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In that case,
could stop the dog in a moment. would any man say that I did not decree, or determine, (or whatever you may please to call it) that that dog should not do this evil to my neighbour? I did not command the dog to do this act ; he was voluntary and willing to do it; and it was his own vicious disposition led him to it: he was a bad dog, and ought to be killed. But, at the same time, I knew this before I got him ; and I saw his viciousness, while he was tearing my neighbour, and could have prevented it.*
Accordingly, the Lord made Herod, who slew the children of Bethlehem; and Hazael, who massacred the children of Israel ; and the people of the Jews, who crucified the Lord Jesus Christ. He knew before he made them that they would do these evils, and foretold it in his word ; and he saw them while they were doing this wickedness, and could have crushed all their designs in a moment. None but an Atheist will deny this ; and the same reasoning is applicable to all the wickedness which bas ever taken place in the universe.
2dly. God is a spirit known to us as a being possessing certain attributes : his foreknowledge is one of thein. He says, 66 bis understanding is infinite ; and known unto God are all his works, from the beginning.' But for argument's sake, we will suppose, that God does
* If any should say, I did not make the dog ; I answer, so much the worse on their side.
not know future events. Then this consequence would follow, viz. when God made all the prophcies in his word, it were only guess work with him he did not certainly know whether they would come to pass or not. For the making of a prophecy concerning things to come, implies a decree, or determination in God to fulfil those predictions ; that is, (with reverence let us speak) provided the Lord intended to tell the truth.
But we will waive that consideration also, and'rob God of this attribute of foreknowledge, in order, if possible, to make his character appear a little better in our estimation. We will suppose, that he knows no more about future events than a man does. This is as much as any one could ask.
Accordingly, if there is a God on the earth who has almighty power, and is continually · present, he sees all that is doing among men ; whether it be good or evil. This knowledge he must have, in order to judge the world at last. Otherwise, he will not know at the day of judgment, what crimes his creatures have committed. Therefore, whenever a man determines or undertakes any wickedness, God seeth it, and knows what he is about to do. He is present with his almighty power; upholds the man in life, -sees all he is doing,--and yet permits it to be done. Is he a thief or a plunderer?-God could notify the owner of the property. Is he an assassin or murderer !-
God knew his intentions,-heard his threats,saw his actions, and had almighty power to stop him at any moment ; he could even paralyze his arm, when it was raised in the very act; but he did not do it: therefore, he determined to permit the act to be done, before it came to pass, if it were even no more than one hour before.
The reader can perceive, that by setting aside the eternal foreknowledge of God, we shall make his character worse, instead of better. Because, if he has an eternal foreknowledge of all events connected with almighty power, he can, and does over-rule all wickedpess for his own glory, and the final good of his obedient creatures. Hence he says,
( all things work together for good to them that love God,”*
“the wrath of man shall praise thee; the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.” * But on the contrary, if he has no foreknowledge, and we allow that there is a God, He is certainly what in law would be called an acces, sary, or contributor to all the crimes ever done on earth ; and knows not what will be the final event, whether it will be for the better or the
Therefore, every candid reader may perceive, that, in order to get rid of this doctrine -of decrees in a rational manner, we must deny God's foreknowledge, and his presence, and pow
* Rom. viii. 28.
† Psalm lxxvi. 10.
er, in the earth ; and when He is stripped of these attributes, man can have nothing left for a God but a spirit, who is without knowledge, power, or presence ; but who is away far off in the heavens, and has no control over the affairs of men.
This is just such a God as wick: ed men desire; one that will keep at a distance, and mind his business, and let thein mind theirs; and only come when they call upon him, and be a servant to do for them what they wish. But he must not pretend to be their master who will dispose of them and theirs, and all events, as he pleases ; if he does, it will be as the scripture says of them : they will hate him.
Besides, when such a God is worshipped, there is certainly a propriety in doing it with a great noise, because it may be with him as Elijah told the prophets of Baal: "For he is a God; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked."*
3d. The freewillers contend, that the will of man possesses in itself a self-determining power to do good. This hypothesis is found. ed entirely upon their own reasoning or infe
The word of God expressly declares to the contrary, as we bave shown already. And if it were not that mankind are always disposed to trust more to their own reason, than
* Kings xviji. 27.
to the word of the Lord, we should not notice this point a second time. Most of us know but little concerning the formation of our bodies, and we know much less concerning the formation of our souls. Consequently, if we were to reason on this point ever so long, and at last determine the matter different from what God had declared in his word, every man who reverenced his Bible, would say we were certainly wrong. But in order, if possible, to shed a little more light on this subject, we observe,
We do not deny but what the will of man is free, when he has that will. It must necessarily be so in order to be a will. The will is the wish of the mind, or of the soul.* Therefore, so long as the soul of a wicked man is unregenerated or unholy, he wills, or is willing, to do evil. This is the desire of his heart, or the wish of bis mind; and he feels himself perfectly free to do as he pleases, when there is no outward restraint. God calls on him as a rational creature, to turn and obey ; but such is the enmity of the carnal heart against holi.. ness, that no wicked man will obey, or come to Christ, until God influences the will, or the mind. This is done by awakening the sinner, and giving him a change of heart, Then the sinner as willing to do good, as he was bee fore to do evil.
* See K's answer to question 20.