תמונות בעמוד


A FOURTH doctrine flowing from Mr Finney's fundamental principles is, that every man must, at any given moment, be either totally depraved, i. e. as wicked as it is possible for him with his knowledge to be, or perfectly holy. This is a conclusion which it would appear he finds some difficulty in persuading his friends to adopt. They receive the premises, they admit the validity of many other sequences from them, but this is rather more than they are prepared for. Mr Finney is right, and he knows it. He has them in his power, and he commands them to follow wherever he and the intelligence lead. If the intelligence deceives us here, we can never know truth from error. If obligation is limited by ability; if ability extends only to acts of the will; if the acts of the will are confined to the choice of ends and means; and if the choice of means has no moral character but from the nature of the end chosen, it follows that all morality is confined to the choice of an end. If the right end is chosen, the agent discharges his whole duty; he fulfils the single command of law and reason. If he chooses the wrong end, he commits all the sin of which he is capable. The only respect in which one moral agent can be either better or worse than another is as one has more ability than another. A child has not the knowledge or strength of a man, nor a man of an angel. It is not required, therefore, of the child to have so high an estimate of the value of “the good of being," as a man should have, nor of a man that he should have the comprehensive and consequent strength of intention of an angel. If ability limits obligation, all that can be required is, that a moral agent should will the highest

a good with an intensity proportioned to his honest conviction of its value; that is, “with conscious honesty of intention.” This is all an angel can do, and it is perfection in him. It is all a converted pirate can do, and it is perfection in him.

Again, if happiness or enjoyment is the only real good, to intend the highest enjoyment of sentient beings is the whole of virtue, to intend our own gratification is the whole of sin. It is impossible that these intentions should co-exist in the mind. If a man intends the one, he does not intend the other. If all morality centres in this ultimate intention, he must, therefore, at any given moment, be perfectly sinful or perfectly holy. This is a severe dose of logic, but Mr Finney will not tolerate even a wry face in swallowing it. the high seas, he does it only for one end, that is, for precisely the same reason, (viz., to gratify some feeling;] and of course his sinfulness is complete in the sense that it can only be varied by varying light. This I know is contrary to the common opinion, but it is the truth, and must be known; and it is of the highest importance that these fundamental truths of morality and of' immorality should be held up to the minds of all.”—(P. 355.) On the same page we are taught, that if a man abstains from any thing because it is wicked," it is selfish, because the will is determined by “phrenological conscientiousness." NO. VI.

2 Q

“ The new or regenerate heart cannot sin. It is benevolence, love to God and man. This cannot sin. These are both ultimate choices or intentions; they are from their own nature efficient, each excluding the other, and each securing, for the time being, the exclusive use of means to promote its end. To deny this is the same absurdity as to maintain either that the will can at the same time choose two opposite ends, or that it can choose one end only, but at the same time choose the means to accomplish another end not yet chosen. Now, either alternative is absurd. Then, holiness and sin can never co-exist in the same mind. Each, as has been said, for the time being, necessarily excludes the other. Selfishness and benevolence co-exist in the same mind! A greater absurdity and a more gross contradiction was never conceived or expressed."—(P. 310.) This is sound logic, and therefore we must either admit that every man is either perfectly holy or entirely sinful, at any given time, or we must deny that moral obligation is confined to intention ; and if we deny that, we must of course admit that feelings or states of the sensibility may have a moral character; and if we concede that point, we must concede that obligation is not limited by ability; and then the great Diana of the Ephesians has fallen.

This doctrine of the simplicity or unity of moral character is very prominently presented in this work. In Lecture xi. the main proposition contended for is : “Moral character is wholly right or wholly wrong, and never partly right and partly wrong at the same time."--(P. 156.) In Lecture xxviii., he says: “ This conducts us to the conclusion or truth

“ to be demonstrated, -namely, that moral agents are at all times either as holy or sinful as with their knowledge they can be.”—(P. 354.)

We have little space to devote to remarks on this subject, and surely little need be said. 1. The doctrine, of course, rests on a false apprehension of the nature of sin and holiness, and of the grounds and extent of our obligations. Our own conscience and the Bible teach us that we are bound to be completely conformed to the law or image of God; that in whatever respect or degree we fall short of that standard of excellence is sin; and that the law of God exhibits what rational beings ought to be, not what they can be, not what they have plenary power at any moment to make themselves, but what they would be, and would at all times have power to be, were it not for their sinfulness. No man, according to the standard of conscience and the Bible, is perfect, who is not perfectly like Christ, or has not attained to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;” who has not the same love, reverence, humility, patience, long-suffering, mercy, that were in him. It

shocks the moral sense of men to say that a pirate, with all his darkness of mind as to God and divine things, with all his callousness, with all the moral habits of a life of crime, becomes

a perfectly holy by a change of will, by forming a new intention, by mere honesty of purpose. If the demands of God thus rapidly sink with the increasing depravity of men, as has often been remarked, the shortest road to perfection is the most debasing course of crime. 2. Need any reader of the Bible be reminded that the consciousness of sin, of present corruption and unworthiness, is one of the most uniform features of the experience of God's people as there recorded? 3. Or is there any one point in which Christian experience in all ages of the church is more strongly pronounced than in this sense of sin, and consequently humiliation under it? In opposition to the common consciousness of men, to the plainest teachings of the Seriptures, and to the experience of the people of God, we are called upon to believe that “honest intention ” is the whole of duty and religion ; if we have that, we are perfect. If this is a false doctrine, no one can fail to see what its effects must be. If a man thinks himself perfect, if he says, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and knows not that he is wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked,” his situation is most deplorable. Mr Finney is well aware that his doctrine changes the whole nature of religion, and hence his frequent denunciations of the false philosophy and pretended orthodoxy by which religion has been perverted and the church corrupted.' And certain it is that religion, as represented by him, is something exceedingly different from what good people in all ages have commonly regarded it. We should have to provide a new language, new hymns, new prayers, and especially a new Bible. It is useless, however, to continue these remarks. If a man can believe that


human being is either perfectly sinful or perfectly holy, he can believe any thing; and a theory that leads to this conclusion is thereby exploded, and its fragments need hardly be looked after.

