Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

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.

Arg. 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 mora! 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 rectify. ing 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 bis 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

are these things consistent with what the Scripture says of God's immutability, which represents Him as “ without variableness, or shadow of turning;” and speaks of Him most particularly as unchangeable with regard to his purposes, Mal. üi. 6,“I am the Lord; I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed,” Exod. ii. 14, I AM THAT I AM, Job xxiii. 13, 14, “ He is in

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

how

[ocr errors]

one mind; and who can turn Him? 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?' 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? And which way could He tell heforehand 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? 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,

that he

moral W from strated

to be

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.

[blocks in formation]

God's certain Foreknowledge of the future Volitions of moral Agents, inconsistent

with such a Contingence of those Volitions as is without all Necessity.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

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 may be particularly and thoroughly inquired into. I cannot but think that

, on particular and fuli consideration, it may be perfectly determined, whether it be indeed so or not.

In order to a proper consideration of this raatter, 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 trne. 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

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

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 ana 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 know 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 trůth 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 ex. istence 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 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 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 contingence, 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 in 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 hun. dred 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

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

there is none.

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 there fore 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

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 it

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

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »