Page images

The reader will at once perceive, from the answer to the question, “what is effectual calling,” how the views of the Westminster divines, as to the metaphysical nature of Regeneration, corresponded with, or were suggested by, the system of mental philosophy, adopted by them. "Effectual calling,” say they, “is the work of God's Spirit, whereby enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, He doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.” Now, so far as these words describe facts and acts of the mind, no one, who has experienced a saving change of heart, can question their correctness. The three most important facts stated, are illumination of mind, renovation of will, and the cleaving of the affections to the blessed Redeemer, as the object of supreme delight, love, and choice, &c.—and these are attributed to the Spirit's agency. That all these things, which imply acts and exercises of man, as a rational and feeling creature, are to be attribụted to the agency of the Spirit, no one who admits the fact of Regeneration will deny. Nor does the answer in the Catechism, intimate any thing like an agency of that Spirit on the soul of man, changing its essence, or altering its constitutional properties, or laying any foundation in nature, by an act of creative power. These things did not seem to be a part of the philosophy involved in it. But from the order in which the different acts and exercises of the mind, which characterize the regenerate sinner, are enumerated, it would seem that the framers of the Catechism thought, that a mere intellectual perception of the truth, followed by a change in the faculty of the will, unitedly secured the giving of the heart to Christ, or bestowing of the affections on Him.

This is altogether philosophical theory. Will any man say, that it is a point of faith, and that, in adopting the language of these divines as a confession of faith, our conseienees are bound to adopt the philosophy involved in it? We presume not. A man may entertain very different, and more correct views of the nature of the human mind, and mental operations generally, and yet hold the same facts with the Catechists. Shall he be condemned for this, and denounced as heretical? Shall ignorance, fostering itself in unwarranted prejudices against mental science, and, with a show of zeal and devotion for the truth, assail the reputation of a christian brother, and mar his usefulness, by branding him with heresy, merely because he takes a different method of exhibiting the same facts, and, instead of speaking in the technicalities of old Theologians, employs language more adapted to common sense, and to the advanced state of mental philosophy! Rather, let brethren concede to each other the utmost liberty of illustration, while they adopt the essential facts which Revelation teaches, than attempt to bind themselves to set forms of speech. The manifestation of fraternal confidence and regard, and the friendly intercouse and communion which will take place, whereever there is the unity of the Spirit, are a much more efficient means of preserving the truth, and a much more desirable and valuable bond of union, than ecclesiastical canons and theological technics, and demonstrations of heated zeal, though the latter may, with some, be had in estimation, as contending earnestly for the faith, once delivered to the saints.

Instead of contemplating the human mind, as possessing various faculties, analagous with the members of the human body, and practically conceiving of these things, as distinct and separate individualities in the mind itself, one thinks he can much more satisfactorily think and speak of states of the mind, and another of modes of action. All, certainly, have a liberty so to do; and even if they err, provided that they faithfully declare, and plainly teach the scriptural facts, which constitute what we may term the phenomena of Regeneration, let each one use his liberty, without impugning his brother.

We are in the habit of contemplating the human mind as one and indivisible,-a simple, uncompounded spirit or substance, endowed, by its Creator, with certain susceptibilities of emotion or feeling, and capacities for thought and action. Its susceptibilities are adapted to the various objeets which God has created around us, and on which we instrumentally depend for their exercise. Its capacities for action, are suited to the various exigencies of our nature and condition, all wisely arranged in the mind of our great Creator, and ordained, originally, in the very constitution of our being. Thus, for example, we are susceptible of impressions, from objects without us, which thus assume a sort of moving power over us,-a lovely object, exciting desire, –a disagreeable object, aversion,-a dangerous object, fear and such like. As 10 their exciting power over us, we can say no more, than that such is the constitution of things, which God has ordained-such the nature of our susceptibilities, that we are capable of being made to feel, or of being moved and excited, according to the varying character of the circumstances and objects, with which we are brought into contact.

In the mere impression or excitement, produced by things seen, heard, or related, we are involuntarily affected. It does not depend upon our will, whether to feel or not, no more than it does, whether the impression made on the retina of the eye, be thence transmitted to the sensorium, originate the sensation which we call seeing, or, on the tympanum of the ear, or any other of the organs of sense, producing the sensations appropriate. It depends entirely on .constitution.

Superadded to these constitutional susceptibilities, we possess a power of voluntary action. The modes of that action, which are various, depend also on the constitution

of God. But the exercise of the mind itself in each mode, is subject to the will, i. e. it is not by necessity but voluntarily; yet varying, according to the circumstances which call the mind into action. Thus, for example, when an object is presented to our attention, there is a degree of voluntariness implied in the action of our minds, when we are said to perceive it. In like manner, in reasoning another mode of mental action, we voluntarily coinpare our perceptions or thoughts and knowledge recalled; --in remembering, we revive our perceptions;---and in imagining combine them in new forms. Now these susceptibilities of emotion, and modes of action, are not two separate and independent systems in the mind itself, but are found to be so blended, as to be alike operative, or discoverable in almost every voluntary action.

Our voluntary actions are of a complex nature. Thus, for example, we say that we love or hate, desire or fear, hope or despair, and the like, and so doing, give, by particular acts, the appropriate indications of these things. Now what do we mean by such language so very common in human parlance? We could not love, if we were not possessed of that constitutional susceptibility, which qualifies us for feeling the attractive influence of some object of beauty or excellence,-nor hale, but for another susceptibility, which qualifies us for feeling the repelling influence of some disagreeable object, &c. Nor should we love, or hate, notwithstanding these susceptibilities, unless some appropriate object, i. e. some object of excellence, or the contrary, calculated to excite the affection, be presenteil. When such object is presenteil, whether directly exhibited to the inspection of our senses, or represented by statement, or recalled by memory, or created by imagination, there is first, the perception of it, which, if of a vivid character, awakens the appropriate feelings, and, securing a degree of attentiveness to it, next brings those feelings, more fully into play, till a moving power is felt in the soul, and it is, as it were, carried towards it, or from it, with full consent, and voluntarily, by looks, words, or deeds, gives indication of the prevalent emotion. When, therefore, we say we love or hate, we mean, that we voluntarily consent or yield, to the particular impression which has been made by some appropriate object on our susceptible soul.

These voluntary exercises are oft-times very transient, passing away forever with the thought or object which has excited them, being quickly obliterated by the impressions of succeeding and more interesting objects. Where however, the impression has been deep, i. e. more than the evanescent feelings awakened by the play of surrounding objects, especially where it has been made by something which has a near or special bearing on our interests, our happiness, or our security,—the feelings will be prolonged, repeated, invigorated, and the voluntary exercises, at first isolated and solitary, will become continuous, and ripen into purpose, leading to action, and subordinating feebler and counteracting influences. According to the influential purpose, will be the acquisition and manifestation of character. Men take their denomination, or descriptive epithet, from the moving, or ruling passion;-the slave of avarice, being called a miser, a wretch, because his love of gold makes him deny to himself the common comforts, and almost the necessaries of life; the votary of sensual pleasure, a voluptuary, sensualist, and one and another, deceitful, wrathful, vindictive, jealous, envious, according to the prevalent feeling which fails not appropriately to express itself.

Now from this view of the susceptibilities, and capacitics for action, which characterize us as moral beings, several things seem obvious; as, that in the mere existence of these things, there is nothing sinful; that the sinful or holy character of them is to be estimated by a reference to

« PreviousContinue »