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ings; the other arrogantly claims a part, yea the very turning point of salvation: According to the latter, we need only certain helps or assistances, granted to men in common, to enable us to choose the path of life; but according to the former, our hearts being by nature wholly depraved, we need an almighty and invincible power to renew them, otherwise our free-agency would only accelerate our everlasting ruin.
Crisp. You suppose, I imagine, that the invincible operations of the Holy Spirit do not interfere with our free-agency?
Gai. Certainly: If the temper of the heart does not affect it, neither can any change upon that temper. It affects free-agency no more than it affects reason, conscience, or memory: Man all along feels himself at Jiberty to follow what inclination dictates; and, there. fore, is a free-agent.
Crisp. Does your notion agree of free-agency with the language of the apostle Paul: The good that I would, I do not; and the evil that I would not, that I do.
To will, is present; but how to perform that which is good, I find not?
Gai. I think we ought to distinguish between a willingness that is habitual and general, and one that is universal and entire. Paul, and every true Christian, generally and habitually wills to be holy, as God is holy; but this volition is not universal nor entire. It is not so perfect nor intense, as that there is no remainder of indolence, obstinacy, or carnality. Perfection is the object approved,or rather desired, but that approbation or desire is not perfect in degree: A perfect degree of willingness would be perfect holiness,
Crisp. Then you do not suppose the apostle to mean that sin operated absolutely, and in every sense, against his will?
Gai. I do not: it was certainly against the ruling principle of his soul; but to suppose that any sin can be strictly and absolutely involuntary in its operations, is contrary to every dictate of common sense.
Crisp. Thanks, my dear Gaius; farewell.
DIALOGUE SIXTH BETWEEN CRISPUS AND GAIUS.
ON THE GOODNESS OF THE MORAL LAW.
Crispus. I am glad to see you, my dear Gaius. Our two last conversations on the moral character of God, and the free agency
of man, I hope have been of use to me. I have been thinking since of the great rule of God's government, the moral law, as being the image of his moral character.
Gai. Your idea is just: “ God is love." All his moral attributes are but the different modifications of love, or love operating in different ways. Vindictive justice itself is the love of order, and is exercised for the welfare of being in general; and the moral law, the sum of which is love, expresses the very heart of him that framed it.
Crisp. I have been thinking of love as the band which unites all holy intelligences to God and one another; as that in the moral system, which the law of attraction is in the system of nature.
Gai. Very good. While the planets revolve round the sun as their central point, and are supremely attracVOL. III.
ted by it, they each have a subordinate influence upon one another: All attract, and are attracted by others in their respective orbits; yet no one of these subordinate attractions interferes with the grand attractive influence of the sun, but acts rather in perfect concurrence with it. Under some such idea we may conceive of supreme love to God and subordinate love to creatures.
Crisp. Among the planets, if I mistake not, the attractive power of each body corresponds with the quantity of matter it possesses, and its proximity to the others.
Gai. True: and though in general we are required to love our neighbor as ourselves, yet there are some persons, on account of their superior value in the scale of being, and others, on account of their more immediate connexion with us; whom we are allowed, and eyen obliged, to love more than the rest.
Crisp. If we could suppose the planets endued with intelligence, and any one of them, weary of revolving round the sun, should desert its orbit, assume a distinct centership of its own, and draw others off with it, what would be the consequence?
Gai. Anarchy and confusion, no doubt, with regard to the system, and cold, and darkness, and misery, with regard to those which had deserted it.
Crisp. And is not this a near resemblance to the condition of apostate angels and men?
Gai. Doubtless it is: and your similitude serves to illustrate the evil of sin, as it affects the harmony of the Divine government in general, and the happiness of each individual in particular.
Crisha Is there not a general notion in the minds of men, that the moral law is too strict and rigid for man in his fallen circumstances?
Gai. There is; and some, who ought to know better, have compared its requirements to those of an Egyptian task-master, who demanded brick without straw; and have recommended the Gospel as being at variance with it. They would be thought the greatest if not the only friends of Christ; yet have made no scruple of professing their hatred to Moses, as they term the moral law.
Crisp. But does not the precept of the moral law require what is beyond our strength.
Gai. If, by strength, you mean to include inclination, I grant it does; but if, by strength, you mean what is properly and literally so called, it requires us even now but to love God with all our strength. It is not in the want of strength, literally and strictly speaking, that our insufficiency to keep the Divine law consists; but in the want of a holy temper of mind; and this, instead of being any excuse, or requiring an abatement of the law, is the very essence of that wherein blame consists.
Crisp. I have thought it might serve to show the goodness of the Divine law if we were to suppose versed. Suppose, instead of loving, God should require us to hate him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor likewise?
Gai. This would be requiring us to be both wicked and miserable; and the idea is sufficient to shock any person of common sense.
Crisp. But suppose him to require us to love him, and one another, only in a lesser degree?
Gai. That would be the same as requiring a part of our affection, and allowing us to be of a divided heart. Our powers cannot be indifferent: if they are not applied to the love of God and man, they will be applied to something opposite, even the love of the world. But as the love of the world is enmity to God, if this were allowed, it were the same as allowing men, in
degree, to be at enmity with him and each other; that is, to be wicked and miserable.
Crisp. I have several more questions to ask you on this important subject, but shall defer them to another opportunity
Gai. Farewell then, my dear Crispus; God grant that this Divine law may be found written upon each of our hearts!
DIALOGUE SEVENTH BETWEEN CRISPUS AND GAIUS.
OUR conversation on the moral law has led me to think of some other subjects nearly related to it. I have observed that many people have been called Antinomians; yet very few call 'themselves so. What is Antinomi. anism?
Gai. Enmity or opposition to the law of God.
Gai. I believe they are, for the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be.