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Charles G. Finney
(29/08/1792 - 16/8/1875)




LECTURES

ON

SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY
~ 1847 ~


  • PREFACE
    • FINNEY'S LECTURES

      ON

      SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY

      1847

      [Title Page]

      LECTURES

      ON

      SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY,

      EMBRACING

      ABILITY, (natural, moral and gracious,) REPENTANCE,

      IMPENITENCE, FAITH AND UNBELIEF, JUSTIFICATION, SANCTIFICATION,

      ELECTION, REPROBATION, DIVINE PURPOSES, DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY,

      AND PERSEVERANCE

      --------------------

      BY

      REV. CHAS. G. FINNEY,

      PROFESSOR OF THEOLOGY IN OBERLIN COLLEGIATE INSTITUTE.

      OBERLIN; JAMES M. FITCH.

      NEW YORK; CLARK & AUSTIN, [Successors to Saxton & Miles.]

      BOSTON; CROCKER & BREWSTER

      1847.

      Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1847,

      by CHARLES G. FINNEY,

      in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the District of Ohio.

      ---------------------------

      OBERLIN PRESS.

      J. M. FITCH, PRINTER.

      ------------

      PREFACE.

      I HAVE not yet been able to stereotype my theological views, and have ceased to expect ever to do so. The idea is preposterous. None but an omniscient mind can continue to maintain a precise identity of views and opinions. Finite minds, unless they are asleep. or stultified by prejudice, must advance in knowledge. The discovery of new truth will modify old views and opinions, and there is perhaps no end to this process with finite minds in any world. True christian consistency consists, not in stereotyping our opinions and views and in refusing to make any improvement in knowledge lest we should be guilty of change, but it consists in holding our minds open to receive the rays of truth from every quarter, and in changing our views and language and practice as often and as fast as we can obtain further information. I call this christian consistency because this course alone accords with a christian profession. A christian profession implies the profession of candor and of a disposition to know and to obey all truth. It must follow that christian consistency implies continued investigation and change of views and practice corresponding with increasing knowledge. No christian therefore, and no theologian should be afraid to change his views, his language, or his practices in conformity with increasing light. The adoption of an opposite maxim would keep the world, at best, at a perpetual stand-still, on all subjects of science, and all improvements would be precluded.

      Hundreds of years since, when intellectual and moral science was a wilderness, an assembly of divines, as they are called, affecting to cast off popery, undertook to stereotype the theology of the church and to think for all future generations, thus making themselves popes in perpetuum. Every uninspired attempt to frame for the church an authoritative standard of opinion which shall be regarded as an unquestionable exposition of the word of God, is not only impious in itself, but it is also a tacit assumption of the fundamental dogma of Papacy. The assembly of divines did more than to assume the necessity of a pope to give law to the opinions of men; they assumed to create an immortal one or rather to embalm their own creed and preserve it as the pope of all generations. That the instrument framed by that assembly should in the nineteenth century be recognized as the standard of the church, or of an intelligent branch of it, is not only amazing but I must say that it is highly ridiculous. It is as absurd in theology as it would be in any other branch of science, and as injurious and stultifying as it is absurd and ridiculous. It is better to have a living than a dead Pope. If we must have an authoritative expounder of the word of God let us have a living one so as not to preclude the hope of improvement. "A living dog is better than a dead lion;" so a living pope is better than a dead and stereotyped confession of faith that holds all men to subscribe to its unalterable dogmas and its unvarying termonology[sic.]. Whether this was ever intended by its authors or not, such is the use made of the instrument in question. In the volume published last year I informed my readers that should I ever publish my course of instruction, as teacher of Systematic Theology, entire, one volume at least would precede that. The present volume will be the third of the series. The reasons for publishing in this order are:

      1. The necessities of my classes. They need class books, especially on those topics in theology which are contained in the volume now given to the world. The same is true indeed of points open which I have not yet published; but upon these they more especially needed something more to read than has hitherto appeared. Let it be understood, however, that these volumes are not intended to preclude original investigation but on the contrary to encourage and forward it. They are designed not to forestall and preclude, but to mark out the general outline of the course of discussion pursued in our classes. I hold myself sacredly bound, not to defend these positions at all events, but on the contrary to subject every one of them to the most thorough discussion and to hold and treat them as I would the opinions of any one else; that is, if upon further discussion and investigation I see no cause to change, I hold them fast: but if I can see a flaw in any one of them, I shall amend or wholly reject it, as further light shall demand. Should I refuse or fail to do this, I should need to blush for my folly and inconsistency, for I say again that true christian consistency implies progress in knowledge and holiness, and such changes in theory and in practice as are demanded by increasing light. The opinions advanced in this and the preceding volume, I at present honestly entertain. In reviewing the previous volume, I can already see wherein, in several respects, the phraseology might be improved and the sentiment modified. Should I rewrite it a hundred times, I have no expectation that I should not continue to see how it might be improved. I have no doubt the same will be true of the present volume. On the strictly fundamental questions in theology my views have not, for many years, undergone any other change than that I have clearer apprehensions of them than formerly and should now state some of them differently from what I formerly should have done.

      It is our custom in this Institution to settle every question, especially in theology, by discussion. I have now for twelve years been going annually over my course of instruction in this manner, and owe not a little to my classes, for I have availed myself to the uttermost of the learning and sagacity and talent of every member of my classes in pushing my investigations. I call on them to discuss the questions which I present for discussion, and take my seat among them and help and guide them according to my ability; and not unfrequently, I am happy to say, do I get some useful instruction from them. Thus I sustain the double relation of pupil and teacher.

      I am also much indebted to my beloved associates in teaching. My brethren of the Faculty often afford me invaluable aid in many ways. Very full and frequent interchange of views has been of great service to me. The present volume appears at an earlier date than I anticipated. The lectures it contains have hitherto existed only in skeleton form. I sat down last winter to write them out and completed about one half of them and was then induced to leave and spend the remainder of my vacation in Michigan laboring in revivals. I returned much wearied, not intending to write or publish this summer, but was overruled by the solicitations of those who take an interest in their publication, and have, in the midst of much bodily exhaustion and labor, both as Professor and Pastor, written out the remainder of the volume as it now appears. I have done the best I could under the circumstances.

      2. Another reason for publishing at this time and in this order is, I have been represented as differing so widely from many who are esteemed orthodox, that it is no more than just that one in my relations should define his position and give to the church the substance of his views, especially if he be reported as not sound in the faith.

      3. Because I do not differ so widely from the commonly received views as I have often been represented as doing; and,

      4. That by subjecting my views to a more extended criticism than can be had in our circle here, I might have the help of my brethren the world over, (if they will take the trouble to read and write and discuss,) in coming as near as may be, in this state of existence, to the exact truth.

      5. That before I die I may see whatever serious errors I may hold in theology and correct them if the Lord will. I do not preserve my views to be published after I am dead, to spare myself the mortification of seeing them severely criticised, and overturned if false; but on the contrary I desire to subject them to the fullest criticism, that whatever is wrong in them may be thoroughly sifted out.

      As to the style in which they are written I can say nothing, except that I am aware that it is not in so good taste as I could wish. But it is in vain for me to affect or to claim literary merit. I aim at perspicuity, but am aware that I often fail in this respect. But my readers will bear with me if I do the best I can. As I am writing on christian theology I can hardly be called upon to apologize for making so copious quotations from scripture as I have done. Yet some may think that I have been needlessly prolix in this respect. My object has been, in many cases, to give the student a view rather of the general tenor of scripture upon the points under consideration than to give but few isolated passages. I have sometimes repeatedly quoted the same passages in different connexions. This I have done alone for the sake of perspicuity and to avoid the necessity, in reading, of hesitating to remember the language of the passage referred to. Perhaps I have done this too frequently to edify those who are familiar with their bibles. If so, they can without trouble pass over those passages that are requoted, while those less familiar with their bibles may be edified by finding the living oracles so copiously and so repeatedly spread before their eyes. Indeed there are many parts of scripture that are so striking and always so new and interesting to me that I am never tired of seeing, hearing or reading them.

      I trust I shall not be sorry to see any reviews of this or any other volume of mine, when it appears that the reviewer has examined for himself, and understands my work, and is manifestly inquiring after truth. I will not promise to regard cavilers or any who may be disposed to find fault without really knowing "what they say or whereof they affirm." Let us have the truth, come from whomsoever it will.

      I have not hesitated in this volume to make free use of what I had before written and published in another form. I have done this when I could, not only to save labor, but to avoid the appearance of affecting to say something new upon the same subjects; but I have found it necessary to change my former phraseology considerably. This, as I have said, I always expect to continue to do while I keep my mind awake to inquiry and open to conviction.

      As the reader will perceive I am also indebted to Prof. Morgan for an article on the holiness of christians in this life. With his leave I inserted it, because it will more edify the student than any thing I could say upon that subject. This was prepared to my hand and deserved a most permanent form than that of a mere pamphlet.

      THE AUTHOR

      Oberlin, August 25th, 1847.

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  • LECTURE 45 - VARIOUS CLASSES OF TRUTH
    • LECTURE XLV.

      VARIOUS CLASSES OF TRUTHS,

      AND THE MANNER IN WHICH THE HUMAN MIND ATTAINS TO A KNOWLEDGE OF THEM.

      Before we proceed further in these investigations, I must call your attention to a subject that properly belongs at the beginning of this course of study, and which will be found there, should these lectures ever be published in their proper order: I allude to the various classes of truths to come under consideration in this course of instruction, with the manner in which we arrive at a knowledge or belief of them. All human investigations proceed upon the assumption of the existence and validity of our faculties, and that their unequivocal testimony may be relied upon. To deny this, is to set aside at once the possibility of knowledge or rational belief, and to give up the mind to universal skepticism. The classes of truths to which we shall be called upon to attend in our investigations, may be divided with sufficient accuracy for our purpose, into truths that need no proof, and truths that need proof. The human mind is so constituted that by virtue of its own laws, it necessarily perceives, recognizes, or knows some truths without testimony from without. It takes direct cognizance of them, and can not but do so.

      The first class, that is, truths that need no proof, may be subdivided into truths of the pure reason, and truths of sensation. These two classes are in some sense self-evident, but not in the same sense. Truths of the pure reason are intuitions of that faculty, and truths of sensation are intuitions of the senses. I shall therefore speak of self-evident truths of reason, and self-evident truths of sensation. I must assume that you possess some knowledge of psychology, and take it for granted that you understand the difference between the intuitions of reason, and the intuitions of sense.

      By self-evident truths of reason, then, I mean that class of truths that are directly intuited and affirmed by that faculty, in the light of their own evidence, and by virtue of its own laws, whenever they are so stated that the terms of the proposition in which they are conveyed are understood. They are not arrived at by reasoning, or by evidence of any kind except what they have in themselves. As soon as the terms of the propositions in which they are stated, are understood, the reason instantly and positively affirms their truth. It is unnecessary and preposterous to attempt any other proof of this class of truths than to frame a perspicuous statement of them. Nay, it is positively injurious, because absurd, to attempt to prove--in the common acceptation of the term prove--a self-evident truth of reason. All attempts to prove such truths by reasoning, involve an absurdity, and are as much a work of supererogation, as it would be to attempt to prove that you see an object with your eyes fully open and set upon it.

      The mathematical axioms belong to this class.

      The self-evident truths of reason are truths of certain knowledge. When once so stated, or in any way presented to the mind as to be understood, the mind does not merely believe them, it knows them to be absolutely true. That is, it perceives them to be absolute truths, and knows that it is impossible that they should not be true. Although this class of truths are never arrived at by reasoning, yet much use is made of them in reasoning, since the major premise of a syllogism is often a self-evident truth of reason.

      This class of truths are affirmed by a faculty entirely distinct from the understanding, or that power that gains all its knowledges from sense. It takes cognizance of a class of truths that from their nature, forever lie concealed from the senses, and consequently from the understanding. Sensation can never give us the abstract truths of mathematics. It can never give us the absolute, or the infinite. It can not give moral law, or law at all. Sensation can give facts, but not laws and principles.

      That God, and space, and duration, are infinite; that all God's attributes must be infinite, are self-evident truths of reason; that is, they are truths of a priori, affirmation and assumption. They are never arrived at by reasoning, or by induction, and never can be. The mind only knows them by virtue of its own laws, and directly assumes and intuits them, whenever they are suggested. The eye of reason sees them as distinctly as the mind sees objects of vision presented to the fleshly organ of vision. The mind is so constructed that it sees some things with the natural fleshly eye, and some truths it sees directly with its own eye without the use of an eye of flesh. All the self-evident truths of reason belong to this class; that is, they are truths which the mind sees and knows, and does not merely believe. In reasoning, the bare statement of a self-evident truth is enough, provided, as has been said, that it is so perspicuously stated that the terms of the proposition are understood. It should be borne in mind, in reasoning, that all men have minds, and that the laws of knowledge are physical, and, of course, fixed, and common to all men. The conditions of knowledge are in all men the same. We are therefore always to assume that self-evident truths can not but be known, so soon as they are stated with such perspicuity as that the terms in which they are expressed are understood. Our future inquiries will present many illustrations of the truth of these remarks.

      It should be also remarked that universality is an attribute of the self-evident truths of reason. That is, they are universal in the sense,

      (1.) That all men affirm them to be true when they understand them; and,

      (2.) They all affirm them to be true in the same way; that is, by direct intuition, or they perceive them in their own light, and not through the medium of reasoning, demonstration, or sense; and,

      (3.) Self-evident truths of reason are true without exception, and in this sense also universal.

      (4.) Necessity is also an attribute of self-evident truths. That is, they are necessarily true, and cannot but be so regarded. And when the conditions which have been named are fulfilled, they can not but be so known to every moral agent.

      Self-evident truths of reason may be again divided into truths merely self-evident, and first-truths of reason. This class of truths possess all the characteristics of self-evident truths, to wit: they are universal truths; they are necessary truths; they are truths of direct intuition; they are truths of certain knowledge.

      Their peculiarity is this: they are truths that are necessarily and universally known by moral agents. That is, they are not distinguished from mere self-evident truths of reason, except by the fact that from the laws of moral agency they are known universally, and all moral agents do and must possess certain knowledge of them.

      They are truths of necessary and universal assumption. Whether they are, at all times, or at any time, directly thought of, or made the particular object of the mind's attention or not, they are nevertheless at all times assumed by a law of universal necessity. Suppose, for example, that the law of causality should not be, at all times or at any time, a subject of distinct thought and attention. Suppose that the proposition in words, should never be in the mind, "that every event must have a cause." Still the truth is there, in the form of absolute knowledge, a necessary assumption, an a priori affirmation, and the mind has so firm a hold of it as to be utterly unable to overlook, or forget, or practically deny it. Every mind has it as a certain knowledge, long before it can understand the language in which it is expressed, and no statement or evidence whatever can give the mind any firmer conviction of its truth, than it had from necessity at first. This is true of all the truths of this class. They are always and necessarily assumed by all moral agents, whether distinctly thought of or not. And for the most part this class of truths are assumed without being frequently, or at least, without being generally the object of thought or direct attention. The mind assumes them without a direct consciousness of the assumption.

      For example, we act every moment, and judge, and reason, and believe, upon the assumption that every event must have a cause, and yet we are not conscious of thinking of this truth, nor that we assume it until something calls the attention to it. First-truths of reason, then, let it be distinctly remembered, are always and necessarily assumed, though they may be seldom thought of. They are universally known before the words are understood by which they may be expressed, and although they may never be expressed in a formal proposition, yet the mind has as certain a knowledge of them as it has of its own existence.

      But it is proper to inquire whether there are any conditions of this assumption, and if so, what they are? Does the intelligence make this assumption upon certain conditions, or independent of all or any conditions? The true answer to this inquiry is, that the mind makes the assumption only upon the fulfillment of certain conditions. These conditions being fulfilled, the intelligence instantly and necessarily makes the assumption by a law of its own nature, and makes it whether the assumption be a distinct object of consciousness or not.

      The only condition of this assumption that needs to be mentioned, is the perception of that by the mind to which the first truth sustains the relation of a logical antecedent or of a logical condition. For example, to develop and necessitate the assumption that every event must have a cause, the mind only needs to perceive or to have the conception of an event, whereupon the assumption in question instantly follows by a law of the intelligence. This assumption is not a logical deduction from any premise whatever, but upon the perception of an event, or upon the mind's having the idea or notion of an event, the intelligence irresistably, by virtue of its own laws, assumes the first-truth of causality as the logical and necessary condition of the event: that is, it assumes that an event and every event must have a cause.

      The condition upon which the first-truths of reason are assumed or developed, is called the chronological condition of their development, because it is prior in time and in the order of nature to their development. The mind perceives an event. It thereupon assumes the first-truth of causality. It perceives body, and thereupon assumes the first-truth. space is, and must be. It perceives succession, and necessarily assumes that time is, and must be. These first-truths, let it be repeated, are not assumed in the form of a proposition, thought of or expressed in words, nor is the mind at the time always, or perhaps ever, at first, distinctly conscious of the assumption, yet the truth is from that moment within the mind's inalienable possession, and must forever after be recognized in all the practical judgments of the mind.

      Thus, it should be distinctly said, do the first-truths of reason lie so deep in the mind as perhaps seldom to appear directly on the field of conscious thought, and yet so absolutely does the mind know them, that it can no more forget, or overlook, or practically deny them, than it can forget, or overlook, or in practice deny its own existence.

      I have said that all reasoning proceeds upon the assumption of these truths. It must do so of necessity. It is preposterous to attempt to prove first-truths to a moral agent: for if a moral agent, he must absolutely know them already, and if he did not, in no possible way could he be put in possession of them except by presenting to his perception the chronological condition of their development, and in no case could any thing else be needed, for upon the occurrence of this perception, the assumption or development follows by a law of absolute and universal necessity. And until these truths are actually developed, no being can be a moral agent.

      There is no reasoning with one who calls in question the first-truths of reason, and demands proof of them. All reasoning must, from the nature of mind and the laws of reasoning, assume the first-truths of reason as certain, and admitted, and as the a priori condition of all logical deductions and demonstrations. Some one of these must be assumed as true, directly or indirectly, in every syllogism and in every demonstration.

      In all our future investigations in the line of truth we shall pursue, we shall have abundant occasions for the application and illustration of what has now been said of first-truths of reason. If, at any stage of our progress, we light upon a truth of this class, let it be borne in mind that the nature of the truth is the preclusion, or as lawyers would express it, the estopple of all controversy.

      To deny the reality of this class of truths, is to deny the validity of our most perfect knowledge and of course it is a denial of the validity of our faculties. The only question to be settled in respect to this class of truths, is, does the truth in question belong to this class? There are many of this class that have not been generally recognized as belonging to it. Of this we shall have abundant instances fall in our way as we proceed in our investigations. There are many truths which men, all sane men, certainly know, of which they not only seldom think, but which, in theory, they strenuously deny.

      Before I dismiss this branch of our subject, I will mention some of the many truths that undeniably belong to this class, leaving others to be mentioned as we proceed and fall in with them in future investigations.

      I have already noticed three of this class, to wit; the truth of causality--the existence of space and of time. That the whole of any thing is equal to all its parts, is also a truth of this class, universally and necessarily known and assumed by every moral agent. Also, that a thing cannot be and not be at the same time.

      A third class of self-evident truths are particular truths of reason. The reason directly intuits and affirms them. They are truths of certain knowledge, but have not the attributes of universality or infinity. To this class belong the truths of our own existence, of personal identity, and individuality. These are not truths of sensation, nor are they first or self-evident truths according to the common use of those terms. Yet they are truths of rational intuition, and are seen to be true in the light of their own evidence, and as such are given to us as undoubtable verities by consciousness.

      All the truths that come within the pale of our own experience, that is, all our mental exercises and states are truths self-evident to us. We need no proof of them. Whether they are phenomena or states of the Intellect, of the Will, or of the Sensibility. When thus spoken of, in mass, they can not be called self-evident truths, except in the sense that to ourselves they appear on the field of consciousness as facts or realities, and we know or affirm them with undoubting certainty.

      Truths of sensation I have said, are in a certain sense, self-evident truths. That is, they are facts of which the mind has direct knowledge through the medium of the senses. In speaking of truths of sensation as in some sense self-evident, I mean of course truths or facts of our own senses, or those revealed directly to us by our own senses. I know it is not common to speak of this class of truths as self-evident; and they are not so in the sense in which simple rational intuitions are. Yet they are facts or truths which need no proof to establish them to us. The fact that I hold this pen in my hand is as really self-evident to me, as that three and two are five. I as really know or perceive the one as the other, and neither the one nor the other needs any proof. It is not my design to exhaust this subject, nor to enter upon nice and highly metaphysical distinctions, but only to give hints and make suggestions that will call your attention to the subject, and meet our necessities during our present course of study, leaving it to your convenience to enter upon a more critical analysis of this subject.

      Of truths that require proof, the first class to which I must call attention, is the truths of demonstration. This class of truths admit of so high a degree of proof, that when the demonstration is complete, the intelligence affirms that it is impossible that they should not be true. This class when truly demonstrated, are known to be true with no less certainty than self-evident truths; but the mind arrives not at the perception and knowledge of them in the same way. That class is arrived at universally, directly and a priori, that is, by direct intuition without reasoning. This class is arrived at universally by reasoning. The former are obtained without any logical processes, while this last class is always and necessarily obtained as a result of a logical process. We often get these truths by a process strictly logical without being at all aware of the way in which we came to be possessed of them. This class, then, unlike the other, are not to be communicated and established without reasoning, but by reasoning. In this class of truths the mind from its own laws will not rest, unless they be demonstrated. They admit of demonstration, and from their nature and the nature of the intelligence, they must be demonstrated before they can be known and rested in as certain knowledge. Many of them may be received in the sense of being believed without an absolute demonstration. But the mind cannot properly be said to know them until it has gone through with the demonstration, and then it can not but know them.

      To possess the mind of a first-truth of reason you need only to present the chronological condition of its development. To reveal a self-evident truth of reason, you need only to state it in terms of sufficient perspicuity. But to prove a truth belonging to the class now under consideration you must fulfill the logical conditions of the intellect's affirming it. That is, you must demonstrate it.

      The next class to be considered are truths of revelation. I mean truths revealed by Divine Inspiration. All truths are in some way revealed to the mind, but not all by the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Some of this class are known and some only believed by the mind. That is, some of these truths are objects or truths of knowledge or of intuition, when brought by the Holy Spirit within the field of vision or of intuition. Others of them are only truths of faith or truths to be believed. The divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ is a truth of revelation of the first class, that is, a truth of intuition or of certain knowledge when revealed to the mind by the Holy Spirit. This truth when thus revealed, the pure reason directly intuits. It knows that Jesus is the true God, and eternal life by the same law by which it knows the first truths of reason. The only account the soul can give of this truth is, that it knows it to be true. It sees or perceives it to be true. But this perception or intuition is conditionated upon the revelation of the Holy Spirit. "He shall take of mine," said Jesus, "and show it unto you." More on this topic in its proper place. The facts and truths connected with the humanity of the Lord Jesus are of the second class of truths of revelation, that is, they are only truths of belief or of faith, as distinct from truths of the pure reason or of intuition.

      This class of truths from their nature are not susceptible of intuition. They may be so revealed that the soul will have no doubt of them, and hardly distinguish them from truths of certain knowledge, nevertheless they are only believed and not certainly known as truths of intuition are.

      The Bible is not of itself, strictly and properly a revelation to man. It is, properly speaking, rather a history of revelations formerly made to certain men. To be a revelation to us, its truths must be brought by the Holy Spirit within the field of spiritual vision. This is, past question, the condition of our either knowing or properly believing the truths of revelation. "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Spirit." "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me, draw him." "They shall all be taught of God." "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." "He that is spiritual, [has the Spirit,] judgeth all things."

      But I must not in this place dwell longer upon this subject. I would only add now that those who call in question the divinity of Christ exhibit conclusive evidence that Christ has never been revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. Those who hold his divinity as a theory or opinion, are not at all benefitted by it, for Christ is not savingly known to any except by the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

      To the classes of truths already considered might be added several others, such as Probable Truths, Possible Truths, &c. But I have carried this discussion far enough to answer the purposes of this course of instruction, and I trust far enough to impress your minds with a sense of the importance of attending to the classifying of truths and of ascertaining the particular class to which a truth belongs as the condition of successfully attempting to gain the possession of it yourself, or of possessing the minds of others with it. As religious teachers you can not be too deeply impressed with the importance of attending to this classification. I am fully convinced that much of the inefficiency of religious teachers is owing to the fact that they do not sufficiently study and comply with the laws of knowledge and belief to carry conviction to the minds of their hearers. They seem not to have considered different classes of truths, and how the mind comes to possess a knowledge or belief of them. Consequently they either spend time in worse than useless efforts to prove first or self-evident truths, or expect truths susceptible of demonstration to be received and rested in, without such demonstration. They often make little or no distinction between the different classes of truths, and seldom or never call the attention of their hearers to this distinction. Consequently they confuse and often confound their hearers by gross violations of all the laws of logic, knowledge, and belief. I have often been pained and even agonized at the faultiness of religious teachers in this respect. Study to show yourself approved, workmen that need not to be ashamed, and able to commend yourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

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  • LECTURE 46 - NATURAL ABILITY
    • LECTURE XLVI.

      NATURAL ABILITY.

       

      IN discussing this subject I will endeavor to show,

      I. THE EDWARDEAN NOTION OF NATURAL ABILITY.

      II. THAT THIS NATURAL ABILITY IS NO ABILITY AT ALL.

      III. WHAT CONSTITUTES NATURAL INABILITY ACCORDING TO THIS SCHOOL.

      IV. THAT THIS NATURAL INABILITY IS NO INABILITY AT ALL.

      V. THAT NATURAL ABILITY IS PROPERLY IDENTICAL WITH FREEDOM OR LIBERTY OF WILL.

      VI. THAT THE HUMAN WILL IS FREE, AND THEREFORE MEN ARE NATURALLY ABLE TO OBEY GOD.

      We next proceed to the examination of the question of man's ability or inability to obey the commandments of God. This certainly must be a fundamental question in morals and religion, and as our views are upon this subject, so, if we are consistent, must be our views of God, of his moral government, and of every practical doctrine of morals and religion. This is too obvious to require proof. The question of ability has truly been a vexed question. In the discussion of it, I shall consider the elder President Edwards as the representative of the common Calvinistic view of this subject, because he has stated it more clearly than any other Calvinistic author with whom I am acquainted. When, therefore, I speak of the Edwardean doctrine of ability and inability, you will understand me to speak of the common view of Calvinistic theological writers as stated, summed up, and defended by Edwards.

      I. I AM TO SHOW WHAT IS THE EDWARDEAN NOTION OF NATURAL ABILITY.

      Edwards considers freedom and ability as identical. He defines freedom or liberty to consist in "the power, opportunity, or advantage, that any one has, to do as he pleases." "Or in other words his being free from hindrance or impediment in the way of doing or conducting in any respect as he wills."--Works, Vol. ii, page 38.

      Again, page 39, he says, "One thing more I should observe concerning what is vulgarly called liberty; namely, that power and opportunity for one to do and conduct as he will, or according to his choice, is all that is meant by it; without taking into the meaning of the word any thing of the cause of that choice; or at all considering how the person came to have such a volition; whether it was caused by some external motive or internal habitual bias; whether it was determined by some internal antecedent volition, or whether it happened without a cause; whether it was necessarily connected with something foregoing or not connected. Let the person come by his choice any how, yet, if he is able, and there is nothing in the way to hinder his pursuing and exerting his will, the man is perfectly free, according to the primary and common notion of freedom." " In the preceding paragraph, he says, "There are two things contrary to what is called liberty in common speech. One is constraint; which is a person's being necessitated to do a thing contrary to his will: the other is restraint, which is his being hindered, and not having power to do according to his will."

      Power, ability, liberty, to do as you will, are synonymous with this writer. The foregoing quotations with many like passages that might be quoted from the same author, show that natural liberty, or natural ability, according to him, consists in the natural and established connexion between volition and its effects. Thus he says in another place, "Men are justly said to be able to do what they can do if they will." His definition of natural ability or natural liberty, as he frequently calls it, wholly excludes the power to will, and includes only the power or ability to execute our volitions. Thus it is evident that natural ability according to him respects external action only, and has nothing to do with willing. When there is no restraint or hindrance to the execution of volition, when there is nothing interposed to disturb and prevent the natural and established result of our volitions, there is natural ability according to this school. It should be distinctly understood that Edwards and those of his school, hold that choices, volitions, and all acts of will, are determined not by the sovereign power of the agent, but are caused by the objective motive, and that there is the same connection, or a connection as certain and as unavoidable between motive and choice as between any physical cause and its effect: "the difference being," according to him, "not in the nature of the connexion, but in the terms connected." Hence, according to his view, natural liberty or ability can not consist in the power of willing or of choice, but must consist in the power to execute our choices or volitions. Consequently this class of philosophers define free or moral agency to consist in the power to do as one wills, or power to execute one's purposes, choices, or volitions. That this is a fundamentally false definition of natural liberty or ability, and of free or moral agency, we shall see in due time. It is also plain that the natural ability or liberty of Edwards and his school, has nothing to do with morality or immorality. Sin and holiness, as we have seen in a former lecture, are attributes of acts of will only. But this natural ability respects, as has been said, outward or muscular action only. Let this be distinctly borne in mind as we proceed.

