Page images

Will would be capricious and arbitrary, and we should be throwie loose altogether, and our arbitrary power could do 48 good or ill. only by accident. But if such a loose, fortuitous state would render vain other 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 im. possible, by any means whatsoever, to implant or introduce such a notion into the mind. As no such notioạs as imply selfcontradiction and selfabolition can subsist in the mind, 4 I have shewn 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 selfdetermination, 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 man's having a 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 pot 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 moment's 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 man's 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 contingentły, or from a state of indiffer, ence, but every individual act, in all the series, would arise from foregoing bias or preference, and from a cause predetermining 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 selfcontradiction as this, does not arise in men's 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 men's 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 govcrnment; and that this moral necessity is so far from being

inconsistent with praise and blame, and the benefit and use of men's own care and labor, that, on the contrary, it implies the very ground and reason, why men's 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 God's moral government, in every respect, with the proper use of motives, exhortations, commands, counsels, promises, and threatenings; and the use and benefit

of endeavors, care and industry; and that therefore there is no need that the strict philosophic truth should be at all con. cealed 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 oblig. ed often to dodge, shuffle, hide, and turn their backs ; and 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 an 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 imputa. tion of advancing a scheme of necessity, of a like nature with that of the author of the Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion. 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 candor, that you will excuse,

Your obliged friend and brother,








« PreviousContinue »