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PROVIDENCE AND NECESSITY WITH FREE-WILL.
“Though God is a most perfect free-Agent, yet He cannot but do what is best and wisest in the whole. The reason is evident; because perfect wisdom and goodness are as steady and certain principles of action, as Necessity itself; and an infinitely wise and good Being, indued with the most perfect liberty, can no more choose to act in contradiction to wisdom and goodness, than a necessary agent can act contrary to the Necessity by which it is acted; it being as great an absurdity and impossibility in choice, for Infinite Wisdom to choose to act unwisely, or Infinite Goodness to choose what is not good, as it would be in nature, for absolute Necessity to fail of producing its necessary effect. It is the beauty of this Necessity that it is strong as fate itself, with all the advantage of reason and goodness.” Clark's Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God.
Philosophically speaking, there is no such thing as free-will; practically speaking, there is.” — Dr. Hartley.
WE come now to the consideration which has perplexed the minds of men in all ages, and which will explain, in part, the existence of the aforesaid confusion. The resort to Philosophical Necessity has ever been the short and compendious way of relief from the whole burden which presses so heavily upon
the mind. But is there any such thing? And if so, does not this at once deny free-will, and remove God from the universe ? Or, at least, does it not merge God, and man, and nature, into one indistinguishable system of inevitability, and throw us back to inexorable Fate? We reply, there is such a thing as universal and inevitable necessity; but this does not deny freewill, nor remove God from the universe, nor merge the whole of being into indistinguishable fatality. There is a great dis
tinction to be made between the destiny of blind, unintelligent fate, and that which is made so by the certain operation of the laws of a personal God. In the one case, a man has a loving Father to look to, whom he knows has consulted his highest good in every thing, — who, by will, and design, and mental calculation, has done it; in the other, he has nothing to contemplate but blind, unconscious laws, and he is the sport of these cold laws forever. These may indeed, must, from their very necessity and fixedness, insure him a destiny undisturbed by any chance, or fluctuation of interfering evil, but they do not meet and respond to his own spiritual and personal nature; they do not touch his soul with affection, and with that complete assurance which springs from the recognition of an infinitely good, wise, and powerful God. In the certainty of such a destiny there is indeed no difference ; for “known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.”
But is not this admitting the only essential point in the controversy ? For though we refer such a necessity to the Divinity, and to the laws which He has established, and which man obeys or disobeys, it only changes its motive character, it does not change its certainty or inevitability. Yes, we answer, it is admitting the necessity of the whole movement of the universe. And that is precisely what we mean to admit, in all its entireness in its whole length, breadth, and depth, and in all its particulars. There is no escape. But we also say that the free-will of man is a truth consistent with this, in equal entireness, so far as all consciousness and all practical purposes are concerned. What is the free-will of man? Without perplexing ourselves here with any metaphysical questions, is it not sufficient to say, that if a man has conscious and practical freedom, it is all that is necessary ? Suppose there is discoverable, by the aid of the intellect, an inevitable train of causation, by which man's will, in every instance in which it is executed, is seen to be involved in a certain kind of necessity. And yet it is also seen and felt too (which is the more powerful seeing),
that there is no mechanical acting, that a man is not forced, that he is most certainly in the wrong when he does a bad act, that he condemns himself righteously and wisely, that he truly says he ought not to have done it, that he realizes all the consequences of its wrong-pain, remorse, chagrin, outward troubles, for an indefinite period, in fact so long as the wrong spirit continues; and that, spite of all the necessity of the action, there is an equal necessity for all this moral judgment and suffering. Then, I say, the will is free enough. And we here see the truth of Dr. Hartley's statement, which is a complete multum in parvo. “Philosophically speaking, there is no such thing as free-will; practically speaking, there is.” But now, what is meant here by philosophically speaking, as he uses the term ? It is intellectually speaking. But this is only half speaking. Man has a moral and spiritual nature, as well as an intellectual. And I say, morally and practically speaking, he is absolutely and entirely free. For by the above brief showing, every rational man has so decided it, and will continue to forever. Here, then, we rest our argument, for the present, on the peculiar freedom of the will. We prefer to be practical. We can most thoroughly afford to be, having the true theory. We prefer the wisdom of a sound moral understanding, to the subtleties of the metaphysician.
We will remark, here, however, in accordance with the above presentation, and for the further clarification of the subject, that neither of these things — neither free-will nor necessity, in their absolute and universal sense, is a whole truth in itself, but that taken both together, they make a complete truth. They are indeed but two halves of one whole. They are both true, and both equally true, but either, separately considered, is a falsity. It is the freedom of necessity, and the necessity of freedom. Or, it is free necessity, and necessary freedom. This truth must be felt by all parts of the mind, in order to be comprehended. A man may reason on it forever, and he will not know it, because it does not pertain to the reason alone, but to
the will also. Women in general believe more in free-will than men do, because they have more of will. A man must have a perfectly balanced mind to see and feel the great truth that there is here. If he is all head, or predominantly given to reason and the law-side of things, he will decide in favor of philosophical necessity; if he is predominantly a man of heart, or a practical man, he will decide for free-will as commonly understood. But if he has a well-balanced mind, disposed to see into the laws and connections of the universe, the union of God with Nature, Spirit with Matter, the spiritual world with the natural world, and intellect with affection, or truth with good, he will then both see and feel the truth in both of these things; and, gratefully acknowledging the stupendous force and mechanism of the universe, and the power of God through all, will at the same time act in accordance with those higher moral and spiritual laws which equally reign therein, and make a part of the wonderful unity. In short, he will not only think, but feel; not only reason, but act; not only say this or that, but go to and make it an actual and practical necessity.
To return now, for illustration of the Divine Providence in this view of it, let us begin at the foundations. What greater necessity than the very existence of God ? His whole substance his very ground of being and motion - and all his glorious attributes and qualities, are eternal and absolute necessities. He had no choice in his existence; He was and is; the I Am, the ETERNAL. In the next place, all the laws which grow out of such a necessary existence must be equally as necessary, and in their operations as inevitable as fate. But as before said, not blind fate, but the enlightened operations of a willing and intelligent God. The Divine Will itself, in fact, or at least the Divine Wisdom, which is the rule of that Will, in this view of it may be contemplated as Law. It is law, if we make the proper discriminations, and consider it with reference to internal and external, personal and impersonal. And all the laws which operate in nature, such as gravitation, chem
ical affinity, etc., are but the operations of the Divine Will in the ultimates of existence. We must come to a simpler philosophy of law and will, or God-force and Nature-force. One is as much law as the other. There is not a law in the whole material universe which acts with a more fixed and determinate method, or within more prescribed limits or conditions of action, than the Divine Essence itself. In order more fully to be convinced of this, let us seek precisely the best definition of the term “ Law.” And it has been well remarked that “law, as it is understood by the best authorities, means simply a rule of action, or a definite mode or method in which force and motion proceed toward the accomplishment of an end.
It is not, therefore, of itself, either force or motion, but only the rule of action which these, in their operations, are made to observe.
“Now it may be safely asserted that there is no force or motion, either in the universe of matter or the universe of mind, which, in its operations, does not observe some rule, some method, and hence some law. If, indeed, there could be any action or motion without method or law, that action or motion would necessarily be chaotic, and would tend directly to the subversion of all law and order, and thus to reduce all things to chaos. It is impossible for a man to conceive a thought, except in accordance with some law of thought. Nay, it is evidently impossible even for the Infinite Mind to conceive a thought, or put forth an action, except in connection with some definite mode or form, and hence law of procedure, which that thought or action spontaneously assumes. In the Infinite Mind, therefore, Law, in its spiritual sense, is self-existent and eternal. Thence it proceeds, by volition, into outer creations, and assumes the forms of what are termed the laws of nature.'”*
In other words, it may be said that God is a law unto and in Himself. Ile is the essence and form of all law, and is, in the operations of his Divine Wisdom, more truly and absolutely law, than any law which operates in the natural universe.
Fishbough's Macrocosm and Microcosm,” pp. 234, 235.