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So that, on the whole, the affair, as to exposedness to guilt or blame, is left just as it was.
To illustrate this, let us suppose a scale of a balance to be intelligent, and a free agent, and indued with a self-moving power, by virtue of which it could act and produce effects to a certain degree, ex. gr. to move itself up or down with a force equal to a weight of ten pounds; and that it might therefore be required of it, in ordinary circumstances, to move itself down with that force; for which it has power and full liberty, and therefore would be blameworthy if it failed of it.— But then let us suppose a weight of ten pounds to be put in the opposite scale, which in force entirely counter-balances its self-moving power, and so renders it impossible for it to move down at all; and therefore wholly excuses it from any such motion. But if we suppose there to be only nine pounds in the opposite scale, this renders its motion not impossible, but yet more difficult; so that it can now only move down with the force of one pound: but however, this is all that is required of it under these circumstances; it is wholly excused from nine parts of its motion and if the scale under these circumstances neglect to move and remain at rest, all that it will be blamed for, will be its neglect of that one tenth part of its motion; for which it had as much liberty and advantage, as in usual circumstances it has for the greater motion which in such a case would be required. So that this new difficulty does not at all increase its exposedness to any thing blameworthy.
And thus the very supposition of difficulty in the way of a man's duty or proclivity to sin, through a being given up to hardness of heart, or indeed by any other means whatsoever, is an inconsistence according to Dr. WHITBY's notions of liberty, virtue and vice, blame and praise. The avoiding of sin and blame, and the doing of what is virtuous and praiseworthy, must be always equally easy.
Dr. WHITEY's notions of liberty, obligation, virtue, sin, &c. led him into another great inconsistence. He abundantly insists that necessity is inconsistent with the nature of sin or fault. He says in the forementioned treatise, (p. 14.) Who can blame a person for doing what he could not help? And (p. 15.) It being sensibly unjust, to punish any man for doing that which was never in his power to avoid. And (p. 341.) to confirm his opinion, he quotes one of the Fathers, saying, Why doth God command if man hath not free will and power to obey? And again, in the same and next page, Who will not cry out that it is folly to command him that hath not liberty to do what is commanded; and that it is unjust to condemn him that has it not in his power to do what is required? And (p. 373.) he cites another saying, A law is given to him
that can turn to both parts; i. e. obey or transgress it: but no law can be against him who is bound by nature.
And yet the same Dr. WHITBY asserts, that fallen Man is not able to perform perfect obedience. In p. 165, he has these words. "The nature of Adam had power to continue innocent and without sin; whereas, it is certain our nature never had." But if we have not power to continue innocent and without Sin, then Sin is not inconsistent with Necessity, and we may be sinful in that which we have not power to avoid; and those things cannot be true which he asserts elsewhere, namely, "That if we be necessitated, neither Sins of omission nor commission would deserve that name." (p. 348.) If we have it not in our power to be innocent, then we have it not in our power to be blameless: and if so, we are under a Necessity of being blameworthy. And how does this consist with what he so often asserts, that necessity is inconsistent with blame or praise? If we have it not in our power to perform perfect obedience to all the commands of God, then we are under a Necessity of breaking some commands in some degree; having no power to perform so much as is commanded. And if so, why does he cry out of the unreasonableness and folly of commanding beyond what men have power to do?
Arminians in general are very inconsistent with themselves, in what they say of the inability of fallen Man in this respect. They strenuously maintain, that it would be unjust in God to require any thing of us beyond our present power and ability to perform; and also hold that we are now unable to perform perfect obedience, and that Christ died to satisfy for the imperfections of our obedience, and has made way that our imperfect obedience might be accepted instead of perfect : wherein they seem insensibly to run themselves into the grossest inconsistence. For, (as I have observed elsewhere) "they hold that God, in mercy to mankind, has abolished that rigorous constitution or law that they were under originally, and instead of it has introduced a more mild constitution, and put us under a new law, which requires no more than imperfect sincere obedience, in compliance with our poor infirm impotent circumstances since the fall."
