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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 prior in the order of nature to itself, and distinct from 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 ground or reason of the soul’s 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's determining its own acts, and for liberty of Will consisting in selfdetermining power ; they do nothing but confound themselves and others with words without meaning. In the question, What determines the Will: And in their answer, that the Will determines itself, and in all the dispute about it, it seems to be taken for granted, that something determines the Will ; and the controversy on this head is not, whether any thing at all determines it, or 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 abovementioned, then all comes to this, that 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 selfdetermining 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 selfdetermining power, Inor 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 causal influence and connexion, 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 about the freedom of Will, 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.
Whether any Event whatsoever, and Volition in particular, can come to pass without a Cause of its existence.
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 that respect, that they have truly the nature of a ground or reason why some things are, rather than others; or why they are as they are, rather than otherwise. Thus the absence of the sun in the night, is not the Cause of the falling of the dew at that time, in the same manner as its
beams are the Cause of the ascending of the vapors in the day time ; 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 connexion 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 in an agreeableness 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 connexion with their Cause. Having thus explained what I mean by Cause, I assert that nothing cver comes to pass without a Cause. What is selfexistent must be from eternity, and must be unchangeable;
but as to all things that begin to be, they are not selfexistent, 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 hath 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 mind of mankind 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 ceaseth, 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 selfexistent, 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 the nature of things simply considered, in supposing that there should be no God, or in denying Being in general, and supposing an eternal, absolute, universa? nothing; and therefore that here would be foundation of intuitive evidence that it cannot be ; and that eternal, infinite, most perfect Being must be ; if we had strength and comprehension of mind sufficient, to have a clear idea of general and universal Being, or, which is the same thing, of the infimite, eternal, most perfect Divine Nature and Essence. But then we should not properly come to the knowledge of the Being of God by arguing ; but 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 ; 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. i. 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 cternal power and Godhead.” We first ascend, and prove a fosteriori, 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 firiori.”
* 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 posterio; i, 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 confincid to the cristence of Deity, while the other