Page images
PDF
EPUB

dom, and things depending on men's moral actions), Matthew xxiv 35, "Heaven and earth shall pass away; but my word shall not pass away."

Corol. 4. From the same notion of God's ignorance, it would follow, that in vain has God Himself often spoke of the predictions of his word, as evidences of his Foreknowledge; and so as evidences of that which is his prerogative as GOD, and his peculiar glory, greatly distinguishing Him from all other beings; as in Isa. xli. 22—26, xliii. 9, 10, xliv. 8, xlv. 21, xlvi. 10, and xlvfii. 14.

Arg. II. If God does not foreknow the volitions of moral agents, then he did not foreknow the fall of man, nor of angels, and so could not foreknow the great things which are consequent on these events; such as his sending his Son into the world to die for sinners, and all things pertaining to the great work of redemption; all the things which were done for four thousand years before. Christ came, to prepare the way for it; and the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ; and the setting Him at the head of the universe, as King of heaven and earth, angels and men; and the setting up his church and kingdom in this world, and appointing Him the Judge of the world; and all that Satan should do in the world in opposition to the kingdom of Christ: and the great transactions of the day of judgment, that men and devils shall be the subjects of, and angels concerned in; they are all what God was ignorant of before the fall. And if so, the following scriptures, and others like them, must be without any meaning, or contrary to truth. Eph. i. 4, "According as he hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world."

1 Pet . i. 20," Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world."

2 Tim. i. 9, " Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling; not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." So, Eph. iii. 11 (speaking of the wisdom of God in the work of redemption), " According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus." Tit. i. 2, " In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began." Rom. viii. 29, " Whom he did foreknow, them he also did predestinate," &c 1 Pet. i. 2, "Elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father."

If God did not foreknow the fall of man, nor the redemption by Jesus Christ, nor the volitions of man since the fall; then he did not foreknow the saints in any sense; neither as particular persons, nor as societies or nations; either by election, or mere foresight of their virtue or good works; or any foresight of any thing about them relating to their salvation; or any benefit they have by Christ, or any manner of concern of theirs with a Redeemer.

Arg. III. On the supposition of God's ignorance of the future volitions of free agents, it will follow, that God must in many cases truly repent what he has done, so as properly to wish he had done otherwise: by reason that the event of things, in those affairs which are most important, viz., the affairs of his inoral kingdom, being uncertain and contingent, often happens quite otherwise than he was aware beforehand. And there would be reason to understand, that in the most literal sense, in Gen. vi. 6, " It repented the Lord, that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart." And that, 1 Sam. xv. 11, contrary to that, Numb, xxiii. 19, " God is not the Son of man, that He should repent." And, 1 Sam. xv. 29," Also the strength of Israel will not lie, nor repent; for He is not a man that he should repent." Yea, from this notion it would follow, that God is liable to repent and be grieved at his heart, in a literal sense, continually; and is always exposed to an infinite number of real disappointments in his governing the world; and to manifold, constant, great perplexity and vexation; but this is not very consistent with his title of God over all, blessed forever more; which represents Him as possessed of perfect; constant and uninterrupted tranquillity and felicity, as God over the universe, and in his management of the affairs of the world, as supreme and universal Ruler. See Rom. i. 25, ix. 5, 2 Cor. xi. 31,1 Tim. vi. 15.

Aug. IV. It will also follow from this notion, that as God is liable to be continually repenting what he has done; so he must be exposed to be constantly changing his mind and intentions, as to his future conduct; altering his measures, relinquishing his old designs, and forming new schemes and projections. For his purposes, even as to the main parts of his scheme, namely, such as belong to the state of his moral kingdom, must be always liable to be broken, through want of foresight; and he must be continually putting his system to rights, as it gets out of order through the contingence of the actions of moral agents; he must be a Being, who, instead of being absolutely immutable, must necessarily be the subject of infinitely the most numerous acts of repentance, and changes of intention, of any being whatsoever; for this plain reason, that his vastly extensive charge comprehends an infinitely greater number of those things which are to him contingent and uncertain. In such a situation, he must have little else to do, but to mend broken links as well as he can, and be rectifying his disjointed frame and disordered movements; in the best manner the case will allow. The Supreme Lord of all things must needs be under great and miserable disadvantages, in governing the world which he has made and has the care of, through his being utterly unable to find out things of chief importance, which, hereafter shall befall his system; which, if he did but know, he might make seasonable provision for. In many cases, there may be very great necessity that he should make provision, in the manner of his ordering and disposing things, for some great events which are to happen, of vast and extensive influence, and endless consequence to the universe; which he may see afterwards, when it is too late, and may wish in vain that he had known beforehand, that he might have ordered his affairs accordingly. And it is in the power of man, on these principles, by his devices, purposes and actions, thus to disappoint God, break his measures, make Him continually to change his mind, subject him to vexation, and bring him into confusion.

