THE WILL lN THEOLOGY,
OR, AN EARLIER VIEW OF THE WILL*
We purpose in this paper to discuss the subject of the Will and its relations to Theology. Philosophy has no more difficult problem than this with which to deal. All agree that consciousness testifies to human freedom. But when this consciousness is to be interpreted, we find division. Some look so exclusively to the uniformities of man's action, that they settle down into determinism; freedom, to them, is but the seeming self-movement of the summer cloud, which is borne onward by forces external to it, and is driven by atmospheric currents even when it appears to be following an impulse of its own. Others eye so closely the central source of power within us, that they lose sight of the laws under which that power is exerted, and identify freedom with caprice; to them no act can be free which is the invariable sequence of fixed motive, and God cannot be free unless he is able to sin.
Fatalism and arbitrariness — these are the two extremes between which the pendulum of thought is ever swinging. Both of these extremes are represented in the schools of to-day. And let us frankly acknowledge that each has had its devoted adherents because each is the exaggeration and perversion of a truth. That is an easy philosophy which accepts the one and ignores the other, but it is as shallow and false as it is easy. It is a harder task to analyze both, and, after having set aside their elements of error, to combine what remains of truth into one consistent whole. But something like this must be done by every thinking man if he would attain to mental quiet, while to the preacher not only a consistent but a correct view of the will is indispensable if he would present the gospel with completeness and power.
And yet our method of investigation should not be the method of eclecticism. We may be taught by the past to avoid the errors of the past, but a dear and satisfactory result can only be attained by tHe new examination of the facts of consciousness, with the added help of Christian experience and of Scripture. We are not novices enough to believe that we can clear up all the dark places of this most intricate theme. We do believe, however, that the main features of a right doctrine of the will may be discovered and intelligibly set forth. Error has commonly arisen because inquirers have started from a priori and abstract notions of liberty or of law, rather than from induction of the facts of man's actual condition according to conscience and
* Printed in the Baptist Review, 1880: 527 550. and 1881: 30-47.
the Bible. Let our first aim, then, be this, to examine the facts, both as regards the ordinary operations of our willing faculty, and as regards its conduct in matters of morality and religion. Then, secondly, we may test the results thus obtained by their conformity or non-conformity with certain great general teachings of Scripture respecting God and man. Finally, we may inquire whether the objections frequently urged against our view are of sufficient force to compel its surrender, or can be met by counterbalancing considerations if not by direct refutation.
In asking what are the facts of the will's action, the simplest cases are the most typical and the most instructive. The other day I found my little son executing some curious gyrations about the room. "John," I said, "what do you do that for?" "Oh, I do it because I want to, father!" was his reply. Now my question and his answer give a complete formula for a doctrine of the will. I will take them for my text in what follows. The text teaches us that the human mind is the efficient cause of its own action. "I do it." John refers his action to himself as its author. And when we speak of John's will, we have nothing in mind but John himself, as a person putting forth power.
Let us observe a little more closely what John's attributing to himself power involves. It involves a consciousness on his part that his willing is determined by nothing outside himself. He knows that when he turns a somersault, he is not a water-wheel set a going and kept a going by an external force. It is he, in whom the effort and the motion originate. Here we get a glimpse of the indestructible barrier in human consciousness against all schemes of materialistic necessity. Man is not the product of climate and surroundings. External things cannot account for his volitions. The spring of action is within. His whole mental being rises up in protest against the doctrine that he acts only as he is acted upon, that his mental movement is determined for him by causes apart from himself and beyond his control. He knows that he is free, in the sense that he determines himself, and is the efficient cause of his own activities.
Absence of outward constraint then is only a part, and a small part, of the idea of liberty. Movement from within belongs to it also. John can say: "I do it," not only with regnrd to his bodily activity but with regard to the inward effort of his soul. His body may be in fetters, but his soul may be free. Even in confinement he may put forth mental powers in longing for deliverance or in planning an escape. The freedom of the will is shown in choice rather than in the execution of the choice. It is indeed this inward realm of mental energy to which we need to confine our attention. Not freedom in acting, but freedom in choosing is the inalienable prerogative of will. Take from me the power of originating bodily action, and I am still man, with mind unconquered and directing a thousand operations within. Hut take from me the power of originating mental action and I cease to be a rational creature,— I become as much a prey to influences from without as the stick or the stone. We call this freedom formal freedom, because it belongs to us as the very form of our being. So long as man is man, he cannot be divested of it. Hear John Calvin declare his faith in it: "I acknowledge," he says, "and I will always affirm, that there is a free-will, a will determining itself, and I proclaim any man who thinks otherwise a heretic. Let the will be called free, because it is not constrained or impelled irresistibly from without, but determines itself by itself."
Thus my son's reply: "I do it," indicates his consciousness that his will, or his mind willing, is the efficient cause of his inward, and so of his outward, activity. But my question and the remaining words of his answer indicate also another complementary fact in his consciousness. I ask him: "What do you do that for?" He recognizes the propriety of the question, and replies: "Oh, I do it because,"—and then follows an assigned reason. Now this shows that while the will is an efficient cause of mental action, it is never an adequate or sufficient cause. In other words, the will never acta without some material to work upon, some reason for its activity, some end in view. This is little more than a repetition of those old maxims in philosophy: "An act of pure will is unknown in consciousness ;" "Willing must have some object;" "He that wills must will something." Dr. H. B. Smith has well illustrated the difference between an efficient cause and an adequate cause, by the activity of the laborers in the building of a house. This activity is the efficient cause of the building, but it is not an adequate cause. Besides this there must be a material cause, in the shape of brick and mortar, and a final cause, in the end which the house is designed to subserve. So to call the will an efficient cause is by no means to say that mere will can account for any action whatever. There must be occasion for its activity and reasons for its effort. No power was ever put forth by any will, human or divine, with regard to which we cannot ask the question: "Why?" and with regard to which we cannot compel from the willing agent the answer: "Because." The real cause of an action is made up of two things: first, the power that did it, and secondly, the reason for which it was done. Or, to put it more philosophically, the adequate or sufficient cause is a combination of two elements : first, the efficient cause ; and secondly, the occasional cause.
If the adequate cause of an action or volition be not a simple but a complex thing, we can see why one action or volition should be unlike another. The efficient cause, the will, is the same in both, but the occasional cause, the reason or end in view, is different. The fact that I have a will explains the fact of my willing, but it does not explain the fact that I will this rather than that. Particularity in the effect demands particularity in the cause. When I ask what is the cause of the uniformity of evil action in the case of an individual or of the race, it is not enough to tell me that the individual has a will, and that each member of the race has a similar faculty of volitions. I demand to know why this faculty acts wrongly with such persistent uniformity. When I ask the secret of a pure and consistent life, I feel it an impertinence to be told simply that the man who leads that life chooseH to live as he does. The everlasting "why?" comes up again and again until it is answered. And when the advocates of arbitrariness declare that "nothing whatever" causes one man to put forth continuously selfish volitions, and another man to put forth continuous efforts of self-sacrifice, I feel myself disingenuously dealt with, and I declare that such a theory of the will wrecks itself upon the solid rock of our primitive conviction that every effect must have an adequate and sufficient cause.
