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is. On this point we will permit our author to speak for himself:
“Were liberty defined, a power to overcome our reason by the force of choice, as a celebrated author may be supposed to mean, when he says: the will seems to have so great a power over the understanding, that the understanding, being over-ruled by the election of the will, pot only takes what is good to be evil, but is also compelled to admit what is false to be true; man would with the exercise of such a power, be the most irrational and inconsistent being, and by consequence, the most imperfect understanding being, which can be conceived. For what can be more irrational and inconsistent, than to be able to refuse our assent to what is evidently true to us, and to assent to what we see to be evidently false, and thereby inwardly give the lie to the understanding?"
Now, it is the possession of this very power which our author denies to man, that constitutes him a moral agent, and consequently capable of moral perfection, the highest form of perfection existing in the universe. The abuse of this power renders him a sinner; while its appropriate use places him in fellowship with God, and with the great and pure Intelligences of the universe. Were the will so constituted that it could not but follow the dictates of the Intelligence, a certain form of perfection would pertain to man, a perfection however in no sense partaking of the nature of virtue. For where would be the merit of following the Intelligence where motion in that one direction only is possible, and that can not but take place? But if we suppose the right and the wrong to be equally within his power, and that when he does the one, he might, in the same circumstances, have done the other, then we necessarily conceive of him as deserving of praise or blame for what he does, or neglects to do. Action in the direction of the right, the wrong at the same time having been possible, this is what constitutes the perfection of a moral agent. Were the will not governed by the law of liberty, man might be capable to be sure, of mechanical perfection of the highest order. He would no more be deserving of praise or blame, reward or punishment for what he does, however, than any other purely mechanical force is for the results of its operations.
We know of no writer who has placed the argument in favor of the doctrine of necessity, as drawn from the fact of the divine prescience, in a stronger light than our author has done. Of the propriety of this remark, we will permit our readers to judge for themselves, by presenting them with the argument itself.
"A fourth argument to prove man a necessary agent, shall be taken, from the consideration of the divine prescience. The divine prescience supposes that all things sutare will certainly exist in such time, such order, and with such circumstances; and not otherwise. For if any things future were contingent, or uncertain, or depended on the liberty of man, that is, might or might not happen; their certain existence could not be the object of the divine prescience: it being a contradiction to know that to be certain, which is not certain, and God himself could only guess at the existence of such things. And if the divine prescience supposes the certain existence of all things future, it supposes also the necessary existence of all things future; because God can fore-know their certain existence only, either as that existence is the effect of his decree, or as it depends on its own causes. If he foreknows that existence, as it is the effect of his decree; his decree makes that existence necessary: for it implies a contradiction for an all-powerful being to decree any thing which shall not necessarily come to pass. If he foreknows that existence, as it depends on its own causes; that existence is no less necessary; for it not less implies a contradiction, that causes should not produce their effects (causes and effects having a necessary relation to and dependence on each other) than that an event should not come to pass, which is decreed by God,"
We have stated above, that this is, in reality, the only important difficulty with which the doctrine of liberty is encumbered, and have there also intimated the ground of its removal. On account of the importance of the subject, however, we will dwell a few moments longer upon it here. We observe then, that it is impossible for us to affirm that the supposition of the co-existence of two facts involves such a contradiction, that if one be admitted as real, the other must be affirmed not to be, unless we know perfectly the causes and modes of their existence, and all the elements involved in each of them. In the light of this self-evident principle, let us contemplate the doctrine of the divine prescience on the one hand, and that of liberty as opposed to necessity on the other. Does our Intelligence necessarily affirm these two doctrines to be so contradictory to each other, that if one of them is true, the other must be false? How does this subject, as a matter of fact, lie in the universal Intelligence?. Is not the doctrine of liberty affirmed as a fact by universal consciousness? With equal universality, is not the fact of the divine prescicnce, admitted as a truth of reason and revelation both? Does not the conviction of the reality of these two facts, or of the truth of these two doctrines, lie in the universal Intelligence, without its attempting to solve the question of their consistency or inconsistency, indeed, without moving that question at all, till philosophy comes in and demands its solution ? Every one who attentively reflects upon what passes in his own mind, will be constrained to answer these questions in the affirmative. He knows with absolute certainty, that he is a free and not a necessary agent. At the same time he entertains the no less undoubted conviction of the truth of the doctrine of the divine prescience. With the question of their consistency or inconsistency, he is never embarrassed, till philosophy urges it upon his mind.
Now philosophy, when it pushes this question, is met at once, with this palpable fact, that it is totally ignorant of the ground, nature, and mode of the divine prescience, and is therefore wholly incapable of deciding the question of the consistency of the two doctrines under consideration. It therefore accepts the fact of their consistency, not as an absurdity, but as a mystery, a mystery no greater, however, than is involved in numberless other facts recognized by the universal Intelligence as undeniably true. The moment this view of the subject presents itself to the mind, the entire argument of the necessitarian, founded upon the doctrine of the divine prescience, in favor of the doctrine of necessity, and against that of liberty, falls to the ground. It is philosophy falsely so called” then, that urges the doctrine of the.divine prescience against the truth of that of liberty.
FIFTH ARGUMENT. Special attention is now invited to a consideration of the Sifth argument of our author, taken from the “ nature of rewards and punishments."
“ A fifth argument,” he says, “to prove man a necessary agent, is as follows: if man was not a necessary agent, determined by pleasure and pain, there would be no foundation for rewards and punishments, which are the essential supports of society.
