Editor's note: John Taylor in his book The History of Ten Baptist Churches, 1823, tells of a booklet written and published by Judge Henry Davidge on the Advocates Of A Partial Gospel which caused great controversy among the Baptists of Kentucky. As far as is known there are no extant copies of Davidge's book, but Rev. Archilbald Cameron, a Presbyterian minister, published a series of letters to Judge Davidge concerning the premises of his arguments in the book. Just exactly what Judge Davidge wrote we cannot be certain. But these letters give us a gist of Davidge's essay. From what Cameron says, they were unorthodox views, which is what John Taylor and most of the other Kentucky Baptists of that day said.
Judge Davidge was born in Henrico County, Virginia, August 13, 1783 and died in Franklin County, Kentucky, May 5, 1839. He was admitted to the Bar in 1804 and served as a Judge in Gallatin County, Kentucky, when John Taylor first met him, while Taylor was living in that area. Davidge moved to central Kentucky and became a member of Big Spring Baptist Church in Franklin County about the time his book was written.
The following is what John Taylor wrote about the controversy that Davidge caused. Cameron's letters follow. - Jim Duvall
From The History of Ten Baptist Churches, 1823,
Judge [Henry] Davidge, a man of high standing, both as a Judge of Law, and moral deportment, had been Baptized a few months before I joined the church at Big Spring; being intimately acquainted with the judge, and believing him to be a religious man, I had no scruple in becoming a member with him in the same church, though I knew him to be much tinctured with Armeniism [Arminianism]. For the constitution of Big Spring Church [in Franklin County] was not of that cast. Not long after I became a member there, the judge published a pamphlet, in which the Armenian [sic] doctrine was strained to its utmost link. This filled me with surprise, for I had thought, that the Judge was on the change of sentiment, as he had voluntarily joined the Baptists — and I knew they had treated him very respectfully, but it is probably, the Judge was not fully apprised of the order of the people, with whom he had lately connected himself.
The Judge's book, soon spread far and wide, and began much to arrest the attention of the Baptists, and the more so, as he was a licensed preacher in the Big Spring Church.
Traveling about, I found many of the Baptists, much disgusted with this new book — and that Big Spring Church, was like to be brought under an odium, if she did not in some way, act on that affair. — This led me to converse with the pastor on that subject — but whether from the Judge's influence being greater with him than my own, or from some other source, so it was, what I said was treated with neglect; under this I could not in good conscience lie still; for I could not tell but that the Judge and our pastor,
both of them being great men, intended to try their strength in the society, for a new organization of things, both in doctrine and other ways. For indeed I found some of the Baptists who were pleased with the Judge's book — though there were but few of that cast. About this time a number of Baptists, in and about Frankfort, were contemplating the setting up a new church in the town. Some individual overtures being made to me, on that head, and on some accounts it being more convenient to me, than the Big Spring, and especially as no society kept up stated worship in Frankfort at this time, I was prevailed on to unite in a new establishment of this kind in Frankfort.
I found the church at Big Spring somewhat divided, as to the contents of the Judge's book -- and having a desire to know the doctrinal sentiments of my new brethren, I had lately become connected with, I thought proper to introduce a question into the church, of the follow purport: "Does this church approve, or disapprove, of the doctrine contained in the above named pamphlet?" This was at a January meeting, held at a schoolhouse, and but few people there. Having the highest opinion of the Judge, every other way, but in his doctrinal points -- having lived a friendly neighbor to him several years before I moved, his wife also I esteemed among the most amiable of her sex -- and from charitable hope, I also esteemed her a christian -- so that I could not have had ill design against the judge in this query. My design was that he should by, the voice of the church, receive a gentle admonition, so as not to indulge in the same kind of practice hereafter. On the day of the introduction of this query into the church, before our business closed, I applied for a letter of dismission, expecting to become a member of the new constitution at Frankfort before the next meeting. The pastor of the Church at Big Spring did not arrive, till just before the reading of the business
of the day. And on reading the item of the query, (which had been laid over till next meeting,) he seemed to manifest considerable displeasure -- expressing to this amount, that queries in a church were generally mischievious things, and that the present one would never be answered in the church -- In all of which I felt unmoved, believing that I had done my duty. For I felt entirely easy -- making some allowance for my pastor's age.
Various methods were used to prevent the answer of this query in the church -- other men of influence combined with the pastor, to effect this mighty important work -- which was done at length by a committee of picked men, to the amount of from ten to fifteen, sent for from other Churches. Their decision was, that the query was brought into the church contrary to good order, that if I had a complaint against my brother I should have used the eighteenth of Matthew. These committee men also advised, that it was contrary to good order, to answer the query at all. Thus the business seemed settled smooth and easy; as to myself, I was at none of those council holding meetings, my presence was not very acceptable in those days -- their last council day I heard of by chance. Previous to the information, I had about ten days['] preaching appointed from home, that I did not think proper to disappoint, on account of this choice meeting. The Judge went home from this celebrated meeting in high spirits -- but being a man of great generosity and sympathy, expressed much pity for the blunder I had made, in this breach of good order -- but the Baptist society became so much concerned for his breach of good doctrine in his book, that at the next session of Elkhorn association, they took up this business very nearly in the same style, that I had introduced it into Big Spring Church, and with almost a unanimous vote, condemned the doctrine in the book.
William Kellar, being at Elkhorn association,
purchased one of the judge's books -- he went home, and first investigated it in the church where he lived, who sent a request to Long Run association, where the book met with a second association condemnation with a united voice, except one man who voted in favour of the book -- who had been very strongly suspected as an Arian.
General [Joseph] Lewis of Bardstown, being at Long Run association, had the same book investigated in Salem association, where it met with the same fate as at other places. So that we see three of the most respectable associations, at that time in the state, decided against the judge's book. And all in consequence of the excessive friendship of his friends -- who thought at first they were doing a great favour for him. I much question whether one of them thought more highly of the judge than myself, and it is probable had the plan I first had in view been followed, the Judge would now have felt himself happy in the Baptist society. It seems the Judge, by these several association decisions felt himself illy treated, obtained a letter of dismission from Big Spring Church, and has never joined any religious society since -- neither does he now preach any more. - A History of Ten Baptist Churches, 1823 - jrd
A Defence of the Doctrines of Grace in a Series of Letters
To Judge [Henry] Davidge, in Reply to that Gentleman's Publication
Addressed to the "Advocates of a Partial Gospel."
