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A Letter to a Friend, who received his theological education under the instruction of Dr. EMMONS, concerning the doctrine, which teaches, that impenitent sinners have natural power to make themselves new hearts. By NaTHANIEL NILES, A. M. Windsor, Vt. A. Spooner,


SINCE the days of Jonathan Edwards, New England has been considered as the peculiar abode of metaphysical theology. Here, if we may believe some men, she has erected her throne upon the chaos of intellect, and reigns over a multitude of subjects, who think themselves in the regions of light while they grope in darkness. We are not inclined to defend the New Eng. land divines from the charge of metaphysical ingenuity, though we cannot so readily acquiesce in the supposed inutility of their speculations. So far as our ac. quaintance has extended, we have not found, that those who think the deepest are in consequence the less plain, and pungent, and successful in preaching. The pride of party may sometimes have attached an un

due importance to certain ab. struse notions; but we think that several important benefits frequently arise from metaphysical researches. First, the large class of general or abstract words, which are used in very differ ent senses by different persons become invested with a definition,

and assume for a time a fixed and perceptible shape. This advan. tage will be duly estimated by those, who have labored through tedious arguments, rendered unintelligible from inability to dis. cover the precise meaning of the terms, used in it. The next benefit, resulting from metaphysical inquiries, is the habit of close and discriminating thought, which is produced. Thus the mind is rendered more keen and active, and the instruments of its labor become known and are convenient for use. In the last place many truths of the highest importance are discovered, and the delusions of sinful men are in this way more completely searched out. While the heart is de ceitful above all things, while it winds itself into a thousand forms, and hides itself in a thousand labyrinths, the acute and persevering metaphysician, who will not relax from his researches till he can bring forth the hidden motive to the light, may effectually promote even the interests of practical religion.

With these views we are not grieved at seeing the pamphlet, now to be examined, though we should have been more gratified if it had been both written and printed in a better style. It is a direct assault upon a principle which has long been embraced by many of the New England divines, and as the author promises, that a larger work shall follow in the same cause, this treatise is the more deserving of consideration, as the public may

wish to know the point of dispute, or "the state of the controversy."

It seems, that both Mr. NILES and those, whose system he at tacks, fully believe, that men are by nature so entirely depraved, that unless God by his special influence renews their hearts, they will not be holy. To this doctrine it has in every age been objected by the impeni. tent sinner, if this be the case, then I am not criminal for my continuance in sin, for I have not power to renew my heart.' It is in respect to the mode of repelling this objection, that a difference of opinion has arisen. Mr. N. if we understand him, would say to the sinner, C your heart is sinful, it is destitute of love to God, it is contrary to his law, and in that consists your guilt; it is of no consequence how your heart became sinful; it is no matter though it is impossible for you to repent.' With this answer Mr. N. would content himself. The gentlemen, whom he opposes, the Rev. Drs. EMMONS, SPRING, and CRANE, would say very much the same thing, but in order completely to silence the sinner, they would explain themselves and address him in this manner- You are able to do your duty, but not willing; you have natural pow. er to obey the commands of God, but you have not the moral power; God requires no more than what you have natural ability to perform, but your hearts are disobedient; you have as much power to repent as to move your hand, but you will not repent; your inability is moral, not natural.'

It is this representation, with

which Mr. N. cannot and will

not agree. His reasoning is as follows. Power or ability, in relation to this subject, must mean one of two things; either first the properties of our minds, which fit us to be the subjects of certain operations, to experience certain effects, such as the properties or faculties of sensation, perception, understanding, and willing, which are distinct and prerequisite to actual feeling, knowledge, and volition; or secondly the sure connexion, which subsists between the acts of the will and certain events, which follow those acts. Now when it is said, that impenitent sinners have the natural ability to repent, if the word ability be used in the latter sense, then we shall have the strange assertion, that repentance will assuredly follow the unholy volition of the impenitent sinner to repent. But if the word ability be used in the former sense, then all the parade of metaphysical subtilty, which was designed to demolish the strong hold of the sinner, amounts only to this, that he has certain properties of mind, that he has understanding and will, and if he repented he would repent!' Such an empty declaration as this Mr. N. cannot regard as worthy of the good sense of those, whom he opposes, inasmuch as it does not meet the objection of the sinner, and as it asserts only what every body admits.

