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Art. VI.-LETTER TO THE EDITOR FROM THE Rev. Dr.

TAYLOR.

MR. EDITOR,

Nothing could have been farther from my wishes than to be drawn into a theological controversy with the Rev. Dr. Tyler of Portland : a man for whom an intimate friendship, in early life, has made it impossible for me to entertain any sentiments but those of respect and affection. He felt himself called upon, however, about a year since, lo arraign me in the Spirit of the Pilgrims, as departing from the faith once delivered to the saints. I was thus compelled, though with great reluctance, to come before the public in my own defense against so serious a charge; and availed myself of an offer made me by the Conductors of that work, to reply to Dr. Tyler's several communications. It was understood to be their wish, however, that the discussion should end with the number for January last; and I therefore supposed, that the controversy between Dr. Tyler and myself was then terminated. But in the number for May, Dr. Tyler was permitted to resume the discussion, with a declaration from the present Editor, “ with this we have done with the controversy." Being thus deprived of a right which was originally promised, I might request you to insert the following remarks, as an act of justice to me. But I offer them with very different viens. My object is not controversy but peace; and I believe Dr. Tyler's last communication has removed every obstacle to a union of sentiment, on all the main points in debate. In this view, I heartily rejoice in its publication.

To those who are at all familiar with protracted controversial discussions, I need not say, that their principal cause is to be found in the imperfection of human language; nor need I repeat the axiom, that it is a short and downhill passage from errors in words to errors in things. In such cases, however, there usually occurs some stage or point in the discussion, at which the parties actually come together on the main topics in debate. Could a pause be secured just at this point;-could the disputants be made to see, that they fully agree in some particular forms of statement, as expressing the exact truth on the main question ;-would they calmly inquire how it is, that they still differ and still contend, they would find, that they differ not primarily in things, but rather in respect to certain modes of statement, which from various causes, present different things to their different minds.

The foregoing remarks, are, in my view, applicable to the recent discussion between Dr. Tyler and myself. Throughout the whole of it, until his last letter, Dr. Tyler has adopted modes of stating and explaining his opinions, which appear to me, in what I deem their true and proper import, to be altogether erroneous. In his

last communication, however, he has adopted other forms of statement, which, if I understand their meaning, coincide perfectly with what I have always maintained on the subjects in debate.

My present object, then, is not controversy; but to show, that on the basis of Dr. Tyler's last statements and explanations, all controversy between us may be terminated in an entire agreement on the chief points at issue. To accomplish this, however, one thing I deern indispensable,—that we wave all other questions, and give ourselves exclusively to the inquiry, Whether we are not agreed on the main topics in debate. Whether Dr. Tyler has used language which in its true import, and when properly understood, expresses that which is erroneous, or whether I have done so; whether he has incorrectly interpreted my statements, or whether I have incorrectly interpreted his; whether in short, (on the supposition of misapprehension resulting from some cause,) the error is his or mine, or belongs to both,—these and all similar questions must be merged in the single inquiry, whether in the things really intended, and exhibited in Dr. Tyler's last statements, we do not perfectly agree.

The principal topics referred to in his letter, are, his theory respecting the divine permission of sin; and that respecting human depravity.

1. His theory respecting the divine permission of sin.

On this part of the subject, I consider Dr. Tyler as having removed, in his last communication, every obstacle to an entire agreement in opinion between us.

1. He has disclaimed in the most decisive terms, the import in which I understood bis leading principle. What I here call Dr. Tyler's leading principle, is the position, that “sin is the necessary means of the greatest good.”* To this statement, I have one comprehensive objection. I regard it, in its true and proper and only possible import, as exactly equivalent to saying, that sin as the means of good, is a good thing, even the best thing. None will deny, that the word good, in one of its most common meanings, denotes that which is fitted to produce happiness, or which on account of such fitness, is the means of happiness. If then sin is in this respect, the means of happiness, it is truly and properly said to be a good

* Dr. Tyler mistakes in supposing, that this form of expression was never used by any writer before it was brought forward by me. I cannot think it necessary to show, that this phraseology, and that which is exactly equivalent, has been extensively used. The language of Dr. Hopkins is, “ that sin is necessary for the greatest possible good-necessary to promote and bring about the greatest good-necessary in order to the greatest goud." Others have adopted the very phrase under consideration. I only add, that I never imputed to Dr: Tyler the doctrine, " that sin is the necessary means of the greatesi good,” until he had adopted this very expression, and explained himself to mean by it, the very thing which I represented him to mean. Vol. V.

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thing. What then I affirm is, that to say “sin is the necessary means of the greatest good or happiness,” is only saying in other words, that it is a good thing-even the best thing, in the sense now explained. The two affirmations are identical propositions. A thing which is necessary as a means of happiness, is good as a means of this end; and if necessary as a means of the greatest good, then it is the best thing as a means, because it is the only thing by which the greatest happiness can be produced. Such is the reason, for which I dissented from Dr. Tyler's statement, that sin is the necessary ineans of the greatest good.'

I dissented also from the explanations wbich he originally gave of this statement, not less than from the statement itself. One of his explanations was, " that sin is for the best.” As a part of the explanation of his views, he represented sin, as that which conspires to the greatest possible amount of good. Now I cannot understand how a thing can be said to be for the best; and especially how it can be represented to be for the best as conspiring, i. e. contributing, or tending to produce the greatest good, and in this respect necessary to this end, without being a good thing, even the best thing, in the sense above explained.*

It is now sufficiently apparent what has been the obstacle, on my part, to an agreement with Dr. Tyler in his original statement on the present topic. This statement, and all his original explanations of it, in my view, amount to this, that sin as the means of good, is a good thing,-better than holiness in its stead-erer the best thing that men can do.

This obstacle, however, Dr. Tyler, in his last communication, has fully removed. He has disclaimed in the most unqualified terms, the meaning in which I felt myself obliged for the reasons

* Dr. Tyler has indeed said that he originally meunt this and only this—“tbat God will so overrule the sin which exists, ard counteract its tendencies, as to bring to pass a greater amount of good, than would be realized if sin had not existed, "--or, “than if all had continued holy.” Now so far as I can see, Dr. Ty. ler must mean by this explanation, that God counteracts all the tendencies of sin, or that he does not. If he means, that God counteracts all the tendencies of sin, and so brings greater good out of it, than he could educe from boliness in its stead, then Dr. Tyler's position amounts to this, that the necessary means of the greatest good, by being counteracted in all its tendencies, i, e. by being preven. ied from producing ihe greatest good, is made to produce the greatest good! This in my view, is a plain contradiction.

But there was nothing in Dr. Tyler's original erplanation, to show that he meant to say, that sin is counteracted in all its tendencies. I bad spoken of sio as counteracted in all its tendencies. Dr. Tyler bowever cautiously avoided this phraseology, and merely said, “ God will so overrule sin and counteract its tendencies, that etc.' What then if Dr. Tyler did say that “this is all which he intended to expres by this position ?" Still there was nothing to show to my mind, that he did not intend to maintain, that sin in its nature, or at least in some of its tendencies, is such a thing ibat greater good can be accomplished with it than without it; and of course that it is a good thing, even the best thing as the means of good.

now given, to understand the statement of his leading principle; and also, the language of this statement. Concerning the meaning in which I had bitherto understood this leading principle, that sin is the necessary means of the greatest good, and speaking in the name of those who have held this doctrine, he says, “ we reject this meaning-we never adopted the language in this sense, and if it must be thus interpreted, we DISCLAIM IT ALTOGETHER.” Now laying aside all question whether Dr. Tyler has used the language in the sense I have given it, or whether others bave, who have also pronounced the existence of sin a good thing, and sin itself to possess the highest and best tendencies to good-one thing is now undeniable, -Dr. Tyler does not believe, but denies, that sin is the best thing or a good thing in any sense. He not only disclaims the opinion that sin is good in itself;' but he now unequivocally disclains the opinion, that it is a good thing as the means of good. Since there are but these two senses, in which the word good can here be used, I understand Dr. Tyler Dow to disclaim the opinion altogether, that sin is a good thing in any sense. Here, then, in respect to the real subject-matter of debate, Dr. Tyler and myself are in one important respect, perfectly agreed. The denial that sin in its nature,-in all its tendencies and relations, is a good thing, could not be made more explicit than Dr. Tyler has now made it. In this opinion I am now happy to believe, Dr. Tyler and myself are perfectly agreed, viz., that sin is not a good thing, in any sense whatever,-not even as the means of good.

