Page images
PDF
EPUB

it in affirming his necessary agency, or the certainty of his moral conduct, as good or evil, according to the state of his heart, and his condition as renewed or unrenewed by divine grace. According to the Scriptures, man in consequence of the Fall, is under a kind of impotence or inability, to do otherwise than evil; left to themselves, it is most certain, that all men will disobey, reject the gospel call, and remain obstinately impenitent and unbelieving; further, in order to acceptable obedience man must undergo a moral renovation, must have imparted to him a new principle of spiritual life, for the accomplishment of which the means of grace are of themselves insufficient, and nothing will avail but a special divine influence; when thus renewed the man will as necessarily, truly, and sincerely, although imperfectly, love and obey God, in view of the truths and motives presented, as he formerly did just the contrary. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the Leopard his spots? I know that in me, that is in my flesh there dwelleth no good thing. The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then, they that are in the flesh, cannot please God. Which are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. Paul may plant and Apollos may water, but God must give the increase. No man can come unto me, except the Father who hath sent me draw him. Therefore, they could not believe, because he hardened their hearts, and blinded their eyes.” In the case of the Lord's hardening the heart of Pharoah, it was only necessary that the divine restraints should be withdrawn, and he left to himself; and the result would follow necessarily as well as certainly.

Having thus acquainted the reader with the two main and essential facts connected with our subject, viz: the fact of man's free agency, and the fact of his necessary agency, it remains that we should yet notice, more particularly yet briefly, the philosophical and theological theories and methods by which it is attempted to harmonize and show the mutual consistency of these facts, in some respects so seemingly opposite and conflicting.

One method of getting over the difficulties growing out of the subject, is to be content to take the facts as we find them, without attempting or being concerned to attempt any solution wliatever in the case. To such a matter of fact course, it may be objected indeed that it is any thing but philosophical ; it must be admitted, however, that it is the wisest course, which minds of the widest range are constrained to adopt in many similar cases. In respect to God for instance, his Providence extending to all things, and founded in justice, truth, and mercy, is a primary and essential truth of all religion, natural and revealed. Yet who does not know that events have occurred and are continually occurring, which the limited ken of man is utterly unable to account for, upon any known principles of human justice and benevolence ? Job felt this, when in his visitation he was ready to curse the day of his birth ; and the mind of the Psalmist himself staggered in view of the prosperity of the wicked and the afflictions of God's people in the present world. Thus also in relation to man, we know assuredly that he is a compound being, composed of an animal and mortal frame which we call body or matter, and of a reasonable and incorruptible soul or spirit, which we denominate mind. But who is able to comprehend fully their mode of union and mutual co-operation? Who can define exactly their respective bounds and limits, and tell where body ends and mind begins, or answer the many other equally perplexing questions which might be proposed ? In these and other instances which might be adduced, we never suffer our ignorance of what is unknown to invalidate our faith in what is cleary ascertained; and we are content to receive and practice upon the facts which we know to exist. True wisdom dictates that we should pursue a similar course in relation to the perplexing questions growing out of man's free yet necessary agency; content to leave to the more curious and speculative, the task of reconciling inconsistencies, and solving endless objections.

“And find no end, in wandering mazes lost.”

Milt.

I have already referred, in a former part of this article, to the two prominent Philosophical and Metaphysical theories, which are held and advocated in relation to human liberty ; viz, the one which makes the freedom of human action to consist in a self-determining power of the will, sometimes also called a liberty of indifference or contingency; and the other, which attempts to account for the phenomena in the case by what is styled the doctrine of motives. According to President Edwards the former theory is maintained “ by Armenians, Pelagians and others," The other is that advocated by divines of the Calvinistic school. It may be remarked here that the doctrine of motives (which the writer upon the whole regards as the right one) does not consist in ascribing to them the power of themselves of changing the disposition and renewing the heart, any further than as instrumentalities, effecting the change according to natural principles. Thus Regeneration, as consisting in the giving of a new heart, is the work of God; but motives fixing and holding the sinners attention to the truth, are the instrumentalities by which it is brought about, in conformity to the established laws of the human constitution. Motives, as objects of love or aversion, occasion the heart to act according to its existing disposition, and there their power ends.

Upon the theory in question, Doctor Griffin in his Park street lectures, page 202, expresses himself to the following effect. His object is to show that God can, without at all impairing the sinner's freedom, so keep up his attention to the truth, as notwithstanding his resistance, to make him a willing subject of his grace. I shall not follow him to the close of his argument, but only quote so much as relates to his statement of the motive doctrine, which is subsequently applied by him to the point under discussion.

