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the whole soul of man, and all the faculties of it, not absolutely, but as they are all one principle of moral operations, as they all concur in our doing good or evil." The term may sometimes apply to what is simply natural; but it generally, as he says, denotes the principle of moral action, which being comprehended in love, must in all cases, whether it relate to good or evil, include affection. And thus, in his Treatise on Justice, Dr. Owen observes that, “Assent is an act of the understanding only; but be lieving is an act of the heart, which in scripture compriseth all the faculties of the soul as one entire principle of moral and spiritual duties. With the heart man believeth unto righteousness. Rom. x. 10; and it is frequently described by an act of the will, though it be not so alone. But without an act of the will no man can believe as he ought. See John v. 40. i. 12. vi. 35. We come to Christ as an act of the will; and let whosoever will, come : and to be willing is taken for believing. lief is disobedience. Heb. iii. 18, 19." Nay, Mr. M. himself acknowledges nearly as much as this. He says, "The scriptures always represent the regenerating and sanctifying influences of the Spirit as exerted upon the heart, which includes not only the understanding, but the will and affections, or the prevalent inclinations and dispositions of the soul." Works, Vol. II. p. 91.
Psa. cx. 3. And unbeChap. I. p. 108.
That disposition, in rational being, presupposes perception, I never doubted; but that it is produced by it, is much easier asserted than proved. Knowledge is a concomitant in many cases where it is not a cause. If all holy disposition be produced by just perceptions, all evil disposition is produced by unjust or erroneous ones. Indeed this is no more than Mr. M'Lean, on some occasions at least, is prepared to admit. He tells us that "the word of God represents the darkness, blindness, and ignorance of the mind, with regard to spiritual things, as the source of men's alienation from the life of God, and of their rebelling against him." (p. 77.) Does he really think, then, that the passages of scripture to which he refers mean simple ignorance?* If not, they make nothing
Ephes. iv. 18, 19. Acts xxvi. 18. Ephes. vi. 12. Col. i. 13,
for his argument. Does he seriously consider the blindness, or hardness of heart, in Ephes. iv. 18, as referring to ignorance, in distinction from aversion, or as including it?* Can he imagine that the darkness in which Satan holds mankind is any other than a chosen and beloved darkness, described in the following passages? They LOVED darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.-The heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed.
That voluntary blindness renders sinners estranged from God, I can easily understand, nor am I at any loss to conceive of its being "that by which Satan reigns, and maintains his power over the minds of men:" but I do not perceive, in any of these facts, the proof of disposition having its origin in ignorance. Two friends whom I will call Matthew and Mark, were one evening conversing on this subject, when the following sentiments were exchanged. All sin (said Matthew) arises from ignorance.-Do you think then, (said Mark,) that God will condemn men for what is owing to a want of natural capacity? O no, (said Matthew,) it is a voluntary ignorance to which I refer; a gut liking to retain God in their knowledge. Then (said Mark) you reason in a circle: your argument amounts to this: All sin arises from ignorance, and this ignorance arises from sin; or, which is the same thing, from aversion to the light?
If Mr. M'Lean, or others, will maintain that sin is the effect of simple ignorance, (and this they must maintain, or what they hold is nothing different from that which they oppose,) let them seriously consider a few of its consequences, as drawn by some of our modern Infidels. It is on this principle that Mr. Goodwin, in his treatise on Political Justice, denies the original depravity of human nature; explains away all ideas of guilt, crime, desert, and accountableness; and represents the devil himself as a being of considerable virtue! Thus he reasons:
Tops, Parkhurst observes, is from pw, and signifies, hardness, callousness, or blindness. “it is not mere ignorance," says Dr. Owen. “but a stubborn resistance of light and conviction; an obdurate hardness, whence it rejects the impressions of divine truth." Discourses on the Holy Spirit, Book UI. Chap. III.
"The moral characters of men originate in their perceptions. As there are no innate perceptions or ideas, there are no innate principles.-The moral qualities of men are the produce of the impressions made upon them, and THERE IS NO Such thing as an ORIGINAL PROPENSITY TO EVIL." Book I. Chap. III.
Again: "Vice is nothing more than error and mistake reduced to practice.-Acting from an ill motive is acting from a mistaken motive. Under the system of necessity, (that is, as held by him,) the ideas of Guilt, crime, desert, and acCOUNTABLENESS, HAVE NO PLACE." Book IV. Chap. IV.—VI. PP. 254. 314
Again: "Virtue is the offspring of the understanding.-It is only another name for a clear and distinct perception of the value of the object.-Virtue, therefore, is ordinarily connected with great talents. Cæsar and Alexander had their virtues.-They imagined their conduct conducive to the general good.-The devil, as described by Milton, also WAS A BEING OF CONSIDERABLE VIRTUE!!! Why did he rebel against his maker? Because he saw no sufficient reason for that extreme inequality of rank and power which the Creator assumed.-After his fall, why did he still cherish the spirit of opposition? From a persuasion that he was hardly and injuriously treated.-He was not discouraged by the inequality of the contest?" Book IV. Chap. IV. App. No. 1. p. 261.
