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little sacrifice of reason for its reception. For all must ac. knowledge, that holiness, considered as including religious knowledge and principle, is not an inborn, but an acquired quality; and of course we are as naturally destitute of it, as we are destitute by nature of any attainments whatever. But we well know, that those, who adopt this definition of total depravity, are far from intending to place man's natural destitution of holiness on the same footing with bis natural destitution of other things, which can only be acquired. They mean by it a moral deficiency resulting from the very nature of the heart; and incurable, except by a grace, which is confined, as they say, to an elected few of our miserable species.
Calvin, and the older writers of his class, were wont to represent the death of Christ, as propitiating the Deity, and reconciling hien tu men. In one place he remarks,“ Christ expiated by bis own blood those sins, which made us bateful to God: and, he being our Intercessor, God became placable to us: (irain ejus fuisse placatam).” But says a late orthodox writer, - The sacrifice of Christ was never deemed by any, who did not wish to calumniate the doctrine of atonement, to have made God placable ; but merely viewed as the means appointed by divine wisdom, by which to bestow forgiveness. [Magee.) The same author remarks, that “to the question, in wbat way does the death of Christ operate to the remission of sins, every christian will answer, I know not, nor does it concern me to know. It is enough, that this is declared by God to be the medium, through which my salvation is effected.'” It is unnecessary to say how far they are from confining themselves to this answer, who speak of “The flaming sword of divine wrath being extinguished in the blood of the Lamb ;” and who reason, tbat Christ must have been God, in order to give an infinite worth to his vicarious sufferings, endured under the infinite wrath of God to expiate an infinite sin ; though, while they deny that the divine nature of the Redeemer suffered, they leave it obscure why the pains of a sufferer, inseriour to God, might not have been sufficient. If, according to Dr. Magee, "every Christian will say, that he does not know, nor does it concern him to know, how the death of Christ operates to the remission of sin ;" we trust the more ingenious part of his orthodox brethren, will not so insist upon our receiving their explanation of the atonement, as to require is to own, that our Saviour needed equality with the Father to give infinite worth to the sufferings, in which his human nature only was concerned. Such good men as the Divine we have just quoted, we cannot doubt, will in time succeed in persuading them, that they do not know how the death of Christ operates to the remission of sin ; if it be only by convincing them of the confusion, which has thus far attended their speculations on the subject.
The foregoing reflections, were particularly suggested to our minds by a discourse of the Rev. Lyman Beecher, which we remember to have seen about a year ago, and have recently run over again with some little attention. It was preached in Park Street, Boston, at the ordination of Mr. Dwight; and, as we do not recollect to have seen any notice of it in the Christian Disciple, or any similar work, we feel the more freedom in adverting to it, notwithstanding the period of its publication. Mr. Beecher is an orthodox divine of considerable eminence. He informs us, that “ direct irresistible impulse moving the mind to action would not be moral government.” He means, *e conceive, direct irresistible impulse, without the intervention of motives. “Moral government is persuasion,” he adds, “ and the result of it, is voluntary action in the view of motives." “ Free agency,” he remarks, cannot be conceived to exist in any other manner, thap by the exhibition of motives to voluntary agents, the result of which shall be choice and action.” Truly happy we are, that so just a representation of the es- sential nature of moral government and free agency, should proceed from the pen of an orthodox divine. We hope that ihe next edition of Griffin's Lectures may be corrected by Mr. Beecher. Dr. Griffin affirms, that “the heart is new, before the motives to boliness enter, and that motives must find the disposition already prepared to favour them, before they can act upon the mind; and again, that the heart must be forced by an act of divine power, as a king forcibly reduces his rebellious subjects, before it is prepared for motives.” But, says Mr. Beecher, moral government is government by motives, without direct irresistible impulse ; and free agency cannot be conceived to exist in any other manner, than by the exhibition of motives to voluntary agents. Consequently, unless he essentially dissent from his orthodox brother on the subject of regeneration, he must acknowledge that men are not treated as Tree agents, nor as under moral government, in the renewing of their affections; this being produced forcibly, says the reverend lecturer, before motives have entered the mind or can operate upon it. But if moral government be suspended, and free agency cease, with regard to the great end of moral go. vernment and the only blessing of free agency, the attainment of that holiness of heart which alone has the promise of everlasting life, why do Calvinistic divines make such vehement protestations of their holding to such government and agency? New Series--vol. I.
“ Without the aid of reason," says Mr. B. “the bible could not be known to be the will of God; and reason," he adds, "is the judge of its meaning, according to the common rules of esposition.” We surely could not wish for a more explicit disavowal of the sentiment, which is embraced by too many of his brethren, that the bible is not to be read like other books. He, at least, it may be presumed, will insist on their rendering some better reason of the hope tbat is in them, tban is contained in the reply we are accustomed to hear from them; that 6
reason cannot discover the doctrines of grace, by perusing the scriptures, as ordinary writings are perused; and that so far as these doctrines are concerned, no upholy man can ever rise from the study of the sacred page, even speculatively the wiser.”
