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have no authority in any rational deduction of the human mind. It is therefore perfectly gratuitous, and perfectly contradictory and absurd. Now if the foregoing argument be not sound and legitimate, the objector has only to detect and expose its fallacy, and to produce some tangible case of certainty separate from necessity, or some case of neces. sity separate from certainty.
The argument applies to prophetical certainties quite as legitimately as it does to natural and scientific certainties. If the issue be secure, the causation must be infallible; and if the issue be fortuitous, the causation must be equally precarious: that which will secure the end, must of necessity secure the means; and a prescience of the means must of consequence be involved in a prescience of the issue. Must the faith of the human mind in the absolute predictions of Scripture prophecy, rest upon a mere hypothetical, or rather, upon an imaginary basis? Is the confidence which we are called upon to place in the infallible promises of God, built upon a less substantial foundation than that of natural and scientific fact? “ Heaven and earth shall pass away; but
word shall not pass away.” If, therefore, the predictions of prophecy do possess the properties of absolute certainty, then they must of consequence possess the properties of absolute necessity. When any person pretends to argue that an event may be certainly foreseen, but may not of necessity take place, he ought to explain to us how a certain issue
be rated from an effectual causation; or otherwise the truth of his assertion must rest upon the strength of his credulity, and not upon the legitimacy of his convictions.
There are many things which are often regarded as being absolute certainties that are only among the highest class of natural probabilities; as, for instance, the rising of the sun to-morrow morning. Now, on the supposition that the continuance of the world another day be the subject of a certain prediction, or of an absolute determination in the Deity, then the rising of the sun to-morrow morning, as we have already demonstrated, must be an absolute certainty, but, at the same time, it is equally evident, that the rising of the sun to-morrow must be as necessary as it is certain, because the causation must be as secure as the issue,
But there is no natural certainty of another rising sun.
For if there be a natural certainty that the sun will rise again after his going down at the close of the present day, then it must be equally certain that he will rise again at the distance of a week, a month, a year, a century, a thousand years; yea, it must be equally certain that he will continue to set and rise for ever and ever.
The advocates of the doctrine of eternal prescience, even after they have been obliged to abandon the certainty of moral actions and of contingent events, will nevertheless contend for the certain prescience of such actions and events; as though an issue might be contingent in re, and infallible in anticipation. Alas, alas! But what may not any person bring himself to believe, while he will regard the Christian faith as demanding an implicit credence, and not as supplying a rational and plenary conviction! When a human being is under such a prostration of intellect, it is in vain either expose the unsoundness of his premises,
to detect the fallacy of his conclusions. His licentious faith has broken the marriage contract with his own reason, and has obtained a divorce under the pretended authority of the Almighty; and therefore he can now believe without a particle of evidence, his faith is now become entirely independent of all rational conviction; he ranges the whole empire of implicit credulity, and scorns the plodding and tardy progression of his own mental deduction. His credulity needs not the glow-worm of reason to cheer his devious way; he wants not the walking-stick of slow deduction to support his tottering steps, nor the lope-staff of a logical syllogism to scale the thorny fence of contradiction, or leap the miry ditch of absurdity. He inflates his buoyant mind with idle conceits until it becomes lighter than vanity; he spreads the wings of his unfettered fancy infinitely beyond the limits of all possible existence, and away he flies like a hippogriff, or a modern Dædalus. Brakes, and bogs, and swamps, and seas of absurdity are nothing to him; he leaves them all beneath him: and therefore as long as he can ply the wings of his credulity, and winnow the yielding element of his ideal possibility, he will always despise those crawlers upon earth that will thrust forward the proboscis of common sense, and put forth the feelers of rational investigation; but it is ten to one, if his wings should ever grow weary of their fight, that he will flounder in the sloughs of
absurdity, or sink for ever in the shoreless and bottomless ocean of universal scepticism. A believer in the doctrine of an eternal prescience is a mere religious Gryffith.
We have already shewn that all knowledge must be derived from evidence, and all evidence must be derived from actual existence, and that there can be no adequate testation of truth and knowledge, but that of comparing their predications with facts, and with the real properties of the things about which they make their predications. For if all knowledge may not be brought to the test of fact and actual existence, there are no means by which we may distinguish knowledge from ignorance, and truth from falsehood. The foregoing rule must be as applicable to knowledge in the Deity, as it is to knowledge in created beings; or otherwise the garniture of the Divine intellect must be less real and less correct than the thoughts of the human heart. A certain knowledge of an uncertain thing is as gross a solecism, as palpable a contradiction, as the geometrical admeasurement of the sound of an organ, the ol. factory properties of scarlet or green, or the weight of rotundity in averdupoise. If the Deity may have a certain anticipation of an issue which he himself has rendered contingent, and if he may discover properties in things which are allowed to have no real existence in the things themselves ; then he may possibly know a truth to be a falsehood, or a falsehood to be a truth; evil to be good, or good to be evil; light to be darkness, or darkness to be light; pain to be pleasure, or pleasure to be pain; sweet to be bitter, or bitter to be sweet ;-then it is possible that, to the infinite intelligence of the Deity, a cube may be a mere surface, or a surface have the properties of a cube, that a plenum may be as empty as a vacuum, or a vacuum as solid as a plenum ; that a triangle may be a square, or a square a triangle; that all the parts may be unequal to the whole, or the whole be unequal to all the parts; that the same number may be both equal and unequal, that the disk of the sun may be as blue as the vaulted sky, that the chorus of heaven may be a perpetual silence, and that the regions of eternal misery may be as light and joyous as the realms of everlasting felicity and glory.
The advocates of eternal prescience apart from predestination, pretend to give up the influence of prescience
upon moral conduct and the issues of which it has a certain anticipation, and thereby to render an eternal prescience as powerless as blank ignorance itself. In that case, the issues which it would certainly anticipate, must be as perfectly fortuitous as though they were no longer the objects of a certain knowledge. In such a case the anticipations of the Deity could not possess any practical or rectoral efficiency, and therefore they must be as useless to the Deity, as they are destitute of motive or benefit to human beings. Every issue must remain a perfect contingency, suspended entirely on the volitions of the human mind. In this manner a pretended perfection of the infinite Jehovah is reduced to a mere nonentity : and yet for the fancied credit of this perfect nonentity they will contend with as much tenacity as though it were of infinite importance, as though it supported the basis of the earth, and the foundations of the heavens. If this hypothetical perfection of Deity were absolutely annihilated, every part of creation would remain entire, the work of redemption would be equally complete, and every department of the government of God would be equally efficient; whereas it must be intuitively evident, that every assumed perfection of the Deity which would be entirely superfluous in creation, providence, or redemption, must be perfectly gratuitous, and cannot have any real existence in the person of the Divine Being
It has been very speciously argued, that contingency is not the antithesis of certainty but is the antithesis only of necessity : but this pretended argument is a mere philological quibble, and is in no degree relevant to the question at issue. The real point in dispute, is not whether the word contingent be verbally opposed to the word necessity or to the word certain ; but whether certainty in re implies necessity in re, and necessity implies certainty: for if that be the case, although we were to concede that contingency is verbally opposed to necessity and not to certainty, yet if contingency in re be the opposite of necessity in re, it must of consequence be equally the opposite of certainty. That which is opposed to an infallible causation, must be alike opposed to an infallible issue, because an infallible issue cannot be secured except by an infallible causation : so that after all that can be made of this philo
logical evasion, it will amount to precisely the same thing, whether the word contingent be verbally the antithesis of the word certain or the word necessary.
The doctrine of eternal prescience is undoubtedly of heathen origin, from whence it has been imported into the theological systems of Christian divines; and it has evidently originated in confounding the actions of God with the conduct of men; the anticipation and distribution of rewards and punishments in the government of the world, with the moral agency of human beings. The ancient heathens had never read, in the Scriptures, that “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” Eccles. ix. 11. Yet they were convinced, by their own observations on the world, that human events were under some invisible and irresistible control; and being ignorant of the Scripture doctrine of providence, they were easily betrayed into the error of supposing that the moral actions of men were under the same absolute control as the consequences of those actions. Under this delusion, they vainly imaged to themselves a chimerical deity, whom they denominated Fate, and then resolved the moral actions of human beings, as well as their consequence, to an overruling and fatal necessity.
But the ancient heathens were not able to carry these theological speculations of theirs into the economy of real life; they enacted laws and administered justice, and these they manifestly did under an implied and involuntary conviction, that the moral actions of men were, in reality, under no such control. For to what purpose could they administer justice or enact laws, if they did not hope thereby to influence the moral conduct of human beings ? for if the necessity, under which their mythology had placed all human actions could be counteracted, that necessity could not be any fatal or irresistible necessity. And here I will boldly appeal to the understanding of my reader, whether there can possibly be a stronger proof of the falsity of a system, than the glaring and palpable fact, that the persons who have been the loudest in its praise, and the most sturdy in its defence, have never been able to carry it into their personal practice, but have maintained it only as a