by William Cunningham
In his “Discussions,” Sir William Hamilton makes a theological demonstration, of a somewhat imposing kind. It is contained in the following passage: -
“Averments to a similar effect might be adduced from the writings of Calvin, and certainly nothing can be conceived more contrary to the doctrine of that great divine than what has latterly been promulgated as Calvinism (and, in so far as I know, without reclamation) in our Calvinistic Church of Scotland. For it has been here promulgated, as the dogma of this church (though in the face of its Confession as in the face of the Bible), by pious and distinguished theologians, that man has no will, agency, moral personality of his own, God being the only real agent in every apparent act of His creatures; in short (though quite the opposite was intended), that the theological scheme of the absolute decrees implies fatalism, pantheism, the negation of a moral governor, as of a moral world. For the premises, arbitrarily assumed, are atheistic; the conclusion, illogically drawn, is Christian. Against such a view of Calvin’s doctrine and of Scottish orthodoxy, I for one must humbly though solemnly protest, as (to speak mildly) not only false in philosophy, but heretical, ignorant, suicidal in theology.”f This strange passage was intended as a deadly assault upon Dr. Chalmers, and upon the views which he had promulgated upon the subject of philosophical necessity. The doctrine here so vehemently denounced cannot, from the nature of the case, be any other than that commonly called the doctrine of philosophical necessity; and though many will regard what is here said as very unjust and unfair, if viewed as applied to that subject, there is manifestly no other to which these statements can have any appearance of applying. When it is settled that the doctrine which Sir William here denounces is that of philosophical necessity, - and that, of course, the pious and distinguished theologians who are here held up to scorn are Dr. Chalmers, and all who, professing like him to receive the Westminster Confession, have concurred with him in maintaining the doctrine of necessity as taught by Jonathan Edwards, - men will be able to understand something more of the import and object of the passage.
We do not of course intend to plunge into the mare magnum of the general subject of philosophical necessity as connected with “absolute decrees,” “fatalism,” “pantheism,” “negation of a moral governor,” etc., on which Sir William here declaims. The general subject brought before us by these statements is the most perplexing and mysterious that has ever occupied the mind of man. No one acquainted with the discussions which have taken place regarding it, can fail to have reached these two conclusions: - 1st, That everything of any worth or value that can be said upon the subject, has been said in substance a thousand times; and 2d, That after all that has been said, there are difficulties and mysteries connected with it which never have been fully solved, and which manifestly never will be fully solved, at least until men get either more enlarged mental faculties, or a fuller revelation from God. The practical result of the adoption of these conclusions, which must have forced themselves upon all who have intelligently surveyed this subject, is to render men rather averse to unnecessary discussions regarding it, - to make them less anxious about answering objections and clearing away difficulties, and more willing to rest upon those fundamental principles which constitute the direct and proper evidence of what seems to be the truth upon the point. This state of mind and feeling - the reasonable result of a deliberate survey of the discussions which have taken place upon the matter - is sanctioned also by the example of the Apostle Paul, who, when the same objections were brought against his doctrines as have in all ages been brought against Calvinism, resolved the whole matter into the inscrutable sovereignty of God and the ignorance and helplessness of man, instead of directly and formally grappling with the objection. Sir William Hamilton’s own views upon the subject are of a kind fitted to discourage, if not to preclude, discussion; especially discussion conducted in the way of bringing the opposite doctrines face to face, and trying to make an estimate of the comparative force of the objections against them. His views are briefly indicated in the following passages: -
“The philosophy, therefore, which I profess, annihilates the theoretical problem, - How is the scheme of liberty or the scheme of necessity to be rendered comprehensible? - by showing that both schemes are equally inconceivable; but it establishes liberty practically as a fact, by showing that it is either itself an immediate datum, or is involved in an immediate datum, of consciousness.” , “How the will can possibly be free, must remain to us, under the present limitation of our faculties, wholly incomprehensible. We are unable to conceive an absolute commencement; we cannot therefore conceive a free volition. A determination by motives cannot, to our understanding, escape from necessitation.”
u How therefore, I repeat, moral liberty is possible in man or God, we are utterly unable speculatively to understand. But practically, the fact, that we are free, is given to us in the consciousness of an uncompromising law of duty, in the consciousness of our moral accountability.”
“Liberty is thus shown to be inconceivable, but not more than its contradictory necessity; yet though inconceivable, liberty is shown also not to be impossible. The credibility of consciousness, to our moral responsibility, as an incomprehensible fact, is thus established.”
“This hypothesis alone accounts for the remarkable phenomenon which the question touching the liberty of the will - touching the necessity of human actions - has in all ages and in all relations exhibited. This phenomenon is the exact equilibrium in which the controversy has continued; and it has been waged in metaphysics, in morals, in theology, from the origin of speculation to the present hour, with unabated zeal, but always with undecided success.”
It appears from these statements that Sir William, by his own admission, has thrown no new light upon this subject; and that he claims credit for scarcely anything more than bringing out clearly, by an application of the doctrine of the conditioned, that there are, and must ever be, insoluble difficulties attaching to it. Our present purpose does not lead us to advert to the grounds on which Sir William based his conclusion, or to the accuracy of the language in which his views are expressed. It is enough, in the meantime, that we direct attention to the fact that he proclaims the existence of insoluble difficulties as attaching to this subject; and that he admits that he has made, and can make, no positive contribution to the explication of it. In substance, he leaves us on this whole subject of liberty and necessity very much in the position indicated in the remarkable and often quoted passage of Locke: “I cannot have a clearer perception of anything than that I am free, yet I cannot make freedom in man consistent with omnipotence and omniscience in God, though I am as fully persuaded of both as of any truth I most firmly assent to; and therefore I have long since given off the consideration of that question, resolving all into the short conclusion, that if it be possible for God to make a free agent, then man is free, though I see not the way of it.”
We have no material objection to offer to the substance of the statements quoted above from Locke and Sir William Hamilton; but it may be worth while to notice how it is that they concur in this view as there brought out, although the one was a Necessitarian and the other was a Libertarian. Locke, though a Pelagian in theology, was a Necessitarian in philosophy, - that is, he held that doctrine of philosophical necessity, or that view of the laws which regulate men’s mental processes and determine their volitions, against which Sir William declaims in the passage on which we are commenting. Sir William, on the contrary, makes here a sort of profession of Calvinism. He stands forth as the champion of Calvinistic orthodoxy, against the errors of its ignorant and injudicious friends; and he gives something like evidence both of intelligence and integrity in dealing with this subject, by laying down the important position, that “the great articles of divine foreknowledge and predestination are both embarrassed by the self-same difficulties!” But notwithstanding this, he was in philosophy a Libertarian; for, though he sometimes talks as if he thought it impracticable to decide between the opposite opinions, he at other times expresses a decided preference for the Libertarian view; and in the passage under consideration he denounces, in no measured terms, the doctrine which is the contradictory correlative of it. The liberty or freedom for which Locke contended, was nothing more than actual moral responsibility for our actions; which he did not admit to be precluded, either by the doctrine of God’s omniscience and omnipotence, or by the doctrine of philosophical necessity, though he was unable to explain how it could be reconciled with these doctrines. Sir William, on the other hand, was not tied up by any of his opinions to so limited a view of what liberty or freedom is, and would no doubt say that, by the liberty which he claimed for man, he meant not merely actual moral responsibility, which all admit, but also that anti-necessitarian view of the laws that regulate man’s mental operations, which has been supposed by many to be necessary as a basis for responsibility. But though he would say this, if necessary, and could do so consistently, it clearly appears, from a careful examination of the statements we have quoted from him, that he, like Locke, practically identifies liberty with actual moral responsibility, and virtually admits, that the only thing which is really established by the testimony of consciousness, and which is to be maintained at all hazards, is our moral accountability, or the obligation “of an uncompromising law of duty.” Most necessitarians - including, of course, all the theologians whom Sir William denounces - assert man’s moral responsibility as fully and readily as their opponents; and if it be merely the fact of moral accountability which man’s consciousness establishes, as Sir William virtually admits, then the whole matter still resolves itself into the old and very perplexing question, as to what kinds or degrees of liberty are necessary to moral responsibility, and what kinds and degrees of necessity are inconsistent with it. Necessitarians, in general, have no hesitation in admitting the truth of Sir William’s statement, that it is the testimony of our consciousness, “that we are, though we know not how, the true and responsible authors of our actions, not merely the worthless links in an adamantine series of effects and causes.” Necessitarians admit this, and undertake to prove that there is nothing in the doctrine of philosophical necessity which can be shown to preclude either the actual reality or the conscious sense of this, as a feature in man’s condition. Sir William virtually admits that it is only our actual moral responsibility to which the direct testimony of consciousness applies; and he has not entered anywhere, so far as we remember, into a deliberate and formal investigation of the nature and grounds of the liberty which is necessary to moral agency. By the denunciations, indeed, on which we are animadverting, and which, as we have explained, must be intended to apply to the doctrine of philosophical necessity as taught by Edwards and Chalmers, Sir William has identified himself with the Libertarian view; and has thus, whether he so intended it or not, virtually declared in favour of what has been commonly called the liberty of indifference, and the self-determining power of the will; for whatever he might say about the inconceivableness both of liberty and necessity, he would not, we presume, have denied that the one was the contradictory of the other, and that therefore the one was a reality, and the other was not.
But though Sir William has denounced the doctrine of philosophical necessity, and has thereby, by plain implication, asserted a liberty of indifference and the self-determining power of the will, he has not entered into anything like argument against necessity, or in favour of liberty, beyond simply referring to the testimony of consciousness, in proof that we are responsible for our actions. This mode of dealing with it is unworthy of a philosopher, and wholly undeserving of notice as a call to enter upon a discussion of the general subject. Though It has been here promulgated,” he assures us, “as the dogma of this church our Calvinistic Church of Scotland’), by pious and distinguished theologians, that man has no will, agency, moral personality of his own, God being the only real agent in every apparent act of His creatures.” Persons unacquainted with what has been going on in Scotland for the last generation, would be disposed to ask, with amazement, who are the pious and distinguished theologians who have put forth such offensive statements as Sir William ascribes to them? Those who are cognizant of the state of matters amongst us, are well aware that no theologians have ever promulgated this “dogma while they must know also that the only persons whom Sir William could have had in his eye, were Dr. Chalmers and those who concurred with him in advocating the doctrine of philosophical necessity. These men certainly never intended to teach this; and they have made no statements bearing the slightest resemblance to those here put into their mouths. But Sir William, it seems, was of opinion that the doctrine of philosophical necessity implied all this, or led to it by logical sequence; and upon this ground he thought himself warranted in proclaiming to the world, without furnishing to us any means of knowing the true ground of his assertion, that pious and distinguished theologians in the Church of Scotland have promulgated the doctrine, “that man has no will, agency, moral personality of his own, God being the only real agent in every apparent act of His creatures.” After this we are not in the least surprised that he goes on to tell us, that these men taught that “the theological scheme of the absolute decrees implies fatalism, pantheism, the negation of a moral governor as of a moral world.” He admits, indeed, that “quite the opposite was intended;” but still he thinks himself entitled to charge them with teaching fatalism and pantheism; and intimates, further, in the immediately following sentence, that they can escape from atheism only by gross logical inconsistency.
In adverting to this charge of fatalism, pantheism, atheism, etc., we do not need to take into account what Sir William has here introduced into his statement about “the scheme of the absolute decrees.” Sir William plainly did not intend to bring these charges against the scheme of the absolute decrees, simply as such, by whomsoever held; for, indeed, he professes to be writing here as a Calvinist, a champion of Calvinism, and of course an advocate of “the scheme of absolute decrees.” And then, again, in so far as Dr. Chalmers and other theologians may have assumed that the scheme of the absolute decrees necessarily implied or drew with it the doctrine of philosophical necessity, this is just the point where we venture to think that their views are untenable, as we shall afterwards more fully explain. Sir William evidently intended, by the phraseology he has employed, to tell us that those of whom he was speaking regarded the scheme of the absolute decrees as implying the doctrine of philosophical necessity; and that, in his judgment, this doctrine of necessity, as held by them, implied fatalism, pantheism, atheism, etc. We cannot deny that Sir William had good grounds for ascribing to them the belief, that the doctrines of the absolute decrees and of philosophical necessity are necessarily connected with each other; and we cannot defend the accuracy of this belief. But we do not need to take any of these topics into account in judging of Sir William’s statement now under consideration. That statement is in substance this, - that some pious and distinguished theologians of the Church of Scotland have recently been teaching that man has no will, agency, moral personality of his own, God being the only real agent in every apparent act of His creatures, and that this is fatalism, pantheism, atheism; while the only ground he could have adduced for these heavy charges, if he had been called upon to establish them, was, that Dr. Chalmers and some others had taught the doctrine of philosophical necessity as a part of their Calvinism, and that, in his judgment this doctrine necessarily implied all the fearful things which he had laid to their charge. The practice of adducing such charges upon such grounds, and in such circumstances, is repudiated and denounced by every fair controversialist.
