||delphia > Lectures on SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY by Charles G. Finney (page 4 of 11)
Charles G. Finney
A Voice from the Philadelphian Church Age
by Charles Grandison Finney
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Table of Contents
LECTURE XXXI. -- Attributes of Selfishness--Continued.
Egotism . . Simplicity . . Total moral depravity implied in selfishness as one
of its attributes . . The scriptures assume and affirm it . . Remarks
LECTURE XXXII. -- Moral Government--Continued.
A return to obedience to moral law is and must be, under every dispensation of
the divine government, the unalterable condition of salvation . . Under a gracious
dispensation, a return to full obedience to moral law is not dispensed with as a
condition of salvation, but this obedience is secured by the indwelling spirit of
Christ received by faith to reign in the heart
LECTURE XXXIII. -- Moral Government--Continued.
What constitutes the sanctions of law . . There can be no law without sanctions
. . In what light sanctions are to be regarded . . The end to be secured by law,
and the execution of penal sanctions . . By what rule sanctions ought to be graduated
. . God's law has sanctions . . What constitutes the remuneratory sanctions of the
law of God . . The perfection and duration of the remuneratory sanctions of the law
of God . . What constitutes the vindicatory sanctions of the law of God . . Duration
of the penal sanctions of the law of God . . Inquire into the meaning of the term
infinite . . Infinites may differ indefinitely in amount . . I must remind you of
the rule by which degrees of guilt are to be estimated . . That all and every sin
must from its very nature involve infinite guilt in the sense of deserving endless
punishment . . Notwithstanding all sin deserves endless punishment, yet the guilt
of different persons may vary indefinitely, and punishment, although always endless
in duration, may and ought to vary in degree, according to the guilt of each individual
. . That penal inflictions under the government of God must be endless . . Examine
this question in the light of revelation
LECTURE XXXIV. -- Atonement.
I will call attention to several well established governmental principles . .
Define the term atonement . . I am to inquire into the teachings of natural theology,
or into the à priori affirmations of reason upon this subject . . The
fact of atonement . . The design of the atonement . . Christ's obedience to the moral
law as a covenant of works, did not constitute the atonement . . The atonement was
not a commercial transaction . . The atonement of Christ was intended as a satisfaction
of public justice . . His taking human nature, and obeying unto death, under such
circumstances, constituted a good reason for our being treated as righteous
LECTURE XXXV. -- Extent of Atonement.
For whose benefit the atonement was intended . . Objections answered . . Remarks
on the atonement
LECTURE XXXVI. -- Human Government.
The ultimate end of God in creation . . Providential and moral governments are
indispensable means of securing the highest good of the universe . . Civil and family
governments are indispensable to the securing of this end, and are therefore really
a part of the providential and moral government of God . . Human governments are
a necessity of human nature . . This necessity will continue as long as human beings
exist in this world . . Human governments are plainly recognized in the Bible as
a part of the moral government of God . . It is the duty of all men to aid in the
establishment and support of human government . . It is absurd to suppose that human
governments can ever be dispensed with in the present world . . Objections answered
. . Inquire into the foundation of the right of human governments . . Point out the
limits or boundary of this right
LECTURE XXXVII. -- Human Governments--Continued.
The reasons why God has made no form of civil government universally obligatory
. . The particular forms of state government must and will depend upon the virtue
and intelligence of the people . . That form of government is obligatory, that is
best suited to meet the necessities of the people . . Revolutions become necessary
and obligatory, when the virtue and intelligence or the vice and ignorance of the
people demand them . . In what cases human legislation is valid, and in what cases
it is null and void . . In what cases we are bound to disobey human governments .
. Apply the foregoing principles to the rights and duties of governments and subjects
in relation to the execution of the necessary penalties of law
LECTURE XXXVIII. -- Moral Depravity.
Definition of the term depravity . . Point out the distinction between physical
and moral depravity . . Of what physical depravity can be predicated . . Of what
moral depravity can be predicated . . Mankind are both physically and morally depraved
. . Subsequent to the commencement of moral agency and previous to regeneration the
moral depravity of mankind is universal . . The moral depravity of the unregenerate
moral agents of our race, is total
This lecture was typed in by Jeff Sullivan.
LECTURE XXXI. Back to Top
ATTRIBUTES OF SELFISHNESS.
WHAT IS IMPLIED IN DISOBEDIENCE TO THE LAW OF GOD.
(24.) Egotism is another attribute of selfishness.
Egotism, when properly considered, does not consist in actually talking about and
praising self; but in that disposition of mind that manifests itself in self-laudation.
Parrots talk almost exclusively of themselves, and yet we do not accuse them of egotism,
nor feel the least disgust toward them on that account.
Moral agents may be under circumstances that render it necessary to speak much of
themselves. God's character and relations are such, and the ignorance of men so great,
that it is necessary for him to reveal himself to them, and consequently to speak
to them very much about himself. This same is true of Christ. One of Christ's principal
objects was to make the world acquainted with himself, and with the nature and design
of his mission. Of course he spake much of himself. But whoever thought of accusing
either the Father or the Son of egotism?
Real and sinful egotism is a selfish state of the will. It is a selfish disposition.
Selfishness cannot but manifest egotism. The natural heart is egotistical, and its
language and deportment must be the same.
An egotistical state of mind manifests itself in a great variety of ways; not only
in self-commendation and laudation, but also in selfish aims and actions, exalting
self in action as well as in word. An egotistical spirit speaks of itself and its
achievements, in such a way as reveals the assumption, that self is a very important
personage. It demonstrates that self is the end of every thing, and the great idol
before which all ought to bow down and worship. This is not too strong language.
The fact is, that selfishness is nothing short of a practical setting up of the shameless
claim, that self is of more importance than God and the whole universe; that self
ought to be universally worshipped; that God and all other beings ought to be entirely
consecrated to its interests, and to the promotion of its glory. Now, what but the
most disgusting egotism can be expected from such a state of mind as this? If it
does not manifest itself in one way, it will and must in another. The thoughts are
upon self; the heart is upon self. Self-flattery is a necessary result, or rather
attribute of selfishness. A selfish man is always a self-flatterer, and a self-deceiver,
and a self-devotee.
Self may speak very sparingly of self, because reason affirms that self-praise must
provoke contempt. A man may have a spirit too egotistical to speak out, and may reveal
his superlative disposition to be praised, by a studied abstinence from self-commendation.
Nay, he may speak of himself in terms the most reproachful and self-abasing, in the
spirit of supreme egotism, to evince his humility and the deep self-knowledge which
he possesses. Yet this may be hypocritically designed to draw forth admiration and
applause. A spirit of self-deification, which selfishness always is, if it does not
manifest itself in words, must and will in deeds. The great and supreme importance
of self is assumed by the heart, and cannot but in some way manifest itself. It may,
and often does, put on the garb of the utmost self-abasement. It stoops to conquer;
and, to gain universal praise, affects to be most empty of self.
But this is only a more refined egotism. It is only saying, Come, see my perfect
humility and self-emptiness. Indeed, there are myriads of ways in which an egotistical
spirit manifests itself, and so subtle and refined are many of them, that they resemble
Satan robed in the stolen habiliments of an angel of light.
An egotistical spirit often manifests itself in self-consequential airs, and by thrusting
self into the best seat at table, in a stage coach, a railroad carriage, or into
the best state room in the steam boat. In short, it manifests in action what it is
apt to manifest in word, to wit, a sense of supreme self-importance.
The mere fact of speaking of self is not of itself proof of an egotistical spirit.
The thing to be regarded is the manner and manifest design of speaking of self. A
benevolent man may speak much of self because it may be important to others that
he should do so, on account of his relations. When the design is the benefit of others
and the glory of God, it is as far as possible from the spirit of egotism. A benevolent
man might speak of himself just as he would of others. He has merged his interests
in, or rather identified them with, the interests of others, and, of course, would
naturally treat others and speak of them much as he treats and speaks of himself.
If he sees and censures the conduct of others, and has ever been guilty of the like,
he will censure his own baseness quite as severely as he does the same thing in others.
If he commends the virtues of others, it is but for the glory of God; and for the
very same reason, he might speak of virtues of which he is conscious in himself,
that God may have glory. A perfectly simple-hearted and guileless state of mind might
naturally enough manifest itself in this manner. An egotistical spirit in another
might, and doubtless would, lead him to misunderstand such open-heartedness and transparency
of character. There would be, nevertheless, a radical difference in the spirit with
which two such men would speak either of their own faults or virtues. Paul was so
circumstanced as to find it necessary to speak in vindication of himself, and to
publish the success of his own labours, for the benefit of the church and the glory
of God. He was slandered, misrepresented, and his ministry hindered among strangers,
by these false representations. He had no one to speak for him. It was his duty to
disabuse the public mind. He did so, but who can accuse him of a spirit of egotism?
Others have often been similarly situated, and have been subject to the same necessity.
They are liable to be misunderstood. The most selfish and egotistical will be the
first to judge them by their own spirit. But God will justify them if, in his providence
necessity is laid upon them to do as Paul did. But, to a truly pious mind, it is
trying to be obliged to speak much of self. If not compelled by circumstances to
do so, it is unnatural to a pious mind to think or speak much of self. He is too
much engrossed with his work to think much of self, unless peculiar trials place
him under a necessity of doing so.
(25.) Simplicity is another attribute of selfishness.
By this term it is intended to express two things, to wit:--
(i.) Singleness, unmixed, or unmingled, and--
(ii.) That selfishness is always as intense as under the circumstances it can be.
I will consider these two branches of the subject separately, and in order.
(i.) Selfishness is simple in the sense of uncompounded or unmixed. It consists,
as we have repeatedly seen, in ultimate choice or intention. It is the choice of
an end, of course the supreme as well as the ultimate choice of the soul. Now it
must be self-evident that no other and opposing choice can consist with it. Nor can
the mind, while in the exercise of this choice of an end, possibly put forth any
volitions inconsistent with it. Volitions never are, and never can be, put forth
but to secure some end, or, in other words, for some reason. If they could, such
volitions would have no moral character, because there would be no intention. Intelligent
volitions must, of course, always imply intention. It is, therefore, impossible that
benevolent volitions should co-exist with a selfish intention, or that selfish volitions
should co-exist with a benevolent intention. Simplicity, in the sense of uncompounded
or unmixed, must be an attribute of selfishness. This is evidently the philosophy
assumed in the teachings of Christ and of inspiration. "Ye cannot serve two
masters"--that is, certainly, at the same time--says Christ. And again: "Ye
cannot serve God and Mammon"--that is, of course at the same time. "Can
a fountain at the same place send forth sweet water and bitter?" says James.
Thus we see that the Bible assumes, and expressly teaches, the philosophy here maintained.
(ii.) Selfishness is always as intense as under the circumstances it can be.
It is a choice. It is the choice of self-indulgence as an ultimate end. Therefore,
if repose is sought, it is only because the propensity to repose at the time preponderates.
If energetic, it is to secure some form of self-indulgence, which, at the time, is
preferred to ease. If at one time it is more or less intense than at another, it
is only because self-gratification at the time demands it. Indeed, it is absurd to
say, that it is more intense at one time than at another, except as its intensity
is increased by the pressure of motives to abandon it, and become benevolent. If
a selfish man gives himself up to idleness, lounging, and sleeping, it is not for
want of intensity in the action of his will, but because his disposition to self-indulgence
in this form is stronger than in any other. So, if his selfishness take on any possible
type, it is only because of the strength of his disposition to indulge self in that
particular way. Selfishness lives only for one end, and it is impossible that that
end, while it continues to be chosen, should not have the supreme control. Indeed,
the choice of an ultimate end implies the consecration of the will to it, and it
is a contradiction to say, that the will is not true to the end which it chooses,
and that it acts less intensely than is demanded by the nature of the end, and the
apprehensions of the mind in regard to the readiest way to realize it. The end is
chosen without qualification, or else not at all as an ultimate end. The moment anything
should intervene that should cause the mind to withhold the requisite energy to secure
it, that moment it would cease to be chosen as an ultimate end. That which has induced
the will to withhold the requisite energy, has become the supreme object of regard.
It is palpably absurd to say, that the spirit of self-indulgence should not always
be as intense as will most tend, under all circumstances, to indulge self. The intensity
of the spirit of self-indulgence is always just what it is, and as it is, because,
and only because, self is the most indulged and gratified thereby. If upon the whole,
self would be more indulged and gratified by greater or less intensity, it is impossible
that that should not be. The presence of considerations inducing to benevolence must
either annihilate or strengthen selfishness. The choice must be abandoned, or its
intensity and obstinacy must increase with, and in proportion to, increasing light.
But at every moment, the intensity of the selfish choice must be as great as is consistent
with its nature, that is, with its being the choice of self-indulgence.
(26.) Total moral depravity is implied in selfishness as one of its attributes. By
this I intend that every selfish being is at every moment as wicked and as blameworthy
as with his knowledge he can be. To establish this proposition, I must,
(i.) Remind you of that in which moral character consists.
(ii.) Of the foundation of moral obligation.
(iii.) Of the conditions of moral obligation.
(iv.) Show the unity of moral obligation.
(v.) The unity of virtue and of vice.
(vi.) How to measure moral obligation.
(vii.) The guilt of transgression to be equal to the degree of obligation.
(viii.) Moral agents are at all times either as holy or as sinful as with
their knowledge they can be.
(ix.) Consequently, total moral depravity is an attribute of selfishness in
the sense that every sinner is as wicked as with his present light he can be.
(1.) In what moral character consists.
It has been repeatedly shown that moral character belongs only to ultimate intention,
or that it consists in the choice of an ultimate end, or the end of life.
(2.) The foundation of moral obligation.
(a.) Moral character implies moral obligation.
(b.) Moral obligation respects ultimate intention.
(c.) Ultimate choice or intention is the choice of an ultimate end, or the
choice of something for its own sake.
(d.) The foundation of the obligation to choose or intend an end or something
for its own sake, must consist in the intrinsic value of the thing to be chosen.
(e.) The highest good or well-being of God and of the universe is of intrinsic
and infinite value.
(f.) Therefore, the highest well-being of God and of the universe of sentient
beings, is the foundation of moral obligation, that is, this is the ultimate end
to which all moral agents ought to consecrate themselves.
(iii.) Conditions of moral obligation.
(a.) The powers of moral agency: intellect, sensibility, and free-will.
(b.) The existence and perception of the end that ought to be chosen.
(c.) Obligation to will the conditions and means of the good of being, and
to make executive efforts to secure this good, is conditioned as above, and also
upon the knowledge that there are means and conditions of this good, and what they
are, and upon the necessity, possibility, and assumed utility, of executive efforts.
(iv.) Unity of moral obligation.
(a.) Moral obligation strictly belongs only to the ultimate intention.
(b.) It requires but one ultimate choice or intention.
(c.) It requires universally and only, that every moral agent should, at all
times, and under all circumstances, honestly will, choose, intend the highest good
of being as an end, or for its own intrinsic value, with all the necessary conditions
and means thereof. Therefore moral obligation is a unit.
(v.) Unity of virtue and vice.
(a.) Virtue must be a unit, for it always and only consists in compliance
with moral obligation, which is a unit.
(b.) It always and only consists in one and the same choice, or in the choice
of one and the same end.
(c.) It has been fully shown that sin consists in selfishness, and that selfishness
is an ultimate choice, to wit, the choice of self-gratification as an end, or for
its own sake.
(d.) Selfishness is always one and the same choice, or the choice of one and
the same end.
(e.) Therefore, selfishness or sin must be a unit.
(f.) Or, more strictly, virtue is the moral element or attribute of disinterested
benevolence or good-willing. And sin or vice is the moral element or attribute of
selfishness. Virtue is always the same attribute of the same choice. They are, therefore,
always and necessarily units.
(vi.) How to measure moral obligation.
(a.) It is affirmed, both by reason and revelation, that there are degrees
of guilt; that some are more guilty than others; and that the same individual may
be more guilty at one time than at another.
(b.) The same is true of virtue. One person may be more virtuous than another
when both are truly virtuous. And also the same person may be more virtuous at one
time than at another, although he may be virtuous at all times. In other words, it
is affirmed, both by reason and revelation, that there is such a thing as growth,
both in virtue and vice.
(c.) It is matter of general belief, also, that the same individual, with
the same degree of light or knowledge, is more or less praise or blameworthy, as
he shall do one thing or another; or, in other words, as he shall pursue one course
or another, to accomplish the end he has in view; or, which is the same thing, that
the same individual, with the same knowledge or light, is more or less virtuous or
vicious, according to the course of outward life which he shall pursue. This I shall
attempt to show is human prejudice, and a serious and most injurious error.
(d.) It is also generally held that two or more individuals, having precisely
the same degree of light or knowledge, and being both equally benevolent or selfish,
may, nevertheless, differ in their degree of virtue or vice, according as they pursue
different courses of outward conduct. This also, I shall attempt to show, is a fundamental
We can arrive at the truth upon this subject only by clearly understanding how to
measure moral obligation, and of course how to ascertain the degree of virtue and
sin. The amount or degree of virtue or vice, or of praise or blame-worthiness, is
and must be decided by reference to the degree of obligation.
It is very important to remark here, that virtue does not merit so much praise and
reward as vice does blame and punishment. This is the universal and necessary affirmation
of reason, and the plain doctrine of inspiration. The reason is this: virtue is a
compliance with obligation. Christ says, "When you have done all, say, we are
unprofitable servants; we have done what it was our duty to do." To suppose
that virtue is as deserving of reward as vice is of punishment, were to overlook
obligation altogether, and make virtue a work of supererogation, or that to which
we are under no obligation. Suppose I owe a hundred dollars; when I pay I only discharge
my obligation, and lay my creditor under no obligation to me, except to treat me
as an honest man, when and as long as I am such. This is all the reward which the
discharge of my duty merits.
But suppose I refuse to pay when it is in my power; here my desert of blame, as every
body must know, and as the Bible everywhere teaches, is vastly greater than my desert
of praise in the former case. The difference lies in this, namely, that virtue is
nothing more than a compliance with obligation. It is the doing of that which could
not have been neglected without sin. Hence all the reward which it merits is, that
the virtuous being, so long as he is virtuous, shall be regarded and treated as one
who does his duty, and complies with his obligations.
But vice is violence done to obligation. It is a refusal to do what ought to be done.
In this case it is clear, that the guilt is equal to the obligation, that is, the
measure of obligation is the measure of guilt. This brings us to the point of inquiry
now before us, namely, how is moral obligation to be measured? What is the criterion,
the rule, or standard by which the amount or degree of obligation is to be estimated?
And here I would remind you--
(a.) That moral obligation is founded in the intrinsic value of the highest
well-being of God and the universe; and,--
(b.) That the conditions of the obligation are the possession of the powers
of moral agency and light, or the knowledge of the end to be chosen.
(c.) Hence it follows that the obligation is to be measured by the mind's
honest apprehension or judgment of the intrinsic value of the end to be chosen. That
this, and nothing else, is the rule or standard by which the obligation, and, consequently,
the guilt of violating it, is to be measured, will appear if we consider--
(a.) That the obligation cannot be measured by the infinity of God, apart
from the knowledge of the infinite value of His interests. He is an infinite being,
and his well-being must be of intrinsic and of infinite value. But unless this be
known to a moral agent, he cannot be under obligation to will it as an ultimate end.
If he knows it to be of some value, he is bound to choose it for that reason. But
the measure of his obligation must be just equal to the clearness of his apprehension
of its intrinsic value.
Besides, if the infinity of God were alone, or without reference to the knowledge
of the agent, the rule by which moral obligation is to be measured, it would follow,
that obligation is in all cases the same, and of course that the guilt of disobedience
would also in all cases be the same. But this, as has been said, contradicts both
reason and revelation. Thus it appears, that moral obligation, and of course guilt,
cannot be measured by the infinity of God, without reference to the knowledge of
(b.) It cannot be measured by the infinity of His authority, without reference
to the knowledge of the agent, for the same reasons as above.
(c.) It cannot be measured by the infinity of his moral excellence, without
reference, both to the infinite value of his interests, and of the knowledge of the
agent; for his interests are to be chosen as an end, or for their own value, and
without knowledge of their value there can be no obligation; nor can obligation exceed
(d.) If, again, the infinite excellence of God were alone, or without reference
to the knowledge of the agent, to be the rule by which moral obligation is to be
measured, it would follow, that guilt in all cases of disobedience, is and must be
equal. This we have seen cannot be.
(e.) It cannot be measured by the intrinsic value of the good, or well-being
of God and the universe, without reference to the knowledge of the agent, for the
same reason as above.
(f.) It cannot be measured by the particular course of life pursued by the
agent. This will appear, if we consider that moral obligation has directly nothing
to do with the outward life. It directly respects the ultimate intention only, and
that decides the course of outward action or life. The guilt of any outward action
cannot be decided by reference to the kind of action, without regard to the intention,
for the moral character of the act must be found in the intention, and not in the
outward act or life. This leads me to remark that--
(g.) The degree of moral obligation, and of course the degree of the guilt
of disobedience, cannot be properly estimated by reference to the nature of the intention,
without respect to the degree of the knowledge of the agent. Selfish intention is,
as we have seen, a unit, always the same; and if this were the standard, by which
the degree of guilt is to be measured, it would follow that it is always the same.
(h.) Nor can obligation, nor the degree of guilt, be measured by the tendency
of sin. All sin tends to infinite evil, to ruin the sinner, and from its contagious
nature, to spread and ruin the universe. Nor can any finite mind know what the ultimate
results of any sin may be, nor to what particular evil it may tend. As all sin tends
to universal and eternal evil, if this were the criterion by which the guilt is to
be estimated, all sin would be equally guilty, which cannot be.
Again: That the guilt of sin cannot be measured by the tendency of sin, is
manifest from the fact, that moral obligation is not founded in the tendency of action
or intention, but in the intrinsic value of the end to be intended. Estimating moral
obligation, or measuring sin or holiness, by the mere tendency of actions, is the
utilitarian philosophy, which we have shown to be false. Moral obligation respects
the choice of an end, and is founded upon the intrinsic value of the end, and is
not so much as conditionated upon the tendency of the ultimate choice to secure its
end. Therefore, tendency can never be the rule by which obligation can be measured,
nor, of course, the rule by which guilt can be estimated.
(i.) Nor can moral obligation be estimated by the results of a moral action
or course of action. Moral obligation respects intention, and respects results no
further than they were intended. Much good may result, as from the death of Christ,
without any virtue in Judas, but with much guilt. So, much evil may result, as from
the creation of the world, without guilt in the Creator, but with great virtue. If
moral obligation is not founded or conditionated on results, it follows that guilt
cannot be duly estimated by results, without reference to knowledge and intention.
(j.) What has been said has, I trust, rendered it evident, that moral obligation
is to be measured by the mind's honest apprehension or judgment of the intrinsic
value of the end to be chosen, to wit, the highest well-being of God and the universe.
It should be distinctly understood, that selfishness involves the rejection of the
interests of God and of the universe, for the sake of one's own. It refuses to will
good, but upon condition that it belongs to self. It spurns God's interests and those
of the universe, and seeks only self-interest as an ultimate end. It must follow,
then, that the selfish man's guilt is just equal to his knowledge of the intrinsic
value of those interests that he rejects. This is undeniably the doctrine of the
Bible. I will introduce a few paragraphs from one of my reported sermons upon this
(a.) The scriptures assume and affirm it.
Acts xvii. 30, affords a plain instance. The apostle alludes to those past ages when
the heathen nations had no written revelation from God, and remarks that "those
times of ignorance God winked at." This does not mean that God did not regard
their conduct as criminal in any degree, but it does mean that he regarded it as
a sin of far less aggravation, than that which men would now commit, if they turned
away when God commanded them all to repent. True, sin is never absolutely a light
thing: but some sins incur small guilt, when compared with the great guilt of other
sins. This is implied in the text quoted above.
I next cite, James iv. 17.--"To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not,
to him it is sin." This plainly implies that knowledge is indispensable to moral
obligation; and even more than this is implied, namely, that the guilt of any sinner
is always equal to the amount of his knowledge on the subject. It always corresponds
to the mind's perception of the value of the end which should have been chosen, but
is rejected. If a man knows he ought, in any given case, to do good, and yet does
not do it, to him this is sin--the sin plainly lying in the fact of not doing good
when he knew that he could do it, and being measured as to its guilt by the degree
of that knowledge.
John ix. 41.--"Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin:
but now ye say, We see; therefore, your sin remaineth." Here Christ asserts
that men without knowledge would be without sin: and that men who have knowledge,
and sin notwithstanding, are held guilty. This plainly affirms, that the presence
of light or knowledge is requisite to the existence of sin, and obviously implies
that the amount of knowledge possessed is the measure of the guilt of sin.
It is remarkable that the Bible everywhere assumes first truths. It does not stop
to prove them, or even assert them--but seems to assume, that every one knows and
will admit them. As I have been recently writing on moral government, and studying
the Bible as to its teachings on this class of subjects, I have been often struck
with this remarkable fact.
John xv. 22-24.--"If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin:
but now they have no cloak for their sin. He that hatest me, hateth my Father also.
If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had
sin; but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father." Christ holds
the same doctrine here as in the last passage cited; light essential to constitute
sin, and the degree of light constituting the measure of its aggravation.
Let it be observed, however, that Christ probably did not mean to affirm in the absolute
sense, that if he had not come, the Jews would have literally had no sin; for they
would have had some light, if he had not come. He speaks, as I suppose, comparatively.
Their sin, if he had not come, would have been so much less as not to justify his
strong language of condemnation.
Luke xii. 47, 48.--"And that servant which knew his lord's will, and prepared
not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with
few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required; and
to whom men have committed much, of him will they ask the more."
Here we have the doctrine laid down and the truth assumed, that men shall be punished
according to knowledge. To whom much light is given, of him shall much obedience
be required. This is precisely the principle, that God requires of men according
to the light they have.
1 Tim. i. 13.--"Who was before a blasphemer and a persecutor, and injurious:
but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief." Paul had done
things in form as bad as they well could be; yet his guilt was far less, because
he did them under the darkness of unbelief; hence he obtained mercy, when otherwise,
he might not. The plain assumption is, that his ignorance abated from the malignancy
of sin, and favoured his obtaining mercy.
In another passage (Acts xxvi. 9.) Paul says of himself--"I verily thought with
myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth."
This had everything to do with the degree of his guilt in rejecting the Messiah,
and also with his obtaining pardon.
Luke xxiii. 34.--"Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what
they do." This passage presents to us the suffering Jesus, surrounded with Roman
soldiers and malicious scribes and priests, yet pouring out his prayer for them,
and making the only plea in their behalf which could be made--"for they know
not what they do." This does not imply that they had no guilt, for if this were
true, they would not have needed forgiveness; but it did imply that their guilt was
greatly palliated by their ignorance. If they had known him to be the Messiah, their
guilt might have been unpardonable. Yet they shut their eyes to evidence, and that
constituted their ignorance wilful, and consequently sinful.
Matt. xi. 20-24.--"Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty
works were done, because they repented not. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee,
Bethsaida! for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and
Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you,
it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, in the day of judgment, than for you.
And thou, Capernaum, which are exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell:
for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it
would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom, in the day of judgment, than for thee." But why does
Christ upbraid these cities? Why denounce so fearful a woe on Chorazin and Capernaum?
Because most of his mighty works had been wrought there. His oft-repeated miracles
which proved him to be the Messiah, had been wrought before their eyes. Among them
he had taught daily, and in their synagogues every sabbath-day. They had great light,
hence, their great, their unsurpassed guilt. Not even the men of Sodom had guilt
to compare with theirs. The city most exalted, even as it were to heaven, must be
brought down to the deepest hell. Guilt and punishment, evermore, according to light
enjoyed, but resisted.
Luke xi. 47-51.--"Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets,
and your fathers killed them. Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your
fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. Therefore also
said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them
they shall slay and persecute: that the blood of all the prophets, which was shed
from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation. From the blood
of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple:
verily, I say unto you, it shall be required of this generation." Now here I
ask, on what principle was it, that all the blood of martyred prophets, ever since
the world began, was required of that generation? Because they deserved it; for God
does no such thing as injustice. It never was known that he punished any people,
or any individual, beyond their desert.
But why, and how, did they deserve this fearful and augmented visitation of the wrath
of God for past centuries of persecution?
The answer is two-fold: they sinned against accumulated light, and they virtually
endorsed all the persecuting deeds of their fathers, and concurred most heartily
in their guilt. They had all the oracles of God. The whole history of the nation
lay in their hands. They knew the blameless and holy character of those prophets
who had been martyred; they could read the guilt of their persecutors and murderers.
Yet under all this light, they go straight on and perpetrate deeds of the same sort,
but of far deeper malignity.
Again: in doing this, they virtually endorse all that their fathers did. Their
conduct towards the Man of Nazareth put into words would read thus: "The holy
men whom God sent to teach and rebuke our fathers, they maliciously traduced and
put to death; they did right, and we will do the same thing toward Christ."
Now, it was not possible for them to give a more decided sanction to the bloody deeds
of their fathers. They underwrote for every crime--assumed upon their own consciences
all the guilt of their fathers. In intention, they do those deeds over again. They
in effect say, "If we had lived then, we should have done and sanctioned all
On the same principle, the accumulated guilt of all the blood and miseries of slavery
since the world began, rests on this nation now. The guilt involved in every pang,
every tear, every blood drop forced out by the knotted scourge--all lie at the door
of this generation.
Why? Because the history of all the past is before the pro-slavery men of this generation,
and they endorse the whole by persisting in the practice of the same system, and
of the same wrongs. No generation before us ever had the light on the evils and wrongs
of slavery that we have: hence our guilt exceeds that of any former generation of
slave-holders; and moreover, knowing all the cruel wrongs and miseries of the system
from the history of the past, every persisting slave-holder endorses all the crimes,
and assumes all the guilt, involved in the system, and evolved out of it, since the
Rom. vii. 13.--"Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid.
But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good, that
sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful." The last clause of this
verse brings out clearly the principle, that under the light which the commandment,
that is, the law, affords, sin becomes exceeding guilty. This is the very principle,
which, we have seen, is so clearly taught and implied in numerous passages of scripture.
The diligent reader of the Bible knows that these are only a part of the texts which
teach the same doctrine: we need not adduce any more.
(b.) I remark, that this is the rule, and the only just rule, by which the
guilt of sin can be measured. If I had time to turn the subject over and over--time
to take up every other conceivable supposition, I could show that none of them can
possibly be true. No supposition can abide a close examination except this, that
the rule or measure of guilt is the mind's knowledge pertaining to the value of the
end to be chosen.
There can be no other criterion by which guilt can be measured. It is the value of
the end that ought to be chosen, which constitutes sin guilty, and the mind's estimate
of that value measures its own guilt. This is true according to the Bible, as we
have seen; and every man needs only consult his own consciousness faithfully, and
he will see that it is equally affirmed by the mind's own intuitions to be right.
(vii.) The guilt of transgression is just equal to the degree of obligation.
(a.) The guilt of sin lies in its being the violation of an obligation.
(b.) It must follow, that the degree of the guilt of violation must be just
equal to the degree of obligation. This, as we have seen, is not true of virtue,
for reasons before stated. But it must be true of vice.
(c.) Moral obligation respects the choice of an end. The amount of the obligation
must be just equal to the mind's apprehension of the intrinsic value of the end to
be chosen. The guilt of transgression is, and must be, just equal to the amount of
the obligation. This conducts us to the conclusion or truth to be demonstrated, namely:--
(viii.) That moral agents are, at all times, either as holy or as sinful as
with their knowledge they can be.
This will more fully appear, if we consider--
(a.) That moral obligation, strictly speaking, respects ultimate intention
(b.) That obligation to choose or intend an end is founded in the apprehended
intrinsic value of the end.
(c.) That, when this end is chosen in accordance with apprehended value, all
present obligation is met or complied with, since the choice of the end implies and
includes the choice of all the known necessary conditions and means of this end.
Virtue is now complete, in the sense that it can only be increased by increased light,
in regard to the value of the end. New relations and interests may be discovered,
or the mind may come to apprehend more clearly the intrinsic value of those partially
known before. In this case, virtue may increase, but not otherwise. It matters not
as to the virtue of the choice, what particular course is taken to realize this end.
The intention is honest. It is, and to be honest, must be intense according to the
mind's apprehension of the intrinsic value of the end. The mind cannot but act in
accordance with its best judgment, in regard to the use of means to compass its end.
Whatever it does it does for one and the same reason. Its virtue belongs to its intention.
The intention remaining, virtue does not, cannot vary, but with varying light. This
renders it evident, that the virtuous man is as virtuous as with his present light
he can be. Give him more light, and you may increase his virtue, by causing it to
be more intense.
The same must be true of sin or selfishness. We have seen in former lectures, that
malevolence, in the sense of willing evil for its own sake, is impossible; that selfishness
is ultimate intention, or the choice of self-gratification as an end; that the obligation
to benevolence is founded in the intrinsic value of the good of God and the universe,
that the amount of obligation is equal to the mind's apprehension or knowledge of
the value of the end; that sin is a unit, and always consists in violating this obligation
by the choice of an opposite end; that the guilt of this violation depends upon,
and is equal to, the mind's apprehension of the intrinsic value of the end it ought
Selfishness is the rejection of all obligation. It is the violation of all obligation.
The sin of selfishness is then complete; that is, the guilt of selfishness is as
great as with its present light it can be. What can make it greater with present
light? Can the course that it takes to realize its end mitigate its guilt? No: for
whatever course it takes, it is for a selfish reason, and, therefore, in nowise lessens
the guilt of the intention. Can the course it takes to realize its end without more
light, increase the guilt of the sin? No: for the sin lies exclusively in having
the selfish intention, and the guilt can be measured only by the degree of illumination
or knowledge under which the intention is formed and maintained. The intention necessitates
the use of the means; and whatever means the selfish person uses, it is for one and
the same reason, to gratify himself. As I said in a former lecture, if the selfish
man were to preach the gospel, it would be only because, upon the whole, it was most
pleasing or gratifying to himself, and not at all for the sake of the good of being,
as an end. If he should become a pirate, it would be for exactly the same reason,
to wit, that this course is, upon the whole, most pleasing or gratifying to himself,
and not at all for the reason that that course is evil in itself. Whichever course
he takes, he takes it for precisely the same ultimate reason; and with the same degree
of light it must involve the same degree of guilt. If light increase, his guilt must
increase, but not otherwise. The proposition is, that every selfish being is, at
every moment, as blame-worthy as with his present knowledge he can be. Which of these
courses may tend ultimately to the most evil, no finite being can say, nor which
shall result in the greatest evil. Guilt is not to be measured by unknown tendencies
or results, but belongs to the intention; and its degree is to be measured alone
by the mind's apprehension of the reason of the obligation violated, namely, the
intrinsic value of the good of God and the universe, which selfishness rejects. Now,
it should be remembered, that whichever course the sinner takes to realize his end,
it is the end at which he aims. He intends the end. If he become a preacher of the
gospel for a selfish reason, he has no right regard to the good of being. If he regards
it at all, it is only as a means of his own good. So, if he becomes a pirate, it
is not from malice, or a disposition to do evil for its own sake, but only to gratify
himself. If he has any regard at all to the evil he may do, it is only to gratify
himself that he regards it. Whether, therefore, he preach or pray, or rob and plunder
upon the high seas, he does it only for one end, that is, for precisely the same
ultimate reason; and of course his sinfulness is complete, in the sense that it can
be varied only by varying light. This I know is contrary to common opinion, but it
is the truth, and must be known; and it is of the highest importance that these fundamental
truths of morality and of immorality should be held up to the minds of all.
Should the sinner abstain from any course of vice because it is wicked, it cannot
be because he is benevolent, for this would contradict the supposition that he is
selfish, or that he is a sinner. If, in consideration that an act or course is wicked,
he abstains from it, it must be for a selfish reason. It may be in obedience to phrenological
conscientiousness, or it may be from fear of hell, or of disgrace, or from remorse;
at all events, it cannot but be for some selfish reason.
(ix.) Total moral depravity is an attribute of selfishness, in the sense,
that every selfish person is at all times just as wicked and blameworthy as with
his present light he can be.
(a.) He, remaining selfish, can take no other course than to please himself,
and only that course which is, upon the whole, most pleasing to him for the time
being. If he takes one course of outward conduct, rather than another, it is only
to please and gratify himself.
(b.) But if, for this reason, he should take any other outward course than
he does, it would not vary his guilt, for his guilt lies in the intention, and is
measured by the light under which the intention is maintained.
A few inferences may be drawn from our doctrine.
1. Guilt is not to be measured by the nature of the intention; for sinful intention
is always a unit--always one and the same thing--being nothing more nor less than
an intention to gratify self.
2. Nor can it be measured by the particular type of self-gratification which the
mind may prefer. No matter which of his numerous appetites or propensities the man
may choose to indulge, whether for food, or strong drink, for power, pleasure, or
gain, it is the same thing in the end, self-gratification, and nothing else. For
the sake of this he sacrifices every other conflicting interest, and herein lies
his guilt. Since he tramples on the greater good of others with equal recklessness,
whatever type of self-gratification he prefers, it is clear, that we cannot find
in this type the true measure of his guilt.
3. Nor, again, is the guilt to be decided by the amount of evil which the sin may
occasion. An agent not enlightened may, by accident, or even with a good intention,
do that which will introduce great evil, and yet no guilt attach to this agent. In
fact, it matters not how much or how little unforeseen good or evil may result from
the deeds of a moral agent, you cannot determine the amount of his guilt, or of his
virtue, from this circumstance. God may overrule the greatest sin, so that but little
evil shall result from it; or he may leave its tendencies uncounteracted, so that
great evils shall result from the least sin. Who can tell how much or how little
overruling agency may interpose between any sin, great or small, and its legitimate
Satan sinned in tempting Judas, and Judas sinned in betraying Christ. Yet God so
overruled these sins, that most blessed results to the universe followed from Christ's
betrayal and consequent death. Shall the sins of Satan and Judas be estimated from
the evils actually resulting from them? If it should appear that the good immensely
overbalanced the evil, does their sin thereby become holiness--meritorious holiness?
Is their guilt at all the less for God's wisdom and love in overruling it for good?
It is not, therefore, the amount of resulting good or evil which determines the amount
of guilt, but the degree of light enjoyed under which the sin is committed.
4. Nor, again, can guilt be measured by the common opinions of men. Men associated
in society are wont to form among themselves a sort of public sentiment, which becomes
a standard for estimating guilt; yet how often is it erroneous! Christ warns us against
adopting this standard, and also against ever judging according to the outward appearance.
Who does not know that the common opinions of men are exceedingly incorrect? It is,
indeed, wonderful to see how far they diverge in all directions from the Bible standard.
5. The amount of guilt can be determined, as I have said, only by the degree in which
those ideas are developed which throw light upon obligation. Just here sin lies,
in resisting the light, and acting in opposition to it; and, therefore, the degree
of light should naturally measure the amount of guilt incurred.
- 1. We see, from this subject, the principle on which many passages of scripture
are to be explained. It might seem strange that Christ should charge the blood of
all the martyred prophets of past ages on that generation. But the subject before
us reveals the principle upon which this is done, and ought to be done.
- Whatever of apparent mystery may attach to the fact declared in our text, "The
times of this ignorance God winked at," finds in our subject an adequate explanation.
Does it seem strange, that for ages God should pass over, almost without apparent
notice, the monstrous and reeking abominations of the heathen world? The reason is
found in their ignorance. Therefore God winks at those odious and cruel idolatries.
For all, taken together, are a trifle, compared with the guilt of a single generation
of enlightened men.
- 2. One sinner may be in such circumstances, as to have more light and knowledge
than the whole heathen world. Alas! how little the heathen know! How little compared
with what is known by sinners in this land, even by very young sinners!
- Let me call up and question some impenitent sinner of Oberlin. It matters but
little whom--let it be any sabbath-school child.
What do you know about God? I know that there is one God, and only one. The heathen
believe there are hundreds of thousands.
What do you know about God? I know that he is infinitely great and good.--But the
heathen think some of their gods are both mean and mischievous, wicked as can be,
and the very patrons of wickedness among men.
What do you know about salvation? I know that "God so loved the world as to
give his only begotten Son, that whosoever would believe in him might live for ever."
O, the heathen never heard of that. They would faint away, methinks, in amazement,
if they should hear and really believe the startling, glorious fact. And that sabbath-school
child knows that God gives his Spirit to convince of sin. He has, perhaps, often
been sensible of the presence and power of that Spirit. But the heathen know nothing
You, too, know that you are immortal--that beyond death there is still a conscious
unchanging state of existence, blissful or wretched, according to the deeds done
here. But the heathen have no just ideas on this subject. It is to them as if all
were a blank.
The amount of it, then, is, that you know everything--the heathen almost nothing.
You know all you need to know to be saved, to be useful--to honour God, and serve
your generation according to his will. The heathen sit in deep darkness, wedded to
their abominations, groping, yet finding nothing.
As your light, therefore, so is your guilt immeasurably greater than theirs. Be it
so, that their idolatries are monstrous, guilt in your impenitence, and under the
light you have, is vastly more so. See that heathen mother dragging her shrieking
child and casting it into the Ganges! See her rush with another to throw him into
the burning arms of Moloch. Mark! see that pile of wood flashing, lifting up its
lurid flames toward heaven. Those men are dragging a dead husband, they leave his
senseless corpse on that burning pile. There comes the widow, her hair all dishevelled
and flying, gaily decked for such a sacrifice; she dances on; she rends the air with
her howls and her wailings; she shrinks, and yet she does not shrink; she leaps on
the pile, and the din of music, with the yell of spectators, buries her shrieks of
agony: she is gone! O, my blood curdles and runs cold in my veins; my hair stands
on end; I am horrified with such scenes; but what shall we say of their guilt? Ah,
yes, what do they know of God, of worship, of the claims of God upon their heart
and life? Ah, you may well spare your censure of the heathen for their fearful orgies
of cruelty and lust, and express it where light has been enjoyed and resisted.
- 3. You see, then, that often a sinner in some of our congregations may know more
than all the heathen world know. If this be true, what follows from it, as to the
amount of his comparative guilt? This, inevitably, that such a sinner deserves a
direr and deeper damnation than all the heathen world! This conclusion may seem startling;
but how can we escape from it? We cannot escape. It is as plain as any mathematical
demonstration. This is the principle asserted by Christ when he said, "That
servant which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according
to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes; but he that knew not, and did commit
things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes."
- Not long since, an ungodly young man, trained in this country, wrote back from
the Sandwich Islands, a glowing, and perhaps a just description of their horrible
abominations, moralizing on their monstrous enormities, and thanking God that he
had been born and taught in a Christian land. Indeed! he might well have spared this
censure of the dark-minded heathen! His own guilt, in remaining an impenitent sinner
under all the light of Christian America, was greater than the whole aggregate guilt
of all those islands.
So we may all spare our expressions of abhorrence at the guilty abominations of idolatry.
You are often, perhaps, saying in your heart, Why does God endure these horrid abominations
another day? See that rolling car of Juggernaut. Its wheels move axle-deep in the
gushing blood and crushed bones of its deluded worshippers! And yet God looks on,
and no red bolt leaps from his right hand to smite such wickedness. They are, indeed,
guilty; but, O, how small their guilt, compared with the guilt of those who know
their duty perfectly, yet never do it! God sees their horrible abominations, yet
does he wink at them, because they are done in so much ignorance.
But see that impenitent sinner. Convicted of his sin under the clear gospel light
that shines all around him, he is driven to pray. He knows he ought to repent, and
almost thinks he is willing to, and will try. Yet still he clings to his sins, and
will not give his heart to God. Still he holds his heart in a state of impenitence.
Now mark me;--his sin, in thus withholding his heart from God under so much light,
involves greater guilt than all the abominations of the heathen world. Put together
the guilt of all those widows who immolate themselves on the funeral pile--of those
who hurl their children into the Ganges, or into the burning arms of Moloch--all
does not begin to approach the guilt of that convicted sinner's prayer, who comes
before God under the pressure of his conscience, and prays a heartless prayer, determined
all the while to withhold his heart from God. O, why does this sinner thus tempt
God, and thus abuse his love, and thus trample on his authority? O, that moment of
impenitence, while his prayers are forced by conscience from his burning lips, and
yet he will not yield the controversy with his Maker, that moment involves direr
guilt than rests on all the heathen world together! He knows more than they all,
yet sins despite of all his knowledge. The many stripes belong to him--the few to
- 4. This leads me to remark again, that the Christian world may very well spare
their revilings and condemnations of the heathen. Of all the portions of the Earth's
population, Christendom is infinitely the most guilty--Christendom, where the gospel
peals from ten thousand pulpits--where Christ's praises are sung by a thousand choirs,
but where many thousand hearts that know God and duty, refuse either to reverence
the one, or perform the other! All the abominations of the heathen world are a mere
trifle compared with the guilt of Christendom. We may look down upon the filth, and
meanness, and degradation of a heathen people, and feel a most polite disgust at
the spectacle--and far be it from me to excuse these degrading, filthy, or cruel
practices; but how small their light, and consequently their guilt, compared with
our own! We, therefore, ask the Christian world to turn away from the spectacle of
heathen degradation, and look nearer home upon the spectacle of Christian guilt!
Let us look upon ourselves.
- 5. Again: let us not fear to say, what you must all see to be true, that
the nominal church is the most guilty part of Christendom. It cannot for a moment
be questioned, that the church has more light then any other portion; therefore has
she more guilt. Of course I speak of the nominal church--not the real church, whom
its Lord has pardoned, and cleansed from her sins. But in the nominal church, think
of the sinners that live and riot in their corruption. See that backslider. He has
tasted the waters of life. He has been greatly enlightened. Perhaps he has really
known the Lord by true faith--and then see, he turns way to eat the husks of earthly
pleasure! He turns his back on the bleeding Lamb! Now, put together all the guilt
of every heathen soul that has gone to hell--of every soul that has gone from a state
of utter moral darkness; and your guilt, backsliding Christian, is greater than all
- Do you, therefore, say: may God then have mercy on my soul? So say we all; but
we must add, if it be possible; for who can say that such guilt as yours can be forgiven?
Can Christ pray for you as he prayed for his murderers--"Father, forgive them,
for they know not what they do?" Can he plead in your behalf that you know not
what you are doing? Awful! awful!! Where is the sounding line that shall measure
the ocean-depth of your guilt?
- 6. Again: if our children remain in sin, we may cease to congratulate
ourselves that they were not born in heathenism or slavery! How often have I done
this! How often, as I have looked upon my sons and daughters, have I thanked God
that they were not born to be thrown into the burning arms of Moloch, or to be crushed
under the wheels of Juggernaut! But if they will live in sin, we must suspend our
self-congratulations for their having Christian light and privileges. If they will
not repent, it were infinitely better for them to have been born in the thickest
pagan darkness, better to have been thrown, in their tender years, into the Ganges,
or into the fires which idolatry kindles, better be any thing else, or suffer any
thing earthly, than have the gospel's light only to shut it out, and go to hell despite
of its admonitions.
- Let us not then, be hasty in congratulating ourselves, as if this great light
enjoyed by us and by our children, were, of course, a certain good to them; but this
we may do, we may rejoice that God will honour himself, his mercy if he can, and
his justice if he must. God will be honoured, and we may glory in this. But oh, the
sinner, the sinner! Who can measure the depth of his guilt, or the terror of his
final doom! It will be more tolerable for all the heathen world together than for
- 7. It is time that we all understood this subject fully, and appreciated all
its bearings. It is no doubt true, that however moral our children may be, they are
more guilty than any other sinners under heaven, if they live in sin, and will not
yield to the light under which they live. We may be, perhaps, congratulating ourselves
on their fair morality; but if we saw their case in all its real bearings, our souls
would groan with agony, our bowels would be all liquid with anguish, our very hearts
within us would heave as if volcanic fires were kindled there; so deep a sense should
we have of their fearful guilt, and of the awful doom they incur in denying the Lord
that bought them, and setting at nought a known salvation. O, if we ever pray, we
should pour out our prayers for our offspring, as if nothing could ever satisfy us
or stay our importunity, but the blessings of a full salvation realized in their
- Let the mind contemplate the guilt of these children. I could not find a sabbath-school
child, perhaps not one in all Christendom, who could not tell me more of God's salvation
than all the heathen world know. That dear little boy who comes from his sabbath-school
knows all about the gospel. He is almost ready to be converted, but not quite ready;
yet that little boy, if he knows his duty, and yet will not do it, is covered with
more guilt than all the heathen world together. Yes, that boy, who goes alone and
prays, yet holds back his heart from God, and then his mother comes and prays over
him, and pours her tears on his head, and his little heart almost melts, and he seems
on the very point of giving up his whole heart to the Saviour; yet if he will not
do it, he commits more sin in that refusal, than all the sin of the heathen world;
his guilt is more than the guilt of all the murders, all the drownings of children,
and burnings of widows, and deeds of cruelty and violence, in all the heathen world.
All this combination of guilt shall not be equal to the guilt of the lad who knows
his duty, but will not yield his heart to its righteous claims.
- 8. "The heathen," says an apostle, "sin without law, and shall
therefore perish without law." In their final doom they will be cast away from
God: this will be perhaps about all. The bitter reflection, "I had the light
of the gospel, and would not yield to it; I knew my duty, yet did it not"--this
cannot be a part of their eternal doom. This is reserved for those who gather themselves
into our sanctuaries and around our family altars, yet will not serve their own Infinite
- 9. One more remark. Suppose I should call out a sinner by name--one of the sinners
of this congregation, a son of pious parents, and should call up the father also.
I might say, Is this your son? Yes. What testimony can you bear about this son of
yours? I have endeavoured to teach him all the ways of the Lord. Son, what can you
say? I knew my duty--I have heard it a thousand times. I knew I ought to repent,
but I never would.
- Oh, if we understood this matter in all its bearings, it would fill every bosom
with consternation and grief. How would our bowels yearn and our bosoms heave as
a volcano. There would be one universal outcry of anguish and terror at the awful
guilt and fearful doom of such a sinner!
Young man, are you going away this day in your sins? Then, what angel can compute
your guilt? O how long has Jesus held out his hands, yes, his bleeding hands, and
besought you to look and live? A thousand times, and in countless varied ways has
he called, but you have refused; stretched out his hand, and you have not regarded.
Oh, will you not repent? Why not say at once: It is enough that I have sinned so
long. I cannot live so any longer! Oh, sinner, why will you live so? Would you go
down to hell--ah, to the deepest hell--where, if we would find you, we must work
our way down for a thousand years, through ranks of lost spirits less guilty than
you, ere we could reach the fearful depth to which you have sunk! Oh, sinner, what
a hell is that which can adequately punish such guilt as thine!
