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this place what is consistent or inconsistent with the justice of God, since if it be necessary to say anything on so clear a subject, occasions will arise for introducing such observations as may be required in other parts of this work. Severity also is attributed to God. Rom. xi. 22. on them which fell, severity.
From all these attributes springs that infinite excellence of God which constitutes his true perfection, and causes him to abound in glory, and to be most deservedly and justly the supreme Lord of all things, according to the qualities so frequently ascribed to him. Psal. xvi. 11. in thy presence is fulness of joy. civ. 1. thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Dan. vii. 10. thousand thousands ministered unto him. Matt. v. 48. as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. 1 Tim. i. 11. the blessed God. vi. 15, who is the blessed.... potentate.
Some description of this divine glory has been revealed, so far as it falls within the scope of human comprehension. Exod. xix. 18, &c. mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke—. xxiv. 10, &c. they saw the God of Israel, and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. xxxiii. 9, 10. the cloudy pillar descended, &c. &c.— and v. 18, &c. 1 Kings xix. 11. behold, Jehovah passed by. viii. 10, 11. the cloud filled the house of Jehovah. xxii. 19. I saw Jehovah sitting on his throne. Psal. xviii. 8, &c. and civ. Micah i. 3, &c. Nahum i. 3, &c. Isai. vi. Ezek. i. and viii. 1–3. and x. 1, &c. and xliii. 2, 3. Habak. iii. 3, &c. Dan. vii. 9. Rev. iv.
It follows, finally, that God must be styled by us wonDERFUL, and INcoMPREHENSIBLE. Judges xiii. 18. why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret? Psal. cxlv. 3. his greatness is unsearchable. Isai. xl. 28. there is no searching of his understanding.
OF THE DIVINE DECREES.
Hitherto I have considered that knowledge of God which is to be obtained from his nature. That which is derived from his efficiency is the next subject of inquiry.
The EFFICIENCY OF GOD is either INTERNAL or ExtERNAL.
The INTERNAL EFFICIENCY of God is that which is independent of all extraneous agency. Such are his decrees. Eph. i. 9, which he hath purposed in himself.
The DECREES OF GOD are GENERAL or SPECIAL. GoD's GENERAL DECREE is that where BY HE HAs DECREED FROM ALL ETERNITY OF HIS OWN MOST FREE AND WISE AND HOLY PURPOSE, WHATEVER HE WILLED, OR WHATEVER HE WAS HIMSELF ABOUT TO DO.
WHATEveR, &c. Eph. i. 11. who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will; which comprehends whatever he himself works or wills singly, not what is done by others, or by himself in co-operation with those to whom he has conceded the natural power of free agency. The creation of the world, and the removal of the curse from the ground, Gen. viii. 21. are among his sole decrees.
FROM ALL ETERNITY. Acts xv. 18. known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. 1 Cor. ii. 7. even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world.
OF HIs own Most FREE-; that is, without controul, impelled by no necessity, but according to his own will. Eph. i. 11. as before.
Most wise—; that is, according to his perfect foreknowledge of all things that were to be created. Acts ii. 23. by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. iv. 28. for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. xv. 18. known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. 1 Cor. ii. 7. the hidden widom which God ordained before the world. Eph. iii. 10, 11. the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he
There is an absurdity, therefore, in separating the decrees or will of the Deity from his eternal counsel and foreknowledge, or in giving them priority of order. For the foreknowledge of God is nothing but the wisdom of God, under another name, or that idea of every thing, which he had in his mind, to use the language of men, before he decreed anything.
Thus it is to be understood that God decreed nothing absolutely, which he left in the power of free agents, a doctrine which is shewn by the whole canon of Scripture.” Gen. xix. 17, 21. escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed ...... see, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city for the which thou hast spoken. Exod. iii. 8, 17. I am come down to deliver them .... and to bring them up unto a good land—though these very individuals actually perished in the wilderness. God also had determined to deliver his people by the hand of Moses, yet he would have killed that same Moses, Exod. iv. 24. if he had not immediately circumcised his son. 1 Sam. ii. 30. I said indeed..... but now Jehovah saith, Be it far from me;—and the reason for this change is added,—for, them that honour me I will honour. xiii. 13, 14. now would Jehovah have established thy kingdom . . . . . but now thy kingdom shall not continue. Again, God had said, 2 Kings xx. 1. that Hezekiah should die immediately, which however did not happen, and therefore could not have been decreed without reservation. The death of Josiah was not decreed peremptorily, but he would not hearken to the voice of Necho when he warned him according to the word of the Lord, not to come out against him; 2 Chron. xxxv. 22. Again, Jer. xviii. 9, 10. at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them,--that is, I will
* The following lines contain the sum of the doctrine laid down by Milton in this and the following chapter, and the coincidences of expression are not unfrequently as striking as the similarity of reasoning. - - - - - - - - - - - - So will fall He and his faithless progeny: Whose fault? Whose but his own P Ingrate, he had of me All he could have; I made him just and right, Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall. Such I created all the ethereal Powers And Spirits, both them who stood, and them who fail'd; Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell. Not free, what proof could they have given sincere Of true allegiance, constant faith, or love, Where
Where only what they needs must do appear'd,
Paradise Lost, III. 95.
rescind the decree, because that people hath not kept the condition on which the decree rested. Here then is a rule laid down by God himself, according to which he would always have his decrees understood, namely, that regard should be paid to the conditionate terms attached to them. Jer xxvi. 3. if so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings. So also God had not even decreed absolutely the burning of Jerusalem. Jer. xxxviii. 17, &c. thus saith Jehovah .... if thou wilt assuredly go forth unto the king of Babylon's princes, then thy soul shall live, and this city shall not be burned with fire. Jonah iii. 4. yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown—but it appears from the tenth verse, that when God saw that they turned from their evil way, he repented of his purpose, though Jonah was angry and thought the change unworthy of God. Acts xxvii. 24, 31. God hath given thee all them that sail with thee—and again—eacept these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved, where Paul revokes the declaration he had previously made on the authority of God; or rather, God revokes the gift he had made to Paul, except on condition that they should consult for their own safety by their own personal exertions”.
It appears, therefore, from these passages of Scripture, and from many others which occur of the same kind, to the paramount authority of which we must bow, that the most high God has not decreed all things absolutely.
If, however, it be allowable to examine the divine decrees by the laws of human reason, since so many arguments have been maintained on this subject by controvertists on both sides with more of subtlety than
* “Ex his verbis (nisi isti in navi manserint, &c.) liquet apostolum, qui optime mentem divini promissi intelligebat, non credidisse Deum absolute velle salvare eos omnes qui in navi erant; sed tantum sub hac conditione, si nihil eorum omitterent quae ad suam incolumitatem facere poterant..... Sed conditionem in promisso quod acceperat inclusam fuisse, non obscure liquet ex verbis quibus conceptum fuit, ecce Deus keyapatai rot omnes qui tecum navigant, idest, largitus est tibi hanc gratiam, ut eos omnes tuo consilio a morte liberes, si illi obtemperarint; alioqui de iis actum erit, et ipsi culpa sua peribunt.” Curcellaei Institutio, iii. 11. 4.