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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 kindIf 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. See more on this subject in the following Chapter.
*. Ex his verbis (nisi isti in navi manserint, &c.) liquet apostolum, qui optime mentem divini prontissi 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 zitágiotaí ou omnes qui tecum navigant, id est, largitus est tibi hanc graviam, ui 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.
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 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 would be wholly annihilated. But though a certain immutable and internal necessity of acting right, independent of all extraneous influence whatever, may exist in God conjointly with the most perfect liberty, both which principles in the same divine nature tend to the same point, it does not therefore follow that the same thing can be conceded with regard to two different natures, as the nature of God and the nature of man, in which case the external immutability of one party may be in opposition to the internal liberty of the other, and may prevent unity of will. Nor is it admitted that the actions of God are in themselves necessary, but only that he has a necessary existence ; for Scripture itself testifies that his decrees, and therefore his actions, of what kind soever they be, are perfectly free.
* 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 caus. es be not thereby wholly cashiered and taken away. For this therefore 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 eficient productive influence certainly and naturally produces such an effect,' &c. Sonth's Sermon on the Resurrection, Vol. III. p. 398. “Graviter itaque errare censendi sunt, qui duplicem necessitatem rebus tribuunt, ex providentia divipi, 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 causa 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.
But it is objected that no constraint is put upon the liberty of free agents by divine necessity or first
I answer,-if it do not constrain, it either determines, or co-operates, or is wholly inefficient. If it determine or co-operate, it is either the sole or the joint and principal cause of all the actions, whether good or bad, of free agents.* If it be wholly inefficient, it cannot be called a cause in any sense, much less can it be termed necessity.
* The allusion appears to be to the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas and the Dominicans, who held that God predetermined the will by a physical influence, so that the Deity was the first cause of the action, and the creature the second cause, all the guilt of the sin being attributed to the latter party. With regard to the logical distinction, nearly the very words of the original occur elsewhere. Secundo, causa efficiens sola efficit, aut cum aliis. Earumque omnium sæpe alia principalis, alia minus principalis, sive adjuvans et ministra.' Artis Logicce plenior Institutio. Prose Works, VI. 206.
Nor do we imagine anything unworthy of God, when we assert that those conditional events depend on the human will, which God himself has chosen to place at the free disposal of man ; since the Deity purposely framed his own decrees with reference to particular circumstances, in order that he might permit free causes to act conformably to that liberty with which he had endued them. On the contrary, it would be much more unworthy of God, that man should nominally enjoy a liberty of which he was virtually deprived, which would be the case were that liberty to be oppressed or even obscured under the pretext of some sophistical necessity of immutability or infallibility, though not of compulsion,-a notion which has led, and still continues to lead many individuals into error.
However, properly speaking, the divine counsels can be said to depend on nothing, but on the wisdom of God himself, whereby he perfectly foreknew in his own mind from the beginning what would be the nature and event of
future occurrence when its appointed season should arrive.
But it is asked how events which are uncertain, inasmuch as they depend on the human will, can harmonize with the decrees of God, which are immutably fixed ?* for it is written, Psal. xxxiii. 11. the counsel of Jehovah standeth forever.' See also Prov. xix. 21. and Isai. xlvi. 10. Heb. vi. 17. the immutability of his counsel.' To this objection it may be answered, first, that to God the issue of events is not
* Yet more there be who doubt his ways not just, As to his own edicts found contradicting.
Samson Agonistes, 300.