« AnteriorContinuar »
should suppose, that, by feeling, is meant natural affection-by thought, simple perception and conception—and by opinion, simple belief. Thus understood, it is undoubtedly true, that sin does not consist in the es. sence of these mental states ; and it is equally true, that there is no propriety in calling these, our "original exercises ;" as they belong to the intellect, and not at all to the heart, or will, of which alone, exercise is predicable.
But though our author, by calling our feelings" constitutionally inevitable,” would lead us to think, that, by feelings, he means, the netural affections; yet, when he comes to show, that sin cannot consist in the essence of them, he says, that they may be “summed up chiefly in desire and aversion, love and hatred.” Now, whatever impropriety there may be, in calling desire, aversion, love and hatred, feel. ings ; they are, unquestionably, free, voluntary exercises ; and in the nature, if not in the essence of these exercises, we should think, that both sin and holiness, as unquestionably consist. We can by no means assent to Mr. F.'s opinion, that the “ character” of our desire and aversion, love and hatred, “depend entirely upon the object, or degree." It is true that “love to sin is wrong," because sin cannot be loved with a holy affection ; but, on the other hand, hatred to sin may not always be right, because one may hate sin, not because it is evil in itself, but merely because it exposes him to punishment. And so, ha. tred to God, is always wrong, because God is a good being, and cannot be hated with a holy affection, there being 'no such thing as disinterested malevolence ;' but, on the other hand, love to God is not al. ways right, because it may, and often does, arise, from viewing Him merely as the “Great Creator and Benefactor of men,” without any regard to his holiness and justice. Hatred to sin, and love to God, are right or wrong, not on account of the objects, but the nature of the affections. Much the same may be said, respecting the degree of these exercises, upon which, Mr. F. says, their character sometimes wholly depends.' We cannot think it ever depends at all on the degree. Love to self is always wrong, when it is selfish, in the least degree-and right, when it is disinterested, in the least degree. It is right for one to love himself more than another, and more than two others, when he is worth more; and, for the same reason, it is right for God to love himself supremely. It is true, that he who loves him. self selfishly, or because it is himself, generally loves himself supremely; but his sin consists, not in the degree, but in the nature of his selAsh affection, which is a transgression of the law of disinterested love. The selfishness of his affection, is the cause of its being supreme te wards himself, instead of his Maker. We cannot think, therefore, that “supreme self-love" is an “intelligible definition of native depravity."
As to belief and thought, which Mr. F. classes with our original exercises; we should think them more properly called mental operations, than moral exercises. They must be understood in a very figurative sense, to be capable of any moral character; and then, that character arises from their nature, and not from their objects. One may believe the truth with sinful feelings of heart, or as the Apostle says, may 'hold the truth in unrighteousness;' and one's thoughts may be very sinful, while he thinks only of God and heavenly things.
Mr. F.'s fifth inference is, that sin “ does not consist in previous propensity.” Here we do not object to the inference itself, which is a truism ; for surely, sin does not consist in something, be it called what it may, which is previous to sin. But there are several observations, in the course of Mr. F.'s illustration of this inference, which appear to us exceptionable. It is absurd, says Mr. F. p. 19. to talk of God's creating any soul holy, or sinful.' True, if this means, that the essence of the soul is made holy or sinful. But is this the meaning of those, who say, that the soul of Adam was created holy? We apprehend it would be doing them injustice, to represent it so. We understand them to mean, that, at the creation of the first man, God caused his first moral exercises to be holy; and this Mr. F. seems to think probable, as he says, p. 15. that, 'probably, Adam's mind, originally, was inhabited and actuated by the Divine Spirit;' and what he thinks probable, the wise man ventures to assert: “God made man upright."
Mr. F. does not "repudiate the term propensity;" and we see not how he can, consistently with his manner of accounting for the fall : * This spirit, he sayg, withdrew, at the fall; and now, through His absence, the mere instinctive love of happiness, common to man, and beast, and bird, and insect, and in itself innocent, becomes supreme self-love, because not subordinated by superior love to God.” p. 15. There must surely, be a strong propensity in “the mere instinctive love of happiness,” however “innocent in itself,” to become "supreme self-lovc; or it would not invariably become so, the moment the spirit is withdrawn ; and there being such a propensity in this “ instinctive love,” which “ God has made inevitable” by "an absolute necessity of nature ;" it seems as if it would be somewhat difficult to convince men, that they “are under no more necessity of going wrong, in the absence of the spirit, than soldiers in the absence of their commander;" unless, indeed, it should be grantedthat ignorant soldiers, without the direction of their commander, are under a natural necessity of going wrong.
The capital mistake bere, as under the preceding inferences appears to be, placing the sinfulness of self-love, in its degree, and not in its nature. Adam's love to himself, before his fall, was not only subordinate, but disinterested and holy in its nature; mad it never
could have become supreme, if it had not first become selfish and sinful ; which a mere withdrawment of the spirit, would not have effected.
Mr. F.'s sirth inference is, “ Nothing is sinful, which God has created.” This is an inference from his preceding inferences, and a very popular one. Its truth depends upon the sense given to its equivocal terms. God created the angels; and some of them are sin. ful. God created men; and all of them are, or have been sinful. Mr. Fi's meaning, then, it is supposed must be, that God has not created sin itself. But he will not deny, that God might have created sin ; for he says, p. 10. " It is self-evident, that sin must have, at its commencement, a sinless cause, or no cause ;" and he will hardly deny, that sin has a cause, since he holds, that sin consists in an act that transgresses law, and also, as we conclude, discards the notion of a self-determining power of choosing, where we have no choice-of choice determined by nothing_"the absurdity of running back from sin to sin, in an infinite series, for the first sinful cause.”
Mr. F. had shown, as he supposed, that sin does not consist in the essence of the soul, nor in the faculties of mind or body, nor in the natural and involuntary affections ; "and here," adds he, “the work of God ceases." How then, does Mr. F. account for the act, which transgresses law, and which prostitutes to sin and satan, the noble powers and faculties of man;' What causes this act of going astray. Mr. F. answers, p. 20. “ Supreme self-love." But supreme self-love is the very sinful act itself-is “rebellion against God”-is “crimin. al under every aspect," for which avarice, envy, pride, &c. are mere names. Is sin then, the cause of sin ?' and that too, when “is is self-evident, that sin must have a sinless cause, or no cause," and
to suppose something sinful, before tiie first sin, is a contradiction in terms.
If, when God has created a human soul, with its faculties and affections, ‘his work ceases ;' how are we to understand those Scriptures, which teach us, that God creates evil-exalteth the waster to destroy-fashioneth the hearts of men-turneth the heart—and workoth all things after the counsel of his own will ?
To Mr. F.'s seventh inference, that “ all sin is voluntary," we have po objection. But we have some difficulty in reconciling this, with what he had said before, that'sin consists in the outward act, no less than in the inward feeling or motive,' and that “transgression has a negative as well as a positive sense. We know of nothing more poutive, than volition ; and if all sin is voluntary, we see not how it can over consist in an outward act, the mere effect of volitions, or ever be properly understood in a negative sense.
The eighth inference, that “every sinner is blameable and punishar ble," is, in our view, as correct as the preceding.
The ninth inference is, that “God never made a sioner." This inference is nearly akin to the sixth, and seems cqually ambiguous. In the sense which Mr. F. gives it, we admit its correctness. If by God's making a sinner, it be understood, that He makes the essence of his soul or body, or his constitutional and inevitable affections,' sinful, so that he is under a natural necessity of being a sinner, and cannot help sinning, but sins by compulsion ; we admit the inference, that, “if there be any blame, it belongs to his Maker.' And if there be "beloved disciples," who 'concede such premises to the sinner,' we agree with Mr. F. that “it is matter of deep regret.”
But if, by God's making a sinner, it be understood, as it should be, that He is the Potter, and men the clay in his moulding hand that He turns and fashions their hearts-that he prepares some for glory, and fits others for destruction,having mercy on whom he will, and hardening whom He will; we see not how this gives the “caviller" any ground of exeuse, or how it is at all inconsistent with what Mr. F. truly says, that the sins of men consist in their own voluntary transgres.sions,' and that, while without á self-determining power, and wholly dependant upon God, they are still capable of moral actions, and have made thensdoes sinners.'
The two remaining inferencës, with the concluding word of ad. dress, we cousider as correct, pertinent, and ivapressive, deserving the serious consideration of every hearer and reader of the discoursé.
The course, which it seemed necessary to pursue, has protracted our remarks to a greater length than was expected; we shall, therefore, only say, in the close, that amidst so much which we esteem worthy of commendation, we are sorry to have found so much which we have thought liable to censure. The Author, of whom we have not the least personal knowledge, manifests no small share of talent and ingenuity; and we flatter ourselves, that, had he deferred his publication, till he had investigated all the material points and bearings of his subject, as closely and thoroughly, as he has some of them, his Sermon would have met our unqualified approbation.
FOR THE HOPKINSIÁN MAGAZINE.
ON BALLS. To be satisfied in what point of light, we ought to look upon balls, it is only necessary to ascertain what is their direct tendency. And when they are so strongly advocated by many, and by not a few, who profess to love Christ more, than themselves and the world; it seems very desirable, that. their tendency should be distinctly pointed oủt.
It never was the professed design of balls to glorify God, or tò do honor to tho name of the Saviour, or to advance the interests of his kingdom im. mot was it ever their design to remove prevailing vices, and bad habits; or
to produco serious thoughts, or proper reflections on death and judgment. On the contrary, the true (though not the professed) design of balls, is, to gratify a vain, worldly, vicious, spirit; to enjoy a lively and thoughtless season; to pass away the time without the usual cares and perplexities of the world; and so, with as little anxiety and trouble on the mind as possible, advance towards the grave and eternity.
With these ends in view, the friends of balls assemble; go through their usual routine of ceremonies, and addresses; and return to their homes fatigued; perhaps greatly disappointed in their anticipated enjoyments; and are far more unfitted for duty and the business of life, than when they departed to meet their associates in mirth and vanity.
A direct tendency of balls is, to produce dissipation of thought, and to shut out of the mind, serious reflections. Indeed, there is no room for thoughts about God, and their own spiritual condition and prospects, when they are wholly taken up in indulging and gratifying a vain and selfish spirit. Accordingly, we find, that those, who attend balls, have little or nothing to say, during the time of their amusement, about the law, character, or government of God, or the things connected with their eternal interests. The general tenor of their discourse, respects fashion, news, polite behaviour, extraordinary events, social circles, high life, and pleasant times. The scriptures, in a distorted sense, are used, by way of anecdote, or argument; or to excite laughter, or to defend improper conduct What the scriptures point out as great and noble, are, by them, ridiculed and despised; and what the scriptures condemn, they support and advocate, as worthy of general esteem and admiration. Another tendency of balls is, to create insensibility to the instructions of the scriptures and of divine providence.
The more indulgence men give to their natural propensity to banish God and all considerations about their lost, ruined condition, from their minds, the more they will wish to give; and the more hardened they will become against the means which may be used with them, to bring them to a sense of their situation, and to lead them to seek reconciliation with God.
The scriptures, and facts, show, that rational, unrenewed creatures take little interest in those things, which should most deeply concern them; that they have no relish for the plain and useful instructions which God affords in his word, and by his righteous dispensations.
That the stupidity and opposition of those who attend balls, to these things, are greatly heightened, is a truth equally evident. It is, indeed, se clear, as to be most generally admitted. This is more obvious, to every candid observer, as instances more frequently occur, where youth, and those in middle age, spend their time in this manner. The increase is very rapid, and striking, and the reason is plain. Nearly every thing connected with balls, is most directly suited to create an unwillingness to hear what God has spoken to be informed, what should be their great and constant business, and what will certainly be their end, if they do not seek salvation through Chrisis