It is always a very unworthy procedure to describe a doctrine to which we are opposed, merely by consequences which we think deducible from it, but which its supporters disclaim, and then to attempt to run it down by attaching to it offensive nicknames. But there are some things which make it peculiarly unwarrantable to employ this process in regard to such a doctrine as that of philosophical necessity. Not only is it true that the doctrine has j been maintained and defended by a large proportion of the ablest and best men that ever lived, - by many of the highest names in philosophy as well as in theology; but, from the nature of the case also, viewed both in its intellectual and in its moral aspects, there are considerations which aggravate the unreasonableness of attempting to dispose of it in such a way. The subject is one of great difficulty and intricacy; and this should have been felt to be a reason against attempting to scout it from the field of fair discussion by a dashing misrepresentation and a far-fetched inference. The question virtually resolves, as we have seen, into the investigation of the nature and grounds of the liberty and necessity that are consistent with, or indispensable to, moral agency; and nothing but utter incapacity or gross carelessness can prevent men from , seeing that this is a subject of extreme difficulty, and one which no man, whatever be his standing or his pretensions, is entitled to treat in an offhand and reckless way. It is impossible for any man to reflect deliberately upon the ideas of liberty and necessity | as applied, on the one hand, to the volitions of the divine mind i and of other pure and holy beings, as for instance the glorified saints in heaven, - and as applied, on the other hand, to classes of men who have been subjected to most unfavourable moral influences, and have now sunk into deep moral degradation, but are still admitted to be responsible, - without seeing that there are profound mysteries connected with this matter which cannot be settled, as many seem to suppose, merely by laying it down that liberty is liberty, and that necessity is necessity, and that the one absolutely and universally excludes the other.
Liberty and necessity, manifestly, may be both predicated of the divine will, and of the will also of some classes of responsible creatures. If this be so, then we must have distinctions in the senses in which these words are applied, - precise specifications of the different senses in which they may be affirmed or denied respectively of differently constituted and of differently circumstanced beings, all possessed of the capacity of moral agency. It is plain that liberty in some sense is not necessary to moral agency, and that necessity in some sense does not preclude it; and if so, there must be some difficult and intricate points to be examined and disposed of before the question between liberty and necessity can be determined, if it is to be decided by an application of the only standard to which Sir William refers, viz. their bearing respectively upon the point of responsibility. We do not profess to discuss this subject, - we merely wish to point out the unreasonableness of the way in which Sir William deals with it; and to explain why it is that there is nothing in what he has said about it, that calls for or requires any investigation of the general subject on the part of those whose views he has condemned.
There has always been a strong tendency, especially among the Libertarians, to attempt settling this controversy by dwelling upon inferences and practical consequences, supposed to flow from the opposite doctrines, instead of carefully examining the proper evidence directly applicable to the question of their truth and falsehood. The question involved in this controversy is properly one of fact, and belongs to the province of psychology. It is a right and a safe rule for beings of our limited mental powers, and of our very inadequate capacity of tracing consequences, that we should make up our minds chiefly from an examination of the proper intrinsic evidence directly applicable to the subject under consideration, instead of attaching much weight to alleged inferences or consequences. The reasonableness of this general principle of procedure is peculiarly manifest when the consequence mainly founded upon is, that a particular doctrine overturns man’s moral responsibility, and when this allegation is controverted by men of unquestionable ability and good character. When a body of men of this description assert, and undertake to prove, that the allegation that a doctrine held by them overturns man’s moral ,, responsibility, and leads to fatalism and atheism, is unfounded; when they proclaim their belief in the existence and moral government of God, and their consciousness and recognition “of an uncompromising law of duty,” and can appeal, in proof of the sincerity of this profession, to the general tenor of their own character and conduct; when they can further appeal to classes and communities who have received this doctrine, and yet have equalled any other sections of men in obedience to the divine will and in the discharge of moral duty; - when such a state of things as this is presented, the allegation of an atheistic and immoral tendency becomes a practical absurdity, which should be left to those who are incapable of arguing the question upon its own proper merits, and which, even when brought forward by those who are capable of higher things, is scarcely worthy of notice. Calvinists, or Necessitarians, against whose views this objection has been commonly adduced, have perhaps wasted too much time and strength in elaborating a formal and direct answer to it. They might, we are disposed to think, have done more to establish them, by giving greater attention to the investigation of the materials by which the proper truth or falsehood of the contending theories - apart from their alleged tendencies and consequences - might be determined. Locke spoke like a true philosopher when, in the context of the passage formerly quoted, he said, “If you will argue for or against liberty from consequences, I will not undertake to answer you.” Sir William, on the contrary, has descended to a mode of representation which should really have been left to those who are unable to reason, and are capable only of lavishing abuse.
Another curious peculiarity in Sir William’s mode of dealing with this subject is, that his misrepresentation about moral responsibility, fatalism, atheism, etc., is directed only against the doctrine of philosophical necessity; while he gives us distinctly to understand, by the plainest implication, that no such objections can be substantiated against the doctrines of Calvinism. He is here professing to be a Calvinist, and to be defending genuine Calvinism against the misrepresentations of Dr. Chalmers and others, who, while professing to believe in Calvinism, do not understand it so well as he, - who indeed corrupt the Calvinistic system by teaching the doctrine of philosophical necessity as a part of it. Sir William’s heavy charges against these men are, of course, based not upon the Calvinism which he professes to hold in common with them, but upon the philosophical necessity which they taught as a part of their Calvinism, but in which he differs from them. In other words, he professes to believe, as every Calvinist does, that God hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, and he sees nothing in this doctrine that tends to overthrow moral responsibility and to bring in fatalism; while these alarming consequences attach to the doctrine of philosophical necessity, - a doctrine which, as held by those whom he was denouncing, could be nothing else than an effectual provision made by God for bringing about the results which, in His “absolute decrees,” He had predetermined to bring to pass.
Upon the ground of considerations derived from these various sources, - viz. the general character and standing of this subject of liberty and necessity viewed historically as a topic of controversial discussion, the special views of Sir William Hamilton regarding it, and the very peculiar character of that passage of his which is more immediately under our consideration, - we do not consider ourselves called upon, and we do not intend, to enter upon the more general aspects of the great subject which is here brought under our notice. We do not intend to deal with Sir William’s two principal positions, - viz. 1. That the doctrine of philosophical necessity is “in the face of the Bible. That it overturns men’s moral responsibility, and leads to fatalism and atheism. Sir William has not given us any evidence or argument in support of these two positions. He has said nothing here upon the subject but what might just as well have been said by the most ignorant person that ever railed against Calvinism. We deny both these positions, though we do not mean to assert their contradictories. We do not believe that there is anything in the Bible that either proves or dis-„ proves the doctrine of philosophical necessity. We have never seen any satisfactory evidence that it tends to immorality and atheism.
There is, however, another statement made by Sir William in the passage on which we are animadverting, which - though relating to a point of inferior intrinsic importance - is perhaps more likely to be believed by ordinary readers, and thereby to do mischief, while at the same time it involves a great personal injustice, - viz. that this doctrine is contrary to the teaching of Calvin, - is a corruption of pure Calvinism, - and more specifically, is “in the face of the Confession of Faith” of “our Calvinistic Church of Scotland.” This was probably intended by Sir William to be the real gravamen of the charge against Dr. Chalmers, that he had taught a doctrine opposed to. the symbolical books which he had subscribed. This is a serious charge, and a favourite one with Sir William. He repeated it somewhat more calmly, though still not without plain indications of unphilosophical vehemence, in a note to the sixth volume of the collected edition of Professor Dugald Stewart’s works. This note, which is as follows, was published in 1855: -
“The Scottish Church asserts, with equal emphasis, the doctrine of the absolute decrees of God and the doctrine of the moral liberty of man. The theory of Jonathan Edwards touching the bondage of the will is, on the Calvinistic standard of the Westminster Confession, not only heterodox but heretical; and yet we have seen the scheme of absolute necessity urged by imposing authority, and even apparently received with general acquiescence, as that exclusively conformable to the recognized tenets of our ecclesiastical establishment.”
It is the more needful to advert to this charge, because the leading idea on which it is based has been countenanced also by Professor Stewart, in a passage published for the first time by Sir William himself in 1854 in his edition of the “Dissertation on the Progress of Philosophy,” forming the first volume of the collected works. Stewart’s statement upon the subject, which is written with the calmness of a philosopher, and conveys no personal attack, is inserted by Sir William as a passage “restored” from the author’s manuscript in the note ‘M.M’ and is as follows: -
“In the Confession of Faith of the Church of Scotland (the articles of which are strictly Calvinistic), the freedom of the human will is asserted as strongly as the doctrine of the eternal decrees of God. ‘God (it is said, chap. iii.) from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass. Yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.’ And still more explicitly in chap. ix.: ‘God hath indued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined, to do good or evil.’”
Stewart here plainly sanctions the general idea on which Sir William’s charge against Edwards and Chalmers is founded, and quotes those portions of the Confession which he regards as establishing his position. Such a charge, brought forward in such circumstances, and resting upon grounds which may appear not altogether destitute of plausibility to ill-informed persons, demands consideration; and this brings us back to what we really intended to have been the main subject of this discussion. We believe the charge to be utterly groundless; while at the same time we do not altogether approve of the aspects in which Edwards and Chalmers have represented this matter. Our views upon this point may be embodied in two plain propositions, and we do not mean to attempt more at present than briefly indicating the grounds on which we think they may be established, lst, There is nothing in the Calvinistic system of theology, or in the Westminster Confession of Faith, which precludes men from holding the doctrine of philosophical necessity. 2d, There is nothing in the Calvinistic system of theology, or in the Westminster Confession, which requires men to hold the doctrine of philosophical necessity. By establishing the first of these positions, we vindicate Edwards, Chalmers, and other pious and distinguished theologians, from the charge which Sir William has adduced against them of corrupting Calvinism, and contradicting the Westminster Confession. By establishing the second, we vindicate Calvinism from the servitude which the views of Edwards and Chalmers seem to impose upon it, of being obliged to undertake the defence of a doctrine which, whether true or false, belongs, after all, to the department of philosophy rather than of theology, and ought to be left to be disposed of upon its own proper philosophical grounds.
First, then, we say that there is nothing in the Calvinistic system of theology, or in the Westminster Confession, which precludes men from holding the doctrine of philosophical necessity. We have hitherto spoken of this doctrine chiefly incidentally, assuming that its general nature and import are well known; but it may be proper now to state more formally what is meant by it. The advocates of this doctrine maintain that there is an invariable and necessary connection between men’s motives and their volitions, - between objects of desire and pursuit as seen and apprehended by them, and all their acts of volition or choice; or that our volitions and choices are invariably determined by the last practical judgment of the understanding. Libertarians admit that men’s volitions or choices are, ordinarily and in general, determined by motives as seen and apprehended by the mind; but deny that there is a law regulating our mental processes, by which this determination of volitions by motives is rendered invariable , and necessary. On the contrary, they maintain, in opposition to this, and as the only alternative, that the will has a liberty of indifference, whereby, irrespective or in disregard of any motives that may be presented to it, it may remain in eqailibrio; that it may determine or put forth a volition or choice, either in accordance with or in opposition to the motives presented to it, and that it can do this in the exercise of an inherent self-determining power of its own. The invariable and necessary influence of motives in determining volitions, and a liberty of indifference, combined with a self-determining power in the will itself, are thus the opposite positions of the contending parties on this question. The dispute manifestly turns wholly upon a question as to what is the law which regulates those mental processes that result in, or constitute, volitions or choices; and this is properly and primarily a question in philosophy, the materials for determining which must be sought in an appeal to consciousness, and in an application of the data which consciousness furnishes. This statement of the real nature of the point in dispute is surely fitted to suggest at once the improbability of the necessitarian view telling so powerfully upon great theological questions, and leading to such fearful consequences as Sir William Hamilton alleges.
We have to show that men who have embraced the Calvinistic system of theology, and subscribed the Westminster Confession, are not thereby precluded from maintaining this view of the law which regulates our volitions, commonly and justly described as the doctrine of philosophical necessity. It may be proper, in the first place, to advert to the authority of Augustine and Calvin, unquestionably the two highest names in theology. Professor Stewart, in the passage which immediately precedes that quoted above, and which is to be found in the former edition of the Dissertation, as prefixed to the “Encyclopaedia Britannica,” says that “Augustine has asserted the liberty of the will in terms as explicit as those in which he has announced the theological dogmas with which it is most difficult to reconcile it, - nay, he has gone so far as to acknowledge the essential importance of this belief as a motive to virtuous conductand then he gives a quotation from Augustine in support of this statement. Sir William has asserted that “nothing can be conceived more contrary to the doctrine of that great divine (Calvin), than what has latterly been promulgated as Calvinism in our Calvinistic Church of Scotland,” - meaning, as is manifest, the doctrine of philosophical necessity. He has given no quotations or references in support of this position, though he would have had no difficulty in producing extracts which, to those who had never read Calvin, would have appeared to establish it. But the true views of Augustine and Calvin upon this subject are not to be learnt from a few isolated passages. They can be correctly understood only upon a deliberate and comprehensive survey of their whole position. If it be true, as Stewart alleges, that Augustine has expressly asserted the liberty of the will, it is at least as true that he has often explicitly denied it. He asserts it in some senses and denies it in others; and he has not always taken due care to explain fully the sense in which he was employing the phrase for the time, and to adhere to this sense throughout. And accordingly, in the great controversy between the Jansenists and the Jesuits as to what Augustine’s theological doctrines were, there is no point in regard to which the Jesuits have been able to make out nearly so plausible a case as in support of Stewart’s position, that Augustine asserted the liberty of the will. On this, however, as on every other point, the Jansenists gained the victory, though not quite so decisively as upon the other departments of the controversy. It has been proved that Augustine held, and held as great scriptural doctrines, that man before the fall had liberty or freedom of will, - in this sense, that he was able to will and to do good as well as to will and to do evil; that he entirely lost this liberty of will by the fall; that fallen man in his unrenewed state has not liberty of will, or has it only in this sense, that he is still fully responsible for what he does as being a free moral agent, acting voluntarily or spontaneously; and that when men’s wills have been renewed by God’s grace, and they are restored again to liberty of will, - in this sense, that they are now again able to will and to do good as well as evil, - it is still true that God requires of them what they are not able to perform. It can be proved that Augustine held all these views in regard to the liberty of the will; while it cannot be proved that he has given any deliverance whatever upon the only point involved in the controversy about philosophical necessity. All this, which can be proved in regard to Augustine, is equally true of Calvin; the main difference between the two cases being this, that Calvin has more fully and carefully than Augustine, explained the different senses in which the will might be said to be free and not free, - that he has adhered more closely in treating of this subject to precise and definite phraseology, carefully explained and consistently applied, - and that he has never spoken of free-will without affording, to careful readers, abundant materials for understanding in what sense he employed it, and especially for satisfying themselves that he did not hold liberty in any sense inconsistent with necessity, as understood in the present controversy.
In Calvin’s most important and masterly treatise, “De Servitute et Liberatione Humani Arbitrii,” he has fully brought out his views upon this subject, and has furnished ample materials for establishing all we have said concerning him. A considerable portion of this treatise is occupied with an elaborate investigation as to what were Augustine’s views upon this point, and a conclusive proof, in opposition to his Popish antagonist Pighius, that Augustine, with occasional looseness and inaccuracy of expression, held the same views in substance which he and his fellow-re-formers had promulgated. We may briefly advert to one or two points, indicating plainly enough the leading features of the views of Augustine and Calvin upon this matter. There is one very striking and pithy saying of Augustine’s, in speaking of the fall, which Calvin repeatedly quotes with approbation, viz., “Homo libero arbitrio male usus et se perdidit et ipsum,” - man, by making a bad use of his free-will, lost both himself and it, - a statement which throws a flood of light upon the whole system of doctrine which these great men taught upon this subject. Another statement of Augustine’s, which Calvin repeatedly quotes with approbation, and which was applied by them both to renewed and unrenewed men, is, “Jubet Deus quae non possumus ut noverimus quid ab ipso petere debeamus,” - God requires of us what we cannot perform, in order that we may know what we ought to ask from Him. We give only one other brief extract from the treatise above referred to. “I have always declared that I have no wish to fight about the name (of free-will), if it were once settled that liberty ought to be referred not to the power or capacity of choosing equally good or evil, but to spontaneous motion and consent. And what else mean the words of Augustine? He says, ‘The will is free, but only to evil. Why? because it is moved by delight and its proper appetite.’ He adds afterwards, ( But this will which is free for evil, because it is delighted with evil, is not free for good, because it has not been emancipated.’ To which Calvin subjoins, i All this is so accordant with my doctrine, that you might suppose it had been written for the defence of it.’ Luther and his followers, who had at first made some very absolute and exaggerated statements in the way of denying free-will altogether, came afterwards to attach much importance to a distinction between man’s freedom in things external, civil, and moral, and his freedom in things properly spiritual; and they embodied this distinction in the Confession of Augsburg. Calvin admitted the truth and reality of this distinction, though he did not regard it as of much importance in a theological point of view. But while admitting that man has a power or freedom in things outward and merely moral which he has not in things spiritual, he has given no indication that he thought that even, in regard to the former class of subjects, man has a liberty of indifference, or his will a self-determining power. In the second chapter of the second book of the Institutes, he has given a very striking and eloquent description of what man can effect by the exercise of his powers as brought to bear upon outward and natural things, and upon arts, literature, and philosophy, as compared with the blindness and uselessness of the unaided understanding in religious matters. But neither here has he said anything which implies that he denied the doctrine of philosophical necessity, or ascribed to the will of man any liberty or capacity inconsistent with it.”
In short, neither Augustine nor Calvin entertained or discussed the psychological question as to what the laws are which regulate men’s mental processes, and determine their volitions. The liberty and necessity of which they treated, and which in different sentences they affirmed and denied, referred to something very different from, and much more important than, this. From their denials of liberty and free-will, we would not be warranted in asserting that they held the doctrine of philosophical necessity; and neither, on the other hand, is any one entitled to infer, from their assertions of liberty and free-will, that they denied that doctrine. And this, indeed, is really the substance of what is true and can be established, not only of Augustine and Calvin, who have been honoured more than any other uninspired men to bring out correctly the scheme of divine truth, but of Calvinistic divines in general, and among the rest, of the authors of the Westminster Confession.
Professor Stewart evidently knew very little about this matter in its theological aspects. But he writes modestly and cautiously. The only statement he makes about Augustine is literally true, though it is not the whole truth, and is certainly, in the sense in which alone it can be established, quite irrelevant to the object he had in view. That “nothing can be conceived more contrary to the doctrine of” Calvin than the doctrine of philosophical necessity, as taught by Edwards and Chalmers, - and this is what Sir William Hamilton must have intended to assert, - is a position for which no evidence has been or can be produced; and it is scarcely possible that he could be ignorant that he had no materials whatever for establishing it.
We proceed now' to the more important and pressing part of the case, that which professes to deal with the teaching of the Westminster Confession. Upon this point Stewart asserts, in almost the very same terms which he had employed in speaking of Augustine, that “in the Confession the freedom of the human will is asserted as strongly as the doctrine of the eternal decrees of God;” and quotes two passages, the one from the third, and. the other from the ninth chapter, in support of this position. He evidently meant to assert that the Confession, though teaching strict Calvinism on the subject of foreordination, taught also the Libertarian view on the subject of the will, as opposed to the doctrine of philosophical necessity. But both his general statement and his proofs derived from the Confession, manifestly labour under all the difficulties and drawbacks connected with the ambiguity of the phrase, “the freedom of the human will,” which is the subject of his proposition. The “freedom of the will” may be understood in a variety of senses, and. on both sides of the controversy would be either affirmed or denied, according as it might be explained. It is plain enough from the context in what sense Stewart understood it, and meant it to be understood; but still the vagueness and ambiguity of the expression in itself gives the appearance of greater weight to his proofs than they possess. Sir William has not defined what the doctrine is against which he declaimed so vehemently in his “Discussions;” but it is quite plain that what he had in view was, and could be nothing else than, the doctrine of philosophical necessity as held by Dr. Chalmers; and this he pronounced to be “in the face of the Confession as in the face of the Bible.” In his more recent note in the sixth volume of Stewart, he brings it out somewhat more definitely as “the theory of Jonathan Edwards touching the bondage of the will;” and this he pronounces to be, “on the Calvinistic standard of the Westminster Confession, not only heterodox, but heretical.” It looks like an unfair attempt to. excite prejudice, that in the next clause, in which he repeats his attack upon Dr. Chalmers, he should speak of it as “the scheme of absolute necessity, urged by imposing authority.” But not to dwell upon this, - especially as it is notorious that Dr. Chalmers’ views upon this subject were avowedly identical with those of Edwards, - we are fully warranted in laying it down, that Sir William has asserted, that the doctrine of philosophical necessity, as taught by Edwards and Chalmers, is “in the face of the Confession,” - 66 is, on the Calvinistic standard of the Westminster Confession, not only heterodox, but heretical.” This is a definite statement. It involves a serious charge. Is it true?
There is surely a considerable antecedent improbability that the views of Edwards and Chalmers should be opposed in an important point to the Confession, and that Sir William Hamilton should have been the first and only person to discover and proclaim this. Dr. Chalmers had repeatedly professed his public adherence to the Confession as the confession of his faith. He, of course, believed that he believed it, and that his teaching was in full accordance with its statements. The ministers of the church to which he belonged - who had all themselves subscribed the Confession - found nothing in his teaching opposed to it The question was once put formally and explicitly by Dr. Erskine to Edwards, whether he could subscribe the Westminster Confession, and he in reply declared his readiness to do so. But still it is not impossible that these men may have been wholly wrong in this matter, and that Sir William may have been right. In publicly adducing so serious a charge, he ought in fairness to have distinctly specified the grounds on which it rested. He has not done so. But the passages quoted by Stewart are manifestly those on which the charge must rest; although something might also be made of a passage in the fifth chapter upon Providence, and of the statements which assert or imply, that our first parents were left to the freedom of their own will, and enjoyed before the fall a liberty of will which we do not possess.
The first passage is taken from the third chapter; it is as follows: - “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”
Every one must see, and no Calvinist has ever disputed, that if it be indeed true that God has unchangeably foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, this certainly implies that liberty, in some sense, as predicated even of men’s volitions and actions, is . excluded; and that necessity, in some sense, is established. This being tacitly conceded as undeniable, the latter part of the above section of the Confession is directed to the general object of disclaiming or shutting out certain extreme views as to the inferences which some might deduce from this great doctrine of universal foreordination. All that is here expressly asserted is, that the three things here specified do not follow from foreordination. But we admit that the passage may be held in fairness to imply that the things here specified not only do not follow from predestination, but are in themselves bad, or false, or impossible. The latter part then of the passage may be paraphrased thus: - “It may be thought that this doctrine of foreordination makes God the author of sin; but however plausible this allegation may be, we do not admit its truth: we deny that God is the author of sin, and we deny that it is a just inference from foreordination that He is so. It may further be alleged plausibly, that by this universal and unchangeable foreordination, violence is offered to the will of the creatures, and that the liberty or contingency of second causes is taken away; but we deny that violence is or should be offered to the will of the creatures, or that the liberty or contingency of second causes is taken away by foreordination or by anything else; and, on the contrary, we hold that the liberty or contingency of second causes is rather established by it.” Now there is here no mention of, or reference to, the doctrine of philosophical necessity. The only doctrine mentioned here is that of foreordination; and in addition to stating it and asserting its truth, the substance of what is said about it is, that while it may suggest plausible, it furnishes no solid, grounds for the inference, either that God is the author of sin, or that violence is offered to the will of the creatures. The only way therefore in which this section of the Confession can bear upon the proof that the doctrine of philosophical necessity is heretical is this, - this proves that it is wrong that violence be offered to the will of the creatures; the doctrine of philosophical necessity offers violence, etc., and therefore it is here condemned. But the Confession furnishes no materials that bear, or even seem to bear, upon the proof of the minor proposition about the nature, tendencies, and result of the doctrine of philosophical necessity. This proposition is not more self-evident - nay, it is not even more plausible - than the one that by foreordination violence is offered to the will of the creatures. It is not to be assumed as true. It must be proved by distinct and independent materials, for nothing of this sort is to be found in the Confession. Edwards and Chalmers have no hesitation in applying to their doctrine of necessity what the Confession applies to foreordination - viz. that thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures. And there is certainly nothing in the Confession that can be pleaded either to the effect of precluding them from taking this ground, or of throwing any difficulty in the way of their maintaining it. Indeed, the only correct sense of what is meant by “offering violence to the will of the creatures” is not, compelling them to will in a certain way, for that is impossible and inconsistent with the nature of will as will, but compelling them to do what their will abhors. We will present the view generally taken upon this point by Calvinists in the words of John Knox, in his masterly treatise on predestination, which having been republished in the fifth volume of Mr. Laing’s admirable edition of his collected works, will soon, we hope, become better known amongst us than it has hitherto been. “I affirm that God worketh all in all things according to the purpose of the same His good will, and yet that He useth no violence, neither in compelling His creatures, neither constraining their wills by any external force, neither yet taking their wills from them, but in all wisdom and justice using them as He knoweth most expedient for the manifestation of His glory; without any violence, I say, done to their wills, for violence is done to the will of a creature when it willeth one thing, and yet by force, by tyranny, or by a greater power, in is compelled to do the things which it would not.”
This is the proper meaning of the words, this is the recognized sense of the statement, among Calvinistic writers; and therefore the portion of the Confession founded on by Stewart, not only contains nothing in the least adverse to the doctrine of philosophical necessity, but nothing that has even the appearance of being so. For even the opponents of this doctrine will scarcely allege, that it implies that violence is offered to the will of the creatures, in the sense in which that has now been explained. In order to warrant such an allegation, it would be requisite that there should be a denial of the liberty of spontaneity, or the power of doing freely and spontaneously what we will or choose to do. And not only have all the supporters of philosophical necessity uniformly ascribed to men a liberty of spontaneity; but the opponents of that doctrine have admitted that this liberty of spontaneity is perfectly consistent with it, while they hold it to be insufficient as the basis of moral responsibility.
Mr. Stewart seems to indicate, by his italics, that he regarded the clause on which we have been commenting, about “violence offered to the will of the creatures,” as embodying the strength of his case. But if he had been familiar with the way in which these topics have been discussed among theologians, he would probably have been of opinion that the third point referred to, viz. “the liberty or contingency of second causes,” furnished an argument quite as plausible, especially when viewed in connection with the fuller statement upon the same subject, contained in the fifth chapter on Providence, sec. 2: “Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass, immutably and infallibly, yet, by the same providence, He ordereth them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, necessarily, freely, or contingently.” The third chapter states the substance of what Scripture teaches concerning God’s decrees, - that is, His purposes or determinations formed from eternity as to all that was to come to pass in time. This fifth chapter gives the substance of Scripture teaching as to God’s providence, - that is, as to all that He does in time for carrying into effect the purposes which He had formed from eternity. God having foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, provision is made for securing all the results so ordained and determined. And all who hold the Calvinistic doctrine on the subject of foreordination must, in consistency, also receive the common Calvinistic doctrine on the subject of providence, or the government which-God is ever exercising over all His creatures and. all their actions; Against the doctrine of foreordination, men are very prone to adduce the objections, - that it makes God the author of sin, that it offers violence to the will of the creatures, and that it takes away the liberty or contingency of second causes. These objections seem to apply with equal plausibility to the doctrine of providence as to that of predestination; and Calvinists deal with these objections, in both cases, in the same way, by admitting that these consequences would be fatal to Calvinistic doctrines if it could be conclusively proved that they were necessary consequences, and by asserting and undertaking to prove that these consequences do not necessarily follow from their doctrines, or at least that this cannot be established. We have nothing to do at present with the allegation that the Calvinistic doctrines of predestination and providence make God the author of sin. We have already explained the meaning and bearing of the allegation about violence being offered to the will of the creatures; and proved that it is utterly inadequate for the purpose for which Stewart adduced it, - that it has no bearing whatever upon the question whether Edwards’ doctrine of philosophical necessity is or is not opposed to the Confession. In regard to the third point, we have nothing to do directly with the contingency, but only with the liberty, of second causes. What is said about this, and how does it bear, if at all, upon the question under consideration? God has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, and He has made provision for securing that everything which He had before ordained should be actually brought about. This might appear, and has indeed been alleged, to involve or require the establishment of an absolute, universal, and indiscriminate necessity or fatalism, as comprehending and controlling, equally and alike, all agents and events. But Calvinists deny that this follows from their doctrines. These doctrines no doubt imply that, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God the first cause, all things do come to pass immutably and infallibly, and thus they certainly establish necessity and exclude liberty in some sense; yet they do not take away the liberty of second causes, and they leave it open to God to cause all things to come about according to the nature of these second causes, necessarily, freely, or contingently. In other words, Calvinists maintain that God, in executing His decrees in providence, brings about different classes of events in a way that is in full accordance with, their own distinct, proper natures, - bringing to pass necessary things necessarily, free things freely, and contingent things contingently. This of course implies that there are under God’s government free agents, who are dealt with in all respects as free agents, according to their proper nature, and the actual qualities and capacities they possess. As free agents they act freely; and although, if the doctrine of the foreordination of all things be true, there is a necessity in some sense attaching to all their actions, this does not preclude their having also a liberty attaching to them, in accordance with their general character and standing, as being free, in contradiction from necessary, agents. Among these free agents - in whom the liberty of second causes is maintained and preserved, notwithstanding the control which God exercises over all their actions in order to execute His decrees - are of course men, rational and responsible beings. God has made them rational and responsible, and He has endowed them with at least such freedom or liberty as is necessary to responsibility. He ever deals with them in accordance with the qualities and capacities which He has bestowed upon them. He does not deal with them as He does with the material creation or with the irrational animals. Although ever infallibly executing His decrees, He leaves them in the full possession of the rationality, responsibility, and liberty which He has bestowed upon them.
No one acquainted with the ground taken in discussions upon this subject by the Calvinistic divines of the seventeenth century, can have any doubt that this is the meaning of the statement under consideration, and that this was all that these words were intended to express; and if so, then it is manifest that they just throw us back upon the question, to be decided upon its own proper grounds, as to the nature, species, and foundations of the liberty which men actually possess, while they afford us no materials whatever, direct or indirect, for determining the question, whether or not this liberty is to be held as precluding the doctrine of philosophical necessity. Edwards and Chalmers of course held that men are free agents, - that they are in some sense possessed of a free-will, which neither the predestination nor the providence of God annihilates or supersedes; and if so, they could have no difficulty in subscribing these portions of the Confession.
But perhaps the portion of the Confession which has most the appearance of something like hostility to the doctrine of philosophical necessity, is that which Stewart quotes from the beginning of the ninth chapter, which treats of “free-will.” The statement is this: “God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that it is neither forced nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined to good or evil.” ' This is plainly intended as a general description of the human will, or rather of some leading features of it, applicable to the will at all times, and amid all the changes which in some respects it has undergone. There is, it is here asserted, a certain natural liberty with which God has endued the will of man, and which it ever retains, and must retain, as essential to its proper nature. But it must be observed that this is not a full definition or description of the will as a power or faculty of man, such as might be expected in a philosophical treatise giving an account of the human mind. The Confession professes to give a summary of what is taught in Scripture, and no one has ever imagined that Scripture contains materials for enabling us to give a full description of the will as a faculty of man, and to determine, directly and at once, between the two opposite theories of liberty and necessity. The Scripture affords materials for determining questions about the will only in some of its theological bearings. And accordingly it must be noticed that the Confession does not here speak generally of its being determined, but only of its being determined to good or evil. These words, “to good or evil,” are a constituent part of the only affirmation here put forth. It is not a statement about the grounds and causes of the ordinary determinations of the will, or of volitions in general, but about determinations to good or evil, - that is, about volitions which involve a choosing between good and evil, or a preference of the one of these to the other. The general object of the whole chapter was to unfold the different aspects which man has presented in his fourfold state, as to freedom or liberty of will in choosing between good and evil. To the freedom or bondage of man’s will, with reference to choosing between good and evil, as possessed and exhibited in four different conditions, the four following sections of the chapter are devoted; and the first section was evidently intended to be introductory to the exposition of this general topic in its different stages. So that, viewed in its connection with what it introduces, it may be fairly regarded as amounting, in substance, to a statement to this effect, - that though man at different stages of his history - unfallen, fallen, renewed, glorified - has had his will determined to good and also determined to evil, this result is not to be ascribed in either case to force, or to any absolute necessity of nature, as that would be inconsistent with the natural liberty with which God has endowed the will. This was the aspect in which, principally, - we might almost say. exclusively, - both the Reformers of the sixteenth, and the great Calvinistic divines of the seventeenth, century contemplated the subject of free-will; and it is in this sense alone, we are convinced, that the compilers of the Westminster Confession intended to expound it.
But though we are satisfied of the sufficiency of the grounds on which this limitation of the import of the statement can be defended, - a limitation which of itself deprives it of all legitimate bearing upon the question of philosophical necessity, - we do not concede that our argument is dependent upon the establishment of this. Even if the statement be held to apply to the determinations of the will in general, instead of being limited to determinations which make a choice either of good or evil, - according to the moral character of the prevailing tendency of man’s nature for the time, - still the language here employed is quite sufficient to remove from the minds of necessitarians all hesitation about accepting it. No necessitarian has any hesitation about repudiating force, or an absolute necessity of nature, as regulating the determinations of the will; and though libertarians may allege that the doctrine of philosophical necessity implies that the will is determined by force or by an absolute necessity of nature, yet they cannot establish this; while .necessitarians openly and explicitly deny it, and cannot be convicted of any error or inconsistency in doing so. Nothing stands out more palpably on the face of the whole discussions which have taken place upon this subject, than these two facts: lst, That Calvinistic necessitarians have always admitted that determination by force - or as they usually called it, by constraint, or coaction, or compulsion - is inconsistent with free agency and moral responsibility; and 2d, That they have always contended, that there is nothing about the necessitarian view that gives any countenance to the idea that the will is determined by force. They have always contended that liberty or freedom - as opposed to all force or coaction - is indispensable, and must ever be maintained on all sides. Indeed, the controversy between libertarians and necessitarians has often been made to turn upon this precise question, whether a liberty of spontaneity, as opposed to all force or coaction, all constraint brought to bear from without, - a liberty this which all necessitarians hold and which libertarians generally admit that they can hold consistently, - be or be not sufficient for moral responsibility. Calvin says “If liberty is opposed to coaction (or force), I confess and constantly assert that the will is free, and I reckon him a heretic who thinks otherwise. If it is called free in this sense, because it is not forced or violently drawn by an external movement, but is led on sua sponte, I have no objection to this. But because men in general, when they hear this epithet applied to the will of man, understand it in a very different sense, for this reason I dislike it.” Edwards himself says, speaking of the Stoics, whose Fate had been objected to him as identical with his necessity: <e Whatever their doctrine was, if any of them held such a fate as is repugnant to any liberty consisting in our doing as we please” (the liberty of spontaneity as opposed to all force or coaction from any external cause), 661 utterly deny such a fate. If they held any such fate as is not consistent with the common and universal notions that mankind have of liberty, activity, moral agency, virtue and vice, I disclaim any such thing, and think I have demonstrated that the scheme I maintain is no such scheme.” Turretine lays down six different senses in which liberty and necessity may be affirmed or denied respectively of man or his will; and - what is a curious, and with reference to our present argument an important, coincidence - he selects from the six the two species of necessity specified and repudiated in the Confession, - viz. that arising from force, and that arising from necessity of nature, or physical necessity, - and admits that these are contrary to the nature of the will and to moral responsibility, and are therefore to be rejected; while at the same time he strenuously advocates other kinds of necessity, and among the rest, that based upon the last judgment of the practical intellect, which is just the same thing as the doctrine of philosophical necessity as taught by Edwards and Chalmers.
