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Concerning the Divine Decrees, in general, and
Election in particular.
61. W HETHER God has decreed all things that ever came to pass or not, all that own the being of a God, own that he knows all things beforehand. Now, it is selfevident, that if he knows all things beforehand, he either doth approve of them, or he doth not approve of them ; that is, he either is willing they should be, or he is not willing they should be. But to will that they should be, is to decree them.
$2. The Arminians ridicule the distinction between the secret and revealed will of God; or, more properly expressed, the distinction between the decree and law of God; because we say he may decree one thing, and command another. And so, they argue, we hold a contrariety in God, as if one will of his contradicted another. However, if they will call this a contradiction of wills, we know that there is such a thing ; so that it is the greatest absurdity to dispute about it. We and they know it was God's secret will, that Abraham should not sacrifice his son Isaac ; but yet his command was, that he should do it. We know that God willed, that Pharaoh's heart should be hardened ; and yet, that the hardness of his heart was sin. We know that God willed the Egyptians should · hate God's people : Psal. cv. 25. «He turned their heart to hate his people, and deal subtilly with his servants.” We know that it was God's will, that Absalom should lie with Da. vid's wives ; 2 Sam. xii. 11. « Thus saith the Lord, I wilt raise up this evil against thee, out of thine own house ; and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbor ; and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly ; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.” We know that God willed that Jeroboam and the ten tribes should rebel. The same may be said of the plunder of the Babylonians; and other instances might be given. The scripture plainly tells us, that God wills to harden some men, Rom. ix. 18. That he willed that Christ should be killed by men, &c.
S 3. It is most certain, that if there are any things so contingent, that there is an equal possibility of their being or not being, so that they may be, or they may not be ; God foreknows from all eternity that they may be, and also that they may not be. All will grant that we need no revelation to teach us this.' And furthermore, if God knows all things that are to come to pass, he also foreknows whether those contingent things are to come to pass or no, at the same time that they are contingent, and that they may or may not come to pass. But what a contradiction is it to say, that God knows a thing will come to pass, and yet at the same time knows that it is contingent whether it will come to pass or no; that is, he certainly knows it will come to pass, and yet certainly knows it may not come to pass ? What a contradiction is it to say, that God certainly foreknew that Judas would betray his master, or Peter deny him, and yet certainly knew that it might be otherwise, or certainly knew that he might be deceived ? I 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 do not certainly know it; and that is the same thing as certainly to know it, and not certainjy to know it at the same time ; which we leave to be considered, whether it be not a contradiction.
94. 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 but 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, because he decrees the earnest prayers of his people; or thús, he decrees the 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 decrees 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 de decrees summer, then he decrees the growing of plants; when he decrees conformity to his Son, then he decrees calling; when he decrees calling, then he decrees justi. fication ; and when he decrees justification, then he decrees VOL. V.
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 improper to make one decree a condition of another, as to make the oth- er a condition of that : But there is a harmony between both.
85. It cannot be any injustice in God to determine who is certainly to sin, and so certainly to be damned. For, if we suppose this impossibility, that God had not determined any thing, things would happen as fatally as they do now. For, 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 when 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. Wherefore, seeing things do unavoidably go fatally and necessarily, what injustice is it in the Supreme Being, seeing it is a contradiction that it should be otherwise, to decree that they should be as they are ?
96. 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.
If it will universally hold, that none can have absolutely perfect and complete happiness, at the same time that any thing is otherwise than he desires at that time it should be; or thus, if it be true, that he has not absolute, perfect, infinite
and all possible happiness now, who has not now all that he wills to have now : Then God, if any thing is now otherwise than he wills to have it now, is not now absolutely, perfectly and infinitely happy. If God is infinitely happy now, then every thing is now, as God would have it to be now; if every thing, then those things that are contrary to his commands. If so, it is not ridiculous to say, that things which are contrary to God's commands, are yet in a sense agreeable to his will. Again, let it be considered, whether it be not certainly true, that every one that can with infinite ease have a thing done, and yet will not have it done, wills it not ; that is, whether or no he that wills, not to have a thing done, properly wills not to have a thing done. For example, let the thing be this, that Judas should be faithful to his Lord ; whether it be not true, that if God could with infinite ease have it done as he would, but would not have it done as he could, if he would, it be not proper to say, that God would not have it be, that Judas should be faithful to his Lord.
57. 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 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. That we should say, that God has decreed every action of men, yea, every action that is sinful, and every circum