Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

Christ had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on lim : that the saying of Esaias the Prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom bath the arm of the Lord been revealed ? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them (h): There are many passages in the Gospels similar to this, and we are not to understand by them, that the events took place merely for the purpose that the sayings of the antient Prophets might be fulfilled; or that God, by hardening the hearts, and blinding the understandings, of the Jews, made it impossible for them to believe. God foresaw that a very large proportion of the Jeu's would reject the Gospel : and he was pleased to foretel this among other events relative to the advent and ministry of Christ. It was designed that the fulfilment of these various predictions should form a part of the evidence of the divine authority of the Gospel. · What the Prophets had predicted, was certain to come to pass; but this certainty by no means caused the events to be the decrees of God. They did not happen because they were foretold, but they were, for the wisest purpose, foretold, because it was foreseen they would happen. The (h) John, c. 12. v. 37-40.

prescience

[merged small][ocr errors]

prescience of God is to be considered as perfectly distinct from his will. He foresees all the actions of men, both those which are conformable, and those which are contrary, to bis will; but this prescience of God does not affect the free-agency of man (i). Freedom of will and liberty of action

are

(i) As the decree of God is eternal, so is his knowledge. And therefore, to speak truly and properly, there is neither fore-knowledge, nor after-knowledge in him. The knowledge of God comprehends all times in a point, by reason of the eminence and virtue of its infinite perfection. And yet I confess this is called fore-knowledge in respect of us. But this fore-knowledge doth produce no absolute necessity. Things are not therefore, because they are fore-known; but therefore they are fore-known, because they shall come to pass. If any thing should come to pass otherwise than it doth, yet God's knowledge could not be irritated by it, for then he did not know that it should come to pass as now it doth. Because every knowledge of vision necessarily presupposeth its object. God did know that Judas should betray Christ; but Judas was not necessitated to be a traitor by God's knowledge. If Judas had not betrayed Christ, then God had not foreknown that Judas should betray him. The case is this; a watchinan standing on the steeple's top (as is the use in Germany) gives notice to them below, who see no such things, that company are coming, and how many ; his prediction is most certain, for he sees them. What a vain collection were it for one below to say, what if they do not come, then a certain prediction may fail. It may be urged that there is a difference between the two cases: in this case the coming is present to the watchman; but Q3

that

are the essential qualities of men, as moral responsible beings; but to foresee how every individual of the human race will, upon every occasion, determine and act, is the incomprehensible attribute of the Deity. That such an attribute does belong to God, is placed beyond all doubt by the accurate accomplishment of numerous prophecies; and the free-agency of man is proclaimed in every page of Scripture, and confirmed by the experi

ence

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

that which God foreknows is future. God knows what shall be, the watchman only knows what is. I answer, that this makes no difference at all in the case, by reason of that disparity which is between God's knowledge and ours: as that consing is present to the watchman which is future to them who are below, so all those things which are future to us, are present to God, because his infinite and eternal knowledge doth reach to the future being of all agents and events. Thus much is plainly acknowledged by Thomas Hobbes, No. 11, that fore-knowledge is knowledge, and knowledge depends on the existence of the things known, and not they on it. To conclude, the prescience of Goth doth not make things more necessary, than the production of the things themselves. But if the agents were free-agents, the production of the things doth not make the events to be absolutely necessary, but only upon supposition that the causes were so determined. God's prescience proveth a necessity of infallibility, but not of antecedent extrinsecal determination to one. If any event should not come to pass, God did never foreknow that it would come to pass, for any knowledge necessarily presupposeth its object.” Abp. Bramhall, p. 727.

ence of every moment (k). These sublime and important truths are to be treated as fundamental and incontrovertible principles; and no interpretation of Scripture is to be admitted in contradiction to them. The Jews" could not believe" because

of

(k) God even knows how men would act, and what events would happen, under circumstances, which in reality never take place, and has on some occasions cominunicated these contingencies by special Revelations, without any control or restraint upon the Free agency of those to whom he revealed them. God, in answer to the inquiries of David, informed him, that if he remained at Keilah, Saul would come down against him, and that the men of the City would deliver him into the hands of his enraged enemy. If we believe the Truth and Omniscience of God, we cannot doubt but that David might have continued at Keilah, and that in that case he would have been delivered up to Saul ; but David, by the exercise of his Free-will, in consequence of the divine communication, “ departed out of Keilah;" and Saul, when he beard that David had escaped from thence, went not thither, 1 Sam. c. 23. v. 9-13. In like manner God foresaw, and declared by his Prophet Elisha, that Benhadad King of Syria might recover from his sickness, but still that he would“ surely die” from another cause ; and on the following day, before his sickness left him, he was murdered by Hazael: here again we must believe that the disease of Benhadad would not have been fatal, although his recovery was prevented by the voluntary act of Hazael. 2 Kings, c.8.v.7--15. Vide Dr. Eveleigh's Sermon upon Deut. c. 30.v. 19. in which these two instances of David and Benhadad are urged with great force as conclusive against "absolute and universal predestination.”

[ocr errors]

of their own prejudices and lusts, and not because it was so decreed; for a decree of this kind would not only have been inconsistent with their free-. agency, but irreconcileable also with many passages of Scripture, and particularly with our Saviour's exhortations recorded in the same chapter, “ Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you :. while ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light (k):There was therefore no divine decree, which prevented the Jews from walking according to the doctrine of Christ, and embracing his religion, since we cannot suppose that our Saviour would call upon the Jews to do that which God had made impossible. That this is the right interpretation of St. John's quotation from Isaiah, is also evident from the terms in which the same passage is quoted by St. Matthew, “ And in them is fulfilled the

prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive; for this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed (1):" Here it is expressly said, that they closed their own eyes; and in other places we find their unbelief and rejection of the Gospel attributed to their own obstinacy and wickedness: “ How often would I

bave (k) John, c. 12. v.35 & 36. (1) Matt. c. 13.v. 14 & 15.

« ForrigeFortsæt »