תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

to any action, may be called a principle of voluntary action. A few examples will be sufficient. I eat, because I choose to eat; I choose to eat because it seems good to me to eat; and it seems good to me to eat, because I have an appetite for the food before me. My motive for eating in this case is, that it seems good to me; and it is my appetite which furnishes the motive. Hence, we are said to eat voluntarily, on the principle of appetite. That I should have appetite for food in a certain state of body, is one of the fundamental laws of my nature; and therefore we call appetite a fixed principle of action. In another case, my judgment that food or physic is necessary, may furnish me with a motive for willing to receive one or the other. Hence a proposition, the object of a judgment, is called a principle of voluntary action.

Again, in some cases we can assign no other reason for deeming it good for us to perform a certain action which depends on volition, than this, that we have formed the habit of doing it, and hence habit is said to be a principle of action. Finally, we embrace Jesus Christ from the apprehension of a sufficient motive; and it seems good to us to embrace him, because we have such saving knowledge of ourselves, of him, and of his salvation, as proceeds only from the teachings of the Holy Ghost within us. The ultimate cause of apprehending a sufficient, an effectual motive for coming to Christ, and for performing the deeds of holiness, so far as any one can discover it in himself, or prove it to be in others, is this, that the Holy Spirit dwells in the mind, to give it that knowledge which is, in its results, everlasting life and felicity. " It is a fact,” we assert with Dr., M‘L., “ that something is graci. ously communicated from heaven to the fallen sinner, which affects every organ and every faculty, which directs and controls every exercise, until the whole man, soul and body, be sanctified to the service of the Lord.” We say that this something is the Holy Spirit, sent down from heaven, to abide in us, as the Spirit of conviction, truth, faith, love, purification, and consolation. In consequence of the indwelling of the Spirit, we think, feel, will, and act, like spiritual men, and enjoy the state of spiritual life. We say, therefore, that the Spirit of God is

the first principle of spiritual action in man. But the Doctor continues to write, “ And what is this new principle of perception, of will, and of action, which makes the new nature and the new man? What is this gift of the grace of God?” He then answers, “ It is powerful in its action; and we call it life: it is spiritual in its origin, its influence, and its end; and we call it spiritual life.p. 56. We ad. mit that spiritual life is a gracious gift of God, but instead of being itself the new principle, it is the result (if you mean by life, activity,) of the operation of the new principle; or else it is the name of a state, which you predicate of him who has the principle; for he is alive to spiritual objects and operations.

We have already hinted, that the Doctor is not so philosophically accurate in his discussion of the nat u reof faith, as of most other subjects. The act of believing is undoubtedly one simple act of the mind; but he does not describe it. He speaks of faith in Christ in general terms, so as to include in that expression the principle, the motive, and the immediately consequent operations of the mind, as well as the nature of the act itself. Perhaps, however, we ought to justify him for using the term with as great a latitude of meaning as it has in any passage of the Bible, instead of requiring that he, who is generally, should be always, a metaphysician.

Having exposed with impartiality most of the defects of this volume, which are worthy of notice, and may be considered by themselves; we turn to a consideration of the things, which demand approbation. They are many, and we can enumerate only a part of them.

He has given a very extensive and scriptural delineation of “ the life and power of true godliness;” in such a manner as " is calculated to interest and to instruct the young believer, and to assist the more advanced disciple, in those reflections which are necessary to ascertain both the faet and the degree of his personal religion.'

In his first sermon, which is introductory to the remaining nine, he exhibits “ the distinguishing characters of evangelical religion.” This was requisite, for every religion has a God, and a godliness, which appertain to it; and religions in general have some sort of a mediator; but it is the Christian religion alone which claims for its author the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the only true God, and "Christianity, alone, establishes friendship between God and man in a [Divine] Mediator;—provides perfect satisfaction to divine justice for the sinner's transgression;--secures a change of mind from sinfulness to holiness by supernatural power;—and communicates a full title to a place in heaven on account of the merits of another." p. 14. In discussing the second subject here introduced, our author has the following animating passage.

