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This text, therefore, is no proof, to me, in favor of your position.
To your question, "Does Br. B. expect to attain to an imninortality beyond the reach of Almighty power to destroy." I answer, “God alone hath immortality,” (1 Tiin. vi. 16.) and I have yet to learn that Almighty power can destroy it. It remains to be proved that man is immortal, soul or spirit. He is never said to be immortal in scripture. Finally, you contend that bodiless souls, or spirits, are to be punished in the other world, as here, for their "emendation, or some relative benefit to community.” Therefore, if such a soul, or spirit, gets drunk, or steals, it is to be punished to prevent its getting drunk or stealing any more; or, by example, to deter other souls, or spirits, from like practices! This is all I have to say, and I close in perfect friendship, begging pardon for ought that may have been said amiss.
JOHN BROOKS. Bernardston, Feb. 10, 1826.
For the Repository. Mr. Editor, A subscriber to your work addressed a letter to me, some time since, which I had promised to answer. This letter your readers will find on the 26th page
of the present volume of the Repository. When I first received it, I thought I should give a dissertation of some length, on the subject of agency, and have been waiting for a leisure opportunity to write it. But no such opportuuity as I anticipated, appears to offer itself; nor is now in immediate prospect. I am, therefore, disposed, for the present, to content myself with the few remarks, that my present limited moments will admit.
I cannot be of the opinion that “the doctrine of ne
cessity can be reconcileable to all unprejudiced minds." There are difficulties, which, on this system, are to me unreconcileable. When we admit that every action of man is unavoidably fixed, as the doctrine of necessity imports, we are unable to explain the principles of man's agency, in such a way, as to afford blaine to the transgressor, or praise to him that does well. I ain aware that it may be said, that praise or blame, approbation or disapprobation, are necessary consequences, in the mind of him that does well or ill. It is said a man cannot avoid feeling the reproof of wickedness, any more than he can avoid the act by which it is done ; and both are equally a consequence of the law of necessity. On the other hand, he as necessarily feels the approbation of a good conscience, in doing well, as the action itselt of well doing, is by the law of necessity. It is true, there may be a degree of plausibility in this position. But were I, in certain cases, to ask myself the question, why have I done this wickedness ? am I then to answer, I was uuder a fatal necessity to do it? I again ask, can I blame myself for that which the Lord, by unavoidable necessity, obliged me to do? Here I am to be satisfied, if satisfied at all, by the reflection, that God has fixed a sense of blame in my feelings, by the same law by which he has fixed my actions. Now, if in using an axe, some one should designedly jostle my arm, so as to draw the blow at my neighbor's head, all would see, that the fault of killing him would be his, and not mine. My intention was to strike elsewhere; but by the direction of another, I missed the aim of my blow. In this case, a person would have no thoughts of blaming hiniself, and for the very reason, the blow was not at his, but at another's control. But the moment we apply this simile to wicked man and his Maker, it leads us into inexplicable difficulty, according to the plan of necessary agency. This difficulty arises by manifesting the fault, where every good hearted Christian must be confident it cannot exist.
If we say, God governs all evil actions for good, we are then only to reflect, that our remorses and compunctions of conscience are founded in mistake. We are mourning for evil actions, which, in reality, are good; for it would be absurd to say, that any thing which is good in the sight of God, is not, in reality, yood.
We feel that our agency is free; that when we commit sin, that sin is an act of our own; that we might have done otherwise, had we been disposed; and we are conscious that it is from those feelings of freedoin, that we approve or disapprove our moral conduct. But the doctrine of necessity teaches us that that freedoin is imaginary ; that it exists only in the mind, and not in reality. God's law says, “Thou shalt not steal ;" and the man that steals feels that he is guilty, lor this very reason, because it appears to him that he night have done otherwise. Yxt when he takes his throry of necessity into consideration, it removes the foundation of his culpability, in that he could have avoided stealing, and shows him that this appearance of ability to avoid, existed only in imagination.
A man in living according to this theory, may persuade himself, that in obeying the law of necessity, he obeys the law of God; and, indeed, how could any dissimilar inference be drawn?. What ground, then, does his doctrine afford him, that convicts himn of sin, when it makes him conscious, that in obeying the law of pecessity, he does no other, than obey the law of God?
There is another argument against this doctrine, which appears absolutely irreconcileable with the divine perfections. If the doctrine of necessity be true, it follows that it is the law of God, that inen should act as they do; that they should do evil, as well as do good. But the law of commandments, or moral law, always demands of all people that they should, do well, and does, by no means, approve of their doing otherwise. Now, is not the law that commands men to do well, as much the law of God, as the law of necessity, which, if such a law exists, often compels them to do ill ? How then can they, in all instances, harmonize ? God's commanding law says to all men, “Thou shalt not steal ;" but the law of necessity says to some men, Thou shalt steai, if we may judge from their deeds. The law of commandments says, “Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not defraud thy neighbor, neither rob him ;" but the law of necessity says to the murderer, defrauder, and robber, Thou shalt kill, thou shalt defraud, and thou shalt rob.
On these arguments I shall not, at this time, enlarge. Your readers will easily perceive my meaning; and whether they will feel themselves able to solve the difficulties, to their own satisfaction, remains a matter for them alone to decide. For my part, I am wholly unable to reconcile the doctrine of agency, with that of necessity or fate.
The doctrine of free agency, I believe to be a scriptural doctrine ; for I am unable to deterinine, bow any other than a free agent can be the proper subject of moral law. What I mean by free agency is liberty of action, which a person possesses to the extent of the power of the given agency. One person may possess it in a much greater degree than another. And the same person may be much more limited in the exercise of his agency, at one time, than at another. The inference that a free agent must, of necessity, be independent, has nevir, to my knowledge, been properly supported, and, by no means, follows as a fair deduction froin the doctrine.
Should these few remarks elicit from our friend in Middlebury additional questions on this subject, and it should be thought best to enter into a further discussion of it, it may perhaps be attempted, at a future opportunity.
S. C. LOVELAND.
For the Christian Repository. Mr. Editor, As an opposer of the principles of your publication, I am obliged once more to offer myself to public notice through your indulgence. One of iny reasons for doing this will appear in the following statement. Soine months ago, a neighbor lent me a No. of the Repository containing some remarks of a gentleman in NewHampshire on a part of my first letter to Rev. S. C. Loveland. On reading them, I did not think it expedient to make a public reply. I however put some thoughts upon paper, and handed the sheet to my neighbor when I returned the pamphlet. Contrary to my intentions, this hasty production was sent, with all its imperfections, to the press. I regret this, principally because I suffered soine charges to escape against Mr. Skinner without a fair specification.
As I wish to treat my opponent with candor, I will readily acknowledge that I saw nothing in his piece which appeared to be intended for mere criticism. His remarks, however, upon the phrase incorrigibly wicked, in their effect, amounted only to criticism ; because they did nothing more than point out an ambiguity in the expression. By incorrigibly wicked, I mean those whom all exertions in this life fail to reclaim. I do not believe there are any whom Almighty Power cannot reform.
The character of the doctrine forbids the latter supposition. In this seutence connected with the preced