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How The Auburn Declaration
Relates to the
Heresy of Decisional Regeneration

The Auburn Declaration was an attempt by Lyman Beecher and other New School Presbyterians in August 1837 to confirm their Presbyterian orthodoxy. The Declaration defended the New School against accusations of heresy made by the Old School majority at the 1837 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. At that Assembly, the Old School forced disfellowshipped three New School synods in New York and one in Ohio that had formed under the Plan of Union (1801) with Congregationalists.

The accusation of the Old School Presbyterians was that the New School presbyterian party held to a modified Calvinism that compromised the Westminster Confession of Faith. Secondary issues were the New School's support of the 1801 Plan of Union, a cooperative agreement between Presbyterians and Congregationalists by which they would combine their efforts in evangelizing the West and in New School antislavery activity.

The Declaration affirmed a moderate but generally orthodox Calvinism, which its signers believed reflected Presbyterian doctrinal standards. It also denied sixteen accusations alleged against them by the Old School.

The President of Auburn Theological Seminary at the time was James Richards, a Bellamite, sympathetic to Hopkinsian Lyman Beecher, if for no other reason, they were both Edwardsians. To learn the profound difference between Jonathan Edwards' theology and Scottish Common Sense Realism, please read James Richards' Lectures On Mental philosophy And theology.

From The History Of Auburn Theological Seminary:

"It was not intended as a new Confession of Faith, nor as a substitute for the Westminster Confession, but as a protest against the false statements which had been made as to the orthodoxy of the exscinded bodies. It was regarded as in a way a commentary upon that Confession, and subsequently became a test of the orthodoxy of the new school body....The New School body never adopted formally the Auburn Declaration. This remained an independent statement of the belief of those who attended the Convention. But by the action of the Old School Assembly in 1868, this Declaration was declared to be an orthodox document. "The
Auburn convention held in 1837, under the influence and doctrinal guidance of that excellent and sound divine, the late Dr. Richards, specified sixteen doctrinal errors, which contain the very same latitudinarian and heretical tenets mentioned in the Protest, rejected them in toto, and set over against them, sixteen 'true doctrines,' which embrace all the fundamentals of the Calvinistic creed. This Assembly regards the 'Auburn Declaration' as an authoritative statement
of the New School type of Calvinism and as indicating how far they desire to go, and how much liberty they wish in regard to what the terms of union call 'the various modes of explaining, illustrating and stating the Calvinistic faith.'

" Thus the Old School Assembly itself put its imprimatur on the document which, more than any other, was the definite expression of the theological position of the New School Presbyterian Church. So without any theological modification of their original position, the New School men won their fight for liberty of interpretation of the Scriptures and the Standards. Our interest in these matters is now an historical one, but the contest for liberty of interpretation has
been frequently renewed, and is still being waged, in the great Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Will the lesson never be learned?"

In 1837, Lyman Beecher, a Hopkinisian New Light Calvinist, was put on trial by the Presbyterian General Assembly for spreading doctrinal error. A board of examiners identified sixteen errors in a document called The Auburn Declaration. Since the subject of this website is decisional regeneration, I will deal with only the last eight errors. Beecher repudiated all the errors and was not censored.

ERROR 9) That the impenitent sinner is by nature, and independently of the renewing influence or almighty energy of the Holy Spirit, in full possession of all the ability necessary to a full compliance with all the commands of God.

ERROR 10) That Christ never intercedes for any but those who are united to Him by faith, or that Christ does not intercede for the elect until after their regeneration. (Modern Calvinists teach a version of this error as “God only hears the prayers of saints”, or “only saints can pray”. They think this is a good way to fight salvation prayer evangelism. They fight an error with another error.)

ERROR 11) That saving faith is a mere belief of the word of God, and not a grace of the Holy Spirit (most evangelical ministers today promote this heresy, usually in the form of a BAIT AND SWITCH).

ERROR 12) That regeneration is the act of the sinner himself, and that it consists in a change of his governing purpose, which he himself must produce, and which is the result, not of any direct influence of the Holy Spirit on the heart, but chiefly of a persuasive exhibition of the truth, analogous to the influence which man exerts over the mind of another; or that regeneration is not an instantaneous act, but a progressive work. (The “persuasive exhibition of truth” and “progressive work” statements are closer to Scottish Common Sense Realism than Hopkinsianism).

ERROR 13) That God has done all that He can do for the salvation of all men, and that man himself must do the rest. 

ERROR 14) That God cannot exert such influence on the minds of men as shall make certain that they will choose and act in a particular manner, without impairing their moral agency.

ERROR 15) That the righteousness of Christ is not the sole ground of the sinner’s acceptance with God, and that in no sense does the righteousness of Christ become ours.

ERROR 16) That the reason why some differ from others in regard to their reception of the gospel is, that they make themselves to differ (i.e., the fallen state is voluntary and grace that saves is resistible).

