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things are unwarily attributed to Action and Necessity, in the new meaning of the words, which plainly belonged to them in their first sense; and on this ground, maxims are established without any real foundation, as though they were the most certain truths, and the most evident dictates of reason.
But however strenuously it is maintained, that what is necessary cannot be properly called Action, and that a necessary Action is a contradiction, yet it is probable there are few Arminian divines, who, thoroughly tried, would stand to these principles. They will allow, that God is, in the highest sense, an active Being, and the highest Fountain of Life and Action; and they would not probably deny, that what are called God's acts of righteousness, holiness and faithfulness, are truly and properly God's acts, and God is really a holy Agent in them; and yet, I trust, they will not deny, that God necessarily acts justly and faithfully, and that it is impossible for him to act un. righteously and unholily.
The Reasons why some think it contrary to common Sense to
suppose those Things which are necessary, to be worthy of either Praise or Blame.
It is abundantly affirmed and urged by Arminian writers, that it is contrary to common sense, and the natural notions and apprehensions of mankind, to suppose otherwise than that necessity (making no distinction between natural and moral necessity) is inconsistent with Virtue and Vice, Praise and Blame, Reward and Punishment. And their arguments from hence have been greatly triumphed in; and have been not a little perplexing to many who have been friendly to the truth, as clearly revealed in the holy Scriptures : it has seemed to them indeed difficult to reconcile Calvinistic doctrines with the notions men commonly have of justice and equity. The true reasons of it seem to be the following:
1. It is indeed a very plain dictate of common Sense, that natural necessity is wholly inconsistent with just Praise or Blame, If men do things which in themselves are very good, fit to be brought to pass, and attended with very happy effects, properly against their wills ; or do them from a necessity that is without their wills, or with which their wills have no concern or connection ; then it is a plain dictate of common sense, that such doings are none of their virtue, nor have they any moral good in them; and that the persons are not worthy to be rewarded or praised; or at all esteemed, honoured or loved on that account. And on the other hand, that if, from
like necessity, they do those things which in themselves are very unhappy and pernicious, and do them because they cannot help it; the necessity is such, that it is all one whether they will them or no; and the reason why they are done is from necessity only, and not from their wills : it is a very plain dictate of common Sense that they are not at all to blame ; there is no vice, fault or moral evil at all in the effect done ; nor are they who are thus necessitated in any wise worthy to be punished, hated, or in the least disrespected on that account.
In like manner, if things in themselves good and desirable are absolutely impossible, with a natural impossibility, the universal reason of mankind teaches, that this wholly and perfectly excuses persons in their not doing them.
And it is also a plain dictate of common Sense, that if doing things in themselves good, or avoiding things in themselves evil, is not absolutely impossible, with such a natural impossibility, but very difficult, with a natural difficulty ; that is, a difficulty prior to, and not at all consisting in will and inclination itself, and which would remain the same let the inclination be what it will; then a person's neglect or omission is excused in some measure, though not wholly ; his sin is less aggravated, than if the thing to be done were easy. And if instead of difficulty and hinderance, there be a contrary natural propensity in the state of things to the thing to be done or effect to be brought to pass, abstracted from any consideration of the inclination of the heart; though the propensity be not so great as to amount to a natural necessity, yet being some approach to it, so that the doing of the good thing be very much from this natural tendency in the state of things, and but little from a good inclination; then it is a dictate of common Sense, that there is so much the less virtue in what is done ; and so it is less praiseworthy and rewardable. The reason is easy, viz. because such a natural propensity or tendency is an approach to natural necessity; and the greater the propensity, still so much the nearer is the approach to necessity. And therefore, as natural necessity takes away or shuts out all virtue, so this propensity approaches to an abolition of virtue; that is, it diminishes it. And on the other hand, natural difficulty, in the state of things, is an approach to natural inpossibility; And as the latter, when it is complete and absolute, wholly takes away Blaine; so such difficulty takes away some Blame, or diminishes Blame, and makes the thing done to be less worthy of punishment.
II. Men, in their first use of such phrases as these, must, cannot, cannot help it, cannot avoid it, necessary, unable, inpossible, unavoidable, irresistible, fc. use them to signify a necessity of constraint or restraint, a natural necessity or im
possibility; or some necessity that the will has nothing to do in: which may be, whether men will or no; and which may be supposed to be just the same, let men's inclinations and desires be what they will. Such kind of terms in their original use, I suppose among all nations, are relative; carrying in their signification (as was before observed) a reference or respect to some contrary will, desire or endeavour, which, it is supposed, is, or may be, in the case. All men find, and begin to find in early childhood, that there are innumerable things that cannot be done, which they desire to do; and innumerable things, which they are averse to, that must be, they cannot avoid them, they will be, whether they choose them or no. It is to express this nece
cessity, which men so soon and so often find, and which so greatly and early affects them in innumerable cases, that such terms and phrases are first formed: and it is to signify such a necessity, that they are first used, and that they are most constantly used in the common affairs of life; and not to signify any such metaphysical, speculative and abstract notion, as that connection in the nature or course of things, which is between the subject and predicate of a proposition, and which is the foundation of the certain truth of that proposition ; to signify which, they who employ themselves in philosophical enquiries into the first origin and metaphysical relations and dependences of things, have borrowed these terms for want of others. But we grow up from our cradles in the use of terms and phrases entirely different from this, and carrying a sense exceeding diverse from that in which they are commonly used in the controversy between Arminians and Calvinists. And it being, as was said before, a dictate of the universal sense of man. kind, evident to us as soon as we begin to think, that the necessity signified by these terms, in the sense in which we first learn them, does excuse persons, and free them from all Fault or Blame; hence our ideas of excusableness or faultlessness is tied to these terms and phrases by a strong habit, which is begun in childhood, as soon as we begin to speak, and grows up with us, and is strengthened by constant use and custom, the connection growing stronger and stronger.
The habitual connection which is in men's minds between Blamelessness and those forementioned terms, must, cannot, unable, necessary, impossible, unavoidable, f-c. becomes very strong, because, as soon as ever men begin to use reason and speech, they have occasion to excuse themselves from the natural necessity signified by these terms, in numerous instances.—I cannot do it-I could not help it.— And all mankind have constant and daily occasion to use such phrases in this sense, to excuse themselves and others, in almost all the concerns of life, with respect to disappointments, and things
that happen, which concern and affect ourselves and others, that are hurtful, or disagreeable to us or them, or things desirable, that we or others fail to obtain.
That our being accustomed to an union of different ideas from early childhood, makes the habitual connection exceed. ing strong, as though such connection were owing to nature, is manifest in innumerable instances, It is altogether by such an habitual connection of ideas that men judge of the bigness or distance of the objects of sight from their appearance. Thus it is owing to such a connection early established, and growing up with a person, that he judges a mountain, which he sees at ten miles distance, to be bigger than his nose, or further off than the end of it. Having been used so long to join a considerable distance and magnitude with such an appearance, men imagine it is by a dictate of natural sense: whereas, it would be quite otherwise with one that had his eyes newly opened, who had been born blind : he would have the same visible appearance, but natural sense would dictate no such thing concerning the magnitude or distance of what appeared.
III. When men, after they had been so habituated to connect ideas of Innocency or Blamelessness with such terms, that the union seems to be the effect of mere nature, come to hear the same terms used, and learn to use them in the forementioned new and metaphysical sense, to signify quite another sort of necessity, which has no such kind of relation to a contrary supposable will and endeavour ; the notion of plain and manifest Blamelessness, by this means, is, by a strong prejudice, insensibly and unwarily transferred to a case to which it by no means belongs : the change of the use of the terms to a signification which is very diverse not being taken notice of or adverted to. And there are several reasons why it is not.
1. The terms, as used by philosophers, are not very distinct and clear in their meaning: few use them in a fixed determinate sense. On the contrary, their meaning is very vague and confused, which commonly happens to the words used to signify things intellectual and moral, and to express what Mr. LOCKE calls mirt modes. If men had a clear and distinct understanding of what is intended by these metaphysical terms, they would be able more easily to compare them with their original and common Sense ; and so would not be easily led into delusion by words of this sort.
2. The change of the signification of terms is the more insensible, because the things signified, though indeed very different, yet do in some generals agree. In necessity, that which is vulgarly so called, there is a strong connection between the thing said to be necessary, and something antece