My son John not only assents to this principle at once by saying: "Because," but he throws great light npon the nature of human volition, by saying: "Because I want to!" He asserts implicitly that want, desire, disposition, account for mental act or effort. He declares that while the ego, the will, is the efficient cause of his action, a certain wish, preference, affection of his is the cause which determines the specific character of the action. Now this is simply to say that every volition has its motive; that no act of will is ever put forth except in accordance with the soul's prevailing desire at the time the choice is made. Certainly, if a man has power to act without motives, it is a power which is never exercised, and we can have no scientific warrant for claiming its existence. Action without motive is irrational. What dignity or value is there in a wild contingence which may act unintelligently to its own ruin? This is caprice and eraziness, but not freedom. It is immoral as well as irrational. You require that men shall choose for reasons, not without reason. Only as you assume that there was a motive behind the deed, do yon regard the agent responsible. To maintain that indeterminedness is essential to liberty, to declare that in order to freedom man must have the power of acting contrary to all motives and of doing what on the whole he does not wish to do, is to contradict all experience and consciousness. Power to do what one does not desire to do, is not power, but impotence. Power to plunge into the abyss of sin, in spite of all inward tendencies to the good, only indicates that the soul has not yet reached true freedom. Freedom never shows itself except in the choice of what we like. When the love for honor is so strong that a man cannot do a dishonorable act, then he is most truly free. God cannot he, bnt the settled love for truth that renders lying forever impossible to him does not abrogate his freedom. The truest freedom in God, and in the just made perfect, is identical with necessity. In short, I am free only when I act from motives and do what I want to.
But you observe that when John says "Because I want to," the motive of which he speaks is something internal and not external. Unless we steadfastly maintain this, we shall be avoiding the Charybdis of caprice only to fall upon the Seylla of fatalism. Let us remember that all motive, in the last analysis, is within. Suppose you offer to George Washington a million in gold, as the price of betraying his country. Will he accept it? No. But Benedict Arnold will. The gold is the same in both cases. What makes it a motive in the one case, and not in the other? Why, evidently, the settled preferences, affections and desires, which constitute the character of each. Thus we see that the causes of volitions lie, after all, wholly within the mind. Outward things have value and attractiveness, only as the mind seizes upon them with its desires, only as they are the objects of some want within. What we mean by the strongest motive is simply the bent of the mind, the fundamental and ruling preference. And in matters of morals and religion, this fundamental and ruling preference is of one or another sort, either a supreme love for self or a supreme love for God. Of whichever sort it is, it is the man's inmost condition and character; in short, it is the man himself. When his will acts, it acts under the influence of motives, but it is the character that makes the motives, and so we may truly say that the will always manifests the character. The inward affections which constitute the character may be so strong and fixed that the acts which take their direction from them are uniformly good or bad. The immanent preference or moral bias of the soul may be so holy that a being cannot sin, or may be so unholy that a being cannot but sin, and yet this certainty of good or evil action may be the result of no outward constraint whatever. The will may be perfectly free, while yet the direction and form of the volitions are determined by the inward character.
Thus far I have spoken of the will as if it were simply the faculty of volitions. I have not thought it expedient to encumber my statement of the elements of the doctrine by anticipating the profounder and more unfamiliar phases of the will's activity. When we come to consider the will in its moral and religious aspects, we find that it fills a range of our being very commonly ignored, but far more extensive and important than that of mere volition. John intimates this when he says: "I want to." That is as much as to say that the person John puts forth another power than that of actual volition — namely, a power of wish, preference, desire. There is difference between these and volitions. The latter we are conscious of originating; we are not always conscious of originating the former. We put forth the volition; we find ourselves wishing. And yet we use not the passive but the active voice; we say: "/wish, / want, / prefer." We call our dispositions and affections voluntary, though we never speak of voluntary knowledge. The more we think of this underlying region in which motive chiefly originates, the more we see that here is the heart, the true self, here the most intimate going-forth of power. We perceive that there are optative states as well as optative acts, and that we hold others and ourselves responsible for them, in a way which would not be possible if the will did not consciously or unconsciously enter into them as a constitutive element. In short we come to see that to define will as the mere faculty of volitions is to regard only the most superficial aspects of it, while it is really nothing less than the whole principle of mental movement, conscious or unconscious, the whole impulsive power of man's being, whether latent or developed, and in its moral and religious aspects, the whole tendency and determination of the soul to an ultimate end.
Will, then, in the sense of the faculty of volitions, is always backed and preceded by will in the larger and profounder sense of the immanent preference of the soul, the moral gravitation of the dispositions and affections, in fine, the character of the man. So that we properly comprehend in the range of the will not only the executive acts, but also the settled appetencies in which the person puts forth power. The desires and longings of the soul are states of the will, and for them as constituting our inmost character, we feel ourselves chiefly responsible. I cannot separate myself from these inner impulsions. I cannot sunder the faculty of volitions from the directive powers beneath, simply because I cannot escape from myself. If these powers are evil in their tendency and product, I accuse myself as thus evil. When I see consummate pride and haughtiness in others, I condemn it because it is a tendency of soul that is wicked, whether originated by the individual's volition or not. There is a congenital and hereditary egotism and self-assertion, and we reprobate it without respect to its origin, because we feel that the "territory of vice and of virtue," to use the words of another, "is as wide as the mind exercised either voluntary or optatively.'* Many of our dispositions and desires are but imperfectly conscious. Some of them we are probably altogether unconscious of, until some unexpected emergency reveals our character in action; but the whole stream of moral tendency, even apart from and below consciousness, is in the realm of the voluntary, belongs in this large sense to will, and involves responsibility and guilt if it be evil, as it is worthy of love and approbation when good.
If you have followed me thus far you will be able to see how freedom of the will may be perfectly compatible with the certainty, in any particular case, of a definite kind of action. The will as a faculty of volitions is an efficient cause, a causa causana, acting from within by a power of its own. But the will in this narrow sense is under law to the will in the larger and deeper sense, and the will in this last sense is a causa rausata; the individual can never point to a particular volition of his own which caused his character. Ho causes, and he is caused. He determines, but he finds himself determined. He acts freely, but the direction of his acts is furnished by a voluntary nature that stretches away beneath his consciousness. He is a swimmer in the stream, but the current is strong, and the current is not something foreign to him — it is his real self, as much as his conscious efforts are. While no restraint whatever is laid upon him, there may be the most perfect certainty that he will act in one way rather than in another. The mean person may be incapable of generosity and the truthful person incapable of falsehood, because each freely acts out his character. In each case there is a moral necessity which is perfectly consistent with freedom. The formal freedom of the will, considered as the faculty of volitions, may still subsist, while yet the will considered as the underlying movement and current of the voluntary being is in bondage by reason of perverse and unnatural tendencies and inclinations. And this is the real condition of man — formal freedom, but a real necessity of evil — a necessity of evil, however, very different from the necessitarianism maintained by the materialist, which has its ground in things external to human nature — a necessity of evil which has its ground rather in man himself, and in those evil dispositions and desires which are states of his will, and which were caused by human nature itself when it first fell away from God and from holiness.
Ernest Naville has well said that man cannot cease to believe in liberty, because it is his true nature, nor can he cease to doubt his liberty, because he does not realize it. Put these two facts together, and you will avoid both the extremes of controversy. The will, as a power of putting forth individual choices, can choose anything not inconsistent with its previous fundamental choice or preference. Hence we grant what the old theologians call civil freedom. Every man chooses unrestrainedly the method in which he will act out his character. A thousand forms of activity are open to him. In any one of these according to his pleasure he may act or refuse to act. It is with this freedom in secular matters, and with this only, that so many of the moral philosophies of our day concern themselves. They are philosophies of man's original condition — of the metaphysical possibilities of his being. But they ignore a whole hemisphere of fact, when they profess to be exhaustive accounts of man's voluntary nature. Not man in an ideal abstract state, but man in his present moral state, is the man that we need to know; and real concrete man can be studied only in his acts and his consciousness. Aud when we once begin this study either in ourselves or in others, we find that we must set side by side with this consciousness of freedom in volition another consciousness of a malign will beneath, that hinders persistent choice of the right and binds us to a deeper necessity of evil.
