By Jesse Morrell
Whenever the topic of human nature is brought up, the question about man's natural tendency is usually introduced to the discussion. Just as natural inability is commonly used by sinners as an excuse for sinning, so also a "sinful nature" is a common excuse that I regularly hear from sinners when witnessing. Instead of taking full responsibility by saying "sin is my choice", they blame their Creator by saying "sin is my nature". Instead of humbly admitting that sin is the choice of their will, they comfort themselves by saying that sin is the defect of their nature. For that reason I thought it might be good to comment on that issue here.
Effective communication necessitates definition. Therefore the word "nature" must be defined. Your nature is your constitution, make up, structure, composition, disposition and essence. Human nature would include our faculties of intelligence, emotion, free will, and all of the elements of spirit, soul, and body. Our constitution is physical, spiritual, and mental.
First we must understand that God is the author of our nature. God is the cause of our constitution. Neither Adam nor the devil forms our nature. The Bible says that God personally forms us in the womb (Gen. 4:1; Ex. 4:11; Isa. 27:11; 43:7; 49:5; 64:8; Jer. 1:5; Ps. 95:6; 139:13-14, 16; Ecc. 7:29; Job 10:9-11; 31:15; 35:10; Jn. 1:3). The work of forming a baby inside the womb is God's work. That is why God takes personal responsibility for the condition of our flesh at birth (Exo. 4:11).
Mankind is described as being made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27; 9:6; 1 Cor. 11:7; Jas 3:9). That is why when it comes to sin, the Bible says that sin is actually contrary to human nature (Rom. 1:26-27). God wanted mankind to imitate Him in choosing holiness (Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:26; Matt. 5:48; 1 Pet. 1:16). God did not design us to live wickedly. Sin is an abuse and misuse of our constitution. That is why the Bible says it is "against nature" to sin. Sinners choose to do "that which is against nature". Through the freedom of their will they choose to do what is contrary to their nature or design. It was never God's intention for man to sin; it was not His plan for mankind to be sinful (Gen. 6:5-6; Matt. 25:41; Eph. 1:4). God would have preferred a sinless universe that needed no atonement at all (1 Sam. 15:22). Since sin was contrary to God's plan or intention for mankind, God has made sin contrary to the design of our constitution.
God also designed our constitution or nature with a conscience so that we have the natural tendency or constitutional bent to obey the law of God. "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law are a law unto themselves: which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another..." (Rom. 2:14- 15). This is often referred to as "natural revelation" or "the light of nature". We have a natural disposition, or a constitutional inclination, to obey the law of God. By divine design we have a constitutional bias against sin. God has designed our nature to be in favor of virtue or goodness.
Alfred T. Overstreet said, "God created all men with a good nature. All sin is a corruption of man's nature, it is a perversion of man's nature. It is rebellion against our nature - it is rebellion against the 'law of God written in our hearts' and against the God who has written his law in our hearts."1 He also said, "The nature we are born with teaches us to reject evil and choose good... Men must go against their nature to sin."2
Winkie Pratney said, "Sin is never natural. It is horribly un-natural. Sin is never 'human'. It is horribly in-human. Sin creates remorse, guilt, and shame; every time a man feels these three witnesses in his soul, they tell him sin is not natural. Even the simple lie-detector can tell us this. The whole body reacts adversely when a man sins... God never planned sin for man. It is the most un-natural thing in the moral Universe... Do not dare say sin is 'natural'! God hates sin with perfect hatred; He loves humanity."3
Charles Finney said, "The constitution of a moral being as a whole, when all the powers are developed, does not tend to sin, but strongly in an opposite direction..."4
We have been so created by God that we naturally feel the pains of conscience when we do what is wrong and we naturally have peace of mind when we do what is right. When the idea of right and wrong is developed within the mind, we naturally feel good when we choose to do what is right and we naturally feel bad when we choose to do what is wrong. It is not by choice that we feel that way, it is by nature. By design, our sensibilities naturally respond or react when our will chooses contrary to, or in conformity with, the knowledge of our mind.
Even a transgressor can say "I consent unto the law that it is good" (Rom. 7:16) because of "the law of" his "mind" (Rom. 7:23). A sinner can say, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man" (Rom. 7:22) which is a classic way of referring to our God given conscience. If the unregenerate did not consent unto the goodness law, they could never be convicted and consequently converted. They could never feel guilt or be convinced that they are justly condemned if they did not consent to the goodness of the law which they have chosen to violate. A man would feel justified in violating a bad law but a man would feel condemned for violating a good law. If the law is wrong, the transgressor is right. If the law is right, the transgressor is wrong. A man can only feel guilty and his mind can only recognize that he was wrong for his transgression if his mind is convinced that the law which was violated was a good law.
