Imágenes de páginas


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

Chalmers on the Romans,---Predestination, &c.

Lectures on the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, by Thomas Chalmers, D. D., L. L. D., &c. New York: Published by Robert Carter, 58 Canal Street. 1845.

By the REV. SAMUEL D. Cochran, of New York City.


As we might naturally infer from his Necessitarianism, Chalmers is a staunch believer in absolute and unconditional predestination and election. His views on this grand subject are fully exhibited in the 60th, 61st, 72nd, 73rd and 74th Lectures. He enters upon their development by expatiating on the absolute necessity which reigns throughout the entire domain of the material creation as the result of a "rigid and unfailing ordination." He then assumes that this same adamantine law prevails equally over the intelligent creation -that "when we pass upwardly to the doings of conscious and intelligent man, the sturdy predestinarian will not quit his hold; but affirms, that, even after the introduction of this new element, all is in as strict subordination to the will of God as before," and "that men are as certainly the instruments of his pleasure, as the fire and the air and the water that are said to be his ministers." He thinks this speculation receives a "semblance of great consistency and truth" from the fact that "just as matter acts in virtue of certain powers and properties wherewith the Creator hath endowed it, so mind also hath powers and properties to which all its movements can be referred," and that "the mechanism of thought and desire and determination is only one of those

countless diversities of operation through which it is God that worketh all in all." His final argument is, that "if there is any thing in the agency of man to abridge God of his Sovereignty-if, when it is the part of man to will, it is the part of God, as it were, to stand by and wait on the uncertain decision-if the Creator, instead of foreseeing all and determining · all, must thus attend on the decisions of the creature, and shape the measures of his providence on earth according to the signals that are given out by all the petty and independent powers that swarm upon its surface-then never, in the whole history of this world's politics, we will venture to affirm, never was there exhibited a more disjointed and tumultuous government-never have we read of a more helpless and degra ded sovereign." On this point, we deem it well that he should be allowed a full opportunity to speak for himself.

"This first consideration on the side of a strict and determinate necessity, even in the world of mind as in that of matter, might be suggested by a mere view of nature to the philosophical observer of its sequences and its laws; but our second consideration is founded on the view of nature's God. It seems hard to deny Him, either a prescience over all the futurities, or a sovereignty over all the events of that universe which Himself did create; or that, sitting as we conceive him to do on a throne of omnipotence, there should be so much as one department of His vast empire, where His power does not fix all, and His intelligence does not foresee all. It greatly enhances this argument, when the department in question happens to be far the highest and noblest in creation; and it does seem to place our doctrine on very secure vantage ground -that the denial of it would appear to involve the degradation of heaven's high monarch from entire and unexcepted supremacy, not over the material world, but certainly over the spiritual world. The apostle contends for as great a mastery on the part of God over the spirits which He has formed, as the potter has over the clay which he fashions as it pleases Him; but the adversaries of an overruling necessity in mind as well as in matter, would limit God as well as man to a mere dominion of clay-or, in other words, while they admit that it is the strength of His almighty arm which gives impulse to all the particles, and both their place and their movement to the most unwieldy masses of mute and passive and unconscious materialism, they would strip Him of the like ascendency over the moral world; they would people the whole of His living creation with a host of wayward and independent forces, in the agency of which the world of intelligence and of life took its own random direction, and drifted away from the control of Him who formed and who upholds it. For, really, should any thing happen not because the Creator hath so appointed it, but because of some power and liberty in the creature, that thing is beyond the scope of the sovereignty of God-it hath made its appearance in this universe by Him unbidden and unwilled-the history of men is abandoned to a wild misrule, through the caprice and confusion of which not even Omniscience itself can descry beforehand any character of certainty; and, in as far as

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

the history of men is at all mingled with, or has influence on the history of things, there is a vast progression of events over which God has no hold, and that wilders in loose and lawless contingency away from Him. We vainly try to reconcile with this imagination, either the foreknowledge or the supremacy of God-impossible as it is that the eye even of His prophecy can look any way through the descending steps of a series liable at every turn to the intervention of what is purely self-originated and spontaneous, or that the hand of His power can have the entire guidance and government thereof. This consideration obtains great additional force on seeing, as we do experimentally every day, how closely interwoven causes the most minute are with consequences the most momentous, in the history of human affairs. It is quite familiar to us, that the word or thought or feeling of a moment might germinate a big and busy story-that on what appeared the accidental meeting of two individuals in a street, such events and arrangements might turn as shall give a wholly new direction to the futurity of both-that in this way on the very humblest of incidents the very greatest passages of history have been suspended; and could all the movements of a nation's policy be traced to their mysterious springs in the character or circumstances of the actors concerned in them, that what in itself looked an unimportant casualty, drew the fortune of many nations, and the successive evolutions of many centuries in its train. In a world, so linked and constituted as ours is, if the destination of God do not reach to its things of greatest minuteness, then are its things of greatest magnitude beyond the reach of His ascendency. If he ordain not the fall and the flight of every sparrow, then it is not He who ordains the rise and fall of empires. If He reign not supreme in every little chamber where the passions and the purposes of men are formed, then is He divested of all power and of all presidency in the larger transactions of our world. If He have not the command over every latent spring in the mechanism of human society, then must that mechanism drift uncontrollably away from Him. And thus, it is argued, that, if all. things do not fall out with fixed and determinate certainty upon earth, He who has been styled its governor occupies in heaven but the semblance of a throne. His are the mock ensigns of authority; and if man be not a necessary agent, God is a degraded Sovereign."--Lec. 72, pp. 367, 368.

Such, in outline, is our author's train of inculcations on this subject. It is needless to say that we utterly reject the whole representation as unmitigated error. Independently of all definite metaphysical, or even theological objections to it, how can it receive the rational complacency of any unsophistica ted mind?—how can it be regarded otherwise than as a hideous doctrinal perversity, alike revolting to common sense, and oppressive to the heart; a generator of scepticism; a fosterer of impenitence; a theological Calaban,

"Which any print of goodness will not take,
Being capable of all ill!"

Obviously our author was far from unconscious of its odi

ous aspect and baneful influence, even while developing it; for he forthwith sets himself, with all his skill, at the vain endeavor to show that "it leaves all the motives and all the influences of human activity precisely where it found them." His success in this endeavor, we will submit to the judgment of our readers by and by. Suffice it to say here, that, if his endeavor is successful, it proves just this, and nothing more, that the doctrine, which he has labored so strenuously to establish, is of no practical value whatever! An illustrious defence of such a dogma!

But let us summarily canvass this important matter. If, then, the will is free-if moral agents determine their own choices, universally, whatever may be the kind, combination, or amount of motives which prompt them to choose-if at the moment, they are about to make any given decision, good or evil, they are able, in precisely the same circumstances, to make a contrary one, then, the doctrine of absolute and unconditional predestination, together with all its logical results, is utterly false and utterly pernicious. Every proof, therefore, of the freedom of the will is a legitimate antagonism to this view of predestination. That the will is free, is attested by consciousness; by the intuitions of reason that freedom can be the only ground of the possibility of virtue or sin, of requisitions or prohibitions, of praise or blame, of rewards or punishments, of the conception of moral government; by all the absurdities and abysses of confusion and delusion involved in, and emanating from the doctrine of necessity, and by the entire current of Scriptural inculcations when rightly comprehended and rightly interpreted. A formidable phalanx this, to be encountered and routed by the goblin error paraded in our author's pages, with such support as stale assumptions and oft-exposed absurdities, arrayed in flaunting rhetoric, can give it! Is the testimony of consciousness a lie? Are the intuitions of reason inane illusions? Is mind identical, in nature and laws, with unintelligent, unconscious matter?— Is virtue the same in kind with the operations of the material creation?—a chimera, as conceived of by mankind, elaborated and eliminated in the play of a mechanism somewhat more mystic and delicate than that which is supposed to operate in nature around us, but controlled and wielded, as it is, by the might of an irresistible and eternal compulsion?

"Of this be sure,

Where freedom is not, there no virtue is:
If there be none, this world is all a cheat,

« AnteriorContinuar »