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Human nature, as we have said before, is an imperFect nature. And that is the plain and direct answer to all that may be written or said in favor of total depravity. If it is evident that we are not angels, it is equally evident that we are not fiends. We are endowed with capacities for good, and presented with means and opportunities of exercising and improving them, on the one hand; and we are incited by passions and surrounded with temptations, on the other. According to these differing principles and circumstances, our characters are moulded. The influence of both, on the lives of men, and the moral state of the world, is as manifest as the divided sway of light and darkness. It should be the endeavor of every one to cultivate and exercise his good dispositions, and subdue and eradicate those which are evil, with all possible diligence and care, for it is the great work of existence. The Gospel was revealed to direct and assist us in this work, by its motives and laws. Indeed, we can discern no other object in revelation; and on the supposition that all men are totally depraved, whatever may be their efforts, till a supernatural conversion, after which event they are per fectly holy, without a possibility of falling; on such a supposition as that, we gáy, we should have to study long, before we found out for what purpose a revelation could have been made. What a perverse folly it is, to maintain the doctrine of total depravity, or of absolute holiness, under any circumstances of human life
, while it may be so expressly contradicted by any human heart, no matter in what breast, nor in what region of the earth, it is beating.
It is not our intention to enter into a detailed discussion of this doctrine. We have merely stated its broad oppesition to all that we see, hear, feel, and know, of the nature of man; at the same time proposing the simple fact of the imperfection of that nature, as the true key to the whole subject. Our thoughts were suggested by the perusal of A Postscript to the Second Series of Letters, addressed to Trinitarians and Calvinists, in Reply to the Remarks of Dr.Woods on those Letters. By HENRY WARE, D. D.
This Postscript, of forty-eight pages, is all that Dr. Ware has thought necessary to advance in answer to the last work of Dr. Woods. We consider the controversy as now fairly brought to a close. If the orthodox are satisfied with the management of their side of the question, we are entirely so with the manner in which our own has been conducted. The doctrines of Depravity, Election, and Atonement, have been discussed with ability and care on both sides; and we are willing to abide by the result on the minds of those who will candidly study what has been written.
Dr. Ware's Postscript is marked by the same characteristics which distinguish his two preceding pieces. It is temperate, perspicuous, forcible, and to the point. A considerable portion of it is taken up in replying to a charge of misrepresenting the views of the orthodox, on the subject of man's depravity. This is done by making quotations of the most explicit character, from standard orthodox writers, both of past and present times. Calvin, the Westminster divines, Gill, President Edwards, Thomas Scott, President Dwight, Ful. ler, Henry Martyn, and lastly, Dr. Woods himself, and the Andover Creed, are proved to have employed the identical words and phraseology, against which Dr. Woods is pleased to take such complaining exception. We cannot deny ourselves one extract from this part of the Pestscript, relating to the language of the Andover Creed, which every instructer at the Andover Institution is obliged to subscribe, every five years, Dr. Woods had been offended by the use of the word incapable, as applied to man's power of doing good. After making some quotations from his antagonist's own writings, in which the incapacity of unregenerate man to think or do any good thing is clearly inferred, Dr. Ware proceeds:
"But besides this, there is an Instrument, which Dr. Woods has occasion to subscribe once in Gve years. As it was drawn
up within a few years for a very important purpose, and by men who cannot be suspected of willingly investing orthodoxy with false colors, in order to render it odious, they may be supposed to have used great deliberation, and care, and accuracy, in the statement of its doctrines. As Dr. Woods has twice at least, if not three times, declared it to express his faith by solemnly setting his name to it, we may reasonably consider it as expressing what he sincerely believes ; as much so, as any thing that he has himself ned.
“In that Instrument are contained the following passages :
4: "By nature every man is personally depraved, destitute of holiness, unlike and opposed to God, and, previously to the renewing agency of the divine spirit, all his moral actions are adverse to the character and glory of God; being morally incapable of recovering the image of his Creator, which was lost in Adam, every man is justly exposed to eternal damnation ; so that except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God ..... God of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life .... no means whatever can change the heart of a sinner, and make it holy . . . . regeneration and sanctification are effects of the creating and renewing agency of the holy spirit.'
“You will think it not a little singular that Dr. Woods should bave so far forgotten himself, as to charge me so indignantly with misrepresenting the orthodox faith ; when the very term, which he has marked, as one of the most offensive, is applied in precisely the same manner in the creed, which he has himself subscribed."
