« AnteriorContinuar »
hence the great importance of studying this science, correcting its nomenclature, and elucidating its principles. To the neglect, and not to the cultivation of this science, must we attribute much of that “apparent diversity of opinion, where there is in reality very little if any,” as well as that apparent unity of opinion, where there is, in reality, great and essential diversity.
Believing it to be the fact, that 'man has no heart separate from exercises, which we are pleased to find the candid Editor of the Mirror does not deny; we still see no need of 'dispensing with the use of the word heart, in describing moral character or religious experience.' Supposing the word heart to mean the moral affections of the man, whether holy or sinful, collectively considered; we feel no need either of a “new Bible,” or “a new rendering of the Bible," or of ever, giving the term heart, on moral subjects, more than one "meaning.
The language of sacred scripture, to which no one can feel too great an"attachment,” though not designed to teach a system of metaphysics, yet we believe is always in accordance with the true principles of Intellectual philosophy, and particularly in that passage (Mark, vu. 21, 22.) in which our Lord mentions what things proceed out of the heart of man, we do not perceive that the mode of expression is at all inconsistent with the supposition that by the heart is meant the immanent, voluntary affections, and by evil thoughts, as well as murders, thefts, &c. are meant the emanent exercises of the will, commonly called volitions.
We do not expect that the “mass of mankind” will be brought to entertain correct views of the faculties, powers, and operations of their own minds, in all respects, before the Millenium, if then;but we do hope that much may be done, by such writers as Philalethes, to render both the sentiments and language of Christians conformable to sound philosophy and sacred scripture.
For the Hopkinsian Magasins. ANSWER TO AN INTERESTING QUESTION. QUESTION--If the Jews, who crucified Christ, had known that his death by their hands was necessary for the greatest good of the universe, might they have been innocent in pulling him to death?
This question assumes, that it was necessary to the greatest good of the universe, that Christ should be slain, in the manner he was, by the hands of the Jews. That it was so, seems to me capable of demonstration. If it were admitted, as certain theologians have of late boldly asserted, that God could not restrain the Jews from the murderous act of crucifying the Redeemer, without depriving them of their moral agency; then we should be obliged to conclude, that God considered it better on the whole, or for the greater good of the univorse, to suffer them to imbrue their hands in Christ's blood, than
to deprive them of their moral agency, But if it be admitted, agreeably to the dictates of reason and the declarations of scipture, that God has the hearts of men in his hand, and turns them as he does the rivers of water, and that with infinite ease, he could have restrained the Jewish rulers from their deed of death, in perfect consistency with their moral freedom; then the conclusion must be, that he did not restrain them, because he deemed it best not to restrain them, or, in other words, saw it to be necessary for the greatest good, that they should do as they did. We are led to the same conclusion, by considering the good which has resulted and is to resalt from the death of Christ, and which, without that sacrifice, could not have been obtained. All the good comprised in the salvation of myriads of lost men, and the clear and full display of the Divine perfections in the work of redemption, follows as a consequence of tbe death of Christ, which alone could make atonement for sin, and open the way for the exercise of pardoning mercy. Besides, if the death of Christ had not been indispensably necessary to the greatest good of the universe, can we believe that he would have yielded to the violence of his murderers, when he had power to deliver himself out of their hands?-or that the Father of mercies would have subjected bis beloved Son to such a painful and ignominious death? But the matter is put beyond all question by the words of Christ to his disciples, “ Truly the Son of man goeth as it was determined;" and by the declaration of Peter to his crucifiers, “ Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye bave taken, and by wicked bands have crucified and slain.”
