תמונות בעמוד

and the entire drift and bearing of all their persuasives, is, to awaken and move men to right action, in view of the new-creating and sanctifying influence of this gracious agent. They every wbere represent this Spirit as present in the world, and as striving with mankind; and their voice summarily is, Resist not the Holy Ghost; grieve not the Spirit ; quench not, vex not the Holy Spirit of God. This, if we mistake not, is the burden and scope of all scriptural exhortation, however variously expressed.

Whether the appeal comes from the fact of man's ruin, or & Savior's love, from time or eternity, froin hell or from beaven, here is its drift: and the scope and influence of the whole economy of redemption fall in with it; every thing conspires to induce dying man to transfer his expectation from himself and all creatures, to that Almighty Spirit, who can renew him in the likeness of bis Maker. Assuredly, any preaching which would set him to selfexertion, simply on the ground of his having natural power, is, SO far forth, unconsonant with the voice of scripture.

The other imperfection, or what we suppose to be such, in the preaching under our notice, has a close affinity with that which has just been remarked on. It allows no place for effort, preliminary to the very act of duty itself. In other words, it allows of no acts of thought or consideration, previous to the decisive act of the will. This, after what we have before considered, is not surprising. Assuming the expediency of requiring men to exert their natural power to repent, simply because of their having that power, while, notwithstanding their having it, it is one of the published oracles of God, that they never will exert it; no wonder that it does not seem inexpedient to require them to exert it, without allowing them to use any means in order to do the thing prescribed. If the pulpit may enjoin the performance of what, with the same voice, it declares there is no sufficient reason for attempting, what other liberties may it not take, with the immutable laws of rational agency? Whatever natural power a man may possess, he cannot act rationally, without a reason : and if the doing of what there is no motive for doing, may be urged, so, in perfect consistency, may be the doing of it, in a manner in which, manifestly, it cannot be done. In such a manner, have men been often required by the pulpit, to exert their natural power to repent. All exertion, all occupation of the mind, in order to repent, has, if we mistake not, been explicitly or constructively forbidden, and previously thereto, the direct origination of a repentant state of mind peremptorily demanded. “Repent, repent this very instant, we say: not try to repent, or exercise thought in order to repent, but instantly repent. Such a strain has been so familiar, especially in seasons of revival, that we almost tremble to express a suspicion of its not being precisely correct. Yet we do respectfully venture to ask, whether it be consonant, either with the laws of mind, or with scripture? Is it, then, possible for the human mind to repent, in the manner here demanded, that is, without exerting itself appropriately in order to repent? Can the thing possibly be done? If so, in no other way, surely, than by the mind's direct determination or volition. But now suppose the preacher's demand so far met, that the volition has been formed: the mind, at the challenge of the pulpit, instantly resolves; but is that resolution repenting? Is it passing from a rebellious to a subdued, softened, contrite, heavenly temper of heart? At best, is it any thing more than the mind's committing or pledging itself, that the thing required shall take place, as soon as in the nature of the case, it can?

What, beyond this, can the mind do by such a resolution? Can it isstantly throw itself, at will, into any given state of affection or feeling? Can it, by mere volition, directly originate in itself love, hatred, sorrow, joy, or any other sentiment whatever ? Since man was created on the earth, has such a thing been done? It is more than a miracle ; it is an impossibility. As a man cannot love without loving something, or have any sentiment in the absence of its appropriate object, the introduction of the object into his thoughts, is, in the first place, indispensable to his being exercised with the sentiment. A man, in order to love God, must have God in his thoughts ; in order to hate sin, must think of sin: and if he must think of the object, at least, in order to have the given feel. ing, the pulpit should not forbid such preliminary mental occupation, but demand, and by every appropriate means, stimulate and encourage it.

