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Free Will

Miscellanies by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

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Edwards talks about how the will of man actually works.

31. Free Will. Freedom of will, to speak very improperly, does not infer an absolute contingency, nor is it inconsistent with an absolute necessity of the event that is to be brought about by this free will. For most certainly God’s will is free, and is no more bound than the will of his creatures, yet there is the greatest and most absolute necessity imaginable that God should always will good and never evil. But if this instance will not be allowed, it is certain that the will of the man Christ Jesus was free, who was a man as well as we, and of the same faculties as we; yet, as free as his will was, it was impossible that he should will sin.

71. Free Will. It is very true that God requires nothing of us as condition of eternal life but what is in our own power, and yet it is very true at the same time that it’s an utter impossible thing that ever man should do what is necessary in order to salvation, nor do the least towards it, without the almighty operation of the Holy Spirit of God — yea, except everything be entirely wrought by the Spirit of God. True and saving faith in Christ is not a thing out of the power of man, but infinitely easy. It is entirely in a man’s power to submit to Jesus Christ as a savior if he will. But the thing is, is it man’s will that he should will it, except God works it in him? To will it, as to do it, depends on a man’s will and not on his power; and however easy the thing be and however much in a man’s power, it is an impossibility that he should ever do it except he wills it, because submission to Christ is a willing. There are many things that are entirely in our power, of which things yet it may be said that it is an impossibility they should be, because of our dispositions. Perhaps some may say that it is a contradiction to say that that is in our power which yet it is an impossibility they [i.e., it] should be. It is according to what they mean by being in our power. I mean this: that that is in our power which we can do when we please, and I think those mean very improperly who mean otherwise. Now it is no contradiction to say that we can do such a thing when we please, and yet that it is an impossibility that it should be what we please. And although it may be the easiest thing in the world, yet it is not contradictory to say that it is impossible that we should please to do it, except God works it in us, according as I have explained. It is altogether in a man’s power, when he has a cup of poison offered to him, whether he will drink it or no, and yet by reason of the man’s internal disposition — the ideas and notions of things that he then has — it may be an impossibility that he should will to drink it. If a man who is a servant, exceeding wicked, debauched, and licentious, who has it offered to him whether he will choose a man of most exemplary holiness and strict piety for his master and submit to his government, it is perfectly (in my sense) in the servant’s power whether he will take him for his master and governor or no. And yet it may be an impossible thing that it should be as long as the servant has such and such inclination and desire, judgment, and ideas.

The world has got into an exceeding wrong and confused way of talking about will and power, not knowing what they mean by them. They say man can will such a thing and man cannot will it, which is dreadful confusion. When we say a man cannot will such a thing, the notion that is raised in our mind by such an expression is that the man might heartily and truly desire to will it but could not: that is, he truly willed to will it but could not, that is, he truly willed it but could not will it. I am sure that when we say a man can or cannot do such a thing we do not mean that he wills or does not will it. We say, and truly often, he can do such a thing when yet he wills it not, and yet it is an impossibility that he should do when he wills it not. But you’ll say he could will it if he would. It is most certainly true if he does will it he can will it. And you’ll say, if he does not will it, he can will it. I say it is true things so happen, circumstances or ideas may so fall, as to cause him to will it, but it is no act of his own power that he wills it, though it be necessary there should be a capacity, because will is the first spring of the voluntary exertions of the active power in man and the cause of it. And therefore, it is impossible that active power should cause the will to spring, except the effect causes its own cause, however we are compelled, unavoidably, thus to express — that of ourselves we can do nothing, that we have no power — and however this manner of expression, as well as the contrary, carries often a wrong idea in the mind: so that all that men do in real religion is entirely their own act and yet every tittle is wrought by the Spirit of God. Neither do I contradict myself by saying that all that men do in religion is entirely their own act. I mean that everything they do, they themselves do, which I suppose one will contradict. It is the exertion of their own power.

342. Axiom. Let this be laid down first as a postulate before treating of those doctrines about free will: that whatever is, there is some cause or reason why it is; and prove it.

436. Adam’s Fall. Original Sin. Free Will. Vid. M 291. Adam’s will was free in a respect that ours, since the fall, is not. Now man has, as it were, two wills. He has a will against a will. He has one will arising merely from a rational judgment of what is best for him. This may be called the rational will. And he has another will or inclination arising from the liveliness and intenseness of the idea of, or sensibleness of the good of, the object presented to the mind, which we may call appetite, which is against the other rational will and in fallen man in his natural state overcomes it and keeps it in subjection. So that although man with respect to his whole will compounded of those two (either arising from the addition of them together when they concur, or the excess of one above the other when they are opposite) is always a free agent, yet with respect to his rational will, or that part of his inclination which arises from a mere rational judgment of what is best for himself, he is not a free agent but is enslaved, he is a servant of sin. Thus our first parents were not, but were perfectly free agents with respect to their rational will — the inclinations, which we call appetites, were not above, did not keep in subjection.

And this must be what is meant when we say that God gave our first parent sufficient grace, though he withheld an efficacious grace, or a grace that should certainly uphold him in all temptations he could meet with. I say this must be meant by his having sufficient grace, viz., that he had grace sufficient to render him a free agent, not only with respect to his whole will but with respect to his rational, or the will that arose from a rational judgment of what was indeed best for himself.

When I say, his judgment of what is best for himself, I do not mean his judgment of what is best absolutely, and most lovely in itself; for the mind’s sense of the absolute loveliness of a thing directly influences only the will of appetite. If the soul wills it merely because it appears lovely in itself, it will be because the loveliness draws the appetition of the soul. It may indirectly influence what I call the rational will, or the judgment may be convinced that what is most lovely in itself will be best for him and most for his happiness. Merely the rationally judging that a thing is lovely in itself, with a sensibleness of the beauty and pleasantness of it, signifies nothing towards influencing the will except it be this indirect way, that he thinks it will therefore be best some way or other for himself-most for his good. Therefore, if a man has only a rational judgment that a thing is beautiful and lovely, without any sensibleness of the beauty, and at the same time does not think it best for himself, he will never choose it. Though, if he be sensible of the beauty of it to a strong degree, he may will it though he thinks it is not best for himself. Persons, from a sensibleness of the good and pleasantness of sense enjoyments, will them though they are convinced they are not best for themselves. Hence it follows that a person with respect to his rational will may be perfectly free, and yet may refuse that which he at the same time rationally judges to be in itself most lovely and becoming, and wills that which he rationally knows to be hateful.

Therefore man, having that sufficient grace as to render him quite free with respect to his rational will, or his will arising from mere judgment of what was best for himself, could not fall without having that judgment deceived, and being made to think that to be best for himself which was not so, and so having his rational will perverted. Though he might sin without being deceived in his rational judgment of what was most lovely in itself or, which is the same thing, without having his conscience deceived and blinded, he might rationally know at the same time that what he was about to do was hateful, unworthy, etc.; or, in other words, he might know that it was what he ought not to do. Vid. the next.

