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reason of their rejection of the gospel; and consequently, as though a conviction of their ability would of itself prove to them an efficient inducement to obedience; an error scarcely less palpable, or less mischievous, than that of physical depravity itself. Although the impression with which the impenitent are almost universally perplexed, that some change must be wrought in their nature, before they can become competent to obedience, is one of the most formidable barriers to their conviction as well as conversion, and will be certain to continue them in impenitence, unless at least virtually, if not intelligently abandoned, or disregarded; yet the mere removal of that impression, and substitution in its place, of a right apprehension of their nature, is not enough to secure their obedience, or lay any foundation for it under merely such inducements to holiness as they are already enjoying, and as that impression has previously served to counteract. The reasons for which they exert their disobedient choices, lie in the perceptions and emotions which are the objects of those choices, or in the pleasures to be enjoyed, and evils to be avoided in their agency-not solely in an impression that they are unable to exert a different series of acts. The drunkard indulges in intoxication for the sake of the sensations which it involves; not irrespectively of that, from a mere apprehension that he is incapable of temperance; and the impenitent at large, transgress for the sake of the pleasures enjoyed in transgression, not solely because of a false judgment respecting their physical constitution. The question respecting their ability or inability to obey, in fact, neither has any influence, on at least a great share of their choices, nor is in the slightest degree a subject of attention when they exert them; and the mere removal accordingly of the impression of their

inability-while all the other considerations present to their minds remain the same as it would not essentially diminish the pleasures of transgression, would have no effectual influence to prompt them to obedience. Though possessed of the justest apprehensions of their nature, they still would never relax their rebellion until other temptations also, that are reasons of their choosing a guilty agency, were removed or overcome by the transfusion into their minds of new and more powerful excitements to obedience. To suppose that a just notion of their physical constitution would of itself prove to them an efficient motive to holiness, would be to suppose an apprehension of themselves, in place of an appre hension of God, to be the reason of their love to him ; and a misapprehension of their nature, instead of the interference of his will and providence with their selfish wishes, to be the reason of their aversion to him. To make it, therefore, a leading object of instruction from the pulpit, to convince the impenitent that they are not physically depraved, and need no change of constitution to fit them for obedience, and treat it as the sole or chief theme that is entitled to their consideration; is wholly to mistake its relations to their agency, and defeat the end that should be sought in its discussion ; which is simply to remove the barriers to the access and influence of the truth that are presented by the doctrine that commonly prevails; to dissipate the mist with which it invests the eye, and imparts a false coloring to the objects that reach it, and thereby open the way for the unobstructed transfusion into the mind of the pure and resistless light of truth, and efficient application to the reason, conscience, and affections, of all the varied restraints from sin, and excitements to holiness, with which that truth is fraught. A minister, accordingly, after having won his way through the

obstructions of the common doctrine, and gained access to the impenitent, instead of regarding the victory at which he aims, as won or secured, should only regard his hearers as brought within the reach of the higher influences by which if obtained by him, he is to gain that victory; and in place of relaxing his efforts therefore, should only make his discussion of the subject precursive and auxiliary to a more distinct, emphatic, and unremitting inculcation of all the great messages of the gospel, and enforcement of its sanctions.


Others have fallen into the error of conducting their disquisitions in such a manner, as seemingly to transfer the blame of their misapprehensions from the impenitent themselves, to their theological teachers, and thereby render them objects of disrespect, and the subject itself a source of temptation to prejudice, partisanship, or vanity. In place of a course fraught with such a mischievous influence, just views will lead to such a treatment of the subject as to cause the sinner to feel that he is himself responsible for his misapprehension and denial of the truth, by showing him that in his theory of inability, he not only has no sanction from the scriptures, which should be the sole guide of his opinions, but contradicts alike the principles of the divine administration, the convictions on which he proceeds in his judgment of the actions of others, and the testimony of his own consciousness; and that in his plea, therefore, of incapacity, as a reason for disobedience, he enters into a contest directly with himself, as well as with that awful Being whose requirements he violates and accuses of injustice. If thus made responsible for the imputations which he casts on the divine government, met with the charge of guilt on the ground to which he resorted for the justification of his sins, convicted by the decisions of his reason and the im

pulses of conscience, of the error of his theory, and led to see that no mere capacity for obedience, if possessed, nor consciousness of such a capacity, would ever of itself induce him to obey :-the discussion may be then made a powerful means of revealing to him his guilt and ruin, and prompting him through the teachings of the Holy Spirit, to exert the powers, he had before voluntarily perverted, in accordance with his obligations.

That definition of regeneration which exhibits it as a change of the governing purpose in respect to the object of supreme affection, or a mere determination to love and serve God; is likewise at variance alike with the divine word, the laws of our agency, and the testimony of consciousness. There is nothing in the scriptures or in the experience of the pious, to authorize the assumption on which that definition proceeds, that the first obedient act, whatever it may be, is in every instance of the same species, as an act of determination, of submission, of love, or of faith, in distinction from all other forms of obedience. To suppose such to be the fact, were to suppose that the first obedient act of each renovated mind is exerted toward perceptions of the same species-that is, of precisely the same objects, and contemplated in identically the same relation— and conjoined likewise with precisely similar involuntary emotions. What ground, however, is there for such a supposition in respect to the first, any more than the second, the tenth, or any other given act in their subsequent agency? It were obviously as gratuitous and erroneous, as it were to suppose that the energy and rapidity of perception, the degree of knowledge, and the strength of affection are the same in all individuals. As the mind's reason for exerting its acts, lies solely in its perceptions and emotions,

-in what it sees and feels-and it acts by precisely the same laws, in the commencement of its obedient agency, as in all its subsequent stages; no reason can be given why any combination of perceptions and emotions, in which there is no reference to a previous obedient agency, that is adequate in any instance to prompt it to obedience, might not be the instrument of exciting it to its first obedient act. To suppose, indeed, that it would not, were to suppose that its perceptions and emotions are not the real reasons of its exerting its agency;—as if in instances in which the reasons for acting involved in its perceptions and emotions were identically the same, it exerted a different agency, it is clear that the reason of its agency could not lie wholly in those perceptions and emotions, and must, therefore, be of an unintelligent nature, or consist of something of which the mind was not conscious. The assumption is false, therefore, that the first obedient act is necessarily in all individuals of identically the same species; or that such motives as are adequate to prompt it to obedience at one period, every thing else being the same, would not be equally adequate at another. But it is a still more glaring error to suppose that a mere determination to love and serve God, or make him the object of supreme regard, can be in any instance the first act of obedience; as clearly to be an obedient act, it must spring from a present love or preference of God. If not put forth from a present sight and sense of his character, agency, or will, in some relation or other, and cordial approval of them, it obviously is not an obedient act, but has its origin in some sinister consideration; and if it springs from a sight and approval of what he is, it as clearly is a consequence of right affections, and therefore is not the first act of obedience. The first obedient act, therefore,

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