Page images

infinitely wise God could not possibly have influenced all mankind to continue in their obedience, as the elect angels have done, without destroying their liberty ? God will order

ridiculous must he appear who would attempt to disprove the fact of negative causation in moral science.

But how can we admit that there may be two co-existent causes in the same subject, one positive and the other pegative? We are obliged to admit it from a due consideration of stubborn facts. For what fact can be more plain, than that from the same agent may, and actually do proceed, effects, virtue and vice, which are diametrically opposite to each other? And surely such effects must proceed from opposite causes. If therefore virtue proceeds from a positive cause, as all must allow, vice must proceed from a pegative causality. This evidence is demonstrative. Yet, the inquisitive may ask, is there any phenomenon in the nature of things analogous to this? Though an answer to this question is not necessary to the end of establishing the fact, it may serve, er abundanti, for illustration. For this purpose, then, we may appeal to a mathematical line, which has positive length, with a negation of breadth ; and without this negative causality ao geometrical demonstration can be established, And the same may be said of a plane superficies, the boun. daries of which are lines. Thus a negative causality enters into every geometrical demonstration, in conjunction with what is positive. But the reader should keep in mind that these instances are adduced for illustration, pot professed proofs of the doctrine. The latter is founded ou direct evidence from the very nature of God and that of a creature.

That a comparative defect is a negative cause, in the sense before ex, plained, is evident, when we consider (as before intimated) that in no creature can it be found without a comparative good, conjoined with it; and that in free agents this good, which consists chiefly in the natural intellect and will, is capable of opposite directions, one conformable to rectitude, and another opposed to it. Now, it is clearly impossible that these directions, one for the chief good, and the other against it, should proceed from the same cause, whether good or bad. The direction of the will toroards rectitude cannot be caused by defect, any more than something positive can proceed from nihility, Nor can the direction of the will against rectitude be caused by perfection of any kind or degree. But intellect and will in all beings, whether original or derived, are perfections, and therefore cannot be the cause of a direction against perfection; for then there would be a cause repugnant to itself, which is impossible. The wrong choice, therefore, which is a wrong direction of the will, must proceed from a negative cause ; for in causes there is no medium between positive and negative.

But though infinite perfection cannot be the cause of imperfection of any kind or degree, for reasons which have been already adduced, yet perfection affords occasion, an innocent occasion, for imperfection to shew itself, by way of contrast. Thus, if absolute perfection were to produce no creature, no occasion would be afforded for comparative imperfection to shew itself; and without the latter, moral evil would be impossible. The inference, therefore, is irrefragable, that moral evil originates from a negative causality, or that defect in the agent, which is the want of ulterior perfection. Yet here it may be proper to add, as of the utmost importance to be taken into the account, that though effects may proceed from negative causes, as well as from positive, and with equal certainty, yet there is this important difference ; the former is only hypothetical, the latter absolute, originally considered. The first cause is positive existence independent of will, and unconditional, and every other positive cause must emanate from the first will : but a negative cause, consisting in defect, cannot possibly take place, with respect to causality, but og conditions, viz. the condition of a created nature, and that of permission, in the explained sense of the word. A positive cause may counteract the tendency of a negative one, but not vice versa.

Hence is derived the proper notion of permitting moral evil to take place ; the negative cause is not hindered from taking effect, for reasons infinitely good and wise. But to represent this permission, or sufferance, as willing of

[ocr errors]

it so, that the saints and angels in heaven never will sin; and does it therefore follow, that their liberty is destroyed, and that they are not free, but forced in their actions ? does it follow,

decreeing the negative as well as the positive part of sin, is an infinite absurdity; for the sinfulness of an act being the direct opposite to infinite per. fection, such representation inakes infinite perfection to oppose itself. Thos all good, in every kind and degree-every quantum of created nature, from the greatest to the least, togetber with all positive and active causality-are from God." He is light,” knowledge, and purity, " and with him is no darkness at all,” no ignorance, po want of holidess. And thus also all moral evil proceeds from the offender, who is the subject at once of a quantum of derived, and therefore limited perfection, and of comparative defect. And these two things (perfection and defect) enter into the very posion of a created nature.

Is it necessary to say any thing more in confirmation of the general theorem, that there is in the human mind a negative causalily, from whence may flow a certainty of consequence? It may tend to the furiher satisfaction of the reader, if we advert to another argument founded on the nature of free will. The term “ will” designates a power of the mind which is positive and active ; but the term “ free,” connected with it, expresses a negative idea. For it expresses, when properly used, the absence of coercion and restraint, but in different respects. The complex idea of “ free will” is resolved into this plain proposition, the will is free ; that is, the will is not constrained in one respect, and is not restrained in another. It is neither decretively constrained to evil, por decretively restrained from good. No other freedom can be predicated of the will as ihe cause of moral effects. And it is as much a relative nothing as a mathematical point. We may therefore safely affirin, that among the countless millions of moral effects, which take place, not only among men but also in the created universe of free agents, there is not one but what is beholden to a negative causalily for its existence, in connection with what is positive, For, if freedom be excluded, no act can have a moral quality.

