Page images
PDF
EPUB

contingence, without any concern of God, or any other cause, in the matter, without any manner of ground or reason of its existence; or any dependence upon, or connection at all with, any thing foregoing: I say, that if this be supposed, there was no evidence of that event beforehand. There was no evidence of it to be seen in the thing itself; for the thing itself as yet was not . And there was no evidence of it to be seen in any thing else; for evidence in something else, is connection with something else: but such connection is contrary to the supposition. There was no evidence before, that this thing would happen; for, by the supposition, there was no reason why it should happen, rather than something else, or rather than nothing. And if so, then all things before were exactly equal, and the same with respect to that and other possible things; there was no preponderation, no superior weight or value; and therefore nothing that could be of any weight or value to determine any understanding. The thing was absolutely without evidence, and absolutely unknowable An increase of understanding, or of the capacity of discerning, has no tendency, and makes no advance, to a discerning any signs or evidences of it, let it be increased never so much; yea, if it be increased infinitely. The increase of the strength of sight may have a tendency to enable to discern the evidence which is far off, and very much hid, and deeply involved in clouds and darkness; but it has no tendency to enable to discern evidence where there is none. If the sight be infinitely strong, and the capacity of discerning infinitely great, it will enable to see all that there is, and to see it perfectly, and with ease: yet it has no tendency at all to enable a being to discern that evidence which is not; but, on the contrary, it has a tendency to enable to discern with great certainty that there is none.

III. To suppose the future volitions of moral agents not to be necessary events; or, which is the same thing, events which it is not impossible but that they may not come to pass; and yet to suppose that God certainly foreknows them, and knows all things, is to suppose God's knowledge to be inconsistent with itself. For to say, that God certainly, and without all conjecture, knows that a thing will infallibly be, which at the same time he knows to be so contingent that it may possibly not be, is to suppose his knowledge inconsistent with itself; or that one thing that he knows, is utterly inconsistent with another thing that he knows. It is the same thing as to say, he now knows a proposition to be of certain infallible truth, which he knows to be of contingent uncertain truth. If a future volition is so without all necessity, that there is nothing hinders but that it may not be, then the proposition which asserts its future existence, is so uncertain, that there is nothing hinders but that the truth of it may entirely fail. And if God knows all things, he knows this proposition to be thus uncertain. And that is inconsistent with his knowing that it is infallibly true, and so inconsistent with his infallibly knowing that it is true. If the thing be indeed contingent, God views it so, and judges it to be contingent, if he views things as they are. If the event be not necessary, then it is possible may never be: and if it be possible it may never be, God knows it may possibly never be; and that is to know that the proposition which affirms its existence, may possibly not be true; and that is to know that the truth of it is uncertain; which surely is inconsistent with his knowing it as a certain truth. If volitions are in themselves contingent events, without all necessity, then it is no argument of perfection of knowledge in any being to determine peremptorily that they will be; but, on the contrary, an argument of ignorance and mistake, because it would argue, that he supposes that proposition to be certain, which in its own nature, and all things considered, is uncertain and contingent To say, in such a case, that God may have ways of knowing contingent events which we cannot conceive of, is ridiculous; as much so, as to say that God may know contradictions to be true, for aught we know, or that he may know a thing to be certain, and at the same time know it not to be certain, though we cannot conceive how; because he has ways of knowing, which we cannot comprehend.

Carol. 1. From what has been observed, it is evident that the absolute decrees of God are no more inconsistent with human liberty, on account of any necessity of the event which follows from such decrees, than the absolute Foreknowledge of God. Because the connection between the event and certain Foreknowledge, is as infallible and indissoluble as between the event and an absolute decree. That is, it is no more impossible, that the event and decree should not agree together, than that the event and absolute knowledge should disagree. The connection between the event and Foreknowledge is absolutelyperfect, by the supposition; because it is supposed, that the certainty and infallibility of the knowledge is absolutely perfect. And it being so, the certainty cannot be increased; and therefore the connection between the knowledge and the thing known, cannot be increased; so that if a decree be added to the Foreknowledge, it does not at all increase the connection, or make it more infallible and indissoluble. If it were not so, the certainty of knowledge might be increased by the addition of a decree; which is contrary to the supposition, which is, that the knowledge is absolutely perfect, or perfect to the highest possible degree.

There is as much of an impossibility but that the things which are infallibly foreknown should be, or (which is the same thing) as great a necessity of their future existence, as if the event were already written down, and was known and read by all mankind, through all preceding ages, and there was the most indissoluble and perfect connection possible between the writing and the thing written. In such a case, it would be as impossible the event should fail of existence, as if it had existed already; and a decree cannot make an event surer or more necessary than this.

