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for heaven. Hence they have represented themselves as dissenters from the Arminian creed. They seem not to have suspected, that the doctrine of the adequacy of “ light and motives, presented by the Spirit,” is a distinguishing characteristic of the system of Theology, from which they profess to dissent. Even Pelagius and Celestius “ did not deny all internal change in men by grace: but they confined it solely to the understanding, and controverted all internal change of the will." * Arminius, also, when charged with holding, that to all who hear the Gospel, sufficient grace is given by the Holy Spirit, to enable them to believe, if they will, replied, “ whatever is said of their sufficiency, I think should be ascribed to the assistance of the Holy Spirit, by which he aids the preaching of the Gospel as the instrument by which he is wont to operate on the minds of men. He who would think and speak correctly respecting this matter, must necessarily assign to grace its own part, and this, the principal one in persuading the will so that it shall assent to those things which are preached.”+ And Doctor Whitby, in his discourse on "Effectual and Special Grace," says, “it seems necessary to assert, that God vouchsafes some inward operations and assistances to incline them, (the impenitent) to what is good, and work conversion in them.”I It would be easy to increase this list of witnesses to prove that a rejection of divine influence is no part of Arminianism. It is indeed, a part of this system to profess a belief in the doctrine of conversion by the Holy Spirit. The fact, therefore, that an individual admits and inculcates this truth, is no evidence that he is not a disciple of Pelagius, Arminius, or Whitby.
The difference between the men of this school in Theology, and the disciples of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, relates not so much to the existence, as to the nature of the divine operations in regeneration. The former regard the work of the Spirit as confined, chiefly, to the UNDERSTANDING,—to consist in so presenting the precepts and motives of revealed religion to the INTELLECT, that the service of God shall appear to be the chief good, and shall, therefore, be chosen by the will as its everlasting portion. This • Moshiem, by Doct. Murduck, Vol. I. p. 441. Note 47. No. 22.
Biblical Repository, 1831. “Creed of Arminius." * Whitby's Discourses. Worcester, 1801. p. 185.
view of the operation of the Spirit, must lead to some peculiarities in stating the doctrine of divine influence. Of these, the principal one consists in defining the manner in which the Spirit produces this result. Here it is assumed, that the affections of an individual are under his own controul, on all subjects which present appropriate motives.* As this assumption precludes the necessity of any divine operation on the affections; and as the doctrine of the influences of the Spirit in conversion cannot be rejected, something must be found in the process, which may be regarded as His appro
, priate work. That the affections are changed, they cheerfully admit; but, at the same time, they reject the idea that this is accomplished by His working in us, both to will and to do." As according to their view, He produces no change directly in our hearts; He must be supposed to produce some alteration, either in the things themselves, which operate on us as motives, or in the relation of these things to our minds : and hence they declare, that He operates on the truth, or gives energy to the doctrines, precepts, and motives of revealed religion; or presents them to the understanding, or persuades the will.
It is proper here to enquire, whether this description of the divine operations in regeneration, be not an attempt to explain a fact which Christ pronounced to be inexplicable. When asked by a ruler of the Jews respecting the manner of this work, he replied, “ the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth ; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” The fact is evident, the manner unknown. Certain and definite effects in the internal man are produced, but the mode in which the Spirit accomplishes this renovation, the Scriptures nowhere declare, and all the attempts to explain it, have only“ darkened counsel by words without knowledge." Nor is the method to which we have just been introduced an exception. What is the meaning of the phrase, “ to operate on the truth ?” Do those who use this language mean, that the Spirit makes any alteration in the truth? Do they intend to be understood, that He adds any thing to it, or takes any thing from it? Do they wish us to believe, that He continually modifies the truth, and adapts it to the ever-varying intellectual and moral condition of an
* See Tract, No. 23. Revival Tract Society.
