Page images

and skeptic, could rail at truth, revile religion, and stand in awe of the word Friday.

Credulity and incredulity have their basis in a disposition to take some great leading principle for granted upon the authority of others. When that principle is a negative, it forms incredulity; when affirm. ative, it is credulity. Yet one may be credulous or the contrary, under

very different circumstances. If the principle admitted be uni. versally received, it will scarcely pass under the name of credulity, though it be such in reality. How then are we to discern that credu. lity which consists in the passive reception of commonly received opinions ? I answer by this: that the reception of such opinions by the wise man leans upon its proof—you can perceive his mind turning thitherward, like the needle to the pole. On the other hand, the credulous receiver of such opinions shrinks from the word proof—the idea that there is any necessity of such thing never crosses his mind. Watch him, and you will see that he at once sets down any man for a credulous fool who dares to ask for proof. It seems to him a point so plain, so much a matter of common sense, that he who doubts or waits for evidence is certainly destitute of a sound mind.

Upon these principles, what should be our estimate of Mr. Wesley ? It is a currently received opinion—not that there are no ghosts or disembodied spirits—but that they never manifest themselves. Did Mr. Wesley affirm the contrary ? No. But he did that which the credu. lity of fools can never pardon; he obstinately refused to receive this opinion at the dictation of the mass, and submitted it to the decision of fact. He gathered up facts from the lips of others, and these facts he boldly submitted to the inspection of others. Those who have their minds made up on these subjects so soon as they are born, or rather so soon as their friends and acquaintance choose to give sanction to one side or the other, can never understand how one should hesitate respecting them, unless it be either through credulity or incredulity.

As to the matter of ghostly appearances, it is sufficient to say that there is no proof against them, save the fact of their not having been witnessed. Yet that does not destroy the possibility of such things, nay, nor their reality. When therefore we hear a man depreciating another as credulous, because he looks around to see if there be not proof of the truth of some opinion which is not commonly received, the reflecting will soon determine to whom the attribute of credulity belongs. A man may indeed very properly accord in judgment with the mass of those about him; but when this acquiescence of his is accompanied by the spirit of bitterness and contempt against all who feel not the same assurance with himself, we may be sure that there is lack either of honesty or of sense—that he either pretends to believe more than he does believe, or that his faith rests upon the authority of other minds than his own.

Your quotation of Mr. Wesley's remark on the difference between the frame of the mind and the state of the soul, serves you nothing, even with the help of your own caricature. Besides the palpable rea. sonableness of his distinction, you will please observe the inquiry was respecting the then current use of certain terms a matter which surely Mr. Wesley could determine better than you, without any mysticism. Your remarks on that quotation indicate two things, which I shall be happy to show at length when opportunity serves. 1. That your false theology rests upon false metaphysics. 2. That you are very apt to misrepresent yourself.

4. I have now some remarks to make upon your method of arguing.

First, under this head let me tell you of some things which you ought to have done, but have left undone. 1. You should have given at full length, from the pen of Mr. W. himself, a statement of the doctrine. This you have not done. 2. You should have examined Mr. Wesley's Scriptural proofs. This you have not done. 3. If you chose to draw in Mr. Watson, you should also have given at least a glimpse at his proof and illustration. This you have not done. 4. Coming to the writers in the Methodist Magazine, as they give you various passages of holy writ, these you should have examined, and not have slipped them by with, “It means no such thing." 5. But, if you could not answer their Scripture arguments, yet, to save appearances, you might at least have attempted to account for the fact that the most eminent men in your own church profess to have experienced this very blessing.

I could wish you had seen fit to do all this, as this would have been the proper course of a negative argument. But as you have chosen both to conceive and to argue the subject in your own light, it be comes me to consider to what purpose you have done so.

I do not, just now, examine your argument of the subject proper, but, in a gene. ral way, the prominent characteristics of that method of arguing which you pursue. The subject itself will be examined shortly.

I ask you, then, first, Is your confusion or amalgamation-if that term be not polluted by bad associations of Mr. Watson's argument and illustration perfectly fair ?

Strictly speaking, your controversy was with Mr. Wesley alone. Our defence was of him alone. Your article was entitled, “ John Wesley on the Witness of the Spirit;" and though, all things considered, it was doubtful whether you intended through the doctrine to hit Mr. Wesley, or through Mr. W. to hit the doctrine, yet both title and article adhered well to this one topic, “ John Wesley on the Witness of the Spirit."

In your second piece, both title and tenor are curiously changed. It is now, “ Wesleyan Methodism on the Witness of the Spirit.

I will not say the change was made for the purpose of mystification and evasion ; but it seems to afford you great advantage for these things.

The doctrine of Mr. Wesley is not responsible for the illustration of any subsequent writer. He and the writer mentioned are by no means the same, as it is manifest you yourself have already discover. ed, inasmuch as while you object to Mr. Wesley's doctrine in general terms, yet when your objections become specific they are directed against statements made by Mr. Watson. Had

you confined yourself to Mr. Wesley, you never would have conceived it as an objection to the doctrine, that it represents the witness of adoption as necessarily preceding justification and regeneration. Nevertheless, though the expressions you quote from Mr. Watson give some show of plausibility to the objection, had you considered all that he has said on the subject, you would have perceived that he could mean no such thing, as you have represented. Neither do any of those who at all understand the doc.

trine mean any such thing. He and we mean this, that the witness of our pardon must precede the exercise of the grace received in regeneration must precede the fruits of regeneration. But here the sense of terms is confused by the New (metaphysics of) Divinity.* As in that system there is no soul, but only spiritual operations, and no basis of religious feeling, but certain passing voluntary exercisesas regeneration on that system consists in this or that exercise-of necessity, perhaps, when we speak of the fruits of regeneration, you understand regeneration itself.

It is to be lamented that the differences between the churches of Christ have latterly assumed such a character as to involve the very unseen elements of thought, and almost to preclude the possibility of mutual conviction by this, that each one, under the influence of some peculiar philosophic theory, attaches to terms certain almost invisible and yet important shades of meaning for which the other can make no allowance. This is a state of things for which there is no remedy, save in' a rigorous adherence to Scripture terms, and to the Scripture sense of terms.

Let the conclusion of this observation be, that though you begin with Mr. Wesley, yet, lest you should refute nobody, you end with Mr. Watson, whom you refute only by misunderstanding him.

I remark, secondly, on the manner of your argumentation, that it is tortuous in the extreme.

What I mean is about this : Suppose that in your former piece you had (not affirmed, but) implied false philosophy, which is exposed by the respondents. How do you mend it in your second ? I will tell you: By answering that false philosophy, as though it had been ad. vanced by us. Is that a trick of the trade? or a slip of the pen

? Is it a misrepresentation of us, or a misrepresentation of yourself?

Of this gyratory movement I will give you a specimen. In your former article you remarked—“ Regeneration, the change wrought, evidences itself. It is a matter of consciousness. If regeneration takes place in our hearts, we are capable of perceiving it, just as we perceive any other change of character.” To talk of its evidences as something apart and distinct from its nature, is to use language with out precision.” See Christian Spectator, vol. viii, p. 358. This im. plies that the soul is a subject of direct inspection; so that its state and moral character, and any change in them, may be observed by the eye of consciousness. Now this is false philosophy, as was distinctly pointed out in the Methodist Magazine for 1836, page 283. Read then the following extracts from your own writings, and see how coolly you can, when permitted, beat people over the head with their own walk. ing sticks.

“ The mind, the spiritual substance we call the sou), does not come under the cognizance of the senses, and it cannot be directly contemplated by consciousness. Therefore we cannot so inspect it as to perceive and be conscious of such an impression on the soul as Mr. Wesley describes." You here misrepresent all parties-Mr. Wesley,

* The above is the proper sense of Neology. The piece under examination abounds in error, resting upon a concealed substratum of metaphysics. It would be a service to the public if some competent hand would digest for it the three following points :-D. New Divinity theologically. 2. The Metaphysics of New Divinity. '3. Anti-New-Divinity Metaphysics.

yourself, us. For an unravelling of the snarl which you twine about that word, “impression," see below. It is a more gross resort to the same kind of proceeding when you say, vol. ix, p. 174 : “ This knowledge is gained, not by such direct inspection of the soul as must be possible and actually takes place upon Methodist principles, but by the best possible means, viz., consciousness-consciousness of having the fruits of the Spirit.

Besides this, you, in one instance at least, attach to the language of the opposite party more than that language will warrant, Of this I have time and disposition to give you but one instance. On page 177. you say, “ If a sinner has such faith, even the Methodist Quarterly admits that he knows it by the best possible means, viz., consciousness." “Do they reflect that forgiveness is already promised to him who has such faith in Christ as turns him from sin to righteousness, and therefore to know we have such faith is to know we are forgiven ?

In the first place, observe that little word such. How important it is! and how easily intruded where it has no business! Now I did admit that a man might know himself to possess faith ; but I did not admit that he might know himself to possess such faith. A man may indeed be assured by consciousness that he has faith in Christ; but that he has justifying faith, or such as turns from sin to righteousness - he can know only by the fact that it does justify, and does turn from sin to righteousness.

5. We now approach the borders of the subject itself-to-which let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our consciences sprinkled from dead works to serve the living God. At the outset you undertook to tell us what is not the question. "The question at issue,” say you, “is not whether a Christian may know that he is converted, although Dr. B. shifts his ground and endeavors to make this the question, and that, too, while he professes strong belief in the genuine doctrine of Methodism, which he well knows is a very different thing. According to Dr. B.'s own showing, (for which he will accept our thanks,) it is admitted on all hands that it is a Chris. tian's privilege, not merely to hope, but to know that he has passed from death unto life.” Vol. ix, p. 174. Your thanks are superfluous. Dr. B., not having shown any such thing, claims nothing for it. He does not even thank you for the compliment in the former sentence seeing it so much exceeds the modesty of his demands. What we are thankful for is, that you are of the all by whom it is admitted that a Christian may know that he has passed from death unto life. You proceed, " The question is not whether the Holy Spirit has an agency'in producing holy affections." Certainly. You are correct. But when you add, “Wesleyan Methodism maintains it to be a fact of experience, that we actually perceive the Holy Ghost operating upon the soul to inform us of our adoption and to produce this joy, —you are totally incorrect.

By and by, I shall state the question more fully ; but for the present let me remark, that our doctrine of the witness is divisible into two propositions, viz.,

1. That the believer knows his adoption into the Divine family,

2. That he knows it by the testimony of the Divine Spirit that he has a superhuman attestation of the fact. Upon the first of

[ocr errors]

these there is no dispute between you and us. We divide upon the second.

Now in defence of that second proposition, I might say many things. As for instance, if he is not to know it by divine attestation, how else can he know it? You will answer, By the fruits of regeneration.* I would reply, that those fruits are incompatible even with settled uncertainty on the subject, which uncertainty of course must exist, on your system, until the fruits are produced.

However, what I wish now to observe is, that we conclude the source of this assurance to be the Holy Ghost, not by any means because we perceive the Holy Ghost operating, but for the following reasons: 1. The Scriptures represent the Holy Ghost as thus operating. 2. The nature of the case requires such an operation on the part of the Holy Ghost. 3. The nature and circumstances of the assurance which believers have determine it to be from God. I will not now establish these points at length; but thus much may suffice to end that dream of yours, about believers, beholding the Holy Ghost operating upon the soul.

6. Previously to entering upon the subject itself, I wish to make some remarks upon the various terms which have been employed in designating the subject matter of our discussion; as it is upon the terms which the poverty of language compels us to employ that cavilers are enabled to hang their objections. I trust, indeed, that all which precedes has been carefully examined. Nevertheless, whatever is made of the past, if the reader is anxious to know what we have to say on the point at issue, let him attend thoughtfully to what follows. I would say prayerfully too, not because of the importance of our remarks, but because of the importance of the subject, and of the reader's own deep concern in it.

In reference to the language necessarily employed on such a subject, there are a few considerations which, to a candid mind, will appear to be of great consequence. The perfection of metaphysical language, said one who understood himself, consists in its freedom from any necessary allusion to objects of sense-in its not suggesting any picture or figment of material things, by which our conception may be obscured or ever made false. But this perfection cannot be fully attained. Those expressions to retain in memory-to comprehend-to imagine-do all contain, more or less distinctly, an allusion to certain operations of sense, from their analogy to which the use of them did originate.

But if this perfection of language cannot be attained in our day, much less could it in the days of Mr. Wesley. If it could not be attained in the description of things intellectual, much less could it in describing the things which are eternal. We are under a necessity, in both cases, of using language which must prop up itself by the support of external things.

Such being the case, how easy for a captious person to pass by * I have before noticed the confusion in the sense of the terms, “ regeneration" and "fruits of regeneration,” arising from very discernible eauses. I now observe that we probably have very different ideas even of the fruits of regeneration. For instance, they would mean, by love to God, a principle of action; we, a certain condition of the sentient part of the soul, if I'may so speak. However, we approximate near enough to justify the argument.

« EelmineJätka »