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Jesus Christ had, at least for one of its chief objects, the elevation of our race.” True enough, but sufficiently general. In approaching this point he proves, very conclusively, that our standard writers hold to the permanence, or unchangeableness, of the law. And his philosophical deductions bring him to the same conclusion, namely, “That the perfect law, under which Adam was originally placed, remains unchanged, and in full force.” P.42. Here our author is both orthodox and conclusive. But when he reaches his main object, which is to inform us what are the teachings of “psychology” with respect to the nature and extent of Christian perfection, the results which he reaches are not to us equally satisfactory. We have seen that the natural depravity which resulted from the fall, according to our author, is a mere negation—or as he says, under this head, “the withdrawal of God's favor, and the consequent loss of the principle of divine love in the heart of man.” P. 49. In proceeding with his account of the recovery of man, he presumes that the restoration of “God’s favor,” and of “the principle of divine love,” will supply the perfection which had been lost in the fall—the want of which constitutes man's natural depravity—and this “is nothing less than an entire restoration to his original state of perfection.” P. 51. Again he says: “Thus the love of God, when it is made perfect in the heart, is not a substitute for the righteousness of the law; but furnishes the power, and thus becomes the guaranty, of its fulfillment.” P. 55. This position he endeavors to prove by Rom. viii, 4: “That the righteousness of the law might be sulfilled in us.” Our construction—that these words refer to the righteousness wrought for us by Christ, condemning sin in the flesh—he says is “scarcely known among Biblical scholars,” and that it “appears more ingenious than sound.” P. 56, note. A further acquaintance with “Biblical scholars ” will convince our friend of his mistake. We are fully sustained by some of the best “Biblical scholars,” both ancient and modern, among whom is the learned James Arminius, a name not to be lightly treated in matters of Biblical criticism. And if authority were of any weight with this gentleman, we might inform him that those who accord with him, in his construction of the passage in question, are exceedingly few ; those who apply the fulfilling of “the righteousness of the law” to practical obedience, generally, if not in every case, understanding that fulfillment in a qualified sense—such an obedience as we can render—“not perfect obedience to the moral law,” as the author maintains it to be. See Benson, Macknight, and Locke. In his seventh chapter the author has a formal criticism upon our views of the law, as expressed in our eleventh lecture. See Christian Perfection, pp. 269–298. We there attempt to show that Mr. Wesley agrees with orthodox divines generally in holding that the law of perfect purity remains in full force, as the rule of human duty; but that, as a covenant of works, or condition of life, it is superseded by the gospel. With the doctrine which is embraced in the above proposition, our author perfectly accords; but undertakes to show that both ourselves and Mr. Wesley maintain positions wholly at war with this doctrine. To prove our self-contradictions, he quotes from our work on Christian Perfection (pp. 292, 294) passages which contain the phrases “standard of obedience,” “standard of character,” and “standard of duty,” with reference to “the law of love as incorporated in the gospel.” From these quotations he makes the following inferences:—
“Now, if these extracts can be considered as meaning what the phraseology most naturally implies, they teach, first, that there is set up in the gospel a new “standard of obedience’ and ‘of duty,’ ‘such as is practicable by man, fallen as he is,' a standard which, when reached, is to be called ‘Christian perfection,’ though it comes short of ‘the claims of the original law.” And, second, that this new standard is ‘the law of love as incorporated in the gospel.”—Pp. 80, 81.
Now we shall find no fault with our friend for these inferences, because the words he quotes, if taken apart from what goes before and what follows, will admit of the construction which he gives it. In attempting to give a formal statement of the sense in which we understand Mr. Wesley and his followers to hold to the setting aside of the law, we use this language: “The simple sense in which Wesleyans hold that the moral law has been superseded by the law of faith is as the condition of human acceptance.” P. 271. And again, with reference to several quotations which we made upon the subject from Calvinistic authorities, and from Mr. Wesley's Plain Account of Christian Perfection, we hold the following language:–
“Now where is the great ground of quarrel between Mr. Wesley and his opponents, touching the law On both sides, all agree that we are not, in the gospel, put upon the terms of perfect conformity to the Adamic law, as the condition of salvation. That “true believers are not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned; but that, as St. Paul says, “A man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law.” All admit that the law of perfect purity still remains, as an expression of the inflexible holiness of God, and as the great rule of duty binding all moral beings to a state of allegiance to their rightful Sovereign. That its use is to expose the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and ‘the terrible vengeance which awaits the sinner;' but that it makes no provision for either pardon or sanctification.”—P. 290.
These are our formal propositions; and we are free to confess that we ought to have adhered strictly to the same phraseology throughout; them we could not have been misunderstood. By “standard of obedience,” and “standard of duty,” we simply meant what is required, in the gospel, of a fallen being, as a condition of present and future salvation; and had we used the phrases condition of acceptance, and condition of salvation, instead of “standard of obedience,” or of “duty,” we should have avoided our author's criticisms at this point. And we would further say, that we have no pride of authorship that will prevent our changing our phraseology whenever we see we can adopt ene which better expresses our meaning. But while the author finds us in obvious contradictions on the subject of the law, he leaves us in very respectable company; for he thinks “the expositors” of “the Wesleyan system” will finally “feel compelled to admit that there is some discrepancy in Wesley's writings on this subject.” P. 77. What may be the case with such “expositors of this system” as the author of “The Philosophy of Christian Perfection,” we will not pretend to say. They will probably find the founder of Methodism “in fundamental error;” (see p. 130;) but we think, notwithstanding, there may be some thousands, instead of “some scores,” who will take the liberty to doubt the soundness of their psychological deductions. Our author makes an issue, point blank, with Mr. Wesley upon his admission that our short-comings, arising from ignorance and infirmity, “are deviations from the perfect law, and need the atonement.” P. 107. He explicitly and repeatedly denies that any of this class of failures require atonement at all, and undertakes to prove his positions by arguments. These arguments we have no space to meet now, we merely bring out the fact. And though he attempts to make out that his leading views derive support from portions of Mr. Wesley's writings, as without some showing of countenance from this great man, “some scores” would take alarm, and scarcely give him a hearing, yet he has the candor to acknowledge the discrepancy between his views and those of Mr. Wesley in many important particulars. This is honest, and we entertain for this gentleman a much higher respect than we should have done had he undertaken to torture Mr. Wesley's language into an agreement with his notions, as some who entertain somewhat similar views have done who have gone before him. The perfection for which the author contends, as the reader will have gathered from what goes before, is Adamic perfection—the perfect fulfillment of the original law. And he very consistently says, “Consequently there are properly no degrees in that entire sanctification of which we speak;” and further, that “the moral purity thus required of us is absolute.” P. 113. Indeed, according to this novel theory, Adam and Eve, in Paradise, before they fell, would now be thought scarcely worthy to be called “little children” in holiness. “Absolute” perfection is what Mr. Wesley's opponents charged upon him; and that eminent man, together with Mr. Fletcher, steadily and explictly denied the charge. That an author, of no little metaphysical acumen, should assert this species of perfection, and attempt to prove it as a fact, from the experience of “Dr. Payson,” we think will take the world by surprise. But we are happy that he has the candor to announce his dissent from Mr. Wesley upon several of his most extravagant positions, and that mone will, for a moment, be tempted to suppose that, upon this point, he agrees with “the Wesleyan theory.” But we must restrain comment.
Mr. Wesley maintains that there is such a want of “full conformity to the perfect law,” upon the part of “the most perfect,” that, “on this very account, they need the blood of atonement, and may properly, for themselves, as well as for their brethren, say, ‘Forgive us our trespasses.” Plain Account, p. 116. But our author only admits of the propriety of the offering up of this petition of our Lord's prayer, by “the sanctified man,” on account of a “never-ceasing doubt in his mind, whether he does constantly and fully use the grace he possesses, so as to omit nothing which it is his duty to perform.” P. 129. Perhaps, then, it would be right for “the sanctified man,” in repeating the Lord's prayer, to say, when he came to this petition, “If I have transgressed, Lord, forgive me.” This would be all that propriety would admit, according to our author.
We are much mistaken if our author does not entirely misunderstand Dr. Fisk, when he says, in his Sermon on the Law, that “the law is suited, not only as a rule of conduct, but as a condition of life, for the holy; but the gospel is designed as a provision of life for the unholy.” We gather from the manner in which this passage is used by our author, that he supposes Dr. Fisk intended to say that “the law is suited, not only as a rule of conduct, but as a condition of life,” to sanctified Christians; whereas we suppose him to mean that the law is suited as a condition of life to those who have never sinned—to those who maintain their obedience to the requirements of the law without deviation. This is the only sense in which the proposition is true. And, much as we respect the character of Dr. Fisk, as a theologian, we could not follow him in making “the law the condition of life” to the sanctified Christian. If this were the fact, the first and slightest deviation from its high claims would cut off the delinquent for ever from hope. But if perfect obedience were maintained, then the atonement, at least for the time being, would not be necessary, either to pardon failures, or to render works acceptable to God. But the connections in which these words stand most clearly vindicate Dr. F. from the imputation of holding any such extravagant notion.
We might take exceptions to the author's note, (pp. 92, 93,) and it would be easy to show that he misrepresents Messrs. Wesley and Fletcher, and wholly fails in attempting to bring us into collision with these eminent divines; but we have no space for this at present.
“Dr. Upham ” is the only author that this writer differs from for whom he has seen proper to express any special respect. He seems deeply to regret that he is compelled to differ from this excellent author. He had “imbibed, from the examination of the work”—The Interior Life—“a feeling of reluctance to throw any portion of it into the crucible of philosophical analysis.” P. 117. Yet, supposing “the cause of truth” requires it, he takes up his cross, and gives the doctor a thorough dissecting, finding him in the same condemnation with Mr. Wesley and our humble selves—all holding in common that Adamic perfection is unattainable by fallen men, in this state of probation, and that the most persect stand in need of the atonement for “involuntary sins,” and for “imperfections originally flowing from their fallen condition, and their connection with Adam.” All this is proved by our author, by the laws of “psychology,” to be absurd enough.
But we must close this notice, already protracted to a much greater length than we at first intended. The work furnishes to our mind another evidence, in addition to the many which we had previously observed, of the error of philosophical speculations upon the doctrines and facts of revelation. We shall leave the author for the present, begging him, however, not to suppose we have noticed all that we think objectionable in his book. We may resume the subject in our next number, and enter more thoroughly into its merits.
2. Commentaries on the Laws of England: in Four Books. With an Analysis of the Work. By Sir WILLIAM BLAckstone, Knt. From the Twenty-first London Edition, with Copious Notes, explaining the Changes in the Law, effected by Decision and Statute, down to 1844. Together with Notes, adapting the Work to the American Student. By John L. WENDELL, late State Reporter of New-York. In four vols. New-York: Harper & Brothers. 1847.
THE extraordinary merit of this work of Sir Wm. Blackstone is so well understood, and so universally acknowledged, that it is necessary only to point out what is peculiar in the present edition. With an author of whom our own great chancelor has said, that “by the excellence of his arrangement, the variety of his learning, the justness of his taste, and the purity and elegance of his style, he communicated to these subjects, which are harsh and forbidding in Coke, the attractions of a liberal science and the embellishments of polite literature,” no liberty of changing was admissible; nor could any additions properly be made except from the accumulations of experience since his death.