REPLY TO THE PRINCIPAL ARGUMENTS BY WHICH THE CALVINISTS AND THE FATALISTS SUPPORT THE DOCTRINE OF ABSOLUTE NECESSITY:
BEING REMARKS ON THE REV. MR. TOPLADY'S "SCHEME OF CHRISTIAN AND PHILOSOPHICAL NECESSITY."
By John Fletcher
SECTION II:Mr. Toplady attempts to support his Scheme of Absolute Necessity by philosophy-His philosophical error is overthrown by fourteen arguments-What truth comes nearest to his error.
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WE have taken a view of the Scheme of Necessity, and seen how it represents God, directly or indirectly, as the first cause of all sin and damnation. Consider we now how Mr. T. defends this scheme by rational arguments as a philosopher. Page 22. "The soul is, in a very extensive degree, passive as matter is." Here Mr. Toplady, in some degree, gives up the point. He is about to prove that the soul is not self determined; and that, as our bodily organs are necessarily and irresistibly affected by the objects which strike them; so our souls are necessarily and irresistibly deterrained by our bodily organs, and by the ideas which those organs necessarily raise in our minds, when they are so affected. Now, to prove this, he should have proved that our souls are altogether as passive as our bodies. But, far from proving it, he dares not assert it: for he allows that the soul is passive as matter, only "in a very extensive degree;" and therefore, by his own concession, the argument on which he is going to rest the notion of the absolute passiveness of the soul with respect to self determination, will be at least in some degree groundless. But let us consider this mighty argument, and see if Mr. T.'s limitation frees him from the charge of countenancing materialism, "in a very extensive degree."
Page 22. "The senses are necessarily impressed by every object from without, and as necessarily commove the fibres of the brain; from which nervous commotion, ideas are necessarily communicated to, or excited in the soul; and by the judgment, which the soul necessarily frames of those ideas, the will is necessarily inclined to approve or disapprove, to act or not to act. If so, where is the boasted power of self determination?" This Mr. Toplady calls "a survey of the soul's dependence on the body." Page 27, he enforces the same doctrine in these words: "The human body is necessarily encompassed by a multitude of other bodies. Which other surrounding bodies, animal, vegetable, &c, so far as we come within their perceivable sphere, necessarily impress our nerves with sensations correspondent to the objects themselves. These sensations are necessarily, &c, propagated to the soul, which can no more help receiving them, and being affected by them, than a tree can resist a stroke of lightning.
"Now, (1.) If all the ideas in the soul derive their existence from sensation; and, (2.) If the soul depend absolutely on the body, for all those sensations; and, (3.) If the body be both primarily and continually dependent on other extrinsic beings, for the very sensations which it [the body] communicates to the soul; the consequence seems to me undeniable, that neither man's mental, nor his outward operations are self determined; but, on the contrary, determined by the views with which an infinity of surrounding objects necessarily, and almost incessantly impress his intellect." These arguments bring to my mind St. Paul's caution, "Beware, lest any man spoil you through philosophy, and vain deceit." That Mr. T.'s scheme is founded on a vain philosophy, will, I hope, appear evident to those who weigh the following remarks: I. This scheme is contrary to genuine philosophy, which has always represented the soul as able to resist the strongest impressions of the objects that surround the body; and as capable of going against the wind and tide of all the senses. Even Horace, an effeminate disciple of Epicurus, could say, in his sober moments, Justum et tenacem propositi virum, &c. "Neither the clamours of a raging mob, nor the frowns of a threatening tyrant; neither furious storms, nor roaring thunders can move a righteous man, who stands firm to his resolution. The wreck of the world might crush his body to atoms, but could not shake his soul with fear. But Mr. T.'s philosophy sinks as much below the poor heathen's, as a man who is perpetually borne down and carried away by every object of sense around him, is inferior to the steady man, whose virtue triumphs over all the objects which strike his senses.
II. This doctrine unmans man. For reason, or a power morally to regulate the appetites which we gratify by means of our senses, is what chiefly distinguishes us from other animals. Now if outward objects necessarily bias our senses, if our senses necessarily bias our judgment, and if our judgment necessarily bias our will and practice, what advantage have we over beasts? May we not say of reason, what heated Luther once said of free will; that it is an empty name, a mere non- entity? Thus Mr. Toplady's "Scheme of Philosophical Necessity," by rendering reason useless, saps the very foundation of all moral philosophy, and hardly allows man the low principle of conduct which we call instinct in brutes: nay, the very brutes are not so affected by the objects which strike their senses; but they often run away, hungry as they are, from the food which tempts their eye, their nose, and their belly, when they apprehend some danger, though their senses discover none.
