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ted by it, so as to expect that no reasonable man would blame or punish him for any thing which he should do, because he could not help doing it; upon this supposition, it is manifest he would, upon his coming abroad into the world, be in supportable to society, and the treatment which he would receive from it, would render it so to him; and he could not fail of doing somewhat very soon, for which he would be de livered over into the hands of civil justice: and thus, in the end, he would be convinced of the obligations he was under to his wise instructer. Or suppose this scheme of fatality, in any other way, applied to practice, such practical appli cation of it will be found equally absurd, equally fallacious in a practical sense. For instance, that if a man be destined to live such a time, he shall live to it, though he take no care of his own preservation; or if he be destined to die be fore that time, no care can prevent it; therefore, all care about preserving one's life is to be neglected: which is the fallacy instanced in by the ancients. But now, on the contrary, none of these practical absurdities can be drawn, from reasoning upon the supposition, that we are free; but all such reasoning, with regard to the common affairs of life, is justified by experience. And, therefore, though it were admitted that this opinion of necessity were speculatively true, yet, with regard to practice, it is as if it were false, so far as our experience reaches; that is, to the whole of our present life. For, the constitution of the present world, and the con dition in which we are actually placed, is as if we were free. And it may perhaps justly be concluded, that since the whole process of action, through every step of it, suspense, deliberation, inclining one way, determining, and at last doing as we determine, is as if were free, therefore we are so. But the thing here insisted upon is, that under the present na tural government of the world, we find we are treated and dealt with as if we were free, prior to all consideration wheth er we are or not. Were this opinion therefore, of necessity, admitted to be ever so true, yet such is in fact our condition and the natural course of things, that, whenever we apply it to life and practice, this application of it always misleads us, and cannot but mislead us, in a most dreadful manner, with regard to our present interest. And how can people think themselves so very secure then, that the same appli cation of the same opinion may not mislead them also in some analogous manner, with respect to a future, a more general, and more important interest? For, religion being
a practical subject, and the analogy of nature showing us, that we have not faculties to apply this opinion, were it a true one, to practical subjects; whenever we do apply it to the subject of religion, and then conclude, that we are free from its obligations, it is plain this conclusion cannot be depended upon. There will still remain just reason to think, whatever appearances are, that we deceive ourselves; in somewhat of a like manner as when people fancy they can draw contradictory conclusions from the idea of infinity.
From these things together, the attentive reader will see, it follows, that if, upon supposition of freedom, the evidence of religion he conclusive, it remains so, upon supposition of necessity; because the notion of necessity is not applicable to practical subjects; i. e. with respect to them, is as if it were not true. Nor does this contain any reflection upon reason, but only upon what is unreasonable. For, to pretend to act upon reason, in opposition to practical principles which the Author of our nature gave us to act upon, and to pretend to apply our reason to subjects with regard to which our own short views, and even our experience, will show us it cannot be depended upon,—and such, at best, the subject of necessity must be,-this is vanity, conceit, and unreasonableness.
But this is not all. For we find within ourselves a will and are conscious of a character. Now, if this, in us, be reconcilable with fate, it is reconcilable with it in the Author of nature. And, besides, natural government and final causes imply a character and a will in the Governor and Designer; a will concerning the creatures whom he gov erns. The Author of nature, then, being certainly of some character or other, notwithstanding necessity, it is evident this necessity is as reconcilable with the particular character of benevolence, veracity and justice, in him, which attributes are the foundation of religion, as with any other character; since we find this necessity no more hinders men from being benevolent than cruel; true, than faithless; just, than unjust, or, if the fatalist pleases, what we call unjust. For it is said indeed, that what, upon supposition of freedom, would be just punishment, upon supposition of necessity, Decomes manifestly unjust; because it is punishment inflic
*By will and character is meant that, which, in speaking of men, we should express, not only by these words, but also by the words temper, laste, dispositions, practical principles; that whole frame of mind, from whence we act in one manner rather than another.
ted for doing that which persons could not avoid doing. As if the necessity, which is supposed to destroy the injustice of murder, for instance, would not also destroy the injustice of punishing it. However, as little to the purpose as this objection is in itself, it is very much to the purpose to observe from it, how the notions of justice and injustice remain, even whilst we endeavour to suppose them removed; how they force themselves upon the mind, even whilst we are making suppositions destructive of them for there is not, perhaps, a man in the world, but would be ready to make this objection at first thought.
But though it is most evident, that universal necessity, if it be reconcilable with any thing, is reconcilable with that character in the Author of nature, which is the foundation of religion; yet, does it not plainly destroy the proof, that he is of that character, and consequently the proof of religion? By no means. For we find, that happiness and misery are not our fate, in any such sense as not to be the consequences of our behaviour, but that they are the consequences of it.* We find God exercises the same kind of government over us, with that which a father exercises over his children, and a civil magistrate over his subjects. Now, whatever becomes of abstract questions concerning liberty and necessity, it evidently appears to us, that veracity and justice must be the natural rule and measure of exercising this authority, or government, to a Being, who can have no competitions, or interfering of interests, with his creatures and his subjects.
