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If any one takes up this book, who is familiar with the works written on the “ Plan of Salvation,” “ Moral Agency,” “Necessity,” “Ability,” etc. etc., he will be pleasingly disappointed in three particulars, viz. to find the book short, original, and understandable in every part ; leaving a distinct impression on the mind which can be remembered and used.
I can never divest myself of the impression that, in most existing treatises on the Divine and human agency as connected with man's salvation, the writers' minds were obstructed and hampered by the philosophy of the ancients, in which there is no escape from mere universal fortuity, but in the doctrine of a universal Fate ; and no refuge from Fatalism but in the idea of a blind unreasoning chance two opposing absurdities which have no mid-land of truth between them.
In the philosophic drama of Æschylus, entitled "Prometheus Bound," after Vulcan, by command of Jupiter, had riveted Prometheus, yet living, to the Caucasian rock, where vultures were to gnaw his ever-growing liver for the period of 30,000 years, the poet makes the executioner attempt to console Prometheus and reconcile him to his horrid confinement, by reminding him that all other beings were linked as fast in fate as he was in iron; for,
Jupiter excepted, none are free.' And I confess that much of the reasoning used to prove what is commonly called the sinner's moral inability to repent and believe, seems to me to leave him in much the same condition with Prometheus upon his rock-helpless, yet liable to suffer ; exposed to torment, with no power to escape. For if there be in him an absolute inability to repent, soinething different in kind from the unwillingness of incorrigible thieves to abstain from theft, be that inability moral or physical, the result is the same—and all offers of salvation made to sinners so circumstanced, are but loaves set before felons who are starving upon gibbets—in their sight, indeed, but bey their reach! Nor do I see how sensible men could ever admit such an idea, unless to avoid what they supposed the only other possible, viz. that the sinner regenerates himself -is the author of his own salvation.
In referring to the works of Luther, Edwards, and other great Protestant writers, to illustrate the power of the anSECOND SERIES, VOL. VIII. NO. II.
cient philosophy, I need not say to the intelligent reader how far these luminaries were from destroying men's responsibility by any system of antinomianism whatever. Yet detached parts of their writings may be selected where they seem to account for human volitions as they would for the dropping of acorns, and by the same law of causation.
Luther, replying to the “DIATRIBE” of Erasmus, says :
“Man, before he is created, can do nothing in any way to promote his creation. Neither after his creation can he do any thing to preserve his existence. Both his creation and his preservation are the result of the sole pleasure of the omnipotent and gracious energy of God.” And, “The
very same may be said of the new creature. The man before he is renewed by the Spirit, can do nothing, attempt nothing to prepare himself for this new creation. Neither after he is renewed, can he do any thing to insure a perseverance in his new state.”
Now this language cannot fail to impress the reader, that when Luther philosophized, his mind hehe!d men only as separate pieces of mechanism, or rather as parts of one grand machina Mundi, one universal machine, whose propellant energy is—God.
Luther, more than almost all men of his time, was deeply versed in the scholastic philosophy; and it is only confessing him human, to suppose that his mind was so oppressed and overborne by the mighty intellects of antiquity, that Zeno and the Stoics had more to do in moulding his theory of God's government of the world, than Christ and the Apostles.
A preceding age furnishes the intellectual atmosphere in which a succeeding one thinks and examines. Hence it happens that many generations of minds approach a subject in the same way-view it from the same point-and though their conclusions vary somewhat with increasing light, yet their conceptions are of the same general aspect and hue. And this seems to me to have been pre-eminently the case with reasonings upon the human will, and the control which God exercises over it.
The fatalism of the Stoics has not only colored some detached sentiment culled from the volumes of Luther, but masses of what has passed for Christian philosophy seems to me entirely pagan in all except the name. Thus West, in his “Moral Agency,” argues thai God has admitted sin as a part
of his universal plan, not indeed as a thing good and desirable in itself, but upon the same principle that the surgeon chooses the pain of an amputation, viz. for the general good which is to come of it. His mind seems laboring under the same terrible incubus—the idea that “excepting God, none are free," and of course no will in the universe can be strictly and properly responsible for sin, but God's!-that God's perfect, eternal, universal sovereignty, and man's absolute freedom of choice, cannot co-exist, but ihat one must give way to make Toom for the other.
Our blessed Saviour never seems to have felt this difficulty, under which human philosophy groans. He demanded pure and perfect submission of will
, and called it the highest freedom. He did not leave to human pride, exclusive jurisdiction over a single sparrow, to hasten its fall, or to defer it beyond the appointed time. Nay, he established his Father's jurisdiction over "every hair of the head,” and brought into captivity "every thought” of the heart. And when, in principle, he had thus reached and subjugated the last fragment of the man, he calmly avers, “ Then are ye FREE indeed.” He casts down and dashes in pieces every thing that exalteth itself against his reign ; and then, when every nerve throughout the universe lies relaxed and slackened at his bidding, or crushed beneath the chariot-wheels of his power-in that instant, he proclaims every willing subject a king and a priest; assigns to him a throne of judgment and a robe of white. His system exhibits the control of God as infinitely perfect, and the condition of man as infinitely free.
