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attribute, but the fruit or effect of his decree, as much as the works of his hands. It is altogether owing to men's not making this distinction, that any have supposed that God could foreknow all things without decreeing all things. They say God is omniscient, and his omniscience is a necessary and essential attribute of his nature. But who can rationally suppose that his essential attribute of omniscience would enable him to foreknow what was impossible to be foreknown? It was impossible for him to foreknow his own purposes before he had formed them; and equally impossible to foreknow the effects of his purposes before his purposes existed. There was one way, and but one, in which God could foreknow all things from eternity, and that was, by decreeing all things from eternity. Those who would account for the foreknowledge of God without his decrees, have always found the subject dark and incomprehensible. But there is nothing dark, unintelligible, or incomprehensible, in the foreknowledge of God as founded on his decrees. If God formed all his purposes from eternity, he must necessarily have known all things from the beginning of the world.
1. If God's foreknowledge is founded on his decrees, then it is absurd for any to believe and to approve of his foreknowledge, and yet deny his decrees. There are very many among all denominations of christians, who run into this absurdity. They profess to believe that God foreknew all things from eternity, but yet deny that he determined, ordained, or decreed whatsoever comes to pass.
A few indeed have so sensibly felt the force of the argument in favor of the divine decrees, drawn from the foreknowledge of God, that they have actually denied his foreknowledge in order to avoid acknowledging his decrees. But the foreknowledge of God is so plain from scripture and reason, that it is almost universally acknowledged to be true, even by those who deny his decrees. Mr. Locke, and some of the most learned divines who have denied the doctrine of the decrees, have yet been constrained to acknowledge that they could not answer the argument in favor of the divine decrees, which is drawn from the divine foreknowledge. If it be true, as has been perhaps sufficiently proved already, that God could not foreknow all things from eternity without decreeing all things from eternity, then those who acknowledge that God foreknew all things from eternity must, to be consistent, acknowledge that he decreed all things from eternity. how often do we hear those who disbelieve, deny and oppose
the doctrine of divine decrees, freely acknowledge that they believe and maintain the foreknowledge of God! This is no less absurd than to eve that there may be an effect without
For if the foreknowledge of God be not founded upon his decrees, it has no foundation, it is an effect without a cause. It is strange indeed, that men of common sense, and of more than common learning, should fall into this absurd mode of thinking. There can be but one way to account for it; and that is, the strong and irreconcilable opposition of the natural heart to the divine decrees. If men were willing that God should decree all things, they would be willing to believe that his foreknowing all things demonstrates the certainty of his having actually decreed all things. It is consistent in those who deny the foreknowledge of God to deny that his decrees can be proved from it; but it is absurd in those who believe the foreknowledge of God to deny that it demonstrably proves his decrees; for it is impossible to see how God could foreknow all things, unless he had decreed all things.
2. If the foreknowledge of God is founded on his decrees, then it is absurd for any to believe that his foreknowledge extends any farther than his decrees. It is believed by many, that God determined all his own conduct from eternity, and of course, that he certainly foreknew all his own operations in creating, governing and redeeming the world, and in disposing of his rational creatures through every period of their existence. But they deny that he decreed the character and conduct of either angels or men, and at the same time acknowledge that he foreknew the character and conduct of the whole intelligent creation. By acknowledging that God foreknew all things, they implicitly acknowledge that he foreknew the thoughts, the feelings, and the free, voluntary actions of every intelligent creature in the universe. Though it be easy to see that he could foreknow his own conduct which he had determined, yet it is hard to see how he could foreknow the thoughts, and words, and voluntary conduct of all his intelligent creatures, which it is supposed he had not decreed. All these things, it is acknowledged, God perfectly foreknew; though it is contended he had not decreed them. But who can reconcile the belief of such persons with their unbelief? They believe that God's foreknowledge of his own conduct was founded on his purposes, but disbelieve that his foreknowledge of the conduct of his creatures was founded upon his decreeing their conduct. Their belief is built upon a plain and firm foundation ; but their unbelief is founded upon no evidence. They have no evidence that God did or could foreknow the volitions, actions, and final state of mankind, without decreeing all these things.
They deny that God decreed the character, conduct and doom of Judas and Pharaoh, but acknowledge that he foreknew their character, conduct and doom. This they are constrained to acknowledge, because they are expressly told that God predicted the character, conduct and doom of these two men in particular. For the same reason, they are bound to acknowledge that God foreknew the character, conduct and doom of all that have been and will be finally lost; and yet they deny that he decreed the character, conduct and doom of the finally miserable. Thus they extend the foreknowledge of God far, unspeakably far, beyond his decrees, without any reason, and in opposition to moral demonstration. For it may be, and often has been, morally demonstrated, that God's foreknowledge
founded on his decrees, and absolutely limited by them. It is a palpable absurdity to extend the foreknowledge of God beyond his decrees. It is the same as to suppose that God perfectly foreknew from eternity what would come to pass, when he knew that it would not come to pass.
3. If God's foreknowledge is founded on his decrees, then it is absurd to believe and maintain that they are one and the same thing, and that there is no distinction between them. This is believed and maintained by many among the learned and unlearned. A late celebrated divine has taught that there is no distinction between the foreknowledge and the decrees of God. He considers the duration of God's existence as one eternal now, and all his knowledge as always present, and always essential to his necessary existence. So that there never was a possibility of a distinction between his essential knowledge and his foreknowledge. Though there are many things in God, who is a self-existent and eternal Being, that we do not know, yet there are some things in him which we do know. We do know that he is a moral agent, or acts from rational motives. Though we do not know wherein God's necessary and self existence consists, yet we do know wherein his perfect wisdom consists. It is certain to a demonstration, that it consists in proposing the best ends, and in appointing the best means to accomplish them. It is certain, therefore, that if God were infinitely wise from eternity, he decreed all things from eternity, and that his decrees must have been prior to, and distinct from, his foreknowing all things. It is one thing for a man to build a house, and another thing for him to know that he has determined to build a house. And it is impossible that he should know that he has determined to build a house, before he has determined to build one. The apostle saith, “Every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.” It was as impossible for God to know that he would build all things before he had determined to build all things, as for a man to know that he has determined to build a house, before he had determined to do it. It is absolutely certain, therefore, that the decrees of God and his foreknowledge of all things are not one and the same, but really and necessarily distinct. It is true that God's foreknowledge and decrees are intimately and inseparably connected; and that his foreknowledge as really proves the certainty of all things future, as his decrees. But his foreknowledge has no tendency to make future things certain, which his decrees have. They make future things certain ; for it is God's decreeing future things which makes them certain. His decrees fix an inseparable connection between the ends proposed and the means to accomplish them; and this connection produces an absolute certainty of all things which are decreed, and lays the permanent foundation of God's foreknowledge; but at the same time demonstrably proves that the foreknowledge of God and his decrees are entirely different and distinct.
4. If God's foreknowledge is founded on his decrees, then it is absurd to blend his foreknowledge and decrees with his agency. This is totally distinct from his foreknowledge and decrees; for it makes things not only certain, but necessary. Foreknowledge does not make any thing certain; the decrees do make every thing certain; but it is the divine agency alone that makes every thing necessary, or which brings to pass the actual existence of everything. The common complaint against both the foreknowledge and decrees of God is, that they make things not only certain, but necessary, and that on this account, they are inconsistent with free agency. But neither the foreknowledge nor decrees of God have any influence at all upon the actions of men, as distinct from divine agency. Neither has the foreknowledge, nor have the decrees of God, the least tendency to make men act, or to prevent their acting. While the knowledge and purposes of God lie in his own mind, they have no more influence upon mankind than if they did not exist. It is his agency, and nothing but his agency, that makes men act and prevents them from acting. If there be any ground of complaint against God, it must be because he “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will," and causes men to act according to his foreknowledge and decrees. If his agency, therefore, is not inconsistent with their agency, or does not prevent them from acting just as they please, it is clear that they have no reason to complain; and that his agency does not, in fact, infringe upon their agency, they intuitively know from their own consciousness. They take pains to blend the foreknowledge, the decrees, and the agency of God together, in order to cast the blame of their own conduct upon God, and exculpate themselves. If they would take as much pains to see the consistency of these things, as not to see their consistency, all their darkness, difficulties, and complaints, would undoubtedly vanish. These things are true and consistent; and though they will not see their consistency in this world, they must see their consistency in another world, when their knowledge may be a source of endless sorrow instead of endless joy. It is of infinite importance to know and love the truth respecting these serious, sublime, and interesting subjects.
5. If God's foreknowledge, decrees and agency are inseparably connected, then it is absurd to suppose that he can bring about any event in a manner and by means different from what he eternally decreed and foresaw. Peter, on a certain occasion, said to the men of Israel, “ Hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know; Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." It has been supposed and published, that notwithstanding the decree and foreknowledge of God, respecting the crucifixion of Christ by the instrumentality of Judas and other wicked men, he might have brought about that great event by other men and other means. It is granted that this was naturally possible; but who can rationally suppose that it was morally possible? It was morally impossible for God to falsify his word, and it is no less morally impossible for God to act contrary to his own foreknowledge and decree. As it was morally impossible for God to have brought about the death of Christ in any other way, or by any other means, than those which were agreeable to his foreknowledge and decree, so it is morally impossible for him, in any other case, to bring about an event contrary to his foreknowledge and decree. God is under a moral necessity of acting in all cases just as he determined to act from eternity; or to work all things after the counsel of his own will.
6. If God's foreknowledge and decrees lie at the foundation of all his works from eternity to eternity, then they lie at the foundation of all natural and revealed religion. The simple belief of the being and perfections of God can lay no person under obligation to love and serve him, or to trust in him and be thankful to him. Divest him of his eternal purposes, and he is no longer to be loved or obeyed for any thing in the works of creation, providence and redemption. If he had not an eternal and benevolent purpose in creating, governing, and redeeming the world, he has no claim upon the love, or gratitude, VOL. IV.