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death-having no conception of the evil of sin, of his lost condition, of his exposedness to divine wrath, nor of the necessity of salvation by the blood of the Cross-has no inducement to make application to the Physician of souls. The doctrine of spiritual disease, and remedy by the blood of the Lamb, are, to natural men, insipid and absurd. Hence they receive not the things of the Spirit.
It is added, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” The obvious sense is he cannot know them, while he remains a natural man, destitute of the light of the Spirit, the only medium through which these things can be seen. It would be impossible for a man, destitute of the organ of vision, to perceive the beautiful colours of the rainbow. Equally impossible is it for a natural man, while such, to form any spiritual conception of truths purely evangelical. He cannot "know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” He has not the requisite power of discernment. We always discern things, as the way to the knowledge of them.
Avaxgivetai, rendered “discerned,” signifies traced out, examined, sifted, judged between, believed. A natural man cannot trace out, and form a spiritual judgment of the peculiar glory of divine subjects, because he is destitute of the enlightening influence of the Holy Spirit.
Without the light of the sun, no man can see that glorious luminary of day: and, destitute of the light of the Spirit, no man can know the things of the Spirit; he has not the power to discern them, which only can lead to the knowledge of them.
The natural man has the original, constitutional faculties of perceiving, judging, and reasoning about temporal subjects, but he has no power to exercise these faculties about spiritual things. “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost.” Any man can repeat this sentence. But there is a sense, in which no man can say it, but “by the Holy Ghost.” The meaning seems to be, that no natural man can make an enlightened, spiritual, and sincere profession of the true doctrine concerning Jesus Christ and him crucified, but by the illumination of the Holy Spirit.
“ He that is spiritual judgeth all things.” He discerneth them, and forms a just view of them. The spiritual man has not only the faculty, but the power of perceiving, examining, judging and reasoning on spiritual subjects; of approving and embracing them. He has the same constitutional faculties with the natural man; but he has powers of which the natural man is totally destitute. If we consider the term “receiveth," as involving an act of the will, choosing the things of the Spirit of God, then it is evident, that the natural man maketh not this choice, because he is destitute of the requisite power to choose them.
The objects proposed to his choice are foolishness to him. Here is an abstract term used, which is one of the strongest forms of expression. The things of the Spirit are not only foolish, but in the abstract, foolishness. He has no spiritual conception of them, nor feeling of heart towards them, which constitute an inducement for his reception of them. The reason here assigned, why he does not receive them, is not, what some would call the want of will, or disposition, but the want of knowledge. It is an intellectual inability. It is impossible, according to the constitution of the human mind, for a man to will to receive a thing, of which he is ignorant. Knowledge must precede volition. It is true, a natural man has no will, in the language of some men, to receive the things of the Spirit. But this is not the immediate reason why he “ receiveth them not.” He is destitute of the knowledge of them. Hence they are foolishness to him: and this is the reason assigned why he receiveth them not, by Paul, who was a correct philosopher and sound divine.
The sinner's inability to know, approve and embrace the things of the Spirit, is brought fairly into view for a brief discussion. It is explicitly predicated of the intellect, and by implication only, of the will and other mental faculties. This inability is called moral, in contradistinction from natural. But this distinction, and the reasoning upon it, I shall attempt to show, is unphilosophical, and unscriptural, and contrary to experience.
J. F. (To be continued.)
ON RELIGIOUS CONTROVERSY.
“If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." Rox. xü. 18.
“ Blessed are the peace-makers: for they shall be called the children of God.”—Matt. v. 9.
Few controversies, perhaps, have elicited from the controversialists more angry feeling and indecent expression than those which profess to investigate and maintain religious truth. This circumstance has naturally filled every sober mind with a detestation of such uncharitable and unbecoming writings. Religious controversy now, therefore, is seldom viewed, by the neutral, in any other light than the fermentation of two hostile spirits of opposite parties, which endeavours to work itself off by casting up all the mire and filth which may lie at the bottom of the hearts of the contending disputants.
We confess that we are not astonished, when we read the works of many of those who profess to be champions of the
truth, that such an impression regarding controversy, on religious opinions, should be felt and indicated by the humble and meek followers of the Prince of peace. We do not see that truth can be much benefited by writings which have been penned under the influence of a spirit of fierceness. A mind wrought up to passion can never properly compare and weigh arguments—and therefore must be regarded as ill qualified to determine on which side the truth lies. It is true, if victory and not truth be the object of the disputants, they take the proper plan to throw their minds into a ferment, because, by so doing, they will the more readily confirm each other's prejudices, and may be equally successful perhaps in imposing upon the passions and prejudices of their respective followers. But, if truth, as they respectively profess, be really the object for which they severally contend, then, we suppose, they would be more likely to attain the object of their wishes, were they to enter upon the scrutiny of their subject as friends, and pur. sue their investigations with calm and dispassionate minds.
This mode of investigation has, however, been very seldom observed by religious controversialists. Instead of proceeding thus, they often rather meet each other like sworn enemies, determined either to conquer or die. The same disposition, therefore, which once led many to the stake, is still exhibited, by not a few, who pretend zealously to maintain what they call the faith once delivered to the saints. They cannot, they know, in those countries where toleration obtains, deliver their opponents over to the magistrate to be tormented and butchered; but they are determined notwithstanding to pronounce upon them an immediate sentence of condemnation—and, rather than that they should not be put into the hands of some inquisitor, they will deliver them over, in their judgment, to the Prince of darkness to be tormented in the regions of eternal wo.
