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exerts a great influence in human governments, both upon the rulers and subjects.
2. They who are privileged with a place in the moral system are, of consequence, under the moral government of the Most High. Pri. vileges are always accompanied with corresponding obligations. А privilege it is, and one of no small magnitude, to be taught more than the beasts of the earth, and to be made wiser than the fowls of heaven. Job xxxv. 11. But we ought not to forget, that with this elevation in the scale of being is connected accountability. can not divest ourselves of our rational natures, so neither can we get rid of our accountableness to him who made us. The sensualist seems to value his reason, only as it enables him to gratify his appetites to better advantage than a mere animal. A man may brutalize himself by his groveling views and pursuits; yet He, who has endowed him with the faculties of an intelligent being, will hold him responsible for their proper use. He still requires him to “show himself a man.” Not only the sensualist, but every other natural man is impatient under the restraints of divine government. But those intelligent creatures, whose moral powers are not perverted by the influence of sin, esteem it a privilege not only to be endowed with reason, but also to be placed under moral government, the government of Him whose laws, like himself, are holy, just and good.
3. Since all the children of Adam are accountable to God, and subjects of his moral government, they must enjoy a distinguished privilege who are favored with a published code of his laws. Although the gentiles, without a revelation, show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, still by experience it is found true, that through the influence of that carnal mind that is not subject to the law of God, they have never attained to any distinct views of a divine government. But we, who are favored with a reve. lation from God, are left to no uncertain conjectures on the subject of moral obligation. We have clearly revealed to us the name and char. acter of the Being by whose authority we are controlled. His laws, as they were uttered by his own mouth, or inspired by his own Spirit, are in our hands. If we wish to be good and obedient subjects, we are furnished with the best means for rendering us so. May Heaven forbid that it should ever be said of any of us, as of Ephraim, “ I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing!”
A PART OF GOD'S INTELLIGENT CREATURES, INCLUDING THE WHOLE RACE OP ADAM, AAVE TRANSGRESSED HIS LAW, AND FALLEN INTO A STATE OF DEPRAVITY AND CONDEMNATION.
HAVING considered the moral law, and the obligation resting on all created intelligences to yield perfect and unceasing obedience to its injunctions, I proceed next to take notice of that apostacy by which it has been violated. The apostacy, when viewed by itself and in all its natural fruits, is painful and repulsive; yet, as an article in the system of divine truth, it is one that must not be concealed. Conceal this, and most of the other parts of the system will appear altogether without meaning. In reading the sacred volume, we pass but two chapters, before we find man a fallen creature ; and to the character and exi. gencies of such a creature, all the rest of the volume is accommodated.
The creatures, whom we know to have become apostates, comprise a part of the angels and the whole race of man. The angels were brought into existence at once, not being propagated by parents, like mankind; so that each individual could stand or fall for himself. Hence it was that a spirit of rebellion might enter their ranks, and yet not become universal. The possibility of such a thing has been fully proved by the event; for while some revolted, others retained their original rectitude. We read of “ holy angels,” and also of “evil angels.” Concerning the latter class it is said, “ They kept not their first estate;" by which we learn, that their present is not their original character.
The human race came into being in such a manner that apostacy could have no entrance into our world, without becoming universal. All the millions who were ever to people the earth, were first compre. hended in one common parent, and, according to the wise constitution of their Creator, their character was to be determined by his; if he stood, they stood ; if he fell, they fell with him. God made man upright, but he fell from his state of uprightness, and became a vile rebel against the throne of heaven. To this first rebellion, as its source, may be traced all the wickedness which has deluged the earth. “ By one man's disobedience many were made sinners. " Rom. v. 19. Among the race of Adam the defection is universal; there is not a single exception. “ By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin ; and so death hath passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Rom. v, 12. Because one man sinned, all are sinners; and because all are sinners, therefore all die. The universal reign of death is made an evidence of the universal reign of sin. That the reign of sin extends to the farthest boundaries of the earth, is attested not by the word of God only, but also by every other authentic history of mankind. The word of God asserts, “There is no man that sinneth not.” “ The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were
any that did understand, and seek God.” And what is declared to be the result of this survey? “ They are all gone aside, they are all toge . ther become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." 1 Kin. viii. 46. Ps. xiv. 2, 3. And does the history of the world give us any different picture of man? I appeal to those who are versed in historical reading-Do you not find the children of men, in every part and age of the world, appear like depraved beings; not only alienated from God their Creator, but also hateful and hating one another?
