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God, without foreseeing men's Volitions, know whether ever Christendom would return from this apostacy? And which way would he foretell how soon it would begin? The apostle says, it began to work in his time ; and how could it be known how far it would proceed in that age? Yea, how could it be known that the gospel which was not effectual for the reformation of the Jews, would ever be effectual for the turning of the heathen nations from their heathen apostacy, which they had been confirmed in for so many ages ?
It is represented often in scripture, that God, who made the world for himself, and created it for his pleasure, would infallibly obtain his end in the creation, and in all his works; that as all things are of him, so they would all be to him; and that in the final issue of things, it would appear that he is “the first, and the last.” (Rev. xxi. 6.) “ And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” But these things are not consistent with God's liability to be disappointed in all his works, nor indeed with his failing of his end in any thing that he has undertaken.
God's certain Foreknowledge of the future volitions of moral
agents, inconsistent with such a Contingence of those roli. tions, as is without all Necessity.
Having proved that GOD has a certain and infallible Prescience of the voluntary acts of moral agents, I come now, in the second place, to shew the consequence; how it follows from hence, that these events are necessary, with a necessity of connection or consequence.
The chief Arminian divines, so far as I have had opportunity to observe, deny this consequence; and affirm, that if such Foreknowledge be allowed, it is no evidence of any Necessity of the event foreknown. Now I desire, that this matter may be particularly and thoroughly enquired into. I cannot but think, that on particular and full consideration, it may be perfectly determined, whether it be indeed so or not.
In order to a proper consideration of this matter, I would observe the following things.
I. It is very evident, that with regard to a thing whose existence is infallibly and indissolubly connected with something which already hath, or has had existence, the existence of that thing is necessary. Here may be noted the following particulars :
1. I observed before, in explaining the nature of Necessity, that in things which are past, their past existence is now
necessary : having already made sure of existence, it is too late for any possibility of alteration in that respect; it is now impossible that it should be otherwise than true, that the thing has existed.
2. If there be any such thing as a divine Foreknowledge of the volitions of free agents, that Foreknowledge, by the supposition, is a thing which already has, and long ago had existence; and so, now its existence is necessary; it is now utterly impossible to be otherwise, than that this Foreknowledge should be or should have been.
3. It is also very manifest, that those things which are indissolubly connected with other things that are necessary, are themselves necessary. As that proposition whose truth is necessarily connected with another proposition, which is necessarily true, is itself necessarily true. To say otherwise would be a contradiction : it would be in effect to say, that the connection was indissoluble, and yet was not so, but might be broken. If that, the existence of which is indisso . lubly connected with something whose existence is now necessary, is itself not necessary,
then it may possibly not exist, notwithstanding that indissoluble connection of its existence. -Whether the absurdity be not glaring, let the reader judge.
4. It is no less evident, that if there be a full, certain, and infallible Foreknowledge of the future existence of the volitions of moral agents, then there is a certain, infallible and indissoluble connection between those events and that Foreknowledge; and that therefore, by the preceding observations, those events are necessary events; being infallibly and indissolubly connected with that, whose existence already is, and so is now necessary, and cannot but have been.
To say the Foreknowledge is certain and infallible, and yet the connection of the event with that foreknowledge is dissoluble and fallible, is very absurd. To affirm it, would be the same thing as to affirm, that there is no necessary connection between a proposition being infallibly known to be true, and its being true indeed. So that it is perfectly demonstrable, that if there be any infallible knowledge of future volitions, the event is necessary; or, in other words, that it is impossible but the event should come to pass.
For if it be not impossible but that it may be otherwise, then it is not impossible but that the proposition which affirms its future coming to pass, may not now be true. There is this absurdity in it, that it is not impossible, but that there now should be no truth in that proposition, which is now infallibly known to be true.
II. That no future event can be certainly foreknown, whose existence is contingent, and without all Necessity, may be proved thus ; it is impossible for a thing to be certainly known to any intellect without evidence. To suppose
otherwise, implies a contradiction : because for a thing to be certainly known to any understanding, is for it to be evident to that understanding: and for a thing to be evident to any understanding is the same thing, as for that understanding to see evidence of it; but no understanding, created or uncreated, can see evidence where there is none ; for that is the same thing as to see that to be, which is not. And therefore, if there be any truth which is absolutely without evidence, that truth is absolutely unknowable, insomuch that it implies a contradiction to suppose that it is known.
But if there be any future event, whose existence is contingent, without all Necessity, the future existence of the event is absolutely without evidence. If there be any evidence of it, it must be one of these two sorts, either self-evidence or proof; an evident thing must be either evident in itself, or evident in something else: that is, evident by connection with something else
But a future thing, whose existence is without all Necessity, can have neither of these sorts of evidence. It cannot be self-evident: for if it be, it may be now known, by what is now to be seen in the thing itself; its present existence, or the Necessity of its nature : but both these are contrary to the supposition. It is supposed, both that the thing has no present existence to be seen; and also that it is not of such a nature as to be necessarily existent for the future: so that its future existence is not self-evident. And Secondly, neither is there any proof, or evidence in any thing else, or evidence of connection with something else that is evident; for this is also contrary to the supposition. It is supposed, that there is now nothing existent, with which the future existence of the contingent event is connected. For such a connection destroys its Contingence, and supposes necessity. Thus it is demonstrated, that there is in the nature of things absolutely no evidence at all of the future existence of that event, which is contingent, without all necessity, (if any such event there be) neither
selfevidence nor proof. And therefore the thing in reality is not evident; and so cannot be seen to be evident, or, which is the same thing, cannot be known.
