Page images
PDF
EPUB

Laws of choice. Certainty of choice. Uniformity of choice. I have laid down, and truth and argument are not invidious. But I say, that the theory of choice, that it is what it is by a natural, constitutional necessity, and that a man cannot help choosing what he does choose, and can by no possibility choose otherwise, is the doctrine of fatalism in all its forms. That there are laws of choice,- so uniform that in the same circumstances, the action of mind can be anticipated with great certainty, is not denied. That choice is in accordance with the state of body and mind, and character, and external circumstances, may be admitted, or that it is as the greatest apparent good is, may be admitted; but that it is so necessarily, to the exclusion of all ability of any kind to be other than it is, cannot be admitted, without abandoning the field of God's government of accountable agents, and going to the very centre of the region of fatalism. The certainty of choice in given circumstances does not decide the manner of the certainty, as one of natural necessity, without power to the contrary. That a man always, in the same circumstances, chooses alike, is no evidence that he had no ability of any kind to choose otherwise, and chooses by a fatal necessity. Uniformity of choice, in the same circumstances, is just as consistent with free agency and natural ability, as with necessity and fatalism. But that choice, without the power of contrary choice, is fatalism in all its diversified forms, is obvious to inspection, and a matter of historical record. : The fatality of the Stoics was an eternal series of cause and effect, controlling by inexorable Fatalism-Gnostic, Manichean, Pantheistic, Atheistic. necessity all events, from which the will of gods and men were not exempt. The fatality of Epicurus is a material fatality; he denied the existence of spirit, and held to the universal empire of natural causes over mind in all its voluntary actions.

The Gnostic fatality made sin an eternal property of matter, and the contamination of mind the result of bodily innoculation and contact, and by an unavoidable necessity, precluding freedom of will as utterly as the communication of disease by virus.

The Manicheans held with the Gnostics to the corruption of matter, and also to sin in the essence or substance of the soul; both making sin a matter of necessity, independent of choice, and controling volition as natural causes, produce their effects.

The fatalism of Spinoza was material and pantheistic, making God the soul of the world and the only agent, and himself subject to a self-existent, eternal necessity of action, and the author alike of sin and holiness.

The fatalism of Descartes was the atomic theory, the fortuitous concourse of atoms-intelligence in results without an intelligent being—design without a designer-and choice, the product of the happy concurrence of material accidents.

The fatalism of the French revolutionary atheists, was Sadducean; that all existence is material, and all its combinations and changes the result of material laws in the form of natural cause and effect; that mind is matter, and that volition is the result of material action; and that death, the decomposition of Fatalism.-R. D. Owen, Boling broke, Hobbs, Hume, Priestly. the body, is an eternal sleep. This is the fatalism of Robert Dale Owen and Fanny Wright.

The fatalism of Bolingbroke, and Hobbs, and Hume, was made to approximate a little more to the confines of rationality and truth, but not near enough to leave necessity behind and bring them under the government of God as free, accountable creatures. If they admitted the existence of mind and spirit distinct from matter, (of which there is some doubt,) they clothed motives, as the antecedents of volition, with the coercive power of material causes to their effects, and thus destroyed the liberty of the will, and introduced a universal coercive necessity of choice, just in all cases as it is without the possibility of one more or less, or different from those which actually come to pass.

The necessity of Priestly and Belsham was material, and all volition in accordance with the laws and action of material causes. That motives produce volition necessarily on the same principle that natural causes produce their effects; so that choice, as the spontaneous action of mind, enlightened, and guided, and influenced by law and motive, has no existence, but is in all cases the passive effect of antecedent natural causation, as incapable with accountability and desert of punishment as the sparks that rise by their less specific gravity than that of the surrounding atmosphere, or the rain drops that fall by their superior gravity to the sustaining element.

VIII. The supposition of accountability for choice, coerced by a natural necessity, is contrary to the

[ocr errors]

Accountability for choice. Continued obligation and responsibility. i nature of things as God has constituted them. The

relation of cause and effect pervades the universe. "The natural world is full of it. It is the basis of all science, and of all intellectual operations with respect to mind. Can the intellect be annihilated and thinking go on? No more can the power of

choice be annihilated and free agency remain. Is I there not a capacity of choice with power of con

trary choice in angels? and was there not in Adam

before he fell? But all the powers of the mind, per*ception, association, abstraction, memory, taste and be feeling, conscience, and capacity of choice, which

were required and did exist when man was created free, are still required to constitute free agency; and can it be that when all which capacitated Adam freely to choose is demolished, that the Lord still requires of his posterity that they, without the powers of their ancestor, should exercise the perfect obedience that was demanded of him. Do the requisitions of law continue when all the necessary antecedents to obedience are destroyed? Has God required effects without a cause? If he has, then he has in the case of man, violated the analogies of the whole universe. For in the natural world there is no effect without a cause, nor is there in the intellectual world. How then can it be, that the same analogy does not hold

in the moral world, where there exists such tremene dous responsibilities? What! will God send men to

hell, for not doing impossibilities—for not producing
an effect without a cause?'
IX. The supposition of continued obligation and

[ocr errors]

Effect without a cause.

Foundation of accountability.

responsibility after all the powers of causation are gone, is contrary to the common sense and intuitive perception of all mankind. On the subject of moral obligation, all men can see and do see that there can be no effect without a cause. Men are so constituted, that they cannot help seeing and feeling this. That nothing cannot produce something is an intuitive perception, and you eannot prevent it. This is the basis of that illustrious demonstration by which we prove the being of a God. For if one thing may exist without a cause, all things may; and we are yet to get hold of the first stran of an argument to prove the existence of a God. All men see that to require what there is not preparation for, is to demand an effect without a cause. What is the foundation of accountability? It is the possession of something to be accounted for. But if any man does not possess the capacity of choice with power to the contrary, he sees and feels that he is not to blame, and you cannot with more infallible certainty make men believe, and fix them in the belief, that they are not responsible, than to teach them that they have not the power of alternative election. It is the way to make a man a fatalist. But you cannot do it. God has put that in the breast of man which cannot be reasoned away. Every man knows and feels that he has power and is responsible. Men never associate blame with the qualities of will or action, on the supposition of a natural impossibility that they should be otherwise, but always on the supposition that they were able to have chosen or acted otherwise. What

« PreviousContinue »