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vain ; and can no more change the purpose of God, than prayer. With just the same propriety and force, may the farmer say, " It is in vain for me to plough, or sow, or reap: since, if God has determined to give me a crop, I shall have it without either of these efforts. On the contrary, if he has determined not to give me a crop; I shall not have it, however faithfully I may labour. My ploughing, sowing, and reaping, therefore, must be all idle, because they will all be fruitless."
In the same manner may the Student say, • If God has determined that I should possess learning, I shall possess it without study: but if he has determined that I shall not possess learning, I shall not acquire it, although I study with ever so much dili
In the same manner, may every man say concerning his exertions.
This reasoning, were we governed by it, would plainly put an end to all human exertions at once : and we should neither plough, nor build, nor collect food, or fuel; nor teach, nor study, Dor make any other attempt to promote the good, either of our. selves or others. Conclusions, so evidently false as these, and so fraught with necessary mischief, cannot flow from sound principles. Safely, therefore, may we pronounce the proofs, by which they are professedly established, to be hollow and deceitful.
3. There is a radical, and gross, error in this objection ; viz. that God has predetermined the end, and not the means.
This opinion is equally contradictory to the Scriptures, and to common sense. St. Paul, a little before his shipwreck, was informed by an Angel, that God had given him all them, that sailed with him. Yet afterwards, when the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship; when they had let down the boat into the sea; Paul said to the centurion, and the soldiers, except these abide in the ship ye cannot be saved. Acts xxvii. 22, 30, 31. The end, here determined, was the preservation of the ship's company. The means, indispensable to this end, were the continuance of the seamen in the ship, and their exertions to bring it to land. These were predetermined equally with the end; and were absolutely necessary to its existence. Equally necessary are ploughing and sowing, rain and sunshine, to the existence of a crop; studying, to the acquisition of knowledge ; and all other efforts of men, to the purposes, which they actually accomplish. All these are equally predetermined with the ends accomplished; and equally parts of the divine system.
Another error is involved, also, in the same objection; viz. that God bestows blessings upon mankind, which are not given in answer to prayer. Of such a determination there is not, and there cannot be, any evidence. The Scriptures decisively teach us, that the only condition of receiving is asking. Prayer therefore, as means to the end, that is, the reception of blessings, is itself a part, and an inseparable part, of the predetermined plan of God. When any man considers how useful prayer is to form us into a fitness for the reception of blessings; he will easily discern one great and solid reason of this divine constitution of things.
There is no moral subject, concerning which mankind appear to have fallen into more, and greater, errors, than concerning this. The character of God, with respect to both these subjects, is undoubtedly far removed, in many particulars, above our comprehension. In several others, it seems to be capable of a satisfactory illustration to a sober mind, not unwilling to be satisfied. Nothing is more certain, than that, if God ever was, is, or will be, the subject of any determinations, he must have formed them from eternity. In him there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of course, he can never be the subject of any new determinations. He can have no new ideas, thoughts, or views. All his works were known to him from the beginning. This is certain even to Reason; for all his works were contriyed by him, and therefore were unquestionably known. Hence, no being, and no event, can be any thing, but what he contrived, and knew. As he is perfectly the same; as the being, and the event, in each case is, also, invariably the same, as when originally contemplated by him ; whatever choice, or preference, he originally experienced, must for ever be his invariable choice, or preference. If, therefore, he did not originally determine, choose, or prefer, he certainly never will.
Further; The existence of God is one unvarying present existence; and his duration an eternal Now, without past, or fu
ture ; nearer in its nature to one indivisible moment of our existence, than to any thing else, which we experience, or know. He literally inhabits eternity, or fills it all at once ; just as he fills immensity at once, and not, successively, its several parts. When, therefore, we say, that God predetermined all things, it is as true, in the metaphysical sense, that he determines them after, as before, their existence. In strict truth, there is no proper comparison between our successive being, and the unchanging existence of God. One thing only is present to us at any present time. Every thing, and every time, is absolutely present to God. His creation and providence, together with all their beings and events, are always before his view, as a picture, containing many images, is present before ours.
Every part of God's predetermination is founded on exactly the same reasons with those, on which the same determination would be founded, if all beings and events had already existed; and God, in possession of the same omniscience, should then survey them with a perfect discernment of their natures and relations, form his own determinations concerning them, and pronounce, with respect to every one, his unerring judgment. Of course, his predeterminations are exactly the same with such determinations, as would exist in his mind, after every thing had taken place; and are all exactly just, and right; such as perfect wisdom and goodness, understanding them entirely, would dictate, and approve.
