Can Change the World Again.
NINTH OF ROMANS;
INFLUENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
BY REV. ASA MAHAN, A. M.,
PRESIDENT OF THE OBERLIN COLLEGIATE INSTITUTE.
CHARLES H. PEIRCE & COMPANY.
HOBART & ROBBINS.
NEW ENGLAND TYPE AND STEREOTYPE FOUNDENY.
Press of George C. Rand, 3 Cornhill.
Edited and republished for the Internet, CD, and press by
© Rick Friedrich of Alethea In Heart in March 2002.
EXPLANATION OF ROMANS IX. 113,
EXPLANATION OF ROMANS IX. 1418,
EXPLANATION OF ROMANS IX. 1924,
EXPLANATION OF ROMANS IX. 2533,
THE SPIRIT'S INFLUENCES.
THE reasons which have induced me, a stranger in England, and coming into this kingdom with no expectation whatever of publishing any new work while remaining here, to present the following production to the British public, are these. Some time prior to leaving my native country, I remarked to one of my associates in the Institution over which I am permitted to preside, that I was perfectly certain that the common explanation of the ninth of Romans was based upon a fundamental misapprehension of the apostle's meaning and design in the chapter; and that, if my life was spared, I would attempt, at least, a demonstration of the fact, by giving the true exposition. I had at that time satisfied my own mind, in respect to what was the design of the apostle in the chapter, and in respect to the meaning of all the particular passages found in it, with one or two exceptions; and I left home with the intention of devoting a large portion of the present winter, wherever I might be called to spend it, in a more extended and critical study of the chapter than I had before been able to give it.
On my arrival in this kingdom, I learned with much interest that a new work on this very chapter had just appeared from the pen of the Rev. James Morison, of Kilmarnock, Scotland. On giving this work, consisting of upwards of five hundred pages, a very careful perusal, I was not a little interested to find that the author had fixed upon the identical passage that I had done, as presenting the key to the true explanation of the whole chapter, and that he had traversed this important portion of inspiration on the same line on which I was myself threading my way through it. In respect to the production of Mr. Morison, permit me to express the opinion, that it is one of the lasting monuments of biblical criticism of this century, and that it will never be answered by an appeal to the universally admitted laws of sound interpretation. In the perusal of this work my own ideal of the apostle's meaning and design, throughout the entire chapter, matured into a full consummation. In developing this ideal to my esteemed friend and brother in Christ, Rev. John Stevenson, he urged upon me the preparation and public delivery, and final publication, if, after the delivery, it should be thought expedient, of the present course of lectures. They were accordingly prepared and delivered, and, in conformity with the desire of many who heard, them, they are now presented to the public, and commended to the candid investigation of all honest inquirers of "the truth as it is in Jesus." Such are the circumstances which have led to the publication of this work during my present sojourn in this kingdom.
The considerations which have induced me to reject the common, and especially high Calvinist, explanations of this chapter, are the following: 1. A remark of the celebrated biblical scholar, Rev. Moses Stuart, made to the class of which I was a member, when a pupil of his, that the cases of Isaac, Esau, and Jacob, together with the sayings to Moses and Pharaoh, found in the chapter, were simply illustrations of some proposition which the apostle was aiming to establish and elucidate, and of course should be explained accordingly. This remark started the fundamental inquiry in my mind, What is this proposition? and how are these cases to be explained so as to elucidate and confirm it? In pushing my inquiries in this direction, I early saw that the high Calvinistic explanation was not based, as every true one must be, upon a clear ascertainment of this proposition, and that the examples under consideration were not, in fact, so explained as to elucidate and confirm it. Hence the conviction forced itself upon my mind, that there must be something fundamentally wrong in the explanation,an explanation which presented the chapter as constituted of masses of broken fragments, instead of possessing, as all Paul's reasonings do, a beautiful harmony and logical consistency throughout. 2. I saw that this explanation rested entirely upon a total misapprehension of an historical fact, of which, if we will inquire, we cannot be mistaken, to wit, the assumption that Paul is reasoning in this chapter as a predestinarian, against the Jew as an anti-predestinarian. Now the facts are the direct opposite of this. Every solitary sect among the Jews, with the exception of the Sadducees,a small sect to which Paul never refers in his reasonings,were, as a plain matter of fact, high predestinarians, and could never have been at issue with Paul as a predestinarian. I hence saw clearly that an explanation which rested upon such an assumption, and which could not be true if that assumption was false, as I could not but know that this was, could not possibly be the true exposition. 