Page images
PDF
EPUB

conformity to his will and holy nature. And they have always reason for deep humiliation, when repeated long experience proves to them their imperfection of skill in accomplishing their end. They delight in the law of God after the inner man, but how to perform that which is good, perfectively of their virtue and holiness, they find not.

$ 8. On the other hand, many of “ the children of this world,” though vicious characters, may choose a variety of ends, more or less worthy in a partial sense, and discover an admirable degree of dexterity in the choice of means adapted to accomplish the end they have chosen. But if they choose not God as their chief end and final portion, their virtue is essentially defective; and so is their wisdom. They are wise for time, but fools for eternity. Neglecting God, they have neither eyes to see, nor ears to hear, nor hearts to perceive their best and highest interest. With him. is the fountain of life, and while they restrain

prayer before him, they confirm their state, by voluntary omissions, as dead in sin, and in the moral error of their ways. And they but too often despise those who act in a different manner; " but wisdom is justified of her children.”

§ 9. Before this discussion is closed, it may be remarked, that a failure even in the perfective

part of virtue has in it the nature of sin. He who keepeth the whole law, and yet offendeth in one point, becomes a transgressor. He who knows and loves God is essentially virtuous, though partially defective; and he who knows and loves not God, is essentially vicious, whatever other excellencies he may possess. “ Love is the fulfilling of the law,” for it is the essential part of holiness and virtue; but the want of it is a breach of the whole law, and stamps a character as essentially vicious, and his every moral act has the nature of vice. There are many worthy ends, taking this epithet to denote worthiness in a subordinate sense, and many laudable means, including laudableness to any indefinite degree, which ends and means, though harmoniously combined, do not raise the subjects of them above the charge of being essentially vicious. And this is owing to the want of a worthy ultimate and chief end to which all others ought to be subordinated. A

person

destitute of the knowledge and love of God, who is the chief good, and therefore ought to be the chief end of the agent, cannot justly plead that he is essentially virtuous because he is, in an inferior sense, a good father, master, neighbour, or patriot; because he shuns 'many reigning vices, and promotes many virtuous designs. True virtue is not confined within any created circle, and aims at nothing short of infinite, even in the discharge of common duties.

§ 10. From the preceding account of the ultimate sources and the respective natures of virtue and vice, we may perceive that vice is a species of defect in moral actions. A vicious act is a wrong act, and the wrong quality is a defective one—the want of what ought to be in the exercise of free volitions. But we cannot thence infer that the principle of the defect is itself vicious, since the exercise of a voluntary choice is an essential part of vice. Hence it follows demonstrably that the ultimate source of vice is not vicious. There is no vicious act which is not compounded of something positive, and therefore good, and of something negative or defective, and therefore evil in a comparative

The goodness of the act is its physical energy, which flows from God; the badness of the act is its moral defect, or a failure in the manner of exercising the physical faculties, when they are voluntarily directed to a wrong end, or to means of attaining it which are not laudable. Were there no principle of defectibility in the agent, every act would be perfectly virtuous; and were that principle itself of a vicious quality, in a moral sense, there would be no difference between cause and effect: vice would be the cause of yice, which is incompatible.

sense.

SECT. V.

The want of requisite acquaintance with reconciling

Principles.

$1. For want of reconciliog principles, the Bishop rejects the

doctrine of universal and total depravity. § 2. Confounds physical powers and moral propensities. 3. Nature and grace. $ 4. The passiveness of man, with his agency. 5. Divine Equity, with Sovereignty. $ 6. Exhibited grace, with subjective. $7. Faith as a principle, with faith as a duty. 8. He confounds the different relations which are sustained by a justified person. 9. The price of redemption, with redemption itself. § 10. That Predestination which includes a series of events, with one that is isolated and imaginary.

§ 1. From the manner in which the Bishop has treated the different topics contained in his

Refutation,” and from his numerous quotations from the Fathers, it is manifest, that many things are advanced through the apprehension of consequences that would follow from a different statement of those opinions; which consequences however his Lordship might have seen would not follow, had he been more attentive to reconciling principles; those I mean, which are necessary in order to reconcile scripture with scripture, and facts with facts. For instance, his Lordship seems to apprehend that if we go so far as to maintain a universal and total moral depravity of mankind by the fall of Adam, it would imply a natural impossibility of recovery,

or even of any improvement. , He supposes it would exclude every voluntary effort, endeavour, or concurrence on the part of man-every idea of distinction between right and wrong-every good affection and moral sense.

He also apprehends that the admission of such a degree of moral depravity must render men incorrigible, absolutely incapable of amendment, or of discharging any part of duty - must reject all co-operation, and all improvement by discipline and exercise. If moral depravity be represented as universal and total, he prognosticates consequences if possible still more alarming; as if, none could act according to the determination of reason-all men, in every period, must be alike wicked---neither patriarchs nor prophets could address the people, nor the people be addressed by them-propensities, affections, and faculties, would be incapable of controul, cultivation and enlargement—there would exist no discrimination of moral character-and there could have been no righteous characters in the time of Christ—no good and honest hearts. These are his Lordship’s alarming apprehensions.

§ 2. Does it not strike every intelligent person who reflects upon the subject, that his Lordship has most unaccountably overlooked the distinction, which ought ever to be maintained, between physical powers, or faculties, and moral

« PreviousContinue »