Изображения страниц

Every event has a cause:

A choice

(meaning the specification of the choice, by which it fixes on one object rather than another) is an event: Therefore, a choice has a cause.

What is this cause? Not the power of choosing, cbviously; for this does not explain why, in any particular instance, we chose thus, and not otherwise. No cause is left, then, but the subjective motive.

Here is the argument for Necessity in a short compass. So far from requiring a great degree of acumen, it is easily sug gested, and was brought forward long before Edwards took his pen in hand to write down the Arminians. The production of the Treatise on the Will must have been a mere pastime for his illustrious mind. He had only to hold on to a familiar axiom, and rigorously apply it. With it he chased his antago nists from the field. The uniform method of Necessitarians is to bring the mind into the system of nature, by subjecting its operations to the law of cause and effect. That which we name the influence of motives and which justifies the use of appeals, commands, and exhortations,-the control of the Divine government, also, or the universal Providence of God,-are to be secured; and the Necessitarian knows no way of doing this except by the power of God, exerted through the principle of causation. He cuts the knot which he is unable to untie. He will often cloak his theory, avoiding offensive phraseology, and using terms which presuppose the reality of a free and responsible will, which is exempt from subjection to a causative agency external to it,-terms, however, which he has first emptied of their proper significance.

As to the theory of Dr. Emmons on this great litigated point of human agency, we have nothing to add to our previous remarks. This may be said in behalf of Emmons that there is no occasion for those who chime in with the reasoning of Edwards, to denounce the views of the Franklin theologian, even if his language is literally construed. It matters not, as far as this question is concerned, whether efficiency is placed

in the motive, or in God, since the motive owes its power to His arrangements, and they are independent of man's will.

Another peculiarity in the system of Emmons is the doctrine of "exercises." In conformity with the best philosophy of the present day, he held that all mental states are forms of the mind's activity. In opposition to those who ascribed to the mind an inborn taste, disposition or quality, from which action emanates, he maintained that all we know of the mind is its exercises, and that the existence of such a "taste" would be fatal to moral agency. Sin consists in sinning; sins are volitions. So far did Emmons carry this, that he took no account of an active, permanent principle, and advocated an atomic. theory relative to our voluntary acts. Every volition was perfect of its kind. In the case of a sinner, all the members of the series of volitions were sinful; in the case of a Christian in this life, some were sinful and some holy, so that for a while, a day, perhaps, he might be perfectly holy; and in the case of a saint in heaven, all the volitions were holy.

In one particular we had given Emmons the credit for an improvement which he appears not to have made. By the term "volitions," he has generally been supposed to designate acts of the will, and to distinguish these from involuntary emotions and desires; making, thus, a three-fold, instead of the former two-fold, distribution of mental activities. A principal source of ambiguity in the writings of President Edwards, especially in the Treatise on the Will, is due to his vacillating between the two-fold and three-fold division, and our inability to decide in many places whether he intends an involuntary inclination, or a choice proper. Now Dr. Ide subjoins to one of the sermons of Emmons, the following note:

"The terms will, choice, and volition, are generally used by Dr. Emmons as they are by President Edwards, in a general sense, including the affections, desires, etc., as well as the executive acts of the mind." New Edition, Vol. II, p. 449.

If such be his use of language, does it not affect the teaching of Emmons in respect to the nature of sin? Does he hold, in common with the New School, that sinful action is the election by the will of a forbidden object? Or does he so

extend the sphere of the will as to comprehend under voluntary action what the New School assigns to the department of involuntary feeling? We are not able to investigate these questions here, but they demand the attention of those who are interested in the New England theology upon the subject of sin.

Whether Emmons believed that the mind is truly and properly a substance, or only a series of "exercises," is discussed in this Memoir. He certainly describes the heart as consisting of "a combination of exercises," and commonly ignores, if he does not formally deny, an existence, or substance, in which they originate. Dr. Dwight wrote and published a sermon against this erroneous view of the human mind, which Emmons was supposed to teach. But Dr. Ide tells us that he has been misunderstood, and that he really held to a substratum at the bottom of "exercises." It is admitted that he rejected the word "foundation" and other words in common use, denoting the mind in its relation to mental states, for the reason that they savored of materialism; but it is maintained, nevertheless, that he believed in the spirit of man as a real entity. It appears to be forgotten that the term "spirit," like all other language descriptive of the mind, is taken from the material world, and figuratively applied as much so as the word "foundation." The aversion of Emmons to the notion of the passivity of the mind, and to the doctrine of an innate, sinful or holy quality, seems to have led him to drop out the self-active substance of the mind from his system: and this omission left room for a Divine Efficiency that was in no danger of being jostled by the presence of a human Nature, the proximate cause of "exercises." We will not affirm, in opposition to his friends, that Dr. Emmons has been correctly understood; for it is hard to see how he could have reconciled his common sense to such a theory as that which Dr. Dwight refutes. But this we are compelled to say, that if his editors are right on this point, he is chargeable with a remarkable abuse of language, which relieves his opponents from all blame for mistaking his views.

Another feature in the system of Emmons, and one which

gave it notoriety and raised up against it many enemies, was the doctrine of unconditional submission; or "willingness to be damned," as it was bluntly styled. Emmons teaches that disinterested love is essential goodness, and that a man who is actuated by this principle will be willing to suffer to any extent which the glory of God, or the general good, may require. If the glory of God will be promoted by his eternal suffering, he ought to be willing to be cast off forever; and if not willing, he lacks the essential characteristic of a good man. Professor Park finds a parallel to this proposition in the doctrine of Fenelon, Madame Guyon, and other mystics. We remember a passage in the little mystical work entitled "Die Deutsche Theologie,"-sometimes ascribed to Tauler, which Luther published with his glowing commendation,-in which a similar view is presented under the caption, "We must go through hell to reach heaven." The mystics, however, did not generally claim that their absolute self-denial was necessary to salvation. The truth of Emmons's doctrine, as an abstract proposition, may be fully admitted, while the propriety of applying it as a practical test of character is emphatically denied. It is a hypothetical proposition, the contingency supposed being one that can never occur in the case of the person who assents to it. Who would require a child to say whether he is willing, if the glory of God requires it, to tear his parents into inch pieces with red-hot pincers? Yet, if the glory of God required such an act, the child ought to be willing. Besides, Emmons's proposition carries with it the impression that there are limits to the mercy of God towards a repenting sinner. Your destruction may be a necessity, and your reconciliation to God may be impossible, is the intimation conveyed in this singular test of character. But this impression is false. The glory of God does not necessitate the perdition of any man, but the way of life is open. He is not willing that any should perish. If we begin to suppose that God is a different being from what He is, there is no knowing what conclusions will follow. The cruelty and mischievous tendency of employing such a test of

Christian character as this noted formula of Emmons, are easily understood.

There is one additional feature of Emmons's theology, and of New England theology generally, in which it is favorably distinguished from rival systems. We refer to the substitution of the idea of an economy, or constitution, for that of a covenant, in describing the dealings of God with men in their connection with Adam. The legal notion of a contract is not only fictitious in this relation, but is a far lower conception than that of a constitution, or plan of providential government. Emmons discarded altogether the lawyers' scheme of a compact with Adam, and of the transference of legal relations and penalties by the imputation of his sin to his posterity; and put in the room of it a divine economy, in which the character and lot of men were to be determined by the conduct of their progenitor; individual responsibility, however, remaining untouched. As a mode of representation, the two schemes differ, as a legal contrivance differs from a grand political arrangement. In this particular, the New England theology has long been at variance with the Princeton, and has no occasion to distrust the strength of its position. To Emmons belongs the credit of being one of the clearest expounders and ablest defenders of this improvement in theological doctrine.

We had designed to advert to the apology for the language of Emmons in his sermon on Pharaoh, and in kindred discourses, that he employed the phrases of Scripture. This will not justify him. There is no piety in adhering to the letter of Scripture, when the effect is to convey a doctrine hostile to that of the Bible. There may have been reasons for a peculiar style in certain passages of the Bible, which do not hold at present, and there may have been circumstances which saved the writers from being misunderstood, which do not now exist. Verbal coincidence with the Bible, if that be all, is no virtue. Transubstantiation might be proved in the same manner as the propositions in the Pharaoh sermon are established, by insisting on the language of Scripture. "This is my body." "This is my blood." "Verily I say unto you,

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »