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ble, and the glorifying his grace, as it presupposes the subject to be sinful, unworthy, and ill deserving, are not to be conceived of as ultimate ends, but only as certain ways and means for the glorifying the exceeding abundance and overflowing fulness of God's goodness and love; therefore these decrees are not to be considered as prior to the decree of the being and permission of the fall of the subject. And the decree of election, as it implies a decree of glorifying God's mercy and grace, considers men as being cursed and fallen; because the very notion of such a decree supposes sin and misery. Hence we may learn, how much in the decree of predestination is to be considered as prior to the creation and fall of man, and how much as posterior; viz. that God's decree to glorify his love and communicate bis goodness, and to glorify his greatness and holiness, is to be considered as prior to creation and the fall of man. And because the glory of God's love, and the communication of his goodness necessarily imply the happiness of the creature, and give both their being and happiness; hence the design to communicate and glorify his goodness and love eternally to a certain number, is to be considered as prior, in both those mentioned respects, to their being and fall. For such a design, in the notion of it, presupposes neither. But nothing in the decree of reprobation is to be looked upon as antecedent in one of those respects to man's being and fall; but only that general decree that God will glorify his justice, or rather his holiness and greatness, which supposes neither their being nor sinfulness. But whatsoever there is in this decree of evil to particular subjects, it is to be considered as consequent on the decree of their creation, and permission of their fall. And indeed, although all that is in the decree of election, all that respects good to the subjects, be not posterior to the being and fall of men, yet both the decree of election and rejection or reprobation, as so styled, must be considered as consequent on the decrees concerning the creation and fall. For both these decrees have respect to that distinction or discrimination that is afterwards actually made amongst men in pursuance of these decrees. Hence effectual calling, being the proper execution of election, is some times in scripture called election; and the rejection of men in time is called reprobation. Therefore the decrees of election and reprobation must be looked upon as beginning there, where the actual distinction begins, because distinction is implied in the notion of those decrees. And therefore, whatsoever is prior to this actual distinction, the foresight of it, and decree concerning it, or that state that was common, or wherein they were undistinguished, the foresight of that, or decree concerning it, must be considered, in some respect, as prior to the decree concerning the distinction. Because all that is before is supposed or looked upon as already put in the decree. For that is the decree, viz. to make such a distinction between those that were before in such
a common state. And this is agreeable to the scripture representations of those decrees, John xv. 19. " Ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." See also Ezek. xvi. 1-8.
The decrees of God must be conceived of in the same order, and as antecedent to, and consequent on one another, in the same manner, as God's acts in the execution of those decrees. If this will not hold, with regard to those things that are the effects of those acts, yet certainly it will hold with respect to the acts themselves. They depend on one another, and are grounded on one another, in the same manner as the decrees that these are the execution of, and in no other. For, on the one hand, the decrees of God are no other than bis eternal doing what is done, acted, or executed by him in time, On the one hand, God's acts themselves, in executing, can be conceived of no otherwise, than as decrees for a present effect. They are acts of God's will. God brings things to pass only by acts of his will.
He speaks, and it is done. His will says, let it be, and it is. And this act of his will that now is, cannot be looked upon as really different from that act of' will that was in him before, and from eternity, in decreeing that this thing should be at this time. It differs only relatively. Here is no new act of the will in God, but only the same acts of God's will, which before, because the time was not come, respected future time; and so were called decrees. But now the time being come, they respect present time, and so are not called by us decrees, but acts executing decrees. Yet they are evidently the same acts in God. Therefore those acts, in executing, must certainly be conceived of in the same order, and with the same dependence, as the decrees themselves. It may be in some measure illustrated by this—The decree of God, or the will of God decreeing events, may be represented as a straight line of infinite length, that runs through all past eternity, and terminates in the event. The last point in the line, is the act of God's will in bringing the event to pass, and does not at all differ from all the other points throughout the infinite length of the line, in any other respect but this, that this last point is next to the event. This line may be represented as in motion, but yet always kept parallel to itself. The hither end of the line, by its motion, describes events in the order in which they come to pass; or at least represents God's acts in bringing the events to pass, in their order and mutual dependence, antecedence, and consequence. By the motion of all the other points of the line, before the event or end of the line, in the whole infinite length of it, are represented the decrees in their order ; which, because the line in all its motions is kept parallel to itself, is exactly the same with the order of the motions of the last point. For the motion of every point of the whole line, is in all respects just like the motion of that last point wherein the line terminates in the event; VOL. VII.
and the different parts of the motion of every point, are in every respect precisely in the same order. And the maxim, that what is first in intention, is last in execution, does not in the least concern this matter. For, by last in execution, is meant only last in order of time, without any respect to the priority or posteriority that we are speaking of; and it does not at all hinder, but that in God's acts
, in executing his decrees, one act is the grond or reason of another act, in the same manner precisely as the decree that related to it was the ground or reason of the other decree. The absolute independence of God no more argues against some of God's decrees being grounded on decrees of some other things that should first come to pass, than it does against some of God's acts in time, being grounded on some other antecedent acts of his. I is just the same with God's acts in executing, as has been said already of his decreeing. In one respect, the end that is afterwards to be accomplished, is the ground of God's acting; in another respect, something that is already accomplished, is the ground of his acting, as it is the ground of the fitness or capableness of the act to obtain the end. There is nothing but the ultimate end of all things, viz. God's glory, and the communication of his goodness, that is prior to all first acts in creating the world, in one respect and mere possibility in another. But, with respect to after acts, other ends are prior in one respect, and other preceding acts are prior in another, just as I have shown it to be with respect to God's decrees. Now, this being established, it may help more clearly to illustrate, and fully to evince, what we have insisted on concerning the order of the decrees, and that God's decrees of some things that are accomplished first in order of time, are also prior in the order, so as to be the proper ground and reason of other decrees. For, let us see how it is in God's acts in executing his decrees. Will any deny, that God's act in rewarding righteousness, is grounded on a foregoing act of his in giving righteousness? And that he rewards righteousness in such a person, because he hath given righteousness to such a person; and that because this latter act necessarily supposes the former act foregoing ? So, in like manner, God's decree, in determining to reward righteousness, is grounded on an antecedent decree to give righteousness, because the former decree necessarily supposes the latter decree, and implies it in the very notion of it. So, who will deny, but that God's act in punishing sin, is grounded on what God bath antecedently done in permitting sin, or suffering it to be, because the former necessarily supposes the latter, and therefore that the actual permission of sin is prior, in the order of nature, to the punishment of it? So that whatever foregoing act of God is in any respect a ground and reason of another succeeding act, so far is both the act and decree of the act prior to both that other act and decree.
It may be objected to this, that if so, the decree of bestowing salvation on an elect soul, is founded on the decree of bestowing faith on him; for God actually bestows salvation in some respect, because he has bestowed faith; and this would be to make the decree of election succedaneous to the decree of giving faith, as well as that of reprobation consequent on the decree of permitting sin. To this I answer, that both God's act, and also his decree of bestowing salvation on such a fallen creature, is in some respects grounded on God's act and decree of giving faith, but in no wise as the decree or act of eternal punishing is grounded on sin, because punishment necessarily presupposes sin, so that it could not be without. But the decreeing and giving the happiness of the elect, is not so founded on faith. The case is very different. For with respect to eternal punishment, it may be said that God would not, yea, could not, have decreed or executed it, liad he not decreed and permitted sin; but it cannot be said, either that God could not, or would not, have decreed or bestowed the eternal happiness of the elect, unless he had decreed and given faith. Indeed, the salvation of an elect soul is, in this respect, grounded on the decree of giving faith as God's decree of bestowing happiness on the elect in this particular way, as a fallen creature, and by the righteousness of Christ made his own, by being heartily received and closed with, is grounded on the decree of bestowing faith in Christ, because it presupposes it, as the act that answers to this decree does. But the decree of bestowing happiness in general, which we conceive of as antecedent to this act, presupposes no such thing; nor does just so much without any more in execution presuppose faith, or indeed the righteousness of Christ, or any act or suffering of a mediator, or even the fall of man. And the decree of God's communicating his goodness to such a subject, does not so much as presuppose the being of the subject, because it gives being. But there is no decree of evil to such a subject which can be conceived of as antecedent to a decree of punishment. For the first decree of evil or suffering, implies that in it. For there is no evil decreed for any other end, but the glory of God's justice. Therefore the decree of the permission of sin is prior to all other things in the decree of reprobation. Due distinctions seem not to have been observed, in asserting that all the decrees of God are unconditional; which has occasioned difficulties in controversies about the decrees. There are no conditional decrees in this sense, viz. that decrees should depend on conditions of them, which in this decree, that depends on them as conditions, must be considered, like themselves, as yet undecreed. But yet decrees may, in some sort, be conditions of decrees ; so that it
may be said, that God would not have decreed some things, had he not decreed others.
$59. The objection to the divine decrees will be, that according to this doctrine, God may do evil, that good may come of it.
Ans. I do not argue that God may commit evil, that good may come of it;. but that he may will that evil should come to pass, and permit that it may come to pass, that good may come of it. It is in itself absolutely evil, for any being to commit evil that good may come of it; but it would be no evil, but good, even in a creature, to will that evil should come to pass, if he had wisdom sufficient to see certainly that good would come of it, or that more good would come to pass in that way than in any other. And the only reason why it would not be lawful for a creature to permit evil to come to pass, and that it would not be wise, or good and virtuous in him so to do, is, that he has not perfect wisdom and sufficiency, so as to render it fit that such an affair should be trusted with him. In so doing he goes beyond his line; he goes out of his province; he meddles with things too high for him. It is every one's duty to do things fit for him in bis sphere, and commensurate to his power. God never intrusted this providence in the hands of creatures of finite understandings, nor is it proper that he should.
If a prince were of perfect and all-comprehensive wisdom and foresight, and he should see that an act of treason would be for the great advancement of the welfare of his kingdom, it might be wise and virtuous in him to will that such act of treason should come to pass ; yea, it would be foolish and wrong if he did not; and it would be prudent and wise in him not to restrain the traitor, but to let him alone to go on in the way he chose. And yet he might hate the treason at the same time, and he might properly also give forth laws at the same time, forbidding it upon pain of death, and might hold these laws in force against this traitor.
The Arminians themselves allow that God permits sin, and that if he permits it, it will come to pass. So that the only difficulty about the act of the will that is in it, is that God should will evil to be, that good may come of it. But it is demonstrably true, that if God sees that good will come of it, and more good than otherwise, so that when the whole series of events is viewed by God, and all things balanced, the sum total of good with the evil, is more than without it, all being subtracted that needs be subtracted, and added that is to be added; if the sum total of good thus considered, be greatest, greater than the sum in any other case, then it will follow that God, if he be a wise and holy being, inust will it.
For if this sum total that has evil in it, when what the evil subtracts is subtracted, has yet the greatest good in it, then it is the best sum total, better than the other sum total that has no evil in it. But if, all things considered, it be really the best, how can it be otherwise than that it should be chosen by an infinitely wise and good being, whose holiness and goodness consists in always