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Alleged Dominion of Motives.
A Distinct Theory
I have now finished what I had to say on the subject of divine efficiency, and have come to another theory entirely distinct, but equally opposed to that fundamental truth. It is, that God can mould the heart at pleasure by the mere influence of motives, whether they are adapted to its present temper or not. This, so far as I know, is a theory entirely new: but it accords much better than the other with the true doctrines. It is reconcileable with special grace in regeneration and with election and perseverance. Still it is nothing but moral suasion, and ill comports with that representation of divine power in regeneration with which the Scriptures abound. And all that has been said in proof of divine efficiency lies against it. All that has been said to show that the Bible does not ascribe regenerating power to the word, lies more against this than against the other theory; for if the mere illuminating Spirit cannot give efficacy to the word at all, surely it cannot always.
On some printed pages before me I find the following. “ It is evident, if God is able to exert his agency on the mind through the truth, that no limitation can be assigned to that agency short of absolute omnipotence.-Through
its instrumentality God can exert any influence however great, and overcome every obstacle to be found in the unrenewed soul.” “I have no where said that regeneration is caused by the will of man, but by the Spirit of the living God operating through motives.” “The creature is turned-in the twinkling of an eye." “ You do notmake motives the cause of all the holy and sinful acts of the mind, but you suppose that the cause of these actions is to be found in the mind itself.” “The will is determined to choose the Almighty through the influence of motives as crowded upon the mind by the eternal Spirit.” “How will this serve to throw him off from his Antinomianism, as long as you tell him that he has a depraved heart or temper that renders him entirely unsusceptible of the influence of holy motives ?” On the pages of another work I find the following. “God regenerates men with truth as a Sovereign, when and where he pleases.” “The sentiment of the text may—be thus expressed : Ye are regenerated through the instrumentality of the truths or motives or moral suasion of Scripture.” “These truths are motives. They constitute the moral suasion of the Bible.” “ Truth or motive are God's established laws of governing the moral world, just as attraction and gravitation are God's established laws of governing many movements in the natural world.” “God has ordained that our acts and volitions-shall be caused by motives.” “All our volitions and actions are caused by motives.".
These two writers fully deny the self-determining power. But they both represent the action of God to be on the truth, and not directly on the mind. One of them,
finding fault, says, “ You had recourse to the doctrine that in all the acts and exercises of the moral agent, the Spirit acts directly on the mind and mind only.” “Unless an instrument break it will bear power applied to it to any extent. Hence if God can exert an influence through the truth on the mind of the sinner, inasmuch as the truth is an instrument that-cannot break, so through its instrumentality God can exert any influence however great.”: “I know that you assert that God is unable to exert any influence on or through the truth; but-does the supposition-diminish his claim to the-gratitude of his creatures!
- Is the warriour who destroys the enemies of his country with swords and muskets and cannon, any the less entitled to some distinguished meed, than if he had destroyed them with his hands ?" Mark this. His hands touch not the enemy, but only touch the instruments. The other writer says, “We do not deny the necessity of the Spirit's special influences when we say men are begotten of the truth. You do not deny the special agency of the mechanic when you affirm that your table was made with a plane and chissel and hammer.” “ A friend comes to your door, and, finding an immense log cut-off,—inquires how it was divided. You answer, with this axe. That, he says, isuntrue : for, in the first place, you cut off the log, and not the axe; in the second place, that axe has no power in itself whatever; and in the third place, you yourself could not have made such a feeble instrument accomplish so great an undertaking."
Now all these representations go upon the principle that the Spirit never touches the mind, but only touches the
truth, and truth touches the mind; and that the mind, in view of truth made clear by the illuminating Spirit, turns without any other action of God. And this is old Arminianism, with the single addition that God can make the truth so clear as to ensure its success. Does this take away the self-determining power ? The only self-determination held by Whitby was in regard to attending to the thing presented and believing it to be the greatest good. As these writers ascribe no such independent power to the mind, but believe it absolutely controlled by truth divinely illumined, they must be acquitted from holding to the selfdetermining power.
This idea of God's pressing upon truth and pressing it into the mind, and by the pressure, not only introducing it, but shaping the affections, seems to me one of the most extravagant dreams ever conceived. The real meaning however is, that God, by a pressure upon truth, thrusts it into the eye of the mind, and thus makes it take such hold of the natural susceptibility to motives, as to cause the affections which he wishes to excite.
Allowing that the mind, in all its holy affections, is consciously moved by the rational considerations involved in truth, (a point about which no one can doubt,) it does not follow that the action of God which precedes these affections is on the truth and not on the mind. How can God act upon truth? If this were done some change must be wrought in truth, in point of form or place or position or motion, or in some other respect : but what change in form or position or place or motion, or in any other respect, can be wrought in truth? God makes the truth seen and felt