Page images



ed on the reality of their existence. Whatever now PROP. is, it is certain that it is; and it was yesterday and from eternity as certainly true, that the thing would be to-day as it is now certain that it is. And this certainty of event is equally the same, whether it be supposed that the thing could be fore-known or not. For whatever at any time is, it was certainly true from eternity, as to the event, that that thing would be and this certain truth of every future event would not at all have been the less, though there had been no such thing as fore-knowledge. Bare prescience, therefore, has no influence at all upon any thing; nor contributes, in the least, towards the making it necessary. We may illustrate this in some measure by the comparison of our own know. ledge. We know certainly that some things are; and when we know that they are, they cannot but be yet it is evident our knowledge does not at all affect the things, to make them more necessary or more certain. Now fore-knowledge in God is the very same as knowledge. All things are to himas if they were equally present, to all the purposes of knowledge and power. He knows perfectly every thing that is: and he knows whatever shall be, in the same manner as he knows what is. As, therefore, knowledge has no influence on things that are; so neither has fore-knowledge on things that shall be. It is true, the manner how God can foresee future things, without a chain of necessary causes, is impossible for us to explain distinctly: though some sort of general notion we may conceive of it. For, as a man who has no influence over another person's actions, can yet often perceive before-hand what that other will do; and a wiser and more experienced man, still with greater probability foresee what another, whose disposition he is perfectly acquainted with, will in certain circumstances do; and an angel, with still much less degrees of error, may have a further prospect into men's future actions; so it is very reasonable to apprehend that God, without influencing


PROP. men's wills by his power, yet by his foresight canX. not but have as much certainer a knowledge of future free events, than either men or angels can possibly have, as the perfection of his nature is greater than that of theirs. The distinct manner how he foresees these things is indeed impossible for us to explain But so also are numberless other things, which yet no man doubts the truth of. And if there were any strength in this argument, it would prove, not against liberty, but against prescience itself. For if these two things were really inconsistent, and one of them must be destroyed, the introducing an absolute and universal fatality, which evidently destroys all religion and morality, would tend more of the two to the dishonour of God, than the denying him a fore-knowledge, which upon this supposition would be impossible, and imply a contradiction to conceive him to have; and the denying of which would in such case be no more a diminution of his omniscience, than the denying him the power of working contradictions, is taking away his omnipotence. But the case is not thus. For though we cannot indeed clearly and distinctly explain the manner of God's foreseeing the actions of free agents, yet thus much we know, that the bare fore-knowledge of any action that would upon all other accounts be free, cannot alter or diminish that freedom, it being evident that fore-knowledge adds no other certainty to any thing, than what it would equally have though there was no fore-knowledge. Unless therefore we be antecedently certain that nothing can possibly be free; and that liberty is in itself absolutely an inconsistent and contradictory notion, (as I have above shown that it is not,) bare foreknowledge, which makes no alteration at all in any thing, will not be any way inconsistent with liberty; how great difficulty soever there may be in comprehending the manner of such fore-knowledge. For if liberty be in itself possible, the bare foresight of a free action before it be done, is nothing different (to


any purpose in the present question,) from a simple PROP. knowledge of it, when it is done: both these kinds of knowledge, implying plainly a certainty only of the event, (which would be the same though there was no such knowledge;) and not at all any necessity of the thing.