Here we are plainly taught, that the murder of the Prince of Life was not a deed, which God desired to prevent, but could not; or which he barely permitted, when he might have hindered it; but a deed which he purposed and determined in his eternal counsel. It is as certain, therefore, that the murder of Christ was necessary to the greatest good of the universe, as it is that God is a benevolent and good being. This, however, the Jews did not know; for, as the apostle says, " had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” They thought him an impostor and blasphemer, whom they ought to punish with death. But God was certainly able to convince the Jews, blind as they were, that Jesus was the Christthat he came into the world to die for sinners and that his death was indispensably necessary to the greatest good of the universe. And supposing he had produced this conviction in their minds; the question is not, whether they might have been guilly, in putting bim to death—but whether they could have been innocent? To this question, the theologians above mentioned, with Dr. Taylor of New Haven at their head, would give an affirmative answer. be fairly inferred from the Doctor's copious Nole to his Sermon from Eph. ii. 3, in which he uses these expressions, p. 31. “Had the subject, however, been fully apprised of the utility of the deed, and the real preference of God, his own interest and his duty would have been coincident; and how does it appear that in this case he had not performed the act from a benevolent intention?--The law of God,
according to the assumption, is no proof that transgression is not on the whole for the best; indeed the subject knows that all sin will prove to be the neces
cessary means of the greatest good; how then does it appear that with this knowledge he was not truly benevolent in performing the deed?"
But an affirmative answer to such a question as that stated above, appears to me nearly to resemble the absurd inference drawn by the apostle Paul's bearers from his doctrine, “Let us do evil that good may come;" and I will now proceed to give my reasons for answering the proposed question in the negative.
The Jews could not have been innocent in taking the life of the Son of God, unless the act was right in itself, or was divinely commanded, or might have been done with truly benerolent motives. If the act was wrong in itself; if instead of being commanded, it was forbidden; and if it could not have been performed with good motives or intentions, then unquestionably it must have been criminal, although it was designed by God, and known to the Jews, as the necessary means of effecting the greatest good of the universe.
1. Then, was the act of the Jews in crucifying Christ, right in itself? The accusations brought against him were false. He was “ holy, harmless,” and perfectly innocent. To put him to death, therefore, was in the highest degree unjust and cruel
. It was murder of the most atrocious kind, which every enlightened conscience condemns, as one of the foulest of crimes. A knowledge that the general good required the death of Christ, could not change the nature of the crime of murder, or give the Jews the least right to crucify him. Even bis own consent to the deed, which as a man he had no right to give, would not bave diminished the guilt of his murderers. No being, but the Sovereign Owner of the universe, had a right to take the life of the holy Jesus, to promote the general good.
The question then arises,
2. Had the Jews a command from God to put Christ to death? This, it is presumed, no one will assert. So far from commanding, or even permitting them to take the life of his well beloved Son, God expressly forbade their doing it. This he did in his law, which stood in full force against every act of the kind, “Thou shalt not kill.” This prohibition is clothed with all the authority of the Supreme Legislator, and was binding on the Jews, under all circumstances, as it ever is upon all mankind. Their knowledge of what was most for the good of the universe, had they possessed it, would not bave released them from their obligation to submit to the divine authority. Nothing short of an express dispensation from the Lawgiver, can ever release men from their obligation to obey the divine law.
But still it may be asked,
3. If the Jews had known that the death of Christ was necessary to the greatest good of the universe, might they not bave crucified him with benevolent and good intentions ?-might they not bave done the deed with a sincere desire and design to promote the greatest good of the universe? I answer, that the supposition is absurd. Those whose intentions or motives are benevolent and good, have a
good heart, which is opposed to whatever is morally wrong, and which leads them to love and keep the law of God, and yield implicit submission to his divine authority. Had the Jews, therefore, known that the death of Christ was necessary to the greatest good; still they could not have imbrued their hands in his blood, without those selfish and malevolent feelings and affections which actually prompted them to commit the murderous deed. That which is morally, wrong in itself, can never be done with right exercises of heart. It is true, the same external action may, under different circumstancez, be performed with opposite moral affections. But external actions are mere motions of the organs of the body, and destitute of any moral quality. Every action, which has a moral quality, consists of the affection of the heart and the intention or motive of the will. To say, therefore, that an action which is morally wrong and evil in itself, may be done with a good motive or intention, is as absurd as to say, that one may act selfishly with a benevolent intention, or hate from the motive of love.
