Page images

posed to include all those noble and desirable faculties and endowments, as of reason, memory, judgment, understanding, speech, &c. which are appropriate to the life of man: so that when he saith we live in God, his meaning is, not only or simply that that spring or fountain of vital actions or motions in men, which in a district sense is termed life, is possessed, enjoyed, and held by means of a gracious and loving comportment of God with them for such a purpose; but that all that honourable retinue likewise of those excellent powers and faculties named, which attend upon the principle of life in man, is maintained in being by the same compliance also.

Whereas, he adds, that in him, also, Kivobeoa, we move, or are moved, as the word rather importeth, he implieth, not only that all our vital actions and motions are exercised and performed by the gracious concurrence and compliance of God with us, as well as our lives themselves, and principles of action preserved; but, further, that there is a further and appropriate concurrence of God required, and by him accordingly exhibited, to enable men to act those very principles of action and motion that are in them, distinct from that by which their lives, and principles of action in every kind are preserved: insomuch, that though men be never so well appointed or provided for action in one kind or other, in respect of suitable, proper, and sufficiently disposed principles thereunto; yet, upon a suspension of that particular influence or concurrence by God, which is appropriate and necessary, both for the leading forth unto, and for the supporting of these principles, in and under their proper actions, there is none of them will go forth into action, nor is able to maintain or support itself in acting. But whether such a concurrence of God supposed, and actually granted, as is sufficient both for the leading forth unto, and for the support of the principles we speak of, in their proper actings, these principles notwithstanding, at least such of them, whose actions lie under the command of the will, may not refuse or forbear to act, is another question, wherein more may be said hereafter.

In the meantime, that God may at any time separate between principles and their actings, even those that are most proper and connatural to them, only by withholding that compliance of his with them, which is appropriate and necessary for their conducting unto action, is evident from several passages in the Scriptures. Doubtless, the heat of the fire in Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, being heated seven times hotter than ordinary, was as proper, as likely a means to have consumed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, being cast into the midst of this furnace, as those who were employed by the king only to cast them into it. Nor can it reasonably be said, that God separated the heat or burning property from the fire, or annihilated it, all the time that these three men were in the furnace. For, 1. Unless we shall suppose the subject itself, I mean, the fire, to have been destroyed or annihilated, we cannot suppose that heat, or a burning property, being a property inseparable from such a subject, should be taken from it. 2. It appears by the story, that

those who cast the three servants of God mentioned into the furnace, were consumed by the fire of it, whilst the servants of God remained in the furnace. Therefore, certainly, there was true fire and true heat in the furnace, whilst the three men continued in it. 3. And, lastly, the story saith, that “the princes, governors, and captains, &c. being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, Dan. iii. 27. So that there is not the least question, but that there was real fire and real heat, and that in abundance in the furnace; which notwithstanding had no power, no, not so much as over the hair of their heads, or the garments they wore. What now was the reason why this fire and this heat prevailed not over those that were cast into the midst of them, as they did over those who cast them in? Was it any other than this ? the Lord of hosts' withdrawing the wonted conjunction of himself from the heat of the fire, and refusing to comply with it in that expedition or attempt, which it naturally inclined to make upon these men, as well as upon any others, to destroy them; whereas he kept his natural and accustomed union with this heat, in that attempt which it made upon those other men, who cast these into the furnace; by means whereof it suddenly prevailed upon them and consumed them. There was the same reason why the bush, which Moses saw burning with fire, was not consumed by it. The reason likewise, in all likelihood, why the men of Sodom could not find the door of Lot's house, was, because God withdrew his usual concurrence from their visive faculty, in order to the discerning of that object: for that other things were all this while visible enough to them, appears from their continued endeavours, even unto weariness, in seeking this door. If they had been wholly blind, so that they could have seen nothing at all, it is no ways credible but that they would have desisted their enterprise at the very first. This withdrawing or suspension of the wonted presence of God with the seeing faculty of men, is called “ the holding of their eyes," Luke xxiv. 16. “But their eyes were holden, that they could not know him:” 'Expatoūvto, they were mightily or powerfully held : they could not act, or perform that which otherwise was most natural and proper for them to do, in receiving and representing to the sensus communis, or adjudging faculty of the soul, the true species and shape of a person standing visibly before them, and near to them, through the want of that accustomed co-operative presence of God with them in order to this act, which until now, it is like, had never failed them upon the like occasion. Other instances we have in Scripture of such like impotencies and deficiencies as these, in natural faculties, through the suspension of that sovereign presence with them, upon which all their motions and actions depend. See John xx. 14, 15; 2 Kings vi. 17, 18, &c.

When God threatened his people of old, “ That the wisdom of their wise men should perish, and the understanding of their prudent men be hid,” Isa. xxix. 14, he doth not, I suppose, threaten an utter annihilation of those principles or habits of wisdom and

understanding in these men, but only an intercision or failing of such interposals and actings from, and by these principles, in order to the safety and preservation both of themselves and their state, which might reasonably, and according to the common course of second causes be expected from them; which wonder, as he calls it, was I conceive to be effected only by the hiding of his face from them, without the beholding whereof no second cause whatsoever is able to move, no, not in those ways of acting which are most appropriate to them. This manner of execution of the judgment here threatened, seems to be implied in those latter words, “ And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid," i. e. shall not be conspicuous or discernible in any fruits or effects worthy of it; not that the principle itself should be absolutely destroyed, or divested of being. This liberty, or great interest of God, which we speak of, I mean, to suspend the proper and most accustomed effects of second causes, by refusing to join in action with them, causeth that time and chance, as the wise man calleth them, which happen now and then in those occurrences of human affairs, as, viz. when “ the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong," &c. Eccles. ix. 11.

If it be here demanded, inasmuch as second causes and created principles, especially in men, act, notwithstanding such a subtraction of the Divine presence from them, as hath been declared, though not according to the perfection of their natures, but in a troubled and miscarrying manner;—the eyes of the two disciples we spake of, though they were so held, that they knew not Christ, viz. to be the person which he was, yet they represented him unto them as a man, &c. ;-whether do such actings as these proceed from their principles without any such presence of the First Cause with them, as that, which we have asserted to be simply necessary for and with second causes, whensoever they go forth into action ; or what manner of presence of this first cause, or how differing from that which is constant, and more agreeable to their natures, shall we suppose they have with them when they act irregularly or deficiently?

To this I answer:

1. Whensoever second causes move into action, whether they act congruously to their respective natures and kinds, or whether defectively, they still have, and must have, a presence of the first cause with them, as hath been already argued. But,

2. When they fail or falter in their motions or actings, if their motions be such which are not moral, or commanded by the will, (of which kind the misrepresentation of the person of Christ by the eyes, or visive faculty of the two apostles was,) I conceive that the presence or concourse of the first cause with them, is attempered and proportioned in order to the deficiency of the action; I mean as well to the degree as kind of this deficiency, and is not the same with itself in the ordinary and proper actings of these faculties. The reason hereof is, because faculties merely natural act determinately and uniformly after one and the same manner,

unless they be troubled and put out of their way by a superior power. But in moral actions, and such whose deficiency proceedeth from the wills of men, or other creatures endued with the same faculty, the

presence and concourse of the first cause with the principles producing them, is not, at least ordinarily, different from that which is natural and proper to them, and by virtue whereof at other times they act regularly, or at least may. The reason hereof is, because the nature and intrinsical frame and constitution of the will, importeth a liberty or freedom of choosing its own motions, or acts; this being the essential and characteristical property of it, whereby it is distinguished from eauses merely natural. Now then if this faculty, when it moves or acts inordinately, should be so influenced by the first cause, as hereby to be determined, or necessitated to the inordinacy of its actings: 1. That distinguishing property we speak of should be dissolved or destroyed, and the will itself hereby reduced to the order and laws of causes merely natural. 2. The inordinateness or sinfulness of the motions and actings of it, could not be resolved into itself, or its own corruption, but into that overruling and necessitating influence of the first cause upon it, which it was not able to withstand, nor to act besides, or contrary unto the determinating exigency thereof. And thus God shall be made the author of sin, which is the firstborn of abominations, even in the eye of reason and nature itself. But of these things more hereafter.

Though all the motions and actings of the creature, and created principles or faculties are absolutely suspended upon the association of the first cause with them in their actings, yet do they very seldom suffer any detriment, or actual suspension of their motions, or actings hereby; God never denying, suspending, or withdrawing that concurrence or conjunction of himself with them, without which they cannot act, but only upon some special design, as, for example, now and then to be a remembrancer unto the world, that nature and second causes are not autocratorical, i. e. do not perform, what ordinarily they do perform, independently, and of themselves, but that he is the sovereign Lord of them, and hath all the strength and operations of them in his hand. The battle commonly is to the strong, and the race ordinarily to the swift, and bread most frequently to men of understanding, &c. But more of this also in the following chapter.

The apostle affirming, That in God we live and move, in the sense declared, passeth the sentence of condemnation against two opinions, which yet condemn one the other also, being two extremes, leaving the truth between them in the middle. The former denies all co-operation of the first cause with the second, affirming, That God only communicateth that operating virtue unto them, which they respectively exert and put forth, and preserveth it, but doth not at all co-operate with it. The latter affirmeth, That it is God only who acteth or worketh at the presence of second causes, and that these do nothing but stand by, act not at all. The former of


these opinions was held by Durandus, the schoolman, and by some others, far more ancient than he; against whom Augustin disputeth, Lib. v. de Gen. ad lit. c. 20. The latter, by Gabriel Biel, a schoolman also, and some others of that learning. The apostle's assertion, That we move in God in the sense asserted, is visibly attended with these two consequential truths: 1. That God doth associate himself and communicate with second causes and all created principles, in their respective motions and operations; and consequently contributes more towards their motions and operations, than only by a collation and conservation of a sufficient strength or virtue in their respective causes to produce them. 2. That the ordinary effects, acts, and operations produced in these sublunary parts are not so, or upon any such terms attributable unto God, but that they have their second causes also respectively producing them, whereunto they may as truly, and perhaps more properly, be ascribed as unto God.


Though there be as absolute and essential a dependence of second

causes upon the first, in point of motion, action, and operation, as of simple existence or being ; yet are not the motions, actions, or operations of second causes, at least ordinarily, so immediately or precisely determined by that dependence which they have upon the first cause as their respective beings are. The simple existences or beings of things may be said to be determined by God, the first cause, three ways. 1. In respect of their natures, or constituting principles of their respective beings. 2. In respect of their production into being. 3, and lastly, In respect of their permanency or continuance in and with these natures and beings. In the first consideration they are absolutely, and in every respect determined by God; neither themselves nor any other contributing any thing at all towards their natures or beings, in that sense, nor being in any capacity to withstand or make any resistance against that hand of pleasure and power which made them so or so, and imparted such and such a nature or frame determinately unto them. But secondly, in respect of their respective actual productions into being, they are not, at least a great part of them are not, so determined by God as in the former consideration. Men may sow more or less grain or corn in their fields as they please ; and so likewise herbs in their gardens. Yea, the ordinary course and assistance of Providence only supposed, they have power to multiply individuals in some species of animal creatures; and however, to restrain such a multiplication. Yea, doubtless many persons, both of men and women, ħave been propagated and born into the world, whose parents were not determined or necessitated to their generation. In the third and last consideration, though

« PreviousContinue »