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enjoy his presence nor stand before him in judgment;-but possessing it, we have a fountain of felicity in the bosom, which combined malice and power can neither destroy nor pollute.

4. What shall we think of those who are not mindful of God? Who speak not of him; who call not on his name; who think not of him?What, of their wisdom-what of their gratitude-what of their whole moral character-and what of their latter end!

To the Editor of the Christian Spectator.


Ir is a question of some importance in its bearing on the religious controversies of the day, what is the doctrine of Original Sin, as taught by President Edwards. On the authority of this distinguished writer, Unitarians have boldly charged the Orthodox with holding the doctrine of Physical Depravity; and it must be confessed, that the work of Edwards has been held in such high repute by this class of Christians, and has been so often appealed to by them as a triumphant defence of their opinions, that the point at issue chiefly depends on what is the real doctrine maintained in this celebrated treatise.

The doctrine of Physical Depravity, I understand to be this; that there is con-created with man a substantial property or attribute of his nature, which is in itself sinful and deserving of punishment.

That I may remove what I suppose to be some misapprehensions of Edwards's doctrine, I shall attempt to show what are, and what are not, his views on the most important points connected with this subject.

1. Edwards clearly teaches that men are the subjects of a natural or native depravity. This will be admitted on all hands. But it is important to ascertain what this writer

means by that depravity which he thus describes.

He introduces the subject of his treatise in the form of this general proposition :

"Mankind are all naturally in such a state, as is attended, without fail, with this consequence or issue; that they universally run themselves into that which is in effect their own utter eternal perdition, as being finally accursed of God and the subjects of his remediless wrath through sin." Works, Vol. VI. p 137.

On the same page, he more fully unfolds the meaning of this proposition.

"In order to demonstrate what is asserted in the proposition laid down, there is need only that these two things be made manifest; one is this fact, that all mankind come into the world in such a state, as without fail comes to this issue, namely, the universal commission of sin; or that every one who comes to act in the world as a moral agent, is in a greater or less degree guilty of sin. The other is, that all sin deserves and exposes to utter and eternal destruction, &c."

Now I ask whether this general proposition, or the explanation given of it, teaches the doctrine of physical depravity? To say that' mankind are naturally in such a state that they will run themselves into sin, or to say that their state in this world will result in the universal commission of sin, or to say that every one who comes to act in the world as a moral agent, is guilty of sin, is not asserting that sin is a concreated substantial attribute of human nature. On the contrary the language unambiguously asserts that sin in man is the voluntary act of man as a moral agent, and of course amounts to an explicit denial of the doctrine charged.

In the next paragraph in which Edwards proceeds to support his general proposition by argument, he expressly excludes from it the idea, that men come guilty into the world. He says, stating what he undertakes to prove, "that every one of mankind, at least of them that are capable of acting as moral

agents are guilty of sin, (not now taking it for granted that they come guilty into the world) is a thing most clearly and abundantly evident from the holy scriptures." Unless then we suppose Edwards to include more in his proposition, than he professes to prove by his argument, it is plain that he does not intend to assert in his proposition, the doctrine of physical depravity; for he expressly disclaims the attempt to prove in this section that mankind are guilty at all, at their first existence. And yet strange as it may appear, this general proposition of Edwards is especially relied on to support the charge of physical depravity.

From his general proposition, Edwards proceeds in the second section to derive the following inference :

"That all mankind are under the influence of a prevailing effectual tendency in their nature, to that sin and wickedness which implies their utter and eternal ruin." p. 144.

This tendency he also calls " "propensity, disposition, proneness, &c." The question then is, does Edwards mean by this tendency, propensity, disposition, &c. a substantial property of our nature which is in itself sinful and deserving of punishment? This question divides itself into two, viz. does he mean by this tendency, propensity, &c. a substantial attribute or property of our nature, and if so, does he teach that this property or attribute is in itself sinful and deserving of punishment? Confining my present remarks to the first of these enquiries, I answer in the negative and allege,

First his definition of tendency. "Let it be considered what can be meant by tendency but a prevailing liableness or exposedness to such or such an event. Wherein consists the notion of any such thing, but some stated prevalence or preponderation in the nature or state of causes or occasions that is followed by or is effectual to, a stated prevalence or commonness of any particular kind of effect? or something in the

permanent state of things, concerned in bringing a certain sort of event to pass, which is a foundation for the constancy or strong prevailing probability of such au event. If we mean this by tendency (as I know not what else can be meant by it but this, or something like this,) then it is manifest that where we see a prevalence of any kind of effect or event, there is a tendency to that effect in the nature and state of its causes." . p. 145.

Now I ask, may there not be a tendency or propensity to sin accor ding to the above definition of the term, which is not a substantial attribute of human nature? May there not be that in the nature or

state of causes, or occasions, which is followed by sin; or something concerned in bringing sin to pass, which is the foundation of its constancy or strong prevailing probability, but which is still not an essential attribute of man's nature? May not the strength of those appetites and passions which were in man in innocence be such, or may not the power of temptation be such, or may not both be such, that the result will be a prevailing liableness or exposedness to sin ?-But a tendency or propensity to sin thus resulting, would not be a created substantial attribute of man's nature.

