Front Page Titles (by Subject) appendix i Containing the Substance of a Pamphlet Wrote in Defence of the Third Essay 1 - Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion
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appendix i Containing the Substance of a Pamphlet Wrote in Defence of the Third Essay 1 - Henry Home, Lord Kames, Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion 
Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion, Corrected and Improved, in a Third Edition. Several Essays Added Concerning the Proof of a Deity, Edited and with an Introduction by Mary Catherine Moran (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005).
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With respect to liberty and necessity, our author’s doctrine may be comprised under the following heads. 1. That man is a rational being endued with liberty. 2. That his liberty consists in acting voluntarily, or according to his inclination and choice. 3. That his will is necessarily, that is infallibly and certainly, determined by motives; or, in the style of the schools, voluntas necessario sequitur ultimum judicium intellectus practici. 4. That, consequently, liberty of in difference, or an arbitrary power of acting without or against motives, is no part of human nature. 5. That though human actions proceed in a fixed train, this is owing to no blind fate, but to the predestination or decree of God, who is the first cause of all things.
Concerning these points, philosophers and divines may differ in opinion, and each side will impute error to the other; but, that by any of the church of Scotland such opinions should be censured as unsound or heterodox, shows great ignorance, considering that they are espoused by our first great reformers, and inculcated in all the most noted systems of theology, composed by calvinist divines and taught in our universities. With us it is a fundamental principle, That God from all eternity hath fore ordained whatever comes to pass; that all events are immutably and necessarily fixed by the decree of God, and cannot happen in any other way than he hath predetermined. The most orthodox divines agree with our author, not only in his doctrine of necessity as founded on the decree of God; but like ways in distinguishing moral necessity which effects the mind only, from physical necessity which affects the body only; and they acquiesce in his explanation of moral necessity as produced by the operation of motives on the will. They hold with him, that liberty is opposed, not to necessity, but to constraint; that it consists not in indifference, but in spontaneity, or lubentia rationalis;2 and that the will necessarily follows the last judgment of the understanding. They show, that none of the consequences follow that are endeavoured to be laid upon our author; but that virtue and vice, rewards and punishments, are consistent with a necessity of this sort. Thus, for instance, the great Calvin reasons in the following manner,
Seeing we have often mentioned the distinction betwixt necessity and constraint, upon which this whole controversy turns, we must now explain it a little more accurately. They who defend free will in opposition to divine grace, maintain, that there can be neither virtue nor vice where there is necessity. We answer, That God is necessarily good; and that his goodness though necessary is not upon that account the less worthy of praise. Again, that the devil is necessarily wicked; and yet his wickedness is not the less criminal. Nor is this any invention of ours; for in the same manner St. Augustine and St. Bernard reason.———Our adversaries insist, That what is voluntary, cannot at the same time be necessary. We shew them, that both these qualities are found in the goodness of God. They pretend it to be absurd, that men should be blamed for actions they must unavoidably perform. By the instance above given, we show, that there is in this no absurdity.———They object again, That unless virtue and vice proceed from a free choice, according to their sense of freedom, there can be no reason either for inflicting punishments, or bestowing rewards. As to punishments, I answer, That they are justly inflicted on those who commit evil; because it makes no difference, whether their choice was free, i.e. arbitrary, or whether they were under the influence of bad motives; provided only they were voluntary in their guilt.———As to rewards there is certainly no absurdity in our saying, that these are bestowed rather according to the goodness of God, than the merit of men.
