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pass of evil itself, would be not to have a perfect insight into the truth; and yet, to display the power of that evil otherwise than as it is seen practically existing in its effects, would not be to give that real likeness of ourselves which we seek and expect; it becomes evident, that in narrations (or records of whatever kind) which set forth the lives and actions of men in every varied stage of moral responsibility, and that,
under the influence not only of rational motives, Cf. Lect. ii. but of a supernatural grace also, more or less,
from the very beginning ;) we cannot look for any
creet förbearance, as to the special question of its measure in the individual.
It is a point which must itself be admitted on all hands by reasonable men, (although só very few, in the heat of argument, truly abide by it,) that a right faith and apprehension of holy Scripture is to be formed, rather by looking to its end and general scope, than by any inference from detached passages, however strong towards a particular effect. Neither can it be doubted that the facts of Scripture and its doctrines must be essentially in harmony.
Is it fair, then, or rather is it possible, rightly to prescribe the bounds of any doctrine , without an impartial estimate of the facts of Scripture, (wherever these properly belong to the question, as well as of its positive texts ?
With respect, therefore, to “original depravity," seeing that a conviction of the doctrine itself, and not of its degrees, is what concerns our everlasting peace, that we may apprehend the method of our restoration ; I ask, whether it seems possible to assume particulars with equal certainty as to its precise limits? more especially, whether it be fair to assume its extent to be
a I mean, any doctrine that is in any degree commensurable with reason and experience, as well as declared in express revelation. To such subjects of pure revelation as the mystery of the Trinity (e. g.) the present considerations cannot apply.
without limit, under an impartial balance of Scripture history ? And if the facts of Scripture history be (as we contend they are) the facts of human nature; if neither in our forefathers, nor in ourselves, we can honestly discover other
features than those belonging to a race of acCf. Lect, ii. countable and improveable beings--both passing pp. 34, 35.
as sojourners and pilgrims through the same scene of moral discipline, the same positive impediments ; if we perceive that both they were very wicked, and so are we; but if neither in them, nor in ourselves, we can precisely unfold the operations of grace, as distinct from those of our natural faculties ; if we cannot, among either, detect and satisfactorily show (except it be in a few cases avowedly miraculous) the influence of any irresistible control ; if a faith, of which we trust and dare to say that it must be a true and living faith, can without any such interpretation approve itself to the consciences alike and understandings of men evidently wise and learned, and by their lives proved to be “ spi“ ritually minded;" what shall forbid that the evidence of facts be received at once, in arbitration, to restrain our confidence of assertion, as to the specific point, of the measure and degree of this original taint, among persons now very unequally advanced in the progress of their moral probation?
For if we admit the doctrine, as affirmed
generally, to be true of all men, what (after all) can its precise admeasurement profit unto edifying? If a Christian man be quite convinced that there is no hope of heaven but through the sufferings and mediation of Jesus Christ, nor without transformation and renewal of the heart after that image of holiness which he has enjoined ; what can it benefit to dwell upon depravity, as though the Redeemer could be thereby honoured? If the believer be already grafted into the true vine, the test whereby to glorify John xv. 8. his Father, afterwards is, that he bear much fruit. Let the facts of Scripture, then, be weighed under this impression : not to confirm in any man a contumacious and unspiritual pride ; (if weighed impartially, this is a thing which they can never do;) but to remove from the tabernacle of the faithful that supposititious cloud which sometimes broods upon it; and to deliver the truly humble and self-abased spirit from the Cf. Lect. iv. yoke of an unimaginable degradation.
I. With this explanatory provision, then, let us now go on to the proposed adduction of particulars : of which, if any be thought not so well selected as they might have been, and yet the mind be favourably affected towards the general view which has been already presented, it will not suffer any such unskilful selection, merely, to Cf. Lect. iv.
(Note b.) invalidate the argument, but will supply better " instances for itself.
I. 1. An early instance then, illustrative at once of all the considerations upon which our
argument proceeds, is to be found (I think) Gen. ix. in the case of Noah and his sons, as related
in the end of the ninth chapter of the Book of Genesis. A melancholy specimen, indeed, of human frailty, consider it in what point of view we will! It is a narration altogether at variance with every notion which we entertain (speaking critically) of seemliness or dignity. It is an event, which no historian, as such, would naturally have recorded, even though he recorded the consequences. It is a detail of twofold painfulness; the painfulness of infirmity, in the patriarch ; and that of guilt, in his son. It is manifestly a tale, from which the ear and eye of refined female delicacy, at least, would involuntarily shrink. In what various and easy ways it stands exposed to the derision and scorn of infidelity, need not to be pointed out.
But how does it appear to a Christian, looking at it only through the light of humility and faith? Is it human nature, or is it not? Is it striking, or is it not? What, if we glance in pity
from the patriarch's infirmity to our Redeemer's Luke xxi. solemn admonition, Take heed to yourselves, lest
at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness ? and from the curse pronounced upon Canaan, the son of the unduti. ful Ham, to the fearfully lively warning of the
Luke xx 34.