IMPRIMATUR, hic Liber, cui Titulus (The Reconcileableness of God's Prescience of the Sins of Men, with the Wisdom and Sincerity, &c.)

Guil. Sill. R. P. D. Henr. Epis. Lond. à Sacris Domest.

THE RECONCILEABLENESS OF God's Prescience OF THE SINS of MEN, WITH THE WISDOM and SINCERITY OF HIS COUNSELS, EXHORTATIONS, And Whatsoever other Means He uses to prevent them.

In a Letter to the Honorable Robert Boyle Esq.

LONDON: Printed for Brabazon Aylmer, at the three Pigeons, over against the Royal Exchange in Cornhil. 1677.




THe veneration I have long had for your Name, could not per­mit me to apprehend less ob­ligation than that of a Law, in your re­commending to me this subject. For within the whole compass of intellectual employment and affairs, non but who [Page] are so unhappy as not at all to know you, would dispute your right to prescribe, and give Law.

And taking a nearer view of the Province you have assigned me, I must esteem it alike both disingenuous and un­dutiful, wholly to have refus'd it. For the less you could think it possible to me to perform in it, the more I might per­ceiv of kindness allaying the Authority of the imposition; And have the appre­hension the more obvious to me that you rather design'd in it mine own advan­tage, than that you reckon'd the cause could receiv any, by my undertaking it.

The doubt, I well know, was mention'd by you as other Mens, and not your own; whose clear mind, and diligent enqiry leave you little liable to be en­cumb'red with greater difficulties.

Wherefore that I so soon divert from you, and no more allow these papers to express any regard unto you, till the [Page 1] shutting of the discourse, is only a seeming disrespect or indecorum, put in the stead of a real one. For after you have given them the countenance, as to let it be understood, you gave the first rise and occasion to the business and de­sign of them; I had little reason to slur that stamp put upon them, by adding to their (enough other) faults, that of ma­king them guilty of so great a misde­meanour, and impertinency, as to conti­nue a discourse of this length, to one that hath so little leasure or occasion to attend to any thing can be said by them.

WHat there is of difficulty in this matter I cannot pretend to set down in those most apt expressions wherein it was re­presented [Page 2] to me, and must there­fore endeavour to supply a bad memory out of a worse inven­tion.

So much appears very obvious, That, ascribing to the ever blessed God, among the other Attributes which we take to belong to an every way Perfect Being, a know­ledg so perfect as shall admit of no possible accession or increase; and conseqently the Prescience of all future events (as whereof we doubt him not to have the distinct knowledg when they shall have actually come to pass.) Since many of those events are the sinful actions or omissions of men, which he earnestly counsels and warns them against; This matter of doubt cannot but arise hereupon, viz.

How it can stand with the wisdom & [Page 3] rity which our own thoughts do by the earliest anticipation challenge to that ever happy Being, to use these (or any other means) with a visible design to prevent that, which, in the mean time appears to that all-seeing eye, sure to come to pass.

So that, by this representation of the Case, there seem to be com­mitted together. Either 1st. Gods wisdom with this part of his know­ledg. For we judg it not to consist with the wisdom of a man, to de­sign and pursue an end, which he foreknows he shall never attain: Or 2ly. the same foreknowledg with his sincerity and uprightness, that he seems intent upon an end, which indeed he intends not.

The matter then comes shortly to this summe. Either the holy God seriously intends the preven­tion of such foreseen sinful actions [Page 4] and omissions or he doth not in­tend it. If he do, His wisdom seems liable to be impleaded, as above. If he do not, his up­rightness and Truth.

My purpose is not, in treating of this affair, to move a dispute concerning the fitnes of the words [prescience] or [foreknowledg] Or to trouble this discourse with notions I understand not, of the in­divisibility, and unsuccessivenes of eternal duration, Whence it would be collected there can be no such thing as first or second fore-or after­knowledg in that duration. But be contented to speak as I can understand, and be understood. That is, to call that foreknowledg which is the knowledg of some­what that as yet is not, but that shall sometime come to pass. For [Page 5] it were a meer piece of legerde­m [...]in only to amuse enqirers whom one would pretend to sa­tisfie. Or to fly to a cloud for re­fuge from the force of an argu­ment, and avoid an occurring dif­ficulty by the present reliefless shift of involving one-self in grea­ter.

Nor shall I design to my self so large a field as a Tractate concern­ing the divine Prescience. So as to be obliged to discourse particular­ly whatsoever may be thought to belong to that Theological To­pick. But confine the discourse to my enjoyned subject. And of­fer only such considerations as may some way tend to expedite or al­leviate the present difficulty.

§. II.

II. It were one of the greatest in­juries to Religion, a subversion indeed of its very foundations. [Page 6] And then by doing which, we could not more highly gratifie atheistical minds, instead, and un­der pretence of ascribing perfecti­ons to the nature of God, to ascribe to it inconsistencies, or to give a self-repugnant notion of that ado­rable Being, The parts whereof should justle and not accord with one another. And yet eqal care is to be taken, lest while we endea­vour to frame a consistent notion of God, we reject from it any thing that is truly a perfection, and so give a maimed one. Whereby we should undo our own design, and by our over much caution to make our conception of him agree with it self, make it disagree to him. For to an absolutely perfect Be­ing, no other can agree than that, which not only is not made up of contradictions, but which also com­prehends [Page 7] in it all real perfections either explicitely, or which leaves room for all, by not positively ex­cluding any of them. Which to do, and afterward, to assign that as the proper notion of God, were, it self, the greatest contradiction. We need therefore to be very warie, lest we pronounce too hastily con­cerning any thing, which to our most sedate thoughts, appeares simply a perfection in it self, that it carries with it a repugnancie to somewhat else, necessary to be ascribed to him.

We are first to suspect (as there is greatest cause) and enqire whe­ther the aile be not wholly in our own minds. Which in this and such like cases, we certainly shall upon due reflection, find labour­ing under the natural defect of that incomprehensive narrownes, [Page 8] that is, in some degree, unavoida­bly followed with confusion and indistinctnes of thoughts. And may perhaps find cause to accuse them of the more culpable evils, both of slothfulnes, that withholds them from doing what they can, and self-conceit by which they imagine to themselves an ability of doing what they cannot.

It cannot be unobserved by them that have made themselves any part of their own study, that it is very incident to our minds, to grasp at more than they can com­pass; and then, thorough their own scantines (like the little hand of a child) to throw away one thing that hath pleased us, to make room for another, because we can­not comprehend both together.

It is not strange, that our so straitly limited understandings, [Page 9] should not be able to lodg com­modiously the immense perfecti­ons of a Deity. So as to allow them liberty to spread themselves in our thoughts in their entire pro­portions. And because we can­noot, we complain, when we feel our selves a little pincht, that the things will not consist; when the matter is, that we have unduly crouded and huddled them up to­gether, in our incomprehensive minds, that have not distinctly conceived them.

And tho this consideration should not be used for the prote­ction of an usurped liberty of faste­ning upon God, arbitrarily and at random, what we please (As in­deed what so gross absurdity might not any one give shelter to by such a misapplication of it?) We ought yet to think it seasonably [Page 10] apply'd, when we find our selves urged with difficulties on one hand and the other; and appre­hend it hard, with clearnes and sa­tisfaction, to ascribe to God, what we also find it not easie not to ascribe.

Nor would it be less unfit to apply it for the patronage of that slothfulnes wherein our discoura­ged minds are sometimes too prone to indulge themselves.

To which purpose I remember somewhat very apposite in Mi­nucius Felix, That many thorough the meer tediousness of finding out the truth, do rather, by a mean succumbency, yeild to the first specious shew of any opinion whatsoever than be at the trouble, by a pertinacious diligence, of ap­plying, themselves to a thorough search.

[Page 9] Tho the comprehension of our Minds be not infinite, it might be extended much further than usu­ally it is, if we would allow our selves with patient diligence to consider things at leasure, and so as gradually to stretch and enlarge our own understandings. Many things have carried the appea­rance of contradiction and incon­sistencie, to the first view of our straitened minds, which after­wards, we have, upon repea­ted consideration and endeavour, found room for, and been able to make fairly accord, and lodg to­gether.

Especially we should take heed lest it be excluded by over-much conceitednes, and a self-arroga­ting pride, that disdains to be thought not able to see thorough every thing, by the first and [Page 10] slightest glance of an haughty eye; and peremptorily deter­mines that to be unintelligible, that an arrogant uninstructed mind hath only not humility enough to acknowledg difficult to be understood. Whence it is too possible some may be over­prone to detract from God what really belongs to him, lest any thing should seem detracted from themselves, and impute imper­fection to him rather than confess their own. And may be so over­ascribing to themselves, as to reckon it a disparagement not to be endured, to seem a little puz­zled for the present; to be put to pause, and draw breath a while, and look into the matter again and again; which if their humi­lity and patience would enable them to do; It is not likely that [Page 11] the Author of our faculties would be unassisting to them, in those our enqiries which concern our duty towards himself.

For tho in mattes of meer spe­culation, we may be encountred with difficulties, whereof perhaps no mortal can ever be able to find out the solution (which is no great prejudice, and may be gain­ful and instructive to us) Yet as to what concerns the object of our Religion, it is to be hoped we are not left in unextricable en­tanglements; Nor should think we are till we have made utmost trial. The design being not to gratifie our curiosity, but to re­lieve our selves of uncomfortable doubtfulnes in the matter of our worship, and (in a dutiful zeal to­wards the blessed object thereof) to vindicate it against the eavils of ill-minded men.

§. III.

But if the unsuccessfulnes of often repeated endeavours make us despair of being able, with so full satisfaction, to reconcile some things which we have thought were to be attributed to God; It will be some relief to us, if we find the things about which the doubt lies, are not of the same order, nor such as with eqal evi­dence and necessity are to be af­firmed of him.

And when we make a compari­son, we may find our selves at a certainty concerning those his At­tributes which most commonly, and at the first view, approve themselves to every man's un­derstanding.

Among which we little hesitate, (as we are most concern'd not to do,) about those which carry with them the import of moral goodness; and which render the object of [Page 13] our Religion, at once, both most venerable and lovely. For none do more naturally obtain for common notions concerning him; so as even to prevent rationcina­tion or argument, with whomso­ever the apprehension of his ex­istence hath place.

Every man's mind, it being once acknowledg'd that there is a God, refuses to conceive other­wise of him, than that he is holy, just, merciful, true, &c. And rejects with abhorrency the notion of an impure, unrighteous, cruel, de­ceitful Deity.

As for those that, by a long train of our own more uncertain and lubricous reasonings, we en­deavour to deduce; If we find our selves constrain'd any where to admit a diffidence, It were ra­ther to be plac't here. For it is at [Page 14] first sight evident, since God is most certainly willing to be known of them that are sincerely willing to know him; that what is a natural impression, stamped by his own hand on every man's mind, hath more of absolute cer­tainty, than what depends on me­taphysical subtlety; whereof so very few are capable, and where­by divers pretenders thereto, do so freqently, (and perhaps very dangerously) ensnare themselves. And it is of far greater impor­tance, such a notion of God be entertained, as whereby he may be rendered amiable, and an in­viting object of love (the very life and soul of all Religion) than such as shall be the result, and entertainment, only of Scholastic wit.

Yet also since it is very mani­fest [Page 15] that Man is now become a degenerate Creature, and in an Apostacy from God: He is very little to be trusted with the fra­ming his own Idaea of him; be­ing certainly most unapt to allow any thing a place in it, that would have an unfavourable aspect up­on his vicious inclinations and his guilty state. And the contagion of man's sinfulnes having spread it self as far as he hath propagated his own Nature; so as no notion in his Mind can be more common than the perversion and distem­per of his mind it self; The pos­sibility and danger is very obvi­ous, of mistaking a dictate of de­praved nature for an authentic common notion. And tho these are not impossible to be distin­guished, and in some cases very easie, as when men find it impo­sed [Page 16] unavoidably upon them, to apprehend and acknowledg some things which they are very unwil­ling should be true (In which case their sentiments have the same right to be believed as the testi­mony of an enemy on the oppo­site partie's behalf.) We have yet no reason to neglect any other means, whereby we may be more certainly directed how to con­ceive of God, or what we are to attribute to him, and what not.

§. IV.

Nor can we be at a greater certainty, than in admitting such things to belong to the Blessed God as he plainly affirms of him­self; or any way, by his Word, evidently discovers to belong to him.1 Cor. 2. For as none knowes the things of a man, but the spirit of a man that is in him, so the things of God are known to none but the Spirit of God.

