Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

which is the subject of the effect of that power. Indeed, the word action, is frequently used to signify something not merely relative, but more absolute, and a real existence ; as when we say an action ; when the word is not used transitively, but absolutely, for some motion or exercise of body or mind, without any relation to any object or effect: And as used thus, . it is not properly the opposite of fiassion ; which ordinarily signifies nothing absolute, but merely the relation of being act” ed usion. And therefore, if the word action be used in the like relative sense, then action and passion are only two contrary relations. And it is no absurdity to suppose, that contrary relations may belong to the same thing, at the same time, with respect to different things. So to suppose, that there are acts of the soul by which a man voluntarily meves, and acts upon objects, and produces effects, which yet themselves are effects of something else, and wherein the soul itself is the object of something acting upon, and influencing that, does not confound action and passion. The words may nevertheless be properly of opposite signification: There may be as true and real a difference between acting and being caused to act, though we should suppose the soul to be both in the same volition, as there is between living and being quickened or made to live. It is no more a contradiction to suppose that action may be the effect of some other cause, besides the agent, or being that acts, than to suppose, that life may be the effect of some other cause, besides the being that lives, in whom life is caused to be. The thing which has led men into this inconsistent notion of action, when applied to volition, as though it were essential to this internal action, that the agent should be selfdetermined in it, and that the Will should be the cause of it, was probably this ; that according to the sense of mankind, and the common use of language, it is so with respect to men's external actions; which are originally, and according to the vulgar use and most proper sense of the word, called actions. Men in these are selfdirected, selfdetermined and their Wills are the cause of the motions of their bodies, and the external things that are done ; so that unless men do them volunta

rily, and of choice, and the action be determined by their antecedent volition, it is no action or doing of theirs. Hence some metaphysicians have been led unwarily, but absurdly, to suppose the same concerning volition itself, that that also must be determined by the Will ; which is to be determined by antecedent volition, as the motion of the body is ; not considering the contradiction it implies. But it is very evident, that in the metaphysical distinction between action and passion, (though long since become common and the general vogue) due care has not been taken to conform language to the nature of things, or to any distinct, clear ideas. As it is in innumerable other philosophical, metaphysical terms, used in these disputes; which has occasioned inexpressible difficulty, contention, error and confusion. And thus probably it came to be thought, that necessity was inconsistent with action, as these terms are applied to volition. First, these terms action and necessity, are changed from their original meaning, as signifying external, voluntary action and constraint, (in which meaning they are evidently inconsistent) to signify quite other things, viz. volition itself, and certainty of existence. And when the change of signification is made, care is not taken to make proper allowances and abateulents for the difference of sense; but still the same things are unwarily attributed to action and necessity, in the new meaning of the words, which plainly belonged to them in their first sense ; and on this ground, maxims are established without any real foundation, as though they were the most certain truths, and the most evident dictates of reason. But however strenuously it is maintained, that what is necessary cannot be properly called action, and that a necessary action is a contradiction, yet it is probable there are few Arminian divines, who, if thoroughly tried, would stand to these principles. They will allow that God is, in the highest sense, an active being, and the highest fountain of life and action; and they would not probably deny, that those, that are called God’s acts of righteousness, holiness and faithfulness, are truly and properly God's acts, and God is really a holy agent Vol. V. 2 F

in them; and yet, I trust, they will not deny, that God necess sarily acts justly and faithfully, and that it is impossible for Him to act unrighteously and unholily.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

The Reasons why some think it contrary to common Sense, to suppose those Things which are necessa. ry, to be worthy of either Praise or Blame.

IT is abundantly affirmed and urged by Arminian writers, that it is contrary to common sense, and the natural notions and apprehensions of mankind, to suppose otherwise than that necessity (making no distinction between natural and moral necessity) is inconsistent with virtue and vice, praise and blame, reward and punishment. And their arguments from hence have been greatly triumphed in ; and have been not a little perplexing to many, who have been friendly to the truth, as clearly revealed in the holy Scriptures; it has seemed to them indeed difficult, to reconcile Calvinistic doctrines with the notions men commonly have of justice and equity. And the true reasons of it seem to be these that follow.

