Page images

ward, until truth is ascertained, or the impracticability of its knowledge shall be fully demonstrated. In itself the subject is one of great importance; it is a part of the philosophy of the human mind; in its relations to other branches of Truth, it is perhaps not less important. Let the discussion then proceed, begun, continued and ended, as a simple inquiry after truth.

On the one side of this question will be arranged the Dissertation of Dr. Edwards. Although dead, by the republication of his arguments he will yet speak. By many they will be regarded as conclusive ;-with all it is hoped that they will receive that attention and confidence, which are proportionate to their merit. In constructing a review of this Dissertation, our intention is not to follow in the exact sequence of chapter or title ; but to make a selection of points, ascertain the views of Dr. Edwards on these points, and aim to compare them with truth. To this undertaking the attention of the reader is now solicited.

1. The Statement of Moral Necessity.

Upon careful examination it will be found, that Dr. Edwards was by no means consistent with himself in his exposition of Moral Necessity. He gives not one, but three definitions, which are not identical. Let us proceed to confirm this proposition.

1. In the first place he defines it to be the previous certainty of the existence of moral actions. He says, “ But concerning my own meaning, I have a right to speak more. peremptorily, that I mean all necessity, or previous certainty of the volition or voluntary action of a rational being, whatever be the cause or influence, by which that necessity is established,” Vol. I. p. 305. “But moral necessity is the previous certainty of a moral action," p. 306. “For antecedent certainty of moral actions is all we mean by moral necessity,” p. 399. This definition he has repeated a great nurober of times in the course of his Dissertation. It prevails throughout his chapter on Foreknowledge. Here he assumes the foreknowledge of Deity, and reasons correctly in supposing that such knowledge of a future event implies the previous certainty of its existence. Moral necessity in this sense is fully established; no argument could be more conclusive. Moral necessity, then, is the simple affirmation of a fact, which may be demonstrated, as such, without any reference to its ground or cause. Foreknowledge proves this fact


and nothing more. What is the cause of this certainty, and indeed whether it have any cause, are points to be disposed of by other processes of reasoning. The argument which proves this simple certainty, terminates at this point, it does not necessarily decide the question of cause. Dr. Edwards does not claim this; he does not hold that foreknowledge causes the certainty; he concedes that it has no other than a logical connection with the certainty-e. g., it proves it. In this sense of Moral Necessity Dr. Edwards has no antagonist, not even in Dr. West himself.

2. In the second place he defines Moral Necessity, as the certainty of connection between moral actions and their cause or

“Moral necessity is the real and certain connection between some moral action and its cause," p. 306.

“ Moral necessity is the certain or necessary connection between moral causes and moral effects,” p. 300. This is a new definition, as contrasted with the former. The other was the certainty of the action ; this is the certainty of its connection with some cause. The first certainty is proved by foreknowledge; the second certainty, however true, is not proved by the same means. This kind of certainty is self-evident, for it is but a specification of the axiom, that for every event there must be some cause. This is not the place to inquire into the use of the word “connection" by Dr. Edwards ; whether he meant connection in the sense of certain antecedence, or in the true sense of cause. Upon either construction, he affirms nothing more than the general axiom of causality, as applied to a specific case.

specific case. Here again Dr. Edwards can have no antagonist in this sense of Moral Necessity; for surely no man would admit the certainty of an event and deny that it had a cause.

3. We proceed to the third exposition of Moral Necessity. It is the certainty of connection between volition as effects, and motives as their cause. He quotes the definition of President Edwards. It is “that necessity of connection and consequence, which arises from such moral causes, as the strength of inclination or motives, and the connection which there is, in many cases, between these and certain volitions and actions,” p. 299. “There is nothing in this inconsistent with the influence of motives on the will, to produce volition; or with the dependence of volition on some cause, extrinsic to itself, extrinsic to the power of will, or to the mind in which it exists. What if motives do excite to volition ?”p. 311. Much of Dr. Edwards's reasoning relates to necessity according to this construction.


[ocr errors]

It is important to observe, that in this sense, moral necessity is different froin either of the other two. In the first, we had certainty of existence;-in the second, certainty of connection; -in the third, we have the terms of this certain connection, e. g., volitions on the one hand, and motives as their cause on the other. The last, besides including the two former, defines the ground of the certainty. It is also important to notice, that the arguments, which establish'necessity in the two former senses, do not prove it in the latter; for to prove the certainty of a future event, and that it must have some cause, is not to prove what that cause is ;-not to tell why the event will or must be. It is true that Dr. Edwards says, that he does not regard motives as the efficient causes of volition ;~he equally denies that mind is the efficient cause; hence God must be the efficient cause, if there be any. His theory of the connection of motive and volition, will receive attention in its proper place. For the present, it is sufficient to say, that he speaks of motive as the cause of the certain existence of future volitions. This assumption lies in the third exposition of moral necessity. It is not peculiar to him; it was abundantly affirmed by President Edwards ; it has been the doctrine of every writer upon that side of the question.

