The Relation Between the Human Will and the Divine Agency.
Thou art the source and centre of all minds,
Their only point of rest, eternal Word!
From Thee departing, they are lost and rove
At random, without honour, hope, or peace.
From Thee is all that soothes the life of man, --
His high endeavour and his glad success,
His strength to suffer and his will to serve. -- COWPER.

And God proclaim'd from heaven, and by an oath
Confirm'd, that each should answer for himself;
And as his own peculiar work should be
Done by his proper self, should live or die. -- POLLOK.

The evils of haste and precipitancy in the formation of opinions are, perhaps, nowhere more deplorably exhibited, than in regard to the relation between human and divine agency. Indeed, so many rash judgments have been put forth on this important subject, that the very act of approaching it has come to be invested, in the minds of many persons, with the character of rashness and presumption. Hence the frequent warnings to turn our attention from it, as a subject lying beyond the range of all sober speculation, and as unsuited to the investigation of our finite minds. If this be a wise conclusion, it would be well to leave it to support itself, instead of attempting to bolster it up with the reasons frequently given for it.

Section I.

General view of the relation between the divine and the human power.

It is frequently said, for example, that it is impossible to reconcile the agency of God with that of man; because we do not know how the divine power operates upon the human mind. But, if we examine the subject closely, we shall find that the manner in which the Spirit of God operates, is not what we want to know, in order to remove the great difficulty in question. If such knowledge were possessed in the greatest possible perfection, we have no reason to believe that our insight into the relation between the human and the divine power would be at all improved. For aught we can see, our notions on this point would remain as dim and feeble as if we possessed no such knowledge. If we could ascertain, however, precisely what is done by the power of man, then we should see whether there be any real inconsistency or conflict between them or not. This is the point on which we need to be enlightened, in order to clear up the difficulty in question; and on this point the most satisfactory light may be attained. If we must wait to understand the modus operandi of the divine Spirit, before we can dispel the clouds and darkness which his influence casts over the free-agency of man, then must we indeed defer this great mystery to another state of being, and perhaps forever. Those who have looked in this direction for light, may well deplore our inability to see it. But let us look in the right direction: let us consider, not the modus operandi of the divine power, but the effects produced by it, and then, perhaps, we may behold the beautiful harmony subsisting between the agency of God and the freedom of man.

The reason why the views of most persons concerning this relation are so vague and indistinct is, that they do not possess a sufficiently clear and perfect analysis of the human mind. The powers and susceptibilities of the mind, as well as the laws which govern its phenomena, seem blended together in their minds in one confused mass; and hence the relations they bear to each other, and to the divine agency, are as dim and fluctuating as an ill-remembered dream. In this confusion of laws and phenomena, of powers and susceptibilities, of facts and fancies, it is no wonder that so many crude conceptions and vague hypotheses have sprung up and prevailed concerning the great difficulty under consideration. In the dim twilight of mental science, which has shown all things distorted and nothing in its true proportions, it is no wonder that the beautiful order and perspective of the moral world should have been concealed from our eyes. It was to have been expected, that every attempt to delineate this order, would, under such circumstances, prove premature, and aggravate rather than lessen the apparent disorders prevailing in the spiritual world. Accordingly, such attempts generally terminate, either in the denial of the free-agency of man, or of the sovereignty of God; and those who have maintained both of these tenets in reality, as well as in name, have usually refused to allow themselves to be troubled by the apparent contradictions in which they are involved. While they recognise the two spheres of the human and of the divine agency, they have left them so shadowy and indistinct, and so distorted from their real proportions, that they have inevitably seemed to clash with each other. Hence, to describe these two spheres with clearness and precision, and to determine the precise point at which they come into contact without intersecting each other, is still a desideratum in the science of theology. We shall endeavour to define the human power and the divine sovereignty, and to exhibit the harmony subsisting between them, in such a manner as to supply, in some small degree at least, this great desideratum which has so long been the reproach of the most sublime of all the sciences.

But this is not to be done by planting ourselves upon any one particular platform, and dogmatizing from thence, as if that particular point of view necessarily presented us with every possible phase of the truth. There has been, indeed, so much of this one-sided, exclusive, and dogmatizing spirit manifested in relation to the subject in question, as to give a great appearance of truth to the assertion of an ingenious writer, that inasmuch as different minds contemplate the divine and human agency from different points of view, the predominant or leading idea presented to them can never be the same; and hence they can never agree in the same representation of the complex whole. The one, says he, "necessarily gives a greater prominence to the divine agency, and the other to the scope and influence of the human will, and consequently they pronounce different judgments; just as a man who views a spherical surface from the inside will forever affirm it to be concave, while he who contemplates it from the outside will as obstinately assert that it is convex." But although this has been the usual method of treating the subject in question, such weakness and dogmatizing is self-imposed, and not an inevitable condition of the human mind. We may learn wisdom from the errors of the past, no less than from its most triumphant and glorious discoveries.

