« PreviousContinue »
Scriptures, to the will of man.
Man is continually addressed as a responsible creature. He is exhorted “to believe ; to repent; to turn himself to God; to be converted and live; to choose life ; to love God, obey Him, and cleave to Him ; to hear the voice of Christ, and open the door : and to bring forth fruits meet for repentance." This ascription to the will of man, is very remarkable in the words of my text, in which Moses thus addresses the Israelites :
"See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; in that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply : and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to
But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not bear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other Gods,andserve thenı; I denounce
unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to
I call heaven and eartlı to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing ; therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: that thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey His voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto Him; (for He is thy life, and the length of thy days;) that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”
I am aware, that many refer these words, to temporal good, promised to the Israelites, on condition of civil obedience; and to temporal evil, denounced against disobedience to the laws given by Moses. have thus explained the words of my text in a civil sense; others have taken an opposite view of the passage, and
have asserted, that these words declare the moral power of man to choose and perform what is spiritually good.
In the verses preceding my text, Moses preaches the Gospel to the Israelites, in declaring that righteousness which is by faith. They are thus expounded by St. Paul in the 10th chapter of his epistle to the Romans, where he says : “The Word is nigh thee even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the Word of faith which we preach." Taking then the context of the passage which forms my text, I have been led to consider these words of Moses, who “wrote of CHRIST,” as referring to spiritual good and evil; while I deny that moral ability to fallen man, which some imagine to be declared. Moses commands the Israelites to love God, to walk in His ways, to keep His commandments, and to choose life; but he does not ascribe to man the moral power of obeying these precepts. Requiring obedience must not be considered as always
implying ability to obey; for God constantly commands us to do, what He only can grant us power to perform. We can no more obey His voice in these things, without the previous reception of spiritual power, than the paralytic could “take up his bed and walk," or Lazarus “come forth” from the grave. These commands teach us our moral inability to yield obedience; and, in this spiritual impotence consists the sinfulness of our fallen condition. In denying, however, moral ability to fallen man, to choose spiritual good. and to refuse spiritnal evil; it is, by no means, intended to assert, that he is unable to choose or refuse things natural; nor yet, that he is without power to obey or disobey civil laws : neither does it follow that he cannot perform all the ecternals of religion. His ability in these respects, is fully allowed; while it is affirmeil, that he is morally unable to choose and perform spiritual good, or to refuse spiritual evil.
In the words of my text, conversion and sanctification are attributed to the will of man, because he is the moral agent that works by the spiritual power of God's grace. The will of man is renewed and inclined through the medium of the understanding, which is put in motion and excited by the inward operations of the Holy SPIRIT ; that is, by means of moral motives; and his understanding is thus persuaded by the presentation of the reasons, promises and threatenings of the written Wordl. Were not this natural ability attributed to man, and were he not influenced in this manner, and by these means; he would cease to be a rational and accountable creature. And, instead of his conversion being an actual and irreversible work, inurought on the understanding, the will and the conscience; and a new spiritual creation, more wonderful than the material one: it would be a wild enthusiasm, an imaginary change, and a shadow of the reality.