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257. He admits, that, according to his doctrine of necessity, the Deity is the cause of all the evil, as well as of all the good actions of his creatures. What can this mean, but either that there is no difference between moral good and moral evil, between harm and injury, between crimes and calamities; or that the divine character is as far from being in a moral view perfect, as that of any of his creatures ? The same writer affirms, that the doctrine of philosophical necessity is a modern discovery, not older than Hobbes, or, perhaps he might mean, than Spinosa. Strange, that a thing, in which all mankind are so much interested, and of which every man, who thinks, is a competent judge, and has occasion to think and speak, every day of his life; should not have been found out till about two hundred years ago, and should still, in spite of all that can be said for it, although as certain as that two and two are four, be disbelieved by all mankind, a few individuals excepted. I shall only add, that, if the Deity be, as this au. thor affirms, the cause of all the evil, as well as of all the good actions of his creatures, resentment and gratitude towards our fellow-men are as unreasonable as towards the knife that wounds, or the salve that heals us; and that to repent of the evil I am conscious of having committed would be not only absurd but impious, because it would imply a dissatisfaction with the will of Him, who was the almighty cause of that evil, and was pleased to make me his instrument in doing it.
258. I deny not, that the opposite doctrine of liberty may be thought to involve in it some difficulties which our limited understanding cannot disentangle, particularly with respect to the divine prescience and decrees.' But in most things we find difficulties which we cannot solve; nor can any man, without extreme presumption, affirm, that he distinctly knows, in what manner the divine prescience exerts itself, or how the freedom of man's will may be affected by the decrees of God. Such knowledge is too wonderful for us : but of our own free agency we are competent judges, because it is a matter of fact and experience; and because all our moral and religious notions, that is, all our most important knowledge, may be said to be either founded on it, or inti. mately connected with it. 259. As omnipotence can do whatever is
POSsible, so omniscience must know whatever can be known. Every thing which God has determined to bring certainly to pass, he must foresee as cer. tain : and can it be thought impossible, that he should foresee, not as certain but as contingent, that which he has determined to be contingent and not certain ? Or will it be said, that it is not possible for the Almighty to decree contingencies, as well as certainties; to leave it in my power, in certain cases, to act according to the free determination of my own mind? Our bodily strength, and our freedom of choice in regard to good and evil, are matters of great moment to us; but the latter can no more interfere with the purposes of divine providence, than the former can retard or accelerate the motion of the earth. It would not be very difficult for a prudent man, who should have the entire command of a few children, to make them, in certain cases, promote his views, without laying any restraint on their will. Infinitely more easy must it be, for the almighty and omniscient Governor of the universe, so to overrule all the actions of his moral creatures, as to make them promote, even while they are acting freely, his own wise and good purposes.
Further Remarks on the Will.*
260. It was said, that the power of beginning motion, exerted of choice by a rational and intelligent being, may be called volition, or will. The word will has other significations; but I wish, at present, to use it in this sense. of beginning motion ; meaning by the term motion every change in the human mind or body which
I call it a power
* See Dr. Reid's Essays on the active powers of man.
is usually denominated action. When we will to do a thing, we believe that thing to be in our power; and when we will we always will something, (and this something may be termed the object of volition); even as when we remember we always remember something, which may be called the object of remembrance. Things, therefore, done voluntarily, are to be distinguished from things done, like a new-born infant's sucking, by instinct, as well as from things done by habit, like the constant motion of the eye-lids.
261. Will and desire are not the same. What we will is an action, and our own action : but we may desire what is not action, as that our friends may be happy, or what is no action of ours, as that our friends may behave well. Nay, we may desire what we do not will, as when we are thirsty and abstain from drink on account of health ; and we may will what we have an aversion to, as when, on the same account, we force ourselves to swallow a nauseous medicine. Let us also distinguish between will and command ; although, in common language, what a man commands is often called his will. We will to do some action of our own ; we command an action to be done by another. Desires and commands are also, in popular language, confounded : but here too we must distinguish. . O if such a thing were given me,' is not the same with “Give me such a thing :' and if a tyrant, to get a pretence for punishing, were to command what he knew could not be done, it might be a command without desire.
262. I said, that when we will to do a thing, we believe that thing to be in our power, or to depend upon our will. In exerting myself to raise a weight from the ground, I believe either that I can raise it, or that it is in my power to try whether I can raise it or not.. A very great weight, which I know to be far above my strength, I never attempt to raise. I never exert myself for the purpose of flying ; I never will to speak a language I have not learned ; because I know it to be out of my power. Our will may, however, be ex: erted in attempting to do what we know to be at the first trial impracticable; as when one begins to learn to perform on a musical instrument : but in this case we believe, that frequent attempts, properly directed, will make the thing possible, and at last easy. And we know, that the first principles of musical performance, as well as of other arts, are adapted to the ability of a beginner, and consequently in his power.
263. Some acts of the will are transient, others more lasting. When I will to stretch out my hand and snuff the candle, the energy of the will is at an end as soon as the action is over. When I will to read a book, or write a letter, from beginning to end, without stopping, the will is exerted till the reading or the writing be finished, We may will to persist for a course of years in a