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high degree of probability, which is ordinarily sufficient to satisfy mankind, in their conduct and behaviour in the world. Sometimes by moral necessity is meant, that necessity of connexion and consequence, which arises from such moral causes, as the strength of inclination, or motives, and the connexion which there is in many cases be. tween these, and such certain volitions and actions. It is in this sense that I use the phrase, moral necessity, in the following discourse.
By natural (or physical) necessity, as applied to men, I mean such necessity as men are under through the force of natural causes. Thus, men placed in certain circumstances, are the subjects of particular sensations by necessity; they feel pain when their bodies are wounded; they see the objects placed before them in a clear light, when their eyes are opened : so they assent to the truth of certain propositions as soon as the terms are understood; as that two and two make four, that black is not white, that two parallel lines can never cross one another ; so, by a natural (or physical) necessity men's bodies move downwards, when there is nothing to support them.”—The Works of President Edwards, vol. i. p. 146.)
III. In consequence of Professor Stewart's thus identifying moral with physical necessity, he has been led to speak of its tendency in terms which I humbly conceive are not warranted by facts. “ Whatever,” says he, “ may have been the doctrines of some of the ancient Atheists about man's free agency, it will not be denied, that in the history of modern philosophy, the schemes of atheism and of necessity have been hitherto always connected together. I cannot help adding, that the most consistent Necessitarians who have yet appeared, have been those who followed out their principles till they ended in spinosism, a doctrine which differs from atheism more in words than in reality." (Dissertation, Part II. Notes, p. 231.)
If there were indeed no difference between moral and physical necessity, according to Professor Stewart's belief, I would readily admit that its tendency must be such as he has described it to be. But, conceiving as I do, that the distinction in question is fundamental, I most decidedly differ from him in my views as to its tendency. Let us observe what President Edwards says regarding this objection to the doctrine which he so ably advocated.
“ If any object against what has been maintained, that it tends to atheism, I know not on what grounds such an objection can be raised, unless it be, that some atheists have held a doctrine of necessity which they suppose to be like this. But if it be so, I am persuaded, the Arminians would not look upon it just, that their notion of freedom and contingence should be charged with a tendency to all the errors that ever any embraced who have held such opinions. Epicurus, that chief father of atheism, maintained no such doctrine of necessity, but was the greatest maintainer of contingence. The stoic philosophers were no atheists, but the greatest theists, and nearest akin to christians in their opinions concerning the unity and perfection of the godhead, of all the heathen philosophers.
66 And whereas it has often been said, that the doctrine of (moral) necessity saps the foundations of all religion and virtue, and tends to the greatest licentiousness of practice; this objection is built on the pretence, that our doctrine renders vain all means and endeavours, in order to be virtuous and religious. Which pretence has been already particularly considered in the 5th section of this part; (Part IV.) where it has been demonstrated that this doctrine has no such tendency ; but that such a tendency is to be truly charged on the contrary doctrine, inasmuch as the notion of contingence, in its certain consequences, overthrows all connexion, in every degree, between endeavour and event, means and end.
" That doctrine excuses all evil inclinations which men find to be natural ; because in such inclinations they are not self-determined, as such inclinations are not owing to any choice or determination of their own wills: which
leads men wholly to justify themselves in all their wicked actions, so far as natural inclination has had a hand in determining their wills to the commission of them. Yea, these notions, which suppose moral necessity and inability to be inconsistent with blame or moral obligation, will directly lead men to justify the vilest acts and practices, from the strength of their wicked inclinations of all sorts; which at length will come to this, that men will justify themselves in all the wickedness they commit.
“ If it be, indeed, as is pretended, that these doctrines (namely, the doctrines which he advocated) undermine the very foundations of all religion and morality, and enervate and disannul all rational motives to holy and virtuous practice ; and that the contrary doctrines give the inducements to virtue and goodness their proper force—I say if it be thus, it is remarkable, that virtue and religious practice should prevail most, when the former doctrines, so inconsistent with it, prevailed almost universally ; and that ever since the latter doctrines, so happily agreeing with it, and of so proper and excellent a tendency to promote it, have been gradually prevailing, vice, profaneness, and wickedness of all sorts, and contempt of all religion, should proportionably prevail; and that these things should thus accompany one another, and rise and prevail one with another, now for a whole age together. If these things are truly so, they are very remarkable, and matter of very curious speculation.”—(Edward's Works, vol. i. p. 407—409.)