Allowing this writer his premises, I confess myself unable to refute his consequences. If all sin be the effect of ignorance, so far from its being exceeding sinful, I am unable to perceive any sinfulness in it. It is one of the clearest dictates in nature, and that which is suggested by every man's conscience, that whatever he does wrong, if he know no better, and his ignorance be purely intellectual, or as Mr. M'Lean calls it, simple; that is, if it be not owing to any neglect of means, but to the want of means, or of powers to use them, it is not his fault.
The intellectual powers of the soul, such as perception, judgment, and conscience, are not that to moral action which the first wheel of a machine is to those that follow; but that which light and plain directions are to a traveller, leaving him inexcusable if he walk not in the right way.
But I shall be told, that it is not natural, but spiritual knowledge, for which Mr. M'Lean pleads, as the cause of holy disposition. True but he pleads for it upon the general principle of its being the established order of the human mind that disposition should be produced by knowledge. Morever, if spiritual knowledge should be found to include approbation, it cannot, with propriety, be so distinguished from it as to be a cause of which the other is the effect for to say that all disposition arises from knowledge, and that knowledge includes approbation, is to reason in a circle, exactly as, in the case just supposed, Matthew reasoned on all sin arising from ignorance, which ignorance included aver sion.
That spiritual knowledge includes approbation in its very nature, and not merely in its effect, appears evident to me from two considerations. First: It is the opposite of spiritual blindness. 2 Cor. iv. 4-6. Ephes. v. 8. But spiritual blindness includes in its very nature, and not merely in its effect, an aversion to the truth. Mr. Ecking (whose Essays on Grace, faith and Experience, have been reprinted by the friends of this system, as containing what they account, no doubt, an able defence of their principles) allows the inability of the sinner to consist in his loving darkness rather than light, and his disinclination to depend upon a holy sovereign God, and not in the want of rational faculties. Describing this inability in other words, he considers it as composed of "error, ignorance and unbelief," in which he places the "disease" of the sinner, "THE VERY ESSENCE OF THE NATURAL MAN'S DARKNESS ;" and the opposites of them he makes to be "truth, knowledge, and faith, which being implanted," he says, "the soul must be renewed." pp. 66, 67.* If Mr. E. understood what he wrote, he must mean to represent spiritual light as the proper opposite of spiritual darkness; and as he allows the latter, "in the very essence of it to include aversion," he must allow the former in the very essence of it to include approbation. Secondly: The objects perceived are of such a nature, as to be
*I have only the first Edition of Mr. E's Essays, and therefore am obliged to quote from it.
known only by a sense of their divine excellency, which contains in it more than a simple knowledge, even an approbation of the heart. Those who have written upon the powers of the soul, have represented "that whereby we receive ideas of beauty and harmony, as having all the characters of a sense, an eternal sense.”* And Mr. Ecking, after all that he says against a principle of grace in the heart antecedently to believing, allows that "we must have a spiritual principle before we can discern divine beauties." But the very essence of scriptural knowledge consists in the discernment of divine beauties, or the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. To speak of faith in Christ antecedent to this, is only to speak at random. The reason given why the gospel report was not believed is, that in the esteem of men, the Messiah had no form or comeliness in him, nor beauty, that they should desire him. To say we must have a spiritual principle before we can discern divine beauties, is therefore the same thing, in effect, as to say, we must have a spiritual principle before we can believe the gospel.
I will close this letter by an extract from President Edwards's Treatise on the Affections, not merely as showing his judgment, but as containing what I consider a clear, scriptural, and satisfactory statement of the nature of spiritual knowledge.
"If the scriptures are of any use to teach us any thing, there is such a thing as a spiritual supernatural understanding of divine things, that is peculiar to the saints, and which those who are not saints have nothing of. It is certainly a kind of understanding, apprehending, or discerning of divine things, that natural men have nothing of, which the Apostle'speaks of, 1 Cor. ii. 14. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can they know them, because they are spiritually discerned. It is certainly a kind of seeing or discerning spiritual things peculiar to the saints, which is spoken of, 1 John iii. 6. Whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither know him, 3 John 2. He that doeth evil hath not seen God. And John vi. 40. This is the will of him that sent me, that every one that seeth the son, life. Chap. xiv. 19.
and believeth on him may have everlasting The world seeth me no more, but ye see me.
*Chamber's Dictionary, Art. Sense.
+ Essays p. 67.