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Cause?--Aye, but the difference to us morally if we leave that cause in its own vast obscurity, unapproached by our reason, untouched by our pride; or if we make it into an image of ourselves, composed only of understanding and inclination like our own, and subject to our reprobation as surely as to our love!
Edwards had riddled and forever destroyed the arguments for free will commonly employed by the Arminians; is there no alternative for the human reason save submission to his theological determinism or to fatalistic atheism?
One way of escape from that dilemma is obvious and well known. It is that which Dr. Johnson, with his superb faculty of common sense, seized upon when the Edwardian doctrine came up in conversation before him. “The only relief I had was to forget it,” said Boswell, who had read the book; and Johnson closed the discussion with his epigram: “All theory is against the freedom of the will, all experience for it.” That is sufficient, no doubt, for the conduct of life; yet there is perhaps another way of escape, which, if it does not entirely silence the metaphysical difficulties, at least gives them a new ethical turn. Twice in the course of his argument Edwards refers to an unnamed Arminian' who placed the liberty of the soul not in the will itself, but in some power of suspending volition until due time has elapsed for judging properly the various motives to action. His reply is that this suspension of activity, being itself an act of volition, merely throws back without annulling the difficulty; and as the argument came to him, this refutation is fairly complete. But a fuller consideration of the point at issue might possibly indicate a way out of the dilemma of free will and determinism into a morally satisfying form of dualism within the soul of man himself. At least it can be said that the looseness of the Arminian reasoning leaves an easier loophole of escape into a human philosophy than does the rigid logic of the Predestinarians.
Yet for all that, though we may follow Edwards's logical system to the breaking point, as we can follow every meta
Edwards, it should seem, had immediately in mind the Essay on the Freedom of Will in God and the Creature of Isaac Watts; but the notion had been discussed at length by Locke (Essay II, xxi), and at an earlier date had been touched on with great acumen by John Norris in his correspondence with Henry More.
physical system, and though we may feel that, in his revulsion from the optimism of the deists, he distorted the actual evil of existence into a nightmare of the imagination, yet for all that, he remains one of the giants of the intellect and one of the enduring masters of religious emotion. He had not the legal and executive brain of Calvin, upon whose Institutes his scheme of theology is manifestly based, but in subtle resourcefulness of reasoning and still more in the scope of his spiritual psychology he stands above his predecessor. Few men have studied Edwards without recognizing the force and honesty of his genius.
Philosophers and Divines, 1720-1789
N old-time classification of the human faculties will serve
to explain the development of American thought in the
eighteenth century, a development which led to the overthrow of high Calvinism. As there were three divisions of the human mind-intellect, sensibility, and will, so were there three divisions among the enemies of orthodoxy. Those who followed the intellect were the rationalists, or deists. Those who followed sensibility were the "hot" men, or enthusiasts. Those who followed the will were the ethical reformers, who emphasized the conscious cultivation of morality rather than a divinely wrought change in man's nature. This last group constituted the Arminians, the first in order of time in leading the assault upon embattled tradition. When Jonathan Edwards, in 1734, complained of the “great noise in this part of the country about Arminianism," he showed his alertness to the preliminary attack of the enemy. That attack was especially directed against the middle of the five points of Calvinism. It was not so much against particular redemption, or the perseverance of the saints, as against irresistible grace that the battle-cry was raised. The reason given was that such grace was bound to destroy man's free agency and convert him into a mere machine. This explains why Edwards threw up as a counterscarp his massive work upon the freedom of the human will wherein that freedom was virtually denied.
Meanwhile, the second group, the men of feeling, came into action. Received as allies, they turned out to be anything but a help to the cause. After the religious revival and the great awakening of 1734, Edwards the logician became, in a measure, Edwards the enthusiast. But calling in the aid of evangelists
like George Whitefield carried sensibility beyond the limits of sense. To argue against the Arminians that, because of irresistible grace, men lack all native moral power, was to make men altogether passive in conversion and to run the risk of being carried away in a flood of feeling. So while Edwards warmed up his system by his writings on the Religious Affections, Whitefield had to be cautioned by the Connecticut divine for his too great dependence upon impulse. Brought in as an ally, Whitefield thus became an unconscious underminer of high Calvinism. It was one thing to preach irresistible grace; it was another to lack the restraining grace of common sense.
It was this lack which brought in the third group, those who sought the test of intellect. Agreeing with the Arminians as to the importance of the will, and opposing the enthusiasts for their extravagance of feeling, they had behind them the whole weight of the age of reason.
But here a paradox appears. While, in general, our eighteenth-century thought went through the three phases of the conventional classification of man's powers, the development of that thought was anything but conventional. Before the problems of the will and of the feelings could be determined by the orderly processes of reason, the controversy was complicated by the irruption of a foreign force. George Whitefield was the disturber of the peace, and through him the question of morals lapsed into a question of manners. It was not denied that the evangelist did some good. The fault lay in the way in which he did it. Against this inspired son of a tavern keeper the New England clergy united in using the adjective "low," and naturally, as leaders of provincial society, they damned anything that was low. This staid and proper body, priding themselves upon dignity in deportment and rationality in religion, were, moreover, outraged at the conduct of an itinerant preacher who held forth in fields and barns and preferred emotional tests to cool conviction. New England now saw revealed the old struggle between masses and classes, between town and gown. Against the enthusiasts and ranters the clergy and the college authorities were speedily arrayed. Whitefield decidedly made a tactical blunder when he brought railing accusations against divines like Charles Chauncy (1705-1787), pastor of the First Church in Boston, and Edward Wigglesworth (1693-1765), professor of divinity in Harvard College. On his first visit to the colonies, Whitefield had made some unhappy remarks about the provincial universities as "abodes of darkness, a darkness which could be felt,” and about the collegians at Cambridge as "close Pharisees, resting on head knowledge.” On his second visit, he added insult to injury by saying that on account of these "unguarded expressions” a few "mistaken, misinformed, good old men were publishing half-penny testimonials against the Lord's Anointed."
The reference here is, among others, to Wigglesworth. The latter, in his reply, does not deign to defend the college against the charge of being a seminary of paganism, but proceeds to attack its defamer: first, because of his manners, next, because of his ways of making money, and lastly, because of the evil fruits of enthusiasm. He grants that an itinerant, who frequently moves from place to place, may have a considerable use in awakening his hearers from a dead and carnal frame. But while such an exhorter may have a manner which is very taking with the people, and a power to raise them to any degree of warmth he pleases, yet in thrusting himself into towns and parishes he destroys peace and order, extorts money from the people, and arouses that pernicious thingenthusiasm.
This attack was to be expected. The New England clergy, as chosen members of a close corporation, abhorred the disturbers of their professional etiquette and were alarmed at poachers upon their clerical preserves. It not only threatened their social pedestals but it touched their pockets to have these "new lights” taking the people from their work and business and leading them to despise their own ministers.
This aspect of the Whitefield controversy shows that the causes of the opposition were largely social and economic, the same causes which worked—though in the other direction-in the opposition to the establishment of English episcopacy in the land. When the New England fathers had both “pence and power," as Tom Paine would say, it was natural that they should not relish the loss of either, at the expense of high churchmen or low itinerants. But a cause deeper than the economic lay in this outraging of the spirit of the times. This was the age of reason, and the leaders of church and college