« PrécédentContinuer »
with him. By all which phrases, in these several passages, this idea seems plainly intended and expressed; that there are in fallen man, propensities of nature to moral evil. And that it must be so, may be concluded from the evil volitions and actions of men, with as much certainty as the tree is known by its fruit, or as any cause can be learnt from its constant visible effects.
But if this be the evident fact, that we have such lusts which war in us; such laws of sin; such propensities to choose the evil and refuse the good; undoubtedly, these lusts, as well as the warring of them; these laws, as well as their operation, must be sinful. If the fruit be corrupt, the tree is also corrupt. It is agreeable to scripture, as well as reason and common sense, that the nature of a moral agent may be holy or unholy. The psalmist says, when praising the Lord, "Thou art good, and doest good." And we always suppose that the Most High is worthy of praise for what he is, and not merely for what he does: for the perfections of his nature, and not merely for his wonderful works. But if God is to be praised for being good, as well as for doing good; for the same reason we are to be blamed for being bad, as well as for conducting ill. And do we not always thus judge, in accusing or excusing one another? Is not a man of an envious, revengeful, malicious disposition, whether at present provoked or not, to the actings or feelings of these passions, ever looked upon in an odious light? Is not such a disposition itself, universally disapproved, and thought hateful?
2. It seems, I think, to be the doctrine of scripture, and not disagreeable to the dictates of common sense, that mere neglects of duty, and merely the want of virtuous affections, are sinful, in a moral agent. I put the want of good affections and the omissions of duty together, because a proof of the criminality of them cannot well be separated,
It hath been said, (though not by them of old v time,) that "all sin consists in positive volition and exercise." None, consequently, in principle, or in being unprincipled: none in the weakness, or total want, of virtuous and religious affections: none in the omission or careless performance of any duty. It is said, that in not loving God or our neighbor; in not repenting, or not believing in Christ; in not being merciful or just; in not ever doing any good, we are guilty of no sin.
But by whomsoever, or by how manysoever, all this is said, it should not be received without examination. "To the law and to the testimony:" as far as any στ speak not according to this word, there is no light in them."
That all sin consists in positives, is a position the truth of which, the very phraseology of scripture, on this subject, gives us some reason to suspect. Sin is generally expressed by negative terms: unholiness, ungodliness, unrighteousness, iniquity. Is there no unholiness, in the want of holiness? no ungodliness, in not having any godliness? no unrighteousness, in not being righteous? no iniquity, in never paying any regard to justice and equity
But we have greater witness than that of mere names and phrases. How often have prophets and apostles, and how often has the Author and Finisher of our faith, blamed and condemned men for deficiencies and neglects; for the want of pious and benevolent affections, and for the omission of religious and social duties? When our Saviour said to some of his hearers, " I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you;" he meant, one would think, to charge them with that which was not altogether faultless. And we know he upbraided those among whom most of his mighty works had been done, denounced woes upon them, and told them it would be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for It was like
them, “because they repented not.”
wise a saying of his, "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed." In his parable of the man that had been robbed, and lay wounded and half dead; he evidently supposed that the Levite and priest, who passed by, were very culpable, for not showing kindness to one of their own nation, in such circumstances of distress. And in his representations of the day of judgment, he hath taught us in the strongest manner, that men will then be condemned for mere neglects of duty. Thus, in the parable of the talents left with servants to be improved for their lord during his absence; the one who had made no use of his talent, is, for that reason called a slothful and wicked servant, and ordered to be cast into outer darkness. And in the plainer account which follows, of the proceedings of that great and awful day, where we are told that the Judge will say to them on his left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire ;" the only crimes charged as the cause of this terrible sentence, are sins of omission. "For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat : I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink : I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not." These condemned sinners are represented, indeed, as replying against their Judge, and justifying themselves but how do they do it? by pleading to the insufficiency of the charge, or by saying they were accused only of negatives, which are nothing? Not at all; the only plea they thought it possible to make in their defence, was denying the matter of fact. "Lord," say they, "when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?" The Judge answers them, Verily, I say unto you, In as much as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me." It is added, "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment." To the same purpose are the words of the apostle James;
"He shall have judgment without mercy, who hath shewed no mercy."
Many other texts might be adduced; but these are apprehended to be proofs abundantly sufficient, that, according to the scriptures, deficiency of right affection, and neglect of duty, are damnable sins.
And are not these evidently criminal, according to reason and common sense? Do we not always condemn others, when they have no benevolent concern for us, and pay no attention to us in our necessities and distresses? And do we not sometimes condemn' ourselves, for the mere want of those affections, and omission of those duties, which we owe to God, and to our neighbor? Were men accusable of no other crimes than such as these, must not every mouth be stopped, and all the world stand guilty before God?
Several things, I know, are said on the other side: for ever since the fig-leaves of our first parents, many inventions have been sought out by mankind, to cover their moral nakedness.
It is said, that to suppose there can be any evil in merely not loving and obeying God, or in not being friendly or just to men, is to place sin in that which is absolutely nothing.
But it may be replied, that to suppose there can be no sin in deficiencies or omissions, is to make absolutely nothing of all positive duty. Had we nothing to do, for doing nothing we should not be to blame. But this is not the case. We have duties incumbent on us; and therefore in not doing them, there is blameworthiness. The divine law does not run al together in negatives; as certainly it ought to have done, if in positives only, there were any moral evi!. Each of the ten commandments, as they have generally been explained, imply something required, as well as something forbidden. And the two first and greatest of them, according to our Saviour, on which hang all the law and the prophets, are positively expressed. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with
all thine heart; and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Can it then be thought, that if we had only avoided the whole of what is forbidden, without doing any of the things required, we should have been faultless? That if we had never hated God nor our neighbor, though we had never loved either of them at all, we should have had no sin? God's, ancient revolted people were exhorted, both to cease to do evil, and learn to do well. Christians, in regard to their conversation, have both a negative and a positive injunction given them. "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth; but that which is good, to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers." And, "The grace of God which bringeth salvation teacheth us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world." Have we then done all, when we have left off doing evil, but never learnt to do well? when we have abstained from those evil communications which corrupt the manners of others; but have never said a word tending to edify them, or to do them any good? when we have denied, ourselves, in regard to impious practices and earthly affections; but have wholly neglected works of righteousness, and all the positive duties and exercises of religion? In a word, are we to think that not to do any thing, is no sin; and, consequently, that doing nothing, is the whole duty of man?
It is said, If merely not doing be a sin, then stocks and stones are great sinners.
But as this argument goes upon the same ground as the foregoing; so it is fully answered by the apostle James: "To him that knoweth to do good, and doth it not," says he, "to him it is sin." Moral agents only, are capable of being to blame, whether in motion or at rest, Stocks and stones, having no duty to do, are blameless in not doing any but a