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en advantage to the opposers of the doctrine, and increased their prejudices. Therefore nothing of this kind will be attempted here. It may however be observed, that this manner of subsistence in three persons, though incomprehensible to us, may be essential to the infinitely perfect Being, and that otherwise he would not be absolutely perfect, all-sufficient, and infinitely blessed. Have we not reason to conclude that this distinction of three in one, is that in which the most perfect and happy society consists, in which love and friendship is exercised to the highest perfection, and with infinite enjoyment, and felicity ? And that the most perfect and happy society of creatures, united together forever, in the kingdom of God, in the strongest, sweetest love and friendship, is an emanation from this infinite THREE ONE, as the fountain and pattern of all happy society and friendship ; and the highest possible resemblance and imitation of it? This idea seems to be suggested, if not necessarily implied, in what Christ says in his prayer to the Father.

" That they all may be one. as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee ; that they also may be one in us. That they may be one,

I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one. That the love wherewith thou hast loved me, may be in them, and I in them."

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even as we are one.

CHAP. IV.

ON THE DECREES OF GOD.

HAVING considered what God is, the next inquiry will be concerning the divine operations and works. And in these are included the decrees, which are first to be considered ; as they are the foundation and origin of all his exertions and works, ad extra, in creation and providence : For God worketh all things after the council of his own will. Indeed, every thing which is properly an effect, has its foundation in the purpose or decree of God, as its original cause, without which it could not

have taken place. And every such effect is fixed and made sure of existence by the divine decree, and infalli. bly connected with it.

The assembly of Divines, in their shorter catechism, have given a concise definition of the decrees of God, which is both rational and agreeable to the holy scrip. tures, viz.

“ The decrees of God are his eternal pur, pose, according to the council of his own will, whereby for his own glory he hath fore ordained whatsoever comes to pass.” And in their confession of faith, in words a little different, “ God, from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy council of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.”

The decrees of God must be from eternity, and not in time. He who exists without beginning, absolutely independent, omnipotent, infinite in understanding and wisdom, must know what is wisest and best, or what is most agreeable to him with respect to all possible effects or events ; and therefore must determine what should actually take place, and what should not. Such determination or decree is, in such a sense, essential to the divine existence, that the former must be coeval with the latter, and is necessarily implied in it. Besides, if any of the purposes or decrees of God, be in time, or later than his existence, he must be changeable, by hav. ing new determinations, new views and designs, which he had not before ; which is inconsistent with his necessary existence, his infinity, and absolute perfection, all which are essential to God, as has been proved.

Therefore in scripture the purpose or decrees of God are said to be eternal. “Known unto God are all his works, from the beginning of the world,” or from eternity, as it should have been rendered. If God's knowing all his works from eternity does not mean his

purpose concerning them, it necessarily implies this ; for how could he know what he would do, if he had no will or purpose to do?"

According to the eternal purpose, which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord."*

Though God be sovereign in his decrees, and all his operations ; that is, he has determined every thing and every event just as he pleased, being infinitely above all

• Eph. ü. 11. See also Eph. i. 4. 1 Cor. ü. 7.

2 Tim. i. 9.

control by the will or power of any one; and under no obligation to any other being; yet they are not arbitrary, that is, determined and fixed without any reason why he should purpose and decree as he has done, rather than the contrary, or otherwise : But they are all infinitely wise and good, or the dictates of the most perfect wisdom. For if God decree or act, he must decree and act like himself, an infinitely wise Being. Infinite wisdom is able or sufficient to form the wisest and best plan of creation and providence, of a world or system, be it ever so large and complicated, and however many creatures, things and events, it may comprehend; and though it include innumerable existencies and events without any end. Such a plan is therefore formed and fixed upon by the divine decrees, which is of all other possible plans the wisest and the best: For if it were otherwise it would be so far disagreeable, defective, unwise, and wrong.

The scripture therefore ascribes wisdom to God in all his works, by which his wise purpose and decrees are brought into effect. “O Lord, how manifold are thy works ! In wisdom hast thou made them all."'* “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out !”+

' The decrees of God are unchangeable; they are fixed from eternity, and cannot be altered, in any degree, or with respect to any thing, event, or circumstance. “ The counsel of the Lord standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.”” “ He is in one mind, and who can turn him ? That the divine purpose is unalterable, is as evident and certain as that God is unchangeable ; for alteration of God's design or decree is a change in God : And this necessarily supposes im. perfection. And it is unspeakably undesirable and dreadful to suppose, that the infinitely wise and good purpose and decree of God, as all his decrees are, should be capable of any possible change or alteration ; so as to fail of the most exact and perfect execution. And the more stable and fixed the infinitely wise decrees of God are, and the farther from all possible change, the * Psalm civ. 24. † Rom. xi. 31. * Psalm xxxiii, 11. S Job xxiii, 13. more agreeable, and the greater ground of joy, are they to every one who is a friend of wisdom.

It may be farther observed, concerning the decrees of God, that they extend to every thing, and every event, though ever so small, compared with others, and every the most minute circumstance that takes place, or will exist to eternity. For every one of these are necessary parts of the most wise and perfect plan ; otherwise they could have no existence in it. And if one of these had been left out of the divine plan, it would have been so far less perfect, and really defective. It is not to be supposed that of any two possible existences, events, or circumstances of existence, there should be no difference in any respect; so that one could not be preferred to the other, by infinite wisdom, as better and more suited to answer the end proposed, than the other; though we, or finite discerning, may not be able to perceive any difference: Therefore infinite wisdom discerns and fixes upon that which is preferable and best, in every instance. No two proposed or possible objects, events or circumstances, being perfectly alike or equal in the view of omniscience, there is ground of choice and preference ; so that the divine determination respecting the actual existence of all these, and their taking place in all respects exactly as they do, or will, is, in every instance, most wise : and no thing, event, or circumstance, would be in any other respect otherwise consistent with infinite wisdom.

Jesus Christ teaches us that God's providence and care extend to the smallest things, and most minute circumstances, when he says to his disciples, “ Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings ? and not one of them is forgotten before God, or shall fall on the ground, without your heavenly Father : But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”

It may be of some importance to observe here, that there is a distinction and difference between the decrees of God, and his foreknowledge, as the words are commonly used. Divine foreknowledge is God's foreseeing future existence and events, and knowing from eternity what would take place in all futurity, to eternity, or without end. This foreknowledge is not only to be distinguished from the decree ; but must be considered as,

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in order of nature, consequent upon the determination and purpose of God, and dependent upon it. For the futurition or futurity of all things depends upon the decrees of God; by these every created existence, and every event, with all their circumstances, are fixed and made certain ; and in consequence of their being thus decreed, they are the objects of foreknowledge ; for they could not be known to be future, unless they were so; and they were made so by the divine decree, and nothing else. If we may so speak, God foreknew all things, that were to come to pass, by knowing his own purpose and decrees, by which their existence was made certain. Had God decreed nothing respecting future existences, by creation and providence, there could have been no foreknowledge of any thing whatsoever. Hence the decrees of God may be certainly inferred from his foreknowledge ; for the former must be as extensive as the latter ; and nothing can be foreknown or seen to have a future existence, the future existence of which has not been made certain by a divine decree.

All future existences, events and actions, must have a cause of their futurition, or there must be a reason why they are future, or certainly to take place, rather than not. This cause must be the divine decree determining their future existence, or it must be in the future existences themselves ; for there is no other possible supposition. But the future existences could not be the cause of their own futurition ; for this supposes them to exist as a cause, and to have influence, before they have any existence, even from eternity. And if they may be the cause of their own futurition, or become future of themselves, then they might actually exist of themselves ; for by becoming future, their existence is made certain and necessary; therefore that which makes them certainly future, is really the cause of their existence. This therefore can be nothing but the divine de. cree, determining their future existence, without which nothing could be future, consequently nothing could be known to be future. They therefore who deny the doctrine of God's decrees, and yet acknowledge the omniscience of God, and that all future events were known to him from eternity, are really inconsistent : for if the

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