« ZurückWeiter »
the clairns which it has set up to respect and patronage. Let the reader call to mind, that in speaking of this latter performance (it is unworthy the name of a work), we have confined ourselves to the parts corresponding to the few examples adduced from a single letter of the alphabet in speaking of the School Dictionary, together, with the first verb, and the first word for which its author challenges our especial admiration ; and he will find no difficulty in believing us when we affirm, that to enumerate all the misstatements and blunders in this volume of 700 pages, would require a book of twice its size, to say nothing of the general mode of execution, which betrays a total want of conception of the very nature of lexicography. We owe it to ourselves to state, that neither would we have spent our time or taxed the patience of the reader in wading through such a rudis indigestaque moles of error and absurdity, did we not feel that the interests of literature and the reputation of the country imperatively demanded it at our hands.
1.--An Inquiry respecting the Self-determining Power of the Will;
or Contingent Volition. By Jeremiah Day, President of Yalé
College. New Haven : Herrick & Noyes. 1838. pp. 200. The question of the self-determining power of the will is intimately connected with many of the theological discussions of the present day.
“Yet there are reasons for believing that it is not, in all points of view, generally and clearly understood.” certainly great confusion of views often manifested in the prevailing popular debates and discussions embracing this question. We hail, therefore, with pleasure, the publication of this volume by President Day. We have only had time to bestow upon it a cursory examination. For this however, we feel richly rewarded, and have no hesitation in pronouncing the work every way worthy of the character of its respected author; whose habits of thinking, as well as his conciliatory spirit, peculiarly qualify him for a satisfactory and useful discussion of so difficult a subject, and concerning which there has, of late, been so much excitement among theologians of different schools.
This volume has so recently come to hand, that we have neither time nor room to give a full review of it in the present No. of the Repository. This it is our purpose to do in a future No. After a few pages of introductory observations, the running titles of the several sections of the book are the following, viz. powers of the mind, self-determination, influence of motives, liberty and necessity, ability and inability, consciousness and accountability, common sense, mechanical and physical agency, moral government of God, activity and dependence, fatalism and pantheism, testimony of Scripture. It is for the sake of securing a due appreciation of the last named source of evidence, on a subject so momentous, that our author has felt himself called upon to settle the several principles involved in the preceding topics of discussion. On this point his own remarks are as follows.
“ Here we are met with an assumption which precludes a reference to the decision of Scripture. It is claimed, that reason and consciousness, and common sense, have already decided the point; and that God cannot contradict, in his word, what he has distinctly made known to us by the faculties which he himself has implanted in the soul. Whatever passages, therefore, which seem to favor a particular doctrine, may be found in the Scriptures ; they are to be so interpreted, as not to signify any thing which reason pronounces to be absurd. We are called upon, then, to inquire, whether the position, that nothing but the will itself has any influence in determining what its acts shall be, is so intuitively or demonstrably certain, as to preclude all possibility of finding the contrary declared in the word of God. So long as this position is adhered to, it is in vain to think of appealing to the authority of the Scriptures, on the ques. tion respecting a self-determining power of the will. They will, of course, be so explained as to express a meaning in conformity with the principles assumed. This is my apology for making an application of dry metaphysics to a subject so nearly connected with one of the most important departments of scriptural theology.” (p. 13.) Again he remarks," I do not propose to establish certain theological points, by metaphysical reasoning, and then call in the aid of reve. lation merely to confirm the results of philosophical discussion. I would only aim at removing some of the objections which may lie in the way of a ready admission of the testimony of Scripture on the subject under consideration.” (p. 14.)
Dry metaphysics, however, when applied with the caution and discrimination of Pres. Day, become attractive and entertaining, as well as instructive, to minds which are sufficiently disciplined to follow'a continuous train of reasoning to its results. They are dry and uninteresting only to such as lack the patience of investigation and the power of discrimination which are necessary to conduct the mind to satisfactory conclusions on such subjects. Such only, we venture to predict, will complain of “ Day on the Will," as tedious
and uninstructive. For though it is admitted that metaphysical reasonings are insufficient to discover to us the foundations of religious truth, without the aid of divine revelation, yet positions have been assumed claiming the support of metaphysics, from which those who maintain them can only be dislodged by the weapons of their own warfare. It is with reference to such positions, sustained by false reasoning, that our author has entered the lists as a metaphysician. His opposing positions appear to us to have been taken with great precision and accuracy, and his reasonings to be conclusive.
President Edwards, in his Treatise on the Will, gave a masterly exposition of the principal forms in which the doctrine of a self-determining power may be met and refuted. " But for some reason or other," as our author remarks, “ his view of contingent self-determination appears to have attracted less attention of late, than that particular mode of statement which he resolves into an infinite series of volitions. The doctrine of his opponents was this, That the free acts of the will are not determined to be as they are, by any influence from without the will itself. This was considered by him as involving the alternative, that every volition is determined either by a preceding volition, or by nothing at all. The latter is contingent self-determination. This appeared to him so obviously absurd, as not lo call for a logical statement, expanded into the form of a regularly constructed demonstration. To the other branch of the alternative, he has done such ample justice, that the question concerning it may be considered as definitively settled. This may be one reason why the advocates of a self-determining power in the will, adhere so tenaciously to that form of the doctrine which implies contingence, as being the only ground left, on which they can hope to maintain their position.”
It is to the refutation of those who, on this ground, have evaded the conclusions of Pres. Edwards's reasoning, that Pres. Day has directed the powers of his well disciplined mind; and his success, we think, is entirely triumphant. He has demonstrated that, “ if nothing from without the will of the agent can have any influence in determining what his volitions shall be, then it must be beyond the power of the Father of our spirits to give direction to the acts of the will, without interfering with the prerogative of accountable agency. Omnipotence itself cannot work contradictions. When that inexplicable power, the human will, has once been set a going, it must, according to the doctrine of some, be suffered to run on for ever, throwing
off its volitions by contingent efficiency, uncontrolled and uncontrollable, by any thing from without itself.”
One happy result that we anticipate from the publication of this volume is, that it will lead theological combatants to see how much of their differences arises from the use of ambiguous language. The precision of the author in his definitions of terms, and the candor and VOL. XI. No. 30.
fairness with which he treats his opponents, are examples worthy of imitation; and his discussion of the topics embraced in this volume, we think, cannot fail to exert a correcting, an enlightening, and a healing influence, wherever it shall be attentively read and candidly weighed.
2.- The Sin against the Holy Ghost, explained agreeably to the
Holy Scriptures. By Lewis Mayer, D. D. Late Professor in the Theol. Sem. of the Germ. Ref. Church in the Uniled States.
Baltimore: Lucas & Beaver, 1838. pp. 42. This is an Essay of uncommon merit, and furnishes interesting evidence that the learned author, having retired from his professorship in the Theol. Sem. of the Germ. Ref. Church, is still turning his biblical studies to an important practical account. A right under. standing of the nature and characteristics of the sin against the Holy Ghost, is one of the most difficult and perplexing points of practical theology. It is a point, too, on which the unlearned and unstable have wrested the Scriptures more than on most others. Dr. Mayer's discussion is wholly biblical, and his views are presented with great clearness and precision. He discriminates between the sin against the Holy Ghost, described Matl. 12: 31, 32. Mark 3: 28–30. Luke 12: 10, and another unpardonable sin of which mention is made in the first epistle of John and in Heb. 6: 6 and 10: 26-29, with which the sin against the Holy Ghost has often been confounded. He dissents from those interpreters who place the commission of this sin only in defamatory words, and proves conclusively that it was not committed by the scribes and pharisees, when they reviled Jesus, saying “ He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils." His position is, that “The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost was the malicious reviling of the testimony which the Holy Ghost bare to the divine mission of Jesus and the truth of Christianity, in his miraculous operations in the church, after he was come in Christ's stead.” This sin he regards not as a single transient act or deed of excessive enormity, but a permanent dispo. sition of mind and manner of acting, which terminates only with the end of life ; by which the person who so demeaned himself set at naught all the evidence of the truth of Christianity, even the testimony of the Holy Spirit, with all the light and comfort which accompanied it, and consequently shut himself out from faith and repent. ance.” It is unpardonable, “ because it wholly excludes all faith in Christ, and consequently all repentance and conversion to God."
This view of the subject is not new. It is substantially that of Whitby; but it is more fully sustained in this Essay, by an ample induction of Scripture proof, than we have seen it elsewhere. We rejoice, therefore, in its publication in a form in which it may be extensively read.
3.-Discourse in Commemoration of the Glorious Reformation of the
Sixteenth Century, delivered before the Evangelical Lutheran
New York: Gould & Newman, 1838. pp. 131. 12mo. This Discourse was prepared by appointment of the synod before which it was delivered, and in compliance with a resolution of that body recommending that a discourse on the Reformation be annually delivered by each member of the synod before the people of his charge, and that one such discourse be annually delivered before the synod. It is worthy of the form in which it is now given to the public, in a neat and convenient volume, and well sustains the reputation of the author as a judicious and good writer.
After a brief statement of the spiritual tyranny under which the whole civilized world was groaning” at the commencement of the Reformation, and a few considerations to show that the period for this event was wisely chosen by the Head of the Church,” the discourse announces and discusses the following as among the distinguishing features of the Reformation :-I. It gave us free access to the uncorrupted fountain of truth and duty, God's holy word, as our only infallible rule of faith and practice.-II. It has delivered the church from a multitude of doctrinal and practical corruptions.—III. Has given us liberty of conscience and freedom from religious persecution.- IV. Has delivered the civil government of the countries which embraced it from papal tyranny, and has given a new impulse to civil liberty, which has been felt in every kingdom of Europe."
Under the last head our author presents, and sustains by authentic documents and history, the following established principles of popery, which have led to her encroachments on civil liberty in other coun. tries, and must also do so in our own country if she should be permitted to prevail.—" 1. The popes actually do claim, at this day, jurisdiction over the highest civil governments in the world.-2. They undertake to depose civil rulers, and to absolve the people from their allegiance to their own civil governments, even if they had formally pledged that allegiance by an oath.-3. Romish ecclesiastics, priests, monks, and nuns, claim exemption from the civil jurisdiction of the governments under which they live.-4. Their priests, etc. are under such oaths to the pope and his kingdom, as render them necessarily unfaithful to the civil liberties of any country.”
The positions of Dr. S. are bold and uncompromising; but they are well supported, and his argument throughout is conducted in a spirit of candor and kindness, which, unhappily, has not sufficiently characterized some recent American publications on the Catholic controversy. We are glad to see that the su of the Reformation, and of the blessings, both civil and religious, which have resulted