Page images

to love it. To such a mind the truth no more agrees than to a mind with an opposing temper. How then can it cause love? “Can two walk together except they be agreed ?" How is it in the widely extended and well known empire of taste ? Why do one set of objects please rather than another ? Every body will tell you, because they are adapted to the tastes of men. But here is no taste, and therefore nothing to which truth is adapted, and therefore truth can be no cause of love ; and for the same reason it can be no cause of hatred. Now as there is no cause of lord or hatred in the mind before the exercise, nor yet in the truth, nor in any outward object, the cause of both, whatever be their objects, must be found in the immediate power of God.

But there is a taste or temper distinct from exercise. There is a stated propensity to feel and act thus and thus, which does not lie merely in the stated mode of God's operation, but belongs to the man and makes a part of his character, even when the temper is not in exercise. In the provision made in our constitution for those passions which depend on the body, you see a preparation to influence the future action of the heart. As moral agency and obligation are concerned, I know not that any difference is made if the predisposing cause is lodged in the body. In the case of habit there is a predisposition contracted, founded on the law of association by which our ideas are made to succeed each other in a certain order, carrying in their train all the operations of the mind. I know not that any difference is made if the origin of this order lies in the head. Why are we pleased with one object rather than another? The answer from every tongue is, because it is adapted to our taste. Who can doubt that every man has a great variety of tastes, fitted to relish a still greater variety of objects in nature, in art, in science, in literature, in business, in amusements, in society? The long disputed question about a standard of taste turn on this, whether in the race at large there is such a similarity of constitutions as fits them to relish the same objects and to be disgusted with the same. These tastes, which exist anterior to the pleasure or disgust, are certainly in the mind, and are so connected with desire, loye, hatred, and other affections as their cause, that they must be referred to the heart. Allow one of this family of tastes to stand related to divine objects, and I have found what I sought. But it is hard, you say, to suppose a disposition which must be removed by the Spirit before a man can love God: it looks like a chain which binds him hand and foot and destroys obligation. But the basis of obligation, which is none other than natural ability, lies in the faculties of a rational soul, and is not impaired by an opposing temper. And as to the necessity of having the disposition changed, that only makes the man dependant on God for regeneration, the same that he is if he has nothing but exercises. It is no harder to be dependant for a disposition than for affections. Fix in your mind the entire consistency between dependance and obligation, and this difficulty will vanish. You say you cannot conceive what that temper is. But you can conceive of an appetite of the mind antecedent to desire, as easily as you can conceive of an appetite of the body antecedent to hunger. You can conceive of a tendency of the heart to a certain kind of exercise, as easily as you can conceive of a heart prepared to exercise at all,—as easily as you can conceive of an intellect adapted to the acquisition of knowledge,--as easily as you can conceive of any faculty of the mind, or of the mind itself, distinet from exercise. And certainly you can conceive of this moral temper as easily as you can conceive of those tastes which predispose men to relish the beauties of nature and art. You cannot comprehend any of the operations of matter or of mind; and if you deny whatever you cannot comprehend, you will be a skeptic indeed. You cannot conceive what that lemper is ? What then is talent antecedent to the action of intellect? Tell me this and I will tell you that. And then, by the same reasoning, there is nothing in intellect but action; and that one acts more strongly than another, is not to be ascribed to any thing in the mind which we call talent, but to the immediate power of God acting in a stated way. And what is there in any faculty of the mind distinct from exercise ? in imagination, memory, perception, judgment, taste? What is there in reason? What is there in mind itself? And where are we now? Like Hume we have annihilated mind, and left nothing, as Stewart says, " but impressions and ideas," that worst extreme in which Berkleianism exploded.

But reason as we may, the fact is before all men, that one set of motives must be addressed to one man and another to another, according to the existing temper, which is calculated upon before the exercises are excited. You

say the calculation is, that a man will act as he has acted, and will be influenced by such motives as have influenced him before : that is all. No, the calculation looks beyond action or feeling to a causal propensity evinced by action, and which is conceived to belong to the man and to constitute his susceptibility of the impression desired. This is the common sense of mankind. You look upon a man as avaricious even when he is not thinking of his gains, as overbearing even when dissolved in grief; and would you manage him, you adapt your motives to his habitual temper, which you ascribe to him both when he sleeps and when he wakes. In matters of business and the arts and in the selection of society, we ascribe to men diversities of tastes altogether distinct from acts of judging and choosing, and which we regard as the causes of those acts and inherent in the character. You ascribe to the sleeping lion the naturo of a lion and not of a lamb. It was the old way of thinking that every animal had a nature and acted it out; that the horse acted thus because it had the nature of a horse and not of a serpent ; that the different natures of birds, fish, and worms were the causes of their different actions. But now it seems there is no cause of any distinctive animal action in the animal itself, except the mere organization of brute matter. Sin has no root in the human soul. The heart acts so because it acts so. To make depravity the reason would only be to make a thing the cause of itself. There is nothing in the fountain which causes it to send forth bitter waters rather than sweet. If you say, the task will be as great to find a cause for the depraved temper, I answer : the well known process of induction is the inferring of a general law from particular facts. That law, which is regarded as the cause of the

facts arranged under it, may be resolved into another still more general, until you come to the most general that can be discovered. And for that you can assign no other reason than that such is the will of our Creator. Now the question is, whether, when you have found that the exercises of the heart are sinful, you have come to the most general conclusion possible, or whether, from the universal and continued exercise of sin, we may not infer a sinful nature or disposition in the race, just as we inser the law of gravitation from the frequent fall of heavy bodies. And if we may, and can go back no farther, we are not to be reproached with presenting a fact without assigning a cause. If we know of no cause beyond but the First Cause of all, it is exactly what occurs in every branch of physical science. From repeatedly seeing steel filings drawn towards a magnet, we infer the general law of magnetical attraction. But if we are required to tell the cause of magnetical attraction, we can only say, Such is the will of our Creator. It is an original law of our nature to ascribe every change to a cause. The exercises of our minds involve a change, and therefore we instinctively seek for a cause ; and when we have traced them to nature, which does not change, we look no farther, we can go no farther. This is more than common sense, it is instinct, it is an ultimate law of the human understanding.

That the belief of mankind is what I have represented it, is proved decisively from their language. came such words in every tongue as temper and disposition, if nothing answering to them was supposed to exist! And it is still more certain from the language of Scripture, which accommodates itself to the common apprehensions of mankind. That language constantly refers to something in the mind, good or bad, which is anterior to exercise, and which gives rise to all our feelings and passions. I scarcely know how to make a selection,—it is found on every page. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him and he cannot sin." “ That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” “ A new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy." “ Then goeth he and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there.” Indeed every case of demoniacal possession, indicated a diseased state of the mind which was the cause of diseased action. May I not strengthen my argument by analogies drawn from the body? That has appetites distinct from the desires they occasion. The quenched eye has impediments to seeing distinct from not seeing, and unremovable by light.

And now what have you to oppose to these analogies, to the language of the Bible, and to the language and common sense of mankind ? Nothing but a bare hypothesis, namely, that the mind has no properties, and of course no powers, but exercise ;-an unsupported hypothesis, for which not a particle of proof can be adduced, which is not a thing that admits of proof;—amere assumption which, logically or illogically, is employed to sweep away some of the most important doctrines of the Gospel, such as the depravity of infants and supernatural regeneration. It takes the new creation out of the hands of the Spirit and ascribes it to moral suasion, like the Pelagians of other days.

It is impossible, according to any known law of motives, that the presentation of a hated object, (hated in all its character and aspects,) should produce love. You say the object may recommend itself to the understanding and conscience, and so impress the heart. But if any thing is proved by the history of our world, it is this, that the understanding and conscience cannot control the heart. If they could, men would always do as well as they know how, knowledge would carry reformation wherever it goes, and no conscience would upbraid for present action in any world. But understanding and conscience, with all the light of eternity, will never convert a devil.

As certainly as an object is hated in ail its character and aspects, it will be hated the more the more it is seen. If it is hated only under partial and mistaken views, and would be loved if seen in all its parts, the object itself, considered as a whole, is not hated. But if it is hated as a whole, it must be hated in proportion to the clearness with which it is seen. What can possibly prevent? Hatefulness must become greater hatefulness the more it is perceived. God may make the heart love the hated object, but the object itself is neither cause nor instrument of the change. It is the occasion of action of some sort, but not the cause or instrument of the change from hatred to love.

All the truths of revelation respect the character and government of God and his relations to us. The light is only God revealed. No such light can bring the natural heart to love the character of God. If it could, the natural heart is not totally depraved. If the more full explanations of the divine character present an object which the natural heart loves, what it hated before was not the true God, but a false image of God, and to have loved it as God would have been idolatry ; and what has been called enmity against God, was only a commendable aversion to an idol. But if the carnal heart hates the true God, it will hate him the more the more he is seen, as surely as it is governed by motives. Light, so far from extinguishing the flame of rebellion, is only oil cast upon the fire. So it is in hell. The more God is seen the more raging is the enmity, because it is the real character of God that they hate. So it is with convicted sinners. Never was their enmity thus inflamed until they came to have clear ideas of the God of the law. I have seen them ready to gnash with their teeth but a few hours or even minutes before they began the immortal song.

The impossibility that light should produce love to God before the heart is changed by a higher influence, appears farther from the nature of the

That consists in supreme selfishness. In the nature of things there can be no rivals for the supreme affection but God and self. Where


God is not loved self must be supreme, and then the God of the law cannot fail to be hated, and hated in proportion as he is seen. When the sinner sees God standing over him with a drawn sword, and saying, if you do not love me better than yourself, I will dash those interests which you so dearly love, to all eternity, he must hate such a God as surely as he is governed by motives. Light cast upon the milder parts of the divine character, may bribe him into a selfish love, but nothing can make the whole character of a commanding and condemning God dear to a selfish heart. The temper must be changed to that of disinterested benevolence, before such an object can become a motive to love. The change must be completed before light can act. It cannot therefore be produced by light.


II. But notwithstanding all this evidence that light can do nothing to the carnal heart but inflame its enmity, it is still asserted that the heart is changed by the power inherent in light, inherent in it at least as a second

“ If I were as eloquent as the Holy Ghost, I could regenerate sinners as well as he.” As much as to say, “Could I lay the truth in clearly before the mind, I need do nothing more, the Holy Ghost needs do nothing more; the truth would do the rest.” Whether the truth does it as a god, (for the Holy Ghost does nothing more than put the truth in,) or only as a second cause through which the God of nature works, we are not told. Give it the most favourable construction and say the latter, then regeneration, distinct from conviction, is a mere natural


By the course of nature in the material world we understand the action of God through second causes according to invariable laws. Whether the course of nature in the world of mind is always conducted through second causes and by invariable laws, we have not so much the means of judging; though from analogy we generally conceive the two cases to be alike. But here it is assumed that truth, when placed in clear view of the mind, will in all cases produce the effect without any other agent, at least without any other than that which acts through truth as a second' cause. All beyond conviction then is a pure natural process.

But you say, truth is instrumental in sanctification, and yet the process is allowed to be supernatural. This calls for a distinct explanation of the laws by which sanctification is conducted.

In the first creation there was a set of laws established by which God could statedly, and perhaps invariably, act through second causes, both in the world of matter and of mind. This is the course of nature. But the whole process of raising a world dead in trespasses and sins to the life of holiness, by the Holy Ghost procured for men by the atonement and obedience of Christ, is above nature. And yet, so far as this course belongs to the treatment of moral agents, it is conducted, for the most part at least, by fixed laws, that creatures may know on what terms they may hope to receive, and may be governed by motives. There were therefore in the second creation certain laws established by which the supernatural process

« PreviousContinue »