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ART. XII.-BRIEF NOTICE OF DR. TYLER'S VINDICATION. A Vindication of the Strictures on the Review of Dr. Spring's Dissertation
on the Means of Regeneration, in the Christian Spectator for 1829, in reply to the Reviewer and Evangeticus Pacificus. BY BENNET TYLER, D. D. Portland : pp. 64.
We have this moment received Dr. Tyler's pamphlet in answer to our late review of his Strictures; and shall occupy the few pages which are left us, in briefly considering the present state of the discussion, reserving other remarks, if necessary, for a future occasion.
Dr. Tyler makes one declaration in the work before us, which ought forever to end his contest with our reviewer, on the main points at issue. “ I fully admit,” says he, “the principle of Edwards, if nothing could be pleasing or displeasing, agreeable or disagreeable to a man, then he could incline io nothing and will nothing. And if this be all which the reviewer means when he says, that 'selflove is the primary cause of moral action,' and that of all specific voluntary action, happiness is the ultimate end,' as he seems occasionally to intimate, I have no dispute with him.” p. 20. Now we can asure Dr. Tyler that this is all, and that we have not only “occasionally intimated” this fact, but carried it along with us in all our reasonings, and declared it in express terms, before he ever published a syllable on the subject. We stated, “ when we say that the soul in regeneration chooses God as its portion, under the impulse of its inherent desire of happiness, we are simply stating the great principle of Edwards, that the will is as the greatest apparent good.” p. 703. What language could declare more fully, that “ to choose from a desire of happiness,” and to choose because an object is “ pleasing” or an “ apparent good,” is the same thing? Now this concession ought, we think, :o have guarded Dr. T. against an error which runs throughout his whole argument—that of confounding two great departments of human agency, viz. that of constitutional properties or propensities, and that of choice or voluntary action. The former is founded in the all-pervading desire of happiness, from which every thing called motive derives its force, and which is therefore the “primary cause" of moral action. The latter is that great controlling faculty (call it will, or what you please.) which is placed in us by our Maker, for the restraint and government of the constitutional propensities. The line which separates them is perfectly defined. In the department of choice or voluntary action, decide which way we will, we are absolutely certain, that we could have decided otherwise. Had we done 80, it would involve no miracle, no change of those powers or properties, which constitute us free agents. Not so in the department of constitutional propensity. We have no power to extinguish the desire of happiness, Our only power is, to decide by an act of choice as to what objects, and in what way, we will gratify this desire. To the department of voluntary agency, likewise, belongs exclusively the sense of right and wrong. We never think of asking whether it is wrong for us to desire happiness : we might as well ask whether it is wrong to exist. Here are two criteria, then, power to the contrary,
and the quality of right and wrong, which distinguish the actings of the mind in the department of moral agency, from those which take place in the department of constitutional propensity.
We shall now apply our remarks to some of the points in debate.
1. The distinction between self-lore (desire of happiness) and selfishness, in unrenewed men. Dr. 'Tyler denies that any such distinction exists. “ In moral beings destitute of benevolence, self-love becomes the controlling principle, and is then the same as selfishness."
Vind. 19. Here then is a total confusion of the two departments in question. Self-love, Dr. Tyler admits to be a constitution al desire or principle of our nature—the “primary cause" of moral action. And yet he makes it moral action itself, i. e. both cause and effect! Again, he declares (p. 20) that selfishness is preference.” But preference, is an act of choice, and belongs to the department of voluntary agency. Again, he admits self-love to be the foundation of a thing's being pleasing," and thus of moral agency. And yet this very foundation—this essential “ primary cause” of such agency in the unrenewed,is sinful! Again, no sinner has power of any sort to extinguish the principle of self-love, or a desire of happiness, in his bosom. And since this desire in him is “the same as selfishness," no sinner has power of any sort to extinguish his selfishness, or cease to sin! And yet a just God will hold him guilty! We might follow out Dr. Tyler's principles in this way, to any extent. But our object is not to expose his errors. Self-love, in the unrenewed, differs from selfishness not merely in degree but in kind. The one prompts to moral action, the other is moral action itself. The one craves indulgence, the other decides to gratify that craving, in ways forbidden by God. We perfectly agree with Dr. T., though he seems to imagine otherwise, in adopting Dr. Dwight's definition of selfishness, “a preference of ourselves to all others.” Such a preference is an act of choice, not a mere desire of liappiness. And in making it, we choose to indulge our desire of happiness at the expense of the happiness of all others; which is a totally different thing from simply desiring to be happy, however intensely.
