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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
and purifying the mind-the intellect will be certain, (as chance is out of the question,) to give a defective representation of good, because it is necessarily connected with the source of tailure, vis. comparative defect, and, therefore, the want of infallibility. If the choice be right and virtuous, it is the infallible index of two good things decreed, the natural act, and a holy principle in the heart, which is the source of moral actions. If the choice be wrong and vicious, it is, also, an infallible index of two things, the natural act which is good, and, therefore, decreed, and a principle of limitation and failure, which neither is, nor can be, an object of decree. This negative principle in fallen angels and men, is intimately connected and intermixed with moral depravity, yet in itself, abstractedly considered, it is not sinful, but is the cause of all sinfulness It is an essential property of creatures in every state of their existence, and, therefore, cannot be in itself sinful; nor is it possible for any thing sinful, to be the origin of sin, for then sin would be the origin of itself, or self-existent, which is infinitely absurd. How can the same thing be both before and after itself?
Here it may be asked, if the origin of moral evil be not itself sinful, why may not God be its origin? The reason is plain, because God is absolute perfection, and has not in him a principle of defection, and therefore it is impossible for him to impart what he has not. He can no more impart imperfection, than he can impart falsehood. Why is he a God that cannot lie? Becaue he is absolute truth. Why cannot he impart imperfection, or decree sinfulness? Because he is absolute goodness and holiness. But though that principle which is the origin of sin is not sinful, it is not a perfection, in any sense, but a relative defect. This is its real character, and such character must necessarily be the origin of moral evil. Were it sinful, it could not be the cause of sin, for this would be absurdly to identify the cause and the effect, or to ascribe to imperfection, the perfection of self existence. And were it a perfection, or something that was not an imperfection, the effect would be contrary to the tendency of its cause, which would be to subvert the first principles of knowledge, reason, and truth.
Moral evil, which is the sinfulness of a free act, is a defect, a failure of conformity to rectitude, and therefore, though a source of misery to the subject of it, (a misery generated by the defect itself,) it can no more be caused by the divine will, than pure nihility, or a mathematical point, can be so caused. The entity of the free act is indeed effected by divine will and energy, operating on a secondary cause, but this constitutes no part of its defect, its failure of conformity, or sinfulness. Thus the very nature of sin proves that the divine will neither is, nor can possibly be. the cause of it. To suppose that God decrees, or any way wills a defect, or a failure of perfection of any kind, is even more absurd than to suppose that he decrees mere nihility; because it involves more absurd consequences, when compared with his declared opposition to sin. Though he counteracts nihility by actual creation, and providential preservation, it is no object of blame, or holy hatred, as moral evil is.
As the point under discussion, though deep, is far from being a mere speculation which has no practical advantage-but has an extensive influence on many important theological subjects, and on the rational ground of experimental religion-it may be advantageous to view it in different lights. Still, it may be asked by some, if moral evil does not take place because God wills it should be," whence does it originate? It may be replied, its immediate origination is a moral agent's abuse of his free will, or of his will acting freely, without restraint from good, or constraint to evil. But the question still returns, What is the ultimate cause of that abuse? Every one must allow, that, as an effect, it must have some cause, some adequate reason why it takes place in a moral system; and it must be further allowed, that this cannot be chance, or absolute contingence, for then there would be no ground of its being foreknown. To foreknow what is in itself uncertain, is a direct contradiction; and a contradictory position cannot be an object of foreknowledge,
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
because it cannot be an object of any knowledge, except as a falsehood. To attempt an evasion of this argument, by recurring to the infinitude of the divine knowledge, is a weak subterfuge; for, if any thing be in itself uncertain, the more perfect the knowledge is, the more perfectly it is known to be uncertain What is contingent with respect to us, is only relatively so, because our knowledge is limited; but with respect to God, whose understanding is infinite, there is nothing contingent; that is, there is no absolute contingence, or mere chance. in the nature of things. There must, therefore, of necessity, be an origin of moral evil. which is certainly foreknown, or foreknown as a certain fact. And it has been proved that it is not, and that it cannot possibly be, divinely caused; it must, therefore, originate in the creature, and in something of which he is the subject. which is not an object of divine causation. It may still be objected, Is there any thing in a creature, as such, which is not divine y caused? If, by" thing." be meant, what has positive existence, there certainly is not; but, in another sense, there certainly is, otherwise there would be a creature without any relative defect, compared with the Creator. If he has no defect or imperfection of any kind, then the Creator and the creature must necessarily be identified. For what can constitute the difference between a caused and an uncaused being, if not the absolute perfection of the latter, and the comparative imperfection of the former? And this comparative imperfection cannot be sinful, otherwise there could be no creature without sin, which is absurd in thought, and contrary to revealed facts. This relative defect, which constitutes an essential difference between a derived and an underived existence, is an adequate (and indeed the only possible) origin of moral evil; but it is, however, only hypothetical, that is, on supposition, that there is no decreed operation of a contrary principle, to prevent the occurrence of moral evil as a consequence. And there can be no doubt, that God actually does, in millions of instances, "overcome this evil with good," in preventing the inhabitants of this world from being worse than they are. That interrogation, "Who hath made thee to differ from another?" is full of important meaning. It implies a strong affirmation, that God alone makes any man to differ for the better from another, and that no one has any excellency, either natural or spiritual, but what is a divine gift. But, on the other hand, the agent alone makes himself to differ for the worse, whether from others, or from his former self, otherwise he could not be the object of divine displeasure and blame. It is not, however, the cause of sin that is the object of blame and displeasure in the exercise of holy government, but the sin itself, and the person who commits it.
It is of little moment, by what words, or in what language, this essential principle is expre-sed: whether by passive power. (perhaps the most significant and convenient as a technical term.) comparative imperfection, the evil of imperfect existence, me a physical evil, the want of ulterior perfection, an essential tendency to defection, &c.; the thing itself, as possessing a relative influence in the demonstrations of moral science, is absolutely certain. If we reject it, nothing in morality can possibly be the subject of scientific demonstration, any more than in geometry. any proposition can be demonstrated if we reject that relative nothing, a mathematical point, which is implied in every diagram. But, if we admit it, there is nothing important in moral science but is capable of being reduced to rigid and fair demonstration. It should, bowever, be carefully remembered, that though it is an adequate reason of the event, and is the only ultimate origin of moral evil as the consequence, it is suspended on this condition, "If the all-sufficient first cause do not communicate to the agent's mind a supporting holy influence." Grant the agent (that is, a created, and, therefore, a dependant agent,) active powers and freedom. (that is, freedom from decretive constraint to an evil choice, and from restraint as te a good choice,) and nothing but sovereign or arbitrary goodness can, in the na
sacrifice his son Isaac; but yet his command was, that he should do it.
§ 3. It is most certain, that if there are any things so contingent, that there is an equal possibility of their being, or not being, so that they may be, or they may not be; God foreknows, from all eternity, that they may be, and also, that they may not be. All will grant, that we need no revelation to teach us this. And furthermore, if God knows all things that are to come to pass, he also foreknows whether those contingent things are to come to pass or no, at the same time that they are contingent, and that they may, or may not come to pass. But what a contradiction is it to say, that God knows a thing will come to pass, and yet at the same time knows that it is contingent whether it will come to pass or no; that is, he certainly knows it will come to pass, and yet certainly knows it may not come to pass? What a contradiction is it to say, that God certainly foreknew that Judas would betray his master, or Peter deny him, and yet certainly knew that it might be otherwise, or certainly knew that he might be deceived? I
ture of things, (that is, in the nature of God and of the creature.) prevent the consequence, moral evil. What an argument for godly fear, profound humility, and constant dependence on God all-sufficient; and what a proof of our need of gracious influence, (even abstracted from the additional consideration of our sinful apostacy.) to keep us from sin; and considered as apostate creatures, what a powerful recommendation of a life of prayer, and the gospel system of salvation!
1. Hence we may see that a decree of good does not imply a decree of evilpredestination to life, does not imply predestination to death-in other words, that a decree of election, does not imply a decree of reprobation, as maintained by some of the reformers. The 17th article of the church of England steers clear of this dangerous rock.
2. Since all the disputes between Calvinists and Arminians, are founded in differing notions about the divine decrees and free will, and since these differing notions are thoroughly removed by a right knowledge of the origin of moral evil, which is capable of demonstrative evidence-we may inter, that in proportion as Calvinists and Arminians are capable of estimating absolute demonstration, their disagreement will be annihilated-and that nothing but ignorance and prejudice can prevent their harmonious coalition. O happy period, when all God's people shall "see eye to eye!"-Let the Calvinist, from full conviction, assure his opponent, that God decrees only good, whether natural, moral, or spiritual; but in no sense, whatever, decrees, or any way wills moral evil-let him further state, that the origin, or cause of moral evil, is in the creature in such a manner, as to be neither created nor willed by the author of our being, but yet is inseparably related to our existence-and let him further insist, that God could, if he saw it best, prevent by his grace the commission of sin, in every possible instance, while he leaves the human will perfectly freeand that to him alone we should look for assistance to enable us to avoid sin, as well as for pardon and acceptance-firmly persuaded of these things, on the clearest ground of evidence, let him invite his opponent to give him the right hand of fellowship-if, after all, the Arminian draws back, he must, in the view of every intelligent mind, appear either profoundly ignorant, or most unreasonably bigotted. In this case, though not blameless, he should be the sub ject of pity and of prayer.-W.
suppose it will be acknowledged by all, that for God certainly to know a thing will be, and yet certainly to know that it may not be, is the same thing as certainly to know that he may be deceived. I suppose it will also be acknowledged, that certainly to know a thing, and, also, at the same time, to know that we may be deceived in it, is the same thing as certainly to know it, and certainly to know that we are uncertain of it, or that we certainly do not know it: and that is the same thing as certainly to know it, and not certainly to know it at the same time; which we leave to be considered, whether it be not a contradiction.
§ 4. The meaning of the word absolute, when used about the decrees, wants to be stated. It is commonly said, God decrees nothing upon a foresight of any thing in the creature ; as this, they say, argues imperfection in God; and so it does, taken in the sense that they commonly intend it. But nobody, I believe, will deny that God decrees many things that he would not have decreed, if he had not foreknown and foredetermined such and such other things. What we mean, we completely express thus-That God decrees all things harmoniously, and in excellent order, one thing harmonizes with another, and there is such a relation between all the decrees, as makes the most excellent order. Thus God decrees rain in drought, and he also decrees the earnest prayers of his people, because he decrees rain. I acknowledge, to say, God decrees a thing because, is an improper way of speaking; but not more improper than all our other ways of speaking about God. God decrees the latter event, because of the former, no more than he decrees the former, because of the latter. But this is what we mean:-When God decrees to give the blessing of rain, he decrees the prayers of his people; and, when he decrees the prayers of his people for rain, he very commonly decrees rain; and, thereby, there is an harmony between these two decrees, of rain, and the prayers of God's people. Thus, also, when he decrees diligence and industry, he decrees riches and prosperity; when he decrees prudence, he often decrees success; when he decrees striving, then he often decrees the obtaining the kingdom of heaven; when he decrees the preaching of the gospel, then he decrees the bringing home of souls to Christ; when he decrees good natural faculties, diligence, and good advantages, then he decrees learning; when he decrees summer, then he decrees the growing plants; when he decrees conformity to his Son, then he decrees calling; when he decrees calling, then he decrees justification; and when he decrees justification, then he decrees everlasting glory. Thus, all the decrees of God are harmonious; and this is all that can be said for or against absolute or conditional decrees. But this I say, it is as impro
per to make one decree a condition of another, as to make the ether a condition of that: but there is an harmony between both.
§ 5. As to such an absolute contingency, which they attribute to man's will, calling it the sovereignty of the will; if they mean by this sovereignty of will, that a man can will as he wills, it is perfect nonsense, and the same as if they should spend abundance of time and pains, and be very hot at proving, that a man can will what he doth will; that is, that it is possible for that to be, which is. But if they mean, that there is a perfect contingency in the will of man, that is, that it happens merely by chance that a man wills such a thing, and not another, it is an impossibility and contradiction, that a thing should be without any cause or reason, and when there was every way as much cause why it should not have been.
6. Contingency, as it is holden by some, is at the same time contradicted by themselves, if they hold foreknowledge. This is all that follows from an absolute, unconditional, irreversible decree, that it is impossible but that the things decreed should be. The same exactly follows from foreknowledge, that it is absolutely impossible but that the thing certainly foreknown should precisely come to pass.
§ 7. They say, to what purpose are praying and striving, and attending on means, if all was irreversibly determined by God before? But, to say that all was determined before these prayers and strivings, is a very wrong way of speaking, and begets those ideas in the mind, which correspond with no realities with respect to God. The decrees of our everlasting state were not before those of our prayers and strivings; for these are as much present with God from all eternity, as they are the moment they are present with us. They are present as part of his decrees, or rather as the same; and they did as really exist in eternity with respect to God, as they exist in time, and as much at one time as another. Therefore, we can no more fairly argue, that these will be in vain, because God has foredetermined all things, than we can that they would be in vain if they existed as soon as the decree, for so they do, inasmuch as they are a part of it.
68. When a distinction is made between God's revealed will and his secret will, or his will of command and decree, will is certainly in that distinction taken in two senses. His will of decree is not his will in the same sense as his will of command is. Therefore, it is no difficulty at all to suppose, that the one may be otherwise than the other. His will in both senses is in his inclination. But when we say he wills virtue, or loves virtue, or the happiness of his creature; thereby is intended, that virtue, or the creature's happiness, absolutely and simply considered, is agreeably to the inclination of