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A Letter to a Friend, who re and assume for a time a fixed and
ceived his theological educa. perceptible shape. This advan. tion under the instruction of tage will be duly estimated by Dr. Emmons, concerning the those, who have labored through doctrine, which teaches, that tedious arguments, rendered un. imperitent sinners have nat. intelligible from inability to dis. urul power to make them. cover the precise meaning of the selves new hearts. By Na. terms, used in it. The next ben. THANIEL NILES, A. M. efit, resulting from metaphysical Windsor, Vt. A. Spooner, inquiries, is the habit of close and 1809.
discriminating thought, which is
produced. Thus the mind is Since the days of Jonathan rendered more keen and active, Edwards, New England has and the instruments of its labor been considered as the peculiar become known and are conven. abode of metaphysical theology. ient for use. In the last place Here, if we may believe some many truths of the highest im. men, she has erected her throne portance are discovered, and the upon the chaos of intellect, and delusions of sinful men are in reigns over a multitude of sub. this way more completely search. jects, who think themselves in ed out. While the heart is de. the regions of light while they ceitful above all things, while it grope in darkness. We are not winds itself into a thousand inclined to defend the New Eng. forms, and hides itself in a land divines from the charge of thousand labyrinths, the acute metaphysical ingenuity, though and persevering metaphysician, we cannot so readily acquiesce who will not relax from his rein the supposed inutility of their searches till he can bring forth speculations. So far as our ac. the hidden motive to the light, quaintance has extended, we may effectually promote even the have not found, that those who interests of practical religion. think the deepest are in conse. With these views we are not quence the less plain, and pun. grieved at seeing the pamphlet, gent, and successful in preach. now to be examined, though we ing. The pride of party may should have been more gratified sometimes have attached an un. if it had been both written and due importance to certain ab. printed in a better style. It is struse notions ; but we think a direct assault upon a principle that several important benefits which has long been embraced frequently arise from metaphys. by many of the New Eogland ical researches. First, the large divines, and as the author prom.. class of general or abstract words, ises, that a larger work shall which are used in very differ follow in the same cause, this ent senses by different persons treatise is the more deserving of become invested with a definition, consideration, as the public may
wish to know the point of dis. which Mr. N. cannot and will pute, or “the state of the con. not agree. His reasoning is as troversy."
follows. Power or ability, in It seems, that both Mr. Nules relation to this subject, must and those, whose system he at. mean one of two things ; either tacks, fully believe, that men first the properties of our minds, are by nature so entirely de which fit us to be the subjects praved, that unless God by his of certain operations, to expe. special influence renews their rience certain effects, such as hearts, they will not be holy. the properties or faculties of To this doctrine it has in every sensation, perception, under. age been objected by the impeni. standing, and willing, which are tent sinner, if this be the case, distinct and prerequisite to ac. then I am not criminal for my tual feeling, knowledge, and continuance in sin, for I have not volition ; or secondly the sure power to renew my heart.' It is connexion, which subsists be. in respect to the mode of repelling tween the acts of the will and this objection, that a difference certain events, which follow of opinion has arisen. Mr. N. those acts. Now when it is said, if we understand him, would say that impenitent singers have the to the sioner, your heart is natural ability to repent, if the sinful, it is destitute of love to word ability be used in the lat. God, it is contrary to his law, ter sense, then we shall have the and in that consists your guilt ; strauge assertion, that repent. it is of no consequence how your ance will assuredly follow the heart became sinful ; it is no unholy volition of the impeni. matter though it is impossible tent sinner to repent. But if for you to repent.' With this the word ability be used in the answer Mr. N. would content former sense, then all the parade himself. The gentlemen, whom of metaphysical subtilty, which he opposes, the Rev. Drs. Em. was designed to demolish the MONS, SPRING, and CRANE, strong hold of the sinner,amounts would say very much the same only to this, that he has certain thing, but in order completely properties of mind, that he has to silence the sinner, they would understanding and will, and if explain themselves and address he repented he would repent !' him in this manner. You are Such an empty declaration as able to do your duty, but not this Mr. N. cannot regard as willing ; you have natural pow. worthy of the good sense of er to obey the commands of God, those, whom he opposes, inas. but you have not the moral much as it does not meet the power ; God requires no more objection of the sinner, and as than what you have natural it asserts only what every body ability to perform, but your admits. hearts are disobedient ; you have We do not see how the force as much power to repent as to of this reasoning can be evaded, move your hand, but you will and we gravely suspect, that all not repent ; your inability is the supporters of the distinction moral, not natural.'