Beasts frequently act in full opposition to the sight of their eyes; but the wretched scheme, which Mr. T. imposes upon us as Christian philosophy, supposes that all men necessarily think; judge, and act, not only "according to the sight of their eyes," but according to the impressions made by matter, upon all their senses. How would heathenish fatalists themselves have exploded so carnal a philosophy!
III. As it sets aside reason, so it overthrows conscience, and "the light which enlightens every man that comes into the world." For of what use is conscience? Of what use is the internal light of grace, which enlightens conscience within, if man is necessarily determined from without; and if the objects which strike his senses, irresistibly turn his judgment and his will; insomuch that he can no more resist their impression "than a tree can resist the stroke of lightning.
IV. As this scheme leaves no room for morality, so it robs us of the very essence of God's natural image, which consists chiefly in self activity and self motion. For, according to Mr. T.'s philosophy, we cannot take one step, no, not in the affairs of common life, without an irresistible, necessitating impulse. Yea, with respect to self activity, he represents us as inferior to our watches: they have their spring of motion within themselves, and they can go alone, if they are wound up once in twenty-four hours. But, if we believe Mr. T., our spring of motion is without us: nay, we have as many springs of motion as there are objects around us; and these objects necessarily wind up our will from moment to moment. For, by necessarily moving our senses, they necessarily move our understandings; our understanding necessarily moves our will; and our will necessarily moves our tongues, hands, and feet. Thus our will and our body, like the wheels and body of a coach, never move but as they are moved, and cannot help moving when they are acted upon. How different is this mechanical religion from the spiritual religion which the learned and pious Dr. H. More inculcates in these words "The first degree of the Divine image was self motion or self activity. For mere passivity, or to be moved or acted by another, without a man's will, &c, is the condition of such as are either dead or asleep; as to go of a man's self is a symptom of one alive or awake. Men that are dead drunk may be haled, or disposed of where others please." To be irresistibly acted upon is then to be "deprived of that degree of life which is self activity, or the doing of things from an inward principle of free agency; and therefore it is to be, so far, in a state of death." Nor will Mr. T. mend the matter by urging that our understanding and our will are first necessarily moved and determined by the objects which surround us. For the motion of a coach drawn by horses, and driven by a coachman, is not the less mechanical, because the smooth axletree, and the oiled wheels, being first set in motion, move the whole coach by readily yielding to the impulse of the external mover. Were such wheels as full of consciousness and willingness as the mystic wheels of Ezekiel's vision; yet, so long as they moved by absolute necessity, or by an oil of willingness irresistibly applied to them from without, their motion would not be more commendable than that of a well suspended and oiled wheel, which the touch of your finger moves round its axis. It turns indeed freely and (according to supposition) willingly: but yet, as it wills and moves irresistibly and passively, its moving and willing are merely mechanical. So easy and short is the transition from the scheme of absolute necessity to that of universal mechanism!
V. If Mr. T.'s scheme of necessity be true, all sin may be justly charged upon Providence, who, by the "surrounding objects which necessarily impress our intellect," causes sin as truly, and as irresistibly, as a gunner causes the explosion of a loaded cannon, by the lighted match which he applies to the touch hole. And Eve was unwise when she said, "The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat;" for she might have said, "Lord, I have only followed the appointed law of my nature: for, providentially coming within sight of the tree of knowledge, I perceived that 'the fruit was good for food, and pleasant to the eye.'
It necessarily impressed my nerves with correspondent sensations; these sensations were necessarily and instantaneously propagated to my soul; and my soul could no more help receiving these forcible impressions, and eating in consequence of them, than a tree can resist a stroke of lightning." I should be glad to know with what justice Eve could have been condemned after such a plea, if Mr. T.'s scheme be true? Especially if she had urged, as Mr. T. does, p. 14, that God's necessitation gives birth to "providence;" that is, "to the all-directing superintendency of Divine wisdom and power, carrying the whole preconcerted scheme into actual execution, by the subservient mediation of second causes [such as the fair colour of the fruit, and the eye of Eve] which were created for that end." Can any man say, that if Mr. T. be right, Eve would have charged God foolishly?"