Calvin. Tractat. Theolog. p. 152. edit. Amstelod. 1667.3
The learned Francis Turretine, Professor in Geneva, whose authority as an orthodox divine will be allowed to be of the greatest weight, examines this question fully in his Institut. Theolog. under the head de Libero Arbitrio, vol. 1. p. 728. to 737. and maintains the same doctrine with our author.4 He represents it as the capital and fundamental heresy of the Pelagians and Arminians, that they hold liberty to consist in indifference, not in spontaneity; and that they maintain every kind of necessity to be inconsistent with liberty. With great accuracy and strength of reason, he considers the several kinds of necessity. He shows, that two of them, coaction, and physical necessity arising from the laws of matter, are destructive of liberty. But that rational or moral necessity, which arises from the constitution of the mind as necessarily determined by motives, and the necessity which arises from the divine decree, are perfectly consistent with liberty in its orthodox sense. He removes the objection against this doctrine of its making man a mere machine; and, much in the same manner with our author, shows, that upon the Arminian liberty of indifference, or an arbitrary power of counteracting all motives, man would be a most irrational and unaccountable being, to whom argument and reasoning, precept and command, would be addressed in vain. The following are his words, (p. 566. vol. 1.),
There are only two kinds of necessity which are inconsistent with liberty; physical necessity, and the necessity of constraint. The other kinds of necessity, which arise either from the decree or influence of God, or from the object itself and the last judgment of the understanding, are so far from over throwing liberty, that they rather establish it; because they do not constrain the will, but persuade it; and produce a voluntary choice in one that was before unwilling. For whatever a man does according to his inclination, with judgment and understanding and with the full consent of his will, it is impossible but he must do freely, although in another sense he does it necessarily. This holds, from whatever quarter we suppose the necessity laid upon him to arise; whether it be from the existence of the thing itself, or from the motive effectually determining his will, or from the decree and concourse of the first cause.
Benedict Pictet, Turretine’s successor in the chair of Geneva, and acknowledged in the universities of this country as an author of the soundest principles, establishes the same doctrine in so clear a manner, as that words cannot be more precise and express.
Before we discourse of free will we must explain the meaning of the term. By free will we understand nothing else, but a power of doing what we please, with judgment and understanding, without any external compulsion. To this free will two things are opposed. First, physical or natural necessity; such as we see in inanimate beings; for instance, the necessity by which fire burns. Next, the necessity of constraint; which arises from external violence, imposed against the inclination of him who suffers it; as when a man is hurried to prison, or to an idol-temple. But we must not oppose to free will that necessity of dependence on God which all creatures lie under, and from which no rational being can be exempted; nor that rational necessity which arises from the last judgment of the understanding; as when I necessarily chuse that which appears to me best; for my choice, though necessary, is notwithstanding free. Wherefore, all that is requisite to freedom is, that one should act spontaneously, and with understanding: which clearly follows from this, that God is the freest of all beings, and yet he is necessarily determined to good. The same holds of saints and angels. Liberty therefore does not consist in indifference: for if so, God would not be a free being; and the more man was determined to good, or the more perfect he was, the less liberty he would enjoy; which is absurd. This is further confirmed by the following reasoning. We all chuse what appears to us our chief good or happiness with entire liberty: for who is not hearty and voluntary in such choice? Yet to this choice we are determined by a strong and irresistible necessity: for no man has any freedom of indifference in this case. No man can wish himself miserable, or can chuse evil as such. Liberty therefore by no means consists in indifference.
Theolog. Christ. l. 4. cap. 6. § 4.5
Of the modern Calvinist writers who agree with our author, we shall give one example, the Reverend Mr. Jonathan Edwards minister of Stock-bridge in New England, in his late treatise, intitled, A careful and strict inquiry into the modern prevailing notions of that freedom of will which is supposed to be essential to moral agency, virtue and vice, reward and punishment, praise and blame. Published at Boston 1754.6 The piety and orthodoxy of this author, it is presumed, none but Arminians will adventure to call in question. Nothing can be better calculated than this book to answer all the objections against our author’s doctrine of moral necessity, to shew its consistency with reason and scripture, and the injustice of ascribing to it any bad tendency. To quote particular passages is unnecessary; for the whole book, from beginning to end, is one continued chain of argumentation in favour of this doctrine. He every where holds and maintains,
That the will is in every case necessarily determined by the strongest motives, and that this moral necessity (p. 24.) may be as absolute as natural necessity; that is, that a moral effect may be as perfectly connected with its moral cause, as a natural effect is with its natural cause.
For, says he, (p. 22.), “The difference between these two does not lie so much in the nature of the connection, as in the two terms connected.” He rejects the notion of liberty, as implying any self-determining power in the will, any indifference or contingency, p. 29.; and shews in several chapters, p. 135.-192. that those notions of liberty which the Arminians hold, are so far from being necessary to accountableness, to virtue or vice, to praise or blame, that, on the contrary, they are inconsistent with virtue, which must always suppose the determining power of motives.
He examines the passages of scripture that relate to this doctrine. He shews, that the acts of the will of the human soul of Christ were necessarily holy, yet virtuous, praise-worthy, and rewardable. He answers the objection to this doctrine of its making God the author of sin, exactly in the same way with our author, by distinguishing between the intention of God and the intention of the sinner.
