« PreviousContinue »
such a scriptural exhibition of the made to exhorting sinners to the truth, as is best calculated, in immediate performance of practinexion with the influence of the cal duties; That it is exposing Spirit, to obtain the compliance of them to the danger of indulging a his hearers.
false hope ; of resting upon exter. Is it true, that external conduct nal morality, as evidence of Chris. is not included under the immedi- tian character. To guard against ate demands of conscience ? And this, it may be said, that they ought will he have a juster sense of his first to be satisfied that their hearts guilt, whose mind is turned to a part are right, by looking in upon the afonly of the duties which he fails to fections, without reference to pracperform, than he upon whom every tice. If we take the scriptures for violation and omission is distinctly our guide, however, we shall find pressed ?
that the danger lies the other way; It may be very proper, for a in coming to a decision respecting preacher, on particular occasions, our character, from the affections for the sake of exciting emotion, to alone, before there is sufficient opconfine himself to a single topic. portunity for the trial by practice. The practice of the apostles was We ought to judge of our piety, not not inconsistent with this. They by feelings alone, nor by external vary their mode of address, to adapt conduct alone, but by both together. it to persons and circumstances. On this point, I have taken the It may be proper to confine the at- liberty to quote largely froin Presitention of an awakened sinner, for dent Edwards's Treatise on the Afdays, perhaps, to one simple view fections. I place great reliance on of his case.
But if this does not his authority, as he not only has produce the desired effect, you will written this laboured and profound in vain hope to deepen his emo- work, on the evidences of Christian tions, by repeating the same character, but had great experience thoughts in nearly the same forms in powerful and extensive revivals of expression, after the influence of religion. The Treatise on the of novelty has ceased. If
Affections was published ten or would still reach his heart, you twelve years after the great revi. must change the nature, or the val in his own congregation at manner, of your address; without Northampton ; and in the interval, yielding, however, any one point, the writer had the advantage of in the demands of the law or the great experience of the results of gospel. The Christian preacher that remarkable work of grace; and 'has no reason to complain, that he also, of a more general revival in has not an ample field for the ex- 1740, extending over most parts of ercise of his powers, in dealing New-England. That which he so with sinners ; that he has nothing much insists upon, as being espeto say to them, but simply “Re- cially scriptural evidence of Christpent and believe.” He may spend ian character, and of vastly greater a life, in explaining and enforcing importance than every thing else, even these duties ; and that, with is Christian practice, consisting in out treading always in the same external obedience, together with beaten track. He may dwell upon
those holy purposes which he terms every sin which his hearers are re. imperative acts of the mind, in disquired to forsake; upon every duty tinction from the views and feelings which they are bound to perform; which are principally experienced upon every truth which they are in contemplation. Having enucommanded to believe.
merated various traits of ChristOne other objection may be ian character, as they appear in the
life, he adds, “Such a manifesta- sion ; but his works will be brought tion as has been described, of a forth as evidence of what he is."'* Christian spirit in practice, is vastly Once more, “I think it to be beyond the fairest and brightest abundantly manifest, that Christian story of particular steps, and pas- practice is the most proper evidence sages of experience, that was ever of the gracious sincerity of profes
“ Christian practice, in sors, to themselves and others; and the sense that has been explained, the chief of all the works of grace, is the chief of all the evidences of the sign of signs, the evidence of a saving sincerity in religion, to the evidences, that which seals and consciences of the professors of it; crowns all other signs. I had rathmuch to be preferred to the meth- er have the testimony of my conod of the first convictions, enlight. science, that I have such a saying enings, and comforts in conversion; of my supreme Judge on my side, or any immanent discoveries or ex- as that John xiv. 21. He that ercises of grace whatsoever, that hath my commandments and keepbegin and end in contemplation.”+ eth them, he it is that loveth me; " True grace is not an inactive than the judgment and fullest apthing. There is nothing in heaven probation of all the wise, sound, or earth, of a more active nature. and experienced divines, that have It is the very nature or notion of lived this thousand years, on the grace, that it is a principle of holy most exact and critical examination action or practice. Regeneration of my experiences, as to the manhas a direct relation to practice. ner of my conversion.”+ We are created unto good works.”I If the views of Edwards on this Again, holy practice is ten subject are correct, is it not evident times more insisted on, as a note that the danger of deception is far of true piety, throughout the scrip- greater, when self-examination is ture, from the beginning of Gene- confined to the state of the affecsis to the end of Revelation, than tions, at the commencement of a any thing else. And in the New religious course, than when the Testament, where Christ and his practical duties of life are taken apostles do expressly, and of de- into the account, in connection with clared purpose, lay down the signs the feelings of the heart ? And of true godliness, this is almost have we not reason to believe, that wholly insisted on." “Christ no many fail of finding peace in reliwhere says, ye shall know the tree gion, by seeking it in the affections by its leares or flowers, or ye shall only, while they live in the neglect know men by their talk, or ye shall of outward acts of obedience. Can know them by the good story they we be justified in leading any tell of their experiences ;- but by to suppose that a well grounded their fruits shall ye know them."|| evidence of their own Christian So men's practice is the only evi- character, can be obtained, while dence, that Christ represents the they are living in the omission of future judgment as regulated by, in those practical duties, from which that most particular description of scriptural evidence is principally to the day, Matthew xxv. The Judge be derived ? will not go about to examine men, “ It is greatly to the hurt of relias to the method of their experien- gion," says President Edwards, ces, or set every man to tell his “ for persons to make light of, and story of the manner of his conver- insist little on those things which
the scripture insists most upon, as * Works, vol. iv. 368—9. Same vol. p. 376. I p.346. p. 386. ltp. 354.