You don’t need to be a Calvinist to see the problem with these errors. All of these errors have in common the idea that God instituted a salvation plan in which the Holy Spirit is only needed as an impersonal force. Gone is the sovereignty of God. Gone is the defining feature of saving grace being unmerited and not restricted by human agency. In fact, saving grace and the Holy Spirit are available to anyone, anytime, under any circumstances if a person is “illuminated” by reading or hearing the word of God, effectively making regeneration the effect, not the cause of saving faith. This would be making immediate experience the cause of metaphysical law, not what Hopkinsians believed, that immediate experience is the result (consecution) of metaphysical law.

The errors include another common heresy of modern Evangelicals, that saving faith is belief in what the Word of God says instead of belief in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. These errors are common today because evangelicals have forgotten predetermination as the basis for the effective decision for Christ.

But Beecher did not teach that saving faith is belief in what the Word of God says instead of belief in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Like all Hopkinisians, his call for men to “make themselves a new heart” was based on the predetermination of God before the foundation of the world and consecutional saving faith. Here is why each error is a mischaracterization of what Beecher taught:
 
ERROR 9) That the impenitent sinner is by nature, and independently of the renewing influence or almighty energy of the Holy Spirit, in full possession of all the ability necessary to a full compliance with all the commands of God.

WHAT BEECHER TAUGHT: Beecher taught that saving faith is consecutional, and that evidence of saving faith is only possible with supernatural regeneration. “Make yourself a new heart” meant, “if you are regenerate, you will show evidence of it”. Please read why Hopkinisians told seekers to “make yourself a new heart”.

ERROR 10) That Christ never intercedes for any but those who are united to Him by faith, or that Christ does not intercede for the elect until after their regeneration.

WHAT BEECHER TAUGHT: This error was true in respect to the elimination of law works and using the means of grace. In their zeal to remove refuges of the unrepentant, Hopkinisians said law works and using the means of grace were being used as excuses for not repenting and submitting to God. But that did not mean that Beecher thought saving repentance and saving faith were the cause of saving grace, as the error implies.

ERROR 11) That saving faith is a mere belief of the word of God, and not a grace of the Holy Spirit.

WHAT BEECHER TAUGHT: Beecher taught that saving faith is consecutional, and that evidence of saving faith is only possible with supernatural regeneration. Belief in what the Word of God says as saving faith was an error that came from Scottish Common Sense Realism, not Hopkinsianism. Beecher taught that whole-hearted acceptance of the decrees of God was evidence of “disinterested benevolence”, considered an evidence of regeneration. But this was heart acceptance of the will of God, a state of being made possible when a person is regenerated, not merely intellectual assent to the truth or logic or reasonableness of the Word of God.  

ERROR 12) That regeneration is the act of the sinner himself, and that it consists in a change of his governing purpose, which he himself must produce, and which is the result, not of any direct influence of the Holy Spirit on the heart, but chiefly of a persuasive exhibition of the truth, analogous to the influence which man exerts over the mind of another; or that regeneration is not an instantaneous act, but a progressive work.

WHAT BEECHER TAUGHT: To understand why Hopkinsians told seekers to “make themselves a new heart”, please educate yourself here. Beecher taught that saving faith is consecutional, and that evidence of saving faith is only possible with supernatural regeneration, which is immediate and identifiable. It was the Scottish Common Sense Realists coming out of Princeton Theological Seminary that diminished regeneration to the Holy Spirit “energizing scripture” in the mind (see Archibald Alexander).

ERROR 13) That God has done all that He can do for the salvation of all men, and that man himself must do the rest. 

WHAT BEECHER TAUGHT: You will understand this as a gross mischaracterization of Hopkinsian theology if you know why they asked seekers to “make themselves a new heart”. Error 13 confuses metaphysical law with immediate experience. Beecher taught 1) God has provided the way of salvation. 2) Duty faith and duty repentance are required of all men regardless of whether or not God regenerates. 3) What man does is an indication of what God is doing. Put simply, if man doesn’t make himself a new heart, it is because God has not made him a new heart. Critics of Hopkinsianism confuse immediate experience with metaphysical law to mischaracterize it, the way hyper-grace people mischaracterize Paul’s teachings on grace. But Paul would have none of it.

Metaphysical Law statement: “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
Immediate Experience statement:What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom 5:20-6:2). (For modern Christians that do not understand what Paul is saying, look at his last statement: “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer herein”. He is stating a metaphysical law “saved people are dead to sin”, which he reiterates with two metaphysical laws a few verses on, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom 8:13-14).

