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and their kindred feelings, most unequivocally manifested, and at a very early period, may, indeed, be all traced to original animal sensations, of which the conscious being has retained the recollection; but, it is very obvious, that they are something different from mere sensation. Sensation has contributed to their development; but they have, eri: dently, an impulsive influence themselves. They certainly incite to act, and secure demonstrations of will and purpose. And these, invariably, take a wrong direction.
We are not concerned, to inquire into the philosophical theories of men, as to what it is, which determines the character of influential feeling, rendering it different in different individnals;-whether originally dependent on some peculiarity in the corporeal organization-or what physiological writers term temperament;-or whether adventitious, the result of circumstances, accidentally associated, affecting, permanently, by first and deep impressions, the sensibilities of the being. Our object is simply an observation of facts, so far as they tend to shape, or affect, the future moral character of the child. We say future, for it is a question alike pertinent and important, whether, in the incipient period of infancy and childhood, there can be any moral character whatever possessed.
Moral character, is character acquired by acts of a moral nature. Moral acts, are those acts which are contemplated by the law, prescribing the rule of human conduct. It is not every act which we perform, that is of a moral cha-e racter. The instinctive actions, which are done without thought, and, as it were, in voluntarily, and which are designed, by our great Creator, for the preservation of our animal life,--the different functions of the various organs of our animal frame, designed for the promotion of our animal life, and which are, in some degree, dependent on the
will, -and the cravings of appetite, which are dependent on the very organization of our bodies, are not, in themselves, sinful or holy.
They do not possess a moral character, because the law of God does not require or forbid them. But, in so far as these things may influence us to do, or to refuse to do, what God has required, they fall under the cognizance of law. The law is so framed, as to regulate all our deliberate and voluntary actions. It prohibits some, and requires others, and defines the objects and extent to which we may allow ourselves to be carried, by the impulses of appetite, and by a respect for our well being. Every action that is deliberate, and the result of motive, i.e. which originates in some voluntary determination of the mind, as having an end in view, has an end prescribed to it. This end is the only legitimate one, and from which, if we deviate, or for which, if we substitute another, the action so performed, not coming up to the standard of God, becomes sinful. "Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all. for the glory of God." Such being the case, that many actions possess altogether an indifferent character, and some do not fall even under the cognizance of the law of Godand that too in adults, where the capacities for moral action are fully developed, --it is obvious, that in infancy and incipient childhood, where none of the actions are deliberate, or the result of motive, operating in connection with the knowledge of law, and of the great end of all human actions, no moral character can appropriately be predicated. There are, in fact, no moral acts. The being is not yet actually under the goverment of law. It is, indeed, under the providential care of God, and shares, in common with the whole animate and inanimate creation, the benefit of his natural or providential government; but it has not yet come under the actual operation of law, as addressed to the reason and conscience of individual personal agents. Its moral powers, or capacities for moral action, have not yet been sufficiently developed for this. To predicate personal sin, therefore of the infant,'is as manifestly contrary to fact, as it is to the common sense and feelings of mankind.
1:1 Cor. xi 20
In so saying, the reader will perceive our meaning to be, simply, that the infant, whose moral powers are yet undeveloped, has not committed acts, which can be considered violations of the law of God. It has no personal sin; for it has not morally acted. Its physical nature cannot be accounted sinful: for that would be to change the very meaning of terms. Properly speaking, therefore, we can predicate of it neither sin nor holiness, personally considered. Yet, it is placed in a rebellious world, subject to the influence of ignorance, with very limited and imperfect experience, and liable to the strong impulses of appetite and passion, so that the moral certainty is as strong as any thing can be, that the very susceptibilities of its nature, being, at the earliest moment, excited by sinful or sorbidden objects, -and God being under no obligations, nor choosing, in this world, to vouchsafe the influence of his holy Spirit, which is necessary to prevent from choosing and doing what is wrong,—there shall take place those acts, of which alone we can legitimately and intelligibly predicate moral depravity. Instinct, animal sensation, constitutional susceptibilities, create an impulse, which not being counteracted by moral considerations, or gracious influence, lead the will in a wrong direction, and to wrong objects.
It was thus, that sin was induced in our holy progenitors. No one can plead in Eve, an efficient cause of sin, resident in her nature, (any prava vis,) or operative power, sinful in itself, anterior to, and apart from her own vol
untary acts. And if she was led into sin, though characteristically holy, and destitute of any innate propensity to sin, where is the necessity for supposing, that the sins of her progeny are to be referred to such a cause? She influenced Adam to sin, and there was no such cause in his nature. Their progeny are placed under circumstances, by no means as propitious to holiness, and it would be strange indeed, if they would not, most naturally, through the very impulses of their constitutional susceptibilities, be induced to choose what God forbids, when their progenitors, with expanded powers and comprehensive knowledge, and placed in circumstances propitious to holiness, abused their liberty in this way. But an objection may be raised, from the death of infants, before capable of moral action, which requires careful attention, and into which we must digress.
THE MORAL CERTAINTY OF HUMAN DE
The death of infants made a source of objection against the views of human
depravity, as advocated in this and the preceding chapter-False inferences deduced from the fact-Disputes about what old Calvinists believed-By no means for christian edification—Other inquiries of more importance–The Apostle's use of the term “wages,” not decisive-Supreme deference due only to the words of Christ—The use of the term punishment—The facts ascertainable in the case–The consequences of the first sin traced in respect of the irrational creation–Thence an inquiry suggested in relation to those affecting the human race-Nothing gained by theories here--Agreement as it respects essential facts-A false assumption-Remarks on the use of technics—The supposition of an inherent taint of depravity-Rom. v, 14 examined—A further observation of the circumstances under which we are called as moral agents, first to act—The mind's susceptibility as to pleasure and pain—Its power of suspending an action till a correct judgment is formed—Danger arising from the want of knowledge acquired by experience-Instanced in Eve--Thence inferred in reference to her offspring-Various laws in operation under which human beings are brought into existence, and first called to act—The law of development noticed in its progressive results.
• The wages of sin is death." Of this fact there can be no dispute. How then, it is asked does it come to pass, that infants die, if sin cannot be predicated of them personally? That they have ever sinned by personal acts, cannot be proved; and will not be asserted. Therefore it is inferred that either there must be some innate sinful propensity inherited from Adam, which renders them de
1. Rom. vii, 23.