This lecture was typed in by Claude Cousineau.
LECTURE XXXII. Back to Top
I. A RETURN TO OBEDIENCE TO MORAL LAW IS, AND MUST BE, UNDER EVERY DISPENSATION
OF THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT, THE UNALTERABLE CONDITION OF SALVATION.
II. UNDER A GRACIOUS DISPENSATION, A RETURN TO OBEDIENCE TO MORAL LAW IS NOT DISPENSED
WITH AS THE CONDITION OF SALVATION, BUT THAT OBEDIENCE TO LAW IS SECURED BY THE INDWELLING
SPIRIT AND GRACE OF CHRIST.
I. A RETURN TO OBEDIENCE TO MORAL LAW IS, AND MUST BE, UNDER EVERY DISPENSATION
OF THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT, THE UNALTERABLE CONDITION OF SALVATION.
- 1. Salvation upon any other condition is naturally impossible. Without holiness
salvation is out of the question. But holiness and full obedience to the moral law
are the same thing.
- 2. The gospel is not a repeal of the law, but designed to establish it.
- 3. As the moral law is the law of nature, it is absurd to suppose, that a return
to entire obedience to it should not be the unalterable condition of salvation, that
is, that salvation should be possible upon a less condition than a return, on the
part of sinners, to the state of mind required by this law of nature.
- 4. The Bible everywhere represents the perfect love required by the law as indispensable
to salvation. It is naturally indispensable.
- Perhaps some one will say, that it is true, indeed, that one cannot enter heaven
without first becoming entirely obedient to the divine law, but that this obedience
may first take place immediately after death. I reply,--that the uniform representation
of the Bible is, that men shall be judged according to the deeds done in the body,
and that the state of mind in which they enter the eternal world, shall decide their
destiny for ever. It is nowhere so much as hinted in the Bible, that men shall be
saved in consequence or upon condition of a change that takes place after death.
But the opposite of this is the unvarying teaching of the Bible. If men are not holy
here, they never will be holy. If they are not sanctified by the Spirit and the belief
of the truth in this life, there is no intimation in the Bible that they ever will
be; but the contrary of this is the plain and unequivocal teaching of the Bible.
The work of regeneration and sanctification is always represented as being instrumentally
effected by the instrumentality and agency of those means that Christ has provided
in this world. "But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure
of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity
captive, and gave gifts unto men. Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also
descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same
also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things. And he
gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors
and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for
the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and
of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature
of the fulness of Christ." Eph. iv. 7-13. This passage is only a specimen of
scripture declarations and teachings upon this subject. It unequivocally teaches
the entire sanctification of the whole mystical body, or church of Christ, in this
life, or by the means which he has provided, and which means relate exclusively to
II. UNDER A GRACIOUS DISPENSATION, A RETURN TO FULL OBEDIENCE TO MORAL LAW
IS NOT DISPENSED WITH AS A CONDITION OF SALVATION, BUT THIS OBEDIENCE IS SECURED
BY THE INDWELLING SPIRIT OF CHRIST RECEIVED BY FAITH TO REIGN IN THE HEART.
In discussing this proposition I shall endeavour to show,--
1. That salvation by grace does not dispense with a return to full obedience to
law as a condition of salvation, and--
2. That the grace of the gospel is designed to restore sinners to full obedience
to the law.
3. That the efficient influence that secures this conformity to law is the Spirit
of Christ, or the Holy Spirit received into, and reigning in, the heart, by faith.
- 1. Salvation by grace does not dispense with a return to full obedience as a
condition of salvation.
- There is a class of scripture texts which have been quoted by antinomians in
support of the doctrine, that salvation is not conditionated upon personal holiness,
or upon a return to full obedience. It has been found very convenient, by many who
were lovers of sin, and never conscious of personal holiness, to adopt the idea of
an imputed holiness, contenting themselves with an outward righteousness imputed
to them, instead of submitting by faith to have the righteousness of God wrought
in them. Unwilling to be personally pious, they betake themselves to an imputed piety.
Because the scriptures declare, that men are not saved by works of the law, they
infer, that a return to that state of love required by the law, is not even a condition
of salvation. The texts above referred to, are such as these. "Knowing that
a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ,
even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of
Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh
be justified."--Gal. ii. 16. This, and sundry other passages that hold the same
language, are grossly misunderstood and misapplied by antinomians. They merely declare,
that men are not justified and saved by their own works, which of course they cannot
be, if they have committed even one sin. But they do not intimate, and there is no
passage rightly understood that does intimate, that men are saved or justified upon
conditions short of personal holiness, or a return to full obedience to the moral
Again: James wrote his epistle to establish this point. Grace cannot save
by dispensing with personal holiness, or a return to full obedience to the law. Grace
must not only pardon, but secure personal holiness, or the soul is not fitted, either
for the employments or enjoyments of heaven. It is naturally impossible for grace
to save the soul, but upon condition of entire sanctification.
- 2. The grace of the gospel was designed to restore to full obedience to the moral
- This is abundantly evident from almost every part of the Bible. "And the
Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the
Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live."--Deuteronomy
xxx. 7. "And I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord; and they
shall be my people, and I will be their God; for they shall return unto me with their
whole heart."--Jeremiah xxiv. 7. "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord,
that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.
And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother,
saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the
greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember
their sin no more."--Jeremiah xxxi. 31-34. "And I will give them one heart,
and I will put a new spirit within you: and I will take the stony heart out of their
flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh."--Ezek. xi. 19. "Then will
I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness
and from all your idols, I will cleanse you."--Ezek. xxxvi. 25. "For, finding
fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make
a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah, not according
to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day when I took them by the
hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, because they continued not in my covenant,
and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make
with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into
their mind, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they
shall be to me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every
man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to
the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and
their iniquities will I remember no more."--Hebrews viii. 8-12. "And he
shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS; for he shall save his
people from their sins."--Matt. i. 21. "And the very God of peace sanctify
you wholly: and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless
unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also
will do it."--1 Thess. v. 23, 24. "For sin shall not have dominion over
you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace."--Rom. vi. 14. These, and
many other passages of like import, plainly teach the truth of the proposition we
are considering, namely, that grace was designed to secure personal holiness, and
full return to the love required by the law, and not to dispense with this holiness
or obedience, as a condition of salvation.
- 3. The efficient influence that secures this return to full obedience to the
law, is the Holy Spirit received to reign in the heart by faith.
- That God writes his law in the heart by his indwelling Spirit, is abundantly
taught in the Bible. Writing his law in the heart, is begetting the spirit of love
required by the law in the heart.
By his reigning in the heart, is intended his setting up, and continuing his dominion
in the heart, by writing his law there, or, as is said just above, by begetting the
love, required by the law, in the heart.
Also by reigning in the heart, is intended, that he leads, guides, and controls the
soul, by enlightening and drawing it into conformity with his will in all things.
Thus it is said, "It is God that worketh in you to will and to do of his good
By the assertion, that the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of Christ, is received by faith,
to reign in the heart, it is intended, that he is actually trusted in, or submitted
to by faith, and his influence suffered to control us. He does not guide and control
us, by irresistible power or force, but faith confides the guidance of our souls
to him. Faith receives and confides in him, and consents to be governed and directed
by him. As his influence is moral, and not physical, it is plain that he can influence
us no farther than we have confidence in him; that is, no farther than we trust or
confide in him. But I must cite some passages that sustain these positions. "That
the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles, through Jesus Christ; that we
might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."--Gal. iii. 14. "Until
the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field be counted for a forest."--Isaiah xxxii. 15. "For
I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will
pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring."--Isaiah
xliv. 3. "But this shall be the covenant which I will make with the house of
Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts,
and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people."--Jer.
xxxi. 33. "And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not
turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that
they shall not depart from me."--Jer. xxxii. 40. "And I will pour upon
the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and
supplication; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall
mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him,
as one that is in bitterness for his first-born."--Zechariah xii. 10. "There
is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not
after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind
the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell
in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. But if the
Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up
Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth
in you. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit
do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit
of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the Spirit of bondage
again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba,
Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children
of God."--Rom. viii. 1, 5, 9, 11, 13-16. "Know ye not that ye are the temple
of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"--1 Cor. iii. 16. "What?
know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which
ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"--1 Cor. vi. 19. "But the fruit
of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith. If
we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."--Gal. v. 22, 25. "That
Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, that ye, being rooted and grounded in love."--Eph.
iii. 17. "For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves:
it is the gift of God."--Eph. ii. 8. "And be found in him, not having mine
own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ,
the righteousness which is of God by faith."--Phil. iii. 9.
These passages abundantly support the position for the establishment of which they
It is only necessary to remark here,--
1. That the Holy Spirit controls, directs, and sanctifies the soul, not by a physical
influence, nor by impulses nor by impressions made on the sensibility, but by enlightening
and convincing the intellect, and thus quickening the conscience.
2. The fundamentally important doctrine of an indwelling Christ, that the Spirit
of Christ must be received by faith to reign in the heart, has been extensively overlooked.
"Christ our sanctification!" said a minister to me a few months since,
"I never heard of such a thing." Also said a Doctor of Divinity to me,
"I never heard Christ spoken of as our sanctification until the Perfectionists
affirmed it." Indeed, it is amazing to see how this blessed truth has been overlooked.
Christ, by his Spirit, must actually dwell within and reign over us, and this is
an unalterable condition of salvation. He is our king. He must be received by faith,
to set up and establish his kingdom in the heart, or salvation is impossible.
This lecture was typed in by Paul J. DiBartolo.
LECTURE XXXIII. Back to Top
SANCTIONS OF MORAL LAW, NATURAL AND GOVERNMENTAL.
In the discussion of this subject, I shall show--
I. What constitutes the sanctions of law.
II. That there can be no law without sanctions.
III. In what light the sanctions of law are to be regarded.
IV. The end to be secured by law, and the execution of penal sanctions.
V. The rule by which sanctions ought to be graduated.
I. What constitutes the sanctions of law.
- 1. The sanctions of law are the motives to obedience, that which is to be the
natural and the governmental consequence or result of obedience and of disobedience.
- 2. They are remuneratory, that is, they promise reward to obedience.
- 3. They are vindicatory, that is, they threaten the disobedient with punishment.
- 4. They are natural, that is--
- (1.) All moral law is that rule of action which is in exact accordance with the
nature and relations of moral beings.
(2.) Happiness is to some extent naturally connected with, and the necessary consequence
of, obedience to moral law.
(3.) Misery is naturally and necessarily connected with, and results from, disobedience
to moral law, or from acting contrary to the nature and relations of moral beings.
- 5. Sanctions are governmental. By governmental sanctions are intended:
- (1.) The favour of the government as due to obedience.
(2.) A positive reward bestowed upon the obedient by government.
(3.) The displeasure of government towards the disobedient.
(4.) Direct punishment inflicted by the government as due to disobedience.
- 6. All happiness and misery resulting from obedience or disobedience, either
natural, or from the favour, or frown, of government, are to be regarded as constituting
the sanctions of law.
II. There can be no law without sanctions.
- 1. It has been said, in a former lecture, that precepts without sanctions are
only counsel or advice, and not law.
- 2. Nothing is moral law, but the rule of action which is founded in the nature
and relations of moral beings. It is therefore absurd to say, that there should be
no natural sanctions to this rule of action. It is the same absurdity as to say,
that conformity to the laws of our being would not produce happiness, and that disconformity
to the laws of our being would not produce misery. What do we mean by acting in conformity
to the laws of our being, but that course of conduct in which all the powers of our
being will sweetly harmonize, and produce happiness? And what do we mean by disconformity
to the laws of our being, but that course of action which creates mutiny among our
powers themselves, which produces discord instead of harmony, misery instead of happiness?
- 3. A precept, to have the nature and the force of law, must be founded in reason,
that is, it must have some reason for its existence. And it were unreasonable to
hold out no motives to obedience, where a law is founded in a necessity of our nature.
- 4. But whatever is unreasonable is no law. Therefore a precept without a sanction
is not law.
- 5. Necessity is the fundamental condition of all rightful government. There would
be, and could be, no just government, but for the necessities of the universe. But
these necessities cannot be met, the great end of government cannot be secured, without
motives or sanctions: therefore, that is no government, no law, that has no sanctions.
III. In what light sanctions are to be regarded.
- 1. Sanctions are to be regarded as an expression of the benevolent regard of
the lawgiver for his subjects: the motives which he exhibits to induce in the subjects
the course of conduct that will secure their highest well-being.
- 2. They are to be regarded as an expression of his estimation of the justice,
necessity, and value of the precept to the subjects of his government.
- 3. They are to be regarded as an expression of the amount or strength of his
desire to secure the happiness of his subjects.
- 4. They are to be regarded as an expression of his opinion in respect to the
desert of disobedience.
- The natural sanctions are to be regarded as a demonstration of the justice, necessity,
and perfection of the precept.
IV. The end to be secured by law, and the execution of penal sanctions.
- 1. The ultimate end of all government is blessedness.
- 2. This is the ultimate end of the precept, and of the sanction attached to it.
- 3. This can be secured only by the prevention of sin and the promotion of holiness.
- 4. Confidence in the government is the sine quà non of all virtue.
- 5. Confidence results from a revelation of the lawgiver to his subjects. Confidence
in God results from a revelation of himself to his creatures.
- 6. The moral law, in its precepts and sanctions, is a revelation of God.
- 7. The execution of penal sanctions is also a revelation of the mind, will, and
character of the lawgiver.
- 8. The highest and most influential sanctions of government are those motives
that most fully reveal the true character of God, and the true end of his government.
V. By what rule sanctions ought to be graduated.
- 1. We have seen, in a former lecture, that moral obligation is founded in the
intrinsic value of the well-being of God and of the universe, and conditionated upon
the perception of its value.
- 2. That guilt ought always to be measured by the perceived value of the end which
moral beings ought to choose.
- 3. The sanctions of law should be graduated by the intrinsic merit and demerit
of holiness and sin.
SANCTIONS OF GOD'S LAW.
I. God's law has sanctions.
II. What constitutes the remuneratory sanctions of the law of God.
III. The perfection and duration of the remuneratory sanctions of the law of God.
IV. What constitutes the vindicatory sanctions of the law of God.
V. Their duration.
I. God's law has sanctions.
- 1. That sin, or disobedience to the moral law, is attended with, and results
in, misery, is a matter of consciousness.
- 2. That virtue or holiness is attended with, and results in happiness, is also
attested by consciousness.
- 3. Therefore that God's law has natural sanctions, both remuneratory and vindicatory,
is a matter of fact.
- 4. That there are governmental sanctions added to the natural, must be true,
or God, in fact, has no government but that of natural consequences.
- 5. The Bible expressly, and in every variety of form, teaches that God will reward
the righteous and punish the wicked.
II. What constitutes the remuneratory sanctions of the law of God.
- 1. The happiness that is naturally and necessarily connected with, and results
from, holiness or obedience.
- 2. The merited favour, protection, and blessing of God.
- 3. All the natural and governmental rewards of virtue.
III. The perfection and duration of the remuneratory sanctions of the law of
- 1. The perfection of the natural reward is, and must be, proportioned to the
perfection of virtue.
- 2. The duration of the remuneratory sanction must be equal to the duration of
obedience. This cannot possibly be otherwise.
- 3. If the existence and virtue of man are immortal, his happiness must be endless.
- 4. The Bible most unequivocally asserts the immortality, both of the existence
and virtue of the righteous, and also that their happiness shall be endless.
- 5. The very design and end of government make it necessary that governmental
rewards should be as perfect and as unending as virtue.
IV. What constitutes the vindicatory sanctions of the law of God.
- 1. The misery naturally and necessarily connected with, and resulting from, disobedience
to moral law. Here again, let it be understood, that moral law is nothing else than
that rule of action which accords with the nature and relations of moral beings.
Therefore, the natural vindicatory sanction of the law of God is misery, resulting
from a violation of man's own nature.
- 2. The displeasure of God, the loss of his protection and governmental favour,
together with that punishment which it is his duty to inflict upon the disobedient.
- 3. The rewards of holiness, and the punishment of sin, are described in the Bible
in figurative language. The rewards of virtue are called eternal life. The punishment
of vice is called death. By life, in such a connexion, is intended, not only existence,
but that happiness that makes life desirable, and without which it would be no blessing.
By death is intended, not annihilation, but that misery which renders existence an
evil. It is the opposite of happy existence, called eternal life, and is, therefore,
denominated eternal death.
V. Duration of the penal sanctions of the law of God.
FIRST. Examine the question in the light of natural theology.
SECONDLY. In the light of revelation.
FIRST. In examining it in the light of natural theology, I shall,--
1. Inquire into the meaning of the term infinite.
2. Show that infinities may differ indefinitely in amount.
3. Remind you of the rule by which the degrees of guilt are to be estimated.
4. That all and every sin must, from its very nature, involve infinite guilt, in
the sense of deserving endless punishment.
5. That notwithstanding all sin deserves endless punishment, yet the guilt of different
persons may vary indefinitely, and that punishment, although always endless in duration,
may, and must, and ought to, vary in degree, in proportion as guilt varies.
6. That the duration of penal inflictions under the government of God, will be endless.
- 1. Inquire into the meaning of the term infinite.
- It literally and properly means not finite, not limited, not bounded, unlimited,
boundless. A thing may be infinite in a particular sense, and not in the absolute
sense. For example, a line may be of infinite length, but of finite breadth. Anything
which is boundless, in any one sense or direction, is in that sense or direction
infinite. We shall soon illustrate the truth of these statements.
- 2. Infinites may differ indefinitely in amount.
- (1.) This is the doctrine of Sir Isaac Newton, and of natural and mathematical
science, as most persons at all acquainted with this subject know.
(2.) It is a plain matter of fact. For example: suppose that from this point radiate
mathematical lines endlessly in every direction. Let each two of these lines make
an angle of one degree, and let the points be sufficiently numerous to fill up the
whole circle. Now as these lines extend endlessly in every direction, every pair
of them form the legs of a triangle, whose sides extend endlessly, and which has
no base, or which has no bound in one direction. It is self-evident, that the superficial
area contained between any two of these radii is infinite in the sense that its superficial
quantity is unlimited. Thus the whole of space is no more than infinite, in the absolute
sense of the term, by which is meant an amount which admits of no increase in any
sense of direction, and yet there is, in the sense of unlimited in quantity, an infinite
amount of space between every two of those radii.
The same would be true upon the supposition of parallel mathematical lines of infinite
length, no matter how near together: the superfices or area between them must be
infinite in amount. Anything is infinite which has no whole, which is boundless in
any sense. In the sense in which it is boundless, it is infinite. For example, in
the cases supposed, the area between any two of the radii of the circle, or of the
parallel lines, is not infinite in the sense that it has no bounds in any direction.
For it is bounded on its sides. But it is infinite in the sense of its superficial
measure or contents. So, endless happiness or misery may be finite in one sense,
and infinite in another. They may be infinite in amount, taking into view their endlessness,
however small they may be in degree. So that in degree they may, and with finite
creatures must be, finite in degree, but infinite in amount. There is and can be
no whole of them, and, therefore, in amount they are infinite. God's happiness may
be, and is, infinite both in degree and in duration, which amounts to infinite in
the absolute sense. It should be remarked, that practically no creature, nor all
creatures together, will ever have either enjoyed infinite happiness, or endured
infinite misery. Indeed, the period can never arrive in which they will not have
fallen infinitely short of it. They will never have completed endless duration either
in enjoyment or misery. Nor can they approach at all nearer to it than at first;
so that they can really, in fact, never approach at all nearer an infinite amount
of enjoyment or of suffering, than when they first began to enjoy or suffer. At any
possible period of the future it will be true that they have only enjoyed or suffered
a finite amount, and an amount infinitely less than infinite, because they have enjoyed
or suffered infinitely less that eternally. Any finite amount they could and would
reach, but an infinite amount they can never so much as approach, because it has
no bound in that direction. Endless happiness can never have been enjoyed, nor endless
misery endured, by any creature. Nay, creatures must, at any possible period, have
fallen infinitely short of it, as an eternity of bliss or misery is, and always will
be, still before them.
- 3. I must remind you of the rule by which degrees of guilt are to be estimated.
- And here let it be remembered--
(1.) That moral obligation is founded in the intrinsic value of those interests which
moral agents are bound to choose as an end.
(2.) That the obligation is conditionated upon the knowledge of this end, and--
(3.) That the degree of obligation is just equal to the apprehended intrinsic value
of those interests which they are bound to choose.
(4.) That the guilt of refusal to will these interests is in proportion, or is equal
to the amount of the obligation, and--
(5.) That consequently, the mind's honest apprehension or judgment of the value of
those interests which it refuses to will, is, and must be, the rule by which the
degree of guilt involved in that refusal ought to be measured.
- 4. That all and every sin must from its very nature involve infinite guilt in
the sense of deserving endless punishment.
- (1.) Sin implies moral obligation.
(2.) Moral obligation implies moral agency.
(3.) Moral agency implies the apprehension of the end that moral agents ought to
(4.) This end is the highest well-being of God and of the universe. This end, the
reason of every moral agent must affirm to be of infinite value, in the sense that
its value is unlimited.
(5.) The idea or apprehension of this end implies the knowledge, that the intrinsic
value of those endless interests must be infinite.
If the idea of God and of the good of being be developed, which is implied in moral
agency, there must be in the mind the idea or first truth, that the good of God and
of the universe is infinitely valuable. The idea may not have come into so full developement
as is possible. Nevertheless, it is, and must be, in the mind. If this is so, it
follows that every refusal to will the highest well-being of God and of the universe
involves infinite guilt. Every moral agent must be able to affirm, and indeed must
affirm to himself, that the intrinsic value of the happiness of God and the universe
must be boundless, unlimited, infinite. By this affirmation, or by the apprehension
that necessitates this affirmation, his guilt ought to be measured, if he refuses
to consecrate himself to the promotion of those interests.
- 5. Notwithstanding all sin deserves endless punishment, yet the guilt of different
persons may vary indefinitely, and punishment, although always endless in duration,
may vary, and ought to vary, in degree, according to the guilt of each individual
- It has been affirmed, that every moral agent has, from the first, as full and
clear an idea of the infinite as is possible for him ever to have. But what thoughtful
mind does not know that this is untrue? What Christian has not, at times, had so
clear an apprehension of the infinity of God's attributes, as almost to overcome
him. At all times he has within him the affirmation, or idea, that God is infinite,--that
duration is eternal,--that happiness and misery are endless. Those ideas he has at
all times; but at some times these ideas seem to be illuminated, and to mean so much,
that the soul and body both are ready to faint in the presence of them. The ideas
of the reason are, doubtless, capable, in finite minds, of endless developement.
The ideas of the infinite, the eternal, the absolute, the perfect, and indeed all
the ideas of the pure reason, will, I apprehend, continue to develope more and more
to all eternity. They are, no doubt, capable of such a developement as would at once
destroy our earthly existence. Christians, who have always had their ideas in a state
of partial developement, have sometimes, of a sudden, had so great an increase of
their developement, as to be overcome by them,--their bodily strength gone,--and,
for the time, they were unable to realize that they had had these ideas at all before.
This has been true of the idea of the infinite guilt of sin, the infinite love of
God, the omnipresence, the omnipotence, the infinite holiness, and infinite blessedness
The guilt of different persons may vary indefinitely.--This also may be true of the
same person at different periods of life. Observe: the degree of guilt depends on
the degree of intellectual developement on moral subjects, upon the clearness with
which the mind apprehends moral relations, especially the intrinsic value of those
interests which it ought to choose. These apprehensions vary, as every moral agent
is conscious, almost continually. The obligation to will an end lies in the intrinsic
value of the end. The obligation is greater or less, as the mind's honest estimate
of the value of it is greater or less. Every moral agent knows that the value of
the end is unbounded. Yet some have an indefinitely larger conception of what infinite
or boundless means. Some minds mean indefinitely more by such language than others
do. As light increases, and the mind obtains enlarged conceptions of God, of the
universe, of endless happiness or misery, and of all those great truths that cluster
around these subjects, its obligation increases in exact proportion to increasing
light, and so does the guilt of selfishness.
- 6. That penal inflictions under the government of God must be endless.
- Here the inquiry is, what kind of death is intended, where death is denounced
against the transgressor, as the penalty of the law of God?
(1.) It is not merely natural death, for--
(i.) This would, in reality, be no penalty at all. But it would be offering
a reward to sin. If natural death is all that is intended, and if persons, as soon
as they are naturally dead, have suffered the penalty of the law, and their souls
go immediately to heaven, the case stands thus: if your obedience is perfect and
perpetual, you shall live in this world for ever; but if you sin, you shall die and
go immediately to heaven. "This would be hire and salary," and not punishment.
(ii.) If natural death be the penalty of God's law, the righteous, who are
forgiven, should not die a natural death.
(iii.) If natural death be the penalty of God's law, there is no such thing
as forgiveness, but all must actually endure the penalty.
(iv.) If natural death be the penalty, than infants and animals suffer this
penalty, as well as the most abandoned transgressors.
(v.) If natural death be the penalty, and the only penalty, it sustains no
proportion whatever to the guilt of sin.
(vi.) Natural death would be no adequate expression of the importance of the
(2.) The penalty of God's law is not spiritual death.
(i.) Because spiritual death is a state of entire sinfulness.
(ii.) To make a state of entire sinfulness the penalty of the law of God,
would be to make the penalty and the breach of the precept identical.
