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Concerning sins first Entrance into the world.
The things which have already been offered, may serve to obviate or clear many of the objections which might be raised concerning sin’s first coming into the world; as though it would follow from the doctrine maintained, that God must be the author of the first sin, through his so disposing things, that it should necessarily follow from his permission, that the sinful act should be committed, &c. I need not, therefore, stand to repeat what has been said 81 already, about such a necessity not proving God to be the author of sin, in any ill sense, or in any such sense as to infringe any liberty of man, concerned in his moral agency, or capacity of blame, guilt, and punishment.
But, should it nevertheless be said, that if God, when he had made roan, might so order his circumstances, that from these, together with his withholding further assistance and divine influence, his sin would infallibly follow, why might not God as well have first made man with a fixed prevailing principle of sin in his heart?
I answer, 1. It was meet, if sin did come into existence, and appear in the world, it should arise from the imperfection which properly belongs to a creature, as such, and should appear so to do, that it might appear not to be from God as the efficient or fountain. But this could not have been, if man had been made at first with sin in his heart; nor unless the abiding principle and habit of sin were first introduced by an evil act of the creature. If sin had not arisen from the imperfection of the creature, it would not have been so visible, that it did not arise from God, as the positive cause, and real source of it.—But it would require room that cannot be here allowed, fully to consider all the difficulties which have been started, concerning the first Entrance of sin into the world.—And therefore,
2. I would observe, that objections against the doctrine that has been laid down, in opposition to the Arminian notion of liberty, from these difficulties, are altogether impertinent; because no additional difficulty is incurred, by adhering to a scheme in this manner differing from theirs, and none would be removed or avoided, by agreeing with, and maintaining theirs. Nothing that the Arminians say, about the contingency or self-determining power of man’s Will, can serve to explain, with less difficulty, how the first sinful volition of mankind could take place, and man he justly charged with the blame of it. To say, the Will was self-determined, or determined by free choice, in that sinful volition—which is to say, that the first sinful volition was determined by a foregoing sinful volition—is no solution of the difficulty. It is an odd way of solving difficulties, to advance greater, in order to it. To say, two and two make nine, or, that a child begat his rather, solves no difficulty: no more does it, to say, the first sinful act of choice was before the first sinful act of choice, and chose and determined it, and brought it to pass. Nor is it any better solution, to say, the first sinful volition chose, determined, and produced itself; which is to say, it was before it was. Nor will it go any further towards helping us over the difficulty, to say, the first sinful volition arose accidentally, without any cause at all; any more than it will solve that difficult question, How the world could be made out of nothing? to say, it came into being out of nothing, without any cause; as has been already observed. And if we should allow, that the first evil volition should arise by perfect accident, without any cause; it would relieve no difficulty, about God laving the blame of it to man. For how was man to blame for perfect accident, which had no cause, and which, therefore, he was not the cause of, any more than if it came by some external cause?—Such kind of solutions are no better, than if some person, going about to solve some of the strange mathematical paradoxes, about infinitely great and small quantities—as, that some infinitely great quantities are infinitely greater than some other infinitely great quantities; and also that some infinitely small quantities, are infinitely less than others, which yet are infinitely little—should say, that mankind have been under a mistake, in supposing a greater quantity to exceed a smaller; and that a hundred, multiplied by ten, makes but a single unit. 155155 * On the subject of the origin of moral evil, our author is more concise than usual. His design in this very short section, is merely to show, that the difficulties which have been started, concerning tbe first entrance of sin into the world, are such as cannot be discussed in a small compass; and, that the Arminian cause gains nothing by urging them. That cause has been sufficiently examined in several parts of this Inquiry; but the true and precise origin of moral evil, requires further notice. It is indeed of infinitely greater Importance to be acquainted with that celestial art, and that sacred influence, whereby we may emerge from the gulf of sin to holiness and heaven, than to be accurately versed in the science of its origination. And so it is far more important to see objects, and improve sight, than to be able to demonstrate the theory of vision: to recover health, and to use it aright, than