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and upright lives of all men, and consequently the peace, happiness, and salvation of all men, are some of the principal of the particulars inquired after. For, 1. Evident it is that God interposeth and vouchsafeth means for the effecting and procurement of all these, (of which more hereafter,) in which respect, according to the grounds laid, he must needs be said to purpose or intend them. And yet, 2. Every whit as evident it is, that these things are not effected or obtained, nor ever will ; in which respect they cannot be said to be decreed by God, according to the proper notion of a decree, oft specified.
To draw up a full and clear account from the particulars argued, (with as much brevity as may be,) how, in what sense, and upon what grounds desires, purposes, intentions, and decrees are attributed in Scripture unto God: First, in the negative, that none of them are attributed unto him upon any such ground or supposition as this, viz. as being properly or formally in him, i. e. after such a manner as they are in men, really distinct and separable from his nature or being, hath been already asserted, and that, I suppose, with a nemine contradicente. Therefore, secondly, in direct pursuance of our preparatory instructions formerly also delivered in order to the business in hand, the said four particulars must be acknowledged, as attributed unto God upon this ground, viz. because the infinite perfection of his nature and being enableth, yea, and leadeth him to act, and give out himself after some such manner, and with such a kind of efficiency, reasonable allowance being made for the great disproportion between him and the creature, as the said particulars, desires, purposes, intentions, and decrees being found in men, are wont to engage them unto. So that, First, God is said to desire or will, such and such things, because the goodness of his nature leadeth him to act and give out himself, and to vouchsafe means for the bringing of them to pass ; it being an essential property of desire in men, 1. When it is cordial and strong, as all God's desires are, as it was formerly proved; and 2. When men have opportunity to act for the obtaining of the thing desired, which God always hath ; 3. And lastly, when their acting for the obtaining of the thing desired, is not like to hinder them from obtaining another thing more desirable than that, a case never incident unto God in respect of any thing desired by him, as hath also lately been shown; it being, I say, in this case, and under these circumstances, an essential property of desire in men to engage them unto action for the obtaining of the thing desired. Because, whensoever men act, or endeavour themselves in any kind to bring a thing to pass, they are always presumed to desire the thing, or the coming of it to pass; therefore, God also, according to Scripture dialect and phrase, may be said to desire whatsoever he any ways interposeth himself or giveth means, to bring to pass.
Secondly, there is the same consideration and ground also of purposes and intentions attributed unto him. He is therefore said to purpose and intend such and such things, because his goodness, wisdom, and power, i. e. the infinite perfection of his nature, which
eminently containeth all these, enableth and induceth him to act for or towards the attainment of them, after such a kind of manner and upon such terms, according to which men, I mean sober and well-advised men, are wont to act and engage themselves for the assecution of such things which they purpose and intend. How, and upon what terms such men are wont to act in order to the obtaining of things properly purposed and intended by them, and not absolutely decreed, was lately declared, viz. so far, and to such a degree of engagement as they judge convenient and meet, consideration being had of the value, worth, and consequence of the things purposed and intended by them in case they be obtained. Therefore, to conclude God's non-intendments from his non-attainments, is a reasoning of no value, and supposeth a non-difference between his purposes or intentions and decrees; between which, notwithstanding, as hath been shown, there is a very emphatical and signal difference. The reason why God engageth not himself to the actual assecution of all things purposed and intended by him shall, God willing, be argued in due time and place.
