« PreviousContinue »
such a cause. This logical necessity is inconsistent with the dictum. Hence we have no alternative but to reject it: this at once unsettles the validity of all the reasoning based upon it; and the strong fortress of necessity against the mind's self-determination in the sense of causing volition falls to the ground.
It is not to be supposed, that an argument, which has so long and so faithfully served its masters, will be given up with. out some efforts to save its life. Dr. Edwards seeks to preserve the dictum, and at the same time erade the force of the last objection to it. He says, “ We maintain, that action may be the effect of a divine influence; or that it may be the effect of one or more second causes, the first of which is immediately produced by the Deity. Here there is not an infinite series of causes, but a very short series, which terminates in the Deity or first cause," p. 385. He stops the series and makes it a
very short series,” by resorting to the Deity as the first cause. Among finite causes you have a succession of causative acts, which stops short of infinite by terminating in the first cause. This is the argument.
A volume might be written in reply to this position. My remarks must be condensed, as much as possible. One of the following suppositions must be true,-viz., Either God is the cause of his own acts, or he is not the cause of them.
Let us then assume the first supposition to be true. God created the world by the causative act of creation. Is He the cause of the creating act ? We will suppose the answer to be in the affirmative. Let us then bring the dictum to bear on this phenomenon of the Divine inind,
-No cause can act and thus produce effects wilhout prior action. It follows, that this creating act needs a prior act to account for its existence; and this latter for the same reason needs another, and hence you have an infinite series of Divine acts causing each other, on the supposition that God is cause. The series so far from being a short one, when it reaches the Deity, enters upon a new theatre and there proceeds ad infinitum. If it be said, that the dictum is true of all second causes, but not of the first cause,-that God may cause without prior causative acts ;-I reply, that this is giving up the whole question ; it is disallowing the universal truth of the dictum. If the Deity be such a cause, may He not create another in this respect like Himself? If the conception of God as such a cause be no absurdity, then is the conception of man as such a cause no absurdity. We
have then a question, not of logic, whether any such cause can be, for one is admitted; but of psychology, whether man is such a cause, against the presumption of which no objection can be drawn a priori.
Let us examine the second supposition,—viz., that God is not the cause of his volitions or acts. If this be assumed, then they are caused by some other cause, or they are not caused at all. If we take the first supposition, we not only subject the Deity to fate, but involve that other cause in an infinite series. If we take the second, then we must say, that the Divine volitions or acts are uncaused they have no cause. Now which of these suppositions does Dr. Edwards adopt? He says,—“The divine volitions were no more caused, whether by God himself, or by any other cause, than the divine existence was,” p.
321. The series of causes is therefore not infinite, because it terminates in the uncuused and self-existent volitions or acts of the Deity. It is admitted, that this avoids an infinite series and preserves the dictum; but it removes one difficulty by involving another quite as fearful, - that the Divine volitions have no cause. On this I shall submit the following observations :
(1.) If it be admitted, that to say, that God causes his own acts, involves some philosophical difficulties as connected with Divine immutability, still the question may be asked, Does not the denial involve difficulties in another direction equally as great ? I think Dr. Edwards or any other man will see some serious difficulties along the path of denial. Suppose the difficulties of affirming or denying be just equal to each other, then this position of Dr. Edwards will at least be neutralized, and the question will stand, as it would, had the position never been presented.
(2.) Again, Dr. Edwards seems to have supposed, that the Divine volitions were uncaused, because he judged it inconsistent with Divine immutability, that God should cause them. This is the only reason he gives for the opinion. He allows, that the effects of divine acts take place in succession and time, but contends that with God there is no succession, in respect either to knowledge or acts. Now we propose this question : May not Dr. Edwards have assumed a view of Divine imenutability as true, which is inconsistent with the nature of intelligence, cause, or agency, finite or infinite? That, indeed, would be a strange hypothesis of Divine Immutability, which contradicts
the nature of God as an Intelligence and a Cause. It is an immutability of such an Intelligence and Cause, not one that is in. consistent with these ideas. Without pretending to fix the lines of demarcation, let us reason for a moment on this difficult point.
