And dost thou open thine eyes upon such an one, and bringest me into judgment with thee? Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one. How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? Then was kindled the wrath of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the kindred of Ram: against Job was his wrath kindled, because he justified himself rather than God.
~ Job 14:3-4, Job 25:4, Job 32:2
And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.
~ Psalm 143:2
If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near;
~ Psalm 130:3, 1 Kings 8:46
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
~ Romans 3:20
He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For Job hath said, I am righteous: and God hath taken away my judgment.
~ Isaiah 53:11, Romans 5:9, Job 34:5
Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
~ Romans 3:19
The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended; Evidences of Its Truth Produced, And Arguments to the Contrary Answered, by Jonathan Edwards. The following is an excerpt from his work.
The Author’s Preface
The following discourse in intended, not merely as an answer to any particular book written against the doctrine of original sin, but as a general defence of that great important doctrine. Nevertheless, I have in this defence taken notice of the main things said against this doctrine, by such of the more noted opposers of it as I have had opportunity to read: particularly those two late writers, Dr. Turnbull and Dr. Taylor, of Norwich; but especially the latter, in what he has published in those two books of his, the first entitled, The Scripture-Doctrine of Original Sin proposed to free and candid Examination; the other, his Key to the Apostolic Writings, with a Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle to the Romans. I have closely attended to Dr. Taylor’s Piece on Original Sin, in all its parts, and have endeavoured that no one thing there said, of any consequence in this controversy, should pass unnoticed, or that anything which has the appearance of an argument, in opposition to this doctrine, should be left unanswered. I look on the doctrine as of great importance; which everybody will doubtless own it is, if it be true. For, if the case be such indeed, that all mankind are by nature in a state of total ruin, both with respect to the moral evil of which they are the subjects, and the afflictive evil to which they are exposed, the one as the consequence and punishment of the other; then, doubtless, the great salvation by Christ stands in direct relation to this ruin, as the remedy to the disease; and the whole gospel, or doctrine of salvation, must suppose it; and all real belief, or true notion of that gospel, must be built upon it. Therefore, as I think the doctrine is most certainly both true and important, I hope, my attempting a vindication of it, will be candidly interpreted; and that what I have done towards its defense, will be impartially considered, by all that will give themselves the trouble to read the ensuing discourse; in which it is designed to examine everything material throughout the Doctor’s whole book, and many things in that other book, containing his Key and Exposition on Romans; as also many things written in opposition to this doctrine by some other modern authors. Moreover, my discourse being not only intended for an answer to Dr. Taylor, and other opposers of the doctrine of original sin, but for a general defense of that doctrine; producing the evidence of the truth of the doctrine, as well as answering objections made against it; I hope this attempt of mine will not be thought needless, nor be altogether useless, notwithstanding other publications on the subject.
I would also hope, that the extensiveness of the plan of the following treatise will excuse the length of it. And that when it is considered, how much was absolutely requisite to the full executing of a design formed on such a plan; how much has been written against the doctrine of original sin, and with what plausibility; how strong the prejudices of many are in favour of what is said in opposition to this doctrine — and that it cannot be expected, anything short of a full consideration of almost every argument advanced by the main opposers, especially by this late and specious writer, Dr. Taylor, will satisfy many readers — how much must unavoidably be said in order to a full handling of the arguments in defence of the doctrine; and how important the doctrine must be, if true; I trust, the length of the following discourse will not be thought to exceed what the case really required. However, this must be left to the judgment of the intelligent and candid reader.
Wherein Are Considered Some Evidences of Original Sin from Facts and Events, As Founded by Observation and Experience, Together with Representations and Testimonies of Holy Scripture, and the Confession and Assertion of Opposers
The Evidence of Original Sin From What Appears in Fact of the Sinfulness of Mankind
All mankind constantly, in all ages, without fail in any one instance, run into that moral evil, which is in effect their own utter and eternal perdition in a total privation of God’s favour, and suffering of his vengeance and wrath.
By original sin as the phrase has been most commonly used by divines, is meant the innate sinful depravity of the heart. But yet when the doctrine of original sin is spoken of, it is vulgarly understood in that latitude, which includes not only the depravity of nature, but the imputation of Adam’s first sin; or, in other words, the liableness or exposedness of Adam’s posterity, in the divine judgment, to partake of the punishment of that sin. So far as I know, most of those who have held one of these, have maintained the other; and most of those who have opposed one, have opposed the other: both are opposed by the Author chiefly attended to in the following discourse, in his book against original sin: And it may perhaps appear in our future consideration of the subject, that they are closely connected; that the arguments which prove the one establish the other, and that there are no more difficulties attending the allowing of one, than the other.
I shall in the first place, consider this doctrine more specially with regard to the corruption of nature; and as we treat of this the other will naturally come into consideration, in the prosecution of the discourse, as connected with it. As all moral qualities, all principles either of virtue or vice, lie in the disposition of the heart, I shall consider whether we have any evidence that the heart of man is naturally of a corrupt and evil disposition. This is strenuously denied by many late writers who are enemies to the doctrine of original sin; and particularly by Dr. Taylor.
The way we come by the idea of any such thing as disposition or tendency is by observing what is constant or general in event; especially under a great variety of circumstances; and above all, when the effect or event continues the same through great and various opposition, much and manifold force and means used to the contrary not prevailing to hinder the effect. I do not know that such a prevalence of effects is denied to be an evidence of prevailing tendency in causes and agents; or that it is expressly denied by the opposers of the doctrine of original sin, that if, in the course of events, it universally or generally proves that mankind are actually corrupt, this would be an evidence of a prior corrupt propensity in the world of mankind; whatever may be said by some, which, if taken with its plain consequences, may seem to imply a denial of this, which may be considered afterwards. But by many the fact is denied; that is, it is denied, that corruption and moral evil are commonly prevalent in the world: on the contrary, it is insisted on, that good preponderates, and that virtue has the ascendant.
