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Wherein the Chief Grounds of the Reasonings of Arminians, in Support and Defence of the Forementioned, Notions of Liberty, Moral Agency, etc. and Against the Opposite Doctrine, are Considered.
SECTION THE ESSENCE OF THE VIRTUE AND VICE OF DISPOSITIONS OF THE HEART, AND ACTS OF THE WILL, LIES NOT IN THEIR CAUSE, BUT THEIR NATURE.
ONE main foundation of the reasons which are brought to establish the fore-mentioned notions of liberty, virtue, vice, etc. is a supposition, that the virtuousness of the dispositions, or acts of the will, consists not in the nature of these dispositions or acts, but wholly in the origin or cause of them: so that if the disposition of the mind, or acts of the will, be never so good, yet if the cause of the disposition or act be not our virtue, there is nothing virtuous or praiseworthy in it; and, on the contrary, if the will, in its inclination or acts, be never so bad, yet unless it arises from something that is our vice or fault, there is nothing vicious or blameworthy in it.
Hence their grand objection and pretended demonstration, or self-evidence, against any virtue and commendableness, or vice and blameworthiness, of those habits or acts of the will, which are not from some virtuous or vicious determination of the will itself.
Now, if this matter be well considered, it will appear to be altogether a mistake, yea, a gross absurdity; and that it is most certain, that if there be any such things as a virtuous or vicious disposition, or volition of mind, the virtuousness or viciousness of them consists not in the origin or cause of these things, but in the nature of them.
If the essence of virtuousness or commendableness, and of viciousness or fault, does not lie in the nature of the dispositions or acts of mind, which said to be our virtue or our fault, but in their cause, then it is certain it lies no where at all. Thus, for instance, if the vice of a vicious act of will lies not in the nature of the act, but the cause; so that its being of a bad nature will not make it at all our fault, unless it arises from some faulty determination of ours, as its cause, or something in us that is our fault; then, for the same reason, neither can the viciousness of that cause lie in the nature of the thins itself, but in its cause: that evil determination of ours is not our fault, merely because it is of a bad nature, unless it arises from some cause in us that is our fault. And when we are come to this higher cause, still the reason of the thing holds good; though this cause be of a bad nature, yet we are not at all to blame on that account, unless it arises from something faulty in us. Nor yet can blameworthiness lie in the nature of this cause but in the cause of that. And thus we must drive faultiness back from step to step, from a lower cause to a higher, in infinitum; and that is thoroughly to banish it from the world, and to allow it no possibility of existence any where in the universality of things. On these principles, vice, or moral evil cannot exist in any flying that is an effect; because fault does not consist in the nature of things, but in their cause; as well as because effects are necessary, being unavoidably connected with their cause: therefore the cause only is to blame. And so it follows, that faultiness can lie only in that cause, which is a cause only, and no effect of anything. Nor yet can it lie in this; for then it must lie in the nature of the thing itself; not in its being from any determination of ours, nor anything faulty in us, which is the cause, nor indeed from any cause at all; for, by the supposition, it is no effect, and has no cause. And thus he that will maintain it is not the nature of habits or acts of will that makes them virtuous or faulty, but the cause, must immediately run himself out of his oven assertion; and, in maintaining it, will insensibly contradict and deny it.
This is certain, that if effects are vicious and faulty, not from their nature, or from any thing, inherent in them, but because they are from a bad cause, it must be on account of the badness of the cause: a bad effect in the will must be bad, because the cause is bad, or of an evil nature, or has badness as a quality inherent in it: and a good effect in the will must be good, by reason of the goodness of the cause, or its being of a good kind and nature.
And if this be what is meant, the very supposition of fault and praise lying not in the nature of the thing, but the cause, contradicts itself, and does at least resolve the essence of virtue and vice into the nature of things, and supposes it originally to consist in that. ó And if a caviller has a mind to run from the absurdity, by staying, ďNo, the fault of the thing, which is the cause, lies not in this, that the cause itself is of an evil nature, but that the cause is evil in that sense, that it is front another bad cause,Ē ó still the absurdity will follow him; for if so, then the cause before charged is at once acquitted, and all the blame must be laid to the higher cause, and must consist in thatís being evil, or of an evil nature. So now we are come again to lay the blame of the thing blameworthy, to the nature of the thing, and not to the cause. And if any is so foolish as to go higher still, and ascend from step to step, till he is come to that which is the first cause concerned in the whole affair, and will say, all the blame lies in that; then, at last, he must be forced to own, that the faultiness of the thing which he supposes alone blameworthy, lies wholly in the nature of the thing, and not in the original or cause of it; for the supposition is, that it has no original, it is determined by no act of ours, is caused by nothing, faulty in us, being absolutely without any cause. And so the race is at an end, but the evader is taken in his flight!
It is agreeable to the natural notions of mankind, that moral evil, with its desert of dislike and abhorrence, and all its other ill-deservings, consists in a certain deformity in the nature of certain dispositions of the heart and acts of the will; and not in the deformity of something else, diverse from the very thing itself, which deserves abhorrence, supposed to be the cause of it; ó which would be absurd, because that would be to suppose a thing that is innocent and not evil, is truly evil and faulty, because another thing is evil. It implies a contradiction; for it would be to suppose, the very thing, which is morally evil and blameworthy, is innocent and not blameworthy; but that something else, which is its cause, is only to blame. To say, that vice does not consist in the thing which is vicious, but in its cause, is the same as to say, that vice does not consist in vice, but in that which produces it.
It is true a cause may be to blame for being the cause of vice: it may be wickedness in the cause that it produces wickedness. But it would imply a contradiction, to suppose that these two are the same individual wickedness. The wicked act of the cause in producing wickedness, is one wickedness; and the wickedness produced, if there be any produced, is another. And therefore the wickedness of the latter does not lie in the former, but is distinct from it; and the wickedness of both lies in the evil nature of the things, which are wicked.
The thing, which makes sin hateful, is that by which it deserves punishment; which is but the expression of hatred. And that, which renders virtue lovely, is the same with that on the account of which, it is fit to receive praise and reward; which are but the expressions of esteem and love. But that which makes vice hateful, is its hateful nature; and that which renders virtue lovely, is its amiable nature. It is a certain beauty or deformity that are inherent in that good or evil will, which is the soul of virtue and vice (and not in the occasion of it), which is their worthiness of esteem or disesteem, praise, or dispraise, according to the common sense of mankind. If the cause or occasion of the rise of a hateful disposition or act of will, be also hateful, suppose another antecedent evil will; that is entirely another sin, and deserves punishment by itself, under a distinct consideration. There is worthiness of dispraise in the nature of an evil volition, and not wholly in some foregoing act, which is its cause; otherwise the evil volition, which is the effect, is no moral evil, any more than sickness, or some other natural calamity, which arises from a cause morally evil.
Thus, for instance, ingratitude is hateful and worthy of dispraise, according to common sense; not because something as bad, or worse than ingratitude, was the cause that produced it; but because it is hateful in itself, by its own inherent deformity. So, the love of virtue is amiable and worthy of praise, not merely because something else went before this love of virtue in our minds, which caused it to take place there; ó for instance, our own choice; we choose to love virtue, and, by some method or other, wrought ourselves into the love of it; ó but because of the amiableness and condescendency of such a disposition and inclination of heart. If that was the case, that we did choose to love virtue, and so produced that love in ourselves, this choice itself could be no otherwise amiable or praiseworthy, than as love to virtue, or some other amiable inclination, was exercised and implied in it. If that choice was amiable at all, it must be so on account of some amiable quality in the nature of the choice. If we chose to love virtue, not in love to virtue, or any thing that was good and exercised no sort of good disposition to the choice, the choice itself was not virtuous nor worthy of any praise, according to common sense, because the choice was not of a good nature.
It may not be improper here to take notice of something said by an author, that has lately made a mighty noise in America. ďA necessary holiness (says her ) is no holiness. Adam could not be originally created in righteousness and true holiness, because he must choose to be righteous, before he could be righteous. And therefore he must exist, he must be created; yea, he must exercise thought and reflection, before he was righteous.Ē There is much more to the same effect in that place, and also in pp. 437, 438, 439, 440. If these things are so, it will certainly follow, that the first choosing to be righteous is no righteous choice; there is no righteousness or holiness in it, because no choosing to be righteous goes before it. For he plainly speaks of choosing to be righteous, as what must go before righteousness; and that which follows the choice, being the effect of the choice, cannot be righteousness or holiness; for an effect is a thing necessary, and cannot prevent the influence or efficacy of its cause; and therefore is unavoidably dependent upon the cause; and he says a necessary holiness is no holiness.
So that neither can a choice of righteousness be righteousness or holiness, nor can any thing that is consequent on that choice, and the effect of it, be righteousness or holiness; nor can any thing that is without choice, be righteousness or holiness. So that by this scheme, all righteousness and holiness is at once shut out of the world, and no door left open by which it can ever possibly enter into the world.
I suppose the way that men came to entertain this absurd inconsistent notion, with respect to internal inclinations and volitions themselves (or notions that imply it,) viz. that the essence of their moral good or evil lies not in their nature, but their cause, was, that it is indeed a very plain dictate of common sense, that it is so with respect to all outward actions and sensible motions of the body, that the moral good or evil of them does not lie at all in the motions themselves which, taken by themselves, are nothing of a moral nature; and the essence of all the moral good or evil that concerns them, lies in those internal dispositions and volitions which are the cause of them. Now, being always used to determine this, without hesitation or dispute, concerning external actions, which are the things that, in the common use of language, are signified by such phrases as menís actions, or their doings; hence, when they came to speak of volitions, and internal exercises of their inclinations, under the same denomination of their actions, or what they do, they unwarily determined the case must also be the same with these as with external actions; not considering the vast difference in the nature of the case.
If any shall still object and say, why is it not necessary that the cause should be considered, in order to determine whether any thing be worthy of blame or praise? is it agreeable to reason and common sense, that a man is to be praised or blamed for that which he is not the cause or author of, and has no hand in?
I answer: Such phrases as being the cause, being the author, having a hand, and the like, are ambiguous. They are most vulgarly understood fine being the designing voluntary cause, or cause by antecedent choice; and it is most certain, that men are not, in this sense, the causes or authors of the first act of their wills, in any case, as certain as any thing is or ever can be; for nothing can be more certain than that a thing is not before it is, nor a thing of the same kind before the first thing, of that kind, and so no choice before the first choice. ó As the phrase, being the author, may be understood, not of being the producer by an antecedent act of will, but as a person may be said to be the author of the act of will itself, by his being the immediate agent, or the being that is acting, or in exercise in that act; if the phrase of being the author is used to signify this, then doubtless common sense requires menís being the authors of their own acts of will, in order to their being esteemed worthy of praise or dispraise, on account of them. And common sense teaches, that they must be the authors of external actions, in the former sense, namely, their being the causes of them by an act of will or choice, in order to their being justly blamed or praised: but it teaches no such thing with respect to the acts of the will themselves. But this may appear more manifest by the things, which will be observed in the following section.
SECTION THE FALSENESS AND INCONSISTENCE OF THAT METAPHYSICAL NOTION OF ACTION AND AGENCY WHICH SEEMS TO BE GENERALLY ENTERTAINED BY THE DEFENDERS OF THE ARMINIAN DOCTRINE CONCERNING LIBERTY, MORAN, AGENCY, ETC.
ONE thing, that is made very much a ground of argument and supposed demonstration by Arminians, in defense of the fore-mentioned principles concerning moral agency, virtue, vice, etc., is their metaphysical notion of agency and action. They say, unless the soul has a self-determining power, it has no power of action; if its volitions be not caused by itself, but are excited and determined by some extrinsic cause, they cannot be the soulís own acts; and that the soul cannot be active, but must be wholly passive, in those effects which it is the subject of necessarily, and not from its own free determination.
Mr. Chubb lays the foundation of his scheme of liberty, and of his arguments to support it, very much in this position, that man is an agent, and capable of action, ó which doubtless is true: but self-determination belongs to his notion of action, and is the very essence of it; whence he infers, that it is impossible for a man to act and be acted upon, in the same thing, at the same time; and that nothing that is an action, can be the effect of the action of another: and he insists, that a necessary agent, or an agent that is necessarily determined to act, is a plain contradiction.
But those are a precarious sort of demonstrations, which men build on the meaning that they arbitrarily affix to a word; especially when that meaning is abstruse, inconsistent, and entirely diverse from the original sense of the word in common speech.
That the meaning of the word action, as Mr. Chubb and many others use it, is utterly unintelligible and inconsistent, is manifest, because it belongs to their notion of an action, that it is something wherein is no passion or passiveness; that is, (according to their sense of passiveness,) it is under the power, influence, or action of no cause. And this implies that action has no cause, and is no effect; for to be an effect implies passiveness, or the being subject to the power and action of its cause. And yet they hold, that the mindís action is the effect of its own determination; yea, the mindís free and voluntary determination, which is the same with free choice. So that action is the effect of something preceding, even a preceding act of choice: and consequently, in this effect, the mind is passive, subject to the power and action of the preceding cause, which is the foregoing choice, and therefore cannot be active. So that here we have this contradiction, that action is always the effect of foregoing, choice, and therefore cannot be action; because it is passive to the power of that preceding causal choice; and the mind cannot be active and passive in the same thing, at the same time. Again, they say, necessity is utterly inconsistent with action, and a necessary action is a contradiction; and so their notion of action implies contingence, and excludes all necessity. And, therefore, their notion of action implies, that it has no necessary dependence or connection with any thing foregoing,; for such a dependence or connection excludes contingence, and implies necessity. And yet their notion of action implies necessity, and supposes that it is necessary, and cannot be contingent. For they suppose, that whatever is properly called action, must be determined by the will and free choice; and this is as much as to say, that it must be necessary, being, dependent upon, and determined by, something foregoing, namely, a foregoing, act of choice. Again, it belongs to their notion of actions, of that which is a proper and mere act, that it is the beginning of motion, or of exertion of power; but yet it is implied in their notion of action, that it is not the beginning, of motion or exertion of power, but is consequent and dependent on a preceding exertion of power, viz. the power of will and choice; for they say there is no proper action but what is freely chosen, or, which is the same thing, determined by a foregoing act of free choice. But if any of them shall see cause to deny this, and say they hold no such thing, as that every action is chosen or determined by a foregoing choice, but that the very first exertion of will only, undetermined by any preceding act, is properly called action; then I say, such a manís notion of action implies necessity; for what the mind is the subject of, without the determination of its own previous choice, it is the subject of necessarily, as to any hand that free choice has in the affair, and without any ability the mind l as to prevent it by any will or election of its own; because, by the supposition, it precludes all previous acts of still or choice in the case, which might prevent it. So that it is again, in this other way, implied in their notion of act, that it is both necessary and not necessary. Again, it belongs to their notion of an act, that it is no effect of a predetermining bias or preponderation, but springs immediately out of indifference; and this implies, that it cannot be from foregoing choice, which is foregoing preponderation: if it be not habitual, but occasional, yet if it causes the act, it is truly previous, efficacious, and determining. And yet, at the same time, it is essential to their notion of the act, that it is what the agent is the author of, freely and voluntarily, and that is by previous choice and design.
So that, according to their notion of the act, considered with regard to its consequences, these following things are all essential to it; viz. That it should be necessary, and not necessary; that it should be from a cause, and no cause; that it should be the fruit of choice and design, and not the fruit of choice and design; that it should be the beginning of motion or exertion, and yet consequent on previous exertion; that it should be before it is; that it should spring immediately out of indifference and equilibrium, and yet be the effect of preponderation; that it should be self-originated, and also have its original from something else; that it is what the mind causes itself, of its own will, and can produce or prevent, according to its choice or pleasure, and yet what the mind has no power to prevent, precluding all previous choice in the affair. So that an act, according to their metaphysical notion of it, is something of which there is no idea; it is nothing but a confusion of the mind, excited by words, without any distinct meaning, and is an absolute nonentity; and that in two respects. (1.) There is nothing in the world that ever was, is, or can be, to answer the things which must belong to its description, according to what they suppose to be essential to it. And (2,) there neither is, nor ever was, nor can be, any notion or idea to answer the word, as they use and explain it.
For, if we should suppose any such notion, it would many ways destroy itself. But it is impossible any idea or notion should subsist in the mind, whose very nature and essence which constitutes it, destroys it. If some learned philosopher, who had been abroad, in giving an account of the curious observations he had made in his travels, should say, ďhe had been in Terra del Fuego, and there had seen an animal, which he calls by a certain name, that begat and brought forth itself, and yet had a sire and dam distinct from itself; that it had an appetite, and was hungry before it had a being; that his master, who led him, and governed him at his pleasure, was always governed by him, and driven by him where he pleased; that when he moved, he always took a step before the first step; that he went with his head first, and yet always went tail foremost; and this, though he had neither tail nor head:Ē it would be no impudence at all to tell such a traveler, though a learned man, that he himself had no notion or idea of such an animal as he gave an account of, and never had, nor ever would have.
As the fore-mentioned notion of action is very inconsistent, so it is wholly diverse from the original meaning of the word. The more usual signification of it, in vulgar speech, seems to be some motion or exertion of power, that is voluntary, or that is the effect of the will, and is used in the same sense as doing; and most commonly it is used to signify outward actions. So thinking is often distinguished from acting, and desiring and willing from doing.
Besides this more usual and proper signification of the word action, there are other ways in which the word is used that are less proper, which yet have place in common speech. Oftentimes it is used to signify some motion or alteration in inanimate things, with relation to some object and effect.
So, the spiring of a watch is said to act upon the chain and wheels; the sunbeams, to act upon plants and trees; and the fire, to act upon wood, Sometimes the morel is used to signify motions, alterations, and exertions of power, which are seen in corporeal things, considered absolutely; especially when these motions seen to arise from some internal cause which is hidden; so that they have a greater resemblance of those motions of our bodies which are the effects of natural volition, or invisible exertions of will. So, the fermentation of liquor, the operations of the loadstone, and of electrical bodies, are called the action of these things. And sometimes, the word action is used to signify the exercise of thought, or of will and inclination: so meditating, loving, hating, inclining, disinclining, choosing, and refusing, may be sometimes called acting; though more rarely (unless it be by philosophers and metaphysicians) than in any of the other senses.
But the word is never used in vulgar speech in that sense which Arminian divines use it in, namely, for the self-determinate exercise of the will, or an exertion of the soul, that arises without any necessary connection with any thing foregoing. If a man does something voluntarily, or as the effect of his choice, then, in the most proper sense, and as the word is most originally and common used, he is said to act; but whether that choice or volition be self-determined, or no; whether it be connected with foregoing habitual bias; whether it be the certain effect of the strongest motive, or some intrinsic cause, never causes, never comes into consideration in the meaning of the word.
And if the word action is arbitrarily used by some need otherwise, to suit some scheme of metaphysics or morality, no argument can reasonably be founded on such a use of this term, to prove any thing but their own pleasure. For divines and philosophers strenuously to urge such arguments, as though they were sufficient to support and demonstrate a whole scheme of moral philosophy and divinity, is certainly to erect a mighty edifice on the sand, or rather on a shadow. And though it may now perhaps, through custom, have become natural for them to use the word in this sense, (if that may be called a sense or meaning, which is inconsistent with itself,) yet this does not prove that it is agreeable to the natural notions men have of things, or that there can be any thing in the creation that should answer such a meaning. And though they appeal to experience, yet the truth is, that men are so far from experiencing any such thing, that it is impossible for them to leave any conception of it.
If it should be objected, that action and passion are doubtless words of a contrary signification; but to suppose that the agent, in its action, is under the power and influence of something intrinsic, is to confound action and passion, and make them the same thing:
I answer, that action and passion are doubtless, as they are sometimes used, words of opposite signification; but not as signifying opposite existences, but only opposite relations. The words cause and effect are terms of opposite signification; but, nevertheless, if I assert that the same thing, may, at the same time, in different respects and relations, be both cause and effect, this will not prove that I confound the terms. The soul may be both active and passive in the same thing in different respects; active with relation to one thing, and passive with relation to another. The word passion, when set in opposition to action, or rather activeness, is merely a relative: it signifies no effect or cause, nor any proper existence; but is the same with passiveness, or a being passive, or a being acted upon by something. Which is a mere relation of a thing to some power or force exert should be self-determined in it, and that the will should be the cause of it, was probably this, ó that, according to the sense of mankind, and the common use of language, it is so, with reselect to menís external actions, which are what originally, and according to the vulgar use and most proper sense of the word, are called actions. Men in these are self-directed, selfdetermined, and their wills are the cause of the motions of their bodies, and the external things that are done; so that unless men do them voluntarily, and of choice, and the action be determined by their antecedent volition, it is no action or doing of theirs. Hence some metaphysicians have been led unwarily, but exceeding, absurdly, to suppose the same concerning volition itself, that that also must be determined by the will; which is to be determined by antecedent volition, as the motion of the body is; not considering the contradiction it implies.
But it is very evident, that in the metaphysical distinction between action and passion, (though long since become common and the general vogue,) due care has not been taken to conform language to the nature of things, or to any distinct, clear ideas; ó as it is in innumerable other philosophical, metaphysical terms, used in these disputes; which has occasioned inexpressible difficulty, contention, error, and confusion.
And thus probably it came to be thought that necessity was inconsistent with action, as these terms are applied to volition. First, these terms, action and necessity, are changed from their original meaning, as signifying external voluntary action and constraint, (in which meaning they are evidently inconsistent,) to signify quite other things, viz. volition itself, and certainty of existence. And when the change of signification is made, care is not taken to make proper allowances and abatements for the difference of sense; but still the same things are unwarily attributed to action and necessity, in the new meaning of the words, which plainly belonged to them in their first sense; and on this ground, maxims are established without any real foundation, as though they were the most certain truths, and the most evident dictates of reason.
But, however strenuously it is maintained, that what is necessary cannot be properly called action, and that necessary action is a contradiction, yet it is probable there are few Arminian divines, who, if thoroughly tried, would stand to these principles. They will allow, that God is, in the highest sense, an active beign, and the highest fountain of life and action; and they would not probably deny, that those that are called Godís acts of righteousness, holiness, and faithfulness, are truly and properly Godís acts, and God is really a holy agent in them; and yet, I trust, they will not deny, that God necessarily acts justly and faithfully, and that it is impossible for him to act unrighteously and unholily.
SECTION THE REASONS WHY SOME THINK IT CONTRARY TO COMMON SENSE, TO SUPPOSE THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE NECESSARY, TO BE WORTHY OF EITHER PRAISE OR BLAME.
IT is abundantly affirmed and urged by Arminian writers, that it is contrary to common sense, and the natural notions and apprehensions of mankind, to suppose otherwise than that necessity (making no distinction between natural and moral necessity) its inconsistent with virtue and vice, praise and blame, reward and punishment. And their arguments from hence have been greatly triumphed in; and have been not a little perplexing to many, who have been friendly to the truth, as clearly revealed in the holy Scriptures: it has seemed to them indeed difficult, to reconcile Calvinistic doctrines with the notions men commonly only have of justice and equity. And the true reasons of it seem to be these that follow.
I. It is indeed a very plain dictate of common sense, that natural necessity is wholly inconsistent with just praise or blame. If men do things which in themselves are very good, fit to be brought to pass, and very happy effects, properly against their wills, and cannot help it; or do them from a necessity that is without their wills, or with which their wills have no concern or connection; then it is a plain dictate of common sense, that it is none of their virtue, nor any moral good in them; and that they are not worthy to be rewarded or praised, or at all esteemed, honored, or loved on that account.
And, or the other hand, that if; from like necessity, they do those things which in themselves are very unhappy and pernicious, and do them because they cannot help it; the necessity is such, that it is all one whether they will them or no; and the reason why they are done, is from necessity only, and not from their wills: it is a very plain dictate of common sense, that they are not at all to blame; there is no vice, fault, or moral evil at all in the effect done; nor are they who are thus necessitated, in any wise worthy to be punished, hated, or in the least disrespected, on that account.