3. I saw that this exposition presented the different portions of the chapter in the most unnatural relations to each other conceivable. Paul, for example, commences the chapter by affirming, in the most solemn manner conceivable, his "great heaviness and continual sorrow of heart" in view of the impending doom of the Jew; and then, according to this exposition, goes directly on to show that this doom accords with and results from an eternal decree and purpose of God. No exposition can possibly place the different portions of the chapter in relations to each other more unnatural and repugnant. Whenever a devout and sanctified mind contemplates any event as an object of an eternal decree of God, it is then to such mind an object of acquiescence and submission, and not of sorrow and anguish of heart; and any exposition which presents such an event as the opposite of this, as the one under consideration does, the doom of the Jews, cannot be the true one. 4. This exposition, as I saw most clearly, made the apostle palpably contradict himself in different parts of the chapter. In the first instance, he presents the doom of his countrymen as resulting from an eternal decree of God, and then, at the close of the chapter, represents this same event as resulting wholly from another and different cause, "seeking salvation not by faith, but as it were by deeds of law." I could not but be assured that an exposition, which made an inspired writer thus palpably contradict himself, cannot be the true exposition. 5. I saw clearly that there was an exposition which most manifestly accorded with the real design of the apostle in the chapter, and which gave to all its parts a beautiful harmony and consistency throughout. Such were some of the considerations which led me first to doubt the common exposition of this chapter, and finally to adopt that given in these lectures. The question whether the true exposition has been attained, is now left with the candid public to decide.
There is an impression upon the minds of individuals, holding views the opposite of those advocated in the following lectures, which demands a passing notice, in this connection. The impression to which I refer is this: that these views are held not at all from respect to the teachings of inspiration, but as the exclusive result of a certain system of mental philosophy; and that the plain language of the Bible has been perverted, to meet the exigencies of such system. Individuals who adduce such objections are undoubtedly very sincere in the impression that they themselves are wholly free from the influence of pre-formed philosophical systems in the study of the Scriptures. They are wholly influenced, they judge, in the formation of their theological opinions, by respect for the Word of God. Now, if this class of individuals could only see themselves as others see them, they might, perhaps, entertain opinions of themselves, as Bible students, quite different from what they now do. Suppose that every person who is at all influenced, in his explanations of particular passages, by preformed systems of mental philosophy, were to receive from God the impression of certain peculiar features of countenance, indicative of this fact. Who of us might not be filled with self-astonishment, the next time we beheld ourselves in the glass? Suppose that, in the case of the individuals adducing the objection under consideration, there could be a total oblivion of all systems of mental philosophy, of all pre-formed theories of human depravity; and that they should approach the Scriptures as the exclusive pupils of the Spirit, to interpret the sacred text in sacred conformity to the laws of interpretation. How do they know but that the Bible would be a very different book to them from what it now is?
They meet, for example, with such passages as the following:"And you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins." To them it appears quite manifest that such a passage does and must teach, 1. That all men unrenewed by grace are not only under condemnation on account of trespasses and sins, but that they are in a state of total disability to all good; and, 2. That in regeneration, men are not the free, active subjects of a divine influence, "purifying themselves by obeying the truth through the Spirit" that is, by yielding to the truth presented to their minds by the Spirit, but the passive recipients of a divine resistless energy producing in them a new and holy nature. All who explain the passage as not teaching these dogmas are regarded as "spoiled through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, and not after Christ." But what is it, friend, that makes it so perfectly manifest to your mind that this passage does and must teach these peculiar dogmas? What but a certain pre-formed theory of depravity and regeneration? That this passage teaches the fact that men are "dead in (on account of) trespasses and sins," and that, in regeneration, they are quickened from death to life by a divine influence, there is no diversity of opinion among evangelical Christians. The difference pertains exclusively to the form, and not to the fact, of the death and quickening referred to. Of the fact we are here clearly informed, and hence no difference of opinion exists in respect to it. Of the form, we are not at all informed in this passage, and here, consequently, a difference of opinion obtains. Any person that infers, from this passage, not the fact, but a certain form of death and quickening, is wholly influenced, in such inferences, not by what the passage itself teaches, but by a pre-formed theory of depravity and regeneration. Of this death, whatever its nature may be, one thing is quite certain, that in it men are not passive, but active. "Wherein (in which state of death) ye walked," (were active agents.) Now, if men are active in this state, how do we know, as far as anything asserted in this passage is concerned, but that the nature of that activity is such, as implies the ability to the opposite form of activity? If men are indeed, as we are here taught that they are, active in this state, how do we know, from anything found in this passage, but that, in the divine quickening here referred to, they pass, under a divine influence, freely and voluntarily, from one form of voluntary activity to its opposite? Take away all pre-formed theories of depravity and regeneration, and nothing found in this passage will even appear to teach either this or the opposite doctrine; the exclusive object of the passage being to affirm the fact of man's death by nature "in trespasses and sins," and of his regeneration by a divine quickening, and not at all the nature or form of either.
