Of the Will.

Of the Will.

WILL is the other power of the rational soul, "which covets or avoids such things as have been before judged and apprehended by the understanding." If good, it approves; if evil, it abhors it: so that his object is either good or evil. Aristotle calls this our rational appetite; for as, in the sensitive, we are moved to good or bad by our appetite, ruled and directed by sense; so in this we are carried by reason. Besides, the sensitive appetite hath a particular object, good or bad; this an universal, immaterial: that respects only things delectable and pleasant; this honest. Again, they differ in liberty. The sensual appetite seeing an object, if it be a convenient good, cannot but desire it; if evil, avoid it: but this is free in his essence, "much now depraved, obscured, and fallen from his first perfection; yet in some of his operations still free," as to go, walk, move at his pleasure, and to choose whether it will do, or not do, steal or not steal. Otherwise, in vain were laws, deliberations, exhortations, counsels, precepts, rewards, promises, threats and punishments: and God should be the author of sin. But in spiritual things we will no good, prone to evil (except we be regenerate, and led by the Spirit), we are egged on by our natural concupiscence, and there is αταξια (ataxia,) a confusion in our powers, "Our whole will is averse from God and his law," not in natural things only, as to eat and drink, lust, to which we are led headlong by our temperature and inordinate appetite,

"Nec nos obniti contra, nec tendere tantum
Sufficimus,---

(Virg. "We are neither able to contend against them, nor only to make way.")

we cannot resist, our concupiscence is originally bad, our heart evil, the seat of our affections captivates and enforceth our will. So that in voluntary things we are averse from God and goodness, bad by nature, by ignorance worse, by art, discipline, custom, we get many bad habits: suffering them to domineer and tyrannize over us; and the devil is still ready at hand with his evil suggestions, to tempt our depraved will to some ill-disposed action, to precipitate us to destruction, except our will be swayed and counterpoised again with some divine precepts, and good motions of the spirit, which many times restrain, hinder and check us, when we are in the full career of our dissolute courses. So David corrected himsel when he had Saul at a vantage. Revenge and malice were as two violent oppugners on the one side; but honesty, religion, fear of God, withheld him on the other.

The actions of the will are velle and nolle, to will and nill: which two words comprehend all, and they are good or bad, accordingly as they are directed, and some of them freely performed by himself; although the Stoics absolutely deny it, and will have all things inevitably done by destiny, imposing a fatal necessity upon us, which we may not resist; yet we say that our will is free in respect of us, and things contingent, howsoever in respect of God's determinate counsel, they are inevitable and necessary. Some other actions of the will are performed by the inferior powers, which obey him, as the sensitive and moving appetite; as to open our eyes, to go hither and thither, not to touch a book, to speak fair or foul: but this appetite is many times rebellious in us, and will not be contained within the lists of sobriety and temperance. It was (as I said) once well agreeing with reason, and there was an excellent consent and harmony between them, but that is now dissolved, they often jar, reason is overborne by passion: Fertur equis auriga, nec audit currus habenas, as so many wild horses run away with a chariot, and will not be curbed. We know many times what is good, but will not do it, as she said,

"Trahit invitum nova vis, aliudque cupido,
Mens aliud suadet,---"

Lust counsels one thing, reason another, there is a new reluctancy in men. Odi, nec possum, cupiens, non esse quod odi. We cannot resist, but as Phædra confessed to her nurse, quæ loqueris, vera sunt, sed furor suggerit sequi pejora: she said well and true, she did acknowledge it, but headstrong passion and fury made her to do that which was opposite. So David knew the filthiness of his fact, what a loathsome, foul, crying sin adultery was, yet notwithstanding, he would commit murder, and take away another man's wife, enforced against reason, religion, to follow his appetite. Those natural and vegetal powers are not commanded by will at all; for "who can add one cubit to his stature?" These other may, but are not: and thence come all those headstrong passions, violent perturbations of the mind; and many times vicious habits, customs, feral diseases; because wa give so much way to our appetite, and follow our inclination, like so many beasts. The principal habits are two in number, virtue and vice, whose peculiar definition; descriptions, differences, and kinds, are handled at large in the ethics, and are, indeed, the subject of moral philosophy.

Previous Next