« PreviousContinue »
that such a tendency is truly to be charged on the contrary doctrine : inasmuch as the notion of contingence which their doctrine implies in its certain consequences, overthrows all connection in every degree, between endeavour and event, means and end.
And besides, if many other things, which have been observed to belong to the Arminian doctrine, or to be plain consequences of it, be considered, there will appear just reason to suppose, that it is that which must rather tend to licentious. ness, Their doctrine excuses all evil inclinations, which men find to be natural; because, in such inclinations, they are not self-determined, as such inclinations are not owing to any choice or determination of their own wills. Which leads men wholly to justify themselves in all their wicked actions, so far as natural inclination has had a hand in determining their wills to the commission of them. Yea, these notions, which suppose moral necessity and inability to be inconsistent with blame or moral obligation, will directly lead men to justify the vilest acts and practices, from the strength of their wicked inclinations of all sorts ; strong inclinations inducing a moral necessity; yea, to excuse every degree of evil inclination, so far as this has evidently prevailed, and been the thing which has deter. mined their wills: because, so far as antecedent inclination determined the will, so far the will was without liberty of indifference and self-determination. Which, at last, will come to this, that men will justify themselves in all the wickedness they commit. It has been observed already, that this scheme of things exceedingly diminishes the guilt of sin, and the difference between the greatest and smallest offences ;* and if it be pursued in its real consequences, it leaves room for no such thing as either virtue or vice, blame or praise, in the world.
And again, how naturally does this notion of the sovereign self-determining power of the will, in all things virtuous or vicious, and whatsoever deserves either reward or punishment, tend to encourage men to put off the work of religion and virtue, and turning from sin to God; since they have a sovereign power to determine themselves, just when they please; or if not, they are wholly excusable in going on in sin, because of their inability to do any other.
If it should be said, that the tendency of this doctrine of necessity to licentiousness appears, by the improvement many at this day actually make of it, to justify themselves in their dissolute courses ; I will not deny that some men do unreasonably abuse this doctrine, as they do many other things
* Part III. Sect. VI.
| Part III. Sect. VI. Ibid. Sect. VII. Part IV. Sect. I. Part III. Sect. III, Corol. 1. after the first head. VOL. II,
which are true and excellent in their own nature; but I deny, that this proves the doctrine itself has any tendency to licentiousness. I think the tendency of doctrines, by what now appears in the world, and in our nation in particular, may much more justly be argued from the general effect which has been seen to attend the prevailing of the principles of Arminians, and the contrary principles; as both have had their turn of general prevalence in our nation. If it be indeed, as is pretended, that Calvinistic doctrines undermine the very foundation of all religion and morality, and enervate and disannul all rational motives to holy and virtuous practice; and that the contrary doctrines give the inducements to virtue and goodness their proper force, and exhibit religion in a rational light, tending to recommend it to the reason of mankind, and enforce it in a manner that is agreeable to their natural notions of things:
if it be thus, it is remarkable, that virtue and religious practice should prevail most, when the former doctrines, so inconsistent with it, prevailed almost universally: and that ever since the latter doctrines, so happily agreeing with it, and of so proper and excellent a tendency to promote it, have been gradually prevailing, vice, profaneness, luxury and wickedness of all sorts, and contempt of all religion, and of every kind of seriousness and strictness of conversation, should proportionably prevail ; and that these things thould thus accompany one another, and rise and prevail one with another, now for a whole age together! It is remarkable, that this happy remedy (discovered by the free enquiries, and superior sense and wisdom of this age) against the pernicious effects of Calvinism, so inconsistent with religion, and tending so much to banish all virtue from the earth, should, on so long a trial, be attended with no good effect; but that the consequence should be the reverse of amendment; that in proportion as the remedy takes place, and is thoroughly applied, so the disease should prevail; and the very same dismal effect take place, to the highest degree, which Calvinistic doctrines are supposed to have so great a tendency to ; even the banishing of religion and virtue, and the prevailing of unbounded licentiousness of manners! If these things are truly so, they are very remarkable, and matter of very curious speculation,
Concerning that Objection against the Reasoning, by which the
Calvinistic doctrine is supposed, that it is metaphysical and abstruse.
And it is pos
It has often been objected against the defenders of Calvinistic principles, that in their reasonings they run into nice scholastic distinctions, and abstruse metaphysical subtilties, and set these in opposition to common sense. sible, that after the former manner, it may be alledged against the Reasoning by which I have endeavoured to confute the Arminian scheme of liberty and moral agency, that it is very abstracted and metaphysical. Concerning this, I would observe the following things :
1. If that be made an objection against the foregoing reasoning, that it is metaphysical, or may properly be reduced to the science of metaphysics, it is a very impertinent objection ; whether it be so or no, is not worthy of any dispute or controversy. If the reasoning be good, it is as frivolous to enquire what science it is properly reduced to, as what language it is delivered in : and for a man to go about to confute the arguments of his opponent, by telling him, his arguments are metaphysical, would be as weak as to tell him, his arguments could not be substantial, because they were written in French or Latin. The question is not, whether what is said be metaphysics, physics, logic, or mathematics, Latin, French, English, or Mohawk ? But whether the Reasoning be good, and the arguments truly conclusive? The foregoing arguments are no more metaphysical, than those which we use against the Papists, to disprove their doctrine of transubstantiation ; alledging it is inconsistent with the notion of corporeal identity, that it should be in ten thousand places at the same time. It is by metaphysical arguments only we are able to prove, that the rational soul is not corporeal, that lead or sand cannot think ; that thoughts are not square or round, or do not weigh a pound. The arguments by which we prove the being of God, if handled closely and distinctly, so as to shew their clear and demonstrative evidence, must be metaphysically treated. It is by metaphysics only that we can demonstrate, that God is not limited to a place, or is not mutable; that he is not ignorant, or forget. ful; that it is impossible for him to lie, or be unjust; and that there is one God only, and not hundreds or thousands. And, indeed, we have no strict demonstration of any thing, excepting mathematical truths, but by metaphysics. We can have no proof that is properly demonstrative of any one proposition, relating to the being and nature of God, his creation of the world, the dependence of all things on him, the nature of bodies or spirits, the nature of our own souls, or any of the great truths of morality and natural religion, but what is metaphysical. I am willing my arguments should be brought to the test of the strictest and justest reason, and that a clear, distinct, and determinate meaning of the terms I use, should be insisted on; but let not the whole be rejected, as if all were confuted, by fixing on it the epithet metaphysical.