I. It is indeed a very plain dictate of common sense, that natural necessity is wholly inconsistent with just praise or blame. If men do things which in themselves are very good, fit to be brought to pass, and very happy effects, properly against their Wills, and cannot help it; or do them from a necessity that is without their Wills, or with which their Wills have no concern or connexion; then it is a plain dictate of common sense, that it is none of their virtue, nor any moral good in them ; and that they are not worthy to be rewardcq or praised, esteemed or loved on that account. And, on the other hand, that if, from like necessity, they do those things which in themselves are very unhappy and pernicious, and do them because they cannot help it; the necessity is such, that it is all one whether they will them or no; and the reason why they are done, is from necessity only, and not from their Wills; it is a very plain dictate of common sense, that they are not at all to blame; there is no vice, fault, or moral evil at all in the effect done; nor are they, who are thus necessitated, in any wise worthy to be punished, hated, or in the least disrespected, on that account. In like manner, if things, in themselves good and desirable, are absolutely impossible, with a natural impossibility, the universal reason of matkind teaches, that this wholly and perfectly excuses persons in their not doing them. And it is also a plain dictate of common'sense, that if the doing things, in themselves good, or avoiding things, in themselves evil, is not absolutely impossible, with such a natural impossibility, but very difficult, with a natural difficulty; that is, a difficulty prior to, and not at all consisting in Will and inclination itself, and which would remain the same, let the inclination be what it will; then a person's neglect or omission is excused in some measure, though not wholly; his sin is less aggravated, than if the thing to be done were easy. And if, instead of difficulty and hinderance, there be a contrary natural propensity in the state of things, to the thing to be done, or the effect to be brought to pass, abstracted from any consideration of the inclination of the heart; though the Propensity be not so great as to amount to a natural necessity; yet being some approach to it, so that the doing the good thing be very much from this natural tendency in the state of things, and but little from a good inclination; then it is a dietate of common sense, that there is so much the less virtue in what is done ; and so it is less" praise worthy and rewardable. The reason is easy, viz. be. cause such a natural propensity or tendency is an approach to natural necessity; and the greater the propensity, still so much the nearer is the approach to necessity. And, therefore, as natural necessity takes away or shuts out all virtue, so

this propensity approaches to an abolition of virtue; that is, it diminishes it. And, on the other hand, natural difficulty, in the state of things, is an approach to natural impossibility. And as the latter, when it is complete and absolute, wholly takes away blame ; so such difficulty takes away some blame, or diminishes blame ; and makes the thing done to be less worthy of punishment. II. Men, in their first use of such phrases as these, must, can't, can't help it, can't avoid it, necessary, unable, impossible, wnavoidable, irresistible, &c. use them to signify a necessity of constraint or restraint, a natural necessity or impossibility; or some necessity that the Will has nothing to do in ; which may be whether men will or no; and which may be supposed to be just the same, let men's inclinations and desires be what they will. Such terms in their original use, I suppose, among all nations, are relative ; carrying in their signification (as was before observed) a reference or respect to some contrary Will, desire or endeavor, which, it is supposed, is, or may be, in the case. All men find, and begin to find in early childhood, that there are innumerable things that cannot be done, which they desire to do ; and innumerable things which they are averse to, that must be, they cannot avoid them, they will be, whether they choose them or no. It is to express this necessity, which men so soon and so often find, and which so greatly and so early affects them in innumerable cases, that such terms and phrases are first formed; and it is to signify such a necessity, that they are first used, and that they are most constantly used, in the common affairs of life; and not to signify any such metaphysical, speculative and abstract notion, as that connexion in the nature or course of things, which is between the subject and predicate of a proposition, and which is the foundation of the certain truth of that proposition, to signify which, they, who employ themselves in philosophical inquiries into the first origin and metaphysical relations and dependencies of things, have borrowed these terms, for want of others. But we grow up from our cradles in a use of such terms and phrases entirely different from this, and carrying a sense exceeding diverse from

« AnteriorContinuar »