Buy our Entire Web site on CD Revival Reformation Classics:
Can Change the World Again.
Introduction to Alethea In Heart Ministries
HOME | READY TO MEET GOD? | INTRODUCTION | CD | DETAILED INDEX | IMPROVED ORDERING PAGE | AMERICAN REFORMATION | CHARLES FINNEY WORKS | ASA MAHAN PAGE | TOPICS OF IMPORTANCE | CHRISTIAN EVIDENCES/SKEPTICISM | HEALTH PAGE | LINKS | AUDIO BOOKS | TRACTS PAGE | OBERLIN THEOLOGY | GUEST BOOK | OWNER AND ADDRESS | SHOPPING CART | FORUMS

LECTURES
ON THE
NINTH OF ROMANS;
ELECTION,
AND THE
INFLUENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

BY REV ASA MAHAN, A. M.,

To order this book in print for $4.50 click below.

FORWARD BY THE PRESENT EDITOR.

DURING one of Mahan's visits to England, prior to his permanent residing there for the last thirteen years of his life, he was agitated by the universal practice among English clergymen in appealing to sinners to passively seek salvation with absurd necessarian notions of inability which had as its basis certain hyper-Calvinistic presuppositions such as unconditional election and a constitutional depravity resulting in a hopeless state of irresistible sin which could only passively hope for a divine influence to take away this absolute law of inherited nature. Yet this form of teaching was not only found in England at that time, but was the predominant American understanding of at least the first half of the nineteenth century. Our author had his thesis in mind therefore, as he tells us, long before his arrival in England.

Like all of his writings, our author gives us a unique and sound presentation of a subject pressing upon him and his times which compelled him to fulfill the need of the hour. His perspective is from an Arminian standpoint, yet he makes no reference to such, nor does he show himself limited by or dependent upon that system. Unlike many former defenders of the freedom of the will, it will be seen that he uses no weak and inconclusive arguments, and that he gives us a truly fresh approach to weighing the matter. He shows us that the main problems in such systems have been owning to a wrong method in studying theology that assumes an obviously false and contradictory system of mental philosophy (psychology). Thus, instead of disputing merely about words, or seeking to overthrow a contrary system by length or amount of argumentation, he gives us a unique refutation of not only each essential argument of the higher Calvinistic system, but reveals to us the reasons for their adopting the faulty methods that lead to this resulting course. And clearly, as the greatest teacher of Mental Science of that century, his analysis is worthy of special attention. In this work, as in his many works on Mental Philosophy,1 he gives a profound analysis of this system, tracing it back to a faulty method as succinctly put by Cousin: "As is the method of a philosopher, so will be his system; and the adoption of a method, decides the destiny of a philosophy." Thus he reveals that "As is a man's Philosophy so is his Theology." In other words, what you put in is what you will get out of it; fatalism assumed, fatalism generated.

Our author not only gives us a theoretical exposition of this necessarian system of theology and its contradiction to the sacred page in this book, but gives us the practical outworkings of this philosophy in his day, and as it had influenced him in his first thirty years of life. After some twenty years of painstaking reflection and reexamination—not to mention over fifteen years of teaching Mental Philosophy and Theology—he gives us this critical exposition of one of the most misunderstood chapters of the bible. This is an important consideration in understanding the motives behind his writing on this subject. There is no element of bitterness or unkindness in his opposition to this contrary system as has been the case with many anti-Calvinists; nor is there any lack of appreciation for the piety of the worthies that held to such systems. As this was all fully developed in his Autobiography, which was written thirty years after this publication, we give you a small segment from the Introduction, along with the first chapter to guide you in understanding the practical outworkings of his former adoption of the system he here explains and contrasts to the true system of Theology: 2

'During my religious life, I have had a very intimate association with the various religious, moral, social, and political questions and movements which have agitated and moulded thought in America and the world at large, and with many of the leading minds who gave form and direction to these great movements. As a student of theology and Biblical science, and of all the sciences, as a preacher of the everlasting Gospel, and as a Professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy and Theology, I have had occasion to ponder, and weigh, and determine, with great care and circumspection, the various problems of natural, mental, moral, and theological science, together with the doctrines of the diverse schools in philosophy and religion. As a theologian I have, as the result of the most careful and candid inquiry and research, passed from the extreme bounds of Calvinism to the quite opposite pole of the evangelical faith.'

'EARLY RELIGIOUS IMPRESSIONS.

'IT was at the age of seventeen years and two or three months that I was born of God. The reader will better understand and appreciate the intellectual, moral, and spiritual life to which he is about to be introduced, if we go back to the period which immediately preceded the event above referred to, and consider the specific religious convictions and impressions to which I was then subject, together with the character of the causes of those convictions and impressions.

'Early Education.

'My education from my childhood up was, especially in a doctrinal sense, a religious one. The circle in which I was educated was exclusively Calvinistic of the" straitest sect" ever known. Always a regular attendant upon public worship on the Sabbath, I had never, up to the period of my life now under consideration, heard more than two or three discourses from any preacher who did not belong to this school. As soon as I was able to read at all, the first treatises put into my hands were the Assembly's Longer and Shorter Catechisms. The latter I was required to commit to memory, and to repeat to my mother from Sabbath to Sabbath, that is, very frequently, during the years of childhood. From the teachings of these catechisms and other forms of religious instruction, my views of Christian doctrine very early took a definite and systematic character. Being naturally endued with a reflective mind, and especially with a quenchless thirst for knowledge, and especially for the knowledge possessed by intelligent men and women around me, I was ever a most attentive and eager listener to their varied conversations, conversations especially which pertained to two subjects,—battles, and questions of Christian doctrine; and no child was more favoured than I was in gaining the best information of the latter kind. My mother was one of the greatest female thinkers and readers on religious topics that I ever knew. No minister in all the region of country where we lived was more fully acquainted with the writings of such thinkers as Edwards, Hopkins, Bellamy, and Emmons, than she. My father's house was consequently the centre for the discussion of Christian doctrine with the most intelligent members of the church to which he and my mother belonged. Western New York, where my parents lived from my twelfth to my seventeenth year, was, at that time, for the most part, missionary ground. Scattered in all directions were feeble churches without pastoral care. These churches were favoured from time to time with the temporary services of missionaries sent out for the most part from the State of Connecticut. Standing on one of the main roads and near the centre of the town, my father's house was the fixed stopping place of these missionaries. How my heart would leap when a stranger would ride up to my father's door, and announce himself a missionary from the State of Connecticut. "Now," I inwardly exclaimed, "we shall have more conversation about these doctrines;" and I was never disappointed. As soon as the proper time for conversation came, my mother, who was a woman of few words herself, would put some leading questions which would arouse to the highest degree the mental activity of the visitor, and insure a most animated discussion of some of the great doctrines. Not unfrequently more or less of the neighbours would come in and heighten the interest of the discussions. Sometimes two such strangers would call at the same time, and then the interest of the collisions of thought would reach its climax. To all such scenes there was sure to be one listener whose attention and interest never flagged. The church of which my parents were members, never, during the period under consideration, enjoyed public preaching except on alternate Sabbaths; on all other Sabbaths they had what were called "Reading Meetings," meetings in which two printed discourses were read aloud. The discourses selected represented what was then universally regarded as embodying the best thoughts of the best Calvinistic divines of the age, and in each discourse some phase of some one of the great doctrines was elucidated. Whenever any new volume was introduced, my mother was certain to borrow it and read its discourses through, and always aloud when I was present. I therefore usually heard all such discourses twice read, and listened with the strictest attention.