By Archibald Cameron, Minister of the Gospel, 1816
I some time ago got into my hands a pamphlet of which you are ostensibly the author, addressed to the advocates of a partia1 gospel. I was obliged to read the performance before I could determine who these advocates of a partial gospel are, as I knew of no description of preachers who answered to that character. From the general face of the work I concluded you meant those preachers and writers who are commonly called Calvinists, though indeed you wretchedly deface their sentiments in the statements you make of them.
I should truly think the performance of no great distinction in point of argument or address if the author of it had not been our noble circuit judge; but from that consideration 1 must repress such free thoughts. and pay due deference to a work authenticated by so great a character as a Doctor of law and Theology.
There is however a great contrast between such a character and the man engaged in the vulgar business of giving Nick-names to those against whose religious sentiments he may think proper to write. Those men, sire, whom you so Nick-name preach the gospel with all the extension which our saviour has given to it; they announce salvation to every one that believeth. They declare salvation to the whole irreligious world provided they embrace it, take up the cross and follow Christ -- and whatever your honor may think of your liberties when you Nick-name those men the advocates of a partial gospel, you are certainly not within the limits of truth unless you make Christ himself the advocate of a partial gospel.
As to the learned Doctors, whom you address, their works speak for them; I except to your doctrine in behalf of that humble multitude, who find by experience, the righteousness of Christ, and the gracious influence of the spirit, precious to their souls.
Your first chapter upon evidence and the mode of distisguishing truth from falsehood might be a little more Herculean when intended for the learned Doctors. Were you giving instructions at one of your circuit terms to a grand jury of plain men who have not explored the field of science, you might indeed, expound, expatiate and reiterate your law dogmas after
your usual manner with some propriety, but when you address yourself to an assemblage of learned doctors, of whom thousands are skilled in every part of science, you must sink quite beneath their claculation in this first chapter.
You talk about a standard of truth, reason, evidence, faith, consciousness; but you have not defined in what sense you design to use these terms, and you seem to me in the course of your work to use them in different senses. When you commmence with saying there must be some standard by which truth, moral and religious, is to be ascertained, one would immediately think that as a Christian, you would fix upon the word of God as being that standard; but in answer to the enquiry what is the standard, you reply that "these facts are the test of Theory." Here I am at a loss to know what you mean by facts, what you mean by standard, and what you mean by Theory; facts are the truths which are to be ascertained; so the thing which is to be evidenced, is, itself the evidence. But perhaps your learned doctors may understand you.
Here I will take the liberty of excepting to the maxim, which you lay down respecting the evidence of consciousness; your words are those (p.1) "When man wishes to ascertain the state of facts in relation to the capacities and powers of his own mind, reference must be had to consciousness." It will be denied by none that consciousness is the medium by which we are to ascertain what passes through our mind; but when you say that consciousness is to be referred to as judge, to ascertain the state of facts relative to the capacities of our mind, you say too much.
Your expression is ambiguous; but if I understand you, you consider every man's consciousness capable of deciding upon and forming a correct judgment of the powers of his own mind. What is this but saying that every man's notion of the nature and capacities of his own mind is correct, than which, nothing can be more false, as will appear from [the] fact [of] your own test of Theory: for one man thinks that his mind originates and performs that righteousness, which makes him acceptable to his maker; another man's consciousness teaches him, that the influence of divine power upon his mind has produced all the good that he possesses, and that in him there is no good thing. Here we find consciousness at variance with consciousness, one of which must be in an error.
It is quite amusing to see your honour, (p.5) taking so much pains to prove to a vast host of learned Doctors, that they should use their reason or thinking faculty in ascertaining what the scriptures teach. I hope those learned gentlemen
have not devolved the whole task of using the faculty of reason upon Judge Davidge, in forming their religious sentiments. You call reason a faithful guide. When the mind is correctly informed, and reason is in a state of perfection, it is a faithful guide; but I question the infallibility of reason when I observe the guidance of it so variant and contradictory, and that some men seem to have so little of it. It appears strange to you to affirm that a proposition may be above reason which admits of proof. The existence of the eternal being and attributes of God may admit of proof, yet God is far above and out of the sight of reason. The thunder of his power says, Job, who can understand? (Job 26,14) It appears strange to me that a professed Christian should fill his mouth with the language of infidels.
Of faith and the Operation of the Spirit in the Production of It.
After some very good advice given to a Revd, sir, in the exordium of your second letter, you commence the instruction of the learned Doctors, by a hideous pile of questions on the subject of faith. But, sir, I will take the liberty of entering exceptions both to your divinity and logic. "It is affirmed on the one hand (you say p. 10) that this faith is a divine operation, a something wrought in us, by the divine spirit, and that in this matter, man is passive, not active. Others contend that men generally have the capacity to believe -- that this capacity is a gracious faculty, freely bestowed on mankind, through the Mediator, that in that point of view it is the gift of God, but that the exercise of that capacity like every other depends on the agent who is indued therewith" The latter of these schemes you are pleased to adopt and advocate; the former youexecrate and oppose.
The positions which you have taken, and the projection of your question in opposition to faith's being produced in the heart by teh divine spirit, have indeed some shew of reason to the person who does not take into consideration the condition of man, the nature of saving faith, and the true character of a system of grace, in opposition of that of law. But when the mind is instructed in teh gospel of grace, your formidable recruit
of interrogatories loose their force, an your pretended arguments evanish.
1. You are not crrect in saying, that those who consider saving faith to be the production of the Holy spirit of grace, affirm that man is passive, and not active in faith: they neither say, nor thiink any such thing. Truly they think the mind passive in being the subject of divine influence; but active in the agency of faith. So man is both passive and active in the matter of faith, whether you consider it in a moral or mere intellectual point of view.
