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the being, as well as the happiness of the creature, and does not presuppose it. Indeed, the glorifying of God's mercy, as it presupposes the subject to be miserable, and the glorifying his grace, as it presupposes the subject to be sinful, unworthy and ill-deserving, are not to be conceived of as ultimate ends, but only as certain ways and means for the glorifying the exceeding abundance and overflowing fulness of God's goodness and love; therefore these decrees are not to be considered as prior to the decree of the being of the subject. And the decree of election, as it implies a decree of glorifying God's mercy and grace, considers men as being cursed and fallen; because the very notion of such a decree supposes sin and misery. Hence we may learn, how much in the decree of predestination is to be considered as prior to the creation and fall of man, and how much as posterior; viz. that God's decree to glorify his love and communicate his goodness, and to glorify his greatness and holiness, is to be considered as prior to creation and the fall of man. And because the glory of God's love, and the communication of his good.
necessarily imply the happiness of the creature, and give both their being and happiness ; hence the design to communicate and glorify his goodness and love externally to a certain number, is to be considered as prior, in both those mentioned respects, to their being and fall. For such a design, in the notion of it, presupposes neither. But nothing in the decree of reprobation is to be looked upon as antecedent to man’s being and fall.
$ 38. The decrees of God must be conceived of in the same order, and as antecedent to, and consequent on one another, in the same manner as God's acts in the execution of those decrees. They depend on one another, and are grounded on one another, in the same manner as the decrees that these are the execution of, and in no other. For, the decrees of God are no other than his eternal doing what is done, acted, or executed by him in time. God's acts themselves, in exe. cuting, can be conceived of no otherwise, than as decrees for a present effect. They are acts of God's will. God brings things to pass only by acts of bis will. He speaks, and it is done. His will says, let it be, and it is. And this act of his will that now is, cannot be looked upon as really different from that act of will that was in him before, and from eternity, in decreeing that this thing should be at this time. It differs only relatively. Here is no new act of the will in God, but only the same acts of will, which before, because the time was not come, respected future time; and so were called decrees. But now the time being come, they respect present time, and
so are not called by us decrees, but acts executing decrecs. Yet they are evidently the same acts in God. Therefore those acts, in executing, must certainly be conceived of in the same order, and with the same dependence, as the decrees themselves. It may be in some measure illustrated by this :- The decree of God, or the will of God decreeing events, may be represented as a straight line of infinite length, that runs through all past eternity, and terminates in the event. The last point in the line, is the act of God's will in bringing the event to pass, and does not at all differ from all the other points throughout the infinite length of the line, in any other respect but this, that this last point is next to the event. This line may be represented as in motion, but yet always kept parallel to itself. The hither end of the line, by its motion, describes events in the order in which they come to pass; or at least represents God's acts in bringing the events to pass, in their order and mutual dependence, antecedence and consequence. By the motion of all the other points of the line, before the event or end of the line, in the whole infinite length of it, are represented the decrees in their order; which, because the line in all its motions is kept parallel to itself, is exactly the same with the order of the motions of the last point. For the motion of every point of the whole line, is, in all respects, just like the motion of that last point wherein the line terminates in the event; and the different parts of the motion of every point, are in every respect precisely in the same order. And the maxim, that what is first in intention, is last in execution, does not in the least concern this matter. For, by last in execution, is meant only last in order of time, without any respect to the priority or posteriority that we are speaking of; and it does not at all hinder, but that in God's acts, in executing his decrees, one act is the ground or reason of another act, in the same manner precisely as the decree that related to it was the ground or reason of the other decree. The absolute independence of God, no more argues against some of God's decrees being grounded on decrees of some other things that should first come to pass, than it does against some of God's acts in time, being grounded on some other antecedent acts of his. It is just the same with God's acts in executing, as has been said already of his decreeing. In one respect, the end that is afterwards to be accomplished, is the ground of God's acting; in another respect, something that is already accomplished, is the ground of his acting, as it is the ground of the fitness or capableness of the act to obtain the end. There is nothing but the ultimate end of all things, viz. God's glory, and the communication of his goodness, that is prior to all first acts in creating the world, in one respect, and mere possibility in another. But, with respect to after
acts, other ends are prior in one respect, and other preceding acts are prior in another, just as I have shewn it to be with respect to God's decrees.
§ 39. Now, this being established, it may help more clearly to illustrate, and fully to evidence, what we have insisted on concerning the order of the decrees, and that God's decrees of some things that are accomplished first in order of time, are also prior in the order, so as to be the proper ground and reason of other decrees. For, let us see how it is in God's acts in executing his decrees. Will any deny that God's act in rewarding righteousness, is grounded on a foregoing act of his in giving righteousness ? and that he rewards righteousness in such a person, because he hath given righteousness to such a person; and that because this latter act necessarily supposes the former act foregoing ? So, in like manner, God's decree, in determining to reward righteousness, is grounded on an antecedent decree to give righteousness ; because the former decree necessarily supposes the latter decree, and implies it in the very notion of it. So, who will deny, but that God's act in punishing sin, is grounded on God's permitting sin, or suffering it to be, because the former necessarily supposes the latter, and therefore that the actual permission of sin is prior, in the order of nature, to the punishment of it?
$40. It may be objected to this, that if so, the decree of bestowing salvation on an elect soul, is founded on the decree of bestowing faith on bim; for God actually bestows salvation in some respect, because he has bestowed faith ; and this would be to make the decree of election succedaneous to the decree of giving faith. To this I answer, that both God's act, and also his decree of bestowing salvation on such a fallen creature, is, in some respects, grounded on God's act and decree of giving faith, but in nowise as the decree or act of eternal punishing is grounded on sin, because punishment necessarily presupposes sin; so that it could not be without it. But the decreeing and giving the happiness of the elect, is not so founded on faith. The case is very different. Indeed, the salvation of an elect soul is, in this respect, grounded on the decree of giving faith, as God's decree of bestowing happiness on the elect is in this particular way. But the decree of bestowing happiness in general, which we conceive of as antecedent to this act, presupposes no such thing; nor does just so much without any more in execution presuppose faith, or indeed the righteousness of Christ, or any act or suffering of a mediator, or even the fall of man. And the decree of God's communicating his goodness to such a
subject, does not so much as presuppose the being of the subject; because it gives being. But there is no decree of evil to such a subject, which can be conceived of as antecedent to a decree of punishment.
§ 41. The objection to the divine decrees will be, that according to this doctrine, God may do evil, that good may come of it. Ans. I do not argue, that God may commit evil, that good may come of it; but that he may permit that it may come to pass, that good may come of it. It is in itself absolutely evil, for any being to commit evil, that good may come of it; and the only reason why it would not be lawful for a creature to permit evil to come to pass, and that it would not be wise, or good and virtuous in him so to do, is, that he has not perfect wisdom and sufficiency, so as to render it fit that such an affair should be trusted with him. In so doing, he goes beyond his line; he goes out of his province; lie meddles with things too high for him. It is every one's duty to do things fit for him in his sphere, and commensurate to his power. God never intrusted this providence in the hands of creatures of finite understandings; nor is it proper that he should.
If a prince were of perfect and all-comprehensive wisdom and foresight, and he should see that an act of treason would be for the great advancement of the welfare of his kingdom, it might be wise and virtuous in him to permit that such act of treason should come to pass ; yea, it would be foolish and wrong if he did not. It would be prudent and wise in him not to restrain the traitor, but to let him alone to go on in the way he chose. And yet he might hate the treason at the same time, and he might properly, also, give forth laws at the same time, forbidding it upon pain of death, and might hold these laws in force against this traitor.
$ 42. The Arminians themselves allow, that God permits sin; and that if he permits it, it will come to pass. But it is demonstrably true, that if God sees that good will come of it, and more good than otherwise, so that when the whole series of events is viewed by God, and all things are balanced -the sum of good with the evil being more than without it, all being subtracted that need be subtracted, and added that is to be added--the sum total of good is greater than the sum in any other case, then it will follow, that God, if he be a wise and holy being, must permit it.-For if this sum total be really the best, how can it be otherwise than that it should be chosen by an infinitely wise and good being, whose holiness and goodness consists in always choosing what is best? Which does it argue most, wisdom or folly, a good disposition or an
evil one, when two things are set before a being, the one better and the other worse, to choose the worse, and refuse the better?
$43. To conclude this discourse : I wish the reader to consider the unreasonableness of rejecting plain revelations, because they are puzzling to our reason. So that though the doctrine of the decrees be mysterious, and attended with difficulties, yet the opposite doctrine is in itself more mysterious, and attended with greater difficulties, and with contradictions to reason more evident, to one who thoroughly considers things; so that, even if the scripture had made no revelation of it, we should bave had reason to believe it. But since the scripture is so abundant in declaring it, the unrea. sonableness of rejecting it appears the more glaring.