'Even after I was eight or ten years of age I was much given to religious thought and reflection. I seriously question whether, after this period, I was for half an hour alone by myself without pondering more or less seriously some forms of religious thought. I refer to the above facts in order to evince that I must have been an inexpressibly stupid thinker had I not, under such influences, attained to very clear, distinct, and definite apprehensions of all the leading doctrines of the system of faith in which I was educated. That my apprehensions were not only clear and definite, but strictly correct, I argue from the two following considerations: 1. No one ever suggested to me the thought—not even my mother, who ever had an open view of all my religious thinking—no one ever hinted to me, that I had misapprehended at all any of those doctrines. 2. My subsequent theological reading and education never suggested to me the idea that I had, in any particular, misapprehended the nature of any of those doctrines. I have fundamentally changed my views of the accordance of those doctrines with the Word of God, but never in respect to what is their intrinsic nature and character.

'Religious Convictions and Impressions induced by these Doctrines.

'What now were the religious convictions and impressions induced in my mind by a most careful and impartial view of these doctrines? I use the term impartial because I never entertained the prejudices entertained against them by worldly minds around me. I accepted them as truths of God, which I could not change, and by objecting against which I could only injure myself. I recollect very well an argument presented in one of the discourses which I heard read; an argument which, for years, utterly silenced in my mind all objection against the doctrine that infinite criminality is set down to the account of every individual of the race on account of the one sin of Adam. The argument was this: Had Adam maintained his integrity, and had God, on account of the merits of his obedience, set down to the account of each individual of the race the desert of infinite good, no creature in earth or heaven would have objected. Why, then, should any one object to the fact, that on account of Adam's sin infinite demerit is set down to the account of every such individual? Years passed before an objection arose in my mind to this doctrine of imputation. Thus candidly and impartially did I contemplate all the doctrines under consideration. I speak, also, of the impressions arising from a consideration of these doctrines. I had other religious convictions and impressions induced in my mind by other facts and considerations; and to these I shall direct special attention hereafter. What we are now to consider is the convictions and impressions induced by an exclusive consideration of these doctrines themselves.

'What, then, were these convictions and impressions? An utter and absolute exclusion, I answer, of all ideas of real duty, obligation, merit or demerit of good or ill, from the entire sphere of Christian truth, thought, and action. This, I affirm unqualifiedly, was the exact state induced in my mind by those years of careful study of those doctrines. That I was under condemnation to eternal death, on account of the one sin of Adam, which God had imputed to me, I entertained not the remotest doubt. Yet that I was, in any sense or form, morally responsible for that sin, that real desert of punishment did, or could, attach to me personally on account of it, or that I was in the remotest degree under obligation to repent of the same,—no such thought or sentiment ever approached my mind. The sin and its imputed penalty lay, in my thoughts and reflections, wholly outside the circle of personal responsibility or desert; as much so as did the Flood, and the crimes of the generations which preceded and occasioned that world catastrophe.

'Equally absolute was my, conviction that through the fall of Adam, and by a Divinely established law of natural descent, my "whole nature was corrupted" and "disabled to all that is good;" that what is "commonly called original sin" was to me and all the race a dire reality, a reality on account of which an eternal doom hung over myself and all the race. Yet I intuitively imputed original sin to myself and to the race as a pure calamity, and never, in any sense, as a crime. I was familiar with the fact of hereditary diseases descending through parents to their children, through successive generations. The child in whom such disease appears, is always compassionated, and never regarded as really criminal, for being afflicted with such disease; and that even when it is known that the parent brought upon himself the disease by crime. So I intuitively regarded, "the corruption of our whole nature, which is commonly called original sin."

'That I was a sinner, originally and actually so, I had no doubt, and fully believed my catechism, when it affirmed that "all sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the Divine law, deserves God's wrath and curse, both in this world and that which is to come." The term deserves had no meaning in my regard but this, is doomed to receive. The term sin, as employed in theological and Christian discourse, represented nothing whatever for which I regarded myself as, in the remotest degree, responsible. When spoken to of particular outward actions as right or wrong, or as deserving of praise or blame, my conscience gave a ready response to the correctness of such imputations. But when sin was spoken of, sin which, I was then taught, consisted in inward natural corruption, or in positive states or acts necessarily resulting from "indwelling sin," all conviction of real responsibility for such corruption, states, or acts, wholly dropped out of my mind, or rather never became a matter of conviction at all.

'The same held true of all the specific requirements of religion, such as repentance, faith, love, and religious service. I was well aware that these were immutable conditions of salvation; that without "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ," I should be eternally lost. Yet the conviction that I ought to repent and believe never had place in my mind. I was fully aware that "I must be born again, or I could not see the kingdom of God." I had no more consciousness of any obligation to become a Christian, however, than I had to become an angel.

'I saw nothing whatever in the character of God, as seen through these doctrines, let me add once more, nothing whatever which awakened in my mind for a moment the conviction, in any sense or form, that I ought to love Him. I knew that I was required to love Him, and must do it, or be lost eternally. As presented to my apprehensions, there was everything in God to inspire awe, fear, and dread, but nothing to attract and to love. All His thoughts, plans, purposes, works, and government had their beginning, middle, and end wholly within Himself. He loved His creatures, and valued their interests, as the potter delights in and values his clay, as something to which he can give mould and shape to meet his own personal ends. So, as I was taught, God, by His omnipotence, gives existence to creatures, determines their character, lives, and destiny, forms and moulds them as vessels of honour or dishonour in absolute subordination to one exclusive end, His own pleasure, or "glory," as it was called. With what awe, and dread, and freezing terror, and with no love drawings, did we hear such stanzas sung as the following!

'Thus it was that, through the religious teachings which I received, and the doctrines which were continuously held before my mind, and so deeply pondered by me, all real sentiments of religious obligation, all real convictions of duty, and all real consciousness of moral desert, were utterly excluded from the sphere of Christian thought and reflection, in which my mind had its dwelling-place. Had I been possessed of no conscience or moral nature at all, there could not have been a more absolute exclusion from my mind and thoughts of all such sentiments and convictions.

