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5th. That each society pay their proportionable part to defray the expences of this publication.
6th. That Br. B. Streeter superintend the publishing of the proceedings of this meeting.
7th. Adjourned this association, to be holden at Paris, (Me.) on the last Wednesday and Thursday of June, 1820, and closed the labours of the Council, ia devout thanksgiving to God for his divine benignity, through our association, council, and labours; By our beloved Br. Elias Smith. The public service in the morning, was attended as follows:
Br. J. Butterfield, introductory prayer and sermon. Text, Rev. xiv. 6, 7.
Br. Barzillai Streeter gave thanks to God. Public service P. M.
Br. Elias Smith, introductory prayer an sermon. Text, Heb. ii. 14, 15.
Br. Fayette Mace closed the meeting in thanksgiving and prayer at the throne of grace.
JOSEPH BUTTERFIELD, Moderator.
N. B. The two following questions were, by request, inserted with their proceedings, for discussion at the next session. The Editor hopes to be able to give the result of their discussions on the subject, in the next number, which will afford us some ideas of the views of the brethren in that part of the country.
1st. Does the fore-knowledge of God universally control the actions of man or was every action of man absolutely fixed by the Deity, previous to the creation of Adam?
2d. Will any of the descendants of Adam be punished after temporal death, for deeds done before ?
Two persons in conversation, the one a believer in the salvation of all men, and the other in the opposite doctrine, the question was asked by the latter with much assurance of difficulty on the part of his friend, what do you think will become of a man that' dies, being dead drunk? Sir, said his friend, if there be no alteration after death, I do not see but he must be dead drunk eternally.
Of Man's active and moral Powers, taken from the Elements of Moral Science, by James Beattie, L. L. D. Professor of moral Philosophy and Logic in the Marischal College and University of Aberdeen.
ACTION implies motion; but there may be motion as in a clock, where, properly speaking, there is no agent. Many motions necessary to life, are continually going on in the human body; as those of the heart, lungs, and arteries: but these are not human actions, because man is not the cause of them. For the same reason, breathing, and the motion of the eyelids, are not actions; because, though we may act for a little time in suspending them, for the purpose of seeing or hearing more accurately, they commonly go on without any care of ours; and, while they do so, we are, in regard to them, not active, but passive.
In like manner, the casual train of thought, which passes through the mind in a reverie is not action; but when we interrupt it, in order to fix our view upon a particular object, that interruption, and the attention consequent upon it, are mental actions. Recollection is another, and investigation a third; but a remembrance occurring to us, without any exertion on our part, is not action, and our minds in receiving it, or becoming conscious of it, are as really
passive, as the eye is in receiving the images of those visible things that pass before it when it is open. Nor is the mere perception of truth or falsehood a mental action, any more than the mere perception of hardness: the stone, which we feel, we must feel while it presses upon us; and the proposition, which our judgment declares to be true, we must, while we attend to it and its evidence, perceive to be true. But to exert our reason in endeavouring to find out the truth, or to be wilfully inattentive to evidence, are actions of the mind; the one laudable, and becoming our rational nature, the other unmanly and inmoral.
All action is the work of an agent, that is, of a being who acts; and every being who acts is the beginner of that motion which constitutes the action. The bullet tħat kills a inan, the explosion that makes it fly, the sparkles from the flint which produce the explosion, and the collision of the flint and steel whereby the sparkles are struck out, are none of them agents, all being passive and equally so; nor is it the finger operating upon the trigger that begins the motion, for that is in like manner a passive instrument: it is the mind, giving to the finger direction and energy, which is the first mover in this business, and therefore is, properly speaking, the agent. And if we were to be supernaturally informed, that the mind thus exerted was made to do so by the secret but irresistible impulse of a superior being, we should instantly declare that being the agent, and the mind as really a passive instrument, as the finger or the gunpowder.
To ask therefore, and the question is almost as old as philosophy itself, whether man in any of his actions be a free agent, seems to be the same thing as to ask, whether or not man be capable of action. To every action, using the word in its proper sense, it is essential to be free; necessary agency (unless we take the word in a figurative sense, as when we say the agency of the pendulum regulates the clock) is as real a contradiction in terms as free slave. If every mo-l
tion in our mind and body is necessary, then we never move ourselves; and those motions, which are commonly called human actions, are not the actions of men, but of something else, which, according to the language of this theory, we must term necessity. To be an active heing, is to have a power of beginning motion; to act, or to be an agent, is to exert that power. Brutes have a power of beginning motion; which, being in them not accompanied with any sense of right and wrong, has been called spontaneity; to distinguish it from that power which rational beings possess of beginning motion, and which, being accompanied with a consciousness of moral good and evil, is denominated liberty.
Mental actions were mentioned; and them the mind performs without any dependance, that we can explain, on any bodily part. Bodily exertions do also take their rise in the mind, which has the power of beginning motion in the body, as well as in itself. But the human body, like every other piece of matter, possesses not in itself the power of beginning motion; and therefore bodily motions proceeding from the mind are not properly actions of the body; because, in regard to them, the body is only the passive instrument of the soul. The power of beginning motion, exerted of choice by rational and intelligent being, may be called volition or will. It is in man the immediate cause of action. We will to exert ourselves in recollection; or attention; and at the same instant the act of recollecting or attending is begun: we will to move our arm, or leg, or any particular finger, and instantly it is moved; and we feel, that this energy of mind, which we call will, is the cause of the motion. But in what way, or by what means, the mind operates upon itself so as to produce attention or re. collection, or upon the muscles that move the several parts of our body so as to give motion to those mus cles, we can neither explain nor conceive.
Some things we can, and others we cannot do: we
can walk, but we cannot fly. Those things it is in our power to do which depend upon our will; and from them proceeds whatever may be called moral or immoral, virtuous or vicious, praiseworthy or blamable, in our conduct. For no man is seriously blamed or praised for that in the performance of which he is not considered as a free agent; that is, as one who bad it in his power either to do or not to do. This, according to the sense of the words agent and action, as already explained, is saying nothing more, than that no man is seriously blamed or praised, except for actions done by himself, and not by another.
Our mind and body are put in motion by the will; and philosophers have said, that the will is determined by motives, purposes and intentions, or reasons. Granting this to be true, I cannot admit, that by such motives or purposes the will is necessarily determined. It is the will itseif, or the self determining power of the mind, that gives a motive that weight and influence whereby the will is determined: in other words, it depends on ourselves, whether we are to act from one motive or from another. A man, for example, is tempted to steal. His motive to commit the crime is the love of money; his motive to abstain is a regard to duty. If he suffer himself to be determined by the former motive, he is a thief, and deserves punishment; if he comply with the latter, he has done well. Now all the world knows and believes, and the laws of every country suppose, that he had it in his power to act according to the impulse of either the one motive or the other; that is, that he had it in his power to give to either of them that influence which would determine his conduct.
To set this matter in another light. Action implies motion; and where there is not a power to begin motion, there cannot be action, there must always be rest. Now, though motion, when begun, may be communicated from one body to another, nothing, so so far as we know, can begin motion, but mind. If No. 1. Vol. 1. 3