However, if Eve did not know how to exculpate herself properly, according to the doctrine of Divine necessitation, Mr. Toplady knows how to reduce his Gospel to practice; and therefore, in a humorous manner, he justifies his illiberal treatment of his opponent thus: p. 10, "Mr. Wesley imagines that, upon my own principles, I can be no more than a clock. And if so, how can I help striking? He himself has several times smarted for coming too near the pendulum." What a sweet and profitable Gospel is this! Who would wonder, if all who love to "strike their fellow servants" should embrace Mr. Toplady's system, as a comfortable 66 doctrine of grace," by which sin may be humorously palliated, and striking sinners completely justified?
VI. It is contrary to Scripture: for, if man be necessarily affected, and irresistibly wrought upon, or led by the forcible impressions of external objects, Paul spake like a heretical free willer when he said, "All things [indifferent] are lawful for me; but I will not be brought under the power of any." How foolish was this saying, if he could "no more help being brought under the irresistible power of the objects which surrounded him, than a tree can help being struck by the lightning?"
VII. It is contrary to common sense: how can God reasonably set life and death, water and fire before us, and bid us choose eternal life, and living water, if surrounding objects work upon us, as the lightning works upon a tree on which it falls? And when the Lord commands the reprobates to choose virtue, after having bound them over to vice by the adamantine chain of necessitation, does he not insult over their misery, as much as a sheriff would do, who, after having ordered the executioner to bind a man's hands, to fasten his neck to the gallows, and absolutely to drive away the cart from under him, should gravely bid the wretch to choose life and liberty, and bitterly exclaim against him for "neglecting so great" a deliverance?
VIII. It is contrary to the sentiments of all the Churches of Christ, except those of necessitarian Rome and Geneva: for they all reasonably require us to renounce the pomps of the world, and the alluring, sinful baits of the flesh. But if these pomps and baits work upon us by, means of our senses, as necessarily, and determine our will as irresistibly as lightning shivers a tree, can any thing be more absurd than our baptismal engagements? Might we not as well seriously vow never to be struck by the lightning in a storm, as solemnly vow never to be led by, or follow the vanities of the world and the sinful lusts of the flesh?
IX. It represents the proceedings of the day of judgment, as the most unrighteous, cruel, and hypocritical acts, that ever disgraced the tribunal of a tyrant. For if God, by eternal, absolute, and necessitating decrees, places the reprobates in the midst of a current of circumstances, which carries them along as irresistibly as a rapid river wafts a feather; if he encompasses them with tempting objects, which strike their souls with ideas, that cause sin in their hearts and lives, as inevitably as a stroke of lightning raises splinters in the tree which it shatters; and if we can no more help being determined by these objects, which God's providence has placed around us on purpose to determine us, than a tree can resist a stroke of lightning; it unavoidably follows, that when God will judicially condemn the wicked, and send them to hell for their sins, he will act with as much justice as the king would do, if he sent to the gallows all his subjects who have had the misfortune of being struck with lightning. Nay, to make the case parallel, we must suppose that the king has the absolute command of the lightning, and had previously struck them with the fiery ball, that he might subsequently condemn them to be hanged for having been struck, according to his absolute decree.
Should the reader, who is not yet initiated into the mystery of the Calvinian decrees, ask, if it be possible that rigid bound willers should fix so horrible a blot upon the character of "the Judge of all the earth?" I answer in the affirmative; and I prove, by the following words of Mr. Toplady, that, if Calvinism be true, the pretended sentence which the Judge shall pass in the great day, will be only a publication or ratification of the everlasting decrees, by which a Manichean deity absolutely necessitates some men to repent and be saved, and others to sin and be damned. "Christ," says Mr. Toplady, in his Zanch. p. 87, "will then properly sit as a Judge; and openly publish, and solemnly ratify his everlasting decrees, by receiving the elect, &c, into glory; and by passing sentence on the non-elect, [&c,] for their willful ignorance of Divine things, and their obstinate unbelief," &c. It is true that after the word non-elect, Mr. T. adds in a parenthesis these words, "not for having done what they could not help." But it is equally true that he had no more right to add this parenthesis, than I have to say that the lightning is at my command: for, throughout his Scheme of Necessity, he attempts to prove that man is not "self determined," but irresistibly determined by some other being, viz., by God, who absolutely determines him by "second causes created for that end;" forcible causes these, whose impressions are so strong, that we "can no more help receiving them [and being determined by them] than a tree can resist a stroke of lightning." Beside, if the non-elect are damned "for their obstinate unbelief," as Mr. T. tells us in his quotation; and if it be as impossible for them to believe as to make a world, (an absurd maxim this, which is inculcated by rigid bound willers,) it is evident that the non-elect can no more help their unbelief, than they can help their incapacity to create a world.
