Page images
PDF
EPUB

made a creature capable of continuing in existence, even if He himself should cease to be. And to suppose that any created being or thing can move without the agency of the Creator, implies, either that it is self-moved --which involves the absurdity of its having one motion before the first-or moved by some cause independent of God which involves the Manichean absurdity of two self-existept Beings.

The universal Providence and agency of God, may be argued from his divine perfections. He is Omniscient, and foreknew all things from eternity; which implies that they were certainly future: but what was there to make them so, besides his own purpose and agency? God is All wise: before he began the work of creation, therefore, he must have formed a plan, comprehending all creatures, things and events. He is unchangeable; and, therefore, must have foreseen and foredetermined whatsoever comes to pass. God is a being of perfecí goodness; and must, therefore, have determined to produce whatever is best on the whole, and to prevent whatever is not for the greatest good.

These conclusions of reason, are confirmed by a multitude of plain and express passages of sacred scripture; a few only of which, will now be quoted. It is written in Psalm, XXXIII. 11. “ The counsel of the Lord standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations." In Prov. xvi. we read, “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof, is of the Lord.—A man's heart deviseth his way; but the Lord directeth his steps.” The prophet Amos interrogates, “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?The Apostle writes, Rom. ix. 34; and Eph. 1. 11; “Of him, and through him, and to him are all things, who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”

That all moraj good, or holiness in men, is produced by dirine agency, is believed to be the doctrine taught by the apostle, when he says to the Philippians, “ It is God who worketh in you both to will and to do, of his own good pleasure." As expressly, and more frequently is it asserted in scripture, that divine agency is concerned in the production of moral evil, or sin. It is repeatedly said, that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. We read, that God turned the heart of the Canaanites to hate his people-hardened the spirit of Sihon, and made his heart obstinate moved David to number Israel-and that he fashioneth the heart of every one of the children of men. We are told, that the crucifiers of Christ did what God's hand and counsel had determined-and that he hardeneth whom he will.

The passages to which I have alluded, correspond with the general tenor of sacred scripture, and corroborate the doctrine so plainly and positively asserted in our text, that the one God is the first and efficient cause of all things, whether natural or moral, good or eril.

[To be concluded.]

REGENERATION. The following Editorial Remarks should have been appended to the Essay of Philalethes, in our last Number; (See page 61,) but were mislaid. We still insert them, as expressive of some of our views of the subject.

The doctrine of regeneration is one of vital importance in the Christian system. It stands inseparably connected with all the doctrines of grace. Every one's creed, in all its most material points, will be shaped according to his views of the necessity, nature, and efficient cause of regeneration. Errors on this subject, if any can be, are fundamental. Most of the Antinomiau and Arminian leaven which is diffusing itself through the mass of the prevalent Orthodoxy of the day, proceeds from a misunderstanding or perversion of this scriptural doctrine. Those, who suppose the heart to be a dormant principle, which is the source of voluntary exercises, infer that regeneration is a physical change, in which the subject is passive, and consequently, that sinners are destitute of natural ability to make themselves a new heart, and have nothing to do but to use means, seek and strive, with such hearts as they have, and wait God's time to produce in them a new beart by the supernatural or miraculous operations of bis spirit. This is the Antinomian leaven, which neutralizes the demands of the divine law, and turns religious experience to selfish affection.

On the other hand, those who, supposing the heart to consist of voluntary exercises, imagine that it cannot be subject to any influence, except that of motives and moral suasion, without destroying moral agency, infer that men may and do make such a use of the means of regeneration, in the exercise of a self determining power, as is infallibly followed by a saving change of heart. This is Arminian leaven, more widely spread by men of greater note, than the other; but which excludes the idea of special grace from the regeneration of sinners, and inflates religious experience with spiritual pride and self-sufficiency.