between natural and moral abili, It is this representation, with ty and inability, from Jonathan Edwards down to the writers of ont their own salvation, as to the present day, mean no more perform the common actions of by the distinction, notwithstand life.” To this it is objected, ing all the parade of system, than that ability, as commonly used, the plain fact, that a bad heart, relates to the sure connexion be. or a want of disposition or will tween the will and the conse. to obey God is no excuse to the quent effect, which cannot here sioner, who bas understanding be the meaning ; of course the to know his duty. This is a above assertion, as the common very evident truth, and it was reader would understand it, is not necessary to dress it up in not correct. It may be true the shape of a metaphysical however as Dr. E. understood it. theory. Still however it may The peculiar views of Mr. N. not be so trifling a distinction, as exhibited in this pamphlet, as Mr. N. would represent it seem to be the following. Con. If the singer, who is endeavor. sidering the affections and vow ing to justify himself for his con. lition as a property of the soul tinuance in iniquity by pleading in the same sense, that the un. his inability to be holy, is re. derstanding is, he chooses to call minded, that his inability con. them natural powers, while at sists in nothing but his sinful the same time he acknowledges, temper, his sinful heart, his sin, that they are exclusively moral ful affections, his sinful will, powers also, since to them must and if he is told, that he is con. be referred all that is sipful or strained by no necessity, which holy. When therefore a man is would not give way if he loved utterly opposed to holiness, he God supremely, ought this to considers him as being under a be considered as an impertinent natural inability to be holy. reply ?
Virtue and vice, holiness and Does Mr. N. then really agree sin, have not however, in his in sentiment with the gentlemen, judgment, any relation to natural whom he attacks, and is the dif- power, for they respect only the ference only about the meaning of heart. Whenever the heart is words? We think this is actual. wicked, a natural inability af. ly the case in regard to the prin. fords no excuse, and whenever cipal subject discussed, though the heart is good, the same ina. there is a difference in some res. bility does not diminish the good. pects. We oweit to the clear defi. ness. All affections, volitions, nitions, contained in this pamph. and external acts are only of im. let, that we are enabled to see the portance, as they show the state point of controversy, and that of heart. The commands, and we see it to be merely a question exhortations, and promises of relating to the import of words. the Scriptures do not imply, that We have no doubt but that the men have any power to repent, author of the pamphlet has the but only express the duty of better of the argument that is, men, and teach them what will that he attaches the truest mean. be the event of obedience and ing to the words of his mother disobedience. tongue. Dr. Emmons says that At the close of his pamphlet, siuners 66 are as able to work the author points out some o!
the evil tendencies of the doc- ry, or any other property of the soul trine, that sinners have the nat may be so called. Of course the want of
the bat. them, where they are needful to an efural power to make themselves fect, may as properly be pronounced a new hearts ; but his apprehen. defect of natural power as may the want,
of understanding or bodily strength.” sions relate solely to his view of the doctrine, which is certainly The faculty of the will is un. different from the view of those, doubtedly one of the natural who inculcate it. They attach a faculties of the soul; it is a pre. different meaning to the words, requisite to volition, or the ac. in which it is expressed. His de. tual exercise of the faculty. But sign is to obtain some explana. when the power is actually ex. tions of it.
erted in relation to moral sub. We have examined this trea. jects, for instance when a par. tise with some attention, and ticular command of God is un. though we find in it much derstood, and the mind wills ingenuity and patient thought, either to obey or to disobey it, yet we do not perceive, that the or what is the same thing either writer differs greatly from those, loves or hates it ; this act is of whom he opposes. The contro. a moral nature, because it is versy is very much respecting the necessarily either holy or sinful. meaning of words. The fol. Suppose the mind to be so form. lowing passage seems to be to ed as in variably to prefer what the point.
is sinful, would this uniform,
fixed, and certain preference of “It is at once as easy, and more famil. iar, literal, and intelligible to say, one
evil, which is an act of a moral has a disposition or volition, or that he is nature, prove that the soul is willing to do a thing, than to say he has under a natural ipability to what moral power to do it; and to say he is not willing, than to say he is morally unable,
is good ? It would according to or that he labors under a moral impo. Mr. N. for the preference of tence with respect to doing it ; to say
good is necessary, in order that that a bad heart is a wicked thing, than to say, that a bad heart is moral inability
goodness should be attributed to to do right, and that a moral inability to the heart, and this preference is do right is a wicked thing."
wanting. But is not this to con. This is very good for it is strip.
found the distinction between ping metaphysical theology of
natural and moral power, which its technical language ; but per.
Mr. N. himself recogoizes ? Let haps the work might be done
an appeal, for instance, be made more thoroughly, and even the
to the charity of a rich miser, author's " volition” might be
who has every prerequisite to thrown aside with the other
the bestowment of a portion of
his wealth, excepting the dispo. terms. We were surprised at the in.
sition, the want of which is his accuracy of the following para.
moral defect or sin. Yet this graph, which contains the sub.
disposition being 6 needful to stance of the author's peculiar
the effect,” the want of it is, ac. opinion.
cording to Mr. N., a defect of
natural power. Is not this en. “ It seems to me evident, that affec- tirely to annihilate the distinctions, volitions, &c. may be called natural tion powers in the same sense, in which per
tion between natural and moral ception, knowledge, intelligence, memo, ability ? " We are in in
numerable instances,” says the In favoring us with a new edi. author, 6 both unable and un. tion of Buck on Experience we willing.” Was the miser unable think that the American editors to bestow his money ? Was he have evinced their judgment and under a natural inability to give taste, and rendered an acceptable it? What was there wanting service to all the friends of Er. except the volition ? Was not perimental Religion. his inability solely moral ? If Mr. Buck is well known, as so, how is Mr. N. consistent the author of a Theological Dic. with himself, or how does he tionary, a work of considerable differ from those, whose senti. merit. His Young Christian's ments he examines ? If then by Guide, and his Anecdotes are the sinner's natural power to not yet known in this country, repent or to make himself a new but we hope that the favorable heart be meant, that he has eve. reception of the work now be. ry prerequisite faculty, and that fore us, will encourage the Amer. nothing is wanting except the ican editors to favor us with very repentance or the new heart one or both of them. itself, the want of which is sin, This little treatise on Relig. or moral inability, what is the ious Experience is remarkable subject of this controversy but for the simplicity of its arrange. the meaning of words ?
ment and style, and for the ex. cellent advice to Christians of all ages, and in all situations with
which it abounds. A Treatise on Religious Expe. The table of contents, prehl.
rience, in which its nature,evi. ed to the work will give an idea dences, and advantages are of its nature and design. considered. By Charles Buck. Chap. 1. On the nature of From the Second London Edi. Religious Experience in general. tion, Boston: Lincoln & 2. On the advantages of Experi. Edmands, 1810. 12mo. pp. ence. 3. The Young Chris. 266.
tian's Experience. 4. Experi.
ence of the Christian in middle We have been repeatedly age. 5. Distressing Experience. gratified with the many excellent 6. On happy Experience. ?: transatlantic publications which Remembrance of past Experlo have been presented to the Amer. ence. 8. On the relation of ican public, from the press of Experience. 9. The aged Chris. Messrs. Lincoln and Edmands. tian's Experience. 10. Dying In a country like ours, where Experience. 11. Advice fee so few original works can be specting Experience. 12. The expected, it requires no inconsid. Evil of the want of Experience erable judgment to select from These subjects are important, the immense variety of foreign and we can assure our rcaders publications, those, which are that they are treated by the au. best calculated to promote the thor in a very useful, interesting: religious interests, as well as to and practical manner, and will attract the attention, and to well repay an attentive perusal. gratify the taste of the public. In his introduction the author