Page images
PDF
EPUB

by one perfect unchangeable view, without any succession." To this I answer,

1. It has been already shown, that all certain Knowledge proves the Necessity of the truth known; whether it be before, after, or at the same time.Though it be true, that there is no succession in God's Knowledge, and the manner of his Knowledge is to us inconceivable, yet thus much we know concerning it, that there is no event, past, present, or to come, that God is ever uncertain of. He never is, never was, and never will be without infallible Knowledge of it ; He always sees the existence of it to be certain and infallible. And as he always sees things just as they are in truth ; hence there never is in reality any thing contingent in such a sense, as that possibly it may happen never to exist. If, strictly speaking, there is no Foreknowledge in God, it is because those things which are future to us, are as present to God, as if they already had existence : and that is as much as to say, that future events are always in God's view as evident, clear, sure and necessary, as if they already were. If there never is a time wherein ihe existence of the event is not present with God, then there never is a time wherein it is not as much impossible for it to fail of existence, as if its existence were present, and were already come to pass.

God viewing things so perfectly and unchangeably, as that there is no succession in his ideas or judgment, does not hinder but that there is properly now, in the mind of God, a certain and perfect Knowledge of the moral actions of men, which to us are an hundred years hence: yea the objection supposes this ; and therefore it certainly does not hinder but that, by the foregoing arguments, it is now impossible these moral actions should not come to pass.

We know, that God Foreknows the future voluntary actions of men, in such a sense, as that he is able particularly to foretell them and cause them to be recorded, as He often has done; and therefore that necessary connection which there is between God's Knowledge and the event known, as much proves the event to be necessary beforehand, as if the Divine Knowledge were in the same sense before the event, as the prediction or writing is. If the Knowledge be infallible, then the expression of it in the written prediction is infallible; that is, there is an infallible connection between the written prediction and the event. And if so, then it is impossible it should ever be otherwise, than that the prediction and the event should agree: and this is the same thing as to say, it is impossible but that the event should come to pass : and this is the same as to say that its coming to pass is necessary. So that it is manifest, that there being no proper succession in God's mind, makes no

alteration as to the Necessity of the existence of the events known. Yea,

2. This is so far from weakening the proof given of the impossibility of future events known not coming to pass, as that it establishes the foregoing arguments, and shews the clearness of the evidence. For,

(1.) The very reason, why God's Knowledge is without succession is, because it is absolutely perfect, to the highest possible degree of clearness and certainty. All things, whether past, present, or to come, being viewed with equal evidence and fulness: future things being seen with as much clearness, as if they were present; the view is always in absolute perfection; and absolute constant perfection admits of no alteration, and so no succession ; the actual existence of the thing known, does not at all increase, or add to the clearness or certainty of the thing known: God calls the things that are not, as though they were; they are all one to him as if they had already existed. But herein consists the strength of the demonstration before given ; that it is as impossible they should fail of existence, as if they existed already. This objection, instead of weakening the argument, sets it in the strongest light ; for it supposes it to be so indeed, that the existence of future events is in God's view so much as if it already had been, that when they come actually to exist, it makes not the least alteration or variation in his Knowledge of them.

(2.) The objection is founded on the immutability of God's Knowledge : for it is the immutability of Knowledge that makes it to be without succession. But this most directly and plainly demonstrates the thing I insist on, viz. that it is utterly impossible the known events should fail of existence. For if that were possible, then a change in God's Knowledge and view of things were possible. For if the known event should not come into being, as God expected, then He would see it, and so would change his mind, and see his former mistake; and thus there would be change and succession in his Knowledge. But as God is immutable, and it is infinitely impossible that his view should be changed; so it is, for the same reason, just so impossible that the foreknown event should not exist; and that is to be impossible in the highest degree ; and therefore the contrary is necessary. Nothing is more impossible than that the immutable God should be changed, by the succession of time; who comprehends all things, from eternity to eternity, in one, most perfect, and unalterable view ; so that his whole eternal duration is vitæ interminabilis, tota, simul et perfecta possessio.

On the whole, I need not fear to say, that there is no geometrical theorem or proposition whatsoever, more capable of

strict demonstration, than that God's certain Prescience of the volitions of moral agents is inconsistent with such a Contin gence of these events, as is without all Necessity; and so is inconsistent with the Arminian notion of liberty.