To this purpose, Dr. Turnbull says, (Moral Philos. p. 289, 290) “With regard to the prevalence of vice in the world, men are apt to let their imagination run out upon all the robberies, piracies, murders, perjuries, frauds, massacres, assassinations they have either heard of, or read in history; thence concluding all mankind to be very wicked. As if a court of justice were a proper place to make an estimate of the morals of mankind, or an hospital of the healthfulness of a climate. But ought they not to consider that the number of honest citizens and farmers far surpasses that of all sorts of criminals in any state, and that the innocent and kind actions of even criminals themselves surpass their crimes in numbers; that it is the rarity of crimes in comparison of innocent or good actions, which engages our attention to them and makes them to be recorded in history, while honest, generous domestic actions are overlooked only because they are so common? as one great danger, or one month’s sickness shall become a frequently repeated story during a long life of health and safety. — Let not the vices of mankind be multiplied or magnified. Let us make a fair estimate of human life, and set over against the shocking, the astonishing instances of barbarity and wickedness that have been perpetrated in any age, not only the exceeding generous and brave actions with which history shines, but the prevailing innocence, good-nature, industry, felicity, and cheerfulness of the greater part of mankind at all times; and we shall not find reason to cry out, as objectors against providence do on this occasion, that all men are vastly corrupt and that there is hardly any such thing as virtue in the world. Upon a fair computation the fact does indeed come out, that very great villanies have been very uncommon in all ages and looked upon as monstrous; so general is the sense and esteem of virtue.” — It seems to be with a like view that Dr. Taylor says, “We must not take the measure of our health and enjoyments from a lazar-house, nor of our understanding from Bedlam, nor of our morals from a jail.” (p. 77. S)
With respect to the propriety and pertinence of such a representation of things, and its force as to the consequence designed, I hope we shall be better able to judge, and in some measure to determine whether the natural disposition of the hearts of mankind be corrupt or not, when the things which follow have been considered. But for the greater clearness, it may be proper here to premise one consideration that is of great importance in this controversy, and is very much overlooked by the opposers of the doctrine of original sin in their disputing against it.
That it is to be looked upon as the true tendency of the innate disposition of man’s heart, which appears to be its tendency, when we consider things as they are in themselves, or in their own nature, without the interposition of divine grace. — Thus, that state of man’s nature, that disposition of the mind, is to be looked upon as evil and pernicious, which, as it is in itself, tends to extremely pernicious consequences, and would certainly end therein, were it not that the free mercy and kindness of God interposes to prevent that issue. It would be very strange if any should argue that there is no evil tendency in the case, because the mere favour and compassion of the Most High may step in and oppose the tendency and prevent the sad effect. Particularly, if there be anything in the nature of man whereby he has an universal unfailing tendency to that moral evil which, according to the real nature and true demerit of things as they are in themselves, implies his utter ruin, that must be looked upon as an evil tendency or propensity; however divine grace may interpose to save him from deserved ruin, and to overrule things to an issue contrary to that which they tend to of themselves. Grace is sovereign, exercised according to the good pleasure of God, bringing good out of evil. The effect of it belongs not to the nature of things themselves, that otherwise have an ill tendency, any more than the remedy belongs to the disease; but is something altogether independent on it, introduced to oppose the natural tendency, and reverse the course of things. But the event to which things tend, according to their own demerit, and according to divine justice, is the event to which they tend in their own nature; as Dr. T.’s own words fully imply (Pref to. Par. on Rom. p. 131), “God alone (says he) can declare whether he will pardon or punish the ungodliness and unrighteousness of mankind, which is in its own nature punishable.” Nothing is more precisely according to the truth of things than divine justice: it weighs things in an even balance; it views and estimates things no otherwise than they are truly in their own nature. Therefore undoubtedly that which implies a tendency to ruin, according to the estimate of divine justice, does indeed imply such a tendency in its own nature.
And then it must be remembered, that it is a moral depravity we are speaking of; and therefore when we are considering whether such depravity do not appear by a tendency to a bad effect or issue, it is a moral tendency to such an issue that is the thing to be taken into the account. A moral tendency or influence is by desert. Then may it be said man’s nature or state is attended with a pernicious or destructive tendency in a moral sense, when it tends to that which deserves misery and destruction. And therefore it equally shows the moral depravity of the nature of mankind in their present state, whether that nature be universally attended with an effectual tendency to destructive vengeance actually executed, or to their deserving misery and ruin, or their just exposedness to destruction, however that fatal consequence may be prevented by grace, or whatever the actual event be.
One thing more is to be observed here, that the topic mainly insisted on by the opposers of the doctrine of original sin, is the justice of God; both in their objections against the imputation of Adam’s sin, and also against its being so ordered, that men should come into the world with a corrupt and ruined nature, without having merited the displeasure of their Creator by any personal fault. But the latter is not repugnant to God’s justice, if men actually are born into the world with a tendency to sin, and to misery and ruin for their sin, which actually will be the consequence unless mere grace steps in and prevents it. If this be allowed, the argument from justice is given up: for it is to suppose, that their liableness to misery and ruin comes in a way of justice; otherwise there would be no need of the interposition of divine grace to save them. Justice alone would be sufficient security, if exercised, without grace. It is all one in this dispute about what is just and righteous, whether men are born in a miserable state by a tendency to ruin which actually follows, and that justly; or whether they are born in such a state as tends to a desert of ruin, which might justly follow, and would actually follow did not grace prevent. For the controversy is not what grace will do, but what justice might do.
I have been the more particular on this head, because it enervates many of the reasonings and conclusions by which Dr. T. makes out his scheme; in which he argues from that state which mankind are in by divine grace, yea, which he himself supposes to be by divine grace; and yet not making any allowance for this, he from hence draws conclusions against what others suppose of the deplorable and ruined state mankind are in by the fall. Some of his arguments and conclusions to this effect, in order to be made good, must depend on such a supposition as this; — that God’s dispensations of grace, are rectifications or amendments of his foregoing constitutions and proceedings, which were merely legal; as though the dispensations of grace, which succeed those of mere law, implied an acknowledgment, that the preceding legal constitution would be unjust, if left as it was, or at least very hard dealing with mankind; and that the other were of the nature of a satisfaction to his creatures, for former injuries, or hard treatment. So that, put together the injury with the satisfaction, the legal and injurious dispensation, taken with the following good dispensation, which our author calls grace, and the unfairness or improper severity of the former, amended by the goodness of the latter, both together made up one righteous dispensation.