to have skill to ascertain the cause and the symptom of disease; to contribute vigorously in extinguishing a fire that threatens to destroy our dwellings and ourselves, than to know the author of the calamity; to participate the effects of varied seasons, than to understand, astronomically, the precise reason of those variations. The mariner may navigate without knowing why his needle points to the north; and the celestial bodies in the solar system were as equally regular in their motions before Sir Isaac Newton had existence, as they have been since he has ascertained those laws and proportions according to which they move And yet the science of optics is not useless, the healing art is not to be despised, to discover an incendiary is desirable, and never is that philosopher who attempts to ascertain the cause of natural phenomena, held up as blameworthy. In like manner, though millions are delivered from the influence of sin, and raised to the most exalted eminence of happiness, who never knew, or even sought to know, scientifically, the origination of sin; this is no good reason that such knowledge is useless, or even unimportant. As we do not wish to swell these notes unnecessarily, we beg leave to refer to what we have said elsewhere on the subject, particularly in notes on the former part of this Treatise, on Dr. Doddridge’s Lectures, and on a Sermon, concerning “Predestination to Life,” second edition, in connexion with what we now add. (See Doddr. Works, vol. iv. p. 363, &c. vol v. p. 208. c. Notes.)—As the basis of our present demonstration, we begin with proposing a few axioms. axioms. 1. No effect can exist without an adequate cause. On this truth are founded all reasonings and all metaphysical evidence. 2. Sin is an effect, and has a cause. On this truth are founded all moral means and all religious principles. 3. The origin of moral evil cannot be moral evil; or, the cause of sin cannot be sin itself. Except we admit this, the same thing may be and not be, at the same time, and in the same respect—the same thing may be sin and no sin—cause and no cause—or, contrary to the first axiom, a contingent event may be the cause of itself, or may exist without an adequate cause. 4. There is no positive cause but what is ultimately from God. If otherwise, something positive may begin to be without a positive cause; or, something may exist without an adequate cause; which is the same as an effect to exist without a cause, contrary to the first axiom. 5. There may be a negative, metaphysical cause, where there is no decretive divine operation to effect it were there no negative metaphysical causes, such ideas as absence, ignorance, folly, weakness, and the like, could have no metaphysical effects; contrary to universal experience. And we must renounce all ideas of congruity to suppose that such things are the mere effects of divine decree and operation. Having premised these positions as axioms not to be disputed, we proceed to make a few observations, which, though equally true, may not be equally obvious. 6. The origin of moral evil cannot be one principle. For were it one, it must be either a positive or negative cause. If positive, it would be ultimately from God; but this would exclude a moral alternative, the very essence of moral agency, and consequently be incompatible with the existence of moral evil. But if a negative cause, it must ultimately be referred to the prime negative cause, which can be no other than passive power, as before explained; which is nothing independent of positive existence; and consequently can have no effect but in union with positive existence. 7. It remains, then, that the origin of moral evil is a compound of two causes at least. Yet not more than two; because, as we shall see, these are sufficient, and more would be superfluous, in order to produce the effect. 8. Now the question remains, What are these compound principles? Are they two positive causes, two negative causes, or one of each? They cannot be two positive causes; for then they might be ultimately reduced to one, the first cause; as before proved, gr. 4, 6. Nor can they be two negative ones; for ultimately there is but one cause properly negative. Consequently, 9. The first entrance of sin into the world, or the true and precise origin of moral evil, may be found in two causes united; the one positive and the other negative. But neither of which is morally good or morally evil; if the cause were morally good, the effect could not be morally bad; and if morally evil, it would be contrary to the third axiom, and to common sense. These two causes are, first, liberty, a cause naturally good; secondly, passive power, a cause naturally evil. And these two causes are as necessary for the production of moral evil, as two parents for the production of a human being according to the taws of nature, 9. Dr. Clarke, whose brief account has been more implicitly admitted than any other, says, that moral evil “arises wholly from the abuse of liberty; which God gave to his creatures for other purposes, and which it was reasonable and fit to give them for the perfection and order of the whole creation: only they, contrary to God’s intention and command, have abused what was necessary for the perfection of the whole, to the corruption and depravation of themselves.” This extract from Dr. Clarke (in his Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God. p. 113. 