R.L. Dabney Systematic Theology

Chapter 01: The Existence of God

Section One—Defending the Faith
Chapter 1: The Existence of God

Syllabus for Lecture 1 & 2:

1. What is Theology; and what its Divisions? Prove that there is a Science of Natural Theology.

Turrettin, Loc. i, Qu. 2-3. Thornwell, Collected Works, Vol. i. Lecture I, pp. 25-36.

2. What two Lines of Argument to prove the Existence of a God? What the a priori arguments? Are they valid?

Stillingfleet, Origines Sacree, book. iii, ch. i. Thornwell, Lecture ii, p. 51, etc. Dr. Samuel Clarke. Discourse of the Being and Attributes of God, c. l-12. Chalmers’ Nat. Theol., Lecture iii. Dick. Lecture xvi. Cudworth’s Intellect.


3. State the Arguments of Clarke. Of Howe. Are they sound? Are they a priori?

Dr. S. Clarke, as above. J. Howe’s Living Temple, ch. 2, & 9 to end. Locke’s Essay on the Human Understanding. book. iv. ch. 10.

4. State the Argument of Breckinridge’s Theology. Is it valid?

"Knowledge of God Objective," book. i, ch 5. Review of Breck. Theol. in Central Presbyterian, March to April, 1858.

5. Give an outline of the Argument from Design. Paley, Nat. Theol. ch. i, 2.

Xenophon’s Memorabilia, lib. I, ch. v. Cicero De Natura Deorum, lib. ii Sect. 2-8. Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. I. Theological Treatises generally.

6. Show in a few instances how the Argument from Design is drawn from Animal Organisms, from Man’s Mental and Emotional Structure, and from the Adaptation of Matter to our Mental Faculties.

See Paley, Nat. Theol. book. iv, ch. iii, 16. Chalmers’ Nat. Theol. book. iv, ch. i, 2-5.

7. Can the being of God be argued from the existence of Conscience?

Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. I, Section14 15. Hodge, Syst. Theol. part i, ch. ii, as Alexander’s Moral Science ch. xii. Chalmers’ Nat. Theol. book. iii, ch. 2. Charnock Attributes, Discourse i, Sect. 3. Kant, Critique of the Practical Reason. Thornwell, Lecture ii.

8. What the value of the Argument from the Consensus Populorum?

Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. i, Sections 16-18. Dick, Lecture xvii. Cicero de Nat. Deorum lib. i. Charnock, Discourse i, Section 1.

9. Refute the evasion of Hume: That the Universe is a Singular Effect.

Alexander’s Moral Science, ch. xxviii. Chalmer’s Nat. Theol. book. i, ch. 4.

Watson’s Theo. Institutes, pt ii, ch. i. Hodge, pt. i, ch. ii. Sect. 4. Reign of Law, Duke of Argyle, ch. iii.

10. Can the Universe be accounted for without a Creator, as an infinite series of Temporal Effects?

Alexander’s Moral Science, ch. xxviii. Turrettin, as above, Sections 6-7. Dr. S. Clarke’s Discourse Section 2. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 1st Antinomy.

11. Refute the Pantheistic Scheme of the Universe.

Thornwell, Lecture ix. Alex. Moral Science, ch. xxviii. Dr. S. Clarke’s Discourse, etc. Section 3, 7, 9, etc. Chalmers’ Nat Theol., book. i, ch. v. Hodge, pt. i, ch. iii Sect. 5, Thornwell, "Personality of God," in Works, vol. i, p. 490.

What Is Theology?

It is justly said: Every science should begin by defining its terms, in order to shun verbal fallacies. The word Theology, ( qeou logo"), has undergone peculiar mutations in the history of science. The Greeks often used it for their theories of theogony and cosmogony. Aristotle uses it in a more general form, as equivalent to all metaphysics; dividing theoretical philosophy into physical, mathematical, and theological. Many of the early Christian fathers used it in the restricted sense of the doctrine of Christ’s divinity: (SCIL. Iwannh" oqeologo"), But now it has come: to be used commonly, to describe the whole science of God’s being and nature, and relations to the creature. The name is appropriate: "Science of God." Thomas Aquinas: "Theologia a Theo docetur, Deum docet, ad Deum ducit," God its author, its subject, its end.

Its Divisions.

The distribution of Theology into didactic, polemic, and practical, is sufficiently known. Now, all didactic inculcation of truth is indirect refutation of the opposite error. Polemic Theology has been defined as direct refutation of error. The advantage of this has been supposed to be, that the way for easiest and most thorough refutation is to systematize the error, with reference to its first principle, or prwton yeudo". But the attempt to form a science of polemics, different from Didactic Theology fails; because error never has true method. Confusion is its characteristic. The system of discussion, formed on its false method, cannot be scientific. Hence, separate treatises on polemics have usually slidden into the methods of didactics; or they have been confused. Again: Indirect refutation is more effectual than direct. There is therefore, in this course, no separate polemic; but what is said against errors is divided between the historical and didactic.

Is There A Natural Theology?

Theology is divided into natural and revealed, according to the sources of our knowledge of it; from natural reason; from revelation. What is science? Knowledge demonstrated and methodized. That there is a science of Natural Theology, of at least some certain and connected propositions, although limited, and insufficient for salvation at best, is well argued from Scripture, e. g., (Ps 19:1-7. Ac 14:15; or Ac 17:23. Ro 1:19; 2:14, etc.); and from the fact that nearly all heathens have religious ideas and rites of worship. Not that religious ideas are innate: but the capacity to establish some such ideas, from natural data, is innate. Consider further: Is not this implied in man’s capacity to receive a revealed theology? Does revelation demonstrate God’s existence; or assume it? Does it rest the first truths on pure dogmatism, or on evidence which man apprehends? The latter; and then man is assumed to have some natural capacity for such apprehension. But if nature reflects any light concerning God, (as Scripture asserts), then man is capable of deriving some theology from nature.

Why Denied?

Some old divines were wont to deny that there was any science of Natural Theology, and to say that without revelation, man would not naturally learn its first truth. They attribute the grains of truth, mixed with the various polytheisms to the remnants of tradition descending from Noah’s family. They urge that some secluded tribes, Hottentots, Australians, have no religious ideas; that some men are sincere atheists after reflection; and that there is the wildest variety, yea contradiction, between the different schools of heathens. These divines seem to fear lest, by granting a Natural Theology, they should grant too much to natural reason; a fear ungrounded and extreme. They are in danger of a worse consequence; reducing man’s capacity for receiving divine verities so low, that the rational sceptic will be able to turn upon them and say: "Then by so inept a creature, the guarantees of a true revelation cannot be certainly apprehended."


To reply more in detail; I grant much influence to primeval traditions, (a subject of great interest learnedly discussed in Theo. Gale’s Court of the Gentiles). But that so inconstant a cause is able to perpetuate in men these fixed convictions of the invisible, shows in man a natural religious capacity. That there have been atheistic persons and tribes, is inconclusive. Some tribes deduce no science of geometry, statics, or even numbers; but this does not prove man non-logical. Some profess to disbelieve axioms, as Hume that of causation; but this is far from proving man incapable of a natural science of induction. Besides, the atheism of these tribes is doubtful; savages are shrewd, suspicious, and fond of befooling inquisitive strangers by assumed stupidity. And last: the differences of Natural theology among polytheists are a diversity in unity; all involve the prime truths; a single first cause, responsibility, guilt, a future life, future rewards and punishments.

Existence of God: How Known?

2. The first truth of theology is the existence of God. The first question which meets us is: How man learns the existence of God? Dr. Charles Hodge states and argues that the knowledge of it is "innate." This assertion he explains by saying that it is "intuitive." [Systematic Theology, part 1 chapter 1]. It must be understood, however, that he also employs this term in a sense of his own. With him, any truth is intuitive, which is immediately perceived by the mind. He dissents from the customary definition of philosophers, [as Sir W. Hamilton] which requires simplicity, or primariness, as the trait of an intuitive judgment, He explains himself by saying, that to Newton, all the theorems of Euclid’s first book were as immediately seen as the axioms; and therefore, to him, intuitions. We shall see, in a subsequent lecture, the dangers of this view. I hold, with the current of philosophers, that an intuitive truth is [a] one that is seen true without any premise, [b] so seen by all minds which comprehend its terms, [c] necessarily seen. Strictly, it cannot be said, that any intuitive truth is innate. The power of perceiving it is innate. The explanation of the case of Newton and of similiar ones, is easy: To his vigorous mind, the step from an intuitive premise to a near conclusion, was so prompt and easy as to attract no attention. Yet, the step was taken. When Dr. Hodge calls men’s knowledge that there is a God "innate," i. e., "intuitive," his mistake is in confounding a single, short, clear step of deduction, made by common sense, with an intuition. He, very properly, exalts the ethical evidence into the chief place. But the amount of it is this: "The sentiment of responsibility (which is immediate) is intuitive." This implies an Obligator. True. But what is the evolution of this implication, save (e short, easy, and obvious step of) reasoning?

Divines and Christian philosophers, in the attempt to explain the belief in a God, which all men have, as a rational process, have resolved it into the one or the other of two modes of argument, the a priori and a posteriori. The latter infers a God by reasoning backwards from effects to cause. The former should accordingly mean reasoning downwards from cause to effect; the meaning attached to the phrase by Aristotle and his followers. But now the term a priori reasoning is used, in this connection, to denote a conclusion gained without the aid of experience, from the primary judgments, and especially, the attempt to infer the truth of a notion, directly from its nature or condition in the mind.

A Priori Argument. What, and By Whom Urged?

It appears to be common among recent writers (as Dick, Chalmers’ Natural Theology), to charge Dr. Samuel Clarke as the chief asserter of the a priori argument among Englishmen. This is erroneous. It may be more correctly said to have been first intimated by Epicurus (whose atomic theory excluded the a posteriori argument;) as appears from a curious passage in Cicero, de natura Deorum, Lib. I. c. 16. It was more accurately stated by the celebrated Des Cartes in his meditations; and naturalized to the English mind rather by Bishop Stillingfleet than by Dr. Clarke. The student may find a very distinct statement of it in the Origines Sacrae of the former, book III, chapter 1, § 14: while Dr. Clarke, § 8 of his Discourse, expressly says that the personal intelligence of God must be proved a posteriori, and not a priori. But Des Cartes having founded his psychology on the two positions: 1st. Cogito; ergo sum; and 2nd. The Ego is spirit, not matter; proceeds to ask: Among all the ideas in the consciousness, how shall the true be distinguished from the false, seeing all are obviously not consistent? As to primary ideas, his answer is; by the clearness with which they commend themselves to our consciousness as immediate truths. Now, among our ideas, no other is so clear and unique as that of a first Cause, eternal and infinite. Hence we may immediately accept it as consciously true. Moreover, that we have this idea of a God, proves there must be a God; because were there none, the rise of His idea in our thought could not be accounted for; just as the idea of triangles implies the existence of some triangle. Now the a priori argument of Stillingfleet is but a specific application of DesCartes’ method. We find, says he, that in thinking of a God we must think Him as eternal, self-existent, and necessarily existent. But since we indisputably do think a God, it is impossible but that God is. Since necessary existence is unavoidably involved in our idea of a God, therefore His existence must necessarily be granted.

Its Defect.

Now surely this process is not necessarily inconclusive, because it is a priori; there are processes, in which we validly determine the truth of a notion by simple inspection of its contents and conditions. But the defect of Stillingfleet’s reasoning is, that it does not give the correct account of our thought. If the student will inspect the two propositions, which form an enthymeme, he will see that the conclusion depends on this assumption, as its major premise; That we can have no idea in our consciousness, for which there is not an answering objective reality. (This is, obviously, the assumed major; because without it the ethymeme can only contain the conclusion, that God, if there is one, necessarily exists.) But that major premise is, notoriously, not universally true.

Argument of Dr. S. Clarke.

Now, instead of saying that Dr. Clarke’s method, in the Discourse of the Being, etc., of God, is the a priori, it is more correct to say (with Hamilton’s Reid) that it is an a posteriori argument, or with Kant, Cosmological, inferring the existence of God from His effects; but disfigured at one or two points by useless Cartesian elements. His first position is: Since something now exists, something has existed from eternity. This, you will find, is the starting point of the argument, with all reasoners; and it is solid. For, if at any time in the past eternity, there had been absolutely nothing, since nothing cannot be a cause of existence, time and space must have remained forever blank of existence. Hence, 2d., argues Dr. Clarke: there has been, from eternity, some immutable and independent Being: because an eternal succession of dependent beings, without independent first cause, is impossible. 3d. This Being; as independent eternally, must be self-existent, that is, necessarily existing. For its eternal independence shows that the spring, or causative source of its existence, could not be outside of itself; it is therefore within itself forever. But the only true idea of such self-existence is, that the idea of its non-existence would be an express contradiction. And here, Dr. Clarke very needlessly adds: our notion that the existence is necessary, proves that it cannot but exist. He reasons also: our conceptions of infinite time and infinite space are necessary: we cannot but think them. But they are not substance: they are only modes of substance. Unless some substance exists of which they are modes, they cannot exist, and so, would not be thought. Hence, there must be an infinite and eternal substance. 4th. The substance of this Being is not comprehensible by us: but this does not make the evidence of its existence less certain. For, 5th. Several of its attributes are demonstrable; as that it must be, 6th, Infinite and omnipresent; 7th, that it must be One, and 8th, that it must be intelligent and free, etc.. The conclusion is that this Being must be Creator and God, unless the universe can itself fulfil the conditions of eternity, necessary self-existence, infinitude, and intelligence and free choice. This is Pantheism: which he shows cannot be true.

Valid, Because A Posteriori.

His argument as a whole is mainly valid, because it is in the main a posteriori: it appeals to the intuitive judgment of cause, to infer from finite effects an infinite first cause. The Cartesian features attached to the ad proposition are an excrescence; but we may remove them, and leave the chain adamantine. We will prune them away, not for the reasons urged by Dr. Chalmers, which are in several particulars as invalid as Dr. Clarke; but for the reason already explained on pages 8 and 9. I only add, it seems to argue that time and space can only be conceived by us as modes of substance; and therefore infinite and eternal substance must exist. The truth here is: that we cannot conceive of finite substance or events, without placing it in time and space; a different proposition from Dr. Clarke’s.

Howe’s Demonstration.

I think we have the metaphysical argument for the being of a God, stated in a method free from these objections, by the great Puritan divine, John Howe. He flourished about 1650, A. D., and prior to Dr. Clarke. See his Living Temple, chapter 2. He begins hence: 1. Since we now exist, something has existed from eternity. 2. Hence, at least, some uncaused Being, for the eternal has nothing prior to it. 3. Hence some independent Being. 4. Hence that Being exists necessarily; for its independent, eternal, inward spring of existence cannot be conceived as possibly at any time inoperative. 5. This Being must be self-active; active, because, if other beings did not spring from its action, they must all be eternal, and so independent, and necessary, which things are impossible for beings variously organized and changeable; and self-active, because in eternity nothing was before Him to prompt His action. 6. This Being is living; for self-prompted activity is our very idea of life. 7. He is of boundless intelligence, power, freedom, etc.

What Needed To Complete It?

This argument is in all parts well knit. But it is obviously a posteriori; for all depends from a simple deduction, from a universe of effects, back to their cause; and in the same way are inferred the properties of that cause. The only place where the argument needs completion, is at the fifth step. So far forth, the proof is perfect, that some eternal, uncaused, necessary Being exists. But how do we prove that this One created all other Beings? The answer is: these others must all be either eternal or temporal. May it be, all are eternal and one? then all are uncaused, independent, self-existent, and necessary. This, we shall see, is Pantheism. If the rest are temporal, then they were all caused, but by what? Either by the one uncaused, eternal Being; or by other similar temporal beings generating them. But the latter is the theory of an infinite, independent series of finite organisms, each one dependent. When, therefore, we shall have stopped these two breaches, by refuting Pantheism and the hypothesis of infinite series, the demonstration will be perfect.

Cavil of Kant.

Kant has selected this cosmological argument, as one of his "antinomies," illustrating the invalidity of the a priori reason, when applied to empirical things. His objection to its validity seems to amount to this: That the proposition "Nothing can exist without a cause out of itself," cannot be absolute: For if it were, then a cause must be assigned for the First Cause himself.

But let us give the intuition in more accurate form: "Nothing can begin to exist, without a cause out of itself." Kant’s cavil has now disappeared, as a moment’s consideration will show. The necessary step of the reason from the created things up to a creator, is now correctly explained. "Every effect must have a cause." True. An effect is an existence or phenomenon which has a beginning. Such, obviously, is each created thing. Therefore, it must have proceeded from a cause which had no beginning, i. e., a God. Moreover: I cannot too early utter my protest against Kant’s theory, that our regulative, intuitive principles of reason are merely suggestive, (while imperative,) and have no objective validity. Were this true, our whole intelligence would be a delusion. On the other hand, every law of thought is also a law of existence and of reality. Knowledge of this fact is original with every mind when it begins to think, is as intuitive as any other principle of theological reason, and is an absolutely necessary condition of all other knowledge. Moreover: the whole train of man’s a posteriori knowledge is a continual demonstration of this principle, proving its trustworthiness by the perfect correspondence between our subjective intuitions and empirical truths.

Platonic Scheme.

Now Platonism held that all substance is uncaused and eternal as to its being. All finite, rational spirits, said this theology, are emanations of To ON, the eternal intelligence; and all matter has been from eternity, as inert, passive chaotic Ulh. Platonism referred all organization, all fashioning (the only creation it admitted), all change, however either directly or indirectly, to the intelligent First Cause. This scheme does not seem very easily refuted by natural reason. Let it be urged that the very notion of the First Cause implies its singleness; and, more solidly, that the unity of plan and working seen in nature, points to only one, single, ultimate cause; Plato could reply that he made only one First Cause, To ON, for ulh is inert, and only the recipient of causation. Let that rule be urged, which Hamilton calls his "law of parsimony," that hypotheses must include nothing more than is necessary to account for effects: Plato could say: No: the reason as much demands the supposition of a material pre-existing, as of an almighty Workman; for even omnipotence cannot work, with nothing to work on. Indeed, so far as I know, all human systems, Plato’s "Enicurus" Zeno’s "Pythagoras the Peripatetic" had this common feature; that it is self-evident, substance cannot rise out of nihil into esse; that ex nihilo nihil fit. And we shall see how obstinate is the tendency of philosophy to relapse to this maxim in the instances of Spinoza’s Pantheism, and Kant’s and Hamilton’s theory of causation. Indeed it may be doubted whether the human mind, unaided by revelation, would ever have advanced farther than this. It was from an accurate knowledge of the history of philosophy, that the apostle declared, (Heb 11:3) the doctrine of an almighty creation out of nothing is one of pure faith.

Can the Platonic Doctrine of the Eternity of All Substances Be Refuted By Reason?

Dr. Clarke does indeed attempt a rational argument that the eternity of matter is impossible The eternal must be necessary; therefore an eternal cause must necessarily be. So, that which can possibly be thought as existing and yet not necessary, cannot be eternal. Such is his logic. I think inspection will show you a double defect. The first enthymeme is not conclusive; and the second, even if the first were true, would be only inferring the converse; which is not necessarily conclusive.

Howe states a more plausible argument, at which Dr. Clarke also glances. Were matter eternal, it must needs be necessary. But then it must be ubiquitous, homogeneous, immutable, like God’s substance; because this inward eternal necessity of being cannot but act always and everywhere alike. Whereas, we see matter diverse, changing and only in parts of space. I doubt whether this is solid; or whether from the mere postulate of necessary existence, we can infer anything more than Spinoza does: that eternal matter can possibly exist in no other organisms and sequences of change, than those in which it actually exists. Our surest refutation of this feature of Platonism is God’s word. This heathen theology is certainly nearest of any to the Christian, here, and less repugnant than any other to the human reason and God’s honor.

Dr. Breckinridge.

Dr. R. J. Breckinridge, (vol. I, p. 56. etc.) constructs what he assures us is an argument of his own, for the being of a God. A brief inspection of it will illustrate the subject. 1. Because something now is—at least the mind that reasons—therefore something eternal is. 2. All known substance is matter or spirit. 3. Hence only three possible alternatives; either, (a.) some matter is eternal; and the source of all spirit and all other matter, Or, (b.) some being composed of matter and spirit is the eternal one, and the source of all other matter and spirit. Or, (c.) some spirit is eternal, and produced all other spirit and matter. The third hypothesis must be the true one: not the second because we are matter and spirit combined, and, consciously, cannot create; and moreover the first Cause must be single. Not the first, because matter is inferior to mind; and the inferior does not produce the superior.

Its Defects.

The objections to this structure begin at the second part, where the author leaves the established form of Howe and Clarke. First: the argument cannot apply, in the mind of a pure idealist, or of a materialist. Second: it is not rigidly demonstrated that there can be no substance but matter and spirit; all that can be done is to say, negatively, that no other is known to us. Third: the three alternative propositions do not exhaust the case; the Pantheist and the Peripatetic, of eternal organization, show us that others are conceivable, as obviously does the Platonic. Fourth: that we, combined of matter and spirit, consciously cannot create, is short of proof that some higher being, hence constituted, cannot. Christ could create, if He pleased; He is hence constituted. Last: it is unfortunate that an argument, which aims to be so expert mental, should have the analogy of our natural experience so much against it. For we only witness human spirits producing effects, when incorporate. As soon as they are disembodied, (at death,) they totally cease to be observed causes of any effects.

Teleological Argument.

The teleological argument for the being and attributes of a God has been so well stated by Paley, in his Natural Theology, that though as old as Job and Socrates, it is usually mentioned as Paley’s argument. I refer you especially to his first three chapters. Beginning from the instance of a peasant finding a watch on a common, and although not knowing how it came there, concluding that some intelligent agent constructed it; he applies the same argument, with great beauty and power, to show that man and the universe have a Maker. For we see everywhere intelligent arrangement; as the eye for seeing, the ear for hearing, etc. Nor is the peasant’s reasoning to a watchmaker weakened, because he never saw one at work, or even heard of one; nor because a part of the structure is not understood; nor because some of the adjustments are seen to be imperfect; nor, if you showed the peasant, in the watch, a set of wheels for reproducing its kind, would he be satisfied that there was no watchmaker: for he would see that this reproductive mechanism could not produce the intelligent arrangements. Nor would he be satisfied with a "law of nature," or a "physical principle of order," as the sole cause.

Are the Two, Rival Lines of Proof?

It is a fact, somewhat curious, that the metaphysical and the teleological arguments have each had their exclusive advocates in modern times. The applauders of Paley join Dr. Thomas Brown in scouting the former as shadowy and inconclusive. The supporters of the metaphysical divines depreciate Paley, as leading us to nothing above a mere Demiurgis. In truth, both lines of reasoning are valid; and each needs the other. Dr. Brown, for instance, in carrying Paley’s argument to its higher conclusions, must tacitly borrow some of the very metaphysics which he professes to disdain. Otherwise it remains incomplete, and leads to no more than a sort Artifex Mundi, whose existence runs back merely to a date prior to human experience, and whose being, power and wisdom are demonstrated to extend only as far as man’s inquiries have gone. But that He is eternal, immutable, independent, immense, infinite in power or wisdom; it can never assure us. True, in viewing the argument, your mind did leap to the conclusion that the artifices of nature’s contrivances is the Being of "eternal power and godhead," but it was only because you passed, almost unconsciously, perhaps, through that metaphysical deduction, of which Howe gives us the exact description. Howe’s is the comprehensive, Paley’s the partial (but very lucid) display of the a posteriori argument. Paley’s premise; that every contrivance must have an intelligent contriver, is but an instance under the more general one, that every effect must have a cause. The inadequacy of Paley’s argument may be illustrated in this: that he seems to think the peasant’s discovery of a stone, instead of a watch, could not have led his mind to the same conclusion, whereas a pebble as really, though not so impressively, suggests a cause, as an organized thing. For even the pebble should make us think either that it is such as can have the ground of its existence in its present form in itself; and so, can be eternal, self-existent, and necessary; or else, that it had a Producer, who does possess these attributes.

Its Value.

But, on the other hand, this argument from contrivance has great value, for these reasons. It is plain and popular. It enables us to evince the unity of the first cause through the unity of purpose and convergence of the consequences of creation. It aids us in showing the personality of God, as a being of intelligence and will; and it greatly strengthens the assault we shall be enabled to make on Pantheism, by showing, unless there is a personal and divine first Cause prior to the universe, this must itself be, not only uncaused, eternal, independent, necessarily existent, but endued with intelligence.

Instances of Contrivances To An End.

A single instance of intelligent contrivance in the works of creation would prove an intelligent Creator. Yet, it is well to multiply these proofs, even largely: for they give us then a wider foundation of deduction, stronger views of the extent of the creative wisdom and power; and better evidence of God’s unity.

From Organs of Animals.

Hence, as instances, showing how the argument is constructed: If the design is to produce the physical part of the sensation of vision; the eye is obviously an optical instrument, contrived with lenses to refract, expedients for obtaining an achromatic spectrum, adjustments for distance and quantity of light, and protection of the eye, by situation, bony socket, brow, lids, lubricating fluids; and in birds, the nictitating membrane. Different creatures also have eyes adapted to their lives and media of vision; as birds, cats, owls, fishes. So, the ear is an auditory apparatus, with a concha to converge the sound-waves, a tube, a tympanum to transmit vibration, the three bones ( malleus, stipes and incus) in instable equilibrium, to convey it to the sensorium, etc.

From Spiritual Structure of Man.

The world of spirit is just as full of evident contrivances. See (e. g.) the laws of habit and imitation, exactly adjusted to educate and to form the character; and the faculties of memory, association, taste, etc. The evidences of contrivance are, if possible, still more beautiful in our emotional structure; e. g., in the instincts of parental love, sympathy, resentment and its natural limits, sexual love, and its natural check, modesty; and above all, conscience, with its self-approval and remorse. All these are adjusted to obvious ends.

In Compensating Arrangements.

We see marks of more recondite design, in the natural compensation for necessary defects. The elephant’s short neck is made up by a lithe proboscis. Birds’ heads cannot carry teeth: but they have a gizzard. Insects with fixed heads, have a number of eyes to see around them. Brutes have less reason, but more instinct; and so on goes the argument.

In Adaptations.

The adaptations of one department of nature to another show at once contrivance, selecting will and unity of mind. Hence, the media and the organs of sense are made for each other. The forms and colours of natural objects are so related to taste; the degree of fertility imparted to the earth, to man’s necessity for labour; the stability of physical law, to the necessary judgments of the reason thereabout. So all nature, material and spiritual, animal, vegetable, inorganic, on our planet, in the starry skies, are full of wise contrivance.

Argument From Conscience.

The moral phenomena of conscience present a twofold evidence for the being of a God, worthy of fuller illustration than space allows. This faculty is a most ingenious spiritual contrivance, adjusted to a beneficent end: viz., the promotion of virtuous acts, and repression of wicked. As such, it proves a contriver, just as any organic adjustment does. But second: we shall find, later in the course, that our moral judgments are intuitive, primitive, and necessary; the most inevitable functions of the reason. Now, the idea of our acts which have rightness is unavoidably attended with the judgment that they are obligatory. Obligation must imply an obliger. This is not always any known creature: hence, we arrive at the Creator. Again, our conscience of wrong-doing unavoidably suggests fear but fear implies an avenger. The secret sinner, the imperial sinner above all creature-power, shares this dread. Now, one may object, that this process is not valid, unless we hold God’s mere will the sole source of moral distinctions: which we do not teach, since an atheist is reasonably compelled to hold them. But the objection is not just. The primitive law of the reason must be accepted as valid to us, whatever its source. For parallel: The intuitive belief in causation is found on inspection, to contain the proposition, "There is a first Cause." But in order for the validity of this proposition, it is not necessary for us to say that this intuition is God’s arbitrary implantation. It is intrinsically true to the nature of things; and the argument to a first Cause therefore only the more valid.

This moral argument to the being of a God, as it is immediate and strictly logical, is doubtless far the most practical. Its force is seen in this, that theoretical atheists, in danger and death, usually at the awakening of remorse, acknowledge God.

3. Argument From Universal Consent.

You find the argument from the Consensus Populorum, much elaborated by your authorities. I conclude that it gives a strong probable evidence for the being of a God, hence: The truth is abstract; its belief would not have been so nearly universal, nor so obviously essential to man’s social existence, did not a valid ground for it exist in man’s laws of thought. For it can be accounted for neither by fear, policy, nor self-interest.

4. Objected That Contrivance Betrays Limitation.

From the affirmative argument, we return to evasions. An objection is urged, that the argument from design, if valid, proves only a creature of limited powers. For contrivance is the expedient of weakness. For instance, one constructs a derrick, because, unlike Samson, he is too weak to lift an impossible load. If the Creator has eternal power and godhead, why did He not go straight to His ends, without means, as in Ps 33:9? I answer, design proves a designer, though in part unintelligible. 2nd. It would not be unworthy of the Almighty to choose this manner of working, in order to leave His signature on it for man to read. 3d. Chiefly: Had God employed no means to ends, he must have remained the only agent; there would have been no organized nature; but only the one supernatural agent.

Hume Objects That the World Is A Singular Effect.

Hume strives to undermine the argument from the creation to a Creator, by urging that, since only experience teaches us the uniformity of the tie between effect and cause, it is unwarranted to apply it farther than experience goes with us. But no one has had any experience of a world-maker, as we have of making implements in the arts. The universe, if an effect at all, is one wholly singular: the only one anybody has known, and from the earliest human experience, substantially as it is now. Hence the empirical induction to its first Cause is unauthorized.

Dr. Alexander’s Answer.

Note first: this is from the same mint with his argument against miracles. Creation is simply the first miracle; the same objection is in substance brought; viz: no testimony can be weighty enough to prove, against universal experience, that a miracle has occured. Next, Dr. Alexander, to rebut, resorts to an illustration; a country boy who had seen only ploughs and horse-carts, is shown a steam-frigate; yet he immediately infers a mechanic for it. The fact will be so; but it will not give us the whole analysis. True, the frigate is greatly larger and more complicated than a horse cart; (as the universe is than any human machine). But still, Hume might urge that the boy would see a thousand empirical marks, cognizable to his experiences, (timber with marks of the plane on it, as on his plough-beam, the cable as evidently twisted of hemp, as his plough-lines; the huge anchor with as evident dints of the hammer, as his plough-share,) which taught him that the wonderful ship was also a produced mechanism. Astonishing as it is to him, compared with the plough, it is experimentally seen to be not natural, like the universe,

Chalmers’ Answer.

Chalmers, in a chapter full of contradictions, seems to grant that experience alone teaches us the law of causation, and asserts that still the universe is not "a singular effect." To show this, he supposes, with Paley, the peasant from a watch inferring a watch-maker: and then by a series of abstractions, he shows that the logical basis of the inference is not anything peculiar to that watch, as that it is a gold, or a silver, a large, a small, or a good watch, or a machine to measure time at all; but simply the fact that it is a manifest contrivance for an end. The effect then, is no longer singular; yet the inference to some adequate agent holds. To this ingenious process, Hume would object that it is experience alone which guides in making those successive abstractions, by which we separate the accidental from the essential effect and cause. This, Chalmers himself admits. Hence, as we have no experience of world-making, no such abstraction is here allowable, to reduce the world to the class of common effects. Besides; has Hume admitted that it is an effect at all? In fine, he might urge this difference, that the world is native, while the watch, the plough, the ship bears, to the most unsophisticated observer, empirical marks of being made, and not native.

True Answer.

Let us not then refute Hume from his own premises; for they are false. It is not experience which teaches us that every effect has its cause, but the a priori reason. (This Chalmers first asserts, and then unwisely surrenders.) Neither child nor man believes that maxim to be true in the hundredth case, because he has experienced its truth in ninety-nine; he instinctively believed it in the first case. It is not a true canon of inductive logic, that the tie of cause and effect can be asserted only so far as experience proves its presence. If it were, would induction ever teach us anything we did not know before? Would there be any inductive science? Away with the nonsense! Grant that the world is a "singular effect." It is a phenomenon, it could not be without a cause of its being, either extrinsic, or intrinsic. And this we know, not by experience, but by one of those primitive judgments of the reason, which alone make experience intelligible and valid.

Can the Present Universe Be the Result of Infinite Series of Organisms?

But may not this universe have the ground of its being in itself? This is another evasion of the atheists. Grant, they say, that nothing cannot produce something. Theists go outside the universe to seek its cause; and when they suppose they have found it in a God, they are unavoidably driven to represent Him as uncaused from without, eternal, self-existent, and necessary. Now it is a simpler hypothesis, just to suppose that the universe which we see, is the uncaused, eternal, self-existent, necessary Being. Why may we not adopt it? Seeing we must run back to the mystery of some uncaused, eternal being, why may we not accept the obvious teaching of nature and experience and conclude that this is it? Since the organisms which adorn this universe are all temporal, and since the earth and other stars move in temporal cycles, we shall then have to suppose that the infinite past eternity, through which this self-existent universe has existed, was made up of an infinite succession of these organisms and cycles, each previous one producing the. next: as the infinite future eternity which will be. But what is absurd in such a hypothesis?

Metaphysical Answers.

Now I will not reply, with Dr. Clarke and others, that if the universe is eternal, it must be necessary; and this necessity must make its substance homogeneous and unchangeable throughout infinite time and space. It might be plausibly retorted, that this tendency to regular, finite organisms, which we see, was the very necessity of nature inherent in matter. Nor does it seem to me solid to say, with Robert Hall in his sermon, Turrettin, and others, that an eternal series of finite durations is impossible; because if each particular part had a beginning, while the series had none, we should have the series existing before its first member; the chain stretching farther back than its farthest link. The very supposition was, that the series had no first member. Is a past eternity any more impossible to be made up of the addition of an infinite number of finite parts, than an abstract infinite future? Surely not. Now there is to be just such an infinite future: namely, your and my immortality, which, although it may not be measured by solar days and years, will undoubtedly be composed of parts of successive time infinitely multiplied. But to this future eternity, it would be exactly parallel to object, that we make each link in it have an end, while the whole is endless; which would involve the same absurdity, of a chain extended forward after the last link was ended. The answer again is: that according to the supposition, there is no last link, the number thereof being infinite. In a word, what mathematician does not know that infinitude may be generated by the addition of finites repeated an infinite number of times?

Turretin’s Argument From Unequal Infinites.

Turrettin, among many ingenious arguments, advances another which seems more respectable It is in substance this: If this universe has no Creator, then its past duration must be a proper and absolute infinity. But created things move or succeed each other in finite times. See, for instance, the heavenly bodies: The sun revolves on its axis daily; around its orbit, annually. If this state of things has been eternal, there must have been an infinite number of days, and also an infinite number of years. But since it requires three hundred and sixty-five days to a year, we have here two temporal infinities, both proper and absolute, yet one three hundred and sixty-five times as large as the other! Now, the mathematicians tell us, that proper infinities may be unequal; that an infinite plane, for instance, may be conceived as constituted of infinite straight lines infinitely numerous; and an infinite solid, of an infinite number of such planes, superposed the one on the other. But it is at least questionable, whether the evasion is valid against Turrettin’s argument. For these differing infinities are in different dimensions. of length, breadth and thickness. Can there be, in the same dimension, two lines, each infinite in length, and yet the one three hundred and sixty-five as great as the other, in length?

Turrettin attempts to reply to the answer drawn from the eternity a parte post, against the metaphysical argument. The atheist asks us: Since (as theists say) a finite soul is to be immortal, there will be a specimen of a temporal infinity formed of finite times infinitely repeated: Why may there not have been a similar infinite duration a parte ante? Because, says our Textbook: That which was, but is past, cannot be fairly compared with a future which will never be past. Again: a thing destined never to end may have a beginning; but it is impossible to believe that a thing which actually has ended, never had a beginning. Because, the fact that the thing came to an end proves that its cause was outside of itself. The last remark introduces us to a solid argument, and it is solid, because it brings us out of the shadowy region of infinity to the solid ground of causation. It is but another way of stating the grand, the unanswerable refutation of this atheistic theory: a series composed only of contingent parts must be, as a whole, contingent. But the contingent cannot be eternal, because it is not self-existent. This argument is explicated in the following points:

(1.) Take any line of generative organisms, for instance: (oak trees bearing acorns, and those acorns rearing oaks, e. g.) the being of each individual in the series demands an adequate cause. When we push the inquiry back one step, and ask the cause of the parent which (seemingly) caused it, we find precisely the same difficulty unanswered. Whatever distance we run back along the line, we clearly see no approach is made towards finding the adequate cause of the series, or of the earliest individual considered. Hence it is wholly unreasonable to suppose that the introduction of infinitude into the series helps to give us an adequate cause. We only impose on ourselves with an undefined idea. Paley’s illustration here is as just as beautiful. Two straight parallel lines pursued, ever so far, make no approximation; they will never meet, though infinitely extended.

(2.) An adequate cause existing at the time the phenomenon arises, must be assigned for every effect. For a cause not present at the rise of the effect, is no cause. Now then; when a given oak was sprouted, all the previous oaks and acorns of its line, save one or two, had perished. Was this acorn, even with its parent oak, the adequate cause of the whole structure of the young tree, including the ingenious contrivances thereof? Surely not. But the previous dead oaks and acorns are no cause; for they are not there. An absent cause is no cause. The original cause of this oak is not in the series at all.

(3.) Even if we permit ourselves to be dazzled with the notion that somehow the infinitude of the series can account for its self-productive power; this maxim is obvious: that in a series of transmitted causes, the whole power of the cause must be successively in each member of the series. For each one could only transmit what power it received from its immediate predecessor; and if at any stage, any portion of the causative power were lost, all subsequent stages must be without it. But evidently no one generation of acorns ever had power or intelligence to create the subtle contrivances of vegetable life in their progeny; and to suppose that all did, is but multiplying the absurdity.

(4) This question should be treated according to the atheist’s point of view, scientifically: Science always accepts testimony in preference to hypothesis. Now there is a testimony, that of the Mosaic Scripture, as supported by universal tradition, which says that all series of organisms began in the creative act of an intelligent first Cause. The atheist may object, that men, as creatures themselves, have no right of their own knowledge, to utter such traditionary testimony; for they could not be present before the organisms existed to witness how they were brought into existence. The only pretext for such tradition would be that some prior superhuman Being, who did witness man’s production, revealed to him how he was produced: but whether any such prior Being existed, is the very thing in debate, and so may not be taken for granted.

True; but the existence of the testimony must be granted; for it is a fact that it exists, and it must be accounted for. And the question is, whether the only good account is not, that the universe did have an intelligent Cause, and that this Cause taught primeval man regarding his origination. Otherwise, not only is the universe left unaccounted for, but the universal tradition.

(5) Science exalts experience above hypothesis even more than testimony. Now, the whole state of the world bears the appearance of recency. The recent discovery of new continents, the great progress of new arts since the historic era began, and the partial population of the earth by man, all belie the eternity of the human race. But stronger still, geology proves the creation, in time, of race after race of animals, and the comparatively recent origin of man, by her fossil records. These show the absolute beginning of genera. And the attempt to account for them by the development theory (Chambers or Darwin) is utterly repudiated by even the better irreligious philosophers; for if there is anything that Natural History has established, it is that organic life is separated from inorganic forces, mechanical, chemical, electrical or other, by inexorable bounds; and that genera may begin or end, but never transmute themselves into other genera.


As I pointed out, there are but two hypotheses by which the demonstration of an eternal, intelligent, personal first Cause can be evaded. The one has just been discussed; the other is the pantheistic. No separate first Cause of the universe need be assigned, it says, because the universe is God. The first Cause and the whole creation are supposed to be one substance, world-god, possessing all the attributes of both. As extremes often meet, pantheism leads to the same practical results with atheism. Aristotle, perhaps the most sagacious of pagan thinkers, was willing to postulate the eternity, a parte ante, of the series of organisms. But he, none the less, taught the existence of a God who, though in a sense an Anima Mundi, was yet an intelligent and active infinite Cause.

Peripatetic Pantheism.

The ancient form of pantheism, probably Aristotelian in its source, admitted that matter, dead, senseless, divisible, cannot be the proper seat of intelligence and choice, which are indivisible; and that the universe is full of marks of intelligent design, so that an Anita Mundi, an intelligent Principle, must be admitted in the universe. Yes, I reply, it must, and that personal. Because it obviously has intelligence, choice, and will; and how can personality be better defined? Nor can it inhabit the universe as a soul its body, not being limited to it in time or space, nor bearing that relation to it. Not in time; because, being eternal, it existed a whole past eternity before it; for we have proved the latter temporal. Not in space; for we have seen this Intelligence eternal ages not holding its ubi in space by means of body; and there is not a single reason for supposing that it is now limited to the part of space which bodies occupy. It is not connected with matter by any tie of animality; because immensely the larger part of matter is inanimate.

Pantheism of Spinoza.

Modern pantheism appears either in the hypothesis of Spinoza, the Jew, or in that of the later German idealists. Both see that even the material universe teems with intelligent contrivances: and more, that the nobler part, that known by consciousness, and so, most immediately known, is a world of thought and feeling in human breasts. Hence intelligence and will must be accounted for, as well as matter. Now, Spinoza’s first position is: There can be no real substance, except it be self-existent, and so, eternal. That is; it is incredible that any true substance can pass from nihil into esse. 2nd. All the self-existent must be one; this is unavoidable from the unity of its characteristic attribute. 3rd. The one real substance must therefore be eternal, infinite, and necessarily existent. 4th. all other seeming beings are not real substance, but modes of existence of this sole being. 5th. All possible attributes, however seemingly diverse, must be modes, nearer or remote, of this Being; and it is necessary therefore to get rid of the prejudice, that modes of thought and will and modes of extension cannot be referred to the same substance This is the true account of the universe. All material bodies (so called) are but different modes of extension, in which the necessary substance projects himself; and all personal spirits (so called) are but modes of thought and will, in which the same being pulsates.

Now you see that the whole structure rests on two unproved and preposterous assumptions: that real substance cannot be except it be self-existent; and that the self-existent can be but one. The human mind is incapable of demonstrating either.

Pantheism of the Modern Idealist.

Says the modern idealist: Let the mind take nothing for granted, except the demonstrated; and it will find that it really knows nothing save its consciousnesses. Of what is it conscious? Only of its own subjective states. Men fancy that these must be referred to a subject called mind, spirit, self; as the substance of which they are states. So they fancy that they find objective sources for their sensations, and objective limits to their volitions; but if it fancies it knows either, it is only by a subjective consciousness. These, after all, are its only real possessions. Thus, it has no right to assert either substantive self or objective matter; it only knows, in fact, a series of self-consciousnesses. Therefore, our thinking and willing constitute our being. Thus, too, the whole ostensibly apparent and objective world is only evinced from non-existence as it is thought by us. The total residuum then, is an impersonal power of thought, only existing as it exerts its self-consciousness in the various beings of the universe, (if there is a universe) and in God. Its subjective consciousnesses constitute spiritual substance (so-called,) self, fellowman, God; and its objective, the seeming objective material bodies of the universe.

Refutation. 1. Intuition Must Be Accepted As Valid.

Against both these forms of pantheism, I present the following outline of a refutation. (1.) If the mind may not trust the intuition which refers all attributes and affections to their substances, and which gives real objective sources for sensations, it may not believe in its intuitive self-consciousness, nor in that intuition of cause for every phenomenon, on which Spinoza founds the belief in his One Substance. Falsus in uno; Falsus in omnibus. There is an end of all thinking. That the intuitions above asserted, are necessary and primary, I prove by this: that every man, including the idealist, unavoidably makes them.

Consciousness Implies My Personality.

(2.) We are each one conscious of our personality. You cannot pronounce the words "self," Ego, self-consciousness; but that you have implied it. Hence, if we think according to our own subjective law, we cannot think another intelligence and will, without imputing to it a personality. Least of all, the supreme intelligence and will. To deny this is to claim to be more perfect than God. But worse yet; if I am not a person, my nature is a lie, and thinking is at an end. If I am a person, and as the pantheist says, I am God, and God is I, then he is a person; and the pantheistic system is still self-contradicted.

Extension and Thought Cannot Be Referred To A Common Substance.

(3.) Modes of extension and modes of thought and will cannot be attributes of one substance. Matter is divisible: neither consciousness, nor thought, nor feeling is; therefore the substance which thinks is indivisible. Matter is extended; has form; has relative bulk and weight. All these properties are impossible to be thought of any function of spirit, as relevant to them. Who can conceive of a thought triturated into many parts, as a stone into grains of sand; of a resentment split into halves; of a conception which is so many fractions of an inch longer or thicker than another; of an emotion triangular or circular, of the top and bottom of a volition?

If Spinoza True, To Pan Cannot Vary.

(4.) If there is but one substance To Pan, the eternal, selfexistent, necessary; then it must be homogeneous and indivisible. This is at least a just argumentum ad hominem for Spinoza. Did he not infer the necessary unity of all real substance, from the force of its one characteristic attribute, self and necessary existence? Now, this immanent necessity, which is so imperative as to exclude plurality; must it not also exclude diversity; or at least contrariety? How then can this one, unchangeable substance exist at the same time in different and even contradictory states; motion and rest; heat and cold; attraction and repulsion? How can it, in its modes of thought and will, at the same time love in one man, and hate in another, the same object? How believe and disbelieve the same thing?

No Evil Nor Good.

(5.) On this scheme, there can be no responsibility, moral good or evil, guilt, reward, righteous penalty, or moral government of the world. All states of feeling, and all volitions are those of To Pan. Satan’s wrong volitions are but God willing, and his transgressions, God acting. By what pretext can the Divine Will be held up as a moral standard? Anything which a creature wills, is God’s will.


(6.) And this because, next, pantheism is a scheme of stark necessity. Necessity of this kind is inconsistent with responsibility. But again; it contradicts our consciousness of free agency. We know, by our consciousness, that in many things we act freely, we do what we do, because we choose; we are conscious that our souls determine themselves. But if Pantheism were true, every volition, as well as every other event, would be ruled by an iron fate. So avowed stoicism, the pantheism of the Old World: so admits Spinoza. And consistently; for To Pan, impersonal, developing itself according to an immanent, eternal necessity, must inevitably pass through all those modifications of thought and extension, which this necessity dictates, and no others; and the acts of God are as fated as ours.

God Would Have All Sin and Woe.

(7.) I retort upon the pantheist that picture which he so much delights to unfold in fanciful and glowing guise. Pantheism, says he, by deifying nature, clothes everything which is sweet or grand with the immediate glory of divinity, and ennobles us by placing us perpetually in literal contact with God. Do we look without on the beauties of the landscape? Its loveliness is but one beam of the multiform smile upon His face. The glory of the sun is the flash of His eye. The heavings of the restless sea are but the throbs of the divine bosom, and the innumerable stars are but the sparkles of His eternal brightness. And when we look within us, we recognize in every emotion which ennobles or warms our breasts, the aspirations, the loves, the gratitudes which bless our being, the pulses of God’s own heart beating through us. Nay, but, say I, are the manifestations of the universal Being, all lovely and good? If pantheism is true, must we not equally regard all that is abhorrent in nature, the rending thunder, and the rushing tornado, the desolating earthquake and volcanos, the frantic sea lashing helpless navies into wreck, as the throes of disorder or ruin in God? And when we picture the scenes of sin and woe, which darken humanity, the remorse of the villain’s privacy, the orgies of crime and cruelty hidden beneath the veil of night, the despairing deathbeds, the horrors of battle fields, the wails of nations growing pale before the pestilence, the din of burning and ravaged cities, and all the world of eternal despair itself, we see in the whole but the agony and crime of the divine Substance. Would it then be best called Devil or God? Since suffering and sin are so prevalent in this world, we may call it Pan-diabolism, with more propriety than pantheism. Nor is it any relief to this abhorrent conclusion, to say that pain and evil are necessitated, and are only seeming evils. Consciousness declares them real.

Chapter 02: Evolution

Section One—Defending the Faith
Chapter 2: Evolution

Syllabus for Lecture 3:

1. State the Evolution Theory of man’s origin, in its recent form; and show its Relation to the Argument for God’s existence.

2. Show the Defects in the pretended Argument for this Descent of man by Evolution.

3. Does the Theory weaken the Teleological Argument for the Existence of Personal God?

See "Origin of Species" and "Descent of Man," by Dr. Charles Darwin, "Lay Sermons," by Dr. Thos. Huxley, "Physical Basis of Life," by Dr. Stirling, Lectures (Posthumous) of Prof. Louis Agassiz, "What is Darwinism?" by Dr. Ch Hodge, "Reign of Law," by the Duke of Argyle.

Relation of Evolution To Teleological Argument.

In the previous Lecture, I concluded the brief examination of the atheistic theory, accounting for the Universe as an eternal series, with these words: "Genera may begin or end, but never transmute themselves into other genera." We found the fatal objections to the scheme of a self-existent, infinite series uncaused from without, in these facts: That no immediate antecedent was adequate cause for its immediate successor: And that the previous links in the series could not be cause; because totally absent from the rise of the sequent effect. HenceIn that the utter fallacy was detected, which seeks to impose on our minds by the vague infinitude of the series as a whole. We were taught that no series made up solely of effects, each contingent, can, as a whole, be self-existent. Thus that evasion of the athiest quickly perished.

Obviously, if there is any expedient for resuscitating it, this must be found in the attempt to prove that the law, "Like produces Like," is not the whole explanation of the series. We have demonstrated that, by that law, it is impossible the series can be self-existent. The best hope of Atheism is, then, to attempt to prove that the Like does not produce merely the Like; that the series contains within itself a power of differentiating its effects, at least slightly. Hence materialists and atheists have been led in our day, either by deliberate design, or by a species of logical instinct, to attempt the construction of an "evolution theory." The examination of this attempt becomes necessary in order to complete the argument for God’s existence, on this, the last conceivable point of attack.

No Novelty.

The evolution hypothesis is, indeed, no novelty. It is, after all its pretended modern experiments, but a revival of the "atomic theory" of the Greek atheist, Democritus, adopted by the Epicurean school. Its application to the descent of man from some lower animal, has often been attempted, as by Lord Monboddo, who almost exactly anticipated Dr. Chas. Darwin’s conclusion. In the eyes of some modern Physicists, however, it has received new plausibility from the more intelligent speculations of the Naturalist La Marck, and the "Vestiges of Creation" ascribed to Mr. Robert Chambers. But it appears in its fullest form, in the ingenious works of Dr. Chas. Darwin, "Origin of Species," and "Descent of Man." I therefore take this as the object of our inquiry.

Natural Selection and Survival.

This Naturalist thinks that he has found the law of reproduction, in animated nature, that "Like produces Like," modified by the two laws of "natural selection" and a "survival of the fittest." By the former, nature herself, acting unintelligently, tends in all her reproductive processes, to select those copulations which are most adapted to each other by the latter, she ordains, equally without intelligence, that the fittest, or ablest progeny shall survive at the expense of the inferior. These supposed laws he illustrates by the race-varieties (certainly very striking) which have been produced in genera and species whose original unity is admitted by all, through the art of the bird-fancier and stock-rearer, in breeding. The result of these laws, modifying the great law of reproduction, would be a slight differentiation of successors from predecessors, in any series in animated nature. This difference at one step might be almost infinitesimal. This conatus of Nature towards evolution, being totally blind, and moving at haphazard, might result in nothing through a myriad of experiments, or instances, and only evolve something in advance of the antecedents, in the ten thousandth case; yet, if we postulate a time sufficiently vast, during which the law has been blindly working, the result may be the evolution of man, the highest animal, from the lowest form of protoplasmic life.

Scheme Atheistic.

1. The tendency of this scheme is atheistic. Some of its advocates may disclaim the consequence, and declare their recognition of a God and Creator, we hope, sincerely. But the undoubted tendency of the speculation, will be to lead its candid adherents, where Dr. Leopold Buchner has placed himself, to blank materialism and atheism. For the scheme is an attempt to evolve what theists call the creation without a Creator; and as we shall see, the bearing of the hypothesis is towards an utter obliteration of the teleological argument. 2nd. In assigning man a brute origin, it encourages common men to regard themselves as still brutes. Have brutes any religion? 3d. The scheme ignores all substantive distinction between spirit and matter, by evolving the former out of the functions of mere animality. But if there be no soul in man there is, practically, no religion for him.

Selection Implies Mind.

2. The favorite law of "natural selection" communicates a sophistical idea in its mere terminology, and in its scope. Selection is an attribute of free agency, and implies the intelligent choice of the one who selects. Yet, "Nature" selects for the evolutionist, and Nature is a blind force, influenced by the arbitrary winds of chance, and has no intelligence. Rather, the evolutionist’s "Nature" acts (or works) in a way contrary to the denotative meaning inherent in the the notion of selection; nature acts without distinction or discernment, haphazardly as it were. Now, whenever we apply the idea of selection, or any other which expresses free agency, to such effects: we know that we are speaking inaccurately and by a mere trope. How much more specious is it to ascribe the force of a permanent and regular law, selecting effects, to that which is but chance? This is but giving us metaphor, in place of induction. It is farther noted by Agassiz, that the principle of life, or cause in animated nature, notoriously and frequently produces the same results under diverse conditions of action; and diverse results again, under the same conditions. These facts prove that it is not the species of variable cause painted by Darwin, and does not differentiate its effects by his supposed law of natural selection.

3. We have seen that the vastness of the time needed for the evolution of man from the lowest animated form, by these laws of natural selection, working blindly and effecting at any one movement the most minute differentiations, is not only conceded, but claimed by evolutionists. Then, since the blind cause probably has made ten thousand nugatory experiments for every one that was an advance, the fossil remains of all the experiments, of the myriads of genera of failures, as well as the few genera that were successes, should be found in more immense bulk. And especially fossil Natural History should present us with the full history of both sides of the blind process; with the remains of the degraded genera, as well as the "fittest" and "surviving genera." The fossil history of the former ought to be ten thousand times the fullest! But in the presence of such a history, how preposterous would a theory of evolution appear? For, the very essence of this theory is the idea of a continual advancement and improvement in nature.

The evolution theory is inconsistent with the wide geographical diffusion of species, and especially of the higher species. If these are the results of the "survival of the fittest," under local conditions of existence and propagation, is it not unaccountable that these, and especially man, the highest species of all, should always have been found under the most diverse and general conditions, in contrasted climates? But if we pass to the lower species, such as the moluscs and crustaceans, the difficulty is as great, because they have no adequate means of locomotion to migrate from the spots where the local conditions of their development existed.

No Improvement By Selection, Save Under A Rational Providence.

4. But next; where improved race varieties have actually been developed, it may well be questioned whether the selections of the progenitors have ever been "natural," in the sense of the evolutionist. The marked instances of which Darwin makes so much use, are the result of the breeder’s art: (as the Durham cattle) that is, of a rational providence. And when we surrender any individuals of the varieties to the dominion of "nature," the uniform tendency is to degradation. What more miserable specimens of cattle and swine are ever seen; what individuals less calculated for "survival" in the struggle for existence, than the neglected progeny of the marvellously developed English livestock, when left to take their chances with the indigenous stock of ill-cultivated districts? Again, many Naturalists tell us that when any incidental cause has been applied to a given species, producing variations in some individuals and their progeny, the difference is larger at first, and becomes more and more minute afterwards. The inference seems irresistible, that such variations must have fixed and narrow limits. Naturalists are familiar with the tendency of all varieties, artificially produced by the union of differing progenitors, to revert back to the type of one or other of their ancestors. Hence, all breeders of livestock recognize the tendency of their improved breeds to "fly to pieces"; and they know that nothing but the most artful vigilance in selecting parents prevents this result. Without this watchful control, the peculiarities of one or the other original varieties would re-appear in the progeny, so exaggerated, as to break up the improved type, and give them instead, a heterogeneous crowd, the individuals varying violently from each other and from the desired type, and probably inferior to either of the original varieties compounded.

Strongest Do Not Naturally Survive.

Is the "survival of the fittest" a "natural" fact? I answer; No. The natural tendency of the violences of the strongest is on the whole, to increase the hardship of the conditions under which the whole species and each individual must gain subsistence. What better instance of this law needs to be sought, than in the human species; where we always see the savage anarchy, produced by the violence of the stronger, reduce the whole tribe to poverty and destitution? Why else is it, that savages are poorer and worse provided for than civilized men? Couple this law with another: that the most pampered individuals in any species, are not the most prolific; and we shall see that the natural tendency of animal life is, in the general, to the survival of the inferior. Hence the average wild Pampa horse, or "mustang" pony, is far inferior to the Andalusian steed, from which he is descended. We find an emphatic confirmation of the conclusion which Hugh Miller drew from the "testimony of the rocks," that the natural tendency of the fossil genera has been to degradation and not to development.

Well does Dr. Sterling remark here: "Natural conjecture is always equivocal, insecure and many-sided. It may be said that ancient warfare, for instance, giving victory always to the personally ablest and bravest, must have resulted in the improvement of the race. Or, that the weakest being left at home, the improvement was balanced by deterioration. Or, that the ablest were necessarily most exposed to danger. And so—according to ingenuity usque ad infinitum. Trustworthy conclusions are not possible to this method."

Argument From Hybrids.

5. I have not yet seen any reason for surrendering the rule, hitherto held by Naturalists, that in the animal world, hybrids, if true hybrids, are infertile. The familiar instance is that of the mule. The genera asinus and equus can propagate an offspring, but that mule offspring can propagate nothing. If there are any exceptions to this law, they are completely consistent with the rule that hybrids cannot perpetuate their hybrid kind. If they have any progeny, it is either absolutely infertile; or it has itself reverted back to one of the original types. It is strange that Dr. Huxley should himself appeal to this as a valid law; when its validity is destructive of his own conclusions. In his "Lay Sermons," p. 295, when it suits his purpose to assert that natural variation has, in a given case, established a true species which is new, he appeals to the fact which is claimed: that this new species propagated its kind; which proved it a true and permanent species. Which is to say, that hybrids cannot propagate their kind; for it is by this law it is known that they do not form permanent species. But now, if new varieties really arose from natural selection, to the extent claimed by evolutionists, must they not fall under the hybrid class too decisively, ever to propagate their type permanently?

Evolution Cannot Account For Mind.

6. This process imagined by Dr. Darwin, if it existed, would be purely an animal one. He makes it a result of physical laws merely. Then, if there were a development by such a law, it should be the animal instincts and bodily organs, which are developed in the higher species. But it is not so. Man is the highest, and when he is compared with other mammalia, he is a feebler beast. The young infant has far less instinct and locomotion than the young fowl. The man has less instinct, less animal capacity, less strength, blunter senses, than the eagle, or the elephant, and less longevity than the goose. That which makes him a nobler creature is his superior intelligence with the adaptation thereto of his inferior animal instincts. He rules other animals and is "Lord of Creation" by his mind.

7. This, then, must also be explained by Dr. Darwin, as an evolution from instinct and animal appetites; just as he accounts for the evolution of the human hand, from the forepaw of an ape; so all the wonders of consciousness, intellect, taste, conscience, religious belief, are to be explained as the animal outgrowth of gregarious instincts, and habitudes cultivated through them. To any one who has the first correct idea of construing the facts of consciousness, this is simply monstrous. It of course denies the existence of any substance that thinks, distinct from animated matter. It ignores the distinction between the instinctive and the rational motive in human actions; hence making free agency, moral responsibility, and ethical science impossible. The impossibility of this genesis is peculiarly plain in this: that it must suppose all these psychological acts and habits gradually superinduced. There is first, in some earlier generation of men, a protoplastic responsibility, free agency, reason, conscience, which are half, or one quarter animal instinct still, and the rest mental! Whereas, every man who ever interpreted his own acts of soul to himself, knows intuitively, that this is the characteristic of them all; that they are contrasted with the merely animal acts, in all their stages and in all their degrees of weakness or strength. A feeble conscience is no nearer appetite, in its intrinsic quality, than the conscience of a Washington or a Lee.

In a word: Consciousness has her facts, as truly as physicks. These facts show that man belongs to a certain genus spiritually, more even than corporeally. And that genus is consciously separated by a great gulf, from all mere animal nature. It cannot be developed Hence.

Theory Not Proved at Best.

8. The utmost which can possibly be made of the evolution theory, is that it may be a hypothesis possibly true, even after all the arguments of its friends are granted to be valid. In fact, the scheme is far short of this. The careful reader of these works will find, amidst extensive knowledge of curious facts, and abundance of fanciful ingenuity, many, yawning chasms between asserted facts and inductions; and many a substitution of the "must be" for the "may be." But when we waive this, we still find the theory unverified, and incapable of verification. One need desire no juster statement of the necessity of actual verification, in order to mature a hypothesis into a demonstration, than is given and happily illustrated by Dr. Huxley. "Lay Sermons," pp. 85, 6. Until either actual experiment or actual observation has verified the expectation of the hypothesis; and verified it in such away as to make it clear to the mind, that the expected result followed the antecedent as propter hoc and not a mere post hoc; that hypothesis, however plausible, and seemingly satisfying, is not demonstrated. But has Dr. Darwin’s theory been verified in any actual case? Has any one seen the marsupial ape breed the man, in fact? The author of the scheme himself knows that verification is, in the nature of the case, impossible. The dates at which he supposes the evolutions took place, precede the earliest rational experience of man, according to his own scheme, by vast ages. The differentiations which gradually wrought it were, according to him, too slight and gradual to be contained in the memory of one dispensation of man’s history. The connecting links of the process are forever lost. Hence the utmost which these Naturalists could possibly make of their hypothesis, were all their assumptions granted, would be the concession that it contained a curious possibility.

Dangerous To Morals.

These speculations are mischievous in that they present to minds already degraded, and in love with their own degradation, a pretext for their materialism, godlessness and sensuality. The scheme can never prevail generally among mankind. The self-respect, the conscience, and the consciousness of men will usually present a sufficient protest and refutation. The world will not permanently tolerate the libel and absurdity, that this wondrous creature, man, "so noble in reason, so infinite in faculties, in form and moving so express and admirable, in action so like an angel, in apprehension so like a God," is but the descendant, at long removes, of a mollusc or a tadpole!

Circumstantial Evidence Refuted By Parole.