Of course, Mr Finney teaches that full or perfect obedience to the moral law is the condition of salvation, now and ever. There is not a passage in the Bible, he says, which intimates that men are saved or justified upon conditions short of personal holiness, or a return to full obedience to the moral law.” -(P. 366.) Any man, therefore, conscious of coming short of perfection has sure evidence that he is not justified. As the moral law is the law of nature, it is absurd to suppose that entire obedience to it should not be the unalterable condition of salvation.”—(P. 364.) Regeneration, therefore, is declared to be "AN INSTANTANEOUS CHANGE FROM ENTIRE SINFULNESS TO ENTIRE HOLINESS."-(P. 500.)

[ocr errors]

This work has interested us principally on two accounts:First, as an illustration of the abject slavery to which the understanding, when divorced from the Bible, and from the other constituents of our nature, reduces those who submit themselves to its authority. One would think that history furnished examples enough of the consequences of following such a guide, to deter others from repeating the experiment. Secondly, Mr Finney's book is the best refutation that can well be given of the popular theology current in many parts of our country. How long have we been accustomed to hear that inability is incompatible with obligation, and that happiness is the highest good! Grant Mr Finney these principles, and he need ask you no further favours. You must follow him to all his conclusions. He has had the strength and the boldness to carry them out to their legitimate consequences; and here they are. You must either take them, or give up the principles whence they flow. We heartily thank our author for having brought matters to this alternative.

Art. II.-The Prophet Habakkuk expounded by Francis Delitzsch.

Leipzig, pp. xxx. & 208.* If we estimate the value of a commentary by the size of the volume, or the extent of Scriptural surface over which it travels, the merit of this exposition of Habakkuk by Dr Francis Delitzsch will undoubtedly not be very great; but if we allow the ability, the learning, the evangelical views, and the deep-toned piety, which it displays, to enter into the computation, we must assign to the work before us a distinguished place. Its author belongs to that school of German theologians, so happily on the increase, who with profound scholarship unite staunch orthodoxy, and who are turning the tide of popular unbelief by their unanswerable demonstrations that learning and faith in Scripture go hand in hand. In the matters of inspiration and of the supernatural facts of the Bible, Dr Delitzsch admits of no compromise; and he plainly evinces in abundant instances throughout the book, the truth of what he thus states in his introduction, that there must be—for we have in Habakkuk an instance of it—“a prophecy, which, as it cannot be explained from human foresight, must have a supernatural divine illumination for its cause." This deserves to be rated pre-eminently among the qualifications of an expositor. How essential it is for a Biblical interpreter to have

* Der Prophet Habakkuk ausgelegt von Franz Delitzsch.

this conviction well grounded in his mind at the outset can be best appreciated by those who have seen something of the monstrosities of exegesis and of criticism to which an error here has given rise. If some one were to attempt to expound the “Paradise Lost" on the presumption that it was an infantile production, and should go determinedly to work to reduce every thing to the level of what might be expected from a child's capacities, lopping off and paring down without scruple wherever this was necessary to his end, such a procedure with Milton may very well be put on a parallel with that treatment of the books of Scripture which sets out with the principle that nothing supernatural can be admitted. Lexicography, grammar, history, have all been, as occasion required, broken on the wheel. Many German works, which pass under the name of commentaries or introductions, are by this unsound principle at the bottom rendered perfectly worthless, except as museums of exegetical curiosities; while others, that are really valuable, are in many points sadly disfigured. In the hands of unbelieving interpreters, the method and result of their exegesis have grown up into a system, which spreads its influence over the whole field of sacred literature, even to points where we would least suspect its existence. It constantly reappears in places the most remote from those obnoxious passages for the sake of which it was invented. With an appearance of candour and laborious induction well calculated to deceive the unwary, it deduces significations, assigns etymologies, lays down grammatical rules, which nevertheless have no other reason but that they may be applied in some particular case where the maxims of neology find them necessary. So that even an interpreter of sound views, if he suffers himself to depend upon writers of this school for materials, without subjecting them to an independent and thorough investigation for himself

, will be constantly liable (as has often actually happened) to adopt, without designing or observing it, what has sprung from no better origin than principles which he repudiates. On the other hand, if he rejects indiscriminately all that such works contain, he deprives himself of the benefit of whatever is valuable in the patient and laborious researches of many able scholars.

Without undertaking to pronounce accurately upon the comparative merits or demerits of the work before us, we wish to note a few things, in addition to the soundness of its author's theological sentiments, which contribute much to its value as a critical commentary. In Hebrew philology Dr Delitzsch is evidently at home. His previous labours in this field, particu

, larly his Jesurun, published in 1838 under the double title of “Prolegomenato Fürst's Hebrew Concordance, and Introduction

« הקודםהמשך »