This fact is really conclusive upon the question we are now considering, a question which just amounts in substance to this, -
Does a denial of the determination of the will by force or by an absolute necessity of nature - understood in accordance with the views mid language of the Calvinistic divines of the seventeenth century - involve or imply a denial of the doctrine of philosophical necessity? That the repudiation of determination by force does not imply this, has already been proved, and is, indeed, perfectly manifest. There is more doubt as to what is meant by necessity of nature, and as to what this might suggest about the point in dispute. A “necessity of nature,” and still more an “absolute necessity of nature,” - the phrase used in the Confession, - seems to describe something much more intrinsic and fundamental, bearing more upon the essential qualities or constituent elements of will as -will, - as a power or faculty essentially distinguishing those who have it from those who have it not, - than anything involved in the controversy about philosophical necessity, which merely respects one of the laws that regulate the determination of the volitions. And accordingly, on investigating the usus loquendi upon this point of the Calvinistic divines of the seventeenth century, - which must be the standard for the interpretation of the Westminster Confession, - we find that by necessity of nature, as applied to this matter of the will, they meant a necessity arising from, or connected with, those essential qualities of the will, in virtue of which it becomes one of the main things that distinguish men from mere material objects, and from the irrational animals. It is the nature of the will of man, that it implies the possession and exercise of a rational, deliberate, unconstrained, spontaneous choice. Without this, will would be no will; and without will, in this sense, man would not be a responsible being, and would sink to the level of mere matter, or of the beasts that perish. Calvin distinctly admitted that “a liberty or freedom from necessity, in the sense of coaction or compulsion, did so inhere in man by nature that it could not in any way be taken away from him.” This point of the natural liberty with which God has endowed the will of man, is thus explained by Turretine, with his usual masterly ability: -
“Cum ergo ratio formalis libertatis non posita sit in indifferentia, non potest alibi quseri, quam in hibentia rationali; per quam homo facit quod luhet vrsevio rationis judicio: Ut hie necessario duo conjungenda veniant ad earn constituendam. 1. προαιρετιχν, ut quod fit, non fiat csece impetu, et bruto quodam instinctu sed χ προαιρέσεως, et prsevio rationis lumine, et intellectus practici judicio. 2. τχούσιον , ut quod fit sponte et libenter fiat et sine coactione.
“Hanc antem esse rationem formalem liberi arbitrii, ex eo non obscure colligitur, quod omni, soli, et semper conveniat. Ita ut nullum sit agens liberum, vel creatum, vel increatum, in quo duo isti characteres non deprehendantur: nec ad tempus tantum, sed semper, ut posita lubentia ista rationali ponatur libertas, et sublata tollatur. Unde sequitur adjunctum esse insepara-bile agentis rationalis, quod illud in quovis statu comitatur, ut non possit esse rationale, quin eo ipso sit liberum, nec spoliari queat libertate, quin privetur etiam ratione. Quod evincit etiam liberum arbitrium absolute spectatum et in genere Entis nunquam ab homine tolli posse in quocunque versetur statu.”
And then with regard to the different kinds of liberty and necessity that are or are not consistent with these views of the nature of the will, he selects, as we have mentioned, just the two specified in the Confession, as excluded absolutely and universally by right views of the essential qualities of the will, - viz. force and necessity of nature, or physical necessity. Force, or coaction, or compulsion, by an external power or pressure, needs no explanation; and the other - the necessity of nature, or physical necessity, in conjunction with force, just as it is put in the Confession. - Turretine explains in this way: -
“Ut duo sunt prsecipui characteres Liberi Arbitrii, in quibus ejus ratio formalis consistit, 1. προαίρεσις, ut quod fit, prsevio rationis judicio fiat, 2. χούσιον, ut quod fit, sponte et sine coactione fiat: prior ad intellectum, posterior ad voluntatem pertinet: Duse etiam necessitatis species cum ea pug-nant. Prima est necessitas physica et bruta, Altera necessitas coactionis; ilia προαίρεσιν tollit, ista vero χούσιον. Nam quae fiunt ex necessitate physica ab agentibus naturalibus, ad unum natura et sine ratione determinatis, non pos-sunt censeri fieri libere, id est prsevio rationis lumine; et quae fiunt per vim et coacte, non possunt dici sponte fieri. Et de his nulla inter Nos et Adversarios est controversia. Hoc tantum obiter monendum Bellarminumf et alios ex Pon-tificiis Nostros calumniari, dum illis imponunt, quod sentiant libertatem a coactione sufficere ad constitutionem liberi arbitrii; Quia prseter illam requirunt etiam immunitatem a necessitate physica; Et si quando dicunt hominem a coactione, non a necessitate liberum esse; necessitatis voce non intelligunt earn quas dicitur physica, de qua nulla erat controversia, et quas satis per se exclu-ditur, turn conditione subjecti, quod est rationale, turn ex actibus judicanch et volench, qui cum ea sunt άσνστατοι; sed necessitatem dependentise, servitutis, et rationalem.
“Sed si duas istse necessitatis species, a nobis commemoratse, cum libero arbitrio pugnant; non eadem est ratio aliarum, quae cum eo subsistere possunt, et quibus non tam destruitur, quam conservatur et perficitur, quod sigillatim quoad quatuor necessitatis species ante notatas ostench potest.”
And one of these four species of necessity, which are not inconsistent with the natural liberty of the will, or with moral agency, is that which forms the subject of our present discussion; in explaining which Turretine says that the nature of the will is such, “ut non possit non sequi ultimmn intellectus practici judicium.” He says further, in explanation of the same views: -
“Unde Tertio sequitur, Cum Providentia non concurrat cum voluntate humana, vel per coactionem, cogendo voluntatem invitam, vel determinando physice, ut rem brutam et csecam absque ullo judicio, sed rationaliter, flectendo voluntatem modo ipsi convenienti, ut seipsam determinet, ut causa proxima actionum suarum proprio rationis judicio, et spontanea voluntatis electione, earn libertati nostrse nullam vim inferre, sed illam potius amice fovere. Quia duse istse tantum sunt necessitatis species, quse libertatem perimunt, et cum ea sunt ασύστατοι, necessitas naturalis, et coactionis; Cseterse, quse oriuntur, vel a decreto Dei, et causse primse motione, vel ab objecto et judicio ultimo intellectus practici, tantum abest ut libertatem evertant, uteam magis tueantur, quia flectunt voluntatem, non cogunt, et faciunt ex nolente volentem. Quis-quis enim facit sponte quod vult ex rationis judicio et pleno voluntatis consensu, id non potest non libere facere, etiamsi necessario faciat, undecunque fluat ilia necessitas, sive ab ipsa rei existentia, quia quicquid est, quando est, necessario est, sive ab objecto mentem et voluntatem efficaciter movente [which is just philosophical necessity] sive a causa prima decernente et concurrente [that is, divine predestination and providence].”
We have had the less hesitation about laying before our readers these quotations from Turretine, because, in plain terms, they settle conclusively the question which we have undertaken to discuss; in other words, they establish beyond dispute the position, that the repudiation in the Confession of the determination of the will by an absolute necessity of nature, does not, any more than the repudiation of determination by force, preclude the maintenance of the doctrine of philosophical necessity. Libertarians may still assert that they regard the doctrine of philosophical necessity as implying a determination of the will by force or by a necessity of nature; but they have no right to thrust their inferences or constructions upon their opponents, or to make these inferences the standard, of what their opponents are to answer for. The allegation that the doctrine of philosophical necessity is in the face of the Confession, especially when it is adduced as a personal charge, must be proved by him who makes it. It can be proved only by producing from the Confession statements which, according to the ordinary recognized meaning of the words, or the known intention of the authors of the document, import a denial or rejection of the doctrine in question. The quotations we have produced from Turretine prove, that, tried by the views and the language of the Calvinistic divines of the seventeenth century, - the proper standard applicable to this matter, - the first section of the ninth chapter of the Confession contains nothing inconsistent with the doctrine of philosophical necessity. The statement there made was meant to be introductory to a description of the changes which man has experienced, or is to experience, in regard to freewill in his fourfold state; and it was just intended to embody in substance a declaration to the effect, that whatever changes had occurred, or might occur, in the history of man in this respect, the essential features of his will or power of volition had continued unchanged; that nothing had ever taken place, either of an external or internal kind, which interfered with his deliberate and spontaneous choice, or with his moral responsibility; that though, as is afterwards explained, man’s will in one condition or period of his history had been determined to good, and in another condition or period to evil, this determination to good or evil did not arise from force, or from an absolute necessity of nature; for that, if the determination to good or evil had originated in either of these causes, this would have been inconsistent with the nature of will as will, or with its essential feature as the characteristic of a rational and responsible being, - viz. a deliberate and spontaneous power of choice. The determination of man’s will to good or evil by the application of external force, or by any necessity arising from the natural structure and inherent capacity of the power of volition, are expressly shut out. There is no appearance of the exclusion going beyond this; and if so, the doctrine of philosophical necessity is untouched.
We could produce, if it were necessary, evidence from other authors that this was the sense in which the expressions under consideration were generally employed by the Calvinistic divines of the seventeenth century. We shall give only two brief extracts from Dr. Owen, one of the very few names in theology entitled to stand side by side with Turretine, - extracts in which it will be observed that he uses the words “outward coaction” and “inward natural necessity,” in the same sense in which the almost identical expressions are used in the Confession; and plainly intimates that it is quite sufficient, in order to moral responsibility, to exclude these two species of necessity, and to retain the deliberation and spontaneity which are inconsistent with them. They are taken from his “Display of Arminianism; being a discovery of the old Pelagian idol Freewill, with the new goddess Contingency.”
“Yet here observe that we do not absolutely oppose free-will, as if it were nomen inane, a mere figment, when there is no such thing in the world; but only in that sense the Pelagians and Arminians do assert it. About words we will not contend. We grant man, in the substance of all his actions, as much power, liberty, and freedom as a mere created nature is capable of. We grant him to be free in his choice, from all outward coaction or inward natural necessity, to work according to election and deliberation, spontaneously embracing what seemeth good to him. Now, call this power free-will or what you please, so you make it not supreme, independent, and boundless, we are not at all troubled.” And again: “We grant as large a freedom and dominion to our wills, over their own acts, as a creature subject to the supreme rule of God’s providence is capable of. Endued we are .with such a liberty of will as is free from all outward compulsion and inward necessity, having an elective faculty of applying itself unto that which seems good unto it, in which it is a free choice, notwithstanding it is subservient to the decree of God.”
The greatest and best-known names among the Calvinistic divines of the seventeenth century thus furnish us with satisfactory evidence, that the leading principle laid down in the Westminster Confession concerning the natural liberty of the will does not exclude, and was not intended to exclude, the doctrine of philosophical necessity; and of course affords no evidence whatever that Jonathan Edwards’ theory touching the bondage of the will is heretical.
The only thing else in the Confession that can be supposed to have any bearing upon the position taken up by Mr Stewart and Sir William Hamilton, is the statement that our first parents were left to the liberty of their own will, and that in the exercise of this liberty they sinned and fell.