From both these erroneous representations of the doctrine of regeneration, we are bappy to perceive that Philalethes, in his communications, is equally free. We are glad that one, whose ideas are so correct and clear, and who is capable of expressing them with such perspicuity, bas taken up his pen; and we hope he will not lay it down, till he has pursued the subject iato all its ramifications.

We do not think that our good Brother of the Mirror, needs anprehend that very “beneficial results" will not follow from the disquisitions of his Correspondent, although their character may be somewhat “metaphysical.” Metaphysical they must necessarily be, on a subject which so deeply involves“ the consideration of the intellectual and moral powers of man.” The science of mind (which is hut another name for the Metaphysical or Intellectual philosophy) has much to do with every "religious topic" relating at all to the capacities, characters and actions of moral agents. And

hence the great importance of studying this science, correcting its · nomenclature, and elucidating its principles. To the neglect, and not to the cultivation of this science, must we attribute much of that "apparent diversity of opinion, where there is in reality very little if any,” as well as that apparent unity of opinion, where there is, in reality, great and essential diversity.

Believing it to be the fact, that 'man has no heart separate from exercises,' which we are pleased to find the candid Editor of the Mirror does not deny; we still see no need of dispensing with the - use of the word heart, in describing moral character or religious esperience.' Supposing the word heart to mean the moral affections of the man, whether holy or sinful, collectively considered; we feel no need either of a “new Bible,” or “a new rendering of the Bible," or of ever giving the term heart, on moral subjects, more than one "meaning."

The language of sacred scripture, to which no one can feel too great an"attachment,” though not designed to teach a system of metaphysics, yet we believe is always in accordance with the true principles of Intellectual philosophy, and particularly in that passage (Mark, VII. 21, 22.) in which our Lord mentions what things proceed out of the heart of man, we do not perceive that the mode of expression is at all inconsistent with the supposition that by the heart is mean: the immanent, voluntary affections, and by evil thoughts, as well as murders, thefts, &c. are meant the emanent exercises of the will, commonly called volitions.

We do not expect that the mass of mankind” will be brought to entertain correct views of the faculties, powers, and operations of their own minds, in all respects, before the Millenium, if then;but we do hope that much may be done, by such writers as Philalethes, to render both the sentiments and language of Christians conformable to sound philosophy and sacred scripture.

For the Hopkinsian Magazine, ANSWER TO AN INTERESTING QUESTION. Question-If the Jews, who crucified Christ, had known that his death by their hands was necessary for the greatest good of the universe, might they have been innocent in pulling him to death?

This question assumes, that it was necessary to the greatest good of the universe, that Christ should be slain, in the manner he was, by the hands of the Jews. That it was so, seems to me capable of demonstration. If it were admitted, as certain theologians have of Jate boldly asserted, that God could not restrain the Jews from the murderous act of crucifying the Redeemer, without depriving them of their moral agency; then we should be obliged to conclude, that God considered it better on the whole, or for the greater good of the univorse, to suffer them to imbrue their hands in Christ's blood, than

to deprive them of their moral agency. But if it be admitted, agreeably to the dictates of reason and the declarations of scipture, that God has the hearts of men in his hand, and turns them as he does the rivers of water, and that with infinite ease, he could have restrained the Jewish rulers from their deed of death, in perfect consistency with their moral freedom; then the conclusion must be, that he did not restrain them, because he deemed it best not to restrain them, or, in other words, saw it to be necessary for the greatest good, that they should do as they did. We are led to the same conclusion, by considering the good which has resulted and is to resalt from the death of Christ, and which, without that sacrifice, could not have been obtained. All the good comprised in the salvation of myriads of lost men, and the clear and full display of the Divine

perfections in the work of redemption, follows as a consequence of · the death of Christ, which alone could make atonement for sin, and

open the way for the exercise of pardoning mercy. Besides, if the death of Christ had not been indispensably necessary to the greatest good of the universe, can we believe that he would have yielded to the violence of his murderers, when he had power to deliver himself out of their hands?-or that the Father of mercies would have subjected his beloved Son to such a painful and ignominious death? But the matter is put beyond all question by the words of Christ to his disciples, “ Truly the Son of man goeth as it was determined;" and by the declaration of Peter to his crucifiers, “ Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked bands have crucified and slain.” Here we are plainly taught, that the murder of the Prince of Life was not a deed, which God desired to prevent, but could not; or which he barely permitted, when he might have hindered it; but a deed which he purposed and determined in his eternal counsel. It is as certain, therefore, that the murder of Christ was necessary to the greatest good of the universe, as it is that God is a benevolent and good being. This, however, the Jews did not know; for, as the apostle says, “ had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” They thought him an impostor and blasphemer, whom they ought to punish with death. But God was certainly able to convince the Jews, blind as they were, that Jesus was the Christthat he came into the world to die for sinners and that his death was indispensably necessary to the greatest good of the universe. And supposing he had produced this conviction in their minds; the question is not, whether they might have been guilly, in putting bim to death-but whether they could have been innocent? To this question, the theologians above mentioned, with Dr. Taylor of New Haven at their head, would give an affirmatire answer." This may be fairly inferred from the Doctor's copious Nole to his Sermon from Eph. ii. 3, in which he uses these expressions, p. 31. “Had the subject, however, been fully apprised of the utility of the deed, and the real preference of God, his own interest and his duty would have been coincident; and how does it appear that in this case be had not performed the act from a benevolent intention?--The law of God,

according to the assumption, is no proof that transgression is not on the whole for the best; indeed the subject knows that all sin will prove to be the necessary means of the greatest good; how then does it appear that with this knowledge he was not truly benevolent in performing the deed?”

But an affirmative answer to such a question as that stated above, appears to me nearly to resemble the absurd inference drawn by the apostle Paul's hearers from his doctrine, “Let us do evil that good may come;" and I will now proceed to give my reasons for answering the proposed question in the negative.

The Jews could not have been innocent in taking the life of the Son of God, unless the act was right in itself, or was dirinely commanded, or might have been done with truly benevolent motives. If the act was wrong in itself; if instead of being commanded, it was forbidden; and if it could not have been performed with good motives or intentions, then unquestionably it must have been criminal, although it was designed by God, and known to the Jews, as the necessary means of effecting the greatest good of the universe.

1. Then, was the act of the Jews in crucifying Christ, right in ilself? The accusations brought against him were false. He was “ holy, harmless," and perfectly innocent. To put him to death, therefore, was in the highest degree unjust and cruel. It was murder of the most atrocious kind, which every enlightened conscience condemns, as one of the foulest of crimes. A knowledge that the general good required the death of Christ, could not change the nature of the crime of murder, or give the Jews the least right to crucify him. Even bis own consent to the deed, which as a man he had no right to give, would not have diminished the guilt of his murderers. No being, but the Sovereign Owner of the universe, had a right to take the life of the holy Jesus, to promote the general good.

The question then arises,

2. Had the Jews a command from God to put Christ to death? This, it is presumed, no one will assert. So far from commanding, or even permitting them to take the life of his well beloved Son, God expressly forbade their doing it. This he did in his law, which stood in full force against every art of the kind, “Thou shalt not kill.” This prohibition is clothed with all the authority of the Supreme Legislator, and was binding on the Jews, under all circumstances, as it ever is upon all mankind. Their knowledge of what was most for the good of the universe, had they possessed it, would not have released them from their obligation to submit to the divine authority. Nothing short of an express dispensation from the Lawgiver, can erer release men from their obligation to obey the divine law.

But still it may be asked,

3. If the Jews had known that the death of Christ was necessary to the greatest good of the universe, might they not have crucified him with benevolent and good intentions ?-might they not bare done the deed with a sincere desire and design to promote the greatest good of the universe? I answer, that the supposition is absurd. Those whose intentions or motives are benevolent and good, have a

« PreviousContinue »