We do not see how the force of this reasoning can be evaded, and we gravely suspect, that all the supporters of the distinction

between natural and moral abili,

ty and inability, from Jonathan

Edwards down to the writers of the present day, mean no more by the distinction, notwithstand ing all the parade of system, than the plain fact, that a bad heart, or a want of disposition or will to obey God is no excuse to the sinner, who has understanding to know his duty. This is a very evident truth, and it was not necessary to dress it up in the shape of a metaphysical theory. Still however it may not be so trifling a distinction, as Mr. N. would represent it. If the sinner, who is endeavor. ing to justify himself for his continuance in iniquity by pleading his inability to be holy, is reminded, that his inability con. sists in nothing but his sinful temper, his sinful heart, his sinful affections, his sinful will, and if he is told, that he is constrained by no necessity, which would not give way if he loved GoD supremely, ought this to be considered as an impertinent reply?

Does Mr. N. then really agree in sentiment with the gentlemen, whom he attacks, and is the difference only about the meaning of words? We think this is actual. ly the case in regard to the prin. cipal subject discussed, though there is a difference in some res. pects. We owe it to the clear definitions, contained in this pamphlet, that we are enabled to see the point of controversy, and that we see it to be merely a question relating to the import of words. We have no doubt but that the

author of the pamphlet has the better of the argument-that is, that he attaches the truest meaning to the words of his mother tongue. Dr. Emmons says that siuners are as able to work

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out their own salvation, as to perform the common actions of life." To this it is objected, that ability, as commonly used, relates to the sure connexion be tween the will and the conse quent effect, which cannot here be the meaning; of course the above assertion, as the common reader would understand it, is not correct. It may be true however as Dr. E. understood it.

The peculiar views of Mr. N. as exhibited in this pamphlet, seem to be the following. Con. sidering the affections and vo lition as a property of the soul in the same sense, that the understanding is, he chooses to call them natural powers, while at the same time he acknowledges, that they are exclusively moral powers also, since to them must be referred all that is sinful or holy. holy. When therefore a man is utterly opposed to holiness, he considers him as being under a natural inability to be holy. Virtue and vice, holiness and sin, have not however, in his judgment, any relation to natural power, for they respect only the heart.

Whenever the heart is wicked, a natural inability af fords no excuse, and whenever the heart is good, the same inability does not diminish the goodness. All affections, volitions, and external acts are only of importance, as they show the state of heart. of heart. The commands, and exhortations, and promises of the Scriptures do not imply, that men have any power to repent, but only express the duty of men, and teach them what will be the event of obedience and disobedience.

At the close of his pamphlet, the author points out some of

the evil tendencies of the doctrine, that sinners have the nat. ural power to make themselves new hearts; but his apprehen. sions relate solely to his view of the doctrine, which is certainly different from the view of those, who inculcate it. They attach a different meaning to the words, in which it is expressed. His design is to obtain some explanations of it.

We have examined this treatise with some attention, and though we find in it much ingenuity and patient thought, yet we do not perceive, that the writer differs greatly from those, whom he opposes. The controversy is very much respecting the meaning of words. The following passage seems to be to the point.

"It is at once as easy, and more familiar, literal, and intelligible to say, one has a disposition or volition, or that he is willing to do a thing, than to say he has moral power to do it; and to say he is not willing, than to say he is morally unable, or that he labors under a moral impotence with respect to doing it; to say that a bad heart is a wicked thing, than to say, that a bad heart is moral inability to do right, and that a moral inability to do right is a wicked thing."