437. Perfection of Holiness, or how much grace a person must have in order to be sinless. In order to our first parents having grace sufficient to their being free with respect to their rational will, and in order to their being without habitual sin, they must have so much sense of spiritual excellencies and beauties, and so much inclination or appetite to them, as that that should be of itself above any of the inferior kind of appetites, so as to keep the same in subjection without the help of the rational will. If the gracious appetite ben’t above other appetites, although those appetites may constantly be kept under and ruled with the help of the rational will, yet it is with difficulty, and there is a war and struggle. It is labor for the rational will to maintain its ground, so that that will is not entirely free. The excess of the inferior appetites above the gracious is lust — is a principle of sin. It is an enemy in the soul and makes a great deal of disturbance there. To have a sinful inclination is sin, but the inclination of the man is to be found in compositions of inclinations. The excess of one above another of them is the inclination of the man. If the excess of inclination be to inferior objects in many cases, the prevailing inclination will be away from God, and though the man might do his duty in such a case, constantly with the help of the rational will, yet it would be grievous to him, which would be a sinful and abominable defect in the manner of doing it.

The case must be thus, therefore, with our first parents: when tempted, their sense of their duty to good and their love to it must be above inferior appetite, but so that that inferior appetite of itself was not sufficient to master the holy principle. Yet the rational will, being perverted and by a deceived judgment fitting in with the inferior appetite, overcame and overthrew the greater inclination. Besides, the holy inclination to obedience (as to its arise at least) must be greatly diminished by their error of judgment concerning God, and their doubting that he was true in what he threatened, and their error as though he were not good in faith and love to man. So Satan’s suggestion, “yea, hath God said, etc.” Satan suggested that he had forbid them because he was unwilling that they should be so much like himself in honor and happiness.

573. Free Will. I do not scruple to say that God has promised salvation to such things as are properly in men’s own powers. Those things in men unto which salvation is promised, or the conditions of them, are of two sorts: they are either:
1. Those acts which consist and are complete in the mere immediate exercise of the will or inclination itself. Such are the internal breathings of love to God and exercise of faith in Christ. These are absolutely necessary to salvation, and salvation is promised to them. These, in the most ordinary way of using the expression, cannot be said to be in a man’s own power or not in his power. Because when we speak of things being in man’s power or not in his power, in our common discourse, we have respect only to things that are consequential to his will, that are considered as the effect of his will, and not of the mere simple and first motions of the will itself. If we say a thing is in a man’s power, we mean that he can do it if he will. And so a prior act of the will determining is supposed. Neither can those things, in the vulgar and ordinary use of the expression, be said not to be in a man’s power, because when we say a thing is not in anyone’s power, we mean that he cannot do it if he will. But this is absurd to say of the very simple and mere acts of the will itself, that we cannot do them if we will, for the willing is the doing, and the doing of them consists in the willing of them.

Or 2. the other kind of conditions to which salvation is promised are those actions, or a way and course of those actions, that are the effects of the will and depend upon it, which flow from it, and which are properly called voluntary actions. These also are conditions of salvation, and have salvation promised to them. Thus salvation is very often promised to an universal obedience and a steadfast and faithful perseverance in it through the changes, difficulties, and trials of life. Now this sort of condition a man may be said properly to have in his own power, in the vulgar and more ordinary use of such an expression. Or if we say a man has it in his own power to do or not, we ordinarily mean no other than that he can do it if he has a mind to do it or chooses to do it or, all things considered, had rather do it than not. If we cannot be properly said to have everything in our power that we can do if we choose to do it, then we cannot be said properly to have it in our own power to do anything but only what we actually do. And so a man may be said properly to have it in his power to do that which he surely will not, as the case may be or the case being as it is. Thus a man may have it in his own power to sell his estate and give the money to his poor neighbor, and yet the case may be so at the same time that he may have so little love to his neighbor and so great a love to his possessions and the like that he certainly will not do it. There may be as much of a connection between these things in the qualities and circumstances of the man and his refusing to give his estate to his neighbor as between any two theorems in the mathematics. He has it in his power as much as he has other things, because there wants nothing but his having a mind to do it, or his being willing to do — and that is required in all other things, and in this no more than in everything else. So a man has it in his power, in the voluntary actions of his life, universally and steadfastly and faithfully to obey God’s commands and cleave to and follow Christ through all difficulties and trials, though it be certain that without love to God and faith in Jesus Christ no man will do it. And there is some connection between one being without these (as we all are naturally) and a not thus universally and perseveringly obeying God and cleaving to Christ. A man can avoid drunkenness if he will, and he can avoid fornication if he will, and so he can all other ways of wickedness if he chooses to avoid them, every one, and he can persevere in it if he holds of that mind, if he continues to choose to avoid them all. And God has promised salvation to them if they will thus do. If one should promise another a certain reward if he would appear himself his faithful friend by a persevering adherence to his interest, the case might be so that there might be such remarkable trials, and such a succession of them, that the man certainly would not fulfill this condition unless he be a sincere friend, but yet the fulfilling is in his own power and at his own choice.

631. Free Will. It does not at all excuse persons for not doing such duties as loving God, accepting of Christ, etc., that they cannot do it of themselves, unless they would if they could, i.e., unless they would do it from good principles. For that woulding is as good as no woulding at all that is in no wise from any good principle. But unless men would love God from some real respect to God or sense of duty, that is, of the goodness of that duty, or disposition to their duty as in itself good and lovely, and not merely from an aversion to pain and desire of pleasure, it is in no wise from any good principle.

657. Free Will. To place human liberty in a contingency of the will, or the will having nothing to determine it but its being left to happen this way or that, without any determining cause, is contrary to all use and custom of language. It is as far from the meaning of the words ‘freedom’ or ‘liberty’ in their original and common acceptation as the east is from the west. The original and proper meaning of a man’s being free or at liberty is that he is in such a state that he may act his pleasure and do what he will, and there never was any other meaning thought of till philosophers and metaphysicians took it in hand to fix a new meaning to the words.

And besides, when liberty is understood not for this but for that contingency or sovereignty of the will, as some call it, it not only has not its original true meaning but no meaning at all. The word ‘liberty’ used in that way is without any sense. It is a word without any notion or distinct consistent meaning to answer it. For the will to be determined without any determining cause is what nobody has any notion of any more than they have of a thing’s coming out of nothing without any cause. And to suppose that the will does firstly determine itself, or determine itself in its first volition or choice, is a contradiction. For it supposes that there is a volition or act of the will before the first act which is the determining cause of that first act.

830. Free Will. According to the present prevailing notion of liberty, it consists in a state of indifference that the soul was in, antecedent to the act of choice. So that if when the two opposites are proposed set before the will in order to its determination or choice, the soul is not found hitherto in a state of indifference and does not so remain till it has determined itself by its own act of choice, the proposal did not find the soul in a state of liberty, neither is the choice that is made upon it a free choice. And that thing done can be no further blameworthy than it is the fruit of a choice made by the will, in this sense left to itself and to its own sovereignty without any weight lying upon it (antecedent to its own determination and act of choice) to put it out of its balance, to bias and sway it one way, and in any measure by its power to govern its determination — because they suppose that a free will must be determined only by itself, and that nothing but its own sovereign command of itself can have any hand in its determination. But in case of such an antecedent biasing power affecting the will to turn it one way, the will is, in some measure at least, determined by something out of itself. So that according to this notion of liberty, if there be an original corruption, any evil inclination of nature, that so far as it prevails excuses any evil act of choice, because so far the corruption of nature took from the liberty of the will. And hence it will follow that if a man be naturally a very ill-natured man, and from that ill nature does oft entreat his neighbors maliciously and with great indignity, his neighbors ought to excuse and not to be angry with him so far as what he does is from ill nature. And so if he be naturally of a very proud, haughty spirit, it is unreasonable in his neighbors to resent his haughty, contemptuous carriage towards them, so far as it arises from a proud natural temper. And so, on the other hand, if any person be naturally of an excellent spirit, a disposition strongly inclining him to virtue and the most amiable actions, so far does it take from the commendableness and praiseworthiness of his actions. And so none of the holy excellent actions or voluntary sufferings of Jesus Christ are worthy of any reward or commendation, because he was naturally perfectly holy. He had a nature so strongly inclining him to holiness that it certainly and indeclinably determined him to holy actions. And so of the holy actions of the angels, and above all of the holy and righteous and excellent acts of God himself, for he by nature is infinitely holy. He is so far from exercising liberty in any of his holiness or virtue, according to this notion of liberty, that he is infinitely far from it, for his will antecedently to the act is infinitely out of the balance. An inclination one way is so strong, and makes it so necessary that he should choose on the holy side, that it is infinitely impossible that his will should be determined the other way.
And so it is equally against this notion of liberty if there was, previous to the act of choice, a preponderancy in those visible circumstances of the two opposite proposed objects of choice, so that antecedent to its act of choice, there was more, manifested or apparent to the soul, on one side that naturally tended to bias and sway the choice on that side than on the other. When the will proceeds in its act of choice according to such a bias, it is not a free choice because it was not determined only by itself but partly at least by something without itself, viz., that apparent preponderance of circumstances that put the will out of its balance so that it was not under equal advantages to choose either, in the mere exercise of its own sovereignty. A preponderance in visible circumstances that naturally tend to sway the disposition on one side is equivalent to a preponderance of the natural disposition on one side. And indeed it is the same thing, for it is supposed that in such circumstances nature preponderates that way. To say that there is a preponderance of such circumstances as naturally tend to turn the disposition that way is the same thing as to say that the disposition in the view of such circumstances naturally tends that way. As for instance, when the circumstances of a case proposed to the will for its choice are such that most of the visible pleasure and advantage, which we naturally incline to, is on one side, this is equivalent to a preponderating of nature towards one side and cannot be distinguished from it, because it is supposed that the natural inclination preponderated towards the greatest apparent advantage. Hence it is scarcely worth the while to offer any arguments to persuade men to choose that which is good and refuse that which is evil. It is not worth the while to set before men the wisdom of ways of virtue and piety and the folly of ways of vice by showing the great advantages and benefits of the former and the mischievous tendency of the latter — no, nor the deformity of the one and the beauty and amiableness of the other. For men naturally incline to what appears beautiful to them and abhor deformity. This notion of liberty seems to frustrate all such endeavors to persuade men to virtue. For though these things may induce them to what is materially virtuous, yet at the same time they take away the form of virtue, because they put the soul out of its equilibrium wherein its liberty consists, and occasion something else to determine the will besides its own sovereignty. And the more powerful the arguments are, the more likely are they to be in vain in this respect, for the more is the inclination put out of its balance and the greater hand has something external in determining the will, and so the more effectually is the form of virtue destroyed. And so likewise when men are led into the practice of virtue or vice by powerful example, the form of virtue and vice are wanting because men naturally incline to follow example. But how absurd are these things!

Corollary 1. From the absurdity of this notion of liberty we may infer that it is false, and that the liberty of men does not at all consist in, or depend upon, such an equilibrium but is entirely of another nature, and that whether the will or inclination be more or less out of its equilibrium before the act of choice, it does not at all concern the liberty of that act of choice.

Corollary 2. And from hence it follows that necessity (if by necessity is meant only certain connections of nature between one thing and another) is not a thing opposite to liberty or at all inconsistent with it, though compulsion or force be inconsistent with it. For as has been just shown, it is not in any measure inconsistent with liberty that the soul be out of an equilibrium, or that its nature preponderates before the act of choice (let it preponderate more or less). But no one will deny that the preponderance may be, and often is, such as to imply a necessity or certain connection with an act of choice agreeable to it.

Corollary 3. From what has been said, also it appears that it is not against human liberty for the will to be determined by something out of itself, as when it is determined by such a preponderating of circumstances.

Corollary 4. Hence it is not at all inconsistent with human liberty for man’s will to be determined by the ordering of divine providence, as when providence orders that the prevailing natural inclination or that preponderating visible circumstances should be on one side — yea, though providence should so order it as that a particular determination of the will should in nature be certainly connected with such a disposal of providence. And so neither the commendableness nor blameworthiness of the acts of the will is hereby infringed.

Corollary 5. Hence it is not at all against human liberty for God absolutely to decree that such a determination of the will shall come to pass, or to decree to order circumstances so that such a determination of the will shall certainly follow.

1075b. Freedom of the Will. Self-Determining Power. If the will determines its own acts, that determination is an act of the will. For by the supposition of those that hold this, self-determining power is that wherein consists the will’s exercise of its liberty and sovereignty (as some of them speak). Now undoubtedly the exercise of liberty and sovereignty is some act. The will cannot exercise any liberty in that wherein it does not act, or wherein it does not exercise itself. If this determination be no act, then it is no exercise of liberty, and then all that it is introduced for fails. Neither does the supposition of it at all help their cause or make out their scheme of the liberty of the will, consisting in a self-determining power. But the soul exercises as much liberty without it as with it, so that in denying this determination to be an act of the will they will entirely overthrow their own scheme. For if there be no act or exercise of the will in its determining its own acts, then no liberty is exercised in the will’s determining its own acts. And if no liberty be exercised in the will’s determining its own acts, then it follows that no liberty consists in the will’s power to determine its own acts, and consequently that the liberty of the will does not consist in a self-determining power in the will.

