« IndietroContinua »
tion, no art or evasion, is capable of preventing this; and the effect must needs be accounted morally good or bad. It is under a necessity of choosing out of the repository of its own knowledge or sensation, which is but a very small stock compared with the boundless variety of objects that are perceivable.
It is proper, however, to remark, that this phyfical necessity, relative to the human body and mind, is controulable by miraculous interpofition. There is no law of nature whatever, which is the result of positive will, but may be suspended or altered if no decree to the contrary prohibit. This is plain to any one who perceives the important difference between a physical and a decretive necesfity, which are but too commonly confounded by some modern philosophical Necessitarians. - This leads to another remark:
3. Every moral agent is the subject of an hypothetical necesity of the event; that is, from one thing being laid down as a certain position, in an ideal system, another thing will infallibly follow as an effect of it. For instance, if I am formed a creature, it necesarily follows, without exception, that I must be absolutely dependent on the Creator; if I am made accountable, a free use of means is the necesary consequence of that position. If matter, motion, and gravitation be supposed; contrariety, clashing, and corruption necessarily follow in the material world. If a moral system be supposed, every creature in it must necessarily partake, in D4
fome degree, of holiness or fin, of happiness or misery
4. Every moral agent is the subject of a decretive necesity of the event; that is, every thing but moral evil, (which cannot possibly from its very nature, be the object of any decretive act of God) relating to the moral agent, his natural endowments and valuable moral qualities, must be the necessary effect of the divine decree. What was once in the class of possibles only (as were the things just mentioned) becomes by a decree certainly future, and therefore necessary. — Nearly akin to this is,
5. That necesily, or certainty * as some choose to call it, which is opposed to absolute contingence. To God nothing is contingent or fortuitous, though many things are so to us. Contingence is a relative idea; the same thing may be contingent
*“ Metaphysical or philofophical necessity is nothing different from certainty. I speak not now of the certainty of knowledge, but the certainty there is in things themselves, which is the foundation of the certainty of the knowledge of them ; or that wherein lies the ground of the infallibility of the proposition which affirms them. — Philosophical necessity is really nothing else than the full and fixed connection between the things signified by the subject and predicate of a proposition, which affirms something to be truc. When there is such a connection, then the thing affirmed in the proposition is necessary, in a philosophical sense ; whether any opposition, or contrary effort be supposed, or supposable in the çale, or no. When the subject and predicate of a propofition, whi h affirms the existence of any thing, either substance, quality, act, or circumstance, have a full or certain connection, then the existence or being of that thing is said to be necessary in a metaphysical sense.” Edwards's Inquiry into the Freedom of the Will, p. 22. Lond. 1775.
to one being which is not so at all to another. It would be infinitely degrading to God to suppose that any thing is contingent to him. While we foresee nothing as infallibly certain, except upon a divine testimony; God's prevision is so absolute, and fo universal as to comprehend everything. Hence if two effects are not precisely the same, we may be sure there was a reason of the difference, though not by us perceiveable. Whereas if there be an effect perfectly contingent to God, it must be an effect without any assignable cause whatever ; and then we may as well say, that the universe exists without a cause. The consequence of this would be, an impoflibility to demonstrate a first cause; which is both absurd and impious to imagine.
Having defined and explained the principal controverted terms relating to our subject, we now proceed to take a view of the moral government of God.
Containing a View of the moral Government
of God with respect to mankind.
Of Man, the subject of moral government.
§ 1. That man is a subječt of moral government,
taken for granted. § 2. Man was made upright, $ 3. His present fate is very different. $ 4. The state of the intellect. § 5. And of the will. $ 6. Wherein consist man's defects and duty, explained and illustrated. $ 7. His defeats not excufable. $ 8. How this state is to be accounted for. $9. Obligations of perfection are proportionable to means. $ 10. But since the means afforded are misimproved, ali men are
found guilty. $1. E shall here take it for granted that
man is a subject of God's moral government, and therefore accountable for his ac. tions, propensities, and dispositions. To confute the denial of this position would lead us to combat Atheism; which is an absurdity so monstrous that a formal refutation of it is a compliment which it does not deserve. (Introd. S 1.)
§ 2. It § 2. It has been observed before, (ch. i. $ 3, 8.) that a subject of moral government is possessed of a CAPACITY for enjoying the chief good, which capacity includes intellect, will, and freedom; and if perfect, he actually enjoys the chief good, and every inferior good in a regular subordination to that higher end. This is the character of every moral agent in a state of original probation. But such an agent has also a suitableness and sufficiency of MEANS to preserve that enjoyment; and, if he have not transgressed the line of perfect moral rectitude, not one of the means, however numerous, has been abused; not one object internal or external, past, present, or future, has been over-valued or undervalued; every disposition, inclination, thought, desire, volition, and action, is exactly as it ought to be. And, finally, such an agent is possessed of FREEDOM, or a power to fin, and not to fin; the former, because accountable; the latter, because not impelled to sin, or to the sinfulness of any act, by any appointment, instrument, or immediate concourse of the first cause, whose ever-acting uninterrupted energy produces all good, and only good continually. This was the state of Adam and Eve before their transgression. God made man UPRIGHT. And God faw every thing that he had made, and behold, it was VERY GOOD.