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would be wholly annihilated. But though a certain immutable and internal necessity of acting right, independent of all extraneous influence whatever, may exist in God conjointly with the most perfect liberty, both which principles in the same divine nature tend to the same point, it does not therefore follow that the same thing can be conceded with regard to two different natures, as the nature of God and the nature of man, in which case the external immutability of one party may be in opposition to the internal liberty of the other, and may prevent unity of will. Nor is it admitted that the actions of God are in themselves necessary, but only that he has a necessary existence ; for Scripture itself testifies that his decrees, and therefore his actions, of what kind soever they be, are perfectly free.
But it is objected that no constraint is put upon the liberty of free agents by divine necessity or first
I answer,---if it do not constrain, it either determines, or co-operates, or is wholly inefficient. If it determine or co-operate, it is either the sole or the joint and principal cause of all the actions, whether good or bad, of free agents.* If it be wholly inefficient, it cannot be called a cause in any sense, much less can it be termed necessity.
* The allusion appears to be to the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas and the Dominicans, who held that God predetermined the will by a physical influence, so that the Deity was the first cause of the action, and the creature the second cause, all the guilt of the sin being attributed to the latter party. With regard to the logical distinction, nearly the very words of the original occur elsewhere. Secundo, causa efficiens sola efficit, aut cum aliis. Earumque omnium sæpe alia principalis, alia minus principalis, sive adjuvans et ministra. Artis Logicæ plenior Institutio. Prose Works, VI. 206.
Nor do we imagine anything unworthy of God, when we assert that those conditional events depend on the human will, which God himself has chosen to place at the free disposal of man ; since the Deity purposely framed his own decrees with reference to particular circumstances, in order that he might permit free causes to act conformably to that liberty
with which he had endued them. On the contrary, - it would be much more unworthy of God, that man
should nominally enjoy a liberty of which he was virtually deprived, which would be the case were that liberty to be oppressed or even obscured under the pretext of some sophistical necessity of immutability or infallibility, though not of compulsion,-a notion which has led, and still continues to lead many individuals into error.
However, properly speaking, the divine counsels can be said to depend on nothing, but on the wisdom of God himself, whereby he perfectly foreknew in his own mind from the beginning what would be the nature and event of every future occurrence when its appointed season should arrive.
But it is asked how events which are uncertain, inasmuch as they depend on the human will, can harmonize with the decrees of God, which are immutably fixed ?* for it is written, Psal. xxxiii. 11. the counsel of Jehovah standeth forever.' See also Prov. xix. 21. and Isai. xlvi. 10. Heb. vi. 17. the immutability of his counsel. To this objection it answered, first, that to God the issue of events is not uncertain, but foreknown with the utmost certainty, though they be not decreed necessarily, as will appear afterwards.—Secondly, in all the passages referred to, the divine counsel is said to stand against all human power and counsel, but not against the liberty of will with regard to such things as God himself had placed at man's disposal, and had determined so to place from all eternity. For otherwise, one of God's decrees would be in direct opposition to another, and that very consequence would ensue which the objector imputes to the doctrine of his opponents, namely, that by considering those things as necessary, which the Deity had left to the uncontrouled decision of man, God would be rendered mutable. But God is not mutable, so long as he decrees nothing absolutely which could happen otherwise through the liberty assigned to man; whereas he would then be mutable, then his counsel would not stand, if he were to obstruct by another decree that liberty which he had already decreed, or were to darken it with the least shadow of necessity.*
* Yet more there be who doubt his ways not just, As to his own edicts found contradicting.–
Samson Agonistes, 300.
It follows, therefore, that the liberty of man must? be considered entirely independent of necessity,t and
* So without least impulse or shadow of fate,
Paradise Lost, III. 120. to.......... Beyond this had been force, And force upon free will hath here no place.
Paradise Lost, IX. 1174.
no admission can be made in favour of that modification of the principle which is founded on the doctrine of God's immutability and prescience. If there be any necessity at all, as has been stated before, it either determines free agents to a particular line of conduct, or it constrains them against their will, or it co-operates with them in conjunction with their will, or it is altogether inoperative. If it determine free agents to a particular line of conduct, man will be rendered the natural cause of all his actions, and consequently of his sins, and formed as it were with an inclination for sinning. If it constrain them against their will, man who is subject to this compulsory decree will be rendered the cause of sins only per accidens, God being the cause of sins per se. If it co-operate with them in conjunction with their will, then God becomes either the principal or the joint cause of sins with man. If, finally, it be altogether inoperative, there is no such thing as necessity, it virtually destroys itself by being without operation. For it is wholly impossible, that God should have decreed necessarily what we know at the same time to be in the power of man; or that that should be immutable which it remains for subsequent contingent circumstances either to fulfil or frustrate.
Whatever, therefore, was left to the free will of our first parents, could not have been decreed immutably or absolutely from all eternity ; and questionless, either nothing was ever placed in man's power, or if it were, God cannot be said to have determined finally respecting it without reference to possible contingencies.
If it be objected, that this doctrine leads to absurd consequences, we reply, either the consequences are not absurd, or they are not the consequences of the doctrine. For it is neither impious nor absurd to say, that the idea of certain things or events might be suggested to God from some extraneous source; for since God had determined from all eternity, that man should so far be a free agent, that it remained with himself to decide whether he would stand or fall,* the idea of that evil event, or of the fall of man, was suggested to God from an extraneous source,-a truth which all confess.
Nor does it follow from hence, that what is merely temporal becomes the cause of, or a restriction upon what is eternal, for it was not any thing temporal, but the wisdom of the eternal mind that gave occasion for framing the divine counsel.
Whatever therefore was the subject of the divine counsel, whether man or angelf who was to be gifted
.... such discourse bring on
advise him of his happy state,
He swerve not, too secure. Paradise Lost, V. 233.
Hadst thou the same free will and power to stand ?
But Heaven's free love dealt equally to all ? IV. 66.
Myself, and all the angelick host, that stand
And some are fallen V. 535.