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Proposition IV - George Turnbull, The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 2: Christian Philosophy 
The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 2: Christian Philosophy, ed. and with an Introduction by Alexander Broadie (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005).
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The providence of God always works agreeably to, or consistently with the liberty of moral agents.
The doctrine of predestination having been often shewn to have no foundation in holy writ, and to be utterly<193> subversive of all morality and religion: and the doctrine of fore-knowledge having been proved not to be inconsistent with free-agency, I shall only here briefly take notice what it is in which the holy scripture places moral liberty, and what it, as such, includes in it, or necessarily presupposes.
I. According to the scripture,a The man who is not governed by reason, but by caprice, humour, fancy, or appetite, is unable to controul his desires, or never exercises the power and authority of his reason to examine them, and keep them within reasonable and becoming bounds, is a slave, in bondage, or a stranger to moral freedom. It describes the miserable slavery of such persons by many excellent ways of expression: telling us, they areb servants of sin: servants to uncleanness and to iniquity, and servants of corruption. That they cannot cease from sin: that sin hath dominion over them, and reigns in their mortal bodies, while they obey it in the lusts thereof. That though in their mind they cannot choose but approve the laws of God clearly pointed out to them by their make and frame, and therefore the law of their nature, yet they feel another law in their members warring against the law of their mind, and bringing them into captivity to the law of sin; so that they cannot do the things that they would, or that they approve. That which they do, they allow not; for what they would, that they do not; but what they hate, that they do. All which is comprised in one expressive word afterwards. They are sold under sin: that is, they have by long ill habits and corrupt practice, as it were, given up themselves, parted with their liberty, and yielded themselves absolutely<194> into the snare of the Devil (the snares of vice) to be taken captive by them at will. This phrase is twice applied in the old testament to Ahab,a that he did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord. And twice to the people of Israel; in the days of Hosea,b that they sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord: and in the days of Antiochus,c that they were sold to do mischief.
II. The true liberty of a rational agent is placed by the holy scripture in his being able to govern all his appetites, and his whole conduct, by reason, with delight and complacency. It consists therefore in a just unbyassed judgment, and in a power of acting conformably to its dictates. Man therefore, in the scripture sense, is free, when his reason hath the place or authority due to it in his mind, and gives laws to all his appetites and choices. And he is then free, because he is master of himself; his better part rules, the guiding principle within him has the power and authority which of right belongs to it, and all the parts made to be ruled by it are under proper subjection to it. He is then neither awed by base, mean, unreasonable fears, nor bribed by foolish, fantastick hopes: he is neither tumultuously hurried away by blind, rash, precipitant, unruly lusts and passions, nor imposed upon and cheated by false appearances of present good, but considers impartially, and judges soundly, and acts effectually, and with manly resolution. This is to quit ourselves like men: to act like reasonable beings. For to what other end can reason be given us: what else is its use or dignity? This, in the scripture language, is the freedom of a man, of a christian, of an angel; of every rational agent. How emphatically do the scriptures speak of it.d The law of the spirit of life<195> hath made me free, saith the apostle, from the law of sin and death; and delivered me from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Such a person is said to be dead to sin; that is, to have destroyed the power of vitious appetites,e that he should no longer live the rest of his life in the flesh, to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. He is said to live to God, and to live after the spirit. The truth is said to have made him free, and the law according to which he regulates himself is called the perfect law of liberty.a His delight is in this law, and it is his meat and his drink to do the will of God. O Lord, saith the Psalmist, I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast broken my bones asunder, and I shall walk at liberty, for I seek thy commandments.
