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(AMERICAN) THEOLOGICAL MAGAZINE.
1. REMARKS ON HOPKINS'S INQUIRY INTO THE NATURE OF TRUE HOLINESS : IN A LETTER TO A FRIEND.1
You desire my sentiments on Dr. Hopkins's 'Inquiry into the nature of true holiness.' I am very ready to give them: but to enter into particulars, and speak on them with exactness capable of enduring critical investigation, would engross too much time and attention to consist with my other engagements. I can therefore, attempt no more than some general thoughts which occurred to me while reading.
I trust I am as decidedly averse to a mere selfish religion as Dr. Hopkins; and I see clearly the radical defect of Mr. Hervey's scheme, and of
'This letter was not in the least intended for publication. The friend addressed was the Rev. Dr. Ryland, of Bristol. The reader may find more on the subject of these communications in 'Letters and Papers of the late Rev. T. Scott,' pp. 131-142.-J. S.
many statements by modern divines, on this very account. Many of them, I hope, feel and act inconsistently with their own system or language, otherwise I could not think well of their state and character. But I am of opinion that Dr. Hopkins pushes, or rather is pushed by our artful enemy, into the opposite extreme. Incidit in Scyllam qui vult vitare Charybdim. It seems to me that he does not sufficiently mark the distinction between man as God made him, and man as he hath made or marred himself; so that he speaks sometimes as if God's work in creation needed mortifying and crucifying, as well as Satan's work and image in the soul. When, however, he comes to answer objections, and deduce inferences, he appears to me to give up most of what he had been contending for, and most of what he maintained different from others and, I own, I think he often writes obscurely and ambiguously, and with much repetition.
I would, however, make a few short observations on his book, of a more particular nature.
1. Suppose his system to be speculatively or philosophically true, it is too refined and subtle for by far the greater part of mankind, even if they had leisure and advantages for such studies. A man must be naturally of a metaphysical, abstract genius, exercised by use, before he can clearly take in his sentiments, and apply them to experience and practice. I own that, through disuse, I am grown so dull, that I am sometimes at a loss to understand his meaning and his plan.
I am not disposed to quarrel with every thing exact or systematical, as metaphysics; yet still abstract, subtle schemes, not directly grounded on scripture, should not be deemed essential to Christianity; and I cannot but think that numbers hold the substance of truth, and possess disinterested religion, who could not understand, or would be stumbled at his book.
2. Probably the divine perfection, as well as the divine essence, and the truths and commands of God, may be in their own nature simple, one, uncompounded, &c: but yet it is plain that this is not the best way of proposing them to the minds of men; for it is not the Lord's way of doing it. He speaks to us as children, as weak worms, who must see things in compartments, a little at once, and who are overwhelmed and confounded by the immensity of divine things as they are in themselves; and it is best for us to "speak "as the oracles of God." Infidels and Socinians have made their advantage of the philosophical notion of simplicity, and so have explained away the scriptural language of the justice, wrath, and vengeance of God. I acquit Dr. Hopkins of every meaning of this kind, and, with my metaphysical spectacles, I can see dimly, or think I see, simple benevolence in God to be equivalent to wisdom; truth, holiness, and even avenging justice; and simple benevolence in man, to be repentance, faith, fear of God, love of God, love of the brethren, compassion to sinners, patience, temperance, sincerity, fortitude, &c. Yet it will never be generally perceived by mankind: and I apprehend that none of us are so familiar with such subjects,
as not to be helped in our meditations by considering the divine perfections distinctly, as well as in harmony; and the different parts of the Christian character in like manner.
3. I cannot but think that, when our minds are exerted to the utmost upon this scheme, still love to the spiritual excellence of the divine character, and to God's image in his people, and gratitude for personal benefits, are not sufficiently prominent. I do not think the love of the saints is sufficiently distinguished by Dr. Hopkins from benevolence to sinners; and, though complacency and gratitude may perhaps be implied in benevolence, yet they are better spoken of distinctly.
4. Dr. Hopkins's distinction between loving self as self, and the love of ourselves, is too nice for my dull faculties. In short, I cannot but think, after all, that we ought to love ourselves as ourselves; and I can form no idea of any other way of loving ourselves. But here seems the chief fault of his system. The scripture throws the blame on our "love of the world, and the things that are in the "world; our "carnal mind," which chooses, relishes, and prefers "the things of the flesh;" our idolatry, in loving money, pleasure, honour, &c. more than God; "forsaking the Fountain of living waters, and hewing out broken cisterns "which can hold no water." Now Dr. Hopkins applies all this to self-love, and scarcely mentions the idolatrous love of the creature, of which the scripture is so full. While self-love seeks its good in the creature, it is downright selfishness: the glory of God, and the good of others, except for our own sake, are wholly neglected: men stand