Page images
PDF
EPUB

the will is not free to act, or not to act, in the presence of such motive. Action in some direction must take place under such circumstances. He then proceeds to argue the real and only question upon the solution of which the doctrine of Liberty or Necessity must stand or fall, to wit :

"Whether we are at liberty to will or choose one or the other of two or more objects.”

The position which he here assumes is, that of two objects presented to the mind, the will can not but choose that which the Intelligence affirms to be best.

“To suppose a sensible being capable of willing or preferring, call it as you please, misery, and refusing good, is to deny it to be really sensible; for every man while he has his senses, aims at pleasure and bappiness, and avoids pain and misery; and this, in willing actions, which are supposed to be attended with the most terrible consequences. And therefore the ingenious Mr Norris very justly observes, that all who commit sin, think it, at the instaut of commission, all things considered, a lesser evil; otherwise it is impossible they should commit it: and be instances St. Peter's denial of his master, who, he says, judged that part most eligible which he chose; that is, he judged the sin of denying his master at that present juncture, to be less evil than the danger of not denying him, and so choose it. Otherwise, if he had then actually thought it a greater evil, all that whereby it exceedeth the other, he would have chosen gratis, and consequently have willed evil as evil, which is impossible.”

In reply, we have three remarks to make:

1. If the above position is true, no such thing as sin is even conceivable. For what has the purest and best being in existence done more than this, to follow, in all instances, the highest dictates of his Intelligence, a fact which is true even of devils according to the doctrines which this author as a necessitarian maintains.

2. Every man's consciousness affirms the falseness of this position. In all acts of sin, men have a consciousness, that they are violating the dictates of their better. judgment.

3. But there is a manifest fallacy in this whole argument. The author, (a sophism perfectly common with necessitarians,) assumes that in all acts of will, the choice is between two objects, one of which is judged to be better than the other. On the other hand, in a vast multitude of cases, the judgment and feelings are opposed, and the will is necessitated to determine not which of two judgments it shall follow; but whether it shall subject the feelings to the judgment, or gratify the former in opposition to the latter. Let us suppose, (a position that we by no means admit,) that where the will is to determine between two judgments, it can not follow that

[ocr errors]

which pertains to its object as of the least worth, or between two feelings, that it can not but yield to the strongest; still there would be a wide sphere for free action, as in all cases where the feelings and judgment are in opposition to each other. The whole argument of the author therefore falls to the ground.

SECOND ARGUMENT. The second argument of our author, is based upon the assumption, that Liberty is, in itself, an absolute impossibility. "All actions," he says, "have a beginning.” “Whatever has a beginning must have a cause; and every cause is a necessary cause.

"If any thing can have a beginning which has no cause, iben nothing can produce something. And if nothing can produce something, then the world might have had a beginning without a cause: which is not only an absurdity commonly charged on Atheists, but is a real absurdity in itself,

Besides, if a cause be not a necessary cause, it is no cause at all. For if causes are not necessary causes; then causes are not suited to, or are indifferent to effects, and the epicurean system of chance is rendered possible; and this orderly world might have been produced by a disorderly or fortuitous concourse of atoms; or which is all one, by no cause at all. For in arguing against the Epicurean system of chance, do we not say, and that justly, that it is impossible for chance ever to have produced an orderly system of things, as not being a cause suited to the effect; and that an orderly system of things, which had a beginning, must have had an intelligent agent for its cause, as being the ooly proper cause to that effect? All which implies, that causes are suited or have relation to some particular effects, and not to others. And if they be suited to some particular effect and not to others, they can be no causes at all to those others. And therefore a cause not suited to the effect, is no cause; then a cause suited to the effect is a necessary cause: for if it does not produce the effect, it is not suited to it, or is no cause at all of it.

Liberty therefore, or a power to act or not to act, to do this or another thing under the same causes, is an impossibility and atheistical.”

The above presents the strongest argument ever adduced by necessitarians, and presents that argument in its strongest form. We venture the affirmation, that a stronger argument upon the point cannot be found in Edwards, or any other writer. As this is the great foundation argument on which necessitarians every where base their system, we will give it a special examination. What then are the senses in which the term chance is used, when applied to events?

1. In the first place it is sometimes used as synonymous with the phrase, an event without a cause. In this scnse it is often used by necessitarians, as in the case of our author, when applied to the conception of free as opposed to necessa

[ocr errors]

ry causes or events. A free action, it is said, is an event without a cause. Is this so? Is the conception of an action resulting from a free cause equivalent to that of an event without a cause? If so, we remark, it would be as impossible to conceive of a free act, as of an event without a cause. We cannot even conceive of an event without a cause. But we can conceive of a free act, as easily as we can form any other conception whatever. The conception of a free act, therefore, is in no sense synonymous with that of an event without a cause, and the objection under consideration is annihilated totally.