III. Now this true moral liberty implies in it a just sense of right and wrong; a well-informed understanding; or, in one word, a clear, strong, and sound reason, able to distinguish what is fit and becoming in every circumstance. ’Tis the understanding that guides us. And therefore our Saviour says,b “The light of the body is the eye; if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness.” ’Tis therefore our principal business to take care, that this light within us be not corrupted, or even weakened, so as not to be able to serve the purpose of a guide; but that it burn strong and clear. ’Tis only a sound and just judgment of things, that can shew us clearly the right road. And therefore in the scripture language<196> it is truth that sets and maintains us free; it is truth that is the light of life: and our principal interest is to get wisdom, discretion, and a sound understanding. If we look into our mind, and consider how our affections are excited or subdued, how they are taken off from certain objects, and placed on others, we shall quickly perceive that we are influenced by our opinions and fancies. And that in order to act wisely, we must first be able to judge truly and wisely. “No man, says an excellent philosopher,23 sets himself about any thing, but upon some view or other, which serves him for a reason for what he does: and whatsoever faculties he employs, the understanding, with such light as it has, well or ill informed, constantly leads; and by that light true or false, all his operative powers are directed. The will itself, how absolute and incontroulable soever it may be thought, never fails in its obedience to the dictates of the understanding. Temples have their sacred images, and we see what influence they have always had over a great part of mankind. But in truth the ideas and images in men’s minds are the invisible powers that constantly govern them, and to these they all pay universally a ready submission. It is therefore of the highest concernment, that great care should be taken of the understanding to conduct it right in the search of knowledge, and in the judgments it makes.”
We shall have occasion to treat more fully in another place of the conduct of the understanding, and the duties of that class. Mean time, ’tis obvious from what hath been said, that nothing can be more false than to assert that men are not accountable for their understanding; for if men are not accountable for their understanding, they cannot be accountable for their actions: if it is not in their power to have sufficient light to guide them, they cannot have it in their power to direct themselves aright. ’Tis, on the contrary, properly speaking, for our understanding, that is, for<197> our right use of it that we are chiefly accountable. Or if any do not like that way of speaking, ’tis to our right or wrong conduct, in consequence of our following a right or wrong judgment of things, that we owe and must owe all the consequences that come upon us, by our conduct in this world: it is according to it we fare. And if there be another world, our fate in it must depend, in like manner as in our present temporal affairs, upon the road we take and pursue; and what is it that directs us to the road we take, good or bad, what points it out to us, or prompts us to go in it, but our opinion or judgment of things. So that whatever way we consider things, or whatever view we take of them, it is to our right or wrong understanding chiefly that we are beholden for all the consequences of our choices and pursuits.
IV. Yet, in the fourth place, in order to have freedom, inward liberty and mastership of the mind, and of all our appetites by our reason, ’tis not sufficient to have a sound and well-informed reason; but reason must actually reign in our minds, and exert its authority in governing us according to the dictates of right judgment. Now how does reason acquire or maintain this ruling and governing authority, which as naturally belongs to it, as it does to the eye to see, or the ear to hear? It must acquire it by actual practice, and maintain it in the same way. ’Tis by repeated acts that bad appetites acquire a ruling power, which does not belong to them. And it is by repeated acts that reason can alone acquire or preserve its rightful power and authority of governing. This is the consequence of the law of habits, which renders us capable of improvement to perfection. So that without such a law man would not be a free-agent; or his free-agency would be of no use to him: for without it he could never, by all his repeated labours, attain to habitual command<198> over himself, or to the power of acting habitually under, or by the direction of his reason. As this will soon appear to be the truth of the case to any person who gives the least attention to the human mind; so it is manifestly implied in the descriptions given by the sacred writings, of liberty and slavery, which have been just mentioned; and in all the commands and exhortations to govern our unruly appetites, and to act like reasonable creatures.
V. Now that it is in every man’s power to improve his understanding, and to attain to the government of his affections, passions, and actions, by his reason, by setting himself seriously to do it; and in every man’s power to set himself to do it, no man doubts while he consults his inward feeling and experience. It is only called into question by some pretended philosophers, who do it by asking questions which really have no meaning. If a created agent can be free, says a philosopher, man is certainly so, for he has all the appearance of it: he has the same consciousness as if he were; and all things are so constituted with regard to him, as if he were; for his happiness or misery, in the far greater part, are of his own procuring: almost all he suffers or enjoys is the product, the consequence of his own different pursuits; of his own conduct and behaviour. In one word, all the appearances, all the sentiments and feelings we experience, inward and outward, are owned to be appearances of freedom in man, in any conceivable sense of freedom. What therefore is doubted of, if man’s free agency be doubted of, is doubted of contrary to experience, from which alone we can learn what man is or is not, what man hath or hath not. It is therefore doubted of in opposition to that evidence, upon which we sufficiently rest in all cases, when experience is known to be the evidence that must decide. Moreover, certain absurd consequences are owned to result<199> from the contrary supposition. For it is owned that if a man allows himself to act as if he were not free, he will soon repent his folly, and return to the common rules of action, which suppose man to be a free and accountable agent. Now what is the amount of all this, but that experience, or, in a word, consciousness, far from affording us any ground of doubt about our freedom, assures us of it in such a manner, that freedom, were we possessed of it, could not otherwise make itself known to us by consciousness; and that outward experience shews the constitution of things about us to be such, as they would be if we were free; such as it is really unjust they should be, if we are not free; because that for us to act in any instance upon the supposition of our not being free, would be to involve ourselves in inextricable miseries: to act, for example, as if we were neither capable of praise or blame, good or ill desert, of reward nor punishment, &c. what madness would it be?
