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But those are a precarious sort of demonstrations, which men build on the meaning that they arbitrarily affix to a word;
cluded by natural necessity. For the volition itself to be so necessitated, and not in a moral or hypothetical manner only, is the same thing as giving it no opportunity of choice or preference, or constraining it to choose one way by a settled purpose, with a natural impossibility of acting otherwise. But if every act of man be thus the result of settled purpose, why should he be blamed for any one act whatever? He does nothing but what he is constrained, or decretively necessitated to perform, the contrary being rendered naturally impossible; and if he deserves no praise, he can incur no blame, any more than a clock for not keeping time. Such a necessary agent would be indeed a plain contradiction. There is much reason to apprehend that some philosophical necessarians have no better notion of agency than that which Mr. CHUBB charges, and justly charges, with "a plain contradiction." For those who hold the sentiment, that every act, even as to its moral quality, and every event, are of decretive appointment, in subserviency to ultimate good, must allow, in order to be tolerably consistent, that the su preme Being is "the only proper agent in the universe; and thus reduce human agency, and every thing else called agency in a creature, to an appointed necessary choice, however odious in its nature, mischievous in its tendency, or painful in experience. Thus, according to them, God is the only proper agent in all foul crimes and horrid blasphemies, on earth and in hell! They have a right to define their terms, and to say what they mean by agency in God, or in a creature, and to state their hypothesis accordingly; but others also have a right to deduce the genuine consequences of that hypothesis, and to shew wherein its error lies.-The design of these notes is not to excite a spirit of unprofitable controversy, but to assist the serious enquirer in detecting errors and recognizing truths of radical importance in Ethice and Theology; and, it is hoped, that to promote these ends the following observations may conduce.
1. It is granted, that in reference to natural acts, the supreme Being is the "only proper agent in the universe," as they all spring from his energy. In this respect he is the first cause of all causes, efficiently; and the description of the poet is philosophically just: He
Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze,
2. It is also granted, that, in all acts morally good, the created agent is the Subject of necessity several ways. He has an active nature from decretive necessity, which it is not in his power to alter. He is also, accordingly, compelled to some act of choice, from the activity of his nature. He is, moreover, the subject of physical influence of a holy and purifying nature, whereby the goodness of his choice is infallibly secured, and without which there could be no assignable ground of certainty that any action would be morally good. There is also a necessity of connection, arising from the nature of things, or the essence of truth, first, between the disposition and the ast, or that the act will be of the same nature, morally considered, with the disposition from which it proceeds; and, secondly, between the act and the end or consequent, which is happiness.
3. It is moreover allowed, that in all acts morally evil, the soul is passive in reference to that necessity of dependence which is inseparable from a created nature, which may be called passive power; without which the existence of moral evil would be impossible. This necessity also arises from the nature of things, not from decree; for no decree can alter its existence, (though it may, and actually does counteract it) any more than it can alter the state of a creature from dependence into independence on the first cause. A creature without passive power involves the most palpable absurdities. For its very definition is "that property in a creature whereby it differs essentially from the independence, self-sufficience, and indefectibility of the Creator ;" and to deny it, is to suppose that a creature may be independent, self-sufficient, and indefectible-that in these respects the
* BELSHAM'S Elements of the Philosophy of the Mind, p. 254.
especially when that meaning is abstruse, inconsistent, and entirely diverse from the original sense of the word in common speech.
creature and the Creator are on a par-that a necessary and a contingent being are the same, in those very things which constitute their essential difference! Were it not for this property in an agent, he could never sin; for all his acts would be physically necessary, without any hypothetical medium, or moral alternative.
4. He is a moral agent, whose volitions might have been otherwise than they are,if the motives, and consequently the state of his mind, had been otherwise. But to suppose that his volitions might have been otherwise than they are, the motives and state of the mind being the same, would be to make him in his volitions the sport of chance, or a mere nonentity.
5. He then is a moral agent who has, in reference to volition, a moral alternative, or a hypothetical possibility of a different choice. Where this alternative, or this possibility, is not, there the agent (if he may be so called) is not morally obliged, and therefore is not accountable.
6. But if so, where does the ground of such an alternative lie? It lies in the agent's mind or the disposition whence the volition springs, and whence its character is derived. If God influence the mind so as to make it, in a given degree, to resemble his own moral nature; in that degree would the choice made be morally good. But if passive power be not counteracted by such influence, (which being gracious, God is not bound in equity to do) in any given degree, the nature of things, the essence of truth, connects, in a corresponding degree, the state of mind with the volition.