And therefore, if there be any such Foreknowledge, as it has been proved there is, then necessity of connection and consequence is not at all inconsistent with any liberty which man or any other creature enjoys. And from hence it may be inferred, that absolute decrees of God, which do not at all increase the necessity, are not at all inconsistent with the liberty which man enjoys, on any such account, as that they make the event decreed necessary and render it utterly impossible but that it should come to pass. Therefore, if absolute decrees are inconsistent with man's liberty as amoral agent, or his liberty in a state of probation, or any liberty whatsoever that he enjoys, it is not on account of any necessity which absolute decrees infer.

Dr. Whitby supposes that there is a great difference between God's Foreknowledge, and his decrees, with regard to necessity of future events. In his "Discourse on the Five Points," p. 474, &c, he says, " God's prescience has no influence at all on our actions.—Should God, (says he,) by immediate revelation, give me the knowledge of the event of any man's state or actions, would vav knowledge of them have any influence upon his actions 1 Surely none at all—our knowledge doth not effect the things we know, to make them more certain, or more future, than they would be without it. Now, Foreknowledge in God is knowledge. As therefore knowledge has no influence on things that are, so neither has Foreknowledge on things that shall be. And, consequently, the Foreknowledge of any action that would be otherwise free, cannot alter or diminish that freedom. Whereas God's decree of election is poweiful and active, and comprehends the preparation and exhibition of such means as shall unfrustrably produce the end. Hence God's prescience renders no actions necessary." And to this purpose, p. 473, he cites Origen, where he says, "God's prescience is not the cause of things future, but their being future is the cause of God's prescience that they will be:" and Le Blanc, where he says, "This is the truest resolution of this difficulty, that prescience is not the cause that things are future; but their being future is the cause they are foreseen." In like manner, Dr. Clark, in his "Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God," pp. 95—99. And the author of the " Freedom of Will in God and the Creature," speaking to the like purpose with Dr. WLitby, represents Foreknowledge as having no more influence on things known, to make them necessary, than afterknowledge," or to that purpose.

To all which I would say, that what is said about knowledge, its not having influence on the thing known to make it necessary, is nothing to the purpose, nor does it in the least affect the foregoing reasoning. Whether prescience be the thing that makes the event necessary or no, it alters not the case. Infallible Foreknowledge may prove the Necessity of the event foreknown, and yet not be the thing which causes the Necessity. If the Foreknowledge be absolute, this proves the event known to be necessary, or proves that it is impossible but that the event should be, by some means or other, either by a decree, or some other way, if there be any other way; because, as was said before, it is absurd to say, that a proposition is known to be certainly and infallibly true, which yet may possibly prove not true.

The whole of the seeming force of this evasion lies in this; that, inasmuch as certain Foreknowledge does not cause an event to be necessary, as a decree does; therefore it does not prove it to be necessary, as a decree does. But there is no force in this arguing: for it is built wholly on this supposition, that nothing can prove, or be an evidence of a thing's being necessary, but that which has a causal influence to make it so. But this can never be maintained. If certain Foreknowledge of the future existing of an event, be not the thing which first makes it impossible that it should fail of existence; yet it may, and certainly does, demonstrate that it is impossible it should fail of it, however that impossibility comes. If Foreknowledge be not the cause, but the effect, of this impossibility, it may prove that there is such an impossibility, as much as if it were the cause. It is as strong arguing from the effect to the cause, as from the cause to the effect. It is enough, that an existence, which is infallibly foreknown, cannot fail, whether that impossibility arise from the Foreknowledge, or is prior to it. It is as evident, as it is possible any thing should be, that it is impossible a thing which is infallibly known to be true, should prove not to be true: therefore there is a Necessity connected with such knowledge; whether the knowledge be the cause of this Necessity, or the Necessity the cause of the knowledge.

All certain knowledge, whether it be Foreknowledge or afterknowledge, or concomitant knowledge, proves the thing known now to be necessary, by some means or other; or proves that it is impossible it should now be otherwise than true. I freely allow that Foreknowledge does not prove a thing to be necessary any more than afterknowledge: but then afterknowledge, which is certain and infallible, proves that it is now become impossible but that the proposition known should be true. Certain afterknowledge, proves that it is now, in the time of the knowledge, by some means or other, become impossible but that the proposition, which predicates past existence on the event, should be true. And so does certain Foreknowledge prove, that now, in the time of the knowledge, it is, by some means or other, become impossible but that the proposition, which predicates future existence on the event, should be true. The Necessity of the truth of the propositions, consisting in the present impossibility of the nonexistence of the event affirmed, in both cases, is the immediate ground of the certainty of the knowledge; there can be no certainty of knowledge without it.

There must be a certainty in things themselves, before they are certainly known, or (which is the same thing) known to be certain. For certainty of knowledge is nothing else but knowing or discerning the certainty there is in the things themselves, which are known. Therefore there must be a certainty in things to be a ground of certainty of knowledge, and to render things capable of being known to be certain.—And this is nothing but the Necessity of the truth known, or its being impossible but that it should be true; or, in other words, the firm and infallible connection between the subject and predicate of the proposition that contains that truth. All certainty of knowledge consists in the view of the firmness of that connection. So God's certain Foreknowledge of the future existence of any event, is his view of the firm and indissoluble connection of the subject and predicate of the proposition that affirms its future existence. The subject is that possible event; the predicate is its future existing: but if future existence be firmly and indissolubly connected with that event, then the future existence of that event is necessary. If God certainly knows the future existence of an event which is wholly contingent, and may possibly never be, then He sees a firm connection between a subject and predicate that are not firmly connected; which is a contradiction

I allow what Dr. Whitby says to be true, That mere knowledge does not affect the thing known, to make it more certain or more future. But yet, I say, it supposes and proves the thing to be already, both future and certain; i. e. necessarily future. Knowledge offuturity, supposes futurity; and a certain knowledge of futurity, supposes certain futurity, antecedent to that certain knowledge. But there is no other certain futurity of a thing, antecedent to certainty of knowledge, than a prior impossibility but that the thing should prove true; or (which is the same thing) the Necessity of the event. I would observe one thing further concerning this matter; it is this; that if it be as those forementioned writers suppose, that God's Foreknowledge is not the cause, but the effect of the existence of the event foreknown; this is so far from showing that this Foreknowledge doth not infer the Necessity of the existence of that event, that it rather shows the contrary the more plainly. Because it shows the existence of the event to be so settled and firm, that it is as if it had already been; inasmuch as in effect it actually exists already; its future existence has already had actual influence, and efficiency, and has produced an effect, viz., Prescience: the effect exists already; and as the effect supposes the cause, is connected with the cause, and depends entirely upon it, therefore it is as if the future event, which is the cause, had existed already. The effect is as firm as possible, it having already the possession of existence, and made sure of it. But the effect cannot be more firm and stable than its cause, ground and reason. The building cannot be firmer than the foundation.

To illustrate this matter, let us suppose the appearances and images ot things in a glass; for instance, a reflecting telescope to be the real effects of heavenly bodies (at a distance, an.1 out of sight) which they resemble: it it be so, then as these images in the telescope have had a past actual existence, and it is become utterly impossible now that it should be otherwise than that they have existed; so they, being the true effects of the heavenly bodies they resemble, this proves the existing of those heavenly bodies to be as real, infallible, firm and necessary, as the existing of these effects; the one being connected with, and wholly depending on the other. Now let us suppose future existences some way or other to have influence back, to produce effects beforehand, and cause exact and perfect images of themselves in a glass, a thousand years before they exist, yea, in all preceding ages; but yet that these images are real effects of these future existences, perfectly dependent on, and connected with them as their cause; these effects and images, having already had actual existence, rendering that matter of their existing perfectly firm and stable, and utterly impossible to be otherwise; this proves in like manner, as in the other instance, that the existence of the things, which are their causes, is also equally sure, firm and necessary; and that it is alike impossible but that they should be, as if they had been already, as their effects have. And if, instead of images in a glass, we suppose the antecedent effects to be perfect ideas of them in the Divine Mind, which have existed there from all eternity, which are as properly effects, as truly and properly connected with their cause, the case is not altered.

Another thing which has been said by some Arminians to take off the force of what is urged from God's Prescience, against the contingence of the volitions of moral agents, is to this purpose: "That when we talk of Foreknowledge in God, there is no strict propriety in our so speaking; and that although it be true, that there is in God the most perfect knowledge of all events from eternity to eternity, yet there is no such thing as before and after in God, but he sees all things by one perfect unchangeable view, without any succession." To this I answer,

I. It has been already shown, that all certain knowledge proves the Necessity of the truth known; whether it be before, after, or at the same hme~ Though it be true, that there is no succession in God's knowledge, and the manner of his knowledge is to us inconceivable, yet thus much we know concerning it, that there is no event, past, present, or to come, that God is ever uncertain of: he never is, never was, and never will be without infallible knowledge of it: he always sees the existence of it to be certain and infallible And as he always sees things just as they are in truth; hence there never is in reality any thing contingent in such a sense, as that possibly it may happen never to exist. If, strictly speaking, there is no Foreknowledge in God, it is aecause those things, which are future to us, are as present to God, as if they already had existence: and that is as much as to say, that future events are always in God's view as evident, clear, and necessary, as if they already were. If there never is a time wherein the existence of the event is not present with God, then there never is a time wherein it is not as much impossible for it to fail of existence, as if its existence were present, and were already come to pass.

God's viewing things so perfectly and unchangeably as that there is no succession in his ideas or judgment does not hinder but that there is properly now, in the mind of God, a certain and perfect knowledge of moral actions of men, which to us are a hundred years hence: yea the objection supposes this, and therefore it certainly does not hinder but that, by the foregoing arguments, it is now impossible these moral actions should not come to pass.

We know, that God knows the future voluntary actions of men in such a sense beforehand, as that he is able particularly to declare, and foretell them, and write them, or cause them to be written down in a book, as He often has done; and that therefore the necessary connection which there is between God's knowledge and the event known, does as much prove the event to be

« PreviousContinue »