5th edit) has been advanced by celebrated writers, as “containing all that can be advanced with certainty ” on the subject. But surety those minds must be easily satisfied, who can be satisfied with such evidence. Dr. Clarke allows and proves, that liberty is a perfection, rather than an evil. How came it then to product evil? He answers, “This arises wholly from the abuse of liberty. But what is the cause of this effect called “the abuse of liberty?” This in fact is the whole of the difficulty, and yet he leaves it untouched. The free agent fails in the exercise of liberty; this failure is an effect; but there is no effect without a cause; therefore this failure must have a cause; and this cause (not the abuse of liberty) must bring us to the origin of moral evil. 10. What Dr. Clarke has left untouched may yet be ascertained. We think it has been fairly excluded, by what has been already advanced, from every thing except liberty and passive power. Therefore, the abuse of liberty can arise only from its associate. But how can this operate as a cause of the abuse of liberty? In order to answer this question, we must recollect what liberty itself is, viz. a natural power, or instrument of the mind, capable of producing moral effects. Not a self-determining power, which would be contrary to the first axiom; and which our author has abundantly demonstrated to be full of contradictions, and an utter impossibility. It must, then, be determined by motives. But motives, as before shown, (in a former note,) are the objects of choice in union with the state of the mind, as a compound effect. Now the cause why the real good, suppose the chief good, which is absolutely unchangeable, is not chosen, and an inferior good appears at the instant of choice preferable, and is in fact preferred, must arise from that part of the motive which is the state of the mind. 11. Now there an only two states of the mind conceivable whereby liberty can be influenced; the one, a state naturally evil; the other, a state morally good. Were we to say, that the state was morally evil, at the first entrance of sin, we should contradict the third axiom. And were we to say, that the cause was only naturally good, we should contradict the first axiom. Therefore the cause of the abuse of liberty, is a state naturally evil. No other cause can possibly be assigned, without involving a contradiction. Bat what is a state naturally evil, and without any mixture of moral evil? It can be no other but a state under the influence of what we call passive power. 12. Let us view the subject in another light. Perfect liberty, in reference to virtue and vice, the scale of merit and demerit, and its attendant degrees of happiness or misery, is a medium, standing between all extremes—between virtue and vice, merit and demerit, happiness and misery. If we regard divine rectitude or equity, according to a former simile, in reference to the moral system, as an universal plane, liberty may be said to coincide with it. And being a natural perfection, or. when exerted, a good which has a positive cause, it is the effect of benevolent energy. If the mind be under unmerited, sovereign, benevolent influence, its liberty attaches itself to real good; then the agent rises on the scale of excellence, and therefore of happiness. But if the mind be under passive influence, or the influence of passive power, (a depraved nature and confirmed vicious habits being now out of the question,) its liberty attaches itself to apparent good, in opposition to real; then vice is generated, the agent sinks on the scale of deterioration, and consequently of misery. 13. It appears, then, that the will, in the exercise of its freedom, when producing moral effects, is the instrument of the disposition; and that the character of the effect bears an infallible and exact proportion to that of the predisposing cause. Yet the will in the exercise of choice is so free, that all constraint, coaction, and impulse, are entirely excluded from that which constitutes the morality of the act. Here lies the essence of moral agency, and the ground of accountableness. The agent has a moral alternative; IF he be different minded may choose otherwise than he actually does if under benevolent influence, he will, in proportion, infallibly choose aright; if under equitable, passive influence, the apparent good will not be the real one, and consequently the choice will be morally bad. Means, objects perfectly suitable and sufficient, are exhibited to view; but these of themselves would never determine the will, otherwise the same effect would always follow the same means. Temptations also are presented; these in like manner of themselves never determine the will, otherwise temptation and sin would be infallibly connected. Then the holy Jesus could not have withstood the numerous and powerful solicitations of the tempter. But why did he withstand all? Because objects of temptation did not constitute the whole of motives; because objects operate according to the state of the mind; and because in him benevolent influence counteracted passive power. Hence, when the prince of this world came, he found nothing in him; and hence he rose to the greatest height of glory, having “a name above every name.” 14. There is no end of objections and cavils, however demonstrative the proof; for such there have been against all the first principles of religion—the being of God—a revelation of his will to that human race—the doctrine of a future state, &c. &c. Some may say, Why should sin be made to originate in these two things, liberty and passive power? We answer, it has been demonstrated, that all metaphysical, positive and negative, causation, in reference to moral evil, is reducible to these two; and therefore they might as well ask. Why one and one make two, rather than any other number? 