« AnteriorContinuar »
light,” which cannot but dispel much of the moral darkness in your vicinity. The light reflected by this sermon, upon the true nature of sin and holiness, as consisting in the active fulfilment or violation of the precepts or prohibitions of the divine law; and upon the intrinsic absurdity of the Triangular scheme of involuntary si n; is of no small consequence to the world. In this department of the sermon we meet with handsome style, clear and conclusive reasoning, and excellent judgment. But the masterly and triumphant manner in which the Dr. has put down some of the leading errors of Hopkinsians, is what I wish in particular to notice, as well deserving your curious and serious attention. I have heard it privately hinted, for some time past, that light respecting these errors was springing up in Connecticut, and that an improved method of exhibiting several offensive points in theology had been practised with great success, by several leading men. I could scarcely credit the report that Mr. Nettleton and some other divines of eminence had very strenuously dissuaded from the publication of these improvements, lest it should occasion an unpleasant theological controversy; for it seemed to me that light should not be kept hid under a bushel. Though some have feared the consequence, I must say I have witnessed with singular pleasure the gradual developement of these improveinents. Not to mention other kindred publications, I bave perused with great interest the article on hardening the heart, in the December No. of the Christian Spectator for 1821, said to have been written by Dr. Beecher; Rev. Mr. Andros' Essay on divine efficiency; Rev. Edward Beecher's Address before the Young Men's Education Society of Boston, published ivi 1827; and I will add the late Concio ad Clerum by Dr. Taylor. But my design, at present, is to endeavour to illustrate some of the peculiar beauties of the last, that I fear might otherwise escape the notice of at least superficial observers. Had I the requisite ability, I have not time at present to give the sermon a thorough review and I hope the few brief remarks I shall make upon it, will not be thought to interfere at all with the privilege and labour of ou. theological reviewers.
Near the commencement of his discourse, the L ers know that he means wisely to steer his course between “Scylla and Charybdis,” and shun the gross errors of Triangular divines on one side, and the buge blunders of Hopkinsians on the other. The pens of Doctors Ely and Green will hardly be persuaded to be idle, when this sermon shall have met their eye. the able defence of Dr. Fitch will lead them to pause and count the cost of another attack upon New-Haven theologians. After the Dr. states and ably defends the true nature of sin, he proceeds to show that the moral depravity of man is by nature. The proposition he states and proceeds to defend, is, that our nature is not in
lets his read
itself sinful, but only the occasion or reason of our sinning, and that we are ma le with such natural propensities, that “in all the appropriate circumstances of our being, we sin and only sin.” It is to be regretted the Dr, did not more clearly illustrate this fundamental proposition, and show us more fully what are the appropriate circu:nstances of our being, in which we always sin. Mankind experience a great variety of circumstances. At different periods men are awake and asleep, at labour and at rest, at home and abroad, in good company and in bad, in high and low spirits, in large circles and in retirement, in places of peculiar temptation, and out of them, on water and on land, in war and in peace, in the city and country, in a state of refinement and vulgarity, of heathenism and civility, of knowledge and ignorance, with and without the means of grace, and among ladies, gentlemen, angels and devils, beasts of the field, birds of the air, fish of the sea, and even creeping things. In his next, the Dr. will doubtless inform us, whether or no all of these, and what others, are the appropriate circumstances of our being, in which we sin, and only sin. And lest I should be accused of an indiscriminate praise of the sermon, I will here take the liberty to remark, that our author is a little too profound in resolving both the cause and occasion of our sinning, into our 'nature, nalural propensities, disposition or tendency to sin,' &c. If neither the" appropriate circumstances of our being,” nor motives without, are the occasion of sin, but only our natural propensities; why
“ lead us not into temptation"? We question, whether our natural propensities are, properly speaking, the occasion of our sinning at all. But this however may perhaps be explained. But I basten to the fourth inference, and the remarkable nole under it, which have attracted my greatest attention.
The object of these is to show, that the nature of sin and its cause, advocated in the sermon, places the moral perfection of God on a foundation that defies the calumnies and objections of every class of cavillers. A weighty object this !! Neither Calvinists, nor Arminians, nor even Universalists, have ever been able yet to place this subject in a light, that could satisfy every person, and win over all the world to the faith of the gospel. But the masterly manner in which the Dr. has proceeded in bis demonstrations, must put this difficult subject forever at rest. He first shows the absurdity of the Triangular notion, that God gave mankind a nature that compels them to sin ; and then proceeds to attack two of the main pillars of the Hopkinsian edifice, viz. “ that sin is the necessary means of the greatest good, and that God could in his moral system have prevented all sin, or at least the present degree of sin; wisely judging,
no doubt, that if he only succeeded in overthrowing these, the whole edifice must fall to the ground and be dashed in
should we pray
pieces. In showing the intrinsic absurdity of the first “assumption,” the Dr. with profound sagacity reasons thus : “ If such be the nature of God, of man, of holiness, of sin, of all things, that sin is the necessary means of the greatest good, ought it not to be made the means of the greatest good, ought it not to be made the subject of precept" !!!! To be sure, without doubt_" For how can it be consistent with the benevolence of a moral governor, to require of his subjects that moral conduct which is not on the whole for the best." Right, Dr. right And even without a positive divine precept, on this absurd supposition, how practicable and safe and even virtuous it would be for human beings to “ do evil that good may come.” | the glory of God and the general good of the universe required that Pharaoh should be raised up and do what he did that God might show in'him his power, and declare his name throughout all the earth, as Hopkinsians suppose ; then why did not God expressly command him to refuse to let his people go, and oppress them cruelly as he did? If it was so indispensably necessary that Christ should be crucified as he was, to make atonement for sin, as this assumption supposes; then why did not God command Judas to betray, and the Jews to murder him? For how can a benevolent being neglect to require that moral conduct of his creatures, which he knows is on the whole for the best !!! Now, Dr. Emmons, you may lay down your pen, that has vainly laboured for half a century to defend this absurdity, and acknowledge beat.
