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these Christian graces actually exists first in the soul? the answer must be, That on which the mind's eye is fixed, when the sacred principle of holy love commences its operation in the soul, and which, of course, will correspond in some degree with the kind of instruction which is given, and the particular points of the divine character and government, which have engaged the attention, and interested the feelings. If a man born blind, should be suddenly restored to sight, what external object would he see first? Undoubtedly, that which happened to be in the line of vision, when his eyes were first opened. In the same manner, when the eye of the understanding is first opened, that specific affection awakes first, which is first called for, by that divine object which is first presented to the mind. It may be repentance, or submission, or faith, or love to enemies, or brotherly love, or a spirit of prayer, as the object in the mind's eye shall call forth specific holy affection.
This account corresponds with the phenomena of conversion. Scarcely any two persons commence a spiritual existence with precisely the same views and affections. Nor is there anything more hopeless, than the attempt to reduce to method or order, the first movements of divine life in the soul; nor any fear of young Christians more unfounded, or more common, than that their experience may be deceptive, because, in the first religious exercises of other persons, they do not find the exact image and superscription of their own. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth : so is every one that is born of the Spirit. There is, amidst indefinite circumstantial variety, a universal, general likeness: as the constituent parts of the human countenance are the same, though combined with all that difference of color and proportions, which constitutes the evidence of individuality.
9. The existence of religion does not imply the perceived existence at once, of all the Christian graces. The nature of the mind does not admit of it. The affections can exist only in the view of the proper objects of affection, presented to the heart, through the medium of the understanding. But the understanding can no more simultaneously, look at as many objects, as there are Christian graces, with such distinct contemplation as is indispensable to emotion, than the eye can pour its concentrated inspection many objects at the same time. The Christian graces must, therefore, be successive in their order, as the mind can only present and inspect in succession, their several objects. Besides, the coexistence of some religious affections, is, in their nature, incompatible. How can mourning for sin, and deep prostration of spirit, consist with the elevation and vivacity of joy, and gratitude, and praise. Some of the Christian graces, such as unconditional submission, and repentance for sin, may exist without any appre
hension of pardon and personal safety; while to gratitude and praise for pardon and sanctification, hope is indispensable. And yet it is no uncommon thing for the young Christian to sit down, and search his heart, as with a candle, to see if he can find in it at once, every one of the Christian graces; and, in default of such a discovery, to feel alarmed and disquieted, lest his hope should be vain.
10. Nor does the existence of religion enable the Christian to call up at bidding, for his inspection, any particular Christian grace. For the affections do not move at the word of command. They can be produced only by mental attention, bestowed upon the objects of the affections. It is while we muse, that the fire burns. Nothing is more sure to extinguish religious affection, than to make upon the heart a direct demand for it. The heart cannot feel, but as the objects of affection are presented. But, while the understanding is employed in categorical demands of love, repentance, and faith, and in watching and waiting to see if the heart obeys; it is turned off from the glorious objects which can alone inspire affection, and the poor heart becomes motionless and dead, during the cold chills and darkness of the disastrous eclipse. To demand of the heart feeling, that we may inspect and analyze it at pleasure, is, therefore, the most preposterous demand that could be made; and of course, it is always, and justly resused. And yet, there are multitudes, who thus torture their hearts, with the demand for religious affections, while the only possible means by which the heart can act, are withheld. For the eye may as well be expected to see, in the absence of all objects of vision, as the heart to feel, in the absence of all the proper objects of religious affection.
