« PreviousContinue »
‘man was at first created, are not absolutely destroyed.'
The words in the Latin Article, of which the English Article is a translation of co-ordinate authority, stand thus : Ab originali justitid quam longissime distet. Quam longissime, according to the dictionaries, and the constant use of the best Latin writers, signifies as far off as possible. 'Very 'far gone from original righteousness,' is superlative and expressive, but not so decided as the Latin. If in original righteousness' things 'good
only in the sight of men' be included, it is not entirely lost:' if' things good in the sight of 'God' be exclusively meant, it is entirely lost. This his Lordship elsewhere seems to concede, 2 It appears to
that our Article intends exclusively 'things' good in the sight of God;' and the Latin Article confirms this opinion.
* That this is the plain and obvious sense of the passage, is evident from the following circumstance: When the assembly of divines, in the ‘ reign of Charles the First, undertook to reform,
as they called it, our Articles according to the · Calvinistic creed, they proposed to omit the ' words, “Man is very far gone from original righ'teousness,' and to substitute for them, 'Man is " wholly deprived of original righteousness.' It ' was admitted by both parties, that the two sen'tences conveyed ideas extremely different.'3
Whatever either party, in the turbulent times of Charles the first, admitted concerning the clause
3 Ref. 50.
? Ref. 59, 61, 67, 68,
in question, and that proposed to be substituted in its place; few readers in our quiet times, will readily perceive the extreme difference in the meaning of the two sentences; especially if the Latin Article be considered as fixing the sense of the English Article. I apprehend the most decided Calvinists in the establishment are at present fully satisfied with the Article as it now stands; and only desire that it may be cordially subscribed, and steadily adhered to by all who subscribe it, and require subscription to it; and by them made known distinctly and fully to all the laity, in its practical tendency, in all their public and private instruction.
. Celsus, arguing according to his own principles, asserts, that it is very difficult to make a perfect change in nature: but we, (knowing that there is one and the same nature in every rational soul, and maintaining that not a single one is formed wicked by the Creator of all things, but " that many men become wicked by education, by example, and by influence, so that wickedness is as it were naturalized in some,) are persuaded ' that it is not only not impossible, but not very difficult, by the divine word, to change wickedness naturalized, (raxiay quorúcacay,') provided any one
This word seems used in a sense wholly unknown to the compilers of lexicons : at least my opportunities do not enable me to find any trace of it.
'will but admit that he ought to commit himself ' to the supreme God, and do every thing with a ' reference to pleasing him, with whom the good and the bad are not held in the same estimation, and with whom the indolent and the active man 'do not meet with the same fate. But, if a change ‘ be very difficult to some, it must be said, that the
cause is in the disposition of those, who will not * allow that the supreme God will be the just Judge
of all the actions done by every one in this life. · For will and exertion have great weight in en' abling a person to do those things which appear • very difficult, and, to use a strong expression, • almost impossible. Would a man be able by ex'ertion and practice to walk upon a rope stretched
on high from one side of a theatre to the other, 'with considerable weight upon him; and would ' he find it impossible to live virtuously when he · desires it, although he has previously been very wicked? But consider, whether a person who - makes such assertions does not accuse the Cre‘ator of the rational being, rather than the being • himself; if he has made man capable of doing things difficult, but useless, and incapable of doing things conducive to his own happiness.'1
This is a quotation from Origen, one of the fathers, brought as authority against modern Calvinists; and as such adopted in the Refutation. But the whole passage, taking not the least notice of our fallen state in Adam, and in fact denying original sin, “ as the fault of our nature,' stands in diametrical opposition to our Article; and even
Origen, Ref. 332–334.
to many parts of the Refutation itself! Is there then no medium between God creating man
wicked,' and his becoming wicked merely by education, by example, and by influence, ?" Are we totally to deny original sin, and suppose man to be what God at first made him, and assign his wickedness to other causes, lest we should throw the blame of it on the Creator ? Let Calvin for once be permitted to speak : This is now to « be maintained, that man in his first creation was • far different from all his posterity; which, deriv‘ing its origin from him being corrupted, doth * draw from him an hereditary stain.” “We were
by nature children of wrath even as others.”2 If Origen, by a carnal and corrupt policy, in disputing with a learned pagan philosopher, concealed his sentiments, and did not habitually and totally deny the doctrine of the fall ; why should his Pelagian statement (for so it would afterwards be called,) be brought against us, especially by any of those who require subscription to our Articles ?
But how comes it to pass, that men every where, in all ages, receive such bad educations, are surrounded by such contagious examples, and are brought under such a pernicious influence, as to become universally evil : yea so evil as to fill the world with all kinds of wickedness, from generation to generation? How could this be possible, if man's nature were not universally prone to evil, and this by a most powerful bias ? — So that it seems an alien to the human mind and character, till naturalized by some,' and not by others. It becomes natural, from external causes, and by habit ; but it was not previously natural. Custom is indeed second nature : but how is it that men so generally contract bad habits, as well as imbibe bad instructions, and copy bad examples, if they have not naturally bad propensities ? The sheep never copies the pattern of the swine, or learns the habit of “ wallowing in the mire.” No education, no example, no influence, not even that of keen hunger, can induce the ox to devour animals for food; or the wolf and lion to feed on vegetables with the ox. Each creature has its peculiar nature and propensities; which may indeed be restrained or cherished, but cannot be extirpated, by any created skill or power, or by any combination of circumstances whatever. This illustration is peculiarly worthy of attention, as it has pleased God to describe the new creation unto holiness, in Christ Jesus, under the emblem of a change of the natural propensities of animals affected by omnipotence.
wickedness is naturalized in some.' It was then,
1 Inst. B. I. ch. xv. sec. 8.
Eph. ii. 3.
Many things contained in this quotation will fall in our way in a subsequent part of this work. Yet, if wickedness were indeed merely naturalized, inveterate habits, the result of bad education, early self indulgence, contagious examples, and corrupt influence, are not so easily conquered. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, and the
leopard his spots ? Then may ye also do good, “ who are accustomed to do evil.” 2 Habits of
! Is, xi. 6-9. lxv. 52.
? Jer. xiii. 23.