Dr. Edwards is chargeable with having neither stated, nor argued moral necessity always in the same sense. The same is true of President Edwards. Sometimes they are defending necessity in the sense of simple certainty. This is the case especially with the first-mentioned writer in his chapter on foreknowledge, where he repeatedly asserts, that previous certainty of volitions is “all the necessity for which we plead.” This was not true; for at other times he pleads for necessity in the sense of the previous certainty of volitions, founded on the certainty of their connection with motives as causes. Here are two certainties, that are by no means identical; the first does not imply the second, neither is the latter proved by arguments which establish the former. His opponents do not deny necessity in all the above senses ;-it is only in the last sense, and in that branch of it, which makes motive the cause of volition. To prove necessity in any other sense, is to prove what nobody denied; the issue must be made on the disputed ground, or there is no issue.

Moral Necessity then, as a subject of debate between its adrocates and opponents, presents this proposition: that motive,

which, as it stands in the view of the mind, is the strongest," determines the will. This proposition being proved to be universally true, moral necessity is then proved as the true theory of the will. By determinins, the advocates of necessity define themselves to mean, “causing, that the acts of the will or choice should be thus, and not otherwise.” In proving this proposition, they must prove three other positions, viz., that the will or mind is determined—that it is determined by motive —and that it is determined by the strongest motive. In the execution of this work, they must fix on some correct standard of measuring the comparative strength of a motive, besides the fact of its prevalence; for this being taken as the rule of measurement, gives us nothing but an identical proposition. The evidence must go directly to the establishment of this proposition, the one in debate, and not some other. This sets aside the arguments from foreknowledge, unless it can be shown, that foreknowledge is not consistent with any other hypothesis of volition. Two methods of proof may be adopted. In the first place it may be psychological, which is an appeal to universal consciousness and experience. It may be logical, which is a deduction of the proposition in question from others, either previously proved or admitted. The advocates of necessity have taken their stand chiefly in the logical department. Here three or four syllogisms would contain a formal statement of their whole argument. It is of the following character, viz., that to deny the proposition of necessity, leaves no canse for volition ; or that it involves the absurdity of an infinite series of volitions; or that the invariableness of motive, as an antecedent, proves it to be the cause of volition; or that if motive be not the cause of volition, it cannot be previously certain, as proved by foreknowledge. These are the germs of as many syllogisms, which have been used on the one side, and replied to on the other. It is not proposed to examine the validity of this reasoning; my purpose having been to state the point to be proved, and designate the character of the argument, which has any appropriateness to the point. Had these things been always kept in view, the opponents in this discussion would have been confined to a much narrower field, and had less occasion to complain of mutual misunderstanding.

II. The two Necessities, Moral and Natural, distinguished.

It is admitted to be “a very plain dictate of common-sense, that natural necessity is wholly inconsistent with just praise or

blame.” Hence the advocates of Moral Necessity, at least many of them, have strenuously insisted on a distinction between the two systems of necessity. Dr. Edwards is among this number. The piety which prompts the effort, deserves our respect, whatever be the fate of the effort. Let us then attend to the lines of distinction, as drawn by the pen of Dr. Edwards. This will be best secured by obtaining his answer to the four following questions : e. g., In what sense does he use the term Natural Necessity ? In what sense does he use Moral Necessity, when making the distinction? What are the points of agreement, if any, which he admits? What are the points of distinction which he alleges ? It is proposed to obtain and examine his answer to these questions.

I. What is the conception which he gives us of natural or physical, necessity ?

He says “ Natural necessity is the connection between causes and effects, which are not of a moral nature," p. 300. He here consents, that it is a connection of causes and effects, but interposes a single negative qualification, e. g., neither the effect nor the cause is of a “moral nature.” By causes and effects of a “moral nature,” he means “some previous habitual disposition, or some motive exhibited to the understanding,” and inclination or volition of the soul or voluntary action.” In a note, p. 301, he is careful to say, “By inclination, disposition, or bias, I mean something distinct froin volition.” It must be confessed, that if nothing farther had been said of this kind of necessity, we should be left in great doubt as to its positive nature; we could tell very definitely what it is not; but our con. ception of what it is, would, at best, be very indeterminate.

The subject however is not left at this point. In allusion to the views of President Edwards, Dr. Edwards says,—“By natural necessity he explains himself to mean, 'such necessity as men are under, through the force of natural causes, as distinguished from what are called moral causes; such as habits and dispositions of heart, and moral motives and inducements, p. 299. This is certainly an advance upon the former definition. By “natural causes” he means all causes, but those of

a moral nature." By these causes the necessity is created. In reference to whom or what? This is answered by the fact, that it is “such necessity as men are under through the force of natural causes,” etc. Here both the causes and the subjects of the necessity are defined. And according to the principle stated, inen or voluntary beings are the only subjects of natural


« PreviousContinue »