« PoprzedniaDalej »
the terrors of God, and turn loose upon him an irritated conscience. Is he ready to sink into the gloom of despair? she has her methods of consolation, as well as conviction. Is his mind perverted by prejudice or superstition ; she can release him from so hateful a bondage. His errors she can correct; his absurdities she can explode; nor is it possible for depravity in any shape or degree, wholly to resist the force with which she teaches. In short it is undeniable, that whereas the LIGHT of NATURE is utterly unsuited, Revel Ation was adapted and designed to instruct mankind, considered as fallen and depraved. The former would have sufficed had not the apostasy rendered man averse to be taught: but being thus averse, he would have remained forever in ignorance, had not God in his mercy instructed him from heaven. We pass no censure upon NATURE as though her informations were of themselves scanty and useless; we merely say that these informations are not imparted in such a manner as to be efficient for the instruction of minds polluted by depravity. And it is observable that the Psalmist, in the 19th Psalm, where he celebrates NATURE as a Teacher; where he declares the excellence and extent of her instructions; says not a word as to the efficiency of those instructions. But when, in the same Psalm, he proceeds to speak of REvelAtion, the effciency of her teaching, is the most prominent circumstance spoken in her praise. “The heavens,” he observes, “declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheveth his handy-work;” but we read nothing concerning the effect of this manifestation. On the other hand, when he speaks of “the law of the Lord,” he not only pronounces it “perfect,” but refers to the evidence of its perfection: it converts the soul; makes wise the simple; rejoices the heart; and enlightens the eyes. It is not our design to insinuate that REvel. ATIon accomplishes the moral renovation of man, independently of every other influence. We speak of REvelATIon merely as an instrument in the hand of God; but we assert that the instrument is admirably suited, and has a potent tendency, to renew our nature; and we deny this, concerning that merely objective manifestation of the Deity, which the works of creation afford. Christendom abounds with afflictive testimonials of the fact, that RevelATIon of herself cannot change the human heart. But if she cannot do this, she can, and always does, produce, amazing alterations in the intellectual views, the exterior condition, the notions, habits, and manners of mankind. Why is it that there are no idolaters, even among the most ignorant and abandoned in Christian nations : Why is it that we regard the superstitious practices of the heathen with astonishment and horror?—that when we read, of parents placing their tender infants in the glowing arms of a hideous brazen image, there to writhe and shriek and burn till they expire; of widows giving their live bodies to be consumed with those of their dead husbands; of men, either consenting to be crushed in pieces under the wheels of an idol's car, or exhausting ingenuity to inflict selftorture worse than a hundred deaths;–we wonder how the human mind can have been brought into subjection to such strange infatuation?—Why is it that in all Christendom, the belief of ONE Suprem E BEING exists; that polytheism has no place; that men would be shocked at the idea of worshipping any other God than Jehovah; that Him they all feel bound to worship; and that they understand the nature of the worship which it becomes them to render Him? All in Christendom, it is true, are not renewed. Thousands here, have hearts as deeply corrupt as any of the heathen. But there does exist, a wide and wonderful difference, in their opinions, circumstances, and practices, the sole cause of which is, that the light of revelation is too penetrating and powerful to consist with that monstrous ignorance, into which the god of this world, hath conducted the infatuated heathen. This is the cause that distinguishes, intellectually and morally, Christian from Pagan lands: this is the influence which, in these respects, and, it may be added, in regard to civil privileges and blessings, has, in a sense, raised the former to heaven, while the latter remain the subjects of degradation, which it sickens the heart to contemplate. T. H. S. (To be continued.)
.An Ea:position of 1 Cor. 14, 15: connected with Strictures on one or two Chapters of Dr. Griffin's Book on the Jitonement, and several other Writers on the same Sulject.
The Bible contains a revelation of God, communicated to sinful men. Its immediate object, was to make known the only plan of salvation which infinite wisdom, justice, and grace devised. Its ultimate object is the manifestation of the divine perfections. “Christ Jesus, and him crucified,” is the grand centre of scripture doctrines. They invite investigation, and will bear the strictest scrutiny. But they are always exposed, more or less, when, in the investigation of them, men lose sight of the imbecility of human intellect. Relying on the direction of their own reason, they endeavour to make them bend to their individual opinions. In metaphysical workshops they almost always suffer.
For years I have observed, with anxiety, the indulgence of a propensity to subtle and refined speculations on theological subjects. I think I have noticed an unchristian boldness of speculation, connected with a dogmaticalness in laying down principles, a subtlety in making distinctions, and a confidence in drawing conclusions, which savour of much pride and ambition.
The principal errors and heresies which have afflicted the church, have their foundation in the setting up of shallow human intellect, in opposition to the testimony of God. I have often admired the faith of an aged lady, who to the question of an infidel, What! you believe that a whale swallowed Jonah? replied, Yes; and if God had said that Jonah swallowed a whale, I would have believed it.
Men are apt to be carried away, by their own metaphysical speculations and subtle distinctions, till they embrace error under the semblance of truth.
I think I have observed, in men of this description, a spirit that takes fire too soon at opposition—a spirit too irritable—a spirit over-anxious to proselyte to their opinions. And I should be pleased to find that I am under a mistake, in applying these remarks to many who maintain the doctrine of an universal atonement, and that sinners have full power to serve God, while under what is called moral inability. It does appear to me, that many who hold these sentiments, attach to them too much importance, and endeavour too strenuously to compel others to subscribe to them.