II. If the reasoning which has been made use of, be in some sense metaphysical, it will not follow that therefore it must need be abstruse, unintelligible, and akin to the jargon of the schools. I humbly conceive the foregoing reasoning, at least to those things which are most material belonging to it, depends on no abstruse definitions, or distinctions, or terms without a meaning, or of very ambiguous and undetermined signification, or any points of such abstraction and subtilty, as tends to involve the attentive understanding in clouds and darkness. There is no high degree of refinement and abstruse speculation in determining that a thing is not before it is, and so cannot be the cause of itself; or that the first act of free choice, has not another act of free choice going before that to excite or direct it; or in determining that no choice is made while the mind remains in a state of absolute indifference; that preference and equilibrium never co-exist ; and that therefore no choice is made in a state of liberty, consisting in indifference: and that so far as the will is determined by motives, exhibiting and operating previous to the act of the will, so far it is not determined by the act of the will itself; that nothing can begin to be, which before was not, without a cause, or some antecedent ground or reason, why it then begins to be ; that effects depend on their causes, and are connected with them; that virtue is not the worse, nor sin the better, for the strength of inclination, with which it is practised, and the difficulty which thence arises of doing otherwise ; that when it is already infallibly known that the thing will be, it is not contingent whether it will ever be or no; or that it can be truly said, notwithstanding, that it is not neces. sary it should be, but it either may be, or may not be. And the like might be observed of many other things which belong to the foregoing reasoning.
If any shall still stand to it, that the foregoing reasoning is nothing but mere metaphysical sophistry: and that it must be so, that the seeming force of the arguments all depends on some fallacy, and while that is hid in the obscurity, which always attends a great degree of metaphysical abstraction and refinement; and shall be ready to say, “Here is indeed something tends to confound the mind, but not to satisfy it : for who can ever be truly satisfied in it, that men are fitly blamed or commended, punished or rewarded for those volitions which are not from themselves, and of whose existence they are not the causes. Men
refine, as much as they please, and advance the abstract notions, and make ut a thousand seeming contradictions, to puzzle our understandings; yet there can be no satisfaction in such doctrine as this : the natural sense of the mind of man will always resist it.* I hum. bly conceive, that such an objector, if he has capacity, and humility, and calmness of spirit sufficient, impartially and thoroughly to examine himself, wiil find that he knows not really what he would be at; and indeed, his difficulty is nothing but a mere prejudice, from an inadvertent custoinary
* A certain noted author of the present age says, the arguments for necessity are nothing but quibbling, or logomachy, using words without a meaning, or begging the question. -1 do not know what kind of necessity any authors to whom he may have reference, are advocates for; or whether they have managed their arguments well or ill. As to the arguments I have made use of, if they are quibbles they may be shewn to be so: such knots are capable of being untied, and the trick and cheat may be detected and plainly laid open. If this be fairly done, with respect to the grounds and reasons I have relied upon, I shall have just occasion, for the future, to be silent, if not to be ashamed of my argumentations. I am willing my proofs should be thoroughly examined ; and if there be nothing but begging the question, or mere logomachy, or dispute of words, let it be made manifest, and shewn how the seeming strength of the argument depends on my using words without a meaning, or arises from the ambiguity of terms, or my making use of words in an indeterminate and unsteady manner; and that the weight of my reasons rest mainly on such a foundation and then I shall either be ready to retract what I have urged, and thank the man that has done the kind part, or shall be justly exposed for my obstinacy.
The same author is abundant in appealing, in this affair, from what he calls logo-nachy and sophistry, to experience.- A person can experience only what passes in his own mind. But yet, as we may well suppose, that all men have the same human faculties ; so a man may well argue from his own experience to that of others, in things that shew the nature of these faculties, and the manner of their operation. But then one has as good a right to alledge his experience as another. As to my own experience, I find, that in innumerable things I can do as I will ; that the motions of my body, in many respects, instantaneously follow the acts of my will concerning those motions; and that my will has some command of my thoughts; and that the acts of my will are my own, i, e. that they are acts of my will, the volitions of my own mind; or, in other words, that what I will, I will ; which, I presume, is the sum of what others experience in this affair But as to finding, by experience, that my will is originally determined by itself; or that, my will first choosing what volition there shall be, the chosen volition accordingly follows; and that this is the first rise of the determination of my will in any affair; or that any volition arises in my mind contingently; I declare, I know nothing in myself, by experience, of this nature, and nothing that ever I experienced, carries the least appearance or shadow of any such thing, or gives me any more reason to suppose or suspect any such thing, than to suppose that my volitions existed twenty years before they existed. It is true, I find myself possessed of ry volitions before I can see the effectual power of any cause to produce them, for the power and efficacy of the cause is not seen but by the effect, and this, for ought I know, may make some imagine that volition has no cause, or that it produces itself. But I have no more reason from hence to determine any such thing, than I have to determine that I gave myself my own being, or that I came into being accidentally without a cause, because I first found myself possessed of being before I had knowledge of a cause of my being.