I shall only subjoin the following judicious remarks of an anonymous but able writer. “ If there were any hope of terminating that endless and fruitless controversy (that which relates to liberty and necessity), the most promising expedient would be a general agreement to banish the technical terms hitherto employed on both sides from philosophy, and to limit ourselves rigorously to a statement of those facts in which all men agree, expressed in language perfectly purified from all tincture of system. The agreement in facts would then probably be found to be much more extensive than is often suspected by either party. Experience is, and indeed must be, equally appealed to by both. All mankind feel and own, that their actions are at least very much affected by their situation, their opinions, their feelings, and their habits; yet no man would deserve the compliment of confutation, who seriously professed to doubt the distinction between right and wrong, the reasonableness of moral approbation and disapprobation, the propriety of praising and censuring voluntary actions, the justice of rewarding or punishing them according to their intention and tendency. Every advocate of free-will admits the fact of the influence of motives, from which the Necessitarian infers the truth of his opinion. Every Necessitarian must also admit those attributes of moral and responsible agency, for the sake of which the advocate of liberty considers his own doctrine as of such unspeakable importance. Both parties ought equally to own, that the matter in dispute is a question of fact relating to the mind, which must be ultimately decided by its own consciousness. The Necessitarian is even bound to admit, that no speculation is tenable on this subject, which is not reconcileable to the general opinions of mankind, and which does not afford a satisfactory explanation of that part of common language which at first sight appears to be most at variance with it.
“ The contending parties might at length discover that they had been only looking at opposite sides of the same truth. But the terms Liberty and Necessity embroil the controversy, inflame the temper of disputants, and involve them in clouds of angry zeal, which render them incapable not only of perceiving their numerous and important coincidences, but even of clearly discerning the single point in which they differ. Every generous sentiment, and every hostile passion of human nature, have for ages been connected with these two words. They are the badges of the oldest, the widest, and the most obstinate warfare waged by metaphysicians.
“ It is necessary to condemn the use of weapons which exasperate animosity, without contributing to decide the contest. Of this nature, in our opinion, are the imputations of irreligion and immorality which have for ages been thrown on those divines and philosophers who have espoused Necessitarian opinions. Mr. Stewart, though he anxiously acquits individuals of evil intention, has too much lent the weight of his respectable opinion to these useless and inflammatory charges. We are at a loss to conceive how he could imagine that there is the slightest connexion between the doctrine of necessity and the system of Spinosa. That the world is governed by a Supreme Mind, which is invariably influenced by the dictates of its own wisdom and goodness, seems to be the very essence of theism; and no man who substantially dissents from that proposition can deserve the name of a pure theist. But this is precisely the reverse of the doctrine of Spinosa, which, in spite of all its ingenious disguises, undoubtedly denies the supremacy of mind. This objection, however, has already been answered, not only by the pious and profound Jonathan Edwards *, an avowed Necessitarian, but by Locke, whose opinions about this question are not very distinct, and even by Dr. Clarke himself, the ablest and most celebrated of the advocates of libertyt. To these religious philosophers we need only refer our readers for a satisfactory vindication of the Necessitarians on this subject.
“Let us appeal to experience, on the moral influence of Necessitarian opinions in their theological form. By doing so, we shall have an opportunity of contemplating the principle in its most active state, operating upon the greatest masses, and for the longest time. Predestination, or doctrines much inclining towards it, have, on the whole, prevailed in the christian churches of the west, since the days of Augustine and Aquinas. Who were the first formidable
* Inquiry into Free Will. part IV. c. 7. * Deinonstration of the Being and Attributes of God, &c.