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the charge has been resented, it is no caricature of this system, to say, that, “ according to it, sin is a mistake, and regeneration is a correction of that mistake."
7. By this scheme regeneration being made the act of the sinner, is of course confounded, or made identical with conversion, which is appropriately the exercise of a soul renewed by the power of God.
8. Religious experience consists in forsaking the world and choosing God as a source of happiness.
These points all seem to us, either to be fully enunciated, or clearly implied in the passage we have cited. When the religion of the Bible is dwarfed and enervated to such a standard, few can wonder at the increased facility of making converts to it. That we have done no injustice, by unfair inferences, or by imputing to the author of a theory extreme practical conclusions, from which he would shrink, will be sufficiently shown by a few passages from other parts of this essay, in which he carries out the principles of the quotation already made, to their legitimate practical results. And for the better understanding of some of them, it should be remembered that the principles in question are held in company with that radical element of Pelagian theology and metaphysics—the power of contrary choice, or as the Christian Spectator styles it,“ the power to act in despite of all opposing power.
Regeneration is made the sinner's own act, in the following passage :
“ When we speak of the means of regeneration we shall use the word regeneration, in a more limited import, than its ordinary popular import; and shall confine it chiefly, for the sake of convenient phraseology, to the act of the will or heart, in distinction from other mental acts connected with it: or to that act of the will or heart which consists in a preference of God to every other object; or to that disposition of the heart, or governing affection or purpose of the man, which consecrates him to the service and glory of God.”—pp. 18, 19.
That this act of the sinner is prompted by the same inward desires which first lead men to sin, is taught in the following terms:
“ Divine truth does not become a means to this end, until the selfish principle so long cherished in the soul is superseded; and the mind is left to the control of that constitutional desire of happiness which is an original principle of
our nature. Then it is, we apprehend, that God and the world are contemplated by the mind as objects of choice, substantially as they would be by a being who had first entered on existence, and who was called on for the first time to select one or the other as his supreme good.” p. 210.
That these views of regeneration are no mere theory which its authors shrink from carrying into consistent practice, is manifest from the following passage:
“We have already said that the sinner is the subject of that constitutional desire of happiness, called self-love, to which no moral quality pertains. Let the sinner then, as a being who loves happiness and desires the highest degree of it, under the influence of such a desire, take into solemn consideration the question whether the highest happiness is to be found in God or the world; let him pursue this inquiry, if need be, till it results in the conviction that such happiness is to be found in God only; and let him follow up this conviction with that intent and engrossing contemplation of the realities which truth discloses, and with that stirring up of his sensibilities in view of them, which invest the world when considered as his only portion with an aspect of insignificance, of gloom, and even of terror, and which shall chill and suspend his present active love of it; and let the contemplation be persevered in, till it shall discover a reality and excellence in the objects of holy affection, which shall put him upon direct and desperate efforts to fix his heart upon them; and let this process of thought, of effort and of action be entered upon as one that is never to be abandoned, until the end proposed by it is accomplished—until the only living and true God is loved and chosen as his God forever; and we say that in this way the work of regeneration through grace may be accomplished.” Pp. 32, 33.
“ Nor do we intend that a direct tendency to a change of heart pertains to the first act of the process, but that when self-love prompts the first act of sober consideration, there is in this act a tendency to augmented feeling, and that this feeling tends to fix contemplation, and this again to deepen feeling; and that thus, by the mutual action and re-action of thought and feeling, the process, were there no effectual counteracting influence, would go on until it terminated in a change of heart.”
We think few intelligent Christians can dissent from the following judgment pronounced upon it by Prof. Stuart, in
VOL. XIV. NO. I.
a letter written to Dr. Porter, immediately after the publication of Dr. Tyler's strictures upon it. “Dr. Tyler has published his pamphlet, and a noble one too, which has made an end of the matter as to brother Taylor's regeneration by self-love, a full end ; there is no redemption. All the fog is blown away, and we have at last a clear and sheer regeneration of the natural man by himself, stimulated by selflove, made out to be the scheme of brother Taylor; there is no getting aside of it." Memoirs of Dr. Porter, p. 222.
We believe that Prof. Stuart has not prided himself on being a heresy hunter. And we think that the abettors of this scheme must be somewhatin straits for a defence, if they can find no other cause of the extensive and unyielding opposition to views which such a man so unequivocally condemned, than ignorance, prejudice or malice.
The following paragraphs from the Christian Spectator would seem to import that the heart of the sinner is hindered by no inability, whether natural or moral, from a compliance with the commands of the gospel.