X. Mr. Toplady's Scheme of Necessity places matter and its impressions far above spirit and its influence. If his philosophy be true, every material object around us, by making necessary, irresistible impressions upon our minds, necessarily determines our will, and irresistibly impels our actions. According to this system, therefore, we cannot resist the powerful influence of matter: but, if we believe the Scriptures, we can "resist the Holy Ghost, and do despite to the Spirit of grace."
Now, what is this, but to represent matter, (which is the God of the materialists, and the evil God of the Manichees,) as more active, quick, and powerful than spirit? Yea, than the Holy Spirit?
Mr. Toplady may indeed say that the material objects, by which we are absolutely determined, are only God's tools, by which God himself determines us: but, though this salvo may so far reconcile the Scheme of Necessity to itself; it will never reconcile it to such scriptures as these: "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost, as your fathers did. I would have gathered you, and ye would not." And, what is still worse, it represents God as working Manichean iniquity by common adulterers and robbers, as forcibly as a miller grinds his corn, by the use he makes of a current of air or a stream of water.
XI. The Scheme of Philosophical Necessity which I attack, supposes that God, to maintain order in the universe, is obliged to necessitate all events, from the wagging of a dog's tail, or the rise of a particle of dust, to the murder of a king, or the rise of an empire. Thus Mr. T. tells us, in his preface to Zanchius, p. 4, "Bishop Hopkins did not go a jot too far in asserting," that "not a dust flies on a beaten road, but God raiseth it, conducts its uncertain motion, and, by his particular care, conveys it to the certain place he had before appointed for it: nor shall the most fierce and tempestuous wind hurry it any farther." I object to this puerile system: (1.) Because it absurdly multiplies God's decrees; rendering them not only as numerous as the sands on the sea shore, and the particles of dust on beaten roads, but also as countless as all the motions of each grain of sand and particle of dust in all ages. At this rate, a large folio volume could not contain all the decrees of God concerning the least particle of dust; its rises and falls; its stops and hindrances; its situations and modifications; its whirlings to the right, or to the left, &c, &c. And, (2.) Because it represents God as being endued with less wisdom than a prudent king, who can maintain good order in his kingdom without making particular laws or decrees to necessitate every eructation of his drunken soldiers, or every puff of his smoking subjects; and without ordaining every filthy jest which is uttered from the ale bench, appointing every loud invective which disturbs Billingsgate, and predestinating every wry face which the lunatics make in Bedlam.
XII. But what I chiefly dislike in this scheme, is its degrading all human souls in such a manner as to make them receive their moral excellence and depravity from the contexture of the brains by which they work, and from the place of the bodies in which they dwell. Insomuch, that all the difference there is between one who thinks loyally, and one who thinks otherwise; between one who believes that Christ is God over all, and one who believes that he is a mere creature, consists only in the make and position of their brains. Supposing, for example, that a gentleman has honorable thoughts of his king and of his Saviour, and is ready, from a principle of loyalty and faith, to defend the dignity of George the Third, and the divinity of Jesus Christ: supposing also, that another gentleman breaks, without ceremony, these two evangelical precepts, "Honor the king, Let all the angels of God worship him" [Christ;] I ask, Why is their moral and religious conduct so opposite?
Is it because the first gentleman's free-willing soul has intrinsically more reverence for the king and for our Lord? Because he keeps his heart more tender by faith and prayer, and his conscience more devoid of prejudice, through a diligent improvement of his talent, or through a more faithful use of his free agency, and a readier submission to the light that enlightens every man? No such thing; if Mr. T.'s scheme be true, the whole difference consists in "mud walls," and external circumstances. Page 33, "The soul of a monthly reviewer, if imprisoned within the same mud walls which are tenanted by the soul of Mr. John Wesley, would, similarly circumstanced, reason and act, (I verily think,) exactly like the bishop of Moorfields." And, pp. 34, 35, he adds, "I just now hinted the conjecture of some, that a human spirit incarcerated in the brain of a cat, would probably both think and behave as that animal does. But how would the soul of a cat acquit itself if inclosed in the brain of a man? We cannot resolve this question with certainty, any more than the other." Admirable divinity! So Mr. Toplady leaves the orthodox in doubt: (1.) Whether when their souls, and the souls of cats, shall be let out of their respective brains or prisons, the souls of cats will not be equal to the souls of men. (2.) Whether, supposing the soul of a cat had been put in the brain of St. Paul, or of a monthly reviewer, the soul of "puss" would not have made as great an apostle as the soul of Saul of Tarsus; as good a critic as the soul of the most sensible reviewer. And, (3.) Whether, in case the "human spirit" [of Isaiah] "were shut up in the skull of a cat, puss would not, notwithstanding, move prone on all four, purr when stroked, spit when pinched, and birds and mice be her darling objects of pursuit," p. 34. Is not this a pretty large stride, for the first, toward the doctrine of the sameness of the souls of men with the souls of cats and frogs? Wretched Calvinism, newfangled doctrines of grace, where are you leading your deluded admirers? your principal vindicators? Is it not enough that you have spoiled the fountain of living waters, by turning it into the muddy streams of Zeno's errors? Are ye also going to poison it by the absurdities of Pythagoras' philosophy? What a side stroke is here inadvertently given to these capital doctrines: God breathed into Adam the breath of life, and he became a living soul," a soul made "in the image of God," and not in the image of a cat: "the spirit of the beast goeth downward to the earth: but the spirit of man goeth upward: it returns to God who gave it," with an intention to judge and reward it according to its moral works.
But I must do Mr. Toplady justice: he does not yet recommend this doctrine as absolutely certain. However, from his capital doctrine, that human souls have no free will, no inward principle of self determination; and from his avowed opinion, that the soul of one man, placed in the body of another man, "would, similarly circumstanced, reason and act exactly like" the man in whose mud walls it is lodged; it evidently follows: (1.) That had the human soul of Christ been placed in the body and circumstances of Nero, it would have been exactly as wicked and atrocious as the soul of that bloody monster was. And, (2.) That if Nero's soul had been placed in Christ's body, and in his trying circumstances, it would have been exactly as virtuous and immaculate as that of the Redeemer: the consequence is undeniable. Thus, the merit of the man Christ did not in the least spring from his righteous soul, but from his "mud walls," and from the happiness which his soul had of being lodged in a "brain peculiarly modified." Nor did the demerit of Nero flow from his free agency and self perversion; but only from his "mud walls," and from the infelicity which his necessitated soul had of being lodged in an "ill-constructed vehicle," and placed on that throne on which Titus soon after deserved to be called the darling of mankind. See, O ye engrossers of orthodoxy, to what absurd lengths your aversion to the liberty of the will, and to evangelical worthiness, leads your unwary souls! And yet, if we believe Mr. Toplady, your scheme, which is big with these inevitable consequences, is Christian philosophy, and our doctrine of free will is "philosophy run mad!"
XIII. If our thoughts and actions necessarily flowed from the modifications of our brains, and from the impressions of the objects around us, it would necessarily follow, that as most men, throughout the whole world, see the sun bright, snow white, and scarlet red: or as most men taste aloes bitter, vinegar sour, and honey sweet; so most men would think, speak, and act nearly with the same moral uniformity which is perceivable in their bodily organs, and in the objects which affect those organs: and it would be as impossible to improve in virtue, by a proper exertion of our powers, and by a diligent use of our talents, as it is impossible to improve the whiteness of the snow, or our power to see it white, by a diligent use of our sight. At this rate too, conversion would not be so much a reformation of our spiritual habits as a reformation of our brains.
