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effect of what we would do; and that the general conduct of nature is, not to save us trouble or danger, but to make us capable of going through them, and to put it upon us to do
Acquirements of our own experience and habits, are the natural supply to our deficiencies, and security against our dangers; since it is as plainly natural to set ourselves to acquire the qualifications as the external things which we stand in need of. In particular, it is as plainly a general law of nature, that we should, with regard to our temporal interest, form and cultivate practical principles within us, by attention, use, and discipline, as any thing whatever is a natural law; chiefly in the begining of life, but also through out the whole course of it. And the alternative is left to our choice, either to improve ourselves and better our condition, or, in default of such improvement, to remain deficient and wretched. It is therefore perfectly credible, from the analogy of nature, that the same may be our case, with respect to the happiness of a future state and the qualifications necessary for it.
There is a third thing, which may seem implied in the present world being a state of probation, that it is a theatre of action for the manifestation of persons' characters, with respect to a future one; not, to be sure, to an all-know ing Being, but to his creation, or part of it. This may, perhaps, be only a consequence of our being in a state of probation in the other senses. However, it is not impossi ble that men's showing and making manifest what is in their heart, what their real character is, may have respect to a future life, in ways and manners which we are not acquainted with; particularly it may be a means, for the Author of nature does not appear to do any thing without means, of their being disposed of suitably to their characters, and of its being known to the creation, by way of example, that they are thus disposed of. But not to enter upon any conjectural account of this, one may just mention, that the manifestation of persons' characters contributes very much, in various ways, to the carrying on a great part of that general course of nature respecting mankind, which comes under our observation at present. I shall only add, that probation, in both these senses, as well as in that treated of in the foregoing chapter, is implied in moral government; since by persons' behaviour under it, their characters cannot but be manifested, and if they behave well, improved.
Of the opinion of Necessity, considered as influencing
THROUGHOUT the foregoing Treatise it appears, that the condition of mankind, considered as inhabitants of this world only, and under the government of God which we experience, is greatly analogous to our condition, as designed for another world, or under that farther government which religion teaches us. If, therefore, any assert, as a fatalist must, that the opinion of universal necessity is reconcilable with the former, there immediately arises a question in the way of analogy; whether he must not also own it to be reconcilable with the latter, i. e. with the system of religion itself, and the proof of it. The reader, then, will observe, that the question now before us, is not absolute, whether the opinion of fate be reconcilable with religion; but hypothetical, whether, upon supposition of its being reconcilable with the constitution of nature, it be not reconcilable with religion also? or, what pretence a fatalist,—not other persons, but a fatalist-has to conclude, from his opinion, that there can be no such thing as religion? And as the puzzle and obscurity, which must unavoidably arise from arguing upon so absurd a supposition as that of universal necessity, will, I fear, easily be seen, it will, I hope, as easily be excused.
But since it has been all along taken for granted, as a thing proved, that there is an intelligent Author of nature, or natural Governor of the world; and since an objection may be made against the proof of this, from the opinion of universal necessity, as it may be supposed that such necessi ty will itself account for the origin and preservation of all things, it is requisite that this objection be distinctly answer. ed; or that it be shown, that a fatality, supposed consistent with what we certainly experience, does not destroy the proof of an intelligent Author and Governor of nature, be
fore we proceed to consider, whether it destroys the proof of a moral Governor of it, or of our being in a state of religion.
Now when it is said by a fatalist, that the whole constitution of nature, and the actions of men, that every thing and every mode and circumstance of every thing, is necessary, and could not possibly have been otherwise, it is to be observed, that this necessity does not exc'ude deliberation, choice, preference, and acting from certain principles, and to certain ends; because all this is matter of undoubted experience, acknowledged by all, and what every man may, every moment, be conscious of. And from hence it follows, that necessity, alone and of itself, is in no sort an account of the constitution of nature, and how things came to be and to continue as they are; but only an account of this circumstance relating to their origin and continuance, that they could not have been otherwise than they are and have been. The assertion, that every thing is by necessity of nature, is not an answer to the question, Whether the world came into being as it is by an intelligent Agent forming it thus, or not; but to quite another question, Whether it came into being as it is, in that way and manner which we call necessarily, or in that way and manner which we call freely. For, suppose farther, that one, who was a fatalist, and one, who kept to his natural sense of things, and believed himself a free agent, were disputing together, and vindicating their respective opinions, and they should happen to instance in a house, they would agree that it was built by an architect. difference concerning necessity and freedom, would occasion no difference of judgment concerning this, but only concerning another matter, whether the architect built it necessarily or freely. Suppose, then, they should proceed to inquire, concerning the constitution of nature; in a lax way of speaking, one of them might say, it was by necessity, and the other by freedom; but, if they had any meaning to their words, as the latter must mean a free agent, so the former must at length be reduced to mean an agent, whether he would say one or more, acting by necessity; for abstract notions can do nothing. Indeed, we ascribe to God a necessary existence, uncaused by any agent. For we find with. in ourselves the idea of infinity, i. e. immensity and eternity, impossible, even in imagination, to be removed out of being. We seem to discern intuitively, that there must, and cannot but be, somewhat, external to ourselves, answering this idea.
