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sisters and cousins; and in a request of a constant remembrance in your prayers.
“I am, honoured Sir,
“Your dutiful son,
6. JONATHAN EDWARDS."
Not long after Mr. Edwards had forwarded to Mr. Erskine his vindication of himself,* against the charge of having advanced, in the Freedom of the Will, the same views of Liberty and Necessity, with those exhibited by Lord Kaimes; he received from his friend a pamphlet, entitled "Objections to the Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion examined ;” in which the opinion was directly advanced, that, if it were really true, (as Mr. Edwards had insisted and demonstrated in the Freedom of the Will,) that there is no Liberty of Contingence, nor Self-determining Power in the Will, as opposed to Moral Necessity, or the Certain Connection between motives and volitions ; yet it was best for mankind, that the truth, in this respect, should not be known, because, in that case, they would not regard either themselves, or others, as deserving of praise or blame for their conduct
. In the following letter, Mr. Edwards exposes the folly and absurdity of this opinion; and explains, in a remarkably clear and convincing manner, the practical bearing of the great principles advanced in the Freedom of the Wil, on the subject of salvation. This letter might well have been published at the time, and circulated through the Church at large. And we recommend it to the frequent and prayerful perusal both of those clergymen, who cannot clearly comprehend the distinction between Physical, and Moral, Inability, and of those, who do not perceive the importance of explaining and enforcing this distinction from the desk; as exhibiting the consequences of representing impenitent sinners, to be possessed of any other Inability to repent and believe, than mere Unwillingness, in a manner too awful to be resisted, by a conscientious mind.
" To Mr. Erskine.
“ Stockbridge, August 3, 1757. * Rev. AND DEAR SIR,
“In June last, I received a letter from you, dated January 22, 1757, with “Mr. Anderson's complaint verified,” and “Objections to the Essays* examined." For these things, I now return you my hearty thanks.
“ The conduct of the vindicator of the “ Essays," from objec
* See Vol. II. pp. 290---300.
* Essays on the principles of Morality and Natural Religion, by Lord Kajmes.
tions made against them, seems to be very odd. Many things are produced from Calvin, and several Calvinistic writers, to defend what is not objected against. His book is almost wholly taken up about that, which is nothing to the purpose ; perhaps only to amuse and blind the common people. According to your proposal, I have drawn up something, stating the difference between my hypothesis, and that of the Essays; which I have sent to you, to be prmted in Scotland, if it be thought best; or to be disposed of as you think proper.f I have written it in a letter to you : and if it be publishmay
be as 6 A letter from me to a minister in Scotland.” Lord Kaimes's notion of God's deceiving mankind, by a kind of invincible or natural instinct or feeling, leading them to suppose, that they have a liberty of Contingence and Self-determination of' fl ill, in order to make them believe themselves and others worty to be blamed or praised for what they do, is a strange notion indeed; and it is hard for me to conjecture, what his views could be, in publishing such things to the world.
“However, by what I have heard, some others seem to be so far of the same mind, that they think, that if it be really true, that there is no self-determining power in the will, as opposed to any such moral necessity, as I speak of, consisting in a certain connexion between motives and volitions, it is of mischievous tendency to say any thing of it; and that it is best that the truth in this matter should not be known, by any means. I cannot but be of an extremely different mind. On the contrary, I think that the notion of Liberty, consisting in a Contingent self-determination of the Will, as necessary to the morality of men's dispositions and actions, is almost inconceivably pernicious; and that the contrary truth is one of the most important truths of moral philosophy, that ever was discussed, and most necessary to be known; and that for want of it, those schemes of morality and religion, which are a kind of Infidel schemes, entirely diverse from the virtue and religion of the Bible, and wholly inconsistent with, and subversive of, the main things belonging to the gospel scheme, have so vastly and so long prevailed, and have stood in such strength. And I think, whoever imagines that he, or any body else, shall ever see the doctrines of grace effectually maintained against these adversaries, till the truth in this matter be settled, imagines a vain thing. For, allow these adversaries what they maintain in this point, and I think they have strict demonstration against us. And not only have these errors a most pernicious influence, in the public religious controversies, that are maintained in the world; but such sort of notions have a more fatal influence many ways, on the minds of all ranks, in all transactions between God and their souls. The longer I live, and the
+ See the letter in Vol. II. pp. 290—300.