[Page 17] Taking therefore his own Word for our measure in the present case (which I will suppose the Reader not to think it unreason­able to appeal to; And what is here said, is intended only for those that have that estimate of the Writings wont to go under that name) what it saies of him (much more what it proves) will no doubt be admitted for certain truth. Though, if it say such things, as, to us, seem not so ma­nifestly to agree with one ano­ther, Our endeavour must be the more earnest and solicitous (as also it ought to be the more mo­dest) to discuss, and remove the [...], or whatsoever semblance of disagreement.

And whosoever concern them­selves to peruse that venerable Book, will find every where, on [Page 18] the one hand, proclaimed and magnify'd in it (what our own minds cannot but have been pre­possessed of) the most exqisite Wis­dom of God, whereby he forms and contrives the methods of all his dispensations, and disposes them in the aptest subserviency to his own great and most important ends.Deut. 32. That all his waies are judg­ment; and that he worketh all things according to the counsel of his Will.Eph. 1. In summe, that all wisdom is appropriated to him, that he is celebrated in the style of God, Rom. 16. ult. only Wise. Nor are we therefore to think it strange, if, many times, we are not able to trace him out, or understand the reason of every thing he thinks fit to do. For the paths of the more perfect wisdom, must therefore be expected to be the more abstruse, [Page 19] and remoter from common ap­prehension.

How often do we find our selves so far outgone by wise and designing men, as that we are sometimes constrain'd to confess and admire their great prudence and conduct (when they have ef­fected their purposes) in those managements, which we have before beheld, either with silent ignorance, or perhaps, not with­out censure. How much less should the wisest of men regret it, to find all their conjectures ex­ceeded by the infinite Wisdom. In the contemplation whereof, we find the great Apostle (not­withstanding the vast capacity of his divinely enlightned under­standing) exclaiming in a trans­port.Rom. 11. 33. O the depths!

And when our eyes tell us, from [Page 20] so manifest stupendous effects, how far we are exceeded by him in power, it were reasonable to expect he should surpass us pro­portionably in the contrivances of his Wisdom also.

And whereas the conjunction is rare, among men, of deep poli­tical wisdom, with integrity and strict righteousness; This pro­ceeds from the imperfection and insufficiency of the former in great part, that they know not how to compass their designs, unless of­ten, by supplying their want of wisdom, out of the spoil and vio­lation of their justice and honesty. Otherwise, these are things not so altogether out of credit in the world, but that men would ra­ther accomplish their purposes by fair and unexceptionable means, if they could tell how. Only the [Page 21] respect and deference they have for them is less, than what they bear to their own interests and ends.

But besides the natural inflexi­ble rectitude of the divine Will, we are secured, from his all-suffi­ciencie, that we shall never be fraudulently imposed upon by any of his declarations unto the children of men. For there is no­thing to be gained by it: And we cannot conceive what induce­ment he should have, to make use of any so mean and pitiful shifts for the governing of his Crea­tures, whom he spontaneously raised out of nothing, and hath so perfectly within his power.

Unless we should be so most intolerably injurious to him, as to imagine a worse thing of him than we would of the worst of [Page 22] men, that he loved falshood for its own sake. And that, aginst his so constantly professed detestati­on of it, the declared repugnan­cie of it to his Nature, and the even tenour of his Word (every where agreeing with it self here­in) so often describing him by that property, God that cannot lye. And, with the same positivenes, avowing his own uprightnes, and reqiring it, expressing his great love to it, and the high delight he takes to find it in his (intelligent) creatures.Ps. 11. 7. The righteous God loveth righteousnes, and with his countenance doth he behold the upright.

Nor is his testimony the less to be regarded for that it is laudato­ry, and of himself. For we are to consider the Prerogative of him that testifies, and that if he were not [...] he were not God. Be­sides [Page 23] that his giving us this, or any, representation of himself (to whom it were enough to enjoy his own Perfections) is a vouch­safement, and done of meer grace and favour to us, that we may by it be induced to place with satis­faction, our unsuspicious trust and confidence in him. As also, that he saies, in all this, no other thing of himself, than what our own minds, considering him as God, must acknowledg most worthy of him, and agreeing to him with the most apparent necessity.

This part, therefore, of the Idaea of God hath so firm a foundation, both in the natural complexion of our own minds, and the report which his Word makes of him, that on this hand we are hemm'd in as by a wall of Adamant: And cannot have the thought of de­fending [Page 24] his Prescience, by intrench­ing upon his Wisdom and Truth, without offering the highest vio­lence both to him and our selves.

§. V.

On the other hand also, as it cannot but seem to us an higher perfection to know all things at once, than gradually to arrive to the knowledg of one thing af­ter another; and so proceed from the ignorance of some things to the knowledg of them; and that nothing is more certain, than that all possible perfection must agree to God; So we find his own Word asserting to him that most perfect knowledg which seems to ex­clude the possibility of increase; or that any thing should succeed into his knowledg. For how plainly is it affirmed of him that he knows all things. And even con­cerning [Page 25] such future things as about which our present enqirie is conversant, The affirmation is express and positive.Isai. 46. 9, 10. with Ch. 41. 22, 23. I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from an­tient times the things that are not yet done.

Nor is the affirmation naked, and unfortify'd. For, in the same sacred records, we have the same thing both affirmed and proved: Inasmuch as we find, in a great part thereof, are contained things foretold by most express Prophe­cy, unto which the Events re­corded in other parts (and many of them in other unqestioned Wri­tings besides) have so punctually corresponded, as to leave no place for doubt or cavil. Instances are so plain and well known that they need not be mentioned. And [Page 26] surely what was so expressly fore­told could not but have been fore­known.

It seems then an attempt also eqally hopeles and unrelieving, as it were adventurous and bold, to offer at the protection of his Wisdom and Sinceritie, by assault­ing his Prescience or certain fore­knowledg of whatsoever shall come to pass.

And that their defence is not to be attempted this way, will further most evidently appear from hence, That it is not im­possible to assign particular in­stances of some or other most confessedly wicked actions; against which God had directed those or­dinary means of counselling and dehorting men, and which yet it is most certain he did foreknow they would do. As, tho it was [Page 27] so punctually determined even Exod. 12. 41. to a day, and was (tho not so punctually)Gen. 15. 3. foretold unto Abra­ham, how long, from that time, What there is of difficulty or doubt about this Prophecy, see fully cleared in the late Letter to the Deist. his seed should be strangers in a Land that was not theirs; Yet how freqent are the counsels and warnings sent to Pharaoh to dis­miss them sooner; Yea how of­ten are Moses and Aaron directed to claim their liberty, and exhort Pharaoh to let them go, and at the same time told,Exod. 4. &c. he should not hearken to them. Nor indeed is it most seldome said that the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, lest he should. Tho it may be a doubt whether those passages be truly translated. For the gentler mean­ing of the Hebrew idiom being well known, it would seem more agreeable to the Text, to have expressed only the intended sense, [Page 28] than to have strained a word to the very utmost of its literal im­port, and manifestly beyond what was intended.

After the like manner is the Prophet Ezekiel sent to the revol­ted Israelites. Ch. 3. v. 4. And directed to speak to them with Gods own words, The summe and purport where­of was to warn and dehort them from their wicked waies lest they should die; when as yet it is plain­ly told him, But the house of Israel will not hearken to thee, for they will not hearken to me.

Unto which same purpose it is more pertinent, than necessary to be added, That our Saviours own plain assertions that he was the Son of God, the many Miracles by which he confirmed it, and his freqent exhortations to the Jews to believe in him thereupon, had [Page 29] a manifest tendency to make him be known and believed to be so, and conseqently to prevent that most horrid act of his crucifixion (for it is said, and the matter speaks it self,1 Cor. 2. that, if they had known they would not have crucify'd the Lord of Glory.) Notwithstand­ing that it was a thing which Gods hand and counsel had determined before to be done.Act. 4. 28. That is, fore­seeing wicked hands would be prompt and ready for this tragic enterprise, his Sovereign Power and Wise Counsel concurred with his foreknowledg, so only, and not with less latitude, to define or determine the bounds and li­mits of that malignity, than to let it proceed unto this Execution. And to deliver him up (not by any formal resignation, or sur­render, as we well know, but [Page 30] permitting him) thereunto. Tho the same phrase of delivering him, hath elsewhere, another notion of assigning or appointing him to be a propitiation for the sins of men, by dying; which was done by mutual agreement between both the parties, him that was to pro­pitiate, and him who was to be propitiated. In which respect our Saviour is also said to have given himself for the same pur­pose;Tit. 2. 14. Which purpose it was de­termined not to hinder prepared hands to execute in this way.

Now if it did appear but in one single instance only, that the Blessed God did foreknow, and dehort from the same act, It will be plainly consequent, that his warnings and dehortations from wicked actions in the general, can with no pretence be alledged as [Page 31] a proof against his universal Pre­science. For if the argument [he dehorted from the doing such an action, therefore he did not fore­know it] would be able to con­clude any thing, it must be of sufficient force to conclude uni­versally; which it cannot do, if but a single instance can be given, wherein it is apparent, he did both dehort and foreknow. It can only pretend to raise the doubt which we have in hand to dis­cuss, how fitly, and with what wisdom and sinceritie, he can be understood to interpose his coun­sels and monitions in such a case.

§. VI.

Wherefore nothing remains but to consider how these may be reconciled, and made appear to be no way inconsistent with one another.

[Page 32] Nor are we to apprehend here­in so great a difficulty, as it were to reconcile his irresistible pre­determinative concurrence to all actions of the creature, even those that are in themselves most malignant­ly wicked, with the wisdom and righteousness of his Laws against them, and severest Punishments of them according to those Laws.

Which sentiments must, I con­ceive, to any impartial under­standing, leave it no way suffi­ciently explicable, how the in­fluence and concurrence, the holy God hath to the worst of actions, is to be distinguisht from that which he affords to the best; Wherein such inherently evil acti­ons are less to be imputed to him who forbids them, than to the malicious tempter who prompts to them, or the actor that does [Page 33] them, or wherein not a great deal more. And leave it undeniable, that the matter of all his Lawes, in reference to all such actions that ever have been done in the world, was a simple and most strictly natu­ral impossibilitie. Nothing being more apparently so, than either not to do an action whereto the agent is determined by an infinite Power; or to separate the ma­lignity thereof, from an intrinse­cally evil action; And that this natural impossibility of not sinning was the ineluctable fate of his (at first) innocent Creatures. Who also (as the case is to be conceived of with the Angels that kept not their first station) must be under­stood irreversibly condemned to the suffering of eternal punish­ment, for the not doing of what it was (upon these terms) so ab­solutely [Page 34] impossible to them to avoid.

§. VII.

This too hard Province the present design pretends not to intermeddle in, As being nei­ther apprehended manageable, for those briefly mentioned con­siderations, and many more that are wont to be insisted on in this argument.

Nor indeed at all necessary; For tho many considerations have been with great subtilty, alledg'd and urged to this purpose, by former and some Modern Wri­ters, (Which it is besides the de­sign of these Papers severally to discuss) These two, which seem the most importunate and enfor­cing, will, I conceive, be found of little force; and then the less strength which is in others, will [Page 35] be nothing formidable; viz:

That it necessarily belongs to the Original and Fountain-Being, to be the first Cause of whatso­ever Being; And consequently, that what there is of positive Be­ing in any the most wicked acti­on, must principally owe it self to the determinative productive influence of this first and sove­reign Cause. Otherwise it would seem there were some Being that were neither Primum, nor a pri­mo.

And again (which we are more concerned to consider, because it more concerns our present sub­ject) that it were otherwise im­possible God should foreknow the sinful actions of men (many whereof, as hath been observed, he hath foretold) if their futuri­tion were a meer contingency, [Page 36] and depended on the uncertain will of the subordinate agent, not determined by the Supream.

But neither of these seem able to infer the dismal conclusion of God's concurring by a determinative influence unto wicked actions.

Not the former; for it may well be thought sufficiently to salve the rights and priviledg of the first Cause, to assert that no action can be done but by a power derived from it; which, in refe­rence to forbidden actions, intel­ligent Creatures may use or not use as they please, without over­asserting, that they must be irre­sistibly determined also, even to the worst of actions done by them. Besides, that it seems in­finitely to detract from the Per­fection of the ever Blessed God, to affirm he was not able to make [Page 37] a Creature, of such a nature, as, being continually sustained by him, and supplyed with power every moment sutable to its na­ture, should be capable of acting; unless whatsoever he thus enables, he determine (that is, for it can mean no less thing, impel) it to do also.

