Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies a Necessity
By L. D. McCabe, D.D., LL.D.
Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies is Necessary to the Harmonizing of the Calvinian and Arminian Schools of Theology.
THE existence of these two opposing schools has been a great obstacle to the success of the Christian, religion. It has occasioned needless discussions, diversions, detractions, distrusts and general loss of evangelical power. Arminianism, in substance, is as old as the Church of God. "Not one of the five points of Calvinism had any place in Christian thought, but to be opposed and reprobated, for the first four hundred years after the apostles," says Dr. Asa Mahan. And this assertion he strongly sustains by quotations of unquestioned authority. Calvin himself, with the divines of his school, all acknowledge that "the Christian Fathers, both of the Greek and the Latin Churches, all the way down to the age of Augustine, were wholly unmanageable for their purpose." "The whole Greek Church," says Dr. Schaff, "was synergistic." The peculiar tenets of Calvinism were the inventions of an era comparatively recent. They took their inception in the fourth century from Augustine. From his conversion until his forty-second year, Augustine himself entertained the Arminian views of the process of being saved. He says: "Sin is a volitionary evil. No one is compelled by his nature to sin. Whatever the cause of the will is, if it cannot be resisted, it is yielded to without sin. Man fell by his own free-will. God did not predestine his fall." He also declared that "the divine call was effectual only through the voluntary co-operation of the human will," and that "it is by our own free act of faith that we are c1eansed from sin." But subsequently when Pelagius, who was an immovable Welshman, a pious monk, but not a preacher, sought about 350 A.D. to found a school of opinion, but not a sect in the Church, and assuming as his fundamental maxim," What I ought, I can," and had affirmed that the human will of its unaided self was sufficient to initiate a holy life, Augustine hurriedly rushed to the opposite extreme, and declared that the entire work of human salvation was accomplished exclusively by the grace of God. Pelagius ignored the prevenient and ever attendant grace, as an indispensable factor in man's salvation, and Augustine ignored the other indispensable factor, the volitionary co-operation of the human choice and will, involving the powers of alternative choice. Then it was that Augustine definitely departed from the synergistic view, of this fundamental question in human salvation. He no longer regarded the divine call as an occasion of salvation, but declared it to be the efficient and exclusive cause thereof. This was the actual beginning of positive monergism in the Church of God. But this departure, which I regard as so prolific of evil, was not the only misfortune in the intellectual life of the great Augustine. However great our wonder at the intellect of Augustine, no man, unless he were inspired, however astonishing his powers and thorough his regeneration, could possibly escape all the evil and blinding effects upon his mental processes of advocating the system of manicheism, of believing for nine years in the existence of two eternal principles, one good and the other evil, and especially of living a life steeped in iniquity, until thirty years of age. Dr. Dorner says: "Great as is Augustine's merit, his system suffers under various and grave defects. He estimates human freedom too lightly, and leaves no place for free-will subsequent to the fall. With him faith is exclusively the work of God and that wrought in virtue of predestination. This doctrine, however, the Oriental Church never did accept."
It has been vehemently charged, that the Catholic Church founded its dogmas of its right to sell indulgences, and the virtuousness of falsehood in the interests of religion, and the right of the State to punish heretics, and even the establishment of the terrible Inquisition itself, upon the express teachings of St. Augustine. He taught, for instance, the remission of sins in baptismal regeneration, and the forgiveness of actual sins by "almsgiving, prayers and good works." Ecclesiastical history asserts that he, in common with many other Christian fathers, taught and practiced duplicity in the interests of religion, thinking too, they did God service thereby. It also attests that in the long issue and bloody persecution of the Donatists, Augustine was the principal actor and instigator, controlling not only the whole of the African Church, but also the leading men of his country. He stood by, it is said, and exhorted hesitating officers to inflict upon the heretics, the penalties prescribed by legal enactments. Yet the Donatists were not heretical, on a single essential doctrine of faith. They believed that the unity and the freedom of the Church would be imperiled by its union with the State." Their heresy," said Neander, "was a protest against confounding ecclesiastical with political elements. They made Catholicity to depend on purity, while Augustine made purity to depend on Catholicity." "No man can have Christ for his head who is not a member of his Church, and no separatist from the Church can be saved," replied Augustine." But," says Dr. Wiggers, translated by Prof. Ralph Emerson, of Andover, "Augustine had the chief hand in the persecution of the Pelagians. That he was the most active in producing them is confirmed by all, both friends and foes." In reading the discussions of this great man, I cannot myself escape the conviction that he was sadly wanting in instinctive wisdom, intuitive insight, and moral sensibility, however wonderful may have been his other endowments; and, therefore, it does not seem to me that any special reverence is now due to the inventor of predestination, the inaugurator of monergism, and the founder of the Calvinian system of theology. For fifteen hundred years this system has been bold, aggressive, defiant, scholastic, dictatorial, fond of metaphysics, and marvelously successful among scholars and thinkers and holy men. For centuries Calvinians and Arminians, the two great armies of the Lord, have confronted one another, each vehement in the advocacy of its peculiar views. Both are partly right, and both are partly wrong. It is, therefore, one of the prime necessities of our holy religion, that they be harmonized in faith and combined in evangelical effort, as one glorious sacramental host for our risen Lord, marching distinctly but unitedly to the conquest of the world. And any devout essay toward such an object ought to be hailed by these opposing forces with acclaims of "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good-will to men." "For years," said Dr. Taylor, President of Wooster University, "I have been looking forward to a period of leisure, in which I might attempt what I regard as a great desideratum, the harmonizing of Arminianism with Calvinism." I think devout and discriminating Calvinians have often felt the pressing necessity of solving this great theological problem. But hitherto, all the herculean efforts that have been made have proved only abortive. A strong man, in the Princeton Essays, struggled hard at this mountain difficulty. The last irenicon that has fallen under my eye is in the "Homiletic Quarterly Review" for July, 1880. The writer, though an unflinching Calvinist, criticizes Dr. Hodge severely. He charges him with suppression of evidence, passing in silence Scripture passages pertinent but opponent to his teachings, and of assuming, in the absence of facts, the existence of numerous texts in support of his own views. This writer denies that divine grace is irresistible, affirms that divine influences necessary to salvation are vouchsafed in good faith to all men, that the regenerate may fall away and finally be lost, and that the great atonement is universal. He thinks both Augustine and Calvin drew from what he regards manifest truth, incorrect inferences, and then regarded such inferences as a part of the truth. Thus this Calvinist surrenders three of the five points of Calvinism, in his effort to harmonize the two great systems.
An earnest Presbyterian, in the "Independent" for July, 1881, says, "The Congregationalists are to have a new creed, and I really wish we had a standard we could heartily believe for its truth as well as revere for its age. If we are to be the defenders of the faith we ought to have a faith which we can defend. It is an awful wrench upon the moral nature to attempt the defense of that which appears utterly unreasonable. It is so paralyzing to faith to have to apologize for the creed. It certainly would be in the interests of truth and of truthfulness to so amend our Confession of Faith as to relieve it of the parts which call for an apology."
But so long as we assume either universal fore-ordination or absolute foreknowledge, we pile up absurdities in theology, and contradictions in the word of God, higher than Mont Blanc, and we can no more argue them down, than we can speak that mountain into the sea. Arminians must abandon foreknowledge, and Calvinians must abandon fore-ordination. Divine nescience is necessary to the annihilation of the doctrine of election and reprobation. That doctrine rests on the false premises that the will of God is the foundation of right, that men are mere instruments in the divine hands, and that the human will is invariably determined by the strongest motive. These false premises are grave obstacles in the progress of Christianity. No one can question, that Ca1vinian Churches would have been vastly more useful in the past, and would be more powerful in the present, as an agency of evangelization, had they never advocated and defended the doctrine of election and reprobation. It does seem astounding, that fore-ordination should still require refutation. For while it satisfies nobody, it shocks almost every body. The Calvinist seldom tells just how he holds election and reprobation, and he will never allow an Arminian to state the case or formulate his proposition. The necessity of refuting predestination would not now exist, had Arminians manfully taught correct tenets on divine prescience. So long as they persist in maintaining absolute foreknowledge, fore-ordination will obtain among profound and logical thinkers. And just so long, will it shed its paralyzing influences, all along innumerable lines, through the Church of God. In this most impressive fact, I feel the deep necessity of the divine nescience of future contingencies. The forced approach of the modern moderate Calvinist toward Arminianism is not at all surprising, for Canon Moseley, himself a most rigid Calvinian, says:
"Predestination belongs to a class of truths which do not admit of any statement. It cannot be stated without a contradiction of the divine justice and a contradiction of the free agency of man. To affirm that contingent events can be foreseen and can be the subject of previous arrangement and can come into a scheme of providence, is undoubtedly a self-contradiction."
But just so long as a belief in absolute prescience obtains, predestination will be bold, defiant, victorious and often intolerant. These two systems of theology, while they have been for centuries vehemently antagonizing each other, have really, in fact, most powerfully sustained each other. For one says the foundation of prescience is predestination; the other says the foundation of prescience, is the infallible futurition of all things. The Calvinian replies, if all futuritions are infallible, predestination, as I understand it, must be true, for all I claim is certainty, not necessity. Calvinism teaches that the human will is constrained, and it is a fact that the Bible is full of such teaching. But all passages referring to the constraint of the human will speak of man as a mere instrument in the hands of God. Arminianism teaches the freedom of the human will, with power of contrary choice, and the Bible is full of such teaching. But all the passages referring to the alternative liberty of the will regard man as an accountable being, free in all his choices. Whenever the human will is designedly constrained its action can be prevised; when it is left free, with power of alternative choice, its action is unforeseen and unforeknown, for nothing can be known in the absence of all evidence.
Accountability necessitates the origination of choice between obedience and disobedience. The origination of a choice, precludes the possibility of its previous existence. For the origination of a choice, and its previous existence, are contradictories. If the choice have a previous existence, it cannot be an origination. If a free origination preclude previous existence, it may or it may not come to pass. If a free origination may or may not come to pass, it cannot be certain. If it cannot be certain, it cannot be foreknown. If God does not will an event, does not operate to bring it to pass, does not see it as the result of existing causes, then he can only know it, when the author of it, possessing the power of alternative choice, brings it from nonentity into existence. If the foreknowledge of an event which is not in the divine purpose, not in the divine desire, not a factor in his purposed government, not known by any mind in the universe, and which is infinitely deprecated by the Deity, and for which he is in no way or degree responsible, is not an absurdity then we have no use for the word absurdity.
Nescience of future contingencies is the new and great principle of exegesis, which redeems Bible theology from all the absurdities and contradictions which its advocates have crowded into it. Believing a consolidation of the two great systems of theology to be a result to be devoutly desired, and possible of easy achievement, we will, in the spirit of candor and prayer, examine some of the recent utterances of the advocates of fore-ordination. My object now is to show how easily these statements can be, to say the least, fairly answered, and in this way, furnish satisfactory reasons for their immediate abandonment.* I am free to acknowledge, that these utterances cannot logically be replied to, by him who affirms absolute prescience. But, armed with the doctrine of divine nescience of future contingencies, I am not at all apprehensive of the result, even in the presence of the most gifted and revered of our Calvinians. For "thrice is he armed who hath his quarrel just." I by no means would enter these polemics con amore. I do it from a profound sense of duty I owe to the Church, so disturbed, unsettled and withered by unbelievable dogmas. Far be it from me to attack any branch of the "Church of God, which he purchased with his own blood." Victory, if that were possible in a game of wits, is a motive unworthy a man of common sense, much less of a Christian, who must account for the use of all his time, and meet in eternity all the influences he inaugurated in probation. But I see and feel the necessity of a union of all orthodox theologians, in order to contend against the aggressive and defiant powers of error and darkness, and to compass more speedily the conversion of the world to Jesus Christ. Theologians cannot differ fundamentally relative to the essentials of a true philosophy, the theology of the Bible, and systematic divinity, and all obtain a knowledge of the teachings of the divine word in their fullness, consistency and experimental power. In Calvinism, it seems to me, I see philosophical, theological and scriptural errors of great practical weakness and inefficiency. From its very inception down to this hour, it has been attended with suspense, hesitation and distressing questionings. "Calvinism," said Thomas Chalmers, "produces on some minds the most painful results." The teaching of the Friends "to await the moving of the Spirit," has chained the individual members, with all their capabilities of efficiency, in comparative inefficiency. But if it be clearly possible for us to reach a better comprehension of theological subjects, all who love our Lord and his Church should hear, examine, think, pray, and surrender whatever seems to be no longer tenable. I would, therefore, prayerfully attempt a harmony between Calvinism and Arminianism.
Universal consciousness attests to universal freedom, not, however, the freedom described by Jonathan Edwards, but the freedom that in its action is radically different from the action of constraint." Though the will be bound by necessity," says Edwards, "still man is free if he is not constrained to act against that necessity, or is not restrained from activity in accordance with it." But our consciousness repudiates all coercion of the will by any influences, or by any unconscious constraining forces. Edwards confounded the power through which we act, with the susceptibility through which we feel. His logical skill was far in advance of his learning and general culture.
This shining proof of the incompatibility of liberty with constraint is strengthened by the absence of all consciousness of any constraint in our moral actions. The will involves two distinct powers, the elective and the conative. The elective power is selecting, preferring, deciding and choosing something out of the many. The elective involves the intellectual and the volitional. The intellect surveys the object, estimates its advantages or disadvantages, and the imagination clothes the same with charm or disgust as the case may be. After this deliberation the elective volition makes a choice. The conative power is purely volitional. Volition is the actual putting forth a resolve to attain that which the elective volition had chosen. A volition is not the result of an action, for it is action itself. It is not determined, for it is a determination. It is an act of the will, but not an effect on the will (*For the full discussion of this subject see my work on "The Foreknowledge of God and Cognate Themes.") Freedom is not a projecting from something back of itself. It is a true beginning, a veritable commencement, a real origination in the spirit, and not a constraining impulse from sense or from without. In this capacity of free origination there is a condition, or an arena for a proper libration between the happiness of a gratified want and the duty of a secured worth. Selfhood alone can create good or ill desert. In self-originating volition we locate the origin of character. No matter how subtle the influence that produces spontaneity, or that state in which the will acts consentinglyunder the law of constraint, whether it be ab extra or ab intra, it destroys all human accountability. No man can choose to go north unless at the same moment he can choose to go in some other direction, or in no direction at all. A current might bear him northward, and he might, consenting, yield to its pressure. But this could not achieve moral character. That personal worth can attach to an act in which and to which we are constrained by a superior power or influence, to the degree that renders impossible a different choice, is a manifest self-contradiction. It is, indeed, pronounced by all who do embrace it, and who believe that it does achieve moral worth, as something that is utterly inexplicable, so inexplicable as to be forever beyond the reach of reason. They regard it a mystery, which requires the broader light of eternity to make it appear rational. But if God controls men he never can punish them. For no power that controls can ever rightfully punish. "Unless man has the power to choose the good and to refuse the evil, he cannot be accountable for any action whatever," says Justin Martyr. Logic requires that in the kingdom of Providence, man should act consentingly under the law of cause and effect, that is, under the law of true constraint or restraint. Consciousness forces the Calvinian to believe in the freedom of his will. And the logical necessity for the constraint of the human will in the kingdom of divine Providence induces him to cover up or overlook the incompatibility existing between liberty and constraint under the ambiguous term of spontaneity, and then to claim his exclusive right to the phrase "self-determination of the will." But the will of man is never used as an instrument of Providence, in cases where moral character is involved. Its action involving morality belongs to the kingdom of free grace. In the kingdom of free grace, the will always acts willingly under the law of liberty, not consentingly under the law of constraint. God works all things in the kingdom of Providence according to the counsel of his own will, and hence he uses man as an instrument, but a consenting instrument. But in the kingdom of free grace he treats man not as an instrument, but as a free agent, and solemnly stands before his responsible creatures, and says to them, "Choose ye life or death." If in heaven God takes delight in a saint, he must respect him; but he cannot respect him any more than he can a flower, or a star, if all his choices to love and obey him were constrained by himself. Neither could he respect the angels, who cast their crowns at his feet did they do it by constraint. Binding constraint upon human liberty, where moral character is involved, is philosophically unthinkable. It is also a terrible reflection upon infinite benevolence, in that it does not equally restrain poor reprobates, with the chosen, favored elect. But we here also discover that it sweeps all mutual respect out of heaven, and robs God of all his enjoyment in the free determinations and devotion of creatures made in his own image and capable of creating a character worthy of divine respect. Notwithstanding these incontrovertible statements, the "Presbyterian Review" for April, 1880, says: "The power of alternate choice is indetermination, not self-determination. If a will is indifferent it has no determination of any kind, and can go with equal facility in any direction. But if it be actually in a state of self-motion or self-determination, it is committed and inclined to an ultimate end, and the facility of indifference and contrary choice is impossible." Webster and Worcester both define indetermination as "want of determination, a wavering state." Indetermined they define to be a state unfixed, unsettled. Indetermination is never suggestive of indifference, but it always implies deliberation, consideration of opposing reasons, or conflicting motives, in consequence of which the decision or the choice is deferred. But here this writer does not distinguish between the indifference of the will, and indifference of the person. Objects are either external or internal. The former is known by perception, the latter by consciousness. These objects impress the understanding and the sensibilities. The understanding appreciates and the sensibilities desire them. This appreciation and this desire are produced according to the law of cause and effect, and, being wholly passive in their nature, can have no causal efficiency over the will. If they had they would not be passive but active in their nature. The will would be constrained by them, and consequently characterless in its actions; and in that case the will could not create sin, and the incipiency of sin could only be traced to the Deity himself. If the human will is caused to act it cannot be accountable. But impressions on intelligence and sensibility are not activity, being is not doing. Our susceptibility of feeling is different from that power, by which we act or volitionate. When, therefore objects, the attainment of which involves morality, impress the understanding and the sensibility, the whole person, save the will, deliberates. Between the impressions which objects make upon the sensibility and the understanding, and the action of the will, deliberation must necessarily intervene in responsible actions. When the objects presented to the understanding and the sensibility involve questions of obedience and disobedience, the whole person, save the will, is aroused and swayed to and fro. The battle rages between obedience and, disobedience. All the capabilities of the person, the will only excepted, are summoned to the fray. The comparative desirableness and the comparative appreciation of the presented objects are contemplated. Memory, imagination, reason, intuition and conscience, all are active from within. Right, justice, duty, reverence, self-love, prudence, self-gratification, present realization, fear of ruin, hope of recovery from indulgences, all join in the solemn conflict. But amid it all the will sits serene because it is not an intellectuality, nor is it a passivity. It is not a receptivity, but it is a positive power of activity. Indeed, we have no more right to declare that the phenomena of the will are the same as the phenomena of feeling, than we have for saying that the phenomena of mind are the same as the phenomena of matter. At least, in this deliberation, the will sovereignly elects between the two objects, and then executively volitionates obedience or disobedience, and thus and thus only can character be created. This writer in the "Presbyterian Review" says: "If the will is indifferent it has no determination of any kind, and can go with equal facility in any direction." This is true, because the will is free, with a plurality of possibilities, before the person in whom that will resides. It is true because the will is the power of the person to act; and the way it does choose, at the end of the deliberation, fixes the quality of the act, and makes the character for the person. But in self-determination the person is not indifferent. He is attracted strongly in different directions. He is addressed by strong reasons, why he should determine in harmony with conscience, and he is assaulted by powerful temptations, to the gratification of desires in violation of law. Beneath the pressure of these opposing forces and influences, the person is not in a state of indifferency, but he vacillates to and fro between conscience and desire. This is demonstrated in the religious experience of any intelligent Christian. Though the will is a purely conative power, the person must realize the pressure of opposing attractions, competing reasons, or his will could not achieve character by electing and determining between them. Motives are objects or reasons addressed to our sensibilities. They are the essential conditions of choice, but it is impossible that they should, control choice. It is impossible to do this for the reason that choice necessarily requires opposing motives, between which the will must make a responsible choice. This action of the will I prefer to call personic, for the reason that personality necessitates not only power over motives, but in addition power to elect between motives. A person must be sovereign over his sensibilities, sovereign over all motives addressed thereunto, or a consistent system of theology, and every thing which involves morality, are whelmed in the vortices of confusion, perplexity and dismay. All that then could be left to the theologian, would be to shut his eyes and heroically affirm his dogmas, "uncaring consequences!"
But the vital point of virtue is the personic choice of goodness, and the personic rejection of badness. The essential point of vice is the personic choice of badness, and the personic rejection of goodness. This action is a simple indefinable idea, but it is the intuitive teaching of universal consciousness.
No one of us comprehends the union of an immortal spirit with a material body, but who hesitates heartily to believe it? No more ought we to question this personic action of the soul. "We have," says Archbishop Manning, "the same evidence of the existence of a self-determining power within ourselves, that we have of the existence of the material world outside of ourselves. This is an immediate and intuitive truth of absolute certainty." "Every man," says the distinguished Dr. W. B. Carpenter, "feels that he really possesses a self-determining power, which can arise above all the promptings of suggestion, and can mold external circumstances to its own requirements. And any system of philosophy which rejects the self-determining power of the will, or which regards the will as only another expression for the preponderance of motives, leads to the conclusion that man can be neither rewarded nor punished deservedly." Thus we see that the denial to man of the power of alternative choices, throws all theological thinking into spasms. It causes the philosopher to hesitate, whether he does know any thing with unquestioned certitude. But if philosophy and logic and the ever-pervasive necessities of thought systems, cannot demonstrate man's power of contrary choices, they can never establish any thing. The surrender of this great error in anthropology, namely, that man has not the power of contrary choices, is indispensable to any intelligent theology. The Calvinian must cease denying man the power of contrary choices, and the Arminian must cease confounding future contingencies with present certainties, or we must adjourn all hope of a harmonious theology. And until this is accomplished we cannot hope for interpretations of the holy Scriptures which will not be manifestly self- contradictory. Nor can we look forward to the combined effort of all orthodox Churches, in the evangelization of the world.
(* While reading the proofs of this work, I was delighted to find in the "Princeton Review," for July, 1882, the following statements from Dr. George P. Fisher: "Choice is not the resultant of motives, as in a case of the composition of forces. Motives have an influence over us, but influence must not be confounded with causal efficiency. Motives are seen and felt, but a consciousness of pluri-potential power ever remains in full vigor. We can initiate actions, by an efficiency which is neither irresistibly controlled by motives, nor determined by a proneness inherent in its nature. We can withstand temptations to wrong, by the exertion of an energy, which consciously emanates from ourselves, and which we know we could abstain from exerting. My consciousness attests that my acts are not the necessary consequences of antecedents, whether in the mind or out of the mind. The constraint of the will by exterior causes is fatalism. Spontaneity confined to a single path, by a force acting from within, is determinism. And both fatalism and determinism are promptly rejected by every unsophisticated mind. Indeed, the consciousness of self could never be evoked were the mind wholly passive under impressions from without. Self without freedom of will would be an inchoate being. Self-determination, as the very term signifies, is attended with as irresistible conviction that the direction of the will is self-imparted.").
After finding so many and rare excellencies in Dr. Charles Hodge's "Theology," we were unprepared for the fallacies, psychological mistakes and lack of discrimination which he has incorporated in his chapter on the free agency of man. No wonder that one of his admirers recently declared that "much of his theology must be rewritten." Dr. Hodge states the issue fairly between the Calvinian and the Arminian, and inquires, "When a man decides to do a certain thing, is his will determined by the previous state of his mind, or can he with the same views and feelings decide one way at one time, and another way at another time? "To prove that the will is always determined by the previous state of the mind, he begins by assuming that this must be the case, or "the future choices of free beings could not now be certain." But his argument to prove that the future choices of free beings are now certain, is loaded down with a series of paralogisms, by which I mean unintentional fallacies. "God is free," he says, "but it is now certain that he will always do right." But God is not like a man, undergoing probation for the achievement of moral character and the attainment of endless rewards. Between the choices of the immutable Creator, and the determination of a limited creature, on probation for an eternal state of reward or retribution, there exists no point of analogy, that reaches the nerve of this argument. But even here the doctor takes for granted that for which he is without authority, namely, the present certainty of all God's future choices. God is certain, from everlasting to everlasting, to do right, but he may put forth millions of volitions which do not in any way involve questions of morality. This assumption of the present certainty of all God's future volitions arises out of limited views of the possibilities of the Deity, and logically, it would drag us out, perforce, into all the paralyzing mists and demoralizations of pantheism.
"There may have been," says Dr. Hodge, "a metaphysical possibility of evil in the choices of our Lord, still it was more certain that he would be without sin, than that the sun or moon should endure." But if there was a metaphysical possibility of evil in the choices of Christ, what ground has the doctor for declaring that all his choices were absolutely certain? But admitting this absolute certainty, between man and Jesus Christ there is no parallelism that touches the point in debate. The human consciousness of Christ, definite, positive and free as it evidently was, was, nevertheless, backed and barricaded by a consciousness made up of a union of the finite and the infinite, the human and the divine. This fact completely destroys all analogy between the two cases.
"Again," says Dr. Hodge, "the saints in heaven are free agents, and their future acts are now certain to be determined to the good forever." But the saints in heaven have successfully passed their probation; they are no longer on trial; they have achieved moral character, and are never again to be tempted or tested. Henceforth they will always choose in accordance with their achieved moral character. They are now established in holiness among the glorified, and they will certainly never choose to do evil. But what is there in this fact justifying the broad inference of the present certainty of all the future choices of those who, not only inheriting depraved tendencies, are enduring fierce temptations and undergoing fiery ordeals? But the truth is that moral beings, who see all things as they really are, never do choose evil. It is only when things are not seen as they really are, that free moral beings ever choose to violate God's law. Misapprehensions furnish the arena requisite for testing. His argument, therefore, from the impeccability of the saints in heaven, is also wholly unavailing for his purpose.
His next argument to prove that the future free choices of free beings are now certain, is, that "all who are born, will, during probation, certainly commit sin." But said the psalmist, "I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." "By nature," says the apostle, " we are the children of wrath." And "that which is born of the flesh is flesh," are the words of Our Lord himself. Our inward depravity renders it certain, though not necessary, that every child of Adam will, some time during its probation, violate God's law. But what ground is there in this fact for the inference that all the specific future choices of free beings are now certain in the divine mind? For this argument there is not and cannot be even the semblance of a basis. But it is very easy for any of us to find apparent arguments for a dogma, that we persistently cherish, as being necessary to our theological scheme. This whole argument of Dr. Hodge, to prove the present certainty of the future choices of free beings is entirely destitute of force and validity, and, therefore, it is of no possible avail in proving his main proposition, which is, that "the human will is always determined by the previous state of the mind."
The next argument of Dr. Hodge to prove that the will is determined by the previous state of the mind, is drawn from our consciousness. "We cannot conceive," he says, "that a man can be conscious that with his principles, feelings and inclinations being one way his will may be in another." How clearly does this statement betray the doctor's erroneous conception of human liberty.
He uses the phraseology that is appropriate to real liberty, while any liberty that can possibly involve accountability is foreign to all his thoughts. His only conception of liberty is a liberty to choose that and that only, to which a man is unconsciously constrained. With such a pseudo view of liberty it would not be possib1e for him to conceive of the inclinations being one way and his choices being in another. Of course he could not conceive of water running up hill or of fire not charring flesh. According to his view the will is as truly under the same law of cause and effect, being controlled and coerced by predominant motives.
In physical forces, causes constrain effects, and if the same law obtains in the action of the human will, it would not be possible to conceive "that a man can be conscious that with his principles, feelings and inclinations being one way, his will may be in another way." But it is not difficult for any one who ascribes to man genuine liberty, the liberty or power of alternate choices, which is the only liberty that can possibly achieve rewardability, to conceive of him as feeling strongly inclined in one direction, and yet choosing in the opposite. He who cannot resist feelings swaying him in one direction and decide for the opposite direction, can be neither free nor accountable. Adam's soul was full of right views, correct principles, holy feeling, and devout inclinations, and yet he put forth a sinful volition. And whoever has correct views of the human will can find no difficulty in conceiving of this simple fact of history. This personic action of the will is a simple, indefinable idea.
"All that consciousness teaches us upon this subject," says Dr. Hodge, "is that we could have acted differently, provided other feelings and views had been present in the mind." How difficult for the doctor, to arise from this conception of constraint, into the kingly sp1endors of moral liberty! But universal consciousness does testify that however strong may be the inclinations or the temptations to sin, the will can resist them all and decide in favor of virtue. There is in our deep convictions of accountability, and all that accountability implies, no proviso, as to the strength of our feelings and our inclinations and otherness of our views. We know that we are not things or instruments, but persons, and against winds and currents and attractions, we are masters of the situation. We know that we are moral sovereigns, and can resist, win and be heroes, or we can betray, lose and be traitors. If universal consciousness cannot be relied upon as to this point, it cannot be relied upon any where, as to our mental states. My own consciousness attests that however strong may have been temptations to sin, I could have resisted them all and done right. But for this terrible consciousness, every poisonous tooth of venom would be extracted. "But," says Sir William Hamilton, "freedom is a fact which is made known to us by our consciousness." Emanuel Kant also declares that "the liberty of the will is a matter of pure consciousness." Those acquainted with the writings of these profound psychologists, know that they use the term liberty to mean the power of alternative choices. The best authorities, as well as universal consciousness, therefore, pronounce the statement, and this argument of Dr. Hodge, to be absolutely fallacious. "It is inconceivable that man should be free," says the necessitarian. "This argument proves too little," says Sir William Hamilton, "for it is inconceivable that man should not be free, and consciousness is all on the side of freedom."
Dr. Hodge's next argument is, "that unless the will be determined by the previous state of the mind there can be no morality in our actions." But there can be no moral quality in actions if they are wholly determined for us, by the previous state of the mind. A free, original, independent, conscious choice between good and evil, is the sine qua non of every act that involves morality. The previous moral states of the nature, are the consequences of past free volitions, and to regard the consequences of past volitions as the sole causes of future volitions, excludes necessarily all moral qualities from future volitions. This would also annihilate from out of the soul its great endowment of liberty. Indeed, there would be no future use of a will, since the previous states of the soul control invariably the actions of the person. Unless I can sovereignly choose between competing motives, and can command pro and con feelings, to be submissive to the behests of my free-will, no act of mine can possibly possess a moral quality. If my will is coerced by any feelings, or views, or convictions, I can be neither a subject of praise nor dispraise. "If we are constrained," said Jerome, "there is no room for either damnation, or a crown."
Freedom of will when coerced by any thing preexisting or existing, internal or external, no matter how subtle or latent, is simply an inconceivability. The idea that morality can attach to a volition, which is determined by the previous state of the mind, is a self-contradiction. Whenever the human mind embraces this contradiction, it is only to escape what it deems a greater inconceivability. I am free, only when I am not controlled to my determinations, by any reasons, feelings, convictions, inclinations, or even achieved moral character. I am free only when I determine my volition by an inherent, self-moving, personic power. I make the nisus myself or I forbear to make it, as I sovereignly choose, between conflicting motives. "If the will is constrained," said Origen, "man deserves no reward for virtue, and no punishment for vice."
Dr. Hodge says: "Man is responsible for his volitions, because they are determined by his principles and feelings, and he is responsible for his principles and feelings, because of their inherent nature as good or bad, and because they are his own and constitute his character." But how could feelings and principles be a man's own, unless he had freely chosen them, between contrary feelings, and then adopted them? The will sovereignly decides between virtue and vice, and then the principles and feelings follow, according to the law of cause and effect, the decision made by the will. I can obey God or not. If I disobey him my feelings necessarily become wicked. If I obey him my feelings necessarily become holy. And my feelings and principles can only become mine through my will electing obedience or disobedience to duty.
Dr. Hodge says: "Man is responsible for his principles and feelings because of their inherent nature." But whence did they receive that inherent moral nature? It was given them by some free-will. It is revolting to ascribe the inherent nature of evil principles and feelings to Deity. To do this Dr. Hodge hesitates and trembles; he therefore points down into the soul of man, intimating that possibly somehow or other, and in some inexplicable way, the morality of actions is to be sought for there. He positively affirms that the morality of actions is not to be sought for in the self-determining power of the will, because that power he vehemently denies. He says: "A man is free, so long as his activity is controlled by his reason and his feelings. The will is not independent, not indifferent, not self-determined, but it is always determined by the previous state of the mind. Man is free, but free agency is the power to decide according to character. Self-determination means that man is the efficient cause of his own act, and the reason and grounds of his determination are within himself." We thus see that Dr. Hodge denies the self-determining power of the will, but affirms self-determination. If he would grant to self-determination the full power to choose between the attractions of sin and the claims of holiness, he would have a place on which to posit the morality of actions. But he vehemently denies the power of alternative choices, and therefore he has absolutely no place in which he can distinctly locate the moral quality of actions. It does, indeed, seem marvelous, that the good doctor, could so ignore logic, psychology, common sense, and the pungency of the feeling of our accountability, in the interest of a system of faith, relative to the distinguishing features of which, we have in all its pulpits, the uniform eloquence of absolute silence. But the mystery is easy of explanation. We know that God did use men as instruments, and in so doing was compelled to put their wills under the law of constraint, and without the power of contrary choice, they chose consentingly as God desired. The Doctor's great defect was the limited view he took of the whole subject. Though as an instrument, man does choose just as he is constrained, as a free agent, he must choose for himself, and this necessitates the power of contrary choices. Regarding man as an instrument, in all kingdoms, he applied and followed his constraining principle, up into the dizzy heights of inexplicables and inconsistencies.
The Calvinian's view of spontaneity, is true in man's act, when he acts as an instrument. The error of the Calvinist is to carry this view of spontaneity up into the high realm of free agency. "But the character of the act," says he, "depends upon the motive, which determines the volition." True, the moral character of an act does depend upon the motive or intention, in view of which the voluntary being performs the act. Motive is a rational inducement to choice, and there must always be competitive motives, or choice is impossible. If the agent elects the sinful motive his act is sinful if he elects the holy motive his act is holy.
But this is an entirely different thought from the proposition, "that the motive determines the volition," that the motive controls the choice of the person in volitionating said actions. If the motive controls the will in its election and decision to volitionate the act, then the real origin of the act is in the objective motive, and not at all in the responsible man himself, not at all in the self-determining power of his will. That Dr. Hodge did not discriminate, between motive in the sense indicating the moral character of the act of a person, and motive in the sense of causing, coercing the act itself is truly surprising.
"If a man," says Dr. Hodge, "is independent of the previous state of his mind, his act has no moral character, for it does not reveal any thing in the mind." The object of a moral act is to obey and please Deity, and to gain moral excellence. It is not to reveal something already in the soul. If the object of the act is to reveal something in the mind, its motive is vain, useless, and leads to evil. The object of a moral act is merely to demonstrate the loyalty of a free will to the behests of the divine will. When Adam sinned he achieved sinfulness, but he did not reveal sinfulness, for there was no sinfulness in him to reveal. Adam's act was "independent of the previous state of his mind;" but had it no moral character? "A man's acts," says Dr. Hodge, "are not his if they do not express his moral character. Satan's revolt did not express his moral character, but was not his revolt, his to deplore?" "A volition is a revelation of what a man is," says the doctor. According to this, if a man's acts are wicked, then his moral nature must necessarily be wicked. Consequently before a soul can commit sin it must be full of sin. God, therefore, must have created an unholy nature in order to let sin into his universe. The doctor does not distinguish between achieving moral character, and manifesting it after it has been achieved. Julius Mueller says: "The state of the heart depends upon the primary decisions of the will. Character is formed by internal decisions. Moral character is of moral significance only so far as it has been produced by an act which is simply internal, that is the free inclination of the will. And he who regards a settled moral state as the original one for man, the prius, and that his every moral act and moral decision is its necessary outgo and effect, destroys altogether the idea of development."
Is it not sad to hear so distinguished a teacher in theology as Dr. Hodge confessedly is, say: "We confess we are free when we are self-determined, while at the same time we are conscious that the controlling states of the mind are not under the power of our will." Is it any thing less than amazing, to hear him declare: "The acts of men are necessary, but they are necessary in such a sense as to be, nevertheless, free, and necessary in such a sense as to be perfectly consistent with the moral responsibility of the agents." The acts of men are necessary, but necessary in such a sense as to be punishable! How a mind possessing such acumen could embrace a dogma so inexplicable, in itself so indefensible on the grounds of right, and so manifestly self-contradictory, is an enigma I am powerless to solve. Had there been truth in this statement Dr. Hodge certainly could have found it, and if he had found it, it would have been the happiest moment of his professional life to elucidate it before his admiring classes. The eminent psychologist, Dr. Reid, says: "If the determinations of the will be the necessary consequences of something in the previous state of the mind or of something in the external circumstances of the agent, then he is not free, and to affirm that when the state of the mind is the same the volitions will always be the same, is to reduce the human will to a mere machine, and to establish fatalism throughout the moral universe." Can any theologian afford to pass by this impartial testimony without prayerful consideration? "But," continues Dr. Hodge, "if the human will acts independently of the understanding and the feelings, its volitions are not the acts of a rational being. Man is a puppet or a maniac if his acts are not determined by his reason and his feelings. When a volition is contrary to the character, principles, inclinations, feelings and convictions of an agent it ceases to be the decision of an agent." It would seem that Dr. Hodge did not discriminate between the will as being determined and coerced by the feelings and the knowings, and the man as calmly electing between competing reasons and conflicting feelings, and then sovereignly determining what his volitions in the case shall be. Without competing reasons and feelings it is impossible for the will to elect and make a choice for which the person could be justly rewarded or punished. The moment the will is constrained, coerced by any thing, its freedom and accountability are annihilated. If this is not axiomatic, let us throw up the vocation of thought, and be humming-birds till the sunset of life. "If I have not the power to resist God's will I have not the power to submit to God's will," is the exclamation of the distinguished Dr. Dorner. "The will," says Dr. Hodge, "is not independent, not indifferent, not self-determined, but it is always determined by the previous state of the mind. Man is free just so long as his volitions are the conscious expressions of his mind. He is free, but his will is not free in the sense of being independent of reason, feeling and consciousness. An act performed without reason, without object, and for which no reason can be assigned, is as irrational as the act of a brute." But the power of contrary choice does not imply that the will is independent of reasons, feelings and consciousness, or that man acts without reason or objects or intentions.
Reasons, objects, intentions are essential to moral action, and there must be not only reasons for volition, but also competing reasons for contrary and opposite volitions to afford the free agent an opportunity to elect between them. In this modified sense the volitions are not independent of reasons and feelings. But the will is absolutely independent of the reasons and feelings in the sense that they may determine its volitions. And that it should be otherwise is utterly inconceivable. The will is not independent of occasions of acting, but it is independent of coercing causes or constraining influences. Is it possible Dr. H. could not discriminate this distinction? Because the will must be self-poised between conflicting motives, Dr. Hodge affirms that the will is "indifferent." Calvinian metaphysics seem to me to be incapable of distinguishing between the person and his will. But there is no more difficulty of distinguishing between the person and his will than there is of distinguishing between the person and his sensibility, or between the person and his cognitive faculty. The last two distinctions are no more important than the first; but Calvinians delight in calling the will the person. Now the will may and must be indifferent, but the person is not indifferent. The person is tested powerfully in opposite directions whenever he is called upon to decide moral questions. How entirely the good doctor fails to distinguish between testing influences brought to bear upon the person, of opposing motives, which are necessary to the achievement of character, and the control of those motives over the volitions of the human will! It certainly would be mockery in Deity to endow us with self-hood, and then deny us an arena on which to assert that self-hood, or an opportunity to achieve self-respect for ourselves, or a possibility to establish our rightful claim to divine rewards.
The next argument is, "If the will is not determined by the previous state of mind, then there must be an effect without a sufficient cause. The efficiency of the agent is a reason for the existence of the volition, but it is not a sufficient reason for the volition being as it is rather than otherwise." But I reply, Efficiency is not the only quality or faculty of a person. In addition to efficiency it is essential to a person that he possess the power of alternate choices between competing influences. Man as an instrument can be led to choose consentingly under the unconscious constraint of forces brought to bear upon him. But in this view he cannot be a person. A hurricane has efficiency, but it is destitute of personality. Efficiency in a being without the power of alternate choices is incapable of personal actions or efforts. The true definition of a person is a being capable of sovereignly deciding between competing influences, wise or unwise, holy or unholy. A person can be coerced in accountable acts neither by reason nor by feeling nor by Deity himself.
The free-will is a cause not an effect, and it requires nothing outside of itself to account for its acts. The sufficient reason, therefore, why the agent exerts his efficiency in one way, rather than in another is the splendid fact that he is a person and not a thing. He moves, he is not moved. The person is the cause and the volition is the effect. Hence the self-determining power of the will does not at all involve an effect without an amply sufficient cause. How the doctor could have made this statement with any proper conception of personality is a great mystery. My choice of obedience to Jesus is the effect of my sovereign free-will. Freedom is the essence of personality, and consciousness is the feeling of personality. Self-motion is the distinctive attribute of spiritual agents. In and of itself a spirit can act in either of divers ways. Material causes can act but in a single way and with but a single result. A spirit is a person, and personality implies self-consciousness and self-determination. A spirit therefore cannot be confined to a single way of acting. The self-motion of a spirit therefore cannot be an effect without a cause. Indeed, all causes originate in free-wills. Philosophy will not allow us to locate causes anywhere but in mind. The causes that control in material things receive all their efficiency from the volition of a spiritual being, who could have willed material forces to act according to different laws. Is it not then surprising that Dr. Hodge should clog, chain, and degrade a spirit with the same kind of causation that controls in material forces, when that kind of causation originated in a self-moving sprit, and receives all its efficiency from that spirit? Because the will is not controlled by motives, nor by the previous state of the heart, nor by subtle influences, he has no warrant at all for inferring that its act is an effect without a cause. It is an effect of the highest conceivable cause, a self-moving spirit possessing the power of contrary choice. Assume that spirit causation and matter causation are identical in kind, and fatalism holds us in her Gorgon grasp, turning us rapidly into stone, and the awful system of necessity comes down upon us as black night upon a troubled ocean. Assume the universal reign of that kind of causation that is regnant in material things, and every thing that is worthy of thought is lost forever, and God himself is frozen into everlasting inactivity, indifference, and inability. But again the doctor says: "if the will acts independently of the previous state of the mind then our volitions are isolated atoms springing up from the abyss of the capricious self-determinations of the will." But I ask, where else did sin come from? Sin exists and must have had an origin. Either it came out of that capricious, uncertain abyss, or it emanated from God. There is no middle ground: sin originated in a creature free-will or the divine free-will. Sin without the action of some free-will involves contradiction. It is simply an exercise of a free-will in opposition to the right. The declaration that sin came from out the divine free-will is the blackest of all blasphemies, for God's moral character is infinitely dear to him.
Dr. Hodge denies that sin came out of that capricious abyss of the self-determination of the will. He says, (page 537,) "The reason why any event ever comes to pass is that God so decreed it." No wonder he exclaims with evident hesitation and tremor, "It may be difficult to reconcile the existence of innate evil dispositions in the soul of man, with the justness and goodness of God. It is, indeed, repugnant to our moral judgment that God should create a malignant being, but this has nothing to do with the question whether moral dispositions do not owe their character to their nature." But why should the good man cling to a system of theology that necessitates such heart-disturbing meditations? Neither psychology, nor logic, nor common sense, nor Scripture, nor the success of Christianity, nor the comforts of the Gospel, require of him any thing of the kind. Ten thousand times better repudiate such an origin of sin, and then trace its incipiency down into that uncertain abyss of the self-determining power of a free-will, rather than therewith to darken the throne of the Eternal, and fasten an appalling dubiety on the moral character of Jehovah. And yet John Calvin made the divine will the originative cause of evil. "All the descendants of Adam," says be, "fell, by the divine will into that miserable condition in which they now are." No wonder that that distinguished Presbyterian, Dr. Duryea, a man so eminent for his union of analytic and synthetic ability, recently in a public manner positively denied that he was any longer a Calvinist.
But, without any controversy, the new Arminianism sends a line of living light through this whole subject. It leaves no point unilluminated, and piles up no vexatious contradictions in its path.
But the doctor continues: "On the hypothesis that the will determines itself there can be no such thing as character." Here he does not discriminate between a created nature pure and spotless as it came from the hands of the Creator, and an achieved character. Character necessarily involves the ethical. Moral character refers to volitionating, moral goodness refers to the nature resulting from moral character. The nature of a being may be perfect, but he can have no moral character until he volitionates in view of a moral standard placed before him. The natures of fallen angels were without sinful tendencies, but they had no moral character until they volitionated in view of divine commandments. Adam was created without the slightest bias to evil, but he had no moral character until he volitionated between obedience and disobedience. Religion is acting in view of pleasing the Deity. Morality is acting in view of pleasing immutable rightness. Virtue is volitionating concordantly with morality. Vice is volitionating discordantly with morality. Moral character is the result of virtue on the nature of the spirit. Piety is the result of religion on the nature of the spirit. Holiness is a state of freedom from sinful affinities. If the inward nature determines the will, how could moral evil ever have transpired? If the moral state determines the will, God must have created Adam with a bad moral state, for he did volitionate wickedly. He actually achieved a bad moral character. This character was either created by himself or by his Creator. As the latter supposition is awfully blasphemous, we are coerced to the conclusion that Adam, though possessed of a pure nature, created for himself a sinful character. The only possible creator of character is the free-will of an accountable being. Neither a pure sinless nature, nor an achieved moral character, can determine the will. Holy beings have volitionated sinfully and achieved wicked characters, and beings with wicked characters often volitionate obediently to God. If character coerces volition, the good man can achieve no rewardability in good volitions, and the wicked man can achieve no punishability in wicked volitions. So if the will is determined by the previous state of the mind, character is an inconceivability. A spirit is able to produce something different from itself, or theology is inconstructable. Reader, is not the proposition of Dr. Hodge, that "if the will determines itself there can be no such thing as character," utterly defenseless? Good men do put forth wicked volitions, and bad men do put forth good volitions; and what a free-will, acting under the law of liberty, will do, no one can ever know with absolute certainty. While maintaining that spontaneity does not constitute free agency, Dr. Hodge charges inconsistency upon Jonathan Edwards for embracing in his signification of the term will "all preferring, choosing, and being pleased with, or displeased with," and then advocating a theory which is applicable to the will only in the sense of being the power of self-determining. But Dr. Hodge himself says, and his system forces him to say: "The word will indicates all the desires, affections, and even the emotions. It has this comprehensive sense when all the faculties of the soul are said to be included under the two categories of understanding and will." But although this twofold division of the mental powers once was prevalent it was long since repudiated. Noah Porter says: "The threefold division of the powers of the conscious ego, intellect, sensibility and will, is now universally adopted by those who accept any division of the faculties. It has taken the place of the twofold division which formerly prevailed, into the understanding and the will, according to which, the sensibility, or the soul's capacity for emotion, was included under the will; and the affections, as they were usually called, were regarded as phenomena of the will." "Dr. Reid," said Porter, "limits the will to the capacity to determine or to choose, excluding from it the capacity for both emotion and desire." Dugald Stewart adopted the same division. How, then, Dr. Hodge could be uninformed of this fundamental and universally admitted fact in modern psychology is to me an inexplicable mystery.
He defines motives to be "those inward convictions, feelings, inclinations and principles which are in the mind, and which impel or influence the man to decide one way rather than another. These motives are the reasons which determine the agent to assert his efficiency in one way rather than in another. They are causes, in so far that they determine the effect to be thus."
"The will is never self-determined; it is always determined by the previous state of the mind." But, I ask, cannot our natural dispositions be controlled through the ability which belongs to the will? Cannot the will, through universal prevenient grace, prevent the development of these natural dispositions of the soul?
"Man is free so long as he is controlled by his reason and his feelings." Of course a rational agent must always consider the reasons and his feelings in any responsible act. But if he is compelled to choose to act under the influence of one set of reasons and feelings rather than another set of reasons and feelings, he is not a rational agent, but he is a thing, and incapable of accountability. "If," as Dr. Hodge says, " the will is determined by the feelings, principles, character and dispositions which at the moment constitute a man a particular individual," where can we locate accountability? His own deep, significant silence answers, Nowhere. Could he read his inner consciousness, I think he would see a reference to the eternal decree of the universal Sovereign.
"I deny," says Dr. Hodge, "the self-determining power of the will; I do it because it is a denial that the will is controlled by motives. The power of contrary choice means that with the same state of mind and feeling the choice might have been different. The will always decides in favor of that which promises to be desirable. It is always determined in favor of that which under some aspect or for some reason is regarded as good."We cannot but regard these statements as an effort to dignify mere constraint of the will by the respectable nomenclature which belongs to the power of alternative choices." If a man," says Dr. Hodge, "may act in despite of, and contrary to, all influences which can be exerted upon him, then it must remain forever uncertain how he will act."
But this "uncertainty" presents no difficulties, for impossibilities limit omniscience, as well as omnipotence. Future free acts are not subjects of present knowledge. Not to know them, therefore, is not the least limitation upon the perfection of omniscience. Omniscience, even, cannot see evidence where no possible evidence exists. My forging a note on the morrow is a thing no more impossible than the disobedience of Eve. If there is any evidence that on the morrow I will forge a note, who can tell where that evidence exists? It is now farthest from my thoughts, and in myself I see no evidence of the specified perfidy. If no evidence of it exists in my own mind, it can exist in the mind of no other created being. God has no evidence of it in his decree, for he never decreed it. He has no evidence of it in his desires, for he trembles at the thought of it. But you say God foresees the influences that will be brought to bear upon me leading me to choose the wicked deed. But, if God foresees influences acting upon my will, to that degree of its control, he can only trace those influences on the line, and according to the law, of cause and effect. (* Dr. Dorner says: "The knowledge of free acts cannot reach God by his self-intuition. Free causalities would not exist if by mere self-intuition God knew their realization. " - Vol.1, p. 326.). But if the causal incipiency of my act of forging lies in the objective motive, then I am shut up to a single result, namely, the crime of forging. The law of cause and effect is limited always to a single result. But if I am shut up to a single result, I am constrained in my action. But the law according to which accountable acts are performed cannot be the law of objective constraint. Acts performed according to the law of constraint cannot achieve moral character. Responsible acts must be performed according to some law totally different. They cannot, therefore, possibly be foreseen in tracing influences along the lines of cause and effect. But, the tracing the influences of motives, in accordance with which I shall certainly choose to forge a note, in order to find present evidence that I will, assumes that the previous state of the heart and mind invariably determines the choice of the will. In desire there is a susceptibility that longs for gratification, but no efficiency. It is unthinkable to attribute to asensibility a causal efficiency. We feel with our feelings, but act with our will. But this assumption that the previous state of the heart determines the choices I have shown to be an inexcusable fallacy. But, admitting that God now sees evidence of my future forgery in the influences that will be brought to bear upon me, where is his infinite mercy that he does not in the fatal moment strengthen me correspondently for the combat, or spirit me away from the scene of the conflict? But the whole theory contradicts the Scripture, which says: "He will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." We are thus driven, as the final resort, in search after present evidence of my future forgery, to the subjective action of my own freedom of will, the only place where character or accountability can possibly be located.
After writing the above I was astonished to find upon a single page of a recent edition of Dr. Hickok's Philosophy a cluster of fallacies upon this subject. One objection to the liberty of the will which has been urged is that it precludes the possibility of its future determinations being now foreknown. Nothing that now exists can determine that an avoidable event will not be avoided. That event has no necessary connection with any thing that now exists in nature. Dr. Hickok replies that "this avoidable event cannot be foreknown through any successive changes in nature, but a spirit which might know all the inner and outer occasions in which the agent shall be, might find ground of certainty in these very facts." But, if it be impossible to foreknow through any successive changes, so far as we are now able to trace them, the inference ought to be that the same impossibility of foreknowing would be true in tracing the changes that now lie beyond our vision. The doctor's inference, therefore, that a spirit might foreknow, is wholly without foundations. How does he know that a spirit might foreknow through the occasions of the choice of a free spirit? Of this he has no evidence at all. But his reply, to carry any force to the objector of human freedom, ought to be, a spirit can thus foreknow. But this would be a manifest begging of the whole question in debate. The doctor inquires, "Must God foreknow only as he can look through the necessary sequences in nature?" This implies that the doctor had a conception of some other mode through which God could foreknow a future contingent event. But of this mode he gives us no intimation, but at once returns to the old mode and says: "God foreknows the event by tracing the connection between the event and the inner and outer occasions in which the free agent shall be." But this is the old fallacy of Dr. Samuel Clarke, of seeking in the objective occasions of choice, the certainty of that choice. This he cannot do without locating causality in "those inner, and outer occasions of choice." But this cannot be done without destroying freedom and sweeping accountability out of the realms of thought. A free, self-originated self-determination cannot possibly in fact, nor conceivably in theory, possess any causal anterior, back of the pure action of the will. Creation implies origination into existence of that which did not exist in any of its constituents. This action I would prefer to call personic or godlike.
God's wil1 is free absolutely; it is controlled by no objectivities, biased by no impulses, and can never be determined by motives. Before God created any thing there were no objectivities to influence him, and, being perfect in his sensibilities, his will sat serene, indifferent, perfect, unbiased by any impulses. He was ready to act or not to act -to act in any one of divers ways as rational or sensitive occasions might arise, in his own infinite thoughts and sensibilities. Without intellect he could not know, without intellect and sensibility he could not feel, and without a faculty as distinct and different from intellect and sensibility as sensibility is distinct and different from intellect he could not act. Being free, volitional, sovereign, originative and creative, his will acts in its own limitless self-determination and fathomless self-hood. If this be not so, then God, too, is bound in the chains of necessity, and theological blackness of darkness presses heavily upon us all. In this manifest psychology of the divine volitions we read the true psychology of human volitions; for man was created in the image and likeness of God. If the human will does not act like the divine will, he is not in the image of God, and the grandest feature of the Deity is absolutely without any representative upon the earth. And if the process of human volition differs from the process of divine volition, then we never could have known or dreamed that God's volition is free, sovereign, originative and accountable. Human volition, I therefore pronounce to be godlike in its capacity and godlike in itsaction. (* Dorner creates the word "solity" to express aloneness.)Beyond this ultimate truth we need not seek and ought never to inquire. But the declaration that God's present evidence of my future forgery lies in the influences he foresees will be brought to bear upon me, is simply a begging of the whole question in this profound debate. Calvinians freely admit this constrained action, and are imperious in its affirmation. Arminians are inconsistent and illogical enough to ascribe to the human will the power of contrary choices, and yet to assume, in absolute prescience, a premise that necessarily shuts up the will to a single result. In this way they pusillanimously chain themselves to the Calvinian car, and meekly follow in its somber and saddened train. We, therefore, confidently affirm that there is now no possible evidence in any mind, created or uncreated, that on the morrow I will consent to the crime of forgery. Not, therefore, to foreknow it could be no limitation upon the omniscience of Deity.
But how misleading and confusing all the plausible declarations of Dr. Hodge relative to human freedom and accountability, when in explaining why one man repents and another does not, he expressly declares that "God gives a holy influence to one man that he does not give to another." This holy influence, sovereignly given, the chosen one, the elect one, "must yield to and follow." This means that eternal life is fore-ordained to some and eternal death to others of the race. It means election, reprobation, a limited atonement, irresistible grace and final perseverance. It means predestination; and predestination, says Calvin, "is the eternal decree of God, by which he hath determined in himself what he would have become of every individual of mankind. The gate of life is closed to them whom he devotes to condemnation. He reprobates for no other cause than his determination, for no other cause than because he wills it. And to inquire into the cause of the divine will is exceedingly presumptuous, for it is the cause of all things that exist." This teaching of Dr. Hodge makes man the passive instrument of a secret power. The effectual motives that determine him impinge upon his will at a point outside of his perception and cognition. But no system of a will conditioned in its antecedent grounds of preference has ever satisfied the common conviction. "The will is a free deliberate tendency to act, while, desire is a blind fatalic tendency to act," says Sir William Hamilton. "It is not motive that makes the man, but it is man that makes the motive," says Coleridge. "The will," says Dr. M'Cosh, "is self-determined; mind is a self-acting substance, and, therefore, it is independent. The determining cause of any volition is not an anterior incitement, but it is the very soul itself, by its inherent power of will. Man is just as free as God is free. Morally man is as independent of external control as God ever must be." Man's freedom is his power of being and doing otherwise, exclusive of outward forces or inward cravings. Alternative action requires that there be a conflict between a susceptibility of sensibility, and a susceptibility of rationality. This capacity for alternative action is in the supernatural only. God is supernatural, angels are supernatural, and the human soul is supernatural. It is supernatural because it can resist, control and conquer nature, which is the empire of mechanical necessity. If the will is not above nature there is no supernatural in the universe. If creation is not the result of a volition there can be no personal Deity. "In my will I am conscious of supernatural agency," says L. P. Hickok. "Will is that which originates an act," says Coleridge. Will is an operating cause, a determining principle."It is causality, efficiency from which all action springs," says Julius Mueller. "The mother of all error," said the judicious Hooker, "is the mixture by speech of things which by nature are divided." Who then can defend Dr. Hodge from the charge "of darkening counsel with words without knowledge?" My destiny is to make my will God's will, but lest I possess myself I cannot surrender myself. If extraneous influence control me, God is responsible for my destiny.
I have given this protracted examination to the metaphysics of Calvinism, as taught by Dr. Hodge, because he is the latest and the most authoritative expounder thereof, and because he is the acknowledged Corypheus, the reigning king in Calvinian theology. A recent writer says: "Hodge's theology in Princeton is reverenced next to the Bible." And now can any one who loves Christianity more than he loves Calvinism, fail to see that these teachings of the great defender fasten no valuable convictions on the minds of his intelligent readers? Can any one avoid seeing that he does not relieve Calvinism of any one of its painful mysteries, or soften a single one of its stern presentations. They must see that he administers no relief to oppressed hearts, affords no inspiration or fortitude to probationers in the fierce battles of life.
To silently cherish the tremendous error of election and reprobation, weakens confidence in logical processes, disturbs the peace, and lessens the progress of the soul in knowledge of divine things. But persistently to advocate it and defend it, greatly embarrasses the mind of its advocate, and also the great work of saving a lost world. In the sacred name of Him who died upon the cross for us all, let it now be abandoned, and abandoned, too, with a shout of devout relief and thanksgiving. This entreaty to theologians, and this prayer to Deity, find, I doubt not, warmest responses in the noble hearts of not a few Calvinians. If a system of religious teaching is antilogical, antipsychological, anti-scriptural, and antagonistic to human instincts and intuitions, what can justify its continuous maintenance? For the continued existence and proclamation of the dogma of eternal election and reprobation, I cannot conceive of a solitary plausible excuse. For "virtue," said Basil, "must certainly come from the will itself, and not from its constraint."
No seeker after divine truth can read without distressing confusion the following statements found in a recent number of the "Baptist Quarterly Review," from the pen of the Rev. Dr. Augustus H. Strong, President of the Baptist Theological Seminary, located at Rochester, N. Y. I have conscientiously arranged some of his contradictory affirmations, one over against the other, and to some of them have subjoined brief replies.
The argument in these articles of Dr. Strong being so similar to that found in Dr. Hodge's chapter on Free Agency, any additional reply from me might seem unneeded. But as Dr. Strong justly stands so grandly before the Baptists of America as a scholar, thinker, theologian, and minister of our holy religion, it might be well to call the reader's attention to his most matured views, as another index, showing how the dogma of election and reprobation is entrenched in all our Calvinistic schools, councils, theological seminaries and fountains of thought and opinion. As I have had to attempt to scale so many strongholds of error with the same ladder, should I at any point be open to the charge of repetition, I trust to find an excuse in the generosity of the reader. My object is, at all hazards of criticism, to get my thoughts clearly before his understanding.
Dr. Strong says: "Consciousness testifies to human freedom, but this consciousness of freedom in volitions we must set down side by side with another consciousness, the consciousness of a malign wi1l beneath, that hinders persistent choice of the right and binds us to a deeper necessity of will. For the will may be free while volitions are determined by the inward character. The only freedom I know is the manifestation of character, and the character makes the motives. The cause of an act is made up of two parts, the power that did it and the reasons for which it was done. The first is the efficient cause and the second is the occasional cause. The causes of all volitions lie wholly within the mind, and the strongest motive rules the preference. All motives originate in the underlying regions of the desires. The desires and longings of the soul are states of the will. The whole stream of moral tendency is in the realm of the voluntary, and belongs to the will. The will is the principle of mental movement, the whole impulsive power of man's being, the whole tendency and determination of the soul to an ultimate end, and the settled appetencies in which the person puts forth power. The will may be free while the direction and form of the volitions are determined by the character. Defining will as the faculty of volition regards only its most superficial aspects. As a faculty of volition the will is an efficient cause, a causa causans. But the will in this narrow sense is under the law of the will in its larger and deeper sense, and the will in its larger and deeper sense is a causa causala. In this deeper sense the will embraces the whole stream of our dispositions, desires and moral tendencies."
"Man is a cause, and he is also caused. He determines, but he also finds himself determined. He acts freely, but the direction of his acts is furnished by a voluntary nature that reaches down beneath his consciousness. He cannot sunder the faculty of volition from the directing powers beneath. He possesses a formal freedom, but he is in real slavery. He is a swimmer in the stream, but the current is too strong."
"The formal freedom of the will, considered as the faculty of volition, may still subsist, while yet the will, considered as the underlying movement and current, is in bondage. The fact that I have power to will explains the fact of my willing, but it does not explain the fact of my willing this rather than that; I am only free to do what I desire to do. Freedom never shows itself except in the choice of what we like. What dignity or value is there in a wild contingence which may unintelligently will to its own ruin? To maintain that indeterminateness is essential to liberty is to contradict all experience and all consciousness."
"The power to decide against one's character and against all the motives operating on the mind at the time is a power which not only has no existence, but of which we have no power to conceive. And when I am told that the secret of a pure consistent life or of a bad life is simply a choice I feel that it is an impertinence."
"Such a theory of the will wrecks itself on the solid rock of our primitive convictions, that every effect must have an adequate cause. We could not in the past have chosen differently from that which we actually did choose. A correct and consistent view of the will is indispensable to present the Gospel in its completeness and power.
After reading these contradictory utterances I was not only amazed, but greatly grieved. Dr. Strong ignores the universally accepted division of psychological activities into intellect, sensibilities, and the will. He clings to the bottom assumption of the infidel Hobbes and the Christian Edwards.
Fallacies pervade the works of Jonathan Edwards, from his failure to distinguish the will from the affections. "The difference," says he, "between natural necessity and moral necessity lies not so much in the nature of the connection between the two terms, as it does in the nature of the two terms themselves." The connection, then, according to Edwards, in natural necessity and moral necessity, is the necessary connection of cause and effect. The skeptical Buckle, in his History of Civilization, assumes that the human will acts uniformly under the law of cause and effect. To the infidel this is, perhaps, a necessity; but for a leading divine, at the head of a school of Christian prophets, to classify the will under the sensibilities must be discouraging to every thoughtful and intelligent inquirer after the truth on which his eternal salvation depends.
Dr. Strong, in his meditations, does not discriminate the all-important psychological fact that it is impossible for a free being to choose a thing unless he can at the same moment refuse to choose that thing. He overlooks the necessity that back of all moral actions lie competing motives for and adverse to every responsible volition. These opposing motives always impress the sensibilities, but never constrain free choice. They are the required conditions of responsible action, and they are indispensable to moral accountability because they afford the needed opportunity of making choices. "To a choice a plurality of possibilities is essential," says Julius Mueller. Unless I am an originator of responsible choices between opposing attractions and competing preferences I can be neither a subject of praise nor of dispraise. "Neither rewards nor punishments are just," said Clement of Alexandria, "if the soul has not the power of choosing or abstaining."
The reason of any act is the motive in view of which the will, which is the cause of the act, ultimately acts. The will not only requires occasions for its action, but it requires alternate occasions. A physical cause can produce but a single effect. Gravitation cannot say, I will attract, or I will not attract. Fire cannot say, I will char flesh, or I will not char it. But a person can say, I will obey, or I will not obey. The human will can produce any one of many effects. A unipotent effect requires a unipotent cause. But an alternate effect requires an alternative cause. A complete cause produces its effects uncausedly. Such a complete alternative cause is the will of man.
A material cause produces phenomena identical and in constant repetition, but the will can produce phenomena variant and in constant variety, i.e., in intensity. "The capacity of willing is a power absolute in its own arbitrament," says L. P. Hickok.
Dr. Strong does not make the essential distinction between constraint, and personic action. He places the will under the law of cause and effect, and denies it the power of alternative choices. According to his teaching, the will can neither create nor originate moral character, for it is constrained in its activities. He indeed makes what he calls the occasional cause the real cause of all our volitions. The occasional cause is the motive or reason in view of which the will acts. He only mentions the efficient cause, as it appears to me, to avoid shocking the universal religious consciousness of our moral liberty. He inserts the causality of a volition into a mere passive motive, which is simply offered to the consideration of a sovereign being, for his acceptance or his rejection. Good and bad motives must come into comparison in the choices of every free agent, or he can possess no alternative action which is essential to personality. It is in choosing between conflicting feelings, that millions are constantly being saved or lost for eternity. To deny this proposition is to deny not only sovereign logic, but also all energizing theology. "All action is not necessary. We have power over our actions which dispense rewards and punishments," says Ralph Cudworth.
Dr. Strong says, "The will can choose any thing not inconsistent with its previous preferences." But what was it that caused "the previous preference?" Who is accountable for that preference? Was it a constrained preference? Underneath the writings of all the advocates of fore-ordination or of foreknowledge lurks the fatal and monstrous fallacy, that the human will acts under the law of cause and effect even in responsible action. It is, therefore, controlled by objective circumstances or subjective habits or sensibilities, and is not in itself sovereign. But the will, in its responsible choices, never acts under the law of constraint, but always under the law of liberty and of the power of contrary choices. Upon this simple and only point hangs the possibility of human accountability, of moral achievement, of reward, of punishment, and also of God's complacent delight and happiness in his intelligent creatures. "Every man is capable of either virtue or of vice," said Justin Martyr, one of the most authoritative of the fathers.
Dr. Strong says, "An action without a motive is irrational."True, but a choice between opposing motives is not irrational, but it is eminently rational, for without opposing motives a rational choice is simply impossible. It seems to me that it indicates a lack of discrimination, to dub the responsible action of a person with the cognomen of spontaneity. Spontaneity expresses the sensitive and constraining elements, but lacks the rational and original elements. The term arbitrariness, used by some to express personic action, seems to me to be open to several objections. It seems to exclude rationality, and that naturalness which ought to attach to the action of a responsible being. It seems also to suggest, that the consideration or impulse of the action, is mere stubbornness or foolhardiness. The term supernatural, the favorite of Bushnell and others, seems to be so liable to be misapprehended when any meaning at all is apprehended, that this action, I prefer to express by the term personic, or godlike. Indeed, I would prefer to call it personic-godlike, for then the definition would have two eyes, one looking down into the unmeasured depths of personality, and the other looking up to the unmeasured depths of the infinite Model. It also appears to me that in every case of deliberate responsible action, the alternate conflicting motives, to the seeming of the actor at the moment of test, are precisely equal in strength. This seems to me to be absolutely indispensable, if we allow to self-hood, responsible self-hood, a perfect arena on which to show its self-hood, to achieve character, to display loyalty, to indicate merit, and to exhibit reason for reward. It is then able to hold itself in equilibrium, and act for or against the motives presented from its mere determination to do so. "Deferment of choice is not choice," says Dr. Miley; "it is an immanent power of rational self-action, essential to personality. Reciprocal complacency in character between man and man or between man and angel or between man and God, can have no possible existence save in the free origination of congenial moral feelings. A person can originate a persistent disposition in his spirit that may control any urgency of sense. Moral worthiness is of significance only so far as it has been produced by an act that is simply internal. It is formed purely by internal decisions."
Dr. Strong says, "We require men to choose from reasons, not without reasons." True, but they cannot choose from reasons without at the same moment choosing against reasons. Trial always implies pro and con reasons. He says, "Only as there is a motive behind the deed is an agent responsible." True, but he cannot be responsible unless he refuse to yield to one motive and choose to yield to its competitor. He says, "Power to do what one does not desire is impotence." How, then, does he explain the reformation of the adulterer? He is chained by his brazen fetters of lust. God gives him power to choose what he does not desire, and, therefore, he appeals to his fears. Jesus has restored to him the power of self-determination, and self-determination presupposes possibilities which may or may not be realized.
If a sinner cannot, through proffered grace, recover himself voluntarily from his iniquity, then either the atonement was entirely useless, or no holy being ever could apostatize from his first estate. If my will is so controlled by my depraved desires that I cannot, through proffered prevenient grace, change from my sinful purposes, then Adam's will was so controlled by his holy desires that he could not change from his holy purposes. True, I am a fallen being, but through the great atonement the grace necessary to my regeneration is congenital with me, and is ever ready to co-operate with me.
Dr. Strong says, "Man cannot choose to love God and holiness." But is not every man empowered so to do by the Holy Ghost in virtue of the atonement? Did not the great atonement free and ransom all men from the necessary control of inborn depravity? Did it not restore all men to a state of moral freedom, and did it not place the entire race in a state of salvability? If it did not, then the glorious missions of the Redeemer and of the Holy Spirit were only mournful failures in the great enterprise of redemption. All of God's assumptions in calling sinners to repentance are, therefore, utterly groundless.
In one sense man is not free to choose good, because through the fall he became utterly depraved. In another sense man is free to choose good, because Christ redeemed him, and graciously gave to him power to freely choose the good. In one sense man is not free to choose sin, because awful penalties await him. In another sense he is free to choose sin, because it is only in the exercise of his freedom that he can achieve moral worthiness. In human volition there is one element that depends on God, and another element which depends on man. The element in volition which depends on man must be independent of God, or God is the author of sin, a conclusion too dreadful to entertain. Human guilt can have no basis but self-decision. Sin has its origin in an intelligent act of freedom.
Dr. Strong does not distinguish between character and the results of character on the intellect and the sensibilities, illuminating the mind and changing the moral qualities of the soul. In saying that the inward affections constitute the character, he overlooks the distinction between character and the moral nature. Character can only be achieved by the will. It can only be the result of the free choices of a free-will acting under the law and power of contrary choices. God can make souls and worlds, but he cannot make for his creatures a character that can justly be rewarded or punished. "Nothing can be virtuous," said Dr. Reid, "but that which is voluntary." "There can be no holiness," said Joseph Cook, "without freely choosing to love what God loves, and to hate what God hates."
Free choices, so soon as put forth, carry, according to the law of cause and effect, moral qualities and feelings and views and longings correspondent to these choices down into all the sensibilities. Washington's moral character, to which Dr. Strong refers as being incorruptible, was made by Washington himself. In lieu of a lofty, he might have achieved a degraded character. This he might have done with precisely the same mental and moral functions, the same outward surroundings and the same inward aspirations, i.e., conflicting aspirations. Without the slightest change in his environments he might have made himself worse than Benedict Arnold. If he could not have betrayed his country, then for not betraying it he deserves no praise. Without making a deliberate choice between perfidy and patriotism, he could not have won the brightest name in the annals of fame.
But, according to the views and philosophy of Dr. Strong, how was it possible for sin ever to invade a sinless soul? But sin did invade sinless souls. It invaded the souls of the angels that kept not their first estate; sin entered into them in all defiance of the law, the wishes, the plans, and notwithstanding the unutterable grief of God. This simple fact demolishes the whole theory of Dr. Strong, and leaves the earnest reader thereof peering, with feelings of dissatisfaction and of disappointment, into the mouth of a dark cave, from which he receives no comforting light to illumine his way on to his eternal destiny. This gentle "Atlas," with chaos on his shoulders, admits, with a heart-felt sigh, born of his perplexity, "I am not novice enough to believe that I can clear up all the dark places of this most intricate theme." To find mysteries in a religion revealed from heaven is what we might reasonably expect, for a religion without mystery would be a temple without Deity. But surely the ministers of our holy Christianity are not, therefore, authorized to demand from us faith in positive self-contradictions. Can good Dr. Strong think that a candid infidel seeking to know if there be truth in the Christian religion would not be embarrassed and enervated, if not offended even to resentment, at such an unphilosophical presentation of systematic theology as he has presented in these articles in the Review?
But, continues the doctor, "God chose one man to eternal life, not because of any thing in him, but for reasons which exist only in God." If this distressing dogma, this opinion of the unilluminated past, were true, how does Dr. Strong know it? And if it be true, what benefit can there be in its proclamation? All the warnings, proffers and promises of the Gospel can be faithfully proclaimed by the heralds of the cross without calling the least attention to an article of faith so suggestive of difficulties, that they will not be unobtrusive. And wherever it is proclaimed it uniformly fills the multitude with both resentment and indignation. Its proclaiming tends to lull into indifference all those who infer or fancy that they are among the chosen few, the elect from all eternity. Most certainly there can be urged no justifiable excuse or palliation for any longer exposing this forbidding and misshapen visage, wholly of man's creation, from out the pulpits of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Those pulpits were opened by the Redeemer of the world, to proclaim liberty to all captives, the acceptable year of the Lord, and the glad tidings of great joy to all people.
Calvinists have never been satisfied with the doctrine of unconditional decrees. They embrace that perplexing, confounding thought with the most inexpressible reluctance. They do it only because they deem that no admissible thought system has ever been presented to the republic of thinkers which is either explicable or defensible in its absence. But if God create a being capable of electing as he may sovereignly choose, no consideration has ever yet been conceived of, making it necessary for God to foreknow that choice. Divine foresight robs the author of a responsible act of all the needed inspiration to self-assertion which uncertainty alone can give. If the will cannot make a new commencement and mold its own determination, exclusive of all testing influences, it cannot be free.
"Here are two men," says Dr. Strong; "their chances are the same, the grace offered them is the same; one accepts that grace, the other refuses it. One is saved, the other is lost. What makes them to differ in their decision and destiny? Their own free choice, replies the Arminian. And so not to God, but to man, is due the merit and glory of his salvation. And, accordingly, man elects, regenerates and sanctities himself." Is it possible that the clear-minded Dr. Strong cannot distinguish between voluntarily surrendering sin and self, and merely accepting, through the help of the ever-present omnipotent grace, the proffered salvation, and the subsequent miraculous works of pardon, regeneration and sanctification? The divine conviction of sin and danger, the divine power to choose obedience, are amply given to each of these two individuals. This divine power each may exercise and be saved, or refuse to exercise, and be lost. If this be not true, then God is unjust enough to do more for the eternal salvation of one son than he will for another son.
While the soul is in the attitude of repentance, obedience and acceptance of the free gift, the Holy Spirit creates him anew in Christ Jesus. The will chooses holiness, and God makes the nature holy. Divine help is given to the will in all cases, whereby it can accept divine offers. This divine help, however, is not coercive in its action; it may be exercised or it may be neglected. All those who have definiteness in their religious experience must certainly be conscious of this fact.
The synergistic scheme does not, therefore, as Dr. Strong affirms, "assume that man takes the initiative in his salvation." Through prevenient grace I can sovereignly choose to be holy, and then God can sovereignly choose to make me holy, on the condition of my choice and my faith. Where in this can there be a fiber or a ray of unevangelism? "A gracious free agency, a power of considering, reforming and coming to Christ," says John Fletcher, the famous author of the Checks, "is given through the atonement."
Dr. Strong says: "If I may have the power of contrary choices God cannot make it certain that we shall never fall." But the doctor has no proof that any one now on his probation will never fall. Temptation implies possibility of a lapse from righteousness. If it be now certain that A. will never fall, his probation is ended already. If it be certain that B. will never repent, then his probation has already terminated. Probation means an opportunity of choosing between life and death. And if it be now certain that B. will choose death, then it is the greatest unkindness to leave him any longer where he will not only injure all with whom he comes in contact, but will treasure up to himself wrath against the day of wrath. If it be now certain that he will be lost, why not spare him some of his immeasurable sufferings? What a profane insinuation is this upon the benevolence and parental tenderness of Deity! It is too bad, with the prescientist, to affirm that God now sees all this terrible certainty accumulating upon the destiny of B., and yet does nothing for its prevention. But how can the affirmation that B. could not repent, and yet is left where he will inevitably add blackness to his darkness forever, be adequately anathematized? For its appropriate expression, the language of diabolism must surely be placed under contribution! "There are," says Dr. Strong, "ten thousand chances to one that, unkept by God, I shall fall and perish." But here he does not distinguish between choosing to keep ourselves and choosing to be kept by God. These two propositions differ as widely as darkness differs from light. "I was first shown," says Miss F. R. Havergal, "that the blood of Jesus cleanseth us from all sin-yes, from all sin-and then it was made plain to me that be who had thus cleansed me had power to keep me clean; so that I utterly surrendered myself to him, and utterly trusted him to keep me. Before blessedness there must be surrender."
"But," says the doctor, "it is objected that, according to my teachings, Adam never could have sinned. I do acknowledge that there is a difficulty here which I cannot fully solve. Adam did really possess the power of contrary choices, the power of good and the power of evil at the same moment." If the redemption of Christ was of any benefit to human nature, if redeemed human nature is a thing different from depraved human nature, all men must possess the power of contrary choices. Jesus partially saves all men, "for he," it is written, "is the Saviour of all men," but especially the Saviour of all who believe in him. "If any of Adam's descendants have the power of contrary choice," says the doctor, "they have it through divine grace, which puts into the soul dominant tendencies to holiness." But why should Dr. Strong insert this sentence, when he does not believe that any of Adam's descendants possess the power of contrary choice? He believes that neither the elect nor the reprobate can choose differently from that which they actually do choose. He says, "The grace that is given to us makes us will, and makes us will aright." But if God put dominant tendencies to holiness into the souls of some individuals, then in simply yielding to those "dominant" overcoming tendencies, moral character could not possibly be originated. If all died in Adam, and in Christ all are made alive, where can Dr. Strong discriminate? Did Jesus die for all? And what less can that mean than that enabling grace is given to all? "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."
"But," continues the doctor, "the power of contrary choice which was possessed by Adam was not the absurd nondescript faculty Arminians understand by that name. It was not the ability to decide without motives, or contrary to all motives. It was not a self-contradictory ability to choose that which we do not choose, or that which we do not on the whole want. Adam's choice of evil does not prove that he chose without motive, or contrary to motive. His choice does not, therefore, help the Arminians."
Now I do not by any means affirm that Adam chose evil without any motive. Motives bearing on his will in an opposite direction were necessary to a choice. Not only motives, but also conflicting motives, attracting in alternate directions, are essential to all personic action. What can Dr. Strong mean by the "power to decide contrary to all motives?" If all the motives be in one way or from a single source, then there cannot be possibly any choice. "The power of contrary choice is not," he says, "the ability to choose that which we do not wish to choose."But a man wishes a watch which can be obtained by theft. On the other hand, he wishes to preserve his conscience and his integrity. He earnestly desires both these things, the watch and his integrity, and if, between these conflicting desires, he has not in his personality the personic power to decide averse to the theft, he cannot be accountable therefor. There is no place but in this independent personic action on which to posit our accountability. "The power of contrary choice does not imply," says the doctor, "ability to decide without motives or contrary to all motives." But Adam did not decide without motives. Motives to obey, and motives to disobey, were fully placed before him.
"But," says Dr. Strong, "the great difficulty is in understanding how a sinful motive could have found a lodgement in the heart of Adam. He chose evil, because he wanted to. How could he want to choose it? We cannot understand how the first unholy emotions could have found shelter in a mind fully set on God, or how temptations could overcome a soul without unholy propensities." Mere temptations to indulge unholy emotions and actually indulging the same are very different states. And, besides, such temptations to unholy emotions are essential to the creation of rewardability.
After granting to Adam the power of alternative choices, Dr. Strong has no warrant for the inference that his descendants do not possess the same essential power, from the simple fact that he is unable to trace the process through which it was possible for a sinless soul to revolt from his Creator. The necessity of denying to all the descendants of Adam the power of contrary choices does not exist anywhere, save in the requirements and logical sequences of the assumption of the doctrine of election and reprobation. Any metaphysical dust at this point is wholly unnecessary to those who reject that main feature of Calvinism. They believe that Jesus, in his infinite atonement, not only made a propitiation for the sins of the whole world and restored to fallen humanity its lost power of contrary choice, but, through the agency of the eternal Spirit, he incipiently regenerated universal human nature, up to that degree that would enable it to be responsive to the warnings of infinite love and the invitations of divine mercy.
The power of personic action is the universal consciousness of the race. It is a quality essential to a person. However fierce may be our temptation to a sinful deed, we all know that we possess the power sovereignly to choose the right and reject the wrong. And without this power the feeling of remorse would be impossible, unless God has endowed us with mendacious faculties. And if in man there were no power of personic action, how could we know that there is any such power in Deity? And if in him there is no power of personic action, he can possess no free-will; and if he have no free-will, the system of necessity binds him and binds all his universe in its merciless and endless chains.
Divine personality asserts itself continually, and human personality is constantly doing the same thing. "I spake unto thee in thy prosperity," said God, "but thou saidst, I will not hear. Surely then shalt thou be ashamed and confounded for all thy wickedness." But this definite personic action of which we are profoundly conscious, and which the Scriptures so amply teach, is all the explanation that is needed, or could be required, in reason, to account for the disobedience and fall of Adam from his state of sinlessness.
Had this one word been comprehended in all its heights and depths of meaning, the ponderous volumes written upon the subject would have been dispensed with as profitless for both authors and readers.
A writer in the March number of the "Princeton Review," 1881, iterates the hoary folly of the insolubility of the problem of moral evil. But simple personic action is the only requisite for the perfect solution of this long-mooted question. The personic action of choice between competing considerations as indispensable to accountability as axiomatic and axioms can neither be proved nor disproved. Freedom is a simple idea, and therefore indefinable, for defining is separating a complexity into its simplicities. Freedom cannot be explained by empirical antecedents. Sin could have had its origin nowhere but in the personic action of the free-will of a rational and accountable creature. The personic action of self-hood is indispensable to the existence of sin. In all our scientific inquiries we are continual1y making assumptions which will enable us to explain unexplained phenomena. The only verification we ever can obtain for the truth of these assumptions is the fact, that by their aid we are enabled to establish order where confusion had previously reigned, and to arrive at invaluable scientific truths. We assume, for example, without proof and without the possibility of proof, that a body will continue in the state in which it is, whether of rest or of motion, unless acted upon by some external force. From this mere assumption we demonstrate the most important truths relative to all the motions in planetary worlds and throughout the stellar heavens. This, same privilege and leverage cannot reasonably be denied to investigators of theological truths. Let us, then, assume as a basal truth that personic action, the indefinable power of alternate choices, is an attribute of mind, indispensable to personality, conscience, moral action, character and accountability. Just so soon as we do this the great problem of moral evil, the great enigmas of sin, suffering, degradation, remorse and innumerable woes, are all satisfactorily explained and accounted for. A free-will must certainly possess power to produce results morally unlike the nature or spirit of the person in whom that free-will resides. If this be not so, it would have been impossible for a pure soul ever to initiate disobedience. This power is the logical necessity, from its possession of the capability of freedom. A being who has not original power over his inward states and feelings, whatever they may be, cannot be a person, and as a person can never be treated and governed.
Free agency implies morality, and morality necessitates a free agency, positive, definite and clear all the way from the incipiency of a moral act to its final perpetration. Deny this and you will cause to disappear all the sublime significance from the human will. There can be no meaning to accountability, if accountable beings are not rewarded for obedience and punished for disobedience. It is impossible to conceive of a moral quality attaching to a being, without an opportunity is given him of achieving a good or a bad character. Some test must be instituted by which to determine whether right or wrong will be freely chosen. An accountable being must, therefore, be placed in a state or season of trial for him to demonstrate whether he will be obedient or disobedient, and whether he will love sin or holiness. Such a state is indispensable to the creation of moral character; to the display of loyalty to all that is good and of repugnance to all that is evil; to an unfolding of a capacity to enjoy God and all his glorious rewards; to an exhibition of merit or demerit to witnessing worlds; to the manifestation of a claim on the favor of God, or of a desert of his awful frown. It is indispensable for the endless missions of glory and renown through interminable years, awaiting the loyal and the obedient. But to achieve moral desert there must be seeming difficulties in the way of obedience, and seeming facilities in the way of disobedience. Personic action implies a person, and a choice is essential to personality. A susceptibility to the appeal of motives, in the soul of the tested, is essential to his trial. A fair choice, a choice creative of moral character, is impossible without pro and con incentives. Incentives to obedience and incentives to disobedience are the essential conditions of a choice between them. Incentives to obedience must not, however, be so attractive as to overpower the actual capacities of the individual will, and thus completely overthrow its power of free choice. Visions of the glory of God, the transports of immediate bliss, or the horrors of instant banishment into outer darkness, could be presented so vividly to the susceptibilities of any man as to make it impossible for him deliberately and freely to originate a choice that could by any means involve moral worth or moral desert.
I choose to keep my feet out of the fire, but such a choice could not create moral character. In such a case there could not be any ground for a choice that could be worthy of reward. Instinctive promptness in rejecting temptations precludes the possibility of any genuine test of merit or of demerit. Without powerful and conflicting incentives between which to choose, the evolving of moral worthiness is simply impossible.
On the other hand, the incentives to disobedience must be neither too weak nor too strong. If they are too strong, the will has not a fair chance or trial, and cannot, therefore, of itself sovereignly determine, but is overborne by influences out of proportion to its ability to withstand or endure. If these incentives, on the other hand, are too weak, inconsiderable or forceless, then there could not be a basis broad enough, rational, deliberate and sensitive enough, in which to originate a choice which could be creative of moral desert, or evincive of untrammeled free agency and of personality. These incentives to obedience and these incentives to disobedience, must, therefore, be graduated in exact proportion to the ability of the endurance of each individual will. These opposing incentives must also be equalized, and their equality ever maintained by the infinite Tester, or the pure creation of moral acts is impossible to man. The pro and con incentives, competing for personic action, must, to the individual undergoing the test, ever appear to be equal. Were this not the case, self-hood could not, untrammeled, virtuously or viciously assert itself. If the incentives for one of two alternatives appear to the individual to be stronger for one than for the other, then the will might not be able to rest in the equilibrium indispensable for personic action, and for the creation of moral character. If the incentive for one alternate be stronger than the incentive for the other alternate, and the choice must go with that stronger incentive, then it is not the person that chooses, but the incentive that coerces him. Without these incentives to obey and to disobey, an arena on which choices can be made, originative of rewardability or punishability, can never be found nor even conceived of. But the incentives to obey must always be veiled in their nature and reality, and limited in their number, weight and impressiveness, or they would necessarily disturb the valid conditions of choice, and defeat all the great purposes of probationary state. If their reality and splendor and immeasurable worth were not largely veiled, a choice displayful of moral character, demonstrative of merit, or indicative of demerits, or originative of personal worth, would be impossible.
The sole object of probation is to afford accountable beings an opportunity of originating for themselves moral worthiness or unworthiness. Over the many incentives to obedience, therefore, there must of necessity be thrown shadow enough, uncertainty enough, and seeming dubiety enough, to afford the tested person a fair judicial opportunity of exercising his personic action.
On the other hand, the incentives to disobedience, however illusory, deceptive and unreasonable they in truth are, must, nevertheless, be presented to the mind of the probationer under such a veil of concealment and with such a semblance of reality and under such an aspect of attractiveness, as really to seem desirable realities, promissory of gratification, with no very serious obstacles in the way of a return to obedience and of escaping the hideous consequences of disobedience.
Without such a presentation of reality, attractiveness and plausibleness in the hollow incentives held out for disobedience, a choice evincive of merit would be impossible and inconceivable in the very nature of things. A sinful motive, clothed with all the seeming reality, must be presented as a consideration for the understanding to contemplate and as an attraction for the sensibilities to realize, in order that a person may have an opportunity of freely, deliberately, and sovereignly choosing to resist downward attractions and temptations, and to make a choice creative of moral character. In no other way could a sinless person originate a choice worthy of reward or worthy of punishment. To be a free spirit, holy or unholy, he must, as we have said, possess the power to originate acts morally unlike himself. If he cannot do this he cannot be a person. The possibility of heaven evidently implies the possibility of hell. "I am glad," exclaimed one, "that I can do wrong, for if I could not do wrong I could not do right." The power of creating holy character implies the power of creating an unholy character. Ability to do what God commands implies ability to do what God forbids. A sinful motive, then, must move on the susceptibilities in order to test the firmness and endurance of the will and to bring out the capability of the will in positiveness either in holiness or unholiness.
Without the free exercise of the untrammeled power of choice between opposing incentives or competitive motives, moral character and moral deserts can never be achieved or even conceived of. These alternative incentives must, therefore, wear deceptive impressiveness. The reality and glory of the incentives to obedience must be greatly dimmed and diminished or they would render impossible the legitimate conditions of choice. The unreality, delusiveness and danger of the incentives to disobedience must be veiled beneath a drapery of fascination and reality, or they too would defeat all the purposes of probation by eliminating all moral significance from moral choices. The three and four times degrading nature of sin must be obscured into apparent twilight in order to produce the hesitation and deliberate action necessary to a choice evincive of worthiness. The delight promised in the indulgence of sin must be so intense as to make a deep impression upon all the susceptibilities of the being who is under trial for eternity. The test of a pure being, by which to evolve rewardability or punishability or moral character, without the reality of the great and various incentives to obedience being in some way lessened and obscured, and without the deceptive incentives to disobedience being in some way made interesting and charming, is simply all utter inconceivability. But these deceptive impressions, which are so indispensable in furnishing an arena on which man's pure personality can assert and manifest itself, arise in the process of temptations addressed to the soul on its probation by the wicked one.
The sacred Scriptures teach us that Satan tempts, deceives, persuades, animates, leads, blinds, captivates, threatens, and diligently sows the seeds of death, while making the most glowing promises of early and splendid fruitions. He misleads us as to such things as the profits and the pleasures to be derived from the anticipated sinful gratification; the real sinfu1ness or turpitude of the wicked deed in contemplation; the dreadful results of disobedience; the difficulties in the way of return to the divine favor after transgression; the loss of self-respect, and the bitter agonies of self-condemnation.
These views of the incentives which compete for our obedience or our disobedience, for our independent suffrage, are necessary to a test that would be adequate to meet all the conditions necessary to our accountability, and which could evolve out of our personality rewardableness or punishableness, and the splendors of an achieved moral character. Without such views, an arena where loyalty to the truth, to God, and to self can be displayed is inconceivable. But with these views carefully considered, the whole process of the fall from sinlessness is as simple as any necessary truth itself. These views furnish the real factors and conditions of a probation that has in it any aim, object, significance or genuine reality. Without them probation for eternity is not only meaningless and realityless, but even farcical and useless. These views do present the conditions necessary to a possibility of self-denial, of self-control, of undergoing something for the sake of the truth, of preferring duty to gratification, of believing in lieu of doubting the divine prohibitions and proffers, of deciding between obedience and disobedience, of resting on the fairness of divine dealings, of obeying uncomprehended commandments, of deferring to the will of the universal Ruler, of living by faith, of walking trustfully in a valley where there is no light, and of stern adherence to the right amid powerful temptations to the wrong.
The possibilities of all these moral characteristics, all these indices of moral nature, lie wholly in the pro and con incentives placed before accountable beings, and which compete for their suffrage and adherence. Without such conflicting incentives as opposing forces struggling for the mastery of the person, the universe might have been filled with intelligent beings, but not one of them could ever have won the glorious distinction of personality; not one of them could ever have possessed the least moral character or moral desert or self-respect or individuality; not one of them could ever have enjoyed the consciousness that he had won for himself, in a fair fight, the respect of all holy beings, and the esteem, respect and confidence of his glorious Creator; not one of them could ever have enjoyed one thrill of happiness arising from the consciousness, "I was a valiant hero on the battlefields of probation for eternity;" not one of the countless millions could ever exclaim, "On my march from the cradle to the tomb I made a record and a history of dazzling magnificence. In my faith I never staggered; in my duty I never flinched; in my development I never wearied; and in my loyalty I never wavered." The innocent, characterless, deservingless, personless, forceless multitudes would have been no more to Jehovah than so many flowers or gems or stars or senseless soulless things. And the transcendent idea of the rewards of moral valor could never have been conceived of from everlasting unto everlasting. Never, never, could that splendid thought have dawned upon the human intellect or entranced an intelligent universe.
This was the probation in which Adam fought and sadly failed. It was the same in which the fallen angels fought and kept not their first estate. This was the probation in which the man Christ Jesus, as a pure human consciousness, in his pure created personality, fought and most gloriously triumphed, irradiating all worlds with the effulgence of his triumphs. This is the probation of every accountable being now upon the earth. The lapse and disobedience of Adam are no more mysterious than the disobedience of any one of his descendants. Any act of sinful disobedience of any living man is just as mysterious, and no more enigmatical, than the fall of Adam. "Nothing but mean thoughts are mysterious to me," said Edward Irwing. No explanation of the fall of Adam can be required, save his possession of the personic power of choice, which was essential to his personality.
After writing the above, great was my gratification in reading the following from the revered Francis Wayland: "Our first parents were endowed with moral powers, capable of appreciating their obligations to their Creator, and with an intellect by which they became aware of the consequences of their actions. All the conditions which were necessary to influence their decision were within the sphere of their vision, and they were endowed with unrestrained liberty of choice. The trial to which they were subjected was by no means unreasonable for beings thus endowed. The preponderance of motives was, as might naturally be expected, to lead them to choose the path of virtue and happiness. The word of the tempter was set against the word of the Creator. A momentary sensual gratification was opposed to the displeasure of the eternal Father. The finite was put in comparison with the infinite. It was under such circumstances that man was required to hold fast his integrity during the brief period of his probation, with the promise, if he were found faithful, of immortal felicity. The result was left dependent upon man's free-will. After all he is, and from the necessity of his nature he must be, liable to sin. He may act in opposition to every noble and generous motive, and yield himself up to the seductions of sense. Unless there existed this liability he could not be capable of virtue or vice. Do you ask how he could sin? This question may be answered in no other manner than by an appeal to the consciousness and to the observation of any man. Why is it that we see such things done every day? Why is it that every thoughtful man feels himself liable continually to just such moral disaster? Why is it that men, by a single vicious indulgence or the gratification of a single unholy desire, cover themselves with infamy?"
But really the motive that was presented to Adam through which to test his loyalty was an incentive to indulge in an object which was sinless in itself. It was an object that, had it not been forbidden, might have been enjoyed, and with the divine blessing upon it. Its gratification was sinful only because it had been positively prohibited. An incentive, or temptation to indulge in that which was wicked in itself, might have made him so shudder as to retreat before the trial of his strength was brought on. Such a suggestion might have been manifestly so hideous and pregnant of evil as to preclude the possibility of a test which could have been evincive of moral achievement. For me to resist the suggestion to commit murder could be no evidence of my loyalty to God; so a motive to positive wickedness might have been so incongruous and shocking to a sinless nature as to prevent his putting forth volitions worthy of divine reward and self-respect. But to indulge in the enjoyment of a thing lawful in itself could not have appeared so alarming as to defeat all the great purposes of a probation for eternity. Adam's sin was really in obtaining a thing good in itself, but which had been divinely forbidden. Had God more fully illumined his mind; could he, with a clearer and a broader vision, have seen the consequences of his contemplated sin; could he have seen virtue in all its unspeakable attractions promptly, he would have rejected all the fascinations spread out before his eyes, those which were addressed to his instinctive love of beauty, to his desires of knowledge and power, and those whispered in his ear by a malignant and wily foe. But, under such excesses of illumination, his decision, his choice of obedience, and his final determination would have been no evidence at all of loyalty to truth, duty and God. They could not have been creative of his moral character, nor could they have furnished any reason why he should be divinely rewarded. From a choice made under such excessive illumination there could have resulted no high excellence of soul, and no realization of the great ends of probation. For the realization of such ends he needed to be placed, where, in order to show his loyalty, he must resist unholy influences, maintain harmony and purity in his affections, stand trustfully and obediently amid the incentives to do wrong and the incentives to do right, and in triumph pass all the assaults made upon his integrity. The illusory but seemingly real incentives to disobedience needed to be strong enough to afford him an adequate test, a fair trial, but not in the least to exceed his capacities of endurance, or in the least to constrain his choice. But, notwithstanding all the incentives to disobedience, all the blinding and deceptive attractiveness of contemplated gratifications, without the deliberate consent and choice of his will, they could not have disturbed the proper action and equilibrium of the sensibilities of his soul. However strong the temptations that assailed him, they would have been harmless but for the consent of his will. It was in the free, but wrong, exercise of this faculty that his demerit consisted.
When his will sovereignly chose to yield to an improper and abnormal exercise and impulse of his sensibilities, a moral disturbance was at once introduced among those sensibilities, a disturbance which broke down the harmony and unsettled the relations which God had instituted between them, a disturbance which finally perverted and reversed the whole action of the moral sensibilities of his soul.
If the sinless sensibilities be once gratified beyond the limits expressly permitted by the Creator, it would in some slight degree generate emotional disorder, mental depreciation and volitional wavering.
When a disturbance of the sensibilities was really effected, a state of sinfulness passed down into the essence of the soul, and total depravity was the necessary result. It was in this way that moral evil stole into the heart of the first man. How long the trial lasted, how frequent the onsets, how many the battles, how dreadful the struggles, ere the sensibilities lost their balance, ere moral evil gained allowance in his soul, we can never know. But all that is required to explain his fall and the origin of evil is a comprehension of the single term, personic action, by which I mean power to determine, unbiased by impulses.
By the term original sin we may mean the innate bias, bent or tendency of any human being to sin. This isaccounted for in the fact that we are the children of a fallen father and included in the covenant of redemption. But the term original sin may refer to the primal sin of Adam, introducing moral evil into our world. Of the origin of this primal sin Jonathan Edwards never attempts an explanation. All his works center around the relations of man to grace. When God made man he made him with sinless susceptibilities and sinless sentiments. He endowed him with a nature sinless in itself and without any but holy affinities. But moral perfection means more than this. It includes moral character, which could only be superadded by freely volitionating in harmony with the standard of absolute rightness. A sinless moral nature, including sinless susceptibilities and sinless views, and the possibility of moral evil, were wholly without sinful prepossessions or tendencies. God could not have achieved a moral character for Adam, and, therefore, he could not have given to him moral perfection.
Moral freedom means power to do good or power to do evil. If it does not mean that, it is a most provoking ignis fatuus. Power to do evil must necessarily have its origin apart from God. "The line of contact between the human will and the divine agency can never be drawn," said Dr. D. Curry. But surely we can discriminate the line where divine agency goes and the human will self-operates in matters of sin. If man's power to do evil must needs have its origin apart from God, then also his power to do good must equally have its origin apart from God. If you deny this you rob him of, or blot out from him, one half of his personality. A being who possesses these two distinct powers apart from God must necessarily be a person, and not a machine or mere instrument. It was simply impossible, therefore, for God to have endowed man with moral perfection. Had man started with moral perfection there could have been no possibility of moral evil. But such a start and an endowment we have seen were impossible and self-contradictory. The origin of sin is the possibility implied in freedom. "The origin of sin," said Julius Mueller, "is an ideal or intelligible self-perversion of free-will." Moral perfection could only be brought about by free self-determination. A man, therefore, may have a holy soul and yet will sinfully. That God would have prevented sin had it been possible for him to have done so is a postulate we must never surrender. "As to the origin of moral evil," says Dr. Daniel Curry, "the greatest intellects are beyond their depths." But the great Guizot says: "The fact of original sin presents nothing strange, nothing obscure; it consists essentially in disobedience to the will of God, which will is the moral law of man. This disobedience, the sin of Adam, is an act committed everywhere and every day, arising from the same causes, marked by the same character, and attended by the same consequences, as the Christian dogma assigns to it. At the present day, as in the Garden of Eden, this act is occasioned by a thirst for absolute independence, the ambitious aspirings of curiosity and pride, or weakness in the face of temptation." "He destroys the idea of development altogether who regards a settled moral state as the original one for man, the prius, and looks upon every moral act and decision as the necessary outgo and effect of this settled state," said Julius Mueller.
Even the Arminian lantern which, one hundred and fifty years since, Bishop Butler hung up in this murky valley, would have afforded light sufficient to illumine this question, with all its corollaries, if the attachment to human creeds and established formulas had not been so excessive and conservative. But the psychological light that now shines upon this subject is as bright, clear, animating and refreshing as that which fell from the mysterious star and illumined the rugged way of Eastern sages in their weary search after the infant Redeemer. Why, then, should the fall of man any longer be denominated the mystery of mysteries?
"But," says Dr. Strong, "the power of choice does not explain an unholy choice." Yes, but man possesses not only power but personic choice, and if personality does not involve power essential to originate choices, holy or unholy, all comprehension or settlement of theology must be adjourned beyond the day of judgment. "It is the blackest of blasphemies," says Dr. Strong, "to affirm that God created any finite being with original dispositions to evil." He is fully entitled to utter this invective after granting to Adam the power of contrary choice, the power to do good and the power to do evil at the same moment. But granting to Adam the power of alternate choices, and then denying the same to his redeemed and incipiently regenerated descendants, seems to me to remove all the foundations of his theology, and leave it whistling in the wild winds of infidelity.
How long must our glorious Christianity be disfigured and dishonored by such enervating and unscriptural teachings, and that, too, from out her most respectable pulpits? It is sad to think how much time, learning, genius and piety have been wasted in attempts at explaining manifest absurdities and in defending indefensible positions. It is enough to change the gladdest angel into a Jeremiah to behold profound and devout men, sent with a divine commission to open the prison doors to them that are bound and to preach the acceptable year of the Lord, devoting their energies in herculean efforts to clothe evident follies in robes of reason, or to make a provoking absurdity wear the countenance of an angel of light. Dr. R. M. Patterson, of Philadelphia, in the late Pan-Presbyterian Council said: "Let us never forget in our work our settled belief that God's work will be done in his own time, in his own way, and to the extent to which he has himself determined." Such teachings cannot fail to dampen the fires of zeal, excuse from painful, pinching, personal sacrifices, check the origination of moral forces, render listless all individual inquiries for new moral enterprises in the name of the Lord, lull men into indifference over the waste places of Zion, and paralyze all the self-originating energies of majestic faith and prevailing prayer. No one can read in the "Princeton Review," number for July, 1880, of the fifty-fourth year, the article on God's indiscriminate proposals of mercy and salvation, as related to divine sincerity, from the pen of Dr. Robert L. Dabney, of Hampden Sydney Theological College, Va., without sighing over the wasted energies, squandered talents, misapplied learning and misused time of a really good, strong and genuine man. His struggles of thought and far-reachings, his filling up gaps of logic with heroic affirmations, his rushing by difficulties, cap in hand, lest he should see them, his bewrayed conscious quiverings and quakings of soul, and his sibyllic contortions, can create in his readers nothing but alternate pity, mirth and sadness.
Dr. Robert Hall speaks of Dr. Howe as "the wonderful Howe," and declares that "his masterpiece of thought and reasoning is his effort to reconcile the divine sincerity with the offers of life and salvation so freely made to the eternally reprobate." Dr. Dabney, in the article above referred to, struggling on the Calvinistic platform to defend the character of God from the charge of insincerity in offering salvation to reprobates, says: "He indeed would be a rash man who should flatter his readers that he was about to furnish an exhaustive explanation of the mystery of the divine will. But any man who can contribute his mite to a more satisfying and consistent exposition of the Scriptures bearing upon it is doing a good service to truth."
We will now explain what Dr. Dabney refers to in the phrase "mystery of the divine will" upon the influence and workings of grace in regenerating the soul of man. John Calvin fastened his mechanical conception of the mode of the action of material forces upon the workings of grace. He looked upon the grace of God and mechanics as perfectly analogous in their operation. For this fundamental error his profound mind was in no way censurable. This view was perfectly consistent with the false but generally received psychology of his times. The then prevalent philosophy made the will a mere sensibility, and, therefore, necessarily under the rigorous law of cause and effect. From this fatal misconception clothing the modality of grace with constrained modality of mechanical philosophy, the irresistibility of grace was an inevitable conclusion which could not possibly be gainsaid. With the irresistibility of grace as a premise, a limited atonement, election and reprobation and final perseverance of the elect, were logically unavoidable and necessary as fate itself. Grace, in the view of Calvin, being the efficient. cause, per se, always produces its effect, and can never, never be defeated in its action. All, therefore, for whom Christ died will be saved, and no others can be. Hence Calvin declared, "Christ redeemed only those who were chosen to salvation from eternity." From this it was inevitable that the redemption of the race was only partial. But as the Bible offers salvation indiscriminately to all, Calvin saw no way to extricate himself from the tremendous difficulty but by discriminating between a revealed divine will, which offered salvation to all men, and a secret divine will, which nullified and defeated the revealed divine will, which offered salvation to all. The mystery of the divine will to which Dr. Dabney refers is, then, the awful mystery of a dualistic will in God relative to a fallen world, electing some to eternal life and leaving the rest to perish forever. But what is Dr. Dabney's "mite" for elucidating this great mystery of the divine offers of life to all while provision was made only for a part. He says: "The words, 'God so loved the world,' mean, and were intended to express, a divine propension of benevolence, not, however, matured into a volition to redeem. God does have compassion upon reprobates, but he does not possess a volition to save them. God's touching appeals to the non-elect are evidences of true compassion, which are, however, restrained by consistent and holy reasons from taking the form of a volition to regenerate them. For God does compassionate those whom he never proposed to save or promised to save. God does, through Christ, make sincere offers of mercy to sinners, and when that, offer is slighted, as it was permissively decreed that it should be, he illustrates his justice by destroying them."
When I had read these strange statements from an acknowledged prophet of the Lord in the nineteenth century I could hardly credit the report of my eyes. I was intellectually amazed and bitterly pained through all the realm of my sensibilities, and I cried out, in the language of Jeremiah, "I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me." I then naturally inquired if the earlier statements and teachings of Calvinists were as open to the honest criticism of candid inquirers for the truth, sitting beneath the cross of an atoning Christ. I then found emblazoned upon the pages of the good and distinguished Dr. E. D. Griffin the following most perplexing hand-writing: "In the ages of eternity a covenant was formed between the persons of the sacred Trinity, in which the Father made over to his Son a definite number of the human race, as a reward of his obedience unto death, and caused their names to be written in the Lamb's book of life. For God actually forces a part of the human family to heaven. And he does this for just as many as the interests of the universe will permit." Here I unconsciously ejaculated with King David, "Let us fall now into the hand of the Lord; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man."
After defending predestination and striving to reconcile the universal offers of life to reprobates with the sincerity of God, Dr. Hill remarks: "It is, however, difficult to reconcile the mind to a system that denies saving grace to such multitudes. A very dark cloud, therefore, hangs over the whole subject." And Dr. Thomas Chalmers, in his attempted solution of this great perplexity of freely offering eternal life to those who were not elected thereunto, mournfully admits, in the tumultuous tenderness of his great soul, "There certainly must be some sad fundamental misunderstanding upon the whole subject somewhere." How the declaration of Calvin, that God makes his call universal, but "he directs his voice to the reprobates that they may become more deaf, he kindles a light for them that they may be made more blind and besotted," must have distressed the great heart of Chalmers! "These words of Calvin," exclaimed Bledsoe, "made my blood run cold." They are as shocking as the declaration of Augustine, "Infants dying unbaptized will certainly be damned." One not fortified by prepossessions would be likely to see that the perplexing mystery lies in embracing a theology that really, in the final fact, necessitates the constraint of the human will, and still holds over it the retribution of eternity.
"There is," says Dr. Chalmers, "a deep theology within the soul which answers to the theology taught in the Scriptures." There is not one man in gospel-illumined lands who does not know that Jesus died for him, ascended for him, and now calls for him. Every man feels, in the depths of his consciousness, that his endless destiny is suspended upon his own will in repenting of sin and willingly accepting the free gifts of pardon and regeneration through the merits of the atonement. If this is not true, then "the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath not appeared unto all men," nor is it true that the light of Jesus enlighteneth "every man that cometh into the world." Jesus was manifested to destroy the works of the devil, and the Holy Ghost was manifested "to convince the world of sin; of righteousness and of a judgment to come." Therefore the deep theology within teaches that all through Jesus Christ have the offer and the opportunity of eternal salvation. And this answers exactly to the freeness and universality of the terms of the Gospel.
Thus we evidently see that there is no election and reprobation in the deep re1igious consciousness of the world. And, Calvinian Chalmers being judge, there can be none in the Bible. "Deep calleth unto deep." The deep theology within answers to the deep theology without. And the deep theology without answers to the deep theology of universal Christian consciousness. But the foundations of Calvinism were never laid in the Bible. Not one of its five points or main features was ever, as I have noted, referred to but to be condemned and reprobated by the apostles and their successors, the fathers, for the first four hundred years of the Christian era. The foundations of Calvinism were laid by honest men in the shifting sands of a false and long-since repudiated psychology. Public opinion has chased the dogma of sovereign eternal election and reprobation out of general acceptance and respectability. Of the Scripture apparent strongholds of this tenet of Calvinism, one after another is being abandoned by the ripest and devoutest Calvinistic scholars themselves. All that is needed to keep it from embarrassing the coming generations of theologians is to dislodge it from its erroneous metaphysics. This, in love, earnestness and prayer, with a single eye to the glory of God, I have tried to accomplish.
But Calvinism teaches also that, though I am not conscious that I sinned in Adam's apostasy, nevertheless I am responsible for that apostasy, and, though I am unable to repent of that sin, nevertheless its guilt is imposed upon me. I have none of Adam's personality, none of his consciousness, none of his struggles with the dark forms of sin, none of his pungent convictions for sinning in the garden, and none of his biting remorse; nevertheless I did, according to Calvinistic teachings, participate in that sin, and do now share its dreadful guilt. But, then, are not these manifest contradictions? How can I be guilty without the consent of my will, without the remorse that follows willful transgression, and without any power to repent of the sin? And how could I be guilty of the sins of one predecessor without being guilty of the sins of all predecessors? I can inherit all these consequences of Adam's sin, guilt excepted, because I am indissolubly connected with him in well-being and in destiny. If I did not inherit these guiltless consequences of Adam's wickedness the dreadful nature of sin would be greatly lessened and obscured. These disadvantages, these degrading consequences of sin, following invariably upon the whole race, constitute great restraints and educating forces upon individuals and communities. It is the impossibility that personal guilt can attach to any but a conscious violation of law that triumphantly establishes the all-important doctrine of individualism, and makes each soul a splendid unit standing in his greatness and also in his awful responsibility before the Judge Eternal. I know that I am an accountable being to be considered and treated in my pure individuality because I, and I alone, am capable of personal guilt. For myself, I am a unit in my individuality, and for the race, I am a fractional part, and must necessarily suffer or shine with it to a very large extent and as to very many particulars. Without the guiltless consequences of sin upon the race collectively, there could be no corporate unity or solidarity; and without a corporate unity of the race there could be no great world-plans carried on and up into ideal realizations. In the interpretations of these vast problems we need a vivid recognition of God's great world-purposes. For, besides his plans embracing the future and eternal existence of souls as individuals bound to account before a future tribunal, he has, doubtless, many temporal plans for our world illustrative of his wisdom and power and his other boundless resources. He seems to delight in wheels within wheels, and, indeed, infinitely varied rays of light streaming from every spoke in those wheels. But of these important distinctions both Augustine and Calvin had conceptions the most limited and confused; and these confused and meager conceptions have been perpetuated among their adherents to this hour. Dr. Dorner says: "To Augustine, Adam was a double amphibological notion which seeks to combine in thought irreconcilable factors. He taught that all Adam's posterity participated in his guilt and are liable to his punishment. He does not, therefore, think that it is unjust that heathen and unbaptized heathen should be lost. The Old Testament does not favor the rigid doctrine of original sin. The importance of this question is very great, as on its decision depends whether we are committed, to absolute predestination or whether a place remains for human freedom and human responsibility." (Page 332, vol. ii.) Calvinism rests on the bare desert of perdition for the sin of Adam. Guilt being the consciousness of having done wrong, can neither be inherited nor transmitted nor transferred. Indeed, the Calvinistic phrase, "imputed guilt," implies the innocence of him to whom guilt is imputed. The Scriptures nowhere teach that we are guilty of the sin of Adam, or that we are punished therefor. "They everywhere declare," says Dr. Wayland, "that every man is guilty simply of his own voluntary transgressions, and that the guilt of every man is to be estimated by the degree of moral light which he has voluntarily resisted." I was in Adam seminally but not individually, as the oak of to-day was in the oak of a hundred years ago.
The mist that has been thrown over this simple subject is truly amazing. Had Adam maintained his loyalty, his posterity would have stood upon a higher vantage ground. We instinctively perceive that this must have been God's ideal plan of race, elevation, and progression. But the moral character of each of Adam's descendants would have depended solely upon his own voluntary obedience. The only ground of condemnation is the rejection of proffered light. But as Adam disobeyed and corrupted nature, and introduced into that nature a proneness to sin, his posterity must, according to that same ideal law, take a step downward to a less advantageous state, to a state of lower realizations. This was a state of great disadvantage and lessened opportunity, but it had in it not a single element of guilt. The guilt of each depended wholly upon his own voluntary disobedience. God's plan and his law in constituting the human race, were that a moral likeness should exist between parent and child. This was intended to be a powerful incentive to parental goodness and obedience. Adam, by his disobedience, having corrupted his nature, his child must necessarily resemble him in every particular save personal guilt. The incongruity of a morally unclean, unholy parent, being the progenitor of an offspring with no proneness to disobedience, would necessarily shock the moral sense of the moral universe. Reasons for this will readily occur to every thoughtful reader. The law of the necessity of moral resemblance in nature between parent and offspring must be observed and maintained for reasons numerous and impressive. When, therefore, man comes into the world, he comes necessarily as the child of a fallen father, with all the disadvantages of a fallen state, moral character only excepted. For no being but self can achieve a moral character for self. This proneness to sin is his inheritance, but his moral character is of his own creation, for that is the result of willing concordantly or discordantly with the moral standard lifted up for his conformity. No guilt can possibly attach to a proneness to sin for which man is in no way responsible, and of which he is in no sense the voluntary cause. Theologians have strangely carried the guilt of voluntary disobedience over to the passive state of a proneness to that disobedience. They ignored, or failed to see, that an energy was given to the will through the atonement to hold in check that proneness. Where sin abounds, under the Gospel, grace much more abounds. But this inherited state of proneness to sin, which in the nature of things was impossible to avoid, was partially lessened and modified by the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. Had no atonement been made, man would have been a helpless, hopeless demon. Christ by his death incipiently regenerated the human race up to the capacity of hearing the invitations of mercy and being saved. He lessened man's proneness to sin, restored to him his lost freedom, and sent the Holy Ghost to help all his infirmities. The blessings and advantages man lost in the disobedience of Adam by an inexorable law, were more than counterbalanced by the blessings and advantages obtainable through the atonement. I am unfortunate but not guilty in having a fallen father. I am infinitely fortunate in having an infinite Saviour and an infinite Sanctifier. "Original sin," says Dr. Dorner, "can only bear the character of a misfortune." P. 354. Julius Mueller defines "original sin to be the innate tendency or bias toward sinfulness in every human being." A darkened, fallen, sinward being needs redemption, but a personal guilt requires a personal, sinful volition. If guilt could be transmitted by generation, justice would imperiously require that the guilty pair be without progeny forever. In no other way could we shield divine goodness. God can look upon a nature unfortunately inclined to sin without attributing to it actual guilt. From our "inherited sinwardness" the Redeemer proffers to redeem us and preserve us and present us faultless before his Father's throne.
Thus a line of living light runs through this entire subject which has been so long and so strangely misconceived. Children come into the world not only innocent, but with a spiritual life communicated through the provisions of the atonement. "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." The spirituality lost to the race by Adam's transgression is restored to the race by Christ's obedience. But there is transmitted from parents to children a bias to wrongdoing which co-exists with their innocent spirituality and which develops into actual transgression when responsible life is reached. The Scriptures nowhere make inborn proneness to sin any excuse for voluntarily sinning against God.
I have mentioned this strange error as another of the vagaries with which Christianity should be no longer disfigured. But, strange to relate, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland has just re-affirmed that all mankind sinned in Adam, and therefor deserve divine wrath and punishment in time and in eternity. And thus is republished the monstrous dogma that men sinned ere they had an existence. "Do not," said a Calvinian minister to a young man going into the foreign missionary field, "do not speak of election until for years you have indoctrinated your Church." "I never speak of Calvinism in China," said Dr. Burns; "the Chinese do not need it." Surely the Church of the future ought not to be enervated by such untruthful, unreasonable, indeed, shocking doctrinal teachings. But no Calvinist can eliminate Adam's guilt out of his soul until he eliminates the appalling system of Calvinism out of the holy Oracles.
After Dr. Legge had been working for some time in Hong Kong, he thought the time had come for translating the Westminster Catechism. He called upon his native preacher to put it into Chinese. The work proceeded pleasantly until they came to the twentieth question, the answer to which is, "God, having out of his mere good pleasure from all eternity elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer." The preacher here threw down his pen, exclaiming, "I can't translate that."
"Why not?" inquired Dr. Legge.
"Because," said he, "we have been preaching that anybody might come and be saved, and this says only those can come who have been elected. I can't translate this."
"Then," said Dr. Legge, "I put the Catechism upon a shelf, and there it stays."
Dr. Lyman Beecher, it is well attested, wore the system of Calvinism as a galling yoke for more than fifty years. Such a consciousness must feel the necessity of an extricator from such embarrassing tenets. Calvinism is now lying amid earthquakes with consternation in its face. We ought, therefore, to disembarrass the Church of all those doctrines and theories which have confessedly disfigured theology and paralyzed evangelical efforts. The study of Dr. Hodge's theology fully justifies the boast which he made to his assembled alumni that "No new idea ever originated in Princeton." With a fathomless Bible in our hands, a boundless ocean of divine truth heaving and breaking at our feet; and the incomprehensible Deity urging himself upon our devout and profound meditations, our discoveries and our fruitions, how could any mind which was not afraid of the breaking light of incoming truth through a better exegesis, a truer psychology and a more searching didactics, glory in such a narrow and unworthy boast? What! must the theological intellect be forever tethered to the errors, fallacies, ignorances, limitations and blinding prejudices, of a narrow, supercilious and persecuting past. That surely must be a pseudo-Christianity which quakes at a challenge for honorable combat in the forum of reason. "No one, however, is ever against reason except when reason is against him," says Bacon. But in the failure of revered old Princeton to satisfy her thinking sons, and to sweep out the floods of new views advancing upon their congregations, do we not see the necessity of some new theological teaching to bear up the ark of divine truth, steadily and grandly through all the storms and above all the waves of modern skepticism and rationalism?
Dr. Morris, of Lane Theological Seminary, lamented not long since in the "New York Evangelist" "the narrowness betrayed in the recent Pan-Presbyterian Council." That narrowness he thinks was evinced in many ways, such as "preventing a union communion service; excluding from the Council that noble band of Christian heroes, the Cumberland Presbyterians, because of their hesitation over the perplexing doctrines of election and reprobation; and trampling almost frantically upon the thoughts and sentiments of the progressive papers read by distinguished members of the body." He then affirms that "nothing but Christian catholicity can solve the problem which is so soon to confront us, and that Presbyterians need not fancy that the tide is to be kept out by excited protests or larger assertions of orthodoxy." Surely Dr. Morris is a John the Baptist, crying in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord and make, his paths straight."
"I have heard," says Dr. T. D. Talmage, "scores of sermons explanatory of God's decrees, but came away more perplexed than when I went. The only result of such discussions is a great fog." If the fog is so dense that not a single glimpse of truth can flicker its way through, we might easily infer that sacred truth had no hiding-place in that realm. "Theologians sit on the beach," says Talmage, "and see a vessel going to pieces in the offing, and instead of getting into a boat and pulling away for the wreck they sit discussing the different styles of oarlocks. They keep on discussing the Divine decrees when there are millions of souls who need to have the truth put straight at them, that unless they repent they will all be damned." Such facts constantly multiplying among Calvinistically-taught thinkers demonstrate the necessity of new views in theology and marked advances for the Church.
Many Calvinists begin the construction of their theology by boldly assuming that absolute prescience is essential to the perfection of omniscience; but with absolute prescience, contingencies are, they think, incompatible. Contingencies being incompatible with absolute prescience, they must be outlawed. Contingencies being outlawed, every event from all eternity to all eternity must be fore-ordained. But the Calvinian assumption that prescience is essential to the perfection of omniscience is untrue. Absolute prescience of the free choice of accountable beings we have shown would be a momentous imperfection in the Deity. Let the Calvinist abandon this undue assumption, this fallacy prolific of so much ruin, and with its surrender the whole system of fore-ordination will fall. The news of such a fall would greet the angels, I think, with ineffable delight. "Many of the most zealous promoters of Universalism were Calvinistic," says Dr. D. Curry."The reaction of Calvinism reached its development in Unitarianism," says Dr. Whedon. John Foster was a stern, ultra-Calvinist, and Calvinism almost unhinged his mind and made him melancholy.
The Arminian begins his construction of the system of theology by gathering facts, and from facts, rising to general principles. From his facts he infers that absolute prescience is essential to the perfection of omniscience. But between his facts and his conclusions there is no logical connection. No logician has ever been able to reconcile future contingencies with absolute prescience. The logical chasm between them the Arminian vainly tries to bridge over with a mystery. In the name of sound logic and common sense let the Arminian abandon a conclusion for which he has not the semblance of a reason, and which necessitates innumerable perplexities and contradictions; let him give up a system that is confessedly wanting in logical consistency. Most certainly Calvinists owe it to themselves to re-examine their reasons for holding opinions so generally rejected by the very wisest of men.
While there is much that is evangelical in Calvinism, "its most distinctive point," says George F. Wright, of Andover, in the "Bibliotheca" for 1880, "relates to the divine purposes." "There is," says he, "something truly sublime in the boldness with which the Calvinist faces the dark question of reprobation and attempts to reconcile this doctrine with the apparently antagonistic doctrines of the power, the wisdom, and the goodness of the Creator." Such devotion to John Calvin seems inexplicable. With all his many and great excellencies he was neither a model man, nor a perfect character. Canon Kingsley says, "He was a mystic, and a more conceited one, too, than even Henry Moore." Archbishop Laurence said, "His darling propensity was to systematize, and the predominant passion of his soul was his ambition to be a distinguished leader in reform. His prominence, however, was far from being acknowledged by his contemporaries, either in ability or in point of time." He was so truly an innovator in theology that Mosheim says, "He greatly prided himself in having departed from the notions generally entertained concerning the doctrine of predestination. He persecuted Castalio and drove Bolsec into exile for opposing his opinions on fore-ordination." Calvin himself wrote to Farel in his own handwriting, that "if his authority was of any avail, he would prevent Michael Servetus from returning alive." "I advised our magistrate," said he, "as having a right to restrain heretics by the sword, to seize upon and try that arch heretic, Michael Servetus; but after he was dead I said not one word about his execution." The injustice of this silence who can tell!
As the great want of his times, and also of those of the Dark Ages, was a lack of great modifying general principles, we can easily overlook inconsistencies and blemishes in the life and character of any one; but that a man with so serious defects, and with a doctrine so gloomy and shocking as to be acknowledged by its sincere believers to be "apparently antagonistic to the power, wisdom and goodness of God," should be so revered, canonized, and almost apotheosized, is a marvel in the history of theological opinion. I revere the name of John Wesley as much as any man of history. Great," exclaimed Dr. Whedon, "were Wesleys logical powers; greater his administrative powers; but greatest of all his intuitive powers." But should Mr. Wesley teach me a doctrine so repugnant to the common instincts of humanity as unconditional reprobation, I should vehemently reject its acceptance. He did teach me the doctrine of absolute prescience of future contingencies, but I unhesitatingly repudiate it with acclaims loud and clear. Is it too much to ask the Calvinist to meet me in this theological compromise? "Would to God!" exclaimed Norman M'Leod, "that we could lose our Calvinism." (Page 357 of his life.)And is not Calvinism truly an unverifiable hypothesis? Is it not a worn-out system? New-school theology, with all its mighty efforts, only tried to hide the difficulties of Calvinism by congeries of subtleties. Light struggles with darkness before the day supersedes the night. The rising sun often dispels mists that dim for awhile its effulgence. Dr. D. Curry says: "The basis of old orthodoxy is immovable, but its superstructure is faulty and must be remodeled. A better psychology would speedily and forever finish this interminable controversy." "The majestic form of truth," says some one, "once walked the earth, but was dismembered and the sundered parts are wandering up and down in ceaseless, weary search each for the other, and each instinct with the old common life." The learned and venerated Sprecher, ex-President of Wittenberg College, says: "The fundamental tendency of the Reformation, its tendency to produce a clearer apprehension and a more complete appropriation of the Christian idea of the personality of God and of man, must eventually lead to the rejection of the doctrine of unconditional election, and of irresistible grace on the one hand, and of the block-and-stone theory of human passivity on the other. If man were a mere nature entity, the end of his being would be determined by his constitution; he would be purely passive under the operation of the force which supplied his wants and accomplished his destiny. But as he is a personal being, the end for which he exists is a goal, the attainment of which involves personal agency. The supply of his individual wants as a finite being involves free divine communication and free human reception; and his regeneration as a sinful creature, free divine operation and free human submision. It involves personal action on the part of God, and a personal action on the part of man. Though it must be regarded as merely a yielding act, still it is an act, that is, the subject of regeneration is not purely passive. The regenerating influence originates with God, but man yields to it. God produces the change; man accepts and acts it. God does not regenerate man without calling forth the action of the human will. The true Christian idea of God and man, as the experience of faith enables men more and more to apprehend it, will restrict the Augustinianism both of the Calvinistic predestinarian and of the strict Lutheran theories, and so modify the theory of Melanchthon as to free it from any unevangelical synergism." The ramparts of the melancholy doctrine of eternal decrees certainly must appear to be hideous to all profound thinkers. They are, indeed, sources of merriment to all unbiased by previous indoctrination. I submit it to a candid world, ought not this defenseless doctrine of election and reprobation to be publicly abandoned at once? The paths of evacuation from this fastness of Calvinism are macadamized with the rarest good sense and benevolence, and the sublimest of motives. The retreat of the great scholars, mighty thinkers, and hoary divines, from out this Genevan munition, would be greeted with hosannas, even from their own people, louder and gladder and more prolonged than those which fell upon the ears of our adorable Redeemer when he rode into the city of God. In the name of the perishing millions for whom Christ died, and who are patiently waiting for his law and his truth, let this unconditional surrender be made.
And, on the other hand, ought not the Arminian to abandon, at once, his not only needless, but troublesome, doctrine of absolute prescience? That doctrine is and always has been the great disturber of the peace through all the realms of Christian theology. But for it, light, joy, calmness and unanimity would be perpetual in the study of biblical truth. Not a single unfallacious consideration can be adduced that makes prescience a necessity. On the other hand, its assumption does necessitate innumerable perplexities. It surrenders free agency, makes a probationary state a farce, paralyzes the human will, exterminates all hope from the doomed, breaks the wholesome restraint of fear to all the elect and happily destined, mystifies all our thinkings, perplexes all our investigations, annihilates consistency from divine revelation, hampers all our efforts, renders every subject impervious to the light of reason, adjourns beyond the grave all settlement of fundamental theology, and furnishes perpetually masked batteries for the use of the logical Calvinians. It renders insoluble the great conflict between freedom and necessity, the conflict between the scientist and the theologian, the urgent questions which are now under discussion before the intellect of the nineteenth century. For if the future be now infallibly foreknown and certain and fixed, human reason protests against our moral liberty as vehemently as universal consciousness protests against the system of necessity. Admit prescience of future contingencies, and you necessitate an immobile fixity for the whole history of the human race, past and future, so certain in every iota as to obliviate all contingencies and make illusory the endowment of human freedom. But the assumption of the necessity of divine nescience of future contingencies is a hypothesis that works well in all systems and circumstances. I challenge a single instance in which it weakens or dims the force of any biblical truth, or breathes enervation into the energies of the probationer. Inertia makes astronomy the simplest of all the physical sciences. So divine nescience of future contingencies makes theology the simplest of all the intellectual sciences. Divine nescience is the new thought which solves every problem in Christianity that involves human reason, common sense and common humanity. It explains sin, freedom, election and foreknowledge. And besides all this, it leaves all the essentials of the Christian religion firm as Gibraltar. What more could be asked of any hypothesis? It makes our conceptions of the nature of God neither dim nor distant. It makes our relations to God neither indefinite nor powerless. Assume this, and most of the theological differences that divide Christians will be swept out of existence and their irritating discussions hushed forever. Nothing but nescience can stem the fearful currents of infidelity. There are innumerable intuitive truths which the human mind has never yet discovered. That a body cannot change its state was unknown until Galileo. Now it is known to be an intuitive necessary truth. Such an a priori truth, divine nescience of future contingencies will soon be acknowledged to be. Until then the freedom of the human will can never be seen in all the brightness of its full-orbed glory.
God says: " Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house which have eyes to see and they see not, they have ears to hear and they hear not, for they are a rebellious house. Therefore, son of man, prepare the stuff (or instruments) for removing, and remove by day in their sight, and thou shalt remove from thy place to another place in their sight. It may be they will consider though they be a rebellious house."
Whether his people would consider or not was a pure contingency, and of this contingency he was not certain. Had he been he could not have said, "It may be they will consider." His language expresses doubt; and if he was certain his people would not consider then his language would not express the state of his mind, but made a false representation. Jesus, too, expressed the present uncertainty of future human volitions when he said, "I will send my beloved son. It may be they will reverence him."
Let us then assume just what God himself assumes, his nescience of future contingencies, and that in the kingdom of Providence he uses man as an instrument, while in the kingdom of grace he treats him as a person; and that as an instrument his will acts consentingly under the law of constraint, and as a person his will acts willingly under the law of liberty. By so doing every contradiction in the word of God, every absurdity in theology, and every tantalizing perplexity in Christian life and experience, at once disappear as night and its misshapen specters, when glad morning opens the gates of day. Not distinguishing between man as an instrument and man as an agent, led Locke and Reid and many others into bewildering and endless confusions.
