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Tyler, Dr., his Letter to the Ed-
itor of the Spirit of the Pil-
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Address at the Funeral of
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The next subject on which Dr. Tyler questions the consistency and orthodoxy of my views, is the doctrine of Depravity by nature.
The first difficulty in the mind of Dr. Tyler is, to see how " mankind come into the world with the same nature in kind, as that with which Adam was created, and which the child Jesus possessed ;" and are still " by nature totally depraved, or sinners by nature."
Here I am compelled to exhibit, at the outset, a singular misstatement by Dr. Tyler, of the very point on which the question turns. I did admit, as he says, that“ mankind come into the world with the same nature in kind, as that with which Adam was created.” But I also said,—“ If Dr. Tyler means, by the same nature, the same in degree, he is, as he 'supposes he may be, entirely mistaken." I added also,-“The very passage which he quotes from the Christian Spectator, points out a striking difference between Adam and his posterity, viz. the higher degree or strength of propensity, &c. with which the latter are first called to moral action.” Now these things were said, professedly to correct Dr. Tyler's mistake in regard to my theory. He could not be ignorant of the fact ; nor that I adverted io a possible difference in the degree of propensity, as altogether sufficient to subvert his reasoning.--What course then does Dr. Tyler adopt? Neither in his statement of the point at issue, nor in his reasonings, does he once advert to that difference between the nature of Adam, and that of his posterity, which I had supposed might exist. He undertakes to show, VOL. VI.-NO. I.
that the difference in moral character between Adam and his posterity, cannot be accounted for, on what he calls my theory. How? — By disregarding the very characteristic of that theory, which subverts all his reasoning--by refusing even to notice that possible disference between the nature of Adam and that of his posterity, which would be a sufficient solution of the difference in moral character! Is this the way to exhibit the views of an opponent ?
To present to Dr. Tyler then the true question, I ask, Is it impossible that God, in consequence of the fall of Adam, should bring his posterity into existence with the same constitutional powers and properties in kind, which Adam possessed, but widely different in degree? Is it impossible, that since the fall constitutional propensities to natural good, should be so strong in degree, that in the first and in every instance of moral action, and in all circumstances of their existence, the interposition of divine grace excepted, the whole race should sin ? On this supposition, would it not be as proper to say, that mankind are sinners by nature, as on the supposition of a propagated propensity to sin itself ?—Let Dr. Tyler answer these questions.
That I may not be misapprehended on this part of the subject, I remark, that I do not affirm that difference in the degree of propensity to natural good is, but simply that it may be, the reason, why Adam did not sin, and why his posterity do sin. All that I feel authorized to affirm is, that such is the nature of mankind, that in all the appropriate circumstancos of their existence, they will uniformly sin.- To say that mankind are by nature sinners, is, in my view, to use a popular and comprehensive form of expression, in which the word nature comprises both the intrinsic properties of the mind, and all those circumstances in which mankind are in common placed by their Creator as the established order of things, and which, in this sense, must be considered natural, or a part of nature. Hence, I suppose, that the phraseology under consideration, is not properly used to ascribe sin, solely and exclusively to the intrinsic properties of the mind, as if circumstances of temptation were not as necessary to sin, as a nature to be tempeed. Nor is it properly used, in my view, to decide, that mankind would sin, were the Creator to place them with the same intrinsic nature in kind, in some other possible circumstancesespecially were he to place them from the first under the supernatural influences of his Spirit. But as the comprehensive term nature includes both the intrinsic nature of mankind, and their appropriate circumstances or condition, and as all men
with this intrinsic nature, and in these circumstances, uniformly sin, they are properly said to be sinners by nature.
From this view of the subject, Dr. Tyler dissents. Not that he denies, that such is the nature of mankind, that they will uniformly sin in the appropriate circumstances of their being. But he gives a more specific import to the language in question; and maintains that the posterity of Adam have a different nature in kind from that with which Adam was created ;' that "hunan nature (in kind) has undergone some change in consequence of the original apostasy;" that there is in munkind - a propagated prepensity to sin itself;' and that this is the cause or reason of human sinfulness.