The reader is desired to bear in mind what I have said concerning the interposition of divine grace not altering the nature of things, as they are in themselves. Accordingly, when I speak of such and such an evil tendency of things, belonging to the present nature and state of mankind, understand me to mean their tendency as they are in themselves, abstracted from any consideration of that remedy the sovereign and infinite grace of God has provided. — Having promised these things, I now assert, that mankind are all naturally in such a state, as is attended, without fail, with this consequence or issue; that they universally run themselves into that which is, in effect, their own utter eternal perdition, as being finally accursed of God, and the subjects of his remediless wrath through sin. — From which I infer, that the natural state of the mind of man is attended with a propensity of nature, which is prevalent and effectual, to such an issue; and that therefore their nature is corrupt and depraved with a moral depravity, that amounts to and implies their utter undoing.
Here I would first consider the truth of the proposition; and then would show the certainty of the consequences which I infer from it. If both can be clearly and certainly proved, then I trust, none will deny but that the doctrine of original depravity is evident, and so the falseness of Dr. T.’s scheme demonstrated; the greatest part of whose book, called the Scripture Doctrine of Original Sin, etc. Is against the doctrine of innate depravity. In p. 107.S. he speaks of the conveyance of a corrupt and sinful nature to Adam’s posterity as the grand point to be proved by the maintainers of the doctrine of original sin.
In order to demonstrate what is asserted in the proposition laid down, there is need only that these two things should be made manifest: one is this fact, that all mankind come into the world in such a state, as without fail comes to this issue, namely, the universal commission of sin; or that everyone who comes to act in the world as a moral agent, is, in a greater or less degree, guilty of sin. The other is, that all sin deserves and exposes to utter and eternal destruction, unto God’s wrath and curse; and would end in it, were it not for the interposition of divine grace to prevent the effect. Both which can be abundantly demonstrated to be agreeable to the Word of God, and to Dr. T.’s own doctrine.
That everyone of mankind, at least such as are capable of acting as moral agents, are guilty of sin (not now taking it for granted that they come guilty into the world), is most clearly and abundantly evident from the Holy Scriptures: 1 Kin. 8:46, “If any man sin against thee; for there is no man that sinneth not.” Ecc. 7:20, “There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not.” Job 9:2, 3, “I know it is so of a truth (i.e. as Bildad had just before said, that God would not cast away a perfect man, etc. But how should man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand.” To the like purpose, Psa. 143:2, “Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” So the words of the apostle (in which he has apparent reference to those of the Psalmist), Rom. 3:19, 20, “That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” So, Gal. 2:16; 1 John 1:7-10, “If we walk in the light, the blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a lair, and his word is not in us.” In this and innumerable other places, confession and repentance of sin are spoken of as duties proper for ALL; as also prayer to God for pardon of sin; also forgiveness of those that injure us, from that motive, that we hope to be forgiven of God. Universal guilty of sin might also be demonstrated from the appointment, and the declared use and end of the ancient sacrifices; and also from the ransom, which everyone that was numbered in Israel, was directed to pay, to make atonement for his soul. Exo. 30:11-16. All are represented, not only as being sinful, but as having great and manifold iniquity. Job 9:2, 3; Jam. 3:1, 2.
There are many scriptures which both declare the universal sinfulness of mankind, and also that all sin deserves and justly exposes to everlasting destruction, under the wrath and curse of God; and so demonstrate both parts of the proposition I have laid down. To which purpose that passage in Gal. 3:10 is exceeding full: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” How manifestly is it implied in the apostle’s meaning here, that there is no man but what fails in some instances of doing all things that are written in the book of the law, and therefore as many as have their dependence on their fulfilling the law, are under that curse which is pronounced on them that fail of it! And hence the apostle infers in the next verse: “that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God:” as he had said before in preceding chapter, verse 16: “By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” The apostle shows us he understands, that by this place which he cites from Deuteronomy, “the Scripture hath concluded, or shut up, all under sin.” Gal. 3:22. So that here we are plainly taught, both that everyone of mankind is a sinner, and that every sinner is under the curse of God.
To the like purpose is Rom. 4:14, also 2 Cor. 3:6, 7, 9; where the law is called “the letter that kills, the ministration of death, and the ministration of condemnation.” The wrath, condemnation, and death, which is threatened in the law to all its transgressors, is final perdition, the second death, eternal ruin; as is very plain, and indeed is confessed. And this punishment which the law threatens for every sin, is a just punishment; being what every sin truly deserves; God’s law being a righteous law, and the sentence of it a righteous sentence.
All these things are what Dr. Taylor himself confesses and asserts. He says, that the law of God requires perfect obedience (Note on Rom. 7:6, p.308), “God can never require imperfect obedience, or by his holy law allow us to be guilty of any one sin, how small soever. And if the law, as a rule of duty, were in any respect abolished, then we might in some respects transgress the law, and yet not be guilty of sin. The moral law, or law of nature, is the truth, everlasting, unchangeable; and therefore, as such, can never be abrogated. On the contrary, our Lord Jesus Christ has promulgated it anew under the gospel, fuller and clearer than it was in the mosaical constitution, or anywhere else: — having added to its precepts the sanction of his own divine authority.” And many things which he says imply, that all mankind do in some degree transgress the Law. In p. 228, speaking of what may be gathered from Rom. 7 and 8, he says, “We are very apt, in a world full of temptation, to be deceived, and drawn into sin by bodily appetites, etc. And the case of those who are under a law threatening death to every sin, must be quite deplorable, if they have no relief from the mercy of the lawgiver.”