That sin prevails among all nations and classes of men, will hardly be disputed by any : but there are two important points concerning which there has been, and still is, considerable difference of opinion; one relates to the time when human depravity commences, and the other to the degree of its prevalence. Each of these points will claim our attention.
I. It concerns us to know at what period of our existence our sin. ful character commences. From the attention which I have paid to this subject, I have been led to adopt the sentiment, that the stream of pollution which runs through our life, takes its rise as far back as the time of our birth ; so that with propriety it may be denominated na. tive depravity. Some of the reasons for adopting this sentiment I will briefly state.
1. Native depravity is a doctrine which grows out of correct views of the paradisaic covenant, or that divine constitution (as some would prefer to call it,) which made Adam the representative of his race. In that covenant there was a probation, in which the whole race were deeply concerned, because on the conduct of our father and federal head, depended the character with which we should commence our existence as moral beings. As soon as he had violated the covenant, and become a rebel against God, the matter was decided that all his posterity would be rebels ; not that on trial they would turn from their loyalty, as he did, but that they, considered merely as his descendants, would never possess any loyalty. His defection ensured the descent of a sinful, and therefore guilty character to his offspring. Of the verification of this descent the sacred history reminds us, when it says, “ Adam begat a son in his own likeness, after his image.” His moral likeness is undoubtedly the thing intended ; and his son's being begotten in this likeness, implies the certainty that his existence, considered as a moral agent, would commence with a character resembling that of his apostate father. When it is said that God created man after his own image, it does not imply that man bore the moral image of God, while as yet he had nothing but a mere body. So when Adam is said to beget a son after his image, it can not mean that his son would bear his moral image, until he had a soul suscepti, ble of it; but it evidently implies that this would be true of him as soon as he had such a soul. In the same way are we to understand David, when he testifies, “I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
But when do men first have rational souls, and become candidates for the rewards of the eternal world ? If there be some starting point which is common to the race, (and it would seem unreasonable to sup. pose there is none,) what other time have we equal reason to fix upon,
as the day of our birth? In favor of fixing upon this, let it be remarked,
Ist. This is properly the time when every man, considered as an individual, begins his existence. Until its birth the child is not a dis. tinct person, but is in reality a constituent part of its mother. But the moment it is born into the world, this connection is dissolved, and its individuality is as complete as it will be in any subsequent period of life.
2dly. Since the first man, on the entrance of the breath into his nostrils, became a living soul; and now began, as I conclude all will grant, his immortal existence; is it not rational to believe, that as soon as the Lord God breathes into a child the breath of life, he becomes not only a living, but also an immortal being? Though the breath, which animates the body, is quite a different thing from the deathless soul, is there not reason for the belief that they are both received at once ?
3dly. If our birth be not the dividing line between a state of mere mortality and immortality, I think no one will pretend that he can tell where to fix it. But is there not something in the word of God, (at least a hint,) which will enable us to decide this question ?
