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thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed,” &c. Gen. xiii. 14, 15. Now it may indeed be asserted, that God did certainly foreknow all these events, because they were matters of Divine determination, and his character is pledged in these promises for the fulfilment of his own purposes
"And God said unto Abram, As for Sarai thy wife, I will bless her, and give thee a son of her: yea, I will bless her, and make her a mother of nations; kings shall be of her." Gen. xvii. 15, 16. No person can possibly doubt whether God was prescient of the events which are foretold in these predictions, because they were matters which he had determined to bring into existence. And whether his purposes be conditional or absolute, the case must be
precisely the same in relation to his prescience, because his purposes and his knowledge of those purposes are uniformly coexistent and inseparable, and therefore they must be uniformly agreeable the one to the other.
In relation to the purposed destruction of Sodom, “The Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do ?” Gen. xviii. 17. And the augels said unto Lot, “We will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the Lord, and the Lord hąth sent us to destroy it.” Gen, xix. 13. In all this, the purposes and the agency of God are too conspicuous to be easily overlooked.
When the ancient covenant was confirmed to the patriarch Jacob, “ The Lord said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac; the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it and to thy seed,” &c. Gen. xxviii. 24. Is it possible for the Divine agency to be rendered more conspicuous than it is in the foregoing predictions ?
In the dreams of Joseph, or rather in the history of those dreams, there is no verbal recognition of the agency of God therein : and yet when it is said that “his father observed the saying," it would seem that the patriarch observed a Divine agency in the dreams of his son; and when Joseph had been made known to his brethren, he healed the wounds of their keen remorse, by saying to them, “ Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves that ye sold me hither : for God did send me before you to preserve life. And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in
the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance." Gen. xlv. 5-8.
Joseph briefly recognises the same Divine agency in the dreams of Pharaoh's servants, when he says,
“ Do not interpretations belong to God ?" Gen. xl. 8. And in what sense the interpretation of dreams belongs to God, he afterwards clearly shews in relation to Pharaoh's dreams. Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one; God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do. And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice, it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass." Gen. xli. 25–32. The interpretation of these dreams belonged to God, because they had been inspired by his agency, and had been given for the purpose of shewing what he was about to do.
When Jacob blessed his sons, and predicted the future condition of their tribes, he scarcely made any verbal mention of that Divine agency by which his predictions should be carried into effect, except in the single case of Joseph : and yet every pious reader, and every reflecting reader of sacred history, will attribute both the inspiration and the fulfilment of those predictions to the agency of God. The prophetical benedictions of Israel upon his sons and their posterity, are but amplified repetitions of the promises, which had been already made to Abraham, and confirmed to Isaac and to Jacob himself : and it was under a plenary conviction of the truth of those promises, seen through the magnifying lens of sacred prophecy, that the dying patriarch pronounced upon his sons the paternal blessing. And hence the apostle clearly recognises the agency of God in these benedictions of expiring Israel. “ By faith, Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph, and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff." Heb. xi. 21.
When the almighty God brought the ancient Israelites out of the land of Egypt, he gave them no intimation of any intention on his part to detain them for the space of forty years in the wilderness; nor is there any reason to presume, from the sacred history, that any such intention had, at that time, been entertained by the Almighty, or that he anticipated any such delay in the journey of the
Israelites to the promised land. On the contrary, the detention of the Israelites in the wilderness, is attributed solely to the agency of God in the punishment of their sins ; and therefore Moses said unto them, “The Lord heard the voice of your words, and was wroth, and sware, saying, Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh. But Joshua, the son of Nun, which standeth before thee, he shall go in thither.” Deut. i. 35, 38; and Josh. xiv. 9.
In relation to the incorrigible obstinacy of Pharaoh, the purpose and the agency of God are openly avowed, and therefore it is to the purpose and the agency of God, and not to the prognostications of an eternal fatality, that the sacred historian attributes the destruction of Pharaoh. “ And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch forth
upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among
them." Ex. vii. 3-5. Whether this notable occurrence can be reconciled with the freedom of human actions, is quite another inquiry; but, as far as the doctrine of prescience is concerned, the passage in question affords it no countenance whatever. As to the nature of that prescience by which the obstinacy of Pharaoh was anticipated by the Deity, and the reconcilableness of the whole affair with the moral government of the world, those points will be investigated in the fifteenth chapter of this work.
