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troversy 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 antece dent, 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 connection 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 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 connection with their Cause.

Having thus explained what I mean by Cause, I assert that nothing ever comes to pass without a Cause. What is self-existent must be from eternity, and must be unchangeable ; but as to all things that begin to be, they are not self-existent, and therefore must have some foundation of their existence without

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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 tlite being of God ceases: we argue lis 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 self-existent, and therefore must have a Cause. But if things, not in theroselves 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 Ilis 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, universal 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 infinite, 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 eternal power and Godhead.” We first ascend, and a posteriori

, 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 priori.*

* To the inquirer alter 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 posteriori

, a distinction of consid

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But if once this grand principle of common sense be given up, that what is not necessary in itself, must have a Cause; and we begin to maintain, that things may come into existence, and begin to be, which heretofore have not been, of themselves without any Cause; all our means of ascending in our arguing from the creature to the Creator, and all our evidence of the Being of God, is cut off at one blow. "In this case, we cannot prove that there is a God, either from the Being of the world, and the creatures in it, or from the manner of their being, their order, beauty and use. For if things may come into existence without any Cause at all, then they doubtless may without any Cause answerable to the effect. Our minds do alike naturally suppose and determine both these things; namely, that what begins to be has a Cause, and also that it has a Cause proportionable and agreeable to the effect. The same principle which leads us to determine, that there cannot be any thing coming to pass without a Cause, leads us to de termine that there cannot be more in the efiect than in the Cause. Yea, if once it should be allowed, that things may come to pass

without a Cause, we should not only have no proof of the Being of God, but we should be without evidence of the existence of any thing whatsoever, but our own immediately present ideas and consciousness. For we have no way to prove any thing else, but by arguing from effects to causes: from the ideas now immediately in view, we argue other things not immediately in view : from sensations now excited in us, we infer the existence of things without us, as the Causes of these sensations; and from the existence of these things, we argue other things, which they depend on, as effects on Causes. We infer the past existence of ourselves, or any thing else, by memory ; only as we argue, 'that the ideas, which are now in our minds, are the consequences of past ideas and sensations.—We immediately perceive nothing else but the ideas which are this moment extant in our minds.

We perceive or know other things only by means of these, as necessarily connected with others, and dependent on them. But if things may without Causes, all this necessary connection and dependence is dissolved, and so all means of our knowledge is gone. If there be no absurdity nor difficulty in supposing one thing to start out of non-existence into being, of itself without a Cause; then there is no absurdity nor difficulty in supposing the same of millions of millions. For nothing, or no difficulty' multiplied, still is nothing, or no difficulty, nothing multiplied by nothing, does not increase the sum.

And indeed, according to the hypothesis I am opposing, of the acts of the Will coming to pass without a Cause, it is the case in fact, that millions of millions of Events are continually coming into existence contingently, without any cause or reason why they do so, all over the world, every day and hour, through all ages. So it is in a constant succession, in


agent. This contingency, this efficient nothing, this effectual No Cause, is always ready at hand, to produce this sort of effects, as long as the agent exists, and as often as he has occasion.


erable 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 confined to the eristence of Deity, while the other is applicable to his perfections. By the argument a posteriori we rise from the effect to the cause, from the stream to the fountain, from what is posterior to what is prior; in other words, from what is contingent to what is absolute, from number to unity ; that is, from the manifestation of God to his eristence. By the argument a priori we descend from the cause to the effect, from ihe fountain to the stream, from what is prior to what is postenor ; that is, from the necessary existence of God we safely infer certain properties and perfections. To attempt a demonstration of the existence of a first cause, or the Being of God, a priori, would be most absurd ; for it would be an attempt :o prove a prior ground or cause of existence of a first cause ; or, that there is some cause before the very first. The argument a priori, therefore, is not npplicable to prove the divine eristence. For this end, the argument a posteriori alone is legitimate; and its conclusiveness rests on the axion, that there can be no effect without a cause." The absurdity of denying this axiom is abundantly demonstrated by our author.


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If it were so, that things only of one kind, viz., acts of the Will, seemed to come this to pass of themselves; but those of this sort in general came into being thus; and

it were an event that was continual, and that happened in a course, wherever were capable subjects of such events; this very thing would demonstrate that there was some Cause of them, which made such a difference between this Event

and others, and that they did not really happen contingently. For contingence bains' is blind, and does not pick and choose for a particular sort of events. Nothing

has no choice. This No Cause, which causes no existence, cannot cause the existence which comes to pass, to be of one particular sort only, distinguished from all others. Thus, that only one sort of matter drops out of the heavens, even water, and that this comes so often, so constantly and plentifully, all over

the world, in all ages, shows that there is some Cause or reason of the falling of to the water out of the heavens ; and that something besides mere contingence has a

hand in the matter.