The doctrine of Gadwin and other psudo philanthropists, that it is right to do what is morally wrong, when believed to be conducive to the general good, is repugnant alike to reason and scripture, and is just the reverse of the doctrine of disinterested benevolence, as explained by Edwards and Hopkins. The philanthropy of the philosophists, releases men from the dictates of conscience and the requirements of law, and leads to all manner of licentiousness and crime: wbile, on the other hand, the love to being in general of Edwards, which is the same as the disinterested benevolence of Hopkins, disposes those who possess it, to keep a conseience void of offence,' and to have respect to all the commandments of God,' and thus leads them to live 'soberly, righteously, and godly.'
As a knowledge that the death of Christ was necessary to the greatest good, could not have rendered his crucifiers innocent, so a knowledge that all the sins of men are necessary to the greatest good, can never render men innocent in any of their actions, for which, without such knowledge, they would be guilty. I have put the strongest case possible, (a case which perhaps never occurred in fact) one in which men are supposed to bave known before-hand that a particular sinful act of theirs would be for the greatest good. If such a knowledge has ever been possessed, it must have been communicated by special revelation; for, from the general truth that all the past sins of men were necessary to the greatest good, it cannot be inferred, that any particular sinful act, supposed to be done at some future time, will be for the general good. God only knows, and be only can tell how much sin, or what particular acts of wickedness, in future, are necessary to the greatest good of the intelligent system.
It is the duty of men to do what is right in itself: it is the prerogative of the great Proprietor and Governor of the universe to determine and bring to pass what is best on the whole. The divine law, and not the divine decrees, is the rule of duty for men: and it is only with “ wicked hands" and selfish hearts, for which they de
serve punishment, that they ever can do those evil deeds, which God sees necessary, and will overrule, for his own glory and the greatest good of his moral kingdom.
For the Hopkinsian Magazine: REVIVAL MEASURES-N0. 2. In this number I am to describe a different system of means to promote a revival. Dr. Credulus professes to agree with my minister in general, in his theological creed, but differs from him on many subjects of expediency, and especially in his manner of promoting revivals. It is a maxim with him, that all those kinds of preaching and praying that do not promote the immediate and frequent conversion of sinners in this age of revivals, must be radically defective in matter, manner and spirit, though in a different age, and at certain periods, he acknowledges that Moses and the prophets, Jesus Christ and soine of his most eminent embassadors bad little or no success in the conversion of sioners.
In order to promote a revival, Dr. C. begins a course of plain, powerful and direct preaching. These terms however are used in a little different sense from their common meaning, since the preaching seems to have a little affinity to scolding, passion and arrogance. He assumes a theatrical manner, as best adapted to move the passions. He appears to think that discussion and close metaphysical reasoning is unwise and unnecessary in revivals. In this enlightened age, he seems to presume that people in general know enough about the main truths of the gospel to answer every necessary purpose, and that revival preaching need not have so much to do with the intellect and understanding, as my minister deems to be important. He accordingly passes over in silence the distinction between God's will and desire respecting events simply considered, and his will and choice on the whole, which he seems to think is too much like splitting hairs for a time of revival. The abstruse point, that men are active when acted upon, is also thought too metaphysica! for revival preaching. He seems to fear that it will discourage sinners from acting, to tell them they are entirely dependent upon the causing agency of God for all their volitions. The doctrines of the universal decrees and agency of God, and his ultimate design to glorify himself and secure the highest good of the universe by constantly working in every person to will and to do exactly according to his perfect plan laid before the foundation of the world, he does not think best to prove, illustrate and enforce, at such a time. For the same reason,
he omits the doctrines of particular, personal election, reprobation and absolute divine sovereigntyThere are some duties also that he does not think best to urge much at such a time, particularly the duty of discriminating between true