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of greater weight? Or would it be a better law of the mind, that we should study variety in this matter, and should sometimes choose according to what we consider the strong. est motive or the most powerful reason,-sometimes, according to what we consider a weaker motive; and sometimes, for the sake of variety, and to display our unshackled inherent power, according to what really appears to us the weakest motive of all ?---When you wish, in any case, to know what to choose, would you think it proper to delibcrate, at one time, in order to ascertain what is the strongest reason or motive, so that you might choose according to that ; at another time, to hit upon a reason or motive of infes rior force, so that you might choose according to that; and at another time, to get at a reason or motive the weakest of all, so that you might evince your unfettered freedom by choosing according to that? Can you recollect any instance in your past life, in which you did really choose and act in accordance with a motive which appeared to you to be, on the whole, of less weight, than another motive which you rejected ?. And if any one should presume to charge yoų with acting on this principle, and with habitually preferring what you regarded as a less reason or motive to what you regarded as a greater ; would you not look at him with astonishment, and ask him, whether he really thought that a rational being could act so preposterously? Or if it should in fact be found, that you have a habit of acting, occasionally at least, in this way, methinks your friends would be very much perplexed. For if at any time they would induce you to determine upon a particular course, how would they know, whether they could best succeed by urging the strongest reason, or the weakest?l
s, .ino's After all perhaps it is not the particular object of the author to maintain, that any man does actually reject what seems to him, on the whole, the strongest reason, and actually choose according to what he regards as the weaker reason ; but that a free agent has power to do so. It may possibly appear, on careful inquiry, that there is much less difference in the ideas of men on this point, than in their words. Without stopping however, to examine this, I would inquire, whether the author is certain, that it is not a law of our rational nature, that we should choose and act in accordance with what appears to us the highest reason, or the strongest motive? If it should at last become evident, that this is a law of our rational nature ; then a power to choose and act contrary to this, would be a power to subvert the very constitution of the mind, and to divest ourselves of our rationality. Can any one think that we have such a power ; or that such a power, if it could exist, would be desirable ? In my judgment, the constitution or law of the mind, for which Edwards contends, is only that constitution or law, which makes us rational beings, and makes us so permanently.
But to proceed with the point before us, although the author holds that the strongest motive cannot be the antecedent of volition invariably without destroying free agency ; he allows that it may be so occasionally. There are many passages in the Essay which plainly imply that, in the author's opinion, a free agent may choose once, and again, yea very frequently, according to the strongest motive. All that he denies is, that we can do it constantly, and yet be free. But if we can choose once, and twice, and frequently in this way, consistently with free agency, it proves clearly, that there is nothing in the nature of such a choice, which interferes with our freedom. If there were any thing in the nature and circumstances of such a choice inconsistent with free agency; then we could never, in any instance choose in this way, without setting aside our freedom. And, what would seem very strange, we should according to this, be obliged, in order to be free, to choose always according to the weaker motive ; that is, the weaker motive must be the invariable antecedent of volition. But I suppose that the author would think, such an invariable antecedent as this would interfere with freedom as much as any other. He insists that there can be no invariable antecedent of volition consistently with freedom ; that volition must sometimes follow motives of one kind, and one degree of strength, and sometimes of another kind, and another degree of strength. Certainly then it may sometimes, yea, frequently, follow the strongest motive. Indeed, according to the author's opinion, following the strongest motive ever so often, will not hurt our free agency, unless we do it invariably. Now I ask the question, and wish it may be fairly answered: If our choosing according to the strongest motive to-day and to-morrow will not take away our freedom ; why should it take away our free. dom to choose in this way the next day and the next following? If we may, consistently with our free agency, choose according to the strongest motive, two-thirds or three-fourths of the time, what is there inconsistent with free agency, in choosing in exactly the same way the rest of the time? If a part, even the greater part of our volitions may consistently be put forth in this manner; why not all of them? Will the author look into this matter with some special care ?
