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By John Fletcher


A view of the doctrine of absolute necessity, as it is maintained
by Mr. Toplady and his adherents. This doctrine (as well as Manicheism) makes God the author of every sin.
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CONTROVERTISTS frequently accuse their opponents of holding detest. able or absurd doctrines, which they never advanced, and which have no necessary connection with their principles. That I may not be guilty of so ungenerous a proceeding, I shall first present the reader with an account of necessity and her pedigree, in Mr. Toplady's own words.

Scheme of Christian and Philosophical Necessity, (pages 13, 14: ) "If we distinguish accurately, this seems to have been the order in which the most judicious of the ancients considered the whole matter. First, God; then his will; then fate, or the solemn ratification of his will, by passing and establishing it into an unchangeable decree; then creation; then necessity; that is, such an indissoluble concatenation of secondary causes and effects as has a native tendency to secure the certainty of all events, as one wave is impelled by another; then providence; that is, the [Mr. T. puts this clause in Latin: Velut unda impellitur unda] omnipresent, omnivigilant, all-directing [he might have added all-impelling] superintendency of Divine wisdom and power, carrying the whole preconcerted scheme into actual execution, by the subservient mediation of second causes, which were created for that end."

This is the full view of the doctrine which the Calvinists and the better sort of fatalists defend. I would only ask a few questions upon it.

(1.) If all our actions, and conequently all our sins, compose the seventh link of the chain of Calvinism; if the first link is God; the second his will; the third his decree; the fourth creation; the fifth necessity; the sixth providence; and the seventh sin; is it not as easy to trace the pedigree of SIN through providence, necessity, creation, God's decree, and God's will, up to God himself, as it is to trace back the genealogy of the prince of Wales, from George III, by George II, up to George I? And upon this plan is it not clear that SIN is as much the real offspring of God, as the prince of Wales is the real offspring of George the First?

(2.) If this is the case, does not Calvinism, or if you please, fatalism or necessitarianism, absolutely make God the author of sin by means of his will, his decree, his creation, his necessitation, his impelling providence? And (horrible to think!) does it not unavoidably follow, that the monster SIN is the offspring of God's providence, of God's necessitation, of God's creation, of God's decree, of God's will, of God himself?

(3.) If this Manichean doctrine be true, when Christ came to destroy sin, did he not come to destroy the work of God, rather than the work of the devil? And when preachers attack sit, do they not attack God's providence, God's necessitation, God's creation, God's decree, God's will, and God himself?

(4.) To do God and his oracles justice, ought we not to give the following Scriptural genealogy of sin? A sinful act is the offspring of a sinful choice; a sinful choice is the offspring of self perversion; and self perversion may or may not follow from free will put in a state of probation, or under a practical law. When you begin at sin, you can never ascend higher than free will; and when you begin at God, you can never descend lower than free will. Thus,

(i.) God;
(ii.) his will to make free-willing, accountable creatures;
(iii.) his putting his will in execution by the actual creation of such creatures;
(iv.) legislation on God's part,;
(v.) voluntary, unnecessitated obedience on the part of those who make a good use of their free will; and
(vi.) voluntary, unnecessitated disobedience on the part of those who make bad use of it.

Hence it is evident, that by substituting necessity for free will, and absolute decrees for righteous legislation, Mr. Toplady breaks the golden chain which our gracious Creator made, and helps Manes, Augustine, Calvin, Hobbes, Voltaire, Hume, Dr. Hartley, and Dr. Priestley, to hammer out the iron-clay chain by which they hang sin upon God himself. (5.) If all our sins with all their circumstances and aggravations, are only a part of "the whole preconcerted scheme" which Divine wisdom and power" absolutely and irresistibly "carry into actual execution by the subservient mediation of second causes, which were created for that end;" who can rationally blame sinners for answering the end for which they were absolutely created? Who can refuse to exculpate and pity the reprobates, whom all-impelling omnipotence carries into sin, and into hell, as irresistibly as a floating cork is carried toward the shore by tossing billows which necessarily impel one another? And who will not be astonished at the erroneous notions which the consistent fatalists have of their God? A God this who necessitates, yea, impels men to sin by his will, his decree, his necessitation, and his providence: then gravely weeps and bleeds over them for sinning. And after having necessitated and impelled the non-elect to disbelieve and despise his blood, will set up a judgment seat to damn them for "necessarily carrying his preconcerted scheme into actual execution," as "second causes which were created for that end!"