And except it were affirmed impossible to God to have made such a Creature, (that is, that it imply'd a contradiction, which certainly can never be proved) there is no imaginable pretence why it should not be admitted he hath done it: Rather than so fatally expose the Wisdom, Good­nes, and Righteousnes of God, by supposing him to have made Lawes for his reasonable Crea­tures, impossible, thorough his own irresistible counter-action, to [Page 38] be observed: and afterwards to express himself displeased, and adjudg his Creatures to eternal punishments, for not observing them.

I am not altogether ignorant what attempts have been made to prove it impossible, Nor again, what hath been done to manifest the vanity of those attempts. But I must confess a greater disposition to wonder, that ever such a thing should be disputed, that dispute so plain a case. And that a mat­ter whereupon all moral Govern­ment depends, both humane and divine, should not have been de­termined at the first sight.

'Tis not hard for a good Wit to have somewhat to say for any thing. But to dispute against the common sense of Mankind, we know before hand, is but to [Page 39] trifle; as the essay to prove the impossibility of local motion.

The notion of the goodnes and righteousnes of God, methinks, should stick so close to our minds, and create such a sense in our Souls, as should be infinitely dea­rer to us than all our senses and powers. And that we should rather choose to have our sight, hearing, and motive power, or what not besides, disputed, or even torn away from us, than ever suf­fer our selves to be disputed into a belief, that the holy and good God should irresistibly determine the wills of men to, and punish, the same thing. Nor is it difficult to urge more puzzling sophisms against the former, than for this latter.

But the efforts of a sophisti­cal Wit against sense, and more [Page 40] against the sense of our Souls, and most of all against the entire summe and substance of all Mo­rality, and Religion, at once, are but like the attempt to batter a Wall of Brass with straws and fea­thers.

Nor is the assault, on this part, more feeble and impotent, than the defence is wont to be of the other. For I would appeal to the qick refined sense of any sober and pious mind, after serious, in­ward consultation with it self; being closely urged, with the hor­rour of so black a conception of God [that he should be supposed irresistibly to determine the will of a man to the hatred of his own most Blessed Self, and then to exact severest Punishments for the offence done] what relief it would now be to it, to be only [Page 41] taught to reply, [That Man is un­der the Law, and God above it.]

A defence that doubles the force of the assault. What! that God should make a Law, and ne­cessitate the violation of it! and yet also punish that violation! And this be thought a sufficient Salvo, that himself is not subject to any Law! Will a qick-sented, tender spirit, wounded by so un­sufferable indignity, offered to the holy God, be any whit eased or relieved, by the thin sophistry of only a collusive ambiguity in the word [Law?] Which some­times signifies the declared pleasure of a Ruler to a Subject, in which sense any eye can see God can be under no law, having no supe­riour. But not-seldome also, an habitual fixed principle and rule of acting after one steady tenour. In [Page 42] which sense how manifest is it, that the perfect rectitude of God's own holy gracious Nature is an eternal Law to him, infinitely more stable, and immutable, than the Ordinances of day and night!

Or what relief is there in that dream [of the supposed possibility of God's making a reasonable Creature with an innocent aversion to himself?] For what can be supposed more repugnant? Or what more im­pertinent? If innocent, how were it punishable? A Law already made in the case, how can it be innocent?

But whatsoever strength there may be in arguments, and replies, to and fro, in this matter. That which hath too apparently had greatest actual efficacy, with ma­ny, hath been the authority and [Page 43] name of this or that man of re­putation; and the force of that art of imputing a doctrine, alrea­dy under a prejudicial doom, to some or other ill-reputed former Writer.

I profes not to be skill'd in the use of that sort of weapons. And what reputation ought to be of so great value with us, as that of God and Religion!

Tho if one would take that invidious course, it were easie to evince, that such a predetermina­tive influx to the production of all whatsoever actions, is the dearly espoused notion of one, of as deservedly an ill character, as ever had the name of a Christian Writer. And whether he would not take that name for a disho­nour to him, I pretend not to know.

[Page 44] But let us take this sober ac­count of the present case, [That in this temporary state of trial, the efficacious grace of God is necessary to actions sincerely good and holy; which therefore all ought undespairingly to seek and pray for. But that in re­ference to other actions, he doth only supply men with such a power, as whereby, they are enabled, either to act, or, in many instances (and espe­cially when they attempt any thing that is evil) to suspend their own action.

And surely it carries so unex­ceptionable a face and aspect with it, that no man, that is himself sober, will think the worst name, of whosoever shall have said the same thing, were a prejudice to it; Or should more oblige him to reject it, then we would think our selves obliged throw away Gold, or Diamonds, because an [Page 45] impure hand hath toucht them; Or to deny Christ, because the Devils confest him.

Tho also, if any should impute the so stating of this matter, to any Authour, that hath been wont to go under an ill name and character, in the Christian Church; There were a great oversight committed (to say no harder thing of it.)

For the Writers whose names would be supposed a prejudice, have neither said the same thing, nor with the same design.

They would have this indeter­mination of the power afforded to the creature, to be so universal, as to extend eqally to evil actions and to good. And have asserted it with a manifest design to ex­clude efficacious grace, in refe­rence to the best actions.

[Page 46] Whereas this account would make it not of so large extent. (As it were very unreasonable any should) For tho it may well be supposed extendible to many actions, besides those that are in­trinsecally evil, or to any that are not spiritually good, yet no­thing enforces (nor can it be ad­mitted) that it should actually, and alwaies extend so far. For who can doubt but God can over-rule the inclinations and actions of his creature, when he pleases; and, as shall best consist with his Wis­dom, and the Purity of his Na­ture, either lay on, or take off his determining hand.

Nor is it here asserted with any other design, than to exempt the Blessed God, as far as is possible; from a participation in the evil actions of his Creatures: In the [Page 47] mean time entitling him, most entirely, to those that are sincere­ly good. Tho it must be left im­putable to men themselves (it being thorough their own great default) if they have not the grace, which might effectually enable them, to do such also.

And as for the latter. This sup­posed indetermination of the hu­man will, in reference, especially, to wicked actions, is far from be­ing capable of inferring, that God cannot therefore foreknow them; Or any thing more, than that we are left ignorant of the way, how he foreknowes them. And how small is the inconvenience of ac­knowledging that? Yea and how manifest the absurdity of not ac­knowledging the like, in many cases? Since nothing is more cer­tain, than that God doth many [Page 48] things besides, whereof the man­ner, how he does them, we can neither explicate nor understand! For neither is it difficult to assign instances, more than enough, of actions done by our selves, of the manner whereof, we can give no distinct account, as those of vi­sion, intellection, with sundry other.

Some have been at great pains we well know to explain the manner of God's foreknowledg of these futurities, otherwise than by laying the foundation thereof in his (supposed) efficacious will or decree of them. They that can satisfie themselves with what Thomas and Scotus have attempt­ed, and the followers of them both; That can understand what it is, with the one, for all things to be eternally present to the Divine [Page 49] intellect in esse reali, and not un­derstand by it, the World to have been eternal. Or what, with the other, that they be all present only in esse representativo, and not un­derstand by it barely that they are all known, and no more, (which seems like the explication of the word invasion, by invasion) let them enjoy their own satisfacti­on.

For my own part I can more easily be satisfied to be ignorant of the modus or medium of his knowledg, while I am sure of the thing; And I know not why any sober-minded man might not be so too. While we must all be content to be ignorant of the manner, yea and nature too, of a thousand things besides, when that such things there are, we have no doubt. And when there are [Page 50] few things, about which we can, with less disadvantage, suffer our being ignorant; or, with less dis­reputation, profess to be so.

It cannot therefore be so af­frightful a thing, to suppose God's foreknowledg of the most con­tingent future actions, well to consist with our ignorance, how he foreknows them, as that we should think it necessary, to over­turn and mingle Heaven and Earth, rather than admit it.

§. VIII.

Wherefore waving that un­feasible, unnecessary, and unen­joyned task, of defending God's predeterminative concourse unto sinful actions; Our encounter must only be of the more super­able difficulty, to reconcile his Prescience of them, with his pro­visions against them, i. e. how [Page 51] fitly the Wise and Holy God can have interposed his precautions and dissuasions, in their own na­ture, aptly tending to withhold and divert men, from those evil actions, which he yet foresees they will do.

And it is, in the first place, evi­dent, there can be no pretence to alledg, that there is any such re­pugnancy in the matter, as shall amount to a contradiction, so much as vertual, or which the things signify'd, on the one part and the other, can be understood any way to import, That indeed there should be a direct and ex­plicite contradiction between foreknowing and dehorting, we may, at first sight, perceive the terms cannot admit; For there is no­thing enuntiated (affirmed or de­nied) in either. But let the sense [Page 52] of both be resolved into Proposi­tions, capable of being confronted to one another, And all that can be made of the former, will only come to this] you will do such a thing] and of the latter, no more but this [you ought not to do it] These are at as great distance, as can be imagined, from grating upon, or jarring with one ano­ther.

And wherein is the indecorum of it, that both these effata should proceed from the same mouth, viz. of a Governour, or one that hath authority over others.

We will, for discourse sake, sup­pose a Prince, endowed with the Gift or Spirit of Prophecy. This, most will acknowledg a great perfection, added to whatsoever other his accomplishments. And suppose we this his Prophetic abi­lity [Page 53] so large, as to extend to most events that shall fall out within his dominions. Is it hereby be­come unfit for him to govern his Subjects by Lawes? or any way admonish them of their duty? Hath this Perfection so much di­minisht him as to depose him from his Government?

It is not indeed to be dissem­bled, that it were a difficulty to determine, whether such fore­sight were, for himself, better or worse. Boundless knowledge seems only in a fit conjunction with as unbounded power. But it is altogether unimaginable that it should destroy his relation to his Subjects. As what of it were left, if it should despoil him of his Legislative Power, and capacity of governing according to Lawes made by it?

[Page 54] And to bring back the matter to the Supream Ruler. Let it for the present be supposed only, that the Blessed God hath, belonging to his Nature, the universal Pre­science whereof we are discour­sing; We will, surely, upon that supposition, acknowledg it to be­long to him as a Perfection.

And were it reasonable to af­firm that by a perfection he is dis­abled for Government? Or were it a good conseqence [He fore­knowes all things, he is therefore unfit to govern the World!]

§. IX.

And, that we may consider the matter more narrowly; Would the supposition of such foreknow­ledg, in God, make that cease to be Man's duty, which had other­wise been so? and take away the differences of good and evil? [Page 55] Would it nullifie the obligation of God's Law, and make Man's own inclination his only rule? Or, if it be said, because it is foreknown, Man will do such a thing, there­fore he may, where is the con­nection? For what influence can foreknowledg have, to alter, or affect, any way, either the nature of the thing foreknown, or the temper of the person that shall do it; any more than the present knowledg of the same thing, now in doing? Which knowledg none would deny to God: And which, when it occurs to a man, is no more understood to make an evil action innocent, than the acti­on makes the eye guilty, of him that beholds it only, and de­tests it at once. Surely what is, in its own nature, whether, good, or evil, can never not be so, be it [Page 56] foreknown or not foreknown.

But if what was otherwise man's duty, be still his duty, what can make it unfit that it be decla­red, and made known to him to be so? And how is that other­wise to be done, than by these disputed means? Yea (for this is the case) what can make it less fit, than it would be that God should cease to rule over the World? and qit the right of his Government to his revolted crea­tures, upon no other reason, than only that he foresees they have a mind to invade it?

It may now, perhaps, be said, All this reasoning tends indeed to establish the contrary assertion, [that notwithstanding God do foreknow man's sin, it is how­ever necessary he forewarn him of it] but it answers not the ob­jected [Page 57] difficulty. viz. How rea­sonably any such means are used for an unattainable end. As it is manifest, the end, Man's Obedi­ence, cannot be attained when it is foreknown he will not obey.

§. X.

It may here, before we pro­ceed further, not be unseason­able to consider (A matter, as is known, wont to be much vexed in the Schools) how God may be said to act for any end at all. And it appears very certain, that he, who is so every way absolutely perfect, and happy, cannot be thought to intend, and pursue an end, after the same manner as we are wont to do.

We being conscious to our selves of indigency, or, at the best, of obligation to the Authour of our Beings, are wont to design [Page 58] this or that end for the relieving of our selves, or the approving our selves to him. And, our sa­tisfaction depending upon the attainment of it, we solicitously deliberate about the fittest means to attain it; and are tos't with various Passions, of desire, and hope, and fear, and joy, and grief, according as the end is apprehen­ded more or less excellent, or likely to be attained; varying often our course upon new emer­gencies, as this or that may pro­bably promote, or hinder the suc­cess of our pursuit. In short, we pursue ends, as being both impa­tient of disappointment, and un­certain of their attainment.

