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but they therefore are or may be because he knows them. So that this our maxim, Non entis nulla est scientia, is true only of finite knowledge. For God's knowledge is antecedent to the object, quite different from ours, which is borrowed from it, and so subsequent to it. As the knowledge that a builder has of an house depends not upon the actual being of it; but he knows it, partly by reflecting on his skill, in which he sees a perfect idea of it before ever it is made; and partly on his power, by which he is able to make it: but now others' knowledge depends upon the actual being of the house, as flowing from those representations they have of it after it is built. And such is our knowledge in respect of God's.
2dly, The excellency of God's knowledge appears in respect of his objects; which are all things knowable.
But they may be reduced to three things especially, which God alone perfectly knows, and are not to be known by men or angels.
1st, The nature of God himself. Nothing but an infinite knowledge can comprehend an infinite being. We may as well endeavour to take up the ocean in the hollow of our hands, or to clasp the heavens in our arms, as to understand or fathom the immense perfections of the divine nature.
2dly, The second sort of things only known to God are things future, and these are only within his reach. As for us, setting aside what we know by history, which is not so properly knowledge as belief, we know only what is present; for although we know some things that are passed also, yet we first know them as they were present; and the reason is, because we know things by our coexistence with
them. Now God, by reason of the infinite compass of his being, running through all the distinctions of time, by an intimate coexistence with them, and consequently with all things that do exist in those several and successive parcels of time, he takes a full survey of things, both past, present, and to come; which, though it be an undenied principle both in Christian and natural theology, and consequently to be rather granted as a self-evident truth, than disputed as a problem, yet he, who shall look into the writings of the Pelagians, Jesuits, or their Dutch brood, the remonstrants, will find that their grand fallacy, their apôtov veidos, is founded upon their erroneous stating of the divine knowledge; by which they affirm, that God's knowledge, in respect of future contingents, is wholly conditional. For as by one simple act of his being he does coexist with all successive durations, so by one act of his understanding he does also know them. To help our apprehensions in this thing, we may take this similitude: a man walking in a path sees not that part of the way that is behind him, neither that which is any great distance before him, but successively comes to see it, as by degrees he arrives to and coexists with it : but now he, that is upon an high mountain or tower, by one single cast of his eye takes a view of the whole path, and at once sees the man, and what is behind him, and what so remote before him. Just so man, who exists in some part of time, neither properly knows those things that were before he was, nor those things that are future, but as he gains a successive coexistence with them. But God, being (as I may say) exalted upon his own essence, does from thence, 'as from an high and lofty place, by one single act of
his understanding, take a survey of us that are in the world, and those things that are past and behind us, together with those that are before us, and yet to
Now, things future are of two sorts.
1st, Such as depend upon necessary causes, that is, those that constantly, and in the same manner, produce their effects : such are the sun and moon, in respect of the eclipses; and the heavens, in respect of many things here below. So that their effects, though future, may be yet known in the causes. For we can foretell an eclipse many years before: and while it is yet winter, we know that within such a period of days it will be summer. Now,
Now, in respect even of these future things, the knowledge of God, and of the creature, is very different: God, 'indeed, certainly knows when they will come to pass.
Men and angels indeed have also a certain knowledge of them: but it is not absolute, but only suppositional; that is, upon supposal that such and such things continue in their being, and that God withal affords them his ordinary concurrence, such and such effects will certainly follow. But the causes themselves may perish; and God, that created nature, may, by the same power and sovereignty, interrupt it in its course; as he did the sun in the time of Joshua, Josh. x. 13, and the operation of that fire upon the three children. Now, in this case, neither men nor angels can certainly know or determine of such futures.
2dly, The second sort of things future are things in their nature occasional and contingent; such as come by chance, and such as depend upon the free will of man, which is various in its working, and
consequently, that which is produced by it, must needs be uncertain in the event. Now it is the prerogative of God alone to have a steady foreknowledge of such things; no created being can dive into them: that man cannot, as reason would sufficiently prove, so scripture also does no less clearly demonstrate. Isaiah xlvii. 11, God speaks to Babylon ; Evil shall come upon thee, and thou shalt not know from whence it ariseth: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know : hereupon, in the two next verses, he defies them to find them out with all their sorceries and enchantments; in the twelfth verse, Let now the astrologers and prognosticators stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. If any man could foresee future events, then certainly it would be those who made it their business and their profession; those who had not only their own understanding, but all the light of heaven to direct them. A man may as easily draw the perfect picture of a man yet unborn, as have in his mind the idea of a contin
Who knows what a day may bring forth ? God has put obscurity between us and the nearest futures : there is night between us and the very next day. To the proofs drawn from scripture, we may add the overplus of our own experience. And that angels are also to seek in the certain knowledge of these things, is no less true. Had those fallen angels, before their sin, foreseen what would have followed it, we cannot but in reason imagine, that the foresight of their fall would have kept them from their sin. Hereupon the Devil, in the heathen oracles, when he was consulted about future events, gave always doubtful, am
biguous answers; so that, howsoever the thing fell out, he had still a salvo, or evasion, in the ambiguity of the expression. It is confessed, that sometimes his predictions have been answered by the event of the thing; but then this was rather from the happiness of his conjecture, than the certainty of his knowledge. And, as one says, “ Angels have the ad
vantage of us in respect of their experience, which “ is far greater in them than in us, both because
they have been of longer duration and continuance “ in the world, and also because of the piercing
quickness of their understandings, in comparing “ one thing with another; and from thence making “ conjectures at other things.” Now experience is a reiterated or repeated knowledge of things past; from whence arises an ability of judging or guessing at things future. And thus far angels can go, and no further. As for that argument, by which some would prove that angels know things future, because distance of time and distance of place are equally accidental differences; and we know distance of place does not impede the knowledge of angels; therefore they may know things, notwithstanding the difference of time, that they are future: I say, this argument proves nothing, because the case is not the same, in respect of difference of place and of time. Distance of place always supposes the existence of the things that so differ: futurity, which is a difference of time, puts a nonexistence of the thing; for that which is future, is not yet in being. And since all created knowledge follows the existence of the thing known, there can be no knowledge of that which does not exist, but of that which either exists, or is supposed and looked upon as existing. But