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The writer of the following remarks does not profess to have entered minutely into every point in theology, which the restless spirit of controversy has of late drawn into discussion, and about which there may be, among respectable divines, some diversity of opinion. And yet, he believes that he has noticed the great points which may be regarded as the pivots of the controversy; and candidly and fairly stated, not only the topics themselves, in respect to which some of our best theologians have disagreed, but also the extent to which they may now be understood to differ.

The great points in the controversy may be reduced to two; the nature of sin, and the reasons of its being permitted, under the divine government.

1. The nature of sin.

It is well known, by all who have paid any attention to the recent discussions, that this was the subject, in relation to which the controversy began, and to which, for a considerable period, it was limited. When mankind begin to sin ? What is their character at birth ? and what construction is to be given to certain forins of phraseology which the bible employs on these subjects ? are topics which were incidentally, and at a somewhat later stage of the discussion, drawn into debate ; as were also a variety of other topics, touching the reasons for God's permission of sin, which will be noticed when we come to treat of that subject.

In regard to the nature of sin, the controversy was at first confined to this single point, Whether there is in man any thing which can be truly called sinful, prior to intelligent, voluntary action. The question here was not, Whether there is a tendency or bias to sin, in the very constitution of the human mind? This was maintained by all parties, unless by a few high Hopkinsians, who consider the soul as a mere chain of ideas and exercises, which are successively called into being by the creative power of God. All who believed, that man has a soul in distinction from mere mental exercises, agreed at the outset, that there is in the constitution or nature of that soul, an infallible tendency or propensity to sin.This was affirmed by the New-Haven theologians in the strongest terms ; and the only question here was, Whether this tendency, as distinct from voluntary action, is itself sinful ?

* This piece was originally prepared as an assigned exercise before a Ministers' Meeting of the South Association of Litchfield County, Conn., and is now published by request, with such modifications as seemed proper in giving it to ihe public. Vol. V.


The position, that sin consists in voluntary and intelligent action, and not in something distinct from the will, was maintained by Dr. Taylor, in the Christian Spectator for 1823, and in bis Concio ad Clerum, and by Dr. Fitch, in two published sernions, delivered before the faculty and students of Yale College. Mr. Harvey, of Colchester, was the principal writer on the opposite side. He was understood to maintain, that there is in man a nature, or properssity, lying back of the will, and distinct from it, which is itself sinful, and for which mankind may justly be regarded as responsible, and are so regarded by their Maker; so that, antecedently to personal, intelligent, voluntary action, man is a guilty being, and liable, in strict justice, to eternal punishment. This theory of a sinful nature, anterior to sinful action, was designed to account for the existence of voluntary sin, and for the uniformity of its occurrence in all our race. It was truly contended, that every effect must have a cause, and that this cause must be prior to the effect : and to this it was added, that the cause and effect must be the same in moral character,—this latter point being hastily assumed, froin certain well known but irrelevant analogies in the physical world. To account, then, for the universal prevalence of actual sin in the human race, from the commencement of moral agency, it was asa sumed, and attempted to be proved by argument, that man is a sinner, and truly guilty in the eye of God, and justly obnoxious to punishment, before he becomes the subject of any exercise of choice whatever :—that he is a sipner from the womb, in the same sense in which the young viper is a viper ; that is, by its possessing in parvo a venomous nature.

To this theory it was objected by the New-Haven divines, that it is entirely unnecessary to account for the fact in question, since our first parents sinned, and the angels sinned, without a previous evil propensity leading them to sin. That, besides this, it cannot in the nature of things be true, as a theory accounting for the existence of sin, because it constantly supposes sin before the first sin : i.e. it supposes a nature which is itself sinful, as a cause by which 10 account for the fact of man's sinning. Besides this, it makes sin a mere physical attribute of our being, and, therefore, just as inevitable as our own existence. Moreover, it makes the origin and essence of sin to be in God, as our creator, if the principle is true, that the cause partakes of the moral qualities of its effect, since God is the cause of all the essential properties of the human soul. Beyond all this, it was contended, that to reckon sinfulness and guilt in this way, is doing violence to the plainest dictates of man's judgment, and common sense ; it being impossible to make mankind truly believe and feel that they are guilty and to blame for that in which their own wills and understandings have had and could have had no concem; that, in other words, it is impossible to make men believe and feel

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that they are criminal for having a nature which was born with them, and which they had no hand in originating:

After the discussion on this subject (the nature of sin) had proceeded a while, it was found that the contending parties differed in reality much less than had been supposed. In the course of the discussion, Mr. Harvey's real opinions were explained in the following manner, by a writer, who speaks so confidently in his narne, as to leave no doubt who he was :-"A moral being, for aught we know, may commence his existence in an active, voluntary state of the will; he may be a voluntary agent from his birth, and thus, in fact, to a certain extent, sinful, and that without supposing that depravity is seated in any thing but the will. In this case, nature itself is sinful, according to Mr. Harvey's theory." Native depravity, then, in his view, is actual transgression from the womb: and the notion of any other kind of depravity than what is seated in the will, is entirely discarded. Dr. Tyler, too, who had been supposed, by many, to believe in a sinful tendency or bias lying back of the will, publicly disclaimed such an opinion, and referred to Edwards' account of the matter, as expressive of his own sentiments. That great writer says of his opponent," he supposes our doctrine to imply something, by some means or other, infused into the human nature ; some quality or other, not from the choice of our minds, but like a taint, tincture, or infection, altering the natural constitution, faculties, and dispositions of our souls. That sin and evil dispositions are implanted in the fætus in the womb. Whereas, truly, our doctrine neither implies nor infers any such thing. In order to account for a sinful corruption of nature, yea, a total native depravity of the heart of man, there is not the least need of supposing any evil quality infused, implanted, or wrought into the nature of man, by any positive cause or influence whatsoever, either from God or the creature; or of supposing, that man is conceived and born with a fountain of evil in his heart, such as is any thing properly positive. I think, a little attention to the nature of things will be sufficient to satisfy any impartial, considerate inquirer, that the absence of positive good principles, and so the withholding of a special divine influence to impart and maintain those good principles, leaving the common natural principles of self-love, natural appetite, etc., (which were in man in innocence,) leaving these, I say, to themselves, without the government of superior divine principles, will certainly be followed with the corruption, yea, the total corruption of the heart, without occasion for any positive influence at all.” Vol. IV. pp. 427, 428.

