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XI. PHILOSOPHICAL THEORIES OF REGENERATION.
Different classes of Theologians have held very different theories in regard to the philosophy of regeneration, in accordance with their views of moral depravity, of intellectual philosophy, moral government, and of the freedom of the human will. In discussing this subject I will,
I. State the different theories of regeneration that have been held by different classes of theologians, as I understand them, and,
II. Examine them in their order.
The principal theories that have been advocated, so far as my knowledge extends, are the following:
1. The Taste Scheme. 2. The Divine Efficiency Scheme. 3. The Susceptibility Scheme. 4. The Divine Moral Suasion Scheme.
II. I will examine them in their order.
I. The Taste Scheme.
1. This theory is based upon that view of mental philosophy which regards the mental heart as identical with the sensibility. Moral depravity, according to this school, consists in a constitutional relish, taste, or craving for sin. They hold the doctrine of original sin-of a sinful nature or constitution, as was shown in my lectures on moral depravity. The heart of the mind, in the estimation of this school, is not identical with choice or intention. They hold that it does not consist in any voluntary state of mind, but that it lives back of and controls voluntary action or the actions of the will. The wicked heart, according to them, consists in an appetency or constitutional taste for sin, and with them the appetites, passions, and propensities of human nature in its fallen state, are in themselves sinful. They often illustrate their ideas of the sinful taste, craving, or appetite for sin, by reference to the craving of carnivorous animals for flesh. Of course,
2. A change of heart, in the view of this philosophy, must consist in a change of constitution. It must be a physical change, and wrought by a physical, as distinguished from a moral agency. It is a change wrought by the direct and physical power of the Holy Spirit in the constitution of the soul, changing its susceptibilities, implanting, or creating a new taste, relish, appetite, craving for or love of holiness. It
is, as they express it, the implantation of a new principle of holiness. It is described as a creation of a new taste or principle, as an infusion of a holy principle, &c. This scheme, of course, holds, and teaches that in regeneration the subject is entirely passive. With this school regeneration is exclusively the work of the Holy Spirit, the subject having no agency in it. It is an operation performed upon him, may be, while he is asleep or in a fit of derangement, while he is entirely passive, or perhaps when at the moment he is engaged in flagrant rebellion against God. The agency by which this work is wrought, according to them, is sovereign, irresistible, and creative. They hold that there are no means of regeneration of course as it is a direct act of creation. They hold the distinction already referred to and examined between regeneration and conversion; that when the Holy Spirit has performed the sovereign operation, and implanted the new principle, then the subject is active in conversion or in turning to God.
They hold that the soul in its very nature is enmity against God; that therefore the gospel has no tendency to regenerate or convert the soul to God; but on the contrary that previous to regeneration by the sovereign and physical agency of the Holy Spirit, every exhibition of God made in the Gospel, tends only to inflame and provoke this constitutional enmity.
They hold that when the sinful taste, relish, or craving for sin is weakened, (for they deny that it is ever wholly destroyed in this life, or while the soul continues connected with the body,) and a holy taste, relish, or craving is implanted or infused by the Holy Spirit into the constitution of the soul, then, and not till then, the gospel has a tendency to turn or convert the sinner from the error of his ways.
As I have said, their philosophy of moral depravity is the basis of their philosophy of regeneration. It assumes the dogma of original sin as taught in the Presbyterian Confession of Faith, and attempts to harmonize the philosophy of regeneration with that philosophy of sin or moral depravity. Upon this scheme or theory of regeneration I remark,
1. That it has been sufficiently refuted in the lectures on moral depravity. If, as was then shown, moral depravity is altogether voluntary, and consists in selfishness, or in a voluntary state of mind, this philosophy of regeneration is of course without foundation.
2. It was shown in the lectures on moral depravity that sin is not chosen for its own sake-that there is no constitutional
relish, taste, or craving for sin-that in sinful choice, sin is not the end or object chosen, but that self-gratification is chosen, and that this choice is sinful. If this is so, (and who may not know that it is?) then the whole philosophy of the taste scheme turns out to be "such stuff as dreams are made of.”