(iii.) It would be making God the author of sin, and would represent him as
compelling the sinner to commit one sin as the punishment for another,--as forcing
him into a state of total and perpetual rebellion, as the reward of his first transgression.
(3.) But the penal sanction of the law of God is endless death, or that state of
endless suffering which is the natural and governmental result of sin or of spiritual
Before I proceed to the proof of this, I will notice an objection which is often
urged against the doctrine of endless punishment. The objection is one, but it is
stated in three different forms. This, and every other objection to the doctrine
of endless punishment, with which I am acquainted, is levelled against the justice
of such a governmental infliction.
(i.) It is said that endless punishment is unjust, because life is so short,
that men do not live long enough in this world to commit so great a number of sins
as to deserve endless punishment. To this I answer--
(a.) That it is founded in ignorance or disregard of a universal principle
of government, viz., that one breach of the precept always incurs the penalty of
the law, whatever that penalty is.
(b.) The length of time employed in committing a sin, has nothing to do with
its blameworthiness or guilt. It is the design which constitutes the moral character
of the action, and not the length of time required for its accomplishment.
(c.) This objection takes for granted, that it is the number of sins, and
not the intrinsic guilt of sin, that constitutes its blameworthiness, whereas it
is the intrinsic desert or guilt of sin, as we shall soon see, that renders it deserving
of endless punishment.
(ii.) Another form of this objection is, that a finite creature cannot commit
an infinite sin. But none but an infinite sin can deserve endless punishment: therefore,
endless punishments are unjust.
(a.) This objection takes for granted that man is so diminutive a creature,
so much less than the Creator, that he cannot deserve his endless frown.
(b.) Which is the greater crime, for a child to insult his playfellow, or
his parent? Which would involve the most guilt, for a man to smite his neighbour
and his equal, or his lawful sovereign?
(c.) The higher the ruler is exalted above the subject in his nature, character,
and rightful authority, the greater is the obligation of the subject to will his
good, to render to him obedience, and the greater is the guilt of transgression in
the subject. Therefore, the fact that man is so infinitely below his Maker, does
but enhance the guilt of his rebellion, and render him all the more worthy of his
(iii.) A third form of the objection is, that sin is not an infinite evil;
and therefore, does not deserve endless punishment.
This objection may mean either, that sin would not produce infinite mischief if unrestrained,
or that it does not involve infinite guilt. It cannot mean the first, for it is agreed
on all hands, that misery must continue as long as sin does, and, therefore, that
sin unrestrained would produce endless evil. The objection, therefore, must mean,
that sin does not involve infinite guilt. Observe then, the point at issue is, what
is the intrinsic demerit or guilt of sin? What does all sin in its own nature deserve?
They who deny the justice of endless punishment, manifestly consider the guilt of
sin as a mere trifle. They who maintain the justice of endless punishment, consider
sin as an evil of immeasurable magnitude, and, in its own nature, deserving of endless
(a.) Should a moral agent refuse to choose that as an ultimate end which is
of no intrinsic value, he would thereby contract no guilt, because he would violate
no obligation. But should he refuse to will the good of God and of his neighbour,
he would violate an obligation, and of course contract guilt. This shows that guilt
attaches to the violation of obligation, and that a thing is blameworthy because
it is the violation of an obligation.
(b.) We have seen that sin is selfishness, that it consists in preferring
self-gratification to the infinite interests of God and of the universe. We have
also seen that obligation is founded in the intrinsic value of that good which moral
agents ought to will to God and to the universe, and is equal to the affirmed value
of that good. We have also seen that every moral agent, by a law of his own reason,
necessarily affirms that God is infinite, and that the endless happiness and well-being
of God and of the universe, is of infinite value. Hence it follows, that refusal
to will this good is a violation of infinite or unlimited obligation, and, consequently,
involves unlimited guilt. It is as certain that the guilt of any sin is unlimited,
as that obligation to will the good of God and of the universe is unlimited. To deny
consistently that the guilt of sin is unlimited, it must be shown, that obligation
to will good to God is limited. To maintain consistently this last, it must be shown,
that moral agents have not the idea that God is infinite. Indeed, to deny that the
guilt of sin is in any instance less than boundless, is as absurd as to deny the
guilt of sin altogether.
Having shown that moral obligation is founded in the intrinsic value of the highest
well-being of God and of the universe, and that it is always equal to the soul's
knowledge of the value of those interests, and having shown also, that every moral
agent necessarily has the idea more or less clearly developed, that the value of
those interests is infinite, it follows:--
That the law is infinitely unjust, if its penal sanctions are not endless. Law must
be just in two respects.
The precept must be in accordance with the law of nature.
The penalty must be equal to the importance of the precept. That which has not these
two peculiarities is not just, and therefore, is not and cannot be law. Either, then,
God has no law, or its penal sanctions are endless.
((1.)) That the penal sanctions of the law of God are endless, is evident from the
fact, that a less penalty would not exhibit as high motives as the nature of the
case admits, to restrain sin and promote virtue.
((2.)) Natural justice demands that God should exhibit as high motives to secure
obedience as the value of the law demands, and the nature of the case admits.
((3.)) The moral law, or law of God's reason, must require justice, holiness, and
benevolence, in God; and demands, also, that the penal sanctions of his law should
be endless; and if they are not, God cannot be just, holy, or benevolent.
((4.)) Unless the penal sanctions of the law of God are endless, they are virtually
and really no penalty at all. If a man be threatened with punishment for one thousand,
or ten thousand, or ten millions, or ten hundred millions of years, after which he
is to come out as a matter of justice, and go to heaven, there is beyond an absolute
eternity of happiness. Now, there is no sort of proportion between the longest finite
period that can be named, or even conceived, and endless duration. If, therefore,
limited punishment, ending in an eternity of bliss, be the penalty of God's law,
the case stands thus: Be perfect, and you live here for ever; sin, and receive finite
suffering, with an eternity of blessedness. This would be, after all, offering reward
((5.)) Death is eternal in its nature. The fact, therefore, that this figure is used
to express the future punishment of the wicked, affords a plain inference, that it
((6.)) The tendency of sin to perpetuate and aggravate itself, affords another strong
inference, that the sinfulness and misery of the wicked will be eternal.
((7.)) The fact, that punishment has no tendency to originate disinterested love
in a selfish mind towards him who inflicts the punishment, also affords a strong
presumption, that future punishment will be eternal.
((8.)) The law of God makes no provision for terminating future punishment.
((9.)) Sin deserves endless punishment just as fully as it deserves any punishment
at all. If, therefore, it is not forgiven, if it be punished at all with penal suffering,
the punishment must be endless.
((10.)) To deny the justice of eternal punishments, involves the same principle as
a denial of the justice of any degree of punishment.
((11.)) To deny the justice of endless punishment, is virtually to deny the fact
of moral evil. But to deny this, is to deny moral obligation. To deny moral obligation,
is to deny moral agency. But of both moral obligation and moral agency we are absolutely
conscious. Therefore, it follows to a demonstration, not only that moral evil does
exist, but that it deserves endless punishment.
SECONDLY. Examine this question in the light of revelation.
The Bible, in a great many ways, represents the future punishment of the wicked as
eternal, and never once represents it otherwise. It expresses the duration of the
future punishment of the wicked by the same terms, and, in every way, as forcibly
as it expresses the duration of the future happiness of the righteous.
I will here introduce, without comment, some passages of scripture confirmatory of
this last remark. "The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation
of the wicked shall perish."--Prov. x. 28. "When a wicked man dieth, his
expectation shall perish; and the hope of unjust men perisheth."--Prov. xi.
7. "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some to
everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt."--Dan. xii. 2.
"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed,
into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungered,
and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink. And these shall go
away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."--Matt.
xxv. 41, 42, 46. "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for
thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire
that never shall be quenched; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."--Mark
ix. 43, 44. "Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor;
and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable."--Luke
iii. 17. "And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed:
so that they which would pass from hence to you, cannot; neither can they pass to
us, that would come from thence."--Luke xvi. 26. "He that believeth on
the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life;
but the wrath of God abideth on him."--John iii. 36. "And to you who are
troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his
mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that
obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting
destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power."--2
Thess. i. 7-9. "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their
own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the
judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them,
in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh,
are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Raging waves
of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the
blackness of darkness for ever."--Jude 6, 7, 13. "And the third angel followed
them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive
his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the
wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation;
and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels,
and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for
ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his
image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name."--Rev. xiv. 9-11. "And
the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where
the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever
and ever."--Rev. xx. 10. But there is scarcely any end to the multitude of passages
that teach directly, or by inference, both the fact and the endlessness of the future
punishment of the wicked. But the fuller consideration of this subject belongs more
appropriately to a future place in this course of instruction; my object here being
only to consider the penal sanctions of moral law didactically, reserving the polemic
discussion of the question of endless punishment for a future occasion.
This lecture was given to us by Dennis Carroll.
LECTURE XXXIV. Back to Top
We come now to the consideration of a very important feature of the moral government
of God; namely, the atonement.
In discussing this subject, I will--
I. CALL ATTENTION TO SEVERAL WELL-ESTABLISHED PRINCIPLES OF GOVERNMENT, IN THE
LIGHT OF WHICH OUR INVESTIGATION WILL PROCEED.
II. DEFINE THE TERM ATONEMENT AS USED IN THIS DISCUSSION.
III. INQUIRE INTO THE TEACHINGS OF NATURAL THEOLOGY, OR INTO THE À PRIORI
AFFIRMATIONS OF REASON UPON THIS SUBJECT.
IV. SHOW THE FACT OF ATONEMENT.
V. THE DESIGN OF ATONEMENT.
VI. EXTENT OF ATONEMENT.
VII. ANSWER OBJECTIONS.
I. I will call attention to several well-established principles of government.
- 1. We have already seen that moral law is not founded in the mere arbitrary will
of God or of any other being, but that it has its foundation in the nature and relations
of moral agents, that it is that rule of action or of willing which is imposed on
them by the law of their own intellect.
- 2. As the will of no being can create moral law, so the will of no being can
repeal or alter moral law. It being just that rule of action that is agreeable to
the nature and relations of moral agents, it is as immutable as those natures and
- 3. There is a distinction between the letter and the spirit of moral law. The
letter relates to the outward life or action; the spirit respects the motive or intention
from which the act should proceed. For example: the spirit of the moral law requires
disinterested benevolence, and is all expressed in one word--love. The letter of
the law is found in the commandments of the decalogue, and in divers other precepts
relating to outward acts.
- 4. To the letter of the law there may be many exceptions, but to the spirit of
moral law there can be no exception. That is, the spirit of the moral law may sometimes
admit and require, that the letter of the law shall be disregarded or violated; but
the spirit of the law ought never to be disregarded or violated. For example: the
letter of the law prohibits all labour on the sabbath day. But the spirit of the
law often requires labour on the sabbath. The spirit of the law requires the exercise
of universal and perfect love or benevolence to God and man, and the law of benevolence
often requires that labour shall be done on the sabbath; as administering to the
sick, relieving the poor, feeding animals; and in short, whatever is plainly the
work of necessity or mercy, in such a sense that enlightened benevolence demands
it, is required by the spirit of moral law upon the sabbath, as well as all other
days. This is expressly taught by Christ, both by precept and example. So again,
the letter of the law says, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die;" but
the spirit of the law admits and requires that upon certain conditions, to be examined
in their proper place, the soul that sinneth shall live. The letter of the law is
inexorable; it condemns and sentences to death all violators of its precepts, without
regard to atonement or repentance. The spirit of moral law allows and requires that
upon condition of satisfaction being made to public justice, and the return of the
sinner to obedience, he shall live and not die.
- 5. In establishing a government and promulgating law, the lawgiver is always
understood as pledging himself duly to administer the laws in support of public order,
and for the promotion of public morals, to reward the innocent with his favour and
protection, and to punish the disobedient with the loss of his protection and favour.
- 6. Laws are public property in which every subject of the government has an interest.
Every obedient subject of government is interested to have law supported and obeyed,
and wherever the law is violated, every subject of the government is injured, and
his rights are invaded; and each and all have a right to expect the government duly
to execute the penalties of law when it is violated.
- 7. There is an important distinction between retributive and public justice.
Retributive justice consists in treating every subject of government according to
his character. It respects the intrinsic merit or demerit of each individual, and
deals with him accordingly. Public justice, in its exercise, consists in the promotion
and protection of the public interests, by such legislation and such an administration
of law, as is demanded by the highest good of the public. It implies the execution
of the penalties of law where the precept is violated, unless something else is done
that will as effectually secure the public interests. When this is done, public justice
demands, that the execution of the penalty shall be dispensed with by extending pardon
to the criminal. Retributive justice makes no exceptions, but punishes without mercy
in every instance of crime. Public justice makes exceptions, as often as this is
permitted or required by the public good. Public justice is identical with the spirit
of the moral law, and in its exercise, regards only the spirit of the law. Retributive
justice cleaves to the letter, and makes no exceptions to the rule, "the soul
that sinneth, it shall die."
- 8. The design of legal penalties is to secure obedience to the precept. The same
is also the reason for executing them when the precept is violated. The sanctions
are to be regarded as an expression of the views of the lawgiver, in respect to the
importance of his law; and the execution of penalties is designed and calculated
to evince his sincerity in enacting, and his continued adherence to, and determination
to abide by, the principles of his government as revealed in the law; his abhorrence
of all crime; his regard to the public interests; and his unalterable determination
to carry out, support, and establish, the authority of his law.
- 9. It is a fact well established by the experience of all ages and nations, that
the exercise of mercy in setting aside the execution of penalties is a matter of
extreme delicacy and danger. The influence of law, as might be expected, is found
very much to depend upon the certainty felt by the subjects that it will be duly
executed. It is found in experience, to be true, that the exercise of mercy in every
government where no atonement is made, weakens government, by begetting and fostering
a hope of impunity in the minds of those who are tempted to violate the law. It has
been asserted, that the same is true when an atonement has been made, and that therefore,
the doctrines of atonement and consequent forgiveness tend to encourage the hope
of impunity in the commission of sin, and for this reason, are dangerous doctrines
subversive of high and sound morality. This assertion I shall notice in its appropriate
- 10. Since the head of the government is pledged to protect and promote the public
interests, by a due administration of law, if in any instance where the precept is
violated, he would dispense with the execution of penalties, public justice requires
that he shall see, that a substitute for the execution of law is provided, or that
something is done that shall as effectually secure the influence of law, as the execution
of the penalty would do. He cannot make exceptions to the spirit of the law. Either
the soul that sinneth must die, according to the letter of the law, or a substitute
must be provided in accordance with the spirit of the law.
- 11. Whatever will as fully evince the lawgiver's regard for his law, his determination
to support it, his abhorrence of all violations of its precepts, and withal guard
as effectually against the inference, that violaters of the precept might expect
to escape with impunity, as the execution of the penalty would do, is a full satisfaction
of public justice. When these conditions are fulfilled, and the sinner has returned
to obedience, public justice not only admits, but absolutely demands, that the penalty
shall be set aside by extending pardon to the offender. The offender still deserves
to be punished, and upon the principles of retributive justice, might be punished
according to his deserts. But the public good admits and requires that upon the above
conditions he should live, and hence, public justice, in compliance with the public
interests and the spirit of the law of love, spares and pardons him.
- 12. If mercy or pardon is to be extended to any who have violated law, it ought
to be done in a manner and upon some conditions that will settle the question, and
establish the truth, that the execution of penalties is not to be dispensed with
merely upon condition of the repentance of the offender. In other words, if pardon
is to be extended, it should be known to be upon a condition not within the power
of the offender. Else he may know, that he can violate the law, and yet be sure to
escape with impunity, by fulfilling the conditions of forgiveness, which are, upon
the supposition, all within his own power.
- 13. So, if mercy is to be exercised, it should be upon a condition that is not
to be repeated. The thing required by public justice is, that nothing shall be done
to undermine or disturb the influence of law. Hence it cannot consent to have the
execution of penalties dispensed with, upon any condition that shall encourage the
hope of impunity. Therefore, public justice cannot consent to the pardon of sin but
upon condition of an atonement, and also upon the assumption that atonement is not
to be repeated, nor to extend its benefits beyond the limits of the race for whom
it was made, and that only for a limited time. If an atonement were to extend its
benefits to all worlds and to all eternity, it would nullify its own influence, and
encourage the universal hope of impunity, in case the precepts of the law were violated.
This would be indefinitely worse than no atonement; and public justice might as well
consent to have mercy exercised, without any regard to securing the authority and
influence of law.
- 14. The spirit of the moral law can no more be dispensed with by the lawgiver
than it can be repealed. The spirit of the law requires that, when the precept is
violated, the penalty shall be executed, or that something shall be done that will
as effectually and impressively negative the inference or assumption, that sin can
escape with impunity under the government of God, beyond the limits of the race for
whom the atonement was especially made, as the execution of the law would do. The
following things must be true under a perfect government, as has been said above.
- (1.) That sin cannot be forgiven merely upon condition of repentance; for this
condition is within the power of the subject, so that he might then be sure of impunity.
(2.) Nor can it be forgiven upon a condition that shall be repeated, for this would
encourage the hope of impunity.
(3.) Nor can it be forgiven upon a condition that will extend to all worlds, and
throughout all eternity, for this would be equivalent to forgiving sin merely upon
condition of repentance, without any reference to the authority of law or to public
(4.) Hence it is evident that it must originate in sovereign clemency, subject to
the previous conditions.
II. Define the term Atonement.
The English word atonement is synonymous with the Hebrew word cofer. This is a noun
from the verb caufar, to cover. The cofer or cover, was the name of the lid or cover
of the ark of the covenant, and constituted what was called the mercy-seat. The Greek
word rendered atonement is katallage. This means reconciliation to favour, or more
strictly, the means or conditions of reconciliation to favour; from katallasso, to
"change, or exchange." The term properly means substitution. An examination
of these original words, in the connection in which they stand, will show that the
atonement is the governmental substitution of the sufferings of Christ for the punishment
of sinners. It is a covering of their sins by his sufferings.
III. I am to inquire into the teachings of natural theology, or into the à
priori affirmations of reason upon this subject.
The doctrine of atonement has been regarded as so purely a doctrine of revelation
as to preclude the supposition, that reason could, à priori, make any affirmations
about it. It has been generally regarded as lying absolutely without the pale of
natural theology, in so high a sense, that, aside from revelation, no assumption
could be made, nor even a reasonable conjecture indulged. But there are certain facts
in this world's history, that render this assumption exceedingly doubtful. It is
true, indeed, that natural theology could not ascertain and establish the fact, that
an atonement had been made, or that it certainly would be made; but if I am not mistaken,
it might have been reasonably inferred, the true character of God being known and
assumed, that an atonement of some kind would be made to render it consistent with
his relations to the universe, to extend mercy to the guilty inhabitants of this
world. The manifest necessity of a divine revelation has been supposed to afford
a strong presumptive argument, that such a revelation has been or will be made. From
the benevolence of God, as affirmed by reason, and manifested in his works and providence,
it has been, as I suppose, justly inferred, that he would make arrangements to secure
the holiness and salvation of men, and as a condition of this result, that he would
grant them a further revelation of his will than had been given in creation and providence.
The argument stands thus:--
- 1. From reason and observation we know that this is not a state of retribution;
and from all the facts in the case that lie open to observation, this is evidently
a state of trial or probation.
- 2. The providence of God in this world is manifestly disciplinary, and designed
to reform mankind.
- 3. These facts, taken in connection with the great ignorance and darkness of
the human mind on moral and religious subjects, afford a strong presumption that
the benevolent Creator will make to the inhabitants of this world who are so evidently
yet in a state of trial, a further revelation of his will. Now, if this argument
is good, so far as it goes, I see not why we may not reasonably go still further.
- Since the above are facts, and since it is also a fact that when the subject
is duly considered, and the more thoroughly the better, there is manifestly a great
difficulty in the exercise of mercy without satisfaction being made to public justice;
and since the benevolence of God would not allow him on the one hand to pardon sin
at the expense of public justice, nor on the other to punish or execute the penalty
of law, if it could be wisely and consistently avoided, these facts being understood
and admitted, it might naturally have been inferred, that the wisdom and benevolence
of God would devise and execute some method of meeting the demands of public justice,
that should render the forgiveness of sin possible. That the philosophy of government
would render this possible is to us very manifest. I know, indeed, that with the
light the gospel has afforded us, we much more clearly discern this, than they could
who had no other light than that of nature. Whatever might have been known to the
ancients, and those who have not the Bible, I think that, when the facts are announced
by revelation, we can see that such a governmental expedient was not only possible,
but just what might have been expected of the benevolence of God. It would of course
have been impossible for us, à priori, to have devised, or reasonably conjectured,
the plan that has been adopted. So little was known or knowable on the subject of
the Trinity of God without revelation, that natural theology could, perhaps, in its
best estate, have taught nothing further than that, if it was possible, some governmental
expedient would be resorted to, and was in contemplation, for the ultimate restoration
of the sinning race, who were evidently spared hitherto from the execution of law,
and placed under a system of discipline.
But since the gospel has announced the fact of the atonement, it appears that natural
theology or governmental philosophy can satisfactorily explain it; that reason can
discern a divine philosophy in it.
Natural theology can teach--
1. That the human race is in a fallen state, and that the law of selfishness, and
not the law of benevolence, is that to which unconverted men conform their lives.
2. It can teach that God is benevolent, and hence that mercy must be an attribute
of God. And that this attribute will be manifested in the actual pardon of sin, when
this can be done with safety to the divine government.
3. Consequently that no atonement could be needed to satisfy any implacable spirit
in the divine mind; that he was sufficiently and infinitely disposed to extend pardon
to the penitent, if this could be wisely, benevolently, and safely done.
4. It can also abundantly teach, that there is a real and a great difficulty and
danger in the exercise of mercy under a moral government, and supremely great under
a government so vast and so enduring as the government of God; that, under such a
government, the danger is very great, that the exercise of mercy will be understood
as encouraging the hope of impunity in the commission of sin.
5. It can also show the indispensable necessity of such an administration of the
divine government as to secure the fullest confidence throughout the universe, in
the sincerity of God in promulging his law with its tremendous penalty, and of his
unalterable adherence to its spirit, and determination not to falter in carrying
out and securing its authority at all events. That this is indispensable to the well-being
of the universe, is entirely manifest.
6. Hence it is very obvious to natural theology, that sin cannot be pardoned without
something is done to forbid the otherwise natural inference, that sin will be forgiven
under the government of God upon condition of repentance alone, and of course upon
a condition within the power of the sinner himself. It must be manifest, that to
proclaim throughout the universe that sin would be pardoned universally upon condition
of repentance alone, would be a virtual repeal of the divine law. All creatures would
instantly perceive, that no one need to fear punishment, in any case, as his forgiveness
was secure, however much he might trample on the divine authority, upon a single
condition which he could at will perform.
7. Natural theology is abundantly competent to show, that God could not be just to
his own intelligence, just to his character, and hence just to the universe, in dispensing
with the execution of the Divine law, except upon the condition of providing a substitute
of such a nature as to reveal as fully, and impress as deeply, the lessons that would
be taught by the execution, as the execution itself would do. The great design of
penalties is prevention, and this is of course the design of executing penalties.
The head of every government is pledged to sustain the authority of law, by a due
administration of rewards and punishments, and has no light in any instance to extend
pardon, except upon conditions that will as effectually support the authority of
law as the execution of its penalties would do. It was never found to be safe, or
even possible, under any government, to make the universal offer of pardon to violators
of law, upon the bare condition of repentance, for the very obvious reason already
suggested, that it would be a virtual repeal of all law. Public justice, by which
every executive magistrate in the universe is bound, sternly and peremptorily forbids
that mercy shall be extended to any culprit, without some equivalent being rendered
to the government, that is, without something being done that will fully answer as
a substitute for the execution of penalties. This principle God fully admits to be
binding upon him; and hence he affirms that he gave his Son to render it just in
him to forgive sin. Rom. iii. 24-26: "Being justified freely by his grace, through
the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation
through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins
that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time, his
righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in
8. All nations have felt the necessity of expiatory sacrifices. This is evident from
the fact that all nations have offered them. Hence antipscucha, or ransoms for their
souls, have been offered by nearly every nation under heaven. (See Buck's Theo. Dic.
9. The wisest heathen philosophers, who saw the intrinsic inefficacy of animal sacrifices,
held that God could not forgive sin. This proves to a demonstration, that they felt
the necessity of an atonement, or expiatory sacrifice. And having too just views
of God and his government, to suppose that either animal, or merely human, sacrifices,
could be efficacious under the government of God, they were unable to understand
upon what principles sin could be forgiven.
10. Public justice required, either that an atonement should be made, or that the
law should be executed upon every offender. By public justice is intended, that due
administration of law, that shall secure in the highest manner, which the nature
of the case admits, private and public interests, and establish the order and well-being
of the universe. In establishing the government of the universe, God had given the
pledge, both impliedly and expressly, that he would regard the public interests,
and by a due administration of the law, secure and promote, as far as possible, public
and individual happiness.
11. Public justice could strictly require only the execution of law; for God had
neither expressly nor impliedly given a pledge to do anything more for the promotion
of virtue and happiness, than to administer due rewards to the righteous, and due
punishment to the wicked. Yet an atonement, as we shall see, would more fully meet
the necessities of government, and act as a more efficient preventive of sin, and
a more powerful persuasive to holiness, than the infliction of the legal penalty
12. An atonement was needed for the removal of obstacles to the free exercise of
benevolence toward our race. Without an atonement, the race of man after the fall
sustained to the government of God the relation of rebels and outlaws. And before
God, as the great executive magistrate of the universe, could manifest his benevolence
toward them, an atonement must be decided upon and made known, as the reason upon
which his favourable treatment of them was conditionated.
