Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

There are two points of such main importance in this question: that if either of them could be incontrovertibly settled, the dispute would be nearly at an end. The first of these, which Calvinists believe to be decidedly in their favour, is the effect of the divine prescience, which both sides allow to be absolute and infallible. upon the actions of those who are the subjects of it. It will be. universally allowed that the Creator must have foreseen all the alternatives which the concatenation of events would propose to the choice of mankind; he must also have foreseen, unable as we are to comprehend so immense a survey, the different characters which difference of circumstances and a different use of opportunities would form. He must have foreseen, not only that Adam would yield to temptation, not only, in general, that offences would arise, but each peculiar disposition which circumstances would concur to produce; that pride, for instance, together with the ambition of possessing a body of useful slaves, would be stronger than fear of the divine vengeance in the mind of Pharaoh; that the idolatrous examples surrounding the Jews would lead them to apostacy and subsequent captivity; that the hopes and fears of future retribution so strongly set before the mind of Judas, would be insufficient, to efface in him the love of this present world.' He foresaw, therefore, that the volitions of mankind would not interfere with the course of government prescribed by his providence; and the persons whose characters are thus foreseen, when they appear on the stage, bear their part in the event with which they are connected, and act as it was foreknown they would act, being swayed by the greatest apparent good, or the strongest prevailing motive at the



In this there is, in a certain sense, no contingency: that is, undoubtedly various characters will be formed; undoubtedly such and such motives will be placed before them in the course of events, and will have an effect according to the character to which they are proposed. But again, there is no necessity: that is, no such necessity as obliges them to act otherwise than as they are impelled by the prevailing idea of good, which, in each individual instance, the mind balances and decides upon, by its own lights and energies, and is in no assignable case so far influenced as to become any other than a voluntary agent. This, however, being the im

It may be useful here to define that we mean by free will a power given and upheld by God of self-determining or morally specifying its own acts, without any necessitating predeterminer, divine or human.' This definition is taken from Baxter's Catholic Theology, p. 1-32, a book very useful in its object, as well as its matter, in which the author shews, by adopting the Platonic mode of dialogue, how much must be conceded on both sides, and how uearly verbal at last the differences become, which controversy widens into a cause of serious disunion.


[ocr errors]

portant point upon which the issue of the contest principally depends, it is the one most disputed by the Calvinists. First, it is argued, that whether God foresces, as we allow, that the event will undoubtedly happen, or whether, as Calvin says, he decrees the event, and brings it to pass, makes no difference in the case. Infallible foreknowledge, says Edwards, may not be the thing that causes the necessity, but yet may prove the necessity of the event foreknown. Of this argument it is sufficient to observe, that it depends on the ambiguous sense of the word necessity. The inquiry is, whether the divine foreknowledge influences men's actions as a cause steadily tending to produce a particular effect. This cannot be proved by the admission of infallible foreknowledge. That which infallible foreknowledge does prove, is the certainty, not the necessity, of the event foreknown; but Edwards, by a dexterous use of the word necessity, (of which we shall, bye-andbye, see another example,) contrives to substitute it for certainty, so as, in fact, to assume the very matter which he professes to argue; namely, whether the certainty of God's foreknowledge imposes a necessity on the human will. That such certainty is not necessity is affirmed by Arminians, and with them by some of the ablest metaphysicians who have ever descended into the field of ratiocination, and, as it appears, is hitherto only contradicted by an evasion.



Edwards, however, having broken his spear, has still a weapon remaining, and proceeds to crush those who dare to pursue the contest farther, by a formidable syllogism. If it be,' he says, as Dr. Whitby urges, that God's foreknowledge is not the cause, but the effect of the existence of the event foreknown, this is so far from shewing that this foreknowledge does not infer the necessity of the existence of that event, that it rather shews the contrary more plainly. Because it shews the existence of the event to be so settled and firm, that it is as if it had already been, inasmuch as in effect it actually exists already, its future existence has already had actual influence and efficacy and has produced an effect, viz. prescience.'

This specimen will afford to those who have not entered into the metaphysics of the subject, some idea of the sophistry which is employed to maintain the Calvinistic notions, and in which it is not surprising that many minds, unused to the perplexities of a web so intricate, should be entangled. The argument runs thus ; that which has produced an effect must necessarily be; human actions have produced an effect, viz. divine prescience, therefore human actions are necessary. Surely this is to substitute for reasoning the logical quibbles of the schoolmen. Taking advantage of the acknowledged connection between cause and effect, it attempts


to establish the same necessary connection between prescience and the subjects of that prescience. But in arguing upon cause and effect, as necessarily connected, it is of course supposed that the efficient cause precedes the effect; whereas, the necessity which it is here intended to establish, must be founded on one of the two following concessions, and falls to the ground if neither of them is premised either it must be admitted that the effect may precede its cause, or that the volitions of mankind, being predicated as the cause, precede the divine foreknowledge, their pretended effect. If neither of these is granted, or can be seriously proposed, then there is no such cause or effect, predicable in the case, as produces necessity. Yet this is the argument which is levelled against the grand assertion of the Arminians, that God's cience has no influence at all on our actions;' and on such subtleties does Edwards ground his affirmation, that there is no geometrical theorem or proposition whatsoever more capable of strict demonstration than that God's certain prescience of the volitions of moral agents is inconsistent with the Arminian notions of liberty. Something more cogent will be required, we apprehend, before we dissent from the conclusion once made by Augustine. Nullo modo cogimur, aut retenta præscientia Dei tollere voluntatis arbitrium, aut retento voluntatis arbitrio, Deum, quod nefas est, negare præscium futurorum: sed utrumque amplectimur, utrumque fideliter et veraciter confitemur; illud, ut bene credamus, hoc, ut bene vivamus.'


