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he does his having had such and such exer. cises. You are certain, by consciousness, that you chose to attend the public worship of God in his house, to day. Have you the same certainty, that this act of choice, or will, took place without any thing to make it necessary ? I dare answer for you, that, whatever opinions you may have formed, you have no such consciousness within you. You are conscious of the will only, and of nothing else, that could affect its moral quality. A man may be conscious of restraints, in respect to those actions, which are consequent upon his will ; and by them he may find his liberty destroyed : for instance, if a man suddenly awaking from sleep, and not knowing his situation, wills to rise, but finds himself pinioned down with strong cords ; he is then sensible that his liberty is gone, because he is under an invincible necessity. But this is not a necessity, which can apply to acts of the will. A man, too, under strong nervous affections, may be under a necessity of moving, otherwise than by the direction of his will. In this case, the necessity is uta terly opposed to liberty.
But such a necesa, sity is against the actings of the will, and not the cause of them. It may be a very evident truth, that when persons are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, and that, because God hath before ordained that they shall walk in them, their good works are made necessary by the purpose of the most High ; but no man, performing such good works,
can be conscious of acting under this neces. sity. And if it be true, that a man could never perceive it, even if the necessity did exist ; how can any one be supposed to perceive that it does not exist. The fact is, that all the causes of human volition, or of the acts of our will, are totally imperceptible to us ; and, consequently, cannot be objects of consciousness. All the moral liberty, there. fore, that we can become acquainted with, by this faculty, consists in real exercises of the will. The causes of those exercises can be no matter of consciousness, and, consequently, can, no wise, affect that liberty, of which we are conscious, to render it greater or less. Hence we see, that the only moral liberty, of which we can be conscious, consists in mere exercise of will, without any regard to necessity, or contingency, in the matter. Whether the acts of the will be necessary, or not; yet they are acts of will; and here lies all the moral liberty, that any intelligent being can be conscious of. And if there be any other kind of liberty, of which a man cannot be conscious, let there be never so much said about it, by way of boast, or otherwise ; yet it is as useless with regard to every purpose of moral agency and accountability, as is the instinct of a brute.
2. Acts of will may be necessary, though they cannot be constrained. Some divines, of eminent learning and sense, and of whom great accuracy, upon the present subject; might be expected, have taken particular cares
when treating of divine influences upon the minds of men, to guard us against the idea, that any constraint is laid upon the will, as if such a thing were not, in its own nature, iinpossible. But of their being judicious and discreet, in this part of their labour, I think we may reasonably doubt. No doubt there is such a thing as constraint, which is inconsistent with liberty. But whether it can, possibly, apply to the will, in any case, deserves to be considered. Constraint implies an external force, which cannot be resisted ; as, when a man, walking to the East, meets another man, who, by his superior strength, obliges him to shift his course, and move to the West. He still desires to pursue the Eastward route, which he began ; but he cannot do according to his will, since he has fallen into the hands of one, who, in bodily strength, is greatly his superior. He is compelled to move in the opposite direction, by the irresistable force that is applied to him, against which his own exertions avail nothing. Now, every one will see the truth of the position, that such a man is under a constraint, which takesaway hisliberty; and the constraint is not in his being under any incumbrance, as to his will. That is just the same it ever was. It consists in his want of power to act accord. ing to his will. A constraint, therefore, implies an active will, and an insuperable power acting against it. If the same power, that constrains, in the case, just stated, is exerted to convey along one who is helpless,
but is willing to be carried by the strength of another, just the course that is taken ; he is not subject to constraint, because his will is not opposed. A man's being forced to any thing, implies that his will is counteracted. If his will does not stand opposed to the power, which is exercised upon him, no one will pretend, that he is forced, or constrained. If the term is ever otherwise used, it is not in its natural, but in a figurative, sense. Should an admiral, at sea, finding it impossible to escape the enemy, or make any effectual resistance, at length set fire to his own fleet, no doubt he'would justify the deed by saying, he was constrained to do it ; but this would not inply, that he was less voluntary in the act, than he would have been in the act of firing the enemy's fleet, could he have found an opportunity of doing it. This would be a figurative use of the term, expressing the great urgency of the reasons, under which he acted. A man is forced, when he has a will, but that will cannot be gratified, or complied with. But, if he has no will at all, concerning any particular matter, how can he be said to be forced ? And what hardship, or ground of complaint, is there in any force, that leaves the will ena tire, unobstructed, and in a way to be gratified, in all it seeks ? That, which, generally, grieves mankind, and interrupts their tranquility, is the obstacles which are thrown in the way of their realizing the things, that are agrecable to their wills, and not that their
wills are as they be. The happiness a person has in willing and doing cannot be lessened by any thought, respecting the cause or man. ner of the existence of such an exercise. Suppose a person's mind engaged in willing the relief of an indigent and distressed neighbour; would it at all diminish the satisfaction, arising froin it, could he be made to believe, that such exercises of his will were necessa-ry, or constrained ? It is evident, his happiness springs from the benevolent exercises themselves, and that it is, therefore, quite immaterial to him, as respects the pleasure, immediately issuing from them, whether the cause of them is grounded in something, called necessity, constraint, or contingence, or any thing else. It would be extremely hard to point out any symptom, by, which a constrained act of will may be distinguished from one, that is unconstrained. The murderers of St. Stephen, in the height of their rage against him, willed his death : now, supposé, after their fury is moderated, they begin to reflect upon their cruelty, and wish to find something to allay the guilt of the deed. They enquire, whether their wills were not under a constraint. How may, they come to a decision upon this question ? Are they, for this purpose, to examine the exercises of their minds ? Upon this point they have no doubt. Shall they then inquire, whether their exes. cises have taken place of necessity, or chance ? If they become convinced, that they were necessary, their nature appears just the same,