1153. Moral Inability. Free Will. Self-Determining Power. The following positions may be laid down as most clear and evident, relating to voluntary agents as subject to moral government.
There is no command given by God or men, or that ever is given by one intelligent being to another, that does directly and properly respect anything further than the disposition and acts of the will of that intelligent being that is commanded, i.e., nothing else, by any command given to an intelligent voluntary substance, is directly and properly the thing commanded and required of that substance but such acts of its will. It is the soul (that is, an intelligent substance) only that is properly commanded, that only is a capable subject of commands. For that being only is properly a capable subject of commands that is capable of perceiving commands given. But when commands thus are given to the soul, nothing else is required by those commands but its own acts. For a command is to do something, i.e., to do something itself. A command is not given to one thing, that another thing should do something. Though the actions of one thing may have respect to the actions or motions of another, and have influence upon them, yet the action, directly and properly, is the action of the thing commanded itself, and not the effects of its actions. Though the effects may be connected with the actions, all that a command given to an intelligent thing properly respects is what that thing should do or act. And therefore the commands that are given to the soul of man do properly respect or reach nothing further than the acts of the soul, and therefore respect nothing directly and properly beyond such and such acts of the will. For the soul itself has no other acts that are its own whereby to fulfill any command. And although the motions of the body follow the acts of the will by the law of nature which the Creator has established, yet that does not make the motions of the body the acts of the soul. The acts of the will, therefore, only are properly the acts that are required by any command God gives us. For our actions and all our duties and performances that are required or commanded, so far as they are properly ours, are no other than such and such acts of the will.

Things beside the habit and acts of the will are respected by the commands of God only indirectly, viz., as connected with the will. So far, therefore, as any good thing is connected with the will and its acts, so far, and so far only, is it the subject of a command, obligation, or duty. And so far, and so far only, as any good exercise of the faculties of the soul or members of the body is not implied in or connected with the will and its acts, it is not the proper subject of a command or matter of a duty, but is what we are justly excused and free from. And that, for that reason and that only, because it is not implied in or connected with the good will, and so is not what we can be properly voluntary in.
Hence it follows that no other sort of inability to any action or performance, consisting in the exercise of the faculties of the soul or members of the body, renders that performance not properly the matter of a command or duty, but such an one as implies want of a connection between that action or performance and the disposition and act of the will. If there be any sort of inability to that good thing that does in no wise interfere with, hinder, or stand in the way of a close, proper, and immediate connection with or implication in the act of the will, then that sort of inability does in no wise hinder any good thing from being the proper subject matter of a command. And with respect to any command supposed to require any such performance, it is in vain for any to plead their inability and to say they cannot do it, unless they would if they could. For willing, as has just now been shown, is all the thing directly required of them. Let them perform this. Let them exhibit the compliance of the will and they have done their duty, and that is all that is directly required of the soul in all commands whatsoever. And if there be anything else desirable that does not attend this compliance of the will and inclination, that does not prove to be implied in it or connected with it, from that they are excused.

From the things that have been already laid down and proved, it also follows that as to those things that are not the subject matter of duty and commands directly, as the dispositions and acts of the will themselves, but only indirectly, as other good actions and performances of the human nature (consisting either in any exercise of the faculties of the soul or motions of the body), no other sort of inability to them renders them improperly the subject matter of prescription and command, but only the inability that consists in the want of connection between them and those good acts of the will that are proper to be in such a nature as man’s, and are fit exercises of his faculties. It has been already shown that those good acts of his that are proper to be in such a nature as man’s, and not beyond the capacity of his faculties, are the proper matter of command. It has also been already shown that all such things as are connected with such acts of the will are also properly the subject matter of command. Therefore, certainly it follows that those things only that are not connected with such acts of the will are not the proper matter of command. And this implies that no other sort of inability to them but such as implies a want of such connection, makes them to be not the proper subjects of command. So that, if there be anything that man is supposed to be required to do, any exercise, affection, or exertion of mind that he is required to have, or any outward deed that he is required to perform, that he may in any sense be said to be unable to, that does not excuse him or render the thing not properly the matter of his duty and prescription to him, unless the inability be such as implies a want of connection between that thing and the good act of will that is properly required of him, so that he may properly have that good act of will fully exerted and yet cannot do the thing required, there being no connection between his will and the performance. If there be the good act of will that is properly required, fully exerted, and the performance ben’t connected and does not follow, then the man is excused, but otherwise not.

Again it is further evident that if there be some act of will about his performance required that the performance does not prove to be connected with, so that in some kind of sense the person may be said to be willing to do it or to desire to do it and cannot, yet is he not excused unless his act of will be a properly good act, and that act relating to his thing that is properly required of him. If there be some sort of act of will about it that the performance is not connected with, that does not at all excuse the man for want of the performance as long as the good properly required is absent which, if it were present, the performance would be found to be connected with it. For if this other act of will does not excuse for the want of the proper act required, no more can it excuse for the want of performance that is connected with the proper act required. For it is the connection of the performance with this proper act, and that only, that causes our duty to be concerned in it, and not its connection with some other act of the will that is diverse from the proper act required. Therefore, it is the want of a connection with this proper act of the will, and not its want of connection with some other act diverse from that, which causes our duty not to be concerned in it.

Thus, for instance, if an old notorious drunkard that is under the power of a violent and invincible appetite after strong drink be supposed to be commanded entirely to forsake his drunkenness, and required so to do under pain of eternal damnation, and has some kind of willingness to forsake this vice, i.e., his reason tells him that the pain of eternal damnation will be so great an evil that it will far more than countervail all the pleasure or good that he shall have from this vice, and therefore wishes he could forsake it, but his actually forsaking it does not prove to be connected with such a sort of act of will, this does not excuse him unless this be the proper act of will that is required of him, relating to this matter. But if the act of will required of him be not such an indirect willingness, which is not so properly a willingness to do the thing commanded to be done as a willingness to escape the punishment threatened, and if the act of will required of him be a proper, direct, and full willingness actually to forsake this vice and all those deeds that belong to it — if this be the volition required, and he has this, and the performance does not prove to be connected with it, then is the man excused, but not otherwise. Or we will suppose the violent lust the man is under the invincible power of is not any sensitive appetite, but some malice and an insatiable devilish malignancy of spirit against some excellent and most worthy person, and very highly deserving of him, and the thing required of him, under pain of damnation is to leave off injuring that person; and he finds the same sort of willingness to it that, in the forementioned instance, the drunkard has to forsake his cups, but the performance does not prove to be connected with it. It does not at all excuse him, because his willingness is no proper, direct, and full willingness actually to comply with the command.

