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We cannot say, that moral causes and effects are less necessarily connected, than natural ones are, without embracing the same absurdity in the one case, that evidently appears in the other.
For instance, if the conduct of Moses and Pharaoh were ef. fects of divine power, it was as necessary that they should act, when that power was exerted, which was the cause of their actions ; as it was, that a world should exist, when that power was put forth, which produced it. And I may say further, that if their respective conduct was needful, in the great chain of providence, to effect the glory of God, as it appears that it was, then it was as necessary they should act as they did, as that the name of God should be glorified. No one will say, that it is necessary there should be a regular succession of day and night, while time lasts, and yet, that it is unnecessary, that the sun should periodically rise and set, as it has done from the beginning. Means must always be considered to be just as necessary, as the end, to which they lead.
All the actions of men, which God employs to bring glory to himself, are as necessary, as that he should be glorified. It would be absurd to say, that there is a necessity of the latter ; but not of the form
This necessity of acting is a subject of great grief to many, who are provoked by it to exclaim, How then can man be free! If he be thus held under the bonds of neces sity, how can he be a moral agent ! how can
ke be more a subject of moral right or wrong, than the vessel at sea, which is gently wafted by pleasant gales, or tossed about and violently driven by fierce winds! It is not my design to prove, that men's acting dependently on God, as the instruments of his government, is consistent with their being under no sort of necessity of acting as they do.
I know of no possible medium, by which this could be effected, should the attempt be made. What I shall feel myself concerned to do, is only to prove, that the necessity they are under is not of such a nature, as to infringe their moral liberty, or, in any measure, to render it improper for them to be held accountable for their conduct, so as to be subject to either reward, or punishment. If a man may be a moral agent, or, as some would express it, a free a. gent, in his moral concerns, and yet be a mere dependent instrument in the hand of God, and, as such, necessarily yielding to a superior power, by which he is put forward ; the present objection, I conclude, must vanish. For the only difficulty, here started against this idea of dependence, is, that it destroys moral agency; that men, while they thus act, cannot act freely. I conclude, no one will pretend, that a man may be a moral agent, and yet not be, properly, a subject of moral government, in its fullest extent ; which implies subjection to authority, ex. pressed in commands, prohibitions, and threatenings. That men are moral agents,
in the most perfect sense, and at the same time dependent in the manner we have endeavoured to show, I shall aim to make evi.. dent, in the sequel of the present discourse. To do this effectually, and that we may see the objection fairly removed, I shall
First, Enquire what is necessary to constitute a moral agent. And then
Secondly, Whether such an one may not be dependent in the fullest sense : or as much so, as any instrument is on him, who makesand uses it.
One is constituted a moral agent by being endowed with moral powers. By moral powers is meant those faculties, or properties, of mind, which relate to moral objects. And, by moral objects, right and wrong are pointed out, in distinction from natural things, in which there is no desert of praise, on the one hand, nor of dispraise, on the other. That there are such things, as right and wrong, which deserve to be commend. ed, or condemned, it will be no presumption to assert without procf, since the belief of it is universal, and does not rest upon any train of reasoning whatever. Though men, sometimes, differ about rules of conduct ; yet it is hardly credible, that any man should be found, who, in his senses, would dispense with all rule, that is, view all actions alike. It is as essential to the nature of man to make distinctions between actions; to approve of some and disapprove of others; as it is to a beast to seek his food where pature has pro.
vided it for him. This is his grand characteristical feature, as a moral being. Ilis being capable of pleasure from having done one thing, and of remose from having done the contrary, is that, which establishes his rank, and raises him above other beings, who have, confessedly, no moral nature.
Having preInised this, as a definition of the term moral, I proceed to the further consideration of the subject. To act morally, a man must have a perception of moral truth ; and, having come to a view of it, must chuse or refuse it. The discovery of the object will be referred to the understanding, as the office of that faculty. To approve, or disapprove, to chuse or reject, will be reckoned the prov: ince of the will. And here lies the right or wrong, the praise or blame, involved in the case. We never think of applauding a man, inerely for seeing his duty, for perceiving what he ought to do; neither do we re, proach, or condemn him, merely for his ignorance of what is proper, or for his not seeing, clearly, how he ought to behave. But, after his understanding is informed, if we see him chuse the good and refuse the evil, for this we give him praise, and so, vice versa. It is the state and the operations of his will, therefore, that must determine how far he is worthy of commendation. And this agrees with our text, which declares, “ IE there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not ac. cording to that he hath not."
was treating upon the duty of alms-giving, of sending relief to indigent, afflicted, breth. ren. That there is moral beauty and fitness in such actions, in such a disinterested, liberal conduct, he proves from the example of the compassionate Jesus, who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we, through his poverty, might be rich. But though he enjoins the bestowment of worldly substance, as a demand, in the name of Christ, from the naked and hungry ; yet he does not make the virtue of the deed, nor the wickedness of the neglect, consist in the abundance, or scantiness, of the offering ; but in the temper of the mind, or state of the will. Fie does not tell them, that they cannot be approved of God, unless they actually make out a gift to such or such an amount, and
it into the hands of some necessitous person. If they possess and can spare but liitle, that little is not the rate, by which their charity will be measured. It is the willing mind, that gives the subject his
If the will is in favour of right things, there is moral rectitude ; if it is against them, there is moral guilt, or ill desert. Moral agency, we see, therefore, consists in exercises of will. But it will not hence follow, that all beings, possessed of will, are, therefore, moral agents. It is the will's being employed about moral objects, that renders it a moral exercise. The brute has a will in common with a man ; but as he has no discernment of moral objects, his will