Now how can these things be made consistent?. I would ask, of what law are these imperfections of our obedience a breach? If they are a breach of no law that we were ever under, then they are not Sins. And if they be not Sins, what need of Christ dying to satisfy for them? But if they are Sins, and the breach of some law, what law is it? They cannot be a breach of their new law, for that requires no other than imperfect obedience, or obedience with imperfections: and therefore to have obedience attended with imperfections, is no breach of it; for it is as much as it requires. And they cannot
be a breach of their old law: for that, they say, is entirely abolished; and we never were under it.-They say it would not be just in God to require of us perfect obedience, because it would not be just to require more than we can perform, or to punish us for failing of it. And, therefore, by their own scheme, the imperfections of our obedience do not deserve to be punished. What need therefore of Christ dying to satisfy for them? What need of his suffering to satisfy for that which is no fault, and in its own nature deserves no suffering? What need of Christ dying, to purchase that our imperfect obedience should be accepted, when, according to their scheme, it would be unjust in itself, that any other obedience than imperfect should be required? What need of Christ dying to make way for God's accepting of such obedience, as it would be unjust in him not to accept? Is there any need of Christ dying, to prevail with God not to do unrighteously?—If it be said that Christ died to satisfy that old law for us, that so we might not be under it, but that there might be room for our being under a more mild law; still I would inquire, what need of Christ dying, that we might not be under a law, which (by their principles) it would be in itself unjust that we should be under, whether Christ had died or no, because, in our present state, we are not able to keep it?
So the Arminians are inconsistent with themselves, not only in what they say of the need of Christ's satisfaction to atone for those imperfections which we cannot avoid, but also in what they say of the grace of God, granted to enable men to perform the sincere obedience of the new law. "I grant indeed (says Dr. STEBBING*) that by reason of original Sin, we are utterly disabled for the performance of the condition, without new grace from God. But I say, then, that he gives such a grace to all of us, by which the performance of the condition is truly possible; and upon this ground he may, and doth most righteously require it." If Dr. STEBBING intends to speak properly, by grace he must mean that assistance which is of grace, or of free favour and kindness. But yet in the same place he speaks of it as very unreasonable, unjust, and cruel, for God to require that as the condition of pardon, that is become impossible by original Sin. If it be so, what grace is there in giving assistance and ability to perform the condition of pardon? Or why is that called by the name of grace, that is an absolute debt, which God is bound to bestow, and which it would be unjust and cruel in Him to withhold, seeing he requires that as the condition of pardon, which he cannot perform without it?
Treatise of the Operations of the Spirit. 2 edit. p. 112, 113
Command and Obligation to Obedience, consistent with moral Inability to obey.*
It being so much insisted on by Arminian writers, that necessity is inconsistent with law or command, and particularly,
* The subject of "obligation to obedience," or MORAL OBLIGATION, though expressed in the title of this section, is not professedly handled by our author, either here or in any other part of the work. His professed object in this place is to prove that obligation to obey commands is not weakened by moral inability. But though this conclusion is established by many considerations, yet the nature and grounds of obligation are not pointed out, which might afford evidence WHY moral obligation is consistent with moral inability ? The subject is confessedly profound; but, perhaps, the following series of remarks may contribute, in some degree, to assist our enquiries, and to bring them to a satisfactory conclusion.
1. Obligation, if we regard the term, is a binding power, or an irresistible force ; but, in reference to morality and voluntary actions, obligation is expressive of a hypothetical indispensable connection between an antecedent and a consequent ; or between an end proposed, and the means of obtaining it. Thus, IF a moral agent would attain the end, he is obliged, or bound indispensably, to use the required means. And, on the contrary, IF a moral agent adopt a different antecedent from what is required, not only he shall not attain to the proposed consequent, but another consequent is to follow, indispensably connected with the antecedent actually adopted, by a necessity of consequence. Therefore,
2. The consequent, or the end, which is proposed by the moral Governor, is always a supposed good; for it would be unworthy of a governor wise and good to propose any other, especially as the antecedent prescribed and required is indispensably connected with it. But if the connection be broken by the free agent, by the adoption of an antecedent naturally connected with a different consequent, he then becomes naturally obliged, or forced, to sustain a proportionable evil.
3. In the system of moral government, it is the prerogative of the supreme Governor to propose the consequent of the indispensable connection; and it is the part of the moral agent, who in the act of choice is left free, to choose the antecedent, which the governor has objectively furnished, and indispensably required. To this choice he is morally, or hypothetically bound, yet is naturally free; and IF the required choice be made, the good follows; but IF NOT, the corresponding evil follows. For instance; if the forgiveness of sin be the consequent proposed, and repentance the antecedent required: the agent is morally bound to repent, but naturally free. If, however, he break through the moral bond, which is done by abusing his natural freedom, or continuing his wrong choice, forgiveness does not follow, but he stands exposed to the natural and threatened consequence of that wrong choice, or impenitence.
4. Hence it is obvious, that in the system of providence, and the execution of all decretive designs, it is the prerogative of the Sovereign of the Universe to establish the chain of all antecedents, and the consequents follow from the nature of things: but in the system of moral government, it is equally obvious, the reverse takes place; for here the supreme Governor proposes, and establishes objectively, the chain of consequents, while the moral agent, or the obligee, establishes optionally the antecedents; and as the actual choice of an antecedent is, such will be the actual consequence. When the moral agent chooses that antecedent which is required, or which is conformable to rectitude, the proposed consequent is obtained by the nature of things: but when that which is not required, or is not
that it is absurd to suppose God, by his command, should require that of men which they are unable to do; not allowing, in this
conformable to rectitude, is chosen for an antecedent, the evil consequence flows from the same nature of things, that is, from the essence of eternal truth.
5. Required antecedents are either a state of mind, or voluntary actions; according as the particular consequent proposed may be. For example, if happiness be the end, or consequent proposed, holiness, or a holy state of mind is the mean, or antecedent required. If we would see the Lord, we must be holy, or pure in heart, by a new birth unto righteousness. If justification be the end proposed, believing is a mean required. For to us righteousness shall be imputed, if we believe. If a subsequent favourable treatment of the obligee be the end proposed; obedience, or conformity to rule, is the mean required.
6. When an agent is said to be obliged in or by any thing or consideration, that thing or consideration in or by which he is obliged, is to be considered as the consequent proposed; and the state or act leading to it is the antecedent required. To be obliged in conscience, in duty, in law, in honour, &c. expresses the end to be obtained by a certain state or conduct as the mean or antecedent required. Thus, for instance, if conscience be satisfied, if duty be discharged, if law be conformed to, or if honour be secured, the required antecedent means must be adopted, or such acts must be performed.
7. If the required antecedents be not performed, it is manifest that the free agent has voluntarily established other antecedents, and the injurious consequents of these last flow (as before observed) from the nature of things; which conse quents will be similar or dissimilar to those proposed by the supreme Governor, in proportion as the antecedent established voluntarily by the agent, is similar or dissimilar to what was required. Hence we may see the true standard and measure of guilt, and of the different gradations of praise or blame.
8. Having considered the NATURE of moral obligation, let us now advert to the SUBJECT of it. This enquiry has more immediately for its object the qualifications of the moral agent, or those considerations whereby he stands obliged, in contradistinction to those beings in the universe that are not moral agents. An attentive and long continued investigation of the subject has taught us, that they are included in these three particulars: (1.) A natural capacity of moral enjoyment. (2.) A sufficiency of suitable means. And (3.) A freedom from compulsion in the choice of means-Whatever being is possessed of these qualifications is morally obliged; for he has a suitable ability to establish his own antecedents as required, in order that the proposed consequents may follow.
9. The first qualification is a NATURAL CAPACITY of moral enjoyments. This belongs to no being that is not a free agent: but to every being who is so, it inseparably belongs. This, more than any superior degree of reason, (however great, and however forcible the influence from that superiority) constitutes the chief and most essential difference between men and brutes. That such a capacity is an indispensably requisite qualification, is clear. For free agency necessarily implies a consequent moral advantage, or a natural good to be morally enjoyed, either explicitly proposed by the moral Governor, or fairly implied in the system of moral government; but this could not be proposed if there were no capacity of enjoyment as now stated. And this consequent advantage may properly be called the perpetual enjoyment of God, the chief good; because the chief end of all subordinate enjoyments, as well as of all obedience, and the sum total of all happiness, is the conscious enjoyment of divine favour and excellence.
10 The second qualification is a sufficiency of suitable MEANS. This is indispensably requisite; for to require an end while the means are out of the agent's reach, or physically out of his power, and that under the forfeiture of the Governor's displeasure, is of the very essence of injustice. But the divine Governor is "a God of truth, and without iniquity; just and right is he." And that these means ought to be sufficient and suitable in their own nature to attain the end; in other words, that the antecedents required to be adopted by the agent, are infallibly connected with the proposed conséquent, is equally plain, for the same reason that there should be any means at all. For means in themselves insufficient and unsuitable have no true connection with the end proposed; even as a law in itself bad, has morally no obliging power.
11. The third qualification is a FREEDOM from constraint and compulsion in the