The worthlessness of mere plausibilities concerning the origin of the universe, is yet plainer when set in contrast with that inspired testimony upon the subject, to which Revealed Theology will soon introduce us. Hypothetical evidence, even at its best estate, comes under the class of circumstantial evidence. Judicial science, stimulated to accuracy and fidelity by the prime interests of society in the rights and the life of its members, has correctly ascertained the relation between circumstantial proof and competent parole testimony. In order to rebut the word of such a witness, the circumstantial evidence must be an exclusive demonstration: it must not only satisfy the reason that the criminal act might have been committed in the supposed way, by the supposed persons; but that it was impossible, it could have been committed in any other way. In the absence of parole testimony, every enlightened judge would instruct his jury, that the defence is entitled to try the hypothesis of the accuser by this test: If any other hypothesis can be invented that is even purely imaginary, to which the facts granted in the circumstantial evidence can be reconciled by the defence, that is proof of invalidity in the accusing hypothesis. Let us suppose a crime committed without known eyewitnesses. The prosecutors examine every attendant circumstance minutely, and study them profoundly. They construct of them a supposition that the crime was committed in secret by A. They show that this supposition of his guilt satisfies every fact, so far as known. They reason with such ingenuity, that every mind tends to the conviction that A. must be verily guilty. But now there comes forward an honest man, who declares that he was eyewitness of the crime; and, that, of his certain knowledge, it was done by B., and not by A. On inquiry, it appears that B. was, at that time, naturally capable of the act. Then, unless the prosecutors can attack the credibility of this witness, before his word their case utterly breaks down. The ingenuity, the plausibility of their argument, is now naught. They had shown that, so far as known facts had gone, the act might have been done by A. But the witness proves that in fact it was done by B. The plausibility of the hypothesis and the ingenuity of the lawyers are no less: but they are utterly superseded by direct testimony of an eyewitness. I take this pains to illustrate to you this principle of evidence, because it is usually so utterly ignored by Naturalists, and so neglected even by Theologians. I assert that the analogy is perfect between the case supposed and the pretended evolution argument. Does Revelation bring in the testimony of the divine Eyewitness, because actual Agent, of the genesis of the universe? Is Revelation sustained as a credible witness by its literary, its internal, its moral, its prophetical, its miraculous evidences? Then even though the evolution hypothesis were scientifically probable, in the light of all known and physical facts and laws, it must yield before this competent witness. Does that theory claim that, naturally speaking, organisms might have been hence produced? God, the Agent, tells us that, in point of fact, they were otherwise produced. As Omnipotence is an agency confessedly competent to any effect whatsoever, if the witness is credible, the debate is ended.

Is Our Teleological Argument Lost?

I shall conclude this Lecture by adverting to a consequence which many of Dr. Darwin’s followers draw from his scheme; which is really the most important feature connected with it. Dr. Huxley declares that the "Origin of Species" gives the death-blow to that great teleological argument for the existence of God, which has commanded the assent of all the common sense and all the true philosophy of the human race. He quotes Prof. Kolliker, of Germany, as saying that though Darwin retains the teleological conception, it is shown by his own researches to be a mistaken one. Says the German savant, "Varieties arise irrespectively of the notion of purpose of utility, according to the general laws of nature; and may be either useful or hurtful, or indifferent." It must be admitted these men interpret the bearings of the evolution theory aright; [and that it does bear against the impregnable evidences of design in God’s creation; is a clear proof of its falsehood]. According to this scheme physical causation is blind; but it hits a lucky adaptation here and there, without knowing or meaning it, by mere chance, and in virtue of such an infinity of haphazard trials that it is impossible to miss all the time. Such is the immediate, though blind, result of Nature’s tendency to ceaseless variations of structure. Now, when (rarely) she happens to hit a favorable variation, the better adaptation of that organism to the conditions of existence enables it to survive and to propagate its type more numerously, where others perish. Where now is the proof of intelligence and design in such a fortuitous adaptation? Mr. Herbert Spencer argues that it is mere "anthropomorphism," for us to undertake to interpret nature teleologically. When we adapt anything to an end, we, of course, design and contrive. But when we therefore assume that the Great Unknowable works by such thoughts, we are as absurd as though the watch [in the well-known illustration of Dr. Paley] becoming somewhat endowed with consciousness, should conclude that the consciousness of its Unknown Cause must consist of a set of ticking and motions of springs and cogs, because such only are its own functions. Some of these writers dwell much upon the supposed error of our mixing the question of "final causes" with that of efficient causes, in our investigation of nature. They claim that Lord Bacon, in his De Augmentis, sustains this condemnation. This is erroneous. He does disapprove the mixing of the question of final cause with the search after the physical cause. He points out that the former belongs to Metaphysics, the latter to Physics. Let the question be, for instance: "Why do hairs grow around the eyebrows?" There are two meanings in this "Why." If it asks the final cause, the answer is: "For the protection of the precious and tender organ beneath the brow." If it asks the physical cause, Lord Bacon’s answer is: that a follicular structure of that patch of skin "breedeth a pilous growth." He clearly asserts, in his Metaphysic, that inquiries after the final cause are proper; and he was emphatically a believer in the teleological argument, as was Newton, with every other great mind of those ages.

Is Our Argument Suspicious Because Anthropomorphic?

Let us clear the way for the exposure of the sophisms stated above, by looking at Spencer’s objection to the anthropomorphism of our Natural Theology. He would have us believe that it is all vicious, because founded on the groundless postulate that our thought and contrivance are the model for the mind of God. He would illustrate this, as we saw, by supposing the watch, in Paley’s illustration, "to have a consciousness," etc. This simile betrays his sophistry at once. The supposition is impossible! If the watch could have a consciousness, it would not be a material machine, but a rational spirit: and then there would be no absurdity whatever in its likening its own rational consciousness to that of its rational cause. When complaint is made that all our Natural Theology is "anthropomorphic," what is this but a complaint that our knowledge is human? If I am to have any knowledge, it must be my knowledge: that is, the knowledge of me, a man; and so, knowledge, according to the forms of human intelligence. All knowledge must then be anthropomorphic, in order to be human knowledge. To complain of any branch of man’s knowledge on this score, is to demand that he shall know nothing! This, indeed, is verified by Mr. Herbert Spencer, who teaches, on the above ground, that God is only to be conceived of and honored as "The Unknowable"; and who forbids us to ascribe any definite attribute, or offer any specific service to Him, lest we should insult Him by making Him altogether such an one as ourselves. I may remark, in passing, that this is equally preposterous in logic, and practically atheistic. The mind only knows substance from properties: if the essentia of an object of thought be absolutely unknown, its esse will certainly be more unknown. And how can one be more completely "without God in the world," than he who only knows of a divine Being, to whom he dares not ascribe any attribute, towards whom he dares not entertain any definite feeling, and to whom he dares not offer any service?

But why should our knowledge of a higher spiritual being be suspected, as untrustworthy, because it is anthropomorphic? It can only be, because it is suspected that this knowledge is transformed, in becoming ours. But now, let it be supposed that the great First Cause created our spirits "in his likeness, after his image," and the ground of suspicion is removed. Then it follows that in thinking "anthropomorphically," we are thinking like God: because God formed us to think like himself. Our conceptions of the divine will then be only limited, not transformed, in passing into our kindred, but finite, minds: they remain valid, as far as they reach. But it may be said: This is the very question: whether a Creator did form our spirits after the likeness of His own? The theists must not assume it at the onset as proved. Very true; and their opponents shall not be allowed to assume the opposite as proved—they shall not "beg the question" any more than we do. But when our inquiries in Natural Theology lead us to the conclusion that in this respect "we are God’s offspring," then He is no longer the "Unknown God." And especially when Revealed Theology presents us the Eawn tou qeou oratou in the "man Christ Jesus," the difficulty is completely solved.

Chance Cannot Evolve Design.

To support the teleological argument farther against this philosophy of blind chance, I remark, first: that it is in no sense less unreasonable than the old pagan theory, which referred all the skillful adjustments of creation to a "fortuitious concourse of atoms." This is indeed the same wretched philosophy: revamped and refurbished, which excited the sarcasm and scorn of Socrates, and was contemptuously discarded by the educated pagan mind. It is impossible to persuade the common sense of mankind, that blind chance, whose sole attribute is chaotic disorder, is the source of the admirable order of this universal kosmo". Something does not come out of nothing. Our opponents would ask us; since blind chance may, amidst its infinite multitudes of experiments, happen upon any result whatsoever, why may it not sometimes happen upon some results wearing the aspect of orderly adaptation? My answer is, that the question puts the case falsely. Sometimes! No! Always. The fact to be accounted for is; that Nature’s results always have an orderly adaptation. I press again this crushing question: How is it that in every one of Nature’s results, in every organ of every organized creature which is extant, either in living or in fossil natural History, if the structure is comprehended by us, we see some orderly adaptation? Where are Nature’s failures? Where the vast remains of the infinity of her haphazard, orderless results? On the evolution theory, they should be a myriad times as numerous as those which possessed orderly adaptation. But in fact, none are found, save a few which are apparent exceptions, because, and only because, we have not yet knowledge enough to comprehend them. Through every grade of fossil life, if we are able at all to understand the creature whose remains we inspect, we perceive an admirable adjustment to the conditions of its existence. This is as true of the least developed, as of the most perfect. The genus may be now totally extinct: because the appropriate conditions of its existence have wholly passed away in the progress of changes upon the earth’s surface; but while those conditions existed, they were beautifully appropriate to the genus. So, if there is any structure in any existing creature, whose orderly adaptation to an end is not seen, it is only because we do not yet understand enough. Such is the conclusion of true science. Anatomists before Dr. Harvey saw the valvular membranes in the arteries and veins, opening opposite ways. That great man assumed, in the spirit of true science, that they must have their orderly adaptation; and this postulate led him to the grand discovery of the circulation of the blood. Such is the postulate of true, modest science still, as to every structure: it is the pole-star of sound induction. And once more: Contrivance to an end is not limited to organic life reproducing after its kind—the department where the evolutionist finds his pretext of "natural selection." The permanent inorganic masses also disclose the teleological argument, just as clearly as the organic. Sun, moon and stars do not propagate any day! Contrivance is as obvious in the planetary motions and the tides of ocean, as in the eye of the animal. "The undevout Astronomer is mad." Commodore Maury, in his immortal works, has shown us as beautiful a system of adaptations in the wastes of the atmosphere and its currents, as the Natural Historian finds in the realms of life.

Who Designed the Susceptibility To Evolve?

Second: I remark that if the theory of the evolutionist were all conceded, the argument from designed adaptation would not be abolished, but only removed one step backward. If we are mistaken in believing that God made every living creature that moveth after its kind: if the higher kinds were in fact all developed from the lowest; then the question recurs: Who planned and adjusted these wondrous powers of development? Who endowed the cell-organs of the first living protoplasm with all this fitness for evolution into the numerous and varied wonders of animal life and function, so diversified, yet all orderly adaptations? There is a wonder of creative wisdom and power, at least equal to that of the Mosaic genesis. That this point is justly taken, appears hence: Those philosophers who concede (as I conceive, very unphilosophically and unnecessarily) the theory of "creation by law," do not deem that they have thereby weakened the teleological argument in the least. It appears again, in the language of evolutionists themselves: When they unfold what they suppose to be the results of this system, they utter the words "beautiful contrivance of nature, ""wise adjustment" and such like, involuntarily. This is the testimony of their own reason, uttered in spite of a perverse and shallow theory.

In fine; when we examine any of these pretended results of fortuity, we always find that the chance-accident was only the occasion, and not the efficient cause, of that result. Says one of the evolutionists: a hurricane may transplant a tree so as to secure its growth. The wind may happen to drop a sapling, which the torrent had torn up, with its roots downward, (they forming the heavier end) into a chasm in the earth, which the same hurricane makes by uprooting a forest tree. But I ask: Who ordains the atmospheric laws which move hurricanes! Who regulated the law of gravity? Who endued the roots of that sapling, as its twigs are not endued, with the power of drawing nutriment from the moist earth? Did the blind hurricane do all this? Whenever they attempt to account for a result by natural selection, they tacitly avail themselves of a selected adaptation which is, in every case, a priori to the physical results. Who conferred that prior adaptation and power? "If they had not ploughed with our heifer, they had not found out our riddle."

Chapter 03: Divine Attributes of God

Section One—Defending the Faith
Chapter 3: Divine Attributes of God

Syllabus for Lectures 4 & 5:

1. How much can Reason infer of the Attributes of God, His Eternity? How?

Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. 10. Dick, Lecture 17. Dr. S. Clarke, Sect.1, 2, 5. Charnock on Attr. Vol. I, Discourse v.

2. His Unity? How? Turrettin, Qu. 3. Paley, Nat. Theology. Dr. Dick Lecture 18. Dr. S. Clarke, Sect. 7. Maury, Physical Geography of Sea, p. 71.

3. His Spirituality and simplicity? How? Turrettin, Qu. 7. Dick, Lect. 17. Dr. S. Clarke, Sect. 8. Rev. Ro. Hall, Sermon I, Vol. 3d. Thornwell, Lecture 6th, pp. 162-166. Lecture 7th, pp. 186, etc.

4. His Immensity and Infinitude? How? Turrettin, Qu. 8 & 9. Dick, Lecture 19. Dr. S. Clarke, Sect. 6. Charnock, Vol. I, Discourse 7th. Thornwell,

5. His Immutability? Turrettin, Qu. II. Thomwell, Lecture 8, Sect. 5. Dick, Lecture 20th. Dr. S. Clarke, Sect. 2. Charnock, Vol. i, Discourse 6th.

6. Can Reason infer God’s Omnipotence? How? Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. 21. Dr. S. Clarke, Prop. 10th. Dick, Lecture 23. Charnock, Discourse x.

7. His Omniscience? How? Turrettin, Qu. 12. Dr. S. Clarke, Prop. 8 and 11. Dick, Lecture al, 22. Charnock, Discourse 8, Sect. 2.

8. His Righteousness? How? Turrettin, Qu. 19. Dr. S. Clarke, Prop. 12th. Dick, Lecture 25. Chalmers’ Nat. Theology, bk iii, ch. 2. Hodge’s Theology, pt. i, ch. 5, Sect. 12.

9. His Goodness? How? Turrettin, Qu. 20. Dr. S. Clarke, as above. Leibnitz, Theodicee Abregee. Chalmers’ Nat. Theology, bk. iv, ch. 2. Hodge, pt. i, ch, v, a 13. Charnock, Discourse 12.

10. Does Reason show that man bears Moral Relations to God? What are they? And what the Natural Duties deduced?

Butler’s Analogy, pt. i, ch. 2 to 5. Howe’s Living Temple, pt. i, ch. 6th. Dr. S. Clarke’s Discourse. Vol. ii, Prop. 1 to 4 Turrettin, qu. 22.

Traditionary Knowledge Not To Be Separated From Rational, Here.

It is exceedingly hard for us to return an exact answer to the question, How much reason can infer of the attributes of God? Shall we say: "So much as the wisest pagans, like Plato, discovered of them"? It still remains doubtful how much unacknowledged aid he may not have received from Hebrew sources. Many think that Plato received much through Pythagoras and his Egyptian and Mesopotamian researches. Or if we seek to find how far our own minds can go on this subject, without drawing upon the Scriptures, we are not sure of the answer; because when results have been given to us, it is much easier to discover the logical tie between them and their premises, than to detect unaided both proofs and results. Euclid having told us that the square of the hypothenuse equals the squares of the two remaining sides of every right angled triangle, it becomes much easier to hunt up a synthetic argument to prove it, than it would have been to detect this great relation by analysis. But when we approach Natural Theology we cannot forget the attributes which the Scriptures ascribe to God.

1. God’s Eternity.

Regarding the Being of God’s existence, some attributes are clear to us. The first and most obvious of these attributes is that He has no beginning, and no end. By God’s eternity divines also intend a third thing: His existence without succession. These three propositions express their definition of His eternity: existence not related to time. For the first: His being never had a beginning: for had there ever been a time when the First Cause was not, nothing could ever have existed. So natural reason indicates that His being will never end, by this, that all pagans and philosophers make their gods immortal. The account of this conclusion seems to be, that it follows from God’s independence, self-existence, and necessary existence. These show that there can be no cause to make God’s being end. The immortality of the First Cause then is certain, unless we ascribe to it the power and wish of self-annihilation. But neither of these is possible. What should ever prompt God’s will to such a volition? His simplicity of substance (to be separately proved anon) does not permit the act; for the only kind of destruction of which the universe has any experience, is by disintegration. The necessity of God’s existence proves it can never end. The ground of His existence, intrinsic in Himself, is such that it cannot but be operative; witness the fact that, had it been, at any moment of the past infinite duration, inoperative, God and the universe would have been, from that moment, forever impossible.

Is It Unsuccessive?

But that God’s existence is without succession, does not seem so clear to natural reason. It is urged by Turrettin that "God is immense. But if His existence were measured by parts of duration, it would not be incommensurable." This is illogical. Do not the schoolmen themselves say, that essentia and esse are not the same? To measure the continuance of God’s esse by successive parts of time, is not to measure His essence thereby. A similar distinction shows the weakness of Turrettin’s second argument: "That because simple and immutable, He cannot exist in succession, for the flux of being from past to present and present to future would be change, and even change of composition." I reply it is God’s substance which is simple and immutable; that its subsistence should be a continuance in sucession does not imply a change in substance. Nor is it correct metaphysics to say that a subsistence in succession is compounded, namely of the essence and the successive momenta of time through which it is transmitted. (See here, Kant.)

Nor is Dr Dick’s argument even so plausible: That God’s being in a past eternity must be unsuccessive, because an infinite past, composed of successive parts, is impossible; and whatever God’s mode of subsistence was, that it is, and will be. An infinite future made up of a succession of infinitely numerous finite parts is possible, as Dick admits; and so an infinite past thus constituted is equally as possible. Neither is comprehensible to our minds. If Turrettin or Charnock only meant that God’s existence is not a succession marked off by in His essence or states, their reasonings would prove it. But if it is meant that the divine consciousness of its own existence has no relation to successive duration, I think it unproved, and incapable of proof to us. Is not the whole plausibility of the notionthe following: that divines, following that analysis of our idea of our own duration into the succession of our own consciousnesses, (which Locke made so popular in his war against innate ideas,) infer: Since all God’s thoughts and acts are ever equally present with Him, He can have no succession of His consciousnesses; and so, no relation to successive time. But the analysis is false (see Lecture viii,) and would not prove the conclusion as to God, if correct. Though the creature’s consciousnesses constituted an unsuccessive unit act, as God’s do, it would not prove that the consciousness of the former was unrelated to duration. But 2d. In all the acts and changes of creatures, the relation of succession is actual and true. Now, although God’s knowledge of these as it is subjective to Himself, is unsuccessive, yet it is doubtless correct, i.e., true to the objective facts. But these have actual succession. So that the idea of successive duration must be in God’s thinking. Has He not all the ideas we have; and infinitely more? But if God in thinking the objective, ever thinks successive duration, can we be sure that His own consciousness of His own subsistence is unrelated to succession in time? The thing is too high for us. The attempt to debate it will only produce one of those "antinomies" which emerge, when we strive to comprehend the incomprehensible.

2. Unity of God.

Does reason show the First Cause to be one or plural? If the first cause is single, then why is there such a strong tendency toward ploytheism? This may be explained in part by the craving of the common mind for concrete ideas. We may add the causes stated by Turrettin: That man’s sense of weakness and exposure prompts him to lean upon superior strength: That gratitude and admiration persuade him to deify human heroes and benefactors at their deaths: And that the copiousness and variety of God’s agencies have suggested to the incautious a plurality of agents. Hodge (Theol. P. 1, Ch. 3.) seems to regard Pantheism as the chief source of polytheism. He believes that pantheistic conceptions of the universe have been more persistent and prevalent in all ages than any other. "Polytheism has its, origin in nature worship:........and nature worships rests on the assumption that nature is God."

But I am persuaded a more powerful impulse to polytheism arises from the co-action of two natural principles in the absence of a knowledge of God in Christ. One is the sense of weakness and dependence, craving a superior power on whom to lean. The other is the shrinking of conscious guilt from infinite holiness and power. We desire the benefits of knowing God, but shrink from the personal accountability such knowledge implies. The creature needs a God: the sinner fears a God. The expedient "solution" which results is the invention of intermediate and mediating divinities, more able than man to succour, yet less awful than the infinite God. Such is notably the account of the invention of saint worship, in that system of baptized polytheism known as Romanism. And here we see the divine adaptation of Christianity; in that it gives us Christ, very man, our brother: and very God, our Redeemer.

Reason does pronounce God one. But here again, I repudiate weak supports. Argues Turrettin: If there are more than one, all equal, neither is God: if unequal, only the highest is God. This idea of exclusive supremacy is doubtless essential to religious trust; Has it, so far, been shown essential to the conception of a First Cause? Were there two or more independent eternal beings, neither of them would be an infallible object of trust. But has it been proved as yet, that we are entitled to expect such a one? Again, Dr. S. Clarke urges: The First Cause exists necessarily: but (a.) This necessity must operate forever, and everywhere alike, and, (b,) This absolute sameness must make oneness. Does not this savour of Spinozism? Search and see. As to the former proposition: all that we can infer from necessary existence is, that it cannot but be just what it is. What it is, whether singular, dual, plural; that is just the question. As to the 2d proposition, sameness of operation does not necessarily imply oneness of effect. Have two successive nails from the same machine, necessarily numerical identity? Others argue again: We must ascribe to God every conceivable perfection, because, if not, another more perfect might be conceived; and then he would be the God. I reply, yes, if he existed. It is no reasoning to make the capacity of our imaginations the test of the substantive existence of objective things. Again, it is argued more justly, that if we can show that the eternal self-existent Cause must be absolute and infinite in essence, then His exclusive unity follows, for that which is infinite is all-embracing as to that essence. Covering, so to speak, all that kind of being, it leaves no room for anything of its kind coordinate with itself. Just as after defining a universe, we cannot place any creature outside of it: so, if God is infinite, there can be but one. Whether He is infinite we shall inquire.

Argued From Interdependence of All His Effects.

The valid and practical argument, however, for God’s unity is the convergency of design and interdependency of all His works. All dualists, indeed, from Zoroaster to Manes, find their pretexts in the numerous cross-effects in nature, seeming to show cross-purposes: for example, one set of causes produces a fruitful crop: when it is just about to gladden the reaper, it is beaten into the mire by hail, through another set of atmospheric causes. Everywhere poisons are set against food, evil against good, death against life. Are there not two antagonist wills in Nature? Now it is a poor reply, especially to the mind aroused by the vast and solemn question of the origin of evil, or to the heart wrung by irresistible calamity, to say with Paley, that we see similarity of contrivance in all nature. Two hostile kings may wage internecine war, by precisely the same means and appliances. The true answer is, that, question nature as we may, through all her kingdoms, animal, inorganic, celestial, from the minutest disclosures of the microscope, up to the grandest revelations of the telescope, second causes are all inter-dependent; and the designs convergent so far as comprehended, so that each effect depends, more or less directly, on all the others. Reconsider, then, the first instance: The genial showers and suns gave, and the hail destroyed, the grain. But look deeper: They are all parts of one and the same meteorologic system. The same cause exhaled the vapour which made the genial rain and the ruthless hail. Nay, more; the pneumatic currents which precipitated the hail, were constituent parts of a system which, at the same moment, were doing somewhere a work of blessing. Nature is one machine, moved by one mind. Should you see a great mill, at one place delivering its meal to the suffering poor, and at another crushing a sportive child between its iron wheels: it would be hasty to say, "Surely, these must be deeds of opposite agents." For, on searching, you find that there is but one water-wheel, and not a single smaller part which does not inosculate, nearly or remotely, with that. This instance suggests also, that dualism is an inapplicable hypothesis. Is Ormusd stronger than Ahriman? Then he will be victor. Are both equal in power? Then the one would not allow the other to work with his machinery; and the true result, instead of being a mixture of cross-effects, would be a sort of "dead lock" of the wheels of nature.

3. God A Spirit.

We only know substance by its properties; but our reason intuitively compels us to refer the properties known to a subjectum, a substratum of true being, or substantia. We therefore know, first, spiritual substance, as that which is conscious, thinks, feels, and wills; and then material substance, as that which is unconscious, thoughtless, lifeless, inert. To all the latter we are compelled to give some of the attributes of extension; to the former it is impossible to ascribe any of them. Now, therefore, if this first Cause is to be referred to any class of substance known to us, it must be to one of these two. Should it be conceived that there is a third class, unknown to us, to which the first Cause may possibly belong, it would follow, supposing we had been compelled to refer the first Cause to the class of spirits, (as we shall see anon that we must,) that to this third class must also belong all creature spirits as species to a genus. For we know the attributes, those of thought and will, common between God and them; it would be the differentia, which would be unknown. Is the first Cause, then, to be referred to the class, spirits? Yes; because we find it possessed, in the highest possible degree, of every one of the attributes by which we recognize spirit. It thinks; as we know by two signs. It produced us, who think; and there cannot be more in the effect than was in the cause. It has filled the universe with contrivances, the results of thought. It chooses; for this selection of contrivances implies choice. And again, from what source do creatures derive the power of choice, if not from it? It is the first Cause of life; but this is obviously an attribute of spirit, because we find full life nowhere, except we see signs of spirit along with it. The first Cause is the source of force and of motion. But matter shows us, in no form, any power to originate motion. Inertia is its normal condition. We shall find God’s power and presence penetrating and inhabiting all material bodies; but matter has a displacing power, as to all other matter. That which is impenetrable obviously is not ubiquitous.

But may not God be like us, matter and spirit in one person? I answer, No. Because this would be to be organized; but organization can neither be eternal, nor immutable. Again, if He is material, why is it that He is never cognizable to any sense? We know that He is all about us always, yet never visible, audible nor palpable. And last, He would no longer be penetrable to all other matter, nor ubiquitous.

Simplicity of God’s Substance.

Divines are accustomed to assert of the divine substance an absolute simplicity. If by this it is meant that He is uncompounded, that His substance is ineffably homogeneous, that it does not exist by assemblage of atoms, and is not discerptible, it is true. For all this is clear from His true spirituality and eternity. We must conceive of spiritual substance as existing because all the acts, states, and consciousnesses of spirits, demand a simple, uncompounded substance. The same view is probably drawn from His eternity and independence. For the only sort of construction or creation, of which we see anything in our experience, is that made by some aggregation of parts, or composition of substance; and the only kind of death we know is by disintegration. Hence, that which has neither beginning nor end is uncompounded.

But that God is more simple than finite spirits in this, that in Him substance and attribute are one and the same, as they are not in them, I know nothing. The argument is, that as God is immutably what He is, without succession, His essence does not like ours pass from mode to mode of being, and from act to act, but is always all modes, and exerting all acts; His modes and His acts are Himself. God’s thought is God. He is not active, but activity. I reply, that if this means more than is true of a man’s soul, viz: that its thought is no entity, save the soul thinking; that its thought, as abstracted from the soul that thinks it, is only an abstraction and not a thing; it is undoubtedly false. For then we should have reached the pantheistic notion, that God has no other being than the infinite series of His own consciousnesses and Nor would we be far off from the other result of this fell theory; that all that is, is God. For he who has identified God’s acts hence with His being, will next identify the effects thereof, the existence of the creatures therewith.

4. God Is Immense.

Infinitude means the absolutely limitless character of God’s essence. Immensity the absolutely limitless being of His substance. His being, as eternal, is in no sense circumscribed by time; as immense, in no wise circumscribed by space. But let us not conceive of this as a repletion of infinite space by diffusion of particles: like, e. g., an elastic gas released in vacuo. The scholastic formula was, "The whole substance, in its whole essence, is simultaneously present in every point of infinite space, yet without multiplication of itself." This is unintelligible; (but so is His immensity) it may assist to exclude the idea of material extension. God’s omnipresence is His similar presence in all the space of the universe.

Now, to me, it is no proof of His immensity to say, the necessity of His nature must operate everywhere, because absolute from all limitation. The inference does not hold. Nor to say that our minds impel us to ascribe all perfection to God; whereas exclusion from any space would be a limitation; for this is not conclusive of existences without us. Nor to say, that God must be everywhere, because His action and knowledge are everywhere, and these are but His essence acting and knowing. Were the latter true, it would only prove God’s omnipresence. But so far as reason apprehends His immensity, it seems to my mind to be a deduction from His omnipresence. The latter we deduce from His simultaneous action and knowledge, everywhere and perpetually, throughout His universe. Now, let us not say that God is nothing else than His acts. Let us not rely on the dogma of the mediaeval physicks: "That substance cannot act save where it is present." But God, being the first Cause, is the source of all force. He is also pure spirit. Now we may admit that the sun (by its attraction of gravitation) may act upon parts of the solar system removed from it by many millions of miles; and that, without resorting to the hypothesis of an elastic ether by which to propagate its impulse. It may be asked: if the sun’s action throughout the solar system fails to prove His presence throughout it, how does God’s universal action prove His omnipresence? The answer is in the facts above stated. There is no force originally inherent in matter. The power which is deposited in it, must come from the first Cause, and must work under His perpetual superintendence. His, not theirs, is the recollection, intelligence, and purpose which guide. Now, as we are conscious that our intelligence only acts where it is present, and where it perceives, this view of Providence necessarily impels us to impute omnipresence to this universal cause. For the power of the cause must be where the effect is.

But now, having traced His being up to the extent of the universe, which is to us practically immense, why limit it there? Can the mind avoid the inference that it extends farther? If we stood on the boundary of the universe, and some angel should tell us that this was "the edge of the divine substance," would it not strike us as contradictory? Such a Spirit, already seen to be omnipresent, has no bounding outline. Again, we see God doing and regulating so many things over so vast an area, and with such absolute sovereignty, that we must believe His resources and power are absolute within the universe. But it is practically boundless to us. To succeed always inside of it, God must command such a multitude of relations, that we are practically impelled to the conclusion, that there are no relations, and nothing to be related, outside His universe. But if His power is exclusive of all other, in all infinite space, we can scarcely avoid the conclusion that His substance is in all space.

God Is Infinite.

By passing from one to another of God’s attributes, and discovering their boundless character, we shall at last establish the infinitude of His essence or nature. It is an induction from the several parts.

5. By GOD’S IMMUTABILITY we mean that He is incapable of change. As to His attributes, His nature, his purposes, He remains the same from eternity to eternity. Creation and other acts of God in time, imply no change in Him; for the purpose to do these acts at that given time was always in Him, just as when He effected them. This attribute follows from His necessary existence; which is such that He cannot be any other than just what He is. It follows from his self-existence and independence; there being none to change Him. It follows from His simplicity: for how can change take place, when there is no composition to be changed? It follows from His perfection; for being infinite, He cannot change for the better; and will not change for the worse. Scarcely any attribute is more clearly manifested to the reason then God’s immutability.

God Is All Powerful.

When we enquire after God’s power we mean here, not his potestas, or exousia, authority, but His potentia or dunamis. When we say: He can do all things, we do not mean that He can suffer, or be changed, or be hurt; for the passive capacity of these things is not power, but weakness or defect. We ascribe to God no passive power. When we say that God’s power is omnipotence, we mean that its object is only the possible, not the absolutely impossible. Here, however, we must again define, that by the absolutely impossible, we do not mean the physically impossible. For we see God do many things above nature, [fusi";] that is above what material, or human, or angelic nature can effect. But we mean the doing of that which implies an inevitable contradiction. Some, such as the Lutherans of the older school, say it is a depreciation of God’s omnipotence, to limit it by the inevitable self-contradiction: [that He is able to confer actual ubiquity on Christ’s material body.] But we object: Popularly, God’s omnipotence may be defined as His ability to do all things. Now of two incompatibles, both cannot become entities together; for, by the terms of the case, the entity of the one destroys that of the other. But if they are not, and cannot be both things, the power of doing all things does not embrace the doing of incompatibles. But and, more conclusively; if even omnipotence could effect both of two contradictories, then the self-contradictory would become the true; which is impossible for man to believe. Hence, 3d., the assertion would infringe the foundation principle of all truth, the law of non-contradiction, which affirmsthat a thing cannot be one thing, and not another thing, in the same sense, and at the same time..

We may add, 4th, that power is that which produces an effect; and every effect is a change. Therefore the absolutely changeless is not subject to power; whether that power is finite or infinite. Here is an application of my remark, which no reflecting person will dispute: The event which has actually happened at some past time, is, as such, irrevocable. Even omnipotence has no relevancy towards recalling it. So, when a given effect is in place, the contradictory effect is as absolutely precluded from the same time and place. There is no room for change; and therefore, no room for power.

But between these limits, we believe God is omnipotent: That is, His power is absolute as to all being. In proof, note: He obviously has great power; He has enough to produce all the effects in the universe. Cause implies power: He is the universal first Cause. 2d. His power is at least equal to the aggregate of all the forces in the universe, of every kind; because all sprang from Him at first. A mechanic constructs a machine far stronger than himself; it is because he borrows the forces of nature. There was no source from which God could borrow. He must needs produce all those forces of nature Himself; and He sustains them. 3d. God is one, and all the rest is produced by Him; so, since all the forces that exist, except His own, depend on Him, they cannot limit His force. It is absolutely unlimited, save by its own nature. And now, the exhibition of it already made in creation is so vast and varied, embracing (probably) the very existence of matter, and certainly its whole organization, the very existence of finite spirits, and all their attributes, end the government of the whole, that this power is practically to us immense. 4th. We have found God immutable. Whatever He once did, He can do again. He is as able to go on making universes such as this indefinitely, as to make this. 5th. He does not exist by succession; and He is able to make two or more at once, as well as successively. It is hard to conceive how power can be more infinite than this.

God’s Power Immediate.

Once more, God’s power must be conceived of as primarily immediate; i. e., His simple volition is its effectuation; and no means interpose between the will and the effect. Our wills operate on the whole external world through our members; and they, often, through implements, still more external. But God has no members; so that we must conceive of His will as producing its effects on the objects thereof as immediately as our wills do on our bodily members. Moreover the first exertion of God’s power must have been immediate; for at first nothing existed to be means. God’s immutability assures us that the power of so acting is not lost to Him. The attribution of such immediate power to God does not deny that He also acts through "second causes."

2. Wisdom Distinguished From Knowledge.

None who believe in God have ever denied to Him knowledge and wisdom. Wisdom is the employment of things known, with judicious reference to proper ends. Now God is Spirit: but to think, to know, to choose are the very powers of spirits. The universe is full of beautiful contrivances. These exhibit knowledge, wisdom, and choice, coextensive with the entirety of the whole.

God’s Knowledge of Two Kinds.

But I had best pause and explain the usual distinctions made in God’s knowledge. His scientia visonis, or Libras, is His knowledge of whatever has existence before His view; that is, of all that is, has been, or is decreed to be. His scientia intelligentiae, or simplex (uncompounded with any volition) is His infinite conception of all the possible, which He does not purpose to effectuate. Others add a scientia media, which they suppose to be His knowledge of contingent effects including chiefly the future free and responsible acts of free agents. They call it mediate, because they suppose God foreknows these acts only inferentially, by means of His knowledge of their characters and circumstances. But Calvinists regard all this as God’s scientia visionis. Let us see whether, in all these directions, God’s knowledge is not without limit.

Proved From God’s Will.

First, I begin from the simple fact that He is spiritual and omnipotent First Cause. All being save His own is the offspring of His will. Grant a God, and the doctrine of a providence is almost self-evident to the reason. This refers not only phenomena of specific creation, but all phenomena, to God’s will. If any thing or event has actuality, it is because He has willed it. But now, can volition be conceived, in a rational spirit, except as conditioned on cognition a priori to itself? 1st, a knowledge is implied in God, a priori to and coextensive with His whole purpose. But because this purpose (that of universal almighty First Cause) includes the whole that has been, is, and shall be; and since volition does not obscure, but fix the cognition which is the object thereof, God has a scientia visionis, embracing all the actual. 2nd. Will implies selection: there must be more in the a priori cognition than is in the volition. Hence God’s scientia simplex or knowledge of the possible, is wider than his scientia visionis. This view will be found to have settled the question between us and Arminians, whether God purposes the acts of free agents because He has foreseen their certain futurition, or whether their futurition is certain because He has purposed them. Look and see.

Knowledge and Wisdom Seen In His Works.

But more popularly; all God’s works reveal marks of His knowledge, thought and wisdom. But these works are so vast, so varied, so full of contrivance, they disclose to us a knowledge practically boundless. His infinite power implies omniscience, for "knowledge is power." Certain success implies full knowledge of means and effects. We saw God is omnipresent; but He is spirit. Therefore, He knows all that is present to Him; for it is the nature of spirit to know. A parallel argument arises from God’s providence; (which reason unavoidably infers.) The ends which are subserved show as much knowledge and wisdom as the structure of the beings used—so that we see evidence of complete knowledge of all second causes, including reasonable agents and their acts. For so intimate is the connection of cause with cause, that perfect knowledge of the whole alone can certify results from any. Here also we learn, God’s knowledge of past and future is as perfect as of present things; for the completion of far-reaching plans, surely evolved from their remote causes, implies the retention by God of all the past, and the clear anticipation of all the future. Nay, what ground of certain futurition is there, save that God purposes it? His omnipotence here shows that He has a complete foreknowledge; because that which is to be is no other than what He purposes. God’s immutability proves also His perfect knowledge of past, present, and future. Did He discover new things, these might become bases for new purposes, or occasions of new volitions, and God would no longer be the same in will. God’s omniscience is implied also in all His moral attributes; for if He does not perform His acts understandingly, He is not praiseworthy in them. Last, our consciences reveal an intuition of God’s infinite knowledge; for our fears recognize Him as seeing our most secret, as well as our public acts. His unfading knowledge of the past is especially pointed out by conscience; for whenever she remembers, she takes it for granted that God does. Hence we find God’s scientia visionis is a perfect knowledge, past, present, and future, of all beings and all their actions, including those of moral agents.

2. Scientia Simplex Inferred.

How do we infer His knowledge of the possible? A reasonable being must first conceive, in order to produce. He cannot make, save as He first has his own idea, to make by. God then, before He began to make the universe, must have had in His mind a conception, in all its details, of whatever He was to effectuate. Let me, in passing, call your attention to a difference between the human and the divine imagination, which is suggested here. You are all familiar with the assertion of the psychologists, that our imaginations cannot create elements of conception, but only new combinations. The original elements, which this faculty reconstructs into new images, must first be given to the mind from without, through sense-perception. Hence, in human conception, the thing must be before the thought; but in God’s, the thought must have been before the thing, for the obvious reason, that the thing could only come into existence by virtue of God’s conception a priori to any objective perception. It is therefore demonstrable, that the divine mind has this power, which is impossible to the human imagination. Such is the difference between the independent, infinite, and the dependent, finite spirit. But even in this contrast, we see that the imagination is one of man’s noblest faculties, and most godlike. But, to return: All that is now in esse, must have been thought by God, while only in posse, and before it existed. How long before? As God changes not, it must have been from eternity. There then was a knowledge of the possible. But was that which is now actual, the only possible before God’s thought? Sovereignty implies selection; and this, two or more things to chose among. And unless God had before Him the ideas of all possible universes, He may not have chosen the one which, had He known more, would have pleased Him best; His power was limited. In conclusion, the infallibility of all God’s knowledge is implied in His power. Ordinarily, he chooses to work only through regular second causes. But causes and effects are so linked that any uncertainty in one jeopardizes all the subsequent. But we see that God is possessed of some way of effectuating all His will. Therefore He infallibly knows all causes; but each effect is in turn a cause.

God’s Knowledge All Primitive.

We must also believe that God knows all things intuitively and not deductively. A deduction is a discovery To discover something implies previous imperfection of knowledge. God’s knowledge, moreover, is not successive as ours is, but simultaneous. Inference implies succession; for conclusion comes after premise.

3. Rectitude.

God’s righteousness, as discoverable by reason, means, generally, His rectitude, and not His distributive justice. Is He a moral being? Is His will regulated by right? Reason answers, yes; by justice, by faithfulness, by goodness, by holiness.

Rectitude of God Proven By Bishop Butler.

First, because this character is manifest in the order of nature which He has established. This argument cannot be better stated than in the method of Bishop Butler. 1. God is Governor over man; as appears from the fact that in a multitude of cases, He rewards our conduct with pleasures and pains. For the order of Nature, whether maintained by God’s present providence, or impressed on it at first only, is God’s doing; its rewards are His rewarding. 2. The character of proper rewards, and especially punishments, appears clearly in these traits. They follow acts, though pleasant in the doing. They sometimes tarry long, and at last fall violently. After men have gone certain lengths, repentance and reform are vain, etc. 3. The reward and penalties of society go to confirm the conclusion, because they are of God’s ordaining. Second; This God’s rule is moral; because the conduct which earns well-being is virtuous; and ill-being, sinful. True remedial processes, such as repentance, reform, have their peculiar pains; but these are chargeable rather to the sin, than the remedy. True again; the wicked sometimes prosper; but natural reason cannot but regard this as an exception, which future awards will right. Further: Society (which is God’s ordinance,) usually rewards virtue and punishes vice. Love of approbation is instinctive; but God hence teaches men most generally to approve the right. And last: How clear the course of Nature makes God’s approval of the right appear, is seen in this; that all virtuous societies tend to self-perpetuation in the long run, and all vicious ones to self-extinction. Third: Life is full of instances of probation, as seed-time for harvest, youth for old age, which indicates that man is placed under a moral probation here.

God’s Rectitude Argued From Conscience.

But a most powerful argument for God’s rectitude is that presented by the existence of conscience in man. Its teachings are universal. Do some deny its intuitive authority, asserting it to be only a result of habit or policy? It is found to be a universal result; and this proves that God has laid in us some intentional foundation for the result. Now, whatever, the differences of moral opinion, the peculiar trait of conscience is that it always enjoins that which seems to the person right. It may be disregarded; but the man must think, if he thinks at all, that in doing so, he has done wrong. The act it condemns may give pleasure; but the wickedness of the act, if felt at all, can only give pain. Conscience is the imperative faculty. Now if God had not conceived the moral distinction, He could not have imprinted it on us. But is His will governed by it? Does he not, from eternity, know extension as an object of thought, an attribute of matter; and sin, as a quality of the rebel creature? Yet He Himself is neither extended, nor evil. The reply is: since God has, from eternity, had the idea of moral distinction, from what source is it derived, save from His own perfection? In what being is it illustrated, if not in Himself? But more, conscience is God’s imperative in the human soul. This is its peculiarity among rational judgments. But since God implanted conscience, its imperative is the direct expression of His will, that man shall act righteously. But when we say, that every known expression of a being’s will is for the right, this is virtually to say that he wills always righteously. The King’s character is disclosed in the character of his edicts.

God’s truth and faithfulness are evinced by the same arguments; and by these, in addition. The structure of our senses and intelligence, and the adaptation of external nature thereto, are His handiwork. Now, when our senses and understanding are legitimately used, their informations are always found, so far as we have opportunity to test them, correspondent to reality. One sense affirms the correctness of another. Senses confirm reasonings, and vice versa. Last, unless we can postulate truth in God, there is no truth anywhere. For our laws of perception and thought being His imprint, if His truth cannot be relied on, their truth cannot, and universal skepticism is the result.

4. God’s Benevolence.

"The world is full of the goodness of the Lord." I only aim to classify the evidences that God is benevolent. And 1st, generally: since God is the original Cause of all things, all the happiness amidst His works is of His doing; and therefore proves His benevolence. But more definitely; the natures of all orders of sentient beings, if not violated, are constructed, in the main, to secure their appropriate well-being. Instance the insect, the fish, the bird, the ox, the man. 3d. Many things occur in the special providence of God which show Him benevolent; such as providing remedial medicines, etc., for pain, and special interpositions in danger. 4th. God might, compatibly with justice, have satisfied Himself with so adapting external nature to man’s senses and mind as to make it minister to his being and intelligence, and secure the true end of his existence, without, in so doing, making it pleasant to his senses. Our food and drink might have nourished us, our senses of sight and hearing might have informed us, without making food sweet, light beautiful, and sounds melodious to us. And yet appetite might have impelled us to use our senses and take our food. Such, in a word, is God’s goodness, that He turns aside to strew incidental enjoyment. The more unessential these are to His main end, the stronger the argument. 5th. God has made all the beneficent emotions, love sympathy, benevolence, forgiveness, delightful in their exercise; and all the malevolent ones, as resentment, envy, revenge, painful to their subjects; hence teaching us that He would have us propagate happiness and diminish pain. Last: Conscience, which is God’s imperative, enjoins benevolence on us as one duty, whenever compatible with others. Benevolence is therefore God’s will; and doubtless, He who wills us to be so, is benevolent Himself.

No Pagan theist ever has doubted God’s providence. You may refer me to the noted case of the Epicureans; they were practical atheists. Their notion that it was derogatory to the blessedness and majesty of the gods to be wearied with terrestrial affairs, betrays in one word a false conception of the divine perfections. Fatigue, confusion, worry, are the result of weakness and limitation. To infinite knowledge and power the fullest activities are infinitely easy, and so, pleasurable. Common sense argues from the perfection of God, that He does uphold and direct all things by His Providence. His wisdom and power enable Him to it. His goodness and justice certainly impel Him to it; for it would be neither benevolent nor just, having brought sentient beings into existence, to neglect their welfare, rights and guilt. God’s wisdom will certainly prosecute those suitable ends for which He made the universe, by superintending it. To have made it without an object; or, having one, to overlook that object wholly after the world was already made, would neither of them argue a wise being. The manifest dependence of the creature confirms the argument.

Existence of Evil. How Explained.

But there stands out the great fact of the existence of much suffering in the universe of God; and reason asks: "If God is almighty, all-wise, sovereign, why, if benevolent, did He admit any suffering in His world? Has He not chosen it because He is pleased with it per se?" It is no answer to say: God makes the suffering the means of good, and so chooses it, not for its own sake, but for its results. If He is omnipotent and all-wise, He could have produced the same quantum of good by other means, leaving out the suffering. Is it replied: No, that the virtues of sympathy, forgiveness, patience, submission, could have had no existence unless suffering existed? I reply that then their absence would have been no blemish or lack in the creature’s character. It is only because there is suffering, that sympathy therewith is valuable. Suppose it be said again: "All physical evil is the just penalty of moral evil," and so necessitated by God’s justice? The great difficulty is only pushed one step farther back. For, while it is true, sin being admitted, punishment ought to follow, the question returns: Why did the Almighty permit sin, unless He be defective in holiness as in benevolence? It is no theodicee to say that God cannot always exclude sin, without infringing free agency; for I prove, despite all Pelagians, from Celestius downwards, that God can do it, by His pledge to render elect angels and men indefectible for ever. Does God then choose sin? This is the mighty question, where a theodicee has been so often attempted in vain. The most plausible theory is that of the optimist; that God saw this actual universe, though involving evil, is on the whole the most beneficent universe, which was possible in the nature of things. For they argue, in support of that proposition: God being infinitely good and wise, cannot will to bring out of posse into esse, a universe which is on the whole, less beneficent than any possible universe. The obvious objections to this Beltistic scheme are two. It assumes without warrant, that the greatest natural good of creation is God’s highest end in creating and governing the universe. We shall see, later in this course, how this assumption discloses itself as a grave error; and in the hands of the followers of Leibnitz and the optimists, vitiates their whole theory of morals and their doctrine of atonement. The other objection is, that it limits the power of God. Being infinite, He could have made a universe including a quantum of happiness equal to that in our universe, and exclusive of our evils.

Optimist Theory Modified.

But there is a more legitimate and defensible hypothesis. It is not competent to us to say that the beneficence of result is, or ought to be, God’s chief ultimate end in creation and providence. It is one of His worthy ends; this is all we should assert. But may we not assume that doubtless there is a set of ends, (no man may presume to say what all the parts of that collective end are,) which God eternally sees to be the properest ends of His creation and providence? I think we safely may. Doubtless those ends are just such as they ought to be, with reference to all God’s perfections; and the proper inference from those perfections is, that He is producing just such a universe, in its structure and management, as will, on the whole, most perfectly subserve that set of ends. In this sense, and no other, I am an optimist. But now, let us make this all-important remark: When the question is raised, whether a God of infinite power can be benevolent in permitting natural, and holy in permitting moral evil, in His universe, the burden of proving the negative rests on the doubter. We who hold the affirmative are entitled to the presumption, because the contrivances of creation and providence are beneficent so far as we comprehend them. Even the physical and moral evils in the universe are obviously so overruled, as to bring good out of evil. (Here is the proper value in the argument, of the instances urged by the optimist: that suffering makes occasion for fortitude and sympathy, etc., etc.; and that even man’s apostacy made way for the glories of Redemption.) The conclusion from all these beautiful instances is, that so far as finite minds can follow them, even the evils tend towards the good. Hence, the presumptive probability is in favor of a solution of the mystery, consistent with the infinite perfections of God. To sustain that presumption against the impugner, we have only to make the hypothesis, that for reasons we cannot see, God saw it was not possible to separate the existing evils from that system which, as a whole, satisfied His own properest ends. Now let the skeptic disprove that hypothesis! To do so, he must have omniscience. Do you say, I cannot demonstrate it? Very true; for neither am I omniscient. But I have proved that the reasonable presumption is in favor of the hypothesis; that it may be true, although we cannot explain how it comes to be true.

Man’s Duties To God.

IF we admit the existence and moral perfections of God, no one will dispute that man is related to Him in the moral realm. This relation is apparent simply from the fact that man is a moral being who has been constituted by God, man’s Creator and providential Ruler. Human accountability to God may also be inferred from the marks of a probation, and the existence of a moral standard appearing in the course of nature. And our moral relation to God is emphatically pronounced by the native supremacy of conscience, commanding us to obey. Rational Deists as well as Natural Theologians have attempted to deduce the duties men owes his Creator. Usually, these duties usually are categorized into four general rules, the first: Reverent and grateful Love, 2. Obedience, 3. Penitence, and 4. Worship. The rule of obedience, is, of course, in natural religion, the law of nature in the conscience.

Chapter 04: Materialism

Section One—Defending the Faith
Chapter 4: Materialism

Syllabus for Lecture 6:

1. What use is attempted, of the physical doctrine of the "Correlation of Forces," by recent Materialists?

2. State and refute the theory which seeks to identify animal life with vegetable, in protoplasm.

3. Show the connection between Materialism and Atheism; and the moral results of the latter.

See Hodge’s Systematic Theology, Vol. I, pp. 246 to 299. Turrettin Locus V. Qu. 14th. Lay Sermons of Dr. Th. Huxley. Dr. Stirling on "Physical Basis of Life." Dr. Thomas Brown, Lectures, 96th.

Soul’s Immateriality Involves Immortality.

Dr. Thomas Brown, in his Lectures, very properly remarks that the question of man’s immortality is involved with that of the immateriality of his soul. There is, indeed, a small class of materialists, who might hold man’s immortality, without contradicting themselves. It is that which, like Thomas Jefferson, believed that the soul, while distinct from the body, and an independent, personal substance and monad, is some refined species of matter. They are willing to recognize only one kind of substance. But modern materialists usually deny that there is any such separate substance as soul. They regard its functions, whether of intelligence, feeling, or volition, as all results of some organization of matter. They consequently believe, that when dissolution separates the body into its elements, what men call the soul is as absolutely obliterated, as is the color or fragrance or form of a rose, when its substance has molded into dust. We utterly deny both forms of materialism. My purpose at this time is to consider a class of arguments, now again current, which may be called the physical arguments, upon the nature of life and spirit. The psychological arguments, if I may so term them, will be presented afterwards.

Does Correlation of Forces Prove Soul A Force Only?

We have seen how evolutionists seek to identify human, with animal life; by supposing man to have been slowly evolved even from the lowest form of animated creatures. If the success of this be granted, then only one more step will remain. This will be to identify animal, with vegetable life. Hence, all evidence of any separate substance of life, ( anima) will be removed. This last step, Dr. Huxley, for instance, undertakes to supply, in his Physical Basis of Life. Before we proceed to state this theory, however, the way must be prepared, by exposing the use attempted to be made of the modern physical doctrine of the "correlation of forces." Sound reflection would seem to indicate, that when a given physical force appears, it does not rise ex nihilo, and does not suffer annihilation when it seems to end. It is transmuted into some other form of force. Thus, in the boiler of a steam engine, so many degrees of caloric absorbed into a given volume of water, evolve so many pounds’ weight of lifting force. In like manner, it is now supposed that light, heat, electricity, chemical affinity, are all correlated. If we knew enough of physics, it is supposed we should find, that one of these forces might always be measured in terms of the others. When one of them seems to disappear, it is because it is transmuted into some other. The doctrine, in this sense, is held by many Christian physicists: and in this form, Theology has nothing to do with it either for denial or affirmation. But recent materialists catch at it for an anti-theological use. They would have us infer from it, that all physical causes are identical. Then, say they, this analogy should lead us to conclude the same of what have hitherto been called vital causes; that in short, there is but one cause in Nature, and that is of the nature of force; while all effects are accordingly of the nature of material motion. Thus, the converging lines of science, say they, point to a central Force, as the only God, which the rational man will accept. All the universe is the one substance (if it be a substance) matter. And all effects are forms of material motion, molecular or in masses.

All Forces Not Proved To Be Correlated.

It is obvious that this is at best, but a vague speculation. I deny that its basis in physical science has been solidly settled, even could we grant that the use made of that basis was not utterly licentious. Has the force of gravity been yet correlated with heat, light and electricity? It seems fatal to such an idea, that a mass still has the same gravity, while its calorific and electrical conditions are most violently changed! It may well be doubted, whether the force of mechanical adhesion between the atoms of homogeneous solids, is identical with chemical affinity, or with electricity, or heat. The latter diminishes the atomic adhesion of solid iron, or gold, reducing it to a liquid? But at the same time it increases the cohesion of clay.

Again, that this hypothesis in its extreme form, is by no means proved, appears from the ease with which a counter-hypothesis may be advanced, which physicists are not able absolutely to exclude. Let it be supposed that material forces are permanent properties of the different kinds of matter in which they severally inhere. Let it be supposed that these forces are truly distinct from each other, and intrinsically ever present, in the sense of being always ready to act. Then, all that is needed to cause the action of a given force, is to release it from the counteraction of some other force; which has hitherto counterpoised it, hence producing for the time, a non-action which appeared to be rest. Then, every physical effect would be the result of a concurrence of two or more forces; and each force would forever maintain intrinsically, its distinct integrity. This hypothesis has very plausible supports in a number of physical facts; and it is in strict accordance with the metaphysics of causation. But, not to intrude into physics: we might grant the identity of these forces of dead matter, and yet deny that they are correlated to vitality. No one has ever succeeded in transmuting any of them into vital causation, nor in measuring vitality in the terms of any of these forces. To say that all thought and volition are attended by muscular contractions, and oscillations of the nerve-matter of the brain, is very far from showing that they constitute them. Let it be proved that the nerve force in a human muscle is electrical. Let it be observed that surprise, shame, fear, or muscular exertion, stimulate the animal heat, and that the caloric in a blush upon the cheek of youth is as literally caloric as that in the boiler of a steam engine. To what does all this come? Who or what uses these modifications of organs? The living spirit. This muscular action is quiescent at one time, active at another, at the bidding of spirit. The eyes and ears may carry to that spirit the objective sensations which are the occasions of emotion; but the emotion is always from within. Let the state of the firing spirit be changed: and the occasional cause has no more power to raise the glow of hot blood, or to nerve the arm, than in a stone. As a Christian writer has well replied: the attempt to identify vital, or spiritual causation with material forces would tee exploded by this one instance. Let opprobrious words be addressed to a plain Briton in the French language: and no pulse is quickened, no nerve becomes tense. Now translate the insult into English: at once his cheek burns, and his arm is nerved to strike. Why this? The French words were as audible as the English, they vibrated to the same degree upon the auditory nerves. But to the spirit of the Briton, there was no meaning. A mere idea has made all this difference. The cause is solely in a mental modification, of which the material phenomenon was merely occasion. Tyndal himself confesses that this argument of the materialists is naught: that though they had proved all they profess to prove, there is an unbridged chasm between force and life.

Vital Cause Heterogeneous.

For, in the next place, physical force and vital causation are heterogeneous. The former, in all its phases, is unintelligent, involuntary, measurable by weight and velocity, and quantity of matter affected, producing motion, mechanical or molecular, and tending to equilibrium. All animal life has some species of spontaneity. Spirit, as a cause, has the unique attribute of freeagency, the opposite of inertia, self-active, directive. Mind and its modifications cannot be measured in any physical terms or quantities; and therefore they cannot be correlated. Volition controls or directs force; it is not transmuted into it. If we descend to the lowest forms of animal vitality, we still find a gulf between it and dead matter, which science never has passed over. No man has ever educed life, without the use of a germinal vital cause. This vital cause, again, resists the material forces. When it departs, caloric and chemical affinities resume their sway over the matter of the body lately living, as over any similar matter; but as long as the vital cause is present, it is directly antagonistic to them.

Is There A Physical Basis of Life?

Huxley, who himself admits that there is no genesis of life from died matter, yet very inconsistently attempts to find a physical basis of life, common to animals and plants, in a substance whose molecules are chemically organized, which he calls protoplasm. He asserts that this, however varied, always exhibits a threefold unity, of faculty, of form and of substance. First, the faculties are alike in all; contractility, alimentation, and reproduction. All vegetable things are sensitive plants, if we knew them, and the difference of these functions in the lowest plant and highest animal, is only one of degree! Secondly, Protoplasm is everywhere identical in molecular form. And, thirdly, its substance is always oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon. The fate, then, of all protoplasm is death: that is, dissolution into its four elements; and its origin is the chemical union of the same. Does the compound display properties very different from the elements? So has water properties very unlike the mixture of two volumes of oxygen and hydrogen gas. Yet, the electric spark flashed through them awakens the chemical affinity, which makes water. So, a little speck of pre-existing protoplasm causes these dead elements to arrange themselves into new protoplasm.

There is, then, no more cause to assume in the living organism, a new and mysterious cause, above that of chemical affinity, and to name it vitality! than in the other case, an imaginary property of "aquosity." And, as a certain chemical aggregation of the four elements is protoplasm, the basis of all life; so the higher vital functions, including those of mind, must be explained by the same force, acting in a more complicated way.

No Basis of Life Except the Cell.

For the facts which explode this theory, we are, of course, dependent on physiologists. The most experienced of them, then, declare that the most rudimental vitalized organism which the microscope discloses, is not Dr. Huxley’s protoplasm, but a living tissue cell, with its vital power of nutrition and reproduction. That all protoplasm, or living protein, is not alike in form, nor in constituent elements; and so marked is this, that microscopists know the different sources of these varieties of protein, by their appearance. That different vitalities construct different forms of protein out of the same elements. That some forms are utterly incapable of being nourished by some other forms; which should not be the case, were all protoplasm the same. That while vegetable vitality can assimilate dead matter, animal vitality can only assimilate matter which has been prepared for it by vegetable (or animal) vitality. And, that all protoplasm is not endowed with contractility; so that the pretended basis for animal motion does not exist in it.

Life Not Explained By Chemical Affinity.

The seemingly plausible point in this chemical theory of life is the attempted parallel between the production of water and of protoplasm. Asks Huxley: "Why postulate an imaginary cause, ‘vitality,’ in this case, rather than ‘aquosity,’ over and above chemical affinity, in the other?" The answer is that this analogy is false, both as to the causes and the effects, in the two cases. In the production of water from the two gases, the occasion is the electrical spark; the real, efficient cause is the affinity of the oxygen for the hydrogen. In the reproduction of living tissue, the efficient cause is a portion of preexisting living tissue, present, of the same kind. The proof is, that if this be absent all the chemical affinities and electrical currents in the world are vain. The elements of a living tissue are held together, not by chemical affinities, but by a cause heterogeneous thereto, yea, adverse; the departure of which is the signal for those affinities to begin their action; which action is to break up the tissue. As to the effects in the two cases: In the production of water, the electric spark is the occasion for releasing the action of an affinity, which produces a compound substance. In the case of the living organism, there is an effect additional to composition: This is life. Here, I repeat, is an effect wholly in excess of the other case, which affinity cannot imitate.

Protoplasm dead, and subject to the decomposing action of affinities (as water is of the metals) is the true analogue of water.

Has No Verification.

But this theory has another defect, the fatal nature of which Huxley himself has pointed out: the defect of actual verification. No man has ever communicated life to dead, compounded matter. Let the materialist make a living animal in his chemical laboratory; then only will his hypothesis begin to rise out of the region of mere dreams. There are, in fact, four spheres or worlds of creature existence, the inorganic, or mineral, the vegetable, the animal and the human, or spiritual. Notwithstanding analogies between them (which are just what reason expects between the different works of the same divine Architect) they are separated by inexorable bounds. No man has ever changed mineral matter into a vegetable structure, without the agency of a preexistent living germ; nor vegetable matter into animal, without a similar animal germ; nor animal into spiritual, save by the agency of the birth of a rational soul. The scientific, as much as the theological conclusion, is: That there is in vegetable structures, a distinct, permanent cause, additional to those which combine mineral bodies; that there is another in the animal, distinct from the mineral and vegetable; and still another in the spiritual, distinct from the other three. The inference is a posteriori, and bears the test of every canon of sound induction.

All Life Shows Design.

This suggests our next point of reply. There is, in living tissue, a something more than the physical causes which organize it:

Design. We have diverse and ingenious organs, wonderfully designed for their different essential functions. Now, design is a thought! Yea, more; intentional adaptation discloses a personal volition. Suppose that molecular and chemical affinities could make "protoplasm," can they educe design, thought, wisdom, choice? Dr. Stirling admirably illustrates this licentious assumption of Huxley, (referring still to Paley’s illustration of a newly found watch): "Protoplasm breaks up into carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen? True. The watch breaks up similarly into brass, steel, gold and glass. The loose materials of the watch [even its chemical materials, if you will] replace its weight quite as accurately as the constituents, carbon, etc., replace the weight of the ‘protoplasm.’ But neither these nor those replace the vanished idea, which was the important element. Mr. Huxley saw no break in the series of steps in molecular complication; but, though not molecular, it is difficult to understand what more striking, what more absolute break could be desired, than the break into an idea. It is of that break alone that we think in the watch; and it is of that break alone that we should think, in the protoplasm, which, far more cunningly, far more rationally, constructs a heart, or an eye, or an ear. That is the break of breaks; and explain it as we may, we shall never explain it by molecules."

Here, then, is a fatal chasm in the materialistic scheme. It not only supposes, falsely, that chemical affinities, cohesion, can account for living substance; but that the force of this "protoplasm," unintelligent, blind, involuntary, has exerted thought, wisdom and rational choice in selecting ends and adapted means. Even if the powers claimed for "protoplasm" were granted, still a Creator, to give us the first protoplasm with which to start, would be as essential as ever. For the scientific fact still remains, that only living structures reproduce living structures.

