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Of a supposed Inconsistence between these principles and God’s moral character.
The things which have been already observed, may be sufficient to answer most of the objections, and silence the great exclamations of Arminians against the Calvinists, from the supposed inconsistence of Calvinistic principles with the moral perfections of God, as exercised in his government of mankind. The consistence of such a doctrine of necessity as has been maintained, with the fitness and reasonableness of God’s commands, promises and threatenings, rewards and punishments, has been particularly 83 considered. The cavils of our opponents, as though our doctrine of necessity made God the author of sin, have been answered; and also their objections against these principles, as inconsistent with God’s sincerity, in his counsels, invitations and persuasions, has been already obviated, in what has been observed respecting the consistence of what Calvinists suppose, concerning the secret and revealed Will of God. By that it appears, there is no repugnance in supposing it may be the secret Wilt of God, that his ordination and permission of events should be such, that it shall be a certain consequence, that a thing never will come to pass; which yet it is man’s duty to do, and so God’s preceptive Will, that he should do; and this is the same thing as to say, God may sincerely command and require him to do it. And if he may be sincere in commanding him, he may, for the same reason, be sincere in counselling, inviting, and using persuasions with him to do it. Counsels and invitations are manifestations of God’s preceptive Will, or of what God loves, and what is in itself, and as man’s act, agreeable to his heart; and not of his disposing Will, and what he chooses as a part of his own infinite scheme of things. It has been particularly shewn, Part III. Sect. IV. that such a necessity as has been maintained, is not inconsistent with the propriety and fitness of divine commands; and for the same reason, not inconsistent with the sincerity of invitations and counsels, in the Corollary at the end of that section. Yea, it hath been shown, Part III. Sect. VII. Corol. 1. that this objection of Arminians, concerning the sincerity and use of divine exhortations, invitations, and counsels, is demonstrably against themselves.
Notwithstanding, I would further observe, that the difficulty of reconciling the sincerity of counsels, invitations, and persuasions with such an antecedent known fixedness of all events, as has been supposed, is not peculiar to this scheme, as distinguished from that of the generality of Arminians, which acknowledge the absolute foreknowledge of God: and therefore, it would be unreasonably brought as an objection against my differing from them. The main seeming difficulty in the case is this: that God, in counselling, inviting, and persuading, makes a show of aiming at, seeking, and using endeavours for the thing exhorted and persuaded to; whereas, it is impossible for any intelligent being truly to seek, or use endeavours for a thing, which he at the same time knows, most perfectly, will not come to pass; and that it is absurd to suppose, he makes the obtaining of a thing his end, in his calls and counsels, which he, at the same time, infallibly knows will not be obtained by these means. Now, if God knows this, in the utmost certainty and perfection, the way by which he comes by this knowledge makes no difference. If he knows it is by the necessity which he sees in things, or by some other means; it alters not the case. But it is in effect allowed by Arminians themselves, that God’s inviting and persuading men to do things, which he, at the same time, certainly knows will not be done, is no evidence of insincerity; because they allow, that God has a certain foreknowledge of all sinful actions and omissions. And as this is implicitly allowed by most Arminians, so all that pretend to own the Scriptures to be the word of God, must be constrained to allow it.—God commanded and counselled Pharaoh to let his people go, and used arguments and persuasions to induce him to it; he laid before him arguments taken from his infinite greatness and almighty power, (Exod. vii. 16) and forewarned him of the fatal consequences of his refusal, from time to time; ( chap. viii. 1, 2, 20, 21. Exod. viii. 1, 2, 20, 21., Exod. ix. 1-5, 13-17.Exod. x. 3, 6. and x. 3, 6.) He commanded Moses, and the elders of Israel, to go and beseech Pharaoh to let the people go; and at the same time told them, he knew surely that he would not comply with it. (Exod. iii. 18, 19.) “And thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and you shall say unto him, The Lord God of the Hebrews hath met with us; and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice unto the Lord our God:” and, “I am sure, that the king of Egypt will not let you go.” So our blessed Saviour, the evening wherein he was betrayed, knew that Peter would shamefully deny him, before the morning; for he declares it to him with asseverations, to show the certainty of it; and tells the disciples, that all of them should be offended because of him that night; (Matt. xxvi. 31-35. John xiii. 38. Luke xxii. 31-34. John xvi. 32.) And yet it was their duty to avoid these things; they were very sinful things, which God had forbidden, and which it was their duty to watch and pray against; and they were obliged to do so from the counsels and persuasions Christ used with them, at that very time, so to do; (Matt. xxvi. 41.) “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.” So that whatever difficulty there can be in this matter, it can be no objection against any principles which have been maintained in opposition to the principles of Arminians; nor does it any more concern me to remove the difficulty, than it does them, or indeed all, that call themselves Christians, and acknowledge the divine authority of the Scriptures.—Nevertheless, this matter may possibly (God allowing) be more particularly and largely considered, in some future discourse on the doctrine of predestination. 156156 It does not appear that the author did any thing more, towards accomplishing this design, than to pen some thoughts, probably with a view to an elaborate treatise, which are included in his Miscellaneous Remarks and Observations.—W.
But I would here observe, that however the defenders of that notion of liberty which I have opposed, exclaim against the doctrine of Calvinists, as lending to bring men into doubts concerning the moral perfections of God; it is their scheme, and not the scheme of Calvinists, that indeed is justly chargeable with this. For it is one of their most fundamental points, that a freedom of Will consisting in self-determination, without all necessity, is essential to moral agency. This is the same thing as to say, that such a determination of the Will, without all necessity, must be in all intelligent beings, in those things wherein they are moral agents, or in their moral acts: and from this it will follow, that God’s Will is not necessarily determined, in any thing he does, as a moral agent, or in any of his acts that are of a moral nature: So that in all things, wherein he acts holily, justly, and truly, he does not act necessarily; or his Will is not necessarily determined to act holily and justly; because, if it were necessarily determined, he would not be a moral agent in thus acting: his Will would be attended with necessity; which, they say, is inconsistent with moral agency: “He can act no otherwise; he is at no liberty in the affair; he is determined by unavoidable, invincible necessity: therefore such agency is no moral agency; yea, no agency at all, properly speaking: a necessary agent is no agent: he being passive, and subject to necessity, what he does is no act of his, but an effect of a necessity prior to any act of his.” This is agreeable to their manner of arguing. Now then, what is become of all our proof of the moral perfections of God? How can we prove, that God certainly will, in any one instance, do that which is just and holy; seeing his “Will is determined in the matter by no necessity We have no other way of proving that any thing certainly will be, but only by the necessity of the event. Where we can see no necessity, but that the thing may be, or may not be, there we are unavoidably left at a loss. We have no other way properly and truly to demonstrate the moral perfections of God, but the way that Mr. Chubb proves them, (p. 252, 261-263. of his Tracts,) viz. that God must, necessarily, perfectly know what is most worthy and valuable in itself, which, in the nature of things, is best and fittest to be done. And, as this is most eligible in itself, he, being omniscient, must see it to be so; and being both omniscient and self-sufficient, cannot have any temptation to reject it; and so must necessarily will that which is best. And thus, by this necessity of the determination of God’s Will to what is good and best, we demonstrably establish God’s moral character.
Corol. From what has been observed, it appears, that most of the arguments from Scripture which Arminians 84 make use of to support their scheme, are no other than begging the question. For in these they determine in the first place, that without such a freedom of Will as they hold, men cannot be proper moral agents, nor the subjects of command, counsel, persuasion, invitation, promises, threatening, expostulations, rewards, and punishments; and that without such freedom it is to no purpose for men to take any care, or use any diligence, endeavours, or means, in order to their avoiding sin, or becoming holy, escaping punishment, or obtaining happiness: and having supposed these things, which are grand things in question in the debate, then they heap up scriptures, containing commands, counsels, calls, warnings, persuasions, expostulations, promises, and threatenings; (as doubtless they may find enough such; the Bible being confessedly full of them, from the beginning to the end;) and then they glory, how full the Scripture is on their side, how many more texts there are that evidently favour their scheme, than such as seem to favour the contrary. But let them first make manifest the things in question, which they suppose and take for granted, and show them to be consistent with themselves; and produce clear evidence of their truth; and they have gained their point, as all will confess, without bringing one scripture. For none denies, that there are commands, counsels, promises, threatenings, &c. in the Bible. But unless they do these things, their multiplying such texts of Scripture is insignificant and vain.
It may further be observed, that such scriptures as they bring, are really against them, and not for them. As it has been demonstrated, that it is their scheme, and not ours, is inconsistent with the use of motives and persuasives, or any moral means whatsoever, to induce men to the practice of virtue, or abstaining from wickedness. Their principles, and not ours, are repugnant to moral agency, and inconsistent with moral government, with law or precept, with the nature of virtue or vice, reward or punishment, and with every thing whatsoever of a moral nature, either on the part of the moral governor, or in the state, actions, or conduct of the subject.
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