« AnteriorContinuar »
and make themselves new hearts;' or, in other words, to cease to love themselves selfishly and supremely, and to begin to exercise that disinterested love to God, their fellow-creatures, and themselves, in wh* see the Loy
Rev. were ir ent, at
I can a thous are, an proprie meanin ing the
By : discussi ed by 1 which t context er teacl
show th sense, b rest mig being ui in order points o be in th languag after thi forth, ar should b ting as v shewn, i to a chil ask, WE ward an ask what vious me therefore meaning of the ba doing it. other ins move, tu than per thus or n
The w sages ouş we have tively to having th
controul of man, it is useless to call on him to have one different from that which he has. But the Bible represents men as blameable for their wrong wills; and it calls on them to have different ones. Both of these things no one pretends to dispute. This we deem a sufficient reason for understanding those passages of scripture which are susceptible of different meanings, in such a manner as to avoid contradicting those other passages whose signification is undisputed; and in such a manner too as to outrage that sense of justice which God himself has implanted in the bosom of every man. In speaking of the Infinity, we are too apt to apply language to him as we do to men. We should remember, that he is at the helm of the universe; that he upholds all things; and that, as he has Almighty power to cause or to restrain, and as all power to act comes from him, nothing transpires with which he is not immediately connected. An act committed under such circumstances, may, in one sense, be said to be done by him; for he permits it to be done in his own presence, and even sustains the powers by which it is done,and while it is doing.
Some contend, that this permission and assistance of the Creator are equivalent to causation. This I do not admit. But it is as near it as can be, and may therefore, by a very natural figure of speech, be called so; for, were an earthly sovereign thus to afford facilities to his subjects, and permit them to do things in his presence, it might with propriety be called his doing those things himself; and the only reason why it should not be said thus absolutely of God is, that he cannot, consistently with the accountability of man, interpose efficiently in the direction of the use of the powers with which he endues him. There may be cases in which men are given, over, and hurried on to destruction-men whose measure of iniquity is full; and it may be that Pharaoh and some others mentioned by Calvinist,” were some of them. But if it be admitted that God actually hardened their hearts after having thus passed their day of grace, this argues nothing in favour of the idea that he inclines men in general to evil; for men thus precipitated by a Divine impulse to destruction, are no more in a state of probation than are the damned. They are situated very differently from mankind in general; yea, differently from their former selves; and do therefore furnish no support to the doctrine, that God is the author of evil volition in general.
I admit that men are as meritorious for their goodness as angels are for theirs; but I admit no merit in either case. All the thanks belong to God. Were it not for his persevering grace, angels would undoubtedly become devils, as well as those who are now so. And if it be admitted that God confers reward on the good merely as a manifestation of his approbation of goodness, and not as a debt due from him to them; why, then, it follows, even on this ground, that the more goodness, the greater the approbation to be manifested towards it. Nor have I any objection to admitting, that eternal life itself is bestowed as a reward in this sense. But when we consider that it is the grace of God alone which makes them differ from the damned, and that if left to themselves, they too would be damned, I cannot think of admitting a reward, in the full and common sense of the term; nor do I consider such an idea a scriptural one.
I see no cause, Rev. Sir, for changing the position by, me assumed, viz, that choosing is making or causing choice.
