« PreviousContinue »
and bring down the price of the glory and esteem of them to a very low rate. In the days of Solomon, silver was but as stones, nothing esteemed, 1 Kings x. 21–27, by reason of the abundance and commonness of it. Miracles are the rarities of heaven, and the reserve of nature when her testimony concerning the glory and power of her Lord and Master is despised by men.
Concerning the foreknowledge and knowledge of God; and the dif
ference between these, and his desires, purposes, intentions, and decrees : and how these also are distinguished the one from the other.
It is not to be denied, but that the Scriptures do attribute Apóyvwors, or foreknowledge unto God in several places, as Acts ii. 23; Rom. viii. 29; xi. 2; 1 Pet. i. 2, &c. Though evident it is that in some, if not in all of these places, the word rather imports a preapprobation than a simple prescience or foreknowledge, according to the known signification of the simple word yvūors, which, though properly it signifieth knowledge, yet in Scripture language, according to that idiom of speech, wherein the consequent is put for the antecedent, not unusual in the Scriptures, frequently imports approbation, as Matt. vii. 23; Rom. xi. 2; 2 Tim. ii. 19. But as many other things are oft in Scripture attributed unto God, which, according to the proper and ordinary signification of the words, are no ways competible to him, as hands, eyes, ears, grief, repentance, &c.; so is prescience or foreknowledge also. Notwithstanding as there is a ground in reason, one or more, for all those other metaphorical and improper attributions, which are in any kind made unto God, so is there for this of prescience also; only care and caution must be taken that our table proves not a snare unto us; my meaning is, lest those things which are metaphorically spoken of God for the accommodation of our understandings, and to enrich us with such conceptions, apprehensions, and knowledge of him, as we are well capable of, according to the truth of his nature and being, be not so interpreted or understood by us, as to occasion any such fancies or imaginations in us, which are unworthy of him, and inconsistent with the truth of his being.
That prescience or foreknowledge are not formally or properly in God, is the constant assertion, both of ancient and modern divinity. The learned assertors of the protestant cause are at perfect agreement with their adversaries the schoolmen, and papists, in this. Nor is it any wonder at all that there should be peace,
and a concurrence of judgment about such a point as this, even between those who have many irons of contention otherwise in the fire, considering how obvious and near at hand the truth herein is. For, Firstly,
If foreknowledge were properly and formally in God, then might predestination, election, reprobation, and many other things be, properly and formally in him also; inasmuch as these are, in the letter and propriety of them, as competible unto him as foreknowledge. Nor can there be any reason given for a difference. But impossible it is, that there should be any plurality of things whatsoever, in their distinct and proper natures and formalities, in God, the infinite simplicity of his nature and being, with open mouth gainsaying it. Secondly, If foreknowledge were properly or formally in God, there should be somewhat in him corruptible or changeable. For that which is supposed to be such a foreknowledge in him to-day, by the morrow, suppose the thing or event foreknown should in the interim actually come to pass, must needs cease and be changed ; inasmuch as there can be no foreknowledge of things that are present, the adequate and appropriate object of this knowledge, in the propriety of it, being res futura, somewhat that is to come. Thirdly, and lastly, There is nothing in the creature univocally and formally the same with any thing which is in God. The reason is, because then there must either be somewhat finite in God, or somewhat infinite in the creature ; both which are impossible. But if prescience or foreknowledge, being properly or formally in the creature, should be properly or formally also in God, there should be somewhat in the creature, univocally and formally the same with somewhat which is in God. Therefore certainly there is no foreknowledge, properly so called, in God.*
If it be objected, that this argument lieth as strong against the propriety of knowledge, as of foreknowledge, in God; inasmuch as knowledge is every whit as properly and formally in the creature as foreknowledge; I answer,
True it is, there is no knowledge neither in God, according to the precise and formal notion of knowledge, or in such a sense wherein it is found in men; and this the first and last of the three reasons mentioned do infallibly demonstrate. Knowledge in the creature is a principle or habit, really and essentially distinct from the subject or soul where it resideth: yea, and is capable of augmentation and diminution therein, and of separation from it. Whereas that which is called knowledge in God, neither differs really or essentially from his nature, or from himself, but is really one and the same thing with him (as will further appear in the following chapter), nor is it either capable of growth, or of decay, or of separation. Only in this respect, knowledge, of the two, is more properly attributable unto God than foreknowledge, viz. because foreknowledge, in the proper notion, or formal conception
Quid est præscientia, nisi scientia futurorum ? Quid autem futurum est Deo, qui omnia super graditur tempora? Si enim in scientia res ipsas habet, non sunt ei futuræ, sed præsentes ; ac per hoc, non jam præscientia, sed tantum scientia dici potest.--Aug. 1. ii. ad Simpl. vide plura. ib.
Nec zelus, nec ira, nec pænitentia, nec proprie misericordia, nec præscientia esse potest in Deo.-Greg. Moral. 1. ii. c. 23.
of it, includes, or supposeth, a liableness to a change or expiration, viz. upon the coming to pass of the thing foreknown, which must of necessity come to pass in time; whereas knowledge imports nothing but what may be permanent and perpetual, and so is of the two more appropriable unto him who changeth not.
But though neither knowledge, nor foreknowledge, can in strictness and formality of notion be ascribed unto God, yet since both the one and the other are frequently in Scripture attributed unto him, necessary it is that we make inquiry into the grounds and reasons of such attributions. For it is no ways credible but that the Holy Ghost in all such expressions did intend to inform the world of somewhat, and that according to truth, concerning God. Now the method and way, in general, whereby to discover, upon what grounds or reasons the Holy Ghost attributeth such things unto God, which yet are not formally or properly competible to him, and consequently what it is in God, of which by such expressions he desireth to impart the knowledge unto us, is this, to consider the respective natures, the different manners of operation, the divers effects, or ordinary consequences of those things in the creature, whether they be actions, passions, habits, parts, or whatsoever, which are upon such terms attributed unto God. For still we shall find something or other proceeding from God, or done by him, which holds proportion and correspondeth with some or other, one or more, of the ordinary effects or consequents of those things in the creature which are so attributed unto him; and the intent of the Holy Ghost in ascribing such things unto God, which are proper only to the creature, is to make known to us that the Divine Essence, or God himself, hath that eminently, after a transcendent and most perfect manner in his nature or being, which always enableth him, and in respect of some particulars upon occasion rendereth him actually willing to express himself in such kind of actions or effects, wherein the creature is wont to express itself upon occasion, out of and by means of such principles or instruments of action, being in the propriety or formality of their respective natures in them, which are ascribed unto God. As for example, to give the world knowledge, that the Divine nature can, and upon just occasion will, yea, and doth many times, express itself after such a manner, and with such a kind of effect, as men use to express themselves out of anger, as, viz. by reproving, expostulating, withdrawing themselves, striking, punishing, and the like, the Holy Ghost oft ascribeth the passion, or impression of anger, unto God. There is the same consideration of all those other creature affections, as of love, zeal, grief, sorrow, repentance, delight, mercy, compassion, &c. And so also of all those organical parts or members of a human body, as eyes, ears, hands, heart, &c., which are so frequently in the Scriptures attributed unto God. These respective attributions give the light of this knowledge of God unto the world, that the Divine nature, though most singly, simply, most undividedly and indivisibly one,
is yet able, out of the infinite perfection of it, to act all that variety and diversity of action and effect which the creature is wont to act out of such affections, and by means of such organs or members respectively.
Î'o come in to the particular in hand. The Scripture is wont to ascribe knowledge unto God, to inform the world, that what kind of contentment soever men reap, or receive, by means of any knowledge of things which they have, and that what regular use or advantage soever they make, or are capable of making in any kind of such knowledge, God receiveth the like contentment by, maketh, when and as he pleaseth, the same or the like use of the infinite perfection of his nature or being. For example: men of knowledge and of understanding, so far as their knowledge extendeth, are free from errors, mistakes, and other inconveniences, in reference to the things known, whereunto men that are ignorant are exposed. Again, men that have knowledge of things are hereby, according to the measure and extent of this knowledge, enabled to manage and order their affairs to their best advantage, either in a way of profit, or of repute and honour; yea, and being otherwise furnished with opportunity and means for such a purpose, to communicate and impart the same light of knowledge unto others, which shineth in and to themselves. In like manner knowledge, yea, the "knowledge of all things,” 1 John iii. 20, is in Scripture asserted unto God, not because he knoweth them after the same specifical manner, or upon the same specifical terms, upon which men know or understand the things known by them, (for as “ the Lord seeth not as man seeth," 1 Sam. xvi. 7, so neither doth he know as man knoweth,) but because, from and by means of the infinite perfection of his nature, 1. He enjoyeth himself with a scientifical contentment; (I mean, with such a kind of contentment as knowing men enjoy, or might enjoy, by means of their knowledge;) and, 2. Because by the same means he is enabled to manage, order, and dispose of all things, to the best advantage and improvement for his own glory, and for what other end besides he pleaseth; and, 3, and lastly, Because he hath an opportunity also thereby to impart the knowledge of what things soever he pleaseth, unto his creature.
By what hath been said, it is no matter of difficulty either to conceive or to declare in what sense, or upon what ground, one or more, the Scriptures attribute prescience also, or foreknowledge, unto God. For look what regular conveniency, opportunity, or advantage in any kind, the foreknowledge of things in men affordeth unto them, the like doth the infinite perfection of the Divine nature exhibit and afford unto him. Men who have the certain foreknowledge that such and such things will come to pass at such or such a time, if they any ways relate unto them, or be capable of being wrought to such a relation, besides the inward contentment of such knowledge, have an opportunity thereby, not only of making known beforehand unto their friends or others, that at such a time such things
will come to pass (for this they may do, whether the things foreknown do any ways concern them or no), and by this means gain the repute of being prophetical, or otherwise very understanding and discerning men; but also of contriving and ordering other things in the meantime so and after such a manner, that the things foreknown, when they come to pass,
shall come to pass
with more conveniency or advantage unto them, than otherwise they could have done. Upon such considerations as these, the foreknowledge of things, yea of all things that are future, is by the Scriptures ascribed unto God; viz. because through the infinite perfection of his essence and being, he, 1. Enjoys a delight or contentment answerable to that of foreknowing men, by means of this their knowledge. 2. He is able to impart beforehand at what distance of time he pleaseth, either to his saints (his friends) or others, such particularities of what is hid in the womb of time, as himself judgeth meet to be upon such terms as these revealed ; 3, and lastly, He is able also providentially to dispose of all such things to the best advantage, both for his own glory, and the benefit of those who shall be found worthy of this great interest in him.
From the rule that hath been given, and the explication made according thereunto, for a right understanding how and in what sense, and upon what grounds, both knowledge and foreknowledge are in Scripture transferred unto God, a clear light shineth whereby to discover how, and upon what grounds also, desires, purposes, intentions, or decrees in one kind or other, are by the same authority vested in God, as likewise how they differ both from his knowledge and foreknowledge. That desires, intentions, purposes, and decrees, as well as knowledge, or foreknowledge, are only anthropopathetically ascribed unto God, not formally, the former part of this chapter, I presume, hath given the tantamount of many demonstrations. So that clearly and distinctly to understand, how, and in what sense they are in Scripture attributed unto him, inquiry must be made, and consideration had, how they are wont to affect or engage men; after what manner, and upon what terms men are usually acted and drawn forth by them. Only before we come to the explication hereof, this is to be remembered by way of caution, that though there always be, as hath been said, a ground or reason, one or more, for that attribution of human actions, affections, members, &c. which the Scriptures so frequently make unto God, which reason is still founded in a certain proportion or similitude* found between the nature of God and the nature of man, in
respect of the things so attributed unto him, yet is it not necessary that all things accompanying, or relating unto these affections or impressions in men, which are attributed unto God, should be paralleled in him, or have something in his nature corresponding to them.
Similitudo non currit quatuor pedibus. Neque illa quæ important intrinsecam perfectionem, sunt tribuenda Deo proprie et formaliter, nec debemus consuetum modum loquendi omnino cavere, cum de Divinis loquimur, si seclusis imperfectionibus, et non aliter, bumana transferamus ad Deum.--Arrib, Op. Concil. 1. iii. c. 9.