Corol. 2. Hence the doctrine of the Calvinists, concerning the absolute decrees of God, does not at all infer any more fatality in things, than will demonstrably follow from the doctrine of the most Arminian divines, who acknowledge God's omniscience, and universal Prescience. Therefore all objections they make against the doctrine of the Calvinists, as implying Hobbes' doctrine of Necessity, or the stoical doctrine of fate, lie no more against the doctrine of Calvinists, than their own doctrine : and therefore it doth not become those divines to raise such an outcry against the Calvinists, on this account.

Corol. 3. Hence all arguments of Arminians, who own God's omniscience, against the doctrine of the inability of unregenerate men to perform the conditions of salvation and the commands of God requiring spiritual duties, and against the Calvinistic doctrine of efficacious grace ; on this ground that those doctrines, though they do not suppose men to be under any constraint or co-action, yet suppose them under Necessity, must fall to the ground. And their arguments against the Necessity of men's volitions, taken from the reasonableness of God's commands, promises, and threatenings, and the sincerity of his counsels and invitations ; and all objections against any doctrines of the Calvinists as being inconsistent with human liberty, because they infer Necessity; I say, all these arguments and objections must be justly esteemed vain and frivolous, as coming from them ; being levelled against their own doctrine, as well as against that of the Calvinists.*

* In these two sections our author has abundantly demonstrated, that foreknowledge infe s necessity; such a necessity as exists in the connection of a consequent with its antecedent; and has represented, in various lights, how the most contradictory and absurd conclusions follow from the opposite hypothesis. But as his argument, strictly speaking, did not require a further explanation or distinction of the principles on which it rested, which yet are important, it may not be improper in this place briefly to enquire into the rationale of those principles ; by which his reasoning may appear with additional evidence, and the radical principles themselves confirmed by their connection with others. As these remarks are presented in the form of a series analytically disposed, we shall prefix to then the corresponding ordinal numbers.

1. Any kind of NECESSITY is a sufficient ground of foreknowledge, in the view of omniscienco; but as is the kind of necessity, or the nature of the connection between cause and effect, so is the nature of the foreknowledge. But this difference in the nature of the connection affects-not the certainty of the event, but the mode of causation ; or from what cause the certainty arises.

2. All necessity, or certainty of connection between antecedent and consequent, must arise from one of these two sources, viz. the NATURE OF THINGS, or, the DECREE of God. Chance is nothing; and nothing has no properties, consequently bas no causal influence.

SECT. XIII.

Whether we suppose the volitions of moral Agents to be con

nected with any Thing antecedent, or not, yet they must be necessary in such a sense as to overthrow Arminian Liberty.

Every act of the will has a cause, or it has not. If it has a cause, then, according to what has already been demon

3. The necessity which arises from the NATURE OF THINGS, is either absolute or hypothetical. ABSOLUTE NECESSITY belongs only to the first cause, or God. He exists ABSOLUTE Y; and to suppose him not to exist, or not to have existed, is a contradiction. For the supposition itself is made by a confessedly contingent being; but a contingent being necessarily implies an absolute being, with as much certainty as an effect implies a cause; and consequently a first cause.

4. The first cause excepted, every other being, or mode of being, or any event whatever, is only of HYPOTHETICAL NECESSITY. Any event is necessary, only on account of its relation to the first cause. This relation, or necessary connection, between an event and the first cause is either in the way of contrast, or in the way of dependence.

5. There are two things necessarily related to the first cause by way of conTRAST ; passive power, which is a natural evil—if limited existence, dependence, and insufficiency, in their necessary tendency, may be so called—and sin, which is a moral evil ; or some thing which, in point of obligation, ought not to be.

6. The other mode of necessary relation to the first cause, arising from the nature of things, is that of DEPENDENCE. Every contingent being and event must necessarily depend upon God, as an effect depends upon its cause. Nor is it conceivable without involving the grossest contradiction and absurdity, that any contingent being should continue to exist, any more than begin to exist, independent of the first cause. Sublata causa, tollitur effectus, is justly entitled to be called an aziom in metaphysical science.

7. It was before observed, that all necessity must arise either from the nature of things, or from the decree of God. What arises from the nature of things, as a consequence, has for its antece:lent, either an efficient or a deficient cause.

8. A defect, no less than active efficiency, may be an antecedent, as founded in the nature of things, from whence a corresponding consequence must follow; but there is no defect in any antecedent but may be counteracted by a decree; so far counteracted, as that the defect shall not be an operative cause.

9. The purposes of God are a series of antecedents, from whence follow, by the very nature of things, corresponding good consequences, and good only: but the defect which is inseparable from created existence, considered in itself, is also a cause in the sense of an antecedent ; otherwise a created existence would be as indefectible as the creating or first cause, which involves the most assurd consequences.

10. Defect is either natural or moral ; and each arises from the nature of things, as contradistinguished to decree, but in a different manner. NaruRAL DEFECT arises from the nature of things in the way of contrast to God's natural perfections : which contrast forms the primary difference between creator and creature.

11. This natural defect is different from defectibility; for defectibility expresses, in strictness, an effect not a cause; a liableness to defection. But the question returns, What renders a creature liable to defect? To say, Its liableness to defect, or its defectibility, assigns no true cause ; for the question returns as before, wilat makes it liable, what makes it defectible?

strated, it is not contingent, but necessary; the effect being necessarily dependent and consequent on its cause, let that

12. Perhaps there is no term less exceptionable, in order to prevent circumlocution, than PASSIVE POWER, to express that natural defect, which exists in a created nature as a contrast to the natural (not the moral) per sections of God.

13. Passive power is as inapplicable to God, as it is applicable to a creature ; for natural perfection is as applicable to him, as natural imperfection is to us.Therefore to say, that a creature is not the subject of passive power, is the same as to say, that it is perfect and indefectible in its nature as God is ; which is the grossest pantheism—the deification of every creature, of every atom that exists.

14. All antecedents originate in either passive power or the divine decrees. From the former proceed, according to the nature of things, all evil consequents ; from the latter, all good.

15. MORAL DEFECT is a contrast to the moral perfections, excellence, or holiness of God; and arises, as a necessary consequence --not from the divine decree as its antecedent, but--from the hypothetical nature of things ; that is, passive power, If not aided by a decretive interposition, and if also united to liberty of choice in an accountable being.

16. The removal of the antecedent is the prerogative of the supreme Lord of nature; but if the antecedent be not removed, that is, altered from what it was as to its causal influence, the consequence can no more be prevented, than the nature of things can be changed.

17. That nature of things, or that necessity of consequence, whereby the effect is infallibly connected with its cause, is nothing else but the essence of TRUTH, emanating from the first cause, the GOD OF TRUTH, or the TRUE God.

18. We now observe, that an event may be necessarily connected with its cause by a divine decree. If the divine will contemplate an end, and decree accordingly, it necessarily implies that the means, or the antecedents to this consequence, are decreed.

19. Hence, an event may be necessary, either because virtually determined by the divine will, in a series of antecedents; or because the nature of things operates without being affected, as to their causal influence, by decretive antecedents.

20. To suppose any sort, or any degree of defect, to be decreed, is absurd in different ways. It is contrary to an established axiom, that from good nothing but good can proceed—and it is absurd to impute that to a divine decree, which antece. dently arises from the nature of things.

21. In reality, divINE DECREES (as before hinted) are nothing else than a wonderful chain or series of positions, which are so many antecedents, counteracting defects arising from the hypothetical nature of things. Whence it necessarily follows, that if there were no PASSIVE POWER there could be no DIVINE DE

For if good, and only good, arose from the nature of things; the decree, which has good only for its object, would be superfluous, and therefore unworthy of divine volition.

22. Hence also, whatever event is in itself good, is an object of divine decree in its antecedent ; and the event itself is connected with the decretive position by the very essence of truth. But whatever is in itself evil arises from the hypothetical nature of things not counteracted by decretive positions.

23. In God, his absolutely necessary, eternal, infinite and unchangeable nature, is to be regarded as an antecedent ; from which all possible happiness is the necessary consequence. Such an antecedent is not the result of mere, arbitrary, or decretive will, but of absolute necessity, but all antecedents in a creature, or every causal influence, of which good, or happiness, whether natural or moral, is the consequence, must be the positions of decretive will, as the only possible mode of securing a good result.

24. As is the antecedent, so is the consequent; for the connection is formed by eternal truth. If therefore a good event,-for instance, a virtuous or holy choice --be the consequent, the antecedent is a decretive position.

25. In reference to God, the proper and only ground of infallible certainty that his choice is good and praiseworthy, is the GOODNESS OF HIS NATURE. Were we to admit in thought the possibility of a defectible nature in him, in the same proportion must we admit a possible failure in the goodness of his choice. And in

CREES.

« PreviousContinue »