This is agreeable to the usage of language. For instance, to write is to make or cause the existence of a piece of writing. I cause this communication to exist--and that as much as God causes any thing to exist which he does. I admit that he gives me the power to write; but I exercise the power myself, and actually create what I do. So er choice. God gives men the power to choose, but they exercise the power themselves; they choose with the power given to them; and to say that they choose, is neither more nor less than saying that they make or cause choice; in the same manner as to say that one writes, is the same as saying that he makes or causes writing. Now the question is, does a man choose? If he chooses, he makes or cars es choice. But why does he choose as he does ? Just as well ask, why does the Creator choose as he does? The reason of choice, and the causation of choice, are by no means the same. God causes bis choice, and man his, by the exercise of the same kind of faculties.Choosing is making choice; and therefore if they choose at all, they make or cause their choice. To say they do not cause their choice, is saying they do not choose. But it seems there is a “ground or reason” of the Creator's choice. Undoubtedly; and so is there of man's choice. It would be a strange thing indeed to choose without a reason for choosing. The reason of God's choosing as he does, is, because the way he chooses is the right way. With men, there are various reasons for their choice. The thief chooses to steal because he, by stealing, can get possession of something which he wantsBut both man and God do choose, and consequently make or cause choice; although both have reasons for making such choices as they do-bad reasons oft times on the part of man, to be sure; but reasons still. Reasons however do not choose, or, in other words, do not make or cause choice; nor do they compel the one who does choose, to choose as he does. It is the being that chooses. Man chooses-man makes or causes choice. If it be asked what it is in man that causes choice, whether the animal man,or the mental man, &c. I answer, it is whatever it is that chooses, and this is sufficient. If it be asked how it chooses, I refer every man to himself, for an answer. Let him watch the movements of his own spirit, and he will see how he chooses, or makes or causes choice. He will feel withio him a spontaneous impulse moving the animal man to action. But he will at the same time be conscious, that it is a motion of his own spirit, self-caused. Nor is this more strange than every thing else relating to spirit. The spirit of man in some respects is incomprehensible, as well as the Being in whose image it is created. Nor is it more of an argument against this spontaneous action of the spirit of man that it is incomprehensible, than the incomprehensibility of the Divine attributes is an argument against them.
Volition is not an attribute. It is not a faculty. It is a creation of the spirit for the time being. It is now the will of God that this world continue still longer in existence. But this will not always be his will. In due time, it will be bis will that it cease to exist;and when its existence shall have terminated, he will no longer exercise any will in relation to it. This shows that, although God always has the faculties to will, yet that these faculties, any more than man's,are not always in exercise in relation to the same things, there being no occasion for such an exercise; and consequently, that volition in him, as well as in man, begins and ends with the occasion. By this I do not mean to imply that God does not foreknow things, or that he has not a permanent design respecting them; or that, whenever occasion requires, he bas not a feeling of volition in relation to them; but I intend by this to shew, that volition is a temporary exercise, produced or allayed with the occasion of its existence -and consequently, that the volitions of the Deity are not like himself- from everlasting to everlasting-but that they are caused by himself: and therefore, that the objections which our opponents
urge to the causation of man's volition by himself, would interfere with regard to the volitions of the Deity.
I ask if all acts of God have not a beginning. And is not volition an act? No matter whether a physical, a mental or a moral one.4. There is no more propriety in arguing that this act of God is self-ex5?. istent and eternal, because he is, than that any other act of his is so I because he is. An act that is self-existent is no one's act-it is its 18 own. Hence it is contradictory to say that the will of God, which e is an act, is self-existent; is eternal. What! a self-existent act! an
act without an actor! an eternal act! an act without beginning !Contradictory indeed! It is, as I conceive, a great oversight, in placing an act of God on the same ground with his attributes. How
is it with the will with whose properties we are acquainted, viz. at man's? We do not find this existing continually like his attributes.
At one time, he bas a will in relation to a thing; at another, he has no will about it. The will is therefore not a component part of a being, but only a result; a production of the spirit.
In the course of our discussion, the proposition has been advanced, that God does not cause his own choice—that he has not a self-det'l termining power; but that his will is uncaused, self-existent, neces
sary and eternal. If then God has not a self-determining principle,
how is it making men like gods, to say that they have? And how is * it making them independent of God, to say that they choose of them
selves, when at the same time we admit, that it is in his power to suspend their power of choosing at any moment? Do not men work of themselves with the powers that God gives them? And are they therefore independent of God?