Since God has created our nature with a conscience, or a natural knowledge of right and wrong, we naturally approve of the moral attributes of God and other benevolent beings and we naturally disapprove of the moral attributes of the devil and other selfish beings. Epic tales of good vs. evil in both literature and Hollywood depend upon mankind's ability to distinguish between good and evil and mankind's natural approval of the good and natural disapproval of evil. Think of any famous tale of good vs. evil, or think of any story that has a "good guy" and a "bad guy". What was it that made the "good guy" good? It was that he cared about other people. We naturally know what the Bible also says, that love is the fulfillment of the law (Rom. 13:10; Gal. 5:14). What was it that made the "bad guy" bad? It was that he cared supremely for himself. We naturally admire and respect a man's good moral character. Through our conscience we naturally know that benevolence is right and selfishness is wrong. It is because of our conscience, or the natural moral knowledge God has given us, that we naturally approval of what is right and good and naturally disapprove of what is evil and wrong.
I remember as a young child on the playground of my elementary school seeing a little boy being picked on by another boy. I remember being naturally outraged at the abuse the child was suffering by the bully. I naturally knew that the way he was being treated by the bully was wrong and consequently I naturally felt upset over it. Having care and concern for the young and innocent is a "natural affection" (Rom. 1:31; 2 Tim. 3:3). These thoughts and feelings I had were not the origination of my own choice but were the result of the design of God. It was by nature, not by choice, that I was disturbed over this unjust treatment. It is natural to be upset over the abuse an innocent person suffers at the hands of a bully; it is unnatural not to be so.
Through the habitual choice of sin a moral being is capable of numbing their conscience. Through continually ignoring your conscience, you can desensitize yourself so that you can have a seared conscience (1 Tim. 2:4). This state of insensitivity is not a natural state, but an unnatural state. It is a degenerate state which is arrived at through habitual choice. God speaks of Israel after they continually rebelled against Him and He said, "Where they ashamed when they had committed abominations? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush..." (Jer. 6:15; 8:12) This state of being is not how God makes us, or how we are born, but how we can make ourselves through our free will. Extreme cases of this degenerate state would be sociopaths and cereal killers. These are the exceptions and not the rule for mankind. The average or normal person does feel good when doing right and feels bad when doing wrong. That is normal or natural and anything else is abnormal and unnatural
It should be understood that a man is not virtuous because he feels bad for doing wrong. Even the unconverted naturally feel bad for doing wrong. That is a natural reaction that the sensibilities have in response to the consciousness of the choices of the will and the moral knowledge of the mind. Our feelings naturally react when our will chooses to obey or disobey our conscience. Moral character is not determined by the states of the sensibilities but by the states of the will. A man is virtuous if he actually chooses what is virtuous. A man is not virtuous because he has a natural tendency towards virtue. His will is free to live according to his nature or to choose that which is against nature. Man's character is derived from his will choosing according to, or contrary to, the conscience God created as part of his nature.
We must not confuse character with constitution. Nature and character must be distinguished between, lest we confuse our natural attributes with our moral attributes. Character is determined by our own will. Our constitution or nature is determined by God's will. Moral character relates to voluntary states, not involuntary states. There is no moral character in man's involuntary nature. Man did not consent to or choose what type of nature or natural tendencies he would have and therefore his moral character does not consist in his nature or natural tendencies. Man's natural tendency does not show any virtue in the transgressor, rather, it shows the goodness of our Designer. God has given us our nature and therefore our nature reveals the character of God. God has so constituted man that we naturally know right from wrong, we naturally approve of the right and disapprove of the wrong, and naturally feel good when we do right and naturally feel bad when we do wrong. In this way God has created us with a natural tendency towards virtue.
Some may think that if I am saying that mankind has a natural tendency towards virtue that mankind is not sinful. The truth is that a man is a sinner, who truly deserves punishment and therefore needs forgiveness through the atonement of Christ, because while God has given mankind the natural ability to obey Him, and He has given us the natural tendency to obey Him, we have nevertheless chosen to sin. Despite all the efforts of God, both internal and external to man, mankind has still chosen to rebel against the good moral government of God. All men everywhere have personally and freely chosen to be sinners (Gen. 6:12, Ex. 32:7, Deut. 9:12, Deut. 32:5, Jdg. 2:19, Hos. 9:9, Ps. 14:2-3, Isa. 53:6, Ecc. 7:29, Rom. 3:23, Rom. 5:12.) despite our natural tendency towards virtue and our natural ability to do the will of God. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way..." (Isa. 53:6). "Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions." (Ecc. 7:29). We have used our natural ability of choice to choose contrary to the design of our nature. All men have deliberately chosen what they have naturally known is wrong. Sinners have abused their constitution and misused their nature. Man, not God, is at blame for sin because sin is the result of free will, not the result of a sinful nature.
