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since it is my doom, and since neither God, angel, nor man could possibly have prevented it," all-wretched" as it is, I'll wear my chains and bear my burdens as I can! All I can be, or have any cause to be thankful for, is, that seeing it could not possibly have been any better with me than it is, so neither. could it possibly have been worse.
Some further remarks upon the "absolute and uncontrolable
necessity,” which the Predestinarians suppose influences “the whole series of events."
To my understanding, this doctrine centres in atheism, as much as if they were to maintain, that absolute chance attended all events. Either there is a God of wisdom, understanding, and economy, or else things jumble on without the direction of anywise governor, or superintendent. If wisdom and superin. tendence are excluded, a God is denied, and atheism triumphs. If wisdom, direction, and superintendence are maintained, there must be free agency. For without free agency, absolute, rea! free agency, wisdom, direction, and superintendency cannot exist. If ;** absolute and uncontrolable necessity," governs, influences, and binds all things, even the whole series of events," it must either be, because God has so ordained it, but could have ordained it otherwise; or else because he had not power to alter it; or else because there is no God.” Now, let us try it on all these three suppositions.
And first, if it be urged that God has ordained it so, but could have ordained it otherwise, free agency and contingency, are immediately established ; and then God must see and know how things could have been different from what they now are, and have been. And this at once shows an open door, in a consistency with the divine prescience, for free agency in man, to any degree wherewith the first, great, and all-wise free Agent is pleased to endue him; and loudly proclaims it possible with God to create beings, who, when they feel themselves to be free, have not imposed upon them the strange necessity of feeling themselves to be directly the reverse of what they really are. For if once free agency and contingency, are allowed ever to have
existed, the doctrine of universal uncontrolable necessity is at once overthrown; and all the arguments from the divine prescience against liberty, vanish of course. But who will believe that a God of infinite wisdom and power, and who was absolutely free, and could choose this or that as he pleased, has arbitrarily bound himself and all his creatures by a necessity, which he has even rendered in all things absolutely uncontrolable; that is, irreversible and past all possible interference or alteration ? If he was once free, and could choose and act, either this or that, he is always in the same manner and to the same extent free; for he changes not, he loses no freedom he ever had, and cannot bind himself by any necessity, by which he was not always bound. So that he never was a God of freedom and choice, or he is always so. If he never was so he is no God, and the cause is yielded to atheism. If he was and is free to choose and act either this or the other, the supposed absolute uncontrolable necessity has no existence.
If God is free, --if he could have done any otherwise than he has done, then it is false doctrine to say, that all things have moved on unavoidably, just as they have moved; in the same manner as any given force, applied to an inanimate body will produce just such an effect. If he could have done otherwise than be bas done, things are certainly contingent, and God must know how he could have done otherwise, as well as that he could.
But, secondly, if God could not have done otherwise, if he had not power to have prevented a single event from being just as it has been, the talk about his wisdom, goodness, and power, is a mere empty sound, and absolute, eternal fatality reigns over all. God has then no power, in any other sense than a stone has power, if thrown up, to fall and crush what it falls on; but cannot choose where it will or where it will not fall. In short, there is no God but fale, or a God wholly subordinate to fate. And though the predestinarian or necessitarian, chooses to dignify the God he professes to believe in, with the glorious epithets of good, powerful, and wise, his doctrines evidently divest him of this character. And these doctrines are maintained, because a poor, short-sighted man cannot see how a definite motive or im
pulse can ever fail to produce a definite effect; or in other words, how any beings can act above the common laws of matter and motion; how they can possibly resist, what they do not resist; or yield when they do not yield. Alas! why was not man a God? Why does he not know all things? Or rather, why, knowing so very little as he does, will he presume that because he cannot see how any being can choose, or refuse, but by absolute compulsion; therefore all beings are acted upon, as the iron is by the hammer, and, by every stroke unavoidably formed according to the received impulse. This appears to the neces. sitarian to be more in the line of wisdom, than a system of rcal liberty and free agency. But to me it utterly excludes all wisdom, and seems to be wholly founded in man's ignorance and folly. Or that because man cannot comprehend God as he is, he will therefore frame one to his own short comprehension and ideas. And in order that he may fathom both his knowledge and his power of exertion, he presumptuously determines his knowledge to be such as excludes contingency, and his exertions only such as are consistent with uncontrolable necessity: which to me is little better, if indeed it amounts to any thing materially different from saying at once, “ There is no God.”
But to come now to this third supposition, that "uncontrolable necessity” exists, because " there is no God;" and therefore no wisdom, order, direction, or interference whatever; but all things must be as they will be, or as they may happen to be. This amounts to what I suppose an atheist means by the word chance. And though I most sincerely think atheism absurd and ridiculous, even in the extreme, yet I do as sincerely think, it is more rational to say, all things are unavoidably as they are, because there is no God, than because there is. For, if all things are unavoidably as they are, I think it renders a God superfluous ; and that if we will still say he is, we make him an empty name, an insignificant, seeming agent in the machinery, who, though called by men, in pretended reverence, most high, most mighty, and most wise, has no real wisdom or might at all.
Not so, says the necessitarian: he is perfectly wise and allpowerful. But can be tell us wherein he is, in any degree, either wise or powerful. I must confess the very best account
that I can give of his wisdom and power, on this plan, (and I wish to do the necessitarian all justice possible,) is barely this: that, according to this notion, God may, perhaps, be said to be all-wise, to discover how things are, and will unavoidably be, and all powerful to execute whatever was from eternity impossible to be left unexecuted; but has no wisdom whereby he can see, or ever could have seen the possibility of a single event being in any wise different from what it is, must, and will be; and no power either to execute the most trivial thing different from what unavoidable necessity ordains, or to avoid executing it all.
The necessitarian may say, this is the very height, and utmost perfection of wisdom and power. He may insist that God's wisdom is so perfect, that no room was ever left, no possibility ever existed, for any thing to have been seen, or conceived of, better than what actually takes place in all things; and that no possible powers could have achieved any thing better than what is; and that therefore the impossibility, both of conceiving how any event could have been otherwise than it is, and of effecting any thing else, arises from the very wisdom and goodness of the Deity, who must unavoidably in all things, see and prefer the best. Specious subtilty! what makes his omniscience confine him to one only possible and exact line and measure of contemplation, view, or discovery? and his power to one only possible rout or line of operation? As if he was so wise to choose the best, that therefore, there was no choice at all; and that if there had been any choice, or any possible deviation from what is, there must have been contingency, which says the necessitarian, is inconsistent with the Divine préscience! If there was no alternative, there was no choice; and consequently no wisdom in choosing. If there was an alternative, a scope for choice, and wisdom in choosing; then there was both free agency and contingency: that is, things might have come to pass, differently from what they have. “ No," says the necessitarian, " wisdom infinite must choose the best;” and “therefore nothing could have been but just as it is.” I own this is a new kind of wisdom to me. I always thought wisdom and choosing the best, implied scope for the exercise of wisdom and choice; and that the exercise of wisdom and choice implied contingency; and I still think the denial of contingency is a flat denial both of wisdom and of choice.
But what if in all alternatives, where one choice would be better than another, it were granted that “wisdom infinite must choose the best,” how knowest thou, O dim-sighted man! how many thousand different processes might have taken place, and all equally good, so that Infinite Wisdom must have pronounced either, as his works of old, “very good ?" How many things are there within our own choice, equally good; and for that reason, left by Infinite Wisdom wholly to our own choice, without any manifestation of choice, control, or predilection in the
divine mind, towards our choosing one or the other! How many different sorts of food! How many different ways of till
ing: our lands, breeding our flocks, building our houses, &c. which God, as far as we know, appears equally pleased with,
aut pas left wholly to our choice! And why may we not consider this liberty, and even this indifferency of some things, as a transcript of the divine mind, or a part of God's image in which we are created; and by which he would teach us, that many systems and things would be possible to, or with him, and yet equally wise and good, the one as the other?
This, to me, is a much fairer idea of Omniscience, than that which supposes Divine Wisdom tied up to one exact view and operation in all things. I don't mean that all possible or conceivable plans are indifferent and equally good; but I should think it presumption in me, to say there existed no possibility of any variation from the present, consistently with an equal degree of universal good. Indeed, it is very easy for me to conceive a great variety of different productions, operations, and displays, all possible to be brought into act by the Deity, and all equally good, and which yet never may be brought into act, because something else may be equally good, equally possible, and which may, in fact, take place.
The necessitarians themselves not unfrequently mention, that doubtless God had power, and could have done quite otherwise than he has; or that he could have effected things which he has not : but when they say this, they seem to me flatly to contradict the whole scheme of that universal - uncontrolable