We will now take up and consider some of your affirmative queries, which you offer in the way of argument.
1. "If faith be the gift of God or a divine production as is affirmed, why should man be damned for the lack of it? In reply to this query, it may be observed, that faith is a part of the system of grace, and that no sinner can view God under obligation to bestow grace upon him. I will likewise ask a question or two. If a reprieve be the gracious gift of the of the supreme magistrate of the state to a person who is justly condemned by the law to be hanged, why should the sentence of the law be executed upon him for the want of this reprieve? Will not common sense teach every man, that the want of this reprieve is no assignable reason why the just sentence of law should not be executed upon a criminal?
Again, suppose if you please, that the sovereignty were able to implant the quality of repentance, and a right principle of obedience to law in the heart of this culprit, why should the sentence of the law be executed upon him for want of this quality and principle? A judge would make a handsome figure upon a Bench in affirming, that the criminal condemned by law should be justified, because the sovereignty might devise and execute some way for his exemption from the condign [consigned?] punishment of law and justice. Such a conclusion however would be as reasonable, and possess as much propriety & good snese, as your honor's affirmative question respecting the injustice of condemning the sinner, for the want of faith, considered as the gift of God, or the production of the Holy spirit.
Let it be remembered that the want of the grace of faith is not the primary and direct cause of the sinner[']s condemnation. His crime lies in the violation of law, and the want of conformity to it; and his condemnation in the sentence of the law: Thus it is written, cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. Under the law, from an obligation to serve which we can never be dissolved, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3, 28)
Faith is a prominent part of the system of grace, and serves as a sovereign restorative when it is bestowed -- and it, being wholly a medium of grace, may or may not be bestowed without violating any principle of justice. It belongs to the sovereignty to determine when and where it should be bestowed. The case stands thus, the possession of faith saves the sinner from the condemnation which has already taken place by the law; the want of it leaves the sinner under the curse of the law.
2. You ask again; "If faith be a divine operation, and not the act of the agent who believes, why do you learned Doctors teach that unless we sinners believe, we shall be damned?" Ans. Faith may be called the operation of the spirit of God, because it is by the work of the spirit, that our blind, obdurate and reluctant hearts are disposed and qualified for this holy agency. The divine energy moving our hearts to faith, does not prevent faith from being the act of the agent who believes, any more than the divine power, which restored Lazarus to life supposes that the action of life which followed was not proper to him as a living man. I hope you will admit that Paul was a good judge of the philiosophy of the human mind, and knew much about the operations of the divine spirit. Your honor then will respect his authority when he says, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God, who worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Phil. 2,12, 13) Willing is an act of our mind, doing the agency resulting from it. In the production of this acting of will, and consequent agency, God works in Christians; and this is working out their salvation to which they are exorted, & in which faith, shares a capital part. You may say, why are they condemned for not willing and doing that which is good, if it be the province of God to work it in them? But who art thou that reliest against God?
Upon the whole you should remember that faith is a moral act -- that we are under moral obligation to God, and that the hardness, wickedness, and obstinacy of our hearts which prevent and disqualify us, or if you please render us unable to act faith or any other holy act will never constitute an excuse for the non-performance. Can any man say that our opposition of heart to the act of believing, will free us from condemnation in not believing? And will it follow because it is the spirit of God alone that can remove this obstancy and unreasonable wickedness of our nature, we cannot be condemned for this wickedness. So if the depravity of our nature be such, that it requires an operation of the divine spirit to make us holy, we cannot be considered guilty, though we are sinners
and have a sinful nature. With the same propriety it might be said that the man who is so pecularily sick, that he can never recover from his sickness without medical aid ought not be thought sick at all. But though your mode of reasoning leads to such absurdity, you seem to me, with an air of contempt to use the expressions, "you learned Doctors," & we sinners -- which induces me to remind you that according to the self righteous doctrine which you advance in the close of your book, you should class yourself with the righteous that need no repentance and the whole who have no need of the physician.
3. "Can sinners (you say) perform divine operations?" Yes: as above explained they may; they perform operations which the divinity works in them.
4. "Can they produce within themselves a divine gift?" I am clearly of opinion they cannot; but as you will not suffer faith to be the production of the spirit which is a divine gift, it follows according to you, that men must produce it in themsleves.
5. "Why are they to be damned for not having faith?" For the best reason imaginable, which is because they are loaded with sin, and under the ehavy curse of the law; and faith in Jesus Christ is the only way which the pain of grace provides for their deliverance.
6. You say, "is not believing an act of the person who believes?" As to ourselves is not the fact supported by consciousness? And of so, upon what authority does any man deny it?
Ans. No man that I know of denies that faith is the act of the person who believes; but the claims of consciousness, with respect to the divine nature of faith, goes but a little way; many think they are believers, who are grossly mistaken. This is evident from matter of fact in the daily acknowlegdment of men, when they came to a better understanding of themselves. Multitudes among the ancient Jews thought they had the faith of their father Abraham: -- but the scripture testifes against them; and when I consider regeneration as being at the bottom of faith, I think very little of that faith, which is not a lineament [?] of the new creature; & the whole of the new creation in the Christian character is the workmanship of God; therefore when sacred writ teaches me differently, I deny the usurped infallibility of any man's consciousness from the best authority in the world. A man's consciousness may indeed evidence to himself, that he has never experienced the power of divine grace in renovating the nature. In this cse we must leave his consciousness and conscience too, to warn him of his dangerous sistuaiton, and to stimulate him to seek the grace of
faith without which he must perish in his sins.
7. But it is still said; "if any man was to take it into his head to affirm, I did not think, am I bound to believe it?" No, you are not; but if I should learn from the word of God, that you do not think right, I am bound to reject your thoughts, whether they respect the character of your own mind or that of others.
Pray sir, who gave your consciousness the prerogative of judging with such an imperious tone? Has not other men consciousness also?