Gordon C. Olson said, "Moral beings themselves are the author of their own rebellion, which is an unintelligent abuse of their God-given endowments of personality.... It is man who has abused his God-given freedom."5 Paris Reidhead said, "Are people in trouble spiritually because they inherit some spiritual defect from their parents or grandparents? No. They are in trouble because when they reach the age of accountability they deliberately turn their own way - they commit their will to the principle and practice of pleasing themselves as the end of their being. That is sin."6 He also said, "Now remember, sin is a crime. It is the committal of the will to the principle and practice of governing one's life to please one's self. In other words, when the Scripture says, 'all have sinned,' it is saying that upon reaching the age of accountability, every individual has chosen to govern and control his life to please himself... We know that upon reaching the age of accountability, each of us chose as the principle by which we would live: 'I am going to govern and control my own life."7 While it is true that our natural tendency is for virtue as far as our conscience is concerned, but our natural tendency is for self-gratification, as far as our flesh is concerned. Our flesh doesn't care if we gratify it naturally or unnaturally, lawfully or unlawfully, it just wants to be gratified. The reason many think that we have a "natural tendency towards sin" is because they are thinking of our flesh, but our flesh doesn't want "sin" as if "sin" was the end in mind or object sought. The flesh wants gratification, whether it comes through sin or through lawful means, natural desires that can be gratified through natural and lawful means. Sin is the choice of the will to gratify these natural desires through unnatural and unlawful means. F. Lagard Smith said, "We have a nature that is capable of being perverted from legitimate to illegitimate, from the natural to the unnatural, from the pure to the polluted." He said that sin is to "pervert... natural, legitimate, human desires."8 Augustine said, "Evil is making a bad use of a good thing."9
A perfect example of this is the narrative of Eve's temptation and sin. We are told that she was tempted, not because she had a sinful nature, but because she had natural God given desires which the devil tempted her to gratify through forbidden means. "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat." (Gen. 3:6). The narrative of Jesus' temptation in the desert shows the devil appealing to the natural desires that Jesus' body had (Luke 4:3). This is why we must choose to keep our body under subjection (1 Corinthians 9:27). "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh..." (Gal. 5:17). Our flesh wants us to be selfindulgent and practice self-gratification but the Spirit tells us to practice self-control and self-denial, choosing to our flesh in its proper place and make a proper use of it. Our flesh has its proper place and proper function and its desires have a natural and lawful way of being gratified. Sin is to misuse our flesh and gratify its desires unnaturally and unlawfully.
Michael Pearl said, "The root of all sin is founded in runaway indulgence of God-given desires... Drives which are not in themselves evil, nonetheless, form the seedbed on which sin will assuredly grow... As the body of flesh was the medium of Eve's sin and of Christ's temptation, so it is the implement of your child's development into selfishness - which, at maturity, will constitute sinfulness."10
Charles Finney said, "The bodily appetites and tendencies of body and mind, when strongly excited, become the occasions of sin. So it was with Adam. No one will say that Adam had a sinful nature. But he had, by his constitution, an appetite for food and a desire for knowledge. These were not sinful but were as God made them. They were necessary to fit him to live in this world as a subject of God's moral government. But being strongly excited led to indulgence, and thus became the occasions of his sinning against God. These tendencies were innocent in themselves, but he yielded to them in a sinful manner, and that was his sin." 11
An example would be our sexual desires. The attraction between the sexes is considered a "natural attraction". It is normal and natural and is not in and of itself wrong. God has given us our sex drive. These desires are God given. God intended for man to populate the world. God told Adam and Eve to "be fruitful and multiple" (Gen. 1:22, 28). Julian of Eclanum rightly said "that the sexual impulse--that is, that the virility itself, without which there can be no intercourse--is ordained by God."12 God designed men and women for each other. If a man and a woman commit themselves to each other through marriage, and engage in a sexual relationship with each other within that marriage, they are naturally and lawfully satisfying or fulfilling their God given desires (Heb. 13:4). Natural attraction is a normal state of the flesh, but lust in the sinful sense is a state of the will. It is a sin to intentionally look at a women, whom you are not married to, lustfully (Matt. 5:28) but there is no sin in marital sex or in the fleshly passions which are involved, so long as these desires are fulfilled lawfully and naturally.
