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ject, on every proper occasion, in public and private. In short, let them endeavour to enlist the whole population of the land in voluntary associations, and in voluntary efforts, of all wise and lawful kinds, to put down so enormous an evil. But let them all be voluntary, entirely voluntary; and they will all be, unless I utterly mistake the character of the human mind, on that very account, the more acceptable and the more effectual.
2. Let all our churches be more careful than they have ever yet been to exercise vigilant and faithful discipline when any of their members subject themselves, in the least palpable degree, to the charge of intemperance. There have been by far too much indulgence and laxity on this subject in most of our churches. Aberrations of this kind have, in many cases, passed unnoticed, until they became habitual and gross. This ought no longer to be the case. Let the rulers of our churches be as watchful and decisive in calling to an account and censuring those who are visibly intemperate, as they usually are with respect to some other sins, not more destructive either to personal character, or to social order, than this, and the consequences will, undoubtedly, be happy.
A Friend to Temperance Societies.
Regeneration, and the Manner of its Occurrence. A Ser
mon from John v. 24. Preached at the Opening of the Synod of New York, in the Rutgers street Church, on Tuesday Evening, Oct. 20, 1829.
Oct. 20, 1829. By Samuel H. Cox, D.D. Pastor of the Laight Street Presbyterian Church. New York. 1829. Pp. 42.
Voltaire, in one of his historical works, sneeringly inquires, “how were the priests employed while the Saracens were desolating the fairest portion of their church ?" “ Disputing,” he answers, " whether Christ has one will or two !" It will be well, if the theologians of the nineteenth century do not furnish occasion to some future infidel historian for
a similar taunting remark. There is scarcely any subject in the history of the church which is more humiliating than that of theological discussions of this nature. The evil appears to have arisen early, sor Paul, in his Epistles to Timoihy, repeatedly and earnestly exhorts him, “not to strive about words to no profit," but to avoid “foolish questions, which gender strifes.” Yet not a century has passed from that day to this, which has not been disturbed and disgraced by disputes fairly within the apostle's description. That there are serious evils attending controversies of this character, no one will deny. They bring discredit on religion ; they alienate brethren who should live together in love; they call off the attention from the practical duties of benevolence and piety; and they are from their nature destructive of the spirit of true religion. These disputes, in nine cases out of ten, turn, not on the correct exposition of the Bible, but on the decision of some point in mental or inoral science. Philosophy, instead of being the handmaid of religion, has become the mistress of theology. This is a fact deeply to be lamented. The subjects, we admit, are so nearly allied that they cannot be kept entirely distinct; still theology might have, and ought to have, much less of a philosophical, and more of an exegetical character than it has commonly assumed. The predominance of the former over the latter element in theology, has been unquestionably one of the most prolific sources of evil to the church. What is Pelagianism, Arminianism, or almost any other ism but a particular system of religious philosophy ? And what are the questions which now alienate and divide christians in this country, but questions in mental or moral science? if a man tells you his theory of virtue, you need ask no questions about his theology. Hence it is that these diversities of opinion are in a great measure confined to professed theologians; clergymen or laymen. The views which ordinary christians, under the guidance of common sense and sanctified feeling, take of divine truth, are in all ages and countries very nearly the same. Nor does it seem to us correct to say, that common sense is nothing more than the popularized results of philosophical speculations, because we find it the same in countries where entirely different systems of philosophy have for ages prevailed. Look at Germany and England for an illustration. The philosophical theologians of these countries differ toto cælo in their views. They
have hardly a single principle in common. But how is it with common christians ? They are as much united in opinion as they are in feeling. And why?
Because their opinions are formed from the Bible, under the guidance of the Spirit, and the influence of those essential and consequently universal principles of our nature, which it has been the grand result of philosophy to sophisticate and pervert. _Is all philosophy then to be proscribed ? By no means. The very statements we have made demonstrate its importance. If a man's speculative opinions do thus influence his views of religious truth and duty, it is a matter of unspeakable moment that these opinions should be correct. And in a multitude of cases, the only means of preventing the evils which flow from erroneous principles, is to show the fallacy of the principles themselves. Besides, all truth is harmonious, whether taught in the word of God or learned from the constitution of our own nature: and in itself there can be no subject more worthy of accurate knowledge, than that mysterious and immortal principle, which was created in the image of God. All this we cheerfully admit. At the same time the undeniable fact, that systems of philosophy have been as changeable as the wind; that each in its turn has been presented, urged and adopted with the utmost confidence; and each in its measure perverted the simple truths of the Bible, should teach us to be modest: it should teach us to separate the human from the divine element in our theology, and to be careful not to clothe the figments of our own minds with the awful authority of God, and denounce our brethren for not believing him when they do not agree with us.
