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Again, this position of Dr. Edwards, besides being liable to all the difficulties mentioned in relation to his denial of mental causation, states many others equally formidable in a new direction. Upon his hypothesis a divine government is possible; the events of that government may be certain ; but the distinction between a physical and a moral government is annihilated, and the essential incidents of the latter are totally swept away. A moral government is not possible unless it be applied to agents. But an agent that causes nothing, no mod-. ification of itself, and consequently none beyond itself, all the modifications and changes of which are caused by the first cause, is not only a contradiction, but at war with common sense. The subject of these modifications may be called a mental subject; it does not therefore approximate to the idea of a cause or an agent; it is no agent in any correct sense. Leibnitz in his Theodicæa, called the mind a “spiritual automaton.” What if it be spiritual ? Does it come any nearer being an agent? Certainly not on this account. To set up a government of commands, rewards, and punishments, over a being that causes no phenomenon within himself, and none without himself; to make that being immortal, and endow him with the susceptibility of eternal pain; to make his destiny, whether of joy or wo, dependent on certain phenomena passing within him, to which he contributes nothing as cause, any more than if he did not exist; this contradicts all our notions of justice; it is a farce, which, if not so solemn, might be treated with ridicule. Between this supposition and atheism there is little ground of preference. The only just foundation for administering rewards and punishments, is the rightness or wrongness inherent in moral actions. But if a being cannot act at all, then it is manifest that he can act neither right nor wrong. If he cannot cause, then he cannot act, for no man can separate the idea of causing from the idea of acting. The remarks of Pere Buffier on this point are worthy of being mentioned : “ For if it be a cause, it has an effect, and every thing that has an effect of course acts ; as to act and to have an effect is precisely the same thing.” “The action as impressed on or received by any being is called passion ; and as received in an intelligent being who produces it himself, is termed act.” Buffier's First Truths, p. 225, 229. If we deny that the mind acts in this sense, we deny action altogether; we might as well then go to the theory of Dr. Harteley, and generate all mental states upon the mechanical principle of vibrations. Whatever causes, acts, and vice versa ; it must begin and originate the primordial movement, so far as it does either. As in the theory of Malebranche in respect to sensation, it may have historical occasions; but after all, the efficiency to begin action or causation must be in itself, or that which is said to act does not in fact act at all. If volitions then are not caused by us as well as in us, the hypothesis of moral government as exercised over us, is an absurdity. No man can reconcile the two suppositions without interlocking them by another absurdity equal to the one in question.
It is farther to be observed, that moral evil is in the world. The question has been started, Who is the sinner? It has been urged against the Edwardean scheme, that the divine authorship of sin would be the true answer to this question. Both the son and the father deny this consequence : “ If by the arthor of sin be meant the sinner, the agent, or actor of sin, or the doer of a wicked thing,” they tell us, that God is not the author of sin, but man is. This by itself looks very well; is sound both in philosophy and theology. But the question is, How could Dr. Edwards hold such language after divesting the reputed sinner of all causality in the matter, and investing the entire causality with God in the same matter? I confess myself unable to see. That which is no cause is not a “ doer” of any thing, and of course, not of a “ wicked thing,” and certainly is not the sinner or the author of sin. This absolutely forecloses so much of the question as pertains to man's authorship of sin; he is rendered incapable of sinning; the doing of a “ wicked thing” is not and never can be his doing. One of two suppositions must follow : either there is no moral evil in the world, or if there is, God is the sole agent of that moral evil, by being the sole cause of the volitions, of which it is the predicate. The first is contrary to Scripture and experience; the second supposition can be entertained by no consistent theist. There is some defect in an argument which necessitates the existence of such a dilemma. It lies in the position, that God is the sole and efficient cause of every volition. This is a very unpropitious world for such a theory; there is too much sin in it; it might do better in heaven. If it be said that this is the best account which can be given of the existence of moral evil, my answer is, that the position is not true, and if it were, then we had better have no account than to have this. If it be said, that man is the author of sin, as he is the subject of the wicked volition; I ask, in what sense is God its author ? In the sense that he is the cause of it, although not its subject. Now which idea comes the nearest to proper authorship; to have a change wrought in a being by another, or to be the being who works and causes that change? The former is all that Dr. Edwards can predicate of man; the latter he must predicate of the Deity, to be consistent. He is logically shut up to this very point; there is no getting away from it; he must accept the necessary deduction of his own system, or abandon the system. The idea may be dressed in milder and more palatable terms; but it is still there—the latent poison penetrates the whole scheme.
