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of excellence. Being under the influence of self-love, they see no loveliness but in proportion as he may subserve their happiness; hence the justice of God in the punishment of sin is kept out of view, and what are called his goodness and mercy (but which in fact are no other than connivance at sin, and indifference to the glory of his government) are exalted in its place. A Being thus qualified may be easily adored; it is not God however that is worshipped, but an imaginary being, created after the image of depraved men.
Crisp. “To know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent;' in other words, to know the true glory of the Law-giver and the Savior, seems to be of vast importance.
Gai. True; the former is absolutely necessary to the latter, and both to grace and peace being multiplied here, and our enjoyment of eternal life hereafter.
Crisp. Farewell, my dear Gaius; I hope I shall soon see you again.
DIALOGUE FIFTH, BETWEEN CRISPUS AND GAIUS.
ON THE FREE-AGENCY OF MAN.
Crispus. Our last conversation, on the moral character of God, has led me, my dear Gaius, to desire your thoughts on the nature of man, as a subject of moral government,
Gaius. This is, no doubt, a very interesting subject: As we all feel ourselves accountable beings, and must all give account of ourselves another day, it becomes us to know ourselves, and the nature of those powers with which the Creator hath invested us.
Crisp. Do you consider man as a free-agent?
Gaius. Certainly; to deny this, would be to deny that we are accountable to the God that made us. Necessarians and anti-necessarians have disputed wherein free-agency consists; but the thing itself is allowed on both sides.
Crisp. Suppose, then, I were to change the question; and ask, Wherein does free-agency consist?
Gai. I should answer, In the power of following one's inclination.
Crisp. And is it in our power, in all cases, to follow our inclination?
Gai. No: There are numberless instances in which we are obliged to act against inclination, and to forbear acting as we desire; but in these cases we are not accountable beings.
Crisp. Some have thought man to be a free-agent in natural things, but not as to things moral and spiritual.
Gai. This is the same as supposing him accountable only for those things in which there is neither good nor evil; and this, if true, would prove that we are not subjects of moral government, and shall never be called to give account of either good or evil. Besides, it is a fact that we as freely pursue our inclinations in spritual as in natural things; we as freely yield ourselves to he the servants of sin, or of God, as ever we chose to eat, drink, or walk.
Crisp. Then you think we are free-agents in all those matters which are inseparably connected with eternal salvation?
Gai. Certainly: If otherwise, we should be equally incapable of rejecting, as of accepting, the Gospel way of salyation.
Crish. And do you suppose we are free-agents, with respect to keeping or breaking the Divine law?
Gai. I do. We are only required to love God with all our strength, or to consecrate all our powers to his service, be they great or small.
Crisp. Why then do we not keep the law perfectly?
Gai. Because of the depravity of our hearts: If our heart or inclination was wholly on the side of God, we should feel no difficulty in keeping it; on the contrary, it would be our meat and drink.
Crisp. But if our hearts are depraved, and we are enslaved to sin, how can we be said to be free?
Gai. We cannot be morally free; but moral slavery, any more than moral liberty has nothing to do with free. agency; The reason is, in this case there is no force opposed to the agent's own will.
Crisp. I have often heard it asserted, that it does not signify whether the incapacity lies in the will, or in something opposed to the will; if we cannot do good, say they, we cannot, and in that case we are not free. agents.
Gai. Those, who speak thus of free-agency, must mean to include in it a freedom from the influence of motives; a power of acting with, or contrary to, the prevailing inclination; or, at least, a power to change the inclination.
Crisp. Yes; I have heard it observed, that it amounts to nothing to say we have the power of following the prevailing inclination, unless we have also the power of counteracting or changing it. VOL. III.
Gai. If, by amounting to ciothing, they mean that we are not hereby any more qualified to be our own deliverers from the thraldom of sin, than if we had no freeagency, but must be indebted wholly to sovereign and efficacious grace
for it, I admit the consequence. Little, however, as they make of this idea of free agency, I might reply, it is all that they themselves can conceive of, and all that can be ascribed to any being in heaven, earth, or hell.
Crisp. How does this appear?
Gai. No one can conceive of a power of voluntarily acting against the prevailing inclination; for the thing itself is a contradiction: And a power of changing it is not less absurd. If a person go about to change his prevailing inclination, he must be either involuntary, or voluntary, in so doing: If the former, this can be no exercise of free-agency; if the latter, he must have two opposite prevailing inclinations at the same time; which is a contradiction. And after all, he still does no more than follow his inclination; viz. his virtuous inclination, which he is supposed to possess, to have his vicious inclination changed. If freedom from the influence of motives, or power to change one's inclination, be essential to free-agency, the Divine Being himself is not free. God, as all must allow, possesses an immutable determination to do what is right, and cannot, in the least degree, or for a single moment, incline to the contrary. His conduct is necessarily and invariably expressive of the infinite rectitude of his heart. The same, in a degree, might be said of holy angels, and the spirits of the just men made perfect: So far from being free from the influence of motives, or having a power
to change the prevailing inclination of their hearts, those motives, which, by reason of the depravity of our natures, have but little effect upon us, have full influence upon them, and constantly determine them to the most ardent pursuit of righteousness.
Crisp. And yet you say they are free agents.
Gai. If God, angels, and saints, be not free agents; who are?
Crisp. But this is moral liberty.
Gai. True; but the same reasoning will wpply to moral slavery: If an unalterable bias of mind to do good does not destroy free agency; neither does an unalterable bias of mind to evil; Satan is as much a free agent as Gabriel, and as much accountable to God for all he does.
Crist. Some suppose man has lost his free-agency by the fall.
Gai. Say, rather, man has lost his moral rectitude by the fall. All that was entrusted in his hand was lost: But we might as well say he had lost his reason, his conscience, or his memory, as to say he had lost his freeagency; and this would be supposing him to have lost his intellectual nature, and to have become literally a brute.
Crisp. Wherein does your notion of free-agency differ from the Arminian notion of free-will?
Gai. The Arminian notion of free will is what I have all along been opposing: The one consists merely in the power of following our prevailing inclination; the other in a supposed power of acting contrary to it, or at least of changing it: The one predicates freedom of the man; the other of a faculty in man, which Mr. Locke, though an anti-necessarian, explodes as an absurdity: The one goes merely to render us accountable be