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we agree in making him our only standard of duty and of piety; therefore I give and take the hand of fellowship.” May God hasten the time when such a fellowship shall bind all the disciples on earth, and make the church below like that above.
A. P. P.
FREE RESPONSIBLE AGENCY.
Every man knows himself to be a free responsible agent. He is conscious of it. He, also, believes and asserts it of other men.
If there have been a few persons, of a speculative and skeptical spirit, who questioned and quibbled on this subject, yet even while they did it, the unaffected dictates of their own consciousness belied the affected dubiousness on their tongues. All men believe it both in regard to themselves and others. They, moreover, act on this principle, charging blame or imputing merit, according to the moral character of their own and others' motives and deeds.
Notwithstanding all this, however, the subject is involved in some obscurity. A darkness rests upon it. Free moral agency is a thing of difficult analysis. It is a nice and delicate task to define it. We doubt whether a correct and satisfactory definition of free responsible agency was ever written or uttered. Great minds have labored abundantly on this subject, and not without some good result. If they have not accomplished all at which they aimed, yet there is no adequate cause for despair. Difficult points of science are mastered by slow approaches. He, who does not strike the mark in its centre, may not have spent his strength in vain.
It being universally acknowledged that man is a free moral agent, and that he only of all the beings on earth is man, it follows, of course, that if we can define man, showing his peculiar and true characteristic; we shall, at the saine time, have developed the characteristic of a free responsible agent. And
though this is only changing the relative positions of the point of inquiry, it may, however, be some facility to our investigation. The inquiry now is, not whether man be a free moral agent, for that point is acknowledged, but what man is ? What are the great principles of man's constitution, and by what peculiarity does he differ from other earthly and living creatures ? With this question in view, we offer the following statements and observations. 1. Man the
This is not, however, incommunicable nor independent
. It was given to him by his Divine Creator. Man possesses a constitution. And one of its principles is self-agency ; and it is acted by a force within itself. But this power is not peculiar to man. It is not, consequently, his proper characteristic. All other living creatures and living things have a natural constitution and the power of self-agency, Every kind of grass, plant, and tree has the power of self-action. A clod of dead matter, being destitute of this power, can only be acted upon, but cannot act of itself.
But a living vegetable acts by a power within itself ; it grows, buds, blossoms, bears fruit, puts forth leaves, sheds them, and then repeats the whole process of fructification. The power, by which it does this, is a principle of self-agency. It is its life.
It is its life. When this principle is withdrawn, it is dead - because there is now in it no principle of self-action; it yields to the influences from without, having no power to resist them; it decays and is decomposed into its primitive and simple elements. This endowment of life -- of a principle of self-action-extends throughout the whole vegetable and animal worlds. All else is dead. Whatever possesses this, is alive. It has the power of self-agency. 2. Man has the power of voluntary agency.
He can act from choice or volition; be moves certain parts of his body by an act of will; by dint of choice and purpose he can effectively fix on a course of action of thought and pursuit. He chooses one thing in preference to another, because it better pleases him, and he acts accordingly.
It is a wonderful power. The possession and exercise of it constitutes mental freedom. Man is endowed with this faculty ; but it is not peculiar to him. It is, of course, not his true characteristic. “All living creatures upon earth are, also, endowed with it ; the worm, the insect, the reptile, the fish, the fowl, and the quadruped.
They act by volition ; they will a particular motion, and that motion takes place. If man did not possess this power, he could not be a free agent; yet it is not this that constitutes his moral freedom and responsibility; for the insects, the fishes, and the fowls are free agents, but they are not moral, not responsible. They cannot understand a prescriptive law and act by it. They incur no guilt by doing harm; they acquire no moral merit by doing good. For they are ignorant of the distinction between right and wrong.
