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It hardly need be said that this is done in a manner entirely con'formable to their natures, and consistent with their accountableness. The human constitution is the work of God. He formed the minds of men, made them what they are, and in governing them, we may be sure that he does no violence to the work of his own hands. The king of Assyria was not the less free, or the less responsible, because he was in the hands and under the control of the Almighty. And the same may be said of every other intelligent created being.
It may be presuined that God governs the moral world, like the natural, according to established laws. The laws of nature, as they are called, have in many instances been discovered ; and perhaps it will be found that the laws of moral agency, or the established modes of Divine intluence over the hearts of men, are equally discoverable.
It may be laid down as a universal law, that every moral exercise or action must have a motive. Every exercise of love or hatred, choice or refusal, necessarily implies an object on which it terminates. Every moral accountable action implies some reason or end in view of which it is performed. To love when nothing is loved, or chouse when nothing is chosen, or to act rationally without reason or end, or (which is the same) without a motive, is an absurdity.
And not only is it true, that every act of the will must have a motive, it may also be said, with President Edwards, that “the will is always as the strongest motive." By the strongest motive, I do not mean that which is intrinsically strongest, or which ought to have the greatest weight, but that which at the tine appears the strongest, or strikes the mind with the greatest force. To say that the will is always determined by that motive which is intrinsically strongest, would be the same as to say that men always act right. But to say that it is determined by that motive which at the time appears the strongest, or which strikes the mind with the greatest force, is only to say, that men always act as it seems to them most agreeable; or in other words, that they do as they please. And is it not self-evident, that free, responsible agents do act in this way? " There is scarcely a plainer and more universal dictate of the sense and experience of mankind, than that, when men act voluntarily, and do what they please, then they do what suits them best, or what is most agreea
I use the word motive here in the objective sense, to signify something without the will, and by means of which this faculty is excited to action.
| Works, Vol. v. p. 16
ble to them. To say, that they do what they please, or what pleases them, but yet do not do what is most agreeable to them, is the same thing as to say, that they do what they please, but do not act their pleasure; and that is to say, that they do what they please, and yet do not do what they please.'
If motives always accompany action, and are in any sense the exciting causes of it, then it is plain that men always yield to those motives which, at the time, appear the strongest. To suppose the contrary, would be to suppose a less excitement to be more powerful than a greater ; or a weaker cause to prevail over one of superior strength.
The proposition before us is also confirmed by every man's experience. We are all conscious of being influenced by motives ; and that the degree of influence is in proportion to the strength of motives. A certain amount of motives will lead us to think of a proposed measure, or course of action ; additional motives will lead us to think of it seriously; and a still further increase of motives may lead us to adopt it. We are often in situations where the motives before us are so nearly equal, that we hesitate and are in suspense what course to pur
And we all know, how a very slight inducement, coming up on one side or the other at such times, will be sufficient to turn the scale. And what is the inference to be drawn from such facts ? That we are mere machines, turned about mechanically by weights and balances ? Not at all; but that we are rational creatures, who are influenced by reasons or motives; and that we are proportionally more influenced by those motives which seem to us strong and forcible, than by those which strike us with less power.
That the will is always as the strongest motive, and that mankind universally are convinced of this, is evident from the manner in which they attempt to influence and direct the actions one of another. This is done invariably by the presentation of motives ; and their hope of success (other things being equal) is always in proportion to the strength of motives which they are able to exhibit. Thus a parent, wishing to direct the actions of a reluctant child into a particular channel, sets before it the reasonableness of the thing proposed. If this is not sufficient, he shows the child how much is to be gained by acquiescence. If the child still refuses, the parent appeals to his sense of obligation, and urges this as a motive to obedience. And if nothing else will prevail, he threatens to inflict deserved punishment. In this instance, we see the
* Edwards' Works Vol. v. p. 21.
parent proceeding in a regular course, adding motive to motive, till at length the will of the child is gained. And the parent need be no philosopher, in order to understand and accomplish this, and to do it effectually. The most unlettered man knows how to exert an influence, in directing the actions of his fellow creatures. Cominon sense and observation teach him to exhibit motives; and if he would increase his influence over those whom he addresses, he must increase the power of motives.
The whole system of rewards and punishments, both in human governments and in the Divine, is proof of the truth now under consileration. On any other principle, why does a rich reward, and a severe punishment, have greater influence than those of a trilling nature ? Why does the magistrate offer a reward of thousands, rather than of tens, for the apprehension of the murderer ? And why is murder punishable with death, rather than with bonds? Why does the Supreme Being hold forth eternal life to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory, honor and immortality; while he declares that the wages of sin is eternal death? Is it not manifest from the whole system of rewards and punishments, not only that the actions of men are directed by motives, but that it is the stronger motive which is expected to prevail ?
It is on the same principle, that men acquire a knowledge of human nature, and derive benefit from experience in observing the actions of their fellow beings. The man of experience and judgment finds no difficulty, ordinarily, in predicting how individuals, in particular circumstances, will act, especially if he is acquainted with those individuals, and knows their characters. . " The farmer presumes, with as great certainty, that the best grain at the lowest price, other things being equal, will meet with the most purchasers, as that the sun will shine to fertilize his fields, or that the best season will produce the richest crop.” And he reckons upon the labor of individuals in his service, especially if he has tried them and knows their characters, with as much confidence as he does on the utensils they employ in the execution of his work. Still, such individuals act freely and voluntarily, in yielding to the influence of motives, and fulfilling the expectations of the employer.
We always expect our follow men to act from the stronger motive; and when we see any appearing to act in a different way, we conclude, either that they have motives of which we are ignorant, or that they are insane, and of course not respon
So the Egyptians, in all probability, judged of Moses,
chose to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. So the Jewish rulers judged of Paul, when he left their company, and joined the followers of the crucified Nazarine. And so the world judge of the most disinterested and engaged Christians now. They know not how to appreciate the real motives of such Christians; and they sometimes think them literally deranged, acting either from no motive, or from the weaker in opposition to the stronger ; and sometimes that they have motives which are not avowed, such as worldly ambition, or a desire of applause.
On the whole, I think it perfectly plain, and worthy to be reckoned among the laws of our moral nature, that every act must have a motive ; and that the will is always determined by those motives which at the time appear the strongest, or which strike the mind with the greatest force.*
But if this is true, then a way is opened in which God may and does control the actions of his creatures, in perfect consistency with their freedom and accountableness.
He does it by the presentation of notives, and by rendering the motives presented sufficiently strong and efficacious to overcome those of an opposite tendency. And it must have occurred to every attentive reader of the Scriptures, that this is the manner in which God is there represented as controlling the actions of men. When he wishes to direct their actions into a particular channel, or to accomplish an important end by their means, we uniformly find him bringing appropriate motives to bear upon them, and in this way leading and governing their wills. For instance; in bringing the children of Israel into Egypt, to be preserved there through a season of famine, the co-operation of numerous free agents was concerned ; and this co-operation was secured, at every step, through the intluence of motives. Jacob had motives for sending Joseph to visit his brethren; and Joseph had motives for going; and his brethren had motives for selling him to the Ishmaelites; and the Ishmaelites had motives for purchasing him, and taking him into Egypt; and his father and brethren, a few years after, had motives enough to induce thein to follow him. So when the children of Israel were to be released from servitude and brought out of Egypt, their oppressors were visited with a succession of judgments, till they were induced by motives to let Israel go. When Saul was to be anointed king over Israel, events were so ordered as to furnish motives to bring him into the presence of Sainuel. And when David was to be advanced to the kingdom in place of Saul, he was led along through all his previous trials by an invisible hand, but always under the influence of motives. It was appointed of God that the child Jesus should go down into Egypt; and motives were furnished to induce his reputed father to carry him there. It was also appointed that he should be brought up at Nazareth ; and when his parents came out of Egypt, they were induced by motives to turn aside to that city, instead of going to their former residence.
* To this it may be objected, that we are all conscious of having power to yield 10 the weaker mutive, in preference to the stronger. And I reply, without doubt we have nutural power, or the necessary faculties, to yield to the weaker motive. But do we ever exert such a power? And if any who hold the theory should attempt to put it to the test of experiment, would not the supposed value of the experiment itself constitute a motive stronger than any on the other side ?
It may be further objected, ihat to sioners under conviction the motives for embracing religion often appear much stronger than those against il, while yet their hearts remain unchanged. But is it even so? Sinners under conviction desire to be happy, and they feel strongly induced to seek religion as a means of happiness; but do ihey seek or desire it for its own sake? They have motives enough to take religion (if they could get it) as the sick man does his medicine; but do they desire 10 embrace it, as a thing good in itself, and to be loved on its own account ?
In all these and innumerable other instances of the like kind, we see how God governs the world by motives. When he has an end to accomplish through the instrumentality of creatures, he always exhibits sufficient motives, and by means of these directs their actions. Indeed, the actions of rational beings cannot be directed or performed, independently of motivés. As I have said already, there cannot be a choice, without a thing chosen ; or an accountable action, without some reason or end for which the action is performed. But the thing chosen-the reason or end of the action, is the motive. There must be motives, therefore, to accountable action. In this way, we influence the actions one of another; and God directs and controls the free actions of his creatures, and turns their hearts " whithersoever he will,” by the same means.
That motives constitute the exciting causes, the instrumentality, by which the moral world is governed, is too plain to be denied. But an important question here arises, Are the hearts of men governed by motives exclusively ? Has God no direct agency or influence in the matter?
In reply to these questions it should be observed, that God governs the moral world, as well as the natural, by his own power. This proposition, however, needs to be explained.
By some, the doctrine of Divine efficiency, so called, is understood to imply, that God creates every volition of every creature, whether holy or sinful, by a particular act of his omnipotence; or, in other words, that there is an individual act of God reaching and producing every individual act of every created being throughout the universe.
To those who regard the subject in this light I would sayo