A Careful And
Strict Inquiry into The
Modern Prevailing Notions Of That
Freedom Of Will
Which Is Supposed to be Essential to Moral Agency,
Virtue and Vice, Reward and Punishment, Praise and Blame
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
Romans 9:16: “It is not of him that willeth”
~ PART 2 only ~
On Whether There Is Freedom of the Will
PART 2. Wherein It Is Considered Whether There Is or Can Be Any Such Sort of Freedom of Will, as that Wherein Arminians Place the Essences of Liberty of All Moral Agents; and Whether Any Such Thing Ever Was or Can Be Conceived of.
2.V. Showing that if the things asserted in these Evasions should be supposed to be true, they are altogether impertinent, and cannot help the cause of Arminian liberty; and how, this being the state of the case, Arminian writers are obliged to talk consistently.
Having taken notice of those things which may be necessary to be observed, concerning the meaning of the principal terms and phrases made use of in controversies concerning human liberty. And particularly observed what liberty is, according to the common language and general apprehension of mankind, and what it is as understood and maintained by Arminians. I proceed to consider the Arminian notion of the freedom of the will, and the supposed necessity of it in order to moral agency, or in order to anyone’s being capable of virtue or vice. And properly the subject of command or counsel, praise or blame, promises or threatenings, rewards or punishments. Or whether that which has been described, as the thing meant by liberty in common speech, be not sufficient, and the only liberty, which make, or can make anyone a moral agent, and so properly the subject of these things. In this part, I shall consider whether any such thing be possible or conceivable as that freedom of will which Arminians insist on; and shall inquire, whether any such sort of liberty be necessary to moral agency, etc. in the next part.
And first of all, I shall consider the notion of a self-determining power in the will, wherein, according to the Arminians, does most essentially consist the will’s freedom. And [I] shall particularly inquire, whether it be not plainly absurd, and a manifest inconsistency, to suppose that the will itself determines all the free acts of the will.
Here I shall not insist on the great impropriety of such ways of speaking as the will determining itself. Because actions are to be ascribed to agents, and not properly to the powers of agents, which improper way of speaking leads to many mistakes, and much confusion, as Mr. Locke observes. But I shall suppose that the Arminians, when they speak of the will’s determining itself, do by the will mean the soul willing. I shall take it for granted, that when they speak of the will, as the determiner, they mean the soul in the exercise of a power of willing, or acting voluntarily. I shall suppose this, to be their meaning, because nothing else can be meant, without the grossest and plainest absurdity. In all cases when we speak of the powers or principles of acting, or doing such things we mean that the agents which have these powers of acting, do them, in the exercise of those powers. So when we say, valor fights courageously, we mean, the man who is under the influence of valor fights courageously. Where we say, love seeks the object loved, we mean, the person loving seeks that object. When we say, the understanding discerns, we mean the soul in the exercise of that faculty. So when it is said, the will decides or determines; the meaning must be, that the person, in the exercise of [the] power of willing and choosing, or the soul, acting voluntarily, determines.
Therefore, if the will determines all its own free acts, the soul determines them in the exercise of a power of willing and choosing; or, which is the same thing, it determines them of choice [and] it determines its own acts, by choosing its own acts. If the will determines the will, then choice orders and determines the choice and acts of choice are subject to the decision, and follow the conduct of other acts of choice. And therefore if the will determines all its own free acts, then every free act of choice is determined by a preceding act of choice, choosing that act. And if that preceding act of the will be also a free act, then by these principles, in this act too, the will is self-determined. That is, this, in like manner, is an act that the soul voluntarily chooses, or which is the same thing. It is an act determined still by a preceding act of the will, choosing that. Which brings us directly to a contradiction: for it supposes an act of the will preceding the first act in the whole train, directing and determining the rest; or a free act of the will, before the first free act of the will. Or else we must come at last to an act of the will, determining the consequent acts, wherein the will is not self-determined, and so is not a free act, in this notion of freedom. But if the first act in the train, determining and fixing the rest, be not free, none of them all can be free, as is manifest at first view, but shall be demonstrated presently.
If the will, which we find governs the members of the body, and determines their motions, does also govern itself, and determines its own actions, it doubtless determines them the same way, even by antecedent volitions. The will determines which way the hands and feet shall move, by an act of choice: and there is no other way of the will’s determining, directing, or commanding anything at all. Whatsoever the will commands, it commands by an act of the will. And if it has itself under its command, and determines itself in its own actions, it doubtless does it the same way that it determines other things, which are under its command. So that if the freedom of the will consists in this, that it has itself and its own actions under its command and direction, and its own volitions are determined by itself, it will follow, that every free volition arises from another antecedent volition, directing and commanding that. And if that directing volition be also free, in that also the will is determined; that is to say, that directing volition is determined by another going before that; and so on, till we come to the first volition in the whole series. And if that first volition be free, and the will self-determined in it, then that is determined by another volition preceding that. Which is a contradiction because by the supposition, it can have none before it, to direct or determine it, being the first in the train. But if that first volition is not determined by any preceding act of the will, then that act is not determined by the will, and so is not free in the Arminian notion of freedom, which consists in the will’s self-determination. And if that first act of the will, which determines and fixes the subsequent acts, be not free, none of the following acts, which are determined by it, can be free. If we suppose there are five acts in the train, the fifth and last determined by the fourth, and the fourth by the third, the third by the second, and the second by the first. If the first is not determined by the will, and so not free, then none of them are truly determined by the will. That is, that each of them are as they are, and not otherwise, is not first owing to the will, but to the determination of the first in the series, which is not dependent on the will, and is that which the will has no hand in determining. And this being that which decides what the rest shall be, and determines their existence; therefore the first determination of their existence is not from the will. The case is just the same, if instead of a chain of five acts of the will, we should suppose a succession of ten, or an hundred, or ten thousand. If the first act be not free, being determined, by something out of the will, and this determines the next to be agreeable to itself, and that the next, and so on, none of them are free. But all originally depend on, and are determined by some cause out of the will. And so all freedom in the case is excluded, and no act of the will can be free, according to this notion of freedom. If we should suppose a long chain of ten thousand links so connected, that if the first link moves, it will move the next, and that the next. And so the whole chain must be determined to motion, and in the direction of its motion, by the motion of the first link. And that is moved by something else in this case, though all the links, but one, are moved by other parts of the same chain. Yet it appears that the motion of no one, nor the direction of its motion, is from any self-moving or self-determining power in the chain, anymore than if every link were immediately moved by something that did not belong to the chain. — If the will be not free in the first act, which causes the next, then neither is it free in the next, which is caused by that first act. For though indeed the will caused it, yet it did not cause it freely, because the preceding act, by which it was caused, was not free. And again, if the will be not free in the second act, so neither can it be in the third, which is caused by that; because in like manner, that third was determined by an act of the will that was not free. And so we may go on to the next act, and from that to the next; and how long soever the succession of acts is, it is all one. If the first on which the whole chain depends, and which determines all the rest, be not a free act, the will is not free in causing or determining anyone of those acts. Because the act by which it determines them all is not a free act, and therefore the will is no more free in determining them, than if it did not cause them at all. — Thus, this Arminian notion of liberty of the will, consisting in the will’s self-determination, is repugnant to itself and shuts itself wholly out of the world.
If to evade the force of what has been observed, it should be said, that when the Arminians speak of the will determining its own acts, they do not mean that the will determines them by any preceding act, or that one act of the will determines another. But only that the faculty or power of will, or the soul in the use of that power, determines its own volitions. And that it does it without any act going before the act determined; such an evasion would be full of the most gross absurdity. I confess, it is an evasion of my own inventing; and I do not know but I should wrong the Arminians, in supposing that any of them would make use of it. But, it being as good a one as I can invent; I would observe upon it a few things.
First, if the power of the will determines an act of volition, or the soul in the use or exercise of that power determines it, that is the same thing as for the soul to determine volition by an act of will. For an exercise of the power of will, and an act of that power, are the same thing. Therefore to say, that the power of will, or the soul in the use or exercise of that power, determines volition, without an act of will preceding the volition determined, is a contradiction.
Secondly, if a power of will determines the act of the will, then a power of choosing determines it. For, as was before observed, in every act of will, there is choice and a power of willing is a power of choosing. But if a power of choosing determines the act of volition, it determines it by choosing it. For it is most absurd to say that a power of choosing determines one thing rather than another, without choosing anything. But if a power of choosing determines volition by choosing it, then here is the act of volition determined by an antecedent choice, choosing that volition.
Thirdly, to say, that the faculty, or the soul, determines its own volition, but not by any act, is a contradiction. Because for the soul to direct, decide, or determine anything, is to act; and this is supposed. For the soul is here spoken of as being a cause in this affair, doing something; or, which is the same thing, exerting itself in order to an effect, which effect is the determination of volition, or the particular kind and manner of an act of will. But certainly, this action is not the same with the effect, in order to the production of which it is exerted; but must be something prior to it.
The advocates for this notion of the freedom of the will speak of a certain sovereignty in the will, whereby it has power to determine its own volition. And therefore the determination of volition must itself be an act of the will; for otherwise it can be no exercise of that supposed power and sovereignty. Again, if the will determines itself, then either the will is active in determining its volitions, or it is not. If active, then the determination is an act of the will; and so there is one act of the will determining another. But if the will is not active in the determination, then how does it exercise any liberty in it? These gentlemen suppose that the thing wherein the will exercises liberty is in its determining its own acts. But how can this be, if it be not active in determining? Certainly the will, or the soul, cannot exercise any liberty in that wherein it doth not act, or wherein it doth not exercise itself. So that if either part of this dilemma be taken, this scheme of liberty, consisting in self-determining power, is overthrown. If there be an act of the will in determining all its own free acts, then one free act of the will is determined by another; and so we have the absurdity of every free act, even the very first, determined by a foregoing free act. But if there be no act or exercise of the will in determining its own acts, then no liberty is exercised in determining them. From whence it follows, that no liberty consists in the will’s power to determine its own acts: or, which is the same thing, that there is no such thing as liberty consisting in a self-determining power of the will.
If it should be said that although it be true, if the soul determines its own volitions, it must be active in so doing, and the determination itself must be an act. Yet there is no need of supposing this act to be prior to the volition determined, but the will or soul determines the act of the will in willing. It determines its own volition, in the very act of volition; it directs and limits the act of the will, causing it to be so and not otherwise, in exerting the act, without any preceding act to exert that. If any should say after this manner, they must mean one of these three things: either, (1.) That the determining act, though it be before the act determined in the order of nature, yet is not before it in order of time. Or, (2.) That the determining act is not before the act determined, either in the order of time or nature, nor is truly distinct from it. But that the soul’s determining the act of volition is the same thing with its exerting the act of volition. The mind’s exerting such a particular act, is its causing and determining the act. Or, (3.) That volition has no cause, and is no effect; but comes into existence, with such a particular determination, without any ground or reason of its existence and determination. — I shall consider these distinctly. (1.) If all that is meant, be, that the determining act is not before the act determined in order of time, it will not help the case at all, though it should be allowed. If it be before the determined act in the order of nature, being the cause or ground of its existence, this as much proves it to be distinct from, and independent on it, as if it were before in the order of time. As the cause of the particular motion, of a natural body, in a certain direction, may have no distance as to time; yet cannot be the same, with the motion effected by it, but must be as distinct from it, as any other cause that is before its effect in the order of time. As the architect is distinct from the house, which he builds, or the father distinct from the son which he begets. And if the act of the will determining be distinct from the act determined, and before it in the order of nature, then we can go back from one to another, till we come to the first in the series, which has no act of the will before it in the order of nature, determining it. And consequently, is an act not determined by the will and so not a free act, in this notion of freedom. And this being the act, which determines all the rest, none of them are free acts. As when there is a chain of many links, the first of which only is taken hold of and drawn by hand; all the rest may follow and be moved at the same instant, without any distance of time. But yet the motion of one link is before that of another in the order of nature; the last is moved by the next, and that by the next, and so till we come to the first; which not being moved by any other, but by something distinct from the whole chain, this as much proves that no part is moved by any self-moving power in the chain, as if the motion of one link followed that of another in the order of time.
(2.) If any should say, that the determining act is not before the determined act, either in the order of time, or of nature, nor is distinct from it; but that the exertion of the act is the determination of the act. That for the soul to exert a particular volition is for it to cause and determine that act of volition. I would on this observe that the thing in question seems to be forgotten, or kept out of sight in a darkness and unintelligibleness of speech, unless such an objector would mean to contradict himself. The very act of volition itself is doubtless a determination of mind; i. e. it is the mind’s drawing up a conclusion, or coming to a choice between two or more things proposed to it. But determining among external objects of choice, is not the same with determining the act of choice itself, among various possible acts of choice. — The question is; what influences, directs, or determines the mind or will to come to such a conclusion or choice as it does? Or what is the cause, ground, or reason, why it concludes thus, and not otherwise? Now it must be answered, according to the Arminian notion of freedom, that the will influences, orders, and determines itself thus to act. And if it does, I say, it must be by some antecedent act. To say, it is caused, influenced, and determined by something, and yet not determined by anything antecedent, either in order of time or nature, is a contradiction. For that is what is meant by a thing’s being prior in the order of nature, that it is some way the cause or reason of the thing, with respect to which it is said to be prior.
If the particular act or exertion of will, which comes into existence, be anything properly determined at all, then it has some cause of existing, and of existing in such a particular determinate manner, and not another. Some cause, whose influence decides the matter: which cause is distinct from the effect, and prior to it. But to say, that the will or mind orders, influences, and determines itself to exert an act by the very exertion itself, is to make the exertion both cause and effect; or the exerting such an act, to be a cause of the exertion of such an act. For the question is, What is the cause and reason of the soul’s exerting such an act? To which the answer is, The soul exerts such an act, and that is the cause of it. And so, by this, the exertion must be distinct from, and in the order of nature prior to, itself.
(3.) If the meaning be, that the soul’s exertion of such a particular act of will, is a thing that comes to pass of itself, without any cause; and that there is absolutely no reason of the soul being determined to exert such a volition, and make such a choice, rather than another; I say, if this be the meaning of Arminians, when they contend so earnestly for the will determining its own acts, and for liberty of will consisting in self-determining power; they do nothing but confound themselves and others with words without a meaning. In the question, What determines the will? and in their answer, that the will determines itself; and in all the dispute, it seems to be taken for granted, that something determines the will; and the controversy on this head is not, whether its determination has any cause or foundation at all; but where the foundation of it is, whether in the will itself, or somewhere else. But if the thing intended be what is above mentioned, then nothing at all determines the will; volition having absolutely no cause or foundation of its existence, either within or without. — There is a great noise made about self-determining power as the source of all free acts of the will. But when the matter comes to be explained, the meaning is, that no power at all is the source of these acts, neither self-determining power, nor any other, but they arise from nothing; no cause, no power, no influence, being at all concerned in the matter.
However, this very thing, even that the free acts of the will are events, which come to pass without a cause, is certainly implied in the Arminian notion of liberty of will. Though it be very inconsistent with many other things in their scheme, and repugnant to some things implied in their notion of liberty. Their opinion implies that the particular determination of volition is without any cause; because they hold the free acts of the will to be contingent events; and contingence is essential to freedom in their notion of it. But certainly, those things, which have a prior ground and reason of their particular existence, a cause, which antecedently determines them to be, and determines them to be just as they are, do not happen contingently. If something foregoing, by a casual influence and connection, determines and fixes precisely their coming to pass, and the manner of it, then it does not remain a contingent thing whether they shall come to pass or no.
And because it is a question in many respects very important in this controversy, whether the free acts of the will are events which come to pass without a cause; I shall be particular in examining this point in the two following sections.
Before I enter on any argument on this subject, I would explain how I would be understood, when I use the word cause in this discourse. Since, for want of a better word, I shall have occasion to use it in a sense which is more extensive than that in which it is sometimes used. The word is often used in so restrained a sense as to signify, only that which has a positive efficiency or influence to produce a thing, or bring it to pass. But there are many things which have no such positive productive influence; which yet are causes in this respect, that they have truly the nature of a reason why some things are, rather than others; or why they are thus, rather than otherwise. Thus, the absence of the sun in the night, is not the cause of the fall of dew at that time, in the same manner as its beams are the cause of the ascent of vapors in the daytime. And its withdrawment in the winter, is not in the same manner the cause of the freezing of the waters, as its approach in the spring is the cause of their thawing. But yet the withdrawment, or absence of the sun, is an antecedent with which these effects in the night and winter are connected, and on which they depend; and is one thing that belongs to the ground and reason why they come to pass at that time, rather than at other times; though the absence of the sun is nothing positive, nor has any positive influence.
It may be further observed, that when I speak of connection of causes and effects, I have respect to moral causes, as well as those that are called natural in distinction from them. Moral causes may be causes in as proper a sense as any causes whatsoever; may have as real an influence, and may as truly be the ground and reason of an event’s coming to pass.
Therefore I sometimes use the word cause, in this inquiry, to signify any antecedent, either natural or moral, positive or negative, on which an event, either a thing, or the manner and circumstance of a thing, so depends. That it is the ground and reason, either in whole, or in part, why it is, rather than not; or why it is as it is, rather than otherwise. Or, in other words, any antecedent with which a consequent event is so connected, that it truly belongs to the reason why the proposition which affirms that event is true; whether it has any positive influence, or not. And agreeably to this, I sometimes use the word effect for the consequence of another thing, which is perhaps rather an occasion than a cause, most properly speaking.
I am the more careful thus to explain my meaning. That I may cut off occasion, from any that might seek occasion to cavil and object against some things which I may say concerning the dependence of all things which come to pass, on some cause, and their connection with their cause.
Having thus explained what I mean by cause, I assert, that nothing ever comes to pass without a cause. What is self-existent must be from eternity, and must be unchangeable: but as to all things that begin to be, they are not self-existent, and therefore must have some foundation of their existence without themselves. — That whatsoever begins to be, which before was not, must have a cause why it then begins to exist, seems to be the first dictate of the common and natural sense which God has implanted in the minds of all mankind, and the main foundation of all our reasonings about the existence of things, past, present, or to come.
And this dictate, of common sense, equally respects substances and modes, or things and the manner and circumstances of things. Thus, if we see a body, which has hitherto been at rest, start out of a state of rest, and begin to move, we do as naturally and necessarily suppose there is some cause or reason of this new mode of existence, as of the existence of a body itself which had hitherto not existed. And so if a body, which had hitherto moved in a certain direction, should suddenly change the direction of its motion; or if it should put off its old figure, and take a new one; or change its color: the beginning of these new modes is a new event, and the human mind necessarily supposes that there is some cause or reason of them.
If this grand principle of common sense be taken away, all arguing from effects to causes ceases. And so all knowledge of any existence, besides what we have by the most direct and immediate intuition, particularly all our proof of the being of God, ceases. We argue his being from our own being, and the being of other things, which we are sensible once were not, but have begun to be. And from the being of the world, with all its constituent parts and the manner of their existence; all which we see plainly are not necessary in their own nature, and so not self-existent, and therefore must have a cause. But if things, not in themselves necessary, may begin to be without a cause, all this arguing is vain.
Indeed, I will not affirm that there is, in the nature of things, no foundation for the knowledge of the Being of God, without any evidence of it from his works. I do suppose there is a great absurdity in denying being in general, and imagining an eternal, absolute, universal nothing: and therefore that there would be, in the nature of things, a foundation of intuitive evidence, that there must be an eternal, infinite, most perfect Being. If we had strength and comprehension of mind sufficient, to have a clear idea of general and universal Being. But then we should not properly come to the knowledge of the Being of God by arguing; our evidence would be intuitive. We should see it, as we see other things that are necessary in themselves: the contraries of which are in their own nature absurd and contradictory; as we see that twice two is four; and as we see that a circle has no angles. If we had as clear an idea of universal, infinite entity, as we have of these other things, I suppose we should most intuitively see the absurdity of supposing such Being not to be. [We] should immediately see there is no room for the question, whether it is possible that Being, in the most general, abstracted notion of it should not be. But we have not that strength and extent of mind, to know this certainly in this intuitive, independent manner: but the way that mankind come to the knowledge of the Being of God, is that which the apostle speaks of, Rom. 1:20. The invisible things of him from the creation of the world, are clearly seen; being understood by the things that are made; even his eternal power and Godhead. We first ascend, and prove a posteriori, or from effects, that there must be an eternal cause; and then secondly, prove by argumentation, not intuition, that this Being must be necessarily existent; and then thirdly, from the proved necessity of his existence, we may descend, and prove many of his perfections a priori.
[To the inquirer after truth it may here be recommended, as a matter of some consequence, to keep in mind the precise difference between an argument a priori and one a posteriori, a distinction of considerable use, as well as of long standing, among divines, metaphysicians, and logical writers. An argument from either of these, when legitimately applied, may amount to a demonstration, when used, for instance, relatively to the being and perfections of God; but the one should be confined to the existence of Deity, while the other is applicable to his perfections. By the argument a posteriori we rise from the effect to the cause, from the stream to the fountain, from what is posterior what is prior; in other words, from what is contingent to what is absolute, from number to unity; that is, from the manifestation of God to his existence. By the argument a priori we descend from the cause to the effect, from the fountain to the stream, from what is a priori to what is posterior; that is, from the necessary existence of God we safely infer certain properties and perfections. To attempt a demonstration of the existence of a first cause, or the Being of God, a priori, would be most absurd; for it would be an attempt to prove a prior ground or cause of existence of a first cause; or, that there is some cause before the very first. The argument a priori, therefore, is not applicable to prove the divine existence. For this end, the argument a posteriori alone is legitimate; and its conclusiveness rests on this axiom, that “there can be no effect without a cause.” The absurdity of denying this axiom is abundantly demonstrated by our author. — W.]
But if once this grand principle of common sense be given up, that what is not necessary in itself, must have a cause; and we begin to maintain, that things which heretofore have not been, may come into existence, and begin to be of themselves, without any cause; all our means of ascending in our arguing from the creature to the Creator, and all our evidence of the Being of God, is cut off at one blow. In this case, we cannot prove that there is a God, either from the Being of the world, and the creatures in it, or from the manner of their being, their order, beauty, and use. For if things may come into existence without any cause at all, then they doubtless may without any cause answerable to the effect. Our minds do alike naturally suppose and determine both these things; namely, that what begins to be has a cause, and also that it has a cause proportionable to the effect. The same principle, which leads us to determine, that there cannot be anything coming to pass without a cause, leads us to determine that there cannot be more in the effect than in the cause.
Yea, if once it should be allowed, that things may come to pass without a cause, we should not only have no proof of the Being of God, but we should be without evidence of the existence of anything whatsoever, but our own immediately present ideas and consciousness. For we have no way to prove anything else, but by arguing from effects to causes. From the ideas now immediately in view, we argue other things not immediately in view. From sensations now excited in us, we infer the existence of things without us, as the causes of these sensations; and from the existence of these things, we argue other things, on which they depend, as effects on causes. We infer the past existence of ourselves, or anything else, by memory; only as we argue, that the ideas, which are now in our minds, are the consequences of past ideas and sensations. We immediately perceive nothing else but the ideas, which are this moment extant in our minds. We perceive or know other things only by means of these, as necessarily connected with others, and dependent on them. But if things may be without causes, all this necessary connection and dependence is dissolved, and so all means of our knowledge is gone. If there be no absurdity or difficulty in supposing one thing to start out of non-existence into being, of itself without a cause; then there is no absurdity or difficulty in supposing the same of millions of millions. For nothing, or no difficulty, multiplied, still is nothing, or no difficulty. Nothing multiplied by nothing, does not increase the sum.
