconsistent with the interests of my neighbour, or his
family, or neighbourhood, or nation. But I am to seek the promotion of all the interests
particularly committed to me, in harmony with, and only as making a part of, the
general interest of being.
Now let it be remembered, that the saint is benevolent, and all his life as a saint
is only the developement of this one principle; or his outward and inward activity
is only an effort to secure the end upon which benevolence fastens, to wit, the highest
good of God and of being in general.
The sinner is selfish; all his activity is to be ascribed to an intention to secure
his own gratification. Self-interest is his end. It is easy to see from what has
been said, that, to an outward observer, a benevolent saint may, and often must,
appear to be selfish, and the selfish sinner may and will appear to be disinterested.
The saint pursues his own good and the happiness and well-being of his family, as
a part of universal good, and does it disinterestedly. The sinner pursues his own
gratification, and that of his family, not as parts of universal good, and disinterestedly,
but as his own, and as the interest of those who are regarded as parts of himself,
and whose interest he regards as identified with his own.
They are both busy in promoting the interests of self and family, and neighbourhood,
&c. And the difference between them lies in their ultimate intentions, or the
reasons for what they do.
- There is, as I have intimated, special difficulty in ascertaining, for certainty,
which is the saint and which the sinner, when the sinner's selfishness is directed
to the securing of a heavenly and eternal interest, instead of a worldly and temporal
one. He may, and often does, aim at securing a heavenly and an eternal interest,
both for himself, and family, and friends. When he does this, his outward manifestations
are so very like those of the true saint, as to render it difficult, if not impossible,
for an observer for the time being to distinguish accurately between them.
I have compared the saint and the sinner, in my last lecture, for the purpose of
showing in what respect they may be alike.
I will now, in a few particulars, proceed to contrast them, that it may appear in
what they differ.
(1.) And fundamentally, they are radically opposite to each other in their
ultimate choice or intention. They are supremely devoted to different and opposite
ends. They live to promote those opposite ends.
(2.) The saint is governed by reason, the law of God, or the moral law; in
other words still, the law of disinterested and universal benevolence is his law.
This law is not only revealed and developed in his intelligence, but it is written
in his heart. So that the law of his intellect is the law of his heart. He not only
sees and acknowledges what he ought to do and be, but he is conscious to himself,
and gives evidence to others, whether they receive it and are convinced by it or
not, that his heart, his will, or intention, is conformed to his convictions of duty.
He sees the path of duty and follows it. He knows what he ought to will, intend,
and do, and does it. Of this he is conscious. And of this others may be satisfied,
if they are observing, charitable, and candid.
(3.) The sinner is contrasted with this in the most important and fundamental
respects. He is not governed by reason and principle, but by feeling, desire, and
impulse. Sometimes his feelings coincide with the intelligence, and sometimes they
do not. But when they do so coincide, the will does not pursue its course out of
respect or in obedience to the law of the intelligence, but in obedience to the impulse
of the sensibility, which, for the time being, impels in the same direction as the
law of the reason. But for the most part the impulses of the sensibility incline
him to worldly gratifications, and in an opposite direction to that which the intelligence
points out. This leads him to a course of life that is too manifestly the opposite
of reason, to leave any room for doubt, as to what his true character is.
But he also has the law revealed in his intelligence. His head is right, but his
heart is wrong. He knows what he ought to do, and will, and be, but he is conscious
that his heart does not obey his reason. He is conscious that the law is in his intelligence,
but is not written in his heart. He knows that he is not in heart what he necessarily
affirms that he ought to be. He knows that he is habitually selfish, and not disinterestedly
benevolent. Sometimes, as has been said, during seasons of special religious excitement,
when his sensibility and intelligence impel in the same direction, he thinks his
heart and head agree; that he is what he knows he ought to be; that the law is written
in his heart. But as soon as this excitement subsides, he sees, or may see, that
it was not his intelligence but his sensibility that governed his will; that in the
absence of religious excitement his intelligence has no control of his will; that
he is governed by impulse and not by principle. This will also be manifest to others.
If during religious excitement they have hoped too well of him, as soon as, and in
proportion as, excitement ceases, they will clearly see, that it was the impulse
of feeling, and not the law of the intelligence that governed him. They will soon
clearly see, that he has not, and had not, the root of the matter in him; that his
religion was founded in the effervescence of the ever-varying sensibility, and not
in the stable demands of his reason and conscience. As excitement waxes and wanes,
he will be ever fluctuating. Sometimes quite zealous, and active, and talkative,
full of feeling, he will have the appearance of possessing most of the phases of
Christian character in a state of freshness and beauty. And anon his religious excitement
ceases. His tongue is silent on religious subjects. His zeal abates apace. His attendance
at the prayer and conference meeting is interrupted, and finally ceases. A worldly
excitement takes possession of his sensibility. His will is carried off course. Politics,
business, amusement, no matter what, is for the time being his exciting topic; he
is carried away with it, and remains in this state carried hither and thither by
worldly engrossments, until another religious excitement renews and confirms his
delusion and that of his friends, who look upon him as a real Christian, but prone
- (4.) The true saint is distinguished by his firm adherence to all the
principles and rules of the divine government. He is a reformer from principle, and
needs not the gale of popular excitement, or of popular applause, to put and keep
him in motion. His intellect and conscience have taken the control of his will, or
the will has renounced the impulses of the sensibility as its law, and voluntarily
committed itself to the demands of the reason. This fact must appear both on the
field of his own consciousness, and also in most instances be very manifest to others.
His zeal does not wax and wane with every breeze of excitement. He is not carried
away by every change in the effervescing sensibility. The law of reason being written
in his heart, he does not at one time appear reasonable, and to be influenced by
conscience and a regard to the law of love, and at another to be infinitely unreasonable,
and to have little or no regard to God or his laws. He fears and shuns popular excitements,
as he does all other temptations. He loaths and resists them. The excitements of
politics, and business, and amusements, are regarded by him with a jealous eye. He
dreads their influence on his sensibility; and when he feels them, it causes a deep
struggle and groaning of spirit, because the will, adhering to the law of conscience,
stedfastly resists them. Such-like excitements, instead of being his element and
the aliment of his life, are a grief and vexation to him. Instead of living, and
moving, and having his being, as it were, in the midst of them, and by them, he is
only annoyed by them. They are not the moving spring of his activity, but only embarrass
his spiritual life. His spiritual life is founded in the law of the intelligence,
and supported by the light of the Holy Spirit poured upon his intellect through the
truth. He steadily resists the flood-tides of mere feeling on every subject, and
abides by truth, and principle, and moral law, whatever may be the circumstances
of worldly or religious excitement around him. Be it ever remembered, it is moral
law, moral principle, the law of love, and not mere feeling, that governs him.
(5.) The sinner, or deceived professor, for they are one, is the very opposite
of this. Excitement is his element and his life. He has truly no moral principle
except in theory. He is never truly influenced by truth, law, reason, but always
by excitement of some kind. His activity is based on this; hence he is not disturbed
and embarrassed in his movements, by excitements of any kind, any longer than it
takes to put down one form of excitement and take on another. If when he is much
interested and excited and carried away, in one direction, a counter influence or
excitement comes in his way, he is taken aback for the time being. He is disconcerted
and embarrassed, perhaps displeased. But you will soon see him change his course,
and follow the new excitement. Excitement is his life, and although, like a ship
at sea, he is thrown into temporary confusion by a sudden change of the winds and
waves, so, like her whose life and activity are the breezes and the gale, and the
ocean wave, he readily accommodates his sails and his course to the ever-changing
breeze and currents of excitement, in the midst of which he loves to live, and on
the foaming surface of which he is borne along. If you wish to move him, you must
strongly appeal to his feelings. Reason does not, cannot govern him. 'Tis not enough
to say to him, Thus saith the Lord. He will admit the right, but surely will not
do it. He will not go that way, unless you can first make his feelings move in that
direction. He holds the truth only in theory and in unrighteousness. It is not the
law of his live, his heart, his warmest affections and sympathies. Present considerations
to his intelligence; unless they excite his sensibility, and arouse his hopes, or
fears, or feelings in some direction, you might as well attempt to change the course
of the winds by your words. His imagination must be aroused and set on fire. His
sensibility must be reached, enkindled. The gales of excitement must be raised, and
the mainspring of his action must be touched, and directed to impel his will, before
you can quicken him into life. His feelings are his law.
(6.) The saint is justified, and he has the evidence of it in the peace of
his own mind. He is conscious of obeying the law of reason and of love. Consequently
he naturally has that kind and degree of peace that flows from the harmony of his
will with the law of his intelligence. He sometimes has conflicts with the impulses
of feeling and desire. But unless he is overcome, these conflicts, though they may
cause him inwardly, and, perhaps, audibly to groan, do not interrupt his peace. There
are still the elements of peace within him. His heart and conscience are at one,
and while this is so he has thus far the evidence of justification in himself. That
is, he knows that God cannot condemn his present state. Conscious as he is of conformity
of heart to the moral law, he cannot but affirm to himself, that the lawgiver is
pleased with his present attitude. But further, he has also within the Spirit of
God witnessing with his spirit, that he is a child of God, forgiven, accepted, adopted.
He feels the filial spirit drawing his heart to exclaim, Father, Father. He is conscious
that he pleases God, and has God's smile of approbation.
He is at peace with himself, because he affirms his heart to be in unison with the
law of love. His conscience does not upbraid, but smile. The harmony of his own being
is a witness to himself, that this is the state in which he was made to exist. He
is at peace with God, because he and God are pursuing precisely the same end, and
by the same means. There can be no collision, no controversy between them. He is
at peace with the universe, in the sense, that he has no ill-will, and no malicious
feelings or wish to gratify, in the injury of any one of all the creatures of God.
He has no fear, but to sin against God. He is not influenced on the one hand by the
fear of hell, nor on the other by the hope of reward. He is not anxious about his
own salvation, but prayerfully and calmly leaves that question in the hands of God,
and concerns himself only to promote the highest glory of God, and the good of being.
"Being justified by faith, he has peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
"There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not
after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
(7.) The sinner's experience is the opposite of this. He is under condemnation,
and seldom can so far deceive himself, even in his most religious moods, as to imagine
that he has a consciousness of acceptance either with his own conscience or with
God. There is almost never a time in which he has not a greater or less degree of
restlessness and misgiving within. Even when he is most engaged in religion, as he
supposes, he finds himself dissatisfied with himself. Something is wrong. There is
a struggle and a pang. He may not exactly see where and what the difficulty is. He
does not, after all, obey reason and conscience, and is not governed by the law and
will of God. Not having the consciousness of this obedience, his conscience does
not smile. He sometimes feels deeply, and acts as he feels, and is conscious of being
sincere in the sense of feeling what he says, and acting in obedience to deep feeling.
