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from, the Unitarian, Pelagian, and Arminian systems, I suppose there is between the orthodox ministry and myself an entire agreement. In respect to comparatively minor points, and philosopbical theories, and modes of defending the Calvinistic system of doctrines, there has always been, as you are aware, a diversity of opioion with freedom of discussion, among the Calvinists of this country, especially in New-England; but which has never impaired their fellowship or mutual confidence. To these topics of difference, greater or less importance has been attached by different individuals. In respect to some of these, (and in respect to them, I suppose myself to agree with a large majority of our Calvinistic clergy) I will now briefly, but frankly slate what I do not, and #bat I do believe.
I do not believe, that the posterity of Adam are, in the proper sense of the language, guilty of his sin; or that the ill-desert of that sin is truly theirs; or that they are punished for that sin. But I do believe, that by the wise and holy constitution of God, all mankind in consequence of Adam's sin, become sinners by their own act.
I do not believe that the nature of the human mind, which God creates, is itself sinful; or that God punishesme n for the nature which he creates; or that sin pertains to any thing in the mind which precedes all conscious mental exercise or action, and which is neither a matter of consciousness nor of knowledge. But I do believe that sin universally is no other than selfishness, or a preference of one's self to all others,—of some inferior good to God; that this free voluntary preference is a permanent principle of action in all the unconverted; and that this is sin and all that in the scriptures is meant by sin. I also believe, that such is the nature of the human mind, that it becomes the occasion of universal sin in men in all the appropriate circumstances of their existence; and that therefore they are truly and properly said to be sinners by nature.
I do not believe that sin can be proved to be the necessary means of the greatest good, and that as such, God prefers it on the whole to holiness in its stead; or that a God of sincerity and truth punishes his creatures for doing that which he on the whole prefers they should do, and which as the means of good, is the best thing they can do. But I do believe, that holiness as the means of good, may be better than sin; that it may be true that God, all things considered, prefers holiness to sin in all instances in which the latter takes place, and therefore sincerely desires that all men should come to repentance, though for wise and good reasons he permits, or does not prevent the existence of sin. I do not believe that it can be proved, that an omnipotent God would be unable to secure more good by means of the perfect and universal obedience of his creatures, if they would render it, than by means of their sin. But
I do believe that it may involve a dishonorable limitation of his power to suppose that he could not do it. *
I do not believe that the grace of God can be truly said to be irresistible, in the primary proper import of this term. But I do believe, that in all cases, it may be resisted by man as a free moral agent, and that when it becomes effectual to conversion, as it infallibly does in the case of all the elect, it is unresisted.
I do not believe, that the grace of God is necessary, as Arminians and some others maintain, to render man an accountable agent, and responsible for rejecting the offers of eternal life. But I do believe, that man would be such an agent and thus responsible, were no such grace afforded, and that otherwise "grace would be no more grace.
I do not believe, that it is necessary that the sinner in using the mears of regeneration, should commit sin in order to become holy. But I do believe, that as a moral agent he is qualified to use those means, i. e. the truth of God when present to his mind, as to become holy at once ; that he is authorized to believe, that through the grace of the Holy Spirit, this may be done ; and that except in so doing, he cannot be truly and properly said to use the means of regeneration.
I do not believe, that we are authorized to assure the sinner, as Arminians do, and some others also, that the Holy Spirit is always ready to convert him. But I do believe, that we are authorized to assure any sinner, that it may be true, that the Holy Spirit is now ready to convert him,—that God PERADVENTURE will now give him repentance, and that thus, in view of the possible intervention of divine influence, we remove what would otherwise be a ground of fatal discouragement to the sinner, when we exhort him to immediete repentance.
I have dwelt the more on some of these particulars, because much pains has been taken by some individuals, to make the impression, that I have departed from the true faith respecting the inAuences of the Holy Spirit, even denying his influences altogether. So far is this from the fact, that as you well know, no one attaches higher importance to this doctrine than I do; preaches it more decisively, or appreciates more bighly its practical relations and bearings. In my own view, the power of the Gospel on the mind of the sinner very much consists in the two great facts of his complete moral agency as to the basis of his obligation, of his guilt and of his duty ;—and of his dependence on the sovereign grace of God, resulting from his voluntary perverseness in sin. Without the latter, we could, in my opinion, neither show the Christian what thanks he
* The question is not whether God, all things considered, has purposed the existence of sin rather than to prevent it; but for what reason has he purposed it? Some affirm this reason to be that sin is the necessary means of the greatest good. Now what I claim, and all that I claim is, that no one can prore this to be the reason why God has purposed the existence of sin, and that some other may be the true reason, without affirming what the true reason is.
Oives his Deliverer from sin, nor awaken the sinner to flee from the wrath to come. This doctrine seems to be indispensable to destroy the presumtuous reliance of the sinner on fature repentance, as it shows him how fearfully he provokes an offended God to withhold the grace on which all depends. At the same time one thing is indubitably certain, viz. that God never revealed the doctrine of the sinner's dependence on his Spirit, to prevent the sinner from doing his duty at once. God does not call siuners to instant compliance with the terms of life, and then assure them, that such compliance is utterly out of the question and to be wholly despaired of. The opposite impression however, is not uncommon; and it is an error not less fatal to immediate repentance, than the fond hope of repenting hereafter. Both are to be destroyed ; and he who does not preach the gospel in that manner which tends to destroy both, preaches it but imperfectly.