7. Hence it is plain that moral influence, as such, effects nothing certain; but always requires a previous state of mind, in order to ensure a certainty of good effect; and that previous state of mind is effected by no other possible means but a physical energy or agency, producing assimilation. There must be a virtuous mind before a virtuous choice; the quality of the act is derived from the agent.
8. One thing, which has been a source of much obscurity and confusion in reference to moral agency, is the supposition that the mind is equally free in all respects, when choosing good and when choosing evil; in other words, that the one volition and the other become morally certain, from the same sort of necessity. But this is, not the real case. Indeed the necessity of connection between the previous state of the mind and the corresponding volition, is the same; for it is in each case nothing else but the nature of things; but that necessity which effects a state of mind previous to good volitions, is as different from the other necessity which effects a state of mind previous to volitions morally evil, as light is from darkness. They proceed from opposite quarters, and operate in contrary directions. A holy disposition is generated by decretive holy influence; the other disposition (which ought not however to be called unholy) proceeds from the hypothetical nature of things. Such a disposition, though not morally vicious, yet generates vice in union with free agency.
9. It is highly worthy of remark, that though a good volition must proceed from a good heart, morally considered; yet a bad volition does not, originally and necessarily, proceed from a morally bad heart. The reason is, that the one state of heart proceeds from God, from his decretive holy will; the other proceeds from passive power, which is only a natural evil, and not a moral. Besides were
the disposition which immediately precedes a bad volition necessarily, or in every case, evil, in a moral sense, either moral evil could have no place at all in the universe, no origin whatever, or else it must be the same as passive power. But passive power is a contrast, not to the moral perfections of God, out his natural; and has, when alone, no moral quality. And seeing it belongs as a property to every creature, as such, were it any thing morally evil, moral evil would be essential to the very being of every creature; which is absurd.
10. Hence it is plain, that freedom is experienced in a higher sense, or a greater degree, in bad volitions, than in good ones; in such a sense, and to such a degree, as to justify this mode of expression-that man is necessitated to good, but free to evil. This however may need some explanatory qualification; for
That the meaning of the word Action, as Mr. CHUвв and many others use it, is utterly unintelligible and inconsistent, is manifest, because it belongs to their notion of an Action, that it is something wherein is no passion or passiveness; that is (according to their sense of passiveness) it is under the power, influence, or Action of no cause. And this implies that Action has no cause, and is no effect; for to be an effect implies passiveness, or the being subject to the power and Action of its cause. And yet they hold that the mind's Action is the effect of its own determination, yea, the mind's free and voluntary determination; which is the same with free choice. So that Action is the effect of something preceding, even a preceding act of choice: and consequently, in this effect the mind is passive, subject to the power and Action of the preceding cause, which is the foregoing choice, and therefore cannot be active. So that here we have this contradiction, that Action is always the effect of foregoing choice; and therefore cannot be action; because it is passive to the power of that preceding causal choice; and the mind cannot be active and
he is not so necessitated to good, as not to be morally, or hypothetically free ; nor so free to evil as not to be subject to a necessity of consequence. He who acts or chooses amiss without constraint, compulsion, or interfering voluntary force in that act, notwithstanding his passive power, is properly a free agent; for in the moral quality of the act, there is properly and strictly no will concerned but his But he who acts or chooses aright, is subject to a physical, decretive necessity as to his disposition, and a physical concourse of divine energy in the natural act of the will. He is indeed morally free, in as much as his volition might have been of a different, yea, of an opposite moral quality, if the state of his mind had been different. Hence it is evident, that in a good will, choice, or act, man is an agent in a less proper or secondary sense; but in a bad will, choice, or act, man is an agent, a moral agent, a free agent, in the most proper and strict sense. And in the production of an act morall good two wills are concerned that of the agent, and the decretive will of God; in that of evil, only one, the agent's own will.
11. If the Supreme Being is the only proper agent in the universe, either moral agency is no proper agency; or else, man is not a moral agent; and if so, he is not accountable, and has no concern in religion or morals. Besides, if God be the only proper agent in the universe, how come there to exist evil deeds? God's agency is good, else we have no evidence that he is a good being; but there are in the world evil deeds proceeding from evil minds, which common sense and universal consent allow, and the nature of the thing proves, to be properly evil agencies; consequently man is an agent, a moral agent, properly so called.
12. If there be no proper agent in the universe but the Supreme Being, there is no evil in the nature of bad volitions, but on y in their effects. Sin, on that supposition, is not bad in its own nature, but only injurious in its effects on the sinSin is not to be hated, it seems, on its own account, as odious, but only shunned as dangerous. But as this must arise, according to the system of its abettors, from a sovereign appointment, it follows, that millions of beings are by this very appointment doomed to the greatest sufferings in the universe, for that in which they had no proper agency-no possible alternative! Where is equity, or benevolence?