And indeed, according to the hypothesis I am opposing, of the acts of the will coming to pass without a cause, it is the cause in fact, that millions of millions of events are continually coming into existence contingently, without any cause or reason why they do so, all over the world, every day and hour, through all ages. So it is in a constant succession, in every moral agent. This contingency, this efficient nothing, this effectual No-cause, is always ready at hand, to produce this sort of effects, as long as the agent exists, and as often as he has occasion.
If it were so, that things only of one kind, viz. acts of the will, seemed to come to pass of themselves; and it were an event that was continual, and that happened in a course, wherever were found subjects capable of such events; this very thing would demonstrate that there was some cause of them, which made such a difference between this event and others, and that they did not really happen contingently. For contingence is blind, and does not pick and choose a particular sort of events. Nothing has no choice. This no-cause, which causes no existence, cannot cause the existence which comes to pass, to be of one particular sort only, distinguished from all others. Thus, that only one sort of matter drops out of the heavens, even water, and that this comes so often, so constantly and plentifully, all over the world, in all ages, shows that there is some cause or reason of the falling of water out of the heavens; and that something besides mere contingence has a hand in the matter.
If we should suppose non-entity to be about to bring forth; and things were coming into existence, without any cause or antecedent, on which the existence, or kind, or manner of existence depends; or which could at all determine whether the things should be stones, or stars, or beasts, or angels, or human bodies, or souls, or only some new motion or figure in natural bodies, or some new sensations in animals, or new ideas in the human understanding, or new volitions in the will; or anything else of all the infinite number of possibilities; then certainly it would not be expected, although many millions of millions of things were coming into existence in this manner, all over the face of the earth, that they should all be only of one particular kind, and that it should be thus in all ages, and that this sort of existences should never fail to come to pass where there is room for them, or a subject capable of them, and that constantly, whenever there is occasion.
If any should imagine, there is something in the sort of event that renders it possible for it to come into existence without a cause, and should say, that the free acts of the will are existences of an exceeding different nature from other things; by reason of which they may come into existence without any previous ground or reason of it, though other things cannot. If they make this objection in good earnest, it would be an evidence of their strangely forgetting themselves; for they would be giving an account of some ground of the existence of a thing, when at the same time they would maintain there is no ground of its existence. Therefore I would observe, that the particular nature of existence, be it never so diverse from others, can lay no foundation for that thing coming into existence without a cause. Because to suppose this, would be to suppose the particular nature of existence to be a thing prior to the existence, and so a thing which makes way for existence, without a cause or reason of existence. But that which in any respect makes way for a thing coming into being, or for any manner or circumstance of its first existence, must be prior to the existence. The distinguished nature of the effect, which is something belonging to the effect, cannot have influence backward, to act before it is. The peculiar nature of that thing called volition, can do nothing, can have no influence, while it is not. And afterwards it is too late for its influence: for then the thing has made sure of existence already, without its help.
So that it is indeed as repugnant to reason, to suppose that an act of the will should come into existence without a cause, as to suppose the human soul, or an angel, or the globe of the earth, or the whole universe, should come into existence without a cause. And if once we allow, that such a sort of effect as a volition may come to pass without a cause, how do we know but that many other sorts of effects may do so too? It is not the particular kind of effect that makes the absurdity of supposing it has being without a cause, but something which is common to all things that ever begin to be, viz. that they are not self-existent or necessary in the nature of things.
The author of the Essay on the Freedom of the Will in God and the Creatures, in answer to that objection against his doctrine of a self-determining power in the will (p. 68-69). That nothing is, or comes to pass, without a sufficient reason why it is, and why it is in this manner rather than another. Allows that it is thus in corporeal things, which are, properly and philosophically speaking, passive being; but denies it is thus in spirits, which are beings of an active nature, who have the spring of action within themselves, and can determine themselves. By which it is plainly supposed, that such an event as an act of the will, may come to pass in a spirit, without a sufficient reason why it comes to pass, or why it is after this manner, rather than another. But certainly this author, in this matter, must be very unwary and inadvertent. For,
1. The objection or difficulty proposed by him seems to be forgotten in his answer or solution. The very difficulty, as he himself proposes it, is this: How an event can come to pass without a sufficient reason why it is, or why it is in this manner rather than another? Instead of solving this difficulty, with regard to volition, as he proposes, he forgets himself, and answers another question quite diverse, viz. What is a sufficient reason, why it is, and why it is in this manner rather than another! And he assigns the active being’s own determination as the cause, and a cause sufficient for the effect; and leaves all the difficulty unresolved, even, How the soul’s own determination, which he speaks of, came to exist, and to be what it was, without a cause? The activity of the soul may enable it to be the cause of effects; but it does not at all enable it to be the subject of effects which have no cause; which is the thing this author supposes concerning acts of the will. Activity of nature will no more enable a being to produce effects, and determine the manner of their existence, within itself, without a cause, than out of itself, in some other being. But if an active being should, through its activity, produce and determine an effect in some external object, how absurd would it be to say, that the effect was produced without a cause!
2. The question is not so much, How a spirit endowed with activity comes to act, as why it exerts such an act, and not another, or why it acts with such a particular determination? If activity of nature be the cause why a spirit (the soul of man, for instance) acts, and does not lie still; yet that alone is not the cause why its action is thus and thus limited, directed, and determined. Active nature is a general thing, it is an ability or tendency of nature to action, generally taken, which may be a cause why the soul acts as occasion or reason is given. But this alone cannot be a sufficient cause why the soul exerts such a particular act, at such a time, rather than others. In order to this there must be something besides a general tendency to action; there must also be a particular tendency to that individual action. — If it should be asked, why the soul of man uses its activity, in such a manner as it does; and it should be answered, that the soul uses its activity thus, rather than otherwise, because it has activity; would such an answer satisfy a rational man? Would it not rather be looked upon as a very impertinent one?
3. An active being can bring no effects to pass by his activity, but what are consequent upon his acting. He produces nothing by his activity, any other way than by the exercise of his activity, and so nothing but the fruits of its exercise: he brings nothing to pass by a dormant activity. But the exercise of his activity is action; and so his action, or exercise of his activity, must be prior to the effects of his activity. If an active being produces an effect in another being, about which his activity is conversant, the effect being the fruit of his activity, his activity must be first exercised or exerted, and the effect of it must follow. So it must be, with equal reason, if the active being is his own object, and his activity is conversant about himself, to produce and determine some effect in himself; still the exercise of his activity must go before the effect, which he brings to pass and determines by it. And therefore, his activity cannot be the cause of the determination of the first action, or exercise of activity itself, whence the effects of activity arise; for that would imply a contradiction; it would be to say, the first exercise of activity is before the first exercise of activity, and is the cause of it.
4. That the soul, though an active substance, cannot diversify its own acts, but by first acting; or be a determining cause of different acts, or any different effects, sometimes of one kind, and sometimes of another, any other way than in consequence of its own diverse acts, is manifest by this; that if so, then the same cause, the same causal influence, without variation in any respect, would produce different effects at different times. For the same substance of the soul before it acts, and the same active nature of the soul before it is exerted, i. e. before in the order of nature, would be the cause of different effects, viz. different volitions at different times. But the substance of the soul before it acts, and its active nature before it is exerted, are the same without variation. For it is some act that makes the first variation in the cause, as to any causal exertion, force, or influence. But if it be so, that the soul has no different causality, or diverse causal influence, in producing these diverse effects, then it is evident, that the soul has no influence in the diversity of the effect. And that the difference of the effect cannot be owing to anything in the soul; or which is the same thing, the soul does not determine the diversity of the effect; which is contrary to the supposition. — It is true, the substance of the soul before it acts, and before there is any difference in that respect, may be in a different state and circumstances: but those whom I oppose, will not allow the different circumstances of the soul to be the determining causes of the acts of the will; as being contrary to their notion of self-determination.
5. Let us suppose, as these divines do, that there are no acts of the soul, strictly speaking, but free volitions; then it will follow, that the soul is an active being in nothing further than it is a voluntary or elective being; and whenever it produces effects actively, it produces effects voluntarily and electively. But to produce effects thus, is the same thing as to produce effects in consequence of, and according to its own choice. And if so, then surely the soul does not by its activity, produce all its own acts of will or choice themselves. For this, by the supposition, is to produce all its free acts of choice voluntarily and electively, or in consequence of its own free acts of choice, which brings the matter directly to the aforementioned contradiction, of a free act of choice before the first free act of choice. — According to these gentlemen’s own notion of action, if there arises in the mind a volition without a free act of the will to produce it, the mind is not the voluntary cause of that volition; because it does not arise from, nor is regulated by, choice or design. And therefore it cannot be that the mind should be the active, voluntary, determining cause of the first and leading volition that relates to the affair. — The mind being a designing cause, only enables it to produce effects in consequence of its design; it will not enable it to be the designing cause of all its own designs. The mind being an elective cause, will enable it to produce effects only in consequence of its elections, and according to them; but cannot enable it to be the elective cause of all its own elections; because that supposes an election before the first election. So the mind being an active cause, enables it to produce effects in consequence of its own acts; but cannot enable it to be the determining cause of all its own acts; for that is, in the same manner, a contradiction, as it supposes a determining act conversant about the first act, and prior to it, having a causal influence on its existence, and manner of existence.
I can conceive of nothing else that can be meant by the soul having power to cause and determine its own volitions, as a being to whom God has given a power of action, but this; that God has given power to the soul, sometimes at least, to excite volitions at its pleasure, or according as it chooses. And this certainly supposes, in all such cases, a choice preceding all volitions, which are thus caused, even the first of them. Which runs into the aforementioned great absurdity.
Therefore the activity of the nature of the soul affords no relief from the difficulties with which the notion of a self-determining power in the will is attended, nor will it help, in the least, its absurdities and inconsistencies.
What was last observed in the preceding section, may show — not only that the active nature of the soul cannot be a reason why an act of the will is, or why it is in this manner rather than another, but also, that if it could be proved, that volitions are contingent events, their being and manner of being not fixed or determined by any cause, or anything antecedent. It would not at all serve the purpose of Arminians, to establish their notion of freedom, as consisting in the will’s determination of itself, which supposes every free act of the will to be determined by some act of the will going before; inasmuch as for the will to determine a thing, is the same as for the soul to determine a thing by willing; and there is no way that the will can determine an act of the will, than by willing that act of the will, or, which is the same thing, choosing it. So that here must be two acts of the will in the case, one going before another, one conversant about the other, and the latter the object of the former, and chosen by the former. If the will does not cause and determine the act by choice, it does not cause or determine it at all. For that which is not determined by choice, is not determined voluntarily or willingly. And to say, that the will determines something which the soul does not determine willingly, is as much as to say, that something is done by the will, which the soul does not with its will.
So that if Arminian liberty of will, consisting in the will determining its own acts, be maintained, the old absurdity and contradiction must be maintained, that every free act of will is caused and determined by a foregoing free act of will. Which does not consist with the free acts arising without any cause, and being so contingent, as not to be fixed by anything foregoing. So that this evasion must be given up, as not at all relieving this sort of liberty, but directly destroying it.
And if it should be supposed, that the soul determines its own acts of will some other way, than by a foregoing act of will, still it will help not their cause. If it determines them by an act of the understanding, or some other power, then the will does not determine itself; and so, the self-determining power of the will is given up. And what liberty is there exercised, according to, their own opinion of liberty, by the soul being determined by something besides its own choice? The acts of the will, it is true, may be directed, and effectually determined and fixed; but, it is not done, by the soul’s own will and pleasure. There is no exercise at all of choice or will in producing the effect; and if, will and choice, are not exercised in it, how is the liberty of the will exercised in it?
So that let Arminians turn which way they please with their notion of liberty, consisting in the will determining its own acts, their notion destroys itself. If they hold every free act of will to be determined by the soul’s own free choice, or foregoing free act of will; foregoing either in the order of time, or nature; it implies that gross contradiction. That the first free act belonging to the affair, is determined by a free act which is before it. Or if they say, that the free acts of the will are determined by some other act of the soul, and not an act of will or choice; this also destroys their notion of liberty consisting in the acts of the will being determined by the will itself. Or if they hold that the acts of the will are determined by nothing at all that is prior to them, but that they are contingent in that sense, that they are determined and fixed by no cause at all; this also destroys their notion of liberty, consisting in the will determining its own acts.
This being the true state of the Arminian notion of liberty, the writers who defend it are forced into gross inconsistencies, in what they say upon this subject. To instance in Dr. Whitby; he, in his discourse on the freedom of the will, [In his book on the five Points, Second Edit. p. 350, 351, 352.] opposes the opinion of the Calvinists, who place man’s liberty only in a power of doing what he will, as that wherein they plainly agree with Mr. Hobbes. And yet he himself mentions the very same notion of liberty, as the dictate of the sense and common reason of mankind, and a rule laid down by the light of nature; viz. that liberty is a power of acting from ourselves, or DOING WHAT WE WILL. [In his book on the five Points, Second Edit. p. 325, 326.] This is indeed, as he says, a thing agreeable to the sense and common reason of mankind; and therefore it is not so much to be wondered at, that he unawares acknowledges it against himself. For if liberty does not consist in this, what else can be devised that it should consist in? If it be said, as Dr. Whitby elsewhere insists, that it does not only consist in liberty of doing what we will, but also a liberty of willing without necessity. Still the question returns, what does that liberty of willing without necessity consist in, but in a power of willing as we please, without being impeded by a contrary necessity? Or; in other words, a liberty for the soul in its willing to act according to its own choice? Yea, this very thing the same author seems to allow, and suppose again and again, in the use he makes of sayings of the fathers, whom he quotes as his vouchers. Thus he cites the words of Origen, which he produces as a testimony on his side; [In his book on the five Points, Second Edit. p. 342.] “The soul acts by HER OWN CHOICE, and it is free for her to incline to whatever part SHE WILL.” And those of Justin Martyr; [In his book on the five Points, Second Edit. p. 360.] “The doctrine of the Christians is this, that nothing is done or suffered according to fate, but that every man does good or evil ACCORDING TO HIS OWN FREE CHOICE. And from Eusebius, these words; [In his book on the five Points, Second Edit. p. 363] “If fate be established, philosophy and piety are overthrown. All these things depending upon the necessity introduced by the stars, and not upon meditation and exercise PROCEEDING FROM OUR OWN FREE CHOICE. And again, the words of Maccarius; [In his book on the five Points, Second Edit. p. 369, 370.] “God, to preserve the liberty of man’s will, suffered their bodies to die, that it might be IN THEIR CHOICE to turn to good or evil.” — “They who are acted by the Holy Spirit, are not held under any necessity, but have liberty to turn themselves, and DO WHAT THEY WILL in this life.”
Thus, the Doctor in effect comes into that very notion of liberty, which the Calvinists have; which he at the same time condemns, as agreeing with the opinion of Mr. Hobbes, namely, “The soul acting by its own choice, men doing good or evil according to their own free choice, their being in that exercise which proceeds from their own free choice, having it in their choice to turn to good or evil, and doing what they will.” So that if men exercise this liberty in the acts of the will themselves, it must be in exerting acts of will according to their own free choice; or, exerting acts of will that proceed from their choice. And if it be so, then let everyone judge whether this does not suppose a free choice going before the free act of will, or whether an act of choice does not go before that act of the will which proceeds from it. And if it be thus with all free acts of the will, then let everyone judge, whether it will not follow that there is a free choice going before the first free act of the will exerted in the case! And finally, let everyone judge whether in the scheme of these writers there be any possibility of avoiding these absurdities.
If liberty consists, as Dr. Whitby himself says, in a man’s doing what he will; and a man exercises this liberty, not only in external actions, but in the acts of the will themselves; then so far as liberty is exercised in the latter, it consists in willing what he wills: and if any say so, one of these two things must be meant, either, 1. That a man has power to will, as he does will; because what he wills, he wills; and therefore power to will what he has power to will. If this be their meaning, then all this mighty controversy about freedom of the will and self-determining power, comes wholly to nothing. All that is contended for being no more than this, that the mind of man does what it does, and is the subject of what it is the subject, or that what is, is; wherein none has any controversy with them. Or, 2. The meaning must be, that a man has power to will as he chooses to will: that is, he has power by one act of choice to choose another; by an antecedent act of will to choose a consequent act and therein to execute his own choice. And if this be their meaning, it is nothing but shuffling with those they dispute with, and baffling their own reason. For still the question returns, wherein lies man’s liberty in that antecedent act of will which chose the consequent act. The answer according to the same principles must be, that his liberty in this also lies in his willing as he would, or as he chose, or agreeable to another act of choice preceding that. And so the question returns in infinitum, and the like answer must be made in infinitum: in order to support their opinion, their must be no beginning, but free acts of will must have been chosen by foregoing free acts of will in the soul of every man, without beginning.
A great argument for self-determining power, is the supposed experience we universally have of an ability to determine our wills, in cases wherein no prevailing motive is presented. The will, as is supposed, has its choice to make between two or more things, that are perfectly equal in the view of the mind; and the will is apparently, altogether indifferent, and yet we find no difficulty in coming to a choice. The will can instantly determine itself to one, by a sovereign power which it has over itself, without being moved by any preponderating inducement.
Thus the aforementioned author of an Essay on the Freedom of the Will, etc. (p. 25, 26, 27) supposes, “That there are many instances, wherein the will is determined neither by present uneasiness, nor by the greatest apparent good nor by the last dictate of the understanding nor by anything else, but merely by itself, as a sovereign self-determining power of the soul. And that the soul does not will this or that action, in some cases, by any other influence but because it will. Thus, says he, I can turn my face to the south, or the north; I can point with my finger upward, or downward. — And thus, in some cases, the will determines itself in a very sovereign manner, because it will, without a reason borrowed from the understanding: and hereby it discovers its own perfect power of choice, rising from within itself, and free from all influence or restraint of any kind.” And (p. 66, 70, 73, 74) this author very expressly supposes the will in many cases to be determined by no motive at all, and acts altogether without motive, or ground of preference. — Here I would observe,
1. The very supposition which is here made, directly contradicts and overthrows itself. For the thing supposed, wherein this grand argument consists, is, that among several things the will actually chooses one before another. At the same time that it is perfectly indifferent, which is the very same thing as to say the mind has a preference, at the same time that it has no preference. What is meant cannot be, that the mind is indifferent before it comes to have a choice, or until it has a preference; for certainly this author did not imagine he had a controversy with any person in supposing this. Besides, it appears in fact, that the thing which he supposes, is — not that the will chooses one thing before another, concerning which it is indifferent before it chooses. But that the will is indifferent when it chooses; and that it being otherwise than indifferent is not until afterwards, in consequence of its choice; that the chosen thing appearing preferable, and more agreeable than another, arises from its choice already made. His words are (p. 30), “Where the objects which are proposed appear equally fit or good, the will is left without a guide or director; and therefore must take its own choice, by its own determination; it being properly a self-determining power. And in such cases the will does as it were make a good to itself by its own choice, i. e. creates its own pleasure or delight in this self-chosen good. Even as a man by seizing upon a spot of unoccupied land, in an uninhabited country, makes it his own possession and property, and as such rejoices in it. Where things were indifferent before, the will finds nothing to make them more agreeable, considered merely in themselves, but the pleasure it feels arising from its own choice, and its perseverance therein. We love many things which we have chosen, and purely because we chose them.”
This is as much as to say that we first begin to prefer many things, purely because we have preferred and chosen them before. — These things must needs be spoken inconsiderately by this author. Choice or preference cannot be before itself in the same instance, either in the order of time or nature: It cannot be the foundation of itself, or the consequence of itself. The very act of choosing one thing rather than another is preferring that thing, and that is setting a higher value on that thing. But that the mind sets a higher value on one thing than another, is not, in the first place, the fruit of its setting a higher value on that thing.
This author says (p. 36), “The will may be perfectly indifferent, and yet the will may determine itself to choose one or the other.” And again, in the same page, “I am entirely indifferent to either; and yet my will may determine itself to choose.” And again, “Which I shall choose must be determined by the mere act of my will.” If the choice is determined by a mere act of will, then the choice is determined by a mere act of choice. And concerning this matter, viz. That the act of the will itself is determined by act of choice; this writer is express (p. 72). Speaking of the case, where there is no superior fitness in objects presented, he has these words: “There it must act by its own CHOICE, and determine itself as it PLEASES.” Where it is supposed that the very determination, which is the ground and spring of the will’s act, is an act of choice and pleasure, wherein one act is more agreeable than another: and this preference and superior pleasure is the ground of all it does in the case. And if so, the mind is not indifferent when it determines itself, but had rather determine itself one way than another. And therefore the will does not act at all in indifference; not so much as in the first step it takes. If it be possible for the understanding to act in indifference, yet surely the will never does; because the will beginning to act is the very same thing as it beginning to choose or prefer. And if in the very first act of the will, the mind prefers something, then the idea of that thing preferred, does at that time preponderate, or prevail in the mind: or, which is the same thing, the idea of it has a prevailing influence on the will. So that this wholly destroys the thing supposed, viz. That the mind can by a sovereign power choose one of two or more things, which in the view of the mind are, in every respect, perfectly equal, one of which does not at all preponderate, nor has any prevailing influence on the mind above another.
So that this author, in his grand argument for the ability of the will to choose one of two or more things, concerning which it is perfectly indifferent, does at the same time, in effect, deny the thing he supposes, even that the will, in choosing, is subject to no prevailing influence of the view of the thing chosen. And indeed it is impossible to offer this argument without overthrowing it; the thing supposed in it being that which denies itself. To suppose the will to act at all in a state of perfect indifference, is to assert that the mind chooses without choosing. To say that when it is indifferent, it can do as it pleases, is to say that it can follow its pleasure, when it has no pleasure to follow. And therefore if there be any difficulty in the instances of two cakes, or two eggs, etc. which are exactly alike, one as good as another; concerning which this author supposes the mind in fact has a choice, and so in effect supposes that it has a preference; it as much concerned himself to solve the difficulty, as it does those whom he opposes. For if these instances prove anything to his purpose, they prove that a man chooses without choice. And yet this is not to his purpose; because if this is what he asserts, his own words are as much against him, and does as much contradict him, as the words of those he disputes against can do.
2. There is no great difficulty in showing, in such instances as are alleged, not only that it must needs be so, that the mind must be influenced in its choice by something that has a preponderating influence upon it, but also how it is so. A little attention to our own experience, and a distinct consideration of the acts of our own minds, in such cases, will be sufficient to clear up the matter.
Thus, supposing I have a chessboard before me and because I am required by a superior, or desired by a friend, or on some other consideration, I am determined to touch some one of the spots or squares on the board with my finger. Not being limited or directed, in the first proposal, to anyone in particular; and there being nothing in the squares, in themselves considered, that recommends anyone of all the sixty-four, more than another; in this case, my mind determines to give itself up to what is vulgarly called accident, [I have elsewhere observed, what that is which is vulgarly called accident; that is nothing akin to the Arminian metaphysical notion of contingence, or something not connected with anything foregoing; but that it is something that comes to pass in the course of things, unforeseen by men, and not owing to their design.] by determining to touch that square which happens to be most in view, which my eye is especially upon at that moment, or which happens to be then most in my mind, or which I shall be directed to by some other such like accident. Here are several steps of the mind proceeding (though all may be done, as it were, in a moment). The first step is its general determination that it will touch one of the squares. The next step is another general determination to give itself up to accident, in some certain way; as to touch that which shall be most in the eye or mind at that time, or to some other such like accident. The third and last step is a particular determination to touch a certain individual spot, even that square, which, by that sort of accident the mind has pitched upon, has actually offered itself beyond others. Now it is apparent that in none of these several steps does the mind proceed in absolute indifference, but in each of them is influenced by a preponderating inducement. So it is in the first step: the mind’s general determination to touch one of the sixty-four spots. The mind is not absolutely indifferent whether it does so or no; it is induced to it, for the sake of making some experiment, or by the desire of a friend, or some other motive that prevails. So it is in the second step, the mind determining to give itself up to accident, by touching that which shall be most in the eve, or the idea of which shall be most prevalent in the mind, etc. The mind is not absolutely indifferent whether it proceeds by this rule or no; but chooses it, because it appears at that time a convenient and requisite expedient in order to fulfill the general purpose. And so it is in the third and last step, which is determining to touch that individual spot which actually does prevail in the mind’s view. The mind is not indifferent concerning this; but is influenced by a prevailing inducement and reason; which is, that this is a prosecution of the preceding determination, which appeared requisite, and was fixed before in the second step.
Accident will ever serve a man, without hindering him a moment, in such a case. Among a number of objects in view, one will prevail in the eye, or in idea, beyond others. When we have our eyes open in the clear sunshine, many objects strike the eye at once, and innumerable images, may be at once painted in it by the rays of light. But the attention of the mind is not equal to several of them at once; or if it be, it does not continue so for any time. And so it is with respect to the ideas of the mind in general: several ideas are not in equal strength in the mind’s view and notice at once; or at least, does not remain so for any sensible continuance. There is nothing in the world more constantly varying, than the ideas of the mind. They do not remain precisely in the same state for the least perceivable space of time; as is evident by this: — That all time is perceived by the mind, only by the successive changes of its own ideas. Therefore while the perceptions of the mind remain precisely in the same state, there is no perceivable length of time, because no sensible succession at all.
As the acts of the will, in each step of the aforementioned procedure, do not come to pass without a particular cause, but every act is owing to a prevailing inducement; so the accident, as I have called it, or that which happens in the unsearchable course of things, to which the mind yields itself, and by which it is guided, is not anything that comes to pass without a cause. The mind in determining to be guided by it, is not determined by something that has no cause; any more than if it be determined to be guided by a lot, or the casting of a die. For though the die falling in such a manner be accidental to him that casts it, yet none will suppose that there is no cause why it falls as it does. The involuntary changes in the succession of our ideas, though the cause may not be observed, have as much a cause, as the changeable motions of the motes that float in the air, or the continual, infinitely various, successive changes of the unevennesses on the surface of the water.
There are two things especially, which are probably the occasions of confusion in the minds of them who insist upon it, that the will acts in a proper indifference, and without being moved by any inducement, in its determinations in such cases as have been mentioned.
[The reader is particularly requested to give due attention to these two remarks, especially the former, as being of the utmost importance in the controversy. If he be pleased to examine, with this view, the most popular advocates for the liberty of indifference, he will find them continually confounding the objects of choice, and the acts of choice. When they have shown, with much plausibility, that there is no perceivable difference, or ground of choice, in the objects, they hastily infer the same indifferences as applicable to the acts of choice. W.]
1. They seem to mistake the point in question, or at least not to keep it distinctly in view. The question they dispute about, is, whether the mind be indifferent about the objects presented, one of which is to be taken, touched, pointed to, etc. as two eggs, two cakes, which appear equally good. Whereas the question to be considered, is, whether the person be indifferent with respect to his own actions; whether he does not, on some consideration or other, prefer one act with respect to these objects before another. The mind in its determination and choice, in these cases, is not most immediately and directly conversant about the objects presented, but the acts to be done concerning these objects. The objects may appear equal, and the mind may never properly make any choice between them; but the next act of the will being about the external actions to be performed, taking, touching, etc. these may not appear equal, and one action may properly be chosen before another. In each step of the mind’s progress, the determination is not about the objects, unless indirectly and improperly, but about the actions, which it chooses for other reasons than any preference of the objects, and for reasons not taken at all from the objects.
There is no necessity of supposing, that the mind does ever at all properly choose one of the objects before another: either before it has taken, or afterwards. Indeed the man chooses to take or touch one rather than another; but not because it chooses the thing taken, or touched, but from foreign considerations. The case may be so, that of two things offered, a man may, for certain reasons, prefer taking that which he undervalues, and choose to neglect that which his mind prefers. In such a case, choosing the thing taken, and choosing to take, are diverse: and so they are in a case where the things presented are equal in the mind’s esteem, and neither of them preferred. All that fact and experience makes evident, is, that the mind chooses one action rather than another. And therefore the arguments which they bring, in order to be to their purpose, should be to prove that the mind chooses the action in perfect indifference, with respect to that action; and not to prove that the mind chooses the action in perfect indifference with respect to the object; which is very possible, and yet the will not act at all without prevalent inducement, and proper preponderation.
2. Another reason of confusion and difficulty, in this matter, seems to be, not distinguishing between a general indifference, or an indifference with respect to what is to be done in a more distant and general view of it; and a particular indifference, or an indifference with respect to the next immediate act, viewed with its particular and present circumstances. A man may be perfectly indifferent with respect to his own actions, in the former respect; and yet not in the latter. Thus in the foregoing instance of touching one of the squares of a chessboard; when it is first proposed that I should touch one of them, I may be perfectly indifferent which I touch. Because as yet I view the matter remotely and generally, being but in the first step of the mind’s progress in the affair. But yet, when I am actually come to the last step, and the very next thing to be determined is which is to be touched, having already determined that I will touch that which happens to be most in my eye or mind, and my mind being now fixed on a particular one, the act of touching that, considered thus immediately, and in these particular present circumstances, is not what my mind is absolutely indifferent about.
What has been said in the foregone section, has a tendency in some measure to evince the absurdity of the opinion of such as place liberty in indifference, or in that equilibrium whereby the will is without all antecedent bias. That the determination of the will to either side may be entirely from itself, and that it may be owing only to its own power, and the sovereignty which it has over itself, that it goes this way rather than that.
But inasmuch as this has been of such long standing, and has been so generally received, and so much insisted on by Pelagians, Semi-Pelagians, Jesuits, Socinians, Arminians, and others, it may deserve a more full consideration. And therefore I shall now proceed to a more particular and thorough inquiry into this notion.
Now lest some should suppose that I do not understand those that place liberty in indifference, or should charge me with misrepresenting their opinion, I would signify, that I am sensible, there are some, who, when they talk of liberty of the will as consisting in indifference, express themselves as though they would not be understood to mean the indifference of the inclination or tendency of the will, but an indifference of the soul’s power of willing. Or that the will, with respect to its power or ability to choose, is indifferent, can go either way indifferently, either to the right hand or left, either act or forbear to act, one as well as the other. This indeed seems to be a refining of some particular writers only and newly invented, which will by no means consist with the manner of expression used by the defenders of liberty of indifference in general. I wish such refiners would thoroughly consider, whether they distinctly know their own meaning, when they make a distinction between an indifference of the soul as to its power or ability of choosing, and the soul’s indifference as to the preference or choice itself. And whether they do not deceive themselves in imagining that they have any distinct meaning at all. The indifference of the soul as to its ability or power to will, must be the same thing as the indifference of the state of the power or faculty of the will, or the indifference of the state which the soul itself, which has that power or faculty, hitherto remains in, as to the exercise of that power, in the choice it shall by and by make.
But not to insist any longer on the inexplicable abstruseness of this distinction; let what will be supposed concerning the meaning of them that use it. Thus much must at least be intended by Arminians when they talk of indifference as essential to liberty of will, if they intend anything in any respect to their purpose, viz. That it is such an indifference as leaves the will not determined already; but free from actual possession, and vacant of predetermination, so far, that there may be room for the exercise of the self-determining power of the will. And that the will’s freedom consists in, or depends upon, this vacancy and opportunity that is left for the will itself to be the determiner of the act that is to be the free act.
And here I would observe in the first place, that to make out this scheme of liberty, the indifference must be perfect and absolute; there must be a perfect freedom from all antecedent preponderation or inclination. Because if the will be already inclined, before it exerts its own sovereign power on itself, then its inclination is not wholly owing to itself. When two opposites are proposed to the soul for its choice, the proposal does not find the soul wholly in a state of indifference, then it is not found in a state of liberty for mere self-determination. — The least degree of an antecedent bias must be inconsistent with their notion of liberty. For so long as prior inclination possesses the will, and is not removed, the former binds the latter, so that it is utterly impossible that the will should act otherwise than agreeably to it. Surely the will cannot act or choose contrary to a remaining prevailing inclination of the will. To suppose otherwise, would be the same thing as to suppose that the will is inclined contrary to its present prevailing inclination, or contrary to what it is inclined to. That which the will prefers, to that, all things considered, it preponderates and inclines. It is equally impossible for the will to choose contrary to its own remaining and present preponderating inclination, as it is to prefer contrary to its own present preference, or choose contrary to its own present choice. The will, therefore, so long as it is under the influence of an old preponderating inclination, is not at liberty for a new free act; of any, that shall now be an act of self-determination. That which is a self-determined free act, must be one which the will determines in the possession and use of a peculiar sort of liberty; such as consists in a freedom from everything, which, if it were there, would make it impossible that the will, at that time, should be otherwise than that way to which it tends.
If anyone should say, there is no need that the indifference should be perfect; but although a former inclination, still remains: yet, if it be not very strong, possibly the strength of the will may oppose and overcome it. — This is grossly absurd; for the strength of the will, let it be never so great, gives it no such sovereignty and command, as to cause itself to prefer and not to prefer at the same time, or to choose contrary to its own present choice.
Therefore, if there be the least degree of antecedent preponderation of the will, it must be perfectly abolished, before the will can be at liberty to determine itself the contrary way. And if the will determines itself the same way, it was not a free determination, because the will is not wholly at liberty in so doing. Its determination is not altogether from itself, but it was partly determined before, in its prior inclination. And all the freedom the will exercises in the case, is in an increase of inclination, which it gives itself, added to what it had by a foregoing bias; so much is from itself, and so much is from perfect indifference. For though the will had a previous tendency that way, yet as to that additional degree of inclination, it had no tendency. Therefore the previous tendency is of no consideration, with respect to the act wherein the will is free. So that it comes to the same thing which was said at first, that as to the act of the will, wherein the will is free, there must be perfect indifference, or equilibrium.
To illustrate this, suppose a sovereign self-moving power in a natural body, but that the body is in motion already, by an antecedent bias, for instance, gravitation towards the center of the earth; and has one degree of motion by virtue of that previous tendency; but by its self-moving power it adds one degree more to its motion, and moves so much move swiftly towards the center of the earth than it would do by its gravity only. It is evident, all that is owing to a self-moving power in this case, is the additional degree of motion; and that the other degree which it had from gravity, is of no consideration in the case. The effect is just the same, as if the body had received from itself one degree of motion from a state of perfect rest. So, if we suppose a self-moving power given to the scale of a balance, which has a weight of one degree beyond the opposite scale, and if we ascribe to it an ability to add to itself another degree of force the same way, by its self-moving power; this is just the same thing as to ascribe to it a power to give itself one degree of preponderation from a perfect equilibrium. And so much power as the scale has to give itself an over-balance from a perfect equipoise, so much self-moving self-preponderating power it has, and no more. So that its free power this way is always to be measured from perfect equilibrium.
I need say no more to prove, that if indifference be essential to liberty, it must be perfect indifference. And that, so far as the will is destitute of this, so far is it destitute of that freedom by which it is in a capacity of being its own determiner, without being at all passive, or subject to the power and sway of something else, in its motions and determinations.
Having observed these things, let us now try whether this notion of the liberty of will consisting in indifference and equilibrium, and the will’s self-determination in such a state, be not absurd and inconsistent.
And here I would lay down this as an axiom of undoubted truth; that every free act is done IN a state of freedom, and not only AFTER such a state. If an act of the will be an act wherein the soul is free, it must be exerted in a state of freedom, and in the time of freedom. It will not suffice, that the act immediately follows a state of liberty; but liberty must yet continue, and coexist with the act; the soul remaining in possession of liberty. Because that is the notion of a free act of the soul, even an act wherein the soul uses or exercises liberty. But if the soul is not, in the very time of the act, in the possession of liberty, it cannot at that time be in the use of it.
Now the question is, whether ever the soul of man puts forth an act of will, while it yet remains in a state of liberty, viz. as implying a state of indifference. Or whether the soul ever exerts an act of preference, while at that very time the will is in a perfect equilibrium, not inclining one way more than another. The very putting of the question is sufficient to show the absurdity of the affirmative answer: for how ridiculous would it be for anybody to insist that the soul chooses one thing before another, when at the very same instant it is perfectly indifferent with respect to each! This is the same thing as to say, the soul prefers one thing to another, at the very same time that it has no preference. — Choice and preference can no more be in a state of indifference, than motion can be in a state of rest, or than the preponderation of the scale of a balance can be in the state of equilibrium. Motion may be the next moment after rest; but cannot coexist with it, in any, even the least, part of it. So choice may be immediately after a state of indifference, but cannot coexist with it: even the very beginning of it is not in a state of indifference. And therefore, if this be liberty, no act of the will, in any degree, is ever performed in a state of liberty, or in the time of liberty. Volition and liberty are so far from agreeing together, and being essential one to another, that they are contrary one to another, and one excludes and destroys the other, as much as motion and rest, light and darkness, or life and death. So that the will acts not at all, does not so much as begin to act, in the time of such liberty. Freedom has ceased to be, at the first moment of action; and therefore liberty cannot reach the action, to affect, or qualify it, or give it a denomination, any more than if it had ceased to be twenty years before the action began. The moment that liberty ceases to be, it ceases to be a qualification of anything. If light and darkness succeed one another instantaneously, light qualifies nothing after it is gone out, to make anything lightsome or bright, at the first moment of perfect darkness, any more than months or years after. Life denominates nothing vital, at the first moment of perfect death. So freedom, if it consists in or implies indifference, can denominate nothing free, at the first moment of preference or preponderation. Therefore it is manifest, that no liberty which the soul is possessed of, or ever uses, in any of its acts of volition, consists in indifference. And that the opinion, of such, as suppose that indifference belongs to the very essence of liberty, is to the highest degree absurd and contradictory.
If anyone should imagine that this manner of arguing is nothing but a trick and delusion; and to evade the reasoning, should say that thing wherein the will exercises its liberty is not the act of choice or preponderance itself, but in determining itself to a certain choice or preference. That the act of the will wherein it is free, and uses its own sovereignty, consists in its causing or determining the change or transition from a state of indifference to a certain preference or determining to give a certain turn to the balance, which has hitherto been even; and that the will exerts this act in a state of liberty, or while the will yet remains in equilibrium, and perfect master of itself. — I say , if anyone chooses to express his notion of liberty after this, or some such manner, let us see if he can succeed any better than before.
What is asserted is, that the will, while it yet remains in perfect equilibrium, without preference, determines to change itself from that state, and excite in itself a certain choice or preference. Now let us see whether this does not come to the same absurdity we had before. If it be so that the will, while it yet remains perfectly indifferent, determines to put itself out of that state, and to give itself a certain preponderation. Then I would inquire, whether the soul does not determine this of choice; or whether the will coming to a determination to do so, be not the same thing as the soul coming to a choice to do so. If the soul does not determine this of choice, or in the exercise of choice, then it does not determine it voluntarily. And if the soul does not determine it voluntarily, or of its own will, then in what sense does its will determine it? And if the will does not determine it, then how is the liberty of the will exercised in the determination? What sort of liberty is exercised by the soul in those determinations, wherein there is no exercise of choice, which are not voluntary, and wherein the will is not concerned? But if it be allowed, that this determination is an act of choice, and it be insisted on, that the soul, while it yet remains in a state of perfect indifference, chooses to put itself out of that state, and to turn itself one way. Then the soul is already come to a choice; and chooses that way. And so we have the very same absurdity which we had before. Here is the soul in a state of choice, and in a state of equilibrium, both at the same time: the soul already choosing one way, while it remains in a state of perfect indifference, and has no choice of one way more than the other. — And indeed this manner of talking, though it may a little hide the absurdity, in the obscurity of expression, increases the inconsistency. To say, the free act of the will, or the act which the will exerts in a state of freedom and indifference, does not imply preference in it, but is what the will does in order to cause or produce a preference, is as much as to say, the soul chooses (for to will and to choose are the same thing) without choice, and prefers without preference, in order to cause or produce the beginning of a preference, or the first choice. And that is, that the first choice is exerted without choice, in order to produce itself!
If any, to evade these things, should own, that a state of liberty and a state of indifference are not the same, and that the former may be without the latter; but should say, that indifference is still essential to freedom, as it is necessary to go immediately before it; it being essential to the freedom of an act of will that it should directly and immediately arise out of a state of indifference; still this will not help the cause of Arminian liberty, or make it consistent with itself. For if the act springs immediately out of a state of indifference, then it does not arise from antecedent choice or preference. But if the act arises directly out of a state of indifference, without any intervening choice to determine it, then the act not being determined by choice, is not determined by the will. The mind exercises no free choice in the affair, and free choice and free will have no hand in the determination of the act, which is entirely inconsistent with their notion of the freedom of volition.
If any should suppose, that these absurdities may be avoided, by saying, that the liberty of the mind consists in a power to suspend the act of the will, and so to keep it in a state of indifference, until there has been opportunity for consideration. And so shall say, that however indifference is not essential to liberty in such a manner, that the mind must make its choice in a state of indifference, which is an inconsistency. Or that the act of will must spring immediately out of indifference; yet indifference may be essential to the liberty of acts of the will in this respect, viz., that liberty consists in a power of the mind to forbear or suspend the act of volition, and keep the mind in a state of indifference for the present, until there has been opportunity for proper deliberation. I say, if anyone imagines that this helps the matter, it is a great mistake. It reconciles no inconsistency, and relieves no difficulty. — For here the following things must be observed:
1. That this suspending of volition, if there be properly any such thing, is itself an act of volition. If the mind determines to suspend its act, it determines it voluntarily; it chooses, on some consideration, to suspend it. And this choice or determination, is an act of the will. And indeed it is supposed to be so in the very hypothesis. For it is supposed that the liberty of the will consists in its power to do this, and that its doing it is the very thing wherein the will exercises its liberty. But how can the will exercise liberty in it, if it be not an act of the will? The liberty of the will is not exercised in anything but what the will does.
2. This determining to suspend acting is not only an act of the will, but it is supposed to be the only free act of the will; because it is said, that this is the thing wherein the liberty of the will consists. — If so, then this is all the act of will that we have to consider in this controversy. And now, the former question returns upon us; viz. Wherein consists the freedom of the will in those acts wherein it is free? And if this act of determining a suspension be the only act in which the will is free, then wherein consists the will’s freedom with respect to this act of suspension? And how is indifference essential to this act? The answer must be, according to what is supposed in the evasion under consideration, that the liberty of the will in this act of suspension, consists in a power to suspend even this act, until there has been opportunity for thorough deliberation. But this will be to plunge directly into the grossest nonsense: for it is the act of suspension itself that we are speaking of; and there is no room for a space of deliberation and suspension in order to determine whether we will suspend or no. For that supposes, that even suspension itself may be deferred: which is absurd; for the very deferring the determination of suspension, to consider whether we will suspend or no, will be actually suspending. For during the space of suspension, to consider whether to suspend, the act is, ipso facto, suspended. There is no medium between suspending to act, and immediately acting; and therefore no possibility of avoiding either the one or the other one moment.
And besides, this is attended with ridiculous absurdity another way: for now, it seems, liberty consists wholly in the mind having power to suspend its determination whether to suspend or no; that there may be time for consideration, whether it be best to suspend. And if liberty consists in this only, then this is the liberty under consideration. We have to inquire now, how liberty, with respect to this act of suspending a determination of suspension, consists in indifference, or how indifference is essential to it. The answer, according to the hypothesis we are upon, must be, that it consists in a power of suspending even this last-mentioned act, to have time to consider whether to suspend that. And then the same difficulties and inquiries return over again with respect to that; and so on forever, which, if it would show anything, would show only that there is no such thing as a free act. It drives the exercise of freedom back in infinitum; and that is to drive it out of the world.
And besides all this, there is a delusion, and a latent gross contradiction in the affair another way. Inasmuch as in explaining how, or in what respect, the will is free, with regard to a particular act of volition, it is said, that its liberty consists in a power to determine to suspend that act. Which places liberty not in that act of volition which the inquiry is about, but altogether in another antecedent act. [This] contradicts the thing supposed in both the question and answer. The question is, wherein consists the mind’s liberty in any particular act of volition? And the answer, in pretending to show wherein lies the mind’s liberty in that act, in effect says, it does not lie in that act at all, but in another, viz. a volition to suspend that act. And therefore the answer is both contradictory, and altogether impertinent and beside the purpose. For it does not show wherein the liberty of the will consists in the act in question. Instead of that, it supposes it does not consist in that act at all, but in another distinct from it, even a volition to suspend that act, and take time to consider of it. And no account is pretended to be given wherein the mind is free with respect to that act, wherein this answer supposes the liberty of the mind indeed consists, viz. the act of suspension, or of determining the suspension.
On the whole, it is exceeding manifest, that the liberty of the mind does not consist in indifference, and that indifference is not essential or necessary to it, or at all belonging to it, as the Arminians suppose; that opinion being full of nothing but self-contradiction.
It is chiefly insisted on by Arminians, in this controversy, as a thing most important and essential in human liberty, that volitions, or the acts of the will, are contingent events; understanding contingence as opposite, not only to constraint, but to all necessity. Therefore I would particularly consider this matter.
And, First, I would inquire, whether there is or can be any such thing, as a volition which is contingent in such a sense, as not only to come to pass without any necessity of constraint or coaction, but also without a necessity of consequence, or an infallible connection with anything foregoing. — Secondly, whether, if it were so, this would at all help the cause of liberty.
I. I would consider whether volition is a thing that ever does or can come to pass, in this manner, contingently.
And here it must be remembered, that it has been already shown, that nothing can ever come to pass without a cause, or a reason, why it exists in this manner rather than another; and the evidence of this has been particularly applied to the acts of the will. Now if this be so, it will demonstrably follow, that the acts of the will are never contingent, or without necessity, in the sense spoken of; inasmuch as those things which have a cause, or a reason of their existence, must be connected with their cause. This appears by the following considerations.
1. For an event to have a cause and ground of its existence, and yet not to be connected with its cause, is an inconsistency. For if the event be not connected with the cause, it is not dependent on the cause. Its existence is as it were loose from its influence, and may attend it, or may not; it being a mere contingence, whether it follows or attends the influence of the cause, or not: And that is the same thing as not to be dependent on it. And to say, the event is not dependent on its cause, is absurd; it is the same thing as to say, it is not its cause, nor the event the effect of it. For dependence on the influence of a cause is the very notion of an effect. If there be no such relation between one thing and another, consisting in the connection and dependence of one thing on the influence of another, then it is certain there is no such relation between them as is signified by the terms cause and effect. So far as an event is dependent on a cause, and connected with it, so much causality is there in the case, and no more. The cause does, or brings to pass, no more in any event, than is dependent on it. If we say, the connection and dependence is not total, but partial, and that the effect, though it has some connection and dependence, yet is not entirely dependent on it. That is the same thing as to say, that not all that is in the event is an effect of that cause, but that only part of it arises from thence, and part some other way.