It may be remarked further, that all that our Intelligence demands, as the condition of accounting for the occurrence of any event, is the assignment of the actual presence and action of a cause adequate to its production. When a reason is demanded why one event occurred instead of another, all that the Intelligence demands is the assignment of a cause, in the circumstances, fully adequate to the production of that one event instead of the other. "Now the power of free agency perfectly fulfills all these conditions relatively to all acts of will. If the reason be asked for the cxistence of any such act, or why one particular act instead of another was put forth, the assignment as their cause,

of the existence and action of free will as fully and satisfactorily accounts for such events as can be assigned in the case of any other events whatever.

If this is not so, universal consciousness is a lie. For every one is conscious of putting forth acts of will in circumstances in which different and opposite determinations might have been formed, and that the conception of such acts is, in no sense, synonymous with that of an event without a cause, of which we can not possibly form a conception.

2. The term chance also is sometimes used in reference to events fortuitous and uncertain relatively to our prior knowledge of them. Thus to us, the future is uncertain. Hence we say with regard to what does occur in respect to us, that "time and chance happen unto all men.” But such uncertainty and fortuity pertain alike to free and necessary events. Both, relatively to our knowledge, are equally fortuitous, and the subjects of chance. In reference to the divine omniscience and foreknowledge, however, neither class of events, any more than the other is fortuitous, or the subject of chance. Both are foreseen with the same certainty-the one class as events which can not but happen—the other as actually to occur, while different ones might occur in their stead. Rela

[ocr errors]

tively to the divine omniscience, therefore, the term chance is no more applicable to free than to necessary events.

3. According to another signification still, the term chance is sometimes used to designate the cause of a disorderly, instead of that of an orderly system of things. Free agency is said to be a cause of the former class. From it, therefore, an orderly system of things cannot, by any possibility, be produced. The universe, as it is, therefore, must have been produced not by a free but by a necessary cause. In reply, we would remark, that the Will exists in a tri-unity with the Intelligence and Sensibility. Its action of necessity must be in harmony with one or the other of these faculties. Action in harmony with the Intelligence is orderly action, and must result in a corresponding system of things. Action in subjection to the Sensibility, in opposition to the dictates of the Intelligence, is action opposed to order, and must result in a system of things of a corresponding character. From eternity the action of the will of God has been in full and perfect harmony with the dictates of infinite wisdom and knowledge. Nothing but a system of wise and perfect order, the very system we now have, could result from such action. Nothing therefore is more unphilosophical than the supposition, that "an orderly system of things,” can not be produced by the action of Free Will.

So far is this from being true, that the fact that the present system of the universe results from the free, and not necessary election of God, is exclusively what renders creation a reflection of his goodness and moral perfection. It is no virtue, or moral worth in God, that he possesses omniscience. No one ever thinks of attributing to him moral worth on that account. The reason and only reason is, that God can not but be omniscient. His knowledge cannot, by any possibility, be otherwise than it is. Now let us suppose that the action of his will is necessary in the same sense that that of the divine Intelligence is. God, in that case, would be no more entitled to the praise of moral goodness for what he does, than he is for what he knows. If, on the other hand, while He has produced the best possible system of things, He might have produced the worst, the production of the present system is a demonstration of infinite virtue in him.

The position of our author, and that of necessitarians, that a "free cause is no cause at all," and that a cause to be a cause must be adapted to produce, in given circumstances, particular events without the possibility of producing different

and opposite ones, is, as shown above, contrary to the testimony of every man's consciousness pertaining to the action of his own will. It is, at the same time, in direct opposition to the idea of cause as that idea lies in the universal Intelligence. Necessity is never contemplated as an essential element of that idea. of this every one is conscious, when he reflects upon the idea as it lies in his own mind. That is a cause which, in given circumstances, produces events, whether in the same circumstances it can or can not produce different and opposite events.

Besides, the position under consideration is a vicious begging of the question at issue. When the question at issue is whether the will is a free or necessary cause, to reply that a free cause is no cause at all, is to meet the question by assertion instead of argument, to assume instead of proving, the very thing which the author, in the commencement of his work really, as we have seen, pledges himself not to do. We may

still further remark that the fact that the will is a free and not a necessary cause, is what constitutes man a moral agent, and renders him properly responsible for his conduct. If the right and the wrong are, at all times, equally within his power, it is an intuition of universal reason, that he may properly be held responsible for doing the one and avoiding the other. If on the other hand in given circumstances, but one course of conduct is possible to him, and this he cannot but pursue, it is an intuition equally universal and manifest, that he no more deserves praise or blame for what he does, than a heavy body does for tending toward the centre of attraction, without the possibility of tending in any other direction.

THIRD ARGUMENT.

The third argument of our auihor is, to use his own words, “taken from the imperfection of liberty, and the perfection of necessity.The possession of liberty, he argues, would, in all respects, be a great imperfection in man; while the fact that he is governed by the law of necessity, constitutes the highest conceivable perfection in him. To establish this point, he first shows conclusively, that it would not be a persection, but an imperfection in man, were his Intelligence governed by the law of liberty instead of that of necessity. The inquiry then arises, the only inquiry of any importance, here presented, bearing upon our present subject, whether it would be an evidence of perfection or imperfection in man, were his will also governed by the same law that his Intelligence

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »