Page images

trine of necessity, which in this place it is not neces- 1 conceived to be causal, unconnected with exerted sary to discuss.

power; for mere knowledge, therefore, an action reOn the main principle of the theory just mentioned, mains free or necessitated as the case may be. A nethat the prescience of contingent events is impossible, cessitated action is not made a voluntary one by its because their nature would be destroyed by it, we may being foreknown; a free action is not made a necessary add a few remarks. That the subject is incomprehen- one. Free actions foreknown will not, therefore, cease sible as to the manner in which the Divine Being fore- to be contingent. But how stands the case as to their knows future events of this or of any kind, even the certainty? Precisely on the same ground. The cergreatest minds which have applied themselves to such tainty of a necessary action foreknown, does not result speculations have felt and acknowledged. The fact, from the knowledge of the action, but from the operathat such a property exists in the Divine Nature, is, tion of the necessitating cause; and in like manner, the however, too clearly stated in Scripture to allow of any certainty of a free action does not result from the doubt in those who are disposed to submit to its author- knowledge of it, which is no cause at all, but from the ity; and it is not left to the uncertainty of our specu- voluntary cause, that is, the determination of the will. lations on the properties of spiritual natures, either to It alters not the case in the least, to say that the volun. be confirmed or disproved. Equally clear is it that the tary action might have been otherwise. Had it been moral actions of men are not necessitated, because otherwise, the knowledge of it would have been otherhuman accountability is the main pillar of that moral wise; but as the will, which gives birth to the action, government, whose principles, conduct, and ends are is not dependent upon the previous knowledge of God, stated so largely in Divine revelation. Whatever, but the knowledge of the action upon foresight of the therefore, becomes of human speculations, these points choice of the will, neither the will nor the act is conare sufficiently settled on an authority which is abun- trolled the knowledge, and the action, though foredantly sufficient. To the objection of metaphysicians seen, is still free or contingent. of different classes, against either of these principles, The foreknowledge of God has then no influence that such is not the sense of the Scriptures, because the upon either the freedom or the certainty of actions, for fact “cannot be so, it involves a contradiction,” not this plain reason, that it is knowledge, and not influthe least importance is to be attached, when the plain, ence; and actions may be certainly foreknown, without concurrent, and uniform sense of Scripture, interpreted their being rendered necessary by that foreknowledge. as any other book would be interpreted, determines to But here it is said, If the result of an absolute continthe contrary. It surely does not follow that a thing gency be certainly foreknown, it can have no other recannot be, because men do not see, or pretend not to sult, it cannot happen otherwise. This is not the true see, that it can be. This would lay the foundation of inference. It will not happen otherwise; but I ask, our faith in the strength or weakness of other men's in- why can it not happen otherwise ? Can is an exprestellect. We are not, however, in many cases, left sion of potentiality, it denotes power or possibility. wholly to this answer, and it may be shown that the The objection is, that it is not possible that the action position, that certain prescience destroys contingency, should otherwise happen. But why not? What deis a mere sophism, and that this conclusion is connected prives it of that power? If a necessary action were in with the premise, by a confused use of terms.

question, it could not otherwise happen than as the neThe great fallacy in the argument, that the certain cessitating cause shall compel; but then that would prescience of a moral action destroys its contingent na- arise from the necessitating cause solely, and not from ture, lies in supposing that contingency and certainty are the prescience of the action, which is not causal. But the opposites of each other. It is, perhaps, unfortunate if the action be free, and it enter into the very nature that a word which is of figurative etymology, and which of a voluntary action to be unconstrained, then it might consequently can only have an ideal application to such have happened in a thousand other ways, or not have subjects, should have grown into common use in this happened at all; the foreknowledge of it no more affects discussion, because it is more liable, on that account, its nature in this case than in the other. All its potento present itself to different minds under different tiality, so to speak, still remains, independent of foreshades of meaning. If, however, the term contingent knowledge, which neither adds to its power of happenin this controversy has any definite meaning at all, as ing otherwise, nor diminishes it. But then we are applied to the moral actions of men, it must mean their told, that the prescience of it, in that case, must be unfreedom, and stands opposed not to certainty, but to certain: not unless any person can prove, that the necessity. A free action is a voluntary one; and an Divine prescience is unable to dart through all the action which results from the choice of the agent, is workings of the human mind, all its comparison of distinguished from a necessary one in this, that it might things in the judgment, all the influences of motives on not have been, or have been otherwise, according to the the affections, all the hesitancies, and haltings of the self-determining power of the agent. It is with refer- will, to its final choice. “Such knowledge is too wonence to this specific quality of a free action, that the derful for us,” but it is the knowledge of him who term contingency is used, -it might have been other- “understandeth the thoughts of man afar off.” wise; in other words, it was not necessitated. Contin- But if a contingency will have a given result, to that gency in moral actions is, therefore, their freedom, and result it must be determined. Not in the least. We is opposed not to certainty but to necessity. The very have seen that it cannot be determined to a given result nature of this controversy fixes this as the precise by mere precognition, for we have evidence in our own meaning of the term. The question is not, in point of minds, that mere knowledge is not causal to the acfact, about the certainty of moral actions, that is, tions of another. It is determined to its result by the whether they will happen or not; but about the nature will of the agent; but even in that case, it cannot be of them, whether free or constrained, whether they said, that it must be determined to that result, because must happen or not. Those who advocate this theory, it is of the nature of freedom to be unconstrained; so care not about the certainty(7) of actions, simply con- that here we have an instance in the case of a free sidered, that is, whether they will take place or not; agent that he will act in some particular manner, but the reason why they object to a certain prescience of that it by no means follows from what will be, whether moral actions is, that they conclude, that such a pre- foreseen or not, that it must be. science renders them necessary. It is the quality of On this subject, so much controverted, and on which the action for which they contend, not whether it will so much, in the way of logical consequence, depends, happen or not. If contingency meant uncertainty, the I add a few

authorities. sense in which such theorists take it, the dispute would Dr. S. Clarke observes, “ They who suppose that be at an end. But though an uncertain action cannot events which are called contingent cannot be certainly be foreseen as certain, a free, unnecessitated action foreknown, must likewise suppose, that when there is may; for there is nothing in the knowledge of the ac- not a chain of necessary causes, there can be no certion, in the least, to affect its nature. Simple know- tainty of any future events: but this is a mistake; for ledge is, in no sense, a cause of action, nor can it be let us suppose, that there is in man a power of begin

ning motion, and of acting with what has, of late, been (7) Certainty is, properly speaking, no quality of an called philosophical freedom; and let us suppose, faraction at all, unless it be taken in the sense of a fixed ther, that the actions of such a man cannot possibly and necessitated action; in this controversy it means be foreknown; will there not yet be in the nature of the certainty which the mind that foresees has, that an things, notwithstanding this supposition, the same ceraction will be done, and the certainty is therefore in the tainty of event in every one of the man's actions, as if mind and not in the action,

they were ever so fatal and necessary? For instance,

suppose the man, by an internal principle of motion, rendering that necessary which he foreknows-just and an absolute freedom of mind, to do some particular as even you may be considered accessary to the event action to-day, and suppose it was not possible that this which you anticipate, exactly in proportion to the share action should have been foreseen yesterday, was there you have had in preparing the instruments or forming not, nevertheless, the same certainty of event, as if it the minds of those who are to bring it about. had been foreseen, and absolutely necessary ? That is, “ To this I answer, that the connexion between would it not have been as certain a truth yesterday, and knowledge and the event is not at all established by from eternity, that this action was an event to be per- this argument. It is not because I knew what would formed to-day, notwithstanding the supposed freedom, follow, but because I contributed towards it, that it is as it is now a certain and infallible truth that it is per- influenced by me. You may if you please contend, formed ? Mere certainty of event, therefore, does not that because God made every thing, therefore all things in any measure, imply necessity. And surely it im- that happened are done by him. This is taking another plies no contradiction to suppose, that every future ground, for the doctrine of necessity, which will be event which, in the nature of things, is now certain, considered presently. All I maintain now is, that the may now be certainly known by that intelligence which notion of God's foreknowledge ought not to interfere is omniscient. The manner how God can foreknow fu- in the slightest degree with our belief in the contin

ture events, without a chain of necessary causes, it is gency of events, and the freedom of human actions. i indeed impossible for us to explain, yet some sort of ge- The confusion has, I conceive, arisen chiefly from the

neral notion of it we may conceive. For, as a man ambiguity of the word certainty, used as it is even by who has no influence over another person's actions, I learned writers, both in its relation to the mind which can yet often perceive beforehand what that other will thinks, and to the object about which it is thinking.”(8) do; and a wiser and more experienced man, with still To the above, I add a passage from a divine of much greater probability, will foresee what another, with older date, who has stated the argument with admirable whose disposition he is perfectly acquainted, will in clearness : certain circumstances do; and an angel, with still less In answer to the common argument, “ As a thing degree of error, may have a farther prospect into men's is, such is the knowledge of it: future contingencies future actions : so it is very reasonable to conceive are uncertain, therefore they cannot be known as certhat God, without influencing men's wills by his power, tain,” he observes, “ It is wonderful that acute minds or subjecting them to a chain of necessary causes, can- should not have detected the fallacy of this paralogism. not but have a knowledge of future free events, as For the major, which is vaunted as an axiom of much more certain than men or angels can possibly undoubted truth, is most false unless it be properly have, as the perfection of his nature is greater than explained. For if a thing is evil, shall the knowthat of theirs. The distinct manner how he foresees | ledge of it be evil? Then neither God nor angels these things, we cannot, indeed, explain; but neither could know the sins of men, without sinning themcan we explain the manner of numberless other things, selves? Again, should a thing be necessary, will the of the reality of which, however, no man entertains a knowledge of it, on that account, be also necessary? doubt.

But many things are necessary in the nature of things, Dr. Copleston judiciously remarks:

which either are unknown to us, or only known doubt“ The course indeed of the material world seems to fully. Many persons doubt even the existence of God, proceed upon such fixed and uniform laws, thai short which in the highest sense is necessary, so far are they experience joined to close attention is sufficient to en- from having a necessary knowledge of him. That able a man, for all useful purposes, to anticipate the proposition, therefore, is only true in this sense, that general result of canses now in action. In the moral our knowledge must agree with the things which are world much greater uncertainty exists. Everyone known, and ihat we know them as they are in reality, feels, that what depends upon the conduct of his fel- and not otherwise. Thus I ought to think, that the low-creatures is less certain, than what is to be paper on which I write is white and the ink black; for brought about by the agency of the laws of matter: and if i fancy the ink white and the paper black, this is not yet even here, since man is a being of a certain com- knowledge but ignorance, or rather deception. In like position, having such and such faculties, inclinations, manner, true knowledge ought to regard things necesaffections, desires, and appetites, it is very possible for sary as necessary, and things contingent as continthose who study his nature attentively, especially for gent: but it requires not that necessary things should those who have practical experience of any individual be known necessarily, and contingent things continor of any community of men, to foretel how they will gently; for the contrary often happens. be affected, and how they will act under any supposed “ But the minor of the above syllogism is ambiguous circumstances. The same power (in an unlimited de- and improper. The things about which our minds are gree as before) it is natural and reasonable to ascribe to exercised, are in themselves neither certain nor uncerthat Being, who excels the wisest of us infinitely more tain. They are called so only in respect of him who than the wisest of us excels his fellow-creatures. knows them; but they themselves are necessary or

" It never enters the mind of a person who reflects contingent. But if you understand by a certain thing, in this way, that his anticipation of another's conduct a necessary one, and by an uncertain thing, that which lays any restraint upon that man's conduct when he is contingent, as many by an abuse of terms do, then comes to act. The anticipation indeed is relative to your minor will appear to be identical and nugatory, himself, not to the other. If it affected him in the re- for it will stand, ‘Future contingencies are contingent,' motest degree, his conduct would vary in proportion to from which no conclusion can be drawn. It is to be the strength of the conviction in the mind of the thinker concluded, that certitude and incertitude are not afthat he will so act. But no man really believes in this fections of the things which are or may be known, but magical sympathy. No man supposes the certainty of of the intellect of him who has knowledge of them, and the event (to use a common, but as I conceive, an im- who forms different judgments respecting them. For proper term), to correspond at all with the certainty of one and the same thing, without any change in itself, him who foretels or expects it. In fact, every day's may be certain and uncertain at the same time: certain experience shows, that men are deceived' in the event, indeed to him who knows it certainly, but to him who even when they regarded themselves as most certain, knows it not, uncertain. For example, the same fuand when they would readily have used the strongest ture eclipse of the sun shall be certain to a skilful phrases to denote that certainty, not from any inten- astronomer who has calculated it, uncertain to him tion to deceive, but from an honest persuasion that who is ignorant of the laws of the heavenly bodies, such an event must happen. How is it then? God But that cannot be said concerning the necessity and can never be deceived-his knowledge, therefore, is al- contingency of things. They remain such as they are ways accompanied or followed by the event--and yet in their own nature, whether we know them or not; for if we get an idea of what is knowledge is, by our own, an eclipse, which from the laws of nature must newhy should we regard it dragging the event along cessarily take place, is not made contingent by my igwith it, when in our owa case we acknowledge the norance and uncertainty whether it will or will not two things to have no connexion ?

happen. For this reason they are mistaken who say, " But here the advocate for necessity interposes, and that things determined by the decree of God, are necessays, True, your knowledge does not affect the event, sary in respect of God; but that to us, who know not over which you have no power: but God, who is all his decrees, they are contingent; for our ignorance powerful, who made all things as they are, and who knows all that will come to pass, must be regarded as

(8) Inquiry into Necessity, &c.

cannot make that which is future and necessary, be-, full of mercy and provoked to revenge. And yet on cause God hath decreed it, change its nature, and be- reflection we cannot think, that any of these passions come contingent. It is no contradiction, indeed, to literally affect the Divine Nature. say, that one and the same thing may be at once ne- “And as the passions of men are thus by analogy cessary and yet uncertain, but that it should be neces- ascribed to God, because these would in us be the prinsary and contingent is a manifest contradiction. To ciples of such outward actions, as we see he has perGod, therefore, whose knowledge is infinite, future formed; so by the same condescension to the weakness contingencies are indeed certain, but to angels and of our capacities, we find the powers and operations of men, uncertain; nor are they made necessary because our minds ascribed to him. God knows them certainly. The knowledge of God “The use of foreknowledge with us, is to prevent any influences nothing extrinsically, nor changes the nature surprise when events happen, and that we may not be of things in any wise. He knows future necessary at a loss what to do by things coming upon us unthings as necessary, but contingencies as contingen- awares. Now, inasmuch as we are certain that nothing cies; otherwise he would not know them truly, but be can surprise God, and that he can never be at a loss deceived, which cannot happen to God."(9)

what to do; we conclude that God has a faculty to The rudiments of the third theory which this contro- which our foreknowledge bears some analogy, therefore versy has called forth, may be found in many theologi- we call it by that name. cal writers, ancient and modern; but it is stated at large “But it does not follow from hence, that any of these in the writings of Archbishop King, and requires some are literally in God, after the manner they are in us, any notice, because the views of that writer have of late been more than hands or eyes, than love or hatred are; on again made a subject of controversy. They amount, the contrary, we must acknowledge, that those things in brief, to this, that the foreknowledge of God must be which we call by these names, when attributed to God, supposed to differ so much from any thing of the kind are of so very different a nature from what they are in we perceive in ourselves, and from any ideas which us, and so superior to all that we can conceive, that in we can possibly form of that property of the Divine reality there is no more likeness between them, than Nature, that no argument respecting it can be grounded between our hand and God's power. Nor can we draw upon our imperfect notions; and that all controversy consequences from the real nature of one to that of the on subjects connected with it is idle and fruitless. other, with more justness of reason, than we can con

In establishing this view, Archbishop King, in his clude, because our hand consists of fingers and joints, Sermon on Divine Predestination and Foreknowledge, therefore the power of God is distinguished by such has the following observations:

parts. “ It is in effect agreed on all hands, that the nature “So that to argue, 'because foreknowledge, as it is in of God is incomprehensible by human understanding; us, if supposed infallible, cannot consist with the conand not only his nature, but likewise his powers and tingency of events, therefore what we call so in God faculties, and the ways and methods in which he ex- cannot,' is as far from reason, as it would be to conclude, ercises them, are so far beyond our reach, that we are because our eyes cannot see in the dark, therefore, utterly incapable of framing exact and adequate no- when God is said to see all things, his eyes must be entions of them.

lightened with a perpetual sunshine; or because we “ We ought to remember, that the descriptions which cannot love or hate without passion, therefore, when we frame to ourselves of God, or of the Divine Attri- the Scriptures ascribe these to God, they teach us, that butes, are not taken from any direct or immediate per- he is liable to these assections as we are. ceptions that we have of him or them; but from some “We ought, therefore, to interpret all these things, observations we have made of his works, and from the when attributed to God, only by way of condescension consideration of those qualifications, that we conceive to our capacities, in order to help us to conceive what would enable us to perform the like.

we are to expect from him, and what duty we are to “ It doth truly follow from hence, that God must pay to him. Particularly, the terms of foreknowledge, either have these, or other faculties equivalent to them, predestination, nay, of understanding and will, when and adequate to these mighty effects which proceed ascribed to him, are not to be taken strictly or properly, from them. And because we do not know what his nor are we to think that they are in him in the same faculties are in themselves, we give them the names sense that we find them in ourselves; on the contrary, of those powers that we find would be necessary to us we are to interpret them only by way of analogy and in order to produce such effects, and call them wis- comparison." dom, understanding, and foreknowledge: yet at the These views have recently been advocated by Dr. Cosame time we cannot but be sensible, that they are of pleston, in his “ Inquiry into the Doctrines of Necessity a nature altogether different from ours, and that we and Predestination;" but to this theory the first objechave no direct and proper notion or conception of them. tion is, that, like the former, it does not, in the least, Only we are sure that they have effects like unto relieve the difficulty, for the entire subduing of which those that proceed from wisdom, understanding, and it was adopted. foreknowledge in us; and that when our works fail to For though foreknowledge in God should be admitted resemble them in any particular, it is by reason of to be something of a “very different nature” to the some defect in these qualifications.

same quality in man, yet as it is represented as some“ Thus our reason teaches us to ascribe these attri- thing equivalent to foreknowledge, whatever that somebutes to God, by way of analogy to such qualities as thing may be; as, in consequence of it, prophecies have we find most valuable in ourselves.

actually been uttered and fulfilled, and of such a kind, “If we look into the Holy Scriptures, and consider too, as relate to actions for which men have in fact been the representations given us there of God or his attri- held accountable; all the original difficulty of reconbutes, we shall find them plainly borrowed from some ciling contingent events to this something, of which resemblance to things, with which we are acquainted by human foreknowledge is a “kind of shadow," as "& our senses. Thus, when the Holy Scriptures speak map of China is to China itself,” remains in full force. of God, they ascribe hands, and eyes, and feet to him: The difficulty is shifted, but not removed; it cannot not that we should believe he has any of these mem- even be with more facility slided past; and either the bers, according to the literal signification; but the Christian world must be content to forego all inquiries meaning is, that he has a power to execute all those into these subjects,-a consummation not to be exacts, to the affecting of which these parts in us are in- pected, however it may be wished, or the contest must strumental: that is, he can converse with men, as

be resumed on another field, with no advantage from well as if he had a tongue and mouth; he can discern better ground or from broader daylight. all that we do or say, as perfectly as if he had eyes A farther objection to these notions is, that they are and ears; he can reach us as well as if he had hands dangerous. and feet; he has as true and substantial a being, as if For if it be true, that the faculties we ascribe to God he had a body; and he is as truly present every where are “ of a nature altogether uifTerent from our own, as if that body were infinitely extended.

and that we have no direct and proper notion or concep“ After the same manner, we find him represented as tion of them," then, in point of fact, we have no proper affected with such passions as we perceive to be in revelation at all of the nature of God, and of his attriourselves, namely, as angry and pleased, as loving and utes, in the Scriptures; and what we esteem to be hating, as repenting and changing his resolutions, as such, is a revelation of terms to which we can attach no

proper notion.” If this conclusion be well founded, (9) CURCELLÆUS, De Jure Dei, 1615.

then it is so monstrous, that the premises on which it

hangs must be unsound and anti-scriptural. This of our Lord with the woman of Samaria, forbids this. alone is a sufficient general refutation of the hypo- It is a declaration of the nature of God, and of the thesis: but a more particular examination will show, worship suited to his nature ; and the word employed that it rests upon false assumptions; and that it intro- is that by which both Jews and Samaritans had been duces gratuitous difficulties, not called for by the sup- taught by the same inspired records, which they each posed difficulty of reconciling the foreknowledge of God possessed, to designate and conceive of the intellectual with the freedom of human actions.