In the section immediately following that on which we have been commenting, and intended to describe how this matter stood in regard to the first period of man’s history - the first department of his fourfold estate - it is put in this w~ay: “Man in his state of innocency had freedom and power to will and to do that which is good and well-pleasing to God, but yet mutably, so that he might fall from it.” This is a very important feature of the theology of the Reformers and of the Calvinistic divines of the seventeenth century, and it has been too much overlooked, as we shall afterwards explain, by Edwards and Chalmers; but it has no bearing whatever upon the subject of philosophical necessity. The comprehensive doctrine, that man before the fall had freedom or liberty of will in the exercise of which he sinned, that by his fall into a state of sin he lost this freedom, and that men now in their natural state have it not, but are through regeneration to regain it, was during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries reckoned a leading feature of Calvinism. But for nearly a century past it has, chiefly through the influence of the writings of Edwards, been too much thrown into the background, although a chapter in the Westminster Confession has been devoted to the exposition of it. This doctrine, of course, implies that there is a freedom or liberty of will which man may have notwithstanding God’s decrees foreordaining whatsoever comes to pass, notwithstanding His providence exercised in regulating and controlling all events, and notwithstanding any general laws which may have been impressed upon men’s constitution for regulating their mental processes, and especially for determining their volitions. Calvinists have always held that all these things - viz. the foreordination and providence of God, the general structure and framework of man’s mental constitution, and the general laws that determine his volitions - were unaffected by the fall; that they stood in the same relation to the first sin of Adam as to any sins subsequently committed by him or his posterity; and that they stood in the same relation to what was good in our first parents as to what is good in regenerate men upon earth. All these things being the same both before and after the fall, it follows that the liberty of will which they ascribed to man unfallen, and which they denied to man after he fell, as well as the necessity or bondage or servitude which they ascribed to the will of men as they now come into the world, must be wholly different in their nature and source from liberty and necessity, in any of the senses in which they are usually made subjects of discussion among philosophers. And there is no difficulty in ascertaining what this difference is. It stands out palpably on the face of their system of theology. The liberty of will which they ascribed to man unfallen, was the effect of the tendency of his moral nature to what was good in virtue of his original righteousness, so that he could perfectly do God’s will; while at the same time he possessed that capacity mutably, so that he might fall. The > necessity or servitude or bondage which they ascribed to the will of fallen man, consisted in the loss of the liberty above described, and in the actual prevailing tendency of his moral nature to evil because of the depravity which had overspread it, so that he' could no longer will good, but could only will evil. The liberty which they thus ascribed to man in his original condition they regarded as entirely lost by the fall, and as having now no existence in men in their natural condition, or until restored, in some measure, by divine agency in regeneration.
Liberty and necessity, in this sense and application, are entirely different, in their whole nature and grounds, from liberty and necessity in the sense in which the position of Stewart and Hamilton has respect to them. The old Calvinistic divines - including the authors of the Westminster Confession - all held, that the foreordination and providence of God precluded liberty and established necessity in some sense, but in a sense quite different from that in which they are regarded as dependent upon righteousness or depravity of nature. Many Calvinists have regarded the foreordination and providence of God as establishing, or at least countenancing, the doctrine of philosophical necessity, and as of? course shutting out liberty of indifference, or the self-determining power of the will. But no intelligent Calvinist ever existed who thought that there was anything in the doctrines of Calvinism, individually or collectively, which threw any difficulty or obstacle in the way of men embracing and maintaining the doctrine of philosophical necessity.
For this reason we have not thought it necessary to dwell upon any alleged inconsistency between the general principles of Calvinism and the doctrine of philosophical necessity. Mr Stewart does not allege any such inconsistency. Sir William himself rather insinuates than asserts it. The passages adduced from the Confession by Mr Stewart to prove his position, that the freedom of the human will (meaning thereby the libertarian as opposed to the necessitarian view of this matter) is asserted there, are not those which contain anything distinctively Calvinistic, but are statements which merely bear directly upon freedom or liberty in some sense or other. Of Sir William’s bolder and more explicit assertions, that the doctrine of philosophical necessity “is in the face of the Confession as in the face of the Bible,” and that “the theory of Jonathan Edwards touching the bondage of the will is, on the Calvinistic standard of the Westminster Confession, not only heterodox but heretical,” he has not attempted to produce any evidence. We regret this; for we are very confident that no learning and ingenuity could have invested with plausibility a position so untenable. It is quite plain that the only passages in the Confession which have any appearance of affording countenance to his assertions, are just those which are referred to by Mr Stewart. We have adduced and considered all the passages in the Confession which could by possibility give any appearance of countenance to Sir William’s charge of heresy against Edwards; and we have shown that when these passages are interpreted according to the proper meaning of the words, and according to the recognized opinions and the established usus loquendi of the Calvinistic divines of the seventeenth century, every trace of the evidence which certain expressions in them might seem to furnish in support of the charge disappears, and that the accusation stands out in its true character as utterly groundless.
Sir William, by alleging that Edwards’ doctrine, when tried by the standard of the Confession, was not only heterodox but heretical, became bound to do a great deal more than merely produce a proof that there is a statement in the Confession which, when carefully examined and strictly interpreted, is inconsistent with it. This, if he could have produced it, would have been enough to entitle him to pronounce the doctrine heterodox or erroneous. But the way in which he “signalizes” the distinction between heterodox and heretical, shows that he was quite conscious that he ought to do more than this. According to the received meaning of the word heretical as distinguished from heterodox, he was not entitled to apply this epithet to Edwards’ doctrine, unless he was prepared to show that it ran counter to a statement .occupying a place of prominence and of importance, and to establish this by evidence of commanding clearness and cogency. Heresy, as distinguished from mere heterodoxy, implies a palpable and decided difference in degree both with respect to the magnitude and prominence of the error, and the cogency of the evidence by which its erroneous character can be established.
Even if the doctrine of philosophical necessity could be proved to be erroneous, it could not, if tried by a Calvinistic standard, be regarded as an error of such serious magnitude as to warrant the designation of a heresy. No Calvinist believing in the divine foreordination of all events can possibly think the doctrine of philosophical necessity a great and serious error, or regard it as heretical. He may possibly believe the doctrine to be erroneous - to be destitute of sufficient proof. But if he be really an intelligent Calvinist, he must see that all the leading objections against it tell equally against the Calvinistic doctrines which he holds, and that it harmonizes well with his whole system of theology.
What is true of a Calvinist is true, mutatis mutandis, of a Calvinistic creed. There may be nothing in the Confession to furnish direct evidence in support of the doctrine of philosophical necessity - we do not believe that there is; there may even be statements in the Confession that are inconsistent with it and exclude it - we have proved that none such have been or can be produced; but the allegation of heresy as implying, in all fairness, palpable and clearly proved opposition to the Confession in a point of vital importance, is perfectly preposterous.
There is nothing, then, in the Westminster Confession that need occasion difficulty to any necessitarian acquainted with the way in which these subjects were discussed by the Calvinistic divines of the seventeenth century. If convinced of the truth of the doctrine of philosophical necessity, - whether upon the ground of the evidence directly and properly applicable to it as a psychological question, or on the ground of its appearing to be logically deducible from the theological doctrines of God’s foreordination and providence, - there is nothing in this conviction that need prevent him from assenting to the Westminster Confession, for assuredly there is nothing in that document which either is or was intended to be inconsistent with it. Mr Stewart’s statement that the freedom of the human will is asserted in the Confession is true in one sense, though not in that in which he meant it. Sir William’s assertion that Edwards’ doctrine about the will is, when tried by the standard of the Confession, heretical, is not only destitute of all solid foundation, but is disproved by every fair and reasonable consideration bearing upon the settlement of the point in dispute.
We must now advert briefly to the second position we laid down, - yiz. that there is nothing in the Calvinistic system of theology or in the Westminster Confession which requires men to hold the doctrine of philosophical necessity; or in other words, that a man may conscientiously assent to the Westminster Confession although he should reject that doctrine. Edwards and Chalmers seem to have regarded the doctrine of necessity as an indispensable part of their Calvinism. They have not, indeed, formally laid down this position and attempted to prove it. They have rather assumed it as if it were self-evident, and usually write as if it were a matter of course, that men holding the Calvinistic doctrines of predestination and providence must also hold their doctrine of necessity. Dr. Chalmers, speaking of the philosophical doctrine of necessity and the theological doctrine of predestination, says: “It is one and the same doctrine in different aspects and with different relations; in the one view with relation to nature, and in the other view with relation to God.” And again: “Let the doctrine of philosophical necessity, or, theologically speaking, the doctrine of predestination, be as firmly established as it may,” etc.
We are not prepared to concur in this identification of the philosophical doctrine of necessity with the theological doctrine of predestination. We regard it as unwarrantable and injurious. We are not satisfied that the doctrine of necessity can be deduced, in the way of logical consequence, from the doctrine of predestination. The doctrine of necessity, held in combination with the doctrine of the providence of God as the creator, the upholder, and governor of the world, affords a proof of the doctrine of predestination; for if such a system as necessity implies has been established by God, and is constantly superintended and controlled by Him, this must have been done for securing the accomplishment of His purposes; and He must be actually executing His decrees, or carrying into effect His determinations, in those volitions which are the certain or necessary results of the constitution of nature, in its relation to the laws of man’s thinking, feeling, and acting. But while the doctrine of necessity, if established, clearly and directly confirms the doctrine of predestination, it is not so clear that the doctrine of predestination affords ground for inferring or deducing the doctrine of necessity. Predestination implies that the end or result is certain, and that adequate provision has been made for bringing it about. But it does not indicate anything as to what must be the nature of this provision in regard to the different classes of events which are taking place under God’s government, including the volitions of rational and responsible beings. Were we in the condition of being able to prove that God could not have foreseen and foreordained the volitions of rational and responsible beings, and made effectual provision for accomplishing His purposes in this most important department of His government, without having established the system of necessity, - without having settled in accordance with that doctrine the internal laws which regulate men’s volitions, - this would prove that predestination established necessity, so that every predestinarian was bound in consistency to be a necessitarian. But we have not materials to warrant us in maintaining that God could not have certainly accomplished all His purposes in and by the volitions of responsible beings, unless He had established the scheme of necessity. And if so, there is a hiatus in every process by which we attempt to establish a logical transition from predestination to necessity, which cannot be filled up. Predestination and necessity manifestly harmonize with and fit into each other. Sir William’s insinuation that necessity is a corruption of pure Calvinism is preposterous. Every intelligent Calvinist must be disposed to regard the doctrine of necessity with favour, as having a large amount of antecedent probability attaching to it. He must see that there is no serious objection to the doctrine of necessity that does not equally apply to predestination; and that the doctrine of necessity, if established, gives some confirmation to the doctrine of predestination, and throws some light upon the means by which God executes His decrees or accomplishes His purposes, so far as the volitions of responsible beings are concerned. All this is true and very evident. A predestinarian can scarcely avoid, perhaps, having a leaning to the doctrine of necessity; but unless he can find some argument or process of reasoning which warrants him in asserting that God could not have made effectual provision for accomplishing His purposes in this department except by means of the state of matters which necessity implies, he cannot pass directly, in the way of inference, from the one doctrine to the other.
From the nature of the case, the truth of the doctrine of .necessity is properly and primarily a question in philosophy. It respects directly only the laws which regulate men’s mental processes and determine their volitions. In order to settle it. we must look within ourselves, and survey our own mental operations. The materials that legitimately bear upon the decision of it must be all derived from consciousness, though, of course, they may branch out into argumentations based upon the data which consciousness furnishes, and may thus pertain to the department of metaphysics as well as psychology. The Bible does not tell us anything about the causes or principles that ordinarily regulate or determine men’s general exercise of their natural power of volition. It affords us no materials for ascertaining whether the laws that determine our volitions presuppose the libertarian or the necessitarian theory. It leaves all such questions to be determined by an investigation of the evidence naturally and appropriately applicable to them, - that is, by an examination of man himself, of his mental constitution and ordinary mental processes. And not only does the Bible not determine any such psychological and metaphysical questions directly, but it does not teach any doctrines which, indirectly or by consequence, require or necessitate us to take a particular side in any of those questions which have been controverted among philosophers upon philosophical grounds. If philosophers should profess to deduce, from a survey of men’s mental constitution, conclusions which contradict any doctrine revealed in Scripture, this should be attended to and answered; and no great difficulty has ever been experienced in dealing with allegations of this sort. If they should profess to find, on a survey of men’s mental constitution, grounds for adopting certain views concerning the liberty or bondage of the will, which would preclude or shut out the scriptural doctrines, that God has foreseen and foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, - or that He is ever exercising a most wise, holy, and powerful providence over all His creatures, and all their actions, - or that fallen man - man as he is - hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation, - it would be needful and not difficult to expose the unsoundness of these views, or the falsehood of the inferences deduced from them. But unless men profess to have established something inconsistent with these theological doctrines, we do not know that there is any particular theory concerning the will or the laws that regulate its operations, deduced upon philosophical grounds from an examination of men’s mental constitution and processes, which can be proved to be inconsistent with any statement in the word of God, or with any of the doctrines taught there, and which must therefore, on scriptural and theological grounds, be rejected.