The case is the same and equally evident, and the evidence more direct and plain, if the thing required be not any external performance that is connected with some act of the will, but only the act of the will itself, or some good compliance of the heart, that is properly required of him. According to the foregoing positions, if this act of the will required be wanting, but yet there is some other indirect act of the will, which the person to escape punishment or on some foreign considerations is willing to will, or wishes he was willing, but yet remains without the proper act of will required — his indirect willingness in such a case cannot excuse the want of the proper willingness that is required. As for instance, suppose a man has a most amiable and agreeable and every way deserving woman for his wife, and be required to love her and choose her above all other women, to cleave to her in the choice and acquiescence of his will, as relinquishing all other women, but he, instead of this, is overpowered by a violent lust for some vile and notorious strumpet, whereby he has his heart alienated from his wife and has no delight in her, but an aversion to her. But yet he is sensible that its being with him as it is, in this respect, is like to prove the utter ruin of himself and his family, and he therefore wishes it was otherwise. He wishes that he loved his wife as he does his harlot, and that his heart cleaved to her with so full a choice and entire compliance that he could have as much pleasure and delight in her as in the other. This indirect willingness to cleave to his wife in his love and choice does not at all excuse him for the want of actual love and choice. Or if a child has an excellent father that has ever been kind to him, and has every way in the highest degree merited the respect and honor and love of his child, and this child be commanded by God to love and honor his father, but he is of so vile a disposition that he notwithstanding inveterately hates him, but being sensible that his hatred of his father will prove his ruin by his father’s disinheriting him, wishes it was otherwise but remains still under the invincible power of his cursed disposition, and so in a settled hatred of his father — his indirect willingness to love and honor his father does not excuse for the want of the actual compliance of his heart with the duty required of him towards his father. And further we will suppose the thing required be that a man make choice of God as his highest portion and chief good, or that his heart should cleave to Christ Jesus and acquiesce in him as his savior, his guide, his lord, and best friend, and through fear of damnation as the consequence of the want of such an act of will or choice of heart, he wishes he could find it in himself but yet remains destitute of it. That indirect willingness he has does not at all excuse him for the want of the proper act of will required.
It is further evident that such an indirect willingness, as has been spoken of, cannot at all excuse for the want of that good act of will that is required, provided that good act of will be properly and fitly required (which is a thing supposed), for this reason: that this other indirect willingness does not answer the command fitly given or (which is the same thing) it does not answer the man’s duty. If the man’s duty is not answered by what he does, then what he does does not excuse or acquit him, for it is his doing something that answers the obligation only that acquits him with respect to that obligation, and not his doing something else that does not answer it. But now this other indirect willingness does not answer the man’s duty, or satisfy the command that requires of him another willingness quite diverse from that.

And as to such good acts of the will, or exercises of the heart as have been mentioned, viz., a man’s making choice of God as his portion and highest good, his heart cleaving to Christ as a most excellent savior, or any other holy exercise of the will, inclination, or affection that are proper to be in the heart of man, it will further appear that such an indirect willingness to those things as has been spoken of, or their wishing, by strong fear of punishment, they could exercise such a will and disposition but find themselves unable, i.e., they do not find such exercises to be connected with such wishings and wouldings — I say, it will further appear that such a willingness or desire for those things cannot excuse for the want of them or at all acquit the person that remains destitute of them, let his willingness and desires through such fear be never so true and real, and so in that respect sincere, because if they excuse and acquit the person, it must be on one of these two accounts: either 1. Because those desires are in effect the thing required, or 2. That there is that virtue or goodness in them that balances the goodness and virtue of the thing required, and so countervails the want of it.

As to the first of these, that those indirect desires from foreign considerations are not in effect the same thing that is required, has been observed already as contrary to the supposition. And therefore, if such a willingness excuses persons, it must be on the other account, viz., that there is some virtue or goodness in such an indirect willingness to balance the goodness of the exercise required or countervail the want of it. A willingness to do a good thing required of us cannot countervail the want of that good thing, unless it be a good willingness. It has nothing to countervail the want of true goodness and virtue. A kind of willingness that is not truly a good willingness cannot excuse for the want of a good willingness.

Supposing a son is possessed by a most inveterate enmity against a wealthy and excellent father, that is so great as hinders his behaving towards him as a dutiful child, which provokes his father to shut up his hand towards one who otherwise might have his pockets full of money. Supposing also the son to be a person of violent and impetuous lust but is not under advantage to gratify his lust, not having money to spend upon his whores by reason of the penury which his undutifulness brings upon him, which causes him to wish that his heart was otherwise towards his father. But yet so rooted and vehement is his devilish malignity of spirit towards his honorable father that he still remains under the power and government of it: — I suppose that willingness he has to love and honor his father (though he sincerely, i.e., really and truly, desires it for that end, that he may gratify his violent lust) does not at all excuse the want of that love or countervail his remaining enmity. The plain reason is that there is no virtue or goodness in it to make up for the want of the virtue required or countervail the badness of his enmity. This is the proper reason, and therefore, if he had the same indirect willingness from some other principle not so heinous as this, yet if it was from no good principle, and so it was a willingness that had no goodness in it, still it would not excuse or countervail for the want of the goodness required, and that because the reason holds good, viz., that there is no goodness at all in the willingness, and consequently nothing at all to countervail the defect of goodness, and so no excuse at all.

Sincerity and reality in this willingness does not make it the better — that which is real and hearty is sincere whether it be in virtue or vice. Some persons are sincerely bad and others are sincerely good. Others may be sincere and hearty in things in their own nature indifferent but being sincere in a thing that is virtuous. A man may be sincere and hearty in subscribing to a covenant offered him by a crew of pirates or gang of robbers, obliging himself to join with them, and yet there can be no virtue in his sincerity. The devils are sincerely and heartily willing and desirous to be freed from the torments of hell, but this does not make their will or desires virtuous.

And as an having a real, sincere, and hearty willing to one’s duty does not make his willingness to be virtuous, or such as can excuse him in a defect of compliance with any supposed duty, unless that willingness be from a good principle, so it is with endeavor arising from such a will. The endeavors have no more goodness in them than the will that the endeavors arise from. If a young man hates his father (as was represented before) from the violence of lust and that he may be under advantage to gratify that, is willing to love his father, his willingness has no goodness in it, nor can excuse for the want of the required love. And if from such a willingness he endeavors to love his father, neither have his endeavors, though as sincere as his willingness, any virtue in them or excuse for the want of the required love, any more than his willingness. The endeavor considered as the act of the willing agent cannot be any better than the will it proceeds from, for his endeavor is no further his act than as it is an expression of his will. But certainly there is no more goodness or virtue in the exercises and expressions of a will than there is in the will itself that is exercised and expressed. And therefore the sincerity of endeavors, or a person’s truly endeavoring a thing, and doing what they can from a real willingness to obtain the thing they endeavor for, does not render those endeavors at all virtuous unless the will itself that the endeavors proceed from (the reality of which denominates the endeavors sincere) be virtuous, and cannot excuse a person in this defect of the thing endeavored for, any more than the will itself. The devils that possessed the Gadarene were doubtless afraid Christ was going to torment them, and were sincerely willing to avoid it. If we also suppose they were sincere in their endeavors to avoid it when they cried, “Thou Son of God most high we beseech thee torment us not,” those endeavors, however sincere, had not more virtue in them than the will they proceeded from. And if we suppose they did whatever they could in their endeavors, still it alters not the case.

That such indirect desires and wishing from mere fear and self-love, and from no other principles than are as much in the hearts of devils as angels, haven’t any virtue or goodness in them that be a balance for the goodness of those holy exercises of heart required, though never so real and sincere, is easily proved. (Here largely show the evidence of this, if ever I should write anything on this subject to be published.) Their being sincere alters not the case unless a being sincerely afraid of hell be a virtue. The sincerity of the act does not make it virtuous unless the sanctity of the principle makes it virtuous.

Sincerity. From what has been said, it is evident that persons’ endeavors, however sincere and real, and however great, and though they do their utmost, unless the will that those endeavors proceed from be truly good and virtuous, can avail to no purposes whatsoever with any moral validity, as anything in the sight of God morally valuable and so of weight through any moral value, to merit, recommend, satisfy, excuse, or make up for any moral defect, or anything that should abate resentment or render it any way unjust or hard to execute punishment for any moral evil or want of any moral good. Because, if such endeavors have any such value, weight, or validity in the sight of God, it must be through something in them that is good and virtuous in his sight. For surely that which in his sight is good for nothing is in his sight wholly and entirely vain and without any positive moral value, weight, or validity, and can have no weight at all in a moral sense positively and properly — though there may be something negative in it, as through those endeavors persons may avoid some positive evils that otherwise would be committed and so may in some respects avoid incurring further guilt. He that saves his neighbor from drowning, not from love to him but merely from covetousness and because his own interest is concerned, though what he does is nothing good in the sight of God, yet hereby he avoids the greater guilt that would arise in the sight of God through such a degree of murder as he would actually be guilty of if he should stand by and see him drown when he could easily help him.

There is an exceeding great and unknown deceit arises from the use of language, from the great ambiguity of the word ‘sincere.’ Indeed, there is a vast indistinctness, unfixedness, and ambiguity in most (or at least very many) of the terms that are used to express these ‘mixed modes’ (as Mr. Locke calls them) that appertain to moral and spiritual matters, whence arise innumerable mistakes, strong prejudices, and endless controversy and inextricable confusion.

The word ‘sincere’ is commonly used to signify something good and virtuous. Men are habituated to such an understanding of it, so that the expression, whenever it is used, excites that notion and naturally suggests something to the mind that is indeed very excellent. (Much the same with the words ‘honest’ and ‘upright’.) Yea, something more we conceive by it — not only something that is honestly and truly good, and good in the sight of him that sees not only the outward appearance but the heart, but also good with all the heart and from the bottom of the heart. Therefore men think that if a person be sincere in his endeavors to do his duty or to obtain any moral qualification that is supposed to be requisite, he is altogether to be justified, and it would be hard and unreasonable to blame him, much more to punish him, for being unsuccessful. For to say he is thus sincere suggests to the mind as much as that his heart and will is good. There is no defect of duty as to his virtuous inclination. He honestly and uprightly desires and endeavors to do as he is required. His will and heart fully comply with his duty, but only the thing supposed to be required does not prove to be connected.

Whereas, it ought to be observed that the word ‘sincere’ has these different significations: First. Sincerity, as the word is often used, signifies no more than reality of will and endeavor with respect to anything that is professed or pretended, without any consideration of the nature of the principle or aim whence this real will and true endeavor arises. If the man has some real will or desire to obtain a thing, either direct or indirect, or does really endeavor after a thing, he is said sincerely to desire it and endeavor it, without any consideration of the goodness and virtuousness of the principle he acts from, and the excellency of the end he acts for. What is meant by the man’s being sincere in his desire or endeavor is no more than that the appearance and show there is of a desire or endeavor is not a mere pretense and dissimulation, when indeed he does not at all desire or endeavor the thing that he pretends to. Thus a man that is kind to his neighbor’s wife that is sick and languishing is very helpful in her case, and makes a show of desiring and endeavoring her restoration to health and vigor, and not only makes such a show, but there is a reality in his pretense — he does heartily and earnestly desire her restoration and uses his true and utmost endeavors for it — he is said sincerely to desire and endeavor it because he does so truly, through perhaps the principle he acts from is no other than a vile and scandalous lust, he having secretly maintained a criminal intercourse and lived in adultery with her and earnestly wishes for her restored health and vigor that he may return to his criminal pleasure. So a man that does not merely pretend to it may be said sincerely to hate his neighbor.

Or Second. By sincerity is meant not merely a reality of will and endeavor of some sort or other, from some consideration or other, but a virtuous sincerity. That is, that in a man performing those particular acts that are the matter of virtue or duty, there is not only the reality of the matter or thing to be done, but also the reality of the form and essence of the virtue that appertains to it, consisting in the aim that governs the act and the principle that is exercised in it. There is not only the reality of the act that is, as it were, the body of the duty, but also the soul that should properly belong to such a body, or those inward principles wherein consists the real virtue that properly should belong to the act. In this sense a man is said to be sincere when he acts with a pure intention, not from sinister views or for by-ends. He not only, in reality, desires and endeavors after the thing to be done or the qualification to be obtained, but he wills the thing directly and properly, as neither forced nor bribed. His choice is free in the matter. He seeks it as virtue, and chooses it for its own sake, as delighting in virtue. So that not only the thing itself in the matter of it, upon some account or other, is the object of the willing, but the virtue of the thing is properly the object of the will.

In the former sense, a man is said to be sincere in opposition to a mere pretense and show of the particular thing to be done or exhibited, without any real desire or endeavor at all. In the latter sense, a man is said to be sincere in opposition to that show of virtue there is in merely doing the matter of duty without the reality of the virtue itself in the soul and essence of it that there is a show of. A man may be sincere in the former sense, and yet in the latter be in the sight of God, who searches the heart, a vile hypocrite, and his deeds and endeavors, though in some sort sincere, may before God be good for nothing and of no significancy or avail.

In the latter kind of sincerity only is there any true virtue, and this is the thing that in the Scripture is called sincerity, uprightness, integrity, truth in the inward parts, and being of a perfect heart. If a man be sincere in his will, desires, and endeavors in this respect, this is of some virtue in the sight of God. And if there be such a sincerity and such a degree of it as there ought to be, and it be found that anything that might be supposed to be required is not connected with it, the man indeed is wholly excused and acquitted in the sight of God. His will shall surely be accepted for the deed. For such a will is all that is in strictness required of him by any command of God, as we showed before. The commands of God given to any spiritual voluntary being respect nothing else directly and properly but the habits and acts of the will. But as to the other kind of sincerity of desires and endeavors, as was observed before, it being good for nothing in God’s sight, is not accepted with him as of any weight or value to recommend, satisfy, excuse, or counterbalance any good thing that is mentioned. See Bk. I on Free Will, p- 54. 32

If there be any act or determination of the soul, or any exertion or alteration whatsoever prior to the act of the will, or any voluntary act in the case, as it were, directing and determining what the will shall be, that exertion or determination is not what any command does properly respect, because it is no voluntary act (because by the supposition it is prior to any voluntary act), or act of the will, being that which determines the will in its acts and directs it how to act.

If the soul is self-determined in its own acts of will, as some suppose, that determination is an act of the soul, for certainly it is an active determination that is supposed. And therefore, if the act of the will be determined by the soul itself, it is determined by some antecedent act or act prior to the particular volition directed and determined. (See M 1155.) If any say, no, there is no necessity of supposing that the soul’s determination of the act of will is any prior to the act of will itself. But the soul determines the act of will in willing, or directs its own volition in the very act of volition, so that, in willing as it does, it determines its own will — they that say thus can mean no more than that the soul’s determination of its act of will is in the very time of the act of will itself and not before it in the order of time. But that does not make it the less before it in the order of nature, so that the particular act of volition should really be consequent upon it, as an effect is on the cause that it depends on. Thus that act of the will which determines the direction of a motion of a body may not be prior to the motion itself in order of time, but it many direct the motion of the body in moving it. But yet the act that determines the motion is not the less before the motion directed and determined in the order of nature, as that by which the determined motion is caused and on which it depends. Nothing else can be meant but this, by such an objection against the priority of the determination of the act of will to the act of will itself — unless any will say that the soul’s determining its own act is not anything at all diverse from the soul’s exerting an act of will, and that the determination of the act of the will is the very same with the act of the will itself that is determined. But this is to talk nonsense. If the particular act of will that appears or comes into existence be something properly directed or determined at all, then it has some cause of its being in such a particular determined manner and not another, and that determination or deciding what the particular manner of its existence shall be is not the very same with the thing determined, but something prior to it and on which it depends. If the particular determined or precise act of will that exists is not consequent or dependent on something preceding determination and direction, or the determination of the act be nothing at all, either preceding or diverse from the very act of will itself, then that particular act of will is an existence that has no cause, and so is no effect at all, but is absolutely something that has started up into existence without any cause determinate in reason, or foundation of its existence — which is as great an absurdity as to suppose the world, that had from eternity been nonexistent, to start into existence all at once at a particular moment absolutely without any cause. And besides, to insist and contend earnestly that the soul determines its own acts of will, and then to say that its determination of its acts of will is the very same with the acts of will themselves, is to dispute and contend about nothing. For thus the dispute is not at all about the reason or ground of the acts of will, or any of the soul’s acts. But what is contended for, it seems, comes to no more than this: that the soul wills what it wills and determines what it determines, or that the mind acts what it acts and that it has those acts that it has, and is the subject of what it is the subject of, or what is, is.
But if any shall insist that the act of the soul, that is, in determining its own acts of will, is subject to the command of God — that that determining exertion or directing act that directs the consequent volition is either obedience or disobedience to the command of God — I desire such persons to consider that if there be any obedience in that determining act, it is, to be sure, obedience wherein the will has no share. Because, by the supposition, it precedes each act of the will, since each act depends on it as its determining cause, and therefore it is wholly an involuntary act. So that if in these acts the soul either obeys or disobeys, it obeys or disobeys wholly involuntarily: it is no willing obedience or rebellion, no compliance or opposition of the will. And what sort of obedience and rebellion is this?
But no command does properly, directly, and immediately respect any action or exertion whatsoever but that which is voluntary. For what a command requires is that the will of the being commanded should be conformed to the will of him that gives the command. What a command has respect to and seeks is compliance and submission; but there is no compliance, submission, or yielding in that which is not voluntary. Hence it is plain that if there be any sort of act or exertion of the soul prior to its acts of will or voluntary acts, directing and determining those acts of the will, they cannot be subject to any command. If they are properly subject to commands and prescriptions at all, it must be only remotely as those prior acts and determinations are connected with and dependent on some acts of the will in the soul prior to them. But this is contrary to the supposition, for it is supposed that these acts of the soul are prior to all acts of the will — all acts of the will being directed and determined thereby.
It will prove according to all schemes that the necessity, negative or positive (i.e., the necessity or impossibility), of such acts of the will as are fit and proper to be in such a nature as man’s, and not beyond the capacity to his faculties, do not render them improperly the subject matter of prescription and command, if by necessity be meant only a prior certainty, determination, or fixedness. For according to the scheme of those that hold what they call a sovereignty of the will, and hold that the soul determines its own volitions or acts of will, if this be true in any proper sense, then there is some act of the soul prior to those volitions that it determines. For the soul’s volitions, by this supposition, are effects of something that passes in the soul, some act or exertion of the soul prior to the volitions themselves, directing, determining, and fixing the consequent volition. For, according to them, the volition is a determined effect, and if it be, it is determined by some act, for a cause lying perfectly dormant and inactive does or determines nothing any more than that which has no being. Whatever determines the acts of the will, yet the acts of the will themselves, being determined effects or effects decisively fixed by some prior determining cause, the acts themselves must be necessary. And whatever that be that determines or decides what those acts shall be, whether the soul itself or something else, it alters not the case as to the acts themselves being fixed and necessary events. The determination of the act of will must be prior to the act determined, as has been demonstrated. And by the supposition of the act of the will being determined by it, it is dependent on it and necessarily consequent upon it. If it be wholly determined by it, as it is by the supposition, then it is wholly dependent on it and altogether necessarily consequent upon it. If the acts of the will are determined by any cause whatsoever deciding what they shall be, and ben’t events absolutely without any cause, then there is a fixed connection between these effects and their causes — as when, in a body in motion in a particular direction, if that direction of motion ben’t absolutely without a cause, something has determined the motion to such a course, and the direction of motion depends on, and is necessarily connected with, the preceding action of something that gave the moving body that direction. And whether we suppose the moving body to determine the direction of its own motion or to be determined by something else, it alters not the case as to the dependence of the effect itself on its cause, or of the direction of motion on the determination or determining act by which it is decided. If there be any meaning at all in any talk about determining the will as to its acts, the meaning must be determining which way it shall act or what the particular acts shall be, whether thus or thus. This plainly supposes that there is some cause of the particular acts of the will, or some cause, ground, or reason that the will is exerted this way and not the other, something that causally determines and decides which way the act shall be. So that according to the scheme even of those that hold a sovereignty of the will in this sense, the volition and acts of the will themselves are all determined effects fixed by something preceding, and so, in the sense that has been spoken of, are either necessary or impossible. (See book on the Freedom of the Will, p. 539:2. See Chubb, p. 389, a little past the middle — “self-determining power becomes a necessary cause, etc.”)

And again, if any are in that scheme that the acts of the will themselves do not come to pass by any determining or directing cause at all, and arise purely accidentally, yet still they are necessary to the soul that is the subject. For if the soul be subjected to chance after this manner, that its volitions arise by pure accident without any determining cause whatsoever, then to be sure the soul has no hand in them and neither causes nor prevents them, but is necessarily subjected to what chance brings to pass from time to time, as much as the earth (that is inactive) is subject to what falls upon it, and necessarily without what falls not upon it. That which is by chance without dependence on determining cause is, by the supposition, not caused nor prevented by any determination of the subject of it, nor can be, so far as it is by chance without dependence on a determining cause. (See paper of minutes N. 4, p. 8, 9.) So that it is evident to a demonstration on all suppositions that, if the volitions or acts of the will of any creature are ever properly the subject matter of duty, prescription, or command, merely the necessity or impossibility of those volitions, in that sense that their being or not being is determined by a prior certainty and fixation, does not hinder any of those volitions that are proper to be in a thing of such a nature as man’s soul from being properly the matter of divine prescription and command.
Hence it follows that no inability to any good act of will — that does not consist in any incapacity of human nature and faculties to be the subject of such an act, but amounts to no more than such a kind of negative necessity, certainty, and fixation as has been spoken of, either through an unsuitable and hateful aversion already fixed and settled, or any other cause that does not bring such a necessity by making the volition impossible, by rendering the thing required such as the faculties of human nature are not capable to be made the subjects of, but only by determining the will against it — I say it follows from what has been said, that no such sort of inability to any good act of the will does in any wise render it improperly the matter of divine prescription and command. For that is what I have just now shown — that an act of the will being either necessary or impossible in that sense, merely that the act of the will or the absence of the act is certain by some determination and fixation, does not make it the less the matter of divine prescription.

