Page images

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.

We must conclude, therefore, 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.8 Gen. xix.

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, whom he would nevertheless have put to death, Exod iv. 24, if he had not immediately circumcised his son. 1 Sam. ii. 30. “ I said

17, 21. "

$ 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 ? 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 only what they needs must do appear'd,
Not what they would ? what praise could they receive,
What pleasure I, from such obedience paid,
When will and reason (reason also is choice)
Useless and vain, of freedom both despoil'd,
Made passive both, had serv'd necessity,
Not me? They therefore as to right belong'd,
So were created, nor can justly accuse
Their Maker, or their making, or their fate, .
As if predestination over-ruld
Their will, dispos’d by absolute decree
Or high foreknowledge; they themselves decreed
Their own revolt, not I; if I foreknew,
Foreknowledge had no influence on their fault,
Which had no less prov'd certain, unforeknown, &c. &c.

Paradise Lost, III. 9

indeed ... but now Jehovah.saith, Be it far from me ; " --aud 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 event, 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 rescind the decree, because that people hath not kept the condition on which the decree depended. 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. iv. "yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown”—whereas it appears from the tenth verse, that when God saw that they turned from their evil way, he repented of his purpose, notwithstanding the anger of Jonah, who thought the change unworthy of God. Acts xxvii. 24, 31. God hath given thee all them that sail with thee"--and again—"except 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.'

9. Ex his verbis (nisi isti in navi manserint, &c.) liquet apostolum, qui optime mentem divini promissi intelligebat, non credidisse Deum absolute


[ocr errors]


It appears, therefore, from these passages of Scripture, as well as from many others of the same kind, to which we must bow, as to a paramount authority, 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 of solid argument, this theory of contingent decrees may be defended even on the principles of men, as most wise, and in no respect unworthy of the Deity. For if those decrees of God which have been referred to above, and such others of the same class as occur perpe. tually, were to be understood in an absolute sense, without any implied conditions, God would contradict himself, und appear inconsistent.

It is argued, however, that in such instances not only was the ultimate purpose predestinated, but even the means themselves were predestinated with a view to it.' So, indeed, it is asserted, but not on the authority of Scripture ; and the silence of Scripture would alone be a sufficient reason for rejecting the doctrine. But it is also attended by this additional inconvenience, that it would entirely take away from human affairs all liberty of action, all endeavour and desire to do right. For we might argue thus-If God have at all events decreed my salvation, however I may act, I shall not perish. But God has also decreed as the means of salvation that you should act rightly. I cannot, therefore, but act rightly at some time or other, since God has so decreed-in the mean time I will do as I please ; if I never act rightly, it will be seen that I was never predestinated to salvation, and that whatever good I might have done would have been to no purpose. See more on this subject in the following Chapter.

Nor is it sufficient to affirm in reply, that it is not comvelle salvare eos omnes qui in navi erant; sed tantum sub hac conditione, si nihil eorum omitterent quæ ad suam incolumitatem facere poterant.... Sed conditionem in promisso quod acceperat inclusam fuisse, non obscure liquet ex verbis quibus conceptum fuit, ecce Deus kexápiorai ooi omnes qui tecum navigant, id est, 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.' Curcellæi Institutio, iii. 11. 4.

See this position maintained in Thomas Aquinas, with his inferential distinction between free will in sensu composito and in sensu diviso.




pulsory necessity? which is here intended, but a necessity arising from the immutability of God, whereby all things are decreed, or a necessity arising from his infallibility or prescience, whereby all things are foreknown.

I shall dispose hereafter of this twofold necessity of the schools ;' in the meantime no other law of necessity can be admitted than what logic, or, in other words, what sound reason teaches ; that is to say, when the efficient either causes some deter. minate and uniform effect by its own inherent propensity, as for example, when fire burns, which kind is denominated physical necessity; or when the efficient is compelled by some extraneous force to operate the effect, which is called pulsory necessity, and in the latter case, whatever effect the efficient produces, it produces per accidens. Now any necessity arising from external causes influences the agent either determinately or compulsorily; and it is apparent that on either alternative his liberty must be wholly annihilated. But though a certain immutable and internal necessity of acting rightly, independent of all extraneous influence whatever, may exist in God conjointly with the most perfect liberty, both which principles in the same divine nature tend to the same point, it does not therefore follow that the same thing can be conceded with regard to two different natures, as the nature of God and the nature of man, in which case the external immutability of one party may be in opposition to the internal liberty of the other, and may prevent unity of will. Nor is it admitted that the actions of God are in themselves necessary, but only that he has a necessary existence ; for Scripture itself testifies that his decrees, and therefore his actions, of what kind soever they be, are perfectly free.