I see not how you can turn to the right hand or to the left, to evade the force of this sweeping interrogation. If you should even take the unbeard of ground which the Dr. in his profound sagacity has very ingeniously conceived, that some might possibly be led to take, viz. that it is best, on the whole, that God should require some sin, but not best, on the whole, that we should obey such commands,' the Dr. has conclusively demonstrated, that this would make God insincere. I hope the reader will not conjecture, that the Dr. was not the original inventor of this argument, nor suppose that he might possibly have borrowed it from some ancient professed Calvinistic, Arminian
, or Palagian writer. Lest it should escape observation, I will here just hint, that the Dr. in this place, as well as in many other places in his sermon, very judiciously and ingeniously sets his foot on the worthless and contemptible distinction, which some hair-splitting geniuses have invented, between what is best on the whole, and best simply considered. And I have long thought it high time to treat all such metaphysical nonsense with a kind of contemptuous neglect.
Another and capital argument used to refute this Hopkinsian hypothesis is, that “virtue is founded in utility, and that greater happiness will result from holiness than from vice.” Now, in view of this almost self-evident proposition, who can ever again be led to
sumed to say,
believe, that virtue is founded in the nature of the intention, and the nalure and relation of things, as Dr. Emmons has vainly endeavoured to prove by the whole of his 19th sermon in his 3d volume? We shall doubtless very shortly have a public refutation of the arguments used in that sermon. But waving this point, who can stand before the Dr's interrogation, “ If greater happiness will result from virtue than from vice, how can sin be made the occasion of securing the greatest goo:1," or greatest amount of knowledge, holiness, and happiness? With such light before him, who can ever again believe the antiquated absurdity, that the moral imperfection of saints in this life, can possibly be the occasion of promoting their highest gratitude, humility and felicity, as long as they sball exist, or that the ill-desert and punishment of the finally impenitent, can possibly be made the occasion of securing the most perfect exercise, exhibition and gratification of the divine perfections, conceivable, and of promoting the highest knowledge, holiness and blessedness of the heavenly hosts forever? Alas, and Alas !!! Why has this light been concealed from the earth so long? How much time and strength might have been spared, that have been spent in songs of mistaken praise? Had David only seen this day, would he have pre
“ the wrath of man shall praise thee, and the remainder of wrath thou wilt restrain” ? Would Nebuchadnezzar have sung to the praise of the Most High, as he did, saying, “ And 1 praised and honored him that liveth forever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and amongst the inhabitants of the earth : and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What does thou”? Let saints every where be instructed by this subject.
* Where is now the glory of the power and wrath of God, manifested upon the vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction,” who might infinitely better on the whole, and would have been formed into vessels of mercy, had the Omnipotent been able to do it, without destroying their moral agency? - Where is now your boasted sentiment, that “ of God, and through him, and to him, are all things, to whom be glory forever"? Where your vain hope, that God will eventually produce the best conceivable system, and secure a clear balance of light out of all darkness, and good out of all evil? Let your hopes and joys in future be more rational, intelligent and solid. On this point,
your prejudices, “ it is presumptuous to bid defiance to the powers of human reason.”
But our author has other arguments still. He says “if sin be the necessary means of the greatest good, who can reasonably regard the commission of it with sorrow, or even regret? What benevolent being, duly informed, can ingenuously regret that by sin he has pat it in the power of God, to produce greater good than he
could otherwise produce?” Most certainly. And on this principle we "might even thank God that we have been the servants of sin,' and ' rejoice and thank God alway for all things,' sin itself not excepted. Such monstrous absurdity attends this view of the subject. I must here digress again for a moment, and request the reader to notice how firmly the Dr. keeps his foot placed on the senseless distinction between feeling regret for sin, in itself considered, and for its existence all thing's considered.
The Dr’s. fifth and last argument to demolish this pillar of Hopkinsianism, is this. “Had the subject [of moral depravity) howerer, been fully apprized of the utility of the deed, and the real preserence of God, his own interest and his duty would have teen coincident; and how does it appear that in this case he had not performed the act from a benevolent intention !! And how great is the guilt of a selfish intention, which for aught that appears, is 01casioned by deception on the part of the lawgiver?” Sensible remarks, these ! On this Hopkinsian assumption, if God had plainly and fully told us just how much it was best on the whole for us to sin; how does it appear that sin would be sin? And if he has refused to tell us fully how much it is best for us to sin, as is the fact, who can blame any person much for sinning under such cir. cumstances? And seeing Christ was pleased to foretell the absolute necessity of his sufferings to make atonement for sin, how does it now appear, and how can we possibly prove, that his murderers did not kill the Lord of glory, from the most benevolent intentions !!! The Dr. might have strengthened this argument, by the following text of scripture : “ If the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory, why yet am I also judged as a sinner?” Sons of the pilgrims, awake! Theologians, every where, attend! Who can tell, but that the application of this grand, rational, and self-evident principle of logic, to the system of theology will remove every difficulty, that ever was, will be, or might have been? Who will ever have the presumption, again this absurd hypothesis, which the Prolocutor of the Theological Seminary of New-Haven, has so logically, so ingeniously, and so triumphantly refuted.
[To be concluded.]
FOR THE HOPKINSIAN MAGAZINE
A DIFFICULTY PROPOSED. MR. EDITOR-It has been pleasant to me, in the exercise of my ministry, and in my endeavours to vindicate the ways of God 10 men, to represent him as a Being of infnite compassion, and as having exhibited this compassion in his treatment of our sinful
He made us rational and accountable creatures, gave us the