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objects are before us; or, to express it in another way still, that when proper objects are presented to view, we do, at once, either love or hate, either desire or not desire. Now why should it be supposed, that our mind, in any such case, is less active because it acts spontaneously? or, that our loving and desiring are not our own actions, because we love and desire promptly, without any painstaking, as soon as the object comes before us? Who can suppose, that the act of loving God, in the spirits of just men made perfect, is any the less their act, or any the less excellent and praiseworthy, because they love readily and spontaneously; or that hating God, in the minds of wicked beings in hell, is any the less their own act, or any the less vile and blameworthy, because they hate God at once, spontaneously, whenever they think of him? Must something come between the sight of the object and our loving it, to make our loving it our own responsible act? What a strange imagination ! Just draw it out before you, and see how it appears. If a man loves God and delights in him with all his heart, as soon as he thinks of him, he does nothing morally good. And why? Because he loves spontaneously, sua sponte, of his own accord, freely, from the impulse of his own mind! If his love did not arise so soon ; if his heart was a little reluctant and slow to move, and waited to have its love excited by something besides the sight of the divine excellence-by some effort of reasoning, or some urgency of will, it would deserve the name of holiness; but not as it is. And if a man is displeased with God, and his heart rises in enmity against him, as soon as the thought of his character comes to his mind, it is not sin! And why? Because the displeasure or hatred rises in his mind spontaneously ; in other words, because he hates God at once, as soon as he thinks of him, without waiting for any previous exercise of mind! And if a man at once feels complacency in wickedness, it is no fault of his, because he does it spontaneously!
I suppose this opinion is adopted, not from the suggestions of an enlightened conscience, but from a desire to support a favorite metaphysical theory,—the theory, that nothing is of a moral nature unless it is voluntary, i. e. unless it follows an act of the will. This theory, like every other theory, is, in some respects, true; but it needs explanation to make it well understood, and much care to exclude what is erroneous. It is true in regard to external bodily actions. For these we are not responsible, unless they are voluntary, that is, unless they take place in obedi
ence to an act of the will. This is plain. The actions, in themselves, are neither morally good nor evil. This is not a conclusion to which we come by reasoning. It is a direct moral percention. Nothing can be more evident than that external, bodi's actions have no morality in them, except in relation to an act of the mind. They must be voluntary ; that is, they vusi depend on a previous volition ; they must result from an act of he will.
The same is true in regard to many acts of the mind. In themselves they are not of a moral nature; and we regard them as right or wrong, and are responsible for them, only as they are controlled by the acts of the will, and are directed to a good or bad end.
You may ask, how we can determine what acts of the mind are in themselves morally good or evil. I answer, we can do this, first, by the help of conscience. As to one class of mental exercises, a feeling of approbation or disapprobation accompanies them, or is consequent upon them. By the constitution of our nature, we are led to pronounce them right or wrong. Why we have this feeling of approbation or disapprobation, we cannot tell, any more than we can give the reason why we have the idea of colors when the rainbow is before us, or the idea of sweetness or bitterness when we taste honey or wormwood. It is an ultimate fact, arising from the law of our nature. The same is true of the emotion of envy or malice, and various other affections of the mind. We regard them as bad in themselves. And by our moral constitution we are led to regard other affections or emotions as in themselves good and praiseworthy. The same law of our nature leads us to look upon another class of mental actions as, in themselves, neither right nor wrong, and to look upon ourselves as neither praiseworthy nor blameworthy for them, except with a view to the motives by which we are influenced. This is the case with what we call the natural affections, and with purely intellectual acts.
Secondly. We can distinguish those acts of the mind which are in themselves of a moral nature from those which are not, by the moral law. That which the law requires, and as the law requires it, is right. The contrary is wrong. Now the law requires the affection of love, and love implies that we have complacency in the divine character, or, as the Scripture expresses it, that we delight ourselves in the Lord. Without cordial complacency in God, we cannot rightly seek his glory, nor
rightly determine to serve him, nor rightly choose him as our God and portion. And as the law requires love to God, we know that love, in all its forms and exercises, is morally right. Here conscience and the divine law perfectly agree. The awakened, convinced sinner, both from his conscience and from the requireinent of the moral law, knows that the enmity of his heart against God, which no act of his will can remove, is, in itself, exceedingly sinful. And when, through the renewing of the Holy Spirit, he begins to feel complacency in the character and government of God, and a hearty desire for the enjoyment of God; he knows that complacency and desire to be right. In all this neither the divine law nor conscience has any thing at all to do with the inquiry, whether either the good or the bad affection is exercised in consequence of a previous volition. We look directly at the affection itself, whether love or hatred, and we see it to be right or wrong. We see it to be such a movement or action of our moral nature as we ought or ought not to have. This emotion of love and of enmity is evidently mental action, as really as reasoning or willing. And the act of love is surely possessed of as high a degree of excellence as any act of reasoning or willing. And no act of reasoning or willing, however perverse, can be more criminal, than the act of enmity in the heart.