XIV. But the worst consequences are yet behind: for if God works upon our souls in the same manner in which he works upon matter; if he raises our ideas, volitions, and passions, as necessarily as a strong wind raises the waves of the sea, with their roar, their foam, and their other accidents; in a word, if he works as absolutely and irresistibly upon spirit as he does upon matter; it follows that spirit and matter, being governed upon the same principles, are of the same nature; and that if there he any difference between the soul and the body, it is only such a difference as there is between the tallow which composes a lighted candle, and the flame which arises out of it.
The light flame is as really matter as the heavy tallow and the ponderous candlestick; and all are equally passive and subject to the laws of absolute necessity. Again: If virtue and vice necessarily depend on the modification of our brains, and the objects which surround us; it follows that the effect will cease with the cause, and that bodily dissolution will consign our virtue or vice to the dust, into which our brains and bodily organs will soon be turned; and that when the souls of the righteous, and the souls of the wicked, shall be removed from their "mud walls," and from the objects which surround those mud walls, they will be (nearly at least) of a level with each other, if they are not on a level with the souls of cats and dogs. Lest Mr. Toplady's admirers should think that prejudice makes me place his mistakes in too strong a light, I shall close these arguments by the judgment of the monthly reviewers. In their Review for 1775, they give us the following abridged account of Mr. Toplady's Scheme of Necessity: "The old controversy concerning liberty and necessity has lately been renewed: Mr. Toplady avows himself a strenuous and very positive champion on the side of necessity, and revives those arguments which were long since urged by Spinoza, Hobbes, &c, [two noted infidels, or rather Atheistical materialists.] It is somewhat singular in the history of this dispute, that those who profess themselves the friends of revelation, should so earnestly contend for a system which unbelievers have very generally adopted and maintained. This appears the more strange, when we consider that the present asserters of necessity manifest a very visible tendency to materialism. Fate and universal mechanism seem to be so nearly allied, that they have been usually defended on the same ground, and by the same advocates. Mr. Toplady indeed admits that the two component principles of man, body and soul, 'are not only distinct but essentially different from each other.' But it appears, in the sequel of his reasoning, that he has no high opinion of the nature and powers of the latter, [the soul.] 'An idea,' he observes, 'is that image, form, or conception of any thing which the soul is impressed with from without;' and he expressly denies that the soul has any power of framing new ideas, different from or superior to those which are forced upon it by the bodily senses. 'The soul,' he affirms, 'is, in a very extensive degree, passive as matter itself.' On his scheme, the limitation, with which he guards this assertion, is needless and futile."
While this Monthly Review is before me, I cannot help transcribing from it two other remarkable passages. The one occurs four pages after the preceding quotation. The correspondents of the reviewers give them an account of an absurd and mischievous book, written by some wild Atheistical philosopher abroad, who thinks that all matter is alive, that the earth is a huge animal, and that we feed upon it, as some diminutive insects do upon the back of an ass. "His moral doctrine," say the reviewers, "is of a piece with the rest: the result of his reasoning on this subject is, in his own words, 'Man, in every instant of his duration, is a passive instrument in the hands of necessity.' Then let us drink and drive care away, drink, and be merry, as the old song says; which is the practical application." I would not be understood to charge this application upon Mr. Toplady; I only mention it, after the reviewers, as a natural consequence of his system of necessity. The other passage is taken from the Review of Dr. Hartley's Theory of the Human Mind, [Mr. Toplady, page 148, intimates to his readers that Dr. Hartley has written an "eminent defence of necessity," and promises himself "a feast of pleasure and instruction" in reading his book.] published by Dr. Priestley, who pleads as strongly for necessity as Mr. Toplady himself.
"Materialism," say the reviewers, "has been, from early ages, considered as one of the chief bulwarks of Atheism. Accordingly, while Epicurus, and Hobbes, and their disciples, have endeavoured to defend it, Theists and Christians have pointed their batteries against it. But we learn from Dr. Priestley that perception, and all the mental powers of man, are the result of such an organical structure as that of the brain. How would Epicurus, how would Collins have triumphed, had they lived to see this point [that the mental powers of man result from such an organical structure as that of the brain] given up to them, even by a Christian divine! Another discovery, very consonant to the first is, that the whole man becomes extinct at death. For this concession Atheists will likewise thank him, as it has been one of the chief articles of their creed from the beginning of the world. Let us suppose, with Dr. Priestley, that all the mental powers of Julius Caesar result from the organical structure of his brain. This organical structure is dissolved, and the whole man, Julius Caesar, becomes extinct; the matter of this brain, however, remains, but it is not Julius Caesar; for he (ex hypothesi) is wholly extinct."
Having produced a variety of arguments, which, I trust, will altogether have weight enough to sink Mr. Toplady's Scheme of Necessity to the bottom of the sea of error, where a vain philosophy begat it on a monstrous body of corrupted divinity, I shall conclude this section by setting my seal to the truths which border most upon Mr. Toplady's error, and by which he is deceived, according to the old saying, Decipimur specie recti, "We embrace falsehood under the deceitful appearance of some truth." Mr. Toplady is certainly in the right, when he asserts that there is a close connection between our soul and body; and that each has a reciprocal influence on the other. We readily grant that a cheerful mind is conducive to bodily health, and that Corpus onustum Hesternis vitiis animum quoque prægravat una, Atque affigit humo divinæ particulam auræ.- HOR. "The soul, which dwells in a body oppressed with last night's excess, is clogged with the load which disorders the body." Nor do we deny that, in a thousand cases, our bodies and our circumstances may prevent the full exertion of our spiritual powers, as the lameness of a horse, or its natural sluggishness, added to the badness of the road, may prevent the speed which a good rider could make if he had a better horse and a better road. But to carry this consideration as far as Mr. Toplady does, is as absurd as to suppose that the skill and expedition of a rider depend entirely on his beast, and on the goodness of the road. We likewise allow, that sometimes the soul may be as much overpowered by a disordered, dying body, as a rider, who is irresistibly carried away by a mad horse, or lies helpless under the weight of a dying horse. But, in such cases, we do not consider the soul as accountable; as neither delirious persons, nor those who are dying of a paralytic stroke, are answerable for their actions and omissions in such peculiar circumstances. In all other cases history furnishes us with a variety of examples of men, who, through a faithful use of their talents, have overcome the infelicity of their constitution and circumstances; while others, by a contrary conduct, have perverted the most happy constitution, and the most fortunate circumstances in life. Thus Socrates, by improving his light, mastered an unhappy constitution, which in his youth carried him to violent anger, and an undue gratification of bodily appetites. And thus Solomon, by not improving his light, in his old age made shipwreck of the wisdom, temperance, and piety, that distinguished him in his youth. So Nero outlived the happy dispositions which made him shine in the former part of his life. And Manasses, by "humbling himself before the God of his fathers," overcame in his old age the horrid and abominable propensities which constituted him a monster of iniquity in his youthful days.
Likewise, with respect to the circumstances in which we are placed by Providence, I grant they have a considerable weight in the turn of our affections. Nevertheless, this weight is by no means such as Mr. T. supposes. Diogenes might be as proud in his tub, as Alexander in his magnificent palace. A gown and a band may cover a revengeful clergyman, while a star and garter shine on a benevolent courtier. Cornelius turned to God in the army; and the sons of Eli went after Satan in the temple. Domitian and Marcus Antoninus filled the same throne; where the one astonished the universe by his wickedness, as the other did by his virtue. Abraham and Agathocles were humble in the midst of riches; and too many beggars are proud in the depth of poverty. Some men are content in a sordid cottage; while others murmur in the most splendid palaces. The treasurer of the queen of Ethiopia was (it seems) converted in the vanity of a heathen court; while Judas was perverted in the company of Christ and his fellow apostles. In short, while thousands, like Absalom, have turned out bad, notwithstanding the best instructions; numbers, like the Philippian jailer, have turned out well, maugre the worst education. Such is the power of free grace and free will. To lay therefore so much stress upon external circumstances is to undo by overdoing, and to withdraw the truth till it is refined into error.
Upon the whole, we have Scripture and experience on our side when we assert that reason, conscience, the "light which [in various degrees] enlightens every man," the general assistance of Divine grace, and the peculiar or providential helps of God our Saviour, are more than sufficient savingly to overrule the infelicity of our bodily constitution, and our circumstances in life, if we are not wilfully and perversely wanting to ourselves; for "of them to whom less is given, less will be required:" and the advantages or disadvantages under which we labour, shall all be taken into the account of our evangelical worthiness or unworthiness, in the day when God shall judge us according to the several editions of his everlasting Gospel, and according to the good or bad use which we make of his talents of nature and grace.| Back to Table of Contents |