Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

their theory. Accordingly, when they come to describe the process of this great change, the sinner is the only agent brought to view; he is to consider, ponder and decide, for all which he absolutely needs no assistance, though it may be graciously afforded. This mode of representation stands in strong contrast with the language of Scripture in those passages in which we are said “to be born of the Spirit,” á to be created anew in Christ Jesus,” to experience the workings of the exceeding greatness of the power of God," and many others of a similar character.

As to the point which Dr Cox thinks so “intrinsically absurd,” and about which he says so much, whether man is passive in regeneration, it will be seen that, for its own sake, it does not merit a moment's discussion. It depends entirely on the previous question. If regeneration be that act of the soul by which it chooses God for its portion, there is an end of all debate on the subject. For no one will maintain that the soul is passive in acting. But if there be any change in the moral state of the soul, prior to its turning unto God, then it is proper to say, that the soul is passive as to that particular point. That is, that the Holy Spirit is the author, and the soul the subject of the change. For all that is meant by the soul's being passive, is, that it is not the agent of the change in question. Its immediate and delightful turning unto God is its own act, the state of mind which leads to this act is produced directly by the Spirit of God. The whole question is, whether any such anterior change is necessary. Whether a soul polluted and degraded by sin, or in Scripture language, carnal, needs any change in its moral taste before it can behold the loveliness of the divine character. For that this view must precede the exercise of affection, we presume will not be denied. If this point be decided, the propriety of using the word passive to denote that the soul is the subject and not the agent of the change in question, need not give us much trouble. Sure it is that this change is in Scripture always referred to the Holy Spirit. It is the soul that repents, believes, hopes and fears, but it is the Holy Spirit that regenerates. He is the author of our faith and repentance by inducing us to act, but no man regenerates himself. The soul, although essentially active, is still capable of being acted upon. It receives impressions from sensible objects, from other spirits and from the Holy Ghost. In every sensation, there is an impression made by

some external object, and the immediate knowledge which the mind takes of the impression. As to the first point, it is passive, or the subject; as to the second, it is active, or the agent. These two are indeed inseparably connected, and so are regeneration and conversion. It is even allowable to say that the mind is passive considered as the recipient of any impression, no matter how communicated. Coleridge says, “In ATTENTION, we keep the mind passive: in Thought, we rouse it into activity. In the former, we submit to an impression, we keep the mind steady in order to receive the stamp.” P. 252. Whether this is «

Whether this is "technically wretched, philosophically wrong, and theologically false,” or not, we do not pretend to say. All that we say is, that it is perfectly intelligible and perfectly according to established usage, to speak of the mind as passive, when considered as the subject of an impression. And if the Holy Spirit does make such an impression on the mind, or exert such an influence as induces it immediately to turn to God, then it is correct to say that it is passive in regeneration, though active in conversion. However, this is a very subordinate point; the main question is, whether there is not a holy “relish," taste, or principle produced in the soul prior, in the order of nature, to any holy act of the soul itself. If Dr Cox can show this to be “ intrinsically absurd,” we shall give up the question of “passivity," without a moment's demur. To relinquish the other point, however, will cost us a painful struggle. It will be the giving up the main point in debate between the friends and opposers of the doctrines of grace from Augustine to the present day. It will be the renunciation, not only of a favourite principle of old Calvinists, but of one of the fundamental principles of the theology of Edwards, Bellamy, Dwight, and, as we believe, of the great body of the New England clergy. It will be the renunciation of what Calvinists, old and new, have believed to be the Scriptural doctrine of original righteousness, original sin and efficacious grace. It will be the rejection of that whole system of mingled sovereignty and love which has been the foundation, for ages, of so many hopes and of so much blessedness to the people of God. And all for what? Because it has been discovered, that what is not an act is an entity; that to suppose the existence of moral disposition prior to moral action, is making morality a substance. As we are incapable of seeing the truth of these axioms, and

believe their assumption to be encumbered with all the difficulties above referred to, we are not disposed to renounce, on their behalf, doctrines which have for ages been held dear by the best portion of the Christian church.

