תמונות בעמוד

are the “ legal results” of a traitor's crime, so imputed to his children, that they are "made, constituted, accounted, and dealt with," as traitors. No where has human legislation decided, that the

crime of a parent makes his child guilty and punishable ; neither E. could all the cool assertions of the most positive dogmatist, nor all

the guises of the most finely woven sophistry, vindicate such a principle from the charge of injustice, or screen its inherent and hideous deformity.

Another fallacy in Mr. Watson's reasoning on this subject, lies in his assumption, that the sufferings of man in his present state are penal. This assumption is opposed, as well to the great principles of moral government, as to the idea of our being under an economy of grace. It is one of the great pillars of Universalism, which teaches, as Mr. W. does, that the present is a state of damnation, or penal suffering, and only differs from bim on this point, in carrying out the principle to its legitimate consequences, and

denying that punishment extends to a future state. Now this prinLiciple tends to undermine and render void the whole system of re

demption. Here commence those loose and imperfect views of the sanctions of the divine law, and the nature of sin, and that lax and erring system of speculation upon the divine government, which lead to a rejection of the atonement, and to a denial of the doctrine of future punishment.

But God's government proceeds upon no such principle: his law is supported by no such penalty as is here supposed. The legal penalty is not designed, as Universalists tell us, to correct and reform sinners, but to mark the law-giver's view of the evil of sin, and to sustain his authority before the universe ; and according to the scriptures, it consists in nothing but endless and unmitigated perdition. This life is not a period of final retribution, but a day of mercy, when the execution of this penalty is stayed, and sinful men are called upon to be reconciled to God, through the atonement, and avail themselves of the blessings of redemption. The sufferings of our present state, result from that state of corrective discipline, which God, in wisdom and goodness, has connected with his economy of grace. That they are not strictly penal, follows not only from the nature of penal sanctions, but is clearly seen in the fact, that they are endured by christians, who, as all agree, are saved from the legal penalty. Let the distinction between penal sanctions, and that system of moral discipline under which God has in mercy conditioned fallen man, be accurately marked and constantly kept up, and the dogma of imputed guilt, together with

the Universalist's notion of present retribution, will forever disto appear.

3. But, dismissing this topic, we proceed to glance at that favorite point with our Methodist brethren, and leading dogma of


Arminianism,--the doctrine of “gracious ability." We har already shown, that they hold to the natutal impotence of mar with respect to holiness, in the most literal sense; since it is a tene of Arminianism, that man was not created with an inherent ability to obey his Maker, and previous to the fall, could not obey with out the aid of the Divine Spirit. To this theory of the will, s peculiar to itself, and so purely Arminian, we once more call the attention of our readers. In relation to man's natural impotenc since the fall, Mr. Watson adopts the following language from Arminius :

• The will of man, with respect to true good, is not only wounded bruised, inferior, crooked, and attenuated, but it is likewise captivated destroyed, and lost; and has no powers whatever, except such as art excited by grace.'

He repeatedly speaks of the power of the will, by which he is be tends, of course, its “gracious ability” before the fall, as being con lost by Adam, " for himself and for his descendants." No doc trine do Methodists maintain more strenuously and dogmati 2 cally than this. To show that it is philosophically correct Dr. Fisk, in a communication in the Christian Advocate and Jour pal, argues, that the consent of the will to sin deprives it of some of its power to holiness; and as Adam in Eden could not have more power to love God than was just requisite for that purpose, when he sinned and lost some of his power to choose good, he was Goe no longer an accountable moral agent. By power to choose good, we suppose Dr. Fisk to mean, as Mr. W. does, not something e naturally belonging to man, but the “gift of the Holy Spirit." He If this supposition is correct, we are at a loss to discover the application of his argument. But, waiving this point, and admitting it to be true, in Adam's case, that by sinning he was shorn of his power to obey God, what has this to do with his posterity? The principle assumed in the argument, renders it impossible, that their moral agency should be unhinged, until they exist and sin; therefore Adam's sin could have no more tendency to destroy their power to choose good, or to set their teeth on edge, than it had to produce the same effects upon Satan and his apostate host. We are not, however, sufficiently tinctured with Arminianism, to concede this principle. We deny, that it can have the remotest application to the moral

That it consists with the Arminian theory of free moral agency, is very possible ; but it does not consist with free moral agency, as it really exists. Were this theory of the will correct, then, upon the same principle, that one inclination or choice is as liable to destroy its equilibrium as another ;—its consent to holiness must operate as strongly to anaihilate its power to sin, as its consent to sin to destroy its power


of man.

to holiness. It is inconceivable, therefore, that holy Adam and holy angels should ever fall: and it follows, that the devil who tempts us, and who "goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour," as well as the angels and archangels, who, with ceaseless praises and songs of rapture, worship in the heavenly temple, are not free, voluntary agents. If the nature of moral freedom be such as this theory makes it, Adam never was a moral agent,- at best, he was nothing but a well-balanced machine, of a peculiar kind, doomed by an irreversible law of his nature, to follow forever the first inclination of his will to evil, unless God in

mercy should interpose to balance him again with “a gracious 11 ability.” We should like to know, whether the admirers of Mr. 15: Watson believe it impossible for God to create a being, possessing

in himself the ability to choose good and be holy, without the “ gift of the Spirit;" and if so, where is his omnipotence? If it is admitted, that he can create such a being, we ask whether the principles of divine government do not fully demonstrate, that nian is such a being? If he is not, is God's government adapted to him? What notion can be formed of a subject of moral government, who is destitute of moral liberty ? or, in other words, who, in every instance of obedience or disobedience, does not act with inherent power to the contrary choice? In short, is not the doctrine of

gracious ability,” as held by Methodists, something which defies conception, –a mockery, an absurdity, inconsistent with the character of God, and unapproachable by all clear and definite apprehension ?

4. We will next touch upon Mr. Watson's views of the divine law. It is a peculiarity of Methodism, from which he dissents, that the moral law is in such a sense abrogated, that it has ceased to be man's rule of life, and that the gospel is in such a sense a law, as to be our standard of holiness and rule of judgment, which condescends to our weakness and imperfection. “No man,” says Wesley, " is able to perform the service which the Adamic law requires. And as no man is obliged to perform it, God does not require it of any man.” Fletcher held the same opinion; and one argument by which he undertakes to establish the proposition, that the gospel is a law, is in substance as follows. “The Adamic law being abolished, to deny that the gospel is a law, is to say we are under no law, and cannot sin.” In this view agree most

Methodist writers of note; and this representation of the moral a law, so rank with antinomianism, constitutes the foundation of the

Wesleyan doctrine of sinless perfection. Where it is rejected, that doctrine, as taught by Wesley and the early Methodists, cannot be maintained with any degree of consistency. This notion, by putting the gospel in the place of the law, as an accommodated rule of life for christians, exalts to perfect holiness the imperVOL. VII.


fections of a certain class of believers, who, according to Wesley himself, if measured by the unbending law of Jehovah, would fall into the condemnation of coming short of duty. Hence we frequently hear Methodists exclaim, —"we do not mean that those who are perfect, are as holy as Adam before he fell, --we do not contend for Adamic perfection !"

This view of the divine law, however, bas of late been rejected by several leading men in that communion, among whom is Dr. Fisk. In a sermon on this subject, published in the Methodist Preacher, for January, 1830, he distinctly maintains, that the gospel is not a law,--that the moral law is not abrogated, but established as the believer's rule of life. This sermon, as was to be expected, produced much excitement, and was followed by another, from a presiding elder of the New-England Conference, of which Dr. F. is a member, designed to counteract its influence, by exhibiting the views of their standard writers on this point. The subject was, in consequence, brought up in that body; but the popularity and influence, and, we may add, strength of reasoning, of Dr. F., giving him a decided advantage over bis opponent, the excitement was hushed, the spirit of controversy was chained, and truth gained the victory. We are uncertain, however, whether the matter is yet fully settled. The following are Mr. Watson's views of this subject :

p. 554.

When our Lord says, in his sermon on the mount, “ I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill,” that is, to confirm, or establish, the entire scope of his discourse shows, that he is speaking exclusively of the moral precepts of THE LAW, eminently so called,—and in so solemo a manner does he enforce this, that he adds, doubtless as foreseeing, that attempts would be made by deceiving or deceived men, professing his religion, to lessen the authority of the moral law,—“ Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.")

Nothing can be more pernicious in its influence upon our views of moral government, and upon our feelings of moral obligation, than this idea of an accommodated rule of life, which so completely embodies the genius of antinomianism. We rejoice to see indications, that some of our Methodist brethren are forsaking this delusion. We sincerely long and pray, that they may soberly inquire, and steadily follow truth, until they see every shadow dispelled, and stand amid the brightness and splendor of her fullest beams. We are not saying, however, that Dr. Fisk or Mr. Watson has renounced that indispensable badge of Methodism,-a belief in the doctrine of perfection. They have not done so. with their views of the moral law, as the measure of the christian character, their notion of the "entire holiness of believers," to be


consistent with themselves, must be something altogether different from that of Wesley and Fletcher.

5. We will advert to but one more topic, and then leave the book. We allude to the doctrine of moral necessity; or, the actual certainty of all events under the government of God. We call a denial of this doctrine a peculiarity of Methodism; and our warrant for so doing, is the fact, that such a denial holds a most conspicuous place in that flood of “checks," "sermons," "doctrinal tracts,” etc. etc. etc., with which, in the “torrent, tempest and whirlwind of their passion” to annihilate Calvinism, our Methodist brethren have inundated every corner of their church, and graced every shelf in their “ book-room.” Many of them, indeed, to be consistent with themselves, formally deny, not only the certainty of all events, but the actual foreknowledge of God. This is true of Dr. Adam Clarke, who resolves God's omniscience into power, -power to know all things, which he exercises at bis pleasure ; knowing some things, but where his knowledge would interfere with Arminianism, choosing to remain ignorant! We do not intend to deny, however, that some of our Wesleyan brethren-in those calm moments when Calvinism, with all its fancied images of terror, are out of mind, and when, instead of collecting their thunders, and gathering up their energies to "burn, fire, kill and slay," their man of straw, they have acquired a temperance which gives their passion smoothness,- have not, incidentally at least, admitted this doctrine. Wesley did so; we have understood Dr. Fisk to do so; and Mr. Watson concedes and advocates it in the fullest terms.

He states and consutes several Arminian theories of the divine foreknowledge and counsels, with peculiar ability. In arguing against those theories, he has the following language :

The prescience, counsels and plans of God, are prescience, counsels and plans which respect free agents, as far as men are concerned ; and unless we superadd influence to necessitate, or plans to entice irresistibly, or to entrap inevitably into some given course of conduct, there is clearly no incongruity between these and human freedom. There is a difficulty in conceiving how foreknowledge should be absolute, as there is a difficulty in conceiving how God's present knowledge should penetrate the heart of man. But neither party argues from the incomprehensibility of the mode to the impossibility of the thing. The great difficulty does not lie here. It seems to be planted precisely in this, that God should prohibit many things which he nevertheless knows will occur, and in the prescience of which he regulates his dispensations, to bring out of these circumstances various results, which he makes subservient to the displays of his justice and his mercy. This forms the difficulty. But if the perplexity arises from this, nothing can be more clear, than that the question is not, how to reconcile God's prescience

« הקודםהמשך »