* Vol. iv. 393.
of most importance in the evidence any directions concerning practical of our interest in Christ ;-depend- duties ? that he must first learn that ing on our ability to make nice dis- his heart is changed ; that he must tinctions in these matters, and a show us his faith without his works ; faculty of accurate discerning in and then we will put him in the them, from philosophy or experi- way of deciding by the scriptural ence. It is in vain to seek for any rule, what has been previously debetter or any further signs than cided without this rule ? Is there those that the scriptures have most no danger in thus hurrying him to expressly mentioned, and most fre. settle this most momentous point, quently insisted on, as signs of before he has even an opportunity godliness. They who pretend to a of applying the test of character greater accuracy in giving signs, given in the Bible? Is he to be are bat subtil to darken their own called upon, not only to repent imminds and the minds of others; mediately, but immediately to entheir refinings and nice discernings tertain a hope that he is converted ? are, in God's sight, but refined As on the one hand, the salvation foolishness and a sagacious delu- of the soul is hazarded by a mo
“Unless we suppose, that ment's delay of repentance; may it when Christ and his apostles, on not, on the other hand, be hazarded design, set themselves about this by want of delay, in coming to the business of giving signs, by which conclusion, that heaven is already professing Christians in all ages secured? If we may not directa man might determine their state, they to the performance of practical dudid not know how to choose signs, ties till we are convinced that he is so well as we could have chosen a Christian ; we must either judge for them. “ It is strange how of his state by other rules than those hardly men are brought to be con- of scripture; or we must wait till tented with the rules and directions he has found his way to a godly life, which Christ has given them, but without our directions.
Are we they must needs go by other rules not getting too much into the way of their own inventing, that seem of looking, for evidences of grace, to them wiser and better. I know principally to the commencement and of no directions or counsels which the close of a religious life ; to the Christ ever delivered more plainly first comforts of the supposed conthan the rules he has given us, to
vert, and the last broken expresguide us in our judging of others' sions of his dying bed ? sincerity, viz. that we should judge In the application of the promof the tree chiefly by the fruit. But ises and the threatenings of the Biyet this will not do ; but other ways ble, a wide difference is to be made are found out, which are imagined between saints and sinners. “Say to be more distinguishing and cer. ye to the righteous, it shall be weil tain. And woful have been the with him. Woe to the wicked, mischievous consequences of this for it shall be ill with him.” But arrogant setting up men's wisdom in prescribing duties to be performabove the wisdom of Christ. ” ed, it is not always necessary that
But if a life of godliness is the the preacher should know, whether grand evidence of grace in the those whom he addresses are pious heart, are we to tell the sinner he or not.
Immediate repentance, must first ascertain that he is a obedience, and faith, are to be enChristian, before we can give him joined upon both saints and sinners.
NATHAN. *Vol. iv. 414. tp.338. I pp. 113, 114.
To the Editor of the Christian Spectator. [man's depravity) is not morally or
metaphysically, in the abstract or A REVIEW of “Two Discourses by consequence, his crime”! on the Nature of Sin,” which ap- Where has the learned profespeared in the Churchman's Maga- sor” passed this judgment ? In zine for November ; and the com- what he says of the nature of sin ? munication of a correspondent in But that he resolves into acts of the number just issued, for Janua- free agency. In what he says of ry, who has remarked upon those total depravity? But that he reDiscourses ; have, each, attracted solves into a continued train of my notice, and, perhaps, the notice such acting. In what he says of of many of your readers. I have the ground of certainty that each felt that the duty devolved upon descendant of Adam will sustain me, peculiarly, as the author of this character of total depravity ? those discourses, to examine the But that, so far as he represents remarks of others made upon them; it not to be the crime of the indiand to avail myself of every means vidual, he distinguishes from his which these might furnish for illus- depravity itself to which it gives trating the real truth on the sub- rise. Where then has the profesjects of which they treat: for to sor given such judgment? no sect or teacher on earth am I I pass to the reviewer.