But this does not satisfy conscience. He is more or less wretched after all. He has
not true peace. Sometimes he has a self-righteous quiet and enjoyment. But this is
neither peace of conscience nor peace with God. He, after all, feels uneasy and condemned,
notwithstanding all his feeling, and zeal, and activity. They are not of the right
kind. Hence they do not satisfy the conscience. They do not meet the demands of his
intelligence. Conscience does not approve. He has not, after all, true peace. He
is not justified; he cannot be fully and permanently satisfied that he is. He is
not, for any length of time, satisfied with his best performances. He is conscious,
after all, of sinning in all his holiest duties, and he is the more sure of this,
in proportion as he is more enlightened. He thinks that this is the universal experience
of all true saints; that although neither conscience nor God is satisfied with his
obedience,--not even in his best frames and states,--yet he thinks, to be sure, he
has some degree of holiness and conformity to the will of God, although not enough
to bring out the approbation of conscience, and the smile of God upon his soul. He
imagines that he has some true religion; some half-way obedience. He is a true, though
an imperfect, saint, whose best obedience can and does satisfy neither his own sense
of duty nor his God. With him, justification is a mere theory, a doctrine, an opinion,
an article of faith, and not a living-felt reality; not an experience, but an idea,
a notion, and, at best, a pleasing and dreamy delusion.
(8.) The saint has made the will of God his law, and asks for no other reason
to influence his decisions and actions than that such is the will of God. He has
received the will of God as the unfailing index, pointing always to the path of duty.
His intelligence affirms that God's will is, and ought to be, law, or perfect evidence
of what law is; and therefore he has received it as such. He therefore expects to
obey it always, and in all things. He makes no calculations to sin in anything; nor
in one thing more than another. He does not cast about, and pick and choose among
the commandments of God; professing obedience to those that are the least offensive
to him, and trampling on those that call to a sterner morality, and a harder self-denial.
With him there are no little sins in which he expects to indulge. He no more expects
to eat too much, than he expects to be a drunkard; and gluttony is as much a sin
as drunkenness. He no more expects to take an advantage of his neighbour, than he
expects to rob him on the highway. He no more designs and expects to indulge in secret,
than in open uncleanness. He no more expects to indulge a wanton eye, than to commit
adultery with his brother's wife. He no more expects to exaggerate and give a false
colouring to the truth, than he expects and intends to commit perjury. All sin is
an abomination to him. He has renounced it ex animo. His heart has rejected sin as
sin. His heart has embraced the will of God as his law. It has embraced the whole
will of God. He waits only for a knowledge of what the will of God is. He needs not,
he seeks not, excitement to determine or to strengthen his will. The law of his being
has come to be the will of God. A "thus saith the Lord," immediately awakens
from the depths of his soul the whole-hearted "amen." He does not go about
to plead for sin, to trim his ways so as to serve two masters. To serve God and Mammon
is no part of his policy, and no part of his wish. No: he is God's man, God's subject,
God's child. All his sympathies are with God; and surely "his fellowship is
with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." What Christ wills, he wills;
what Christ rejects, he rejects.
(9.) But right over against this you will find the sinner, or deceived professor.
God's will is not his law; but his own sensibility is his law. With him it is not
enough to know the will of God; he must also have his sensibility excited in that
direction, before he goes. He does not mean, nor expect, to avoid every form and
degree of iniquity. His heart has not renounced sin as sin. It has not embraced the
will of God from principle, and of course has not embraced the whole will of God.
With him it is a small thing to commit what he calls little sins. This shows, conclusively,
where he is. If the will of God were his law--as this is as really opposed to what
he calls little, as to what he calls great sins, he would not expect and intend to
disobey God in one thing more than in another. He could know no little sins, since
they conflict with the will of God. But he goes about to pick and choose among the
commandments of God, sometimes yielding an outward obedience to those that conflict
least with his inclinations, and which therefore will cost him the least self-denial,
but evading and disregarding those that lay the axe to the root of the tree, and
prohibit all selfishness. The sinner, or deceived professor, does not in fact seriously
mean, or expect, wholly to obey God. He thinks that this is common to all Christians.
He as much expects to sin every day against God, as he expects to live, and does
not think this at all inconsistent with his being a real, though imperfect, Christian.
He is conscious of indulging in some sins, and that he has never repented of them
and put them away, but he thinks that this also is common to all Christians, and
therefore it does not slay his false hope. He would much sooner indulge in gluttony
than in drunkenness, because the latter would more seriously affect his reputation.
He would not hesitate to indulge wanton thoughts and imaginations when he would not
allow himself in outward licentiousness, because of its bearing upon his character,
and, as he says, upon the cause of God. He will not hesitate to take little advantages
of his neighbour, to amass a fortune in this way, while he would recoil from robbing
on the highway, or on the high seas; for this would injure his reputation with man,
and, as he thinks, more surely destroy his soul. Sinners sometimes become exceedingly
self-righteous, and aim at what they call perfection. But unless they are very ignorant,
they soon become discouraged, and cry out, "O, wretched man that I am, who shall
deliver me from the body of this death?" They, however, almost always satisfy
themselves with a mere outward morality, and that, as I have said, not descending
to what they call little sins.
This lecture was typed in by Nancy Dozier.
LECTURE XLVI. Back to Top
IN WHAT SAINTS AND SINNERS DIFFER.
- (10.) Saints are interested in, and sympathize with, every effort to reform
mankind, and promote the interests of truth and righteousness in the earth.
The good of being is the end for which the saint really and truly lives. This is
not merely held by him as a theory, as an opinion, as a theological or philosophical
speculation. It is in his heart, and precisely for this reason he is a saint. He
is a saint just because the theory, which is lodged in the head of both saint and
sinner, has also a lodgement and a reigning power in his heart, and consequently
in his life. The fact is, that saints, as such, have no longer a wicked heart. They
are "born again," "born of God," and "they cannot sin, for
his seed remaineth in them, so that they cannot sin, because they are born of God."
"They have a new heart," "are new creatures," "old things
are passed away, and behold all things are become new." They are holy or sanctified
persons. The Bible representations of the new birth forbid us to suppose that the
truly regenerate have still a wicked heart. The nature of regeneration also renders
it certain that the regenerate heart cannot be a wicked heart. His heart or choice
is fixed upon the highest good of God and the universe as an end. Moral agents are
so constituted, that they necessarily regard truth and righteousness, as conditions
of the highest good of moral agents. These being necessarily regarded by them as
indispensable to the end, will, and must be considered as important, as the end to
which they sustain the relation of indispensable conditions. As they supremely value
the highest good of being, they will, and must take a deep interest in whatever is
promotive of that end. Hence, their spirit is necessarily that of the reformer. To
the universal reformation of the world they stand committed. To this end they are
devoted. For this end they live, and move, and have their being. Every proposed reform
interests them, and naturally leads them to examine its claims. The fact is, they
are studying and devising ways and means to convert, sanctify, reform mankind. Being
in this state of mind, they are predisposed to lay hold on whatever gives promise
of good to man. A close examination will show a remarkable difference between saints
and sinners in this respect. True saints love reform. It is their business, their
profession, their life to promote it; consequently they are ready to examine the
claims of any proposed reform; candid and self-denying, and ready to be convinced,
however much self-denial it may call them to. They have actually rejected self-indulgence,
as the end for which they live, and are ready to sacrifice any form of self-indulgence,
for the sake of promoting the good of men and the glory of God. It is not, and cannot
be natural to them to be prejudiced against reform, to be apt to array themselves
against, or speak lightly of, any proposed reform, until they have thoroughly examined
its claims, and found it wanting in the essential attributes of true reform. The
natural bearing or bias of the saint's mind is in favour of whatever proposes to
do good, and instead of ridiculing reform in general, or speaking lightly or censoriously
of reform, the exact opposite is natural to him. It is natural to him to revere reformers,
and to honour those who have introduced even what proved in the end not to be wholesome
reforms, if so be there is evidence, that they were sincere and self-denying in their
efforts to benefit mankind. The saint is truly and greatly desirous, and in earnest,
to reform all sin out of the world, and just for this reason is ready to hail with
joy, and to try whatever reform seems, from the best light he can get, to bid fair
to put down sin, and the evils that are in the world. Even mistaken men, who are
honestly endeavouring to reform mankind, and denying their appetites, as many have
done in dietetic reform, are deserving of the respect of their fellow men. Suppose
their philosophy to be incorrect, yet they have intended well. They have manifested
a disposition to deny themselves, for the purpose of promoting the good of others.
They have been honest and zealous in this. Now no true saint can feel or express
contempt for such reformers, however much mistaken they may be. No; his natural sentiments
and feelings will be, and must be, the reverse of contempt or censoriousness in respect
to them. If their mistake has been injurious, he may mourn over the evil, but will
not, cannot, severely judge the honest reformer. War, slavery, licentiousness, and
all such like evils and abominations, are necessarily regarded by the saint as great
and sore evils, and he longs for their complete and final overthrow. It is impossible
that a truly benevolent mind should not thus regard these abominations of desolation.
The cause of peace, the cause of anti-slavery, and that of the overthrow of licentiousness,
must lie near the heart of every truly benevolent mind. I know that sinners often
have a certain kind of interest in these and other reforms. This will be noticed
and explained in the proper place. But whatever is true of sinners under certain
circumstances, it must be always true of Christians, that they hail the cause of
peace, of the abolition of slavery, and of the abolition of every form of sin, and
of every evil, moral and physical, with joy, and cannot but give them a hearty God-speed.
If they see that they are advocated on wrong principles, or with a bad spirit, or
by bad men, and that injurious measures are used to promote them, the saints will
mourn, will be faithful in trying to find out and to proclaim a more excellent way.
Do but keep in mind the fact, that saints are truly benevolent, and are really and
heartily consecrated to the highest good of being, and then it will surely be seen,
that these things must be true of real saints.