When a person engages in any form of sexual immorality, such as fornication, homosexuality, or sodomy, they are choosing contrary to God's intention, contrary to our design, and are trying to satisfy or fulfill their God given sexual desires in an unnatural and an unlawful manner. Fornication is a sin against our body (1 Cor. 6:18), homosexuality is against nature (Rom. 1:26) and sodomy is an abuse of our flesh (1 Cor. 6:9). Our will is free to choose to gratify our flesh lawfully or unlawfully, naturally or unnaturally.
The fact that our nature or body is susceptible to temptation does not mean that we have a "sinful nature", a "sinful flesh", or a "sinful body". We must distinguish between sin and temptation. The desires of the body are the occasions of temptation (Jas. 1:14-15) but sin itself is a choice of the will (John 5:14, John 8:11, Rom. 6:12; Rom. 6:19 Eph. 4:26; 1 Jn. 3:4). Charles Finney said, "the appetites and passions tend so strongly to self-indulgence. These are temptations to sin, but sin itself consists not in these appetites and propensities, but in the voluntary committal of the will to their indulgence. This committal of the will is selfishness."13
Sin is contrary to the design of our body. It is an abuse and misuse of our flesh. An example is the sin of drunkenness. Drunkenness is an unnatural state of mind and body. Sobriety is a natural state. Drunkenness is an "induced" state. Liquor and beer require an "acquired taste". Our body naturally rejects alcohol when the body becomes inebriated or intoxicated. Our body reacts with vomiting and headaches which show that the sin of drunkenness is contrary to our nature, it is contrary to our design, it is contrary to the proper function of our flesh. We have to corrupt our body to enjoy cigarettes or to crave alcohol. Our bodies do not naturally have those enjoyments or cravings. It is through choice that we corrupt our flesh, degenerate our nature, or pervert our body to enjoy and crave these things.
These unnatural desires of the flesh do not, in and of themselves, constitute sin. Drug babies for example cannot be considered "sinful" just because they inherit a flesh that has these unnatural cravings. Sin or sinfulness does not consist in the states of the body or in the states of the sensibilities. All moral character consists in the states of the will. A person could decide to no longer abuse mind altering substances while their flesh is going through withdrawals. If a person's body craves drugs, but they choose not to gratify these cravings, than they are experiencing temptation but are not sinning.
Charles Finney said, "If these feelings are not suffered to influence the will... if such feelings are not cherished, and are not suffered to shake the integrity of the will; they are not sin. That is, the will does not to them, but the contrary. They are only temptations. If they are allowed to control the will, to break forth in words and actions, then there is sin; but the sin does not consist in the feelings, but in the consent of the will, to gratify them." 14 Paris Reidhead said, "Now temptation is not sin. Temptation is the proposition presented to the mind that you can satisfy a good appetite in a forbidden way. Temptation leads to sin.... Sin is the decision of the will.... sin is the decision to gratify a good appetite in a bad way."15 Winkie Pratney said, "Don't mistake temptation for sin. Temptation is a suggestion to gratify a desire in an illegal way or amount. Temptation is not sin. Jesus was tempted."16
We cannot say that our flesh is "sinful" or that we have a "sinful nature" just because our flesh or nature is susceptible to temptation. It is not "sinful" to be tempted. Jesus Christ was tempted yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). Therefore temptation is not sin. Sinfulness is violation of God's law (1 Jn. 3:4). God's law tells us what type of choices we should and shouldn't make (Exo. 20:3-17), not what type of body or nature we should or shouldn't have. Therefore choices can be sinful, but a body or a nature cannot be. Our flesh is just dirt (Gen. 2:7, Gen. 3:19) and therefore it cannot be "sinful". You cannot have sinful dirt. Dirt does not violate any commandment. There is no commandment that says, "thou shalt not be made out of dirt". Even if there was such a commandment, our violation of it would not be our fault but God's fault, since it was God who made us out of dirt.