He beso much bound as to my Master in gins with remarks on the arguHeaven, and the truth is that ments used in the Discourses. To which, as his servant, it becomes contend about the strength of an me to seek for myself, and to in- argument would be folly ; but to culcate upon others. Perhaps your relieve it from misapprehension is readers will not take it amiss, if I an act of justice to him who uses present to them a few thoughts it and to the truth. In commentwhich have occurred to my own ing on the two first proofs, the remind on reading the abovenamed viewer evidently proceeds upon an articles.
erroneous view of their nature. A word only respecting the cor- Had I reasoned from these proofs, respondent. Not alluding to the ar- viz. the operations of conscience, tificial terrors with which he play- and the universal sentiments of fully surrounds me as the official men, in the manner in which he and uncontradictable dictator to my supposes me to have done ; that is, brethren, it is sufficient to examine that conscience is a sufficient and the judgment which, he declares, infallible guide to truth, and that has passed from my lips, and by the sentiments of men the which he diverts attention from a model after which God forms his charge made against the Bishop own sentiments; I should, indeed, of New-York : Your depravity have been an extremely weak reasonis not your crime, but your mis- , and deserved far severer animadfortune. He who derives, from versions than those gentle ones discourses which were intended bestowed upon me. For, why to resolve human depravity sim- should I ask a revelation from God, ply into the sinful acting of men, if, on all matters of truth and duty, an inference so directly contrary I already had a sufficient and into their purport, must, it would fallible one within me? or, why seem, have been either very in- should I receive a revelation when attentive to the discourses, or presented to me, if I could receive else much blinded by his own un- one from no being but such as had thinking familiarity with the strange already looked to man for the forposition. “Certainly, in the judg- mation of his sentiments ? ment of the learned professor, it The obscurity which he finds in VOL. I.-No. I.
the discourses, (and for which he be uniform, unchanging, and unalaccuses me of taxing my readers terable, implanted in the very conwith a labour and perplexity over
stitution of man.
Nor had I a balancing the profit,) may be the word to say here, (nor should I reason why he has misapprehended think it relevant had it been said) the nature of these arguments. respecting the changes which it is The two I have virtually resolved possible should occur, or which into one ; and the manner in which have actually occurred, in classing I suppose they yield us a probable the various species of conduct into evidence respecting the moral gove the moral varieties of the approved ernment of God, I have stated ex- and the disapproved, the right and plicitly under the first of the two. the wrong. Let all the fluctuation In the Elements of Euclid, in the which the reviewer has asserted Principia of Newton, and indeed may arise from the adoption of difa in every species of reasoning it is ferent religious opinions be concesufficient for the completeness of ded to him; yet what shall decisthe proof, to state explicitly each ions which are conversant wholly step of the
process once. Would with different species of conduct, it affect the real force of the rea- make against the assertion, that soning to state it over twice, or to these decisions always respect conrepeat it thrice? A very condens- duct ? and conduct only ? ed view of the argument was given Now these are the facts on which by me once, and I thought it suffi- the two first arguments are foundcient for those who were willing to ed ; and they are applied to supweigh and carefully consider. No port the proposition, on this one others, from the very nature of the principle that in these invariable subject, could I invite to enter and necessary convictions of manwith me apon the investigation. kind, convictions necessarily spring
The proposition was essentially ing from their original constitution this—that for which God blames as moral agents—God has indicaand punishes men in his moral gov- ted (to a degree which to say the ernment over the world is, invaria- least is highly probable) that in his bly, conduct in distinction from that moral government over the world, which is not conduct. For sources He Himself confines the obligations of proof, I adverted to two facts : of his subjects to their voluntary one, that conscience does always, conduct. He would not so coninvariably, and necessarily, under stitute a race of moral and accountwhatever external means of educa- able agents, as that by their very tion and influence men are placed, constitution they should be irresistconfine her decisions to conduct in ibly led to the conviction of a fundistinction from that which is not damental error concerning his govconduct, the other, that men in their ernment. The argument is one of intercourse with one another and in moral probability, it is true ; yet to the execution of laws, do always and one who is disposed to believe, that invariably, pass the sentence of ill God indicates his designs in his desert on others for conduct in dis. works, or that he will act in accortinction from that which is not con
dance with the constitution he ori. duct. My sole object was to sepa- ginally gives to his subjects; it will rate the voluntary action of moral appear to be an applicable arguagents from all involuntary states, ment and one that carries with it or properties, or relations of such some weight and conclusiveness. agents, and in this broad separation Whether the presentation of such of conduct from other things, I arguments be “ entirely creditable thought myself, and still think my. to my power of reasoning," or not, self justified, in stating the facts to must be left with others to say: