תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity.” Unless they had been destitute of these virtues, they would not have been urged to their acquisition.” p. 18.

Here, those who had been previously spoken of as “believing the Christian truths, possessing the Christian spirit, and practising the Christian virtues," and as having “experienced a very sensible change, from ignorance to knowledge, and from sin to holiness," are represented not only as chargeable with intoxication at the Lord's table, but as living in “bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, and malice," and as being destituteof virtue, and knowledge, and temperance, and patience, and godliness, and brotherly kindness, and charity”! A most pitiable account, truly, of the fruits of Paul's labors! If such were the primitive Christians, after their conversion, we beg to know what they were before. Mr. W. must doubtless believe, that the doctrine of total depravity was true in that age, if it is not now.

In the account given us of the state of Adam at his creation, we have a fine specimen of Mr. Whitman's power of putting together incoherent ideas, and passing them off with an appearance of consistency. “ Adam,” he says, “ was created in the full erercise of his bodily functions and mental powers. Yet he must have been destitute of both knowledge and holiness. For knowledge implies the possession of ideas; and these he could not have possessed at his creation.” He proceeds to inform us that Adam was destitute, not only of holy affections, but of sinful ones. “His soul could not have been polluted with sinful thoughts, desires, or habits.” p. 20. Adam, then, at his creation, had no thoughts, no ideas, no knowledge, and no moral affections, either holy or sinful. And yet he was “ in the full exercise of his mental powers”! About what, in the name of reason, did he exercise them? And what shall his intellectual and moral exercises be called, at the time when he had no thoughts, no ideas, and no moral affections?

But farther, says Mr. W., Adam at this time was “a free agent," who had “ power over his own thoughts, volitions, and actions." p. 20. But how could he have “ power over his own thoughts, volitions, and actions," when as yet he had no thoughts, volitions, or actions!

Our author still farther informs us, that Adam, at his creation, was "pure and innocent; pure, for he was just as he came from the hands of his holy Creator; and innocent, for he had transgressed no law.” And yet, strange to tell, he is represented, at this very time, as “having a law in his members, warring against the law of his mind”!! Will the reader pause for a single moment, and contemplate the situation of our first father, as it is here represented ? " In the full exercise of his” understanding, and yet without thoughts, ideas, or knowledge! “ In the full exercise of his” moral powers, and yet without moral affections, either holy or sinful! With “power over his thoughts, volitions, and actions," when he has no thoughts, volitions, or actions! And to crown all, while yet he is perfectly "pure and innocent,” without thoughts, ideas, knowledge, or moral exercise, he is obliged to struggle against a “ law in his members,” which is “warring against the law of his mind” !!

We have shown already, in giving the plan of Mr. Whitman's Discourse, that he denies the existence of any natural prevailing bias in man towards evil, and attributes all the “ sin which ever has been, now is, or ever will be, on the earth," to the operation of three causes : "the imperfection of our nature, the imperfection of our education, and our invincible desire for happiness.” He explains the imperfection of our nature to mean nothing more than a liability to do wrong. It attached to Adam before he fell, as much as afterwards; and attaches to holy angels as really as to us. It is the necessary imperfection of creatures, from which no being but the Creator is exempt. This imperfection Mr. W. regards as one cause of sin, and as one ground of the necessity of regeneration. p. 19. But so far as an imperfection of this sort creates a necessity of regeneration, Adam needed regeneration before his fall, as much as afterwards; and holy angels need regeneration as really as men!

There is no propriety, however, in regarding an imperfection of this sort as a cause of sin. It obviously is not a cause; but a mere liability or possibility, growing out of the fact that we are dependent creatures, and not the independent Creator, that we should sin. It is possible for the most upright man in the world to steal; but this does not cause him to steal. Nor was the liability of our first parents to sin, in any sense, a cause of their sinning.