“What is that heart with which God in his law requires sinners to love him? Surely not a heart which is holy before they love him. Still less with a sinful heart; and yet he requires them to love him with some heart, even their heart. Is this no heart at all? We think, on the contrary, it is a real heart, a heart with which sinners can love God, even without the grace of the Spirit, and, certainly, with it.” Christian Spectator, 1830, pp. 149, 150.
Surely one whose heart is not “sinful,” and who can love God “even without the grace of the Spirit,” is free from all inability, whether natural or moral.
The lowest form of moral inability is certainly repudiated in the following passage, or it is utterly unmeaning.
« Common sense decides that if it is a known or revealed truth, that the sinner under a present call to duty, will not act, unless God do more than he is now doing, then let the sinner wait till God does more.” Christian Spectator, 1829,
View, in connexion with this, the following passages, which are unmeaning, if they do not import that it is improbable, nay impossible, that God should renew the heart until the sinner first yields submission.
“ And what is this but assuming that God may, and desiring that he would, so depart from the immutable principle of his government, as to interpose to save him, while in heart a rebel and still resolved to be so." Ch. Spec. p. 30.
« The case, therefore, now stated, shows that the only supposable acts of the sinner with which his regeneration can be connected, involve the suspended influence of the selfish principle; and how impossible it is that without such a suspension the heart should be changed." Ib. p. 38.
“Were there no other access to the inner man, except through this principlejof the heart; were there nothing to which the motives of the gospel could be addressed, but the hardihood of this fell spirit- no way to overcome this strong man,' except by direct assault, then for aught we can see, the moral transformation of the soul were hopeless even to Omnipotence.” Ib. p. 39.
We see not what language could more strongly deny that the work of the Spirit in renewing the soul is direct, sovereign, and irresistible. Let it be viewed in connexion with the following extracts from Dr. Fitch's review of Dr. Fisk on election and fore-ordination.
“We earnestly object to that antinomian scheme which makes grace terminate solely on dispensing with free-agency, by an act of mere omnipotence creating a new heart; thus leaving none of the elements which constitute the moral certainty of a conversion in the agent himself." Ib. 1831, P. 633.
“Whatever is the degree of influence which he uses with them, it is not in its nature irresistible; but men as free agents still keep to their guilty choice in resistance to it, or through its operation, freely give up their idols, and place their hearts on God.” Ib. p. 632.
Here we see the doctrine that God creates the new heart by his almighty power, stigmatized as antinomian; a denial that his grace is irresistible; in company with the assertion that it is for those on whom it operates, to determine whether or not it shall be efficacious, and of course that they have within themselves some of the elements which constitute the moral certainty of conversion.” What Arminianism ever went greater lengths in exalting human power, and invalidating divine grace in regeneration ?
In this connexion let the following passage be considered.
“We know of no other hold which this divine agent can have on the sinner whom he would turn from the error of his ways, but that which consists in so bringing the truths of the Bible in contact with his understanding and moral sensibilities, that he shall voluntarily shun the threatened evil and choose the proffered good.” Ib. 1833, p. 356.
Again, p. 357, “There is no more difficulty in accounting for the fact that the yielding sinner supremely loves God from the impulse of a regard to his own happiness, than there is in explaining the opposite fact of his having formerly, under the influence of the same principle, when perverted, loved his idols."
This surely narrows down the work of the Spirit to the mere presentation of truth to the mind and heart of the sinner, so that his self-love will be excited to shun eternal woe and choose everlasting happiness; in other words, to mere moral suasion. The carnal mind could scarcely demand any further concessions. After such an explanation of the nature of religion, it was scarcely necessary to add that “under the call to present duty, the sinner is authorized to believe in the practicability of present duty.”. Religion is made easy only by debasing its quality. While human nature is what it is, there can be no way of exalting human power in the affair of conversion to God, except by degrading religion itself into conformity to the tastes of the unrenewed heart.
The sound and scriptural doctrine on this subject is altogether plain and indisputable. It teaches that the moral nature of man is totally depraved, alienated from God, averse to holiness, to the law and gospel of God, and all that is peculiar to the Christian life. It teaches that there is no affection, susceptibility or capacity in the unrenewed heart, which can be so affected or wrought upon by the truths of the gospel, as to yield obedience, love and conformity to them. The carnal mind is enmity against God, is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. It teaches that no act of spiritual and acceptable obedience to the gospel, will be rendered by any heart which is not created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works; that the word of God is powerless on all who are not made willing to obey it in the day of his power; and that the most skillful and earnest preachers, can make converts no faster than God makes their hearers willing and obedient, drawing them by his Spirit. If Paul plants, and Apollos waters, still it is God that gives the increase.
Now the attempt to multiply conversions, by getting over or around this barrier of man's total depravity and absolute dependence on divine grace for a new heart and a right spirit, and substituting in lieu of it some principle of the natu