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Br. Taylor's grand objection against this doctrine, which he abundantly insists on, is this: That it is utterly inconsistent with the nature of virtue, that it should be concreated with any person; because, if so, it must be by an act of God's absolute power, without our knowledge or concurrence ; and that moral virtue, in its very nature implieth the choice and consent of the moral agent, without which it cannot be virtue and holiness: That a necessary holiness is no holiness. So p. 180, where he observes, “That Adam must exist, he must be created, yea he must exercise thought and reflection, before he was righteous.” See also p. 250, 251. In p. 161. S. he says, “To say, that God not only endowed Adam with a capacity of being righteous, but moreover that righteousness and true holiness were created with him, or wrought into his nature, at the same time he was made, is to affirm a contradiction, or what is inconsistent with the very nature of righteousness.” And in like manner Dr. Turnbull in many places insists upon it, that it is necessary to the very being of virtue, that it be owing to our own choice, and diligent culture.
With respect to this, I would observe, that it consists in a notion of virtue quite inconsistent with the nature of things, and the common notions of mankind ; and also inconsistent with Dr. Taylor's own notions of virtue. Therefore if it be truly so, that to affirm that to be virtue or holiness, which is not the fruit of preceding thought, reflection and choice, is to affirm a contradiction, I shall shew plainly, that for him to affirm otherwise, is a contradiction to himself.
In the first place, I think it a contradiction to the nature of things, as judged of by the common sense of mankind. It is agreeable to the sense of the minds of men in all nations and ages, not only that the fruit or effect of a good choice is virtuous, but the good choice itself, from whence that effect proceeds ; yea, and not only so, but also the antecedent good disposition, temper, or affection of mind, from whence proceeds that good choice, is virtuous. This is the general notion, not that principles derive their goodness from actions, but that actions derive their goodness from the principles whence they proceed; and so that the act of choosing that which is good, is no further virtuous than it proceeds from a good principle, or virtuous disposition of mind. Which supposes, that a virtuous disposition of mind may be before a virtuous act of choice ; and that therefore it is not necessary that there should first be thought, reflection and choice, before there can be any virtuous disposition. If the choice be first, before the existence of a good disposition of heart, what signifies that choice : There can, according to our natural notions, be no virtue in a choice which proceeds from no virtuous principle, but from mere selflove, ambition, or some animal appetite; and therefore a virtuous temper of mind may be before a good act of choice, as a tree may be before the fruit, and the sountain before the stream which proceeds from it. The following things in Mr. Hutcheson's inquiry concerning moral good and evil, are evidently agreeable to the nature of things, and the voice of human sense and reason. Section II. p. 132, 133. “Every action which we apprehend as either morally good or evil, is always supposed to flow from some affections towards sensitive natures. And whatever we call virtue or vice, is either some such affection, or some action consequent usion it. All the actions counted religious in any country, are supposed by those who count them. so, to flow from some affections towards the Deity; and whatever we call social virtue, we still suppose to slow from affections towards our fellow creatures. Prudence, if it is only employed in promoting private interest, is never imagined to be a virtue.” In these things Dr. Turnbull expressly agrees with Mr. Hutcheson, who is his admired author.” If a virtuous disposition or affection is before acts that proceed from it, then they are before those virtuous acts of choice which proceed from it. And therefore there is no necessity that all virtuous dispositions or affections should be the effect of choice : And so no such supposed necessity can be a good objection against such a disposition's being natural, or from a kind of instinct, implanted in the mind in its creation. A
greeable to what Mr. Hutcheson says, (Ibid. Section III. p." r 196, 197.) “I know not, says he, for what reason some will not allow that to be virtue, which flows from instinct or passions. But how do they help themselves : They say, virtue arises from reason. What is reason, but the sagacity we have in prosecuting any end ? The ultimate end proposed by common moralists, is the happiness of the agent himself. And this certainly he is determined to pursue from instinct. Now may not another instinct towards the public, or the good of others, be as proper a principle of virtue, as the instinct towards private happiness 2 If it be said, that actions from instinct are not the effect of prudence and choice, this objection will hold full as strongly against the actions which flow from selflove.” And if we consider what Dr. Taylor declares as his own notion of the essence of virtue, we shall find, what he so confidently and often affirms, of its being essential to all virtue, that it should follow choice, and proceed from it, is no less repugnant to that, than it is to the nature of things, and the general notions of mankiod. For it is his notion, as well