THE MORAL RELATION OF MAN TO GOD.

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying. Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good find evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” – Gen. ii. 16, 17.

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” – Matt. xxii. 37-40.

The Lord God created man, and gave him his heart, and soul, and mind, with his body, and all his faculties and powers. This fact shows his absolute dependence upon God, and his supreme obligation to worship and serve his Sovereign and Maker. All this is clearly presented in the two texts above, as declared by the Lord God and his Son. All revealed truth agrees with these divine texts. The natural and moral relation of man to God, as thus shown, is one of entire and perpetual and obedient service. So, then, man is not his own. He owes himself, and all his powers, to his Creator. God has commanded man what he may do, what he shall not do, and what he shall do. He may eat and partake of that which God has not forbidden, for this is for his sustenance and good, and his nature constrains him so to do, but he has no liberty or moral freedom to do more, go beyond, and transgress. To do so is sin, and sin is death. “Thou shalt surely die.” Man sinned. Jesus says, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.” Paul said, “I am carnal, sold under sin. “Sin hath reigned unto death.” A servant is not free. Sin reigns in the servant of sin. Wherein is the freedom of a slave? All men in nature are sinners, and it is their nature to sin. They love sinful things. They are taken captive by the devil at his will. Their mind and conscience are defiled. The will is a faculty or power of the mind; therefore the will is enslaved to sin, with all the mental powers. “Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life,” said Jesus. “No man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.”

Let us consider the human will. All Arminians assert the freedom of the will, therefore they hold that all men are free moral agents. They claim that this freedom is in the will; that the will sits as a monarch upon the mental throne, and rules this empire or kingdom. It is held that this freedom of the will constitutes every one a free moral agent. But why it should be held that this one faculty of the mind is free, rather than that the mind itself is free, is strange, for the mind has other properties more than the will, as the preemption, the conscience, the understanding and the judgment. It must be then that if the will is free, it decides and controls all these other powers of the mind, and the mind itself. Now, is this true? Does the will govern in the mind? or is it governed! Any one may easily decide this by a little thought. When any object is presented to the mind, perception sees that it is either desirable, or it is unsuitable; the conscience says that such object is either good, or bad, worthy, or unworthy; the understanding either approves it, or disapproves it; the judgment then instructs the will to either accept it, or reject it, and the will accordingly acts; nor can the will act otherwise than as thus instructed and moved. This is true in all rational acts. In irrational and blindly impulsive acts, either the appetites or the passions impel and govern the will. The will always yields to the strongest and prevailing motive. Therefore, in all cases, the will is subservient, and so it is not free. It is impossible for the will to act contrary to the dictates of the other mental faculties, or against the strongest motive. The will then is not the master, but it is the servant.

Now, consider man in relation to the commands of God, as under a supreme and unceasing moral obligation to keep and do every divine command, and he is not a free agent or actor, but is limited and bound by the authority of his Sovereign. For the command and restriction upon him is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. * * * Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” So spoke the Son of God. When the Most High says, “Thou shalt,” man is not free or at liberty to say, I will not. And this sacred moral obligation is ever binding upon the heart and soul and mind of the creature man. The supreme commands of God are upon man. This authority binds him to not only love his God thus supremely with all his heart and soul and mind, but also to love his neighbor as himself. All this he must do as a servant, a moral agent, or else he must suffer for his failure. Man is not, therefore, a free moral agent. Nay, he is bound by bonds the most binding and solemn and unending, from which he cannot escape or free himself one moment. Not only the will, a single faculty of the mind, but the mind itself, and not the mind alone, but the soul, and not merely the will and mind and soul, but the heart as well; these are all morally bound to love the Lord God supremely, and to love the neighbor as the self. From this service there is no freedom. Man is under the law of God, therefore he must either do all things contained in the law, or endure its penalty. “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” Where then is there any place or any moment of time for the freedom of the will? Every divine command to man says, “Thou shalt,” or “Thou shalt not.” Man is a rational being, and therefore he is a moral agent; but he is not free, because he is accountable. A servant is not a free agent, because he serves another, and is subject t<> his orders. This fact applies to all accountable beings, who act under lawful authority, and are under restriction, and subject to this authority, and are responsible for every violation thereof. Therefore no man is a free moral agent. Even the holy Son of man himself claimed no such freedom of the will, but he said, “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” He taught his disciples to pray, and say, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” The truth is, then, God alone is a free moral agent, for his will only is free, and he says, “I will do all my pleasure.” In the fifty-second number of his hymn book, Elder Wilson Thompson strongly affirms these truths, and all would do well to read it. There is a sect called Freewill Baptists, who hold to the freedom of the human will, but the Old School Baptists have ever discarded and opposed, as a serious error, the popular Arminian doctrine of man’s free moral agency, and that this free agency consists in the freedom of the will. I have simply presented some of the reasons for the opposition of our people to this worldly doctrine or teaching; reasons which make it impossible for our people to ever become Freewill Baptists. For while free moral agency may seem to be consistent with the worldly and popular doctrine of Anninianism or conditionalism, it is utterly inconsistent with the unworldly and unpopular doctrine of the Bible – salvation by reigning grace alone, through God’s election and predestination. There is one way only that any one can be free: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Yet when thus made free from sin, and the law, and its curse, we are then the servants of God in Christ, but not the servants of sin under the law, as before. “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.”

We still serve, therefore, and so are not free moral agents, because we are under law to Christ, our new Master. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” This new law of life makes the service blessed, and the new motive that sweetly constrains the will in this self-denying and obedient service is love, the love of God and Christ. “God worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” This is God’s good work of grace and salvation, and it is the work of perfect love. “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” So then God and his love inspire us both to will and do in working out or showing forth our own salvation. “The love of Christ constraineth us,” is the sentiment of Paul. This love constrains the heart, and the soul, and the mind, and therefore the will of the loving and obedient christian in his or her loyal service to the loving Master. This then is not an automatic or self-acting service, neither is it the unintelligent, unloving, coerced and mechanical service of a machine, but is the willing, active, heart-given service of a living, loving child of God, and servant of the Lord Jesus.

This is submitted in meekness and love to all who love our only Lord Jesus Christ, with the earnest prayer that we may all know the truth, and that the truth shall make us free from error.

Your servant for Jesus’ sake,
D. BARTLEY

Signs Of The Times
VOL.66., NO. 15.
AUGUST 1, 1898.