Hence that the absolute decrees of God, foreordaining or foredetermining the volitions of men, are in no wise inconsistent with God’s moral government; is exercised with respect to those volitions, as commanding or forbidding, rewarding or punishing them. I say, absolute decrees are not inconsistent with those merely because they infer such fixation and certainty of those volitions. If they are inconsistent with such a divine moral government with regard to those volitions, it must not be on account of such a certainty or necessity, but on some other account. For it has been now proved that such a necessity of particular volitions does not render such volitions or acts of the will properly the matter of duty, and so of prescription and command, and consequently of the proper enforcements of commands and sanctions of law.

1154. Free Will. Events without a cause cannot be foreseen. If anything could come to pass at a particular time without a cause, I scruple not to affirm that it could not be foreseen. As for instance, we will suppose that till 5,750 years ago there was no other being excepting the divine being, and then this world, or some particular body or spirit, all at once started out of nothing, without any concern of God in this matter, but absolutely without cause or any reason at all why it started into being then rather than sooner or later or why such a thing came into being and not something else, why of such dimensions rather than less or greater, etc., or why anything should come into being at all — I say, if this be supposed, it will follow that such an event could not be foreknown. It could not be foreseen that such a thing would at that time come into being. It could not be foreseen that that thing would come into being rather than another, when there was absolutely no more reason why that should rather than another. It could not be foreseen that it should come into being at such a time rather than another, when there was absolutely nothing to give any superior right or value to that moment, to cause that to preponderate rather than any other with respect to that event. Such a future event as has been supposed could not be known because it would be absolutely in its own nature unknowable by the supposition, as some things cannot be done because they are absolutely and in their own nature impossible. I call that absolutely and in its own nature impossible which, with the greatest degree of strength supposable, has no tendency to, and which no increase of strength makes any approach to. So I call that absolutely unknowable, to the knowledge of which the greatest capacity of discerning supposable has no tendency and which no increase of discerning makes any approach to. But if something thus comes into existence, absolutely without any cause or anything prior as the reason why it should come into existence, its futurity is such a thing that no increase of discerning causes any approach or tendency to the knowledge of it. And that appears because a great degree of discerning has a greater tendency to the knowledge of things, or enables better to know things, no otherwise than it enables better to discern the evidence of things. But an increase of discerning has no tendency to a discerning evidence where there is none. But in the case of the supposition before us of a future existence that is absolutely without any reason why it should be, there is, even by the supposition, absolutely no preceding evidence of it. If there be no reason why such an existence should be, rather than another, then all things at present are exactly equal and the same with respect to that and other supposed existences, and therefore there is at present no more evidence that that will be than something else that never will be. If there be at present no reason why that existence should be rather than another, then no reason can be seen why it should be rather than another. If there be at present some more evidence that that will be rather than another, that prevailing evidence consists in something. But this is contrary to the supposition, for by the supposition at present all things are equal with respect to each, and there is nothing whatsoever preponderating with respect to either. If there be evidence at present of this futurity (as I said), the evidence consists in something, and therefore either consists in the thing itself or something else. If it be self-evident, then the evidence that now is of the future existence consists in the thing itself, foreseen by the evidence there is in the thing itself. But this is contrary to the supposition, for it is supposed that the thing itself at present is not. There is no such thing at present in any respect for the evidence of it to be seen in it. And there is no evidence of it in anything else, for by the supposition there is at present nothing else — for by the supposition there is nothing at all at present in existence that is in any respect, whatsoever, connected with it or related to it. And therefore there can be no evidence or proof or argument of it, for the very notion of proof or argument implies relation and connection with the truth proved or argued. God, therefore, on this supposition, by his infinite capacity of discerning, cannot discern any proof or evidence of this futurity because there is none to be discerned. He cannot discern it in himself, for by the supposition he is not the author of it, nor is any way concerned, nor is there anything in himself connected with it. He cannot discern it in anything else, for there is by the supposition nothing else.

If anyone shall say that God, by his omniscience, can know things without evidence, I desire that he would consider again what he says. For to say that God knows things without evidence is the same thing as to say that things are known to him without being evident to him, i.e., they are very clear, evident, and certain when they are not at all evident. If things are evident to God, then he sees evidence of them — there is something that is evident in his eyes though it may be not in the eyes of others. But we may be sure that that which is evident in his eyes is good and real evidence in its own nature. See book concerning Free Will at the beginning, but especially p. 6, etc. See Stebbing, p. 236, and Dr. Clark’s Dem., prop. 10.

1155. Free Will. Self -Determining Power. They that hold a self-determining power in the will would be understood, that the will is active in determining itself or that it determines its own volitions by its own act. For they are strenuous in it, that the soul is not merely passive in conversion and turning of the will to good, etc. They cry out at the Calvinists for making men passive. They insist upon it that men are active in it, so that there is another act preceding the act of the will according to them.

Again, if the will determines the will, then the will in so determining itself does something. For determining the will is to do something. And therefore this determination is a doing or act of the will, so that here we have plainly an act of the will determining an act of the will, and the will determining all its own acts by some preceding act of its own — which is a contradiction, because this supposes an act of the will before the first or determining one. If the will determines its own acts by its own acts, then it determines its own acts prior to its volitions. For if the will be determined by an act of the will, it is determined by its volition — that is, by an act of the will and not an act of the understanding or any other faculty — it is purely an act of the will or volition.

Consider the following two works by Edwards that have been updated and republished for easy reading:

Ripe for Damnation: Sermons on the Book of Revelation – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). Are you hungry for more of Edwards’ sermons? On the book of Revelation? These new works are not found anywhere on A Puritan’s Mind, and there are new ones not found in his large 2 volume works. 4 deal with the plight of the wicked, and 2 deal with the bliss of saints in heaven. These sermons are powerful, practical, and biblical, glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ, and contain 2 never before published sermons.

Justification by Faith Alone – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). In this classic work, Edwards covers the intricacies of how believers are made righteous only through Christ’s merits, and that this justifying righteousness is equally imputed to all elect believers. This is accomplished by the condition of faith as an instrument.

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Reformed Theology at A Puritan's Mind