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ry. Nothing is, or can be, demanded by him, which is not in its nature voluntary; nor can any thing, but the will of Intelligent beings, be the object of moral law. No man will say, that a brute, a stone, or a stream, can be the object of such law. Faith therefore, being in the most express terms required by a law, or command, of God, must of course be a voluntary exercise of the mind, in such a sense, that it can be rightfully required.
Further; the language of the first of these passages most evidently denotes, that the command to believe on the name of Jesus Christ is one of peculiar and pre-eminent importance. This is his commandment: as if there were no other; or no other, which in its importance may be compared with this. Here St. John teaches us, that faith is pre-eminently required by God, in a manner distinct from that, in which he requires other acts of obedience generally. Of course, faith is not only justly required of mankind by God; but is required in a manner more solemn, than many other acts, universally acknowledged to be voluntary.
Accordingly, a peculiar sanction is annexed to the law, requiring our faith. He that believeth shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned.
The reward and the penalty, here announced, are the highest which exist in the Universe ; and, therefore, directly indicate the obedience and the disobedience to be of supreme import. Nothing can be a stronger proof, that, in the eye of God, faith and unbelief are voluntary, or moral exercises of man.
But it may be alleged, that the faith, enjoined in these commands, is not a mere speculative belief; and, therefore, not the faith, which, in the general objection opposed by me, is asserted to be physically necessary and involuntary. I readily agree, that the faith, here enjoined, is saving faith; and that this is not inere speculative belief. But such a belief is an indispensable part of saving faith ; and so absolutely inseparable from it
, that without such belief saving faith cannot exist. Saving faith is always a speculative belief, joined with a cordial consent to the truth, and a cordial approbation of the object, which that truth respects. When, therefore, saving faith is commanded; speculative belief, which is an inseparable part of it, is also commanded. It is not, indeed, required to exist by itself; or to be rendered without the accordance of the heart. But, whenever saving faith is required, speculative belief is absolutely required. Of course speculative belief is, at least in some degree, in our power; and may be rendered as an act of obedience to God.
To him who believes in the inspiration of the Scriptures, these passages, and many others like them, furnish complete proof, that faith, whether saving or speculative, is an act of the mind, which is in such a sense voluntary, as to be the proper object of a command. or law; that it may be justly required of mankind; and that it
; cannot be either refused or neglected without guilt.
2dly. The universal consent of mankind furnishes ample proof that faith is, in many instances, a voluntary, or moral exercise.
The evidence which I propose to derive from this source, lies in the following general truth : That in all cases, where mankind have sufficient opportunity thoroughly to understand any subject, and are under no inducement to judge with partiality, their universal judgment is right. As I presume this truth will not be doubted; I shall not attempt to illustrate it by any arguments. That the present case is included within this general truth is certain. Every man, who thinks, at all, knows by his own personal experience, and by his daily intercourse with other men, whether his own faith, and their's, be voluntary in many instances, or not; I say, in many instances; because, if the assertion be admitted with this limitation, it will be sufficient for my purpose. If, then, mankind have determined, that faith is sometimes voluntary, the doctrine, against which I contend, must be given up.
The language of mankind very frequently expresses their real views in a manner, much more exactly accordant with truth, than their Philosophical discussions. Men make words, only when they have ideas to be expressed by those words, and just such ideas, as the words are formed to express. If, then, we find words in any language, denoting any ideas whatever, we know with certainty, that such ideas have existed in the minds of those, by whom the words were used. Whenever these ideas have been derived from experience and observation, we also know, that they are real, and not fantastical; and are founded, not in imagination, but in fact. In all languages, are found words, denoting the same things with the English terms, candour, fairness, reasonableness, impartiality, and others, generally of the like import. The meaning of all these terms is clearly of this nature : that the persons, to whom they are justly applied, use their faculties in collecting, weighing, and admitting, evidence, in a manner equitable and praiseworthy. Accordingly, all persons, who do this, are highly esteemed, and
, , greatly commended, as exhibiting no small excellence of moral character.
