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fectionary. It must have solid food, or it will become stationary in childish imbecility.
To what extremes this indolence and dissipation on religious subjects would proceed, were it not prevented by an over-ruling Providence, it is impossible to calculate. But certain it is, that some of the most direful heresies and schisms which have ever infested the visible church, have had their origin in such a state of things. And it is equally certain that these evils have, in some instances at least, been prevented or removed by the excitement of a spirit of controversy. Thus Paul reasoned, "there must be also beresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." And there is no reason to doubt that the vagaries of Pelagius, Socinus and Arminius, have been the occasion of a more thorough understanding of the truth, by leading its friends to closer examination. But for these, and the world might never have enjoyed the lucid exhibition of evangelical doctrine from the pers of Augustine, of Calvin and of Edwards. And as the Holy Spirit sanctifies men by the truth, it is reasonable to suppose, that religious controversy is, on the whole, calculated to promote vital religion. Controversy, then, ought not to be regarded as in all cases hostile to true religion. For as human nature is, controversy may become absolutely necessary to the preservation of vital godliness, and therefore be the indispensible duty of all its friends. And he who keeps his eye steadily fixed on his Bible, amidst all the conflicts of human opinion, will find not only that the cause of truth in general is safe, but that his own growth in grace is promoted, and that those concussions which prevent the stagnation of the religious atmosphere, will enable him to breathe a purer air.
From the Christian Mirror.
The commencement of holiness in totally depraved man has often been called a supernatural work of divine grace. In this position, what is the definite import of the term supernatural? Is it, that this change, from sin to holiness, is produced by the power of God?Though this is a truth which cannot reasonably be controverted, yet it is not properly expresed by the epithet supernatural. God is the first supreme cause of all natural as well as supernatural
Is the import this, that the divine influence in this moral change is direct and immediate? It is doubtful whether this meaning be correct. Does not the Spirit produce holiness in man by the instru
mentality of truth? Such is the plain representation of Scripture. But granting divine influence in the change to be direct and immediate, to express such influence by calling it supernatural is an improper use of the term. Are not conviction and sanctification produced by as direct and inmediate divine influence as regeneration? But who has called these supernatural events?
Does this epithet as applied to regeneration designate the contrariety of the commencement of holiness in man to all his previous moral affections. But would it be proper to express this contrariety by calling their fall into sin, supernatural?
Is the meaning this, that conversion is contrary to or above established laws in the kingdom of nature? How does this appear? Does not God reclaim his wandering offspring to holiness and to himself upon the same principles upon which he governs all his rational creatures and all their actions; that is to say, by moral laws, motives and arguments? Is the meaning nothing more than this, that the conversions among men are comparatively but few? Then uncommon, and not supernatural, is the proper term to be used.-In the time of the millenium all or almost all men will be converted. Is the change any more supernatural now, than it will be at that period? Let the meaning of this term as applied to regeneration. be what it may, if the thing intended be true, I presume it will be perceived, that the word is used in an uncommon sense. Certainly those who thus apply it, ought to designate the idea intended.
This term in its primary proper acceptation, as classed in Dictionaries, and as used by the best authors, denotes what is above the powers of nature. If it be used correctly in this sense, when applied to regeneration, then unrenewed men have not natural power to become holy, but are under a physical inability, for surely they have not power to perform an action above their power. But at the present day will such inability be advocated?
If, agreeably to the definition of the word in the best Dictionaries, regeneration be supernatural, it is miraculous. But who will presume to call the conversion of man from sin to holiness, a miracle? It is no more miraculous or supernatural than Adam's fall into sin.
The application of this term to conversion is of dangerous tendency. For a minister to tell his impenitent hearers, that their becoming holy is a supernatural work of God, is naturally calculated to communicate incorrect impressions; that they have not natural abilities to become holy, but are under a physical necessity of continuing in sin, that their excuses for delaying repentance are reasonable, and that they must wait God's time for exercising supernatural power upon them.
As the term is not used in Scripture upon this subject, and as it naturally communicates to the wicked, incorrect dangerous impressions, it ought to be banished from the pulpit, and from theological publications. The truth and whole truth on the subject of regeneration can be expressed in more Scriptural, definite, appropriate langnage. PHILLALETHES.
The following Letter addressed to Rev. MOSES THACHER, Editor of the Boston Telegraph, and Extract from his Sermon, we cof y from the Telegraph of the 16th inst. As they speak for themselves, we insert them 'without note or comment,' not doubting that they will interest all, and instruct some of our readers.
MR. EDITOR,-On the evening of the 4th inst. I attended a lecture at the Park-street Meeting House. I heard you preach. And, permit me to say it, I thought your sermon appropriate to the occasion, and wholly in accordance with the word of God. On the evening of the 7th instant, I attended at the same place, the Monthly Concert for prayer. At the close of the last meeting, the present officiating minister of Park-street, who was also present and heard your sermon, rose, and addressed the assembly. In the course of his remarks, he alluded to your discourse, in terms so plain as to be fully understood by all who were present when you preached. That inference in your discourse, which touched upon the " prayer of faith," he misrepresented, and then held it up to reprobation. Now, Mr. Editor, I feel that in this thing you have been very unkindly treated, and are in danger of suffering injury from the manner in which you, or rather your sermon, was lugged in and hung up to be shot at, on this occasion. It is, therefore, my wish, if agrecable to yourself, that so much of your sermon as has been thus denounced "ex cathredra," may be published in your paper. The people can then read it, and judge for themselves. Should you comply with my request, you may expect something more on this subject from
B. D. R.
THE PRAYER OF FAITH.
