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There is no necessity of supposing, that the mind does ever properly choose one of the objects before another; either before it has taken, or afterwards. Indeed the man chooses to take or touch one rather than another; but not because it chooses the thing taken, or touched; but from foreign considerations. The case may be so, that of two things offered, a man may, for certain reasons, choose and prefer the taking of that which he undervalues, and choose to neglect to take that which his mind prefers. In such a case, choosing the thing taken, and choosing to take, are diverse ; and so they are in a case where the things presented are equal in the mind's esteem, and neither of them preferred. All that fact makes evident, is, that the mind chooses one action rather than another. And therefore the arguments which they bring, in order to be to their purpose, ought to be to prove that the mind chooses the action in perfect indifference, with respect to that action ; and not to prove that the mind chooses the action in perfect indifference with respect to the object; which is very possible, and yet the Will not act without prevalent inducement, and proper preponderation. t 2. Another reason of confusion and difficulty in this matter, seems to be, not distinguishing between a general indifference, or an indifference with respect to what is to be done in a more distant and general view of it, and a particular indifference, or an indifference with respect to the next immediate act, viewed with its particular and present circumstances. A man may be perfectly indifferent with respect to his own actions, in the former respect ; and yet not in the latter. Thus, in the foregoing instance of touching one of the squares of a chessboard ; when it is first proposed that I should touch one of them, I may be perfectly indifferent which I touch ; because as yet I view the matter remotely and generally, being but in the first step of the mind's progress in the affair. But yet, when I am actually come to the last step, and the very next thing to be determined is which is to be touched, having already determined that I will touch that which happens to be most in my eye or mind, and my mind being now fixed on a particular one, the act of touching that, considered thus immediately, and in these particular present circumstances, is not what my mind is absolutcly indifferent about.
SECTION VII. w
Concerning the notion of Liberty of Will, consisting in Indifference.
WHAT has been said in the foregoing section, has a tendency in some measure to evince the absurdity of the opinion of such as place Liberty in Indifference, or in that equilibrium whereby the Will is without all antecedent determination or bias, and left hitherto free from any prepossessing inclination to one side or the other; that so the determination of the Will to either side may be entirely from itself, and that it may be owing only to its own power, and that sovereignty which it has over itself, that it goes this way rather than that.”
* Dr. Whitby, and some other Arminians, make a distinction of different kinds of freedom ; one of God, and perfect spirits above; another of persons in a state of trial. The former Dr. Whitby allows to consist with necessity; the latter he holds to be without necessity : And this latter he supposes to be requisite to our being the subjects of praise or dispraise, rewards or punishments, precepts and prohibitions, promises and threats, exhortations and dehortations, and a covenant treaty. and to this freedom he supposes Indifference to be requisite. In his Discourse on the five points, p. 299, 3eo, he says, “It is a freedom (speaking of a freedom not only from coaction, but from necessity) requisite, as we conceive, to render us capable of trial or probation, and to render our actions worthy of praise or dispraise, and our persons of rewards or punishments.” And in the next page, speaking of the same matter, he says, “Excellent to this purpose, are the words of Mr. Thorndike: We say not that Indifference is requisite to all freedom, but to the freedom of a man alone in this state of travail and proficience : The ground of which is Cod’s tender of a treaty, and conditions of peace and reconcilement to fallen man, together with those precepts and prohibitions, those promises and threats, these exhortations and dekortations, it is enforced with.”
But in as much as this has been of such long standing, and has been so generally received, and so much insisted on by Pelagians, Semifielagians, Jesuits, Socinians, Arminians and others, it may deserve a more full consideration. And therefore I shall now proceed to a more particular and thorough inquiry into this notion.
Now, lest some should suppose that I do not understand those that place Liberty in Indifference, or should charge me with misrepresenting their opinion, I would signify, that I am sensible, there are some, who, when they talk of the Liberty of the Will as consisting in Indifference, express themselves as though they would not be understood of the Indiffer
, ence of the inclination or tendency of the Will, but of, I know
not what, Indifference of the soul's power of willing; or that the Will, with respect to its power or ability to choose, is indifferent, can go either way indifferently, either to the right hand or left, either act or forbear to act, one as well as the other. However this seems to be a refining only of some particular writers, and newly invented, and which will by no means consist with the manner of expression used by the defenders of Liberty of Indifference in general. And I wish such refiners would thoroughly consider, whether they distinctly know their own meaning, when they make a distinction between Indifference of the soul as to its flower or ability of willing or choosing, and the soul's Indifference as to the preference or choice itself; and whether they do not deceive themselves in imagining that they have any distinct meaning. The Indifference of the soul as to its ability or power to Will, must be the same thing as the Indifference of the state of the power or faculty of the Will, or the indifference of the state which the soul itself, which has that power or faculty, hitherto remains in, as to the excrcise of that power, in the choice it shall by and by make.
