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paying any regard to their inability, to love him, and to fear him, and to do all his commandments always. The blind are admonished, to look, the deaf to hear, and the dead to arise.* If there were no other proof than what is afforded by this single fact, it ought to satisfy us that the blindness, deafness, and death of sinners, to that which is spiritually good, is of a dif, ferent nature from that which furnishes an excuse. This however is not the only ground of proof. The thing speaks for itself. There is an essential differ, ence between an inability which is independent of the inclination, and one that is owing to nothing else. It is equally impossible, no doubt, for any person to do that which he has no mind to do, as to perform that which surpasses his natural powers; and hence it is that the same terms are used in the one case as in the other. Those who were under the dominion of envy and malignity, COULD NOT speak peaceably; and those who have eyes full of adultery, CANNOT cease from sin. Hence also the following language-How can ye, being evil, speak good things ?—The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, neither can he know them-The carnal mind is enmity against God; and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed CAN, be-They that are in the flesh CANNOT please God No man can come to me, except the Father who sent me draw him-It is also true, that many have affected to treat the distinction between natural and moral inability as more curious than solid. “If we
Isai. xlii. 18. Ephes. v. 14.
be unable, say they, we are unable. As to the nature of the inability, it is a matter of no account. Such distinctions are perplexing to plain Christians, and beyond their capacity.” But surely the plainest and weakest Christian in reading his bible, if he pây any regard to what he reads; must perceive a manifest difference between the blindness of Bartimeus, who was ardently desirous that he might receive his sight; and that of the unbelieving Jews, who closed their eyes, lest they should see, and be converted, and healed ;* and between the want of the natural sense of hearing, and the state of those who have ears, but hear not.
So far as my observation extends, those persons who affect to treat this distinction as a matter of mere curious speculation, are as ready to make use of it as other people where their own interest is concerned. If they be accused of injuring their fellow-creatures, and can allege that what they did was not knowingly, or of design, I believe they never fail to do so: or when charged with neglecting their duty to a parent, or a master; if they can say in truth that they were unable to do it at the time, let their will have been ever so good, they are never known to omit the plea: and should such a master or parent reply by suggesting that their want of ability arose from want of inclination, they would very easily understand it to be the language of reproach, and be very earnest to maintain the
* Mark X. 51. Matt. xiii. 15.
contrary. You never hear a person, in such cir. cumstances, reason as he does in religion. He does not say, 'If I be unable, I am unable ; it is of no account whether it be of this kind or that:' but labours with all his might to establish the difa ference. Now if the subject be so clearly understood and acted upon where interest is concerned, and never appears difficult but in religion, it is but too manifest where the difficulty lies. If by fixing the guilt of our conduct upon our father. Adam, we can sit comfortably in our nest; we shall be very averse to a sentiment that tends to disturb our repose, by planting a thorn in it.
It is sometimes objected, that the inability of sinners to believe in Christ, is not the effect of their depravity; for that Adam himself in his purest state was only a natural man, and had no power to perform spiritual duties. But this objec. tion belongs to another topic, and has, I hope, been already answered. To this, however, it
, may be addedThe natural man who receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, (1 Cor. ii. 14.) is not a man possessed of the holy image of God, as was Adam, but of mere natural accomplishments; as were the wise men of the world, the philosophers of Greece and Rome, to whom the things of God were foolishness. Moreover, if the inability of sinners to perform spiritual duties, were of the kind alleged in the objection, they must be equally unable to commit the opposite sins. He that from the constitution of his nature is absolutely unable
to understand, or believe, or love a certain kind of truth, must of necessity be alike unable to shut his eyes against it, to disbekieve, to reject; or to hate it. But it is manifest that all men are capable of the latter ; it must therefore follow, that nothing but the depravity of their hearts renders them incapable of the former.
Some writers, as hath been already observed, have allowed that sinners are the subjects of an inability which arises from their depravity; but they still contend that this is not all ; but that they are both naturally and morally unable to believe in Christ; and this they think agreable to the scriptures, which represent them as both unable and unwilling to come to him for life. But these two kinds of inability cannot consist with each other, so as both to exist in the same subject, and towards the same thing. A moral inability supposes a natural ability. He who never in any state was possessed of the power of seeing, cannot be said to shut his eyes against the light. If the Jews had not been possessed of natural powers, equal to the knowledge of Christ's doctrine, there had been no justice in that cutting question, and answer, Why do ye not understand my speech? Because ye CANNOT hear my word. A total physical inability must of necessity supersede a moral one. therefore, that the phrase, No man CAN come to me, is meant to describe the former; and, YE WILL NOT come to me that ye may have life, the latter; is to suppose that our Saviour taught what is self. contradictory.
Some have supposed that in ascribing physical or natural power to men, we deny their natural depravity. Through the poverty of language, words are obliged to be used in different senses. When we speak of men as by nature depraved, we do not mean to convey the idea of sin being an essential part of human nature, or of the constitution of man as man: our meaning is, that it is not a mere effect of education and example ; but is from his very birth so interwoven through all his powers, so ingrained, as it were, in his very soul, as to grow up with him, and become natural to him.
On the other hand, when the term natural is used as opposed to moral, and applied to the powers of the soul, it is designed to express those faculties which are strictly a part of our nature as men, and which are necessary to our being accountable creatures. By confounding these ideas we may be always disputing, and bring nothing to an issue.
Finally, It is sometimes suggested, that to ascribe natural ability to sinners to perform things spiritually good, is to nourish their self-sufficiency; and that to represent their inability as only moral, is to suppose that it is not insuperable, but may after all be overcome by efforts of their own. But surely it is not necessary, in order to destroy a spirit of self-sufficiency, to deny that we are men, and accountable creatures ; which is all that natural ability supposes. If any person imagine it poss