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perfection of moral nature constantly flashes up before us; the conviction that the elements of moral progress exist in man, is instinctively in us. These are in us for purposes and uses connected with the Gospel, as we shall see ;* let us not turn them into delusion, and make of them wandering fires to lead us astray, when they are intended for our good and our guidance.”
But in another way, still, must we take a caution upon this point in the leading our nature gives us towards the idea or notion of a “perfect society.” Man has a feeling by nature towards such a thing; he has the assured feeling that such a thing there was once, that such a thing there can be again, and from the earliest times has the vision been before him ; it is before him by nature, and this fact of Original Sin is that which utterly destroys the possibility of it.
For I will ask, as a matter of fact, can sin, poverty, disease, distress, weakness, and irregularity of the moral and mental powers be eradicated from this world, or from the man in this world? Then if it be so, man can individually reach by his own power “Moral Perfection," or there can be a “Perfect Society." If not, it cannot be.
To the Christian, that is to him baptized into Christ's Spirit and Faith, I say look at the doctrine of the Fall, and you will see that what I have said is true, and go on with me that we may examine the facts and truths of man's position in the world, and you
will see the moral uses of these things.
To him who is unbaptized in the Faith and Spirit of our Redeemer, and has no belief in the doctrine of Original Sin, I say TRY, and you will find that no philosophizing will give you power to do that which you feel and know you ought to do; no schemes or plans will cast away from Society sin, and poverty, and disease, and death. And furthermore no strife of yours, nay, of unaninous nations, no mass of heaven-high capital or extent of domain, will organize Society otherwise than it has been organized.
These are truths, which denying the doctrines of the Church, you may think false, while I know them to be true. Go on, then, my friend; strike your head hard-harder still—very hard-in course of time you may come to learn that rocks do not yield, and that hardness of head will not break them in pieces--a piece of knowledge that is very valuable, indeed, though perhaps hardly worth the trouble of acquiring it by experience.
* This subject is afterwards examined.
Now, I would dwell earnestly upon this. I would request of all students of moral philosophy to ponder well this fact and its bearings, that the Law, taking the word in its most extended sense, the Opinion or Teaching of Society and External Nature, all hold up before us the goal and object of a moral perfection to be struggled after. And our nature responds to the call. Nay, it indicates to us the elements in our being that serve to this end; and these things all perpetually urge us onward—and yet of ourselves we cannot reach the limit! We cannot grasp the object ! We cannot attain to that which we desire to attain !
I point out this fact as one of the most important there is įn the whole nature of man, and one which at once destroys the whole of many moral philosophies, and renders them, upon the ground of nature, impossible and useless. One, too, which explains the feeling that many have found to arise in themselves, the feeling, “what avail these exact rules, these high speculations, these admirable precepts, when we cannot apply them so as to bring out the results the author desires, and we so much appreciate ?" This limitation, then, we would desire our readers all to understand, and all to act upon, for a most vital part it is of a true moral philosophy.
Men may ask, wherefore should it be so? And from their inability to comprehend why it is so, they may, perhaps, incline to deny it to be a fact. We shall tell them why it is so. that the individual having tried all things, and had recourse to all other means, may finally be led unto Christ! that all philosophies, all plans of moral progress having been acted upon, and found inadequate by all men, they all may be led to the Church of God, and therein find, in the Gospel of His Son, ample and full satisfaction.
We shall, therefore, treat of Moral Science under this limitation in reference to Original Sin, as seated in the race naturally, and in the individual; and for the course of moral action to be pursued by man under it, for man's perfection and man's moral power, we shall refer to the latter part of this treatise.
Here, then, we are able to answer the question, “How is it that man does evil, although in his nature he is good ?” How is it? Simply it is this; that the very fault and deficiency of his
It is so,
nature is in the natural inability to do that which is in accordance with the Will and Law of God; in other words, that which is Good. His nature is good, and aspires towards it; the Law that speaks to him is good. Tradition teaches him of Good; all things call forth the desire and the will, but the ability is wanting by nature.
Now, look at this! Ye who would make of man a fiend essentially evil, say that we have the desire, the wish, the feeling towards good; say that all things lead us towards it naturally, and that there is in man, we will say not the Physical inability or the Mental, but the Moral, what is the case with him? This, that he does evil.
And let us remember that voluntary thoughts are action, that speech is action, that deeds are action, and we can see that the nature of man may be good, at the same time that his deeds are evil. For to act, and yet that our action should not be in accordance with the law of God, which is the “rule and measure of Good"; this is that our act should be evil. In other words, a nature may be in itself essentially good, and yet if it have lost the ability to obey God's Law, its actions are evil. So does man sin, although his nature be good. Nay, more, he sins always, in every thought, word and action, wherein he has not Grace.
We would add another remark, to uphold and confirm that which we say; and this is, that we have used the word “ inability," because we have no other word to express our idea. Now, the very deficiency of the word “inability” is this, that it seems to imply an excuse ; that it seems to acquit, to cast off a responsibility, and thereby to make man guiltless, for men will say, “If he is by nature unable, why is he condemned ?"
The proper answer to this is, “ Physical inability excuses, so does Mental, but Moral, never"; before the courts of God, or those of man, moral inability voids not guilt. Say that a duty is bound upon a man, that of defending his country from an invader, that of laboring for the support of his family, that of serving in any office the law enjoins upon him; if the man be bed-ridden, or sick, or deficient in physical ability, then is he not responsible, he is excused. Also, if he is mentally unable, let us say insane, or idiotic in mind, then is he excused, as is both natural and just. But moral inability, 80 far as it does not make him physically or mentally unable, shall still leave him liable, even in the eyes of
man. You may prove before a jury, that the man was feeble in Will, but except it be so great as to have touched his Mental or Physical powers, it shall be no excuse. You may manifest to them that naturally he “had very little Conscientious feelings, or that his Affections were of a nature very imperfect”; but the moral inability shall be no excuse, except it have amounted to physical or mental inability. This is a principle in all law, that natural moral inability, belonging to the race or to the individual, is no excuse, voids no responsibility. And however men may seek to evade this conclusion by verbal paradox, still, in fact, it will stand, thereby showing that Moral Inability is something altogether different from Mental or Physical Inability, and that the difference is, that it does not void responsibility or annul guilt.
Now in reference to this subject of “Moral Inability,” or that consequence of our natural state of Original Sin, by reason of which we cannot of ourselves obey the Law of God, I may be permitted to quote from a book, written by myself, a passage, which I hope will give some degree of explanation.* “What then is baptism in their case, (that of infants, considered as a rite for the remission of sins ? This may be seen from the nature of sin. What then is sin? This, neither more nor less, 'the transgression of the Law;' this is actual sin. And how does this come? how comes it, that since “the law is holy, and just, and true,' since
virtue,' or conduct, in obedience to the law of God, is the law of man's nature,'† that men transgress the law, for that law is evidently in accordance with man's best interests?
Certainly it is not by the bondage of an iron fate predestinating us to be sinful; as certainly it is not the force of external circumstances driving us onward and impelling us to sin, for every man knows, by the fact that he is a man, that man is the lord of circumstances."
“ How then does it come? By this, that there is a moral inability to keep God's Law perfectly, an inability born with us, and which we clearly see not to have belonged to man's nature originally, but to have been the result of a deterioration, which is called the Fall ?”
“ This inability is in the infant; it developes itself in him just 60 soon as reason and responsibility begin to develope themselves. And the great end of remission, of forgiveness, of reconciliation, is
* “Mercy to Babes,” page 135.
† Bishop Butler.
the putting an end to this inability, not in itself, but in actual transgression, and in its own guiltiness. The fact of the inability, and of its origin, every one can see from his own nature.”
“ The nature of Original Sin, the cause of this inability, we do not clearly know in this world, even our deepest imaginings cannot penetrate it. The very consideration of it is involved in the deepest mystery. It would seem that there is a hideousness and horror about it, more fearful than we can imagine, when we think that for its remission and pardon, the Eternal Word must take flesh, and be born, suffer, die, and be buried, that it should be remitted."
“It would seem, too, that if we could only comprehend it, that sin is ultimately an actual and real death, of which the death of this world is only the shadow. It would seem also to be of the nature of an infection, reaching from generation to generation, and from father to son, extending as a disease, loathsome of itself in the eyes of God and Man. It would seem also as if it tainted the nature of all men as unquestionably the infected nature of diseased animals, although undeveloped, still is in their offspring. It would appear also that there is some impenetrable and mysterious connection, as it were, between the souls of all men,-between our souls and the souls of all our progenitors, and consequently with the souls of them in whom the deterioration took place."
“And lastly, it is plainly manifest from the Scripture, that in this world. we are all born subject to this evil taint. We were by nature, children of wrath.' As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all, for that all have sinned.'t So from all these considerations, would it seem that this natural inability requires remission. The sinfulness that is in us by birth must be pardoned. This is called Original Sin.”
“I need not say that the explanation of it is difficult from the first,-in that we, as men born in sin, cannot understand what sin is clearly in this life, or how it looks in the eye of a most Holy God. Only this I will say, that any other opinion than this of Original Sin, will and must force us into difficulties and contradictions, overthrowing the whole plan of salvation.”
So far I have quoted, that I may the more clearly explain this
* Eph. ii. 3.
† Rom. v. 12.