But this is very fully declared in what he says in his note on Rom. 5:20, p. 297. His words are as follows: “Indeed, as a rule of action prescribing our duty, it (the Law) always was and always must be a rule ordained for obtaining life; but not as a rule of justification, not as it subjects to death for every transgression. For if it could in its utmost rigour have given us life, then, as the apostle argues, it would have been against the promises of God. For if there had been a law, in the strict and rigourous sense of law, which could have made us life, verily justification should have been by the law. But he supposes, no such law was ever given: and therefore there is need and room enough for the promises of grace; or as he argues, Gal. 2:21; it would have frustrated, or rendered useless, the grace of God. For if justification came by the law, then truly Christ is dead in vain, then he died to accomplish what was, or might have been effected by law itself without his death. Certainly the law was not brought in among the Jews to be a rule of justification, or to recover them out of a state of death, and to procure life by their sinless obedience to it: for in this, as well as in another respect, it was weak; not in itself, but through the weakness of our flesh, Rom. 8:3. The law, I conceive, is not a dispensation suitable to the infirmity of the human nature in our present state; or it doth not seem congruous to the goodness of God to afford us no other way of salvation, but by law; which if we once transgress, we are ruined for ever. For who then, from the beginning of the world, could be saved?” How clear and express are these things, that no one of mankind, from the beginning of the world, can ever be justified by the law, because everyone transgresses it!
And here also we see, Dr. T. declares, that by the law men are sentenced to everlasting ruin for one transgression. To the like purpose he often expresses himself. So p. 207. “The law requireth the most extensive obedience, discovering sin in all its branches. — It gives sin a deadly force, subjecting every transgression to the penalty of death; and yet supplieth neither help nor hope to the sinner, but leaving him under the power of sin and sentence of death.” In p. 213, he speaks of the law as extending to lust and irregular desires, and to every branch and principle of sin; and even to its latent principles, and minutest branches; again (Note on Rom. 7:6, p. 308). To every sin, how small soever. And when he speaks of the law subjecting every transgression to the penalty of death, he means eternal death, as he from time to time explains the matter. In p. 212, he speaks of the law in the condemning power of it, as binding us in everlasting chains. In p. 120 S. he says, that death which is the wages of sin, is the second death; and this, p. 78, he explains of final perdition. In his Key, p. 107. § 296, he says, “The curse of the law subjected men for every transgression to eternal death.” So in Note on Rom. 5:20, p. 291: “The law of Moses subjected those who were under it to death, meaning by death, eternal death.” These are his words.
He also supposes, that this sentence of the law, thus subjecting men for every, even the least, sin, and every minutest branch and latent principle of sin, to so dreadful a punishment, is just and righteous, agreeable to truth and the nature of things, or to the natural and proper demerits of sin. In this he is very full. Thus in p. 186 P: “It was sin (says he) which subjected us to death by the law, justly threatening sin with death. Which law was given us, that sin might appear; might be set forth in its proper colours; when we saw it subjected us to death by a law perfectly holy, just and good; that sin by the commandment, by the law, might be represented what it really is, an exceeding great and deadly evil.” So in note on Rom. 5:20, p. 299: “The law or ministration of death, as it subject to death for every transgression, is still of use to show the natural and proper demerit of sin.” Ibid. p. 292: “The language of the law, dying thou shalt die, is to be understood of the demerit of the transgression, that which it deserves.” Ibid. p. 298: “The law was added, saith Mr. Locke on the place, because the Israelites, the posterity of Abraham, were transgressors as well as other men, to show them their sins, and the punishment and death, which in strict justice they incurred by them. And this appears to be a true comment on Rom. 7:13. — Sin, by virtue of the law, subjected you to death for this end, that sin, working death in us, by that which is holy, just, and good, perfectly consonant to everlasting truth and righteousness. — Consequently every sin is in strict justice deserving of wrath and punishment; and the law in its rigour was given to the Jews, to set home this awful truth upon their consciences, to show them the evil and pernicious nature of sin; and that being conscious they had broke the law of God, this might convince them of the great need they had of the favour of the lawgiver, and oblige them, by faith in his goodness, to fly to his mercy, for pardon and salvation.”
If the law be holy, just, and good, a constitution perfectly agreeable to God’s holiness, justice, and goodness; then he might have put it exactly in execution, agreeably to all these his perfections. Our author himself says, p. 133.S: “How that constitution, which establishes a law, the making of which is inconsistent with the justice and goodness of God, and the executing of it inconsistent with his holiness, can be a righteous constitution, I confess, is quite beyond my comprehension.”
Now the reader is left to judge, whether it be not most plainly and fully agreeable to Dr. T’s own doctrine, that there never was any one person from the beginning of the world, who came to act in the world as a moral agent, and that it is not to be hoped there ever will be any, but what is a sinner or transgressor of the law of God; and that therefore this proves to be the issue and event of things, with respect to all mankind in all ages, that, by the natural and proper demerit of their own sinfulness, and in the judgment of the law of God, which is perfectly consonant to truth, and exhibits things in their true colors, they are the proper subjects of the curse of God, eternal death, and everlasting ruin; which must be the actual consequence, unless the grace or favour of the lawgiver interpose, and mercy prevail for their pardon and salvation. The reader has seen also how agreeable this is to the doctrine of the Holy Scripture. If so, and if the interposition of divine grace alters not the nature of things as they are in themselves, and that it does not in the least affect the state of the controversy we are upon — concerning the true nature and tendency of the state in which mankind come into the world — whether grace prevents the fatal effect or no; I trust, none will deny, that the proposition laid down, is fully proved, as agreeable to the Word of God, and Dr. T’s own words; viz. That mankind are all naturally in such a state, as is attended, without fail, with this consequence or issue, that they universally are the subjects of that guilt and sinfulness, which is, in effect, their utter and eternal ruin, being cast wholly out of the favour of God, and subjected to his everlasting wrath and curse.
