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Proposition IX. That the self-existent being must be a free agent.

IX. Proposition IX. That the self-existent being must be a free agent. The self-existent and original cause of all 57things, is not a necessary agent but a being indued with liberty and choice. The contrary to this proposition is the foundation and the sum of what Spinoza and his followers have asserted concerning the nature of God. What reasons or arguments they have offered for their opinion I shall have occasion to consider briefly in my proof of the proposition itself. The truth of which appears—

1st. This a necessary consequent of the foregoing proposition. In that it is a necessary consequence of the foregoing proposition. For intelligence without liberty (as I there hinted) is really (in respect of any power, excellence, or perfection,) no intelligence at all: It is indeed a consciousness, but it is merely a passive one; a consciousness, not of acting, but purely of being acted upon. Without liberty, nothing can, in any tolerable propriety of speech, be said to be an agent, or cause of any thing. For to act necessarily, is really and properly not to act at all, but only to be acted upon. What therefore Spinoza and his followers assert, concerning the production of all things5454   Ex necessitate divinæ naturæ, infinita infinitis modis sequi debentEthic. par. I. prop. 16. from the necessity of the divine nature, is mere jargon and words, without any meaning at all. For if, by the necessity of the divine nature, they understand not the perfection and rectitude of his will, whereby God is unalterably determined to do always what is best in the whole, (as confessedly they do not, because this is consistent with the most perfect liberty and choice,) but, on the contrary, mean an absolute and strictly natural necessity; it follows evidently, that when they say God, by the necessity of his nature, is the cause and author of all things, they understand him to be a cause or agent in no other sense than as if a man should say, that a stone, by the necessity of its nature, is the cause of its own falling and striking the ground, which is really not to be an agent or cause at all; but their opinion amounts to this, that all things are equally self-existent, 58and consequently that the material world is God; which I have before proved to be a contradiction. In like manner, when they speak of the intelligence and knowledge of God, they mean to attribute these powers to him in no other sense than the ancient Hylozoicks attributed them to all matter; See a very remarkable passage of Mr Hobbes, cited above page 53. that is, that a stone, when it falls, has a sensation and consciousness, but that that consciousness is no cause at all, or power of acting; which kind of intelligence, in any tolerable propriety of speech, is no intelligence at all: And, consequently, the arguments that proved the supreme cause to be properly an intelligent and active being do also undeniably prove that he is likewise indued with liberty and choice, which alone is the power of acting.

2dly. Proved farther from the arbitrary disposition of things in the world; with an answer to Spinoza's arguments for the necessity of all things. If the supreme cause is not a being indued with liberty and choice, but a mere necessary agent, whose actions are all as absolutely and naturally necessary as his existence, then, it will follow, that nothing which is not, could possibly have been; and that nothing which is, could possibly not have been; and that no mode or circumstance of the existence of any thing could possibly have been in any respect otherwise than it now actually is: All which being evidently most false and absurd, it follows, on the contrary, that the supreme cause is not a mere necessary agent, but a being indued with liberty and choice.

The consequence,5555   Alii putant Deum esse causam liberam, propterea quod potest, ut putant, efficere ut ea quæ ex ejus natura sequi diximus; hoc est, quæ in ejus potestate sunt, non fiant: Sed hoc idem est ac si dicerent quod Deus potest efficere, ut, ex natura trianguli, non sequatur ejus tres angulos æquales esse duobus rectis.—Ego me satis clare ostendisse puto, a summa Dei potentia, omnia necessario effluxisse, vel semper eadem necessitate sequi; eodem modo ac, ex natura trianguli, ab æterno et in æternum sequitur ejus tres angulos æquari duobus rectis.Ethic, par. 1, schol. ad prop. 17.
   Omnia ex necessitate naturæ divinæ determinata sunt, non tantum ad existendum, sed etiam ad certo modo existendum et operandum; nullumque datur contingens.Demonstrat. prop. 29.

   Si res alterius naturæ potuissent esse, vel alio modo ad operandum determinari, ut naturæ ordo alius esset: ergo Dei etiam natura alia posset esse quam jam est.Prop. 33. demostrat.

   Quicquid concipimus in Dei potestate esse, id necessario est.Prop.35.

   Deum non operari ex libertate voluntatis.Corol. ad prop. 32.