“ Christianity alone reveals the necessity of perfect satisfaction to divine justice for every act of transgression, and points out the sacrifice by which it is actually made. If there be [is] any one principle (that is, any one proposition which should furnish us with a motive for action] more clearly revealed, more important, and more frequently inculcated than another, it is this; without shedding of blood there is no remission. There is no venial sin: for every sin deserves the wrath of God, both in this life and that which is to come; and the Redeemer of Israel, in bearing our punishment, satisfied the demands of justice for every transgression. No other religion, but the gospel, provides such satisfaction. This is of course one of its peculiar excellencies. It is good news to the poor awakened sinner, that the blood of the Covenant cleanses from all sin. I use, my brethren, in this connexion, in preference to the word atone, the expression satisfy divine justice for our sins, not merely out of deference to the excellent compilers of our acknowledged ecclesiastical standards, but chiefly because this phrase, although rarely used in modern pulpits, has not been as yet rendered indefinite or unintelligible. It is scarcely possible to live in the habit of saying, that Christ satisfied divine justice for our sins, and yet affirm that justice also admits of their being punished after it is satisfied. It is not possible for the reasonable creature to believe, that the Surety satisfied divine justice for the sins of those who are suffering in the everlasting fire the punishment of those very sins. I readily admit, that the two expressions, “Satisfaction for sin,' and 'Atonement for sin,' are, in their proper, if not in their modern use, perfectly synonymous; and that both exclude any subsequent punishment; that each implies the reconciliation of the parties at variance: and yet, somehow it has come to pass, that very discerning men have made themselves familiar with ideas of an atonement, which they revere as complete, although it neither satisfies jus

tice nor procures reconciliation. So powerful is the influence of habit, that we use terms, without knowing their import, because we have been accustomed to them. But sure I am, that no man will, in the common concerns of life, in the courts of law, or in the public transactions of nations, consider that atonement as complete, which is not satisfactory, nor that satisfactory, which does not set future controversy aside, produce reconciliation, and exclude further punishment."

The title of the second Sermon is the nature and origin of the Christian life.” His text however, which is, Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again, led him to a description of the nature and necessity of a regeneration. These are his two general heads of dis. course. Under the first he includes more than belongs to it, for he not only treats of the nature of regeneration, but of the origin of it, of that new life which is the result of it, of the means employed by its author in performing the work, and of several things which usually precede it. Surely all these things belong not to the nature of regeneration. His first and fourth subordinate heads, with a part of the third, which state regeneration to be an instantaneous, spiritual change of man's mind for the bet. ter, in which a new principle of action is communicated, are the only things recorded under the first grand divi. sion, which at all relate to the nature of regeneration. The second subdivision, which teaches that the change is accomplished exclusively by the power of God, should have been made a general department, under the title of the origin of regeneration; which would have corresponded with the general caption of the Sermon. Of works preparatory to regeneration he should have treated under a distinct general head. This is the most immethodical part of the volume before us. Under the second grand division, he shows with great clearness, that regeneration is necessary to the existence of faith, repentance, acceptable worship, and our future happiness. As fraternal me. taphysicians we beg leave to suggest to the Doctor, that regeneration is not a change of the sinner's mind, but that act of the Holy Ghost which effects the change described. The thing produced by God's regenerating work is, a new birth, a new heart, a new state of mind, å new creature, a new and spiritual nature. This sermon contains a great deal of sound reasoning, and evangelical doctrine. We particularly commend the following passages of it to the candid attention of our readers.

“It is not easy, brethren, to speak or to write, upon subjects of an abstract or intellectual character, without using expressions which do not often occur in the ordinary intercourse of man with man. We must not however, in treating of divine things, always speak superficially under pretence of speaking plainly. What is commonly called plain language from the pulpit, consists not in the simplicity of the words employed, so much as in the absence of thoughts. Men ordinarily call that perspicuous, which costs no trouble to understand; and the reason frequently is, that men are delivered from the trouble of thinking; because there is nothing communicated which requires thought. I am aware of this difficulty when I attempt to speak to you of a subject, which cannot possibly be understood without reflection. To the superficial hearer, every thing is abstruse which has any sense; and nothing is perfectly plain but that which has little or no meaning. I am also aware, and I confess, with gratitude to God for his goodness to the children of men, that many feel the power of regeneration who are not competent to define with accuracy the nature of the change which it effects. [Here he speaks of regeneration and the change effected by it as he ought. Many a strong man cannot name a muscle of the body, or tell the origin and insertion of a nerve or a sinew. The anatomy of the body is not therefore, however, an unbecoming subject of study; nor is the nature of regeneration unworthy of our attention.” p. 54. “ Regeneration is often denominated, but not with precision, a moral change. It indeed improves the moral sense and the moral conduct; but as it is not effected by the power of moral suasion, to give it the exclusive designation of a moral change conveys an inadequate idea of its peculiar character. It affects the natural, or intellectual powers of man, as much as it does the moral or the active. It communicates no new faculty of either description, nor does its value consist in increasing the capacity of the one or the energy of the other. It does not convert the child into a man of science, nor the frigid into a man of sensibility: but it directs both reason and love to the things of God, and employs both intellect and inclination, as they ought to be employed, upon the things that belong to our peace. It is not a physical change, produced by the force of impulse, nor is it a mere moral change produced by the influence of motive on the will; but a spiritual change infusing a new principle of

« הקודםהמשך »