In all languages, also, there are words, answering to the English words, prejudice, partiality, unreasonableness, and unfairness. By these terms, when applied to this subject, we uniformly denote a voluntary employment of our faculties in collecting, weighing, and admitting evidence, conducted in a manner inequitable and blameworthy. Accordingly, persons, to whom these terms are justly applied, that is, the very persons who employ their faculties in this manner, are universally disesteemed, and condemned, as guilty and odious.
All these words were formed to express ideas, really existing in the human mind; and ideas, derived from experience and observation. Of course, these ideas have a real foundation in nature, and fact; and the words express that which is real.
As the terms which I have mentioned, are parts of the customary language of a great nation ; and as other nations have, universally, corresponding terms; it is certain, that these are the ideas of all men; every where presented by experience and observation; derived from facts, and grounded in reality. The common
, voice of mankind has, therefore, decided the question in a manner, which, I apprehend, is incapable of error, and can never be impeached.
In perfect accordance with these observations, we know, that voluntary blindness to evidence, argument, and truth, is customary phraseology in the daily conversation of all men. In accordance with these observations also, the declaration, that none are so blind, as they who will not see, is proverbial, and regarded as a maxim.
3dly. The mind is perfectly voluntary in the employment of collecting evidence, on every question which it discusses.
All questions are attended by more or less arguments, capable of being alleged on both sides. These arguments do not present themselves of course ; but must be sought for, and assembled, by the activity of the mind. In this case, the mind can either resolve, or refuse, to collect arguments; and in this conduct is wholly voluntary, and capable, therefore, of being either virtuous or sinful, praiseworthy or blameworthy, rewardable or punishable. Wherever its duty and interest; wherever the commands of God, or lawful human authority, or the well-being of ourselves, or our fellowmen ; demand, that we collect such arguments; we are virtuous in obeying, and sinful in refusing.
Sometimes we obey: often we refuse. Most frequently, when we perform this duty at all, we perform it partially. Concerning almost every question, which is before us, we assemble some arguments, and refuse, or neglect, to gather others. In this employment the mind usually leans to one side of the question; and lahours, not to find out truth, or the means of illustrating it, but to possess itself of the arguments, which will support the side to which it inclines, and weaken, or overthrow, that which it dislikes. Thus we collect all the
favourable to our own chosen doctrines, and oppose the contrary ones; and of design, or through negligence, avoid searching for those, which will weaken our own doctrines, or strengthen such as oppose them. In all this, our inclinations are solely and supremely active, and govern the whole process. For this conduct, therefore, we are deserving of blame; and, as the case may be, of punishment.
4thly. The mind is equally voluntary in weighing, admitting, or rejecting, evidence, after it is collected.
It is as easy, and as common, for the mind to turn its eye from the power of evidence, as from the evidence itself. I have already shown, that we can, at pleasure, either collect arguments, or refuse to collect them. With equal ease we can examine them after they
are collected, or decline this examination; and after such examination as we choose to make, is completed, we can with the same ease either admit, or reject them. The grounds, on which we can render the admission or rejection satisfactory to ourselves, are numerous; and are always at hand. The arguments in question' may oppose, or coincide with, some unquestioned maxim, principle, or doctrine, pre-conceived by us, and regarded as fundamental; and for these reasons may be at once admitted, or rejected. They may accord with the opinions of those, whom we may think it pleasing, honourable, safe, or useful, to follow. We may hastily conclude, that they are all the arguments, which favour the doctrine opposed to ours; and deem them wholly insufficient to evince its truthWe may suppose, whenever they seem to conclude against us, that there is some latent error in them, discernible by others, if not by ourselves; which, if discerned, would destroy their force. We may determine, whenever the arguments in our possession are apprehended to be inconclusive in favour of our own opinions, that there are others, which, although not now in our possession, would, if discovered by us, determine the question in our favour. We may believe, that the arguments before us will, if admitted, infer some remote consequence, in our apprehension grossly absurd; and on the ground of this distant consequence reject their immediate influence. Or the doctrine, to be proved, may be so odious to us, as to induce us to believe, that no arguments whatever can evince its truth. For these and the like reasons, we can weigh or not weigh, admit or reject, any arguments whatever; and conclude in favour of either side of, perhaps, every moral question.
A Judge, in any cause which comes before him, can admit, or refuse to admit, witnesses on either side. After they have testified, he can consider, or neglect, their testimony; and can give it what degree of credit he pleases, or no credit at all. In all this, he acts voluntarily; so perfectly so, that another Judge, of a different disposition, could, and would, with the same means in his possession, draw up a directly opposite judgment concerning the cause. Facts of this nature are so frequent, as to be well known to mankind, acknowledged universally, and accounted a part of the ordinary course of things. The mind, in considering doctrines, is usually this partial Judge; and conducts itself towards its arguments, as the Judge towards his witnesses. In this conduct it is altogether voluntary, and altogether sinful.
In the contrary conduct of collecting arguments with a design to know the truth ; in weighing them fairly ; and in admitting readily their real import ; it is equally voluntary; and possesses, and ex
. hibits, the contrary character of virtue as really, as in any case whatever. Accordingly, all men, when employed in observing these two modes of acting in their fellow-men, have pronounced the latter to be excellent and praiseworthy, and the former to be unjust, base, and deserving alike of their contempt and abhorrence.
5thly. The doctrine, which I am opposing, if true, renders both virtue and vice, at least in a great proportion of instances, impossible.
All virtue is nothing else, but voluntary obedience to truth; and all sin is nothing else, but voluntary disobedience to truth, or voluntary obedience to error. Accordingly, God has required nothing of mankind, but that they should obey truth; particularly THE TRUTH ; or Evangelical truth. Voluntary conformity to truth, is, therefore, virtue in every possible instance. But we cannot voluntarily conform to truth, unless we believe it. If our faith, then, is wholly involuntary, and necessary; it follows of course, that we are never faulty, nor punishable, for not believing; since our faith in every case, where we do not believe, is physically impossible. For not believing, therefore, we are not, and cannot be, blameable; and as we cannot conforin to truth, when we do not believe it to be truth; it follows, that, whenever we do not believe, we are innocent in not obeying.
For the same reason, whenever we believe error to be truth, our belief, according to this scheme, is compelled by the same physical necessity; and we are guiltless in every such instance of faith. All our future conformity to such error is of course guiltless also. Thus he, who believes in the existence and perfections of Jehovah, in the rectitude of his law and Government, and in the duty of obeying him, and he, who believes in the Deity of Beelzebub, or a calf, or a stock, or a stone; while they respectively worship, and serve, these infinitely different gods; are in the same degree virtuous, or in the same degree sinful. In other words, they are neither sinful, nor virtuous. The faith of both is alike physically necessary; and the conformity of both to their respective tenets follows their faith, of course.
Should it be said, that although faith is thus necessary, our con. formity, or non-conformity, to what we believe, is still voluntary; and therefore is virtuous : I answer, that were I to allow this, as I am not very unwilling to do, to be true; still, the objector must acknowledge, that a vast proportion of those human actions, which have universally been esteemed the most horrid crimes, are, according to his own plan, completely justified. He cannot deny, that the heathen have almost universally believed their idols to be gods, and their idolatry the true religion. He cannot deny, that a great part of the wars, which have existed in the world, have by those, who have carried them on, been believed to be just; that the persecutions of the Christians were by the heathen, who were the authors of them, thought highly meritorious ; that the horrid cruelties of the Popish Inquisition were to a great extent, considered by the Catholics as doing God service; and that all the Mohammedan butcheries were regarded by the disciples of the Koran as directly required by God himself. Nay, it cannot be denied by the Objecior, nor by any man who has considered the subject, that the Jews, in very great numbers, believed themselves warranted in rejecting,