And so, when we ask the question whether this causative power of the will as the faculty of volitions is equal to the task of permanently reversing the underlying tendency and current of the will considered as the self-determination of the being to an ultimate end, experience must answer: "No !" Man has liberty,— liberty to enslave himself and to persevere in self-enslavement. His liberty is not ability to change his character at a single volition. Opposed to God and dominated by self-love as he is, he cannot of himself choose God and love holiness supremely. Self-love cannot throttle and slay self-love. The affections and desires remaining what they are, he cannot love God with all the heart. Let him make the effort, and he finds himself as powerless as a man standing upon the surface of the ground over one of those subterranean Kentucky rivers would be to turn back in its course the rushing torrent that flows beneath his feet. So man is at war with himself as well as with God. He has a formal freedom, but he is in real slavery.
The error of the philosophy we are combating is therefore the error of dismembering our mental nature, of sundering the powers from each other, and of imagining that will, as the faculty of volitions, can act alone. But man is a complex whole. Whenever he acts, he acts as a whole. In thought we can distinguish between his different powers and speak of their functions and products; but to suppose that the power of executive choice can somehow put itself outside of the man and secure a ~<>v <rTM from which it may move the man contrary to his character, is an error only a little less grotesque than that of personifying the divine attributes aud of supposing that Wisdom speaks to Holiness and Holiness to Love. And so we have a method of thought with regard to man's faculty of volitions, which regards it as severed from reason and from affection, fancies that it can act sovereignly in utter independence and disregard of motives, and believes that arbitrariness and uncertainty are of the very essence of freedom. And this is inseparable from and rests upon a narrow and defective conception of the will itself, which ignores that whole sphere of mental and moral movement which we call the preferences, the affections, the dispositions, the desires, into which we put more of power than we put into our imperative volitions, aud which conscience holds us chiefly accountable for, because they constitute the real self, the real life, from which our outward acts spring and take their character.
I am aware that the philosophy of the will which I am advocating enlarges the sphere of will and of responsibility greatly beyond the bounds assigned to it by superficial thought. But be sure that this philosophy is the philosophy of the future. He who can content himself with saying that will is the author of volitions only, and that he can charge himself only with what he has personally and consciously caused, is like the early navigators who described the continent of Africa from what they had learned by touching here and there along the coast. He who, in his explorations of his own nature, has fought his way, like Stanley, through endless jungles and malarial swamps and mountainous barriers and savage enemies, will have a sadder but also a grander understanding of what is meant by Will. To such a comprehensive philosophy of will we are coming by slow degrees. Schopenhauer and Hartmann in Germany, with all their pessimism and -atheism, are bringing out, in their "Philosophies of the Unconscious," great facts of our nature which were never so clearly understood before. The fundamental thing in the universe, according to their systems, is not the Idea, as Hegel thought, but the Will. Not only is there unconscious cerebration and thought in our walking and in our sleep, but there is also unconscious will and the putting forth of power. The thoughtful and conscientious student of his own nature will recognize here the gleams of truth. The will is nothing less than the soul in movement or tending to move. And responsibility is coextensive, not simply with our volitions, but with the whole range of our active being.
In a recent French Evangelical Review (Revue Chretienne, Jan. 1878:7) I find the following: "We have no initial power of determination. We can only yield to the divine impulse or to the attraction of sin. Our will is the effective cause of our conduct because these impulses solicit without constraining us. But our liberty does not consist in producing an action of which it is the only source. It consists in choosing between two preexistent impulses. It is choice, not creation, which is our destiny." The doctrine here taught harmonizes perfectly with the view thus far presented, and enables us to make an important application of it. The will has sometimes been called a creative first cause. There is plausibility in such a definition, because the will is a causa causans. But this is only the superficial aspect of the will. It is also a causa causata. The fundamental bias we find born in us. God is only causa causans, never causa causata. Let us then, with all reverence, reserve the title of Creative First Cause for Him who is the only absolute originator, and who can alone call substance, as well as activity, into being.
From this point of view we can also perceive the right and the wrong meaning of the current phrase: "the power of a contrary choice." The power of a contrary choice is possible if with the volition you include the motive, if with the act you combine the desire. There is indeed an abstract natural possibility of choosing in either of two ways. But as another has said: "Actual choosing is dependent on motives, opportunities, moral bias, the antecedent state of the will itself. And this generic bias, this moral habit, determines the special volitions until some great crisis comes "— comes, we may add, as the result of aid and renewal from without. We say sometimes to ourselves: "If I had this to do over again, I would do differently." Yes, if we could put ourselves back into the past with all the new dispositions and views which experience has given us. But when we ask ourselves whether, if we were put back there with just the views and feelings we had then, we should do differently, we are compelled to answer in the negative. But because we chose for reasons, and would not choose differently, we blame our choice. Our choice was none the less free and responsible because it was the natural sequence of our preceding dispositions. These preceding dispositions were ourselves. The will was in them. Being what we were we could not have chosen differently, but the power to choose as we did not wish to choose, was not necessary to make our action free. Indeed, if we could have acted in disregard of all motive and reason, the choice would have been devoid of all real freedom. To be free to do what we do not wish to do is no freedom at all. It is to be the blind victim of chance, or to play the part of the madman. The power of a contrary choice, in the sense of a power to decide against one's character and against all motives operating at the time upon the mind, is a power which not only has no existence, but of which we have not even the ability to conceive. The only actual or possible freedom is the freedom to manifest our character in mental action.
It has not escaped your notice that we have thus far studiously avoided all reference to Scripture. It has been our aim to build up a doctrine of the will from the simple facts of consciousness. But we do not forget that we have a touchstone by which to determine its truth or error. The Bible does not indeed teach a formal scheme of mental science. Yet certain fundamental views of will are everywhere implied in it. Let us bring our results to the test of Scripture. But first we may in the briefest manner state what these results are. They are, first, that the will as a faculty of volitions is the efficient cause of mental action; secondly, that this faculty, though an efficient cause, is not an adequate and sufficient cause, but depends for its particular direction upon occasional causes in the shape of objects or reasons for its activity; thirdly, that these objects or reasons, which we call motives, are always, in the last analysis, internal and not external to the mind; fourthly, that the internal dispositions and desires which give to motives all their force, are themselves optative states of the soul into which will, as well as sensibility, enters as a constituent element; fifthly, that will must therefore be regarded as including not only the faculty of individual choices, but also the states of immanent preference in which the soul puts forth its power; sixthly, that since the will as an efficient cause is determined as to the character of its action by the will in the larger sense of the soul's fundamental preference, freedom in its executive acts may coexist with certainty and even necessity as to their particular nature; seventhly, that though man has liberty in manifesting his character, he is unable radically to change this character if it be evil, or to reverse the self-determination of his being to an ultimate end, and that, because volition can never sunder itself from character, nor the man escape from himself; eighthly, that the will's freedom is therefore so limited by the law of its own character and condition, which it did not individually originate, that man cannot justly be called a creative first cause, nor be credited with a power of contrary choice in matters of morals and religion.
This view of the will, and the views to which it is directly opposed, we are now to test by the teachings of Scripture. And first, by the teachings of Scripture as to God's foreknowledge. By foreknowledge we mean the knowledge of something in the future that is certain to be. We must distinguish it clearly from ideal knowledge, or knowledge of what is merely possible. We can imagine God in eternity past to have had before him a multitude of plans for a universe. They are in his mind as merely ideal plans; he knows them all in their minutest details. But so long as no one plan is fixed upon and adopted, he cannot be said to/oreknow any of them, or any of the details of any of them. He cannot foreknow any one of these plans, except when it ceases to be merely an ideal plan, and becomes a certainty of the fnture, and this certainty that the events included in it will take place can only be the result of his adopting the plan. The Scriptures declare God's absolute foreknowledge of the future. But that foreknowledge presupposes that the future is not simply ideally possible, or contingent, but is a thing of certainty, that is infallibly to be.
"But," we are asked, "does not God foreknow what he will adopt, and does not knowledge precede will in the order of nature?" I answer, knowledge of a thing as certain to be, cannot precede the fact of such certainty, for it would then be knowledge of what did not exist, and so would be a falsity and a delusion. And so knowledge of a plan certain to be carried out cannot precede the certainty of that plan, nor can it precede God's adoption of it, for this adoption is all that makes it certain. The knowledge which God has, before he adopts his plan, must be merely ideal knowledge of this plan among a variety of plans; it cannot be /oreknowledge, for there can be no foreknowledge when there is as yet nothing certain in the future to be foreknown. The true order is therefore this: first, God's knowledge of various ideal plans; secondly, God's adoption of one of these plans and his consequent rendering it a certainty of the future; thirdly, his foreknowledge of the events included in it, as certain to be. So we perceive that the certain future existence of events is the condition and prerequisite of God's foreknowledge. In other words, what is not certain to be cannot be foreknown.
Apply this now to the doctrine of the will. If there be no certainty about the future free actions of men, God himself cannot foreknow them. The view which we have taken of the will permits us to predicate certainty of man's free actions, because they take their direction from permanent influences in the character. But the view opposed to this denies that there can be freedom where there is such certainty. It declares that the action that is certain cannot be free, and that the very essence of freedom is that the will is able to make an absolutely new beginning, and for the character of this new beginning no cause whatever can be assigned. Absolute uncertainty, perfect indeterminedness, on this view, is the only alternative to fatalism. Unless with precisely the same external and internal states and conditions the agent may just as easily make the opposite decision to that which he does actually make, the agent has no liberty at all. Now to this view of the will we simply oppose the Scripture declarations of God's absolute foreknowledge of the smallest decisions of his free creatures to the end of time. If he foreknows them, then they are certain to be. Uncertain things cannot be the objects of foreknowledge. Foreknowledge is of things to be, not of what may be or may not be. Even intuition cannot see what is not. God cannot foreknow what is not there to be foreknown. If there is nothing certain, then nothing can be foreseen or predicted, except that either this or that will take place, and a contingent foreknowledge is no foreknowledge at all. Omniscience does not make it possible for God to know things that are not objects of knowledge. Even he cannot tell what the results would be if two and two made five, or what would happen if chance ruled in the universe. But the theory we are opposing enthrones chance in the human will. And to declare that God can foreknow what this chance will bring about is to declare that he can know nonsense and self-contradiction. Only upon the view that man's free actions are under the law of character, and therefore are out of the category of chance and uncertainty, can even the omniscient God know what they are to be.
Many of the advocates of the caprice-theory of the will perceive their view to be inconsistent with belief in God's foreknowledge, and in various ways attempt to justify their surrender of this fundamental article of our faith. One of the most notable among them (see Hazard on Causation, 213) intimates that foreknowledge is not essential to the supreme governing Power of the universe, protests his repugnance to the notions of election and decrees, fancies that God may adapt means to ends from moment to moment, and as he becomes aware of the necessities of each case, may draw out from his infinite resources the plan which he had devised to meet such an emergency should it ever occur. This writer conceives that the freedom of creatures may not have been possible except at the cost of a self-limitation of the divine knowledge,—God chose not to know beforehand what his creatures would do, lest he should impose fetters on their liberty. Does it occur to him, that upon the theory that the human will is necessarily an alternative power God did not need to limit himself, since he could not surrender what he had not, namely, the power to foreknow as certain that which is essentially uncertain? To quote once more from Dr. Smith: "God himself cannot see that to be one and no other, which is essentially and necessarily one or another." It is for this reason that the Socinians, with greater logical consistency, reject altogether the possibility of God's foreknowing free human actions. To Him, upon their view, the fall of Adam and the crucifixion of Christ would have been a surprise, had it not been that "coming events cast their shadows before," — though even then how divine sagacity itself could have converted chance into probability, is difficult to say. Prophecy is nothing but guess-work. Even God may be disappointed, for there is no limiting the absolute uncertainty of the human will. What is this but to discrown the omniscient One, in order that man may have a freedom as wild as that of Bedlam itself!
Every such theory when tested by Scripture is found to contradict the express teachings of revelation. God foreknows all, because it is certain what human action will be. And human action is certain, because all men have character. Human character is not beyond the control of circumstances and influences which God has arranged and appointed. If man, influenced by man, may still be free, then man influenced by divinely appointed circumstances may still be free. Because we know something of the characters of our fellow-men and of the influence of their surroundings upon them, we are able to a certain extent to predict their actions, and statistical averages may be compiled, which shall make known to us beforehand their action in masses. All this witnesses that freedom is not inconsistent with laws and uniformities of action. It is only by observing these laws that we control our own mental powers or induce others to serve us. If we were wise enough, we could predict all human action. Much more is every human being "naked and open to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." How he executes his all-comprehending plan we know not. But we do know that he cannot resign his sovereignty. No creature can be independent of him. Man's freedom cannot wrest the sceptre from his hand nor bandage the eyes of his omniscience. But God's sovereignty and his foreknowledge must both be surrendered, if the certainty of human volitions be incompatible with freedom.
In the second place, let us test the doctrine we have propounded by the teachings of Scripture as to man's responsibility for his native depravity. That man is depraved by nature and is condemnable for this depravity, the Scripture distinctly asserts when it declares that we are " by nature children of wrath." Nature here can mean only that which is inborn and original in contrast with that which is subsequently acquired. There is a congenital bias of the will toward evil, an unholy bent of the affections away from God, and a supreme preference of self, at the very basis of our moral being, apart from and prior to our consciousness. Upon this original depravity of the soul the wrath of the holy One rests. But God's wrath rests only upon that which deserves it. This nature therefore is justly condemnable and we are responsible for it. We will not multiply passages to prove that this is the teaching of Scripture, although we might show that this is God's own explanation of the universal fact of death, even in the case of those who have not come to moral consciousness, and his explanation likewise of the uniformity of sinful volitions in all men and all ages. Actual sins are the fruit, and actual death is the penalty, of a depravity with which we are born and for which we are notwithstanding held responsible. Nor is this the place to justify the Scripture teaching, although we could adduce weighty confirmations of it from the facts of history and from the testimony of most acute and holy men as to that human nature which in themselves and others they have subjected to so penetrating and pure a scrutiny. We might bring forward a multitude of witnesses from the ranks of law and literature and philosophy, and all of them outside the pale of professed Christianity, who would with one voice declare that they felt within them a fatal necessity of evil, a taint of nature below conscious choice, a moral gravitation to the wrong, which they did not personally originate, and yet for which, strangely enough, they are not able to shake off the sense of blameworthiness. Aristotle anticipates Paul's account of the evil law in the members, though he is not able, as Paul is, to answer the question: "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" And Seneca in certain passages seems almost to echo David's words: "Behold I was shapen in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me."
