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THEOLOGICAL REVIEW

NO. XIII.-MARCH, 1837.

Art. I. TOTAL AND NATIVE DEPRAVITY.

By Rev. ALEXANDER W. McClure, Malden, Mass.

It is devoutly to be wished that the gracious providence of God would raise up a competent historian of the controversy respecting depravity and grace. He might, possibly, do more than any other man has done, to settle this longagitated dispute. He might show that for centuries the Church had no occasion for it: that it is now no easier of adjustment than when it commenced : that beyond certain limits, it cannot be carried with any prospect of a peaceful termination ; and that the conclusion of it can only be effected by replacing the contested subjects in the simple position which they hold in the word of God, and leaving ihem there to exercise their own unqualified influence. We should look in vain

for a systematic exhibition of these subjects in the Old Testament. From Genesis to Malachi, no trace of any controversy respecting them can be found.

In the Gospels, we find our Saviour strenuously opposing the false and sensual views of the Jewish doctors and people respecting morality, worship, the nature of the Messiah's kingdom, the mode of acceptance with God, and similar topics : but we do not learn that he was led by the heretical or speculative turn of his hearers' minds to dispute about original sin, or depravity, or grace. These subjects, wherever introduced in his discourses, occur incidentally, or come in by way of inference, or are simply asserted as " by authority," and then illustrated. If he enter into any argument respecting them, it is not in such a way as to suggest that they were, at that time, controverted doctrines. How could they have been so, when even the doctrine of regeneration, though clearly advanced in the Hebrew Vol. IV.

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scriptures, was, as to any spiritual sense, unknown to a master of Israel ?"

In the Apostolic writings, we find some noted controversies directed against the sentiments of Judaizing, and perhaps of Gnostic, teachers, in regard to the method of justification. And in one instance we find an apostle meeting certain objections to the doctrine of election, which objections, notwithstanding his rebutter, have been urged in later times. It would not have been surprising if this point had been warmly contested in those days: for predestination has always, from very remote antiquity, been an essential element of oriental philosophy, and it was firmly maintained by the stoic sages of the West. In the Apostles' day, men evidently began to start those objections which are now so common—Is there unrighteousness with God? Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will ! But this spark of excitement seems to have been soon extinguished.

The doctrines of grace are presented by the inspired writers of the New Testament with a remarkable simplicity of expression. They speak, as it were, with a sort of innocence; like men who had no thought of being misunderstood or even contradicted ; like men who had no thought that their unstudied directness of speech was to give occasion to so many elaborate commentaries, and so much metaphysical toil. Little did they expect, while dispensing the sincere milk of the word to the future ages of the Church, that this healthful nutriment of the soul was to be subjected to so many chimerical tests and trains of difficult analysis. Little did they deem, that its elements, separated and re-combined by the admixture of foreign agents, would be made to appear and re-appear in the form of divers gases, liquids, solids, salts and acids, retaining neither the form nor the properties of the original substance.

The difficulties of their scheme of doctrine seem never to have occurred to these bright-minded men. Their clear perception of divine truth seems never to have been obscured by that mist of objections, which, in later times, has caused the doctrines of the Bible to appear with clouds and darkness round about them. They unsuspiciously come out with the most frank and unguarded declarations of their sentiments. We meet with no sagacious forestalling of objections, especially of the common objections of the present day. We find no manifestation of distrust, lest they should be charged with inconsistencies or demoralizing principles respecting man's ability and dependence. We find no marks of jealous caution, lest they should be misconstrued, or made answerable for the pernicious inferences which a caviling mind might extract from their opinions. Feeling above suspicion, they freely break the bread of life, without troubling themselves with the possibility that it might be devoured by venomous reptiles ; and that, if such should be the case, it would be secreted in the form of poison.

They speak of matters pertaining to election and freeagency, original and actual sin, and allied subjects, both separately and conjointly, in terms the strongest and most unreserved. They make no attempts to reconcile these two classes of truths, which are but the obverse and reverse of the current coin of the kingdom of heaven. They betray no misgivings of the harmony of their system. There is nothing like demonstrating that its distinct lines are really parallel, and if extended in a right line, would never cross each other, though indefinitely extended.

In fact, these two great branches of the unity of truth, however they inay stretch away from each other, have yet a common point of conjunction. The Antinomian or Arminian who endeavours to prove that the one cannot be reconciled with the other, would be as well employed in showing that the opposite poles of the magnet, without whose harmonious counteraction neither pole could exist, and no magnetic result could be produced, are a contradiction in terms, and an impossibility in fact, and that all the joint phenomena arising from them are but philosophic delusion, calculated to mislead and wreck the mariner. Such persons might as wisely deny that a house can lie east and west, because these directions are utterly opposed to each other in their nature, and yet one of them cannot be conceived of unless by supposing the other. As well might they dispute whether any thing can be effected by the combined action of antagonist forces in the muscles of the arm.

Whatever opposition the inspired teachers of the gospel may have anticipated, they did not provide for objections that might be raised against their instructions in regard to divine and human agency in matters relating to sin and salvation. What do they say ? Give all diligence to make your calling and election sure! How could there be a more direct and palpable appeal to the self-moving powers of man?

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