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Proposition XII. The supreme author of all things must be infinitely good, just, and true.

XII. Proposition XII. The supreme author of all things must be infinitely good, just, and true. Lastly; the supreme cause and author of all things must of necessity be a being of infinite goodness, justice, and truth, and all other moral perfections, such as become the supreme governor and judge of the world. That there are different relations of things one towards another, is as certain as that there are different things in the world. That from these different relations of different things there necessarily arises an agreement or disagreement of some things to others, or a fitness or unfitness of the application of different things or different relations, one to another, is likewise as certain as that there is any difference in the nature of things, or that different things do exist. Further, that there is a fitness or suitableness of certain circumstances to certain persons, and an unsuitableness of others, founded in the nature of things and in the qualifications of persons, antecedent to will and to all arbitrary or positive appointment whatsoever, must unavoidably be acknowledged by every one who will not affirm that it is equally fit and suitable, in the nature and reason of things, that an innocent being should be extremely and eternally miserable as that it should be free from such misery. There is, therefore, such a thing as fitness and unfitness, eternally, necessarily, and unchangeably in the nature and reason of things. Now, what these relations of things, absolutely and necessarily are in themselves; that also they appear to be, to the understanding of all intelligent beings except those only who understand things to be what they are not, that is, whose understandings are either very imperfect or very much depraved; and by this understanding or knowledge of the natural and necessary relations of things, the actions likewise of all intelligent beings are constantly directed, (which, by the way, is the true ground and foundation of all morality,) unless their will be corrupted by particular interest or affection, or swayed by some unreasonable and prevailing lust. 105The supreme cause, therefore, and author of all things, since (as has already been proved,) he must of necessity have infinite knowledge, and the perfection of wisdom, so that it is absolutely impossible he should err, or be in any respect ignorant of the true relations and fitness or unfitness of things, or be by any means deceived or imposed upon herein; and since he is likewise self-existent, absolutely independent and all-powerful; so that, having no want of any thing, it is impossible his will should be influenced by any wrong affection, and having no dependence, it is impossible his power should be limited by any superior strength,—it is evident he must of necessity, (meaning, not a necessity of fate, but such a moral necessity as I before said was consistent with the most perfect liberty,) do always what he knows to be fittest to be done; that is, he must act always according to the strictest rules of infinite goodness, justice, and truth, and all other moral perfections. In particular, the supreme cause must, in the first place, be infinitely good; that is, he must have an unalterable disposition to do and to communicate good or happiness; because, being himself necessarily happy in the eternal enjoyment of his own infinite perfections, he cannot possibly have any other motives to make any creatures at all, but only that he may communicate to them his own perfections, according to their different capacities, arising from that variety of natures which it was fit for infinite wisdom to produce; and according to their different improvements, arising from that liberty which is essentially necessary to the constitution of intelligent and active beings. That he must be infinitely good, appears likewise further from hence; that, being necessarily all-sufficient, he must consequently be infinitely removed from all malice and envy, and from all other possible causes or temptations of doing evil, which, it is evident, can only be effects of want and weakness, of imperfection or depravation. Again, the supreme cause and author of all things, must in like manner be infinitely just; because, the 106rule of equity being nothing else but the very nature of things, and their necessary relations one to another; and the execution of justice being nothing else but a suiting the circumstances of things to the qualifications of persons, according to the original fitness and agreeableness which I have before shown to be necessarily in nature, antecedent to will and to all positive appointment, it is manifest that he who knows perfectly this rule of equity, and necessarily judges of things as they are; who has complete power to execute justice according to that knowledge, and no possible temptation to deviate in the least therefrom; who can neither be imposed upon by any deceit, nor swayed by any bias, nor awed by any power,—must, of necessity, do always that which is right, without iniquity, and without partiality; without prejudice, and without respect of persons. Lastly, that the supreme cause and author of all things must be true and faithful, in all his declarations and all his promises, is most evident. For the only possible reason of falsifying, is either rashness or forgetfulness, inconstancy or impotency, fear of evil, or hope of gain; from all which8686   Ὀυκ ἔστιν οὖ ἓνεκα ἂν θεὸς ψέυδοιτο.—Κομιδῆ ἅρα ὁ θεὸς ἁπλοῦν καὶ ἀληθὲς ἔν τε ἔργῳ καὶ ἐν λύγῳ. Καὶ οὔτε ἄλλους ἐξαπατᾶ, οὔτε κατὰ φαντασίας, οὔτε κατὰ λόγους, οὔτε κατὰ σημείων πομπὰς, οὔθ ὓπαρ οὔδ᾽ ὄναρ.Plato de Repub. lib. 2, sub finem. an infinitely wise, all-sufficient, and good being must of necessity be infinitely removed; and consequently, as it is impossible for him to be deceived himself, so neither is it possible for him in anywise to deceive others. In a word, all evil and all imperfections whatsoever arise plainly either from shortness of understanding, defect of power, or faultiness of will; and this last, evidently from some impotency, corruption, or depravation; being nothing else but a direct choosing to act contrary to the known reason and nature of things. From all which, it being manifest that the supreme cause and author of all things cannot but be infinitely removed, it follows undeniably that he must of necessity be a being of infinite 107goodness, justice, and truth, and all other moral perfections.

To this argumentation a priori, there can be opposed but one objection that I know of drawn on the contrary, a posteriori, from experience and observation of the unequal distributions of providence in the world. But (besides the just vindication of the wisdom and goodness of providence in its dispensations, even with respect to this present world only, which Plutarch and other heathen writers have judiciously made,) the objection itself is entirely wide of the question. For, concerning the justice and goodness of God, (as of any governor whatsoever,) no judgment is to be made from a partial view of a few small portions of his dispensations, but from an entire consideration of the whole; and, consequently, not only the short duration of this present state, but moreover all that is past and that is still to come, must be taken into the account; and then every thing will clearly appear just and right.

From this account of the moral attributes of God, it follows:

1st. The necessity of God’s moral attributes consistent with perfect liberty. That though all the actions of God are entirely free, and consequently the exercise of his moral attributes cannot be said to be necessary, in the same sense of necessity as his existence and eternity are necessary; yet these moral attributes are really and truly necessary, by such a necessity, as, though it be not at all inconsistent with liberty, yet is equally certain, infallible, and to be depended upon, as even the existence itself, or the eternity of God. For though nothing is more certain (as has been already proved in the ninth proposition of this discourse,) than that God acts, not necessarily, but voluntarily, with particular intention and design, knowing that he does good, and intending to do so, freely and out of choice, and when he has no other constraint upon him but this, that his goodness inclines his will to communicate himself and to do good; so that the divine nature is under no necessity but such as is consistent 108with the most perfect liberty and freest choice; (which is the ground of all our prayers and thanksgivings,—the reason, why we pray to him to be good to us and gracious, and thank him for being just and merciful; whereas no man prays to him to be omnipresent, or thanks him for being omnipotent, or for knowing all things:) though nothing, I say, is more certain than that God acts, not necessarily, but voluntarily; yet it is nevertheless as truly and absolutely impossible for God not to do (or to do any thing contrary to) what his moral attributes require him to do; as if he was really not a free but a necessary agent. And the reason hereof is plain: because infinite knowledge, power, and goodness in conjunction, may, notwithstanding the most perfect freedom and choice, act with altogether as much certainty and unalterable steadiness, as even the necessity of fate can be supposed to do. Nay, these perfections cannot possibly but so act; because free choice, in a being of infinite knowledge, power, and goodness, can no more choose to act contrary to these perfections, than knowledge can be ignorance, power be weakness, or goodness malice; so that free choice, in such a being, may be as certain and steady a principle of action as the necessity of fate. We may, therefore, as certainly and infallibly rely upon the moral as upon the natural attributes of God; it being as absolutely impossible for him to act contrary to the one as to divest himself of the other; and as much a contradiction to suppose him choosing to do any thing inconsistent with his justice, goodness, and truth, as to suppose him divested of infinity, power, or existence. The one is contrary to the immediate and absolute necessity of his nature, the other to the unalterable rectitude of his will: The one is in itself an immediate contradiction in the terms, the other is an express contradiction to the necessary perfections of the divine nature. To suppose the one, is saying absolutely that something is, at the same time that it is not; to suppose the other, is to say that infinite knowledge can act ignorantly, 109infinite power weakly, or that infinite wisdom and goodness can do things not good or wise to be done: All which are equally great and equally manifest absurdities. This, I conceive, is a very intelligible account of the moral attributes of God, satisfactory to the mind, and without perplexity and confusion of ideas: I might have said it at once, (as the truth most certainly is,) that justice, goodness, and all the other moral attributes of God, are as essential to the divine nature as the natural attributes of eternity, infinity, and the like. But because all atheistical persons, after they are fully convinced that there must needs be in the universe some one eternal, necessary, infinite, and all-powerful being, will still, with unreasonable obstinacy, contend that they can by no means see any necessary connexion of goodness, justice, or any other moral attribute, with these natural perfections; therefore, I chose to endeavour to demonstrate the moral attributes by a particular deduction, in the manner I have now done.