2. If there are some events which are not necessarily connected with their causes, then it will follow, that there are some things which come to pass without any cause, contrary to the supposition. For if there be any event which was not necessarily connected with the influence of the cause under such circumstances, then it was contingent whether it would attend or follow the influence of the cause, or no. It might have followed, and it might not, when the cause was the same, its influence the same, and under the same circumstances. And if so, why did it follow, rather than not follow? Of this there is no cause or reason. Therefore here is something without any cause or reason why it is, viz. the following of the effect on the influence of the cause, with which it was not necessarily connected. If there be no necessary connection of the effect on anything antecedent, then we may suppose that sometimes the event will follow the cause, and sometimes not, when the cause is the same, and in every respect in the same state and circumstances. And what can be the cause and reason of this strange phenomenon, even this diversity, that in one instance, the effect should follow, in another not? It is evident by the supposition, that this is wholly without any cause or ground. Here is something in the present manner of the existence of things, and state of the world, that is absolutely without a cause, which is contrary to the supposition, and contrary to what has been before demonstrated.
3. To suppose there are some events which have a cause and ground of their existence, that yet are not necessarily connected with their cause, is to suppose that they have a cause which is not their cause. Thus; if the effect be not necessarily connected with the cause, with its influence, and influential circumstances; then, as I observed before, it is a thing possible and supposable, that the cause may sometimes exert the same influence, under the same circumstances, and yet the effect not follow. And if this actually happens in any instance, this instance is a proof, in fact, that the influence of the cause is not sufficient to produce the effect. For if it had been sufficient, it would have done it. And yet, by the supposition, in another instance, the same cause, with perfectly the same influence, and when all circumstances, which have any influence are the same, it was followed with the effect. By which it is manifest, that the effect in this last instance was not owing to the influence of the cause, but must come to pass some other way. For it was proved before, that the influence of the cause was not sufficient to produce the effect. And if it was not sufficient to produce it, then the production of it could not be owing to that influence, but must be owing to something else, or owing to nothing. And if the effect be not owing to the influence of the cause, then it is not the cause. Which brings us to the contradiction of a cause, and no cause, that which is the ground and reason of the existence of a thing, and at the same time is NOT the ground and reason of its existence.
If the matter be not already so plain as to render any further reasoning upon it impertinent, I would say, that which seems to be the cause in the supposed case, can be no cause. Its power and influence having, on a full trial, proved insufficient to produce such an effect: and if it be not sufficient to produce it, then it does not produce it. To say otherwise, is to say, there is power to do that which there is not power to do. If there be in a cause sufficient power exerted, and in circumstances sufficient to produce an effect, and so the effect be actually produced at one time; all these things concurring, will produce the effect at all times. And so we may turn it the other way; that which proves not sufficient at one time, cannot be sufficient at another, with precisely the same influential circumstances. And therefore if the effect follows, it is not owing to that cause; unless the different time be a circumstance which has influence: but that is contrary to the supposition; for it is supposed that all circumstances that have influence, are the same. And besides, this would be to suppose the time to be the cause; which is contrary to the supposition of the other thing being the cause. But if merely diversity of time has no influence, then it is evident that it is as much of an absurdity to say, the cause was sufficient to produce the effect at one time, and not at another; as to say, that it is sufficient to produce the effect at a certain time, and yet not sufficient to produce the same effect at the same time.
On the whole, it is clearly manifest, that every effect has a necessary connection with its cause, or with that which is the true ground and reason of its existence. And therefore, if there be no event without a cause, as was proved before, then no event whatsoever is contingent, in the manner that Arminians suppose the free acts of the will to be contingent.
It is manifest, that no acts of the will are contingent, in such a sense as to be without all necessity, or so as not to be necessary with a necessity of consequence and connection. Because every act of the will is some way connected with the understanding, and is as the greatest apparent good is, in the manner which has already been explained. Namely, that the soul always wills or chooses that which, in the present view of the mind, considered in the whole of that view, and all that belongs to it, appears most agreeable, because, as was observed before, nothing is more evident than that. When men act voluntarily, and do what they please, then they do what appears most agreeable to them. To say otherwise, would be as much as to affirm, that men do not choose what appears to suit them best, or what seems most pleasing to them; or that they do not choose what they prefer, which brings the matter to a contradiction.
And as it is very evident in itself, that the acts of the will have some connection with the dictates or views of the understanding, so this is allowed by some of the chief of the Arminian writers, particularly by Dr. Whitby and Dr. Samuel Clark. Dr. Turnbull, though a great enemy to the doctrine of necessity, allows the same thing. In his Christian Philosophy (p. 196), he with much approbation cites another philosopher, as of the same mind, in these words: “ No man (says an excellent philosopher) sets himself about anything, but upon some view or other, which serves him for a reason for what he does; and whatsoever faculties he employs, the understanding, with such light as it has, well or ill formed, constantly leads; and by that light, true or false, all her operative powers are directed. The will itself, how absolute and uncontrollable soever it may be thought, never fails in its obedience to the dictates of the understanding. Temples have their sacred images; and we see what influence they have always had over a great part of mankind; but in truth, the ideas and images in men’s minds are the invisible powers that constantly govern them; and to these they all pay universally a ready submission.” But whether this be in a just consistence with themselves, and their own notions of liberty, I desire may now be impartially considered.
Dr. Whitby plainly supposes, that the acts and determinations of the will always follow the understanding’s view of the greatest good to be obtained, or evil to be avoided; or, in other words, that the determinations of the will constantly and infallibly follow these two things in the understanding: 1. The degree of good to be obtained, and evil to be avoided, proposed to the understanding, and apprehended, viewed, and taken notice of by it. 2. The degree of the understanding’s apprehension of that good or evil, which is increased by attention and consideration. That this is an opinion in which he is exceeding peremptory (as he is in every opinion which he maintains in his controversy with the Calvinists), with disdain of the contrary opinion, as absurd and self-contradictory, will appear by the following words, in his Discourse on the Five Points. [Second Edit. p. 211, 212, 213.] “Now, it is certain, that what naturally makes the understanding to perceive, is evidence proposed, and apprehended, considered or adverted to: for nothing else can be requisite to make us come to the knowledge of the truth. Again, what makes the will choose, is something approved by the understanding and consequently, appearing to the soul as good. And whatsoever it refuseth, is something represented by the understanding, and so appearing to the will, as evil. Whence all that God requires of us is and can be only this; to refuse the evil, and choose the good. Wherefore, to say that evidence proposed, apprehended, and considered, is not sufficient to make the understanding approve. Or that the greatest good proposed, the greatest evil threatened, when equally believed and reflected on, is not sufficient to engage the will to choose the good and refuse the evil. [This],is in effect to say, that which alone doth move the will to choose or to refuse, is not sufficient to engage it so to do; which being contradictory to itself, must of necessity be false. Be it then so, that we naturally have an aversion to the truths proposed to us in the gospel; that only can make us indisposed to attend to them, but cannot hinder our conviction, when we do apprehend them, and attend to them. — Be it, that there is in us also a renitency to the good we are to choose; that only can indispose us to believe it is, and to approve it as our chief good. Be it, that we are prone to the evil that we should decline; that only can render it the more difficult for us to believe it is the worst of evils. But yet, what we do really believe to be our chief good, will still be chosen; and what we apprehend to be the worst of evils, will, whilst we do continue under that conviction be refused by us. It therefore can be only requisite, in order to these ends, that the Good Spirit should so illuminate our understandings, that we attending to and considering what lies before us, should apprehend and be convinced of our duty. And that the blessings of the gospel should be so propounded to us, as that we may discern them to be our chiefest good; and the miseries it threatens. So as we may be convinced that they are the worst of evils; that we may choose the one, and refuse the other.”
Here let it be observed, how plainly and peremptorily it is asserted, that the greatest good proposed, and the greatest evil threatened, when equally believed and reflected on, is sufficient to engage the will to choose the good, and refuse the evil. And [it]is that alone which does move the will to choose or to refuse; and that it is contradictory to itself, to suppose otherwise; and therefore must of necessity be false; and then what we do really believe to be our chief good will still be chosen, and what we apprehend to be the worst of evils, will, whilst we continue under that conviction, be refused by us. Nothing could have been said more to the purpose, fully to signify, that the determinations of the will must evermore follow the illumination, conviction, and notice of the understanding, with regard to the greatest good and evil proposed, reckoning both the degree of good and evil understood, and the degree of understanding, notice, and conviction of that proposed good and evil; and that it is thus necessarily, and can be otherwise in no instance. Because it is asserted, that it implies a contradiction, to suppose it ever to be otherwise.
I am sensible, the Doctor’s aim in these assertions is against the Calvinists. To show, in opposition to them, that there is no need of any physical operation of the Spirit of God on the will, to change and determine that to a good choice. But that God’s operation and assistance is only moral, suggesting ideas to the understanding; which he supposes to be enough, if those ideas are attended to, infallibly to obtain the end. But whatever his design was, nothing can more directly and fully prove, that every determination of the will, in choosing and refusing, is necessary; directly contrary to his own notion of the liberty of the will. For if the determination of the will, evermore, in this manner, follows the light, conviction, and view of the understanding, concerning the greatest good and evil, and this be that alone which moves the will, and it be a contradiction to suppose otherwise; then it is necessarily so. The will necessarily follows this light or view of the understanding, not only in some of its acts, but in every act of choosing and refusing, so that the will does not determine itself in anyone of its own acts. But every act of choice and refusal depends on, and is necessarily connected with, some antecedent cause. Which cause is not the will itself, nor any act of its own, nor anything pertaining to that faculty, but something belonging to another faculty, whose acts go before the will, in all its acts, and govern and determine them.
Here, if it should be replied, that although it be true, that according to the Doctor, the final determination of the will always depends upon, and is infallibly connected with, the understanding’s conviction, and notice of the greatest good. Yet the acts of the will are not necessary, because that conviction of the understanding is first dependent on a preceding act of the will, in determining to take notice of the evidence exhibited. By which means the mind obtains that degree of conviction, which is sufficient and effectual to determine the consequent and ultimate choice of the will. And that the will, with regard to that preceding act, whereby it determines whether to attend or no, is not necessary. And that in this, the liberty of the will consists, that when God holds forth sufficient objective light, the will is at liberty whether to command the attention of the mind to it or not.
Nothing can be more weak and inconsiderate than such a reply as this. For that preceding act of the will, in determining to attend and consider, still is an act of the will; if the liberty of the will consists in it, as is supposed, as if it be an act of the will, it is an act of choice or refusal. And therefore, if what the Doctor asserts be true, it is determined, by some antecedent light in the understanding concerning, the greatest apparent good or evil. For he asserts, it is that light which alone doth move the will to choose or refuse. And therefore the will must be moved by that, in choosing to attend to the objective light offered, in order to another consequent act of choice: so that this act is no less necessary than the other. And if we suppose another act of the will, still preceding both these mentioned, to determine both, still that also must be an act of the will, an act of choice. And so must, by the same principles, be infallibly determined by some certain degree of light in the understanding concerning the greatest good. And let us suppose, as many acts of the will, one preceding another, as we please, yet are they everyone of them necessarily determined by a certain degree of light in the understanding, concerning the greatest and most eligible good in that case. And so, not one of them free according to Dr. Whitby’s notion of freedom. And if it be said, the reason why men do not attend to light held forth, is because of ill habits contracted by evil acts committed before, whereby their minds are indisposed to consider the truth held forth to them, the difficulty is not at all avoided. Still the question returns, what determined the will in those preceding evil acts? It must, by Dr. Whitby’s principles, still be the view of the understanding concerning the greatest good and evil. If this view of the understanding be that alone which does move the will to choose or refuse, as the doctor asserts, then every act of choice or refusal, from a man’s first existence, is moved and determined by this view. And this view of the understanding exciting and governing the act, must be before the act. And therefore the will is necessarily determined, in everyone of its acts, from a man’s first existence, by a cause beside the will, and a cause that does not proceed from or depend on any act of the will at all. This, at once, utterly abolishes the doctor’s whole scheme of liberty of will. And he, at one stroke, has cut the sinews of all his arguments from the goodness, righteousness, faithfulness, and sincerity of God, in his commands, promises, threatenings, calls, invitations, and expostulations. [Those] he makes use of, under the heads of reprobation, election, universal redemption, sufficient and effectual grace, and the freedom of the will of man. And has made vain all his exclamations against the doctrine of the Calvinists, as charging God with manifest unrighteousness, unfaithfulness, hypocrisy, fallaciousness, and cruelty.
Dr. Samuel Clark, in his Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God, [Edit. VI. p. 93.] to evade the argument to prove the necessity of volition, from its necessary connection with the last dictate of the understanding, supposes the latter not to be diverse from the act of the will itself. But if it be so, it will not alter the case as to the necessity of the act. If the dictate of the understanding be the very same with the determination of the will, as Dr. Clark supposes, then this determination is no fruit or effect of choice. And if so, no liberty of choice has any hand in it: it is necessary; that is, choice cannot prevent it. If the last dictate of the understanding be the same with the determination of volition itself, then the existence of that determination must be necessary as to volition; in as much as volition can have no opportunity to determine whether it shall exist or no, it having existence already before volition has opportunity to determine anything. It is itself the very rise and existence of volition. But a thing after it exists, has no opportunity to determine as to its own existence; it is too late for that.
If liberty consists in that which Arminians suppose, viz. in the will determining its own acts, having free opportunity and being without all necessity; this is the same as to say, that liberty consists in the soul having power and opportunity to have what determinations of the will it pleases. And if the determinations of the will, and the last dictates of the understanding, be the same thing, then liberty consists in the mind having power and opportunity to choose its own dictates of understanding. But this is absurd; for it is to make the determination of choice prior to the dictate of understanding, and the ground of it; which cannot consist with the dictate of the understanding being the determination of choice itself.
Here is no alternative, but to recur to the old absurdity of one determination before another, and the cause of it; and another before, determining that; end so on in infinitum. If the last dictate of the understanding, be the determination of the will itself; and the soul be free with regard to that dictate in the Arminian notion of freedom, then the soul, before that dictate of its understanding exists, voluntarily and according to its own choice determines, in every case, what that dictate of the understanding shall be. Otherwise that dictate, as to the will, is necessary; and the acts determined by it must also be necessary, so that here is a determination of the mind prior to that dictate of the understanding. An act of choice going before it, choosing and determining what that dictate of the understanding shall be. And this preceding act of choice, being a free act of will, must also be the same with another last dictate of the understanding: And if the mind also be free in that dictate of understanding, that must be determined still by another; and so on forever.
Besides, if the dictate of the understanding, and determination of the will be the same, this confounds the understanding and will, and makes them the same. Whether they be the same or no, I will not now dispute; but only would observe, that if it be so, and the Arminian notion of liberty consists in a self-determining power in the understanding, free of all necessity; being independent, undetermined by anything prior to its own acts and determinations; and the more the understanding is thus independent, and sovereign over its own determinations, the more free: then the freedom of the soul, as a moral agent, must consist in the independence of the understanding on any evidence or appearance of things, or anything whatsoever that stands forth to the view of the mind, prior to the understanding’s determination. And what a liberty is this! consisting in an ability, freedom, and easiness of judging, either according to evidence, or against it; having a sovereign command over itself at all times, to judge, either agreeably or disagreeably to what is plainly exhibited to its own view. Certainly, it is no liberty that renders persons the proper subjects of persuasive reasoning, arguments, expostulations, and such like moral means and inducements. The use of which with mankind is a main argument of the Arminians, to defend their notion of liberty without all necessity. For according to this, the more free men are, the less they are under the government of such means, less subject to the power of evidence and reason, and more independent on their influence, in their determinations.
And whether the Understanding and will are the same or no, as Dr. Clark seems to suppose, yet in order to maintain the Arminian notion of liberty without necessity, the free will is not determined by the understanding, nor necessarily connected with the understanding. And the further from such connection, the greater the freedom. And when the liberty is full and complete, the determinations of the will have no connection at all with the dictates of the understanding. And if so, in vain are all the applications to the understanding, in order to induce to any free virtuous act. And so in vain are all instructions, counsels, invitations, expostulations, and all arguments and persuasive whatsoever: for these are but applications to the understanding, and a clear and lively exhibition of the objects of choice to the mind’s view. But if, after all, the will must be self-determined, and independent on the understanding, to what purpose are things thus represented to the understanding, in order to determine the choice?
That every act of the will has some cause, and consequently (by what has been already proved) has a necessary connection with its cause, and so is necessary by a necessity of connection and consequence, is evident by this, that every act of the will whatsoever is excited by some motive: which is manifest, because, if the mind, in willing after the manner it does, is excited by no motive or inducement, then it has no end which it proposes to itself, or pursues in so doing; it aims at nothing, and seeks nothing. And if it seeks nothing, then it does not go after anything, or exert any inclination or preference towards anything, which brings the matter to a contradiction. For the mind to will something, and for it to go after something by an act of preference and inclination, are the same thing.
But if every act of the will is excited by a motive, then that motive is the cause of the act. If the acts of the will are excited by motives, then motives are the causes of their being excited; or, which is the same thing, the cause of their existence. And if so, the existence of the acts of the will is properly the effect of their motives. Motives, do nothing as motives or inducements, but by their influence; and so much as is done by their influence is the effect of them. For that is the notion of an effect, something that is brought to pass by the influence of something else.
And if volitions are properly the effects of their motives, then they are necessarily connected with their motives. Every effect and event being as was proved before, necessarily connected with that which is the proper ground and reason of its existence. Thus it is manifest, that volition is necessary, and is not from any self-determining power in the will. The volition, which is caused by previous motive and inducement, is not caused by the will exercising a sovereign power over itself, to determine, cause, and excite volitions in itself. This is not consistent with the will acting in a state of indifference and equilibrium, to determine itself to a preference; for the way in which motives operate, is by biasing the will, and giving it a certain inclination or preponderation one way.
Here it may he proper to observe, that Mr. Chubb in his Collection of Tracts on Various Subjects, has advanced a scheme of liberty, which is greatly divided against itself, and thoroughly subversive of itself: and that many ways.
1. He is abundant in asserting, that the will, in all its acts, is influenced by motive and excitement; and that this is the previous ground and reason of all its acts, and that it is never otherwise in any instance. He says (p. 262), “No action can take place without some motive to excite it.” And (p. 263), “ volition cannot take place without SOME PREVIOUS reason or motive to induce it.” And (p. 310), action would not take place without some reason or motive to induce it; it being absurd to suppose, that the active faculty would be exerted without some PREVIOUS reason to dispose the mind to action.” (So also p. 257) And he speaks of these things, as what we may be absolutely certain of, and which are the foundation, the only foundation we have of certainty respecting God’s moral perfections (p. 252-255, 261-264).
And yet, at the same time, by his scheme, the influence of motives upon us to excite to action, and to be actually a ground of volition, is consequent on the volition or choice of the mind. For he very greatly insists upon it, that in all free actions, before the mind is the subject of those volitions, which motives excite, it chooses to be so. It chooses, whether it will comply with the motive, which presents itself in view, or not; and when various motives are presented, it chooses which it will yield to, and which it will reject (p. 256). “Every man has power to act, or to refrain from acting, agreeably with, or contrary to, any motive that presents.” (p. 257) “Every man is at liberty to act, or refrain from acting, agreeably with, or contrary to, what each of these motives, considered singly, would excite him to. — Man has power, and is as much at liberty, to reject the motive that does prevail, as he has power, and is at liberty, to reject those motives that do not.” (And so p. 310, 311) “In order to constitute a moral agent, it is necessary, that he should have power to act, or to refrain from acting, upon such moral motives, as he pleases.” And to the like purpose in many other places, according to these things, the will acts first, and chooses or refuses to comply with the motive that is presented, before it falls under its prevailing influence. And it is first determined, by the mind’s pleasure or choice, what motives it will be induced by, before it is induced by them.
Now, how can these things hang together? How can the mind first act, and by its act of volition and choice determine what motives shall be the ground and reason of its volition and choice? For this supposes, the choice is already made, before the motive has its effect. And that the volition is already exerted, before the motive prevails, so as actually to be the ground of the volition; and make the prevailing of the motive, the consequence of the volition, of which yet it is the ground. If the mind has already chosen to comply with a motive, and to yield to its excitement, the excitement comes in too late, and is needless afterwards. If the mind has already chosen to yield to a motive which invites to a thing, that implies, and in fact is, a choosing of the thing invited to. And the very act of choice is before the influence of the motive which induces, and is the ground of the choice. The son is beforehand with the father that begets him. The choice is supposed to be the ground of that influence of the motive, which very influence is supposed to be the ground of the choice. And so vice versa, the choice is supposed to be the consequence of the influence of the motive, which influence of the motive is the consequence of that very choice.
And besides, if the will acts first towards the motive, before it falls under its influence, and the prevailing of the motive upon it to induce it to act and choose, be the fruit and consequence of its act and choice, then how is the motive “a PREVIOUS ground and reason of the act and choice, so that in the nature of the things, volition cannot take place without some PREVIOUS reason and motive to induce it;” and that this act is consequent upon, and follows the motive? Which things Mr. Chubb often asserts, as of certain and undoubted truth. So that the very same motive is both previous and consequent, both before and after, both the ground and fruit of the very same thing!
II. Agreeable to the aforementioned inconsistent notion of the will first acting towards the motive, choosing whether it will comply with it, in order to it becoming a ground of the will’s acting, before any act of volition can take place, Mr. Chubb frequently calls motives and excitements to the action of the will, “the passive ground or reason of that action.” Which is a remarkable phrase; than which I presume there is none more unintelligible, and void of distinct and consistent meaning, in all the writings of Duns Scotus, or Thomas Aquinas. When he represents the motive volition as passive, he must mean — passive in that affair, or passive with respect to that action, which he speaks of, otherwise it is nothing to the design of his argument. He must mean (if that can be called a meaning), that the motive to volition is first acted upon or towards, by the volition, choosing to yield to it. Making it a ground of action, or determining to fetch its influence from thence and so to make it a previous ground of its own excitation and existence. Which is the same absurdity, as if one should say, that the soul of man, previous to its existence, chose by what cause it would come into existence. And acted upon its cause, to fetch influence thence, to bring it into being; and so its cause was a passive ground of its existence!
Mr. Chubb very plainly supposes motive or excitement to be the ground of the being of volition. He speaks of it as the ground or reason of the EXERTION of an act of the will (p. 391, and 392), and expressly says, that “volition cannot TAKE PLACE without some previous ground or motive to induce it.” (p. 363) And he speaks of the act as “FROM the motive, and FROM THE INFLUENCE of the motive” (p. 352), “and from the influence that the motive has on the man, for the PRODUCTION of an action,” (p. 317). Certainly, there is no need of multiplying words about this. It is easily judged, whether motive can be the ground of volition taking place, so that the very production of it is from the influence of the motive, and yet the motive, before it becomes the ground of the volition, is passive, or acted upon the volition. But this I will say, that a man, who insists so much on clearness of meaning in others, and is so much in blaming their confusion and inconsistency, ought, if he was able, to have explained his meaning in this phrase of “ground of action,” so as to show it not to be confused and inconsistent.
If any should suppose, that Mr. Chubb, when he speaks of motive as a “ passive ground of action,” does not mean passive with regard to that volition which it is the ground of, but some other antecedent volition (though his purpose and argument, and whole discourse, will by no means allow of such a supposition), yet it would not help the matter in the least. For, (1.) If we suppose an act, by which the soul chooses to yield to the invitation of a motive to another volition; both these supposed volitions are in effect the very same. A volition to yield to the force of a motive inviting to choose something, comes to just the same thing as choosing the thing which the motive invites to, as I observed before. So that here can be no room to help the matter, by a distinction of two volitions. (2.) If the motive be passive, not with respect to the same volition to which the motive excites, but to one truly distinct and prior; yet, by Mr. Chubb, that prior volition cannot take place without a motive or excitement, as a previous ground of its existence. For he insists, that “it is absurd to suppose any volition should take place without some previous motive to induce it.” So that at last it comes to just the same absurdity. For if every volition must have a previous motive, then the very first in the whole series must be excited by a previous motive; and yet the motive to that first volition is passive; but cannot be passive with regard to another antecedent volition, because, by the supposition, it is the very first. Therefore if it be passive with respect to any volition, it must be so with regard to that very volition of which it is the ground, and that is excited by it.
III. Though Mr. Chubb asserts, as above, that every volition has some motive, and that “in the nature of the thing, no volition can take place without some motive to induce it;” yet he asserts, that volition does not always follow the strongest motive. Or, in other words, is not governed by any superior strength of the motive that is followed, beyond motives to the contrary, previous to the volition itself. His own words (p. 258) are as follow: “Though with regard to physical causes, that which is strongest always prevails, yet it is otherwise with regard to moral causes. Of these, sometimes the stronger, sometimes the weaker, prevails. And the ground of this difference is evident, namely, that what we call moral causes, strictly speaking, are no causes at all, but barely passive reasons of or excitements to the action, or to the refraining from acting. Which excitements we have power, or are at liberty, to comply with or reject, as I have showed above.” And so throughout the paragraph, he in a variety of phrases insists, that the will is not always determined by the strongest motive, unless by strongest we preposterously mean, actually prevailing in the event; which is not in the motive, but in the will; but that the will is not always determined by the motive which is strongest, by any strength previous to the volition itself. And he elsewhere abundantly asserts, that the will is determined by no superior strength or advantage, that motives have, from any constitution or state of things, or any circumstances whatsoever, previous to the actual determination of the will. And indeed his whole discourse on human liberty implies it, his whole scheme is founded upon it.
But these things cannot stand together. There is a diversity of strength in motives to choice, previous to the choice itself. Mr. Chubb himself supposes, that they do previously invite, induce, excite, and dispose the mind to action. This implies, that they have something in themselves that is inviting, some tendency to induce and dispose to volition previous to volition itself. And if they have in themselves this nature and tendency, doubtless they have it in certain limited degrees, which are capable of diversity. And some have it in greater degrees, others in less; and they that have most of this tendency, considered with all their nature and circumstances, previous to volition, are the strongest motives, and those that have least, are the weakest motives.
Now if volition sometimes does not follow the motive which is strongest, or has most previous tendency or advantage, all things considered, to induce or excite it, but follows the weakest, or that which, as it stands previously in the mind’s view, has least tendency to induce it; herein the will apparently acts wholly without motive, without any previous reason to dispose the mind to it, contrary to what the same author supposes. The act, wherein the will must proceed without a previous motive to induce it, is the act of preferring the weakest motive. For how absurd is it to say, the mind sees previous reason in the motive, to prefer that motive before the other. And at the same time to suppose, that there is nothing in the motive, in its nature, state, or any circumstance of it whatsoever, as it stands in the previous view of the mind that gives it any preference. But on the contrary, the other motive that stands in competition with it, in all these respects, has most belonging to it that is inviting and moving, and has most of a tendency to choice and preference. This is certainly as much as to say, there is previous ground and reason in the motive for the act of preference, and yet no previous reason for it. By the supposition, as to all that is in the two rival motives, which tends to preference, previous to the act of preference, it is not in that which is preferred, but wholly in the other. And yet Mr. Chubb supposes, that the act of preference is from previous ground and reason, in the motive which is preferred. But are these things consistent? Can there be previous ground in a thing for an event that takes place, and yet no previous tendency in it to that event? If one thing follows another, without any previous tendency to its following, then I should think it very plain, that it follows it without any manner of previous reason why it should follow.
Yea, in this case, Mr. Chubb supposes, that the event follows an antecedent, as the ground of its existence, which has not only no tendency to it, but a contrary tendency. The event is the preference, which the mind gives to that motive, which is weaker, as it stands in the previous view of the mind. The immediate antecedent is the view the mind has of the two rival motives conjunctly; in which previous view of the mind, all the preferableness, or previous tendency to preference, is supposed to be on the other side, or in the contrary motive; and all the unworthiness of preference, and so previous tendency to comparative neglect, or undervaluing, is on that side which is preferred: and yet in this view of the mind is supposed to be the previous ground or reason of this act of preference, exciting it, and disposing the mind to it. Which I leave the reader to judge, whether it be absurd or not. If it be not, then it is not absurd to say, that the previous tendency of an antecedent to a consequent, is the ground and reason why that consequent does not follow. And the want of a previous tendency to an event, yea, a tendency to the contrary, is the true ground and reason why that event does follow.
An act of choice or preference is a comparative act, wherein the mind acts with reference to two or more things that are compared, and stand in competition in the mind’s view. If the mind, in this comparative act, prefers that which appears inferior in the comparison, then the mind herein acts absolutely without motive, inducement, or any temptation whatsoever. Then, if a hungry man has the offer of two sorts of food, to both which he finds an appetite, but has a stronger appetite to one than the other; and there be no circumstances or excitements whatsoever in the case to induce him to take either the one or the other, but merely his appetite: if in the choice he makes between them, he chooses that which he has least appetite to, and refuse that to which he has the strongest appetite, this is a choice made absolutely without previous motive, excitement, reason, or temptation, as much as if he were perfectly without all appetite to either. Because his volition in this case is a comparative act, following a comparative view of the food, which he chooses, in which view his preference has absolutely no previous ground, yea, is against all previous ground and motive. And if there be any principle in man, from whence an act of choice may arise after this manner, from the same principle volition may arise wholly without motive on either side. If the mind in its volition can go beyond motive, then it can go without motive. For when it is beyond the motive, it is out of the reach of the motive, out of the limits of its influence, and so without motive. If so, this demonstrates the independence of volition on motive; and no reason can be given for what Mr. Chubb so often asserts, even that “in the nature of things volition cannot take place without o motive to induce it.”
If the Most High should endow a balance with agency or activity of nature, in such a manner, that when unequal weights are put into the scales, its agency could enable it to cause that scale to descend, which has the least weight, and so to raise the greater weight; this would clearly demonstrate, that the motion of the balance does not depend on weights in the scales; at least, as much as if the balance should move itself, when there is no weight in either scale. And the activity of the balance which is sufficient to move itself against the greater weight, must certainly be more than sufficient to move it when there is no weight at all.
Mr. Chubb supposes, that the will cannot stir at all without some motive; and also supposes, that if there be a motive to one thing, and none to the contrary, volition will infallibly follow that motive. This is virtually to suppose an entire dependence of the will on motives; if it were not wholly dependent on them, it could surely help itself a little without them; or help itself a little against a motive, without help from the strength and weight of a contrary motive. And yet his supposing that the will, when it has before it various opposite motives, can use them as it pleases, and choose its own influence from them, and neglect the strongest, and follow the weakest, supposes it to be wholly independent on motives.
It further appears, on Mr. Chubb’s hypothesis, that volition must be without any previous ground in any motive. Thus, if it be as he supposes, that the will is not determined by any previous superior strength of the motive, but determines and chooses its own motive, then, when the rival motives are exactly equal, in all respects, it may follow either; and may, in such a case, sometimes follow one, sometimes the other. And if so, this diversity which appears between the acts of the will, is plainly without previous ground in either of the motives; for all that is previously in the motives, is supposed precisely and perfectly the same, without any diversity whatsoever. Now perfect identity, as to all that is previous in the antecedent, cannot be the ground and reason of diversity in the consequent. Perfect identity in the ground, cannot be a reason why it is not followed with the same consequence. And therefore the source of this diversity of consequence must be sought for elsewhere.
And lastly, it may be observed, that however much Mr. Chubb insists, that no volition can take place without some motive to induce it, which previously disposes the mind to it; yet, as he also insists that the mind, without reference to any superior strength of motives, picks and chooses for its motive to follow. He himself herein plainly supposes, with regard to the mind’s preference of one motive before another, it is not the motive, that disposes the will, but the will disposes itself to follow the motive.
IV. Mr. Chubb supposes necessity to be utterly inconsistent with agency. And that to suppose a being to be an agent in that which is necessary, is a plain contradiction, p. 311. And throughout his discourses on the subject of liberty, he supposes, that necessity cannot consist with agency or freedom; and that to suppose otherwise, is to make liberty and necessity, action and passion, the same thing. And so he seems to suppose, that there is no action, strictly speaking, but volition. That as to the effects of volition in body or mind, in themselves considered, being necessary, they are said to be free, only as they are the effects of an act that is not necessary.
And yet, according to him, volition itself is the effect of volition. Yea, every act of free volition; and therefore every act of free volition must, by what has now been observed from him, be necessary, and that every act of free volition is itself the effect of volition, is abundantly supposed by him. In p. 341, he says; “if a man is such a creature as I have proved him to be, that is, if he has in him a power of liberty of doing either good or evil, and either of these is the subject of his own free choice, so that he might, IF HE HAD PLEASED, have CHOSEN and done the contrary.” Here he supposes all that is good or evil in man is the effect of his choice. And so that his good or evil choice itself is the effect of his pleasure or choice, in these words, “he might if he had PLEASED, have CHOSEN the contrary.” So in p 356, “Though it be highly reasonable, that a man should always choose the greater good, — yet he may, if he PLEASES, CHOOSE otherwise.” Which is the same thing as if he had said, he may if he chooses choose otherwise. And then he goes on, — “that is, he may, if he pleases, choose what is good for himself,” etc. And again in the same page,” The will is not confined by the understanding, to any particular sort of good, whether greater or less; but it is at liberty to choose what kind of good it pleases.” — If there be any meaning in the last words, it must be this, that the will is at liberty to choose what kind of good it chooses to choose; supposing the act of choice itself determined by an antecedent choice. The liberty Mr. Chubb speaks of, is not only a man’s power to move his body, agreeable to an antecedent act of choice, but to use or exert the faculties of his soul. Thus (p. 379), speaking of the faculties of the mind, he says,” Man has power, and is at liberty to neglect these faculties, to use them aright, or to abuse them, as he pleases.” And that he supposes an act of choice or exercise of pleasure, properly distinct from, and antecedent to, those acts thus chosen, directing, commanding, and producing the chosen acts, and even the acts of choice themselves, is very plain in p. 283, “He can command his actions; and herein consists his liberty; he can give or deny himself that pleasure, as he pleases. And p. 377. If the actions of men — are not the produce of a free choice, or election, but spring from a necessity of nature, — he cannot in reason be the object of reward or punishment on their account. Whereas, if action in man, whether good or evil, is the produce of will or free choice; so that a man in either case, had it in his power, and was at liberty to have CHOSEN the contrary, he is the proper object of reward or punishment, according as he chooses to behave himself.” Here, in these last words, he speaks of liberty of CHOOSING according as he CHOOSES. So that the behavior which he speaks of as subject to his choice, is his choosing itself, as well as his external conduct consequent upon it. And therefore it is evident, he means not only external actions, but the acts of choice themselves, When he speaks of all free actions, as the PRODUCE of free choice. And this is abundantly evident in what he says elsewhere (p. 372, 373).
That the acts of the wills of moral agents are not contingent events, in such a sense, as to be without all necessity, appears by God’s certain foreknowledge of such events.
In handling this argument, I would in the first place prove, that God has a certain foreknowledge of the voluntary acts of moral agents. Secondly, show the consequence, or how it follows from hence, that the volitions of moral agents are not contingent, so as to be without necessity of connection and consequence.
FIRST, I am to prove that God has an absolute and certain foreknowledge of the free actions of moral agents.
One would think it wholly needless to enter on such an argument with any that profess themselves Christians, but so it is. God’s certain foreknowledge of the free acts of moral agents, is denied by some that pretend to believe the Scriptures to be the Word of God, and especially of late. I therefore shall consider the evidence of such a prescience in the Most High, as fully as the designed limits of this essay will admit; supposing myself herein to have to do with such as own the truth of the Bible.
ARG. I. My first argument shall be taken from God’s prediction of such events. Here I would, in the first place, lay down these two things as axioms.
1. If God does not foreknow, he cannot foretell such events; that is, he cannot peremptorily and certainly foretell them. If God has no more than an uncertain guess concerning events of this kind, then he can declare no more than an uncertain guess. Positively to foretell is to profess to foreknow, or declare positive foreknowledge.
If God does not certainly foreknow the future volitions of moral agents, then neither can he certainly foreknow those events, which are dependent on these volitions. The existence of the one, depending on the existence of the other, the knowledge of the existence of the one depends on the knowledge of the existence of the other; and the one cannot be more certain than the other.
Therefore, how many, how great, and how extensive soever the consequences of the volitions of moral agents may be; though they should extend to an alteration of the state of things through the universe, and should be continued in a series of successive events to all eternity, and should in the progress of things branch forth into an infinite number of series, each of them going on in an endless chain of events. God must be as ignorant of all these consequences, as he is of the volition whence they first take their rise. And the whole state of things depending on them, how important, extensive, and vast soever, must be hid from him.
These positions being such as, I suppose, none will deny, I now proceed to observe the following things.
1. Men’s moral conduct and qualities, their virtues and vices, their wickedness and good practice, things rewardable and punishable, have often been foretold by God. — Pharaoh’s moral conduct, in refusing to obey God’s command, in letting his people go, was foretold. God says to Moses (Exo. 3:19), “I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go.” Here. God professes not only to guess at, but to know Pharaoh’s future disobedience. In Exo. 7:4, God says, “but Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that I may lay mine hand upon Egypt,” etc. And chap. 9:30, Moses says to Pharaoh, “as for thee, and thy servants, I KNOW that ye will not fear the Lord.” See also chap. 11:9. — The moral conduct of Josiah, by name, in his zealously exerting himself to oppose idolatry, in particular acts, was foretold above three hundred years before he was born, and the prophecy sealed by a miracle, and renewed and confirmed by the words of a second prophet, as what surely would not fail (1 Kin. 13:1-6, 32). This prophecy was also in effect a prediction of the moral conduct of the people, in upholding their schismatical and idolatrous worship until that time, and the idolatry of those priests of the high places, which it is foretold Josiah should offer upon that altar of Bethel. Micaiah foretold the foolish and sinful conduct of Ahab, in refusing to hearken to the word of the Lord by him, and choosing rather to hearken to the false prophets, in going to RamothGilead to his ruin (1 Kin. 21:20-22). The moral conduct of Hazael was foretold, in that cruelty he should be guilty of; on which Hazael says, (2 Kin. 8:13) “What, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing!” The prophet speaks of the event as what he knew, and not what he conjectured. 2 Kin. 8:12, “I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: Thou wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child.” The moral conduct of Cyrus is foretold, long before he had a being, in his mercy to God’ people, and regard to the true God, in turning the captivity of the Jew’s, and promoting the building of the temple (Isa. 44:28 and 45:13; compare 2 Chr. 36:22, 23 and Ezra 1:1-4). How many instances of the moral conduct of the kings of the North and South, particular instances of the wicked behavior of the kings of Syria and Egypt, are foretold in the 11th chapter of Daniel ! Their corruption, violence, robbery, treachery, and lies. And particularly, how much is foretold of the horrid wickedness of Antiochus Epiphanes, called there “ a vile person,” instead of Epiphones, or illustrious! In that chapter, and also in Dan. 8:9, 14, 23, to the end, are foretold his flattery, deceit, and lies. His having “his heart set to do mischief,” and set “against the holy covenant.” His “destroying and treading under foot the holy people,” in a marvelous manner. His “having indignation against the holy covenant setting his heart against it, and conspiring against it.” His “polluting the sanctuary of strength, treading it under foot, taking away the daily sacrifice, and placing the abomination that maketh desolate;” his great pride, “magnifying himself against God, and uttering marvelous blasphemies against Him,” until God in indignation should destroy him. Withal, the moral conduct of the Jews, on occasion of his persecution, is predicted. It is foretold, that “he should corrupt many by flatteries,” (Dan. 11:32-34). But that others should behave with a glorious constancy and fortitude, in opposition to him (ver. 32). And that some good men should fall and repent (ver. 35). Christ foretold Peter’s sin, in denying his Lord, with its circumstances, in a peremptory manner. And so, that great sin of Judas, in betraying his master, and its dreadful and eternal punishment in hell, was foretold in the like positive manner (Matt. 26:21-25, and parallel places in the other Evangelists).
2. Many events have been foretold by God, which are dependent on the moral conduct of particular persons, and were accomplished, either by their virtuous or vicious actions. Thus, the children of Israel’s going down into Egypt to dwell there, was foretold to Abraham (Gen. 15), which was brought about by the wickedness of Joseph’s brethren in selling him, and the wickedness of Joseph’s mistress, and his own signal virtue in resisting her temptation. The accomplishment of the thing prefigured in Joseph’s dream, depended on the same moral conduct. Jotham’s parable and prophecy (Jdg. 9:15-20), was accomplished by the wicked conduct of Abimelech, and the men of Shechem. The prophecies against the house of Eli (1 Sam. chap. 2 and 3), were accomplished by the wickedness of Doeg the Elomite, in accusing the priests; and the great impiety, and extreme cruelty of Saul in destroying the priests at Nob (1 Sam. 22). Nathan’s prophecy against David (2 Sam. 12:11, 12) was fulfilled by the horrible wickedness of Absalom, in rebelling against his father, seeking his life, and lying with his concubines in the sight of the sun. The prophecy against Solomon (1 Kin. 11:11-13) was fulfilled by Jeroboam’s rebellion and usurpation, which are spoken of as his wickedness (2 Chr. 13:5, 6, compare verse 18). The prophecy against Jeroboam’s family (1 Kin. 14) was fulfilled by the conspiracy, treason, and cruel murders of Bassha, (2 Kin. 15:27 etc.). The predictions of the prophet Jehu against the house of Bassha (1 Kin. 16 at the beginning), were fulfilled by the treason and parricide of Zimri (1 Kin. 16:9-13, 20).
3. How often has God foretold the future moral conduct of nations and people, of numbers, bodies, and successions of men; with God’s judicial proceedings, and many other events consequent and dependent on their virtues and vices; which could not be foreknown, if the volitions of men, wherein they acted as moral agents, had not been foreseen! The future cruelty of the Egyptians in oppressing Israel, and God’s judging and punishing them for it, was foretold long before it came to pass (Gen. 15:13, 14). The continuance of the iniquity of the Amorites, and the increase of it until it should be full, and they ripe for destruction, was foretold above four hundred years before (Gen. 15:16; Acts 7:6, 7). The prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the land of Judah, were absolute (2 Kin. 20:17, 18, 19, chap. 22:15 to the end). It was foretold in Hezekiah’s time, and was abundantly insisted on in the book of the prophet Isaiah, who wrote nothing after Hezekiah’s days. It was foretold in Josiah’s time, in the beginning of a great reformation (2 Kin. 22). And it is manifest by innumerable things in the predictions of the prophets, relating to this event, its time, its circumstances, its continuance, and end; the return from the captivity, the restoration of the temple, city, and land, etc. I say, these show plainly, that the prophecies of this great event were absolute. And yet this event was connected with, and dependent on, two things in men’s moral conduct. First, the injurious rapine and violence of the king of Babylon and his people, as the efficient cause; which God often speaks of as what he highly resented, and would severely punish. Secondly, the final obstinacy of the Jews. That great event is often spoken of as suspended on this (Jer. 4:1; 5:1; 7:1-7; 11:1-6; 17:24 to the end; Jer. 25:1-7; 26:1-8, 13; and 38:17, 18). Therefore, this destruction and captivity could not be foreknown, unless such a moral conduct of the Chaldeans and Jews had been foreknown. And then it was foretold, that the people should be finally obstinate, to the utter desolation of the city and land (Isa. 6:9-11; Jer. 1:18, 19; 7:27-29; Eze. 3:7 and 24:13, 14).
The final obstinacy of those Jews who were left in the land of Israel, in their idolatry and rejection of the true God, was foretold by him, and the prediction confirmed with an oath (Jer. 44:26, 27). And God tells the people (Isa. 48:3, 4-8) that he had predicted those things which should be consequent on their treachery and obstinacy, because he knew they would be obstinate; and that he had declared these things beforehand, for their conviction of his being the only true God, etc.
The destruction of Babylon, with many of the circumstances of it, was foretold, as the judgment of God for the exceeding pride and haughtiness of the heads of that monarchy. Nebuchadnezzar and his successors, and their wickedly destroying other nations, and particularly for their exalting themselves against the true God and his people, before any of these monarchs had a being (Isa. 13, 14, and 47; compare Hab. 2:5, to the end, and Jer. 50 and 51). That Babylon’s destruction was to be “a recompense, according to the works of their own hands,” appears by Jer. 25:14. — The immorality of which the people of Babylon, and particularly her princes and great men, were guilty, that very night that the city was destroyed, their reveling and drunkenness at Belshazzar’s idolatrous feast, was foretold (Jer. 51:39, 57).
The return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity is often very particularly foretold, with many circumstances, and the promises of it are very peremptory (Jer. 31:35-40, 32:6-15, 32:41-44 and 33:24-26). And the very time of their return was prefixed (Jer. 25:11, 12 and 29:10, 11; 2 Chr. 36:21; Eze. 4:5, 6 and Dan. 9:2). And yet the prophecies represent their return as consequent on their repentance, and their repentance itself is very expressly and particularly foretold (Jer. 29:12, 13, 14; 31:8, 9, 18-31; 33:8; 50:4, 5; Eze. 6:8, 9, 10; 7:16; 14:22, 23 and 20:43, 44).
It was foretold under the Old Testament, that the Messiah should suffer greatly through the malice and cruelty of men as is largely and fully set forth, Psa. 22 applied to Christ in the New Testament (Matt. 27:35, 43; Luke 23:34; John 19:24; Heb. 2:12). Likewise, in Psa. 69, which, it is also evident by the New Testament, is spoken of Christ (John 15:25; 7:5, etc. and 2:17; Rom. 15:3; Matt. 27:34, 48; Mark 15:23; John 19:29). The same thing is also foretold, Isa. 53; 50:6 and Mic. 5:1. This cruelty of men was their sin, and what they acted as moral agents. It was foretold, that there should be a union of heathen and Jewish rulers against Christ (Psa. 2:1, 2 compared with Acts 4:25-28). It was foretold, that the Jew should generally reject and despise the Messiah (Isa. 49:5, 6, 7 and 53:1-3, Psa. 22:6, 7 and 69:4, 8, 19, 20). And it was foretold, that the body of that nation should be rejected in the Messiah’s days, from being God’s people, for their obstinacy in sin (Isa. 49:4-7 and 8:14, 15, 16, compared with Rom. 10:19 and Isa. 65 at the beginning, compared with Rom. 10:20, 21). It was foretold, that Christ should be rejected by the chief priests and rulers among the Jews (Psa. 118:22, compared with Matt. 21:42; Acts 4:11; 1 Pet. 2:4, 7).
Christ himself foretold his being delivered into the hands of the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and his being cruelly treated by them, and condemned to death; and that he by them should be delivered to the Gentiles: and that he should be mocked and scourged, and crucified (Matt. 16:21 and 20:17-19; Luke 9:22; John 8:28) and that the people should be concerned in and consenting to his death (Luke 20:13-18), especially the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Luke 13:33-35). He foretold, that the disciples should all be offended because of him, that night in which he was betrayed, and should forsake him (Matt. 26:31; John 16:32). He foretold, that he should be rejected of that generation, even the body of the people, and that they should continue obstinate to their ruin (Matt. 12:45; 21:33-42; and 22:1-7; Luke 13:16, 21, 24; 17:25; 19:14, 27, 41, 44; 20:13-18; and 23:34-39).
As it was foretold in both the Old Testament and the New that the Jews should reject the Messiah, so it was foretold that the Gentiles should receive him, and so be admitted to the privileges of God’s people; in places too many to be now particularly mentioned. It was foretold in the Old Testament, that the Jews should envy the Gentiles on this account (Deu. 32:21, compared with Rom. 10:19). Christ himself often foretold, that the Gentiles would embrace the true religion, and become his followers and people (Matt. 8:10, 11, 12; 21:41-43; and 22:8, 9, 10; Luke 13:28; 14:16-24; and 20:16; John 10:16). He also foretold the Jews envy of the Gentiles on this occasion (Matt. 20:12-16, Luke 15:26 to the end). He foretold, that they should continue in this opposition and envy, and should manifest it in the cruel persecutions of his followers, to their utter destruction (Matt. 21:33-42; 22:6; and 23:34-39; Luke 11:49-51). The obstinacy of the Jews is also foretold (Acts 22:18). Christ often foretold the great persecutions his followers should meet with, both from Jews and Gentiles (Matt. 10:16-18, 21, 22, 34-36; and 24:9; Mark 13:9; Luke 10:3; 12:11, 49-53; and 21:12, 16, 17; John 15:18-21; and 16:1-4, 20, 21, 22, 23). He foretold the martyrdom of particular persons (Matt. 20:23; John 13:36; and 21:18, 19, 22). He foretold the great success of the gospel in the city of Samaria, as near approaching, which afterwards was fulfilled by the preaching of Philip (John 4:35-38). He foretold the rising of many deceivers after his departure (Matt. 24:4, 5, 11), and the apostasy of many of his professed followers (Matt. 24:10, 12).
The persecutions, which the apostle Paul was to meet with in the world, were foretold (Acts 9:16; 20:23, and 21:11). The apostle says, to the Christian Ephesians (Acts 20:29, 30), “I know, that after my departure shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock; also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” The apostle says, he knew this: but he did not know it, if God did not know the future actions of moral agents.
4. Unless God foreknows the future acts of moral agents, all the prophecies we have in Scripture concerning the great anti-Christian apostasy, the rise, reign, wicked qualities, and deeds of “the man of sin,” his instruments and adherents; the extent and long continuance of his dominion, his influence on the minds of princes and others, to corrupt them, and draw them away to idolatry, and other foul vices; his great and cruel persecutions; the behavior of the saints under these great temptations, etc. etc. I say, unless the volitions of moral agents are foreseen, all these prophecies are uttered without knowing the things foretold.
The predictions relating to this great apostasy are all of a moral nature, relating to men’s virtues and vices, and their exercises, fruits, and consequences, and events depending on them. [They] are very particular; and most of them often repeated, with many precise characteristics, descriptions, and limitations of qualities, conduct, influence, effects, extent, duration, periods, circumstances, final issue, etc. which it would be tedious to mention particularly. And to suppose, that all these are predicted by God, without any certain knowledge of the future moral behavior of free agents, would be to the utmost degree absurd.
5. Unless God foreknows the future acts of men’s wills, and their behavior as moral agents, all those great things which are foretold both in the Old Testament and the New, concerning the erection, establishment, and universal extent of the kingdom of the Messiah, were predicted and promised while God was in ignorance whether any of these things would come to pass or no, and did but guess at them. For that kingdom is not of this world. It does not consist in things external, but is within men, and consists in the dominion of virtue in their hearts, in righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost; and in these things made manifest in practice, to the praise and glory of God. The Messiah came “to save men from their sins, and deliver them from their spiritual enemies, that they might serve him in righteousness and holiness before him. He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” And therefore his success consists in gaining men’s hearts to virtue, in their being made God’s willing people in the day of his power. His conquest of his enemies consists in his victory over men’s corruptions and vices. And such a victory, and such a dominion, is often expressly foretold, that his kingdom shall fill the earth; that all people, nations, and languages should serve and obey him. And so that all nations should go up to the mountain of the house of the Lord, that he might teach them his ways, and that they might walk in his paths. And that all men should be drawn to Christ, and the earth be full of the knowledge of the Lord (true virtue and religion) as the waters cover the seas. [And] that God’s laws should be put into men’s inward parts, and written in their hearts; and that God’s people should be all righteous, etc. etc.
A very great part of the Old Testament prophecies is taken up in such predictions as these. — And here I would observe, that the prophecies of the universal prevalence of the kingdom of the Messiah, and true religion of Jesus Christ, are delivered in the most peremptory manner, and confirmed by the oath of God, Isa. 45:22, to the end, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else. I have SWORN by Myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto Me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear. SURELY, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come,” etc. But, here, this peremptory declaration and great oath of the Most High, are delivered with such mighty solemnity, respecting things which God did not know, if he did not certainly foresee the volitions of moral agents.
And all the predictions of Christ and his apostles, to the like purpose, must be without knowledge: as those of our Savior comparing the kingdom of God to a grain of mustard seed, growing exceeding great, from a small beginning: and to leaven, hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened, etc. — And the prophecies in the epistles concerning the restoration of the Jewish nation to the true church of God, and bringing in the fullness of the Gentiles and the prophecies in all the Revelation concerning the glorious change in the moral state of the world of mankind, attending the destruction of AntiChrist, “the kingdoms of the world becoming the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ;” and its being granted to the church to be “arrayed in that fine linen, white and clean, which is the righteousness of saints,” etc.
Corol. 1. Hence that great promise and oath of God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so much celebrated in Scripture, both in the Old Testament and the New, namely, “That in their seed all the nations and families of the earth should be blessed,” must be made on uncertainties, if God does not certainly foreknow the volitions of moral agents. For the fulfillment of this promise consists in that success of Christ in the work of redemption, and that setting up of his spiritual kingdom over the nations of the world, which has been spoken of. Men are “blessed in Christ” no otherwise than as they are brought to acknowledge him, trust in him, love and serve him, as is represented and predicted in Psa 72:11. “All kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him.” With verse 17. “Men shall be blessed in him; all nations shall call him blessed.” This oath to Jacob and Abraham is fulfilled in subduing men’s iniquities; as is implied in that of the prophet Micah, chap. 7:19, 20.
Corol. 2. Hence also it appears, that the first gospel promise that ever was made to mankind, that great prediction of the salvation of the Messiah, and his victory over Satan, made to our first parents (Gen. 3:15). If there be no certain prescience of the volitions of moral agents must have no better foundation than conjecture. For Christ’s victory over Satan consists in men’s being saved from sin, and in the victory of virtue and holiness over that vice and wickedness which Satan by his temptations has introduced, and wherein his kingdom consists.
6. If it be so, that God has not a prescience of the future actions of moral agents, it will follow, that the prophecies of Scripture in general are without foreknowledge. For Scripture prophecies, almost all of them, if not universally, are either predictions of the actions and behavior of moral agents, or of events depending on them, or some way connected with them. Judicial dispensations, judgments on men for their wickedness, or rewards of virtue and righteousness, remarkable manifestations of favor to the righteous, or manifestations of sovereign mercy to sinners, forgiving their iniquities, and magnifying the riches of divine grace; or dispensations of providence, in some respect or other, relating to the conduct of the subjects of God’s moral government, wisely adapted thereto; either providing for what should be in a future state of things, through the volitions and voluntary actions of moral agents, or consequent upon them, and regulated and ordered according to them. So that all events that are foretold, are either moral events, or others which are connected with and accommodated to them.
That the predictions of Scripture in general must be without knowledge, if God does not foresee the volitions of men, will further appear, if it be considered, that almost all events belonging to the future state of the world of mankind, the changes and revolutions which come to pass in empires, kingdoms, and nations, and all societies, depend, in ways innumerable, on the acts of men’s wills; yea, on an innumerable multitude of millions of volitions. Such is the state and course of things in the world of mankind, that one single event, which appears in itself exceeding inconsiderable, may, in the progress and series of things, occasion a succession of the greatest and most important and extensive events; causing the state of mankind to be vastly different from what it would otherwise have been, for all succeeding generations.
For instance, the coming into existence of those particular men, who have been the great conquerors of the world, which, under God, have had the main hand in all the consequent state of the world, in all after-ages; such as Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander, Pompey, Julius Caesar, etc. undoubtedly depended on many millions of acts of the will, in their parents. And perhaps most of these volitions depended on millions of volitions in their contemporaries of the same generation; and most of these on millions of millions of volitions in preceding generations. — As we go back, still the number of volitions, which were some way the occasion of the event, multiply as the branches of a river, until they come at last, as it were, to an infinite number. This will not seem strange to anyone who well considers the matter; if we recollect what philosophers tell us of the innumerable multitudes of those things which are the principia, or stamina vitae, concerned in generation; the animalcula in semine masculo, and the ova in the womb of the female; the impregnation or animating of one of these in distinction from all the rest, must depend on things infinitely minute relating to the time and circumstances of the act of the parents, the state of their bodies, etc. which must depend on innumerable foregoing circumstances and occurrences; which must depend, infinite ways, on foregoing acts of their wills; which are occasioned by innumerable things that happen in the course of their lives, in which their own and their neighbor’s behavior must have a hand, an infinite number of ways. And as the volitions of others must be so many ways concerned in the conception and birth of such men; so, no less, in their preservation, and circumstances of life, their particular determinations and actions, on which the great revolutions they were the occasions of, depended. As, for instance, when the conspirators in Persia, against the Magi, were consulting about a succession to the empire, it came into the mind of one of them, to propose, that he whose horse neighed first, when they came together the next morning, should be king. Now, such a thing coming into his mind, might depend on innumerable incidents, wherein the volitions of mankind had been concerned. But, in consequence of this accident, Darius, the son of Hystaspes, was king. And if this had not been, probably his successor would not have been the same, and all the circumstances of the Persian empire might have been far otherwise. Then perhaps Alexander might never have conquered that empire; and then probably the circumstances of the world in all succeeding ages, might have been vastly otherwise. I might further instance in many other occurrences; such as those on which depended Alexander’s preservation, in the many critical junctures of his life, wherein a small trifle would have turned the scale against him; and the preservation and success of the Roman people, in the infancy of their kingdom and commonwealth, and afterwards; upon which all the succeeding changes in their state, and the mighty revolutions that afterwards came to pass in the habitable world, depended. But these hints may be sufficient for every discerning considerate person, to convince him, that the whole state of the world of mankind, in all ages, and the very being of every person who has ever lived in it, in every age, since the times of the ancient prophets, has depended on more volitions, or acts of the wills of men, than there are sands on the seashore.
And therefore, unless God does most exactly and perfectly foresee the future acts of men’s wills, all the predictions which he ever uttered concerning David, Hezekiah, Josiah, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander; concerning the four monarchies, and the revolutions in them; and concerning all the wars, commotion, victories, prosperity, and calamities, of any kingdoms, nations, or communities in the world, have all been without knowledge.
So that, according to this notion, God not foreseeing the volitions and free actions of men, he could foresee nothing appertaining to the state of the world of mankind in future ages. Not so much as the being of one person that should live in it. And [he] could foreknow no events, but only such as he would bring to pass himself by the extraordinary interposition of his immediate power. Or things which should come to pass in the natural material world, by the laws of motion, and course of nature, wherein that is independent on the actions or works of mankind. That is, as he might, like a very able mathematician and astronomer, with great exactness calculate the revolutions of the heavenly bodies, and the greater wheels of the machine of the external creation.
And if we closely consider the matter, there will appear reason to convince us, that he could not, with any absolute certainty, foresee even these. As to the first, namely, things done by the immediate and extraordinary interposition of God’s power, these cannot be foreseen, unless it can be foreseen when there shall be occasion for such extraordinary interposition. And that cannot be foreseen, unless the state of the moral world can be foreseen. For whenever God thus interposes, it is with regard to the state of the moral world, requiring such divine interposition. Thus God could not certainly foresee the universal deluge, the calling of Abraham, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues on Egypt, and Israel’s redemption out of it, the expelling of the seven nations of Canaan, and the bringing Israel into that land; for these all are represented as connected with things belonging to the state of the moral world. Nor can God foreknow the most proper and convenient time of the day of judgment and general conflagration; for that chiefly depends on the course and state of things in the moral world.
Nor, secondly, can we on this supposition reasonably think, that God can certainly foresee what things shall come to pass, in the course of things, in the natural and material world, even those which in an ordinary state of things might be calculated by a good astronomer. For the moral world is the end of the natural world; and the course of things in the former, is undoubtedly subordinate to God’s designs with respect to the latter. Therefore he has seen [the] cause, regarding the state of things in the moral world. Extraordinarily to interpose, to interrupt, and lay an arrest on the course of things in the natural world. And unless he can foresee the volition of men, and so know something of the future state of the moral world, he cannot know but that he may still have as great occasion to interpose in this manner, as ever he had. Nor can he foresee how, or when, he shall have occasion thus to interpose.
Corol. 1. It appears from the things observed, that unless God foresees the volition of moral agents, that cannot be true which is observed by the apostle James (Acts 15:18), “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.”
Corol. 2. It appears, that unless God foreknows the volition of moral agents, all the prophecies of Scripture have no better foundation than mere conjecture. And that, in most instances, a conjecture which most have the utmost uncertainty, depending on an innumerable multitude of volitions, which are all, even to God, uncertain events. However, these prophecies are delivered as absolute predictions, and very many of them in the most positive manner, with asseverations; and some of them with the most solemn oaths.
Corol. 3. It also follows, that if this notion of God’s ignorance of future volition be true, in vain did Christ say, after uttering many great and important predictions, depending on men’s moral actions (Matt. 24:35), “Heaven and earth shall pass away; but my words shall not pass away.”
Corol. 4. From the same notion of God’s ignorance, it would follow, that in vain has he himself often spoken of the predictions of his Word, as evidences of foreknowledge; of that which is his prerogative as GOD, and his peculiar glory, greatly distinguishing him from all other beings (as in Isa. 41:22-26, Isa. 43:9, 10, Isa. 44:8, Isa. 45:21, Isa. 46:10 and 48:14).
ARG. II. If God does not foreknow the volitions of moral agents, then he did not foreknow the fall of man, nor of angels, and so could not foreknow the great things which are consequent on these events. Such as his sending his Son into the world to die for sinners, and all things pertaining to the great work of redemption; all the things which were done for four thousand years before Christ came, to prepare the way for it; and the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ; setting him at the head of the universe as King of heaven and earth, angels and men; and setting up his church and kingdom in this world, and appointing him the Judge of the world; and all that Satan should do in the world in opposition to the kingdom of Christ: and the great transactions of the day of judgment, etc. And if God was thus ignorant, the following Scriptures, and others like them, must be without any meaning, or contrary to truth. (Eph. 1:4) “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.” (1 Pet. 1:20) “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world.” (2 Tim. 1:9) “who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling; not according to our works, but according to his own purpose, and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” So (Eph. 3:11) speaking of the wisdom of God in the work of redemption, “according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus.” (Tit. 1:2) “In hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” (Rom. 8:29) “Whom he did foreknow, them he also did predestinate,” etc. (1 Pet. 1:2) “Elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”
If God did not foreknow the fall of man, nor the redemption by Jesus Christ, nor the volitions of man since the fall, then he did not foreknow the saints in any sense. Neither as particular persons, nor as societies or nations; either by election, or by mere foresight of their virtue or good works; or any foresight of anything about them relating to their salvation; or any benefit they have by Christ, or any manner of concern of theirs with a Redeemer.
ARG. III. On the supposition of God’s ignorance of the future volitions of free agents, it will follow, that God must in many cases truly repent what he has done, so as properly to wish he had done otherwise. By reason that the event of things in those affairs which are most important, viz. the affairs of his moral kingdom, being uncertain and contingent, often happens quite otherwise than he was before aware of. And there would be reason to understand that, in the most literal sense (Gen. 6:6), “It repented the Lord, that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart,” (and 1 Sam. 15:11) contrary to Num. 23:19, “God is not the son of Man, that he should repent;” and 1 Sam. 15:29, “Also the strength of Israel will not lie, nor repent; for he is not a man that he should repent.” Yea, from this notion it would follow, that God is liable to repent and be grieved at his heart, in a literal sense, continually, and [he] is always exposed to an infinite number of real disappointments in governing the world, and to manifold, constant, great perplexity and vexation. But this is not very consistent with his title of “God over all, blessed for evermore;” which represents him as possessed of perfect, constant, and uninterrupted tranquillity and felicity, as God over the universe, and in his management of the affairs of the world, as supreme and universal ruler (See Rom. 1:25; 9:5; 2 Cor. 11:31; 1 Tim. 6:15).
ARG. IV. It will also follow from this notion, that as God is liable to be continually repenting of what he has done. So he must be exposed to be constantly changing his mind and intentions, as to his future conduct; altering his measures, relinquishing his old designs, and forming new schemes and projects. For his purposes, even as to the main parts of his scheme, such as belong to the state of his moral kingdom, must be always liable to be broken, through want of foresight. And he must be continually putting his system to rights, as it gets out of order, through the contingence of the actions of moral agents. He must be a Being, who, instead of being absolutely immutable, must necessarily be the subject of infinitely the most numerous acts of repentance, and changes of intention, of any being whatsoever. For this plain reason, that his vastly extensive charge comprehends an infinitely greater number of those things which are to him, contingent and uncertain. In such a situation, he must have little else to do, but to mend broken links as well as he can, and be rectifying his disjointed frame and disordered movements in the best manner the case will allow. The Supreme Lord of all things must needs be under great and miserable disadvantages, in governing the world which he has made, and of which he has the care, through his being utterly unable to find out things of chief importance, which hereafter shall befall his system, for which, if he did but know, he might make seasonable provision. In many cases, there may be very great necessity that he should make provision, in the manner of his ordering and disposing things, for some great events which are to happen, of vast and extensive influence, and endless consequence to the universe; which he may see afterwards, when it is too late, and may wish in vain that he had known before, that he might have ordered his affairs accordingly. And it is in the power of man, on these principles, by his devices, purposes, and actions, thus to disappoint God, break his measures, make him continually change his mind, subject him to vexation, and bring him into confusion.
But how do these things consist with reason, or with the Word of God? Which represents, that all God’s works, all that he has ever to do, the whole scheme and series of his operations, are from the beginning perfectly in his view; and declares, that whatever devices and designs are in the hearts of men, “the counsel of the Lord shall stand, and the thoughts of his heart to all generations,” (Pro. 19:21, Psa. 33:10, 11). And a “that which the Lord of hosts hath purposed, none shall disannul,” (Isa. 14:27). And that he cannot be frustrated in one design or thought (Job 42:2). And “that which God doth, it shall be forever, that nothing can be put to it, or taken from it,” (Ecc. 3:14). The stability and perpetuity of God’s counsels are expressly spoken of as connected with his foreknowledge (Isa. 46:10), “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done; saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do my pleasure.” — And how are these things consistent with what the Scripture says of God’s immutability, which represents him as “without variableness, or shadow of turning;” and speaks of him, most particularly, as unchangeable with regard to his purposes (Mal. 3:6), “I am the Lord; I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Exo. 3:14), “I AM THAT I AM.” (Job 23:13, 14), “He is in one mind; and who can turn him? And what his soul desireth, even that he doth: for he performeth the thing that is appointed for me.”
ARG. V. If this notion of God’s ignorance of future volitions of moral agents be thoroughly considered in its consequences, it will appear to follow from it, that God, after he had made the world, was liable to be wholly frustrated of his end in the creation of it. And so has been, in like manner, liable to be frustrated of his end in all the great works he had wrought. It is manifest, the moral world is the end of the natural. The rest of the creation is but a house which God has built, with furniture, for moral agents. And the good or bad state of the moral world depends on the improvement they make of their natural agency, and so depends on their volitions. And therefore, if these cannot be foreseen by God, because they are contingent, and subject to no kind of necessity, then the affairs of the moral world are liable to go wrong, to any assignable degree; yea, liable to be utterly ruined. As on this scheme, it may well be supposed to be literally said, when mankind, by the abuse of their moral agency, became very corrupt before the flood, “that the Lord repented that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart;” so, when he made the universe, he did not know but that he might be so disappointed in it, that it might grieve him at his heart that he had made it. It actually proved, that all mankind became sinful, and a very great part of the angels apostatized, and how could God know before, that all of them would not? And how could God know but that all mankind, notwithstanding means used to reclaim them, being still left to the freedom of their own will, would continue in their apostasy, and grow worse and worse, as they of the old world before the flood did?
According to the scheme I am endeavoring to confute, the fall of neither men nor angels could be foreseen, and God must be greatly disappointed in these events. And so the grand contrivance for our redemption, and destroying the works of the devil, by the Messiah, and all the great things God has done in the prosecution of these designs, must be only the fruits of his own disappointment. Contrivances to mend, as well as he could, his system, which originally was all very good, and perfectly beautiful, but was broken and confounded by the free will of angels and men. And still he must be liable to be totally disappointed a second time. He could not know, that he should have his desired success, in the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and exaltation of his only begotten Son, and other great works accomplished to restore the state of things. He could not know, after all, whether there would actually be any tolerable measure of restoration, for this depended on the free will of man. There has been a general great apostasy of almost all the Christian world, to that which was worse than heathenism, which continued for many ages. And how could God, without foreseeing men’s volitions, know whether ever Christendom would return from this apostasy? And which way would he foretell how soon it would begin? The apostle says, it began to work in his time; and how could it be known how far it would proceed in that age? Yea, how could it be known that the gospel which was not effectual for the reformation of the Jews, would ever be effectual for the turning of the heathen nations from their heathen apostasy, which they had been confirmed in for so many ages?
It is represented often in Scripture, that God, who made the world for himself, and created it for his pleasure, would infallibly obtain his end in the creation, and in all his works. That as all things are of him, so they would all be to him, and that in the final issue of things, it would appear that he is “the first, and the last.” (Rev. 21:6) “And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” But, these things are not consistent with God’s liability to be disappointed in all his works, nor indeed, with his failing of his end in anything that he has undertaken.
Having proved, that GOD has a certain and infallible prescience of the voluntary acts of moral agents, I come now, in the second place, to show the consequence; how it follows from hence, that these events are necessary, with a necessity of connection or consequence.
The chief Arminian divines, so far as I have had opportunity to observe, deny this consequence; and affirm, that if such foreknowledge be allowed, it is no evidence of any necessity of the event foreknown. Now I desire, that this matter may be particularly and thoroughly inquired into. I cannot but think that on particular and full consideration, it may be perfectly determined, whether it be indeed so or not.
In order to a proper consideration of this matter, I would observe the following things.
I. It is very evident, that, with regard to a thing whose existence is infallibly and indissolubly connected with something, which already has, or has had existence, the existence of that thing is necessary. Here may be noted the following particulars:
1. I observed before, in explaining the nature of necessity, that in things which are past, their past existence is now necessary. Having already made sure of existence, it is too late for any possibility of alteration in that respect, it is now impossible that it should be otherwise than true, that the thing has existed.
2. If there be any such thing as a divine foreknowledge of the volitions of free agents, that foreknowledge, by the supposition, is a thing which already has, and long ago had existence. And now its existence is necessary; it is now utterly impossible to be otherwise, than that this foreknowledge should be or should have been.
3. It is also very manifest, that those things which are indissolubly connected with other things that are necessary, are themselves necessary. As that proposition whose truth is necessarily connected with another proposition, which is necessarily true, is itself necessarily true. To say otherwise would be a contradiction: it would be in effect to say, that the connection was indissoluble, and yet was not so, but might be broken. If that, the existence of which is indissolubly connected with something whose existence is now necessary, is itself not necessary, then it may possibly not exist, notwithstanding that indissoluble connection of its existence. — Whether the absurdity be not glaring, let the reader judge.
4. It is no less evident, that if there be a full, certain, and infallible foreknowledge of the future existence of the volitions of moral agents, then there is a certain, infallible, and indissoluble connection between those events and that foreknowledge; and that therefore, by the preceding observations, those events are necessary events; being infallibly and indissolubly connected with that, whose existence already is, and so is now necessary, and cannot but have been.
To say, the foreknowledge is certain and infallible, and yet the connection of the event with that foreknowledge is dissoluble and fallible, is very absurd. To affirm it, would be the same thing as to affirm, that there is no necessary connection between a proposition being infallibly known to be true, and its being true indeed. So that it is perfectly demonstrable, that if there be any infallible knowledge of future volitions, the event is necessary; or, in other words, that it is impossible but the event should come to pass. For if it be not impossible but that it may be otherwise, then it is not impossible but that the proposition which affirms its future coming to pass, may not now be true. There is this absurdity in it, that it is not impossible, but that there now should be no truth in that proposition, which is now infallibly known to be true.
II. That no future event can be certainly foreknown, whose existence is contingent, and without all necessity, may be proved thus; it is impossible for a thing to be certainly known to any intellect without evidence. To suppose otherwise, implies a contradiction: because for a thing to be certainly known to any understanding, is for it to be evident to that understanding. For a thing to be evident to any understanding is the same thing, as for that understanding to see evidence of it. But no understanding, created or uncreated, can see evidence where there is none; for that is the same thing, as to see that to be which is not. And therefore, if there be any truth which is absolutely without evidence, that truth is absolutely unknowable, insomuch that it implies a contradiction to suppose that it is known.
But if there be any future event, whose existence is contingent, without all necessity, the future existence of the event is absolutely without evidence. If there be any evidence of it, it must be one of these two sorts, either self-evidence or proof; an evident thing must be either evident in itself; or evident in something else: that is, evident by connection with something else. But a future thing, whose existence is without all necessity, can have neither of these sorts of evidence. It cannot be self-evident: for if it be, it may be now known, by what is now to be seen in the thing itself; its present existence, or the necessity of its nature: but both these are contrary to the supposition. It is supposed, both that the thing has no present existence to be seen; and also that it is not of such a nature as to be necessarily existent for the future: so that its future existence is not self-evident. Secondly, neither is there any proof, or evidence in anything else, or evidence of connection with something else that is evident; for this is also contrary to the supposition. It is supposed that there is now nothing existent, with which the future existence of the contingent event is connected. For such a connection destroys its contingence, and supposes necessity. Thus, it is demonstrated that there is, in the nature of things, absolutely no evidence at all of the future existence of that event, which is contingent, without all necessity (if any such event there be), neither self-evidence nor proof. Therefore the thing in reality is not evident; and so cannot be seen to be evident, or, which is the same thing, cannot be known.
Let us consider this in an example. Suppose that five thousand seven hundred and sixty years ago, there was no other being but the Divine Being. And then this world, or some particular body or spirit, all at once starts out of nothing into being, and takes on itself a particular nature and form. All in absolute contingence, without any concern of God, or any other cause, in the matter; without any manner of ground or reason of its existence, or any dependence upon, or connection at all with anything foregoing. I say that if this be supposed, there was no evidence of that event beforehand, and there was no evidence of it to be seen in the thing itself. For the thing itself as yet was not, and there was no evidence of it to be seen in anything else; for evidence in something else, is connection with something else, but such connection is contrary to the supposition. There was no evidence before that this thing would happen; for by the supposition, there was no reason why it should happen, rather than something else, or rather than nothing. And if so, then all things before were exactly equal, and the same, with respect to that and other possible things; there was no preponderation, no superior weight or value; and therefore, nothing that could be of weight or value to determine any understanding. The thing was absolutely without evidence, and absolutely unknowable. An increase of understanding, or of the capacity of discerning, has no tendency, and makes no advance, inwards discerning any signs or evidences of it, let it be increased never so much; yea, if it be increased infinitely. The increase of the strength of sight may have a tendency to enable to discern the evidence which is far off, and very much hid, and deeply involved in clouds and darkness; but it has no tendency to enable to discern evidence where there is none. If the sight be infinitely strong, and the capacity of discerning infinitely great, it will enable to see all that there is, to see it perfectly, and with ease. Yet it has no tendency at all to enable a being to discern that evidence which is not; but on the contrary, it has a tendency to enable to discern with great certainty that there is none.
III. To suppose the future volitions of moral agents not to be necessary events; or, which is the same thing, events which it is not impossible but that they may not come to pass; and yet to suppose that God certainly foreknows them, and knows all things; is to suppose God’s knowledge to be inconsistent with itself. For to say, that God certainly, and without all conjecture, knows that a thing will infallibly be, which at the same time he knows to be so contingent, that it may possibly not be, is to suppose his knowledge inconsistent with itself; or that one thing he knows, is utterly inconsistent with another thing he knows. It is the same as to say he now knows a proposition to be of certain infallible truth, which he knows to be of contingent uncertain truth. If a future volition is so without all necessity, that nothing hinders but it may not be, then the proposition, which asserts its future existence, is so uncertain, that nothing hinders, but that the truth of it may entirely fail. And if God knows all things, he knows this proposition to be thus uncertain. And that, is inconsistent with his knowing that it is infallibly true; and so inconsistent with his infallibly knowing that it is true. If the thing be indeed contingent, God views it so, and judges it to be contingent if he views things as they are. If the event be not necessary, then it is possible it may never be. And if it be possible it may never be, God knows it may possibly never be; and that is to know that the proposition, which affirms its existence, may possibly not be true. And that is to know that the truth of it is uncertain; which surely is inconsistent with his knowing it as a certain truth. If volitions are in themselves contingent events, without all necessity, then it is no argument of perfection of knowledge in any being to determine peremptorily that they will be; but on the contrary, an argument of ignorance and mistake. Because it would argue, that he supposes that proposition to be certain, which in its own nature, and all things considered, is uncertain and contingent. To say, in such a case, that God may have ways of knowing contingent events which we cannot conceive of, is ridiculous; as much so, as to say, that God may know contradictions to be true, for ought we know. Or that he may know a thing to be certain, and at the same time know it not to be certain, though we cannot conceive how; because he has ways of knowing which we cannot comprehend.
Corol. 1. From what has been observed it is evident, that the absolute decrees of God are no more inconsistent with human liberty on account of any necessity of the event, which follows from such decrees, than the absolute foreknowledge of God. Because the connection between the event and certain foreknowledge, is as infallible and indissoluble, as between the event and an absolute decree. That is, it is no more impossible, that the event and decree should not agree together, than that the event and absolute knowledge should disagree. The connection between the event and foreknowledge is absolutely perfect, by the supposition: because it is supposed, that the certainty and infallibility of the knowledge is absolutely perfect. And it being so, the certainty cannot be increased; and therefore the connection, between the knowledge and thing known, cannot be increased; so that if a decree be added to the foreknowledge, it does not at all increase the connection, or make it more infallible and indissoluble. If it were not so, the certainty of knowledge might be increased by the addition of a decree; which is contrary to the supposition, which is, that the knowledge is absolutely perfect, or perfect to the highest possible degree.
There is as much impossibility but that the things which are infallibly foreknown, should be, or, which is the same thing, as great a necessity of their future existence, as if the event were already written down, and was known and read by all mankind, through all preceding ages. And there was the most indissoluble and perfect connection possible between the writing and the thing written. In such a case, it would be as impossible the event should fail of existence, as if it had existed already; and a decree cannot make an event surer or more necessary than this.
And therefore, if there be any such foreknowledge, as it has been proved there is, then necessity of connection and consequence is not at all inconsistent with any liberty which man, or any other creature, enjoys. And from hence it may be inferred, that absolute decrees, which do not at all increase the necessity, are not inconsistent with the liberty which man enjoys, on any such account, as that they make the event decreed necessary, and render it utterly impossible but that it should come to pass. Therefore, if absolute decrees are inconsistent with man’s liberty as a moral agent, or his liberty in a state of probation, or any liberty whatsoever that he enjoys, it is not on account of any necessity which absolute decrees infer.
Dr. Whitby supposes there is a great difference between God’s foreknowledge, and his decrees, with regard to necessity of future events. In his Discourse on the five points (p. 474, etc.), he says, God’s prescience has no influence at all on our actions. — Should God, says he, by immediate revelation, give me the knowledge of the event of any man’s state or actions, would my knowledge of them have any influence upon his actions? Surely none at all. — Our knowledge does not affect the things we know, to make them more certain, or more future, than they could be without it. Now, foreknowledge in God is knowledge. As therefore knowledge has no influence on things that are, so neither has foreknowledge on things that shall be. Consequently, the foreknowledge of any action that would be otherwise free cannot alter or diminish that freedom. Whereas God’s decree of election is powerful and active, and comprehends the preparation and exhibition of such means, as shall unfrustrably produce the end. — Hence God’s prescience renders no actions necessary.” And to this purpose (p. 473), he cites Origen, where he says, “God’s prescience is not the cause of things future, but their being future is the cause of God’s prescience that they will be”. And Le Blanc, where he says, “This is the truest resolution of this difficulty, that prescience is not the cause that things are future; but their being future is the cause they are foreseen”. In like manner, Dr. Clark, in his Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God (p. 95-99), and the author of The Freedom of the Will, in God and Creation, speaking to the like purpose with Dr. Whitby, represents “foreknowledge as having no more influence on things known, to make them necessary, than after-knowledge.” or to that purpose.
To all which I would say; that what is said about knowledge, its not having influence on the thing known to make it necessary, is nothing to the purpose, nor does it in the least affect the foregoing reasoning. Whether prescience be the thing that makes event necessary or no, it alters not the case. Infallible foreknowledge may prove the necessity of the event foreknown, and yet not be the thing which causes the necessity.
[This distinction is of great importance in the present controversy; and the want of attending to the true ground on which it stands, has been, we presume, the principal cause of Dr. Whitby’s objections, and those of most, if not all, other Arminian writers. They seem to consider, in this argument, no other necessity but the decretive, as maintained by their opponents; and therefore infer, that to allow any kind of necessity, is the same as to allow an infallible decree. From this view the transition is easy to another conclusion, viz. that if anything is foreknown because it is decreed, everything is foreknown on the same ground, or for the same reason. And then, this proving too much: the decretive appointment of all the evil in the universe, which they are sure is incompatible with the divine character, and therefore impossible: they reject the whole doctrine of necessity as a ground of foreknowledge; and suppose that, though they cannot clearly disprove what is advanced against them, they infer that there is somehow a sophism in the reasoning of their opponents, or some false principle assumed, were they but happy enough to detect it.
But our author, in this reasoning, does not maintain, that the connection by which every event is evidently certain, and therefore necessary, is so because decreed. The truth is, that some events are foreknown to be certain because foreordained; and others, because of the tendency there is in the nature of the things themselves. Should any, in the way of objection, assert, that the nature of things is itself derived from the divine will, or decree; we apprehend there is no evidence to support such an assertion. For instance. is it owing to a decree that the nature of any created being is dependent on the first cause? That a creature, however exalted, is not infinite? That any relation should subsist between the Creator and a creature? Or that, if equal quantities be taken from equal quantities, the remainders will be equal? Is there any room, in thought, for a supposition of any decree in the case. Nay more, does it appear possible for a decree to have made such things otherwise.
Let it be observed, however, that God is the Almighty Sovereign over nature, not indeed so far as to alter the nature of things, which in reality is no object of power, any more than to make spirit to be the same thing as matter, and vice versa, or the working of contradictions is an object of power, but by the position of antecedents, and establishing premises. To illustrate this, let it be supposed, if God create a world, that world must depend upon him, as a necessary consequence. To deny this, is to deny the nature and identity of things. For what is to create, but for an independent cause to impart ad extra a dependent existence? So that to deny dependence, is to deny creation. But though the consequence be necessary, if the antecedent be established; yet the antecedent itself is not necessary, except from decree; for there is not, in the nature of things, any antecedent necessity that a world be created. That is, to suppose its non-existence implies no contradiction, it being evidently the effect of sovereign pleasure. Hence to deny the consequence, on supposition of the antecedent, is to deny the nature of things, and to assert a contradiction, though the antecedent itself be not necessary. And hence also, in the instance now specified among others innumerable, the antecedent is an object of decree, but not the consequence. It is absurd to say , that God decreed the dependence of the world upon himself, as it is to say, he decreed that two and two shall be equal to four, rather than to five.
These remarks, duly considered in their just consequences, will abundantly show, that some things are necessary because decreed, as the creation, the preservation, and the government of the world; the redemption, the purification, and the salvation of the church: and that other things as all imperfections, dependence, relations, and especially moral evils, come to be necessary, and so capable of being foreknown, only by connection, or consequence. That is, if the antecedent, which is under the control of the Almighty Sovereign, be admitted, the consequence follows infallibly from the nature of things. But if another antecedent be established, another consequence will follow, with equal certainty, also from the nature of things. For instance, if holiness be given and continued to a redeemed creature, as an antecedent, excellence, honor, and happiness are the necessary consequences. But if sin operate without control, as the antecedent, dishonor and misery must be the necessary consequences from the same cause. W.]
If the foreknowledge be absolute, this proves the event known to be necessary, or proves that it is impossible but that the event should be, by some means or other, either by a decree, or some other way, if there be any other way: because, as was said before, it is absurd to say, that a proposition is known to be certainly and infallibly true, which yet may possibly prove not true.
The whole of the seeming force of this evasion lies in this; that, inasmuch as certain foreknowledge does not cause an event to be necessary, as a decree does; therefore it does not prove it to be necessary, as a decree does. But there is no force in this arguing: for it is built wholly on this supposition, that nothing can prove or be an evidence of a thing being necessary, but that which has a causal influence to make it so. But this can never be maintained. If certain foreknowledge of the future existence of an event be not the thing which first makes it impossible that it should fail of existence; yet it may, and certainly does demonstrate, that it is impossible it should fail of it, however that impossibility comes. If foreknowledge be not the cause, but the effect of this impossibility, it may prove that there is such an impossibility, as much as if it were the cause. It is as strong arguing from the effect to the cause, as from the cause to the effect. It is enough, that an existence, which is infallibly foreknown, cannot fail, whether that impossibility arises from the foreknowledge, or is prior to it. It is as evident as anything can be, that it is impossible a thing, which is infallibly known to be true, should prove not to be true. Therefore, there is a necessity that it should be otherwise; whether the knowledge be the cause of this necessity, or the necessity the cause of the knowledge.
All certain knowledge, whether it be foreknowledge or after-knowledge, or concomitant knowledge, proves the thing known now to be necessary, by some means or other; or proves that it is impossible it should now be otherwise than true. — I freely allow, that foreknowledge does not prove a thing to be necessary any more than after-knowledge: but then after-knowledge, which is certain and infallible, proves that it is now become impossible but that the proposition known should be true. Certain after-knowledge proves that, it is now by some means or other, become impossible but that the proposition, which predicates past existence on the event, should be true. And so does certain foreknowledge prove, that now in the time of the knowledge, it is, by some means or other, become impossible but that the proposition, which predicates future existence on the event, should be true. The necessity of the truth of the propositions, consisting in the present impossibility of the nonexistence of the event affirmed, in both cases, is the immediate ground of the certainty of the knowledge; there can be no certainty of knowledge without it.
There must be a certainty in things themselves, before they are certainly known, or which is the same thing, known to be certain. For certainty of knowledge is nothing else, but knowing or discerning the certainty there is, in the things themselves, which are known. Therefore, there must be a certainty in things to be a ground of certainty of knowledge, and to render things capable of being known to be certain. And there is nothing but the necessity of truth known, or its being impossible but that it should be true; or, in other words, the firm and infallible connection between the subject and predicate of the proposition that contains that truth. All certainty of knowledge consists in the view of the firmness of that connection. So God’s certain foreknowledge of the future existence of any event, is his view of the firm and indissoluble connection of the subject and predicate of the proposition that affirms its future existence. The subject is that possible event; the predicate is its future existence, but if future existence be firmly and indissolubly connected with that event, then the future existence of that event is necessary. If God certainly knows the future existence of an event which is wholly contingent, and may possibly never be, then, he sees a firm connection between a subject and predicate that are not firmly connected; which is a contradiction.
I allow what Dr. Whitby says to be true, that mere knowledge does not affect the thing known, to make it more certain or more future. But, yet I say, it supposes and proves the thing to be already, both future and certain; i. e. necessarily future. Knowledge of futurity supposes futurity; and certain knowledge of futurity, supposes certain futurity, antecedent to that certain knowledge. But, there is no other certain futurity of a thing, antecedent to certainty of knowledge, than a prior impossibility but that the thing should prove true; or, which is the same thing, the necessity of the event.
I would observe one thing further, that if it be as those aforementioned writers suppose, that God’s foreknowledge is not the cause but the effect of the existence of the event foreknown; this is so far from showing that this foreknowledge does not infer the necessity of the existence of that event, that it rather shows the contrary the more plainly. Because it shows the existence of the event to be so settled and firm, that it is as if it had already been; inasmuch as in effect it actually exists already. Its future existence has already had actual influence and efficiency, and has produced an effect, viz. prescience: the effect exists already; and as the effect supposes the cause, and depends entirely upon it, therefore it is as if the future event, which is the cause, had existed already. The effect is firm as possible, it having already the possession of existence, and has made sure of it. But the effect cannot be more firm and stable than its cause, ground, and reason. The building cannot be firmer than the foundation.
To illustrate this matter; let us suppose the appearances and images of things in a glass, for instance, a reflecting telescope, to be the real effects of heavenly bodies (at a distance, and out of sight) which they resemble. If it be so, then, as these images in the telescope have had a past actual existence, and it is become utterly impossible now that it should be otherwise than that they have existed; so they being the true effects of the heavenly bodies they resemble, this proves the existence of those heavenly bodies to be as real, infallible, firm, and necessary, as the existence of these effects; the one being connected with, and wholly depending on the other. — Now let us suppose future existences, some way or other, to have influence back, to produce effects beforehand, and cause exact and perfect images of themselves in a glass, a thousand years before they exist, yea, in all preceding ages. But yet that these images are real effects of these future existences, perfectly dependent on, and connected with their cause. These effects and images having already had actual existence, render that matter of their existence perfectly firm and stable, and utterly impossible to be otherwise. And this proves, as in the other instance, that the existence of the things, which are their causes, is also equally sure, firm, and necessary; and that it is alike impossible but that they should be, as if they had been already, as their effects have. And if instead of images in a glass, we suppose the antecedent effects to be perfect ideas of them in the divine mind, which have existed there from all eternity, which are as properly effects, as truly and properly connected with their cause, the case is not altered.
Another thing which has been said by some Arminians, to take off the force of what is urged from God’s prescience, against the continuance of the volitions of moral agents, is to this purpose; “That when we talk of foreknowledge in God, there is no strict propriety in our so speaking; and that although it be true, that there is in God the most perfect knowledge of all events from eternity to eternity, yet there is no such thing as before and after in God, but he sees all things by one perfect unchangeable view, without any succession.” — To this I answer,
1. It has been already shown, that all certain knowledge proves the necessity of the truth known; whether it be before, after, or at the same time. — Though it be true, that there is no succession in God’s knowledge, and the manner of his knowledge is to us inconceivable, yet thus much we know concerning it, that there is no event, past, present, or to come, that God is ever uncertain of. He never is, never was, and never will be without infallible knowledge of it; he always sees the existence of it to be certain and infallible. And as he always sees things just as they are in truth; hence there never is in reality anything contingent in such a sense, as that possibly it may happen never to exist. If, strictly speaking, there is no foreknowledge in God, it is because those things, which are future to us, are as present to God, as if they already had existence. And that is as much as to say, that future events are always in God’s view as evident, clear, sure, and necessary, as if they already were. If there never is a time wherein the existence of the event is not present with God, then there never is a time wherein it is not as much impossible for it to fail of existence, as if its existence were present, and were already come to pass.
God viewing things so perfectly and unchangeably, as that there is no succession in his ideas or judgment, does not hinder but that there is properly now, in the mind of God, a certain and perfect knowledge of the moral actions of men, which to us are an hundred years hence. Yea the objection supposes this; and therefore it certainly does not hinder but that, by the foregoing arguments, it is now impossible these moral actions should not come to pass.
We know, that God foreknows the future voluntary actions of men, in such a sense, as that he is able particularly to foretell them, and cause them to be recorded, as he often has done. And therefore that necessary connection which there is between God’s knowledge and the event known, as much proves the event to be necessary beforehand, as if the divine knowledge were in the same sense before the event, as the prediction or writing is. If the knowledge be infallible, then the expression of it in the written prediction is infallible; that is, there is an infallible connection between that written prediction and the event. And if so, then it is impossible it should ever be otherwise, than that the prediction and the event should agree: and this is the same thing as to say, it is impossible but that the event should come to pass: and this is the same as to say that its coming to pass is necessary. — So that it is manifest, that there being no proper succession in God’s mind, makes no alteration as to the necessity of the existence of the events known. Yea,
2. This is so far from weakening the proof, given of the impossibility of future events known, not coming to pass, as that it establishes the foregoing arguments, and shows the clearness of the evidence. For,
(1.) The very reason, why God’s knowledge is without succession, is because it is absolutely perfect to the highest possible degree of clearness and certainty. All things, whether past, present, or to come, being viewed with equal evidence; fullness, and future things being seen with as much clearness, as if they were present. The view is always in absolute perfection; and absolute constant perfection admits of no alteration, and so no succession. The actual existence of the thing known does not at all increase or add to the clearness or certainty of the thing known. God calls the things that are not, as though they were; they are all one to him as if they had already existed. But herein consists the strength of the demonstration before given; that it is as impossible they should fail of existence, as if they existed already. This objection, instead of weakening the argument, sets it in the strongest light; for it supposes it to be so indeed, that the existence of future events is in God’s view so much as if it already had been. That when they come actually to exist, it makes not the least alteration or variation in his knowledge of them.
(2.) The objection is founded on the immutability of God’s knowledge. For it is the immutability of knowledge that makes it to be without succession. But this most directly and plainly demonstrates the thing I insist on, viz. that it is utterly impossible the known events should fail of existence. For if that were possible, then a change in God’s knowledge and view of things, were possible. For if the known event should not come into being, as God expected, then he would see it, and so would change his mind, and see his former mistake; and thus there would be change and succession in his knowledge. But as God is immutable, and it is infinitely impossible that his view should be changed; so it is, for the same reason, just so impossible that the foreknown event should not exist; and that is to be impossible in the highest degree; and therefore the contrary is necessary. Nothing is more impossible than that the immutable God should be changed, by the succession of time; who comprehends all things, from eternity to eternity, in one, most perfect, and unalterable view; so that his whole eternal duration is vitae interminabilis, tota, simul et perfecta possessio.
On the whole, I need not fear to say, that there is no geometrical theorem or proposition whatsoever, more capable of strict demonstration, than that God’s certain prescience of the volitions of moral agents is inconsistent with such a contingence of these events, as is without all necessity; and so is inconsistent with the Arminian notion of liberty.
Corol. 2. Hence the doctrine of the Calvinists, concerning the absolute decrees of God, does not all infer any more fatality in things, than will demonstrably follow from the doctrine of the most Arminian divines, who acknowledge God’s omniscience, and universal prescience. Therefore all objections they make against the doctrine of the Calvinists, as implying Hobbes’s doctrine of necessity, or the stoical doctrine of fate, lie no more against the doctrine of Calvinists, than their own doctrine. Therefore, it does not become those divines, to raise such an outcry against the Calvinists, on this account.
Corol. 3. Hence all arguments of Arminians, who own God’s omniscience, against the doctrine of the inability of unregenerate men to perform the conditions of salvation, and the commands of God requiring spiritual duties, and against the Calvinistic doctrine of efficacious grace; on this ground, that those doctrines, though they do not suppose men to be under any constraint or coaction, yet suppose them under necessity, must fall to the ground. And their arguments against the necessity of men’s volitions, taken from the reasonableness of God’s commands, promises, and threatenings, and the sincerity of his counsels and invitations; and all objections against any doctrines of the Calvinists as being inconsistent with human liberty, because they infer necessity; I say, all these arguments and objections must be justly esteemed vain and frivolous, as coming from them; being leveled against their own doctrine, as well as against that of the Calvinists.
Every act of the will has a cause, or it has not. If it has a cause, then, according to what has already been demonstrated, it is not contingent, but necessary; the effect being necessarily dependent and consequent on its cause, let that cause be what it will. If the cause is the will itself by antecedent acts [of] choosing and determining, still the determined caused act must be a necessary effect. The act, that is the determined effect of the foregoing act which is its cause, cannot prevent the efficiency of its cause; but must be wholly subject to its determination and command, as much as the motions of the hands and feet. The consequent commanded acts of the will are as passive and as necessary, with respect to the antecedent determining acts, as the parts of the body are to the volitions which determine and command them. And therefore, if all the free acts of the will are all determined effects, determined by the will itself, that is by antecedent choice, then they are all necessary. They are all subject to, and decisively fixed by, the foregoing act, which is their cause. Yea, even the determining act itself; for that must be determined and fixed by another act preceding, if it be a free and voluntary act; and so must be necessary. So that by this, all the free acts of the will are necessary, and cannot be free unless they are necessary. Because they cannot be free, according to the Arminian notion of freedom, unless they are determined by the will; and this is to be determined by antecedent choice, which being their cause proves them necessary. And yet they say, necessity is utterly inconsistent with liberty, so that, by their scheme, the acts of the will cannot be free unless they are necessary, and yet cannot be free if they be necessary !
If the other part of the dilemma be taken; that the free acts of the will, have no cause and are connected with nothing whatsoever that goes before, and determines them, in order to maintain their proper and absolute contingence, and [if] this should be allowed to be possible, still it will not serve their turn. For if the volition come to pass by perfect contingence, and without any cause at all, then it is certain, no act of the will, no prior act of the soul, was the cause, no determination or choice of the soul had any hand in it. The will, or the soul, was indeed the subject of what happened to it accidentally, but was not the cause. The will is not active in causing or determining, but purely the passive subject; at least, according to their notion of action and passion. In this case, contingence as much prevents the determination of the will, as a proper cause; and as to the will, it was necessary, and could be no otherwise. For to suppose that it could have been otherwise, if the will or soul had pleased, is to suppose that the act is dependent on some prior act of choice or pleasure contrary to what is now supposed. It is to suppose that it might have been otherwise, if its cause had ordered it otherwise. But this does not agree to it having no cause or order at all. That must be necessary as to the soul, which is dependent on no free act of the soul: but that which is without a cause, is dependent on no free act of the soul; because, by the supposition, it is dependent on nothing, and is connected with nothing. In such a case, the soul is necessarily subjected to what accident brings to pass, from time to time, as much as the earth that is inactive, is necessarily subjected to what falls upon it. But this does not consist with the Arminian notion of liberty, which is the will’s power of determining itself in its own acts, and being wholly active in it, without passiveness, and without being subject to necessity. — Thus, contingence belongs to the Arminian notion of liberty, and yet is inconsistent with it.
I would here observe, that the author of the Essay on the Freedom of the Will, in God and the Creature (p. 76, 77), says as follows. “The word chance always means something done without design. Chance and design stand in direct opposition to each other. And chance can never be properly applied to acts of the will, which is the spring of all design, and which designs to choose whatsoever it does choose, whether there be any superior fitness in the thing which it chooses, or no. And it designs to determine itself to one thing, where two things, perfectly equal, are proposed, merely because it will.” But herein appears a very great inadvertence. For if the will be the spring of all design, as he says, then certainly it is not always the effect of design. The acts of the will themselves must sometimes come to pass, when they do not spring from design; and consequently come to pass by chance, according to his own definition of chance. And if the will designs to choose whatever it does choose, and designs to determine itself, as he says, then it designs to determine all its designs. Which carries us back from one design, to a foregoing design determining that, to another determining that and so on in infinitum? The very first design must be the effect of foregoing design; or else, it must be by chance, in his notion of it.
Here another alternative may be proposed, relating to the connection of the acts of the will with something foregoing that is their cause. Not much unlike to the other; which is this: either human liberty may well stand with volitions being necessarily connected with the views of the understanding, and so is consistent with necessity; or it is inconsistent with and contrary to such a connection and necessity. The former is directly subversive of the Arminian notion of liberty, consisting in freedom from all necessity. If the latter be chosen, and it be said, that liberty is inconsistent with any such necessary connection of volition with foregoing views of the understanding; it consisting in freedom from any such necessity of the will as that would imply; then the liberty of the soul consists, partly at least, in freedom from restraint, limitation, and government, in its actings, by the understanding, and in liberty and liableness to act contrary to the views and dictates of the understanding and consequently, the more the soul has of this disengagedness in its acting, the more liberty. Now let it be considered to what this brings the noble principle of human liberty, particularly when it is possessed and enjoyed in its perfection, viz. a full and perfect freedom and liableness to act altogether at random, without the least connection with, or restraint or government by, any dictate of reason, or anything whatsoever apprehended, considered, or viewed by the understanding; as being inconsistent with the full and perfect sovereignty of the will over its own determinations. — The notion mankind has conceived of liberty, is some dignity or privilege, something worth claiming. But what dignity or privilege is there, in being given up to such a wild contingence as this, to be perfectly and constantly liable to act unreasonably, and as much without the guidance of understanding, as if we had none, or were as destitute of perception, as the smoke that is driven by the wind!
Whether the things which have been alleged, are liable to any tolerable answer in the way of calm, intelligible, and strict reasoning, I must leave others to judge: but I am sensible they are liable to one sort of answer. It is not unlikely, that some, who value themselves on the supposed rational and generous principles of the modern fashionable divinity, will have their indignation and disdain raised at the sight of this discourse, and on perceiving what things are pretended to be proved in it. And if they think it worthy of being read, or of so much notice as to say much about it, they may probably renew the usual exclamations, with additional vehemence and contempt, about the fate of the heathen, Hobbes’s necessity, and making men mere machines. Accumulating the terrible epithets of fatal, unfrustrable, inevitable, irresistible, etc. and perhaps much skill may be used to set forth things, which have been said, in colors which shall be shocking to the imaginations, and moving to the passions of those, who have either too little capacity, or too much confidence of the opinions they have imbibed, and contempt of the contrary, to try the matter by any serious and circumspect examination.
Or difficulties may be stated and insisted on, which do not belong to the controversy; because, let them be more or less real, and hard to be resolved, they are not what are owing to anything distinguishing of this scheme, from that of the Arminians, and would not be removed nor diminished by renouncing the former, and adhering to the latter. Or some particular things may be picked out, which they may think will sound harshest in the ears of the generality; and these may be glossed and descanted on, with tart and contemptuous words; and from thence, the whole discourse may be treated with triumph and insult.
It is easy to see, how the decision of most of the points in controversy between Calvinists and Arminians, depends on the determination of this grand article concerning The Freedom of the Will Requisite to Moral Agency. And that by clearing and establishing the Calvinistic doctrine in this point, the chief arguments are obviated by which Arminian doctrines in general are supported, and the contrary doctrines in general are supported, and the contrary doctrines demonstratively confirmed. Hereby it becomes manifest, that God’s moral government over mankind, his treating them as moral agents, making them the objects of his commands, counsels, calls, warnings, expostulations, promises, threatenings, rewards, and punishments, is not inconsistent with a determining disposal of all events, of every kind, throughout the universe, in his providence; either by positive efficiency, or permission. Indeed, such an universal determining providence, infers some kind of necessity of moral events, or volition’s of intelligent agents, is needful in order to this, than moral necessity; which does as much ascertain the futurity of the event as any other necessity. But, as has been demonstrated, such a necessity is not at all repugnant to moral agency, and a reasonable use of commands, calls, rewards, punishments, etc. Yea, not only are objections of this kind against the doctrine of an universal determining providence, removed by what has been said; but the truth of such a doctrine is demonstrated. As it has been demonstrated, that the futurity of all future events is established by previous necessity, either natural or moral. So it is manifest, that the sovereign Creator and Disposer of the world has ordered this necessity, by ordering his own conduct, either in designedly acting, or forbearing to act. For, as the being of the world is from God, so the circumstances in which it had its being at first, both negative and positive, must be ordered by him, in one of these ways; and all the necessary consequences of these circumstances, must be ordered by him. And God’s active and positive interpositions, after the world was created, and the consequences of these interpositions; also every instance of his forbearing to interpose, and the sure consequences of this forbearance, must all be determined according to his pleasure. And therefore every event, which is the consequence of anything whatsoever, or that is connected with any foregoing thing or circumstances, either positive or negative, as the ground or reason of its existence, must be ordered of God; either by a designing efficiency and interposition, or a designed forbearing to operate or interpose. But, as has been proved, all events whatsoever, are necessarily connected with something foregoing, either positive or negative, which is the ground of its existence. It follows, therefore, that the whole series of events is thus connected with something in the state of things either positive or negative, which is original in the series; i.e. something which is connected with nothing preceding that, but God’s own immediate conduct, either his acting or forbearing to act. From whence it follows, that as God designedly orders his own conduct, and its connected consequences, it must necessarily be, that he designedly orders all things.
The things which have been said, obviate some of the chief objections of Arminians against the Calvinistic doctrine of the total depravity and corruption of man’s nature, whereby his heart is wholly under the power of sin, and he is utterly unable, without the interposition of sovereign grace, savingly to love God, believe in Christ, or do anything that is truly good and acceptable in God’s sight. For the main objection against this doctrine, that it is inconsistent with the freedom of man’s will, consisting in indifference and self-determining power. Because it supposes man to be under a necessity of sinning, and that God requires things of him, in order to his avoiding eternal damnation, which he is unable to do and that this doctrine is wholly inconsistent with the sincerity of counsels, invitations, etc. Now, this doctrine supposes no other necessity of sinning, than a moral necessity, which, as has been shown, does not at all excuse sin. And [it] supposes no other inability to obey any command, or perform any duty, even the most spiritual and exalted. But a moral inability, which, as has been proved, does not excuse persons in the non-performance of any good thing, or make them not to be the proper objects of commands, counsels, and invitations. And, moreover, it has been shown, or so much as in idea, any such freedom of will, consisting in indifference and self-determination, for the sake of which, this doctrine of original sin is cast out: and that no such freedom is necessary, in order to the nature of sin, and a just desert of punishment.
The things which have been observed, do also take off the main objections of Arminians against the doctrine of efficacious grace; and, at the same time, prove the grace of God in a sinner’s conversion (if there be any grace or divine influence in the affair) to be efficacious, yea, and irresistible too, if by irresistible is meant, that which is attended with a moral necessity, which it is impossible should ever be violated by any resistance. The main objection of Arminians against this doctrine is, that it is inconsistent with their self-determining freedom of will; and that it is repugnant to the nature of virtue, that is should be wrought in the heart by the determining efficacy and power of another, instead of its being owing to a self-moving power. [Which], in that case, the good which is wrought, would not be our virtue, but rather God’s virtue, because not the person in whom it is wrought is the determining author of it, but God that wrought it in him. But the things which are the foundation of these objections, have been considered; and it has been demonstrated, that the liberty of moral agents does not consist in self-determining freedom of will; and that it is repugnant to the nature of virtue, that it should be wrought in the heart by the determining efficacy and power of another, instead of its being owing to a self-moving power. [Which], in that case, the good which is wrought, would not be our virtue, but rather God’s virtue; because not the person in whom it is wrought is the determining author of it, but God that wrought it in him. But, the things which are the foundation of these objections, have been considered; and it has been demonstrated, that the liberty of moral agents does not consist in self-determining power. And that there is no need of any such liberty, in order to the nature of virtue. Nor does it at all hinder, but that the state or act of the will may be the virtue of the subject, though it be not from self-determination, but the determination of an intrinsic cause, even so as to cause the event to be morally necessary to the subject of it. And as it has been proved, that nothing in the state or acts of the will of man is contingent; but on the contrary, every event of this kind is necessary, but a moral necessity. And has also been now demonstrated, that the doctrine of an universal determining Providence, follows from that doctrine of necessity, which was proved before. And so, that God does decisively, in his providence, order all the volition’s of moral agents, either by positive influence or permission. And it being allowed, on all hands, that what God does in the affair of man’s virtuous volition’s, whether it be more or less, is by some positive influence, and not by mere permission, as in the affair of a sinful volition. If we put these things together, it will follow that God’s assistance or influence must be determining and decisive, or must be attended with a moral necessity of the event. And so, that God gives virtue, holiness, and conversion to sinners, by an influence which determines the effect, in such a manner, that the effect will infallibly follow by a moral necessity; which is what Calvinists mean by efficacious and irresistible grace.
The things which have been said, do likewise answer the chief objections against the doctrine of God’s universal and absolute decree, and afford infallible proof of this doctrine; and of the doctrine of absolute, eternal, personal election in particular. The main objections against these doctrines are, that they infer a necessity of the volition’s of moral agents, and of the future and moral state and acts of men; and so are not consistent with those eternal rewards and punishments, which are connected with conversion and impenitence; nor can be made to agree with the reasonableness and sincerity of the precepts, calls, counsels, warnings, and expostulations of the Word of God; or with the various methods and means of grace, which God uses with sinners to bring them to repentance; and the whole of that moral government, which God exercises towards mankind. And that they infer an inconsistency between the secret and revealed will of God; and make God the author of sin. But all these things have been obviated in the preceding discourse. And the certain truth of these doctrines, concerning God’s eternal purposes, will follow from what was just now observed concerning God’s universal providence. How it infallibly follows from what has been proved, that God orders all events, and the volition’s of moral agents amongst others, by such a decisive disposal, that the events are infallibly connected with his disposal. For if God disposes all events, so that the infallible existence of the events is decided by his providence, then, doubtless, he thus orders and decides things knowingly, and on design. God does not do what he does, nor order what he orders, accidentally and unawares; either without or beside his intention. And if there be a foregoing design of doing and ordering as he does, this is the same with a purpose or degree. And as it has been shown, that nothing is new to God, in any respect, but all things are perfectly and equally in his view from eternity. Hence, it will follow, that his designs or purposes are not things formed anew, founded on any new views or appearances, but are all eternal purposes. And as it has been now shown, how the doctrine of determining efficacious grace certainly follows from things proved in the foregoing discourse; hence will necessarily follow the doctrine of particular, eternal, absolute election. For if men are made true saints, no otherwise than as God makes them so, and distinguishes them from others, by his efficacious power and influence, that decides and fixes the event; and God thus makes some saints, and not others, on design or purpose, and (as has been now observed) no designs of God are new; it follows, that God thus distinguished from others, all that every become true saints, by his eternal design or decree. I might also show, how God’s certain foreknowledge must suppose an absolute decree, and how such a decree can be proved to a demonstration from it: but that this discourse may not be lengthened out too much, that must be omitted for the present. [Certain foreknowledge does imply some necessity. But our author is not sufficiently guarded, or else not sufficiently explicit, when he says, that foreknowledge must suppose an absolute decree. For certainty, or hypothetical necessity, may arise from the nature of things, and from negative causes, as well as from a decree. If, indeed, the remark be limited to the subject immediately preceding, it is an important truth. — W.]>From these things it will inevitably follow, that however Christ in some sense may be said to die for all, and to redeem all visible Christians, yea, the whole world, by his death; yet there must be something particular in the design of his death, with respect to such as he intended should actually be saved thereby. As appears by what has been now shown, God has the actual salvation or redemption of a certain number in his proper absolute design, and of a certain number only; and therefore such a design only can be prosecuted in anything God does, in order to the salvation of men. God pursues a proper design of the salvation of the elect in giving Christ to die, and prosecutes such a design with respect to no other, most strictly speaking; for it is impossible, that God should prosecute any other design than only such as he has. He certainly does not, in the highest propriety and strictness of speech, pursue a design that he has not. And, indeed, such a particularity and limitation of redemption will as infallibly follow, from the doctrine of God’s foreknowledge, as from that of the decree. For it is as impossible, in strictness of speech, that God should prosecute a design, or aim at a thing, which he at the same time most perfectly knows will not be accomplished, as that he should use endeavors for that which is beside his decree.
By the things which have been proved, are obviated some of the main objections against the doctrine of the infallible and necessary perseverance of saints, and some of the main foundations of this doctrine are established. The main prejudices of Arminians against this doctrine seem to be these; they suppose such a necessary, infallible perseverance to be repugnant to the freedom of the will. That it must be owing to man’s own self-determining power he first becomes virtuous and holy. And so, in like manner, it must be left a thing contingent, to be determined by the same freedom of will, whether he will persevere in virtue and holiness. And that otherwise his continuing steadfast in faith and obedience would not be his virtue, or at all praiseworthy and rewardable; nor could his perseverance be properly the matter of divine commands, counsels, and promises, nor his apostasy be properly threatened, and men warned against it. Whereas, we find all these things in Scripture: there we find steadfastness and perseverance in true Christianity, represented as the virtue of the saints, spoken of as praiseworthy in them, and glorious rewards promised to it. And also find, that God makes it the subject of his commands, counsels, and promises; and the contrary, of threatenings and warnings. But the foundation of these objections has been removed, by showing that moral necessity and infallible certainty of events is not inconsistent with these things. That, as to freedom of will, lying in the power of the will to determine itself, there neither is any such thing, nor is there any need of it, in order to virtue, reward, commands, counsels, etc.
And as the doctrines of efficacious grace and absolute election do certainly follow from the things proved in the preceding discourse; so some of the main foundations of the doctrine of perseverance, are thereby established. If the beginning of true faith and holiness, and a man becoming a true saint at first, does not depend on the self-determining power of the will, but on the determining efficacious grace of God; it may well be argued, that it is also with respect to men being continued saints, or persevering in faith and holiness. The conversion of a sinner being not owing to a man’s self-determination, but to God’s determination and eternal election, which is absolute, and depending on the sovereign will of God, and not on the free will of man; as is evident from what has been said. And it being very evident from the Scriptures, and the eternal election of saints to faith and holiness, is also an election of them to eternal salvation; hence their appointment to salvation must also be absolute, and not depending on their contingent, self-determining will. From all which it follows, that it is absolutely fixed in God’s decree, that all true saints shall persevere to actual eternal salvation.
But I must leave all these things to the consideration of the impartial reader; and when he has maturely weighed them, I would propose it to his consideration, whether many of the first reformers, and others that succeeded them, whom God in their day made the chief pillars of his church, and the greatest instruments of their deliverance from error and darkness, and of the support of the cause of piety among them, have not been injured, in the contempt with which they have been treated by many late writers, for their teaching and maintaining such doctrines as are commonly called Calvinistic. Indeed, some of these new writers, at the same time that they have represented the doctrines of these ancient and eminent divines, as in the highest degree ridiculous, and contrary to common sense, in an ostentation of a very generous charity, have allowed that they were honest well-meaning men. Yea, it may be some of them, as though it were in great condescension and compassion to them, have allowed, that they did pretty well for the day in which they lived, and considering the great disadvantages they labored under: when, at the same time, their manner of speaking has naturally and plainly suggested to the minds of their readers, that they were persons, who — through the lowness of their genius, and the greatness of the bigotry with which their minds were shackled, and their thoughts confined, living in the gloomy caves of superstition — fondly embraced, and demurely and zealously taught, the most absurd, silly, and monstrous opinions, worthy of the greatest contempt of gentlemen possessed of that noble and generous freedom of thought, which happily prevails in this age of light and inquiry. When, indeed, such is the case that we might, if so disposed, speak as big words as they, and on far better grounds. And really all the Arminians on earth might be challenged without arrogance or vanity, to make these principles of theirs, wherein they mainly differ from their fathers, whom they so much despise, consistent with common sense. Yea, and perhaps to produce any doctrine ever embraced by the blindest bigot of the church of Rome, or the most ignorant Mussulman, or extravagant enthusiast, that might be reduced to more demonstrable inconsistencies, and repugnancies to common sense, and to themselves; though their inconsistencies indeed may not lie so deep, or be so artfully veiled by a deceitful ambiguity of words, and an indeterminate signification of phrases. I will not deny, that these gentlemen, many of them, are men of great abilities, and have been helped to higher attainments in philosophy, than those ancient divines, and have done great service to the church of God in some respects. But I humbly conceive, that their differing from their fathers, with such magisterial assurance, in these points in divinity, must be owing to some other cause than superior wisdom.
It may also be worthy of consideration, whether the great alteration which has been made in the state of things in our nation, and some other parts of the Protestant world, in this and the past age, by exploding so generally Calvinistic doctrines — an alteration so often spoken of as worthy to be greatly rejoiced in by the friends of truth, learning, and virtue, as an instance of the great increase of light in the Christian church — be indeed a happy change, owing to any such cause as an increase of true knowledge and understanding in the things of religion; or whether there is not reason to fear, that it may be owing to some worse cause.
And I desire it may be considered, whether the boldness of some writers may not deserve to be reflected on, who have not scrupled to say, that if these and those things are true (which yet appear to be the demonstrable dictates of reason, as well as the certain dictates of the mouth of the Most High), then God is unjust, and cruel, and guilty of manifest deceit and double dealing, and the like. Yea, some have gone so far as confidently to assert, that if any book which pretends to be Scripture, teaches such doctrines, that alone is sufficient warrant for mankind to reject it, as what cannot be the world of God. Some, who have not gone so far, have said, that if the Scripture seems to teach any such doctrines, so contrary to reason, we are obliged to find out some other interpretation of those texts, where such doctrines seem to be exhibited. Others express themselves yet more modestly. They express a tenderness and religious fear, lest they should receive and teach anything that should seem to reflect on God’s moral character, or be a disparagement to his methods of administration, in his moral government; and therefore express themselves as not daring to embrace some doctrines, though they seem to be delivered in Scripture, according to the more obvious and natural construction of the words. But indeed it would show a truer modesty and humility, if they would more entirely rely on God’s wisdom and discernment, who knows infinitely better than we what is agreeable to his own perfections, and never intended to leave these matters to the decision of the wisdom and discernment of men; but by his own unerring instruction, to determine for us what the truth is; knowing how little our judgment is to be depended on, and how extremely prone vain and blind men are to err in such matters.
The truth of the case is, that if the Scripture plainly taught the opposite doctrines to those that are so much stumbled at, viz. The Arminian doctrine of free will, and others depending thereon, it would be the greatest of all difficulties that attend the Scriptures, incomparably greater than its containing any, even the most mysterious, of those doctrines of the first reformers, which our late freethinkers have so superciliously exploded. Indeed, it is a glorious argument of the divinity of the Holy Scriptures, that they teach such doctrines, which in one age and another, through the blindness of men’s minds, and strong prejudices of their hearts, are rejected, as most absurd and unreasonable, by the wise and great men of the world; which yet, when they are most carefully and strictly examined, appear to be exactly agreeable to the most demonstrable, certain, and natural dictates of reason. By such things, it appears that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men.” (1 Cor. 1:19, 20) “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; I will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” And as it was in time past, so probably it will be in time to come, as it is also written (1 Cor. 1:27-29). “But God hath chosen he foolish things of the world, to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence.”
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