individual, or of the great mass of mankind? If either of these be their view of the operation of the Spirit on the truth, we desire further to interrogate them, and to entreat them to tell us, how this opinion can be compatible with such passages as, “ the law of the Lord is perfect?” Are not the descriptions in the Bible of the character of God, of Christ, of the Holy Spirit, of the condition, duty and destiny of man, complete ? Is there in them any defect to be remedied, or any errour to be corrected? But if, in their reply, they do not admit the implication, that the Spirit alters the law of God, or the descriptions of his character, or those of the character and duty of man, we again enquire, what do they mean? On what does the Spirit operate ? Does He operate on the things described in these truths ? Does He operate on the character of God, or so alter it as to make it lovely to the sinner? Does He operate on the character of Christ, and adapt it to the taste of impenitent men? Does He operate on the great facts connected with the work of redemption, and prepare them to be cordially received by the ungodly? Does He alter in any respect the way of salvation? Does He alter any of the eternal principles of righteousness, in which the moral law is founded? If the Spirit operates on the TRUTH, we cannot but think that some changes are requisite, either in the truth itself, or in the facts described, or the duties enjoined by it. These questions, therefore, it becomes the patrons of“ moral suasion,” to answer. Absurd or impious as an affirmation of these, or any similar questions may be, it is the natural result of that Theology, which sets forth the theory, that the action of the Spirit in regeneration is not on the inner man, but on the truth. Now if the Spirit produce no such changes as these in the truth, we still ask, what does He accomplish? To these and similar enquiries, we have never been able to obtain an intelligible answer. The meaning of the assertion, that “the Spirit operates on the truth," seems to us to be involved in impenetrable obscurity. It is not difficult to understand what is meant by the truth; but it is utterly impossible for us to conceive both what this operation is, and what effect it is designed to have on the truth. But what idea will ardent and incautious minds derive from such a declaration respecting the operation of the Spirit? Will they not understand, that they are to receive, not the truth alone, but accompanied by cer
tain operations on itself? Will they not enquire what these operations on the truth mean? Is there any other conclusion, which they can fairly draw from this statement, except that certain disclosures respecting the doctrines and duties contained in the written word will be made to their minds, individually? And will they not be exposed to attribute every extravagant notion respecting religion, to this operation, which they are taught to believe is sometimes performed on the truth?
Another phrase in common use with this class of divines, is, “ that the Spirit presents the truth to the mind of the sinner.” Here again we are at a loss to find any intelligible meaning. We have read, that the Spirit presented the truth to the minds of the prophets and apostles, in their character as inspired teachers of religion. To the latter, Christ said, “the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
But no accurate commentator ever supposed this, and its kindred passages, to extend beyond the circle of inspired teachers of Christianity, nor deemed it consistent, either with the design of a written revelation, or with this revelation itself, or with facts, to believe that the Spirit thus presents the truth to the minds of all who shall inherit eternal life. If those who maintain that the work of the Spirit in regeneration, consists in presenting truth to the understanding, mean to be regarded as teaching that every subject of Divine grace is inspired in the same sense that the apostles were, we can easily comprehend their meaning. This view, however, of their doctrine, they do not acknowledge. What then do they mean? This question will be put by every individual who is accustomed to enquire into the meaning of words and phrases. He knows what is meant by the truth. He understands what is meant by the presentation of the truth in the word, written or preached ; but he can attach no definite idea to the presentation of the truth to his mind, by the Spirit. He knows no truth which has thus been presented to him; and he will regard this, and all similar declarations, as words without meaning. This description of the work of the Spirit, is undefined and undefinable. Nor is it strange that it is so; for in His
John 14: 26. Vol. III.
operations on His people, no fact has ever been discovered, which can be communicated by such a description. Here, then, as in the preceding phrase, minds unaccustomed to investigation, will be exposed to adopt the conclusion, that “ the presentation of the truth by the Spirit” is something in addition to the truth itself; and they will be in danger of attributing to the Spirit any new, fanciful, or perverse opinions which may in any manner be suggested to them.
Another mode of describing the work of the Spirit in regeneration is, to say that “ He persuades the will” to submit to God, and to obey his commands. There seems here to be a remarkable personification of the will. The mind is first separated in their theory, into the UNDERSTANDING and the WILL.
The understanding is thus employed by the Spirit as an agent, or an instrument to effect this persuasion. The will, in this separate state, must be supposed to possess all the powers of perception, understanding, reasoning, feeling, determining, and acting. If these be not conceded to the will in this emergency, it cannot be susceptible of persuasion. To find a human being who internally corresponds with this supposition, would, for a long time, perplex the most acute observer of nature. But whether such a being exist, we have not time to enquire. Our present object is to learn, if possible, in what these persuasions of the Spirit consist. To place this subject in open day, we will suppose an individual who is intellectually acquainted with every doctrine, precept, and motive of the Scriptures, and thoroughly understands all the revealed reasons why he should repent and believe. What, according to this theory, is the office of the Spirit here? In what does His work of persuasion consist ? To such a mind, yet unmoved by any of the motives with which the Scriptures urge men to obedience, or dissuade them from sin, must the Spirit present additional motives not before revealed? And is this the meaning of the doctrine openly preached, and widely published in our times, " that God persuades men by his word and his Spirit ?" this be not its meaning, we call upon those who thus preach, to declare what these persuasions of the Spirit are? It is easy to understand what is meant by the persuasions of the word. But what are these persuasions of the Spirit? How can we so interpret this language, as not to leave on the minds