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Of God’s prescience or foreknowledge.
His next attempt is to overthrow and remove the prescience or foreknowledge of God, with what success the farther consideration of the way whereby he endeavours it will manifest. His question (the engine whereby he works) is thus framed:—
As for our free actions which are neither past nor present, but may afterward either be or not be, what are the chief passages of Scripture from whence it is wont to be gathered that God knoweth not such actions until they come to pass, yea, that there are such actions?
That we might have had a clearer acquaintance with the intendment of this interrogation, it is desirable Mr Biddle had given us his sense on some particulars, which at first view present themselves to the trouble of every ordinary reader; as, —
1. How we may reconcile the words of Scripture given in answer to his preceding query with the design of this. There it is asserted that God “understandeth our thoughts” (which certainly are of our free actions, if any such there are) “afar off;” here, that he knows not our free actions that are future, and not yet wrought or performed.
2. By whom is it “wont to be gathered” from the following scriptures 116that “God knoweth not our free actions until they come to pass.” Why doth not this “mere Christian,” that is of no sect, name his companions and associates in these learned collections from Scripture? Would not his so doing discover him to be so far from a mere Christian, engaged in none of the sects that are now amongst Christians, as to be of that sect which the residue of men so called will scarce allow the name of a Christian unto?188188 Stegman. Photin. Refut. Disput. 1 q. 2; An Photiniani ullo modo Christiani diciqueant; Neg. Martin. Smiglec. Jes. Nova Monstra, novi Ariani. cap. 1; Arianos nullo modo Christianos dici posse.
3. What he intends by the close of his query, “Yea, that there are such actions.” An advance is evident in the words towards a farther negation of the knowledge of God than what was before expressed. Before, he says, God knows not our actions that are future contingent; here, he knows not that there are such actions. The sense of this must be, either that God knows not that there are any such actions as may or may not be, — which would render him less knowing than Mr B., who hath already told us that such there be, — or else that he knows not such actions when they are, at least without farther inquiring after them, and knowledge obtained beyond what from his own infinite perfections and eternal purpose he is furnished withal. In Mr B.’s next book or catechism, I desire he would answer these questions also.
Now in this endeavour of his Mr B. doth but follow his leaders. Socinus in his Prelections, where the main of his design is to vindicate man’s free-will into that latitude and absoluteness as none before him had once aimed at, in his eighth chapter objects to himself this foreknowledge of God as that which seems to abridge and cut short the liberty contended for.189189 “Ut ad rationem istam non minus plene quam plane respondeamus, animadvertendum est, infallibilem istam Dei prænotionem, quam pro re concessa adversarii sumunt, a nobis non admitti.” — Socin. Prælec. cap. viii. p. 25. “Cum igitur nulla ratio, nullus sacrarum literarum locus sit, ex quo aperte colligi possit, Deum omnia quæ fiunt, scivisse antequam fierent, concludendum est, minime asserendam esse a nobis istam Dei præscientiam: præsertim, cum et rationes non paucæ, et sacra testimonia non desint, unde eam plane negandam esse apparet.” — Idem, cap. xi. p. 38. He answers that he grants not the foreknowledge pretended, and proceeds in that and the two following chapters, labouring to answer all the testimonies and arguments which are insisted on for the proof and demonstration of it, giving his own arguments against it, chap. xi. Crellius is something more candid, as he pretends, but indeed infected with the same venom with the other; for after he hath disputed for sundry pages to prove the foreknowledge of God, he concludes at last that for those things that are future contingent, he knows only that they are so, and that possibly they may come to pass, possibly they may not.190190 “Itaque inconsiderate illi faciunt, qui futura contingentia Deum determinate scire aiunt, quia alias non esset omniscius: cum potius, ideo illa determinate futura non concipiat, quia est omniscius.” — Crell. de Vera Relig. lib. i. cap. xxiv. p. 201. Of the rest of their associates few have spoken expressly 117to this thing. Smalcius once and again manifests himself to consent with his masters in his disputations against Franzius, expressly consenting to what Socinus had written in his Prelections, and affirming the same thing himself, yea, disputing eagerly for the same opinion with him.191191 “Nam si omnia futura, qualiacunque sunt, Deo ab omni æternitate determinate cognita fuisse contendas; necesse est statuere omnia necessario fieri, ac futura esse Unde sequitur, nullam esse, aut fuisse unquam, humanæ voluntatis libertatem, ac porro nec religionem.” — Idem ibid, p. 202. Smalcius Refut. Thes. Franz. disput. 1, de Trinitat. p. 3, disput. 12, de Caus. Peccat. p. 428, 429, etc., 435.
For the vindication of God’s foreknowledge, I shall proceed in the same order as before in reference to the other attributes of God insisted on, namely:— 1. What Mr B. hath done, how he hath disposed of sundry places of Scripture for the proof of his assertion, with the sense of the places by him so produced, is to be considered; 2. Another question and answer are to be supplied in the room of his; 3. The truth vindicated to be farther confirmed.
For the first:—
In the proof of the assertion proposed Mr B. finds himself entangled more than ordinarily, though I confess his task in general be such as no man not made desperate by the loss of all in a shipwreck of faith would once have undertaken. To have made good his proceeding according to his engagement, he ought at least to have given us texts of Scripture express in the letter, as by him cut off from the state, condition, and coherence, wherein by the Holy Ghost they are placed, for the countenancing of his assertion: but here, being not able to make any work in his method, proposed and boasted in as signal and uncontrollable, no apex or tittle in the Scripture being pointed towards the denial of God’s knowing any thing or all things, past, present, and to come, he moulds his question into a peculiar fashion, and asks, whence or from what place of Scripture may such a thing as he there avers be gathered; at once plainly declining the trial he had put himself upon of insisting upon express texts of Scripture only, not one of the many quoted by him speaking one word expressly to the business in hand, and laying himself naked to all consequences rightly deduced from the Scripture, and expositions given to the letter of some places suitable to “the proportion of faith,” Rom. xii. 6. That, then, which he would have, he tells you is gathered from the places of Scripture subjoined, but how, by whom, by what consequence, with what evidence of reason, it is so gathered, he tells you not. An understanding, indeed, informed with such gross conceptions of the nature of the Deity as Mr B. hath laboured to insinuate into the minds of men, might gather, from his collection of places of Scripture for his purpose in hand, that God is afraid, troubled, grieved, 118that he repenteth, altereth and changeth his mind to and fro; but of his knowledge or foreknowledge of things, whether he have any such thing or not, there is not the least intimation, unless it be in this, that if he had any such foreknowledge, he need not put himself to so much trouble and vexation, nor so change and alter his mind, as he doth. And with such figments as these (through the infinite, wise, and good providence of God, punishing the wantonness of the minds and lives of men, by giving them up to strong delusions and vain imaginations, in the darkness of their foolish hearts, 2 Thess. ii. 10–12, so far as to change the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of a corruptible, weak, ignorant, sinful man, Rom. i. 23), are we now to deal.
But let the places themselves be considered. To these heads they may be referred:— 1. Such as ascribe unto God fear and being afraid. Deut. xxxii. 26, 27; Exod. xiii. 17; Gen. iii. 22, 23, are of this sort. 2. Repentance, 1 Sam. xv. 10, 11, ult. 3. Change, or alteration of mind, Num. xiv. 27, 30; 1 Sam. ii. 30. 4. Expectation whether a thing will answer his desire or no, Isa. v. 4. Conjecturing, Jer. xxxvi. 1–3; Ezek. xii. 1–3. 5. Trying of experiments, Judges iii. 1, 4; Dan. xii. 10; 2 Chron. xxxii. 31. From all which and the like it may, by Mr B.’s direction and help, be thus gathered: “If God be afraid of what is to come to pass, and repenteth him of what he hath done when he finds it not to answer his expectation; if he sits divining and conjecturing at events, being often deceived therein, and therefore tries and makes experiments that he may be informed of the true state of things: then certainly he knows not the free actions of men, that are not yet come to pass.” The antecedent Mr B. hath proved undeniably from ten texts of Scripture, and doubtless the consequent is easily to be gathered by any of his disciples. Doubtless it is high time that the old, musty catechisms of prejudicate persons, who scarce so much as once consulted with the Scriptures in their composures, as being more engaged into factions, were removed out of the way and burned, that this “mere Christian” may have liberty to bless the growing generation with such notions of God as the idolatrous Pagans of old would have scorned to have received.
But do not the Scriptures ascribe all the particulars mentioned unto God? Can you blame Mr B. without reflection on them? If only what the Scripture affirms in the letter, and not the sense wherein and the manner how it affirms it (which considerations are allowed to all the writings and speakings of the sons of men) is to be considered, the end seeming to be aimed at in such undertakings as this of Mr B., namely, to induce the atheistical spirits of the sons of men to a contempt and scorn of them and their authority, will probably be sooner attained than by the efficacy of any one engine raised against them in the world besides.
119As to the matter under consideration, I have some few things in general to propose to Mr B., and then I shall descend to the particulars insisted on:—
First, then, I desire to know whether the things mentioned, as fear, grief, repentance, trouble, conjecturings, making trials of men for his own information, are ascribed properly to God as they are unto men, or tropically and figuratively, with a condescension to us, to express the things spoken of, and not to describe the nature of God.192192 “Pœnitentia infert ignorantiam præteriti, presentis, et futuri, mutationem voluntatis, et errorem in consiliis, quorum nihil in Deum cadere potest: dicitur tamen ille metaphorice pœnitentia duci, quemadmodum nos, quando alicujus rei pœnitet, abolemus id quod antea feceramus: quod fieri potest sine tali mutatione voluntatis, qua nunc homo aliquid facit, quod post mutate animo, destruit.” — Manasseh Ben. Israel conciliat. in Gen. vi. q. 23. “Pœnitentia, cum mutabilitatem importet, non potest esse in Deo, dicitur tamen pœnitere, eo quod ad modum pœnitentis se habet, quando destruit quod fecerat.” — Lyra ad 1 Sam. xv. 35. If the first be said, namely, that these things are ascribed properly to God, and really signify of him the things in us intended in them, then to what hath been spoken in the consideration taken of the foregoing query, I shall freely add, for mine own part, I will not own nor worship him for my God who is truly and properly afraid of what all the men in the world either will or can do; who doth, can do, or hath done any thing, or suffered any thing to be done, of which he doth or can truly and properly repent himself, with sorrow and grief for his mistake; or that sits in heaven divining and conjecturing at what men will do here below: and do know that he whom I serve in my spirit will famish and starve all such gods out of the world. But of this before. If these things are ascribed to God figuratively and improperly, discovering the kind of his works and dispensations, not his own nature or property, I would fain know what inference can be made or conclusion drawn from such expressions, directly calling for a figurative interpretation? For instance, if God be said to repent that he had done such a thing, because such and such things are come to pass thereupon, if this repentance in God be not properly ascribed to him (as by Mr B.’s own rule it is not), but denotes only an alteration and change in the works that outwardly are of him, in an orderly subserviency to the immutable purpose of his will, what can thence be gathered to prove that God foreseeth not the free actions of men? And this is the issue of Mr B.’s confirmation of the thesis couched in his query insisted on from the Scriptures.
2. I must crave leave once more to mind him of the rule he hath given us in his preface, namely, “That where a thing is improperly ascribed to God, in some other place it is denied of him,” as he instances in that of his being weary; so that whatever is denied of him in any one place is not properly ascribed to him in any other. Now, though God be said, in some of the places by him produced, to repent, yet it is in another expressly said that he doth not so, and that upon such 120a general ground and reason as is equally exclusive of all those other passions and affections, upon whose assignment unto God the whole strength of Mr B.’s plea against the prescience of God doth depend: 1 Sam. xv. 29, “Also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.” The immutability of his nature, and unlikeness to men in obnoxiousness to alterations, are asserted as the reason of his not repenting; which will equally extend its force and efficacy to the removal from him of all the other human affections mentioned. And this second general consideration of the foundation of Mr B.’s plea is sufficient for the removal of the whole.
3. I desire to know whether indeed it is only the free actions of men that are not yet done that Mr B. denies to be known of God, or whether he excludes him not also from the knowledge of the present state, frame, and actings of the hearts of men, and how they stand affected towards him, being therein like other rulers among men, who may judge of the good and evil actions of men so far as they are manifest and evident, but how men in their hearts stand affected to them, their rule, government, and authority, they know not? To make this inquiry, I have not only the observation premised from the words of the close of Mr B.’s query being of a negative importance (“Yea, that there are such actions”), but also from some of the proofs by him produced of his former assertion being interpreted according to the literal significancy of the words, as exclusive of any figure, which he insisteth on. Of this sort is that of Gen. xxii. 1, 2, 10–12, where God is said to tempt Abraham,193193 “Ex hac actione propter quam ab omnibus Deum timens vocaberis, cognoscent omnes, quantus in to sit timor Dei, et quosque pertingat.” — R. Mos. Ben. Maimon. More Nevoch, p. 3, cap. xxiv. and upon the issue of that trial says to him (which words Mr B., by putting them in a different character, points to as comprehensive of what he intends to gather and conclude from them), “Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me.” The conclusion which Mr B. guides unto from hence is, that God knew not that which he inquired after, and therefore tempted Abraham that he might so do, and upon the issue of that trial says, “Now I know.” But what was it that God affirms that now he knew? Not any thing future, not any free action that was not as yet done, but something of the present condition and frame of his heart towards God, — namely, his fear of God; not whether he would fear him, but whether he did fear him then. If this, then, be properly spoken of God, and really as to the nature of the thing itself, then is he ignorant no less of things present than of those that are for to come. He knows not who fears him nor who hates him, unless he have opportunity to try them in some such way as he did Abraham. And then what a God hath this man delineated 121to us! How like the dunghill deities of the heathen, who speak after this rate!194194 “Contigerat nostras infamia temporis aures: Quam cupiens falsam summo delabor Olympo, Et Deus humana lustro sub imagine terras.” — Ovid. Met. i. 211. Doubtless the description that Elijah gave of Baal would better suit him than any of those divine perfections which the living, all-seeing God hath described himself by. But now, if Mr B. will confess that God knows all the things that are present, and that this inquiry after the present frame of the heart and spirit of a man is improperly ascribed to him, from the analogy of his proceedings, in his dealing with him, to that which we insist upon when we would really find out what we do not know, then I would only ask of him why those other expressions which he mentions, looking to what is to come, being of the same nature and kind with this, do not admit of, yea call for, the same kind of exposition and interpretation.
Neither is this the only place insisted on by Mr B. where the inquiry ascribed unto God, and the trial that he makes, is not in reference to things to come, but punctually to what is present: Deut. viii. 2, xiii. 3, “The Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and With all your soul;” 2 Chron. xxxii. 31, “God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart;” and Phil. iv. 6, “In every thing let your requests be made known unto God.” Let Mr B. tell us now plainly whether he supposes all these things to be spoken properly of God, and that indeed God knows not our hearts, the frame of them, nor what in them we desire and aim at, without some eminent trial and inquiry, or until we ourselves do make known what is in them unto him. If this be the man’s mind (as it must be, if he be at any agreement with himself in his principles concerning these scriptural attributions unto God), for my part I shall be so far from esteeming him eminent as a mere Christian, that I shall scarcely judge him comparable, as to his apprehensions of God, unto many that lived and died mere Pagans. To this sense also is applied that property of God, that he “trieth the hearts,” as it is urged by Mr B. from 1 Thess. ii. 4; — that is, he maketh inquiry after what is in them; which, but upon search and trial, he knoweth not! By what ways and means God accomplisheth this search, and whether hereupon he comes to a perfect understanding of our hearts or no, is not expressed. John tells us that “God is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things;” and we have thought on that account (with that of such farther discoveries as he hath made of himself and his perfections unto us) that he had been said to search our hearts; not that himself, for his own information, needs any such formal process by way of trial and inquiry, but because really and indeed he doth that in 122himself which men aim at in the accomplishment of their most diligent searches and exactest trials.
And we may, by the way, see a little of this man’s consistency with himself. Christ he denies to be God, — a great part of his religion consists in that negative, — yet of Christ it is said that “he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man,” John ii. 24, 25: and this is spoken in reference to that very thing in the hearts of men which he would persuade us that God knows not without inquiry; that is, upon the account of his not committing himself to those as true believers whom yet, upon the account of the profession they made, the Scripture calls so, and says they “believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did,” verse 23. Though they had such a veil of profession upon them that the Holy Ghost would have us esteem them as believers, yet Christ could look through it into their hearts, and discover and know their frame, and whether in sincerity they loved him and believed in his name or no; but this God cannot do without inquiry I And yet Christ (if we believe Mr B.) was but a mere man, as he is a “mere Christian.” Farther; it seems, by this gentleman, that unless “we make known our requests to God,” he knows not what we will ask. Yet we ask nothing but what is in our thoughts; and in the last query he instructs us that God knows our thoughts, — and doubtless he knows Mr B.’s to be but folly. Farther yet; if God must be concluded ignorant of our desires, because we are bid to make our requests known unto him, he may be as well concluded forgetful of what himself hath spoken, because he bids us put him in remembrance, and appoints some to be his remembrancers. But to return:—
This is the aspect of almost one-half of the places produced by Mr B. towards the business in hand. If they are properly spoken of God, in the same sense as they are of man, they conclude him not to know things present, the frame of the heart of any man in the world towards himself and his fear, nay, the outward, open, notorious actions of men. So it is in that place of Gen. xviii. 21, insisted on by Crellius, one of Mr B.’s great masters, “I will go down now, and see” (or know) “whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me.”195195 “Nimis longe a propria verborum signiticatione recedendum est, et sententiarum vis enervanda, si eas cum definita ilia futurorum contingentium præscientia conciliare velis, ut Gen. xviii. 21, xxii. 12. Quicquid enim alias de utriusque loci sententia statuas, illud tamen facile est cernere, Deum novun quoddam, et insigne experimentum, illic quidem impietatis Sodomiticæ et Gomorrhææ, videre voluisse, hic vero pietatis Abrahamicæ vidisse, quod antequam fieret, plane certum et exploratum non esset.” — Crell. de Vera Relig. cap. xxiv. p. 209. Yea, the places which, in their letter and outward appearance, seem to ascribe that ignorance of things present unto God are far more express and numerous than those that in the least look forward to what is yet for to come, or was so at 123their delivery. This progress, then, have we made under our catechist, if we may believe him, as he insinuates his notions concerning God: “God sits in heaven (glistering on a throne), whereunto he is limited, yea, to a certain place therein, so as not to be elsewhere; being grieved, troubled, and perplexed at the affairs done below which he doth know, making inquiry after what he doth not know, and many things (things future) he knoweth not at all.”
Before I proceed to the farther consideration of that which is eminently and expressly denied by Mr B., namely, “God’s foreknowledge of our free actions that are future,” because many of his proofs, in the sense by him urged, seem to exclude him from an acquaintance with many things present, — as, in particular, the frame and condition of the hearts of men towards himself, as was observed, — it may not be amiss a little to confirm that perfection of the knowledge of God as to those things from the Scripture; which will abundantly also manifest that the expressions insisted on by our catechist are metaphorical and improperly ascribed to God. Of the eminent predictions in the Scripture, which relate unto things future, I shall speak afterward. He knew, for he foretold the flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the famine in Egypt, the selling and exaltation of Joseph, the reign of David, the division of his kingdom, the Babylonish captivity, the kingdom of Cyrus, the return of his people, the state and ruin of the four great empires of the world, the wars, plagues, famines, earthquakes, divisions, which he manifestly foretold. But farther, he knows the frame of the hearts of men; he knew that the Keilites would deliver up David to Saul if he stayed amongst them, — which probably they knew not themselves, 1 Sam. xxiii. 12; he knew that Hazael would murder women and infants, which he knew not himself, 2 Kings viii. 12, 13; he knew that the Egyptians would afflict his people, though at first they entertained them with honour, Gen. xv. 13; he knew Abraham, that he would instruct his household, chap. xviii. 19; he knew that some were obstinate, their neck an iron sinew, and their brow brass, Isa. xlviii. 4; he knew the imagination or figment of the heart of his people, Deut. xxxi. 21; that the church of Laodicea, notwithstanding her profession, was lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, Rev. iii. 15. “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart,” 1 Sam. xvi. 7. “He only knoweth the hearts of all the children of men,” 1 Kings viii. 39. “Hell and destruction are before the Lord: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?” Prov. xv. 11. So also Prov. xxiv. 12; Jer. xvii. 9, 10; Ezek. xi. 5; Ps. xxxviii. 9, xciv. 11; Job xxxi. 4; Matt. vi. 4, 6, 8; Luke xvi. 15; Acts i. 24, etc. Innumerable other places to this purpose may be insisted on, though it is a surprisal to be put to prove that God knows the hearts of the sons of men. But to proceed to that which is more directly under consideration:—
124The sole foundation of Mr B.’s insinuation, that God knows not our free actions that are future, being laid, as was observed, on the assignation of fear, repentance, expectation, and conjecturing, unto God, the consideration which hath already been had of those attributions in the Scripture and the causes of them is abundantly sufficient to remove it out of the way, and to let his inference sink thither whence it came. Doubtless never was painter so injurious to the Deity (who limned out the shape of an old man on a cloth or board, and, after some disputes with himself whether he should sell it for an emblem of winter, set it out as a representation of God the Father) as this man is in snatching God’s own pencil out of his hand, and by it presenting him to the world in a gross, carnal, deformed shape. Plato would not suffer Homer in his Commonwealth, for intrenching upon the imaginary blessedness of their dunghill deities, making Jupiter to grieve for the death of Sarpedon,196196 Hom. Iliad. Rhapsod. Π. ver. 431, etc.:— Τοὺς δὲ ἰδὼν ἐλέησε Κρόνου παῖς ἀγκυλομήτεω. Ἥρην δὲ προσέειπε … Ὦ μοι ἐγὼν ὅτε μοι Σαρπηδόνα φίλτατον ἀνδρῶν, Μοῖῥ ὑπὸ Πατρόκλοιο Μενοιτιάδαο δαμῆναι! Mars to be wounded by Diomedes, and to roar thereupon with disputes and conjectures in heaven among themselves about the issue of the Trojan war,197197 Hom. Iliad. Rhapsod. Ε. ver. 859, etc.:— ― ὁ δ ἔβραχε χάλκεος Ἄρης, Ὅσσο τ’ ἐννεάχιλιοι ἐπίαχον ἢ δεκάχιλιοι Ἀνέρες ἐν πολέμῳ … καθέζετο θυμὸν ἀχεύων Δεῖξεν δ ἄμβροτον αἷμα καταρρέον ἐζ ὠτειλῆς Καί ῥ ὀλοφυρόμενος, κ.τ.λ. though he endeavours to salve all his heavenly solecisms by many noble expressions concerning purposes not unmeet for a deity, telling us, in the close and issue of a most contingent after, Διὸς δὲ τελείετο βολή.198198 Hom. Iliad. Rhapsod. Α. in princip. Let that man think of how much sorer punishment he shall be thought worthy (I speak of the great account he is one day to make) who shall persist in wresting the Scripture to his own destruction, to represent the living and incomprehensible God unto the world trembling with fear, pale with anger, sordid with grief and repentance, perplexed with conjectures and various expectations of events, and making a diligent inquiry after the things he knows not; that is, altogether such an one as himself: let all who have the least reverence of and acquaintance with that Majesty with whom we have to do judge and determine. But of these things before.
The proposure of a question to succeed in the room of that removed, with a scriptural resolution thereof, in order to a discovery of what God himself hath revealed concerning his knowledge of all things, is the next part of our employment. Thus, then, it may be framed:—
Ques. Doth not God know all things, whether past, present, or to 125come, all the ways and actions of men, even before their accomplishment, or is any thing hid from him? What says the Scripture properly and directly hereunto?
Ans. “God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things,” 1 John iii. 20. “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do,” Heb. iv. 13. “The Lord is a God of knowledge,” 1 Sam. ii. 3. “Thou knowest my down-sitting and mine up-rising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether,” Ps. cxxxix. 2–4. “Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite,” Ps. cxlvii. 5. “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding?” Isa. xl. 13, 14. “There is no searching of his understanding,” verse 28. Rom. xi. 36, “Of him are all things;” and, “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world,” Acts xv. 18, etc.
Of the undeniable evidence and conviction of God’s prescience or foreknowledge of future contingents, from his prediction of their coming to pass, with other demonstrations of the truth under consideration, attended with their several testimonies from Scripture, the close of this discourse will give a farther account.
It remains only that, according to the way and method formerly insisted on, I give some farther account of the perfection of God pleaded for, with the arguments wherewith it is farther evidenced to us, and so to proceed to what followeth:—
1. That knowledge is proper to God, the testimony of the Scripture unto the excellency and perfection of the thing itself doth sufficiently evince.199199 “Intellectio secundum se ejus est, quod secundum se optimum est.” — Julius Petronellus, lib. iii. cap. iv. ex Arist. Metaph. lib. xii. cap. vii. “Sed et intellectum duplicem video; alter enim intelligere potest, quamvis non intelligat, alter etiam intelligit qui tamen nondum est perfectus, nisi et semper intelligat, et omnia; et ille demum absolutissimus futurus sit, qui et semper, et omnia, et simul intelligat.” — Maxim. Tyrius, dissert. 1. “Uno mentis cernit in ictu Quæ sint, quæ fuerint, veniantque.” — Boeth. “I cannot tell,” says the apostle: “God knoweth,” 2 Cor. xii. 2, 3. It is the general voice of nature, upon relation of any thing that to us is hid and unknown, that the apostle there makes mention of: “God knoweth.” That he knoweth the things that are past, Mr B. doth not question. That at least also some things that are present, yea some thoughts of our hearts, are known to him, he doth not deny. It is not my intendment to engage in any curious scholastical discourse about the understanding, science, 126knowledge, or wisdom of God, nor of the way of God’s knowing things in and by his own essence, through simple intuition. That which directly is opposed is his knowledge of our free actions, which, in respect of their second and mediate causes, may or may not be. This, therefore, I shall briefly explain, and confirm the truth of it by Scripture testimonies and arguments from right reason, not to be evaded without making head against all God’s infinite perfections, having already demonstrated that all that which is insisted on by Mr B. to oppose it is spoken metaphorically and improperly of God.
That God doth foresee all future things was amongst mere Pagans so acknowledged as to be looked on as a common notion of mankind.200200 Τί δὲ μέλλω φρένα δῖαν Καθορᾷν ὄψιν ἄβυσσον — Æschyl. Supp. 1071, 2. Δοκέει δέ μοι ὁ καλέομεν θερμὸν ἀθάνατόν τε εἶναι καὶ νοεῖν πάντα καὶ ὁρᾷν καὶ ἀκούειν καὶ εἰδέναι τὰ ὄντα καὶ τὰ μέλλοντα ἔσεσθαι. — Hippoc. de Princip. To the same purpose is that of Epicharmus, Οὐδὲν ἐκφεύγει τὸ θεῖον αὐτὸς ἐσθ ἁμῶν ἐπόπτας, etc. And the anonymous author in Stobæus (vid. Excerpta Stobæi, p. 117), speaking of God, adds, Ὃν οὐδὲ εἷς λέληθεν οὐδε ἒ ποιῶν οὐδ ἂ ποιήσων οὐδὲ πεποιηκὼς ππάλαι ὁ δὲ παρὼν ἁπανταχοῦ πάντ ἐξ ἀνάγκης οἶδε, etc. In short, the Pagans’ generally received custom of consulting oracles, of using their οἰωνοσκοπία, their auguria, and auspicia, etc., by which they expected answers from their gods, and significations of their will concerning future things, are evident demonstrations that they believed their gods knew future contingents. So Xenophon tells us, “That both Grecians and barbarians consented in this, that the gods knew all things, present and to come.”201201 Οὐκοῦν ὡς μὲν καὶ Ἕλληνες καὶ βάρβαροι τοὺς θεοὺς ἡγοῦνται πάντα εἰδέναι πάντα εἰδέναι τά τε ὄντα καὶ τὰ μέλλοντα εὔδηλον. Πᾶσαι γοῦν αἱ πόλεις καὶ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη διὰ μαντικῆς ἐπερωτῶσι τοὺς θεοὺς τίτε χρὴ καὶ τί οὐ χρὴ ποιεῖν. Καὶ μὴν ὅτι νομίζομέν γε δύνασθαι αὐτοὺς καὶ εὗ καὶ κακῶς ποιεῖν καὶ τοῦτο σαφές. Πάντες γοῦν αἰτοῦνται τοὺς θεοὺς τὰ μὲν φαῦλα ἀποτρέπειν τἀγαθὰ δὲ διδόναι. Οὗτοι τοίνυν οἱ πάντα μὲν εἰδότες κ.τ.λ. Διὰ δὲ τὸ προειδέναι καὶ ὅ τι ἐξ ἑκάστου ἀποβήσεται κ.τ.λ. — Xenoph. ΣΨΜΠΟΣ. cap. iv. 47. And it may be worth our observation, that whereas Crellius, one of the most learned of this gentleman’s masters, distinguisheth between ἐσόμενα and μέλλοντα, affirming that God knows τὰ ἐσόμενα, which, though future, are necessarily so, yet he knows not τὰ μέλλοντα, which are only, says he, likely so to be.202202 “Cum ergo Deus omnia prout reipsa se habent cognoscat, ἐσόμενα seu certo futura cognoscit ut talia, similiter et μέλλοντα ut μέλλοντα, seu verisimiliter eventura, pro ratione causarum unde pendent.” — Crell, de Vera Relig. lib. i. cap. xxiv. p. 201. Xenophon plainly affirms that all nations consent that he knows τὰ μέλλοντα. “And this knowledge of his,” saith that great philosopher, “is the foundation of the prayers and supplications of men for the obtaining of good or the avoiding of evil.” Now, that one calling himself a “mere Christian” should oppose a perfection of God that a mere Pagan affirms all the world to acknowledge to be in him would seem somewhat strange, but that we know all things do not answer or make good the names whereby they are called.
For the clearer handling of the matter under consideration, the terms wherein it is proposed are a little to be explained:—
1. That prescience or foreknowledge is attributed to God, the Scripture testifieth. Acts ii. 23, Rom. viii. 29, xi. 2, 1 Pet. i. 2, are 127proofs hereof. The term, indeed (foreknowing), rather relates to the things known, and the order wherein they stand one to another and among themselves, than is properly expressive of God’s knowledge. God knows all things as they are, and in that order wherein they stand. Things that are past, as to the order of the creatures which he hath appointed to them, and the works of providence which outwardly are of him, he knows as past; not by remembrance, as we do, but by the same act of knowledge wherewith he knew them from all eternity, even before they were.203203 “Sciendum, quod omnino aliter se habet antiqua vel æterna scientia ad ea quæ fiunt et facta sunt, et aliter recens scientia: esse namque rei entis est causa scientiæ nostræ, scientia vero æterna est causa ut ipsa res sit. Si vero quando res est postquam non erat, contingeret noviter in ipsa scientia antiqua, scientia superaddita, quemadmodum contingit hoc in scientia nova, sequeretur utique quod ipsa scientia antiqua esset causata ab ipso ente: et non esset causa ipsius, oportet ergo quod non contingat ibi mutatio, scilicet in antiqua scientia, quemadmodum contingit in nova: sciendum autem, quod hic error idcirco accidit, quia scientia antiqua mensuratur ab imperitis cum scientia nova, cujus mensurationis modus vitiosissimus est: projicit quippe quandoque hominem in barathrum, unde nunquam est egressurus.” — Rab. Aben. Rost. Interpret. Raymund. Martin. Pugi. Fidei. P. P., cap. xxv. sect. 4, 5, p. 201. Their existence in time and being, cast by the successive motion of things into the number of the things that are past, denotes an alteration in them, but not at all in the knowledge of God. So it is also in respect of things future. God knows them in that esse intelligibile which they have, as they may be known and understood; and how that is shall afterward be declared. He sees and knows them as they are, when they have that respect upon them of being future; when they lose this respect, by their actual existence, he knows them still as before. They are altered; his knowledge, his understanding is infinite, and changeth not.
2. God’s knowledge of things is either of simple intelligence (as usually it is phrased) or of vision.204204 “In Deo simplex est intuitus, quo simpliciter videntur quæ composita sunt, invariabiliter quæ variabilia sunt, et simul quæ successiva.” The first is his knowledge of all possible things; that is, of all that he himself can do. That God knows himself I suppose will not be denied. An infinite understanding knows throughly all infinite perfections. God, then, knows his own power or omnipotency, and thereby knows all that he can do. Infinite science must know, as I said, what infinite power can extend unto. Now, whatever God can do is possible to be done; that is, whatever hath not in itself a repugnancy to being. Now, that many things may be done by the power of God that yet are not, nor ever shall be done, I suppose is not denied. Might he not make a new world? Hence ariseth the attribution of the knowledge of simple intelligence before mentioned unto God. In his own infinite understanding he sees and knows all things that are possible to be done by his power, would his good pleasure concur to their production.
Of the world of things possible which God can do, some things, 128even all that he pleaseth, are future.205205 “Ad hanc legem animus noster aptandus est, hanc sequatur, huic pareat, et quæcunque fiunt, debuisse fieri putet.” — Senec. Ep. 108. The creation itself, and all things that have had a being since, were so future before their creation. Had they not some time been future, they had never been. Whatever is, was to be before it wan All things that shall be to the end of the world are now future. How things which were only possible, in relation to the power of God, come to be future, and in what respect, shall be briefly mentioned. These things God knoweth also. His science of them is called of vision. He sees them as things which, in their proper order, shall exist. In a word, “scientia visionis,” and “simplicis intelligentise,” may be considered in a threefold relation; that is, “in ordine ad objectum, mensuram, modum:” — (1.) “Scientia visionis” hath for its object things past, present, and to come, — whatsoever had, hath, or will have, actual being. The measure of this knowledge is his will; because the will and decree of God only make those things future which were but possible before: therefore we say, “Scientia visionis fundatur in voluntate.” For the manner of it, it is called “Scientia libera, quia fundatur in voluntate,” as necessarily presupposing a free act of the divine will, which makes things future, and so objects of this kind of knowledge. (2.) As for that “scientia” which we call “simplicis intelligentiæ,” the object of it is possible; the measure of it omnipotency, for by it he knows all he can do; and for the manner of it, it is “scientia necessaria, quia non fundatur in voluntate, sed potestate” (say the schoolmen), seeing by it he knows not what he will, but what he can do. Of that late figment of a middle science in God, arising neither from the infinite perfection of his own being, as that of simple intelligence, nor yet attending his free purpose and decree, as that of vision, but from a consideration of the second causes that are to produce the things foreknown, in their kind, order, and dependence, I am not now to treat. And with the former kind of knowledge it is, or rather in the former way (the knowledge of God being simply one and the same) is it, that we affirm him to know the things that are future, of what sort soever, or all things before they come to pass.
3. The things inquired after are commonly called contingent. Contingencies are of two sorts:— (1.) Such as are only so; (2.) Such as are also free.
(1.) Such as are only so are contingent only in their effects: such is the falling of a stone from a house, and the killing of a man thereby. The effect itself was contingent, nothing more; the cause necessary, the stone, being loosed from what detained it upon the house, by its own weight necessarily falling to the ground. (2.) That which is so contingent as to be also free, is contingent both in respect of the 129effect and of its causes also. Such was the soldier’s piercing of the side of Christ. The effect was contingent, — such a thing might have been done or not; and the cause also, for they chose to do it who did it, and in respect of their own elective faculty might not have chosen it. That a man shall write, or ride, or speak to another person to-morrow, the agent being free, is contingent both as to the cause and to the effect. About these is our principal inquiry; and to the knowledge of God which he is said to have of them is the opposition most expressly made by Mr B. Let this, then, be our conclusion:—
God perfectly knows all the free actions of men before they are wrought by them.206206 “Dixit R. Juchanan: Omnia videntu uno intuitu. Dixit Rab, Nachman filius Isaaci: Sic etiam nos didicimus; quod scripture est Ps. xxxiii. 15, Formans simul cor eorum, intelligent omnia opera corum: quomodo inteillgendum est? Dicendmn est, dici, Deum adunare simul corda totius mundi? Ecce, videmus non ita rem se habere: sed sic dicendum est, Formans sive Creator videt simul cor eorum, et intelliget omnia opera eorum.” — Talmud. Rosch. Haschana: interpret. Joseph. de Voysin. All things that will be done or shall be to all eternity, though in their own natures contingent and wrought by agents free in their working, are known to him from eternity.
Some previous observations will make way for the clear proof and demonstration of this truth. Then, —
1. God certainly knows everything that is to be known; that is, everything that is scibile. If there be in the nature of things an impossibility to be known, they cannot be known by the divine understanding. If any thing be scibile, or may be known, the not knowing of it is his imperfection who knows it not. To God this cannot be ascribed (namely, that he should not know what is to be known) without the destruction of his perfection. He shall not be my God who is not infinitely perfect. He who wants any thing to make him blessed in himself can never make the fruition of himself the blessedness of others.
2. Every thing that hath a determinate cause is scibile, may be known, though future, by him that perfectly knows that cause which doth so determine the thing to be known unto existence. Now, contingent things, the free actions of men that yet are not, but in respect of themselves may or may not be, have such a determinate cause of their existence as that mentioned. It is true, in respect of their immediate causes, as the wills of men, they are contingent, and may be or not be; but that they have such a cause as before spoken of is evident from the light of this consideration: in their own time and order they are. Now, whatever is at any time was future; before it was, it was to be. If it had not been future, it had not now been. Its present performance is sufficient demonstration of the futurition it had Before. I ask, then, whence it came to be future, — that that action was rather to be than a thousand others that were as possible as it? for instance, that the side of Christ should be pierced with 130a spear, when it was as possible, in the nature of the thing itself and of all secondary causes, that his head should be cut off. That, then, which gives any action a futurition is that determinate cause wherein it may be known, whereof we speak. Thus it may be said of the same thing that it is contingent and determined, without the least appearance of contradiction, because it is not spoken with respect to the same things or causes.
3. The determinate cause of continent things, that is, things that are future (for every thing when it is, and as it is, is necessary),207207 “Quicquid enim est, dum est, necessario est.” — Aquinas 1. part. quæst. 19, art. 3. is the will of God himself concerning their existence and being; either by his efficiency and working, as all good things in every kind (that is, that are either morally or physically so, in which latter sense all the actions of men, as actions, are so); or by his permission, which is the condition of things morally evil, or of the irregularity and obliquity attending those actions, upon the account of their relation to a law, which in themselves are entitative and physically good, as the things were which God at first created.208208 Vide Scot. in 1 lib. Sent. dist. 39, quæst, unica; Durand ibid. dist. 38, quæst. 3; Jo. Major in 1, dist. 38, 39, quæst. 1, art. 4; Alvarez de Auxiliis. lib. ii. disput. 10, p. 55, etc.; et Scholasticos in Lombardum ibid. dist. 38, 39; quos fuse enumerat Joh. Martines de Ripalda in Sent. p. 127 et 131. Whether any thing come to pass beside the will of God and contrary to his purpose will not be disputed with any advantage of glory to God or honour to them that shall assert it.209209 “Quid mihi scire quæ futura sunt? Quæcunque ille vult, hæc futura sunt.” — Origen Hom. 6, in Jesum Nave. Vid. Freder. Spanhemium Dub. Evang. 33, p. 272, in illud Matth. “Totum hoc factum est, ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν ὑπὸ τοῦ Κυρίου.” Paul. Ferrium Schol. Orthodoxi, cap. xxxi.; et in Vindiciis. cap. v. sect. 6. That in all events the will of God is fulfilled is a common notion of all rational creatures. So the accomplishment of his “determinate counsel” is affirmed by the apostle in the issue of that mysterious dispensation of the crucifying of his Son. That of James iv. 15, Ἐὰν ὁ Κύριος θελήσῃ, intimates God’s will to be extended to all actions, as actions, whatever. Thus God knew before the world was made, or any thing that is in it, that there would be such a world and such things in it; yet than the making of the world nothing was more free or contingent.210210 Vide Aquinat. 1, quæst. 83, art 1, ad 3. God is not a necessary agent as to any of the works that outwardly are of him. Whence, then, did God know this? Was it not from his own decree and eternal purpose that such a world there should be? And if the knowledge of one contingent thing be from hence, why not of all? In brief, these future contingencies depend on something for their existence, or they come forth into the world in their own strength and upon their own account, not depending on any other. If the latter, they are God; if the former, the will of God or old Fortune must be the principle on which they do depend.
1314. God can work with contingent causes for the accomplishment of his own will and purposes, without the least prejudice to them, either as causes or as free and contingent. God moves not, works not, in or with any second causes, to the producing of any effect contrary or not agreeable to their own natures. Notwithstanding any predetermination or operation of God, the wills of men, in the production of every one of their actions, are at as perfect liberty as a cause in dependence of another is capable of. To say it is not in dependence is atheism. The purpose of God, the counsel of his will, concerning any thing as to its existence, gives a necessity of infallibility to the event, but changes not the manner of the second cause’s operation, be [it] what it will.211211 Vide Didac. Alvarez. de Auxiliis Gratiæ, lib. iii. disput. 25, Aquinat. part. 2, quæst. 112, art. 3, E. 1. Part. quesst. 19, art. 8, ad 3. That God cannot accomplish and bring about his own purposes by free and contingent agents, without the destruction of the natures he hath endued them withal, is a figment unworthy the thoughts of any who indeed acknowledge his sovereignty and power.
5. The reason why Mr B.’s companions in his undertaking, as others that went before him of the same mind, do deny this foreknowledge of God, they express on all occasions to be that the granting of it is prejudicial to that absolutely independent liberty of will which God assigns to men: so Socinus pleads, Prælect. Theol. cap. viii.; thus far, I confess, more accurately than the Arminians.212212 Crell. de Vera Relig. lib. i. cap. xxiv. Smalc. ad Franz. disput. 12. These pretend (some of them, at least) to grant the prescience of God, but yet deny his determinate decrees and purposes, on the same pretence that the others do his prescience, namely, of their prejudicialness to the free-will of man. Socinus discourses (which was no difficult task) that the foreknowledge of God is as inconsistent with that independent liberty of will and contingency which he and they had fancied as the predetermination of his will; and therefore rejects the former as well as the latter. It was Augustine’s complaint of old concerning Cicero, that “ita fecit homines liberos, ut fecit etiam sacrilegos.”213213 “In has angustias Cicero coarctat animum religiosum, ut unum eligat e duobus, — aut ease aliquid in nostra voluntate, aut esse præscientiam futurorum: quoniam utrumque arbitratur esse non posse, sed ai alterum confirmatur, alterum tolli: si elegerimus præscientiam futurorum, tolli voluntatis arbitrium: si elegerimus voluntatis arbitrium, tolli præscientiam futurorum. Ipse itaque ut vir magnus et doctus, et vitæ humanæ plurimum et peritissime consulens, ex his duobus elegit liberum voluntatis arbitrium. Quod ut confirmaretur, negavit præscientiam futurorum, atque ita dum vult facere liberos, facit sacrilegos. Religiosus autem animus utrumque eligit, utrumque confitetur, et fide pietatis utrumque confirmat. Quomodo inquit: Nam si est præscientia futurorum, sequuntur illa omnia, quæ connexa sunt, donec eo perveniatur, ut nihil sit in nostra voluntate, Porro, si est aliquid in nostra voluntate, eisdem recursis gradibus eo pervenitur, ut non sit præscientia futurorum. Nam per illa omnia sic recurritur. Si est voluntatis arbitrium, non onmia fato fiunt. Si non omnia fato fiunt, non est omnium certus ordo causarum. Si certus causarum ordo non est: nec rerum certus est ordo præscienti Deo, quæ fieri non possunt nisi præcedentibus, et efficientibus causis. Si rerum ordo præscienti Deo certus non est, non omuia sic veniunt, ut ea ventura præscivit. Porro, si non omnia sic eveniunt ut ab illo eventura præscita sunt, non est, inquit in Deo præscientia futurorum. Nos adversus istos sacrilegos ausus, et impios, et Deum dicimus omnia scire antequam fiant; et voluntate nos facere, quicquidnobis non nisi volentibus fieri sentimus et novimus.” — August. de Civit. Dei, lib. v. cap. ix. Cicero was a mere Pagan, and surely our complaint 132against any that shall close with him in this attempt, under the name of a “mere Christian,” will not be less just than that of Augustine. For mine own part, I am fully resolved that all the liberty and freedom that, as creatures, we are capable of is eminently consistent with God’s absolute decrees and infallible foreknowledge; and if I should hesitate in the apprehension thereof, I had rather ten thousand times deny our wills to be free than God to be omniscient, the sovereign disposer of all men, their actions, and concernments, or say that any thing comes to pass without, against, or contrary to the counsel of his will. But we know, through the goodness of God, that these things have their consistency, and that God may have preserved to him the glory of his infinite perfection, and the will of man not at all be abridged of its due and proper liberty.
These things being premised, the proof and demonstration of the truth proposed lies ready at hand in the ensuing particulars:—
1. He who knows all things knows the things that are future, though contingent.214214 “Causam quare Deus futura contingentia præsciat damus hanc, quod sit infinita ipsius intellectus perfectio omnia cognoscentis. Et sicut Deus cognoscit præterita secundum esse quod habuerunt, ita etiam cognoscit futura secundum illud esse quod habitura sunt.” — Dan. Clasen. Theol. Natural. cap. xxii. p. 128. In saying they are things future and contingent, you grant them to be among the number of things, as you do those which you call things past; but that God knows all things hath already been abundantly confirmed out of Scripture. Let the reader look back on some of the many texts and places by which I gave answer to the query about the foreknowledge of God, and he will find abundantly enough for his satisfaction, if he be of those that would be satisfied, and dares not carelessly make bold to trample upon the perfections of God. Take some few of them to a review: 1 John iii. 20, “God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.” Even we know things past and present. If God knows only things of the same kind, his knowledge may be greater than ours by many degrees, but you cannot say his understanding is infinite; there is not, on that supposition, an infinite distance between his knowledge and ours, but they stand in some measurable proportion. Heb. iv. 13, “All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” “Not that which is to come, not the free actions of men that are future,” saith Mr B. But to distinguish thus when the Scripture doth not distinguish, and that to the great dishonour of God, is not to interpret the word, but to deny it, Acts xv. 8, 133“Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” I ask, whether God hath any thing to do in the free actions of men? For instance, had he any thing to do in the sending of Joseph into Egypt, his exaltation there, and the entertainment of his father’s household afterward by him in his greatness and power? all which were brought about by innumerable contingencies and free actions of men. If he had not, why should we any longer depend on him, or regard him in the several transactions and concernments of our lives?
Nos facimus, Fortuna, Deam.”
If he had to do with it, as Joseph thought he had, when he affirmed plainly that” God sent him thither, and made him a father to Pharaoh and his house.,” Gen. xlv. 5–8, then the whole was known to God before, for “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” And if God may know any one free action beforehand, he may know all, for there is the same reason of them all. Their contingency is given as the only cause why they may not be known, Now, every action that is contingent is equally interested therein. “A quatenus ad omne valet argumentum.” That place of the psalm before recited, Ps. cxxxix. 2–6, is express as to the knowledge of God concerning our free actions that are yet future. If any thing in the world may be reckoned amongst our free actions, surely our thoughts may; and such a close reserved treasure are they that Mr B. doth more than insinuate, in the application of the texts of Scripture which he mentioneth, that God knoweth them not when present without search and inquiry. But these, saith the psalmist, “God knoweth afar off,” — before we think them, before they enter into our hearts. And truly I marvel that any man, not wholly given up to a spirit of giddiness, after he had produced this text of Scripture to prove that God knows our thoughts, should instantly subjoin a question leading men to a persuasion that God knows not our free actions that are future; unless it was with a Julian design, to impair the credit of the word of God, by pretending it liable to self-contradiction, or, with Lucian, to deride God as bearing contrary testimonies concerning himself.
2. God hath, by himself and his holy prophets, which have been from the foundation of the world, foretold many of the free actions of men, what they would do, what they should do, long before they were born who were to do them.216216 “ Præscientia Dei tot habet testes, quot fecit prophetas.” — Tertul, lib. ii. contra Marcionem. To give a little light to this argument, which of itself will easily overwhelm all that stands before it, 134I shall handle it under these propositions:— (1.) That God hath so foretold the free actions of men. (2.) That so he could not do unless he knew them, and that they would be, then when he foretold them. (3.) That he proves himself to be God by these his predictions. (4.) That he foretells them as the means of executing many of his judgments which he hath purposed and threatened, and the accomplishment of many mercies which he hath promised, so that the denial of his foresight of them so exempts them from under his providence as to infer that he rules not in the world by punishments and rewards.
For the first:— (1.) There needs no great search or inquiry after witnesses to confirm the truth of it; the Scripture is full of such predictions from one end to the other. Some few instances shall suffice: Gen. xviii. 18, 19, “Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him; for I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” Scarce a word but is expressive of some future contingent thing, if the free actions of men be so before they are wrought. That “Abraham should become a mighty nation,” that “all the nations of the earth should be blessed in him,” that he would “command his children and his household after him to keep the ways of the Lord,” it was all to be brought about by the free actions of Abraham and of others; and all this “I know,” saith the Lord, and accordingly declares it. By the way, if the Lord knew all this before, his following trial of Abraham was not to satisfy himself whether he feared him or no, as is pretended.
So also Gen. xv. 13, 14, “And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.” The Egyptians’ affliction on the Israelites was by their free actions, if any be free. It was their sin to do it; they sinned in all that they did for the effecting of it. And, doubtless, if any men’s sinful actions are free, yet doth God here foretell “They shall afflict them.”
Deut. xxxi. 16–18, you have an instance beyond all possible exception: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them. Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon 135us, because our God is not among us?” etc. The sum of a good part of what is recorded in the Book of Judges is here foretold by God. The people’s going a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, their forsaking of God, their breaking his covenant, the thoughts of their hearts and their expressions upon the consideration of the evils and afflictions that should befall them, were of their free actions; but now all these doth God here foretell, and thereby engages the honour of his truth unto the certainty of their coming to pass.
1 Kings xiii. 2 is signal to the same purpose: “O altar, altar, behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that bum incense upon thee, and men’s bones shall be burnt upon then” This prediction is given out three hundred years before the birth of Josiah. The accomplishment of it you have in the story, 2 Kings xxiii. 17. Did Josiah act freely? was his proceeding at Bethel by free actions, or no? If not, how shall we know what actions of men are free, what not? If it was, his free actions are here foretold, and therefore, I think, foreseen.
1 Kings xxii. 28, the prophet Micaiah, in the name of the Lord, having foretold a thing that was contingent, and which was accomplished by a man acting at a venture, lays the credit of his prophecy (and therein his life, for if he had proved false as to the event he was to have suffered death by the law) at stake, before all the people, upon the certainty of the issue foretold: “And Micaiah said, If thou return at all in peace, the Lord hath not spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, O people, every one of you.”
Of these predictions the Scripture is full. The prophecies of Cyrus in Isaiah, of the issue of the Babylonish war and kingdom of Judah in Jeremiah, of the several great alterations and changes in the empires of the world in Daniel, of the kingdom of Christ in them all, are too long to be insisted on. The reader may also consult Matt. xxiv. 5; Mark xiii. 6, xiv. 30; Acts xx. 29; 2 Thess. ii. 3, 4, etc.; 1 Tim. iv. 1; 2 Tim. iii. 1; 2 Pet. ii. 1; and the Revelation almost throughout. Our first proposition, then, is undeniably evident, That God, by himself and by his prophets, hath foretold things future, even the free actions of men.
(2.) The second proposition mentioned is manifest and evident in its own light: What God foretelleth, that he perfectly foreknows. The honour and repute of his veracity and truth, yea, of his being, depend on the certain accomplishment of what he absolutely foretells. If his predictions of things future are not bottomed on his certain prescience of them, they are all but like Satan’s oracles, conjectures and guesses of what may be accomplished or not, — a supposition whereof is as high a pitch of blasphemy as any creature in this world can possibly arrive unto.
(3.) By this prerogative of certain predictions in reference to 136things to come, God vindicates his own deity; and from the want of it evinces the vanity of the idols of the Gentiles, and the falseness of the prophets that pretend to speak in his name: Isa. xli. 21–24, “Produce your cause, saith the Lord; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob. Let them bring them forth, and show us what shall happen: let them show the former things, what they be; or declare us things for to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods. Behold, ye are of nothing.” The Lord calling forth the idols of the Gentiles, devils, stocks, and stones, to plead for themselves, before the denunciation of the solemn sentence ensuing, verse 24, he puts them to the plea of foreknowledge for the proof of their deity. If they can foretell things to come certainly and infallibly, on the account of their own κνοὤεδγε of them, gods they are, and gods they shall be esteemed. If not, saith he, “Ye are nothing, worse than nothing, and your work of nought; an abomination is he that chooseth you.” And it may particularly be remarked, that the idols of whom he speaketh are in especial those of the Chaldeans, whose worshippers pretended above all men in the world to divination and predictions. Now, this issue doth the Lord drive things to betwixt himself and the idols of the world: If they can foretell things to come, that is, not this or that thing (for so, by conjecture, upon consideration of second causes and the general dispositions of things, they may do, and the devil hath done), but any thing or every thing, they shall go free; that is, “Is there nothing hid from you that is yet for to be?” Being not able to stand before this interrogation, they perish before the judgment mentioned. But now, if it may be replied to the living God himself that this is a most unequal way of proceeding, to lay that burden upon the shoulders of others which himself will not bear, bring others to that trial which himself cannot undergo, for he himself cannot foretell the free actions of men, because he doth not foreknow them, would not his plea render him like to the idols whom he adjudgeth to shame and confusion? God himself there, concluding that they are “vanity and nothing” who are pretended to be gods but are not able to foretell the things that are for to come, asserts his own deity, upon the account of his infinite understanding and knowledge of all things, on the account whereof he can foreshow all things whatever that are as yet future. In like manner doth he proceed to evince what is from himself, what not, in the predictions of any, from the certainty of the event: Deut. xviii. 21, 22, “If thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.”
137(4.) The fourth proposition, That God by the free actions of men (some whereof he foretelleth) doth fulfil his own counsel as to judgments and mercies, rewards and punishments, needs no farther proof or confirmation but what will arise from a mere review of the things before mentioned, by God so foretold, as was to be proved. They were things of the greatest import in the world, as to the good or evil of the inhabitants thereof, and in whose accomplishment as much of the wisdom, power, righteousness, and mercy of God was manifest, as in any of the works of his providence whatever. Those things which he hath [so] disposed of as to be subservient to so great ends, certainly he knew that they would be. The selling of Joseph, the crucifying of his Son, the destruction of antichrist, are things of greater concernment than that God should only conjecture at their event. And, indeed, the taking away of God’s foreknowledge of things contingent renders his providence useless as to the government of the world. To what end should any rely upon him, seek unto him, commit themselves to his care through the course of their lives, when he knows not what will or may befall them the next day? How shall he judge or rule the world who every moment is surprised with new emergencies which he foresaw not, which must necessitate him to new counsels and determinations? On the consideration of this argument doth Episcopius conclude for the prescience of God, Ep. ii., “ad Beverovicium de termino vitæ,”217217 “Speciem et pondus videtur habere hæc objectio; nec pauci sunt, qui ejus vi adeo moventur, ut divinam futurorum contingentium præscientiam negate, et quæ pro ea facere videntur loca, atque argumenta, magno conatu torquere malint, et flectere in sensus, non minus periculosos quam difficiles. Ad me quod attinet, ego hactenus sive religione quadam animi, sive divinæ majestatis reverentia, non potui prorsus in animum meum inducere, rationem istam allegatam tanti esse, ut propter eam Deo futurorum contingentium præscientia detrahenda sit; maxime cum vix videam, quomodo alioquin divinarum prædictionum veritas salvari possit, sine aliqua aut incertitudinis macula, aut falsi possibilis suspicione.” — Sim. Episcop. Respons. ad 2 Ep. Johan. Beverovic. which he had allowed to be questioned in his private Theological Disputations,218218 Episcop. Instit. Theol. lib. iv. cap. xvii. xviii.; Episcop. Disput. de Deo, thes. 10. though in his public afterward he pleads for it. The sum of the argument insisted on amounts to this:—
Those things which God foretells that they shall certainly and infallibly come to pass before they so do, those he certainly and infallibly knoweth whilst they are future, and that they will come to pass; but God foretells, and hath foretold, all manner of future contingencies and free actions of men, good and evil, duties and sins: therefore he certainly and infallibly knows them whilst they are yet future.
The proposition stands or falls unto the honour of God’s truth, veracity, and power.
The assumption is proved by the former and sundry other instances that may be given.
He foretold that the Egyptians should afflict his people four hundred 138years, that in so doing they would sin, and that for it he would punish them, Gen. xv. 13, 14; and surely the Egyptians’ sinning therein was their own free action. The incredulity of the Jews, treachery of Judas, calling of the Gentiles, all that happened to Christ in the days of his flesh, the coming of antichrist, the rise of false teachers, were all foretold, and did all of them purely depend on the free actions of men; which was to be demonstrated.
3. To omit many other arguments, and to close this discourse: all perfections are to be ascribed to God; they are all in him. To know is an excellency; he that knows any thing is therein better than he that knows it not. The more any one knows, the more excellent is he. To know all things is an absolute perfection in the good of knowledge; to know them in and by himself who so knows them, and not from any discourses made to him from without, is an absolute perfection in itself, and is required where there is infinite wisdom and understanding. This we ascribe to God, as worthy of him, and as by himself ascribed to himself. To affirm, on the other side, — (1.) That God hath his knowledge from things without him, and so is taught wisdom and understanding, as we are, from the event of things, for the more any one knows the wiser he is; (2.) That he hath, as we have, a successive knowledge of things, knowing that one day which he knew not another, and that thereupon there is, — (3.) A daily and hourly change and alteration in him, as, from the increasing of his knowledge there must actually and formally be; and, (4.) That he sits conjecturing at events; — to assert, I say, these and the like monstrous figments concerning God and his knowledge, is, as much as in them lieth who so assert them, to shut his providence out of the world, and to divest him of all his blessedness, self-sufficiency, and infinite perfections. And, indeed, if Mr B. believe his own principles, and would speak out, he must assert these things, how desperate soever; for having granted the premises, it is stupidity to stick at the conclusion. And therefore some of those whom Mr B. is pleased to follow in these wild vagaries speak out, and say (though with as much blasphemy as confidence) that God doth only conjecture and guess at future contingents; for when this argument is brought, Gen. xviii. 19, “ ‘I know,’ saith God, ‘Abraham, that he will command his children and his household after him,’ etc., therefore future contingents may be certainly known of him,” they deny the consequence; or, granting that he may be said to know them, yet say it is only by guess and conjecture, as we do.219219 Anonymus ad. v. cap. priora Matth., p. 28. “Nego consequentiam: Deus dicere potuit se scire quid facturus erat Abraham, etsi id certo non prænoverit, sed probabiliter. Inducitur enim Deus sæpius humano more loquens. Solent autem homines affirmare se scire ea futura, quæ verisimiliter futura sunt,” etc. And for the present vindication of the attributes of God this may suffice.
139Before I close this discourse, it may not be impertinent to divert a little to that which alone seems to be of any difficulty lying in our way in the assertion of this prescience of God, though no occasion of its consideration be administered to us by him with whom we have to do.
“That future contingents have not in themselves a determinate truth, and therefore cannot be determinately known,” is the great plea of those who oppose God’s certain foreknowledge of them; “and therefore,” say they, “doth the philosopher affirm that propositions concerning them are neither true nor false.”220220 Arist. lib. i. de Interp. cap. viii. But, —
1. That there is, or may be, that there hath been, a certain prediction of future contingents hath been demonstrated; and therefore they must on some account or other (and what that account is hath been declared) have a determinate truth. And I had much rather conclude that there are certain predictions of future contingents in the Scripture, and therefore they have a determinate truth, than, on the contrary, they have no determinate truth, therefore there are no certain predictions of them. “Let God be true, and every man a liar.”
2. As to the falsity of that pretended axiom, this proposition, “Such a soldier shall pierce the side of Christ with a spear, or he shall not pierce him,” is determinately true and necessary on the one side or the other, the parts of it being contradictory, which cannot lie together. Therefore, if a man before the flood had used this proposition in the affirmative, it had been certainly and determinately true; for that proposition which was once not true cannot be true afterward upon the same account.
3. If no affirmative proposition about future contingents be determinately true, then every such affirmative proposition is determinately false; for from hence, that a thing is or is not, is a proposition determinately true or false.221221 Alphons. de Mendoza Con. Theol. Scholast. q. 1, p. 584; Vasquez. in 1 Tho. disp. 16; Ruvio in 1, Interpret. cap. vi. q. unica, etc. And therefore if any one shall say that that is determinately future which is absolutely indifferent, his affirmation is false; which is contrary to Aristotle, whom in this they rely upon, who affirms that such propositions are neither true nor false. The truth is, of propositions that they are true or false is certain. Truth or falseness are their proper and necessary affections, as even and odd of numbers; nor can any proposition be given wherein there is a contradiction, whereof one part is true and the other false.
4. This proposition, “Petrus orat,” is determinately true de præsenti, when Peter doth actually pray (for “quicquid est, dum est, determinate est”); therefore this proposition de future, “Petrus orabit,” is determinately true. The former is the measure and rule 140by which we judge of the latter. So that because it is true de presenti, “Petrus orat;” ergo this, de futuro, “Petrus orabit,” was ab æterno true (ex parte rei). And then (ex parte modi) because this proposition, “Petrus orat,” is determinately true de præsenti; ergo this, “Petrus orabit,” was determinately true from all eternity.222222 Vid. Rod. de Arriaga disp. Log. xiv. sect. 5, subsect. 3, p. 205; Suarez in Opus. lib. i. de Præscientia Dei, cap. ii.; Vasquez 1, Part. disp. 66, cap. ii.; Pet. Hurtado de Mend. disp. 9, de Anima sect. 6. But enough of this.
Mr B. having made a sad complaint of the ignorance and darkness that men were bred up in by being led from the Scripture, and imposing himself upon them for “a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, and a teacher of babes,” doth, in pursuit of his great undertaking, in this chapter instruct them what the Scripture speaks concerning the being, nature, and properties of God. Of his goodness, wisdom, power, truth, righteousness, faithfulness, mercy, independency, sovereignty, infiniteness, men had before been informed by books, tracts, and catechisms, “composed according to the fancies and interests of men, the Scripture being utterly justled out of the way.” Alas! of these things the Scripture speaks not at all; but the description wherein that abounds of God, and which is necessary that men should know (whatever become of those other inconsiderable things wherewith other poor catechisms are stuffed), is, that he is finite, limited, and obnoxious to passions, etc. “Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?”
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