      II. THIS NATURAL ABILITY IS NO ABILITY AT ALL.

      1. We know from consciousness that the will is the executive faculty and that we can do absolutely nothing without willing. The power or ability to will is indispensable to our acting at all. If we have not power to will, we have not power or ability to do any thing. All ability or power to do resides in the will, and power to will is the necessary condition of ability to do. In morals and religion, as we shall soon see, the willing is the doing. The power to will is the condition of obligation to do. Let us hear Edwards himself upon this subject. Vol. ii, page 156, he says "the will itself and not only those actions which are the effects of the will, is the proper object of precept or command. That is, such a state or acts of men's wills, are in many cases properly required of them by commands; and not only those alterations in the state of their bodies or minds that are the consequences of volition. This is most manifest; for it is the mind only that is properly and directly the subject of precepts or commands; that only being capable of receiving or perceiving commands. The motions of the body are matters of command only as they are subject to the soul, and connected with its acts. But the soul has no other faculty whereby it can, in the most direct and proper sense, consent, yield to, or comply with any command, but the faculty of the will;. and it is by this faculty only that the soul can directly disobey or refuse compliance; for the very notions of consenting, yielding, accepting, complying, refusing, rejecting, &c., are, according to the meaning of terms, nothing but certain acts of will." Thus we see that Edwards himself held that the will is the executive faculty, and that the soul can do nothing except as it wills to do it, and that for this reason a command to do, is strictly a command to will. We shall see by and by, that he held also that the willing and the doing are identical so far as moral obligation, morals, and religion are concerned. For the present, it is enough to say, whether Edwards or any body else ever held it or not, that it is absurd and sheer nonsense to talk of an ability to do when there is no ability to will. Every one knows with intuitive certainty that he has no ability to do what he is unable to will to do. It is, therefore, the veriest folly to talk of a natural ability to do any thing whatever, when we exclude from this ability the power to will. If there is no ability to will, there is, and can be no ability to do; therefore the natural ability of the Edwardean school is no ability at all.

      Let it be distinctly understood, that whatever Edwards held in respect to the ability of man to do, ability to will entered not at all into his idea and definition of natural ability or liberty. But according to him, natural ability respects only the connexion that is established by a law of nature between volition and its sequents, excluding altogether the inquiry how the volition comes to exist. This the foregoing quotations abundantly show. Let the impression, then, be distinct, that the Edwardean natural ability is no ability at all, and nothing but an empty name, a metaphysico-theological FICTION.

      III. WHAT CONSTITUTES NATURAL INABILITY ACCORDING TO THIS SCHOOL.

      Edwards, Vol. ii, page 35, says, "We are said to be naturally unable to do a thing when we can not do it if we will, because what is most commonly called nature does not allow of it, or because of some impeding defect or obstacle that is extrinsic to the Will; either in the faculty of understanding, constitution of body, or external objects." This quotation, together with much that might be quoted from this author to the same effect, shows that natural inability according to him. consists in a want of power to execute our volitions. In the absence of power to do as we will, if the willing exists and the effect does not follow, it is only because we are unable to do as we will, and this is natural inability. We are naturally unable, according to him, to do what does not follow by a natural law from our volitions. If I will to move my arm, and the muscles do not obey volition, I am naturally unable to move my arm. So with any thing else. Here let it be distinctly observed that natural inability as well as natural ability respects and belongs only to outward action or doing. It has nothing to do with ability to will. Whatever Edwards held respecting ability to will, which will be shown in its proper place, I wish it to be distinctly understood that his natural inability had nothing to do with willing, but only with the effects of willing. When the natural effect of willing does not follow volition, its cause, here is a proper natural inability.

      IV. THIS NATURAL INABILITY IS NO INABILITY AT ALL.

      By this is intended that so far as morals and religion are concerned, the willing is the doing, and therefore where the willing actually takes place, the real thing required or prohibited is already done. Let us hear Edwards upon this subject. Vol. ii, page 164, he says, "If the will fully complies and the proposed effect does not prove, according to the laws of nature, to be connected with his volition, the man is perfectly excused; he has a natural inability to the thing required. For the will itself, as has been observed, is all that can be directly and immediately required by command, and other things only indirectly, as connected with the will. If, therefore, there be a full compliance of will, the person has done his duty; and if other things do not prove to be connected with his volition, that is not criminally owing to him." Here, then, it is manifest that the Edwardean notions of natural ability and inability have no connection with moral law or moral government, and, of course, with morals and religion. That the Bible every where accounts the willing as the deed, is most manifest. Both as it respects sin and holiness, if the required or prohibited act of the will takes place, the moral law and the lawgiver regard the deed as having been done, or the sin committed, whatever impediment may have prevented the natural effect from following. Here, then, let it be distinctly understood and remembered that Edward's natural inability is, so far as morals and religion are concerned, no inability at all. An inability to execute our volitions, is in no case an inability to do our whole duty, since moral obligation, and of course, duty, respect strictly, only acts of will. A natural inability must consist, as we shall see, in an inability to will. It is truly amazing that Edwards could have written the paragraph just quoted, and others to the same effect, without perceiving the fallacy and absurdity of his speculation--without seeing that the ability or inability about which he was writing had no connection with morals or religion. How could he insist so largely that moral obligation respects acts of will only, and yet spend so much time in writing about an ability or inability to comply with moral obligation that respects outward action exclusively? This, on the face of it, was wholly irrelevant to the subject of morals and religion, upon which subjects he was professedly writing.

      V. NATURAL ABILITY IS IDENTICAL WITH FREEDOM OR LIBERTY 0F WILL.

      It has been, I trust, abundantly shown in a former lecture, and is admitted and insisted on by Edwards,

      1. That moral obligation respects strictly only acts of will.

      2. That the whole of moral obligation resolves itself into an obligation to be disinterestedly benevolent, that is, to will the highest good of being for its own sake.

      3. That willing is the doing required by the true spirit of the moral law.

      Ability, therefore, to will in accordance with the moral law, must be natural ability to obey God.

      But,

      4. This is and must be the only proper freedom of the will, so far as morals and religion, or so far as moral law is concerned. That must constitute true liberty of will that consists in the ability or power to will either in accordance with or in opposition to the requirements of moral law. Or in other words, true freedom or liberty of will must consist in the power or ability to will in every instance either in accordance with, or in opposition to moral obligation. Observe, moral obligation respects acts of will. What freedom or liberty of will can there be in relation to moral obligation, unless the will or the agent has power or ability to act in conformity with moral obligation? To talk of a man's being free to will, or having liberty to will, when he has not the power or ability, is to talk nonsense. Edwards himself holds that ability to do, is indispensable to liberty to do. But if ability to do be a sine qua non of liberty to do, must not the same be true of willing?--that is, must not ability to will be essential to liberty to will? Natural ability and natural liberty to will, must then be identical. Let this be distinctly remembered, since many have scouted the doctrine of natural ability to obey God, who have nevertheless been great sticklers for the freedom of the will. In this they are greatly inconsistent. This ability is called a natural ability because it belongs to man as a moral agent, in such a sense that without it he could not be a proper subject of command, of reward or punishment. That is, without this liberty or ability he could not be a moral agent and a proper subject of moral government. He must then either possess this power in himself as essential to his own nature, or must possess power, or be able to avail himself of power to will in every instance in accordance with moral obligation. Whatever he can do he can do only by willing; he must therefore either possess the power in himself directly to will as God commands, or he must be able by willing it to avail himself of power, and to make himself willing. If he has power by nature to will directly as God requires, or by willing to avail himself of power so to will, he is naturally free and able to obey the commandments of God. Then let it be borne distinctly in mind, that natural ability, about which so much has been said, is nothing more nor less than the freedom or liberty of the will of a moral agent. No man knows what he says or whereof he affirms, who holds to the one and denies the other, for they are truly and properly identical.

      VI. THE HUMAN WILL IS FREE, THEREFORE MEN HAVE POWER OR ABILITY TO DO ALL THEIR DUTY,

      1. The moral government of God every where assumes and implies the liberty of the human will, and the natural ability of men to obey God. Every command, every threatening, every expostulation and denunciation in the Bible implies and assumes this.

      Nor does the bible do violence to the human intelligence in this assumption; for,

      2. The human mind necessarily assumes the freedom of the human will as a first-truth of reason.

      First-truths of reason, let it be remembered, are those that are necessarily assumed by every moral agent. They are assumed always and necessarily by a law of the intelligence, although they may seldom be the direct objects of thought or attention. It is a universal law of the intelligence, to assume the truths of causality, the existence and the infinity of space, the existence and infinity of duration, and many other truths. This assumption every moral agent always and necessarily takes with him, whether these things are matters of attention or not. And even should he deny any one or all of the first-truths of reason, he knows them to be true notwithstanding, and can not but assume their truth in all his practical judgments. Thus, should any one deny the law and the doctrine of causality, as some in theory have done, he knows and cannot but know, he assumes and cannot but assume its truth at every moment. Without this assumption he could not so much as intend, or think of doing, or of any one else doing any thing whatever. But a great part of his time, he may not and does not make this law a distinct object of thought or attention. Nor is he directly conscious of the assumption that there is such a law. He acts always upon the assumption, and a great part of his time is insensible of it. His whole activity is only the exercise of his own causality and a practical acknowledgement of the truth, which in theory he may deny. Now just so it is with the freedom of the will and with natural ability. Did we not assume our own liberty and ability, we should never think of attempting to do any thing. We should not so much as think of moral obligation, either as it respects ourselves or others, unless we assumed the liberty of the human will. In all our judgments respecting our own moral character and that of others we always and necessarily assume the liberty of the human will or natural ability to obey God. Although we may not be distinctly conscious of this assumption, though we may seldom make the liberty of the human will the subject of direct thought or attention, and even though we may deny its reality and strenuously endeavor to maintain the opposite, we nevertheless in this very denial and endeavor assume that we are free. This truth never was, and never can be rejected in our practical judgments. All men assume it. All men must assume it. Whenever they choose in one direction, they always assume, whether conscious of the assumption or nor, and cannot but assume that they have power to will in the opposite direction. Did they not assume this, such a thing as election between two ways or objects would not nor could not be so much as thought of. The very ideas of right and wrong, of the praise and blameworthiness of human beings, imply the assumption on the part of those who have these ideas of the universal freedom of the human will, or of the natural ability of men as moral agents to obey God. Were not this assumption in the mind, it were impossible from its own nature and laws that it should affirm moral obligation, right or wrong, praise or blameworthiness of men. I know that philosophers and theologians have in theory denied the doctrine of natural ability or liberty in the sense in which I have defined it, and I know too, that with all their theorizing, they did assume in common with all other men that man is free in the sense that he has liberty or power to will as God commands. I know that but for this assumption the human mind could no more predicate praise or blameworthiness, right or wrong of man, than it could of the motions of a wind-mill. Men have often made the assumption in question without being aware of it--have affirmed right and wrong of human willing without seeing and understanding the conditions of this affirmation. But the fact is, that in all cases and in every case the assumption has lain deep in the mind as a first truth of reason that men are free in the sense of being naturally able to obey God: and this assumption is a necessary condition of the affirmation that moral character belongs to man.

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  • LECTURE 47 - MORAL ABILITY AND INABILITY
    • LECTURE XLVII. 

      MORAL ABILITY AND INABILITY.

       

      I. WHAT CONSTITUTES MORAL INABILITY ACCORDING TO EDWARDS AND THOSE WHO HOLD WITH HIM.

      II. THAT THEIR MORAL INABILITY TO OBEY GOD CONSISTS IN REAL DISOBEDIENCE AND A NATURAL INABILITY TO OBEY.

      III. THAT THIS PRETENDED DISTINCTION BETWEEN NATURAL AND MORAL INABILITY IS NONSENSICAL,

      IV. WHAT CONSTITUTES MORAL ABILITY ACCORDING TO THIS SCHOOL.

      V. THAT THEIR MORAL ABILITY TO OBEY GOD IS NOTHING ELSE THAN REAL OBEDIENCE, AND A NATURAL INABILITY TO DISOBEY.

      I. WHAT CONSTITUTES MORAL INABILITY ACCORDING TO EDWARDS AND THOSE WHO HOLD WITH HIM.

      I examine their views of moral inability, first in order, because from their views of moral inability we ascertain more clearly what are their views of moral ability. Edwards regards moral ability and inability as identical with moral necessity. Concerning moral necessity he says, Vol. ii, pp. 32,33, "And sometimes by moral necessity is meant that necessity of connection and consequence which arises from such moral causes as the strength of inclination or motives and the connection which there is in many cases between these and such certain volitions and actions. And it is in this sense that I shall use the phrase moral necessity in the following discourse. By natural necessity as applied to men I mean such necessity as men are under through the force of natural causes, as distinguished from what are called moral causes, such as habits and dispositions of the heart, and moral motives and inducements. Thus men placed in certain circumstances are the subjects of particular sensations by necessity. They feel pain when their bodies are wounded; they see the objects presented before them in a clear light when their eyes are open: so they assent to the truth of certain propositions as soon as the terms are understood; as that two and two make four, that black is not white, that two parallel lines can never cross one another; so by a natural necessity men's bodies move downwards when there is nothing to support them. But here several things may be noted concerning these two kinds of necessity. 1. Moral necessity may be as absolute as natural necessity. That is, the effect may be as perfectly connected with its moral cause, as a natural effect is with its natural cause. Whether the will is in every case necessarily determined by the strongest motive, or whether the will ever makes any resistance to such a motive, or can ever oppose the strongest present intention or not; if that matter should be controverted, yet I suppose none will deny, but that, in some cases a previous bias and inclination or the motive presented may be so powerful that the act of the will may be certainly and indissolubly connected therewith. When motives or previous bias are very strong, all will allow that there is some difficulty in going against them. And if they were yet stronger, the difficulty would be still greater. And, therefore, if more were still added to their strength to a certain degree, it would make the difficulty so great that it would be wholly impossible to surmount it, for this plain reason, because whatever power men may be supposed to have to surmount difficulties, yet that power is not infinite, and so goes not beyond certain limits. If a certain man can surmount ten degrees of difficulty of this kind, with twenty degrees of strength because the degrees of strength are beyond the degrees of difficulty, yet if the difficulty be increased to thirty or an hundred or to a thousand degrees, and his strength not also increased, his strength will be wholly insufficient to surmount the difficulty. As therefore it must be allowed that there may be such a thing as a sure and perfect connection between moral causes and effects; so this only is what I call by the name of moral necessity." Page 35, he says: "What has been said of natural and moral necessity may serve to explain what is intended by natural and moral inability. We are said to be naturally unable to do a thing when we can not do it if we will, because of some impeding defect or obstacle that is extrinsic to the will, either in the faculty of understanding, constitution of body, or external objects. Moral inability consists not in any of these things, but either in a want of inclination; or the want of sufficient motives in view, to induce and excite the act of the will, or the strength of apparent motives to the contrary. Or both these may be resolved into one, and it may be said in one word that moral inability consists in the opposition or want of inclination. For when a person is unable to will or choose such a thing, through a defect of motives or prevalence of contrary motives, it is the same thing as his being unable through the want of an inclination, or the prevalence of a contrary inclination in such circumstances and under the influence of such views."