And here I beg leave to say, though I may have said the same in substance before, that I cannot but regard it as a great and pernicious mistake, to turn off our attention from the nature of the mental state or mental exercise, called love, or enmity, and instead of judging of it by the plain rule of conscience and the divine law, to make another rule, and judge of it as we do of other things so widely different, that is, external actions, by the circumstance of its following un act of the will.
We shall fail of doing full justice to this subject, unless we keep in mind the obvious fact, that the very acts of the will which control the actions of the body and certain actions of the mind do, after all, depend for their moral character on that affection or disposition of the mind from which they proceed. Volitions, or acts of the will, taken in the sense now intended, are good or bad only as they are prompted by the desires or feelings of the heart. A man wills to give money to a charitable institution. But how can you tell whether the act of his will is right or wrong, unless you know by what inward motive he is influenced ? If he determines to give money from real benevo
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lence to man, or from a desire to honor God, the determination is right, and we commend him for it. But if he does it from love of praise, or any other selfish motive, we regard the act of his will as unworthy and base. Though you may hold to it as a theory, that all virtue and vice lie in the acts of the will, yet, in spite of that theory, you always pronounce such acts of the will as those above mentioned, to be good or bad, according as they are prompted by a benevolent and pious disposition, or the contrary. The goodness or badness, which is commonly attributed to these volitions, is found ultimately in the disposition or affection of the mind from which the volitions proceed. Thus men judge, and thus they always will judge. We come here to the ultimate fact, concerning which there can be no doubt. And after we come to the ultimate fact,—to that inward affection or disposition of the mind, which is, in itself, morally good or evil,-how can any one still say, it is neither good nor evil, unless it proceeds from an act of the will ? It is itself good or evil, whether it proceeds from any other mental act or not. If, as soon as we perceive holy objects, we love them, this first exercise of affection is right. And if an act of the will preceded it, still its rectitude would not be owing to this circumstance. For surely an act of the will cannot be supposed to alter the real nature of that which is willed.
I have already suggested how the opinion, that we are responsible for nothing except what results from an act of the will, is occasioned; that is, by regarding our most inward spiritual affections as of the same nature with our outward actions. But this is altogether unwarranted. For how can we judge, that a particular thing is true of all our actions, however differ- . ent from each other, because it is true of some of them ? According to the law of our nature, a part and only a part of our actions fall under the control of the will; while the will itself is as really governed by our dispositions and affections, as any of our actions are by the will. And can it be that those deep inward affections, those dispositions of the heart, which control the acts of the will, are themselves controlled by the will ? If we inquire after the matter of fact, we shall soon find what is the real province of the will, and how far its decisions govern our bodily acts, and our other mental acts. And nothing is more obvious and certain, than that those acts, both of the body and the mind, which are directly controlled by the dictation of the will, are not those which we regard as in themselves mor
ally good or evil, and that the goodness or badness which we predicate of them, and of the determinations of the will which govern them, is only secondary and relative, being derived from the predominant affection. This is the practical judgment of all men. If any one wills to do an action from sincere benevolence ; that action is judged by all to be praiseworthy, not because it follows an act of the will, but because the act of the will leading to it is influenced by a good affection. But if any one wills to do the same outward action from pride or selfishness; the action itself, and the volition leading to it, is universally regarded as unworthy and base. And why? Not because of any intrinsic evil in the voluntary action itself, but because it sprang from such an inward motive, such a disposition of the heart. Thus, how different soever the speculative theories which men may advocate on this subject; they all agree in their practical judgment. Good and evil are found ultimately in the disposition or affection of the heart, or nowhere.
It will be seen that I have thus far used the word volition, or act of the will, to denote that imperative or executive act of the mind, which directs something to be done, or leads to the doing of it. This is the sense which is given to the word by Locke, and generally by more recent writers, and in common discourse.
But there is another sense, which is found more or less both in common and in philosophical discourse, and which is favored by some passages of Scripture, and by the usage of the older class of writers on moral and religious subjects. According to this usage, the will stands for the whole moral faculty, or the moral nature of man. All the affections and dispositions belong to the will. Love and hatred, desire and aversion, and all the feelings of the heart, are considered as properties and acts of the will. So Edwards generally uses the word, though not always.
Now it is clear, that using the word will in this extensive sense makes a great alteration in the mode of speaking and reasoning on the subject. And unless we are specially attentive to the meaning which different writers attach to the word, we shall be involved in confusion, and shall be unable to do justice either to them, or to the subject they treat. If the word will is taken in this large sense, then indeed nothing is of a moral nature but volitions, or acts of the will. To be pleased and to be displeased, to love and to hate, to desire and to feel aversion, are all acts or states of the will. So are all the emo