« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
fallible church will answer in this controversy. Arrogant assumptions, they will be at once reminded, do not suit the present state of intelligence in this land, nor the genius of our institutions. While the Episcopal church shall seek, by kind and gentle means, to widen its influence, like the flowing of a river, or like the dews of heaven, we shall bail its advances; when she departs from this course, and seeks to utter the language of authority, and denunciation,—to prostrate other churches, as with the sweepings of the mountain-torrent,-she will be checked by all the intelligence and piety of this land; and she will be reminded, by a voice uttered from all the institutions of these times, that Episcopacy has had its reign of authority in the dark ages, and at the Vatican; and that the very genius of protestantism is, that one church is not to utter the language of arrogance over another; and that not authority or denunciation, but SCRIPTURAL EXPOSITION, is to determine which is in accordance with the book of God.
In our review, we expressed at length our feelings towards the Episcopal church. (pp. 36–38.) After quoting a part of our remarks on this subject, the author of the Answer makes these candid and kind observations:
‘A truly splendid eulogium on our church, and one which does credit to the candor, the benevolence, the superiority to prejudice, of the elevated mind that conceived it, and the honorable frankness which gave it public utterance. With the feelings of such a heart, as that of the author of these paragraphs, we have, we can have, no controversy whatever,—we rather desire to copy them more perfectly ourselves, and be taught more of the grand duty of love, by an opponent who so nobly and so delightfully exemplifies it. p. 19.
The author of the “ Answer” quoted the whole of our remarks, with the exception of the last five lines. In those lines, we expressed the hope, that “the Episcopal church was destined yet to be, throughout, the warm friend of revivals, and would consecrate her wealth and power to the work of making a perpetual aggression on the territories of sin and of death.” (Review, p. 36.) Why this part of our remarks was omitted, as not worthy of the comment of being a “splendid eulogium on the church,” we know not. The fact was striking. We were not“ amazed” by it; but we were conscious of that feeling of pensiveness, which involuntarily steals over the soul, when a christian, high in office and in talent, evinces any degree of coldness towards the great work of converting the world. We could not but ask ourselves, Is this to be interpreted as an indication, that the author of the “ Answer” is alarmed at the word REVIVALS? Are we to consider it as an indication, that he could not join us in the wish, that the wealth and power of the Episcopal church should be consecrated to the work of sa
ving the world ? Are we to understand, that there is such a fear of the word revivals, and such a dread of an entire consecration of wealth and power to fulfill the special command of Christ, as to induce the author of the “ Answer” to pause,-in medias res,-in the very midst of a quotation, rather than repeat or write the word revivals, or speak of such a consecration? It may have been, indeed, wholly an inadvertent omission ; and as we prefer such an interpretation, to one which impļies suspicion or improper motive, we shall close this article, as we did the former, with the wish,-a wish which shall never depart from our heart,—that, whatever may be the strength or the numbers of the Episcopal church, when the Son of God shall come, to take to himself his great power,
may be found foremost among the friends of REVIVALS,-of pure, spiritual piety, and engaged with untiring zeal amidst the van of the christian host, in making a perpetual aggression on the territories of sin and of death.
ART. IV.-Man's DePENDENCE ON THE GRACE of God, for
HOLINESS OF HEART AND LIFE. No doctrine of the bible has been more vehemently opposed, than that of man's dependence for holiness on the grace of God. In every age of the world, it seems to have been the grand stumbling-block of our fallen race, and, in one form or another, has been an object of unceasing attack. This, however, should excite no surprise, when we consider, from what quarter much of the opposition here spoken of, has arisen. In the case of unrenewed men, this opposition was to have been expected. Those who hate God, as a holy being, and one who, from his very nature, as such a being, must interfere with their schemes of happiness, while in their sins, it would be natural to suppose, would quarrel with their dependence on Him for salvation; would dislike to be in his hands, (where this doctrine places them ;) and would strongly resist the sentiment, that nothing but special and distinguishing grace will ever bring them to Christ for salvation. But, we regret to say, that opposition to this doctrine, and to the kindred doctrine of the saint's dependence on divine influence for continuance in holiness, has not always been confined to wicked men. It has sometimes been regarded by professed christians, and even by large religious denominations, as an unscriptural and dangerous doctrine, tending to produce either presumption or despair, and therefore, as decidedly hostile to the interests of true religion. That the doctrine in question has been sometimes exhibited in such a way, as to justify these impressions, we will not deny. But the true doctrine of dependence is liable to no such imputa
tion, as we hope to show, in our further consideration of the subject. In this article, we shall confine our views to the dependence of the christian on divine grace, for his continuance in holiness; reserving for a future number, an examination of the doctrine, as it applies to the impenitent.
Our course of thought will lead us to exhibit the nature and reality of man's dependence for holiness on divine grace; to consider some of the difficulties which it is supposed to involve, and show, that they have no real force; and to dwell at some length upon the happy influences of this doctrine, when correctly understood, and faithfully applied.
1. In respect to the nature, or kind, of dependence which we have in view, we mean by it this :—that such is the perverseness of men's hearts, even after regeneration; so strong are their remaining inclinations to go astray; and so many the temptations by which they are surrounded, which are adapted to lead them astray; that, without the special grace of God to prevent it, they will, in fact, go astray, to their own undoing. There is in them no such strength of virtuous principle, as of itself to keep them in the path of duty. On the contrary, if left to themselves, they will certainly “ draw back unto perdition,” in any stage of their christian course, from the period of their regeneration to the close of life. Our dependence on divine grace, then, is a dependence growing out of wrong inclination,-out of remaining sinfulness,-and not out of incapacity to do our duty. And here, we think, an erroneous view of the doctrine bas very often been taken, and representations made of it, which are both false and dangerous. Whenever men are represented as unable, in the strict sense of the term, to obey the commands of God; when their dependence on divine grace is made the result, not of an unwillingness, but of a want of constitutional powers, to be holy; then the doctrine is not represented aright, and an impression is made respecting it, which is decidedly false : and no wonder, that, in this view of it, the doctrine is stripped of all its salutary influences, and the grace of God, involved in it, is robbed of every thing, that is attractive and lovely. This view of dependence, so far as impenitent sinners are concerned, is, in NewEngland, almost entirely, discarded. Not only do the clergy, but all intelligent private christians, l'esist at once the plea of the sinner, that God requires him to do what he has not the capacity to perform, and then magnifies his grace, by acting as a hard master, in dispensing renewing influences to some, while he withholds them from others. They tell the sinner, that he possesses ability to do his duty, without divine aid ; that the certainty, that he never will do his duty, if he is left to bimself, is the result of his perversedes merely ; that, although in fact he never will return to God, except as drawn by the influences of the Spirit, still he is not to
fold his hands, and wait inactive, till these influences descend upon him; that the truths of the gospel, if listened to, are adapted to effect his conversion; that in his conversion, he himself must act, as well as be acted upon from on high ; that, by sitting down to wait God's time, he will seal his own perdition ; that, if renewing grace shall ever reach his heart, it will be through the influence of truth, and while he is striving to “enter in at the strait gate." But while New-England christians, as a body, are thus faithful to impenitent sinners, in the statements which they make, respecting the doctrine of dependence, we fear they are not always equally faithful to themselves, in applying the same truths to their own hearts and consciences. That is, they do not sufficiently feel, we fear, what is the nature of dependence in their own case ; that it consists, not in the want of power, but in the sinful corruption of their hearts.
The dependence of which we speak, therefore, is the dependence of an active, voluntary, moral being. It is not the dependence of mere matter. It is not the dependence of simple intelligence, upon Him who created and upholds it. It relates solely to the faci, that men, as free, active, voluntary beings, never will give their hearts to God, except as he inclines them to do it. They will, invariably, act wrong, till he influences them to act right. They will freely choose the way to death, till he turns them from it. And when they have become christians,—when they have thus begun to act right, and have entered upon the path of life --God, by his Spirit, must keep them in that way, or they will otherwise forsake it and perish. But, in exerting an influence thus to uphold them, it must be borne in mind, that it is exerted, not upon passive, inert matter, nor upon mere intelligence, (to give light and knowledge,) but upon active, voluntary, moral beings; and of course, that its effects upon them will be those only, which the nature of such beings allows. That is, in all that takes place, as the result of this influence upon man, he is still the same, active, voluntary being as before, and his actions are as properly his own, as they are when he acts purely from himself, and without any influence from on high. There is no influence of the Spirit, on the heart of the christian or the sinner, which does not relate to him, wholly and entirely, as an active, voluntary being. It finds him such, as it meets him; and it leaves him such, after all its power has been exerted upon him, while he was subject to its influence.
It is proper to remark further, under this topic, that the dependence of which we are speaking, is entire; christians are dependent on divine grace, for all their holiness, from first to last. This is as true after men are converted, as at the time of their conversion. The first right purpose and right feeling within the soul, and every subsequent right purpose and feeling, through life, are the
fruits of the Spirit's influence upon us ; insomuch, that without the Spirit's influence upon us, they would never have existed. Thus we are prepared, by the doctrine under consideration, with literal truth, to ascribe to God the whole praise of our deliverance from sin, and transformation into his image, from its commencement to its consummation. It is, really and truly, the result of his own efficacious grace.
2. But it is alledged, that there are serious difficulties conDected with this subject; difficulties so serious, that many do not know how to remove them. We cheerfully grant, that difficulties do exist on this subject; but they are rather of a philosophical, than of a practical kind, and such, as need not seriously embarrass the christian for a single moment. Indeed, we think, that these difficulties are apt to vanish, as soon as men are ready, in practice, to undertake their removal. They lie in the way till then, because, till then, men have an end to serve, in letting them lie there. To present at once the whole force of these difficulties, take a case often stated for that purpose, the case of the backsliding christian. He acknowledges, that he has fallen into a state of coldness; that he does not realize eternal things, as he once did; and that he has lost his wonted enjoyment, as a christian. In this condition, the doctrine of dependence on the grace of God, is presented to him. He looks at it, and says: If these things are truly so; is, without the Spirit's influences, I shall never return from my backslidings, and regain my wonted peace and serenity of mind; then what have I to do, but to sit down and wait till these influences descend upon me? Is he told, that he must pray, for that God has graciously promised to bestow these influences upon bis children, when they ask for them ? True, le replies; but the asking must be in faith: it is not the mere cry of suffering nature; it is the plea of filial confidence, to which the promise is made. But faith is itself the gift of God, the result of that very influence which the backslider Deeds to revive his soul. How then is he to pray aright for diFine influence, unless it is first given him? And what can be do at all, towards breaking away from the power of corruption in his heart, and returning back to God, except as the Spirit of God sball previously move upon his darkened soul? The result is, that he sits down to wait God's time, in his coldness and backsliding. Such, we believe, is the actual influence of the view entertained by many, respecting man's dependence on the grace of God. The practical inference, which they deny to the impenitent sinner, they themselves adopt, and act upon. We believe it to be, both to the christian and the sipner, one of the most subtle temptations of the adversary of souls. Now, that in some way these views are wrong, must be evident to any one who looks into the word of God. Not one inference of ihis kind, do we find to have been