Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

Before leaving this part of the subject, we will formally refer to two classes of temptations alluded to at the very outset of our remarks, as not being directly embraced in the general origin of temptation, as set forth in the review. And this we do, in the first place, for the purpose of ascertaining the exact relation which every temptation by which man is assailed bears to the general theory; and also because we find them alluded to, though rather remotely, in the editorial strictures,-and alluded to, as though they tended at least to embarrass the reviewer's theory.

The first class to which we refer, are those which have their origin in "Satanic suggestion." And in regard to these we remark, that in common with those of which we have more particularly spoken, they are "involuntary and necessary," that is, unavoidable; yet, unlike them, these are excited in the appetites and passions, not directly by the "objects which God has appointed as their natural excitants,"-though these objects are generally made the medium of the suggestion. In this respect alone they differ; but not in their nature, when once formed, nor in their moral character. The general doctrines of the reviewer's theory are therefore strictly applicable to these, as he himself has affirmed. Such as these were the temptations of our Saviour, and are many of those by which the good man is assaulted.

To the second class the reviewer has not distinctly alluded; and these, it must be admitted, are one step further removed from the operation of his theory. They differ not only in their origin from the temptations embraced in the general theory, but may differ in a single particular in their moral character. The temptations referred to are these:-The appetites and passions sometimes by long excessive indulgence seem to find "excitement" in objects not "appointed by God as their natural excitants."-If this perversion of these natural powers has been the result of unavoidable ignorance, or of any circumstances beyond the individual's control; then the temptations arising from their excessive or irregular action differ not, except in their origin, from those we have been examining, and are, in all other respects, fully embraced in the general theory. But if this perversion of the natural powers has been the result of voluntary and sinful indulgence, as in the case of the ordinary inebriate, the transgressor has the double responsibility resting on him, of having perverted the powers given him by his Maker, and also of gratifying the lust arising from the perversion.

Here, and here alone, we find a temptation, the existence of which, as well as its gratification, involves guilt; and, in this re

spect, it differs from the entire class of temptations directly embraced in the reviewer's general theory, and doubtless forms an exception to its full application. This temptation, however, does not perhaps differ very materially from those noticed by the reviewer as having their origin in "reflection," provided that reflection is deliberate and voluntary; yet this two-fold character of guilt is not by him distinctly pointed out.-Concerning such temptations, it remains only to add this very important practical remark; that though they may have their origin in the basest depravity of the most groveling appetite, even such an origin does not destroy, or abate, one tithe from the virtue of a conscientious and successful resistance. This last conclusion we believe to be sustained by the common consent of men, and by the general spirit of the Scriptures.

We now purpose to go into a brief examination of the theory presented in the Herald, as in accordance with sound theology, and as opposed to that of the review.-At the close of the strictures, the editor has said in regard to the reviewer, that "it requires much more ability to construct his theory, than to demolish it." Whether this compliment can be returned, we can perhaps judge better at the close of our remarks, or perhaps it will be safer to leave this point to the judgment of others. With higher views, however, we trust, than those connected with the construction and demolition of theories, we shall proceed cautiously but fearlessly to our work; nor shall we be deterred by the suggestion of the editor, that we are on a "subject which reaches occult positions, that the human mind cannot grasp." And the first and chief point which attracts our attention, is the cold and philosophical sort of temptation which is set forth in these strictures, as the only one free from "the nature of sin;"-a temptation, which, in the language of the editor, "has no exciting influence upon the passions," and in which the person is represented as "feeling no excitement to the evil" by which he is tempted; and which, in the language quoted as from the pen of Professor Upham, "goes no further than the thoughts," and "enters not into the emotions or the desires." This, we must believe, will present itself to the consciousness of every man as a mere theoretical abstraction, differing from those impulses which men usually call temptations, at least as much as the cold and motionless statue differs from the living and breathing form!

First, we inquire,-Is this the kind of temptation which assails the young Christian? The spirit of the strictures answers de

cidedly in the negative. Then, his temptation partakes at least "of the nature of sin." But what does experience say on this subject? How does he feel, when he has come out from one of his sore conflicts with his appetites, with his passions, or with Satan? Dr. Wayland says, "If he have obeyed the impulses of conscience, and resisted successfully the impulses at variance with it, he will be conscious of a feeling of innocence, of approbation, of desert of reward." The impulses here referred to as opposed to those of the conscience, are the appetites, the passions, and self-love. When he has resisted successfully and overcome these impulses, he will be conscious of a feeling-not of gratitude that he has escaped, though scathed and injured in his moral powers, and filled with remorse for "sin,”—but, in the language of this severe moralist, "he will be conscious of a feeling of innocence;" and not only of innocence, but "of approbation, and of desert of reward." This is the common sense view of the subject, and is imbodied in almost all books of morals and ethics. And I have no hesitation in saying, that just in proportion to the power of these impulses to evil, and the length of the conflict, provided the resistance have been constant and unwavering, will be the greatness of the peace that will succeed, and of the joy of the deliverance. And it is when the man, by acquisitions of grace, obtains the power of coming out victorious from these conflicts, that he joins with the apostle and says, "There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." So far, then, from these conflicts involving any thing "of the nature of sin," we believe they furnish the best evidence of virtue and genuine piety; and that too, as we have before intimated, whether they arise from appetites and passions unperverted, or from appetites acquired and passions alienated by former sinful habits.

