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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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Want of power sufficient for the performance of any particular action or design. It has been divided into natural and moral. We are said to be naturally unable to do a thing when we cannot do it if we wish, because of some impeding defect or obstacle that is extrinsic to the will, either in the understanding, constitution of the body, or external objects. Moral inability consists not in any of these things, but either in the want of inclination, or the strength of a contrary inclination; or the want of sufficient motives in view to induce and excite the act of the will, or the strength of apparent motives to the contrary. For the sake of illustration, we will here present the reader with a few examples of both.

Natural Moral Cain could not have killed Cain could not have killed Abel, if Cain had been the Abel, if Cain had feared God, weakest, and Abel aware of and loved his brother. him. Jacob could not rejoice Potiphar's wife could not in Joseph's exaltation rejoice in it. If she continued before he heard of it. under it. The woman mentioned in 2d Had that woman been a very Kings 6: 29, could not kill affectionate mother, she could her neighbour's son, and eat not have killed her own son in him, when he was hid, and a time of plenty, as she did in she could not find him. a time of famine. Hazael could not have If a dutiful, affectionate son smothered Benhadad, if had been waiting on Benhadad in he had not been suffered Hazael's stead, he could not to enter his chamber. have smothered him as Hazael did.

These are a few instances from which we may clearly learn the distinction of natural and moral inability. It must not, however, be forgotten, that moral inability or disinclination is no excuse for our omission of duty, though want of natural faculties or necessary means would. That God may command, though man has not a present moral ability to perform, is evident, if we consider,

1. That man once had a power to do whatsoever God would command him, he had a power to cleave to God.

2. That God did not deprive man of his ability.

3. Therefore God right of commanding, and man's obligation of returning and cleaving to God, remains firm.

See LIBERTY; and Theol. Misc. vol. 2: p. 488; Edwards on the Will; Charnock's Works, vol. 2: p. 187; Watts on Liberty, p. 4.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Inability'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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