Our present purpose is, however, simply to make plain the fact that this Scriptural teaching is consistent with the view of will which we have presented, but is inconsistent with any other. If our view be true, then man may be responsible for his nature,— for his nature is will. His whole being, in moral movement or tending to moral movement, is within the sphere of will, and for this current of tendency he is accountable, because it is his inmost self. But the opposing theory denies that there can be such a thing as unconscious will, and, limiting will to the mere faculty of volitions, maintains that no man can be responsible for anything that he has not personally and consciously originated. If it take the Pelagian form, it uses the phrase: "JVbn pleni nascimur," and calls the soul at birth a "tabula rasa," void of all evil whatsoever. Or if it take the Arminian form, it speaks of a depravity for which we are not responsible except as we by conscious act appropriate it. The Roman Catholic can exclude concupiscence from the list of sins, because forsooth it is independent of our volitions. Thus nothing but presumptuous choices of evil, with the full consciousness of the law to be violated and a wilful determination to disobey God, is counted by many to be a sin at all. On this view, indeed, the only sin should be the sin against the Holy Ghost.
What we wish to point out most plainly is that the view of the will which we are opposing conflicts with Scripture by letting off the human conscience from the main part of the burden which God lays upon it in his revelation. Who can draw the line between the conscious and the unconscious? Who can tell what we have originated and what we have not? Are anger and lust always conscious? Yet the angry feeling is murder, and the impure look is adultery. Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, and the heart from which they come is evil. Sin is not simply an act— it is a principle of permanence and power, that reigns in the nature, that exists long before it revives or comes to light in the consciousness. These are the representations of Scripture, and we charge the view of will which regards it as the faculty of volitions alone with obscuring from men's minds these facts of God's word. If sin is only volition, and I can be responsible for nothing else, then sin has but limited range within me and but weak hold upon me. It cannot be so serious a thing as Scripture describes. And just in proportion as the sense of sin is blunted, does man cease to feel his need of pardon and renewal.
If man is responsible only for what he wills, and will is only his power of individual choices, it follows that God's law requires only what this will can reader in the way of obedience. Law ceases to be the perfect transcript of God's holy nature, the ideal and unchangeable standard for all moral beings. It reduces its majesty to the limits of outward enactment and known enactment. Nothing that is beyond the apprehension of the blinded intellect or beyond the range of the enfeebled moral powers can be law for any creature of God. Thus law becomes a sliding scale of moral requirement, that lowers its demands as the sinner becomes more blind and debased and guilty, and gives up its claims altogether when he becomes totally depraved and beyond recovery. But is it true that the law has nothing against the man who has so sunk himself in sin that he has lost all power to obey? You know such persons; does God's justice absolve them and let them go free of punishment? The doctrine that man is responsible only for his acts of volition, and that power to do right is always essential to accountability for doing wrofig, comes dangerously near to these conclusions. Those who hold this view of will are compelled to assume a "gracious ability " specially communicated by God, in order to render men guilty at all, and then to declare that for a great number of irresponsibles, tender in age or weak in mind or limited in opportunities, salvation must be a matter of justice, since they have no ability to obey. So there shall be some saved without Christ. Why should the lost suffer penalty when their power to turn to God is gone forever? A system of the will that leads logically to the conclusion that men are guilty only by virtue of "gracious ability," and approved when their sin has taken away all power of good within them, carries with it its own refutation. It may not inaptly be described as a scheme in which men are damned by grace and saved by sin.
It is of course objected to our own view that to hold man responsible for an inborn state of the will which he did not originate is to violate all principles of justice and to expose Christianity to ridicule and contempt. We reply that if this is the teaching of Scripture, we may trust that God will vindicate his own truth. But it is self-vindicated also. A profounder philosophy of human nature is found to correspond precisely with the ideas which unlettered Christians had drawn from the Bible long before. We must not forget, moreover, that the modern scientific notion of the solidarity of the race is anticipated in Scripture, and furnishes the answer to the question how we can be responsible for what we have not personally and consciously originated. Men are not separate atoms, like grains of sand, or bricks set in a row. They are of one blood and origin, and are bound together in an organic whole. Look down upon the tree from above and you see only the multitudinous leaves in their isolation from each other. But look up from below, and you perceive that each leaf springs from a twig, and each twig from a branch, and each branch from a common trunk, and the great oak is only the product of a single acorn that the foot of an ox trod into the soil a hundred years ago. So the superficial observer regards the human race only as a company of individuals, and he denies all organic connection between them. But they are sprung from a common stock, and * common life is in them. The only explanation of universal depravity is the fall of the whole race when it existed seminally in its first progenitor. We have drawn our life from him, corrupted as it was by his sin. The will of the race apostatized from God when it was concentrated in one man, and of that self-depraved will we partake. So there is an individual responsibility and a race responsibility also, and any theory of will which regards it as the mere faculty of individual volitions must ignore a whole half of the facts and put it forever beyond our power to explain the great problem of our accountability for the depravity which we have in common with every member of the race.
We now proceed to consider a third class of Scripture passages which perhaps better than any other tests the truth or falsity of a doctrine of the will. We mean the teachings of the Bible with regard to God's initiative in human salvation. On the one hand, it is declared that man cannot of himself provide a salvation, nor lay hold of it after it is provided. On the other hand, God gives man all the power by which salvation is ever accepted, and from the first step to the last he claims all the glory. Of the first sort are passages like these: "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil." "The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." "No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." And of the latter sort are the following: "Who maketh thee to differ? What hast thou, that thou hast not received?" It is God that makes us "willing in the day of his power," that "gives repentance," that "deals to every man the measure of faith," that '' creates us in Christ unto good works." We have not chosen him but he has chosen us. It is he who gives the new heart and the new spirit . It is "of him" that we '' are in Christ Jesus." We are '' saved, not according to our works, but according to his purpose and grace." This salvation is "the gift of God — not of ourselves, lest any man should boast." It is only "by the grace of God" that we are what we are. No man has freedom but "he whom the Son makes free." Nicodemus asks what he shall do, and Jesus replies that "except a man be born from above, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven." Those who believe on Christ's name are "born, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." "So then," says Paul, "it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy."
Thus, in endless variety of phrase, the Bible asserts that man's appropriation of salvation is solely of the Lord. And so we pray to God to save men, believing that their hearts are in his hand, and that he can turn them as easily as the tiny rivulets that irrigate the eastern fields are turned by the slightest motion of the hand or foot of the husbandman. We know that no heart is too hard for God to break, no will too obstinate for God to subdue, for nothing is impossible with God; he who created at the first can recreate at his will. We look back to our own experience and see that instead of helping God's work in us, we only resisted him; as the untutored Indian convert said: "I fought against him all I could, and God did the rest." We may have seemed to ourselves at the first to be wholly uninfluenced by God when we chose to enter upon his service; but subsequent experience has taught us that nothing but his power working secretly in our wills could have conquered our perversity and brought us to Christ. We say now of every stage of the process: "Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory ;" and the hymn of Isaac Watts expresses only the truth of our experience :—
"Why was I made to hear thy voice
And enter while there's room,
While thousands make a wretched choice.
And rather starve than come?
"'Twas the same love that spread the feast
That gently forced me in;
Else I had still refused to taste,
And perished in my sin!"
And in this mighty grace that not only offered us salvation if we would accept it, but which made us will to accept when otherwise we should have refused, in this mighty grace we place our only hope of personal salvation, our only encouragement to the work of the ministry, and our only assurance of the salvation of the world.
All this accords perfectly with the view we have supported, that the human will, with all its formal freedom, is yet in real slavery to evil, and possessed of no outlying and uncorrupted power by which it may separate itself from itself, in order that it may work down upon itself and change its character. If the will is the whole man with all his powers of movement and impulse, and this will is in one perpetual current and tendency toward self-gratification and away from God, then it is vain to speak of man's being saved by natural process of growth or development of some element of good within, or by any choice or cooperation on his part with the grace which comes to him from without. But all this seems foolishness to those who maintain the theory of will we have been opposing. To them there must be always in the will the power of a contrary choice, the power of deciding against character. The Pelagian holds that there is no seated disease of the will, and that man may at any moment reverse the current of his wrong volitions and may become holy without help of any sort from without; while the Arminian, granting that man must have help, still claims that man has power to accept that help or to reject it, and that this acceptance, if it takes place at all, takes place in virtue of a freedom which still remains to him to decide as he will in spite of his character. Here are two men. Their characters are the same. Their circumstances are the same. The grace offered them is the same. The one accepts that grace; the other refuses it. The one is saved; the other lost. What makes them to differ in their decision and their destiny? Their own free choice, the Arminian replies. And so not to God, but to man, is due the merit and the glory of salvation. Man elects and regenerates himself. Before man's lordly will God himself stands powerless. If we would save men, we must pray to men, not to God. To use a rude metaphor, salvation is a two-horse vehicle, and man draws as much as God. In truth, God will never draw unless man begins. And as man can begin, so he can continue. Entire sanctification is just as completely within his power as is his first turning from sin.
Now this is a complete reversal of the true relation between God and man in the work of salvation. Man indeed .is not passive — he is active; but then he acts because God prompts and sustains his action. No synergistic scheme which regards the human will as taking the initiative, and by its own power laying hold of and appropriating salvation, can find anything but refutation and condemnation in the Scriptures. And yet these false and anti-Biblical conclusions are the logical and necessary result of a theory which holds that will is a power of individual choices only, and that this power can be exercised sovereignly in independence of the man's previous character and condition. These conclusions are as irrational as they are unscriptural. The view that regeneration is the act of man, cooperating with divine influences applied through the truth, provides no way for the beginning of holiness. For so long as man's selfish and perverse affections are unchanged, no choosing God is possible but such as proceeds from supreme desire for one's own interest and happiness. But the man thus supremely bent on self-gratification cannot see in God or his service anything productive of happiness; or, if he could see in them anything of advantage, his choice of God and his service from such a motive would not be a beginning of holiness. Man cannot change himself. The depravity of his will, since it consists in a fixed state of the affections which determines the character of all the volitions, amounts to a moral inability. Without a renewal of the affections from which all moral action springs, man will not choose holiness nor accept salvation. Surely we must reject a theory of the will which equally denies the plainest facts of experience and of Scripture, and which would rob God of his crowning glory, by making man his own savior.
Still another and a last set of passages in the Scriptures is that which asserts the permanence of holy character in God and in the redeemed. There is a certainty of final persever.lnce and salvation in the case of every true believer. It is the Father's good pleasure to give such the kingdom, and none shall be able to separate them from the love of Christ, or pluck them out of Christ's hand. So too, the Bible declares that God cannot lie, and cannot change. We rest upon these declarations as our great comfort and hope for the future. We trust in an everlasting love, and a mighty power, which will keep us through faith unto salvation, and will present us at last faultless, in the presence of the Father's glory, with exceeding joy. With all this agrees the theory of will which we have advocated. Volitions will follow character. No chance rules in the realm of will. Integrity will not lie. Holiness will not sin. Because God is God, and cannot change, he will fulfill his promises, and so confirm in goodness the wills of his saints, that on earth, those who have been renewed by his Spirit shall not fall away from their allegiance, and in heaven the just made perfect shall go no more out forever.
Character and its permanence, certainty of good conduct consistent with freedom, possibility of a moral necessity of righteousness — these are principles upon which we base all our confidence in God or man. But chiefly our confidence in God. For, weak and unstable as we are by reason of the two conflicting powers that move and work within us, we see no hope for permanence or rest in anything but God. But the philosophy we have been considering would shatter all our confidence, by persuading us that indeterminateness is the very essence of freedom, and that no confirmed goodness is possible. Since the will may always act contrary to motives and to inclinations, to influences and to character, not even God himself can make it certain that we shall not fall. Satan, it is said, had every inducement to maintain his allegiance to God, yet he apostatized. And beyond this liberty of indeterminateness, which is evermore upon the edge of the precipice, and is never certain that the next moment may not witness a causeless plunge into the abyss, beyond such liberty as this, the theory declares, there is no other conceivable or possible to God or man. The wild liberty of a Greek democracy is of a higher sort than a liberty regulated by law. May God save me from such liberty as this; for, if Satan fell and Adam fell, there are ten thousand chances to one that, unkept by God and unconfirmed in goodness, I too, sometime in the infinite range of existence before me, shall fall away from God and perish forever.
Indeed I know no reason for confidence, upon this view, that God himself will continue holy. Holiness is not a matter of nature, but of arbitrary will. There would be no merit or freedom in it, we are told, if God had not the power to be unholy. Dr. Dwight * considers that if sin produced as much good as virtue, it would be as commendable as virtue is, in either God or man. There is no certainty that God will abide in righteousness; for he has free-will, and the essence of free-will is uncertainty. And so we have from Dr. Whedon such sorry utterances as these that follow : "Whether God could not make himself equally happy in wrong is more than we can say." Nor can we say "whether the motives may not at some time prove strongest for divine apostasy to evil." Ah, how much these philosophers are willing to sacrifice for a theory! Would that they could perceive the .deeper philosophy that lies under those grand and simple formulas of
* Works, i: 159.
Augustine. Man was created, he would say, with a posse non peccare. But this was accompanied by a posse peccare also, and so it was only childlike innocence, but not confirmed virtue. Through trial and temptation, his true calling was to transform this freedom to sin or not to sin, into perfected holiness — the non posse peccare which belongs to God and to the elect angels. Then good would have become the law of his being. Holiness would have been so inwrought into his character, that freedom of will, for him, would have been identical with the necessity of good. But he fell; and instead of the blessed non posse peccare, there resulted the dreadful necessity of evil, the non posse non peccare, which is identical with moral slavery and ruin. The scheme of Augustine is profounder and truer and more Scriptural than that of Arminins. The doctrine that man may fall from grace, and God may fall from holiness, however ably it has been supported, and however piously its advocates have lived, does yet tend to the making of weak and unstable Christians, in whom weakness and instability are combined with self-sufficiency and small sense of their dependence upon God. But the true idea of freedom as ability to conform to the divine standard, and the certainty that the believer will attain to it and exemplify it in the perfect state which we are soon to enter, this gives nerve and cheer, and tends to the making of reverent and trustful and humble and persevering disciples. But this is not the chief merit of the view that volition is inseparable from character. Its chief merit is that it stands the test of Scripture and proves itself to be the philosophy of the word of God.
