« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
incapable of rejecting, as of accepting, the Gospel way of salvation.
Crisp. And do you suppose we are free-agents, with respect to keeping or breaking the Divine law?
Gai. I do. We are only required to love God with all our strength, or to consecrate all our powers to his service, be they great or small.
Crisp. Why then do we not keep the law perfectly? Gai. Because of the depravity of our hearts: If our heart or inclination was wholly on the side of God, we should feel no difficulty in keeping it; on the contrary, it would be our meat and drink.
Crisp. But if our hearts are depraved, and we are enslaved to sin, how can we be said to be free?
Gai. We cannot be morally free; but moral slavery, any more than moral liberty has nothing to do with freeagency; The reason is, in this case there is no force opposed to the agent's own will.
Crisp. I have often heard it asserted, that it does not signify whether the incapacity lies in the will, or in something opposed to the will; if we cannot do good, say they, we cannot, and in that case we are not freeagents.
Those, who speak thus of free-agency, must mean to include in it a freedom from the influence of motives; a power of acting with, or contrary to, the prevailing inclination; or, at least, a power to change the inclination.
Crisp. Yes; I have heard it observed, that it amounts to nothing to say we have the power of following the prevailing inclination, unless we have also the power of counteracting or changing it.
Gai. If, by amounting to nothing, they mean that we are not hereby any more qualified to be our own deliverers from the thraldom of sin, than if we had no freeagency, but must be indebted wholly to sovereign and efficacious grace for it, I admit the consequence. Little, however, as they make of this idea of free agency, I might reply, it is all that they themselves can conceive of, and all that can be ascribed to any being in heaven, earth, or hell.
Crisp. How does this appear?
Gai. No one can conceive of a power of voluntarily acting against the prevailing inclination; for the thing itself is a contradiction: And a power of changing it is not less absurd. If a person go about to change his prevailing inclination, he must be either involuntary, or voluntary, in so doing: If the former, this can be no excrcise of free-agency; if the latter, he must have two opposite prevailing inclinations at the same time; which is a contradiction. And after all, he still does no more than follow his inclination; viz. his virtuous inclination, which he is supposed to possess, to have his vicious inclination changed. If freedom from the influence of motives, or power to change one's inclination, be essential to free-agency, the Divine Being himself is not free. God, as all must allow, possesses an immutable determination to do what is right, and cannot, in the least degree, or for a single moment, incline to the contrary. His conduct is necessarily and invariably expressive of the infinite rectitude of his heart. The same, in a degree, might be said of holy angels, and the spirits of the just men made perfect: So far from being free from the influence of motives, or having a power
to change the prevailing inclination of their hearts, those motives, which, by reason of the depravity of our natures, have but little effect upon us, have full influence upon them, and constantly determine them to the most ardent pursuit of righteousness.
Crisp. And yet you say they are free agents.
Gai. If God, angels, and saints, be not free agents; who are?
Crisp. But this is moral liberty.
Gai. True; but the same reasoning will apply to moral slavery: If an unalterable bias of mind to do good does not destroy free agency; neither does an unalterable bias of mind to evil; Satan is as much a free agent as Gabriel, and as much accountable to God for all he does. Crisp. Some suppose man has lost his free-agency by the fall.
Gai. Say, rather, man has lost his moral rectitude by the fall. All that was entrusted in his hand was lost: But we might as well say he had lost his reason, his conscience, or his memory, as to say he had lost his freeagency; and this would be supposing him to have lost his intellectual nature, and to have become literally a brute. Crisp. Wherein does your notion of free-agency differ from the Arminian notion of free-will?
Gai. The Arminian notion of free will is what I have all along been opposing: The one consists merely in the power of following our prevailing inclination; the other in a supposed power of acting contrary to it, or at least of changing it: The one predicates freedom of the man; the other of a faculty in man, which Mr. Locke, though an anti-necessarian, explodes as an absurdity: The one goes merely to render us accountable be
ings; the other arrogantly claims a part, yea the very turning point of salvation: According to the latter, we need only certain helps or assistances, granted to men in common, to enable us to choose the path of life; but according to the former, our hearts being by nature wholly depraved, we need an almighty and invincible power to renew them, otherwise our free-agency would only accelerate our everlasting ruin.
Crisp. You suppose, I imagine, that the invincible operations of the Holy Spirit do not interfere with our free-agency?
Gai. Certainly: If the temper of the heart does not affect it, neither can any change upon that temper. It affects free-agency no more than it affects reason, conscience, or memory: Man all along feels himself at liberty to follow what inclination dictates; and, there fore, is a free-agent.
Crisp. Does your notion agree of free-agency with the language of the apostle Paul: The good that I would, I do not; and the evil that I would not, that I do. To will, is present; but how to perform that which is good, I find not?
Gai. I think we ought to distinguish between a willingness that is habitual and general, and one that is universal and entire. Paul, and every true Christian, generally and habitually wills to be holy, as God is holy; but this volition is not universal nor entire. It is not so perfect nor intense, as that there is no remainder of indolence, obstinacy, or carnality. Perfection is the object approved,or rather desired, but that approbation or desire is not perfect in degree: A perfect degree of willingness would be perfect holiness.
Crisp. Then you do not suppose the apostle to mean that sin operated absolutely, and in every sense, against his will?
Gai. I do not: it was certainly against the ruling principle of his soul; but to suppose that any sin can be strictly and absolutely involuntary in its operations, is contrary to every dictate of common sense.
Crisp. Thanks, my dear Gaius; farewell.
DIALOGUE SIXTH BETWEEN CRISPUS AND GAIUS.
ON THE GOODNESS OF THE MORAL LAW.
I AM glad to see you, my dear Gaius. Our two last conversations on the moral character of God, and the free agency of man, I hope have been of use to me. I have been thinking since of the great rule of God's government, the moral law, as being the image of his moral character.
Gai. Your idea is just: “ God is love." All his moral attributes are but the different modifications of love, or love operating in different ways. Vindictive justice itself is the love of order, and is exercised for the welfare of being in general; and the moral law, the sum of which is love, expresses the very heart of him that framed it.
Crisp. I have been thinking of love as the band which unites all holy intelligences to God and one another; as that in the moral system, which the law of attraction is in the system of nature.
Gai. Very good. While the planets revolve round the sun as their central point, and are supremely attracVOL. III.