New England Theology -- By: Daniel T. Fiske

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 022:88 (Oct 1865)
Article: New England Theology
Author: Daniel T. Fiske

New England Theology

Rev. Daniel T. Fiske

(Concluded from p. 512.)


All Calvinistic divines believe in the necessity of regeneration, i.e. of a radical change of character; and they believe that whenever it takes place, the primary efficient cause is the Holy Spirit. But this doctrine had to a great extent been lost sight of during that deep spiritual declension which prevailed previously to the “great awakening.” The fathers of New England theology aimed to restore or give greater prominence to this cardinal truth of the gospel.

In doing so, they were led carefully to consider the nature of this great change, and to adopt views in regard to it which should harmonize with their views concerning the nature of holiness and of sin, and the natural ability of the sinner.

If there is a holiness prior to all holy acts of will, or exercises of the heart; and if there is a sinfulness prior to all sinful acts of will, or exercises of heart, then the change from sin to holiness must be an involuntary change, or a moral change in the involuntary disposition of the soul. But if all holiness and sin consist in voluntary exercises, then the change, so far as it is a moral change, is a change from sinful exercises to holy exercises. The latter is the doctrine of New England theology. As it makes all sinful depravity consist in a wrong will, a fixed evil purpose, an active evil disposition, so it makes regeneration, in so far as it is moral or implies a change of character, to consist in a change of will, purpose, inclination, from evil to good. But, as we find in the works of Edwards and some of his followers expressions which seem inconsistent with the principle that all sin is voluntary, so we find expressions which seem to teach that regeneration consists in imparting to the soul a new spiritual taste, relish, or principle, which is prior to, and which lays a foundation for, holy voluntary exercises. But they do not say that this change, considered as distinct from all the exercises which it precedes and occasions, is a moral change; and that the involuntary taste and disposition which is imparted or inwrought by the Spirit is in itself holy; but imply the contrary. Thus Edwards, in his Treatise on the Religious Affections, says: “This new spiritual sense, and the new dispositions that attend it, are no new faculties, but are new principles of nature. I use the word principles for want of a word of a more determinate signification. By a principle of nature, in this place, I mean that foundation which is laid in nature, either old or new, for any particular manner or kind of exercise of the faculties of the soul. So this new spiritual

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