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the Gentiles to the christian faith ; from which he infers, that
- known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. By all the works of God, we are to understand not only all his own works, but all the works of his creatures; because his works and their works are necessarily and inseparably connected. They live, and move, and have their being in him, and he works in them both to will and to do, in all their free and voluntary actions. By God's knowing all his works in this extensive sense, from the beginning of the world, we are to understand his knowing them from eternity. For the various scriptural phrases," from the beginning," " from the beginning of the world, and " from the foundation of the world," are all of the same general import, and denote the same thing as the phrase, “ from eternity.” Indeed, we cannot carry our ideas of time farther back than to the beginning of creation ; for there is nothing conceivable beyond that point of duration, by which we can measure time; and therefore we are constrained to call all duration before that period, eternity. There is no question, that by this expression in the text, the apostle meant to assert that, known unto God are all his works from eternity; which amounts to this plain proposition :
That God foreknew all things from eternity.
I. Let us inquire whether it be true, that God foreknew all things from eternity.
The foreknowledge of God is so generally believed and acknowledged, that there is no occasion for saying much under this head. It may suffice to adduce one argument in favor of it, which is drawn from the divine predictions. The apostle James infers the foreknowledge of God, from his foretelling future events. It must be allowed, that if God can foretel future events, he can certainly foreknow them. For it is impossible to conceive that any being can certainly foretel what he does not certainly foreknow. Among the many events which God has certainly foretold, that concerning the coming and death of Christ is the most remarkable, and most conclusive evidence of his universal foreknowledge. Immediately after the fall of our first parents, which involved themselves and all their posterity in sin and ruin, God predicted that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head; which was four thousand years before the event took place. The same prediction was repeated, at different times and in different forms, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and afterwards to David and to the people of Israel. This authorized Peter to say to the Jews on the day of Pentecost, “ that God had sworn with an oath to (David,] that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne.” Afterwards, he said to those who had killed the Prince of life, “ Now brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. But those things, which God before had showed by the mouth of all prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel, and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.” God plainly foretold the time when, the place where, and the men by whom, Christ should be crucified; together with some of the most extraordinary circumstances of his death. We cannot suppose that God could have infallibly foretold the great event of Christ's death, with so many of the circumstances which attended it, unless he had infallibly foreknown all these things. Nor can we conceive that he could have infallibly foreknown all these things, unless he had infallibly foreknown all other events from Adam to Christ. For if there had been, among the many millions of other intervening events, any events which he did not foreknow, those unknown events might have prevented the death of Christ, and so have rendered all his predictions respecting the Messiah entirely false. God must have foreknown all the men from Adam to Christ, and all their thoughts, purposes, and voluntary actions, in order to have foretold the coming, sufferings, and death of the Redeemer on the cross. And if God foreknew all things from Adam to Christ, there can be no question but that he foreknew all things from Christ to this day, from this day to the end of time, and from the end of time through the boundless ages of eternity. Indeed, if God foreknew any events, he must have foreknown all events, from eternity. It is the prerogative of God alone to look through all futurity ; accordingly, he claims this prerogative. “I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me; declaring the end from the beginning; and from ancient times, the things that are not yet done.” If God be God, he must necessarily know all things from eternity unto eternity.
Let us now inquire,
II. How it was possible for even God himself to foreknow, from eternity, all things in futurity.
This has been considered a very difficult question to solve. Some presume to deny the foreknowledge of God, in order to avoid what they perceive to be the natural and necessary consequences of it. But those who do not deny that God foreknew all things from eternity, suppose there was some way in which it was possible for him to possess this truly divine
knowledge, while at the same time, many of them hold that the subject is above human inquiry. Perhaps, however, by a serious and critical investigation, we may discover the way, so far as God has revealed it, and the only possible way in which, according to our apprehensions, he could foreknow all things from eternity.
Here it may be proper to observe,
1. That God could not foreknow all future things by information.
He was uncreated and self-existent, and sole inhabitant of eternity. There was no created being or object from which he could derive the least information. Hence the prophet with great propriety and emphasis demands, “ Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord ? or who, being his counsellor, hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding ?” Before the foundation of the world, before the existence of angels and men, we know of no superior or inferior intelligence who could give him any information respecting any thing future. And after angels and men existed, they possessed no knowledge but what they derived from him, and so could afford him no information. Or if we should suppose that there were innumerable worlds created before this world, and that they were inhabited by myriads of intelligent creatures vastly superior to angels and men, yet they could have rendered no counsel, instruction or information, to him who was wonderful in counsel, and whose understanding was infinite. Though we cannot comprehend God, yet we know so much concerning him, as that it was absolutely impossible that he should foreknow all things from eternity by information derived from any being of a finite and dependent nature.
2. God could not have foreknown all things from eternity by seeing any cause out of himself, which should produce their future existence.
Things which begin to exist, must have a previous cause of their existence; and unless that previous cause be foreseen, their future existence cannot be foreseen. In eternity, God could have seen no previous cause out of himself, which could produce
future effect. We can foresee effects from their previous and known causes. Fire is a cause which will consume wood, and water is a cause which will extinguish fire. When we see fire applied to wood, we can foresee the effect in the cause; and when we see water applied to fire, we can foresee the effect in the cause. Had there been any causes from eternity, out of God, which could have produced all things future,
and had God seen all these causes, he might have foreseen and foreknown all things future in their causes. But in eternity, there were no causes, out of God, which could produce all things, and therefore he could not foreknow all things by foreseeing them in their cause. For instance, there was no cause out of God which could produce this world; and therefore he could not foreknow the existence of this world by seeing a previous cause of its existence, out of himself. The more clear, perfect and infallible God's essential attribute of knowledge was, the more clearly and certainly he must have foreknown that neither the heavens nor the earth, neither angels nor men, nor any other material or immaterial objects, could ever exist by any possible cause out of himself. It is certain, therefore, that God did not derive his foreknowledge of all things which have existed, and which ever will exist, from any cause or evidence out of himself.
3. God could not foreknow all things from eternity merely by knowing the essential perfections of his own nature.
He did know himself perfectly. He knew his self-existence, his independence, his unerring wisdom, his perfect goodness, and his almighty power. But this perfect knowledge of his own essential attributes could give him no knowledge of any thing future. For he was under no natural necessity of exercising any one of his attributes in producing any thing out of himself. There was no natural or necessary connection between the existence of God, and the existence of any thing else in the universe. It was, therefore, as impossible for God to foreknow all things by seeing any cause in himself, as by seeing any cause out of himself, of their future existence. It is confidently said by some, that God must necessarily have known all things from eternity, merely by knowing his own perfections. But since there was no natural or necessary connection between God's existence and the existence of any thing else, it was so far from being necessary that any thing should have existed besides God, that it may be demonstrated that God could have eternally prevented any other existence but his own. And if this might have been the case, the consequence is plain, that God could not have foreknown all things from eternity, either by information, or by seeing any cause of their existence either without himself, or within himself. The question now returns with redoubled force, How was it possible for God to foreknow all things from eternity?
This leads me to observe,
4. That the only plain and satisfactory answer to this question is, that God foreknew all things from eternity, because from eternity he had decreed all things.
God, as has been observed, was under no natural necessity of creating any thing. It depended entirely upon his own pleasure whether he should, or should not, create the present or any other material or immaterial system; and it also depended upon his mere pleasure as to what world he would create, and what and how many creatures he would bring into existence. It belonged to him to form his own plan of operation before he began the work of creation. He could not have acted with perfect wisdom without foreseeing his ultimate end, and all the means to accomplish it, before he produced any effect, or gave existence to any material or immaterial, rational or irrational object. Among all possible events, he determined what should, and what should not, take place. He determined the nature, the number, the magnitude, the form, the order and connection, of all things, and left not a single creature, a single object, or a single event, to mere casualty or chance. He limited, adjusted and bound all things together, by his eternal and immutable purpose. This appears from the perfection of the divine nature, and from the express declaration of scripture. The apostle tells us that God created all things by Jesus Christ, “ according to the eternal purpose, which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Now it is easy to see that, when God had determined all things, he could foreknow all things. He must have known his own determinations, and, by knowing them, he must have foreknown whatever would come to pass ; for he made his determinations in unerring wisdom and perfect goodness, and of course could never see any reason to alter them; and he knew his own omnipotent power to carry into execution all his purposes. It was as easy for him to foreknow all things, as to determine all things. His foreknowledge, in this view of it, was founded on his decree, and upon nothing else. If he had not decreed any thing, he could not have foreknown any thing. If he had not decreed to make the world, he could not have foreknown that the world would exist. If he had not decreed to create angels and men, he could not have foreknown that they would exist
. If he had not decreed to work in them both to will and to do, he could not have foreknown how they would always act. If he had not decreed what should be their character and condition, he could not have foreknown their character and condition through every period of their existence. As his foreknowledge was founded on his decree, so it must of necessity be bounded by it. It cannot extend to any thing but what is decreed. God's essential attribute of knowledge extends to all things possible ; but his foreknowledge extends to nothing but what has existed and what will exist. God's foreknowledge is not an essential