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of invariable forth a vout that part will cannot the
then so soon come to this, that our author, with all his dislike to Fatalism, is according to his own account of the matter, a Fatalist?
Farther. Our author, it seems, has no fear that free agency will be destroyed or impeded by being confined to this invariable rule, namely, that volition must always have a motive of some sort. He holds that a free agent is placed under this invariable influence of motive; that without motive he cannot put forth a volition, not merely that he cannot have a volition in this or that particular way, but that he cannot have it in any way; that his will cannot act at all, any more than if it were struck dead. Such is the principle the author admits. And if there is any one who doubts the truth of this principle, let him look carefully into his own mind, and determine for himself by a fair trial, whether he can put forth a volition without any reason or motive. Surely any man of sense can succeed in this, if the thing is practicable. If he fails of being satisfied with one trial, let him proceed to a second, and though the effort may possibly put his mind into a very odd condition, and may occasion something of an unpleasant distortion ; let him persevere, till he clearly finds out, whether his rational, moral nature is really tied to the principle above mentioned, namely, that motive is, and must be an invariable antecedent of volition
But the connection of volition with the strongest motive, this is regarded by the author as destructive of free agency. That we are governed in our volitions by motives of some kind, and of some degree of strength, is admitted as a fact, and as perfectly safe for us as free agents. But to be gov. erned invariably by the strongest motive, this is looked upon as Fatalism. I confess it is difficult for me to account for this view of the subject; and I am quite inclined to have a little free conversation with the respected, but nameless author. Permit me then ta ask; why do you object to being invariably influenced in your volitions by that which is, on the whole, the strongest motive, while you are willing to be influenced by motives of some kind? Can you think it a privilege to be influenced by a weaker, rather than a stronger motive ? to be governed in your voluntary actions by reasons of less weight, those which appear to you of less weight, rather than by those which are, or appear to be
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 deliberate, 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 inferior 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 you 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, occasion. ally 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 ?
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
ongest motive? If it should at last become evident, that
int 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 freedom 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 conformity with the strongest desire or motive. The strongest motive, in a!! 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. JF, 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 antecedent 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 to 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 a 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 a 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 contingent volition, as commonly understood. This principle has been sufficiently examined by Edwards, Day, and others.
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