Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

as full of malice and impiety, as they would upon supposition of their contingency, of their coming into being by pure chance. Constraining the will, therefore, so as to take away the guilt of a bad action, is just as impossible, in the nature of things, as it is to make that innocent, which is, in its own nature, criminal. A will, unconformed to the law of God, is blameworthy, in spite of all the constraint, that can be imagined. That the will should be destroyed, is not impossible ; but that it should be constrained, is impossible. Its nature is such, as to admit of no such thing. Wherever there is a will, relating to moral objects, there is, necessari. ly, right or wrong, desert of praise or blame. You may say, it is free, or it is not ; that it acts under an irresistible necessity, or comes by chance ;, still you leave it just as you . found it, a will, which delights in God, or turns the back upon him ; and is, therefore, holy or sinful. But if men do not beget, or originate, their own acts of will, may we not say, they are forced upon them? If they take place against the strivings of their will, no doubt, this consequence will follow ; but not without. And no man will be absurd enough to say, that any act of his will is contrary to his will.

Would it be proper to. say, that, when a man is created, he is forced into being? Though his coming into existence is not consequent upon his own will; so neither is it contrary to it.

And if men are not subjects of force, or constraint, in

having their existence from God, rather than from themselves ; so neither are their wills forced, or constrained, because they are produced, not by themselves, but by a divine hand. No force can certainly be put upon them, before they exist ; and no one, I think, will pretend that they are liable to it afterwards. The conclusion of the matter is this; there can be no moral liberty, except what consists in will, or voluntary exercise ; and wherever this will is to be found, exercising itself towards moral objects, there we are presented with a complete moral agent. Having obtained, as I conceive, a just view of what it is that constitutes a moral agent, I proceed to enquire

Secondly, Whether such an one may not be dependent, in the fullest sense ; or as much so, as any instrument is on him, who makes and uses it. The objection against God's using creatures, both saints and sin, ners, as instruments of his glory, and mak. ing them entirely subservient to this end, is, that it does not comport with their being moral agents.

The ground, on which this absurdity is supposed to follow, I take to be this, viz. that an instrument is not under its own control and direction, but that of the agent, who uses it, and therefore, not having the freedom of self-disposal, it cannot be justly called to an account, which implies a destitution of moral agency. The object of the present discourse is to ascertain, that this dependence is, in no wise, inconsistent with

If an

moral

agency. agency, totally depends ent, which is the immediate effect of divine influence, cannot be moral, so as to render the subject accountable to the Judge of all the earth, what has been offered would, truly, be liable to objection. But, being in this state of dependence, which is the undoubted situation of every human being, it is hoped, will appear to be in perfect concordance with moral agency ; so that every one shall be obliged to feel, that he is, in every respect, a creature of God, as dependent upon him, as the clay is upon the potter; and yet, that he is holden to receive judgment, at his righteous tribunal, according to his works. To lose either of these ideas, would seem to leave an awful gap in the kingdom of God. But let us not be tenacious of any thing, which impartial reason, or scripture, bids us relinquish. The devout believer will not very readily subscribe to the abandonment of his standing in God's kingdom, as a moral subject, and take rank with the beasts that perish. And will he be pleased to see the Deity divested of any part of his Lordship, his supremacy, his dominion, over his own works? to see him sharing originality with his creatures and even reduced to the necessity of acting but a limited part in the universe which he upholds ? If it would be painful to piety to see man's moral agency annihilated; would it not be equally so to see a creature aspiring to a nearer equality with God, than to be an instrument of his

agency is from

providence, of that government, which shall be productive of infinite glory to his name? If both these sources of comfort can be re. tained and secured in violate to the devout christian, how worthy of our earnest endeavours should we esteem such an end ? Is it true, then, that the moral agency of man is an incontestible fact ? and is it equally true, that the whole of this the immediate hand of God, just as the effect is from the cause ? If the latter be not a truth equally with the former, it must be because it either admits of no cause, or not of such an one, as is supposed in this case. Some, indeed, have said, that exercises of will are not effects, and consequently have not a cause ; but this is equivalent to saying, that they are self-existent. For there is but two possible ways to account for the existence of any thing, viz. its own necessity, or a necessity depending upon some cause. That, which is not an effect, or exists uncaused, cannot be the cause of its own existence neither can it have been caused by any thing else. Why, then, does it not exist from e. ternity? But nothing, like this, will be pretended of the human will. It must spring from some cause. But to cause itself, it must exist and act before it does exist. But why should any one incline towards these absurdities, as alternatives, rather than acknowledge, that the agency of man is truly moral, and that it springs from the efficient will of God ? Is it not in the power of God

to make a moral agent ? The whole controversy, respecting the dependence of creature agency, comes to this. If God is, in fact, a. ble to make a moral agent, it cannot be pleaded against the moral agency of such or such an one, that God made him. Why, then, do we ever hear it objected against men's being moral agents, that they are represented as having nothing, except what they receive ? that they have no sufficiency of their own, but all their sufficiency is of God ? that they have no will, but what is wrought in them by a divine hand ? Surely, making a moral agent, is not giving one some sort of a being, and leaving him to make himself a moral agent.

Should any one say, that God makes men capable of acting morally, and then leaves them to put their faculties to use, taking care to supply them with all the strength and vigour, which is necessary to action ; 'I would subjoin, that this is making them less than moral agents, and only putting them in a way to rise to that eminence. A man is not a moral agent, except when he acts morally; accordingly we say of children, that they are not moral agents, until the time when they actually become the subjects of moral exercise. To say, that God makes moral agents, is, therefore, in effect, saying, that he produces in them those exercises of will, in which their moral agency consists. Upon any other supposition, the work of creating moral agents is his, only in part. If we say, that men act

« EdellinenJatka »