But how do these things consist with reason, or with the word of God? Which represents, that all God's works, all that he has ever to do, the whole scheme and series of his operations, are from the beginning perfectly in his view; and declares, that whatever devices and designs " are in the hearts of men, the counsel of the Lord is that which shall stand, and the thoughts of his heart to all generations," Prov. xix. 21, Psal. xxxiii. 10, 11, " And that which the Lord of Hosts hath purposed, none shall disannul," Isa. xiv. 27. And that he cannot be frustrated in one design or thought, Job xlii. 2. "And that which God doth, it shall be forever, that nothing can be put to it, or taken from it," Eccl. iii. 14. The stability and perpetuity of God's counsels are expressly spoken of as connected with the foreknowledge of God, Isa. xlvi. 10, " Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times, the things that are not yet done; saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure."—And how are these things consistent with what the Scripture says of God's immutability, which represents Him as "without variableness, or /. ?dow of turning;" and speaks of Him most particularly as unchangeable with regard to his purposes, Mai. iii. 6, " I am the Lord; I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed/' Exod. iii. 14, Am That Am, Job xxiii. 13, 14, " He is in one mind; and who can turn Him 1 And what his soul desireth, even that he doth: for he performeth the thing that is appointed for me."

Arg. V. If this notion of God's ignorance of the future volitions of moral agents be thoroughly considered in its consequences, it will appear to follow from it, that God, after he had made the world, was liable to be wholly frustrated of his end in the creation of it; and so has been, in like manner, liable to be frustrated of his end in all the great works he hath wrought. It is manifest, the moral world is the end of the natural: the rest of the creation is but a house which God hath built, with furniture, for moral agents: and the good or bad state of the moral world depends on the improvement they make of their natural agency, and so depends on their volitions. And therefore, if these cannot be foreseen by God, because they are contingent, and subject to no kind of necessity, then the affairs of the moral world are liable to go wrong, to any assignable degree; yea, liable to be utterly ruined. As on this scheme, it may well be supposed to be literally said, when mankind, by the abuse of their moral agency, became very corrupt before the flood," that the Lord repented that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at his heart;" so, when He made the universe, He did not know but that he might be so disappointed in it, that it might grieve Him at his heart that he had made it. It actually proved, that all mankind became sinful, and a very great part of the angels apostatized: and how could God know beforehand, that all of them would not 1 And how could God know but that all mankind, notwithstanding means used to reclaim them, being still left to the freedom of their own Will, would continue in their apostasy, and grow worse and worse, as they of the old world before the flood did?

According to the scheme I am endeavoring to confute, neither the fall of men or angels, could be foreseen, and God must be greatly disappointed in these events; and so the grand scheme and contrivance for our redemption, and destroying the works of the devil, by the Messiah, and all the great things God has done in the prosecution of these designs, must be only the fruits of his own disappointment, and contrivances of his to mend and patch up, as well as he could, his system, which originally was all very good, and perfectly beautiful; but was marred, broken and confounded by the free Will of angels and men. And still he must be liable to be totally disappointed a second time: He could not know, that He should have his desired success, in the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and exaltation of his only begotten Son, and other great works accomplished to restore the state of things: He could not know, after all, whether there would actually be any tolerable measure of restoration; for this depended on the free Will of man. There has been a general great apostasy of almost all the Christian world, to that which was worse than heathenism; which continued for many ages. And how could God without foreseeing men's volitions,know whether ever Christendom would return from this apostasy 1 And which way could He tell beforehand how soon it would begin? The apostle says, it began to work in his time; and how could it be known how far it would proceed in that age 1 Yea, how could it be known that the gospel, which was not effectual for the reformation of the Jews, would ever be effectual for the turning of the heathen nations from their heathen apostasy, which they had been confirmed in for so many ages?

It is represented often in Scripture, that God, who made the world for Himself, and created it for his pleasure, would infallibly obtain his end in the creation, and in all his works; that as all things are of Him, so would all be to Him; and that in the final issue of things, it would appear that He is the first, and the last, Rev. xx. 6, " And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." But these things are not consistent with God's being so liable to be disappointed in all his works, nor indeed with his failing of his end in any thing that he has undertaken or done.

SECTION XII.

God's certain Foreknowledge of the future Volitions of moral Agents, inconsistent with such a Contingence of those Volitions as is without all Necessity.

Having proved that God has a certain and infallible prescience of the act of the Will of moral agents, I come now, in the second place, to show the consequence; to show how it follows from hence, that these events are necessary, with a Necessity of connection or consequence.

