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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 men, that such dispositions are no vices or moral eyils, or that such persons are not worthy of disesteem, odium and dishonor ; or that. the proud or malicious acts which flow from such natural dis. positions, are worthy of no resentment. Yea, such vile natur, al 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, “ It 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,” &c. But it is not thus with regard to hurtful, mischievous things, that any are the subjects or occa. sions of, by a natural necessity, against their inclinations. In such a case, the necessity, by the common voice of mankind, will be spoken of as a full excuse. 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 influ. ence on the moral quality and desert of men's actions.
And these dictates of men's 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 defence 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 forementioned 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 he 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 : “ That 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.” 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, &c. But, in these things, Arminians are very unreasonable. Let common sense determine whether there be not a great difference between those 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 offence against his prince, is thoroughly disposed to abase himself, and accept of the king's 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 circumstan
ces. At length the compassionate prince comes to the priso on,. 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 so stout and stomach. ful, 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, bý binding his heart : The opposition of his heart has the mastery over him, having an influence on his mind far superior to the king's 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 man's 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 rebel's 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?
. Upon 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, &c. from their original and vulgar sense, to a metaphysical sense, entirely diverse; and the strong connexo ion of the ideas of blamelessness, &c. with some of these terms, by an 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, by 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 noonday light, enemies to common sense; maintaining the first born of absurdities, &c. &c. But perhaps an impartial consideration of the things, which have been observed in the preceding parts of this inquiry, may enable the Jovers of truth better to judge, whose doctrine is indeed absurd, abstruise, self contradictory, and inconsistent with common sense, and many ways repugnant to the universal dico : tates 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 possi. ble 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.
Vol. V. 2 H
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 A fairs of Morality and Religion.
ARMINIANS say, if it be so, that sin and virtue come to pass by a necessity consisting in a sure connexion of cause es 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 connex. ion already established.
But I desire, that this matter may be fully considered ; and that it may be examined with a thorough strictnessy 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 connexion of antecedents and CORsequents, 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 connexion 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 are the case, then the means are not properly successful, and are truly in vain. The successfulness or unsuccessfulness of means, in