« FöregåendeFortsätt »
surely a man must be a desperate believer to receive it! Such an implicit credulity must require the entire prostration of the human intellect, and of every thing that is noble or generous in the human spirit. If such execrable dogmas are to be regarded as the tests of Christian faith, no wonder it should have gone forth into the world, thật Christian piety is implicit credence; that there are many things in the Christian system, which it would be dangerous to examine with too much nicety; that certain doctrines must be desperately believed, in spite of our intuitive convictions, and every moral sympathy of our nature; that religious principles must be believed without investigation, and be taken into our creed as the unresisting child receives the nauseous potion of the apothecary, videlicet, with his eyes fast closed, and his mouth wide open.
The doctrine of a certain and eternal prescience, in relation to all moral
actions and the final issue of human life, not consistent with the moral agency of God, and not compatible with his eternal existence, and not to be reconciled with the righteous government of the world.
If the popular notion of an infinite and eternal prescience be true, there is no kind of moral agency in existence, either created or uncreated, human or Divine. The doctrine of eternal prescience, annihilates, in theory, the moral agency of God, with the moral freedom of the human mind. For if every thing in the purposes and the actions of God, and every thing in the volitions and the conduct of men ;—if every thing which is at present contained in the whole empire of created and uncreated existence;and if every thing, which may ever hereafter, possess any kind of existence, either positive or relative, be even now, in reality, and in truth, the object of an eternal and infallible prescience; then, it must of necessity follow, that all moral agency, whether human or Divine, is nothing more than a creature of the human fancy. If every
future occurrence, as well in the conduct of God, as in the actions of men, be the object of a certain and infallible anticipation, then must the infinite Jehovah be as destitute of moral freedom as a mechanical automaton, or as an atom of unconscious and inanimate matter.
If every future event be infallibly anticipated, then the actual occurrence of every future issue, must be equally infallible : for, although the anticipation would not create the issue, yet it must
of necessity imply both the certainty and the infallibility of the issue; and the infallibility of the issue, would be as absolutely inseparable from the infallibility of the anticipation, as from the infallibility of the causation by which the issue was secured. The modesty
of the advocates of an eternal prescience, in disclaiming for their beloved doctrine all causative power, and fatal necessitation, is, only an imperfect copy of the worthy example of our Lord God the Pope; who in the plenitude of his infinite condescension, has made himself the lowly successor of an illiterate fisherman, the prostrated devotee of all the Christian churches, and has taken to himself the obsequious and crouching title of the “ Servant of Servants.” Would not old Wickliff's obsolete rendering of the apostolic title, be the most appropriate epithet by which either the Pope of Rome, or the doctrine of an eternal prescience could possibly be disignated ? a Knave of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But, to return to the question of eternal prescience, as it may
be found to bear upon the moral government of the world. The advocates of the doctrine of the certain and final perseverance of the saints, have most ingeniously argued that it would imply a severe reproach on the Divine government, to suppose, that God would ever be induced to bestow the blessing of his grace upon any person, whom he foreknew, would be certainly unfaithful in the use of it, and would, in the issue, be eternally miserable. This argument is, no doubt, perfectly tenable, and such as no man can fairly and fully refute. For to suppose that God would bestow the blessing of his grace upon any man, under a certain prescience, that it would not ultimately secure his salvation, but would infallibly serve to augment his guilt, and to aggravate his eternal misery, would be in effect, to renounce every principle of wisdom, and goodness, and mercy, in the government of the world. But now, let us fairly try the effect of this solid, and irrefragable argument, on the doctrine of an eternal prescience, and we shall prostrate that hideous monster at a single blow.
And here let me only ask my reader, whether the Creator of the world, the eternal Parent of the human race, would not employ as much integrity in our creation as in our redemption, and whether he would not have as much regard to utility and efficiency, and to the ultimate happiness of his creatures, in the one as he wouid in the other? If he would not convert any man in vain, would he create any man in vain ? If he would not bestow the blessing of his
grace upon any man under a certain prescience of final misery; would he bestow the boon of existence, under a certain prescience of his eternal misery? If he would not bestow inefficient grace, would he bestow a useless and miserable existence? If the doctrine of eternal prescience be true, then, in relation to all that will be eternally miserable, the real evil of the case would lie in their being created under a certain prescience of their eternal destiny, and not in any subsequent occurrence ; for no subsequent occurrence, whether of conversion or of nonconversion, whether of penitence or impenitence, could possibly alter their certain and eternal destiny. No man can reconcile it with the goodness, or with the justice of God, that he should bring any creature into existence, under the certain prospect of misery, and especially of eternal misery. Of such a being, it can never be said that “He is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works.” The doctrine of prescience, in relation to the finally impenitent, is as utterly incompatible with every notion of righteousness, in the great Author of our being, as the most unconditional and eternal reprobation can be.
But even, if it were to be conceded that a righteous and benevolent Creator, upon the certain prescience of final and eternal ruin, in any creature, that he was about to bring into existence, would rather forbear the act of creation, than bestow existence under such a certain prospect of misery; yet such a supposition, would evidently involve a palpable contradiction, a forbearance that would be absolutely impossible. The creation of such a being would be as eternally infallible as his destruction could be, and all contingency would be as totally inapplicable to the one, as it would be to the other. An event that is the object of a certain and infallible prescience, must be absolutely and eternally incapable of failure in its anticipated issue, neither can it be in the power of an omnipotent being, to defeat or prevent its ultimate occurrence, or to effect any kind of commentation in its final result. If, therefore, the doctrine of an eternal prescience be true, there is an end of all moral freedom in the agency of God, as well as of all moral freedom in the human mind; and there can be in reality no moral agency in existence, either in the Deity, or in any of his creatures.
The doctrine of an eternal prescience is not only inconsistent with the moral agency of God, but it is equally incompatible with the efficient exercise of
perfection. Admit a certain and infallible anticipation of the final issue of human life, and then tell me, what it is possible for any, or for all of his natural and moral perfections to do in altering, or defeating, the anticipated result? Could even an eternal prescience itself, inform the Deity how he might alter the anticipated issue? Could infinite wisdom devise any successful expedient ? Could infinite power do any thing towards altering an issue that is certainly and infallibly anticipated ? Justice might poise her scales, and brandish her flaming sword, but she would not be able to strike one successful blow; mercy might yearn with pity, and burst into tears, but she would not be able to put forth a single hand to save ;—the wailings of Divine compassion would be as unavailing as the hysterical shrieks of the frantic mother, on seeing her innocent and helpless babe, committed to the devouring flames, or precipated to the bottom of the deep. On the assumption of an eternal and infallible prescience, the moral government of the world would be only a wanton delusion on popular credulity, a tissue of endless contradiction and absurdity, a frightful monster of the human fancy. On the assumption of such an hypothesis, all the perogatives of government would be completely annihilated :-the hideous chimera of prescience, usurps the throne of the Almighty, and dashes his crown to the ground.
But the doctrine of eternal prescience, not only robs the Deity of the prerogatives of his government, but it destroys, in the theory, his perfections, and his being. No man would be able to reconcile the idea of eternal prescience with that of eternal existence; because they mutually exclude and destroy each other. If the whole of eternity be at this very moment before the broad and blazing eye of this infinite and immutable prescience, then it must not only be prescient of the last act and the last volition, but it must be equally postscient of the first act and the first volition of the Deity; because the whole of every thing, must of necessity, comprehend all its parts. Now let the advocates of this equivocal doctrine, only make their election out of the following alternative. Does that eternal