« PreviousContinue »
growing exceeding great from a small beginning; and to leaven, hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened, &c.—And the prophecies in the epistles concerning the restoration of the Jewish nation to the true church of God, and bringing in the fulness of the Gentiles; and the prophecies in all the Revelation concerning the glorious change in the moral state of the world of mankind, attending the destruction of Antichrist, “ the kingdoms of the world becoming the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ ;" and its being granted to the church to be " arrayed in that fine linen, white and clean, which is the righteousness of saints," &c.
Corol. 1. Hence that great promise and oath of God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so much celebrated in Scripture, both in the Old Testament and the New, namely, “ That in their seed all the nations and families of the earth should be blessed," must be made on uncertainties, if God does not certainly foreknow the Volitions of moral Agents. For the fulfilment of this promise consists in that success of Christ in the work of redemption, and that setting up of his spiritual kingdom over the nations of the world, which has been spoken of. Men are “ blessed in Christ” no otherwise than as they are brought to acknowledge Him, trust in Him, love and serve Him, as is represented and predicted in Psal. Ixxii. 11. “ All Kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him." With ver. 17. “ Men shall be blessed in Him; all nations shall call Him blessed." This oath to Jacob and Abraham is fulfilled in subduing men's iniquities ; as is implied in that of the prophet Micah, chap. vii. 19, 20.
Corol. 2. Hence also it appears, that the first gospelpromise that ever was made to mankind, that great prediction of the salvation of the Messiah, and his victory over Satan, made to our first parents, (Gen. iii. 15.) if there be no certain prescience of the Volitions of moral Agents, must have no better foundation than conjecture. For Christ's victory over Satan consists in men's being saved from sin, and in the victory of virtue and holiness over that vice and wickedness which Satan by his temptations has introduced, and wherein his king. dom consists.
6. If it be so, that God has not a prescience of the future actions of moral Agents, it will follow, that the prophecies of Scripture in general are without Foreknowledge. For Scripture prophecies, almost all of them, if not universally, are either predictions of the actings and behaviour of moral Agents, or of events depending on them, or some way connected with them ; judicial dispensations, judgments on men for their wickedness, or rewards of virtue and righteousness, remarkable manifestations of favour to the righteous, or manifestations of sovereign mercy to sinners, forgiving their iniquities, and magnifying the riches of divine Grace; or dispensations of Providence, in some respect or other, relating to the conduct of the subjects of God's moral government, wisely adapted thereto; either providing for what should be in a future state of things, through the Volitions and voluntary actions of moral Agents, or consequent upon them, and regulated and ordered according to them. So that all events that are foretold, are either moral events, or others which are connected with, and accommodated to them.
That the predictions of Scripture in general must be without knowledge, if God does not foresee the Volitions of men, will further appear, if it be considered, that almost all events belonging to the future state of the world of mankind, the changes and revolutions which come to pass in empires, kingdoms, and nations, and all societies, depend, in ways innumerable, on the acts of men's wills ; yea, on an innumerable multitude of millions of Volitions. Such is the state and course of things in the world of mankind, that one single event, which appears in itself exceeding inconsiderable, may, in the progress and series of things, occasion a succession of the greatest and most important and extensive events ; causing the state of mankind to be vastly different from what it would otherwise have been, for all succeeding generations.
For instance, the coming into existence of those particular men, who have been the great conquerors of the world, which, under God, have had the main hand in all the consequent state of the world, in all after-ages; such as Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander, Pompey, Julius Cæsar, &c. undoubtedly depended on many million of acts of the will, in their parents. And perhaps most of these Volitions depended on millions of Volitions in their contemporaries of the same generation; and most of these on millions of millions of Volitions in preceding generations. As we go back, still the number of Volitions, which were some way the occasion of the event, multiply as the branches of a river, until they come at last, as it were, an infinite number. This will not seem strange to any one who well considers the matter; if we recollect what philosophers tell us of the innumerable multitudes of those things which are the principia, or stamina vita, concerned in generation; the animalcula in semen masculo, and the ova in the womb of the female; the impregnation, or animating of one of these in distinction from all the rest, must depend on things infinitely minute relating to the time and circumstances of the act of the parents, the state of their bodies, &c. which must depend on innumerable foregoing circumstances and occurrences; which must depend, infinite ways, on foregoing acts of their wills; which are occasioned by innumerable things that happen in the course of their lives, in which their own, and
their neighbour's behaviour must have a hand an infinite number of ways.
And as the Volitions of others must be so many ways concerned in the conception and birth of such men; so no less, in their preservation and circumstances of life, their particular determinations and actions, on which the great revolutions they were the occasions of depended. As, for instance, when the conspirators in Persia against the Magi were consulting about a succession to the empire, it came into the mind of one of them to propose, that he whose horse neighed first, when they came together the next morning, should be king. Now, such a thing coming into his mind, might depend on innumerable incidents, wherein the Volitions of mankind have been concerned. But, in consequence of this accident, Darius, the son of Hystaspes, was king. And if this had not been, probably his successor would not have been the same, and all the circumstances of the Per. sian empire might have been far otherwise : Then perhaps Alexander might never have conquered that empire; and then probably the circumstances of the world in all succeeding ages, might have been vastly otherwise. I might further instance in many other occurrences, such as those on which depended Alexander's preservation in the many critical junctures of his life, wherein a small trifle would have turned the scale against him; and the preservation and success of the Roman people, in the infancy of their kingdom and commonwealth, and afterwards ; upon which all the succeeding changes in their state, and the mighty revolutions that afterwards came to pass in the habitable world, depended. But these hints may be suflicient for every discerning considerate person, to convince him that the whole state of the world of mankind in all ages, and the very being of every person who has ever lived in it, in every age, since the times of the ancient prophets, has depended on more Volitions, or acts of the wills of men, than there are sands on the sea-shore.
And therefore, unless God does most exactly and perfectly foresee the future acts of men's wills, all the predictions which he ever uttered concerning David, Hezekiah, Josiah, Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander; concerning the four monarchies, and the revolutions in them; and concerning all the wars, commotions, victories, prosperity and calamities, of any kingdoms, nations or communities in the world, have all been without knowledge.
So that, according to this notion, God not foreseeing the Volitions and free actions of men, he could foresee nothing appertaining to the state of the world of mankind in future ages; not so much as the being of one person that should live in it; and could foreknow no events, but only such as he would bring to pass Himself by the extraordinary interposition of his immediate power; or things which should come to pass in the natural material world, by the laws of motion, and course of nature, wherein that is independent on the actions or works of mankind : that is, as he might, like a very able mathematician and astronomer, with great exactness calculate the revolutions of the heavenly bodies, and the greater wheels of the machine of the external creation.
And if we closely consider the matter, there will appear reason to convince us, that he could not, with any absolute certainty, foresee even these. As to the first, namely, things done by the immediate and extraordinary interposition of God's power, these cannot be foreseen, unless it can be foreseen when there shall be occasion for such extraordinary interposition. And that cannot be foreseen, unless the state of the moral world can be foreseen. For whenever God thus interposes, it is with regard to the state of the moral world, requiring such divine interposition. Thus God could not certainly foresee the universal deluge, the calling of Abraham, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues on Egypt, and Israel's redemption out of it, the expelling of the seven nations of Canaan, and the bringing Israel into that land ; for these all are represented as connected with things belonging to the state of the moral world. Nor can God foreknow the most proper
and convenient time of the day of judgment and general conflagration; for that chiefly depends on the course and state of things in the moral world.
Nor, Secondly, can we on this supposition reasonably think, that God can certainly foresee what things shall come to pass in the course of things, in the natural and material world, even those which in an ordinary state of things might be calculated by a good astronomer. For the moral world is the end of the natural world ; and the course of things in the former, is undoubtedly subordinate to God's designs with respect to the latter. Therefore he has seen cause, from regard to the state of things in the moral world, extraordinarily to interpose, to interrupt, and lay an arrest on the course of things in the natural world; and unless he can foresee the Volitions of men, and so know something of the future state of the moral world, He cannot know but that he may still have as great occasion to interpose in this manner, as ever he had: nor can He foresee how, or when, He shall have occasion thus to interpose.
Corol. 1. It appears from the things observed, that unless God foresees the Volitions of moral Agents, that cannot be true which is observed by the apostle James, (Acts xv. 18.) “ Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world."
Corol. 2. It appears, that unless God foreknows the Volitions of moral Agents, all the prophecies of Scripture have no better foundation than mere conjecture; and that, in most
: ; instances, a conjecture which must have the utmost uncertainty; depending on an innumerable multitude of Volitions, which are all, even to God, uncertain events: however, these prophecies are delivered as absolute predictions, and very many of them in the most positive manner, with asseverations; and some of them with the most solemn oaths.
Corol. 3. It also follows, that if this notion of God's ig. norance of future Volitions be true, in vain did Christ say, after uttering many great and important predictions, depending on men's moral actions, (Matt. xxiv. 35.) “Heaven and earth shall pass away; but my words shall not pass away.
Corol. 4. From the same notion of God's ignorance, it would follow, that in vain has he himself often spoken of the predictions of his word, as evidences of Foreknowledge ; of that which is his prerogative as GOD, and his peculiar glory, greatly distinguishing Him from all other beings, (as in Isai. xli. 22,-26. xliii. 9, 10, xliv. 8. xlv. 21. xlvi. 10. and xlviii. 14.)
ARGUM. II. If God does not foreknow the Volitions of moral Agents, then he did not foreknow the fall of man, nor of angels, and so could not foreknow the great things which are consequent on these events; such as his sending his Son into the world to die for sinners, and all things pertaining to the great work of redemption; all the things which were done for four thousand years before Christ came, to prepare the way for it; and the incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ ; setting Him at the head of the universe as King of heaven and earth, angels and men ; and setting up his church and kingdom in this world, and appointing Him the Judge of the world ; and all that Satan should do in the world in opposition to the kingdom of Christ: and the great transactions of the day of judgment,&c. And if God was thus ignorant, the following Scriptures, and others like them, must bc without any meaning, or contrary to truth. (Eph. i. 4.) “ According as he hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.” (1 Pet. i. 20.) “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world.” (2 Tim. i. 9.) " Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling ; not according to our works, but according to his own purpose, and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. So (Eph. iii. 11.) speaking of the wisdom of God in the work of redemption, “ according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus." (Tit. i. 2.) “In hope of eternal life, which God that cannot lie, promised before the world began.
(Rom. viii. 29.) “ Whom he did foreknow, them he also