Thirdly and lastly, God is also said to decree such and such things, because the infinite perfection of his nature and being inclineth him to act and engage himself for the effecting of them, after such a manner and upon such terms, as men are wont to engage themselves for the actual performance and bringing to pass of what they decree. What this manner and what these terms are, we have already shown. What men properly determine or decree, they engage to the uttermost of their might to put in execution and perform, if no lower rate of engagement will do the deed. In like manner God is, and well may be, said to decree such things, the execution and effecting whereof he suspendeth upon no condition or consideration whatsoever, one or more ; but declareth himself as one resolved to give being unto them in their respective seasons, whatsoever angels, men, devils, or any other creature shall either do or not do. In this sense, and upon this ground, he may be said to have decreed that all men once shall die ; that all men shall be raised from the dead; that men, dying in the Lord, or in the faith of Jesus Christ, shall be everlastingly blessed; that men dying in their sins, or in unbelief, shall be eternally accursed, to omit other particulars without end of like consideration. Only I desire to remind the reader of this, that though we have in our present discourse exactly differenced purposes or intentions from decrees, according to the strict importance of the words, and precise notion of the things themselves, yet may not this difference be always so observed, either by other writers or by the Scriptures themselves, but that the terms may be sometimes put indifferently the one for the other; yea, and the things themselves be expressed and held forth by such words and phrases of speech, which will equally admit of either signification; yet as to the Scriptures, hardly, I presume, can any instance be found where either the context or the subject matter in hand will not clearly determine the case, I mean, whether it be a purpose or a decree, according to the regular notion of either,
as they have been distinguished, which the Holy Ghost there intends.
Before we pass from the subject in hand, it will not be amiss, I suppose, to take a more perfect knowledge of what was intimated before, viz. That all the four particulars, desires, purposes, intentions, and decrees; yea, and more than these, in their respective attributions unto God, are frequently in Scripture expressed by the will of God. John v. 21, Christ is said to quicken whom he will, 2. e. whom he desireth, or intendeth to quicken. See also John vi.
xvii. 24. Whereas it is said, John vi. 39, “ And this is the Father's will that hath sent me,” &c.; and again, ver. 40, “ And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life ;" evident it is, that the decree, or decreeing will of God is meant. See also Eph. i. 5, 9, 11, and elsewhere. The Apostle Paul speaking thus of God, “who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” | Tim. ii. 4, and Peter, that he is “willing that all should come to repentance," 2 Pet. iii. 9; speak plainly not of God's decreeing will, but of his purposing or desiring will. But of these Scriptures more here
Other significations of this word will, when attributed unto or spoken of God, which are divers, besides those specified upon the present occasion, we shall not now insist
upon. For a close to this chapter, let us, from the grounds pre-asserted herein, take into consideration the difference between the knowledge, or foreknowledge of God, and the intentions, or decrees of God. Therefore (not to repeat, but to build upon premised principles and discussions) first, as the knowledge and foreknowledge of God are differenced by their objects, the object of his knowledge being far more large and comprehensive than the object of his foreknowledge, the one extending to all things whatsoever, past, present, and to come, yea, to all possibilities of things; the other, only to things that are future and yet to come ; so, likewise, both the knowledge and foreknowledge of God, taken together, are plainly distinguished from his intentions and decrees, by the greater latitude and extent of their object; yea, the object of the foreknowledge of God, which, as hath been said, is far narrower than the object of his knowledge, is yet far larger and more comprehensive than the object either of his intentions or decrees. The object of his decrees extendeth only to such things, which, as was formerly argued, himself purposeth to effect, or give being unto, without any exceptions or provisoes concerning any possible interventions whatsoever. The object of his intentions or purposes, extendeth to such things only which he desireth and intendeth to give being also unto, but with condition and limitation, so that the utmost border and extent of the respective objects of the purposes and decrees of God, reacheth but unto such things only, about the production and procurement whereof himself intends operativeness and positiveness of action, or efficiency: whereas the limit of the object of his foreknowledge extendeth unto all things whatsoever that are future, and
taketh in, as well such things which his soul abhorreth, and therefore will not lift up his hand unto, I mean the sinful actions of the creature, as those which himself intendeth to call and bring into being.