The doctrine of atonement is fundamental. But I do not believe it necessary to put on much “harness for a conflict with indolence,” to ascertain what it is, and whether it is universal or particular.
Ordinary mental powers, sanctified and enlightened by the
Holy Spirit, are sufficient to understand the account which scripture gives of the atonement. But to overleap the bounds of scripture representation, and enter the boundless regions of imagination, does, it must be confessed, require more harness than I feel disposed to put on. That Christ Jesus is a divine person, and that his sufferings and death were vicarious, I consider essential doctrines of the Christian system. But whether the atonement is general or particular, I do not believe so important, as to induce the two parties to put on their whole panoply, and marshal themselves in battle array, resolved on victory, or death, in the contest. It is time this spirit was quenched by Christian moderation. The question of the natural ability and moral inability of sinners, I view in much the same light. The line of division between the dependance of creatures, and their free agency, I believe cannot be exactly run by any metaphysical compass. Vol. II. F.
But the scripture account of this subject seems sufficiently evident for every practical purpose. On this question, my views will be contained in an exposition of these verses, viz. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things.” The true sense of the term ovzos, has occasioned much disputation. But every plain, honest Christian, of ordinary intellectual powers, would conclude, that Paul meant by a “natural man” one who was unconverted. Jude, speaking of “mockers,” who “walk after their own ungodly lusts,” pronounces them sensual (ovzzei,”). “having not the Spirit.” These sensual men were unquestionably in their natural, unconverted state. The Wvzos, “natural man” of Paul, appears to be one of the buzzei, “sensual” men of Jude. “ These,” said he, “have not the Spirit.” “We,” said Paul, “have the mind of Christ;” which plainly intimates that the natural man had not the Spirit. None but those who are born of the Spirit “have the mind of Christ,” and none else have the Spirit. It is hence evident, that as Paul and Jude used the same term (ovzzès), the one intended by “the natural man,” the same description of men the other did by “sensual,” i.e. men unconverted. James sets the wisdom which “is not from above,” in direct opposition to the wisdom which “is from above.” To the former he gives, among other epithets, that of “sensual,” Wvzizn. It may be rendered natural wisdom, which is wholly destitute of the character of the wisdom which true believers possess, and which is from above. From the most frequent application of ovzoo, I think it evident, that, by “the natural man,” must be understood, one that is dead in sin. We find recorded in scripture but two kinds of birth, natural and spiritual. All men have experienced the natural birth. A portion only have been born of the Spirit. Of course all men may be divided into two classes, natural and spiritual. “That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.”f And “they that are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh.”S One who is born of the flesh only, is “the natural man” whom Paul intended. Such a man is called flesh. And “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” And Christ declares they “cannot enter the kingdom of God.”" Flesh and spirit are here opposed, not as body and soul. By flesh is evidently intended the corrupted nature of men. He that is in the flesh, is unconverted and depraved. He that is born of the Spirit, is regenerated, and made incipiently holy: he is spiritual. It is hence evident, that the natural man is opposed to him that is spiritual. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: neither can he know them. But he that is spiritual judgeth (or discerneth) all things.” However learned and sagacious in human literature, in mere earthly subjects, men,
* Jude, 19. f James, iii. 15. + John, iii. 6. § Rom. viii. 5. | Id. viii. 8. * John, iii. 5.
unregenerated, are natural men, and receive not the things of
the Spirit, neither can they know them. By “the things of the Spirit,” we are to understand the truths he teaches by external revelation, and the knowledge of them which he communicates by internal illumination. All the doctrines of scripture, which are objects of that faith which depends solely upon divine testimony, are “things of the Spirit,” and never could be known until revealed. The creation of the world, the origin of the human race, the introduction of sin, the method of recovery from the ruins of the apostasy, the plurality of persons in the Godhead, the resurrection of the dead, are among the doctrines of revelation, and the “things of the Spirit,” of which we could have no knowledge had they not been revealed. Of these truths, merely as speculative, natural men may have considerable knowledge. But of their beauty, harmony, connexion and spirituality, natural men can have no spiritual conception, without the internal illumination of the Spirit of God. “The things of the Spirit” include, likewise, the exercises of a living faith in Jesus—of genuine sorrow for sin—the holy af. fections of love, desire, joy, hope, and filial fear, which constitute the new man, as the production of the regenerating and sanctifying Spirit. These are “things of the Spirit of God,” which “the natural man receiveth not, neither can he know them.” The import of these expressions next demands investigation. Aizerai, translated “receiveth,” signifies also, to perceive, discern, conceive, understand, hearken to; and sometimes to admit with approbation. Truths of the gospel, as speculative, the natural man may receive, i.e. he may give some general, indistinct assent to them: but on account of their spiritual, holy, and excellent nature, he receiveth them not. He is utterly unable to understand, approve, and cordially embrace them. The reason assigned, why he receiveth them not, is his ignorance. “They are foolishness to him.” They appear inconsistent, uninteresting and unnecessary. To him they do not appear demonstrable by sense nor reason. A man in vigorous health, would deem it foolish and absurd to send for a physician: and the natural man, feeling no symptoms of spiritual disease and