VINDICATION OF THE DIVINE GLORY,
AS MANIFESTED IN THE
CONSTITUTION AND GOVERNMENT OF THE MORAL WORLD.
BY ALBERT TAYLOR BLEDSOE,
PROFESSOR OF MATHEMATICS AND ASTRONOMY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI.
PUBLISHED BY CARLTON & PHILLIPS.
200 MULBERRY STREET.
Introduction. Of The Possibility Of A Theodicy. Section I. The failure of Plato and other ancient philosophers to construct a Theodicy, not a ground of despair. Section II. The failure of Leibnitz not a ground of despair. Section III. The system of the moral universe not purposely involved in obscurity to teach us a lesson of humility. Section IV. The littleness of the human mind a ground of hope. Section V. The construction of a Theodicy, not an attempt to solve mysteries, but to dissipate absurdities. Section VI. The spirit in which the following work has been prosecuted, and the relation of the author to other systems. Part I. The Existence Of Moral Evil, Or Sin, Consistent With The Holiness Of God. Chapter I. The Scheme Of Necessity Denies That Man Is Responsible For The Existence Of Sin. Section I. The attempts of Calvin and Luther to reconcile the scheme of necessity with the responsibility of man. Section II. The manner in which Hobbes, Collins, and others, endeavour to reconcile necessity with free and accountable agency. Section III. The sentiments of Descartes, Spinoza, and Malebranche, concerning the relation between liberty and necessity. Section IV. The views of Locke, Tucker, Hartley, Priestley, Helvetius, and Diderot, with respect to the relation between liberty and necessity. Section V. The manner in which Leibnitz endeavours to reconcile liberty and necessity. Section VI. The attempt of Edwards to establish free and accountable agency on the basis of necessity—The views of the younger Edwards, Day, Chalmers, Dick, D'Aubigne, Hill, Shaw, and M'Cosh, concerning the agreement of liberty and necessity. Section VII. The sentiments of Hume, Brown, Comte, and Mill, in relation to the antagonism between liberty and necessity. Section VIII. The views of Kant and Sir William Hamilton in relation to the antagonism between liberty and necessity. Section IX. The notion of Lord Kames and Sir James Mackintosh on the same subject. Section X. The conclusion of Moehler, Tholuck, and others, that all speculation on such a subject must be vain and fruitless. Section XI. The true conclusion from the foregoing review of opinions and arguments. Chapter II. The Scheme Of Necessity Makes God The Author Of Sin. Section I. The attempts of Calvin and other reformers to show that the system of necessity does not make God the author of sin. Section II. The attempt of Leibnitz to show that the scheme of necessity does not make God the author of sin. Section III. The maxims adopted and employed by Edwards to show that the scheme of necessity does not make God the author of sin. Section IV. The attempts of Dr. Emmons and Dr. Chalmers to reconcile the scheme of necessity with the purity of God. Chapter III. Scheme Of Necessity Denies The Reality Of Moral Distinctions. Section I. The views of Spinoza in relation to the reality of moral distinctions. Section II. The attempt of Edwards to reconcile the scheme of necessity with the reality of moral distinctions. Section III. Of the proposition that "The essence of the virtue and vice of dispositions of the heart and acts of the will, lies not in their cause, but in their nature." Section IV. The scheme of necessity seems to be inconsistent with the reality of moral distinctions, not because we confound natural and moral necessity, but because it is really inconsistent therewith. Chapter IV. The Moral World Not Constituted According To The Scheme Of Necessity. Section I. The scheme of necessity is based on a false psychology. Section II. The scheme of necessity is directed against a false issue. Section III. The scheme of necessity is supported by false logic. Section IV. The scheme of necessity is fortified by false conceptions. Section V. The scheme of necessity is recommended by false analogies. Section VI. The scheme of necessity is rendered plausible by a false phraseology. Section VII. The scheme of necessity originates in a false method, and terminates in a false religion. Chapter V. The Relation Between The Human Will And The Divine Agency. Section I. General view of the relation between the divine and the human power. Section II. The Pelagian platform, or view of the relation between the divine and the human power. Section III. The Augustinian Platform, or view of the relation between the divine agency and the human. Section IV. The views of those who, in later times, have symbolized with Augustine. Section V. The danger of mistaking distorted for exalted views of the divine sovereignty. Chapter VI. The Existence Of Moral Evil, Or Sin, Reconciled With The Holiness Of God. Section I. The hypothesis of the soul's preexistence. Section II. The hypothesis of the Manicheans. Section III. The hypothesis of optimism. Section IV. The argument of the atheist—The reply of Leibnitz and other theists—The insufficiency of this reply. Section V. The sophism of the atheist exploded, and a perfect agreement shown to subsist between the existence of sin and the holiness of God. Section VI. The true and only foundation of optimism. Section VII. The glory of God seen in the creation of a world, which he foresaw would fall under the dominion of sin. Section VIII. The little, captious spirit of Voltaire, and other atheizing minute philosophers. Chapter VII. Objections Considered. Section I. It may be objected that the foregoing scheme is "new theology." Section II. It may be imagined that the views herein set forth limit the omnipotence of God. Section III. The foregoing scheme, it may be said, presents a gloomy view of the universe. Section IV. It may be alleged, that in refusing to subject the volitions of men to the power and control of God, we undermine the sentiments of humility and submission. Section V. The foregoing treatise may be deemed inconsistent with gratitude to God. Section VI. It may be contended, that it is unfair to urge the preceding difficulties against the scheme of necessity; inasmuch as the same, or as great, difficulties attach to the system of those by whom they are urged. Part II. The Existence Of Natural Evil, Or Suffering, Consistent With The Goodness Of God. Chapter I. God Desires And Seeks The Salvation of All Men. Section I. The reason why theologians have concluded that God designs the salvation of only a part of mankind. Section II. The attempt of Howe to reconcile the eternal ruin of a portion of mankind with the sincerity of God in his endeavours to save them. Section III. The views of Luther and Calvin respecting the sincerity of God in his endeavours to save those who will finally perish. Chapter II. Natural Evil, Or Suffering, And Especially The Suffering Of Infants Reconciled With The Goodness Of God. Section I. All suffering not a punishment for sin. Section II. The imputation of sin not consistent with the goodness of God. Section III. The imputation of sin not consistent with human, much less with the divine goodness. Section IV. The true ends, or final causes, of natural evil. Section V. The importance of harmonizing reason and revelation. Chapter III. The Sufferings Of Christ Reconciled With The Goodness Of God. Section I. The sufferings of Christ not unnecessary. Section II. The sufferings of Christ a bright manifestation of the goodness of God. Section III. The objections of Dr. Channing, and other Unitarians, against the doctrine of the atonement. Chapter IV. The Eternal Punishment Of The Wicked Reconciled With The Goodness Of God. Section I. The false grounds upon which the doctrine of the eternity of future punishment has been placed. Section II. The unsound principles from which, if true, the fallacy of the eternity of future punishments may be clearly inferred. Section III. The eternity of future punishments an expression of the divine goodness. Chapter V. The Dispensation Of The Divine Favours Reconciled With The Goodness Of God. Section I. The unequal distribution of favours, which obtains in the economy of natural providence, consistent with the goodness of God. Section II. The Scripture doctrine of election consistent with the impartiality of the divine goodness. Section III. The Calvinistic scheme of election inconsistent with the impartiality and glory of the divine goodness. Section IV. The true ground and reason of election to eternal life shows it to be consistent with the infinite goodness of God. Conclusion. A Summary View Of The Principles And Advantages Of The Foregoing System. Chapter I. Summary Of The First Part Of The Foregoing System. Section I. The scheme of necessity denies that man is the responsible author of sin. Section II. The scheme of necessity makes God the author of sin. Section III. The scheme of necessity denies the reality of moral distinctions. Section IV. The moral world not constituted according to the scheme of necessity. Section V. The relation between the human agency and the divine. Section VI. The existence of moral evil consistent with the infinite purity of God. Chapter II. Summary Of The Second Part Of The Foregoing System. Section I. God desires the salvation of all men. Section II. The sufferings of the innocent, and especially of infants, consistent with the goodness of God. Section III. The sufferings of Christ consistent with the divine goodness. Section IV. The eternity of future punishment consistent with the goodness of God. Section V. The true doctrine of election and predestination consistent with the goodness of God. Section VI. The question submitted. Footnotes
OF THE POSSIBILITY OF A THEODICY.
How, under the government of an infinitely perfect Being, evil could have proceeded from a creature of his own, has ever been regarded as the great difficulty pertaining to the intellectual system of the universe. It has never ceased to puzzle and perplex the human mind. Indeed, so great and so obstinate has it seemed, that it is usually supposed to lie beyond the reach of the human faculties. We shall, however, examine the grounds of this opinion, before we exchange the bright illusions of hope, if such indeed they be, for the gloomy forebodings of despair.
The failure of Plato and other ancient philosophers to construct a Theodicy, not a ground of despair.
The supposed want of success attending the labours of the past, is, no doubt, the principal reason which has induced so many to abandon the problem of evil in despair, and even to accuse of presumption every speculation designed to shed light upon so great a mystery. But this reason, however specious and imposing at first view, will lose much of its apparent force upon a closer examination.
In every age the same reasoning has been employed to repress the efforts of the human mind to overcome the difficulties by which it has been surrounded; yet, in spite of such discouragements, the most stupendous difficulties have gradually yielded to the progressive developments and revelations of time. It was the opinion of Socrates, for example, that the problem of the natural world was unavoidably concealed from mortals, and that it was a sort of presumptuous impiety, displeasing to the gods, for men to pry into it. If Newton himself had lived in that age, it is probable that he would have entertained the same opinion. It is certain that the problem in question would then have been as far beyond the reach of his powers, as beyond those of the most ordinary individual. The ignorance of the earth's dimensions, the manifold errors respecting the laws of motion, and the defective state of the mathematical sciences, which then prevailed, would have rendered utterly impotent the efforts of a thousand Newtons to grapple with such a problem. The time was neither ripe for the solution of that problem, nor for the appearance of a Newton. It was only after science had, during a period of two thousand years, multiplied her resources and gathered up her energies, that she was prepared for a flight to the summit of the world, whence she might behold and reveal the wonderful art wherewith it hath been constructed by the Almighty Architect. Because Socrates could not conceive of any possible means of solving the great problem of the material world, it did not follow, as the event has shown, that it was forever beyond the reach and dominion of man. We should not then listen too implicitly to the teachers of despair, nor too rashly set limits to the triumphs of the human power. If we may believe "the master of wisdom," they are not the true friends of science, nor of the world's progress. "By far the greatest obstacle," says Bacon, "to the advancement of the sciences, is to be found in men's despair and idea of impossibility."
Even in the minds of those who cultivate a particular branch of knowledge, there is often an internal secret despair of finding the truth, which so far paralyzes their efforts as to prevent them from seeking it with that deep earnestness, without which it is seldom found. The history of optics furnishes a most impressive illustration of the justness of this remark. Previous to the time of Newton, no one seemed to entertain a real hope that this branch of knowledge would ever assume the form and clearness of scientific truth. The laws and properties of so ethereal a substance as light, appeared to elude the grasp of the human intellect; and hence, no one evinced the boldness to grapple directly with them. The whole region of optics was involved in mists, and those who gave their attention to this department of knowledge, abandoned themselves, for the most part, to vague generalities and loose conjectures. In the conflict of manifold opinions, and the great variety of hypotheses which seemed to promise nothing but endless disputes, the highest idea of the science of optics that prevailed, was that of something in relation to light which might be plausibly advanced and confidently maintained. It was reserved for Newton to produce a revolution in the mode of treating this branch of knowledge, as well as that of physical astronomy. Not despairing of the truth, he sternly put away "innumerable fancies flitting on all sides around him," and by searching observation and experiment, brought his mind directly into contact with things themselves, and held it steadily to them, until the clear light of truth dawned. The consequence was, that the dreams of philosophy, falsely so called, gave place to the clear realities of nature. It was to the unconquerable hope, no less than to the profound humility of Newton, that the world is indebted for his most splendid discoveries, as well as for that perfect model of the true spirit of philosophy, which combined the infinite caution of a Butler with the unbounded boldness of a Leibnitz. The lowliest humility, free from the least shadow of despair, united with the loftiest hope, without the least mixture of presumption, both proceeding from an invincible love of truth, are the elements which constituted the secret of that patient and all-enduring thought which conducted the mind of Newton from the obscurities and dreams enveloping the world below into the bright and shining region of eternal truths above. In our humble opinion, Newton has done more for the great cause of knowledge, by the mighty impulse of hope he has given to the powers of the human mind, than by all the sublime discoveries he has made. For, as Maclaurin says: "The variety of opinions and perpetual disputes among philosophers has induced not a few of late, as well as in former times, to think that it was vain labour to endeavour to acquire certainty in natural knowledge, and to ascribe this to some unavoidable defect in the principles of the science. But it has appeared sufficiently, from the discoveries of those who have consulted nature, and not their own imaginations, and particularly from what we learn from Sir Isaac Newton, that the fault has lain in philosophers themselves, and not in philosophy."
We are persuaded the day will come, when it will be seen that the despair of scepticism has been misplaced, not only with regard to natural knowledge, but also in relation to the great problems of the intellectual and moral world. It is true, that Plato failed to solve these problems; but his failure may be easily accounted for, without in the least degree shaking the foundations of our hope. The learned Ritter has said, that Plato felt the necessity imposed upon him, by his system, to reconcile the existence of evil with the perfections of God; but yet, as often as he approached this dark subject, his views became vague, fluctuating, and unsatisfactory. How little insight he had into it on any scientific or clearly defined principle, is obvious from the fact, that he took shelter from its difficulties in the wild hypothesis of the preexistence of souls. But the impotency of Plato's attempts to solve these difficulties, may be explained without the least disparagement to his genius, or without leading us to hope for light only from the world's possession of better minds.
In the first place, such was the state of mental science when Plato lived, that it would have been impossible for any one to reconcile the existence of evil with the perfections of God. It has been truly said, that "An attention to the internal operations of the human mind, with a view to analyze its principles, is one of the distinctions of modern times. Among the ancients scarcely anything of the sort was known."—Robert Hall. Yet without a correct analysis of the powers of the human mind, and of the relations they sustain to each other, as well as to external objects and influences, it is impossible to shed one ray of light on the relation subsisting between the existence of moral evil and the divine glory. The theory of motion is "the key to nature." It was with this key that Newton, the great high-priest of nature, entered into her profoundest recesses, and laid open her most sublime secrets to the admiration of mankind. In like manner, the true theory of action is the key to the intellectual world, by which its difficulties are to be laid open and its enigmas solved. Not possessing this key, it was as impossible for Plato, or for any other philosopher, to penetrate the mystery of sin's existence, as it would have been, without a knowledge of the laws of motion, to comprehend the stupendous problem of the material universe.
Secondly, the ancient philosophers laboured under the insuperable disadvantage, that the sublime disclosures of revelation had not been made known to the world. Hence the materials were wanting out of which to construct a Theodicy, or vindication of the perfections of God. For if we could see only so much of this world's drama as is made known by the light of nature, it would not be possible to reconcile it with the character of its great Author. No one was more sensible of this defect of knowledge than Plato himself; and its continuance was, in his view, inconsistent with the goodness of the divine Being. Hence his well-known prediction, that a teacher would be sent from God to clear up the darkness of man's present destiny, and to withdraw the veil from its future glory. The facts of revelation cannot, of course, be logically assumed as verities, in an argument with the atheist; but still, as we shall hereafter see, they may, in connexion with other truths, be made to serve a most important and legitimate function in exploding his sophisms and objections.
The failure of Leibnitz not a ground of despair.
It is alleged, that since Leibnitz exhausted the resources of his vast erudition, and exerted the powers of his mighty intellect without success, to solve the problem in question, it is in vain for any one else to attempt its solution. Leibnitz, himself, was too much of a philosopher to approve of such a judgment in relation to any human being. He could never have wished, or expected to see "the empire of man, which is founded in the sciences," permanently confined to the boundaries of a single mind, however exalted its powers, or comprehensive its attainments. He finely rebuked the false humility and the disguised arrogance of Descartes, in affirming that the sovereignty of God and the freedom of man could never be reconciled. "If Descartes," says he, "had confessed such an inability for himself alone, this might have savoured of humility; but it is otherwise, when, because he could not find the means of solving this difficulty, he declares it an impossibility for all ages and for all minds." We have, at least, the authority and example of Leibnitz, in favour of the propriety of cultivating this department of knowledge, with a view to shed light on the great problem of the intellectual world.
His failure, if rightly considered, is not a ground for despondency. He approached the problem in question in a wrong spirit. The pride of conquering difficulties is the unfortunate disposition with which he undertook to solve it. His well-known boast, that with him all difficult things are easy, and all easy things difficult, is a proof that his spirit was not perfectly adapted to carry him forward in a contest with the dark enigmas of the universe. Indeed, if we consider what Leibnitz has actually done, we shall perceive, that notwithstanding his wonderful powers, he has rendered many easy things difficult, as well as many difficult things easy. The best way to conquer difficulties is, if we may judge from his example, not to attack them directly, and with the pride of a conqueror, but simply to seek after the truth. If we make a conquest of all the truth, this will make a conquest of all the difficulties within our reach. It is wonderful with what ease a difficulty, which may have resisted the direct siege of centuries, will sometimes fall before a single inquirer after truth, who had not dreamed of aiming at its solution, until this seemed, as if by accident, to offer itself to his mind. If we pursue difficulties, they will be apt to fly from us and elude our grasp; whereas, if we give up our minds to an honest and earnest search after truth, they will come in with their own solutions.
The truth is, that the difficulty in question has been increased rather than diminished by the speculations of Leibnitz. This has resulted from a premature and extreme devotion to system—a source of miscarriage and failure common to Leibnitz, and to most others who have devoted their attention to the origin of evil. On the one hand, exaggerated views concerning the divine agency, or equally extravagant notions on the other, respecting the agency of man, have frequently converted a seeming into a real contradiction. In general, the work of God has been conceived in such a relation to the powers of man, as to make the latter entirely disappear; or else the power of man has been represented as occupying so exalted and independent a position, as to exclude the Almighty from his rightful dominion over the moral world. Thus, the Supreme Being has generally been shut out from the affairs and government of the world by one side, and his energy rendered so all-pervading by the other, as really to make him the author of evil. In this way, the difficulties concerning the origin and existence of evil have been greatly augmented by the very speculations designed to solve them. For if God takes little or no concern in the affairs and destiny of the moral world, this clearly seems to render him responsible for the evil which he might easily have prevented; and, on the other hand, if he pervades the moral world with his power in such a manner as to bring all things to pass, this as clearly seems to implicate him in the turpitude of sin.
After having converted the seeming discrepancy between the divine power and human agency into a real contradiction, it is too late to endeavour to reconcile them. Yet such has been the case with most of the giant intellects that have laboured to reconcile the sovereignty of God and the moral agency of man. It will hereafter be clearly seen, we trust, that it is not possible for any one, holding the scheme of a Calvin, or a Leibnitz, or a Descartes, or an Edwards, to show an agreement between the power of God and the freedom of man; since according to these systems there is an eternal opposition and conflict between them. It is no ground of despair, then, that the mighty minds of the past have failed to solve the problem in question, if the cause of their failure may be traced to the errors of their own systems, and not to the inherent difficulties of the subject.
Those who have endeavoured to solve the problem in question have, for the most part, been necessitated to fail in consequence of having adopted a wrong method. Instead of beginning with observation, and carefully dissecting the world which God has made, so as to rise, by a clear analysis of things, to the general principles on which they have been actually framed and put together, they have set out from the lofty region of universal abstractions, and proceeded to reconstruct the world for themselves. Instead of beginning with the actual, as best befits the feebleness of the human intellect, and working their way up into the great system of things, they have taken their position at once in the high and boundless realm of the ideal, and thence endeavoured to deduce the nature of the laws and phenomena of the real world. This is the course pursued by Plato, Leibnitz, Hobbes, Descartes, Edwards, and, indeed, most of those great thinkers who have endeavoured to shed light on the problem in question. Hence each has necessarily become "a sublime architect of words," whose grand and imposing system of shadows and abstractions has but a slight foundation in the real constitution and laws of the spiritual world. Their writings furnish the most striking illustration of the profound aphorism of Bacon, that "the usual method of discovery and proof, by first establishing the most general propositions, then applying and proving the intermediate axioms according to these, is the parent of error and the calamity of every science." He who would frame a real model of the world in the understanding, such as it is found to be, not such as man's reason has distorted, must pursue the opposite course. Surely it cannot be deemed unreasonable, that this course should be most diligently applied to the study of the intellectual world; especially as it has wrought such wonders in the province of natural knowledge, and that too, after so many ages had, according to the former method, laboured upon it comparatively in vain. Because the human mind has not been able to bridge over the impassable gulf between the ideal and the concrete, so as to effect a passage from the former to the latter, it certainly does not follow, that it should forever despair of so far penetrating the apparent obscurity and confusion of real things, as to see that nothing which God has created is inconsistent with the eternal, immutable glory of the ideal: or, in other words, because the real world and the ideal cannot be shown to be connected by a logical dependency, it does not follow, that the actual creation and providence of God, that all his works and ways cannot be made to appear consistent with the idea of an absolutely perfect being and of the eternal laws according to which his power acts: that is to say, because the high a priori method, which so magisterially proceeds to pronounce what must be, has failed to solve the problem of the moral world, it does not follow, that the inductive method, or that which cautiously begins with an examination of what is, may not finally rise to the sublime contemplation of what ought to be; and, in the light of God's own creation, behold the magnificent model of the actual universe perfectly conformed to the transcendent and unutterable glory of the ideal.
The system of the moral universe not purposely involved in obscurity to teach us a lesson of humility.
But the assertion is frequently made, that the moral government of the world is purposely left in obscurity and apparent confusion, in order to teach man a lesson of humility and submission, by showing him how weak and narrow is the human mind. We have not, however, been able to find any sufficient reason or foundation for such an opinion. As every atom in the universe presents mysteries which baffle the most subtle research and the most profound investigation of the human intellect, we cannot see how any reflecting mind can possibly find an additional lesson of humility in the fact, that the system of the universe itself is involved in clouds and darkness. Would it not be strange, indeed, if the mind, whose grasp is not sufficient for the mysteries of a single atom, should be really humbled by the conviction that it is too weak and limited to fathom the wonders of the universe? Does the insignificance of an egg-shell appear from the fact that it cannot contain the ocean?
The truth is, that the more clearly the majesty and glory of the divine perfections are displayed in the constitution and government of the world, the more clearly shall we see the greatness of God and the littleness of man. No true knowledge can ever impress the human mind with a conceit of its own greatness. The farther its light expands, the greater must become the visible sphere of the surrounding darkness; and its highest attainment in real knowledge must inevitably terminate in a profound sense of the vast, unlimited extent of its own ignorance. Hence, we need entertain no fear, that man's humility will ever be endangered by too great attainments in science. Presumption is, indeed, the natural offspring of ignorance, and not of knowledge. Socrates, as we have already seen, endeavoured to inculcate a lesson of humility, by reminding his contemporaries how far the theory of the material heavens was beyond the reach of their faculties. And to enforce this lesson, he assured them that it was displeasing to the gods for men to attempt to pry into the wonderful art wherewith they had constructed the universe. In like manner, the poet, at a much later period, puts the following sentiment into the mouth of an angel:—
"To ask or search, I blame thee not; for heaven Is as the book of God before thee set, Wherein to read his wondrous works, and learn His seasons, hours, or days, or months, or years: This to attain, whether heaven move or earth, Imports not if thou reckon right; the rest From man or angel the great Architect Did wisely to conceal, and not divulge His secrets, to be scann'd by them who ought Rather admire; or, if they list to try Conjecture, he his fabric of the heavens Hath left to their disputes, perhaps to move His laughter at their quaint opinions wide Hereafter."
All this may be very well, no doubt, for him by whom it was uttered, and for those who may have received it as an everlasting oracle of truth. But the true lesson of humility was taught by Newton, when he solved the problem of the world, and revealed the wonderful art displayed therein by the Supreme Architect. Never before, in the history of the human race, was so impressive a conviction made of the almost absolute nothingness of man, when measured on the inconceivably magnificent scale of the universe. No one, it is well known, felt this conviction more deeply than Newton himself. "I have been but as a child," said he, "playing on the sea-shore; now finding some pebble rather more polished, and now some shell rather more agreeably variegated than another, while the immense ocean of truth extended itself unexplored before me."
It is, indeed, strangely to forget our littleness, as well as the limits which this necessarily sets to the progress of the understanding, to imagine that the Almighty has to conceal anything with a view to remind us of the weakness of our powers. Indeed, everything around us, and everything within us, brings home the conviction of the littleness of man. There is not a page of the history of human thought on which this lesson is not deeply engraved. Still we do not despair. We find a ground of hope in the very littleness as well as in the greatness of the human powers.
The littleness of the human mind a ground of hope.
We would yield to no one in a profound veneration for the great intellects of the past. But let us not be dazzled and blinded by the splendour of their achievements. Let us look at it closely, and see how wonderful it is—this thing called the human mind. The more I think of it, the more it fills me with amazement. I scarcely know which amazes me the more, its littleness or its grandeur. Now I see it, with all its high powers and glorious faculties, labouring under the ambiguity of a word, apparently in hopeless eclipse for centuries. Shall I therefore despise it? Before I have time to do so, the power and the light which is thus shut out from the world by so pitiful a cause, is revealed in all its glory. I see this same intelligence forcing its way through a thousand hostile appearances, resisting innumerable obstacles pressing on all sides around it, overcoming deep illusions, and inveterate opinions, almost as firmly seated as the very laws of nature themselves. I see it rising above all these, and planting itself in the radiant seat of truth. It embraces the plan, it surveys the work of the Supreme Architect of all things. It follows the infinite reason, and recognises the almighty power, in their sublimest manifestations. I rejoice in the glory of its triumphs, and am ready to pronounce its empire boundless. But, alas! I see it again baffled and confounded by the wonders and mysteries of a single atom!
I see this same thing, or rather its mightiest representatives, with a Newton or a Leibnitz at their head, in full pursuit of a shadow, and wasting their wonderful energies in beating the air. They have measured the world, and stretched their line upon the chambers of the great deep. They have weighed the sun, moon, and stars, and marked out their orbits. They have determined the laws according to which all worlds and all atoms move—according to which the very spheres sing together. And yet, when they came to measure "the force of a moving body," they toil for a century at the task, and finally rest in the amazing conclusion, that "the very same thing may have two measures widely different from each other!" Alas! that the same mind, that the same god-like intelligence, which has measured worlds and systems, should thus have wasted its stupendous energies in striving to measure a metaphor!