In the discussion of this subject, it is true that opposite parties have confined themselves to first appearances too much, and rested on one-sided views. But are we necessarily tied down to such inadequate conceptions? The causes which separate men in opinion, and the obstacles which keep them asunder, are indeed powerful; but we hope they do not form an eternal barrier between the wise and good. In regard to doctrines so fundamental and so vital as the divine sovereignty and human freedom, it is to be hoped that all good men will some day unite, and perfectly harmonize with each other.

As we are rational beings, so we are not tied down to that appearance of things which is presented to one particular point of view. If this were the case, the science of astronomy would never have had an existence. Even the phenomena of that noble science are almost inconceivably different from those presented to the mind of man at his particular point of view. From the small shining objects which are brought to our knowledge by the sense of sight, the reason rises to the true dimensions of those tremendous worlds. And after the human mind has thus furnished itself with the facts of the solar system, it has proceeded but a small way toward a knowledge of the system itself. It has also to deduce the laws of the material world from its first appearances, and, armed with these, it must transport itself from the earth to the true centre of the system, from which its wonderful order and beauty may be contemplated, and revealed to the world. Then these innumerable twinkling points of light, which sparkle in the heavens like so many atoms, become to the eye of reason the stupendous suns and centres of other worlds and systems.

If we should judge from first appearances, indeed, if we could not emancipate ourselves from phenomena as they are exhibited to us from one particular point of view, then should we never escape the conclusion, that the earth is the fixed centre of the universe, around which its countless myriads of worlds perform their eternal revolutions. But, fortunately, we are subject to no such miserable bondage. The mind of man has already raised itself from the planet to which his body is confined, and, planting itself on the true centre of the system, has beheld the sublime scheme planned by the infinite reason, and executed by the almighty power of the Divine Architect. Surely the mind which can do, and has done, all this, has the capacity to understand, place it where you will, that although the inside of a sphere is concave, the outside may be convex; as well as some other things which may perhaps have been placed beyond its power, without due consideration. But in every attempt to emancipate ourselves from first appearances, and to reach a knowledge of the truth, "not as reflected under a single angle," but as seen in all its fulness and beauty, it is indispensable to contemplate it on all sides, and to mark the precise boundaries of all its phases.

Hence we shall not plant ourselves on the fact of man's power alone, and, viewing the subject exclusively from thence, enlarge the sphere of human agency to such an extent as to shut the divine agency quite out of the intellectual and moral world. Nor, on the other hand, shall we permit ourselves to become so completely absorbed in the contemplation of the majesty of God, to dwell so warmly on his infinite sovereignty and the littleness of man, as to cause the sphere of human power to dwindle down to a mere point, and entirely disappear. We shall endeavour to find the true medium between these two extreme opinions. That such a medium exists somewhere, will not be denied by many persons. The only question will be, as to where and how the line should be drawn to strike out this medium. In most systems of theology, this line is not drawn at all, but left completely in the dark. We are shown some things on both sides of this line, but we are not shown the line itself. We are made to see, for example, the fact of human existence as something distinct from God, that we may not err with Spinoza, in reducing man to a mere fugitive mode of the Divine Being, to a mere shadow and a dream. And on the other side, we are made to contemplate the omnipotence of God, that we may not call in question his sovereignty and dominion over the moral world. But between these two positions, on which the light of truth has thus been made to fall, there is a tract of dark and unexplored territory, a terra incognita, which remains to be completely surveyed and delineated, before we can see the beauty of the whole scene. In the attempt to map out this region, to define the precise boundary of that imperium in imperio, of which Spinoza and others entertained so great a horror, we should endeavour to follow the wise maxim of Bacon, "to despise nothing, and to admire nothing."

In other words, we should endeavour to "prove all things, and to hold fast that which is good," without yielding a blind veneration to received dogmas, or a blind admiration to the seductive charms of novelty. Hence, we shall first stand on the same platform with Pelagius, and endeavour to view the subject with his eyes; to see all that he saw, as well as to correct the errors of his observation. And having done this, we shall then transport ourselves to the platform of Augustine, and contemplate the subject from his point of view, so as to possess ourselves of his great truths, and also to correct the errors of his observation. Having finished these processes, it will not be found difficult to combine the truths of these two conflicting schemes in a complete and harmonious system, which shall exhibit both the human and the divine elements of religion in their true proportions and just relations to each other.