The Blessed God, being indi­gent of nothing, nor under obli­gation to any one, cannot be sup­posed to propound an end to [Page 59] himself as that whereupon his sa­tisfaction depends, which were inconsistent with his already-compleat felicity, and would ar­gue him but potentially happy. But acting alwaies from an im­mense Self-sufficient fulnes of life, and of all perfections, doth ever satisfie himself in himself, and take highest complacency in the perfect goodnes, congruity and rectitude of his own most Holy Will and Way.

And again, as he doth not seek a yet-unattained satisfaction, in any end he can be supposed to propound to himself; So nor can he be thought to deliberate, as we are wont to do, concerning the means of effecting any. For deliberation would imply doubt­fulnes and uncertainty, which his absolute Perfection cannot ad­mit; [Page 60] Nor doth need, the whole frame and compass of things in­tended by him, in their distinct references and tendencies, being, at once, present to his all-com­prehending view; so that there can be no place for any interme­diate knowledg with him, or for any new resolves thereupon. Known to the Lord are all his Works from the beginning of the World. Acts 15.

This being premised; It is now further to be considered, that howsoever one end oftentimes is not attained, unto which the pub­licly extant declarations of the Di­vine Will have a visible aptitude, viz. the obedient compliance of men with them; another, more noble end was, however, attainable, not unbecoming the designment of the Divine Wisdom, and which [Page 61] it was every way most worthy of God to be more principally in­tent upon.

It is fit the mention of this be prefac't with an obvious remark; That the misapprehension of the state of things between God and Man doth, in great part, owe it self, to our aptnes to compare unduly, the Divine Government with that of Secular Rulers; and our expectation to find them in all things agreeing with each other. Whereas there cannot but be a vast difference, between the constitution, and end of God's Go­vernment over (his Creatures, and more especially) Mankind, and that of Man over his fellow Creatures of the same kind.

The Government of secular, humane Rulers, can never be, in the constitution of it, altogether [Page 62] absolute, nor ought, in the design of it, primarily to intend the per­sonal advantage of the Ruler himself, who as much depends upon his Subjects, and hath (at least) as great, need of them, as they can be understood to have of him. But as to the Blessed God the matter is apparent, and hath its own triumphant evi­dence, that since he is the Ori­ginal and Root of all Being, that all things are meer dependencies upon his absolute pleasure, and entirely of him, and by him, all ought to be to him that he alone might have the glory.Ro. 11.

Wherefore, it must be asserted, and cannot fail of obtaining to be acknowledged, by every impar­tial, and sober considerer of things, that there is a much more noble and important end, that [Page 63] all God's public Edicts, and De­clarations to men (the instru­ments of his Government over them) do more principally aim at, than their advantage, viz. the dignity and decorum of his Govern­ment it self. And that he may be found in every thing to have done as became him, and was most worthy of himself. And what could be more so, than that he should testifie the aversion of his own Pure, and Holy Nature, to whatsoever was unholy and impure, his love of righteousnes and complacency to be imitated herein, together with his steady, gracious Propension to receive all them into the communion of his own Felicity or Blessednes (for the Redeemer's sake) who should herein comply with him?

Nor are we to understand that [Page 64] he herein so designs the reputa­tion of his Government, as men are often wont to do things out of design for their interest, in that kind, that are otherwise, against their (over-ruled) inclination. But we are to account these his decla­rations (altho they are acts of an intelligent Agent, and the pro­ducts of wisdom and counsel, yet also) the spontaneous emanations of his own holy, and gracious Nature, such as wherein he most fully agrees, and consents with himself. And is it now to be ex­pected, that, because he foresees men will be wicked, and do what shall be unworthy of them, he must therefore lay aside his Na­ture, and omit to do what shall be worthy of himself?

§. XII.

And hereupon it may be ex­pected, [Page 65] the more ingenuous, and candid, will allow themselves to think the matter tolerably clear, in reference to the former part of the proposed difficulty; i. e. will apprehend this way of dealing with men not imprudent, or incon­sistent with the Divine Wisdom, since, tho one end, in a great part, fail, yet another, more valuable, is attained.

But yet, as to the latter part, the difficulty may still urge, viz. how it can stand with sinceritie, where­as that end also which failes, seems to have been most directly in­tended, that the Blessed God should seem so earnestly intent upon it. Since it is hardly con­ceiveable, that the same thing should be, at once, seriously in­tended as an end, and yet, at the same time, give the eye, which [Page 66] seems to design it; no other pro­spect, than of a thing never to be brought to pass.

Wherefore we are next to con­sider, that we may proceed gra­dually, And not omit to say what is in it self considerable; tho it is not all (which cannot be said at once) that is to be said; That the public declarations of the Divine Will, touching man's duty, do at­tain that very end [his obedient compliance therewith] in great part, and as to may (altho it be foreknown they will prove in­effectual with the most) and are the no less successful, than the apt means of attaining it.

Nor, certainly, if it were fore­known the World would be so divided, as that some would obey, and others not obey, was it there­fore the fittest course, that these [Page 67] two sorts should, by some extra­ordinary act of Providence, be carefully severed from each other; and those be dealt withal apart from the rest: But rather, that the Divine Edicts should be of an universal tenour, and be directed to all as they are; the matter of them being of universal concern­ment, and eqally sutable to the common case of all men.

§. XIII.

Neither yet was it necessary, that effectual care should be ta­ken, they should actually reach all, and be apply'd to every indi­vidual person. Since it is appa­rently to be resolved into the wickednes of the World, that they do not so; and that there is not an universal diffusion of the Go­spel into every part.

For it being evident to any ones [Page 68] reflection, that men are in a state of apostacy and defection from their Maker and common Lord, and therefore subject to his dis­pleasure; Whereas the Merciful God hath done his own part, and so much beyond what was to be expected from him; issued out his Proclamations of Peace, and Par­don, upon so easie and indulgent terms, as are expressed in his Gospel; if, hereupon, men also did their part, behaved them­selves sutably to the exigencie of their case, and as did become reasonable Creatures, faln under the displeasure of their Maker, (whereof their common condi­tion affords so innumerable, so pregnant proofs) The Gospel, wheresoever it should arrive, would have been entertained with so great a transport of joy, [Page 69] and so ready and universal ac­ceptance, as very soon to have made a great noise in the World: And being found to be of an uni­versal tenour and concernment, and that what is saies to one Na­tion, it eqally saies the same to every one; It could not but be, that Messengers would inter­changeably have run from Na­tion, to Nation; some to com­municate, others to enqire after those strange tidings of great joy unto all people, lately sent from Heaven; concerning the Emma­nuel, God with us; God, again upon his return to Man, and now in Christ reconciling the World to himself. And thus how easily, and even naturally, would the Go­spel soon have spread it self tho­rough the World? Especially the merciful God having so provi­ded, [Page 70] that there should be an of­fice constituted, and set up; a sort of men, whose whole busi­ness it should be, to propagate, and publish those happy tidings.

But that men should so indulge their sensual, terrene inclination, as not at all to use their under­standings, and considering power, about other matters than only what are within the sight of their eye, when by so easie and qick a turn of thoughts they might feel and find out who made them, and was the Original of their life and being, and that things are not right, and as they should be, be­tween him and them; and so by what is within the compass of natural revelation, be prepared for what is super-natural. And not that only, but to that stupidi­ty, by which they are unapt to [Page 71] enqire after, and receive, to adde that obstinate malignity, by which they are apt to reject, and oppose the merciful discoveries, and over­tures of their offended, reconcile­able Creatour, and Lord: How manifestly doth this devolve the whole business, of the little, slow progress of the Gospel in the World, upon themselves only!

As suppose we a Prince of the greatest Clemency, Benignity, and Goodnes, from whom a whole Countrey of his Subjects have made a most causeless de­fection; hereupon to send, to the whole Body of the Rebels, a gracious Proclamation of free Pardon, upon their return to their allegiance, and duty; and it only from hence comes to pass, that every individual person of them, distinctly understands not what [Page 72] the Message from their Prince did import; because, they that heard it would not, many of them, allow themselves to con­sider and regard it; and others of them, with despiteful vio­lence, fell upon the Heraulds, barbarously but chering some of them, and ignominiously repul­sing the rest. Who would not say, that Prince had fully done his part, and acqitted himself an­swerably to the best Character, tho he should send to the Rebels no further overtures. Much more, if, thorough a long tract of time, he continue the same amicable endeavours for their reducement; notwithstanding the constant experience of the same ill success? Who would not cast the whole busines of the continu­ed ill understanding, between [Page 73] him, and the revolters, upon themselves. And reckon it im­possible, any should be ignorant, of his kind and benign inclinati­ons and intentions, if an impla­cable enmity, and disaffection to him, and his Government, were not their common temper?

Tho, so infinitely do the Mer­cies of God, exceed those of the most Merciful Prince on Earth, as well as his knowledg and pow­er; that wheresoever there are any exempt cases, we must con­ceive him, eqally able, and in­clined, to consider them distinct­ly. And so vastly different, may we well suppose, the degrees of happines and misery to be, in the other World; as that there may be latitude enough, of punishing and rewarding men, propor­tionably to the degrees of light [Page 74] they have had, and the more or less malignity, or propension to reconciliation, was found with them thereupon.

§. XIV.

Nor again was it at all incon­gruous, or unbecoming, that the Blessed God, this being the com­mon temper, and disposition of all men, to reject his gracious tenders, should provide, by some extraordinary means, that they might not be finally rejected by all. For what can be more ap­propriate to Sovereignty (even where it is infinitely less abso­lute) than, arbitrarily, to design the objects of special favour? Who blames a Prince, for placing spe­cial marks of his Royal bounty, or clemency here and there, as he thinkes fit? or that he hath some peculiar favourites, with [Page 75] whom he familiarly converses, whom he hath won, by some or other not-common inducements, and assured their loyal affection: tho there be thousands of Persons in his dominions besides, of as good parts, dispositions, and de­serts as they? It belongs to So­vereignty, only so, to be favour­able to some, as, in the mean time, to be just towards all.

Yea and it must be acknow­ledged, such are the dispensati­ons of the holy God towards the whole community of mankind, as import, not only strict righte­ousness, but great clemency and mercie also.

Tho they might easily under­stand themselves to be offenders, and liable to the severities of his Justice, they are spared by his pa­tience, sustained by his bounty, [Page 76] protected by his power, Their lives and properties are fenced by his own lawes. And whereas they are become very dangerous enemies to one another: and each one his own greatest enemie; It is provided by those laws, even for the worst of men, that none shall injure them, that all love them, and seek their good. He interposes his authority on their behalf; and, if any wrong them, he takes it for an affront done to himself. By the same lawes, they are directed to industry, fru­gality, Sobriety, temperance, to exercise a Government over themselves, to bridle and subdue their own exorbitant lusts and passions, their more immediate tormentours, and the sources of all the calamities and miseries, which befal them in this World. [Page 77] By all which evidences of his great care, and concern for their welfare, They might understand him to have favourable propen­sions towards them, and that, tho they have offended him, he is not their implacable enemy; And might, by his goodnes, be led to repentance.

Yea and moreover; he hath sent them a Redeemer, his own Son, an incarnate Deity, who came down into this World, full of grace and truth, upon the most merciful errand. (And they have some of them been in transports, when they have but fancy'd such a descent, for the doing them, on­ly, some lighter good turn; as upon the cure of the Creeple.Act. 14. The Gods (say they) are come down in the likeness of Men!)

He being filled with the glo­rious [Page 78] fulnes of the Godhead, hath been a voluntary sacrifice for the sins of men; And if they would beleive and obey him, they would find that sacrifice is accept­ed, and available for them.

And tho they are disabled to do so, only by their own wicked in­clination, even against that also they have no cause to despair of being relieved, if they would (which they might) admit the thoughts of their impotency, and the exigencie of their case, and did seriously implore Divine help.


Now with whom these me­thods succeed well, there is no suspicion of insinceritie; Let us see what pretence there can be for it, with the rest.

It is to be considered, that, as to them, he doth not apply him­self [Page 79] to every (or to any) person immediately, and severally, af­ter some such tenour of speech as this, ‘I know thee to be a profligate, hopeles wretch, and that thou wilt finally disregard whatsoever I say to thee, and conseqently perish and become miserable. But however (tho I foresee most certainly thou wilt not, yet) I entreat thee to hear,’ and obey, and live. Indeed sending a Prophet to a promiscuous people, he foretells him of such ill successEzekiel. Ch. 3. 7.. But it is not told him he should succeed so ill universally, and it is im­ply'd, he should not.V. 21.

