« PreviousContinue »
the mountain, lest thou be consumed ...... see, I
, have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city for the which thou hast spoken.' Exod. iii. 8, 17. “I am come down to deliver them .... and to bring them up unto a good land'—though these very individuals actually perished in the wilderness. God also had determined to deliver his people by the hand of Moses, yet he would have killed that same Moses, Exod. iv. 24. if he had not immediately circumcised his son. 1 Sam. ii. 30. I said indeed..... but now Jehovah saith, Be it far from me; '--and the reason for this change is added,—for, them that honour me I will honour.' xiii. 13, 14. now would Jehovah have established
Whose but his own? Ingrate, he had of me
And Spirits, both them who stood, and them who faild;
Not free, what proof could they have given sincere
Paradise Lost, III. 95.
thy kingdom....... but now thy kingdom shall not continue.' Again, God had said, 2 Kings xx. 1. that Hezekiah should die immediately, which however did not happen, and therefore could not have been decreed without reservation. The death of Josiah was not decreed peremptorily, but he would not hearken to the voice of Necho when he warned him according the word of the Lord, not to come out against him ; 2 Chron. xxxv. 22. Again, Jer. xviii. 9, 10. ' at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them,'--that is, I will rescind the decree, because that people hath not kept the condition on which the decree rested. Here then is a rule laid down by God himself, according to which he would always have his decrees understood,namely, that regard should be paid to the conditionate terms attached to them. Jer. xxvi. 3. if so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings.' So also God had not even decreed absolutely the burning of Jerusalem. Jer. xxxviii. 17, &c. • thus saith Jehovah..... if thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon's princes, then thy soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with fire.' Jonah iii. 4. “yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown'—but it appears from the tenth verse, that when God saw that they turned from their evil way, he repented of his purpose, though Jonah was angry and thought the change unworthy of God.
Acts xxvii. 24, 31. “God hath given thee all them that sail with thee?—and again— except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved,' where Paul revokes the declaration he had previously made on the authority of God; or rather, God revokes the gift he had made to Paul except on condition that they should consult for their own safety by their own personal exertions. *
It appears, therefore, from these passages of Scripture, and from many others which occur of the same kind, to the paramount authority of which we must bow, that the most high God has not decreed all things absolutely.
If, however, it be allowable to examine the divine decrees by the laws of human reason, since so many arguments have been maintained on this subject by controvertists on both sides with more of subtlety than of solid argument, this theory of contingent decrees may be defended even on the principles of men, as most wise, and in no respect unworthy of the Deity. For if those decrees of God, which have been referred to above, and such others of the same class as occur perpetually, were to be understood in an absolute sense, without any implied conditions, God would contradict himself, and appear inconsisIt is argued, however, that in such instances not only was the ultimate purpose predestinated, but even the means themselves were predestinated with a view to it. So indeed it is asserted, but Scripture nowhere confirms the rule, which alone would be a sufficient reason for rejecting it. But it is also attended by this additional inconvenience, that it would entirely take away from human affairs all liberty of action, all endeavour and desire to do right. For the course of argument would be of this kind! If God have at all events decreed my salvation, whatever I may do against it, I shall not perish. But God has also decreed as the means of salvation that you should do rightly. I cannot, therefore, but do rightly at some time or other, since God has decreed that also,-in the mean time I will act as I please; if I never do rightly, it will be seen that I was never predestinated to salvation, and that whatever good I might have done would have been to no purpose.
** Ex his verbis (nisi isti in navi manserint, &c.) liquet apostolum, qui optime mentem divini promissi intelligebat, non credidisse Deum absolute velle salvare eos omnes qui in navi erant; sed tantum sub hac conditione, si nihil eorum omitterent quæ ad suam incolumitatem facere poterant ..... Sed conditionem in promisso quod acceperat inclusam fuisse, non obscure liquet ex verbis quibus conceptum fuit, Ecce Deus κεχάρισταί Foi omnes qui tecum navigant, id est, largitus est tibi hanc grauam, ut eos omnes tuo consilio a morte liberes, si illi obtemperarint; alioqui de iis actum erit, et ipsi culpa sua peribunt.' Curcellæi Institutio, iii. 11. 4.
See more on this subject in the following Chapter.
Nor is it sufficient to affirm in reply, that the kind of necessity intended is not compulsory, but a necessity arising from the immutability of God, whereby all things are decreed, or a necessity arising from his infallibility or prescience, whereby all things are foreknown. I shall satisfactorily dispose in another place of these two alleged species of necessity recognized by the schools :* in the mean time no
* · But when I say that the divine decree or promise imprints a necessity upon things, it may to prevent misapprehension be needful to explain what kind of necessity this is, that so the liberty of second causes be not thereby wholly cashiered and taken away. For this therefore
other law of necessity can be admitted than what logic, or in other words, what sound reason teaches; that is to say, when the efficient either causes some determinate and uniform effect by its own inherent propensity, as for example, when fire burns, which kind is denominated physical necessity ; or when the efficient is compelled by some extraneous force to operate the effect, which is called cumpulsory necessity, and in the latter case, whatever effect the efficient produces, it produces per accidens.* Now any necessity arising from external causes influences the agent either determinately or compulsorily ; and it is apparent that in either alternative his liberty
we are to observe that the schools distinguish of a twofold necessity, physical and logical, or causal and consequential ; which terms are commonly thus explained; viz. that physical or causal necessity is when a thing by an efficient productive influence certainly and naturally produces such an effect,' &c. South’s Sermon on the Resurrection, Vol. III. p. 398. “Graviter itaque errare censendi sunt, qui duplicem necessitatem rebus tribuunt, ex providentia divini, unam immutabilitatis, quia cum Deus non mutet decretum, sicut dicitur Psal. xxxiii. 11. Mal. iii. 6. quicquid omnino decrevit, certissime evenit: alteram infallibilitatis, quia,'&c. Curcellæi Institutio, iii. 12. 16. See also lib. iv. 2. 5.
**Tertio ca isa efficiens per se efficit, aut per accidens. Tertium hoc par modorum efficiendi est ab Aristotele etiam et veteribus notatum.' Artis Logicæ plenior Institutio. Prose Works, VI. 208. And again• Quæ autem natura necessario, quæ consilio libere agunt; necessario agit quæ aliter agere non potest, sed ad unum quidpiam agendum determinatur, idque solum sua propensione agit, quæ necessitas naturæ dicitur .... Libere agit efficiens non hoc duntaxat ut naturale agens, sed hoc vel illud pro arbitrio, idque absolute, vel ex hypothesi .... Per accidens efficit causa quæ externa facultate efficit; id est, non sua; cum principium effecti est extra efficientem, externumque principium interno oppositum ; sic nempe efficiens non efficit per se, sed per aliud ..... Coactione fit aliquid, cum efficiens vi cogitur ad effectum. Ut cum lapis sursum vel recta projicitur, qui suapte natura deorsum fertur. Hæc necessitas coactionis dicitur, et causis etiam liberis nonnunquam accidere potest.' ibid. 209.