The saints in all ages have been reformers. I know it is said, that neither prophets,
Christ, nor apostles, nor primitive saints and martyrs declaimed against war and
slavery, &c. But they did. The entire instructions of Christ, and of apostles
and prophets, were directly opposed to these and all other evils. If they did not
come out against certain legalized forms of sin, and denounce them by name, and endeavour
to array public sentiment against them, it is plainly because they were, for the
most part, employed in a preliminary work. To introduce the gospel as a divine revelation;
to set up and organize the visible kingdom of God on earth; to lay a foundation for
universal reform, was rather their business, than the pushing forward of particular
branches of reform. The overthrow of state idolatry, the great and universal sin
of the world in that age; the labour of getting the world and the governments of
earth to tolerate and receive the gospel as a revelation from the one only living
and true God; the controversy with the Jews, to overthrow their objections to Christianity;
in short, the great and indispensable and preliminary work of gaining for Christ
and his gospel a hearing, and an acknowledgment of its divinity, was rather their
work, than the pushing of particular precepts and doctrines of the gospel to their
legitimate results and logical consequences. This work once done has left it for
later saints to bring the particular truths, precepts, and doctrines of the blessed
gospel to bear down every form of sin. Prophets, Christ, and his apostles, have left
on the pages of inspiration no dubious testimony against every form of sin. The spirit
of the whole Bible breathes from every page blasting and annihilation upon every
unholy abomination, while it smiles upon everything of good report that promises
blessings to man and glory to God. The saint is not merely sometimes a reformer;
he is always so. He is necessarily so, if he abide a saint. It is a contradiction
to say, that a true saint is not devoted to reform; for, as I have said, he is a
true saint just because he is devoted, heart, and soul, and life, and all, to the
promotion of the good of universal being.
(11.) The sinner is never a reformer in any proper sense of the word.
He is selfish and never opposed to sin, or to any evil whatever, from any such motive
as renders him worthy the name of reformer. He sometimes selfishly advocates and
pushes certain outward reforms; but as certain as it is that he is an unregenerate
sinner, so certain is it, that he is not endeavouring to reform sin out of the world
from any disinterested love to God or to man. Many considerations of a selfish nature
may engage him at times in certain branches of reform. Regard to his reputation may
excite his zeal in such an enterprize. Self-righteous considerations may also lead
him to enlist in the army of reformers. His relation to particular forms of vice
may influence him to set his face against them. Constitutional temperament and tendencies
may lead to his engaging in certain reforms. For example, his constitutional benevolence,
as phrenologists call it, may be such that from natural compassion he may engage
in reforms. But this is only giving way to an impulse of the sensibility, and it
is not principle that governs him. His natural conscientiousness may modify his outward
character, and lead him to take hold of some branches of reform. But whatever other
motives he may have, sure it is that he is not a reformer; for he is a sinner, and
it is absurd to say that a sinner is truly engaged in opposing sin as sin. No, it
is not sin that he is opposing, but he is seeking to gratify an ambitious, a self-righteous,
or some other spirit, the gratification of which is selfishness.
But as a general thing, it is easy to distinguish sinners, or deceived professors
from saints by looking steadfastly at their temper and deportment in their relations
to reform. They are self-indulgent, and sinners just for the reason that they are
devoted to self-indulgence. Sometimes their self-indulgent spirit takes on one type,
and sometimes another. Of course they need not be expected to ridicule or oppose
every branch of reform, just because it is not every reformer that will rebuke their
favourite indulgences, and call them to reform their lives. But as every sinner has
one or more particular form of indulgence to which he is wedded, and as saints are
devising and pushing reforms in all directions, it is natural that some sinners should
manifest particular hostility to one reform, and some to another. Whenever a reform
is proposed that would reform them out of their favourite indulgences, they will
either ridicule it, and those that propose it, or storm and rail, or in some way
oppose or wholly neglect it. Not so, and so it cannot be, with a true saint. He has
no indulgence that he values when put in competition with the good of being. Nay,
he holds his all and his life at the disposal of the highest good. Has he, in ignorance
of the evils growing out of his course, used ardent spirits, wine, tobacco, ale,
or porter? Has he held slaves; been engaged in any traffic that is found to be injurious;
has he favoured war through ignorance; or, in short, has he committed any mistake
whatever? let but a reformer come forth and propose to discuss the tendency of such
things; let the reformer bring forth his strong reasons; and from the very nature
of true religion, the saint will listen with attention, weigh with candour, and suffer
himself to be carried by truth, heart, and hand, and influence with the proposed
reform, if it be worthy of support, how much soever it conflict with his former habits.
This must be true, if he has a single eye to the good of being, which is the very
characteristic of a saint.
But the sinner, or deceived professor, is naturally a conservative as opposed to
a reformer. He says, Let me alone in my indulgences, and I will let you alone in
yours, provided they in no way interfere with my own. Consequently, he is in general
disposed to distrust, to discountenance, and to ridicule reforms and those that advocate
them. He is uncandid and hard to convince; will demand an express, "Thus saith
the Lord," or what is equivalent to a demonstration, of the wisdom and utility
and practicability of a proposed reform. He will evince in many ways, that his heart
is not predisposed to reforms. He will be eagle-eyed in respect to any faults in
the character or measures of the reformers; he will be eager to detect and seize
upon any error in their logic, and is easily displeased and repelled with their measures.
In short, sinners will be almost sure to manifest a latent dislike to reforms. They
will dwell much and almost exclusively upon the evils of revivals of religion, for
example; the danger of spurious excitements; of promoting fanaticism and misrule;
of encouraging false hopes; and they will in various ways manifest a disrelish for
revivals of religion, but always under the pretence of a concern for the purity of
the church, and honour of God. They will be too much taken up with the evils and
dangers, ever to give themselves heartily to the promotion of pure revivals. They
act on the defensive. They have enough to do to resist and oppose what they call
evils, without even trying to show a more excellent way. They in general take substantially
the same course in respect to almost every branch of reformation, and especially
to every reform that can touch their idols. They are so much afraid of mistakes and
evils, that they withhold their influence, when in fact the difficulty is, they have
no heart to the work. Benevolence has been for thousands of years endeavouring to
reform the world, and selfishness is opposing it. And often, very often, under the
sanctimonious garb of a concern for the honour of religion, selfishness utters its
sighs and lamentations over the supposed ignorance, mistakes, fanaticism, and injurious
measures, of those whose hearts and hands and entire being are devoted to the work.
(12.) Christians overcome the world. I will here introduce an extract from
a discourse of my own upon this text, reported in the Oberlin Evangelist:--
"For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory
that overcometh the world, even our faith."--John v. 4.
FIRST. What is it to overcome the world?
(i.) It is to get above the spirit of covetousness which possesses the men
of the world. The spirit of the world is eminently the spirit of covetousness. It
is a greediness after the things of the world. Some worldly men covet one thing,
and some another; but all classes of worldly men are living in the spirit of covetousness,
in some of its forms. This spirit has supreme possession of their minds.
Now the first thing in overcoming the world is, that the spirit of covetousness in
respect to worldly things and objects, be overcome. The man who does not overcome
this spirit of bustling and scrambling after the good which this world proffers,
has by no means overcome it.
(ii.) Overcoming the world implies, rising above its engrossments. When a
man has overcome the world, his thoughts are no longer engrossed and swallowed up
with worldly things. A man certainly does not overcome the world, unless he gets
above being engrossed and absorbed with its concerns.
Now we all know how exceedingly engrossed worldly men are with some form of worldly
good. One is swallowed up with study; another with politics; a third with money-getting;
and a fourth, perhaps, with fashion and pleasure; but each in his chosen way makes
earthly good the all-engrossing object.
The man who gains the victory over the world, must overcome not one form only of
its pursuits, but every form--must overcome the world itself, and all that it has
to present, as an allurement to the human heart.
(iii.) Overcoming the world implies overcoming the fear of the world.
It is a mournful fact that most men, and indeed all men of worldly character have
so much regard to public opinion, that they dare not act according to the dictates
of their consciences, when acting thus would incur the popular frown. One is afraid
lest his business should suffer, if his course runs counter to public opinion; another
fears, lest if he stands up for the truth, it will injure his reputation, and curiously
imagines and tries to believe, that advocating an unpopular truth will diminish and
perhaps destroy his good influence--as if a man could exert a good influence in any
possible way besides maintaining the truth.
Great multitudes, it must be admitted, are under this influence of fearing the world;
yet some of them, and perhaps many of them, are not aware of this fact. If you, or
if they, could thoroughly sound the reasons of their backwardness in duty, fear of
the world would be among the chief. Their fear of the world's displeasure is so much
stronger than their fear of God's displeasure, that they are completely enslaved
by it. Who does not know that some ministers dare not preach what they know is true,
and even what they know is important truth, lest they should offend some whose good
opinion they seek to retain? The society is weak perhaps, and the favour of some
rich man in it seems indispensable to its very existence. Hence the terror of this
rich man is continually before their eyes, when they write a sermon, or preach, or
are called to stand up in favour of any truth or cause, which may be unpopular with
men of more wealth than piety or conscience. Alas! this bondage to man! Many gospel
ministers are so troubled by it, that their time serving policy becomes virtually
renouncing Christ, and serving the world.
Overcoming the world is thoroughly subduing this servility to men.
(iv.) Overcoming the world implies overcoming a state of worldly anxiety.
You know there is a state of great carefulness and anxiety which is common and almost
universal among worldly men. It is perfectly natural, if the heart is set upon securing
worldly good, and has not learned to receive all good from the hand of a great Father,
and trust him to give or withhold, with his own unerring wisdom. But he who loves
the world is the enemy of God, and hence can never have this filial trust in a parental
Benefactor, nor the peace of soul which it imparts. Hence worldly men are almost
incessantly in a fever of anxiety lest their worldly schemes should fail. They sometimes
get a momentary relief when all things seem to go well: but some mishap is sure to
befall them at some point soon, so that scarce a day passes that brings not with
it some corroding anxiety. Their bosoms are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest,
whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
But the man who gets above the world, gets above this state of ceaseless and corroding
(v.) The victory under consideration implies, that we cease to be enslaved
and in bondage by the world, in any of its forms.
There is a worldly spirit, and there is also a heavenly spirit; and one or the other
exists in the heart of every man, and controls his whole being. Those who are under
the control of the world, of course have not overcome the world. No man overcomes
the world till his heart is imbued with the spirit of Heaven.
One form which the spirit of the world assumes is, being enslaved to the customs
and fashions of the day.
It is marvellous to see what a goddess Fashion becomes. No heathen goddess was ever
worshipped with costlier offerings or more devout homage, or more implicit subjection.
And surely no heathen deity, since the world began, has ever had more universal patronage.
Where will you go to find the man of the world, or the woman of the world, who does
not hasten to worship at her shrine? But overcoming the world implies, that the spirit
of this goddess-worship is broken.
They who have overcome the world are no longer careful either to secure its favour
or avert its frown, and the good or the ill opinion of the world is to them a small
matter. "To me," said Paul, "it is a small thing to be judged of man's
judgment." So of every real Christian; his care is to secure the approbation
of God; this is his chief concern, to commend himself to God and to his own conscience.
No man has overcome the world unless he has attained this state of mind. Scarcely
any feature of Christian character is more striking or more decisive than this,--indifference
to the opinions of the world.