While it is sinful to selfishly live after the flesh (Rom. 8:13), or to be living to gratify our flesh (Rom. 8:7), it is not sinful to have a flesh. We know that it is not sinful to have a flesh because Jesus Christ was sinless (2 Cor. 5:21) and He had a flesh (Luke 24:39, John 1:14, 1 Tim. 3:16, 1 Jn. 4:3, 2 Jn. 1:7). Jesus had the same type of flesh that we have. "For as much than as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same.... For verily he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren..." (Heb. 2:14, 16-17). Jesus made in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3) which means Jesus was made in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7). The word "flesh" is sometimes used synonymous with men (Gen. 6:12, Matt. 16:17). Jesus was morally perfect (2 Cor. 5:21) even before He had a glorified, resurrected, or perfect body, even while he had a body which was subjected to death (Heb. 2:14). We must differentiate between moral depravity and physical depravity and we must distinguish between moral perfection (Philippians 3:15) and physical perfection (Philippians 3:11- 12). What is physical relates to the flesh but what is moral relates to the will or heart.
Charles Finney said, "The fact is, sin never can consist in having a nature, nor in what nature is, but only and alone in the bad use which we make of our nature. This is all. Our Maker will never find fault with us for what He has Himself done or made; certainly not. He will not condemn us, if we will only make a right use of our powers - of our intellect, our sensibilities, and our will. He never holds us responsible for our original nature... since there is no law against nature, nature cannot be a transgression... man's nature is not a proper subject for legislation, precept, and penalty, inasmuch as it lies entirely without the pale of voluntary action, or of any action of man at all."17
The Gnostic's taught that the flesh was sinful in and of itself which is why they denied that Jesus Christ came in the flesh (1 Jn. 4:3, 2 Jn. 1:7). Gnosticism attributes moral qualities to states of matter. The Bible says our flesh is an instrument or a tool which we could use for sin or for righteousness. Paul said, "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." (Rom. 6:13) and "...for as ye have yielded your members servants of uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness." (Rom. 6:19).
To counteract the Gnostic idea that matter was intrinsically evil, or that the flesh was in and of itself sinful, Paul said that we can choose to sanctify our flesh, to set apart our bodies for the service of God. "I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." (Rom. 12:1). "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor." (1 Thes. 4:3-4). "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thes. 5:23). "I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." (1 Tim. 2:8).
We certainly cannot have a glorified body in this life but we can have a sanctified body in this life. That means that we cannot have a physically perfect body in this life (Philippians 3:11-12) but we certainly don't have to use our body to sin or gratify our flesh through sin. We can sanctify our flesh. We can set apart our body from sin to the service of God. If we fail to distinguish between sin and temptation, between the physical and the moral, between nature and character, between natural attributes and moral attributes, we will fall into the error of Gnosticism. While I was preaching on North Carolina State University I asked a Calvinist, "Is the body a sin?" He said, "Yes our bodies are made of sin." I asked, "You can put sin under a microscope and look at it?" He said, "Sure." While I was preaching on Alabama A&M a man said to me, "You can't stop sinning. Even waking up is a sin because you wake up in sinful flesh." While I was open air preaching to students at Tyler Junior College, I said, "Sin is a voluntary choice to violate God's law!" A Calvinist in the crowd responded by saying, "Your body is sin. You are a sinner because you have a body. And so long as you are in your body, you are a sinner!"
After traveling the length and breadth of this nation and talking to thousands of people I have concluded that Gnosticism is alive and well today. The idea that your body is sinful and consequently you cannot be morally perfect until you get a glorified body is pure Gnosticism. Gnosticism fails to distinguish between physical depravity and moral depravity. Gnostic moral philosophy says that sin is a substance of matter and is not limited to free will choices. To view sin as a state of the body, or a state of human nature, rather than a state of the will, is to have a Gnostic view of sin. The whole idea that man has a "sinful nature" or that man's nature is sinful, that man is sinful through hereditary inheritance rather than through voluntary choice, is nothing more than the remains of Gnostic philosophy surviving through Augustinian and Calvinistic theology. These notions were foreign to the Early Church and even refuted by them, as they were held by the Gnostics only until Augustine converted from Manichean Gnosticism and brought these views with him. Many throughout Church history have publicly refuted these Gnostic views of human flesh and human nature.
Charles Finney said, "To represent the constitution as sinful, is to present God, who is the author of the constitution, as the author of sin."18 A writer in the Early Church said, "... it is impious to say that sin is inherent in nature, because in this way the author of nature is being judged at fault."19 Winkie Pratney said, "To equate humanity with sinfulness is to make God the Author of His own worst enemy; to make God responsible for the thing that has brought Him unhappiness."20 Julian of Eclanum said, "God is the Maker of all those that are born, and that the sons of men are God's work; and that all sin descends not from nature, but from the will."21
Some today may think that sin is natural because they have developed a habit of sinning. Choice creates character and character creates habits. Through the continual choice of disobedience men have made sin "natural" or "normal" for them, in the sense that it has become their habit. This habit of sin, or tendency towards unlawful gratification, is the result of their own will and not the product of the hands of God. Their habit comes, not from their nature, but from their will.
When the Bible talks about the natural man (1 Cor. 2:14) it is talking about a sensual and carnal man. It is someone who chooses to be governed by their passions rather than being governed by their conscience. When the Bible says that sinners are "by nature children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3) it is talking about those who live for the gratification of their flesh. The context of men being under God's wrath by nature is talking about a former manner of life, addressing a previous lifestyle. "Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world... among whom also all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh..." (Eph. 2:2-3) Instead of obeying their conscience, living for God, and putting their flesh in its proper place (a spiritual life), they ignore their conscience and live for themselves by living for the gratification of their flesh (a carnal life). This is a natural life as opposed to a spiritual life. Living a natural or carnal life is selfishly living for the gratification of your flesh.
In summary, our constitution is not sinful in and of itself. Our constitution could be used as a tool for righteousness or unrighteousness. We do not have a constitutional tendency towards sin but towards virtue. We naturally know good and evil because God has written his laws upon our conscience and we consequently we naturally feel good when we do what is right and we naturally feel bad when we do wrong. That is the way God has designed our constitution. Feeling bad is an undesirable state. It is a state of misery. Feeling good is a desirable state. It is a state of happiness. Therefore we are naturally prone to virtue; we have a natural tendency towards goodness. That is, as far as our conscience and subsequent feelings or sensibilities are concerned. Our sensibilities respond to the knowledge of our mind, which is why we start to feel bad when we recognize that we have done what is wrong. Regarding our flesh, it wants gratification. Our flesh feels good if we gratify it lawfully or unlawfully, but if we gratify it unlawfully we start to feel the pains of conscience. Our flesh inclines us towards gratification, but our conscience or intelligence inclines us towards virtue.
It makes sense that if God would give us the natural tendency towards virtue, and a natural approval of the good, that He would also give us the natural ability to do what is good. Or you could argue the other way around. If God gives us the natural ability to do good because He wants us to do what is good, why wouldn't he give us the natural tendency towards virtue and the natural approval of it? If God wants us to avoid sin, why wouldn't He give us the constitutional tendency away from sin? Since God wants us to obey His Will, He has given us the natural approval, the natural tendency, and the natural ability to obey His Will.
1. Alfred T. Overstreet (Over One Hundred Texts From The Bible That Show That Babies Are Not Born Sinners, pg. 8).
2. Alfred T. Overstreet (Over One Hundred Texts From The Bible That Show That Babies Are Not Born Sinners, pg. 6-7).
3. Winkie Pratney (Youth Aflame, Bethany House, pg. 78).
4. Charles Finney (Lectures on Systematic Theology, 1851 Edition, published by BRCCD, p. 348)
5. Gordon C. Olson (The Entrance of Sin into the World, pg. 31, 38).
6. Paris Reidhead (Finding the Reality of God, pg 64-65)
7. Paris Reidhead (Finding the Reality of God, pg 85).
8. F. Lagard Smith (Troubling Questions for Calvinists, page 134-135).
9. Augustine (Confessions and Enchiridion, trans. and ed. by Albert C. Outler, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, N. D, page 326-338, section 36).
10. Michael Pearl (To Train Up A Child, No Greater Joy, pg. 15-20)
11. Charles Finney (You Can Be Holy, published by Whitaker House, p. 215).
12. Julian of Eclanum (Letter to Rome)
13. Charles Finney (Lectures on Systematic Theology, 1851 Edition, published by BRCCD, p. 348).
14. Charles Finney (Lectures on Systematic Theology, 1851 Edition, published by BRCCD, p. 191).
15. Paris Reidhead (Finding the Reality of God, pg 141-142)
16. Winkie Pratney (Youth Aflame, Bethany House, pg. 83).
17. Charles Finney (Sermons on Gospel Themes, p. 78-79, published by Truth in Heart)
18. Charles Finney (Finney's Systematic Theology, Bethany House, p. 261).
19. Early Church writer (The Letters of Pelagius and his Followers by B. R. Rees, p. 168, published by The Boydell Press).
20. Winkie Pratney (Youth Aflame, published by Bethany House, pg. 78).
21. Julian of Eclanum (Letter To Rufus Of Thessalonica)