2dly. Of the necessity of God’s doing always what is best and fittest in the whole. From hence it follows, that though God is a most perfectly free agent, yet he cannot but do always what is best and wisest in the whole. The reason is evident; because perfect wisdom and goodness are as steady and certain principles of action as necessity itself. And an infinitely wise and good being, indued with the most perfect liberty, can no more choose to act in contradiction to wisdom and goodness than a necessary agent can act contrary to the necessity by which it is acted: it being as great an absurdity and impossibility in choice, for infinite wisdom to choose to act unwisely, or infinite goodness to choose what is not good; as it would be in nature for absolute necessity to fail of producing its necessary effect. There was indeed no necessity in nature, that God should at first create such beings as he has created, or indeed any beings at all; because he is in himself infinitely happy and all-sufficient. There was also no necessity in nature that he should preserve and continue things in being 110after they were created; because he would be as self-sufficient without their continuance, as he was before their creation. But it was fit, and wise, and good, that infinite wisdom should manifest, and infinite goodness communicate itself. And therefore it was necessary (in the sense of necessity I am now speaking of,) that things should be made at such time, and continued so long, and indued with various perfections in such degrees, as infinite wisdom and goodness saw it wisest and best that they should. And when and whilst things are in being, the same moral perfections make it necessary that they should be disposed and governed according to the exactest and most unchangeable laws of eternal justice, goodness, and truth; because, while things and their several relations are, they cannot but be what they are; and an infinitely wise being cannot but know them to be what they are, and judge always rightly concerning the several fitnesses or unfitnesses of them; and an infinitely good being cannot but choose to act always according to this knowledge of the respective fitness of things; it being as truly impossible for such a free agent, who is absolutely incapable of being deceived or depraved, to choose by acting contrary to these laws, to destroy its own perfections, as for necessary existence to be able to destroy its own being.

3dly. Of the impossibility of his doing evil. From hence it follows, that, though God is both perfectly free, and also infinitely powerful, yet he cannot possibly do any thing that is evil. The reason of this also is evident. Because, as it is manifest infinite power cannot extend to natural contradictions, which imply a destruction of that very power by which they must be supposed to be effected; so neither can it extend to moral contradictions, which imply a destruction of some other attributes as necessarily belonging to the divine nature as power. I have already shown that justice, goodness, and truth, are necessarily in God; even as necessarily as power, and understanding, and knowledge of the nature of 111things. It is therefore as impossible and contradictory to suppose his will should choose to do any thing contrary to justice, goodness, or truth, as that his power should be able to do any thing inconsistent with power. It is no diminution of power not to be able to do things which are no object of power: and it is in like manner no diminution either of power or liberty to have such a perfect and unalterable rectitude of will as never possibly to choose to do any thing inconsistent with that rectitude.