'These Convictions and Impressions the necessary logical Consequents of the Doctrines in which I had been instructed.

'We will now advance to a consideration of these doctrines themselves, and inquire whether the convictions and impressions under consideration were or were not the necessary logical consequents of what is intrinsic in the doctrines through which these convictions and impressions were intuitively induced in my mind. To set the subject distinctly before the reader, permit me to invite special attention to the following fact. Some twenty-five or thirty years since, when in the city of New York, I learned that a relative of mine, the wife of a wealthy merchant in that city, was in a precarious state of health. I had known her from childhood, and for many reasons she was very dear to me. She, as was true of myself, had from childhood been educated under the exclusive influence of these doctrines. Regarding this as probably my last opportunity for conversation with my niece, 1 called for one exclusive purpose,—a serious conversation with her on the interests of her soul's eternity. When this subject was introduced, she frankly confessed to me that she was not a Christian. "The question of my salvation," she added, "in no sense or form lies with myself but wholly at the sovereign disposal of God. If I am not one of the elect, my doom is fixed and irreversible, and I can do nothing to change it. If I am one of the elect, the time of my conversion is immutably determined, and I can do nothing to hasten or put it off. When that time shall arrive, God will send His Spirit to renew my heart, and it will be absolutely impossible for me to resist Him, or prevent my conversion. I have nothing to do, and can do nothing in the matter." "My dear, precious niece," I exclaimed, "reasoning thus and acting thus you will lose your soul, as sure as you exist." This only convinced her that I was a teacher of error. I found her mind, as my own had been, a total blank, as far as any proper convictions of sin, or any religious sentiments of duty and moral desert, were concerned, and all through the exclusive influence of the doctrines in which she had been educated. Whether any change occurred in her experience prior to her death, which took place but a few months after my visit, I never learned. Was this utter extinguishment of such convictions and impressions the necessary logical consequence of the doctrines under consideration? This is the question before us.

'In the forefront of all these doctrines stands that of the Divine Decrees, which is thus defined in the Assembly's Catechism "The decrees of God are His eternal purpose, according to the counsel of His own will, whereby, for His own glory, He foreordained whatsoever comes to pass." " God executes His decrees," it is added, "in the works of creation and providence." "God's works of providence," we further read, "are His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures, and all their actions." "The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in His providence," says the Confession of Faith, "that it (His providence) extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all actions of angels and of men and that not by a mere permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding and otherwise ordering and governing of them in a manifold dispensation to His own holy ends." Here we are taught that all events, including all the actions of all beings, were, from eternity, immutably predetermined by God Himself; and that in providence He employs His omnipotence to bring those absolutely predetermined events to pass. No events, then, thus predetermined can, by any possibility, fail to occur, and to occur just as predetermined, and no events not predetermined can by any possibility occur. The absolute and exclusive Determiner is God: the determined are all existences and events, the nature, mental states, and actions of all creatures included. Granting the facts as here stated—and they must be thus granted, if this doctrine is true—where, in the necessary judgment of the universal conscience and intelligence, must all moral responsibility, moral obligation, and moral desert, if they exist anywhere, be exclusively located? Must they be located with the absolute and exclusive Determiner, or with the absolutely determined? Holding that doctrine as true, my conscience and reason and intelligence intuitively denied of myself all personal obligation and moral desert. So, these being the only premises from which to judge, must the conscience and reason and intelligence of every rational being decide. We can no more conceive that obligation and moral desert lie exclusively with the absolutely determined, and not with the absolute and exclusive Determiner, than we can conceive of an event without a cause.

'Next in order after the Divine decrees, we will consider the condition of the human race in consequence of the fall of Adam, as set forth in the system under consideration. The fall, we must bear in mind, was according to this system as absolutely fixed and predetermined by a Divine decree as any other event. Adam, by an irresistible overruling providence, was placed in a state of probation, in which, as a foreordained event, his fall could not but occur. What is the affirmed state of the race consequent on that fall? "The covenant," says the Catechism, "being made with Adam, not only for himself but for his posterity, all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him in his first transgression." "The fall," we are further told, "brought mankind into a state of sin and misery." Again "The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin, together with all actual transgressions, which proceed from it." Once more: "All mankind by the fall lost communion with God, are under His wrath and curse, and so made liable to all the miseries of this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever." In another connection, we were taught, that "all sin, both original and actual, being contrary to the law of God, deserves His wrath and curse, both in this world and that which is to come." Again: "The sinfulness of that estate wherein man fell consisteth in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of that righteousness wherein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, made opposite to all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all that is evil, and that continually." "Man by his fall hath lost all ability of will to any spiritual good."

'For each of three distinct and separate reasons, infinite criminality is, according to the doctrine under consideration, set down to the account of each individual of the race, namely: I. For a single act of one individual, an act perpetrated thousands of years before a vast majority of them existed at all. 2. For the original possession of a fallen nature, in the origination of which they had no more agency direct or indirect than they had in the creation of the world; a fallen nature which God Himself originated through the laws of natural generation. 3. For actual transgressions which the fallen nature of which mankind thus became possessed, rendered it absolutely impossible for them not to commit. For these specific reasons I did regard myself as thus doomed. My reason and conscience, however, absolutely cleared me of all real criminality in the matter, so absolutely that the thought that I could be really criminal for the sin of Adam which was imputed to me, or for sin in any form, original or actual, never entered my mind. Why did my conscience and intellectual and moral nature thus intuitively judge? For the absolute reason, I answer, that that judgment is the necessary logical deduction from the doctrines themselves.

'The pastor of a leading church in an American city, a church of which my own daughter was a member, after stating these doctrines just as I have done, added that while he fully believed in these doctrines, in the ill-desert of sin, and in the duty of repentance, it was absolutely impossible for him to conceive how the creature can be responsible for sin, or under obligation to repent of it. He could conceive of no such possibility, I answer, for the simple and exclusive reason, that the thing is an absolute impossibility. The intuition is not more absolute that a circle is not a square, than is the judgment that if those doctrines are true, obligation and moral desert are impossibilities.

'State of Infants who die before they are capable of committing actual Sin.

'Infants who die before they can possibly commit actual sin, die, according to the express teaching of the system under consideration, under the desert of "God's wrath and curse" to eternity, for two fundamental reasons; namely, the guilt of Adam's sin which is imputed to them; and "original sin," or "the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of their whole nature." According to my absolute intuitive apprehensions, while I regarded such desert as actually imputed to all such persons, there was, and could be, no real desert of such punishment, or of any punishment at all, in such cases. We have, in fact and form, the absolute verdict of human reason and conscience inside and outside the Church in respect to this particular case. And what is this verdict? The doctrine was once openly maintained, that infants dying in such state were of two classes, elect and non-elect; and that the latter, for the two specific reasons above designated, were actually doomed to eternal misery. The doctrine was so shocking to the reason and conscience and moral nature of universal mind, sanctified and unsanctified, that this doctrine of infant damnation has been frowned with indignation and reprobation out of the Church, and it is now confessed with shame that any such horror ever had place in Christian belief. What is the reason that this doctrine is universally held in such utter reprobation? The reason, and the only reason, is that according to the absolute intuition of the universal reason and conscience, no such desert, no desert of punishment of any kind, does or can attach to a moral being for the reasons assigned. If such desert for such reasons does exist, and is perceived to exist, there should be nothing morally shocking to any mind in the idea that such punishment is actually inflicted. The idea that any being receives what and no more than he actually deserves, shocks the reason and conscience of no moral agent. Either the intelligence and conscience and moral nature as God has constituted them are a lie, or no desert of eternal doom, or real desert of punishment in any form, does or can attach to infants, or to men now living, for that first sin of Adam or for any mere inherited constitutional temperaments.

'Doctrine of Election, Reprobation, Regeneration, &c.

'We will now consider the doctrines of election, reprobation, regeneration, and kindred doctrines, as set forth in the system under discussion. "By the decree of God," says the Confession of Faith, "for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death." "These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished." "Effectual call is of God's free and special grace alone, not for anything at all foreseen in man; who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer the call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein." "Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, Who worketh where and when and how He pleaseth." "All the elect, and they only, are effectually called."

'As regeneration and effectual calling were affirmed to be the exclusive work of the Spirit, a change in which the creature is "wholly passive," I was accustomed to hear aged, intelligent, and experienced believers affirm that the Spirit could regenerate an individual when asleep as well as at any other time. And where can an error be found in such utterances, if the doctrine on which they are based is true?

'Now, taking into account the doctrines of the Divine decrees, of the fall, of election, regeneration, and effectual calling, as actually set forth in the system under consideration, who will deny that the necessary logical consequent is the absolute validity of the conviction that rested upon my mind, that I was in reality under no more real obligation to become a Christian than I was to become an angel; that no more real desert of punishment did or could attach to me for the fall of Adam than for the fall of Satan; and that in no sense or form was I responsible, that is, deserving of punishment, for sin, whether original or actual? Can any one feel surprise that I deliberately regarded all charges of guilt on account of sin, and all affirmed obligations to repent of it and enter upon a holy life, as absurd mockeries? I distinctly recollect saying within myself, when our deacon charged such things upon us, "Now, Deacon B. is mocking us. He knows that what he is saying is not true."

'The reader can now understand clearly the validity of my conviction, that the character of God, as presented in this system, wears one exclusive aspect,—infinite selfism, valuing His creatures but as the potter values his clay, as objects which, by His own power, He can form and dispose of for His own ends. For what exclusive end did God, as we are here taught, foreordain whatsoever comes to pass? For His own glory. Why did He elect a portion of our fallen race to eternal life? For His own glory. Why did He from eternity determine to pass by the non-elect, and leave them to perish in their sins? For His own glory. If we should become "followers of God" in conformity to such a revelation of His character, our selfism would be as absolute as His.

'Different and opposite Schools of Calvinism.

'At the period to which I now refer, Calvinists were divided into three schools; the division in the Presbyterian Church into Old School and New School not having then occurred. Of the three schools then existing the first held, in the strictest form, the doctrines above considered, as set forth in the catechisms, and its creed was commonly represented by the terms "limited atonement" and "inability; "the latter term having reference to its tenet that all men are, by original sin, disabled from all good acts.

'The doctrine of the second school was denominated "Hopkinsianism; "the Rev. Samuel Hopkins, D.D., of Newport, Rd., in connection with President Edwards, being its principal expounder and advocate. This school agreed in all essential respects with the first-named, as far as the doctrine of the fall is concerned. In opposition to a limited, Hopkinsianism maintained a general atonement, affirming that provisions of grace in Christ are for the entire race, and are as free for the acceptance of the non-elect as for the elect. In opposition to the doctrine of absolute inability, this school affirmed that all men, the non-elect as well as the elect, have natural but not moral ability to accept the offer of life and obey the will of God. It was a common saying among believers of this school that, although their eternal doom is fixed by an eternal decree of God, the non-elect have natural power, by accepting the provisions of grace, to insure their salvation by breaking the Divine decrees. According to the teaching of this school, also, the common influences of the Spirit, those under which none are ever converted, are given to all men without exception. His special influences, on the other hand, those which always when vouchsafed result in conversion, God, in the exercise of His sovereignty, withholds from the non-elect and confers upon the elect. While the common influences of the Spirit never result in conversion, they do infinitely aggravate the criminality and doom of the non-elect. All men, the non-elect included, have natural ability to obey God, because nothing hinders their doing so, and assuring their own salvation, but their unwillingness. They lack moral power, because they have no power over their own choices; that is, they choose the evil and refuse the good, without the power of contrary choice. The distinction between this doctrine of natural ability and moral inability, and that of absolute inability as maintained by hyper-Calvinists, as they were then called, was found, when the two doctrines were clearly understood, to be in reality a distinction without a difference; the common doctrine of each school being that unregenerate men have no available power whatever to obey God. No school maintained the doctrine of eternal decrees and of unconditional election in a more absolute form than did that under consideration. In all His works and government God has, we were taught, but one exclusive end,—His own glory, the display of His perfections. To this end it is as necessary that some should eternally sin and suffer, as that others should be eternally holy and happy; and God from eternity elected His vessels of mercy and vessels of wrath according to His sovereign pleasure. By the founder and leading advocates of this school, it was most strongly maintained that such should be our regard for the sovereign will of our Maker, that "we should be willing to be damned for the glory of God." A bound volume of an old magazine in my library at home contains an article written by myself in defence of this doctrine. The doctrine of general atonement and natural ability, as maintained by this school, was hailed by multitudes of ministers and believers as a fundamental advance in the direction of rational Christian truth, and as rolling an incubus of infinite weight from Christian doctrine.

'The doctrine of the third school, which was founded by the Rev. Nathaniel Emmons, D.D., was denominated "the Divine Efficiency Scheme." In all points in which the second school differed from the first, this last agreed with the former, and rejected the doctrines of the latter. In contradistinction from the teachings of each of the first two schools, this last denied and denounced the doctrines of the imputation of Adam's sin, and of all desert of punishment for "original sin," maintaining that men are and can be justly held responsible but for their own voluntary acts of obedience or disobedience to the revealed will of God. The peculiarity of the system was, that it maintained that in conformity with an eternal decree God, by the direct exertion of His own omnipotence, originates all human volitions and acts, the holy and the sinful in common. Thus God, by the direct and immediate exertion of His own omnipotence, moulds the character and determines the destiny of the elect and non-elect. Thus also, according to the bald teaching of this school, teaching which had among its open advocates not a few of the ablest thinkers in the United States, God holds all sinners as deserving, and actually inflicts upon the non-elect eternal doom, for acts which He, by the direct exertion of His own omnipotence, renders it absolutely impossible for them not to put forth.