In the earlier revivals of this country, great prominence was given in the preaching, to the doctrine of dependence, in the forms of regeneration, election, &c. This was what was to be expected from the Calvinistic preachers of the time, in view of the prevalence of Arminianism. In the more recent revivals however, a similar prominence seems to be given to moral agency, in the forms of present obligations to duty, its present practicability, &c. The preaching, tbus distinguished in its more prominent characteristics, has been undeniably owned and blessed by the Spirit of God, although we are very apt to believe, that what is true of one kind of preaching at one time, must be true of it at another. Now I believe, that both the doctrines of dependence and moral accountability, must be admitted by the public mind, to secure upon that mind, the full power of the Gospel. I also believe, that greater or less promia nence should be given to the one or the other of these doctrines, according to the prevailing state of public opinion. When, at the earlier periods alluded to, the doctrine of dependence was dwelt on chiefly, (I do not suppose exclusively,) the public mind believed enough, I might say too much, concerning the free moral agency of man, and had not so well learned as since, to pervert the doctrine of dependence to justify the waiting attitude of a passive recipient. And then, both doctrines told with power on the mind and the conscience, and ihrough God, were attended with great and happy results. But the prominence given to the doctrine of dependence in preaching was continued, until if I mistake not, it so engrossed the public attention, and so obscured or weakened the doctrine of responsibility, that many fell into the opposite error of quietly waiting for God's interposition. Hence, when this prevailing error is again corrected by a more prominent exhibition of man's responsibility in the form of immediate obligation, &c. the power of both doctrines is again combined on the public mind, and we see the same or even greater results in revivals of religion. Nor would it be strange is the latter kind of preaching should in its turn prevail so exclusively and so long, that the practical influence of the doctrine of dependence should be greatly impaired, to be followed with another dearth of revivals and a quiet reliance of sinful men on their own self-sufficiency. On this subject, I have often, in view of the tendency of the human mind to vacillate from one extreme to the other, expressed my apprehensions. In some of my brethren whom ' I love and respect, I see what I esteem a disproportioned estimate of the importance of preaching dependence; in others whom I equally respect, I see what I regard as a disproportioned estimate of the importance of preaching moral responsibility. In regard to myself, I can say that I have aimed in this respect rightly to divide the word of truth, and that those discourses in which I have best succeeded in bringing the two doctrines to bear in their combined force on the mind, have been more blessed to the awakening and conversion of sinners, than almost any others which I preach. When both doctrnies are wisely and truly presented, the sinner has no resting place. He cannot well avoid a sense of guilt while proposing to remain in his sins, for he sees that he is a free moral agent under all the responsibilities of such an agent, to immediate duty. He cannot well presume on bis resolution of future repentance, for he sees that sovereign, injured grace may at once abandon him to hopeless sin. He is thus shut up to the faith—to the immediate performance of his duty. In accordance with these views, I aim in my instructions to those who are preparing for the ministry, to inculcate the importance of a consistent, well proportioned exhibition of the two great doctrines of the sinner's dependence and responsibility, that in this respect they may ho!d the minds of their hearers under the full influence of that Gospel, which is the power of God to salvation.
I have thus stated more minutely perhaps than you anticipated, my views and opinions. I could wish that they might be satisfactory to all our Orthodox brethren. I have no doubt, that they will be to very many, and to some who have been alarmed by groundless rumors concerning my unsoundness in the faith.— With respect to what I have called leading doctrines, I regard these, as among the cardinal truths of the christian system. They are truths to which I attach the highest importance, and in which my faith is more and more confirmed, the inore I examine the word of God.
To some of those of which I have spoken as comparatively minor points, I attach a high importance in their practical bearings and doctrinal connections. They are points however, in regard to which there is more or less diversity of opinion among the Orthodox; and as it is not my intention nor practice to denounce others as herelics, merely because they differ from me in these matters, so I should be pleased with the reciprocation of the like catholicism on their part. Yours affectionately, NATHANIEL W. TAYLOR.
Erratum.- Page 125, the No. of pages in Murdock's edition of Mosheim should be given as 556, instead of 256.
Vol. IV.--No. 2.
Art. 1.-REINHARD's Plan. Plan of the Founder of Christianity. By F. V. REINHARD, S. T. D. Court Preacher at Dresden. Translated from the fifth German edition, by OLIVER A. TAYLOR, A. M. Resident Licentiate, Theological Seminary, Andover. New York, Published by G. & C. & H. Carvill. 1831.
DCGALD STEWART has remarked, that we often put a higher estimate on a train of reasoning, which we meet with for the first time in a foreign tongue, than we find it will bear, at a subsequent period, when presented through the medium of a translation into our own. Among the reasons for a fact, which may seem at first view somewhat singular, this undoubtedly is one. An acquaintance with any language, supposes some knowledge of the state of controversies, the modes of reasoning, and the habits of feeling, among the people by whom it is spoken. This prepares us to enter into the argument in all its bearings, and to feel its appropriateness and force, as addressed to those for whom it was originally designed. But when we change the scene with the language, when we find the same train of reasoning embodied in the literature and addressed to the intellect of another people, we frequently discover, that what seemed highly appropriate and important in its former relations, now appears to be out of place, or of inferior value.
We do not mean to apply these remarks in their full extent, to the work before us. Still, we think it probable, that Reinhard's Plan will be less highly estimated in this country, than the translator and his friends may have been led to suppose. It is certainly brought forward under very serious disadvantages, in one respect. The expectations of the public have been highly raised. German talent has been so long and so loudly applauded in this country, that when a treatise is selected for translation, among the multitude of standard works in that language, we naturally expect something of no ordinary character, Yet the real superiority of the German theologians, lies chiefly in their spirit of research, and is exhibited Vol. IV.