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volition. Some who deny necessity affirm the previously secured certainty of the volition. By the certainty of an event we mean its simple futurition. It is a simple will-be, perfectly pure from the must-be. Now there are those, as we understand, who affirm that antecedent causation does not secure the necessity, but does "secure the certainty" of the future volition. They thus seek to evade the difficulties of necessity. But be it noted that to secure a thing has both a positive and a negative side. To secure a thing absolutely and perfectly is to exclude the possibility of a different thing instead. To secure the certainty of a given volition, therefore, is to exclude the possibility of a different certainty. To secure the futurition of a given volition is to exclude the possibility of the futurition of a different volition; which is necessity, and, therefore, appears exclusive of responsibility.
Our views of responsibility require us, therefore, to affirm fully and unequivocally the doctrine of the freedom of the will. With the limitation which we have already indicated in our axiom, every obligatory and every responsible volitional act is a free act; that is, put forth with the adequate power of putting forth a different act instead. Thus far we have rejected the limitations to this power arising from necessity, uniformity, or secured certainty.
We hold it to be a doctrine both of natural and revealed religion, that God is an omnipotent being, possessed of power for all operations which involve not a contradiction. But any act, the expression of which involves a contradiction, we consider to be no act at all; so that this exception is not a limitation of divine power, but only a definition of the true idea of omnipotence. God is sovereign over the realm of nature and of free agents; yet in both cases he limits his uniform action by self-circumscribing laws. The laws of nature are the uniform rules of God's action, imposed by himself upon himself. And these self-imposed laws are necessary to the very existence of the kingdom of
nature; and they do, in fact, give God his position as sovereign of nature, and therein are necessary to his divine sovereignty. In the realm of free agency, also, God finds, as we think, his highest exaltation as sovereign, by so circumscribing his own modes of action as to leave unviolated the full exercise of the freedom of the agent, so far forth as he is a free and responsible agent. For God to secure absolutely and limitatively the one possible volition of the agent, and yet leave him a free agent, is, in our view, a contradiction; as genuine a contradiction as for God to cause a heavier body to ascend, and yet preserve the law of gravi tation. The requirement that God's sovereignty must jeal ously cause and secure, as well as limit, every act of the agent, in our estimation reduces God from his position as a sovereign to the predicament of a mechanist. He is no longer king of free beings, but a mover of automatons. The highest glory of God as a divine sovereign consists, as we conceive, in his giving the fullest permission for the freest range of responsible agency, though it sweep the scope of half the universe; and yet so taking the wise in their own craftiness, and over-mastering the mighty in their might, as to accomplish all his own grand designs, and produce the best and most glorious possible of ultimate results.
DIVINE PRESCIENCE AND PREDETERMINATIONS.
God we hold to be not only omnipotent but omniscient; and of this omniscience foreknowledge is a particular phase. We hold that God knows or foreknows all contingencies, possibilities, and real events in the future. God's predeterminations are acts; and inasmuch as God, with all his attributes, must precede his actions, just as all cause must precede its effect, so God's foreknowledge must precede his predeterminations. Yet as both these his foreknowledge and his predeterminations are viewed as in some sense eternal, so the priority of knowledge to act must be, perhaps, viewed as a priority in nature, rather than in time. William Hamilton's doctrine of the unknowableness of the
infinite must here, perhaps, be so far accepted as to incline us to acknowledge that we discern truth, not as it is in itself, but truth as it appears to us. Be it a contradiction or not, the eternal cause must, to our conception, in the order of nature precede the eternal effect; that is, God as foreknowing must be viewed as preceding God as predetermining. All the acts of God, even his predeterminations, we view as perfectly free; just as truly free as the freest actions of any agent in the universe. And, holding that the knowledge of free action does not impede their freedom, so we hold that God's foreknowledge of his own free actions, including his own predeterminations, does not impede their freedom.