If volition in God is uncaused by him, and is necessary, how is he => an object of praise for the samc? To the will, blame or praise is at
tached; but not to existence, or knowledge, or power, or presence, or anything of the kind. The omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, self-existence, &c. of God, involve no moral considerations;whereas the Divine will does. Here then is an objection to the uncaused existence of that will which cannot be brought against the ancaused existence of the Deity and his attributes—an objection, which in my opinion, is sufficient, without any other, to explode the idea; for, if God has implanted in our bosom a just perception of right and wrong, we do know that there is neither moral goodness nor turpitude in necessity; and that no being can be praiseworthy or censurable for what exists of itself.
If volition in God can exist uncaused, and merely because there is a ground or reason for its existence, why cannot it exist thus in man? If necessity is the reason wbich God has within himself for the existence of his volitions, why may not necessity in man be the reason of the existence of his? And does not the Hopkinsian scheme make man's will necessary, and consequently immutable and eternal, according to the last reply to me?'
If natural power is all that is requisite in a moral agent to a voluntary exercise; and if no man is ever unable to have either a holy or a sinful volition; then he has the self-determining power for which I contend. Without this, it is as much out of the question to say that he is able to will, of himself, or able to will differently from what he does, as it would be to say of a water-wheel, that is still, it can go; or when set a going, it can go backwards; for if man has not the causation of his own will, it is physically impossible for him to have one different from that which he has. If God causes the volition of man to be as it is, and is determined that it sha
so, how can man prevent it? How can he have a different will? Can be
thwart the determination of God? Can he, in spite of God himself, have a will different from that which God endeavours to make bin have? If he can, is he not stronger than God? If he cannot, and is God does cause him to have such a will as he does, how is he ac. countable, and why is it not causing him to have a will against all his powers to have a different one? Power and capacity are different. A man may have a capacity to learn; but it may not be in his power to do it, because he may lack the means. I admit, that is man is caused even by the Creator to have an evil will, he has at the same time the capaciiy to bave a good one, though not the power.Herein do Hopkinsians confound words. They speak of power of ability to do so and so, when they mean only capacity; or else they do most egregiously outrage common sense, by saying in the same breath, that man is able to do differently from what Almighty God has determined he shall do, and contrary to his efficient movings upon him at the time!
Things are not certain because they are foreknown, but foreknowb because they are certain. They could not in the nature of things be foreknown unless they were certain; but they might be certain without being foreknown. Hence it is not admitted that mere fore. knowledge has any bearing at all on the subject of the necessity of things; because things would be just as sure without this foreknowledge as with it. Nor does mere certainty involve necessity. Things are certain because their causes will make them take place ; not necessary because they are certain. The doctrine of moral necessity, therefore, on the ground of fore-knowledge, or on that of certainty, is out of the question; and I again ask bow volition
, which is the result of necessity, whether in God or man, can be censurable or praise-worthy. It cannot be, if we have correct views of right and wrong ; nor do I believe any, how true soerer they may think the doctrine, can see how it can be so. True they say the blame consists in the intention's being evil. But how can it be termed morally evil, if it is absolutely necessary Up der such circumstances, an intention ought not to be called evil
, but should go by some other name, such, for instance as a throulcutting intention, &c. but it is a misnomer to term it a morally evil intention.
I would ask what bearing the independence and incompres hensibility of God has upon his will
, if he does not cause it himself It might as well be asked, Can there be action in anything but a piece of writing? as to ask this question in relation to your lition. Action consists in choosing, not in choice. It consists not in the choice itself, but in making the choice. A man's choice is not therefore active ; and hence it does not follow that it “ acts before it exists, and wills itself into being;" but that it is brought into being by that which wills, be it what it may ; and it is this that is to blame. as considered in relation to themselves; but the grace of God
I admit that saints have, strictly speaking, no moral goodness produces in them that which is good in its nature, towards which God can therefore with propriety manifest his approbation, it having been produced by himself, and therefore morally good in one point of view.
My last communication was written in great haste, by which not intend to. a man to cause his own choice, without choosing
The question was proposed, How is it possible for have it? The question which I took this to be, was this: How is
or willing to