The other argument we alluded to is confidently urged by Arminians. They insist that liberty of will is indispensable to moral agency and responsibility; and, in the words of our author, that the Calvinistic doctrine converts the gracious offers of mercy and spiritual assistance, the exhortations to repentance and amendment, the unqualified promises of pardon to the penitent sinner, with which the Scriptures every where abound, into the most bitter, most cruel, and sarcastic irony towards God's deluded and abandoned creatures.' p. 250. Edwards is well aware of the difficult knot which he has here to untie, and employs a considerable portion of his treatise in arguing that the general apprehensions of mankind are mistaken in this point, and that liberty is not only unnecessary to constitute merit or demerit, but that commands to obedience are reasonably consistent with inability to obey. To what shifts he is driven may be collected from his condescending to inquire, in the outset, whether the acts of God are not necessarily holy? And whether they are on that account the less praiseworthy? This furnishes us with another instance of an evasive use of the term necessity. It is strange that a metaphysical writer should require to be reminded that the necessity of God's holiness arises


from his perfection, that the necessity attributed to man is that of imperfection; that the impossibility of the Almighty doing any thing that is evil is deduced from his independence; but that when we speak of man as a necessary agent, the very thing intended is his being subject to the controul of a nature with which he is endued, or of an impulse by which he is actuated, by a superior power. The necessary holiness of God is as entirely sui generis as his existence, and as totally inapplicable to the virtue of any created, and therefore dependent, being.

Leaving this fallacy, we will briefly consider the stress of the whole answer to the objection now under deliberation, which lies in the distinction made between natural and moral inability This pretended distinction, in the case supposed, is wholly without a difference. The same process of reasoning that exonerates natural inability from command or blame, applies to moral. In either case there is the same apparent injustice; that of requiring from a man what he neither possesses by nature, nor has forfeited by his own fault, nor has the means of obtaining. To appeal, with Edwards, to our judgment of moral or immoral habits, is a manifest evasion. Habit is not born with a man, but is the result of the good or bad use of what is born with him, and what is bestowed upon him. It does not require metaphysics to prove that there may be a moral inability in the will to comply with the command, the motive to resist having become far more forcible than the motive to obey; or that long habit of yielding to motives, at first not only resistible but feeble, may render them at last so powerful that the will shall be certainly determined by them; but the question really is, though dexterously shunned by Edwards, whether the motive which leads to the first and determining act' which begins the habit, is so strongly set before any man by the Supreme Disposer of events, that it shall be morally impossible for him to resist it, and whether it would be consistent with our idea of justice to place so strong a first motive on the one side, and a command to resist it on the other. The truth is, that for a supralapsarian Calvinist to attempt to defend his tenets by the notions of justice which reason tablished among mankind, is the vainest of all endeavours. He has only to sit silent, or to answer, that God's ways are not as our ways. If there is such a moral inability, and it is yet made the subject of command, it must be judicial, it must be the condemnation spoken of by St. Paul as having come upon all men by the sin of Adam, considered as our foederal head. If either this mitigated doctrine, or the supralapsarian tenets which we have been calling in question, can be proved to be the clear language of Scripture, in contradiction to the forcible evidence adduced by Mr. Mant, we


as es




shall be the first to bow to that authority. But in the mean time we adhere to that faith which is consistent with our reason.

It is no answer here, to say that we cannot account for the permission of evil at all in the world, or to ask, 'how God can be omnipotent, if sin be not the result of his will?' "The holiness of God's nature will stand with the being of sin by man's causing, but not with God's causing it.' If we take the assurance of Scripture, and view this life as preparatory to a superior state for which we are destined, and if that preparation is to consist in a trial of character and discipline of virtue, vice becomes the touchstone by which virtue is proved, and the guilt of some is indispensable to the trial of the whole. In the very notion of a state of probation evil must be included. Banish all moral evil, all temptation to vice and wickedness from the world, the world would certainly be infinitely happier, but it would no longer be a situation of moral trial. Or if, while evil still existed, man had been irresistibly determined to choose the good, a case supposed by Bayle, and which it is very possible to conceive, the moral character would have remained undisciplined, untried, and unimproved, moral liberty being essential to a system of which moral trial is the object, and retributive justice the consummation.

Now although it is not pretended that we can see into all the reasons by which the Deity was swayed to create man as a being liable to error, yet there are not wanting many considerations that may serve, if not to satisfy our curiosity, at least to remove any scruples which might be raised, on this ground, against the divine benevolence. Without denying, on the one hand, that a being free from all temptation, and unspotted by any stain of guilt, might be created, and if created, would be an object of the highest love and admiration; yet, on the other hand, it must be conceded, that the virtue of such a being would be altogether different in kind from the virtue of one who has successfully resisted the temptations and overcome the difficulties to which a good man is exposed on earth, and who has contributed, if we may so say, to the formation of his own moral character. The one would have received, the other has acquired. The one would have succeeded by inheritance to the possession, which the other has obtained by perseverance and labour. If, indeed, that were the highest character of virtue, which consists in the perpetual contemplation and love of supreme excellence, an idea which was erroneously entertained by some of the ancient philosophers, and has been borrowed" from them by the modern Quietists, there might be less occasion for a situation of so great difficulty and danger; though, even according to that mistaken system, it is no inconsiderable triumph to abstract the mind from the objects by which it is surrounded, and

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »