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with free will, so that his fall might depend upon his own volition, such without doubt was the nature of the decree itself, so that all the evil consequences which ensued were contingent upon man's will; wherefore the covenant stood thus-if thou remain faithful, thou shalt abide in Paradise; if thou fall, thou shalt be cast out: if thou dost not eat the forbidden fruit, thou shalt live; if thou eat, thou shalt die.*
Hence, those who contend that the liberty of actions is subject to an absolute decree, erroneously conclude that the decree of God is the cause of his foreknowledge, and antecedent in order of time.† If we must apply to God a phraseology borrowed from our own habits and understanding, that his decrees should have been the consequence of his foreknowledge seems more agreeable to reason, as well as to Scripture, and to the nature of God himself, who, as has just been proved, decreed every thing according to his infinite wisdom by virtue of his foreknowledge.
It is not intended to deny that the will of God is the first cause of all things, but we do not separate his prescience and wisdom from his will, much less do we think them subsequent to the latter in point of time. Finally, the will of God is not less the universal first cause, because he has himself decreed that
thine and of all thy sons
Paradise Lost, VIII. 637. According to the Supralapsarian doctrine, that a prescience of future contingents, antecedent to the divine decree, is an absurdity and impossibility.
some things should be left to our own free will, than if each particular event had been decreed necessarily.
To comprehend the whole matter in a few words, the sum of the argument may be thus stated in strict conformity with reason. God of his wisdom determined to create men and angels reasonable beings,* and therefore free agents; at the same time he foresaw which way the bias of their will would incline, in the exercise of their own uncontrouled liberty. What then? shall we say that this foresight or 'foreknowledge on the part of God imposed on them the necessity of acting in any definite way? No more than if the future event had been foreseen by any human being. For what any human being has foreseen as certain to happen, will not less certainly happen than what God himself has predicted. Thus Elisha foresaw how much evil Hazael would bring upon the children of Israel in the course of a few years, 2 Kings viii. 12. Yet no one would affirm that the evil took place necessarily on account of the foreknowledge of Elisha; for had he never foreknown it, the event would have occurred with equal certainty, through the free will of the agent. So neither does any thing happen because God has fore
*... God left free the will, for what obeys
But bid her well be ware, and still erect. IX. 351.
.. What can 'scape the eye
pt the mind
Paradise Lost, X. 5.
seen it; but he foresees the event of every action, because he is acquainted with their natural causes, which, in pursuance of his own decree, are left at liberty to exert their legitimate influence. Consequently the issue does not depend on God who foresees it, but on him alone who is the object of his foresight. Since therefore, as has before been shown, there can be no absolute decree of God regarding free agents, undoubtedly the prescience of the Deity, (which can no more bias free agents than the prescience of man, that is, not at all, since the action in both cases is intransitive, and has no external influence,) can neither impose any necessity of itself, nor can it be considered at all the cause of free actions. If it be so considered, the very name of liberty must be altogether abolished as an unmeaning sound; and that not only in matters of religion, but even in questions of morality and indifferent things. There can be nothing but what will happen necessarily, since there is nothing but what is foreknown by God. > That this long discussion may be at length concluded by a brief summary of the whole matter, we must hold that God foreknows all future events, but that he has not decreed them all absolutely: lest all sin should be imputed to the Deity, and evil spirits and wicked men should be exempted from blame.* Does my opponent avail himself of this, and think the concession enough to prove either that God does not foreknow every thing, or that all future events must
*Hoc tantum obiter; fatum sive decretum Dei cogere neminem male facere; et ex hypothesi divinæ præscientiæ certa quidem esse omnia, non necessaria.' Artis Logicæ plenior Institutio. Prose Works,
therefore happen necessarily, because God has foreknown them? I allow that future events which God has foreseen, will happen certainly, but not of necessity. They will happen certainly, because the divine prescience cannot be deceived, but they will not happen necessarily, because prescience can have no influence on the object foreknown, inasmuch as it is only an intransitive action. What therefore is to happen according to contingency and the free will of man, is not the effect of God's prescience, but is produced by the free agency of its own natural causes, the future spontaneous inclination of which is perfectly known to God. Thus God foreknew that Adam would fall of his own free will; his fall therefore was certain, but not necessary, since it proceeded from his own free will, which is incompatible with necessity.* Thus too God foreknew that the Israelites would revolt from the true worship to strange gods, Deut. xxxi. 16. If they were to be led to revolt necessarily on account of this prescience on the part of God, it was unjust to threaten them with the many evils which he was about to send upon them, ver. 17. it would have been to no purpose that a song was ordered to be written, which should be a witness for him against the children of Israel, because their sin would have been of necessity. But the prescience of God, like that of Moses, v. 27. had no extraneous influence, and God testifies, v. 16. that he foreknew they would sin from their own voluntary
impulse, and of their own accord,—' this people will rise up,' &c. and v. 18. 'I will surely hide my face in that day....in that they are turned unto other gods.' Now the revolt of the Israelites which subsequently took place, was not the consequence of God's foreknowledge of that event, but God foreknew that, although they were free agents, they would certainly revolt, owing to causes with which he was well acquainted. v. 20, 21. when they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat, then will they turn unto other gods.....I know their imagination which they go about, even now before I have brought them into the land which I sware.'
From what has been said it is sufficiently evident, that free causes are not impeded by any law of necessity arising from the decrees or prescience of God. There are some who in their zeal to oppose this doctrine, do not hesitate even to assert that God is himself the cause and origin of sin. Such men, if they are not to be looked upon as misguided rather than mischievous, should be ranked among the most abandoned of all blasphemers. An attempt to refute them, would be nothing more than an argument to prove that God was not the evil spirit.
Thus far of the general decree of God. Of his special decrees the first and most important is that which regards his Son, and from which he primarily derives his name of Father. Psal. ii. 7. 'I will declare the decree: Jehovah hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.' Heb. i. 5. unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee?" And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall