« PreviousContinue »
seen it ; but he foresees the event of every action, because he is acquainted with their natural causes, which, in pursuance of his own decree, are left at liberty to exert their legitimate influence. Consequently the issue does not depend on God who foresees it, but on him alone who is the object of his foresight. Since therefore, as has before been shown, there can be no absolute decree of God regarding free agents, undoubtedly the prescience of the Deity, (which can no more bias free agents than the prescience of man, that is, not at all, since the action in both cases is intransitive, and has no external influence,) can neither impose any necessity of itself, nor can it be considered at all the cause of free actions. If it he so considered, the very name of liberty must be altogether abolished as an unmeaning sound ; and that not only in matters of religion, but even in questions of morality and indifferent things. There can be nothing but what will happen necessarily, since there is nothing but what is foreknown by God.
That this long discussion may be at length concluded by a brief summary of the whole matter, we must hold that God foreknows all future events, but that he has not decreed them all absolutely : lest all sin should be imputed to the Deity, and evil spirits and wicked men should be exempted from blame.* Does my opponent avail himself of this, and think the concession enough to prove either that God does not foreknow everything, or that all future events must therefore happen necessarily, because God has foreknown them? I allow that future events which God has foreseen, will happen certainly, but not of necessity. They will happen certainly, because the divine prescience cannot be deceived, but they will not happen necessarily, because prescience can have no influence on the object foreknown, inasmuch as it is only an intransitive action. What therefore is to happen according to contingency and the free will of man, is not the effect of God's prescience, but is produced by the free agency of its own natural causes, the future spontaneous inclination of which is perfectly known to God. Thus God 'foreknew that Adam would fall of his own free will ; his fall therefore was certain, but not necessary, since it proceeded from his own free will, which is incompatible with necessity.* Thus too God foreknew that the Israelites would revolt from the true worship to strange gods, Deut. xxxi. 16. If they were to be led to revolt necessarily on account of this prescience on the part of God, it was unjust to threaten them with the many evils which he was about to send upon them, ver. 17. it would have been to no purpose that a song was ordered to be written, which should be a witness for him against the children of Israel, because their sin would have been of necessity. But the prescience of God, like that of Moses, v. 27. had no extraneous influence, and God testifies, v. 16. that he foreknew they would sin from their own voluntary
* • Hoc tantum obiter; fatum sive decretum Dei cogere neminem male facere; et ex hypothesi divinæ præscientiæ certa quidem esse omnia, non necessaria.' Artis Logicæ plenior Institutio. Prose Works, VI. 210.
.. no decree of mine
Paradise Lost, X. 42.
impulse, and of their own accord,--this people will rise up,' &c. and v. 18. “I will surely hide my face in that day....in that they are turned unto other gods.' Now the revolt of the Israelites which subsequently took place, was not the consequence of God's foreknowledge of that event, but Gud foreknew that, although they were free agents, they would certainly revolt, owing to causes with which he was well acquainted. v. 20, 21. "when they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat, then will they turn unto other gods.....I know their imagination which they go about, even now before I have brought them into the land which I sware.'
From what has been said it is sufficiently evident, that free causes are not impeded by any law of necessity arising from the decrees or prescience of God. There are some who in their zeal to oppose this doctrine, do not hesitate even to assert that God is himself the cause and origin of sin. Such men, if they are not to be looked upon as . misguided rather than mischievous, should be ranked among the most abandoned of all blasphemers. An attempt to refute them, would be nothing more than an argument to prove that God was not the evil spirit.
Thus far of the general decree of God. Of his special decrees the first and most important is that which regards his Son, and from which he primarily derives his name of Father. Psal. ii. 7. I will declare the decree: Jehovah hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.' Heb. i. 5. unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee ?' And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall
be to me a Son.' 1 Pet. i. 19, 20. Christ....who verily was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world.' Isai. xlii. 1. mine elect, in whom
whom my soul delighteth. 1 Pet. ii. 4. chosen of God, and precious.' From all these passages it appears that the Son of God was begotten by the decree of the Father.
There is no express mention made of any special decree respecting the angels, but its existence seems to be implied, 1 Tim. v. 21. the elect angels.' Eph. i. 9, 10. the mystery of his will....that he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth.'
The principal special decree of God relating to man is termed Predestination, whereby God in pity to mankind, though foreseeing that they would fall of their own accord, predestinated to eternal salvation before the foundation of the world those who should believe and continue in the faith ; for a manifestation of the glory of his mercy, grace, and wisdom, according to his purpose in Christ.
It has been the practice of the schools to use the word predestination, not only in the sense of election, but also of reprobation. This is not consistent with the caution necessary on so momentous a subject, since wherever it is mentioned in Scripture, election alone is uniformly intended. Rom. viii. 29, 30. • whom he did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son..... moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called : and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.' 1 Cor. ii7. 'the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.' Eph. i. 5. “having predestinated us unto the adoption.' v. 11. in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to his pur