The only possible question then, on this point, between Dr. Tyler and myself, is a question of mere words. Nor yet, as I believe, do we now differ even in this respect. For Dr. Tyler seems to be as really dissatisfied with the language of his original statement, as I am; and so far as I can judge, for exactly the same reason. Alluding to the meaning in which I understood this statement, he says, with marked disapprobation of it, “it is not a position of my coining, nor one which I ever should have coined.” He even charges me, (erroneously,) with having “ first brought it into use," —and with using it in a meaning in which he has never adopted it. He also says, “ I have no wish to vindicate this particular phraseology. I never considered it as a happy form of expression.” He says, “ if it must be thus interpreted, we disclaim it altogether.” These declarations, not only show that Dr. Tyler does not differ from me in the things intended, but that he is satisfied on reflection, that the language in question, in its obvious im

Dr. Tyler bas fallen into a mistake in saying, that he has been represented as maintaining the opinion, that sin is good in itself. This was not charged on Dr. Tyler as his opinion, but simply represented as the legitimate consequence of his statements.

port, is adapted to misrepresent bis meaning. For, why is it, that he has no wish to vindicate it,—why is it that he does not consider it as a happy form of expression--that he is so averse to having it regarded as his own, and so anxious to make me exclusively responsible for it, -unless he considers it as decidedly objectionable ; and objectionable because in its true and natural inport, it conveys a sentiment which he utterly rejects ?-I cannot but understand Dr. Tyler in all this to mean, that he is now willing to abandon this leading statement as one which in its true import is false, and which in this import'he disclaims altogether. If this be so, then on this particular point, Dr. Tyler and myself no longer differ even in words.

2. I understand Dr. Tyler in his last letter, fully to agree with me in rejecting the position, that God, all things considered, prefers sin to holiness, in all instances in which the former takes place.” If, as we have seen, Dr. Tyler maintains, that sin is in no sense a good thing, how can God prefer it to holiness, which is confessedly a good thing? Indeed, how can he purpose the existence of sin at all, except as a less evil than some other? To say, that God regards holiness as a good thing, and regards sin as in no sense a good thing, is to say, that he does not prefer the latter to the former, but does prefer the former to the latter.

But Dr. Tyler goes still farther. He says, “I have maintained, that sin is an evil; that it is an evil infinitely hateful ; that it tends to evil and to evil only." In another instance, he says, “it tends to infinite evil."); Laying aside then all question, whether Dr. Tyler's preceding letters contain statements of a different import, it is now plain and undeniable, that he considers sin as wholly and only an evil," it tends to evil and to evil only." He also maintains, that as the means of an end it is the greatest evil—“ it tends to infinite evil.” Now God, who regards things as they really are, must, in Dr. Tyler's view, regard sin as wholly an evil

. Does God then, all things considered, prefer that which is wholly an evil, to holiness in its stead? Holiness is confessedly a good thing. And surely we cannot affirm in stronger language, that a being does not prefer one thing to another (when

an evil, bow

* I can find no instance in which Dr. Tyler has before said, that sin tends to evil only.' On the contrary, he very clearly denied, that God in purposing the existence of sin,' chooses between two evils;' and that God, in the existence of sin, finds any ihing to regret. This would seem to imply that Dr. Tyler did not then regard sin as an evil, at least not wholly an evil. If it is wholly could it be chosen at all, except as aless eril ihan some other? Could it be chosen as good, when it is wholly an eril, and good in no sense whatever? Dr. Tyler's present positions that sin is in no sense a good thing, but wholly an eril, must ter. minate all further controversy respecting God's preferring sin to holiness. For what possible ground or reason can exist for his preferring that which is wholly an evil, and in no sense good, to the best kind of moral action?

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