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unless he can foresee the volitions of men, and so know something of the future state of the moral world, he cannot know but that he may still have as great occasion to interpose in this manner, as ever he had ; nor can he foresee how, or when he shall have occasion thus to interpose.
Corol, 1. It appears from the things which have been observed, that unless God foresees the volitions of moral agents, that cannot be true which is observed by the Apostle James, Acts xv. 18. “ Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.”
Corol. 2. It appears from what has been observed, that unless God foreknows the volitions of moral agents, all the prophecies of scripture have no better foundation than mere conjecture ; and that, in most instances, a conjecture which must have the utmost uncertainty ; depending on an innumerable, and, as it were, infinite multitude of volitions, which are all, even to God, uncertain events : However, these prophecies are delivered as absolute predictions, and very many of them in the most positive manner, with asseverations ; and some of them with the most solemn oaths.
Coroł. 3. It also follows, from what has been observed, that if this notion of God's ignorance of future volitions be true, in vain did Christ say (after uttering many great and important predictions, concerning God's moral kingdom, and things depending on men's moral actions) Matthew xxiv. 35. “ Heaven and earth shall pass away ; but my word shall not pass away.”
Coroi. 4. From the same notion of God's ignorance, it would follow, that in vain has God Himself often spoke of the predictions of his word, as evidences of his foreknowledge ; and so as evidences of that which is his prerogative as GOD, and his peculiar glory, greatly distinguishing Him from all other beings; as in Isa. xli. 22....26, xliii. 9, 10, xliv. 8, xlv. 21, xlvi. 10, and xlviii. 14.
ARG. II. If God does not foreknow the volitions of moral agents, then he did not foreknow the fall of man, nor of angels, and so could not foreknow the great things which are consequent on these events ; such as his sending his Son in
he setting in the vid in opp
to the world to die for sinners, and all things pertaining to the great work of redemption ; all the things which were done for four thousand years before Christ came, to prepare the way for it ; and the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ ; and the setting Him at the head of the universe, as King of heaven and earth, angels and men; and the setting up his church and kingdom in this world, and appointing Him the Judge of the world ; and all that Satan should do in the world in opposition to the kingdom of Christ : And the great transactions of the day of judgment, that men and devils shall be the subjects of, and angels concerned in; they are all what God was ignorant of before the fall. And if 80, the following scriptures, and others like them, must be without any meaning, or contrary to truth. Eph. i. 4. “ According as he hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.” 1 Pet. i. 20. « Who verily was foreordained be. fore the foundation of the world.” ? Tim. i. 9. « Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling; not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” So, Eph. iii. 11, (speaking of the wisdom of God in the work of redemption) “ According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus.” Tit. i. 2. 6 In hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie, promised before the world be. gan." Rom. viij. 29. “ Whom he did foreknow, them he also did predestinate," &c. į Peter i. 2. “ Elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father."
If God did not foreknow the fall of man, nor the redemption by Jesus Christ, nor the volitions of man since the fall ; then he did not foreknow the saints in any sense ; neither as particular persons, nor as societies or nations ; either by elec, tion, or mere foresight of their virtue or good works; or any foresight of any thing about them relating to their salvation ; or any benefit they have by Christ, or any manner of concern of their's with a Redeemer.
ARG. III. On the supposition of God's ignorance of the future volitions of free agents, it will follow, that God must in many cases truly repent what he has done, so as properly to wish he had done otherwise: By reason that the event of things, in those affairs which are most important, viz. the affairs of his moral kingdom, being uncertain and contingent, often happens quite otherwise than he was aware beforehand. And there would be reason to understand, that in the most literal sense, in Gen. vi. 6, “ It repented the Lord, that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” And that, 1 Sam. xv. 11, contrary to that, Numb. xxiii. 19, 6 God is not the Son of man, that He should repent.” And, 1 Sam. xv. 29, “ Also the strength of Israel will not lie, nor repent; for He is not a man that He should repent.” Yea, from this notion it would follow, that God is liable to repent and be grieved at his heart, in a literal sense, continually ; and is always exposed to an infinite number of real disappointments in his governing the world; and to manifold, constant, great perplexity and vexation; but this is not very consistent with his title of God over all, blessed forever more ; which represents Him as possessed of perfect, constant and uninterrupted tranquillity and felicity, as God over the uni. verse, and in his management of the affairs of the world, as supreme and universal Ruler. See Rom. i. 25. ix. 5. 2 Cor. xi. 31. 1 Tim. vi. 15.