’Tis true, some philosophers, who assert necessity in opposition to free-agency, have endeavoured to shew, that men, though not free agents, are nevertheless capable of praise and blame, and may be justly rewarded and punished. And without examining how consistent or inconsistent with their account of necessity these assertions are, lest that should appear invidious, let me only observe, that if we are really and truly, in a proper sense, owned to be capable of praise and blame, of good and ill desert, and of reward and punishment, then must the dispute, in all practical respects, be at an end; and be indeed in speculation but a logomachy. For free-agency cannot be better described than to be “That power of acting with choice, the consciousness of which in ourselves naturally leads us to apprehend ourselves to be capable of praise and blame, good and ill desert, reward and punishment, and therefore accountable to ourselves, to<200> society, to our fellow-creatures, and to our Creator, for our conduct.” Now this liberty being owned, whatever inconsistency there may be between such an assertion, and certain ways of speaking about our freedom, the foundation of morality is safe and entire; and such ways of speaking must be classed with other inaccuracies philosophers fall into in other very important matters; philosophers who affect to depart from common language, and to subtilize into perplexing intricacies, things, in which common sense finds no difficulty at all. And indeed the consciousness of such free-agency cannot be denied, without saying that a sense of merit or demerit in ourselves or others, never apprehended but where choice and freedom is supposed, and always unavoidably apprehended in all such cases, is a mere delusion; to say which, what better is it than with the Pyrrhonists,24 to doubt of the reality of every thing, and whether we dream or are awake?
VI. But after all, what is this mighty dispute about? Is it whether we have perceptions or not? Or whether we will or not? Or whether our volitions are our own or not? Or is it whether we form judgments or not? Or whether our judgment guides us or not? Yes, they will tell us, here lies a part of it; for if our judgments necessarily determine our choices, then are our choices necessary. Now to this I answer, that experience, to which alone we can appeal, because nothing else can decide the matter, tells us, that though our choices are always guided and influenced by our opinions or judgments; yet, 1. In the first place, our opinions or judgments do not produce our choices. They act no otherwise upon us than the light or guide does, which being offered to conduct us to a place, perswades us to accept of the opportunity, and go to that place. Knowledge can produce nothing: and it is only experienced to give light, to direct and perswade. And, 2. As it is in our power to get knowledge<201> by seeking after it in a proper way, so it is in our power to remain in darkness by avoiding light and knowledge, if we choose it. And therefore, though it should be granted (contrary to all feeling and experience) that there is no difference between the last judgment of the understanding, and volition, or nolition, that is, the choice of the mind to do or forbear doing, which some have asserted, in order to secure their darling notion of necessity; yet we are still free or have power, because to be rightly informed in order to judge right, or to be in utter ignorance, is in our power. Experience tells us we must set ourselves to get knowledge in order to have it, and that by setting ourselves to get it, we may attain to it: we are sure of attaining to it in a very great degree, especially in matters of conduct, if we seek after it. But how is it the mind is experienced to set itself to get knowledge, but by an act, a firm resolution of its own will, to seek after it?
But they will not quit us here: they will reply, Must not the mind be excited to will the acquisition of knowledge by pursuit; and what excites that volition, is it not a judgment of the mind about the importance of knowledge? These volitions themselves therefore are the necessary consequences of judgments, that is, perceptions, in all which we are passive, as all philosophers own.
