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On the Knowledge of God.
ON the supposition that some will be wretched for
This reasoning will equally apply against limited punish-
It is suitable to our nature and the relations which subsist betwixt God and us, that he should exhort us to repentance, and promise us salvation on the terms of the Gospel. And when he does this, to call in question the sincerity of his intention, and to charge him with being the author of sin, because he knew beforehand that some would not repent and receive the Gospel, is not so much to disprove endless punishment, as to deny moral liberty to man, and to lead us to Atheism, by representing the state of the moral world as inconsistent with the Divine perfections. Dr. Clarke has well observed, “Whatever is in itself, and in the nature of things, reasons
* Free Thoughts, Preface, p. 25. 2d. edit.
« able to be done, it is fit should actually be done ; and “it is never the more nor the less reasonable, for things
being known or not known beforehand. The reason r of God's sending exhortations to wicked men, is not " that he himself is ignorant what they will do, but that upon their own account it is reasonable they should be
exported ; and if the thing be reasonable in itself, it cannot cease to be so, upon the account of fore“knowledge.*
It is allowed Jesus Christ knew that some would be miserable. Mr. W. infers from this, that he made them for misery ; and from this inference he concludes again, that Jesus Christ is the author of evil. Mr. W.'s way of drawing inferences goes to prove, as fully upon his own system as upon ours, that man is a necessary agent, and that God is the author of all his actions, both good and bad. Thus, God knew man would sin : God, therefore, made man for sio : God, therefore, is the author of sin. But things may be foreknown without being predestinated. I foreknow that the sun will rise in the morning, and that both the sun and moon will be eclipsed a certain number of times the ensuing year : but I am not vain enough to think, that my knowledge is, in any sense, the cause of these events taking place.f
The following argument, in reference to one of Mr. Benson's sermons on the day of judgment, is borrowed by Mr. Weaver from Petitpierre on Divine Goodness, "Can we deny that the Divine mind was perfectly ac
* Clarke's Sermon's Vol. i. p. 166, 167.
of “God foresees, or rather sees the actions of free agents, beci.use they "will be, not that they will be, because be foresees them. If I see an ob"ject in a certain place, the veracity of my senses supposed, it is certain “that object is there : but yet it cannot be said, it is there because I see it " there, or that my seeing it there, is the cause of its being there; but because
it is there, therefore I see it there. It is the object that determines my a sensation : and so in the other case, it is a future choice of a free agent, " that determines the prescience, which yet may be infallibly true." Religion of Nature Delineated, p. 102.
só quainted with the use they would make of existence ? “and is it not true, that existence bestowed upon such
terms, must be to the creature an infinite evil; and that " the irresistible fiat which flung them into being, was the
greatest evil that could possibly befal them; and this “at a time when they could have no demerit, but were
perfectly innocent ? But I leave these insurmountable “ difficulties to Mr. Benson to determine, how an irresis“tible act, which produces infinite evil to innocent beings, “ is to be qualified.'
Whatever strength there is in this argument will return with equal force against the doctrine of limited misery. “ Can we deny that the Divine mind was perfectly acquainted with the use they would make of existence ? And is it not true that existence bestowed upon such terms must be the greatest evil that could possibly befall them if and this at a time when they could have no demerit, but were perfectly innocent? But I leave these insurmountable difficulties with Mr. W Pephaps he is able to determine how an irresistible act, which brings upon innocent beings the greatest evil that can possibly befall them, is to be qualified.”
It is granted that God knew the use, or rather abuse which the incorrigible would make of their existence. But it is inquired whether “existence bestowed upon “such terms, be not, to the creature, an infinite evil ?" Existence bestowed upon terms is what I do not understand. Mr. W. however supposes, that, upon our system, the existence of those who perish is bestowed upon them on the terms of weeping, wailing, and goasbing of
* Free Thoughts, p. 18.
7 At first sight, some may think these expressions too strong, but it must be recollected that the Univer lists contend it would be inconsistent with the Divine perfections, for God to punish sinners for ever. And since God cannot possibly act inconsistently with his perfections, limited misery must be, according to the Universalists, the greatest evil that can possibly befal a creature.
teeth for erer : and this he thinks is evident, because God knew, when he made them, they would come to that end. But it is demanded, in the pame of common sense, whether every thing which God foresees a man will do, or suffer, is a condition of his existence? If so, a condition of Mr. W.'s existence was, that he should write in favour of the Doctrine of Restoration ; and a condition of mine was, that I should write against it. · Pharaob and his host bad their existence bestowed on them, on the terms of following the Israelites, and being drowned in the Red Sea; and the inhabitants of Sodom had their existence upon the terms of committing iniquity with greediness, and being destroyed by fire and brimstone from heaven!
Mr. W. thinks the conduct of the Almighty, in giving existence to such as finally perish, “ cannot be qualified,” because " existence to such was the greatest evil that s could possibly befall them; and this at a time when they 56 were perfectly innocent.” If it were true that God brought the greatest evil upon innocent creatures, I would not undertake to justify his character. But this be far from the righteous Governor of the world with whom we have to do. Existence, simply considered, is not an evil, otherwise evil is essential to God,
other being that exists; but it is supposed to become an evil, in the case under consideration, on account of the misery which will be annexed to it. I answer, If misery change existence into an evil, it must do this after, and not before it is it is added to existence; for neither the foreknowledge of God, nor any thing else, can make that to operate as a cause of any thing which has no being. Now the misery of hell is not inflicted upon innocent, but upon guilty creatures. Existence then is not an evil to innocent beings ; and therefore Mr W.'s wicked charge against the Almighty falls to the ground.
The grand question is stated by Dr. Chauncey, thus, ". If God knew that some free agents would make them"selves uphappy, notwithstanding the utmost efforts of
“ his wisdom to prevent it, why did he create them ?" It is not supposed that any are created merely to display the sovereignty of the Almighty Creator in the infliction of eternal torments : “ This,” as the pious and judicious Dr Doddridge observes, “is of all incredible things, the
most incredible.” If no valuable end can be answered by their existence, no doubt but the goodness of the Divine Sovereignty would have been more fully displayed, had they neyer existed. But it has been shown under Sect. 3, that their punishment, by operating as a warning, is useful in reclaiming sinners, and in preserving the saints in their obedience. And it cannot be proved that any would have been saved without the influence of such warnings and examples. And now the question assumes a new form, Whether it would have been better, to suffer a part of the human race to bring upon themselves destruction, when Divine Providence would make their fall the means of the stability and happiness of the rest ; or, not to give exist. ence to the human race at all? This question is easily answered, on the supposition that a majority of the human race will be finally happy.* For God may surely create as many orders of beings as he pleases, without any impeachment of bis goodness, provided the sum of happiness in each, exceeds the sum of misery.
Although an Universalist cannot deny me the right to assume, that only a very small proportion of the human race will finally perish; yet some professing Christians, perbaps, may think this is going too far. Let the following considerations be attended to.
1. At the lowest computation, at least a third part of the human race die under seven years of
age. I feel
*“ If the permitting those few to smart under the effects of their ill " choice were the very means and motive by which the rest were induced “ to make a good one, and perhaps all would be seduced, if not fixed in " a right choice by the terror of such examples, it would still be agreeable " to goodness to suffer them to make the choice and feel the effects “ of it." King's Origin of Evil, Law's Note, p. 489.