« ÎnapoiContinuați »
“He that knoweth to do good and docth it not (saith the apostle James,) to him it is sin."
Short as this inspired description of moral agency is, all the volumes of metaphysical discussion have added nothing to it. It seems then, that Dr. West has entirely mistaken the point. Moral agency does not at all consist in voluntary exertion.
3. But even if this definition were true so far as it goes, it seems to be defective; for may not brutes be capable of voluntary exertion? Is not this spontaneous exertion in the hound, when after having taken the scent, he sets off in pursuit of the fox? But if it is, it does not constitute bim a moral agent. For something else, some other power, faculty, or principle of nature, is absolutely necessary to this.
4. From what the Doctor says in this same section, it is obvious he does not admit any other power, or principle of the soul, distinct from voluntary exertion, as necessary to moral agency. Nay, it seems to be implied, that the soul itself is not any thing distinct from voluntary exertion. Now upon bis theory what a vast signification is given to this phrase.
“The soul of man consists in voluntary exertion; vice and virtue consist in voluntary exertion; moral agency consists in voluntary exertion; the liberty essential to moral agency consists in voluntary exertion."
When a single word or phrase is made to signify so much, in a deep metaphysical discussion, it cannot fail to create a suspicion, that it means nothing at all, or is not very accorately defined.
We might go on and multiply examples of this 'kind from different writers without end." But these remarks are not designed to detract from the merit of much that is valuable and excellent in their works. Our object is to shew the danger of relying upon mere human theories in divinity, though struck out by the greatest and best of men. From my first acquaintance with compositions of this kind, I always
'found a difficulty in reconciling many of their positions with common sense and the Holy Scriptures; but who was I, that I should dare to suspect the justness of speculations so profound, and sanctioned by the splendor of names so illustrious. But the snare is broken, and no mere human writings have been of more benefit to me, in this respect, than Milner's Church History. I have lately reviewed some of these speculations, with which the young student in divinity, is so liable to be charmed, and it has served more completely to destroy all confidence, in the abstract reasoning, even of men of the most astonishing powers of mind, unless I can perceive, what they advance in theology, to be clearly taught in the sacred volume.
These metaphysical deeps now appear to me to be a dangerous snare; the bait is the pride of being wise beyond what is written. They create a distaste for that plain sincere milk of the word, which administers nourishment, vigor, purity, humility and joy to the soul. Christian philosophers as well as pagan, cannot walk without the guidance of the plain word of God. When they forsake this light, when they undertake to explain what the inspired writers were not commissioned to unfold, the greatest efforts of genius, only exhibit proof of the feebleness of the human understanding, and man's utter incapacity in his fallen state, by searching to find out God. In view of their most elaborate performances, they will give us too much occasion to exclaim with Cowper,
"I feel my heart, Dissolve in pity, and account the learned, If this be learning, most of all deceived."
IN WHICH IT IS SHEWN THAT THE THEORY UNDER EXAMINATION IS CONTRARY TO ANALOGY AND SOUND PHILOSOPHY, SO FAR AS ANY REGARD IS DUE TO THE MOST SOBER AND CAUTIOUS REASONINGS OF THIS KIND.
It is not every ingenious or profound speculation, that constitutes true philosophy. This is not such an'absurd, contradictory thing. A yast proportion of the most boasted reasonings of men on divinity are a vain and pernicious philosophism. But to come at truth here, some just standard must be applied. As we have already stated, the infallible rule, from which there is no appeal, is the volume of revelation. The next is the nature of things.
Nothing is false which is agreeable to the attri. butes, ways and works of Gods This standard is Jess certain and authoritative, only as the imperfect reason of man iš more liable to err in the application. In this section, it is proposed to try this new theory by this natural standard. Unless I am deceived it is unphilosophical in the following respects.
1. It is contrary to analogy. In order to turn an heart of enmity and rebellion against God into love and obedience it is easy to admit that a direct and positive divine efficiency is necessary; but to say the same special divine agency is necessarily to excite sinful exercises in an heart previously disposed to nothing but sin, is quite different from the common train of human reasoning in cases, which bear a strong analogy to this.-Suppose a grave and serious writer, with all the parade of deep discovery and profound wisdom should describe the tyger, with all his ferocious appetites and thirst for blood and dexterity to take his prey, and represent him as thus formed and upheld by the power of God; suppose further, he should describe a lamb as it really is, and place it under the very nose of this tyger; and then should affirm that this ferocious beast could not even hunger for this lamb, nor leap upon him, till bis heart was moved by a special divine power to do it? Who would admire him for his wisdom? Would not such a philosopher make himself ridiculous?
Would not every one say, if there had been any special divine power necessary in the case, it must have been the other way, to prevent the tyger from actually devouring the lamb? The additional power, if necessary at all, was not to make him eat it, but to shut up his mouth. Was it not so in the case of Daniel? The divine power was displayed, in restraining the operations of that nature which God had given those furious beasts into whose den he was thrown. And why is it not just so in regard to creatures whose hearts are fully set in them to do evil? If a special divine power be necessary, it is not to move them to choose evil, but to restrain or change their corrupt nature,
2. It annihilates the whole system of second causes in the moral world. If there is any principle of knowledge and certainty in regard to the works and ways of God, it is this. That creatures are formed so mutually related and dependent on each other, and such powers, capacities and energies enter into the very constitution of their nature, that under the all sustaining and governing providence of God, they can exert a very powerful influence upon each other.
This is eminently the case in regard to the moral world. On this principle the whole system of human duty, in regard to fellow beings, and all prudence, fore. sight and wisdom in the economy of human affairs,
are founded. But does not Mr. W. R. Weeks, in his volume of Nine Sermons, pp. 38–42, lay it down as a certainty, that nothing but the immediate agency of God alone can move the mind to act.” But is not this, by a single stroke, to abolish all idea of any second causality or agency in the moral world? Is it indeed a real fact, that in the nature of things, in reasoning, persuasion, example, promises, threatenings, temptations,&c. there is nothing fitted to influence the human will to the choice of either good or evil? Is there no reality in all that is believed by men and taught in the Bible of second causes and effects, or of one creature's acting upon, or moving and exciting the will, the affections, the desires, the fears, the hopes and passions of another? Is Satan's working in the hearts of the children of disobedience and leading them captive at his will, a misrepresentation? Is this all, that can be said in truth of it. "It seems to be so, but is not so in reality? What is this but in effect to treat the whole system of God's works as the ancient Docetae did the incarnation and sufferings of Christ. It was a mere shadow without reality. For in truth according to this theory, neither Satan, or any other created agent in heaven or earth, no motive, no second cause can move the mind of man to the least inclination or choice. Nothing but the immediate agency of God alone can do this, How strong and expressive are the terms of Mr. W. to exclude all creature agency in the business. He not only says, it is the immediate agency of God, but that alone, i. e. without any instrument or second cause having any efficacy in the affair.
3. This theory is doing violence to the universal opinion of mankind and the dictates of common
To make this appear we will state acase. Suppose a man in full possession of health and reason accidentally stumbles and falls with one hand into a kettle of boiling lead, and is left entirely to his own choice whether he will take it out or not. Now is it