      From these quotations, and much more that might be quoted to the same purpose, it is plain that Edwards, as the representative of his school, holds moral inability to consist either in an existing choice or attitude of the will opposed to that which is required by the law of God; which inclination or choice is necessitated by motives in view of the mind; or in the absence of such motives as are necessary to cause or necessitate the state of choice required by the moral law, or to overcome an opposing choice. Indeed he holds these two to be identical. Observe, his words are, "Or these may be resolved into one, and it may be said in one word that moral inability consists in opposition or want of inclination. For when a person is unable to will or choose such a thing, through a defect of motives, it is the same thing as his being unable through the want of an inclination, or the prevalence of a contrary inclination, in such circumstances and under the influence of such views," that is, in the presence of such motives. If there is a present prevalent contrary inclination, it is, according to him: 1. Because there are present certain reasons that necessitate this contrary inclination, and 2. Because there are not sufficient motives present to the mind to overcome these opposing motives and inclination, and to necessitate the will to determine or choose in the direction of the law of God. By inclination Edwards means choice or volition as is abundantly evident from what he all along says in this connection. This no one will deny who is at all familiar with his writings.

      It was the object of the treatise from which the above quotations have been made to maintain that the choice invariably is as the greatest apparent good is. And by the greatest apparent good he means a sense of the most agreeable. By which he means, as he says, that the sense of the most agreeable and choice or volition are identical. Vol. ii, page 20, he says: "And therefore it must be true in some sense, that the will always is as the greatest apparent good is." "It must be observed in what sense I use the term 'good,' namely, as of the same import with agreeable. To appear good to the mind as I use the phrase is the same as to appear agreeable or seem pleasing to the mind." Again, pp. 21 and 22, he says: "I have rather chosen to express myself thus that the will always is as the greatest apparent good is, or as what appears most agreeable, than to say that the will is determined by the greatest apparent good, or by what seems most agreeable, because an appearing most agreeable to the mind and the mind's preferring, seem scarcely distinct. If strict propriety of speech be insisted on, it may more properly be said that the voluntary action which is the immediate consequence of the mind's choice is determined by that which appears most agreeable, than the choice itself." Thus it appears that the sense of the most agreeable and choice or volition, according to Edwards, are the same things. Indeed, Edwards throughout confounds desire and volition, making them the same thing. Edwards regarded the mind as possessing but two primary faculties, the will and the understanding. He confounded all the states of the sensibility with acts of will. The strongest desire is with him always identical with volition or choice, and not merely that which determines choice. When there is a want of inclination, or desire or the sense of the most agreeable, there is a moral inability according to the Edwardean philosophy. This want of the strongest desire, inclination or sense of the most agreeable, is always owing, 1. To the presence of such motives as to necessitate an opposite desire, choice, &c., and, 2. To the want of such objective motives as shall awaken this required desire, or necessitate this inclination or sense of the most agreeable. In other words, when volition or choice, in consistency with the law of God, does not exist, it is, 1. Because an opposite choice exists, and is necessitated by the presence of some motive, and, 2. For want of sufficiently strong objective motives to necessitate the required choice or volition. Let it be distinctly understood and remembered that Edwards held that motive and not the agent is the cause of all actions of the will. Will, with him, is always determined in its choice, by motives as really as physical effects are produced by their causes. The difference with him in the connection of moral and physical causes and effects "lies not in the nature of the connection but in the terms connected."

      "That every act of the will has some cause, and consequently (by what has already been proved) has a necessary connection with its cause, and so is necessary by a necessity of connection and consequence, is evident by this, that every act of the will whatsoever is excited by some motive; which is manifest, because, if the mind, in willing after the manner it does, is excited by no motive or inducement, then it has no end which it proposes to itself, or pursues in so doing; it aims at nothing, and seeks nothing. And if it seeks nothing, then it does not go after any thing, or exert any inclination or preference towards any thing. Which brings the matter to a contradiction; because for the mind to will something, and for it to go after something by an act of preference and inclination are the same thing.

      "But if every act of the will is excited by a motive, then that motive is the cause of the act. If the acts of the will are excited by motives, then motives are the causes of their being excited; or, which is the same thing, the cause of their existence. And if so, the existence of the acts of the will is properly the effect of their motives. Motives do nothing, as motives or inducements, but by their influence; and so much as is done by their influence is the effect of them. For that is the notion of an effect: something that is brought to pass by the influence of something else.

      "And if volitions are properly the effects of their motives, then they are necessarily connected with their motives. Every effect and event being, as was proved before, necessarily connected with that which is the proper ground and reason of its existence. Thus it is manifest, that volition is necessary, and is not from any self-determining power in the will."--Vol. ii. pp. 86,87.

      Moral inability, then, according to this school consists in a want or inclination, desire, or sense of the most agreeable, or the strength of an opposite desire or sense of the most agreeable. This want of inclination, &c., or this opposing inclination, &c., are identical with an opposing choice or volition. This opposing choice or inclination, or this want of the required choice, inclination or sense of the most agreeable is owing, according to Edwards, 1. To the presence of such motives as to necessitate the opposing choice; and, 2. To the absence of sufficient motives to beget or necessitate them. Here then we have the philosophy of this school. The will or agent is unable to choose as God requires in all cases when, 1. There are present such motives as to necessitate an opposite choice, and, 2. When there is not such a motive or such motives in the view of the mind as to determine or necessitate the required choice or volition, that is, to awaken a desire, or to create an inclination or sense of the agreeable stronger than any existing and opposing desire, inclination, or sense of agreeable. This is the moral inability of the Edwardeans.

      II. THEIR MORAL INABILITY TO OBEY GOD CONSISTS IN REAL DISOBEDIENCE AND A NATURAL INABILITY TO OBEY.

      1. If we understand Edwardeans to mean that moral inability consists,

      [1.] In the presence of such motives as to necessitate an opposite choice; and,

      [2.] In the want or absence of sufficient motives to necessitate choice or volition, or which is the same thing, a sense of the most agreeable, or an inclination, then their moral inability is a proper natural inability.

      Edwards says he "calls it a moral inability because it is an inability of will." But by his own showing, the will is the only executive faculty. Whatever a man can do at all he can accomplish by willing, and whatever he can not accomplish by willing, he can not accomplish at all. An inability to will then must be a natural inability.

      We are by nature unable to do what we are unable to will to do. Besides, according to Edwards, moral obligation respects strictly only acts of will, and willing is the doing that is prohibited or required by the moral law. To be unable to will then, is to be unable to do. To be unable to will as God requires, is to be unable to do what He requires, and this surely is a proper and the only proper natural inability.

      2. But if we are to understand this school as maintaining that moral inability to obey God consists in a want of the inclination, choice, desire, or sense of the most agreeable that God requires, or in an inclination or existing choice, volition, or sense of the most agreeable, which is opposed to the requirement of God, this surely, is really identical with disobedience, and their moral inability to obey consists in disobedience. For, be it distinctly remembered, that Edwards holds as we have seen, that obedience and disobedience properly speaking, can be predicated only of acts of will. If the required state of the will exists, there is obedience. If it does not exist, there is disobedience. Therefore by his own admission and express holding, if by moral inability we are to understand a state of the will not conformed, or, which is the same thing, opposed to the law and will of God, this moral inability is nothing else than disobedience to God. A moral inability to obey is identical with disobedience. It is not merely the cause of future or present disobedience, but really constitutes the whole of present disobedience.

      3. But suppose that we understand his moral inability to consist both in the want of an inclination, choice, volition, &c., or in the existence of an opposing state of the will, and also,

      [1.] In the presence of such motives as to necessitate an opposite choice, and,

      [2.] In the want of sufficient motives to overcome the opposing state and necessitate the required choice, volition, &c., then his views stand thus: moral inability to choose as God commands consists in the want of this choice, or in the existence of an opposite choice, which want of choice, or which is the same thing with him, which opposite choice is caused.

      [1.] By the presence of such motives as to necessitate the opposite choice, and,

      [2.] By the absence of such motives as would necessitate the required choice.

      Understand him which way you will, his moral inability is real disobedience and is in the highest sense a proper natural inability to obey. The cause of choice or volition he always seeks, and thinks or assumes that he finds in the object or motive, and never for once ascribes it to the sovereignty or freedom of the agent. Choice or volition is an event and must have some cause. He assumed that the objective motive was the cause, when, as consciousness testifies, the agent is himself the cause. Here is the great error of Edwards.

      Edwards assumed that no agent whatever, not even God himself, possesses a power of self-determination. That the will of God and of all moral agents is determined, not by themselves, but by an objective motive. If they will in one direction or another, it is not from any free and sovereign self-determination in view of motives, but because the motives or inducements present to the mind, inevitably produce or necessitate the sense of the most agreeable, or choice. If this is not fatalism or natural necessity, what is?

      III. THIS PRETENDED DISTINCTION BETWEEN NATURAL AND MORAL INABILITY IS NONSENSICAL.

      What does it amount to? Why this:

      1. This natural inability is an inability to do as we will, or to execute our volitions.

      2. This moral inability is an inability to will.

      3. This moral inability is the only natural inability that has or can have anything to do with duty or with morality and religion; or, as has been shown,

      4. It consists in disobedience itself. Present moral inability to obey is identical with present disobedience, with a natural inability to obey!

      It is amazing to see how so great and good a man could involve himself in a metaphysical fog and bewilder himself and his readers insomuch that such an absolutely senseless distinction as the one now under consideration, should pass into the current phraseology, philosophy, and theology of the church, and a score of theological dogmas be built upon the assumption of this truth. Who does not know that this nonsensical distinction has been in the mouth of the Edwardean school of theologians, from Edward's day to the present? Both saints and sinners have been bewildered, and, I must say, abused by it. Men have been told that they are as really unable to will as God directs, as they were to create themselves, and when it is replied that this inability excuses the sinner, we are directly silenced by the assertion that this is only a moral inability, or an inability of will, and therefore that it is so far from excusing the sinner, that it constitutes the very ground, and substance, and whole of his guilt. Indeed! Men are under moral obligation only to will as God directs. But an inability thus to will consisting in the absence of such motives as would necessitate the required choice, or the presence of such motives as to necessitate an opposite choice, is a moral inability, and really constitutes the sinner worthy of an "exceeding great and eternal weight" of damnation! Ridiculous! Edwards I revere; his blunders I deplore. I speak thus of this Treatise on the Will because, while it abounds with unwarrantable assumptions, distinctions without a difference, and metaphysical subtleties, it has been adopted as the text book of a multitude of what are called Calvinistic divines for scores of years. It has bewildered the head, and greatly embarrassed the heart and the action of the church of God. It is time, high time that its errors should be exposed and so "shows up" that such phraseology should be laid aside, and the ideas which these words represent should cease to be entertained.

      IV. WHAT CONSTITUTES AN ABILITY ACCORDING TO THIS SCHOOL.

      It is of course the opposite of moral inability.

      Moral ability according to them, consists in willingness with the cause of it. That is, moral ability to obey God consists in that inclination, desire, choice, volition, or sense of the most agreeable which God requires together with its cause. Or it consists in the presence of such motives as do actually necessitate the above named state or determination of the will. Or more strictly it consists in this state caused by the presence of these motives.

      This is as exact a statement of their views as I can make.

      According to this, a man is morally able to do, as he does, and is necessitated to do, or, he is morally able to will as he does will, and as he can not help willing.

      He is morally able to will in this manner simply and only because he is caused thus to will by the presence of such motives as are, according to them, "indissolubly connected" with such willing by a law of nature and necessity. But this conducts us to the conclusion,

      V. THAT THEIR MORAL ABILITY TO OBEY GOD IS NOTHING ELSE THAN REAL OBEDIENCE, AND A NATURAL INABILITY TO DISOBEY.

      Strictly this moral ability includes both the state of will required by the law of God and also the cause of this state, to wit, the presence of such motives as necessitate the inclination, choice, volition or sense of the most agreeable, that God requires.

      The agent is able thus to will because he is caused thus to will. Or more strictly, his ability and his inclination or willing are identical. Or still further, according to Edwards, his moral ability to thus will and his thus willing and the presence of the motives that cause this willing are identical. This is a sublime discovery in philosophy; a most transcendental speculation! I would not treat these notions as ridiculous, were they not truly so, or if I could treat them in any other manner and still do them any thing like justice. If, where the theory is plainly stated, it appears ridiculous, the fault is not in me, but in the theory itself. I know it is trying to you, as it is to me to connect any thing ridiculous with so great and so revered a name as that of President Edwards. But if a blunder of his has entailed perplexity and error on the church, surely his great and good soul would now thank the hand that should blot out the error from under heaven.

      Thus, when closely examined, this long established and venerated fog-bank vanishes away; and this famed distinction between moral and natural ability and inability, is found to be "a thing of nought."

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  • LECTURE 48 - INABILITY
    • LECTURE XLVIII. 

      INABILITY.

       

      THERE are yet other forms of the doctrine of inability to be stated and considered before we have done with this subject. In the consideration of the one before me I must,

      I. STATE WHAT I CONSIDER TO BE THE FUNDAMENTAL ERROR OF EDWARDS AND HIS SCHOOL ON THE SUBJECT OF ABILITY.

      II. STATE THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE SCHEME OF INABILITY WHICH WE ARE ABOUT TO CONSIDER.

      III CONSIDER THE CLAIMS.

