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suppose it will be acknowledged by all, that for God certainly to know a thing will be, and yet certainly to know that it may not be, is the same thing as certainly to know that he may be deceived. I suppose it will also be acknowledged, that certainly to know a thing, and, also, at the same time, to know that we may be deceived in it, is the same thing as certainly to know it, and certainly to know that we are uncertain of it, or that we certainly do not know it: and that is the same thing as certainly to know it, and not certainly to know it at the same time; which we leave to be considered, whether it be not a contradiction.
§ 4. The meaning of the word absolute, when used about the decrees, wants to be stated. It is commonly said, God decrees nothing upon a foresight of any thing in the creature; as this, they say, argues imperfection in God; and so it does, taken in the sense that they commonly intend it. But nobody, I believe, will deny that God decrees many things that he would not have decreed, if he had not foreknown and foredetermined such and such other things. What we mean, we completely express thus-That God decrees all things harmoniously, and in excellent order, one thing harmonizes with another, and there is such a relation between all the decrees, as makes the most excellent order. Thus God decrees rain in drought, and he also decrees the earnest prayers of his people, because he decrees rain. I acknowledge, to say, God decrees a thing because, is an improper way of speaking; but not more improper than all our other ways of speaking about God. God decrees the latter event, because of the former, no more than he decrees the former, because of the latter. But this is what we mean:-When God decrees to give the blessing of rain, he decrees the prayers of his people; and, when he decrees the prayers of his people for rain, he very commonly decrees rain; and, thereby, there is an harmony between these two decrees, of rain, and the prayers of God's people. Thus, also, when he decrees diligence and industry, he decrees riches and prosperity; when he decrees prudence, he often decrees success; when he decrees striving, then he often decrees the obtaining the kingdom of heaven; when he decrces the preaching of the gospel, then he decrees the bringing home of souls to Christ; when he decrees good natural faculties, diligence, and good advantages, then he decrees learning; when he decrees summer, then he decrees the growing plants; when he decrees conformity to his Son, then he decrees calling; when he decrees calling, then he decrees justification; and when he decrees justification, then he decrees everlasting glory. Thus, all the decrees of God are harmonious; and this is all that can be said for or against absolute or conditional decrees. But this I say, it is as impro
per to make one decrce a condition of another, as to make the other a condition of that: but there is an harmony between both.
§ 5. As to such an absolute contingency, which they attribute to man's will, calling it the sovereignty of the will; if they mean by this sovereignty of will, that a man can will as he wills, it is perfect nonsense, and the same as if they should spend abundance of time and pains, and be very hot at proving, that a man can will what he doth will; that is, that it is possible for that to be, which is. But if they mean, that there is a perfect contingency in the will of man, that is, that it happens merely by chance that a man wills such a thing, and not another, it is an impossibility and contradiction, that a thing should be without any cause or reason, and when there was every way as much cause why it should not have been.
§ 6. Contingency, as it is holden by some, is at the same time contradicted by themselves, if they hold foreknowledge. This is all that follows from an absolute, unconditional, irreversible decree, that it is impossible but that the things decreed should be. The same exactly follows from foreknowledge, that it is absolutely impossible but that the thing certainly foreknown should precisely come to pass.
§ 7. They say, to what purpose are praying and striving, and attending on means, if all was irreversibly determined by God before? But, to say that all was determined before these prayers and strivings, is a very wrong way of speaking, and begets those ideas in the mind, which correspond with no realities with respect to God. The decrees of our everlasting state were not before those of our prayers and strivings; for these are as much present with God from all eternity, as they are the moment they are present with us. They are present as part of his decrees, or rather as the same; and they did as really exist in eternity with respect to God, as they exist in time, and as much at one time as another. Therefore, we can no more fairly argue, that these will be in vain, because God has foredetermined all things, than we can that they would be in vain if they existed as soon as the decree, for so they do, inasmuch as they are a part of it.
8. When a distinction is made between God's revealed will and his secret will, or his will of command and decree, will is certainly in that distinction taken in two senses. His will of decree is not his will in the same sense as his will of command is. Therefore, it is no difficulty at all to suppose, that the one may be otherwise than the other. His will in both senses is in his inclination. But when we say he wills virtue, or loves virtue, or the happiness of his creature; thereby is intended, that virtue, or the creature's happiness, absolutely and simply considered, is agreeably to the inclination of
his nature. His will of decree is his inclination to a thing, not as to that thing absolutely and simply, but with respect to the universality of things, that have been, are, or shall be. So God, though he has no inclination to a creature's misery, considered absolutely, yet he may will it for the greater promotion of happiness in this universality. God inclines to excellency, which is harmony, but yet he may suffer that which is inharmonious in tself, for the promotion of the harmony there is in the universality of his glorious works. And thus it must needs be, and no hypothesis whatever will relieve a man, but that he must own these two wills of God.
§ 9. It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and, for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God's glory should be complete: that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent; that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper, that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all; for then the effulgence would not answer the reality. For the same reason, it is not proper that one should be manifested exceedingly, and another but very little. It is highly proper, that the effulgent glory of God should answer his real excellency; that the splendour should be answerable to the real and essential glory; for the same reason that it is proper and excellent for God to glorify himself at all. Thus it is necessary, that God's awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God's glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all. If it were not right that God should permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God's holiness in hatred of sin, or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it. There would be no manifestation of God's grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from. How much happiness soever he bestowed, his goodness would not be so much prized and admired, and the sense of it not so great. We little consider, how much the sense of good is heightened by the sense of evil, both moral and natural. And as it is necessary that there should be evil, because the display of the glory of God could not but be imperfect and incomplete without it, so evil is necessary, in order to the highest happiness of the creature, and the completeness of that communication of God, for which he made the world: because the creature's happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and a sense of his love. And if the knowledge of him be
imperfect, the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect and the happiness of the creature would be imperfect upon another account also: for as we have said, the sense of good is comparatively dull and flat, without the knowledge of evil.