2. The ultimate end aimed at in every act of choice. Our reviewer stated this to be happiness. Dr. Tyler in his Strictures, denounced this statement, as annihilating the distinction between sin and holiness. But now he tells us, that if the reviewer meant, what the whole tenor of his remarks shows he meant, he has "no dispute with him !” And yet on the very same page (20) he returns again to the charge. In his Strictures, he had said, that on our principles there was no “radical distinction," between a seraph and an apostate, because both aimed at the same end, viz. happiness. We replied that the distinction lies in the choice they make, of different objects. One chooses obedience to God, and the other rebellion. And where, we ask, except in the department of voluntary agency, can moral distinctions exist at all? But says Dr. T. “Is it so? is it the choice of different objects, merely which constitutes the distinction of moral character ?”p. 20. Edwards thought so, when he reduced all the moral affections to “ exercises of the will.” So thought
Dr. Strong when he said, “ a holy will is a holy heart." Dr. S. Spring was of the same opinion, when he defined sin to be “a wrong choice." And such we should suppose was Dr. Tyler's meaning, in bis sermon in the National Preacher. " When we say that man is entirely depraved, we mean that he is a guilty rebel, who voLUNTARILY refuses allegiance to the God who made him. This supposes no difficulty in the way of his salvation, except what lies in an obstinate and perverse will.” Has Dr. Tyler since discovered any other difficulty, or any other distinction in moral character ? The truth is, all this perplexity arises froin ambiguity of language. If by “ultimate end” is meant the objective motive of the choice, then the ultimate ends of the seraph and apostate “ are (as we stated) as far asunder as heaven and hell.” But if hy s ultimate end” is meant (as we explained our meaning) that, in the objective motive, which makes it sought or desired, this in both cases is the happiness expected.
Dr. Tyler saw this clearly on the top of the 20th page of his Vindication ; and therefore said of our reviewer, “ I have no dispute with him.” Why, then, did he on the very next page, repeat the charge against us of annihilating “all radical distinction between holiness and sin?” p. 21. Because he instantly changed in his own mind, (contrary to our explanation, the meaning of ultimate end" into that of objective motive. “ If it be a fact that all moral beings have the same ultimate end in view, i e. if they are actuated by the same motives !” etc. But we never said they were, in the sense of Dr. T. here; we said the contrary. We only asked (in view of Edwards' principle - the will is as the greatest apparent good,”) “ Can there be a motive without some good, expected and sought by the agent?" Dr. Tyler, to our arnazement, answers yes ; directly in the face of his declaration (as quoted above) recognizing the principle of Edwards. But it is not a little curious to look at the case which he presents (pp. 22–3) in proof of his assertion. It is that of one who makes sacrifices for the benefit of another. And Dr. T. adds, “ Would it not be more agreeable to him, more congenial with his feelings, to suffer the loss of personal happiness, than that this amount of good should fail ?" Truly it might be, and if so, then it promises him inore happiness, the very thing he seeks here as well as every where else. When Dr. Tyler shall point out something which is “ agreeable” or “congenial to the feelings," without offering any happiness to the mind at all, we will stand corrected and reproved on this point.
3. The triplet of physical impossibilities. Dr. Tyler admits (Vind. p. 8) that he has proved it to be physically impossible for sinners to use the means of regeneration. “Suppose my argument dors prove,” etc. But, he adds, “ have I proved that sinners are incapable of doing their duty.” We answer, if the means are impossible, the end must be so too. If sinners are physically unable to use the means of holiness, they are physically unable to become holy. No one can deny this, without denying that truth is the necessary means of holiness. This Dr. Tyler will not deny, and therefore he has " proved that sinners are incapable of doing their duty.”
Still be adheres tenaciously to his triplet, and re-states it in a great
variety of forms. But all amount to the same thing ; man inust act from “ right motives or wrong motives, or no motive at all.” But here the case of Adam stood in his way. From what motive, i.e. in. tention or feeling, (the reviewer asked,) did Adam's first sin arise ? Dr. T. meets the difficulty manfully, and answers, (p. 10,) froin a sinful motive-a wrong intention!” What! said the reviewer, in anticipation, sin before the first sin ? Now, how is it possible for Dr. T. to escape ? The cause must precede the effect. The seeling out of which another feeling arises, must in the order of nature, precede that other. Still he persists, “ in what did Adam's first sin consist, if not in acting with a wicked intention," and so leaves the matter!