Some Explanation of the Nature of Faith
1. Here let it be observed, that faith of any discription must have some cause to produce its exercise, and some objects which are believed. 2. Let it be likewide remarked, that faith assumes a different character according to the difference of the objects which we embrace in believing. 3. The belief of the existence merely, of facts is produced by the discovery of sufficient testimony to our minds: when the mind beholds this testimony, it is as natural to believe as it is to have a knowledge of the existence of objects which we behold with our eyes, by the medium of light -- the one forces itself upon our understanding, the other upon the sense of seeing. In this, the mind is both passive and active; it is active in beholding the objects of evidence or knowledge, which may be produced by the objects presented; therefore, the mind is passive as to the cause of faith, but active in the exercise of believing. Thus it appears to my common sense & reason, that the mind is some respect, is passive in faith, where the intellectual faculty, alone is concerned in believing.
Of A Divine Faith
With reference to a divine faith, which is connected with salvation, I conceive, that the moral disposition of the heart, must be employed as well as the intellectual faculty.
1. The nature of this faith, requires the existence of love to holiness, and the character of Jesus Christ: for it must be cordial, or from the heart -- With the heart, man believeth unto righteousness. How then, can we receive a holy gospel and a Holy Saviour, by an act of our heart, without love to holiness?
2. However strong the conviction may be, and however much divine truth may be demonstrated to us, the nature of mind will not admit of this faith, without a complacency and harmony of soul, with the whole character of divine things. The mind must approve the word of God, as well as be convicted of its truth. Hence this faith is said to work by love, (Gal. 5,6) The working of faith, is the acting of it, and this is done by love; therefore, love must exist in our heart prior to the act of believing, for the purpose of disposing us to embrace Jesus Christ, and divine thruth relative to him? For these reason's [sic] is is called a holy faith.
It follows than, that the regeneration of our nature, is at the bottom of faith, & that it cannot be acted, but by a renovated heart. Love, the leading principle of a regenerated nature, is shed abroad in the ehart, by the Holy Ghost. (Rom. 5, 5) From the reason of things then, the inference is natural -- that faith is a production of the Holy spirit.
Some Positive Scriptures Upon This Subject
3. By grace are ye saved, thorugh faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Eph. 2, 8) Jesus is called the author and finisher of faith -- (Heb. 12, 2) Faith is a fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5, 22) Paul tells the Phillipeans, it is given unto them to believe. If this only means a capacity to believe, which is said to be given to all mankind, then the wildest infidels have this saving grace, which the primitive Christians had, and the fool who says in his hear, there is no God has it likewise.
Wicked men, have the fruits of the spirit as well as Christians, and in point of grace, there is no distinction between men. How can any man who fears God, change the language of his word, so aribtrarily to suit his own noions? Surely the language of inspiration, is correct and expressive, and the words used, were not intended to deceive us.
It is undeniable that the gospel has an instrumental agency in this work and that it brings to the view of the mind the matter of faith but that does not prove that the objective inlfuence of the word produces this moral and saving faith: the gospel can only present the objects and it has no power farther than that of instruction, argument and motive and the mind may or may not be susceptible of its influence. It may remain stubborn and unaffected after the gospel is addressed in the most clear and argumentative manner. Thus the gospel of grace, may appear unto all men teaching them -- and they through unbelief and a sinful blindness of heart, may reject it; but when the grace of the gospel, enters into the heart, it performs the work of faith and regenration, as stated in the promise of the new convenant. After those days, saith the Lord I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jerem. 31, 33) A new heart also, will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart, out of your flesh (Ezek. xxxvi. 26) The effects, which are here promised to be produced in the minds of men, comprehend faith, & the santification of our nature in general, & the divine spirit promises to produce these effects himself, by his own energy -- and indeed, a divine promise could not be predicated upon any thing less, than the certainty which attends the design and energy of God. Were these effects dependent upon the inert and occult faculties of grace, which you say, all men have, they could be insured as the work of the spirit, by divine promise.
If saving faith, were not the direct production of the Holy Spirit, it would be absurd in the deciples [sic] of Christ, to pray him for the increase of their faith, as recorded in Luke 17, 5; and it would be equally unaccountable, why Jesus Christ should pray that the faith of Peter, might not fail.
If we were in possession already, of the grace that would effect this work, prayer would be superseded, and could be deemed no other than a useless, empty ceremony. When no energy is yet to emanate from the invisble throne of grace, can the divinity teach us to look for it, either on ourselves or others? In that case, the example of Jesus Christ and his disciples, would only serve to delude us into false ideas of our dependence upon God. But as I cannot entertain those wicked suppositions, I must conclude, that if the increase and maintainance of faith, be the business of a divine power, employed upon our heart, there is greater reason why the same power should be employed to lead a hard, evil, and unbelieving heart, to act faith at first.
Of the Faculties and Capacities of Grace, Said to be Given to All Men
When you propose the question; "Can it be just to demand faith of those who have no capacity to believe?" You venture too far if you mean to measure the uprightness of Deity, by your notions of the justice. The ablest minds, sometimes vibrate, respecting the justice, of the demands and transactions of nations and individuals. As the human mind labours, and is not adequate to a perfect decision, upon all the affairs of men, who are upon its level, how shall it reach the elevated height of God, and be a competent judge of an infinite nature and sovereignty?
The difficulty which you seem to suppose, I consider already anticipated. The incapacity, which any sinner lies under, is only the want of a disposition of heart, to comply with the reve[a]led will of God. If the predominancy of sin, in the nature of man, will constitute a reasonable esxcuse for not complying with the demands of God, then it is unjust to require the sinner to believe till his heart is changed; therefore the more wicked his nature is, the less sin he commits in disobeying the requirments of God; and as I am not prepared to admit all this, I must deem your question, both idle and implying a relection upon the ways of Deity.
2. I would have been glad, you had specifically defined these gracious capacities, and faculties, of which you speak: but as you have not, nor proven their existence, I may justly call in question, whether they exist at all.