"O! but they do it voluntarily as well as necessarily, and therefore they are accountable and judicable." This Calvinian salvo makes a bad matter worse. For if all their sins are necessarily brought about by God's all-impelling decree, their willing and bad choice are brought about by the same preconcerted, irresistible means; one of the ends of God's necessitation, with respect to the reprobate, being to make them sin with abundantly greater freedom and choice than if they were not necessitated and impelled by God's predestinating, efficacious, irresistible decree. This Mr. Toplady indirectly asserts in the following argument: Page 15. "They [man's actions man's sins] may be, at one and the same time, free and necessary too. When Mr. Wesley is very hungry and tired, he is necessarily, and yet, freely, disposed to food or rest. His will is concerned in sitting down to dinner, or in courting repose, when necessity impels to either. Necessarily biased as he is to those mediums of recruit, he has recourse to them as freely (that is, as voluntarily, and with as much appetite, choice, desire, and relish) as if necessity were quite out of the case; nay, and with abundantly greater freedom and choice than if he was not so necessitated and impelled."

s not this as much as to say, "As necessitation, the daughter of God's decree, impels Mr. Wesley to eat, by giving him an appetite to food: so it formerly impelled Adam, and now it impels all the reprobates to sin, by giving them an appetite to wickedness. And necessarily biased as they are to adultery, robbery, and other crimes, they commit them as freely, i.e., with as much appetite and choice, as if necessity were quite out of the case: nay, and with abundantly greater freedom and choice than if they were not so necessitated and impelled." Is not this reviving one of the most impious tenets of the Manichees? Is it not confounding the Lamb of God with the old dragon, and coupling the celestial Dove with the infernal serpent?

If you ask, "Where is the flaw of Mr. Toplady's argumentative illustration?" I answer, It has two capital defects:

1.) That God's will, his decree, and his providence, impel Mr. Wesley to eat when he is hungry, is very true; because eating in such a case is general, is Mr. Wesley's duty; and reminding him of his want of nourishment, by the sensation which we call hunger, is a peculiar favour, worthy of the Parent of good to bestow. But the question is, Whether God's will, decree, and providence, impelled Adam to choose the forbidden fruit rather than any other, and excited David to go to Uriah's wife, rather than to his own wives? How illogical, how detestable is this conclusion! God necessitates and impels us to do our ditty; and therefore he necessitates and impels us to do wickedness! But,

(2.) The greatest absurdity belonging to Mr. Toplady's illustration is, his pretending to overthrow the doctrine of free will by urging the hunger, which God gives to Mr. Wesley, in order to necessitate and impel him to eat, according to the decree of Calvinian necessitation, which is absolutely irresistible. Mr. T. says, (page 13.) "We call that necessary which cannot be otherwise than it is." Now Mr. Wesley's eating when he is hungry is by no means Calvinistically necessary: for he has a hundred times reversed the decree of his hunger by fasting; and if he were put to the sad alternative of the woman who was to starve or to kill and eat her own child, he both could and would go full against the necessitation of his hunger, and never eat more. Mr. Toplady's illustration, therefore, far from proving that God's necessitation irresistibly impels us to commit sin, indirectly demonstrates that God's necessitation does not so much as absolutely impel us to do those things which the very laws of our constitution and nature themselves bind upon us, by the strong necessity of self preservation. For some people have so far resisted the urgent calls of nature and appetite, as not only to make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake, but even literally to starve themselves to death.