Now, Dr. Tyler was thrown into this unfortunate and painful dilemma, by hastily applying a right principle in a wrong place. It is certainly true, that ordinary acts of choice spring from the governing pur. pose of the soul, from a good or a “ wicked intention.” But Adam's first act of sin was an extraordinary case. His governing principle had, to this moment, been holy ; and his first sin could not spring from that. As yet, there was no contrary governing principle, no “ wicked intention” out of which it could spring; for this commenced its existence in his first act of sinning. It is intuitively certain then, that Adam's first sin sprung from the impulse of that desire of happiness, which Dr. T. acknowledges is the primary cause"-(the very thing we have affirmed) of “ moral action.” The triple chord is therefore broken. The formation of a new governing principle in us as in Adam, must spring from the same “ primary cause ;" though it never actually takes place without a direct influence of the Spirit. This is the simple fact, whose statement has called down upon us such severe reprobation from Dr. T. Let himn escape it if he can.
4. The suspension of the selfish principle. Our reviewer said, that in the process of turning to God, there are three things. Ist. A final suspension of the selfish principle, leaving the mind to, 2d, the mere exercise of its constitutional desire of happiness, out of which as a motive i.e. impulse springs, 3d. The choice of God as the portion of the soul. Bui he told us from the first, that all this occupies“ no measurable duration," (p. 18, vol. for 1829)—that he was merely giving an "analytical view," of the subject (do.)—that the antecedence spoken of, is in “ the order of nature," not of time, (p. 17, do.) Dr. Tyler declares that there is no antecedence in the case ! • The question at issue is—whether the selfish principle is snspended in the sinner's heart antecedent to regeneration.” (p. 62, Vind.) But we will not take him at his word. He means to say, that no act of the mind intervenes, between the last act of supreme selfishness, and the first choice of God as the portion of the soul. But if so, says the reviewer, out of what feeling (as a motive i.e. impulse) does the choice of God spring? Out of a "holy motive" says Dr. Tyler. If so, rejoins the reviewer, holiness and supreme selfishness co-exist, not only in the order of time, but even of nature !
Now it is in vain for Dr. T. to deny, (Vind. p. 25.) that the the whole question is reduced to this. Either there is no cause of the first holy choice, or that cause docs precede its effect. And if that cause is
not the simple desire of happiness, then it is either selfishness itself, (which Dr. T. denies) or something holy which co-exists with that selfishness.
The truth is, Dr. T.'s attack, and his whole argument, is founded on a confusion of the order of nature and of time. Hence he is perpetually misled by using terms on this subject, denoting time, as “while,” “ when” “ with a wicked intention,” (with denotes here concomitancy) &c. Had he started with the distinction made by the reviewer, and kept it continually in his mind, his two pamphlets, we believe, would never have been published.
5. The period occupied in using the means of regeneration. The reviewer opened his treatise by stating that this is not " a measurable duration"—that this “using” exists only in " the order of nature”“ not of time.” He again said that this using, together with the first act of holiness “occupies but an indivisible moment.” (p. 697.) And yet Dr. T. actually charged him in his Strictures, with making it a protracted duration ; and on this charge founded another, that of teaching progressive regeneration? The reviewer again solemnly disclaimed the sentiment, and showed that the very terms, on the use of which Dr. T. founded his charge, are used in the scriptures in the same way. Still Dr. T. returns to the charge, and one quarter of his “ Vindication" is on this point. Why is this? Is there any longer a doubt as to the real sentiments of the reviewer on this point ? Must he then, at all events, be put in the wrong as to something ? Dr. T. has misunderstood him. The reviewer has frankly said that if this arose from his being too "analytical,” he is sorry for it. Why is not Dr. T. satisfied ?
6. The advantages of the reviewer's theory. Dr. Tyler thinks it of no use at all. If the public think so, the reviewer has lost his time and labor. But if there is in this country such a mode of inculcating the doctrine of the sinner's dependence, as the reviewer supposes—if there are any who teach the doctrine, that the impenitent CANNOT (in the nature of things) choose God as their portion except from a holy motive ; then, (since nothing is in their power which lies back of choice,) the requisite “ holy motive” is not in their power, and they have only to lie down and wait God's time.” Will Dr. T. say, that the doctrine which, we think, leads to this, has not been taught ?
We have thus examined the six principal topics of Dr. Tyler's Vindication. We sincerely regret that he continues to misunderstand and quarrel with our reviewer ; but it is some comfort to find that at every step he takes, he quarrels with himself likewise.
* Our readers will observe that the present No. contains 16 pages of extra matter.