Page images
PDF
EPUB

ought to regulate them by : fome Standard.

The Acts of the understanding are by some men thought as free from all Law as the Acts of the will are from all necessity, and accordingly they give every one á Toleration to abound in his own sense and (provided his actions be conformable to the Rule) to think what he please. · Now. fince a Man cannot be accountable for an Opinion of himself in particular, unless it be first granted that he is under a Law as to the Acts of his understanding in general, before I can proceed any farther I find it necessary to lay down this Preparatory Position, That we are under an Obligation as to the Acts of our understanding, or (which is all one) that we are accountable for them. Nay. I believe I may venture higher and affirm that the understanding is not only under Obligation but that 'tis the Primary and immediate Subject of of it. For the proof of which Paradox, I defire the Patrons of the Intellectual Libertinism to consider, that that must be the Primary and immediate subject of all Obligation which is so of Liberty. Now that this cannot be the Will,I suppose will be acknowledged a clear consequence if the Will necessarily follows the Practical Dictate of the Understanding. And that it does fo, I think there is Demonstration.

'Tis

'Tis an unquestionable Axiom in all the Schools of Learning in the world, that the Object of the Will is apparent good; Now apparent good in other words, is that which is apprehended or judg’d to be good, and if so, then it follows that the Will cannot but conform to the Dictate of the Understanding, because otherwise fomething might be the object of the Will that is not apprehended good, which is contrary to the supposition. In short, the Will (as Aquinas has well expressed it) is the Conclusion of an Operative Syllogism, and follows as necessarily from the Dictate of the Understanding as as any other Conclusion does from its Premises, and consequently cannot be the immediate subject of Liberty, and consequently not of Obligation,

But then are we not involv'd in the same difficulty as to the understanding 3. Does not that act with equal (if not more) necessity than the Will? So I know it is ordinarily taught. But if this be absolutely and univerlally true, I must confess it above the reach of my Capacity to salve the Notion of Morality, or Religion, or to find out an expedient how the Foundations of the Intelle&tual world should not be out of course. For since 'tis evident both from the preceding Demonstration, and from experimental Reflection, that the Will necessa

B

rily

rily acts in Conformity to the Dictates of the Understanding, if those. very Dictates are also wholely and altogether neccssary, there can be no such thing as a ro ipsipūr, the man is bound hand and foot, has nothing left whereby to render him a Moral Agent, to qualify him for Law or Obligation, Vertue or Vice, Reward or Punishment. But these are Absurdities not to be indured, and therefore I conclude according to the Rules of right Reasoning, the Principle from which they Aow to be so too. 2

To clear up then the whole Difficulty with as much Brevity and Perspicuity as in a matter of this intricacy is possible, I shall no longer consider the Understanding and will as Faculties really distinct either from the Soul it lelf, or from one another, but that the Soul does immediately understand and

will by it felf, without the intervention of any Faculty whats foever. And that for this demonstrative reason in fhart, because in the contrary Hypothesis, either Fudgement muft be afcribéd, to the Will, and then the will immediately coinmences Un. derstanding, or the Assent ofiche Will muft be blind, btutish, and accountable, both which are as great Absurdities as they are true Confes quentesor This being premifed, I grant that as the Souils necessarily Wolls as the understands, &

fo

fo likewise does she necessarily understand as the Object appears. And thus far our fight terminates in Fatality, and Neceffity bounds our Horizon. That then that must give us a Prof. pect beyond it, must be this, that altho the Soul necessarily understands or judges accor ding to the Appearance of things yer that things should so appear (unless it be in Propositions that are self-evident, as that the whole is greater than any one part, or the like) is not alike necessary, but depends upon the degrees of Advertency or Attention which the Soul uses, and which to use either more or less is fully and immediately in her own power. And this indifferency of the Soul as to attending or not attending í take to be the only cò in five the bottom and foundation into which the Morality of every action must be at length refolv’d. . For a farther proof as well as Illustration of which Hypothelis let us apply it to a particular cafe and try how well it will answer the Phanomena. In the case then of Martyrdom, I look upon (in as an evil, and not only so but (while I attend fully to its Nature) the greatest of evils. And as long as I continue this Judgement 'tis utterly impossible I hould commit it, there being according to my present apprehension no greater evil for the de clining of which I should think it eligible. But now the evil of Pain being presented before

me,

B 2

me, and I'not sufficiently attending to the evil of Sin, this latter appears to be the lesser evil of the two, and I accordingly pro hic & nung fo pronounc it, and in Conformity to that judgement necessarily chuse it. But because 'twas absolutely in my power to have attended more heedfully there was Liberty in the Principle, the mistake which influenc'd the action was vincible, and consequently the action it self imputable. This Hypothesis however strange it may

seem to those that have sworn Faith and Allegiance to the Dictates of the Schools, I believe will be the more approv'd the more it is examin’d, and that not only as rational and consistent in it felf, but also as a refuge from those Absurdities which attend the ordinary Solutions. Neither is this account wholely unlicens’d by

Authority, for I find some hints and intima** See Hiero. tions of it in the * School of Plato, where the cles upon the reason why those middle sort of Beings call’d Golden Ver- Heroes are not so uniformly pure as the A'doo ses of Pytha

yapo. Bror or Nóes, is assign’d to be because they do not fo equally attend to the Beauty of the Supream Good.

From what has been said it appears plainly that the Morality of every humane action must be at length resolv’d into an immediate indifference that the Soul has of attending or not attending, and consequently that we are not only

under

goras.

« PreviousContinue »