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  • MORAL DEPRAVITY - A,
    CHARLES FINNEY SYS. THEOLOGY

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    In discussing the subject of human depravity, I shall:

    Define the term depravity.

    The word is derived from the Latin de and pravus. Pravus means "crooked." De is intensive. Depravatus literally and primarily means "very crooked," not in the sense of original or constitutional crookedness, but in the sense of having become crooked. The term does not imply original mal-conformation, but lapsed, fallen, departed from right or straight. It always implies deterioration, or fall from a former state of moral or physical perfection.

    Depravity always implies a departure from a state of original integrity, or from conformity to the laws of the being who is the subject of depravity. Thus we should not consider that being depraved, who remained in a state of conformity to the original laws of his being, physical and moral. But we justly call a being depraved, who has departed from conformity to those laws, whether those laws be physical or moral.

    Point out the distinction between physical and moral depravity.

    Physical depravity, as the word denotes, is the depravity of constitution, or substance, as distinguished from depravity of free moral action. It may be predicated of body or of mind. Physical depravity, when predicated of the body, is commonly and rightly called disease. It consists in a physical departure from the laws of health; a lapsed, or fallen state, in which healthy organic action is not sustained. When physical depravity is predicated of mind, it is intended that the powers of the mind, either in substance, or in consequence of their connection with, and dependence upon, the body, are in a diseased, lapsed, fallen, degenerate state, so that the healthy action of those powers is not sustained.

    Physical depravity, being depravity of substance as opposed to depravity of the actions of free will, can have no moral character. It may as we shall see, be caused by moral depravity; and a moral agent may be blameworthy for having rendered himself physically depraved, either in body or mind. But physical depravity, whether of body or of mind, can have no moral character in itself, for the plain reason that it is involuntary, and in its nature is disease, and not sin. Let this be remembered.

    Moral depravity is the depravity of free will, not of the faculty itself, but of its free action. It consists in a violation of moral law. Depravity of the will, as a faculty, is, or would be, physical, and not moral depravity. It would be depravity of substance, and not of free, responsible choice. Moral depravity is depravity of choice. It is a choice at variance with moral law, moral right. It is synonymous with sin or sinfulness. It is moral depravity, because it consists in a violation of moral law, and because it has moral character.

    Of what physical depravity can be predicated.

    1. It can be predicated of any organized substance. That is, every organized substance is liable to become depraved. Depravity is a possible state of every organized body or substance in existence.

    2. Physical depravity may be predicated of mind, as has already been said, especially in its connection with an organized body. As mind, in connection with body, manifests itself through it, acts by means of it, and is dependent upon it, it is plain that if the body become diseased, or physically depraved, the mind cannot but be affected by this state of the body, through and by means of which it acts. The normal manifestations of mind cannot, in such case, be reasonably expected. Physical depravity may be predicated of all the involuntary states of the intellect, and of the sensibility. That is, the actings and states of the intellect may become disordered, depraved, deranged, or fallen from the state of integrity and healthiness. This every one knows, as it is matter of daily experience and observation. Whether this in all cases is, and must be, caused by the state of the bodily organization, that is, whether it is always and necessarily to be ascribed to the depraved state of the brain and nervous system, it is impossible for us to know. It may, for aught we know, in some instances at least, be a depravity or derangement of the substance of the mind itself.

    The sensibility, or feeling department of the mind, may be sadly and physically depraved. This is a matter of common experience. The appetites and passions, the desires and cravings, the antipathies and repellencies of the feelings fall into great disorder and anarchy. Numerous artificial appetites are generated, and the whole sensibility becomes a wilderness, a chaos of conflicting and clamorous desires, emotions and passions. That this state of the sensibility is often, and perhaps in some measure always, owing to the state of the nervous system with which it is connected, through and by which it manifests itself, there can be but little room to doubt. But whether this is always and necessarily so, no one can tell. We know that the sensibility manifests great physical depravity. Whether this depravity belong exclusively to the body, or to the mind, or to both in conjunction, I will not venture to affirm. In the present state of our knowledge, or of my knowledge, I dare not hazard an affirmation upon the subject. The human body is certainly in a state of physical depravity. The human mind also certainly manifests physical depravity. But observe, physical depravity has in no case any moral character, because it is involuntary.

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