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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary

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Whatever is done by a cause or power that is irresistible, in which sense it is opposed to freedom. Man is a necessary agent, if all his actions be so determined by the causes preceding each action, that not one past action could possibly not have come to pass, or have been otherwise than it hath been, nor one future action can possibly not come to pass, or be otherwise than it shall be. On the other hand, it is asserted, that he is a free agent, if he be able at any time, under the causes and circumstances he then is, to do different things; or, in other words, if he be not unavoidably determined in every point of time by the circumstances he is in, and the causes he is under, to do any one thing he does, and not possibly to do any other thing. Whether man is a necessary or a free agent, is a question which has been debated by writers of the first eminence, Hobbes, Collins, Hume, Leibuitz, Kaims, Hartley, Priestley, Edwards, Crombie, Toplady, and Belsham, have written on the side of necessity; while Clarke, King, Law, Reid, Butler, Price, Bryant, Wollaston, Horsley, Beattie, Gregory, and Butterworth, have written against it.

To state all their arguments in this place, would take up too much room; suffice it to say, that the Anti- necessarians suppose that the doctrine of necessity charges God as the author of sin; that it takes away the freedom of the will, renders man unaccountable, makes sin to be no evil, or morality or virtue to be no good; precludes the use of means, and is of the most gloomy tendency. The Necessarians deny these to be legitimate consequences, and observe that the Deity acts no more immorally in decreeing vicious actions, than in permitting all those irregularities which he could so easily have prevented. The difficulty is the same on each hypothesis. All necessity, say they, doth not take away freedom. The actions of a man may be at one and the same time free and necessary too. It was infallibly certain that Judas would betray Christ, yet he did it voluntarily. Jesus Christ necessarily became man, and died, yet he acted freely. A good man doth naturally and necessarily love his children, yet voluntarily. It is part of the happiness of the blessed to love God unchangeably, yet freely, for it would not be their happiness if done by compulsion.

Nor does it, says the Necessarian, render man unaccountable, since the Divine Being does no injuries to his rational faculties; and man, as his creature, is answerable to him; besides he has a right to do what he will with his own. That necessity doth not render actions less morally good, is evident; for if necessary virtue be neither moral nor praise-worthy, it will follow that God himself is not a moral being, because he is a necessary one; and the obedience of Christ cannot be good because it was necessary. Farther, say they, necessity does not preclude the use of means; for means are no less appointed than the end. It was ordained that Christ should be delivered up to death; but he could not have been betrayed without a betrayer, nor crucified without crucifiers. That it is not a gloomy doctrine, they allege, because nothing can be more consolatory than to believe that all things are under the direction of an all-wise Being; that his kingdom ruleth over all, and that he doth all things well. So far from its being inimical to happiness, they suppose there can be no solid true happiness without the belief of it; that happiness without the belief of it; that it inspires gratitude, excites confidence, teaches resignation, produces humility, and draws the soul to God. It is also observed, that to deny necessity is to deny the foreknowledge of God, and to wrest the sceptre from the hand of the Creator, and to place that capricious and undefinable principle.

The self-determining power of man, upon the throne of the universe. Beside, say they, the Scripture places the doctrine beyond all doubt, Job 23:13-14 . Job 34:29 . Proverbs 16:4 . Is. 45: 7. Acts 13:48 . Ephesians 1:11 . 1 Thessalonians 3:3 . Matthew 10:29-30 . Matthew 18:7 . Luke 24:26 . John 6:37 .

See the works of the above-mentioned writers on the subject; and articles MATERIALISTS, and PRE-DESTINATION.

Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Necessity'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​cbd/​n/necessity.html. 1802.
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