“ The appropriate meaning of the word reasonable,” says Mr. B. “in its application to the laws of God, is the accordance of bis laws and administration with what it is proper for God to do, in order to display his glory to created minds, and secure from everlasting to everlasting the greatest amount of created good. But who is competent,” he asks, “ with finite mind and depraved heart to test the revealed laws and administration of Jehovah by this rule ? Reason must ascend the throne of God, and from that high eminence dart its vision through eternity, and pervade with stedfast view immensity, to decide whether the precepts and doctrines contained in the bible come in their proper place, and are wise and good in their connexion with the
Would that such sentiments were more attended to by those, who building their system of theology upon their own view of what the illustration of divine glory requires, affirm, that sin and misery were designed to afford opportunity for the display of God's vindictive justice ; and that, consistently with his glory and the best good of the universe, God could not, without becoming incarnate, and offering an infinite alonement for sin in the person of his Son, have granted pardon to penitent man; in a word, who soar so boldy into the regions of metaphysical divinity, as not only to mount above Ibat knowledge of the Deity, which is commonly apprehended by reason, and which is every where disclosed to ordinary eyes, but too often to lose sight of it. We would even recommend to Mr. Beecher himself, to give additional force to the sentiments he has expressed upon this subject, by revising those parts of his sermon, in which he labours to shew, by reasons somewhat too subtle for our apprehension, that the doctrines and precepts of the bible “ do come in their proper place, and are wise and good in their connexions." To evince the necessity of scriptural doctrines, as he understands them, to the moral influence of
divine legislation, is the leading design of his discourse. "The above truths,” he observes, referring to the doctrine of eternal punishment and some others, " are essential to the moral influence of legislation generally.” He finds in the nature of the human mind a rational test, by which, a priori, to determine what the doctrines of the scripture must be to render them promotive of evangelical affections. “To secure evangelical affections,” he remarks, “the following truths are as essential, according to the nature of the human mind, as fire is essential to heat, or any natural cause to its appropriate effect: to wit, the doctrines of the Trinity, the atonement, total depravity, &c. The entire un holiness of the human heart is necessary," he says, “ to beget just conceptions of guilt and danger; the doctrine of the Trinity, as disclosing a Saviour able to save," &c. Some may be ready to question the consistency of our reverend author in professing to have discovered from the nature of the human mind, that the doctrines of the bible, as he apprehends them, are essential to the moral influence of legislation in the production of evangelical affections, when a few pages back he has declared, that “reason must ascend the throne of God to decide, whether the precepts and doctrines contained in the bible come in their proper place and are wise and good in their connexion with the whole,” He himself, it appears, has ascertained from the nature of the human mind, that the doctrines attributed to the word of God by Calvinists and Tri. nitarians do come in their proper place, and are wise and good in their connexion with this part of the universe; are essential to the production of evangelical affections and to the moral influence of legislation generally. If, after bis strong and unqualified declaration of the impossibility of ascertaining, whether the precepts and doctrines of the bible are fully worthy of God, he perceives: no impropriety in arguing thus from the nature of the human mind, it may be hoped, he will in future be willing to indulge a similar privilege to others. If he should, we trust that many, even of his own party, would say, that, judging by their reason merely according to the nature of the human mind, it would appear necessary to the moral influence of divine legislation, that men should be dealt with in a moral way; should be drawn by molives ; and not be left dead and insensible by nature to the inAuence of motives, till by an act of Almighty power, with which a few only are favoured, they are made capable of feeling them. If we might settle our creeds by his rule, that "Those doctrines are fundamental, without which the evangelical affections can have no" rational “ being ;" we should hesitate, whether the doctrine of man's being consigned to everlasting misery for a native inborn depravity, curable only by ad act of Almighty power, never exerted in his favour, should be admitted, for its fitness to inspire an ingenuous and supreme respect and affection for the equity and goodness of God. Neither should we be clear, that this doctrine ought to be inserted, for its tendency to produce self-condemnation in the sinner's breast. That many, who are self-condemned for their sins, are thorough believers in total depravity, we do not doubt; but that their remorse proceeds from a sense of natural impotency to think a good thought or exercise a good disposition, and not from that voice of conscience upbraiding them for their actual transgressions, which regards no creeds of man's invention, is not so certain to our minds. On the whole, we must thank Mr. Beecher for furnishing us a test of fundamental doc. trines, so favourable to rational Christianity, as that of their adaptation, according to the nature of the buman mind, to promote good feelings and the moral influence of divine legislation.
But we are more than suspicious that a test of this description was far from being proposed by him, with a view to exhibit the sentiments of his opponents in their most favourable light; on the other hand, it is painful to discover how much bis discourse is adapted throughout to strengthen the prejudices, which many entertain against the Christians, who are not of his way of thinking. It is manifestly aimed, not at distant, solitary, or insignificant heretics, but at the great body of Unitarians and Anti-Calvinists, the usual objects of orthodox attack; with whose sentiments too many of his readers and hearers would not have wanted prejudice, we fear, to identify the wildest errors and absurdities, though he had been less distinct in indicating them to be the persons for whom his animadversions were intended. We are grieved, therefore, to see he has employed so large a portion of his performance in combating opinions, ihau which none could be more unlike those of bis opponents in general. “It is often alleged,” says Mr. B.," that there are so many opinions concerning the doctrine of the bible, that no man can know his own belief to be the true belief; and on the ground of this supposed inevitable uncertainty, is grounded the plea of universal charity and liberality. But who is this,” he demands, " that libels his Maker, as the author of an obscure and useless system of legislation, which no subject can understand ; so obscure, that they, who discard it, are little incomoded by the loss ?" True, we would ask, who are they, who plead for charity on the ground he nientions? lle intimates, they are a numerous class. But assuredly they are not the great body of those in this country, who are opposed to himself in sentiment. How can he believe, that their argument for charity is