It should teach us too, not to ascribe to men opinions, which according to our notions may be inferred from the principles which they avow. This is an impropriety of very frequent occurrence, and of which we think we have great reason to complain in the sermon before us. To state what appear to us to be fair deductions from principles assumed, as arguments against them, is one thing; but to charge those who hold these principles with holding our deductions, is a very different affair.
With regard to the author of this sermon, we can truly say, that we entertain for him the highest respect. We love his honesty. We admire the frankness and decision with which he always avows his opinions. We rejoice to see that there is litile of that evil spirit in the discourse which
so often converts investigations of truth into angry disputations. But while we give Dr Cox full credit for sincerity, and acquit him of entertaining any bad feelings towards his brethren, we still think that he is chargeable with grossly misrepresenting their opinions, and holding them up to a contempt and reprobation, due only to his acknowledged caricature. We refer specially to page 6, of the Introduction, where after stating that there are certain dogmas, “ some of them not proved; or even suspected by those who employ them,” which have a tendency " to solace the sinner in his distance from Christ,” and “excuse his disobedience to the Gospel, and which ought to be rejected, as false and ruinous," he gives the following specifications :
- A man has no ability to do his duty.
" Where the means of grace are purely and abundantly vouchsafed, by the sovereign goodness of Providence, a man can do nothing for, but can only counteract, his own salvation ; having no ability, even if he had the inclination, to believe the Gospel and be saved.
“ The wickedness of men consists in physical defect or disorganization of the faculties of the soul, so that total depravity and physical depravity are nearly synonymous, and both equally true.
“Regeneration is the implantation of a certain kind of “principle of holiness,” which is incapable of definition, or demonstration, and has no connexion with human consciousness; which precedes all active mental holiness, and is antecedent also to all “ the fruit of the Spirit," as specified in the New Testament; in the susception and sustentation of which, the Creator is sole as well as sovereign agent ; man no agent at all, but only a passive receiver, an unconscious subject, of the mysterious gratuity ; and which is the happy contrary of a principle of sin, which is concreated with us, and is the permanent fund of all our depravity, in which also we are passive—though quite active in exercising all the wickedness which flows (full copiously) from such an inserted fountain, and which has its residence and location somewhere in the texture of the soul, which is itself a very wicked thing somehow physiologically, in the very nature of it, antecedent to any agency at all of ours.
Regeneration consists in some secret physical motion on the soul, which restores its dislocated powers, and cures the connatural diseases of its texture; since the work of the Creator, as such, is not “good,” but lays the foundation, in the very entity of the soul, for all its overt wickedness, and for the necessity of regeneration.
“ The soul is passive, entirely passive, and God the sole agent, in regeneration. “ The means of grace, and the Gospel itself, are in no sense
moral causes of regeneration ; since their important use is merely to illustrate the strength of an invincible depravity, to make the sinner worse and worse, till he is physically regenerated, and then to signalize the prodigious efforts and labours of Omnipotence, in this department of constant miracle-working :-as if there were no considerable difference between dividing the Red Sea symbolically by the rod of Moses, and conciliating the human mind by the revealed glories of the everlasting Gospel !
“ It is wrong to require a sinner in the name of God to repent immediately, and believe the Gospel, and to urge him to this as the only way of salvation.
• The offer of salvation is not made to every hearer; or, if it be, to accept it is impracticable, and to require this of the sinner, wanton and absurd.
“ If there is a universal offer in the Gospel, it is founded not on the atonement of Jesus Christ at all, but only on the ministerial commission ; or on human ignorance of who the elect are ; or it has no moral foundation ; or it is only man's offer, and not God's; or it is a matter of mere sovereignty, and so insoluble ; or it is an offer in form, and in fact no offer or overture at all: and this, although there is no salvation known to the Gospel but that of our Lord Jesus Christ as an atoning Saviour. Prov. i. 20—33. Luke, xiv. 24. Acts, iv. 12; xiii. 26. 46."
The Doctor then says, “if I have caricatured these dogmas, I have done so intentionally : but only by representing them as they are, and making the reality govern the appearance." It is not probable that Dr Cox, in writing these paragraphs, had any one class of theologians exclusively in his eye; because some of “these dogmas” are inconsistent with each other. We have no doubt however that most of what is here stated, was intended as an exhibition of the doctrines of the old Calvinists (sit venia verbo). Our reason for thinking so is, that we are accustomed to see such, and even still more gross misrepresentations of these doctrines, though we acknowledge not often, from such men as Dr Cox. It is however notorious that this class of theologians are constantly represented as maintaining that "man has no ability, even if he had the inclination, to believe the Gospel and be saved,”—that man's depravity “is a physical defect”—that regeneration is “a physical change," &c. Representations have been made of these doctrines which we had supposed no man, who felt the obligations of interpreting language in conformity with the known and declared nature of the thing described,” could ever allow himself to make. Belonging as we do to the class, which for the sake of convenience and