The reason why it is not dishonourable to be necessarily most holy is, because holiness in itself is an excellent and honourable thing. For the same reason it is no dishonour to be necessarily most wise, and in every case to act most wisely, or do the thing which is the wisest of all: for wisdom is also in itself excellent and honourable.

The forementioned Author of the Essay on the Freedom of Will, &c. as has been observed, represents that doctrine of the Divine Will being in every thing necessarily determined by superior fitness, as making the blessed God a kind of Almighty Minister and mechanical medium of fate: he insists, (p. 93, 94,) that this moral Necessity and impossibility is in effect the same thing with physical and natural Necessity and impossibility; and says, (p. 54, 55.) "The scheme which determines the will always and certainly by the understanding, and the understanding by the appearance of things, seems to take away the true nature of vice and virtue. For the sublimest of virtues, and the vilest of vices, seem rather to be matters of fate and Necessity, flowing naturally and necessarily from the existence, the circumstances, and present situation of persons and things; for this existence and situation necessarily makes such an appearance to the mind; from this appearance flows a necessary perception and judgment concerning these things; this judg ment necessarily determines the will: and thus, by this chain of necessary causes, virtue and vice would lose their nature, and become natural ideas and necessary things, instead of moral and free actions."

And yet this same Author allows, (p. 30, 31.) That a perfectly wise being will constantly and certainly choose what is most fit; and says, (p. 102, 103.) "I grant, and always have granted, that wheresoever there is such antecedent superior fitness of things, God acts according to it, so as never to contradict it; and, particularly, in all his judicial proceedings as a governor, and Distributer of rewards and punishments." Yea, he says expressly, (p. 42.) "That it is not possible for God to act otherwise, than according to this fitness and goodness in things."

So that according to this Author, putting these several passages of his Essay together, there is no virtue, nor any thing of a moral nature, in the most sublime and glorious acts and exercises of God's holiness, justice, and faithfulness; and he never does any thing which is in itself supremely worthy, and above all other things fit and excellent, but only as a kind of mechanical medium of fate; and in what he does as the Judge and moral Governor of the world, he exercises no moral excellency; exercising no freedom in these things, because he acts by moral Necessity, which is, in effect, the same with physical or Natural Necessity; and therefore he

only acts by an Hobbistical fatality; "as a Being indeed of vast understanding, as well as power and efficiency (as he said before) but without a will to choose, being a kind of Almighty Minister of fate, acting under its supreme influence." For he allows, that in all these things God's will is determined constantly and certainly by a superior fitness, and that it is not possible for him to act otherwise. And if these things are so, what glory or praise belongs to God for doing holily and justly, or taking the most fit, holy, wise and excellent course, in any one instance? Whereas, according to the scriptures, and also the common sense of mankind, it does not in the least derogate from the honour of any being, that through the moral perfection of his nature, he necessarily acts with supreme wisdom and holiness; but on the contrary his praise is the greater: herein consists the height of his glory.

The same author, (p. 56,) supposes, that herein appears the excellent" character of a wise and good man, that though he can choose contrary to the fitness of things, yet he does not, but suffers himself to be directed by fitness ;" and that, in this conduct, "he imitates the blessed God." And yet he supposes it is contrariwise with the blessed God: not that he suffers himself to be directed by fitness, when he can choose, contrary to the fitness of things;" but that "he cannot choose contrary to the fitness of things," as he says, p. 42, “That it is not possible for God to act otherwise than according to this fitness, where there is any fitness or goodness in things." Yea, he supposes (p. 31.) That if a man" were perfectly wise and good, he could not do otherwise than be constantly and certainly determined by the fitness of things."

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One thing more I would observe, before I conclude this section; and that is, that if it derogate nothing from the glory of God, to be necessarily determined by superior fitness in some things, then neither does it to be thus determined in all things; from any thing in the nature of such Necessity, as at all detracting from God's freedom, independence, absolute supremacy, or any dignity or glory of his nature, state or manner of acting; or as implying any infirmity, restraint or subjection. And if the thing be such as well consists with God's glory, and has nothing tending at all to detract from it; then we need not be afraid of ascribing it to God in too many things, lest thereby we should detract from God's glory too much.


Some further Objections against the moral Necessity of God's Volitions considered.

The author last cited, as has been observed, owns that God, being perfectly wise, will constantly and certainly choose what appears most fit, where there is a superior fitness and goodness in things; and that it is not possible for him to do otherwise. So that it is, in effect, confessed that in those things where there is any real preferableness, it is no dishonour, nothing in any respect unworthy of God, for him to act from Necessity; notwithstanding all that can be objected from the agreement of such a Necessity with the fate of the Stoicks, and the Necessity maintained by Mr. HOBBES. From which it will follow, that if in all the different things among which God chooses, there were evermore a superior fitness or preferableness on one side, then it would be no dishonour, or any thing unbecoming, for God's will to be necessarily determined in every thing. And if this be allowed, it is giving up entirely the argument from the unsuitableness of such a Necessity to the liberty, supremacy, independence, and glory of the Divine Being; and resting the whole weight of the affair on the decision of another point wholly diverse; viz. Whether it be so indeed, that in all the various possible things, objects of his choice, there is not evermore a preferableness in one thing above another. This is denied by this author; who supposes that, in many instances between two or more possible things which come within the view of the Divine Mind, there is a perfect indifference and equality, as to fitness or tendency, to attain any good end which God can have in view, or to answer any of his designs. Now, therefore, I would consider whether this be evident.

The arguments brought to prove this, are of two kinds. (1.) It is urged, that, in many instances, we must suppose there is absolutely no difference between various possible objects of choice, which God has in view; and (2.) that the difference between many things is so inconsiderable, or of such a nature, that it would be unreasonable to suppose it to be of any consequence; or to suppose that any of God's wise designs would not be answered in one way as well as the other.


I. The first thing to be considered is, whether there are any instances wherein there is a perfect likeness, and absolutely no difference, between different objects of choice that are proposed to the Divine Understanding?



And here, in the first place, it may be worthy to be considered, whether the contradiction there is in the terms of the question proposed, does not give reason to suspect, that there is an inconsistence in the thing supposed. It is inquired whether different objects of choice may not be absolutely without difference? If they are absolutely without difference, then how are they different objects of choice? If there be absolutely no difference, in any respect, then there is no variety or distinction for distinction is only by some difference. And if there be no variety among proposed objects of choice, then there is no opportunity for variety of choice, or difference of determination. For that determination of a thing, which is not different in any respect, is not a different determination, but the same. That this is no quibble may appear more fully in a short time.

The arguments, to prove that the Most High, in some instances, chooses to do one thing rather than another, where the things themselves are perfectly without difference,

are two.

I. That the various parts of infinite time and space, absolutely considered, are perfectly alike, and do not differ at all one from another: and that therefore, when God determined to create the world in such a part of infinite duration and space, rather than others, he determined and preferred among various objects, between which there was no preferableness, and absolutely no difference.

Answ. This objection supposes an infinite length of time before the world was created, distinguished by successive parts, properly and truly so; or a succession of limited and unmeasurable periods of time, following one another, in an infinitely long series which must needs be a groundless imagination. The eternal duration which was before the world, being only the eternity of God's existence; which is nothing else but his immediate, perfect, and invariable possession of the whole of his unlimited life, together and at once; Vita interminabilis, tota, simul et perfecta possessio. Which is so generally allowed that I need not stand to demonstrate it.*

"If all created beings were taken away, all possibility of any mutation or succession, of one thing to another, would appear to be also removed. Abstract succession in eternity is scarce to be understood. What is it that succeeds? One minute to another, perhaps, velut unda supervenit undam. But when we imagine this, we fancy that the minutes are things separately existing. This is the common notion; and yet it is a manifest prejudice. Time is nothing but the existence of created successive beings, and eternity the necessary existence of the Deity. Therefore, if this necessary Being hath no change or succession in his nature, his existence must, of course, be unsuccessive. We seem to commit a double oversight in this case; first, we find succession in the necessary nature and existence of the Deity himself: which is wrong, if the reasoning above be conclusive. And then we ascribe this succession to eternity, considered abstractedly from the Eternal Being; and suppose it, one knows not what, a thing subsisting

So this objection supposes an extent of space beyond the limits of the creation, of an infinite length, breadth, and depth, truly and properly distinguished into different measurable parts, limited at certain stages, one beyond another, in an infinite series. Which notion of absolute and infinite space is doubtless as unreasonable as that now mentioned, of absolute and infinite duration. It is as improper to imagine that the immensity and omnipresence of God is distinguished by a series of miles and leagues, one beyond another, as that the infinite duration of God is distinguished by months and years, one after another. A diversity and order of distinct parts, limited by certain periods, is as conceivable, and does as naturally obtrude itself on our imagination, in one case as the other; and there is equal reason in each case to suppose that our imagination deceives us. It is equally improper to talk of months and years of the Divine Existence, as of square miles of Deity: and we equally deceive ourselves, when we talk of the world being differently fixed with respect to either of these sorts of measures. I think we know not what we mean, if we say, the world might have been differently placed from what it is, in the broad expanse of infinity; or, that it might have been differently fixed in the long line of eternity: and all arguments and objections, which are built on the imaginations we are apt to have of infinite extension or duration, are buildings founded on shadows, or castles in the air.

2. The second argument, to prove that the Most High wills one thing rather than another, without any superior fitness or preferableness in the thing preferred, is God's actually placing in different parts of the world, particles, or atoms of matter, that are perfectly equal and alike. The forementioned author says, (p. 78, &c.) "If one would descend to the minute specific particles, of which different bodies are composed, we should see abundant reason to believe, that there are thousands of such little particles, or atoms of matter, which are perfectly equal and alike, and could give no distinct deter

by itself, and flowing, one minute after another. This is the work of pure ima gination, and contrary to the reality of things. Hence the common metaphorical expressions; Time runs apace, let us lay hold on the present minute, and the like. The philosophers themselves mislead us by their illustration. They compare eternity to the motion of a point running on for ever, and making a traceless infinite line. Here the point is supposed a thing actually subsisting, representing the present minute; and then they ascribe motion or succession to it: that is, they ascribe motion to a mere nonentity, to illustrate to us a successive eternity, made up of finite successive parts.-If once we allow an all-perfect mind, which hath an eternal, immutable, and infinite comprehension of all things, always (and allow it we must) the distinction of past and future vanishes with respect to such a mind. In a word, if we proceed step by step, as above, the eternity or existence of the Deity will appear to be Vita interminabilis, tota, simul et perfecta possessio; how much soever this may have been a paradox hitherto." Enquiry into the Nature of the Human Soul. Vol. ii. 409, 410,

411. Edit. 3.

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