The understanding, and will, are called faculties of the soul, the memory is likewise a faculty; but the exercise of them may be good or bad, just according to the state of our nature. All men have these faculties by nature: they were made the natural and constituent properties, of the human soul, by the Creator; and they are no more the faculties or capacities of grace, than the five senses, or the legs which carry our bodies. I admit, that the whole mind was darkened, alienated from God, and corrupted by the fall; but none of these faculties were lost, of course they could not have been restored by the mediator. It is pretended, by the advocates of the restored faculties, that in the moment Adam fell, he lost all capacity of will; but that this capacity or faculty, was re-communicated to the human family, when the declaration was made, respecting the seed of the woman's bruising the serpent's head. In that
space of time then, which was between the fall and the declaration, respecting the seed of the woman. Adam and Eve were entirely destitute of these gracious faculties and capacities -- they were without a freedom of the will.
3. Let us now examine the history of man, during this period, and see what the facts recorded will teach, respecting this subject. This history is contained in Gen. 3, 7-13.
The Eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. This implies the consciousness of guilt and shame, in consequence -- The understanding must have been employed in this consciousness -- "They sewed figs leaves together, & made themselves aprons" -- Here was their reasoning faculty employed, to invent a method to cover their guilt, and exclude shame.
When we heard the voice of the Lord God in the garden, they hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God, among the trees of the garden.
Here are facts to prove their conviction of sin and guilt, and the exercise of understanding, in recognising their obnoxiousness to the displeasure of God. Here is also the exercise of will, in adopting a method to cover themselves from the eye of God, and consequently, from the sentence of his displeasure. When they were detected, Adam laid the blame upon his wife, and his wife laid it upon the serpent. This method which Adam and Eve used, to exculpate themselves, before there was a word said about a redeemer, is precisely the mode in which some men reason in every age since, when they blame the influence of temptation and motive, and ascribe the guilt of their own actions, to the extrinsic cause, which induces them to act sinfully. From specimens then, in the conduct of the posterity of Adam, we may derive abundant proof of their mind's being sunk, in the same kind of error, sin and darkness, that our first parents were in, at the time of their wicked reply to diety.
Here you have a miniature of a sinful world, in the case of Adam, & also of the whole mind with all its capacities in a depraved state. Here is understanding, will, reason, memory, consciousness and conscience. What faculties are absent? Not one of those capacities and faculties, that are found in the unregenrate sons of Adam; but the moral image of God, is absent: the love of holiness and righteousness, is not now to be found in man -- The mind does not choose them; therefore, the will of man does not go after that which is good.
4. Let us now examine the declaration, respecting the seed of the woman, and the seed of the serpent, at the time of which declaration it is alledged these gracious faculties and capacities were restored to all mankind: and I will put enmity between thee and the woman & between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head and thou shall bruise his heel. (Genesis 3, 15)
This was addressed to the Serpent, and contains, not a syllable to Adam. It contains a prediction, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head, or crush and restrain his power; and the existence of war between the woman and her seed, on the one part, and the serpent and his seed on the other. The seed of the woman, means Christ in the first place, and with him is included those of the human family, who should be made subjects of faith or saving grace, in every age to the end of time. The seed of the serpent, sinners, who are not born of the spirit of God. They are all the posterity of Adam; but by way of distinction, Christ with his followers, are styled the seed of the woman, as Christ was made of a woman, not by ordinary generation. In reference to this distinction, the scriptures informs [sic] us, that they who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise, are counted for the seed. (Romans 9, 8) Ye are of your father, the Devil, (says Christ to the unbelieving Jews,) and the lusts of your father ye will do. (John 8, 4) "He that commiteth sin, is of the Devil. In this, the children of God are manifested, and the children of the Devil. (I John 3, 8, 10)
Now it is impossible, that those who are of the Devil, & children of the Devil, should be united in the idea of that seed, which is to crush the power of Satan: the lusts of their father, they will do, which serves to maintain his kingdom, and promote his prosperity.
Another Tour in Search of the Gracious Occult Capacities, Which Perform Holy Requisitions
5. All men have the capacity to believe, lying in their mind, and nothing is necessary for the purpose of faith, but this capacity, and when faith is called the gift of God, nothing more is meant, than the capacity to act faith. According to this the power to eprform, is the same as the performance, & the whole agency, which results for the free powers of our
mind, must be the gift of God, because a freedom or power of willing and acting is given to man. Then it follows in the first place, that men who never believe, have the gift of grace, to which salvation is connected; for they have the faculty, and that according to you, is the gift.
Again, it follows upon the same principle, that unblief and disobedience, is the gift of God, and every thing else, good and bad, that is performed by the agency of man, may be ascribed to Deity: for the mind is made free to act right and wrong alike, neither biassed to the one, nor to the other. I cannot conceive of any thing else, in your scheme of gracious mental faculties; for you will not suffer vile qualities in the nature of a free agent, to rule his will, and you cannot with any grace, say that sinners are all possessed of a predominant degree of holy qualities.
6. Again, this gracious faculty, was restored to all mankind, by the mediator. Then it is the property of all men, and is born with them. -- It is as natural to them as the five senses. By the use of this faculty, which is connected with their soul, and grows up with their very being, they originate faith in their own heart. All that God bestows upon man, in order to qualify and lead his heart to the exercise of faith, was assigned him before he was born, and adheres to his soul, as an innate property of his being.
7. What a piece of folly it is, in those who preach the gospel, to pray for the presence, power, and spirit of God, to convert sinners, when they already possess the very grace, by which it is to be done. Did I say to be done, they possess the Divine gift of faith itself. Infidels and self righteous pharisees possess it, notwithstanding they perish in their sins, and are denounced by scripture as unbelievers. Why do you christians look for the happy days, when God by the holy spirit shed abroad in the hearts of men, will bring in the Jews with the fullness of the Gentiles, to the faith of Jesus Christ? All these things are mere Chimeras, if the gracious faculties men possess, are to do this divine work of promise.
Certainly the Apostle Paul, was not initiated into the knowledge of these gracious faculties, when he said Paul may plant, Apollos my water; but God giveth the incease: he should have said, the subjects of this planting and watering, give the increase. Yet Paul stands corroborated by the declaration of Jehovah himself, when he says, so shall my word be, that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall propser in the thing whereto I sent it, Isa. 55, 11.
8. Judge Daveridge and Judge Paul, disagree in another
point, upon this subject of grace: According to Judge Davidge, all men possess the grace of God, and it consists in capacities only, by which they effectuate in themselves, all the characteristic properties, and qualities of the children of God; so that believers may say to sinners, I have made the difference by the use of the faculties, which you had in common with me. I am not indebted to the Deity, for this difference, for in point of grace, we were equal, I have made the difference myself. To this Judge Paul answers, with a strong repugnance.
Why dost thou glory? Who maketh thee to differ from another? And what has thou, that thou didst not receive. Now if thou disnt receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it. (I Cor. 37) [4:7]
The believer differs from others in having faith. Well, says Paul, he received it. The very thing that makes the difference, he received. It cannot be the gift of the faculties, that makes the difference: for all are stated to have them.
9. If I am not mistaken, those against whom your honor has written, admit the human mind has all the faculties which you plead for, even by nature without the considerations of grace at all. I thus judge from your definition of faith, (in page 6) "Faith is nothing more than the act of reason, in admitting the truth of a doctrine, upon either human or divine evidence." The mind of man, never lost the power of reason, though indeed the faculty is in an impaired state. The mind never lost a susceptability of conviction by evidence. -- The mind in its worst state, wills or chooses whatever pleases it. We find the mind of Adam, using all these faculties in different instances, immediately after the fall.
The most wicked man on earth, may exercise his reason, so as to feel the force of evidence, and he may be conviced of the truth of a doctrine, which is not the object of his delight and approbation. But while I believe my Bible, I must consider the nature of man, so much biassed to evil so impure, his heart so desperately wicked, so opposed to holiness & divine things, so continually evil in thoughts and imaginations, so destitute of the love of God, and so totally depraved, that it cannot will and act, that which is good and holy, until renewed by the power of the Holy Ghost. To me it is extremetly absurd for any man to affirm, that sinful and impure natures, can will and do, that which is pure and Holy.
Of Adam and His Supposed Pardon
It is a pity sir, when men write upon important subjects, that they indulge themselves in wild derangement, and consider those things as undeniable & fundamental, for which they cannot give the smallest shadow of proof. From p. 13-18 in treating on Adam and the supposed pardon of himself and his posterity, you have spread a wild confusion of ideas before your readers without providing any thing. You have certainly forgotten your chapter on evidence, facts and reason, and have ventured into the field of business without this necessary apparatus.
At the top of p. 18, you ask, "Was not the first sinner redeemed and restored to grace and favour? I have no evidence from scripture, that he ever was redeemed or made the subject of grace; but if you have any evidence to that effect I would receive it with pleasure, and it might stand in the room of your question; but from any thing I have yet seen, you take it for granted, without assigning any reason for it, much less giving proof: therefore all the arguments, which you build upon that foundation shall crumble to ruin upon the touch.
You tell us a very wonderful story indeed and fill the whole atmosphere with light, when you inform us that "all men were as much connected with the first sinner when pardoned -- as when he sinned and fell into condemnation -- In consequence of this union, all his posterity share in his pardon, and are restored, and saved by the benefit of his pardon."
Where has your honor learned all this? Not from the word of God. Not from evidence, reason or facts: the pardon of Adam is unknown in the sacred volume, and if he ever obtained it, it is known only to his maker and the inhabitants of another world. How does Adam's posterity stand connected with him in his pardon, even admitting that he was pardoned? They are his natural offspring; but that does not entail grace or pardon upon them. We know from scripture, that they were held in connection with him under a constitution of works, and that they fell with him: By one man, sin entered into the world and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (Rom. 5, 12) If the posterity
of Adam had been redeemed and pardoned in his loins, why should the sentence thus prevail in full vengeance against them? Unless there be a remission from penalty, can the pardon be recognised? In grace, pardon, and redemption those of the posterity of Adam who are saved, stand connected with Christ -- he is the source whence they derive this blessing -- Adam was able by one sin, to involve the world in ruin? but he could do nothing toward his own recovery, or that of his fallen posterity. He stood as an individual among them; there is no connection between Adam and any of his posterity in pardon or redemption, more than there is between Jacob and Esau, men of very different destiny, though they were brothers according to the flesh.
The situation of Adam before and after the fall, was very different; before the fall, he with his family according to a constitution under which the Lord of nature had placed him, were to stand or fall upon the ground of his personal obedience or disobedience. When that ground failed and was abused to the ruin of himself and his posterity, there was no other that he could stand upon, which would make him a medium of restoration or felicity to his posterity. Therefore another person abler and more worthy, was chosen and made under the same broken law, for the purpose of fulfilling it, and thereby redeeming and saving not the whole guilty family as appears from fact; but as many as should believe in him and be recovered by the influence of grace from their wicked alienation and apostacy of heart: for God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Here the design of Deity in one of the most lovely sentences contained in the tidings of salvation is expressly declared to be that of saving only a part of the family of Adam: for those who believe in all ages only make a part of them. If he had said, that he gave his son, that those who believe not, should not perish, but be saved as well as those who believe, I should think that the son of God was given for the salvation of the whole family and that the energies of divine grace would be adequate to, and laid out in accomplishing this great work. It hence appears that the union which secures pardon and salvation for any of the posterity of Adam must be with Christ by faith, & that the union which they sustain with Adam whether he be pardoned or not pardoned, only serves to involve them in sin and sorrow.
When you are speaking of a part of Adam's posterity, being pardoned in him and a part not pardoned; and a part of the individual Adam being pardoned, and another part of the
same person not pardoned, one would think that Jack with the Lantern, had diverted you from the open way into some adjourning thicket: these views of the pardon of sinners will not agree with the economy of grace in the one shape or the other. Were I acquainted with law, perhaps I might remember some statute of the British empire, which subjects the posterity of convicted persons to forfeitures, and provides for their complete restoration with the parent, when he obtains a pardon. It may be, that your honor has taken a model from such law cases. But the economy of grace is not to be regulated by the forms of law in the British empire: therefore it is not to the purpose in settling a Theological question to refer to law and policy.
You introduce a passage of scripture, which you seem to think to your purpose on this subject: As by the offence of one judgment, came upon all men to condemnation; so by the obedience of one the free gift came upon all men to justification of life. (Romans 5)
This is one of those passages of scripture, which, when taken in the latitude that you use it, is made to contradict invincible facts: for it is evident that the free gift has not come upon every individual of the race of Adam; there, stands a vast multitude at the left hand in the day of judgment who are pronounced accursed. This is the condemnatory sentence of God's holy law; but had the free gift come upon them unto justification of life, they would have been delivered from the curse and made the subjects of a blessing. Besides those whom God justifies, them he also glorifies; and the 19th verse which is added in the way of explanation declares those upon whom the free gift came, rightous. This free gift unto justification implies also the salvation of the person, who is the subject of it; for the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The real state of the case being considered; to make the passage in question, agree with matter of fact, and the tenor of scripture it may be explained thus: As by the offense of Adam, judgment come [came] upon all men to condemnation, connected with him by natural generation. So by the righteousness of Christ, the free gift came upon all men who stand connected with him, by the regenerating work of divine grace.
It is folly to construe the word all, in any greater extension when justification, the thing predicated of those to whom it alludes, only happens to some of the human race. When as good reason, might some man overcharged with benevolence, urge that the gospel should be addressed to the beasts of the field, because the scripture says to preach the gospel to every creature. The judge of all the earth is placed in every capricious,
and unamiable point of character when represented as pardoning and justifying the sinner through the righteousness of Christ, and again plunging him into that condemnation from which he was delivered.
Of Responsibility and Moral Agency
Your honor still continue[s] to pay your ludicrous respects to the learned Doctors, in letter 3d., p. 19th. But when you tell them they deny you the capacity of believing and acting; and yet hold you responsible, they would be very apt to enquire of you what you mean by capacity. If by capacity, you mean a power of doing whatsoever your mind chooses in a moral sense, and you choose to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; they would tell you they consider that willingness a sufficient capacity, and that the divne promise is addressed to the will. But if they should find you, an obstinate, unbelieving sinner, averse to the way of salvation through Jesus Christ, and disposed to look for some other medium of happiness, they would think you immersed in that natural depravity, which disqualifies the sinner for faith in Christ, or any other holy acts, during the prevalence of the blind bent of his heart: yet they would hold you responsible, because the want of will, and an invincible depravity of nature, never can destroy the reasonable requisition of law, nor constitute an admissible excuse for non-compliance. Christ himself, charges the Jews with crime, in being the subjects of an incapacity to believe, when he says, "Ye will not come to me that ye might have life. Ye have not the love of God in you. How can ye believe which receive honor one of another? (John) Does not this destitution of will, of love to God, and positive depravity, constitute an inablility, and the same kind of inablility, which the learned Doctors teach in reference to sinners? Why do you upbraid them for copying their Lord and master in their doctrine, while you yourself profess to be a Christian?
What does your honor think of the great master of Doctors, when he says, it is easier for a camel ot go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of
God -- (Math. 19, 24) and that with men, this is impossible. Are not rich men responsible, nothwithstanding their faith and regeneration are possible only with God? One would think that when those gracious capacities, of whch we speak, were communicated to the human family, the rich were forgotten, or that the great teacher of mankind was not acquainted with this favorite part of Theology when he used such expressions respecting the entire disability of a wicken man, encumbered with the concerns of riches, to be devoted to the service of God. A man must, indeed, be totally destitute of candor, or bound up in some unconquerable prejudices, who will admit that the Doctors you choose to proscribe have the authority of sacred writ, to justify their teaching that an unregenerateed son of fallen Adam, is unable to execute divine requisitions.
"You ask, why is man responsible, and add, it will not do to say his Creator made him so, because it is not on account of his beng a ceature simply, that he is accountable for his actions."
This is logical to be sure. "It will not do to say his Creator made him responsible" -- why will it not do? The reason given is, he made other creatures which are not responsible; but still it was the pleasure of God to make man responsible: he never made himself so. God could have made him without responsibility as well as the Lion and the Eagle. The character which man sustains in the scale of being, must therefore have been impressed upon him by the hand that made him. God made man a moral being, under law, and the subject of rewards and punishments, as he should conform, or not conform to the great rule of right.
What you say upon this subject is so mingled and made up of repetitions, and questions without point, it seems difficult to specify your particular ideas.
You say, pa. 20, "that the fact of responsibility should be resolved into the reason of things" -- yet, in the next page you have it -- "there must be a proportion or fitness in the duty to be performed, to the capacity of the agent who is to perform it." The reason of things, and fitness to the capacity of an agent, may be very different. The reason of things implies perfection and propriety, abstractly considered; but a fitness or proportion to the capacity of an agent requires that the legislator vary the rule to suit the imperfection, or if you please, the depravity of the agent: for, whatever your honor says, when there is no love to God in the heart of the agent, he cannot fulfil[l] that law which requires love, and when the
nature of an agent is under the dominion of sin, he cannot comply with the pure and holy law of God!
The authority of Paul I presume is decisive upon this subject: For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin -- The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither in deed can be." -- (Rom. 7, 14-18, 7.) A subjection to the law of God in this instance, signifies a compliance with it, and this cannot be while the mind is carnal.
