Page images
PDF
EPUB

or the exerting such an act, to be a cause of the exertion of such an act. For the question is, What is the cause and reason of the soul's exerting such an act? To which the answer is, The soul exerts such an act, and that is the cause of it. And so, by this, the exertion must be distinct from, and in the order of nature prior to itself.

(3.) If the meaning be, that the soul's exertion of such a particular act of will, is a thing that comes to pass of itself, without any cause ; and that there is absolutely no reason of the soul being determined to exert such a volition, and make such a choice, rather than another; I say, if this be the meaning of Arminians, when they contend so earnestly for the will determining its own acts, and for liberty of will consisting in self-determining power; they do nothing but confound themselves and others with words without a meaning. In the question, What determines the will ? and in their answer, that the will determines itself, and in all the dispute, it seems to be taken for granted, that something determines the will; and the controversy on this head is not, whether its determination has any cause or foundation at all; but where the foundation of it is, whether in the will itself, or somewhere else. But if the thing intended be what is above-mentioned, then nothing at all determines the will; volition having absolutely no cause or foundation of its existence, either within, or without. There is a great noise made about self-determining power, as the source of all free acts of the will : but when the matter comes to be explained, the meaning is, that no power at all is the source of these acts, neither self-determining power, nor any other, but they arise from nothing ; no cause, no power, no influence, being at all concerned in the matter.

However, this very thing, even that the free acts of the will are events which come to pass without a cause, is certainly implied in the Arminian notion of liberty of will; though it be very inconsistent with many other things in their scheme, and repugnant to some things implied in their notion of liberty. Their opinion implies, that the particular determination of volition is without any cause ; because they hold the free acts of the will to be contingent events; and contingence is essential to freedom in their notion of it. But certainly, those things which have a prior ground and reason of their particular existence, a cause which antecedently determines them to be, and determines them to be just as they are, do not happen contingently. If something foregoing, by a casual influence and connection, determines and fixes precisely their coming to pass, and the manner of it, then it does not remain a contingent thing whether they shall come to pass or no.

And because it is a question in many respects very important in this controversy, Whether the free acts of the will VOL. 11.

ent

are events which come to pass without a cause? I shall be particular in examining this point in the two following sections.

SECT. III.

Whether any Event whatsoever, and Volition in particular, can

come to pass without a Cause of its existence. Before I enter on any argument on this subject, I would explain how I would be understood, when I use the word Cause in this discourse; since, for want of a better word, I shall have occasion to use it in a sense which is more extensive, than that in which it is sometimes used. The word is often used in so restrained a sense as to signify only that which has a positive efficiency or influence to produce a thing, or bring it to pass. But there are many things which have no such positive productive influence: which yet are Causes in this respect, that they have truly the nature of a reason why some things are, rather than others; or why they are thus, rather than otherwise. Thus the absence of the sun in the night, is not the Cause of the fall of dew at that time, in the same manner as its beams are the Cause of the ascent of vapours in the day-time; and its withdrawment in the winter, is not in the same manner the Cause of the freezing of the waters, as its approach in the spring is the cause of their thawing. But yet the withdrawment or absence of the sun is an antecedent, with which these effects in the night and winter are connected, and on which they depend ; and is one thing that belongs to the ground and reason why they come to pass at that time, rather than at other times; though the absence of the sun is nothing positive, nor has any positive influence.

It may be further observed, that when I speak of connection of Causes and Effects, I have respect to moral Causes, as well as those which are called natural in distinction from them. Moral Causes may be Causes in as proper a sense, as any Causes whatsoever ; may have as real an influence, and may as truly be the ground and reason of an Event's coming to pass.

Therefore I sometimes use the word Cause, in this en. quiry, to signify any antecedent, either natural or moral, positive or negative, on which an Event, either a thing, or the manner and circumstance of a thing, so depends, that it is the ground and reason, either in whole, or in part, why it is, rather than not; or why it is as it is, rather than otherwise : or, in other words, any antecedent with which a consequent Event is so connected, that it truly belongs to the reason why the propo

sition which affirms that Event, is true ; whether it has any positive influence, or not. And agreeably to this, I sometimes use the word effect for the consequence of another thing, which is perhaps rather an occasion than a Cause, most properly speaking.

I am the more careful thus to explain my meaning, that I may cut off occasion, from any that might seek occasion to cavil and object against some things which I may say concerning the dependence of all things which come to pass, on some Cause, and their connection with their Cause.

Having thus explained what I mean by Cause, I assert that nothing ever comes to pass without a Cause. What is self-existent must be from eternity, and must be unchangeable : but as to all things that begin to be, they are not self-existent, and therefore must have some foundation of their existence without themselves. That whatsoever begins to be, which before was not, must have a Cause why it then begins to exist, seems to be the first dictate of the common and natural sense which God hath implanted in the minds of all mankind, and the main foundation of all our reasonings about the existence of things, past, present, or to come.

And this dictate of common sense equally respects substances and modes, or things, and the manner and circumstances of things. Thus, if we see a body which has hitherto been at rest, start out of a state of rest, and begin to move, we do as naturally and necessarily suppose there is some Cause, or reason of this new mode of existence, as of the existence of a body itself which had hitherto not existed. And so if a body, which had hitherto moved in a certain direction, should suddenly change the direction of its motion; or if it should put off its old figure, and take a new one; or change its colour : the beginning of these new modes is a new Event, and the human mind necessarily supposes that there is some Cause or reason of them.