§ 10. I lay this down, which I suppose none will deny, that as to God's own actions, God decrees them, or purposes them beforehand. For none will be so absurd as to say, that God acts without intentions, or without designing to act, or that he forbears to act, without intending to forbear. And whatsoever God intends or purposes, he intends and purposes from all eternity; as there are no new purposes or intentions in God. For, if God sometimes begins to intend what he did not intend before, then two things will follow:
1. That God is not omniscient. If God sometimes begins to design what he did not design before, it must of necessity be for want of knowledge, or for want of knowing things before, as he knows them now; for want of having exactly the same views of things. If God begins to intend what he did not before intend, it must be because he now sees reasons to intend it, that he did not see before; or that he has something new objected to his understanding, to influence him.
2. If God begins to intend or purpose things that he did not intend before, then God is certainly mutable, and then he must in his own mind and will be liable to succession and change; for, wherever there are new things, there is succession and change. Therefore, I shall take these two things for positions granted and supposed in this controversy.
§ 11. "The wrath of man shall praise thee, and the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain." Psalm lxxvi. 10. If God restrains sin when he pleases; and when he permits it, permits it for the sake of some good that it will be an occasion of, and does actually restrain it in all other cases; it is evident that when he permits it, it is for the sake of the good of which it will be an occasion. If he permits it for the sake of that good, then he does not permit merely because he would infringe on the creature's liberty in restraining it; as is further evident, because he does restrain it when that good is not in view. If God wills to permit a thing that it may come to pass, then he wills that it should come to pass.*
This phrase, "to will to permit," could never have obtained currency among either moral, theological, or metaphysical writers, had they duly considered the subject of negative causality—its peculiar nature, its relation to what is positive, and its appropriate consequences. By causality," is meant, an adequate reason for a certain (as opposed to a mere probable) consequence; which causality, it is maintained, may be negative as well as positive, passive as well as active. A positive and active causation must be from the first cause, but not that which is negative and passive. That the latter is connected with consequences, which are infallibly certain, will be shown in the course of this
12. God foresaw who would comply with the terms of salvation, and who would not; and he could have forborn to give being to such as he foresaw would not comply. Objectors
note, which is intended to vindicate the divine character and government from undeserved imputations.
The word permit," must either include an act of the will, or not include it: if the former, to will to permit, must be to will to will" something, or to will some act of the will. If it be said, that the phrase means, a will, in general, to exercise some other will, in particular; it is replied, that this does not constitute any difference of will, except as one thing is subservient to another in the series of decrees. But a little consideration will show the impropriety of applying the word in this manner. The divine decrees must necessarily be either direct, or indirect, as there is no medium; and the former must be of those objects which are excellent for their own sake, but the latter must be made respecting objects for the sake of something else which is excellent. Nothing can be the object of a direct decree but what terminates in God, as well as emanates from him, in a direct manner, as goodness, holiness, truth, &c.; and nothing can be an object of an indirect decree, (as the creation of a material world, the appointment of its laws, &c.) but what terminates in him in an indirect manner, as subservient to the other. For of him, and through him, and to him, are Thus far most are agreed.
all things" decreed by him. But the word "permit," in reference to moral evil, cannot mean, in any consistency of language, or thought, even an indirect decree, or will; for it would involve a decree of opposite objects, and, thereby, contradictory causations. God decrees the holiness of his creatures in order to their happiness, and their happiness for his own glory. But, were we to say, that he decrees the creature's comparative defect, for the sake of his moral failure, and the latter for the sake of showing his own justice, he must, on that supposition, decree opposite things, and thereby put the stamp of approbation upon the evil as well as upon the good. To say, that sin is willed for the sake of good, does not mend the matter; for still, on the supposition, it would be willed, and, consequently, decreed, as a contrary object. That an inferior good should be willed in subserviency to another superior, is very just; and that the laws of nature, which are good, should be the occasion of harm to individuals, is not unworthy of the holy author of those laws; but moral evil stands directly opposed to his rectitude and infinitely holy nature.
According to the doctrine here controverted, God would be the fountain of good and evil alike; and he who commits a sin, may as justly ascribe it to God ultimately, as another may ascribe to him the goodness of his deeds. If the latter is called to exercise gratitude, the former is entitled to plead exculpation. Nor is it sufficient to say, that the sinner aims at an end, in transgressing, different from that which God aims at; for, on the hypothesis, his circumstances, without one exception, are decreed, from whence the sin arises, and, indeed, the very existence of sin must ultimately proceed from the divine will. But that the sinner should he blamed for doing what was decreed to be done, including his defects, (the ground of his fallibility.) whence proceed his wrong ends in sinning, is to subvert all proper ideas of justice, right and wrong, good and evil. Some will allow that the difficulties which their hypothesis involves, are inexplicable, at least by our contracted minds in the present state; but yet hold, that we are forced to determine thus, in order to avoid still greater difficulties. For, say they, we must either adopt this plan, or deny God's foreknowledge. But this is a hasty and illegitimate inference; and which is owing, as before intimated, to the want of properly ascertaining the doctrine of negative causality. If this be overlooked, embarrassments will be sure to follow, nor can the most subtle penetration be of any avail to effect a disentanglement. This oversight is the cause why many anxious inquirers after truth have met with a mortifying disappointment, in endeavouring to reconcile what otherwise is demonstrably rreconcilable. And this is the reason why many have drawn back with disst from a scene, with which, the more they viewed it, the more they were