« PreviousContinue »
other proof for our existence, nor is it in its nature capable of any other, than that we feel we exist.
But because the reality of human liberty has been cavilled at by some men of metaphysical heads, who have run into greater difficulties to avoid less, it may be worth while to consider this matter a little. I know not whether I am made like the rest of mankind. But I.can feel every thing pass in my mind, that I can conceive I should feel, if I was really a free agent. For example, in an indifferent case: When I look on my watch, to know whether it is time for me to give over. writing, and I find the hour come, when I usually give over, I do not find that I am impelled to lay down my pen, in the same manner as the index of my watch is moved to point at the hour; but that I gave over, because I think, upon the whole, it is more proper, I should give over, than go on, Does my, watch point to the hour, because it thinks upon the whole it is more proper that it should point to that hour than any other? If so, then the watch and I are beings of the fame fort, endowed with much the same powers and faculties. Do I not lay afide my pen, because I choose to lay it aside, that is, because I am willing to lay it aside ? Should I give over, if I was unwilling to give over? If I find my usual time past, and yet should be glad to finish the head I am upon, before I lay aside my pen, does that motive act upon me, and force me to go on, as a spring acts upon a watch, or does it act as a contideration upon a rational creature ?
Again, suppose I am tempted to do a bad action, do the motives laid in my way force my compliance ? Do I not, on the contrary, feel that I yield to them, because I choose to seize a present object, which I expect to yield me some fancied advantage ? Do I not feel in my own mind a violent struggle between the confiderations of present profit or pleasure, and those of wisdom and virtue? Is it possible I should feel any such struggle if I was not free? Does any such thing pass in a machine? Do I not find, that I fometimes yield to temptations, which at other times I get the better of ? Have not
others resisted temptations which have proved too hard for me? Could these differences happen, if they and I were machines ? Do not these instances of temptations conquered, fix both liberty and guilt upon me, in having yielded to what it was plain I might have refifted at one time, if I did at another? If it is extremely difficult, or what may be called next to impossible, to resist all forts of temptations at all times, does this prove any thing else, than that human nature is weak? Were man a machine, he must act as a machine, uniformly and invariably.
What I have here remarked upon the case of being tempted to a bad action, is applicable, mutatis mutandis, io that of an opportunity of doing a good one. Motives, according as they appear, will influence a rational mind. But the appearance of motives to our minds, as well as their influence over us, depends very much upon ourselves. If I am prevailed on by motives, do motives force me? Do I not yield to them, because I choose to yield to them? If this is not being free, what is freedom? What should I feel pass in my mind, if I was really free? What may we suppose superior beings, what may we suppose the Supreme himself to feel in his infinite mind? Does he, (with profound reverence be is spoken) does he act without regard to motives? Does he act contrary to reasonable motives ? Can we suppose him uninfluenced by proper motives? Can we suppose he feels himself to be wholly uninfluenced by reasonable and important considerations ? Would we be more free than the most perfect of all beings? If he gives us liberty and power to a proper extent, what would we have more? If we feel that we have fuch liberty, why should we, contrary to possibility, endeavour to bring ourselves to doubt of our having it? If we cannot doubt of our being free creatures, what have we more to think of, than how to make a proper use of our liberty, how to get our wills formed to a perfect concurrence with the grand fcheme of the Governor of the Universe, so that we may behave properly within our sphere, which if we and all other moral agents did, every part must
be properly acted, every sphere properly filled, and universal regularity, perfection, and happiness be the result.