Since I have been in the ministry I have been blessed with the acquaintance of some
men who were peculiarly distinguished by this quality of character. Some of you may
have known the Rev. James Patterson, late of Philadelphia. If so, you know him to
have been eminently distinguished in this respect. He seemed to have the least possible
disposition to secure the applause of men, or to avoid their censure. It seemed to
be of no consequence to him to commend himself to men. For him it was enough if he
might please God. Hence you were sure to find him in everlasting war against sin,
all sin, however popular, however entrenched by custom, or sustained by wealth, or
public opinion. Yet he always opposed sin with a most remarkable spirit, a spirit
of inflexible decision, and yet of great mellowness and tenderness. While he was
saying the most severe things in the most severe language, you might see the big
tears rolling down his cheeks.
It is wonderful that most men never complained of his having a bad spirit. Much as
they dreaded his rebuke, and writhed under his strong and daring exposures of wickedness,
they could never say that father Patterson had any other than a good spirit. This
was a most beautiful and striking exemplification of having overcome the world.
Men who are not thus dead to the world have not escaped its bondage. The victorious
Christian is in a state where he is no longer in bondage to man. He is bound only
to serve God.
SECONDLY. We must inquire, who are those that overcome the world?
Our text gives the ready answer. "Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world."
You cannot fail to observe, that this is a universal proposition,--all who are born
of God overcome the world--all these, and it is obviously implied, none others. You
may know who are born of God by this characteristic--they overcome the world. Of
course the second question is answered.
THIRDLY. Our next question is, Why do believers overcome the world? On what principle
is this result effected?
I answer, this victory over the world, results as naturally from the spiritual or
heavenly birth, as coming into bondage to the world results from the natural birth.
It may be well to revert a moment to the law of connection in the latter case: namely,
between coming into the world by natural birth, and bondage to the world. This law
obviously admits of a philosophical explanation, at once simple and palpable to every
one's observation. Natural birth reveals to the mind objects of sense, and these
only. It brings the mind into contact with worldly things. Of course, it is natural
that the mind should become deeply interested in these objects, thus presented through
its external senses, especially as most of them sustain so intimate a relation to
our sentient nature, and become the first and chief sources of our happiness. Hence
our affections are gradually entwined around these objects, and we become thoroughly
lovers of this world, ere our eyes have been opened upon it many months.
Now, alongside of this universal fact, let another be placed of equal importance,
and not less universal; namely, that those intuitive powers of the mind, which were
created to take cognizance of our moral relations, and hence to counteract the too
great influence of worldly objects, come into action very slowly, and are not developed
so as to act vigorously, until years are numbered as months are, in the case of the
external organs of sense. The very early and vigorous developement of the latter
brings the soul so entirely under the control of worldly objects, that when the reason
and the conscience come to speak, their voice is little heeded. As a matter of fact,
we find it universally true that, unless Divine power interpose, the bondage to the
world thus induced upon the soul, is never broken.
But the point which I particularly desired to elucidate was simply this, that natural
birth, with its attendant laws of physical and mental developement, becomes the occasion
of bondage to this world.
Right over against this, lies the birth into the kingdom of God by the Spirit. By
this the soul is brought into new relations, we might rather say, into intimate contact
with spiritual things. The Spirit of God seems to usher the soul into the spiritual
world, in a manner strictly analogous to the result of the natural birth upon our
physical being. The great truths of the spiritual world are opened to our view, through
the illumination of the Spirit of God; we seem to see with new eyes, and to have
a new world of spiritual objects around us.
As in regard to natural objects, men not only speculate about them, but realize them;
so in the case of spiritual children do spiritual things become, not merely matters
of speculation, but of full and practical realization also. When God reveals himself
to the mind, spiritual things are seen in their real light, and make the impression
Consequently, when spiritual objects are thus revealed to the mind, and thus apprehended,
they will supremely interest that mind. Such is our mental constitution that the
truth of God, when thoroughly apprehended, cannot fail to interest us. If these truths
were clearly revealed to the wickedest man on earth, so that he should apprehend
them as realities, it could not fail to rouse up his soul to most intense action.
He might hate the light, and might stubbornly resist the claims of God upon his heart,
but he could not fail to feel a thrilling interest in truths that so take hold of
the great and vital things of human well-being.
Let me ask, Is there a sinner, or can there be a sinner on this wide earth, who does
not see, that if God's presence were made as manifest and as real to his mind as
the presence of his fellow men, it would supremely engross his soul, even though
it might not subdue his heart?
This revelation of God's presence and character might not convert him, but it would,
at least for the time being, kill his attention to the world.
You often see this in the case of persons deeply convicted; you have doubtless seen
persons so fearfully convicted of sin, that they cared nothing at all for their food
nor their dress. O, they cried out in the agony of their souls, what matter all these
things to us, if we even get them all, and then must lie down in hell!
But these thrilling and all-absorbing convictions do not necessarily convert the
soul, and I have alluded to them here only to show the controlling power of realizing
views of divine truth.
When regeneration has taken place, and the soul is born of God, then realizing views
of truth not only awaken interest, as they might do in an unrenewed mind, but they
also tend to excite a deep and ardent love for these truths. They draw out the heart.
Spiritual truth now takes possession of his mind, and draws him into its warm and
life-giving embrace. Before, error, falsehood, death, had drawn him under their power;
now the Spirit of God draws him into the very embrace of God. Now, he is begotten
of God, and breathes the spirit of sonship. Now, according to the Bible, "the
seed of God remaineth in him," that very truth, and those movings of the Spirit
which gave him birth into the kingdom of God, continue still in power upon his mind,
and hence he continues a Christian, and as the Bible states it, "he cannot sin,
because he is born of God." The seed of God is in him, and the fruit of it brings
his soul deeply into sympathy with his Father in heaven.
Again: the first birth makes us acquainted with earthly things, the second
with God; the first with the finite, the second with the infinite; the first with
things correlated with our animal nature, the second with those great things which
stand connected with our spiritual nature, things so lovely, and glorious as to overcome
all the ensnarements of the world.
Again: the first begets a worldly, and the second a heavenly, temper; under
the first, the mind is brought into a snare, under the second, it is delivered from
that snare. Under the first, the conversation is earthly, under the second, "our
conversation is in heaven.". . . . .
He who does not habitually overcome the world, is not born of God. In saying this,
I do not intend to affirm that a true Christian may not sometime be overcome by temptation;
but I do affirm that overcoming the world is the general rule, and falling into sin
is only the exception. This is the least that can be meant by the language of our
text, and by similar declarations which often occur in the Bible. Just as in the
passage: "He that is born of God doth not commit sin, and he cannot sin because
he is born of God." Nothing less can be meant than this--that he cannot sin
habitually--cannot make sinning his business, and can sin, if at all, only occasionally
and aside from the general current of his life. In the same manner, we should say
of a man who is almost universally truthful, that he is not a liar.
I will not contend for more than this, respecting either of these passages; but for
so much as this I must contend, that the new-born souls here spoken of do, all of
them, habitually overcome the world. The general fact respecting them is, that they
do not sin, and are not in bondage to Satan. The affirmations of Scripture respecting
them must, at least, embrace their general character.
What is a religion good for that does not overcome the world? What is the benefit
of being born into such a religion, if it leaves the world still swaying its dominion
over our hearts? What avails a new birth, which, after all, fails to bring us into
a likeness to God, into the sympathies of his family, and of his kingdom, which leaves
us still in bondage to the world and to Satan? What can there be of such a religion
more than the name? With what reason can any man suppose, that such a religion fits
his soul for heaven, supposing it leaves him earthly-minded, sensual, and selfish?
We see why it is that infidels have proclaimed the gospel of Christ to be a failure.
You may not be aware that of late infidels have taken this ground, that the gospel
of Christ is a failure. They maintain that it professes to bring men out from the
world, but fails to do so; and hence is manifestly a failure. Now, you must observe,
that the Bible does indeed affirm, as infidels say, that those who are truly born
of God do overcome the world. This we cannot deny, and we should not wish to deny
it. Now, if the infidel can show that the new birth fails to produce this result,
he has carried his point, and we must yield ours. This is perfectly plain, and there
can be no escape for us.
But the infidel is in fault in his premises. He assumes the current Christianity
of the age as a specimen of real religion, and builds his estimate upon this. He
proves, as he thinks,--and perhaps truly proves--that the current Christianity does
not overcome the world.
We must demur to his assuming this current Christianity as real religion. For this
religion of the mass of nominal professors does not answer the descriptions given
of true piety in the word of God. And, moreover, if this current type of religion
were all that the gospel and the Divine Spirit can do for lost man, then we might
as well give up the point in controversy with the infidel; for such a religion could
not give us much evidence of having come from God, and would be of very little value
to man,--so little as scarcely to be worth contending for. Truly, if we must take
the professedly Christian world, as Bible Christians, who would not be ashamed and
confounded in attempting to confront the infidel? We know but too well, that the
great mass of professed Christians do not overcome the world, and we should be confounded
quickly if we were to maintain that they do. Those professed Christians themselves
know, that they do not overcome the world. Of course they could not testify concerning
themselves, that in their own case the power of the gospel is exemplified.
In view of facts like these, I have often been astonished to see ministers setting
themselves to persuade their people, that they are truly converted, trying to lull
their fears and sustain their tottering hopes. Vain effort! Those same ministers,
it would seem, must know that they themselves do not overcome the world, and equally
well must they know that their people do not. How fatal then to the soul must be
such efforts to "heal the hurt of God's professed people, slightly; crying peace,
peace, when there is no peace!"
Let us sift this matter to the bottom, pushing the inquiry--Do the great mass of
professed Christians really overcome the world? It is a fact beyond question, that
with them the things of the world are realities, and the things of God are mere theories.
Who does not know that this is the real state of great multitudes in the nominal
Let the searching inquiry run through this congregation--What are those things that
set your soul on fire--that stir up your warmest emotions, and deeply agitate your
nervous system? Are these the things of earth, or the things of heaven? the things
of time, or the things of eternity? the things of self, or the things of God?
How is it when you go into your closets? Do you go there to seek and to find God?
Do you, in fact, find there a present God, and do you hold communion there as friend
with friend? How is this?
Now you certainly should know, that if your state is such that spiritual things are
mere theories and speculations, you are altogether worldly and nothing more. It would
be egregious folly and falsehood to call you spiritual-minded; and for you to think
yourselves spiritual, would be the most fatal and foolish self-deception. You give
none of the appropriate proofs of being born of God. Your state is not that of one
who is personally acquainted with God, and who loves him personally with supreme
Until we can put away from the minds of men the common error, that the current Christianity
of the church is true Christianity, we can make but little progress in converting
the world. For, in the first place, we cannot save the church itself from bondage
to the world in this life, nor from the direst doom of the hypocrite in the next.