15. Others may say, Why not proceed from God alone? They might as well ask, Why is not the sun the cause of darkness? Love, the cause of enmity? Wisdom, the cause of folly? Happiness, the cause of misery? Order, the cause of confusion? But the effect, it may be said, is the same. We reply, the assignation of a cause, whether true or false, does not alter the nature of phenomena. It would be, indeed, a strange phenomenon, hitherto unknown, and unknowable, for an hypothesis, however demonstrable, to alter the nature of the things in question. The effect are the same. Very true. But the question is not about the effects; the inquiry is about the true cause of those effects, in opposition to false philosophy. The effect of moral evil is misery, or deserved suffering. Now does it make no difference, in justifying the ways of God to men, whether a rational, immortal being suffer deservedly or undeservedly? To suffer for moral evil, is to suffer deservedly; but were sin and suffering from God alone, or the effect of constituted laws, this could not be the case. To say. that this partial suffering may be ultimately counterbalanced by a restoration, is begging the question, that there will be a restoration And if there were, what is it better than an apology for past injustice? To suffer undeservedly, is to suffer unjustly; and to punish at all is an act of injustice, if undeserved, as well as to punish for ever. 16. It may be again asked, What advantage is there in fixing on this origin of moral evil, rather than another? We reply by putting another question. Why should we put up with a false cause assigned for any thing? Surely, phenomena more interesting, more alarming in their nature, and more awful in their consequences, than moral evils, cannot arrest human observation. And it would be passing strange to suppose, that the ascertaining of their true cause and origin is not an important part of philosophy, and deserving of the closest investigation. What can be more dishonourable to the moral character of Deity, than to make sin originate in his will alone? Or, if this be its origin, how preposterous to call it moral evil, as distinguished from natural. How cruel and unjust, beyond precedent, to punish it; and how absurd the idea of threatening punishment for what was irreversibly appointed! 17. Some may say, Why may we not be satisfied with the idea of permission? If properly understood, we acknowledge that this goes a considerable way. But we suspect, few seem acquainted with the full implication of the term. God permits. True; if by it we mean he does not hinder. The free agent acts amiss when he it not hindered. This only shows, that God might hinder if he pleased; but it assigns no cause why the agent acts amiss. Permitting or not hindering, IMPLIES a cause distinct from divine causation. And the question returns, what is the cause of sin taking place when not hindered? In vain do we fix on chance, or a self-determining power; these explain nothing, and in fact are nothing, as our author has demonstrated various ways. In vain do we say. sin arises from the abuse of liberty. For the question recurs. What is the cause of that abuse? If this be not explained, nothing is effected. In vain shall we say, it proceeds from the cause of causes. For that cause is good only. From such a cause only good can proceed; and to ascribe sin to this cause is as proper as to say that moral evil is a good thing, and ought to be rewarded rather than punished. If this be not a reprovable mode of calling “evil good, and good evil,” (Isa. v. 90.) we know not what is. corollaries. 18. Those who renounce the idea of passive power, as before explained. and its influence on the mind of a free agent, as a negative metaphysical cause; can never find the true, philosophical cause of vice and sin, and consequently of deserved suffering. As soon might they ascertain the laws of the planetary motions, while rejecting the principle of gravitation If it be asked, What is the link of connexion between this principle and the event? We reply, Essential truth, the same truth as connects 2+2=4 or 2-1=1. 19. Those who renounce a sovereign, benevolent, physical, holy influence on the mind can never And the true, philosophical origin of virtue and holiness, and consequently happiness. 20. From the premises we infer, that the highest wisdom, the best interest, and the greatest honour of a rational and accountable being, is to employ his liberty, and all his powers, in the way of absolute submission to the divine will; in supreme affection, fear and love, to the infinite majesty and self-existent excellence of God; and in the way or humble and diligent obedience, according to the manifestation which God has made for himself.—W. 82
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