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Essence, and the modes of action and operation in the powers of the Divine Mind.
And it may be noted particularly, that though we are obliged to conceive of some things in God as consequent and dependent on others, and of some things pertaining to the Divine Nature and will as the foundation of others, and so before others in the order of nature : as, we must conceive of the knowledge and holiness of God as prior, in the order of nature, to his happiness ; the perfection of his understanding, as the foundation of his wise purposes and decrees; the holiness of his nature, as the cause and reason of his holy determi. nations. And yet, when we speak of cause and effect, antecedent and consequent, fundamental and dependent, determining and determined, in the first Being, who is self-existent, independent, of perfect and absolute simplicity and immutability, and the first cause of all things; doubtless there must be less propriety in such representations than when we speak of derived dependent beings, who are compounded and liable to perpetual mutation and succession.
Having premised this, I proceed to observe concerning the forementioned Author's exclamation about the necessary Determination of God's Will in all things, by what he sees to be fittest and best.
That all the seeming force of such objections and exclamations must arise from an imagination, that there is some sort of privilege or dignity in being without such a moral Necessity as will make it impossible to do any other than always choose what is wisest and best ; as though there were some disadvantage, meanness and subjection, in such a Necessity; a thing by which the will was confined, kept under, and held in servitude by something which, as it were, maintained a strong and invincible power and dominion over it, by bonds that held him fast, and from which he could, by no means, deliver himself. Whereas, this must be all mere imagination and delusion. It is no disadvantage or dishonour to a being, necessarily to act in the most excellent and happy manner, from the necessary perfection of his own nature. This argues no imperfection, inferiority, or dependence, nor any want of dignity, privilege, or ascendency.* It is not in.
* " It might have been objected, with more plausibleness, that the Supreme Cause cannot be free, because he must needs do always what is best in the whole. But this would not at all serve Spinoza's purpose ; for this is a necessity, not of nature and of fate, but of fitness and wisdom; a necessity consistent with the greatest freedom and most perfect choice. For the only foundation of this necessity is such an unalterable rectitude of will and perfection of wisdom, as makes it impossible for a wise being to act foolishly.” Clark's Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God.” Edit. 6. p. 64.
“Though God is a most perfect free Agent, yet he cannot but do always what is best and wisest in the whole. The reason is evident; because perfect wisdom and goodness are as steady and certain principles of action, as Necessity
consistent with the absolute and most perfect sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God is his ability and authority to
itself; and an infinitely wise and good Being, indued with the most perfect liberty, can no more choose to act in contradiction to wisdom and goodness, than a necessary agent can act contrary to the Necessity by which it is acted; it being as great an absurdity and impossibility in choice &r Infinite Wisdom to choose to act unwisely, or Infinite Goodness to choose whar is itot good, as it would be in nature, for absolute Necessity to fail of producing its necessary effect. There was, indeed, no Necessity in nature, that God should at first create such beings as he has created, or indeed any being at all; because he is, in Himself, infinitely happy and all-sufficient. There was, also, no Necessity in nature, that he should preserve and continue things in being after they were created; because he would be self-sufficient without their continuance, as he was before their creation. But it was fit, and wise, and good, that Infinite Wisdom should manifest, and Infinite Goodness cominunicate itself; and therefore it was necessary, in the sense of Necessity I am now speaking of, that things should be made at such a time, and continued so long, and indeed with various perfections in such degrees, as Infinite Wisdom and Goodness saw it wisest and best that they should.” Ibide p. 112, 113.
" It is not a fault, but a perfection of our nature, to desire, will, and act, ac cording to the last result of a fair examination. This is so far from being a restraint or diminution of freedom, that it is the very improvement and benefit of it: it is not an abridgment, it is the end and use of our liberty; and the further we are removed from such a determination, the nearer we are to misery and slavery. A perfect indifference in the mind, not determinable by its last judgment, of the good or evil that is thought to attend its choice, would be so far from being an advantage and excellency of any intellectual nature, that it would be as great an imperfection, as the want of indifferency to act, or not to act, till determined by the will, would be an imperfection on the other side. - It is as much a perfection, that desire or the power of preferring should be determined by good, as that the power of acting should be determined by the will : and the certainer such determination is, the greater the perfection. Nay, were we determined by any thing but the last result of our own minds, judging of the good or evil of any action, we were not free. This very end of our freedom being, that we might attain the good we choose ; and, therefore, every man is brought under a Necessity by his constitution, as an intelligent being, to be determined in willing by his own thought and judgment, what is best for him to do; else he would be under the determination of some other than himself, which is want of liberty. And to deny that a man's will, in every determination, follows his own judgment, is to say, that a man wills and acts for an end that he would not have, ai the same time that he wills and acts for it. For if he prefers it in his present thoughts before any other, it is plain he then thinks better of it, and would have it before any other ; unless he can have, and not have it ; will, and not will it, at the same time; a contradiction too manifest to be admitted.-If we look upon those superior beings above us, who enjoy perfect happiness, we shall have reason to judge, that they are more steadily determined in their choice of good than we; and yet we have no reason to think they are less happy, or less free, than we are. And if it were fit for such poor finite creatures as we are, to pronounce what Infinite Wisdom and Goodness could do, I think we might say, that God himself cannot choose what is not good, The freedom of the Almighty hinders not his being determined by what is best.–But to give a right vicw of this mistaken part of liberty, let me ask, Would any one be a changeling, because he is less determined by wise determination than a wise man? Is it worth the name of freedom, to be at liberty to play the fool, and draw shaine and misery upon a man's self? If to break" loose from the conduct of reason, and to want that restraint of examination and judgment that kceps us from doing or choosing the worse, be liberty, true liberty, mad men and fools are the only free men. Yet, I think, no body would choose to be mad, for the sake of such liberty, but he that is mad already.” Locke's Hum. Und. Vol. I. Edit., 7. p. 215, 216.
" This Being, having all things always necessarily in view, must always, and eternally will, according to his infinite comprehension of things that is, must will all things that are wisest and best to be done. There is no getting free of this cong
do whatever pleases him ; whereby " he doth according to his will in the armies of heaven, and amongst the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, what dost thou ?”—The following things belong to the sovereignty of God; viz. (1.) Supreme, Universal, and Infinite Power; whereby he is able to do what he pleases, without controul, without any confinement of that power, without any subjection, in the least measure, to any other power ; and so without any hindrance or restraint, that it should be either impossible or at all difficult for him to accomplish his Will; and without any dependence of his power on any other power, from whence it should be derived or of which it should stand in any need ; so far from this, that all other power is derived from him, and is absolutely dependent on him. (2.) That He has supreme authority ; absolute and most perfect right to do what he wills, without subjection to any superior authority, or any derivation of authority from any other, or limitation by any distinct independent authority, either superior, equal, or inferior; he being the head of all dominion, and fountain of all authority; and also without restraint by any obligation, implying either subjection, derivation, or dependence, or proper limi, tation. (3.) That his Will is supreme, underived, and independent on any thing without Himself; being in every thing determined by his own counsel, having no other rule but his own wisdom ; his will not being subject to, or restrained by the will of any other, and other wills being perfectly subject to his, (4.) That his Wisdom, which determines his will, is supreme, perfect, underived, self-sufficient, and independent; so that it may be said, as in Isai. xl. 14. “ With whom took He counsel ? And who instructed Him and taught Him in the path of judgment, and taught Him knowledge, and showed him the way of
sequence. If it can will at all, it must will this way. To be capable of knowing, and not capable of willing, is not to be understood. And to be capable of willing otherwise than what is wisest and best, contradicts that knowledge which is infinite, Infinite Knowledge must direct the will without error. Here then is the origin of moral Necessity ; and that is, really, of freedom--Perhaps it may be said, when the Divine Will is determined, from the consideration of the eternal aptitudes of things, it is as necessarily determined, as if it were physically impelled, if that were possible. But it is unskiltulness to suppose this an objection. The great principle is once established, viz. That the Divine Will is determined by the eternal reason and aptitudes of things, instead of being physically impelied; and after that, the more strong and necessary this determination is, the more perfect the Deity must be allowed to be: it is this that makes him an amiable and adorable Being, whose Will and Power are constantly, immutably determined, by the consideration of what is wisest and best; instead of a surd Being, with power, without discerning and reason. It is the beauty of this Necessity, that il is strong as fate itself, with all the advantage of reason and goodness.-It is strange to sce men contend, that the Deity is not free, because he is necessarily rational, immutably good and wise ; when a man is allowed still the perfecter being, the more fixedly and constantly his will is determined by reason and truth.”—Enquiry into the Nature of the Human Spul. Edit. 3. Vol. II. p. 403, 404.
understanding ?” There is no other Divine Sovereignty but this : and this is properly absolute sovereignty ; no other is desirable ; nor would any other be honourable or happy : and indeed there is no other conceivable or possible. It is the glory and greatness of the Divine Sovereign, that his Will is determined by his own infinite, all-sufficient wisdom in every thing; and is in nothing at all directed either by inferior wisdom, or by no wisdom; whereby it would become senseless arbitrariness, determining and acting without reason, design, or end.
If God's Will is steadily and surely determined in every thing by supreme wisdom, then it is in every thing necessarily determined to that which is most wise, and certainly, it would be a disadvantage and indignity to be otherwise; for if the Divine Will was not necessarily determined to what in every case is wisest and best, it must be subject to some degree of undesigning contingence; and so in the same degree liable to evil. To suppose the Divine Will liable to be carried hither and thither at random, by the uncertain wind of blind contingence which is guided by no wisdom, no motive, no intelligent dictate whatsoever, (if any such thing were possible) would certainly argue a great degree of imperfection and meanness, infinitely unworthy of the Deity.
If it be a disadvantage for the Divine Will to be attended with this moral Necessity, then the more free from it, and the more left at random, the greater dignity and advantage. And consequently, to be perfectly free from the direction of understanding, and universally and entirely left to senseless unmeaning contingence, to act absolutely at random, would be the supreme
It no more argues any dependence of God's Will, that his supremely wise volition is necessary, than it argues a dependence of his being, that his existence is necessary: if it be something too low for the Supreme Being to have his Will determined by moral Necessity, so as necessarily, in every case, to will in the highest degree holily and happily; then why is it not also something too low for him to have his existence, and the infinite perfection of his nature, and his infinite happiness determined by Necessity ? It is no more to God's dishonour to be necessarily wise than to be necessarily holy. And if neither of them be to his dishonour, then it is not to his dishonour necessarily to act holily and wisely. And if it be not dishonourable to be necessarily holy and wise, in the highest possible degree, no more is it mean and dishonourable, necessarily to act holy and wisely in the highest possible degree; or which is the same thing, to do that, in every case, which above all other things is wisest and best.
The reason why it is not dishonourable to be necessarily most holy is, because holiness in itself is an excellent and honourable thing. For the same reason it is no dishonour to be necessarily most wise, and in every case to act most wisely, or do the thing which is the wisest of all : for wisdom is also in itself excellent and honourable.
The forementioned Author of the Essay on the Freedom of Will, g-c. as has been observed, represents that doctrine of the Divine Will being in every thing necessarily determined by superior fitness, as making the blessed God a kind of Almighty Minister and mechanical medium of fate: he insists,(p. 93, 94,) that this moral Necessity and impossibility is in effect the same thing with physical and natural Necessity and impossibility : and says, (p. 54, 55.), “The scheme which determines the will always and certainly by the understanding, and the understanding by the appearance of things, seems to take away the true nature of vice and virtue. For the sublimest of virtues, and the vilest of vices, seem rather to be matters of fate and Necessity, flowing naturally and necessarily from the existence, the circumstances, and present situation of persons and things; for this existence and situation necessarily makes such an appearance to the mind; from this appearance flows a necessary perception and judgment concerning these things; this judgment necessarily determines the will : and thus, by this chain of necessary causes, virtue and vice would lose their nature, and become natural ideas and necessary things, instead of moral and free actions."
And yet this same Author allows, (p. 30, 31.) That a perfectly wise being will constantly and certainly choose what is most fit; and says, (p. 102, 103.) “I grant, and always have granted, that wheresoever there is such antecedent superior fitness of things, God acts according to it, so as never to contradict it; and, particularly, in all his judicial proceedings as a governor, and Distributer of rewards and punishments. Yea, he says expressly, (p. 42.) “That it is not possible for God to act otherwise, than according to this fitness and goodness in things.
So that according to this Author, putting these several passages of his Essay together, there is no virtue, nor any thing of a moral nature, in the most sublime and glorious acts and exercises of God's holiness, justice, and faithfulness; and he never does any thing which is in itself supremely worthy, and above all other things fit and excellent, but only as a kind of mechanical medium of fate; and in what he does as the Judge and moral Governor of the world, he exercises no moral excellency ; exercising no freedom in these things, because he acts by moral Necessity, which is, in effect, the same with physical or Natural Necessity; and therefore he