I have now completed the outline of thought which was proposed in the commencement of this Article. If the discussion has been somewhat prolix, I have only to say, that it grew out of the nature of the subject. Charges made upon a writer by the wholesale system, without appealing to his own language, are very likely to do injustice to his views. Hence I have sought to discuss no position as being that of Dr. Edwards, without first showing that such was the fact. Both in statement and argument I have endeavored to do justice to his views. That he did much to carry this question upon one side, is very freely granted. The whole subject, however, which the father and the son were supposed to have settled, is destined to be placed a second time in the crucible. Perhaps a second Edwards will immortalize himself on the side which the first defended; and possibly a greater than Dr. Clarke is yet to untie the Gordian knot, which has long been the puzzle of philosophers. The intellectual world will probably settle down on a system, in many respects at least, unlike that of Edwards. In its present form it cannot survive the investigation of present and coming generations. Whether it will be succeeded by a system having more merits and fewer faults, remains to be seen.
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ARTICLE IV. The Publications of the American Tract Society. By Rev. W. R. Williams, D. D., Pastor of the Amity-street Baptist Church, New.York. The Christian Library, 45 vols., 400 pages each. The Evangelical Family Library, 15 volumes. The Youth's Christian Library, 40 volumes.
The American Tract Society has been for years a familiar and cherished name with our churches. But many, even of intelligent Christians, have probably scarce made themselves conversant with its varied publications, or considered duly the influence it was likely to wield over the religious literature of our own and other lands. They have thought, perhaps, of the Institution as furnishing a few excellent Tracts in the form of loose pamplets, and supposed these, with some children's books, to constitute the entire sum of its issues; while, in truth, the Society, noiselessly following the beckonings of Divine Providence, has been led to undertake the publication of volumes, and to furnish libraries for Christian churches, schools, and households. These heedless observers have thought of it mostly in connection with a few favorite Tracts written in our own vernacular language; while; in fact, the Society has come to be engaged in the circulation of books and Tracts in more tongues than the richest Polyglott comprises, and is extending its operations through lands more numerous and remote than any one probably of the most widely-travelled of its readers bas ever traversed. The moral and intellectual character of the religious literature thus widely diffused deserves some thoughts.*
* It was made recently the subject of examination. At a special meeting of the Society and its friends, convened in the city of New York a few months since, several subjects were presented for consideration, as bearing on the character, plans, and duties of the Society. Amongst these was “THE EVANGELICAL CHARACTER OF THE PUBLICATIONS OF THE SOCIETY, AND THEIR ADAPTATION TO THE WANTS OF THE PRESENT GENERATION OF MANKIND, AT HOME AND ABROAD." Upon the subject so assigned to the writer, the following remarks were prepared.
The various publications of the Society in our own land, if we include its issues of every form and size, from the handbill and the broad sheet, up to the bound volume, already number one thousand. In foreign lands it aids in issuing nearly twice that number, written in some one hundred of the different languages and dialects of the earth. Amongst ourselves, in the seventeen years of its existence, it has already, by sale or gift, scattered broad-cast over the whole face of the land, in our churches and Sabbath-schools, through our towns and villages, among the neglected, in the lanes of our large cities, where misery retires to die, and vice to shelter itself from the eye of day, and amidst the destitute, sparsely sprinkled over our wide frontiers, where the ministry has scarce followed, and the church can scarce gather the scattered inhabitants, some two millions of books and some sixty millions of Tracts. This is no ordinary influence. It must find its way into nearly every vein and artery of the body politic. Whether it be of a pure and healthful character, is an inquiry of grave moment to the churches who sustain this enterprise, and to the country which receives this literature. If baneful, it is a grievous wrong to the community ; if merely inert and useless, it is a fraud committed upon the benevolence of the churches.
I. Whether these publications deserve the confidence of Christians, may be ascertained by the answer which is given to one question: Do THEY PREACH JESUS CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED ? He must be the theme of every successful ministry, whether preaching from the pulpit or through the press. The blessing of God's Spirit is promised only to the exaltation of the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” When Paul describes the peculiarities of his own successful ministry--a ministry that shook the nations -a ministry that carried the blazing torch of its testimony from Illyricum to Spain, he compresses these into a very brief space. He was determined to know nothing but Christ Jesus and him crucified. In Christ he found the motive which stimulated all his fervid and untiring activity, and the model upon which was moulded every excellence of his character. “ To me to live is Christ.” Only so far as the issues of this Society cherish this same principle does it ask, and only so far can it deserve, from the churches of our Lord Jesus Christ, that cordial support and that large extension of its labors which it solicits at the hands of the religious community.