The two metaphysical laws are “saved people are led by the Holy Spirit” and “saved people mortify the flesh through the Holy Spirit”). But when a metaphysical law is used in a man-mechanical way instead of a God-relational way, for example, when hyper-grace people say if they sin more, it causes grace to increase, they rebel against God. Their perversion of metaphysical law is as witchcraft, or lying divination (1 Samuel 15:23), like Saul’s false sacrifice. For more on this subject, please see METAPHYSIAL LAW AND IMMEDIATE EXPERIENCE.

You will find the most brazen sin is that which is called “abomination” in the Bible.

HOMOSEXUALITY PERVERTS SEX INTO ABOMINATION: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. Lev 20:13

IDOLATRY PERVERTS WORSHIP INTO ABOMINATION: “The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the Lord thy God” (Deut 7:25).

MAN’S MACHINATIONS PERVERTS SACRIFICE INTO ABOMINATION: “Thou shalt not sacrifice unto the Lord thy God any bullock, or sheep, wherein is blemish, or any evilfavouredness: for that is an abomination unto the Lord thy God” (Deut 17:1).

The word translated “evilfavouredness” means “evil word”, or “wicked thing” or “mischievous thing”, conveying a man-mechanical perversion which God calls abomination.

The abuse of metaphysical law has been going on since Satan tempted Eve with “hath God said?” (Genesis 3:1). The purpose is always to separate metaphysical law from relationship with God and make it a mechanical tool to rationalize rebellion against God.

God’s metaphysical law statements are always God-relational statements. When man perverts them in man-mechanical ways, he does so to rebel against God. Metaphysical law is used for witchcraft, or lying divination, by denying its God-relational purpose and using it in man-mechanical ways.

Here are the most common New Testament metaphysical law statements that modern ministers wrest from scripture to their own destruction:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
 
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

“If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom 10:9).

“whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom 10:13).

People are not saved by metaphysical law – they are saved by relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. When ministers use metaphysical law statements to assure people they are saved, they practice lying divination, or witchcraft.

ERROR 14) That God cannot exert such influence on the minds of men as shall make certain that they will choose and act in a particular manner, without impairing their moral agency.

WHAT BEECHER TAUGHT: This error denies predetermination and confuses immediate experience with metaphysical law. Moral agency is the result of metaphysical law, not immediate experience. Immediate experience can not change metaphysical law. Immediate experience is an indication of metaphysical law, not the cause of it.

ERROR 15) That the righteousness of Christ is not the sole ground of the sinner’s acceptance with God, and that in no sense does the righteousness of Christ become ours.

WHAT BEECHER TAUGHT: Beecher taught the righteousness of Christ does not save anyone who God does not regenerate. He taught the righteousness of Christ is what makes regenerate persons righteous.

ERROR 16) That the reason why some differ from others in regard to their reception of the gospel is, that they make themselves to differ.

WHAT BEECHER TAUGHT: This error denies predetermination and confuses immediate experience with metaphysical law. Beecher taught “make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die” (Ezek 18:31) as a duty, but regeneration is a supernatural gift. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you” (Ezek 36:26). If you read the letters of Beecher to his children (see Catherine Beecher), you will begin to understand the Hopkinisian view of duty faith and supernatural regeneration.

The following is a discussion of the errors presented in the Auburn Declaration from a book published in 1838 called OLD AND NEW THEOLOGY,OR AN EXHIBITION OF THOSE DIFFERENCES WITH REGARD TO SCRIPTURE DOCTRINES, WHICH HAVE RECENTLY AGITATED AND NOW DIVIDED THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH. The preface starts by saying, “Some of the new doctrines began to be broached at New Haven in 1821-22”.

Those “new doctrines” were broached by Nathaniel Taylor in New Haven, Connecticut, who was taught New Light Calvinist doctrine by Timothy Dwight at Yale, (President 1795-1817).

Dwight was the grandson of Jonathan Edwards senior and nephew of Jonathan Edwards Junior. His theology was Calvinism as modified by the two Edwardses. By the time he taught Taylor at Yale, he was not as concerned with fine points of doctrine as he was in his youth, having expended his energies fighting deists and Universalists. Like all New Light Calvinists, Dwight fought the decline of religion by explaining Calvinism in a way that made sense to modern man.

The debate with Universalists forced New Light Calvinists to use arguments that relieved Calvinism of having to defend irresistible grace. They did this by emphasizing immediate experience as if it was not consecutional of metaphysical law. This was why New Light Calvinism was seen as semi-pelagianism by Arminian ministers, who did not understanding the consecution basis of New Light Calvinist saving faith. 

Throughout the nineteenth century, the purposeful de-emphasis of irresistible grace enabled New Light Calvinists to win many battles, but in 1914, when Billy Sunday introduced decisional regeneration because he did not see the connection between regeneration and saving faith, they lost the war. But let us return to Timothy Dwight.  

Before Taylor, Dwight taught Lyman Beecher (graduated 1797) and Ashael Nettleton (graduated 1809), whose more extreme version of New Light Calvinism formulated by Samuel Hopkins caused them to ridicule Dwight as stuck in the past.