Section II.

The Pelagian platform, or view of the relation between the divine and the human power.

The doctrine of Pelagius was developed from his own personal experience, and moulded, in a great measure, by his opposition to the scheme of Augustine. According to the historian, Neander, as well as to the testimony of Augustine himself, the life of Pelagius was, from beginning to end, one "earnest moral effort." As his character was gradually formed by his own continued and unremitted exertions, without any sudden or violent revolution in his views or feelings, so the great fact of human agency presented itself to his individual consciousness with unclouded lustre. This fact was the great central position from which his whole scheme developed itself. And, as the history of his opinion shows, he was led to give a still greater predominance to this fact, in consequence of his opposition to the system of Augustine, by which it seemed to him to be subverted, and the interests of morality threatened.

The great fact of free-will, of whose existence he was so well assured by his own consciousness, was so imperfectly interpreted by him, that he was led to exclude other great facts from his system, which might have been perfectly harmonized with his central position. Thus, as Neander well says, he denied the operation of the divine power in the renovation of the soul,(135) because he could not reconcile its influence with the free-agency of man. This was the weak point in the philosophy of Pelagius, as it has been in the system of thousands who have lived since his time. To reject the one of two facts, both of which rest upon clear and unequivocal evidence, is an error which has been condemned by Butler and Burlamaqui, as well as by many other celebrated philosophers. But this error, so far as we know, has been by no one more finely reproved than by Professor Hodge, of Princeton. "If the evidence of the constant revolution of the earth round its axis," says he, "were presented to a man, it would certainly be unreasonable in him to deny the fact, merely because he could not reconcile it with the stability of everything on the earth's surface. Or if he saw two rays of light made to produce darkness, must he resist the evidence of his senses, because he knows that two candles give more light than one? Men do not act thus irrationally in physical investigations. They let each fact stand upon its own evidence. They strive to reconcile them, and are happy when they succeed. But they do not get rid of difficulties by denying facts.

"If in the department of physical knowledge we are obliged to act upon the principle of receiving every fact upon its own evidence, even when unable to reconcile one with another, it is not wonderful that this necessity should be imposed upon us in those departments of knowledge which are less within the limits of our powers. It is certainly irrational for a man to reject all the evidence of the spirituality of the soul, because he cannot reconcile this doctrine with the fact that a disease of the body disorders the mind. Must I do violence to my nature in denying the proof of design afforded by the human body, because I cannot account for the occasional occurrence of deformities of structure? Must I harden my heart against all the evidence of the benevolence of God, which streams upon me in a flood of light from all his works, because I may not know how to reconcile that benevolence with the existence of evil? Must I deny my free-agency, the most intimate of all convictions, because I cannot see the consistency between the freeness of an act and the frequency of its occurrence? May I deny that I am a moral being, the very glory of my nature, because I cannot change my character at will?"(136)

If this judicious sentiment had been observed by speculatists, it had been well for philosophy, and still better for religion. The heresy of Pelagius, and the countless forms of kindred errors, would not have infested human thought. But this sentiment, however just in itself, or however elegantly expressed, should not be permitted to inspire our minds with a feeling of despair. It should teach us caution, but not despondency; it should extinguish presumption, but not hope. For if "we strive to reconcile the facts" of the natural world, "and are happy when we succeed," how much more solicitous should we be to succeed in such an attempt to shut up and seal the very fountains of religious error?

Nothing is more wonderful to my mind, than that Pelagius should have such followers as Reimarus and Lessing, not to mention hundreds of others, who deny the possibility of a divine influence, because it seems to them to conflict with the intellectual and moral nature of man.(137) To assert, as these philosophers do, that the power of God cannot act upon the human mind without infringing upon its freedom, betrays, as we venture to affirm, a profound and astonishing ignorance of the whole doctrine of free-agency. It proceeds on the amazing supposition that the will is the only power of the human mind, and that volitions are the only phenomena ever manifested therein; so that God cannot act upon it at all, unless it be to produce volitions. But is it true, that God must do all things within us, or he can do nothing? that if he produce a change in our mental state, then he must produce all conceivable changes therein? In order to refute so rash a conclusion, and explode the wild supposition on which it is based, it will be necessary to recur to the threefold distinction of the intelligence, the sensibility, and the will, already referred to.