Though no man, who either knows the character of this author or peruses his book, can entertain the least doubt of his zeal for religion; yet it appears, that in New England as well as elsewhere, the worthiest persons are liable to be calumniated and traduced. For Mr. Edwards, when concluding his book, observes (p. 285.)
It is not unlikely that some who value themselves on the supposed rational principles of modern fashionable divinity, will have their indignation raised at the subject of this discourse, and will renew the usual exclamations about the fate of the Heathens, Hobbes’s necessity, and making men mere machines; accumulating the terrible epithets of fatal, inevitable, irresistible, and it may be with the addition of horrid and blasphemous; and perhaps much skill may be used, to set the things which have been said in colours which shall be shocking to the imagination, and moving to the passions of those who have either too little capacity, or too much confidence of the opinions they have imbibed, and contempt of the contrary, to try the matter by any serious and circumspect examination; or some particular things may be picked out, which they think will sound harshest in the ears of the generality; and these may be glossed and descanted on with tart and contemptuous words, and from thence the whole treated with triumph and insult.
How unbecoming and indecent, such methods are, and how unlike the conduct of a fair and impartial inquirer after truth, the Reverend author fully shews; nor can I entertain any doubt that my readers will join with him in condemning such a spirit.
To relieve myself a little from the languid uniformity of a continued defence, I will upon this single occasion change hands, and try my fortune in making an attack. Let us approach a little nearer to this liberty of indifference, which in late times has become so mighty a favourite even with some who would be thought Calvinists, and let us examine whether it will bear a narrow inspection. Perhaps upon a cool survey, it will be found a favourite not worthy to be contended for. Liberty of indifference in chusing betwixt two things of equal importance, is abundantly palatable, and may pass without objection. But liberty of indifference is not confined to cases of this nature. It is asserted of man, that he has a power to will and act, without having any reason or motive whatever to influence his will. A thing still more extraordinary is asserted with equal assurance, that man has a power to will and act, not only without motives, but in direct contradiction to the strongest motives that can influence the mind. It might well be urged, that this doctrine is a bold attack upon the common sense of mankind; and not the less bold, that it is taken for granted without the least evidence, or so much as a single experiment to support it. Such a being there may possibly be as is described; but every man who has not a cause to defend, will bear witness that this is not his case. I venture to affirm, that when the proper questions are put to any plain man who is ignorant of the controversy, his answers to every one of them will be repugnant to liberty of indifference as above explained. But waving this consideration at present, my attack shall be made from a different quarter, by examining the consequences of such a power, supposing it for argument’s sake to be inherent in man. In the essay upon liberty and necessity, it is inculcated at full length, that man endued with this power would be an absurd and unaccountable being: he could not be relied on: oaths and engagements would be but brittle ties; and therefore he would be quite unqualified for the social life. I add, that this power, which is imagined to exist in man in order to bestow on him the greater self-command, has in reality the contrary effect. At the instant perhaps of willing or acting, man, upon this supposition, must have a sway over himself, altogether arbitrary: but then, no measures adjusted before hand, not even the most prudent and sagacious, can have any influence: all may be overturned, no person can say why, at the instant of beginning action. The very moment before, no man can say what he will choose, or how he will act. It is evident from the nature of the thing, that even the Deity can have no foresight of actions that are altogether arbitrary, and independent of all connections internal or external.
I make a second attack, different from the former. I consider man as acting in the great theatre of the world, in which all things are governed by the providence of an almighty Being. As it appears to me, the directing influence of providence, is altogether excluded from human actions by this supposed liberty of indifference. The operations of matter are governed by steady laws, and thereby contribute unerringly to the great designs of providence. But to what rule can the actions of men be subjected, which are supposed to be altogether arbitrary, and under no control? They cannot be under the direction of the Deity; for that supposition effectually annihilates liberty of indifference. The influence of the Deity must be superior to all other motives in determining the will; and consequently, must have the effect to make man a necessary agent in the sense of moral necessity. Man then, by this supposed power, is withdrawn from under the government of providence, and left at large to the most bizarre and most absurd course of action, independent of motives from good or ill, independent of reason, and independent of every view, purpose, or end. Here is chance clearly introduced in its most ugly form, so far as human actions can have an influence. This displays a dismal scene, sufficient to raise horror in every one who has feeling. After this, let not the Arminians cry out against blind fatality; a very uncomfortable doctrine indeed. But is blind fatality worse than blind chance? Could I possibly be convinced of either, I should dread the falling into despair, and the being tempted to deny the being of a God.
