Obrázky na stránke
[graphic][merged small]


JANUARY, 1889.


his judgment

This work of another age is still for good reasons entitled to the attention of thoughtful minds. It discusses the greatest of questions that which lies at the foundation of human responsibility, and at the point of divergence between truth and error, alike in philosophy and theology. And it is the great work of a great leader in the world of thought, a work in the general judgment of scholars rarely if ever equaled as an example of acute, exhaustive reasoning. No candid reader, be

on the question at issue what it may, can fail to acknowledge that the author grapples his theme as a master.

If Ed wards is not original in the sense that he traversed new fields of thonght, like Shakespeare, he by far transcended his predecessors in his chosen field. But while Shakespeare borrowed freely it does not appear that Ellwards consciously borrowed any thing. Doubtless in an unusual degree he surveyed his chosen field for himself as a solitary thinker, and

unsurpassed thoroughness. There is no indication that he was minutely familiar with the history of thought on his subject. He knew his subject as one who had thonght more than he had read, and whose reading had, for the greater part, come after his thinking. The whole question, as his mind apprehended it, he had looked through and through. He quotes Locke with respect, but never as an authority. He

* A Car-ful and Strict Inquiry into the Prevailing Notions of the Freedom of the



1754. Edwards's Works, vol. ii. New

York: Leavitt & Allen.


turned to his opponents only to find what errors were to be refuted. Hobbes he admitted he had not read. Limited reading to a mind like his has its advantages. He never halts nor slacks under the burden of his learning.

Sir William Hamilton was naturally more independent than Edwards, and perhaps his equal in strength ; but he knew so thoroughly the opinions of the leading minds of all nations and ages within his chosen field as to require a large expenditure of strength in carrying the weight of his princely lore, and make him bewilderingly conscious of the bearings and difficulties of the questions he discusses. Edwards wrote as one whose mind grasps alone his one subject, and never knew doubt or hesitation on any issue involved. If he had read the leading fatalistic defenders of necessity may it not be doubted whether he could have moved so nearly in their lines of thought with the confidence that never failed him?

Beyond a doubt this great work of Edwards owes much of its intrinsic merit, and much of the power it has had over generations of thinking men, to the fact that it was so purely the product of his own regal mind, and in every line voiced his earnest, unquestioning faith. And it is this which has made subsequent works on the subject so largely reviews of Edwards that, to read them to advantage or with interest, we must first go back and make ourselves familiar with his pages. To this, too, is dne the universal respect which its author continnes to command, now that faith has outgrown the liinits his theory had prescribed and inquires irrepressively for a higher freedom than he deemed possible.

A special reason for turning at this time to the pages of Edwards is found in the want of agreement among Libertarians themselves, and a reactionary tendency of conservative minds toward Edwardsian premises. As a natural consequence, in place of the assurance of the fathers there has come a dangeronis agnosticism upon the whole question of freedom, in the shadow of which the philosophy of necessity is creeping stealthily in, and almost without protest is quietly taking possession of the field.*

Arminian Christians are not awake to their responsibility as the natural defenders of freedom. The day has not come to retire from the field with assured victory. Nor have we occasion to retreat from the conflict as a drawn battle-much less to acknowledge defeat. But we have good reason to examine anew the grounds of our faith in the freedom of moral agency, and it will be a good way to begin with the attentive reading of Edwards’s great argument for necessity.* We shall at the least rise from the reading with our eyes open to what necessity is, and a full conviction that between the universal reign of necessity and the absolute freedom of man where he is held accountable there is no middle ground. And we shall be likely also to find the conviction irresistible that it is to-day a difficult if not an impossible undertaking to hold the faith and the philosophy of Edwards together. The Christian faith and the necessitarian philosophy each puts upon the other the square negative.

* We dissent from this concession.--EDITOR.


1. The central doctrine of our author's system of faith was the sovereignty of God. He believed that to the will of God as the determining cause is to be traced all that has been, all that is, and all that will be—that not only do all the changes in the material universe come to pass at his command, but that his immutable decree makes certain all the actions and intentions of all men, reaching to their characters for praiseworthiness and blameworthiness, and therefore to their final destiny.

2. As involved in this comprehensive decree he believed that God has unconditionally elected a definite part of the human family to eternal life and foreordained the rest to eternal death.

3. He believed that in carrying out the decree of election God comes to his elect with sovereign grace-with an effectual calling-which makes them willing to comply with the conditions upon which salvation is offered, and without which their compliance is impossible.

4. Yet Edwards as earnestly believed in the moral accountability of man as in the sovereignty of God. He disliked and rejected the statement that God is the author of sin as inappropriate. He believed that God abhors sin as such, and that he has ordained it only where, in his all-embracing view, he sees it to be necessary to the greatest good. He prefers to say God periöits sin rather than that he causes it, though claiming that he has so ordered events as to make it certain that men will sin as they do. These commonplaces of the theology current in Edwards's time need no verifying quotations.

* The recommendation is good provided the reader will take up immediately

afterward Dr. Whedon on The Will.-Editor.


Our author defines the will thus:

The will is plainly that by which the mind chooses any thing.

An act of the will is the same as an act of the choosing or choice. ... Whatever names we call an act of the will by, choosing, refusing, approving, disapproving, liking, disliking, embracing, rejecting, determining, directing, commanding, forbidding, inclining or being averse, a being pleased or displeased with : all may be reduced to this of choosing. For the soul to act voluntarily is evermore to act electively.–Page 1.

To understand Edwards here we inust take into the account the difference between his classification of the phenomena of the mind and that now generally accepted. In his time that which is now known as psychology, and claims to be a science, was but an infant without a name, if, indeed, it may be said to have had an existence. The distinction of the will from the sensibility, and the dependence of mental science upon the facts of consciousness, had not then come into clear recognition. This confusion of two classes of facts was the occasion of like confusion and vagueness in the use of words. It is plain, however, that he uses the term will as including all that we distinguish from it by the word sensibility, but not as covering at the sanje time what believers in the moral accountability of man now commonly understand to be meant by the will. His psychology found no faculty in the mind by which a man is able to control inclination and choose for himself between alternatives. It completely excluded such a facultydefined it out, as a thing impossible and absurd, though he sometimes used in his own sense the very language which the believers in such a faculty understand properly to imply it. In his statement quoted above he clusters almost the whole vocabulary of words and phrases for the affections, and affirms them all to be synonyms for “ an act of the will ” or “ choosing.” And from many other statements it is equally plain that in his view an act of the will, a choice, a preference, an inclination, are the same, and are made so by the leveling down of the will

« PredošláPokračovať »