That we are passive in our judgments, in this sense, that we must see things as they appear to us, is owned by all philosophers; and that judgment itself is passive or can produce nothing, shall be as readily owned. But what can they conclude from all these concessions against our freedom, or our having it in our power to get knowledge, to direct us in our choices by our endeavours to get it, if we set ourselves to do it in earnest; and our having it in our power to direct our choices by our knowledge? There cannot indeed be a progress of causes, nor even of means, to infinity. That is absurd. But the way how we are excited to exert ourselves to acquire knowledge will be evident<202> to those who look into what passes in the human mind. All things about us speak out loudly to us the importance of knowledge; and nature hath not only made knowledge agreeable to the understanding, as light is to the eye; but hath likewise implanted a strong curiosity after knowledge, and an impatience under ignorance or darkness, in order to move and excite us to set ourselves seriously to get it.
What then, after all, is it that remains to be discussed in relation to this dispute about our free agency, but this single question, which is also a question of experience; namely, Whose act, exercise, or production is our volition, choice, or preference? Now to this experience plainly answers, it is our own totally: it is wholly the act, the exercise, the production of our own mind. What do they who assert that we are not free agents say? They own, and must own, that if we consult experience, it tells us so. And why then may we not, trusting to experience, rest satisfied it is so; and so put an end to a question which is plainly about a matter of fact, and inward experience. For if it is said, reason tells us the contrary; here is an opposition acknowledged between reason and experience, which if yielded, puts an end to all reasoning and all experience, as very idle foolish employment. Yet it is to reason the appeal is here made from experience, which is so far from being allowed in other matters of experience, that to speak of appealing from experience to theory, or reason not founded on experience, would be reckoned the grossest absurdity by all enquirers into nature or fact. But what are these reasons? It would be endless to trace the defenders of necessity, or the deniers of free-agency in man, through all their subtle sophistical resorts. Let it therefore suffice to take notice of their capital much boasted of argument, which I think is of that species of sophistry called, petitio principii, begging the question.25 <203>
Whatever is not produced by a cause (say they) is produced by chance, which it is absurd to suppose any thing to be. But whatever is produced by a cause, is the necessary effect of that cause which produces it. Therefore every thing that is produced is a necessary effect. From which it follows (continue they) that whatever is effected or produced in our mind, is a necessary effect: not only our ideas and affections, but our volitions, for these begin to be, or are produced, and must have a cause, and are therefore necessary effects of their cause.
This is their capital argument,a upon which I beg leave to make the few following remarks.
I. If by the maxim, whatever is produced must have a cause, be meant, that whatever is produced must have an external producer, it is the maxim of those who plead for an infinite series of external causes, and assert, that the production of all things which exist may be accounted for by that supposition.
It would be invidious to imagine that to be their meaning, since they own the existence of one supreme cause of all beings. But if that be not the meaning of the maxim, it can be no injury to their argument against liberty or free-agency to change it thus.
Whatever is produced must have a producer, but whatever is produced is the necessary effect of its producing cause; therefore whatever is produced within or without a mind, is a necessary effect.
II. Now when the argument is thus stated, it is plain, that to say whatever is produced is the necessary effect of its producing cause, is begging the conclusion it is brought to prove, if by necessary effect be meant the opposite to free production: and if by necessity<204> be meant any thing else, the argument concludes nothing at all. If by necessity be meant a production which is not free, their argument, in other words, stands thus, whatever is produced must have a producer: but nothing that is produced is a free production; or, in other words, whatever is produced is quite the contrary or opposite to free production. Therefore, nothing produced within or without a mind is a free production, but is a necessary effect in a sense destructive of free production, or free agency. And who does not see that this is to beg what is to be proved, viz. That there is no free agency, no free production? That to reason thus is to beg the question about our free-agency is plain; for if it proves any thing, it proves that the volitions of the divine mind are not free actions, exertions, or productions of its activity. And yet they are either free actions; or motives, i.e. judgments must have a physical productive power (which none will assert) for they have no external producer. They therefore who reason thus, can bring forth no conclusion from their reasoning, till they have shewed what none of them have yet attempted to do, that free production or action is a contradiction: for sure it is not sufficient to prove it to be so, merely to assert, that whatever is produced must be necessary; while in reality, for all they say about it in their definitions,a that assertion amounts to no more than to say, whatever is produced must be unfree, which is plainly begging the question.
