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prove that in the circumstances in which the balances move downward, they have not power, at the same time, to move upward ? The only reply that can be given is, they never did move upward in these circumstances, therefore they have not the power. Then the writer asks: Why, if it is conceded that mind, in given circumstances, never did move but in one way, is there not precisely the same proof that it has no power to move otherwise, as there is that the balances have no power to move otherwise ?
But if it is urged that mind is different from matter, and that it may invariably choose right, and yet have power to choose otherwise ;—in reply the writer would say, that this is not a case where a particular kind of desire is the invariable antecedent of a particular kind of volition, as an invariable sequent. A free agent may invariably choose right, and yet there would not be that invariableness of antecedence and sequence that proves a necessary, producing cause.
Note. The writer found, after reading the criticisms on the Essay on Cause and Effect, that for want of more care either in the writer or the readers, it has been misconstrued in the following cases.
1. Where the writer uses the term “invariable antecedent,” without expressly specifying which kind is intended, though the scope of the piece fairly shows it.
2. Where the writer says that there is no mode of proving mind to be a producing cause, meaning by it, no mode of reasoning can prove it. It is established as an intuitive truth, as the writer shows, and a fair reader would consider this exception as implied.
3. The last case is made by the omission of the generic definition of producing cause. The writer, in constructing the definition of producing cause, had in view the case in hand, where the fatalist attempts to prove that mind has not the power of free agency, by an argument that makes motive, instead of mind, the producing cause of volition. And as this argument, not only would make motive a producing cause, but a necessary producing cause, the writer gave the specific definition. But afterwards, in claiming that “ the mind is the producing cause of volition, the writer did not observe, till it was pointed out, that the generic definition also was needful. The writer uses the
that fatalists support their doctrine by attempting to prove that motive is the producing cause of volition. The preceding article supplies the deficiency by inserting a generic definition as well as the specific one.
EXAMINATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF PERFECTION, AS HELD BY
Rev. Asa MAHAN, PRESIDENT OF THE OBERLIN COLLEGI-
By Rev. Leonard Woods, D. D., Prof. Theol. in the Theol. Sem., Andover, Mass.
The attention of the religious public has, of late, been frequently called to the subject above mentioned, and much has been written and published on both sides of the question at issue between the parties. It is not my object to notice all the particular opinions and arguments which have been advanced by writers engaged in the controversy. I can promise no more than to take a summary view of the points which are regarded as of the first importance; to consider the manner in which the doctrine has been defended, and the chief arguments on which it rests, and to inquire what conclusion a candid regard to truth will lead us to adopt.
I have read several publications on the subject, particularly the Discourses of Mr. Mahan, which he had the kindness to send to me; the Letter of Mr. Fitch, and Dr. Weeks' Letter in reply; several Lectures of Mr. Finney, published in the Oberlin Evangelist ; Dr. Pond's and Mr. Folsom’s articles in the Am. Bib. Repository, and finally Mr. Mahan's article in reply to Mr. Folsom.* My design however is, to give the reader my reflections, and to show exactly how the subject lies in my own mind, avoiding entirely whatever might have a personal beare
gratified with the spirit of love, tenderness and devotion, which breathed in their writings, and could not but indulge the pleasing thought, that God had granted them a high degree of his gracious influence, and raised them to an elevation of Christian affection and joy, to which they had never before attained. My interviews with Mr. Mahan, in connection with what he has written, have left the impression on my mind, that, whatever may be the natural tendency of his peculiar opinions, he himself has had the love of God shed abroad in his heart, and that the error, into which I think he has fallen, results, not from the want of Christian feeling, but from a hasty interpretation of Scripture, and a wrong method of reasoning. It is in accordance with his express desire, that I have undertaken to review what he has published on the subject; and I am persuaded that he would be far from wishing, that my personal regard to him should prevent a free and thorough examination of his system, or of the manner in which he defends it.
I begin with a general remark, the correctness of which no one will question. When a man undertakes to sustain and propagate a novel system,—a system different from what has commonly been entertained by the best of men, it is inadmissible for him to set forth, as a part of his system, any opinions which are held by those, from whom he professes to differ. He may show, if he can, that the principles which are common to him and to others, when rightly carried out, involve his peculiarities, and that those who do not embrace his system are inconsistent with themselves, in holding to those common principles. He is at liberty to show, that they stop short of the mark, and must suffer loss. But can he, with propriety, mention those commonly received principles, as peculiar to him, in distinction from others? Can ho take any advantage from them, to prove the excellence of his system, above the common system? Can he in any way properly make the impression that they belong to him, more than to evangelical ministers generally?
In this respect, I am constrained to say, that Mr. Mahan, Mr. Fitch and others have, however undesignedly, committed an obvious fault, and one which is likely to mislead incautious readers. In various instances, they exhibit certain views, and lay down certain principles, as peculiar to them, in distinction from others, which in fact are held as fully by others as by them. Such a proceeding is evidently unfair, and whatever advantage may seem to be derived from it, is unjust.
THE PROVISIONS OF THE GOSPEL.
Mr. Mahan represents it as a principle belonging to his system, in distinction from the common system, that God has made full provision in the gospel to render Christians “perfect in every good work to do his will.” In his Discourses, p. 16, where he professes to set forth his system, in contrast with the common system, he says: “On one side” (that is, on his side) “it is affirmed, that grace is provided in the gospel to render the Christian, even in this life, perfect in every good work to do the will of God. On the other side it is affirmed, that no such grace is provided.” And in the Repository for October, 1840, p. 409, where he undertakes to show in what respect he differs from others, he repeats the same thing. In his Discourses, p. 93, he says: “The only existing difference" (that is, between his views and those commonly held)“ respects the extent of the provisions and promises of divine grace, in regard to Christians in this life.” “And when he comes, p. 129 and onward, to state more practically what he regards as the peculiar excellence of his system, in distinction from the one commonly received (such a distinction being everywhere implied), he points to this, namely : “that God has made full provision, not only for the pardon of every sin, but for the entire perfection of believers in holiness, and for every particular necessity which may come upon them in time and eternity.”
Attentive readers will perceive that the idea of such a distinction, between the advocates of Perfection and others, has full possession of Mr. Mahan's mind, and is interwoven with the whole texture of his Discourses.
Mr. Fitch takes the same ground. See Guide to Perfection, for February, 1840. He states it as the first point of inquiry between him and his brethren, whether God, in the economy of his grace, has made provision to save his people from their sins; and he affirms it to be his belief that such provision is made.
Now some readers will be inclined to exclaim: What a powerful recommendation is this of the doctrine of Perfection! What a striking argument in its favor! We find from the writings of these men, that the doctrine has this peculiar excellence, namely; it asserts that full provision has been made by divine grace for the entire deliverance of believers from sin. How precious such a provision! How plainly taught in the Bible! And how strange it is that Christians have so long
overlooked it! How great the mistake of those who differ from these writers, and who do not believe that God has made
provision for the entire sanctification of believers !
And yet it is a fact, that devout Christians and orthodox divines have, in all ages, maintained this same precious doctrine, that full provision is made in the gospel, not only for the forgiveness of sin, but for the complete sanctification of God's people. I might fill volumes with quotations from evangelical writers, from Augustine down to the present day, in which this grand sentiment is strongly asserted and clearly illustrated, and is set forth as the foundation of hope and the spring of effort to believers. Let any one read the practical writings of Calvin, Flavel, Owen, Bunyan, Watts, Doddridge, President Davies, Good, and numberless other authors, ancient and modern, and he will find that they exhibit this sentiment in all its preciousness. I hope to be excused, if I take the liberty to say, that no truth has been more familiar to my mind, or more zealously inculcated in my preaching and conversation than this, that the Saviour has made provision for the entire deliverance of his people from sin ; that the gospel contains a remedy for all our spiritual diseases; that there is a fulness in Christ, adequate to supply all our need. It has been the same with others. I could name many, whom I have known personally, who have zealously preached this doctrine, and have rested upon it, living and dying, as the rock of their salvation. By evangelical ministers generally, this doctrine has been regarded as one of the grand peculiarities of the gospel. In their view, the gospel is no gospel without it. And yet I must confess that neither I, nor my brethren generally have given this great gospel truth the place which it ought to hold in our preaching. And Mr. Mahan might, with perfect propriety, have noticed this, and might have truly said, that, in many instances, it has been so far neglected, as to make the impression upon others, that it was no part of our belief. But we do believe it, and we always have believed it; and we have sincerely and earnestly published it, as the ground of hope to man. We are, I acknowledge, under particular obligations to Mr. Mahan, for holding forth this