       

      I. I AM TO STATE WHAT I CONSIDER TO BE THE FUNDAMENTAL ERROR OF EDWARDS AND HIS SCHOOL UPON THE SUBJECT OF ABILITY.

      Edwards adopted the Lockean philosophy. He regarded the mind as possessing but two primary faculties, the understanding and the will. He considered all the desires, emotions, affections, appetites, and passions as voluntary, and as really consisting in acts of will. This confounding of the states of the sensibility with acts of the will I regard as the fundamental error of his whole system of philosophy so far as it respects the liberty of the will or the doctrine of ability. Being conscious that the emotions, which he calls affections, the desires, the appetites and passions, were so correlated to their appropriate objects, that they are excited by the presence or contemplation of them, and assuming them to be voluntary states of mind, or actions of the will, he very naturally, and with this assumption, necessarily and justly concluded that the will was governed or decided by the objective motive. Assuming as he did that the mind has but two faculties, understanding and will, and that every state of feeling and of mind that did not belong to the understanding, must be a voluntary state or act of will, and being conscious that his feelings, desires, affections, appetites and passions, were excited by the contemplation of their correlated objects, he could consistently come to no other conclusion than that the will is determined by motives, and that choice always is as the most agreeable is.

      Had he not sat down to write with the assumption of the Lockean school of philosophy in his mind, his Treatise on the Will, in any thing like its present form, could never have seen the light. But assuming the truth of that philosophy, a mind like his could arrive at no other conclusions than he did. He took upon trust or assumed without inquiry an error that vitiated his whole system, and gave birth to that injurious monstrosity and misnomer, "Edwards on the Freedom of the Will."

      He justly held that moral law legislates and can strictly legislate only over acts of will and those acts that are under the control of the will. This he, with his mental development, could not deny, nor think of denying. Had he but given or assumed a correct definition of the will and excluded from its acts the wholly involuntary states of the sensibility, he never could have asserted that the will is always and necessarily determined by the objective motive.

      Assuming the philosophy of Locke, and being conscious that the states of his sensibility, which he called acts of will, were controlled or excited by motives or by the consideration of their correlated objects, his great soul labored to bring about a reconciliation between the justice of God and this real though not so called slavery of the human will. This led him to adopt the distinction which we have examined between a moral and a natural inability. Thus, as a theologian, he committed a capital error in suffering himself to take upon trust another man's philosophy. Happy is the man who takes the trouble to examine for himself whatever is essential to his system of opinion and belief.

      II. I AM TO STATE THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE SCHEME OF INABILITY WHICH WE ARE ABOUT TO CONSIDER.

      1. This philosophy properly distinguishes between the will and the sensibility. It regards the mind as possessing three primary departments, powers, or susceptibilities, the intellect, the sensibility and the will. It does not always call these departments or susceptibilities by these names, but if I understand them, the abettors of this philosophy hold to their existence, by whatever name they may call them.

      2. This philosophy also holds that the states of the intellect and of the sensibility are passive and involuntary.

      3. It holds that freedom of will is a condition of moral agency.

      4. It also teaches that the will is free and consequently that man is a free moral agent.

      5. It teaches that the will controls the outward life and the attention of the intellect, directly, and many of the emotions, desires, affections, appetites, and passions, or many states of the sensibility, indirectly.

      6. It teaches that men have ability to obey God so far forth as acts of will are concerned, and also so far as those acts and states of mind are concerned that are under the direct or indirect control of the will.

      7. But they hold that moral obligation may, and in the case of man at least, does extend beyond moral agency and beyond the sphere of ability; that ability or freedom of will is essential to moral agency, but that freedom of will or moral agency, does not limit moral obligation; that moral agency and moral obligation are not co-extensive; consequently that moral obligation is not limited by ability or by moral agency.

      8. This philosophy asserts that moral obligation extends to those states of mind that lie wholly beyond or without the sphere or control of the will; that it extends not merely to voluntary acts and states, together with all acts and states that come within the direct or indirect control of the will, but, as was said, it insists that those mental states that lie wholly beyond the will's direct or indirect control, come within the pale of moral legislation and obligation; and that therefore obligation is not limited by ability.

      9. This philosophy seems to have been invented to reconcile the doctrine of original sin in the sense of a sinful nature or of constitutional moral depravity with moral obligation. Assuming that original sin in this sense is a doctrine of divine revelation, it takes the bold and uncompromising ground already stated, namely, that moral obligation is not merely co-extensive with moral agency and ability, but extends beyond both into the region of those mental states that lie entirely without the will's direct or indirect control.

      10. This bold assertion the abettors of this philosophy attempt to support by an appeal to the necessary convictions of men and to the authority of the Bible. They allege that the instinctive judgments of men as well as the Bible everywhere assume and affirm moral obligation and moral character of the class of mental states in question.

      11. They admit that a physical inability is a bar to or inconsistent with moral obligation; but they of course deny that the inability to which they hold, is physical.

      III. THIS BRINGS US TO A BRIEF CONSIDERATION OF THE CLAIMS OF THIS PHILOSOPHY OF INABILITY.

      1. It is based upon a petitio principiis, or a begging of the question. It assumes that the instinctive or irresistible and universal judgments of men, together with the Bible, assert and assume that moral obligation and moral character extend to the states of mind in question. It is admitted that the teachings of the Bible are to be relied upon. It is also admitted that the first truths of reason, or what this philosophy calls the instinctive and necessary judgments of all men, must be true. But it is not admitted that the assertion in question is a doctrine of the Bible or a first truth of reason. On the contrary, both are denied. It is denied, at least by me, that either reason or divine revelation affirms moral obligation or moral character of any state of mind that lies wholly beyond both the direct and the indirect control of the will. Now this philosophy must not be allowed to beg the question in debate. Let it be shown, if it can be, that the alleged truth is either a doctrine of the Bible or a first truth of reason. Both reason and revelation do assert and assume that moral obligation and moral character extend to acts of will and to all those outward acts or mental states that lie within its direct or indirect control. "But further these deponents say not." Men are conscious of moral obligation in respect to these acts and states of mind, and of guilt when they fail in these respects to comply with moral obligation. But who ever blamed himself for pain, when, without his fault, he received a blow, or was seized with the tooth ache, or a fit of bilious cholic?

      2. Let us inquire into the nature of this inability. Observe, it is admitted by this school that a physical inability is inconsistent with moral obligation--in other words, that physical ability is a condition of moral obligation. But what is a physical inability? The primary definition of the adjective physical, given by Webster, is, "pertaining to nature, or natural objects." A physical inability then, in the primary sense of the term physical, is an inability of nature. It may be either a material or a mental inability, that is, it may be either an inability of body or mind. It is admitted by the school whose views we are canvassing, that all human causality or ability resides in the will, and therefore that there is a proper inability of nature to perform any thing that does not come within the sphere of the direct or indirect causality of or control of the will. It is plain, therefore, that the inability for which they contend must be a proper natural inability, or inability of nature. This they fully admit and maintain. But this they do not call a physical inability. But why do they not? Why simply because it would, by their own admissions, overthrow their favorite position. They seem to assume that a physical inability must be a material inability. But where is the authority for such an assumption? There is no authority for it. A proper inability of nature must be a physical inability, as opposed to moral inability, or there is no meaning in language. It matters not at all whether the inability belongs to the material organism or to the mind. If it be constitutional and properly an inability of nature, it is nonsense to deny that this is a physical inability, or to maintain that it can be consistent with moral obligation. It is in vain to reply that this inability, though a real inability of nature, is not physical but moral, because a sinful inability. This is another begging of the question,

      The school whose views I am examining maintain, that this inability is founded in the first sin of Adam. His first sin plunged himself and his posterity, descending from him by a natural law, into a total inability of nature to render any obedience to God. This first sin of Adam entailed a nature on all his posterity "wholly sinful in every faculty and part of soul and body." This constitutional sinfulness that belongs to every faculty and part of soul and body, constitutes the inability of which we are treating. But mark, it is not physical inability because it is a sinful inability! Important theological distinction!--as truly wonderful, surely, as any of the subtleties of the Jesuits. But if this inability is sinful, it is important to inquire, Whose sin is it? Who is to blame for it? Why to be sure, we are told that it is the sin of him upon whom it is thus entailed by the natural law of descent from parent to child without his knowledge or consent. This sinfulness of nature, entirely irrespective of and previous to any actual transgression, renders its possessor worthy of and exposed to the wrath and curse of God forever. This sinfulness, observe, is transmitted by a natural or physical law from Adam, but it is not a physical inability! It is something that inheres in, and belongs to every faculty and part of soul and body. It is transmitted by a physical law from parent to child. It is, therefore, and must be a physical thing. But yet, we are told, that it cannot be a physical inability, because first, it is sinful or sin itself, and secondly, because a physical inability is a bar to, or inconsistent with moral obligation. Here, then, we have their reasons for not admitting this to be a physical inability. It would in this case render moral obligation an impossibility; and besides, if a bar to moral obligation, it could not be sinful. But it is sinful, it is said, therefore it can not be physical. But how do we know that it is sinful? Why, we are told, that the instinctive judgments of men and the Bible, every where affirm and assume it. We are told that both the instinctive judgments of men and the Bible affirm and assume both the inability in question and the sinfulness of it; "that we ought to be able, but are not;" that is, that we are so much to blame for this inability of nature entailed upon us without our knowledge or consent by a physical necessity, as to deserve the wrath and curse of God forever. We are under a moral obligation not to have this sinful nature. We deserve damnation for having it. To be sure, we are entirely unable to put it away, and had no agency whatever in its existence. But what of that? We are told that "moral obligation is not limited by ability;" that our being as unable to change our nature as we are to create a world, is no reason why we should not be under obligation to do it, since "moral obligation does not imply ability of any kind to do what we are under obligation to do!" * * * * I was about to expose the folly and absurdity of these assertions, but hush! It is not allowable, we are told, to reason on this subject. We shall deceive ourselves if we listen to the "miserable logic of our understandings." We must fall back then upon the intuitive affirmations of reason and the Bible. Here, then, we are willing to lodge our appeal. The Bible defines sin to be a transgression of the law. What law have we violated in inheriting this nature? What law requires us to have a different nature from that which we possess? Does reason affirm that we are deserving of the wrath and curse of God forever for inheriting from Adam a sinful nature.

      What law of reason have we transgressed in inheriting this nature? Reason can not condemn us unless we have violated some law which it can recognize as such. Reason indignantly rebukes such nonsense. Does the Bible hold us responsible for impossibilities? Does it require of us what we can not do by willing to do it? Nay, verily; but it expressly affirms that "if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what a man hath, and not according to what he hath not." The plain meaning of this passage is, that if one wills as God directs, he has thereby met all his obligation; that he has done all that is naturally possible to him, and therefore nothing more is required.

      In this passage, the Bible expressly limits obligation by ability. This we have repeatedly seen in former lectures. The law also, as we have formerly seen, limits obligation by ability. It requires only that we should love the Lord with all our strength, that is, with all our ability, and our neighbor as ourselves.

      Does reason hold us responsible for impossibilities, or affirm our obligation to do or be what it is impossible for us to do and be? No indeed. Reason never did and never can condemn us for our nature, and hold us worthy of the wrath and curse of God forever for possessing it. Nothing is more shocking and revolting to reason, than such assumptions as are made by the philosophy in question. This every man's consciousness must testify.

      But is it not true that some, at least, do intelligently condemn themselves for their nature, and adjudge themselves to be worthy of the wrath and curse of God forever for its sinfulness! The framers of the Presbyterian Confession of faith made this affirmation in words, at least; whether intelligently or unintelligently, we are left to inquire. The reason of a moral agent condemning himself and adjudging himself worthy of the wrath and curse of God forever, for possessing a nature entailed on him by a natural law without his knowledge or consent! This can never be.

      But is it not true, as is affirmed, that men instinctively and necessarily affirm their obligation to be able to obey God, while they at the same time affirm that they are not able? I answer, no. They affirm themselves to be under obligation simply and only because deeply in their inward being lies the assumption that they are able to comply with the requirements of God.

      They are conscious of ability to will and of power to control their outward life directly, and the states of the intellect and of their sensibility, either directly or indirectly, by willing. Upon this consciousness they found the affirmation of obligation, and of praise and blame worthiness in respect to these acts and states of mind. But for the consciousness of ability, no affirmation of moral obligation, or of praise, or blame worthiness, were possible.

      But do those who affirm both their inability and their obligation, deceive themselves? I answer, yes. It is common for persons to overlook assumptions that lie, so to speak, at the bottom of their minds. This has been noticed in the first lecture in this volume, and need not be here repeated.

      It is true indeed that God requires of men, especially under the Gospel, what they are unable to do directly in their own strength. Or more strictly speaking, he requires them to lay hold on his strength, or to avail themselves of his grace as the condition of being what he requires them to be. With strict propriety, it can not be said that in this, or in any case he requires directly any more than we are able directly to do. The direct requirement in the case under consideration, is to avail ourselves of, or to lay hold upon his strength. This, we have power to do. He requires us to lay hold upon his grace and strength, and thereby to rise to a higher knowledge of himself, and to a consequent higher state of holiness than would be otherwise possible to us. The direct requirement is to believe, or to lay hold upon his strength, or to receive the Holy Spirit, or Christ, who stands at the door, and knocks, and waits for admission. The indirect requirement is to rise to a degree of knowledge of God and to spiritual attainments that are impossible to us in our own strength. We have ability to obey the direct command directly, and the indirect command indirectly. That is, we are able by virtue of our nature, together with the proffered grace of the Holy Spirit to comply with all the requirements of God. So that in fact there is no proper inability about it.

      But are not men often conscious of there being much difficulty in the way of rendering to God all that we affirm ourselves under obligation to render? I answer, yes. But, strictly speaking, they must admit their direct or indirect ability as a condition of affirming their obligation. This difficulty, arising out of their physical depravity and the power of temptation from without, is the foundation or cause of the spiritual warfare of which the Scriptures speak and of which all christians are conscious. But the Bible abundantly teaches that through grace we are able to be more than conquerors. If we are able to be this through grace, we are able to avail ourselves of the provisions of grace, so that there is no proper inability in the case. However great the difficulties may be, we are able through Christ to overcome them all. This we must and do assume as the condition of the affirmation of obligation.

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  • LECTURE 49 - GRACIOUS ABILITY
    • LECTURE XLIX.

      GRACIOUS ABILITY.

       

      I. I WILL SHOW WHAT THOSE WHO USE THIS PHRASEOLOGY REALLY MEAN BY A GRACIOUS ABILITY.

      II. THAT THE DOCTRINE OF A GRACIOUS ABILITY AS HELD BY THOSE WHO MAINTAIN IT IS AN ABSURDITY.

      III. IN WHAT SENSE OF THE TERMS A GRACIOUS ABILITY IS POSSIBLE.

      Grace is unmerited favor. Its exercise consists in bestowing that which without a violation of justice might be withholden.

