Page images
PDF
EPUB

so good, yet if the Cause of the Disposition or Act be not our Virtue, there is nothing virtuous or praise-worthy in it; and on the contrary, if the Will in its Inclination or Acts be ever so bad, yet unless it arises from something that is our Vice or Fault, there is Nothing vicious or blame-worthy in it. Hence their grand Objection and pretended Demonstration, or Self-Evidence, against any Virtue and Commendableness, or Vice and Blame-worthiness, of those Habits or Acts of the Will, which are not from some virtuous or vicious Determination of the Will itself.

Now, if this Matter be well considered, it will appear to be altogether a Mistake, yea, a gross Absurdity; and that it is most certain, that if there be any such Things, as a virtuous, or vicious Disposition, or Volition of Mind, the Virtuousness or Viciousness of them consists not in the Origin or Cause of these Things, but in the Nature of them.

If the Essence of Virtuousness or Commendableness, and of Viciousness or Fault, don't lie in the Nature of the Dispositions or Acts of Mind, which are said to be our Virtue and our Fault, but in their Cause, then it is certain it lies no where at all. Thus, for Instance, if the Vice of a vicious Act of Will, lies not in the Nature of the Act, but the Cause, so that its being of a bad Nature will not make it at all our Fault, unless it arises from some faulty Determination of our's as its Cause, or something in us that is our Fault; then for the same Reason, neither can the Viciousness of that Cause lie in the Nature of the Thing itself, but in its Cause : that evil Determination of our's is not our Fault, merely because it is of a bad Nature, unless it arises from some Cause in us that is our Fault. And when we are come to

this higher Cause, still the Reason of the Thing holds good ; tho' this Cause be of a bad Nature, yet we are not at all to blame on that Account, unless it arises from something faulty in us. Nor yet can Blame-worthiness lie in the Nature of this Cause, but in the Cause of that. And thus we must drive Faultiness back from Step to Step, from a lower Cause to a higher, in infinitum : and that is thoroughly to banish it from the World, and to allow it no Possibility of Existence any where in the Universality of Things. On these Principles, Vice or moral Evil can't consist in any Thing that is an Effect ; because Fcult don't conlist in the Nature of Things, but in their Cause ; as well as because Effects are necessary, being unavoidably connected with their Cause : therefore the Cause only is to blame. And so it follows, that Faultiness can lie only in that Cause, which is a Cause only, and no Effect of any Thing. Nor yet can it lie in this; for then it must lie in the Nature of the Thing itself; not in its being from any Determination of our's, nor any Thing faulty in us which is the Cause, nor indeed from any Cause at all, for by the Supposition, it is no Effect, and has no Cause. And thus, He that will maintain, it is not the Nature of Habits or Acts of Will that makes them virtuous or faulty, but the Cause, must immediately run Himself out of his own Assertion; and in maintaining it, will insensibly contradict and deny it.

This is certain, that if Effects are vicious and faulty, not from their Nature, or from any Thing inherent in them, but because they are from a bad Cause, it must be on Account of the Badness of the Cause ; and so on Account of the Nature of the Cause: A bad Effect in the Will must be bad, because the Cause is bad, or of an evil Nature, or has Badness as a Quality inherent in it: and a good

Effect

Effect in the Will must be good, by Reason of the Goodness of the Cause, or its being of a good Kind and Nature. And if this be what is meant, the very Supposition of Fault and Praise lying not in the Nature of the Thing, but the Cause, contradicts itself, and does at least resolve the Essence of Virtue and Vice into the Nature of Things, and supposes it originally to consist in that.- And if a Caviller has a Mind to run from the Absurdity, by saying, “ No, the Fault of the Thing “ which is the Cause, lies not in this, that the “ Cause itself is of an evil Nature, but that the “ Cause is evil in that Sense, that it is from an" other bad Cause.” Still the Absurdity will follow him ; for if so, then the Cause before charged is at once acquitted, and all the Blame must be laid to the higher Cause, and must confift. in that's being evil, or of an evil Nature. So now we are come again to lay the Blame of the Thing blame-worthy, to the Nature of the Thing, and not to the Cause.' And if any is so foolish as to go higher still, and ascend from Step to Step, till he is come to that which is the first Cause concerned in the whole Affair, and will fay, all the Blame lies in that ; then at last he must be forced to own, that the Faultiness of the Thing which he supposes alone blame-worthy, lies wholly in the Nature of the Thing, and not in the Original or Cause of it; for the Supposition is, that it has no Original, it is determined by no Act of our's, is caused by nothing faulty in us, being absolutely without any Cause. And so the Race is at an End, but the Evader is taken in his Flight.