13. An atonement was needed to promote the glory and influence of God in the universe.
But more of this hereafter.
14. An atonement was needed to present overpowering motives to repentance.
15. An atonement was needed, that the offer of pardon might not seem like connivance
16. An atonement was needed to manifest the sincerity of God in his legal enactments.
17. An atonement was needed to make it safe to present the offer and promise of pardon.
18. Natural theology can inform us, that, if the lawgiver would or could condescend
so much to deny himself, as to attest his regard to his law, and his determination
to support it by suffering its curse, in such a sense as was possible and consistent
with his character and relations, and so far forth as emphatically to inculcate the
great lesson, that sin was not to be forgiven upon the bare condition of repentance
in any case, and also to establish the universal conviction, that the execution of
law was not to be dispensed with, but that it is an unalterable rule under his divine
government, that where there is sin there must be inflicted suffering--this would
be so complete a satisfaction of public justice, that sin might safely be forgiven.
IV. The fact of atonement.
This is purely a doctrine of revelation, and in the establishment of this truth appeal
must be made to the scriptures alone.
- 1. The whole Jewish scriptures, and especially the whole ceremonial dispensation
of the Jews, attest, most unequivocally, the necessity of an atonement.
- 2. The New Testament is just as unequivocal in its testimony to the same point.
The apostle Paul expressly asserts, that "without the shedding of blood, there
is no remission of sin."
- I shall here take it as established, that Christ was properly "God manifest
in the flesh," and proceed to cite a few out of the great multitude of passages,
that attest the fact of his death, and also its vicarious nature; that is, that it
was for us, and as a satisfaction to public justice for our sins, that his blood
was shed. I will first quote a few passages to show that the atonement and redemption
through it, was a matter of understanding and covenant between the Father and the
Son. "I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant.
Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah."--Ps.
lxxxix, 3, 4. "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief:
when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin he shall see his seed, he shall
prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall
see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by his knowledge shall my
righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will
I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors;
and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."--Isaiah
liii. 10, 11, 12. "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me: and he that
cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine
own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath
sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise
it up again at the last day."--John vi. 37, 38, 39. "I have manifested
thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and
thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. I pray for them: I pray not for
the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And now I am
no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father,
keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one,
as we are."--John xvii. 6, 9, 11.
I will next quote some passages to show, that, if sinners were to be saved at all,
it must be through an atonement. "Neither is there salvation in any other: for
there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved."--Acts
iv. 12. "Be it known unto you therefore men and brethren, that through this
man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are
justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses."
Acts xiii. 38, 39. "Now we know, that what things soever the law saith, it saith
to them who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world
may become guilty before God. Therefore, by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh
be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin." Rom. iii.
19, 20. "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by
the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be
justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works
of the law shall no flesh be justified. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for
if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain."--Gal. ii. 16,
21. "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it
is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written
in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the
sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not
of faith: but the man that doeth them shall live in them. For if the inheritance
be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. Wherefore
then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the seed should
come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a
mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is the law, then,
against the promises of God? God forbid, for if there had been a law given which
could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. Wherefore
the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified
by faith."--Gal. iii. 10-12, 18-21, 24. "And almost all things are by the
law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore
necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these;
but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these."
I will now cite some passages that establish the fact of the vicarious death of Christ,
and redemption through his blood. "But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and
with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned
every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."--Isaiah
liii. 5, 6. "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister,
and to give his life a ransom for many."--Matt. xx. 28. "For this is my
blood of the new testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins."--Matt.
xxvi. 28. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must
the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but
have eternal life."--John iii. 14, 15. "I am the living bread which came
down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread
that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."--John
vi. 51. "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over the
which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he
hath purchased with his own blood."--Acts xx. 28. "Being justified freely
by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. To declare, I say,
at this time, his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him
which believeth in Jesus. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ
died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure
for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us,
in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified
by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. And not only so, but we also
joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
Therefore, as by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation;
even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification
of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience
of one shall many be made righteous."--Rom. iii. 24-26; v. 9-11, 18, 19. "Purge
out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For
even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: for I delivered unto you first of
all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the
scriptures."--1 Cor. v. 7; xv. 3. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless
I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the
flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for
it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree. That the blessing of Abraham
might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise
of the Spirit through faith."--Gal. ii. 20; iii. 13, 14. "But now in Christ
Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. And walk
in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering
and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour."--Eph. ii. 13; v. 2. "Neither
by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the
holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls
and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the
purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the
eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead
works to serve the living God? And almost all things are by the law purged with blood;
and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the
patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly
things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into
the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven
itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us. Nor yet that he should offer
himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood
of others; for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world:
but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice
of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many: and unto them that look for
him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."--Heb. ix. 12-14,
22-28. "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body
of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering
oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after
he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God;
from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering
he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified."--Heb. x. 10-14. "Having
therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by
a new and living way which he has consecrate for us through the vail, that is to
say, his flesh," &c.--Heb. x. 19, 20. "Forasmuch as ye know that ye
were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation
received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as
of a lamb without blemish and without spot."--1 Pet. i. 18, 19. "Who his
own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins should
live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed."--1 Pet. ii. 24. "For
Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring
us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit."--1
Peter iii. 18. "But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship
one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."--1
John i. 7. "And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in
him is no sin."--1 John iii. 5. "In this was manifested the love of God
toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might
live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and
sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."--1 John iv. 9, 10.
These, as every reader of the Bible must know, are only some of the passages that
teach the doctrine of atonement and redemption by the death of Christ. It is truly
wonderful in how many ways this doctrine is taught, assumed, and implied in the Bible.
Indeed, it is emphatically the great theme of the Bible. It is expressed or implied
upon nearly every page of Divine inspiration.
V. The next inquiry is into the design of the atonement.
The answer to this inquiry has been, already, in part, unavoidably anticipated. Under
this head I will show,--
- 1. That Christ's obedience to the moral law as a covenant of works, did not constitute
- (1.) Christ owed obedience to the moral law, both as God and man. He was under
as much obligation to be perfectly benevolent as any moral agent is. It was, therefore,
impossible for him to perform any works of supererogation; that is, so far as obedience
to law was concerned, he could, neither as God nor as man, do anything more than
fulfil its obligations.
(2.) Had he obeyed for us, he would not have suffered for us. Were his obedience
to be substituted for our obedience, he need not certainly have both fulfilled the
law for us, as our substitute, under a covenant of works, and at the same time have
suffered as a substitute, in submitting to the penalty of the law.
(3.) If he obeyed the law as our substitute, then why should our own return to personal
obedience be insisted upon as a sine quà non of our salvation?
(4.) The idea that any part of the atonement consisted in Christ's obeying the law
for us, and in our stead and behalf, represents God as requiring:--
(i.) The obedience of our substitute.
(ii.) The same suffering, as if no obedience had been rendered.
(iii.) Our repentance.
(iv.) Our return to personal obedience.
(v.) And then represents him as, after all, ascribing our salvation to grace.
Strange grace this, that requires a debt to be paid several times over, before the
obligation is discharged!
- 2. I must show that the atonement was not a commercial transaction.
- Some have regarded the atonement simply in the light of the payment of a debt;
and have represented Christ as purchasing the elect of the Father, and paying down
the same amount of suffering in his own person that justice would have exacted of
them. To this I answer--
(1.) It is naturally impossible, as it would require that satisfaction should be
made to retributive justice. Strictly speaking, retributive justice can never be
satisfied, in the sense that the guilty can be punished as much and as long as he
deserves; for this would imply that he was punished until he ceased to be guilty,
or became innocent. When law is once violated, the sinner can make no satisfaction.
He can never cease to be guilty, or to deserve punishment, and no possible amount
of suffering renders him the less guilty or the less deserving of punishment; therefore,
to satisfy retributive justice is impossible.
(2.) But, as we have seen in a former lecture, retributive justice must have inflicted
on him eternal death. To suppose, therefore, that Christ suffered in amount, all
that was due to the elect, is to suppose that he suffered an eternal punishment multiplied
by the whole number of the elect.
- 3. The atonement of Christ was intended as a satisfaction of public justice.
- (1.) The moral law did not originate in the divine will, but is founded in his
self-existent and immutable nature. He cannot therefore repeal or alter it. To the
letter of the moral law there may be exceptions, but to the spirit of the law no
being can make exceptions. God cannot repeal the precept, and just for this reason,
he cannot set aside the spirit of the sanctions. For to dispense with the sanctions
were a virtual repeal of the precept. He cannot, therefore, set aside the execution
of the penalty when the precept has been violated, without something being done that
shall meet the demands of the true spirit of the law. "Being justified freely
by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth
to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for
the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare,
I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of
him which believeth in Jesus." Rom. iii. 24-26. This passage assigns the reason,
or declares the design, of the atonement, to have been to justify God in the pardon
of sin, or in dispensing with the execution of law.
Isa. xliii. 10-12: "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to
grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed,
he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge
shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore
will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the
strong: because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with
the transgressors: and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."
(2.) Public justice requires,--
(i.) That penalties shall be annexed to laws that are equal to the importance
of the precept.
(ii.) That when these penalties are incurred, they shall be inflicted for
the public good, as an expression of the lawgiver's regard to law, of his determination
to support public order, and by a due administration of justice, to secure the highest
well-being of the public. A leading design of the sanctions of law is prevention;
and the execution of penal sanctions is demanded by public justice. The great design
of sanctions, both remuneratory and vindicatory, is to prevent disobedience, and
secure obedience and universal happiness. This is done by such a revelation of the
heart of the lawgiver, through the precept, sanctions, and execution of his law,
as to beget awe on the one hand, and the most entire confidence and love on the other.
(iii.) Whatever can as effectually reveal God, make known his hatred to sin,
his love of order, his determination to support government, and to promote the holiness
and happiness of his creatures, as the execution of his law would do, is a full satisfaction
of public justice.
(iv.) Atonement is, therefore, a part, and a most influential part, of moral
government. It is an auxiliary to a strictly legal government. It does not take the
place of the execution of law, in such a sense as to exclude penal inflictions from
the universe. The execution of law still holds a place, and makes up an indispensable
part of the great circle of motives essential to the perfection of moral government.
Fallen angels, and the finally impenitent of this world, will receive the full execution
of the penalty of the divine law. Atonement is an expedient above the letter, but
in accordance with the spirit of law, which adds new and vastly influential motives
to induce obedience. I have said, it is an auxiliary to law, adding to the precept
and sanctions of law an overpowering exhibition of love and compassion.
(v.) The atonement is an illustrious exhibition of commutative justice, in
which the government of God, by an act of infinite grace, commutes or substitutes
the sufferings of Christ for the eternal damnation of sinners.
(vi.) An atonement was needed, and therefore doubtless designed, to contradict
the slander of Satan. He had seduced our first parents by the insinuation that God
was selfish, in prohibiting their eating the fruit of a certain tree. Now, the execution
of the penalty of his law, would not so thoroughly refute this abominable slander,
as would the great self-denial of God exhibited in the atonement.
(vii.) An atonement was needed to inspire confidence in the offers and promises
of pardon, and in all the promises of God to man. Guilty, selfish man finds it difficult,
when thoroughly convicted of sin, to realize and believe, that God is actually sincere
in his promises and offers of pardon and salvation. But whenever the soul can apprehend
the reality of the atonement, it can then believe every offer and promise as the
very thing to be expected from a being who could give his Son to die for enemies.
An atonement was needed, therefore, as the great and only means of sanctifying sinners--
Rom. viii. 3, 4. "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through
the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin
condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled
in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." The law was calculated,
when once its penalty was incurred, to shut the sinner up in a dungeon, and only
to develope more and more his depravity. Nothing could subdue his sin, and cause
him to love, but the manifestation to him of disinterested benevolence. The atonement
is just the thing to meet this necessity, and subdue rebellion.
(viii.) An atonement was needed, not to render God merciful, but to reconcile
pardon with a due administration of justice. This has been virtually said before,
but needs to be repeated in this connection.
Rom. iii. 22-26. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being
justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom
God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his
righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of
God; to declare, I say, at this time, his righteousness: that he might be just, and
the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."
I present several further reasons why an atonement in the case of the inhabitants
of this world was preferable to punishment, or to the execution of the divine law.
Several reasons have already been assigned, to which I will add the following, some
of which are plainly revealed in the Bible; others are plainly inferrible from what
the Bible does reveal; and others still are plainly inferrible from the very nature
of the case.
(1.) God's great and disinterested love to sinners themselves was a prime
reason for the atonement.
John iii. 16. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
(2.) His great love to the universe at large must have been another reason,
inasmuch as it was impossible that the atonement should not exert an amazing influence
over moral beings, in whatever world they might exist, and where the fact of atonement
should be known.
(3.) Another reason for substituting the sufferings of Christ in the place
of the eternal damnation of sinners, is, that an infinite amount of suffering might
be prevented. The relation of Christ to the universe rendered his sufferings so infinitely
valuable and influential, as an expression of God's abhorrence of sin on the one
hand, and his great love to his subjects on the other, that an infinitely less amount
of suffering in him than must have been inflicted on sinners, would be equally, and
no doubt vastly more, influential in supporting the government of God, than the execution
of the law upon them would have been. Be it borne in mind, that Christ was the lawgiver,
and his suffering in behalf of sinners is to be regarded as the lawgiver and executive
magistrate suffering in the behalf and stead of a rebellious province of his empire.
As a governmental expedient it is easy to see the great value of such a substitute;
that on the one hand it fully evinced the determination of the ruler not to yield
the authority of his law, and on the other, to evince his great and disinterested
love for his rebellious subjects.
(4.) By this substitution, an immense good might be gained, the eternal happiness
of all that can be reclaimed from sin, together with all the augmented happiness
of those who have never sinned, that must result from this glorious revelation of
(5.) Another reason for preferring the atonement to the punishment of sinners
must have been, that sin had afforded an opportunity for the highest manifestation
of virtue in God: the manifestation of forbearance, mercy, self-denial, and suffering
for enemies that were within his own power, and for those from whom he could expect
no equivalent in return.
It is impossible to conceive of a higher order of virtues than are exhibited in the
atonement of Christ.
It was vastly desirable that God should take advantage of such an opportunity to
exhibit his true character, and show to the universe what was in his heart. The strength
and stability of any government must depend upon the estimation in which the sovereign
is held by his subjects. It was therefore indispensable, that God should improve
the opportunity, which sin had afforded, to manifest and make known his true character,
and thus secure the highest confidence of his subjects.
(6.) Another reason for preferring atonement was, God's desire to lay open
his heart to the inspection and imitation of moral beings.
(7.) Another reason is, because God is love, and prefers mercy when it can
be safely exercised. The Bible represents him as delighting in mercy, and affirms
that "judgment is his strange work."
Because he so much prefers mercy to judgment as to be willing to suffer as the sinner's
substitute, to afford himself the opportunity to exercise pardon, on principles that
are consistent with a due administration of justice.
(8.) In the atonement God consulted his own happiness and his own glory. To
deny himself for the salvation of sinners, was a part of his own infinite happiness,
always intended by him, and therefore always enjoyed. This was not selfishness in
him, as his own well-being is of infinitely greater value than that of all the universe
besides, he ought so to regard and treat it, because of its supreme and intrinsic
(9.) In making the atonement, God complied with the laws of his own intelligence,
and did just that, all things considered, in the highest degree promotive of the
(10.) The atonement would present to creatures the highest possible motives
to virtue. Example is the highest moral influence that can be exerted. If God, or
any other being, would make others benevolent, he must manifest benevolence himself.
If the benevolence manifested in the atonement does not subdue the selfishness of
sinners, their case is hopeless.
(11.) It would produce among creatures the highest kind and degree of happiness,
by leading them to contemplate and imitate his love.
(12.) The circumstances of his government rendered an atonement necessary;
as the execution of law was not, as a matter of fact, a sufficient preventive of
sin. The annihilation of the wicked would not answer the purposes of government.
A full revelation of mercy, blended with such an exhibition of justice, was called
for by the circumstances of the universe.
(13.) To confirm holy beings. Nothing could be more highly calculated to establish
and confirm the confidence, love, and obedience of holy beings, than this disinterested
manifestation of love to sinners and rebels.
(14.) To confound his enemies. How could anything be more directly calculated
to silence all cavils, and to shut every mouth, and for ever close up all opposing
lips, than such an exhibition of love and willingness to make sacrifices for sinners?
(15.) A just and necessary regard to his own reputation made him prefer atonement
to the punishment of sinners.
A desire to sustain his own reputation, as the only moral power that could support
his own moral government, must have been a leading reason for the atonement.
The atonement was preferred as the best, and perhaps only way to inspire an affectionate
confidence in God.
It must have been the most agreeable to God, and the most beneficial to the universe.
(16.) Atonement would afford him an opportunity always to gratify his love
in his kindness to sinners, in using means for their salvation, in forgiving and
saving them when they repent, without the danger of its being inferred in the universe,
that he had not a sufficient abhorrence for their sin.
(17.) Another reason for the atonement was, to counteract the influence of
the devil, which was so extensively and powerfully exerted in this world for the
promotion of selfishness.
(18.) To make the final punishment of the wicked more impressive in the light
of the infinite love, manifest in the atonement.
(19.) The atonement is the highest testimony that God can bear against selfishness.
It is the testimony of his own example.
(20.) The atonement is a higher expression of his regard for the public interest
than the execution of law. It is, therefore, a fuller satisfaction to public justice.
(21.) The atonement so reveals all the attributes of God, as to complete the
whole circle of motives needed to influence the minds of moral beings.
(22.) By dying in human nature, Christ exhibited his heart to both worlds.
(23.) The fact, that the execution of the law of God on rebel angels had not
arrested, and could not arrest, the progress of rebellion in the universe, proves
that something more needed to be done, in support of the authority of law, than would
be done in the execution of its penalty upon rebels. While the execution of law may
have a strong tendency to prevent the beginning of rebellion among loyal subjects,
and to restrain rebels themselves; yet penal inflictions do not, in fact, subdue
the heart, under any government, whether human or divine.
As a matter of fact, the law was only exasperating rebels, without confirming holy
beings. Paul affirmed, that the action of the law upon his own mind, while in impenitence,
was to beget in him all manner of concupiscence. One grand reason for giving the
law was, to develope the nature of sin, and to show that the carnal mind is not subject
to the law of God, neither indeed can be. The law was therefore given that the offence
might abound, that thereby it might be demonstrated, that without an atonement there
could be no salvation for rebels under the government of God.
(24.) The nature, degree, and execution of the penalty of the law, made the
holiness and the justice of God so prominent, as to absorb too much of public attention
to be safe. Those features of his character were so fully revealed, by the execution
of his law upon the rebel angels, that to have pursued the same course with the inhabitants
of this world, without the offer of mercy, might have had, and doubtless would have
had, an injurious influence upon the universe, by creating more of fear than of love
to God and his government.
Hence, a fuller revelation of the love and compassion of God was necessary, to guard
against the influence of slavish fear.
- 4. His taking human nature, and obeying unto death, under such circumstances,
constituted a good reason for our being treated as righteous.
- (1.) It is a common practice in human governments, and one that is founded in
the nature and laws of mind, to reward distinguished public service by conferring
favours on the children of those who have rendered this service, and treating them
as if they had rendered it themselves. This is both benevolent and wise. Its governmental
importance, its wisdom and excellent influence, have been most abundantly attested
in the experience of nations.
(2.) As a governmental transaction, this same principle prevails, and for the same
reason, under the government of God. All that are Christ's children and belong to
him, are received for his sake, treated with favour, and the rewards of the righteous
are bestowed upon them for his sake. And the public service which he has rendered
to the universe, by laying down his life for the support of the divine government,
has rendered it eminently wise, that all who are united to him by faith should be
treated as righteous for its sake.
This lecture was typed in by Bill Tyler.
LECTURE XXXV. Back to Top
EXTENT OF ATONEMENT.
VI. The extent of the atonement.
In discussing this part of the subject, I must inquire briefly into the governmental
value and bearings of the atonement.
- 1. It is valuable only as it tends to promote the glory of God, and the virtue
and happiness of the universe.
- 2. In order to understand, in what the value of the atonement consists, we must
- (1.) That happiness is an ultimate good.
(2.) That virtue is indispensable to happiness.
(3.) That the knowledge of God is indispensable to virtue.
(4.) That Christ, who made the atonement, is God.
(5.) That the work of atonement was the most interesting and impressive exhibition
of God that ever was made in this world, and probably in the universe.
(6.) That, therefore, the atonement is the highest means of promoting virtue that
exists in this world, and perhaps in the universe. And that it is valuable only,
and just so far, as it reveals God, and tends to promote virtue and happiness.
(7.) That the work of atonement was a gratification of the infinite benevolence of
(8.) It was a work eternally designed by him, and, therefore, eternally enjoyed.
(9.) The design to make an atonement, together with the foreseen results which were,
in an important sense, always present to him, have eternally caused no small part
of the happiness of God.
(10.) The developement, or carrying out of this design, in the work of atonement,
highly promotes, and will for ever promote, his glory in the universe.
(11.) Its value consists in its adaptedness to promote the virtue and happiness of
holy angels, and all moral agents who have never sinned. As it is a new and most
stupendous revelation of God, it must of course greatly increase their knowledge
of God, and be greatly promotive of their virtue and happiness.
(12.) Its value consists in its adaptedness to prevent further rebellion against
God in every part of the universe. The atonement exhibits God in such a light, as
must greatly strengthen the confidence of holy beings in his character and government.
It is therefore calculated, in the highest degree, to confirm holy beings in their
allegiance to God, and thus prevent the further progress of rebellion. Let it be
remembered, the value of the atonement consists in its moral power, or tendency,
to promote virtue and happiness. Moral power is the power of motive.
The highest moral power is the influence of example. Advice has moral power. Precept
has moral power. Sanction has moral power. But example is the highest moral influence
that can be exerted by any being. Moral beings are so created as to be naturally
influenced by the example of each other. The example of a child, as a moral influence,
has power upon other children. The example of an adult, as a moral influence, has
power. The example of great men and of angels, has great moral power. But the example
of God is the highest moral influence in the universe.
The word of God has power. His commands, threatenings, promises; but his example
is a higher moral influence than his precepts or his threatenings.
Virtue consists in benevolence. God requires benevolence; threatens all his subjects
with punishment if they are not benevolent, and promises them eternal life if they
are. All this has power. But his example, his own benevolence, his own disinterested
love, as expressed in the atonement, has a vastly higher moral influence than his
word, or any other of his manifestations.
Christ is God. In the atonement, God has given us the influence of his own example,
has exhibited his own love, his own compassion, his own self-denial, his own patience,
his own long-suffering, under abuse from enemies. In the atonement he has exhibited
all the highest and most perfect forms of virtue, has united himself with human nature,
has exhibited these forms of virtue to the inspection of our senses, and laboured,
wept, suffered, bled, and died for man. This is not only the highest revelation of
God that could be given to man; but is giving the whole weight of his own example
in favour of all the virtues which he requires of man.
This is the highest possible moral influence. It is properly moral omnipotence; that
is, the influence of the atonement, when apprehended by the mind, will accomplish
whatever is within the compass of moral power to effect. Moral power cannot compel
a moral agent, nor set aside his freedom, for this is not an object of moral power;
but it will do all that motive can, in the nature of the case, accomplish. It is
the highest and most weighty motive that the mind of a moral being can conceive.
It is the most moving, impressive, and influential consideration in the universe.
Its value may be estimated, by its moral influence in the promotion of holiness among
all holy beings.
1. Their complacent love to God must depend upon their knowledge of him.
2. As he is infinite, and all creatures are finite, finite beings know him
only as he is pleased to reveal himself.
3. The atonement has disclosed or revealed to the universe of holy beings,
a class and an order of virtues, as resident in the divine mind, which, but for the
atonement, would probably have for ever remained unknown.
4. As the atonement is the most impressive revelation of God of which we have
any knowledge, or can form any conception, we have reason to believe, that it has
greatly increased the holiness and happiness of all holy creatures, that it has done
more than any other, and perhaps every other, revelation of God, to exalt his character,
strengthen his government, enlighten the universe, and increase its happiness.
5. The value of the atonement may be estimated by the amount of good it has
done, and will do, in this world. The atonement is an exhibition of God suffering
as a substitute for his rebellious subjects. His relation to the law and to the universe,
is that which gives his sufferings such boundless value. I have said, in a former
lecture, that the utility of executing penal sanctions consists in the exhibition
it makes of the true character and designs of the lawgiver. It creates public confidence,
makes a public impression, and thus strengthens the influence of government, and
is in this way promotive of order and happiness. The atonement is the highest testimony
that God could give of his holy abhorrence of sin; of his regard to his law; of his
determination to support it; and, also, of his great love for his subjects; his great
compassion for sinners; and his willingness to suffer himself in their stead; rather,
on the one hand, than to punish them, or, on the other, than to set aside the penalty
without satisfaction being made to public justice.
6. The atonement may be viewed in either of two points of light.
(1.) Christ may be considered as the lawgiver, and attesting his sincerity,
love of holiness, hatred of sin, approbation of the law, and compassion for his subjects,
by laying down his life as their substitute.