III. But if by necessity they mean any thing else but what is expressed by the words unfree or not free, what is it they mean? Surely, they cannot merely mean by it power sufficient to produce its production; for then their argument would be a mere paralogism, amounting to this, whatever is produced, is produced by a sufficient producer. But whatever is<205> produced, is produced by sufficient power to produce it; therefore, whatever is produced within or without a mind, is produced by sufficient power to produce it; of which nobody will say any thing, but that it is an idle unmeaning repetition of the same proposition three times. And if by necessity they mean power between the exertion of which to produce something, and the actual production of that something, there is such a connexion as cannot but take place; or to suppose which not to take place, is a contradiction. That there must be somewhere in nature such power, will be readily granted; for were there not in nature some such power, all power would be derived from nothing. But doth it follow from that single consideration that no exertions of power are free? Does it follow that the exertions of creating power are not free? Or does it follow that by such power minds may not be produced, which though productions by their volitions be effected in consequence of a connexion established between them and their volitions by the power which created them, and gave them their sphere of derived power or dominion; yet their volitions are the free actions of their own minds, in consequence of their having had conferred upon them by their author the active power, will, the only faculty or power that can be called active, and a power which cannot be active or called so without being at the same time free, and called so; free and active being really but synonymous words? To prove that something else must be advanced besides, that there is and must be necessity some where in nature, meaning by necessity, underived power, between the productions of which, and its exertions to produce them, there is a necessary connexion, or a connexion, the non-existence of which is a contradiction. For that it does not follow from that single consideration will be plain, when taking necessity in the meaning above defined, the argument is stated thus.<206>
“There must be somewhere in nature a power, between the productions of which and its exertions to produce them there is a necessary connexion; but whatever is produced by such power, within or without a mind, is not active or free, but necessary, that is, unfree or unactive. Therefore nothing in our mind is active or free.” Now when the argument is thus stated, who does not immediately see that the thing to be proved is begged? viz. That underived power cannot produce an active mind, whose volitions are its own, not produced in it by an external cause, but its own efforts or exertions. It follows indeed from the maxim, that whatever active being begins to exist, is created by underived power of the kind defined. But does it follow from that maxim, that underived power cannot communicate the power of willing? Or that it can produce no being that is active; nothing, in one word, distinct from passive impressions; such as our sensible ideas, for instance, are felt and universally acknowledged to be. None of these consequences follow, at least without some other intermediate steps which I have not yet seen offered by any writer for necessity. And far less then does it follow from hence, without some other intermediate steps, that if an active being can be created, its volitions will not be its own volitions, its own efforts, totally its own acts. But it is really to no purpose to dwell longer on such an idle dispute.a
Let us keep to experience in all natural and in all moral enquiries, which are all of them equally about matters of fact. And if we do so in this question, it must soon be determined, for we all know, we all feel, we are free agents, and that praise or blame is due to us for our conduct, when we are free from external restraint or compulsion: that it is in our power to get knowledge to direct us in the way wherein we<207> ought to walk; and having got knowledge, it is in our power to choose and walk in the right path. This is matter of experience. And the scripture treats us as such free beings, with a certain moral sphere of activity, and tells us, that our happiness for ever depends upon our conduct; for every one shall reap the fruit of his doings: and that the governor of the world in all his dispensations, preserves our liberty free and unencroached upon; or acts with us, and toward us, always as free agents. Whatever assistances we may have in the course of providence for doing good; or whatever temptations to do evil; the good we do is our own doing, and the evil we do is our own doing; and it shall finally be rendered unto every man according to what he hath done, whether it hath been good or bad, with such allowances for different circumstances, not only as justice obliges to make; but, which is more, with all the allowances that mercy can make consistently with the great purpose of providence, universal good, and the unchangeable nature of moral rectitude; the unalterable moral differences of things.
This is the substance of the scripture doctrine concerning divine providence, with which reason and experience exactly agree. And hence arises this plain consequence.
From the proceeding accounts of divine providence, it plainly follows, that all is conducted by infinite wisdom, goodness, veracity, faithfulness and mercy: all therefore is right or perfect. But how is it right or perfect?