In the course of this controversy, a small anony.. mous pamphlet was published at Stockbridge, Massachusetts, entitled, Remarks on the Calvinistic Doetrine of Depravity, with particular reference to Dr. Woods late Defence of that Doctrine, in his answer to Dr. Ware's Letters. By a Unitarian of Berkshire, It is not probable that many of our readers have met with this tract; and as it contains some thoughts, which, if they are not original, are expressed in a striking and original manner, we conceive it to be worthy of a particular notice, and think that a few extracts will be read with interest. The writer pays no attention to arrangement, and very little to style, but his remarks give proof of a vigorous and independent mind.
The following observations on the Calvinistic gube tlety, which would make a distinction between man as a member of society, and as a subject of God's moral government, are very much to the purpose,
“Dr. Woods observes, in the beginning of his work, that this controversy does not respect man as a member of domestic or civil society, but as a member of God's moral govern, ment.' As Calvinists understand the moral government of God, it does not require, as its chief aim, the consecration of our powers to the service of our fellow creatures, by the practice of benevolence, justice, mercy, and truth; in other words, the moral government of God does not respect man as a member of domestic or civil society. An enemy would turn this declaration of Dr. Woods to immense account. He would take it in connection with the well known doctrines of Calvinists, and show, that upon their principles, religion has nothing to do with virtue, as that word is commonly understood, but terminates in the love of sermons, sabbaths, and prayers. For ourselves we shall only observe, that in order to prove the doctrine of depravity, Calvinists have always adduced those actions whick respect man as a member of civil and domestic society, such as malicé, envy, fraud, and falsehood. And now they are to be set out of the question, it being found that the greater part of men really obey the laws of this world! Really, we know not what we have to refute, nor how we can qualify ourselves for # better world, but by faithfully and conscientiously discharge ing the duties of the present."
It is curious, that in arguing the total depravity of man, from the vices of his character, and the bad passions of his nature, the Calvinists do not themselves perceive the palpable fallacy of such a mode of rea: soning. One would think that nothing but attachment to a system could so blind them, that they should not see that precisely the same course might be adopted, on the other side, to prove from the good inclinations and virtuous actions of men, their absolute perfection. If a certain number of vices prove the one, a certain number of virtues, by parity of reasoning, prove the other. It is unfair to keep looking exclusively on the bad qualities of human pature, without once turning an eye to its good ones; and it is the sheerest sophistry to assert that sin and holiness are connect: ed with different classes of relations, and that tho latter does not signify an obedience to the same laws, of which the former is the transgression. On this point we would introduce a pertinent extract from the painphlet before us.
“This is the practice of Dr. Woods. “Every child of Adam,' says be, 'has sinned ;* and he requires no further evidence of the depravity and corruption of the human species. His very Rext words, in addition to those we have just quoted, are, moral depravity is as universal as reason, or memory, or social affection, or pity, or any of the bodily appetites. If these are his premises, we admit them. We admit, that sin, taken for a single act of trar sgression, is absolutely universal, and is therefore of the very nature of man. We affirm, also, that virtue, taken for a single act of obedience, is equally universal. But something more is necessary to constitute either the rectitude, or depravity, of individuals, or of mankind. This is a plain matter, and need not be urged. Let Dr. Woods tell us what it is that is as universal as memory or reason.
Let him tell us whether it be single acts, or habitual and exclusive practices. We shall then be able to decide whether it can be called depravity,--that depravity which subjects us to the wrath and curse of God, and to all punishments in this world, and in the world to come.
Let him tell us, moreover, whether it be single acts, or habits of injustice, malice, cruelty, fraud, and falsehood, that constitute his idea of depravity It was these things, and things like these, that used to be urged by Calvinists against their opponents; but they now seem to be shifting the ques. tion."
The bare truth, separated from all metaphysical clothing, is this; that the Calvinists, overlooking every existing sign of virtue and happiness, assume as a fact, that there is nought but sin and misery in the unregenerate world, and then draw the sapient conclusion, that man is, by nature, totally depraved. And, as a defence of this strange position, they have adopted a supposed complete distinction between the nature, and the moral character, of man; as if the latter could be determined without the least reference to the former. Dr. Woods, in page 50 of his “Reply," in speaking of various senses in which the word natural is used, says, “it is natural for serpents to bite ;