صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

he live and die in impenitence and unbelief: And if he be not elected, he must perish, let him do what he can, and though he fincerely feek falvation, and however humble, penitent and obedient he may be.-The fcrip ture doctrine of God's decrees does not imply, but absolutely excludes, fuch an abfurd notion and fatality as this; and makes the use of means, and agency of man, as important and neceffary, in order to accomplish any propofed end, as if there were no decree refpecting it: And indeed, much more fo: For if there were no appointed connection between means, and the attempts and exertions of men, and the end, then they would be of no importance, and have no tendency to the end; and there would not be the leaft reafon or encouragement to do or attempt any thing, or ufe any means, to accomplish any end whatsoever.

It cannot with truth be faid, that according to the doctrine of God's decrees, he who is elected to falvation, shall be saved, let him do what he will, and live and die ini impenitence and unbelief; for there is no election or decree inconfiftent with the declaration of Chrift, "He that believeth not, fhall be damned." They who are appointed to falvation by the decree of God, are "elected according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through fanctification of the fpirit unto obedience." And none are appointed to deftruction, whether they be


or not; for "he that believeth fhall be faved." This is particularly observed here, because the true fcripture doctrine is fo generally misunderstood in this point, and confequently misreprefented; especially by thofe who do not believe this doctrine; but oppose it.

The doctrine of God's decrees, including the means as well as the end, and connecting one with the other, fo as to render the former important and neceffary as the latter, as has been now ftated and explained, in oppofi-. tion to the abfurd notion of fatality just mentioned, may


[ocr errors]

with the certainty of all events, which is implied in the doctrine of the Divine decrees; and if confiftent, how they are fo, and may be perfectly reconciled.

It has been before obferved, that nothing can be determined on this point, without forming an idea of the liberty effential to moral agency, and determining what it is, and wherein it confifts: For he who knows not what liberty is, is not in a capacity to determine what is confiftent with it, or what is inconfiftent. Men will dif fer on the question before us, as they have different notions refpecting human liberty; and if they be agreed in this, they will agree in the decifion of it. The question then is, What is liberty? What is that freedom which is effential to moral agency?

The only way, perhaps, for any one to obtain the moft fatisfactory answer to this queftion, is to confult his own feelings, and inquire what that is; what are the exercises and exertions in which he fuppofes, yea, is certain, he acts freely, and is a moral agent. He will doubtlefs find that the internal freedom of which he is conscious, confifteth in his voluntary exercifes, or in choofing and willing; that he is conscious that in all his voluntary exertions he is perfectly free, and must be accountable; and, has no consciousness or idea of any other kind of moral liberty; or that the liberty he exercifeth hath any thing more or less belonging to it; or that it could be increaf ed, or made more perfect freedom, by the addition of any thing that is not implied in willing and choofing. He may indeed not be able to accomplish the thing or event which is the object of his choice; and, in this refpect, be under restraint; but this is not inconfiftent with


↑ It is to be observed, and kept in mind, in attending to what is here faid on human liberty, that every degree of active inclination and moral exercise of heart, is included in willing and choofing, as well as what are called the imperate and overt acts of the will: For fuch inclination or exercife of heart, in every degree and inftance of it, is not distinguishable from exercise of will and choice; but is really the fame thing.

his exercifing perfect freedom in his choice, and in all his voluntary exertions, or in all he does with refpect to fuch object or event. And in these exercises of will and choice his moral character does wholly confift; and therefore here he looks, even to his inclination and choice, to determine what is his moral character, whether he be finful or virtuous, and approves or condemns, according as he judges of the nature and quality of his inclination and choice; and they appear to him to be right or wrong, according as they are conformable or not to the rule or law, under which he confiders himself to be placed.

And where can freedom, moral agency, virtue and vice be found, if they confift not in voluntary exercises? Shall we look to fomething which takes place in our minds antecedent to choice and voluntary action, by which acts of choice are determined, and out of which they fpring, and place liberty and virtue and fin in that? This will be to place these wholly in that, in which we have no concern as agents, as we are no more active in that which precedes our exercise of will and choice, than a rock or tree; or than we were in thofe events which took place ages before we were born.