The chief Arminian divines, so far as I have had opportunity to observe, deny this consequence; and affirm, that if such Foreknowledge be allowed, it is no evidence of any Necessity of the event foreknown. Now I desire, that this matter maybe particularly and thoroughly inquired into. I cannot but think that, on particular and full consideration, it may be perfectly determined, whether it be indeed so or not.

In order to a proper consideration of this matter, I would observe the following things.

I. It is very evident, with regard to a thing whose existence is infallibly and indissolubly connected with something which already hath or has had existence, the existence of that thing is necessary. Here may be noted:

1. I observed before, in explaining the nature of Necessity, that in things which are past, their past existence is now necessary: having already made sure of existence, it is too late for any possibility of alteration in that respect: it is now impossible that it should be otherwise than true, that that thing has existed.

2. If there be any such thing as a divine Foreknowledge of the volitions of free agents, that Foreknowledge, by the supposition, is a thing which already has, and long ago had, existence; and so, now its existence is necessary; it is now utterly impossible to be otherwise than that this Foreknowledge should be, or should have been.

3. It is also very manifest, that those things which are indissolubly connected with other things that are necessary, are themselves necessary. As that proposition whose truth is necessarily connected with another proposition, which is necessarily true, is itself necessarily true. To say otherwise, would be a contradiction: it would be in effect to say, that the connection was indissoluble, and yet was not so, but might be broken. If that, whose existence is indissolubly connected with something whose existence is now necessary, is itself not necessary, then it may possibly not exist, notwithstanding that indissoluble connection of its existence.—Whether the absurdity be not glaring, let the reader judge.

4. It is no less evident, that if there be a full, certain, and infallible Foreknowledge of the future existence of the volitions of moral agents, then there is a certain infallible and indissoluble connection between those events and that Foreknowledge; and that therefore, by the preceding observations, those events

Vol. II. •. 10

are necessary events; being infallibly and indissolubly connected with that whose existence already is, and so is now necessary, and cannot but have been.

To say the Foreknowledge is certain and infallible, and yet the connection of the event with that Foreknowledge is not indissoluble, but dissoluble and fallible, is very absurd. To affirm it, would be the same thing as to affirm that there is no necessary connection between a proposition's being infallibly known to be true, and its being true indeed. So that it is perfectly demonstrable, that if there be any infallible knowledge of future volitions, the event is necessary; or, in other words, that it is impossible but the event should come to pass. For if it be not impossible but that it may be otherwise, then it is not impossible but that the proposition which affirms its future coming to pass, may not now be true. But how absurd is that, on the supposition that there is now an infallible knowledge (i. e. knowledge which it is impossible should fail) that it is true. There is this absurdity in it, that it is not impossible but that there now should be no truth in that proposition which is now infallibly known to be true. II. That no future event can be certainly foreknown, whose existence is contingent, and without all necessity, may be proved thus; it is impossible for a thing to be certainly known to any intellect without evidence. To suppose otherwise, implies a contradiction: because, for a thing to be certainly known to any understanding, is for it to be evident to that understanding: and for a thing to be evident to any understanding, is the same thing as for that understanding to see evidence of it: but no understanding, created or uncreated, can see evidence where there is none: for that is the same thing as to see that to be which is not. And therefore, if there be any truth which is absolutely without evidence, that truth is absolutely unknowable, insomuch that it implies a contradiction to suppose that it is known.

But if there be any future event, whose existence is contingent, without all necessity, the future existence of the event is absolutely without evidence. If there be any evidence of it, it must be one of these two sorts, either self-evidence or proof; for there can be no other sort of evidence but one of these two: an evident thing must be either evident in itself, or evident in something else; that is, evident by connection with something else. But a future thing, whose existence is without all necessity, can have neither of these sorts of evidence. It cannot be self-evident; for if it be, it may be now known, by what is now to be seen in the thing itself; either its present existence, or the necessity of its nature: but both these are contrary to the supposition. It is supposed, both that the tiling nas no present existence to be seen, and also that it is not of such a nature as to be necessarily existent for the future: so that its future existence is not selfevident. And, secondly, neither is there any proof, or evidence in any thing else, or evidence of connection with something else that is evident; for this is also contrary to the supposition. It is supposed, that there is now nothing existent, with which the future existence of the contingent event is connected. For such a connection destroys its contingency, and supposes necessity. Thus it is demonstrated, that there is in the nature of things absolutely no evidence at all of the future existence of that event, which is contingent, without all necessity (if any such event there be), neither self-evidence nor proof. And therefore the thing 2i reality is not evident; and so cannot be seen to be evident, or, which is the same thing, cannot be known.

Let us consider this in an example. Suppose that five thousand seven hundred and sixty years ago there was no other being but the Divine Being; and then this world, or some particular body or spirit, all at once starts out of nothing iiito being, and takes on itself a particular nature and form; all in absolute

« PreviousContinue »