In the perception of truth, as we have seen, the intelligence is perfectly passive. Every state of the intelligence is as completely necessitated as is the affirmation that two and two are equal to four. The decisions of the intelligence, then, are not free acts; indeed, they are not acts at all, in the proper sense of the word. They are passive states of the intellect. They are usually called acts, it is true; and this use of language is, no doubt, one of the causes which has given rise to so many errors and delusions in regard to moral and accountable agency. With every decision or state of the intelligence, with every perception of truth by it, there is intimately associated, it is true, an act of the mind, a state of the will, a volition, by which the attention is directed to the subject under consideration; and it is this intimate association in which the two states or mental phenomena seem blended into one, which has led so many to regard the passive susceptibility, called the intelligence, as an active power, and its states as free acts of the mind. A more correct analysis, a finer discrimination of the real facts of consciousness, must prevail on this subject, before light can be let in upon the philosophy of free and accountable agency. The dividing knife must be struck between the two phenomena in question, between an active state of the will and the passive states of the intelligence, and the obstinate association be severed in our imagination, before the truth can be seen otherwise than through distorting films of error.

As every state of the intelligence is necessitated, so God may act upon this department of our mental frame without infringing upon the nature of man in the slightest possible degree. As the law of necessity is the law of the intelligence, so God may absolutely necessitate its states, by the presentation of truth, or by his direct and irresistible agency in connexion with the truth, without doing violence to the laws of our intellectual and moral nature. Nay, in so acting, he proceeds in perfect conformity with those laws. Hence, no matter how deep a human soul may be sunk in ignorance and stupidity, God may flash the light of truth into it, in perfect accordance with the laws of its nature. And, as has been well said, "The first effect of the divine power in the new, as in the old creation, is light."

This is not all. Every state of the sensibility is a passive impression, a necessitated phenomenon of the human mind. No matter what fact, or what truth, may be present to the mind, either by its own voluntary attention or by the agency of God, or by the cooeperation of both, the impression it makes upon the sensibility is beyond the control of the will, except by refusing to give the attention of the mind to it. Hence, although truth may be vividly impressed upon the intelligence, although the glories of heaven and the terrors of hell may be made to shine into it, yet the sensibility may remain unaffected by them. It may be dead. Hence, God may act upon this, may cause it to melt with sorrow or to glow with love, without doing violence to any law of our moral nature. There is no difficulty, then, in conceiving that the second effect of the divine power in the new creation is "a new heart."

Having done all this, he may well call on us to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for God worketh in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure." We have seen that the state of the will, that a volition is not necessitated by the intelligence or by the sensibility; and, hence, it may "obey the heavenly vision," or it may "resist and do despite to the Spirit of grace." If it obey, then the vivifying light and genial shower have not fallen upon the soul in vain. The free-will coalesces with the renovated intelligence and sensibility, and the man "has root in himself." The blossom gradually yields to the fruit, and the germ of true holiness is formed in the soul. This consists in the voluntary exercise of the mind, in obedience to the knowledge and the love of God, and in the permanent habit formed by the repetition of such exercises. Hence, in the great theandric work of regeneration, we see the part which is performed by God, and the part which proceeds from man.

This shows an absolute dependence of the soul upon the agency of God. For without knowledge the mind can no more perform its duty than the eye can see without light; and without a feeling of love to God, it is as impossible for it to render a spiritual obedience, as it would be for a bird to fly in a vacuum. Yet this dependence, absolute as it is, does not impair the free-agency of man. For divine grace supplies, and must supply, the indispensable conditions of holiness; but it does not produce holiness itself. It does not produce holiness itself, because, as we have seen, a necessary holiness is a contradiction in terms.

Is it not evident, then, that those who assert the impossibility of a divine influence, on the ground that it would destroy the free-agency of man, have proceeded on a wonderful confusion of the phenomena of the human mind? Is it not evident that they have confounded those states of the intelligence and the sensibility, which are marked over with the characteristics of necessity, with those states of the will which inevitably suggest the ideas of freedom and accountability? But, strange as it may seem, the philosophers who thus shut the influence of the Divine Being out of the spiritual world, because they cannot reconcile it with the moral agency of man, do not always deny the influence of created beings over the mind. On the contrary, it is no uncommon thing to see philosophers and theologians, who begin by denying the influence of the Divine Spirit upon the human mind, in order to save the freedom of the latter, end by subjecting it to the most absolute dominion of facts; and circumstances, and motives.