      Ability to obey God, as we have seen, is the possession of power adequate to the performance of that which is required. If, then, the terms are used in the proper sense, by a gracious ability must be intended that the power which men at present possess to obey the commands or God, is a gift of grace relatively to the command; that is, the bestowment of power adequate to the performance of the thing required, is a matter of grace as opposed to justice. But let us enter upon an inquiry into the sense in which this language is used.

      I. I WILL SHOW WHAT IS INTENDED BY THE TERM GRACIOUS ABILITY.

      1. The abettors of this scheme hold that by the first sin of Adam, he, together with all his posterity, lost all natural power and all ability of every kind to obey God; that therefore they were, as a race, wholly unable to obey the moral law, or to render to God any acceptable service whatever; that is, that they became as a consequence of the sin of Adam, wholly unable to use the powers of nature in any other way than to sin. They were able to sin or to disobey God, but entirely unable to obey him; that they did not lose all power to act, but that they had power to act only in one direction, that is, in opposition to the will and law of God. By a gracious ability they intend, that in consequence of the atonement of Christ, God has graciously restored to man ability to accept the terms of mercy, or to fulfil[l] the conditions of acceptance with God--in other words, that by the gracious aid of the Holy Spirit which, upon condition of the atonement, God has given to every member of the human family, all men are endowed with a gracious ability to obey God. By a gracious ability is intended, then, that ability or power to obey God, which all men now possess, not by virtue of their own nature or constitutional powers, but by virtue of the indwelling and gracious influence of the Holy Spirit, gratuitously bestowed upon man, in consequence and upon condition of the atonement of Christ. The inability or total loss of natural and of all power to obey God into which men as a race fell by the first sin of Adam, they call original sin, &c., perhaps more strictly, this inability is a consequence of that original sin into which man fell; which original sin itself consisted in the total corruption of man's whole nature. They hold that by the atonement Christ made satisfaction for original sin in such a sense that the inability resulting from it is removed, and that now men are by gracious aid able to obey and accept the terms of salvation. That is, they are able to repent and believe the gospel. In short they are able by virtue of this gracious ability to do their duty or to obey God. This, if I understand these theologians, is a fair statement of their doctrine of gracious ability. This brings us,

      II. TO SHOW THAT THE DOCTRINE OF A GRACIOUS ABILITY AS HELD BY THOSE WHO MAINTAIN IT, IS AN ABSURDITY.

      The question is not whether as a matter of fact men ever do obey God without the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit. I hold that they do not. So the fact of the Holy Spirit's gracious influence being exerted in every case of human obedience, is not a question in debate between those who maintain and those who deny the doctrine of gracious ability in the sense above explained. The question in debate is not whether men do, in any case, use the powers of nature in the manner that God requires without the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit, but whether they are naturally able so to use them. Is the fact that they never do so use them, without a divine gracious influence to be ascribed to absolute inability, or to the fact that from the beginning they universally and voluntarily consecrate their powers to the gratification of self, and that, therefore they will not, unless they are divinely persuaded, by the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit, in any case, turn and consecrate their powers to the service of God? If this doctrine of natural inability and of gracious ability be true, it inevitably follows:

      1. That but for the atonement of Christ, and the consequent bestowment of a gracious ability, no one of Adam's race could ever have been capable of sinning. For in this case the whole race would have been and remained wholly destitute of any kind or degree of ability to obey God. Consequently they could not have been subjects of moral government, and of course their actions could have had no moral character. It is a first-truth of reason, a truth every where and by all men necessarily assumed in their practical judgments, that a subject of moral government must be a moral agent, or that moral agency is a necessary condition of any one's being a subject of moral government. And in the practical judgment of men, it matters not at all whether a being ever was a moral agent, or not. If by any means whatever he has ceased to be a moral agent, men universally and necessarily assume that it is impossible for him to be a subject of moral government any more than a horse can be such a subject. Suppose he has by his own fault made himself an idiot or a lunatic; all men know absolutely and in their practical judgment assume, that in this state he is not, and can not be a subject of moral government. They know that in this state, moral character can not justly be predicated of his actions. His guilt in thus depriving himself of moral agency may be exceeding great, and, as was said on a former occasion, his guilt in thus depriving himself of moral agency may equal the sum of all the default of which it is the cause, but be a moral agent, be under moral obligation in this state of dementation or insanity, he can not. This is a first-truth of reason, irresistibly and universally assumed by all men. If, therefore, Adam's posterity had by their own personal act cast away and deprived themselves of all ability to obey God, in this state they would have ceased to be moral agents, and consequently they could have sinned no more. But the case under consideration is not the one just supposed, but is one where moral agency was not cast away by the agent himself. It is one where moral agency was never and never could have been possessed. In the case under consideration, Adam's posterity, had he ever had any, would never have possessed any power to obey God or to do any thing acceptable to him. Consequently they never could have sustained to God the relation of subjects of his moral government. Of course they never could have had moral character; right or wrong, in a moral sense, never could have been predicated of their actions.

      2. It must follow from this doctrine of natural inability that mankind lost their freedom or the liberty of the human will in the first sin of Adam; that both Adam himself, and all his posterity would and could have sustained to God only the relation of necessary as opposed to free agents, had not God bestowed upon them a gracious ability.

      We have seen in a former lecture that natural ability to obey God and the freedom or liberty of will are identical. We have abundantly seen that moral law and moral obligation respect strictly, only acts of will; that hence, all obedience to God consists strictly in acts of will; that power to will in conformity with the requirements of God, is natural ability to obey him; that freedom or liberty of will consists in the power or ability to will in conformity or disconformity to the will or law of God; that, therefore, freedom or liberty of will and natural ability to obey God are identical. Thus we see that if man lost his natural ability to obey God in the first sin of Adam, he lost the freedom of his will, and thenceforth must forever have remained a necessary agent but for the gracious re-bestowment of ability or freedom of will.

      But that either Adam or his posterity lost their freedom or free agency by the first sin of Adam, is not only a sheer, but an absurd assumption. To be sure Adam fell into a state of total alienation from the law of God, and lapsed into a state of supreme selfishness. His posterity have unanimously followed his example. He and they have become dead in trespasses and sins. Now that this death in sin either consists in or implies the loss of free agency, is the very thing to be proved by them. But this can not be proved. I have so fully discussed the subject of human moral depravity or sinfulness on a former occasion as to render it unnecessary to enlarge upon this subject here.

      3. Again, if it be true, as these theologians affirm, that men have only a gracious ability to obey God and that this gracious ability consists in the presence and gracious agency of the Holy Spirit, it follows that when the Holy Spirit is withdrawn from man, he is no longer a free agent, and from that moment he is incapable of moral action, and of course can sin no more. Hence should he live any number of years after this withdrawal, neither sin nor holiness, virtue nor vice, praise nor blame worthiness could be predicated of his conduct. The same will and must be true of all his future eternity.

      4. If the doctrine in question be true, it follows that from the moment of the withdrawal of the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit, man is no longer a subject of moral obligation. It is from that moment absurd and abusive to require the performance of any duty of him. Nay to conceive of him as being any longer a subject of duty; to think or speak of duty as belonging to him, is as absurd as to think or speak of the duty of a mere machine. He has, from the moment of the withholding of a gracious ability, ceased to be a free and become a necessary agent, having power to act but in one direction. Such a being can by no possibility be capable of sin or holiness. Suppose he still possesses power to act contrary to the letter of the law of God: what then? This action can have no moral character, because, act in some way he must, and he can act in no other way. It is nonsense to affirm that such action can be sinful in the sense of blameworthy. To affirm that it can, is to contradict a first-truth of reason. Sinners, then, who have quenched the Holy Spirit, and from whom He is wholly withdrawn, are no longer to be blamed for their enmity against God, and for all their opposition to him. They are, according to this doctrine, as free from blame as are the motions of a mere machine.

      5. Again, if the doctrine in question be true, there is no reason to believe that the angels that fell from their allegiance to God ever sinned but once. If Adam lost his free agency by the fall, or by his first sin, there can be no doubt that the angels did so too. If a gracious ability had not been bestowed upon Adam, it is certain, according to the doctrine in question, that he never could have been the subject of moral obligation from the moment of his first sin, and consequently could never again have sinned. The same must be true of devils. If by their first sin they fell into the condition of necessary agents, having lost their free agency, they have never sinned since. That is, moral character can not have been predicable of their conduct since that event, unless a gracious ability has been bestowed upon them. That this has been done cannot with even a show of reason be pretended. The devils, then, according to this doctrine, are not now to blame for all they do to oppose God and to ruin souls. Upon the supposition in question, they cannot help it, and you might as well blame the winds and the waves for the evil which they sometimes do, and blame Satan for what he does.

      6. If this doctrine be true, there is not and never will be any sin in hell, for the plain reason that there are no moral agents there. They are necessary agents, unless it be true that the Holy Spirit and a gracious ability be continued there. This is not, I believe, contended for by the abettors of this scheme. But if they deny to the inhabitants of hell freedom of the will, or, which is the same thing, natural ability to obey God, they must admit, or be grossly inconsistent, that there is no sin in hell, either in men or devils. But is this admission agreeable either to reason or revelation? I know that the abettors of this scheme maintain that God may justly hold both men, from whom a gracious ability is withdrawn, and devils, responsible for their conduct, because and upon the ground that they have destroyed their own ability. But suppose this were true--that they had rendered themselves idiots, lunatics, or necessary as opposed to free agents, could God, justly, could enlightened reason still regard them as moral agents, and as morally responsible for their conduct? No, indeed. God and reason may justly blame and render them miserable for annihilating their freedom or their moral agency, but to hold them still responsible for present obedience were absurd.

      7. We have seen that the ability of all men of sane mind to obey God, is necessarily assumed by all men as a first truth of reason, and that this assumption is, from the very laws of mind, the indispensable condition of the affirmation, or even the conception that they are subjects of moral obligation; that but for this assumption men could not so much as conceive the possibility of moral responsibility, and of praise and blame worthiness. If the laws of mind remain unaltered, this is and always will be so. In the eternal world, and in hell, men and devils must necessarily assume their own freedom or ability to obey God, as the condition of their obligation to do so, and consequently to their being capable of sin or holiness. Since revelation informs us that men and devils continue to sin in hell, we know that there also it must be assumed as a first-truth of reason, that they are free agents, or that they have natural ability to obey God.

      8. But that a gracious ability to do duty or to obey God is an absurdity, will farther appear if we consider that it is a first-truth of reason that moral obligation implies moral agency, and that moral agency implies freedom of will; or in other words, it implies a natural ability to comply with obligation. This ability is necessarily regarded by the intelligence as the sine qua non of moral obligation, on the ground of natural and immutable justice. A just command always implies an ability to obey it. A command to perform a natural impossibility would not and could not impose obligation. Suppose God should command human beings to fly without giving them power, could such a command impose moral obligation? No, indeed. But suppose he should give them power or promise them power upon the performance of a condition within their reach, then he might in justice require them to fly, and a command to do so would be obligatory. But relatively to the requirement, the bestowment would not be grace, but justice. Relatively to the results or the pleasure of flying, the bestowment of power might be gracious. That is, it might be grace in God to give me power to fly that I might have the pleasure and profit of flying, so that relatively to the results of flying the giving of power might be regarded as an act of grace. But, if God requires me to fly as a matter of duty, he must in justice supply the power or ability to fly. This would in justice be a necessary condition of the commands, imposing moral obligation.

      Nor would it at all vary the case if I had ever possessed wings, and by the abuse of them, had lost the power to fly. In this case, considered relatively to the pleasure and profit and results of flying, the restoring of the power to fly might and would be an act of grace. But if God would still command me to fly, he must as a condition of my obligation restore the power. It is vain and absurd to say, as has been said, that in such a case, although I might lose the power of obedience, this can not alter the right of God to claim obedience. This assertion proceeds upon the absurd assumption that the will of God makes or creates law instead of merely declaring and enforcing the law of nature. We have seen in former lectures that the only law or rule of action that is or can be obligatory on a moral agent, is the law of nature, or just that course of willing and acting, which is for the time being, suitable to his nature and relations. We have seen that God's will never makes or creates law, that it only declares and enforces it. If, therefore, by any means whatever, the nature of a moral agent should be so changed that his will is no longer free to act in conformity with or in opposition to the law of nature, if God would hold him still obligated to obey, he must in justice relatively to his requirement, restore his liberty or ability. Suppose one had by the abuse of his intellect lost the use of it, and become a perfect idiot, could he by any possibility be still required to understand and obey God? Certainly not. So neither could he be required to perform anything else that had become naturally impossible to him. Viewed relatively to the pleasure and results of obedience his restoring power would be an act of grace. But viewed relatively to his duty or to God's command, the restoring of power to obey is an act of justice and not of grace. To call this grace were to abuse language and confound terms. But this brings me to the consideration of the next question to be discussed at present, namely,

      III. IN WHAT SENSE A GRACIOUS ABILITY IS POSSIBLE.

      1. Not, as we have just seen, in the sense that the bestowment of power to render obedience to a command possible can be properly a gift of grace. Grace is undeserved favor, something not demanded by justice, that which under the circumstances, might be withholden without injustice. It never can be just in any being to require that which under the circumstances is impossible. As has been said, relatively to the requirement and as a condition of its justice, the bestowment of power adequate to the performance of that which is commanded, is an unalterable condition of the justice of the command. This I say is a first-truth of reason, a truth every where by all men necessarily assumed and known. A gracious ability to obey a command, is an absurdity and an impossibility.

      2. But a gracious ability considered relatively to the advantages to result from obedience is possible.

      Suppose, for example, that a servant who supports himself and his family by his wages, should by his own fault render himself unable to labor and to earn his wages. His master may justly dismiss him and let him go with his family to the poor-house. But in this disabled state his master cannot justly exact labor of him. Nor could he do so if he absolutely owned the servant. Now suppose the master to be able to restore to the servant his former strength. If he would require service of him, as a condition of the justice of this requirement, he must restore his strength so far at least as to render obedience possible. This would be mere justice. But suppose he restored the ability of the servant to gain support for himself and his family by labor. This, viewed relatively to the good of the servant--to the results of the restoration of his ability to himself and to his family, is a matter of grace. Relatively to the good or rights of the master in requiring the labor of the servant, the restoration of ability to obey is an act of justice. But relatively to the good of the servant, and the benefits that result to him from this restoration of ability and making it once more possible for him to support himself and his family, the giving of ability is properly an act of grace.

      Let this be applied to the case under consideration. Suppose the race of Adam to have lost their free agency by the first sin of Adam and thus to have come into a state in which holiness and consequent salvation were impossible. Now if God would still require obedience of them, he must in justice restore their ability. And viewed relatively to his right to command, and their duty to obey, this restoration is properly a matter of justice. But suppose he would again place them in circumstances to render holiness and consequent salvation possible to them:--viewed relatively to their good and profit, this restoration of ability is properly a matter of grace.

      A gracious ability to obey, viewed relatively to the command to be obeyed, is impossible and absurd.

      But a gracious ability to be saved, viewed relatively to salvation, is possible.

      There is no proof that mankind ever lost their ability to obey, either by the first sin of Adam, or by their own sin. For this would imply, as we have seen, that they had ceased to be free, and had become necessary agents. But if they had, and God had restored their ability to obey, all that can be justly said in this case, is, that so far as his right to command is concerned, the restoration of their ability was an act of justice. But so far as the rendering of salvation possible to them is concerned, it was an act of grace.

      3. But it is asserted or rather assumed by the defenders of this dogma that the Bible teaches the doctrine of a natural inability and of a gracious ability in man to obey the commands of God. I admit indeed that if we interpret Scripture without regard to any just rules of interpretation, this assumption may find countenance in the word of God, just as almost any absurdity whatever may and has done. But a moderate share of attention to one of the simplest and most universal and most important rules of interpreting language whether in or out of the Bible, will strip this absurd dogma of the least appearance of support from the word of God. The rule to which I refer is this, "that language is always to be interpreted in accordance with the subject-matter of discourse."

      When used of acts of will, the term "can not" interpreted by this rule, can not be understood to mean a proper impossibility. If I say, I can not take five dollars for my watch, when it is offered to me, every one knows that I do not and can not mean to affirm a proper impossibility. So when God said to Lot," Haste thee, for I can do nothing until thou be come thither," who ever understood God as affirming a natural or any proper impossibility? All that he could have meant was, that he was not willing to do any thing until Lot was in a place of safety. Just so when the Bible speaks of our inability to comply with the commands of God, all that can be intended is that we are so unwilling that without divine persuasion, we as a matter of fact shall not and will not obey. This certainly is the sense in which such language is used in common life. And in common parlance, we never think of such language, when used of acts of will, as meanin[g] any thing more than an unwillingness, a state in which the will is strongly committed in an opposite direction.

      When Joshua said to the children of Israel, "Ye can not serve the Lord, for he is a holy God," the whole context, as well as the nature of the case, shows that he did not mean to affirm a natural, nor indeed any kind of impossibility. In the same connection, he requires them to serve the Lord and leads them to solemnly pledge themselves to serve Him. He undoubtedly intended to say that with wicked hearts they could not render Him an acceptable service, and therefore insisted on their putting away the wickedness of their hearts by immediately and voluntarily consecrating themselves to the service of the Lord. So it must be in all cases where the terms can not and such like expressions (which, when applied to muscular action, would imply a proper impossibility,) are used, in reference to acts of will; they can not, when thus used be understood as implying a proper impossibility without doing violence to every sober rule of interpreting language. What would be thought of a judge or an advocate at the bar of an earthly tribunal who should interpret the language of a witness without any regard to the rule, "that language is to be understood according to the subject-matter of discourse." Should an advocate in his argument to the court or jury, attempt to interpret the language of a witness in a manner that made can not, when spoken of an act of will mean a proper impossibility, the judge would soon rebuke his stupidity and remind him that he must not talk nonsense in a court of justice; and might possibly add, that such nonsensical assertions were allowable only in the pulpit. I say again, that it is an utter abuse and perversion of the laws of language so to interpret the language of the Bible as to make it teach a proper inability in man to will as God directs. The essence of obedience to God consists in willing. Language, then, that is used in reference to obedience must, when properly understood, be interpreted in accordance with the subject-matter of discourse. Consequently when used in reference to acts of will such expressions as can not and the like, can absolutely mean nothing more than a choice in an opposite direction. But it may be asked, Is there no grace in all that is done by the Holy Spirit to make man wise unto salvation? Yes, indeed, I answer. And it is grace and great grace, just because the doctrine of a natural inability in man to obey God is not true. It is just because man is well able to render obedience and unjustly refuses to do so, that all the influence that God brings to bear upon him to make him willing, is a gift and an influence of grace. And the grace is great just in proportion to the sinner's ability to comply with God's requirements and the strength of his voluntary opposition to his duty. If man were properly unable to obey, there could be no grace in giving him ability to obey when the bestowment of ability is considered relatively to the command. But let man be regarded as free, as possessing natural ability to obey all the requirements of God and all his difficulty as consisting in a wicked heart, or, which is the same thing, in an unwillingness to obey, then an influence on the part of God designed and tending to make him willing, is grace indeed. But strip man of his freedom, render him naturally unable to obey, and you render grace impossible so far as his obligation to obedience is concerned.

      But it is urged in support of the dogma of natural inability and of a gracious ability that the Bible every where represents man as dependent on the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit for all holiness and consequently for eternal life. I answer, it is admitted that this is the representation of the Bible, but the question is, In what sense is he dependent? Does his dependence consist in a natural inability to embrace the gospel and be saved? or does it consist in a voluntary selfishness--in an unwillingness to comply with the terms of salvation? Is man dependent on the Holy Spirit to give him a proper ability to obey God? or is he dependent only in such a sense that as a matter of fact he will not embrace the gospel unless the Holy Spirit makes him willing? The latter beyond reasonable question. This is the universal representation of Scripture. The difficulty to be overcome is every where in the Bible represented to be the sinner's unwillingness alone. It can not possibly be any thing else; for the willing is the doing required by God. "If there is but a willing mind, it is accepted according to what a man hath and not according to what he hath not."

      But it is said, if man can be willing of himself, what need of divine persuasion or influence to make him willing? I might ask, suppose a man is able but unwilling to pay his debts, what need of any influence to make him willing? Why, divine influence is needed to make a sinner willing or to induce him to will as God directs, just as and for the same reason that persuasion, entreaty, argument, or the rod, is needed to make our children submit their wills to ours. The fact, therefore that the Bible represents the sinner as in some sense dependent upon divine influence for a right heart, no more implies a proper inability in the sinner, than the fact that children are dependent for their good behavior oftentimes upon the thorough and timely discipline of their parents, implies a proper inability in them to obey their parents without chastisement.

      The Bible every where and in every way assumes the freedom of the will. This fact lies out in strong relief upon every page of divine inspiration. But this is only the assumption necessarily made by the universal intelligence of man. The strong language often found in Scripture upon the subject of man's inability to obey God, is designed only to represent the strength of his voluntary selfishness and enmity against God, and never to imply a proper natural inability. It is, therefore, a gross and most injurious perversion of Scripture, as well as a contradiction of human reason, to deny the natural ability, or, which is the same thing, the natural free agency of man, and to maintain a proper natural inability to obey God and the absurd dogma of a gracious ability to do our duty.

      REMARKS.

      1. The question of ability is one of great practical importance. To deny the ability of man to obey the commandments of God, is to represent God as a hard master, as requiring a natural impossibility of his creatures on pain of eternal damnation. This necessarily begets in the mind that believes it hard thoughts of God. The intelligence can not be satisfied with the justice of such a requisition. In fact, so far as this error gets possession of the mind and gains assent just so far it naturally and necessarily excuses itself for disobedience or for not complying with the commandments of God.

      2. The moral inability of Edwards is a real natural inability, and so it has been understood by sinners and professors of religion. When I entered the ministry, I found the persuasion of an absolute inability on the part of sinners to repent and believe the gospel almost universal. When I urged sinners and professors of religion to do their duty without delay, I frequently met with stern opposition from sinners, professors of religion, and ministers. They desired me to say to sinners that they could not repent and that they must wait God's, time, that is, for God to help them. It was common for the classes of persons just named to ask me if I thought sinners could be christians whenever they pleased, and whether I thought that any class of persons could repent, believe, and obey God without the strivings and new-creating power of the Holy Spirit. The church was almost universally settled down in the belief of a physical moral depravity, and of course, in a belief in the necessity of a physical regeneration, and also of course in the belief that sinners must wait to be regenerated by divine power while they were passive. Professors also must wait to be revived, until God in mysterious sovereignty came and revived them. As to revivals of religion they were settled down in the belief to a great extent, that man had no more agency in producing them than in producing showers of rain. To attempt to effect the conversion of a sinner, or to promote a revival, was an attempt to take the work out of the hands of God, to go to work in your own strength, and to set sinners and professors to do so. The vigorous use of means and measures to promote a work of grace was regarded by many as impious. It was getting up an excitement of animal feeling, and wickedly interfering with the prerogative of God. The fact is, that both professors of religion and non-professors were settled down upon their lees, in carnal security. The abominable dogmas of physical moral depravity or a sinful constitution with a consequent natural (falsely called moral) inability, and the necessity of a physical and passive regeneration, had chilled the heart of the church, and lulled sinners into a fatal sleep. This is the natural tendency of such doctrines.

      3. Let it be distinctly understood before we close this subject that we do not deny, but strenuously maintain, that the whole plan of salvation and all the influences, both providential and spiritual, which God exerts in the conversion, sanctification and salvation of sinners is grace from first to last, and that I deny the dogma of a gracious ability because it robs God of his glory. It really denies the grace of the gospel. The abettors of this scheme, in contending for the grace of the gospel, really deny it. What grace can there be, that should surprise heaven and earth, and cause "the angels to desire to look into it," in bestowing ability on those who never had any, (and of course who never cast away their ability) to obey the requirements of God? According to them all men lost their ability in Adam, and not by their own act. God still required obedience of them upon pain of eternal death. Now he might, according to this view of the subject, just as reasonably command all men on pain of eternal death to fly or undo all that Adam had done, or perform any other natural impossibility as to command them to be holy, to repent and believe the gospel. Now, I ask again, what possible grace was there or could there be, in his giving them power to obey him? To have required the obedience without giving the power had been infinitely unjust and tyrannical. To admit the assumption that men had really lost their ability to obey in Adam, and call this bestowment of ability for which they contend, grace, is an abuse of language, an absurdity and a denial of the true grace of the gospel not to be tolerated. I reject the dogma of a gracious ability, because it involves a denial of the true grace the gospel. I maintain that the gospel with all its influences including the gift of the Holy Spirit to convict, convert, and sanctify the soul, is a system of grace throughout. But to maintain this, I must also maintain that God might justly have required obedience of men without making these provisions for them. And to maintain the justice of God in requiring obedience, I must admit and maintain that obedience was possible to man. But this the abettors of this scheme deny, and maintain on the contrary that notwithstanding men were deprived of all ability, not by their act, or consent, but by Adam, long before they were born, still God might justly on pain of eternal damnation, require them to be holy, and that the giving them ability to obey is a matter of infinite grace; not, as they hold, the restoring of a power which they had cast away, but the giving of a power which they had never possessed. This power or ability viewed relatively to the command to obey on pain of eternal death a gift of grace! This baffles and confounds and stultifies the human intellect. The reason of a moral agent can not but reject this dogma. It will in spite of himself assume and affirm, the absence of ability being granted, that the bestowment of an ability viewed relatively to the command was demanded by justice, and that to call it a gracious ability is an abuse of language.

      Let it not be said, then, that we deny the grace of the glorious gospel of the blessed God, nor that we deny the reality and necessity of the influences of the Holy Spirit to convert and sanctify the soul, nor that this influence is a gracious one; for all these we most strenuously maintain. But I maintain this upon the ground that men are able to do their duty, and that the difficulty does not lie in a proper inability, but in a voluntary selfishness, in an unwillingness to obey the blessed gospel. I say again that I reject the dogma of a gracious ability, as I understand its abettors to hold it, not because I deny, but solely because it denies the grace of the gospel. The denial of ability is really a denial of the possibility of grace in the affair of man's salvation. I admit the ability of man, and hold that he is able, but utterly unwilling to obey God. Therefore I consistently hold that all the influences exerted by God to make him willing, are of free grace abounding through Christ Jesus.

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  • LECTURE 50 - THE NOTION OF INABILITY
    • LECTURE L. 

      THE NOTION OF INABILITY--

      PROPER METHOD OF ACCOUNTING FOR IT.

       

      I have represented ability or the freedom of the will as a first-truth of reason. I have also defined first-truths of reason to be those truths that are necessarily known to all moral agents. From these two representations the inquiry may naturally arise, how then is it to be accounted for that so many men have denied the liberty of the will or ability to obey God? That these first-truths of reason are frequently denied is a notorious fact. A recent writer thinks this denial a sufficient refutation of the affirmation that ability is a first-truth of reason. It is important that this denial should be accounted for. That mankind affirm their obligation upon the real though often latent and unperceived assumption of ability, there is no reasonable ground of doubt. I have said that first-truths of reason are frequently assumed and certainly known without being often the direct object of thought or attention; and also that these truths are universally held in the practical judgments of men while they sometimes in theory deny them. They know them to be true and in all their practical judgments assume their truth while they reason against them, think they prove them untrue, and not unfrequently affirm that they are conscious of an opposite affirmation. For example, men have denied, in theory, the law of causality, while they have at every moment of their lives acted upon the assumption of its truth. Others have denied the freedom of the will, who have every hour of their lives assumed and acted and judged upon the assumption that the will is free. The same is true of ability, which, in respect to the commandments of God, is identical with freedom. Men have often denied the ability of man to obey the commandments of God while they have always in their practical judgments of themselves and of others assumed their ability in respect to those things that are really commanded by God. Now, how is this to be accounted for?

      1. Multitudes have denied the freedom of the will, because they have loosely confounded the will with the involuntary powers--with the intellect and the sensibility. Locke, as is well known, regarded the mind as possessing but two primary faculties, the understanding and the will. President Edwards, as was said in a former lecture, followed Locke, and regarded all the states of the sensibility as acts of the will. Multitudes, nay the great mass of Calvinistic divines, with their hearers, have held the same views. This confounding of the sensibility with the will has been common for a long time. Now every body is conscious that the states of the sensibility or mere feelings cannot be produced or changed by a direct effort to feel thus or thus. Every body knows from consciousness that the feelings come and go, wax and wane, as motives are presented to excite them. And they know also that these feelings are under the law of necessity and not of liberty; that is, that necessity is an attribute of these feelings in such a sense, that under the circumstances, they will exist in spite of ourselves, and that they can not be controlled by a direct effort to control them. Every body knows that our feelings or the states of our sensibility can be controlled only indirectly, that is, by the direction of our thoughts. By directing our thoughts to an object calculated to excite certain feelings, we know that when the excitability is not exhausted, feelings correlated to that object will come into play of course and of necessity. So when any class of feelings exist, we all know that by diverting the attention from the object that excites them, they subside of course, and give place to a class correlated to the new object that at present occupies the attention. Now it is very manifest how the freedom of the will has come to be denied by those who confound the will proper with the sensibility. These same persons have always known and assumed that the actions of the will proper were free. Their error has consisted in not distinguishing in theory between the action of the proper will and the involuntary states of the sensibility. In their practical judgments, and in their conduct, they have recognized the distinction which they have failed to recognize in their speculations and theories. They have every hour been exerting their own freedom, have been controlling directly their attention and their outward life by the exercise of the freedom of their proper will. They have also, by the free exercise of the same faculty, been indirectly controlling the states of their sensibility. They have all along assumed the absolute freedom of the will proper, and have always acted upon the assumption, or they would not have acted at all or even attempted to act. But since they did not in theory distinguish between the sensibility and the will proper, they denied in theory the freedom of the will. If the actions of the will be confounded with desires and emotions, as President Edwards confounded them, and as has been common, the result must be a theoretical denial of the freedom of the will. In this way we are to account for the doctrine of inability as it has been generally held. It has not been clearly understood that moral law legislates directly, and, with strict propriety of speech, only over the will proper, and over the involuntary powers only indirectly through the will. It has been common to regard the law and the gospel of God as directly extending their claims to the involuntary powers and states of mind; and as was shown in a former lecture, many have regarded, in theory, the law as extending its claims to those states that lie wholly beyond either the direct or indirect control of the will. Now of course, with these views of the claims of God, ability is and must be denied. I trust we have seen in past lectures, that, strictly and properly speaking, the moral law restricts its claims to the actions of the will proper, in such a sense that if there be a willing mind, it is accepted as obedience; that the moral law and the lawgiver legislate over involuntary states only indirectly, that is, through the will; and that the whole of virtue, strictly speaking, consists in good will or disinterested benevolence. Sane minds never practically deny or can deny the freedom of the will proper, or the doctrine of ability, when they make the proper discriminations between the will and the sensibility, and properly regard moral law as legislating directly only over the will. It is worthy of all consideration that those who have denied ability have almost always confounded the will and the sensibility; and that those who have denied ability have always extended the claims of moral law beyond the pale of proper voluntariness; and many of them even beyond the limits of either the direct or the indirect control of the will.

      But the inquiry may arise, how it comes to pass that men have so extensively entertained the impression that the moral law legislates directly over those feelings and over those states of mind which they know to be involuntary? I answer that this mistake has arisen out of a want of just discrimination between the direct and indirect legislation of the law and of the law-giver. It is true that men are conscious of being responsible for their feelings and for their outward actions, and even for their thoughts. And it is really true that they are responsible for them in so far forth as they are under either the direct or indirect control of the will. And they know that these acts and states of mind are possible to them, that is, that they have an indirect ability to produce them. They however loosely confound the direct and indirect ability and responsibility. The thing required by the law directly and presently is benevolence or good will. This is what and all that the law strictly presently or directly requires. It indirectly requires all those outward and inward acts and states that are connected directly and indirectly with this required act of will by a law of necessity; that is, that those acts and states should follow as soon as by a natural and necessary law they will follow from a right action of the will. When these feelings and states and acts do not exist, they blame themselves generally with propriety, because the absence of them is in fact owing to a want of the required act of the will. Sometimes, no doubt, they blame themselves unjustly, not considering that although the will is right, of which they are conscious, the involuntary state or act does not follow because of exhaustion, or because of some disturbance in the established and natural connection between the acts of the will and its ordinary sequents. When this exhaustion or disturbance exists, men are apt, loosely and unjustly, to write bitter things against themselves. They often do the same in hours of temptation when Satan casts his fiery darts at them, lodging them in the thoughts and involuntary feelings. The will repels them, but they take effect, for the time being, in spite of himself in the intellect and sensibility; blasphemous thoughts are suggested to the mind, unkind thoughts of God are suggested, and in spite of one's self, these abominable thoughts awaken their correlated feelings. The will abhors them and struggles to suppress them, but for the time being, finds itself unable to do any thing more than to fight and resist.

      Now it is very common for souls in this state to write the most bitter accusations against themselves. But should it be hence inferred that they really are as much in fault as they assume themselves to be? No, indeed. But why do ministers, of all schools, unite in telling such tempted souls, You are mistaken, my dear brother or sister, these thoughts and feelings, though exercises of your own mind, are not yours in such a sense that you are responsible for them. The thoughts are suggested by Satan, and the feelings are a necessary consequence. Your will resists them, and this proves that you are unable, for the time being, to avoid them. You are, therefore, not responsible for them while you resist them with all the power of your will, any more than you would be guilty of murder should a giant overpower your strength and use your hand against your will to shoot a man. In such cases, it is, so far as I know, universally true that all schools admit that the tempted soul is not responsible or guilty for those things which it can not help. The inability is here allowed to be a bar to obligation; and such souls are justly told by ministers, You are mistaken in supposing yourself guilty in this case. The like mistake is fallen into when a soul blames itself for any state of mind whatever that lies wholly and truly beyond the direct or indirect control of the will, and for the same reason inability in both cases is alike a bar to obligation. It is just as absurd in the one case as in the other to infer real responsibility from a feeling or persuasion of responsibility. To hold that men are always responsible because they loosely think themselves to be so, is absurd. In cases of temptation such as that just supposed, as soon as the attention is directed to the fact of inability to avoid those thoughts and feelings, and the mind is conscious of the will's resisting them and of being unable to banish them, it readily rests in the assurance that it is not responsible for them. Its own irresponsibility in such cases appears self-evident to the mind the moment the proper inability is considered, and the affirmation of irresponsibility attended to. Now if the soul naturally and truly regarded itself as responsible when there is a proper inability and impossibility, the instructions above referred to could not relieve the mind. It would say, To be sure I know that I can not avoid having these thoughts and feelings, any more than I can cease to be the subject of consciousness, yet I know I am responsible, notwithstanding. These thoughts and feelings are states of my own mind and no matter how I come by them or whether I can control or prevent them or not. Inability, you know is no bar to obligation; therefore my obligation and my guilt remain. Wo is me, for I am undone. The idea, then, of responsibility when there is in fact real inability is a prejudice of education, a mistake.

      The mistake, unless strong prejudice of education has taken possession of the mind, lies in overlooking the fact of a real and proper inability. Unless the judgment has been strongly biased by education, it never judges itself bound to perform impossibilities nor even conceive of such a thing, who ever held himself bound to undo what is past, to recall past time or to substitute holy acts and states of mind in the place of past sinful ones? No one ever held himself bound to do this; first, because he knows it to be impossible, and secondly, because no one that I have heard of ever taught or asserted any such obligation; and therefore none have received so strong a bias from education as loosely to hold such an opinion. But sometimes the bias of education is so great that the subjects of it seem capable of believing almost any thing, however inconsistent with the intuitions of the reason and consequently in the face of the most certain knowledge. For example, President Edwards relates of a young woman in his congregation that she was deeply convicted of being guilty for Adam's first sin, and deeply repented of it. Now suppose that this and like cases should be regarded as conclusive proof that men are guilty of that sin, and deserve the wrath and curse of God forever for that sin; and that all men will suffer the pains of hell forever, except they become convinced of their personal guilt for that sin, and repent of it as in dust and ashes! President Edward's teaching on the subject of the relation of all men to Adam's first sin, it is well known, was calculated in a degree to pervert the judgment upon that subject; and this sufficiently accounts for the fact above alluded to. But apart from education, no human being ever held himself responsible for or guilty of the first or any other sin of Adam or of any other being, who existed and died before he himself existed. The reason is that all moral agents naturally know that inability or a proper impossibility is a bar to moral obligation and responsibility; and they never conceive to the contrary unless biased by a mystifying education that casts a fog over their primitive and constitutional convictions.

      2. Some have denied ability because they have strangely held that the moral law requires sinners to be just in all respects what they might have been had they never sinned. That is, they maintain that God requires of them just as high and perfect a service as if their powers had never been abused by sin, as if they had always been developed by the perfectly right use of them. This they admit to be a natural impossibility; nevertheless they hold that God may justly require it, and that sinners are justly bound to perform this impossible service and that they sin continually in coming short of it. To this sentiment I answer, that it might be maintained with as much show of reason and as much authority from the Bible, that God might and does require of all sinners to undo all their acts of sin, and to substitute holy ones in their places, and that he holds them as sinning every moment by the neglect to do this. Why may not God as well require one as the other! They are alike impossibilities. They are alike impossibilities originating in the sinner's own act or fault. If the sinners rendering himself unable to obey in one case does not set aside the right of God to command, so does it not for the same reason in the other. If an inability resulting from the sinner's own act can not bar the right of God to make the requisition in the one case, neither can it for the same reason in the other. But every one can see that God can not justly require the sinner to recall past time, and to undo past acts. But why? No other reason can be assigned than that it is impossible. But the same reason, it is admitted, exists in its full extent in the other case. It is admitted that sinners who have long indulged in sin or who have sinned at all, are really as unable to render as high a degree of service as they might have done had they never sinned, as they are to recall past time or to undo all their past acts of sin. On what ground then of reason or revelation does the assertion rest that in one case an impossibility is a bar to obligation and not in the other? I answer, There is no ground whatever for the assertion in question. It is a sheer and an absurd assumption, unsupported by any affirmation of reason or any truth or principle of revelation.

      But to this assumption I reply again, as I have done on a former occasion, that if it be true, it must follow that no one on earth or in heaven who has ever sinned, will be able to render as perfect a service as the law demands; for there is no reason to believe that any being who has abused his powers by sin will ever in time or eternity be able to render as high a service as he might have done had he at every moment duly developed them by perfect obedience. If this theory is true, I see not why it does not follow that the saints will be guilty in heaven of the sin of omission. A sentiment based upon an absurdity in the outset, as the one in question is, and resulting in such consequences as this must, is to be rejected without hesitation.

      3. A. consciousness of the force of habit in respect to all the acts and states of body and mind has contributed to the loose holding of the doctrine of inability. Every one who is at all in the habit of observation and self-reflection is aware that for some reason we acquire a greater and greater facility in doing any thing by practice or repetition. We find this to be true in respect to acts of will as really as in respect to the involuntary states of mind. When the will has been long committed to the indulgence of the propensities and in the habit of submitting itself to their impulses, there is a real difficulty of some sort in the way of changing its action. This difficulty can not really impair moral agency and accountability. But habit may, and, as every one knows, does interpose an obstacle of some sort in the way of right willing, or on the other hand in the way of wrong willing. That is, men both obey and disobey with greatest facility from habit. Habit strongly favors the accustomed action of the will in any direction. This, as I said, never does or can properly impair the freedom of the will, or render it impossible to act in a contrary direction; for if it could and should, the actions of the will, in that case, being determined by a law of necessity in one direction, would have no moral character. If benevolence became a habit so strong that it were utterly impossible to will in an opposite direction or not to will benevolently, benevolence would cease to be virtuous. So on the other hand with selfishness. If the will came to be determined in that direction by habit grown into a law of necessity, such action would and must cease to have moral character. But, as I said, there is a real conscious difficulty of some sort in the way of obedience when the will has been long accustomed to sin. This is strongly recognized in the language of inspiration and in devotional hymns, as well as in the language of experience by all men. The language of Scripture is often so strong upon this point, that but for a regard to the subject-matter of discourse, we might justly infer a proper inability. For example, Jer. 13:23. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil." This and similar passages recognize the influence of habit. "Then may ye who are accustomed to do evil:" custom or habit is to be overcome and in the strong language of the prophet, this is like changing the Ethiop's skin or the leopard's spots. But to understand the prophet as here affirming a proper inability were to disregard one of the fundamental rules of interpreting language, namely, that it is to be understood by reference to the subject of discourse. The latter part of the seventh chapter of Romans, affords a striking instance and an illustration of this. It is, as has just been said, a sound and most important rule of interpreting all language that due regard be had to the subject matter of discourse. When can not and such like terms that express an inability are applied to physical or involuntary actions or states of mind, they express a proper natural inability; but when they are used in reference to actions of free will, they express not a proper impossibility, but only a difficulty arising out of the existence of a contrary choice or the law of habit or both. Much question has been made about the seventh of Romans in its relation to the subject of ability and inability. Let us therefore look a little into this passage, Romans 7:15--23. "For that which I do, I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man. But I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." Now what did the apostle mean by this language? Did he use language here in the popular sense, or with strictly philosophical propriety? He says he finds himself able to will but not able to do. Is he then speaking of a mere outward or physical inability? Does he mean merely to say that the established connection between volition and its sequents was disturbed so that he could not execute his volitions? This his language, literally interpreted, and without reference to the subject-matter of discourse, and without regard to the manifest scope and design of the writer, would lead us to conclude. But who ever contended for such an interpretation? The apostle used popular language and was describing a very common experience. Convicted sinners and backslidden saints often make legal resolutions, and resolve upon obedience under the influence of legal motives and without really becoming benevolent, and changing the attitude of their wills. They, under the influence of conviction, purpose selfishly to do their duty to God and man, and, in the presence of temptations, they constantly fail of keeping their resolutions. It is true that with their selfish hearts, or in the selfish attitude of their wills, they can not keep their resolutions to abstain from those inward thoughts and emotions nor from those outward actions that result by a law of necessity from a selfish state or attitude of the will. These legal resolutions the apostle popularly calls willings. "To will is present with me, but how to do good I find not. When I would do good, evil is present with me, so that the good I would I do not and the evil I would not that I do. If then I do the evil I would not, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I delight in the law of God after the inner man. But I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members," &c. Now this appears to me to be descriptive of a very familiar experience of every deeply convicted sinner or backslider. The will is committed to the propensities, to the law in the members, or to the gratification of the impulses of the sensibility. Hence the outward life is selfish. Conviction of sin leads to the formation of resolutions of amendment while the will does not submit to God. These resolutions constantly fail of securing the result contemplated. The will still abides in a state of committal to self-gratification; and hence resolutions to amend in feeling or the outward life, fail of securing those results.

      Nothing was more foreign from the apostle's purpose, it seems to me, than to affirm a proper inability of will to yield to the claims of God. Indeed he affirms and assumes the freedom of his will. To will, he says, is present with me; that is, to resolve. But resolution is an act of will. It is a purpose, a design.