We cannot unite and arm the church in vigorous onset upon Satan's kingdom, so that
the world may be converted to God. We cannot even convince intelligent men of the
world that our religion is from God, and brings to fallen men a remedy for their
depravity. For if the common Christianity of the age is the best that can be, and
this does not give men the victory over the world, what is it good for? And if it
is really of little worth or none, how can we hope to make thinking men prize it
as of great value?
There are but very few infidels who are as much in the dark as they profess to be
on these points. There are very few of that class of men, who are not acquainted
with some humble Christians, whose lives commend Christianity and condemn their own
ungodliness. Of course they know the truth, that there is a reality in the religion
of the Bible, and they blind their own eyes selfishly and most foolishly, when they
try to believe that the religion of the Bible is a failure, and that the Bible is
therefore a fabrication. Deep in their heart lies the conviction that here and there
are men who are real Christians, who overcome the world, and live by a faith unknown
to themselves. In how many cases does God set some burning examples of Christian
life before those wicked, sceptical men, to rebuke them for their sin and their scepticism--perhaps
their own wife or their children--their neighbours or their servants. By such means
the truth is lodged in their mind, and God has a witness for himself in their consciences.
(13.) But the sinner does not overcome the world. The world in some form overcomes
him. Its cares, engrossments, pleasures, business, politics, influence, in some form,
are his master. Nor does he escape from its dominion over his heart, if he resorts
to a nunnery or a monastery, or betakes himself to the life of an ascetic or of a
recluse, and shuts himself out from human society. The world is still his master,
and holds him in a state of banishment from its domain. Many think they have overcome
the world, merely because the world has so completely overcome them. It is so completely
their master, as to force them to back out of it, to hide themselves from it. They
have not got the world under their feet, but it has got them into banishment from
that field of labour and of usefulness, where God and reason call them to labour.
The world has prevailed to rout them from their stronghold in Christ, and drive them
to take refuge in monasteries, nunneries, and in caves and dens of the earth. What
an infinite mistake to suppose that this is overcoming the world! To forsake our
field of labour, to give over our work, to let the world of sinners go down to hell,
and go ourselves into exile from the world. Or at the bidding of the world, be driven
completely from the battle field, and hide in caves and dens, and proclaim ourselves
the victors, when in fact we have fled before, and unbelievingly succumbed to, the
enemy, instead of subduing and overcoming him by faith.
But in general. Sinners do not betake themselves to flight in this way, but abide
in the world, and tamely submit to wear its chains. Let it be distinctly understood,
that the true difference between saints and sinners is, that while they both live
in the world, both mingle in its scenes, and engage in its affairs, both have families
or not, as the case may be, both provide for the body, cultivate the soil, or follow
some occupation, the saint has not a worldly, selfish end in view. He is not enslaved
by the world, but his heart is steadfast, serving the Lord. Whatever he does, he
does it, not for some selfish end, but for God. Does he provide for himself and his
family? he does it as a service rendered to God. He regards himself as the Lord's
and not his own. He regards himself as the Lord's steward, and in whatever employment
he is engaged, he accounts it the Lord's business, and himself as the Lord's servant
in transacting it. He is not his own; he has no business of his own. The world is
not his, nor is he the world's. He does not bow down to it, nor serve it. He has
been chosen out of the world, and therefore, while employed by his Master in it,
he does all, not for self, but for God.
Not so with the sinner. He counts his business his own. Hence he is full of cares
and anxieties. The losses in business are his losses, and the profits are his profits.
Living and transacting business for the Lord is only a theory with him. The practical
fact with him is, that he is in bondage to the world. He serves the world, or rather,
he serves himself of the world. The world he serves as a means of self-gratification.
The saint serves God of, or with, the world; the sinner, himself. The saint uses
the world as not abusing it; the sinner abuses it, and uses it to gratify his own
lusts. The saint overcomes the world, because he uses it for God: the sinner is overcome
by the world, because he uses it for himself.
(14.) The true saint overcomes the flesh. This term is sometimes used in the
gospel to signify the sensibility, as distinguished from the intelligence, and at
other times in a more literal sense, and signifies the bodily appetites and passions.
The true saint is represented in the Bible as one who overcomes both his bodily appetites
and passions, and also as overcoming the flesh, in the still wider sense of the sensibility.
"This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the
flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh;
and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that
ye would. But if ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works
of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of the which I tell you
before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall
not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there
is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections
and lusts."--Gal. v. 16-24. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue
in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live
any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ
were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death;
that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even
so we should walk in newness of life."--Rom. vi. 1-4. "There is therefore
now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh,
but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made
me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it
was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh,
and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might
be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they
that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after
the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be
spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God:
for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that
are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit,
if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit
of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of
sin; but the Spirit is life, because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that
raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead
shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore,
brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh to live after the flesh. For if ye live
after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds
of the body ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are
the sons of God."--Rom. viii. 1-14.
With the saint it is not merely acknowledged to be a duty to overcome the flesh,
but he actually does overcome, and he is a saint just because he is delivered from
the bondage of the flesh, and introduced into the glorious liberty of the children
of God. Saints no longer mind or obey the flesh. Their God is not their belly, nor
do they mind earthly things. This is the uniform representation of scripture respecting
them. They are not the slaves of appetite, or passion, or lust, under any form, but
they are the Lord's freemen. This is not only the representation of scripture, but
must of course be true from the nature of regeneration. Regeneration consists, let
it be remembered, in the will's ceasing to be governed by the propensities of the
flesh, and committing itself to the good of being. If the Bible did not represent
the regenerate as overcoming the world and the flesh, it would not only be inconsistent
with itself, but also with matter of fact. It would not, in such case, recognize
the nature of regeneration. We are now considering, not what is true of the mass
of professing Christians, but what is and must be true of real saints. Of them it
must be true, that they do overcome the world and the flesh. While they live in the
flesh, they walk not after the flesh; for if they did, they would not be saints.
What is a religion worth that does not, as a matter of fact, overcome the flesh?
The dominion of the flesh is sin, and does not the new birth imply a turning away
from sin? Let it be for ever understood, that regeneration implies, not merely the
conviction and the theory that the flesh ought to be overcome, but that it actually
is overcome. The regenerate "do not sow to the flesh;" "do not live
after the flesh;" "do not mind the flesh;" "do not war after
the flesh;" "have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts;"
"through the Spirit do mortify (kill) the deeds of the body;" "keep
under their bodies, and bring them into subjection." This not only ought to
be, but it must be, the character of a true saint.
(15.) The sinner is overcome by the flesh. Self-indulgence is his law. Some
one or more of the phrenological, or constitutional impulses always control his will.
He not only "lives in the flesh, but walks after the flesh." He "fulfills
the desires of the flesh and of the mind." He is "carried away with his
own lusts, and enticed." "His God is his belly," and "he minds
earthly things." He "is in bondage to the flesh." This is his unfailing
characteristic, that he is governed, not by the law of God, but by his own desires.
He is the creature of impulse, and a sinner, just because he is so. With him to conquer
the flesh is a matter of duty, of opinion, of theory, and not of actual performance
and experience. He holds that he ought to overcome, but knows that he does not. He
acknowledges the obligation in theory, but denies it in practice. He knows what he
ought to do, but does it not. He knows what a Christian ought to be, but is aware
that he is not what a Christian ought to be. There seems to be an infatuation among
sinners, those especially that profess to be Christians. They can profess to be Christians,
and yet know and acknowledge that they are not what Christians ought to be, strangely
assuming that a man can be and is a Christian, who is not what a Christian ought
to be: in other words, that he can be a Christian without possessing just that which
constitutes a Christian; to wit, a heart conformed to the intellect's apprehension
of duty. This is just what makes a Christian; not his seeing and acknowledging what
he ought to be, but his actually doing his duty, his actually embracing and conforming
to the truth. The deceived professor knows, that he is not free, that he is in bondage
to his flesh and his desires, but hopes on, because he thinks that this is common
to all Christians. He sees and approves the truth, and often resolves to overcome
his flesh, but, as in the seventh of Romans, he "finds a law in his members
warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of
sin in his members." He can resolve, but does not carry out his resolves. When
he resolves to do good, evil is present with him, and conquers him. Of all this he
is conscious, but he has taken up the fatal delusion that this was Paul's experience
at the time he wrote this chapter, and consequently, that it must be the experience
of all Christians. He does not run his eye along into the eighth chapter, and see
the contrast between the experience there portrayed, and affirmed to be the experience
of all Christians. He does not observe, that the apostle is designing in these two
chapters to contrast a Christian, with a legal and self-righteous experience, but
holds on to his delusion, and observes not, that the apostle begins the eighth chapter
by the affirmation, that all who are in Christ Jesus are delivered from the bondage
of which he was speaking in the seventh chapter, and no longer walk after the flesh,
but after the Spirit; that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has actually
made them free from the law of sin and death, which is in their members. How strange
that these chapters are so misunderstood and perverted. And how monstrous and how
melancholy the fact, that the great mass of professing Christians, to this day, recognize
the seventh and not the eighth chapter of Romans, as their own experience! According
to this, the new birth or regeneration does not break the power of the propensities
over the will. The truth is, and must not be disguised, that they have not a just
idea of regeneration. They mistake conviction for regeneration. They are so enlightened,
as to perceive and affirm their obligation to deny the flesh, and often resolve to
do it, but, in fact, do it not. They only struggle with the flesh, but are continually
worsted and brought into bondage; and this they call a regenerate state. O! sad.
What then is regeneration good for? What does it avail? The Bible represents regeneration
as a "being born from above," "being born of God," and expressly
affirms, that "whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world," and affirms,
that "whosoever is born of God does not commit sin, and cannot sin, because
his seed (God's seed) remaineth in him, so that he cannot sin, because he is born
of God;" "that he is a new creature, that old things are passed away, and
that all things are become new;" "that he is alive from the dead;"
that he "has crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts;" that "he
is dead to sin, and alive unto God," and many such like representations: and
yet, infinitely strange to tell, the seventh chapter of Romans is recognized as a
Christian experience, in the face of the whole Bible, and in opposition to the very
nature of regeneration, and the experience of every true saint. The sinner is a sinner
just, and only, because he knows his duty and does it not. He apprehends the law
of the intelligence, but minds the impulses of his sensibility. This is the very
character which the apostle is so graphically portraying in the seventh chapter of
Romans. He could not possibly have given a more graphic picture of a sinner when
he is enlightened, and yet enslaved by his propensities. It is a full-length portrait
of a sinner, enlightened and struggling for liberty, and yet continually falling
and floundering under the galling bondage of his own lusts. And that this should
be considered the experience of a regenerate heart!
Now let it be remembered, that just the difference between saints and sinners, and
especially deceived professors, is expressed and clearly illustrated in the seventh
and eighth chapters of Romans; and to do this was the very design of the writer of
this epistle. The difference consists in just this: they both see what they ought
to do; the one does it in fact, while the other only resolves to do it, but does
it not. They both have bodies, and both have all the constitutional propensities.
But the saint overcomes them all. He has the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Through him he is delivered from the body of sin and of death, and made free from
the law of sin in his members. He is a conqueror, and more than a conqueror. The
sinner only cries out, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from
the body of this death?" But he cannot add, "I thank God through Jesus
Christ my Lord," I am delivered, which is the evident meaning of the apostle,
as appears from what immediately follows, in the beginning of the eighth chapter.
The sinner sees his captivity and groans under it, but does not escape. They are
both tempted. The saint overcomes through Christ. The sinner is overcome. The sinner
is conquered, instead of being like the saint, a conqueror. He cannot exultingly
say with the saint, "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made
me free from the law of sin and death;" but still complains with the captive,
"I see a law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing
me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I
This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.
LECTURE XLVII. Back to Top
WHEREIN SAINTS AND SINNERS DIFFER.
- (15.) The saints overcome Satan.
This is expressly taught in the scriptures. "I write unto you, fathers, because
ye have known Him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because
ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have
known the Father," 1 John ii. 13. The wicked are characterized as the "children
of the devil;" "as led by him captive at his will;" as being "the
subjects of Satan, the god of this world," and as having Satan ruling in their
But the saints are represented as being set at liberty from his power, as being delivered,
not from his temptations, but actually saved from his dominion. The difference between
the saint and the sinner, in this respect, is represented in the scriptures as consisting,
not in the fact that sinners are tempted, while saints are not, but in this, that
while Satan tempts both the saint and the sinner, he actually overcomes the sinner
and the deceived professor, and leads him captive at his will. The true saint, through
faith and strength in Christ, overcomes, and is more than a conqueror. The saint,
through Christ, triumphs, while the sinner yields to his infernal influence, and
is bound fast in his infernal chain.
(16.) The true saint denies himself. Self-denial must be his characteristic,
just for the reason that regeneration implies this. Regeneration, as we have seen,
consists in turning away the heart or will from the supreme choice of self-gratification,
to a choice of the highest well-being of God and of the universe. This is denying
self. This is abandoning self-indulgence, and pursuing or committing the will, and
the whole being to an opposite end. This is the dethroning of self, and the enthroning
of God in the heart. Self-denial does not consist, as some seem to imagine, in acts
of outward austerity, in an ascetic and penance-doing course of starvation, and mere
legal and outward retrenchment, in wearing plain clothes and using plain language,
or in wearing a coat with one button, and in similar acts of "will worship and
voluntary humility, and neglecting the body;" but self-denial consists in the
actual and total renunciation of selfishness in the heart. It consists in ceasing
wholly to live for self, and can be exercised just as truly upon a throne, surrounded
with the paraphernalia of royalty, as in a cottage of logs, or as in rags, and in
caves and dens of the earth. The king upon his throne may live and reign to please
himself. He may surround himself with all that can minister to his pleasure, his
ambition, his pride, his lusts, and his power. He may live to and for himself. Self-pleasing,
self-gratification, self-aggrandizement, may be the end for which he lives. This
is selfishness. But he may also live and reign for God, and for his people. He may
be just as really self-denying on his throne, and surrounded by the trappings of
state and of royalty, as any person in any other station of life. That is, he may
be as really devoted to God, and render this as a service to God, as well as anything
else. No doubt his temptation is great: but, nevertheless, he may be perfectly self-denying
in all this. He may not do what he does for his own sake, nor be what he is, nor
possess what he possesses for his own sake, but, accommodating his state and equipage
to his relations, he may be as truly self-denying as others in the humbler walks
of life. This is not an impossible, though, in all probability, a rare case. A man
may as truly be rich for God as poor for him, if his relations and circumstances
make it essential to his highest usefulness that he should possess a large capital.
He is in the way of great temptation; but if this is plainly his duty, and submitted
to for God and the world, he may have grace to be entirely self-denying in these
circumstances, and all the more commendable, for standing fast under these circumstances.
So a poor man may be poor from principle, or from necessity. He may be submissive
and happy in his poverty. He may deny himself even the comforts of life, and do all
this to promote the good of being, or he may do it to promote his own interest, temporal
or eternal, to secure a reputation for piety, to appease a morbid conscience, to
appease his fears, or to secure the favour of God. In all things he may be selfish.
He may be happy in this, because it may be real self-denial; or he may be murmuring
at his poverty, may complain, and be envious at others who are not poor. He may be
censorious, and think everybody proud and selfish who dresses better, or possesses
a better house or equipage than he does. He may set up his views as a standard, and
denounce as proud and selfish all who do not square their lives by his rule. This
is selfishness, and these manifestations demonstrate the fact. A man may forego the
use of a coat, or a cloak, or a horse, or a carriage, or any and every comfort and
convenience of life. And all this may proceed from either a benevolent or a selfish
state of mind. If it be benevolence and true self-denial, it will be cheerfully and
happily submitted to, without murmuring and repining, without censoriousness, and
without envy towards others, without insisting that others shall do and be, just
what and as he is. He will allow the judge his ermine, the king his robes of state,
and the merchant his capital, and the husbandman his fields and his flocks, and will
see the reasonableness and propriety of all this.
But if it be selfishness and the spirit of self-gratification instead of self-denial,
he will be ascetic, caustic, sour, ill-natured, unhappy, severe, censorious, envious,
and disposed to complain of, and pick at the extravagance and self-indulgence of
The true saint, in whatever relation of life, is truly self-denying. Whether on a
throne, or on the dunghill, he neither lives, nor moves, nor breathes, nor eats,
nor drinks, nor has his being for himself. Self is dethroned. God is enthroned in
his heart. He lives to please God, and not to please himself. And whether he wears
the crown and the purple, the ermine of the judge, or the gown of the counsellor,
whether he cultivates the field or occupies the pulpit, whether he is engaged in
merchandize, or whether he opens the ditch or plies a handicraft, whether in affluence
or poverty, it matters not how circumstanced or how employed, as certainly as he
is a true saint, just so certainly does he not live to or for himself. Of this he
is as conscious as he is of living at all. He may be mistaken by others, and selfish
ones may suppose him to be actuated by selfishness as they are; but in this they
are deceived. The true saint will be sure to be found self-denying, when observed
by the spirit of love, and judged by the law of love. Love would readily perceive,
that those things which a censorious and selfish spirit ascribe to selfishness are
to be accounted for in another way; that they are really consistent with, and indeed
instances of self-denial. The spirit of self-pleasing and of accommodating ourselves
to our circumstances and relations for benevolent reasons, may by a candid mind be
generally readily distinguished from each other. The selfish will naturally confound
them and stumble at them, simply because they have only the experience of selfishness,
and judge others by themselves. A truly self-denying mind will naturally also judge
others by itself, in such a sense as to take it for granted, that others are self-denying,
unless the manifest indications strongly urge to an opposite opinion.
A man of truth is not wont to suspect others of lying, without strong evidence of
the fact, and then, although he may be sure that he tells a falsehood, the man of
truth is ready rather to ascribe the falsehood to mistake, than to call it a lie.
So the truly benevolent man is not wont to suspect others of selfishness without
strong evidence. Nor will the truly self-denying man readily suspect his brother
of selfishness, even in things that, prima facie, have that appearance. He will rather
naturally infer, that his health, or circumstances, or something consistent with
self-denial accounts for what he does.
Especially does the true saint deny his appetites and passions. His artificial appetites
he denies absolutely, whenever his attention is called to the fact and the nature
of the indulgence. The Christian is such just because he has become the master of
his appetites and passions, has denied them, and consecrated himself to God. The
sinner is a sinner just because his appetites and passions and the impulses of his
desires are his masters, and he bows down to them, and serves them. They are his
masters, instead of his servants, as they are made to be. He is consecrated to them
and not to God. But the saint has ceased to live to gratify his lusts. Has he been
a drunkard, a rake, a tobacco user? has he been in self-indulgent habits of any kind;
he is reformed: old things are past away, and behold all things are become new. Has
he still any habit the character of which he has either mistaken or not considered;
such as smoking, chewing, or snuffing tobacco, using injurious stimulants of any
kind, high and unwholesome living, extravagant dressing, or equipage, retiring late
at night and rising late in the morning, eating too much, or between meals, or in
short, has there been any form of self-indulgence about him whatever? only let his
attention be called to it, he will listen with candour, be convinced by reasonable
evidence, and renounce his evil habits without conferring with flesh and blood. All
this is implied in regeneration, and must follow from its very nature. This also
the Bible everywhere affirms to be true of the saints. "They have crucified
the flesh with its affections and lusts." It should be for ever remembered,
that a self-indulgent Christian is a contradiction. Self-indulgence and Christianity
are terms of opposition. The states of mind designated by these two words are opposite
states of mind. This is precisely the difference between a saint and a sinner, that
the saint is self-denying, and the sinner self-indulgent. The saint is the lord and
master of all his appetites and passions. He rules them, and not they him. Whether
he eats or drinks, or whatever he does, he does all for God and not to gratify himself.
The sinner is the slave of his appetites and passions. It is not in his heart to
deny them. Some appetite or propensity always rules over him. He complains that he
cannot abandon certain indulgences. He is in bondage to his own lusts, and led captive
by them. Seest thou then a self-indulgent professor of religion? If he be really
so, imagine not that you have found a Christian, but know assuredly, that you behold
a hypocrite; for this is as certain as that he is alive. The true saint does not
complain that he cannot give up any self-indulgent habit whatever. He can, and must,
and does, if he be truly regenerate, give up and forsake every species of mere self-indulgence.
Grace has obtained for him a victory; and instead of his complaining that he cannot
conquer his propensities, he knows that he is more than a conqueror through our Lord
(17.) The sinner does not deny himself. He may not gratify all his desires,
because the desires are often contradictory, and he must deny one for the sake of
indulging another. Avarice may be so strong as to forbid his indulging in extravagance
in eating, drinking, dressing, or equipage. His love of reputation may be so strong
as to prevent his engaging in anything disgraceful, and so on. But self-indulgence
is his law notwithstanding. The fear of hell, or his desire to be saved, may forbid
his outward indulgence in any known sin. But still he lives, and moves, and has his
being only for the sake of indulging himself. He may be a miser, and starve and freeze
himself, and deny himself the necessaries of life, yet self-indulgence is his law.
One propensity may lord it over and starve the rest; but it is only self-indulgence
after all. The nun may take the veil; the monk may retire to the cloister; the miser
take his rags; the harlot seek the brothel; the debauchee his indulgences; the king
his throne; the priest his desk; all for the same ultimate reason, to wit, to gratify
self, to indulge each one his reigning lust. But in every possible case every sinner,
whatever may be his station, his habits or pursuits, is self-indulgent, and only
self-indulgent, and that continually. Some lusts he may and must control, as they
may be inconsistent with others. But others he knows, and it will be seen that he
does not control. He is a slave. He bows down to his lusts and serves them. He is
enslaved by his propensities, so that he cannot overcome them. This demonstrates
that he is a sinner and unregenerate, whatever his station and profession may be.
One who cannot, because he will not, conquer himself and his lusts; this is the definition
of an unregenerate sinner. He is one over whom some form of desire, or lust, or appetite,
or passion has dominion. He cannot, or rather will not, overcome it. This one is
just as certainly in sin, as that sin is sin. Do you hear that professor of religion?
He says he knows that he ought to give up such a lust or habit, but he cannot give
it up. Why, in thus saying, he gives higher evidence of being an unregenerate sinner
or a loathsome backslider, than if he should take his oath of it. O that it were
known and constantly borne in mind, what regeneration is! How many thousands of deceived
professors would it undeceive! A self-indulgent regenerate soul is a perfect contradiction,
as much so as to speak of a disinterestedly benevolent selfishness, or of a self-indulgent
self-denial, or an unregenerate regeneration, a sinful holiness, or a holy sinfulness.
These things are eternal and necessary opposites. They never do nor can, by any possibility,
be reconciled, or dwell together in the same heart. With the sinner or selfish professor,
self-denial is a theory, an opinion, an article of faith. But he knows if he will
but admit the conviction, that he does not live for God; that he does not eat and
drink, and dress, and sleep, and wake, and do whatever he does--for God. He knows
he ought to do so, and hopes he does in some measure, but he knows all the while
that the preponderance of his life is self-indulgent. When this is so, nothing but
infatuation can cause him to cling to his delusion.
(18.) The truly regenerate soul overcomes sin.
Let the Bible be heard upon this subject. "And hereby we do know that we know
him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith I know him, and keepeth not his commandments,
is a liar, and the truth is not in him."--1 John ii. 3, 4. "And every man
that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. Whosoever committeth
sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know
that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth
in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little
children, let no man deceive you; he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even
as he is righteous. He that committeth sin, is of the devil; for the devil sinneth
from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might
destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for
his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this
the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; whosoever doeth
not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother."--1
John iii. 3-10. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God,
and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him.
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments
are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is
the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."--1 John v. 1-4.
These passages, understood and pressed to the letter, would not only teach, that
all regenerate souls overcome and live without sin, but also that sin is impossible
to them. This last circumstance, as well as other parts of Scripture, forbid us to
press this strong language to the letter. But this much must be understood and admitted,
that to overcome sin is the rule with every one who is born of God, and that sin
is only the exception; that the regenerate habitually live without sin, and fall
into sin only at intervals, so few and far between, that in strong language it may
be said in truth they do not sin. This is surely the least which can be meant by
the spirit of these texts, not to press them to the letter. And this is precisely
consistent with many other passages of Scripture, several of which I have quoted;
such as these:-- "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:
old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."--2 Cor. v. 17.
"For in Jesus Christ, neither circumcision availeth anything nor uncircumcision;
but faith which worketh by love."--Gal. v. 6. "For in Christ Jesus neither
circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature."--Gal.
vi. 15. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ
Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit
of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what
the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own
Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That
the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh,
but after the Spirit."--Rom. viii. 1-4. "What shall we say then? Shall
we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead
to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized
into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him
by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory
of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been
planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of
his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the
body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that
is dead is free from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall
also live with him; knowing that Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more;
death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once:
but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to
be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not
sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield
yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments
of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not
under the law, but under grace."--Rom. vi. 1-14.
There is not a greater heresy and a more dangerous dogma, than that true Christians
actually live a great majority of their days in sin. Such an opinion is in palpable
contradiction of the Bible, and absurd in principle. Many persons seem to have the
idea, and this idea is often dropped, directly or indirectly implied from the pulpit,
that truly regenerate souls may, and do often live mostly in sin; that they live
by far the greater part of their time in a backslidden state, so far at least as
their heart is concerned; that they seldom or never truly and fully obey God, and
live up to their duty. Now such representations are not only flatly contrary to the
Bible, but they are a greater snare and stumbling-block than universalism, or almost
any form of heresy that can be named. The fact is, if God is true, and the Bible
is true, the truly regenerate soul has overcome the world, the flesh, and Satan,
and sin, and is a conqueror, and more than a conqueror. He triumphs over temptation
as a general thing, and the triumphs of temptation over him are so far between, that
it is said of him in the living oracles, that he does not, cannot sin. He is not
a sinner, but a saint. He is sanctified; a holy person; a child and son of God. If
at any time he is overcome, it is only to rise again, and soon return like the weeping
prodigal. "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth
in his way. Though he fall he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth
him with his hand."--Psalm xxxvii. 23, 24.
I know that it is natural and common to appeal to experience and observation, in
support of the dogma I am opposing. But how infinitely dangerous and wicked this
is! What! appeal to supposed facts in history and Christian experience, to confront
and withstand the express assertions of inspiration? When God expressly tells us
who are Christians, and what is true of them, does it become us to turn round and
say, Nay, Lord, for we and our neighbours are Christians, and this is not true of
us. Who does not see the guilt and danger of this? And yet it seems to be common
for professors of religion tacitly to assume, if not openly to avow, that true Christians
may and do live, for the greater part of their lives, in sin.
This persuasion seems to be strengthened by the supposed fact, that David and Solomon
lived a greater part of their time in sin. But this is an unwarrantable assumption.
The psalms of David, taking their subject, and spirit, and dates into view, as well
as many other considerations, render it evident, that he was a highly spiritual man,
and that his backslidings were few and far between, and of but short duration.
The Proverbs, the Song and the Ecclesiastes of Solomon, are sufficient proof, that
most of his days were not spent in sin. Some have supposed that, inasmuch as the
high places were not removed, and that idolatry was openly practised under a great
part of his reign, that therefore he must all this time have been away from God.
But this may be accounted for if we consider, that the high places and idolatry continued
through the reigns of some of the pious kings who succeeded him, doubtless for the
reason, that neither he nor they had political power and influence enough to suppress
it. The book of Ecclesiastes gives, on the face of it, the highest evidence of having
been written after his return from a season of backsliding and scepticism, for very
much of it is only a statement of his sceptical views at that time. But really there
is no sufficient proof that Solomon, who was manifestly a type of Christ, lived a
majority, or anything like a majority, of his days in sin.
But whatever may have been true of Solomon, and of the saints of those comparatively
dark days, the New Testament has settled the question, that now, under the dispensation
of the Holy Spirit, whoever is born of God doth not commit sin. The passages that
I have quoted must settle this point. The sixth and eighth of Romans is the experience
of the regenerate soul.
In considering the attributes of benevolence, I have shown, that stability is one
of its attributes, to which I would here refer the reader (Lecture XXII. 24). In
respect to the philosophy of Christians overcoming sin, I would observe, that the
Bible assures us, that whosoever is born of God does not, cannot sin, because his
seed remaineth in him, that is, God's seed remaineth in him. "Whosoever is born
of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because
he is born of God." In 1 Peter i. 23, we are informed, that this seed is "the
word of God." "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible,
by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." God has begotten him
(for so the word should be rendered in 1 John iii. 9.) by his word, and his seed
remaineth in him. The truth that overcame his will, and subdued or regenerated him,
remains in him, in such a sense, that it is said he cannot sin. It is so lodged in
his memory, and so pressed upon him by the indwelling Spirit of Christ, as to secure
his habitual obedience; and he is only sometimes overcome by force of strong temptation,
when, for the time, his attention is drawn away from the truth or seed of God, which
after all is lodged within him. It has a permanent lodgement in his memory, although
it may not be attended to in some moments of strong temptation. Now, whatever the
philosophy of this fact may be, it is a declared fact of inspiration that "Whosoever
is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot
sin, because he is born of God." The connection in which these words are found,
as well as other parts of scripture, shows that this must respect the general character
of regenerate souls; that having been subdued by the word and the Spirit of God,
and the seed remaining in them, they cannot consent to live in sin; that they love
God and hate sin so much by virtue of their new and heavenly birth, that they will
not sin, unless it may possibly be, that by force of great temptation they may fall
into occasional sins, and those so seldom, that it can be said in general language
that they do not, cannot sin.
(19.) The sinner and the deceived professor is the slave of sin. The seventh
of Romans is his experience in his best estate. When he has the most hope of himself,
and others have the most hope of his good estate, he goes no further than to make
and break resolutions. His life is but a death in sin. He has not the victory. He
sees the right, but does it not. Sin is his master, to whom he yields himself a servant
to obey. He only tries, as he says, to forsake sin, but does not in fact forsake
it, in his heart. And yet, because he is convicted, and has desires, and forms resolutions
of amendment, he hopes he is regenerated. O, what a horrible delusion! Stop short
with conviction, with the hope that he is already a Christian! Alas! how many are
already in hell who have stumbled at this stumbling-stone!
(20.) The Christian is charitable in his judgments.
This is natural to him by reason of his regeneration. He now loves everybody, and
seeks their good. "Love hopeth all things, and believeth all things." It
is natural to us to judge charitably of those whom we love, and whose virtue and
happiness we greatly desire. It is also natural for us to interpret the conduct of
others by reference to our own consciousness. If we are conscious of uprightness
of intention, it is natural to ascribe the conduct of others to upright intentions,
unless it be manifest that it is not so. Not only the Bible forbids rash and censorious
judging of the motives or character of others, but it everywhere assumes, and implies,
and teaches that truly regenerate persons are charitable in their judgments. This
is an attribute of true religion, and there is scarcely anything in which the difference
between saints and sinners is more manifest, than in regard to this feature of their
characters. A truly benevolent mind cannot be censorious. It is a contradiction to
say, that one who is benevolent can judge, and think, and speak censoriously of any
one. Charity is kind, is courteous, is forbearing. A ruling disposition to promote
the good of any one, cannot lead or allow us rashly to impeach his motives, to judge
him in a manner more severe than the circumstances of the case compel us to do.
Again: as a regenerate state consists in benevolence or good-will to all beings,
it implies as sacred a regard to the feelings and reputation of our neighbour, as
we have to our own. Therefore a regenerate soul cannot be a slanderer, a tale-bearer,
or a busy-body in other men's matters. A regenerate soul will not, and, remaining
regenerate, cannot, take up an evil report of a neighbour, and believe it, but upon
the strongest evidence. And when compelled to believe an evil report, he will not
give any greater publicity to it, than the interests of religion seem imperiously
to demand. This must be universally true of a truly benevolent mind. A disposition
to believe evil, and to report it of any one, is totally incompatible with good-will
to universal being, so that, if we see this disposition in a professor of religion
toward any one, we may know that his profession of religion is vain. "If any
man seemeth to be religious and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart,
this man's religion is vain."