This preaching, though correct in its general position in respect to human power, will, in the particular under our notice, be found, upon examination, to proceed upon a radical mistake, as to the natural capacities of the mind. The mind does not possess the specific power which it requires it to exert,—the power to put itself directly, or by mere volition, into a repentant state. It has all the natural power or faculties requisite to repentance, but no faculty whereby it can repent in such a manner : and to demand repentance in that manner, is not less unreasonable than it would be to require a blind man to see, or a dead man to perform the functions of a living one. It is to demand what no man can, in any sense whatever, do, and what no miracle could make him do. If it now be asked, whether we are not denying the obligation to immediate repentance? we answer, by no means; unless the term immediate be used in this case absurdly. If by immediate repentance is meant, repentance without even thinking, let us be understood as opposing it; but if it import, that nothing must precede that occupation of the mind which is indispensable to repentance,

and nothing intervene* between such an occupation and the result it contemplates, then we claim to be thought in favor of immediate repentance. Undoubtedly, all men should love God immediately; that is, do whatever is implied in loving God, without any delay,--do it instantly ; and thus, as to repenting of sin, and every other modification of love, or instance of obedience. But if a distinction be made, between loving God, and what is indispensable in order to loving him, and the design of the epithet immediate be to exclude the latter, then do we pronounce the requisition of the former, the requisition of an absolute impossibility.

And as this preaching, in the respect in question, does not conform itself to the essential nature of the human mind, neither is it conformed to, or countenanced by scripture. To say, that scripture calls upon men to repent immediately, is to say nothing to the purpose; unless it can be shown, that, in repentance, scripture makes the exact distinction between the mind's actual repenting, and the mental operation preparatory thereto, and designedly excludes and forbids the latter. This distinction, certainly, being no where made in scripture, it is begging the question, to apply prooftexts in favor of a requisition which pre-supposes its having been made. It is begging the question, and that for the purpose, as we have shown, of making scripture responsible for requiring of mankind an impossible and an absurd thing. The voice of scripture is every where in favor of instantaneous repentance. The sinner who delays his return to God, even for one moment, does this in resistance to a thousand explicit commands, a thousand most solemn admonitions, and the whole tenor and spirit of the bible. But will any one take upon himself to represent the bible as forbidding men even to think before repenting; or in other words, to repent, without directing the mind to those objective facts and considerations which must of necessity be in the mind's view, whenever repentance takes place? When the bible calls upon men to repent immediately, it calls upon them to perform without delay whatever mental exercises are necessarily implied in repenting; and not the specific act itself of repenting, apart from, and exclusive of, all pre-requisite mental action. That this is the fact, is

If an impenitent man be not thinking of God, he should this moment admit him into bis thoughts. If he be seriously thinking of him, he must be conscious of an influence from the object of bis thought, which, if he does not resist, will not allow him to continue any longer in a rebellious course of life. If be does not yield himself up to that influence ; if he sets himself against it, even for a twinkling of an eye; if he does not fall before it at once, as though it were impossible to be resisted; he does not meet the divine requisition, as we think it should be enforced from the pulpit. The least hesitation or wavering, whether at arise from the thought of idols which must be renounced, or sacritices wbicb must be made, or dilliculties which must be encountered, or from any other cause, should be condemned as rebellion against light and conviction, perilous in a high degree to the soul.