But I have a little more to suggest on this point. Suppose that a free moral agent is completely in a right state of mind ; that he judges correctly respecting all the objects of affection ; that his desires in every case correspond with the truth, and that he forms a just estimate of The comparative weight of the motives presented before him. Such a man, the author expressly declares, will uniformly govern his choice by the strongest motive. He says (p. 394) that, “in all cases where the strongest desire coincides with the decisions of the judgment,--the mind chooses to gratify the strongest desire.” That is, in all cases where the disposition and habits are right, a moral agent chooses in con. formity with the strongest desire or motive. The strongest motive, in a!l such cases, is the invariable antecedent of volition. But this invariable antecedence is a fearful thing, and is proof of a “producing cause;" and a “producing cause" overthrows free agency, and constitutes Fatalism. Now as Jesus Christ was perfectly holy ;-as his strongest desire always coincided with the decisions of judgment ; he always chose according to the strongest motive. Here, then, was that invariable antecedence of the strongest motive, “ that invariable rule of volition,” which is proof of a producing cause; and a producing cause takes away freedom. If, then, the scheme of the author is true, our Saviour was not a free agent, but acted under the influence of Fatalism. And as all the angels in heaven conform to this rule, they, too, are all destitute of freedom. And inasmuch as Christians in this life conform to the same rule in proportion as they are holy; in the same proportion must their free agency be impaired. And when they become perfectly holy, they will invariably choose according to the strongest motive, and of course will lose all their freedom.
Such is the author's theory; and such the assistance which he very candidly affords us in exposing it. If the theory were true, what an alarming influence it would have!
See to what an extent it would sweep away the free agency of free agents! As the strongest desire or motive is the invariable antecedent of volition with all perfectly holy beings, and as this cannot consist with free agency ; Christ, and the innumerable multitude of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect, are all entirely destitute of freedom. Christians are all so in a degree, and will be so wholly by and by. Moreover, as the author allows that all men sometimes choose according to the strongest motive; how can he avoid the conclusion that, so far as they do this, they are all deprived of free agency ? And he farther says, that with all men motive of some sort is the invariable ante. cedent of volition ; which invariable antecedence of motive is proof of a producing cause, and this sets aside free agency. Where then, in heaven or earth shall we look for free moral agents? Or if any remain, we see how easy it is for them to rid themselves of their freedom, by becoming holy, that is, by bringing their desires to coincide with the decisions of judgment, so that they may constantly choose and act according to the strongest motive.
The consequences of adopting the theory of moral agency set forth in the Essay, are fearful, in proportion 1,0 the im. portance of the principles which it tends to undermine.
The theory implies, that a free moral agent must be free not only from force or coercion, but also from any invariable rule of action. It assumes that the invariable antecedence of the strongest desire or motive to volition is irreconcileable with free agency. If we are influenced in our volitions in this invariable manner,-if the choices, which the mind, as the agent, makes, are constantly dependent on antecedent causes; it follows, as the author of the Essay thinks, that those antecedent causes are “producing" efficient causes, and that our choosing according to them is a law of our nature, fixed by the Creator ; and of course, that we have no power to put forth volitions in a different manner, as this would be contrary to a law of our nature. And if we have no power to choose and act differently, we are under al necessity of choosing and acting as we do ; and this he says is Fatalism, and precludes accountableness. This I suppose is the course of thought with all who adopt the principle of con-, tingent volition, as commonly understood. This principle has been sufficiently examined by Edwards, Day, and others.
SECOND SERIES, VOL. III. NO. 1. 24
It is manifest, that this principle of contingent volition is the basis of the philosophical theory of moral agency which is adopted by numbers at the present day, and substantially by our author. And see what a sweeping influence it has in his mind in regard to our emotions, desires, etc. These, he says, result from “ constitutional producing causes.” “ It is God who, by the constitution of the mind and the ordering of his providence, decides what desires shall exist.”. We cannot prevent them. The objects which awaken desire, are the causes of desire in such a sense, “ that no other effect could follow without a change in the nature of things.” Of course, the author regards our desires, emotions, etc., as in themselves, no part of free accountable agency. According to the principle of the Essay, (p. 399, 400,) all those affections, emotions and desires, which arise spontaneously in the mind in view of their appropriate objects, are excluded from the supervision of the moral law. For how can they belong to the catalogue of moral exercises, when they arise in the mind invariably in view of their proper objects, and do not wait for the bidding of the will ?
On this notion respecting our emotions and desires, which obviously results from the principles of the Essay, and which the author expressly maintains, I have a few remarks to offer.
My first and most important remark is, that it stands in direct and pulpable opposition to the authority of God's word. His law requires love, and forbids all those emotions and desires which are contrary to love. Love is doubtless an affection or emotion of the mind; and doubtless it arises in view of suitable objects; and, if the heart is right, arises invariably, when those objects are presented before it. Nothing is necessary to excite love in a holy mind but the sight of a holy object. And is not love to God a holy emotion ? The desire of the heart for God, for holiness, and for heaven,-is it not a holy desire ? And does it not arise spontaneously in the mind of a holy being, when those objects are presented to his view ? Even when the objects are brought before him without any previous design or thought of his, are not the same emotions excited ? Take also a moral agent of another character. Take a man who is unregenerate, and who has that carnal mind which is enmity against God. When such a one turns his attention