But enough of this dismal scene. I return to a thought occasionally thrown out above, that liberty of indifference is an imaginary scheme, unsupported by facts, and of which no man was ever conscious. This leads me to say, that it never was embraced seriously in its true import by any man; not even by the most zealous Arminian. Those who espouse this doctrine, do certainly take up with words, neglecting to examine things as they truly are: for what man of plain sense ever imagined, that he can resolve and will, without being prompted by any consideration, good or bad, and without having any end or purpose in view? When a man acts, it is expected that he can say, what moves him. If he can give no account, every one considers him as a changeling or madman. As a consequence from this, I venture further to say, that the doctrine of moral necessity is that which is universally embraced by men of plain sense, whose minds are not warped by the tenets of a sect. This doctrine, I say, is universally embraced; though not carried its utmost length, nor seen in its full extent, except by the studious and contemplative. With regard to acting, every man indeed conceives himself to be free; because he is conscious that he acts voluntarily, and according to his own choice. He is however at the same time conscious, that he has not the power of chusing or willing arbitrarily or indifferently: his will is regulated by desire, which he is sensible is not under his arbitrary power. And if this be once admitted, the chain of moral necessity is established. For no plain man, at the time of the action, entertains the least doubt, that his will is influenced by desire; which puts a final end to liberty of indifference.
In the foregoing light to me appears unavoidably the celebrated doctrine of liberty of indifference: and when such is my conviction, I can as little avoid thinking that the author of the Essays has done well in contributing to banish the Arminian doctrine out of our Church. It is my serious opinion, that to embrace it with all its necessary consequences, is in effect introducing into this world, blind chance, confusion, and anarchy; which are the high road to Atheism. Far be it however from my thoughts, to accuse Arminians of Atheism, or of irreligion in any degree. I am sensible, that the Arminian doctrine has been and is espoused by many good and pious men. But this I must take the liberty to affirm, that these men stop short at the threshold, without pushing their way forward to behold the ugly appearances within doors. These appearances are now laid open to them. If the doctrine can be moulded into some new shape, to make it square with religion and morality, such improvement must be agreeable to every well-disposed mind, because of the comfort it will afford to those who adhere to liberty of indifference. But, without pretending to the gift of prophecy, I venture to fortel, that it will be extremely difficult to stop any where short of moral necessity; and that any solid reformation of the Arminian doctrine, must infallibly lead to the principles of Calvin, and of our other reformers.
[1. ]The pamphlet to which Kames refers was entitled Objections against the Essays on Morality and Natural Religion Examined (1756), written in response to a flurry of pamphlets condemning the first edition of the Essays as the work of a dangerous heretic.
[2. ]Rational spontaneity.
[3. ]First published as Jean Calvin, Tract. Theolog. & Comment. (Geneva, 1576). For a more accessible version of this argument, see Institutes of the Christian Religion in Two Volumes, ed. John T. McNeill (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), vol. 1, II.iii.5, “Man sins of necessity but without compulsion,” pp. 295–6.
[4. ]Franc¸ois Turrettini (1623–1687), Institutio theologiae elencticae, 3 vols. (Geneva, 1679–1685).
[5. ]Benedict Pictet (1655–1724), Theologia Christiana, 2 vols. (Geneva, 1696).
[6. ]Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758), A Careful and Strict Inquiry into the Modern Prevailing Notions of That Freedom of Will, Which Is Supposed to Be Essentialto Moral Agency, Virtue and Vice, Reward and Punishment, Praise and Blame (Boston, 1754; London, 1762). Though Kames had initially hoped that his views would be supported by the American Calvinist minister, Edwards saw the matter very differently. In a letter to the Glasgow minister John Ervine, Edwards insisted that “it must be evidencet to every one, who has read both his Essay and my Inquiry, that our schemes are exceedingly different from each other.” Edwards attached this letter to later editions of his Inquiry as an appendix entitled “Remarks on the Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion, in a Letter to a minister of the Church of Scotland.”