Nor is the immutability of God at all more liable to objections. God from everlasting was exactly what all beings ought to wish him to be; possessed of every excellence in an infinite degree, and the subject of no imperfection either natural or moral. He knows, and ever knew, all things, both actual and possible. He can do all things; and is infinitely disposed to do every thing, and that only, which is absolutely right and good. Consequently there is nothing, there never has been, there never will be, any thing, which, considered merely as a work of God, is not exactly right. In that vast kingdom, which fills immensity and eternity, there will never exist a single being, or event, which perfect wisdom and goodness could wish not to have existed.
Who can rationally desire a change in such a character as
this? What would the change be? A change from perfection to imperfection; from knowledge to ignorance; from truth to falsehood; from justice to injustice; from kindness to cruelty; from universal excellence to universal turpitude. Perfection can be changed into nothing but imperfection. The immutability of God is indispensable to the glory of his character; and is itself a part of his perfection : for no mutable being can be perfect in the same sense with one, who is immutable. Equally is it the corner-stone, on which the universe rests. Were this support taken away, the immense fabric would tumble into ruin. To his creatures there would be neither safety, nor hope: but immensity, and eternity would be filled with suspense, terror, and anguish.
Particularly, there would not, in this case, be the least foundation for encouragement in prayer. If all the determinations of God were not settled in heaven; who could divine what new decisions would exist? what new laws ? what new systems of admi. nistration ? Prayer, commanded to-day, might be forbidden tomorrow. Prayer, acceptable to him to-day, might be hateful to him to-morrow. The things, for which we now ask with certain assurance of being hcard, might speedily be denied. at one season did his duty, might, at another, by the very same conduct, be only exposed to punishment. Nothing in this case, could be known by creatures to be permanently agreeable to his will, and finally secure of a reward. The government of the uni. verse would be a government of fickleness and caprice ; and consequently more or less, and no finite being can conjecture how far, a government of oppression and cruelty. Think what would be the exertions and effects of Infinite knowledge and power, wielding the sceptre of the universe under the control of so dangerous a disposition. For aught that can be foreseen, the time might speedily, as well as easily, arrive, when under such a dominion, this vast empire might, in a moment of change, be reduced to a desert of ravage and ruin.
As things are actually ordered by God, every part of the system is established on immoveable foundations. Every Intelligent creature knows therefore, or may know, on what he is absolutely to depend. If he is obedient, his obedience will always be ac
ceptable to his Maker. The law, once established, will never be changed. Sooner shall Headen and Earth pass away, than one jot, or title, of it shall pass, until all be fulfilled.
Every declaration of God is true : every promise will be exactly accomplished. Whatever sins, or backslidings, the children of God may have committed; his promise assures them of everlasting life. Whatever gross guilt, or impious rebellion, a Christian may have been the subject of, if they do not involve the sin against the Holy Ghost, still, if he exercises repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, he will be received in the end.
Of this unchangeable system, one great and glorious part is, that every humble, faithful prayer shall be certainly heard, accepted, and answered. Not one ever was, or ever will be, offer. ed up in vain. This scheme of things contains every possible encouragement to pray; and displays the absolute necessity, as well as the superior usefulness and efficacy, of prayer. Any other scheme would exceedingly lessen, or entirely destroy, both the encouragement, and the usefulness, of prayer.
So far, thèn, are the predetermination and immutability of God from preventing and discouraging prayer, that they hold out infinitely more and greater inducements to this duty, than can be furnished in any other manner.
I have dwelt the longer, and the more particularly, upon this objection, because I consider it as the fundamental one ; and because I believe it to be, in some minds, regarded as possessing real weighc, and attended by real difficulties.
2. Il is also objected, that it is useless, and impertinent, to declare our wants to an omniscient Being, because he knows them already.
That God knows all our wants, that he knows them more perfectly than ourselves, and that he thus knew them from eternity, will
, it is presumed, be universally admitted here. This knowledge must be attributed to God by every man, who believes the Scriptures, or considers him as the Author of all things. To give him, therefore, any information concerning ourselves, with a supposition that he needs thus to be informed, can never be the