The woes of theologians are the necessary sequiturs of undue assumptions. They have ever thought that they must chain God to some inflexible, inexorable plan, or the heavens would fall. But if their plans for God shroud every subject in absurdity and perplexity and bathe every energy in a up as atmosphere, they would better repudiate them and accept a plan vastly superior awaiting their adoption. For the only reasonable conception of this great subject is that of an ever-varying volitionating on the part of a free volitionating Ruler toward an ever-varying volitionating on the part of a world of subjects, free, rewardable or punishable in accordance with their free determinations. God depends, and must needs depend, on us every moment for what he can do for us. For if man is not free, human accountability is an idle dream. If he be accountable he must possess the power of pure self-originating forces. (* If man can originate sin, it must be by the exercise of a power, the exercise of which (not the existence of which, but the exercise of which)) is absolutely independent of Deity.
If man is free, his Maker is free. If God is free, contingencies are inevitable and logically necessary. Any general plan of pre-arrangement which extends to free volitions, put forth under the law of liberty and the power of alternate choices, is not only an impossibility in the nature of things, but it is a tantalizing absurdity.
Assume for Deity a plan appropriate to and in harmony with future uncertainties as to the determinations of free agents, and the Bible becomes the most harmonious book in the world, and all orthodox evangelical Christians one harmonious household among themselves, and one harmonious army in the world, battling in different grand divisions the wily and malignant foes of our common humanity; not, however, fighting each other, but all fighting "the good fight of faith, and warring a good warfare." Sectarianism cannot endure the intelligence, liberality, refinement, urbanity and earnest work of earnest Christians. Sectarianism is not denominationalism. Sectarianism is devotion to a Church actuated by a selfish party spirit. Denominationalism is devotion to a Church actuated by the universal spirit of gospel missions. We, therefore, repeat that divine nescience of future contingencies is a necessity to the harmonizing of the two great bodies of Christian workers upon whom have come the ends of the world. In this view it is an indispensable necessity for the speedy success of the Christian religion. It is the thought so long missed and so much desiderated in theology, in theodicy, in Christian doctrines and in sacred exegesis. In our attempts at exegesis, we have often had too much of eisegesis.
I know the view I here devoutly advocate is not only radical, but it is revolutionary. But I humbly affirm that theology, not Wesleyan theology only, as A. A. Hodge says, but all theology and commentaries and exegesis, must necessarily be completely revolutionized in their basal facts and principles to meet the philosophical necessities of this age, and also to meet the varied and vast signification of divine revelation. If our theology would overcome infidel vandals and survive the twentieth century she must adhere to logic.
While clinging heartily to glorious mysteries, she must not advocate absurdities, and then remand them into the realm of the incomprehensible to be explained under the promise of a broader light in eternity. She must not ask superstition to relieve the Christian intellect of its legitimate work of logical processes, analytical discriminations and fearless enunciations. No light of eternity, however broad, can ever illuminate the absurdity that four multiplied by four equals seventeen, or that the sum of the angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles, or that freedom and predestination are terms not incompatible. We are sure to undermine faith whenever we stultify our reason as to the objects of our faith.
To theologians, mighty thinkers, philosophers, and philanthropists of all schools, whom I do profoundly revere, I make this devout appeal: Come, let us reason together; discriminating between absurdity and mystery, eliminating from our common Christianity all self-contradictions and as many imperfections as may be possible in the present state of psychology, biblical criticism, human development and personal religious experience. Certainly all must acknowledge that no set of men, even the wisest and best, could have formulated a system of religious beliefs that would never require revision, restatement or enlargement. All our orthodox theologies were formulated when the imperfections in psychology rendered impossible the conception of a consistent, comprehensive system of divinity.
"Truth," said Lord Bacon, "is not the daughter of authority, she is the daughter of time." "I believe," thundered Martin Luther, "that it is impossible for the Church to be reformed without completely eradicating canons, decretals, scholastic theology, philosophy and logic as they are now received and taught, and in their place instituting others."
"We bow," says Albert Barnes, "before no opinion because it is ancient. In all the momentous questions pertaining to morals, politics, science and religion we are greatly in advance of the past. Our hearts expand with joy at the prospect of a still greater simplicity and clearness in the statement and defense of the cardinal doctrines of the Reformation. Most of the monuments of past wisdom are capable of improvement in these respects. Thus we regard the works of Luther, Calvin, Beza and Owen. We look on them as vast repositories of learning, piety and genius; and yet we feel that in some things their views were darkened by the habits of thinking of a less enlightened age than this, and that their philosophy was often wrong. Had modern ways of thinking been applied to their works, had the results of a deeper investigation into the laws of mind and the principles of biblical criticism, been in their possession, their works would have been the most perfect records of human wisdom the world contains. The subject of moral government is now better understood. A perceptible advance has been made in the knowledge of the laws of mind, and light has been thrown upon the doctrines of theology."
"The body of dogmas," says Dr. Shedd, "was by no means fully apprehended by the ecclesiastical mind in the outset. Its scientific and systematic comprehension is a gradual process; the fuller creed bursts out of the narrower, the expanded treatise swells forth, growth-like, from the more slender. The work of each generation of the Church joins on upon that of the preceding." Dr. Samuel Sprecher says: "In this age of the dissolution of doctrine there should be made an effort to apprehend anew and to appropriate more fully than they could ever before be conceived. (* See note at the end of this chapter.) and expressed, the results of the operation of the evangelical spirit in the past." "For creed," says he, "is the subjective apprehension of the infallible and unchangeable truth contained in the Scriptures. Creeds, therefore, being fallible and changeable, each generation in the course of the development of the Church should bear a part in the witnessing of those who compose confessions at particular times." Dr. Rainey, in the Pan-Presbyterian Council, said: "We are passing through a period of unexampled unsettlement of opinions. Every theological position is boldly questioned. Doctrines which have been accepted in all the great theologies have been thoroughly sifted." In the same Council Dr. C. A. Briggs said, "Progress and restatement are essential to the life of theology." "The present generation is passing from under the restraint of religious belief," said Dr. Hill, ex-President of Harvard University. Professor Van Oosterzee, the distinguished evangelical teacher in Holland, said recently: "A wave of infidelity is steadily advancing over Protestant Europe which the most favored country will not be able to escape. They have had it in Germany, we are now having it in Holland, and Scotland is beginning to feel it. In twenty years the Scottish Church will have it to the full, and all their orthodox theology will not save them." Dr. Campbell, of Boston said very recently: "Moral power in New England is on the decline. The pendulum of religious belief has swung away from the orthodoxy of Puritan times. It has already passed its center, and is on its way to heartless nihilism." The Earl of Shaftesbury said a few months since: "Dark is our religious horizon; the hearts and minds of men are little suited to the exigencies of the times. The great danger of England lies, not in the activity of those opposed to religion generally, but to the vast indifference and apathy shown by the great masses of the people." The united faculty of Andover Seminary recently exclaimed in a manifesto: "If Andover Seminary is anchored to a special phase of orthodoxy in the past it might as well be scuttled at once. The path of New England theology is strewn with concessions to the truth and to an advancing knowledge of God's word. Genius will not be the slave of tradition, and it cannot stop the progress of thought." Such testimonies indicate that it is neither a crime nor occasion for malignity to inquire whether the formulated and received creeds are consistent with the present developments of mind, of knowledge and of religious life.
It must be remembered, too, that for centuries the Church was smoldering under the weight of the ashes of paganism precipitated upon it by Constantine. And while the energy of its living fires could not be repressed, its gleams could not be expected to be in pure brilliance, but wearing rather the lurid aspect of St. Augustine's Dark-Age teachings.
The Sensibilities, as a distinct department of mental philosophy, is only of recent origin. But some one might say, "If divine nescience be true, then theologians for the last nineteen hundred years have been wrong." To many this fact seems so inexplicable as to render divine nescience wholly incredible. But such must remember that the psychological distinction between the will and the sensibilities is not yet a hundred years old. "The trichotomy of the mental powers," says Sir William Hamilton, "was established by Emanuel Kant." Most explicitly did he refer the sensibilities to a particular and distinct faculty of the mind. For the want of this discrimination such works as those of Jonathan Edwards swarm with fundamental errors and false doctrines, his own devotees being umpires in the case. He says, "The affections are not to be distinguished from the will, as though they were two faculties of the soul." He makes an act of the mind identical with an impression made upon the mind. He says that "liberty is compatible with necessity," that "moral necessity is as absolute as natural necessity," and that "virtue does not consist in its cause, but in its nature." He advocates a kind of moral liberty which the penetrating Leibnitz pronounced to be just no liberty at all, but merely "elbow-room." He thus lays the foundations of his system in the quicksands of manifest self-contradictions.
Before this distinction in the mental powers, separating the will from the susceptibilities, was made, it was impossible even for the most gifted and learned theologians philosophically to construct a sound theology. For so long as the will is regarded as a sensibility it must be conceived of as acting under the law of constraint. Edwardian liberty consists in the external opportunity which a necessitated volition has to necessitate its effect. But if the human will be constrained, human liberty and systematic theology are necessarily rendered impossible. Consequently, for a hundred years Calvinism has varied its phases, but only with ever-increasing inconsistencies. Sometimes predestination is put in the sovereign will of God, sometimes in a limited atonement, sometimes in the limitations of the influence of the Holy Ghost, and oftener in the angle at which you look at the troublesome central horror. How untrue is the boast of Dr. Grier, editor of "The Presbyterian," that Presbyterianism is planted upon a munition of rocks older than Gibraltar! Episcopius, the pupil of James Arminius, pronounced unconditional election and reprobation to be simply an "upstart."There is no such thing as moderate Calvinism; it must be received or rejected as a whole. God either did predestinate from all eternity some of the human family to eternal perdition, or he did not. If he did, it can never be harmonized with immutable rectitude. It seems to me that the greatest of all the evils to Christianity are the clogs which predestination necessitates upon it. Surely God will not charge me with irreverence for rejecting contradictory propositions. For the last hundred years since this psychological discovery, the trichotomy of the mind, was made-the dread odium theologicum has ever lifted its frowning menaces upon all those who were capable of sustained thought, accurate discrimination and logical processes, if they tremblingly ventured to advance outside of dominant creeds, however false and dangerous those creeds manifestly might be. "Nothing," says Dr. J. W. Alexander, "requires more courage and independence than to rise decidedly even a little above the par of the religious world around us. The way we commonly go on is not the self-denial taught in the New Testament." It requires courage to make advances, in any thing. He who first spread an umbrella between his head and the pelting rain was hooted and stoned in the streets of London. Mike Fink, the untutored boatman on western waters, prior to the date of steamboats, studied so enthusiastically the expansive power of steam and the possibility of its application to navigation, that all considered his mind unbalanced. When he was dying he exclaimed, "Bury me on the banks of my beautiful Ohio, where the coming steam-propelled crafts may hail me as they pass." His conservative attendants exclaimed, "Poor fellow! he is crazy yet."
He who exposes a popular absurdity or persistently advances a new idea, is generally suspected of weakness. The human heart opposes all kinds and degrees of progress. "It is common," said the brilliant Castelar, "to all reforms to excite great hatred, and the inheritance of all reformers is to have bitter enemies." Plato, after enumerating in the most admirable manner the traits requisite to a perfect human character, closes with the mournful confession, that should such a perfect being ever appear among men he would most certainly "be bound, scourged, tortured, blinded and finally hanged." And we have all read of a community which once begged that the greatest being and the most ardent friend that ever set foot upon their soil "should depart out of their coasts." Plato's description really seems like a prophecy of Him who spake as man never spake, and in whose lips and life there was no guile. "Should the Redeemer come again," exclaimed Faust, "the people would crucify him a second time." Millions, from their childhood, believe such absurdities as consubstantiation, transubstantiation, pantheism, the present certainty of a future uncertainty, the freedom of man while all his acts were sovereignly decreed from eternity, and the infallibility of his holy reverence the Pope of Rome.
But he who would sweep away any such refuges of lies is certain to be proclaimed as one who is harebrained, regardless of the revered past, blasphemous to Deity, a foe to the weal of the world, and must needs be burned or crucified. But after all denunciation and tergiversation, the world is full of poisonous trees shedding their baleful influences all over human society. It certainly must be the solemn duty of every philanthropist ruthlessly to hew down all such that may be in his power.
To me it seems that the affirmation of divine nescience of future contingencies gives a depth, reality, significance, simplicity and logical consistency to all the teachings of James Arminius which, as yet, they have never possessed. This assumption would constitute "a new Arminianism" that would be valid, logical, direct and inexpressibly inspiring. To force holiness into a free soul, or to make sin a blessed thing, is a self-contradiction no greater than to foreknow a future contingency. This eternal logic eternally thunders, and its reverberations are heard and felt all through the realms of theological thought and of thought systems. And he who affirms that he can see how the future acts of an innumerable number of free agents, through thousands of generations, all interdependent, acting and re-acting upon each other forever, can be systematized into an infallible plan, working out definite and designed results; and yet that those acts are absolutely free and thoroughly accountable, must always affirm it, and always does affirm it, with a hesitation of conviction and a quiver of heart which indicate a deep consciousness that there must be, after all, some latent fallacy in the mental process by which such a conclusion is reached.
I do not affirm that foreknowledge cancels freedom in a single specified case, but I do affirm that a foreknowledge of a future free choice is self-contradictory, because it is knowledge without any evidence thereof. All, confess that prescience of future contingencies is a transcendent mystery which surpasses all the powers of the human understanding. "The freedom of man and the sovereignty of God can never be reconciled," said Descartes. I simply declare it to be not a mystery, but a flat self-contradiction.
DIVINE NESCIENCE A LIMITATION TO GOD.
I have long and prayerfully considered this subject, and it does not so appear to me. On the contrary, it clothes Jehovah, in my view, with ineffable glories. It necessitates to him power to create beings capable of performing acts which omniscience itself could not divine. It attributes to him wisdom, power and prescience sufficient, sovereignly, righteously and summarily to meet and manage all the unforeseen choices of uncounted millions. It secures to him, through all the realm of contingencies, a personal presence just as pervasive, efficient and immediate as he is confessed to have in all the realm of unintelligent nature. It ascribes to him a rightness so immutable, a justice so vigorous, a benevolence so peerless, a parental tenderness and watchfulness so unsearchable, that any excuse, explanation or vindication of his providence is entirely needless.
Nescience sweeps out of recognition and beyond power to harm, half the errors that have so bothered and crippled struggling inquirers, and so enervated our glorious Christianity. Without it the Bible is replete with perplexities; without it theology is a merriment to the superficial, and to the thoughtful it is a pugnacious derision. This doctrine not only enlarges our conceptions of Deity, but clothes man with unspeakable dignity. No other doctrine makes man appear more grand, accountability more certain, human freedom so wonderful, sin so hideous, eternal things so real and near, God so interesting to intelligent beings, or so interested himself in the vast possibilities and unforeseen developments of free beings created in his own divine likeness and image.
Many devout and thoughtful men hesitate at the necessity of divine nescience of future contingencies, inquiring whether it does not necessitate a pure adventure, on the part of Deity, in man's creation. But he could not possibly escape making man at a pure venture if he thought of endowing him with that quintessence of freedom which could render his accountability possible, reasonable or defensible. Accountability necessitates a plurality of possible actions. And if a being be endowed with a plurality of possible actions, each depending upon his own sovereign choice, selection and performance, without any thing anterior to that choice; then his creation could not have been any thing but a solemn venture on the part of Deity. And the solemnity of this venture the sacred narrative most clearly indicates. This is a necessity in the nature of things, which the Creator could neither remedy nor disregard in his creation of a responsible agent. A busy, earnest man has no time to waste on anybody who asserts that God did actually realize his great purposes and glorious expectations in the case of Adam. If Adam's degenerated soul, and God's grief and lamentation over his creation, do not show that his making was a pure adventure on the part of his Creator, the human mind is incapacitated to appreciate proofs or to apprehend a priori truths. But seldom, indeed, in the history of the race has God realized his purposes and his expectations in reference to any single individual. How illustrious the divine plans and purposes relative to a distinguished American of the past generation must have been we are compelled to read in his varied and splendid endowments, his prosperous circumstances and his responsibilities as a statesman. Nature is proverbially parsimonious of her gifts to mortals, but she was most prodigal toward him, who was the pride of the land. She crowded capabilities into his mind, gifts and graces into his person, distinctions in his path, and clothed his tongue with the thunder and lightning of a vehement but classic oratory. But for it all how sadly was she disappointed and repaid! Her favorite son did nothing for liberty, statesmanship, civilization, education or science. He did nothing for reforms, missions, benevolent enterprises, and nothing for his country but to adjourn great pending issues, to be adjusted by a long, bloody, internecine war. He was not only destitute of moral force, but his life was wrecked, his motives were earthly and sensual, his soul was limited, his end was inglorious, and his memory is fast passing to extinction.
Now, who dare affirm that his creation was not a serious venture? If God sighed over Adam and regretted his creation, at the grave of the great senator he must have exclaimed, "O that thou hadst hearkened unto my commandments! O that thou hadst known in this thy day the things that belong to thy peace, but now they are hid from thine eyes!" God has very little in this world as he would like to have it. Everybody and every holy cause more or less disappoints his reasonable expectations. He seldom finds a laborer in his vineyard he can implicitly trust. "For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's." Every one knows that in himself God's reasonable expectations have not been realized; and if all have this conviction, there must be a basis for this universal consciousness. If God has not been disappointed, universal consciousness is false and unworthy of credence. If consciousness be unreliable, the investigation of philosophy and theology is the occupation of an egregious fool. But if God has been disappointed in his reasonable expectations, did he not create the world at a venture?
But how the Scriptures teem with evidences that this world was created at a solemn venture! "It grieved God at his heart that he had made man." "It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king, for he has not kept my commandments." "What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it? I fenced it, gathered out the stones thereof, planted it with the choicest vine. I built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a wine-press therein. Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?"
These words express grief, disappointment, amazement and indignation. "Hear, O heavens, give ear, O earth. I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me." "They vexed his Holy Spirit, therefore he was turned to be their enemy and fought against them." "When the Lord saw it, he abhorred them, and said, I will hide my face from them, and I will see what their end shall be, for they are children in whom is no faith." If these passages do not express contingency, uncertainty, adventure in the creation of man, we may despair of ever finding out the feelings of God or the meaning of his messages to a lost world.
Note-E. De Pressens'e says: "I conclude with a firmer persuasion than ever, that our effort must be to rise above the petty systems in which eternal truth is often held captive by the churches of our day, and to grasp it in its grand primeval type. It is only at such an altitude that religious faith and freedom of thought meet and coalesce."