I. Not in such a sense, as if by the corruptions of mankind several miseries were not introduced into the world, without which it would be a much happier, a much better, and more perfect state; but because the<208> general laws by which all is governed, and whence proceed all the consequences of corruption among mankind, are excellent, are perfect, and cannot be changed but to the worse; being the choice of infinite wisdom and mercy, because they are the best. In a moral government, the consequences of vice and corruption must be very different from those of virtue. But consequences of all sorts in our system are the effects of general laws, admirably calculated for the best, and by the observance of which the greater good in the whole will be effectually accomplished. The government of the world is perfect, because all the powers, and all the consequences of all the powers, and laws of powers belonging to it, are such as they ought to be in order to greater good, the sole end of an infinitely wise and good being in all his administration. Yet after all,
II. Let it be remembered, that when all that is, is said to be perfect and right, it is only said to be so as a part of an excellent or perfect whole, carried on by providence for the greater good in the sum of things. All is perfect, considered as a part of an advancing scheme, which is absolutely good. But considered as a whole ending with this life of man, it is not then perfect, but very imperfect. And therefore it cannot end in that manner; but it must be only a part that hath a much further respect even to an immortal life to come. The work, the contrivance of an infinitely perfect being must be perfect; and upon supposition, that this life is not the whole of providence with regard to man, but a part only, as it plainly appears to be, we can sufficiently account for every thing. What therefore remains to be concluded, but as instinct or natural hope prompts us to expect, and as the scripture fully assures us, “that this is not the whole of our existence, the whole of providence with regard to us, but a part, a very small part only.” There must be, in the nature of things, a very great difference between<209> a part of a whole considered as a part, and considered as a whole; What, in the later sense or view, would be very imperfect, very incomplete, nay, very bad, may, in the other sense or view, be very perfect and good. Now as the arguments à priori, which prove a divine providence over-ruling all, plainly lead to this consequence, that the present state cannot be the whole, but only a part of an excellent whole, which is gradually advancing: so if we abstract from all those arguments, and confine ourselves merely to what we see of things, and argue only à posteriori, it is plain, that our present state hath no appearance of a whole, but, on the contrary, hath all the appearances or signs of its being but a part; and if we consider it as a part, it hath all the evidences and signs of a well administered part, so far especially as virtue, or the improvement of moral beings, are concerned. It must therefore be such a well governed part of an excellent whole, if we can at all reason from analogy; for whence can we conclude good order in the whole, but from what we see of good and wise government? And what else can we infer from thence, but the continuance of perfectly good order for ever, or throughout the whole?
III. This is the doctrine of experience, of reason and revelation; and hence we may easily see what we ought to think of what the scripture says of evils and miseries introduced into the world by means of sin and corruption; while at the same time all is affirmed to be good, as all the parts of the government of an infinitely wise and good being must be: as, for instance, of the deluge, whether universal or partial, whether the effect of a comet, or of whatever other cause, (for all which enquiries the ways of speaking about it in scripture leave sufficient latitude;) for it and every event must be the effect of good general laws; the universe being so governed. Upon the whole therefore, from the beginning, order hath been kept in nature,<210> and also in man. And therefore tho’ the apostle not only groans, but represents all good men, nay, the whole creation, as groaning for the immortality which is to succeed this state;a yet he expressly asserts, that even in this present state all things work together for the good of the pious and virtuous; and that present miseries are, in a great measure, the effects of the corruption of mankind; so that whatever obscurity there may be in some particular phrases in these parallel passages, they in general amount to no more than what may be said of an architect, or master of a house, who, tho’ he longs earnestly to have the building finished, and to be free from all the evils and incumbrances which attend the carrying on of his scheme, is however highly pleased with the foundation that is laid, and the work so far as it is advanced; and is only earnest to have it compleated, that he may enjoy all the pleasures and advantages of it: or, more properly still, of a founder of a state, who rejoicing in the hopes of compleating at last his noble scheme, bears patiently with all the evils and hardships attending the laying the first foundation, and yet earnestly longs for the completion of it, and the happiness that will then accrue to him, and all the members of that state.
This Corolary is necessary to prevent mistakes, and clear up the true sense in which the present unfinished state of things may be properly called a perfectly good part of providence. It is such, because it is a proper part of a perfectly good whole; or is such a part as plainly manifests, that the whole which is carried on is good, being governed by excellent general laws, which produce the greater good in the whole.
Now all this being very obvious from what hath been said, may it not be inferred,<211>
That the highest love, praise and adoration, must be due by all moral beings to the supreme infinitely perfect Creator and Ruler of the universe; by man in particular? Every character, in proportion to its perfection, naturally raises our esteem, love and praise. And what then must be due to a character infinitely perfect, upon whom we absolutely depend, the author of all things? Can we believe there is such a being, and not take pleasure in meditating upon his perfections; or not think it our duty frequently to meditate upon them? And can we contemplate them without feeling the warmest motions of love and adoration towards him? Meditation upon his perfections will naturally excite love and adoration, and love and adoration will naturally excite earnest desires and endeavours to imitate such a perfect character, and become like to it. Meditation on God will naturally produce praise and resignation to his all-perfect will, and the most serious longings after greater and greater conformity to his amiable, beautiful, perfect image, in order to have the most comfortable inward consciousness of being acceptable and agreeable to him; the object of his favour and delight. And in those acts of the mind, which must be in themselves exceeding pleasant, and have a very happy influence upon the temper, doth the holy scripture place devotion, praise and prayer. This is evident, if we attend to the acts of devotion recorded in the scriptures, many of which have been already quoted; and to the many exhortations to maintain and keep alive upon our minds, a strong sense of the divine perfections, and of our dependence upon God, and the infinite obligations we are under to him; the many exhortations to pray without ceasing, and to rejoice in God evermore.a And indeed an habitually pious<212> regard to God, consisting in love and resignation, can only be produced or preserved by frequent meditation on God, and the repeated acts of praise, and resignation, and prayer, to which meditation naturally leads. But not to insist long on this subject, three things are very evident from that excellent pattern, or model of devotion, or prayer recommended to us by our Saviour. 1. That we ought to praise God with the most serious warm affection. 2. That we ought to resign ourselves, with respect to all external events independent of our own foresight and care, to his all-perfect will, which ordereth and disposeth every thing to the best. 3. That we ought to indulge ourselves in acts of benevolence towards all men; in acts of forgiveness to our enemies, under the serious perswasion of God’s readiness to forgive the penitent, and of the need we stand in of his patience, forbearance, and tender mercy: and in asking or breathing after more perfect virtue, to ask which is indeed to have.a
This is plainly the meaning of our Lord’s prayer, as it is commonly called; for if we attend to what is said in scripture of God’s glory, more especially manifested in the government of higher orders of moral beings; or in the heavens: to what is meant in holy writ by his kingdom; namely, the advancement of piety, righteousness and virtue in the world;b and to what is called there the bread of life, namely, the doctrine of eternal life. If we attend to all these things, and to the general tenor and genius of scripture language, this will be found to be a just paraphrase upon it. Our Father which art in heaven. O Lord, whose supreme excellency and glory appears more and more illustriously in the government of moral beings, in proportion as they approach nearer to thee in power and perfection; thou art also our Father, the Father of mankind; we also all are the object<213> of thy care; thou art not unmindful of us, for tho’ thou hast made us lower than the angels, yet thou hast crowned us with glory and honour, and given us a very noble dominion; for we are capable of knowing thee, loving thee, and imitating thee, and of growing in happiness, as we advance in conformity to thy moral rectitude, and become more like to thee, are more desired of thee, and delighted in by thee. Hallowed be thy name. O let all beings capable of understanding thy infinite perfection, and magnifying thee, praise and exalt thy infinitely pure and holy name, for all power is derived from thee, natural or moral; and all the inanimate things by obeying the infinitely good laws thou hast appointed to regulate their motions, do shew forth thy praise, the infinite excellency of thy nature, and that perfection which all moral beings ought to love, cannot but love and adore while they meditate upon it, and ought to imitate in order to the attainment of their proper perfection and happiness, and the sense of thy love and approbation, to which no other enjoyment bears any proportion. Let angels, and archangels, men, and all rational beings, reverence, adore, and hallow thy wonderful character and name, and purify and sanctify themselves, as thou art pure and holy. Let thy kingdom come. O may the righteousness, the benevolence, the purity, the virtue, in which thou delightest, and for advancing in which all moral beings are made, and well fitted and qualified by thee, each order of them in its sphere, encrease and spread, that the world of rational beings