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subject of dependence, has existed in a multitude of minds, operating to hinder eminent attainments in piety, and even 'all attainments in piety. Now, if we mistake not, men are coming more and more to feel at the present day, that what is needed in their case, in respect to their eternal well-being, is not merely and alone to be made holy, but to be holy--not merely to be made penitent, but to repent—not merely to be made believers, but to believenot merely to receive a new heart and a new spirit, but to have and exercise right affections—not simply to be acted upon as beings of a passive nature, but to be themselves active in the performance of duty. And if it is true, as we suppose it is, that this view of the case is coming more and more to be taken, we cannot but rejoice that it is so, because it is, in our own apprehension, removing out of the way a very serious obstacle to the adoption of a higher standard of piety in the church, and to a wider and speedier diffusion of the gospel through the earth. This result we regard as certain, with the blessing of God on the efforts of his people, provided always that the minds of men can be kept, in the heat of controversy, from going over to a hurtful extreme on the other side of the question.
In closing our remarks, we cannot but hope that this work will do much to illustrate the connection between active piety and a derotional frame of mind. Probably, few young christians have ever lived who prayed so much, and secured such manifest answers to prayer, as did the youth whose life we have been reviewing. Prayer, with him, was almost as natural and spontaneous as the desire of food and rest. How often does he speak of going to his kneeling place, not only at set times, but at all times whenever duty or danger called. God, to him, was always the great refuge; and he went to him with a most simple and affectionate confidence in his readiness to hear and help—such was his spirit of devotion. And on the other hand, his activity in the cause of Christ was not less remarkable, as his whole life most beautifully evinces. How untiring were his labors to do good—how he panted for the ministry, with this end in view—and to his last, dying hour, this governing passion of his soul held its sway within him. “Strive-strive to enter into the kingdom of God, were his last words, to a friend that stood over him. Beautiful illustration of the fact, that the connection between active piety and a devotional spirit is intimate—is inseparable!
ART. VIII.-SPRING ON NATIVE DEPRAVITY.
A Dissertation on Native Deprarity. By GARDINER SPRING, Pastor of the Brick Presbyterian Church in New York. New-York : 1633.
The doctrine of this treatise is, that Every infant is a moral and accountable being, under a law, which he knowingly and voluntarily trangresses, at the very instant of his creation. We have no doubt, that Dr. Spring sincerely believes this; nor could we find it in our heart to disturb his faith in this very peculiar opinion, bad he merely avowed and undertaken to defend it. If Dr. Spring has actually ascertained the precise instant of the mysterious union of the soul with the body --the very punctum temporis when moral agency and sin commence in the infant's mind, he has been more fortunate in his discoveries, than we can pretend to have been. We very much doubt, however, whether the Spirit of inspiration ever designed to gratify the curiosity of man on a point like this; or whether the question can be decided by any philosophical deductions from the nature and the phenomena of the human mind. We are inclined to regard this very singular opinion of Dr. S. as an instance of faith without evidence; and withal so harmless in its tendency, and so likely to be confined to the mind of him who believes it, as scarcely to justify, much less to demand, the labor of refutation. Indeed, could we persuade ourselves, that this peculiarity of Dr. Spring would obtain some currency within the limits of his personal influence, the correction of the mistake might be properly left to time and reflectiou. For what if some few men should believe with Dr. Spring, that infants, the instant they are born, know the difference between right and wrong, and voluntarily commit sin,--how long will they continue to believe it?
It is not then, the intrinsic importance of Dr. Spring's faith on the present topic, nor the prospect of its extensive prevalence
, that induces us to examine the grounds on which it rests ; but rather that a doctrine so trivial in itself
, and so absolutely peculiar to its author, should be exalted to the rank of a fundamental truth, and be made the dividing line between ministers and churches." We did not expect, that any writer among the fierce polemics of the day, would take the course which Dr. Spring has taken,—that of propounding an opinion wholly peculiar to himself, and then boldly denouncing all who should dissent from him. We had anticipated, indeed, that when Prof. Stuart of Andover should pub‘lish his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, he would find himself in the same condemnation with ourselves. We expected, that what Dr. Spring terms “ a divisive spirit,” would be unsparing in its charges of " novel speculation' --of " Arminian and Pelagian heresy;' and that veither the piety nor the learning of the Professor would protect him from the denunciations of a sublimated
« Sin con
orthodoxy. We did not, however, expect that any man would venture to propound an entirely novel and peculiar dogma, as the only true scriptural doctrine of native depravity; and on this basis virtually unchurch the whole orthodox community.
Let us then look at Dr. Spring's explanation of his leading position above stated. As to the nature of sin, he agrees perfectly with Prof. Stuart, and his New-Haven brethren. “It is obvious," he says, “that sin is predicable only of an intelligent being, and that in such a being it consists in the transgression of law.” Sin is not imputed where (when) there is no law. Wherever, therefore, there is a deviation from law, there, and only there, is sin.” In opposition to those who resolve the sin of infants into a defect or want of righteousness, he says, “Sin is something which has a positive existence." “ Sin is an internal emotion of the mind." sists in a supremely selfish spirit.” “The moral dispositions are those internal operations or emotions of the mind, which can be compared with a rule of action, etc.”
Having thus settled the nature of sin, Dr. S. propounds his peculiar theory. “ If then every human being possesses at birth an immaterial, immortal soul, he is at the instant of his creation, capable of possessing a moral character, and is from his NATURE a moral and accountable being, under a law which he either obeys or transgresses.” “ If infants belong to the children of men; if they have a heart and soul, then from the moment they are human and the descendants of Adam, are they sinners.” Dr. Spring's doctrine then is, that infants, at the very moment of birth, are the accountable subjects of law-that they possess even at that very instant, the knowledge of right and wrong; and thus knowingly commit sin in the exercise of supreme selfishness.
In considering these statements, our object in the present article is to show, that Dr. Spring is altogether peculiar and alone in his riews of native depravity; agreeing, however more nearly with his New-Haven brethren, than with any other class of theologians. In a subsequent number, we shall examine the philosophical theories and passages of scripture by which Dr. Spring attempts to support his favorite opinion. Let us then very briefly compare Dr. Spring's view of this important doctrine, with the views of other divines.
We begin with that class called the Old Calvinists. Here we shall see, that Dr. Spring affirms what they deny, and denies what they affirm. According to Dr. Spring, the doctrine of native depravity is, that infants, at the moment of birth, knowingly transgress law; in other words, that they commit actual sin as soon as they are born. Now this doctrine, the Old Calvinists to a man deny. Every sciolist in theology knows that the divines of this school from Augustine to Dr. Green, have disbelieved and denied this doctrine. With Edwards they say, “It is no wonder, that infants be not guilty of positive wicked action, before they are capable of any moral action at all.” Turretin says of infants," they cannot be said to have committed actual sin." We cannot suppose it necessary to cite other authorities on this point. Dr. Spring knows, every body knows, that the old school Presbyterians, and the standards of the Presbyterian church, not only distinguish original sin from actual sin, but deny that infants are guilty of the latter. And yet Dr. Spring affirms that infants are guilty of actual sin, and of no other sin. He therefore affirms respecting the doctrine of native depravity, what the Old Calvinists, and “ the invaluable standards" of his own church, expressly deny. Nor does he stop here. He also unequivocally denies on this point, every thing respecting infants, which this class of theologians affirm. It will be sufficient, to appeal to the Shorter Catechism. This affirms, that “the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin.” What then can be plainer, than that Dr. Spring's statements amount to a point blank denial of every word and every sentiment, contained in this answer of the Catechism ? As to the want of original righteousness, Dr. Spring pronounces it “ harmless,” “ a mere negation"_" a nothing. As to the imputed guilt of Adam's sin and the corruption of our whole nature, what place is left for these, when according to Dr. Spring, the only sin of infants is actual sin? And as to the doctrine that all actual transgressions proceed from original sin, as this formula asserts, how can this be true, when, if Dr. Spring is right, there is no such thing as original sin ? Surely, if the doctrine of original sin can be denied, it is denied by the assertion, that actual sin is the only sin predicable of any being. Dr. Spring then denies the Presbyterian doctrine of original sin, as unequivocally as it can be denied in human language. He denies all that is affirmed in this doctrine-all that Turretin, and Owen and Ridgley, and Dr. Green, and the Princeton Professors deem essential in the doctrine of native depravity. And how shall this thing be covered up? Will it be said, that Dr. Spring is orthodox-that he holds all that is important on this subject, because he says, that infants are depraved as soon as they are born? Has it then come to this, that it is no matter what things a man believes
, if he only uses certain words? Dr. Spring orthodox-presbyterially orthodox,—if he only affirms that infants are depraved, explain himself to mean by depravity, what he may! Orthodox, when he affirms the very thing concerning infants, which the invaluable standards” of his own church deny, and denies all that they afirm! Orthodox, when according to these standards, and some of their ablest expounders, he asserts what is impossible in the nature of things ; what none can believe without denying the authority of the Catechism, rejecting God's truth, and believing falsehood! Our object in these remarks is not to make business for Presbytery, Synod, or General Assembly. But we say, if denunciation must
317 Spring on Native Depravity. be the order of the day, let it be characterized by something like consistency. What can the first Presbytery of New York, —what can Dr. Green, and all the old school Calvinists say, to the doctrine maintained by Dr. Spring? What, but that he affirms the very things which they deny, and denies the very things which they affim, respecting the fundamental doctrine of native depravity? Time will show what those who denounce such men as Mr. Barnes of Philadelphia, and Mr. Duffield of Carlisle, will say to their late candidate for the moderator's chair in the General Assembly.
Again; Dr. Spring differs not less from Dr. Tyler, Mr. Harvey, and other advocates of physical depravity, than he does from the old school Calvinists. The doctrine of physical depravity is, that infants are born with a constitutional propensity to sin—a propensity which is inherent in their very nature, which is prior to and distinct from mental exercise or action, and which is itself sinful. In the late discussions an this subject, the real question at issue respected the nature of sin; and not the time when it begins. We have maintained with Dr. Spring, that all sin consists in action or ézercise, while Mr. Harvey, Dr. Tyler, and others have held, that there is a constitutional propensity to sin in the mind, which is itself sinful. The time when sin commences, has been merely an incidental topic, which has arisen in the course of the discussion. Thus our opponents, maintaining that infants are sinners at the moment of birth, and that they are incapable of committing actual sin, hold that their sin consists in a created or propagated propensity to sin. Dr. Spring, however, in opposition to this, affirms that infants are guilty of actual sin at the very moment of their creation, and demies that there is any other sin in the universe.
Thus after confining all sin to mental action, to mental exercise-to choice-to
supreme selfishness, he says, “I know of no other sin in the empire Loof
Jehovah except this. When we say, that men are sinners, we
mean to say, they are the doers and perpetrators of this foul deed.” che He even triumphs in one instance, that "upon his principles, there
is no difficulty as it respects physical depravity.” On this subject, e Viven, Dr. Spring is on the side of the New-Haven school, maintain
ing with us in opposition to Dr. Tyler and Mr. Harvey, that all - Scansists in the known transgression of law-in voluntary
If it should here be said, that Dr. Tyler and others agree with Dr.Spring in maintaining that sin begins at birth; we answer, that they agree in words, but not in things. That is, they agree in diverse from what the other calls sin, as a constitutional property saying that sin begins at birth, while what the one calls sin, is as ile sol, is distinct from wrong moral action. This may indeed pass with those who can substitute an agreement in sounds or letters, va agreement in the essential doctrines of the gospel. All otheys will see, that Dr. Spring entirely dissents from the advocates of