When I think of its grandeur and its triumphs, I bow with reverence before its power, and am ready to despair of ever seeing it go farther than it has already gone; but when I think of its littleness and its failures, I take courage again, and determine to toil on as a living atom among living atoms. The glory of its triumphs does not discourage me, because I also see its littleness; nor can its littleness extinguish in me the light of hope, because I also see the glory of its triumphs. And surely this is right; for the intellect of man, so conspicuously combining the attributes of the angel and of the worm, is not to be despised without infinite danger, nor followed without infinite caution.
Such, indeed, is the weakness and fallibility of the human mind, even in its brightest forms, that we cannot for a moment imagine, that the inherent difficulties of the dark enigma of the world are insuperable, because they have not been clearly and fully solved by a Leibnitz or an Edwards. On the contrary, we are perfectly persuaded that in the end the wonder will be, not that such a question should have been attempted after so many illustrious failures, but that any such failure should have been made. This will appear the more probable, if we consider the precise nature of the problem to be solved, and not lose ourselves in dark and unintelligible notions. It is not to do some great thing—it is simply to refute the sophism of the atheist. If God were both willing and able to prevent sin, which is the only supposition consistent with the idea of God, says the atheist, he would certainly have prevented it, and sin would never have made its appearance in the world. But sin has made its appearance in the world; and hence, God must have been either unable or unwilling to prevent it. Now, if we take either term of this alternative, we must adopt a conclusion which is at war with the idea of a God.
Such is the argument of the atheist; and sad indeed must be the condition of the Christian world if it be forever unable to meet and refute such a sophism. Yet, it is the error involved in this sophism which obscures our intellectual vision, and causes so perplexing a darkness to spread itself over the moral order and beauty of the world. Hence, in grappling with the supposed great difficulty in question, we do not undertake to remove a veil from the universe—we simply undertake to remove a sophism from our own minds. Though we have so spoken in accommodation with the views of others, the problem of the moral world is not, in reality, high and difficult in itself, like the great problem of the material universe. We repeat, it is simply to refute and explode the sophism of the atheist. Let this be blown away, and the darkness which seems to overhang the moral government of the world will disappear like the mists of the morning.
If such be the nature of the problem in question, and such it will be found to be, it is certainly a mistake to suppose that "it must be entangled with perplexities while we see but in part."(1) It is only while we see amiss, and not while we see in part, that this problem must wear the appearance of a dark enigma. It is clear, that our knowledge is, and ever must be, exceedingly limited on all sides; and if we must understand the whole of the case, if we must comprehend the entire extent of the divine government for the universe and for eternity, before we can remove the difficulty in question, we must necessarily despair of success. But we cannot see any sufficient ground to support this oft-repeated assertion. Because the field of our vision is so exceedingly limited, we do not see why it should be forever traversed by apparent inconsistencies and contradictions. In relation to the material universe, our space is but a point, and our time but a moment; and yet, as that inconceivably grand system is now understood by us, there is nothing in it which seems to conflict with the dictates of reason, or with the infinite perfections of God. On the contrary, the revelations of modern science have given an emphasis and a sublimity to the language of inspiration, that "the heavens declare the glory of the Lord," which had, for ages, been concealed from the loftiest conception of the astronomer.
Nor did it require a knowledge of the whole material universe to remove the difficulties, or to blast the objections which atheists had, in all preceding ages, raised against the perfections of its divine Author. Such objections, as is well known, were raised before astronomy, as a science, had an existence. Lucretius, for example, though he deemed the sun, moon, and stars, no larger than they appear to the eye, and supposed them to revolve around the earth, undertook to point out and declaim against the miserable defects which he saw, or fancied he saw, in the system of the material world. That is to say, he undertook to criticise and find fault with the great volume of nature, before he had even learned its alphabet. The objections of Lucretius, which appeared so formidable in his day, as well as many others that have since been raised on equally plausible grounds, have passed away before the progress of science, and now seem like the silly prattle of children, or the insane babble of madmen. But although such difficulties have been swept away, and our field of vision cleared of all that is painful and perplexing, nay, brightened with all that is grand and beautiful, we seem to be farther than ever from comprehending the whole of the case—from grasping the amazing extent and glory of the material globe. And why may not this ultimately be the case also in relation to the moral universe? Why should every attempt to clear up its difficulties, and blow away the objections of atheism to its order and beauty, be supposed to originate in presumption and to terminate in impiety? Are we so much the less interested in knowing the ways of God in regard to the constitution and government of the moral world than of the material, that he should purposely conceal the former from us, while he has permitted the latter to be laid open so as to ravish our minds? We can believe no such thing; and we are not willing to admit that there is any part of the creation of God in which omniscience alone can cope with the atheist.
The construction of a Theodicy, not an attempt to solve mysteries, but to dissipate absurdities.
As we have merely undertaken to refute the atheist, and vindicate the glory of the divine perfections, so it would be a grievous mistake to suppose, that we are about to pry into the holy mysteries of religion. No sound mind is ever perplexed by the contemplation of mysteries. Indeed, they are a source of positive satisfaction and delight. If nothing were dark,—if all around us, and above us, were clearly seen,—the truth itself would soon appear stale and mean. Everything truly great must transcend the powers of the human mind; and hence, if nothing were mysterious, there would be nothing worthy of our veneration and worship. It is mystery, indeed, which lends such unspeakable grandeur and variety to the scenery of the moral world. Without it, all would be clear, it is true, but nothing grand. There would be lights, but no shadows. And around the very lights themselves, there would be nothing soothing and sublime, in which the soul might rest and the imagination revel.
Hence it is no part of our object to pry into mystery, but to get rid of absurdity. And in our humble opinion, this would long since have been done, and the difficulty in question solved, had not the friends of truth incautiously given the most powerful protection to the sophism and absurdity of the atheist, by throwing around it the sacred garb of mystery.
The spirit in which the following work has been prosecuted, and the relation of the author to other systems.
In conclusion, we offer a few remarks in relation to the manner and spirit in which the following work has been undertaken and prosecuted. In the first place, the writer may truly say, that he did not enter on the apparently dark problem of the moral world with the least hope that he should be able to throw any light upon it, nor with any other set purpose and design. He simply revolved the subject in mind, because he was by nature prone to such meditations. So far from having aimed at things usually esteemed so high and difficult with a feeling of presumptuous confidence, he has, indeed, suffered most from that spirit of despondency, that despair of scepticism, against which, in the foregoing pages, he has appeared so anxious to caution others. It has been patient reflection, and the reading of excellent authors, together with an earnest desire to know the truth, which has delivered him from the power of that spirit, and conducted him to what now so clearly seems "the bright and shining light of truth."
It was, in fact, while engaged in meditation on the powers and susceptibilities of the human mind, as well as on the relations they sustain to each and to other things, and not in any direct attempt to elucidate the origin of evil, that the first clear light appeared to dawn on this great difficulty: and in no other way, he humbly conceives, can the true philosophy of the spiritual world ever be comprehended. For, as the laws of matter had first to be studied and traced out in relation to bodies on the earth, before they could be extended to the heavens, and made to explain its wonderful mechanism; so must the laws and phenomena of the human mind be correctly analyzed and clearly defined, in order to obtain an insight into the intellectual system of the universe. And just in proportion as the clouds and darkness hanging over the phenomena of our own minds are made to disappear, will the intellectual system of the world which God "has set in our hearts," become more distinct and beautiful in its proportions. For it is the mass of real contradictions and obscurities, existing in the little world within, which distorts to our view the great world without, and causes the work and ways of God to appear so full of disorders. Hence, in proportion as these real contradictions and obscurities are removed, will the mind become a truer microcosm, or more faithful mirror, in which the image of the universe will unfold itself, free from the apparent disorders and confusion which seem to render it unworthy of its great Author and Ruler.
Secondly, the relation which the writer sustains to other systems, has been, it appears to himself, most favourable to a successful prosecution of the following speculations. Whether at the outset of his inquiries, he was the more of an Arminian or of a Calvinist, he is unable to say; but if his crude and imperfectly developed sentiments had then been made known, it is probable he would have been ranked with the Arminians. Be this as it may, it is certain that he was never so much of an Arminian, or of anything else, as to imagine that Calvinism admitted of nothing great and good. On the contrary, he has ever believed that the Calvinists were at least equal to any other body of men in piety, which is certainly the highest and noblest of all qualities. And besides, it was a constant delight to him to read the great master-pieces of reasoning which Calvinism had furnished for the instruction and admiration of mankind. By this means he came to believe that the scheme of the Arminians could not be maintained, and his faith in it was gradually undermined.
But although he thus submitted his mind to the dominion of Calvinism, as advocated by Edwards, and earnestly espoused it with some exceptions; he never felt that profound, internal satisfaction of the truth of the system, after which his rational nature continually longed, and which it struggled to realize. He certainly expected to find this satisfaction in Calvinism, if anywhere. Long, therefore, did he pass over every portion of Calvinism, in order to discover, if possible, how its foundations might be rendered more clear and convincing, and all its parts harmonized among themselves as well as with the great undeniable facts of man's nature and destiny. While engaged in these inquiries, he has been more than once led to see what appeared to be a flaw in Calvinism itself; but without at first perceiving all its consequences. By reflection on these apparent defects; nay, by protracted and earnest meditation on them, his suspicions have been confirmed and his opinions changed. If what now so clearly appears to be the truth is so or not, it is certain that it has not been embraced out of a spirit of opposition to Calvinism, or to any other system of religious faith whatever. Its light, whether real or imaginary, has dawned upon his mind while seeking after truth amid the foundations of Calvinism itself; and this light has been augmented more by reading the works of Calvinists themselves, than those of their opponents.
