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NECESSARY TO BE PREMISED, IN ORDER TO OUR
BETTER UNDERSTANDING THE DOCTRINE OF
ALTHOUGH the great and ever-blessed God is a being absolutely simple, and infinitely remote from all shadow of composition; he is, nevertheless, in condescension to our weak and contracted faculties, represented in scripture, as possessed of divers properties, or attributes, which, though seemingly different from his essence, are in reality essential to him, and constitutive to his very nature.
of these attributes, those on which we shall now particularly descant (as being more immediately concerned in the ensuing subject,) are the following ones ; 1. His eternal wisdom and foreknowledge. 2. The absolute freedom and liberty of his will. 3. The perpetuity and unchangeableness both of himself and his decrees. 4. His omnipotence. 5. His justice. 6. His mercy.
Without an explication of these the doctrine of predestination cannot be so well understood : we shall, therefore, briefly consider them, by way of preliminary to the main subject.
1. With respect to the divine wisdom and fore. knowledge, I shall lay down the following positions.
Pos. 1. God is, and always was, so perfectly wise, that nothing ever did, or does, or can, elude his knowledge. He knew from all eternity, not only what he himself intended to do, but also what he would incline and permit others to do. Acts xv. 18. “Known unto God are all his works, ar' alw@, from eternity."
Pos. 2. Consequently, God knows nothing now, nor will know any thing hereafter, which he did not know and foresee from everlasting : his foreknowledge being co-eternal with himself, and extending to every thing that is or shall be done. Heb. iv. 13. All things, which comprises past, present and future, are naked and open to the eyes
of him with whom we have to do. Pos. 3. This foreknowledge of God is not conjectural and uncertain, (for then it would not be foreknowledge) but most sure and infallible : so that whatever he foreknows to be future, shall necessarily and undoubtedly come to pass. For his knowledge can no more be frustrated, or his wisdom be deceived, than he can cease to be God. Nay, could either of these be the case, he actually would cease to be God; all mistake and disappointment being absolutely incompatible with the divine nature.
Pos. 4. The influence which the divine fore. knowledge has on the certain futurition of the things foreknown, does not render the intervention of second causes needless, nor destroy the nature of the things themselves.
My meaning is, that the prescience of God does not lay any coercive necessity on the wills of beings naturally free. For instance, man, øven in his fallen state, is endued with a natural
freedom of will; yet he acts, from the first to the last moment of his life, in absolute subserviency (though, perhaps he does not know it, nor design it) to the purposes and decrees of God concerning him: notwithstanding which, he is sensible of no compulsion, but acts as freely and voluntarily, as if he was sui juris, subject to no control, and absolutely lord of himself. This made Luther*, after he had shown how all things necessarily and inevitably come to pass, in consequence of the sovereign will and infallible foreknowledge of God, say, that “We should carefully distinguish between a necessity of infallibility, and a necessity of coaction ; since both good and evil men, though by their actions they fulfil the decree and appointment of God, yet are not forcibly constrained to do any thing but act willingly."
Pos. 5. God's foreknowledge, taken abstractedly, is not the sole cause of beings and events; but his will and foreknowledge together. Hence we find, Acts ii. 23. that his determinate counsel and foreknowledge act in concert; the latter resulting from, and being founded on, the former.
We pass on, II. To consider the will of God: with regard to which we assert as follows.
Pos. 1. The Deity is possessed not only of infinite knowledge, but likewise of absolute liberty of will: so that whatever he does, or permits to be done, he does and permits freely, and of his own good pleasure.
Consequently, it is his free pleasure to permit sin: since, without his permission, neither men nor devils can do any thing. Now, to permit;
* Be Sery. Arb. cap. 44:
is, at least, the same as not to hinder, though it be in our power to hinder if we please : and this permission, or non-hindrance, is certainly an act of the divine will. Hence Austin* says,
“Those things which seemingly thwart the divine will, are nevertheless agreeable to it; for if God did not permit them, they could not be done : and whatever God permits, he permits freely and willingly. He does nothing, neither suffers any thing to be done, against his own will.” And Luthert observes, that “ God permitted Adam to fall into sin, because he willed that he should
Pos. 2. Although the will of God, considered in itself, is simply one and the same; yet, in condescension to the present capacities of men, the divine will is very properly distinguished into secret and revealed. Thus it was his revealed will, that Pharaoh should let the Israelites go ; that Abraham should sacrifice his son; and that Peter should not deny Christ, but as was proved by the event, it was his secret will that Pharaoh should not let Israel go, Exod. iv. 21. that Abraham should not sacrifice Isaac, Gen. xxii. 12. and that Peter should deny his Lord, Matt. xxvi. 34.
Pos. 3. The will of God respecting the salvation and condemnation of men, is never contrary to itself; he immutably wills the salvation of the elect, and vice versa : nor can he ever vary or deviate from his own will in any instance whatever, so as that that should be done, which he willeth not; or that not be brought to pass, which he willeth. Isai. xliv. 10. My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure. Psalm
* Enchir. cap. 100.
† De Sery. Art. c. 153.
xxxiii. 11. The counsel of the Lord standeth. for ever, and the thoughts of his heart to all generations. Job xxiii. 13, 14. He is in one mind, who can turn him ? and what his soul desireth, even that he doth; for he performeth the thing that is appointed
for me ; and many such things are with him. Eph. i. 11. Being predestinated, according to the purpose of him, who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.
Thus, for instance, Hophni and Phineas hearkened not to the voice of their father, who reproved them for their wickedness, because the Lord would slay them, 1 Sam. ii. 25. and Sihon, king of Heshbon, would not receive the peaceable message sent him by Moses, because the Lord God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into the hand of Israel, Deut. ii. 26, 30. Thus also. to add no more, we find that there have been, and ever will be, some whose cyes God blindeth, and whose hearts he hardeneth, i. e. whom God permits to continue blind and hardened, on purpose to prevent their seeing with their eyes, and understanding with their hearts, and to hinder their conversion to God, and spiritual healing by him, isai, vi. 9. John xii. 39, 40.
Pos. 4. Because God's will of precept may in some instances appear to thwart his will of determination, it does not follow, either, 1. that he mocks his creatures, or, 2. that they are excusable for neglecting to observe his will of command.
(1.) He does not hereby mock his creatures ; for, if men do not believe his word, nor observe his precepts, the fault is not in him, but in themselves; their unbelief and disobedience are not owing to any ill infused into them by God, but to the vitiosity of their depraved nature, and the