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judge, or infer, from our consciousness of present, holy mental actions; from the remembrance of past exercises of faith, repentance, love and other Christian graces; and from our comparison of these mental operations with the divinely inspired descriptions of the children of God. When the Bishop observed, that a state of mind is a subject of consciousness, he evidently intended nothing but this, that one may know what his state of mind is, from being conscious of his mental exercises. But J. E. plays with this little string of words most musically.
“ A pardoned state of mind then is a subject of consci. ousness; as well as our compliance with the terms of pardon, repentance and faith, which are exercises of the mind and subjects of consciousness. But are we conscious of it at the time that it takes place, or not till some time afterwards? and, if not till some time afterwards, how long? Is there any period definitely fixed in the scriptures; or in nature? Or is every one left, on the subject, merely to his own imaginations? If the state of the mind is a subject of consciousness, there is no reason which can be given, to prove that we may be assured, from this source of evidence, of a state of justification or pardon at any time, which will not equally prove that we may be assured of it, from the same source, in the mo. ment in which it is experienced.” Reply, p. 7. In this manner he runs on at a round rate, and if the hypothetical predicate is true, the hypothetical conclusions must follow: but J. E. seems very well to know, that he is beating the air.
He is more serious in attempting to trepan W. W. for saying, that the fruits of the Spirit are all alike produced by that suasive and insensible operation of the Holy Spirit, of which we are no otherwise conscious, than through the medium of the gracious habits of the mind: any more than we have a knowledge of the wind, except by its agency in nature.' Essay, p. 9. From this sentence, J. E. takes the liberty of insinuating that W. W. denies that a Christian knows any thing about the effects produced by the agency of the Holy Spirit. W. W. intimates no such thing; but evidently believes, that we may be conscious of believing and of repenting, and may judge from the testimony of God contained in the Bible, that our acts of faith and repentance proceed from such an agency of the Spirit, as is perfectly consistent with the constitution of our minds, and the laws of mental empire which the Creator has established.
J. E. asks, p. 7. “Is the wind's agency in nature sensible or insensible? If sensible, it is rather an unhappy illustration of insensible operations of the Spirit.” How the Comforter was to comfort believers, "and they were to know him, as dwelling in them, by insensible influence and operation, I confess is beyond my comprehension.” "The Holy Spirit was promised as a sensible comforter, to abide in the Church." Reply, p. 17. Many similar remarks might be quoted, but it is needless.
Does the Bishop, then, deny, that by the agency of the Spirit men have comfortable feelings, of which they are conscious, in consequence of that faith which worketh by love? Not at all! Does he deny that the effects produced by the wind are perceptible, when they waft a feather, or bear down a forest? No, not he! What, then, is the subject of dispute; and why should the word sen. sible be printed in italics in the Reply, more than a dozen times in a few pages, like so many naked swords pointed at the Essayist?
Sensible we take to be an attribute of any mental operation performed through the five senses, and of any object perceived by their instrumentality. This is the strict and philosophical use of the word. Any thing which may be seen, heard, smelt, tasted or touched, is a sensible object; and any act of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or touching is a sensible operation, or an act of the senses.
We might excuse J. E. for using sensible in a loose manner, had he not made the word a matter of serious objection and disputation; but before he attempted to ridicule the venerable Bishop for using it, he should have defined the meaning which he at least attaches to it. An insensible operation of the Holy Ghost is by no means an operation of which we have no knowledge. Space and power are insensible objects; that is, not objects of perception; but they are of conception, or apprehension, for we form some notion of the meaning of those words. We have no hesitation in affirming, that no operation of the Holy Spirit is perceptible, by any of our senses; and that none of the effects of the Spirit's operations on the human mind are sensible objects; but as has been already said, we may be conscious of such holy mental operations as the scriptures assure us proceed only from the influence of the Holy Spirit on our minds: and consequently we may be conscious of the effects of the Spirit's operation; which are either single gracious acts, as at first, after regeneration, or gracious acts repeated, until we acquire a readiness and facility in performing them, together with a disposition to perform them, because we have previously performed them, which are gracious habits of action. Our knowledge of any operation of the Holy God on our minds, is there. fore, dependent on our consciousness of a gracious single, or habitual operation; which is the thing affirmed by the Bishop, in this much abused sentence. His illustration by a scriptural allusion to the wind we think not quite so unhappy as J. E. supposes it to be: for 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. The essence, the substance of the wind is not perceived by our senses, but its effects are; and we form our notion of the thing itself from its sensible properties and effects. We have knowledge of the wind by its agency; but the agency itself is not a sensible object; the effects of that agency are. We see a straw floating from north to south, and say, this is an effect of the wind's blowing: we reason too, about the agency of the wind in producing this ef. fect; but the specific gravity of the air, the rarefaction of it in the south, and the flowing of the denser air from the north, are not perceived by our senses. The effect pro. duced by any operation is very distinct from the operation itself. In like manner, neither the Holy Spirit himself, nor his agency is a sensible object, but the things produced by his agency are some of them sensible, and some of them insensible effects. Material things, produced by his operations, are sensible objects; but dispositions and acts of mind are not. Are we then ignorant of these mental effects, because they are not sensible objects? No more than we are ignorant of the existence of our own minds, for the same reason, that neither mind nor exis. tence is an object of perception by the senses. We conceive of the effects produced in our minds by the Holy Spirit; we apprehend the meaning of the words faith and repentance; and we are conscious that we believe and repent.
