« VorigeDoorgaan »
or his Omniscience, as the highest ideas of them will be the truest, because, though inadequate, they are the nearest to the truth which we can reach, so the same will be the best for ourselves, both because they are the truest, and also because they set him before us as the object of the greatest adoration of which we are capable.
In this question, concerning the extent of God's omniscience, there is a peculiar honour belonging to him involved. For his foreknowledge of men's free actions is the highest instance of that omnicience, the highest which is distinctly brought before our observation. To foreknow, to any extent, the events of Physical Nature, which follow from the arranged constitution and laws of that nature; or to foreknow the actions of men, if those actions are the result either of a system of external causes, or of innate principles exercising a constant and inevitable influence; this, in a manner, is only according to the scope of human knowledge and science; wherein the primary data of knowledge include the whole remote conclusions of it. But the prescience of the mysterious and voluntary action of free agents is of another order. It accords with the prerogative of God. It is "to understand the "thoughts long before." If there be freedom in those thoughts, the foreknowledge of them is worthy of the Omniscient Mind. If they are a necessary and mechanical result of causes already
in being, the foreknowledge of them is a less distinguishing attribute. In that case, it is but equi« valent to a longer deduction.
Perhaps the omniscience of God, in this one exercise of it, may be estimated, in some measure, by his omnipotence, though both exceeding our comprehension. But one act of his power we believe to have been in the creation of the world from nothing. May not his omniscience be apprehended as acting in like manner, in seeing, "the things “which are not, as though they were?" The power which modifies the things that exist, is, in its kind, like the knowledge which surveys the things that exist. But the creative power is like the knowledge which anticipates the existence of things and their causes. If the first be a mystery, it is on that account the fitter to illustrate the other.
There seems, therefore, to be both philosophic truth, and rational piety, in conceiving the whole order of things to be ever present to the omniscience of God. Such is the mode of viewing this subject, in which many wise and excellent men have chosen to rest. But whether this be only an expedient of a rational imagination, or a more strict and accurate truth, I leave it as it is expressed in the noble words of Dr. Henry More, (who however inclines, with some reserve, to the opinion that prescience and contingency are inconsistent,) or the
more severe and wary representation of another excellent writer, Archbishop Bramhall. It may be conceived, that "the evolution of ages from ever"lasting to everlasting," says the former, "is so collectedly and presentifically represented to God "at once, as if all things which ever were, are, or "shall be, were at this very instant, and so always, really present, and existent before him: which is no wonder, the animadversion and intellectual "comprehension of God being absolutely infinite "according to the truth of his idea*." The latter: Concerning the prescience of contingent things; "in my poor judgment, the readiest way to recon"cile contingence and liberty with the decrees and prescience of God, and most remote from the "altercations of these times, is to subject future contingents to the aspect of God, according to "that presentiality which they have in eternityf."
* Divine Dialogues, p. 60. † Works, p. 709.
ON THE INSPIRATION OF PROPHECY.
1. Criterion of it.
2. Proof of it in the Predictions concerning the Gospel.
ISAIAH LX. 3.
And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
In considering the Inspiration of Prophecy, as demonstrated in its Fulfilment, my intention is, first, to propose a criterion of Prophetic Inspiration, as clear and definite as the nature of the subject will admit, under which the Scripture Prophecies may be severally examined; and then to select particular instances of them, upon which to institute an examination, according to the Criterion so proposed. Examples of Prophecy, considered apart, and under a distinct view, will give perspicuity to the argument to be deduced from them, and shew the grounds of reason upon which the inspired Prescience of the Prophetic Volume is asserted.