A calumny which lies concealed under ambiguous terms, is capable of inflicting a deep injury with the greatest security; but after such equivocal expressions are explained, the slander is exposed, and loses all its force among men of skill and experience.
The word "DETERMINED" is of this ambiguous description. For it signifies (1.) either "the determination of God by which he resolves that something shall be done; and when such a determination is fixed, (by an action, motion and impulse of God, of whatever kind it may be,) the second cause, both with regard to its power and the use of that power, remains free either to act or not to act, so that, if it be the pleasure of this second cause, it can suspend [or defer] its own action." Or it signifies (2.) "such a determination, as, when once it is fixed, the second cause (at least in regard to the use of its power,) remains no longer free so as to be able to suspend its own action, when God's action, motion and impulse have been fixed; but by this determination, it [the second cause] is necessarily bent or inclined to the one course or the other, all indifference to either part being completely removed before this determined act be produced by a free and unconstrained creature."
1. If the word "DETERMINED," in the article here proposed, be interpreted according to this first method, far be it from me to deny such a sort of Divine determination. For I am aware that it is said, in the fourth chapter of the. Acts of the Apostles, "Both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together against Jesus, to do whatsoever God's hand and counsel determined before (or previously appointed) to be done." But I also know, that Herod, Pontius Pilate, and the Jews, freely performed those very actions; and (notwithstanding this "fore-determination of God," and though by his power every Divine action, motion and impulse which was necessary for the execution of this "fore-determination," were all fixed,) yet it was possible for this act (the crucifixion of Christ,) which had been "previously appointed" by God, not to be produced by those persons, and they might have remained free and indifferent to the performance of this action, up to the moment of time in which they perpetrated the deed. Let the narrative of the passion of our Lord be perused, and let it be observed how the whole matter was conducted, by what arguments Herod, Pontius Pilate and the Jews were moved and induced, and the kind of administration [or management] that was employed in the use of those arguments, and it will then be evident, that it is the truth which I here assert.
2. But if the word "DETERMINED" be received according to the second acceptation, I confess, that I abominate and detest that axiom (as one that is FALSE, ABSURD, and preparing the way for MANY BLASPHEMIES,) which, declares that "God by his eternal decree has determined to the one part or to the other future contingent things." By this last phrase understand "those things which are performed by the free will of the creature."
(1.) I execrate it as a FALSEHOOD: Because God in the administration of his Providence conducts all things in such a manner that when he is pleased to employ his creatures in the execution of his decrees, he does not take away from them their nature, natural properties or the use of them, but allows them to perform and complete their own proper motions. Were it otherwise, Divine Providence, which ought to be accommodated to the creation, would be in direct opposition.
(2.) I detest it as AN ABSURDITY: Because it is contradictory in the adjunct, that "something is done contingently," that is, it is done in such a manner as makes it POSSIBLE not to be done; and yet this same thing is determined to the one part or the other in such a manner, as makes it IMPOSSIBLE to leave undone that which has been determined to be done. What the patrons of such a doctrine advance about "that liberty not being taken away which belongs to the nature of the creature," is not sufficient to destroy this contradiction:
Because it is not sufficient for the establishment of contingency and liberty to have the presence of a power which can freely act according to nature; but it is requisite that the use and employment of that power and liberty should on no account be impeded. What insanity therefore is it, [according to the scheme of these men,] to confer at the creation a power on the creature of acting freely or of suspending its action, and yet to take away the use of such a power when the liberty comes at length to be employed. That is, to grant it when there is no use for it, but when it becomes both useful and necessary, then in the very act to prevent the exercise of its liberty. Let Tertullian against Marcion be examined, (lib. ii. c.5, 6, 7,) where he discusses this matter in a most erudite and nervous manner. I yield my full assent to all that he advances.
(3.) I abhor it as CONDUCING TO MULTIPLIED BLASPHEMIES. For I consider it impossible for any art or sophistry to prevent this dogma concerning "such a previous determination" from producing the following consequences: FIRST. It makes God to be the author of sin, and man to be exempt from blame. SECONDLY. It constitutes God as the real, proper and only sinner: Because when there is a fixed law which forbids this act, and when there is such "a fore-determination" as makes it "impossible for this act not to be committed," it follows as a natural consequence, that it is God himself who transgresses the law, since he is the person who performs this deed against the law. For though this be immediately perpetrated by the creature, yet, with regard to it, the creature cannot have any consideration of sin; because this act was unavoidable on the part of man, after such "fore-determination" had been fixed. THIRDLY. Because, according to this dogma, God needed sinful man and his sin, for the illustration of his justice and mercy. FOURTHLY. And, from its terms, sin is no longer sin.
I never yet saw a refutation of those consequences which have been deduced from this dogma by some other persons. I wish such a refutation was prepared, at least that it would be seriously attempted. When it is completed, if I am not able to demonstrate, even then, that these objections of mine are not removed, I will own myself to be vanquished, and will ask pardon for my offense. Although I am not accustomed to charge and oppress this sentiment [of theirs] with such consequences before other people, yet I usually confess this single circumstance, (and this, only when urged by necessity,) that "I cannot possibly free their opinion from those objections."