I consider Dwight to be the last Puritan, because he still held the Preparationist view of using the means of grace and law works before regeneration. 

Of course, Charles Finney was not even saved until 1821, and had nothing to do with the New Light Calvinist theology of Beecher, Nettleton, Taylor and Dwight. Finney’s theology was a reaction against the Princeton Scottish Common Sense Realism taught to him for two years by George Washington Gale, who graduated Princeton Theological Seminary in 1815.

The book erroneously ties Taylor to Finney this way:

“Mr. Finney, who was hopefully converted and licensed to preach a few years previous, became celebrated as an evangelist in Western New York, in 1825-26. Though distinguished at first rather by "new measures" than by new doctrines, he soon adopted the views of Dr. Taylor; and he has probably done more to give them currency in certain sections of the church than any other individual.”

It would be hard to find two more distinct theologies and two more different men. 1) Taylor was a town sophisticate, Finney was a country prophet. 2) Taylor was university educated and refined, Finney was self-taught and despised pretence. 3)Taylor was worldly, Finney thought spending money on tea was a waste of God’s money. 4)Taylor accepted present conditions as God’s will, Finney changed present conditions in obedience of God’s will. 5)Taylor saw sin as the result of God’s sovereignty, Finney saw sin as the result of man’s rebellion against God. 6) Taylor saw relationship with God as a part of Christianity, Finney saw relationship with God as a moment by moment experience of the Holy Spirit. 7) Taylor’s saving faith was rational acceptance of the truths of God, Finney saving faith was immediate experience of the Holy Spirit. 7) Taylor’s regeneration was moral persuasion of the intellect, Finney’s regeneration was a reversal of the motive of life and reason for living.

“On some points he has gone further than his archetype; and on all perhaps has expressed himself with more frankness and less caution asserting in positive terms what the former taught only by affirming, that the contrary could not be proved.”

Except for the “archetype” reference, this is true. Finney assumed everyone knew the consecutional basis of saving faith. Because of this, instead of dwelling on metaphysical law, he dealt exclusively with immediate experience. This was the reason he was unguarded in his theology. He assumed that Cavinists knew he was speaking from an a priori basis of predetermination.

In 1858, when he traveled to Scotland, he was shocked to find “bare faith” non-election ministers thought his theology matched theirs. Finney said, “   “

“… Its origin may be traced to the opinion so prevalent of late, among certain classes of men, that we ought to expect as great improvements in theology as have been made in the arts and sciences that those formularies of Christian faith, which have been received for centuries as
containing a correct statement of Scripture doctrine, are too antiquated for this enlightened age; and if received now, are to be explained agreeably to certain philosophical principles which were unknown in the days of our ancestors and that the Bible itself is to be so expounded as to accord with those theories of mind, of free agency, and of moral government, which have been introduced by the new philosophy. It is this which gives
to their theology the denomination of new.”

This statement is true of all nineteenth century New Light Calvinists – they DID think they were preparing the way for the post-millenial arrival of Christ, and that God was providing special millenial grace in theology and methods to convert the world.

“Considered chronologically, it is far from being new. Similar sentiments were advanced on most of the points in dispute, as long ago as the time of Pelagius, and they have sprung up and flourished for a while at different periods since.”

Pelagianism and New Light Calvinism are completely different, but there were elements of Scottish Common Sense Realism that evolved into semi-Pelagianism after the Civil War (see xxxxx minister that did bait and switch).

“The Bible is, therefore, not to be interpreted by a set of philosophical dogmas, which vary, it may be, with every successive age: but by a careful examination and comparison of its several words and phrases. These obvious way-marks were the same in the time of Augustine and Calvin, and the Westminster divines, as they are now; and it is by a faithful adherence to these, that so much uniformity has been preserved among Christians of every age, in regard to the doctrines of our holy religion.”

This is very true. If Jonathan Edwards and others did not explain the sovereignty of God and the freedom of man in new ways, Calvinism could possibly could have remained as it was before the First Great Awakening. To understand the forces that started Calvinism toward the changes that were the First Great Awakening, please learn about the Halfway Covenant and Owning The Covenant.

The comparison of Calvin and Augustine is faulty in that Augustine had a rich understanding of immediate spiritual forces that Calvin denied. Jonathan Edwards restored some of the Augustine spirituality lost in Calvinist theology.

“Abstruse metaphysical speculations have now and then held out their false lights, and led portions of the church into error; but whenever the pride of intellect and learning has been humbled by the Spirit of God, and there has been a return to that simple hearted piety, which is willing to receive the plain teachings of the Bible, without stopping to inquire whether they are consistent with certain new modes of philosophizing, it has uniformly resulted in the revival of those old and venerable doctrines, which have been the stability and glory of the church in every period of her history.”