evident, not only from the very nature of things, but also from the methods which scripture employs, to induce men to comply with its loud and perpetual call to repentance. For surely it does not, in that standing call, require men to exercise repentance in a different manner from that which they are set upon, by its various persuasions to obedience to that call. If it would be sin in men, to apply their minds to the consideration of those things which are suited to produce repentance, in order to beget a penitent spirit within them ; would the scripture, in order to accomplish the same end, set those things before their minds, and enforce them upon their reflection and feelings, with a pathos and an eloquence to which there is no parallel ? Can the scripture be accessory to men's sinning? Yet, how does the scripture itself proceed in dealing with the human mind, in order to its recovery from the practice and power of sin ? It observes most perfectly the laws of that mind. Recognising the fact, that the will has no direct control over the affections, and cannot produce them in the mind, but by fixing thought on their appropriate objects, it presents these objects and urges them upon attention, with all possible earnestness of persuasion. It does not content itself with presenting the commaud, and asserting authority, and submitting the alternative of repentance or perdition. This it does ; and more than this, it need not to have done, had its design been simply to make men acquainted with the true state of their case. But its design goes far beyond this: it is infinitely merciful ; a mighty compassion speaks in the bible; the actual recovery and salvation of men is aimed at; and every thing is directed and pursued, to bring about this result. Hence such strains of tenderness, as well as terror, as those of scripture, can no where else be found. Every principle of our rational and immortal nature is appealed to. We are surrounded by whatever can stimulate our hope ; whatever can move our gratitude ; whatever can soften the rigor of our hearts ; whatever can elicit the tears of contrition ; whatever can ennoble, elevate, expand, and purify the feelings of the mind : and all, in order to bring us to repentance. So deals the bible with men. These are the methods which it employs to induce obedience to its high demand for repentance. Why should not men be encouraged to employ like methods with themselves? Why should all preliminary thought, all stirring up of the mind in order to repent, be held unlawful; and the act of repenting, detached from the mental exercises which are necessary to its performance, be insisted upon, as the thing to be done first of all,—that which must precede, not follow, all thought and reflection upon the objects which alone can produce repentance ?

The testimony of scripture against works done before repentance, cannot be justly adduced against such preliminary mental

exercises. It is not testimony against, but for, these exercises. They are not, in the sense of scripture, works before repentance ; they are self-evidently included in repentance itself, as required by scripture; and thus, all the calls of scripture to immediate repentance, are testimonies in favor of them. If a man should set himself to the performance of a thing in itself sinful,* or to produce within his breast, some impure feeling, he would be undertaking one of the works of impenitence; and his setting himself to the business, as well as the execution of the business itself, would be to despise the whole counsel and authority of God. But when a man, hearing the voice of God, which calls him to repentance, undertakes to meet that call in the only way in which it can possibly be met, he is doing nothing, surely, which can be fairly condemned, as a work done, or attempted, before repentance. There is, as it appears to us, no room for a question, as to the morality of his procedure. He must not, because dependent on the Holy Spirit, wait in unconcern, or make no exertion. He must meet his Maker's authoritative call to repentance ; and he cannot do this, without exerting himself to that end, in the manner which has been mentioned.

The foregoing remarks on what we think at least questionable modes of managing this very important subject, embrace in their just scope, all that we have to subjoin, as to what appears to us the true way. It may be the duty of preachers, .sometimes, to give this subject a formal and thorough examination in the pulpit. To say, that no precedent for such an examination of it can be found in scripture, is to alledge nothing against that course; unless no discretion be given to preachers, as to methods of procedure in the application of general principles, under their ever-varying circumstances. Such a discretion all preachers have; and their usefulness, in a high degree, depends on their wisdom in using it. The bible gives them no example of a regular argument on buman power; and yet, in principle, the bible might be found to condemn them, if, in certain circumstances, they should decline

* And praying itself is sin, if not undertaken as an instance of true obedience, an exercise of boliness. One who sets himself to praying, without meaning ii as equivalent to repentance, or as though praying did not imply and include repenting, sets himself to the performance of what is in itself sinful, and contrary to the law of God. Instruction from the pulpit, which does not make it as dithcult to pray, or read the scriptures, or perform any other duty aright, as it is to repent and believe the gospel, has no warrant, surely, from the word of God, and tends fatally to mislead and deceive the hearers. Men should be taught to obey God in every thing, and to do every thing in such a manner, that when it is done, they shall not be left in a state of sin, and momently exposed to destruction. The sinner should be directed to put himself at once to the exercise of love to God, in view of what God is; to the exercise of repentance, in view of what sin is: knowing, that in this way, and in this way only, he may, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, become a child of God, and an heir of his glory.

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