the interests of practical religion. The cold and heartless exhibition of Divine truth, which even to the commencement of the present controversy, had generally prevailed, especially in the Baptish churches, had shed comparative sterility and death over them.

'When,' says Mr. Fuller, 'I first published my treatise ort 'the nature of faith, and the duty of all men who hear th» 'gospel to believe it, the Christian profession had sunk iiito 'contempt amongst us; insomuch, that had matters gone on 'but a few years longer, the baptists would have become a 'perfect dung-hill in society.' It was among the best effects of this controversy, that men were directed more to the study of the holy Scriptures, and, for models of preaching, to the practice of Christ and of his Apostles. A style of address fall of affection and energy, abounding in pungent and practical appeals to their hearers, was henceforth adopted by many preachers, who had been the victims of the previous frigid system of instruction.

The main positions of " The Gospel worthy of all Accepta"tion" have always appeared to us to be susceptible of the highest argumentative support of which the nature of the case admits. For, if men do not lie under indispensable obligations to believe whatever God says, and to do whatever he commands, no guilt can attach to unbelief, although it makes him "a liar;" nor can rebellion be pronounced a crime, although it aims at the dissolution of the moral harmony of the universe.

The arguments of this performance were however destined to undergo a most rigorous investigation; and they were opposed with great earnestness, and with some plausibility, by persons holding very opposite theological opinions. The ground of their attack and of their failure, may be concisely exhibited.

Mr. Button and Mr. Martin concurred in denying that it is the duty of sinners to believe in Jesus Christ; for we can scarcely admit that Mr. Martin's 'whimsical notion of en- 'deavour,' destroys the virtual identity which subsists between his objection and that of Mr. Button. At a period so distant from that in which the controversy originated, we shall not trouble our readers with the inconclusive reasonings to which these gentlemen resorted. We shall content ourselves with an exhibition of what they appear to have thought the invulnerable point of their posiiion; and shall give it, in the axiomatical form in which it seems Mr. Martin was wont to display it. 'Will any man tell me, that it is my duty to do 'that n-i I In Hi f Divine assistance, which I can only do teilk"' The sentiment expressed in this query, is common to Mr. Button and to Mr. Martin, and forms the essence of their opposition to Mr. F.'s treatise.


The crude objection, that men are not obliged to do that which they are unable to perform, overlooks totally the distinction, as obvious in common life as in theology, between that inability which results from the mant of faculties, and that which results from a disinclination to employ them for any given end. 'Whatever a man could not do, if he would, he 'is under a natural inability of doing; but when all the reason 'why a man cannot do a thing, is because he does not chute 'to do it, the inability is only of a moral kind. It lies in his 'will as distinguished from the physical faculties of his nature.* Sinners are unable to believe in Jesus Christ only so far as they are unwilling. They renounce his dominion, because they "will not" have him to reign over them: and they reject eternal life, because they "mill naC' come unto him that they may obtain it. Mr. Martin's moral axiom contains a position, 'which, when the terms are accurately defined and 'cleared of their ambiguity, conducts us to this very extra- 'ordinary conclusion, that men are obliged to just as much 'of duty as they are inclined to.'

The distinction to which we have adverted, in its legitimate influence upon the present controversy, was unknown or disregarded by both Mr. Fuller's opponents. Hence the confusion that pervades their statements of the obligations and privileges of sinners. The distinct relations of a moral governor and a gracious sovereign, which God bears to his creatures, they seem to have been incapable of discriminating. Nor do they appear to have at all understood how that, which, in a system of legislation, is demanded as a duty, may, in a dispensation of grace, be communicated as a privilege.

• It is God's work,' as Mr. Morris has expressed it, * to bestow faith and repentance; but it U mans duty, in obedience to his will, to repent and believe the Gospel. God, in bestowing these, makes men only to see things as they ought, and to be affected and disposed by them as they ought. He may do this or not, according to his sovereign good pleasure; but men's obligations remain still the same, whether they will hear or whether they will forbear; and the gospel revelation leaves them without excuse.' p. 301.

Could these objectors have demonstrated the incorrectness of this distinction, or the impropriety of its application to the subject of debate, they might have realized their object; but this was impossible, and their failure was therefore inevitable.

Mr. Dan Taylor, another of Mr. Fuller's opponents, entered the. artMa with very different sentiments, and the most sanguine anticipations. Unacquainted with the strength of Mr. Fuller's position, u* tven indulged the hope of bringing him over 1o the Arminian system. The element* of Mr. Fuller's cre?fl were found, however, in the end, to be as hostile to Mr. Taylor's views, as to those of Mr. Button and Mr. Martin. Mr. Taylor conceded to Mr. Fuller the leading principle of his argument, and maintained with him, that the obligation to believe is co-extensive with tlio publication of the Gospel. But, on the ground of this obligation there was this vital difference: Mr. Taylor, in accordance with the other articles of his theological creed, maintained, that men lie under an obligation to believe the Gospel, because a portion of grace has been procured, and is offered to all through the death of Christ. This grace is, in his system, essential to moral agency, and to the accountableness and blameworthiness of men. Mr. Fuller rejected, of course, the notion of universal grace as the ground of accountableness; and contended, that whatever is essential to moral agency, falls under the denomination of justice, and not of grace. At the same time, he asserted that natural power is power, and that it is fully sufficient to render men accountable beings.


Mr. Taylor's views of moral agency, and of the requisites to constitute men accountable, appear to be exceedingly crude, and tend to annihilate every just distinction between the government and the grace of God. In the outset of the controversy, Mr. Fuller's statement of the distinction between natural and moral inability, was to the mind of Mr. Taylor full of promise; but, alas! no sooner did he discover that this distinction portended death to his hopes of conquest, than he murmured, and even shewed some sympathy for the routed hosts of Mr. Fuller's hyper-Calvinistic opponents.

There was, however, a second point of collision between these disputants, not at all inferior in interest to that which we have just noticed. Mr. Fuller had argued the propriety of addressing calls and invitations to repent and to believe, to sinners in general. To this Mr. Taylor accorded, and deduced from it what to him appeared to be an irresistible inference, namely, that universal invitations imply universal provision. Had Mr. Taylor included in his notion of universal provision, no more than an objective fulness in the atonement, or its adaptation' to * save a world, if a world should believe in it,' there had been little ground of difference between him and his opponent. But while in Mr. Fuller's view the infinite sufficiency of the death of Christ permitted and justified the use of general calls and invitations to believe in him, it did not operate to impair or to subvert the doctrine of personal election, of which he was a firm and constant believer. It was the association of the infinite sufficiency of the death of Christ with a limited design, that, in this instance, gave to his system of religious warfare the power of annoying the motley hosts of his enemies. This advantage is of necessity-interwoven with those views of €;.!vinisin which connect the*«loctriiic of election with the application of the atonement; and which hold particular redemption as a branch of that doctrine. Mr. Taylor retired from the combat unable to force upon his antagonist the Arminian notion of universal provision, or to shew that the duty of sinners to believe in Jesus Christ, was incompatible with a limitation of design in his death. Mr. Fuller has stated, with considerable effect, the agreement of these sentiments with each other, and the superiority of the system which he defended, over that of his adversary.

'The provision made by the death of Christ is of two kinds,—a provision of pardon and acceptance for all believers—and a provision of grace to enable a sinner to believe. The first affords a motive for returning to God in Christ's name; the last excites to a compliance with that motive. Now in which of these has the scheme of Mr. T. any advantage of that which he opposes? Not in the first: we suppose the provisions of Christ's death altogether sufficient for the fulfilment of his promises, be they as extensive as they may—that full and free pardon is provided for all that believe in him—and that if all the inhabitants of the globe could be persuaded to return to God in Christ's name, they would undoubtedly be accepted of him. Does the opposite scheme propose any more? No; it pretends to no such thing as a provision for unbelievers being forgiven and accepted. Thus far at least, therefore, we stand upon equal ground.

'But has the scheme of our opponent the advantage in the last particular? Does it not boast of a universal provision of grace, sufficient to enable every man to comply with the Gospel ? It does; but what it amounts to, is difficult to say. Does it effectually produce in mankind in general any thing of a right spirit, any thing of a true desire to come to Christ for the salvation ot their souls? No such thing is pretended. At most it only amounts to this, that God is ready to help them out of their condition, if they will but ask him; and to'giv* them every assistance in the good work, if they will but be in earnest and set about it. Well, if this is the whole of which our opponent can boast, I see nothing superior in this neither, to the sentiment which he opposes. We consider the least degree of a right spirit as plentifully encouraged in the word of God. If a person do but truly desire to come to Christ, or desire the influence of the Holy Spirit to that end, we doubt not but grace is provided for his assistance. God will surely «give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him.' Where then is the superiority of Mr. Taylor's system? It makes no effectual provision for begetting a right disposition in those who are so utterly destitute of it that they will not seek after it. It only encourages the well-disposed.' pp. 285, 286.

Mr. Archibald M'Lean, although in chronological order the last of Mr. Fuller's opponents, enjoyed in acumen and krtowIfidge of the subject, an unquestioned superiority over all the rest. Jealous for the honour of justification by faith alone, and devoted to those notions of simple belief which have prevailed so extensively in the northern part of our Island, he undertook to controvert, on the ground of its comprehensiveness, Mr. Fuller's definition of Faith. Not perceiving that whatever of holiness Mr. F. attributed to Faith, it formed in his view no part ofthatybr the sake of which we are justified, Mr. M'Lean persisted in maintaining, that Faith is an exercise of the understanding only, and of course that it sustains only an intellectual and not a moral character. At the same time, with wonderful inconsistency, as it seems to us, he maintained that it is the duty of sinners to believe in Jesus Christ.


Mr. Fuller, on the contrary, insisted on the holy nature of Faith, and assigned to it in justification a connexion of order and of wisdom. The union formed by Faith between believing sinners and Jesus Christ, was, in his view, an adequate ground for their justification by his righteousness, or the reckoning of his merits to their account: but he disclaimed utterly and uniformly the intention of ascribing any meritorious influence to Faith in justification. On the supposition that Faith sustained a holy character, he saw a fitness and beauty in its being accouuted ft duty; but as it could not, in Mr M'Lean's view of it, contain any exercise of the heart, and therefore not any obedience, Mr. Fuller could not see the reasonableness or the advantage of maintaining it to be a duty.

This has always struck us as an argument of great cogency against the view of Faith entertained by Mr. M'Lean. The two propositions—Faith is an exercise of mere intellect, yet Faith is a duty—are incongruous and irreconcileable. For if Faith be an exercise of mere intellect, and fall in no respect under the influence of the will and affections, it must be devoid of any moral character, and cannot therefore be a legitimate object of command, of praise, or of blame. Involuntary actions, or actions in which the will has no concern, have no moral character, ami'that because they lie without the sphere of its influence, and are involuntary. If all obedience consists in the heart, or in the genuine expressions of it, there seems to be a strange inconsistency in first excluding from the nature of Faith every exercise of the heart, and then maintaining it to be the duty of sinners to believe in Jesus Christ. There seems to us to be no consistent medium between the admission and the rejection of both the principles upon which Mr. F.'s reasonings on this article are built. If Faith be in its nature holy, it is properly an object of command; but if it be an exercise of intellect only, it is far otherwise, for where the influence of the will is excluded, obedience is impossible; unless the absurd notion of involuntary obedience be maintained*

t>n this view of Faith, and others collateral to it, Mr. F. had

« ForrigeFortsett »