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dom and goodness, must perfectly know; what was the wiseft and best plan of creation and providence, of opera ations and events, which includes every thing desirable and good, and excludes whatever is not so ; and he must fix upon this plan, without any possible error, and determine to prosecute it ; for if any thing be left undetermined and uncertain, even the most minute existence, event, or circumstance and appendage of any existence or event, it must be owing to a defect in wisdom and goodness, or in power to execute. No truth ever was, or can be more demonstrably certain than this; and none can be more agreeable to wisdom and goodness, or more important. If a man be to contrive and make any machine or building, the end which it is to answer must be in view, and fixed ; and the plan of his operation must be laid, including every thing that is to come into the composition, so as in the best manner to answer the end designed. And the more skill and wil. dom the workman has, the more clear and perfect will be his idea and view of the whole plan, and of every part, even the most minute, which is included in it ; and the more fixed and determined he will be to prosecute
this plan, without the least variation from it. And if he 4 have skill and wisdom fufficient to lay a perfect plan of
Operation, without the least mistake or error, he will be esteemed and prized above all others of less skill; and the more certain and fixed his plan of operation is, and the farther he is from a disposition to make any altera. tion, or a possibility of being impeded in his work, or unable to execute his design, according to his present purpose, the more agreeable it will be to all who are in. terested in his work which he is to execute ; and to all who have the least spark of wisdom and goodness; and that in proportion to the excellence and importance of the design. H2
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What a source of unspeakable satisfaction and joy must it then be to all the children of wisdom, that the Most High, omnipotent, infinitely wise, just and good, has laid a plan to express and exhibit his own character; which therefore must be wise and good, like himself; and which comprehends and fixes every thing, and all events, from the greatest to the least, from the first to the last; and which is absolutely perfect, infinitely wise, and comprehends all posfible good ; so that not the least thing, event, or the smallest appendage and circumstance, can be altered, left out, or added, without rendering it less desirable, excellent and perfect! And is it possible that any one who is not unfriendly to infinite wisdom and goodness, and to the most absolute perfection and ex cellence, Mould have the least objection to this? Yea, will he not highly approve of it, and make it the ground of his chief comfort and joy ? And is not this infinitely preferable to a world and series of events, if this were possible, fixed by blind fate, or existing and taking place by mere, undesigning chance ? Most certainly this de monstrable truth, that God has, by the infinitely wife counfel of his own will, from eternity foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, is infinitely more desirable than any other supposition whatever, were it possible ; and is a foundation on which a pious mind, a true friend to God, may test with the greatest security and satisfaction. And if he should give this up, what support and comfort could he have ? Where could he fly for refuge from evil ? He mult fall into the most awful darkness, and horror !
OBJECtion. It is granted that this doctrine of the Divine decrees, as it has now been stated, might readily be admitted as certain and desirable, were it possible, and was it confiftent with known fact, which it most certains ly is not: Therefore, however great and clear the evidence of this doctrine may seem to be ; and though it
appear molt desirable that all events should be determin. ed by infinite wisdom and goodness ; yet it cannot be true, because it is imposlīble and inconsistent with what has actually taken place. It is impossible, because inconGiftent with moral government, and with the freedom and moral agency of creatures, and so excludes all porn fibility of virtue or vịce, praise or blame, reward or pun. jhment. And if this doctrine were consistent with all this ; yet it is inconsistent with the evil which has taken place, both moral and natural evil, which could have no place in a plan formed and fixed by infinite wisdom and goodness, and comprehending the greatest possible good. Besides, to suppose all this evil was foreordained by God, and takes place in consequence of his purpose and decree, represents the Most High as the origin, cause or author of ít all, even all the moral evil in the universe : And what can be more shocking and horrible than this !
In this objection are three distinct things, which require a separate and particular consideration.
FIRST, It is to be inquired, Whether the doctrine of God's decrees, whereby he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, is inconsistent with the liberty and moral agency of creatures, by fixing all events and all actions, so as to render them infallibly certain. And here it may be proper to observé several things, in order to prepare the way to a more clear determination of this question.
1. If the doctrine of God's decrees be inconsistent with the freedom and moral agency of man ; then the foreknowledge of God is equally so : Therefore the objection under consideration is as much against the latter, as it is against the former. For if it beforeknown what events and what actions will take place, then they must be fixed and certain ; since it is a contradiction to say, an event is certainly foreknown,
and yet it is uncertain whether it will come to pass ; just as great and palpable a contradiction as to say, an event is certain and fixed, and yet precarious and uncertain whether it will take place, or not. Nothing can be the object of the Divine foreknowledge, which is not fixed as certainly future. If it be not fixed by the decree of God, it must be fixed by blind fate, or by something else, if this were possible; and this surely is as inconsistent with the freedom of man, as if fixed by the counsel and decree of God: Yea, infinitely more fo. This is observed, to show that he who makes the objection under confideration, and yet believes the foreknowledge of God, is inconsistent with himself; and mult, would he be confistent, withdraw his objection, or give up the doctrine of God's foreknowledge.
II. It being confessedly so very important and desir, able that whatsoever comes to pass, should be determined and fixed by infinite wisdom and goodness, if this can be done consistent with moral government; and since God is infinitely great, powerful and wise, there is reason to conclude this is not impossible; but that both are perfe&ly consistent : Is it not presumption and arrogance for fallen man, ignorant and deceived in a thousand things, peremptorily, and with assurance to determine that it is impossible with God to make creaturęs, who shall be absolutely dependent upon him, in all respects, and so as to act perfeëtly conformable to his most wise plan, and fulfil his counsel, and yet exercise all the freedom necessary to moral agency ? If this were certainly known to imply a contradiction, it might safely be pronounced impossible : But since many things have appeared to thort fighted, partial man, inconsistent and impossible, and have been confidently pronounced to be such, which afterwards have been found to be otherwise, it may be so in this cale. And if both these be really and perfe&tly con,
fiftent, how happy! Let this point then be examined, without prejudice, and with the utmost care and atten. tion, reviewing it again and again. And if the confift. ence may be discovered, what matter of consolation and joy will it afford !
III. It does not appear from our feelings and experi-, ence, that a previous certainty respecting our actions in the least takes away or diminishes our freedom and moral agenky. We feel ourselves free and accountable in our voluntary, actions ; and the supposition of a previous. certainty that we should act just as we go, does not alter... our feeling ourselves free, and knowing we act so, so far as, our experience is to be regarded. Is not this a just ground of suspicion at least, that all objections and reasonings against this, by which it is concluded to be impossible, are fallacious and without foundation : Especially when it is considered, that a mistake respecting the Divine decrees and superintendency, determining and fixing all events, which are so infinitely high, and above our reach; or about the nature of human liberty, &c. will lead to groundless and very erroneous conclusions on this point,
IV. Since it is so consonant to reason, and even demonstrably certain, that a Being of infinite understand. ing, power and wisdom, who is absolutely independent, and on whom all creatures and events wholly depend, mult determine and foreordain whatsoever comes to pass; and at the same time it is equally certain that men are free and moral agents : And since Divine Revelation molt expressly and abundantly asserts both these; he who admits and believes them both to be true, however unable he may be to reconcile them, and show or conceive how they are consistent, acts a more reasonable and .. H4