In like manner, if things, in them selves good and desirable, are absolutely impossible, with a natural impossibility, the universal reason of mankind teaches, that this wholly and perfectly excuses persons in their not doing them.
And it is also a plain dictate of common sense, that if the doing things in themselves good, or avoiding things in themselves evil, is not. absolutely impossible, with such a natural impossibility, but very difficult, with a natural difficulty, that is, a difficulty prior to, and not at all consisting in, will and inclination itself, and which would remain the seine, let the inclination be what it will; then a personís neglect or omission is excused in some measure, through not wholly; his sin is less aggravated than if the thing to be done were easy. And if instead of difficulty and hinderance, there be a contrary natural propensity in the state of things to the thing to be done, or effect to be brought to pass, abstracted from any consideration of the inclination of the heart; though the propensity be not so great as to amount to a natural necessity, yet being some approach to it, so that the doing the good thing he very much from this natural tendency in the state of things, and but little from a good inclination; then it is a dictate of common sense, that there is so much the less virtue in what is done; and so it is less praiseworthy and rewardable. The reason is easy, viz. because such a natural propensity or tendency is an approach to natural necessity; and the greater the propensity, still so much the nearer is the approach to necessity. And, therefore, as natural necessity takes away or shuts out all virtue, so this propensity approaches to an abolition of virtue; that is, it diminishes it. And, on the other hand, natural difficulty, in the state of things, is an approach to natural impossibility. And as the latter, when it is complete and absolute, wholly takes away blame, so such difficulty takes away some blame, or diminishes blame; and makes the thing done to he less worthy of punishment.
II. Men, in their first use of such phrases as these, must, cannot, cannot help it, cannot avoid it, necessary, unable, impossible, unavoidable, irresistible, etc., use them to signify a necessity of constraint or restraint, a natural necessity or impossibility; or some necessity that the will has nothing to do in; which may be, whether men will or no; and which may be supposed to be just the same, let menís inclinations and desires be what they evils. Such kind of teams, in their original use, I suppose, among all nations, are relative; carrying in their signification (as was before observed) a reference or respect to some contrary will, desire, or endeavor, which, it is supposed, is, or may be, in the case. All men find, and begin to find in early childhood, that there are innumerable things that cannot be done, which they desire to do; and innumerable things, which they are averse to, that must be, ó they cannot avoid them, they will be, whether they choose them or no. It is to express this necessity, which men so soon and so often find, and which so greatly and early affects them in innumerable cases, that such terms and phrases are first formed; and it is to signify such a necessity, that they are first used, and that they are most constantly used, in the common affairs of life; and not to signify any such metaphysical, speculative, and abstract notion, as that connection in the nature or course of things, which is between the subject and predicate of a proposition, and which is the foundation of the certain truth of that proposition; to signify which, they who employ themselves in philosophical inquiries into the first origin and metaphysical relations and dependencies of things, have borrowed these terms, for want of others. But we grow up from our cradles in a use of such terms and phrases entirely different from this, and carrying a sense exceeding diverse from that in which they are commonly used in the controversy between Arminians and Calvinists. And it being, as was said before, dictate of the universal sense of mankind, evident to us as soon as we begin to think, that the necessity signified by these terms, in the sense in which we first learn them, does excuse persons and free them from all fault or blame; hence our idea of excusableness or faultlessness is tied to these terms and phrases by a strong habit, which is begun in childhood, as soon as we begin to speak, and grows up with us, and is strengthened by constant use and custom, the connection growing stronger and stronger.
The habitual connection which is in menís minds between blamelessness and those forementioned terms, must, cannot, unable, necessary, impossible, unavoidable, etc. becomes very strong; because as soon as ever men begin to use reason and speech, they have occasion to excuse themselves, from the natural necessity signified by these terms, in numerous instances ó I cannot do it; I could not help it. And all mankind have constant and daily occasion to use such phrases in this sense, to excuse themselves and others, in almost all the concerns of life, with respect to disappointments and things that happen, which concern and affect ourselves and others, that are hurtful, or disagreeable to us or them, or things desirable, that we or others fail of. That a being accustomed to an union of different ideas, from early childhood, males the habitual connection exceeding strong, as though such connection were owing to nature, is manifest in innumerable instances. It is altogether by such an habitual connection of ideas, that men judge of the bigness or distance of the objects of sight, from their appearance. Thus, it is owing to such a connection early established, and growing up with a person, that he judges a mountain, which he sees at ten miles distance, to be bigger than his nose, or further off than the end of it. Having, been used so long to join a considerable distance and magnitude with such an appearance, men imagine it is by a dictate of natural sense: whereas, it would be quite otherwise with one that had his eyes newly opened, who had been born blind: he would have the same visible appearance, but natural sense would dictate no such thing, concerning the magnitude or distance of what appeared.
III. When men, after they had been so habituated to connect ideas of innocency or blamelessness with such terms, that the union seems to be the effect of mere nature, come to hear the same terms used, and learn to use them themselves, in the forementioned new and metaphysical sense, to signify quite another sort of necessity, which has no such kind of relation to a contrary supposable will and endeavor; the notion of plain and manifest blamelessness, by this means, is, by a strong prejudice, insensibly and unwarily transferred to a case to which it by no means belongs: the change of the use of the terms, to a signification which is very diverse, not being taken notice of, or adverted to. And there are several reasons why it is not. 1. The terms, as used by philosophers, are not very distinct and clear in their meaning: few use them in a fixed, determined sense. On the contrary, their meaning, is very vague and confused, ó which is what commonly happens to the words used to signify things intellectual and moral, and to express what. Mr. Locke calls mixed modes. If men had a clear and distinct understanding of what is intended by these metaphysical terms, they would be able more easily to compare them with their original and common sense; and so would not be so easily led into delusion by any sort of terms in the world, as by words of this sort. 2. The change of the signification of the terms, is the more insensible, because the things signified, though indeed very different, yet do in some generals agree. In necessity, that which is vulgarly so called, there is a strong, connection between the thing said to be necessary, and some thing antecedent to it in the order of nature; so there is also in philosophical necessity. And though in both kinds of necessity the connection cannot be called by that name, with relation to an opposite will or endeavor, to which it is superior; which is the case in vulgar necessity; yet, in both the connection is prior to will and endeavor, and so, in some respect, superior.
In both kinds of necessity, there is a foundation for some certainty of the proposition that affirms the event. ó The terms need being the same, and the things signified agreeing, in these and some other general circumstances; and the expressions, as used by philosophers, being, not well defined, and so of obscure and loose signification; hence persons are not aware of the great difference: and the notions of innocence or faultiness, which were so strongly associated with them, and were strictly united in their minds, ever since they can remember, remain united with them still, as if the union were altogether natural and necessary; and they that go about to make a separation, seem to them to do great violence, even to nature itself:
IV. Another reason why it appears difficult to reconcile it with reason, that men should be blamed for that which is necessary with a moral necessity, (which, as was observed before, is a species of philosophical necessity,) is, that for want of due consideration, men inwardly entertain that apprehension, that this necessity may be against menís wills and sincere endeavors. They go away with that notion, that men may truly will, and wish, and strive, that it may be otherwise, but that invincible necessity stands in the way. And many think thus concerning themselves: some, that are wicked men, think they wish that they were good, that they love God and holiness; but yet do not find that their wishes produce the effect. ó The reasons why men think so, are as follow: (1.) They find what may be called an indirect willingness to have a better will, in the manner before observed. For it is impossible, and a contradiction, to suppose the will to be directly and properly against itself: And they do not consider, that this indirect willingness is entirely a different thing, from properly willing, the thing that is the duty and virtue required; and that there is no virtue in that sort of willingness which they leave. They do not consider, that the volitions which a wicked man may have that he loved God, are no acts of the will at all against the moral evil of not loving God; but only some disagreeable consequences. But the making, the requisite distinction requires more care of reflection and thought than most men are used to. And men, through a prejudice in their own favor, are disposed to think well of their own desires and dispositions, and to account them good and virtuous, though their respect to virtue be only indirect and remote, and it is nothing, at all that is virtuous that truly excites or terminates their inclinations. (2.) Another thing that insensibly lends and beguiles men, into supposition that this moral necessity or impossibility is, or may be, against menís wills and true endeavors, is the derivation and formation of the terms themselves, that are often used to express it, which is such as seems directly to point to, and holds this forth. Such words, for instance, as unable, unavoidable, impossible, irresistible, which carry a plain reference to a supposable power exerted, endeavors used, resistance made, in opposition to the necessity; and the persons that hear them, not considering, nor suspecting but that they are used in their proper sense; that sense being therefore understood, there does naturally, and as it were necessarily, arise in their minds a supposition, that it may be so indeed, that true desires and endeavors may take place, but that invincible necessity stands in the way, and renders them vain and to no effect.
V. Another thing, which makes persons more ready to suppose it to be contrary to reason, that men should be exposed to the punishments threatened to sin, for doing those things which are morally necessary, or not doing those things morally impossible, is, that imagination strengthens the argument, and adds greatly to the power and influence of the seeming reasons against it, from the greatness of that punishment. To allow that they play be justly, exposed to a small punishment, would not be so difficult. Whereas, if there were any good reason in the case, if it were truly a dictate of reason, that such necessity was inconsistent with faultiness, or just punishment, the demonstration would be equally certain with respect to a small punishment, or any punishment at all, as a very great one; but it is not equally easy to the imagination. They that argue against the justice of damning men for those things that are thus necessary, seem to make their argument the stronger, by setting forth the greatness of the punishment in strong expressions: ó ďThat a man should be cast into eternal burnings, that he should be made to fry in hell to all eternity, for those things which he lead no power to avoid, and was under a fatal, unfrustrable, invincible necessity of doing.Ē
SECTION IT IS AGREEABLE TO COMMON SENSE, AND THE NATURAL NOTIONS OF MANKIND, TO SUPPOSE: MORAL NECESSITY TO BE CONSISTENT WITH PRAISE AND BLAME, REWARD AND PUNISHMENT.
WHETHER the reasons that have been given, why it appears difficult to some persons to reconcile with common sense the praising or blaming, rewarding or punishing those things which are morally necessary, are thought satisfactory, or not; yet it most evidently appears, by the following things, that if this matter be rightly understood, setting aside all delusion arising from the impropriety and ambiguity of terms, this is not at all inconsistent with the natural apprehensions of mankind, and that sense of things which is found every where in the common people, who are furthest from having their thoughts perverted from their natural channel, by metaphysical and philosophical subtleties; but, on the contrary, altogether agreeable to, and the very voice and dictate of, this natural and vulgar sense. 1. This will appear, if we consider what the vulgar notion of blameworthiness is. The idea which the common people, through all ages and nations, have of faultiness, I suppose to be plainly this; a personís being or doing wrong, with his own will and pleasure; containing these two things: 1. His doing wrong when he does as he pleases: 2. His pleasures being wrong.
The common people do not ascend up in their reflections and abstractions to the metaphysical sources, relations, and dependencies of things, in order to form their notion of faultiness or blameworthiness. They do not wait till they have decided by their refinings, what first determines the will; whether it be determined by someĒ thing extrinsic or intrinsic; whether volition determines volition, or whether the understanding, determines the will; whether there be any such thing as mwtaphysicians mean by contingence (if they have any meaning); whether there be a sort of a strange, unaccountable sovereignty in the will, in the exercise of which, by its own sovereign acts, it brings to pass all its own sovereign acts. They do not take any part of their notion of fault or blame from the resolution of any such question. If this were the case, there are multitudes, yea, the far greater part of mankind, nine hundred and ninety-nine out of a thousand, would live and die without having any such notion as that of fault ever entering into their heads, or without so much as one having any conception that any body was to be either blamed or commended for any thing. To be sure it would be a long time before men came to have such notions.
Whereas it is manifest, they are some of the first notions that appear in children; who discover, as soon as they can think, or speak, or act at all as rational creatures, a sense of desert. And certainly, in forming their notion of it, they make no use of metaphysics. All the ground they go upon consists in these two things, experience, and a natural sensation of a certain fitness or agreeableness which there is in uniting such moral evil as is above described, viz. a being or doing wrong with the will, and resentment in others, and pain inflicted on the person in whom this moral evil is. Which natural sense is what we call by the name of conscience.
It is true, the common people and children, in their notion of any faulty act or deed, of any person, do suppose that it is the personís own act and deed. But this is all that belongs to what they understand by a thingís being a personís own deed or action; even that it is something done by him of choice. That some exercise or motion should begin of itself, does not belong to their notion of an action or doing. If so, it would belong to their notion of it, that it is something which is the cause of its own beginning; and that is as much as to say, that it is before it begins to he. Nor is their notion of an action, some motion or exercise that begins accidentally, without any cause or reason; for that is contrary to one of the prime dictates of common sense, namely, that every thing that begins to be, has some cause or reason why it is.
The common people, in their notion of a faulty or praiseworthy deed or work done by any one, do suppose that the man does it in the exercise of liberty. But then their notion of liberty is only a personís having opportunity of doing as he pleases. They have no notion of liberty consisting in the willís first acting, and so causing its own acts; and determining, and so causing its own determinations; or choosing, and so causing its own choice. Such a notion of liberty is what none have, but those that have darkened their own minds with confused metaphysical speculation, and abstruse and ambiguous terms. If a man is not restrained from acting as his will determines, or constrained to act otherwise, then he has liberty, according, to common notions of liberty, without taking into the idea that grand contradiction of all, the determinations of a manís free will being the effects of the determinations of his free will ó Nor have men commonly any notion of freedom consisting in indifference. For if so, then it would be agreeable to their notion, that the greater indifference men act with, the more freedom they act with; whereas the rever. is true. He that, in acting, proceeds with the fullest inclination, does what he does with the greatest freedom, according, to common. And so far is it from being agreeable to common sense, that such liberty as consists in indifference is requisite to praise or blame, that, on the contrary, the dictate of every manís natural sense through the world is, that the further he is from being indifferent in his acting good or evil, and the more he does either with full and strong, inclination, the more is he esteemed or abhorred, commended or condemned.
II. If it were inconsistent with the common sense of mankind, that men should be either to be blamed or commended in any volitions they have or fail of, in case of moral necessity or impossibility; then it would surely also be agreeable to the same sense and reason of mankind, that the nearer the case approaches to such a moral necessity or impossibility, either through a strong, antecedent moral propensity, on the one hand, or a great antecedent opposition and difficulty on the other, the nearer does it approach to a being neither blameable nor commendable; so that acts exerted with such preceding, propensity, would be worthy of proportionably less praise; and when omitted the act being attended with such difficulty, the omission would be worthy of less blame. It is so, as was observed before, with natural necessity and impossibility, propensity and difficulty: as it is a plain dictate of the sense of all mankind, that natural necessity and impossibility take away all blame and praise; and therefore, that the nearer the approach is to these, through previous propensity or difficulty, so praise and blame are proportionately diminished. And if it were as much a dictate of common sense, that moral necessity of doing or impossibility of avoiding takes away all praise and blame, as that natural necessity or impossibility does this; then, by a perfect parity of reason, it would be as much the dictate of common sense, that an approach to moral necessity of doing, or impossibility of avoiding, diminishes praise and blame, as that an approach to natural necessity and impossibility does so. It is equally the voice of common sense, that persons are excusable in part in neglecting things difficult against their wills, as that they are excusable wholly in neglecting things impossible against their wills. And if it made no difference, whether the impossibility revere natural and against the will, or moral lying in the will, with regard to excusableness; so neither would it make any difference, whether the difficulty, or approach to necessity, he natural against the will, or moral, lying in the propensity of the will.
But it is apparent, that the rever. of these things is true. If there been approach to a moral necessity in a manís exertion of good acts of will, they being the exercise of a strong propensity to good, and a very powerful love to virtue; it is so far from being the dictate of common sense, that he is less virtuous, and the less to be esteemed, loved, and praised; that it is agreeable to the natural notions of all mankind, that he is so much the better man, worthy of greater respect, and higher commendation. And the stronger the inclination is, and the nearer it approaches to necessity in that respect; or to impossibility of neglecting the virtuous act, or of doing a vicious one; still the more virtuous, and worthy of higher commendation.
And, on the other hand, if a man exerts evil acts of mind; as for instance, acts of pride or malice, from a rooted and strong limit or principle of haughtiness and maliciousness, and a violent propensity of heart to such acts; according to the natural sense of men, he is so far from being the less hateful and blameable on that account, that he is so much the more worthy to be detested and condemned by all that observe him.
Moreover, it is manifest that it is no part of the notion, which mankind commonly have of a blameable or praiseworthy act of the will, that it is an act which is not determined by an antecedent bias or motive, but by the sovereign power of the will itself; because, if so, the greater hand such causes have in determining any acts of the will, so much the less virtuous or vicious would they be accounted; and the less hand, the more virtuous or vicious. Whereas the rever. is true: men do not think a good act to he the less praiseworthy for the agentís being much determined in it by a good inclination or a good motive, but the more. And if good inclination or motive has but little influence in determining the agent, they do not think his act so much the more virtuous, but the less. And so concerning evil acts, which are determined be evil motives or inclinations.
Yea, if it be supposed, that good or evil dispositions are implanted in the hearts of men by nature itself; (which, it is certain, is vulgarly supposed in innumerable cases,) yet it is not commonly supposed, that men are worthy of no praise or dispraise for such dispositions; although what is natural is undoubtedly necessary, nature being prior to all acts of the will whatsoever. Thus, for instance, if a man appears to be of a very haughty or malicious disposition, and is supposed to be so by his natural temper, it is no vulgar notion, no dictate of the common sense and apprehension of need, that such dispositions are no vices or moral evils, or that such persons are not worthy of disesteem, or odium and dishonor; or that the proud or malicious acts which flow from such natural dispositions, are worthy of no resentment. Yea, such vile natural dispositions, and the strength of them, will commonly be mentioned rather as an aggravation of the wicked acts that come from such a fountain, than an extenuation of them. Its being natural for men to act thus, is often observed by men in the height of their indignation: they will say, ďIt is his very nature; he is of a vile natural temper; it is as natural to him to act so, as it is to breathe; he cannot help serving the devil,Ē etc. But it is not thus with regard to hurtful, mischievous things, that any are the subjects or occasions of, by natural necessity, against their inclinations. In such a case, the necessity, by the common voice of mankind, will be swollen of as a full excuse. ó Thus, it is very plain, that common sense makes a vast difference between these two kinds of necessity, as to the judgment it makes of their influence on the moral quality and desert of menís actions.
And these dictates of menís minds are so natural and necessary, that it may be very much doubted whether the Arminians themselves have ever got rid of them; yea, their greatest doctors, that have gone furthest in defense of their metaphysical notions of liberty, and have brought their arguments to their greatest strength, and, as they suppose, to a demonstration, against the consistence of virtue and vice with any necessity; it is to be questioned, whether there is so much as one of them, but that, if he suffered very much from the injurious acts of a man under the power of an invincible haughtiness and malignancy of temper, would not, from the fore-mentioned natural sense of mind, resent it far otherwise, than if as great sufferings came upon him from the wind that blows, and fire that burns, by natural necessity; and otherwise than he would, if be suffered as much from the conduct of a man perfectly delirious; yea, though he first brought his distraction upon him some way by his own fault.
Some seem to disdain the distinction that we make between natural and moral necessity, as though it were altogether impertinent in this controversy: ďthat which is necessary (say they) is necessary; it is that which must be, and cannot be prevented. And that which is impossible, is impossible, and cannot be done: and therefore none can be to blame for not doing it.Ē And such comparisons are made use of, as the commanding of a man to walk who has lost his legs, and condemning and punishing him for not obeying; inviting and calling upon a man who is shut up in a strong prison, to come forth, etc. But, in these things, Arminians are very unreasonable. Let common sense determine whether there be not a great difference between these two cases; the one, that of a man who has offended his prince, and is cast into prison; and after he has lain there a while, the king, comes to him calls him to come forth to him; and tells him, that if he will do so, and will fall down before him, and humbly beg his pardon, he shall be forgiven and set at liberty, and also be greatly enriched, and advanced to honor; the prisoner heartily repents of the folly and wickedness of his offense against his prince, is thoroughly disposed to abase himself, and accept of the kingís offer; but is confined by strong walls, with gates of brass, and bars of iron. The other case is, that of a man who is of a very unreasonable spirit, of a haughty, ungrateful, wilful disposition; and, moreover, has been brought up in traitorous principles, and has his heart possessed with an extreme and inveterate enmity to his lawful sovereign; and for his rebellion is cast into prison, and lies long there, loaden with heavy chains, and in miserable circumstances. At length the compassionate prince comes to the prison, orders his chains to be knocked off, and his prison-doors to be set wide open; calls to him, and tells him, if he will come forth to him, and fall down before him, acknowledge that he has treated him unworthily, and ask his forgiveness, he shall be forgiven, set at liberty, and set in a place of great dignity and profit in his court. But he is; stout and stomachful, and full of haughty malignity, that he cannot be willing to accept the offer: his rooted strong pride and malice have perfect power over him, and as it were bind him, by binding his heart: the opposition of his heart has the mastery over him, having an influence on his mind far superior to the kingís grace and condescension, and to all his kind offers and promises. Now, is it agreeable to common sense to assert, and stand to it, that there is no difference between these two cases, as to any worthiness of blame in the prisoners; because, forsooth, there is a necessity in both, and the required act in each case is impossible? It is true, a manís evil dispositions may be as strong and immoveable as the bars of a castle. But who cannot see, that when a man, in the latter case, is said to be unable to obey the command, the expression is used improperly, and not in the sense it has originally, and in common speech; and that it may properly be said to be in the rebelís power to come out of prison, seeing he can easily do it if he pleases; though by reason of his vile temper of heart, which is fixed and rooted, it is impossible that it should please him?\parUPON the whole, I presume there is no person of good understanding, who impartially considers the things which have been observed, but will allow, that it is not evident, from the dictates of the common sense, or natural notions of mankind, that moral necessity is inconsistent with praise and blame. And, therefore, if the Arminians would prove any such inconsistency, it must be by some philosophical and metaphysical arguments, and not common sense.
There is a grand illusion in the pretended demonstration of Arminians from common sense. The main strength of all these demonstrations lies in that prejudice, that arises through the insensible change of the use and meaning of such terms as liberty, able, unable, necessary, impossible, unavoidable, invincible, action, etc. from their original and vulgar sense, to a metaphysical sense, entirely diverse; and the strong connection of the ideas of blamelessness, etc. with some of these terms, by a habit contracted and established while these terms were used in their first meaning. This prejudice and delusion is the foundation of all those positions they lay down as maxims, lay which most of the Scriptures, which they allege in this controversy, are interpreted, and on which all their pompous demonstrations from Scripture and reason depend. From this secret delusion and prejudice they have almost all their advantages; it is the strength of their bulwarks, and the edge of their weapons. And this is the main ground of all the right they have to treat their neighbors in so assuming a manner, and to insult others, perhaps as wise and good as themselves, as weak bigots, men that dwell in the dark caves of superstition, perversely set, obstinately shutting their eyes against the noon-day light, enemies to common sense, maintaining the first-born of absurdities, etc. etc. But perhaps an impartial consideration of the things which have been observed in the preceding parts of this Inquiry, may enable the lovers of truth better to judge, whose doctrine is indeed absurd, abstruse, self-contradictory, and inconsistent with common sense, and many ways repugnant to the universal dictates of the reason of mankind.
Corol. From things which have been observed, it will follow, that it is agreeable to common sense to suppose that the glorified saints have not their freedom at all diminished in any respect: and that God himself has the highest possible freedom according to the true and proper meaning of the term; and that he is, in the highest possible respect, an agent and active in the exercise of his infinite holiness; though he acts therein, in the highest degree necessarily: and his actions of this kind, are in the highest, most absolutely perfect manner, virtuous and praiseworthy; and are so, for that very reason, because they are most perfectly necessary.