'Such were the doctrines of these three schools, which included all Calvinists at that time. The doctrine common to them all was that of Necessity, that all human activity cannot but be, in all respects, what it is. Now, while the doctrines of each of these schools were condemned by the united verdict of the universal intelligence outside of the schools themselves, as utterly subversive of all righteous legislation, human and Divine, of all obligation and moral desert of every kind, making God the only responsible Being, each of them denounced, in exactly the same forms, the doctrines of each of the others. "The idea that God," exclaimed the hyper-Calvinist and Hopkinsian, "by the direct action of His own omnipotence, originates all human volitions and acts, imputes infinite criminality to the Almighty, and renders Him the most fell tyrant conceivable." Just such language I often heard at that time, and no direct reply was ever made to the imputation. The following was the mode in which the advocate of Divine efficiency replied to the objections of the opposite schools. "You affirm that the doctrine that God imputes infinite criminality to sinners for acts of transgression which He, by the direct action of His own omnipotence, renders it impossible for them not to commit, dishonours Him. What then must we think of your doctrine, that God imputes to all men the desert of eternal doom for a sin which they never committed at all, and also for the possession of a depraved nature, in the origination of which they had no agency whatever, direct or indirect, but which God Himself, by the direct exertion of His own omnipotence, did originate through the laws of natural generation? If it would imply infinite wrong in God to impute infinite guilt to men for acts which He directly originates in them, and necessitates them to commit, would it not imply equal wrong for Him to hold them thus guilty for actual sins, which the fallen nature which He thus imparted to them renders it impossible for them not to commit?"

'On a visit to Dr. Emmons, the Rev. Lyman Beecher, D.D., thus addressed his venerable friend: "You hold and teach, do you not, Dr. Emmons, that God, by the direct exertion of His own omnipotence, actually originates all sinful volitions and acts?" "I do thus hold and teach," was the reply. "Well, Dr. Emmons, there is, to my apprehension, something inexplicably mysterious about this matter, and I would earnestly request you to remove the difficulty. When God, by the direct exertion of almighty power, has originated an act of sin, He seems to be very indignant at what He has Himself created. He also manifests infinite surprise that the event should have occurred at all, and calls upon heaven and earth to unite with Him in astonishment and indignation that an act of obedience does not appear, instead of the sinful one, when He, by the direct exertion of His own omnipotence, renders the appearance of the former, and the non-appearance of the latter, an absolute impossibility. How do you explain such difficulties, Dr. Emmons?" The countenance of the great expounder of the doctrine of Divine efficiency instantly became a total blank. Putting his hand to his forehead, he remained for some time in deep thought, then dropped his hand, and looking in every direction with a bewildered stare, he remained silent. Dr. Beecher was too much of a Christian gentleman to embarrass his venerable friend with further questions, and the subject was dropped. When Dr. Emmons apprehended his own doctrine as it is in itself, the intuition became absolute in his own mind, that the absurdity of that doctrine was infinite. Now the doctrine of each of the schools under consideration does undeniably involve an absurdity as blank and palpable as this, and can by no possibility be so expounded as to be freed from such absurdity.

'I have spoken of the utter exclusion from my mind, through the influence of these doctrines, of all proper conviction of sin as that which actually deserves "God's wrath and curse," and of all other kindred convictions. Now this was practically true, not only of worldly minds around me, but of believers also. Even the most devout Christians I knew, when they mentioned their sins, always spoke of them as evincing, not infinite criminality and ill-desert, but feebleness and dependence. They would make confession that all their "righteousnesses were as filthy rags," and that there was no soundness in them; that from their heads to the soles of their feet they were "full of wounds and bruises and putrefying sores," and then, with a placid smile, they would exclaim, "What poor dependent creatures we are!" They always compassionated, instead of really criminating themselves, when they spoke of their sins. Under a distinct apprehension of these systems, conviction of sin, in its only true and proper form, is an utter impossibility. Many who hold these systems have real conviction of sin, and that because their intuitions, enlightened by the Spirit of God, supersede the influence of doctrinal beliefs.

'Illustrative Incident.

'About forty-seven years since, when I was pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, I was invited to attend a Protracted Meeting in the village of Oxford, the seat of a State University of that name. The pastor of the church where I preached, who was also my host, requested that I would have special religious conversation with a sister-in-law of his, then residing in his family. She was, as he stated, the principal of the ladies' academy in the place, of superior education, of a high order of talents, and most irreproachable morals, but utterly unapproachable on the subject of religion. "The principal motive which I had in securing your present services," he added, "was the hope that you might be instrumental in leading her out of that ice-bound, unapproachable state in which she has been for years." During my first religious conversation with that lady, she made this remark to me: "I see nothing whatever in the character of God, for which my conscience affirms to me that I ought to love Him." On my inquiring the origin and cause of such impressions, she stated that years previous, when a pupil at a female academy in New England, she boarded in the family of one of the most influential members of the church in the place. During a revival of religion in the academy she was the subject of very deep religious impressions. In conversation with the gentleman referred to, she was told that if she was not one of the elect, as she very probably was not, her present religious impressions could have but one result,—to render her more a vessel of wrath than she otherwise could become, and that the Spirit was very probably given her for this purpose. Subsequently to this she overheard this man inform some Christian friends that he had made these statements to her, and that he believed they were true. Accepting this as the correct view of her case, her heart at once seemed to be turned into a stone within her, and she had never since felt any disposition whatever to give thought to religious subjects. My prompt and earnest reply, as soon as she had finished her statements, was, "Miss you ought to be sent to perdition. God has given His Son and sent His Spirit to you for one expressly revealed and exclusive purpose, 'that you might not perish, but have everlasting life,' and has affirmed, under oath, that He has 'no pleasure in' your 'death;' that He entertains but one desire in respect to you, and that is your salvation. Yet, in the face of all this, and on the bold assertion of that most presumptuous man, you have for all these years entertained the horrid slander upon your Heavenly Father, that He was dealing with you, not to secure your salvation, but to insure your eternal doom, and render that doom as aggravated as possible. What excuse will you, can you, offer to your injured Father and God, should you appear before Him in this state, for having made yourself a vessel of wrath by entertaining such soul-ruining thoughts in regard to Him? Go to Him at once, and tell Him frankly and broken-heartedly how you have injured Him, and wronged your own soul, by such thoughts." Perceiving that the ice around the heart was broken, I left her for a short time to her own reflections. At our next interview, after presenting a full statement of "the truth, as it is in Jesus," I put the question directly to her, "Will you now admit that God loves you, desires to confer eternal life upon you, and will do it as soon as you turn to Him, and commend yourself to His grace and mercy?" "I will," was the prompt and earnest reply. On the evening following I preached from the text, "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous," and showed on what conditions Christ will act in our behalf in this relation, and what He will procure for us if we commit our case to Him. On our way from the meeting I said to our friend, "Miss —, shall Christ he your Advocate?" "If I do not accept of Him," was her prompt and earnest reply, "I ought to go to hell. I can plead guilty now. I have but one desire, and that is that Christ may possess and control my whole being." When I left the place she was one of the happiest converts I had ever seen. More than thirty years after that, I met that minister and inquired of him in respect to that sister-in-law. "She died a few months since," was the reply, "but such a life as she led, after your visit to Oxford, I do not know that I ever witnessed. We never saw in her the remotest indication of backsliding, and her Christian character was throughout wonderfully complete and symmetrical. She never shrank from duty in any form, and never appeared to think that she could do enough for Christ. So her life brightened on to the close. And it did seem as if 'heaven had come down to greet,' as we stood about her dying bed."

'Here we have God's truth, as often perverted and misrepresented in the schools, on the one hand, and as revealed in His Divine Word, on the other. Here, too, we have the distinct and opposite results. What that man said to that inquirer was a veritable exposition of the doctrine which he held, and the effect upon her mind was the legitimate outcome of that doctrine. When I had been for several weeks in great anguish of mind on account of my religious condition and prospects, our deacon, who was de facto the pastor of our church, fully aware of my state of mind, thus addressed us: "My impenitent friends, bear this in mind, that if any of you were not from eternity elected unto eternal life, your salvation is impossible." When I afterwards spoke to another leading professor upon the subject, his reply was, "I ought to say to you that the statements of Deacon B—— were undoubtedly correct." That my soul was not wrecked for eternity was owing wholly to the mercy and grace of God in counteracting the natural effects of fundamental error. The reason why such teachings were presented to persons "under concern of mind," was the belief then commonly entertained, that in revivals, of all other times, "the doctrines should be fully preached." In after years such teachings were withheld until the revivals had passed by.

'Origin and Character of Early Religious Impressions

which led to my Conversion.

'My early religious convictions and impressions were, for very many years after my conversion, a mystery to me; and it was only after long and very mature reflection that I came to fully comprehend their nature and causes. At first thought it would seem likely that systems of doctrine, the belief of which utterly extinguishes and excludes from the mind all proper convictions of real obligation to obey the law of duty and the will of God, of the real ill-desert of sin, and of responsibility to comply with the revealed conditions of eternal life, would as utterly exclude all religious impressions of every kind. In my own case, for example, there was this utter exclusion of proper religious conviction, on the one hand, and the very frequent presence of very deep religious impressions of another kind, on the other. The real cause of the absence of religious convictions of the kind under consideration has already been explained. The origin, and causes, and character of the impressions referred to admit of an equally ready explanation.

'Let us suppose that the entire race has inherited from our first parents a disease, which can by no possibility be removed or modified by human remedies, and which, left to its own course, would, within a limited period, result in death. We have, at the same time, a revelation from God that He has from eternity determined and made provisions to remove this disease from a certain fixed number of the race, His elect, the number of whom cannot be increased or diminished, and at a certain predetermined period to carry them through a certain crisis, from which they will by Divine power pass into a state of permanent health and happiness. The other portion of the race, " persons not elected," God has immutably determined to pass by, and leave under the power of this disease, through which, at the crisis when the elect surmount it and live, if not before, the non-elect die and return to dust. Under such circumstances, while none could or ought to feel any responsibility for their state or destiny, the question, "Do I belong to the number of the elect, or non-elect, the number who are to survive and live, or to die and return to dust?" might be to each a subject of the deepest concern; and when the determining crisis should come, all might, each in his turn, experience not only great physical but mental agony.

'Now, when my mind awoke to a consciousness of myself and the realities around me, I found myself; according to what was taught me, actually under sentence to eternal doom for the act of an ancestor—an act committed near six thousand years before my being commenced—and for a fallen nature derived from that ancestor, a nature in the origin and character of which I had had no more agency than I had had in that first sin. I found myself, also, in consequence of this inherited nature, utterly disabled to all that is good, and with no power to avoid actual transgressions for which infinite retributions were to be inflicted upon me, unless I should be rescued by an Almighty Power above and beyond myself. Here I was met by an affirmed revelation that I belonged to one of two classes, the elect or non-elect, the number of neither of whom could, by any possibility, be either increased or diminished; and my place and destiny, as a member of one or the other of these classes, was fixed immutably from eternity. Finally, somewhere in the unrevealed future of life, if I did not die earlier, I should pass through a crisis called "concern of mind," as the result of which it would be known what destiny was, from eternity, written out for me, and "drawn by the eternal pen" in that dread volume that "lies chained to the eternal throne." All this was real to me, an object of unquestioned belief.

'Now, while such convictions of my state and destiny did, as would have been true, in the case above supposed, of necessity, exclude all consciousness of personal responsibility and desert from the sphere of religious thought, the question of my relations to these supposed eternal verities, and of my destiny in connection with the same, did press, and that very often, with awful and crushing weight upon my sensibilities. How often did the question arise, "When will the crisis in my being come? and shall I pass through it to eternal doom, or into the light of eternal day?" Then, as my mind would wander off into the great hereafter, how often would the thought roll back upon me, with overpowering weight," What is my decreed destiny there?"

'These infinite and eternal verities were none the less real to my mind because wholly disconnected with the ideas of moral obligation and moral desert. Hence it is that revivals of religion, periods of general religious seriousness, not unfrequently occur under ministrations, the leading doctrinal teachings of which tend but in one direction, to prevent and extinguish all proper religious convictions. Such preachers as Edwards, the Tenants, and Mr. Nettleton, were high Calvinists, but men of great revival power. Under the discourses of Edwards, for example, on such themes as, "sinners in the hands of an angry God," and, "Their feet shall slide in due time," very many of his impenitent hearers would wail aloud, and others fall helpless upon the floor. Thus aroused, they would seek and find peace in Christ. Such explanations will prepare the way for a presentation of the

'Early Religious Impressions which led to my Conversion.

'A fact which gave those aspects of religious truth which were adapted to move my sensibilities the greatest power, was my absolute conviction that all these doctrines, the most awful and impressive among them especially, were unquestionable verities. In my childhood, I had an overshadowing veneration for manhood. It appeared to me impossible that beings who knew so much could err in judgment, or could deceive. No one can conceive the shock which I received when, in growing years, the reality opened upon my mind that men and women could lie. Hence I repeated my Catechism, and listened to religious teaching at home and on the Sabbath, with an absolute and unquestioning assurance that I was hearing nothing but eternal truth.

'As soon as the idea of dying entered my mind, I had an inconceivable dread and horror of death. Wherever I was, the thought of dying, and being buried in that deep, narrow place, was seldom absent from my mind. Often, when alone, I would cry aloud for horror at the thought of death, the coffin, and the grave. In connection with such reflections, thoughts of the eternal verities that lie in the great hereafter would throw their awe-inspiring shadows over my spirits. Between my ninth and thirteenth years three events occurred, in each of which I escaped death as by a miracle. In the first instance, when wholly unable to swim, and with no one present able at all to help me, I found myself, by a momentary accident, in water far over my head. By singular presence of mind, I moved under the water toward the shore, until, in a most exhausted state, my head rose above the surface, and I was safe. Had I moved in any direction but the one I did, death would have been inevitable. The other two escapes, which were as remarkable and providential as that, I need not detail. These events brought eternity, as never before, to my apprehension. How often would I start back at the thought which would suddenly come over me that I had three times hung as by a thread over the bottomless pit, and that, had I lost my life on either occasion, eternal damnation would have been my portion! An event which made a very deep and lasting impression on my mind occurred when I was about fourteen years of age. It was the sickness and death of a school and play mate, who was very dear to me. I was one of four lads who were selected to bear that silent body, so tenderly dear to us all, into the graveyard, and set it down by the side of its low and narrow house. With what deep and impressive interest did the question often come home to my mind, "Where has the spirit gone? And what if mine, instead of his, had been called for?" As one and another dropped around me, now an aged neighbour, then a strong man or woman in middle life, then a child, and then a youth, or one just merging into manhood, how narrow the space came to appear between myself and "the undiscovered country!" I sometimes seemed to myself to be walking on a narrow path with my grave open on each side of me.

'But the influences which, more than all others, gave form and depth to my early religious impressions were what passed daily before me in the domestic circle. Very much of the religious conversation which I heard there was of an experimental character, and proceeded from the most spiritual believers in all the region round. In listening to such converse I, from time to time, got impressive insights into the interior of the Christian life. I thus became deeply impressed with the essential difference between the worldly and the Christian life, and with the opposite adaptations of each, as the soul, in one or the other state, should enter eternity.

'But what most impressed my mind was what I saw in the daily life of my mother. She was, in public regard, one of the best housekeepers known. In the morning, after the family had partaken of the meal prepared, and everything about the house was put in the most perfect order, she would take down her Bible and seat herself in her rocking-chair. How still and solemn and peaceful everything about her then appeared! No one broke the silence at such periods. After a few moments of deep thought, she would read to herself—she never read aloud then—a portion of that blessed Book which she loved so much. Then, after another season of deep and silent meditation, she would retire to some secret place for a season of prayer to God. I often listened, unknown to her, to her words, as she would open her heart to her Maker and Saviour. How often would the thought force itself in upon my mind, "O that I were possessed of the spirit that dwells in the heart of my mother!"

'Among the books which, next to her Bible, my mother loved to read, were the memoirs of the holiest men and women known in the circle of her religious faith, such as, for example, those of President and Mrs. Edwards, of the Tenants, David Brainerd, Miss Susanna Anthony, Mrs. Sarah Osborne, and Mrs. Isabella Graham. These books she commonly read aloud in my hearing, and for my benefit specially, and particularly the most impressive incidents. I have not looked into one of these books for more than half a century, yet the incidents referred to are to this day as distinctly before my mind as when I first heard them read. I refer to the wonderful manifestations of the Divine glory and love to President and Mrs. Edwards and David Brainerd. Full of interest, too, were the lives of Miss Anthony and Mrs. Osborne. In a weekly female prayer-meeting established by these holy women, and which had continued without the interruption of a single week through thirty years or more, Miss Anthony, for example, would sometimes be so borne upward in prayer for a world in sin, that she would continue on her knees for the space of one or two hours, and no one bowing with her would suspect that her prayer had been long continued. In view of "the spirit of grace and of supplications" poured out upon these women and others, President Edwards expressed the fixed belief that a period was near when revivals of religion would occur such as the world had not witnessed in ages past. Such facts made a very deep impression on my mind. Mrs. Osborne lived in widowhood to a great age, she and a granddaughter occupying a small cottage in a state of utter poverty and dependence upon the voluntary benefactions of the church and community around her. Yet she never begged a favour of any human being, and never, in a single instance, lacked her daily bread, and a full supply of it. Not unfrequently would she rise in the morning with not a particle of food in her house. "Put on the tea-kettle, daughter," the aged saint would say: "as soon as it is ready, what we need will be here;" and some one, under a Divine impression, always did come in with the very things that were wanted. In times of need, she always told her Father the facts just as they were, and never failed to obtain what she asked. When my mother would read such facts to me, and would then turn to her Bible and read such passages as, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want," how safe the people of God appeared to me under the guardianship of their Divine Shepherd, and how agonising the desire which would spring up in my mind to become a member of that sacred flock! Then the triumph and peace of those saints in the hour of death. What a parting scene was that between Mrs. Graham and her daughter at the death of the latter, which seemed to be an almost visible transfiguration! As the glorified spirit took its flight, the mother, lifting her hands, exclaimed, "I wish you much joy, my darling."

'How oft and how solemnly did I repeat that ancient utterance, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!" I never spoke in ridicule of Christians, as impenitent persons around me often did. At one time, for example, I was present when two half-brothers and several young men, all much older than myself; were disporting themselves at the expense of religion and the members of the church. I rebuked very strongly their impiety, closing with these words: "I wish that we were as well off as Christians are." All such considerations and impressions only made more visible and awful to me the "great gulph fixed" between myself and the world, on the one hand, and the people of God, on the other. Often did I express the inward wish that I had lived in the time of our Saviour, or that He were now on earth as He was eighteen hundred years ago. "Were He now here," I said, "I should know what to do. I would go right to Him, give myself wholly to His control, and trust Him to make me what He desired me to be, and He would do it." But now, what could I do, but wait for "the effectual call," were it eternally decreed for me?