13 The only clue out of this labyrinth, and out of many others formed by writers on human agency, is, we are fully persuaded, a right view of passive power, in its nature, origin, and tendency, in conjunction with a morally or hypothetically free choice.-W.
passive in the same thing, at the same time. Again they say, necessity is utterly inconsistent with Action, and a necessary Action is a contradiction; and so their notion of Action implies contingence, and excludes all necessity. And therefore, their notion of Action implies, that it has no necessary dependence on, or connection with, any thing foregoing; for such a dependence or connection excludes contingence, and implies necessity. And yet their notion of Action implies necessity, and supposes that it is necessary, and cannot be contingent. For they suppose, that whatever is properly called Action, must be determined by the will and free choice; and this is as much as to say, that it must be necessary, being dependent upon, and determined by something foregoing; namely, a foregoing act of choice. Again, it belongs to their notion of Action, that it is the beginning of motion, or of exertion of power; but yet it is implied in their notion of Action, that it is not the beginning of motion or exertion of power, but is consequent and dependent on a preceding exertion of power, viz. the power of will and choice: for they say there is no proper Action but what is freely chosen, or, which is the same thing, determined by a foregoing act of free choice. But if any of them shall see cause to deny this, and say they hold no such thing as that every Action is chosen or determined by a foregoing choice; but that the very first exertion of will only, undetermined by any preceding act, is properly called Action; then I say, such a man's notion of Action implies necessity; for what the mind is the subject of, without the determination of its own previous choice, it is the subject of necessarily, as to any hand that free choice has in the affair; and without any ability the mind has to prevent it, by any will or election f its own; because by the supposition it precludes all previous acts of the will or choice in the case, which might prevent it. So that it is again, in this other way, implied in their notion of act, that it is both necessary and not necessary. Again, it belongs to their notion of an act, that it is no effect of a predetermining bias or preponderation, but springs immediately out of indifference; and this implies, that it cannot be from foregoing choice, which is foregoing preponderation; if it be not habitual, but occasional, yet if it causes the act, it is truly previous, efficacious and determining. And yet, at the same time, it is essential to their notion of the act, that it is what the Agent is the Author of freely and voluntarily, and that is, by previous choice and design.
So that, according to their notion of the act, considered with regard to its consequences, these following things are all essential to it; viz. That it should be necessary, and not necessary; that it should be from a cause, and no cause; that it should be the fruit of choice and design, and not the fruit
of choice and design; that it should be the beginning of motion or exertion, and yet consequent on previous exertion; that it should be before it is; that it should spring immediately out of indifference and equilibrium, and yet be the effect of preponderation; that it should be self-originated, and also have its original from something else; that it is what the mind causes itself, of its own will, and can produce or prevent according to its choice or pleasure, and yet what the mind has no power to prevent, precluding all previous choice in the affair.
So that an act, according to their metaphysical notion of it, is something of which there is no idea; it is nothing but a confusion of the mind, excited by words without any distinct meaning, and is an absolute nonentity; and that in two respects (1.) There is nothing in the world that ever was, is, or can be, to answer the things which must belong to its description, according to what they suppose to be essential to it. And (2.)There neither is, nor ever was, nor can be, any notion or idea to answer the word, as they use and explain it. For if we should suppose any such notion, it would many ways destroy itself. But it is impossible any idea or notion should subsist in the mind, whose very nature and essence, which constitutes it, destroys it.-If some learned philosopher, who, had been abroad, in giving an account of the curious observations he had made in his travels, should say, "He had been in Terra del Fuego, and there had seen an animal, which he calls by a certain name, that begat and brought forth itself, and yet had a sire and dam distinct from itself; that it had an appetite, and was hungry before it had a being; that his master, who led him, and governed him at his pleasure, was always governed by him, and driven by him where he pleased; that when he moved, he always took a step before the first step that he went with his head first, and yet always went tail foremost; and this, though he had neither head nor tail :" it would be no impudence at all, to tell such a traveller, though a learned man, that he himself had no idea of such an animal as he gave an account of, and never had, nor ever would have.
As the forementioned notion of Action is very inconsistent, so it is wholly diverse from the original meaning of the word. The more usual signification of it, in vulgar speech, seems to be some motion or exertion of power, that is voluntary, or that is the effect of the will; and is used in the same sense as doing and most commonly it is used to signify outward Actions. So thinking is often distinguished from acting; and desiring and willing, from doing.
Besides this more usual and proper signification of the word Action, there are other ways in which the word is used.