For if men were not necessarily determined by pleasure and pain, were no causes to determine men's wills; of what use would be the prospect of rewards to frame a man's will to the observation of the law, or punishments to hinder his transgression thereof? Were pain, as such, eligible, and pleasure, as such, avoidable; rewards and punishments could be no motives to a man, to make him do or sorbear any action. But if pleasure and pain have a necessary effect on men, and if it be impossible for men not to choose what seems good to them, and not to avoid what seems evil; the necessity of rewards and punishments is then evident, and rewards will be of use to all those who conceive those rewards to be pleasure, and punishments will be of use to all those who conceive them to be pain: and rewards and punishments will frame those men's wills to observe, and not to transgress the laws.
Besides, since there are so many robbers, murderers, whoremasters, and other criminals, who notwithstanding the punishments threatened, and rewards promised, by laws, prefer breaking the laws as the greater good or lesser evil, and reject conformity to them as the greater evil or
lesser good; how many more would there be, and with what disorders would not all societies be filled, if rewards and punishments, considered as pleasure and pain, did not determine some men's wills, but that, instead thereof, all men could prefer or will punishment considered as pain, and reject rewards considered as pleasure? men would then be under no restraints."
In reply to the above argument, the following considerations are regarded as deserving special attention;
1. The entire reasoning of the author throughout is based upon an assumption wholly unauthorized and false, to wit: that if motives do not control the action of the will by the law of necessity, they influence it in no sense whatever. No assumption conceivable can be more baseless than this. Such is the nature of the will that it must yield itself to the control of motives drawn from the Intelligence or Sensibility, or from both combined. Liberty, by no means implies an indifference to motives, but the power of sovereign self-determination in respect to the particular motives by which the mind shall be governed. As far as mere influence upon the action of the will is concerned, therefore, (another and different aspect of the subject will be considered hereafter,) the propriety of rewards and punishments is just as apparent, in view of the doctrine of liberty as of that of necessity.
2. Another assumption equally baseless, upon which the above argument rests is this, that if the doctrine of liberty is true, evil may be chosen as evil, and good rejected, for the sole reason that it is good. No such power is implied in the doctrine of liberty. The power of self-determination between present gratification and future permanent good, or between the impulses of the Sensibility and the dictates of the Intelligence, does not, as a necessary consequence, involve the power, either to reject good as good, or to choose evil as evil. Here lies a fundamental mistake of necessitarians in their reasonings against the doctrine of liberty.
3. The idea which enters as a fundamental element into all our conceptions of reward and punishment, is wholly overlooked by our author, to wit, that of moral desert. The propriety of retributions of every kind is wholly, according to this system, based upon their utility. Retributions, however, to be useful, must, as a changeless condition, be regarded as just. Where would be the utility of punishing an innocent, and especially a virtuous agent? To say that reward or punishment is just because it is useful, is to take the consequent for the antecedent, to reverse the order of nature entirely. It can not be useful to punish virtue. It is, and must be useful to punish vice. The great and fundamental reason
is, that justice forbids punishment in the former instance, and requires it in the latter. This accords with the universal and necessary intuitions of the race. The fact that necessitarians universally resort to the utility of rewards and punishments, to show their justice, is a practical acknowledgment on their part, that such retributions can not, according to their system, be defended, on the ground of intrinsic justice, the only condition, as we have seen, of their utility.
4. Our fourth and last remark upon this topic is, that the idea of reward and punishment as just, does, and can have no place in any righteous system of moral legislation, according to the doctrine of necessity. Collins was a man of too much discernment not to perceive this, and the badness of his heart rendered himself consistent on this point. The desire of his heart evidently was to displace the idea of moral desert, and consequently of future retributions from the human mind. Hence he never fell into the monstrous absurdity so common with evangelical necessitarians, of maintaining that such retributions can, on the principle of justice, be rendered for actions, which by any possibility, creatures can not avoid.
On what condition, then, is punishment ever proper, if the doctrine of necessity be admitted as true? Simply this: if punishment would be useful, then it would be proper to inflict it. The intrinsic merit or demerit of the subject has, and can have nothing to do with the matter. If utility required it, it would be just as proper in itself to punish the most pure
for their virtues, as the most wicked for their so-called crimes. What is intrinsic in virtue or vice, or moral desert, as a ground of reward and punishment, can have no place in such a system. But this will appear still more evident, when we consider our author's
SIXTH AND LAST ARGUMENT. “ VI. My sixth and last argument to prove man a necessary agent is; if man was not a necessary agent determined by pleasure and pain, he would have no notion of morality, or motive to practise it: the distinction between morality and immorality, virtue and vice, would be lost; and man would not be a moral agent.
• Morality, or virtue, consists in such actions as are in their own nature, and upon the whole pleasant; and immorality, or vice, consists in such actions as are in their own nature, and upon the whole painful. Wherefore a man must be affected with pleasure and pain, in order to know what morality is, and to distinguish it from immorality. He must also be affected with pleasure and pain, to have a reason to practice morality; for there can be no motives, but pleasure and pain, to make a man do or forbear any action. And a man must be the more moral, the more he understands or is duly sensible, what actions give pleasure, and what pain; and must be perfectly moral, if necessarily determined by pleasure and pain, rightly understood and apprehended. But if man be indifferent to pleasure and pain, or is not duly affected with them; he