I once saw a man who played the most amazing tricks with a pack of cards. His skill consisted in so artfully shuffling them, and imperceptibly substituting one for another, that when you thought you had fairly secured the king of hearts, you found yourself possessed only of the knave of clubs. The defenders of the doctrine of necessity are not less skilful. I shall show, in another tract, with what subtilty Mr. T. uses "permission" for efficacy, no "salvation due," for eternal torments insured; "not enriching," for absolute reprobation; and "passing by," for absolutely appointing to remediless sin and everlasting burnings. Let us now consider the grand, logical substitution which deceives that gentleman, and by which he misleads the admirers of his scheme.

Page 14. "I acquiesce in the old distinction of necessity [a distinction adopted by Luther and others] into a necessity of compulsion, and a necessity of infallible certainty. We say of the earth, for instance, that it circuits the sun by compulsory necessity. The necessity of infallible certainty is of a very different kind, and only renders the event inevitably future, without any compulsory force on the will of the agent." If Mr. T. had said, "The necessity of true prophecy considers an event as certainly future, but puts no Calvinian, irresistible bias on the will of the agent;" I would have subscribed to his distinction. But instead of the words truly certain, or certainly future, which would have perfectly explained what may improperly be called necessity of true prophecy, and what should be called certain futurity; instead of those words, I say, he artfully substitutes, first, "infallibly certain," and then "inevitably future." The phrase "infallibly certain" may be admitted to pass, if you understand by it that which does not fail to happen: but if you take it in a rigid sense, and mean by it that which cannot absolutely fail to happen, you get a step out of the way, and you may easily go on shuffling your logical cards, till you have imposed fatalism upon the simple, by making them believe that certainly future, infallibly future, and inevitably future, are three phrases of the same import; whereas the difference between the first and last phrase is as great as the difference between Mr. Wesley's Scriptural doctrine of free will, and Mr. T.'s Manichean doctrine of absolute necessity.

It is the property of error to be inconsistent. Accordingly we find that Mr. T., after having told us, p. 14, that the "necessity of infallible certainty," which renders the event inevitably future, lays "no compulsory force on the will of the agent," tells us, in the very same page, that his Calvinian necessity is "such an indissoluble concatenation of secondary causes, [created for that end,] and of effects, as has a native tendency to secure the certainty of events, [i.e., of all volitions, murders, adulteries, and incests,] sicut unda impellitur unda;" as one wave impels another; or as the first link of a chain, which you pull, draws the second, the second the third, and so on. Now if all our volitions are pushed forward by God through the means of his absolute will, his irresistible decree, his efficacious creation, and his all-conquering necessitation, which is nothing but an adamantine chain of second causes created by Providence in order to produce absolutely all the effects which are produced, and to make them impel each other, "as one wave impels another;" we desire to know how our volitions can be thus irresistibly impelled upon us "without any compulsory force on our will." I do not see how Mr. T. can get over this contradiction, otherwise than by saying, that although God's necessitation is irresistibly impulsory, yet it is not at all compulsory; although it absolutely impels us to will, yet it does not in the least compel us to be willing. But would so frivolous, so absurd a distinction as this, wipe off the foul blot which the scheme of necessity fixes on the Father of lights, when it represents him as the first cause and the grand contriver of all our sinful volitions?

Mr. T., pp. 133, 134, among other pieces of Manicheism, gives us the following account of that strange religion: "There are two independent gods, or infinite principles, viz., light and darkness. The first is the author of all good; and the second of all evil. The evil god made sin. The good god and the bad god wage implacable war against each other; and perpetually clog and disconcert one another's schemes and operations. Hence men are impelled, &c, to good, or to evil, according as they come under the power of the good deity, or the bad one." Or, to speak Calvinistically, they are necessarily made willing to believe and obey, if they are the elected objects of everlasting love, which is the good principle; and they are irresistibly made willing to disbelieve and disobey, if they are the reprobated objects of everlasting wrath, which is the evil principle. For free will has no more place in Manicheism than it has in Calvinism. Hence it appears that, setting aside the other peculiarities of each scheme, the grand difference between Calvin and Manes consists in Calvin's making everlasting, electing, necessitating love, and everlasting, reprobating, necessitating wrath, to flow from the same Divine principle; whereas Manes more reasonably supposed that they flow from two contrary principles. Whoever therefore denies free will, and contends for necessity, embraces, before he is aware, the capital error of the Manichees; and it is well if he does not hold it in a less reasonable manner than Manes himself did. "I believe," adds Mr. Toplady, "it is absolutely impossible to trace quite up to its source the antiquity of that hypothesis which absurdly affirms the existence of two eternal, contrary, independent principles. What led so many wise people, and for so great a series of ages, into such a wretched mistake, were chiefly, I suppose, these two considerations:

(1.) That evil, both moral and physical, are positive things, and so must have a positive cause.
(2.) That a being, perfectly good, could not, from the very nature of his existence, be the cause of such bad things."

Here Mr. Toplady reasons like a judicious divine. The misfortune for his scheme is, that his "two considerations," like two mill stones, grind Calvinism to dust; or, like two cogent arguments, force us to embrace the doctrine of free will, or the error of Manes. Mr. Toplady seems aware of this; and therefore to show that God can, upon the Calvinian plan, absolutely predestinate, and effectually bring about sin, by making men willing to sin in the day of his irresistible power; and that nevertheless he is not the author and first cause of sin; to show this, I say, Mr. Toplady asserts, "that evil, whether physical or moral, does not, upon narrow inspection, appear to have so much of positivity in it, as it is probable those ancients supposed." Nay, he insinuates that as "sickness is a privation of health; so the sinfulness of any human action is said to be a privation;" being called anomia, "illegality;" and he adds, that wonderful as the thing may appear, Dr. Watts, in his Logic, "ventures to treat of sin under the title of not being." [If the Calvinists, in their unguarded moments, represent sin as a kind of not being or nonentity, that they may exculpate God for-absolutely ordaining it, do they not by this means exculpate the sinner also? If the first cause of sin is excusable, because sin is a privation, and has "not so much of positivity in it as the ancients supposed," is not the second cause of sin much more excusable on the same account? ]When Mr. Toplady has thus cleared the way, and modestly intimated that sin, being a kind of nonentity, can have no positive cause, he proposes the grand question, "whether the great first cause, who is infinitely and merely good, can be either efficiently or deficiently the author of them?" that is (according to the context) the author of iniquity, injustice, impiety, and vice, as well as the author of the natural evil by which God punishes sin?

Page 139, Mr. Toplady answers this question thus: "In my opinion, the single word permission solves the whole difficulty, as far as it can be solved," &c. And page 141, he says, "We know scarce any of the views which induced uncreated goodness to ordain (for, &c, I see no great difference between permitting and ordaining) the introgression, or more properly the intromission, of evil." Here Mr. Toplady goes as far as he decently can. Rather than grant that we are endued with free will, and that when God had made angels and men free-willing creatures, in order to judge them according to their own works, he could not, without inconsistency, rob them of free will by necessitating them to be either good or wicked; rather, I say, than admit this Scriptural doctrine, which perfectly clears the gracious Judge of all the earth, Mr. Toplady first indirectly and decently extenuates sin, and brings it down to almost nothing, and then he tells us that God ordained it. Is not the openness of Manes preferable to this Calvinistic winding! When Mr. Toplady grants that God "ordained" sin, and when he charges "the intromission of evil" upon God, does he not grant all that Manes in this respect contended for? And have not the Manichean necessitarians the advantage over Mr. Toplady, when they assert that a principle, which absolutely ordains, yea, necessitates sin and all the works of darkness, is a dark and evil principle? Can we doubt of it, if we believe these sayings of Christ? "Out of the [evil] heart proceed evil thoughts, &c. By their works you shall know them. The tree is known by its fruit."