This is very good, for it is stripping metaphysical theology of its technical language; but perhaps the work might be done more thoroughly, and even the author's "volition" might be thrown aside with the other terms.

ry, or any other property of the soul may be so called. Of course the want of them, where they are needful to an effect, may as properly be pronounced defect of natural power as may the want of understanding or bodily strength."

The faculty of the will is un. doubtedly one of the natural faculties of the soul; it is a prerequisite to volition, or the actual exercise of the faculty. But when the power is actually exerted in relation to moral subjects, for instance when a particular command of God is understood, and the mind wills either to obey or to disobey it, or what is the same thing either loves or hates it; this act is of a moral nature, because it is necessarily either holy or sinful. Suppose the mind to be so formed as invariably to prefer what is sinful, would this uniform, fixed, and certain preference of evil, which is an act of a moral nature, prove that the soul is under a natural inability to what is good? It would according to Mr. N. for the preference of good is necessary, in order that goodness should be attributed to the heart, and this preference is wanting. But is not this to confound the distinction between natural and moral power, which Mr. N. himself recognizes? Let an appeal, for instance, be made to the charity of a rich miser, who has every prerequisite to the bestowment of a portion of his wealth, excepting the dispo

moral defect or sin. Yet this

We were surprised at the in-sition, the want of which is his accuracy of the following paragraph, which contains the sub. stance of the author's peculiar opinion.

"It seems to me evident, that affections, volitions, &c. may be called natural powers in the same sense, in which perception, knowledge, intelligence, memo,

disposition being "needful to cording to Mr. N., a defect of the effect," the want of it is, acnatural power. Is not this entirely to annihilate the distinction between natural and moral "We are in inability ?


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numerable instances, says the author, both unable and unwilling." Was the miser unable to bestow his money? Was he under a natural inability to give it? What was there wanting except the volition? Was not his inability solely moral? If so, how is Mr. N. consistent with himself, or how does he differ from those, whose sentiments he examines ? If then by the sinner's natural power to repent or to make himself a new heart be meant, that he has every prerequisite faculty, and that nothing is wanting except the very repentance or the new heart itself, the want of which is sin, or moral inability, what is the subject of this controversy but the meaning of words?

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In favoring us with a new edi. tion of Buck on Experience we think that the American editors have evinced their judgment and taste, and rendered an acceptable service to all the friends of Experimental Religion.

Mr. Buck is well known, as the author of a Theological Dic tionary, a work of considerable merit. His Young Christian's Guide, and his Anecdotes are not yet known in this country, but we hope that the favorable reception of the work now be. fore us, will encourage the Amer. ican editors to favor us with one or both of them.

This little treatise on Relig. ious Experience is remarkable for the simplicity of its arrange ment and style, and for the excellent advice to Christians of all ages, and in all situations with which it abounds.

The table of contents, prefix. ed to the work will give an idea of its nature and design.

Chap. 1. On the nature of Religious Experience in general. 2. On the advantages of Experi ence. 3. The Young Christian's Experience. 4. Experi ence of the Christian in middle age. 5. Distressing Experience. 6. On happy Experience. 7. Remembrance of past Experi ence. 8. On the relation of Experience. 9. The aged Chris. tian's Experience. 10. Dying Experience. 11. Advice respecting Experience. 12. The Evil of the want of Experience,

WE have been repeatedly gratified with the many excellent transatlantic publications which have been presented to the American public, from the press of Messrs. Lincoln and Edmands. In a country like ours, where so few original works can be expected, it requires no inconsiderable judgment to select from These subjects are important, the immense variety of foreign and we can assure our readers publications, those, which are that they are treated by the au best calculated to promote the thor in a very useful, interesting, religious interests, as well as to and practical manner, and will attract the attention, and to well repay an attentive perusal. gratify the taste of the public.

In his introduction the author

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