Page images
PDF
EPUB

the sovereignty which it has over itself, that it goes this way rather than that.*

But in as much as this has been of such long standing, and has been so generally received, and so much insisted on by Pelagians, Semi-Pelagians, Jesuits, Socinians, Arminians, and others, it may deserve a more full consideration. And therefore I shall now proceed to a more particular and thorough enquiry into this notion.

Now lest some should suppose that I do not understand those that place Liberty in Indifference, or should charge me with misrepresenting their opinion, I would signify, that I am sensible, there are some, who, when they talk of Liberty of the Will as consisting in Indifference, express themselves as though they would not be understood to mean the Indifference of the inclination or tendency of the will, but an Indifference of the soul's power of willing; or that the Will, with respect to its power or ability to choose, is indifferent, can go either way indifferently, either to the right hand or left, either act or forbear to act, one as well as the other. This indeed seems to be a refining of some particular writers only, and newly invented, which will by no means consist with the manner of expression used by the defenders of Liberty of Indifference in general. I wish such refiners would thoroughly consider, whether they distinctly know their own meaning, when they make a distinction between an Indifference of the soul as to its power or ability of choosing, and the soul's Indifference as to the preference or choice itself ; and whether they do not deceive themselves in imagining that they have any distinct meaning at all. The indifference of the soul as to its ability or power to will, must be the same thing as the Indifference of the state of the power or faculty of the Will, or the Indifference of the state which the soul itself, which has that power or faculty, hitherto remains in,

* Dr. WHITBY, and some other Arminians, make a distinction of different kinds of freedom; one of God, and perfect spirits above; another of persons in a state of trial. The former Dr. Whitby allows to consist with necessity; the latter he holds to be without necessity: and this latter he supposes to be requisite to our being the subject of praise or dispraise, rewards or punishments, precepts and prohibitions, promises and threats, exhortations and dehortations, and a covenant-treaty. And to this freedom he supposes Inuifference to be requisite. In his Discourse on the five points, (p. 299, 300) he says ; " It is a freedom (speaking of a freedom not only from co-action, but from necessity) requisite, as we conceive, to render us capable of trial or probation, and to render our actions worthy of praise or dispraise, and our persons of rewards or punishments.” And in the next page, speaking of the same matter, he says, “Excellent to this purpose, are the words of Mr. THORNDAKE: We say not, that Indifference is requisite to all freedom, but to the freedom of man alone in this state of travail and proficience; the ground of which is God's tender of a treaty, and conditions of peace and reconcilement to fallen man, together with those precepts and prohibitions, those promises and threats, those erhortations and dehortations, it is enforced with."

as to the exercise of that power, in the choice it shall by and by make.

But not to insist any longer on the inexplicable abstruseness of this distinction ; let what will be supposed concerning the meaning of them that use it, thus much must at least be intended by Arminians when they talk of Indifference as essential to Liberty of Will, if they intend any thing, in any respect to their purpose, viz. That it is such an Indifference as leaves the Will not determined already ; but free from actual possession, and vacant of predetermination, so far, that there may be room for the exercise of the self-determining power of the Will; and that the Will's freedom consists in, or depends upon this vacancy and opportunity that is left for the Will itself to be the determiner of the act that is to be the free act.

And here I would observe in the first place, that to make out this scheme of Liberty, the Indifference must be perfect and absolute; there must be a perfect freedom from all antecedent preponderation or inclination. Because if the Will be already inclined, before it exerts its own sovereign power on itself, then its inclination is not wholly owing to itself: if when two opposites are proposed to the soul for its choice, the proposal does not find the soul wholly in a state of Indifference, then it is not found in a state of Liberty for mere selfdetermination.— The least degree of an antecedent bias must be inconsistent with their notion of Liberty. For so long as prior inclination possesses the will, and is not removed, the former binds the latter, so that it is utterly impossible that the Will should act otherwise than agreeably to it. Surely the Will cannot act or choose contrary to a remaining prevailing inclination of the Will. To suppose otherwise, would be the same thing as to suppose that the Will is inclined contrary to its present prevailing inclination, or contrary to what it is inclined to. That which the Will prefers, to that, all things considered, it preponderates and inclines. It is equally impossible for the Will to choose contrary to its own remaining and present preponderating inclination, as it is to prefer contrary to its own present preference, or choose contrary to its own present choice. The Will, therefore, so long as it is under the influence of an old preponderating inclination, is not at Liberty for a new free act; or any, that shall now be an act of self-determination. That which is a self-determined free act, must be one which the will determines in the possession and use of a peculiar sort of Liberty ; such as consists in a freedom from every thing, which, if it were there, would make it impossible that the Will, at that time, should be otherwise than that way to which it tends.*

* There is a little intricacy in this mode of expression. It may be thus illusated. Suppose it were asserted, “That it is impossible for the will to be other

If any one should say, there is no need that the Indifference should be perfect; but although a former inclination still remains, yet, if it be be not very strong, possibly the strength of the Will may oppose and overcome it :- This is grossly absurd ; for the strength of the Will, let it be never so great, gives it no such sovereignty and command, as to cause itself to prefer and not to prefer at the same time, or to choose contrary to its own present choice.

Therefore, if there be the least degree of antecedent preponderation of the Will, it must be perfectly abolished, before the Will can be at liberty to determine itself the contrary way. And if the Will determines itself the same way, it was not a free determination, because the Will is not wholly at Liberty in so doing ; its determination is not altogether from itself, but it was partly determined before, in its prior inclination : and all the Freedom the Will exercises in the case, is in an increase of inclination, which it gives itself, added to what it had by a foregoing bias; so much is from itself, and so much is from perfect Indifference. For though the Will had a previous tendency that way, yet as to that additional degree of inclination, it had no tendency. Therefore the previous tendency is of no consideration, with respect to the act wherein the Will is free. So that it comes to the same thing which was said at first, that as to the act of the Will, wherein the Will is free, there must be perfect Indifference, or equilibrium.

