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vice, reward or punishment, and with every thing whatsoever of a moral nature, either on the part of the moral governor, or in the state, actions or conduct of the subject.
Of a supposed Tendency of these Principles to Atheism and
If any object against what has been maintained, that it tends to Atheism; I know not on what grounds such an objection can be raised, unless it be, that some Atheists have held a doctrine of necessity which they suppose to be like this. But if it be so, I am persuaded the Arminians would not look upon it just that their nution of freedom and contingence should be charged with a tendency to all the errors that ever any embraced, who have held such opinions. The Stoick philosophers, whom the Calvinists are charged with agreeing with, were no Atheists, but the greatest Theists, and nearest akin to Christians in their opinions concerning the unity and the perfections of the Godhead, of all the heathen philosophers. And Epicurus, that chief father of Atheism, maintained no such doctrine of necessity, but was the greatest maintainer of contingence.
The doctrine of necessity, which supposes a necessary connection of all events, on some antecedent ground and reason of their existence, is the only medium we have to prove the being of God. And the contrary doctrine of contingence, even as maintained by Arminians (which certainly implies or infers, that events may come into existence, or begin to be, without dependence on any thing foregoing, as their cause, ground or reason) takes away all proof of the being of God; which proof is summarily expressed by the apostle, in Rom. i. 20. And this is a tendency to Atheism with a witness. So that, indeed, it is the doctrine of Arminians, and not of the Calvinists, that is justly charged with a tendency to Atheism ; it being built on a foundation that is the utter subversion of
demonstrative argument for the proof of a Deity; as has been shewn, Part II. Sect. III.
And whereas it has often been said, that the Calvinistic doctrine of necessity saps the foundations of all religion and virtue, and tends to the greatest licentiousness of practice : this objection is built on the pretence, that our doctrine renders vain all means and endeavours, in order to be virtuous and religious. Which pretence has been already particularly considered in the fifth Section of this Part; where it has been demonstrated, that this doctrine has no such tendency; but
that such a tendency is truly to be charged on the contrary doctrine : inasmuch as the notion of contingence which their doctrine implies in its certain consequences, overthrows all connection in every degree, between endeavour and event, means and end.
And besides, if many other things, which have been observed to belong to the Arminian doctrine, or to be plain consequences of it, be considered, there will appear just reason to suppose, that it is that which must rather tend to licentiousness, Their doctrine excuses all evil inclinations, which men find to be natural; because, in such inclinations, they are not self-determined, as such inclinations are not owing to any choice or determination of their own wills. Which leads men wholly to justify themselves in all their wicked actions, so far as natural inclination has had a hand in determining their wills to the commission of them. Yea, these notions, which suppose moral necessity and inability to be inconsistent with blame or moral obligation, will directly lead men to justify the vilest acts and practices, from the strength of their wicked inclinations of all sorts ; strong inclinations inducing a moral necessity : yea, to excuse every degree of evil inclination, so far as this has evidently prevailed, and been the thing which has determined their wills: because, so far as antecedent inclination determined the will, so far the will was without liberty of indifference and self-determination. Which, at last, will come to this, that men will justify themselves in all the wickedness they commit. It has been observed already, that this scheme of things exceedingly diminishes the guilt of sin, and the difference between the greatest and smallest offences ;* and if it be pursued in its real consequences, it leaves room for no such thing as either virtue or vice, blame or praise, in the world. And again, how naturally does this notion of the sovereign self-determining power of the will, in all things virtuous or vicious, and whatsoever deserves either reward or punishment, tend to encourage men to put off the work of religion and vir: tue, and turning from sin to God; since they have a sovereign power to determine themselves, just when they please; or if not, they are wholly excusable in going on in sin, because of their inability to do any other.
If it should be said, that the tendency of this doctrine of necessity to licentiousness appears, by the improvement many at this day actually make of it, to justify themselves in their dissolute courses ; I will not deny that some men do unreasonably abuse this doctrine, as they do many other things
* Part III. Sect. VI.
† Part III. Sect. VI. Ibid. Sect. VII. Part IV. Sect. I. Part III. Sect. III. Corol. 1. after the first head. VOL. Ii,
which are true and excellent in their own nature; but I deny, that this proves the doctrine itself has any tendency to licentiousness. I think the tendency of doctrines, by what now appears in the world, and in our nation in particular, may much more justly be argued from the general effect which has been seen to attend the prevailing of the principles of Arminians, and the contrary principles ; as both have had their turn of general prevalence in our nation. If it be indeed, as is pretended, that Calvinistic doctrines undermine the very foundation of all religion and morality, and enervate and disannul all rational motives to holy and virtuous practice; and that the contrary doctrines give the inducements to virtue and goodness their proper force, and exhibit religion in a rational light, tending to recommend it to the reason of mankind, and enforce it in a manner that is agreeable to their natural notions of things: I say, if it be thus, it is remarkable, that virtue and religious practice should prevail most, when the former doctrines, so inconsistent with it, prevailed almost universally: and that ever since the latter doctrines, so happily agreeing with it, and of so proper and excellent a tendency to promote it, have been gradually prevailing, vice, profaneness, luxury and wickedness of all sorts, and contempt of all religion, and of every kind of seriousness and strictness of conversation, should proportionably prevail ; and that these things thould thus accompany one another, and rise and prevail one with another, now for a whole age together! It is remarkable, that this happy remedy (discovered by the free enquiries, and superior sense and wisdom of this age) against the pernicious effects of Calvinism, so inconsistent with religion, and tending so much to banish all virtue from the earth, should, on so long a trial, be attended with no good effect; but that the consequence should be the reverse of amendment ; that in proportion as the remedy takes place, and is thoroughly applied, so the disease should prevail; and the very same dismal effect take place, to the highest degree, which Calvinistic doctrines are supposed to have so great a tendency to ; even the banishing of religion and virtue, and the prevailing of unbounded licentiousness of manners! If these things are truly so, they are very remarkable, and matter of very curious speculation.
Concerning that Objection against the Reasoning, by which the
Calvinistic doctrine is supposed, that it is metaphysical and abstruse.
And it is pos
It has often been objected against the defenders of Cal. vinistic principles, that in their reasonings they run into nice scholastic distinctions, and abstruse metaphysical subtilties, and set these in opposition to common sense. sible, that after the former manner, it may be alledged against the Reasoning by which I have endeavoured to confute the Arminian scheme of liberty and moral agency, that it is very abstracted and metaphysical. Concerning this, I would observe the following things :
1. If that be made an objection against the foregoing reasoning, that it is metaphysical, or may properly be reduced to the science of metaphysics, it is a very impertinent objection; whether it be so or no, is not worthy of any dispute or controversy. If the reasoning be good, it is as frivolous to enquire what science it is properly reduced to, as what language it is delivered in : and for a man to go about to confute the arguments of his opponent, by telling him, his arguments are mctaphysical, would be as weak as to tell him, his arguments could not be substantial, because they were written in French or Latin. The question is not, whether what is said be metaphysics, physics, logic, or mathematics, Latin, French, English, or Mohawk? But whether the Reasoning be good, and the arguments truly conclusive? The foregoing arguments are no more metaphysical, than those which we use against the Papists, to disprove their doctrine of transubstantiation ; alledging it is inconsistent with the notion of corporeal identity, that it should be in ten thousand places at the same time. It is by metaphysical arguments only we are able to prove, that the ra. tional soul is not corporeal, that lead or sand cannot think ; that thoughts are not square or round, or do not weigh a pound. The arguments by which we prove the being of God, if handled closely and distinctly, so as to shew their clear and demonstrative evidence, must be metaphysically treated. It is by metaphysics only that we can demonstrate, that God is not limited to a place, or is not mutable ; that he is not ignorant, or forgetful; that it is impossible for him to lie, or be unjust; and that there is one God only, and not hundreds or thousands. And, indeed, we have no strict demonstration of any thing, excepting mathematical truths, but by metaphysics. We can have no proof that is properly demonstrative of any one
proposition, relating to the being and nature of God, his creation of the world, the dependence of all things on him, the nature of bodies or spirits, the nature of our own souls, or any of the great truths of morality and natural religion, but what is metaphysical. I am willing my arguments should be brought to the test of the strictest and justest reason, and that a clear, distinct, and determinate meaning of the terms I use, should be insisted on ; but let not the whole be rejected, as if all were confuted, by fixing on it the epithet metaphysical.
II. If the reasoning which has been made use of, be in some sense metaphysical, it will not follow that therefore it must need be abstruse, unintelligible, and akin to the jargon of the schools. I bumbly conceive the foregoing reasoning, at least to those things which are most material belonging to it, depends on no abstruse definitions, or distinctions, or terms without a meaning, or of very ambiguous and undetermined signification, or any points of such abstraction and subtilty, as tends to involve the attentive understanding in clouds and darkness. There is no high degree of refinement and abstruse speculation in determining that a thing is not before it is, and so cannot be the cause of itself; or that the first act of free choice, has not another act of free choice going before that to excite or direct it; or in determining that no choice is made while the mind remains in a state of absolute indifference; that preference and equilibrium never co-exist; and that therefore no choice is made in a state of liberty, consisting in indifference: and that so far as the will is determined by motives, exhibiting and operating previous to the act of the will, so far it is not determined by the act of the will itself; that nothing can begin to be, which before was not, without a cause, or some antecedent ground or reason, why it then begins to be ; that effects depend on their causes, and are connected with them ; that virtue is not the worse, nor sin the better, for the strength of inclination, with which it is practised, and the difficulty which thence arises of doing other. wise ; that when it is already infallibly known that the thing will be, it is not contingent whether it will ever be or no; or that it can be truly said, notwithstanding, that it is not necessary it should be, but it either may be, or may not be. And the like might be observed of many other things which belong to the foregoing reasoning.
If any shall still stand to it, that the foregoing reasoning is nothing but mere metaphysical sophistry: and that it must be so, that the seeming force of the arguments all depends on some fallacy, and while that is hid in the obscurity, which always attends a great degree of metaphysical abstraction and refinement; and shall be ready to say, “Here is indeed some