ARG. IV. It will also follow from this notion, that as God is liable to be continually repenting what he has done ; so he must be exposed to be constantly changing his mind and in
tentions, as to his future conduct ; altering his measures, re· linquishing his old designs, and forming new schemes and projections. For his purposes, even as to the main parts of his scheme, namely, such as belong to the state of his moral kingdom, must be always liable to be broken, through want of foresight ; and he must be continually putting his system to rights, as it gets out of order through the contingence of the actions of moral agents ; he must be a Being, who, instead of being absolutely immutable, must necessarily be the subject of infinitely the most numerous acts of repentance, and changes of intention, of any being whatsoever ; for this plain reason, that his vastly extensive charge comprehends an infinitely greater number of those things which are to him contingent and uncertain. In such a situation, he must have little else to do, but to mend broken links as well as he can, and be rectifying his disjointed frame and disordered movements ; in the best manner the case will allow. The Supreme Lord of all things must needs be under great and miserable disadvantages, in governing the world which he has made and has the care of, through his being utterly unable to find out things of chief importance, which, hereafter shall befal his system ; which, if he did but know, he might make seasonable provision for. In many cases, there may be very great necessity that he should make provision, in the manner of his ordering and disposing things, for some great events which are to happen, of vast and extensive influence, and endless consequence to the universe ; which he may see afterwards, when it is too late, and may wish in vain that he had known before. hand, that he might have ordered his affairs accordingly. And it is in the power of man, on these principles, by his devices, purposes and actions, thus to disappoint God, break his meas, ures, make Him continually to change his mind, subject him to vexation, and bring him into confusion.
But how do these things consist with reason, or with the word of God? Which represents, that all God's works, all that he has ever to do, the whole scheme and series of his operations, are from the beginning perfectly in his view ; and declares, that whatever devices and designs are in the hearts of men, the counsel of the Lord is that which shall stand, and the thoughts of his heart to all generations,” Prov. xix. 21. Psal. xxxiï. 10, 11. « And that which the Lord of Hosts hath purposed, none shall disannul," Isa. xiv. 27. And that he cannot be frustrated in one design or thought, Job. xlii. 2. And that which God doth, it shall be forever, that nothing can be put to it, or taken from it,” Eccl. iii. 14. The stability and perpetuity of God's counsels are expressly spoken of as connected with the foreknowledge of God, Isaiah xlvi. 10.“ Dee claring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times, the things that are not yet done ; saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”.... And how are these things consistent with what, the Scripture says of God's in
mutability, which represents Him as “ without variableness, or shadow of turning ;” and speaks of Him most particularly as. unchangeable with regard to his purposes, Mal. iii. 6. “ I am the Lord; I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed,” Exod. iii. 14. I AM THAT I AM, Job. xxii. 13, 14. “He is in one mind; and who can turn Him? And what his soul desireth, even that he doth : For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me.”
ARG. V. If this notion of Gods's ignorance of the future politions of moral agents be thoroughly considered in its consequences, it will appear to follow from it, that God, after he had made the world, was liable to be wholly frustrated of his end in the creation of it; and so has been, in like manner, li. able to be frustrated of his end in all the great works he hath wrought. It is manifest, the moral world is the end of the nat. ural: The rest of the creation is but an house which God hath built, with furniture, for moral agents : And the good or bad state of the moral world depends on the improvement they make of their natural agency, and so depends on their volitions. And therefore, if these cannot be foreseen by God, because they are contingent, and subject to no kind of necessity, then the affairs of the moral world are liable to go wrong, to any assignable degree ; yea, liable to be utterly ruined. As on this scheme, it may well be supposed to be literally said, when mankind, by the abuse of their moral agency, became very corrupt before the flood, “that the Lord repented that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at his heart;" so, when He made the universe, He did not know but that he might be so disappointed in it, that it might grieve Him at his heart that he had made it. It actually proved, that all mankind became sinful, and a very great part of the angels apostastised: And how could God know beforehand, that all of them would not ? And how could God know but that all mankind, notwithstanding means used to reclaim them, being still left to the freedom of their own Will, would continue in their apostasy, and grow worse and worse, as they of the old world before the flood did?