August 4, 2017

Asahel Nettleton (1783–1844) on Total Depravity and Free Agency

This doctrine [of total depravity] does not imply that men are as bad as they can be. “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse.” And all the finally impenitent will wax worse and worse forever. The longer sinners suffer in hell, the more will they deserve to continue there.

This doctrine does not imply that men are not free moral agents. They possess all the faculties which are essential to moral agency—reason, judgment, memory, will, and affections. If they were not free moral agents, they could not be the subjects of moral depravity. To say, therefore, that total depravity is inconsistent with free agency is absurd. It if is, there can be no such thing as sin or blame in the Universe. For if total depravity annihilates free agency, then partial depravity destroys it in some degree. So far as an individual is depraved, so far as he is not free, and of course, not blame-worthy.
Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon 44: Total Depravity (Genesis 6:5),” in Asahel Nettleton: Sermons from the Second Great Awakening (Ames, IA: International Outreach, 1995), 394–95. Also in Asahel Nettleton, “Sermon XXVIII: Total Depravity,” in Remains of the Late Rev. Asahel Nettleton, D. D., ed. Bennet Tyler (Hartford: Published by Robins and Smith, 1845), 314–15.


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