Some have imagined that allowing liberty or will to created beings was a derogation from the Supreme, to whom alone the privilege of freedom ought to be ascribed. It is certain that this is strictly true of absolute, independent, original freedom. As it is undoubted that independent, neceflary, or natural existence is the incommunicable privilege of the First Cause. But, as we find a limited, dependent existence may be, and actually is, communicated to created beings, where is the difficulty or impropriety of suppofing a limited, independent freedom, or power of choosing or refusing, communicated to created beiogs. As created beings depend on the Supreme for their existence; and yet the existence they enjoy is a real and proper existence; so may the liberty they enjoy, of choosing or refusing, be a real and proper liberty, and yet derived from, and dependent on the infinite Giver of every gift. . : If there is no such thing as liberty, in any created being, as some have imagined, then it is evident, there can be no will but that of the Supreme Being: for liberty, or a power of choofing or refusing, is only another term for will. Will, or willingness, implies freedom in the very term. Therefore, the common term free-will is a tautology, as much as if one should say voluntary will. There neither is, nor can be, any will but free will. Constraint, or force, is the very opposite of will, or willingness. Let it be considered then, what the consequence must be of affirming that there is no will, but the Supreme. We find in history, that a monster of an Emperor wished that the whole Roman people had but one neck, that he might cut them all off at once. The same temper, which led him to defire the destruction of his people, of whom he ought to have been the father and protector, would have inclined him to wish the destruction of whatever opposed him, that is, of all good beings in heaven and earth.' Will any one pretend, that this temper of mind is agreeable to the Supreme will ? Is it not blasphemy to imagine the Divine will to be against goodness ? But if liberty or
will in a created being is impossible, then what we call Caligula's will was really the Divine will; the destruction of all goodness was agreeable to the Divine mind! It is too horrible to think of.
I know, it has been said, that the perpetration of the most wicked action, that ever was committed, must have been in one sense suitable to the Divine mind, and scheme, elfe it would have been prevented by his overruling power. In a state of discipline, it was necessary, that both the good and the wicked should have liberty, within a certain sphere, to exert themselves according to their respective characters, and the Divine Wisdom has taken measures for preventing such a prevalence of wickedness as should defeat his gracious ends; so that it shall still be worth while to have created an universe; though every thing would have gone incomparably better, had no moral agent ever made a wrong use of his liberty. Nor is there the least difficulty in conceiving of the Supreme Being, as proposing the greatest possible happiness of his creatures, and of a wicked being, as Satan, as studying how to produce the greatest misery. Which two inclinations, if they be not direct opposites, there is no such thing as opposition conceivable, And if there is a will opposite to the Divine, there is freedom ; for freedom is necessary to the idea of will.
It being then evident, beyond contradiction, that man is endowed with liberty, or a power of choosing to act in such or such a manner, within the sphere appointed him by his Maker, it follows, that to bring him to act his part properly, or in such a manner as may the most conduce to the order, perfection, and happiness of the whole, such means must be used as are fit to work upon an intelligent free agent. Neither force, nor mere inftinct, being suited to a creature of superior rank, fit to be acted upon by reasonable motives, it is plain, that nothing is so proper to lead mankind to a steady and habitual attachment to rectitude of conduct, as placing them in a state of discipline.
We find by experience, that we ourselves (and perhaps it may be the case of all orders of rational created beings in the universe) are not of ourselves at first strongly attached to any object, but what we are led to by instinct or constitution, in which there is nothing either praise-worthy or blaneable. Some minds are indeed observed to be very well or ill-disposed, so to speak, in early youth. But the goodness of very young perfons is generally rather negative, conífting in a temper fit for virtue, à soil proper to sow the good feed in, and free from any unhappy caft of disposition. As on the contrary, those we call unpromising children, are unfortunate through some deficiency or redundancy, most probably in the material frame, which proves unfriendly to the cultivation of virtue in the mind, which would otherwise spring up, and thrive in it, almost of itself.
virtue wants only to be seen by an unprejudiced mind, to be loved. But the proper notion of goodness in a moral agent, is a strong and habitual inclination in the mind, to concur with the Divine scheme, or to act on all occasions according to rectitude, arising not from irresistible, mechanical instinct, nor from mere negative happiness of constitution, but from clear and comprehensive views of the nature of things, and of moral obligations In this there is a real and intrinsic excellence. And were this attachment to rectitude, on rational confiderations, universally prevalent in all moral agents; moral evil there could be none. How the most effectually to produce and fix in the minds of free agents this inviolable attachment to virtue, is therefore the point to be gained.
The Supreme Mind perceiving all things as they really are, and having all things absolutely in his power can in no respect be biassed against perfect rectitude; but must be more inviolably attached to it, fo to speak, than any finite being, whose views must be comparatively narrow. And to speak properly, he is himself the basis and standard of rectitude. The mind of an angel, or archangel, must, in proportion to the extent of his views of things, be more strongly attached to rectitude, than that of any mortal in the present fiate. Yet we have no reason to imagine that such his attachment was congenial to him ; but may rather conclude