He was

do well and wisely, as far as his best judgment can direct him, and thereby merit approbation. The abuse of it is to act contrary to what he knows or suspects to be his duty. and his wife. dom, and thereby juftly merits disapprobation.

By neceffity, I understand the want of this liberty.

If there can be a better and a worse in actions on the system of necessity, let us suppose a man necessarily determined in all cases to will and to do what is best to be done, he would surely be innocent. But, he would not be entitled to the esteem and approbation of those, who knew and believed this necessity.

On the other hand, if a man be necessarily determined to do ill, this seems to move pity, but not disapprobation. ill, because he could not be otherwise. Who can blame him? Necessity has no law.

If he knows that he acted under this necessity, has he not just ground to exculpate himself? The blame, if there be a

any, is not in him, but in his conftiturion. If he be charged by his Maker with doing wrong, may he not expoftulate with him, and say, Why halt thou made me thus ? I may be sacrificed at thy pleasure, for the common good, like a man that has the plague, but not for ill desert; for thou knoweft that what I am charged with is thy work, and not mine.

This liberty a man may have, though it do not extend to all his actions, or even to all his voluntary actions. He does many things by inftinct, many things by the force of habit, without any thought at all, and consequently without will. In the first part of life, he has not the power of self-government any more than the brutes. That power over the determinations of his own will, which belongs to him in ripe years, is limited, as all his powers are; and it is perhaps beyond the reach of his understanding to define its limits with precision. We can only say, in general, that it extends to every action for which he is accountable.

This power is given by his Maker, and at his pleasure whose gift it is; it may be enlarged or diminished, continued or with



drawn. No power in the creature can be independent of the Creator. His hook is in its nose; he can give it line as far as he sees fit, and, when he pleases, can restrain it, or turn it whithersoever he will. Let this be always understood, when we afcribe liberty to man, or to any created being.

Supposing it therefore to be true, That man is a free agent, it may be true, at the same time, that his liberty may be im. paired or lost, by disorder of body or mind, as in melancholy, or in madness: it may be impaired or loft by vicious habits; it may, in particular cases, be restrained by divine interposition.

We call man a free agent in the same way as we call him a reasonable agent. In many things he is not guided by reason, but by principles similar to thole of the brutes. His reason is weak at best. It is liable to be impaired or lost, by his own fault, or by other means. In like manner, he may be a free agent, though his freedom of action may have many fimilar limitations.

Liberty is sometimes opposed to external force or confinement of the body. Sometimes it is opposed to obligation by law, or by lawful authority. Sometimes it is opposed to necessity.

1. It is opposed to confinement of the body by superior force. So we say a prisoner is set at liberty when his fetters are knocked off, and he is discharged from confinement. This is the liberty defined in the objection; and I grant that this liberty extends not to the will, neither does the confinement, because the will cannot be confined by external force. · 2. Liberty is opposed to obligation by law, or lawful authority. This liberty is a right to act one way or another, in things which the law has neither commanded nor forbidden; and this liberty is meant when we speak of a man's natural hberty, his civil liberty, his Chriftian liberty. It is evident that this liberty, as well as the obligation opposed to it, extends to the will: for it is the will to obey that makes ubedience ; the will to tranfgress that makes a tanígression of the law. Withope will there can be neither obedience aor transgreffion.


Law fupposes a power to obey or to tranfgress; it does not take away this power, but proposes the motives of duty and of interest, leaving the power to yield to them, or to take the consequence of transgression.

3. Liberty is opposed to necessity, and in this sense it ex. tends to the determinations of the will only, and not to what is consequent to the will.

In every voluntary action, the determination of the will is the first part of the action, upon which alone the moral estimation of it depends. It has been made a question among philosophers, Whether, in every instance, this determination be the necessary confequence of the constitution of the person, and the circumstances in which he is placed; or whether he had not power, in many cases, to determine this way or that ?

This has, by some, been called the philofophical notion of liberty and necessity; but it is by no means peculiar to pbilosophers. The lowest of the vulgar have, in all ages, been prone to have recourse to this necessity, to exculpate themselves or their friends in what they do wrong, though, in the general tenor of their conduct, they act upon the contrary principle.

Whether this notion of moral liberty be conceivable or not, every man must judge for himself. To me there appears no difficulty in conceiving it. I confider the determination of the will as an effect. This effect must have a cause which had power to produce it; and the caule must be either the person himself, whose will it is, or some other being. The first is as easily conceived as the last. If the person was the cause of that determination of his own will, he was free in that action, and it is juftly imputed to him, whether it be good or bad. But, if another being was the cause of this determination, either by producing it immediately, or by means and instruments under his direction, then the determination is the act and deed of that being, and is solely imputable to him.

But it is said, “That nothing is in our power but what den pends upon the will, and therefore the will itself cannot be in our power."

I answer, I answer, That this is a fallacy arising from taking a common faying in a sense which it never was intended to convey, and in a sense contrary to what it necessarily implies.

In common life, when men speak of what is, or is not, in a man's power, they attend only to the external and visible effects, which only can be perceived, and which only can affect them. Of these, it is true, that nothing is in a man's power, but what depends upon his will, and this is all that is meant by this common saying.

But this is so far from. excluding his will from being in his power, that it necessarily implies it. For to say that what de. pends upon the will is in a man's power, but the will is not in his power, is to say that the end is in his power, but the means necessary to that end are not in his power, which is a contradiction.

In many propositions which we express universally, there is an exception necessarily implied, and therefore always understood. Thus when we fay that all things depend upon God, God himself is necessarily excepted. In like manner, when we say, that all that is in our power depends upon the will, the will itself it necesarily excepted: for if the will be not, nothing else can be in our power. Every effect must be in the power of its cause. The determination of the will is an effect, and therefore must be in the power of its cause, whether that cause be the agent himself, or some other being.

From what has been said in this chapter, I hope the notion of moral hiberty will be diftinétly understood, and that it appears that this notion is neither inconceivable, nor involves any absurdity or contradiction.

[To be continued.]



S E R M 0 N


On LUK E xii. 20.

But God faid unto him, Thou fool!

· Bur

UT one of these fools is commonly wiser in his own

eyes than seven men that can render a reason. If it were possible for a Christian, for one that has the mind which was in Chrift, to despise any one, he would cordially despise these, who suppose they are the men, and wisdom shall die with them! You may see one of these painted to the life, in the verses preceding the text. The ground of a certain rich man (says our blessed Lord) brought forth plenteously, (ver. 17, &c.) And he reasoned within himself, saying, What shall I do? For I have no room where to bestow my fruits. And he said, This will I do, I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there will I beflow all my goods and my fruits. And I will say to my soul,

Soul thou hast much goods laid up for many years: take thy ease; eat, drink, and be merry:" but God said unto him, Thou fool!

2. I propose, by the assistance of God, first, to open and explain these few full words, and then to apply them to your conscience. First to open and explain them. A little before, our Lord had been giving a solemn caution to one who spoke to him about dividing his inheritance. Beware of covetousness: for the life of a man, that is, the happiness of it, does not confift in the abundance of the things that he pobeffeth. To prove and illustrate this weighty truth, our Lord relates this remarkable story. It is not improbable, it was one that had lately oc. curred, and that was fresh in the memory of some that were present. The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plen. teously. The riches of the antients consisted chiefly in the fruits of the earth. And he said within himself, What shall I do? VOL. XIV.



« ElőzőTovább »