But the Course the great God takes, is only to apply himself to these (as hath been said) in com­mon with the rest. For if it be said he also applies himself to [Page 80] them by the private dictates of his Spirit; He doth not, by it, make formed speeches to men. But as to those its common mo­tions, whereby it applies it self unto them, doth only solicite, in a stated manner of operation, in and by their own reason and consciences (as he concurres with our inferiour faculties, and with the inferiour Creatures, sutably to their natures and capacities) speaking no other, than their own language, as they are instructed out of his Word, or by other means. Which he usually con­tinues to do, till, by their resisten­cies, they have sealed up their own Consciences, and conseqent­ly (according to its more ordina­ry fixed course, and lawes of ac­cess and recess) shut out the Holy Spirit both at once. Nor is it [Page 81] more to be expected, he should universally alter that course; than that he should alter the courses of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, and innovate upon universal na­ture.

So that what is endeavoured for the reducement of such, as finally refuse to return, by par­ticular applications to this or that person, and beyond what is con­tained in the public declarations of his written Word, is by sub­stituted Ministers, and inferiour Agents, that know no more of the event, than they do them­selves.

And that this was the fittest way of dealing with reasonable Creatures, who, that will use his own reason, sees not?

§. XVI.

That our disqisition may be [Page 82] here a little more strict, we shall enqire both,

What may be supposed possible to be alledg'd out of God's Word, in re­ference to them that persist in wicked­ness till they finally perish, which it can be thought not consistent with sin­ceritie to have inserted, upon the sup­posed foresight of so dismal an is­sue.

And what more convenient course we can think of, which sincerity (as we apprehend) would have reqi­red.

As to the former. It may, per­haps, be alledg'd, that he profes­ses to will the salvation of all men. 1 Tim. 2. 4. Not to desire the death of him that dyeth. Ezek. 18. 32. Yea and professes himself grieved that any perish.Ps. 81. 12, 13. Now these things, compared with his public declarations, and tenders, directed, in an universal tenour, [Page 83] to all men, carry that appearance and shew with them, as if he would have it believ'd, his end were to save all. Wherewith his foresight of the perdition of so many, seems ill to agree. For, how can that end be seriously in­tended, which it is foreseen will not be brought about? And how can it be thought to consist with sincerity, that there should be an appearance of his having such an end, unto which, a serious real intention of it doth not cor­respond?

Wherefore we shall here exa­mine, what appearance such ex­pressions as those above recited, can, by just interpretation, be un­derstood to amount unto.

And then shew that there is really with the Blessed God, what doth truly and fully correspond [Page 84] to that appearance. And very agreeably too, with the hypothe­sis of his foreseeing how things will finally issue, with very ma­ny.

And first, that we may under­stand the true import of the expressions which we have mentioned, and others of like sound and meaning. We are to consider, that (tho being taken severally and apart, they are not capable of a sense, prejudicial to the cause, the defence whereof we have undertaken, which we shall afterwards more distinctly evince, yet) it were very injuri­ous, to go about to affix a sense, unto a single expression, without weighing the general design of the writings, whereof it is a part.

It were qite to frustrate the use of words, when a matter is [Page 85] to be represented, that is copious, and consists of many parts and branches; which cannot be com­prehended in one, or a few sen­tences, if we will pretend to esti­mate, and make a judgment of the Speakers full meaning, by this or that single passage, only, be­cause we have not patience, or leasure, to hear the rest; or per­haps have a greater disposition to cavil his words, than understand his meaning.

If a Course resembling this should be taken, in interpreting the Edicts, or Lawes of Princes, and States (suppose it were a Pro­clamation of Pardon to delinqent Subjects) and only this or that favourable clause be fastened up­on, without regard to the inser­ted Proviso's and Conditions; The (concerned) interpreters [Page 86] might do a slight, temporary, and easily remedible wrong to the Prince; but are in danger, more fatally, to wrong themselves.

The Edicts of the great God, that are publicly extant to Man­kind (the universal publication whereof, they partly withstand, and which they too commonly deprave, and perversly mis-inter­pret, where they do obtain) car­ry no such appearance with them, as if he had ever proposed it to himself, for his end, to save all men, or any man, let them do what they please, or how de­structive a Course soever they take, and shall finally persist in.

If that were supposed his de­sign, his so seemingly serious counsels, and exhortations, were as ludicrous, as they could be thought, if it were as perempto­rily [Page 87] determined all should perish. For what God will, by Almighty Power, immediatly work, with­out the subordinate concurrence of any second cause, must be ne­cessarily. And it is eqally vain, solicitously to endeavour the en­gaging of subordinate Agents, to do that which without them is ab­solutely necessary, as it were to en­deavour that, by them, which is absolutely impossible.

§. XVII.

That which his declarations to men do amount unto, is, in summe, thus much, That, where­as they have, by their defection, and revolt from him, made them­selves liable to his Justice, and very great conseqent miseries; he is willing to pardon, save and restore them to a blessed state, upon such terms as shall be agree­able [Page 88] (the recompence due to his injured Law, being otherwise provided for, at no expence of theirs) to the nature of that Bles­sednes they are to enjoy, the Pu­rity of his own Nature, and the Order, and Dignity of his Go­vernment. That is, that they se­riously repent, and turn to him, Love him as the Lord their God, with all their Heart and Soul, and Might, and Mind; and one an­other as themselves. (being to make together one happy Com­munity, in the participation of the same Blessednes) Commit them­selves by entire Trust, subjection and devotednes to their great and merciful Redeemer, according to the measure of light, wherewith he shall have been revealed and made known to them; Submit to the motions and dictates of his [Page 89] Blessed Spirit, whereby the im­pression of his own holy Image is to be renewed in them, and a Di­vine Nature imparted to them; And carefully attend to his Word as the means, the impressive in­strument or seal, by which, un­derstood and considered, that im­pression shall be made, and the very seed out of which that Holy Nature, and the entire frame of the New Creature shall result and spring up in them; so as to make them apt unto the obedience that is expected from them, and capa­ble of the Blessednes they are to expect. That if they neglect to attend to these external discove­ries, and refuse the ordinary aids and assistances of his good Spirit, and offer violence to their own Consciences, they are not to ex­pect he should over-power them, [Page 90] by a strong hand, and save them against the continuing dis-incli­nation of their own wills.

Nor (whatsoever extraordina­ry acts he may do upon some, to make them willing) is there any universal Promise in his Word; or other encouragement, upon which any may reasonably pro­mise themselves that; in the ne­glect and disuse of all ordinary means, such power shall be used with them, as shall finally over­come their averse disaffected hearts.


'Tis true that he frequently uses much importunity with men, and enforces his Lawes with that ear­nestnes, as if it were his own great interest to have them obey'd; Wherein, having to do with men, he doth like a man, solicitously [Page 91] intent upon an end which he can­not be satisfy'd till he attain. Yet withal, he hath interspersed, eve­ry where in his Word, so frequent, God-like Expressions of his own Greatnes, All-sufficiency and In­dependency upon his Creatures, as that if we attend to these his Public declarations, and mani­fests of himself entirely; So as to compare one thing with another, we shall find the matter not at all dissembled; but might collect this to be the state of things, be­tween him, and us; that he makes no overtures to us, as thinking us considerable, or as if any thing were to accrue to him from us. But that, as he takes pleasure in the diffusion of his own goodnes, so it is our interest to behave our selves sutably thereunto, and, ac­cording as we comply with it, [Page 90] [...] [Page 91] [...] [Page 92] and continue in it, or do not, so we may expect the delectable communications of it, or tast, otherwise, his just severity. That, therefore, when he exhorts, ob­tests, intreats, beseeches that we would obey and live; speaks as if he were grieved at our disobe­dience, and what is like to en­sue to us therefrom; These are merciful condescentions, and the efforts of that goodnes, which chooseth the fittest wayes of mo­ving us, rather than that he is mo­ved himself, by any such Passions, as we are wont to feel in our selves, when are pursuing our own designs. And that he vouch­safeth to speak in such a way as is less sutable to himself, that it may be more sutable to us, and might teach us, while he so far complies with us, how becoming it is that [Page 93] we answerably bend our selves to a compliance with him. He speaks, sometimes, as if he did suffer somewhat humane, as an apt means (and which to many proves effectual) to bring us to enjoy, at length, what is truly divine. We may, if we consider, and lay things together, understand these to be gracious insinuations; Whereby, as he hath not left the matter liable to be so mis-under­stood, as if he were really affect­ed with solicitude, or any pertur­bation concerning us (which he he hath sufficiently given us to understand his Blessed Nature cannot admit of.) So nor can they be thought to be disguises of himself, or misrepresentations, that have nothing in him corre­sponding to them. For they re­ally signifie the obedience, and [Page 94] blessednes of those his Creatures that are capable thereof, to be more pleasing and agreeable to his Nature, and Will; than that they should disobey and perish. (which is the utmost that can be understood meant, by those words, God will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledg of the truth) But withal, that he so ap­prehends the indignity done to his Government, by their disobe­dience, that if they obey not (as the indulgent constitution and temper of his Law, and Govern­ment now are, in and by the Re­deemer) they must perish. And that he hath also such respect to the congruity and order of things, as that it shall not be the ordina­ry method of his Government over reasonable Creatures, to over-power them into that obe­dience, [Page 95] by which it may come to pass that they perish not. All which may be collected from those his own plain words, in that other recited Text (and ma­ny besides of like import.) When, with so awful solemnity, he pro­fesses,Ezek. 33. that as he lives he takes no pleasure in the death of sinners, but that they may turn and live; and adds, Turn ye, turn ye, why will you die? That is, that their repen­tance, and consequent welfare, would be more grateful to him, than their perdition, upon their persevering in destructive waies. But yet, that if they were not moved to repent, by these his pleadings and expostulations used with them, they should die, and were therefore concern'd, to at­tend and hearken, to such his rea­sonings and warnings, as the apt [Page 96] means to work their good; not expecting he should take extra­ordinary courses with them, in order to it. And that the real respect he had thereunto, should never induce him, to use any in­decorous course, to bring it about; but that he had a more principal respect to the rules of Justice, and the order of his Government, than to their concernments. And that he, notwithstanding, expresses himself aggrieved that any final­ly perish; If we consider and re­collect, what notices he hath fur­nished our Minds with, of the Perfections of a Deity, and what he hath remonstrated to us of his own Nature, so plainly, in his Word; we cannot understand more by it, than the calm dispas­sionate resentment and dislike, which most perfect Purity, and [Page 97] Goodnes have, of the sinfulnes and miserable ruine, of his own Creatures.

In all which we have a most unexceptionable Idaea of God, and may behold the comly conjuncture of his large Goodnes, strict Righ­teousnes, and most accurate Wis­dom all together. As we are also concerned, in making our estimate of his waies, to consider them. And not to take our mea­sure of what is sutable to God, by considering him according to one single Attribute only; but as they all are united, in his most Perfect Being. And in that bles­sed harmony, as not to infer with him a difficulty what to do, or what not. Which sometimes falls out with men, where there is an imperfect resemblance of those Divine Excellencies, not so ex­actly [Page 98] contempered together. As it was with that Spartan Prince and General in Plutarch, when, find­ing a necessity to march his Ar­my, and taking notice of one, for whom he had a peculiar kindness, that, thorough extream weak­nes, was not possibly to be remo­ved, he look't back upon him, ex­pressing his sense of that exigen­cie, in those emphatical words, How had a matter is it at once [...], to exercise pity and be wise!

God's own Word misrepre­sents him not, but gives a true account of him, if we allow our selves to confer it with it self, one part of it with another. Nor doth any part of it, taken alone, im­port him so to have will'd the happines of men, for any end of his, that he resolved he would, by whatsoever means certainly effect [Page 99] it; As we are wont, many times, with such engernes to pursue ends upon which we are intent, as not to consider of right or wrong, fit or unfit in our pursuit of them, and so let the cost of our means, not seldom, eat up our end. Nor did that belong to him, or was his part as our most benign, wise, and righteous Governour, to pro­vide that we should certainly not transgress, or not suffer prejudice thereby; but that we should not do so, thorough his omission of any thing, which it became him to do to prevent it.

§. XIX.