And yet such a tendency comes up fully to Edwards's definition of that


Secondly: That Edwards does not mean by tendency, propensity, &c. a substantial attribute of our nature, appears from his argument ex concessis on this point. Quoting from Dr. Taylor certain passages in which the latter concedes that we are very apt in a world full of temptation to be drawn into sin,* and that our case under mere law is by consequence hopeless as to an escape from death, Edwards says, "these things amount to a full confession that the proneness in men to sin, &c. is the highest kind of tendency or propensity." Alluding then to an intimation of Dr. Taylor 'that propensity may result from defect rather than any thing posi

tive" he says, "it is agreeable to the sentiments of the best divines, that all sin originally comes from a defective or privative cause; and 'that a propensity to sin does not cease to be a propensity to sin, because it arises from such a cause pp. 147149. But how could Edwards maintain that the proneness to sin conceded by Dr. Taylor, amounts to the highest kind of tendency, and admit that it arises from a privative cause, and yet maintain that it is a positive existence, a created substantial attribute of man's nature?

Thirdly, I argue the same thing from Edwards's reply to those who say that this tendency to sin does not lie in man's nature, but in his external circumstances, as surrounded by many and strong temptations. He says: "To this I would reply, that such an evasion will not at all avail to the purpose of those whom I oppose in this controversy. It alters not the case as to this question, whether man is not a creature that in his present state is depraved and ruined by propensities to sin. If any creature be of such a nature that it proves evil in its proper place, or in the situation which God has assigned it in the universe, it is of an evil nature. That part of the system is not good, which is not good in its place in the system; and those inherent qualities of that part of the system, which are not good, but corrupt, in that place, are justly looked upon as evil inherent qualities. That propensity is truly esteemed to belong to the nature of any being, or to be inherent in it, that is the necessary consequence of its nature, considered together with its proper situation in the universal system of existence, whether that propensity be good or bad. It is the nature of a stone to be heavy; but yet, if it were placed, as it might be, at a distance from this world, it would have no such quality. But seeing a stone is of such a nature, that it will have this quality or tendency, in its proper place, here in

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this world, where God has made it, it is properly looked upon as a propensity belonging to its nature: And if it be a good propensity here in its proper place, then it is a good quality of its nature; but if it be contrariwise, it is an evil natural quality. So, if mankind are of such a nature, that they have an universal, effectual tendency to sin and ruin in this world where God has made and placed them, this is to be looked upon as a peruicious tendency belonging to their nature. There is, perhaps, scarce any such thing in beings not independent and self-existent, as any power or tendency, but what has some dependence on other beings, which they stand in some connexion with, in the universal system of existence: Propensities are no propensities, any otherwise, than as taken with their objects. Thus it is with the tendencies observed in natural bodies, such as gravity, magnetism, electricity, &c. And thus it is with the propensities observed in the various kinds of animals; and thus it is with most of the propensities in created spire its." pp. 150, 151,

The above objection, Edwards does not answer by saying that it asserts that which is false, but by showing that it amounts to the same thing which he maintains. He says "it alters not the case," i. e. the fact is the same; man in his present state is depraved and ruined by propensities to sin whether we say this tendency to sin arises from his external circumstances, or belongs to the nature of man. What he contends for is the propriety of assuming a thing to be in its proper place in the universe, when speaking of its nature; a point of verbal accuracy which cannot admit of much debate. It is then perfectly consistent with his notion of tendency to sin, that it should depend on man's external circumstances, and wholly cease by a change in these circumstances. But how could he admit this, and yet maintain this tendency to be a sub

substantial attribute of man's nature independent of all circumstances?

But it may be asked, why then does Edwards speak of this tendency to sin as "inherent in and seated in that nature which is common to all mankind?" I answer that this language with the meaning now given, is fully authorized by usage. Nothing is more common, as in the example of the stone given by Edwards, than to speak of a thing as having in its nature a given tendency, although a change of circumstances would change its tendency, without any change in its nature. But whether usage authorizes this meaning of the term or not, Edwards has explicitly told us, that such is his meaning. "That propensity is truly esteemed to belong to the nature of any being, or to be inherent in it, that is the necessary consequence of its nature, considered together with its proper situation in the universal system of existence." Tendency then, accor ding to this writer is not identical with the nature of a thing or any essential part of that nature, but a consequence of its nature, considered in its proper place in the system of existence. Nothing therefore appears thus far, inconsistent with the opin ion, that the tendency to sin in man results from the innocent appetites and passions of his nature, in the cir cumstances in which he is placednothing of course like the doctrine that a propensity or tendency to sin belongs to human nature as a substantial property or attribute.

It ought here to be remarked, that while this view of Edwards's idea of tendency, if it be just, decides that he did not hold the doctrine of physical depravity, still if it be not just, it will not prove that he did hold this doctrine. For should it be conceded that this propensity, tendency, &c. is according to Edwards, a substantial attribute of our nature, it will not follow that he considered it as in itself sinful and deserving of punishment. More of this under my

next remark.

2. Edwards maintains that the

natural depravity of mankind is a moral depravity. He says, and then it must be remembered that it is a moral depravity, we are speaking of." He calls the same thing a corrupt tendency, a sinful depraved propensity, a depraved, sinful, vicious disposition. And here perhaps the reader will imagine that I concede the very thing, which I have before denied, viz. that this tendency, propensity, or disposition is according to Edwards, sinful in itself and deserving of punishment. But there are some things to be considered before this conclusion can be warranted. First, the terms tendency, propensity, and disposition, have different meanings in different applications. They are often applied both to voluntary and to involuntary states of the mind. When in connexion with the epithet sinful they are known to be applied to voluntary states of the mind, the nature of the subject requires us to understand that which is in itself sinful and deserving of punishment; as when we speak of a sinful, avaricious, gluttonous, or ambitious, propensity or disposition. But these terms are also applied to involuntary states of the mind, to which strictly speaking no moral quality belongs; as when we speak of a propensity or disposition in respect to any object, in distinction from the choice of that object, or as subdued and governed by considerations of duty. A late writer says, " in the sense in which I understand the word, the essence of sin does not consist in propensity, inclination or disposition to sin, but in yielding to that propensity." Now all I intend by these remarks is, that the mere terms propensity, disposi tion, &c. as used by Edwards do not decide that he means that which is

in itself sinful and deserving of punishment.-Secondly, the epithets connected with these terms by our author, such as moral, evil, bad, pernicious, sinful, &c. have also different meanings in different applications. When we apply these terms to known voluntary acts, we mean and are

properly understood to mean, that they are in themselves moral, evil, or sinful, and deserving of punishment. The nature of the subject shows that such is our meaning. But we also apply these several terms with a different meaning, naming the cause from the effect which it tends to produce. Thus we speak of a moral law, a moral tendency, or a moral influence, meaning simply that which tends to produce moral results. In like manner we frequently use the words good and evil, to designate that which produces good or evil. So the word sinful is often applied, as when we speak of sinful objects, the sinful tendency of objects, sinful motives, meaning objects which tend to produce sin. Nothing is more common than this use of these terms, and therefore the mere terms furnish no evidence, that they are not thus used by Edwards. Indeed on the supposition that by natural depravity this author means that derangement or deterioration either in the constitution or in the circumstances of man, or in both, which results in a tendency to certain sin, it would be perfectly proper and natural phraseology, to speak of such depravity as a moral depravity, meaning that it tends to moral results; and of the tendency to sin as an evil or sinful tendency, meaning that it terminates in moral evil or sin.

Thirdly, to remove all doubt on this point, Edwards has most accurately and fully defined the terms in question, and told us in what sense he uses them. He says,

"And then it must be remembered that it is a moral depravity, we are speaking of; and therefore when we are considering whether such a depravity do not appear by a bad effect or issue, it is a moral tendency to such an issue that is to be taken into the account. A moral tendency or influence is by desert. Then it may be said,

man's nature or state is attended with a pernicious or destructive tendency in a moral sense when it tends TO THAT WHICH deserves misery and destruction." p. 133.

Here then we have an unambiguous, precise explanation of the sense

in which Edwards applies the word moral to the natural depravity of man. It is a moral depravity as the nature of man is attended with a tendency TO THAT WHICH deserves misery and destruction. Is this asserting, or is it virtually denying the nat ural depravity of man to be moral in itself and deserving of punishment?-Did only this single explanation of the term occur in the treatise of Edwards, it would be enough to oblige every reader to limit the term moral and its kindred terms in the instances under consideration, to that which tends to moral effects. But Edwards has not left the matter here. In the third section, he comes to show that" that propensity which has been proved to be in the nature of all mankind must be a very evil, depraved, and pernicious propencity, &c." And to prevent as it would seem, the very misapprehension which I am considering, he says,

A propensity to that sin which brings God's eternal wrath and curse (which has been proved to belong to the nature of man) is evil, not only as it is calamitous and sorrowful, ending in great natural evil, but as it is odious and detestable: For by the supposition, it tends to that moral cril, by which the subject becomes odious in the sight of God, and liable, as such, to be condemned, and utterly rejected, and cursed by him. This also makes it evident, that the state which it has been proved mankind are in, is a corrupt state in a moral sense, that it is inconsistent with the fulfilment of the law of God, which is the rule of moral rectitude and goodness. That tendency which is opposite to that which the moral law requires and insists upon, and prone to that which the moral Jaw utterly forbids, and eternally condemns the subject for, is doubtless a corrupt tendency, in a moral sense." p. 154.

Now I ask, why according to Edwards, is "a propensity which brings God's eternal wrath and curse, evil?" Not merely because it ends in great natural evil ;--nor yet does be say that it is in itself, moral evil; -but that it is evil, because it It is a ten


dency, he does not say, which the moral law forbids, but he says, it is a

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