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OCTOBER 31, 1831.
For the Hopkinsian Magazine.
MR. EDITOR,-The doctrine of total moral depravity has long been considered, by the orthodox divines of New England, as lying at the foundation of all the doctrines of grace. They have argued, conclusively as it appears to me, that if men, by nature, are not totally depraved, they do not need to be regenerated, but only sanctified; and if so, there is no essential difference between saints and sinners. To say that sinners have some holiness, and saints more, is not to make a radical distinction between them; for on this ground, there is no more diffrence between a saint and a sinner, thau between one saint and another: And then there would seem to be some foundation for the conjecture of Dr. Paley, that, perhaps, there will be but very little to choose, in the coming world, between the condition of the least holy saint and the least depraved sinner.
But I need not inform you, nor many of your readers, how different this view of human depravity is from the representations of the sacred writers, who call saints and sinners by such opposite appellations as, the righteous and the wicked, the just and the unjust, the friends and the enemies of God-describe the hearts of sinners,as not only void of holiness, but full of evil-pronounce the unregenerate to be dead in trespasses and sins, and so children of wrath, and liable, without such a moral change as may be properly called a new birth, to be cousigned at last to the place prepared for fallen spirits.
It is not, however, my design, at present, so much to exhibit proof of the doctrine of total depravity, as to attempt a brief expos sition of it. Plainly as this doctrine is stated in sacred scripture, and clearly as it has been illustrated by Dr. Hopkins and others, it still seems to be misunderstood by some, and even some of those who are 'set for the defence of the gospel,' and ought, therefore, to be able to teach, instead of needing to be taught, one of the first principles of the oracles of God. I am credibly informed, that a preacher in this vicinity, who professes and is reputed to be orthodox, recently said in his pulpit, that 'sinners are not totally depraved, because they are continually growing worse.' This way of disproving the doctrine, is evidence that he grossly misunderstands it; and if he, then others perhaps may misunder
stand it, and especially some of his hearers. He must have imbibed the notion, that to be totally depraved, is to be as sinful as it is possible for a created being to become. This is a strange notion of total depravity. Upon this ground it might be safely asserted that Lucifer himself can never become, totally depraved, uns at some remote period in eternity, he shall become omniscin, ad so incapable of further increase in knowledge and capacity tor sinful affections, exercises and actions.
What, then, is to be understood by total depravity? I answer, Co splete or perfect sinfulness. To illustrate this answer, I would
make several observations.
1 Total depravity, as maintained by Dr. Hopkins and his followers, is altogether of a moral nature. It is not seated in any of the natural powers or faculties of either the body or the mind but simply in the heart or will. In this respect it differs! materially from what has been termed universal depravity, the doctrine advanced in the Presbyterian Confession of Faith. This represents the whole man as depraved-all his powers and faculties--all the operations of his mind, intellectual as well as voluntary-his whole nature. Universal depravity includes what has been called physical depravity. i. e. depravity of nature, in distinction from voluntary affections or exercises of will, to which alone total depravity is supposed to belong, and on this account is called moral. It is sinful, odious and criminal.
2. Total depravity implies, b it does not consist in a mere want, or entire destitution of holiness. Where there is total depravity, there is, indeed, an entire want of holiness; but the depravity does not consist in want or absence, which is a nocentity, any more than in empty space; but it consists in something positive, something which has a real existence, which is the object of disapprobation, and which occasions the absence of holiness. It consists in sin, which is the transgression of the divine law,' and of course the opposite of that holy, disinterested love which the divine law requires; or, in one word, it is selfishness. Selfish affections and volitions, which include every thing in which the mind is aclive, constitute total depravity.
3. Total depravity implies, that all the affections and volitions of the man, are habitually and constantly sinful. If one has any holy affections and volitions, however few and far between,' it is not proper to say, he is totally depraved. The phrase is used to denote a state of the heart or will, which, while it continues, entirely excludes every exercise of holy love
4. Total depravity implies that the affections and volitions of the man, are purely sinful, ie that there is no mixture of holiness in them. And this must evidently be the case, if they are selfish;— for it is imposible that holiness should ever, in the least degree, be mixed with selfishness. He who has any selfishness, loves himself more than God; and he who has any holiness, loves God more than himself and how then can these two things, selfishness and holiness, be mixed, any more than light and darkness, fire and water? The supposition is absurd. I add,
5. Total depravity implies, that all the actions of the man are sinful and displeasing to God In a moral view, actions and voluntary exercises are one and the same. Nothing that precedes or follows the affections and volitions, is of a moral nature: for these only are men accountable: in these alone consists their activity. And as total depravity implies that all the voluntary exercises of the man are selfish, it of course implies that all his actions are sinful. In other words, total depravity, as it implies that the heart, from which alone mankind act, is wholly evil; so it implies that all their actions, both civil and sacred, are evil'their powing is sin, and their prayers abomination.'
From the above explanation, a few inferences may be drawn, with which I will close this communication.
1. There may be degrees of total depravity. Where the moral exercises are all sinful; they may be more or less frequent, more or less intense, and more or less extensive. There may be just as many degrees of total depravity as there are of mental capacity. The term total, implies that the vessel is full, be it larger or smaller. A bottle may be as totally wine, as a barrel. And so the sprout from the acorn is as totally oak, as the full grown tree.Hence,
2. Sinners may be totally depraved, and yet grow worse and worse every day. Total depravity is what fills the capacity at the time: but as the natural capacity may increase, so may the total depravity. As sinners are always growing in knowledge or mental capacity, so they are always growing more and more depraved; although the child is as totally depraved as the man, and the peasaut as the philosopher.