For (2dly,) as fore-knowledge implies not any other certainty than such as would be equally in things, though there was no fore-knowledge; so neither does this certainty of event in any sort imply necessity. For let a fatalist suppose, (what he does not yet grant,) that there was in man, (as we assert,) a power of beginning motion, that is, of acting freely; and let him suppose further, if he please, that those actions could not possibly be fore-known; will there not yet, notwithstanding this supposition, be in the nature of things the same certainty of event in every one of the man's actions, as if they were never so fatal and necessary? For instance; suppose the man, by an internal principle of motion, and an absolute freedom of will, without any external cause or impulse at all, does some particular action to-day; and suppose it was not possible that this action should have been foreseen yesterday; was there not nevertheless the same certainty of event as if it had been foreseen? That is; would it not, notwithstanding the supposed freedom, have been as certain a truth yesterday and from eternity, that this action was an event to be performed to-day, (though supposed never so impossible to have been fore-known,) as it is now a certain and infallible truth that it is performed? Mere certainty of event, therefore, does not in any measure imply necessity: and consequently fore-knowledge, however difficult to be explained as to the manner of it, yet, (since it is manifest it implies no other certainty but only that certainty of event which the thing would equally have without being fore-known,) it is evident that it also implies no necessity..

And now having, as I hope, sufficiently proved both the possibility and the real existence of liberty,



PROP. I shall, from what has been said on this head, draw only this one inference, that hereby we are enabled to answer that ancient and great question, [16Dev to xaxov:] What is the cause and original of evil? For liberty implying a natural power of doing evil, as well as good; and the imperfect nature of finite beings making it possible for them to abuse this their liberty to an actual commission of evil; and it being necessary to the order and beauty of the whole, and for displaying the infinite wisdom of the Creator, that there should be different and various degrees of creatures, whereof consequently some must be less perfect than others; hence there necessarily arises a possibility of evil, notwithstanding that the Creator is infinitely good. In short, thus: All that we call evil is either an evil of imperfection, as the want of certain faculties and excellencies which other creatures have; or natural evil, as pain, death, and the like; or moral evil, as all kinds of vice. The first of these is not properly an evil; for every power, faculty, or perfection, which any creature enjoys, being the free gift of God, which he was no more obliged to bestow than he was to confer being or existence itself, it is plain the want of any certain faculty or perfection in any kind of creatures, which never belonged to their nature, is no more an evil to them than their never having been created or brought into being at all, could properly have been called an evil. The second kind of evil, which we call natural evil, is either a necessary consequence of the former, as death to a creature on whose nature immortality was never conferred, and then it is no more properly an evil than the former; or else it is counterpoised in the whole, with as great or greater good as the afflictions and sufferings of good men, and then also it is not properly an evil; or else, lastly, it is a punishment, and then it is a necessary consequent of the third and last sort of evil, viz. moral evil. And this arises wholly from the abuse of liberty, which God gave to his creatures for other purposes, and which it was



reasonable and fit to give them for the perfection and PROP. order of the whole creation; only they, contrary to God's intention and command, have abused what was necessary for the perfection of the whole, to the corruption and depravation of themselves. And thus all sorts of evils have entered into the world, without any diminution to the infinite goodness of the creator and governor thereof.

eause and

must of ne


XI. The supreme cause and author of all things That the must of necessity be infinitely wise. This proposi- supreme tion is evidently consequent upon those that have author of already been proved; and those being established, all things this, as admitting no further dispute, needs not to cessity be be largely insisted upon. For nothing is more evident infinitely than that an infinite, omnipresent, intelligent being, must know perfectly all things that are; and that he who alone is self-existent and eternal, the sole cause and author of all things, from whom alone all the powers of all things are derived, and on whom they continually depend, must also know perfectly all the consequences of those powers, that is, all possibilities of things to come, and what in every respect is best and wisest to be done: And that, having infinite power, he can never be controlled or prevented from doing what he so knows to be fittest. From all which, it manifestly follows, that every effect of the supreme cause must be the product of infinite wisdom: More particularly; the supreme being, because he is infinite, must be everywhere present; and because he is an infinite mind or intelligence, therefore wherever he is, his knowledge is, which is inseparable from his being, and must therefore be infinite likewise; and wherever his infinite knowledge is, it must necessarily have a full and perfect prospect of all things, and nothing can be concealed from its inspection: he includes and surrounds every thing with his boundless presence, and penetrates every part of their substance with his all-seeing eye: so that the inmost nature and essence of all things are perfectly

« PreviousContinue »