'When I was about sixteen years of age, an event occurred which made an enduring impression upon my mind. I had occasion to take a quantity of grain to a mill about eight miles from home, the mill near my father's residence being stopped for repairs. While waiting for my grist, I noticed an individual with a black face, in company with a young lad, at work in a pasture near by. Having nothing else to do, I went over into the lot where they were. The supposed coloured man I found to be a white youth about two years older than myself; he having blackened his face in sport. I had been in his presence but a few moments, when I found him to be one of the most shocking blasphemers I ever met with. The chief direction of all his thoughts appeared to be to combine the most horrid oaths possible. With a kind of shuddering terror I soon left him, and returned to the mill. The miller then told me that that was the most recklessly depraved and wicked youth he had ever known. Some time before he had run away from home, had but just returned, and seemed to have but one ambition, and that was to show the community how depraved and wicked so young a person could become. About two weeks subsequently to this, I had occasion to go to that mill again. I then learned that that youth, to all appearance, was on his death-bed in his father's house a few rods distant. He had just before attended the town election at the village two miles distant, and there made himself a spectacle of terror, for reckless depravity, to all present. On his return home he was suddenly stricken down with a deadly fever. Not obtaining my grist that day, I returned for it two days after, and then and there witnessed a death scene, the memory of which never escaped me, a scene exceeding in horror anything I had ever before conceived. Like his life, the death of that youth seemed characterised by a raving madness. His aged grandfather endeavoured to speak to the dying youth about his soul. "Begone, begone, and let me alone," was the only response that could be obtained. And such wailing! After death had closed the scene, the miller, a man of God, as he returned with me to the mill, remarked that not a shadow of hope of a change for the better did that youth leave behind him. I went home from that scene a more serious, if not a better, youth. I was not, in any sense, profane or immoral, like that youth; yet, like him, I was, as I well knew, in the accepted sense of the term, a sinner under condemnation to eternal death. No one who has not had similar experience, can conceive the fearful terror often awakened in my mind at the thought of dying in sin. Such impressions were deepened by a remark which a neighbour—the profanest man I ever knew—made about that time to the deacon of our church. The latter had occasion, one hot summer's day, to call upon this man. Finding him hoeing corn, and perceiving that the row he was on terminated at the road where the deacon was standing, the latter waited until the man came up. Having finished his row, the poor man threw down his hoe, and wiping the dripping perspiration from his face, exclaimed, "Deacon Branch, is not this hard—to be obliged to toil like a slave all one's life, and go to hell at last? Tell me, is not this hard?" "Yes," the thought often passed through my mind, "to go to hell at last, that is the end of a life of sin ! Will my life thus terminate?"

'About this time reports of revivals of religion of wonderful power in various parts of the country reached us, particularly in the eastern States under Mr. Nettleton and others; and the impression came over me that I should soon be in the midst of such an ingathering. I then began to hear the words repeated, "The one shall be taken, and the other left." With what impressiveness did the question often present itself, "Shall I be among the happy number that shall be taken, or among the non-elect who shall be left to die in their sins? "

'Such were the religious impressions to which I was subject prior to my conversion, and which were preparatory to that event; impressions which became deeper, and more and more frequent, as I grew in years. And what was the result upon my life and character? This is a very important inquiry. Many would naturally infer, that I was "not far from the kingdom of God." Instead of this, aside from the fact that I was chargeable with no form of immorality, vice, or crime, I sincerely doubt whether there was, in all the world, a more godless youth than I was. After I had ceased to offer the Lord's Prayer at my mother's knee, I had never uttered a word or sentence in prayer to God. I had never, even in thought, thanked Him for a blessing received, or confessed or asked forgiveness for a single sin, or sought a favour at the hands of my Maker. I had never raised the question, even in thought, as to whether what I did, or neglected to do, was pleasing or displeasing to Him, or made the thought of pleasing or displeasing Him a motive for any act I had put forth, or refrained from putting forth. Nor had I ever raised the inquiry, "What shall I do to be saved?" or exercised a thought or put forth an act relatively to that end, or made the deep religious impressions to which I was so often subject a motive for any such thought or act. Nor did the conviction ever, for a moment, have place in my mind, that my interior or outer life ought, in any respect, to be, or to have been, different from what it was. No religious impression to which I was subject ever induced in my mind anything approaching the conviction of duty, obligation, or moral desert. My conscience, as far as any such convictions are concerned, was, as I have before said, as dead within me as if it had not existed at all. A thick and impenetrable veil was ever before my mind, rendering the entrance of such convictions impossible. How, it may be asked, was such a life possible? If we should recur to the religious teachings with which my mind was saturated during all those years, the question is answered at once. According to what is absolutely affirmed in the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms, and what I absolutely believed, the following immutable facts were true of me in my unregenerate state; I having had no choice or agency whatever in inducing the state under consideration. I. It was utterly impossible for me to will or to do anything right or good, and not to will and do what is sinful, or to will or do anything to procure any Divine influence enabling me to refuse the evil and choose the good. 2. It was absolutely impossible for me to accept the offers of grace in the Gospel, until after I was "quickened and renewed by the Holy Ghost," a change in which I was "altogether passive." 3. The number of those who were to be thus "effectually called," was from eternity so fixed and predetermined that it could by no possibility be "either increased or diminished." Granting all this to be true, why should I attempt to will or do the good, or not to will or do the evil, when the attempt itself would be nothing but sin? Why should I pray, when the service itself would be in the sight of God nothing but an abomination? How could the conviction have place in my conscience, that I ought to perform a revealed and recognised impossibility? Granting these doctrines to be true, we can no more conceive that unregenerate man, until God, in the exercise of His sovereignty, has made him the subject of "effectual calling," can be under any obligation to become holy, than we can conceive of the annihilation of space, or of an event without a cause.'

It will be seen that our author did not change his views on this subject from the time he first gave the below Lectures to the time of his Autobiography thirty years later. We commend therefore this work, along with his similar work on the Doctrine of the Will written a few years prior, to the public as his mature mind on the important subjects of moral government, obligation, and the Christian religion.

This Treaties, along with all of his latter works written in England, was given with English spelling; and we have retained the original as with all our publications of these authors. The only changes of course are in the printed format and the correction of occasional typos.

Richard M. Friedrich

Editor of the Complete Works of Asa Mahan and Charles G. Finney.

Grand Rapids, 27th, March, 2002.


1 See the Appendix listing of complete Works by Asa Mahan.

2 Autobiography; Intellectual, Moral, and Spiritual. Republication by Alethea In Heart, 2001, p. 9, from the Introduction; Chapter I, pp. 12-36.



INTRODUCTORY PREFACE

LECTURE I.
PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS
EXPLANATION OF ROMANS IX. 1—13,

LECTURE II.
RECAPITULATION
EXPLANATION OF ROMANS IX. 14—18,

LECTURE III.
RECAPITULATION
EXPLANATION OF ROMANS IX. 19—24,

LECTURE IV.
GENERAL RECAPITULATION
EXPLANATION OF ROMANS IX. 25—33,
REMARKS.

LECTURE V.
ELECTION.

PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS,
PASSAGES IN WHICH THE TERMS "ELECT," "ELECTION," ETC., ARE FOUND EXPLAINED,
OTHER PASSAGES SUPPOSED TO TEACH THIS DOCTRINE EXPLAINED

LECTURE VI.
THE SPIRIT'S INFLUENCES.
DIFFERENT THEORIES STATED,
FIRST THEORY,
SECOND THEORY,
THIRD THEORY,
FOURTH THEORY,
FIFTH THEORY,
SIXTH THEORY.
REMARKS.


Copyright 2002 Alethea In Heart Ministries

Eposition of Romans IX., Etc. By Asa Mahan - Romans 9 Commentary. Forward