The proper way to examine the heart, is, to watch its movements while in action, and almost unsuspicious of the inspection. And the way to call forth the affections, is to turn the mental eye upon God, his works and word; upon Jesus Christ, bis glorious character, his love, his compassion, his sufficiency and willingness to save.—And another way to make a holy heart beat perceptibly, is, BY VIGOROUS ACTION FOR God. Many Christians, who doubt and fear concerning the existence of spiritual life in their souls, sit down with heavy heart and downcast eye, to feel their own feeble pulse; and while they sit inactive, and almost breathless, to catch the slow and feeble stroke, it always will be feeble; for vigorous action is as indispensable to a vigorous spiritual life, as it is in the animal system, to a vigorous tone. If a man were doubtful whether his vital organs were sound, how would he ascertain the fact? Let him not sit down, to watch, with hesitation and fear, the throbbings of the vital organ; but rather do with his might what his hand findeth to do, and action itself will bring its own evidence. The powerful throbbing of the great organ of life will soon convince him that the central energies are in order, by the blush of health, and muscular tone which their powerful action will send through the system. In like manner, let feeble, downcast, doubting Christians shake off their sloth, and rouse up to action. Let them read, and pray, and act for God with all their might, and the spiritual pulsation will rise, and a spiritual vigor will diffuse itself through the soul.-If Christians would act for God with more decision, they would not need a microscope to make their graces visible.
11. It is not to be anticipated, as the result of a saving conversion, that one unvarying state of enjoyment shall mark the Christian course.
This, however, until experience has corrected the mistake, is almost ever the expectation. But, commonly, the first manifestalions of divine things, and the first exercises of pure joy are followed by darkness. The morning without clouds, which the happy soul thought would surely shine more and more unto the perfect day, is suddenly overcast, and all his new born hopes blasted. The Christian life is, however, only the alternation of conflict and victory, of hope and fear, of light and darkness. The great principle of holiness gains strength, on the whole, through every vicissitude; but nothing is more changeable than a Christian's frame. From the state of his health, of the atmosphere, of worldly cares, as well as from bodily fatigue, his affections are liable to frequent variations; as they are, also, from the relative degrees of his fidelity in keeping his heart: to which must be added, the unavoidable limitation of high emotion to short seasons, from the utter incapacity of the nervous system to endure protracted excitement, without intervals of exhausted sensibility. And yet, many Christians keep themselves, through fear of death, all their lifetime subject to bondage, because they cannot always be on the mount. “Oh, could we but feel constantly, as we feel at times, we could not doubt. But, alas! how transient are these delightsul frames; and by what seasons of darkness and stupidity are they followed.” Yes, and until we are blessed with spiritual bodies, high pleasurable emotion cannot but exhaust feeling, and induce insensibility—misnamed stupidity. Let young Christians remember, then, that changing frames are the condition of our terrestrial existence, of our alliance with bodies; and while they dread that stupidity which is the result of inattention, forbear to tax themselves with an amount, and constancy of feeling, which the very laws of our being forbid: and as they do not tremble every time the sun hides his face behind a cloud, let them not be filled with amazement and fear at every variation of spiritual light, and every fluctuation of religious affection. Let them remember, that justification is by faith, and not by works; and that salvation is of grace, through the merit of Christ, and not through the merit of comfortable frames; and that our strength and safety are in the unmutability of Christ, and not in our own ever varying feelings.
To the Editor of the Christian Examiner.
This second letter I write, to apprize you and the reviewer of what you ought to have known long since, viz. that the doctrine, that infants are damned, has never been the received doctrine of the churches denominated Calvinistic.
I might content myself, simply, with an analysis of the quotationswhich the reviewer has produced in evidence against us; for, however ignorant of Calvinism, and negligent of inquiry, I may be, HE, doubtless, has “ ransacked public libraries, importuned his friends, and taken whatever means," to obtain from Calvinistic authors, evidence of the doctrine of infant damnation. He has, also, from his most ample materials, made his own selections, and given from Calvin, he thinks, the “strongest quotations.” It might suffice, therefore, in order to repel the charge, to show that his proofs are nugatory. But, as Calvinism has so long been misrepresented on this point, and the memory of the illustrious dead blackened with calumny, I choose to take a wider range, and show, that in every age, the most authentic documents stamp falsehood upon the charge so long repeated, that Calvinists believe and teach the damnation of infants ;—that it is made and propagated, not only without evidence, but against evidence; and is, probably, an instance unparalleled, of a slander so long sustained in the face of indubitable evidence to the contrary.