These things are here set down, not because the writer thinks they should have any weight or influence to bias the judgment of the reader, but because he wishes it to be understood that he entertains the most profound veneration for the great and good men whose works seem to stand in the way of the following design to vindicate the glory of God, and which, therefore, he will not scruple to assail in so far as this may be necessary to his purpose. It is, indeed, a matter of deep and inexpressible regret, that in our conflicts with the powers of darkness, we should, however undesignedly, be weakened and opposed by Christian divines and philosophers. But so it seems to be, and we dare not cease to resist them. And if, in the following attempt to vindicate the glory of God, it shall become necessary to call in question the infallibility of the great founders of human systems, this, it is to be hoped, will not be deemed an unpardonable offence.
Thus has the writer endeavoured to work his way through the mingled lights and obscurity of human systems into a bright and beautiful vision of the great harmonious system of the world itself. It is certainly either a sublime truth, or else a glorious illusion, which thus enables him to rise above the apparent disorders and perturbations of the world, as constituted and governed by the Almighty, and behold the real order and harmony therein established. The ideal creations of the poet and the philosopher sink into perfect insignificance beside the actual creation of God. Where clouds and darkness once appeared the most impenetrable, there scenes of indescribable magnificence and beauty are now beheld with inexpressible delight; the stupendous cloud of evil no longer hangs overhead, but rolls beneath us, while the eternal Reason from above permeates its gloom, and irradiates its depths. We now behold the reason, and absolutely rejoice in the contemplation, of that which once seemed like a dark blot on the world's design.
In using this language, we do not wish to be understood as laying claim to the discovery of any great truth, or any new principle. Yet we do trust, that we have attained to a clear and precise statement of old truths. And these truths, thus clearly defined, we trust that we have seized with a firm grasp, and carried as lights through the dark places of theology, so as to expel thence the errors and delusions by which its glory has been obscured. Moreover, if we have not succeeded, nor even attempted to succeed, in solving any mysteries, properly so called, yet may we have removed certain apparent contradictions, which have been usually deemed insuperable to the human mind.
But even if the reader should be satisfied beforehand, that no additional light will herein be thrown on the problem of the moral world, yet would we remind him, that it does not necessarily follow that the ensuing discourse is wholly unworthy of his attention: for the materials, though old, may be presented in new combinations, and much may be omitted which has disfigured and obscured the beauty of most other systems. Although no new fountains of light may be opened, yet may the vision of the soul be so purged of certain films of error as to enable it to reflect the glory of the spiritual universe, just as a single dew-drop is seen to mirror forth the magnificent cope of heaven with all its multitude of stars.
We have sought the truth, and how far we have found it, no one should proceed to determine without having first read and examined. We have sought it, not in Calvinism alone, nor in Arminianism alone, nor in any other creed or system of man's devising. In every direction have we diligently sought it, as our feeble abilities would permit; and yet, we hope, it will be found that the body of truth which we now have to offer is not a mere hasty patchwork of superficial eclecticism, but a living and organic whole. By this test we could wish to be tried; for, as Bacon hath well said, "It is the harmony of any philosophy in itself that giveth it light and credence." And in the application of this test, we could also wish, that the reader would so far forget his sectarian predilections, if he have any, as to permit his mind to be inspired by the immortal words of Milton, which we shall here adopt as a fitting conclusion of these our present remarks:—
"Truth, indeed, came once into the world with her divine Master, and was a perfect shape most glorious to look on; but when he ascended, and his apostles after him were laid asleep, then straight arose a wicked race of deceivers, who, as that story goes of the Egyptian Typhon, with his conspirators, how they dealt with the good Osiris, took the virgin, Truth, hewed her lovely form into a thousand pieces, and scattered them to the four winds. From that time ever since the sad friends of Truth, such as durst appear, imitating the careful search that Isis made for the mangled body of Osiris, went up and down gathering up limb by limb still as they could find them. We have not yet found them all, nor ever shall do, till her Master's second coming; he shall bring together every joint and member, and shall mould them into an immortal feature of loveliness and perfection. Suffer not these licensing prohibitions to stand at every place of opportunity, forbidding and disturbing them that continue seeking, that continue to do our obsequies to the torn body of our martyred saint. We boast our light; but if we look not wisely on the sun itself, it smites us into darkness. Who can discern those planets that are oft combust, and those stars of brightest magnitude, that rise and set with the sun, until the opposite motion of their orbs bring them to such a place in the firmament, where they may be seen morning or evening? The light which we have gained was given us, not to be ever staring on, but by it to discover onward things more remote from our knowledge. It is not the unfrocking of a priest, the unmitring of a bishop, and the removing him from off the Presbyterian shoulders, that will make us a happy nation; no, if other things as great in the Church, and in the rule of life, both economical and political, be not looked into and reformed, we have looked so long upon the blaze that Zuinglius and Calvin have beaconed up to us, that we are stark blind. There be who perpetually complain of schisms and sects, and make it such a calamity that any man dissents from their maxims. It is their own pride and ignorance which causes the disturbing, who neither will hear with meekness, nor can convince, yet all must be suppressed which is not found in their Syntagma. They are the troublers, they are the dividers of unity, who neglect and permit not others to unite those dissevered pieces which are yet wanting to the body of truth. To be still searching what we know not, by what we know, still closing up truth to truth as we find it, (for all her body is homogeneal and proportional,) this is the golden rule in theology as well as in arithmetic, and makes up the best harmony in a Church; not the forced and outward union of cold, and neutral, and inwardly-divided minds."
THE EXISTENCE OF MORAL EVIL, OR SIN, CONSISTENT WITH THE HOLINESS OF GOD.
What Time this World's great Workmaister did cast, To make all things such as we now behold, It seems that he before his eyes had plast A goodly patterne, to whose perfect mould He fashion'd them as comely as he could, That now so fair and seemly they appear, As naught may be amended anywhere.
That wondrous patterne, wheresoe'er it be, Whether in earth laid up in secret store, Or else in heav'n, that no man may it see With sinful eyes, for feare it to deflore, Is perfect Beautie.—SPENSER.
The Scheme Of Necessity Denies That Man Is Responsible For The Existence Of Sin.
Ye, who live, Do so each cause refer to Heaven above, E'en as its motion, of necessity, Drew with it all that moves. If this were so, Free choice in you were none; nor justice would There should be joy for virtue, woe for ill.—DANTE.
The doctrine of necessity has been, in all ages of the world, the great stronghold of atheism. It is the mighty instrument with which the unbeliever seeks to strip man of all accountability, and to destroy our faith and confidence in God, by tracing up the existence of all moral evil to his agency. "The opinion of necessity," says Bishop Butler, "seems to be the very basis in which infidelity grounds itself." It will not be denied that this opinion seems, at first view, to be inconsistent with the free agency and accountability of man, and that it appears to impair our idea of God by staining it with impurity. Hence it has been used, by the profligate and profane, to excuse men for their crimes. It is against this use of the doctrine that we intend to direct the force of our argument.
But here the question arises: Can we refute the argument against the accountability of man, without attacking the doctrine on which it is founded? If we can meet this argument at all, it must be either by showing that no such consequence flows from the scheme of necessity, or by showing that the scheme itself is false. We cannot meet the sceptic, who seeks to excuse his sins, and to cast dishonour on God, and expose his sophistry, unless we can show that his premises are unsound, or that his conclusions are false. We must do the one or the other of these two things; or, whatever we may think of his moral sensibility, we must acknowledge the superiority of his reason and logic. After long and patient meditation on the subject, we have been forced to the conclusion, that the only way to repel the argument of the sceptic, and cause the intrinsic lustre of man's free-agency to appear, is to unravel and refute the doctrine of necessity.
If we could preserve the scheme of necessity, and at the same time avoid the consequences in question, we may fairly conclude that the means of doing so have been found by some of the illustrious advocates of that scheme. How, then, do they vindicate their own system? How do they repel the frightful consequences which infidelity deduces from it? This is the first question to be considered; and the discussion of it will occupy the remainder of the present chapter.
The attempts of Calvin and Luther to reconcile the scheme of necessity with the responsibility of man.
Nothing can be more unjust than to bring, as has often been done, the unqualified charge of fatalism against the great Protestant reformers. The manner in which this odious epithet is frequently used, applying it without discrimination to the brightest ornaments and to the darkest specimens of humanity, is calculated to engender far more heat than light. Indeed, under this very ambiguous term, three distinct schemes of doctrine, widely different from each other, are set forth; schemes which every candid inquirer after truth should be careful to distinguish. The first is that scheme of fatalism which rests on the fundamental idea that there is nothing in the universe besides matter and local motion. This doctrine, of course, denies the spirituality of the Divine Being, as well as of all created souls, and strikes a fatal blow at the immutability of moral distinctions. It is unnecessary to say, that in such a sense of the word, neither Calvin nor Luther can be justly accused of fatalism; as it is well known that both of them maintained the spirituality of God, as well as the reality of moral distinctions prior to all human laws.
The second scheme of fatalism rises above the first in point of dignity and purity of character. It proceeds on the idea that all things in heaven and earth are bound together by "an implexed series and concatenation of causes:" it admits the existence of God, it is true, but yet it regards him as merely the greatest and brightest link in the adamantine universal chain of necessity. According to this scheme, as well as to the former, the very idea of moral liberty is inconceivable and impossible. This portentous scheme was perfectly understood and expressly repudiated by Calvin. In reference to this doctrine, which was maintained by the ancient Stoics, he says: "That dogma is falsely and maliciously charged upon us. For we do not, with the Stoics, imagine a necessity arising from a perpetual concatenation and intricate series of causes contained in nature; but we make God the Arbiter and Governor of all things, who, in his own wisdom, has, from all eternity, decreed what he would do, and now by his own power executes what he decreed."
Here we behold the nature of the third scheme, which has been included under the term fatalism. It recognises God as the great central and all-controlling power of the universe. It does not deny the possibility of liberty; for it recognises its actual existence in the Divine Being. "If the divine will," says Calvin, "has any cause, then there must be something antecedent, on which it depends; which it is impious to suppose." According to Calvin, it is the uncaused divine will which makes the "necessity of all things." He frequently sets forth the doctrine, that, from all eternity, God decreed whatever should come to pass, not excepting, but expressly including, the deliberations and "volitions of men," and by his own power now executes his decree. As we do not wish to use opprobrious names, we shall characterize these three several schemes of doctrine by the appellations given to them by their advocates. The first we shall call, "materialistic fatalism;" the second, "Stoical fatalism;" and the third we shall designate by the term, "necessity."
Widely as these schemes may differ in other respects, they have one feature in common: they all seem to bear with equal stringency on the human will, and deprive it of that freedom which is now conceded to be indispensable to render men accountable for their actions. If our volitions be produced by a series of causes, according to the Stoical notion of fate, or by the omnipotence of God, they would seem to be equally necessitated and devoid of freedom. Hence, in attacking one of these schemes at this point, we really attack them all. We shall first consider the question, then, How does Calvin attempt to reconcile his doctrine with the accountability of man? How does he show, for example, that the first man was guilty and justly punishable for a transgression in which he succumbed to the divine omnipotence?
If a man is really laid under a necessity of sinning, it would certainly seem impossible to conceive that he is responsible for his sins. Nay, it would not only seem impossible to conceive this, but it would also appear very easy to understand, that he could not be responsible for them. In order to remove this difficulty, and repel the attack of his opponents, Calvin makes a distinction between "co-action and necessity." "Now, when I assert," says he, "that the will, being deprived of its liberty, is necessarily drawn or led into evil, I should wonder if any one considered it as a harsh expression, since it has nothing in it absurd, nor is it unsanctioned by the custom of good men. It offends those who know not how to distinguish between necessity and compulsion."(2) Let us see, then, what is this distinction between necessity and compulsion, or co-action, (as Calvin sometimes calls it,) which is to take off all appearance of harshness from his views. We are not to imagine that this is a distinction without a difference; for, in truth, there is no distinction in philosophy which may be more easily made, or more clearly apprehended. It is this: Suppose a man wills a particular thing, or external action, and it is prevented from happening by any outward restraint; or suppose he is unwilling to do a thing, and he is constrained to do it against his will; he is said to labour under compulsion or co-action. Of course he is not accountable for the failure of the consequence of his will in the one case, nor for the consequence of the force imposed on his body in the other. This kind of necessity is called co-action by Calvin and Luther; it is usually denominated "natural necessity" by Edwards and his followers; though it is also frequently termed compulsion, or co-action, by them.
This natural necessity, or co-action, it is admitted on all hands, destroys accountability for external conduct, wherever it obtains. Indeed, if a man is compelled to do a thing against his will, this is not, properly speaking, his act at all; nor is it an omission of his, if he wills to do a thing, and is necessarily prevented from doing it by external restraint. But it should be observed that natural necessity, or co-action, reaches no deeper than the external conduct; and can excuse for nothing else. As it does not influence the will itself, so it cannot excuse for acts of the will. Indeed, it presupposes the existence of a volition, or act of the will, whose natural consequences it counteracts and overcomes. Hence, if the question were—Is a man accountable for his external actions, that is, for the motions of his body, we might speak of natural necessity, or co-action, with propriety; but not so when the question relates to internal acts of the will. All reference to natural necessity, or co-action, in relation to such a question, is wholly irrelevant. No one doubts, and no one denies, that the motions of the body are controlled by the volitions of the mind, or by some external force. The advocates for the inherent activity and freedom of the mind, do not place them in the external sphere of matter, in the passive and necessitated movements of body: they seek not the living among the dead.
But to do justice to these illustrious men, they did not attempt, as many of their followers have done, to pass off this freedom from external co-action for the freedom of the will. Indeed, neither of them contended for the freedom of the will at all, nor deemed such freedom requisite to render men accountable for their actions. This is an element which has been wrought into their system by the subsequent progress of human knowledge. Luther, it is well known, so far from maintaining the freedom of the mind, wrote a work on the "Bondage of the Human Will," in reply to Erasmus. "I admit," says he, "that man's will is free in a certain sense; not because it is now in the same state it was in paradise, but because it was made free originally, and may, through God's grace, become so again."(3) And Calvin, in his Institutes, has written a chapter to show that "man, in his present state, is despoiled of freedom of will, and subjected to a miserable slavery." He "was endowed with free will," says Calvin, "by which, if he had chosen, he might have obtained eternal life."(4) Thus, according to both Luther and Calvin, man was by the fall despoiled of the freedom of the will.
Though they allow a freedom from co-action, they repudiate the idea of calling this a freedom of the will. "Lombard at length pronounces," says Calvin, "that we are not therefore possessed of free-will, because we have an equal power to do or to think either good or evil, but only because we are free from constraint. And this liberty is not diminished, although we are corrupt, and slaves of sin, and capable of doing nothing but sin. Then man will be said to possess free-will in this sense, not that he has an equally free election of good and evil, but because he does evil voluntarily, and not by constraint. That indeed, is true; but what end could it answer to deck out a thing so diminutive with a title so superb?"(5) Truly, if Lombard merely meant by the freedom of the will, for which he contended, a freedom from external restraint, or co-action, Calvin might well contemptuously exclaim, "Egregious liberty!"(6) It was reserved for a later period in the history of the Church to deck out this diminutive thing with the superb title of the freedom of the will, and to pass it off for the highest and most glorious liberty of which the human mind can form any conception. Hobbes, it will be hereafter seen, was the first who, either designedly or undesignedly, palmed off this imposture upon the world.
It is a remarkable fact, in the history of the human mind, that the most powerful and imposing arguments used by the early reformers to disprove the freedom of the will have been as confidently employed by their most celebrated followers to establish that very freedom on a solid basis. It is well known, for example, that Edwards, and many other great men, have employed the doctrine of the foreknowledge of God to prove philosophical necessity, without which they conclude there can be no rational foundation for the freedom of the will. Yet, in former times, this very doctrine was regarded as the most formidable instrument with which to overthrow and demolish that very freedom. Thus Luther calls the foreknowledge of God a thunderbolt to dash the doctrine of free-will into atoms. And who can forbear to agree with Luther so far as to say, that if the foreknowledge of God proves anything in opposition to the freedom of the will, it proves that it is under the most absolute and uncontrollable necessity? It clearly seems, that if it proves anything in favour of necessity, it proves everything for which the most absolute necessitarian can contend. Accordingly, a distinguished Calvinistic divine has said, that if our volitions be foreseen, we can no more avoid them "than we can pluck the sun out of the heavens."(7)
But though the reformers were thus, in some respects, more true to their fundamental principle than their followers have been, we are not to suppose that they are free from all inconsistencies and self-contradiction. Thus, if "foreknowledge is a thunderbolt" to dash the doctrine of free-will into atoms, it destroyed free-will in man before the fall as well as after. Hence the thunderbolt of Luther falls upon his own doctrine, that man possessed free-will in his primitive state, with as much force as it can upon the doctrine of his opponents. He is evidently caught in the toils he so confidently prepared for his adversary. And how many of the followers of the great reformer adopt his doctrine, and wield his thunderbolts, without perceiving how destructively they recoil on themselves! Though they ascribe free-will to man as one of the elements of his pristine glory, yet they employ against it in his present condition arguments which, if good for anything, would despoil, not only man, but the whole universe of created intelligences—nay, the great Uncreated Intelligence himself—of every vestige and shadow of such a power.
