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ly demonstrable; but how God operates on our minds in our free and voluntary exercises, we are equally unable to comprehend. There is, therefore, no more mystery in this doctrine; than in every object we see, or every sound we hear, or every breath we draw. The subject before us, may be involved in more difficulties than some other subjects, which have been less examined and controverted; but there is a wide differbetween difficulties and mysteries. Though we can never remove mysteries, yet we can sometimes remove difficulties. And when the difficulties are removed from a difficult subject, it then becomes plain and intelligible. Many points in Physic and Philosophy, which were once attended with great difficulties, are now become easy and familiar to the masters of those sciences. And nothing further is necessary to render the subject of man's dependence and activity level to every one's apprehension, than to remove the difficulties, with which it has been embarrassed, by the tongue and pen of controversy.
It may be proper to observe, once more, that none can suppose this doctrine to be inconsistent, because they have found it to be so, by their own experience. To believers we make the appeal. Did you ever feel the least inconsistency between activity and dependence? Did you ever perceive the divine agency to obstruct your own? Did you ever find your moral powers suspended in regeneration, in love to God, in repentance, in faith, or in any other holy affection? Were you ever conscious of being less able to grow in grace, and to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, because God wrought in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure? Should you all speak the language of your own experience upon this subject, we presume you would with one voice declare,
that the spirit of the Lord never destroyed, nor even obstructed, your liberty.
The question now returns, why is it so generally supposed, that man's activity and dependence are totally irreconcilable? I answer, this may be chiefly or wholly owing to the following reasons.
1. Some may suppose, that human dependence and activity cannot be reconciled, because they are unwilling to see the consistency of a doctrine, which throws them absolutely into the hands of God. The Apostle evidently suggests this idea, when he introduces a man disputing his dependence with his Maker. "Thou wilt then say unto me, why doth he yet find fault? for who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus?" Many choose to deny, that they are moral agents, rather than to own, that they are dependent agents, who are obliged to act under the controlling influence of the Supreme Being. They wish either to enjoy dependence without freedom, or freedom without dependence; and, therefore, they will not, if they can possibly help it, see that harmony between both, which places them in a situation so extremely interesting and hazardous.
2. Some may suppose, that dependence cannot be reconciled with activity, because they are conscious of being active, but not of being dependent. This is a strong hold, in which many intrench themselves, and feel entirely out of the reach of all arguments, in favor of a divine operation upon the hearts of moral agents. They appeal to common sense as an infallible proof, that men act freely and voluntarily, without feeling the least compulsion, or influence from the hand of God. It is undoubtedly true, that we are all conscious
of activity, and intuitively know that we are free moral agents. But to what does this dictate of common sense amount? Does it prove, that we are not dependent upon the Supreme Being for all our moral exercises? Most certainly it does not. For, supposing God does really work in us both to will and to do, we cannot be conscious of his agency, but only of our own, in willing and doing. Though in God we live, and move, and have our being; yet we are never con, scious of his almighty hand, which upholds us in existence, every moment. It is, indeed, as impossible that we should feel the operation of God upon our hearts, while he works in us both to will and to do, as it was, that Adam should have felt the forming hand of God, in his creation. If Adam, therefore, could not have proved, from his experience, that he was self-existent; we cannot prove, from our experience, that we are independent, in all our free and voluntary exertions. Hence our consciousness of moral freedom, is no evidence against our absolute dependence upon God, for all the inward motions and exercises of our hearts.
3. Many, by reasoning unjustly on this subject, persuade themselves, that they cannot act, while they are acted upon. They reason from matter to mind, which is by no means conclusive. Since matter is incapable of acting, while it is acted upon, they conclude the mind must also be incapable of acting, while it is acted upon. They suppose, if we are as dependent upon God for all our voluntary exercises, as a clock or watch is dependent upon weights or springs for all its motions; then we are as incapable of moral agency, as these or any other mere machines. But the fallacy of this mode of reasoning may be easily exposed. The fallacy lies here. It takes for granted, that the only reason, why a clock, or a watch, or any other machine,
is not a moral agent, is simply because it is acted upon, or depends upon some power out of itself for all its motions. But is this true? Let us make the trial. Suppose a clock, which has hitherto been dependent, and moved by weights and wheels, should this moment become independent, and move of itself. Is this clock, now, any more a moral agent, than it was before? Are its motions, now, any more moral exercises, or any more worthy of praise or blame, than they were before? by no means. But why not? Because, notwithstanding it is, now, independent, and moves of itself; yet being still matter and not mind, it moves without perception, reason, conscience, and volition, which are attributes essential to a moral agent. The reason, why a clock, or watch, or any other machine is incapable of moral agency, is not because it is either dependent, or independent; but simply because it is senseless matter, and totally destitute of all the principles of moral action. As neither dependence nor independence can make a machine a mind; so neither dependence nor independence can make a mind a machine. It is impertinent, therefore, to reason from matter to mind, upon this subject. Our dependence on the Deity cannot deprive us of moral freedom, unless it deprives us of our moral powers. If God, while working in us both to will and to do, only leaves us in possession of understanding, conscience, and volition; then he leaves us in full possession of moral agency, which must necessarily continue, as long as these intellectual and moral powers remain. Indeed, there is nothing, in the whole circle of created objects, which affords any argument to prove, that man's dependence destroys his moral agency. There is no argument to be drawn from material objects to prove this; because they are entirely destitute of all mental
properties. And there is no argument to be drawn from intelligent objects to prove this; because there is no species of intelligent creatures that we are acquainted with, who are less dependent on God for all their mental exercises, than we are. Hence it appears to be absolutely impossible for any to prove, that human dependence and activity are inconsistent with each other. But I must observe once more,
4. That some involve themselves in confusion, by reasoning too far upon this subject. They carry Reason out of its province, and employ it in deciding that, which it has no power nor authority to decide. Many complain, that they have often attempted to reconcile dependence with activity, but after all their efforts, have been obliged to give up the subject, as surpassing the reach of their comprehension. And to keep themselves in countenance, they bring in Mr. Locke, that oracle of reason, who ingeniously owns, that he could never reconcile prescience in the Deity with human liberty; or, in other words, man's dependence with moral freedom. This, however, will not appear strange, if we consider, that it belongs not to the office of Reason, to reconcile these two points. Though activity, and dependence are perfectly consistent, yet they are totally distinct; and of course fall under the notice of distinct faculties of the mind. Dependence falls under the cognizance of reason; but activity falls under the cognizance of common sense. It is the part of reason to demonstrate our dependence upon God, in whom we live, and move, and have our being. But it is the part of common sense to afford us an intuitive knowledge of our activity and moral freedom. We must, therefore, consult both reason and common sense, in order to discover the consistency between açtivity and dependence.