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But Mr. B.'s arguments and objections upon this subject will be considered more particularly in the two following sections.
REPLY TO MR. B.'s XI. LETTER, ON THE STATE OF
MAN IN INNOCENCE; WHETHER HE WAS INCAPABLE OF DOING THINGS SPIRITUALLY GOOD.
PON this single point of Adam's incapacity to do things spiritually good, Mr. B. rests almost all his arguments. He seems very desirous of taking this matter for granted, and actually does take it for granted in various places, arguing and exclaiming upon the supposition of this sentiment being true, though he knows that will not be granted him. Hence his answer to my reply to the objection on the necessity of a divine principle in order to believing. (94.) If I held Mr. B.'s sentiment in this matter, then I should not be able upon that ground to establish
own! That is the amount of what. he has there advanced. Hence also, his exclamations of my imputing cruelty to the Holy One; (56, 88,95.) that is, it would be “cruel and shocking for God to require that which is beyond the powers of man in his present or primitive state” - I grant it,
but that is what I never affirmed. If our principles are charged with absurdity, they should be proved to be inconsistent with themselves, or with some allowed principle, and not barely with those of our opponents.
I can see no force in the quotation from Mr. Brine, (57). wherein a cannot and a will not in respect of coming to Christ, are said to be distinct things, unless this sentiment is first taken for granted. “ We cannot come to Christ, he says, as we are des. titute of a principle of life; and we will not, as we are the subjects of vicious habits.” Now I would ask, what is the want of a principle of life, but the want of a holy bias of mind to glorify God? and this. is no otherwise a different thing from aversion of heart to him, than as a negative evil differs from one that is positive. The want of a principle of honesty in an intelligent being is no excusable thing any more than positive villany. I know of no answer that can be made to this way of reasoning, but by maintaining that a principle of life is something lifferent from a principle of uprightness towards God; something different in its nature from what man in his most upright condition could possess. If this were asserted, I should no otherwise reply than by asking for proof.--In the above argument, this sentiment is assumed as if it were a truth allowed on both sides; whereas, that is not the case. Supposing the notion of Adam's incapacity to do things spiri. tually good were a truth, to take it for granted in such a manner as this, is contrary to all fair reason.
ing. It is no other than begging the question. But I am not yet convinced that the thing itself is true; and if the foundation is bad, the superstructure must fall.
Two questions here require a discussion, viz. What evidence has Mr. B. produced in support of this, his favourite hypothesis? And what has he done towards overturning the arguments for the contrary?
First, WHAT EVIDENCE HAS MR. B. PRODUCER IN SUPPORT OF THIS, HIS FAVOURITE HYPOTHESIS? The subject we are now discussing is of a fundamental nature, in respect of the main question between us. It is the corner-stone upon which the whole fabrick of Mr. B.'s scheme is founded; we have reason to expect, therefore, that this should be well laid in solid scriptural evidence. However some truths may be more fully revealed than others, I should think I ought to suspect that system whose first and fundamental principles are not well supported.
Let us examine what Mr. B. has offered. He apprehends the phrases new man-new heart--new spirit--new creature, &c. imply this sentiment, and are inconsistent with that which he opposes. (83.) To this it is replied, the whole force of this argument rests upon the supposition that the term new in these passages stands opposed to a state of primitive purity; whereas every one knows that the new heart stands opposed to the stoney heart, and the new man
to the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts. *
Farther, Mr. B. thinks this sentiment supported by a passage in Rom. vii. 6. « But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, not in the oldness of the letter.” (73.) But his sense of the passage, if it prove any thing for him, will prove too much. He maintains that spiritual dispositions are a conformity to the law, though not to the Jaw only; (68.) but the apostle says, the law of which he speaks, they were delivered from. Yet Mr. B. will not say that we are by grace delivered from all obligation to the requirements of the moral law. To suit his sentiments, therefore, it should rather have been said, we serve partly in newness of the spirit, and partly in the oldness of the letter.
Whether " the oldness of the letter'' be here to be understood of the manner in which the converted Jews use formerly to worship God; tenaciously adhering to the letter of their ceremonial law, instead of entering into its spirit or design, and of worshipping God in spirit and in truth; or whether it mean the moral law in its particular form of a covenant of works, which seems to agree with the scope of the place; it certainly does not mean that for which Mr. B. produces it. The "oldness of the letter” in which they once served, is not here put for that way of serving God which was exercised in a state of
* Ezek. xxxvi. 26, Eph. iv. 22-24. 2 Cor. v. 17.
innocence, but in a state of unregeneracy. It was when they were in the flesh (v. 5.) that this sort of service was carried on to which the other is opposed. It must be such a sort of service, therefore, as could have no real conformity to the law in it, seeing that they are in the flesh cannot please God-the carnal mind is enmity against God-is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
It is very common for Mr. B. to apply that which is spoken of man as now born into the world, to man in a state of innocence. Thus he has applied a passage in Dr. Owen. (81.) The Pelagian figment; that " what we have by nature we have by grace, because God is the author of nature," means what we have ' by natural propagation, 'as the Doctor himself explains it, as we are now born into the world.*
I do not recollect any other passages of scripture on which Mr. B. has pretended to ground this fundamental principle; fundamental I call it, because, as was said before, it lies at the foundation of all his other principles wherein we differ. I wish Mr. B. and the reader seriously to consider whether the above passages convey such a sentiment, whether they can fairly be applied to the support of it; and if not, whether that which lies at the foundation of his hypothesis, has any foundation in the word of God. .
But Mr. B. though he has produced no other scriptural evidence, that I recollect, for the sentiment in question, than what has been noticed;
* Owen on the Spirit, p. 452.