Now the advantage which Jesus had over uninspired teachers, in treating subjects involving moral agency, was, that “ He knew what was in man, viz. Spirit. He looked upon the soul just as it is, as differing totally, in kind, from all unspiritual existences, and having another law than they. While our writers treat the will as if it was governed by the law of causation—the very same which controls air and water, and iron and wood. Says Edwards
“By determining the Will, if the phrase be used with any meaning, must be intended Causing that the act of Will or choice should be thus and not otherwise.” Again
The determination of the Will supposes an EFFECT which must have a CAUSE. If the Will be determined there must be a Determiner.” Again
“It is that motive which, as it stands in the view of the mind, is the strongest, that determines the Will."-Edwards on Will, P. I. Sec. II.
He then proceeds to push those who contend for a selfdetermining will into the absurdity of holding that an effect, to wit, a volition, can be its own cause ; or that, upon their scheme, there must be a former volition to determine the first volition, which is absurd.
To me there seems to be somewhat more of this philosophy pagan than its costume. For if ou r volitions, all our acts of will, are produced, as effects, by the simple law of causation, then the First Cause is the only cause ; every act of choice, each human purpose, is but one link in an indissoluble chain of effects, becoming, in their turn, causes to new effects—beginning in God, and running on through eternity. And thus man is reduced to the nature of the ox, whose motions for the day are “determined” by the weather and his appetites-by nature without, and nature within him; except, perchance, his course is varied by some interposing act of God.
The best that can be said of the above writers is, that they were less in error than their antagonists; who, admitting their principles, sought, (but in vain) to shun their conclusions. To save man's freedom, they, in effect, denied his dependence, and maintained a liberty inconsistent with God's sovereignty; as the others, a sovereignty, inconsistent with liberty.
The philosophical writings of COLERIDGE may be comprehensively defined to be 'Ă bold and strenuous attempt at separating material forms of thought and speech from the Philosophy of mind ; and, out of ours, to construct a language proper to spiritual beings. In doing this he had to contend with the following obstacles : to wit—That men's minds are, for the few first years of life, exclusively, and for the balance mainly, directed to material objects, and their grand material law, viz., cause and effect. Second, that thereby human thought and speech are so materialized that most words carry in them some reference to malter,its forms, nature, or laws. And, third, that the few purely spiritual words have no seuled uniform meaning among men. Add to these difficulties in the way of a philosophy proper to spirits, the overhearing influence of the Philosophy of ihe Ancients,
and it will be confessed, that the effort to deliver the Will from the yoke of “Cause and Effect,” and construct a language proper to its nature, is an attempt, which, if it be an honor to fail even in great undertakings, can bring no disgrace. Coleridge thus speaks :
“Whatever is comprised in the chain and mechanism of Cause and Effect, of course necessitated by some other thing, antecedent or concurrent, this is said to be natural, and the aggregate and system of all such things is said to be Nature. It is, therefore, a contradiction in terms to include in this the Free-Will, of which the verbal definition is, that which originates an act or state of being." --Aids. Note. 29.
This paragraph contains the parting point where his system, and that of the Germans to whom he was indebied, depart from that of Locke, the Scotch metaphysicians, and Edwards of our country.
It is the separating of the Will from Nature, und denying the applicability to it, of her grand generic law of cause and effect.
But when once the Will is thrust out from the pale of Nature, and located above and beyond the precincts of natural causation,--what shall we say of it? How describe it? In what words? What are its laws? Its mode of being ? And its action! These questions are to be solved by going directly to the Will itself, and inspecting it: even Zoologist, an animal, or the chemist, simple substances, writing down the phenomena as first facts from which to reason ; back of which they do not pretend to go : or if they do, find nothing.
Now, one of these first truths respecting Will, seuled by universal consciousness, and proved by men's treatment of each other, is, that it can be responsible, though governed, controlled, and yet free, even in iis wrath praising God; and yet for that wrath, justly punishable! That even “ govern" and "control" lose all'idea of coercion from their meaning, when applied to the Will, and assume a new peculiar signification proper to spirit alone. The blessed Saviour constantly assumed this principle when he spoke of man, or to men; and he found no more difficulty in treating the human will as environed by his Father's control, yet free, and responsible, than he did in treating water as fluid, or iron as hard
“ But,” says the Necessitarian, “what do you gain by