Calvinists in general, when they have been led to attend to this particular subject, have adopted necessitarian views, as harmonizing most fully and obviously with their theological convictions. But this has not been universally the case. Some Calvinists have rejected the doctrine of philosophical necessity, and much larger numbers have declined to give any decisive or explicit deliverance concerning it. Some Calvinists have held that the theological doctrines of predestination and providence lead, by necessary logical sequence, to the doctrine of philosophical necessity. But it cannot be proved that either the certainty or immutability of the event, or the agency of God in providence in regulating and controlling men’s volitions, necessarily requires or implies this necessity, or would be certainly precluded by a liberty of indifference, or the self-determining power of the will. •No doubt the doctrine of necessity affords some assistance in forming a conception as to how it is that God accomplishes His purposes and controls our volitions without interfering with the essential qualities of the will or with our moral responsibility; while the self-determining power of the will seems to involve this matter in serious difficulties. But it is, we think, unwarranted and presumptuous to assert, that even a self-determining power in the will would place it beyond the sphere of the divine control, - would prevent Him in whom we live, move, and have our being, who is everywhere and at all times present in the exercise of all His perfections, who searcheth the heart and trieth the reins of the children of men, from superintending and directing all its movements according to the counsel of His own will. And unless this unwarranted and presumptuous position be taken up, it seems impossible to prove that there is anything in the Calvinistic system which makes it indispensable for its supporters, in point of logical consistency, to adopt the doctrine of philosophical necessity. Until this position be established, it is still open to Calvinists as to others, to examine the question as between liberty and necessity upon its own proper psychological and metaphysical grounds; and to adopt the one side or the other, according as they may think that the evidence for the one or the other, derived from an investigation into man’s mental constitution, preponderates.
We have not ourselves, in the course of this discussion, indicated any opinion upon the precise point involved in the controversy between the libertarians and the necessitarians; and we really cannot say that we have formed a very decided opinion in favour of either side. Upon the whole, we regard the evidence in favour of the doctrine of philosophical necessity as preponderating. In order to dispose of this doctrine satisfactorily, it seems necessary that the argument of Edwards in favour of it, and against the self-determining power of the will, should be answered. We have never seen this done, and we scarcely think that it can be done. We have read lately the ablest and most elaborate answer that has been given to Edwards, viz. “Tappan’s Treatise on the Will.” But we have not been convinced by it that Edwards has failed in establishing his leading position; on the contrary, Tappan’s failure has rather confirmed us in the conviction that Edwards cannot be answered. But the only point with which we have to do at present is this, that we do not hold ourselves tied up to take either the one side or the other, by anything contained in the sacred Scriptures, in the Calvinistic system of theology, or in the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Sir James Mackintosh, in an article upon Stewart’s “Preliminary Dissertation,” asserted the identity of the subjects of necessity and predestination, - agreeing in the main with the views indicated by Edwards and Chalmers, but going so far as to say explicitly, that “it is not possible, to make any argumentative defence of Calvinism which is not founded on the principles of necessity.” He became convinced, however, of the unsoundness of this view of the closeness of the connection between the theological and the philosophical doctrine, and retracted it in a note subjoined to his own Preliminary Dissertation. He says there,f that “more careful reflection had corrected a confusion common to him with most writers upon these subjects.” But he now goes into the other extreme; and besides, introduces some additional confusion, which it may be proper to correct. He now brings in, in connection with this matter, the distinction between Sublapsarian and Supralapsarian views; and asserts that “Sublapsarian predestination is evidently irreconcilable with the doctrine of necessity,” but that “the Supralapsarian scheme may be built upon necessitarian principles.” Although Mackintosh had not, in all probability, turned over so many theological books as Hamilton, he was well acquainted with theological subjects. But the statement which we have quoted from him is certainly inaccurate. The reason he assigns why Sublapsarian predestination is irreconcilable with necessity is, that the Sublapsarians admit that men had free-will before the fall, which he thinks Supralapsarians cannot do. The inaccuracy of this notion must be evident from the explanation given in the former part of this article, as to the real nature, import, and grounds of the freedom of will which man had before the fall, and which he lost by sin. The free-will which has been represented as possessed by man before the fall and as lost by sin, has no connection whatever with the discussion about philosophical necessity, and may be, and has been held equally by Sublapsarian and Supralapsarian Calvinists.
It is much to be regretted that Stewart, Mackintosh, and Hamilton should have all concurred in putting forth erroneous representations upon this subject. The errors of such men it is an imperative duty to point out and to correct. But it is still more imperative to point out the oversights or errors of men who are much higher authorities upon theological matters, such as Edwards and Chalmers. We have already explained the grounds on which we hold the assumption by these great men of the identity, or the necessary connection, of the theological doctrine of predestination and of the philosophical doctrine of necessity, to be unwarranted. We have indicated, though very briefly and imperfectly, the considerations by which we think it can be shown, that the Calvinistic doctrines of predestination and providence, as taught in Scripture, do not either include, or necessarily lead to, the doctrine of necessity; and may be fully expounded and applied by men who refuse to admit, or who even positively reject, that doctrine. The doctrine of necessity, when once established, leads by strict logical sequence to predestination, unless men take refuge in atheism. But it does not seem to follow e converso, that the doctrine of predestination leads necessarily to the doctrine of necessity; as men may hold that God could certainly execute His decrees and infallibly accomplish His purposes in and by the volitions of men, even though He had not impressed upon their mental constitution the law of necessity, as that by which its processes are regulated and its volitions determined.
We would now advert very briefly to the injurious tendency and consequences of this assumed identity or necessary connection of the two doctrines - the theological and philosophical. It tends to throw into the background the true scriptural, theological doctrine of necessity, - the doctrine of the servitude or bondage of the will of fallen man - man as he is - to sin, because of the depravity which has overspread his moral nature. Not that Edwards or Chalmers have denied or rejected this doctrine. This would certainly have been heresy; for the doctrine is very prominently and explicitly asserted in the Westminster Confession. It is, indeed, plainly involved in what they were accustomed to teach concerning the entire corruption and depravity of human nature; and they would have had no hesitation in admitting this, and in professing their belief in the doctrine as a portion of God’s revealed truth. Still, it is palpable that the doctrine of the bondage of the will of man to sin, because of depravity, has no prominence whatever in their writings when they treat of the doctrine of philosophical necessity. This we regard as an evil; and we have no doubt that it is to be ascribed to the fact of their minds being engrossed, when they contemplated man’s natural condition, by the idea of a necessity of a different kind, but of far inferior importance in itself, and resting upon lower and more uncertain grounds.
The practice of distinguishing, in the exposition of this subject, between the freedom of man’s will in his unfallen and in his fallen condition, and indeed of viewing it distinctively with reference to the different stages or periods of his fourfold state, - as unfallen, fallen, regenerate, or glorified, - has prevailed in the church in almost all ages. These views were fully brought out and applied by Augustine. They had a place in the speculations of the schoolmen, as may be seen in Peter Lombard’s Four Books of Sentences, and in the commentaries upon it. They were embraced and promulgated by the whole body of the Reformers, both Lutheran and Calvinistic. They have a prominent place in the waitings of the great systematic divines of the seventeenth century. They have a prominent place in the Westminster Confession, - the ninth chapter, entitled “Of free-will,” being entirely devoted to the statement of them. And what is in some respects peculiarly interesting, the doctrine of the loss of man’s free-will by the fall, and of the servitude of the will of fallen man to sin because of depravity, was held by Baius, Jansenius, and Quesnel, and their followers, - the best men and the best theologians the Church of Rome has ever produced; - and in them was condemned by papal bulls, - a fact which confirms our conviction, that this is one of the great cardinal doctrines of Scripture, which may be said to have the support of the concurrent testimony of the universal church of Christ - of the great body of those whom Christ has enlightened and sanctified. This servitude or bondage of the will of man to sin because of depravity, was the only necessity which the great body of the most competent judges in all ages have regarded as being taught in Scripture as a portion of God’s revealed truth, or as being necessary for the full exposition of the other cognate doctrines of Christian theology. This necessity now attaching to the human will they regarded as a property of man, viewed not simply as a creature, but as a fallen creature, - not as springing from his mere relation to God as the foreordainer of all things and the actual ruler and governor of the world, nor from the mere operation of laws which God has impressed upon the general structure and framework of man’s 'mental constitution, - but from a cause distinct from all these, that is, from the depravity, or prevailing aversion from God and tendency to evil, superinduced upon man’s character by the fall. If this be indeed the scriptural view of the bondage of man’s will, it ought surely to be openly proclaimed, and pressed prominently upon our attention, instead of being overlooked or thrown into the background, in favour of another kind of necessity, as it certainly is in the waitings of Edwards and Chalmers on that subject. They would no doubt have admitted the doctrine and defended it, if it had been pressed upon their attention; but in point of fact they have scarcely ever adverted to it. It seems to have been in their minds absorbed or thrown into the background, and kept out of view, by the more general subject of liberty and necessity in the form in which it has been commonly discussed by philosophers, and in which it is held to apply to man at all times, and irrespectively of his history and position as fallen and sinful. In Edwards’ great work on the “Freedom of the Will,” there is no reference to this distinction between the liberty of the will in man unfallen and in man fallen, or to the bondage of the will of fallen man to sin because of depravity. It contains only an elaborate proof of the doctrine of philosophical necessity, as opposed to a self-determining power of the will and a liberty of indifference, with an answer to the objections commonly adduced against it. This we cannot but regard as a serious defect; while at the same time it is important to observe, that his proof of the compatibility of the philosophical doctrine of necessity with responsibility and moral agency, is at least equally applicable to the defence of the scriptural and theological doctrine of man’s inability because of depravity to will anything spiritually good; and especially the great principle which he has so conclusively established, viz. “that the essence of the virtue and vice of dispositions of heart and acts of the will, lies not in their cause but in their nature.” The influence of the writings of Edwards has,tended greatly to throw this important scriptural doctrine of the bondage of the will of man to sin because of depravity into the background; and Dr. Chalmers having in this respect walked very much in his footsteps, has thrown the influence of his wonderful powers and great name into the same scale. Edwards and Chalmers have not gone in face of the Confession, or afforded any plausible ground for stamping upon them the brand of heresy. But they have certainly, in their engrossment with this philosophical doctrine of necessity, about which the Confession of Faith says nothing, left out of view ah important theological doctrine, to which the Confession gives prominence, and which certainly ought to have a distinct and definite place assigned to it in the exposition of the scheme of Christian theology.
Not only, however, has the theological doctrine of the servitude of the will of man to sin, or the inability of man in his natural condition to will anything spiritually good because of depravity, been thrown into the background by the undue exaltation of a merely philosophical topic; but the impression has been produced, that the maintenance of some of the leading and peculiar doctrines of Christianity is most intimately connected with, or rather dependent upon, the establishment of certain philosophical theories; and this impression is neither true nor safe.
Edwards and Chalmers seem always to assume that the theological doctrine of predestination and the philosophical doctrine of necessity are identical, or at least are so connected that they must stand or fall together; and the impression thus produced is fitted to lead men to regard the proof or evidence of the one doctrine as bound up with, or dependent upon, the proof or evidence of the other. And we cannot but deprecate this result, as fitted to elevate the doctrine of necessity to a place and influence to which, however fully it may be established as true by its own appropriate evidence, it has not, and cannot have, a rightful claim; and as fitted also to lay upon the scriptural doctrine of predestination a burden or servitude to which it cannot be legitimately subjected. The Calvinistic doctrine of predestination has a sufficiently strong foundation in direct evidence, both from reason and Scripture, to maintain itself in opposition to all inferential objections to it, - and there are really no others, - and to bear up along with it every position, theological or philosophical, that can be really proved to be involved in or deducible from it. But still, as it is a doctrine which usually calls forth strong prejudices, and is assailed by plausible objections, it is right that we should beware of attempting to burden it with any weight which it is not bound to carry; or representing it as obliged to stand or fall with a doctrine so much inferior to it, at once in intrinsic importance, and in the kind and degree of evidence on which it rests.
It has never been alleged that there is anything in the Westminster Confession, apart from its statement of the great doctrines of Calvinism, which seems to require men to hold the doctrine of philosophical necessity; so that this point does not require any separate treatment.
