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The general continued wickedness of mankind, against such means and motives, proves each of these things, viz. that the cause is fixed, and that the fixed cause is internal in man's nature, and also that it is very powerful. It proves that the cause is fixed, because the effect is so abiding, through so many changes. It proves that the fixed cause is internal, because the circumstances are so various—including a variety of means and motives—and they are such circumstances as cannot possibly cause the effec, being most opposite to it in their tendency. And it proves the greatness of the internal cause ; or that the propensity is powerful; because the means which have opposed its intiuence have been so great, and yet have been statedly overcome.
But here I may observe, by the way, that with regard to the motives and obligations against which our first father sinned, it is not reasonably alleged, that he sinned when he knew his sin would have destructive consequences to all his posterity, and might in process of time pave the whole globe with skulls, fc. It is evident, by the plain account the scripture gives us of the temptation which prevailed with our first parents to commit that sin, that it was so contrived by the subtlety of the tempter, as first to blind and deceive them as to that matter, and to make them believe that their disobedience should be followed with no destruction or calamity at all to themselves, (and therefore not to their posterity) but on the contrary, with a great increase and advancement of dignity and happiness.
Evasion II. Let the wickedness of the world be ever so general and great, there is no necessity of supposing any depravity of nature to be the cause : man's own free-will is cause sufficient. Let mankind be more or less corrupt, they make themselves corrupt by their own free choice. This Dr. T. abundantly insists upon, in many parts of his book.*
But I would ask, how it comes to pass that mankind so universally agree in this evil exercise of their free-will? If their wills are in the first place as free to good as to evil, what is it to be ascribed to, that the world of mankind, consisting of so many millions, in so many successive generations, without consultation, all agree to excercise their freedom in favour of evil ? If there be no natural tendency or preponderation in the case, then there is as good a chance for the will being determined to good as to evil. If the cause be indifferent, why is not the effect in some
measure indifferent ? If the balance be no heavier at one end than the other, why does it perpetually preponderate one way? How comes it to pass, that the free will of mankind has been determined to evil, in like manner before the flood, and after the flood; under the law and under the gospel :
* Page 257, 258, 52, 53, S. and many other places.
among both Jews and Gentiles, under the Old Testament; and since then, among Christians, Jews, Mahometans; among papists and protestants; in those nations where civility, politeness, arts, and learning most prevail, and among the Negroes, and Hottentots in Africa, the Tartars in Asia, and Indians in America, towards both the poles, and on every side of the globe ; in greatest cities and obscurest villages ; in palaces and in huts, wigwams and cells under ground ? Is it enough to reply, It happens so, that men every where, and at all tiines, choose thus to determine their own wills, and so to make themselves sinful, as soon as ever they are capable of it, and sin constantly as long as they live, and universally to choose never to come up half way to their duty ?
A steady effect requires a steady cause ; but free-will, without any previous propensity to influence its determinations, is no permanent cause ; nothing can be conceived of farther from it: For the very notion of freedom of will, consisting in self-determining power, implies contingence; and if the will is perfectly free from any government of previous inclination, its freedom must imply the most absolute and perfect contingence : And surely nothing can be conceived of more unfixed than that. The notion of liberty of will, in this sense, implies perfect freedom from every thing that should previously fix, bind or determine it; that it may be left to be fixed and determined wholly by itself: Therefore its determinations must be previously altogether unfixed. And can that which is so unfixed, so contingent, be a cause sufficient to account for an effect in such a manner, and to such a degree, permanent, fixed, and constant?
When we see any person going on in a certain course with great constancy, against all manner of means to dissuade him, do we judge this to be no argument of a fixed disposition of mind, because, being free, he may determine to do so, if he will, without any such disposition? Or if we see a nation, or people, that differ greatly from other nations in such and such instances of their constant conduct—as though their tempers and inclinations were very
diverse—and any should say, we cannot judge at all of the temper or disposition of people by any thing observable in their constant practice or behaviour, because they have all free-will, and therefore may all choose to act so, if they please, without any thing in their temper or inclination to bias them. Would such an account of such effects be satisfying to the reason of mankind ? But infinitely further would it be from satisfying a considerate mind, to account for the constant and universal sinfulness of mankind by saying that their will is free, and therefore all may, if they please, make themselves wicked: They are free when they first begin to act as moral agents and therefore all may, if they please, begin to sin as soon as they begin to act: They are free as long as they continue to act in the
world, and therefore they may all commit sin continually, if they will : Men of all nations are free, and therefore all nations may act alike in these respects, if they please, though some do not know how other nations do act. Men of high and low condition, learned and ignorant, are free, and therefore they may agree in acting wickedly, if they please, though they do not consult together. Men in all ages are free, and therefore men in one age may all agree with men in every other age in wickedness, if they please, though they do not know how men in other ages have acted, &c. Let every one judge whether such an account of things can satisfy reason.
Evasion III. It is said by many opposers of the doctrine of original sin, that the corruption of mankind may be owing, not to a depraved nature, but to bad example. And I think we must understand Dr. T. as having respect to the powerful influence of bad instruction and example, when he says, (p. 118.) “ The gentiles in their heathen state, when incorporated into the body of the gentile world, were without strength, unable to help or recover themselves.” And in several other places to the like purpose. If there was no depravity of nature, what else could there be but bad instruction and example, to hinder the heathen world, as a collected body, (for as such Dr. T. speaks of them, as may be seen p. 117, 118.) from emerging out of their corruption on the rise of each new generation? As to their bad instruction, our author insists upon it, that the heathen, notwithstanding all their disadvantages, had sufficient light to know God, and do their whole duty. Therefore it must be chiefly bad example, according to him, that rendered their case helpless.
Now concerning this way of accounting for the corruption of the world by the influence of bad example, I would observe,
1. It is accounting for the thing by the thing itself. It is accounting for the corruption of the world by the corruption of the world. For, that bad examples are general all over the world to be followed by others, and have been so from the beginning, is only an instance, or rather a description of that corruption of the world which is to be accounted for. If mankind are naturally no more inclined to evil than good, then how come there to be so many more bad examples than good ones, in all ages? And if there are not, how come the bad examples that are set to be so much more followed than the good? If the propensity of man's nature be not to evil, how comes the current of general example, every where, and at all times, to be so much to evil? And when opposition bas been made by good examples, how comes it to pass that it has had so little effect to stem the stream of general wicked practice?
1 think from the brief account the scripture gives us of the behaviour of our first parents, and of the expressions of their faith and hope in God's revealed mercy, we have reason to suppose, that before ever they had any children they repented, were pardoned, and became truly pious. So that God planted the world at first with a noble vine; and at the beginning of their generations he set the stream of example the right way. And we see that children are more apt to follow the example of their parents than of any others; especially in early youth, their forming time, when those habits are generally contracted which abide by them all their days. Besides, Adam's children had no other examples to follow but those of their parents. How therefore came the stream so soon to turn and to proceed the contrary way with so violent a current? When mankind became so universally and desperately corrupt as not to be fit to live on earth any longer, and the world was every where full of bad examples, God destroyed them all at once-except righteous Noah and his family in order to remove those bad examples, and that the world might be planted again with good example, and the stream again turned the right way. How therefore came it to pass, that Noah's posterity did not follow his good example, especially when they had such extraordinary things to enforce it, but so generally, even in his life-time, became exceeding corrupt? One would think the first generation at least, while all lived together as one family, under Noah, their venerable father, might have followed his good example. And if they had done so, then, when the earth came to be divided in Peleg's time, the heads of the several families would have set out their particular colonies with good examples, and the stream would have been turned the right way in all the various divisions, colonies, and nations of the world. But we see in fact, that in about fifty years after Noah's death the world in general was overrun with dreadful corruption; so that all virtue and goodness was like soon to perish from among mankind, unless something extraordinary should be done to prevent it.
Then, for a remedy, God separated Abraham and his family from all the rest of the world, that they might be delivered from the influence of bad example, and that in his posterity he might have an holy seed. Thus God again planted a noble vine ; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob being eminently pious. But how soon did their posterity degenerate, till true religion was like to be swallowed up? We see how desperately, and almost universally corrupt they were, when God brought them out of Egypt, and led them in the wilderness.
Then God was pleased, before he planted his people in Canaan, to destroy that perverse generation in the wilder: VOL. II,
ness, that he might plant them there a noble vine, wholly a right seed, and set them out with good example, in the land where they were to have their settled abode. Jer. ii. 21. It is evident that the generation which came with Joshua into Canaan was an excellent generation, by innumerable things said of them.* But how soon did that people, nevertheless, become the degenerate plant of a strange vine ?
Ånd when the nation had a long time proved desperately and incurably corrupt, God destroyed them, and sent them into captivity—till the old rebels were dead and purged out, in order to deliver their children from their evil example. And when the following generation was purified as in a furnace, God planted them again, in the land of Israel, a noble vine, and set them out with good example ; which yet was not followed by their posterity.
When again the corruption was become inveterate, the christian church was planted; and a glorious out-pouring of the Spirit of God caused true virtue and piety to be exemplified far beyond what ever had been on earth before ; and thus the christian church was planted a noble vine. But that primitive good example has not prevailed to cause virtue to be generally and steadfastly maintained in the christian world. To how great a degree it has been otherwise, has already been observed.
After many ages of general and dreadful apostacy, God was pleased to erect the protestant church, as separated from the more corrupt part of Christendom ; and true piety flourished in it very much at first; God planted it a noble vine : But notwithstanding the good examples of the first reformers, what a melancholy pass is the protestant world come to at this day?
When England grew very corrupt, God brought over a number of pious persons, and planted them in New England, and this land was planted with a noble vine, But how is the gold become dim ! How greatly have we forsaken the pious examples of our fathers !
So prone have mankind always proved themselves to degeneracy and backsliding, that it shews plainly their natural propensity. And when good has revived and been promoted among men, it has been by some divine interposition opposing the natural current; the fruit of some extraordinary means. And the efficacy of such means has soon been overcome by constant natural bias, the effect of good example presently lost, and evil has regained the dominion. Like a heavy body, which may by some great power be caused to ascend, against its nature, a little while, but soon goes back again towards the center, to which it naturally and constantly tends.
* See Jer. ii. 2, 3. Psal. lxvii. 14. Josh. xxii. 2. and xxii. 8. Deut. iv. 3. 4. Hos.xi. 1, and ix 10. Judg. č. 7, 17, 22. and many other places.