We have thus expounded our view of will, and have tried it by the standard of revelation. It only remains to mention the most striking objections that have been urged against it, and to show, if possible, that they are insufficient to invalidate the considerations urged in its support. For lack of space, our treatment of them must be very summary, but we shall endeavor to make it candid and sufficient. First, then, it is urged that the mind must have the power of acting without motives, because men do actually choose between things precisely equal and similar, and because God actually adopts one plan out of many of equal value, and elects one man while he passes by another of no less worth than he. Now I think it will be granted by all, that these cases, if they exist, are rare and exceptional ones, and do not reveal the ordinary law of the will's working. They do not therefore overturn our previous reasoning, the aim of which has been to discover the general principles of a theory of the will. Furthermore, we all know that in the case of human action, the instances where motives are apparently evenly balanced are always in matters of utter insignificance; at any rate, we never act in the weightier affairs of life, without seeing at least some reason for deciding in one way rather than another. But passing these considerations as merely preliminary, we make the general and broad denial that motives are ever, in human affairs, evenly balanced. There is always some preference which the man follows even in touching with his finger one of two squares on the checker-board, or else he chooses to put down his finger without knowing where it will rest. In either case it is absurd to suppose he puts his finger where he does not wish to, and if he does put it where he wants to put it, then he follows some motive, even though it te nothing more than this, that a certain square first strikes his eye or is nearest to his hand. The motive is there, though it may be in the man himself, not in the squares, when these do not differ from each other. And so our judgment is that the ass that starved between the two bundles of hay, because the attractions of each were so exactly balanced as to keep him in a state of stable equilibrinm between them, was indeed an ass. Thus far we have spoken of man. But the case is not essentially different when we apply the principle to God. We cannot believe that he chose a less worthy plan of the universe in place of a more worthy, for this would deny his benevolence as well as his wisdom. We therefore say that of many plans he chose the present — not without reason, but for reasons inscrutable to us. So God chooses one man to eternal life, not because of anything in him, but for reasons which exist only in God and which are unrevealed to us. The reasons why I choose one of two precisely similar gold pieces, are external to the gold pieces themselves. The reasons are in me, in my physical condition or my feelings at the time. But there are reasons, and the choice is never an act independent of motives. So God may choose between plans and between men, for reasons internal to his own nature. To assert that God chooses without reasons is to deny his wisdom. To assert that his reasons must be found in things external to himself, or that these reasons must be comprehensible to us, is to ignore, on the one hand, his likeness to men, and on the other hand, his infinite elevation above them. To deny that God may have reasons within himself even in choosing between things which, considered as merely external to himself, are equals, is to deny the possibility either of external creation or of movement of any kind within God's nature. For God is infinite and self-sufficient. He does not create to satisfy any want in himself, for he has no want to be satisfied. He does not create to increase his glory, but to reveal his glory. But if creation and non-creation are equally consistent with his blessedness, then he must create for reasons in himself alone. Any other principle would deny the existence and possibility of any thought or movement whatever in God, and render him as "idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean," a veritable Buddha, devoid of all consciousness and personality. We should not be willing to go to these lengths even to save a good theory of the will; we certainly are not willing to go to these lengths for the sake of saving a, bad one.
A second and more serious objection to our doctrine is, that upon this view, the first man, since he had a holy disposition, could never have sinned. We must either maintain, it is said, that Adam was created with an already corrupted will, which would throw the blame of his sin upon his Creator, or that he never fell at all, which would contradict our general scheme quite as much as it contradicts Scripture. We acknowledge that here, as well as in the divine permission of moral evil, there is a difficulty which we cannot fully solve. But we claim that the difficulty does not lie where the opponents of our view imagine, and that what difficulty does exist is by no means so vital and perilous as that which attends the scheme which they themselves maintain. We would begin our reply by freely acknowledging that there is a sense in which we must allow that our first father had the power of contrary choice. He was created pure, and might have maintained his integrity. He actually fell, and so possessed the power of choosing evil. Here were power of good and power of evil in one and the same being. In this sense,. Adam had the power of contrary choice — had it in a sense in which none of his descendants naturally have it; if they have it at all, it is as the result of divine grace, which puts side by side with the natural tendencies to sin, other and, on the whole, dominant tendencies to holiness. But this power of contrary choice which Adam possessed was not the nondescript and absurd faculty which our Arminian friends understand by the name. It was not an ability to decide without motives or contrary to all motives. It was not a self-contradictory ability to choose what he did not wish to choose, or to choose what on the whole he did not want. Adam's choice of evil, then, does not prove that he chose without motive or contrary to motive, and so his choice does not in the least help the philosophy of our opponents. The difficulty in the case is not in imagining how Ad&m could choose without or against motive, but in understanding how sinful motive could have found lodgment in a heart already prepossesed with a concreated disposition to holiness. Adam chose evil because he wanted to. How could he want to choose it ? — that is the real question.
Partial and insufficient explanations of this great fact have been attempted. The fact of Satanic temptation has been urged as accounting for the fall. The adversary, it is said, deceived our first parents, and this deception furnished the force needed to counterbalance their natural tendencies to good. But this is rather a hiding of the difficulty than an escape from it. For their yielding to such deception presupposes distrust of God and alienation from him. And then, even if this were a sufficient answer as respects Adam, it would only remove the problem one step further back. For Satan's fall, or at least, the fall of the first created spirit that apostatized, cannot be explained by temptation from without. To say that God creates any finite being with original disposition to evil, is the greatest of blasphemies, for it denies his holiness and makes him the virtual author of sin. Sin is the wilful revolt of the free creature from God. At his own door, and not at the door of God or of any fellow-creature, the blame of it must be laid.
A more plausible explanation is that which regards the fall as due to the withholding of supernatural grace, and so to be a demonstration that even free and pure intelligences must have their life in God, and cannot maintain their integrity without him. The grace given to Adam, it is said, was assisting grace, which he could use or not, as he willed. The grace given to us is grace that makes us will, and will aright. That only assisting grace, and not overcoming grace, was given to Adam, was not a penalty, but a tribute to his strength and perfection, which was naturally equal to the task before it. Now, grace is omnipotent, because nature is wholly without power. Then, grace was weak, because nature was strong. We recognize a measure of truth in this view. Irresistible grace certainly cannot be claimed as a matter of right by free creatures, perfectly endowed and naturally able to keep God's law. It makes the fall somewhat more intelligible, by its suggestion that the first sin was the inward withdrawing of the affections from God and consequent self-isolation of the spirit from the ever-ready influx of divine love and power. But the "why?" still remains unanswered, and the "how?" is still unexplained. What motive to withdraw from God? And if the motive be assigned, whence could the motive come? The mere power of choice does not explain the fact of an unholy choice. The fact of natural desire for sensuous and intellectual gratification does not explain how this desire came to be inordinate. We must acknowledge that we cannot understand how the first unholy emotion could have found shelter in a mind that was supremely set on God, nor how temptation could have overcome a soul in which there were originally no unholy propensities to which it could appeal.
But it is something to show that there may be reasons why this matter is beyond our comprehension, and that the difficulty is a greater stumblingblock in the way of the opposite theory of the will than it can possibly be upon our own. Let us remember that the matter in question is the origination not of a single volition, nor of one disposition among many, but of the fundamental bent and determination of the whole moral being. Such revolution of the nature, such change in the whole direction of the conscious and unconscious powers, we have no experience of, except in regeneration, when this fundamental bent of the affections and will is reversed. But even of this we can hardly be said to have experience, because it is wrought not by us but by God, and that so secretly and inscrutably, that we know nothing of it except in its results of conversion, or the voluntary turning of the soul, on our part, to God. Even this conversion is a unique thing, never wholly explicable, even to him who turns; but God's work is all a mystery. And yet, this act of turning back to God, that occurs only once in a lifetime, is the only incident of our experience that affords even the most distant analogue to that first supreme and unique act, by which in our great ancestor, all that there was of human nature turned away from God. It was an apostasy which could occur but once. It occurred in Adam before the eating of the forbidden fruit, and revealed itself in that eating. The subsequent sins of Adam and of ourselves are different in kind. They do not, as that did, determine or change the nature — they only show what that nature is, and and bring out more or less distinctly its inner capacities of evil. It was the one leap over the precipice. Once taken, it could never be undone. And because man cannot leap back again to the height from which he has fallen, but must lead his life far below, he finds it impossible to comprehend the nature or the possibility of that act, by which the race once for all left its first estate and gave itself to evil. Therefore we accept the doctrine of the fall without comprehending the method of it. But for the very reason that we do not comprehend it, we refuse to draw from it inferences prejudicial to facts indubitably ascertained from consciousness and from the word of God. We still claim, that however man's evil disposition first arose, there was an evil disposition, not derived from God but originated by man, in spite of holy tendencies with which God endowed him, and that therefore man sinned from a motive which God was able to foresee, and against whose results he was able to provide.
