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CONTAINING ANSWERS TO OBJECTIONS.
Concerning the OBJECTION, That to suppose Men BORN IN SIN, without their Choice, or any previous Act of their own, is to suppose what is inconsistent with the Nature of SIN.
SOME of the objections made against the doctrine of original sin, which have reference to particular arguments used in defence of it, have been already considered in the handling of those arguments. What I shall therefore now consider, are such objections as I have not yet had occasion to notice.
There is no argument Dr. T. insists more upon, than that which is taken from the Arminian and Pelagian notion of freedom of will, consisting in the will's self-determination, as necessary to the being of moral good or evil. He often urges, that if we come into the world infected with sinful and depraved dispositions, then sin must be natural to us; and if natural, then necessary; and if necessary, then no sin, nor any thing we are blameable for, or that can in any respect be our fault, being what we cannot help: And he urges, that sin must proceed from our own choice, &c.*
Here I would observe in general, that the forementioned notion of freedom of will as essential to moral agency, and necessary to the very existence of virtue and sin, seems to be a grand favourite point with Pelagians and Arminians, and all divines of such characters, in their controversies with the orthodox. There is no one thing more fundamental in their schemes of religion: On the determination of this one leading point depends the issue of almost all controversies we have with such divines. Nevertheless, it seems a needless task for me particularly to consider that matter in this place; having already largely discussed it, with all the main grounds of this
*Page 125, 128-130, 186-188, 190, 200, 245, 246, 253, 258. 63, 64, 161, S. and other places.
notion, and the arguments used to defend it, in a late book on this subject, to which I ask leave to refer the reader.* It is very necessary, that the modern prevailing doctrine concerne ing this point should be well understood, and therefore thoroughly considered and examined: For without it there is no hope of putting an end to the controversy about original sin, and innumerable other controversies that subsist about many of the main points of religion. I stand ready to confess to the forementioned modern divines, if they can maintain their peculiar notion of freedom consisting in the self-determining power of the will, as necessary to moral agency, and can thoroughly establish it in opposition to the arguments lying against it, then they have an impregnable castle, to which they may repair, and remain invincible, in all the controversies they have with the reformed divines concerning original sin, the sovereignty of grace, election, redemption, conversion, the efficacious operation of the Holy Spirit, the nature of saving faith, perseverance of the saints, and other principles of the like kind. However, at the same time, I think this will be as strong a fortress for the Deists, in common with them; as the great doctrines subverted by their notion of freedom, are so plainly and abundantly taught in the scripture. But I am under no apprehensions of any danger which the cause of christianity or the religion of the reformed is in, from any possibility of that notion being ever established, or of its being ever evinced that there is not proper, perfect, and manifold demonstration lying against it. But as I said, it would be needless for me to enter into a particular disquisition of this point here; from which I shall easily be excused by any reader who is willing to give himself the trouble of consulting what I have already written. And as to others, probably they will scarce be at the pains of reading the present discourse; or at least would not, if it should be enlarged by a full consideration of that controversy.
I shall at this time therefore only take notice of some gross inconsistencies that Dr. T. has been guilty of, in his handling this objection against the doctrine of original sin. In places which have been cited, he says, that "sin must proceed from our own choice :" And that "if it does not, it being necessary to us, it cannot be sin, it cannot be our fault, or what we are to blame for And therefore all our sins must be chargeable on our choice, which is the cause of sin :" For he says, "the cause of every effect is alone chargeable with the effect it produceth, and which proceedeth from it." Now here are implied several gross contradictions. He greatly insists, that nothing can be sinful, or have the nature of sin, but what proceeds from our
+ Page 128.
* In vol I. of this edition.
ehoice. Nevertheless he says, "Not the effect, but the cause alone is chargeable with blame." Therefore the choice, which is the cause, is alone blameable, or has the nature of sin; and not the effect of that choice. Thus nothing can be sinful, but the effect of choice: and yet the effect of choice never can be sinful, but only the cause, which alone is chargeable with all the blame.
Again, the choice from which sin proceeds, is itself sinful. Not only is this implied in his saying, "The cause alone is chargeable with all the blame;" but he expressly speaks of the choice as faulty,* and calls that choice wicked, from which depravity and corruption proceeds. Now if the choice itself be sin, and there be no sin but what proceeds from a sinful choice, then the sinful choice must proceed from another antecedent choice; it must be chosen by a foregoing act of will, determining itself to that sinful choice, that so it may have that which he speaks of as absolutely essential to the nature of sin namely, that it proceeds from our choice, and does not happen to us necessarily. But if the sinful choice itself proceeds from a foregoing choice, then also that foregoing choice must be sinful; it being the cause of sin, and so alone chargeable with the blame. Yet if that foregoing choice be sinful, then neither must that happen to us necessarily, but must likewise proceed from choice, another act of choice preceding that: For we must remember, that "Nothing is sinful but what proceeds from our choice." And then for the same reason, even this prior choice last mentioned must also be sinful, being chargeable with all the blame of that consequent evil choice which was its effect. And so we must go back till we come to the very first volition, the prime or original act of choice in the whole chain. And this, to be sure, must be a sinful choice, because this is the origin or primitive cause of all the train of evils which follow; and according to our author, must therefore be "alone chargeable with all the blame:" And yet so it is, according to him this "cannot be sinful," because it does not "proceed from our own choice," or any foregoing act of our will; it being, by the supposition, the very first act of will in the case. And therefore it must be necessary, as to us, having no choice of ours to be the cause of it.
In p. 232. he says, "Adam's sin was from his own disobedient will; and so must every man's sin, and all the sin in the world be, as well as his." By this it seems, he must have a "disobedient will" before he sins; for the cause must be before the effect: And yet that disobedient will itself is sinful; otherwise it could not be called disobedient. But the question is, How do men come by the disobedient will, this cause of all
the sin in the world? It must not come necessarily, without men's choice; for if so, it is not sin, nor is there any disobedience in it. Therefore that disobedient will must also come from a disobedient will; and so on, in infinitum. Otherwise it must be supposed that there is some sin in the world which does not come from a disobedient will: contrary to our author's dogmatical assertions.
In p. 166. S. he says, "Adam could not sin without a sinful inclination." Here he calls that inclination itself sinful, which is the principle from whence sinful acts proceed; as elsewhere he speaks of the disobedient will from whence all sin comes: And he allows*, that "the law reaches to all the "latent principles of sin;" meaning plainly, that it forbids and threatens punishment for those latent principles. Now these latent principles of sin, these sinful inclinations, without which, according to our author, there can be no sinful act, cannot all proceed from a sinful choice; because that would imply great contradiction. For, by the supposition, they are the principles from whence a sinful choice comes, and whence all sinful acts of will proceed; and there can be no sinful act without them. So that the first latent principles and inclinations from whence all sinful acts proceed, are sinful; and yet they are not sinful because they do not proceed from a wicked choice, without which, according to him, "nothing can be sinful.”
Dr. T. speaking of that proposition of the assembly of di vines, wherein they assert that man is by nature utterly corrupt, &c.t thinks himself well warranted by the supposed great evidence of these his contradictory notions to say, "Therefore sin is not natural to us; and therefore I shall not scruple to say, this proposition in the assembly of divines is FALSE." But it may be worthy of consideration whether it would not have greatly become him, before he had clothed himself with so much assurance, and proceeded, on the foundation of these his notions, so magisterially to charge the Assembly's proposition with falsehood, to have taken care that his own propositions, which he has set in opposition to them, should be a little more consistent; that he might not have contradicted himself, while contradicting them; lest some impartial judges, observing his inconsistence, should think they had warrant to declare with equal assurance, that "they should not scruple to say, Dr. T.'s doctrine is FALSE."
* Contents of Rom. chap. vii. in Notes on the epistle. 4 Page 125.
Concerning the Objections against the Doctrine of native Corruption, that to suppose Men receive their first Existence in Sin, is to make him who is the Author of their Being, the Author of their Depravity.
One argument against a supposed native, sinful depravity, which Dr. T. greatly insists upon, is, "that this does in effect charge him, who is the author of our nature, who formed us in the womb, with being the author of a sinful corruption of nature; and that it is highly injurious to the God of our nature, whose hands have formed and fashioned us, to believe our nature to be originally corrupted, and that in the worst sense of corruption.*"*
With respect to this, I would observe in the first place, that this writer, in handling this grand objection, supposes something to belong to the doctrine objected against, as maintained by the divines whom he is opposing, which does not belong to it, nor follow from it. As particularly, he supposes the doctrine of original sin to imply, that nature must be corrupted by some positive influence; "something, by some means or other, infused into the human nature; some quality or other, not from the choice of our minds, but like a faint, tincture, or infection, altering the natural constitution, faculties, and dispositions of our souls. That sin and evil dispositions are IMPLANTED in the fœtus in the womb." Whereas truly our doctrine neither implies nor infers any such thing. In order to account for a sinful corruption of nature, yea, a total native depravity of the heart of man, there is not the least need of supposing any evil quality infused, implanted, or wrought into the nature of man, by any positive cause or influence whatsoever, either from God, or the creature; or of supposing that man is conceived and born with a fountain of evil in his heart, such as is any thing properly positive. I think a little attention to the nature of things will be sufficient to satisfy any impartial considerate inquirer, that the absence of positive good principles, and so the withholding of a special divine influence to impart and maintain those good principles-leaving the common natural principles of self-love, natural appetite, &c. to themselves, without the government of superior divine principles-will certainly be followed with the corruption; yea, the total corruption of the heart, without occasion for any
* Page 137, 187–189, 256, 258, 260. 143. S. and other places.
Page 146, 148, 149. S. and the like in many other places