3. It does not follow from the total depravity of sinners, that they always act as bad as they cun. By act, here, must be understood overt or outward visible action. And it is obvious that while all the voluntary exercises of sinners are evil to the extent of their capacity; they may be restrained in various ways from doing many things which they have natural power to do, and would do, if all restraints were removed, and sufficient temptations laid before them.
4 That sinners are sometimes very affectionate, is no evidence that they are not totally depraved. The natural affections, such as fondness for relatives, sympathy with the suffering, joy, sor row, &c. have no moral quality. They are motives to the will, but distinct from the will or heart itself. Sinners, therefore, may feel all the natural affections, and be led by them to many acts of kindness and beneficence, notwithstanding the total depravity of their hearts.
5. It is not proper to say that saints are totally depraved; for though their moral imperfection consists in selfish exercises which are precisely like those of sinners, yet they have also many opposite and holy exercises: their moral exercises are not all sinful, and they are not therefore totally depraved. VIATOR.
For the Hopkinsian Magazine.
CONNECTION BETWEEN WAVERING BELIEF AND UNSTABLE PRACTICE.
Remarks upon JAMES, I. 8-A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.
The original word here translated, double-minded, is compounded of two Greek words, the first of which signifies double or twice, and the other signifies soul, mind or spirit. This Greek compound seems, at first view, to be lit rally and properly rendered by the English compound, double-minded. But whatever might have been the import of this word, when our version of the bible was made, it conveys an idea, at present, very different from that of the original. The word, double-minded, now means much the same as deceitful, and is properly applied to a person who "intends one thing while he professes another." But that this cannot be the meaning of the original word in this passage, is evident from what is here said of the double-minded man, that he is "unstable in all his ways." It is difficult to see, how instability of conduct should be the effect of deceitfulness, more than of sincerity. "The deceitful are often but too stable in a bad cause. Fickleness is not remarkably an attendant on hypocrisy
In the preceding verses, the apostle is speaking of a firm and unwavering faith, as neccessary to acceptance in prayer; vs. 5, 6, 7," If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not: and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering, for he that wavereth, is like a wave of the sea driven of the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord."— By the word translated double-minded, therefore, it is natural to spose, the apostl meant the opposite of fixed or stable in belief, which is the same as unsteady or inconstant in principle and sentiment. And this, we are told, is the common import of the word in Greek authors. Thus the ancient expositors explain the word in this passage "A double-minded man," says Eccumen ius, "is a man of unsettled and fluctuating sentiments" According to which, the sense of the passage before us may be given in these words: A man unsteady in his belief, is unstable in his practice. The subject presented to our consideration, is the connexion between unsettled sentiments and unstable conduct. This connexion is universal, pertaining to a man's sentiments on all subjects, and his actions on all occasions. But I shall confine my present observations to sentiments and conduct of a religious and moral nature, as best suited to the publication for which they are intended.
The proper illustration of this subject seems to require two things; a description of the man who is unsteady in his belief, and a statement of the evidence that such a man is ever unstable in his practice.
The man, unsteady in his belief, is one who frequently changes his sentiments on moral and religious subjects. There is one change of sentiment which a man may experience without the inputation of being at all unsteady in his belier; and that is, a change from error to truth. As mankind are naturally evil-doers; so they hate the light; and this hatred leads them into many errors. And when any of them 'cease to do evil and learn to do well,' they uniformly receive the love of the truth.' Then, if not before, they renounce whatever errors they may have embraced, so far as they are favored with the capacity and means of knowing that system of religious and moral sentiments taught in the Scriptures of truth. This is the only material change of sentiment they experience; for as fast as they learn the truth, they believe and embrace it: and when they have once known and embraced the truth, they hold it fast. Though their love to God and truth is inconstant, yet it is rarely, if ever, so inconstant and so long interrupted, as to give time for any material change of sentiment or wide departure from the true doctrinces of the word of God.
It is a frequent change of sentiment on moral and religious subjects, which constitutes that unsteadiness of belief expressed in the above passage of James, by the term double-minded. One who thus changes his sentiments, is not fixed and established in any part of his creed. It matters not whether what he believes is true or false. He may sometimes believe a true doctrine for a while; but his belief not being firm and unwavering, he is just as liable to change it as if the doctrine were false. He has no consistent, digested and settled scheme of sentiments, but fluctuates from one opinion to another, with every wind of doctrine. It is dificult to tell where to find him, or with whom to class him. He scarcely knows himself what he believes, and is in doubt, to a greater or less degree, on almost every important point. It is not uncommon for one of this description to proceed in his changes from bad to worse. In his first departure from the faith once delivered to the saints, he perhaps became a Pelagian or Arminian: At the next step, he became a Universalist: Another short step brought him to Socinianism or Unitarianism of the lowest grade: And finally, he enters the dark and dreary waste of Deism or Scepticism. The double-minded man often pursues a similar course, in respect to points of morality and practical religion.
He at first, perhaps, calis in question the perpetuity and moral obligation of the Sabbath; then, the duty of prayer; then, the obligation of public worship; next, the criminality of vicious indulgence; and finally, the distinction between moral good and evil -right and wrong.
The changes of sentiment to which a double-minded man is liable, are as numerous as the various forms of error. Truth is a unit: but error is a legion. Such unsteadiness of belief arises from opposition to the doctrines and precepts of the bible, as its Those who love the truth seek for it as for hidden treasures, and with the scriptures in their hands, cannot fail to find