« PoprzedniaDalej »
persecuting, and crucifying Christ. This is undoubtedly indicated by that terrible prediction of the Saviour, If ye believe not, that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. Let the Objector, then, and all who hold his opinions on this subject, henceforth be for ever silent concerning the guilt, usually attributed to these several classes of men; and acknowledge them to have been compelled by a physical necessity to all these actions; lamentable indeed, but wholly unstained with any criminality.
At the same time, let it be observed, that the determination of the Will is always as the dictate of the Understanding, which precedes it. If, then, this dictate of the Understanding is produced by a physical necessity; how can the decision of the Will, which follows it of course, be in any sense free! If faith be necessary in the physical sense; every other dictate of the Understanding must be equally necessary; and, of course, that, which precedes every determination of the will. In what manner, then, can the determination of the will fail of being the mere result of the same necessity ?
But if the determinations of the will are physically necessary; they cannot be either virtuous or sinful. If, therefore, these things are true, there can be, according to this scheme, neither virtue, nor vice, in man.
6thly. This doctrine charges God with a great part, if not with all the evil conduct of mankind.
Whatever the system of things in this world is, it was contrived, and created, and is continually ordered, by God. If mankind believe, only under the coercion of physical necessity; then God has so constituted them, as to render their faith, in this sense, necessary and unavoidable. Whenever they err, therefore, they err thus necessarily by the ordinance, and irrresistible power, of God. Of course, as the state of things in this, as well as all other respects, is the result of his choice; he has chosen, that they should err, and compelled them to err by the irresistible impulse of almighty power. In this case, we will suppose them to design faithfully to do their duty; or, in other words, to conform their conduct to the doctrines, which they actually believe, and suppose to be truth. In thus acting, they either sin; or they do not. If they sin; God compels them to sin. If they do not; still, all their conduct is productive of evil only: for conformity to error is, of course, productive only of evil. By this scheme, therefore, this mass of evil, immensely great and dreadful, is charged to God alone.
At the same time, if in the same manner they embrace truth; their reception of it is equally compelled. Their conformity to it is, of course, no more commendable, than their conformity to error: and God has so constituted things, that they cannot conform to it of choice, or from love to truth, as such ; but only from physical necessity. Or, if this should be questioned, they cannot conform to it from the apprehension that it is truth; because they have em
braced it under the force of this necessity; and must conform to every thing, which they have embraced, in one manner only.
There are many other modes of disproving this doctrine, on which I cannot now dwell; and which cannot be necessary for the present purpose, if the arguments, already advanced, have the decisive influence, which they appear to me to possess. I will only observe further, that the scheme, which I am opposing, is directly at war with all the commands and exhortations, given us to search the Scriptures, to receive the truth, to seek for wisdom, to know God, to believe in Christ, and to believe his word; and with the commendations and promises, given to those who do, and the censures and threatenings, denounced against those who do not, these things. Equally inconsistent are they with all our own mutual exhortations to candour, to investigation, to impartial decisions, and to all other conduct of the like nature; our commendation of those who pursue it, and our condemnation of those who do not. Both the Scriptures and common sense ought, if this scheme is well founded, to assume totally new language, if they would accord with truth. Should
any person suppose, that I have annexed too much importance to truth, in asserting, that virtue, in all instances, is nothing else, but a voluntary conformity to truth; and imagined, that it ought to be defined, a voluntary conformity to the divine precepts; he may gain complete satisfaction, on this point, by merely changing a precept into a proposition. For example ; the precepts, Thou shalt have no other Gods before me, and Thou shalt honour thy father and thy mother, become truths, when written in this manner: It is right, or it is thy duty, to have no other Gods before me ; or to honour thy father and thy mother.
I have now, if I mistake not, clearly evinced the falsehood of the doctrine, which I have opposed; and shown it to be equally contrary to the Scriptures, and to the Common sense of mankind.
Whenever this doctrine has been honestly imbibed, it has, I presume, been imbibed from a misapprehension of the influence of that acknowledged principle of philosophy; that in receiving impressions from all objects the mind is passive only; and, therefore, is necessitated to receive just such impressions, as the objects, presented to its view, are fitted to make. No man, acquainted with the state of the human mind, will call this principle in question. But no man, of this character, can rationally imagine, that it can at all affect the subject of this discourse; so as to furnish any support to the scheme, which I am opposing.
The amount of this principle is exactly this: that God has so constituted the mind, and has formed objects in such a manner, that they uniformly present to the mind their real state and nature, and not another. Were this not the structure of the mind, and the proper efficacy of the objects, with which it is conversant; it would either be never able to see truly, or would never know when it saw in this manner. This constitution of things, then, is indispensable to our discernment of their true nature; and without it we could never be able, satisfactorily, to distinguish truth from falsehood.
But nothing is more evident, than that this constitution of things in no degree affects the subject in debate. In no sense is it true, that, because we have such optics; and the things, with which we are conversant, such a nature; we are, therefore, obliged to turn our eyes to any given object; to view it on any given side; to examine it in any given manner; or to connect it, in our investigation, with any other particular set of objects. Truth is the real agree. ment or disagreement of ideas, asserted in propositions. The relations of these ideas are its basis. Now we can compare, and connect, what ideas we please, in what manner we please, and by the aid of any other intervening ideas which we choose. In this man. ner, we can unite, and separate, them at pleasure ; and thus either come to the knowledge of truth, or the admission of falsehood, according to our inclinations. All these things, also, we can refuse to do; and in both cases we act in a manner perfectly voluntary. Were we not passive in the mere reception of ideas, we should see, to no purpose. Were we not active in comparing and connecting them, we should see only under the influence of physical necessity.
From these considerations it is evident, unless I am deceived, that this principle, so much relied on by those, with whom I am contending, has not the least influence towards the support of their scheme.
REMARKS. From these observations we learn,
1st. Why men in exactly the same circumstances, judge, and believe, very
differently concerning the same objects. When a question, or doctrine, is proposed to the consideration of several men, in the same terms, with the same arguments, and at the same time ; we, almost of course, find them judging, and deciding, concerning it, in different manners.
Were our judgment, or, what is here the same thing, our faith, the result of mere physical necessity; this fact could never take place. But it is easily explained, as the natural course of things, where such judges as men are concerned. When a question is thus proposed; one declines, or neglects, to inquire, altogether. Another listens only to the evidence on one side. A third, partially to that on both sides. A fourth, partially to that on one side, and wholly to that on the other. And a fifth, to all the evidence, which he can find. One cares nothing about the question; another is pre-determined to give his decision on one side ; and another resolves to decide according to truth. One is too lazy; another too indifferent; another too biassed ; and another too self-sufficient; to discover truth at all. In all these, except the candid, thorough examiner, the VOL. II.
conduct which they adopt on this subject, is sin. Inclination, choice, bias of mind, prevents them from coming to the knowledge of the truth. If they loved truth, as their duty demands, they would easily, and certainly, find it. Their indifference to it, or their hatred of it, is the true reason, why they find it not; and the real explanation of the strange manner, in which they judge, and of their otherwise inexplicable faith in doctrines, not only absurd, but unsupported even by specious evidence.
2dly. From these observations, also, it is evident, that faith may be a virtuous, and unbelief a sinful, affection of the mind.
Truth is the foundation of all good. On this, as their basis, rest the character, designs, government, and glory, of the Creator ; and all the happiness and virtue of the Intelligent Universe. But the only way, in which truth can be useful to Intelligent creatures, or the means of the Divine glory, is by being believed. Every degree of happy influence, which truth has, or can have, on the Intelligent Kingdom, is, therefore, derived entirely from faith ; so far as absolute knowledge is not attainable. On faith, then, all these amazing interests wholly rest. That which is not believed cannot be obeyed. The influence of truth cannot commence in our minds, until our faith in it has commenced. Universal unbelief, therefore, would completely destroy the Divine Kingdom, and the general happiness, at once. Of course, partial unbelief; the unbelief of many, a few, or one; aims directly at the same destruction.
Since, then, faith is a voluntary exercise of the mind; it follows, that, whenever it is exercised towards moral objects, it is virtuous; is an effort of the mind, directed to the promotion of this immense good, which I have specified. To the degree, in which it may be thus virtuous, no limits can be affixed : but it may rise to such a height, as to occupy all the supposable powers of any Intelligent creature.
On the contrary, Unbelief, when directed towards moral objects, being always voluntary, is always sinful. Its efficacy, as opposed to the glory of God and the good of the Universe, has been already mentioned. Its insolence towards the Divine character is exhibited in the strongest terms by St. John, in this memorable declaration: He, that believeth noi God, hath made him a liar. What a reproach is this to the Creator! What an impious expression of contempt, to the infinitely blessed Jehovah! The very insult offered to him by the old Serpent, in his seduction of our first parents! Them this unbelief destroyed; and, from that melancholy day, it has been the great instrument of perdition to their posterity. Faith is the only medium of our access to God. To come to him we must believe that he is : for without such belief he would be to us a mere nihility. Atheism, therefore, cuts a man off from all access to God; and consequently from all love, and all obedience. Were the Universe atheistical, it would cease from all moral con
nexion with its Creator. Deism, though a humbler degree of the same spirit, produces exactly the same effects. He, that believeth not the Son, hath not life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. Practical unbelief, the same spirit in a degree still inferior, is, however, followed by the same miserable consequences.
A mere speculative belief leaves the heart, and the life, as it found them; opposed to God, and the objects of his indignation. The Speculative believer, therefore, although advanced a step beyond the Deist and two beyond the Atheist, is still disobedient and rebel lious, without hope, and without God in the world.