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"But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you."
These words were addressed by the Lord Jesus Christ, on a certain occasion, to those who professed that they loved God. I design, this morning, and in the afternoon, to establish the doctrine of total depravity.
And secondly, what it is:
And thirdly, to prove the doctrine, according to the definition which I shall give of it.
And to conclude each discourse, with such remarks as shall appear appropriate, and necessary.
1. It does not consist in any want of faculties to obey God. We have all the powers of moral agency, that are needed to render perfect obedience to God. If there were any want of faculties, in our nature, our responsibility would cease; and we could not be justly blamed, for not doing that, for the performance of which, we do not possess the appropriate moral powers.
2. Total depravity does not consist, in a mutilated state of our moral powers. Neither our powers of body, or mind, are in a maimed, or mutilated state. If they were so, our obligation to obedience, would be diminished, precisely in proportion to the imperfection of the faculties or moral agency, which we possess.
3. Total depravity, does not consist, in any physical pollution transmitted from Adam, or from our ancestors, to us. It is impossible that moral depravity, should consist in physical pollution. Some persons have spoken of depravity, and of the pollutions of our nature, as if there were some moral depravity cleaving to, or incorporated with, the very substance of our being. Now this is to talk utter nonsense. If such a depravity were possible, it would not be moral, but physicaldepravity. It could not be a depravity for which we were blame-worthy. It could not be a sinful depravity. It would be a disease, and not a crime.
4. But again, total depravity, does not consist in any principle of sin, that is incorporated with our being. The word principle, is used in two senses. It sometimes means a property, or an attribute, of a substance, which has an inherent tendency to produce results agreeable to its nature. In this sense, depravity is not a principle, it is not a root, or sprout, or essence, or property, or attribute of any substance. It makes no part, either of body or mind. It does not belong to the constitution, but belongs purely, and exclusively to character: Moral depravity is a quality of voluntary action, and not of substance. If by principal, is meant purpose, preference, disposition, voluntary inclination to sin; then, in this sense, depravity is a principle; and in no other sense.
I do not mean, that there is some constitutional depravity, which lies back, and is the cause of actual transgression.
7. I do not mean, by total depravity, that there is the same disposition to sin, belonging to the substance of body or mind, that there is in a serpent to bite, or in a wolf to devour sheep. In other words, I do not mean, that there is a constitutional appetite, or craving for sin, implanted in the substance of the body or mind.
8. By total depravity, I do not mean, that men are as bad, as they can be, or as they might be, under other circumstances. If they were placed under circumstances, of less restraint, or of greater temptation, they would doubtless be worse than they are.
When we say, that men are totally depraved, we are sometimes understood to affirm, that men are as bad as they can be. They seem to understand the word total, as signifying the highest possible degree of depravity. But certainly this is not the meaning of the word total. The sum total of 3 and 2 and 5 is 10. This is not the highest possible number, but is the total of 3. and 2. and 5. The same word when qualifying depravity, does not mean the highest possible degree of depravity, but simply, that the whole character is depraved; that there is no mixture of good in his character. Not, that he does and says, as wickedly as he could say and do; but that whatever he does and says, and is, is sinful. "That ever thought and imagination of his heart, is only evil continually."
1. That unrepentant sinners, are universally destitute of love to God. My main business this morning, is, to establish this position, and conclude with several remarks. In the afternoon, if the Lord permit, I will further state what is meant by total depravity, and adduce the proofs, of the several positions, as I go along.
The text expressly asserts, that sinners have not the love of God in them. It would be easy, to show, that this same doctrine, is every where recognized, in the Bible. But as I am to deal with those, who I affirm to be totally depraved, I do not expect, that a thus saith the Lord will settle the question with you, and put it beyond debate.--You are unbelievers, and however you assent to the truth of the Bible, in general, yet I know, that you have no hearty confidence, in its doctrines in their detail: To prove to you, the doctrine of total depravity, from the Bible, only, may gain your unfeeling assent. But I am well aware, that this kind of evidence, will not so bring the subject home, to your experience, as to make you feel its truth. I might quote the text, and other passages of Scripture in proof of this doctrine, and then throw the responsibility upon you, of receiving or rejecting it. But as there is an exhaustless variety of other proofs within my reach, I will gather up a few of them, and lay them before you, for your consideration.