To conclude this note, which bas already exceeded the limits at first intended, we must observe once more, and it cannot be too strongly inculcated, that there is no case or circumstance in zohich moral evil might not be prevented by the supreme will, were it employed for that purpose. For as God is alle sufficient, and as his controul over his creatures, for their good, is absolute; his power to effect a prevention of moral evil is undoubted. Nor can there be any question that this power, in pursuance of divine decrees, does in fact, and in instances which to us are inconceivably numerous, counteract the tene dencies of negative causes to preyent moral evil. But if it be inquired, why in any instances it is permitted to take place, when God might with infinite ease prevent it? It is suficient here to say, that God is infinitely acise, as well as powerful, and equitable as well as benevolent. But a further aaswer to this inquiry would lead us to consider the ultimate reasons of moral government, or why a moral system is at all established; and the question has been already discussed in the first volume of this work, to which the țeader is referred.

[ocr errors]

COROLLARIÉS, 1. Negative causality, in connection with what is positive, is an essential principle of moral science. If either be excluded, we can have no clear and adequate idea of any moral act, much less a demonstration of its cause.

2. These two principles, relatively connected, furnish us with suflicient data, and the only sufficient ones, for a demonstrative solution of this problein, What is the origin of moral evil ?

3. In these principles we have the means of demonstrating the origio of all evil whatever, as well as of all good.

4. We may further infer, that Mr. Locke was not mistaken, when be said, “ I am bold to think, that morality is capable of demonstration, as well as mathematics." Essay, B. III. chap. xi. $ 16. And again, “ The idea of a Supreme Being, infinite in power, goodness, and wisdom, whose workmanship we are, and on whom we depend; and the idea of ourselves, as understanding,

[ocr errors]

that they are turned into blocks, as the Arminians say the Calvinists' doctrines turn men? God decrees all the good that ever comes to pass; and therefore there certainly will come to pass no more good, than he has absolutely decreed to cause; and there certainly and infallibly will no more believe, no more be godly, and no more be saved, than God has decreed that he will cause to believe, and cause to be godly, and will save. If God, from all eternity, knew that such and such things were future, then they were future; and consequently the proposition was from all eternity true, that such a thing, at such a time, would be. And it is as much impossible that a thing should be future, without some reason of its being future, as that it should actually be, without some reason why it is. It is as perfectly unreasonable to suppose, that this proposition should be true, viz. such a thing will be, or is to be, without a reason why it is true ; as it is that this proposition should be true, such a thing actually is, or has been, without some reason why that is true, or why that thing exists. My meaning is, that it does not remain a question ; but the matter is decided, whether the proposition shall be true or not. The thing, in its own nature, is not necessary, but only possible; and therefore, it is not of itself that it is future: it is not of itself in a state of futurition, if I may so speak, but only in a state of possibility; and there must be some cause to bring it out of a state of mere possibility, into a state of futurition. It cannot be chance or mere accident: that is contrary to every rational supposition. For it is to be supposed, that there is some reason for it, and that something does decide it. If there be any thing that comes to pass by mere accident, that comes to pass of itself without any reason.

rational beings, being such as are clear in us, would, I suppose, if duly considered and pursued, afford such foundations-as might place morality amongst the sciences capable of demonstration : wherein I doubt not but from self-evident propositions, by necessary consequences, as incontestable as those in mathematics, the measures of right and wrong might be made out to any one that will apply himself with the same iodifferency and attention to the one, as he does to the other of these sciences.” B. IV. chap. iii. § 18. Once more, " This gave me the confidence to advance that conjecture, which I suggested, chap. 3. viz. That morality is capable of demonstration, as well as mathematics. And I doubt not but if a right method were taken, a great part of morality might be made out with that clearness, that could leave, to a considering man, no more reason to doubt, than be could have to doubt of the truth of propositions in matbematics whicb bave been demonstrated to him.” B. IV. chap. xii. $ 8.

