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he could not act rightly, and thereby preserve his happiness, though his disposition and will were ever so upright; which is to say, in fact, he is no moral agent. And the same consequence follows if the means are not suitable in their nature, or sufficient to their end, for if unsuitable; they are the same as no means; and if not sufficient to lead to the proposed end, supposing they are used aright, they possess not the essential nature of all means.-Moreover ;
3. Such a moral agent is one who has the power or cause of sinning. If he has no power or cause of deviating from rectitude, when poised in the balance of mere equity, he is not defe&tible; but defectibility is essential to every created nature, therefore he has the power of finning. Beside, the very idea of accountableness implies a poffibility of receding from the rule of right. And this power, in the most absolute sense of the word, is truly his own. Grant him rational existence, and he has power to fin if permitted. But
4. He has also a power or liberty of not sinning. This must be allowed, else it would follow that the moral creature is under a physical necessity of finning; which would destroy his accountableness, and subvert that freedom which, in equity, is essential to all free agents. ($ 3.)-The fact is, that this power or liberty consists in a medium or neutrality between a physical impulse to fin, and an efficient power of acting well. The former extreme, his being physically impelled to fin, is not only unworthy of God, but is in its own nature impossible ; for fin has no efficient cause but a deficient one only, as will be explained in the sequel. Were the proper nature of fin carefully confidered, we should never hear of the absurdity, the blasphemous impiety, of God being the Author of fin. The latter extreme, (which is but too often taken for granted without examination that a perfect moral agent in a state of original probation has of himself an efficient, or a sort of independent power of acting well, will be examined in our progress, (chap. iv.) and shewn to be unfounded in truth, dishonourable to God, and the source of much error.
In the mean time I would briefly observe, that to suppose a created being possessed of such power to preserve himself, is the same as to make an accountable agent indefe&tible; for wherein can its defectibility consist, but in its having no independent efficient power of preserving itself. If a being be created, it must be dependent; dependent in its essence, qualities, and operations; and if thus dependent, it has no efficient power to preserve itself. On the contrary, if it has no deficient power of deviating from rectitude, it is not in the rank of moral agents. -Such is the awful prerogative of JEHOVAH, as the moral Governor; and such the absolute dependence of a moral agent !
§ 10. By“ moral evil,” or fin, I understand, “a deviation from perfect moral rectitude. To illuftrate this definition, which is the same with that of St. John, “ fin is the transgreflion of the law,” if by the term “ law” we understand « perfect moral rectitude"-observe : 1. What I call “ perfect moral rectitude” is the D 2
standard to which every moral agent ought to be conformed according to the constituted relation of things, which is the effect of the will of God, and agreeable to his holy Nature. Rectitude, therefore, differs from Equity, only as a standard of measure differs from actual measure, or as evennefs differs from a balance. The foundation of equity is rectitude ; and that of rectitude is the supreme Essence.
2. A continuation in a state of “perfect moral rectitude” depends upon universal conformity to the constituted nature and relation of things. Thus, for instance, man in his primæval state, ftood related to all the objects around him in the universe. Every capacity of mind and every organ of sense, had various objects suited to gratify and render happy its own nature. But any deliberate mistake in the choice or use of these innumerable good things, -as to time, place, degree, subordination, or the like, formed a deviation from perfect moral rectitude, and constituted man a finner.
3. A moral agent is capable of “ deviation from rectitude,” by reason of a cause of defectibility inseparable from a created nature, which may be called a metaphysical tendency to failure. If otherwise, his actual defection would be impossible. For how could he act amiss if he had no propensity of any kind to the wrong act ? And how could he have that propensity, without some kind of defect in the difpofition ? A good act argues a good propensity, and that a good disposition ; because good in every respect proceeds from God: but not so a deviation from rectitude.
4. The finfulness of an act consists in the will fixing on an object of choice, which, though good in itself, is not suitable for the end proposed by the agent. Or, in other words, the badness of a moral act consists in the agent proposing to himself a different end, in the use of any object, from that which God proposes. While the sinfulness of a disposition consists in the tendency it has to make such a perverted choice.
5. Sin has not an efficient, but only a deficient cause. Whatever has a real positive entity is of God, as its efficient, and therefore is good; but fin is evil, and therefore its cause is a deficient one. Consequently, sin cannot be the object of any divine decree; and yet, as a shadow is known by the substance it refers to, and may give occasion and rise to positive acts, so may fin be known to infinite intelligence, in every possible case, by the good to which it is opposed, and may give occasion and rise to positive acts in the divine decrees and opera
$11. LIBERTY is a term which is made use of in very various, and often in a vague sense. But, not to enumerate the different kinds of Liberty, I shall confine myself to that alone, which is appropriate and effential to moral agents. By this “ liberty,” there. fore, I understand < a power to choose, out of divers things, whatever appears eligible; and, in all inhances of responsibility, to act according to volition.” A power to choose only one thing, is no moral power, no true freedom; for liberty, in the
sense here used, necessarily implies, where the intellect is finite, a posibility of erring; whereas, if there be but one thing to choose, or one conclusion to make, there can be no room for mistake or deviation. Nor can any one be free in his choice, but he who chooses what appears to him eligible; to choose otherwise is not to exercise freedom, but to be led about as a blind beggar, by the hand of chance equally blind, or else by such a fixed natural neces. fity, as is totally imcompatible with a moral state.
$ 12. o
Necessity,” also, is a term that has been productive of many and great disputes. But is there
апу kind of necessity to which a moral agent can be subject ? Yes: for
1. The human body is subject to the common laws of nature, which operate by a physical necessity. It is necessarily subject to the laws of gravitation, cohesion, fermentation, putrefaction and diffolution. It is necessarily subject to vibratory motions from objects seen, heard, smelt, tasted and felt. It is moreover necessarily subject to the practicable free commands of the will, and all involuntary motions.
2. The human mind also is subject to physical necessity; for it is necessarily subject to that kind, degree, and perpetuity of existence which the will of God appoints. It is constantly and necessarily attracted, by the energy of its Maker, according to the general law of its constitution, to the chief good, and the greatest apparent present good. It is under a necessity of choosing one object or consequence out of two or more proposed. No condi