« ElőzőTovább »
that are less proper, which yet have place in common speech. Oftentimes it is used to signify some motion or alteration in inanimate things, with relation to some object and effect. So the spring of a watch is said to act upon the chain and wheels; the sunbeams, to act upon plants and trees; and the fire, to act upon wood. Sometimes the word is used to signify motions, alterations, and exertions of power, which are seen in corporeal things, considered absolutely; especially when these motions secm to arise from some internal cause which is hidden; so that they have a greater resemblance of those motions of our bodies, which are the effects of natural volition, or invisible exertions of will. So the fermentation of liquor, the operations of the loadstone, and of electrical bodies, are called the action of these things. And sometimes, the word action is used to signify the exercise of thought, or of will and inclination; so meditating, loving, hating, inclining, disinclining, choosing, and refusing, may be sometimes called acting; though more rarely (unless it be by philosophers and metaphysicians) than in any of the other senses.
But the word is never used in vulgar speech for the self-determinate exercise of the will, or an exertion of the soul that arises without any necessary connection with any thing foregoing. If a man does something voluntarily, or as the effect of his choice, then in the most proper sense, and as the word is most originally and commonly used, he is said to act; but whether that choice or volition be self-determined or no, whether it be connected with a foregoing habitual bias, whether it be the certain effect of the strongest motive, or some intrinsic. cause, never comes into consideration in the meaning of the word.
And if the word action is arbitrarily used by some men otherwise, to suit some scheme of metaphysics or morality, no argument can reasonably be founded on such an use of this term to prove any thing but their own pleasure. For divines and philosophers strenuously to urge such arguments, as though they were sufficient to support and demonstrate a whole scheme of moral philosophy and divinity, is certainly to erect a mighty edifice on the sand, or rather on a shadow. And though it may now perhaps, through custom, have become natural for them to use the word in this sense (if that may be called a sense or meaning which is inconsistent with itself) yet this does not prove that it is agreeable to the natural notions men have of things, or that there can be any thing in the creation that should answer such a meaning. And though they appeal to experience, yet the truth is, that men are so far from experiencing any such thing, that it is impossible for them to have any conception of it.
If it should be objected, that action and passion are doubtless words of a contrary signification; but to suppose that the agent in its action, is under the power and influence of something intrinsic, is to confound action and passion, and make them the same thing.
I answer, that Action and Passion are doubtless, as they are sometimes used, words of opposite signification; but not as signifying opposite existences, but only opposite relations. The words cause and effect are terms of opposite signification; but, nevertheless, if I assert, that the same thing may, at the same time, in different respects and relations, be both cause and effect, this will not prove that I confound the terms. The soul may be both active and passive in the same thing in different respects; active with relation to one thing, and passive with relation to another. The word Passion, when set in opposition to Action, or rather Activeness, is merely a relative; it signifies no effect or cause, nor any proper existence; but is the same with Passiveness, or a being passive, or a being acted upon by some thing. Which is a mere relation of a thing to some power or force exerted by some cause, producing some effect in it, or upon it.. And Action, when set properly in opposition to Passion, or Passiveness, is no real existence; it is not the same with AN Action, but is a mere relation it is the Activeness of something on another thing, being the opposite relation to the other, viz. a relation of power, or force, exerted by some cause, towards another thing, which is the subject of the effect of that power. Indeed, the word Action is frequently used to signify something not merely relative, but more absolute, and a real existence; as when we say an Action; when the word is not used transitively, but absolutely, for some motion or exercise of body or mind, without any relation to any object or effect: and as used thus, it is not properly the opposite of Passion; which ordinarily signifies nothing absolute, but merely the relation of being acted upon. And therefore if the word Action be used in the like relative sense, then action and Passion are only two contrary relations. And it is no absurdity to suppose, that contrary relations may belong to the same thing, at the same time, with respect to different things. So to suppose
* This distinction is of considerable moment. The soul is passive, for instance, in reference to that necessity of dependence which is inseparable from a created nature; and when the subject of providential energy in natural acts; and also when the subject of that divine influence which purifies and enables the mind, and whereby holy effects are secured; and in all these respects it is passive at the very time that it is active in its choice or preference. In other words, the mind is necessitated in some respects; as, to exist, to think, to will, to suffer, or to enjoy ; at the same instant that it is free in other respects, as, from contingence, (understanding thereby an event without any cause) and from compulsion, or physical necessity in its acts as moral.—W,
that there are acts of the soul by which a man voluntarily moves and acts upon objects, and produces effects, which yet themselves are effects of something else, and wherein the soul itself is the object of something acting upon and influencing that, do not at all confound Action and Passion. The words may nevertheless be properly of opposite signification: there may be as true and real a difference between acting and being caused to act, though we should suppose the soul to be both in the same volition, as there is between living and being quickened, or mude to live. It is no more a contradiction to suppose that Action may be the effect of some other cause besides the Agent, or Being that acts, than to suppose that life may be the effect of some other cause, besides the Being that lives.