more I have to do with the souls of men, in the work of the ministry, the more I see of this. Notions of this sort are one of the main hindrances of the success of the preaching of the word, and other means of grace, in the conversion of sinners. This especially appears, when the minds of sinners are affected with some concern for their souls, and they are stirred up to seek their salvation. Nothing is more necessary for men, in such circumstances, than thorough conviction and humiliation ; than that their consciences should be properly convinced of their real guilt and sinfulness in the sight of God, and their deserving of his wrath. But who is there, that has had experience of the work of a minister, in dealing with souls in such circumstances, that does not find that the thing, that mainly prevents this, is men's excusing themselves with their own inability, and the moral necessity of those things, wherein their exceeding guilt and sinfulness in the sight of God, most fundamentally and mainly consist : such as, living from day to day, without one spark of true love to the God of infinite glory, and the Fountain of all good; their having greater complacency, in the little vile things of this world, than in him; their living in a rejection of Christ, with all his glorious benefits and dying love; and after all the exhibition of his glory and grace, having their hearts still as cold as a stone towards Him; and their living in such ingratitude, for that infinite mercy of his laying down his life for sinners. They, it may be, think of some instances of lewd behaviour, lying, dishonesty, intemperance, prosaneness, etc. But the grand principles of iniquity, constantly abiding and reigning, from whence all proceeds, are all overlooked. Conscience does not condemn them for those things, because they cannot love God of themselves, they cannot believe of themselves, and the like. They rather lay the blame of these things, and their other reigning wicked dispositions of heart, to God, and secretly charge him with all the blame. These things are very much, for want of being thoroughly instructed, in that great and important truth, that a bad will, or an evil disposition of heart, itself, is wickedness. It is wickedness, in its very being, nature and essence, and not merely the occasion of it, or the determining influence, that it was at first owing to. Some, it may be, will say,“ they own it is their fault that they have so bad a heart, that they have no love to God, no true faith in Christ, no gratitude to hiin, because they have been careless and slothful in times past, and have not used means to obtain a better heart, as they should have done.” And it may be, they are taught, “ that they are to blame for their wickedness of heart, because they, as it were, brought it on themselves, in Adam, by the sin which he voluntarily committed, which sin is justly charged to their account;" which perhaps they do not deny. But how far are these things from being a proper conviction of their wickedness, in their enmity to God and Christ. To be convinced of the sin of something that, long ago, was the occasion of their enmity to God; and to be convinced of the wickedness of the enmity itself; are quite two things. And if sinners, under some awakening, find the exercise of corruption of heart, as it appears in a great many ways; in their meditations, prayers, and other religious duties, and on occasion of their fears of hell, etc. etc. ; still, this notion of their inability to help it, excusing thein, will keep them from proper conviction of sin herein. Fears of hell tend to convince men of the hardness of their hearts. But then, when they find how hard their hearts are, and how far from a proper sensibility and affection in things of religion; they are kept from properly condemning themselves for it, from the moral necessity, or inability, which attends it. For the very notion of hardDess of heart, implies moral inability. The harder the heart is, the more dead is it in sin, and the more unable to exert good affections and acts. Thus the strength of sin, is made the excuse for sin. And thus I have known many under sears of hell, justifying, or excusing, themselves, at least implicitly, in horrid workings of enmity against God, in blasphemous thoughts, etc.
" It is of great importance, that they, that are seeking their salvation, should be brought off from all dependence on their own righteousness: but these notions above all things prevent it. They justify themselves, in the sincerity of their endeavours. They say to themselves, that they do what they can; they take great pains; and though there be great imperfection in what they do, and many evil workings of heart arise, yet these they cannot help: bere moral necessity, or inability, comes in as an excuse. Things of this kind have visibly been the main bindrance of the true humiliation and conversion of sinners, in the times of awakening, that have been in this land, every where, in all parts, as I have had opportunity to observe, in very many places. When the gospel is preached, and its offers, and invitations, and motives, most powerfully urged, and some hearts stand out, here is their strong hold, their sheet-anchor. Were it not for this, they would either comply; or their hearts would condemn them, for their horrid guilt in not complying. And if the law of God be preached in its strictness and spirituality, yet conscience is not properly convinced by it. They justify themselves with their inability; and the design and end of the law, as a school-master, to fit them for Christ, is defeated. Thus both the law and the gospel are prevented from having their proper effect. .
“ The doctrine of a Self-determining Will, as the ground of all moral good and evil, tends to prevent any proper exercises of faith in God and Christ, in the affair of our salvation, as it tends to prevent all dependence upon them. For, instead of this, it teaches a kind of absolute independence on all those things, that are of chief importance in this affair; our righteousness depending originally on our own acts, as self-determined. Thus our own holiness is from ourselves, as its determining cause, and its original and highVol. I.
est source. And as for imputed righteousness, that should have any merit at all in it, to be sure, there can be no such thing. For self-determination is necessary to praise and merit. But what is imputed from another is not from our self-determination or action. And truly, in this scheme, man is not dependent on God; but God is rather dependent on man in this affair : for he only operates consequentially in acts, in which he depends on what he sees we determine, and do first.
“ The nature of true faith impiies a disposition, to give all the glory of our salvation to God and Christ. But this notion is inconsistent with it, for it in effect gives the glory wholly to man. For that is the very doctrine that is taught, that the merit and praise is his, whose is the original and effectual determination of the praiseworthy deed. So that, on the whole, I think it must be a miracle, if ever men are converted, that have imbibed such notions as these, and are under their influence in their religious concerns.
“Yea, these notions tend effectually to prevent men's ever seeking after conversion, with any earnestness. It is manifest, that men never will be in earnest in this matter, till their consciences are awakened, and they are made sensible of God's anger, and their danger of suffering the terrible effects of it. But that stupidity, which is opposed to this awakening, is upheld chiefly by these two things: their insensibility of their guilt, in what is past, and present ; and their flattering themselves, as to what is future. These notions of liberty of indifference, contingence, and self-determination, as essential to guilt or merit, tend to preclude all sense of any great guilt for past or present wickedness. . As has been observed already, all wickedness of heart is excused, as what, in itself considered, brings no guilt. And all that the conscience has to recur to, to find any guilt, is the first wrong determination of the will, in some bad conduct, before that wickedness of heart existed, that was the occasion of introducing or confirming it. Which determination arose contingently from a state of indifference. And how small a matter does this at once bring men's guilt to, when all the main things, wherein their wickedness consists, are passed over. And indeed the more these principles are pursued, the more and more must guilt vanish, till at last it comes to nothing, as may easily be shown.
“And with respect to self-flattery and presumption, as to what is future, nothing can possibly be conceived more directly tending to it, than a notion of a liberty, at all times possessed, consisting in a power to determine one's own will to good or evil; which implies a power men have, at all times, to determine them to repent and turn to God. And what can more effectually encourage the sinner, in present delays and neglects, and embolden him to go on in sin, in a presumption of having his own salvation at all times at bis com