Had you paid a due regard to the authority of scripture, I conceive you would not say, ( as in p. 21.) "That the responsibility of man does not, nor cannot in equity and justice, extend beyond his capacity of acting; but so far as he has power to know, and liberty or capacity to act, he is, and ought to be responsible, and no further." Did you mean physical incapacity, such as sickness, that incapacitates a person, for manual labor -- the want of a sufficient armed force, which disenables a faithful and brave general to defend his country from the invasion and injuries perpetrated by a foreign foe, your sentiments might be admitted; but that is not the kind of incapacity in question: every man knows and admits, that a disability of this kind, cannot be a ground of blame, or criminality. But an inability that consists in moral depravity, and so disqualifies a man from virtuous agency, neither relieves him from responsibility, nor an incurrence of guilt. -- Had the servant who had the talent which his lord gave him to be occupied, been under the incapacity of sickness or a total desitution of physical powers, he would not have been condemned; but as his incapacity consisted in a wicked, slothful state of mind, and the want of goodness and faithfulness, he was justly the subject of blame and punishment. Goodness and faithfulness were not qualities of his mind, he could not, therefore, put them forth in his volitions or agency; but wickedness and slothfulness were qualities of his nature -- he was led to act accordingly. It was the want of this goodness and faithfulness that seems to be alluded to when the lord of the servant said: From him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he hath. The moral exercise of mind proper to goodness and faithfulness, are those fruits which the Lord declares he would demand, where he had not sowed in the heart of grace of goodness and faithfulness. This grace must have been superadded to the talents, in the case of two servants who were commended; for had it been any part of the talents, the servant condemned would
have had it as well as they. This deficiency of proper principles constitutes the incapicity of sinners.
The things commanded in the divine law are very practicable in themselves to a perfectly righteous nature: but to speak of liberty and capacity, in a moral point of view, when our nature is enmity and opposition to the law, seems to me very incongruous. Can a bitter fountain emit sweet water? O generation of vipers, says Christ, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? (Math. 12, 34) Your responsible man must have the capacity of knowing the rule -- then the power of conforming his acts -- p. 23.
But what think you of doctor Paul, who teaches that "The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned." -- (I Cor. II, 14) Again, the understanding of such are darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart. (Eph. 4, 18) In another place the giver of law says, "I was grieved with that generation, and said they do always err in their heart, and they have not known my ways," -- (Hebs. II, 10) "Pour out thy fury" says Jeremiah, "upon the heathen that know thee not." Here you may learn, that ignorance, blindness, and error of heart, with a spirit of departure from the ways of righteousness, constitute high crime. And how could this be, if these sinners were not responsible? You may say this was unjust; but who authorised you to censure the ways of God? Will your mind, by its self determining power, furnish samples of reason and equity, for the elevated throne of Jehovah? Surely the presumption of man is not to be admitted against the authority of God.
Of Motive - Will - Free Agency, and the Consistence of Necessity - Virtues and Vices - Qualities of Mind.
Your honor chooses to protest against the influence of motive, and against those who say the act depends upon the will. You take your own experience for a guide, and you find no
24 difficulty in the matter: "You indeed, design, and determine to act, in pursuance whereof you do act." -- (p. 22) But do you, indeed, determine and act without motive, and without will? Can you call yourself a free agent, or a moral agent, when you thus act without motive and will. It will be justly questioned whether, in such a case, you could be called a rational agent. I had thought that free agency was voluntary agency, and that of course the agency resulted from the will, and that a reason or motive for such a determination. But you have such an aversion to the poor doctors, that you lay aside the use of will and reason altogether, lest you should be like them.
You determine without any reason, or cause in the view of your mind, to induce this determination; and you will not suffer free agency to be the result of choice; made by a thinking being, when the very essence of reason, in man, consists in the capability of being influenced by some matter of consideration, which occurs to the view of the mind, and serves as a motive to form both the judgment and the will. Is not the whole system of law, argument, and oratory, whether human or divine, addressed to the rational mind, upon the principles of the commanding and influencing power of those things, as reasons, motives, and causes to induce determination, and choice of mind. This supposes that choice is naturally excited by some reason, or cause operating upon the mind.
It is impossible for a man, while he retains the exercise of reason, not to be ruled by something which has a prevailing influence upon him; and this, whatever it be, has a necessary and certain connection with the will. Hence, some say, that our being necessary agents, is no contradiction to our being free agents: they take the word in a philosophical and defined sense, as meaning only the certain bearing which a prevailing reason, cause or motive, has upon mind in willing and determining.
One would think, then, that no fair mind need to cavel about the use of a word, when employed by the best of linguists to express only a certain connection betwixt the cause of choice, or will, and the will itself with the agency which follows; but you feel a strong repugnance to the admission of any kind of influences upon the mind, because they smell too much of Calvinistic notions, which are the objects of your invincible abhorrence.
Therefore, you are led to contradict common sense, and
matter of fact, and yourself also; and as a ship without helm, sales [sails], or balast is carried upon the wild ocean by varient [sic] winds, you go in different directions, on the flood or hypotheses with a multiformity of ideas.
Any one who reads what you have advanced as above, and what you say upon the same subject in letter 6th, will see how variant & contradictory you have expressed yourself, and how unjustly you treat the sentiments of others.
"But is may be asked, (you say p.33) can the agent act without a sufficient motive?" -- to which you reply "the sufficiency of the motive, depends on the agent." -- It will not be denied, that the sufficiency of the motive depends upon the fancy or apprehension of the agent: a mere illusion may away [?] predominantly: a base and corrupt motive may be sufficient for a base and corrupt mind. No person says that it is the intricate value, or magnitude of the object, that always influences the mind. When you say that "men who act from corrupt motives are judged to be base and unworthy agents; and those who act from virtuous and good motives, are considered as virtuous and good," you speak the language of common sense; but how does this agree with your former protest against the characteristic influence of motive altogether?But when you say again, that "an agent may act against a sufficient motive, after having told us that the sufficiency of the motive depends on the agent," how are we to reconcile your honor with yourself?
Surely you say nothing to the purpose in this connection of ideas: when you affirm that "men act against the best and strongest reasons or motives:" That every body knows; but though the reasons be strong and good instrinsicly, they may not appear so to the person who rejects them, or they may be overbalances by other motives which are more suited to the corrupt bias of his mind.
You are good enough to infer, that because the Doctors of divinity say men act foolishly and wickedly foolish sinners must be without sufficient motives; but sir, a motive which has a wicked mind, as a good motive is in that of a wise man. What you say about the fool, whom you suppose to be without motive, or sufficient motive, has no bearing upon the system, which supposes the necessary connection between motive and volition consistent with free agency. It is only upon your own principles that you can say fools act more freely than wise men, when you consider them without motive, as you will not suffer a man to be a free agent, when motives have a determining and certain influence upon his mind. _____________
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