Our correspondent, B. D. R. having favored us with some remarks, in relation to a sermon, preached in Park-street MeetingHouse, Friday evening, Feb. 4; we cheerfully comply with his request, by inserting the inference to which he has alluded.
The sermon was preached from the following text: Isaiah xlviii. 11. "For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it; for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another." Doct. God saves and blesses his people for his own sake, or, from a supreme regard for his own glory." It was the object of the preacher, first, to explain the doctrine; secondly, to prove it; and, thirdly, to show why God saves and blesses his people for his own sake, or from a supreme regard to his own glory. Having pursued this plan, in discussing and enforcing the doctrine derived from the text, several inferences were drawn from the subject, among which was the following:
Inference 4th--If God saves and blesses his people for his own sake, or from a supreme regard to his own glory; then we may learn the absurdity of what, at the present day, is sometimes called "the
prayer of faith." It has become a popular sentiment with many, in different parts of the country, that, if God's people "pray in faith," for any particular object, their prayer will certainly be answered, in the particular thing requested. It is supposed, for example, that if any two persons agree to pray for the conversion of an individual impenitent sinner, and pray in faith, that sinner will certainly be converted. So of any other particular, in view of which their prayers may be offered.
But this sentiment embraces two gross absurdities, and leads to a thousand others. It supposes, in the first place, that we have a right to pray for spiritual favors without submission; that is, we have a right to demand of God any spiritual mercy, and that God has no right to withhold it. This idea, indeed, has been openly avowed, by those who have advocated "the prayer of faith."They have plainly asserted, that God has never required us to pray in submission, for spiritual mercies. This, however, is grossly inconsistent, and directly contrary to the scriptures. The very term, prayer, supposes submission. It necessarily supposes that we have no claim to the favor requested. We never go to a debtor, and pray him to pay us what is justly our due. The creditor, in this case, assumes the right to demand. On the other hand, the beggar is supposed to pray or beseech, on the ground that he has no just or legal claim. Prayer, therefore, involves submission, on the ground, that the person supplicated has the right to withhold the favor requested; or, in other words, that he has the perfect right to 'do what he will with his own.' Accordingly we are taught in the scriptures, to pray, "Thy will be done;" whether we pray for temporal, or for spiritual favors.
In the second place, the modern notion of the prayer of faith supposes, that we certainly know what is, and what is not, most for the divine glory for God to bestow. It supposes, for example, that if we pray in faith, for the conversion of an individual sinner, we certainly know that it is most for the divine glory for God to convert and save that individual sinner, rather than another. But how do we kuow this, seeing that God converts and saves sinners for his own sake, or from a supreme regard to his own glory? We do not know it from the Bible. God has, indeed, informed us, in the Bible, that it is for his glory to convert and save a very great multitude of the human race. But he has nowhere told us, in the Bible, nor can we learn, from any part of the Bible, that it is for the divine glory for God to convert and save this individual sinner, for whom we are disposed to pray, rather than another. Nor do we know, by intuition, that God has designed, or that it is for his glory, to convert and save this individual sinner, for whom we may agree to pray, rather than another, for whom we may not agree to pray. It is evident, that we have no intuitive knowledge of the designs and glory of God. All the knowledge which we possess of the designs and glory of God, is derived from what God has taught in his word and in his works. We cannot know, therefore, by
intuition, what particular sinners, it is for the divine glory for God to convert and save. Nor do we know this by immediate revelation. God has not spoken, in a voice from heaven, and informed us, that it is for his glory to convert and save this individual sinner, for whom we may agree to pray, rather than another, for whom we may not agree to pray.
But, if we do not know from the Bible, or by intuition, or by immediate revelation from heaven, that it is for the glory of God, for him to save this individual sinner, rather than that; then it is impossible for us to know it in any other way.
The modern notion of "the prayer of faith," therefore, embraces what is directly contrary to truth, and prepares the way for many dangerous and fatal errors, both in principle and practice, but which time would fail to enumerate in this discourse. We have, indeed, great encouragement to pray, and we are bound to pray for the conversion and salvation of sinners, with great importunity and perseverance. But then, our subject teaches us, that we should pray with the consideration, that God converts and saves sinners for his own sake; and that, with a supreme regard to his glory, we should, in all our petitions, whether for the conversion of sinners, or for any other object, exercise unconditional submission, and be disposed to say, "Thy will be done."
Such are the sentiments, contained in the obnoxious inference, to which our correspondent refers, and upon which we forbear to comment; hoping that, as he has given us encouragement, he will not fail to favor us with further remarks upon this important subject, which we shall insert with great pleasure, both for our own edification, and the gratification of our readers.
ANSWER TO A QUESTION.
[We agree with the writer, as to the consistency between ac countability and dependence; but are obliged to differ from him in some degree, respecting the evil and the desert of sin. We suppose that sin is the supreme evil, not on account of its tendency merely, but because it is the opposite of holiness, which is the supreme good. We suppose sin deserves endless punishment, not because it tends to occasion infinite evil, but because its guilt or desert of punishment, is indelible, and must remain forever.-Editor.]
It was queried in the June Magazine of 1805, how the sentiment that God is the author of the evil exercises of sinners, is consistent with the salvation of the elect being attributed to free grace, and the destruction of sinners to their wilful impenitency.
It will easily be seen, that if sinners, by their wickedness, can