The proposition that "God foreordains whatsoever comes to pass," taken in its natural and what we have supposed its historical meaning, and its full extent, we are compelled to reject, both from our antecedent views of human responsible freedom, and because, taken in that same proper sense and extent, it seems to us, in spite of every effort at avoidance, to amount to the proposition that God is the author of sin. To foreordain a thing or act seems to us to be a divine volition, causatively fixing and determining that thing or act, rendering it thereby fixed and necessary. To foreordain, also, has its positive and negative side. It seems to fix positively that the act shall be thus and so, and to exclude negatively the possibility of its being otherwise than thus or so; and thus, limiting the act to one sole result, excludes liberty, and so responsibility, from existence. Again, to foreordain an act seems to us to be the same as intentionally to will that act; and if the act be a sin, the most and the worst that we can say of the human sinner himself is, that he intentionally wills the sinful act; and thereby we appear obliged to affirm of God that he is as truly the author of sin as the sinner. The difference between the two appears to us to lie, not in the reality of the intentional volition, that is, the authorship, but in the number of the intermediate media through which the causation is transmitted, which is a difference no way affecting the chargeableness of the authorship.
Desirous to avoid these consequences, we would rather say that God's foreordinations, or rather predeterminations, are to be limited to his own acts. Supposing that in the infinitely distant anterior period of "timelessness," God is employed in selecting from all possible systems that which his wisdom best approves, the system which he is to be viewed as finally adopting is a system consisting properly and directly of his own future actions. Knowing, indeed, by the absolute perfection of his own attribute of omniscience all future possibilities, including all possible results from any supposed arrangements, God does, in full foreknowledge of all results in the case, so plan all his own actions and courses as seems to him wisest and best. So far forth as sequently upon any act or course of God any free being will sin, for that sin the free being, being fully able to avoid it, and bringing it unnecessarily into existence, is alone responsible. He alone has intruded it into existence. God neither predetermined, foreordained, willed, nor desired it. God's predeterminations of his own future action, or courses of action, are to be considered as so far contingent, as that their execution or coming into existence is conditioned upon the coming into existence of many presupposed free actions of finite agents, which are able not to be put forth. Yet, nevertheless, inasmuch as God's omniscience does truly and fully foresee the free volition which will actually be put forth, there is no proper danger that God will be deceived in the perfect wisdom of his plans, or be frustrated in any of his actual purposes.
Whether there are not many theologians at the present time, who use the terms predestination and foreordination, and hold themselves to believe in the doctrines properly designated by those terms, who yet do so define these terms as to make their views nearly or quite coincide with the above statements, is more than the writer of this Article is able to say. We trust that such is the fact; and our objections then would be mainly verbal, lying against the propriety and clearness of the terms and the phraseology used. Let us hope that mutual explanation will be productive of increased agreement.
It might at first appear fair to say, that the reconciliation of foreknowledge with free agency is the difficulty of our theology. Yet there seems to be a great difference, of which a theology ought to avail itself, between the admission of simple foreknowledge and the additional admission of predestination. If the term predestination has any proper significance, it implies a strict causative relation between the long past predestinating act and the predestined event. If it becomes anything less than this, it becomes simply prerecognition, with non-prevention in view of some collateral good; which is, properly speaking, foreknowledge. The true distinction, in fact, between foreknowledge and predestination is, that the former simply cognizes the act which another cause will put forth, while the latter causatively determines its putting forth, purposely excluding, by necessitative limitation, any other act instead. God may be supposed to foresee the act because the agent will put it forth but God cannot properly be said to predestinate the action because the agent will put it forth; on the other hand, the agent must perform the act because it is predestinated. The act of the agent cannot properly be free, because it is antecedently limited and determined.
Our views of the reconcilement of foreknowledge with free-agency may, in brief, be represented in the following paragraphs:
1. The utmost doctrine of free-will does not require us to deny that there is some one way, and no other, in which all free volitions will be put forth. The infinite number of free volitions, singly and collectively, while put forth with full power otherwise, will be put forth in some one way, and no other. We have, then, only to affirm that, some how or other, we know not how, this one infinite series of volitions, put forth with full power otherwise, is perfectly foreknown by God. That is, the volitions are perfectly free, yet completely foreknown.
2. From this, it follows that it is perfectly just and true that an agent can do otherwise than the way that God knows