I have another motive for this course. As evangelical light returns to the nations, and the malignity of papal and heretical opposition subsides, the Reformers, those suns of other days, to whom the world owes its emancipation from civil and religious despotism, are destined, I doubt not, to rise again, and to receive from grateful millions, that undivided homage which their intellectual greatness, their illustrious piety, and sublime moral daring in the cause of God and man, so eminently deserve. The Sun of righteousness, ás he rises, will dry up the marshes and miry places, and drive away the dark vapors, and put to silence the croaking which for ages had been without intermission.
The proper evidence of the sentiments of a denomination of Christians is to be sought in their public formularies of doctrine, and in their most approved writers; and if, in neither the one nor the other, an odious sentiment ascribed to them can be found, the allegation, of course, is false.
That the Calvinistic creeds from the Reformation to this day teach no such doctrine as that infants are damned, is a matter of perfect notoriety. I do not believe the reviewer can find a Calvinistic creed, the work of any age, which teaches the doctrine of
infant damnation, or any doctrine which either directly or remotely implies it. I have before me, A HARMONY OF THE CONFESSIONS OF THE FAITH OF THE CHRISTIAN AND REFORMED CHURCHES, WHICH PURELY PROFESS THE HOLY DOCTRINE OF THE GOSPEL, IN ALL THE CHIEF KINGDOMS, NATIONS, AND PROVINCES OF EUROPE ; and though it does not belong to me to prove a negative, I volunteer to do so, that the Christian public may see the documents for themselves, and know that they teach no such thing as the doctrine of infant damnation. They all teach the imputation of Adam's sin to the whole human race, infants not excepted; and that, in consequence, they are depraved, and children of wrath, and justly exposed to eternal death; but they do not teach, as Van Mastricht testifies, that they are actually damned, but refer them to the divine discretion.*
THE CONFESSION OF AUGSBURG, is Lutheran, and, though stronger than any Calvinistic confession, does not teach that infants are damned; for the Lutheran church, though their symbol remains, hold to the doctrine that infants are saved, with more decision probably, than any other.
The article on orignal sin is, “ All that come into the world are, through Adam's fall, subject to God's wrath, and eternal death.” (By“ subject” is to be understood, liable to, exposed to; otherwise, they would be made to teach the damnation of all men.) “ This original blot is sin indeed, condemning and bringing eternal death even now also upon them which are not born again by baptism, and the Holy Ghost.”+ This respects adults as well as infants, and asserts the necessity of regeneration, in consequence of original sin, in respect to both adults and infants; but no more decides that infants, dying in infancy, are damned, than it decides that all the adult subjects of original sin are damned. Mosheim, a Lutheran, who has written a treatise to prove that infants are saved, says, “ This depravity of our nature, although it is voluntary, and is underived from our first parents, is, nevertheless, imputed to us as sin, in the chancery of heaven; wherefore, if no other sin were added, we should be exposed to divine punishment on account of this depravity itself.”I Did Mosheim teach, therefore, expressly, the doctrine that infants are damned ?
The HELVETIAN CONFESSION.—"Such an one as he (Adam) became by his fall, such are all his offspring, ever subject to sin, death, and divers calamities.” And by the death to which man is exposed, they say, “we understand, not only bodily death, but everlasting punishment, due to our corruption and to our sins.”'||
*The question at issue now, is not whether the doctrine of original sin by imputation of sin is true, or is expressed in language which is most intelligible or suitable at the prese ent ome, but simply and only, Did they teach in any form, the damnation of infants 1
Harmony, p. 71. ; Elementa Theologia Dogmata, vol. i. p. 540. Harmony, p. 38.