3. Man possesses the power of rational agency. The principle of this is reason ; the power of discerning the difference between true and false ; between reality and fiction. It is the power of knowledge. It takes note of the changes which occur, and of the relations between cause and effect. . It traces out consequences from given and known premises or data ; it anticipates the future from the present; it generalizes and makes abstractions ; it is a different power from instinct. The latter seeks its end without calculation ; without knowledge; without the aid of experience. Instinct looks at its end as one entire whole ; reason analyzes into parts and parcels ; instinct is blind to all chances and difficulties; but never weighs them carefully in the balance. Reason learns, improves, and makes progress indefinitely ; instinct, at its first leap, makes one astonishing bound forward, and there it stands still forever. Instinct is the characteristic of all creatures on earth, with the exception of man ; it is their guide and governor ; it directs them to their means of sustenance, of protection, and of welfare. But man, being rational, employs reason for the attainment of his various ends ; it is the light that reveals the path in which to walk. Man, however, is not entirely without instinct; nor are all brute animals wholly destitute of reason ; the dog, the ox, the horse, the elephant, sometimes give manifestations of intellect and thought; they make calculations, and adapt means to the accomplishment of ends. Other animals, though less frequently, also give indications of mental effort ; and just in proportion as reason acts, instinct is superceded. On the other hand, when, and so long as a man is moved by instinct, his reason sleeps. And when an animal acts under the dictates of reason, his instinct sleeps; it is controlled. While an infant, man is instinctive, and occasionally afterwards ; the animal character of bis actions is rational ; but the general
character of brute-action is instinctive. Instinctive agency is irresponsible ; but rational agency is responsible. If man were not endued with reason, he would not be accountable. He could have no idea of law or of duty. He could neither understand a command, nor yield obedience to it. When a man loses his reason, he ceases to be a subject of moral obligation. If he become insane, he becomes irresponsible, in proportion to the extent of his mental alienation. Rational agency is responsible, because it can, and should, be governed by knowledge, by principle, by law, and truth. It is the office of reason to control instinct, and appetite, and passion.
4. Man is endued with the power of moral sensibility and discrimination. He is capable of the sentiments of guilt and of self-justification ; of blame and of praise. The foundation of these sentiments is a moral sensibility ; a feeling of moral right and wrong, of moral good and evil in their own nature, distinct from both antecedents and consequences. Reason cannot make this distinction. It can distinguish true from false, and right from wrong, in the relation of means to ends ; but not the right and wrong which implies guilt and blame, on the one hand; praise and justification, on the other. Without a moral sensibility, man could count, and calculate and generalize ; be a mathematician and a philosopher ; a statesman and a politico-economic ; he might be capable both of self-love and of benevolence; and of acting on the principles of expediency and utility ; but never on those of moral propriety ; never on those of moral desert and demerit. For he would be a stranger to the meaning of the words, guilt, blame, innocence, praise, approbation, conscience, integrity, and others, which bear a moral import. There would, of course, be no such words in human language. And there would not be such a thing as proper moral good or evil, in the world. Without this, commands and prohibitions, proceeding from the highest authority, could have no moral sanction. They might be backed by the strongest considerations of power and utility, but not by a particle of moral force. Such must have been the human world without the sentiment of moral sensibility. But with it, as the fact is, moral distinctions are made. There are such things as desert, merit, praise, blame, justification, condemnation, guilt, punishment. And there is moral agency. A man is blamable or justifiable, - 3D s. Vol. XVII. NO. II.
punishable or rewardable for what he does, while in the full possession of all his constitutional powers. But if any of these are impaired or lost, his moral agency, in the same proportion, is gone also. A moral agent must be previously, in the order of nature, a self-agent, a voluntary agent, and a rational agent ; and yet all these together do not make him a moral being. He becomes man by possessing a moral sense, which, in connexion with reason, constitutes conscience, God's law written upon the heart of universal man, accusing or excusing themselves and others for their deeds and conduct.
Blame and praise, in their most strict and proper sense, are personal sentiments. No man can be made guilty but by the condemnation of his own heart. He may be tenced and imprisoned and tormented, but all this is not truly punishment; is not the real wages of sin. A transgressor must have a conscience, and this conscience must be violated, or he cannot be a sinner. And none but a sinner can be a subject of guilt and punishment.
We have thus endeavored to describe a free moral agent. He must possess a principle of self-agency ;, of voluntary agency ; of rational agency; and a moral sensibility. Without the first, he cannot act of himself; without the second, he cannot act freely, from choice ; without the third, he cannot act understandingly; and without the fourth he cannot have moral sentiments, nor make moral distinctions, nor feel the sentiments of guilt and blame, of praise and justification. And such an agent is man; for he is possessed of all these attributes. His great distinction, however, is reason. It is in this, that he resembles God, his Creator. God possesses reason, but not organized life upon which all creative self-agency is constituted. God has no appetites, no passions, no instincts. The moral sense in man is much of the character of instinct. It acts without the process of reasoning. Like instinct, it grasps its whole object at once, immediately. It is reason that renders man a subject of progress. Instinctive agents make no advances. The first nest ever made by the robin, the first dam ever built by the beaver, the first honey-comb ever constructed by the bees, were as perfect as any which have since been produced by them. But the first attempts of man, in the way of art, are rude. The second are better, but not until the hundredth or thou