It will be granted, that the Divine knowledge is a knowledge of things as they are. To view a thing as existing, when in fact it did not exist, would be viewing things, not as they are, but as they are not. Did God know the world, as existing, before it did exist ? He knew it as about to exist in some future time, but certainly he did not know it as existing, when in fact it did not exist. This is not possible in the very nature of intelligence. To say, then, that there may be succession out of the Divine mind, but none in it, is a self-contradiction. Time, or duration, has the form of an infinite conception; in time, or duration, events occur; they occur in certain portions of time; they do not all occur in the same portions, but in different, and therefore they are necessarily successive, one before the other, not so merely in our view, but so in fact. This succession God knows when it is yet to be; this is foreknowledge. He knows it as it coines to pass ; this is present knowledge. Now to make the foreknowledge and the present knowledge the same acts of knowledge, is to say that the knowledge of a thing as yet to be, is the same as the knowledge of a thing as being,—it is to make both acts of knowledge contrary to each other and contrary to the fact. The doctrine of no succession in the Divine mind, but of “ an eternal now,” is pregnant with this absurdity: there is and must be in the very nature of things, some succession in the Divine acts of knowing, not that God is wiser at one time than another, for what may now be the subject of present knowledge, because now existing, was the subject of foreknowledge, when it was yet to exist; but still the act of present knowing is necessarily successive to that of foreknowing. Such succession is.involved in the very nature of intelligence, finite or infinite.
Now, to assume an hypothesis of the Divine immutability inconsistent with such succession, is to make immutability inconsistent with God's nature as a being of intelligence. May not Dr. Edwards have done this very thing in relation to the Deity as the cause of his own acts or volitions? It might be affirmed, that Deity is the cause of his own volitions, and Dr. Edwards might be challenged to show his immutability in any
sense, that is inconsistent with the truth of this proposition. If the Divine volitions be the efficiency which causes events, and if there be no succession in those volitions, how comes it to pass that there is an actual, not merely an apparent succession in the events? If there be succession in the volitions, then all the difficulty in supposing God to be their cause, as founded on immutability, is at once removed; for the supposition of any succession in the Divine mind presents as great a difficulty as that of his being the cause of his own acts.
(3.) Again, if God be not the cause of his own acts or volitions, then it will follow, that he is not the cause of any thing. If God be the cause of the world's existence, then He must be the cause of the creating act or acts; if He is not the cause of these, He certainly cannot be the cause of their sequences. How can Deity be the cause of the sequences of acts, when He is not the cause of the acts ? The thing is inconceivable. The acts cannot cause the sequences; and if Deity cause the sequences, it must be by causing the acts; but the acts are uncaused according to the supposition; therefore Deity is cause neither of the acts, nor of the sequents, nor of any thing else. If we adopt the hypothesis, we must carry along with it this logical consequence; it sweeps away Divine agency, and indeed all
agency from the universe. To reason from Divine immutability to the destruction of all Divine agency, is a most mighty march in logic.
(4.) Dr. Edwards himself abundantly denies his own hypothesis. He speaks of Deity as being influenced by reasons, and good reasons, for all his purposes and acts. This is the moral necessity to which the Deity is subject. What! the Deity influenced by reasons to acts and purposes, which are absolutely uncaused !-influenced to acts which have no cause, neither in, nor out of Himself! No man can state a greater paradox. To say nothing of the absurdity of calling acts self-existent and uncaused, it is manifestly impossible, that a being should be influenced to acts which have no cause. Influenced to what and for what?-Not to cause them, for this is inconsistent with the supposition. Indeed, neither Dr. Edwards, nor any one else, can write or speak on this subject without contradicting this hypothesis. When we speak of the purposes of God, the acts of God, etc., we must mean, if we mean any thing, that He is the cause of those purposes and acts. Upon any other hypothesis
the language of the Bible, as well as of men, on this subject must go for nothing.
To affirm therefore that God causes his own volitions and retain the dictum, is to involve an infinite series. To deny that He is the basis of his own volitions, is to involve a difficulty, between which and an infinite series there is little ground of choice. The only alternative is to abandon the dictum as a necessary conception applicable to cause. Dr. Edwards made a bold sweep in his effort to save it, but failed of success.
Some cause there must be, which does not cause by prior acts of causation.
1.--The Complete Duty of Man: or a System of Doctrinal and
Practical Christianity. By the Rev. Henry Venn, A. M., Rector of Yelling in Huntingdonshire in A. D. 1763. A New Edition, revised and corrected by Rev. H. Venn, B. D. of St. John's Holloway. New-York: American Tract Society. 1842. pp. 430.
This valuable work of practical theology first appeared in 1763, and since that time has passed through several editions. The author was an evangelical minister of the Church of Eng. land, whose labors were much blessed in the diffusion of wholesome views of truth, and in promoting among the younger ministry of the established church an evangelical standard of preaching and living. He rested from his useful labors after having served his Master in the ministry of the gospel for half a century. But a blessing remained behind in the publication of his 'Complete Duty of Man. Many a'wanderer has been recalled by it to the love and service of Christ; and now that it will go out extensively among the people through the
of the American Tract Society, we trust that many more will be led by it to the foot of the cross, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance.
The book is well adapted to popular reading, and treats in a plain style of --The Soul-God-Man—The Law-Faith in