(2.) Or Christ may be considered as the Son of the Supreme Ruler; and then
we have the spectacle of a sovereign, giving his only-begotten and well-beloved Son,
his greatest treasure, to die a shameful and agonizing death, in testimony of his
great compassion for his rebellious subjects, and of his high regard for public justice.
7. The value of the atonement may be estimated, by considering the fact, that
it provides for the pardon of sin, in a way that forbids the hope of impunity in
any other case. This, the good of the universe imperiously demanded. If sin is to
be forgiven at all under the government of God it should be known to be forgiven
upon principles that will by no means encourage rebellion, or hold out the least
hope of impunity, should rebellion break out in any other part of the universe.
8. The atonement has settled the question, that sin can never be forgiven,
under the government of God, simply on account of the repentance of any being. It
has demonstrated, that sin can never be forgiven without full satisfaction being
made to public justice, and that public justice can never be satisfied with anything
less than an atonement made by God himself. Now, as it can never be expected, that
the atonement will be repeated, it is for ever settled, that rebellion in any other
world than this, can have no hope of impunity. This answers the question so often
asked by infidels, "If God was disposed to be merciful, why could he not forgive
without an atonement?" The answer is plain; he could not forgive sin, but upon
such principles as would for ever preclude the hope of impunity, should rebellion
ever break out among free agents in any other part of the universe.
9. From these considerations it is manifest, that the value of the atonement
is infinite. We have reason to believe, that Christ, by his atonement, is not only
the Saviour of this world, but the Saviour of the universe in an important sense.
Rebellion once broke out in heaven, and upon the rebel angels God executed his law,
and sent them down to hell. It next broke out in this world; and as the execution
of law was found by experience not to be a sufficient preventive of rebellion, there
was no certainty that rebellion would not have spread until it had ruined the universe,
but for that revelation of God which Christ has made in the atonement. This exhibition
of God has proved itself not merely able to prevent rebellion among holy beings,
but to reclaim and reform rebels. Millions of rebels have through it been reclaimed
and reformed. This world is to be turned back to its allegiance to God, and the blessed
atonement of Christ has so unbosomed God before the universe, as, no doubt, not only
to save other worlds from going into rebellion, but to save myriads of our already
rebellious race from the depths of an eternal hell.
Let us now inquire for whose benefit the atonement was intended.
(1.) God does all things for himself; that is, he consults his own glory and
happiness, as the supreme and most influential reason for all his conduct. This is
wise and right in him, because his own glory and happiness are infinitely the greatest
good in and to the universe. He made the atonement to satisfy himself. "God
so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth
in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." God himself, then, was
greatly benefited by the atonement: in other words, his happiness has in a great
measure resulted from its contemplation, execution, and results.
(2.) He made the atonement for the benefit of the universe. All holy beings
are, and must be, benefited by it, from its very nature, as it gives them a higher
knowledge of God than ever they had before, or ever could have gained in any other
way. The atonement is the greatest work that he could have wrought for them, the
most blessed, and excellent, and benevolent thing he could have done for them. For
this reason, angels are described as desiring to look into the atonement. The inhabitants
of heaven are represented as being deeply interested in the work of atonement, and
those displays of the character of God that are made in it. The atonement is then
no doubt one of the greatest blessings that ever God conferred upon the universe
of holy beings.
(3.) The atonement was made for the benefit particularly of the inhabitants
of this world, from its very nature, as it is calculated to benefit all the inhabitants
of this world; as it is a most stupendous revelation of God to man. Its nature is
adapted to benefit all mankind. All mankind can be pardoned, if they are rightly
affected and brought to repentance by it, as well as any part of mankind.
(4.) The Bible declares that Christ tasted death for every man.
(5.) All do certainly receive many blessings on account of it. It is probable
that, but for the atonement, none of our race, except the first human pair, would
ever have had an existence.
(6.) But for the atonement, it seems not possible for creatures to conceive
how man could have been treated with lenity and forbearance any more than the fallen
angels could be.
(7.) All the blessings which mankind enjoy, are conferred on them on account
of the atonement of Christ; that is, God could not consistently wait on sinners,
and bless, and do all that the nature of the case admits, to save them, were it not
for the fact of atonement.
(8.) That it was made for all mankind, is evident, from the fact that it is
offered to all indiscriminately.
(9.) Sinners are universally condemned for not receiving it.
(10.) If the atonement is not intended for all mankind, it is impossible for
us not to regard God as insincere, in making them the offer of salvation through
(11.) If the atonement were not intended for all, sinners in hell will see
and know that their salvation was never possible; that no atonement was made for
them; and that God was insincere in offering them salvation.
(12.) If the atonement is not for all men, no one can know for whom, in particular,
it was intended, without direct revelation. Hence--
(13.) If the atonement was made only for a part, no man can know whether he
has a right to embrace it, until by a direct revelation God has made known to him
that he is one of that part.
(14.) If the atonement was made but for a part of mankind, it is entirely
nugatory unless a further revelation make known for whom in particular it was made.
(15.) If it was not made for all men, ministers do not know to whom they should
(16.) If ministers do not believe that it was made for all men, they cannot
heartily and honestly press its acceptance upon any individual, or congregation in
the world; for they cannot assure any individual, or congregation, that there is
any atonement for him or them, any more than there is for Satan.
If to this it should be replied, that for fallen angels no atonement has been made,
but for some men an atonement has been made, so that it may be true of any individual
that it was made for him, and if he will truly believe, he will thereby have the
fact revealed, that it was, in fact, made for him: I reply, What is a sinner to believe,
as a condition of salvation? Is it merely that an atonement was made for somebody?
Is this saving faith? Must he not embrace it, and personally and individually commit
himself to it, and to Christ?--trust in it as made for him? But how is he authorized
to do this upon the supposition that the atonement was made for some men only, and
perhaps for him? Is it saving faith to believe that it was possibly made for him,
and by believing this possibility, will he thereby gain the evidence that it was,
in fact, made for him? No, he must have the word of God for it, that it was made
for him. Nothing else can warrant the casting of his soul upon it. How then is "he
truly to believe," or trust in the atonement, until he has the evidence, not
merely that it possibly may have been, but that it actually was, made for him? The
mere possibility that an atonement has been made for an individual, is no ground
of saving faith. What is he to believe? Why, that of which he has proof. But the
supposition is, that he has proof only that it is possible that the atonement was
made for him. He has a right, then, to believe it possible that Christ died for him.
And is this saving faith? No, it is not. What advantage, then, has he over Satan
in this respect. Satan knows that the atonement was not made for him; the sinner
upon the supposition knows that, possibly, it may have been made for him; but the
latter has really no more ground for trust and reliance than the former. He might
hope, but he could not rationally believe.
But upon this subject of the extent of the atonement, let the Bible speak for itself:
"The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of
God, which taketh away the sin of the world." "For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish,
but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world, to condemn the
world: but that the world through him might be saved." "And said unto the
woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying; for we have heard him ourselves,
and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world."--John i.
29; iii. 16, 17; iv. 42. "Therefore, as by the offence of one, judgment came
upon all men to condemnation; even so, by the righteousness of one, the free gift
came upon all men unto justification of life."--Rom. v. 18. "For the love
of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then
were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth
live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again."--2
Cor. v. 14, 15. "Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."
"For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living
God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe."--1 Tim.
ii. 6; iv. 10. "And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only,
but also for the sins of the whole world."--1 John ii. 2.
That the atonement is sufficient for all men, and, in that sense, general, as opposed
to particular, is also evident from the fact, that the invitations and promises of
the gospel are addressed to all men, and all are freely offered salvation through
Christ. "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am
God, and there is none else." "Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to
the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine
and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which
is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto
me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline
your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting
covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David." --Isa. xlv. 22; lv. 1-3.
"Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye
shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
"Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold,
I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are
ready; come unto the marriage."--Matt. xi. 28-30; xxii. 4. "And sent his
servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come, for all things are
now ready."--Luke xiv. 17. "In the last day, the great day of the feast,
Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink."--John
vii. 37. "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice,
and open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me."
"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come.
And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life
freely."--Rev. xxii. 17.
Again: I infer that the atonement was made, and is sufficient, for all men,
from the fact that God not only invites all, but expostulates with them for not accepting
his invitations. "Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets:
she crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates; in the
city she uttereth her words, saying, How long ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity?
and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at
my reproof: behold I will pour out my Spirit unto you, I will make known my words
unto you." --Prov. i. 20-23. "Come now, and let us reason together, saith
the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow, though they
be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."--Isaiah i. 18. "Thus saith
the Lord, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, I am the Lord thy God which teacheth
thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go. Oh that thou
hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness
as the waves of the sea."--Isaiah xlviii. 17, 18. "Say unto them, as I,
live saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that
the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for
why will ye die, O house of Israel?"--Ezek. xxxiii. 11. "Hear ye now what
the Lord saith: Arise, contend thou before the mountains, and let the hills hear
thy voice. Hear ye, O mountains, the Lord's controversy, and ye strong foundations
of the earth; for the Lord hath a controversy with his people, and he will plead
with Israel. O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied
thee? testify against me."--Micah, vi. 1-3. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou
that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would
I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under
her wings, and ye would not!"--Matt. xxiii. 37.
Again: the same may be inferred from the professed sincerity of God in his
invitations. "O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear
me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with
their children for ever!"--Deut. v. 39. "O that they were wise, that they
understood this, that they would consider their latter end!"--Deut. xxxii. 29.
"For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness; neither shall evil
dwell with thee."--Ps. v. 4. "Oh that my people had hearkened unto me,
and Israel had walked in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned
my hand against their adversaries. The haters of the Lord should have submitted themselves
unto him: but their time should have endured for ever." --Ps. lxxxi. 13-15.
"O that thou hadst hearkened unto my commandments! then had thy peace been as
a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea."--Isaiah xlviii. 18.
"For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God:
wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye."--Ezek. xviii. 32. "And when he
was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known,
even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But
now they are hid from thine eyes."--Luke xix. 41, 42. "For God so loved
the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should
not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to
condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."--John iii.
16, 17. "I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions,
and giving of thanks be made for all men: for kings, and for all that are in authority;
that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this
is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to
be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."--1. Tim. 1-4. "The
Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering
to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."--2
Peter iii. 9.
Again: the same inference is forced upon us by the fact, that God complains
of sinners for rejecting his overtures of mercy: "Because I have called, and
ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded."--Prov. i. 24.
"But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their
ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone,
lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in
his Spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of
hosts. Therefore it is come to pass; that, as he cried and they would not hear: so
they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts."--Zechariah vii.
11, 12, 13. "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king which made a
marriage for his son. And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to
the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying,
Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fatlings
are killed, and all things are ready; come unto the marriage. But they made light
of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: and the
remnant took his servants, and treated them spitefully, and slew them."--Matthew
xxii. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. "And sent his servant at supper-time to say to them that
were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began
to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must
needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought
five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another
said, I have married a wife; and therefore I cannot come."--Luke xiv. 17, 18,
19, 20. "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life."--John v.
40. "Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist
the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye."--Acts vii. 51. "And as
he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and
answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season I will call for
thee."--Acts xxiv. 25.
Again, the same is inferrible from the fact, that sinners are represented
as having no excuse for being lost and for not being saved by Christ. "And he
saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding-garment?
And he was speechless."--Matt. xxii. 12. "For the invisible things of him
from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that
are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse."--Romans
i. 20. "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life."--John v.
40. "Now, we know, that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who
are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become
guilty before God."--Romans iii. 19.
VII. I now proceed to answer objections.
- Objection. 1. Objection to the fact of atonement. It is said, that the
doctrine of atonement represents God as unmerciful. To this I answer,
- (1.) This objection supposes that the atonement was demanded to satisfy retributive
instead of public justice.
(2.) The atonement was the exhibition of a merciful disposition. It was because God
was disposed to pardon, that he consented to give his own Son to die as the substitute
(3.) The atonement is infinitely the most illustrious exhibition of mercy ever made
in the universe. The mere pardon of sin, as an act of sovereign mercy, could not
have been compared, had it been possible; with the merciful disposition displayed
in the atonement itself.
- Objection. 2. It is objected that the atonement is unnecessary.
- The testimony of the world and of the consciences of all men is against this
objection. This is universally attested by their expiatory sacrifices. These, as
has been said, have been offered by nearly every nation of whose religious history
we have any reliable account. This shows that human beings are universally conscious
of being sinners, and under the government of a sin-hating God; that their intelligence
demands either the punishment of sinners, or that a substitute should be offered
to public justice; that they all own and have the idea that substitution is conceivable,
and hence they offer their sacrifices as expiatory.
A heathen philosopher can answer this objection, and rebuke the folly of him who
- Objection. 3. It is objected, that the doctrine of the atonement is inconsistent
with the idea of mercy and forgiveness.
- (1.) This takes for granted, that the atonement was the literal payment of a
debt, and that Christ suffered all that was due to all the sinners for whom he died,
so that their discharge or pardon is an act of justice, and not of mercy. But this
is by no means the view of God which the nature of the atonement presents. The atonement,
as we have seen, had respect simply to public, and not at all to retributive justice.
Christ suffered what was necessary, to illustrate the intention of God, in respect
to sin, and in respect to his law. But the amount of his sufferings had no respect
to the amount of punishment that might have justly been inflicted on the wicked.
(2.) The punishment of sinners is just as much deserved by them, as if Christ had
not suffered at all.
(3.) Their forgiveness, therefore, is just as much an act of mercy, as if there had
been no atonement.
- Objection. 4. It is objected, that it is unjust to punish an innocent
being instead of the guilty.
- (1.) Yes, it would not only be unjust, but it is impossible with God to punish
an innocent moral agent at all. Punishment implies guilt. An innocent being may suffer,
but he cannot be punished. Christ voluntarily "suffered the just for the unjust."
He had a right to exercise this self-denial; and as it was by his own voluntary consent,
no injustice was done to any one.
(2.) If he had no right to make an atonement, he had no right to consult and promote
his own happiness and the happiness of others; for it is said, that "for the
joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame."
- Objection. 5. It is objected that the doctrine of atonement is utterly
- To this I have replied in a former lecture; but will here again state, that it
would be utterly incredible upon any other supposition, than that God is love. But
if God is love, as the Bible expressly affirms that he is, the work of atonement
is just what might be expected of him, under the circumstances; and the doctrine
of atonement is then the most reasonable doctrine in the universe.
- Objection. 6. It is objected to the doctrine of atonement, that it is
of a demoralizing tendency.
- (1.) There is a broad distinction between the natural tendency of a thing, and
such an abuse of a good thing as to make it the instrument of evil. The best things
and doctrines may be, and often are, abused, and their natural tendency perverted.
(2.) Although the doctrine of the atonement may be abused, yet its natural tendency
is the direct opposite of demoralizing. Is the manifestation of infinitely disinterested
love naturally calculated to beget enmity? Who does not know that the natural tendency
of manifested love is to excite love in return?
(3.) Those who have the most cordially believed in the atonement, have exhibited
the purest morality that has ever been in this world; while the rejectors of the
atonement, almost without exception, exhibit a loose morality. This is, as might
be expected, from the very nature and moral influence of atonement.
- Objection. 7. To a general atonement, it is objected that the Bible represents
Christ as laying down his life for his sheep, or for the elect only, and not for
- (1.) It does indeed represent Christ as laying down his life for his sheep, and
also for all mankind.
1 John ii. 2.--"And he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only,
but also for the sins of the whole world."
John iii. 17.--"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world;
but that the world through him might be saved."
Heb. ii. 9. "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for
the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he, by the grace of God,
should taste death for every man."
(2.) Those who object to the general atonement, take substantially the same course
to evade this doctrine, that Unitarians do to set aside the doctrine of the Trinity
and the Divinity of Christ. They quote those passages that prove the unity of God
and the humanity of Christ, and then take it for granted that they have disproved
the doctrine of the Trinity and Christ's Divinity. The asserters of limited atonement,
in like manner, quote those passages that prove that Christ died for the elect and
for his saints, and then take it for granted that he died for none else. To the Unitarian,
we reply, we admit the unity of God and the humanity of Christ, and the full meaning
of those passages of scripture which you quote in proof of these doctrines; but we
insist that this is not the whole truth, but that there are still other passages
which prove the doctrine of the Trinity, and the Divinity of Christ. Just so to the
asserters of limited atonement, we reply: we believe that Christ laid down his life
for his sheep, as well as you; but we also believe that "he tasted death for
John iii. 16.--"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
- Objection. 8. To the doctrine of general atonement it is objected, that
it would be folly in God to provide what he knew would be rejected; and that to suffer
Christ to die for those who, he foresaw, would not repent, would be a useless expenditure
of the blood and suffering of Christ.
- (1.) This objection assumes that the atonement was a literal payment of a debt,
which we have seen does not consist with the nature of the atonement.
(2.) If sinners do not accept it, in no view can the atonement be useless, as the
great compassion of God, in providing an atonement and offering them mercy, will
for ever exalt his character, in the estimation of holy beings, greatly strengthen
his government, and therefore benefit the whole universe.
(3.) If all men rejected the atonement, it would, nevertheless, be of infinite value
to the universe, as the most glorious revelation of God that was ever made.
- Objection. 9. To the general atonement it is objected, that it implies
- It would indeed imply this, upon the supposition that the atonement is the literal
payment of a debt. It was upon this view of the atonement, that universalism first
took its stand. Universalists taking it for granted, that Christ had paid the debt
of those for whom he died, and finding it fully revealed in the Bible that he died
for all mankind, naturally, and if this were correct, properly, inferred the doctrine
of universal salvation. But we have seen, that this is not the nature of atonement.
Therefore, this inference falls to the ground.
- Objection. 10. It is objected that, if the atonement was not a payment
of the debt of sinners, but general in its nature, as we have mentioned, it secures
the salvation of no one.
- It is true, that the atonement, of itself, does not secure the salvation of any
one; but the promise and oath of God, that Christ shall have a seed to serve him,
provide that security.
GENERAL REMARKS ON THE ATONEMENT.
- 1. The execution of the law of God on rebel angels must have created great awe
- 2. Its action may have tended too much to fear.
- 3. The forbearance of God toward men previous to the atonement of Christ, may
have been designed to counteract the superabundant tendency to fear, as it was the
beginning of a revelation of compassion.
- 4. Sinners will not give up their enmity against God, nor believe that his love
is disinterested, until they realize that he actually died as their substitute: the
true and heart-belief of this will effectually subdue their enmity.
- 5. In this is seen the exceeding strength of unbelief, and of prejudice against
- 6. But faith in the atonement of Christ rolls a mountain weight of crushing and
melting considerations upon the heart of the sinner.
- 7. Thus, the blood of Christ, when apprehended and believed in, cleanses from
- 8. God's forbearance toward sinners explained by, and consummated in, the atonement,
must increase the wonder, admiration, love, and happiness of the universe.
- 9. The means which he uses to save mankind must produce the same effect.
- 10. Beyond certain limits, forbearance is no virtue, but would be manifestly
injurious, and therefore wrong. A degree of forbearance that might justly create
the impression, that God was not infinitely holy and opposed to sin, would work infinite
mischief in the universe.
- 11. When the forbearance of God has fully demonstrated his great love, and done
all it can to sustain the moral government of God, without a fresh display of holiness
and justice, he will, no doubt, come forth to the consummation of his moral government,
and make parallel displays of justice and mercy for ever, by setting heaven and hell
in eternal contrast.
- 12. Then the law and gospel will be seen to be one harmonious system of moral
government, developing in the fullest manner the glorious character of God.
- 13. From this may be seen the indispensable necessity of faith in the atonement
of Christ, and the reason why it is, that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation
only to every one that believeth. If the atonement is not believed in, it is to that
mind no revelation at all, and with such a mind the gospel has no moral power.
- 14. But the atonement tends, in the highest manner, to produce in the believer
the spirit of entire and universal consecration to God.
- 15. The atonement shows how solid a foundation the saints have for unbroken and
eternal repose and confidence in God. If God could make an atonement for men, surely
it is infinitely unreasonable to suppose that he will withhold from those that believe
anything which could be to them a real good.
- 16. We see that selfishness is the great hindrance to the exercise of faith.
A selfish mind finds it exceedingly difficult to understand the atonement, inasmuch
as it is an exhibition of a state of mind which is the direct opposite of all that
the sinner has ever experienced. His experience, being wholly selfish, renders it
difficult for him to conceive aright what true religion is, and heartily to believe
in the infinitely great and disinterested love of God.
- 17. The atonement renders pardon consistent with the perfect administration of
- 18. The atonement, as it was made by the lawgiver, magnifies the law, and renders
it infinitely more honourable and influential, than the execution of the penalty
upon sinners would have done.
- 19. It is the highest and most glorious expedient of moral government. It is
adding to the influence of law the whole weight of the most moving manifestation
of God that men or angels ever saw or ever will see.
- 20. It completes the circle of governmental motives. It is a filling up of the
revelation of God. It is a revealing of a department of his character, with which
it would seem that nothing else could have made his creatures acquainted. It is,
therefore, the highest possible support of moral government.
- 21. It greatly glorifies God; indeed it does so far above all his other works
- 22. It must be to him a source of the purest, most exalted, and eternal happiness.
- 23. It opens the channels of divine benevolence to state-criminals.
- 24. It has united God in a new and peculiar way to human nature.
- 25. It has opened a way of access to God, never opened to any creatures before.
- 26. It has abolished natural death, by procuring a universal resurrection: "For
as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." 1 Cor. xv. 22.
- 27. It restores the life of God to the soul, by restoring to man the influence
of the Holy Spirit.
- 28. It has introduced a new method of salvation and of moral renovation, and
made Christ the head of the new covenant.
- 29. It has made Christ our surety: "By so much was Jesus made a surety of
a better testament." Heb. vii. 22.
- 30. It has arrayed such a public sentiment against rebellion, as to crush it
whenever the atonement is fairly understood and applied by the Holy Spirit.
- 31. It has procured the offer of pardon to all sinners of our race.
- 32. It has, no doubt, added to the happiness of heaven.
- 33. It has more fully developed the nature and importance of the government of
- 34. It has more fully developed the nature of sin.
- 35. It has more fully developed the strength of sin.
- 36. It has more fully developed the total depravity and utter madness of sinners.
- 37. It has given scope to the long-suffering and forbearance of God.
- 38. It has formed a more intimate union between God and man, than between him
and any other order of creatures.
- 39. It has elevated human nature, and the saints of God, into the stations of
kings and priests to God.
- 40. It has opened new fields of usefulness, in which the benevolence of God,
angels, and men may luxuriate in doing good.
- 41. It has developed and fully revealed the doctrine of the Trinity.
- 42. It has revealed the most influential and only efficacious method of government.
- 43. It has more fully developed those laws of our being upon which the strength
of moral government depends.
- 44. It has given a standing illustration of the true intent, meaning, and excellency
of the law of God. In the atonement God has illustrated the meaning of his law by
his own example.
- 45. The atonement has fully illustrated the nature of virtue, and demonstrated
that it consists in disinterested benevolence.
- 46. It has for ever condemned all selfishness, as entirely and infinitely inconsistent
This lecture was typed in by Bob Borer.
LECTURE XXXVI. Back to Top
HUMAN GOVERNMENTS A PART OF THE MORAL GOVERNMENT OF GOD.
In the discussion of this subject I will,--
I. INQUIRE INTO THE ULTIMATE END OF GOD IN THE CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE.
II. SHOW THAT PROVIDENTIAL AND MORAL GOVERNMENT ARE INDISPENSABLE MEANS OF SECURING
III. THAT CIVIL, AND FAMILY GOVERNMENTS ARE INDISPENSABLE TO THE SECURING OF THIS
END; AND ARE, THEREFORE, TRULY A PART OF THE PROVIDENTIAL AND MORAL GOVERNMENT OF
IV. INQUIRE INTO THE FOUNDATION OF THE RIGHT OF HUMAN GOVERNMENTS.
V. POINT OUT THE LIMITS, OR BOUNDARIES, OF THIS RIGHT.
VI. MAKE SEVERAL REMARKS RESPECTING FORMS OF GOVERNMENT, THE RIGHT AND DUTY OF REVOLUTION,
VII. APPLY THE FOREGOING PRINCIPLES TO THE RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF GOVERNMENTS AND SUBJECTS,
IN RELATION TO THE EXECUTION OF NECESSARY PENALTIES; THE SUPPRESSION OF MOBS, INSURRECTIONS,
REBELLION; AND IN RELATION TO WAR, SLAVERY, SABBATH DESECRATION, &C.
I. The ultimate end of God in creation.
We have seen in former lectures, that God is a moral agent, the self-existent and
supreme; and is therefore himself, as ruler of all, subject to, and observant of,
moral law in all his conduct. That is, his own infinite intelligence must affirm
that a certain course of willing is suitable, fit, and right in him. This idea, or
affirmation, is law to him; and to this his will must be conformed, or he is not
good. This is moral law, a law founded in the eternal and self-existent nature of
God. This law does, and must, demand benevolence in God. Benevolence is good-willing.
God's intelligence must affirm that he ought to will good for its own intrinsic value.
It must affirm his obligation to choose the highest possible good as the great end
of his being. If God is good, the highest good of himself, and of the universe, must
have been the end which he had in view in the work of creation. This is of infinite
value, and ought to be willed by God. If God is good, this must have been his end.
We have also seen,--
II. That providential and moral governments are indispensable means of securing
the highest good of the universe.
