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See Matt. xii., 31, 32 ; Mark iii., 29, 30; Heb. vi., 4–6; X., 26, 27; 1 John, v., 16. .
These passages appear to teach that this sin consists in the malicious rejection of the blood of Christ, and of the testimony of the Holy Ghost against evidence and conviction. It is called the sin against the Holy Ghost because he is immediately present in the heart of the sinner, and his testimony and influence is directly rejected and contemptuously resisted. It is unpardonable, not because its guilt transcends the merit of Christ, or the state of the sinner transcends the renewing power of the Holy Ghost, but because it consists in the final rejection of these, and because at this limit God has sovereignly staid his grace.
THE DOCTRINE OF THE WILL AND OF HUMAN INABILITY.
1. Is free-agency an inalienable attribute of the human soul, or has it been lost by sin ?
Like conscience, free agency is an essential and indestructible element of human nature, and in every case necessary to moral accountability. Even devils and lost souls are as free, i.e., voluntary in their sin, as saints in their holiness.—See below, question 4. For a definition of the essential elements of free agency, see above, Chap. XIV., question 6.
2. What are the different senses in which the word will is used?
For a full answer see above, Chap. XIV., question 3.
3. When is a man said to be free in willing ?
When he wills in conformity with his prevailing dispositions or desires at the time, all things considered, in the view his understanding takes of the case.
A man, therefore, always is free in willing, and can never will otherwise than as free, because the volition, or executive action of the will is always determined by the man's subjective state of desire or aversion, and therefore is always free.
4. Do not the Scriptures, however, speak of man's being under the bondage of corruption, and his liberty as lost?
As above shown, a man is always free in every responsible volition, as much when he chooses, in violation of the law of God and conscience, as in conformity to it. In the case of unfallen creatures, and of regenerated men, however, the permanent state of the will, the voluntary affections and desires (in Scripture language, the heart), are conformed to the light of reason anıl the law of conscience within, and to the law of God, in its objective revelation. There are no conflicting principles then within the soul, and the law of God, instead of coercing the will by its cunmands and threatenings, is spontaneously obeyed. This is “ the liberty of the sons of God ;” and the law becomes the "royal law of liberty” when the law in the heart of the subject perfectly corresponds with the law of the moral Governor.
In the case of fallen men and angels, on the other hand, the reason and conscience, and God's law, are opposed by the governing dispositions of the will, and the agent, although free, because he wills as he chooses, is said to be in bondage to an evil nature, and " the servant of sin,” because he is impelled by his corrupt dispositions to choose that which he sees and feels to be wrong and injurious, and because the threatenings of God's law tend to coerce his will through fear.–See below, questions 13 and 17.
5. What are the two senses in which the word motive, as influencing the will, is used ?
1st. A motive to act may be something outside the soul itself, as the value of money, the wishes of a friend, the wisdom or folly, the right or the wrong of any act in itself considered, or the appetites and impulses of the body. In this sense it is evident that the man does not always act according to the motive. What may attract one man may repel another, or a man may repel the attraction of an outward motive by the superior force of some consideration drawn from within the soul itself. So that the dictum is true,
“The man makes the motive, and not the motive the man."
2d. A motive to act may be the state of the man's own mind, as desire or aversion in view of the outward object, or motive in the first sense. This internal motive evidently must sway the volition, and as clearly it can not in the least interfere with the perfect freedom of the man in willing, since the internal motive is only the man himself desiring, or the rererse, according to his own disposition or character.
6. May there not be several conflicting desires, or internal motives, in the mind at the same time, and in such a case how is the will decided ?
There are often several conflicting desires, or impelling affections in the mind at the same time, in which case the strongest desire, or the strongest group of desires, drawing in one way, determine the volition. That which is strongest proves itself to be such only by the result, und not by the intensity of the feeling it excites. Some of these internal motives are very vivid, like a thirst for vengeance, and others calm, as a sense of duty, yet often the calm motive proves itself the strongest, and draws the will its own way. This of course must depend upon the character of the agent. It is this inward contest of opposite principles which constitutes the warfare of the Christian life. It is the same experience which occasions a great part of that confusion of consciousness which prevails among men with respect to the problem of the will, and the conditions of free agency. Man often acts against motives, but never without motive. And the motive which actually determines the choice in a given case may often be the least clearly defined in the intellect, and the least vividly experienced in the feelings. Especially in sudden surprizes, and in cases of trivial concernment, the volition is constantly determined by vague impulses, or by force of habit almost automatically. Yet in every case, if the whole contents of the mind, at the time of the volition, be brought up into distinct consciousness, it will be found that the man chose, as upon the whole view of the case presented by the understanding at the instant he desired to choose.
7. What is the distinction between a transient affection or desire, and a permanent principle or disposition of the will ? (Will here understood in the wide sense of the term, as including the phenomena of desire as well as of volition.)
See above, Chap. XIV., question 4
8. If the immediately preceding state of the man s mind certainly determines the act of his will, how can that act be truly free if certainly determined ?
This objection rests solely upon the confusion of the two distinct ideas of liberty of the will as an abstract faculty, and liberty of the man who wills. The man is never determined to will by any thing without himself. He always himself freely gives
according to his own character, all the weight to the external influences which bear upon him that they ever possess. But, on the other hand, the mere act of volition, abstractly considered, is determined by the present mental, moral, and emotional state of the man at the moment he acts. His rational freedom, indeed, consists, not in the uncertainty of his act, but in the very fact that his whole soul, as an indivisible, knowing, feeling, moral agent, determines his own action as it pleases.
9. Prove that the certainty of a volition is in no degree inconsistent with the liberty of the agent in that act.
1st. God, Christ, and saints in glory, are all eminently free in their holy choices and actions, yet nothing can be more certain than that, to all eternity, they shall always will according to righteousness.
20. Man is a free agent, yet of every infant, from his birth, it is absolutely certain that if he lives he will sin.
3d. God, from eternity, foreknows all the free actions of men as certain, and he has foreordained them, or made them to be certain. In prophecy he has infallibly foretold many of them as certain. And in regeneration his people are made “his workmanship created unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.”
4th. Even we, if we thoroughly understand a friend's character, and all the present circumstances under which he acts, are often absolutely certain how he will freely act, though absent from us.
This is the foundation of all human faith, and hence of all human society.
10. What is that theory of moral liberty, styled “liberty of indifference," " self-determining power of the will,” "power of contrary choice," "liberty of contingency,” etc., held by Arminians and others?
This theory maintains that it is essentially involved in the idea of free agency, Ist, that the will of man in every volition may decide in opposition, not only to all outward inducements, but equally to all the inward judgments, desires, and to the whole coexistent inward state of the man himself. 2d. That man is conscious in every free volition that he might have willed pre