It follows from the proposition proved in the foregoing section, that all mankind are under the influence of a prevailing effectual tendency in their nature, to that sin and wickedness, which implies their utter and eternal ruin.
The proposition laid down being proved, the consequence of it remains to be made out, viz. That the mind of man has a natural tendency or propensity to that even, which has been show universally and infallibly to take place; and that this is a corrupt or depraved propensity. — I shall here consider the former part of this consequence, namely, whether such an universal, constant, infallible event is truly a proof of any tendency or propensity to that event; leaving the evil and corrupt nature of such a propensity to be considered afterwards.
If any should say, they do not think that its being a thing universal and infallible in event, that mankind commit some sin, is a proof of a prevailing tendency to sin; because they do good, and perhaps more good than evil: Let them remember, that the question at present is not, How much sin there is a tendency to; but whether there be a prevailing propensity to that issue, which it is allowed all men do actually come to — that all fail of keeping the law perfectly — whether there be not a tendency to such imperfection of obedience, as always without fail comes to pass; to that degree of sinfulness, at least, which all fall into; and so to that utter ruin, which that sinfulness implies and infers. Whether an effectual propensity to this be worth the name of depravity, because the good that may be supposed to balance it, shall be considered by and by. If all mankind in all nations and ages, were at least one day in their lives deprived of the use of their reason, and raving mad; or that all, even every individual person, once cut their own throats, or put out their own eyes; it might be an evidence of some tendency in the nature or natural state of mankind to such an event; though they might exercise reason many more days than they were distracted, and were kind to and tender of themselves oftener than they mortally and cruelly wounded themselves.
To determine whether the unfailing constancy of the above-named event be an evidence of tendency, let it be considered, What can be meant by tendency, but a prevailing liableness or exposedness to such or such an event? Wherein consists the notion of any such thing, but some stated prevalence or preponderation in the nature or state of causes or occasions, that is followed by, and so proves to be effectual to, a stated prevalence or commonness of any particular kind of effect? Or something in the permanent state of things, concerned in bringing a certain sort of event to pass, which is a foundation for the constancy, or strongly prevailing probability, of such an event? If we mean this by tendency (and I know not what else can be meant by it, but this, or something like), then it is manifest, that where we see a stated prevalence of any effect there is a tendency to that effect in the nature and state of its causes. A common and steady effect shows, that there is somewhere a preponderation, a prevailing exposedness or liableness in the state of things, to what comes so steadily to pass. The natural dictate of reason shows, that where there is an effect, there is a cause, and a cause sufficient for the effect; because, if it were not sufficient, it would not be effectual; and that therefore, where there is a stated prevalence of the effect, there is a stated prevalence in the cause. A steady effect argues a steady cause. We obtain a notion of tendency no other way than by observation: and we can observe nothing but events: and it is the commonness or constancy of events, that gives us a notion of tendency in all cases. Thus we judge of tendencies in the natural world. Thus we judge of the tendencies or propensities of nature in minerals, vegetables, animals, rational and irrational creatures. A notion of a stated tendency, or fixed propensity, is not obtained by observing only a single event. A stated preponderation in the cause or occasion, is argues only by a stated prevalence of the effect. If a die be once thrown, and it falls on a particular side, we do not argue from hence, that that side is the heaviest; but if it be thrown without skill or care, many thousands or millions of times, and it constantly falls on the same side, we have not the least doubt in our minds, but that there is something of propensity in the case, by superior weight of that side, or in some other respect. How ridiculous would he make himself, who should earnestly dispute against any tendency in the state of things to cold in the winter, or heat in the summer; or should stand to it, that although it often happened that water quenched fire, yet there was no tendency in it to such an effect!
In the case we are upon, human nature, as existing in such an immense diversity of persons and circumstances, and never failing in any one instance of coming to that issue — that sinfulness, which implies extreme misery and eternal ruin — is as the die often cast. For it alters not the case in the least, as to the evidence of tendency, whether the subject of the constant event be an individual, or a nature and kind. Thus, if there be a succession of trees of the same sort, proceeding one from another, from the beginning of the world, growing in all countries, soils, and climates, all bearing ill fruit; it as much proves the nature and tendency of the kind, as if it were only one individual tree, that had remained from the beginning of the world, often transplanted into different soils, and had continued to bear only bad fruit. So, if there were a particular family, which, from generation to generation, and through every remove to innumerable different countries, and places of abode, all died of consumption, or all run distracted, or all murdered themselves, it would be as much an evidence of the tendency of something in the nature or constitution of that race, as it would be of the tendency of something in the nature or state of an individual, if some one person had lived all that time, and some remarkable event had often appeared in him, which he had been the agent or subject of from year to year, and from age to age, continually and without fail.
Thus a propensity, attending the present nature or natural state of mankind, eternally to ruin themselves by sin, may certainly be inferred from apparent and acknowledged fact. — And I would now observe further, that not only does this follow from facts acknowledged by Dr. T. but the things he asserts, and the expressions which he uses, plainly imply that all mankind have such a propensity; yea, one of the highest kind, a propensity that is invincible, or a tendency which really amounts to a fixed, constant, unfailing necessity. There is a plain confession of a propensity or proneness to sin, p. 143: — “Man, who drinketh in iniquity like water; who is attended with so many sensual appetites, and so APT to indulge them.” — And again, p. 228: “we are very apt, in a world full of temptation, to be deceived, and drawn into sin by bodily appetites.” If we are very apt or prone to be drawn into sin by bodily appetites, and sinfully to indulge them, and very apt or prone to yield to temptation to sin, then we are prone to sin; for to yield to temptation to sin is sinful. — In the same page he shows, that on this account, and its consequences, the case of those who are under a law, threatening death for every sin, must be quite deplorable, if they have no relief from the mercy of the lawgiver. Which implies, that their case is hopeless, as to an escape from death, the punishment of sin, by any other means than God’s mercy. And that implies such an aptness to yield to temptation, as renders it hopeless that any of mankind should wholly avoid it. But he speaks of it elsewhere, over and over, as truly impossible, or what cannot be; as in the words before cited in the last section, from his note on Rom. 5:20, where he repeatedly speaks of the law, which subjects us to death for every transgression, as what cannot give life; and states, that if God offered us no other way of salvation, no man from the beginning of the world could be saved. In the same place he cites with approbation Mr. Locke’s words, in which, speaking of the Israelites, he says, “All endeavours after righteousness was lost labour, since any one slip forfeited life, and it was impossible for them to expect ought but death.” Our author speaks of it as impossible for the law requiring sinless obedience to give life, not that the law was weak in itself, but through the weakness of our flesh. Therefore he says, he conceives the law not to be a dispensation suitable to the infirmity of the human nature in its present state. These things amount to a full confession, that the proneness in men to sin, and to a demerit of and just exposedness to eternal ruin, is universally invincible; or, which is the same thing, amounts to invincible necessity; which surely is the highest kind of tendency, or propensity: and that not the less, for his laying this propensity to our infirmity or weakness, which may seem to intimate some defect, rather than anything positive: and it is agreeable to the sentiments of the best divines, that all sin originally comes from a defective or privative cause. But sin does not cease to be sin, justly exposing to eternal ruin (as implied in Dr. T.’s own words), for arising from infirmity or defect; nor does an invincible propensity to sin cease to be a propensity to such demerit of eternal ruin, because the proneness arises from such a cause.
It is manifest, that this tendency, which has been proved, does not consist in any particular external circumstances that persons are in, peculiarly influencing their minds; but is inherent, and is seated in that nature which is common to all mankind, which they carry with them wherever they go, and still remains the same, however circumstances may differ. For it is implied in what has been proved, and shown to be confessed, that the same event comes to pass in all circumstances. In God’s sight no man living can be justified; but all are sinners, and exposed to condemnation. This is true of persons of all constitutions, capacities, conditions, manners, opinions, and educations; in all countries, climates, nations, and ages; and through all the mighty changes and revolutions, which have come to pass in the habitable world.
We have the same evidence, that the propensity in this case lies in the nature of the subject — and does not arise from any particular circumstances — as we have in any case whatsoever; which is only by the effects appearing to be the same in all changes of time and place, and under all varieties of circumstances. It is in this way only we judge, that any propensities, which we observe in mankind, are seated in their nature, in all other cases. It is thus we judge of the mutual propensity betwixt the sexes, or of the dispositions which are exercised in any of the natural passions or appetites, that they truly belong to the nature of man; because they are observed in mankind in general, through all countries, nations, and ages, and in all conditions.
If any should say, Though it be evident that there is a tendency in the states of things to this general event — that all mankind should fail of perfect obedience, and should sin, and incur a demerit of eternal ruin; and also that this tendency does not lie in any distinguishing circumstances of any particular people, person, or age — yet it may not lie in man’s nature, but in the general constitution and frame of this world. Though the nature of man may be good, without any evil propensity inherent in it; yet the nature and universal state of this world may be full of so many and strong temptations, and of such powerful influence on such a creature as man, dwelling in so infirm a body, etc. That the result of the whole may be a strong and infallible tendency in such a state of things, to the sin and eternal ruin of everyone of mankind.
To this I would reply, that such an evasion will not at all avail to the purpose of those whom I oppose in this controversy. It alters not the case as to this question, Whether man, in his present state is depraved and ruined by propensities to sin. If any creature be of such a nature that it proves evil in its proper place, or in the situation which God has assigned it in the universe, it is of any evil nature. That part of the system is not good, which is not good in its place in the system; and those inherent qualities of that part of the system, which are not good, but corrupt, in that place, are justly looked upon as evil inherent qualities. That propensity is truly esteemed to belong to the nature of any being, or to be inherent in it, that is the necessary consequence of its nature, considered together with its proper situation in the universal system of existence, whether that propensity be good or bad. It is the nature of a stone to be heavy; but yet, if it were placed, as it might be, at a distance from this world, it would have no such quality. But being a stone, is of such a nature, that it will have this quality or tendency, in its proper place, in this world, where God has made it, it is properly looked upon as a propensity belonging to its nature. And if it be a good propensity here, in its proper place, then it is a good quality of its nature; but if it be contrariwise, it is an evil natural quality. So, if mankind are of such a nature, that they have an universal effectual tendency to sin and ruin in this world, where God has made and placed them, this is to be looked upon as a pernicious tendency belonging to their nature. There is, perhaps, scarce any such thing, in beings not independent and self-existent, as any power or tendency, but what has some dependence on other beings, with which they stand connected in the universal system of existence. Propensities are no propensities, any otherwise, than as taken with their objects. Thus it is with the tendencies observed in natural bodies, such as gravity, magnetism, electricity, etc. And thus it is with the propensities observed in the various kinds of animals; and thus it is with most of the propensities in created spirits.
It may further be observed, that it is exactly the same thing, as to the controversy concerning an agreeableness with God’s moral perfections of such a disposal of things — that man should come into the world in a depraved and ruined state, by a propensity to sin and ruin — whether God has so ordered it, that this propensity should lie in his nature considered alone, or with relation to its situation in the universe, and its connection with other parts of the system to which the Creator has united it; which is as much of God’s ordering, as man’s nature itself, most simply considered.
Dr. T. (p. 188, 189) speaking of the attempt of some to solve the difficulty of God being the author of our nature, and yet that our nature is polluted, by supposing that God makes the soul pure, but unites it to a polluted body (or a body so made, as tends to pollute the soul), he cries out of it as weak and insufficient, and too gross to be admitted: For, says he, who infused the soul into the body? And if it is polluted by being infused into the body, who is the author and cause of its pollution? And who created the body? etc. — But is not the case just the same, as to those who suppose that God made the soul pure, and places it in a polluted world, or a world tending, by its natural state in which it is made, to pollute the soul, or to have such an influence upon it, that it shall without fail be polluted with sin, and eternally ruined? Here may not I also cry out, on as good grounds as Dr. T. — Who placed the soul here in this world? And if the world be polluted, or so constituted as naturally and infallibly to pollute the soul with sin, who is the cause of this pollution? And, who created the world?
Though in the place now cited, Dr. T. so insists upon it, that God must be answerable for the pollution of the soul, if he has infused or put the soul into a body that tends to pollute it; yet this is the very thing which he himself supposes to be fact, with respect to the soul being created by God, in such a body, and in such a world; where he says, “We are apt, in a world full of temptation, to be drawn into sin by bodily appetites.” And if so, according to his way of reasoning, God must be the author and cause of this aptness to be drawn into sin. Again, p. 143, we have these words, “Who drinketh in iniquity like water? Who is attended with so many sensual appetites, and so apt to indulge them?” In these words our author in effect says the individual things that he exclaims against as so gross, viz. The tendency of the body, as God has made it, to pollute the soul, which he has infused into it. These sensual appetites, which incline the soul, or make it apt, to a sinful indulgence, are either from the body which God hath made, or otherwise a proneness to sinful indulgence is immediately and originally seated in the soul itself, which will not mend the matter.
I would lastly observe, that our author insists upon it, p. 42, S. That this lower world, in its present state, “Is as it was, when, upon a review, God pronounced it, and all its furniture, very good. — And that the present form and furniture of the earth is full of God’s riches, mercy, and goodness, and of the most evident tokens of his love and bounty to the inhabitants.” If so, there can be no room for evading the evidences from fact, of the universal infallible tendency of man’s nature to sin, and eternal perdition; since, on the supposition, the tendency to this issue does not lie in the general constitution and frame of this world, which God hath made to be the habitation of mankind.
That propensity, which has been proved to be in the nature of all mankind, must be a very evil, depraved, and pernicious propensity; making it manifest, that the soul of man, as it is by nature, is in a corrupt, fallen, and ruined state; which is the other part of the consequence, drawn from the proposition laid down in the first section.
The question to be considered, in order to determine whether man’s nature be depraved and ruined, is not, Whether he is inclined to perform as many good deeds as bad ones? But, to which of these two he preponderates, in the frame of his heart, and the state of his nature, a state of innocence and righteousness, and favour with God; or a state of sin, guiltiness, and abhorrence in the sight of God? — Persevering sinless righteousness, or else the guilt of sin, is the alternative, on the decision of which depends — according to the nature and truth of things, as they are in themselves, and according to the rule of right, and of perfect justice — man being approved and accepted of his Maker and eternally blessed as good; or his being rejected, and cursed as bad. And therefore the determination of the tendency of man’s heart and nature, with respect to these terms, is that which is to be looked at, in order to determine whether his nature is good or evil, pure or corrupt, sound or ruined. If such be man’s nature, and the state of his heart, that he has an infallibly effectual propensity to the latter of those terms; then it is wholly impertinent to talk of the innocent and kind actions, even of criminals themselves, surpassing their crimes in numbers, and of the prevailing innocence, good nature, industry, felicity, and cheerfulness of the greater part of mankind. Let never so many thousands or millions of acts of honesty, good nature, etc. Be supposed; yet, by the supposition, there is an unfailing propensity to such moral evil, as in its dreadful consequences infinitely outweighs all effects or consequences of any supposed good. Surely that tendency, which, in effect, is an infallible tendency to eternal destruction, is an infinitely dreadful and pernicious tendency: and that nature and frame of mind, which implies such a tendency, must be an infinitely dreadful and pernicious frame of mind. It would be much more absurd to suppose, that such a state of nature is not bad, under a notion of men doing more honest and kind things than evil ones; than to say, the state of that ship is good, for crossing the Atlantic ocean, though such as cannot hold together through the voyage, but will infallibly founder and sink, under a notion that it may probably go great part of the way before it sinks, or that it will proceed and sail above water more hours than it will be in sinking: or, to pronounce that road a good road to go to such a place, the greater part of which is plain and safe, though some parts of it are dangerous, and certainly fatal, to them that travel in it; or to call that a good propensity; which is an inflexible inclination to travel in such a way.
A propensity to that sin which brings God’s eternal wrath and curse (which has been proved to belong to the nature of man) is evil, not only as it is calamitous and sorrowful, ending in great natural evil; but as it is odious and detestable; for by the supposition, it tends to that moral evil, by which the subject becomes odious in the sight of God, and liable, as such, to be condemned, and utterly rejected, and cursed by him. This also makes it evident, that the state which it has been proved mankind are in, is a corrupt state in a moral sense, that it is inconsistent with the fulfilment of the law of God, which is the rule of moral rectitude and goodness. That tendency, which is opposite to what the moral law requires, and prone to that which the moral law utterly forbids, and eternally condemns, is doubtless a corrupt tendency, in a moral sense.
So that this depravity is both odious, and also pernicious, fatal and destructive, in the highest sense; as inevitably tending to that which implies man’s eternal ruin. It shows, that man, as he is by nature, is in a deplorable state, in the highest sense. And this proves that men do not come into the world perfectly innocent in the sight of God, and without any just exposedness to his displeasure. For the being by nature in a lost and ruined state, in the highest sense, is not consistent with being by nature in a state of favour with God.
But if any should still insist on a notion of men’s good deeds exceeding their bad ones, and that, seeing the good more than countervails the evil, they cannot be properly denominated evil; all persons and things being most properly denominated from that which prevails, and has the ascendant in them; I would say further, That if there is in man’s nature a tendency to guilt and ill desert, in a vast overbalance to virtue and merit; or a propensity to sin, the demerit of which is so great, that the value and merit of all the virtuous acts that ever he performs, are as nothing to it; then truly the nature of man may be said to be corrupt and evil.
