Page images
PDF
EPUB

most precious and evident truths by a sure tenure. And if Mr. Hobbes has made a bad use of this truth, that is to be lamented; but the truth is not to be thought worthy of rejection on that account. It is common for the corruptions of the hearts of evil men to abuse the best things to vile purposes. I might also take notice of its having been observed, that the Arminians agree with Mr. Hobbes in many more things than the Calvinists.” As, in what he is said to hold concerning original sin, in denying the necessity of supernatural illumination, in denying infused grace, in denying the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and other things.

[ocr errors][merged small]

SOME may possibly object against what has been supposed of the absurdity and inconsistence of a selfdetermining power in the Will, and the impossibility of its being otherwise, than that the Will should be determined in every case by some motive, and by a motive, which, (as it stands in the view of the understanding) is of superior strength to any appearing on the other side; that if these things are true, it will follow, that not only the Will of created minds, but the Will of God himself is necessary in all its determinations. Concerning which, says the author of the Essay on the Freedom of the Will in God and in the Creature, page 85, 86, “What strange doctrine is this, contrary to all our ideas of the dominion of God? Does it not destroy the glory of his liberty of choice, and take away from the Creator and Governor and Benefactor of the world, that most free and sovereign Agent, all the glory of this sort of freedom 2 Does it not

* Dr. Gill, in his Answer to Dr. Whitby, vol. III, p. 183, &c.

seem to make him a kind of mechanical medium of fate, and introduce Mr. Hobbes' doctrine of fatality and necessity, into all things that God hath to do with ? Does it not seem to represent the blessed God, as a Being of vast understanding, as well as power and efficiency, but still to leave him without a Will to choose among all the objects within his view In short, it seems to make the blessed God a sort of Almighty Minister of Fate, under its universal and supreme influence; as it was the professed sentiment of some of the ancients, that fate was above the gods.” This is declaiming, rather than arguing ; and an application to men's imaginations and prejudices, rather than to mere reason. But I would calmly endeavor to consider, whether there be any reason in this frightful representation. But before I enter upon a particular consideration of the matter, I would observe this; that it is reasonable to suppose, it should be much more difficult to express or conceive things according to exact metaphysical truth, relating to the nature and manner of the existence of things in the Divine Understanding and Will, and the operation of these faculties (if I may so call them) of the Divine Mind, than in the human mind; which is infinitely more within our view, and nearer to a proportion to the measure of our comprehension, and more commensurate to the use and import of human speech. Language is indeed very deficient, in regard of terms, to express precise truth concerning our own minds, and their faculties and operations. Words were first formed to express external things; and those that are applied to express things internal and spiritual, are almost all borrowed, and used in a sort of figurative sense. Whence they are, most of them, attended with a great deal of ambiguity and unfixedness in their signification, occasioning innumerable doubts, difficulties and confusions, in inquiries and controver

sies, about things of this nature. But language is much less

adapted to express things in the mind of the incomprehensi

ble Deity, precisely as they are. | We find a great deal of difficulty in conceiving exactly of

the nature of our own souls. And notwithstanding all the

progress which has been made, in past and present ages, in this kind of knowledge, whereby our metaphysics, as it relates to these things, is brought to greater perfection than once it was ; yet, here is still work enough left for future inquiries and researches, and room for progress still to be made, for many ages and generations. But we had need to be infinitely able metaphysicians, to conceive with clearness, according to strict, proper and perfect truth, concerning the nature of the Divine Essence, and the modes of the action and operation of the powers of the Divine Mind. And it may be noted particularly, that though we are obliged to conceive of some things in God as consequent and dependent on others, and of some things pertaining to the Divine Nature and Will as the foundation of ethers, and so thefore others in the order of nature ; as, we must conceive of the knowledge and holiness of God as prior, in the order of nature, to his happiness; the perfection of his understanding, as the foundation of his wise purposes and decrees; the holiness of his nature, as the cause and reason of his holy determinations. And yet, when we speak of cause and effect, antecedent and consequent, fundamental and dependent, determining and determined, in the first Being, who is selfexistent, independent, of perfect and absolute simplicity and immutability, and the first cause of all things ; doubtless there must be less propriety in such representations, than when we speak of derived dependent beings, who are compounded, and liable to perpetual mutation and succession. Having premised this, I proceed to observe concerning the forementioned author’s exclamation, about the necessary determination of God's Will, in all things, by what he sees to be fittest and best. That all the seeming force of such objections and exclamations must arise from an imagination, that there is some sort of privilege or dignity in being without such a moral necessity, as will make it impossible to do any other, than always choose what is wisest and best ; as though there were some disadvantage, meanness and subjection, in such a necessity; a thing by which the Will was confined, kept under, and held in servitude by something, which, as it were, maintained a strong and invincible power and dominion over it, by bonds that held God fast, and that he could, by no means, deliver himself from. Whereas, this must be all mere imagination and delusion. It is no disadvantage or dishonor to a being, necessarily to act in the most excellent and happy manner, from the necessary perfection of his own nature. This argues no imperfection, inferiority or dependence, nor any want of dignity, privilege or ascendency.” It is not intonsistent with the absolute and most perfect sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God is his ability and authority to do whatever pleases him; whereby He doth according to his Will in the armies of Heaven, and amongst the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, what dost

* “It might have been objected, with more plausibleness, that the Su

preme Cause cannot be free, because he must needs do always what is best in the whole. But this would not at all serve Spinoza's purpose; for this is a necessity, not of nature and of fate, but of fitness and wisdom; a necessity consistent with the greatest freedom, and most perfect choice. For the only foundation of this necessity is such an unalterable rectitude of Will, and perfection of wisdom, as makes it impossible for a wise Being to act, foolishly.” Clark's Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God. Edit. 6, p. 64.

“Though God is a most perfect free agent, yet he cannot but do what is best and wisest on the whole. The reason is evident; because perfect wisdom and goodness are as steady and certain principles of action, as necessity itself; and an infinitely wise and good Being, indued with the most perfect liberty, can no more choose to act in contradiction to wisdom and goodness, than a necessary agent can act contrary to the necessity by which it is acted; it being as great an absurdity and impossibility in choice, for Infinite Wisdom to choose to act unwisely, or Infinite Goodness to choose what is not good, as it would be in nature, for absolute necessity to fail of producing its necessary effect. There was, indeed, no necessity in nature, that God should at first create such beings as he has created, or indeed any being at all, because he is, in Himself, infinitely happy and allsufficient. There was also, no necessity in nature, that he should preserve and continue things in being, after they were created; because he would be selfsufficient without their continuance, as he was before their creation. But it was fit, and wise, and good, that Infinite Wisdom should manifest, and Infinite Goodness communicate itself; and therefore it was necessary, in the sense of necessity I am now speaking of, that things should be made at such a time, and continued so long, and indeed with various perfections in such degrees, as Infinite Wisdom and Goodness saw it best and wisest that they should.” Ibid p. 112, 113.

“'Tis not a fault, but a perfection of our nature, to desire, will, and act, according to the last result of a fair examination. This is so far from being a restraint or diminution of freedom, that it is the very improvement and bensfit of it, 'Tis not an abridgement, 'tis the end and use of our liberty; and

the further we are removed from such a determination, the nearer we are to misery and slavery. A perfect indifference in the mind, not determinable by its last judgment, of the good or evil that is thought to attend its choice, would be so far from being an advantage and excellency of any intellectual nature, that it would be as great an imperfection, as the want of indifferency to act, or not to act, till determined by the Will, would be an imperfection on the other side. 'Tis as much a perfection, that desire, or the power of preferring should be determined by good, as that the power of acting should be determined by the Will; and the more certain such determination is, the greater the perfection. Nay, were we determined by anything but the last result of our own minds, judging of the good or evil of any action, we were not free. The very end of our freedom being that we might attain the good we choose ; and, therefore, every man is brought under a necessity by his constitution, as an intelligent being, to be determined in willing by his own thought and judgment, what is best for him to do i else he would be under the determination of some other than himself, which is want of liberty. And to deny that a man's Will, in every determination, follows his own judgment, is to say, that a man wills and acts for an end that he would not have, at the same time that he wills and acts for it. For if he prefers it in his present thoughts, before any other, it is plain he then thinks better of it, and would have it before any other, unless he can have, and not have it, will, and not will it, at the same time; a contradiction too manifest to be admitted. if we look upon those superior beings above us, who enjoy perfect happiness. we shall have reason to judge, that they are more steadily determined in their choice of good than we; and yet we have no reason to think they are less happy, or less free, than we are. And if it were fit for such poor finite creatures as we are, to pronounce what Infinite Wisdom and Goodness could do, I think we might say, that God himself cannot choose what is not good. The freedom of the Almighty hinders not his being determined by what is best. But to give a right view of this mistaken part of liberty, let me ask, Would any one be a changeling, because he is less determined by wise determination, than a wise man Is it worth the name of freedom, to be at liberty to play the fool, and draw shame and misery upon a man's self? If to break loose from the conduct of reason, and to want that restraint of examination and judgment, that keeps us from doing or choosing the worse, be liberty, true liberty, madmen and fools are the only free men. Yet I think, no

Vol. V. 2 K.

« PreviousContinue »