It may therefore be of some Use further to take notice, that a very divers consideration must be had, of the ends which shall be effected by Gods own action only, and of those which are to be brought about [Page 100] (in concurrence, and subordina­tion to his own) by the intervenient action of his Creatures. Especially (which is more to our purpose) such of them as are intelligent, and capable of being govern'd by Lawes.

As to the former sort of these ends, we may be confident they were all most absolutely intend­ed, and can never fail of being accomplisht.

For the latter, It cannot be universally said so. For these, be­ing not entirely his ends, But partly his, and partly prescribed by him, to his reasonable Crea­tures, to be theirs. We are to conceive he alwaies, most abso­lutely, intends to do, what he righ­teously esteems congruous▪ should be his own part; which he ex­tends and limits, as seems good [Page 101] unto him. And sometimes, of his own good Pleasure, assumes to himself the doing of so much, as shall ascertain the end; Effectu­ally procuring, that his Crea­ture shall do his part also. That is, not only enacts his Law, and adds exhortations, warnings, pro­mises, to enforce it, but also emits that effectual influence, whereby the inferiour wheels shall be put into motion, the powers and faculties of his go­verned Creature excited and as­sisted, and (by a spirit in the wheels) made as the Chariots of a willing people. At other times and in other instances, he doth less, and meeting with resistence, sooner retires; follows not his external Edicts and Declarations, with so potent and determina­tive an influence; but that the [Page 102] Creature, through his own great default, may omit to do his part, and so that end be not effected.

That the course of his Oeco­nomy towards men on earth is, de facto, ordered with this diver­sity, seems out of qestion. Mani­fest experience shews it. Some do sensibly perceive that motive influence, which others do not. The same persons, at sometimes, find not that, which at other times they do. His own Word plainly asserts it. He works in us to will and to do, of his own good plea­sure. Where he will, he, in this re­spect, shews mercy; where he will, he hardeneth, or doth not prevent but that men be hardened. And in­deed, we should be constrain'd to rase out a great part of the Sacred Volume, if we should not admit it to be so.

[Page 103] And as the eqity and fitnes of his making such difference (when it appears he doth make it) can­not without profanenes be doubt­ed, so it is evident, from what was before said, they are far re­moved from the reach and con­fines of any reasonable doubt; since he forsakes none, but being first forsaken.

Nor have men any pretence to complain of subdolous deal­ing, or that they are surprisingly disappointed, and lurcht of such help, as they might have expect­ed; inasmuch as this is so plainly extant in God's open manifests to the World, that he uses a certain arbitrarines, especially in the more exuberant dispensation of his grace; and is inserted to that purpose, that they may be cau­tion'd not to neglect lower assi­stences; [Page 104] and warned, because he works to will and to do of his own pleasure, Phil. 2. 12, 13. therefore to work out their own salvation with fear and trem­bling. Whereupon, elsewhere, after the most persuasive alluring invitations.Prov. 1. Turn ye at my reproof, I will pour out my Spirit to you, I will make known my words to you, It is presently subjoyned, Because I called and ye refused, I stretched out my hand and no man regarded. But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh.

From all which it is plainly to be understood, that the general strain and drift of God's external revelation of his Mind to Man, in his Word, and the aspect of even those passages, that can, with most colour, be thought to signify [Page 105] any thing further, do amount to nothing more than this, that he doth so far really will the salvation of all, as not to omit the doing that which may effect it, if they be not neglectful of themselves, but not so as to effect it by that extraordinary exertion of Power, which he thinks fit to employ up­on some others.

Nor is it reasonably to be doubted, (such a will being all that can be pretended to be the visible meaning of the passages before noted) whether there be such a Will in God or no. And so some­what really corresponding (the next thing promised to be dis­coursed) to the aspect and appea­rance hereof, which is offered to our view. For what should be the reason of the doubt? He, who best understands his own Nature, [Page 106] having said of himself what im­ports no less; why should we make a difficulty to believe him? Nor indeed can any notices we have of the Perfections of the Divine Nature be less liable to doubt, than what we have of his unchangeable veracity; whence, as it is impossible to him to lye, it must be necessary, that he be really willing of what he hath represented himself so to be.

I must here profess my dislike of the terms of that common di­stinction the voluntas beneplaciti, et signi in this present case. Under which, such as coyned, and those that have much used it, have only rather, I doubt not, con­ceal'd a good meaning, than ex­pressed by it an ill one. It seems, I confess, by its more obvious aspect, too much to countenance [Page 107] the ignominious slander, which profane and atheistical dispositi­ons would fasten upon God, and the course of his procedure to­wards men; and which it is the design of these Papers to evince of as much absurdity and folly, as it is guilty of impiety and wic­kednes: As tho he only intended to seem willing of what he really was not; That there was an ap­pearance to which nothing did subesse. And then why is the latter call'd voluntas? unless the meaning be he did only will the sign, which is false and impious; and if it were true, did he not will it with the will of good pleasure? And then the members of the distinction are confounded. Or, as if the evil actions of men were, more truly, the objects of his good Pleasure, than [Page 108] their forbearance of them.

And of these faults the appli­cation of the distinction of God's secret Will, and revealed, unto this case, tho it be useful in many, is as guilty.

§. XXI.

The truth is (unto which we must esteem our selves obliged to adhere, both by our assent, and defence) that God doth really and complacentially will (and therefore doth with most unexceptionable sincerity declare himself to will) that to be done and enjoy'd by ma­ny men, which he doth not, uni­versally, will to make them do, or irresistibly procure that they shall en­joy. Which is no harder asser­tion, than that the impure will of degenerate sinful Man is op­posite to the Holy Will of God; and the malignity of Man's will to the benignity of his. No har­der [Page 109] than that there is sin and misery in the World, which how can we conceive otherwise, than as a repugnancie to the good and acceptable Will of God?

Methinks it should not be dif­ficult to us to acknowledg, that God doth truly, and with compla­cencie, will, whatsoever is the ho­ly righteous matter of his own Lawes. And if it should be with any a difficulty, I would only make this supposition. What if all the World were yet in in­nocencie, yielding entire, univer­sal obedience to all the now ex­tant Laws of God, which have not reference to Man as now faln (as those of repentance, Faith in a Mediatour, &c.) would it now be a doubt with any, Whe­ther God did truly and really will, and were pleased with the [Page 110] holines and righteousnes which were every where to be found in the World? Surely we would not, in this case, imagine the crea­tures will more pure and holy than the Divine; or that he were displeased with men for their being righteous and holy. Now again suppose the World revolt­ed, what then is that holy Will of God changed? will we not say it remains the same holy Will still? And stands the same Rule of righteousnes and duty that it was? Doth the change of his Rebel-Creatures infer any with him? Or do only the declarations of his former Will remain to be their rule, and keep them still obliged, his Will it self being be­come another from what it was? Surely he might as easily have changed his Lawes.

[Page 111] And if we say his Will is chan­ged, how should we know it to be so? If we know it not, surely such a thing should not be said or thought. If we know it, how should those yet-extant Lawes and Declarations continue to ob­lige, against the Law-givers known will? And then the easie expe­dient to nullifie the obligation of a Law, that were thought too restrictive, were to disobey it. And men might, by sinning once, license themselves to do the same thing (tho then we could not call it sinning) alwaies. And so the Creatures should be the supream, and ruling will. Nor had it been a false suggestion, but a real truth, that Man, by becoming a sinner, might make himself a God.

Or, if it shall be thought fit to [Page 112] say, that the Divine Will would not, in that supposed case, be said to be changed; but only, that now, the event makes it appear not to have been, what we thought it was; That were to impute both impuritie and dissi­mulation to the Holy Blessed God, as his fixed Attributes. And what we thought unfit, and should abhorre, to imagine might have place with him one mo­ment, to affix to him for perpe­tuitie.

§. XXII.

And whereas it may be thought to follow hence, that hereby we ascribe to God a liablenes to fru­stration, and disappointment. That is without pretence. The resolve of the Divine Will, in this matter, being not concerning the event what Man shall do, But [Page 113] concerning his duty what he should, and concerning the connection between his duty, and his happi­nes. Which, we say, he doth not only seem to will, but wills it really and truly. Nor would his Prescience of the event, which we all this while assert, let fru­stration be so much as possible to him. Especially, it being at once foreseen, that his Will, be­ing crossed in this, would be ful­filled in so important a thing, as the preserving the decorum of his own Government. Which had been most apparently ble­misht, beyond what could con­sist with the Perfections of the Deity, if either his Will concern­ing Man's duty, or the declara­tions of that Will, had not been substantially, the same that they are.

[Page 114] We are, therefore, in assigning the object of this or that act of the Divine Will, to do it entirely, and to take the whole object to­gether, without dividing it, as if the Will of God did wholly ter­minate upon what indeed is but a part (and especially if that be but a less considerable part) of the thing willed. In the present case, we are not to conceive that God, only, wills either Man's duty or felicity, or that herein his Will doth solely and ultimately ter­minate. But, in the whole, the determination of God's Will is, That Man shall be duly governed, that is, congruously both to himself, and him. That such and such things, most congruous to both, shall be Man's duty, by his doing whereof, the Dig­nity and Honour of God's own Go­vernment [Page 115] might be preserved, which was the thing principally to be de­sign'd; and in the first place. And, as what was secundary thereto, that hereby Man's felicity should be pro­vided for. Therefore, it being foreseen a violation would be done to the sacred rights of the Divine Government, by Man's disobedience, it is resolved, they shall be repaired and maintain­ed by other means. So that the Divine Will hath its effect; as to what was its more noble and principal design, the other part failing, only, by his default, whose is the loss.

And if yet it should be insisted, that in asserting God to will what by his Lawes he hath made be­come Man's duty, even where it is not done, we shall herein ascribe to him, at least, an inef­fectual [Page 116] and an imperfect Will, as which doth not bring to pass the thing willed.

It is answered, that imperfe­ction were with no pretence im­putable to the Divine Will, meer­ly for its not effecting every thing, whereto it may have a real pro­pension. But it would be more liable to that imputation, if it should effect any thing, which it were less fit for him to effect, than not to effect it. The absolute Perfection of his Will stands in the proportion, which every act of it bears, to the importance of the things, about which it is conver­sant. Even as, with men, the perfection of any act of will is to be estimated, not by the meer peremptory sturdines of it, but by its proportion to the goodnes of the thing willed. Upon which [Page 117] account, a meer velleity (as ma­ny love to speak) when the de­gree of goodnes in the object claims no more, hath unconcei­vably greater perfection in it, than the most obstinate Voli­tion.

And since the Event forbids us to admit that God did ever will the obedience and felicity of all, with such a VVill as should be effective thereof; if yet his plain Word shall be acknowledged the measure of our belief, in this mat­ter, which so plainly asserts him someway to will the salvation of all men, 'tis strange if, hereupon, we shall not admit rather of a will not-effective of the thing wil­led, than none at all.

The VVill of God is sufficient­ly to be vindicated from all im­perfection, if he have sufficient [Page 118] reason for all the propensions, and determinations of it, whe­ther from the value of the things willed, or from his own Sove­reignty who wills them.

In the present case, we need not doubt to affirm, that the obe­dience and felicity of all men, is of that value, as whereunto a pro­pension of will, by only simple complacency is proportionable. Yet, that his not procuring, as to all (by such courses as he more extra­ordinarily takes with some) that they shall, in event, obey and be happy, is upon so much more va­luable reasons (as there will be further occasion to shew ere long) as that, not to do it was more eli­gible, with the higher complacency, of a determinative will.

And since the public declara­tions of his good will, towards [Page 119] all men, import no more than the former, and do plainly im­port so much; Their correspon­dency to the matter declared is sufficiently apparent.

And so is the congruity of both with his prescience of the event.

For tho, when God urges and incites men, by exhortations, promises, and threats, to the do­ing of their own part (which it is most agreeable to his holy gra­cious Nature to do) he foresee, many will not be moved there­by; but persist in wilful neglect, and rebellions till they perish: He, at the same time, sees that they might do otherwise, and that, if they would comply with his methods, things would other­wise issue with them. His pre­science, no way, imposing upon [Page 120] them a necessity to transgress. For they do it not because he fore­knew it, but he only foreknew it because they would do so. And hence he had, as it was necessary he should have, not only this for the object of his foreknowledg, that they would do amiss and perish. But the whole case in its circum­stances, that they would do so, not thorough his omission, but their own. And there had been no place left for this state of the case; if his public Edicts and Manifests, had not gone forth, in this tenour as they have.

So that the consideration of his prescience, being taken in, gives us only, in the whole, this state of the Case, That he foresaw men would not take that course, which he truly declared himself willing they should (and was graciously [Page 121] ready to assist them in it) in or­der to their own well-being. Whence all complaint of insin­cere dealing is left without pre­tence.


Nor (as we also undertook to shew) could any course (within our prospect) have been taken, that was fit, in it self, and more agreeable to sincerity.

There are only these two waies to be thought on, besides. Either that God should wholly have forborn to make overtures to men in common.

Or, that he should efficaciously have overpow'red all into a com­pliance with them. And there is little doubt, but, upon sober con­sideration, both of these will be judg'd altogether unfit.

The former; Inasmuch as it [Page 122] had been most disagreeable to the exact measures of his Government, to let a race of sinful Creatures persist, thorough many successive Ages, in apostacy and rebellion, when the characters of that Law, first written in Man's heart, were in so great measure outworn, and become illegible; without re­newing the impression, in another way; and reasserting his right and authority, as their Ruler and Lord; To the Holines of his Na­ture, not to send into the VVorld such a declaration of his Will, as might be a standing testimony against the impurity, whereinto it was lapsed; To the goodnes of it, not to make known upon what termes, and for whose sake, he was reconcileable; And to the truth of the thing, since he really had such kind propensions towards [Page 123] men in common not to make them known. That it had, it self, been more liable to the charge of insinceritie, to have con­cealed from men what was real truth, and of so much concern­ment to them. And he did, in revealing them, but act his own Nature; the goodnes whereof is no more lessened, by mens refu­sal of its offers, than his Truth can be made of none effect by their disbelief of its assertions. Besides the great use such an ex­tant revelation of the way of re­covery, was to be of, to those that should obediently comply with it, even after they should be so to do.

§. XXIV.

And the latter we may also apprehend very unfit too; tho, because that is less obvious, it requires to be more largely insist­ed on.

[Page 124] For it would seem that if we do not effect any thing which we have a real will unto, it must proceed from impotencie, and that we cannot do it, which who would say of the great God?

Herein, therefore, we shall proceed by steps. And gradually offer the things that follow to consideration.

As, that it were, indeed, most repugnant to the notion of a Dei­ty, to suppose any thing, which includes in it no contradiction, impossible to God, considered ac­cording to that Single Attribute of Power, only.

But yet we must add, That this were a very uneqal way of esti­mating what God can do, that is to consider him as a meer Being of Power. For the notion of God so conceiv'd, were very inadeqate [Page 125] to him, which taken entirely, imports the comprehension of all Perfections. So that they are two very distant qestions, What the Power of God alone could do; And, What God can do. And whereas to the former the answer would be, Whatsoever is not in it self re­pugnant to be done. To the latter, it must only be, Whatsoever it be­comes, or is agreeable to a Being every way perfect to do. And so it is to be attributed to the excellencie of his Nature, if amongst all things not simply impossible, there be any, which it may be truly said be cannot do. Or, it proceeds not from the imperfection of his Pow­er, but from the concurrence of all other Perfections in him. Hence his own Word plainly affirms of him, that he cannot lye. And by common consent it will be ac­knowledged, [Page 126] that he cannot do any unjust act whatsoever.

To this I doubt not we may with as common suffrage (when the matter is considered) subjoyn, that his Wisdom doth as much li­mit the exercise of his Power, as his Righteousnes or his Truth doth. And that it may with as much confidence, and clearnes, be said and understood, that he cannot do an unwise, or imprudent act as an unjust.

Further, That as his Righteous­nes corresponds to the Justice of things, to be done or not done, so doth his Wisdom to the congruity or fitnes. So that he cannot do what it is unfit for him to do, because he is Wise; and because he is most Perfectly & Infinitely Wise, there­fore nothing that is less-fit. But whasoever is fittest, when a com­parison [Page 127] is made between doing this or that, or between doing and not doing, that the Perfection of his Nature renders necessary to him, and the opposite part impos­sible.

Again, that this measure must be understood to have a very large and most general extent unto all the affairs of his Govern­ment, the object it concerns be­ing so very large. We, in our observation, may take notice, that fewer qestions can occur concern­ing what is right or wrong, than what is fit, or unfit. And where­as any man may in a moment be honest, if he have a mind to it; very few (and that by long ex­perience) can ever attain to be wise. The things about which Justice is conversant being redu­cible to certain rules, but Wisdome [Page 128] supposes very general knowledg of things scarce capable of such reduction. And is, besides, the primary reqisite, in any one that bears rule over others. And must therefore most eminently influ­ence all the managements of the Supream Ruler.

§. XXV.

It is moreover to be consider­ed, that innumerable congruities lie open to the Infinite Wisdom, which are never obvious to our view or thought. As to a well­studied Scholar, thousands of co­herent notions, which an illite­rate person never thought of. To a practic't Courtier, or well­educated Gentleman, many de­cencies and indecencies in the matter of civil behaviour, and con­versation, which an unbred rustic knowes nothing of. And to an experienced States-man, those [Page 129] importancies, which never occur to the thoughts of him who dai­ly follows the plough. What Government is there that hath not its arcana, profound mysteries and reasons of State that a vulgar wit cannot dive into? And from whence, the account to be given, why this or that is done or not done, is not, alwaies, that it would have been unjust it should be otherwise, but it had been im­prudent. And many things are, hereupon, judged necessary not from the exigencie of Justice, but reason of State. Whereupon, men of modest and sober minds, that have had experience of the wis­dom of their Governours, and their happy conduct, thorough a considerable tract of time; when they see things done by them, the leading reasons whereof they do [Page 130] not understand, and the effect and success comes not yet in view, suspend their censure; while as yet all seems to them obscure, and wrapt up in clouds and dark­nes. Yea tho the course that is taken have, to their apprehen­sion, an ill aspect. Accounting it becomes them not, to make a Judgment of things so far above their reach, and confiding in the tried wisdom of their Rulers, who, they believe, see reasons for what they do, into which they find themselves unable to penetrate.

With how much more sub­miss, and humble veneration, ought the methods of the Divine Government to be beheld & ado­red, upon the certain assurance we have, that all things therein, are managed by that VVisdom, which could never in any thing [Page 131] mistake its way. VVhereas, there was never any continued admini­stration of human Government, so accurate and exact, but that, af­ter some tract of time, some or other errours might be reflected on therein.

Again, it may further be said, without presuming beyond due bounds, That tho infinite con­gruities must be supposed to lye open to the Divine Understand­ing, which are concealed from ours, yet that these two things in the general are very manifest­ly congruous to any sober attentive Mind, that directly concern, or may be apply'd to the case, under our present consideration, viz.

That the course of God's Go­vernment over the VVorld, be, for the most part, steady, [Page 132] and uniform; not interrupt­ed by very freqent, extraor­dinary and anomalous acti­ons. And again,

That he use a royal liberty, of stepping out of his usual course, sometimes, as he sees meet.

It cannot but appear to such as attend, highly incongruous, should we affirm the antithesis to either of these; or lay down counter-positions to them, and suppose the course of the Di­vine Government to be manag'd agreeably thereunto.

§. XXVI.

For, as to the former; what con­fusion would it make in the World, if there should be perpe­tual innovations upon Nature; continual, or exceeding freqent [Page 133] impeditions, and restraints of se­cond Causes. In the sphere of Na­ture, the Vertues and proper qali­ties of things, being never cer­tain, could never be understood, or known. In that of Policy, no measures, so much as probable, could ever be taken. How much better is it, in both, that second Causes, ordinarily follow their inclinations? And why is it not to be thought congruous, that, in some degree, things should be proportionably so, in the sphere of Grace? (whereto by and by we shall speak more directly.)

We pray, when our Friends are sick, for their recovery. What can be the sober meaning and de­sign of such prayers? Not that God would work a Miracle for their restitution, (for then we might as well pray for their re­vival [Page 134] after death) But, that God would be pleased so to co-ope­rate, in the still and silent way of Nature, with second Causes, and so bless means, that they may be recovered, if he see good. Other­wise that they, and we may be prepared to undergo his Plea­sure. And agreeable hereto ought to be the intent of our Prayers, in reference to the public affairs, and better posture of the World.

And we may take notice the Divine Wisdom laies a very great stress upon this matter, the preser­ving of the common order of things; and cannot but observe a certain inflexiblenes of Providence, here­in. And, that it is very little apt to divert from its wonted course. At which weak minds are apt to take offence. To wonder, that, against so many prayers and [Page 135] tears, God will let a good man die; or one whom they love; Or that a Miracle is not wrought to prevent their own being wrong'd at any time; Or, that the Earth doth not open and swallow up the person that hath done them wrong. Are apt to call for fire from Heaven, upon them that are otherwise minded, and do otherwise, than they would have them. But a Judi­cious person would consider, if it be so highly reasonable that my desires should be comply'd with, so extraordinarily, than why not all mens? And then were the VVorld filled with Pro­digies and confusion. The incon­veniencies would soon be to all, eqally discernable, and intolera­ble (as the Heathen Poet takes notice, Should Jupiter's Ear be [Page 136] over-easy) Yea and the impossi­bility were obvious of gratifying all, because of their many coun­ter-desires.

And for the other, it were no less incongruous, if the Supream Power should so tie its own hands, and be so astricted to rules and methods, as never to do any thing extraordinary, upon never so important occasion. How ill could the World have wanted such an effort of Omnipotencie, as the restriction upon the flames from destroying Shadrach, Me­shach, and Abednego? Or the Mi­racles wrought in our Saviour's and the next following Daies? Such things are never done; but when the all-comprehending Wisdom sees it most congruous. And that the cause will over-recom­pense the deflection from the [Page 137] common course. If no such thing did ever fall out, what a Temp­tation were it to mankind, to in­troduce into their beleif an unin­telligent fate instead of a Deity? Besides that the convincing testi­mony were wanting, which we see is so necessary for the confir­mation of any particular revela­tion from God, which comes not within the compass of natures dis­covery (upon which account, al­so, it is as apparently necessary such extraordinary works should not be over-frequent, for then they become ordinary, and use­less to that special end) so that here the exertions both of the ordinate and absolute power God (as some distinguish) have their so appropriate, and so visibly apt, and congruous uses, that they are discernable to a very ordinary [Page 138] understanding, how much more to the infinite Wisdom of God!


Now hereupon we say further, There is the like congruity, upon as valuable (though not altoge­ther the same) reasons that, in the affaires of Grace, There be some­what correspondent. That, ordi­narily, it be sought and expected, in the use of ordinary means. And that, sometimes, its sove­reignty shew it self in preventing exertions. And in working so heroically, as none have, before hand, in the neglect of its ordi­nary methods, any reason to ex­pect.

And we may fitly add, That where Sovereignty is pleased thus to have its exercise and de­monstrate it self, It is sufficient that there be a general congruity, that it do so sometimes, as an [Page 139] cedent reason to the doing of some such extraordinary things, but that there should be a particular leading congruity or antecedent reason, to invite these extraordinary opera­tions of grace, to one person more than another, is not necessary. But it is most congruous, that, herein, it be most arbitrary. Most agreeable to the Supremacy of God; to the State of Sinful Man, who hath infinitely disoblig'd him, and can deserve nothing from him; Yea, and even to the na­ture of the thing. For, where there is a parity, in any objects of our own choice, there can be no leading reason to this, rather than that. The most prudent man, that is wont to guide him­self by never so exquisite wis­dom, in his daily actions, where there is a perfect indifferency, [Page 140] between doing this thing or that, is not liable to censure, that he is not able to give a reason why he did that, not the other. Wisdom hath no exercise in that case.

But that the Blessed God doth ordinarily proceed in these af­fairs, by a steady rule, and, some­times, shew his liberty of de­parting from it, is to be resolved into his infinite wisdom, it being, in it self, most fit, he should do both the one, and the other; and therefore to him most necessa­ry. Whereupon, the great Apo­stle Saint Paul, discoursing upon this subject, doth not resolve the matter into strict justice, nor abso­lute sovereignty (both which have their place too, in his proceed­ings with men, as the sacred wri­tings do abundantly testifie) but we find him in a transport, in the [Page 141] contemplation of the divine wis­dom, that, herein, so eminently shines forth.Rom. 11. 33. see to the same pur­pose, c. 16. 25, 26, 27. And Eph. 1. 5, 6, 7, with the 8. O the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and know­ledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his waies past finding out!


To summe up all, we con­clude it obvious to the apprehen­sion of such as consider, that it was more congruous the general course of Gods Government, over man, should be by moral instru­ments.

And, howsoever it were ve­ry unreasonable, to imagine, that God cannot in any case, extraor­dinarily oversway the inclina­tions, and determine the will of such a creature, in a way agree­able enough to its nature, (tho we particlarly know not, as we [Page 142] are not concerned to know, or curiously to enqire in what way) And highly reasonable to admit that in many cases he doth.

It is notwithstanding manifest, to any sober reason, that it were very incongruous, this should be the ordinary course of his conduct towards Mankind, or the same persons at all times.

That is, that a whole order of intelligent creatures should be moved, only by inward impul­ses; That Gods precepts, promi­ses and comminations, whereof their nature is capable, should be all made impertinencies, through his constant overpow'r­ing those that should neglect them; That the faculties, where­by men are capable of moral Government, should be rendered, to this purpose, useless and vain; [Page 143] And that they should be tempted to expect, to be constantly ma­nag'd as meer machines, that know not their own use.

Nor is it less apprehensible, how incongruous it were also, on the other hand, to suppose that the exteriour frame of Gods Go­vernment, should be totally un­accompanied with an internal vital energie; or exclude the in­ward motions, operations, and influences, whereof such a crea­ture is also fitly capable. Or that God should have barr'd out himself, from all inward access to the spirits of men, or com­merce with them. That the supream universal, paternal mind (as an heathen call'd it) should have no way for efficacious com­munications, to his own ofspring, when he pleases; that (so unsu­tably [Page 144] to sovereignty) he should have no objects of special favour, or no peculiar waies of expressing it.

It is manifestly congruous that the divine Government, o­ver man, should be (as it is) mix­ed or composed of an external frame of lawes, with their pro­per sanctions, and inforcements, and an internal effusion of pow­er, and vital influence, corres­pondent to the several parts of that frame; and which might animate the whole, and use it, as instrumental, to the begetting of correspondent impressions on mens spirits.

That this Power be put forth, not (like that of a natural Agent) ad ultimum (which if we would suppose the Divine Power to be, new Worlds must be springing [Page 145] up every moment) but gradually, and with an apt contemperation to the subject, upon which it is designed, to have its operations, and withal, arbitrarily, as is be­coming the Great Agent from whom it proceeds, and to whom it, therefore, belongs, to measure its exertions, as seems meet un­to him. That it be constantly put forth (tho most gratuitously, espe­cially the disobligation of the Apostacy being considered) upon all, to that degree, as that they be enabled to do much good, to which they are not impelled by it. That it be ever ready (since it is the Power of Grace) to go forth in a further degree than it had yet done, wheresoever any former issues of it have been duly comply'd with. Tho it be so lit­tle supposable that Man should [Page 146] hereby have obliged God there­to, that he hath not any way ob­liged himself; Otherwise, than that he hath imply'd a readines, to impart unto Man what shall be necessary to enable him to obey, so far as, upon the Aposta­cie, is reqisite to his relief: If he seriously endeavour to do his own part, by the Power he already hath received. Agreeably to the common saying, homini facienti qod in se est, &c. That, according to the Royal Liberty, wherewith it works, it go forth, as to some, with that efficacy, as notwith­standing whatever resistance, yet to overcome, and make them captives to the authority and love of Christ.

§. XXIX.

The universal continued recti­tude of all intelligent creatures had, we may be sure, been wil­led, with a peremptory, effica­cious will if it had been best.

That is, if it had not been less congruous than to keep them, some time (under the expectati­on of future confirmation and re­ward) upon trial of their fideli­ty, and in a state wherein it might not be impossible to them to make a defection. And so it had easily been prevented, that ever there should have been an apostacie from God, or any sin in the world.

Nor was it either less easie, by a mighty irresistible hand, uni­versally to expel sin, than prevent it; or more necessary or more to be expected from him.

But if Gods taking no such [Page 148] course, tended to render his Go­vernment over the world more august, and awful, for the present, and the result, and final issue, of all things more glorious at length, and were consequently, more con­gruous; that could not be so wil­led, as to be effectually procured by him.

For whatsoever obligation strict justice hath upon us, that congruity cannot but have upon him. And whereas it would be concluded, that whatsoever any one truly wills, they would effect if they could, we admit it for true, and to be applied in the present case. But adde,

That as we rightly esteem that impossible to us, which we cannot justly do, so is that to him, not on­ly, which he cannot do justly, but which, upon the whole mat­ter [Page 149] he cannot do, most wisely al­so. That is, which his infinite wisdom doth not dictate, is most congruous and fit to be done.

Things cohere, and are held together, in the course of his di­spensation, by congruities as by adamantine bands, and cannot be otherwise. That is, compa­ring and taking things together, especially the most important. For otherwise, to have been nice­ly curious about every minute thing, singly considered, that it might not possibly have been bet­ter (as in the frame of this or that individual animal or the like) had been needlesly to interrupt the course of Nature, and there­fore, it self, to him an incongrui­ty. And doth, in them that ex­pect it, import more of a trifling [Page 150] disposition, than of true Wis­dom.

But To him whose Being is most absolutely Perfect to do that, which, all things considered, would be simply best, i.e. most becoming him, most honourable, and God-like, is absolutely neces­sary. And conseqently, it is to be attributed to his Infinite Per­fection, that, unto him, to do other­wise, is absolutely impossible.

And if we yet see not all these congruities which, to him, are more than a Law; it is enough that they are obvious to his own eye, who is the only competent Judge.

Yet, moreover, it is finally to be considered, that the methods of the Divine Government, are, besides his, to be exposed to the [Page 151] view, and judgment of other In­tellects than our own, and we ex­pect they should to our own, in another state. What conception thereof is, already, received and formed in our Minds, is but an Embryo, no less imperfect than our present state is.

It were very unreasonable to expect, since this World shall con­tinue but a little while, that all God's managements, and waies of procedure, in ordering the great affairs of it, should be attemper­ed, and fitted to the judgment, that shall be made of them in this temporary state, that will so soon be over: And to the pre­sent apprehension and capacity of our (now so muddied and di­stempered) Minds. A vast and stable eternity remains, wherein, the whole Celestial Chorus shall [Page 152] entertain themselves, with the grateful contemplation, and ap­plause, of his deep Counsels. Such things as now seem perplex, and intricate to us, will appear most irreprehensibly fair, and comely to angelical minds, and our own, when we shall be vouchsaf't a place amongst that happy Com­munity. What discovery God affords of his own glorious Ex­cellencies, and Perfections is prin­cipally intended to recommend him, in that state; wherein he, and all his waies and works, are to be beheld with everlasting, and most complacential approba­tion.

Therefore tho now we should covet the clearest and most satis­fying account of things, that can be had; we are yet to exercise patience, and not precipitate our [Page 153] judgment of them before the time: As knowing our present conceptions will differ more, from what they will be hereaf­ter, than those of a Child, from the maturer thoughts of the wisest man. And that many of our conceits, which we thought wise, we shall, then, see cause to put away, as childish things▪

The disorder (Sir,) of this heap (rather than frame) of thoughts and discourse, as it cannot be thought more unsutable to the subject, than sutable to the Author; and the less [Page 154] displease, by how much it could less be expected to be otherwise, from him, even in the best circumstances; So it may lay some claim to your easier par­don, as having been, mostly, huddled up in the intervals of a troublesome, long Journey. Wherein he was ra­ther willing to take what opportunitie the inconveniencies and hurry of it could allow him; Than neglect any, of using the earliest endeavour to ap­prove himself (as he is your great ad­mirer)

Most honored Sir,
Your most obedient humble Servant, H. W.


Sect. I.
THe Proposal of the difficulty to be discus't. Disqisition con­cerning the words Prescience, or Foreknowledg waved. pag. 1.
Sect. II.
Great care to be taken lest we ascribe to God inconsistencies, under the pretence of ascribing all Perfe­ctions. Eqal care, lest we deny to him any Perfection, upon the first appearance of its not-agreeing with [Page] somewhat else, which we have found it necessary to ascribe. Our own Minds to be suspected. And endea­vour'd with to the utmost, before we conclude what is, or is not to be ascri­bed to God; if we meet with a diffi­culty. p. 5.
Sect. III.
Such Divine Attributes as agree to the Deity by the Common Suffrage of all considering men, to be distin­guisht from those that are only con­cluded to belong to him upon the sub­tile reasonings of but a few. Yet the danger to be carefully avoided, of mistaking any dictate of Corrupt affection, for a Common notion. p. 11.
Sect. IV.
His own Word, therefore, our su­rest measure, by which we are to [Page] judg what belongs to him, and what not. Which plainly asserts both his Wisdom, and Sincerity. As our own Minds do also naturally sug­gest to us. p. 16.
Sect. V.
It also seems plainly both to assert and prove his Universal Prescience. Particularly of such things from which he dehorts. Whence his de­horting is no proof of his not-fore­knowing. p. 24.
Sect. VI.
These therefore to be reconcil'd. Which not so difficult as to reconcile his dehortations from sinful acti­ons, with his predeterminative con­currence thereto. This undertaking waved as not manageable. p. 31.
[Page] Sect. VII.
Nor necessary. The principal Ar­guments that are brought for it, not concluding. That every thing of po­sitive Being must be from God. That otherwise he could not foreknow such actions. The former considered. How we are to satisfie our selves about the latter. p. 34.
Sect. VIII.
The undertaken difficulty weighed. Nothing in it of contradiction. No­thing of indecorum. p. 50.
Sect. IX.
Gods supposed foreknowledg of contingent actions, alters not the na­tural goodnes or evil of them. p. 54.
[Page] Sect. X. & XI.
How God may be said to act for any end? His public declarations to men have a more principal end, than their obedience, and felicity. Which is attained, tho this fail. The difficulty, therefore, concern­ing the Divine Wisdom vanishes. p. 57. & 60.
Sect. XII.
That, concerning the Sinceritie of God considered. That other End, Man's obedient compliance, at­tained in great part. p. 64.
Sect. XIII.
God not obliged to procure his publisht Edicts should reach every Individual person. 'Tis owing to [Page] the wickednes of the World that they generally do not so. p. 67.
Sect. XIV.
He shewes special favour to some Nations herein without being inju­rious to others. Yea expresses much Clemency, and Mercy to all. p. 74.
Sect. XV.
Where his gracious Methods suc­ceed not, To be considered he Only applies himself to them in Common with the rest. p. 78.
Sect. XVI.
Proposed to be Enqired; What can be alledg'd out of his Word, that seems less-consistent with sincerity, to­wards them with whom things do not finally issue well? What fit course [Page] could be thought of more consistent therewith? As to the former, What appearance such alledg'd Pas­sages can be justly said to have? Propounded to be (afterwards) shewn; that the Truth of the thing corre­sponds to that appearance. p. 81.
Sect. XVII.
What his declarations to men a­mount unto? What they are, by them, encouraged to expect? p. 87.
Sect. XVIII.
Expressions of passionate earn­estnes, how to be understood? p. 90
Sect. XIX.
The Ends to be brought about by God's own action only; And those which should be brought to pass by the intervenient action of [Page] Man, to be distinguished. God's Word represents him not as so wil­ling the salvation of all men, as that it shall be effected whatsoever course they take. p. 99.
Sect. XX.
Such a Will as it represents him to have of man's welfare we ought to believe is in him. The distinction of his Will of Good Pleasure, and of the Sign. Of his secret Will, and re­vealed (as apply'd to this matter) animadverted on. p. 105.
Sect. XXI.
God truly wills the matter of his own Laws, and their welfare for whom he made them. p. 108.
Sect. XXII.
Is not made liable to disappoint­ment [Page] hereby. Nor can hence an im­perfect will be ascrib'd to him. pag. 112.
Sect. XXIII.
The 2d Head (proposed Sect. XVI.) discussed; That no other fit course could be taken, that can be pretended more agreeable to sincerity. Two only to be thought on. To have pnblisht no written Word. To have overpow'red all by strong hand into compliance therewith. The former not fit. p. 121.
Sect. XXIV.
The latter unfit also. The Con­gruity of things makes them neces­sary, with God. The incongruity, impossible. p. 123.
[Page] Sect. XXV.
Innumerable Congruities obvious to the Divine Understanding not perceivable by ours. Two things manifestly congruous, to our appre­hension. That the Course of God's Government be, for the most part, steady, and uniform, That he some­times vary. p. 128.
Sect. XXVI.
Both these many waies represented congruous, in reference to matters within the sphere of Nature, and Policy. p. 132.
Sect. XXVII.
Eqally congruous, that matters be in some degree correspondently ma­nag'd, within the sphere of Grace. p. 138.
[Page] Sect. XXVIII.
The Congruity of both these in the matters of Grace more distinctly expressed. p. 141
Sect. XXIX.
The Conclusion. p. 147

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