If this grand principle of common sense be taken away, all arguing from Effects to Causes ceaseth, and so all knowledge of any existence, besides what we have by the most direct and immediate intuition, particularly all our proof of the being of God ceases : we argue His being from our own being, and the being of other things, which we are sensible once were not, but have begun to be; and from the being of the world, with all its constituent parts, and the manner of their existence; all which we see plainly are not necessary in their own nature, and so not self-existent, and therefore must have a Cause. But if things, not in themselves necessary, may begin to be without a Cause, all this arguing is vain.

Indeed, I will not affirm, that there is in the natare of things no foundation for the knowledge of the Being of God,

without any evidence of it from his works. I do suppose there is a great absurdity in denying Being in general, and imagining an eternal, absolute, universal nothing: and therefore that there would be, in the nature of things, a foundation of intuitive cvidence, that there must be an eternal, infinite, most perfect Being ; if we had strength and comprehension of mind sufficient, to have a clear idea of general and universal Being. But then we should not properly come to the knowledge of the Being of God by arguing; our evidence would be intuitive : we should see it, as we see other things that are necessary in themselves, the contraries of which are in their own nature absurd and contradictory; as we see that twice two is four; and as we see that a circle has no angles. If we had as clear an idea of universal, infinite entity, as we have of these other things, I suppose we should most intuitively see the absurdity of supposing such Being not to be ; should immediately see there is no room for the question, whether it is possible that Being, in the most general, abstracted notion of it, should not be. But we have not that strength and extent of mind, to know this certainly in this intuitive, independent manner : but the way that mankind come to the knowledge of the Being of God, is that which the apostle speaks of, Rom. i. 20. The invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen ; being understood by the things that are made; even his eternal power and Godhead. We first ascend, and prove a posteriori, or from effects, that there must be an eternal Cause ; and then secondly, prove by argumentation, not intuition, that this Being must be necessarily existent; and then thirdly, from the proved necessity of his existence, we may descend, and prove many of his perfections a priori.*

But if once this grand principle of common sense be

* To the inquirer after truth it may here be recommended, as a matter of some conscquence, to keep in mind the precise difference between an argument a priori and one a posteriori, a distinction of considerable use, as well as of long standing among divines, metaphysicians, and logical writers. An argument from either of these, when legitimately applied, may amount to a demonstration, when used, for instance, relatively to the being and perfections of God; but the one should be confined to the existence of Deity, while the other is applicable to his perfections. By the argument a posteriori we rise from the effect to the cause, from the stream to the fountain, from what is posterior to what is prior ; in other words, from what is contingent to what is absolute, from number to unity; that is, from the mani. festalion of God to his existence. By the argument a priori we descend from the cause to the effect, from the fountain to the stream, from what is prior to what is posterior ; that is, from the necessary existence of God we safely infer certain properties and perfections. To attempt a demonstration of the existence of a first cause, or the Being of God a priori, would be most absurd; for it would be an attempt to prove a prior ground or cause of existence of a first cause; or, that there is some cause before the very first. The argument a priori, therefore, is not applicable to prove the divine existence. For this end, the argument a posteriori alone is legitimate; and its conclusiveness rests on this axiom, that "there can be no effect without a cause.”—The absurdity of denying this axiom is abundantly de. monstrated by our author, W.

given up, that what is not necessary in itself, must have a Cause ; and we begin to maintain, that things which heretofore have not been, may come into existence, and begin to be of themselves, without any cause ; all our means of ascending in our arguing from the creature to the Creator, and all our evidence of the Being of God, is cut off at one blow. In this case, we cannot prove that there is a God, either from the Being of the world, and the creatures in it, or from the manner of their being, their order, beauty and use. For if things may come into existence without any Cause at all, then they doubtless may without any Cause answerable to the effect. Our minds do alike naturally suppose and determine both these things; namely, that what begins to be has a Cause, and also that it has a cause proportionable to the effect. The same principle which leads us to determine, that there cannot be any thing coming to pass without a Cause, leads us to determine that there cannot be more in the effect than in the cause.

Yea, if once it should be allowed, that things may come to pass without a Cause, we should not only have no proof of the Being of God, but we should be without evidence of the existence of any thing whatsoever, but our own immediately present ideas and consciousness. For we have no way to prove any thing else, but by arguing from effects to Causes : from the ideas now immediately in view, we argue other things not immediately in view ; from sensations now excited in us, we infer the existence of things without us, as the Causes of these sensations; and from the existence of these things, we argue other things, on which they depend, as effects on Causes. We infer the past existence of ourselves, or any thing else, by memory ; only as we argue, that the ideas, which are now in our minds, are the consequences of past ideas and sensations. We immediately perceive nothing else but the ideas which are this moment extant in our minds. We perceive or know other things only by means of these, as necessarily connected with others, and dependent on them. But if things may be without Causes, all this necessary connection and dependence is dissolved, and so all means of our knowledge is gone. If there be no absurdity or difficulty in supposing one thing to start out of non-existence into being, of itself without a Cause; then there is no absurdity or difficulty in supposing the same of millions of millions. For nothing, or no difficulty multiplied, still is nothing, or no difficul. ty: nothing multiplied by nothing, does not increase the sum.

And indeed, according to the hypothesis I am opposing, of the acts of the will coming to pass without a Cause, it is the cause in fact, that millions of millions of Events are continually coming into existence contingently, without any Cause or reason why they do so, all over the world, every day and

« PreviousContinue »