So, where the individuals referred to meet with the declaration, "Ye are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works," how manifest it appears to them that the doctrine of the sinner's passivity in regeneration is here most undeniably taught; and that no person can hold the opposite doctrine, excepting through the influence of philosophical speculations. Suppose, now, that, as simple pupils of the Spirit, we leave this passage for a few moments, and inquire elsewhere in the divine word for some direct and positive teachings, if any there are, in respect to the agencies and influences actually combined in regeneration. We shall find that they are three: the Spirit presenting the truth to the mind; the truth thus presented operating upon the mind, to "convince of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment;" the sinner voluntarily yielding to the truth as thus presented. Thus we read, in different places, that men, in regeneration, are "born of God," "born of the Spirit;" and again, that they are "born again by the word (truth) of God;" and, finally, that in this very change the creature "purifies himself by obeying the truth through the Spirit," (yielding to the truth presented to his mind by the Spirit.) Thus, as the exclusive pupils of the Bible, we learn that in regeneration, in "passing from death unto life," men are not the passive recipients of a divine energy, but that, under the influence of the truth and Spirit of God, they voluntarily pass from one form of activity to another of a different and opposite character. Thus divinely enlightened, suppose we return to the passage above cited. What is there in this passage that contradicts the divine teachings which we have elsewhere found on the subject of regeneration? For aught that appears in the passage, itself, the "workmanship," and "creation," here referred to, may be not the formation of a new nature or constitution, but of a new character, a voluntary change from one form of activity to another, a change induced by the truth and Spirit of God. Nothing but a pre-formed. philosophical theory pertaining to the nature of human depravity and regeneration, can make any such passage even appear to teach, not the fact of a divine workmanship, and creation in regeneration, but the form thereof. "Happy is he that condemneth not another in that which he alloweth."
It is not at all unlikely, that the views presented in these lectures on the influences of the Spirit, will be very honestly attributed by not a few to a certain system of mental philosophy; while the objectors will as honestly suppose, that their own theory of the Spirit's influences were formed from exclusive respect to divine teachings on this subject. If there is anything that deserves to be denominated the theological hobby of England, I hazard but little in saying that it is this,that in almost every discourse, the sinner must be told of his dependence for regeneration upon the Spirit, and then exhorted to pray for his converting influences. Whence did this peculiar mode of teaching have its origin? Do we find anything like it in the Bible? No such form of teaching can be found there; nothing which even looks in that direction. Where are sinners, whether careless in their sins, or inquiring "what shall we do to be saved," counselled, exhorted, or commanded, not to "repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ," but to pray for the converting influences of the Spirit? Whence did or could such a mode of teaching, one so unlike and opposite to all scriptural example, have its origin, but in a certain philosophical theory pertaining to regeneration? Ought not good and wise men to put the inquiry, whether a theory which has led them in a direction so manifestly opposite to all the forms of divine teaching and example on the subject, is not itself contrary to "the law and the testimony?"
In the following Lectures, the reader will perceive, I trust, that it has been the object of the speaker to "reason out of the Scriptures," and not to denounce those who dissent from his views. May he not hope, that in a similar spirit his work may be met, even by those who differ from him in opinion?
London, January 17th, 1850.
EXPLANATION OF ROMANS IX. 113,
EXPLANATION OF ROMANS IX. 1418,
EXPLANATION OF ROMANS IX. 1924,
EXPLANATION OF ROMANS IX. 2533,
Eposition of Romans IX., Etc. By Asa Mahan - Romans 9 Commentary