5. As geometrical evidence proceeds upon the supposition of points, lines, angles, &c. and the province of the demonstration is to shew the consequence sesulting from the supposition ; so, the above stated principles afford the means of demonstrating moral consequences, on the supposition of effects being given to shew their necessary causes, or of causes being given to shew their necessary effects. If the quantum of moral good, or of moral evil, in any given act, be supposed, the business of a demonstration is to shew the relative proportion it bears to its appropriate cause or causes : Or, on the other hand, if the quaotum of causal influence be supposed, to shew, as a demonstrative consequence, the nature and relative proportion of moral good or evil in the act. This is the true province of moral science, as contradistinguished from coojectural observations and a set of rules. These, in their proper place, have an important nse for the purpose of moral conduct; but they can by no means furnish data for scientific knowledge.

6. There is one inference more that must not be omitted, viz. that the true *principles and demonstrative consequences of moral science are incomparably more important in themselves, and ought to be more interesting to all mankind, than any others; because they lead us in a more direct manner than any others to the knowledge of God and ourselves. They point out to us at once the sources of good and evil, happiness and misery; they afford motives for devout affections of the coblest kind; and, in proportion as they are properly applied, they stimulate to the practice of the sublinest virtues, and the most circumspect conduct. Without a divine revelation, indeed, it is highly probable, that the true principles and relations of moral science could never have been discovered by mankind; but that circunstance, wbile it bas no tendency to depreciate the evidence, demands our gratitude to him who is the only source of “every good, and every perfect gift."-W.

§ 13. The first objection of the Arminians is, that the divine decree infringes on the creature's liberty. In answer to this objection, we may observe some things to shew what is the true notion of liberty, and the absurdity of their notion of liberty. Their notion is, that there is a sovereignty in the will, and that the will determines itself, so that its determination to choose or refuse this or that is primarily within itself; which description of liberty implies a self-contradiction. For it supposes the will, in its first act, choosing or refusing to be determined by itself; which implies that there is an antecedent act of the will to that first act, determining that act.For, if the will determines its own first act, then there must be an act of the will before that first act, (for that determining is acting,) which is a contradiction. There can be no fallacy

. in this; for we know that if the will determines its own act, it does not determine it without acting. Therefore, here is this contradiction, viz. that there is an act of the will before the first act. There is an act of the will determining what it shall choose, before the first act of choice; which is as much as to say, that there is an act of volition before the first act of volition. For the will's determining what it will choose, is choosing, is willing. Therefore 1 inquire what determines that first act of the will, viz. its determination of its own act? It must be answered, according to their scheme, that it is the will by a foregoing act. Here, again, we have the same contradiction, viz. that the first act of the will is determined by an act that is before that first act. If the will determines itself, or determines its own choice, the meaning of it must be, if there be any meaning belonging to it, that the will determines how it will choose; and that it chooses according to that determination how to choose, or is directed in choosing by its own determination. But then I would inquire, whether that first determination, that directs the choice, be not itself an act or a volition; and if so, I would inquire what determines that act? Is it another determination still prior to that in the order of nature ? then I would inquire, what determines the first act or determination of all? If the will, in its act of willing or choosing, determines or directs itself how to choose, then there is something done by the will prior to its act of choosing that is determined, vis. its determining or directing itself how to choose. This act determining or directing, must be something besides or distinct from the choice determined or directed, and must be prior in order of nature to it. Here are two acts of the will, one the cause of the other, viz. the act of the will directing and determining, and the act or choice directed or determined. Now, I inquire, what determines that first act of the will determining or directing, to determine and direct as it does ? If it be said, the will determines itself in that; then that supposes there is another act of the will prior to that, directing and determining that act, which is contrary to the supposition. And if it was not, still the question would recur, what determines that first determining act of the will ?

$ 14. If the will determines itself, one of these three things must be meant, viz. I. That the very same act of the will determines itself. But this is as absurd as to say that something makes itself; and it supposes it to be before it is. For the act of determining is as much prior to the thing determined, as the act making is before the thing made. Or, 2. The meaning must be, that the will determines its own act, by some other act that is prior to it in order of nature; which implies that the will acts before its first act. Or, 3. The meaning must be, that the faculty considered at the same time as perfectly without act, determines its own consequent act; which is to talk without a meaning, and is a great absurdity. To suppose that the faculty remaining at the same time perfectly without act, can determine any thing, is a plain contradiction; for determining is acting. And besides, if the will does determine itself, that power of determining itself does not argue any freedom, unless it be by an act of the will, or unless that determination be itself an act of choice. For what freedom or liberty is there in the will's determining itself, without an act of choice in determining, whereby it may choose which way it will determine itself? So that those that suppose the will bas a power of self-determination, must suppose that the very determination is an act of the will, or an act of choice, or else it does not at all help them out in what they would, viz. the liberty of the will. But if that very determination how to act, be itself an act of choice, then the question returns, wbat deter. mines this act of choice?

$ 15. Also, the forekpowledge of God contradicts their

« PreviousContinue »