Page images



pressly to 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."

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. xi. 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, that 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.

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.

1 « 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.

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 beads 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 bave 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.

[ocr errors]


As 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." 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 a general ground and reasou 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,

14 Poenitentia infert ignorantiam præteriti, presentis, et futuri, mutationem voluntatis, et errorem in consiliis, quorum nihil in Deum cadere potest : dicitur tamen ille metaphorice poenitentia duci, quemadmodum nos, quando alicujus rei pænitet, abolemus id quod antea feceramus: quod fieri potest sine tali mutatione voluntatis, qua nunc homo aliquid facit, quod post mutato animo, destruit.”—Manasseh Ben. Israel. conciliat. in Gen. vi. q. 23. “ Poenitentia, cum mutabilitatem importet, non potest esse in Deo, dicitur tamen pænitere, eo quod ad modum poenitentis se habet, quando destruit quod fecerat." -Lyra ad 1 Sam, xv. 35.

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,' 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 frorn 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 coine. 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 deline

"Ex hao actione propter quam ab omnibus Deum timens vocaberis, cognoscent omnes, quantus in te sit timor Dei, et quosque pertingat."-R. Mos. Ben. Maimon More Nevoch. p. 3, cap. xxiv.

ated to us! How like the dunghill deities of the heathen, who speak after this rate! 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, xiï. 3,“ The LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye xiii

, 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

1 "Contigerat nostras infamia temporis aures:

Quam cupiens falsam summo delabor Olympo,
Et Deus humana lustro sub imagine terras." -Ovid. Met. i. 211.

« PreviousContinue »