November 13, 2014

Richard Baxter (1615-1691) on Moral Power as Distinct from Natural Faculties

"3. I easily acknowledge that grace giveth such a power as is commonly called Moral, distinct from the natural faculties, as our corrupt estate contains an opposite impotency. But this is but an applying of the terms [Can] and [Cannot] [Power] and [Impotency] to Dispositions and Undisposedness, to Habits and their Privations. 
4. A new heart and spirit, I easily confess necessary. But those words do commonly signify in Scripture, only new Inclinations, Dispositions, Qualifications. It is a new heart, though only the old faculties and substance. I hope you will not follow Illyricus.
5. Where you say that [without faith a man can no more Receive Christ, nor do ought towards it, than a dead man can walk or speak.] I Reply 1. That proves not faith to be equivalent to a Potentia vel facultas, any otherwise then that it is of as absolute necessity, but not that it is of the same nature. If you show an illiterate man a Greek or Hebrew book, he can no more read in it then a dead man, that is, both are truly in sensu composito impossible: But yet it is but a habit that is wanting  to one, and a power or faculty natural, to the other. And so it may truly be said that a sinner cannot do well that hath accustomed to do evil, no more than a Leopard can change his spots, or a Blackmoore his skin. Yet if you mean that such are equally distant from actual change as a dead man, it is but a dead comparison. A dead man wants both natural faculties, and an inclination or moral power. An unbeliever wants but one."
Richard Baxter, The Reduction of a Digressor (London: Printed by A. M. for Thomas Underhill, at the Anchor and Bible in Pauls Church-yard near the little North-door, and Francis Tyton, at the three Daggers in Fleetstreet near Dunstans Church, 1654), 131.


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