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in which all metaphysicians will perceive their peculiar principles are included. We have directed our ideas solely to the physical power of man; to do what he wills to do, without being restrained by any foreign impediment; and to the position that the mind is always influenced by inducements; the strongest of which becomes the motive, or the moving cause of the subsequent act.* By this exalted privilege, of which no human being is disposed to be deprived, imperfect creatures are destined to form their own characters. They are free to act according to whatever line of conduct they may prefer; to seek whatever shall appear most desirable, and by whatever means they may choose; but it is upon condition that they are to abide by the issue. This important, though dangerous, privilege being possessed from the commencement of existence, during our ignorance and inexperience, we unavoidably are subjected to great, manifold, and pernicious
As all our powers, faculties, and natural propensities, were implanted by the Creator, we may safely conclude that he has designed
* See Vol. II. Disq. II. ch. iv. Volition.
them to operate to the utmost extent of their beneficial energies ; nor can any supernatural or miraculous interference, be requisite to produce the good which they are able to accomplish. But the deviations arising from the uncontrolled liberty of following propensities of every kind, may plunge us too deeply in the gulph of folly and wretchedness, for exertions merely human to extricate us. By perpetually mistaking the ideas which crowd into the imagination, for the dictates of the understanding, and by repeatedly yielding to the impulses of passion, which obscure the understanding, the human mind may finally be rendered incapable of acting rationally ; and thus it will retain no counterpoise to the powerful influence of present objects, or the immediate gratifications they propose.
Such conse, quences may flow from the abuse of free agency; and the history of the human mind testifies that they have flowed in such an abundance as to deluge the world.
Since a commencement of depravity must have taken place, at a period when purer principles were professed, and before polytheism, the worship of idols, and the observance of abominable rites became universal, what reformation could be expected from succeeding generations,
born in the midst of ignorance and depravity? initiated into perverse principles from their infan-. cy? surrounded with perverse examples, without a single ray of light to conduct them into the right path ? Opinions imbibed by those who were taught that nothing deemed sacred could be absurd, and practices rendered familat by habit, which reconciles to every extravagance, must erect an effectual barrier against the possibility of a reformation originating from themselves. Were it possible that the unity of the Deity, his moral perfections, an universal providence, and, the obligation to practise every virtue from a principle of duty, could have been discovered by some individual of a superior mind, merely by the light of nature; yet the salutary influence of these truths would be almost imperceptible. The gross ignorance, depraved passions, and inveterate prejudices of inferior minds, would effectually prevent their reception. The Multitude would reject the sentiments of their teacher, with derision and contempt. Nor would the Sage be qualified to announce the plans of Providence, respecting the moral interests of mankind, or enforce the practice of any one virtue, with the voice of authority, or by absolute promises respecting futurity
But if we acknowledge a divine interposition to be highly necessary, upon extraordinary occasions, it cannot with justice be considered as an arbitrary violation of the established laws of nature, however great may be the deviation from the usual course of things. Such an interposition assumes the character of provisional aid, adapted to the contingencies incident to that freedom of agency with which our nature is honoured; and thus it constitutes, in reality, an essential part of the divine plan. The power of the Almighty is able, at all times, to exert a salutary influence upon every individual mind; it can illuminate the understanding, and rectify the will, in such a manner, and to such a degree, as shall effectually annihilate the influence of every seduction; but the constant exertion of this power would also annihilate that optional power in man, so essential to the character of a free moral agent. It would render man a machine. He would constantly go right; but he would be compelled to go right, and the most exalted motives of action could no longer exist. Since the excellence of virtue is to be ascribed to the rational, conscientious, and triumphant exertions of a mental energy, in opposition to vicious inducements, and vicious propensities, it cannot be practised instinctively or by compulsion.
Another mode of opposing ignorance and vice, and gradually destroying their mischievous effects, more consonant with the nature of man, consists in forming, by an immediate revelation, a deposit of religious and virtuous principles, to which the ignorant may at all times apply for knowledge;-by which the irresolute
have their virtue established ;-in which the vicious may view, as reflected from a mirror, the blackness of their characters;—the promises of which may afford ample encouragement to the righteous, to persevere in the paths of virtue, as conducive to perinanent happiness ;-and its threatenings may warn the vicious and profligate of their danger. By these means the darkness of the moral world may be gradually illuminated. Thus may right principles and dispositions work their way, through the obstacles which ignorance and vice have opposed to their progress; and in a manner which still renders the love and practice of goodness the honorable result of human efforts.
Such conceptions of the divine conduct perfectly harmonize with the best principles em