Do our opponents, the advocates of a capricious will, know more about the matter than this? Are they able to show that their theory removes the difficulties of the case? On the contrary we are persuaded that upon their view there is left no real responsibility for sin at all, and if there were responsibility, no possibility of foreseeing it or providing a salvation from it. For, consider, on the one hand, that this first most dreadful and most damning sin of all, was committed not only without motive but against motive. It was not only an unreasonable but an unreasoning act. There was no aim in view, no object songht, no desire to be gratified, which determined the kind and direction of the sinful volition. We say then that the volition was not sinful. No act is to be condemned, except as it is regarded as originating in, and as symptomatic of, an evil disposition. It is the settled principle of civil law, that crime does not consist alone in the external act. There is no crime, unless with the act, goes an evil motive or intent. We apply this principle to Adam's sin, and we declare, that to call that sin a motiveless and uncaused act, originating in the pure sovereignty and creatorship of Adam's mere faculty of volitions, is to deny that he sinned at all, and to turn the whole momentous transaction upon which the world's fate hung, into mere chance or madness, that could bring no guilt to Adam and no just consequences of sin or misery to the race.
Nor could such an act of bare caprice have been foreseen or provided for. If there was no motive, there was no certainty. If there was no certainty, there was nothing to be foreknown. If there was nothing to be foreknown, foreknowledge was impossible. What then means the fitting up of the world with all its dark draperies of storm and suffering, of malformation and of blight, of thorns and thistles, of internecine war among the brute creation, and the feeding of life upon life, that marked the ages before Adam? This looks as if man's coming and man's sin had been positively foreseen, and an arena had been fitted up, congruous with the great drama that was to be enacted. Above all, what means that revelation of the heart of God before creation, which is given us in those words: "The Lamb slain before the foundation of the world ;" and what mean those declarations that in this Christ we were "chosen before the world was?" These things indicate that the atonement and the application of the atonement were certainties before the curtain of night and chaos rose in the beginning. But if these things were certainties, says the theory, Adam could not have been free. To which we can only reply: So much the worse for a theory of freedom, which regards it as a synonym for caprice, and divorces it from the directing power of motive.
We come now to the last objection which needs an answer, this namely, that upon the view which we have set forth, man can do nothing to change his character. The power to alter our dispositions and to improve our principles of action, it is said, even though we be destitute of God's saving grace, is recognized in all processes of education, whether in the school or the family, and is the presupposition of all systems of civil and criminal administration. Now, in reply to this, it would be enough to say that our theory of the will makes room for the possibility of all these changes, so long as the fundamental motive remains the same. We have granted the fact of civil and secular freedom. Every man has the power of doing as he pleases, and of acting out in his individual choices the character within him. That character is a self-centred and self-seeking character. But there are a thousand ways of manifesting self-will, and of reaching self-gratification. And as widening knowledge presents new avenues for selfish activity, or more promising means of self-exaltation, the fundamental tendency of the will asserts itself in ever-varying choices. The indolent man, with new prospects of wealth opening to his view, may become a man of industry, and the drunkard, aroused to see the misery that lies before him and his family, may reform and become sober. Nay, we go further, and grant that there may be advances to forms of character of high intellectuality and of vast service to human welfare and progress, while yet the heart is unchanged, and the man is in spirit far from God. The gentleness of the worldly man may even simulate the grace of Christian love, and the steadfastness of worldly integrity may be mistaken for Christian principle, yet no power be at work but the self-contained and self-regarding principle that lies at the basis of the natural character.
Now all this possibility of growth in good we grant, so long as it is allowed that the human will cannot go further, and change the fundamental affection which constitutes its inmost character. We may grow in moral evil, by natural process, but not into true moral good. For moral good and natural good are two very different things. Moral good, in the sense in which we use the term, is only the fruit of the truest motive, love to God. And even the first beginnings of moral good are impossible without the inworking of the Holy Spirit. Man can choose between different ways of manifesting his natural disposition and determination; he may repress certain tendencies to evil, and may secure a growth in useful habit. But all the while, the inner motive of his striving will fail to be the highest motive, and his character will fail to meet the divine approval. This motive and this character, no power but God's can change. But can he not bend his mind to truth, and bring before him the force of outward facts that tend to enlighten and soften and subdue? Abstractly, yes. Practically, no. He has the natural power of attention, but alas, he will not attend. What is needed is, not new light on the picture, but the removal of the cataract which prevents him from seeing the picture. What is needed is, not volitions, prompted by the old selfish desire for his own interest and welfare, but a new affection towards God, which will make him, in the deepest fountain of his being, conformed to the divine holiness and empowered to the doing of God's will.
And this need of a new principle and motive, such as only God can give, is what the theory of will we are opposing, constantly tends to ignore. Would that its advocates could learn the humility and dependence of spirit which would enable them to understand this truth aright! You remember that when John and James, two brothers dear to our Lord, but not yet taught by the Spirit as they were a little after, came to Christ and besought the high places in his kingdom, Jesus put to them the searching question: "Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" Little did they know of the mighty and awful import of those words — the cup of suffering in Gethsemane and on Calvary, and the baptism of death and the grave that was to follow. But the question daunted them not. In their profound ignorance of Christ and of themselves, they said with a light and cheerful sense of independence and of power: "We are able!" How wonderful it is that Christ's rebuke was so gentle, how wonderful that he accepted even this self-ignorant and self-trustful determination to follow him, and then, taking the will for the deed, by his mighty Pentecostal Spirit made the deed equal to the will, so that James drank gladly the bitter cup of martyrdom, and John's long century life-time was baptized into the spirit of the Savior's death! But has man nothing to do then in his own salvation? Yes, I say; but it is with the ability that God giveth. God works, not before our working, but in and through our working. And he has shown men what is the work of God, namely, that they believe on Christ, his only begotten Son. This is man's duty, this is man's privilege, the moment the gospel message comes to him. The change of character is wrought by God's power alone, in and through man's trust and submission to the Savior. It is the old story of the withered hand. Was there ability there? Was the man wholly unresponsible for obedience until his hand was healed? Should he delay to stretch it forth, until Christ had wrought his cure? Ah, he might have waited forever without being healed, if he had held a certain theory of the will that we know of. Nay, there was duty there, before there was power; yet the healing did not follow upon obedience, but communicated the very power to obey. So there are lost men, whose moral nerves are shrivelled and powerless, and their very capacity of obedience gone. Without a renewal of their wills, they will not, they cannot, accept salvation. Yet we are bidden to go and preach to them that they turn at once from their iniquities and believe in Christ. Think God, though they have not the power to change their characters, there is a divine Spirit who can do this work, and who, with our word of command and invitation and promise, will energize the impotent will, and will cause it to rouse itself from its slumber of death, and to put forth new and God-given powers of life and spiritual freedom! 8