« AnteriorContinuar »
choice was determined by choice, yet it would destroy their notion of the contingence of choice; for then no one act of choice would arise contingently, or from a state of indifference, but every individual act, in all the series, would arise from foregoing bias or preference, and from a cause predetermining and fixing its existence, which introduces at once such a chain of causes and effects, each preceding link decisively fixing the following, as they would by all means avoid. And such kind of delusion and selfcontradiction as this, does not arise in men's minds by nature; it is not owing to any natural feeling which God has strongly fixed in the mind and nature of man ; but to false philosophy, and strong prejudice, from a deceitful abuse of words. It is artificial, not in the sense of the author of the Essays, supposing it to be a deceitful artifice of God; but artificial as opposed to natural, and as owing to an artificial, deceitful management of terms, to darken and confound the mind. Men have no such thing when they first begin to exercise reason ; but must have a great deal of time to blind themselves, with metaphysical confusion, before they can embrace, and rest in such definitions of liberty as are given, and imagine they understand them. On the whole, I humbly conceive, that whosoever will give himself the trouble of weighing what I have offered to consideration in my Inquiry, must be sensible, that such a moral necessity of men's actions as I maintain, is not at all inconsistent with any liberty that any creature has, or can have, as a free, accountable, moral agent, and subject of moral government; and that this moral necessity is so far from being inconsistent with praise and blame, and the benefit and use of men's own care and labor, that, on the contrary, it implies the very ground and reason, why men's actions are to be ascribed to them as their own, in that manner as to infer desert, praise and blame, approbation and remorse of conscience, reward and punishment; and that it establishes the moral system of the universe, and God's moral government, in every respect, with the proper use of motives, exhortations, commands, counsels, promises, and threatenings; and the use and benefit
of endeavors, care and industry; and that therefore there is no need that the strict philosophic truth should be at all concealed from men; no danger in contemplation and firofound discovery in these things. So far from this, that the truth in this matter is of vast importance, and extremely needful to be known ; and that the more clearly and perfectly the real fact is known, and the more constantly it is in view, the better; and particularly, that the clear and full knowledge of that, which is the true system of the universe, in these respects, would greatly establish the doctrines which teach the true Christian scheme of Divine Administration in the city of God, and the gospel of Jesus Christ, in its most important articles; and that these things never can be well established, and the opposite errors, so subversive of the whole gospel, which at this day so greatly and generally prevail, be well confuted, or the arguments by which they are maintained, answered, till these points are settled. While this is not done, it is, to me, beyond doubt, that the friends of those great gospel truths will but poorly maintain their controversy with the adversaries of those truths. They will be obliged often to dodge, shuffle, hide, and turn their backs; and the latter will have a strong fort, from whence they never can be driven, and weapons to use, which those whom they oppose will find no shield to screen themselves from ; and they will always puzzle, confound, and keep under the friends of sound doctrine, and glory, and vaunt themselves in their advantage over them; and carry their affairs with an high hand, as they have done already for a long time past. I conclude, sir, with asking your pardon for troubling you with so much said in vindication of myself from the imputation of advancing a scheme of necessity, of a like nature with that of the author of the Essays on the Principles of Morality and Watural Religion. Considering that what I have said is not only in vindication of myself, but, as I think, of the most important articles of moral philosophy and religion ; I trust in what I know of your candor, that you will excuse, Your obliged friend and brother, John ATHAN EDwARDS Stockbridge, July, 23, 1757.
Concerning the Divine Decrees in general, and Election in particular.
§ 1. WHETHER God has decreed all things that ever came to pass or not, all that own the being of a God, own that he knows all things beforehand. Now, it is selfevident, that if he knows all things beforehand, he either doth approve of them, or he doth not approve of them ; that is, he either is willing they should be, or he is not willing they should be. But to will that they should be, is to decree them.
§ 2. The Arminians ridicule the distinction between the secret and revealed will of God, or, more properly expressed, the distinction between the decree and law of God; because we say he may decree one thing, and command another. And so, they argue, we hold a contrariety in God, as if one will of his contradicted another. However, if they will call this a contradiction of wills, we know that there is such a thing; so that it is the greatest absurdity to dispute about it. We and they know it was God's secret will, that Abraham should not sacrifice his son Isaac ; but yet his command was, that he should do it. We know that God willed, that Pharaoh’s heart should be hardened; and yet, that the hardness of his heart was sin. We know that God wolled the Egyptians should hate God’s people: Psal. cv. 25. “He turned their heart to hate his people, and deal subtilly with his servants.” We know that it was God’s will, that Absalom should lie with Da