4thly. That liberty is not in itself an imperfection, but a perfection. From hence it follows, that liberty, properly speaking, is not in itself an imperfection but a perfection. For it is, in the highest and completest degree, in God himself: every act, wherein he exercises any moral attribute, as goodness, justice, or truth, proceeding from the most perfect liberty and freest choice; without which, goodness would not be goodness, nor justice and truth any excellencies; these things, in the very idea and formal notion of them, utterly excluding all necessity. It has indeed been sometimes taught, that liberty is a great imperfection; because it is the occasion of all sin and misery: But, if we will speak properly, it is not liberty that exposes us to misery, but only the abuse of liberty. It is true, liberty makes men capable of sin, and consequently liable to misery; neither of which they could possibly be, without liberty. But he that will say every thing is an imperfection, by the abuse whereof a creature may become more unhappy than if God had never given it that power at all, must say that a stone is a more excellent and perfect creature than man, because it is not capable of making itself miserable, as man is. And, by the same argument, reason and knowledge, and every other perfection, nay even existence itself, will be proved to be an imperfection; because it is that without which a creature could not be miserable. The truth therefore is; the abuse of liberty, that is, the corruption and depravation of that without which no 112creatures could be happy, is the alone cause of their misery: but as for liberty itself, it is a great perfection; and the more perfect any creature is, the more perfect is its liberty; and the perfectest liberty of all is such liberty as can never, by any ignorance, deceit, or corruption, be biassed or diverted from choosing what is the proper object of free choice, the greatest good.

5thly. That the highest moral perfections of rational creatures do not exclude natural liberty. From hence it follows, that though probably no rational creature can be, in a strict philosophical sense, impeccable, yet we may easily conceive how God can place such creatures, as he judges worthy of so excellent a gift, in such a state of knowledge and near communion with himself, where goodness and holiness shall appear so amiable, and where they shall be exempt from all means of temptation and corruption; that it shall never be possible for them, notwithstanding the natural liberty of their will, to be seduced from their unchangeable happiness in the everlasting choice and enjoyment of their greatest good: Which is the state of good angels and of the saints in heaven.

Lastly; That the grounds of all moral obligations are eternal and necessary, and depend not on any laws. From what hath been said upon this head, it follows that the true ground and foundation of all eternal moral obligations, is this; that the same reasons, (viz. the fore-mentioned necessary and eternal different relations which different things bear one to another: and the consequent fitness or unfitness of the application of different things, or different relations, one to another, unavoidably arising from that difference of the things themselves;) these very same reasons, I say, which always and necessarily do determine the will of God, as hath been before shown, ought also constantly to determine the will of all subordinate intelligent beings. And when they do not, then such beings, setting up their own unreasonable self-will in opposition to the nature and reason of things, endeavour (as much as in them lies) to make things be what they are not, and 113cannot be; which is the highest presumption and greatest insolence imaginable: It is acting contrary to their own reason and knowledge; it is an attempting to destroy that order by which the universe subsists, and it is also, by consequence, offering the highest affront imaginable to the creator of all things, who himself governs all his actions by these rules, and cannot but require the same of all his reasonable creatures. They who found all moral obligations ultimately in the will of God must recur at length to the same thing; only with this difference, that they do not clearly explain how the nature and will of God himself must be necessarily good and just, as I have endeavoured to do. They who found all moral obligations only upon laws made for the good of societies, hold an opinion which, (besides that it is fully confuted by what has been already said concerning the eternal and necessary difference of things,) is moreover so directly and manifestly contradictory and inconsistent with itself, that it seems strange it should not have been more commonly taken notice of. For, if there be no difference between good and evil, antecedent to all laws, there can be no reason why any laws should be made at all, when all things are naturally indifferent. To say that laws are necessary to be made for the good of mankind, is confessing that certain things tend to the good of mankind, that is, to the preserving and perfecting of their nature; which wise men therefore think necessary to be established by laws. And if the reason why certain things are established by wise and good laws is, because those things tend to the good of mankind, it is manifest they were good antecedent to their being confirmed by laws: Otherwise, if they were not good antecedent to all laws, it is evident there could be no reason why such laws should be made, rather than the contrary; which is the greatest absurdity in the world.