'Tis agreeable to the natural Notions of Mankind, that moral Evil, with its Desert of Dilike and Abhorrence, and all its other Ill-deservings, consists in a certain Deformity in the Nature of certain Dispositions of the Heart, and Acts of the

Will; and not in the Deformity of something else, diverse from the very Thing itself, which deserves Abhorrence, supposed to be the Cause of it: Which would be absurd, because that would be to suppose, a Thing that is innocent and not evil, is truly evil and faulty, because another Thing is evil. It implies a Contradiction; for it would be to suppose, the very Thing which is morally evil and blame-worthy, is innocent and not blameworthy; but that something else, which is its Cause, is only to blame. To say, that Vice don't consist in the Thing which is vicious, but in its Cause, is the same as to say, that Vice don't confist in Vice, but in that which produces it.

'Tis true, a Cause may be to blame, for being the Cause of Vice : It may be Wickedness in the Cause, that it produces Wickedness. But it would imply a Contradiction, to suppose that these two are the same individual Wickedness. The wicked Act of the Cause in producing Wickedness, is one Wickedness; and the Wickedness produced, if there be any produced, is another. And therefore the Wickedness of the latter don't lie in the former, but is distinct from it; and the Wickedness of both lies in the evil Nature of the Things which are wicked.

The Thing which makes Sin hateful, is that by which it deserves Punishment; which is but the Expression of Hatred. And that which renders Virtue lovely, is the same with that, on the Aca count of which, it is fit to receive Praise and Reward; which are but the Expressions of Esteem and Love. But that which makes Vice hateful, is its hateful Nature ; and that which renders Virtue lovely, is its amiable Nature. 'Tis a certain Beauty or Deformity that is inherent in that

good good or evil Will, which is the Soul of Virtue and Vice (and not in the Occasion of it) which is their Worthiness of Esteem or Difesteem, Praise or Dispraise, according to the coinmon Sense of Mankind. If the Cause or Occasion of the Rise of an hateful Disposicion or Act of Will, be also hateful; suppose another antecedent evil Will.; that is entirely another Sin, and deserves Punishment by itself, under a distinct Consideration,

There is Worthiness of Dispraise in the Nature of an evil Volition, and not wholly in some foregoing Act which is its Cause; otherwise the evil Volition which is the Effect, is no moral Evil, any more than Sickness, or some other natural Calai mity, which arises from a Cause morally evil.

ove of rely becörrue in

Thus, for Instance, Ingratitude is hateful and worthy of Dispraise, according to common Sense; not because something as bad, or worse than Ingratitude, was the Cause that produced it; but because it is hateful in itself, by its own inherent Deformity. So the Love of Virtue is amiable, and worthy of Praise, not merely because something else went before this Love of Virtue in our Minds, which caused it to take place there ; for Instance our own Choice ; we chose to love Virtue, and by some Method or other wrought ourselves into the Love of it ; but because of the Amiableness and Condecency of such a Disposition and Inclination of Heart. If that was the Case, that we did chuse to love Virtue, and so produced that Love in ourselves, this Choice itself could be no otherwise amiable or praise-worthy, than as Love to Virtue, or some other amiable Inclination, was exercised and implied in it, If that Choice was amiable at all, it must be fo on Account of some amiable Quality in the Nature of the Choice. If we chose to love Virtue,

not

« PreviousContinue »