Section III.

The Augustinian Platform, or view of the relation between the divine agency and the human.

The doctrine of Augustine, like that of Pelagius, was developed from the individual experience and consciousness of its author. The difference between them was, that the sensible experience of the one furnished him with only the human element of religion, which was unduly magnified by him; while the divine element was the great prominent fact in the consciousness of the other, who accordingly rendered it too exclusive in the formation of his views. The one elevated the human element of religion at the expense of the divine; the other permitted the majesty of the divine to overshadow the human, and cause it to disappear.

The causes which induced Augustine to take this sublime but one-sided view of religion may be easily understood. In the early part of his life, he abandoned himself to vicious excesses; being hurried away, to use a metaphor, by the violence of his appetites and passions. His conscience, no doubt, often reproved him for such a course of life, and gave rise to many resolutions of amendment. But experience taught him that he could not transform and mould his own character at pleasure. He lacked those views of truth, and those feelings of reverence and love to God, without which true obedience is impossible. Hence he struggled in vain. He felt his own impotency. He still yielded to the importunities of appetite and passion. Of a sudden, however, he finds his views of divine things changed, and his religious sensibilities awakened. He knows this marvellous transformation is not effected by himself. He ascribes it, and he truly ascribes it, to the power of God; by which he has been brought from a region of darkness to light. Old things had passed away, and all things become new.

But now observe the precise manner in which the error of Augustine takes its rise in his mind. He, too, as well as Pelagius, confounds the passive susceptibility of the heart with a voluntary state of the will. The intelligence and the sensibility are the only elements in his psychology; the states of them, which are necessitated, constitute all the phenomena of the human mind. Holiness, according to him, consists in a feeling of love to God. He knows this is derived from the divine agency; and hence he concludes, that the whole work of conversion is due to God, and no part of it is performed by himself. I know, says he, that I did not make myself love God, by which he means a feeling of love; and this he takes to be true holiness, which has been wrought in his heart by the power of God. "Love is the fulfilling of the law; but love to God is not shed abroad in our hearts by the law, but by the Holy Ghost." He is sure the whole work is from God, because he is sure that the intelligence and the sensibility are the whole of man. How many excellent persons are there, who, taking their stand upon the same platform of a false psychology, proceed to dogmatize with Augustine as confidently as if the only possible ground of difference from them was a want of the religious experience of the Christian consciousness, by which they have been so eminently blessed. We deny not the reality of their Christian experience; but we do doubt the accuracy of their interpretation of it.

Thus, the complex fact of consciousness, consisting in a state of the sensibility and a state of the will, was viewed from opposite points by Pelagius and Augustine. The voluntary phase of it was seen by Pelagius, and hence he became an exclusive and one-sided advocate of free-agency; the passive side was beheld by Augustine, and hence he became a one-sided and exclusive advocate of divine grace. If we would possess the truth, and the whole truth, we must view it on all sides, and give a better interpretation of the natural consciousness of the one, as well as the supernatural consciousness of the other, than they themselves were enabled to give. Then shall we not instinctively turn to one-sided views of revelation. Then shall we not always repeat with Pelagius, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," nor always exclaim with Augustine, that "God worketh in us to will and to do of his good pleasure;" but we shall with equal freedom and readiness approach and appropriate both branches of the truth.

Section IV.

The views of those who, in later times, have symbolized with Augustine.

Those divines who have adopted, in the main, the same leading views with Augustine, have generally admitted the fact of free-agency; but, because they could not reconcile it with their leading tenet, they have, as we have seen, explained it away. The only freedom which they allow to man, pertains, as we have shown, not to the will at all, but only to the external sphere of the body. They have maintained the great fact in words, but rejected it in substance. Though they have seen the absurdity of rejecting one fact because they could not reconcile it with another, yet their internal struggle after a unity and harmony of principle has induced them to deny, in reality, what they have seemed to themselves to preserve and maintain. We have seen, in the first chapter of this work, in what manner this has been done by them; it now remains to take a view of the subject, in connexion with the point under consideration.