But as the doctrine of liberty, though we experience its truth, may be perplexed with difficulties which run up into the most abstruse of all speculations, and as the opinion of necessity seems to be the very basis upon which infidelity grounds itself, it may be of some use to offer a more parti cular proof of the obligations of religion, which may dis tinctly be shown not to be destroyed by this opinion.
The proof, from final causes, of an intelligent Author of nature, is not affected by the opinion of necessity; suppo sing necessity a thing possible in itself, and rec.cilable with the constitution of things. And it is a matter of fact, independent on this or any other speculation, that he gov crns the world by the method of rewards and punish ments; and also that he hath given us a moral faculty, by
+ Chap. 2.
which we distinguish between actions, and approve some as virtuous and of good desert, and disapprove others as vicious and of ill desert.* Now, this moral discernment implies, in the notion of it, a rule of action, and a rule of a very peculiar kind; for it carries in it authority and a right of direc tion; authority in such a sense, as that we cannot depart from it without being self-condemned.† And that the dictates of this moral faculty, which are by nature a rule to us, are moreover the laws of God, laws in a sense including sanctions may be thus proved. Consciousness of a rule or guide of action, in creatures who are capable of considering it as given them by their Maker, not only raises immediately a sense of duty, but also a sense of security in following it, and of danger in deviating from it. A direction of the Author of nature, given to creatures capable of looking upon it as such, is plainly a command from him; and a command from him necessarily includes in it, at least, an implicit promise in case of obedience, or threatening, in case of disobe. dience. But then the sense of perception of good and ill desert, which is contained in the moral discernment, renders the sanction explicit, and makes it appear, as one may say, expressed. For, since his method of government is to reward and punish actions, his having annexed to some actions an inseperable sense of good desert, and to others of ill, this surely amounts to declaring upon whom his punishments shall be inflicted, and his rewards be bestowed. For he must have given us this discernment and sense of things as a presentiment of what is to be hereafter; that is by way of information beforehand, what we are finally to expect in his world. There is, then, most evident ground to think, that the government of God, upon the whole, will be found to correspond to the nature which he has given us; and that, in the upshot and issue of things, happiness and misery shall, in fact and event, be made to follow virtue and vice respectively; as he has already, in so peculiar a manner, associated the ideas of them in our minds. And from hence might easily be deduced the obligations of religious worship, were it only to be considered as a means of preserving upon our minds a sense of this moral government of God, and Becuring our obedience to it; which yet is an extremely im. perfect view of that most important duty.
• Dissertation 2.
* Dissertation 2.
† Sermon 2d at the Rolls.
Now, I say, no objection from necessity can lie against this general proof of religion: none against the proposition reasoned upon, that we have such a moral faculty and discernment; because this is a mere matter of fact, a thing of experience, that human kind is thus constituted: none against the conclusion; because it is immediate, and wholly from this fact. For the conclusion, that God will finally reward the righteous and punish the wicked, is not here drawn, from its appearing to us fit that he should, but from its appearing, that he has told us he will. And this he hath certainly told us, in the promise and threatening, which, it hath been observed, the notion of a command implies, and the sense of good and ill desert, which he has given us, more distinctly expresses. And this reasoning from fact is confir med, and, in some degree, even verified, by other facts; by the natural tendencies of virtue and of vice; and by this, that God, in the natural course of his providence, punishes vicious actions, as mischievous to society; and also vicious actions, as such, in the strictest sense. So that the gene. ral proof of religion is unanswerably real, even upon the wild supposition which we are arguing upon.
It must likewise be observed farther, that natural religion hath, besides this, an external evidence, which the doctrine of necessity, if it could be true, would not affect. For, suppose a person, by the observations and reasoning above, or by any other, convinced of the truth of religion; that there is a God, who made the world, who is the moral Governor and Judge of mankind, and will, upon the whole, deal with every one according to his works; I say, suppose a person convinced of this by reason, but to know nothing at all of
* However, I am far from intending to deny, that the will of God is determined by what is fit, by the right and reason of the case; though one chooses to decline matters of such abstract speculation, and to speak with caution when one does speak of them. But if it be intelligible to say, that it is fit and reasonable for every one to consult his own happiness, then fitness of action, or the right and reason of the case, is an intelligi. ble manner of speaking. And it seems as inconceivable, to suppose God to approve one course of action, or one end, preferable to another, which yet his acting at all from design implies that he docs, without supposing somewhat prior in that end, to be the ground of the preference; as to sup pose him to discern an abstract proposition to be true, without supposing somewhat prior in it to be the ground of the discernment. It doth not, therefore, appear, that moral right is any more relative to perception than abstract truth is; or that it is any more improper to speak of the fitness and rightness of actions and ends, as founded in the nature of things, than to speak of abstract truth, as thus founded.