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ology generally used, has been incorrect and perplexing; for on both sides they have talked of the freedom of the will and all their arguments for and against liberty, have been predicated of the will. Whereas it is the mind that is free to will, as it is free in all its othcr operations, and to will is only an operation of the mind. Therefore, liberty is predicated of the mind and not of the will; and to talk of the liberty of the will, is as senseless as it is to talk of the will of the will. And even the term free will is unphilosophical unless it is taken in a restricted and accommodated sense, when we wish to distinguish between actions performed from motives entirely within ourselves, and those performed under a foreign influence, powerfully persuading us to the choice; but even here, the influence must only be persuasive, for if it be compulsory, the action can be no longer of choice, but of necessity.
The distinctions that are frequently made between natural liberty and moral liberty, are mere evasions and not arguments. For if natural liberty is necessary to enable us to perform natural actions; certainly moral liberty is requisite to render us morally accountable; and moral agency is always used in reference to moral actions and inoral accountability.
The liberty for which we plead is therefore predicated of the mind which is wisely constituted by our Maker to perceive, think, · reason, and decide, on subjects suited to its limits, whether natural or moral.
The exhortation, submit yourselves to God, calls emphatically for a decision of mind on a moral subject clearly perceived, and implies both power and liberty to obey.
The most plausible objections to moral agency have been drawn from the fallen nature of man, although we most firmly believe and constantly teach the doctrine of the fall, and the consequent corruption of the human heart, that it is wholly set to do evil, and that man is inclined to evil only, without any mixture of good; continually, without any intermission of evil: Yet, we believe the moral agency of man, with the liberty for which we have contended, can be, not only reconciled with our views of human depravity, but the objection itself can be proved fallacious, and the argument sophistical.
The objection may be stated thus. The corruption of man's nature since the fall, is such that he is morally incapable of performing a holy act; or, as it is sometimes expressed, man's will is so perverse, that he cannot choose good. The last statement supposes the will to be something distinct from the rest of the man, and that choice is an effect of the will, and the whole force of the objection rests upon the unphilosophical notion that the will determines our choice; whereas we have shown that it is the mind that determines, and is voluntary as well as active in all its operations. The first form of the objection is more plausible, but is founded upon the same fallacy; for an involuntary action certainly cannot be holy or unholy, and the moral inability, if it mean anything, must mean the want of a will; but certainly fallen man has a mind, and a mind that is conscious of liberty and active power, with respect to moral, as well as natural objects.
But the fallacy of the whole objection will appear, by showing that it offends against matter of fact. The spirit of the objection is, that man cannot will contrary to his moral nature, that an unholy man cannot will that which is holy, and of course it must follow that a holy man cannot will that which is unholy; and who does not see that this would render a state of probation in either case nugatory; the holy cannot lose his holiness, nor the unholy forsake his wickedness. If it be said that man is capable of being changed by a power independent of himself, and therefore a probation is granted, with a view to this change being effected, the probation then can only respect the power that produces the change,
and not the man who is only a passive object of another power. But that man can will contrary to his moral nature, is proved by matter of fact. God created man after his own image-made him upright, and therefore his moral nature was holy; but Adam fell: His transgression was either voluntary or not. If not voluntary, then he should be pitied, not blamed. But if voluntary, then he willed to sin, and his willing could not have proceeded from an unholy nature; for his unholy nature was the consequence of his fall, not the cause of it. Adam whose moral nature was holy and morally free, willed that which was unholy, or as is well expressed by the Westminster Divines,
man being left to the freedom of his own will, did thereby sin, and fell from the state in which God created him.'
The fact in the case is not altered by alledging that Adam was tempted to evil by an unholy being, distinct from, and existing independent of himself. For the temptation could only be persuasive and such as he had power to resist, or otherwise he would not be blamed, and his act would have been without choice, and his transgression, if such it would be called, a matter of mere necessity.
We readily admit that a moral agent may be susceptible of the persuasive influence of motives, and we think it will be difficult to conceive, how an intelligent being can act without motive. But it is the part of an intelligent being, possessing moral liberty, to reason and decide in the midst of the endless variety of motives, which are addressed to him, whether they are from without or within himself, agreeable, or contrary, to his moral nature.
Now this being the case, it is easy to prove that man, with all his natural corruptions, and with an unholy nature, may yet choose that which is good, or may will to perform a holy action. For if Adam with a holy nature willed to sin, fallen man with an unholy nature can will to obey. Adam was in a state of probation under the holy law of his Creator, suited to his nature and capacity: Fallen man is now in a state of probation under the mild and merciful law of his Redeemer, with a dispensation of grace suited to his fallen nature. Adam was under the persuasive motives of temptation from the devil; but fallen man is under the persuasive motives and redeeming influence of Jesus Christ his Saviour; with all the demonstrations of love and tender compassion. Besides, the Holy Spirit is given to reprove, instruct, draw, and even excite, by working in him both to will and to do. Adam had good and evil set before him, and how faithfully and affectionately are life and death set before he fallen sinner, and how many both alarming and persuasive motives are addressed to him, entreating him to turn from his evil way that he
live. In short, I think we are driven to this only alternative, either fallen man under a dispensation of grace can will to come to Christ and live, or that Adam necessarily willed to sin. Some metaphysical divines of late seem to have felt the force of this argument, and have endeavored to shift the ground, by asserting that man has no moral principle in his nature, independent of his own volitions, that neither Adam in paradise possessed any moral principle, before he chose sin,* nor that his offspring have any moral principle of holiness or unholiness, until they will to sin. And what is most unaccountable in this new system of divinity is, that they maintain as their view of depravity that the nature of man is such that in all the appropriate circumstances of his being he will sin and only sin.
It might be sufficient to show the absurdity of this theory, simply to inquire what kind of a nature man must possess, that is neither holy nor unholy, and yet will sin, and only sin; or how it is that he sins by nature, while his nature is not sinful. But the worst of this theory is, that it represents the Divine Being as creating an intelligent creature, leaving it to his own volition, whether his nature be good or bad: or even whether he would have a moral nature or not.
* It is possible that it may be denied that the system to which we have referred, excludes moral principle from the nature of Adam, until he chose sin; because he probably exercised his voluntary powers in the choice of holiness before he chose sin. But this would not remove the argument from the former position, that man cannot will contrary to his moral nature. For if he possessed a principle of holiness, in his moral nature, before he sinned, he must have willed contrary to his moral nature, when he chose sin.
If it should be said that moral principle depends on choice, then it follows that God cannot make holy intelligent beings, without their choice. But President Edwards maintained that there could be moral principles, independent of volition, i. e. prior to mans' willing. Edwards on original Sin.
But a creature without a moral nature would be very different from what the scriptures everywhere represent man to be; therefore God could not make man without the consent or act of the human will, which of course according to this theory, man must have, prior to his being created. The scriptures declare that God created man after his own image, and this image is said to be righteousness and true holiness; and it is too great an absurdity to say that God created man after his natural or physical image. It is also said that God made man upright, and he hath sought out many inventions; and it would be worse than absurd to say that this means no more than that God made man erect. That the only characteristic difference between him and otlier animals, is that he was made to walk on two feet.
We rest the whole weight of our argument in favor of the moral agency man, on the fact that every man is conscious that he possesses a moral sense, with moral power and liberty: and with this plain, practical feeling of our nature, the holy scriptures literally agree, and all the precepts, promises, and threatenings, contained in the word of God, are addressed to our consciousness of moral obligation. Let this doctrine be set aside, and we must abandon all religion and even morality itself, as having no real existence in the world: and resolve everything into mere fantasm, and acknowledge with Hume that the world exists only in idea and ourselves ideal beings. This leads us to notice,
II. The doctrine of God's moral government. By moral government, we mean that kind of government which is suited to the nature of intelligent moral beings, and consists in laws and rules respecting their conduct, tempers and affections, to God and their fellow beings: and which can be addressed both to the understanding, and the heart. This is distinguished from the natural government which God exercises over the material world. We do not suppose that the Apostle was exhorting men to submit themselves to the creative and conservative acts of divine power: for it would be as idle as it would be to exhort worlds to be, rivers to run, the stars to keep their course, or the sun to shine by day. Creation and preservation are acts of infinite power, which are put forth according to his own will; but moral government is exercised over intelligent moral beings, and is founded on principles of right and the fitness of things, and calculated to display the moral perfections of the divine being, and promote the happiness of his rational creatures. Whatever there may be of sovereign right in God to be the moral governor of the universe, the government itself is entirely different from the mere display of arbitrary and sovereign power; the exhortation, submit yourselves therefore to God,' is a moral requirement, and is founded on other principles than sovereignty.
So far as God's sovereignty is concerned, there is no resistance; but the moral duty required in submission, is what may be neglected, and even resisted: therefore we are exhorted to submit ourselves to God, and to his moral government; to be his obedient and loving people; to walk in all his holy ways, and to serve and honor him in heart and life.
That system which presents God only as a sovereign Being, casts a veil over his moral perfections, and all exhortations to submit to God's sovereignty, are calculated to terrify and confound without instructing the understanding or persuading the heart.
But how often are we exhorted to submit to the sovereign disposal of a sovereign God? What moral instruction can this convey especially when we are told that this sovereign disposal is founded on an eternal purpose, which includes not only our final destinies, but all our actions and even our volitions? And what moral effect can such exhortations produce, except a sullen, though submissive despair? Unfortunately this effect has been too often visible, whereas the doctrine of submission to God's moral government addresses itself to our understanding, and moral feelings, and can be urged by the consideration of rewards and penalties,
presenting the most powerful motives to obedience, drawn from the moral perfections of God, and the present and eternal happiness of the creature.
The doctrine of submission to God is not enforced in our text purely in reference to law, whether primeval, Mosaical, or moral. For this would not be suited to the present condition of man, but it respects the moral government which includes the grand scheme of redemption by Jesus Christ, and the economy of Grace and Mercy by which a sinner may draw near to God; for the Apostle adds,
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you ; cleanse your hands ye sinners and purify your hearts ye double minded. From which we learn the exhortation is addressed to sinners, and in view of their reformation and salvation, the law of God is eternally the same, and can neither relax its claims, nor remit its penalties; and when once violated can never be satisfied by any future obedience from the creature that violated it. The only satisfaction that can be made for the violation of law, is found in the voluntary sacrifice of the Son of God, and the atoning merits of his death, who suffered for our sins, the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God.' To require submission of a sinner to the pure and holy law of God without any view to the evangelical terms of mercy, is only requiring him to submit to the penalty of the law. For as a sinner, he stands guilty before God, a violator of his law, and exposed to all its curses; and to submit, is only to yield himself up to his merited punishment. Should he so far submit, as to acknowledge that the law is holy, just and good, by that acknowledgement he only sees