« PreviousContinue »
be allowed, 'tis no Evidence of any Necessity of the Event foreknown. Now I desire, that this Matter may be particularly and thoroughly inquired into. I cannot but think, that on particular and full Consideration, it may be perfectly determined, whether it be indeed fo, or not,
In order to a proper Consideration of this Matter, I would observe the following Things.
1. 'Tis very evident, with regard to a Thing whose Existence is infallibly and indissolubly con, nected with something which already hath, or has had Existence, the Existence of that Thing is necessary. Here inay 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, 'tis too late for any Pal, fibility of Alteration in that Respect : 'Tis now impossible, that it should be otherwise than true, that thar 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. 'Tis also very manifest, that those Things which are indiffolubly connected with other Things that are necessary, are Themselves necessary. As that Proposition whose Truth is necessarily connected with another Proposition, which is necesLarily true, is itself necessarily true. To say
otherwise, would be a Contradiction : it would be in Effect to say, that the Connection was indiffo. luble, and yet was not so, but might be broken. If That, whose Existence is indissolubly connected with something whose Existence is now necefsary, 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. 'Tis 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 indiffoluble Connection between those Events and that Foreknowledge ; and that therefore, by the preceding Observations, those Events are necessary Events; being infallibly and indissolubly connected with that whose Existence already is, and so is now necessary, and can't 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 diffoluble 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 necesary; 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. Know
ther Words as the Event is necenowledge of fu
ledge 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 ; 'Tis 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 that 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 can't 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 fupposed, both that the Thing has 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 Self-evident. 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 also is contrary to the Supposition. 'Tis fupposed, that there is now Nothing existents with which the future Existence of the contingent Event is connected : For such a Connection destroys its Contingence, and supposes Necessity. Thus 'tis demonstrated, that there is in the Nature of Things abfolutely no Evidence at all of the future Exiftence of that Event, which is contingent, without all Necessity (if any such Event there be) neither Self-Evidence nor Proof. And therefore the Thing in Reality is not evident; and so can't be seen to be evident, or, which is the same Thing, can't be known.
. Let us consider this in an Example. Suppose that five Thousand feven 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 into Being, and takes on itself a particular Nature and Form; all in absolute 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 before-hand. 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 Evidence of it to be seen in any Thing else ; for Evidence in something else, is Conne£tion with some. thing 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 Jould 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 poffible Things; there was no Preponderation, no superiour Weight or Value ; and therefore Nothing that could be of any Weight or Value to determinė 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 increafed ever 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.