The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 23: Vol. 23: The "Miscellanies," 1153-1360 available in Hardcover
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This volume concludes the series of private theological notebooks that Jonathan Edwards kept from his late teens to the end of his life. It covers the years from 1751 to 1758, a period during which he faced a variety of difficult challenges while working at the Stockbridge Indian mission and served a short-lived presidency at Princeton, then known as the College of New Jersey. In these entries Edwards grapples with modern naturalism, critiques “generous doctrines,” and attempts to bolster Reformed thought in the face of the Enlightenment.
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Douglas A. Sweeney is chair, Department of Church History and the History of Christian Thought, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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THE WORKS OF JONATHAN EDWARDS VOLUME 23Vol.23: The "Miscellanies," 1153-1360
By Jonathan Edwards
Yale University PressCopyright © 2004 Yale University
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE "MISCELLANIES," ENTRY NOS. 1153-1360
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 in commands that 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 onething that another thing should do something. And though the actions of one thing may have respect to the actions or motions of another and have influence upon them, yet the [object of the command] 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 as a command to a thing 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 or 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 don't 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.
Other 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, is it not the proper subject of a command or matter of our 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, 'tis in vain for any to plead their inability and to say they can't do it unless they would if they could; for willing, as has just now been shown, is all the thing directly required of 'em. Let 'em perform this, let 'em exhibit the compliance of the will, and they have done their duty, and that which is all that is directly required of the soul in all commands whatsoever. And if there be anything else desirable that don't attend this compliance of the will and inclination, that don't prove to [be] implied in it or connected with it, from that they are excused. (See this position more particularly handled, p. 46).
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 No. 1155).
If any say "No, there is no necessity of supposing that the soul's determination of the act of will is anything 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 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 on which determines the direction of the motion of a body may not be prior to the motion itself in order of time, but it may direct the motion of the body in moving it; but yet the action 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 of will (and that the determination of the act of the will) is the very same with the act of 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 shall be the particular manner of its existence is not the very same with the thing determined, but something prior to it and on which it depends.
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. And 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.
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, determination, 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 [for] the soul's determining 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 souls acts; but what is contended for it seems come 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 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 'tis 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.
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, because 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 and 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?
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 of his faculties, don't render them improperly the subject matter of prescription and command-if by necessity be meant only a prior certainty, determination or fixedness. For even 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 these 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 cause. As when we [see] a body in a 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 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.
So that, according to the scheme even of those that hold a sovereignty of the will in this sense, the volitions 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. 53, 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 don't come to pass by any determining or directing cause at all, but arise purely accidentally, yet still they are necessary as 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 any determining cause, is by the supposition not caused nor hindered 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, No. 4, pp. 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 these 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 don't consist in any incapacity of the 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 don't 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's 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, don't make it the less the matter of divine prescription.
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Table of Contents
List of Illustrations....................viii
Note to the Reader....................ix
The "Miscellanies," Entry Nos. 1153-1360....................37
Index of Biblical Passages....................745