If you demand a reason why I make this difference between the object of the knowledge and foreknowledge of God on the one hand, and the object of his intentions and decrees on the other, extending the one to all things future, without exception ; restraining the other to such future things only wherein God himself means to be active; my reason and answer is this, according to fore-laid grounds; men generally do know, and commonly foreknow, many things, for or towards the production or procurement whereof they intend no contribution of aid, strength, or means in any kind, viz., when they are such that their coming to pass, and their not coming to pass, are but of equal and indifferent concernment to them, as knowing how to make the same benefit or use of the one and of the other. Whereas some other things there are, the effecting whereof, or at least the attempting and endeavouring whereof, is of special concernment unto them. Now things of this latter consideration are the object of men's desires, intentions, and decrees, and they purpose to be active about the bringing of them to pass, whereas matters of the former are the object of their knowledge and foreknowledge only; and, haply, of their providence, if as well their coming to pass, as their not coming to pass, be contrivable by them into any matter of benefit or advantage. In like manner the sins, and wicked ways, and actions of men, may be called the object of the knowledge and foreknowledge, yea, and of the providence of God, as well as his own most just and holy dispensations, because through the infinite perfection of his nature and being he is enabled, 1. To declare or pre-declare as he pleaseth ; and 2. Both enabled and actually resolved to dispose and pre-dispose of them to the best advantage for his own glory, as well as if he formally knew or foreknew them: whereas, notwithstanding he neither was, nor is, nor ever intendeth to be, operative in or about the bringing of them to pass, inasmuch as their non-coming to pass would have been of the same consequence unto him for the advancement of his glory, as their coming to pass is or can be. For, doubtless, God is not so poorly or meanly provided in and of himself, for the exaltation of his name and glory, as to stand in need of the dunghill of sin to make a footstool for him whereby to ascend into his throne. If the goodness and righteousness of men be nothing unto God, profit not him, Psal. xvi. 2; Job xxxv. 3,7, much less can the sins of men claim part and fellowship in such a business. So then the sins of men, being only known and foreknown by God, and contrivable to his glory, but no ways requisite or necessary hereunto; may well be looked upon as the object (I mean the partial object) of the knowledge and foreknowledge, yea, and of the providence of God, but not of his desires, intentions, or decrees. Whereas his own dispensations, with their natural and proper fruits and consequents, being intrinsically, and with a direct tendency, of
sovereign and high concernment for his glory, may safely, and with the best consistency of reason and truth, be looked upon as the object, not of his knowledge or foreknowledge only, but of his desires, intentions, and decrees also.
Concerning the perfection of God, in his nature and being, and
some things clearly deducible from it; particularly his simplicity, actuality, and goodness in decrees.
"And this is life eternal, that they," or that men, know thee the only true God, and him whom thou hast sent, Jesus Christ," saith the Lord Christ himself in that most solemn supplicatory address unto his Father, recorded John xvii. 3, yet not for his Father's instruction, but his children's. What knowledge of himself it is, either for kind, quality, or degree, which Jesus Christ here joineth with the knowledge of God, as, together with it, constituting and making up one entire cause or means of salvation unto the creature; or with what kind of necessity he supposeth the conjunction of that knowledge of himself, which he intendeth, with the knowledge of God, to be necessary to that great end and purpose, as whether with an absolute, or an expediential and accumulative necessity only, we shall not for the present inquire, much less determine. This, I presume, will be granted upon demand only, without proof; that as the true knowledge of Christ doth necessarily include, or pre-suppose the like knowledge of God; so doth such a knowledge of God as our Saviour here describes, the knowing of him to be the only true God, comprehend in it an implicit or virtual knowledge of Christ also. This might be brought into a clear light by the helping hand of the Scriptures, but that the contemplation of it is a little eccentrical to our present design. However, let those who doubt consult these oracles, with their fellows, John xiv. 1; John v. 23; Psal. ix. 10; Jer. ix. 23, 24; Heb. xi. 6; Rom. i. 19-21; besides many others.
But what is it to know God, or God the Father, uovov áno«vov Osov, " the only true God ?" First, to know God, or the Father, the only true God, may admit of a double construction, or meaning : either, 1. As if the truth of this proposition, God, or God the Father, is the only true God, were the terminus, or intended object of the knowledge here spoken of; or, 2. As if God the Father's being the only true God were presupposed to this knowledge, and some further particulars concerning him the object hereof. The former sense hath both most men, and doubtless most reason also to plead for it. For when God is perfectly known to be the only true God, there is very little or nothing more left to be known concerning him. Therefore, secondly, To know God,