What has led men into this inconsistent notion of Action, when applied to volition-as though it were essential to this internal Action, that the Agent should be self-determined in it, and that the will should be the cause of it-was probably this; that according to the sense of mankind, and the common use of language, it is so, with respect to men's external Actions; which originally, and according to the vulgar use and most proper sense of the word, are called Actions. Men in these are self-directed, self-determined, and their wills are the cause of the motions of their bodies, and external things done; so that unless men do them voluntarily, and of choice, and the Action be determined by their antecedent volition, it is no Action or Doing of theirs. Hence some metaphysicians have been led unwarily, but exceeding absurdly, to suppose the same concerning volition itself, that that also must be determined by the will; which is to be determined by antecedent volition, as the motion of the body is; not considering the contradiction it implies.
But it is very evident that in the metaphysical distinction between Action and Passion (though long since become common and in general vogue) due care has not been taken to conform language to the nature of things, or to any distinct clear ideas. As it is in innumerable other philosophical metaphysical terms used in these disputes; which has occasioned inexpressible difficulty, contention, error and confusion.
And thus probably it came to be thought, that necessity was inconsistent with action, as these terms are applied to volition. First, these terms Action and Necessity are changed from their original meaning, as signifying external voluntary Action and Constraint, (in which meaning they are evidently inconsistent) to signify quite other things, viz. volition itself, and certainty of existence. And when the change of signification is made, care is not taken to make proper allowances and abatements for the difference of sense; but still the same
things are unwarily attributed to Action and Necessity, in the new meaning of the words, which plainly belonged to them in their first sense; and on this ground, maxims are established without any real foundation, as though they were the most certain truths, and the most evident dictates of reason.
But however strenuously it is maintained, that what is necessary cannot be properly called Action, and that a necessary Action is a contradiction, yet it is probable there are few Arminian divines, who, thoroughly tried, would stand to these principles. They will allow, that God is, in the highest sense, an active Being, and the highest Fountain of Life and Action; and they would not probably deny, that what are called God's acts of righteousness, holiness and faithfulness, are truly and properly God's acts, and God is really a holy Agent in them; and yet, I trust, they will not deny, that God necessarily acts justly and faithfully, and that it is impossible for him to act unrighteously and unholily.
The Reasons why some think it contrary to common Sense to suppose those Things which are necessary, to be worthy of either Praise or Blame.
It is abundantly affirmed and urged by Arminian writers, that it is contrary to common sense, and the natural notions and apprehensions of mankind, to suppose otherwise than that necessity (making no distinction between natural and moral necessity) is inconsistent with Virtue and Vice, Praise and Blame, Reward and Punishment. And their arguments from hence have been greatly triumphed in; and have been not a little perplexing to many who have been friendly to the truth, as clearly revealed in the holy Scriptures: it has seemed to them indeed difficult to reconcile Calvinistic doctrines with the notions men commonly have of justice and equity. The true reasons of it seem to be the following:
I. It is indeed a very plain dictate of common Sense, that natural necessity is wholly inconsistent with just Praise or Blame. If men do things which in themselves are very good, fit to be brought to pass, and attended with very happy effects, properly against their wills; or do them from a necessity that is without their wills, or with which their wills have no concern or connection; then it is a plain dictate of common sense, that such doings are none of their virtue, nor have they any moral good in them; and that the persons are not worthy to be rewarded or praised; or at all esteemed, honoured or loved on that account. And on the other hand, that if, from
like necessity, they do those things which in themselves are very unhappy and pernicious, and do them because they cannot help it; the necessity is such, that it is all one whether they will them or no; and the reason why they are done is from necessity only, and not from their wills: it is a very plain dictate of common Sense that they are not at all to blame; there is no vice, fault or moral evil at all in the effect done; nor are they who are thus necessitated in any wise worthy to be punished, hated, or in the least disrespected on that ac
In like manner, if things in themselves good and desirable are absolutely impossible, with a natural impossibility, the universal reason of mankind teaches, that this wholly and perfectly excuses persons in their not doing them.
And it is also a plain dictate of common Sense, that if doing things in themselves good, or avoiding things in themselves evil, is not absolutely impossible, with such a natural impossibility, but very difficuli, with a natural difficulty; that is, a difficulty prior to, and not at all consisting in will and inclination itself, and which would remain the same let the inclination be what it will; then a person's neglect or omission is excused in some measure, though not wholly; his sin is less aggravated, than if the thing to be done were easy. And if instead of difficulty and hinderance, there be a contrary natural propensity in the state of things to the thing to be done or effect to be brought to pass, abstracted from any consideration of the inclination of the heart; though the propensity be not so great as to amount to a natural necessity, yet being some approach to it, so that the doing of the good thing be very much from this natural tendency in the state of things, and but little from a good inclination; then it is a dictate of common Sense, that there is so much the less virtue in what is done; and so it is less praiseworthy and rewardable. The reason is easy, viz. because such a natural propensity or tendency is an approach to natural necessity; and the greater the propensity, still so much the nearer is the approach to necessity. And therefore, as natural necessity takes away or shuts out all virtue, so this propensity approaches to an abolition of virtue; that is, it diminishes it. And on the other hand, natural difficulty, in the state of things, is an approach to natural impossibility. And as the latter, when it is complete and absolute, wholly takes away Blame; so such difficulty takes away some Blame, or diminishes Blame, and makes the thing done to be less worthy of punishment.
II. Men, in their first use of such phrases as these, must, cannot, cannot help it, cannot avoid it, necessary, unable, impossible, unavoidable, irresistible, &c. use them to signify a necessity of constraint or restraint, a natural necessity or im