That this is the true case, may be demonstrated by what is evident of the infinite heinousness of sin against God, from the nature of things. The heinousness of this must rise in some proportion to the obligation we are under to regard the Divine Being; and that must be in some proportion to his worthiness of regard; which doubtless is infinitely beyond the worthiness of any of our fellow creatures. But the merit of our respect or obedience to God is not infinite. The merit of respect to any being does not increase, but is rather diminished, in proportion to the obligations we are under in strict justice to pay him that respect. There is no great merit in paying a debt we owe, and by the highest possible obligations in strict justice and obliged to pay; but there is great demerit in refusing to pay it. That on such accounts as these, there is an infinite demerit in all sin against God, which must therefore immensely outweigh all the merit which can be supposed to be in our virtue, I think, is capable of full demonstration; and that the futility of the objections which some have made against the argument, might most plainly be demonstrated. But I shall omit a particular consideration of the evidence of this matter from the nature of things, as I study brevity, and lest any should cry out, metaphysics! As the manner of some is, when any argument is handled against a tenet they are fond of, with a close and exact consideration of the nature of things. And this is not so necessary in the present case, inasmuch as the point asserted — that he who commits any one sin, has guilt and ill desert so great, that the value and merit of all the good which it is possible he should do in his whole life, is as nothing to it — is not only evident by metaphysics, but is plainly demonstrated by what has been shown to be fact, with respect to God’s own constitutions and dispensations towards mankind. Thus, whatever acts of virtue and obedience a man performs, yet if he trespasses in one point, is guilty of any the least sin, he — according to the law of God, and so according to the exact truth of things, and the proper demerit of sin — is exposed to be wholly cast out of favour with God, and subjected to his curse, to be utterly and eternally destroyed. This has been proved; and shown to be the doctrine which Dr. T. abundantly teaches.
But how can it be agreeable to the nature of things, and exactly consonant to everlasting truth and righteousness, thus to deal with a creature for the least sinful act, though he should perform ever so many thousands of honest and virtuous acts, to countervail the evil of that sin? Or how can it be agreeable to the exact truth and real demerit of things, thus wholly to cast off the deficient creature, without any regard to the merit of all his good deeds, unless that be in truth the case, that the value and merit of all those good actions, bear no proportion to the heinousness of the least sin? If it were not so, one would think, that however the offending person might have some proper punishment, yet seeing there is so much virtue of lay in the balance against the guilt, it would be agreeable to the nature of things, that he should find some favour, and not be altogether rejected, and made the subject of perfect and eternal destruction; and thus no account at all be made of his virtue, so much as to procure him the least relief or hope. How can such a constitution represent sin in its proper colors, and according to its true nature and desert (as Dr. T. says it does), unless this be its true nature, that it is so bad, that even in the least instance it perfectly swallows up all the value of the sinner’s supposed good deeds, let them be ever so many. So that this matter is not left to our metaphysics, or philosophy; the great lawgiver, and infallible judge of the universe, has clearly decided it, in the revelation he has made of what is agreeable to exact truth, justice, and the nature of things, in his revealed law, or rule of righteousness.
He that in any respect or degree is a transgressor of God’s law, is a wicked man, yea, wholly wicked in the eye of the law; all his goodness being esteemed nothing, having no account made of it, when taken together with his wickedness. And therefore, without any regard to his righteousness, he is, by the sentence of the law, and so by the voice of truth and justice, to be treated as worthy to be rejected, abhorred, and cursed forever; and must be so, unless grace interpose, to cover his transgression. But men are really, in themselves, what they are in the eye of the law, and by the voice of strict equity and justice; however they may be looked upon, and treated by infinite and unmerited mercy.
So that, on the whole, it appears, all mankind have an infallibly effectual propensity to that moral evil, which infinitely outweighs the value of all the good that can be in them; and have such a disposition of heart, that the certain consequence of it is, their being, in the eye of perfect truth and righteousness, wicked men. And I leave all to judge, whether such a disposition be not in the eye of truth a depraved disposition?
Agreeable to these things, the Scripture represents all mankind, not only as having guilt, but immense guilt, which they can have no merit or worthiness to countervail. Such is the representation we have in Mat. 18:21, to the end. There, on Peter’s inquiring, How often his brother should trespass against him, and he forgive him, whether until seven times? Christ replies, I say not unto thee, until seven times, but until seventy times seven; apparently meaning, that he should esteem no number of offenses too many, and no degree of injury it is possible our neighbour should be guilty of towards us too great, to be forgiven. For which this reason is given in the parable following, that if ever we obtain forgiveness and favour with God, he must pardon that guilt and injury towards his majesty, which is immensely greater than the greatest injuries that ever men are guilty of one towards another, yea, than the sum of all their injuries put together, let them be ever so many, and ever so great; so that the latter would be but as an hundred pence to ten thousand talents, which immense debt we owe to God, and have nothing to pay; which implies, that we have no merit to countervail any part of our guilt. And this must be, because if all that may be called virtue in us, be compared with our ill desert, it is in the sight of God as nothing to it. The parable is not to represent Peter’s case in particular, but that of all who then were, or ever should be, Christ’s disciples; as appears by the conclusion of the discourse, verse 35, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do, if ye, from your hearts, forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”
Therefore how absurd must it be for Christians to object, against the depravity of man’s nature, a greater number of innocent and kind actions, than of crimes; and to talk of a prevailing innocence, good nature, industry, and cheerfulness of the greater part of mankind! Infinitely more absurd, than it would be to insist, that the domestic of a prince was not a bad servant, because though sometimes he contemned and affronted his master to a great degree, yet he did not spit in his master’s face so often as he performed acts of service. More absurd, than it would be to affirm, that his spouse was a good wife to him, because, although she committed adultery, and that with the slaves and scoundrels sometimes, yet she did not do this so often as she did the duties of a wife. These notions would be absurd, because the crimes are too heinous to be atoned for, by many honest actions of the servant or spouse of the prince; there being a vast disproportion between the merit of the one, and the ill desert of the other: but infinitely less, than that between the demerit of our offences against God, and the value of our acts of obedience.
Thus I have gone through with my first argument; having shown the evidence of the truth of the proposition laid down at first, and proved its consequence.