or the archetype of it. And from hence (for this abstract, as much as any other, implies a concrete) we conclude, that there is, and cannot but be, an infinite and immense eternal Being existing prior to all design contributing to his existence, and exclusive of it. And, from the scantiness of language, a manner of speaking has been introduced, that necessity is the foundation, the reason, the account of the existence of God. But it is not alledged, nor can it be at all intended, that every thing exists as it does by this kind of necessity a necessity antecedent in nature to design; it cannot, I say be meant, that every thing exists as it does, by this kind of necessity, upon several accounts; and particularly, because it is admitted, that design in the actions of men, contributes to many alterations in nature. For, if any deny this, I shal not pretend to reason with them.
From these things it follows, first, That when a fatalis; asserts that every thing is by necessity, he must mean, by an agent acting necessarily; he must, I say, mean this; for I am very sensible he would not choose to mean it. And, secondly, That the necessity, by which such an agent is supposed to act, does not exclude intelligence and design. So that, were the system of fatality admitted, it would just as much account for the formation of the world, as for the structure of a house, and no more. Necessity as much requires and supposes a necessary agent, as freedom requires and supposes a free agent to be the former of the world. And the appearance of design and of final causes in the constitution of nature, as really prove this acting agent to be an intelligent designer, or to act from choice, upon the scheme of necessity, supposed possible, as upon that of freedom.
It appearing thus, that the notion of necessity does not destroy the proof, that there is an intelligent Author of nature and natural Governor of the world, the present question which the analogy before mentioned suggests, and which, I think, it will answer, is this: whether the opinion of necessity, suppose consistent with possibility, with the constitution of the world, and the natural government which we experience exercised over it, destroys all reasonable ground of belief, that we are in a state of religion; or whether that opin、 ion be reconcilable with religion, with the system and the proof of it.
Suppose, then, a fatalist to educate any one, from his
his youth up in his own principles; that the child should reason upon them, and conclude, that since he cannot possibly behave otherwise than he does, he is not a subject of blame or commendation, nor can deserve to be rewarded or punished: imagine him to eradicate the very perceptions of blame and commendation out of his mind, by means of this system; to form his temper, and character, and behaviour to it; and from it to judge of the treatment he was to expect, say, from reasonable men, upon his coming abroad into the world, as the fatalist judges from this system, what he is to expect from the Author of nature, and with regard to a future state : I cannot forbear stopping here to ask, whether any one of common sense would think fit, that a child should be put upon these speculations, and be left to apply them to practice? and a man has little pretence to reason, who is not sensible that we are all children in speculations of this kind. However, the child would doubtless be highly delighted to find himself freed from the restraints of fear and shame, with which his play-fellows were fettered and embarrassed; and highly conceited in his superior knowledge, so far beyond his years. But conceit and vanity would be the least bad part of the influence which these principles must have, when thus reasoned and acted upon, during the course of his education. He must either be allowed to go on, and be the plague of all about him, and himself too, even to his own destruction, or else correction must be continually made use of, to supply the want of those natural perceptions of blame and commendation, which we have supposed to be removed, and to give him a practical impression of what he had reasoned himself out of the belief of, that he was, in fact, an accountable child, and to be punished for doing what he was forbid. It is therefore in reality impossible, but that the correction which he must meet with, in the course of his education, must convince him, that if the scheme he was instructed in were not false, yet that he reasoned inconclusively upon it, and, somehow or other, misapplied it to practice and common life; as what the fatalist experiences of the conduct of Providence at present, ought in all reason, to convince aim, that this scheme is misapplied, when applied to the subject of religion. But, supposing the child's temper could remain still formed to the system, and his expectation of the treatment he was to have in the world be regula