But not to insist any longer on the abstruseness and inexplicableness of this distinction ; let what will be supposed concerning the meaning of those that make use of it, thus much must at least be intended by Arminians when they talk of Indifference as essential to Liberty of Will, if they intend any thing, in any respect to their purpose, viz. That it is such
an Indifference as leaves the Will not determined already; but free from, and vacant of predetermination, so far, that there may be room for the exercise of the selfdetermining flower of the Will ; and that the Will's freedom consists in, or depends upon this vacancy and opportunity that is left for the Will itself to be the determiner of the act that is to be the free act. - - - - - And here I would observe in the first place, that to make out this scheme of Liberty, the Indifference must be perfect and absolute ; there must be a perfect freedom from all antecedent preponderation or inclination. Because if the Will be already inclined, before it exerts its own sovereign power on itself, then its inclination is not wholly owing to itself: If when two opposites are proposed to the soul for its choice, the proposal does not find the soul wholly in a state of Indifference, then it is not found in a state of Liberty for mere selfdetermination....The least degree of antecedent bias must be inconsistent with their notion of Liberty. For so long as prior inclination possesses the Will, and is not removed, it binds the Will, so that it is utterly impossible that the Will should act otherwise than agreeably to it. Surely the Will cannot act or choose contrary to a remaining prevailing inclination of the Will. To suppose otherwise, would be the same thing as to suppose, that the Will is inclined contrary to its present prevailing inclination, or contrary to what it is inclined to. That which the Will chooses and prefers, that all things considered, it preponderates and inclines to. It is equally impossible for the Will to choose contrary to its own remaining and present preponderating inclination, as it is to prefer contrary to its own present preference, or choose contrary to its own present choice. The Will, therefore, so long as it is under the influence of an old preponderating inclination, is not at Liberty for a new free act, or any act that shall now be an act of selfdetermination. The act which is a selfdetermined free act, must be an act which the Will determines in the possession and use of such a Liberty, as consists in a freedom from every thing, which, if it were there, would make it im
possible that the Will, at that time, should be otherwise than that way to which it tends. If any one should say, there is no need that the Indifference should be perfect ; but although a former inclination and preference still remain, yet, if it be not very strong and violent, possibly the strength of the Will may oppose and overcome it :....This is grossly absurd ; for the strength of the Will, let it be ever so great, does not enable it to act one way, and not the contrary way, both at the same time. It gives it no such sovereignty and command, as to cause itself to prefer and not to prefer at the same time, or to choose contrary to its own present choice. Therefore, if there be the least degree of antecedent preponderation of the Will, it must be perfectly abolished, before the Will can be at liberty to determine itself the contrary way. And if the Will determines itself the same way, it is not a free determination, because the Will is not wholly at Liberty in so doing : Its determination is not altogether from itself, but it was partly determined before, in its prior inclination ; and all the freedom the Will exercises in the case, is in an increase of inclination, which it gives itself, over and above what it had by the foregoing bias; so much is from itself, and so much is from perfect Indifference. For though the Will had a previous tendency that way, yet as to that additional degree of inclination, it had no tendency. Therefore the previous tendency is of no consideration, with respect to the act wherein the Will is free. So that it comes to the same thing which was said at first, that as to the act of the Will, wherein the Will is free, there must be perfect Indifference, or equilibrium. To illustrate this ; if we should suppose a sovereign, selfmoving power in a natural body, but that the body is in motion already, by an antecedent bias ; for instance, gravitation towards the centre of the earth ; and has one degree of motion already, by virtue of that previous tendency; but by its selfmoving power it adds one degree more to its motion, and moves so much more swiftly towards the centre of the earth than it would do by its gravity only : It is evident, that all that VoI. V. H,