The highest good of moral agents is conditionated upon their holiness. Holiness consists
in conformity to moral law. Moral law implies moral government. Moral government
is a government of moral law and of motives. Motives are presented by providential
government; and providential government is, therefore, a means of moral government.
Providential and moral government must be indispensable to securing the highest good
of the universe.
III. Civil and family governments are indispensable to the securing of this end,
and are, therefore, really a part of the providential and moral government of God.
In the discussion of this question I will show,--
1. That human governments are a necessity of human nature.
2. That this necessity will continue as long as men exist in the present world.
3. That human governments are plainly recognized in the Bible, as a part of the government
4. That it is the duty of all men to aid in the establishment and support of human
5. It is absurd to suppose that human government can ever be dispensed with in this
6. I shall answer objections.
- 1. Human governments are a necessity of human nature.
- (1.) There must be real estate. Human beings have numerous physical and moral
wants that cannot possibly be supplied without the cultivation and improvement of
the soil. Buildings must be erected, &c.
(2.) The land and other things must belong to somebody. Somebody must have the right,
the care, the responsibility, and therefore the avails of real estate.
(3.) There must, therefore, be all the forms of conveyancing, registry, and, in short,
all the forms of legal government, to settle and manage the real estate affairs of
(4.) Moral beings will not agree in opinion on any subject without similar degrees
(5.) Hence, no human community exists, or ever will exist, the members of which will
agree in opinion on all subjects.
(6.) This creates a necessity for human legislation and adjudication, to apply the
great principles of moral law to all human affairs.
(7.) There are multitudes of human wants and necessities that cannot properly be
met except through the instrumentality of human governments.
- 2. This necessity will continue as long as human beings exist in this world.
- (1.) This is as certain as that the human body will always need sustenance and
clothing; and that the human soul will always need instruction; and that the means
of instruction will not come spontaneously, without expense and labour.
(2.) It is as certain as that men of all ages and circumstances will never possess
equal talents and degrees of information on all subjects.
If all men were perfectly holy and disposed to do right, the necessity for human
governments would not be set aside, because this necessity is founded in the ignorance
of mankind, though greatly aggravated by their wickedness.
(3.) The decisions of legislators and judges must be authoritative, so as to settle
questions of disagreement in opinion, and at once to bind and protect all parties.
(4.) The Bible represents human governments not only as existing, but as deriving
their authority and right to punish evil-doers, and to protect the righteous, from
- 3. Human governments are plainly recognized in the Bible as a part of the moral
government of God.
- (1.) Dan. ii. 21. "He changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings,
and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that
Dan. iv. 17, 25. "This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand
by the word of the holy ones; to the intent that the living may know that the Most
High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth
up over it the basest of men." "They shall drive thee from men, and thy
dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass
as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass
over thee, till thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth
it to whomsoever he will."
Dan. v. 21. "He was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like
the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like
oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the Most High
God ruleth in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will."
Rom. xiii. 1-7. "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there
is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore
resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive
to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works but to the evil.
Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt
have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou
do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is
the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore
ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath but also for conscience sake. For, for
this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually
upon this very thing. Render, therefore, to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute
is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour."
Titus iii. 1. "Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers,
to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work."
1 Peter ii. 13, 14. "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's
sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme, or unto governors, as unto them that
are sent by him for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that
These passages prove conclusively, that God establishes human governments, as parts
of moral government.
(2.) It is a matter of fact, that God does exert moral influences through the instrumentality
of human governments.
(3.) It is a matter of fact, that he often executes his law, punishes vice, and rewards
virtue, through the instrumentality of human governments.
(4.) Under the Jewish theocracy, where God was king, it was found indispensable to
have not only laws promulged by divine authority, but also to enforce them by the
executive department of government.
- 4. It is the duty of all men to aid in the establishment and support of human
- (1.) Because human government is plainly a necessity of human beings.
(2.) As all men are in some way dependent upon them, it is the duty of every man
to aid in their establishment and support.
(3.) As the great law of benevolence, or universal good-willing, demands the existence
of human governments, all men are under a perpetual and unalterable moral obligation
to aid in their establishment and support.
(4.) In popular or elective governments, every man having a right to vote, every
human being who has moral influence, is bound to exert that influence in the promotion
of virtue and happiness. And as human governments are plainly indispensable to the
highest good of man, they are bound to exert their influence to secure a legislation
that is in accordance with the law of God.
(5.) The obligation of human beings to support and obey human governments, while
they legislate upon the principles of the moral law, is as unalterable as the moral
- 5. It is absurd to suppose that human governments can ever be dispensed with
in the present world.
- (1.) Because such a supposition is entirely inconsistent with the nature of human
(2.) It is equally inconsistent with their relations and circumstances.
(3.) Because it assumes that the necessity of government is founded alone in human
depravity: whereas the foundation of this necessity is human ignorance, and human
depravity is only an additional reason for the existence of human governments. The
primary idea of law is to teach; hence law has a precept. It is authoritative, and
therefore has a penalty.
(4.) Because it assumes that men would always agree in judgment, if their hearts
were right, irrespective of their degrees of information. But this is far from the
(5.) Because it sets aside one of the plainest and most unequivocal doctrines of
- 6. I am to answer objections.
- Objection. 1. The kingdom of God is represented in the Bible as subverting
all other kingdoms.
Ans. This is true, but all that can be meant by it is, that the time shall come when
God shall be regarded as the supreme and universal sovereign of the universe, when
his law shall be regarded as universally obligatory; when all kings, legislators,
and judges shall act as his servants, declaring, applying, and administering the
great principles of his law to all the affairs of human beings. Thus God will be
the supreme sovereign; and earthly rulers will be governors, kings, and judges under
him, and acting by his authority as revealed in the Bible.
Objection. 2. It is alleged, that God only providentially establishes human governments,
and that he does not approve of their selfish and wicked administration; that he
only uses them providentially, as he does Satan, for the promotion of his own designs.
Ans. 1. God nowhere commands mankind to obey Satan, but he does command them to obey
magistrates and rulers.
Rom. xiii. 1. "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers; for there is
no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God."
1 Pet. ii. 13, 14. "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's
sake: whether it be to the king as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that
are sent by him for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that
2. He nowhere recognizes Satan as his servant, sent and set by him to administer
justice and execute wrath upon the wicked; but he does this in respect to human governments.
Rom. xiii. 2-6. "Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance
of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are
not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the
power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same. For he is the
minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for
he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute
wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for
wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For, this cause pay ye tribute also; for they
are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing."
3. It is true indeed that God approves of nothing that is ungodly and selfish in
human governments. Neither did he approve of what was ungodly and selfish in the
scribes and Pharisees; and yet Christ said to his disciples, "The scribes and
Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore, whatsoever things they command you, that
observe and do; but do ye not after their works, for they say, and do not."
Here the plain common-sense principle is recognized, that we are to obey when the
requirement is not inconsistent with the moral law, whatever may be the character
or the motive of the ruler. We are always to obey heartily as unto the Lord, and
not unto men, and render obedience to magistrates for the honour and glory of God,
and as doing service to him.
Objection. 3. It is said that Christians should leave human governments to the
management of the ungodly, and not be diverted from the work of saving souls, to
intermeddle with human governments.
Ans. 1. To uphold and assist good government is not being diverted from the work
of saving souls. The promotion of public and private order and happiness is one of
the indispensable means of doing good and saving souls.
2. It is nonsense to admit that Christians are under an obligation to obey human
government, and still have nothing to do with the choice of those who shall govern.
Objection. 4. It is affirmed that we are commanded not to avenge ourselves, that
"Vengeance is mine, and I will repay, saith the Lord." It is said, that
if I may not avenge or redress my own wrongs in my own person, I may not do it through
the instrumentality of human government.
Ans. 1. It does not follow, that because you may not take it upon yourself to redress
your own wrongs by a summary and personal infliction of punishment upon the transgressor,
that therefore human governments may not punishment them.
2. Because all private wrongs are a public injury; and irrespective of any particular
regard to your personal interest, magistrates are bound to punish crime for the public
3. It does not follow, because while God has expressly forbidden you to redress your
own wrongs, by administering personal and private chastisement, he has expressly
recognized the right, and made it the duty of public magistrates to punish crimes.
Objection. 5. It is alleged, that love is so much better than the law, that where
love reigns in the heart, law can be universally dispensed with.
Ans. 1. This supposes that, if there is only love, there need be no rule of duty;
no revelation, directing love in its efforts to secure the end upon which it terminates.
But this is as untrue as possible.
2. This objection overlooks the fact, that law is in all worlds the rule of duty,
and that legal sanctions make up an indispensable part of that circle of motives
that are suited to the nature, relations, and government of moral beings.
3. The law requires love; and nothing is law, either human or divine, that is inconsistent
with universal benevolence. And to suppose that love is better than law, is to suppose
that love needs no direction from superior wisdom.
Objection. 6. It is asserted, that Christians have something else to do besides
meddling with politics.
Ans. 1. In a popular government, politics are an important part of religion. No man
can possibly be benevolent or religious, to the full extent of his obligations, without
concerning himself, to a greater or less extent, with the affairs of human government.
2. It is true, that Christians have something else to do than to go with a party
to do evil, or to meddle with politics in a selfish or ungodly manner. But they are
bound to meddle with politics in popular government, because they are bound to seek
the universal good of all men; and this is one department of human interests, materially
affecting all their higher interests.
Objection. 7. It is said that human governments are nowhere expressly authorized
in the Bible.
Ans. 1. This is a mistake. Both their existence and lawfulness are as expressly recognized
in the above quoted scriptures as they can be.
2. If God did not expressly authorize them, it would still be both the right and
the duty of mankind to institute human governments, because they are plainly demanded
by the necessities of human nature. It is a first truth, that whatsoever is essential
to the highest good of moral beings in any world, they have a right to pursue, and
are bound to pursue according to the best dictates of reason and experience. So far,
therefore, are men from needing any express authority to establish human governments,
that no inference from the silence of scripture could avail to render their establishment
unlawful. It has been shown, in these lectures on moral government, that moral law
is a unit--that it is that rule of action which is in accordance with the nature,
relations, and circumstances of moral beings--that whatever is in accordance with,
and demanded by the nature, relations, and circumstances of moral beings, is obligatory
on them. It is moral law, and no power in the universe can set it aside. Therefore,
were the scriptures entirely silent (which they are not) on the subject of human
governments, and on the subject of family government, as they actually are on a great
many important subjects, this would be no objection to the lawfulness and expediency,
necessity and duty of establishing human governments.
Objection. 8. It is said that human governments are founded in and sustained by
force, and that this is inconsistent with the spirit of the gospel.
Ans. 1. There cannot be a difference between the spirit of the Old and New Testaments,
or between the spirit of the law and the gospel, unless God has changed, and unless
Christ has undertaken to make void the law through faith, which cannot be.
Rom. iii. 31. "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea,
we establish the law."
2. Just human governments, and such governments only are contended for, will not
exercise force, unless it is demanded to promote the highest public good. If it be
necessary to this end, it can never be wrong. Nay, it must be the duty of human governments
to inflict penalties, when their infliction is demanded by the public interest.
Objection. 9. It is said, that there should be no laws with penalties.
Ans. This is the same as to say that there should be no law at all; for, as we have
before shown, that is no law which has no penalty, but only advice.
Objection. 10. It has been said by some persons, that church government is sufficient
to meet the necessities of the world, without secular or state governments.
Ans. What! Church governments regulate commerce, make internal arrangements, such
as roads, bridges, and taxation, and undertake to manage all the business affairs
of the world! Preposterous and impossible.
Church government was never established for any such end; but simply to regulate
the spiritual, in distinction from the secular concerns of men--to try offenders
and inflict spiritual chastisement, and never to perplex and embarrass itself with
managing the business and commercial interests of the world.
Objection. 11. It is said, that were all the world holy, legal penalties would
not be needed.
Ans. Were all men perfectly holy, the execution of penalties would not be needed;
but still, if there were law, there must be penalties; and it would be both the right
and the duty of magistrates to inflict them, whenever the needful occasion should
call for their execution. But the state of the world supposed, is not at hand, and
while the world is what it is, laws must remain, and be enforced.
Objection. 12. It is asserted, that family government is the only form of government
approved of God.
Ans. This is a ridiculous assertion:--
1. Because God as expressly commands obedience to magistrates as to parents.
2. He makes it as absolutely the duty of magistrates to punish crime, as of parents
to punish their own disobedient children.
3. The right of family government, though commanded by God, is not founded in the
arbitrary will of God, but in the highest good of human beings; so that family government
would be both necessary and obligatory, had God not commanded it.
4. So the right of human government has not its foundation in the arbitrary will
of God, but in the necessities of human beings. The larger the community the more
absolute the necessity of government. If in the small circle of the family, laws
and penalties are needed, how much more in the larger communities of states and nations.
Now, neither the ruler of a family, nor any other human ruler, has a right to legislate
arbitrarily, or enact, or enforce any other laws, than those that are demanded by
the nature, relations, and circumstances of human beings. Nothing can be obligatory
on moral beings, but that which is consistent with their nature, relations, and circumstances.
But human beings are bound to establish family governments, state governments, national
governments, and in short, whatever government may be requisite for the universal
instruction, government, virtue, and happiness of the world, or any portion of it.
5. All the reasons therefore for family government, hold equally in favour of the
state and national governments.
6. There are vastly higher and weightier reasons for governments over states and
nations, than in the small communities of families.
7. On this, as on many other subjects, God has declared what is the common and universal
law, plainly recognizing both the right and duty of family an civil governments.
8. Christians therefore have something else to do, than to confound the right of
government with the abuse of this right by the ungodly. Instead of destroying human
governments, Christians are bound to reform and uphold them.
9. To attempt to destroy, rather than reform human governments, is the same in principle
as is often aimed at, by those who are attempting to destroy, rather than to reform,
the church. There are those who, disgusted with the abuses of Christianity practised
in the church, seem bent on destroying the church altogether, as the means of saving
the world. But what mad policy is this!
10. It is admitted that selfish men need, and must feel the restraints of law; but
yet it is contended that Christians should have no part in restraining them by law.
But suppose the wicked should agree among themselves to have no law, and therefore
should not attempt to restrain themselves, nor each other by law; would it be neither
the right nor the duty of Christians to attempt their restraint, through the influence
of wholesome government?
11. It would be strange, that selfish men should need the restraints of law, and
yet that Christians should have no right to meet this necessity, by supporting governments
that will restrain them. What is this but admitting, that the world really needs
the restraints of governments--that the highest good of the universe demands their
existence;--and yet, that it is wrong for Christians to seek the highest good of
the world, by meeting this necessity in the establishment and support of human governments!
It is right and best that there should be law. It is even absolutely necessary that
there should be law. Universal benevolence demands it; can it then be wrong in Christians
to have anything to do with it?
IV. Inquire into the foundation of the right of human governments.
- 1. Men are moral agents, and are therefore subjects of moral government and of
- 2. They are bound to aim at the same end at which God aims, to wit, the highest
good of universal being.
- 3. Since human governments are the indispensable means of promoting the highest
good of human beings, they have a right, and it is their duty to establish and maintain
them. The right of human governments must be founded in the intrinsic value of the
good that is to be secured by them, and conditionated upon the fact that they sustain
to the highest good of human beings, and consequently to the glory of God, through
them, the relation of a natural and necessary means to this end.
V. Point out the limits or boundaries of this right.
- 1. Observe, the end of government is the highest good of human beings, as a part
of universal good. All valid human legislation must propose this as its end, and
no legislation can have any authority that has not the highest good of the whole
for its end.
- 2. Observe, no being can arbitrarily create law. All law for the government of
moral agents must be moral law: that is, it must be the rule of action best suited
to their natures and relations. The moral law, or the law of nature, in other words,
the common law of the universe of moral agents, by which God is, and every moral
being ought to be governed, is the only law that can be obligatory on human beings.
All valid human legislation must be only declaratory of this one only law. Nothing
else than this can by any possibility be law. God puts forth no enactments, but such
as are declaratory of the common law of the universe; and should he do otherwise,
they would not be obligatory. Arbitrary legislation can never be really obligatory.
- 3. Human governments may declare and apply the great principle of moral law to
human conduct, and legislate in accordance with the divine government, so far as
this is necessary, but no farther.
- 4. The right of human government is founded in the intrinsic value of the good
of being, and conditionated upon their necessity, as a means to that end. They may
therefore extend, and ought to extend, their legislation and control just so far,
and no farther, than this necessity goes. This end is the promotion of the highest
good. So far as legislation and control are indispensable to this end, so far and
no farther does the right to govern extend.
- 5. Human beings have no right to establish a government upon any other basis
than the moral law. No human constitution or law can be obligatory upon human beings,
any farther than it is in accordance with, and declaratory of, moral law. All legislation
and all constitutions not founded upon this basis, and not recognizing the moral
law as the only law of the universe, are null and void, and all attempts to establish
and enforce them are odious tyranny and usurpation. Human beings may form constitutions,
establish governments, and enact statutes, for the purpose of promoting the highest
virtue and happiness of the world, and for the declaration and enforcement of moral
law; and just so far human governments are essential to this end, but absolutely
- 6. It follows, that no government is lawful or innocent that does not recognize
the moral law as the only universal law, and God as the Supreme Lawgiver and Judge,
to whom nations in their national capacity, as well as all individuals, are amenable.
The moral law of God is the only law of individuals and of nations, and nothing can
be rightful government but such as is established and administered with a view to
This lecture was typed in by Bob Borer.
LECTURE XXXVII. Back to Top
VI. I propose now to make several remarks respecting forms of government, the
right and duty of revolution, &c.
In this lecture I shall show:--
1. The reasons why God has made no particular form of civil governments universally
2. The particular forms of civil government must and will depend upon the intelligence
and virtue of the people.
3. That form of government is obligatory, that is best suited to meet the necessities
of the people.
4. Revolutions become necessary and obligatory, when the virtue and intelligence,
or the vice and ignorance, of the people demand them.
5. In what cases human legislation is valid, and in what cases it is null and void.
6. In what cases we are bound to disobey human government.
- 1. The reasons why God has made no form of civil government universally obligatory.
- (1.) That God has nowhere in the Bible given directions in regard to any particular
form of secular government, is a matter of fact.
(2.) That he did not consider the then existing forms of government, as of perpetual
obligation, is certain.
(3.) He did not give directions in regard to particular forms of government,--
(i.) Because no such directions could be given without producing great revolutions
and governmental opposition to Christianity. The governments of the world are and
always have been exceedingly various in form. To attempt, therefore, to insist upon
any particular form, as being universally obligatory, would be calling out great
national opposition to religion.
(ii.) Because no particular form of government, either now is, or ever has
been, suited to all degrees of intelligence, and all states of society.
(iii.) Because the forms of governments need to be changed, with any great
elevations or depressions of society, in regard to their intelligence and virtue.
- 2. The particular forms of state government must, and will, depend upon the virtue
and intelligence of the people.
- (1.) Democracy is self-government, and can never be safe or useful except so
far as there are sufficient intelligence and virtue in the community to impose, by
mutual consent, salutary self-restraints, and to enforce by the power of public sentiment,
and by the fear and love of God, the practice of those virtues which are indispensable
to the highest good of any community.
(2.) Republics are another and less pure form of self-government.
(3.) When there are not sufficient intelligence and virtue among the people to legislate
in accordance with the highest good of the state or nation, then both democracies
and republics are improper and impracticable, as forms of government.
(4.) When there is too little intelligence and virtue in the mass of the people to
legislate on correct principles, monarchies are better calculated to restrain vice
and promote virtue.
(5.) In the worst states of society, despotisms, either civil or military, are the
only proper and efficient forms of government. It is true, indeed, that a resort
to despotic government is an evil, and all that can be truly said is, that in certain
states of desperate anarchy, despotic government is the less of two evils.
(6.) When virtue and intelligence are nearly universal, democratic forms of government
are well suited to promote the public good.
(7.) In such a state of society, democracy is greatly conducive to the general diffusion
of knowledge on governmental subjects; and although, in some respects, less convenient,
yet in a suitable state of society, a democracy is in many respects the most desirable
form of government.
(i.) It is conducive, as has been already said, to general intelligence.
(ii.) Under a democracy, the people are more generally acquainted with the
(iii.) They are more interested in them.
(iv.) This form of government creates a more general feeling of individual
(v.) Governmental questions are more apt to be thoroughly discussed and understood
before they are adopted.
(vi.) As the diffusion of knowledge is favourable to individual and public
virtue, democracy is highly conducive to virtue and happiness.
(8.) God has always providentially given to mankind those forms of government that
were suited to the degrees of virtue and intelligence among them.
(9.) If they have been extremely ignorant and vicious, he has restrained them by
the iron rod of human despotism.
(10.) If more intelligent and virtuous, he has given them the milder forms of limited
(11.) If still more intelligent and virtuous, he has given still more liberty, and
providentially established republics for their government.
(12.) Whenever the general state of intelligence has permitted it, he has put them
to the test of self-government and self-restraint, by establishing democracies.
(13.) If the world ever becomes perfectly virtuous, governments will be proportionally
modified, and employed in expounding and applying the great principles of moral law.
(14.) God is infinitely benevolent, and, from time to time, gives the people as much
liberty as they can bear.
- 3. That form of government is obligatory, that is best suited to meet the necessities
of the people.
- (1.) This follows as a self-evident truth, from the consideration, that necessity
is the condition of the right of human government. To meet this necessity is the
object of government; and that government is obligatory and best, which is demanded
by the circumstances, intelligence, and morals of the people.
(2.) Consequently, in certain states of society, it would be a Christian's duty to
pray for and sustain even a military despotism; in a certain other state of society,
to pray for and sustain a monarchy; and in other states, to pray for and sustain
a republic; and in a still more advanced stage of virtue and intelligence, to pray
for and sustain a democracy; if indeed a democracy is the most wholesome form of
self-government, which may admit of doubt. It is ridiculous to set up the claim of
a Divine right for any given form of government. That form of government which is
demanded by the state of society, and the virtue and intelligence of the people,
has of necessity the Divine right and sanction, because it is dictated by reason
and the state and nature of things, and none other has or can have.
- 4. Revolutions become necessary and obligatory, when the virtue and intelligence,
or the vice and ignorance, of the people, demand them.
- (1.) This is a thing of course. When one form of government fails to meet any
longer the necessities of the people, it is the duty of the people to revolutionize.
(2.) In such cases, it is vain to oppose revolution; for in some way the benevolence
of God will bring it about. Upon this principle alone, can what is generally termed
the American Revolution be justified. The intelligence and virtue of our Puritan
fore-fathers rendered a monarchy an unnecessary burden, and a republican form of
government both appropriate and necessary; and God always allows his children as
much liberty as they are prepared to enjoy.
(3.) The stability of our republican institutions must depend upon the progress of
general intelligence and virtue. If in these respects the nation falls, if general
intelligence, public and private virtue, sink to that point below which self-control
becomes practicably impossible, we must fall back into monarchy, limited or absolute;
or into civil or military despotism; just according to the national standard of intelligence
and virtue. This is just as certain as that God governs the world, or that cause
produce their effects.
(4.) Therefore, it is the maddest conceivable policy, for Christians to attempt to
uproot human governments, while they ought to be engaged in sustaining them upon
the great principles of the moral law. It is certainly the grossest folly, if not
abominable wickedness, to overlook either in theory or practice, these plain, common
sense and universal truths.
- 5. In what cases human legislation is valid, and in what cases it is null and
- (1.) Human legislation is valid, when called for by the necessities, that is,
by the nature, relations and circumstances of the people.
(2.) Just that kind and degree of human legislation which are demanded by the necessities
of the people are obligatory.
(3.) Human legislation is utterly null and void in all other cases whatsoever; and
I may add, that divine legislation would be equally null and void, unless demanded
by the nature, relations, and necessities of the universe. Consequently, human beings
can never legislate in opposition to the moral law. Whatever is inconsistent with
supreme love to God, and equal love to our neighbour, can by no possibility be obligatory.
- 6. In what cases we are bound to disobey human governments.
- (1.) We may yield obedience, when the thing required does not involve a violation
of moral obligation.
(2.) We are bound to yield obedience, when legislation is in accordance with the
law of nature.
(3.) We are bound to obey when the thing required has no moral character in itself;
upon the principle, that obedience in this case is a less evil than resistance and
(4.) We are bound in all cases to disobey, when human legislation contravenes moral
law, or invades the rights of conscience.
VII. Apply the foregoing principles to the rights and duties of governments
and subjects in relation to the execution of the necessary penalties of law:--the
suppression of mobs, insurrections, rebellion; and also in relation to war, slavery,
sabbath desecration, &c.
In discussing this branch of the subject I must--
1. Notice some principles that have been settled.
2. Apply these settled principles to the subjects first named.
- 1. Notice some principles that have been settled.
- In the preceding lectures it has been shown,--
(1.) That all government is a means to an end, and that the end of all righteous
government is, and must be, the highest good of both the ruler and the ruled.
(2.) We have seen that all law is either moral or physical.
(3.) That all law for the government of free moral agents is, and must be, moral
(4.) That moral law is that rule of willing and acting that is suited to the natures,
relations, and circumstances of moral agents.
(5.) We have seen that the right to govern is founded in the value of the end to
be secured by government, and conditionated--
(i.) Upon the necessity of government as a means to this end, and--
(ii.) Upon the natural and moral attributes of the ruler, and also upon his
ability and willingness so to administer government as to secure the end of government.