? Archb. King has an able chapter on the opinion of those who admit of freedom from compulsion only, but not from necessity. Origin of Evil, chap. v. sect. 1. subject 1. On the whole subject, consult Taylor's Ductor Dubitantium, B. iv. chap. i. ; Locke On Human Understanding, B. ii. chap. xxi.

3 But when I say that the divine decree or promise imprints a necessity upon things, it may, to prevent misapprehension, be needful to explain what kind of necessity this is, that so the liberty of second causes be not thereby wholly cashiered and taken away. For this therefore we are to observe that the schools distinguish of a twofold necessity, physical and logical, or causal and consequential ; which terms are commonly thus explained ; viz. that physical or causal necessity is when a thing by an efficient productive influence certainly and naturally produces such an effect,' &c. South's Sermon on the Resurrection, Vol. III. p. 398. "Graviter itaque errare censendi sunt, qui duplicem necessitatem rebus tribuunt, ex providentia divina, unam immutabilitatis, quia cum Deus non mutet decretum, sicut dicitur Psal. xxxiii. 11. Mal. ii. 6. quicquid omnino decrevit, certissime evenit: alteram infallibilitatis, quia,' &c. Curcellæi Institutio. iii. 12. 16. See also lib. iv. 2. 5.

4 .Multoque minus constitui, canones quidvis potius quam logicos, a theo. logis infercire : quos illi, quasi subornatos in suum usum, tanquam e media logica petitos, deproment de Deo, divinisque hypostasibus et sacramentis quorum ratione, quo modo est ap ipsis informata, nihil est a logica, adeoque ut ipsa ratione, alienius. Artis Logicæ plenior Institutio, Prose Works, Symmons' ed. VI. 196. I have quoted the whole sentence, because, inde. pendently of the similarity of expression in the concluding clause, it contains a remarkable indication of Milton's opinion respecting other subjects mentioned in the course of this treatise.

5. Tertio causa efficiens per se efficit, aut per accidens. Tertium hoc par modorum efficiendi est, ab Aristotele etiam et veteribus notatum.' Artis Logicæ plenior Institutio. Prose Works, VI. 208. And again'Quæ autem natura necessari 7, quæ consilio, libere agunt; necessario ago

But it is objected that divine necessity, or a first cause, imposes no constraint upon the liberty of free agents. I answer,if it do not constrain, it either determines, or co-operates, or is wholly inefficient. If it determine or co-operate, it is either the sole or the joint and principal cause of every action, whether good or bad, of free agents. If it be wholly ineffi

quæ aliter agere non potest, sed ad unum quidpiam agendum determinatur, idque solum sua propensione agit, quæ necessitas naturæ dicitur . Libere agit efficiens non hoc duntaxat ut naturale agens, sed hoc vel illud pro arbitrio, idque absolute, vel ex hypothesi ..... Per accidens efficit causa quæ externa facultate efficit ; id est, non sua; cum principium effecti est extra efficientem, externumque principium interno oppositum ; slc nempe efficiens non efficit per se, sed per aliud . Coactione fit aliquid, cum efficiens vi cogitur ad effectum. Ut cum lapis sursum vel recta projicitur, qui suapte natura deorsum fertur. Hæc necessitas coactionis dicitur, et causis etiam liberis nonnunquam accidere potest.'— Ibid. 209.

6 • Absolute solus Deus libere agit omnia; id est, quicquid vult : et agere potest, vel non agere; testantur hoc passim sacræ literæ ?' Artis Logicæ plenior Institutio, Prose Works, VI. 209.

The allusion appears to be to the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas and the Dominicans, who held that God predetermined the will by a physical influence, so that the Deity was the first cause of the action, and the creature the second cause, all the guilt of the sin being attributed to the latter party. With regard to the logical distinction, nearly the very words of the original occur elsewhere. • Secundo, causa efficiens sola efficit, aut cum aliis. Earumque omnium sæpe alia principalis, alia minus principalis,


« PreviousContinue »