nature of man. The nature of God, and the nature of 1. It is assumed, that the descriptions which we man, are not the same; but they are similar, because frame to ourselves of God, are taken from the observa- they bear many attributes in common, though on the tions we have made on his works, and from the con- part of the Divine Nature in a degree of perfection sciousness of those qualifications, which, we conceive, infinitely exceeding. The difference of degree, however, would enable us to perform the like. This might be, in cannot prove a difference of essence,-no, nor the cirpart, true of heathens left without the light of revela- cumstance that one has attributes which the other has tion; but it is not true of those who enjoy that ad- not,-in any sense of the word difference which could vantage. Our knowledge of God comes from the be of service to the advocates of this hypothesis. But Scriptures, which are taught to us in our infancy, and if a total difference is proved as to the intellectual attriwith which, either by reading or hearing, we become butes of God and men, that difference must be extended familiar as we grow up. The notions we have of God, to the moral attributes also; and so the very foundation so far as they agree with the Scriptures, are, therefore, of morals and religion would be undermined. This not those which we have framed by the process assumed point was successfully pressed by Edwards against by the Archbishop, but those which have been declared Archbishop King, and it is met very feebly by Dr. Coto us in the Scriptures by God himself, as descriptions pleston. " Edwards," he observes, "raises a clamour of his own nature. This makes a great difference. about the moral attributes, as if their nature also must Our own modes of forming conceptions of the Divine be held to be different in kind from human virtues, if the Nature would have no authority higher than ourselves; knowledge of God be admitted to be different in kind the announcements of Scripture are the word of God, from ours.". Certainly this follows from the principles communicating by human language the truth and reality laid by Archbishop King; and if his followers of things, as to himself. This is the constant profession take his conclusions as to the intellectual attributes, of the sacred writers; they tell us, not what there is in they must take them as to the moral attributes also. If man which may support an analogy between man and the faculties of God be “ of a nature altogether different God, but what God is in himself.

from ours,” we have no more reason to except from this 2. It is assumed, that because the nature of God is rule the truth and the justice, than the wisdom and the “incomprehensible,” we have no “ proper notion or con- prescience of God; and the reasoning of Archbishop ception of it." The term “proper notion” is vague. King is as conclusive in the one case as in the other. It may mean "an exact and adequate notion," which it The fallacy of the above assumptions is sufficient to may be granted without hesitation that we have not; or destroy the hypothesis which has been built upon them; it may mean a notion correct and true in itself, though and the argument from Scripture may be shown to be not complete and comprehensive. A great part of the as unfounded. It is, as the above extract will show, fallacy lies here. To be incomprehensible, is not, in in brief this,-that as the Scriptures ascribe, by anaevery case, and assuredly not in this, to be unintelli- logy, hands, and eyes, and feet to God, and also the gible. We may know God, though we cannot fully passions of love, hatred, anger, vc., “because these know him; and our notions may be true, though not would be in us the principles of such outward actions adequate ; and they must be true, if we have rightly as we see he has performed ; so, by the same condeunderstood God's revelation of himself. of being, for scension to the weakness of our capacities, we find the instance, we can form a true notion, because we are powers and operations of our minds ascribed to him.” conscious of our own existence; and though we cannot But will the advocates of this opinion look steadily to its extend the conception to absoluté being or self-existence, legitimate consequences? We believe not; and those because our being is a dependent one, we can yet supply consequences must, therefore, be its total refutation. the defect, as we are taught by the Scriptures, by the For if both our intellectual and moral affections are negative notion of independence. Of spirit we have a made use of but as distant analogies and obscure intitrue notion, and understand, therefore, what is meant, mations, to convey to us an imperfect knowledge of the when it is said, that “God is a Spirit ;" and though we intellectual powers and affections of the Divine nature, can have but an imperfect conception of an infinite in the same manner as human hands and human eyes Spirit, we can supply that want also, to all practical are made to represent his power and his knowledge,purposes, by the negative process of removing all imper- it follows, that there is nothing in the Divine nature fection, or limit of excellence, from our views of the which answers more truly and exactly to knowledge, Divine Nature. We have a true notion of the presence justice, truth, mercy, and other qualities in man, than of one being with other beings, and with place; and the knowledge of God answers to human organs of though we cannot comprehend the mode in which God vision, or his power to the hands or the feet; and from is omnipresent, we are able to conceive without diffi- this it would follow, that nothing is said in the Scripculty the fact, that the Divine presence fills all things. tures of the Divine Being, but what is in the highest We have true notions of power and knowledge; and sense figurative and purely metaphorical. We are no can suppose them infinite, though how they should be more like God in our minds than in our bodies, and it so, we know not. And as to the moral attributes, such might as truly have been said with respect to man's as truth, justice, and goodness, we have not only true, bodily shape as to his mental faculties, that man was but comprehensive, and, for any thing that appears to made in the image of God."(1) the contrary, adequate notions of them; for our difficulties as to these attributes do not arise from any inca- (1) “ Though his grace rightly lays down analogy for pacity to conceive of what is perfect truth, perfect jus- the foundation of his discourse, yet, for want of having tice, and perfect goodness, but from our inability to show thoroughly weighed and digested it, and by wording how many things which occur in the Divine govern- himself incautiously, he seems entirely to have dement are to be reconciled to these attributes ;--and stroyed the nature of it; insomuch that, while he rethat, not because our notions of the attributes them- jects the strict propriety of our conceptions and words selves are obscure, but because the things, out of which on the one hand, he appears to his antagonists to run such questions arise, are either in themselves, or in into an extreme, even below metaphor, on the other. their relations, but partially understood or greatly mis- “His greatest mistake is, that through his discourse taken. Job and his friends did not differ in abstract he supposes the members and actions of a human body, views of the justice of the moral government of God, which we attribute to God in a pure metaphor, to be but in reconciling Job's afflictions with it.

equally upon the same foot of analogy with the pas3. It is assumed that the nature of God is essentially sions of a human soul, which are attributed to him in different from the spiritual nature of man. This is not a lower and more imperfect degree of analogy; and the doctrine of Scripture. When it says, that "God is even with the operations and perfections of the pure a spirit;" we have no reason to conclude, that a distant mind or intellect, which are attributed to him in a yet analogy, such a one as springs out of mere relation, higher and more complete degree. In pursuance of which, in a poetic imagination, might be sufficient to this oversight, he expressly asserts love and anger, support a figure of speech, is alone intended. The very wisdom and goodness, knowledge and forek nowledge, argument connected with these words, in the discourse and all the other Divine attributes, to be spoken of God, It is also to be observed, that when the Scriptures not? As they are represented in Scripture to be affecspeak of the knowledge, power, and other attributes of tions of the Divine nature, and not in the gross manner God in figurative language, taken from the eyes or in which they are expressed in this extract, there seems hands of the body, it is sufficiently obvious that this nothing improper in taking them literally; and no language is metaphorical, not only from the reason of necessity is made out to compel us to understand them things itself, but because the same ideas are also quite to signiiy somewhat for which we have not a name, as often expressed without figure; and the metaphor, and of which we can form no idea. The Scriptures notherefore, never misleads us. We have sufficient proof, where warrant us to consider God as a cold, metaphyalso, that it never did mislead the Jews, even in the sical abstraction; and they nowhere indicate to us, that worst periods of their history, and when their tendency when they ascribe affections to him, they are to be to ido

ry and gross sup ion was most powerful. taken as mere figures of speech. On the contrary, they They made images in human shape of other gods; but teach us to consider them as answering substantially, never of JEHOVAH. The Jews were never Anthropo- thongh not circumstantially, to the innocent affections morphites, whatever they might be besides. But it is of men and angels. Why may not anger be "liteequally certain, that they did give a literal interpreta- rally” ascribed to God, not indeed as it may be carication to those passages in their Scriptures, which speak tured to suit a theory, but as we find it ascribed in the of the knowledge, justice, mercy, &c. of God, as the Scriptures? It is not malignant anger, nor blind, same in kind, though infinitely higher in their degree stormy, and disturbing anger, which is spoken of; nor of excellence, with the same qualities in men. The is this always, nor need it be at any time, the anger of reason is obvious; they could not interpret those pas- creatures. There is an anger which is without sin in sages of their Holy Writings which speak of the hands, man, “a perception of evil and opposition to it, and the eyes, and the feet of God, literally; because every also an emotion of mind, a sensation, or passion, suitpart of the same sacred revelation was full of repre- able thereto.”(2) There was this in our Lord, who was sentations of the Divine nature, which declared his without sin; nor is it represented by the Evangelists, absolute spirituality; and they could not interpret those who give us the instances, as even an infirmity of the passages figuratively which speak of the intellectual and nature he assumed. In God, it may be allowed to exist moral qualities of God in terms that express the same in a different manner to that in which it is found even qualities in men; because their whole revelation did not in men who are “angry and sin not;" it is accompafurnish them with any hint, even the most distant, that nied with no weakness, it is allied to no imperfection; there was a more literal or exact sense in which they but that it does exist as truly in him as in man is the conld be taken. It was not possible for any man to doctrine of Scripture; and there is no perfection take literally that sublimely figurative representation ascribed to God, to which it can be proved contrary, or of the upholding and ruling power of God, where he is with which we cannot conceive it to coexist.(3) Not said to hold the waters of the ocean in the hollow of only anger, we are told, is ascribed to God, but “the his hand,” unless he could also conclude that where he being pleased." Let the term used be complacency, is said to “ weigh the mountains in scales, and the hills instead of one which seems to have been selected to in a balance,” he was to understand this literally also. convey a notion of a lower and less worthy kind; and The idea suggested is that of sustaining, regulating, there is no incongruity in the idea. He is the blessed and adjusting power; but if he were told that he ought or happy God, and therefore capable of pleasure. He to take the idea of power in as figurative a sense as looked upon his works and saw that they were" good,” that of the waters being held in the hollow of the hand “ very good,"--words which suggest the idea of his of God, and his weighing the mountains in scales, he complacency upon their completion; and this, when would find it impossible to form any idea of the thing separated from all connexion with human infirmity, signified at all. The first step in the attempt would appears to be a perfection, and not a defect. To be inplunge him into total darkness. The figurative hand capable of complacency and delight is the character of assists him to form the idea of managing and control- | the Supreme Being of EPICURUS and of the modern ling power, but the figurative power suggests nothing; Hindoos, of whose internal state, so to speak, deep and so this scheme blots out entirely all revelation of sleep, and the surface of an unruffled lake, are favourite God of any kind, by resolving the whole into figures, figurative representations. But of this refinement we which represent nothing of which we can form any con- have nothing in the Bible, nor is it in the least necesception.

sary to our idea of infinite perfection. And why should The argument of ARCHBISHOr King, from the pas- not love exist in God in more than a figurative sense ? sions which are ascribed to God in Scripture, is not for this aflection to be accompanied with perturbation, more conclusive. “After the same manner we find anxiety, and weak or irrational partiality, is a mere him represented as affected with such passions as we accident. So we often see it in human beings; but perceive to be in ourselves, as angry and pleased, as though this affection, without any concurrent infirmity, loving and hating, as repenting and changing his reso- be ascribed to God, it surely does not follow that it lutions, as full of mercy and provoked to revenge; and exists in him as something in nature, “wholly differyet, on reflection, we cannot think that any of these ent” from love in wise and holy creatures, in angels, passions literally affect the Divine nature.” But why and in saints. Not only the beauty, the force, and the

encouragement of a thous

passages of Scripture as improperly as eyes or ears, that there is no more would be lost upon this hypothesis, but their meaning likeness between these things in the Divine nature and also. Love in God is something, we are told, which is in ours, than there is between our hand and God's so called, because it produces similar effects to those power, and that they are not to be taken in the same which are produced by love in man; but what this

something is we are not informed. And the revelation of “ Agreeably to this incautious and indistinct manner Scripture as to God is thus reduced to a revelation of of treating a subject curious and difficult, he hath unwarily dropped some such shocking expressions as these,--the best representations we can make of God (2) WESLEY. are infinitely short of truth. Which God forbid, in (3) Melancthon says, The Lord was very angry with the sense his adversaries take it; for then all our rea- Aarón to have destroyed him ; and I [Moses) prayed sonings concerning him would be groundless and false. for Aaron also at the same time. (Deut. ix. 20.) Let But the saying is evidently true in a favourable and us not elude the exceedingly lamentable expressions qualified sense and meaning; namely, that they are which the Holy Ghost employs, when he says, God was infinitely short of the real, true, internal nature of God very angry; and let us not feign to ourselves a God of as he is in himself. Again, that they are emblems in- stone, or a Stoical Deity. For though God is angry in deed, and parabolical figures of the Divine attributes, a different manner from men, yet let us conclude that which they are designed to signify; as if they were God was really angry with Aaron, and that Aaron was signs or figures of our own, altogether precarious and not then in a state of] grace, but obnoxious to everarbitrary, and without any real and true foundation of lasting punishment. Dreadful was the fall of Aaron, analogy between them, in the nature of either God or who had through fear yielded to the madness of the man; and accordingly, he unhappily describes the people when they instituted the Egyptian worship. knowledge we have of God and his attributes, by the Being warned by this example, let us not confirm ournotion we form of a strange country by a map, which selves in security, but acknowledge that it is possible is only paper and ink, strokes and lines."--Bishop for elect and renewed persons horribly to fall," &C. BROWN's Procedure of Human Understanding. Loci Precipui Theologi, 1543


« PreviousContinue »