…“It has been a common sentiment among New England divines, since the time of Edwards, "that sin is the necessary means of the greatest good, and as such, so far as it exists, is preferable, on the whole, to holiness in its stead."…This theory maintains, that "of all possible systems, God, infinitely wise and good, must adapt that which is best. The present system, therefore, is preferable to every other; and since sin is a part of the system, "its existence is, on the whole, for the best." Not that "sin must be good in itself," as Dr. Taylor disingenuously insinuates that they hold - this is no part of their Belief, but that God will so overrule it, for the promotion of his glory and the happiness of the universe, "that a greater amount of good will result from the present system, than would have been secured had all God's creatures remained holy."

“Concerning the principle of Leibnitz, from which these conclusions are drawn, Dr. Witherspoon remarks: "This scheme seems to me to labour under two great and obvious difficulties (1) that the infinite God should set limits to himself, by the production of a created system it brings creation a great deal too near the Creator to say it is the alternative of Omnipotence. (2) The other difficulty is, that it seems to make something which I do not know how to express otherwise than by the ancient stoical fate, antecedent and superior even to God himself. I would therefore think it best to say, with the current of orthodox divines, that God was perfectly free in his purpose and providence, and that there is no reason to be sought for the one or the other beyond himself."

Witherspoon is saying any description of the workings of God not specifically supported by Scripture limits God’s sovereignty. Edwards and others DID limit God’s sovereignty with their systems that relieved God of the culpability of sending helpless people to hell. Witherspoon is wrong in only one respect – that is, when he says “antecedent and superior even to God himself”.

Witherspoon is the one who promoted a theology “antecedent and superior even to God himself”. American New Light Calvinists were not guilty of saying “must” the way Witherpoon does on almost every page of his Scottish Common Sense Realism theology. Look at this sample:

…those who have a strong conviction of the justice of the demand of the law, (must) both esteem and use the plea of their Savior's merit. Such also (must) have a strong sense of the extent and purity of the law of God, as well as its obligation in general. This conviction of the obligation of the divine law, so essentially connected with, or rather so necessarily previous to (antecedent), an acceptance of the imputed righteousness of Christ, is evidently founded upon the relation of man to God, as a creature to his Creator. This relation then continues, and MUST continue to be so, unless we suppose them blinded to the knowledge of God as Creator, by the discovery of his mercy in Christ the Redeemer. But this is absurd; for the subsequent relation of a sinner to God, as forgiven and reconciled through Christ, never can take away, nay, never can alter his natural relation as a creature, nor the obligation founded upon it.”

While Witherspoon was correct in saying that American New Light Calvinists limited God’s sovereignty in saying God’s predetermination was the result of what God thought was best for His creation, he fails to realize that he limits God’s sovereignty in a much more profound way by saying the intellectual state of man MUST be an indication of saving grace, thus making God the servant of man’s intellectual state. THIS was the evolutionary basis of decisional regeneration, not the American New Light Calvinist view of predetermination.

Admitting then, that there was no necessity on the part of the Creator to form one particular system rather than another, it becomes merely a question of fact, whether more good will result to the universe from the existence of sin, all things considered, than would have been secured if sin had never been permitted? To this question, most of the ministers in our church, we are disposed to think, would reply by saying," We cannot tell."

“All agree that "the existence of sin under the divine government is a, profound mystery;" and also that he will make use of it to display some of his illustrious perfections; and to communicate to his creatures rich and eternal blessings. But whether he might not have formed a system, if it had been his pleasure, by which his glory would have been still more displayed, and a still greater amount of happiness secured to his creatures, it is not our province to decide. As he has no where told us that he has made the best system possible, and as we cannot perceive that his infinite goodness required him to do it, we are disposed to leave the question to be contemplated
and solved, (if a solution be desirable,) when we shall have the advantage of that expansion of mind, that increase of knowledge, and that interchange of sentiment with other created beings, which we shall enjoy in the heavenly world.”

In other words, you can formulate a false theology if you exceed what the Bible says. It is safer to leave deep things a mystery. When you force Scripture into a system of theology, you could subvert the truth. For example, Calvin might have done this when he “corrected” any misunderstanding of Exodus 32:33:

The Bible says: “And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.”

Calvin gives the “correction” in his commentary: “I will make it known that he was never predestined in my eternal counsel to life everlasting.”

Calvinism is a logical system of predetermination that does not “leave the question to be contemplated and solved,… when we shall have the advantage of that expansion of mind …which we shall enjoy in the heavenly world.”

American New Light Calvinists did in their time what Calvin did in his, that is, make theology make sense to modern man. The forces in Calvin’s time were different. For example, Calvin formulated “perseverance of the saints” as a response to the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory. By the time of the First Great Awakening, Purgatory was no longer an issue – the hot topics were material causation and the rights of man. Divine sovereignty was being challenged in every quarter, especially as it related to feudalism and the forms of government based on “divine rights”.

