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Rev. 22:17. Their exposition of these texts amounts to this: "Ye, the non-elect, will be damned, not because Christ. is not offered to you, but because ye will not accept him. You reject him, because there is an absolute spiritual inability in your nature to desire or choose him. There is a fixed bent of your will to sin and against the gospel, which you cannot alter. It can be overcome by divine grace alone; and this grace will never be granted to you, ye reprobates, but is the exclusive privilege of those chosen by God from eternity, to the praise of his distinguishing mercy. The water of life is limited to a few; but this small number includes all who are willing to receive it, God having through unconditional favor excited in them a thirst for it, which the rest of mankind are morally incapable of experiencing." Its connection with what we regard a false theological system, furnishes the consideration which has guided us in the selection of our ..subject.
We purpose to examine the specious theory of philosophical necessity as stated and defended by the Rev. James M'Cosh, in one section of his elaborate work on "The Method of the Divine Government, Physical and Moral." We may assign three reasons for our belief that he has given a fair exposition of the views and arguments of the necessarians of our day. His work is a recent production; it evinces extensive learning, a vigorous intellect and patient thought; and it has attained extraordinary favor among his own school of philosophy and divinity. Let us endeavor, then, at the outset, to ascertain with as much exactness as possible what opinions he does set forth. Care at this point is the more necessary, since he has been charged with the most palpable self-contradictions, which in such a writer would be strange. indeed. It is affirmed that he says and un-says; is now a staunch vindicator of human freedom in its broadest sense, and again an advocate of the most rigid necessity; in a word, is so inconsistent as to render impossible any determination what he believes or denies. There is one sense, indeed, in which every one who maintains a false opinion may be pro
nounced inconsistent. For how can he be convinced of error, unless by comparing his opinion with some truth which he himself acknowledges, and showing an incongruity between them? Such inconsistency, which does not appear from merely placing different expressions of the same person in juxta-position, but must be proved by argument, we shall allege against our author, and hope satisfactorily to establish the charge. But there certainly lies a strong a priori presumption against the accusation, that so acute and powerful a thinker as M'Cosh evidently is, has, in repeated, direct and obvious instances, contradicted himself, and been guilty of a general confusion of thought on this subject which involves in doubt his own position. Much may be done towards arranging his views into one consistent whole, by observing his own definitions of freedom and necessity.
He affirms that man is a free agent. We can conceive a man to be made, by the application of physical force to his body, to perform an act, when his own will was dormant, as would be the case if it occurred during his sleep; or when it was most violently set against the act, his struggles to prevent it being overpowered. Such compulsion, such necessity, M'Cosh everywhere denies with the utmost explicitness.
"If any man asserts, that in order to responsibility, the will must be free; that is, free from physical restraint; free to act as it pleases; we at once and heartily agree with him; and we maintain, that in this sense the will is free, as free as it is possible for any man to conceive it to be." P. 284.
"We rejoice to recognize such a being in man. We trust that we are cherishing no presumptuous feeling when we believe him to be free, as his maker is free. We believe him, morally speaking, to be as independent of external control as his Creator must ever be, as that Creator was when in a past eternity there was no external existence to control him." P. 286.
It must be admitted that, at the first glance, these quotations are calculated to create an impression that no wider liberty could be claimed by any one, and wonder how any kind or degree of necessity can be brought into agreement with them. A more careful inspection, however, will direct attention to the significant fact that the restraint, under which he
denies man to be placed, is qualified by the epithets, "physical" and "external." But we will soon perceive that he believes in a spiritual and inward constraint, resulting from the very constitution of the soul or an inflexible law governing its operations, which necessitates his actions as sternly, as though he were moved by some outward force. This constraint is found in the law of causation; that is, every effect must have a cause, and the connection between a cause and its effect is invariable. This law is affirmed to extend to all things which exist, material and immaterial, and to all states and acts of the soul, to every thought, emotion, desire and volition; so that they are produced as necessarily by some antecedent, as an explosion by the contact of a spark with gunpowder, and the harmonious revolutions of the planets by the law of gravitation. It is true, that he compares the freedom of man to that of his maker; but this objection is obviated, when we find him explaining the divine acts by the same law of causation, and pronouncing it to be the ground of our confidence in God.
It is time, however, that we were presenting to the reader our author's own observations concerning necessity.
"It is, we hold with all philosophers who have deeply studied this subject, a fundamental principle of our very constitution, which leads us upon the occurrence of any given event, to say it has a cause. And this principle leads us, upon the occurrence of a phenomenon, to look out for something producing it, whether the phenomenon be material or mental. In regard, for instance, to any one thought or feeling, we affirm that it must have had some cause in some property of the mind, or in some antecedent state of the mind, or in the two combined. It is by an intuition of our nature that we believe that this thought or feeling could not have been produced without a cause; and that this same cause will again and forever produce the same effects. And this intuitive principle leads us to expect the reign of causation, not only among the thoughts and feelings generally, but among the wishes and volitions of the soul. When the mind is cherishing a desire, or resolving upon a given action, here is a phenomenon of which we do believe, and must believe, that it has a cause. In this respect, wishes, desires and volitions are no exception to the absolute rule, which holds true of all phenomena, spiritual and material." P. 281.
"According to what Cousin holds to be a universal and necessary principle, every particular act of the will, as a phenomenon, commencing to ex
ist, must have a cause. If it be said, that the cause lies in the human will itself, we go back to that human will, and insist that it too, as a phenomenon, must have a cause of its operation, and the mode of it." P. 282. "But the advocate of philosophical necessity interposes, and tells us that every effect has a cause, and that every disposition of the intelligent creature must have an antecedent producing it. We at once agree with him. We are led by an intuition of our nature to a belief in the invariable connection between cause and effect, and we see numerous proofs of this law of cause and effect reigning in the human mind as it does in the external world, and reigning in the will as it does in every other department of the mind." P. 286.
These copious extracts place his theory with sufficient fulness and precision before our minds. We are now prepared to weigh the objections that lie against it :
1. It drives us to the startling and monstrous conclusion, that God is the real author of all the moral evil which exists in the world. The proof of this is, that his arrangements rendered inevitable this evil. There may be many intermediate agencies, but the existence, the properties, the working, the specific mode of operation and the definite results of each of these were caused by God, partly by the exercise of his creative energy and partly by the establishment of unbending laws for the control of what he had created.
That we may perceive more clearly the force of this argument, let us pause for a while to re-examine the theory of causation in its application to the will. Every act of the will is an effect of some cause. The connection between any cause and its effect is invariable. The same cause always produces the same effect in the same circumstances; it cannot produce any other effect, it must produce that one. The cause existing, the effect must follow. If at any time we see a cause in operation and the effect it produces, we know that this precise effect, be it simple or compound, and no other, must, at every other time, result from the operation of the same cause, provided the circumstances be not changed. Therefore, whatever is could not be otherwise; for as it is an effect, it necessarily proceeded, just as it is, from its cause. Suppose a person to bring into existence anything whatever which, by an invariable law, produces a certain effect, would
he not be the cause of the latter phenomenon as truly as of the former? To borrow, and apply to our subject, the celebrated supposition by which Paley illustrated another truth: If a man should so construct a watch that it not only keeps time, but produces another watch like itself, which by the same ingenious mechanism produces a third, would he not be pronounced the cause of the other watches as well as of the first? And must not God be regarded the author of all the crimes and vices of which we are informed by our own observation or by history, if he created that nature, fixed those laws and arranged those circumstances, which have resulted in these exact effects, and could not have resulted in any other? Let a force or forces be applied to a given body, it will move in a certain direction; it can neither remain stationary nor move along any other line. Let fire be thrown among combustible materials, they must be consumed. Let seed be sown in fruitful ground, its own kind will be borne. Even so, by equally uniform laws which the Creator has imposed upon man, his nature has actually unfolded itself in the only way which was possible under the circumstances. Mark the moral path in which a man has walked, he could not have deviated from that path by so much as a hair's breadth. True, he could have done so if he had so willed, just as the body supposed above could have moved differently if other forces had acted upon it; but he could not have willed otherwise, and, consequently, could not have acted otherwise. The whole harvest of sin and woe which our globe presents is the necessary yield of the seed which God has planted, in the soil where he has planted it. He laid the train of causes whose effects we see around us.
Let us apply these general observations to a particular instance. A man resolves to murder a fellow-being-could he have formed a different resolution? Nay, that resolution was the effect of a cause, viz: the depravity of his own heart, assailed by temptation. The depravity and the temptation concurring, the resolve necessarily followed. Can this be disputed? Will any one contend that, assuming the truth of