If we should suppose nonentity to be about to bring forth; and things were coming into existence, without any Cause or antecedent, on which the existence, or kind, or manner of existence depends; or which could at all determine whether the things should be stones, or stars, or beasts, or angels, or human bodies, or souls

, or only some new motion or figure in natural bodies, or some new sensations in animals, or new ideas in the human understanding, or new volitions

in the Will; or any thing else of all the infinite number of possibles; then bij certainly it would not be expected, although many million of millions of things

are coming into existence in this manner, all over the face of the earth, that 23

they should all be only of one particular kind, and that it should be thus in all ( Hages, and that this sort of existences should never fail to come to pass where

there is room for them, or a subject capable of them, and that constantly, whenever there is occasion for them.

If any should imagine, there is something in the sort of Event that renders it possible for it to come into existence without a Cause, and should


that the free acts of the Will are existences of an exceeding different nature from other things; by reason of which they may come into existence without

any previous ground or reason of it, though other things cannot; if they make this objection in good earnest, it would be an evidence of their strangely forgetting themselves; for they would be giving an account of some ground of the existnce of a thing, when at the same time they would maintain there is no ground of its existence. Therefore I would observe, that the particular nature of existence

, be it ever so diverse from others, can lay no foundation for that thing's coming into existence without a Cause; because to suppose this, would be to suppose the particular nature of existence to be a thing prior to the existence; and so a thing which makes way for existence, with such a circumstance, namely , without a cause or reason of existence

. But that which in any respect for a thing's coming into being, or for any manner or circumstance of its first existence, must be prior to the existence. The distinguished nature of the effect, which is something belonging to the effect, cannot have influence backward, to act before it is. The peculiar nature of that thing called volition, can do nothing, can have no influence, while it is not. And afterwards it is too late for its influence; for then the thing has made sure of existence already,

So that it is indeed as repugnant to reason, to suppose that an act of the Will should come into existence without a Cause, as to suppose the human soul, or an angel, or the globe of the earth, or the whole universe, should come into existence without a Cause. And if once we allow, that such a sort of effect as

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a Volition may come to pass without a Cause, how do we know but that many other sorts of effects may do so too? It is not the particular kind of effect that makes the absurdity of supposing it has been without a Cause, but something which is common to all things that ever begin to be, viz., that they are not selfexistent, or necessary in the nature of things.


Whether Volition can arise without a Cause through the Activity of the Nature of

the Soul.

The author of the Essay on the Freedom of the Will in God and the Creatures, in answer to that objection against his doctrine of a self-determining power in the Will, (p. 68, 69,) “That nothing is, or comes to pass, without a sufficient reason why it is, and why it is in this manner rather than another," allows that it is thus in corporeal things, which are, properly and philosophically speaking, passive beings; but denies that it is thus in spirits, which are beings of an active nature, who have the spring of action within themselves, and can determine themselves. By which it is plainly supposed, that such an event as an‘act of the Will, may come to pass in a spirit, without a sufficient reason why it comes to pass, or why it is after this manner, rather than another; by reason of the activity of the nature of a spirit.—But certainly this author, in this matter; must be very unwary and inadvertent. For,

1. The objection or difficulty proposed by this author, seems to be forgotten in his answer or solution. The very difficulty, as he himself proposes it, is this: How an event can come to pass without a sufficient reason why it is, or why it is in this manner rather than another ? Instead of solving this difficulty, or answering this question with regard to Volition, as he proposes, he forgets himself, and answers another question quite diverse, and wholly inconsistent with this, viz., What is a sufficient reason why it is, and why it is in this manner rather than another? And he assigns the active being's own determination as the Cause, and a Cause sufhcient for the effect; and leaves all the difficulty unresolved, and the question unanswered, which yet returns, even, how the soul's own determination, which he speaks of, came to exist, and to be what it was without a Cause ? The activity of the soul may enable it to be the Cause of effects, but it does not at all enable or help it to be the subject of effects which have no Cause, which is the thing this author supposes concerning acts of the Will. Activity of nature will no more enable a being to produce effects, and determine the manner of their existence, within itself, without a Cause, than out of itself, in some other being. But if an active being should, through its activity, produce and determine an effect in some external object, how absurd would it be

that the effect was produced without a Cause ! 2. The question is not so much, how a spirit endowed with activity comes to act, as why it exerts such an act, and not another ; or why it acts with such a particular determination : if activity of nature be the Cause why a spirit (the soul of man for instance) acts, and does not lie still ; yet that alone is not the Cause why its action is thus and thus limited, directed and determined. Active nature is a general thing; it is an ability or tendency of nature to action, generally taken ; which may be a Cause why the soul acts as occasion or reason is given; but this alone cannot be a sufficient Cause why the soul exerts such a

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