Shall liberty and moral agency be confidered as confifting in what follows the exercise of will, or voluntary exertions, and takes place after the will ceases to act ? There is indeed as much propriety and reafon in placing them here, as in any thing that is antecedent to the exercise of will: But furely no man in his fenfes can imagine, that there is the exercise of liberty and moral action, where there is no liberty, choice or action, whether it be antecedent to thefe, or confequent upon them, and after they cease. When our will and choice is over, or we cease to will, our agency is at an end; and most certainly there can be no liberty exercised, when there is no exercife of any kind, no action.


If voluntary action, or the exercise of will and choice, be not freedom and moral agency; and if all virtue and fin do not confift in this, and are not to be found here, even in the will and choice itfelf; it will be impoffible to find them any where, or that there fhould be any fuch thing: And they are therefore but empty names. ery exercise of the will in choofing or refufing, is the exercife of freedom: And it is impoffible for man to will and chuse without exercifing moral liberty; and as impoffible to execife liberty without voluntary action, or exercising choice. Therefore, to fay a man is not free in exercising will and choice, is to fay he is not free in that, in which freedom wholly confifts, and is the only poffible exercise of liberty; or that he is not voluntary or does not choose in willing and choofing: And, it is no more improper and abfurd to afk, whether a man is rational in reasoning, or to fay he is not, than it is to ask, whether he is free in willing and choofing; or to affirm that he is not. And that because the exercise of freedom and the exercife of will, are convertible terms, and are indeed one and the fame thing; as really as reafoning is the exercise of reafon; or exiflence is exifting. And if there be any fuch thing as moral agency, it confifts in the exercife of will and choice, and in nothing else; and virtue and vice, praise and blame, are predicable of this only, and belong wholly to the exercifes of will or voluntary action, and are as the inclination, will or choice is.*

It may therefore be safely prefumed, that no man, by confulting his own exercife and feelings, or in reafoning properly about them, ever had any other idea or concep


It is therefore certain that man is perfectly free, or has all the freedom that in the nature of things is poflible, in the exercife of will and choice, or in acting voluntarily; and God, in forming man a voluntary agent,made him a free, moral agent, and he cannot be deprived of this freedom and moral agency, unless he be made to cease from acting from motive, and exercising will and choice.

tion of liberty, and that moral agency by which he is ac> countable for his exercises and conduct, but that which confifts in voluntary action, or in will and choice; though many have confused and bewildered themfelves on this point, by ufing words without any real meaning, and with mere chimeras and imaginations, which are perfectly inconfiftent, and have no real existence.

For inftance, it has been often faid, that there can be no liberty in man without a felf determining power; and that freedom confifts in this, even in determining his own volitions, what they fhall be, &c.

Upon this it may be obferved, that if it be meant, that man himself exerts his own volitions, and they are his own actions, and that he determines his own choice in actively willing and choofing; fo that there can be no choice without his exertion and activity, and where he is wholly paffive; and that, in this fenfe, he is the caufe and author of his own volitions; then nothing is meant more than will be granted, and has been afferted above, viz, that he does at in willing and choofing, and is really the author, or actor of his own acts. But if by felf determining power be meant, a power or capacity to determine, previous to any act of choice, what he will choofe (which must be their meaning, if they are not fatisfied with that now expreffed; and if that which is felf contradictory can be faid to have any real meaning) then what they mean to affert is, that in order to a man's being free in his choice, he muft, by a foregoing act of pow→ er, exerted before he begins to will and choofe, determine what his choice fhall be. That is, he must act and determine, before he begins to act by choice; or he must make a choice before he begins to choose, and in order to it; which cannot be exceeded in felf contradiction and abfurdity: It being as abfurd as to say, that a man can have no motion unless he do, previous to all his motion, move himself; that is, move himself before he begins to

I 2

« السابقةمتابعة »