   Res nullo alio modo, neque alio ordine, a Deo produci potuerant quam productæ sunt.Prop. 33.
viz. that if the supreme cause 59be a necessary agent, then nothing which is not, could possibly have been; and nothing which is, could possibly either not have been, or have been different from what it is: This, I say, is expressly owned by Spinoza to be the unavoidable consequence of his own opinion. And, accordingly, he endeavours to maintain, that no thing, or mode of existence of any thing, could possibly have been in any respect different from what it now actually is. His reasons are; (1) because5656   Ex necessitate divinæ naturæ, infinita infinitis modis sequi debent.Prop. 16. from an infinitely perfect nature, infinite things in infinite manners, must needs proceed; and (2.)5757   Si res alterius naturæ potuissent esse, vel alio modo ad operandum determinari; ut naturæ ordo alius esset: Ergo Dei etiam natura alia posset esse quam jam est.Prop. 33. demonstrat. because, if any thing could possibly be otherwise than it is, the will and nature of God must be supposed capable of change; and (3.)5858   Immo adversarii, [qui negant, ex necessitate divinæ naturæ, omnia necessario fluere,] Dei omnipotentiam negare videntur. Coguntur enim fateri, Deum infinita creabilia intelligere quæ tamen nunquam creare poterit: Nam alias; si scilicet omnia, quæ intelligit crearet, suam, juxta ipsos, exhauriret omnipotentiam, et se imperfectum redderet. Ut igitur Deum perfectum statuant, eo rediguntur, ut simul statuere debeant ipsum non posse omnia efficere, ad quæ ejus potentia se extendit.Coroll. ad prop. 17. because if all possible things in all possible manners do not always and necessarily exist, they never can all exist; but some things, that do not exist, will still always be possible only, and never can actually exist; and so the actual omnipotence of God is taken away. The first of these arguments is a plain begging of the question; For, that an infinitely perfect nature is able indeed to produce 60infinite things in infinite manners, is certainly true; but that it must always actually do so, by an absolute necessity of nature, without any power of choice, either as to time or manner or circumstances, does by no means follow from the perfection of its nature, unless it be first supposed to be a necessary agent; and also, that in mere necessity there must be all (or can be any) variety. Both which suppositions are the very question begged that was to be proved. The second argument, is (if possible) still weaker: for how does it follow, if God, according to his eternal unerring purpose and infinite wisdom, produces different things at different times, and in different manners, that, therefore, the will and nature of God is changeable? It might exactly as well be argued, that if God (according to Spinoza’s supposition, does always necessarily produce all possible differences and varieties of things, therefore his will and nature is always necessarily infinitely various, unequal, and dissimilar to itself. And as to the third argument, (which is mere metaphysical trifling,) it is just such reasoning as if a man should argue, that if all possible [eternal] duration be not always actually exhausted, it never can be all exhausted; and that therefore so the eternity of God is taken away; which sort of arguing every one at first sight discerns the weakness of.

But whatever the arguments were, and if they were never so much more plausible than they really are, yet the assertion itself, viz. that no thing, or mode of existence of any thing, could possibly have been made in any respect different from what it actually is; is so palpably absurd and false, so contradictory to experience and the nature of things, and to the most obvious and common reason of mankind; that of itself it immediately, and upon the first hearing, sufficiently confutes any principle of which it is a consequence. For all things in the world appear plainly to be the most arbitrary that can be imagined; and to be wholly the effects not 61of necessity, but of wisdom and choice. A necessity indeed of fitness; that is, that things could not have been otherwise than they are, without diminishing the beauty, order, and well-being of the whole; there may be, and (as far as we can apprehend) there certainly is. But this is so far from serving our adversaries’ purpose, that, on the contrary, it is a direct demonstration that all things were made and ordered by a free and wise agent. That, therefore, which I affirm, contradictory to Spinoza’s assertion, is, that there is not the least appearance of an absolute necessity of nature, (so as that any variation would imply a contradiction,) in any of these things. Motion itself, and all its quantities and directions, with the laws of gravitation, are entirely arbitrary; and might possibly have been altogether different from what they now are. The number and motion of the heavenly bodies have no manner of necessity in the nature of the things themselves. The number of the planets might have been greater or less. Their motion upon their own axes might have been in any proportion swifter or slower then it now is. And the direction of all their progressive motions, both of the primary and secondary planets, uniformly from west to east, (when by the motion of comets5959   Nam dum cometæ moventur in orbibus valde eccentricis, undique; et quoquoversum in omnes cœli partes; utique nullo modo fieri potuit ut cæco fato tribuendum sit; quod planetæ in orbibus concentricis motu consimili ferantur eodem omnes.—Tam miram uniformitatem in planetarum systemate, necessario fatendum est intelligentia et consilio fuisse effectam.Newton. Optic. page 345. it appears there was no necessity but that they might as easily have moved in all imaginable transverse directions,) is an evident proof that these things are solely the effect of wisdom and choice. There is not the least appearance of necessity, but that all these things might possibly have been infinitely varied from their present constitution: and (as the late improvements in astronomy 62discover) they are actually liable to very great changes. Every thing upon earth is still more evidently arbitrary; and plainly the product, not of necessity, but will. What absolute necessity for just such a number of species of animals or plants? or who, without blushing, dare affirm,6060   Res nullo alio modo, neque alio ordine, a Deo produci potuerunt, quam productæ sunt.Spinoza, ut supra. that neither the form, nor order, nor any the minutest circumstance or mode of existence of any of these things could possibly have been in the least diversified by the supreme cause?

To give but one instance. In all the greater species of animals, where was the necessity for that conformity6161   Idemque dici possit de uniformitate illa, quæ est in corporibus animalium, viz. necessario fatendum est intelligentia et consilio fuisse effectam.Newton. Optic. page 346. we observe in the number and likeness of all their principal members? and how would it have been a contradiction to suppose any or all of them varied from what they now are? To suppose indeed the continuance of such monsters, as Lucretius imagines to have perished for want of their principal organs of life, is really a contradiction. But how would it have been a contradiction for a whole species of horses or oxen to have subsisted with six legs or four eyes? But it is a shame to insist longer upon so plain an argument.

It might have been objected with much more plausibleness, that the supreme cause cannot be free, because he must needs do always what is best in the whole. But this would not at all serve Spinoza’s purpose. For this is a necessity, not of nature and fate, but of fitness and wisdom; a necessity, consistent with the greatest freedom and most perfect choice. For the only foundation of this necessity is such an unalterable rectitude of will, and perfection of wisdom, as makes it impossible for a wise being to resolve to act foolishly; or for a nature infinitely 63good, to choose to do what is evil: Of which I shall have occasion to speak more hereafter, when I come to deduce the moral attributes of God.

3dly. The same proved also from final causes. If there be any final cause, of any thing in the universe, then the supreme cause is not a necessary but a free agent. This consequence also, Spinoza acknowledges to be unvoidable: And therefore he has no other way left, but, with a strange confidence, to expose all final causes,6262   Naturam finem nullum sibi præfixum habere; et omnes causas finales, nihil nisi humana esse figmenta.Appendix ad prop. 36. as the fictions of ignorant and superstitious men: and to laugh6363   Oculos ad videndum, dentes ad masticandum, herbas et animantia ad alimentum, solem ad illuminandum, mare ad alendum pisces, &c.Ibid.
   Nullas unquam rationes circa res naturales a fine, quem Deus aut natura in iis faciendis sibi proposuit, desumemus.Cartes. Princip. par. 1. § 28.
at those who are so foolish and childish as to fancy that eyes were designed and fitted to see with, teeth to chew with, food to be eaten for nourishment, the sun to give light, &c. I suppose it will not be thought, that when once a man comes to this, he is to be disputed with any longer. Whoever pleases, may, for satisfaction on this head, consult Galen de Usu Partium, Tully de Natura Deorum, Mr Boyle of Final Causes, and Mr Ray of the Wisdom of God in the Creation. I shall only observe this one thing; that the larger the improvements and discoveries are, which are daily made in astronomy and natural philosophy, the more clearly is this question continually determined, to the shame and confusion of atheists.

4thly. From the finiteness of created beings. If the supreme cause be a mere necessary agent, it is impossible any effect or product of that cause should be finite. For since that which acts necessarily, cannot govern or direct its own actions, but must necessarily produce whatever can be the effect or product of its nature, it is plain, every effect of such an infinite uniform nature acting everywhere 64necessarily alike, must of necessity be immense, or infinite in extension: and so no creature in the universe could possibly be finite; which is infinitely absurd and contrary to experience. Spinoza, to shuffle off this absurdity, expresses the consequence of his doctrine thus:6464   Ex necessitate divinæ naturæ infinita infinitis modis seque debent.Ethic. par. 1. prop. 16. that, from the necessity of the divine nature, infinite things (meaning infinite in number,) in infinite manners must needs follow. But whoever reads his demonstration of this proposition, can hardly fail to observe, (if he be at all used to such speculations,) that if it proved any thing at all, it would equally prove, that from the necessity of the divine nature, only infinite things (meaning infinite in extension) can possibly arise; which demonstration alone is a sufficient confutation of the opinion it was designed to establish.

5thly. And from the impossibility of an infinite succession of causes. If the supreme cause be not a free and voluntary agent, then in every effect, (for instance, in motion,) there must have been a progression of causes in infinitum, without any original cause at all. For if there be no liberty anywhere, then there is no agent; no cause, mover, principle, or beginning of motion anywhere. Every thing in the universe must be passive, and nothing active; every thing moved, and no mover: every thing effect, and nothing cause. Spinoza indeed, (as has been already observed,) refers all things to the necessity of the divine nature, as their real cause and original; but this is mere jargon, and words without any signification; and will not at all help him over the present difficulty. For, if by things existing through the necessity of the divine nature, he means absolutely a necessity of existence, so as to make the world and every thing in it self-existent, then it follows (as I have before shown) that it must be a contradiction in terms, to suppose motion, &c. not to exist, which Spinoza himself is ashamed to assert. But if, therefore, by the 65necessity of the divine nature, he means only the necessary following of an effect from its cause, or the cause necessarily producing its effect; this necessity must still always be determined by something antecedent, and so on infinitely. And this, Spinoza (though sometimes he seems to mean the other and equally absurd sense) expressly owns in some places to be his meaning.6565   Unaquæque volitio non potest existere, neque ad operandum determinari; nisi ab alia causa determinetur, et hæc rursus ab alia; et sic porro in infinitum.Prop. 33. demonst. There can be no volition, saith he, but from some cause, which cause must likewise be caused by some other cause, and so on infinitely. Again; will,6666   Voluntas ad Dei naturam non magis pertinet quam reliqua naturalia; sed ad ipsam eodem modum sese habet, ut motus et quies.
   Deus non magis dici potest ex libertate voluntatis agere, quam dici potest ex libertate motus et quietis agere.Coroll. ad prop.32.
saith he, belongs to the nature of God no otherwise than motion and rest do; so that God can no more properly be said to act by the liberty of his will than by the liberty of motion and rest. And what the original of motion and rest is, he tells us in these words:6767   Corpus motum vel quiescens, ad motum vel quietem determinari debuit ab alio corpore, quod etiam ad motum vel quietem determinatum fuit ab alio; et illud iterum ab alio; et sic in infinitum.Ethic. Par. 11. prop. 13. lemma 3. every body in motion, or at rest, must have been determined to that motion or rest by some other body, which must itself likewise have been determined by a third; and so on in infinitum. And thus, since motion is not, in any one of its stages of communication, a necessary self-existent being, (because the body moved may always, without a contradiction, have been imagined to be at rest, and is supposed not to have motion from itself, but from another;) the opinion of Spinoza plainly recurs to an infinite succession of dependent beings produced one from another, in an endless progression, without any original cause at all; which notion I have already (in the proof of the second general head of this discourse) demonstrated 66to imply a contradiction. And since, therefore, there is no other possible way to avoid this absurdity, but by granting that there must be somewhere a principle of motion and action, which is liberty, I suppose it by this time sufficiently proved that the supreme cause must be a being indued with liberty and choice.

From That liberty is not in itself an impossible and contradictory notion. what has been said upon this head, it sufficiently appears, that liberty is not in itself, and in the very notion of the thing, an absolute contradiction and impossibility, as the pleaders for necessity and fate contend that it is, and place the chief strength of their argument in that supposition. For, that which actually is, is certainly not impossible. And it has already been proved, that liberty actually is, nay that it is impossible for it not to be, in the first and supreme cause. The principal argument used by the maintainers of fate against the possibility of liberty, is this: That since every thing must have a cause,6868   Mens ad hoc vel illud volendum determinatur a causa, quæ etiam ab alia determinata est, et hæc iterum ab alia, et sic in infinitum.Spinoza Ethic. par. II, prop. 48. every volition or determination of the will of an intelligent being must, as all other things, arise from some cause, and that cause from some other cause, and so on infinitely. But now, (besides that in this sort of reasoning, these men always ignorantly confound moral motives with physical efficients, between which two things there is no manner of relation; besides this, I say) this very argument really proves the direct contrary to what they intend. For since every thing must indeed have a cause of its being, either from without, or in the necessity of its own nature; and it is a plain contradiction (as has already been demonstrated) to suppose an infinite series of dependent effects, none of which are necessary in themselves or self-existent; therefore it is impossible but there must be in the universe some being whose existence is founded in the 67necessity of its own nature; and which, being acted upon by nothing beyond itself, must of necessity have in itself a principle of acting, or power of beginning motion, which is the idea of liberty. It is true, this argument proves only the liberty of the first and supreme cause, and extends not indeed to any created being; but it evinces in general (which is sufficient to my present purpose) that liberty is so far from being impossible and contradictory in itself, that on the contrary it is impossible but that it must really be somewhere; and this being once established, it will be easy to show hereafter, that it is a power capable of being communicated to created beings. Of which, in its proper place.


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