The second, and, as Mr. W. supposes, the principal cause of sin, is wrong education; taking the word education in its widest sense. But the difficulty in regard to this alleged cause of the existence of sin, is, that before it can operate, sin must already be in existence, and must have made fearful progress. Before the father can set a bad example before his child, and train him up wickedly, he must himself be a wicked man. How, then, did this wicked father become wicked? Was it owing to a bad education? Then his father was a bad man; and how did he become bad? Did he learn to sin from a sinful father? But how came this more remote ancestor to be a sinner? Following back the subject in this way, we see at once that we want some other cause of the existence and prevalence of sin, besides a wrong education. The first cause alleged by Mr. W. is no cause at all, and the second will not account for it.

Let us look then at the third, which he describes as our “innate and innocent,” though “invincible desire for happiness.” This leads us into sin, by leading us to mistake the true object of happiness. We “ are not really convinced that a truly Christian course is the happiest course both for the present and the future.” Consequently we “give ourselves up to hurtful and momentary gratifications.” pp. 25, 26. Now we ask, Is this mistake in regard to the object of happiness, voluntary or involuntary? If involuntary, there is no sin in it, and we never can feel ourselves culpable for making it. It may be a very unhappy mistake for us; but if wholly involuntary, it involves no sin, or blame, or guilt. But if the mistake is voluntary, if it is wilful; then the difficulty is to see how a perfectly “ innocent desire” for happiness can lead a person to fall into it; since a desire after what is known to be a forbidden object of gratification, cannot be innocent. And such a desire cannot be the first cause of sin, for it is itself sinsul.

Mr. W. deals out the usual misrepresentations of his party on the subjects of depravity, and of original sin. Regarding us as believing in physical depravity, and as holding all men to be guilty of Adam's sin, he says,

“You may as well attempt to repent, because a tree in your garden grows crooked, as to think of exercising repentance, on account of Adam's transgression. And if you accuse your nature of being totally depraved, and make an original sinfulness the cause of your open wickedness, you slander the nature which God has given you, and pronounced very good, and you make him the author of your iniquities.” p. 28.

Now we no more believe than Mr. W. himself, that our physical nature or constitution is depraved. Nor do we believe any more than he, that mankind are guilty of Adam's sin. But we do believe that, for some reason or other, and as a consequence of Adam's transgression, mankind are naturally and fearfully in love with sin. It is as natural to them to be selfish, and proud, and thoughtless, and lovers of the world, and lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, as it is to breathe. For some reason or other, we choose the wrong road in preference to the right; we begin of our own accord to walk in it, as soon as we can walk at all; and we persist in it freely and constantly till we die, unless arrested and delivered by the special interposition of the Holy Spirit. We believe these humbling truths, because we find them in the Bible. And we could not but believe them, if we had no Bible. For they lie most prominently on the whole surface of human affairs. Whether we look around us, or within us, they are the first to meet us and stare us in the face.

Speaking of infants, Mr. W. says, “they are already in the kingdom of God,” and “need not to be born again.” “ And this conclusion includes the infants of all parents, godly and ungodly, Christian and heathen." p. 31. We shall not attempt to follow him in all his speculations respecting the character and state of

[ocr errors]

infants; but would merely inquire, how the above sentences, comprising the result of his investigations, can be true. For if the kingdom of God means the kingdom of glory, surely infants, while living here in the body, are not there. Or if the kingdom of God means the Christian church, the Christian community, and if (as is the opinion of many) the children of Christian parents are in some sense connected with this community ; still, in what sense are the children of ungodly parents, and of heathens, connected with it? In what sense are they in the kingdom of God?

According to the definition of Mr. W., at the commencement of the Discourse, to be in the kingdom of God' is the same as to be a real Christian. But he says, “the infants of all parents, godly and ungodly, Christian and heathen,” “are already in the kingdom of God.” Consequently “the infants of all parents,” without excepting even the heathen, are real Christians !! He cannot possibly escape this inference, with all the absurdities growing out of it, but by substituting some other and broader definition of the kingdom of God.

In speaking of his second class “ of those born and educated in Christian lands," " who have been practical Christians from their earliest years,” Mr. W. gives us some precious specimens of his talents as a commentator. The carnal mind is enmity against Gud.' The carnal mind, says he, is “a mind given to adultery, fornication, uncleanness, wrath, strise, envyings, murders, drunkenness, and such like.” p. 34. A most wonderful disclosure, truly, that a mind such as this is ermity against God, and not subject to his holy law! We are to conclude, of course, that all, whose minds are not given to such odious vices, are in possession of that spiritual mind, which the apostle contrasts with the carnal mind, and which he assures us 'is life and peace!

The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.' “ The natural man,” says Mr. W., " is one who takes the works of nature for his guide, and rejects revelation.” p. 35. Every natural man then is a deist, or an atheist; and every believer in Divine revelation, whatever his moral character may be, is a spiritual man !* Doubtless, the apostle regarded those Jewish believers in Divine revelation, by whom he was so cruelly persecuted, as spiritual men !

We all ......were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.' This assertion of the apostle, Mr. W., if we understand him, directly contradicts. In his estimation, none are the children of wrath, by nature. “None, but the disobedient, are ever the children of wrath.” “Infants and youth cannot sink into such sinful

* The natural and spiritual man are contrasted by the apostle in this passage, as the carnal and spiritual mind were, in the former. See I Cor. ii. 14. Rom. viii. 7.

degradation ; and, of course, cannot be children of wrath until they become dead in trespasses and sins.” p. 36.

Nor is this the only instance, in which Mr. W. contradicts directly the testimony of the inspired writers. We can point bim to more than a hundred passages of Scripture, in which anger or wrath is ascribed to the Supreme Being. But he takes it upon him to say, in so many words, God can never feel anger or wrath in his bosom! No; God “ CAN NEVER FEEL ANGER OR WRATH IN HIS BOSOM”!! p. 36. Mr. W. and his Bible are here fairly at points. Which shall be believed ?

In the declaration last quoted, Mr. W. discloses a sentiment, which is discoverable in other parts of the Discourse, but which he seems willing to conceal: we mean the doctrine of universal salvation. In relation to this subject, we find expressions such as these: “We were made for ever-increasing and never-ending felicity.God “ made us for goodness," and " he has so constituted us that our goodness will produce temporal and eternal happiness; and is it not reasonable to suppose he assists us in the acquisition of that holiness for which we were created ?-in obtaining that moral conformity to his image” which is “the very object and end of our creation ?” God “is infinite love, and perfectly unchangeable in his nature, and can never feel anger or wrath in his bosom; but will forever love all the works of his hands, even the vilest sinners, whom he is continually striving to reclaim from their self-inflicted miscry.pp. 25, 36, 40. Mr. W. may not be willing to call himself a Universalist, or that others should call him so. But certainly, none who read the sentences here given, can mistake his meaning. He has declared his belief in universal salvation, with an explicitness which need not and cannot be misunderstood.'

Mr. Whitman's third class “ of those born and educated in Christian lands” “ includes all who are not real Christians.” There is then a class, under the Gospel, who are not real Christians; and consequently there must be a distinction between those who are real Christians, and those who are not. We should like to know definitely, on the principles of our author, what this distinction is. He does not consider real Christians as advanced to a state of sinless perfection, but very far from it; for he describes “ some of the first Christian converts," members of the apostolical churches, as living in “bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and malice,” and as being destituteof virtue, and knowledge, and temperance, and patience, and godliness, and brotherly kindness, and charity! p. 18. But if such, in the judgment of Mr. W., may be the character of “converts,” of real Christians; what is tlie character of those who are not real Christians ? Why, “ some of these,” he says, “have very correct notions of thic instructions of the Gospel;" while “ the outward

« הקודםהמשך »