Before quitting this subject, we would like to give some little explanation of the remaining portion of the ninth chapter of the Westminster Confession on free-will. The chapter, as a whole, is a very remarkable and impressive - we might almost call it eloquent - statement of the scriptural truths bearing upon this subject, through all the leading stages in the eventful history of man, or of the human race. We have already considered the first section, setting forth the general doctrine of the natural liberty of the will, which it must always retain, and which it could not lose without ceasing to be will, viewed as an essential quality of a rational and responsible being; and excluding the determination of it to good or evil by force or by any absolute necessity of nature. Although the will has a natural liberty which prevents it from being determined to good or evil by such causes or influences as would manifestly exclude deliberate choice and spontaneous agency, yet it has, in point of fact, at different periods or in different conditions, been determined both to good and to evil. To each of the four great eras in this matter, or the different aspects in man’s fourfold state, one of the four remaining sections in this chapter is devoted. To the first of these, or section 2d, - describing man’s freedom of will in his state of innocency, - we have already adverted, and we need not now dwell upon it. The 3d section - describing the condition of men as to free-will in their natural fallen state - is in some respects the most important, as bringing out a leading and most influential feature in the character of all men as they come into the world; and it is most intimately connected with the subject we have been discussing, inasmuch as it describes the only necessity which the Scripture represents as attaching to man by nature, and the only necessity therefore which can be held as needful to be taken into account in expounding the general scheme of Christian doctrine. It is this: - “Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation, so as a natural man being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.” The fundamental proposition here is, that man hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; and the remainder of the statement is intended partly to indicate the leading ground on which this doctrine rests, viz. that a natural man is altogether averse from spiritual good and dead in sin, - and partly to bring out the great practical conclusion which results from it, viz. that he is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto. The fundamental doctrine is, that man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to anything spiritually good; and, of course, is in entire bondage or servitude to sin, that is, to his own natural sinful dispositions or tendencies. The question is, - Is this really the view which the word of God gives us of man’s natural condition and capacities in regard to spiritual objects and results? and this question is to be decided by a careful investigation and application of all the scriptural statements and principles bearing upon the subject. Does the Scripture teach us that man, in his natural condition, and antecedently to his becoming the subject of the gracious operations of God’s Spirit, cannot really will anything spiritually good? and, more especially; that he is unable to will to turn from sin unto God, or to prepare himself for so turning? It seems plain enough that this doctrine is involved in, or clearly and certainly deducible from, that of the complete and entire corruption or depravity of human nature. The doctrine of original sin or of native depravity, in the sense in which it is held by orthodox divines, implies that man, in his natural condition, has no tendency or inclination towards what is spiritually good, - that all his tendencies or inclinations are towards what is evil, - and that he does and can do nothing which is really pleasing and acceptable to God. If he is wholly averse from all good and wholly inclined to all evil, it would seem that he cannot will anything good; because the will or power of volition must be determined and characterized by the general tendency or disposition of the moral nature of the being who possesses and exercises it. God can and must always will what is good, because His moral nature is essentially and unchangeably holy. Man in his unfallen state could always will what is good, or as the Confession says, had freedom and power to will and to do what was acceptable to God, because he was possessed of a pure and holy moral nature, endowed with original righteousness. And upon the same ground, because man now has a wholly depraved or corrupted nature, without any original righteousness, he has no ability of will to anything spiritually good.
This doctrine of the utter bondage of the will of men to sin because of depravity, or of the inability of men in their natural fallen condition to will or to do anything spiritually good, is not entirely dependent for its scriptural evidence upon its being involved in, or necessarily deducible from, the doctrine of the entire and total, and not merely partial or comparative, corruption of man’s moral nature by the fall. For there are scriptural statements about men’s natural state which bear directly and immediately upon the more limited topic of their inability to will what is spiritually good. Still the connection between the two doctrines is such as to remind us of the vast importance of being thoroughly decided in our convictions as to what Scripture teaches concerning the natural state of man as a fallen and sinful creature, and thoroughly familiar with the scriptural materials by which our convictions may be established and defended. It was a service of inestimable value which Edwards rendered to sound Christian theology, when, in his work upon e( Original Sin,” he so conclusively and unanswerably established from Scripture, reason, and experience, the great doctrine - u that all mankind are under the influence of a prevailing effectual tendency in their nature to that sin and wickedness which implies their utter and eternal ruin.” The conclusive demonstration of this “great Christian doctrine,” or the unanswerable establishment of this great fact as an actual feature in the condition of all men as they come into this world, entitles Edwards’ work upon “Original Sin,” notwithstanding some measure of obscurity and confusion on the subject of imputation, to be regarded as one of the most valuable, permanent, possessions of the Christian church.
The next stage in the history of the human race with respect to free-will, viewed as being virtually the history of a man, - of one man, - at different periods (and this is the light in which the matter is really represented to us in Scripture), is thus described in the Confession: “When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He freeth him from his natural bondage under sin, and by His grace enables him freely to will and to, do that which is spiritually good. Yet so as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he doth not perfectly, nor only, will that which is good, but doth also will that which is evil.” Here again there is freedom of will ascribed to man in his regenerate state, - that is, an ability to will good as well as to will evil. In the regeneration of his nature the reigning power of depravity is subdued, and all the effects which it produced are more or less fully taken away. One of the principal of these effects was the utter bondage or servitude of the will to sin, because of the ungodly and depraved tendency of the whole moral nature to what was displeasing and offensive to God. This ungodly and depraved tendency is now, in conversion, to a large extent removed, and an opposite tendency is implanted. Thus the will is set free or emancipated from the bondage under which it was held. It is no longer subjected to a necessity - arising from the general character and tendency of man’s moral nature - to will only what is evil, but is now able also freely to will what is good; and it does freely will what is good, though, from the remaining corruption and depravity of man’s nature, it still wills also what is evil. It is not emancipated from the influence of God’s decrees foreordaining whatever comes to pass. It is not placed beyond the control of His providence, whereby in the execution of His decrees He ever rules and governs all His creatures and all their actions. It is not set free from the operation of those general laws which God has impressed upon man’s mental constitution, for directing the exercise of his faculties and regulating his mental processes. But it is set free from the dominion of depravity; and thereby it is exempted from the necessity of willing only what is evil, and made equally able freely to will what is good. It has recovered to a large extent the only liberty it ever lost; and it is determined and characterized now - as it had been in all the previous stages of man’s history, both before and after his fall - by his general moral character and tendencies; - free to good, when man had the image of God and original righteousness, but yet mutable so that it could will evil, - in bondage, when man was the slave of sin, so that it .could will only evil and not good, - emancipated, when man was regenerated, so that it could freely will good as well as evil, though still bearing many traces of the former bondage and of its injurious effects, - and finally, to adopt again the language of the Confession in closing the admirable chapter on this subject, “to be made perfectly and immutably free to good alone in the state of glory.” The extract from Sir William Hamilton, on which chiefly we have been commenting, occurs in connection with a discussion embodying some important and valuable truth, - truth which admits of an obvious application to the exposition and defence of Christian, and especially of Calvinistic, doctrines. He declares his satisfaction in being able to show~, that his doctrine of “the conditioned” harmonizes with the general spirit of divine revelation, by inculcating humility in our speculations in the investigation of truth because of the imperfection and limitation of our faculties, - by showing the unwarrantableness and absurdity of making our capacity of distinctly conceiving and fully comprehending doctrines, the measure or standard of their absolute truth, or of their consistency with each other; and the perfect reasonableness of believing, upon sufficient grounds, things which in some respects are beyond our grasp, and cannot be fully taken in or comprehended by the exercise of our faculties when brought directly to bear upon them. Now all this is very important truth in connection with the exposition and defence of the great doctrines of revelation, and especially of the profound and mysterious doctrines of Calvinism. Sir William has not here put forth anything which is not in substance to be found in the waitings of theologians, and which, indeed, has not been brought forward more or less fully, and established more or less conclusively, by every intelligent defender of Calvinism. But it is not very common to find matter of this sort in the writings of philosophers; and Sir William, by giving it his sanction, has done a real service to the cause of truth and orthodoxy. He could not, however, let this topic pass without indulging himself in some characteristic statements, to which it may be proper briefly to advert. In his usual spirit he labours to convey the impression, that these views about the limitation of our faculties, and the bearing of this upon the discussion of mysterious doctrines, have not in general been understood and applied aright by theologians. He seems half inclined to insinuate, that these principles were little known till he promulgated them. But this was rather too absurd; and accordingly he feels constrained to make the following concession: - “It must, however, be admitted, that confessions of the total inability of man to conceive the union of what he should believe united, are to be found, and they are found not perhaps less frequently, and certainly in more explicit terms, among Catholic than among Protestant theologians.” It is certainly quite true, as is here asserted, that such statements “are to be found” - and indeed they constitute a perfectly familiar commonplace - among orthodox theologians. The alleged greater explicitness of Catholics than Protestants in stating these principles, is a mere gratis dictum, which has no foundation in the realities of the case. This statement seems to have been hazarded for the mere purpose of ushering in a quotation from Cardinal Cajetan, which, though about the best thing ever written upon the subject, Sir William felt confident was wholly unknown to theologians now-a-days. He described the quotation as “the conclusion of what, though wholly overlooked, appears to me as the ablest and truest criticism of the many fruitless, if not futile, attempts at conciliating the ways of God to the understanding of man, in the great articles of divine foreknowledge and predestination (which are both embarrassed by the self-same difficulties) and human free-will.” Sir William describes the passage as “wholly overlooked,” notwithstanding its superlative merits. Now it so happens that we remember two instances - and there are in all probability more - in which this very quotation from Cajetan had been produced and commended by eminent writers, - one of them being no other than Bayle, who so often furnishes passages to “persons of ordinary information.” Gisbertus Voetius, one of the best known names in the theology of the seventeenth century, - a man who was at least as thoroughly versant in the literature of theology as Sir William was in that of philosophy, and who knew as much of the literature of philosophy as Sir William did of that of theology, - has quoted with approbation a part of this passage from Cajetan, in a “Dissertatio Epistolica de Termino Vitas,” originally published in 1634, and republished at Utrecht in 1669, in the Appendix to the fifth volume of his “Selectse Disputationes.” The passage in Bayle is to be found in the second part of his “Response aux Questions d’un Provincial,”! where the extract from Cajetan is given as quoted with approbation by an eminent Dominican theologian, Alvarez, in a “Treatise de Auxiliis Divine Gratise.” Sir William, then, was mistaken in representing this passage in Cajetan as “wholly overlooked.” We do not suppose, indeed, that it was suggested to him by Voet or Bayle, for we rather suspect, especially as the passage after all contains nothing very extraordinary, that it was produced and paraded in the honest belief that no one knew anything about it but himself.
It may be worth while to mention, that the discussion in connection wdth which this passage is introduced by Bayle, is very similar to that in which Sir William brings it in. Bayle was doing on that occasion just what Sir William did in the immediately following part of his Appendix, - viz. collecting what he calls “testimonies to the limitation of our knowledge from the limitation of our faculties.” Bayle had often spoken very much to the same effect as Sir William has done, about the reasonableness and obligation of believing when we cannot know and fully comprehend. But this, coming from Bayle, was suspected of being intended to undermine the foundations of a rational faith; and to amount in substance very much to the same thing as Hume’s well-known sneer about our holy religion being founded not on reason but on faith. Bayle defended himself against these charges in the second and third of the “Eclaircissemens,” subjoined to his Dictionary; and more formally and elaborately in the second part of his e( Response aux Questions d’un Provincial.” He was contending then against M. Jacquelot, who was a minister of the French Protestant Church, and, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, settled as minister of the French Church in Berlin. Jacquelot wrote a series of three works against Bayle; and though he was a man of real ability, he certainly gave his skilful adversary some advantage over him, by taking ground which in the present day we would describe as too rationalistic. Several other eminent men took part in the controversy, especially La Placette, who, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, became minister of the French Protestant Church at Copenhagen. Different grounds were taken by the different combatants in opposing Bayle; and then some interesting discussions arose among themselves, as to the best ground to be taken in dealing with the great sceptic. The controversy thus, viewed as a whole, became extremely curious and interesting. We cannot dwell upon it; and can only remark, that Bayle had no difficulty in producing from many eminent men, both theologians and philosophers, quotations which certainly seemed very much the same in substance with his own statements, however different they might be in spirit and object; and that these quotations are in some instances identical with, and in general very similar to, those which Sir William has collected as “testimonies to the limitation of our knowledge from the limitation of our faculties.”