Imatges de pàgina

doom, whether to happiness or misery, of every moral agent. This conclusion may shock an ignorant person, who does not yet see the justice of such decrees; but it is nevertheless unavoidable. So much I can promise the reader, that his reason, if open to conviction, shall soon be reconciled to it. Perhaps he sees the necessity of it already. Whether he does or not, let him grant it me for the present, as a point demonstrated, and so assume it, only as an axiom of mine, till I make it his too by a clear demonstration.

In the third place, man is a moral agent, that is, may freely choose to do a good action or omit it; and to do an evil action or abstain from it, as he pleases. Men, it is true, in regard to good and evil actions, are more or less free, according to their natural or habitual dispositions ; but so far as they are moral, that is, accountable agents, just so far they are free; and how far this is the case of any individual, his Judge does perfectly know. It may however, I think, be safely taken for granted, that no man is absolutely compelled to do, either a good or bad action, but acts in every thing by choice. Threaten two men with immediate death, if they do not offer incense to an idol. One of them complies, and the other dies. He that complies, chooses idolatry, rather than death. He who refuses, makes death, rather than idolatry, his choice. Neither is forced. This I take to be a plain and incontestable truth.

The foreknowledge of God, thus stated, will be easily proved. We destroy the idea of his Godhead the instant we deny his infinite perfection in any one respect. If therefore he is infinitely perfect, his knowledge must be infinitely perfect knowledge, which it cannot possibly be, if there is any one thing, past, present, or to come, whereof he is ignorant, or whereat he does but guess, on probable conjectures or calculations. His knowledge cannot be perfect, without absolute certainty. He must have made the universe, so far at random, as he is supposed to have made it under any uncertainty about any one event. Infinite as he is in every respect, his knowledge is adequate to his infinity, for it is infinite, so that he perfectly knows himself. He can sum the mathematical points of infinite space, though the plain of Saturn's orbit is not so large in comparison of the smallest pip made by a pen, as that pip is in comparison with one of those points. He can sum the moments of eternity, though every one of them is far less to the twinkling of an eye, than the twinkling of an eye is to a century. He foresaw the place of every atom throughout the universe, with all its changes of position. He foresaw the lines that every ray of light was to move in, with all their angles of reflection and refraction. He foresaw the thoughts of all thinking beings, with every word and action, wherein they were, or shall be, brought forth. It is true, he knew the effect of every cause, and of every chain of causes, whether single, or concurring with, or counteracted by other causes. His knowledge, though of this sort, as of a machine, set in motion by himself, was perfect in its kind, but could not be absolutely perfect knowledge, because there were almost an infinity of things, even in the natural world, which could not be governed by any stated chain of causes, such I mean, as must necessarily result from the free choice of intelligent creatures. For instance, the German monk, who invented gunpowder, had it in his choice to make, or not make, his experiments on a mixture of nitre and sulphur. Yet how hath the stated course of natural causes been interrupted or changed by this one invention, the effect of one man's free volition ? The contrivers of the gunpowder-plot were free to place that combustible under the parliament-house, or not to place it, as they thought fit, and deservedly lost their lives for choosing to do it, which had surely been an effect of cruelty and injustice, if the men had done it under the influence of compulsory causes. Now, the Divine Being foresaw all this, or he was ignorant of somewhat, till it was attempted. But he did not foresee it in the womb of a stated cause, for it had no such cause, and therefore must have foreseen it by that attribute in himself, which gives him an absolutely perfect knowledge of all things. But farther, had God no other sort of knowledge in regard to the actions of free agents, but what might be drawn from their capacities and dispositions, either his knowledge might here fail him, or such agents could not be free. They too must be but machines, if from their capacities and dispositions it could be foreseen with certainty, what every one of them would, or rather must do. But they cannot be both moral and necessary agents. They cannot, consistently with any idea of jus

tice, be rewarded, or punished, for that which they did only in necessary consequence of a nature given them by their Maker and Judge. The better to establish this idea of the divine foreknowledge we have experimental proofs in abundance. Such are all the prophecies concerning future actions of men, sometimes of whole nations and empires of men, who must have been free in regard to those actions, or why advanced, or subdued, why preserved or exterminated, by Providence, in consequence of their actions, so foretold? Did God by nature, or how you will, necessitate Judas to be a traitor, and then punish him with despair and death, if nothing more, for his treachery? Itis going farther than Atheism to suppose it. Yet he foretold it a thousand years before it happened, Psal. xli. 9. By what faculty or power he did this, we cannot comprehend. We know it sufficiently by its effect. A farther acquaintance with it, as it is an attribute of God, is neither necessary, nor possible, no more than an acquaintance with that power, if another, whereby he called the universe out of nothing.

