« PreviousContinue »
schemes, that the model idea of every one of them is much better calculated to conform the church to the world than it is to bring her nearer to Christ.
The analogies to which we have resorted in this article are calculated to bring us into a seeming conflict with the prevailing principle of our civil polity. But we must ask our readers to judge nothing before the time. We do not mean any rude assault upon any thing political. Civil government we leave to Cæsar. Loyal submission is our creed and duty. We only mean to say that the notion of many, that ecclesiastical government should copy after civil, is in our view a farfetched and an unwarranted one. Civil governments like ours choose one set of agents to make laws and another to execute them. But in good ecclesiastical governments all agents are chosen to execute the divine and unchangeable law of Heaven. And whatever will best insure the end is best. Our views, as we allow them to be inferred from these essays, are decidedly in favor of a ministerial administration with safe and well secured rights of direct appeal. We write on this delicate subject as one whose mind might be satisfied to suggest, but with the hope that some one whose mind is made to elaborate thought, will give us an essay showing who are the proper overseers of Christ's spiritual flock.
One other article, intended to contrast the concentrated power of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in the department of her itinerancy under Methodist Episcopal government, and its efficiency, with the Protestant Methodist Church and with Congregational Methodism, will conclude our tax upon the reading public.
M'Cosh's Method of the Divine Government, Book iii, chap. 1, sec. 1, 2.
The various modifications of the doctrine of necessity which have prevailed among mankind, though their number defies computation, may be arranged, with great convenience and sufficient accuracy, into three general classes: Fatalism, Philosophical Necessity and Predestination. Fatalism is a favorite creed with Pagans, Mahometans and Infidels, but its opposition to the entire tenor of Scriptural teaching is too evident to allow its adoption by any believer in Christianity. It refers all events to some blind power, called fate or destiny, which operates independently of the human will. Philosophical necessity is a theory of metaphysicians. Placing man under the dominion of an equally inexorable necessity with fatalism, it finds that necessity not in a force apart from him, but in the fundamental laws which regulate his nature. does not overlook the important psychological phenomena of volitions, but assigns them a place in the grand and complicated machinery by which are wrought out all the occurrences of life, its movements proceeding upon principles as fixed and its results being as necessarily produced as those of any mechanism which the ingenuity of man has ever constructed. It admits that human actions accord with the decisions of the will, but affirms that every desire and purpose of the soul is the inevitable effect of two concurrent forces: the character of the individual and the external influences by which he is surrounded. It binds all mental states and operations into one vast chain, each of whose links is the necessary product of that which precedes, and the necessitating cause of that which follows. In one direction this chain terminates in God, who, himself uncaused, is the cause of all
things else; in the other, it stretches on co-extensively with the immortality of the soul, ever evolving from itself new links, as the web of the spider is spun from his own bowels. Predestination, by which we now mean not the scriptural, but the Calvinistic scheme of predestination, is a theory of theologians. It beholds in everything that exists the result of the irresistible decrees of God, the sovereign, though man and matter may have been employed as the instruments of its accomplishment. What the fatalist attributes to an unintelligent and impersonal power, and the advocate of philosophical necessity ascribes to the very constitution of the soul, the predestinarian lodges in the hands of an Infinite Being, who makes all things, material and immaterial, only to carry out his predetermined purposes. The idea of the first may be illustrated by the shivering of a tree into fragments when it is struck by lightning, that of the second by the growth of the oak, resulting from the germinating principle in the acorn itself, in conjunction with the fertility of the soil and the influence of the weather. Both these instances display a like rigorous necessity, though in the one we perceive the operation of a force instantaneous and purely external, and in the other a gradual self-development. The peculiarity of the third consists in representing the divine power as the necessitating cause.
These theories, logically considered, are equally fatal to the moral agency of man. If a calamity should befall us, we could not regard ourself responsible for it in any of these cases, viz: If it were a matter of uncontrolable destiny, having no connection with our own conduct; or, the result of our own acts, those acts being the necessary and only possible development of the nature originally given us under the circumstances amid which we were placed; or, inflicted by a decree of Jehovah to which he was not moved by anything in us, though he used our actions as the preparation for it, even as the revolution of the earth on its axis is the means by which the alternation of day and night is produced, but in no sense the ground or reason for which it was ordained.
But we would certainly err, if we asserted that these systems exert the same practical influence. One of the most important rules which should be observed in all controversies on doctrinal points, is the following: Logical consequences which are involved in any doctrine, may be legitimately employed as arguments against it; but should never be attributed to its advocates as their belief, if disavowed by them. For as the mind is fallible in drawing inferences from given premises, a man may honestly hold an opinion, and yet reject the conclusions to which it logically leads. To that he may cling with the strongest devotion, while these he abominates with the most unmitigated loathing. This is especially true, when the deductions can be reached only through a long and difficult process of reasoning. Hence, the less obvious and the more remote those inferences from a doctrine which subvert morality are, the less pernicious will be the tendency of the doctrine itself. For this reason, fatalism is by far the most objectionable of the necessarian theories which we have mentioned. It can be grasped, and kept clearly before the mind by the most unenlightened; and the conviction of its utter incompatibility with the principle of responsibility must be vividly and impressively produced, so soon as it is considered. Here a single and easy step separates the doctrine and the obnoxious inference. For the same reason, the theory of philosophical necessity is the least injurious. It is so abstruse and complex as to be absolutely unintelligible to the masses, and difficult of exact comprehension even by the more cultivated. Even after the student supposes himself to have màstered it, it will require effort and close attention to recall it at any time, and hold it in all its parts and consequences firmly before the mind. Tell a plain man that an act is under the control of his own will; that he may do it or not, as he pleases; and yet affirm, in the next breath, that its performance was the unavoidable effect of a previous cause, it being impossible for him to do otherwise than choose and resolve to perform it; you bewilder his mind by such, as they VOL. VII.-3
appear to him, unmeaning jargon and irreconcilable contradictions; you place him in a labyrinth of metaphysics, amid whose inextricable mazes he wanders without a clue, and from which he will rejoice to retreat into the open field of unsophisticated common sense.
The metaphysical aspect of the doctrine of necessity, though distinct from, is not incompatible with the theological. In fact, it is generally adopted by the Calvinistic divines in modern days, and has many important connections with their peculiar system. They apply it, if not with success, at least with ingenuity, to harmonize with their scheme, many passages of the Bible, which certainly seem to overthrow it, and to refute many arguments with which it is assailed by its opponents. Whenever they are severely pressed by the difficulties attaching to their views, they immediately take refuge in the region of abstractions, and bring the mind into confusion. and entanglement by subtle, hair splitting distinctions. Thus by the interposition of a long course of ratiocination, over which we must travel before we can arrive at the odious consequences of their creed, the advantage of distance is gained to prevent their successful pursuit; and by the abstract character of the argument, difficulties which could not be destroyed, like a cloud of vapor vanishing into air, become so attenuated as to elude discernment and examination. Ask them, for instance, how it can be right that man should be rewarded or punished for acts which he was foreappointed by the Almighty to perpetrate; they will reply, that those acts were done, not through physical compulsion, but by his own choice, and therefore he must justly be held accountable for them. Demand of them to recoucile the divine decrees with human free agency; and they affirm the harmony to consist in the fact that God does not force ineu to act against their own consent, but brings the determmations of their wills into agreement with his purposes. Array against the doctrine of a restricted salvation such passages as follow: "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life;" John 5: 40. "And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely ;"