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now to possess one common nature. When the Lord Almighty calls revolters to return to him, the poor and the rich, the ignorant and the learned, have but one mind. The prophet Jeremiah, one of the Lord's messengers, tells us, that he first addressed his message to the poor, and that they made their faces harder than a rock, and refused to re. turn. Upon this, he resolved to get him to the great men, that had been better instructed ; but these, he tells us, had altogether broken the yoke and burst the bonds. Jer. v. 3—5.
Secondly. The gospel offer is rejected with pertinacious obstinacy. It is not only true that all unrenewed men reject it, but they reject it at all times, and under all circumstances. They reject it in the gaity of their youth, and when the mind is sobered with age; and even when they perceive that their probation is just ready to terminate in the un. alterable fixedness of the eternal state.
But does the gospel invitation never find the natural man in so plia. ble a frame that he will yield to its pressing motives? No,the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God;-neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” His heart is desperately wicked—wicked to desperation, as to any hope of reforming itself. It is fully set to do evil. This is the character of the heart, (that is the natural heart) of the sons of men. “The bond of iniquity,” in which all the unregenerate are bound, never breaks itself. They are “ the servants of sin, and are free from righteousness.” In them " sin hath reigned unto death :” and sin is a monarch that never con. sents to an abdication of the throne it has usurped. The carnal mind being enmity, determined enmity against God, is not subject to his law, neither indeed can be. Hence it is, that no desirable change can be expected as the result of the will of the flesh. Was it not in view of the enmity of the carnal mind, and the obstinacy of the uprenewed will, that Joshua said to the Israelites, “ Ye cannot serve the Lord; for he is a holy God?” And was not the same thing in the view of the Son of God, when he said, “ No man can come unto me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him ?” 1 Cor. ii. 14. Jer. xvii. 9. Eccl. viii. 11. Acts viii. 23. Rom. v. 21. and viïi. 7. John i. 13, and vi. 44. Josh. xxiv. 19. These and such like passages speak of no inability, as pertaining to the natural man, which is not of a moral nature, consisting of an unreasonable disinclination of heart; but they evidently suppose this disinclination to be his uniform character, à character which he retains so long as he continues to be a natural or uprenewed man.
Need any other proof be adduced to establish a point, which has already been confirmed by more than two or three witnesses ? For if these have not been suborned, (and I trust they have not,) no contrary testimony can be derived from the sacred writings. They will not surnish a single text to invalidate what they have said con. cerning the universality and pertinacious obstinacy of the sinner's re. jection of the gospel offer.
It may perhaps be stated, as an objection to the doctrine which has been advanced, that the scriptures speak of some men as embracing the offers of mercy, while others reject them; that when the gospel is preached, some believe the things which are spoken, and some believe
not: and that some even receive the word with all readiness of mind. Acts xvii. 11, and xxviii. 24. I conclude I have not been understood to assert, that no man ever embraced the salvation which, through Jesus Christ, is freely offered to our sinful race. That this salvation has been embraced, and cordially embraced, is fully attested by the word of God. But they who have given it the most cordial reception were once included in the class of unbelievers. When they were first invited to go and work in the Lord's vineyard, they said, We go not: but afterwards they repented and went. Matt. xxi. 29. No man ever embraced the offer of salvation with greater cordiality than Paul; and yet no man ever rejected this offer more decidedly than he once did. To account for the fact, that some men do eventually accept that gracious invitation they once refused, and which others still refuse, does not fall within the province of this Article, but will naturally come into view under the next. It is the province of the present Article, to show how this invitation will be treated by all men, while remaining in un. regeneracy:
The present Article has represented the children of men as failing of the grace of God (if they fail at all) through a voluntary rejection of the gospel offer: now to some it is a formidable objection against this representation, that there are passages which seem to speak of them as unable, rather than unwilling to accept of it. This, it is acknow. ledged, would be a formidable objection indeed, if the sinner's inability to accept the offer were not, as we have shown, of a moral nature, arising from the strength of his disaffection to a holy God and his holy government. Who has ever thought there was any contradiction be iween these two declarations concerning our Creator? “With God all things are possible "_"It is impossible for God to lie.” His inability to lie, being of a moral kind, has no repugnance to his natural ability to do all things. Now let these two passages relating to God be un. derstood, and we shall be prepared to reconcile those apparently contradictory reasons assigned, why sinners do not come to Christ for şalvation. We shall be prepared to see a harmony between these two declarations of Christ : “ Ye will not come to me that ye might have life.”
“ No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him." John v. 40, and vi. 44. The latter is not intended to change the nature of the difficulty that is presented in the former, but is designed to show that this voluntary difficulty, which consists in an unwillingness to come to Christ for life, is both universal and pertinacious, so as never in any instance to be removed, except by a divine interposition.*
* All who regard the authority of the holy scriptures, must acknowledge that the sinner can labor under no such inability to accept the gospel offer, as to furnish him an excuse. Yet there are some who say, that in every sense he is unable to do it. They think it has a mischievous effect, to tell the sinner he has natural ability to comply with the terms of salvation. They say, its tendency is is to keep him ignorant of the entire depravity of his heart, and to make himn rely on his own strength, rather than on the grace of God. That a misunderstanding of the subject of natural ability has had such an effect, is undoubtedly true. But this does not prove, that a right understanding of the matter is either mischievous or useless.
It will be said, that the scriptures make no such distinction, as that which is now made between natural and moral ability and inability; that they do not represent men as having natural ability to be Christians, at the same time they have no moral ability. To this 1 reply: If the scriptures have not by logical terms marked the difference
Against the representation that has been made concerning the voluntariness of the sinner's rejection of the gospel offer, it may be objected ; that the scriptures often speak of the children of disobedi. ence, as though they were forcibly held in bondage by the prince of darkness. The scriptures, it is true, speak of the devil and his angels as making every possible effort to prevent the salvation of lost men. They tell us that " the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour;" and that he resembles a strong man armed, who keeps his house with vigilance, lest his goods should be wrested from him. 1 Pet. v. 8. Luke xi. 21. But the scriptures do not lead us to conclude, that Satan retains his subjects contrary to their own will. He has his devices, wiles and subtleties, by which he deceives their wicked and deceitful hearts, and induces them to consent to remain in his service. Christ, when addressing such as were wholly between the two kinds of inability, which we denominate natural and moral, the differ. ence is manifestly recognized. Take this passage for an example : "For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what a man hath, and not according to what be hath not.” 2 Cor, viii. 12. Here it is implied, that a willing mind to do duty, is always required; and that whatever can not be effected by this, is not obligatory. If the apostacy has diminished the strength of our natural powers, it may furnish a reason why God should not claim from us that amount of service, which would otherwise have been obligatory; but that impotence to the performance of duty, which consists in a depraved will, does nothing to lessen our obligations. The apostacy has rendered us blind, and yet not taken away our eyes ; it has made us deaf, and yet we have ears. Therefore we hear it said, “ Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears.” And because they have eyes and ears, God commands, “ Hear, ye deaf, and look, ye blind, that ye may see.” Isa. xliii. 8 : xlii. 18. It is here implied, that if God's people had been blind through want of eyes, or deaf through want of ears, they would have had an excuse for their blindness and deafness : in other words ; II their spiritual blindness and deafness had been owing to some natural defect, over which their will had no control, it would be innocent; but now they had no cloak for their sin. The scriptures represent depravity, whether partial or total, whether it begin with ourselves or descend from our ancestors, as constituting an impediment in the way of complying with the divine requirements, which is altogether of a different nature from those impediments that are the result of corporeal or intellectual weakness. And all who seek to produce in the minds of depraved men a conviction of sin, are obliged to make this distinction. They may use a different phraseology, to express what Edwards intended by natural and moral inability ; but a distinction between the two they must make ; they can not help it. All will find it impossible to produce conviction in the mind of the sinner, for his refusal to comply with the conditions of the gospel, in case he actually believes that his inability to yield compliance is of the same nature as the inability of a blind man to see, a sick man to labor, or an ideot to reason.
Some concede to the sinner, that his inability is in every respect like that of the blind and deaf man, and yet imagine they can disarm him of his excuses, by charging on him the fault of losing his ability. They argue; if a servant has thrown away an instrushent, with which his master had furnished him, to enable him to perform a certain piece of work, and without which it can not be performed, it is right for the master still to require the performance, though the servant is now in every respect unable to do it. This way of relieving the difficulty does not appear to be at all satisfactory. In the case stated, it is evident, the servant's crime must consist in throwing away his instrument; not in being unable to do the poposed work without it. But should any think it to be reasonable to require the servant to work without a tool, seeing it was by his own folly that he lost it, they would hardly think it reasonable to require his children, who were born long after it was lost, to perform that labor for which this lost tool was indispensably requisite. Let us now just change the nature of the servant's inability, and it relieves at once the whole difficulty, as it respects himself and his children. Instead of his losing the necessary instrument for the performance of his labor, let us suppose the thing he lost (by whatever means it matters not) was the spirit of obedience, and that the whole difficulty consisted in a rebellious spirit which he had gotten in its room ; in this case it would be as perfectly reasonable that he should be required to perform the task assigned him, as if no difficulty existed. And if his children have the sunne rebellious spirit with their father, although they may have derived it from him, it is no excuse for their refusing to do the work, required of them by one, who is acknowl. edged to be their rightful master.
under his diabolical influence, said, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do." John viii. 44. As soon as we become unwilling to do his lusts, his power over us ceases. Fall. en angels, potent as they are, can not with their combined power prevent the salvation of the feeblest worm of the dust, who is sincerely desirous to exchange their bondage for the liberty of Christ.
Between this and the preceding Articles there can be no wart of harmony. There can be none between this and the one which imme. diately precedes it. That shows the gospel salvation to be freely offered to all ; and this, that the offer is rejected by all. There is no contradiction in saying, that an offer is freely made, and that it is vol. untarily rejected. I can perceive no contradiction between these two parts of the parable of the marriage supper: "Come unto the marriage" “But they made light of it.” Matt. xxii. 4,5. The one is expressive of the infinite condescension of God, in giving us a free invitation to partake of the provisions of his grace; and the other, of our sin and folly in refusing such a gracious invitation. That bountiful Being who, at his own expense, has made the provision, says, “Come :" the wretched sinner to whom the invitation is sent, returns for answer, “I pray thee have me excused.” If the gospel invitation can be refused. by one sinner, it is certainly possible it should be refused by every other sinner, wherever it is sent.
I can perceive no disagreement between this and the fifth Article: for an atoning sacrifice can be made for all men, and yet all men be disposed to reject it. The atonement is something wrought for us, not in us. Of itself it produces no alteration in our depraved charac. ter. The atonement has spread a table and provided a supper, of which even they for whom it was provided may never taste. Luke xiv. 24. I grant, the wisdom of God would not have been displayed in making this costly provision in vain ; (and as we advance in our system we shall find it has not been made in vain ;) but I see no repugnance between the doctrine of atonement, even of a general atone. ment, and the sentime! which has been advocated under the present Article, viz. That mankind are universally and obstinately inclined to reject the salvation which it proffers. Indeed, an atonement for all is the only thing which can, in a proper sense, give opportunity for all to reject it. We can not with propriety be said
to refuse a gift which is never proffered us.
There is a very manifest harmony between this Article and the fourth. Under that we were led to contemplate man's apostacy from God, and its corrupting influence on the whole race. The human race can be illustrated by a tree, of which Adam is the root, and every one of his descendants a branch. According to a divine constitution, if the root became corrupt, the corruption was to be communicated to every branch of this wide-spreading tree. Therefore, as soon as it is ascertained to be the character of one of the children of Adam, to reject offered mercy, we know this must be the native character of every one
of them. While considering the subject of depravity, we saw that all men were described as having but one heart. But if there were so much difference between natural men, that some were disposed to accept, while others rejected the Savior, the scriptures would never have attributed one common character to them all.
It was also seen, that enmity, complete and determined enmity, against God, is the character of the carnal mind—the mind of every unconverted man in the world. In perfect harmony with that representation, we are here taught that every such man is totally unwilling to embrace the Savior. Since it is the true character of God which the unsanctified hate, the clearest exhibition of that character will na. turally excite their greatest opposition. No one has made so clear an exhibition of the divine glory as the only begotton Son, who was eterpally in the bosom of the Father. It might therefore be expected, that those creatures who had revolted from God would reject his Son, the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person. And so it fell out : “ But now," said the Son, “ have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.” It is perfectly natural, that the same heart, which is not subject to the law, should reject the gospel ; for the gospel is designed to magnify the law and make it honorable.
A selfish heart, whatever may be the conviction of the judgment, will secretly hate, if it does not openly oppose, all which tends to pull down the fabric of selfishness. Such a heart secretly hates the law of God, because it acknowledges no selfish affections, with whatever external covering they may be adorned, to be of the nature of obedience. Nor is there a selfish heart in the world which is pleased with the gospel. In some respects there is quite a difference among natural men, and in nothing does it appear greater, than in their different attention to the subject of religion. Without a change of nature, they can be made to do every thing in relation to this subject that can be done consistently with the retention of the selfish principle. But when the selfish principle is required to be renounced, there are not motives enough in the universe to gain their consent. Through an entire unwillingness to have this idol dethroned, such a change can never be effected, unless by the interposition of an agency more efficient than mere motives.
If this seventh Article harmonizes, as we have seen, with the three which immediately precede it, I think it cannot be at variance with either of the other three that have been considered. That part of the system which we have already passed over, taken in a reversed order, may be compressed into the following sentence: [which I have separated by dashes, for the purpose of giving distinctness, as far as possi. ble, to the several Articles :) By nature we are all inclined obstinately and perseveringly to reject the gracious proposals of reconciliationfreely proffered us on the most favorable conditions possible
through an infinite atonement- -made for the sin of an apostate worldwhich sin consists in opposing divine government, and transgressing a law altogether calculated to promote the well-being of the moral system—its welfare being essential to render the works of creation and providence a true display of uncreated glory—and thus to give the most decided proof, not only of the existence, but also of the infinite natural and moral perfection of JEHOVAH, the eternal and all