I shall now examine the considerations alledged by Dr. Tyler, in support of this view of the subject. He
says, “ And when we say, that one moral being is by nature sinful, and that another is by nature holy, we must mean, if we mean any thing, that their natures are not alike. If they are alike, then nature is, in no sense, the cause or reason why one is holy, and the other sinful.” Here then the question is, what is the true meaning of the language, that mankind are by nature sinners ? Not surely, what meaning Dr. Tyler may have given to this language; but what is its meaning according to the only criterion---the usus loquendi, the common usage of mankind, in analogous cases. In other words, what do we mean, when in the language of common life, we say of any event, consequence, or result, it is by nature? For example, when we say, that the motion of an unsupported stone is by nature toward the earth ; do we mean, as Dr. Tyler's view implies, to ascribe its motion towards the earth, solely and exclusively to the intrinsic properties or nature of the stone? Or, do we include both its intrinsic properties or nature, and its circumstances in this world; and simply mean, that such is its nature, that it will move toward the earth in all the appropriate circumstances of its existence? The former is not and cannot be our meaning, unless indeed we intend to say what we know to be false. For, we know, that the stone with the same intrinsic properties or nature in kind which it now possesses, would in some other possible circumstances, e.g. were the Creator to place it within the sun's attraction, move from the earth and toward the sun. This single example is enough to show, that the language now under consideration, has never, as the language of common life, the specific import given it by Dr. Tyler ; but that it means, and all that it means is, that such is the intrinsic nature of the thing spoken of, that in all its appropriate circumstances, the specified consequences will follow.
To illustrate this part of the subject, as it respects the difference in original moral character between Adam and his posterity ; let us suppose that one kind of tree, which when first planted in Eden, produced only good fruit, has ever since the curse on the ground, in all the circumstances of its existence, uniformly produced bad fruit. Now it will be agreed, that to account for this difference in the fruit produced, some difference in nature, in the comprehensive import of the term, must be admitted ; i. e. a difference must be supposed, either in the in. trinsic properties of the tree in kind or degree; or in its appropriate and fixed condition and circumstances; or in both. All will admit, that it would be proper to say of such a tree, that it bears bad fruit by nature. But what would this language denote? Would it decide in what specific respect a chanye has taken place in what is thus comprehensively called nature ? Would it decide whether this change was in the inherent properties of the tree itself
, or in the fixed and appropriate, and therefore now the natural, circumstances of its existence, or in both? Plainly, the inherent properties, or intrinsic nature of the tree may be in kind the same as at first; and still it may be said with exact truth, and in the full import of the language, that this kind of tree bears bad fruit by nature. So the difference between the moral character of Adam, and that of his posterity, if we regard the usus loquendi, must be ascribed to nature, in the comprehensive import which I have given to the language. To give it the particular or specific meaning which Dr. Tyler gives it, is as remote from all correct usage, as it would be to give a similar specific import to similar phraseology in the case of the treo. Such then is common usage in regard to the language under consideration;--and such of course, I may say, was the usage of the Apostle in Eph. ii. 3, when writing a plain epistle to plain men. On this decisive authority of usage then, I claim, that the language in question has not the meaning which Dr. Tyler gives it. What it means, and all that it means, is that such is the nature of mankind, that they uniformly sin, in all the appropriate circumstances of their existence; so that, contrary to the Arminian doctrine, no change in these circumstances by education, by example, by diminishing temptation, &c.--nothing without the supernatural interposition of the Divine Spirit, will prevent their sinning.
Again, Dr. Tyler says, " Adam was created in the image of God. Are all his posterity born into the world in the image of God ?"* If Dr. Tyler means the moral image of God, I cer
* Perbaps Dr. Tyler believes, that holiness was a created constitutional property of the soul of Adam-a properly constituting, as truly, and in the same sense, a part of his