“In this place it is necessary to introduce more distinctly the doctrine of motives. Either we must admit the self-determining power of the will, holding in its hand the decision whether 10 yield or not to yield to motives, or we must believe that the will is absolutely governed by motives. The latter is unquestionably the truth, and common sense, instructed by experience, pronounces it true every hour of the day. Common sense, delivered from the labyrinths of metaphysicks, pronounces that men always yield to the strongest inducement, and are yet free. Upon this principle you are constantly calculating the future conduct of men. You feel a perfect confidence that if you offer a miser a bag of money to induce him to walk a mile, and no stronger motive draws the other way, he will comply; and yet you never dreamed that he would not be free. The whole business of the commercial world is conducted upon the same calculation, and so is the whole system of social intercourse. Break up the uniformity of this principle, and leave it wholly uncertain whether a father will move to snatch a child from the fire, whether a friend will be restrained by a thousand motives from taking your life; and all the foundations of order and rational action are removed, and the world is transformed into one vast bedlam,-a bedlam in which the maniacs are as likely to kill a friend to gain a feather as to win a crown,—as likely to kill a friend without motives, and in full opposition to all motives, as to hurt an enemy when most highly induced. This is a new species of madmen, a world of madmen moving in a maze, without a particle of reflection, without any end or object even floating in a distenipered fancy. Such a self-moving will, (good Lord deliver us !) -such a self-moving will, unharnessed from reason and let loose into the world, would be more to be dreaded than wolves and

tigers. In short there can be no rational action a whit further than the will is absolutely controlled by motives; that is to say, a whit further than it has a reason for its decisions, and is governed by the considerations which appear strongest and best."

The subject of man's moral agency and freedom enters very deeply into the science of Theology in some of its most important relations. It constitutes in particular the gist and substance of the much litigated question respecting the sincerity and consistency of the gospel call, and man's obligation to obedience. The several distinct theological systems in vogue, may be not unaptly characterized by the different positions from which man's moral freedom and ability is viewed and determined. The following are the three prominent systems prevalent on this point.

1. Some refer us to man's original constitution, to the fact of his having been at first in Adam formed perfectly pure and upright, and capable of yielding the required obedience to the divine law. Adam as the head and root of the human family, having fallen through disobedience, has involved all his posterity in the consequences of his apostacy, entailing on them a corrupted nature, by which they are totally disqualified to render any longer acceptable obedience to the law. Now man having thus fallen, and lost the power to obey, God has not lost the right to command. His law is not to be set aside, nor a new one adopted suited to the present condition and ability of creatures, who by the fall of their original Parents have rendered themselves corrupt and impotent.

II. Others in the solution of the difficulty growing out of man's impotence, refer us to the remedial and restorative system introduced by Jesus Christ, the second Adam; according to which wherever the gospel is rightly dispensed, and the means of grace properly observed, they are accompanied by a power and influence, which is adapted and adequate in all cases, to meet and correct the impotence which is the consequence of man's apostacy. In other words, the preaching of the gospel is accompanied by the communication of common grace, and this if rightly improved, will certainly lead to, and result in the communication of special grace, by which an individual is enabled truly to repent and believe to the saving of the soul.

III. Others again, in reconciling the impotence of man with his responsibility, resort to a distinction in regard to human ability and inability, which, on account of its supposed importance and the high authority by which it is supported, deserves a particular notice. The distinction referred to, is that which is made between natural and moral inability.

[ocr errors]

Moral inability," says Doctor Smalley in his Dissertation on the subject," consists only in the want of a heart, or disposition, or will, to do a thing. Natural inability, on the other hand, consists in, or arises from, a want of understanding, bodily strength, opportunity, or whatever may prevent, our doing a thing, when we are willing, and strongly disposed and inclined to do it. Or, in fewer words thus: Whatever a man could not do, if he would, in this, he is under a natural inability, but when all the reason why one cannot do a thing, is because he does not choose to do it, the inability is only of a moral nature.”

Doctor Kollock, in one of his excellent sermons, thus simply states and illustrates the distinction. “Inability is of two kinds, natural and moral. Natural inability consists in a defect of rational faculties, bodily powers, or external advantages; this excuses from sin. Moral inability consists only in the want of a proper disposition of heart to use our natural ability aright; this is the essence of sin. We shall illustrate this point by a familiar example. A beggar applies for relief to two different persons: the first says to him, 'I perceive your misery ; I know that you ought to be relieved, but I do not possess any property, and therefore I am totally unable to relieve you.' Here is an instance of natural inability, and it perfectly exempts the person from the sin of uncharitableness. The second says to him, “I perceive your inisery ; I know that you ought to be relieved; I have a sufficiency of money; but I have such a dreadful hardness of heart that I cannot pity your distresses, and that I am totally unable to relieve you.' Here is an instance of moral inability; instead of excusing from sin, it is that which constitutes the very essence of the sin, and which renders the man uncharitable.”

Now the inability which the sinner is under, to obey and repent, is, according to the Scriptures, only and altogether a moral inability. When our Saviour says, “ No man can come upto me, except the Father draw him,” his meaning is explained by the same lips, “ Ye will not come unto me that ye may have life.”—John vi. 44. Cannot in a number of instances in the Bible is used to mean simply a strong disinclination.—Gen. xxxvii. 4, Acts. iv. 20, John vi. 60. “ They could not believe," i. e., they would not.

Such a moral inability, so far from being an excuse, is the very substance and essence of the sinner's criminality; otherwise the more depraved, the more excusable would he be. No civil judge would for a moment entertain such an apology. Accordingly when the sinner says: 'I am excusable because I am morally unable to repent, to believe, to love God,' he says in other words,

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »