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Concerning that objection against the doctrine which has been maintained, that it agrees with the Stoical doctrine of Fate, and the opinions of Mr. Hobbes.
When Calvinists oppose the Arminian notion of the freedom of Will, and contingence of volition, and insist that there are no acts of the Will, nor any other events whatsoever, but what are attended with some kind of necessity; their opposers exclaim against them, as agreeing with the ancient Stoics in their doctrine of Fate, and with Mr. Hobbes in his opinion of Necessity.
It would not be worth while to take notice of so impertinent an objection, had it not been urged by some of the chief Arminian writers.—There were many important truths maintained by the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, and especially the Stoics, that are never the worse for being held by them. The Stoic philosophers, by the general agreement of Christian divines, and even Arminian divines, were the greatest, wisest, and most virtuous of all the heathen philosophers; and, in their doctrine and practice, came the nearest to Christianity of any of their sects. How frequently are the sayings of these philosophers, in many of the writings and sermons, even of Arminian divines, produced, not as arguments for the falseness of the doctrines which they delivered, but as a confirmation of some of the greatest truths of the christian religion, relating to the unity and perfections of the Godhead, a future state, the duty and happiness of mankind, &c. and how the light of nature and reason, in the wisest and best of the heathen, harmonized with and confirms the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And it is very remarkable, concerning Dr. Whitby, that although he alleges the agreement of the Stoics with us, wherein he supposes they maintained the like doctrine, as an argument against the truth of ours; yet, this very Dr. Whitby alleges the agreement of the Stoics with the Arminian, wherein he supposes they taught the same doctrine with them, as an argument for the truth of their doctrine. 141141 Whitby on the five Points. Edit.3. p. 325, 326, 327. So that, when the Stoics agree with them, it is a confirmation of their doctrine, and a confutation of ours, as showing that our opinions are contrary to the natural sense and common reason of mankind: nevertheless, when the Stoics agree with us, it argues no such thing in our favour; but, on the contrary, is a great argument against us, and shows our doctrine to be heathenish!
It is observed by some Calvinistic writers, that the Arminians symbolize with the Stoics, in some of those doctrines wherein they are opposed by the Calvinists; particularly in their denying an original, innate, total corruption and depravity of heart; and in what the; held of man’s ability to make himself truly virtuous and conformed to God, and in some other doctrines.
It may be further observed, that certainly it is no better objection against our doctrine, that it agrees, in some respects, with the doctrine of the ancient Stoic philosophers; than it is against theirs, wherein they differ from us, that it agrees, in some respects, with the opinion of the very worst of the heathen philosophers, the followers of Epicurus, the father of atheism and licentiousness, and with the doctrine of the Sadducces and Jesuits.
I am not much concerned to know precisely, what the ancient Stoic philosophers held concerning Fate, in order to determine what is truth; as though it were a sure way to be in the right, to take good heed to differ from them. It seems, that they differed among themselves; and probably the doctrine of Fate, as maintained by most of them, was, in some respects, erroneous. But whatever their doctrine was, if any of them held such a Fate, as is repugnant to any liberty, consisting in our doing as we please, I utterly deny such a Fate. If they held any such Fate, as is not consistent with the common and universal notions that mankind have of liberty, activity, moral agency, virtue and vice; I disclaim any such thing, and think I have demonstrated, that the scheme I maintain is no such scheme. If the Stoics, by Fate, meant any thing of such a nature, as can be supposed to stand in the way of advantage and benefit of in use of means and endeavours, or would make it less worth while for men to desire and seek after any thing wherein their virtue and happiness consists; I hold no doctrine that is clogged with any such inconvenience, any more than any other scheme whatsoever; and by no means so much as the Arminian scheme of contingence; as has been shown. If they held any such doctrine of universal fatality, as is inconsistent with any kind of liberty, that is or can be any perfection, dignity, privilege, or benefit, or any thing desirable, in any respect, for any intelligent creature, or indeed with any liberty that is possible or conceivable; I embrace no such doctrine. If they held any such doctrine of Fate, as is inconsistent with the world being in all things subject to the disposal of an intelligent, wise agent, that presides—not as the soul of the world, but—as the Sovereign Lord of the Universe, governing all things by proper will, choice, and design, in the exercise of the most perfect liberty conceivable, without subjection to any constraint, or being properly under the power or influence of any thing before, above, or without himself; I wholly renounce any such doctrine.
As to Mr. Hobbes maintaining the same doctrine concerning necessity; I confess, it happens I never read Mr. Hobbes. Let his opinion be what it will, we need not reject all truth which is demonstrated by clear evidence, merely because it was once held by some bad man. This great truth, “that Jesus is the Son of God,” was not spoiled because it was once and again proclaimed with a loud voice by the devil. If truth is so defiled, because it is spoken by the mouth, or written by the pen, of some ill minded, mischievous man, that it must never be received, we shall never know, when we hold any of the most precious and evident truths by a sure tenure. And if Mr. Hobbes has made a bad use of this truth, that is to be lamented; but the truth is not to be thought worthy of rejection on that account. It is common for the corrupt hearts of evil men to abuse the best things to vile purposes.
I might also take notice of its having been observed, that the Arminians agree with Mr. Hobbes 142142 Dr. Gill, in his Answers to Dr. Whitby. Vol. III. p. 183, &c. in many more things than the Calvinists. As, in what he is said to hold concerning original sin, in denying the necessity of supernatural illumination, in denying infused grace, in denying the doctrine of justification by faith alone; and other things.
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