SECTION CONCERNING THOSE OBJECTIONS, THAT THIS SCHEME OF NECESSITY RENDERS ALL MEANS AND ENDEAVORS FOR THE AVOIDING OF SIN, OR THE OBTAINING VIRTUE AND HOLINESS, VAIN AND TO NO PURPOSE; AND THAT IT MAKES MEN NO MORE THAN MERE MACHINES IN AFFAIRS OF MORALITY AND RELIGION.
ARMINIANS say, if it be so, that sin and virtue come to pass by a necessity consisting in a sure connection of causes and effects, antecedents and consequents, it can never be worth the while to use any means or endeavors to obtain the one, and avoid the other; seeing no endeavors can alter the futurity of the event, which is become necessary by a connection already established.
But I desire that this matter may be fully considered; and that it may be examined with a thorough strictness, whether it will follow, that endeavors and means, in order to avoid or obtain any future thing, must be more in vain, on the supposition of such a connection of antecedents and consequents than if the contrary be supposed.
For endeavors to be in vain, is for them not to be successful; that is to say, for them not eventually to be the means of the thing aimed at, which cannot be but in one of these two ways; either, first, That although the means are used, yet the event aimed at does not follow; or, secondly, If the event does follow, it is not because of the means, or from any connection or dependence of the event on the means: the event would have come to pass as well without the means as with them. If either of these two things is the case, then the means are not properly successful, and are truly in vain. The successfulness or unsuccessfulness of means, in order to an effect, or their being, in vain or not in vain, consists in those means being connected or not connected with the effect, in such a manner as this, viz. that the effect is with the means, and not without them; or, that the being of the effect is, on the one hand, connected with means, and the want of the effect, on the other hand, is connected with the of the means. If there he such a connection as this between means and end, the means are not in vain; the more there is of such a connection the further they are from being in vain; and the less of such a connection, the more they are in vain.
Now, therefore, the question to be answered, (in order to determine, whether it follows from this doctrine of the necessary connection between foregoing things and consequent ones, that means used in order to any effect are more in vain than they would be otherwise), is, whether it follows from it that there is less of the forementioned connection between means and effect; that is, whether, on the supposition of there being, a real and true connection between means and effect, than on the supposition of these being no fixed connection between antecedent things and consequent ones; and the very stating, of this question is sufficient to answer it. It must appear to every one that will open his eyes, that this question cannot be affirmed without the grossest absurdity and inconsistence. Means are foregoing things, and effects are following, things. And if there were no connection between foregoing things and following ones, there could be no connection between means and end; and so all means would be wholly vain and fruitless. For it is by virtue of some connection only, that they become successful. It is some connection observed or revealed, or otherwise known, between antecedent things and following ones, that is what directs in the choice of means. And if there were no such thing as an established connection, there could be no choice as to means; ore thing would have no more tendency to an effect than another; there would be no such thing as tendency in the case. All those things which are successful means of other things, do therein prove connected antecedents of them; and therefore, to assert that a fixed connection between antecedents and consequents makes means vain and useless, or stands in the way to hinder the connection between means and end, is just as ridiculous as to say, that a connection between antecedents and consequents stands in the way to hinder a connection between antecedents and consequents.
Nor can any supposed connection of the succession or train of antecedents and consequents, from the very beginning of all things, the connection being made already sure and necessary, either by established laws of nature, or by these together with a decree of sovereign immediate interpositions of Divine power, on such and such occasions, or any other way (if any other there be); I say, no such necessary connection of a series of antecedents and consequents can in the least tend to hinder, hut that the means we use may belong to the series; and so may be some of those antecedents which are connected with the consequents we aim at in the established course of things. Endeavours which we use, are things that exist; and therefore they belong to the general chain of events; all the parts of which chain are supposed to be connected; and so endeavors are supposed to be connected with some effects, or some consequent things or other. And certainly this does not hinder but that the events they are connected with, may be those which we aim at, and which we choose, because we judge them most likely to have a connection with those events from the established order and course of things which we observe, or from something in Divine revelation.
Let us suppose a real and true connection between a manís having his eyes open in the clear day-light, with good organs of sight, and seeing; so that seeing is connected with his opening his eyes, and not seeing with his not opening his eyes; and also the like connection between such a manís attempting to open his eyes, and his actually doing it: the supposed established connection between these antecedents and consequents, let the connection be never so sure and necessary, certainly does not prove that it is in vain for a man in such circumstances to attempt to open his eyes, in order to seeing: his aiming at that event, and the use of the means, being the effect of his will, does not break the connection, or hinder the success.
So that the objection we are upon does not lie against the doctrine of the necessity of events by a certainty of connection and consequence; on the contrary, it is truly forcible against the Arminian doctrine of contingence and self-determination; which is inconsistent with such a connection. If there be no connection between those events wherein virtue and vice consist, and any thing antecedent; then there is no connection between these events and any means or endeavors used in order to them; and if so, then those means must be in vain. The less there is of connection between foregoing things and following ones, so much the less there is between means and end, endeavors and success; and in the same proportion are means and endeavors ineffectual and in vain.
It will follow from Arminian principles that there is no degree of connection between virtue or vice, and any foregoing event or thing; or, in other words, that the determination of the existence of virtue or vice does not in the least depend on the influence of any thing that comes to pass antecedently, from which the determination of its existence is, as its cause, means, or ground; because so far as it is so, it is not from selfdetermination; and, therefore, so far there is nothing of the nature of virtue or vice. And so it follows, that virtue and vice are not at all, in any degree, dependent upon, or connected with, any foregoing event or existence, as its cause, ground, or means. And if so, then all foregoing means must be totally in vain.
Hence it follows, that there cannot, in any consistence with the Arminian scheme, be any reasonable ground of so much as a conjecture concerning the consequence of any means and endeavors, in order to escaping vice, or obtaining virtue, or any choice or preference of means, as having a greater probability of success by some than others; either from any natural connection or dependence of the end on the means, or through any divine constitution, or revealed way of Godís bestowing or bringing to pass these things, in consequence of any means, endeavors, prayers, or deeds.
Conjectures in this latter case, depend on a supposition, that God himself is the giver, or determining cause, of the events sought; but if they depend on self-determination, then God is not the determining or disposing author of them and if these things are not of his disposal, then no conjecture can be made, from any revelation he has givení concerning any way or method of his disposal of them.
Yea, on these principles, it will not only follow, that men cannot have any reasonable ground of judgment or conjecture that their means and endeavors to obtain virtue, or avoid vice, will be successful, but they may be sure they will not; they may be certain that they will be in vain; and that if ever the thing, which they seek, comes to pass, it will not be at all owing to the means they use. For means and endeavors can have no effect at all, in order to obtain the end, but in one of those two ways; either (1.) Through a natural tendency and influence to prepare and dispose the mind more to virtuous acts, either by causing the disposition of the heart to be more in favor of such acts, or by bringing the mind more into the view of powerful motives and inducements; or, (2.) By putting persons more in the way of Godís bestowment of the benefit. But neither of these can be the case.
Not the latter; for, as has been just observed, it does not consist with the Arminian notion of self-determination, which they suppose essential to virtue, that God should be the bestower, or (which is the same thing) the determining disposing author of virtue. Not the former; for natural influence and tendency supposes causality and connection, and supposes necessity of event, which is inconsistent with Arminian liberty. A tendency of means, by biasing the heart in favor of virtue, or by bringing the will under the influence and power of motives in its determinations, are both inconsistent with Arminian liberty of will, consisting in indifference, and sovereign self-determination, as has been largely demonstrated.
But for the more full removal of this prejudice against the doctrine of necessity, which has been maintained, as though it tended to encourage a total neglect of all endeavors as vain; the following things may be considered: ó The question is not, Whether men may not thus improve this doctrine, ó we know that many true and wholesome doctrines are abused; but, whether the doctrine gives any just occasion for such an improvement; or whether, on the supposition of the truth of the doctrine, such a use of it would be unreasonable? If any shall affirm, that it would not, but that the very nature of the doctrine is such as gives just occasion for it, it must be on this supposition; namely, that such an invariable necessity of all thing already settled, must render the interposition of all means, endeavors, conclusions, or actions of ours, in order to the obtaining, any future end whatsoever, perfectly insignificant; because they cannot in the least alter or vary the course and series to things, in any event or circumstance; all being already fixed unalterably by necessity; and that therefore it is folly for men to use any means for any em; but their wisdom to save themselves the trouble of endeavors, and take their ease. No person can draw such an inference from this doctrine, and come to such a conclusion, without contradicting himself, and going counter to the very principles he pretends to act upon; for he comes to conclusion, and takes a course, in order to an end, even his ease, or the saving himself from trouble: he seeks something future, and uses means in order to a future thing, even in his drawing up that conclusion, that he will seek nothing, and use no means in order to any thing in future; he seeks his future ease, and the benefit and comfort of indolence. If prior necessity, that. determines all things, makes vain all actions or conclusions of ours, in order to any thing future; then it makes vain all conclusions and conduct of ours, in order to our future ease. The measure of our ease, with the time, manner, and every circumstance of it, is already fixed, by all-determining necessity, as much as any thing else. If he says within himself, ďWhat future happiness or misery I shall have, is already, in effect, determined by the necessary course and connection of things; therefore, I will save myself the trouble of labor and diligence which cannot add to my determined degree of happiness, or diminish my misery; but will take my ease, and will enjoy the comfort of sloth and negligence,Ē ó such a man contradicts himself; he says, the measure of his future happiness and misery is already fixed, and he will not try to diminish the one, nor add to the other; but yet, in his very conclusion, he contradicts this; for, he takes up this conclusion, to add to his future happiness, by the ease and comfort of his negligence, and to diminish his future trouble and misery by saving himself the trouble of using means and taking pains.
Therefore, persons cannot reasonably make this improvement of the doctrine of necessity, that they will go into a voluntary negligence of means for their own happiness. For the principles they must go upon, in order to this, are inconsistent with their making any improvement at all of the doctrine; for to make some improvement of it, is to be influenced by it, to come to some voluntary conclusion, in regard to their own conduct, with some view, or aim; but this, as has been shown, is inconsistent with the principles they pretend to act upon. In short, the principles are such as cannot be acted upon at all, or, in any respect, consistently. And therefore, in every presence of acting upon them, or making any improvement at all of them, there is a self-contradiction.
As to that objection against the doctrine, which I have endeavored to prove, that it makes men no more than mere machines; I would say, that notwithstanding this doctrine, man is entirely, perfectly, and unspeakably different from a mere machine, in that he has reason and understanding, and has a faculty of will, and is so capable of volition and choice; and in that his will is guided by the dictates or views of his understanding; and in that his external actions and behavior, and in many respects also his thoughts, and the exercises of his mind, are subject to his will; so that he has liberty to act according to his choice, and do what he pleases; and, by means of these things, is capable of moral limits and moral acts, such inclinations and actions, as, according to the common sense of mankind, are worthy of praise, esteem, love, and reward; or, on the contrary, of disesteem, detestation, indignation, and punishment.
In these things is all the difference from mere machines, as to liberty and agency, that would be any perfection, dignity, or privilege, in any respect; all the difference that can be desired, and all that can be conceived of; and indeed all that the pretensions of the Arminians themselves come to, as they are forced often to explain themselves. (Though their explications overthrow and abolish the things asserted, and pretended to be explained.)
For they are forced to explain a self-determining power of will, by a power in the soul to determine as it chooses or wills; which comes to no more than this, that a man has a power of choosing, and in many instances, can do as he chooses, ó which is quite a different thing from that contradiction, his having power of choosing his first act of choice in the case.
Or, if their scheme makes any other difference than this between men and machines, it is for the worse; it is so far from supposing men to have a dignity and privilege above machines, that it makes the manner of their being determined still more unhappy. Whereas machines are guided by an understanding cause, by the skillful hand of the workman or owner; the will of man is left to the guidance of nothing, but absolute blind contingence.
SECTION CONCERNING THAT OBJECTION AGAINST THE DOCTRINE WHICH HAS BEEN MAINTAINED, THAT IT AGREES WITH THE STOICAL DOCTRINE OF FATE, AND THE OPINIONS OF MR. HOBBES.
WHEN Calvinists oppose the Arminian notion of the freedom of will, and contingence of volitions, and insist that there are no acts of the will, nor any other event whatsoever, but what are attended with some kind of necessity; their opposers cry out of then, as agreeing with the ancient Stoics in their doctrine of fate, and with Mr. Hobbes in his opinion of necessity.
It would not be worth while to take notice of so impertinent an objection, had it not been urged by some of the chief Arminian writers. There were many important truths maintained by the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, and especially the Stoics, that are never the worse for being held by them. The Stoic philosophers, by the general agreement of Christian divines, and even Arminian divines, were the greatest, wisest, and most virtuous of all the heathen philosophers; and in their doctrine and practice came the nearest to Christianity of any of their sects. How frequently are the sayings of these philosophers, in many of the writings and sermons, even of Arminian divines, produced not as arguments of the falseness of the doctrines which they delivered, but as a confirmation of some of the greatest truths of the Christian religion, relating to the unity and perfections of the Godhead, a future state, the duty and happiness of mankind, etc., as observing how the light of nature, and reason, in the wisest and best of the heathen, harmonized with and confirms the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And it is very remarkable, concerning Dr. Whitby, that although he alleges the agreement of the Stoics with us, wherein he supposes they maintained the like doctrine with us, as an argument against the truth of our doctrine; yet this very Dr. Whitby alleges the agreement of the Stoics with the Arminians, wherein he supposes they taught the same doctrine with them, as an argument for the truth of their doctrine. So that, when the Stoics agree with them, this (it seems) is a confirmation of their doctrine, and a confutation of ours, as showing that our opinions are contrary to the natural sense and common reason of mankind: nevertheless, when the Stoics agree with us, it argues no such thing in our favor; but, on the contrary, is a great argument against us, and shows our doctrine to be heathenish.
It is observed by some Calvinistic writers, that the Arminians symbolise with the Stoics in some of those doctrines wherein they are opposed by the Calvinists; particularly in their denying an original, innate, total corruption and depravity of heart; and in what they held of manís ability to make himself truly virtuous and conformed to God; and in some other doctrines.
It may be further observed, it is certainly no better objection against our doctrine, that it agrees, in some respects, with the doctrine of the ancient Stoic philosophers, than it is against theirs, wherein they differ from us, that it agrees, in some respects, with the opinion of the very worst of the heathen philosophers, the followers of Epicurus, that father of atheism and licentiousness, and with the doctrine of the Sadducees and Jesuits.
I am not much concerned to know precisely what the ancient Stoic philosophers held concerning fate, in order to determine what is truth; as though it were a sure way to be in the right, to take good heed to differ from them. It seems that they differed among themselves, and probably the doctrine of fate, as maintained by most of them, was, in some respects, erroneous. But whatever their doctrine was, if any of them held such a fate as is repugnant to any liberty, consisting in our doing as we please, I utterly deny such a fate. If they held any such fate as is not consistent with the common and universal notions that mankind have of liberty, activity, moral agency, virtue and vice; I disclaim any such thing, and think I have demonstrated that the scheme I maintain is no such scheme. If the Stoics, by fate, meant any thing of such a nature as can be supposed to stand in the way of the advantage and benefit of the use of means and endeavors, or make it less worth the while for men to desire and seek after any thing, wherein their virtue and happiness consists; I hold no doctrine that is clogged with any such inconvenience, any more than any other scheme whatsoever; and by no means so much as the Arminians scheme of contingence; us has been shown. If they held any such doctrine of universal fatality as is inconsistent with any kind of liberty, that is or can be any perfection, dignity, privilege or benefit, or any thing desirable, in any respect, for any intelligent creature, or indeed with any liberty that is possible or conceivable; I embrace no such doctrine. If they held any such doctrine of fate as is inconsistent with the worldís being in all things subject to the disposal of an intelligent wise Agent, that presides, not as the soul of the world, but as the sovereign Lord of the universe, governing all things by proper will, choice, and design, in the exercise of the most perfect liberty conceivable, without subjection to any constraint, or being properly under the power or influence of any thing before, above, or without himself; I wholly renounce any such doctrine.
As to Mr Hobbesís maintaining, the same doctrine concerning necessity; I confess it happens I never read Mr. Hobbes. Let his opinion be what it will, we need not reject all truth which is demonstrated by clear evidence, merely because it was once held by some bad man. This great truth, that Jesus is the Son of God, was not spoiled because it was once and again proclaimed with a loud voice by the devil. If truth is so defiled, because it is spoken by the mouth, or written by the pen, of some ill-minded mischievous man, that it must never be received, we shall never know when we hold any of the most precious and evident truths by a sure tenure.
And if Mr. Hobbes has made a bad use of this truth, that is to be lamented; but the truth is not to be thought worthy of rejection on that account. It is common for the corruptions of the hearts of evil men to abuse the best things to vile purposes.
I might also take notice of its having been observed, that the Arminians agree with Mr. Hobbes in many more things than the Calvinists, ó as, in what he is said to hold concerning, original sin, in denying the necessity of supernatural illumination, in denying infused grace, in denying the doctrine of justification by faith alone; and other things.
SECTION CONCERNING THE NECESSITY OF THE DIVINE WILL.
SOME may possibly object against what has been supposed of the absurdity and inconsistence of a self-determining power in the will, and the impossibility of its being otherwise than that the will should be determined in every case by some motive, and by a motive which (as it stands in the view of the understanding) is of superior strength to any appearing on the other side; that if these things are true, it will follow, that not only the will of created minds, but the will of God himself, is necessary in all its determinations. Concerning which, says the author of the Essay on the Freedom of Will in God and in the Creature, (pp. 85, 86) ďWhat strange doctrine is this, contrary to all our ideas of the dominion of God? does it not destroy the glory of his liberty of choice, and take away from the Creator and Governor and Benefactor of the world, that most free and sovereign agent, all the glory of this sort of freedom? does it not seemly to make him a kind of mechanical medium of fate, and introduce Mr.
Hobbesís doctrine of fatality and necessity into all things that God hath to do with? Does it not seem to represent the blessed God as a being of vast understanding, as well as power and efficiency, but still to leave him without a will to choose among all the objects within his view? In short, it seems to make the blessed God a sort of almighty minister of fate, under its universal and supreme influence; as it was the professed sentiment of some of the ancients, that fate was above the gods.Ē
This is declaiming, rather than arguing; and an application to menís imaginations and prejudices, rather than to mere reason. But I would calmly endeavor to consider, whether there be any reason in this frightful representation. ó But before I enter upon a particular consideration of the matter, I would observe this: that it is reasonable to suppose, it should be much more difficult to express or conceive things according to exact metaphysical truth, relating, to the nature and manner of the existence of things in the Divine understanding and will, and the operation of these faculties (if I may so call them) of the Divine mind, than in the human mind; which is infinitely more within our views, and nearer to a proportion to the measure of our comprehension, and more commensurate to the use and import of human speech. Language is indeed very deficient in regard of terms to express precise truth concerning, our own minds, and their faculties and operations. Words were first formed to express external things; and those that are applied to express things internal and spiritual, are almost all borrowed, and used in a sort of figurative sense. Whence they are, most of them, attended with a great deal of ambiguity and unfixedness in their signification, occasioning innumerable doubts, difficulties, and confusions, in inquiries and controversies about things of this nature. But language is much less adapted to express things in the mind of the incomprehensible Deity precisely as they are.
We find a great deal of difficulty in conceiving exactly of the nature of our own souls. And notwithstanding all the progress which has been made, in past and present ages, in this kind of knowledge, whereby our metaphysics, as it relates to these things, is brought to greater perfection than once it was; yet, here is still work enough left for future inquiries and researches, and room for progress still to be made, for many ages and generations. But we had need to be infinitely able metaphysicians, to conceive with clearness, according to strict, proper, and perfect truth, concerning the nature of the Divine Essence, and the modes of the action and operation of the powers of the Divine Mind.
And it may be noted particularly, that though we are obliged to conceive of some things in God as consequent and dependent on others, and of some things pertaining to the Divine nature and will as the foundation of others, and so before others in the order of nature; as, we must conceive of the knowledge and holiness of God as prior, in the order of nature, to his happiness; the perfection of his understanding, as the foundation of his wise purposes and decrees; the holiness of his nature, as the cause and reason of his holy determinations. And yet, when we speak of cause and effect, antecedent and consequent fundamental and dependent, determining and determined, in the first Being, who is self-existent, independent, of perfect and absolute simplicity and immutability, and the first cause of all things; doubtless there must be less propriety in such representations, than when we speak of derived dependent beings, who are compounded, and liable to perpetual mutation and succession.
Having premised this, I proceed to observe concerning the fore-mentioned authorís exclamation about the necessary determination of Godís will, in all things, by what he sees to be fittest and best. That all the seeming force of such objections and exclamations must arise from an imagination that there is some sort of privilege or dignity in being without such a moral necessity as will make it impossible to do any other than always choose what is wisest and best; as though there were some disadvantage, meanness, and subjection, in such a necessity; a thing by Enrich the will was confinedí kept under, and held in servitude by something, which, as it were, maintained a strong and invincible power and dominion over it, by bonds that held him fast, and that he could, by no means, deliver himself from. Whereas, this must be all mere imagination and delusion. It is no disadvantage or dishonor to a being, necessarily to act in the most excellent and happy manner, from the necessary perfections of his own nature. This argues no imperfection, inferiority, or dependence, nor any want of dignity, privilege, or ascendancy. It is not inconsistent with the absolute and most perfect sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God is his ability and authority to do whatever pleases him; whereby ďhe doth according to his will in the armies of heaven, and amongst the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What cost thou?Ē ó The following, things belong to the sovereignty of God: viz. (1.) Supreme, universal, and infinite power: Thereby he is able to do what he pleases, without control, without any confinement of that power, without any subjection, in the least measure, to any other power; and so without any hindrance or restraint, that it should be either impossible, or at all difficult, for him to accomplish his will; and without any dependence of his power on any other power, from whence it should be derived, or which it should stand in any need of; so far from this, that all other power is derived from him, and is absolutely dependent on him. (2.) That he has supreme authority; absolute and most perfect right to do what he wills, without subjection to any superior authority, or any derivation of authority from any other, or limitation by any distinct independent authority, either superior, equal, or inferior; he being the head of all dominion, and fountain of all authority; and also without restraint by any obligation, implying either subjections derivation, or dependence, or proper limitation. (3.) That his will is supreme, underived, and independent on any thing without himself; being in every thing determined by his own counsel, having no other rule but his own wisdom; his will not being subject to, or restrained by, the will of any other, and other wills being perfectly subject to his. (4.) That his wisdom, which determines his will, is supreme, perfect, underived, self-sufficient, and independent; so that it may be said, as in Isaiah 40:14, ďWith whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understandingĒ There is no other Divine sovereignty but this; strange to see men contend, that the Deity is not free, because he is necessarily rational, immutably good and wise; when a man is allowed still the perfecter being, the more fixedly and constantly his will is determined by reason and truth.Ē ó Inquiry into the Nature of the Human Soul. Edit. 3, vol. 2:pp. 403, 404, and this is properly absolute sovereignty: no other is desirable; nor would any other be honorable or happy and, indeed, there is no other conceivable or possible: It is the glory and greatness of the Divine Sovereign, that Godís will is determined by his own infinite, all-sufficient wisdom in every thing; and in nothing at all is either directed by any inferior wisdom, or by no wisdom; whereby it would become senseless arbitrariness, determining and acting without reason, design, or end.
If Godís will is steadily and surely determined in every thing by supreme wisdom, then it is in everything necessarily determined to that which is most wise. And, certainly, it would be a disadvantage and indignity to be otherwise. For if the Divine will was not necessarily determined to that which, in every case, is wisest and best, it must be subject to some degree of undesigning contingence; and so in the same degree liable to evil. To suppose the Divine will liable to be carried hither and thither at random, by the uncertain wind of blind contingence, which is guided by no wisdom, no motive, no intelligent dictate whatsoever, (if any such thing were possible,) would certainly argue a great degree of imperfection and meanness, infinitely unworthy of the Deity. If it he a disadvantage for the Divine will to be attended with this moral necessity, then the more free from it, and the more left at random, the greater dignity and advantage. And, consequently, to be perfectly free from the direction of understanding, and universally and entirely left to senseless, unmeaning contingence, to act absolutely at random, would be the supreme glory.
It no more argues any dependence of Godís will, that his supremely wise volition is necessary, than it argues a dependence of his being, that his existence is necessary. If it be something too low for the Supreme Being to have his will determined by moral necessity, so as necessarily, in every case, to will in the highest degree holily and happily; then why is it not also something too low for him to have his existence, and the infinite perfection of his nature, and his infinite happiness, determined by necessity? It is no more to Godís dishonor to be necessarily wise, than to be necessarily holy.
And if neither of them be to his dishonor, then it is not to his dishonor necessarily to act holily and wisely. And if it be not dishonorable to be necessarily holy and wise, in the highest possible degree, no more is it mean and dishonorable, necessarily to act boldly and wisely in the highest possible degree; or, which is the same thing, to do that, in every case, which, above all other things, is wisest and best.
The reason why it is not dishonorable to be necessarily most holy, is, because holiness in itself is an excellent and honorable thing. For the same reason, it is no dishonor to be necessarily most wise, and, in every case, to act most wisely, or do the thing which is the wisest of all; for wisdom is also in itself excellent and honorable.
The fore-mentioned author of the ďEssay on the Freedom of Will,Ē etc. as has been observed, represents that doctrine of the Divine willís being in every thing necessarily determined by a superior fitness, as making the blessed God a kind of almighty minister and mechanical medium of fate; and he insists, (pp. 93, 94,) that this moral necessity and impossibility is, in effect, the same thing with physical and natural necessity and impossibility; and in pp. 54, 55, he says, ďThe scheme which determines the will always and certainly by the understanding, and the understanding by the appearance of things, seems to take away the true nature of vice and virtue.
For the sublimest of virtues, and the vilest of vices, seem rather to be matters of fate and necessity, flowing naturally and necessarily from the existence, the circumstances, and present situation of persons and things; for this existence and situation necessarily makes such an appearance to the mind; from this appearance flows a necessary perception and judgment concerning these things: this judgment necessarily determines the will; and thus, by this chain of necessary causes, virtue and vice would lose their nature, and become natural ideas, and necessary things, instead of moral and free actions.Ē
And yet this same author allows, (pp. 30, 31,) that a perfectly wise being will constantly and certainly choose what is most fit, and says, pp. 102, 103, ďI grant, and always have granted, that wheresoever there is such antecedent superior fitness of things, God acts according to it, so as never to contradict it; and, particularly, in all his judicial proceedings as a governor, and distributor of rewards and punishments.íí Yea, he says expressly, (p. 42,) ďThat it is not possible for God to act otherwise than according to this fitness and goodness in things.Ē
So that, according to this author, putting these several passages of this essay together, there is no virtue, nor any thing of a moral nature, in the most sublime and glorious acts and exercises of Godís holiness, justice, and faithfulness; and he never does any thing which is in itself supremely worthy, and, above all other things, fit and excellent, but only as a kind of mechanical medium of fate, and in what he does as the judge and moral governor of the world, he exercises no moral excellency, exercising no freedom in these things, because he acts by moral necessity, which is, in effect, the same with physical or natural necessity; and therefore he only acts by an Hobbistical fatality; ďas a being indeed of vast understanding, as well as power and efficiency, (as he said before,) but without a will to choose, being a kind of almighty minister of fate, acting under its supreme influence.Ē For he allows, that in all these things, Godís will is determined constantly and certainly by a superior fitness, and that it is not possible for him to act otherwise. And if these things are so, what glory or praise belongs to God for doing holily and justly, or talking the most fit, holy, wise, and excellent course, in any one instance? Whereas, according to the Scriptures, and also the common sense of mankind, it does not, in the least, derogate from the honor of any being, that through the moral perfection of his nature he necessarily acts with supreme wisdom and holiness; but on the contrary, his praise is the greater; herein consists the height of his glory.
The same author (p. 56,) supposes that herein appears the excellent ďcharacter of a wise and good man, that though he can choose contrary to the fitness of things, yet he does not; but suffers himself to be directed by fitness;Ē and that, in this conduct, ďhe imitates the blessed God.Ē And yet he supposes it is contrariwise with the blessed God; not that he suffers himself to be directed by fitness, when he can choose, contrary to the fitness of things, but that he cannot choose contrary to the fitness of things; as he says, (p. 42,) ďthat it is not possible for God to act otherwise than according to this fitness, where there is any fitness or goodness in things.Ē
Yea, he supposes, (p. 31,) that if a man ďwere perfectly wise and good, he could not do otherwise than be constantly and certainly determined by the fitness of things.Ē
One thing more I would observe, before I conclude this section; and that is, that if it derogates nothing from the glory of God to be necessarily determined by superior fitness in some things, then neither does it to be thus determined in all things; from any thing in the nature of such necessity, as at all detracting from Godís freedom, independence, absolute supremacy, or any dignity or glory of his nature, state, or manner of acting; or as implying any infirmity, restraint, or subjection. And if the thing be such as well consists with Godís glory, and has nothing tending, at all to detract from it; then we need not be afraid of ascribing it to God in too many things lest thereby we should detract from Godís glory too much.
SECTION SOME FURTHER OBJECTIONS AGAINST THE MORAL NECESSITY OF GODíS VOLITIONS CONSIDERED.
THE author last cited, as has been observed, owns that God, being perfectly wise, will constantly and certainly choose what appears most fit, where there is a superior fitness and goodness in things; and that it is not possible for him to do otherwise. So that it is in effect confessed, that in those things where there is any real preferableness, it is no dishonor, nothing in any respect unworthy of God, for him to act from necessity: notwithstanding all that can be objected from the agreement of such a necessity with the fate of the Stoics, and the necessity maintained by Mr.
Hobbes. From which it will follow, that if it were so, that in all the different things among which God chooses, there were evermore a superior fitness or preferableness on one side, then it would be no dishonor, or any thing, in any respect, unworthy or unbecoming of God, for his will to be necessarily determined in every thing. And if this be allowed, it is a giving up entirely the argument, from the unsuitableness of such a necessity to the liberty, supremacy, independence, and glory of the Divine Being; and a resting the whole weight of the affair on the decision of another point wholly diverse, viz. whether it be so indeed, that in all the various possible things which are in Godís view, and may be considered as capable objects of his choice, there is not evermore a preferableness in one thing above another. This is denied by this author, who supposes that, in many instances, between two or more possible things which come within the view of the Divine mind, there is a perfect indifference and equality, as to fitness or tendency, to attain any good end which God can have in view, or to answer any of his designs. Now, therefore, I would consider whether this be evident.
The arguments brought to prove this are of two kinds. (1.) It is urged, that, in many instances, we must suppose there is absolutely no difference between various possible objects of choice, which God has in view: and, (2.) That the difference between many things is so inconsiderable, or of such a nature, that it would be unreasonable to suppose it to be of any consequence, or to suppose that any of Godís wise designs would not be answered in one way as well as the other. Therefore, I. The first thing to be considered is, whether there are any instances wherein there is a perfect likeness, and absolutely no difference between different objects of choice, that are proposed to the Divine understanding.
And here, in the first place, it may he worthy to be considered, whether the contradiction there is in the terms of the question proposed, does not give reason to suspect that there is an inconsistence in the thing supposed. It is inquired, whether different objects of choice may not be absolutely without difference? If they are absolutely without difference, then how are they different objects of choice? If there be absolutely no difference, in any respect, then there is no variety or distinction; for distinction is only by some difference. And if there be no variety among proposed objects of choice, then there is no opportunity for variety of choice, or difference of determination. For that determination of a thing, which is not different in any respect, is not a different determination, but the same. That this is no quibble, may appear more fully anon.
The arguments to prove that the most high, in some instances, chooses to do one thing rather than another, where the things themselves are perfectly without difference, are two. 1. That the various parts of infinite time and space, absolutely considered, are perfectly alike, and do not differ at all one from another; and that therefore, when God determined to create the world in such a part of infinite duration and space, rather than others, he determined and preferred, among various objects, between which there was preferableness, and absolutely no difference.
Answ. This objection supposes an infinite length of time before the world was created, distinguished by successive parts, properly and truly so; or a succession of limited and unmeasurable periods of time, following one another, in an infinitely long series: which must needs be a groundless imagination. The eternal duration which was before the world, being only the eternity of Godís existence; which is nothing, else but his immediate, perfect, and invariable possession of the whole of his unlimited life, together and at once; vitce interminabilis, tota, simul et perfecta possessio.
Which is so generally allowed, that I need not stand to demonstrate it.
So, this objection supposes an extent of space beyond the limits of the creation, of an infinite length, breadth, and depth, truly and properly distinguished into different measurable parts, limited at certain stages, one beyond another, in an infinite series. Which notion of absolute and infinite space is doubtless as unreasonable as that now mentioned of absolute and infinite duration. It is as improper to imagine that the immensity and omnipresence of God is distinguished by a series of miles and leagues, one beyond another, as that the infinite duration of God is distinguished by months and years, one after another. A diversity and order of distinct parts, limited by certain periods, is as conceivable, and does as naturally obtrude itself on our imagination, in one case as the other; and there is equal reason in each case, to suppose that our imagination deceives us. It is equally improper to talk of months and years of the Divine existence, and milesquares of Deity: and we equally deceive ourselves when we talk of the worldís being differently fixed, with respect to either of these sorts of measures. I think we know not what we mean, if we say, the world might have been differently placed from what it is, in the broad expanse of infinity; or, that it might have been differently fixed in the long, line of eternity: and all arguments and objections, which are built on the imaginations we are apt to have of infinite extension or duration, are buildings founded on shadows, or castles in the air.
II. The second argument to prove that the Most High wills one thing rather than another, without any superior fitness or preferableness in the thing preferred, is Godís actually placing in different parts of the world particles or atoms of matter that are perfectly equal and alike. The fore- mentioned author says, p. 78, etc. ďIf one would descend to the minute specific particles of which different bodies are composed, we should see abundant reason to believe that there are thousands of such little particles, or atoms of matter, which are perfectly equal and alike, and could give no distinct determination to the will of God where to place them.Ē He there instances in particles of water, of which there are such immense numbers, which compose the rivers and oceans of this world: and the infinite myriads of the luminous and fiery particles which compose the body of the sun, so many, that it would be very unreasonable to suppose no two of them should be exactly equal and alike.
Answ. (1.) To this I answer; that as we must suppose matter to be infinitely divisible, it is very unlikely that any two of all these particles are exactly equal and alike; so unlikely, that it is a thousand to one, yea, an infinite number to one, but it is otherwise; and that although we should allow a great similarity between the different particles of water and fire, as to their general nature and figure; and however small we suppose those particles to be, it is infinitely unlikely that any two of them should be exactly equal in dimensions and quantity of matter. If we should suppose a great many globes of the same nature with the globe of the earth, it would be very strange if there were any two of them that had exactly the same number of particles of crust and water in them: But infinitely less strange than that two particles of light should have just the same quantity of matter. For a particle of light, according to the doctrine of the infinite divisibility of matter, is composed of infinitely more assignable parts than there are particles of dust and water in the globe of the earth. And as it is infinitely unlikely that any two of these particles should be equal; so it is, that they should be alike in other respects: to instance in the configuration of their surfaces. If there were very many globes, of the nature of the earth, it would be very unlikely that any two should have exactly the same number of particles of dust, water, and stone, in their surfaces, and all posited exactly alike, one with respect to another, without any difference, in any part discernible either by the naked eye or microscope; but infinitely less strange than that two particles of light should be perfectly of the same figure. For there are infinitely more assignable real parts on the surface of a particle of light, than there are particles of dust, water, and stone, on the surface of the terrestrial globe.
Ans. (2.) But then, supposing that there are two particles, or atoms of matter, perfectly equal and alike? which God has placed in different parts of the creation; as I will not deny it to be possible for God to make two bodies perfectly alike, and put then in different places; yet it will not follow, that two different or distinct acts or effects of the Divine power have exactly the same fitness for the same end. For these two different bodies are not different or distinct, in any other respects than those wherein they differ; they are two in no other respects than those wherein there is a difference. If they are perfectly equal and alike in themselves, then they can be distinguished, or be distinct, only in those things which are called circumstances: as place, time, rest, motion, or some other present or past circumstances or relations. For it is difference only that constitutes distinction. If God makes two bodies in themselves every way equal and alike, and agreeing perfectly in all other circumstances and relations but only their place; then in this only is there any distinction or duplicity. The figure is the same, the measure is the same, the solidity and resistance are the same, and every thing the same but only the place. Therefore what the will of God determines is this, namely, that there should be the same figure, the same extension, the same resistance, etc. in two different places. And for this determination he has some reason. There is some end, for which such a determination and act has a peculiar fitness, above all other acts. Here is no one thing determined without an end, and no one thing without a fitness for that end, superior to any thing else. If it be the pleasure of God to cause the same resistance and the same figure to be in two different places and situations, we can no more justly argue from it that here must be some determination or act of Godís will that is wholly without motive or end, than we can argue, that whenever, in any case, it is a manís will to speak the same words, or make the same sounds, at two different times, there must he some do termination or act of his will, without any motive or end. The difference of place, in the former case, proves no more than the difference of time does in the other. If any one should say, with regard to the former case, that there must be something determined without an end; viz. that of those two similar bodies, this in particular should be made in this place and the other in the other, and should inquire why the Creator did not make them in a transposition, when both are alike, and each would equally have suited either place? The inquiry supposes something that is not true; namely, that the two bodies differ and are distinct in other respects besides their place. So that, with this distinction inherent in them, they might, in their first creation, have been transposed, and each might have begun its existence in the place of the other.
Let us, for clearness sake, suppose that God had, at the beginning, made two globes, each of an inch diameter, both perfect spheres, and perfectly solid, without pores, and perfectly alike in every respect, and placed them near one to another, one towards the right hand, and the other towards the left, without any difference as to time, motion, or rest, past or present, or any circumstance but only their place; and the question should be asked, Why God in their creation placed them so? why that which is made on the right hand, was not made on the left, and vice versa? Let it be well considered, whether there be any sense in such a question, and whether the inquiry does not suppose something false and absurd. Let it be considered, what the Creator must have done otherwise than he did, what different act of will or power he must have exerted, in order to the thing proposed. All that could have been done, would have been to have made two spheres, perfectly alike, in the same places which he has made them, without any difference of the things made, either in themselves or in any circumstance; so that the whole effect would have been without any difference, and therefore just the same. By the supposition, the two spheres are different in no other respect but their place; and therefore in other respects they are the same. Each has the same roundness; it is not a distinct rotundity, in any other respects but its situation. There are also the same dimensions, differing in nothing but their place. And so of their resistance, and every thing else that belongs to them.
Here, if any chooses to say, ďthat there is a difference in another respect, viz. that they are not numerically the same; that it is thus with all the qualities that belong to them; that it is confessed they are, in some respects, the same, that is, they are both exactly alike; but yet numerically they differ. Thus the roundness of one is not the same numerical individual roundness with that of the other.Ē Let this be supposed; then the question about the determination of the Divine will in the affair, is, why did God will that this individual roundness should be at the right hand, and the other individual roundness at the left? why did not he make them in a contrary position? Let any rational person consider, whether such questions be not words without a meaning; as much as if God should see fit, for some ends, to cause the same sounds to be repeated, or made at two different times; the sounds being perfectly the same in every other respect, but only one was a minute after the other; and it should be asked, upon it, why God caused these sounds, numerically different, to succeed one the other in such a manner? Why he did not make that individual sound, which was in the first minute, to be in the second? and the individual sound of the last minute to be in the first; which inquiries would be even ridiculous; as I think every person must see at once, in the case proposed of two sounds, being only the same repeated, absolutely without any difference but that one circumstance of time. If the Most High sees it will answer some goal end, that the same sound should be made by lightning at two distinct times, and therefore wills that it should be so, must it needs therefore be, that herein there is some act of Godís will without any motive or end? God saw fit often, at distinct times, and on different occasions, to say the very same words to Moses; namely, those, I am Jehovah. And would it not be unreasonable to infer, as a certain consequence, from this, that here must be some act or acts of the Divine will, in determining and disposing these words exactly alike, at different times, wholly without aim or inducement?
But it would be no more unreasonable, than to say, that there must be an act of Godís without any inducement, if he sees it best, and for some reasons, determines that there shall be the same resistance, the same dimensions, and the same figure, in several distinct places.
If, in the instance of the two spheres perfectly alike, it be supposed possible that God might have made them in a contrary position; that which is made at the right hand being made at the left; then I ask, whether it is not evidently equally possible, if God had made but one of them, and that in the place of the right-hand globe, that he might have made that numerically different from what it is, and numerically different from what he did make it; though perfectly alike, and in the same place; and at the same time, and in every respect, in the same circumstances and relations? Namely, whether he might not have made it numerically the same with that which he has now made at the left hand; and so have left that which is now created at the right hand in a state of non-existence? And if so, whether it would not have been possible to have made one in that place, perfectly like these, and yet numerically differing from both? And let it be considered, whether, from this notion of a numerical difference in bodies perfectly equal and alike, which numerical difference is something inherent in the bodies themselves, and diverse from the difference of place or time, or any circumstance whatsoever, it will not follow that there is an infinite number of numerically different possible bodies, perfectly alike, among which God chooses, by a self-determining power, when he goes about to create bodies.
Therefore let us put the case thus: Supposing that God in the beginning had created but one perfectly solid sphere, in a certain place; and it should be inquired, Why God created that individual sphere, in that place, at that time? And why he did not create another sphere perfectly like it, but numerically different, in the same place, at the same time? Or why he chose to bring into being there that very body rather than any of the infinite number of other bodies perfectly like it; either of which he could have made there as well, and would have answered his end as well? Why he caused to exist, at that place and time, that individual roundness, rather than any other of the infinite number of individual rotundities just like it?
Why that individual resistance, rather than any other of the infinite number of possible resistances just like it? And it might as reasonably be asked, Why, when God first caused it to thunder, he caused that individual sound then to be made, and not another just like it? Why did he make choice of this very sound, and reject all the infinite number of other possible sounds just like it, but numerically differings, from it, and all differing one front another? I think every body must be sensible of the absurdity and nonsense of what is supposed in such inquiries. And if we calmly attend to the matter, we shall be convinced, that all such kinds of objections as I am answering, are founded on nothing but the imperfection of our manner of conceiving things, and the obscureness of language, and great want of clearness and precision in the signification of terns.
If any shall find fault with this reasoning, that it is going a great length into metaphysical niceties and subtilties, I answer, The objection which they are in reply to is a metaphysical subtilty, and must be treated according to the nature of it.
II. Another thing alleged is, that innumerable things which are determined by the Divine will, and chosen and done by God, rather than others, differ from those that are not chosen, in so inconsiderable a manner, that it would be unreasonable to suppose the difference to be of any consequence, or that there is any superior fitness or goodness that God can have respect to in the determination.
To which I answer: it is impossible for us to determine, with any certainty or evidence, that because the difference is very small, and appears to us of no consideration, therefore there is absolutely no superior goodness, and no valuable end, which can be proposed by the Creator and Governor of the world, in orderings such a difference. The fore-mentioned author mentions many instances. One is, there being one atom in the whole universe more or less. But I think it would be unreasonable to suppose, that God made one atom in vain, or without any end or motive. He made not one atom but what was a work of his almighty power, as much as the whole globe of the earth, and requires as much of a constant exertion of almighty power to uphold it; and was made and is upheld understandingly, and on design, as much as if no other had been made but that. And it would be as unreasonable to suppose that he made it without any thing really aimed at in so doing, as much as to suppose, that he made the planet Jupiter without aim or design.
It is possible that the most minute effects of the Creator's power, the smallest assignable difference between the things which God has made, may be attended, in the whole serials of events, and the whole compass and extent of their influence, with very great and important consequences If the laws of motion, and gravitation laid down by Sir Isaac Newton hold universally, there is not one atom, nor the least assignable part of an atom, complain, that they should be taken off by minutely examining these subtleties, is a strange kind of procedure." But what has influence, every moment, throughout the whole material universe, to cause every part to be otherwise than it would be, if it were not for that particular corporeal existence. And however the effect is insensible for the present, yet it may, in length of time, become great and important.
To illustrate this, let us suppose two bodies moving the same way, in straight lines, perfectly parallel one to another; but to be diverted from this parallel course, and drawn one from another, as much as might be by the attraction of an atom, at the distance of one of the furthest of the fixed stars from in the earth; these bodies being turned out of the lines of their parallel motion, will, by degrees, get further and further distant one from the other; and though the distance may be imperceptible for a long time, yet at length it may become very great. So, the revolution of a planet round the sun being retarded or accelerated, and the orbit of its revolution made greater or less, and more or less elliptical, and so its periodical time longer or shorter, no more than may be by the influence of the least atom, might, in length of time, perform a whole revolution sooner or later than otherwise it would have done; which might make a vast alteration with regard to millions of important events. So, the influence of the least particle may, for aught we know, have such effect on something in the constitution of some human body, as to cause another thought to arise in the mind at a certain time, than otherwise would have been; which, in length of time, (yea, and that not very great), might occasion a vast alteration through the whole world of mankind. And so innumerable other ways might be mentioned, wherein the least assignable alteration may possibly be attended with great consequences.
Another argument, which the fore-mentioned author brings against a necessary determination of the Divine will, by a superior fitness, is, that such doctrine derogates from the freeness of God's grace and goodness, in choosing the objects of his favor and bounty, and from the obligation upon men to thankfulness for special benefits. Page 89, etc.
In answer to this objection, I would observe: 1. That it derogates no more from the goodness of God, to suppose the exercise of the benevolence of his nature to be determined by wisdom, than to suppose it determined by chance, and that his favors are bestowed altogether at random, his will being determined by nothing but perfect accident, without any end or design whatsoever; which must be the case, as has been demonstrated, if volition be not determined by a prevailing motive. That which is owing, to perfect contingence, wherein neither previous inducement nor antecedent choice has any hand, is not owing, more to goodness or benevolence, than that which is owing to the influence of a wise end. 2. It is acknowledged, that if the motive that determines the will of God in the choice of the objects of his favors, be any moral quality in the object, recommending that object to his benevolence above others, his choosing that object is not so great a manifestation of the freeness and sovereignty of his grace, as if it were otherwise. But there is no necessity of supposing this, in order to our supposing that he has some wise end in view, in determining to bestow his favors on one person rather than another. We are to distinguish between the merit of the object of God's favor, or a moral qualification of the object attracting that favor and recommending to it, and the natural fitness of such a determination of the act of God's goodness, to answerer come wise design of his own, some end in the view of God's omniscience. It is God's own act that is the proper and immediate object of his volition. 3. I suppose that none will deny, but that, in some instances, God acts from wise design in determining the particular subjects of his favors: none will say, I presume, that when God distinguishes, by his bounty, particular societies or persons, he never, in any instance, exercises any wisdom in so doing, aiming at some happy consequence. And, if it be not denied to be so in some instances, then I would inquire, whether, in these instances, God's goodness is less manifested than in those wherein God has no aim or end at all? and whether the subjects have less cause of thankfulness? And if so, who shall be thankful for the bestowment of distinguishing mercy with that enhancing circumstance of the distinctions being made without an end?
How shall it be known when God is influenced by some wise aim, and when not? It is very manifest, with respect to the apostle Paul, that God had wise ends in choosing him to be a Christian and an apostle, who had been a persecutor, etc. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit, for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first, Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them who should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." ( 1 Timothy 1:15,16) But yet the apostle never looked on it as a diminution of the freedom and riches of Divine grace in his election, which he so often and so greatly magnifies. This brings me to observe: 4. Our supposing such a moral necessity in the acts of God's will as has been spoken of; is so far from necessarily derogating from the riches of God's grace to such as are the chosen objects of his favor, that in many instances this moral necessity may arise from goodness, and front the great degree of it. God may choose this object rather than another, as having, a superior fitness to answer the ends, designs, and inclinations of his goodness; being, more sinful, and so more miserable and necessitous than others, the inclinations of Infinite Mercy and Benevolence may be more gratified, and the gracious design of God's sending his Son into the world, may be more abundantly answered, in the exercises of mercy towards such an object, rather than another.
One thing more I would observe, before I finish what I have to say on the head of the necessity of the acts of God's will; and that is, that something much more like a servile subjection of the Divine Being to fatal necessity, will follow from Arminian principles, than from the doctrines which they oppose. For they (at least most of them) suppose, with respect to all events that happen in the moral world, depending on the volitions of moral agents, which are the most important events of the universe, to which all others are subordinate; I say, they suppose, with respect to these, that God has a certain foreknowledge of them, antecedent to any purposes or decrees of his about them. And if so, they have a fixed certain futurity, prior to any designs or volitions of his, and independent on them, and to which his volitions must be subject, as he would wisely accommodate his affairs to this fixed futurity of the state of things in the moral world. So that here, instead of a moral necessity of God's will, arising from, or consisting in, the infinite perfection and blessedness of the Divine Being, we have a fixed, unalterable state of things, properly distinct from the perfect nature of the Divine Mind, and the state of the Divine will and design, and entirely independent on these things, and which they have no hand in, because they are prior to them; and which God's will is truly subject to, being, obliged to conform or accommodate himself to it, in all his purposes and decrees, and in every thing he does in his disposals and government of the world; the moral world being the end of the natural; so that all is in vain, that is not accommodated to that state of the moral world, which consists in, or depends upon, the acts and state of the wills of moral agents, which had a fixed futurition from eternity. Such a subjection to necessity as this, would truly argue an inferiority and servitude, that would be unworthy of the Supreme Being; and is much more agreeable to the notion which many of the heathen had of fate, as above the gods, than that moral necessity of fitness and wisdom which has been spoken of; and is truly repugnant to the absolute sovereignty of God, and inconsistent with the supremacy of his will; and really subjects the will of the Most High to the will of his creatures, and brings him into dependence upon them.
SECTION CONCERNING THAT OBJECTION AGAINST THE DOCTRINE WHICH HAS BEEN MAINTAINED, THAT IT MAKES GOD THE AUTHOR OF SIN.
IT is urged by Arminians, that the doctrine of the necessity of menís volitions, or their necessary connection with antecedent events and circumstances, makes the First Cause, and Supreme Ordainer of all things, the author of sin; in that he has so constituted the state and course of things, that sinful volitions become necessary, in consequence of his disposal. Dr Whitby, in his ďDiscourse on the Freedom of the Will,Ē cites one of the ancients as on his side, declaring that this opinion of the necessity of the will ďabsolves sinners, as doing nothing of their own accord which was evil, and would cast all the blame of all the wickedness committed in the world upon God, and upon his providence, if that were admitted by the assertors of this fate; whether he himself did necessitate them to do these things, or ordered matters so that they should be constrained to do them by some other cause.Ē And the Doctor says, in another place,) ďIn the nature of the thing, and in the opinion of the philosophers, causa deficiens, in rebus necessariis, ad causam per se efficientem reducenda est ó in things necessary, the deficient cause must be reduced to the efficient. And in this case the reason is evident; because the not doing what is required, or not avoiding what is forbidden, being a defect, must follow from the position of the necessary cause of that deficiency.Ē
Concerning this, I would observe the following things:
I. If there be any difficulty in this matter, it is nothing peculiar to this scheme; it is no difficulty or disadvantage, wherein it is distinguished from the scheme of Arminians, and, therefore, not reasonably objected to by them.
Dr Whitby supposes, that if sin necessarily follows from Godís withholding or if that assistance be not given, which is absolutely necessary to the avoiding of evil; then, in the nature of the thing, God must be as properly the author of that evil, as if he were the efficient cause of it. From whence, according to what he himself says of the devils and damned spirits, God must be the proper author of their perfect unrestrained wickedness: he must be the efficient cause of the great pride of the devils, and of their perfect malignity against God, Christ, his saints, and all that is good, and of the insatiable cruelty of their disposition. For he allows, that God has so forsaken them, and does so withhold his assistance from them, that they are incapacitated from doing good, and determined only to evil. Our doctrine, in its consequence, makes God the author of menís sin in this world, no more, and in no other sense, than his doctrine, in its consequence, makes God the author of the hellish pride and malice of the devils. And, doubtless, the latter is as odious an effect as the former.
Again, if it will follow at all, that God is the author of sin, from what has been supposed of a sure and infallible connection between antecedents and consequents, it will follow because of this, viz., that for God to be the author or orderer of those things which he knows beforehand, will infallibly be attended with such a consequence, is the same thing, in effect, as for him to be the author of that consequence. But if this be so, this is a difficulty which equally attends the doctrine of Arminians themselves; at least, of those of them who allow Godís certain foreknowledge of all events. For, on the supposition of such a foreknowledge, this is the case with respect to every sin that is committed: God knew, that if he ordered and brought to pass such and such events, such sins would infallibly follower. As, for instance, God certainly foreknew, long before Judas was born, that if he ordered things so, that there should be such a man born, at such a time and at such a place, and that his life should be preserved, and that he should, in Divine providence, be led into acquaintance with Jesus, and that his heart should he so influenced by Godís Spirit or providence, as to be inclined to be a follower of Christ, and that he should be one of those twelve, which should be chosen constantly to attend him as his family; and that his health should be preserved, so that he should go up to Jerusalem, at the last passover in Christís life; and it should be so ordered, that Judas should see Christís kind treatment of the woman who anointed him at Bethany, and have that reproof from Christ which he had at that time, and see and hear other things which excited his enmity against his Master, and other circumstances should be ordered as they were ordered; it would be what would most certainly and infallibly followí that Judas would betray his Lord, and would soon after hang himself, and die impenitent, and be sent to hell for his horrid wickedness.
Therefore, this supposed difficulty ought not to be brought as an objection against the scheme which has been maintained, as disagreeing with the Arminian in scheme, seeing it is no difficulty owing to such a disagreement, but a difficulty wherein the Arminians share with us. That must be unreasonably made an objection against our differing front them, which we should not escape or avoid at all by agreeing with them.
And therefore I would observe: ó II. They who object, that this doctrine makes God the author of sin, ought distinctly to explain what they mean by that phrase, the author of sin. I know the phrase, as it is commonly used, signifies something very ill. If, by the author of sin, be meant the sinner, the agent, or actor of sin, or the doer of a wicked thing; so it would be a reproach and blasphemy to suppose God to he the author of sin. In this sense, I utterly deny God to be the author of sin; rejecting such an imputation on the Most High, as what is infinitely to be abhorred; and deny any such thing, to be the consequence of what I have laid down. But if, by the author of sin, is meant the permitter, or not a hinderer of sin, and, at the same time, a disposer of the state of events, in such a manner, for wise, holy, and most excellent ends and purposes, that sin, if it be permitted, or not hindered, will most certainly and infallibly follow; ó I say, if this be all that is meant by being the author of sin, I do not deny that God is the author of sin, (though I dislike and reject the phrase, as that which by use and custom is apt to carry another sense), it is no reproach for the Most High to be thus the author of sin.
This is not to be the actor of sin, but on the contrary, of holiness. What God doth herein is holy, and a glorious exercise of the infinite excellency of his nature. And I do not deny, that Godís being thus the author of sin follows from what I have laid down; and I assert, that it equally follows from the doctrine which is maintained by most of the Arminian divines.
That it is most certainly so, that God is in such a manner the disposer and orderer of sin, is evident, if any credit is to be given to the Scripture; as cell as because it is impossible, in the nature of things, to be otherswise. In such a manner God ordered the obstinacy of Pharaoh, in his refusing to obey Godís commands, to let the people go. ďI will harden his heart, and he shall not let the people go.Ē ( Exodus 4:21) Chapter 7:2-5: ď Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land. And I will harden Pharaohís heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that I may lay mine hand upon Egvpt, by great judgments,Ē etc. Chapter 9:12: ďAnd the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them, as the Lord had spoken unto Moses.Ē Chapter <021001> 10:1, 2: ďAnd the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might show these my signs before him; and that thou mayest tell it in the ears of thy son, and thy sonís son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done amongst them; that ye may know that I am the Lord.Ē Chapter 14:4: ďAnd I will harden Pharaohís heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honored upon Pharaoh and upon all his host.Ē Verse 8: ďAnd the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel.Ē And it is certain that, in such a manner, God, for wise and good ends, ordered that event, Josephís being sold into Egypt by his brethren. ďNow, therefore, be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves; that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life.Ē ( Genesis 14:5) Verse 7, 8: ďGod did send me before you to preserve posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance: so that now it was not you that sent me hither, but God.Ē ďHe sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant.Ē ( <19A717> Psalm 107:17) It is certain, that thus God ordered the sin and folly of Sihon king of the Amorites, in refusing, to let the people of Israel pass by him peaceably. ďBut Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him; for the Lord thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thine land.Ē ( Deuteronomy 2:30) It is certain, that God thus ordered the sin and foil, of the kings of Canaan, that they attempted not to make peace with Israel, but, with a stupid boldness and obstinacy, set themselves violently to oppose them and their God. ďFor it was of the Lord, to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favor; but that he might destroy them, as the Lord commanded Moses.Ē ( Joshua 11:20) It is evident, that thus God ordered the treacherous rebellion of Zedekiah against the king of Babylon. Jeremiah 52:3: ďFor through the anger of the Lord it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.Ē So, 2 Kings 24:20. And it is exceeding manifest, that God thus ordered the rapine and unrighteous ravages of Nebuclladllezzar, in spoiling and ruining the nations round about. Jeremiah 25:9: ďBehold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar my servant, and will bring, them against this land, and against all the nations round about; and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and a hissing, and perpetual desolations.Ē Chapter 43:10, 11: ďI will send and take Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and I will set his throne upon these stones that I have hid, and he shall spread his royal pavilion over them. And when he cometh, he shall smite the land of Egypt, and deliver such as are for death to death, and such as are for captivity to captivity, and such as are for the sword to the sword.Ē
Thus God represents himself as sending for Nebuchadnezzar, and talking of him and his armies, and bringing, hint against the nations which there to be destroyed by him, to that very end, that lie might utterly destroy them, and make them desolate; and as appointing the ivory that he should do, so particularly, that the very persons were designed that he should kill with the sword, and those that should be killed with famine and pestilence, and those that should be carried into captivity; and that in doing, all these things he should act as his servant; by which, less cannot be intended, than that he should serve his purposes and designs. And in Jeremiah 22:4-6, God declares how he would cause him thus to serve his designs, viz, by bringing, this to pass in his sovereign disposals, as the great Possessor and Governor of the universe, that disposes all things just as pleases him. ďThus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel: I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power, and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me. And now I have given all these lands into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar,MY SERVANT; and the beasts of the field have I given also to serve him.Ē And Nebuchadnezzar is spoken of as doing these these things, by leaving his ďarms strengthenedĒ by God, and having ďGodís sword put into his hands, for this end.Ē Ezekiel 30:24-26. Yea, God speaks of his terribly ravaging and wasting the nations, and cruelly destroying all sorts, without distinction of sex or age, as the weapon in Godís land, and the instrument of his indignation, which God makes use of to fulfill his own purposes, and execute his own vengeance. Jeremiah 51:20, etc. ďThou art my battleaxe and weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations; and with thee I will destroy kingdoms; and with thee I will break in pieces the horse and his rider, and with thee I will break in pieces the chariot and his rider; with thee also will I break in pieces man and woman; and with thee will I break in pieces old and young; and with thee will I break in pieces the young, man and the maid,Ē etc. It is represented, that the designs of Nebuchadnezzar, and those that destroyed Jerusalem, never could have been accomplished, had not God determined them as well as they. ďWho is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, and the Lord commandeth it not ?Ē ( Lamentations 3:37) And yet the king of Babylonís thus destroying the nations, and especially the Jews, is spoken of as his great wickedness, for which God finally destroyed him. Isaiah 14:4,5,6,19. Habakkuk 2:5-12, and Jeremiah 1. and 51:It is most manifest, that God, to serve his own designs, providentially ordered Shimeiís cursing, David. 2 Samuel 16:10, ďThe Lord hath said unto him, Curse David. ó Let him curse: for the Lord hath bidden him.Ē
It is certain, that God thus, for excellent, holy, gracious, and glorious ends, ordered the fact which they committed who were concerned in Christís death, and that therein they did but fulfill Godís designs: as, I trust, no Christian will deny it was the design of God, that Christ should be crucified, and that for this end he came into the world. It is very manifest, by many Scriptures, that the whole affair of Christís crucifixion, with its cirumstances, and the treachery of Judas, that made van for it, was ordered in Godís providence, in pursuance of his purpose; notwithstanding the violence that is used with those plain Scriptures, to obscure and pervert the sense of them. ďHim, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.Ē ( Acts 2:23) Luke 22:21,22: ďBut, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table. And truly the Son of Man goeth, as it was determined.Ē Acts 4:27,28: ďFor of a truth, against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.Ē Acts 3:17,18: ďAnd now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.Ē So that what these murderers of Christ did, is spoken of as what God brought to pass, or ordered, and that by which be fulfilled his own word in ďthe agreeing of the kings of the earth to give their kingdom to the beast,Ē ( Revelation 17:17) though it was a very wicked thing in them, is spoken of as ďa fulfilling Godís will,Ē and what ďGod had put into their hearts to do.Ē It is manifest, that God sometimes permits sin to be committed, and at the same time orders things so, that if he permits the fact, it will come to pass, because, on some accounts, he sees it needful and of importance that it should come to pass. Matthew 18:7: ďIt must needs be that of offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.Ē With 1 Corinthians 11:19: ďFor there must also be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.Ē
Thus it is certain and demonstrable, from the holy Scriptures, as well as the nature of things, and the principles of Arminians, that God permits sin; and at the same time, so orders things in his providence, that it certainly and infallibly will come to pass, in consequence of his permission.
I proceed to observe in the next place:
III. That there is a great difference between Godís being concerned thus, by his permission, in an event and act, which, in the inherent subject and agent of it, is sin, (though the event will certainly follow on his permission,) and his being concerned in it by producing it and exerting the act of sin; or between his being the orderer of its certain existence, by not hindering it, under certain circumstances, and his being the proper actor or author of it, by a positive agency or efficiency. And this, notwithstanding what Dr Whitby offers about a saying of philosophers, that causa deficiens, in rebus necessariis, ad causam per se efficientem reducenda est. As there is a vast difference between the sunís being the cause of the lightsomeness and warmth of the atmosphere, and brightness of gold and diamonds, by its presence and positive influence; and its being the occasion of darkness and frost in the night, by its motion, whereby it descends below the horizon.
The motion of the sun is the occasion of the latter kind of events; but it is not the proper cause efficient, or producer of them; though they are necessarily consequent on that motion, under such circumstances: no more is any action of the Divine Being the cause of the evil of menís wills. If the sun were the proper cause of cold and darkness, it would be the fountain of these things, as it is the fountain of light and heat; and then something might be argued from the nature of cold and darkness, to a likeness of nature in the sun; and it might be justly inferred, that the sun itself is dark and cold, and that his beams are black and frosty. But from its being the cause no otherwise than by its departure, no such thing can be inferred, but the contrary: it may justly be argued, that the sun is a bright and hot body, if cold and darkness are found to be the consequence of its withdrawment; and the more constantly and necessarily these effects are connected with and confined to its absence, the more strongly does it argue the sun to be the fountain of light and heat. So, inasmuch as sin is not the fruit of any positive agency or influence of the Most High, but, on the contrary, arises from the withholding of his action and energy, and, under certain circumstances, necessarily follows on the want of his influence; this is no argument that he is sinful, or his operation evil, or has anything of the nature of evil; but, on the contrary, that he, and his agency, are altogether good and holy, and that he is the fountain of all holiness. It would be strange arguing, indeed, because men never commit sin, but only when God leaves them to themselves, and necessarily sin when he does so, that therefore their sin is not from themselves, but from God; and so, that God must be a sinful being: as strange as it would be to argue, because it is always dark when the sun is gone, and never dark when the sun is present, that therefore all darkness is from the sun, and that his disc and beams must needs be black.
IV. It properly belongs to the supreme and absolute Governor of the universe, to order all important events within his dominion by his wisdom; but the events in the moral world are of the most important kind; such as the moral actions of intelligent creatures, and their consequences.
These events will be ordered by something. They will either be disposed by wisdom, or they will be disposed by chance; that is, they will he disposed by blind and undesigning causes, if that were possible, and could be called a disposal. Is it not better that the good and evil which happen in Godís world, should be ordered, regulated, bounded, and determined, by the good pleasure of an infinitely wise Being, who perfectly comprehends within his understanding and constant view the universality of things, in all their extent and duration, and sees all the influence of every event, with respect to every individual thing and circumstance throughout the grand system, and the whole of the eternal series of consequences, ó than to leave these things to fall out by chance, and to be determined by those causes which have no understanding or aim? Doubtless, in these important events, there is a better and a worse, as to the time, subject, place, manner, and circumstances of their coming to pass, with regard to their influence on the state and course of things. And if there be, it is certainly best that they should be determined to that time, place, etc. which is best. And therefore it is in its own nature fit, that wisdom and not chance, should order these things. So that it belongs to the Being who is the Possessor of infinite wisdom, and is the Creator and Owner of the whole system of created existences, and has the care of all; I say it belongs to him to take care of this matter; and he would not do what is proper for him if he should neglect it. And it is so far from being unholy in him to undertake this affair, that it would rather have been unholy to neglect it; as it would have been a neglecting what fitly appertains to him; and so it would have been a very unfit and unsuitable neglect.
Therefore the sovereignty of God doubtless extends to this matter; especially considering, that if it should be supposed to be otherwise, and God should leave menís volitions, and all moral events, to the determination and disposition of blind unmeaning causes, or they should be left to happen perfectly without a cause; this would be no more consistent with liberty, in any notion of it, and particularly not in the Arminian notion of it, than if these events were subject to the disposal of Divine Providence, and the will of man were determined by circumstances which are ordered and disposed by Divine wisdom, as appears by what has been already observed. But it is evident, that such a providential disposing and determining menís moral actions, though it infers a moral necessity of those actions, yet it does not in the least infringe the real liberty of mankind; the only liberty that common sense teaches to be necessary to moral agency, which, as has been demonstrated, is not inconsistent with such necessity.
On the whole it is manifest, that God may be, in the manner which has been described, the orderer and disposer of that event, which, in the inherent subject and agent, is moral evil; and yet his so doing may be no moral evil.
He may will the disposal of such an event, and its coming to pass, for good ends, and his will not be an immoral or sinful will, but a perfectly holy will.
And he may actually, in his providence, so dispose and permit things, that the event may be certainly and infallibly connected with such disposal and permission, and his act therein not be an immoral or unholy, but a perfectly holy act. Sin may be an evil thing: and yet that there should be such a disposal and permission as that it should come to pass, may be a good thing. This is no contradiction or inconsistence. Josephís brethrenís selling him into Egypt, consider it only as it was acted by them, and with respect to their views and aims, which were evil, was a very bad thing; but it was a good thing, as it was an event of Godís ordering, and considered with respect to his views and aims, which were good. ďAs for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good.Ē ( Genesis 1:20) So the crucifixion of Christ, if we consider only those things which belong to the event as it proceeded from his murderers, and are comprehended within the compass of the affair considered as their act, their principles, dispositions, views, and aims; so it was one of the most heinous things that ever was done, in many respects the most horrid of all acts: but consider it as it was willed and ordered of God, in the extent of his designs and views, it was the most admirable and glorious of all events; and Godís willing the event was the most holy volition of God that ever was made known to men; and Godís act in ordering it was a divine act, which, above all others, manifests the moral excellency of the Divine Being.
The consideration of these things may help us to a sufficient answer to the cavils of Arminians, concerning what has been supposed by many Calvinists, of a distinction between a secret and revealed will of God, and their diversity one from the other; supposing that the Calvinists herein ascribe inconsistent wills to the Most High: which is without any foundation. Godís secret and revealed will, or, in other words, his disposing and perceptive will, may be diverse, and exercised in dissimilar acts, the one in disapproving and opposing, the other in willing and determining, without any inconsistence. Because, although these dissimilar exercises of the Divine will may, in some respects, relate to the same things, yet, in strictness, they have different and contrary objects, the one evil, and the other good. Thus, for instance, the crucifixion of Christ was a thing contrary to the revealed or perceptive will of God; because, as it was viewed and done by his malignant murderers, it was a thing infinitely contrary to the holy nature of God, and so necessarily contrary to the holy inclination of his heart, revealed in his law. Yet this does not at all hinder but that the crucifixion of Christ, considered with all those glorious consequences which were within the view of the Divine Omniscience, might be indeed, and therefore might appear to God to be, a glorious event; and consequently be agreeable to his will, though this will may be secret, he not revealed in Godís law. And thus considered, the crucifixion of Christ was not evil, but good. If the secret exercises of Godís will were of a kind that is dissimilar, and contrary to his revealed will respecting the same or like objects; if the objects of both were good, or both evil; then, indeed, to ascribe contrary kinds of volition or inclination to God respecting these objects, would be to ascribe an inconsistent will to God: but to ascribe to him different and opposite exercises of heart respecting different objects, and objects contrary one to another, is so far from supposing, Godís will to be inconsistent with itself, that it cannot be supposed consistent with itself any other way. For any being to have a will of choice respecting, good, and at the same time, a will of rejection and refusal respecting evil, is to be very consistent; but the contrary, viz. to have the same will towards these contrary objects, and to choose and love both good and evil at the same time, is to be very inconsistent.
There is no inconsistence in supposing, that God may hate a thing as it is in itself, and considered simply as evil, and yet that it may be his will it should come to pass, considering all consequences. I believe there is no person of good understanding, who will venture to say, he is certain that it is impossible it should be best, taking in the whole compass and extent of existence, and all consequences in the endless series of events, that there should be such a thing, as moral evil in the world. And if so, it will certainly follow, that an infinitely wise Being, who always chooses what is best, must choose that there should be such a thing. And if so, then such a choice is not an evil, but a wise and holy choice. And if so, then that providence which is agreeable to such a choice, is a wise and holy providence. Men do will sin as sin, and so are the authors and actors of it: they love it as sin, and for evil ends and purposes. God does not will sin as sin, or for the sake of any thing evil; though it be his pleasure so to order things, that, he permitting, sin will come to pass; for the sake of the great good that by his disposal shall be the consequence. His willing to order things so that evil should come to pass, for the sake of the contrary good, is no argument that he does not hate evil as evil: and if so, then it is no reason why he may not reasonably forbid evil as evil, and punish it as such.
The Arminians themselves must be obliged, whether thee will or no, to allow a distinction of Godís wild, amounting to just the same thing that Calvinists intend by their distinction of a secret and revealed will. They must allow a distinction of those things which God thinks best should be, considering all circumstances and consequences, and so are agreeable to his disposing will, and those things which he loves, and are agreeable to his nature, in themselves considered. Who is there that will dare to say, that the hellish pride, malice, and cruelty of devils, are agreeable to God, and what he likes and approves? And yet, I trust, there is no Christian divine but what will allow, that it is agreeable to Godís will so to order and dispose things concerning them, so to leave them to themselves, and give them up to their own wickedness, that this perfect wickedness should be a necessary consequence. Be sure Dr. Whitbyís words do plainly suppose and allow it.
These following things may be laid down as maxims of plain truth, and indisputable evidence. 1. That God is a perfectly happy being in the most absolute and highest sense possible. 2. That it will follow from hence, that God is free from every thing that is contrary to happiness; and so, that in strict propriety of speech, there is no such thing as any pain, grief, or trouble in God. 3. When any intelligent being is really crossed and disappointed, and things are contrary to what he truly desires, he is the less pleased, or has less pleasure, his pleasure and happiness is diminished, and he suffers what is disagreeable to him, or is the subject of something; that is of a nature contrary to joy and happiness, even pain and grief.
From this last axiom it follows, that if no distinction is to be admitted between Godís hatred of sin, and his will with respect to the event and the existence of sin, as the all-wise determiner of all events, under the view of all consequences through the whole compass and series of things; I say, then, it certainly follows, that the coming to pass of every individual act of sin is truly, all things considered, contrary to his will, and that his will really crossed in it; and this in proportion as he hates it. And as Godís hatred of sin is infinite, by reason of the infinite contrariety of his holy nature to sin; so his will is infinitely crossed in every act of sin that happens. Which is as much as to say: He endures that which is infinitely disagreeable to him, by means of every act of sin that he sees committed. And therefore, as appears by the preceding positions, he endures truly and really infinite grief or pain from every sin. And so he must be infinitely crossed, and suffer infinite pain every day, in millions of millions of instances: he must continually be the subject of an immense number of real and truly infinitely great crosses and vexations Which would be to make him infinitely the most miserable of all beings.
If any objector should say: all that these things amount to is, that God may do evil that good may come, which is justly esteemed immoral and sinful in men; and therefore may be justly esteemed inconsistent with the moral perfections of God. I answer: that for God to dispose and permit evil, in the manner that has been spoken of, is not to do evil that good may come; for it is not to do evil at all. In order to a thingís being morally evil, there must be one of these things belonging to it: either it must be a thing unfit and unsuitable in its own nature; or it must have a bad tendency; or it must proceed from an evil disposition, and be done for an evil end. But neither of these things can be attributed to Godís ordering and permitting such events, as the immoral acts of creatures for good ends. 1. It is not unfit in its own nature, that he should do so. For it is in its own nature fit that infinite wisdom, and not blind chance, should dispose moral good and evil in the world. And it is fit that the Being who has infinite wisdom, and is the Maker, Owner, and supreme Governor of the world, should take care of that matter. And therefore there is no unfitness or unsuitableness in his doing it. It may be unfit, and so immoral, for any other beings to go about to order this affair; because they are not possessed of a wisdom, that in any manner fits them for it; and, in other respects, they are not fit to be trusted with this affair; nor does it belong to them, they not being the owners and lords of the universe.
We need not be afraid to affirm, that if a wise and good man knew with absolute certainty, it would be best, all things considered, that there should be such a thing as moral evil in the world, it would not be contrary to his wisdom and goodness, for him to choose that it should be so. It is no evil desire to desire good, and to desire that which, all things considered, is best. And it is no unwise choice to choose that that should be, which it is best should be; and to choose the existence of that thing concerning which this is known, viz. that it is best it should be, and so is known in the whole to be most worthy to be chosen. On the contrary, it would be a plain defect in wisdom and goodness, for him not to choose it. And the reason why he might not order it, if he were able, would not be because he might not desire it, but only the ordering of that matter does not belong to him. But it is no harm for him who is, by right, and in the greatest propriety, the supreme orderer of all things, to order every thing in such a manner, as it would be a point of wisdom in him to choose that they should be ordered.
If it would be a plain defect of wisdom and goodness in a being, not to choose that that should be, which he certainly knows it would, all things considered, be best should be, (as was but now observed), then it must be impossible for a being who has no defect of wisdom and goodness, to do otherwise than choose it should be; and that for this very reason, because he is perfectly wise and good. And if it be agreeable to perfect Wisdom and Goodness for him to choose that it should be, and the ordering of all things supremely and perfectly belongs to him, it must be agreeable to infinite Wisdom and Goodness to order that it should be. If the choice is good, the ordering and disposing things according to that choice must also be good.
It can be no harm in one to whom it belongs, ďto do his will in the armies of heaven, and amongst the inhabitants of the earth,Ē to execute a good volition. If this will be good, and the object of his will be, all things considered, good and best, then the choosing or willing it, is not willing evil that good may come. And if so, then his ordering according to that will, is not doing evil that good may come. 2. It is not of a bad tendency, for the Supreme Being thus to order and permit that moral evil to be, which it is best should come to pass. For that it is of good tendency, is the very thing supposed in the point now in question. Christís crucifixion, though a most horrid fact in then that perpetrated it, was of most glorious tendency, as permitted and ordered of God. 3. Nor is there any need of supposing it proceeds from any evil disposition or aim; for by the supposition, what is aimed at is good, and good is the actual issue, in the final result of things.
SECTION CONCERNING SINíS FIRST ENTRANCE INTO THE WORLD.
THE things which have already been offered may serve to obviate or clear many of the objections which might be raised concerning sinís first coming into the world; as though it would follow from the doctrine maintained, that God must be the author of the first sin, through his so disposing things, that it should necessarily follow from his permission, that the sinful act should be committed, etc. I need not, therefore, stand to repeat what has been said already about such a necessityís not proving God to be the author of sin, in any ill sense, or in any such sense as to infringe any liberty of man, concerned in his morel agency, or capacity of blame, guilt, and punishment.
But, if it should nevertheless be said, supposing the case so, that God, when he had made man, might so order his circumstances, that, from these circumstances, together with his withholding further assistance and Divine influence, his sin would infallibly follow, why might not God as well have first made man with a fixed prevailing principle of sin in his heart?
I answer, 1. It was meet, if sin did come into existence, and appear in the world, it should arise from the imperfection which properly belongs to a creature, as such, and should appear so to do, that it might appear not to be from God, as the efficient or fountain. But this could not have been, if man had been made at first with sin in his heart; nor unless the abiding principle and habit of sin were first introduced by an evil act of the creature. If sin had not arisen from the imperfection of the creature, it would not have been so visible, that it did not arise from God, as the positive cause, and real source of it. ó But it would require room that cannot be here allowed, fully to consider all the difficulties which have been started concerning the first entrance of sin into the world.
And therefore, 2. I would observe, that objections against the doctrine that has been laid down, in opposition to the Arminian notion of liberty, from these difficulties, are altogether impertinent; because no additional difficulty is incurred by adhering to a scheme in this manner differing from theirs, and none would be removed or avoided, by agreeing with, and maintaining theirs. Nothing that the Arminians say about the contingence, or self-determining power of manís will, can serve to explain, with less difficulty, how the first sinful volition of mankind could take place, and man be justly charged with the blame of it. To say, the will was self-determined, or determined by free choice, in that sinful volition, ó which is to say, that the first sinful volition was determined by a foregoing sinful volition, ó is no solution of the difficulty. It is an old way of solving difficulties, to advance greater, in order to it. To say two and two make nine, or that a child begat his father, solves no difficulty: no more does it, to say, the first sinful act of choice was before the first sinful act of choice, and chose and determined it, and brought it to pass. Nor is it any better solution to say, the first sinful volition chose, determined, and produced itself; which is to say, it was before it was. Nor will it go any further towards helping us over the difficulty, to say, the first sinful volition arose accidentally, without any cause at all, any more than it will solve that difficult question, How the world could be made out of nothing? to say, it came into being out of nothing, without any cause, as has been already observed. And if we should allow that that could he, that the first evil volition should arise by perfect accident, without any cause, it would relieve no difficulty, about Godís laying the blame of it to man.
For how was man to blame for perfect accident, which had no cause, and which, therefore, he (to be sure) was not the cause of, any more than if it came by some external causes? ó Such kind of solutions are no better, than if some person, going about to solve some of the strange mathematical paradoxes about infinitely great and small quantities, as, that some infinitely great quantities are infinitely greater than some other infinitely great quantities; and also that some infinitely small quantities are infinitely less than others, which yet are infinitely little, in order to a solution, should say, that mankind have been under a mistake, in supposing a greater quantity to exceed a smaller; and that a hundred multiplied by ten makes but a single unit.
SECTION OF A SUPPOSED INCONSISTENCE OF THESE PRINCIPLES WITH GODíS MORAL CHARACTER.
THE things which have been already observed may he sufficient to answer most of the objections, and silence the great exclamations of Arminians against the Calvinists, from the supposed inconsistence of Calvinistic principles with the moral perfections of God, as exercised in his government of mankind. The consistence of such a doctrine of necessity as has been maintained, with the fitness and reasonableness of Godís commands, promises and threatenings, rewards and punishments, has been particularly considered: the cavils of our opponents, as though our doctrine of necessity made God the author of sin, have been answered; and also their objection against these principles, as inconsistent with Godís sincerity in his counsels, invitations, and persuasions, has been already obviated, in what has been observed respecting the consistence of what Calvinists suppose concerning the secret and revealed will of God: by that it appears, there is no repugnance in supposing it may be the secret will of God, that his ordination and permission of events should be such, that it shall be a certain consequence, that a thing never will come to pass, which yet it is manís duty to do, and so Godís perceptive will that he should do; and this is the same thing as to say, God may sincerely command and require him to do it. And if he may be sincere in commanding him, he may, for the same reason, be sincere in counselling, inviting, and using persuasions with him to do it. Counsels and invitations are manifestations of Godís perceptive will, or of vhat God loves, and what is in itself, and as manís act, agreeable to his heart; and not of his disposing will, and what he chooses as a part of his own infinite scheme of things. It has been particularly shown, Part III.
Section 4:that such a necessity as has been maintained, is not inconsistent with the propriety and fitness of Divine commands; and for the same reason, not inconsistent with the sincerity of invitations and counsels, in the corollary at the end of that section. Yea, it hath been shown, Part 3 section 7:corol. 1. that this objection of Arminians, concerning, the sincerity and use of Divine exhortations, invitations, and counsels, is demonstrably against themselves.
Notwithstanding, I would further observe, that the difficulty of reconciling the sincerity of counsels, invitations, and persuasions, with such an antecedent known hardness of all events as has been supposed, is not peculiar to this scheme, as distinguished from that of the generality of Arminians, which acknowledge the absolute foreknowledge and therefore it would be unreasonably brought as an objection against my differing, from them. The main seeming difficulty in the case is this: that God, in counselling, inviting, and persuading, makes a show of aiming at, seeking, and using endeavors for the thing exhorted and persuaded to; whereas, it is impossible for any intelligent being truly to seek, of use endenvours for a thing, which he at the same time knows, most perfectly, will not come to pass, and that it is absurd to suppose, he makes the obtaining of a thing his end, in his calls and counsels, which he, at the same time, infallibly knows will not be obtained by these means. Now, if God knows this, in the utmost certainty and perfection, the way by which he comes by this knowledge makes no difference. If he knows it is by the necessity which he sees in things, or by some other means, it alters not the case. But it is in effect allowed by Arminians themselves, that Godís inviting and persuading men to do things, which he, at the same time, certainly knows will not be done, is no evidence of insincerity; because they allow, that God has a certain foreknowled of all menís sinful actions and omissions. And as this is thus implicitly allowed by most Arminians, so all that pretend to own the Scriptures to be the word of God, must be constrained to allow it. ó God commanded and counselled Pharaoh to let his people go, and used arguments and persuasions to induce him to it; he laid before him arguments taken from his infinite greatness and almighty power, ( Exodus 7:16,) and fore warned him of the fatal consequences of his refusal, from time to time; (chapter <020801> 8:1, 2, 20, 21; chapter <020901> 9:1-5, 13- 17; and 10:3, 6.) He commanded Moses, and the elders of Israel, to go and beseech Pharaoh to let the people go; and at the same time told them, he knew surely that he would not comply to it. Exodus 3:18,19: ďAnd thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the lying of Egypt, and you shall say unto him; The Lord God of the Hebrews hath met with us; and now let us go, we beseech thee, three daysí journey into the wilderness, that He may sacrifice unto the Lord our God.Ē And, ďI am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go.Ē So our blessed Savior, the evening wherein he was betrayed, knew that Peter would shamefully deny him before the morning; for he declares it to him with asseverations, to show the certainty of it; and tells the disciples, that all of them should he offended because of him that night; Matthew 26:31-35; John 13:38; Luke 22:31-34; John 16:32. And yet it was their duty to avoid these things; they were very sinful things, which God had forbidden, and which it was their duty to watch and pray against; and they were obliged to do so from the counsels and persuasions Christ used with them, at that very time, so to do; Matthew 26:41 ď Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.Ē So that whatever difficulty there can he in this matter, it can be no objection against any principles which have been maintained in opposition to the principles of Arminians; nor does it any more concern me to remove the difficulty, than it does them, or indeed all that call themselves Christians, and acknowledge the Divine authority of the Scriptures. Nevertheless, this matter may possibly (God allowing) be more particularly and largely considered, in some future discourse on the doctrine of predestination.
But I would here observe, that however the defenders of that notion of liberty of will which I have opposed, exclaim against the doctrine of Calvinists, as tending to bring men into doubts concerning the moral perfections of God; it is their scheme, and not the scheme of Calvinists, that indeed is justly chargeable with this. For it is one of the most fundamental points of their scheme of things, that a freedom of wild, consisting in self-determination, without all necessity, is essential to moral a agency. This is the same thing as to say, that such a determination of the will, without all necessity, must be in all intelligent beings, in those things wherein they are moral agents, or in their moral acts: and from this it will follow, that Godís will is not necessarily determined in any thing he does, as a moral agent, in any of his acts that are of a moral nature: so that in all things. wherein he acts holily, justly, and truly, he does not act necessarily; or his will is not necessarily determined to act holily and justly; because, if it were necessarily determined, he would not he a moral agent in thus acting; is will would be attended with necessity, which, they say, is inconsistent with moral agency: ó ďHe can act no otherwise; he is at no liberty in the affair; he is determined by unavoidable, invincible necessity; therefore such agency is no moral agency, yea, no agency at all, properly speaking: a necessary agent is no agent: he being passive, and subject to necessity, what he does is no act of his, but an effect of a necessity prior to any act of his.Ē This is agreeable to their manner of arguing. Now then, what is become of all our proof of the moral perfections of God? How can we prove that God certainly will, in any one instance, do that which is just and holy, seeing his will is determined in the matter by no necessity? We have no other way of proving that any thing certainly will be, but only by the necessity of the event. Where we can see no necessity, but that the thing may be, or may not be, there we are unavoidably left at a loss. We have no other way properly and truly to demonstrate the moral perfections of God, but the way that Mr. Chubb proves them in pp. 252, 261, 262, 263, of his Tracts, viz. that God must necessarily perfectly know what is most worthy and valuable in itself, which, in the nature of things, is best and fittest to he done. And as this is most eligible in itself, the being omniscient, must see it to be so; and being both omniscient and selfsufficient, cannot have any temptation to reject it; and so must necessarily will that which is best. And thus, by this necessity of the determination of Godís will to what is good and best, we demostrably establish Godís moral character.
Corol. From things which have been observed, it appears, that most of the arguments from Scripture, which Arminians make use of to support their scheme, are no other than begging the question. For in these their arguments, they determine in the first place, that without such a freedom of will as they hold, men cannot be proper moral agents, nor the subjects of command, counsel, persuasion, invitation, promises, threatenings, expostulations, rewards, and punishments; and that without such freedom, it is to no purpose for men to take any care, or use any diligence, endeavors, or means, in order to their avoiding sin, or becoming holy, escaping punishment, or obtaining happiness: and having supposed these things, which are grand things in question in the debate, then they heap up Scriptures, containing commands, counsels, calls, warnings, persuasions, expostulations, promises, and threatenings, (as doubtless, they may find enough such: the Bible is confessedly full of them, from the beginning to the end ;) and then they glory how full the Scripture is on their side, how many more texts there ate that evidently favor their scheme, than such as seem to favor the contrary. But let them first make manifest the things in question, which they suppose and take for granted, and show them to be consistent with themselves, and produce clear evidence of their truth; and they have gained their point, as all will confess, without bringing one Scripture. For none denies, that there are commands, counsels, promises, threatenings, etc. in the Bible. But unless they do these things, their multiplying such texts of Scripture is insignificant and vain.
It may further be observed, that such Scriptures as they bring are really against them, and not for them. As it has been demonstrated, that it is their scheme, and not ours, that is inconsistent with the use of motives and persuasives, or any moral means whatsoever, to induce men to the practice of virtue, or abstaining from wickedness: their principles, and not ours, are repugnant to moral agency, and inconsistent with moral government, with law or precept, with the nature of virtue or vice, reward or punishment, and with every thing whatsoever of a moral nature, either on the part of a moral governor, or in the state, actions, or conduct of the subject.
SECTION OF A SUPPOSED TENDENCY OF THESE PRINCIPLES TO ATHEISM AND LICENTIOUSNESS.
IF any object against what has been maintained, that it tends to atheism, I know not on what grounds such an objection can be raised, unless it be, that some atheists have held a doctrine of necessity, which they suppose to be like this. But if it be so, I am persuaded the Arminians would not look upon it just, that their notion of freedom and contingence should be charged with a tendency to all the errors that ever any embraced who have held such opinions. The Stoic philosophers, whom the Calvinists are charged with agreeing with, were no atheists, but the greatest theists, and nearest akin to Christians in their opinions concerning the unity and the perfections of the Godhead, of all the heathen philosophers. And Epicurus, that chief father of atheism, maintained no such doctrine of necessity, but was the greatest maintainer of contingence.
The doctrine of necessity, which supposes a necessary connection of all events, on some antecedent ground and reason of their existence, is the only medium we have to prove the being of God. And the contrary doctrine of contingence, even as maintained by Arminians (which certainly implies or infers that events may come into existence, or begin to be, without dependence on any thing foregoing, as their cause, ground, or reason,) takes away all proof of the being of God; which proof is summarily expressed by the apostle in Romans 1:20. And this is a tendency to atheism with a witness. So that, indeed, it is the doctrine of Arminians, and not of the Calvinists, that is justly charged with a tendency to atheism; it being built on a foundation that is the utter subversion of every demonstrative argument for the proof of a Deity as has been shown, Part 2 section 3.
And whereas it has often been said, that the Calvinistic doctrine of necessity saps the foundations of all religion and virtue, and tends to the greatest licentiousness of practice; this objection is built on the presence, that our doctrine renders vain all means and endeavors in order to be virtuous and religious. Which presence has been already particularly considered in the fifth section of this Part; where it has been demonstrated, that this doctrine has no such tendency: but that such a tendency is truly to be charged on the contrary doctrine; inasmuch as the notion of contingence, which their doctrine implies, in its certain consequences, overthrows all connection, in every degree, between endeavor and event, means and end.
And besides, if many other things, which have been observed to belong to the Arminian doctrine, or to be plain consequences of it, be considered, there will appear just reason to suppose that it is that which must rather tend to licentiousness. Their doctrine excuses all evil inclinations, which men find to be natural; because in such inclinations they are not selfdetermined, as such inclinations are not owing to any choice or determination of their own wills: ó which leads men wholly to justify themselves in all their wicked actions, so far as natural inclination has had a hand in determining their wills to the commission of them. Yea, these notions, which suppose moral necessity and inability to be inconsistent with blame or moral obligation, will directly lead men to justify the vilest acts and practices, from the strength of their wicked inclinations of all sorts; strong inclinations inducing a moral necessity; yea, to excuse every degree of evil inclination, so far as this has evidently prevailed, and been the thing which has determined their wills: because, so far as antecedent inclination determined the will, so far the will was without liberty of indifference and self-determination. Which, at last, will come to this, that men will justify themselves in all the wickedness they commit. It has been observed already, that this scheme of things does exceedingly diminish the guilt of sin, and the difference between the greatest and smallest offenses; and if it be pursued in its real consequences, it leaves room for no such thing as either virtue or vice, blame or praise, in the world. And then, again, how naturally does this notion of the sovereign self-determining power of the will, in all things, virtuous or vicious, and whatsoever deserves either reward or punishment, tend to encourage men to put off the work of religion and virtue, and turning from sin to God; it being that which they have a sovereign power to determine themselves to, just when they please; or if not, they are wholly excusable in going on in sin because of their inability to do any other.
If it should be said, that the tendency of this doctrine of necessity to licentiousness appears by the improvement many at this day actually make of it, to justify themselves in their dissolute courses; I will not deny that some men do unreasonably abuse this doctrine, as they do many other things which are true and excellent in their own nature: but I deny that this proves the doctrine itself has any tendency to licentiousness. I think, the tendency of doctrines, by what now appears in the world, and in our nation in particular, may much more justly be argued from the general effect which has been seen to attend the prevailing of the principles of Arminians, and the contrary principles; as both have had their turn of general prevalence in our nation. If it be indeed as is pretended, that Calvinistic doctrines undermine the very foundation of all religion and morality, and enervate and disannul all rational motives to holy and virtuous practice; and that the contrary doctrines give the inducements to virtue and goodness their proper force, and exhibit religion in a rational light, tending to recommend it to the reason of mankind, and enforce it in a manner that is agreeable to their natural notions of things: I say, if it be thus, it is remarkable that virtue and religious practice should prevail most, when the former doctrines, so inconsistent with it, prevailed almost universally: and that ever since the latter doctrines, so happily agreeing with it, and of so proper and excellent a tendency to promote it, have been gradually prevailing, vice, profaneness, luxury, and wickedness of all sorts, and contempt of all religion, and of every kind of seriousness and strictness of conversation, should proportionably prevail; and that these things should thus accompany one another, and rise and prevail one with another, now for a whole age together. It is remarkable, that this happly remedy (discovered by the free inquiries, and superior sense and wisdom of this age) against the pernicious effects of Calvinism, so inconsistent with religion, and tending so much to banish all virtue from the earth, should, on so long a trial, be attended with no good effect; but that the consequence should be the rever. of amendment; that in proportion as the remedy takes place, and is thoroughly applied, so the disease should prevail; and the very same dismal effect take place, to the highest degree, which Calvinistic doctrines are supposed to have so great a tendency to; even the banishing of religion and virtue, and the prevailing of unbounded licentiousness of manners. If these things are truly so, they are very remarkable, and matter of very curious speculation.
SECTION CONCERNING THAT OBJECTION AGAINST THE REASONING BY WHICH THE CALVINISTIC DOCTRINE IS SUPPORTED, THAT IT IS METAPHYSICAL AND ABSTRUSE.
IT has often been objected against the defenders of Calvinistic principles, that in their reasonings they run into nice scholastic distinctions, and abstruse metaphysical subtleties, and set these in opposition to common sense. And it is possible, that, after the former manner, it may be alleged against the reasoning by which I have endeavored to confute the Arminian scheme of liberty and moral agency, that it is very abstracted and metaphysical. Concerning this, I would observe the following things.
I. If that be made an objection against the foregoing reasoning, that it is metaphysical, or may properly he reduced to the science of metaphysics, it is a very impertinent objection; whether it be so or no, is not worthy of any dispute or controversy. If the reasoning be good, it is as frivolous to inquire what science it is properly reduced to, as what language it is delivered in: and for a man to go about to confute the arguments of his opponent, lay telling him his arguments are metaphysical, would be as weak as to tell him, his arguments could not be substantial, because they were written in French or Latin. The question is not, whether what is said be metaphysics, physics, logic, or mathematics, Latin, French, English, or Mohawk? But, whether the reasoning be good, and the arguments truly conclusive? The foregoing arguments are no more metaphysical, than those which we use against the Papists, to disprove their doctrine of transubstantiation; alleging, it is inconsistent with the notion of corporeal identity, that it should be in ten thousand places at the same time. It is by metaphysical arguments only we are able to prove, that the rational soul is not corporeal; that lead or sand cannot think; that thoughts are not square or round, or do not weigh a pound. The arguments by which we prove the being of God, if handled closely and distinctly, so as to show their clear and demonstrative evidence, must be metaphysically treated. It is by metaphysics only, that we can demonstrate that God is not limited to a place, or is not mutable; that he is not ignorant or forgetful; that it is impossible for him to lie, or he unjust; and that there is one God only, and not hundreds or thousands. And, indeed, we have no strict demonstration of any thing, excepting mathematical truths, but by metaphysics. We can leave no proof; that is properly demonstrative, of any one proposition, relating to the being and nature of God, his creation of the world, the dependence of all things on him, the nature of bodies or spirits, the nature of our own souls, or any of the great truths of morality and natural religion, but what is metaphysical. I am willing my arguments should be brought to the test of the strictest and justest reason, and that a clear, distinct, and determinate meaning of the terms I use, should be insisted on; but let not the whole be rejected, as if all were confuted, by fixing on it the epithet metaphysical.
II. If the reasoning which has been made use of, be in some sense metaphysical, it will not follow, that therefore it must needs be abstruse, unintelligible, and akin to the jargon of the schools. I humbly conceive the foregoing reasoning, at least as to those things which are most material belonging to it, depends on no abstruse definitions or distinctions, or terms without a meaning, or of very ambiguous and undetermined signification, or any points of such abstraction and subtlety, as tends to involve the attentive understanding, in clouds and darkness. There is no high degree of refinement and abstruse speculation, in determining that a thing, is not before it is, and so cannot be the cause of itself; or that the first act of free choice has not another act of free choice going before that, to excite or direct it; or in determining, that no choice is made, while the mind remains in a state of absolute indifference; that preference and equilibrium never coexist; and that therefore no choice is made in a state of liberty consisting in indifference: and that so far as the will is determined by motives, exhibited and operating previous to the act of the will, so far it is not determined by the act of the will itself; that nothing can begin to be, which before was not, without a cause, or some antecedent ground or reason, why it then begins to be; that effects depend on their causes, and are connected with them; that virtue is not the worse, nor sin the better, for the strength of inclination with which it is practiced, and the difficulty which thence arises of doing otherwise; that when it is already infallibly known that the thing will be, it is not a thing contingent whether it will ever be or no; or that it can be truly said, notwithstanding, that it is not necessary it should be, but it either may be, or may not be. And the like might be observed of many other things which belong to the foregoing, reasoning.
If any shall still stand to it, that the foregoing reasoning is nothing but metaphysical sophistry, and that it must be so, that the seeming force of the arguments all depends on some fallacy and wile that is hid in the obscurity which always attends a great degree of metaphysical abstraction and refinement; and shall be ready to say, ďHere is indeed something that tends to confound the mind, but not to satisfy it: for who can ever he truly satisfied in it, that men are fitly blamed or commended, punished or rewarded, for those volitions which are not from themselves, and of whose existence they are not the causes. Men may refine as much as they please, and advance their abstract notions, and make out a thousand seeming contradictions, to puzzle our understandings; yet there can be no satisfaction in such doctrine as this: the natural sense of the mind of man will always resist it.Ē I humbly conceive that such an objector, if he has capacity, and humility, and calmness of spirit, sufficient impartially and thoroughly to examine himself, will find that he knows not really what he would be at; and, indeed, his difficulty is nothing but a mere prejudice, from an inadvertent customary use of words, in a meaning that is not clearly understood, nor carefully reflected upon. Let the objector reflect again, if he has candour and patience enough, and does not scorn to be at the trouble of close attention in the affair. He would have a manís volition be from himself. Let it be from himself, most primarily and originally of any way conceivable, that is, from his own choice: how will that help the matter, as to his being justly blamed or praised, unless that choice itself be blame or praise-worthy? And how is the choice itself (an ill choice, for instance,) blame-worthy, according to these principles, unless that be from himself too, its the same manner, that is, from his own choice? But the original and first-determining choice is not the affair is not from his choice: his choice is not the cause of it. And if it be from himself some other way, and not from his choice, surely that will not help the matter. If it be not from himself of choice, then it is not from himself voluntarily; and if so, he is surely no more to blame, than if it were not from himself at all. It is a vanity to pretend it is a sufficient answer to this to say, that it is nothing but metaphysical refinement and subtlety, and so attended with obscurity and uncertainty.
If it be the natural sense of our minds, that what is blameworthy in a man must be from himself, then it doubtless is also, that it must be from something bad in himself, a bad choice, or bad disposition. But then our natural sense is, that this bad choice or disposition is evil in itself, and the man blameworthy for it, on its own account, without taking into our notion of its blameworthiness another bad choice, or disposition going before this, from whence this arises: for that is a ridiculous absurdity, running us into an immediate contradiction, which our natural sense of blameworthiness has nothing to do with, and never comes into the mind, nor is supposed in the judgment we naturally make of the affair. As was demonstrated before, natural sense does not place the moral evil of volitions and dispositions in the cause of them, but the nature of them. An evil thingís being from a man, or from something antecedent in him, is not essential to the original notion we have of blame-worthiness: but it is its being the choice of the heart: as appears by this, that if a thing be from us, and not from our choice, it has not the nature of blameworthiness or ill-desert, according to our natural sense. When a thing is from a man, in that sense, that it is from his will or choice, he is to blame for it, because his will is in it: so far as the will is in it, blame is in it, and no further. Neither do we go any further in our notion of blame, to inquire whether the bad will be from a bad will: there is no consideration of the original of that had will: because, according to our natural apprehension, blame originally consists in it. Therefore a thingís being from a man is a secondary consideration in the notion of blame or ill-desert, Because those things, in our external actions, are most properly said to be from us, which are from our choice; and no other external actions, but those that are from us in this sense, have the nature of blame; and they, indeed, not so properly because they are from us, as because we are in them, i.e. our wills are in them; not so much because they are from some property of ours, as because they are our properties.
However, all these external actions being truly from us, as their cause, and we being, so used, in ordinary speech, and in the common affairs of life, to spear; of menís actions and conduct that we see, and that affect human society, as deserving ill or well, as worthy of blame or praise; hence it is come to pass, that philosophers have incautiously taken all their measures of good and evil, praise and blame, from the dictates of common sense, about these overt acts of men; to the running of every thing into the most lamentable and dreadful confusion.
And therefore I observe III. It is so far from being true (whatever may he pretended) that the proof of the doctrine which has been maintained depends on certain abstruse, unintelligible, metaphysical terms and notions, that the Arminian scheme, without needing such clouds and darkness for its defense, is supported by the plain dictates of common sense, that the very rever. is most certainly true? and that to a great degree. It is fact that they, and not we have confounded things with metaphysical, unintelligible notions and phrases, and have drawn them from the light of plain, truth into the gross darkness of abstruse metaphysical propositions, and words without a meaning. Their pretended demonstrations depend very much on such unintelligible metaphysical phrases, as self-determination and sovereignty of the will; and the metaphysical sense they put on such terms as necessity, contingency, action, agency, etc, quite diverse from their meaning as used in common speech; and which as they use them, are without any consistent meaning, or any manner of distinct consistent ideas; as far from it as any of the abstruse terms and perplexed phrases of the peripatetic philosophers, or the most unintelligible jargon of the schools, or the cant of the wildest fanatics. Yea, we may be bold to say, these metaphysical terms, on which they build so much, are what they use without knowing what they mean themselves; they are pure metaphysical sounds, without any ideas whatsoever in their minds to answer them; inasmuch as it has been demonstrated, that there cannot be any notion in the mind consistent with these express as, as they pretend to explain them, because their explanations destroy themselves. No such notions as imply self-contradiction and self-abolition, and this a great many ways, can subsist in the mind; as there can be no idea of a whole which is less than any of its parts, or of solid extension without dimensions, or of an effect which is before its cause. Arminians improve these terms as terms of art, and in their metaphysical meaning, to advance and establish those things which are contrary to common sense, in a high degree. Thus, instead of the plain, vulgar notion of liberty, which all mankind, in every part of the face of the earth, and in all ages, have, consisting in opportunity to do as one pleases, they have introduced a new, strange liberty, consisting in indifference, contingence, and self-determination, by which they involve themselves and others in great obscurity and manifold gross inconsistence.
So, instead of placing virtue and vice, as common sense places them very much, in fixed bias and inclination, and greater virtue and vice in stronger and more established inclination; these, through their refinings and abstruse notions, suppose a liberty consisting in indifference, to be essential to all virtue and vice. So they have reasoned themselves, not by metaphysical distinctions, but metaphysical confusion, into many principles about moral agency, blame, praise, reward and punishment, which are, as has been shown, exceeding contrary to the common sense of mankind, and perhaps to their own sense, which governs them in common life.
WHETHER the things which have been alleged are liable to any tolerable answer, in the ways of calm, intelligible, and strict reasoning, I must leave others to judge; but I am sensible they are liable to one sort of answer. It is not unlikely, that some, who value themselves on the supposed rational and generous principles of the modern fashionable divinity, will have their indignation and disdain raised at the sight of this discourse, and on perceiving what things are pretended to be proved in it. And if they think it worthy of being read, or of so much notice as to say much about it, they may probably renew the usual exclamations, with additional vehemence and contempt, about the fate of the heathen, Hobbesís necessity, and making men mere machines; accumulating the terrible epithets of fatal, unfrustrable, inevitable, irresistible, etc., and it may be, with the addition of horrid and blasphemous; and perhaps much skill may be used to set forth things, which have been said, in colors which shall he shocking to the imaginations, and moving to the passions, of those who have either too little capacity, or too much confidence of the opinions they have imbibed, and contempt of the contrary, to try the matter by any serious and circumspect examination. Or, difficulties may be started and insisted on, which do not belong to the controversy; because let them be more or less real, and hard to be resolved, they are not what are owing to any thing distinguishing of this scheme from that of the Arminians, and would not be removed nor diminished by renouncing the former, and adhering to the latter. Or, some particular things may be picked out, which they may think will sound harshest in the ears of the generality; and these may be glossed and descanted on, with tart and contemptuous words; and from thence, the whole treated with triumph and insult.
It is easy to see how the decision of most of the points in controversy between Calvinists and Arminians depends on the determination of this grand article concerning the freedom of the will requisite to moral agency; and that by clearing and establishing the Calvinistic doctrine in this point, the chief arguments are obviated by which Arminian doctrines in general are supported, and the contrary doctrines demonstratively confirmed.
Hereby it becomes manifest, that Godís moral government over mankind, his treating then as moral agents, making them the objects of his commands, counsels calls, warnings, expostulations, promises, threatenings, rewards, and punishments, is not inconsistent with a determining disposal of all events, of every kind throughout the universe, in his providence, either by positive efficiency or permission. Indeed, such a universal determining providence infers some kind of necessity of all events, such a necessity as implies an infallible previous fixedness of the futurity of the event; but no other necessity of moral events, or volitions of intelligent agents, is needful in order to this, than moral necessity; which does as much ascertain the futurity of the event as any other necessity. But, as has been demonstrated, such a necessity is not at all repugnant to moral agency, and a reasonable use of commands, calls, rewards, punishments, etc. Yea, not only are objections of this kind against the doctrine of a universal determining Providence removed by what has been said, but the truth of such a doctrine is demonstrated. As it has been demonstrated, that the futurity of all future events is established by previous necessity, either natural or moral, so it is manifest, that the sovereign Creator and Disposer of the world has ordered this necessity, by ordering his own conduct, either in designedly acting, or forbearing to act. For, as the being of the world is from God, so the circumstances in which it had its being at first, both negative and positive, must be ordered by him, in one of these ways; and all the necessary consequences of these circumstances must be ordered by him. And Godís active and positive interpositions, after the world was created, and the consequences of these interpositions, also every instance of his forbearing to interpose, and the sure consequences of this forbearance, must all be determined according to his pleasure. And therefore every event, which is the consequence of any thing whatsoever, or that is connected with any foregoing thing, or circumstance, either positive or negative, as the ground or reason of its existence, must be ordered of God, either by a designing efficiency and interposition, or a designed forbearing to operate or interpose. But, as has been proved, an events whatsoever are necessarily connected with something foregoing, either positive or negative, which is the ground of its existence. It follows, therefore, that the whole series of events is thus connected with something in the state of things, either positive or negative, which is original in the series, i.e. something which is connected with nothing preceding that, but Godís own immediate conduct, either his acting or forbearing to act. From whence it follows, that as God designedly orders his own conduct, and its connected consequences, it must necessarily be, that he designedly orders all things.
The things which have been said, obviate some of the chief objections of Arminians against the Calvinistic doctrine of the total depravity and corruption of manís nature, whereby his heart is wholly under the power of sin, and he is utterly unable, without the interposition of sovereign grace, savingly to love God, believe in Christ, or do any thing that is truly good and acceptable in Godís sight. For the main objection against this doctrine is, that it is inconsistent with the freedom of manís will, consisting in indifference and self-determining power; because it supposes man to be under a necessity of sinning, and that God requires things of him, in order to his avoiding eternal damnation, which he is unable to do; and that this doctrine is wholly inconsistent with the sincerity of counsels, invitations, etc. Now, this doctrine supposes no other necessity of sinning, than a moral necessity, which, as has been shown, does not at all excuse sin, and supposes no other inability to obey any command, or perform any duty, even the most spiritual and exalted, but a moral inability, which, as has been proved, does not excuse persons in the nonperformance of any good thing, or make them not to be the proper objects of commands, counsels, and invitations. And, moreover, it has been shown, that there is not, and never can be, either in existence, or so much as in idea, any such freedom of will, consisting in indifference and self-determination, for the sake of which, this doctrine of original sin is cast out; and that no such freedom is necessary, in order to the nature of sin, and a just desert of punishment.
The things which have been observed do also take off the main objections of Arminians against the doctrine of efficacious grace, and, at the same time, prove the grace of God in a sinnerís conversion (if there be any grace or Divine influence in the affair, to be efficacious, yea, and irresistible too; if by irresistible is meant, that which is attended with a moral necessity, which it is impossible should ever be violated by any resistance. The main objection of Arminians against this doctrine is, that it is inconsistent with their self-determining freedom of will, and that it is repugnant to the nature of virtue, that it should be wrought in the heart by the determining efficacy and power of another, instead of its being owing to a self-moving power; that, in that case, the good which is wrought, would not be our virtue, but rather Godís virtue; because it is not the person in whom it is wrought, that is the determining author of it, but God that wrought it in him. But the things which are the foundation of these objections have been considered; and it has been demonstrated, that the liberty of moral agents does not consist in self-determining power, and that there is no need of any such liberty, in order to the nature of virtue; nor does it at all hinder, but that the state or act of the will may be the virtue of the subject, though it be not from self-determination, but the determination of an intrinsic cause, even so as to cause the event to be morally necessary to the subject of it. And as it has been proved, that nothing in the state or acts of the will of man is contingent, but that, on the contrary, every event of this kind is necessary by a moral necessity, and has also been now demonstrated, that the doctrine of a universal determining Providence follows from that doctrine of necessity which was proved before; and so, that God does decisively, in his providence, order all the volitions of moral agents, either by positive influence or permission; and it being, allowed, on all hands, that what God does in the affair of manís virtuous volitions, whether it be more or less, is by some positive influence, and not by mere permission, as in the affair of a sinful volition: if we put these things together, it will follow, that Godís assistance or influence must be determining and decisive, or must be attended with a moral necessity of the event; and so that God gives virtue, holiness, and conversion to sinners, by an influence which determines the effect, in such a manner, that the effect will infallibly follow by a moral necessity, which is what Calvinists mean by efficacious and irresistible grace.
The things which have been said do likewise answer the chief objections against the doctrine of Godís universal and absolute decree, and afford infallible proof of this doctrine, and of the doctrine of absolute, eternal, personal election, in particular. The main objections against these doctrines are, that they infer a necessity of the volitions of moral agents, and of the future moral state and acts of men, and so are not consistent with those eternal rewards and punishments, which are connected with conversion and impenitence, nor can be made to agree with the reasonableness and sincerity of the precepts, calls, counsels, warnings, and expostulations of the word of God, or with the various methods and means of grace which God uses with sinners to bring them to repentance, and the whole of that moral government which God exercises towards mankind: and that they infer an inconsistence between the secret and revealed will of God, and make God the author of sin. But all these things have been obviated in the preceding discourse. And the certain truth of these doctrines concerning Godís eternal purposes, will follow from what was just now observed concerning Godís universal providence; how it infallibly follows from what has been proved, that God orders all events, and the volitions of moral agents amongst others, by such a decisive disposal, that the events are infallibly connected with his disposal. For if God disposes all events, so that the infallible existence of the events is decided by his providence, then he, doubtless, thus orders and decides things knowingly, and on design.
God does not do what he does, nor order what he orders, accidentally and unawares, either without or beside his intention. And if there be a foregoing design of doing and ordering as he does, this is the same with a purpose or decree. And as it has been shown that nothing is new to God, in any respect, but an things are perfectly and equally in his view from eternity, hence it will follow, that his designs or purposes ate not things formed anew, founded on any new views or appearances, but are all eternal purposes. And as it has been now shown how the doctrine of determining efficacious grace certainly follows from things proved in the foregoing discourse, hence will necessarily follow the doctrine of particular, eternal, absolute election. For if men are made true saints no otherwise than as God makes them so, and distinguishes them from others, by an efficacious power and influence of his, that decides and fixes the event; and God thus makes some saints, and not others, on design and purpose, and (as has been now observed) no designs of God are new; it follows, that God thus distinguished from others, all that ever become true saints, by his eternal design or decree. I might also show how Godís certain foreknowledge must suppose an absolute decree, and how such a decree can be proved to be a demonstration from it; but that this discourse may not be lengthened out too much, that must be omitted for the present.
From these things it will inevitably follow, that however Christ in some sense may be said to die for all, and to redeem all visible Christians, yea, the whole world, by his death; yet there must be something particular in the design of his death, with respect to such as he intended should actually be saved thereby. As appears by what has been now shown, God has the actual salvation or redemption of a certain number in his proper absolute design, and of a certain number only, and therefore such a design only can be prosecuted in anything God does, in order to the salvation of men. God pursues a proper design of the salvation of the elect in giving Christ to die, and prosecutes such a design with respect to no other, most strictly speaking; for it is impossible that God should prosecute any other design than only such as he has; he certainly does not, in the highest propriety and strictness of speech, pursue a design that he has not. And, indeed, such a particularity and limitation of redemption will as infallibly follow, from the doctrine of Godís foreknowledge, as from that of the decree. For it is as impossible, in strictness of speech, that God should prosecute a design, or aim at a thing, which he at the same time most perfectly knows will not be accomplished, as that he should use endeavors for that which is beside his decree.
By the things which have been proved, are obviated some of the main objections against the doctrine of the infallible and necessary perseverance of saints, and some of the main foundations of this doctrine are established.
The main prejudices of Arminians against this doctrine seem to be these: they suppose such a necessary, infallible perseverance, to he repugnant to the freedom of the will; that it must be owing, to manís own selfdetermining power, that he first becomes virtuous and holy; and so in like manner, it must be left a thing contingent, to be determined by the same freedom of will, whether he will persevere in virtue and holiness; and that otherwise his continuing steadfast in faith and obedience would not be his virtue, or at all praiseworthy and rewardable; nor could his perseverance be properly the matter of Divine commands, counsels, and promises, nor his apostacy be properly threatened, and men warned against it. Whereas, we find all these things in Scripture: there we kind steadfastness and perseverance in true Christianity represented as the virtue of the saints, spoken of as praiseworthy in them, and glorious rewards promised to it; and also find, that God makes it the subject of his commands, counsels, and promises; and the contrary, of threatenings and warnings. But the foundation of these objections has been removed, in its being shown that moral necessity and infallible certainty of events is not inconsistent with these things; and that as to freedom of will lying in the power of the will to determine itself, there neither is any such thing, nor any need of it, in order to virtue, reward, commands, counsels, etc.
And as the doctrines of efficacious grace and absolute election do certainly follow from things which have been proved in the preceding discourse; so some of the main foundations of the doctrine of perseverance are thereby established. If the beginning of true faith and holiness, and a manís becoming a true saint at first, does not depend on the self-determining power of will, but on the determining efficacious grace of God; it may well be argued, that it is also with respect to menís being continued saints, or persevering in faith and holiness. The conversion of a sinner being not owing to a manís self-determination, but to Godís determination, and eternal election, which is absolute, and depending on the sovereign will of God, and not on the free will of man, as is evident from what has been said, and it being very evident, from the Scriptures, that the eternal election which there is of saints to faith and holiness, is also an election of them to eternal salvation: hence their appointment to salvation must also be absolute, and not depending on their contingent, self-determining will.
From all which it follows, that it is absolutely fixed in Godís decree, that all true saints shall persevere to actual eternal salvation.
But I must leave all these things to the consideration of the fair and impartial reader; and when he has maturely weighed them, I would propose it to his consideration, whether many of the first reformers, and others that succeeded them, whom God in their day made the chief pillars of his church, and greatest instruments of their deliverance from error and darkness, and of the support of the cause of piety among them, have not been injured, in the contempt with which they have been treated by many late writers, for their teaching and maintaining such doctrines as are commonly called Calvinistic. Indeed, some of these new writers, at the same time that they have represented the doctrines of these ancient and eminent divines as in the highest degree ridiculous, and contrary to common sense, in an ostentation of a very generous charity, have allowed that they were honest, well-meaning men: yea, it may be, some of them, as though it were in great condescension and compassion to them, have allowed, that they did well for the day which they lives in, and considering the great disadvantages they labored under: when, at the same time, their manner of speaking has naturally and plainly suggested to the minds of their readers, that they were persons, who through the lowness of their genius, and greatness of the bigotry with which their minds were shackled and thoughts confined, living in the gloomy caves of superstition, fondly embraced, and demurely and zealously taught, the most absurd, silly, and monstrous opinions, worthy of the greatest contempt of gentlemen possessed of that noble and generous freedom of thought which happily prevails in this age of light and inquiry, ó when, indeed, such is the case, that we might, if so disposed, speak as big words as they, and on far better grounds. And really, all the Arminians on earth might be challenged, without arrogance or vanity, to make these principles of theirs, wherein they mainly differ from their fathers, whom they so much despise, consistent with common sense: yea, and perhaps to produce any doctrine ever embraced by the blindest bigot of the Church of Rome, or the most ignorant Mussulman, or extravagant enthusiast, that might be reduced to more demonstrable inconsistencies, and repugnances to common sense and to themselves; though their inconsistencies indeed may not lie so deep, or be so artfully veiled by a deceitful ambiguity of words, and an indeterminate signification of phrases. I will not deny, that these gentlemen, many of them, are men of great abilities, and have been helped to higher attainments in philosophy than those ancient divines, and have done great service to the church of God in some respects: but I humbly conceive, that their differing from their fathers, with such magisterial assurance, in these points in divinity, must be owing to some other cause than superior wisdom.
It may also be worthy of consideration, whether the great alteration which has been made in the state of things in our nation, and some other parts of the Protestant world, in this and the past age, by the exploding so generally Calvinistic doctrines, that is so often spoken of as worthy to be greatly rejoiced in by the friends of truth, learning, and virtue, as an instance of the great increase of light in the Christian church; I say, it may be worthy to be considered, whether this be indeed a happy change, owing to any such cause as an increase of true knowledge and understanding in things of religion; or whether there is not reason to fear, that it may be owing to some worse cause.
And I desire it may be considered, whether the boldness of some writers may not be worthy to be reflected on, who have not scrupled to say, that if these and those things are true (which yet appear to be the demonstrable dictates of reason, as well as the certain dictates of the mouth of the Most High), then God is unjust and cruel, and guilty of manifest deceit and double dealing, and the like. Yea, some have gone so far, as confidently to assert, that it any book which pretends to be Scripture, teaches such doctrines, that alone is sufficient warrant for mankind to reject it, as what cannot be the word of God. Some, who have not gone so far, have said, that if the Scripture seems to teach any such doctrines, so contrary to reason, we are obliged to find out some other interpretation of those texts where such doctrines seem to be exhibited. Others express themselves yet more modestly: they express a tenderness and religious fear, lest they should receive and teach any thing that should seem to reflect on Godís moral character, or be a disparagement to his methods of administration, in his moral government; and therefore express themselves as not daring to embrace some doctrines, though they seem to be delivered in Scripture, according to the more obvious and natural construction of the words. But indeed it would show a truer modesty and humility, if they would more entirely rely on Godís wisdom and discerning, who knows infinitely better than we what is agreeable to his own perfections, and never intended to leave these matters to the decision of the wisdom and discerning of men: but by his own unerring instruction, to determine for us what the truth is, knowing how little our judgment is to be depended on, and how extremely prone vain and blind men are to err in such matters.
The truth of the case is, that if the Scripture plainly taught the opposite doctrines to those that are so much stumbled at, viz. the Arminian doctrine of free-will, and others depending thereon, it would be the greatest of all difficulties that attend the Scriptures, incomparably greater than its containing any, even the most mysterious of those doctrines of the first reformers, which our late free-thinkers have so superciliously exploded. ó Indeed, it is a glorious argument of the divinity of the holy Scriptures, that they teach such doctrines, which in one age and another, through the blindness of menís minds, and strong prejudices of their hearts, are rejected as most absurd and unreasonable by the wise and great men of the world; which yet, when they are most carefully and strictly examined, appear to be exactly agreeable to the most demonstrable, certain, and natural dictates of reason. By such things it appears, that the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and God does, as is said in 1 Corinthians 1:19,20: ďFor it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? And as it is used to he in time past, so it is probable it will be in time to come, as it is there written, in verse 27-29. ďBut God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the week things of the world, to confound the things that are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are; that no flesh should glory in his presence.Ē Amen.
SECTION APPENDIX Remarks On Lord Kamesí Essays On the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion: In a Letter to a Minister of the Church of Scotland. REV.SIR, The intimations you have given me of the use which has, by some, been made of what I have written on the ďFreedom of the Will,Ē etc. to vindicate what is said on the subject of liberty and necessity by the author of the Essays on the principles of Morality and Natural Religion, has occasioned my reading this authorís essay on that subject with particular care and attention. And I think it must be evident to every one that has read both his Essay and my Inquiry, that our schemes are exceeding rever. from each other. The wide difference appears particularly in the following things.
This author supposes, that such a necessity takes place with respect to all menís actions, as is inconsistent with liberty, and plainly denies that men have any liberty in acting. Thus, in p. 168, after he had been speaking of the necessity of our determinations, as connected with motives, he concludes with saying, ďIn short, if motives are not under our power or direction, which is confessedly the fact, we can at bottom haveNO LIBERTY.Ē Whereas I have abundantly expressed it as my mind, that man, in his moral actions, has true liberty; and that the moral necessity, which universally takes place, is not in the least inconsistent with anything that is properly called liberty, and with the utmost liberty that can be desired, or that can possibly exist or be conceived of.
I find that some are apt to think, that in that kind of moral necessity of menís volitions, which I suppose to be universal, at least some degree of liberty is denied; that though it be true I allow a sort of liberty, yet those who maintain a self-determining power in the will, and a liberty of contingence and indifference, hold a higher sort of freedom than I do: but I think this is certainly a great mistake.
Liberty, as I have explained it, in various places, is the power, opportunity, or advantage, that any one has to do as he pleases, or conducting in any respect, according to his pleasure; without considering how his pleasure comes to be as it is. It is demonstrable, and I think has been demonstrated, that no necessity of menís volitions that I maintain is inconsistent with this liberty: and I think it is impossible for any one to rise higher in his conceptions of liberty than this. If any imagine they desire higher, and that they conceive of a higher and greater liberty than this, they are deceived, and delude themselves with confused and ambiguous words instead of ideas. If any one should here say, ďYes, I conceive of freedom above and beyond the liberty a man has of conducting in any respect as he pleases, viz. a liberty of choosing as he pleases:Ē Such a one, if he reflected, old either blush or laugh at his own instance. For, is not choosing as he pleases, conducting,IN SOME RESPECT, according to his pleasure, and still without determining how he came by that pleasure? If he says, ďYes, I came by that pleasure by my own choice.Ē If he be a man of common sense, by this time he will see his own absurdity: for he must needs see that his notion or conception, even of this liberty, does not contain any judgment or conception how he comes by that choice which first determines his pleasure, or which originally fixed his own will respecting the affair. Or if any shall say, ďThat a man exercises liberty in this, even in determining his own choice, but not as he pleases, or not in consequence of any choice, preference, or inclination of his own but by a determination arising contingently out of a state of absolute indifference;Ē this is not rising higher in his conception of liberty; as such a determination of the will would not be a voluntary determination of it. Surely, he that places liberty in a power of doing something not according to his own choice or from his choice, has not a higher notion of it, than he that places it in doing as he pleases, or acting from his own election. If there were a power in the mind to determine itself, but not by its choice or according to its pleasure, what advantage would it give; and what liberty worth contending for would be exercised in it? Therefore, no Arminian, Pelagian, or Epicurean, can rise higher in his conceptions of liberty than the notion of it which I have explained: which notion is, apparently, perfectly consistent with the whole of that necessity of menís actions which I suppose takes place. And I scruple not to say, it is beyond all their wits to invent a higher notion, or form a higher imagination of liberty: let them talk of sovereignty of the will, self-determining power, self-motion, self-direction, arbitrary decision, Ďliberty ad utrumvisí, power of choosing, differently in givers cases, etc. as long as they will. It is apparent that these men, in their strenuous affirmation, and dispute about these things, aim at they know not what, fighting for something they have no conception of, substituting a number of confused, unmeaning words instead of things and instead of thoughts. They may be challenged clearly to explain what they would have: they never can answer the challenge.
The author of the Essays, through his whole essay on liberty and necessity, goes on that supposition, that in order to the being of real liberty, a man must have a freedom that is opposed to moral necessity: and yet he supposes p. 175, that ďsuch a liberty must signify a power in the mind of acting without and against motives, a power of acting without any view, purpose, or design, and even of acting in contradiction to our own desires and aversions, and to all our principles of action, and is all absurdity altogether inconsistent with a rational nature.Ē Now, who ever imagined such a liberty as this, a higher sort or degree of freedom, than a liberty of following oneís own views and purposes, and acting agreeable to his own inclinations and passions? Who will ever reasonably suppose that liberty, which is an absurdity altogether inconsistent with a rational nature, to be a kind of liberty above that which is consistent them the nature of a rational, intelligent, designing agent?
The author of the Essays seems to suppose such a necessity to take place as is inconsistent with some supposablePOWER OF ARBITRARY CHOICE; or that there is some liberty conceivable, whereby menís own actions might be morePROPERLY IN THEIR POWER, and by which events might be more\parDEPENDENT ON OURSELVES; contrary to what I suppose to be evident, in my Inquiry. What way can be imagined, of our actions being more in our power, from ourselves, or dependent on ourselves, than their being, from our power to fulfill our own choice to act from our own inclination, pursue our own views, and execute our own designs? Certainly, to be able to act thus, is as properly haying our actions in our power, and dependent on ourselves, as a being liable to be the subjects of acts and events, contingently and fortuitously, without desire, view, purpose, or design, or any principle of action, within ourselves; as we must be according to this authorís own declared sense, if our actions are performed with that liberty that is opposed to moral necessity.
This author seems everywhere to suppose, that necessity, most properly so called, attends all menís actions; and that the terms necessary, unavoidable, impossible, etc. are equally applicable to the case of moral and natural necessity. In p. 173, he says, ďThe idea of necessary and unavoidable equally agrees, both to moral and physical necessity.Ē And in p. 184, ďAll things that fall out in the natural and moral world are alike necessary.Ē P. 174, ďThis inclination and choice is unavoidably caused or occasioned by the prevailing motive. In this lies the necessity of our actions, that, in such circumstances, it was impossible we could act otherwise.Ē He often expresses himself in like manner elsewhere, speaking in strong terms of menís actions as unavoidable, what they cannot forbear, having no power over their own actions, the order of them being unalterably fixed, and inseparably linked together, etc.
On the contrary, I have largely declared, that the connection between antecedent things and consequent ones, which takes place with regard to the acts of menís wills, which is called moral necessity, is called by the name of necessity improperly; and that all such terms as must, cannot, impossible, unable, irresistible, unavoidable, invincible, etc., when applied here, are not applied in their proper signification, and are either used nonsensically, and with perfect insignificance, or in a sense quite diverse from their original and proper meaning, and their use in common speech: and that such a necessity as attends the acts of menís wills, is more properly called certainty than necessity; it being no other than the certain connection between the subject and predicate of the proposition which affirms their existence.
Agreeable to what is observed in my Inquiry, I think it is evidently owing to a strong prejudice in persons, minds, arising from an insensible habitual perversion and misapplication of such-like terms as necessary, impossible, unable, unavoidable, invincible, etc., that they are ready to think, that to suppose a certain connection of menís volitions, without any foregoing motives or inclinations, or any preceding moral influence whatsoever, is truly and properly to suppose such a strong irrefragable chain of causes and effects, as stands in the way of, and makes utterly vain, opposite desires and endeavors, like immovable and impenetrable mountains of brass; and impedes our liberty like walls of adamant, gates of brass, and bars of iron: whereas, all such representations suggest ideas as far from the truth as the east is from the west. Nothing that I maintain, supposes that men are at all hindered by any fatal necessity, from doing, and even willing and choosing, as they please, with full freedom, yea, with the highest degree of liberty that ever was thought of, or that ever could possibly enter into the heart of any man to conceive. I know it is in vain to endeavor to make some persons believe this, or at least fully and steadily to believe it; for if it be demonstrated to them, still the old prejudice remains which has been fixed by the use of the terms necessary, must, cannot, impossible, etc.; the association with these terms of certain ideas inconsistent with liberty, is not broken, and the judgment is powerfully warped by it, as a thing that has been long bent and grown stiff, if it be straightened, will return to its former curvity again and again.
The author of the Essays most manifestly supposes, that if men had the truth concerning the real necessity of all their actions clearly in view, they would not appear to themselves, or one another, as at all praiseworthy or culpable, or under any moral obligation, or accountable for their actions: which supposes that men are not to be blamed or praised for any of their actions, and are not under any obligations, nor are truly accountable for anything they do, by reason of this necessity; which is very contrary to what I have endeavored to prove throughout the third part of my Inquiry. I humbly conceive it is there shown, that this is so far from the truth, that the moral necessity of menís actions, which truly take place, is requisite to the being of virtue and vice, or any thing, praiseworthy or culpable, ó that the liberty of indifference and contingence, which is advanced in opposition to that necessity, is inconsistent with the being of these; as it would suppose that men are not determined in what they do by any virtuous or vicious principles, nor act from any motives, intentions, or aims whatsoever; or have any end, either good or bad, in acting. And is it not remarkable, that this author should suppose, that, in order to menís actions truly having any desert, they must be performed without any view, purpose, design, or desire, or any principle of action, or any thing agreeable to a rational nature? As it will appear that he does, if we compare pp. 206 and 207 with p. 175.
The author of the Essays supposes, that God has deeply implanted in manís nature a strong and invincible apprehension, or feeling, as he calls it, of a liberty, and contingence of his own actions, opposite to that necessity which truly attends them; and which in truth does not agree with real fact, is not agreeable to strict philosophic truth, is contradictory to the truth of things, and which truth contradicts, not tallying with the real plan; and that, therefore, such feelings are deceitful, are in reality of the delusive kind. He speaks of them as a wise delusion, as nice artificial feelings, merely that conscience may have a commanding power meaning plainly, that these feelings are a cunning artifice of the Author of nature, to make men believe they are free, when they are not. He supposes that, by these feelings, the moral world has a disguised appearance. And other things of this kind he says. He supposes, that all self-approbation, and all remorse of conscience, all commendation or condemnation of ourselves or others, all sense of desert, and all that is connected with this way of thinking, all the ideas which at present are suggested by the words ought, should, arise from this delusion, and would entirely vanish without it.
All which is very contrary to what I have abundantly insisted on and endeavored to demonstrate in my Inquiry; where I have largely shown, that it is agreeable to the natural sense of mankind, that the moral necessity or certainty that attends menís actions is consistent with praise and blame, reward and punishment; and that it is agreeable to our natural notions, that moral evil, with its desert of dislike and abhorrence, and all its other ill deservings, consists in a certain deformity in the nature of the dispositions and acts of the heart, and not in the evil of something else, diverse from these, supposed to be their cause or occasion.
I might well ask here, whether any one is to be found in the world of mankind, who is conscious to a sense or feeling, naturally and deeply rooted in his mind, that in order to a manís performing any action that is praise or blame-worthy, he must exercise a liberty that implies and signifies a power of acting without any motive, view, design, desire, or principle of action? For such a liberty, this author supposes, that must be which is opposed to moral necessity, as I have already observed once and again.
Supposing a man should actually do good, independent of desire, aim, inducement, principle, or end; is it a dictate of invincible natural sense, that his act is more meritorious or praiseworthy, than if he had performed it for some good end, and had been governed in it by good principles and motives? and so I might ask, on the contrary, with respect to evil actions.
The author of the Essays supposes that the liberty without necessity, which we have a natural feeling of, implies contingence: and, speaking of this contingence, he sometimes calls it by the name of chance. And it is evident, that his notion of it, or rather what he says about it, implies things happening loosely, fortuitously, by accident, and without a cause. Now, I conceive the slightest reflection may be sufficient to satisfy any one, that such a contingence of menís actions, according to our natural sense, is so far from being essential to the morality or merit of those actions, that it would destroy it; and that, on the contrary, the dependence of our actions on such causes, as inward inclinations, incitements, and ends, is essential to the being of it. Natural sense teaches men, when they see anything done by others of a good or evil tendency, to inquire what their intention was; what principles and view s they were moved by, in order to judge how far they are to be justified or condemned; and not to determine, that, in order to their being approved or blamed at all, the action must be performed altogether fortuitously, proceeding from nothing, arising from no cause.
Concerning this matter, I have fully expressed my mind in the Inquiry.
If the liberty, which we have a natural sense of as necessary to desert, consists in the mindís self-determination, without being determined by previous inclination or motive, then indifference is essential to it, yea. absolute indifference; as is observed in my Inquiry. But men naturally have no notion of any such liberty as this, as essential to the morality or demerit of their actions; but, on the contrary, such a liberty, if it were possible, would be inconsistent with our natural notions of desert, as is largely shown in the Inquiry. If it he agreeable to natural sense, that men must be indifferent in determining their own actions; then, according to the same, the more they are determined by inclination, either good or bad, the less they have of desert: the more good actions are performed from good disposition, the less praiseworthy; and the more evil deeds are from evil dispositions, the less culpable; and in general, the more menís actions are from their hearts, the less they are to be commended or condemned: which all must know is very contrary to natural sense.
Moral necessity is owing to the power and government of the inclination of the heart, either habitual or occasional, excited by motive; but, according, to natural and common sense, the more a man does anything with full inclination of heart, the more is it to be charged to his account for his condemnation, if it be an ill action, and the more to be ascribed to him for his praise, if it be good.
If the mind were determined to evil actions by contingence, from a state of indifference, then, either there would he no fault in them, or else the fault would be in being so perfectly indifferent, that the mind was equally to a bad or good determination. And if this indifference be liberty, then the very essence of the blame or fault would lie in the liberty itself, or the wickedness would, primarily and summarily, lie in being a free agent. If there were no fault in being indifferent, then there would be no fault in the determinationís being agreeable to such a state of indifference: that is, there could no fault be reasonably found with this, viz. that opposite determinations actually happen to take place indifferently, sometimes good and sometimes bad, as contingence governs and decides. And if it be a fault to be indifferent to good and evil, then such indifference is no indifference to good and evil, but is a determination to evil, or to a fault; and such an indifferent disposition would he an evil, faulty disposition, tendency, or determination of mind. So inconsistent are these notions of liberty, as essential to praise or blame.
The author of the Essays supposes menís natural delusive sense of a liberty of contingence, to be in truth the foundation of all the labor, care, and industry of mankind; and that if menís practical ideas had been formed on the plan of universal necessity, the significant ratio, the inactive doctrine of the Stoics, would have followed; and that there would have been no room for forethought about futurity, or any sort of industry and care; plainly implying that in this case men would see and know that all their industry and care signified nothing, was in vain, and to no purpose, or of no benefit; events being fixed in an irrefragable chain, and not at allDEPENDING on their care and endeavor, as he explains himself particularly, in the instance of menís use of means to prolong life: not only very contrary to what I largely maintain in my Inquiry, but also very inconsistently with his own scheme, in what he supposes of the ends for which God has so deeply implanted this deceitful feeling in manís nature: in which he manifestly supposes menís care and industry not to be vain and of no benefit, but of great use, yea, of absolute necessity, in order to the obtaining the most important ends and necessary purposes of human life, and to fulfill the ends of action to theBEST ADVANTAGE: as he largely declares. Now, how shall these things be reconciled? That, if men had a clear view of real truth, they would see that there was noROOM for their care and industry, because they would see it to be in vain, and of no benefit; and yet that God, by having a clear view of real truth, sees that their being excited to care and industry, will be of excellent use to mankind, and greatly for the benefit of the world, yea, absolutely necessary in order to it: and that therefore the great wisdom and goodness of God to men appears, in artfully contriving to put them on care and industry for their good, which good could not be obtained without them; and yet both these things are maintained at once, and in the same sentences and words by this author. The very reason he gives, why God has put this deceitful feeling into men, contradicts and destroys itself; that God in his great goodness to men gave them such a deceitful feeling, because it was very useful and necessary for them, and greatly for their benefit, or excites them to care and industry for their own good, which care and industry is useful and necessary to that end; and yet the very thing that this great benefit of care and industry is given as a reason for, is Godís deceiving men in this very point, in making them think their care and industry to be of great benefit to them, when indeed it is of none at all; and if they saw the real truth, they would see all their endeavors to be wholly useless, that there was noROOM for them, and that the event does not at allDEPEND upon them.
And besides, what this author says, plainly implies (as appears by what has been already observed), that it is necessary men should be deceived, by being made to believe that future events are contingent, and their own future actions free, with such a freedom as signifies that their actions are not the fruit of their own desires, or designs; but altogether contingent, fortuitous, and without a cause. But how should a notion of liberty, consisting, in accident or loose chance, encourage care and industry? I should think it would rather entirely discourage every thing of this nature.
For surely, if our actions do not depend on our desires and designs, then they do not depend on our endeavors, flowing from our desires and designs. This author himself seems to suppose, that if men had indeed such a liberty of contingence, it would render all endeavors to determine or move menís future volitions in vain: he says, that, in this case, to exhort, to instruct, to promise, or to threaten, would be to no purpose. Why?
Because (as he himself gives the reason) ďthen our will would be capricious and arbitrary, and we should be thrown loose altogether, and our arbitrary power could do us good or ill only by accident.Ē But if such a loose fortuitous state would render vain othersí endeavors upon us, for the same reason would it make useless our endeavors on ourselves; for events that are truly contingent and accidental, and altogether loose from and independent of all foregoing causes, are independent on every foregoing cause within ourselves, as well as in others.
I suppose that it is so far from being true, that our minds are naturally possessed with a notion of such liberty as this, so strongly that it is impossible to root it out, that indeed men have no such notion of liberty at all, and that it is utterly impossible, by any means whatsoever, to implant or introduce such a notion into the mind. As no such notions as imply selfcontradiction and self-abolition can subsist in the mind, as I have shown in my Inquiry, I think a mature, sensible consideration of the matter, sufficient to satisfy any one, that even the greatest and most learned advocates themselves for liberty of indifference and self-determination, have no such notion; and that indeed they mean something wholly inconsistent with, and directly subversive of; what they strenuously affirm, and earnestly contend for.
By a manís having power of determining his own will, they plainly mean a power of determining his will as he pleases, or as he chooses; which supposes that the mind has a choice, prior to its going about to confirm any action or determination to it. And if they mean that they determine even the original or prime choice by their own pleasure or choice, as the thing that causes and directs it, I scruple not most boldly to affirm, that they speak they know not what, and that of which they have no manner of idea; because no such contradictory notion can come into, or have a momentís subsistence in, the mind of any man living, as an original or first choice being caused, or brought into being, by choice. After all they say, they have no higher or other conception of liberty than that vulgar notion of it which I contend for, viz., a manís having, power or opportunity to do as he chooses; or if they had a notion that every act of choice was determined by choice, yet it would destroy their notion of the contingence of choice; for then no one act of choice would arise contingently, or from a state of indifference, but every individual act, in all the series, would arise from foregoing bias or preference, and from a cause pre-determining and fixing its existence; which introduces at once such a chain of causes and effects, each preceding link decisively fixing the following, as they would by all means avoid.
And such kind of delusion and self-contradiction as this, does not arise in menís minds by nature; it is not owing to any natural feeling which God has strongly fixed in the mind and nature of man, but to false philosophy, and strong prejudice, from a deceitful abuse of words. It is artificial; not in the sense of the author of the Essays, supposing it to be a deceitful artifice of God; but artificial as opposed to natural, and as owing to an artificial, deceitful management of terms, to darken and confound the mind. Men have no such thing when they first begin to exercise reason but must have a great deal of time to blind themselves with metaphysical confusion, before they can embrace and rest in such definitions of liberty as are given, and imagine they understand them.
On the whole, I humbly conceive, that whosoever will give himself the trouble of weighing what I have offered to consideration in my Inquiry, must be sensible, that such a moral necessity of menís actions as I maintain, is not at all inconsistent with any liberty that any creature has, or can have, as a free, accountable, moral agent, and subject of moral government; and that this moral necessity is so far from being inconsistent with praise and blame, and the benefit and use of menís own care and labor, that, on the contrary, it implies the very ground and reason why menís actions are to be ascribed to them as their own, in that manner as to infer desert, praise and blame, approbation and remorse of conscience, reward and punishment; and that it establishes the moral system of the universe, and Godís moral government, in every respect, with the proper use of motives, exhortations, commands, counsels, promises, and threatenings; and the use and benefit of endeavor, care, and industry: and that therefore there is no need that the strict philosophic truth should be at all concealed from men; no danger in contemplation and profound discovery in these things. So far from this, that the truth in this matter is of vast importance, and extremely needful to be known, and that the more clearly and perfectly the real fact is known, and the more constantly it is in view, the better; and, particularly, that the clear and full knowledge of that which is the true system of the universe in these respects, would greatly establish the doctrines which teach the true Christian scheme of Divine administration in the city of God, and the gospel of Jesus Christ, in its most important articles and that these things never can be well established, and the opposite errors, so subversive of the whole gospel, which at this day so greatly and generally prevail, be well confuted, or the arguments by which they are maintained answered, till these points are settled: while this is not done, it is, to me, beyond doubt, that the friends of those great gospel truths will but poorly maintain their controversy with the adversaries of those truths: they will be obliged often to dodge, shuffle, hide, and turn their backs; and that the latter will have a strong fort, from whence they never can be driven, and weapons to use, which those whom they oppose will find no shield to screen themselves from; and they will always puzzle, confound, and keep under the friends of sound doctrine, and glory and vaunt themselves in their advantage over them; and carry their affairs with a high hand, as they have done already for a long time past.
I conclude, Sir, with asking your pardon for troubling you with so much said in vindication of myself from the imputation of advancing a scheme of necessity, of a like nature with that of the author of the ďEssays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion.Ē Considering that what I have said is not only in vindication of myself; but, as I think, of the most important articles of moral philosophy and religion; I trust in what I know of your candour, that you will excuse Your obliged friend and brother, J. EDWARDS.
Stockbridge July 25, 1757.