In these views the New Haven divines declared, from the first, their entire acquiescence: “The common, natural principles of

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self-love, natural appetite, etc., which were in man in innocence," left as they are by God without restraint, from the commencement of our being, do, in their view, constitute a TENDENCY Or Bias to transgression, just as certain in its results, as if that tendency were itself a distinct and sinful property of the soul; while at the same time, all criminality or guilt consists in acts of the wilt,-in a voluntary choice to gratify those appetites, in defiance of known duty. Here, then, as the writer believes, all parties are entirely agreed, as to the great starting point of the controversy, the nature of sin.

But, as incidental to this main topic, (and which we consider as now so happily disposed of,) various other and subordinate questions have arisen, some of which have not a little agitated the religious community, and are yet, to some extent, under discussion ; but in relation to which, we believe, there is coming to be a general and substantial unanimity, as there now is on the main subject, out of which these subordinate questions have arisen. A few of them will be noticed.

1. What is the nature of the change wrought in regeneration ? It has been said by some, that regeneration consists in removing the sinful bias of nature already spoken of; which bias is something anterior to actual volition, gives birth to volition, and makes it, in moral character, what it is. But to this view of regeneration it was objected, by the New-Haven divines, that it would be perfectly idle, and would seem like an absurdity, to call upon the sinner to produce in himself a change of heart, when the thing to be changed was something totally distinct from his own will and choice; something which, under the assumed principle that like produces like, gives to his will and choice their moral character. Nor did it relieve the difficulty, to call upon sinners to exercise repentance and faith in Christ, which it is acknowledged on all hands are voluntary exercises. For the sinner, always ready to make excuses, says,

“You call me to the exercise of emotions which, according to your theory, are the result of a previous change of heart, or bias, which change is not within my ability, inasmuch as it respects something which lies back of voluntary action, and which, therefore, is wholly independent of my will.] must wait for such a change as this : there is a necessity in the case, over which I have no control. For how can I repent, when that very repentance must be the result of a previous change in the essential properties of my soul? How can I have faith in Christ, when I must first have a change in the very constitution of my being, out of which this and all voluntary exercises are to spring? You tell me to perform what is impossible, in the nature of things, and then threaten me with the loss of my soul, if I do not perform it. If, then, in such circumstances, I do not repent, i. e. (to go a step further back) do not change an essential property of my nature, how am I to blame? Tell me not of power; in no sense am I able to do this. Talk not of the distinction of natural and moral ability; you have done it forever away. If the change in question consists in any thing prior to voluntary exercise, such a change of heart I can in no sense produce."

Now such reasoning can never be obviated. You may confound the sinner by your arguments and distinctions,—or you may silence him by mere authority,—but you cannot make him feel, while he is under the influence of the theory in question, that he is under obligations to do any thing himself, in the matter of his regeneration and turning to God. There is, accordingly, on this point, if we mistake not, a gradual, and now almost universal approximation towards agreement; there certainly in our judgment) is a better view of this subject prevailing among christians than there used to be; there is a more direct and more unembarrassed inculcation of the great duty of the sinner's giving his heart to God without delay, than there formerly was, and on the simple ground that it is an act of the will and choice, and nothing else.

2. Another question, which has been much agitated in this controversy, relates to the means of regeneration ;-what they properly are, and when they can be said to be rightly used. If the change in regeneration relates to the will, and choice of the mind,if it is wholly a voluntary and moral change, in which all that is done is to make man, as an intelligent, voluntary being, give up one object of supreme regard for another,--the world for God, and selfish gratification for the service of his Maker ;-then, doubtless, there are means of regeneration, and they must be used ; and these means, properly speaking, are used by the sinner only in the act of yielding to them. In other words, we manifestly cannot love God, and give up the world, without having, in some way, the comparative claims of God and of the world brought before us, and presented distinctly and impressively to our minds. We cannot, as voluntary beings, " cease to do evil and learn to do well,” but in the view of motives, and sufficient motives for doing it. These motives are all involved in truth, and hence truth is represented in the scriptures, as the means of men's sanctification. But these means, it is evident, are never properly used by the sinner or the christian, except in the act of giving to them their appropriate influence over the soul. In considering his ways, he is instantly to “turn to the Lord.” Till he does this, they are only resisted, and consequently abused and perverted. Yet, it is perfectly evident that without these means, the change understood as above, namely, as a voluntary act, can never take place ; for (as we have just said) there must doubtless be motives in view of which a responsible moral agent turns to God, if he, as a moral agent, turns to Him at all. Now on this point, it does appear to us, that there is very little if any

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