« ForrigeFortsæt »
irresistible, and that we have conditions to perform. The knowledge of this opinion of yours may be useful hereafter. As to what you insert in the above sentence, that "we are unable of ourselves to will or to do rightly," we may, perhaps, misunderstand each other. Our explanation would be thus: of ourselves, that is without the help of Christianity, (I speak generally, not of particular instances), we are, we should be as we were, wholly unable; our notions and perceptions of right and wrong having been, in great measure, perverted; but the Christian revelation shews us wherein our reason had erred, and if we accept, and endeavour to observe it with sincerity, we are promised, indeed already have, Divine assistance in correcting our deviations.
In your conclusion of this section, if we are still to understand you as speaking of peculiar opinions, your assumptions and expressions are scarcely warrantable. You even have not made us deny our depravity and weakness; it is left in doubt how far our opinions differ from your own-in doubt even if they differ at all-yet you have not hesitated to assume a triumph. You talk of "accustoming ourselves to refer all our vices to our natural depravity, as the primary cause :" (p. 41). Why, really, in my estimation, this would be much more likely to augment than cure the evil you complain
of. Not that I deny our natural depravity, but a habit of referring our actions to it as a cause, would be as bad, indeed answer exactly the same purpose with the inconsiderate and licentious, as allowing them to refer their misdeeds to the immediate agency and instigation of the evil spirit; it would appear to them a convenient excuse to mitigate their own responsibility as reasonable beings. deed, I have not unfrequently heard this very sort of language held. I do not say this is what you mean, but this is the way many of your readers would interpret your words. You wish to impress upon your readers a deep sense of humility as regards themselves, by considering how different their natural propensities to sin are from what Christianity requires them to become. But, for this purpose, a conviction of "having ever been prone to habitual disobedience," is just as good as any other mode of expressing the same thing; for, though you have made us say disobedience to the "more refined and liberal principles of nature," instead of " to God." Yet-at last it must come to this as we acknowledge equally with yourself, that the refined and liberal principles of our nature are no other than those instilled into us by God himself, and which, when weakened, and nearly strangled in a long contest with evil, were restored in their primitive purity, in the example and precepts
of Jesus. And the difference, if any, again resolves itself into the question before-mentioned, viz.-the moment at which our corruption attained maturity. You do not, indeed, charge us with denying habitual disobedience to the commands of God, and appear to understand, that, if we use the term "refined and liberal principles of our nature," we do so merely to be more intelligible in speaking of those who, being heathens, knew not God. Nor, indeed, do you directly deny the existence of such principles since the fall of Adam. But as many might suppose this to be your opinion, and as I find no other real difference, I have ventured to notice it as the possible difference alluded to.
3d Section. Your third section (p. 42) opens with an example (in the bold objector) of the very plea, I observed above, was not unlikely to be urged from your mode of expressing yourself. A plea not believed at the moment, by him who urges it; for he would not of himself deny his consciousness of freewill. But in his confusion, he seeks an excuse for what he knows to be wrong, and finds one, a hollow one certainly, in the wording of his indictment, and then finishes off with a Christian truism, "that he will be judged by what he hath, and not by what he hath not." But, Sir, I cannot suffer your little preface to this objection to pass unnoticed. You begin by calling this "a formidable objection." To
what is it a formidable objection, and which do you mean is so, the first half or the last? the "How can I withstand?" or the "Infinite justice and goodness will never try me by a rule disproportionate to my powers?" You then talk of the plea of innocence." What plea? who has made it? Remember your objector represents the upper classes of English society professing Christianity! Have you ever heard them make such plea? have you ever heard any decent person among them attempt the manoeuvre of your bold objector, and charge their sins upon God? I will venture to say you have never heard the one or the other; but, as usual, the objection is mixed up with what doubtless you have often heard, and for which we defy your censure; for it is our belief, and we are justified in that belief, that we shall be judged, not only in justice, but in mercy! You tell us, that" it would not be difficult to shew, that the notion of the demands-demands, remember-of divine justice being lowered in consideration of our weakness and corruption, is at war with the whole system of redemption by the atonement." Why, then, do you not shew it, instead of perplexing your readers, either by making distinctions without a difference, or entangling them by cunningly devised words? for either you intend a bye-play upon the words "demands and justice," or you make a distinction
between lowering a demand, and forgiving a portion of it. This may be all fair in logic; but when you talk of our being at war with Christianity for not observing the distinction, you really are bound to show us more cause for it! We have always been accustomed to consider the mission of Christ as made specially in pity to, and in consideration of, this very weakness and corruption; and the atonement as for the consequence of them, within certain limits, undefined, because real sincerity was to become the test. The requisitions, therefore, of Divine justice are heightened rather than lowered, inasmuch as they go to spiritual as well as actual perfection; but the demands, that without which we could not have been accepted, (the whole law), are lowered, and acceptance promised through Christ, to an imperfection of action, which was previously promised only to perfection, for Jesus was to perform, and did perform, the whole law; and, by performing it, broke the chain of sin.
All the concluding part of this chapter, which you profess to give as the best practical answer to objectors, such as you choose to imagine us to be, far from being an answer, appears to me to be an entire concession, or, to speak more properly, a complete reconciliation of our opinions: (p. 46-8).
Whatever difficulties there may be, when we would enquire beyond our province, most gladly