The Socinians, who deny the absolute foreknowledge of God, allow him no more than a foreknowledge of cause and effect in the natural world, and a conditional or hypothetical foreknowledge in the moral. This is attempting to destroy, rather than to degrade, the nature of God. To be consistent with themselves on this subject, they maintain, that our knowledge is the same in kind with that of God, though less in degree. They go farther. Having thus bounded and diminished the knowledge of God, they as highly exalt their own, and so lessen the degree of difference, setting themselves out as of the same nature with God, as if they though themselves somewhat better than demigods. But 'as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God's ways higher than their ways, and his thoughts than their thoughts.' The Divine Being did certainly foreknow from all eternity, the thoughts, words, and actions of all mankind.

And therefore, in the next place, whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate, some of better minds, 'to be conformed in true holiness to the image of his Son;' and others, of a perverse and wicked disposition, to follow their own free attachment to sin, and to conform themselves to the image of the first transgressor. All men having, by original and actual transgression, forfeited the favour of God, he, on a perfect foresight of their voluntary good or evil dispositions, determined freely to aid and accept the reclaimable, and to reprobate the irreclaimable, so as that they should grow still harder and harder in wickedness, as in the case of Pharaoh, till they should be qualified to answer a second purpose of Providence by their obstinacy, who would not by obedience concur with his first design. If God foreknew all things, he foreknew the lives, and final fate, of the righteous, as well as of the wicked. St. Paul, accommodating his words to the apprehensions of men, states the predestination or decree of God, as the consequence of his foreknowledge, not that the one was, or could be posterior to the other, for both must have been coeval, and from eternity. They are delivered to us as distinct, because we cannot think but by steps, nor know we how to reconcile the predestination to our ideas of God's justice, but by representing it as the effect of his foreknowledge, and the effect is always set down, in the human mind, as following its cause. In the divine mind they are probably one and the same thing. Be this as it may, the foreknowledge and the decree were both eternal. Here now, it is a clear point, that the moral actions of all accountable agents were, with certainty, foreknown, and their doom unalterably fixed, long before any one of them existed. Their thoughts and actions were foreknown, and their happiness or misery therefore predestinated. Such must, of necessity, have been the case. The final judgment therefore will be nothing else, but an open publication, to the whole intelligent world, of God's eternal decrees. Nature, reason, necessity, all dictate this doctrine, and put the truth of it beyond all possibility of doubt. So far the word of God goes to, and no farther. If the knowledge and justice of God are infinite, he must have determined with himself the sentence to be pronounced on every individual in the moral world, before these individuals were brought into being; and why not, as well as after? He had all the knowledge beforehand, requisite for passing sentence; and why should he not have fixed it as well before the state of trial, as after ? Nay, he did assuredly fix it, for he with absolute certainty foreknew it, as well as the merits or demerits, whereon it was grounded.

We are now, in the third place, to prove, that man is a morally free agent, Is there any necessity, reader, for proving this to you? Are you not already convinced, that you are somewhat better than a mere machine? If you neither have, nor possibly can have, any such attribute as liberty, why struggle you so hard for both religious and civil liberty? You will tell me perhaps, that you are always determined by the prepollent motive, and that the choice of that motive is never in yourself, but is thrown in your way by accident, the natural course of things, or the providence of God. Perhaps now you are not under any necessity of such determination. Perhaps, if you are, your liberty consists even in being so determined, when rational conviction coincides with the motive, and you choose to be so determined, because it is for your interest or pleasure. If it does not, you cannot call the motive a prepollent motive, without denying yourself to be a rational, as well as a free agent. But your liberty is a mystery of your own nature, unfathomable to your understanding, and is not to be denied because you cannot comprehend yourself, a thing impossible to every being, but the Maker. • Known unto himself alone are all his works from the beginning.' Could you perfectly understand every thing in yourself, you would, so far possess the knowledge of God himself. I ask you however, whether you do not sometimes deliberate on moral actions, before you act? Whether you do not sometimes do a wrong action, and blame yourself for it, when done? Whether the pleasure of sin does not frequently prevail on you so to act, as to subject yourself to the displeasure of God, and in justice, to the sentence of everlasting misery, and the loss of everlasting happiness, which together, your reason inculcates as the infinitely prepollent motive? Do you, now and then, act directly against this motive, and yet call it compulsory? Or is every thing in you allowed to furnish your will with such motives, except your reason? But it is to be suspected, you plead yourself a slave, only that you may not be punished. You correct your child for doing amiss on no other principle, but a thorough conviction, that he can do otherwise. Ona jury you sometimes find a man guilty of a crime, which the law punishes with death, or from the bench pronounce the sentence of death on a culprit, whom you cannot es

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