The saint loves his enemies. The things commanded in the gospel are really true of
the saints. They are not only required of all men, but they are facts in the life
and experience of the saints. The saints really love their enemies, bless them that
curse them, do good to those that hate them, and pray for them that despitefully
use and persecute them.
(21.) The impenitent, whether professors of religion or not, are censorious
in their judgments, and slanderous in their conversation. They are selfish, and,
of course, have ambitious projects and envious feelings, and these petty interests
and projects are continually interfered with by the interests and projects of others
around them. They judge others by themselves. They know themselves to be hypocritical
in their professions, selfish in their aims, false in their pretences, ambitious
in their schemes, envious in their spirit; and, in short, they are conscious of so
much that is wrong, that they naturally interpret the motives and character of others
by their own. They do not realize, that their censorious speeches and rash and uncharitable
judgments are but a result and a revelation of their hypocrisy. But their own oath,
that they are hypocrites, could not add to the weight of evidence afforded by their
manifest want of charity, as revealed in their taking up a suspicion, a rumour, and
giving it publicity to the dishonour and injury of their neighbour. I have learned
never to confide in a censorious man or woman. "O my soul, come not thou into
their secret! unto their assembly, mine honour be not thou united." They are
false, and will betray Christ to justify self.
(22.) Christians, or truly regenerate souls, experience great and present
blessedness in their religion. They do not seek their own happiness as the supreme
good, but find it in their disinterested efforts to promote the well-being of others.
Their state of mind is itself the harmony of the soul. Happiness is both a natural
result of virtue, and also its governmental reward. Christians enjoy religion just
for the reason, that they are disinterested in it, that is, precisely for the reason,
that their own enjoyment is not the end which they seek: and selfish professors do
not enjoy their religion, just for the reason, that their own enjoyment is the end
at which they aim. If I seek the good of being as an end, I am happy for three reasons:--
(i.) It results from the approbation of my own conscience.
(ii.) From the smile of God upon my soul, and the conscious communion and
fellowship I have with him; and:--
(iii.) I gain my end upon which my heart is set, and this is a sweet gratification.
Thus I am triply blessed. But if I seek my own happiness as an end, I fail to obtain
it, for three reasons:--
(i.) My conscience, instead of approving, upbraids me.
(ii.) God, instead of smiling, either withholds his face altogether from,
or frowns upon me. He withdraws communion and fellowship from me.
(iii.) I do not secure my end, and therefore I am not gratified but disappointed.
Suppose I seek the conversion of a sinner, not from disinterested love to his soul,
but from a desire to promote my own happiness. Now, if he is converted, I am not
made happy thereby, for three reasons--
(i.) My conscience is not satisfied with my motives.
(ii.) God is not; therefore, he does not smile upon me.
(iii.) His conversion was not the end I sought, and therefore in his conversion
I am not gratified; that is, I have not attained my end, which was not the salvation
of that soul, but my own happiness. But, if I seek his salvation disinterestedly,
I am doubly blessed if he is not converted, and triply blessed if he is:--
(i.) Whether he is saved or not, my conscience approves my intentions and
efforts, and smiles upon my soul.
(ii.) God accepts the will for the deed, and blesses me, as if I had succeeded.
Thus, I am doubly blessed.
(iii.) But, if he is saved, I have gained my end, and thus am gratified.
So, I am triply blessed. A saint is and must be happy in his religion. He has his
temptations, but the Lord delivers him, and makes him blessed.
(23.) The selfish professor--
(i.) Has not true peace of conscience.
(ii.) He has not the smile, communion, and fellowship of God.
(iii.) He is not disinterested, and cannot rejoice in the glory of God, and the advancement
of his kingdom for its own sake, and, therefore, his soul is not filled with peace
and joy in believing. His religion is rather his task, than his life, and his joy.
He is rather religious, because he must be, than because he may be. He prays because
he must, rather than because he may. With him, religion is rather what it will not
do to neglect, than what he delights in for its own sake. His enjoyment, such as
it is, is only a self-righteous enjoyment. It is not the soul's harmony with itself,
with God, and with all the holy, and with the eternal laws of order. He knows that
his religion is not soul-satisfying, but sees so many professors around him manifesting
the same state of mind in which he knows himself to be, that he thinks that all Christians
find religion in this world rather a task and a burden than a delight, and therefore
he is not disposed to relinquish his hope. He anticipates happiness in future, but,
at present, he knows he is not happy.
(24.) True saints rejoice to see souls converted and God glorified by any
instrumentality. But hypocrites do not rejoice in this for its own sake, and are
apt to be envious and jealous, unless they, or their friends, or denomination, are
(25.) Christians would do all they could for God's glory and the world's conversion,
whether it was ever known or rewarded, or not. But sinners would do little or nothing,
except out of respect to applause and reward.
(26.) Christians have the Spirit of Christ.
(i.) Their bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. "What? know ye not
that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of
God, and ye are not your own?"--1 Cor. vi. 19. "But ye are not in the flesh,
but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now, if any man
have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body
is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the
Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up
Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth
in you."--Rom. viii. 9-11.
(ii.) Their bodies are the temple of Christ. "But ye are not in the flesh,
but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have
not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is
dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness."--Rom.
viii. 9, 10. "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own
selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you except ye be
reprobates?"--2 Cor. xiii. 5. "To whom God would make known what is the
riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the
hope of glory."--Col. i. 27. "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man
love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto
him, and make our abode with him."--John xiv. 23. "I am crucified with
Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which
I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave
himself for me."--Gal. ii. 20. "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by
faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love."--Eph. iii. 17.
(27.) Christians have the Spirit of adoption. "For ye have not received
the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption,
whereby we cry, Abba, Father."--Rom. viii. 15. "And because ye are sons,
God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father."--Gal.
(28.) They have the fruits of the Spirit. "But the fruit of the Spirit
is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance:
against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh,
with the affections and lusts."--Gal. v. 22-24.
(29.) Christians are led by the Spirit. "For as many as are led by the
Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."--Rom. viii. 14. "But if ye be
led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law. If we live in the Spirit, let us also
walk in the Spirit."--Gal. v. 18, 25.
(30.) They have the Spirit of prayer. "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth
our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit
itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he
that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh
intercession for the saints according to the will of God."--Rom. viii. 26, 27.
(31.) They have the law written in their hearts. "Behold, the days come,
saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with
the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers,
in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which
my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith the Lord: but this
shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; after those days,
saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts;
and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more
every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they
shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord:
for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."--Jer.
xxxi. 31-34. This passage the apostle quotes in Heb. viii. 8-12, and applies to Christians
under the new dispensation. The law that was written upon the tables of stone is
written, by the Holy Spirit, in the hearts of Christians. That is, the spirit of
love demanded by the law, is begotten in their hearts. In other words, they are truly
regenerated, and love God with all their hearts, and their neighbour as themselves.
I might notice many other particulars in which saints and sinners differ, but perhaps
I have said enough for this course of study. If you return to the attributes of selfishness
and benevolence, you will there find a fuller developement of this subject. Of course,
the manifestation of the attributes of benevolence is conclusive proof of a regenerate
state, for all those attributes are only so many modifications of true religion,
and their manifestation is proof of its existence.
So, on the other hand, the attributes of selfishness are only so many modifications
of sin, and their manifestation is proof positive of an unholy and unregenerate state
There are many other things that might be said, indeed volumes might be written upon
this subject, in addition to what has appeared. But one thing is worthy of special
remark. Mistaken notions in regard to the nature of regeneration have led to false
methods of estimating the evidences of regeneration. Most persons and most writers
seem to appeal almost exclusively, or at least in a great measure, to the feelings
or states of the sensibility, for evidence of regeneration. Nothing can be more dangerous
and deceptive than this. They, regarding regeneration as a change in or of the sensibility,
look thither of course for the evidences of the change. The Bible appeals to the
life, instead of the feelings, for evidence of regeneration. It assumes the true
philosophy of regeneration, that it belongs to the will, and that it must, of course,
and of necessity, appear directly and uniformly in the life. So many circumstances
influence the feelings that they cannot be depended on. They will effervesce, or
be calm, as circumstances change. But the outward life must, by a law of necessity,
always obey the will. Therefore the appeal can more safely be made to it than to
anything else that lies open to the inspection of human eyes.
The subject of regeneration may know, and if honest he must know, for what end he
lives. There is, perhaps, nothing of which he may be more certain than of his regenerate
or unregenerate state; and if he will keep in mind what regeneration is, it would
seem that he can hardly mistake his own character, so far as to imagine himself to
be regenerate when he is not. The great difficulty that has been in the way of the
regenerate soul's knowing his regeneration, and has led to so much doubt and embarrassment
upon this subject, is that regeneration has been regarded as belonging to the sensibility,
and hence the attention has been directed to the ever-fluctuating feelings for evidence
of the change. No wonder that this has led conscientious souls into doubt and embarrassment.
But let the subject of regeneration be disenthralled from a false philosophy, and
let it be known that the new heart consists in supreme disinterested benevolence,
or in entire consecration to God, and then who cannot know for what end he lives,
or what is the supreme preference or intention of his soul? If men can settle any
question whatever beyond all doubt by an appeal to consciousness, it would seem that
this must be the question. Hence the Bible enjoins it as an imperative duty to know
ourselves, whether we are Christians. We are to know each other by our fruits. This
is expressly given in the Bible as the rule of judgment in the case. The question
is not so much, What are the man's opinions? as, What does he live for? Does he endeavour
to promote true religion, love to God and man? Does he manifest a charitable state
of mind? Does he manifest the attributes of benevolence in the various circumstances
in which he is placed? O, when shall the folly of judging men more by their opinions
and feelings, than by the tenor of their lives cease? It seems difficult to rid men
of the prejudice that religion consists in feelings and in experiences, in which
they are altogether passive. Hence they are continually prone to delusion upon the
most momentous of all questions. Nothing can break this spell but the steady and
thorough inculcation of the truth, in regard to the nature of regeneration.
Introduction ---New Window
LECTURES 1-7 of page 1
LECTURES 8-16 of page 2 ---New Window
LECTURES 17-30 of page 3 ---New Window
LECTURES 31-38 of page 4 ---New Window
LECTURES 39-47 of page 5 (this page)
LECTURES 48-57 of page 6 ---New Window
LECTURES 58-67 of page 7 ---New Window
LECTURES 68-74 of page 8 ---New Window
LECTURES 75-80 of page 9 ---New Window
LECTURES 81-83 of page 10 ---New Window
APPENDIX on page 11 ---New Window
RELATED STUDY AIDS:
Section Sub-Index for Finney: Voices