Other inferior matters of controversy between the au. thors of these pamphlets occur, which we have neither time nor disposition to consider. We leave their disputation with the observation, that it would be well, if J. E. would cultivate a little of the urbanity, suavity and candour of W. W., and well too, if the latter were to imi. tate the prompt and perspicuous style of his antagonist.
With the good Bishop we have a little controversy of our own to settle, concerning our mutual friend, John Calvin. The Essay affirms, p. 14. that the position of a personal assurance of the pardon of sin, by a direct communication of the Holy Spirit,' is a tenet distinctly taught in the Institutions of Calvin. No references to particular passages are given; and it is hardly to be supposed, that any one can affirm with certainty, unless he has lately read through the whole of the Institutions, that they do not contain such an opinion; but having just perused attentively what he says in Book III, of faith, we do declare that we can find no such position maintained as the Bishop has sufficiently refuted in his Essay. If Calvin says, that an assurance of pardon is given to an individual by a direct communication of the Holy Spirit, by an inward suggestion of something not recorded in the Bible, we will thank the learned American prelate to refer us to the words, and wiil cheerfully confess, that we have been negligent in our researches. Calvin does indeed teach, and we are sorry for it, because his great name countenances an error, that assurance of pardon and salvation is of the very essence of that first act of saving faith, by which we receive Christ for our Saviour; but then he teaches, that this faith is communicated to Vol. I.
us through the appointed means of grace; so that we come by this faith, fuil of assurance, by the reading, hearing, and contemplating of the gospel. The fact that Calvin includes both the assurance of the truth of the testi. mony of the gospel believed, and the assurance of being saved, in the essence of faith, probably induced the Bishop to think that he taught the direct communication of an assurance to an individual; whereas Calvin really teaches, that faith itself is indirectly communicated, through the influences of the Holy Spirit on our rational faculties, and by the instrumentality of the gospel. What Bishop White calls 'a suasive and insensible operation of the Holy Spirit,’ Calvin denominates, for the same rea. son, the secret operation of the Spirit.' Inst. B. III. Ch. i. The Bishop, therefore, is less at variance with this father of the reformation than he supposed he was. The Spirit, says Calvin, in the chapter just cited, is an internal teacher, by whose agency the promise of salvation, which otherwise would only strike the air, or at most our ears, penetrates into our minds.' We justify our own exposition of Calvin's opinions on this subject by such passages as the following, from B. III. Ch. ii. “In the first place, we must be apprised, that faith has a perpetual relation to the word, and can no more be separated from it, than the rays from the sun, whence they proceed. Therefore God proclaims by Isaiah, Hear, and your soul shall live.' And that the word is the fountain of faith, is evident from this language of John: “These are written, that ye might believe." " " The same divine word is the foundation by which faith is sustained and supported, from which it cannot be moved without an immediate downfal. Take away the word then, and there will be no faith left.'? “ The word itself, however it may be conveyed to us, is like a mirror, in which faith may behold God. Whether, therefore, God in this instance use the agency of men, or whether he operate solely by his own power, he always discovers himself by his word to those whom he designs to draw to himself.” “No man is truly a believer, unless he be firmly persuaded, that God is a propitious and benevolent Father to him, and promise himself every thing from his goodness; unless