Again: if "sin," or rather the sinfulness of an action, may be properly called a "not being," or a nonentity, as Mr. Toplady inconsistently insinuates, page 137, it absurdly follows, that crookedness, or the want of straightness in a line, is a mere privation also, or a not being, whereas reason and feeling tell us that the crookedness of a crooked line is something every way as positive as the straightness of a straight line. To deny it is as ridiculous as to assert that a circle is a not being, because it is not made of straight lines like a square; or that a murder is a species of nonentity, because it is not the legal execution of a condemned malefactor. Nor can Mr. Toplady mend his error by hiding it behind "Dr. Watts' Logic;" for the world knows that Dr. Watts was a Calvinist when he wrote that book; and therefore, judicious as he was, the veil of error prevented him from seeing then that part of the truth which I contend for.

Once more: whether sin has a positive cause or not, (for Mr. Toplady insinuates both these doctrines with the inconsistency peculiar to his system,) I beg leave to involve him in a dilemma, which will meet him at the front or back door of his inconsistency. Either sin is a real thing, and has a positive cause; or it is not a real thing, and has no positive cause. If it IS NOT a real thing and has, no positive cause, why does God positively send the wicked to hell for a privation which they have not positively caused? And if sin IS a real thing, or a positive moral crookedness of the will of a sinner, and as such has a positive cause; can that positive cause be any other than the self perversion of free will, or the impelling decree of a sin-ordaining God? If the positive cause of sin is the self perversion of free will, is it not evident, that so sure as there is sin in the world, the doctrine of free will is true? But if the positive cause of sin is the impelling decree of a sin-ordaining, sin-necessitating God; is it not incontestable that the capital doctrine of the Manichees, the doctrine of absolute necessity is true; and that there is in the Godhead an evil principle, (it signifies little whether you call it matter, darkness, everlasting free wrath, or devil,) which positively ordains and irresistibly causes sin? In a word, is it not clear that the second Gospel axiom is overthrown by the doctrine of necessity; and that the damnation of sinners is of God, and not of themselves?

While Mr. Toplady tries to extricate himself from this dilemma, I shall produce one or two more passages of this book to prove that his scheme makes God the author of sin, according to the most dangerous error of Manes. The heathens imagined that Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, was Jupiter's offspring in the most peculiar manner. Diana was indeed Jupiter's daughter, but Latona, an earthly princess, was her mother: whereas Jupiter was at once the father and mother of Minerva. He begat her himself in the womb of his own brain, and when she was ripe for the birth, his forehead opened after a violent headache, which answered to the pangs of child bearing, and out came the lovely female deity. Mr. Toplady, alluding to this heathen fiction, represents his Diana, necessity, as proceeding from God with her immense chain of events, which has among its adamantine links all the follies, heresies, murders, robberies, adulteries, incests, and rebellions, of which men and devils have been, are, or ever shall be guilty. His own words, page 50, are, "Necessity, in general, with all its extensive series of adamantine links in particular, is, in reality, what the poets feigned of Minerva, the issue of Divine wisdom: [he should have said the issue of the supreme God, by his own wise brain,] deriving its whole existence from the free will of God; and its whole effectuosity from his never-ceasing providence." Is not this insinuating, as plainly as decency will allow, that every sin, as a link of the adamantine chain of events, has been hammered in heaven, and that every crime "derives its whole existence from the free will of God?" Take one more instance of the same Manichean doctrine:

Page 64. Mr. Toplady having said that "he [God] casteth forth his ice like morsels, and causeth his wind to blow," &c, adds, "Neither is material nature alone bound fast in fate. All other things, the human will itself not excepted, are not less tightly bound, i.e., effectually influenced and determined." Hence it is evident, that if this Calvinism is true, when sinners send forth volleys of unclean and profane words, Calvin's God has as "tightly bound" them to cast forth Manichean ribaldry, as the God of nature binds the clouds to "cast forth his ice like morsels."

I would not be understood to demonstrate by the preceding quotations, that Mr. Toplady designs to make God the author of sin. No: on the contrary, I do him the justice to say, that he does all he can to clear his doctrines of grace from this dreadful imputation. I only produce his own words to show that, notwithstanding all his endeavours, this horrid Manichean consequence unavoidably flows from his Scheme of Necessity.


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