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just, righteous, and merciful, do not indeed exactly signify the nature and being of God. rogative of his essence not only to surpass the ken of sense, but also to nonplus the most accurate and sagacious discourses of reason. He laughs at the bold and laborious attempts of our understandings, in comprehending him: and, by his excessive brightness, wards off the eyes of the beholder, and (as we may say, by a seeming contradiction, but a real truth) is like the sun, too visible to be seen. And shall we then, poor mortals, think ourselves able to express what we are not so much as able to conceive? And, if our thoughts take in a larger compass and latitude than our expressions, (for who is it that cannot think more than he speaks ?) then, certainly, if we cannot reach his essence by our most elevated thoughts, much less can we do it by our words. But the same is further demonstrable from the difference of righteousness, mercy, and power, properly so called, from any thing that is in God. For these are all qualities inherent in the soul of man, by virtue whereof he is enabled to act. For the soul being unable of itself, and by its bare substance, to advance into action, there are requisite therefore these certain qualities, by the instrumental mediation of which, it may exert its several operations. So that the soul, without its respective faculties and qualities to act by, is like an artificer without his tools: but now it is far otherwise with Almighty God in his workings, whose actions immediately stream from his essence, without the auxiliary intervention of any being distinct from himself. Whereupon it must be granted, that these things, justice, mercy,
&c. exist not of themselves, but as they are
shouldered and propped up by the subject in which they are ; and therefore are imperfect beings, and so not properly to be found in God, whose very nature it is to be perfect. And furthermore, as they are always distinct from the essence in which they are, we thence also collect that they are not in God, who is an indivisible, absolute, and uncompounded being, in whom there is nothing to be found but what is really himself. But it may be said, if these things are so, that righteousness, justice, and mercy are not really and properly in God; whence is it that the scripture so often attributes these things to him? I answer, in this, as in many other things, it speaks according to the manner of men. In the same sense it attributes hands, eyes, and ears to God, not really, but metaphorically; that by the things we see, we may, in some measure, apprehend him that is invisible. In short, therefore, righteousness, justice, and mercy, are attributed, not according to the reality of the things themselves, but by the analogy of their effects. The meaning is this: God is called merciful, because some of his actions bear a proportion to those that men exercise from a principle of mercy; and powerful, because some of his actions have a similitude to those that men exercise from a principle of power : and so of the rest. the like of his decrees; who affirm, that God can no more properly be said to decree a thing, than to foreknow it, to whom all things are present. Now, according to the sense of these men, God is said to decree, because some of his actions have a likeness to such actions, as men produce under a decree or résolution. But I forbear, since I am afraid that I have gone "too far in these notions already. But
being, in my subsequent discourse, to insist upon one of the attributes of God, I thought it convenient to premise something of them in general.
We find mention of them all in scripture, and peculiarly the words which I have at present read to you, clearly hold forth his omniscience, or infinite knowledge. The words are plain, and need no explication ; therefore I shall forthwith draw this doctrine from them, not much different from the words themselves, viz.
That God is an all-knowing God.
This may seem a principle, and therefore not to be doubted, and consequently needless to be proved. But he that has looked into controversy, and especially those two which are now the most considerable, the Arminian and Socinian, will find that their grand fallacy, their apÔTOV Hejdos, is founded upon their erroneous stinting of God's knowledge : but the first of these especially, who affirm, that God's knowledge, in respect of contingent futures, is only conditional, that is, God does not absolutely foreknow that such things will come to pass; but upon supposal that such and such causes meet with such and such circumstances, then he knows such things will follow. But now, if God does not absolutely and certainly know every contingent future, it follows, that he does not absolutely will and decree it; for whatsoever he wills, he also knows; and if God does not will the future existence of it, whence comes it to exist ? Certainly not from God, but from itself; for if God hereafter vouchsafes a productive influence to the actual producing of a thing contingent, which we now suppose future, (which God must do, or cease to be the first cause of all things ;) I say, if
God vouchsafes his power to give it existence, it follows, that he wills the production and existence of it at that time; for God wills a thing before he does it: and it also follows, that if he wills it at that time, he always willed and decreed it before : for to affirm that God wills the existence of a thing contingent, then in the producing of it, which before, while it was yet future, he did not will or decree; this is to make a new act of willing, which is an immanent act, and therefore not distinct from God, to begin in time; that is, to make something that is the same with God, to be in God now, which was not in him before: which is hugely absurd, if not blasphemous. Thus we see the denial of God's absolute, certain foreknowledge of all things, makes the existence of many of them entirely independent upon God, and totally from themselves; which is indeed to make him an idle epicurean God, and to deify them. And herein lies the abomination of asserting God's knowledge in respect of any thing conditional. As for the next opinion, Socinus endeavouring to assert the freedom of man's will in the highest, and observing that God's absolute, certain foreknowledge did lay an antecedent necessity upon all men's actions as to their event, he makes short and thorough work, and utterly denies his prescience. Animadvertendum est infallibilem istam Dei prænotionem, quam pro re concessa adversarii sumunt, a nobis non admitti, Socin. Prælect. cap. viii. And that he might not seem to blaspheme without some * reason, he says, as God, though he is omnipotent, cannot yet do those things that imply a contradiction; so, though he is omniscient, he cannot know things, the knowledge of which implies the same ab
surdity; which, he says, will follow in asserting that God has a certain infallible knowledge of those things, which in themselves are uncertain and contingent. And thus we see, that although God's omniscience be indeed a principle, and therefore ought to be granted; yet since it is thus controverted and denied, it is no less needful to be proved.
In the prosecution of this, I shall
I. Prove the proposition, and that both by scripture and reason.
II. I shall shew the excellency of this knowledge of God, beyond the knowledge of men or angels.
III. From the consideration of that excellency, I shall deduce something by way of inference and application.
I. And first for the proof of it, and that from scripture. In John xxi. 17, Peter says to Christ, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Divines do here generally acknowledge, that in these words Peter makes a confession of the deity of Christ, which could not be inferred, unless there was a necessary connection between the divine nature and the power of knowing all things; for in this consists the strength of Peter's argument, proving Christ to be God; in this he ascribes a property to him that agrees only to God : as Christ elsewhere proves himself to be really a man, by assuming those properties to himself which are inseparably inherent in man's nature. Another scripture proving the same truth is that of Heb. iv, 13, All things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do; that is, (by a metaphor,) to his understanding, which, by reason of the quickness and spirituality of this sense, is often ex