3. The taste, relish, or craving, of which this philosophy speaks, is not a taste, relish, or craving for sin, but for certain things and objects, the enjoyment of which is, to a certain extent, and upon certain conditions, lawful. But when the will prefers the gratification of taste or appetite to higher interests, this choice or act of will is sin. The sin never lies in the appetite, but in the will's consent to unlawful indulgence.
4. This philosophy confounds appetite or temptation to unlawful indulgence, with sin. Nay, it represents sin as consisting mostly, if not altogether, in temptation.
5. It is, as we have seen, inconsistent with both the Bible definition of sin and of regeneration.
6. It is also inconsistent with the justice of the command so solemnly given to sinners, "Make you a new heart and a new spirit, for why will ye die."
7. It also contradicts the Bible representation that men regenerate each other. "For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel."-1 Cor. 4: 15. 8. It throws the blame of unregeneracy upon God. If the sinner is passive and has no agency in it; if it consists in what this philosophy teaches, and is accomplished in the manner which this theory represents, it is self-evident that God alone is responsible for the fact that any sinner is unregene
9. It represents regeneration as a miracle.
10. It renders holiness after regeneration physically necessary, just as sin was before, and perseverance also as physically necessary, and falling from grace as a natural impossibility. In this case holy exercises and living are only the gratification of a constitutional appetite.
11. It renders perseverance in holiness no virtue, as it is only self-gratification, or the gratification of appetite.
12. It is the assumption of a philosophy at war with the Bible.
13. Upon this theory regeneration would destroy personal identity.
2. The Divine Efficiency Scheme or Theory.
This scheme is based upon, or rather is only a carrying out
of an ancient heathen philosophy, bearing the same name. This ancient philosophy denies second causes, and teaches that what we call laws of nature are nothing else than the mode of Divine operation. It denies that the universe would even exist for a moment if the Divine upholding were withdrawn. It maintains that the universe exists only by an act of present and perpetual creation. It denies that matter or mind has in itself any inherent properties that can originate laws or motions; that all action, whether of matter or mind, is the necessary result of direct Divine irresistible efficiency or power; that this is not only true of the natural universe, but also of all the exercises and actions of moral agents in all worlds.
The abettors of the Divine efficiency scheme of regeneration apply this philosophy especially to moral agents. They hold that all the exercises and actions of moral agents in all worlds, and whether those exercises be holy or sinful, are produced by a Divine efficiency, or by a direct act of Omnipotence; that holy and sinful acts are alike effects of an irresistible cause, and that this cause is the power and agency or efficiency of God.
This philosophy denies constitutional moral depravity or original sin, and maintains that moral character belongs alone to the exercises or choices of the will; that regeneration does not consist in the creation of any new taste, relish, or craving, nor in the implantation or infusion of any new principles in the soul: but that it consists in a choice conformed to the law of God, or in a change from selfishness to disinterested benevolence; that this change is effected by a direct act of Divine power or efficiency as irresistible as any creative act whatever. This philosophy teaches that the moral character of every moral agent whether holy or sinful, is formed by an agency as direct, as sovereign and as irresistible as that which first gave existence to the universe; that true submission to God implies the hearty consent of the will to have the character thus formed, and then to be treated accordingly, for the glory of God. The principal arguments by which this theory is supported so far as I am acquainted with them, are as follows:
(1.) The bible, its advocates say, teaches it in those texts that teach the doctrine of a universal and particular Providence, and that God is present in all events; such for example as the following: "The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord."-Prov. 16: 33. "Lord,
thou wilt ordain peace for us; for thou also hast wrought all our works in us."—Isaiah 26: 12. "I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil. I the Lord do all these things."-Isaiah 45: 7. "And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?"-Daniel 4: 35. "Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?"-Amos 3: 6. "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things; to whom be glory for ever. Amen."-Romans 11: 36. "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."-Ephesians 1:11. "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."-Philippians 2: 13. "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." -Hebrews 13: 20, 21. "Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem."— Ezra 7: 27. "The preparation of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord. A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps."-Proverbs 16: 1,9. "The king's heart is in the hands of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will."Proverbs 21: 1. "But now, O Lord, thou art our Father: we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand."-Isaiah 64: 8. "And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul."Acts 16: 14. "Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?"-Romans 9: 20, 21. "And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt."-Exodus 7: 3. "And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not