Let us consider this in an example. Suppose that five thousand seven hundred and sixty years ago, there was no other being but the Divine Being ; and then this world, or some particular body or spirit, all at once starts out of nothing into being, and takes on itself a particular nature and form ; all in absolute Contingence, without any concern of God, or any other cause, in the matter; without any manner of ground or reason of its existence ; or any dependence upon, or connection at all with any thing foregoing : I say, that if this be supposed, there was no evidence of that event beforehand. There was no evidence of it to be seen in the thing itself; for
the thing itself as yet was not. And there was no evidence of it to be seen in any thing else; for evidence in something else, is connection with something else: but such connection is contrary to the supposition. There was no evidence before, that this thing would happen; for by the supposition, there was no reason why it should happen, rather than something else, or rather than nothing. And if so, then all things before were exactly equal, and the same, with respect to that and other possible things; there was no preponderation, no superior weight or value; and therefore, nothing that could be of weight or value to determine any understanding. The thing was absolutely without evidence, and absolutely unknowable. An increase of understanding, or of the capacity of discern. ing, has no tendency, and makes no advance, towards discern. ing any signs or evidences of it, let it be increased never so much, yea, if it be increased infinitely. The increase of the strength of sight may have a tendency to enable to discern the evidence which is far off, and very much hid, and deeply involved in clouds and darkness; but it has no tendency to enable to discern evidence where there is none. If the sight be infinitely strong, and the capacity of discerning infinitely great, it will enable to see all that there is, and to see it perfectly, and with ease ; yet it has no tendency at all to enable a being to discern that evidence which is not; but on the contrary, it has a tendency to enable to discern with great certainty that there is none.
III. To suppose the future volitions of moral agents not to be necessary events ; or, which is the same thing, events which it is not impossible but that they may not come to pass ; and yet to suppose that God certainly foreknows them, and knows all things; is to suppose God's Knowledge to be inconsistent with itself. For to say, that God certainly, and without all conjecture, knows that a thing will infallibly be, which at the same time he knows to be so contingent, that it may possibly not be, is to suppose his Knowledge inconsistent with itself; or that one thing he knows, is utterly inconsistent with another thing he knows. It is the same as to say, he now knows a proposition to be of certain infallible truth, which he knows to be of contingent uncertain truth. If a future volition is so without all Necessity, that nothing hinders but it may not be, then the proposition which asserts its future existence, is so uncertain, that nothing hinders but that the truth of it may entirely fail. And if God knows all things, he knows this proposition to be thus uncertain. And that is inconsistent with his knowing that it is infallibly true: and so inconsistent with his infallibly knowing that it is true. If the thing be indeed contingent, God views it so, and judges it to be contingent, if he views things as they are. If the event be
not necessary, then it is possible it may never be: and if it be possible it may never be, God knows it may possibly never be; and that is to know that the proposition, which affirms its existence, may possibly not be true ; and that is to know that the truth of it is uncertain ; which surely is inconsistent with his knowing it as a certain truth. If volitions are in themselves contingent events, without all Necessity, then it is no argument of perfection of Knowledge in any being to determine peremptorily that they will be ; but on the contrary, an argument of ignorance and mistake: because it would argue, that he supposes that proposition to be certain, which in its own nature, and all things considered, is uncertain and contingent. To say, in such a case, that God may have ways of knowing contingent events which we cannot conceive of, is ridiculous; as much so as to say, that God may know contradictions to be true, for ought we know; or that he may know a thing to be certain, and at the same time know it not to be certain, though we cannot conceive how ; because he has ways of knowing, which we cannot comprehend.
Corol. 1. From what has been observed it is evident, that the absolute decrees of God are no more inconsistent with human liberty, on account of any Necessity of the event which follows from such decrees, than the absolute Foreknowledge of God. Because the connection between the event and certain Foreknowledge, is as infallible and indissoluble, as between the event and an absolute decree. That is, it is no more impossible, that the event and decree should not agree together, than that the event and absolute Knowledge should disagree. The connection between the event and Foreknowledge is absolutely perfect, by the supposition : because it is supposed, that the certainty and infallibility of the Knowledge is absolutely per- , fect. And it being so, the certainty cannot be increased ; and therefore the connection between the knowledge and thing known cannot be increased; so that if a decree be added to the Foreknowledge, it does not at all increase the connection, or make it more infallible and indissoluble. If it were not so, the certainty of Knowledge might be increased by the addition of a decree; which is contrary to the supposition, which is, that the Knowledge is absolutely perfect, or perfect to the highest possible degree.
There is as much impossibility but that the things which are infallibly foreknown, should be, or, which is the same thing, as great a Necessity of their future existence, as if the event were already written down, and was known and read by all mankind, through all preceding ages, and there was the most indissoluble and perfect connection possible between the writing and the thing written. In such a case, it would be as impossible the event should fail of existence, as if it had ex