The man who confounds the sensibility with the will should, indeed, have no difficulty in reconciling the divine agency with the human. If the state of the mind in willing is purely passive, like a state of the mind in feeling; then to say that it is produced by the power of God, would create no difficulty whatever. Hence, the great difficulty of reconciling the human with the divine agency, which has puzzled and perplexed so many, should not exist for one who identifies the will with the sensibility; and it would exist for no one holding this psychology, if there were not more in the operations of his nature than in the developments of his system. Perhaps no one ever more completely lost sight of the true characteristic of the manifestations of the will, by thrusting them behind the phenomena of the sensibility, than President Edwards; and hence the difficulty in question seemed to have no existence for him. So far from troubling himself about the line which separates the human agency from the divine, he calmly and quietly speaks as if such a line had no existence. According to his view, the divine agency encircles all, and man is merely the subject of its influence. It is true, he uses the terms active and actions, as applicable to man and his exertions; but yet he regards his very acts, his volitions, as being produced by God. "In efficacious grace," says he, "God does all, and we do all. God produces all, and we act all. For that is what he produces; namely, our own acts." Now I think Edwards could not have used such language, if he had attached any other idea to the term act, than what really belongs to it when it is applied, as it often is, to the passive states of the intelligence and the sensibility. An act of the intellect, or an act of the affections, may be produced by the power of God; but not an act of the will. For, as the Princeton Review well says, "a necessary volition is an absurdity, a thing inconceivable."

It is scarcely necessary to add, that in causing all real human agency to disappear before the divine sovereignty, Edwards merely reproduced the opinion of Calvin; which he endeavoured to establish, not by a fierce, unreasoning dogmatism, but upon the principles of reason and philosophy. "The apostle," says Calvin, "ascribes everything to the Lord's mercy, and leaves nothing to our wills or exertions."(138) He even contends, that to "suppose man to be a cooeperator with God, so that the validity of election depends on his consent," is to make the "will of man superior to the counsel of God;"(139) as if there were no possible medium between nothing and omnipotence.

Section V.

The danger of mistaking distorted for exalted views of the divine sovereignty.

There is no danger, it is true, that we shall ever form too exalted conceptions of the divine majesty. All notions must fall infinitely below the sublime reality. But we may proceed in the wrong direction, by making it our immediate aim and object to exalt the sovereignty of God. An object so vast and overwhelming as the divine omnipotence, cannot fail to transport the imagination, and to fill the soul with wonder. Hence, in our passionate, but always feeble, endeavours to grasp so wonderful an object, our vision may be disturbed by our emotions, and the glory of God badly reflected in our minds. Our utmost exertions may thus end, not in exalted, but in distorted views of the divine sovereignty. Is it not better, then, for feeble creatures like ourselves, to aim simply to acquire a knowledge of the truth, which, we may depend upon it, will not fail to exhibit the divine sovereignty in its most beautiful lights?

If such be our object, we shall find, we think, that God is the author of our spiritual views in religion, as well as those genuine feelings of reverence and love, without which obedience is impossible; and that man himself is the author of the volitions by which his obedience is consummated. This shows the precise point at which the divine agency ceases, and human agency begins; the precise point at which the sphere of human power comes into contact with the sphere of omnipotence, without intersecting it and without being annihilated by it. It shows at once the absolute dependence of man upon God, without a denial of his free and accountable agency; and it asserts the latter, without excluding the Divine Being from the affairs of the moral world. It renders unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things which are God's. At the same time that it combines and harmonizes these truths, it shows the errors of the opposite extremes, and places the doctrines of human and divine agency upon a solid and enduring basis, by preventing each from excluding the other.

In all our inquiries, truth, and truth alone, should be our grand object. All by-ends and contracted purposes, all party schemes and sectarian zeal, will be almost sure to defeat their own objects, by seeking them with too direct and exclusive an aim. These, even when noble and praiseworthy, must be sought and reached, if reached at all, by seeking and finding the truth. Thus, for instance, would we exalt the sovereignty of God, then must we not directly seek to exalt that sovereignty, but put away from us all the forced contrivances and factitious lights which have been invented for that purpose. It is the light of truth alone, sought for its own sake, and therefore clearly seen, that can reveal the sublime proportions, and the intrinsic moral loveliness, of this awful attribute of the Divine Being. On the other hand, would we vindicate the freedom of man, and break into atoms the iron law of necessity, which is supposed to bind him to the dust, then again must we seek the truth without reference to this particular aim or object. We must study the great advocates of that law with as great earnestness and fairness as its adversaries. For it is by the light of truth alone, that the real position man occupies in the moral world, or the orbit his power moves in, can be clearly seen, free from the manifold illusions of error; and until it be thus seen, the liberty of the human mind can never be successfully and triumphantly vindicated. If we would understand these things, then, we must struggle to rise above the foggy atmosphere and the refracted lights of prejudice, into the bright region of eternal truth.

chapter iv the moral world
Top of Page
Top of Page