Dr Cox demands what has been the moral history of these doctrines? It would require more time and space than we can now command fully to answer this question. Not to enter on questionable ground, however, we would refer him for an answer to the history of the reformation. These doctrines were held sacred by all those men who were God's great instruments in that blessed work, and are incorporated in the confessions of all the reformed churches. We would point him to the history of the English Puritans and Nonconformists; to the Puritans of New England, from the time of their landing down to a late period in their history, and to the present opinions of the great body of their descendants. We would refer him to any age or any church, peculiarly distinguished for genuine piety. For there is scarcely one of the doctrines which he has empaled in his introduction, (with the exception of the mere extent of the atonement, a point of very subordinate importance to that of its nature), which does not enter in the faith of the great body of evangelical Christians. We have no doubt that Dr Cox believes these doctrines. What we lament is, that he should have “caricatured” the manner in which the vast majority of those who hold them have been accustomed to represent them, and that he should even seem to advocate a principle which we fear is subversive of them all.

REVIEW

Lectures on the Shorter Catechism of the Presbyterian Church

in the United States of America, addressed to Youth. By Ashbel Green, D.D. Philadelphia. A. Finley, and Towar and Hogan. One Volume. .

With pleasure we hail the appearance of these Lectures on the shorter Catechism, and we are gratified to see them

comprised in so handsome a volume; for we are more and more persuaded, that nothing is gained to any body by coarse paper and a bad type. A perspicuous and orthodox commentary on this concise but rich system of gospel truth, cannot but be a valuable present to the christian public, and especially to the members of the Presbyterian church. Such a work we have now before us, which, in our opinion, supplies an important desideratum in our theological literature. For although we have several expositions of the Westminster Shorter Catechism which are sound and pious, yet, having been written a long time since, their language is now uncouth, and the whole style of composition antiquated; so that they are little read, and indeed are for the most part out of print. The whole body of Presbyterians, therefore, of every sect, who use this catechism, will feel themselves under special obligations to the venerable author for producing what, we hope, will become a sort of standard work for the instruction and edification of their youth; and certainly it is matter of congratulation with the friends of orthodoxy, that the execution of such a work has fallen into hands so competent to do it justice. The reader, it is true, will not, in these lectures, find much discussion of abstruse and difficult points in theology, nor any great parade of critical learning: both of which would have been entirely out of place in a work addressed to youth, and intended for the edification of persons of all classes in society. But we are far from intimating that the young theologian may not study these lectures with profit. We do believe, that often the student of theology spends his time and wastes his strength in reading authors which have no other recommendation but that they are abstruse, obscure and learned; while he neglects and perhaps despises works which are rich in truth and strong in argument, merely because they are plain and unpretending. We do not hesitate, therefore, to recommend this volume to the careful and repeated perusal of our candidates for the holy ministry. In fact, it comprehends all the truths which they will ever have occasion to teach.

It is no part of our object, in this review, to enter into a critical examination of the style and composition of these lectures. This is altogether unnecessary at this time; for although they now appear for the first time collected into a volume, the whole of them have been twice before the

public; first, when they were orally delivered by the author to his own catechumens, and secondly, when published in numbers in The Christian Advocate, of which valuable miscellany the author of this volume is the well known editor. It will be sufficient to remark, in general, that the style of these lectures is remarkable for correctness, perspicuity and force; the language is well adapted to the subjects treated, and while it furnishes a good example of purity and neatness, it is every where intelligible to the humblest capacity.

But if we do not entirely misinterpret the temper and taste of the times in which we live, doctrinal catechisms, and lectures explanatory of such catechisms, are not the books which will be sought after and read with avidity. The religious taste of most readers is, we fear, greatly vitiated by works of fiction and other kinds of light reading. Nothing will now please, unless it be characterized by novelty and variety; and while many new means of instruction have been afforded to our youth, in which we sincerely rejoice, we are so old fashioned in our notions, as to feel regret that in our own church those excellent little summaries of Christian doctrine, the Westminster Catechisms, are falling with many into disuse.

Our numerous periodicals, coming out weekly, monthly, and quarterly, and often presenting much that is interesting, so occupy our leisure, that works of solid instruction are now read by few. Even the theologian, who is devoted to sacred pursuits, unless he is very economical in the distribution of his time, will find, that after perusing all the pamphlets which fall from the press in such abundance, he will have a small portion left for the more deep and solid works of theology; it is well indeed if by this means the Bible itself is not neglected. There is, doubtless, a great increase of reading among the population of this country within a few years; yet we cannot but fear that didactic and practical works of sound theology have, in too many instances, been excluded by the religious novel and the religious newspaper. And here, again, we must enter a caution against being misunderstood; as though we wished to proscribe all attempts at promoting a taste for reading by well composed fictitious narratives; or, that we would, if we could, diminish the facilities which now exist, of conveying religious intelligence to every corner of our country. We assuredly entertain no such feelings : but what we regret is, that while on the one hand we are gain

« EdellinenJatka »