may be such as thou made and intended them to be, such as it is in their power to be, and such as thou wouldst rejoice to behold them. Let thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven. O that men were such, that so thy will might be done in earth their habitation, as it is done amongst the higher orders of celestial beings, who perfectly obey thy will, and are perfectly happy in so doing. Give us this day our daily bread. We were made by thee, we are preserved by thee, and from thee we receive every thing that we enjoy:<214> O may a sense of our dependence upon thee, and of our infinite obligations to thy bounty, be ever present with us, that we may walk humbly and piously with thee; and receive from thy hand whatever comes to us as of thy ordering; as the bread fittest for us, as the food most convenient for us. Let us ever remember what we are, and that the nourishment of our spiritual part in virtue is the chief thing that concerns us; the bread of life to our souls; that thus we may make the best use of every event that befals us, which we could neither foresee nor prevent, for the advancement in us of those divine qualities, which are our chief excellence, and from which alone true happiness can accrue to us. Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. O how far short do we every day fall of our duty, and of the improvements we might have made in virtue; but thou, O Lord, art full of mercy and compassion, and will graciously forgive the infirmities and weaknesses of men, who are seriously pious and virtuous, who have the root of true virtue in them, and who, tho’ they are not indulgent to their own faults and miscarriages, yet are very tender and compassionate toward their fellow-creatures, and very ready to forgive them; ready, as all who study to be like God must be, to bless them who hurt them, to heap coals of fire on the heads of their enemies, who use them wrongfully and despitefully, and to overcome evil by good. Without this right temper of mind, it would be the most wicked arrogance to hope to share of thy mercy; for to such only can the compassion of the holy God, who hateth iniquity, extend. But having this temper, and an earnest desire to improve in it, we have confidence towards God, who, like a tender Father, pitieth his children, and generously remembreth that they are but here in a state of trial and probation, for the improvement of the faculties and dispositions thou hast implanted in them, to perfection. Lead us not into temptation: but deliver us from evil.<215> Let us remember the great end of events with respect to us in this our first state of trial; or the use we ought to make of them, that they may not tempt us to sin; that neither prosperity nor adversity may ever seduce us from our duty, but that we may look upon them both as means for our building ourselves up in holiness by our right use of them. The world is full of snares and temptations; so thou hast thought proper it should be. And indeed such must a state for acquiring virtue be. Let it be to us, not a state of temptation to sin, but of education in virtue, by our proper use of every thing that befals us. This is the earnest desire of our souls, under the sense of thy perfection who ruleth over all; whose kingdom the world is, and to whom as belongeth all power, so is due from thy rational creatures all honour and glory for ever. Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory. Now, that the mind must be much improved by such exercises, is evident at first sight: and will fully appear, when we come to consider more particularly the doctrine of the scripture concerning virtue, and its agreeableness with reason.
The scripture doctrine concerning virtue and vice, and its agreeableness to reason and experience.
[a. ]Dr. Sam. Clark’s Sermons. [The passage is part quotation from, and part paraphrase of, a portion of Clarke’s sermon 35, in Works, 1:215–22.
[b. ]John viii. 34. Rom. vi. 19. 2 Peter ii. 19. Rom. vi. 14. vii. 2. Gal. v. 17.
[a. ]1 Kings xxi. 20, 25.
[b. ]2 Kings xvii. 17.
[c. ]1 Maccab. i. 16.
[d. ]Rom. viii. 2, 21.
[e. ]Rom. vi. 7. 1 Peter iv. 1, 2. James i. 25.
[a. ]Ps. i. 2. John iv. 34. viii. 32. Ps. cxvi. 16.
[b. ]Matt. vi. 22, 23.
[23. ]Locke, Of the Conduct of the Understanding §1, in his Some Thoughts Concerning Education; and, Of the Conduct of the Understanding, edited by Ruth W. Grant and Nathan Tarcov (Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett, 1996).
[24. ]Pyrrhonists were followers of the Greek skeptical philosopher Pyrrho of Elis (ca. 365–270 bc).
[25. ]Petitio principii is the fallacy of “begging the question”; that is, using as a premise the proposition that is to be proved.
[a. ]See a philosophical enquiry concerning liberty and necessity. [Thomas Hobbes, Of Liberty and Necessity (1654).]
[a. ]The writers for necessity never give any other definition of necessity, but that it is the opposite to freedom.
[a. ]After all freedom properly belongs to the agent, and not to the faculty of willing, and it signifies to have power.
[a. ]Rom. viii. 20, &c. 2 Cor. iv. 17, &c.
[a. ]Luke xxi. 36. Rom. xii. 12. Phil. iv. 6. Col. iv. 2, 3. 1 Peter iv. 7. 1 Thess. v. 17. 1 Peter i. 17.
[a. ]1 Kings iii. Matth. vii. 7, &c. Luke xi. 9, &c. James i. 5, &c. iv. 2, 3.
[b. ]John vi. 27, 33, 35, 51. Matth. iv. 4.