(6.) We have seen that the right to govern implies:--
[Let the reader here recur to what is written under this head in Lecture III. V]
(7.) We have seen that the right to govern is bounded only, but yet absolutely, by
the necessity of government; that just that kind and degree of government is lawful
which is necessary, as a means of promoting the highest good of both ruler and ruled;
that arbitrary legislation is invalid and tyrannical legislation, and that in no
case can arbitrary enactments be law.
(8.) We have seen that no unequal or inequitable enactment can be law, and nothing
can by any possibility be law but the rule, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as
(9.) We have seen also that human rulers can justly legislate only in support of
Divine government, but never against it. That no enactment can by any possibility
be law, that contravenes the moral law or law of God.
- 2. Let us now proceed to apply these immutable and well-established principles.
- (1.) To the rights and duties of government in relation to mobs, riots, &c.
It is plain that the right and duty to govern for the security and promotion of the
public interests, implies the right and duty to use any means necessary to this result.
It is absurd to say that the ruler has the right to govern, and yet that he has not
a right to use the necessary means. Some have taken the ground of the inviolability
of human life, and have insisted to take life is wrong, per se, and of course that
governments are to be sustained without taking life. Others have gone so far as to
assert, that governments have no right to resort to physical force to sustain the
authority of law. But this is a most absurd philosophy, and amounts just to this:--The
ruler has a right to govern while the subject is pleased to obey; but if the subject
refuse obedience, why then the right to govern ceases: for it is impossible that
the right to govern should exist when the right to enforce obedience does not exist.
This philosophy is, in fact, a denial of the right to use the necessary means for
the promotion of the great end for which all moral agents ought to live. And yet,
strange to tell, this philosophy professes to deny the right to use force; and to
take life in support of government on the ground of benevolence, that is, that benevolence
forbids it. What is this but maintaining, that the law of benevolence demands that
we should love others too much to use the indispensable means to secure their good?
Or that we should love the whole too much to execute the law upon those who would
destroy all good? Shame on such philosophy! It overlooks the foundation of moral
obligation, and of all morality and religion. Just as if an enlightened benevolence
could forbid the due, wholesome, and necessary execution of law. This philosophy
impertinently urges the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," as prohibiting
all taking of human life. But it may be asked, why say human life? The commandment,
so far as the letter is concerned, as fully prohibits the killing of animals or vegetables
as it does of men. The question is, what kind of killing does this commandment prohibit?
Certainly not all killing of human beings, for in the next chapter the Jews were
commanded to kill human beings for certain crimes. The ten commandments are precepts,
and the Lawgiver, after laying down the precepts, goes on to specify the penalties
that are to be inflicted by men for a violation of these precepts. Some of these
penalties are death, and the penalty for the violation of the precept under consideration
is death. It is certain that this precept was not intended to prohibit the taking
of life for murder. A consideration of the law in its tenor and spirit renders it
most evident that the precept in question prohibits murder, and the penalty of death
is added by the lawgiver to the violation of this precept. Now how absurd and impertinent
it is, to quote this precept in prohibition of taking life under the circumstances
included in the precept!
Men have an undoubted right to do whatever is plainly indispensable to the highest
good of man; and, therefore, nothing can, by any possibility be law, that should
prohibit the taking of human life, when it became indispensable to the great end
of government. This right is every where recognized in the Bible, and if it were
not, still the right would exist. This philosophy that I am opposing, assumes that
the will of God creates law, and that we have no right to take life, without an express
warrant from him. But the facts are,--
(i.) That God did give to the Jews, at least, an express warrant and injunction
to take life for certain crimes; and,--
(ii.) If he had not, it would have been duty to do so whenever the public
good required it. Let it be remembered, that the moral law is the law of nature,
and that everything is lawful and right that is plainly demanded for the promotion
of the highest good of being.
The philosophy of which I am speaking lays much stress upon what it call inalienable
rights. It assumes that man has a title or right to life, in such a sense, that he
cannot forfeit it by crime. But the fact is, there are no rights inalienable in this
sense. There can be no such rights. Whenever any individual by the commission of
crime comes into such a relation to the public interest, that his death is a necessary
means of securing the highest public good, his life is forfeited, and to take the
forfeiture at his hands is the duty of the government.
(2.) It will be seen, that the same principles are equally applicable to insurrections,
rebellion, &c. While government is right, it is duty, and while it is right and
duty, because necessary as a means to the great end upon which benevolence terminates,
it must be both the right and the duty of government, and of all the subjects, to
use any indispensable means for the suppression of insurrections, rebellion, &c.,
as also for the due administration of justice in the execution of law.
(3.) These principles will guide us in ascertaining the rights, and of course the
duty of governments in relation to war.
War is one of the most heinous and horrible forms of sin, unless it be evidently
demanded by, and prosecuted in obedience to the moral law. Observe, war to be in
any case a virtue, or to be less than a crime of infinite magnitude, must not only
be honestly believe by those who engage in it, to be demanded by the law of benevolence,
but it must also be engaged in by them with an eye single to the glory of God, and
the highest good of being. That war has been in some instances demanded by the spirit
of the moral law, there can be no reasonable doubt, since God has sometimes commanded
it, which he could not have done had it not been demanded by the highest good of
the universe. In such cases, if those who were commanded to engage in war, had benevolent
intentions in prosecuting it as God had in commanding it, it is absurd to say that
they sinned. Rulers are represented as God's ministers to execute wrath upon the
guilty. If, in the providence of God, he should find it duty to destroy or to rebuke
a nation for his own glory, and the highest good of being, he may beyond question
command that they should be chastised by the hand of man. But in no case is war anything
else than a most horrible crime, unless it is plainly the will of God that it should
exist, and unless it be actually undertaken in obedience to his will. This is true
of all, both of rulers and of subjects who engage in war. Selfish war is wholesale
murder. For a nation to declare war, or for persons to enlist, or in any way designedly
to aid or abet, in the declaration or prosecution of war, upon any other conditions
than those just specified, involves the guilt of murder.
There can scarcely be conceived a more abominable and fiendish maxim than "our
country right or wrong." Recently this maxim seems to have been adopted and
avowed in relation to the war of the United States with Mexico.
It seems to be supposed by some, that it is the duty of good subjects to sympathize
with, and support government in the prosecution of a war in which they have unjustly
engaged, and to which they have committed themselves, upon the ground that since
it is commenced it must be prosecuted as the less of two evils. The same class of
men seem to have adopted the same philosophy in respect to slavery. Slavery, as it
exists in this country, they acknowledge to be indefensible on the ground of right;
that it is a great evil and a great sin, but it must be let alone as the less of
two evils. It exists, say they, and it cannot be abolished without disturbing the
friendly relations and federal union of the States, therefore the institution must
be sustained. The philosophy is this: war and slavery as they exist in this nation
are unjust, but they exist, and to sustain them is duty, because their existence,
under the circumstances, is the less of two evils.
I would ask, do these philosophers intend to admit, that the prosecution of a war
unjustly waged is sin, and that the support of slavery in this county is sin, but
that the sin of supporting them is less than would be the sin of abandoning them,
under the circumstances? If they mean this, to be sure this were singular logic.
To repent of a sin and forsake it, were a greater sin than to persist in it!--True
and genuine repentance of a sin is sin, and even a greater sin than that repented
of! Who does not know that it can never be sin to repent of sin? To repent and forsake
all sin is always right, always duty, and can in no case be sin. If war has been
unjustly waged, if slavery or anything else exists that involves injustice and oppression,
or sin in any form, it cannot be sin to abandon it. To abhor and reject it at once
must be duty, and to persevere in it is only to add insult to injury.
Nothing can sanctify any crime but that which renders it no crime, but a virtue.
But the philosophers, whose views I am examining, must, if consistent, take the ground,
that since war and slavery exist, although their commencement was unjust and sinful,
yet since they exist, it is no crime but a virtue to sustain them, as the least of
two natural evils. But I would ask, to whom are they the least of two evils? To ourselves
or to being in general? The least of two present, or of two ultimate evils? Our duty
is not to calculate the evils in respect merely to ourselves, or to this nation and
those immediately oppressed and injured, but to look abroad upon the world and the
universe, and inquire what are the evils resulting, and likely to result, to the
world, to the church, and to the universe, from the declaration and prosecution of
such a war, and from the support of slavery by a nation professing what we profess;
a nation boasting of liberty; who have drawn the sword and bathed it in blood in
defence of the principle, that all men have an inalienable right to liberty; that
they are born free and equal. Such a nation proclaiming such a principle, and fighting
in the defence of it, standing with its proud foot on the neck of three millions
of crushed and prostrate slaves! O horrible! This is less evil to the world than
emancipation, or even than the dismemberment of our hypocritical union! "O shame,
where is thy blush!" The prosecution of a war, unjustly engaged in, a less evil
than repentance and restitution? It is impossible. Honesty is always and necessarily
the best policy. Nations are bound by the same law as individuals. If they have done
wrong, it is always duty, and honourable for them to repent, confess, and make restitution.
To adopt the maxim, "Our country right or wrong," and to sympathize with
the government, in the prosecution of a war unrighteously waged, must involve the
guilt of murder. To adopt the maxim, "Our union even with perpetual slavery,"
is an abomination so execrable, as not to be named by a just mind without indignation.
(4.) The same principles apply to governmental sabbath desecration. The sabbath is
plainly a divine institution, founded in the necessities of human beings. The letter
of the law of the sabbath forbids all labour of every kind, and under all circumstances
on that day. But, as has been said in a former lecture, the spirit of the law of
the sabbath, being identical with the law of benevolence, sometimes requires the
violation of the letter of the law. Both governments and individuals may, and it
is their duty, to do on the sabbath whatever is plainly required by the great law
of benevolence. But nothing more, absolutely. No human legislature can nullify the
moral law. No human legislation can make it right or lawful to violate any command
of God. All human enactments requiring or sanctioning the violation of any command
of God, are not only null and void, but they are a blasphemous usurpation and invasion
of the prerogative of God.
(5.) The same principles apply to slavery. No human constitution or enactment can,
by any possibility be law, that recognizes the right of one human being to enslave
another, in a sense that implies selfishness on the part of the slaveholder. Selfishness
is wrong per se. It is, therefore, always and unalterably wrong. No enactment, human
or divine, can legalize selfishness and make it right, under any conceivable circumstances.
Slavery or any other evil, to be crime, must imply selfishness. It must imply a violation
of the command, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." If it implies
a breach of this, it is wrong invariably and necessarily, and no legislation, or
any thing else, can make it right. God cannot authorize it. The Bible cannot sanction
it, and if both God and the Bible were to sanction it, it could not be lawful. God's
arbitrary will is not law. The moral law, as we have seen, is as independent of his
will, as his own necessary existence is. He cannot alter or repeal it. He could not
sanctify selfishness and make it right. Nor can any book be received as of divine
authority that sanctions selfishness. God and the Bible quoted to sustain and sanctify
slaveholding in a sense implying selfishness! 'Tis blasphemous! That slaveholding,
as it exists in this country, implies selfishness at least, in almost all instances,
is too plain to need proof. The sinfulness of slaveholding and war, in almost all
cases, and in every case where the terms slaveholding and war are used in their popular
signification, will appear irresistibly, if we consider that sin is selfishness,
and that all selfishness is necessarily sinful. Deprive a human being of liberty
who has been guilty of no crime! Rob him of himself--his body--his soul--his time,
and his earnings, to promote the interest of his master, and attempt to justify this
on the principles of moral law! It is the greatest absurdity, and the most revolting
This lecture was typed in by Bob Borer.
LECTURE XXXVIII. Back to Top
In discussing the subject of human depravity, I shall,--
I. DEFINE THE TERM DEPRAVITY.
II. POINT OUT THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN PHYSICAL AND MORAL DEPRAVITY.
III. SHOW OF WHAT PHYSICAL DEPRAVITY CAN BE PREDICATED.
IV. OF WHAT MORAL DEPRAVITY CAN BE PREDICATED.
V. THAT MANKIND ARE BOTH PHYSICALLY AND MORALLY DEPRAVED.
VI. THAT SUBSEQUENT TO THE COMMENCEMENT OF MORAL AGENCY, AND PREVIOUS TO REGENERATION,
THE MORAL DEPRAVITY OF MANKIND IS UNIVERSAL.
VII. THAT DURING THE ABOVE PERIOD THE MORAL DEPRAVITY OF MANKIND IS TOTAL.
VIII. THE PROPER METHOD OF ACCOUNTING FOR THE UNIVERSAL TOTAL MORAL DEPRAVITY OF
THE UNREGENERATE MORAL AGENTS OF OUR RACE.
I. Definition of the term depravity.
The word is derived from the Latin de and pravus. Pravus means "crooked."
De is intensive. Depravo, 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.
II. 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
termed 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 connexion 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.
III. 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 connexion with an organized body. As mind, in connexion 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.
IV. Of what moral depravity can be predicated.
- 1. Not of substance; for over involuntary substance the moral law does not directly
- 2. Moral depravity cannot be predicated of any involuntary acts or states of
mind. These surely cannot be violations of moral law apart from the ultimate intention;
for moral law legislates directly only over free, intelligence choices.
- 3. Moral depravity cannot be predicated of any unintelligent act of will, that
is, of acts of will that are put forth in a state of idiocy, of intellectual derangement,
or of sleep. Moral depravity implies moral obligation; moral obligation implies moral
agency; and moral agency implies intelligence, or knowledge of moral relations. Moral
agency implies moral law, or the developement of the idea of duty, and knowledge
of what duty is.
- 4. Moral depravity can only be predicated of violations of moral law, and of
the free volitions by which those violations are perpetrated. Moral law, as we have
seen, requires love, and only love, to God and man, or to God and the universe. This
love, as we have seen, is good-will, choice, the choice of an end, the choice of
the highest well-being of God, and the universe of sentient existences.
- Moral depravity is sin. Sin is violation of moral law. We have seen that sin
must consist in choice, in the choice of self indulgence or self-gratification as
- 5. Moral depravity cannot consist in any attribute of nature or constitution,
nor in any lapsed and fallen state of nature; for this is physical and not moral
- 6. It cannot consist in anything that is an original and essential part of mind,
or of body: nor in any involuntary action or state of either mind or body.
- 7. It cannot consist in anything back of choice, and that sustains to choice
the relation of a cause. Whatever is back of choice, is without the pale of legislation.
The law of God, as has been said, requires good-willing only, and sure it is, that
nothing but acts of will can constitute a violation of moral law. Outward actions,
and involuntary thoughts and feelings, may be said in a certain sense to possess
moral character, because they are produced by the will. But, strictly speaking, moral
character belongs only to choice, or intention.
- It was shown in a former lecture, that sin does not, and cannot consist in malevolence,
properly speaking, or in the choice of sin or misery as an end, or for its own sake.
It was also shown, that all sin consists, and must consist in selfishness, or in
the choice of self-gratification as a final end. Moral depravity then, strictly speaking,
can only be predicated of selfish ultimate intention.
Moral depravity, as I use the term, does not consist in, nor imply a sinful nature,
in the sense that the substance of the human soul is sinful in itself. It is not
a constitutional sinfulness. It is not an involuntary sinfulness. Moral depravity,
as I use the term, consists in selfishness; in a state of voluntary committal of
the will to self-gratification. It is a spirit of self-seeking, a voluntary and entire
consecration to the gratification of self. It is selfish ultimate intention: it is
the choice of a wrong end of life; it is moral depravity, because it is a violation
of moral law. It is a refusal to consecrate the whole being to the highest well-being
of God and of the universe, and obedience to the moral law, and consecrating it to
the gratification of self. Moral depravity sustains to the outward life, the relation
of a cause. This selfish intention, or the will in this committed state, of course,
makes efforts to secure its end, and these efforts make up the outward life of the
selfish man. Moral depravity is sinfulness, not of nature but of voluntary state.
It is a sinfully committed state of the will to self-indulgence. It is not a sinful
nature but a sinful heart. It is a sinful ultimate aim, or intention. The Greek term
amartia, rendered sin in our English Bible, signifies to miss the mark, to aim at
the wrong end. Sin is a wrong aim, or intention. It is aiming at, or intending self-gratification
as the ultimate and supreme end of life, instead of aiming, as the moral law requires,
at the highest good of universal being, as the end of life.
V. Mankind are both physically and morally depraved.
- 1. There is, in all probability, no perfect health of body among all ranks and
classes of human beings that inhabit this world. The physical organization of the
whole race has become impaired, and beyond all doubt has been becoming more and more
so since intemperance of any kind was first introduced into our world. This is illustrated
and confirmed by the comparative shortness of human life. This is a physiological
- 2. As the human mind in this state of existence is dependent upon the body for
all its manifestations, and as the human body is universally in a state of greater
or less physical depravity or disease, it follows that the manifestations of mind
thus dependent on a physically depraved organization, will be physically depraved
manifestations. Especially is this true of the human sensibility. The appetites,
passions, and propensities are in a state of most unhealthy developement. This is
too evident, and too much a matter of universal notoriety, to need proof or illustration.
Every person of reflection has observed, that the human mind is greatly out of balance,
in consequence of the monstrous developement of the sensibility. The appetites, passions,
and propensities have been indulged, and the intelligence and conscience stultified
by selfishness. Selfishness, be it remembered, consists in a disposition or choice
to gratify the propensities, desires, and feelings. This, of course, and of necessity,
produces just the unhealthy and monstrous developements which we daily see: sometimes
one ruling passion or appetite lording it, not only over the intelligence and over
the will, but over all the other appetites and passions, crushing and sacrificing
then all upon the altar of its own gratification. See that bloated wretch, the inebriate!
His appetite for strong drink has played the despot. His whole mind and body, reputation,
family, friends, health, time, eternity, all, all are laid by him upon its filthy
altar. There is the debauchee, and the glutton, and the gambler, and the miser, and
a host of others, each in his turn giving striking and melancholy proof of the monstrous
developement and physical depravity of the human sensibility.
- 3. That men are morally depraved is one of the most notorious facts of human
experience, observation and history. Indeed, I am not aware that it has ever been
doubted, when moral depravity has been understood to consist in selfishness.
- The moral depravity of the human race is everywhere assumed and declared in the
Bible, and so universal and notorious is the fact of human selfishness, that should
any man practically call it in question--should he, in his business transactions,
and in his intercourse with men, assume the contrary, he would justly subject himself
to the charge of insanity. There is not a fact in the world more notorious and undeniable
than this. Human moral depravity is as palpably evident as human existence. It is
a fact everywhere assumed in all governments, in all the arrangements of society,
and has impressed its image, and written its name, upon every thing human.
VI. Subsequent to the commencement of moral agency, and previous to regeneration,
the moral depravity of mankind is universal.
By this it is not intended to deny that, in some instances, the Spirit of God may,
from the first moment of moral agency, have so enlightened the mind as to have secured
conformity to moral law, as the first moral act. This may or may not be true. It
is not my present purpose to affirm or to deny this, as a possibility, or as a fact.
But by this is intended, that every moral agent of our race is, from the dawn of
moral agency to the moment of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, morally depraved,
unless we except those possible cases just alluded to. The Bible exhibits proof of
- 1. In those passages that represent all the unregenerate as possessing one common
wicked heart or character. "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great
in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil
continually."--Gen. vi. 5. "This is an evil among all things that are done
under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons
of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after
that they go to the dead."--Eccl. ix. 3. "The heart is deceitful above
all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?"--Jer. xvii. 9. "Because
the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither
indeed can be."--Rom. viii. 7.
- 2. In those passages that declare the universal necessity of regeneration. "Jesus
answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born
again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."--John iii. 3.
- 3. Passages that expressly assert the universal moral depravity of all unregenerate
moral agents of our race. "What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise:
for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; as
it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth,
there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are
together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat
is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps
is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are
swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace
have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that
what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every
mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by
the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law
is the knowledge of sin."--Rom. iii. 9-20.
- 4. Universal history proves it. What is this world's history but the shameless
chronicle of human wickedness?
- 5. Universal observation attests it. Whoever saw one unregenerate human being
that was not selfish, that did not obey his feelings rather than the law of his intelligence,
that was not under some form, or in some way, living to please self? Such an unregenerate
human being I may safely affirm was never seen since the fall of Adam.
- 6. I may also appeal to the universal consciousness of the unregenerate. They
know themselves to be selfish, to be aiming to please themselves, and they cannot
honestly deny it.
VII. The moral depravity of the unregenerate moral agents of our race, is total.
By this is intended, that the moral depravity of the unregenerate is without any
mixture of moral goodness or virtue, that while they remain unregenerate, they never
in any instance, nor in any degree, exercise true love to God and to man. It is not
intended, that they may not perform many outward actions, and have many inward feelings,
that are such as the regenerate perform and experience: and such too as are accounted
virtue by those who place virtue in the outward action. But it is intended, that
virtue does not consist either in involuntary feelings or in outward actions, and
that it consists alone in entire consecration of heart and life to God and the good
of being, and that no unregenerate sinner previous to regeneration, is or can be
for one moment in this state.
When virtue is clearly seen to consist in the heart's entire consecration to God
and the good of being, it must be seen, that the unregenerate are not for one moment
in this state. It is amazing, that some philosophers and theologians have admitted
and maintained, that the unregenerate do sometimes do that which is truly virtuous.
But in these admissions they necessarily assume a false philosophy, and overlook
that in which all virtue does and must consist, namely, supreme ultimate intention.
They speak of virtuous actions and of virtuous feelings, as if virtue consisted in
them, and not in the intention.
Henry P. Tappan, for example, for the most part an able, truthful, and beautiful
writer, assumes, or rather affirms, that volitions may be put forth inconsistent
with, and contrary to the present choice of an end, and that consequently, unregenerate
sinners, whom he admits to be in the exercise of a selfish choice of an end, may
and do sometimes put forth right volitions, and perform right actions, that is, right
in the sense of virtuous actions. But let us examine this subject. We have seen that
all choice and all volition must respect either an end or means, that is that everything
willed or chosen, is willed or chosen for some reason. To deny this, is the same
as to deny that anything is willed or chosen, because the ultimate reason for a choice
and the thing chosen are identical. Therefore, it is plain, as was shown in a former
lecture, that the will cannot embrace at the same time, two opposite ends; and that
while but one end is chosen, the will cannot put forth volitions to secure some other
end, which end is not yet chosen. It other words, it certainly is absurd to say,
that the will, while maintaining the choice of one end, can use means for the accomplishment
of another and opposite end.
Again: the choice of an end, or of means, when more than one end or means
is known to the mind, implies preference. The choice of one end or means, implies
the rejection of its opposite. If one of two opposing ends be chosen, the other is
and must be rejected. Therefore the choice of the two ends can never co-exist. And,
as was shown in a former lecture--
- 1. The mind cannot will at all without an end. As all choice and volition must
respect ends, or means, and as means cannot be willed without the previous choice
of an end, it follows that the choice of an end is necessarily the first choice.
- 2. When an end is chosen, that choice confines all volition to securing its accomplishment,
and for the time being, and until another end is chosen, and this one relinquished,
it is impossible for the will to put forth any volition inconsistent with the present
choice. It therefore follows, that while sinners are selfish, or unregenerate, it
is impossible for them to put forth a holy volition.
- They are under the necessity of first changing their hearts, or their choice
of an end, before they can put forth any volitions to secure any other than a selfish
end. And this is plainly the everywhere assumed philosophy of the Bible. That uniformly
represents the unregenerate as totally depraved, and calls upon them to repent, to
make to themselves a new heart, and never admits directly, or by way of implication,
that they can do anything good or acceptable to God, while in the exercise of a wicked
or selfish heart.
When examining the attributes of selfishness, it was shown that total depravity was
one of its essential attributes; or rather, that it was the moral attribute in these
senses, to wit:--
(1.) That selfishness did not, could not, co-exist with virtue or benevolence.
(2.) That selfishness could admit of no volitions or actions inconsistent with it,
while it continued.
(3.) That selfishness was not only wholly inconsistent with any degree of love to
God, but was enmity against God, the very opposite of his will, and constituted deep
and entire opposition of will to God.
(4.) That selfishness was mortal enmity against God, as manifested in the murder
(5.) That selfishness was supreme opposition to God.
(6.) That every selfish being is, and must be at every moment, just as wicked and
blameworthy, as with his light he could be; that he at every moment violated all
his moral obligations, and rejected and turned from all the light he had; and that
whatever course of outward life any sinner pursues, it is all directed exclusively
by selfishness; and whether he goes into the pulpit to preach the gospel, or becomes
a pirate upon the high seas, he is actuated, in either case, solely by a regard to
self-interest; and that, let him do one or the other, it is for the same reason,
to wit, to please himself: so that it matters not, so far as his guilt is concerned,
which he does. One course may, or may not, result in more or less evil than the other.
But, as was then shown, the tendency of one course or the other, is not the criterion
by which his guilt is to be measured, but his apprehension of the value of the interests
rejected for the sake of securing his own gratification.
Introduction ---New Window
LECTURES 1-7 of page 1
LECTURES 8-16 of page 2 ---New Window
LECTURES 17-30 of page 3 ---New Window
LECTURES 31-38 of page 4 (this page)
LECTURES 39-47 of page 5 ---New Window
LECTURES 48-57 of page 6 ---New Window
LECTURES 58-67 of page 7 ---New Window
LECTURES 68-74 of page 8 ---New Window
LECTURES 75-80 of page 9 ---New Window
LECTURES 81-83 of page 10 ---New Window
APPENDIX on page 11 ---New Window
RELATED STUDY AIDS:
Section Sub-Index for Finney: Voices