Page images

whenever the understanding is convinced of it, and sees it; then the will is not depraved, there is no obstinacy and rebellion in the heart. All the defect is in the understanding, in not dictating the truth to the heart. But this defect in the understanding, however great it may be, is not a moral, but a natural defect: For, as has been shown, the understanding, considered as not including the will or heart, or the mere speculative faculty of the soul, is not a moral faculty, and is not capable of virtue or vice. According to this, the heart cannot be faulty, while it acts according to the dictates of the understanding, whatever they may be, which it is supposed always to do, and therefore never can be guilty of any moral evil: And the understanding, as such, and as distinguished from the will, is incapable of fault. Therefore there can be no such thing as moral evil, or sin; to be sure, man is not capable of any such thing.

It appears from what has been said on this subject, that all these suppositions are contrary to the representation which the scripture gives of this matter, and not agreeable to reason, or to fact and experience. They who thus set the understanding or intellect, considered as a faculty distinct from the will, first, as the leading faculty of the soul, by which the will is in all cases directed and governed, do certainly make a great mistake, and turn things upside down. The will is the only active faculty of the soul. The understanding, so far as it can be considered as a distinct faculty, and not implying any degree of will, is wholly passive, and not capable of action. Every motion and action of the mind of man is voluntary; and therefore is the motion or action of the will. All mental exercise originates in the will, which is the seat of all moral action.

Besides, they suppose what is in the nature of things absolutely impossible, and build their whole theory upon it, viz. That the understanding, independent of the heart, is capable of receiving or having a true idea of moral exercise, or of the real beauty and excellence of the things of the Spirit of God. Such ideas suppose taste and affection of heart, without which they cannot be perceived, or take place in the mind. This is as impossible, as that a blind man should have a true idea of

the beauty of light and colours; or that a man may perceive the sweetness of honey, and be pleased with it, by mere reasoning upon it, or touching it with his finger, while he has not the least degree of taste or relish for it, as has been before observed.

II. From what has been said on this subject, other mistakes which have been made about divine illumination, are detected, and appear to be delusive and dangerSome have thought they were savingly enlightened, by their being led to see, in an unaccountable manner to them, an extraordinary external light and brightness; either by their bodily eyes, or in their imagination, which has affected them much. Or they have had their eyes opened, as they suppose, clearly to see Christ on the cross, or seated in heaven; and heaven, and the inhabitants of it, have been seen by them, &c. All things of this kind, are as far from spiritual discoveries, as darkness is from light, and are mere imaginary conceptions, of which he who has the most depraved heart is as capable as any other person. And as they do not suppose a renewed heart, so they have no tendency to make it better.

Others have thought themselves divinely taught and illuminated, by having some new thing, which they call truth, suggested to their minds, by a voice from heaven, or some immediate impulse, which is not contained in the Bible. And not a few, instead of learning their duty from the Bible, have expected, and thought they have had light, and direction given to them immediately from heaven, to make known what they were to say and do: and have thought themselves directed, in all their actions, by some invisible, divine impulse. All these are not only entirely different from divine illumination; but are dangerous delusions; and have proved fatal to many who have depended upon them.

Imaginary ideas may attend divine illumination, and often do, in this very imperfect state: That is, a person may have a discerning heart given to him, by which he sees the saving truth; yet by the influence of his imagi nation, he may have many ideas imposed on his mind, which accompany the true light which shines in his heart But these mere imaginary ideas, are no part of

the truth, which the enlightened mind sees; and therefore ought not to be regarded as such.

III. We are led by this subject, more particularly to reflect upon the total and very great criminality of moral blindness, which is opposed to divine illumination. This has been brought into view, in considering this subject; and it is of importance that it should be always remembered, believed and realized by every person. Since this darkness consists wholly in the sinful inclinations of the heart, it must be wholly sinful. And the greater, the more strong and fixed it is, the more criminal it must be. The necessity of divine influence and power, in order to remove this darkness, is so far from proving it no crime, that it is a demonstrative evidence that it is a very great crime; as it is so strongly fixed in the heart. We are, and must be, under obligation to understand and approve all that moral truth, of which our natural capacities are capable, and which we have opportunity and are under advantage to see. All that blindness and error which is contrary to this, and prevents our seeing it, is contrary to our obligation, a violation of it; and therefore altogether criminal. There is a great difference between a person who has no eyes, and therefore cannot see the light, it being naturally impossible; and another who has good eyes, but from an aversion from seeing, shuts them fast, and will not open them to admit the light. The former cannot be under obligation to see, or blamed for not seeing; the latter may, and it is wholly his own fault, that he does not see. The scripture represents moral blindness by this, and says, men have eyes, and see not, because they hate the light, and shut their eyes.

We are wholly blameable, and have no excuse for all our blindness respecting the things of the Spirit of God, and for every error and mistake into which we fall, concerning things of a moral nature; and the greater our blindness is, and the more gross and numerous are our errors and mistakes in these things, and the more clear the light is, which is set before us, the more inexcusable and guilty we are. Our Saviour says, "If the light which is in thee, be darkness, how great is that darkness!" And we are prepared now to say, if all this great

darkness be wholly criminal, and that in proportion to the greatness of it, how great is our guilt!

IV. How reasonable is it that men should be called upon and commanded to open their eyes, and see, in a moral sense! It has been observed, that God does so, in the scripture. He says, "O ye simple, understand wisdom, and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart." If men be wholly blameable for not seeing when God has given them capacity to see, and sets light before them, and their blindness be wholly wilful; no reason can be given why they should not be exhorted and commanded to do what they ought to do, and can have no excuse for not doing it, however fixed and obstinate they are in their blindness, and however far they are from a disposition, or moral power or possibility to come to the light, from their fixed and strong hatred of it; so that they never will obey, if left to themselves. It is of great importance that this should be well understood and believed, as it is necessary in order to our understanding the scripture, and our own character and blameableness.

• Prov. viii. 5.


« PreviousContinue »