AND The conclusion. now from what has been said upon this argument, I hope it is in the whole sufficiently clear that the being and attributes of God are, to attentive and considering minds, abundantly capable of just proof and demonstration, and that the adversaries of God and religion have no reason on their side, (to which they would pretend to be strict adherers,) but merely vain confidence, and great blindness and prejudice, when they desire it should be thought, that, in the fabric of the world, God has left himself wholly without witness, and that all the arguments of nature are on the side of atheism and irreligion. Some men, I know, there are, who, having never turned their thoughts to matters of this nature, think that these things are all absolutely above our comprehension; and that we talk about we know not what, when we dispute about these questions. But since the most considerable atheists that ever appeared in the world, and the pleaders for universal fatality, have all thought fit to argue in this way, in their attempts to remove the first foundations of religion, it is reasonable and necessary that they should be opposed in their own way, it being most certain, that no argumentation, of what kind soever, can possibly be made use of on the side of error, but may also be used with much greater advantage on the behalf of truth.

2. From what has been said upon this argument, we may see how it comes to pass, that though nothing is so certain and undeniable as the necessary existence of God, and the consequent deduction of all his attributes, yet men, who have never attended to the evidence of reason, and to the notices that God hath given us of himself, may easily be in great measure ignorant of both. That the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right ones is so certain and evident, that whoever affirms the contrary affirms what may very easily be reduced to an express contradiction; yet whoever turns not his mind to consider it at all, may easily be ignorant of this and 115numberless other the like mathematical and most infallible truths.

3. Yet the notices that God has been pleased to give us of himself are so many and so obvious,—in the constitution, order, beauty, and harmony of the several parts of the world,—in the frame and structure of our own bodies, and the wonderful powers and faculties of our souls,—in the unavoidable apprehensions of our own minds, and the common consent of all other men,—in every thing within us, and every thing without us; that no man of the meanest capacity and greatest disadvantages whatsoever, with the slightest and most superficial observation of the works of God, and the lowest and most obvious attendance to the reason of things, can be ignorant of Him, but he must be utterly without excuse. Possibly he may not, indeed, be able to understand or be affected by nice and metaphysical demonstrations of the being and attributes of God, but then for the same reason he is obliged also not to suffer himself to be shaken and unsettled by the subtile sophistries of sceptical and atheistical men, which he cannot perhaps answer, because he cannot understand; but he is bound to adhere to those things which he knows, and those reasonings he is capable to judge of, which are abundantly sufficient to determine and to guide the practice of sober and considering men.

4. But this is not all: God has, moreover, finally,—by a clear and express revelation of himself, brought down from heaven by his own Son, our blessed Lord and Redeemer, and suited to every capacity and understanding,—put to silence the ignorance of foolish, and the vanity of sceptical and profane men; and, by declaring to us himself, his own nature and attributes, he has effectually prevented all mistakes which the weakness of our reason, the negligence of our application, the corruption of our nature, or the false philosophy of wicked and profane men, might have led us into;—116and so has infallibly furnished us with sufficient knowledge to enable us to perform our duty in this life, and to obtain our happiness in that which is to come. But this exceeds the bounds of my present subject, and deserves to be handled in a particular discourse.

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