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MARK X: 21.-Then Jesus beholding him, loved him.
There has long been a warm dispute whether man in his fallen state is wholly destitute of true religion. Some have advocated the affirmative, and many the negative of the question. The greatest objection, which has ever been urged against the doctrine of the entire moral depravity of man, before he undergoes a spiritual renovation, has been taken from certain agreeable principles, still remaining in human nature, such as sympathy, pity, parental and filial affections. Correct knowledge then of these principles is of high importance, as it has an immediate bearing upon our religious character, and the conditions of our salvation. The passage which has been read, naturally introduces this subject for examination. The person to whom the text refers was a young man and a ruler, probably a member of the Jewish Sanhedrim, the highest court then of their nation. He was strictly moral, and in outward deportment obedient to the laws of God; as it appears from his own testimony and from the Saviour's treatment of him. When a few of the precepts of the moral law as a specimen of the whole were named, the young ruler replied, "all these have I kept from my youth up; what lack I yet?" Had he lived in open violation of the divine law, it can hardly be supposed he would have dared to make this broad assertion of perfect innocence before our Lord. Besides had he been immoral, and guilty of such falsehood in avowing his purity, our Saviour would have reproved him; for Christ perfectly knew the characters of all men; and when the guilty attempted to cover their iniquities and deceive him, he always detected
their hypocricy, and administered faithful reproof. But on this occasion he did not even intimate that the young ruler was immoral or deceitful; and his profound silence on this head fairly implies a virtual admittance of his innocence in external deportment. And not only was he moral, but he was amiable and serious. He came running, and kneeling before our Lord, affectionately addressing him; "good master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" Should we now behold an amiable moral youth, with such seriousness and solicitude for his future well being, presenting himself in this humble attitude before a religious teacher, asking this most interesting of all questions, what must be done to obtain future eternal happiness, how should we view him? Should we not look upon him and love him. We are informed that the Saviour of the world did look upon him and love him. Certainly he possessed lovely qualities or he never would have attracted the affection of Him who was actuated by a perfectly enlightened and correct taste.
Let us then examine attentively the amiable principles, which still remain in human nature, as depraved as it is. These principles, as already intimated, are good nature, kindness, sympathy, pity, sociability, parental, filial, and such like affections. An attempt to prove, that there is any such universal total depravity in our world as implies a destitution of these excellent qualities, would be utterly futile; it would be an attempt at reasoning in direct opposition to stubborn facts. In what light then are we to view the amiable properties, which in a higher or lower degree, we behold in all or almost all men? Are they moral or are they natural affections.
Man is composed of two constituent parts, spiritual and material, moral and natural. He is both a rational and moral being, and a physical animal being. He forms the links, in the chain of creatures between pure spirits and the highest order of animals. To which of his natures then, are we to ascribe the agreeable e
motions under consideration? Are we to ascribe them to his moral or to his animal existence? Admitting the almost universal opinion to be correct, that beasts have no moral but merely animal nature, then, whatever is moral in man exclusively belongs to him, he does not possess it in common with animals. Now it is a universally acknowledged fact, that animals possess good nature, kindness, sympathy,pity, parental, filial affections, and a kind of sociability. These agreeable qualities in animals to all appearance perfectly resemble the properties in men, which are expressed by the same terms. And does not the fact, that men and beasts possess these principles in common, prove them to be natural instincts? Generally by philosophers as well as by divines the epithet natural has been applied to them, to distinguish them from moral principles. Lord Chesterfield calls them, when cultivated and refined, "the natural graces." But names are of little consequence. Some philosophers and divines are unwilling to consider these graces merely natural affections; they class them among the moral emotions, and call them virtues; but then they allow they are virtues of a lower order, than love to God for the perfection of his character, benevolent affection to men, and especially love to enemies. Now it is of trifling moment, what epithets are applied to the principles under review, whether they be called moral or natural, good, amiable, virtuous. The grand question is, do they amount to true religion, conformity to the moral law of God—the temper which the gospel requires as essential to salvation? Do Lord Chesterfield's graces qualify men for heaven? Some, if not all, who plead, that these graces are moral virtues, still acknowledge them to be of a lower rank than the virtues of love to God, to man, to enemies, repentance, humility, submission, and such like graces of the Holy Spirit ; and they allow, that the former virtues are of so much lower grade than the latter, that those only cannot qualify men for heaven, and by which alone they cannot obtain eternal life. Why then should