Why is not the following passage to the point ? " Or as the hidden untimely birth,” said the afflicted Job, “ I had not been; as infants which never saw the light.” Again he said, “I should have been as though I had not been." Job. iii. 16, and x. 19.* Now if our immortality extends back to our birth; if we enter on life with a never-dying soul, this is the most natural place where to fix the commencement of our character. Can we believe that the rational soul has become a candidate for future and eternal rewards, and that it still remains destitute of character ? Where reason has well nigh established a point, it seems to require less scriptural proof. There is a passage in the ninth chapter of Romans which is, perhaps, sufficient to establish the point now in question. It is this : “ For the children not being yet born, neither having done any good or evil.” Does not this declaration clearly import, that children before their birth, (which was then the condition of Rebecca's sons,) have no moral character, either good or bad; but that after their birth the same can no longer be affirmed of them ?t I proceed to remark,
* I have heard it intimated, that whatever proof is drawn from the book of Job, to support a doctrine, is inadmissible. I am aware that there are speakers, introduced in this book, who advance opinions which are incorrect. The same is also true of other canonical books. We well know that what Satan said, to disprove the disinterestedness of Job's religion; and what his three friends said to prove him to be a hypocrite; and what Job himself said in way of complaint of God's dealings towards him, was all of it wrong. The book itself furnishes us with ample means for correcting these mistakes; and at the same time it reflects much light on subjects of the greatest importance. And why may we not avail ourselves of this light? job and his three friends, and also Elihu, were all united in their sentiments on such topics as the greatness and holiness of God, the immortality and accountableness of man, his original and renovated character, &c. Their declarations on these subjects have always been considered as scripture proof or divine testimony. And what reason can be assigned, why the declarations of Job on the interesting subject, relative to the time from which to date man's immortality, should be disregarded ? This was a point on which information was required : and here it is given. If we do not receive it, do we not seem to show that, on this point at least, we are willingly ignorant? Solomon's view of this subject appears to have been the same as Job's. See Ecl. iv. 3.
+ It will perhaps be said, there are other passages which represent children to be des
2. If we possess any character as far back as the time of our birth, the scripture warrants us to believe it to be a sinful one. The children of men are not represented as making their outset in life with a good character, but the reverse. Paul, told the Ephesian saints that they were by nature the children of wrath, even as others; implying that all are children of wrath, and, consequently, children of disobedience; and that it is by nature they are so. Eph. ii. 3. It is ex. pressly declared, “ the wicked are estranged from the womb, they go astray as soon as they are born.” Ps. lviii. 3. It is calculated to induce us to believe that the passage, just quoted from the Psalms, actually in. tended to trace human depravity back to the very birth, when we look at such parallel passages as these : “ How can he be clean that is born of a woman ?” “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean ? Not one." Job. xiv. 4 ; xxv. 4. It is here spoken of as though it would constitute a perfect anomaly, were a single child to be born into the world, without possessing the depraved nature of its parent,
3. The holiness of the infant Jesus is spoken of in such a way as to implicate the character of all other infants. “ Therefore also," said Gabriel to the virgin, “that holy thing, which shall be born of thee, shall be called the son of God.” Luke i. 35.
Luke i. 35. This implied, that the child was she about to bring forth, would be a moral anomaly, an entire exception from that constituted state of things, which made every other mother to bring forth a polluted unholy thing. The reason was given her, why her child would be an exception, namely, on account of its being conceived by the power of the Highest overshadowing her. Who does not believe that the infant Jesus differed from all other in. fants ? And is there in reality any more difficulty in forming an idea of the difference between a holy and a depraved infant, than of the differ. ence between a holy and a depraved child, or a holy and a depraved adult?
4. - Such is the representation which the scriptures make of the de. pravity of childhood, that it tends greatly to establish the doctrine of infant depravity. Solomon says, “Childhood and youth are vanity :" again, “ Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child.” Eccl. xi. 10. Prov. xxii. 15. Those who mocked the prophet Elisha, and were suddenly destroyed by the vengeance of God, are not only called children, but “ little children.” 2 Kin. ii. 23. In the ninth chapter of Ezekiel, the prophet gives an account of a vision which he had of Jerusalem, when a man with a writer's inkhorn was commanded to go through the city, and put a mark on all those who sighed and cried for the abominations which were done in it. He then heard this commission
titute of character for some time after their birth. God told Jonah, that in Ninevah there were more than six-score thousand persons that could not discern between their right hand and their left hand. This text clearly proves that infants have but little knowledge; but it does not furnish any proof of their entire destitution of character, like that which speaks of Jacob and Esau in their unborn state. The prophet Isaiah foretold an event, which he declared would happen before the virgin's child should know to refuse the evil and choose the good. Isa. vii. 16. This passage, like the other, may be considered merely as a description of the scantiness of a child's intellect, which renders him incapable of discriminating between things harmful and things useful. But antecedent to a child's capability of making any rational distinctions between good and evil, either in things natural, or moral, he may possess a taste both corporeal and mental, which prepares him to like one kind of natural and moral objects, and to dislike those of a contrary nature.