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Printed for the EDITOR: and sold at the New-Chapel, City-Road,
Moorfields, and at the Rev. Ms. WES & Y's Preaching-Houses in
Τ Η Ε
For JANUARY 1791.
**~***O* * * * * *
I do not remember to have ever seen a more strong and beauti
ful treatise on moral liberty than the following: which I therefore earnestly recommend to the consideration of all those who defire
“To vindicate the ways of God with man."
May 3, 1790. **t
An ESSAY on the LIBERTY of MORAL AGENTS.
[Extracted from a late Author.]
The Notions of Moral Liberty and Necefty stated.
over the determinations of his own will. If, in any action, he had power to will what he did, or not to will it, in that action he is free. But if, in every voluntary action, the determination of his will be the necessary con.
sequence of something involuntary in the state of his mind, or of something in his external circumstances, he is not free; he has not what I call the liberty of a moral agent, but is subje&t to necessity.
This liberty supposes the agent to have understanding and will; for the determinations of the will are the sole object about which this power is employed; and there can be no will without such a degree of understanding, at least, as gives the conception of that which we will.
The liberty of a moral agent implies, not only a conception of what he wills, but some degree of judgment or reason.
For, if he has not the judgment to discern'one determination to be preferable to another, either in itself, or for some pui pole which he intends, what can be the use of a power to deter. mine? His determinations must be made perfectly in the dark, without reason, motive or end. They can neither be right nor wrong, wise nor foolish. Whatever the consequences may be, they cannot be impuied to the agent, who had not the capacity of foreseeing them, or of perceiving any reason for acting otherwise than he did.
We may perhaps be able to conceive a being endowed with power over the determinations of his will, without any light in his mind to direct that power to some end. But such power would be given in vain. No exercise of it could be either blamed or approved. As nature gives no power in vain, I see no ground to ascribes a power over the determinations of the will to any being who has no judgment to apply it to the dircētion of his conduct, no discernment of what he ought or ought not to do.
For that reason, I speak only of the liberty of moral agents, who are capable of acting well or ill, wisely or foolishly, and this, I call moral liberty.
The effect of moral liberty is, That it is in the power of the agent to do well or ill. This power, like every other gift of God, may be abused. The right use of this gift of God is to