as Mr. Hutcheson's, that the essence of virtue lies in good affection, and particularly in benevolence or love; as he very fully declares in these words in his Key,” “That the word that signifies goodness and mercy should also signify moral rectitude in general, will not seem strange, if we consider that love is the sulfilling of the law. Goodness, according to the sense of scripture, and the nature of things, includes all moral rectitude, which, I reckon, may every part of it, where it is true and genuine, be resolved into this single firinciple.” If it be so indeed, then certainly no act whatsoever can have moral rectitude, but what proceeds from this firincioe. And consequently no act of volition or choice can have any moral rectitude, that takes place before this principle exists. And yet he most confidently affirms, that thought, reflection and choice must go besore virtue, and that all virtue or righteousness must be the fruit of preceding choice. This brings his scheme to an evident contradiction. For no act of choice can be virtuous but what proceeds from a principle of benevolence or love ; for he insists that all genuine, moral rectitude, in every part of it, is resolved into this single principle ; and yet the principle of benevolence itself cannot be virtuous, unless it proceeds from choice, for he affirms, that nothing can have the nature of virtue but what comes from choice. So that virtuous love, as the principle of all virtue, must go before virtuous choice, and be the principle or spring of it; and yet virtuous choice must go before virtuous benevolence, and be the spring of that. If a virtuous act of choice goes before a principle of benevolence, and produces it, then this virtuous act is something distinct from that principle which follows it, and is its effect. So that here is at least one part of virtue, yea, the spring and source of all virtue, viz. a virtuous choice, that cannot be resolved into that single principle of love. Here also it is worthy to be observed, that Dr. Taylor, p. 128, says, “ The cause of every effect is alone chargeable with the effect it produceth ; or which proceedeth from it :” And so he argues, that if the effect be bad, the cause alone is sinful. According to which reasoning, when the effect is good, the cause alone is righteous or virtuous : To the cause is to be ascribed all the praise of the good effect it produceth. And by the same reasoning it will follow, that if, as Dr. Taylor says, Adam must choose to be righteous, before he was righteous, and if it be essential to the nature of righteousness or moral rectitude, that it be the effect of choice, , and hence a principle of benevolence cannot have moral rectitude, unless it proceeds from choice; then not to the principle of benevolence, which is the effect, but to the foregoing choice alone is to be ascribed all the virtue or righteousness that is in the case. And so, instead of all moral rectitude in every part of it, being resolved into that single principle of benevolence, no moral reclitude, in any part of it, is to be resolved into that principle ; but all is to be resolved into the foregoing choice, which is the cause. But yet it follows from these inconsistent principles, that there is no moral rectitude or virtue in that first act of choice,
* Marginal Note annexed to § 358.
that is the cause of all consequent virtue. This follows two ways: 1. Because every part of virtue lies in the benevolent principle, which is the effect, and therefore no part of it can lie in the cause. 2. The choice of virtue, as to the first act at least, can have no virtue or righteousness at all, because it does not proceed from any foregoing choice. For Dr. Taylor insists that a man must first have reflection and choice, before he can have righteousness, and that it is essential to holiness that it proceed from choice. So that the first choice of holiness, which holiness proceeds from, can have no virtue at all, because by the supposition it does not proceed from choice, being the first choice. Hence if it be essential to holiness, that it proceeds from choice, it must proceed from an unholy choice ; unless the first holy choice can be before itself, or there be a virtuous act of choice before that which is first of all. And with respect to Adam, let us consider how, upon Dr. Taylor's principles, it was not possible he ever should have any such thing as righteousness, by any means at all. In the state wherein God created him, he could have no such thing as love to God, or any love or benevolence in his heart. For if so, there would have been original righteousness; there would have been genuine moral rectitude : Nothing would have been wanting ; for our author says, True, genuine, moral rectitude, in every fart of it, is to be resolved into this single firincifle. But if he were wholly without any such thing as love to God, or any virtuous love, how should he come by virtue 2 The answer doubtless will be, by act of choice: He must first choose to be virtuous. But what if he did choose to be virtuous : It could not be from love to God, or any virtuous principle, that he chose it; for, by the supposition, he has no such principle in his heart : And if he chooses it without such a principle, still, according to this author, there is no virtue in his choice ; for all virtue, he says, is to be resolved into that single principle of love. Or will he say, there may be produced in the heart a virtuous benevolence by an act or acts of choice, that are not virtuous 2 But this does not consist with what he implicitly asserts, that to the