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cient, it cannot be called a cause in any sense, much less cala it be termed necessity.
Nor do we imagine anything unworthy of God, when we assert that those conditional events depend on the human will, which God himself has chosen to place at the free disposal of man ; since the Deity purposely framed his own decrees with reference to particular circumstances, in order that he might permit free causes to act conformably to that liberty with which he had endued them. On the contrary, it would be much more unworthy of God, that man should nominally enjoy a liberty of which he was virtually deprived, which would be the case were that liberty to be oppressed or even obscured under the pretext of some sophistical necessity of immutability or infallibility, though not of compulsion,-a notion which has led, and still continues to lead, many individuals into error.
However, properly speaking, the divine counsels can be said to depend on nothing, but on the wisdom of God himself, whereby he perfectly
foreknew in his own mind from the beginning what would be the nature and event of every future occurrence when its appointed season should arrive.
But it is asked how events, which are uncertain, inasmuch as they depend on the human will, can harmonize with the decrees of God, which are immutably fixed ?' for it is written, Psal. xxxiii. 11. “ the counsel of Jehovah standeth for ever.” See also Prov. xix. 21. and Isai. xlvi. 10. Heb. vi. 17. “ the immutability of his counsel.” To this objection it may be answered, first, that to God the issue of events is not uncertain, but foreknown with the utmost certainty, though they be not decreed necessarily, as will appear hereafter.-Secondly, in all the passages referred to, the divine counsel is said to stand against all human power and counsel, but not against liberty of will in things which God himself has placed at man's disposal, and had determined so to place from all eternity. For otherwise one of God's decrees would be in direct opposition to another, which would lead to the very sive adjuvans et ministra.' Artis Logicæ plenior Institutin. Prose Works, VI. 206.
Yet more there be who doubt his ways not just,
Samson Agonistes, 300
consequence imputed by the objector to the doctrines of his opponents, inasmuch as by considering those things as necessary which the Deity has left to the uncontrolled decision of man, God would be rendered mutable. But God is not mutable, so long as he decrees nothing absolutely which could happen otherwise through the liberty assigned to man. He would indeed be mutable, neither would his counsel stand, if he were to obstruct by another decree that liberty which he had already decreed, or were to darken it with the least shadow of necessity.
It follows, therefore, that the liberty of man must be considered entirely independent of necessity, nor can any
admission be made in favour of that modification of the principle which is founded on the doctrine of God's immutability and prescience. If there be any necessity at all, as has been stated before, it either determines free agents to a particular line of conduct, or it constrains them against their will, or it co-operates with them in conjunction with their will, or it is altogether inoperative. If it determine free agents to a particular line pf conduct, man will be rendered the natural cause of all his actions, and consequently of his sins, and formed as it were with an inclination for sinning. If it constrain them. against their will, man being subject to this compulsory decree, becomes the cause of sins only per accidens, God being the cause of sins per se. If it co-operate with them in conjunction with their will, then God becomes either the principal or the joint cause of sins with man. If finally it be altogether inoperative, there is no such thing as necessity, it virtually destroys itself by being without operation. For it is wholly impossible, that God should have fixed by a necessary decree
9 So without least impulse or shadow of fate,
Or aught by me immutably foreseen,
Paradise Lost, III. 120.
what we know at the same time to be in the power of inan ; or that that should be immutable which it remains for subsequent contingent circumstances either to fulfil or frustrate.
Whatever, therefore, was left to the free will of our first parents, could not have been decreed immutably or absolutely from all eternity; and questionless, the Deity must either have never left any thing in the power of man, or he cannot be said to have determined finally respecting whatever was so left without reference to possible contingencies.
If it be objected, that this doctrine leads to absurd consequences, we reply, either the consequences are not absurd, or they are not the consequences of the doctrine. For it is neither.impious nor absurd to say, that the idea of certain things or events might be suggested to God from some extraneous source; since inasmuch as God had determined from all eternity, that man should so far be a free agent, that it remained with himself to decide whether he would stand or fall,” the idea of that evil event, or of the fall of man, was suggested to God from an extraneous source, -a truth which all confess.
Nor does it follow from hence, that what is temporal becomes the cause of, or a restriction upon what is eternal, for it was not any thing temporal, but the wisdom of the eternal mind that gave occasion for framing the divine counsel.
Seeing, therefore that, in assigning the gift of free will, God suffered both men and angels to stand or fall at their
.. such discourse bring on
Paradise Lost, V. 233 3 So Satan, speaking of himself :
Hadst thou the same free will and power to stand ?
IV. 66. And Raphael ;
Myself, and all the angelick host, that stand
own uncontrolled choice, there can be no doubt that the decree itself bore a strict analogy to the object which the divine counsel regarded, not necessitating the evil consequences which ensued, but leaving them contingent; hence the covenant was of this kind-if thou stand, thou shalt abide in Paradise ; if thou fall, thou shalt be cast out: if thou eat not the forbidden fruit, thou shalt live ; if thou eat, thou shalt die.
Hence, those who contend that the liberty of actions is subject to an absolute decree, erroneously conclude that the decree of God is the cause of his foreknowledge, and antecedent in order of time. If we must apply to God a phraseology borrowed from our own habits and understanding, to consider his decrees as consequent upon his foreknowledge seems more agreeable to reason, as well as to Scripture, and to the nature of the Deity himself, who, as has just been proved, decreed every thing according to his infinite wisdom by virtue of his foreknowledge.
That the will of God is the first cause of all things, is not intended to be denied, but his prescience and wisdorn must not be separated from his will, much less considered as subsequent to the latter in point of time. The will of God, in fine, is not less the universal first cause, because he has himself decreed that some things should be left to our own free will, than if each particular event had been decreed necessarily.
To comprehend the whole matter in a few words, the sum of the argument may be thus stated in strict conformity with
God of his wisdom determined to create men and angels reasonable beings, and therefore free agents ; foreseeing at the same time which way the bias of their will would incline, in the exercise of their own uncontrolled
thine and of all thy sons
Free in thine own arbitrement it lies. Paradise Lost, VIII. 637. 6 According to the Supralapsarian doctrine, that a prescience of future contingents, antecedent to the divine decree, is an absurdity and an im. possibility.
God left free the will, for what obeys
liberty.? What then? shall we say that this foresight or foreknowledge on the part of God imposed on them the necessity of acting in
definite way? No more than if the future event had been foreseen by any human being. For what any
human being has foreseen as certain to happen, will not less certainly happen than what God himself has predicted. Thus Elisha foresaw how much evil Hazael would bring upon the children of Israel in the course of a few years, 2 Kings viii. 12. Yet no one would affirm that the evil took place necessarily on account of the foreknowledge of Elisha ; for had he never foreknown it, the event would have occurred with equal certainty, through the free will of the agent. In like manner nothing happens of necessity, because God has foreseen it; but he foresees the event of every action, because he is acquainted with their natural causes, which, in pursuance of his own decree, are left at liberty to exert their legitimate influence. Consequently the issue does not depend on God who foresees it, but on him alone who is the object of his foresight. Since, therefore, as has before been shewn, there can be no absolute decree of God regarding free agents, undoubtedly the prescience of the Deity (which can no more bias free agents than the prescience of man, that is, not at all, since the action in both cases is intransitive, and has no external influence,) can neither impose any necessity of itself, nor can it be considered at ail as the cause of free actions. If it be so considered, the very name of liberty must be altogether abolished as an unmeaning sound; and that not only in matters of religion, but even in questions of morality and indifferent things. There can be nothing but what will happen necessarily, since there is nothing but what is foreknown by God.
That this long discussion may be at length concluded by a brief
summary of the whole matter, we must hold that God foreknows all future events, but that he has not decreed them all absolutely: lest the consequence should be that sin in general would be imputed to the Deity, and evil spirits 910
What can 'scape the eye