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AVOWED SENTIMENTS OF THE BISHOP ON ORIGINAL
SIN, FREE WILL, AND THE OPERATIONS OF THE
The Bishop's avowed Sentiments on Original Sin,
§ 1. What is a fair mode of enquiry on controverted subjects. 2. The
subject stated. § 3. The sentiment that original righteousness is not entirely lost,
examined. - $ 4. Original righteousness, what. § 5. How understood by the Compilers of the Articles. $ 6. How entirely lost. $7. Even supposing it to mean good qualities and principles indefinitely. $ 8,9. What the intended alteration by the Assembly of
Divines, § 10. The practical advantages of insisting on this doctrine. $11. That every good affection is not entirely lost, examined. $ 12. The
true state of the question. § 13. What the Calvinists really hold on this point. § 14. His Lordship's observations on the
parable of the sower, considered. § 15. That the power of obeying still remains, examined. The subject
stated. § 16. The ambiguity of the term power. § 17. The capability of a carnal mind, what. § 18. Observations on Cain and Abel. § 19. Import of the phrase “ inclineth to evil;" examined. 20. In what sense Calvinists admit that God gives power to every man.
One of the fairest methods of examining his work that an author can desire, is to state in his own words the sentiments he avows, and then to try them by that standard
§ 1. Oy
which the nature of the subject legitimately requires. This is what the writer of the following strictures very sincerely desires to do, in the most respectful manner; and if, in any instance he should fail in the attempt, he hopes it will not be imputed to an ungenerous design, or a cherished principle of disrespect. The hope of this construction he is the more disposed to entertain, as it is not his purpose to defend every expression or unqualified sentiment maintained by that author whom his Lordship of Lincoln undertakes chiefly to refute,--and as he is not conscious of aiming to serve any party, at all hazards, but rather to promote the cause of truth in the spirit of Christian benevolence.
§ 2. On the different subjects debated, many things are advanced by his Lordship which are maintained alike by himself, and by those whom he professedly opposes.
It would be impertinent to enlarge on those things; and to dwell minutely on the smaller shades of difference, would lead to a needless prolixity. For every important purpose, I conceive, it will be sufficient to notice the most radical points in which the minor variations are virtually included. Those points on the subject of original sin, may be reduced to three heads, viz. That original righteousness is not entirely lost--that
every good affection was not eradicated-and that the power of obeying still remains. These positions constitute a prominent part of his Lordship's avowed sentiments, -as will immediately appear from his own statements.
§ 3. His Lordship's avowal of the first of these positions is full and explicit, in the following words:-- In appealing to the public ' formularies of our church, I shall first notice 'the article upon Original Sin, in which it is
said, that "man is very far gone from original ' righteousness:" this expression implies, that
original righteousness is not entirely lost; that ' all the good qualities and principles, with which * man was at first created, are not absolutely destroyed. That this is the plain and obvious
sense of the passage, is evident from the fol"lowing circumstance: when the Assembly of · Divines, in the reign of Charles the First, undertook to reform, as they called it, our 'Articles according to the Calvinistic creed, they proposed to omit the words, “ man is
gone from original righteousness,"? and to substitute for them, “ man is wholly deprived of original righteousness. • admitted by both parties, that the two sen“tences conveyed ideas extremely different; and ? the proposed alteration was rejected by those who wished to maintain the ancient and esta
•blished doctrine of the church of England, in opposition to the peculiar tenets of Calvin.' *
§ 4. Original righteousness is not entirely lost.' Let us calmly examine this position. . While terms are left undefined, upon subjects wherein precision of language is more than ordinarily required, controversy is likely to become progressive and perplexing. If by
original righteousness” one person understands
good qualities and principles' indefinitely, while another understands the perfection of them, what prospect is there of agreement, however extended the ratiocination? If his Lordship intend the latter part of the sentence quoted, to be explanatory of the former, he adopts the first of these ineanings. But, abstracted from a peculiar connection, the common and obvious meaning of the term “ righteousness" is rectitude, or perfect conformity to what is right. And the original righteousness of man, all must allow, consisted in nothing less than such perfect conformity.
§ 5. What evidence, therefore, is there, that the compilers of the Articles intended by “righteousness,” good qualities and principles indefinitely, rather than the perfection of them? If they employed the term in a sense so unusual,
* Refut. p. 50.
in such a' connection, they must have been remiss, in point of precision, not to state it. But to suppose this, where precision must have been a leading design, is uncharitable. It is not therefore by any means to be assumed, that the framers of the Articles meant by “ righteousness,” good qualities, and principles indefinitely, rather than the perfection of them. They speak of a standard from which“ man is far gone;"but an indefinite degree of good qualities and principles can be no standard. This would leave every thing undefined and uncertain. Whereas to say that man is far gone from the perfection of them, avoids an absurd, and establishes an important meaning,
§ 6. This perfection of good qualities and principles was entirely lost. For nothing less can be intended by being " far gone” from it. If men have gone astray from the fold of God, surely they have lost entirely the privilege of being in that fold. Their “ original righteousness” included a complete standing in the divine approbation; and if that complete standing be now entirely lost, so likewise must that original righteousness by which it was secured. This, however, is not inconsistent with degrees of deviation from righteousness. For though“ all we like sheep have gone astray,” some by per sonal disobedience have gone farther than others.