It is a wonderful inconsistency in Luther, that he should so often and so dogmatically assert that the doctrine of free-will falls prostrate before the prescience of God, and at the same time maintain the freedom of the divine will. If foreknowledge is incompatible with the existence of free-will, it is clear that the will of God is not free; since it is on all sides conceded that all his volitions are perfectly foreseen by him. Yet in the face of this conclusion, which so clearly and so irresistibly follows from Luther's position, he asserts the freedom of the divine will, as if he were perfectly unconscious of the self-contradiction in which he is involved. "It now then follows," says he, "that free-will is plainly a divine term, and can be applicable to none but the Divine Majesty only."(8) ... He even says, If free-will "be ascribed unto men, it is not more properly ascribed, than the divinity of God himself would be ascribed unto them; which would be the greatest of all sacrilege. Wherefore, it becomes theologians to refrain from the use of this term altogether, whenever they wish to speak of human ability, and to leave it to be applied to God only."(9) And we may add, if they would apply it to God, it becomes them to refrain from all such arguments as would show even such an application of it to be absurd.
In like manner, Calvin admits that the human soul possessed a free-will in its primitive state, but has been despoiled of it by the fall, and is now in bondage to a "miserable slavery." But if the necessity which arises from the power of sin over the will be inconsistent with its freedom, how are we to reconcile the freedom of the first man with the power exercised by the Almighty over the wills of all created beings? So true it is, that the most systematic thinker, who begins by denying the truth, will be sure to end by contradicting himself.
In one respect, as we have seen, Calvin differs from his followers at the present day; the denial of free-will he regards as perfectly reconcilable with the idea of accountability. Although our volitions are absolutely necessary to us, although they may be produced in us by the most uncontrollable power in the universe, yet are we accountable for them, because they are our volitions. The bare fact that we will such and such a thing, without regard to how we come by the volition, is sufficient to render us accountable for it. We must be free from an external co-action, he admits, to render us accountable for our external actions; but not from an internal necessity, to render us accountable for our internal volitions. But this does not seem to be a satisfactory reply to the difficulty in question. We ask, How a man can be accountable for his acts, for his volitions, if they are caused in him by an infinite power? and we are told, Because they are his acts. This eternal repetition of the fact in which all sides are agreed, can throw no light on the point about which we dispute. We still ask, How can a man be responsible for an act, or volition, which is necessitated to arise in his mind by Omnipotence? If any one should reply, with Dr. Dick, that we do not know how he can be accountable for such an act, yet we should never deny a thing because we cannot see how it is; this would not be a satisfactory answer. For, though it is certainly the last weakness of the human mind to deny a thing, because we cannot see how it is; yet there is a great difference between not being able to see how a thing is, and being clearly able to see that it cannot be anyhow at all,—between being unable to see how two things agree together, and being able to see that two ideas are utterly repugnant to each other. Hence we mean to ask, that if a man's act be necessitated in him by an infinite, omnipotent power, over which he had, and could have, no possible control, can we not see that he cannot be accountable for it? We have no difficulty whatever in believing a mystery; but when we are required to embrace what so plainly seems to be an absurdity, we confess that our reason is either weak enough, or strong enough, to pause and reluctate.
The manner in which Hobbes, Collins, and others, endeavour to reconcile necessity with free and accountable agency.
The celebrated philosopher of Malmsbury viewed all things as bound together in the relation of cause and effect; and he was, beyond doubt, one of the most acute thinkers that ever advocated the doctrine of necessity. From some of the sentiments expressed towards the conclusion of "The Leviathan," which have, not without reason, subjected him to the charge of atheism, we may doubt his entire sincerity when he pretends to advocate the doctrine of necessity out of a zeal for the Divine Sovereignty and the dogma of Predestination. If he hoped by this avowal of his design to propitiate any class of theologians, he must have been greatly disappointed; for his speculations were universally condemned by the Christian world as atheistical in their tendency. This charge has been fixed upon him, in spite of his solemn protestations against its injustice, and his earnest endeavours to reconcile his scheme of necessity with the free-agency and accountability of man.
"I conceive," says Hobbes, "that nothing taketh beginning from itself, but from the action of some other immediate agent without itself. And that therefore, when first a man hath an appetite or will to something, to which immediately before he had no appetite nor will, the cause of his will is not the will itself, but something else not in his own disposing; so that it is out of controversy, that of voluntary actions the will is the necessary cause, and by this which is said, the will is also caused by other things whereof it disposeth not, it followeth, that voluntary actions have all of them necessary causes, and therefore are necessitated." This is clear and explicit. There is no controversy, he truly says, that voluntary actions, that is, external actions proceeding from the will, are necessitated by the will. And as according to his postulate, the will or volition is also caused by other things of which it has no disposal, so they are also necessitated. In other words, external voluntary actions are necessarily caused by volitions, and volitions are necessarily caused by something else other than the will; and consequently the chain is complete between the cause of volition and its effects. How, then, is man a free-agent? and how is he accountable for his actions? Hobbes has not left these questions unanswered; and it is a mistake to suppose, as is too often done, that his argument in favour of necessity evinces a design to sap the foundations of human responsibility.
He answers these questions precisely as they were answered by Luther and Calvin more than a hundred years before his time. In order to solve this great difficulty, and establish an agreement between necessity and liberty, he insists on the distinction between co-action and necessity. Sir James Mackintosh says, that "in his treatise de Servo Arbitrio against Erasmus, Luther states the distinction between co-action and necessity as familiar a hundred and fifty years before it was proposed by Hobbes, or condemned in the Jansenists."(10) According to his definition of liberty, it is merely a freedom from co-action, or external compulsion. "I conceive liberty," says he, "to be rightly defined in this manner: Liberty is the absence of all the impediments to action that are not contained in the nature and intrinsical qualities of the agent: as for example, the water is said to descend freely, or to have liberty to descend by the channel of the river, because there is no impediment that way; but not across, because the banks are impediments; and though the water cannot ascend, yet men never say it wants liberty to ascend, but the faculty or power, because the impediment is in the nature of the water and intrinsical." According to this definition, though a man's volitions were thrown out, not by himself, but by some irresistible power working within his mind, say the power of the Almighty, yet he would be free, provided there were no impediments to prevent the external effects of his volitions. This is the liberty which water, impelled by the power of gravity, possesses in descending the channel of a river. It is the liberty of the winds and waves of the sea, which, by a sort of metaphor, is supposed to reign over the dominions of a mechanical and materialistic fate. It is the most idle of all idle things to speak of such a liberty, or rather, to use the word in such a sense, when the controversy relates to the freedom of the mind itself. What has such a thing to do with the origin of human volitions, or the nature of moral agency? Is there no difference between the motion of the body and the action of mind? Or is there nothing in the universe of God but mere body and local motion? If there is not, then, indeed, we neither have nor can conceive any higher liberty than that which the philosopher is pleased to allow us to possess; but if there be mind, then there may be things in heaven and earth which are not dreamed of in his philosophy.
The definition which Collins, the disciple of Hobbes, has given of liberty, is the same as that of his master. "I contend," says he, "for liberty, as it signifies a power in man to do as he wills or pleases." The doing here refers to the external action, which, properly speaking, is not an act at all, but merely a change of state in the body. The body merely suffers a change of place and position, in obedience to the act of the will; it does not act, nor can it act, because it is passive in its nature. To do as one wills, in this sense, is a freedom of the body from co-action; it is not a freedom of the will from internal necessity. Collins says this is "a valuable liberty," and he says truly; for if one were thrown into prison, he could not go wherever he might please, or do as he might will. But the imprisonment of the body does not prevent a man from being a free-agent. He also tells us truly, that "many philosophers and theologians, both ancient and modern, have given definitions of liberty that are consistent with fate and necessity." But then, their definitions, like his own, had no reference to the acts of the mind, but to the motions of the body; and it is a grand irrelevancy, we repeat, to speak of such a thing, when the question relates, not to the freedom of the body, but the freedom of the mind. Calvin truly says, that to call this external freedom from co-action or natural necessity a freedom of the will, is to decorate a most diminutive thing with a superb title; but the philosopher of Malmsbury, and his ingenious disciple, seem disposed to confer the high-sounding title and empty name on us, in order to reconcile us to the servitude and chains in which they have been pleased to bind us.
This idea of liberty, common to Hobbes and Collins, which Mackintosh says was familiar to Luther and Calvin at least a hundred and thirty years before, is in reality of much earlier origin. It was maintained by the ancient Stoics, by whom it is as clearly set forth as by Hobbes himself. The well-known illustration of the Stoic Chrysippus, so often mentioned by Leibnitz and others, is a proof of the correctness of this remark: "Suppose I push against a heavy body," says he: "if it be square, it will not move; if it be cylindrical, it will. What the difference of form is to the stone, the difference of disposition is to the mind." Thus his notion of freedom was derived from matter, and supposed to consist in the absence of friction! The idea of liberty thus deduced from that which is purely and perfectly passive, from an absolutely necessitated state of body, was easily reconciled by him with his doctrine of fate.
Is it not strange that Mr. Hazlitt, after adopting this definition of liberty, should have supposed that he allowed a real freedom to the will? "I prefer exceedingly," says he, "to the modern instances of a couple of billiard-balls, or a pair of scales, the illustration of Chrysippus." We cannot very well see, how the instance of a cylinder is so great an improvement on that of a billiard-ball; especially as a sphere, and not a cylinder, is free to move in all directions.
The truth is, we must quit the region of dead, inert, passive matter, if we would form an idea of the true meaning of the term liberty, as applied to the activity of living agents. Mr. Hazlitt evidently loses himself amid the ambiguities of language, when he says, that "I so far agree with Hobbes and differ from Locke, in thinking that liberty, in the most extended and abstracted sense, is applicable to material as well as voluntary agents." Still this very acute writer makes a few feeble and ineffectual efforts to raise our notion of the liberty of moral agents above that given by the illustration of Chrysippus in Cicero. "My notion of a free agent, I confess," says he, "is not that represented by Mr. Hobbes, namely, one that when all things necessary to produce the effect are present, can nevertheless not produce it; but I believe a free-agent of whatever kind is one which, where all things necessary to produce the effect are present, can produce it; its own operation not being hindered by anything else. The body is said to be free when it has the power to obey the direction of the will; so the will may be said to be free when it has the power to obey the dictates of the understanding."(11) Thus the liberty of the will is made to consist not in the denial that its volitions are produced, but in the absence of impediments which might hinder its operations from taking effect. This idea of liberty, it is evident, is perfectly consistent with the materialistic fatalism of Hobbes, which is so much admired by Mr. Hazlitt.
The sentiments of Descartes, Spinoza, and Malebranche, concerning the relation between liberty and necessity.
No one was ever more deeply implicated in the scheme of necessity than Descartes. "Mere philosophy," says he, "is enough to make us know that there cannot enter the least thought into the mind of man, but God must will and have willed from all eternity that it should enter there." His argument in proof of this position is short and intelligible. "God," says he, "could not be absolutely perfect if there could happen anything in this world which did not spring entirely from him." Hence it follows, that it is inconsistent with the absolute perfections of God to suppose that a being created by him could put forth a volition which does not spring entirely from him, and not even in part from the creature.
Yet Descartes is a warm believer in the doctrine of free-will. On the ground of reason, he believes in an absolute predestination of all things; and yet he concludes from experience that man is free. If we ask how these things can hang together, he replies, that we cannot tell; that a solution of this difficulty lies beyond the reach of the human faculties. Now, it is evident, that reason cannot "make us know" one thing, and experience teach another, quite contrary to it; for no two truths can ever contradict each other. Those who adopt this mode of viewing the subject, generally remind us of the feebleness of human reason, and of the necessary limits to all human speculation. Though, as disciples of Butler, we are deeply impressed with these truths, yet, as disciples of Bacon, we do not intend to despair until we can discover some good and sufficient reason for so doing. It seems to us, that the reply of Leibnitz to Descartes, already alluded to, is not without reason. "It might have been an evidence of humility in Descartes," says he, "if he had confessed his own inability to solve the difficulty in question; but not satisfied with confessing for himself, he does so for all intelligences and for all times."
But, after all, Descartes has really endeavoured to solve the problem which he declared insoluble; that is, to reconcile the infinite perfections of God with the free-agency of man. He struggles to break loose from this dark mystery; but, like the charmed bird, he struggles and flutters in vain, and finally yields to its magical influence. In his solution, this great luminary of science, like others before him, seems to suffer a sad eclipse. "Before God sent us into the world," says he, "he knew exactly what all the inclinations of our wills would be; it is he that has implanted them in us; it is he also that has disposed all things, so that such or such objects should present themselves to us at such or such times, by means of which he has known that our free-will would determine us to such or such actions, he has willed that it should be so; but he has not willed to constrain us thereto." This is found in a letter to the Princess Elizabeth, for whose benefit he endeavoured to reconcile the liberty of man with the perfections of God. It brings us back to the old distinction between necessity and co-action. God brings our volitions to pass; he wills them; they "spring entirely from him;" but we are nevertheless free, because he constrains not our external actions, or compels us to do anything contrary to our wills! We cannot suppose, however, that this solution of the problem made a very clear or deep impression on the mind of Descartes himself, or he would not, on other occasions, have pronounced every attempt at the solution of it vain and hopeless.
In his attempt to reconcile the free-agency of man with the divine perfections, Descartes deceives himself by a false analogy. Thus he supposes that a monarch "who has forbidden duelling, and who, certainly knowing that two gentlemen will fight, if they should meet, employs infallible means to bring them together. They meet, they fight each other: their disobedience of the laws is an effect of their free-will; they are punishable." "What a king can do in such a case," he adds, "God who has an infinite power and prescience, infallibly does in relation to all the actions of men." But the king, in the supposed case, does not act on the minds of the duellists; their disposition to disobey the laws does not proceed from him; whereas, according to the theory of Descartes, nothing enters into the mind of man which does not spring entirely from God. If we suppose a king, who has direct access to the mind of his subject, like God, and who employs his power to excite therein a murderous intent or any other particular disposition to disobey the law, we shall have a more apposite representation of the divine agency according to the theory of Descartes. Has anything ever been ascribed to the agency of Satan himself which could more clearly render him an accomplice in the sins of men?
From the bosom of Cartesianism two systems arose, one in principle, but widely different in their developments and ultimate results. We allude to the celebrated schemes of Spinoza and Malebranche. Both set out with the same exaggerated view of the sublime truth that God is all in all; and each gave a diverse development to this fundamental position, to this central idea, according as the logical faculty predominated over the moral, or the moral faculty over the logical. Father Malebranche, by a happy inconsistency, preserved the great moral interests of the world against the invasion of a remorseless logic. Spinoza, on the contrary, could follow out his first principle almost to its last consequence, even to the entire extinction of the moral light of the universe, and the enthronement of blind power, with as little concern, with as profound composure, as if he were merely discussing a theorem in the mathematics.
"All things," says he, "determined to such and such actions, are determined by God; and, if God determines not a thing to act, it cannot determine itself."(12) From this proposition he drew the inference, that things which are produced by God, could not have existed in any other manner, nor in any other order.(13) Thus, by the divine power, all things in heaven and earth are bound together in the iron circle of necessity. It required no great logical foresight to perceive that this doctrine shut all real liberty out of the created universe; but it did require no little moral firmness, or very great moral insensibility, to declare such a consequence with the unflinching audacity which marks its enunciation by Spinoza. He repeatedly declares, in various modes of expression, that "the soul is a spiritual automaton," and possesses no such liberty as is usually ascribed to it. All is necessary, and the very notion of a free-will is a vulgar prejudice. "All I have to say," he coolly remarks, "to those who believe that they can speak or keep silence—in one word, can act—by virtue of a free decision of the soul, is, that they dream with their eyes open."(14) Though he thus boldly denies all free-will, according to the common notion of mankind; yet, no less than Hobbes and Collins, he allows that the soul possesses "a sort of liberty." "It is free," says he, in the act of affirming that "two and two are equal to four;" thus finding the freedom of the soul which he is pleased to allow the world to possess in the most perfect type of necessity it is possible to conceive.
But Spinoza does not employ this idea of liberty, nor any other, to show that man is a responsible being. This is not at all strange; the wonder is, that after having demonstrated that "the prejudice of men concerning good and evil, merit and demerit, praise and blame, order and confusion, beauty and deformity," are nothing but dreams, he should have felt bound to defend the position, that we may be justly punished for our offences by the Supreme Ruler of the world. His defence of this doctrine we shall lay before the reader without a word of comment. "Will you say," he replies to Oldenburg, "that God cannot be angry with the wicked, or that all men are worthy of beatitude? In regard to the first point, I perfectly agree that God cannot be angry at anything which happens according to his decree, but I deny that it results that all men ought to be happy; for men can be excusable, and at the same time be deprived of beatification, and made to suffer a thousand ways. A horse is excusable for being a horse, and not a man; but that prevents not that he ought to be a horse, and not a man. He who is rendered mad by the bite of a dog, is surely excusable, and yet we ought to constrain him. In like manner, the man who cannot govern his passions, nor restrain them by the fear of the laws, though excusable on account of the infirmity of his nature, can nevertheless not enjoy peace, nor the knowledge and the love of God; and it is necessary that he should perish."(15)
It was as difficult for Father Malebranche to restrain his indignation at the system of Spinoza, as it was for him to expose its fallacy, after having admitted its great fundamental principle. This is well illustrated by the facts stated by M. Saisset: "When Mairan," says he, "still young, and having a strong passion for the study of the 'Ethique,' requested Malebranche to guide him in that perilous route; we know with what urgency, bordering on importunity, he pressed the illustrious father to show him the weak point of Spinozism, the precise place where the rigour of the reasoning failed, the paralogism contained in the demonstration. Malebranche eluded the question, and could not assign the paralogism, after which Mairan so earnestly sought: 'It is not that the paralogism is in such or such places of the Ethique, it is everywhere.' "(16) In this impatient judgment, Father Malebranche uttered more truth than he could very well perceive; the paralogism is truly everywhere, because this whole edifice of words, "this frightful chimera," is really assumed in the arbitrary definition of the term substance. We might say with equal truth, that the fallacy of Malebranche's scheme is also everywhere; for although it stops short of the consequences so sternly deduced by Spinoza, it sets out from the same distorted view of the sovereignty and dominion of God, from which those consequences necessarily flow.