To illustrate this : suppose a sovereign self-moving power in a natural body ; but that the body is in motion already, by an antecedent bias; for instance, gravitation towards the centre of the earth ; and has one degree of motion by virtue of that previous tendency; but by its self-moving power it adds one degree more to its motion, and moves so much more swiftly towards the centre of the earth than it would do by its gravity only : it is evident, all that is owing to a self-moving power in this case, is the additional degree of motion ; and that the other degree which it had from gravity, is of no consideration in the case; the effect is just the same, as if the body had received from itself one degree of motion from a state of perfect rest. So, if we suppose a self-moving power given to the scale of a balance, which has a weight of one degree beyond the opposite scale; and if we ascribe to it an ability to add to itself another degree of force the same way, by its self-mov

wise at any one given time, than that way to which it tends.” Such a proposition one might think, none who understood the terms would controvert; for it would be to controvert this proposition, “The will is as its tendency.”. And yet, the advocates for a self-determining power must assert a liberty which denies this plain proposition. W.

ing power ; this is just the same thing as to ascribe to it a power to give itself one degree of preponderation from a perfect equilibrium; and so much power as the scale has to give itself an over-balance from a perfect equipoise, so much self-moving self-preponderating power it has, and no more So that its free power this way is always to be measured from perfect equilibrium.

I need say no more to prove, that if Indifference be essential to Liberty, it must be perfect Indifference; and that so far as the Will is destitute of this, so far is it destitute of that freedom by which it is in a capacity of being its own determiner, without being at all passive, or subject to the power and sway of something else in its motions and determinations.

Having observed these things, let us now try whether this notion of the Liberty of Will consisting in Indifference and equilibrium, and the Will's self-determination in such a state, be not absurd and inconsistent.

And here I would lay down this as an axiom of undoubted truth; that every free act is done in a state of freedom, and not only AFTER such a state. If an act of the Will be an act wherein the soul is free, it must be exerted in a state of freedom, and in the time of freedom. It will not suffice, that the act immediately follows a state of Liberty ; but Liberty must yet continue, and co-exist with the act; the soul remaining in possession of Liberty. Because that is the notion of a free act of the soul, even an act wherein the soul uses or exercises Liberty. But if the soul is not, in the very time of the act, in the possession of Liberty, it cannot at that time be in the use of it.

Now the question is, whether ever the soul of man puts forth an act of Will, while it yet remains in a state of Liberty, viz. as implying a state of Indifference; or whether the soul ever exerts an act of preference, while at that very time the Will is in a perfect equilibrium, not inclining one way more than another. The very putting of the question is sufficient to show the absurdity of the affirmative answer; for how ridiculous would it be for any body to insist, that the soul chooses one thing before another, when at the very same instant it is perfectly indifferent with respect to each! This is the same thing as to say, the soul prefers one thing to another, at the very same time that it has no preference. -Choice and preference can no more be in a state of Indifference, than motion can be in a state of rest, or than the preponderation of the scale of a balance can be in a state of equilibrium.Motion may be the next moment after rest; but cannot coexist with it, in any, even the least part of it. So choice may be immediately after a state of Indifference, but cannot co

exist with it: even the very beginning of it is not in a state of Indifference. And therefore if this be Liberty, no act of the Will, in any degree, is ever performed in a state of Liberty, or in the time of Liberty. Volition and Liberty are so far from agreeing together, and being essential one to another, that they are contrary one to another, and one excludes and destroys the other, as much as motion and rest, light and darkness, or life and death. So that the Will acts not at all, does not so much as begin to act in the time of such Liberty : freedom has ceased to be, at the first moment of action; and therefore Liberty cannot reach the action, to affect, or qualify it, or give it a deno. mination, any more than if it had ceased to be, twenty years before the action began. The moment that Liberty ceases to be, it ceases to be a qualification of any thing: If light and darkness succeed each other instantaneously, light qualifies nothing after it is gone out, to make any thing lightsome or bright, at the first moment of perfect darkness, any more than months or years after. Life denominates nothing vital, at the first moment of perfect death. So freedom, if it consists in, or implies Indifference, can denominate nothing free, at the first moment of preference or preponderation. Therefore it is manifest, that no Liberty which the soul is possessed of, or ever uses, in any of its acts of volition, consists in Indifference ; and that the opinion of such as suppose, that Indifference belongs to the very essence of Liberty, is to the highest degree absurd and contradictory.

If any one should imagine, that this manner of arguing is nothing but a trick and delusion; and to evade the reason. ing, should say, that the thing wherein the will exercises its Liberty, is not in the act of choice or preponderation itself, but in determining itself to a certain choice or preference ; that the act of the Will, wherein it is free, and uses its own sovereignty, consists in its causing or determining the change or transition from a state of Indifference to a certain preference or determining to give a certain turn to the balance, which has hitherto been even ; and that the Will exerts this act in a state of Liberty, or while the Will yet remains in equilibrium, and perfect master of itself.— I say, if any one ehooses to express his notion of Liberty, after this, or some such manner, let us see if he can succeed any better than before.

What is asserted is, that the Will, while it yet remains in perfect equilibrium, without preference, determines to change itself from that state, and excite in itself a certain choice or preference. Now let us see whether this does not come to the same absurdity we had before. If it be so, that the Will, while it yet remains perfectly indifferent, determines

10

Vol. II.

« PreviousContinue »