John Locke’s “bare faith” theology was an attack on denominational and state persecution, not Calvinism. Locke saw material causation as the way God worked, not as a challenge to the sovereignty of God. But Jonathan Edwards and others felt compelled to answer Locke’s challenges by redefining how Calvinism works in light of material causation and the rights of man.

“But while in regard to these propositions we express no opinion, we consider the reasoning of Dr. Taylor in attempting to refute them as involving pernicious errors. It is on this account that we have introduced the subject in the present volume. Pressed with the difficulty that if sin under the divine government will not on the whole be for the best, why did God permit it? He has taken the bold, not to say the impious ground, that God did all he could to prevent the existence of sin, but could not, without infringing on the moral agency of man and that he would make the world holier and happier now if he could, without abridging human liberty.”

“His language on this subject is as follows:

BEGINNING OF TAYLOR QUOTE
 "It will not be denied that free moral agents can do wrong under every possible influence to prevent it. The possibility of a contradiction in supposing them to be prevented from doing wrong, is therefore demonstrably certain. Free moral agents can do wrong under all possible preventing influence… “

"It is a groundless assumption, that God could have prevented all sin, or at least, the present degree of sin in a moral system. If holiness in a moral system be preferable to sin in its stead, why did not a benevolent God, were it possible to him, prevent all sin, and secure the prevalence of universal holiness? Would not a moral universe of perfect holiness, and of course perfect happiness, be happier and better than one comprising 'sin and its miseries?' And must not infinite benevolence accomplish all the good he can? Would not a benevolent God, then, had it been possible to him in the nature of things, have secured the existence of universal holiness in his moral kingdom?" END OF TAYLOR QUOTE

“It is not surprising that the publication of such sentiments created alarm among the orthodox clergy of New-England; and that speedy efforts were made to arrest their progress. Unhappily, they soon found their way to New York, and through the agency of Mr. Finney and others, obtained considerable currency. Mr. Finney's views will appear from the following quotation. In reply to an objection that as God "is almighty, he could prevent sin if he pleased," etc., he observes:

BEGINNING OF FINNEY QUOTE
"To say nothing of his word and oath upon this subject, you have only to look into his law to see that he has done all that the nature of the case admitted to prevent the existence of sin. The sanctions of his law are absolutely infinite: in them he has embodied and held forth the highest possible motives to obedience. His law is moral and not physical; a government of motive and not of force. It is in vain to talk of his omnipotence preventing sin.”
END OF FINNEY QUOTE

Point #1: Finney’s theology was a philosophical reaction against Princeton-based Scottish Common Sense Realism taught to him for two years by George Washington Gale, not a restatement of Taylor’s Yale-based theology.

Point #2: Every Calvinist must make up his own mind whether or not the New Light system improved or disabled Calvinism.

Calvinists should decide for themselves which SOLUTION to the PROBLEM you agree with:

THE PROBLEM: If God is good and just, how is it possible that His creation is not a reflection of His goodness and justice?

THE OLD LIGHT SOLUTION: The Old Lights deal with the problem by saying “it is a mystery”.

THE NEW LIGHT SOLUTION: The New Lights said it is because God made man a free moral agent within the Calvinist predetermination system.

The Old Lights said, “we don’t need your new system”. The New Lights said, “we are losing the battles with deists and Universalists. We must explain Calvinism in such a way that deists and Universalists can not besmirch the goodness of God”.

The Old Lights said, “your man-centered definition of ‘goodness’ does not take precedent over God’s sovereignty”. The New Lights said, “If you don’t deal with modern man on the basis of God’s ‘goodness’, you will lose the argument, since as Alexis De Toqueville observed (yes, I know this is an anachronistic point), man will always chose equality over freedom. Man does not tend toward Arminianism because he wants freedom as much as he wants equality. The New Light Calvinist system DOES NOT SAY man is ultimately free, but it DOES SAY God is not arbitrary or capricious in who he saves. The Old Lights said, “God IS good. We don’t need a new predetermination system to prove it. We know He is good because the Bible says so.”

The reader must decide for himself which solution fits their understanding of God, and whether or not God has provided New Light to help modern man understand His ways.

BEGINNING OF FINNEY QUOTE
“If infinite motives cannot prevent it, it cannot be prevented under a moral government, and to maintain the contrary is absurd and a contradiction. To administer moral laws is not the object of physical power. To maintain, therefore, that the physical omnipotence of God can prevent sin, is to talk nonsense."

This kind of unguarded theology was what got Finney into trouble. He said the same things other American New Light Calvinists said, but without the usual metaphysical law qualifiers. When Finney says, “To maintain, therefore, that the physical omnipotence of God can prevent sin, is to talk nonsense," he is doing the same thing Calvin did when he said, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.” Really means “I will make it known that he was never predestined in my eternal counsel to life everlasting.”

Like Calvin, Finney is using metaphysical law to explain the ways of God. Finney is saying God chose to treat man as a moral being instead of a robot for the good of His creation. In modern language, Finney’s might have said, “To maintain, therefore, that God could treat man as a robot to overcome sin, is to talk nonsense”.

The rest of the quotes from the book will illustrate the divide between Old and New Light Calvinists. You will find the New Lights thinking they are justifying God with their system and the Old Lights saying God needs no justification, and New Light “justification” unjustly gives man sovereignty over God.

BEGINNING OF TAYLOR QUOTE
“The nature of things, as they now exist, forbids, as far as God himself is concerned, the more frequent existence of holiness in the place of sin. How do you know that the influence which He employs, even in respect to those who perish, is not all which the nature of the case admits? … Such is the nature of free agents, that God foresaw he could not create them without liability to err and actual transgression. He knew at the same time, that the best possible system included such beings; that is, beings capable of knowing and loving Him. He regretted, as He abundantly teaches us in His word, that some of those whom he was about to create would sin. Had it been possible to secure them all in obedience, more happiness would have been enjoyed by his creatures, and equal glory would have surrounded His own throne.”

“But although the system which he saw to be best, could not be realized in consequence of the anticipated perversion of moral agency, he perceived a system such as he has adopted, notwithstanding the evil attending it, to be preferable to any which should exclude moral beings."
END OF TAYLOR QUOTE

“Of very similar import is the remark attributed to a son of Dr. Beecher, which, according to the Hartford Christian Watchman, was one cause of Dr. Porter's anxiety in relation to the father it having been reported that he approved of the sentiment, viz. " that though God is physically omnipotent, He has not acquired moral power enough to govern the universe according to his will."

“How different these statements are from the old theology, will appear by a reference to the Confession of Faith; which teaches that God "hath most sovereign dominion over his creatures, to do by them, for them, and upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth" that He is "Almighty, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory."

”They are equally at variance with the word of God, which declares that "he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, what doest thou?"

Each Calvinist must make up his own mind whether “God’s ways include treating man as a moral agent before and after supernatural regeneration”. That statement describes the limit of the Hopkinisian moral system. If Hopkinisians had said regeneration is merely a moral choice, and not a supernatural change caused by God, that would have been heresy.

The use of means to illuminate the sinner before regeneration and the saint after regeneration had never been in dispute. There were Preparationist Puritans and Non-Preparationist Puritans. Both were within the bounds of Orthodoxy.

ORTHODOX RULE NUMBER ONE: NEVER EQUATE THE MEANS OF GRACE WITH REGENERATION. Another way of saying this is NEVER EQUATE COMMON GRACE WITH SAVING GRACE. This rule applies to Calvinists, Arminians and any who claim to be Christian.

The Old Lights accused New Lights of breaking Orthodox Rule #1, when what they were really upset about was they broke OLD LIGHT CALVINIST RULE NUMBER ONE: REGENERATION HAS NO DEFINATE CONNECTION TO THE MEANS OF GRACE.

The why and how God regenerates has always been a mystery.     

It is important as we go forward to identify the three things that make up the heresy of decisional regeneration.
1) Saving Faith as Bare Faith: If someone has faith in what Scripture says about the Lord Jesus Christ, they have saving faith.
2) Salvation as a Non-Election Choice: God did not predetermine before Creation who would be saved.
3) Regeneration as Merely Moral Persuasion: Regeneration is not a supernatural change of character which is definite, complete and identifiable.

Hopkinsians did not teach any of the three things.

Here is what they taught:
1) Saving Faith is the result of regeneration: All faith in what Scripture says about the Lord Jesus Christ is useless unless God supernaturally regenerates.
2) Election is the reason people choose to repent and submit to God: God predetermined before Creation who would be saved, and those God regenerates repent and submit to God.
3) Regeneration is not Merely Moral Persuasion: Regeneration is a supernatural change of character which is DEFINATE, COMPLETE, AND IDENTIFYABLE.

Mr. Woods says Orthodoxy must not limit God with speculations of HOW and WHY God does what He does, because God "hath most sovereign dominion over his creatures, to do by them, for them, and upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth". But does God pleaseth to treat men as robots?

Orthodoxy says, “none can stay his hand, or say unto him, what doest thou?", but I ask again, does that mean God uses His power to treat men as robots?

The Bible is full of ministers that were instructed to call men to repentance. What is the reason? Each Calvinist needs to ask himself, why did God send Jonah to Ninevah? Why did God use a reluctant Jonah, and a gourd and a fish, when he could have just changed Ninevah’s hearts without the use of means? Why tell them “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4)? And why did God have the king say “Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?” And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not” (Jonah 3:9-10). THERE IS A REASON THE BIBLE SAYS, “GOD REPENTED”, AND NOT “GOD MADE A MISTAKE” – GOD USES MEANS.

Every priest, prophet and king anointed by God was a means appointed by God. Most did not serve God well, but God still used them. Why? Why did God allow Cain and every man since, to do evil? Why did God try to reason with man? The Apostles assumed God used means for a reason.

“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom 10:14-15).

That is orthodox teaching – “God’s ways include treating man as a moral agent before and after supernatural regeneration”. But all through his book, Mr. Wood will try to have you think the New Light Calvinists are saying “the means God uses ARE regeneration”, something inadvertently promoted by Scottish Common Sense Realism.

Judge the quotes yourself – see if the New Light Calvinists ever equate supernatural regeneration with the means.

Finney said “A revival will cease when the church begins to speculate about abstract doctrines, which have nothing to do with practice. If the church turn off their attention from the things of salvation, and go to studying or disputing about abstract points, the revival will cease… When the church, in any way, grieve the Holy Spirit, when they do not feel their dependence on the Spirit. Whenever Christians get strong in their own strength, God curses their blessings.”      

Wood uses the same straw man argument over and over again of equating the New Light Calvinist view of WHY God uses the means of grace with regeneration with regeneration being offered to anyone who uses the means of grace.

This straw man argument equates HOW God predetermined who He will save with WHY he predetermined who He saves.

The ironic thing is the Old Lights saw means of grace as preparation for seekers God MIGHT regenerate. It was the New Light dismissing the means of grace as preparation for possible regeneration and saying the means of grace were only for those God WOULD regenerated.

BEGINNING OF FINNEY QUOTE:
" The elect, then," says he, " must be those who God foresaw could be converted under the wisest administration
of his government. That administering it in a way that would be most beneficial to all worlds, exerting such an amount of moral influence on every individual as would result, on the whole, in the greatest good to his divine kingdom, he foresaw that certain individuals could, with this wisest amount of moral influence, be reclaimed and sanctified, and for this reason, they were chosen to eternal life." "The elect were chosen to eternal life, because God foresaw that in the perfect exercise of their freedom they could be induced to repent and embrace the gospel."

In order to understand what Finney is saying, you must never read his words as description of metaphysical law, but rather descriptions of immediate experience Here is Charles Spurgeon’s description of immediate experience: ”Do what God bids you. As He bids you repent, repent; as He bids you believe, believe; as He bids you pray, pray; as He bids you accept His grace, God helping you, do it. Oh, that it might be done at once, and to the Lord shall be praise world without end”.

Finney equated “repent and embrace the gospel” with “conversion”, not regeneration. But Finney saw “conversion” as common repentance, a continual process (like the Puritan “owning the covenant” or “duty faith”), and supernatural regeneration as a one-time event by God. “the Christian's heart is liable to get crusted over, and lose its exquisite relish for divine things; his unction and prevalence in prayer abates, and then he must be converted over again… Unless they sympathize with the Son of God, who gave up all to save sinners ; unless they are willing to give up their luxuries, and their ease, and lay themselves out in the work, they need not expect the Spirit of God will be poured out upon them…. Revivals can be put down by the continued opposition of the Old School, combined with a bad spirit in the New School. If those who do nothing to promote revivals continue their opposition, and if those who are laboring to promote them allow themselves to get impatient, and get into a bad spirit, the revival will cease. When the Old School write their letters in the newspapers, against revivals or revival men, and the New School write letters back again, against them, in an angry, contentious, bitter spirit, and get into a jangling controversy, revivals will cease.

Finney is not breaking ORTHODOX RULE NUMBER ONE: NEVER EQUATE THE MEANS OF GRACE WITH REGENERATION, but he is breaking OLD LIGHT CALVINIST RULE NUMBER ONE: REGENERATION HAS NO DEFINATE CONNECTION TO THE MEANS OF GRACE. Orthodoxy allows for
“God’s ways include treating man as a moral agent before and after supernatural regeneration”, but Calvinism is purposely silent on WHY God predetermines who He regenerates while PROMOTING CALVINIST RULE NUMBER ONE: IRRISISTABLE GRACE HAS NO CONNECTION TO THE MEANS OF GRACE.

This is where the informed reader must see past the partisan debate between Calvinism and Pelagianism. The Hopkinisians and Finney were Orthodox in that they acknowledged that every choice of man is predetermined by God. They were not Old Light Calvinist when they said that the means of grace were definitely connected to regeneration because of predetermination (not the choice of man). For the Old Light Calvinist, “means of grace” were things the sincere seeker would do while waiting on God for regeneration. For New Light Calvinist, “means of grace” were repentance and embracing the Gospel. The Hopkinisians believed the “means of grace” were only “means of grace” if they led to regeneration. If the “means of grace” did not precede regeneration, they were excuses for not repenting and submitting to God.