This conduct plainly shows, that those divines, who so write and preach, would most willingly act towards their opponents the same part which James and John intended to act towards the Samaritans when their Lord told them, that whilst they indicated such a temper, They did not know what manner of spirit they were of. Luke ix. 54, 55. The spirit of the gospel then does not authorize such a mode of procedure. It teaches us to warn our brother of the danger which may be before him if he errs in sentiment and principle from what may be consi. dered the correct standard—but we have certainly no authority from the Saviour either to consign any man, on account of his private sentiments, to perdition, or inflict on him any corporeal punishment, provided he does not otherwise disturb or destroy the peace of the district or community where he resides.
This heat of temper in religious controversialists is the more
to be regretted as it has been chiefly manifested in the discussion of those subjects, in theology, which evidently rise above the decision of human reason. Were the points in dispute al. ways perfectly clear and definite, so that there could be no real doubt on which side the truth lay, we should not so much wonder, although a little temper might occasionally be exhibited, by those, on the right side, at the obstinacy of their incorrigible opponents: but, when the topics in controversy are often of such a doubtful and mysterious kind, that each of the disputants, when they carry matters to extremes, may be in error, we think that modesty and forbearance, in such cases, would be features of character equally becoming both.
But as general statements do not carry along with them so much conviction as matters of fact, we shall now in illustration of our remarks introduce two specimens of those subjects which have excited in the Christian world no small quantity of fierce and bitter controversy.
The one, which we shall mention first, is that of predestination. To reconcile this doctrine, when carried to extreme, with the free agency of moral and accountable beings, will be confessed, by every considerate individual of our species, to be a task which human intellect is incompetent to perform. On the other hand, to allow that man is an agent entirely free and independent, would be evidently to admit a doctrine which would lead us to infringe in our conceptions on the prerogative of the Supreme Being, who alone can be regarded as altogether selfexistent and independent. Nor do the scriptures relieve us of this difficulty: for at one time they speak of man as being entirely influenced, regulated and circumscribed by the agency and power of God—and, at another, as being completely free and capable of originating and directing his own movements and proceedings. This then appears to us to be the fair state of that very dark and perplexing question, which has been the occasion, in consequence of the very injudicious conduct of many of those who have opposed and defended it, of much strife and uproar in the church of Christ. In this strife the folly and pride of human nature are completely displayed. Had the zealous, who have appeared upon each side in this dispute, been more cool and less affected by the prejudices of those masters who have preceded them in the schools of theology, they would have seen cause probably to have been less daring in their respective assertions-and would have also probably been convinced of the propriety of suppressing many of those illiberal and unhandsome epithets which they have so plentifully bestowed upon each other. But disputants seldom come so prepared to those theological contests in which they engage. Hence, in the heat of their contentions on such subjects as that which we have at
present produced, they not unfrequently resemble the conduct of blind men engaged in disputing about the appearance of some particular colour, and, because neither of them know what is its real appearance to one who has sight, they commence immediately a hot quarrel, and buffet each other on account of their respective assertions—when their mutual blind. ness, regarding the matter in dispute, should have taught them to reftect that both their opinions might perhaps be wrong. We should laugh at the strange conduct of such blind disputants; and certainly we ought to consider that our own conduct is not less worthy of ridicule, when we attempt to determine with unhesitating boldness what is recorded in the archives of heaven and decreed by that God who gives to man none account of his secret matters. It certainly becomes theologians, therefore, to remember, that secret things belong unto the Lord—and, that, instead of puzzling themselves and others with unedifying speculations respecting matters which surpass their comprehensions, they would do better, in imitation of the Saviour, when asked, “ Are there few who be saved?” to exhort those over whom thev may have any influence, “ To strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many will seek to enter in (when too late) and shall not be able.” Luke xiii. 23-31..
The other specimen which we shall adduce, is that respecting the extent of the atonement which the Saviour has made. Some contend, warmly, that he has atoned for all mankind: others that he has atoned for the sins only of a limited number. We have never yet been able to discern, we must confess, the good which has resulted or which is likely to result from a dispute of this kind. The scriptures do not appear to us to have decided this matter. They sometimes speak of the results of the atonement in a restricted sense (John xvii. 9. John vi. 37.); and sometimes in a very general and unlimited manner. John xvii. 20. 1 John ii. 2. i Tim. iv. 10. What then ought this to teach us? Certainly it should instruct us, that it is the duty of those, who may differ somewhat in opinion on this subject, to exercise towards each other a spirit of candour and forbearance. What is gained by warmth of dispute upon such a subject? Do we know certainly who shall or shall not be saved? Are we not bound then, without dispute and controversy, to preach Christ and him crucified to all-leaving the result of the whole matter to that God who “ so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life." John iii. 16.
From these two specimens, which we have now exhibited, we think, it will appear to the discerning part of our fellow Christians, that theologians might have kept together in the bonds of a closer friendship than they have maintained, had