But how stands this case, if we refer to the perfect Christian? We quote from the Herald :

"How, then, is a sanctified person tempted? We answer, intellectually, not sensitively; by mere intellection, not by passion. His passions and appetites being pervaded by the presence and purity of the divine Spirit, have no susceptibility of unholy excitement, no tendency to evil. Satan cannot exert an improper influence upon his mind; he can only present to it thoughts. For example, two Christians, one sanctified, the other not, perceive a certain opportunity of becoming independently wealthy by the use of some improper means. The sanctified person perceives the opportunity-nothing but imbecility could keep him from the perception-but it has no exciting influence

* Elements of Moral Science, chap. ii, sec. 2.

upon his passions; he may intellectually dwell upon the circumstances, and wonder at the facilities they afford to an evil mind; but at the same time not only feel no excitement to the evil, but exultingly thank God for his exemption from it. On the other hand, the unsanctified Christian may feel the cravings of avarice, he may go the whole day in sore conflict with these cravings, beating them down and yet feeling them."

And is this all the sanctified man knows of temptation? We appeal to experience, and inquire-Is this all? Has he no "fiery trials"-no conflicts, in the very strongest sense of that term? We do not inquire whether he has unsuccessful conflicts, or long-continued and doubtful conflicts, or even frequent conflicts;-this is not necessary to the case. Has he conflicts at all? If he has, let us inquire, for the purpose of testing the theory of the strictures, where the contest must lie? And here, we feel the utmost confidence in remarking, that the object of this conflict, if there ever is one in his heart, is to gain the assent of the will; and with this single remark, we proceed to make two quotations from Professor Upham's Philosophical Works :

"It will readily be conceded that morality implies a will, a power of choice and determination. But the mere moral emotions, viz., of approval and of disapproval, do not of themselves reach the will. They operate on the will through the feelings of obligation; that is to say, they are always succeeded by the latter feelings before men are led to action. All other emotions operate through the desires. So that the will, in making up its determinations, takes immediate cognizance of only two classes of mental states, viz., DESIRES and FEELINGS OF OBLIGA

TION."*

"The class of mental states, which are termed emotions, are followed not merely by desires, but also by another class, distinct from desires, and yet sustaining the same relation of proximity to the will, which, for want of a single term, we have been obliged to denominate feelings of obligation. Desires are founded on the natural emotions, or those which involve what is pleasurable or painful, while obligatory feelings are exclusively based on emotions of a different kind, viz., moral emotions, or emotions of moral approval and disapproval. The obligative states of mind, although they are easily distinguished by our consciousness from desires or the desirive states of mind, agree with the latter in being in direct contact with the voluntary power, and not unfrequently these two classes of mental states stand before the will in direct and fierce opposition to each other."+

Here, then, precisely, in the immediate region of the will,—is found this great moral battle-ground; where the sole combatantsthough excited and urged on by the emotions-are the desires on the one hand, and the feelings of obligation on the other; and †Treatise on the Will, chap. iii, § 30.

* Ment. Phi., vol. ii, § 263.

where the prize to be lost or won-is the human soul. Here the conflict continues at times during the man's whole probation,the contest never being entirely abandoned, nor the scene of the conflict changed. Temptation, then, can never become properly such, can never produce affliction, or danger, or even "heaviness," only so far as it excites, or tends to excite, the DESIRES. We have before shown that "excitement is an essential element of temptation;" and here we incidentally find the precise nature and extent of the "excitement," which is necessary to give it its distinctive character.

This view, while it may not often be distinctly set forth by theological writers, is yet believed not to be at variance with their general doctrines. And here again we shall take occasion to recur to the passages before quoted from Dr. Butler, to which the reader's attention is again specially invited. In the first, he gives us to understand, that "the several external objects of the appetites, passions, and affections, being present to the senses, or offering themselves to the mind, excite emotions suitable to their nature," and that they do this, "not only in cases where they can be gratified consistently with innocence and prudence, but also in cases where they cannot." In the next quotation he goes further, and naming the affections as one class of the desires, he says, "They are naturally felt when the objects of them are present to the mind, not only before all consideration whether they can be obtained by lawful means, but after it is found they cannot. For the natural objects of affection continue so; the necessaries, conveniences, and pleasures of life, remain naturally desirable, though they cannot be obtained innocently; nay, though they cannot possibly be obtained at all. And," he goes on to say, (with such change only as a partial quotation, for the sake of brevity, demands,)"where the objects of any affection whatever cannot be obtained without unlawful means, but may be obtained by them, such affection, though it be excited, and though it continue some time in the mind, is as innocent as it is natural and necessary.” And in the same passage he expressly asserts, in regard to this class of desires, that "virtue can neither excite them, nor prevent their being excited."-All comment is here rendered unnecessary.

This view we shall also support by a quotation from Wesley:

"The more any believer examines his own heart, the more will he be convinced of this: That faith, working by love, excludes both inward and outward sin from a soul watching unto prayer; that nevertheless we are even then liable to temptation, particularly to the sin that did easily beset us; that if the loving eye of the soul be steadily fixed

« AnteriorContinua »