Facts, are stubborn things, and however men may evade the Bible. However they may turn away from, and misunderstand metaphysical reasonings; they find it difficult, to resist plain matters of fact; especially, when the facts exist in their own experience. I design to gather my proofs of this doctrine, from the experience of you, who are present. To point out certain facts, in your own history, and in the history of those around you, that will place this doctrine upon a foundation, not to be controverted.
The laws of mind, in their detail, are but imperfectly understood. Yet there are certain laws of mind, that are understood, even by children. They are facts of such universal and frequent experience, that we know with absolute certainty, that such are the laws of mind. For instance, by experience, we know it to be a law of mind, that we take delight in pleasing the object of our affection. To love an individual, is to desire his happiness. To promote his happiness, is to gratify that desire. To please the object of our affection, then is to please ourselves. To do that, which is pleasing to one whom we love; to add to his honor, or to his happiness, in any way; it to gratify our desire for his happiness; and naturally, and necessarily adds to our own happiness.
It is not essential that we should aim at gratifying ourselves, or at promoting our own happiness, in our efforts to please the object of our affections.
When we act virtuously, to please ourselves, is no part of our design. But although, not entering into our design, it is the natural result of pleasing an object of our affection. It is the gratifying of our love, or desire to promote his happiness, or honor; and this gratifying of our desire, is of itself happiness. We find this principle, showing itself, in all the relations of life. When is the affectionate husband or wife, in a state of higher enjoyment, than when they are engaged in those employments, and in the performance of those offices, that contribute to each others happiness. When is the affectionate wife, more cheerful, than when busied in those things, that she knows will please her husband. How assiduous, and unwearied, are lovers, and other dear friends, in their efforts to please the object of their affection. How eager to anticipate each other's desires; how readily; how joyfully do they engage in those things, that they know will give pleasure to one whom they greatly love. It is absurd, and a contradiction for you to say that you love an individual, and have no delight in pleasing him. It is impossible, that you should love an individual, and not be gratified in promoting his happiness. To say, that you love a person, is the same as to say, that you desire his happiness, and to say that you can desire his happiness without delighting in promoting it, is the same as to say, that to gratify virtuous desire is not happiness. In other words, that the gratification of virtuous desire, is not a gratification.
This law of mind holds true, in all its fullness and extent, upon the subject of religion. I appeal to every Christian in this house, whether, to do the will of God, is not more than his necessary food; whether it is not your meat and drink to do the will of your Heavenly Father. When are you so happy, as when engaged in those things that you know will promote the honor and glory of God. I do not mean, or suppose, that it is your design to gratify yourself, when you obey and serve God; but I ask, do you not find it to be a matter of fact, that you are never so happy, as when you are engaged in doing those things that please him. You search his word, to know what will please him; and when you know his will, and engage heartily in the performance of it, the happiness you will experience in the performance of these duties may not enter into your design or thoughts; and yet you know, that as a matter of fact, the performance of duty promotes your own happiness. To please God, pleases yourself. And now, let me appeal to the experience of every unrepentant sinner in this house: do you not know, that from the very constitution of your mind, you love to please your friends. And do you not know, that it makes no part of your happiness to please God. How you delight to gratify your children; to please the objects of your most endeared affection; but I ask your conscience, do you take delight in pleasing God? Do you study to know what will please him? And when you have learned his will, do you find yourselves inclined, readily and joyfully, to perform it?
How much pains you will take; at how much expense you will be; how watchful, assiduous, and persevering, not only in conforming the general outline of your conduct, to the wishes of one whom you greatly love; but in following out the minutia, into the detail; in fulfilling the slightest desires, and gratifying even the passing wishes of one upon whom your heart is set; and thus, giving yourself up, to promoting the happiness of the object of your affection, makes up, at once, the history and the substance, of your own happiness.