On the subject of the admission of the ancient Israelites into the land of Canaan, the promises of God are numerous and explicit; and they afford the most decisive evidence, that it was the sincere intention and purpose of the Deity to have brought the same generation of people into the land of Canaan, which he had brought up out of the land of Egypt; and therefore, when he revoked his purpose concerning them, he said, “Ye shall know my breach of promise.” Numb. xiv. 34. Now let me ask my reader, if it was really the intention of the Almighty to have brought the same generation of people into Canaan, which he had brought up out of the house of bondage ; whether it is possible to reconcile such an intention on the part of the Deity, with an anticipation, and consequently an intention,
to exclude them ultimately from the promised land? As far as the conduct of the Deity is concerned, the anticipations and intentions of God must be absolutely inseparable. If the Deity foresees with certainty that he will perform any future action, must he not at the same time actually intend to do what he foresees that he will certainly perform ? Purpose and prescience in God are inseparable, and the latter must always be the consequence, and not the cause of the former.
In relation to the tribes of Israel, it is evident that God had once determined to exterminate them for their repeated and aggravated crimes, and to raise
from the person of Moses, another and a mightier people to possess the ancient promises. In that case, I will ask, what would have become of the veracity of God, on the supposition, that his promises to the tribes of Israel had been unconditional? Upon the intercession of Moses, however, the sentence of extermination was commuted into an exclusion of that one generation of Israel only from the land of promise. But upon the hypothesis of an eternal prescience, these repeated predictions revoked and commuted would present very strange discrepancies and irreconcilable contradictions.
With respect to the base and flagrant conduct of Eli's sons, and the penal consequences of their evil deeds, in their own death, in the death of their indulgent father, in the premature delivery and death of Phineas's wife, and in the subsequent exclusion of Eli's posterity from the priestly office, there is no evidence whatever of any anticipation of such things on the part of the Deity, prior to the profligacy of Eli's sons, and his own consequent determination to visit them with the retributions of his righteous displeasure : and as to the notion of an eternal anticipation of these things in the mind of the Deity, such a prescience, if it were posui sible in fact, would be totally irreconcilable with every notion of righteousness and justice in the government of the world. In the predictions of the juvenile prophet to old Eli, there is an open
avowal on the part of the Almighty to cut off the sons of Eli, and to deprive his posterity of the priesthood. Wherefore, the Lord God of Israel saith, I said indeed, that thy house and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever : but now saith the Lord, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour,
and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. And this shall be a sign unto thee, that shall come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phineas; in one day they shall die both of them.” 1 Sam. ii. 30–34. I should like to be informed how the advocates of the doctrine of an eternal prescience would reconcile the foregoing narrative with either the moral agency of the persons concerned, or the moral government of the world.
When Saul, accompanied by his servant, went to seek for his father's asses, the prophet told him that the asses were found : and after Samuel had anointed Saul to be king over Israel, he predicted a number of singular coincidences that would transpire in the course of the same day, for the purpose of proving to Saul the Divine authority of his anointing, by the interposition of an agency which was every way able to carry the predictions of Samuel into ultimate effect. But what evidence does there appear throughout the whole of this affair, that these predictions were objects of an eternal prescience? Mere prescience could have given no security for the fulfilment of the prophet's predictions; neither would it have been able to supply the anointed king with any single inotive to piety and royal integrity: but those Divine perfections of omnipresence, omniscience, and almighty power, which had been rendered so conspicuous throughout the whole affair, were capable of supplying the most solemn and mandatory inducements to the diligent practice of both the one and the other.
As far as the history of Saul is applicable to the question at issue, it is most obviously and decidedly opposed to the notion of eternal prescience. When Samuel anointed Saul to be king, the prophet gave no intimation whatever of his future and final apostacy; but, on the contrary, when he presented that interesting and noble youth to the people of İsrael as their anointed king, he said unto them, “ Se ye him whom the Lord hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people.” 1 Sam. x. 24. That the Deity had not at that time any certain anticipation of Saul's future apostacy, is as clear as any thing could possibly be rendered; for when the heart of apostate Saul had gone back from following the Lord, the sacred historian does most distinctly and unequivocally state, that, “ The Lord re