Scheme Materialistic.

Finally, see these words of Huxley: "But I bid you beware that, in accepting these conclusions" (as to "protoplasm") "you are placing your feet on the first rung of a ladder which, in most people’s estimation, is the reverse of Jacob’s, and leads to the antipodes of heaven. It may seem a small thing to admit, that the dull, vital actions of a fungus or a foraminifer are the properties" (meaning chemical and molecular) "of their protoplasm, and are the direct results of the nature of the matter of which they are composed. But if, as I have endeavored to prove to you, their protoplasm is identical with, and most readily converted into, that of any animal, I can discover no logical halting place between the admission that such is the case, and the concession that all vital action may, with equal propriety, be said to be the result of the molecular forces of the protoplasm which; displays it. And if so, it must be true, in the same sense, and to the same extent, that the thoughts to which I am now giving utterance, and your thoughts regarding them, are expressions of molecular in that matter of life, which is the source of other vital phenomena" (Lay Sermons p. 38).

This pretended reasoning I present to you as a specimen of the absurd and licentious methods by which the attempt is made to overthrow at once the almost universal convictions off rational men, and the declarations of God’s word. The conclusions I utterly deny, even if the premises were granted. If it were proved (which is not) that vegetable life was no more than the result of adhesion and chemical affinity, this would come wholly short of the identification of animal life with vegetable. If rudimental animal life were identified with chemical action, this would be utterly short of proving that mental action is identical with the other two. The chasm between animal and spiritual action, is as impassable as ever. As we have seen, the unconscious, vegetable organism contains, in its adaptation to its end, a mark of thought about it, which cannot be overlooked. But now, the intelligent being has thought in it also; making a double and an insuperable difficulty to the materialist. For thought and rational choice cannot possibly be referred to a substance extended, inert, passive and involuntary. These functions of spirit are heterogeneous with all other forces, not measured by them, and not capable of transmutation into them. But we are now upon the threshold of the psychological argument against materialism.

The tendency of Dr. Darwin’s speculations is to obliterate the distinction between man and the brutes; man is thus virtually also made into a beast. Yet, Huxley takes it further. Huxley would have us end by reducing both beast and man to the level of the clod. Why is it that any mind possessed even of the culture necessary for the construction of these theories, does not resent the unspeakable degradation which they inflict upon mankind? Men would not outrage and rebel against their own natures to this extremity without some ulterior motive. That motive probably is to be emancipated from moral obligation to God, and to escape those immortal responsibilities which remorse foreshadows. It seems a fine thing to the sinful mind to have no omniscient Master, to be released from the stern restraints of law, to be obliged to no answer hereafter for conscious guilt. For if there is no spirit in man, there is no valid evidence to us that there is a Spirit anywhere in the universe. God and immortality are both blotted out together. But let us see whether even the sinner has any motive of self-interest to say in his heart: "There is no God"; whether atheism is not at least as horrible as hell.

Has No Hope But Annihilation.

The best hope of materialism is annihilation. This is a destiny terrible to man, even as he is, conscious of guilt, and afraid of his own future. Does the materialist plead that, if this fate ends all happiness, it is at least an effectual shield against all misery? I reply, that the destruction of man’s being is a true evil to him, just to the extent that he ever experienced or hoped any good from his own existence. How strong is the love of life? Just so real and so great is the evil of extinction. Secondly, but for guilt and fear, a future immortality would be hailed by any living man as an infinite boon.

And of this, annihilation would rob us. How base and vile is that theory of existence, which compels a rational free agent to embrace the hope of an infinite loss, solely as a refuge from his own folly and fault? The vastness of the robbery of self can be poorly cloaked by the miserable fact, that the soul has so played the fool and traitor to its own rights that it has compelled itself to seek the infinite loss of annihilation, rather than an alternative still worse!

The Theory Miserable.

But materialism and atheism do not make you sure of annihilation. A conscious identity continued through so many stages and changes, may continue in spite of death. Some materialists have devoutly believed in immortality. But if man is immortal, and has no God, this itself is eternal despair. Nor can any materialistic theory expel from the soul those immortal realities, sin, guilt, accountability, remorse, misery: for they are more immediately testified by our intuitions, than any physical fact possibly can be, which men attempt to employ as a datum for this soulless philosophy. At least, when death comes, that "most wise, mighty, and eloquent orator" dispels the vain clouds of materialism, and holds the sinner face to face with these realities, compelling him to know them as solid as his own conscious existence. But now, if his theory is true there is no remedy for these miseries of the soul. There is no God omnipotent to cleanse and deliver. There is no Redeemer in whom dwell the divine wisdom, power, love and truth, for man’s rescue. The blessed Bible, the only book which ever even professed to tell fallen man of an adequate salvation, is discredited. Providence and grace are banished out of the existence of helpless, sinful man.

There is no object to whom we can address prayer in our extremity. In place of a personal God and father in Christ, the fountain and exemplar of all love and beneficence, to whom we can cry in prayer, on whom we may lean in our weakness and anguish, who is able and willing to heal depravity and wash away guilt, who is suited to be our adequate portion through an eternal existence, we are left face to face with this infinite nature, material, impersonal, reasonless, heartless. There is no supreme, rational or righteous government; and when the noblest sentiments of the soul are crushed by wrongs so intolerable, that their perpetual triumph is felt to be an alternative as hateful as death, there is not, nor shall there ever be, to all eternity, any appeal to compensating justice! But our only master and ruler is an irresistible, blind machine, revolving forever by the law of a mechanical necessity; and the corn between its upper and nether millstones, is this multitude of living, palpitating human hearts, instinct with their priceless hopes, and fears, and affections, and sensibilities, writhing and bleeding forever under the remorseless grind. The picture is as black as hell itself! He who is "without God in the world" is "without hope." Atheism is despair.

The Scheme Short-Lived.

Materialism and atheism will never win a permanent victory over the human mind. The most they can do is to betray a multitude of unstable souls to their own perdition by flattering them with future impunity in sin; and to visit upon Christendom occasional spasms of anarchy and crime. With masses of men, the latter result will always compel these schemes to work their own speedy cure. For, on their basis, there can be no moral distinction, no right, no wrong, no rational, obligatory motive, no rational end save immediate, selfish and animal good, and no rational restraints on human wickedness. The consistent working of materialism would turn all men into beasts of prey, and earth into pandemonium. The partial establishment of the doctrine immediately produces mischiefs so intolerable, that human society refuses to endure them. Besides this, the soul of man is incapable of persistent materialism and atheism, because of the inevitable action of those original, constitutive laws of thought and feeling, which qualify it as a rational spirit. These regulative laws of thought cannot be abolished by any conclusions which result from themselves, for the same reason that streams cannot change their own fountains. The sentiment of religion is omnipotent in the end. We may rest in assurance of its triumph, even without appealing to the work of the Holy Spirit, whom Christianity promises as the omnipotent attendant of the truth. While irreligious men explore the facts of natural history for fancied proofs of a creation by evolution which omits a Creator, the heralds of Christ will continue to lay their hands upon the heart strings of immortal men, and find there always the forces to overwhelm unbelief. Does the materialist say that the divine deals only with things spiritual? But spiritual consciousness are more stable than all his material masses; than his primitive granite. Centuries from now, (if man shall continue in his present state so long) when these current theories of unbelief shall have been consigned to that limbus, where Polytheism, the Ptolemaic astronomy, Alchemy and Judicial Astrology lie condemned, Christianity will hold on its beneficent way.

The Atheist the Enemy of His Kind.

There is an argument ad hominem, by which this discussion might be closed with strict justice. If materialism is true, then the pretended philosopher who teaches it is a beast; and all we are beasts. Brute animals are not amenable to moral law; and if they were, it is no murder to kill a beast. But beasts act very consistently upon certain instincts of self-interest. Even they learn something by experience. But this teaches us that the propagator of atheistic ideas is doing intolerable mischief; for just so far as they have prevailed, they have let loose a flood of misery. Now, then, the teacher of those ideas is venomous. The consistent thing for the rest of us animals to do, who are not beasts of prey, is, to kill him as soon as he shows his head; just as the deer cut the rattlesnake in pieces whenever they see him, with the lightning thrusts of their sharp hoofs. Why is not this conclusion perfectly just? The only logic which restrains it, is that Christianity which says: "Thou shalt not kill," which the atheist flouts. The only reason we do not treat atheists in this way is precisely because we are not atheists.

Chapter 05: Immortality of the Soul and Defects of Natural Religion

Section One—Defending the Faith
Chapter 5: Immortality of the Soul and Defects of Natural Religion

Syllabus for Lecture 7:

1. Show the testimony of Consciousness, Reason and Conscience to the soul’s spirituality.

Butler’s Analogy, pt. I, ch. 1, 2. Turrettin, Locus v. Qu. 14. Hodge, Theol. Vol. I, ch. iii, Sect. 4, E. Dr. S. Clarke’s Disc. Vol. ii, prop. 4. Dr. Thomas Brown, Lectures 96, 97. Breckinridge’s Theol. Vol. I, p. 58-70. Chalmers’ Nat. Theol. bk. iii, ch. 3.

2. Does Natural Theology show the immortality of the soul? See same authorities.

3. Does Reason hold out any sure prospect of the pardon of our sins?

Butler’s Analogy, pt. ii, ch. 5. University Lectures on Evidences: Dr. Van Zandt, pp. 43 to 51. Dr. S. Clarke as above, prop. vi.

4. Can Natural Theology be sufficient for man’s religious welfare? How much evidence in the answer for the inspiration of the Bible?

Turrettin, Locus i, Qu. 4. Univ. Lecture by Van Zandt. Chalmers’ Nat. Theology, bk. v, ch. I. Dr. S. Clarke, as above, Props. v to viii. Leland’s "Necessity of Revelation," at large.

Psychological Argument For Spirit.

In advancing to the solemn question of our immortality, I would remind you of the opening remark of the last lecture: That practically this question is involved in that of the soul’s spirituality. The attempts made to infer that the soul is not a spirit, from certain physical theories, I there endeavored to overthrow. The argument from psychological facts given us in our own consciousness, now remains; and this is obviously the legitimate, the conclusive one. For, let the supposition that man has a separate, immaterial spirit, be once brought into the debate; and of course, sensuous evidences of its truth or falsehood are equally out of the question, by the very definition of spirit as substance that is simple, monadic, unextended, indivisible, devoid of all sensible attributes. The spiritual data of consciousness are the only ones which can possibly give conclusive evidence, for or against the proposition.

When the physicist argues that "science" (meaning thereby exclusively the science of sensible phenomena) "tells him nothing of spirit," I reply, of course it does not. But if he uses that admission, to argue there is no spirit, he is precisely as preposterous, as though he should wish to decide the question whether a given crystal vase contains atmosphere, by remarking that his eyesight does not detect any color in the space included in the vase. Of course it does not; when the very definition of atmosphere is, of a gas absolutely transparent and colorless in limited masses. Other faculties than eyesight must decide the question of fact. So other faculties than the senses must decide whether there is a spirit in man; when the very claim of our hypothesis is, that this spiritual substance is wholly super-sensuous. The only quarrel we have with the physicists for saying "their science tells them of no spirit," is against the apparent intimation that the science of sensible things is the only science! Let Physics observe their proper modesty, as only one branch of valid science; and let her recognize her elder sisters of the super-sensuous sphere, and we are content she shall announce that result.

Consciousness Is Only of Spirit.

The great evidence of the soul’s spirituality will be found when inspected, intuitive. Man only knows by his own ideas, recognized in consciousness. The very consciousness of these implies a being, a substance which is conscious. So that man’s knowledge of himself, as conscious, thinking substance is a priori to, though implicitly present in, all his other thinking: That is to say; he knows his own thinking Self first, and only by knowing it, knows any other thing. In other words: Every sound mind must accept this self-evident fact; my having any idea, sensitive or other, implies the Ego that has it. I can only have perception of the objective, by assuming a priori, the reality of the subjective. I cannot construe to myself any mental state without postulating real being, a subjectum, to which the state may be referred. But this thinking Self is impressed from without with certain states, called sensations, which we are as inevitably impelled to refer to objective substance, to the non Ego. Now in comparing this conviction of the Ego and non-Ego, a certain contrast between their attributes inevitably arises. The first conviction arises out of a thoughtful inspection of the contents of consciousness, is the singleness of the mind. It learns the qualities of the objective (or, the external stimulus) by different sensations, but all sensations are inevitably referred to the same knowing subject. The Self who knows by touching, is always identical with that which knows by tasting, smelling, seeing, and hearing. The Self who knows by sensations is identical with that which reflects upon its sensations. The Self which conceives an object of emotion, is the same that feels towards that object. In the midst of the conscious diversity of all these states of mind, there remains the inexorable consciousness of the singleness of the mind affected by them. But the objective always exists before us in plurality.

And of A Monad.

Next, we learn from sense-perception that all the objective is compounded. The simplest material substance is constituted by an aggregation of parts, and may be conceived as divided. The lightest has some weight; the smallest has some extension; all have some figure. But our consciousness tells us intuitively, that the thing in us which thinks, feels, wills, is absolutely simple. Not only does this intuition refer all our mental states and acts to one and the same thinking subject, notwithstanding their wide diversity. But we know that they coexist in that subject, without plurality or partition. We are conscious that the agent which conceives, is the same agent which, upon occasion of that concept, is affected with passion. That which hates one object and loves its opposite, is the same agent, notwithstanding the diversity of these states. Moreover, every affection and act of a mind has an absolute unity. It is impossible even to refer any attribute of extension to it in conception. He who endeavors to imagine to himself a concept that is colored or ponderous (as it is a mental act) an affection that is triangular as distinguished from another that is circular, a judgment that has its top and its bottom, a volition which may be divided by a knife or wedge into halves and quarters, feels inevitably that it is unspeakable folly. All the attributes of extension are absolutely irrelevant to the mind and its acts and states. And especially is this thought fatal to the conclusion, that mental affections may be functions of organized bodies of matter; namely: that whereas we know all our mental affections have an absolute unity, we are taught by our senses, that all qualities and affections of organisms are aggregates of similar affections or qualities of parts. The whiteness of a wall is the whiteness of a multitude of separate points in the wall. The magnetism of a metal rod is the aggregate of the magnetisms of a multitude of molecules of metal. The properties may be literally subdivided with the masses. The materialistic conception receives a most complete and exact refutation, when we recall the multitude of distinct things in consciousness. If the soul is material, then it has some dimensions; less, at all events than the superficies of our bodies. Recall now, for instance, the countless multitude of ideas marked in our unconscious memory. How are they all distinguishably made on a surface of no more breadth? Remember, that if materialism is true, the viewing of these ideas in conception, is a sensuous perception. How many distinct lines on an inch’s surface can sense perceive? That is settled with a geometrical exactness! How then are these countless marks preserved on a surface of sixty inches; or possibly, of a fraction of one inch?

Contrasted Attributes Imply Contrasted Substances.

Now the law of our reason compels us to refer this absolute contrast of attributes to a real difference of substance. While we name the Ego, spirit, we must call the objective something else, matter. Man can not think at all, without virtually predicating his thinking on the recognition of a substance that thinks, essentially different from the objective, a spiritual monad. We can only know matter, by having known mind. It is impossible, my Brethren, for me to impress you too strongly with the impregnable strength of this position against the materialist. It is our "Gibraltar." The man who thinks consistently, must always be more certain that there is mind, than that there is matter. Because any valid act of intelligence must imply an intelligent subject. And the recognition of the Ego which knows, is a priori, and in order to perception of an object known by it. If then the existence of mind is uncertain, the existence of anything objective is inevitably more uncertain. Does sense-perception seem to the materialist to give him the most palpable knowledge of the matter external to him? But he has only been enabled to construe that perception at all, so as to make it a datum of valid knowledge, by first crediting the intuition of consciousness, which reveals the perceiving Agent distinct from the object revealed. How unfair, how unscientific is this attempt to use intuition in its less direct, and refuse it in its more direct, testimonies! If she is to be trusted in her interpretation of the objective sensation, she is, of course, still more to be trusted in her subjective self-consciousness.

Substance Only Cognized By Admitting Spirit.

Pure idealism is less unphilosophical than materialism. Whereas the former outrages one class of valid intuitions; the latter outrages two. The stress of the argument which I have just explained, is disclosed in a curious way, by the multitudinous confessions of the modern materialists. Huxley, for instance, after abolishing spirit, finds himself in such difficulty, that he feels compelled to spiritualize matter! His materialism is resolved into a species of idealism, which he ineptly attempts to connect with the metaphysics of Des Cartes. First we are taught that there is no such substance as spirit; but its supposed functions are merely phenomena of Force, the only cause which materialism can recognize in nature. And then, to deliver us from the absurdities of this metaphysic, we are taught that there is no such substance as matter; but this is only an ideal possibility of force! Therefore we find that reason was destroyed to exalt the validity of sense-perception exclusively; and now sense-perception is destroyed in turn, leaving us Nihilism.

Free Agency Refutes Materialism.

Materialism contradicts our intuition of our own free agency. Experience shows us two rival classes of effects, the corporeal being one, thought, feeling and volition the other. Now it is impossible to think an effect without an adequate cause. But when the reason begins to represent to itself these causes, it perceives an inevitable difference. The corporeal effects are necessary; the spiritual are free. The one class is the result of blind force; the other is an expression of free agency. Here are two heterogeneous causes, matter and spirit, acting the one by force, the other by free agency.

Responsibility Refutes It.

Materialism contradicts the testimony of our moral consciousness. It teaches that matter, if a cause, is an involuntary and unintelligent cause. But we know that we are responsible; which unavoidably implies a rational spontaneity in acting. To hold a blind, material force to a moral responsibility is preposterous. But this conviction of responsibility in conscience is universal, radical, unavoidable, and intuitive. It is impossible for a man to discharge his mind of it. He cannot think the acknowledged wrong equal to the right, and the admitted wrong-doer irresponsible for his wrong, like a rolling stone, a wave, or a flame. These facts of consciousness compel us to admit a substance heterogeneous from matter. Had man no spirit, there would be nothing to be accountable. Had he no God, there would be none to whom to be accountable. If either were true, our very nature would be a lie, and knowledge impossible.

Feeble attempts are made by modern materialists to meet these arguments, by saying first: That consciousness is not to be trusted. Consciousness, say they, is incomplete. She gives no account of the subjective acts and states of infancy; and no correct account of those of the mentally diseased. She tells us nothing usually of the large latent stores of memory. She is absolutely silent as to any interaction of the nerve-system and the spirit; of which, if there is spirit, there must be a great deal.

Consciousness Is Trustworthy.

But to what does all this amount? Consciousness does not tell us all things, and sometimes tells us wrong? If this were granted, still the stubborn proposition would remain, that if we cannot trust consciousness, we can have no ideas. The faculty which they would exalt against her, is sensation. Do the senses tell us all things? Are they never deceived? Does sense give any perceptions, save as it is mediated to the understanding by consciousness? Enough of such special pleadings! That consciousness reveals nothing direct of the interaction of spirit and nerve organs is precisely because spirit and matter are causes so heterogeneous—so that this fact contains one of the most conclusive proofs against materialism. If our conscious intelligence were only a function of nerve structures, then indeed it might be very natural that the function of intelligence should include, and should represent to us intellectually, every link of the action of the material nerve-force. But because conscious intelligence is not a material, organic function, but is the free action of spirit, a cause and substance wholly heterogeneous from matter, therefore it is, that just at the connecting step between nerve action in the sensorium and the idea in the intelligence, and between the volition in the rational agent and contraction in the voluntary nerve matter, there is naturally a chasm of mystery; a relation which the omniscient spirit was able to institute; but which sense cannot detect because the interaction is no longer merely material; which conscious intelligence does not construe to itself because it is not merely spiritual.

Consciousness Cannot Be the Brain.

Again it is said: "Grant that there must be an entity within us, to be the subject of consciousness, why may not that be the Brain?"

One answer has been given above: That while the properties and functions of brain matter are material, qualified by attributes of extension; those of consciousness are spiritual, simple, monadic.

Another answer is, that consciousness testifies that my own brain is, like other matter, objective to that in me which thinks. How do I know that I have a brain? By the valid analogy of the testimony of anatomists, as to the skulls of all other living men like me. But that testimony is the witnessing of a sense-perception, which that anatomist had when he opened those other skulls—of an objective knowledge. I only know my brain, as objective to that which is the knowing agent. If I have any valid opinion about the brain, it is that this organ is the instrument by which I think, not the Ego who thinks. Materialists have objected that material affections have this oneness to our conception; as a musical tone, the numerous series of successive vibrations of a chord divisible into parts. I reply, that the oneness is only in the perception of it. Only as it becomes our mental affection, does it assume unity. As we trace the effect from the vibration of the chord to that of the air, the tympanum, the bony series, the aqueous humor, the fimbrated nerve, the series is still one of successive parts. It is only when we pass from the material organ to the mind, that the phenomenon is no longer a series of pulses, but a unified sensation. This very case proves most strongly the unifying power which belongs to the mind alone. So, when an extended object produces a sensation, though the object perceived is divisible, the perception thereof, as a mental act, is indivisible.

The Soul Immortal.

Now, the soul being another substance than the body, it is seen at once, that the body’s dissolution does not necessarily imply that of the soul. Indeed, let us look beyond first impressions, and we shall see that the presumption is the other way. The fact that we have already passed from one to another stage of existence, from foetus to infant, to child, to man, implies that another stage may await us; unless there be some such evidence of the soul’s dependence on the body for existence (as well as for contact with the external world) as will destroy that presumption. But there is no such dependence; as appears from our experience in amputations, flux of bodily particles, emaciation under disease, etc. In none of these cases is the loss of the spirit proportioned to the bodily loss. This independence is proved by the fact, that in sensation even, the bodily organ is merely the soul’s instrument. The eye, for example, is but its optic glass: that in sleep the soul may be active, while the body is passive; and chiefly, that all the higher processes of soul, memory, conception, imagination, reasoning, are wholly independent of the body. Even if the grossest representationist scheme of perception and thought (that, for instance, of Hartly, or of Hobbes) were adopted, making the phantasmata or species derived through the senses, the object of perception, still the question returns, How does the soul get its conception of general notions: of time, of space, of God, of self? Herein surely, it is independent of the body.

Argument True, Though Cerebral Action Attend All Thought.

It has been objected to this great argument of Bp. Butler, in recent days, and with great clamor, that the discoveries of modern cerebral physiology discredit it. It is claimed that anatomists have now ascertained, that certain molecular actions in the brain attend what were before supposed to be abstract and independent acts of mind (or, as the materialist would say, constitute those acts) as regularly as other molecular actions attend the sensuous functions of the mind. The student will see this point thoroughly anticipated, two hundred years before it was raised, by Turrettin, in the question cited in the Syllabus. Suppose it true, that a certain excitement of brain-matter attends the abstract processes of the mind and the acts of its original spontaneity. Is it any the less certain that in these cases, the excitement of nerve matter is consequence, and the exertion of the spirit’s spontaneity is cause? Surely not. Just so surely as, in objective perception, the presentation of the new sense-idea in the intelligence follows the excitement of the nerve matter, in the order of causation; so surely, in the case of spontaneous thought, feeling and volition, the spiritual action precedes the action of the nerve matter (if there is such action) in the order of causation. So that, in the sense of Bp. Butler’s argument, these acts of soul are independent of bodily action still. The clamor which has been made by materialists here, is a good instance of modern ignorance or oblivion of the history of opinion. Suppose the recent doctrine of the physiological "cerebration of ideas" be proved universal as to all the soul’s acts what have we, more than the hypothesis of Hartley, which made sensations "vibrations," and concepts "vibratiuncles," in a nervous substance? No competent philosopher of the past regarded that hypothesis, whether granted or refuted, as affording any sufficient account of the facts of consciousness. But the very attempt to employ the hypothesis in this manner has been the laughing-stock of science.

Does Mental Disease Imply the Soul’s Mortality?

Here again, materialists have objected, that the cases of mental imbecility in infancy and senility, and of mania or lunacy seem to show a strict dependence of soul on body, if not an identity. In senility, is not the mind, like the body, tottering to its extinction? If our theory of monadic spirit were true, would mental disease be possible? I reply, that strictly speaking, spirit is not essentially or organically diseased. It is the bodily organ of its action, which is deranged, or weakened. Bear in mind, that though there are undoubted processes of thought independent of the body, sensations form the larger portion of our subjects of thought and volition. Now, remember that the soul is subject to the law of habit; and we shall easily see that where, through the disease of the bodily organs, the larger number of the objects of its action are distorted, the balance of its working may be disturbed, and yet the soul’s substance undiseased. That this is the correct explanation is confirmed by what happens in dreams; the mind’s action is abnormal; it is because the absence of sensations has changed the balance of its working. Let the body awake, and the ordinary current of sensations flow aright, and the mind is at once itself. Again, in lunacy and senility, ideas gained by the mind before the bodily disease or decline took place, are usually recalled and used by the mind correctly; while more recent ones are either distorted, or wholly evanescent. Finally, while it is inconsistent to ascribe an organic disease to that which is not organized, a functional derangement does not seem wholly out of the question.

Only Death Known Is Dissolution. The Soul Simple.

It appears then, that the thinking monad is independent of the body for its existence. Impressive as are the changes of bodily dissolution, they contain no philosophic ground for denying the conclusion drawn from the experience of the soul’s existence through so many moments and so many changes. But the phenomenon of death itself suggests a powerful analogy to show that the soul will not die. What is death? It is but separation of parts. When we examine all the seemingly destructive processes of nature, combustion, decomposition, we find no atom of matter annihilated; they only change their collocations. There is no proof that God ever destroys an atom. The soul is a spiritual atom; why suppose it is destroyed? The only death is dissolution; the soul cannot dissolve. this is my conception of its immortality; not a self or necessary existence, but the absence of all intrinsic ground of decay, and of all purpose in its Maker to extinguish its being.

Would Not Animals Be Therefore Shown Immortal?

But, objects the materialist: The same reasoning would prove the immortality of animals and beasts. They have processes of memory, association and volition, from which the same conclusion of the presence in them of simple, spiritual substance, would follow. They might argue from their consciousness of mental states the same necessary distinction between the subject and object. They also have a species of spontaneity.

I reply, that this is an objection ad ignorantiam. Why would it be neccessarily absurd if it were proven to be a fact that animals and beasts have spirits? ? It might contradict many prejudices; but I see not what principle of established truth. If it is no just logic to say, that our premises may or may not contain conclusions of an unknown nature; when the question is, whether they do not contain this known and unavoidable conclusion, the spirituality of man. The nature of the mental processes of the higher mammals, especially, is very mysterious. It seems most probable that their spirits differ from man’s chiefly in these two traits: the absence of all moral ideas and sentiments, and the inability to construe the contents of their own consciousness rationally. And these two are the most essential to a rational personality. The moral arguments for immortality then, which are the most conclusive in man’s case, and those from the indefinite perfectibility of his mental powers, are all lacking in the case of the animal. What God chooses to do with this principle in the animal, which is the seat of instinct, appetite, perception, memory, passion, and perhaps of judgment, when the body dies, Natural Theology is unable to tell us. Only when we come to Revelation, do we learn that "the spirit of the brute goeth downward, while the spirit of man goeth upward." Ignorance here is no argument against the results of positive knowledge elsewhere.

Equal Rewards Require A Future Existence.

The well known argument for a future existence from God’s righteousness, compared with the imperfect distribution of awards here, need not be elaborated. All your books state it. It is conclusive.

An objection has, indeed, been urged: That if the awards are so unequal, no evidence remains of God’s perfect rectitude; and so the former premise is lost. I reply: The course of temporal providence is neither the only, nor chief proof of God’s rectitude. Conscience demonstrates that attribute, without the light of observation. Further: while the awards are not exact, they approximate exactness here, showing that it is God’s nature to be, finally, strictly just. And last, the inequalities of awards are explained consistently with God’s rectitude by this: that they give scope for man’s fortitude and sympathy, and for God’s long suffering.


Conscience, apprehending God’s justice, gives us a different and an instinctive proof of a future existence. Remorse for sins does by no means verge towards its termination, as death approaches; but recruits its fury. If the soul could apprehend this life as its only existence, at the conscious approach of death, remorse would relax its grasp; and at the expiring breath, would release the criminal, as having paid the debt of justice. We find in the dying conscience an inevitable and universal recognition of its immortality.

Does Hope Prove It?

The ancient, and some modern, moralists, attached much importance to man’s longing for existence, horror of extinction, and hopes in the future. I cannot but feel, with Dr. Brown, that these lack weight. Is not this horror of extinction resolvable into that love of life which we share with the animals? Hope does, indeed, ever fly before us, to the end. But it is not as much a hope of sensual or worldly good, as of spiritual? But should we infer from these premises, that a brute’s or a man’s animal existence will be perpetual, we should err.

Man’s Spiritual Capacities Formed For Immortality.

I find a more solid argument in man’s capacity to know and serve God, and in his capacity of indefinite mental and moral improvement. God’s motive for creating, must have been from Himself; because, when He began, nothing else existed from which He might draw it. He must, therefore, have sought, in creation, to satisfy and glorify His own perfections. Natural Theology tells us of no rational creatures, save men. Should there ever be a time when there are no rational creatures in the universe, there would be no recipients of God’s spiritual goodness, and none to comprehend His glory. To have no eyes to behold the light, is virtually to quench it. Can we then believe that the only creature capable of knowing and enjoying Him shall perish so soon—perish, as to the majority of our race, before they understand Him at all? But again, man, unlike all other sentient creatures, is capable of indefinite improvement. The ox, the elephant, the horse, soon reaches the narrow limits of its intelligence; and these, the same fixed by the common instincts of its race, for its progenitors. The first bee built its cells as artistically as those of this "enlightened century." But man can make almost indefinite advancements. And when he has taken all the strides between a Newton or a Washington, and a naked Australian, there is no reason, save the narrow bounds of his mortal life, to limit his farther progress. Further: it is precisely in his mental and moral powers, that the room for growth exists. His muscular strength soon reaches that standard beyond which there is no usual increase. His senses are educated up to a certain penetration; there the vast and the minute arrest them. But memory, reason, conscience, affections, habits, may be cultivated to indefinite grades of superiority. Let us now view man’s terrestrial pursuits, his vanity, his disappointments, his follies, and the futilities in which the existence of most men is consumed. How utterly trivial! How unworthy of the grand endowment! If this life were all, well might we exclaim, with the Hebrew poet, "Wherefore hast Thou made all men in vain?" We see that God is unspeakably wise in all His comprehended works; we must conclude that He has not expended so much for naught; that these seeds of immortality will inherit their suitable growth. I see a man setting scions in his nursery a few inches apart; but I learn that they are trees which will require forty feet for their ultimate growth. If the man knows what he is about, I conclude that he intends to transplant them.

Reason Divines No Bodily Resurrection.

For these various reasons, then, we may look across the gulf of death with the confident expectation of a future spiritual existence. I say spiritual; for the resurrection of the body is a doctrine of pure revelation, for which natural reason presents us only the faintest analogies, if any. It is the glory of the Bible, that it alone reveals the immortality of man, of the whole united person, which lives, hopes, fears, sins, and dies here. But in proving the immortality of the soul, a sufficient basis is laid for the larger part of the moral forces which bring our responsibility to bear aright. The essential point is to evince the proper identity of the being who acts here, and is rewarded hereafter. It is mental, and not personal identity, which lays this essential basis for responsibility. It is the spirit which understands, feels, and chooses, which recognizes identity in its consciousness. Hence, it is the spirit which is responsible.

Future Existence Must Be Endless, and Under Responsibility.

Now, if existence is continued beyond the grave, there is nothing to check the conclusion that it will be continued forever. Suppose a soul just emerged from the impressive revolution of bodily death? then it must repeat all the reasoning we have considered, and with redoubled force, that after so many changes are survived, a fortiori, all others will be. But if man’s conscious existence is continuous and endless, few will care or dare to deny that his moral relations to God are so, likewise. For they proceed directly from the mere original relation of creature to Creator. The startling evidences that this life is somehow a probation for that endless existence, the youth of that immortal manhood, have been stated by Bishop Butler with unrivaled justness. No more is needed by the student than to study him.

Does Reason See Hope of Pardon? No.

Conscience convinces every man that he is a sinner, and that God is just. Does natural reason infer any adequate proofs that God will, on any terms, be merciful; or is His righteousness as imperative as that conscience, which is His vicegerent within us? This is the question of most vital interest to us in natural religion. We are pointed to the abounding evidences of God’s benevolence, and told that mercy is but benevolence towards the guilty. But, alas! Nature is almost equally full of evidences of His severity. Again, we are pointed to that hopeful feature in the order of His providence, which is but another expression for the regular ordering of His will, where we see remedial processes offered to man, for evading the natural consequences of his errors and faults. Does man surfeit himself? Nature offers a healing medicine, and arrests the death which his intemperance has provoked. Does the prodigal incur the penalty of want? Repentance and industry may repair his broken fortunes. So, alleviations seem to be provided on every hand, to interpose mercifully between man’s sins and their natural penalties. May we not accept these as showing that there is some way in which God’s mercy will arrest our final retribution? This expectation may have that slight force which will prepare us to embrace with confidence the satisfaction of Christ, when it is revealed to us in the gospel. But I assert that, without revelation, all these slight hints of a possible way of mercy are too much counterbalanced by the appearances of severity, to ground any hope or comfort in the guilty breast. What is the testimony of Conscience? Does she accept any of the throes of repentance, or the natural evils inflicted on faults, as a sufficient atonement? On the contrary, after the longest series of temporal calamities, the approach of death only sharpens her lash. The last act of culminating remorse, as the trembling criminal is dismissed from his sufferings here, is to remit him to a just and more fearful doom beyond the grave. And what say conscience and experience of the atoning virtue of our repentance and reformations? They only repair the consequences of our faults in part. The sense of guilt remains: yea, it is the very nature of repentance to renew its confession of demerit with every sigh and tear of contrition. And the genuineness of the sorrow for sin has no efficacy whatever to recall the consequences of the wrong act, and make them as though they had never been. But, above all, every palliation of natural penalty, every remedial process offered to our reach by nature, or ministered by the self-sacrifice of friends, is but temporary. For, after all, death comes to every man, to the most penitent, the most genuinely reformed, the restored sinner most fenced in by the mediatorial love of his fellows, as certainly as to the most reckless profligate; and death is the terrible sum of all natural penalties. This one, universal fact, undoes everything which more hopeful analogies had begun, and compels us to admit that the utmost reason can infer of God’s mercy is, that it admits a suspension of doom.

Is Natural Theology Sufficient?

Now, I have strenuously contended that there is some science of Natural Theology. We have seen that it teaches us clearly our own spirituality and future existence, the existence and several of the attributes of God, His righteousness and goodness and our responsibility to Him, His providential control over all His works, and our endless relation to the sanctions of His moral attributes. But man needs more than this for his soul’s well-being; and we assert that Natural Theology is fatally defective in the essential points. We might evince this practically by pointing to the customary state of all gentile nations, to the darkness of their understanding and absurdities of their beliefs, the monstrous perversions of their religious worship, and the blackness of their general morals, their evil conscience during their lives, and their death-beds either apathetic or despairing. If it be said that I have chosen unfavorable examples, then I might argue the point practically again, by pointing to the brightest specimens of pagan philosophy. We see that with all the germs of truth mixed with their creeds, there were many errors, that their virtues lacked symmetry and completeness, and their own confessions of uncertainty and darkness were usually emphatic in proportion to their wisdom.

Cannot Atone, Nor Regenerate.

But to specify. One fatal defect of Natural Theology has been already illustrated. Man knows himself a sinner in the hands of righteous Omnipotence, and has no assurance whatever of any plan of mercy. An equally fatal defect might be evinced, (far more clearly than divines have usually done) in its lack of regenerating agency. If we knew nothing of the sad story of Adam’s probation and fall, just reasoning would yet teach us, that man is a morally depraved being. The great fact stands out, that his will is invincibly arrayed against the mandates of his own conscience, on at least some points. Every man’s will exhibits this tendency in some respects, with a certainty as infallible as any law of nature. Now such a tendency of will cannot be revolutionized by any system of moral suasion; for the conclusive reason that the efficacy of all objective things to act as inducements, depends on the state of the will, and therefore cannot revolutionize it. The effect cannot renew its own cause. But Natural Theology offers no moral force higher than moral suasion. Can then the creature who remains an everlasting sinner, possess everlasting well-being?

Lacks Authority.

Another striking defect of Natural Theology is its lack of authority over the conscience. One would think that where the inferences of natural reason appeared conclusive, bringing the knowledge of a God to the understanding, this God would be recognized as speaking in all her distinct assertions; and the conscience and heart would bow to him as implicitly as when He is revealed in His word. But practically it is not so. Men are but too ready to hold revealed truth in unrighteousness; and Natural Theology has ever shown a still greater lack of authority, even over hearts. which avowed her truth. Perhaps the reason of this is, that every mind has indistinctly and half consciously recognized this profound metaphysical defect, which underlies nearly all her reasoning. How do we first know spirit? By our own consciousness, presenting to us the thinking Ego. How do we know thought, volition, power? As we are first conscious of it in ourselves. What is our first cognition of the right and the wrong? It is in the mandates of our consciences. And the way we conceive of the infinite Spirit, with His thought, will, power, rectitude, is by projecting upon Him our self-derived conception of this essence and these attributes, freed from the limitations which belong to ourselves. Seeing, then, that God and His character are to so great an extent but ourselves objectified, elevated above our conscious defects, and made absolute from our conscious limits, how can we ever know that the correspondence of the objective reality, with this conception of it, is accurate? It is as though our self-consciousness were the mirror, in which alone we can see the spectrum of the great Invisible reflected. How shall we ever tell to what degree it may be magnified, distorted, colored, by the imperfection of the reflecting surface, seeing Natural Theology can never enable us to turn around and inspect the great original, eye to eye? That something is there, a something vast, grand and real, our laws of thought forbid us to doubt; and that it has a general outline like the reflected image, we may not doubt; for else, what was it that cast the mighty spectrum upon the disc of our reason? But reason can never clear up the vagueness and uncertainty of outline and detail, nor verify His true features. Now, when Revealed Theology comes, it enables us to make this verification; and especially when we see "God manifest in the flesh," "the brightness of the Father’s glory, and express image of His person."

Why Then Study Natural Theology?

It may be asked, if Natural Theology cannot save, why study it? I answer first, it teaches some truths; and no truth is valueless. Secondly, when Revelation comes, Natural Theology gives satisfaction to the mind, by showing us two independent lines of proof for sundry great propositions? Thirdly, it excites the craving of the soul for a Revelation. Fourth, when that comes, it assists us to verify it, because it meets the very wants which Natural Theology has discovered.

A Revelation May Be Expected.

Finally, if Revelation is absolutely necessary for salvation, there is the strongest probability that God has given one. This appears from God’s goodness and wisdom. It is proved, secondly, by the admissions of the Deistical argument, which always assumes the burden of proof in the proposition: "Revelation is not necessary." It appears, thirdly, from the general expectation and desire of a communication from the skies among Pagans. Finally, when we see (as will be demonstrated at another place) that the enjoyment of infallible communications from the infinite Mind is the natural condition of life to all reasonable spirits, the argument will become conclusive, that God surely has given a message to man. Now, no other book save the Bible presents even a plausible claim to be that Revelation.

Chapter 06: Sources of Our Thinking

Section One—Defending the Faith
Chapter 6:
Sources of Our Thinking

Syllabus for Lectures 8, 9 & 10:

1. Has man any "Innate Ideas"?

Locke’s Essay, bk. i, ch. 2. Morell, Hist. Mod. Phil., pp. 76 to 95, (Carter’s Ed.) Cousin, Du Vrai, Lecons Ire et 2me. Dugald Stuart on the Mind, chaps. i, iii, iv.

2. Must all thinking proceed from Intuitive Beliefs? Why? Why are they, if unproved, received as valid? What the answer to the Skeptical Conclusion of Montaigne or Hume?

Morell, pp. 252-254. Jouffroy, Intr. to Ethics, vol. i, Lectures 8-10. Cousin D. Vrai, Lecons 3me et 4eme.

3. What are the tests of Intuitive Beliefs? Show that our belief in our own Consciousness; In our Spiritual Existence, In our Identity, In the reality of the External World; and in Established Axioms, belong to this class.

Cousin, as above. Sensualistic Phil. of 19th Cent., ch. 1. Mills’ Logic, bk.

4. Prove, especially, that our belief in Causation and power is Intuitive.

Same authorities. Mill, bk. ii, ch. 5, and bk. iii, ch. 5 & 21. Dr. Thomas Brown, Lect. 7. Morell, pp. 186, 187, 254, 332, etc. Chalmers’ Nat. Thelogy, bk. i, ch. 4th. Thornwell vol. i, p. 499, etc.

5. Show the relation between this doctrine, and Nat. Theology and all science, Sect. 7.

Lecture 9:

1. Is the Intuitional Reason a different faculty from, and of higher authority than, the Logical Understanding?

Locke’s Essay, bk. iv, ch. ii Sect. 7. Mosheim Eccles. Hist., Cent. 17th, Sec. i, p. 24. Morell, p. 125, pp. 161-168.

2. To ascertain the origin of moral distinctions in our minds, state and refute the Selfish System of Morals, as held by Hobbes, and others.

Jouffroy’s Introduc. to Ethics, Lecture 2. Dr. Thos. Brown, Lectures 78, 79. Cousin, Le Vrai etc., Lecon 12th. Morell, pp. 71-75.

3. State and refute the utilitarian theory (as held by Hume and Bentham).

"Crimes of Philanthropy," in the Land We Love, Dec., 1866. Jouffroy, Lectures 13, 14 Brown, Lectures 77, 78. Cousin, Le Vrai, etc., Lecon 13th Morell, p. 215, etc. Thornwell, Discourses on Truth, i, ii. Bishop Butler’s Sermons, 11-14. Jonathan Edward’s Essay on the Nature of Virtue, ch. 1, 2.

4. State and refute Paley’s form of the Selfish System.

Pale’s Moral Phil., pp. 24-60. (8 vo. Ed.) Jeffrey, ch. 15. Brown, Lecture 79, So. Alex. Moral Science, ch. i, ii, iii. Cousin, Du Vrai du Beau et du Bien, as above.

5. State and discuss the Sentimental Theory of Dr. Adam Smith.

Jouffroy, Lectures 16-18. Brown, Lectures 80-81. Turrettin, Loc. xi, Qu. i.

Lecture 10:

1. What is the true theory of the moral Distinction and Obligation? Compare it with that of Jouffroy. Is the moral Distinction seen by the Reason, or by a distinct faculty?

Bp. Butler’s Sermons, viz: Preface and Sermon on Ro 12:4-5. Cousin le vrai, Le beau, Le bien, Lecon 14. Alexander’s Moral Science, chs. 2-7 inclus., and ch. 10. Jouffroy, Introduc. to Ethics, Lectures 1-3. Thornwell, Discourses on Truth, i, ii.

2. Explain the moral emotion involved with the moral judgment, and in connection criticize the schemes of Hutcheson and Brown.

Cousin as above. Alex. Mor. Sc., ch. 6-11. Dr. Thos. Brown, Lectures 81, 82. Jouffroy Elect. 19, 20.

3. State the true doctrine of the supremacy and authority of conscience.

Butler’s Sermon on Ro 2:14. Alexander, chs. 8, 9.

4. What qualities are necessary to moral agency and responsibility?

Alexander, chs. 13, 14. Dr. Thos. Brown, Lecture 73.

Is It Necessary To Study the Mind’s Powers, Before All Else?

Many think, with Locke, that the inquiry into the powers of the human mind should precede all other science, because one should know his instrument before he uses it. But what instrument of knowing is man to employ in the examination of his own mind? Only his own mind. It follows, then, that the mind’s native laws of thinking must be, to some extent at least, taken upon trust, at the outset, no matter where we begin. This is the less to be regretted, because the correct use of the mind’s powers depends on nature, and not on our success in analyzing them. Men syllogized before Aristotle, and generalized before Bacon. I have therefore not felt obliged to begin with these inquiries into the sources of our thinking; but have given you a short sketch of Natural Theology to familiarize your minds to your work.

Why Then, Before Theology?

You may ask: Since every science must employ the mental powers, and yet the teacher of Chemistry, Mathematics, Mechanics, does not find it necessary to preface his instructions with inquiries into the laws and facts of psychology, why should the divine do it? One answer is that thoroughness in theology is much more important. Another is, experience shows that theological speculation is much more intimately concerned with a correct psychology than physical. The great English mathematicians, of the school of Newton, have usually held just views of philosophy; the French of the school of La Place have usually been sensualistic ideologues of the lowest school. In mathematics and astronomy, they have agreed well enough; in theology, they have been as wide apart as Christianity and atheism. This is because theology and ethics are little concerned with physical observations: much with abstract ideas and judgments. For these reasons it is necessary for the divine to attain correct views of the great facts of mental science; while yet we do not stake the validity of theological truths on the validity of any mere psychological arguments.

My purpose is to give by no means a complete synopsis, even, of mental science; but to settle for you correct opinions concerning those fundamental facts and laws of spirit, upon which theological questions most turn.

Question of Innate Ideas.

Of these I take up first the question: Has the mind any innate ideas? The right answer is, No; but it has innate powers, which a priori dictate certain laws of thought and sensibility, whenever we gain ideas by sensitive experience. Locke, famous for exploding the doctrine of innate ideas, goes too far; teaching that we derive all our ideas (he defines an idea, whatever we have in our minds as the object of thought) from sensation. This he holds is a passive process; and all that the processes of reflection (the active ones) can do, is to recall, group, compare, combine, or abstract these materials. Before sensation, the mind is a tabula rasa, without impress in itself, passively awaiting whatever may be projected on it from without. To show that no ideas are innate, he takes up two classes, hitherto considered most clearly such, abstract ideas of space, time, identity, and infinity, etc., and axioms; assuming that if these can be explained as derived ideas, and not innate, there are none such. He teaches, then, that we only get the idea of space, by seeing two bodies separated thereby; of time, by deriving it from the succession of mental impressions; of identity, as remembered consciousness. Axioms, he holds to be clearly truths of derivation, because untutored minds do not believe them, as they would were they intuitive, until they see them from concrete, experimental cases, by sensation.

Fatal Consequenses of A Sensualistic Psychology.

Consider how far this kind of vicious analysis may lead, as in the hands of Condillac, Comte, and Mill, to sensationalism, and last, to materialism and atheism. If no first truth is of higher source than an inference of experience, then none can be safely postulated beyond experience. Therefore, the argument for a God, the belief of all the supernatural, is invalid. Witness Hume’s evasion, that the world is a "singular effect."

How can sensation show us a God? Another equally logical, although a most heterogeneous consequence, is the Pyrrhonism of Bishop Berkeley. And another must be the adoption of some artificial scheme of ethics, resolving the highest law of conscience into a deduction of self-interest, or some such wretched theory. For if there is nothing in the mind, save what comes by sense (Nihil in intellectu quod non prius in sensu), from what source come the notions of right and obligation?

True Statement.

The great error of the analysis of Locke was in mistaking the occasional cause, sensation, for the efficient cause of abstract ideas, which is the reason itself For example: We first develop the idea of space, when we see bodies in space; but the idea of space is implied a priori, in the very perception of that which is extended, not learned derivatively from it. True, our most natural conception of time is of that measured in our successive consciousness. But the word, "succession" once spoken, time is already conceived. That is to say, the reason, on perceiving a thing extended, intuitively places it in space; and event, in time; the sense furnishing the occasion, the reason furnishing the abstract notion, or form, for the concrete perception. So in the other cases. To the attempt to derive axioms, we answer that the sensitive experience of some instance is the occasion, but the intuition of the reason the efficient, of these primitive and necessary judgments. For since our experiences of their truth are few and partial, how can experience tell us that they are universally true? To the objection, that they do not universally and necessarily command the assent of untutored minds, I fearlessly rejoin that this is only true in cases where the language of their enunciation is not understood. But of this, more anon.

Whence New Abstract Notions?

To show the student how shallow is the analysis which traces the whole of our thinking to sense, I ask: When the "reflective" processes of comparison, e. g., have given us perception of a relation between two sensible objects (as of a ratio between two dimensions), is not this relation a new idea? From what source does it come?

The Mind Active, and Endued With Attributes.

In a word, you may find the simplest, and also the highest and most general refutation of this sensualistic philosophy in this fact: The mind is an intelligent agent. Has it any attributes? Any cognizable, permanent essentia? Surely. Now, then, must not those essential qualities imply powers? And will any one say that they are only passive powers, and yet the mind is an agent? Surely not. Then the mind, although not furnished with innate ideas, must have some innate powers of determining its own acts of intelligence.

It is related that when Locke’s Essay on the Human Understanding was first reported to his great contemporary, Leibnitz, some one remarked that Locke’s system of psychology was built on a literal acceptation of the old scholastic maxim, Nihil in intellectu, quad non prius in sensu. Leibnitz answered: Ita; Nisi Intellectus Ipse! These words contain the key to the whole discussion.

All Our Beliefs Cannot Be Proved.

There is a plausible temptation to deny this, and to treat all our notions and beliefs as derived. It arises from the feeling that it is more philosophical to take nothing upon trust: to require proof of everything. But does not a derived truth imply something to derive from? If therefore primitive judgments are treated as derived, the problem is only removed one step backward to this question: What are the truths from which we deduce these conclusions? Are they primary or derived? To prove every postulate is therefore impossible; because the first proof implies some premise from which to prove. Unless then, some things are seen to be true intuitively, there can be no reasoning. And these unproved truths are the foundations of all that we prove.

Metaphysical Skepticism. Its Grounds.

The question then arises, If these primary beliefs are unproved, how can we know that any of our thinking is true? I have now introduced you to the very center of the skeptical objections of the school of Montaigne and Hume, against the certainty of all human knowledge. Let us also view the other, less radical grounds. They argue, then: First. That knowledge must be uncertain as long as it is incomplete; because the discovery of the unknown related parts may change our view of those supposed to be known. And that men in all ages have believed differently with equal confidence. Second. That perception only shows us qualities, and not substances, so that we have only the mind’s inference, unproved and undemonstrable, for the existence and essence of the latter. Third. That our organs of sense, the instruments of all perceptions, are perpetually changing their atomic structure; that they often deceive us; that the significance which we give to sensations depends on habits, knowledge and education; and that as to memory, we must take the correctness of her reproductions wholly upon trust. Fourth. That our general and abstract ideas, such as those of causation, space, identity, substance, etc., have not even the uncertain evidence of sensation; but are given by the mind’s own a priori forms of thought; so that we have no proof for them, save that nature teaches us to think so. Finally. The sweeping objection is, that man only knows his own subjective states; to the outside of that charmed circle he can never pass, to compare those states with objective reality. But as there is no ground for our assuming the validity of this objective perception, except that it is nature to make it, we have only to suppose a different structure given to our minds, to make all seem false, which now seems true.

Refutation of Skepticism.

Such are the sweeping objections. To the first three of the special ones, there is one general and perfectly valid answer. It is not proved that all the teachings of sensation, memory, reason, are untrustworthy, because they are sometimes misinterpreted, or because men differ about them sometimes. For the mind knows that it is furnished with criteria for verifying seeming perceptions, recollections, inferences, which criteria give certain results, when applicable, and when faithfully applied. If there are no such, how did the skeptic find out the falsehood of so many of the seeming dicta of these faculties? As to the first and radical plea, that primitive judgments must be, from their very nature, unproved, and that man can never know anything besides his own subjective states, I freely grant that a direct logical refutation is out of the question, from the very terms of it. But a valid indirect one lies in these facts: First. That the skeptic, just as much and as necessarily, holds these primary beliefs as we do. Being implied in the validity of all other beliefs, they must be accepted as true, or all thinking must cease; we are no longer intelligent beings. But the skeptic will think: his argument against us is thinking (erroneous). Second. We cannot conceive how an intelligent being could be formed at all, against whose primary beliefs the same objections would not lie; and most against Gods! Third. The fact that primitive beliefs are unproved is the very glory of their certainty, and not their weakness. They admit no proof, only because they are so immediate. The perversity of the skeptic is just that of the man who, when in perfect contact with a tree or post, should declare it impossible to ascertain whether it was near or distant, because indeed he was so near that no measuring rule could be introduced, to measure the distance! Fourth. Chiefly we apply the argumentum ad hominem of Pascal. If no knowledge can be certain, then the skeptic must not affirm his unbelief; for this, if admitted, would be a true proposition. The very mental processes exhibited in these objections imply many of the primary beliefs, against the validity of which the skeptic objects. If nothing can be proved, what right has he to go about proving that nothing can be proved? Finally: Truth is intrinsic, and not a mere consequence of our mental structure.

Which Are Primative Judgments?

The tests of an intuitive or primary truth established by the best writers are three. First. They are primary: (what Hamilton calls, ambiguously, incomprehensible, not capable of being comprehended under some more general and primary judgment, and of being explained thereby). They are primary because they are not derived or inferred from any other truth, prior in order of proof to them; but are seen to be true without any dependence on a premise. Second. They are necessary—i. e., the mind not only sees they are true, but must be true; sees that the negation of them would lead to a direct contradiction. Third. They are universal—i. e., the mind is obliged to believe them as much true in every relevant case, as in the first; and all people that are sane, when the terms of their enunciation are comprehended with entire fairness, and dispassionately considered, are absolutely certain, the world over, to accept them as true. Now, our adversaries, the sensationalists, would freely admit that if the mind has any judgments which would stand these three tests, they are indeed immediate intuitions. The most practical way, therefore, to discuss their validity, will be to do it in application to special classes of supposed intuitions.

Axioms Are Such.

Are the propositions called axiomatic truths, immediate intuitions; or are they derived truths. Sensationalists say the latter; because they are not primary truths; but deductions of our experience; for they say, as we have seen Locke write, no one has them till he learns them by experimental, sensational trial, and observation; and the announcement of them, instead of receiving from the untutored mind that immediate assent we claim, would, in many cases, excite only a vacant stare. We have already shown that the concrete case is only the occasion, not the source, of the axiomatic judgment. And as to the latter objection, the mind hitherto uninformed fails to assent to them, only because he does not understand the terms of, or comprehend the relations connected with, the proposition. Grant that the presenting of a concrete, experimental case is at first necessary to enable this mind to comprehend terms and relations; still we claim (the decisive fact) that once they are comprehended, the acceptance of the proposition is inevitable. How preposterous is this objection, that because the mind did not see, while the medium was obstructed, therefore the object is not visible? One might, with equal justice, say that my child had no faculty of immediate eyesight, because he would not be willing to affirm which of "two pigs in a poke" was the bigger! I argue again under this head, that several axioms are incapable of being experimentally inferred; because they never can be brought under the purview of the senses; e.g. "Divergent straight lines will never meet if produced to infinity." No one will ever inspect with his sight or touch an infinite line! But, says Mill, one forms a mental diagram of an infinite pair of lines; and by inspection of them, learns the truth. On this queer subterfuge, we might remark that it is more refreshing to us than consistent for them, that sensationalists should admit that the abstract ideas of the mind can be subjects of experimental reasoning. We had been told all along that true science dealt only with phenomena. It is also news to us that sensationalism can grant the mind any power of conceiving infinite lines! What are those, but those naughty things, absolute ideas, with which the mind ought not to have any lawful business, because they are not given to her by sensation? But chiefly, Mill’s evasion is worthless in the presence of this question what guides and compels the mind in the formation of the infinite part of this mental diagram, so as to ensure its correspondence with the sensible part? Not sense, surely; for that is the part of the mental diagram, which no eye can ever see. It is just this a priori power of judgment, which Mill denies. My argument stands. Once more I argue on this head, that axioms cannot be experimentally derived; because they are universal truths: but each man’s experience is partial. The first time a child ever divides an apple, he at once apprehends that the whole is larger than either of its parts. At this one illustration of it, he as much believes it of all the divided apples of the universe, as though he had spent an age in dividing millions of apples for experiment. How can a universal truth come from a single case? If experience were the source of the belief, the greatest multitude of cases one could try, would never be enough to demonstrate a universal proposition; for the proportion of similar cases possible in the universe, and still untried, would be infinitely preponderant still. Experience of the past can, of itself, never determine the future.

The sensationalist is inconsistent. He says axioms are learned from experience by sense; and there are no primary judgments of the pure reason. Aye! But how does the mind learn that sensational experience is true? that perceptions have any validity? Only by a primary judgment! Here then is the axiomatic truth that what sense gives us experimentally is true. This, surely, is not derived! Indeed, the attempt to construct a system of cognitions with a denial of primary ideas and judgments, will be found in every case as preposterous as the attempt to hang a chain upon nothing.

For Axioms Are Necessary Truths.

When we ask whether axiomatic truths will meet the second test, that of necessity, sensationalists say: "What is a necessary truth?" Does one answer, with Whewell, that it is one the negation of which is inconceivable; then this is no test of primary truths, no test of truths at all; because our capacity for conceiving things to be possible or otherwise, depends on our mental habits, associations, and acquirements, notoriously: e.g. The Guinea negro king could not conceive it possible that water could be solidified by cold in the higher latitudes. This will be found to be a mere verbal sophism, deriving its whole plausibility from the unlucky use of a vague term by the friends of the true theory. A truth is not necessary, because we negatively are not able to conceive the actual existence of the opposite thereof; but a truth is necessary when we positively are able to apprehend that the negation thereof includes an inevitable contradiction. It is not that we cannot see how the opposite comes to be true, but it is that we are able to see that that the opposite cannot possibly be true. Let any man consult his consciousness: is not the proposition, "a whole is greater than its parts," seen by the reason in a light of necessity, totally different from this: "The natives of Guinea are generally black, of England generally white"? Yet the latter is as true as the former!

They Are Universal.

Last, on this head, sensationalists ring many changes on the assertion that axiomatic beliefs are not held by all men alike; that there is debate what are axioms, and the widest differences, and that some things long held to be necessary truths (e.g. Ex nihilo nihil fit; nature abhors a vacuum; a body cannot act without a medium on another with which it is not present), are now found not only to be not axioms, but not true at all. I reply, all this proves that the human mind is an imperfect instrument, as to its primary judgments; not that it has none. The same mode of objecting would prove, with equal fairness (or unfairness), that derived truths have no inferential validity; for the differences about them have been still wider. Man is often incautious in his thinking, unconsciously blinded by hypothesis, habit and prejudice; and therefore he has sometimes (not so very often after all) failed to apply the tests of axiomatic truth carefully. Still the fact remains, that there are first truths, absolutely universal in their acceptance, on which every sane mind in the world acts, and always has acted from Adam’s day, with unflinching confidence. On that fact I stand.

Our Own Spiritual Existance Intuitively Seen.

The remarks made in introducing my discussion of the immateriality of the soul, have already indicated the grounds on which we claim our belief in our own spiritual existence as an intuition. In the proposition Cogito, ergo sum, Des Cartes meant to indicate what is undoubtedly true, that the very consciousness of thinking implies an intuitive perception of an existing substance that thinks. But what better definition of spirit, as a something instinctively contrasted with matter, than that it is substance which thinks?

Identity Intuitively Seen.

Locke made our very belief of our own identity, a derived notion, the simple result of our remembered consciousness. It may be very true that a second consciousness succeeding a first, may be the occasion of the rise of our notion of identity. But it cannot be the cause, for the identity of the thinking being who has the two consciousness is implied a priori in those states. The word self cannot be comprehended by our thought without comprehending in it the notion of identity. And it has been well remarked that our belief in our identity cannot be a deduction, because it must be implied beforehand, in our very capacity to perceive any relation between premises and conclusion. If the comprehension of the former is not felt to be the act of the same thinking subject who comprehends the latter, then of course there is no possibility of a logical dependence being perceived between them.

Reality of Objective Intuitively Seen.

Once more, we assert against Berkeley, and all other idealists, that our reference of our sensations to an external world as their cause, and that a world of substances to which the mind refers the qualities which alone sensation perceives, is a valid intuition. It is primary; witness the notable failures of all the attempts to analyze it into something more primary, from Aristotle to Reid. It is necessary; for the pure idealist can no more rid himself of the practical belief that this was an objective reality, and not a mere subjective notion of a pain, which caused him to feel that he had butted his head against a post. And it is universal. All minds learn it. And if we analyze the mental part of our sensation, we shall find that perception is, in its very nature, a perception of a relation between sensitive mind and outward matter. Grant to the idealist even the assertion that the mind immediately knows only its own subjective states; yet, when it is conscious of the subjective part of what we call a perception, it still knows by its consciousness, that there was an effect which it did not induce upon itself. Surely this subjectivity must include a consciousness of its own volitions. So, of the absence of a volition of its own. Then, as the mind intuitively and necessarily knows that no effect can be without a cause, it must refer this phenomenon, the subjective act of perception, consciously uncaused from within, to some real thing without.

Cause For Every Effect Intuitively Believed.

But the intuition which has been most debated, and is of most fundamental importance to theologians is our notion of causation. The doctrine of common sense here is, that when the mind sees an effect, it intuitively refers it to some cause, as producing its occurrence. Moreover, the antecedent something which made it to be, is intuitively apprehended as having a power to produce its occurrence; otherwise it would not have occurred. For the mind is impelled by its own nature to think, that if there had not been a something adequate to make the occurrence to be, it would not have been. Nothing can only result in nothing: and a thing cannot produce its own occurrence; for then it must act before it is. Hence, also, this immediate deduction that this power will always produce the same result, when applied under the same circumstances. The occasion of the rise of this notion of power is, no doubt, as Morell has said, with many authors, our consciousness of our own volitions. Now, the sensational psychologists, at the head of whom stands Hume in this particular, deny all this; and say that our belief that similar causes will produce like effects, is only a probable induction of our experience; (so Mill, adding that this probability rises to a practical certainty, as one induction concurs with another), that the mind merely presumes the sequence will be repeated again, because it has been presented so often; that since the mind is entitled to no idea, save what perception gives her, and the senses perceive only the two terms of the sequence, without tie of power between them, the notion of this tie is baseless; and power in causation is naught. Dr. Thomas Brown, while he asserts the intuitive origin of our expectation, that like will produce like, and even argues it with great acuteness, still falls into the latter error, denying that the mind has any ground for a notion of power other than "immediate, invariable antecedence"; for this is all perception gives us.

Of No Force To Say: Power Not Precieved.

Now, our first remark, in defending the correct doctrine, is, that this argument is of no force to any except pure sensationalists. When perception furnishes the occasion, a sequence, the reason, by its innate power, furnishes the notion of cause in it. Perception does not show us souls, not even our own; but reason compels us to supply the notion of soul as the subject of perceptions and all other states. Perception does not show us substance in matter, but only a bundle of properties; reason compels us to supply the notion of substance. And such an argument is peculiarly inconsistent in the mouth of Brown, who asserts that our belief in the recurrence of causative sequences is intuitive; for it is impossible for the reason to evade the question: What except power in the antecedent can make the sequence immediate and invariable? The something that makes it so, is just our notion of the power.

The Belief Not Derived From Association.

Having so far rebutted objections to the true view, we return to show that the opposite one is unreasonable and absurd. The heterodox metaphysicians deny that we intuitively apprehend the fact, that every effect must have its proper cause, and vice versa: and the most plausible ground of denial is to say that this presumption grows in our minds by the operation of the associating faculty. It is a law of our minds that they are apt to repeat those sequences of thought, which they have had before in the same juxtaposition; and so the habit grows up, of thinking of the same consequent when we see the same antecedent; and we naturally learn to expect to see it. But I will show that the belief in cause is not the consequence, but the ground and origin of the association. For instance; man knows perfectly well that certain sequences which recur before him perpetually and regularly, as of light on darkness are not causative; while he believes that certain others, as of light on the sun’s rising, are causative. Now if the associative habit had produced the notion of causation, it would have done it alike in both cases; for both sequences recurred with exactly the same uniformity.

Nor From Experience.

I remark, farther, that no experiences of the fact that a given antecedent had produced a given consequent so far as observed, could logically produce the conviction that it would, and must do so everywhere, and in all the future, if it were not sustained by an intuitive recognition of cause and effect in the sequence. The experience of the past only proves the past; there is no logical tie which entitles us to project it on the future, if we deny the intuitive one. How many experiences of a regular sequence entitle us to carry our expectations into the future? One hundred? Five hundred? What then is the difference between case four hundred ninety-nine and case five hundred, that the latter alone, when added to the previous past experiences, authorizes us to say that now case five hundred one, still in the future, must eventuate so and so? There is no reasonable answer. In truth, experience of a mere sequence, by itself, generates no confidence whatever in its future recurrence with causative certainty. You may ask, does not a mere empirical induction ( inductio simplicis enumerationis, Bacon), the mere recurrence of an observed sequence, beget in our minds even a probable expectation of its recurrence in the future? I answer, yes, in certain sorts of cases; but this probable expectation proceeds from this: We know intuitively that the consequent in this sequence must have some producing cause: whether we have rightly detected it among the seeming antecedents, is not yet proved; and Hence two facts are inferred: this seeming, visible antecedent may be the cause, seeing it has so frequently preceded; and if it be indeed the cause, then we are certain it will always be followed by the effect. But we have not yet convinced ourselves that some unseen antecedent may not intervene in each case observed; and, therefore, our expectation that the seeming antecedent will continue to be followed by the effect, is only probable. It is, therefore, not the number of instances experienced, in which the sequence occurred, which begets our expectation that the sequence must recur in the future; but it is the probability the mind sees, that the seeming antecedent may be the true one, which begets that expectation. And if that probability rises to a certainty in one or two cases of the observed sequence, it may be as strong as after ten thousand cases.

Illustration of the Above.

This was ingeniously (perhaps unintentionally) illustrated by some of the performances of the calculating machine constructed by the famous Babbage. The machinery could be so adjusted that it would exhibit a series of numbers in an aperture of the dial plate, having a given ratio, up to millions. And then without any new adjustment by the maker, it would change the ratio and begin a new series, which it would again continue with perfect regularity until the spectators were weary of watching.

Now, if a regular empirical induction, however long continued, could demonstrate anything, it would have done it here. But just when the observer had convinced himself that the first ratio expressed the necessary law of the machine, Presto! a change; and a different one supersedes it, without visible cause.

One Instance Cannot Form A Habit of Association.

The argument that it is not a habit of experience which brings forth belief in the regular connection between cause and effect may now be introduced, since we may illustrate that this belief easily arises in full strength after only one experiment or trial.

The child thrusts his finger in flame; the result is acute pain. He is just as certain from that moment that the same act will produce the same feeling, as after ten thousand trials. It is because his mind compels him to think the primitive judgment, "effect follows cause"; and the singleness of the antecedent enables him to decide that this antecedent is the cause. Take another case: A school boy, utterly ignorant of the explosive qualities of gunpowder, shuts himself in a room with a portion for his boyish experiments. After finding it passive under many experiments, he at length applies fire, and there is an immediate explosion. But at the moment the tongs also fell on it; and thus it may not be yet obvious which of the two simultaneously foregoing incidents was cause. He resolves to clear up this doubt by another trial, in which the tongs shall not fall. He applies fire, excluding this time all other antecedent changes, and the explosion follows again. And now, this boy is just as certain that fire will inevitably explode any gunpowder, that is precisely like this, provided the conditions be precisely similar, as a million of experiments could make him. He has ascertained the tie of cause.

In truth, as Dr. Chalmers well says, experience is so far from begetting this belief in the regular efficacy of causation, that its effect is, on the contrary, to limit and correct that belief. A little child strikes his spoon on the table; the effect is noise. At first he expects to be able to produce the same effect by striking it on the bed or carpet, and is vexed at the failure. Experience corrects his expectation; not by adding anything to his intuitive judgment of like cause, like effect; but by teaching him that in this case, the cause of noise was complex, not single, as he had before supposed, being the impact of the spoon and the elasticity of the thing struck.

Kant’s Argument.

The subtle and yet simple reasoning, by which Kant (Critiqueof Pure Reason. bk. ii, chs. 2 & 3) shows the absurdity of resolving cause and effect into mere sequence, is worthy of your attention here. He suggests two instances: In one I look successively at the different parts of a large house. I perceive first, for instance, its front, and then its end. But do I ever think for a moment that the being of the end is successive upon the being of the front? Never. I know they are simultaneous. In another case, I see a vessel in the river just opposite to me; and next, I see it below me. The perceptions are no more successive than those of the front and end of the house. But now, can I ever think that the being of the vessel in the two positions is concurrently arising? It is impossible. Why? The only answer is that the law of the reason has, by intuition, seen effect and dependency, in the last pair of successive perceptions, which were not in the first pair. The same vessel has moved; motion is an effect; its cause must precede it. And this suggests the other member of his argument; In a causative sequence, the interval of time is wholly inappreciable to the senses; the cause A and the effect B seem to come together. Now, why is it that the mind always refuses to conceive the matter so as to think B leads A, and will only think that A leads B? Why do you not think that the loud sound of the blow caused the impact of the hammer, just as often as you do the impact caused the sound? Surely there is a law of the reason regulating this! Now that factor which determines the order of the sequence is power.


Last, it is only because our judgment of cause is a priori and intuitive, that any process of induction, practical or scientific, can be valid or demonstrative. Bacon shows, what even J. S. Mill admits, that a merely empirical induction can never give certain expectation of future recurrence. To reach this, some canon of induction must be applied which will discriminate the post hoc from the propter hoc. Does not Mill himself teach the necessity of such canons? Inspect any instance of their application to observed sequences, and you will find that each step proceeds upon the intuitive law of cause, as its postulate. Each step is a syllogism, in which the intuitive truth gives the major premise.

Let us take a simple case falling under what Mill calls his Method by Agreement. (The student will find my assertion true of either of the others.) The school boy with his parcel of gunpowder, for example, is searching among the antecedents for the true cause of the phenomenon of explosion, which we will call D. That cause is not detected at first, because he cannot be certain that he procures its occurrence with only a single antecedent. First he constructs an experiment, in which he contrives to exclude all antecedents save two, A and B. The result D follows; but it is not determined whether A or B, or the two jointly, caused it. He contrives a second experiment, in which B is excluded; but another antecedent event C happens along with A, and again D follows. Now we can get the truth. We reason therefore: "In the first experiment the cause of D must have been either A or B. or the two combined." But why? Because the effect D must have had some immediate, present cause. [But we know that no other immediate antecedent effects were present, save A and B.] This is our a priori intuition. Well, in the second experiment, either A or C, or the two combined, must have caused D. Why? The same intuition gives the only answer. But we proved, in the first experiment, C had nothing to do with producing D; and in the second, B. had nothing to do with producing D; because C was absent in the first, and B in the second. Then A was the true cause all the time. Why? Why may not B have been the cause, that time when it was present? Because every effect has its own cause, which is regular, every time it is produced. The premise is still the intuition: "Like causes produce like effects."

That Which Is Necessary Prior Premise Cannot Be Deduction.

It is therefore apparent that this intuitive belief is essential beforehand, in order for it to enable us to convert an experimental induction into a demonstrated general law. Could anything more clearly prove that the original intuition itself cannot have been an experimental induction? It passes human wit to see how a logical process can prove its own premise, when the premise is what proves the process. Yet this absurdity Mill gravely attempts to explain. His solution is, that we may trust the law of cause as a general premise, because it is "an empirical law, coextensive with all human experience." May we conclude, then, that a man is entitled to argue from the law of cause as a valid general premise, only after he has acquired "all human experience?" This simple question dissolves the sophism into thin air. It is experimentally certain that this is not the way in which the mind comes by the belief of the law; because no man, to the day of his death, acquires all human experience but only a part, which, relatively to the whole, is exceedingly minute; and because every man believes the law of cause to be universal, when he begins to acquire experience. The just doctrine, therefore, is that experimental instances are only the occasions upon which the mind’s own intuitive power furnishes the self-evident law.

What Is Inductive Proof?

This argument, young gentlemen, has, I think, also given you an illustration of the justice of Archbishop Whateley’s logical doctrine, that inductive argument is, after all, but a branch of the syllogistic. The answers made to the questions, What is inductive argument? are, as you know, confused and contradictory. Some logicians and many physicists seem to think that the colligation of similar cases of sequences in considerable numbers, is inductive demonstration. Whereas, I have cited to you Lord Bacon. declaring that if the induction proceed no farther than this, it is wholly short of a demonstration, and can but raise a presumption of the existence of a law of sequence, which is liable to be overthrown by contrary instances. It is this mistake, which accounts for the present loose condition of much that claims to be physical science; where an almost limitless license of framing hypotheses which have probability, prevails, claiming the precious name of "science," for what are, by Bacon’s just rule, but guesses. Many other logicians, seeing the obvious defect of such a definition of inductive demonstration, and yet supposing that they are obliged to find an essential difference between inductive and syllogistic logic, invent I know not what untenable definitions of the former. It is, in fact, only that branch of syllogistic reasoning, which has the intuition, "Like causes, like effects," as its major premise, and which seeks as its conclusion the discrimination of the post hoc from the propter hoc, in seeking the true causative laws of events in nature. You may, if you please, use the word "Inductio " to express the colligation of similar instances of sequence. But inductive demonstration is another matter; a far higher matter, which must come after. It is the logical application of some established canon, which will infallibly detect the immediate causative antecedent of an effect, amidst the apparent antecedents. Its value is in this: that when once that discovery is clearly made, even in one instance of sequence, we have a particular law of nature, a principle, which is a constant and permanent guide of our knowledge and practice. But why does that discovery become the detection of a law of nature? Because we know that the great truth reigns in nature: "Like causes, like effects"—in other words, because the reason has evolved to itself the intuitive idea of efficient power in causes. I have shown you, that the valid application of those canons is, in each step a syllogism; a syllogism, of which the great primary law of causation is first premise.

Law of Cause Is Key of Nature.

This exposition shows you that this great law is the very key of nature. It is, to change the metaphor, the cornerstone of all the sciences of nature, material and physical. Hence, if its primary and intuitive character is essential to its validity, as I have argued, in vindicating this thesis we have been defending the very being of all the natural sciences, as well as the citadel of natural theology. It follows, then, that the sensualistic school of metaphysics is as blighting to the interests of true physical science, as of the divine science. The inductive method, in the hands of physicists who grounded it substantially in the metaphysics of common sense, the metaphysics of Turrettin, of Dr. Clarke or of Reid, gave us the splendid results of the Newtonian era. That method, in the hands of Auguste Comte, J. Stuart Mill, and other sensationalists, is giving us the modern corruptions and license of Darwinism and Materialism.

The unhallowed touch of this school poisons, not only theology, which they would rather poison, but the sciences of matter, which they claim as their special care.

True Doctrine of Cause at Basis of Natural Theology.

Few words are needed to show the intimate relations between the true doctrine of causation and theology. It is on his heresy about causation, that Hume grounds his famous argument against miracles. It is on the same error he grounds his objection to the teleological argument for God’s existence, that the world is a "singular effect." You saw that the argument just named for God’s existence is founded expressly on this great law of cause.

Final Cause.

I think we are now prepared to appreciate justly the clamor of the sensationalists against our postulating final causes. I assert that it is only by postulating them, that we can have any foundation whatever for any inductive science. We have seen, that the sole problem of all inductive demonstration is, to discover, among the apparent antecedents in any given sequences of changes, that one, which is efficient cause.

Essential To All Regular Natural Law.

For that being infallibly ascertained, we have a Law of Nature. But how so? How is it that a relation as certain in one, or a few cases, maybe assumed as a natural law? Because our reasons tell us that we are authorized to expect that antecedent which is the true efficient in a given sequence of changes, will be, and must be efficient to produce the same sequence, every time that sequence recurs under precisely the same conditions, throughout the realm of nature, in all ages and places. (And that belief is a priori and intuitive; else, as we saw, experience could never make it valid; and the demonstrations of regular law in nature would be impossible—i. e., science would be impossible.) But on what condition can that belief be valid to the mind? If there is nothing truly answering to the a priori idea of power in the antecedent; if all the mind is entitled to postulate is mere, invariable sequence; and if that efficient Power is to be excluded, because not given by sense perception; is that belief valid? Obviously not. Again: If Cause is only material necessity, only a relation in blind, senseless, unknowing, involuntary matter, in matter infinitely variable and mutable, is there any possible foundation for their universal and invariable relations in given sequences? Is any intellect authorized a priori, to expect it. Obviously not. It is only when we assume that there is a Creator to the created, that there is an intellect and will; and that, an immutable one, establishing and governing these sequences of physical change; that the mind can find any valid basis for an expectation of law in them. And that is to say: There is a basis of law in them because, and only because, this ruling intelligence and will has some end in view. We may not know which end; but we know there is some end, or there would be no Law, his constancy to which is the ground, and the explanation, of the invariability. But that is the doctrine of Final Cause! Take it away; and the inductive logic has no basis under it. You will remember the line "The undevout Astronomer is mad"—In the same sense we may assert, that the logic of the atheistic physicist is mad. Do we not find, in the prevalence of Positivist and Sensualistic philosophy, in our day, the natural explanation of the deplorable license which now corrupts and deforms so much of those Natural Sciences, which, in the hands of sound, theistic physicists like Newton, Davy, Brewster, have run so splendid and beneficent a course?

Transcendentalists Claim Primative Judgments Licentiously.

SEVERAL analysts of the laws of thought, such as Hobbes and Locke, set out with the fascinating idea of accepting nothing upon trust, and bringing everything to the test of experimental proof. The miserable sensationalism and materialism to which this led in the hands of Priestly in England, and Condillac in France, taught men to reflect, that unless some primary judgments are allowed to start from, there can be no beginning at all: so that some truths must have a prior authority than that of proof. By what faculty, then, are they perceived? Transcendentalists, from Spinoza to the modern, have all answered, by the intuitive reason: whose sight is direct intellection, whose conclusions are super-logical, and not, therefore, amenable to logical refutation. The frightful license of dogmatizing to which these schools have proceeded, shows the motive; it is to enjoy an emancipation from the logical obligations of proving dogmas. Do we say to them, Your assertions do not seem to us true, and we disprove them here and there: they reply, "Ah, that is by your plodding, logical understanding; intuitions of the pure reason are not amenable to it; and if you do not see that our opinion is necessarily true, in spite of objections, it is only because the reason is less developed in you." So the quarrel now stands. It seems to me obvious, therefore, that the next adjustment and improvement, which the science of mind must receive, should be an adjustment of the relations between intuitions and valid deductions.

How Resisted.

Now, we might practically bring the transcendentalist to reason by saying, first, that they always claim the validity of the logical understanding, when they find it convenient to use it. (The very evasion above stated is a deduction, by one step, from false premises!) Thus, consistency requires them to bow to it everywhere. Secondly, we might apply the established tests of a true intuition to their pretended ones, primariness, truth, and universality, and show that, when they profess by the pure reason to see dogmas which contradict or transcend the common sense of mankind, they are but making wild hypotheses. But thirdly, I am convinced the radical overthrow of their system will be seen to be, at length, in this position: that the mind sees the truth of a valid deduction by the same faculty, and with equal authority, as an axiom or other first truth—i. e., when major end minor premise have a conclusive relation, and that relation is fairly comprehended, the reason sees the conclusion as immediately, as necessarily, as intuitively, as authoritatively, as when it sees a primary truth.

All Judgments Intuitive and Necessary, If Valid.

To my mind, the simple and sufficient proof of this view of the logical function is in these questions. What is the human intelligence, but a function of seeing truth? As the eye only sees by looking, and all looking is direct and immediate sense intuition, how else can the mind see, than by looking—i. e., by rational intuition? Whether the object of bodily sight be immediate or reflective, an object or its spectrum, it is still equally true that the eye only sees by looking—looking immediately; in the latter case the spectrum only is its immediate object. So the mind only sees by looking; and all its looking is intuition; if not immediate, it is not its own; it is naught. One of the earliest, Locke, inconsistently concurs with one of the latest, McGuffey, of the great English-speaking psychologists, in asserting the view I adopted before consulting either. Locke’s proof of it seems to me perfectly valid. He argues ( loco citato,) that if the mind’s perception of a valid relation between a proposition and its next premise were not immediate, then there must be, between the two, some proposition to mediate our view of it. But between a proposition and its next premise, there can be no other interposed.

Objections Solved.

But to this view many sound philosophers, even, would probably object strenuously. That the first great mark of intuitive authority, primariness, was lacking; that the position is utterly overthrown by the wide and various differences of opinion on subjects of deduction; while in first truths, there must be universal agreement; and that it is inconsistent with the fact that many derived conclusions claim no more than a probable evidence. To the first, I reply, the action of the reason in seeing a deduced truth, is not indeed a primary judgment; but the fact that the truth is seen only by relation to premises, does not make the intellection less immediate and necessary. Just so, truly as the first truth is seen to be necessarily true, so the deduced truth is seen to be necessarily true, the premises being as they are. Several of our intuitions are intuitions of relations. Why should it be thought so strange that these intellections by relations should be intuitive? To the second, propositions called axioms have not always commanded universal agreement; and we are obliged to explain this fact by misapprehension of terms, or ignorance of relations included in the propositions. Well, the same explanation accounts consistently for the differences men have in their deductions; and the more numerous differences in this class of propositions are accounted for by the facts, that while the axioms are few, deductions are countless; and in anyone there are more terms, because more propositions liable to misconception. But I do assert that, in a valid syllogism, if the major and minor are known to be true, and the terms are all fairly comprehended, the belief of the conclusion by the hearer is as inevitable, as necessary, as universal as when an axiom is stated. Thirdly, though in many deductions the evidence is but probable, the fact that there is probable evidence, may be as necessarily admitted, as in an intuitive and positive truth.

Source of Our Moral Judgments.

We now approach, young gentlemen, that great class of our judgments which are of supreme importance in theology, as in practical life—the class known as our moral judgments. Every sane man is conscious of acts of soul, which pronounce certain rational agents right or wrong in certain acts. With these right or wrong acts our souls unavoidably conjoin certain notions and feelings of obligation, merit, demerit, approbation or disapprobation, and desert of reward or penalty. It is this peculiar class of mental states which constitutes the subject of the science of ethics, or morals. All questions as to the nature and validity of moral judgments run into the radical question, as to their origin. Are they the results of a fundamental and intuitive law of reason? Or are they artificial or factitious of some other natural principles developed into a form only apparently peculiar, by habit, association, or training? In answering this all-important question, I shall pursue this method, to set aside the various false analyses, until we reach the true one.

The Selfish System.

The Selfish System, presenting itself in many varied forms from Hobbes (natural desire of enjoyment only motive) through Mandeville (the desire of being applauded is the moral motive) down to Paley, has always this characteristic: it resolves our idea of virtue into self-interest. Its most refined form, perhaps, is that which says, since acts of benevolence, sympathy, justice, are found to be attended with an immediate inward pleasure (self-approbation), that pleasure is the motive of our moral acts. We discuss several phases together.

Refuted. 1st. By Intuitive Beliefs of Right and Free Agency.

I remark, that on the selfish system, the notion of right, duty, obligation, free agency, could never have arisen in the mind, and have no relevancy or meaning. Let man frame the proposition.: "That which furthers self-interest is right"; the very employment of the word right betrays the fact that the mind recognizes a standard other than that of self-interest. And any analysis of the notion shows that it is utterly violated and falsified, when made identical with self-interest. Hobbes says, each man’s natural right is to pursue his own natural self-interest supremely. But according to his own showing, this "right" in A implies no corresponding duty in him, and no obligation in his neighbor, B, to respect it, and no recognition on the part of any other. Anybody has a "right" to prevent A from having his "right." Strange right this!

If interest is the whole motive, then, when the question arises, whether I shall do, or omit a certain action, you cannot consistently expect me to consider anything but this: whether or not the doing of it will promote my own advantage, and that, in the form I happen to prefer. If I say, "This result will most gratify me," the argument is at an end; my proposed act is, for me, right; there is no longer any standard of uniform moral distinction. The same remark shows that the judgment of obligation to a given act is then baseless. Attempt to apply any of those arguments, by which Epicureanism attempts to interpose an "ought not" between a man and any natural indulgence (as this: "This sensual pleasure will indeed promote animal, but hinder intellectual pleasure, which is higher. And since pleasure is the rational chief good, you should prefer the more to the less"); the reply is: "Animal joys are to me larger than intellectual"; and the ground of obligation is gone. If no indulgence is less or more virtuous than any other, then no possible argument of obligation can be constructed, in the face of an existing preference, for refraining from any. If the sensualistic psychology is true, from which the selfish schemes proceed, then desire for natural good, which they make the only moral motive, is a passive affection of the soul. It is no more voluntary, when the object of desire is presented, than is pain when you are struck, or a chill when you are deluged with cold water. Where, now, is that free agency which, we intuitively feel, is rudimental to all moral action and responsibility? Man is no longer self-directed by subjective, rational motives, but drawn hither and thither like a puppet, by external forces. But if not a free, he cannot be a moral agent. Of course, also, there is no longer any basis for any judgment of merit or demerit in acts, or any moral obligation to punishment. Penalties become the mere expedients of the stronger for protecting their own selfishness. And as this is as true of the future, all religious sanctions are at an end!

2nd. From Precedence of Intuitive Desire To Calculation.

This theory teaches that this selfish pleasure apprehended by the mind, in acquiring an object, must always be the motive for seeking it. The analysis is false; desire must be instinctive; otherwise man could not have his first volition till after the volition had put him on the way of experiencing the pleasant result of the fruition! Many desires are obviously instinctive; e. g., curiosity. Now, since the self-pleasing cannot be the original element of the desire, it cannot be proved that this is our element of rightness, in classifying our desires. See now, how this analysis would assign the effect as the cause of its own cause. A does a disinterested act. The consciousness of having done disinterestedly gives A an inward pleasure. This after-pleasure, proceeding from the consciousness that the act was unselfish, prompted to the act! Hence the effect caused its own cause! The absurdity of the scheme is further proved by this: If the fact that a disinterested act results in inward satisfaction to him who did it, proves that act selfish; then the fact that a selfish act usually results in inward pain to him who perpetrates it, proves that act to have been a disinterested one in motive.

3rd. From Intuitive Difference of Advantage and Merit.

If the selfish theory of action were true, the adaptation of another person’s conduct to confer personal advantage on us, should be synonymous with merit in our eyes. The villain who shared with us the reward of his misdeeds, to bribe us to aid or applaud him, would evoke the same sentiment of gratitude, as the mother who blessed us with her virtuous self-sacrifice; and there would be no generic difference between the hollow flattery of the courtier for the monster on whose bounty he fattened, and the approbation of the virtuous for patriotism or benevolence.

4th. From Vividness of Unsophisticated Moral Sentiments.

If our notion of good acts is nothing but a generalization of the idea of acts promotive of our self-interest, he who has most experimental knowledge of human affairs (i. e., he who is most hackneyed in this world’s ways), must have the clearest and strongest apprehensions of moral distinctions; because he would most clearly apprehend this tendency of actions. He who was wholly inexperienced, could have no moral distinctions. Is this so? Do we not find the most unsophisticated have the most vivid moral sympathies? The ignorant child in the nursery more than the hackneyed man of experience?

5th. From Consciousness. No Merit Where Self Reigns.

But the crowning absurdity of the theory appears here; that our consciousness always teaches us, that the pleasure we have in well-doing depends wholly upon our feeling that the virtuous act had no reference to self; and the moment we feel that self-pleasing was our prime motive, we feel that our moral pleasure therein is wholly marred. Indeed, the best and the sufficient argument against this miserable theory would, perhaps, be the instinctive loathing and denial uttered against it by every man’s soul, who is rightly constituted. The honest man knows, by his immediate consciousness, that when he does right, selfishness is not his motive; and that if it were, he would be utterly self-condemned. As Cousin nervously remarks: Our consciousness tells us, that the approbation we feel for disinterested virtue is wholly disinterested, and it is impossible for us to feel it unless we feel that the agent for whom we feel it was disinterested in this act. A thousand things in the acts, the language, and the consciousness of men are utterly irreconcilable with this hateful analysis, and show it to be as unphilosophical as degrading. Our crowning objection is found in its effect on our view of the divine character. That which is man’s finite virtue must be conceived infinite, as constituting the virtue of God (if there is a God). His holiness must be only sovereign self-interest!

Utilitarian Ethics.

I group together three theories of the nature of virtue, which really amount to the same; that of David Hume, who taught that an act is apprehended by us as virtuous because it is seen to be useful to mankind; that of Jeremy Bentham, who taught that whatever conduct is conducive to the greatest good of the greatest number, is right; and that of some New England divines and philosophers, who teach that virtue consists in benevolence. The latter is practically synonymous with the two former. For the practical expression of benevolence is beneficence. This theory of virtue is a natural off-shoot of Jonathan Edwards’ theory of virtue. This great and good man would probably be shocked to have his speculation, as to "the nature of true virtue," classed with those of the infidel, utilitarian school. But the historical development of it since his death, proves the justice of the charge. It is, moreover, so interesting an exposition of the unavoidable tendencies of the "Benevolence Theory," and has so important relations to existing errors in theology, that I must ask you to pause a moment to consider Edwards’ view.

Edwards’ Theory of Virtue.

As is suggested by the Rev. Ro. Hall, Edwards was probably impelled to this piece of false analysis by his love of simplifying. His desire was to unify the ultimate principles of the rational spirit, as much as possible. Hence, instead of regarding virtuous acts and states of soul as an ultimate and independent category, he teaches that they all most essentially consist in "Benevolence to Being in General," meaning, of course, rational being, or, "love to being in general." And this love, which is the essence of all virtue, he expressly defines as the love of benevolence only, as distinct from the love of moral complacency. This is essential to his system; for, as he himself argues, the love of moral complacency must imply moral beauty in its object. The perception of moral beauty generates the love which is moral complacency. If the love which constitutes moral beauty were that moral complacency, Edwards argues that we should make a thing its own parent. Of this, more anon. He then proceeds: "The first object of virtuous benevolence is Being, simply considered"; and concludes: "Being in general is its object." That to which its ultimate propensity tends is "the highest good of being in general." From this conclusion, Edwards draws this corollary: There may be a benevolence towards a particular Being, which is virtuous, because that particular Being is a part of the aggregate, general being; but the affection is virtuous, only provided it consists with the "highest good of being in general." Again, that being who has the greatest quantum of existence must attract the largest share of this benevolence. Hence, we must love God more than all creatures, because He is infinite in the dimensions of His existence; and we ought, among creatures, to love a great and good man proportionately more than one less able and full of being. The grounds of proof on which Edwards seems to rest his conclusion are these: That every judgment of beauty, of every kind, is analyzable into a perception of order and harmony; but the most beautiful and lofty of all rational harmonies is this concent or benevolence of an intelligent Being. to all like Being: That the Scriptures say "God is love"; and "Love is the fulfilling of the whole law" between man and his neighbor: And that this theory explains so well the superior claims of God to our love, over creatures’ claims to our love.

Leads To Utilitarian Ethics.

The transition between this plausible, but most sophistic speculation, and the utilitarian scheme, and ethics of expediency, which underlie the New England Theology, of our day, is found in the writings of Dr. Samuel Hopkins (and "the younger Edwards"). In their hands, "Love to Being in General," became simply the affection of benevolence; and the theory became this: That benevolence is all virtue, and all virtue is benevolence. I have already disclosed the affinity of this theory to the utilitarian, by the simple remark, that beneficence is the practical expression of benevolence. Therefore, when he who has defined virtue as benevolence, comes to treat of virtue as a practical principle, he makes nothing else of it than Jeremy Bentham’s "greatest good of the greatest number." We shall detect Dr. Hopkins adopting this, and even the most thoroughly selfish theory of virtue, in carrying out his benevolent scheme, with an amusing candor, simplicity and inconsistency.


Proceeding to the refutation of Edwards’ scheme, I begin with his Scriptures. The same logic which infers it from the expression, "God is love," would infer from the text, "God is light," that He is nothing but pure intelligence; and from the text, "Our God is a consuming fire," that He is nothing but vindicatory justice. All Scriptures must be interpreted consistently. Neither can we overstrain the declarations of our Saviour and the apostle, that "love fulfills the whole law" between man and man, into the theory that benevolence is the whole essence of virtue. The proposition of the Scripture contains a beautiful practical fact: that the virtue of love (which, in Scripture nomenclature, includes far more than benevolence) prompts to all other virtues. I exclude the overstrained inference by simply referring to the other passages of Scripture, which expressly name other distinguishable virtues in addition to love. "Now abideth faith, hope, love: these three: but the greatest of these is love."—1Co 13:13. "Add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love"2Pe 1:5-6. When the Scriptures declare love to God the great Commandment, they mean a very different thing from Edwards’ benevolence to Being; "a propensity to its highest good." The supreme object of holy love in the Scriptures is always God’s holiness. The affection is as distinct from mere benevolence, as adoration from kindness. The love of the Scriptures, in which all man’s holiness centers, is the attraction of the whole soul, in all its active principles, towards all that is pure and venerable, and righteous and true, as well as good, in the divine character.

Moral Beauty Unique.

To Edwards’ speculative grounds, I reply, first, grounding of moral virtue in a harmony or order perceived, is utterly invalid as a support of his theory, unless he holds that esthetic beauty, logical propriety and moral praiseworthiness, are all generically the same beauty, only differing in degree. For if not, the order and harmony whose perception gives the feeling of virtuousness are a different kind; and Edwards, as much as I, is bound to answer the question: In what does moral beauty differ from the aesthetic and the logical? I can answer consistently: In conformity to a peculiar, original intuition, that of conscience. Indeed, the fact that every sane mind intuitively perceives that difference, is, of itself, a sufficient refutation of Edwards’ and of every other false analysis of the moral sentiment.

Edwards’ Paradox.

We have seen that Edwards regards the love of benevolence, not the love of moral complacency as the primary essence of virtue: and I showed you the argument which led him to this consistent conclusion. The love of complacency, then, is love to a rational agent on account of his love of benevolence; and the former is not primarily of the essence of virtue. That is, it is not virtuous to love virtue! It is true that on a subsequent page, he retracts this absurdity; availing himself virtually of a theory of sympathy between the virtuous (or benevolent) agent and the approving spectator, to argue what he had before disproved. This is but the anticipation of the vicious analysis of Adam Smith. By a parallel process, Edwards’ principles should lead him to conclude that disinterested gratitude is not virtuous. Said he, "the first benevolence cannot be gratitude." True, for this first benevolence must regard its object simply as being, not as beneficent. Therefore, for me to love a being because he has been a benefactor to me, is not virtue! Edwards, in a subsequent chapter, resolves gratitude into self-love. but he is not thereby designing to depreciate the affection of gratitude, for in the same chapter he analyses the judgments and emotions of conscience into the same self-love!

Makes An Abstraction the Object of Virtue.

We have seen that Edwards makes the essence of virtue to be "love to being in general." Another fatal objection to this is, that it assigns us as the object of every virtuous affection, a mere abstraction, a general idea. Whereas, if consciousness tells you anything clearly of your moral sentiments, it is that their objects must be personal. Only a person can oblige us to a duty. Only a person can be the object of a right. Pantheism, as we saw, abolishes morality by obliterating the personality of God. Edwards’ speculation would do it as effectually, in another way. Again, says Edwards, love to a particular being is compatible with the definition of virtue as consisting in "love to being in general," provided the particular affection is consistent with the highest good of being in general. But I object again; this proviso is one which cannot be practically ascertained by ordinary moral agents, in one of ten thousand cases in which they are called to act morally towards a particular object. The motive of the peasant-mother may be virtuous, when she forsakes the industrial avocation which she was pursuing, promotive of the public good, to nurse her own sick and dying child, provided she has successfully calculated the preponderance of the resultant general benefit of the nursing over the industry! I object farther, that this theory might lead a man to the breach of a nearer, and therefore more obligatory duty, for the sake of one remoter, and therefore less obligatory. The son would be bound to rescue a great and gifted stranger from fire or water, in preference to his own father, because the great man presented to his love a greater quantum of existence.

I object also in to Edwards’ theory in that it might be impossible to explain how it is our duty to honor a dead man for his virtues. He is beyond the reach of our benevolence; he can be neither benefited nor pleased by our plaudits. And especially is it impossible, on this theory, to include God directly in our virtuous affections. Remember, the essence of all virtue with him is that simple love of benevolence, whose propension is to promote the highest good of being in general. But God is infinitely blessed; His good cannot be promoted by creatures. Does this not obviously exempt Him from our benevolence? Edwards answers this laboriously, by pleading that our homage can promote God’s declarative glory; the Scriptures exhort us to love, adore and praise Him. This is true, but the Scriptures ground these duties of love and adoration expressly upon God’s moral perfections. It is these, not existence, which constitute Him the object of our moral homage This fact alone overthrows Edwards’ whole speculation.

The Moral Judgment Assumed.

All benevolence-schemes tacitly assume the validity of the a priori moral intuition, with which they propose to dispense. For, suppose an advocate of the sensual selfish system to demand of their advocates: "Why is it my duty to make the greatest good of the greatest number my chief end, instead of my own personal good?" The respondent could find no answer, without resorting to the original distinction of advantage from right, and the obligation to the latter.

The Scheme Selfish.

The most mischievous part of Edwards’ scheme I conceive to be, his derivation of the judgments and emotions of conscience itself, from general self-love. As that direct and simple love of benevolence, which is the pure essence of virtue, is concent and harmony with general being, as being; so self-love, according to Edwards, is a propension towards the concent and harmony or unity of one’s own being. The former principle tends to unite the individual with general Being. The consciousness of an affection tending to break that benevolent unison, disunites the man’s own being within itself. Self-love then produces the judgment and pain of remorse; for this pain is nothing but the sense of the breach of that self-unity, which is self-love’s main object. Hence it follows that the sentiments of conscience, (like gratitude) are only of secondary rank in ethics! By this ill-starred logical jugglery is that imperial faculty degraded, whose intuitions and affections are the very spring-head of all the ethical acts of the human soul, and made an inferior consequence of the virtuous principle; a consequence of its defect, a modification of self-love. It would follow, of course, that the perfect man might be too virtuous to have any conscience at all. It is simpler reasoning still, to conclude as many of Edwards’ followers have done, from his premises; that, as simple benevolence is virtue, self-love is sin. And hence would come about that marvelous interpretation, which is one of the most recent triumphs of the New England theology; when in expounding Ge 3:22, it tells us that Adam and Eve acquired a knowledge of moral distinctions only by their fall. For, conscience is a development of the principle of self-love, as Edwards teaches; and self-love is the essence of sin, as the moderns say: from which it follows, that man acquires his moral nature only by his immorality.

Sin and Self-Love Yet Not Identical.

These fatuous absurdities Edwards was too shrewd to adopt. He does not teach, as his premises should have taught him, that selflove is sin. Indeed, in a part of his treatise, he adopts the correct analysis of Bp. Butler, as to this affection. Inform yourselves of that analysis in his sermons, from the 11th with to the 14th. He there teaches us, with his customary profound simplicity, the true testimony of our consciousness; That benevolence and self-love are in fact distinguishable, but not opposite affections of the soul (as is so often popularly assumed); That instead of being universally opposed, they often cooperate as motives to the same act; That the act hence elicited may be either virtuous or vicious, according to its conditions; That both benevolence and self-love are so far in the same moral categories, that notoriously, some acts of simple selflove, (as when a man directly seeks his own calculated but lawful, or obligatory personal good) and many acts of benevolence are virtuous; and that many acts of self-love (as when a man prefers his own mischievous animal pleasure), and many acts of disinterestedness (as when a man deliberately injures himself for the sake of revenge), are vicious. From these clear statements it follows obviously, that the benevolent cannot be exalted into the universal essence of virtue, nor the selfish into that of sin.

What Has Suggested These Benevolence Schemes?

These theories derive all the plausibility of their sophistries from three facts. It has been so often said, that "Honesty is the best policy," that men come to think the goodness of the policy is what makes it honest; To promote utility, or, in other words, to do acts of beneficence to mankind, is, in a multitude of cases, right and praiseworthy; The duties of benevolence are duties, and a very extensive class thereof; but not, therefore, exhaustive of all duties. Once more, in the business of legislation, the expedient is very much the guide; and crimes are punished chiefly in proportion to their tendency to injure the well-doing of society. This might easily deceive one who, like Bentham, was far more of a legislator than philosopher, to suppose that he had found, in the beneficence of acts, the essential element of their virtue. He forgets that human laws propose as their proximate end only the protection of human well-being in this world; and not the accurate final apportionment of merits. This is God’s function alone.

1st. It Is Selfish In Fact.

The utilitarian schemes of ethics profess to stand in contrast to the selfish, because they propose not the selfish good of the agent, but the well-being of mankind, as the element and test of virtue. But they would really involve, as Jouffroy argues, the vice of the selfish systems, if consistently carried out to their last result. For when the question is raised, "Why do men come to regard the utile as the right?" the answer must be, because well-being (natural enjoyment) is the most proper end of man. But it must follow that desire of natural good is man’s most proper motive of action. The moral motive, then, is as effectually left out of the analysis as by Hobbes himself; and the same absurd psychology is assumed, which makes desire for natural good the result of experienced good, whereas the desire must act first, or the good would never have come to be experienced. But more; if desire for natural good is man’s most proper motive of action, it must follow, that his own personal good must always be the most proper end of moral action; because this must always be the nearest, most immediate object of the natural desire. These schemes make aggregate humanity the supreme object of moral action; the true God. But the individual agent is a part of that aggregate; a part of his own God! And as he is the most attainable part—the only part for whose natural welfare he can labor effectually—I see not how the practical conclusion is to be avoided; that he is his own most proper supreme end. Hence we are led back to the vilest results of the selfish system; and such, experience teaches us; is the practical tendency. While the utilitarian schemes profess great beneficence, they make their votaries supremely politic and selfish.

2nd. Utility Not the Conscious Rule of Obligation.

But farther; the scheme does not correctly state the facts of our consciousness. The mind does not feel that obligation to an act is always its mere utility or beneficence, nor that the merit of the agent arises out of the advantage his act effects. How often, for instance, do questions arise, as to the obligation of speaking truth; where, if utility were the element of obligation, none would be felt; yet the mind would feel most guilty, had falsehood been uttered in the case. Again; were utility the element of virtue, the rightness or wrongness of an act would only be apprehended so far as experience had given us knowledge as to the beneficence or mischievousness of its effects. Is this so? Does not the conscience lash us for secret sins which leave no loss of reputation, health, or capacity behind them; and lash us all the more promptly and keenly, as we are inexperienced of crime and its wretched consequences? Farther; were this theory true, all truly useful things should affect us with similar sentiments of moral approbation, a convenient bureau, or good milch cow, as truly as a faithful friend, or a benevolent rescuer. Does Hume attempt to escape by saying that it is the rational and voluntary useful act which affects us with the sentiment of approbation? Then, we reply, he has given up the case; for evidently the morality of the act is not in its utility, but in its rational motive. Once more; if utility is the sole element of virtue, then the degree of utility should also be the measure of virtuous merit. We should always feel those acts to be most meritorious which were most conducive to natural good. But do we? e.g. Which ennobles Daniel most in our eyes: the heroism which refused to bow his conscience to an impious prohibition of his king, when the penalty was the lions’ den, or the diligence which dispensed order and prosperity over one hundred and twenty provinces? And the extravagant conclusions of Godwin must be accepted—that duties must be graded by us in proportion to the public importance of the person who was their object; so that it might be the son’s duty to see his own father drown, in order to save some more valuable life, who is a stranger to him.

3rd. If So, We Might "Do Evil That Good May Come."

Were the utilitarian scheme true, it might be in some cases utterly impossible to convince a man that it was immoral to "do evil that good might come." If the consequences of the evil act, so far as foreseen by his mind, seemed beneficial, it would be right to do it. Nor could the claims of retributive justice in many cases be substantiated; the criminal who gave, by his penitence, sufficient guarantee that he would offend no more, could not be made, without immorality, to pay his debt of guilt. And above all, eternal retributions would be utterly indefensible in a God of infinite wisdom and power. How can they advantage the universe, including the sufferers, as much as their pardon and thorough conversion would benefit them, without injuring the rest?

4th. Paley’s Scheme.

Paley’s type of the Selfish System may be said to be equally perspicuous and false. That such a fourth. Paley’s scheme specimen of impotency and sophism in philosophy should come from a mind capable of so much justice and perspicuity of reasoning, as he has exhibited in the experimental field of Natural Theology, is one of the most curious facts in the history of opinion. I shall first attempt to rebut the objections which he insinuates against the originality of moral perceptions, and then criticize his own theory.

Attacks Originality of Moral Judgments.

He first proposes to test the question, whether such distinctions are originally and intuitively perceived, by supposing a case of what we call odious filial treachery, stated to a mind perfectly untutored by human associations, example, and teaching; and asking us whether he would immediately feel its vileness, with us. We answer, of course, No. But to show how absurdly preposterous the test is, we need not, with Dr. Alexander, dwell on the complexity of the moral problem involved. The simple answer is, that such a mind would not have the moral sentiment, because he would not comprehend the relations out of which the violated obligations grew, nor the very words used, to state them. In no proper sense could the untutored mind be said to see the case. Now, what a paltry trick is it, to argue that a mind has not a power of comparison, because it cannot compare objects which it does not behold at all?

Attributes Them To Association.

Paley insinuates (none of his objections to moral intuitions are stated boldly) that our notions of the moral may all be accounted for by association and imitation. Hence, "having noticed that certain actions produced, or tended to produce, good consequences, whenever those actions are spoken of, they suggest, by the law of association, the pleasing idea of the good they are wont to produce. What association begins, imitation strengthens; this habit of connecting a feeling of pleasure with classes of acts is confirmed by similar habits of thought and feeling around us, and we dub it the sentiment of moral approbation." (Borrowed from Hume.) Now, this analysis is shown to be worthless in this one word. The law of association does not transmute, but only reproduces, the mental states connected by it. How, then, can the feeling of pleasure, which begins from a perceived tendency in a class of acts to promote nature good, be changed by association into the pleasure of moral approbation? They are distinct enough at first. Again, how, on this scheme, could men ever come to have pain of conscience at sins which are naturally pleasurable, and attended with no more direct natural ill? And how could the fact ever be explained, that we often have the sentiment of remorse for doing something in compliance with general associations and imitation?

Objects, That They Are Not Referable To Any Simpler Type.

Another class of objections is drawn from the facts that man has no innate ideas of the abstract element of moral right; and that moralists, though asserting the instinctive origin of moral perceptions, have never been able to point to any one type, or simple abstract element (as veracity, etc.), into which all moral acts might be resolved. After our criticism of Locke, no farther answer will be needed to the first objection. The second, when examined, will be found to be a bald begging of the question. The question is, whether the rightness of acts is an original perception of the human reason. Now, if it be, it will of course follow that it cannot be referred to some more general type of perception. Can this general idea, a truth, be analyzed? Why not? Because it is already simple and primary. Who dreams of arguing now that the human reason has no original capacity of perceiving truth in propositions, because it has no more general and abstract type, into which the sorts of truth in different classes of propositions may be referred? So, of the idea of rightness.

And Variable.

Paley also borrows the common argument of objectors, from the wide variety, and even contrariety of moral opinions in different ages and nations. In one nation, filial duty is supposed to consist in nursing an aged parent; in another land, in eating him, etc. The answers are, that no one ever pretended any human faculty was perfect in its actings, however original. Habit and association, example, passion, have great influence in perverting any faculty. Next, as justly remarked by Dr. Alexander, many of the supposed cases of contrariety of moral judgments are fully explained by the fact, that the dictate of conscience, right in the general, is perverted by some error or ignorance of the understanding. The Christian mother feels it her duty to cherish the life of her infant; the Hindu to drown hers in Holy Ganges! True. Yet both act on the dictate of conscience—that a mother should seek the highest good of her infant. The Hindu has been taught by her false creed, to believe that she does this by transferring it in childhood to heaven. Once more, it is a most erroneous conclusion to infer that, because men perform, in some countries, what are here regarded as odious vices, with seeming indifference and publicity, therefore their moral sentiments about them do not agree with ours. An educated Hindu will lie for a penny, and, when detected, laugh at it as smart. A Hottentot woman will seem shameless in her lewdness. Yet we are informed that the Hindu reverences and admires the truthfulness of a Christianized Briton; and that the poor Hottentot scorns the unchaste European missionary, just as any female here would. The amount of the case is, that conscience may be greatly stupefied or drowned by evil circumstances; but her general dictates, so far as heard, are infallibly uniform.

Paley’s Definition of Duty

Paley, having succeeded, to his own satisfaction, in proving that there is no sufficient evidence of moral intuitions existing in the human soul, gives his own definition. "Virtue is doing good to mankind, according to the will of God, for the sake of everlasting happiness." And moral obligation, he defines, as nothing else than a forcible motive arising out of a command of another. That this scheme should ever have seemed plausible to Christians, can only be accounted for by the fact that we intuitively feel, when a God is properly apprehended, that His will is a perfect rule of right; and that it is moral to do all His commands. But when we raise the question, why? the answer is, because His will, like His character, is holy. To do His will, then, is not obligatory merely because an Almighty has commanded it; but He has commanded it because it is obligatory. The distinction of right and wrong is intrinsic.

Objections. The System Is A Selfish One.

The objections to Paley’s system are patent. He himself raises the question, wherein virtue, on his definition, differs from a prudent self-love in temporal things. His answer is, the latter has regard only to this life; the former considers also future immortal well-being. Brown well observes of this, that it is but a more odious refinement upon the selfish system; defiling man’s very piety, by making it a selfish trafficing for personal advantage with God, and fostering a more gigantic moral egotism, inasmuch as immortality is longer than mortal life. All the objections leveled against the selfish system by me, apply, therefore, justly here. This scheme of Paley is equally false to our consciousness, which tells us that when we act, in all relative duties, with least reference to self, then we are most praiseworthy.

Force May Justify Sin.

But we may add, more especially, that on Paley’s scheme of obligation, it is hard to see how he could deny that there may be, in some cases, as real a moral obligation to do wrong, as to do right. A company of violent men overpower me, and command me, on pain of instant death, to burn down my neighbor’s dwelling. Here is "a forcible motive arising from the command of another." Why does it not constitute a moral obligation to the crime? Paley would reply, because God commands me not to burn it, on pain of eternal death; and this obligation destroys the other, because the motive is vastly more forcible. It seems, then, that in God’s case, it is His might which makes His right.

No Obligation Without Revelation. And No Virtue In God.

Once more. On Paley’s scheme, there could be no morality nor moral obligation, where there is no revelation from God; because neither the rule, nor motive, nor obligation of virtue exists. They do not exist indeed, Paley might reply, in the form of a revealed theology; but they are there in the teachings and evidences of Natural Theology. "The heathen which have not the law are a law unto themselves, their consciences," etc. But if there are no authoritative intuitions given by God to man’s soul, of moral distinctions, then Natural Theology has no sufficient argument whatever to prove that God is a moral being, or that He wills us to perform moral acts. Look and see. And, finally, what can God’s morality be; since there is no will of a higher being to regulate His acts, and no being greater than He to hold out the motive of eternal rewards for obeying!

5th. Dr. A. Smith’s Theory.

The ingenious scheme of Dr. Adam Smith, Theory of Mor. Sents, may be seen very perspicuously unfolded in Jouffroy. This scheme is by no means so mischievous and degrading as that of Hobbes, Hume or Paley. But it is incorrect. Its fundamental defect is, that in each step it assumes the prior existence of the moral sentiment, in order to account for it. For instance, it says: We feel approbation for an act, when we experience a sympathetic emotion with the sentiments in the agent which prompted it. But sympathy only reproduces the same emotion; it does not transmute it; so that unless the producing sentiment in the agent were moral, it could not, by sympathy, generate a moral sentiment in us. It supposes conscience comes hence: We imagine an ideal man contemplating our act, conceive the kind of sentiments he feels for us, and then sympathize therewith. But how do we determine the sentiments of this ideal man looking at our act? He is but a projection of our own moral sentiments. So, in each step, Dr. S. has to assume the phenomenon, as already produced; for the production of which he would account. Another fatal objection to Dr. Smith’s scheme is, that the sympathetic affection in the beholder is always fainter than the direct sentiment in the object beheld. But conscience visits upon us stronger affections than are awakened by beholding the moral acts of another, and approving or blaming them. The sentiments of conscience should, according to Dr. Smith, be feebler; for they are the reflection of a reflection.

Moral Judgments Are Intuitive.

ARE moral distinctions intrinsic; and are they intuitively perceived? We have now passed in review all the several theories which answer, no; and found them untenable. Alone, we derive a strong probability that the affirmative is the true answer. For example, consider all the chemists who endeavor in vain to analyze a given material substance into some other known one, yet fail. It is, therefore, assumed to be simple and original.

We must assume this of the moral sentiment; or else it is unintelligible how mankind ever became possessed of the moral idea. For every original and simple idea, whether sensitive or rational, with which our souls are furnished, we find an appropriate original power; and without this the idea could never have been entertained by man. Had man no eyes, he would have never had ideas of light and colors; no ear, he could never have had the idea of melody; no taste, he would forever have lacked the idea of beauty. So, if the idea of rightness in acts is not identical with that of truth, nor utility, nor benevolence, nor self-love, nor love of applause, nor sympathetic harmony; nor any other original sentiment; it must be received directly by an original moral power in the soul. To this, in the second place, consciousness testifies: the man who calmly and fully investigates his own mental processes, will perceive that his view and feeling of the rightness of some acts arise immediately in his mind; without any medium, except the comprehension of the real relations of the act; that their rise is unavoidable; and that their failure to rise would be immediately and necessarily apprehended by all, as a fundamental defect of his soul. There is, indeed, a great diversity in the estimation of the more complex details of moral questions. And man’s intuition of those distinctions is often disturbed by three causes, well stated by Dr. Brown—complexity of elements, habits of association, and prevalent passion. But, allowing for these, there is just the universal and immediate agreement in all sane human minds, which we expect to find in the acceptance of necessary first truths. In the fundamental and simple ideas of morals, men are agreed. And in the case of any other intuitions, we have to make precisely the same allowance, and to expect the same disturbing causes. These, with the remarks I made in refutation of Paley’s subjections, I think suffice to sustain the true theory on that point.

Illustrated From Logical Judgments.

I hold, then, that as there is, in some propositions (not in all—some are truisms, many are meaningless, and some so unknown as to be neither affirmed nor denied), the element of truth or falsehood, original, simple, incapable of analysis or definition in simpler terms, and ascertainable by the mind’s intellection; so there is in actions, of the class called moral, an intrinsic quality of rightness or wrongness, equally simple, original, and incapable of analysis; and, like simple truth, perceived immediately by the inspection of the reason. This quality is intrinsic; they are not right merely because God has commanded, or because He has formed souls to think so, or because He has established any relation of utility, beneficence, or self-interest therewith. But God has commanded them, and formed these relations to them, because they are right. Just as a proposition is not true because our minds are so constructed as to apprehend it such; but our minds were made by God to see it so, because it is true.

Some Moral Judgments Are Likewise Deductive.

But understand me, do not assert that all moral distinctions in particular acts are intuitively seen, or necessarily seen. As in propositions, some have primary, and some deductive truth; some are seen to be true without premises, and some by the help of premises; so, in acts having moral qualities, the rightness or wrongness of some is seen immediately, and of some deductively. In the latter, the moral relation of the agent is not immediately seen, but the moral judgment is mediated only by the knowledge of some other truths. If these truths are not known, then the moral quality of the act is not obvious. From this simple remark it very clearly follows, that if the mind’s belief touching these truths, which are premises to the moral judgment, be erroneous, the moral judgment will also err. Just as in logic, so here, false premises, legitimately used, will lead to false conclusions. And here is the explanation of the discrepancies in moral judgments, which have so confused Ethics.

But there are several writers of eminence, who, while they substantially, yea nobly, uphold the originality and excellence of man’s moral distinctions, err, as we think, in the details of their analysis. A moment’s inquiry into their several departures from my theory, will best serve to define and establish it.

The Moral Distinction Seen By the Reason.

First. Seeing that the moral distinction is intrinsic; what is the faculty of the soul by which it is apprehended? (Bear in mind a faculty is not a limb of mind, hut only a name we give to one phase or sort of its processes.) Does it apprehend it by its reason; or by a distinct moral faculty? Says Dr. Hutcheson, an English writer: By a distinct, though rational perceptive faculty, which he names, the moral sense; and describes as an internal sense—i. e., a class of processes perceptive, and also exhibiting sensibility. Says Dr. Alexander, The perceptive part of our moral processes, is simply a judgment of the reason. It is but an intellection of the understanding, like any other judgment of relations, except that it immediately awakens a peculiar emotion, viz: the moral. Now, it might be plausibly said that the reason is concerned only with the judgment of truth; and we have strenuously repudiated the analysis which reduces the moral distinction to mere truth. But it should rather be said, that the proper field of the reason is the judgment of relations; truth existing in propositions is only one class. There seems no ground to suppose that the moral judgment, so far as merely intellective of the distinction, is other than a simple judgment of the reason; because, so far as we know, wherever reason is, there, and there only, are moral judgments.

Second. If the faculties were two, the one, we might rationally expect, might sometimes convict the other of inaccuracy, as the memory does the reason, and vice versa.

Third. The identity of the two processes seems strongly indicated by the fact, that if the reason is misled by any falsehood of view, the moral sentiment is infallibly perverted to just the same extent.

The moral motive is always a rational one. Some rational perception of the truth of a proposition predicating relation, is necessary, as the occasion of its acting, and the object of a moral judgment. The reason why brutes have not moral ideas, is that they have not reason. In short, I see nothing gained by supposing an inward perceptive faculty called moral sense, other than the reason itself.

Next we notice the question: at what stage of its perceptions of the relations of acts, does the reason see the moral distinction? In each separate case immediately, as soon as the soul is enough developed to apprehend the relations of the particular act? No, answers Jouffroy, but only after a final generalization is accomplished by the reason.

Jouffroy’s Scheme.

His theory is: First. That in the merely animal stage of existence, the infant acts from direct, uncalculating instinct alone. The rational idea of its own natural good is the consequence, not origin, of the experienced pleasure following from the gratification of instinct. Second. Experience presents the occasions upon which the reason gives the general idea of personal good; and the motives of self-calculation begin to act. Third. The child also observes similar instincts, resulting in its fellowmen in natural enjoyment to them; and as it forms the general idea of its own natural good (satisfaction of the whole circle of instincts to greatest attainable degree) as its most proper personal end; reason presents the general truth, that a similar personal end exists for this, that, the other, and every fellowman. Here, then, arises a still more general idea; the greatest attainable natural good of all beings generally; the "absolute good," or "universal order"; and as soon as this is reached, the reason intuitively pronounces it the moral good; to live for this, is now seen to be man’s proper end; and rightness in acts is their rational tendency to that end. This is rather a subtle and ingenious generalization of the result of our moral judgments, than a correct account of their origin. This generalization, as made by the opening mind, might suggest the notion of symmetry, or utility as belonging to the "absolute order," but surely that of obligatoriness is an independent element of rational perception! If the idea of rightness and obligation had never connected itself in the opening mind with any specific act having a tendency to man’s natural good, how comes the mind to apprehend the universal order as the obligatory moral end, when once the reason forms that abstraction? It seems to me that the element of moral judgment must be presupposed, to account for the result. Again; the supposed process is inconsistent with a correct idea of the generalizing process. The process does not transmute but only colligates the facts which it ranks together. The general attributes which the mind apprehends as constituting the connotation of the general term, are precisely the attributes which it saw to be common in all the special cases grouped together. So that, if a moral order had not been already apprehended by the reason in the specific acts, the mere apprehension of the universal order would not produce the conviction of its morality. Experience would strengthen the moral idea. But usually the most unhackneyed have it most vividly. But it is right to say, that Jouffroy, notwithstanding this peculiarity of his theory, deserves the admiration of his readers, for the beauty of his analyses, and the general elevation of his views.

Sentimental Scheme of Dr. Thomas Brown.

The ethical lectures of Dr. Thomas Brown, of Edinburgh, are marked by great acuteness, and nobility of general tone; and he has rendered gallant service in refuting the more erroneous theories. He makes moral distinctions original and authoritative, and yet allows the reason only a secondary function in them. The whole result of this analysis is this: when certain actions (an action is nothing more than the agent acting) are presented, there arises immediately an emotion, called, for want of a more vivid term, moral approbation, without any previous condition of self-calculation, judgment of relation in the reason, and so on. This immediate emotion constitutes our whole feeling of the rightness, obligation, meritoriousness, of the agent. As experience gathers up and recollects the successive acts which affect us with the moral emotion, reason makes the generalization of them into a class; and therefore, derivatively forms the general idea of virtue. Man’s moral capacity, therefore, is, strictly, not a power of intellection, but a sensibility. The reason only generalizes into a class, those acts which have the immediate power of affecting this sensibility in the same way. And Brown’s system deserves yet more than Adam Smith’s, which he so ably refutes, to be called the Sentimental System. The moral sentiment is with him strictly an instinctive emotion.

Now, it does not seem to me a valid objection, to say with Jouffroy, that hence, the moral emotion is made one among the set of our natural instincts: and there no longer appears any reason why it should be more dominant over the others out of its own domain, than they over it (e.g., more than taste, or resentment, or appetite). For the very nature of this moral instinct, Brown might reply, is, that it claims all other susceptibilities which have moral quality, are in its own domain.

Objection. 1st. Soul Always Sees, In Order To Feel. 2nd. No Virtue Without Rational, Impersonal Motive. 3rd. There Would Be No Uniform Standard.

The truer objections are, that this notion does not square with the analogies of the soul. In every case, our emotions arise out of an intellection. This is true, in a lower sense, even of our animal instincts. It is perception which awakens appetites. It is the conception of an intent to injure, which gives the signal to our resentment, even when it arises towards an agent nonmoral. And in all the more intellectual emotions, as of taste, love, moral complacency, the view of the understanding, and that alone, evokes the emotion in a normal way. The soul feels, because it has seen. How else could reason rule our emotions? Surely this is one of our most important distinctions from brutes, that our emotions are not mere instincts, but rational affections. Note, especially too, that if our moral sentiments had no element of judgment at their root, the fact would be inexplicable, that they never, like all other instinctive emotions, come in collision with reason. Again, Dr. B. has very properly shown, in overthrowing the selfish systems of human action, that our instincts are not prompted by self-interest. He seems, therefore, to think that when he makes the moral emotion an instinctive sensibility, he has done all that is needed to make it disinterested. But an action is not, therefore, morally disinterested, because it is not self-interested. Then would our very animal appetites, even in infancy, be virtues! The truth is, in instinctive volitions, the motive is personal to the agent; but not consciously so. In selfish volitions the motive is personal to the agent; and he knows it. Only when the motive is impersonal, and he knows it, is there disinterestedness, or virtue. Last, if Brown’s theory were correct, moral good would only be relative to each man’s sensibility; and there would be no uniform standard. An act might be good to one, bad to another, just as it presented itself to his sensibility; as truly as in the sense of the natural good, one man calls oysters good, and another considers oysters bad. Whereas the true doctrine is, that moral distinctions are as intrinsic in certain acts, as truth is in certain propositions and eternal and immutable. Even God sees, and calls the right to be right, because it so, not vice versa. Dr. Brown foresees this, and attempting to rebut it, is guilty of peculiar absurdity. Why says he, does it give any more intrinsic basis for moral distinctions in the acts (or agents acting) themselves, to suppose that our cognizance of them is by a rational judgment, than to say, with him, that it is in the way they naturally affect a sensibility in us? The capacity of having the intuitive judgment is itself but a sort of rational sensibility to be affected in a given way; and, in either case, we have no ground for any belief of an intrinsic permanence of the relation or quality perceived, but that our Maker made us to be affected so! Hence, he betrays the whole basis of morals and truth, to a sweeping skepticism. Does not intuition compel us to believe that reason is affected with such and such judgments, because the grounds of them are actual and intrinsic in the objects? Dr. Brown goes to the absurd length of saying, that the supposed relations ascertained by reason herself, are not intrinsic, and exist nowhere, except in the perceiving reason, e.g., the relation of square of hypotenuse. Says he, were there nowhere a perceiving mind comprehending this relation, the relation would have no existence, no matter how many right-angled triangles existed! Is not this absolute skepticism? Is it not equivalent to saying that none of the perceptions of reason (i. e., human beliefs), have any objective validity? There need be no stronger refutation of his theory, than that he should acknowledge himself driven by it to such an admission.

The Moral State Complex Illustrated By Taste.

The correct view, no doubt, is this: that our simplest moral states consist of two elements: a judgment of the understanding, or rational perception of the moral quality in the act; and an immediate, peculiar emotion, called approbation, arising thereupon, giving more or less warmth to the judgment. In our moral estimates of more complex cases, just as in our intellectual study of derived truths, the process may be more inferential, and more complex. It has been often, and justly remarked, that the Parallel between the rational aesthetic functions of the soul, and its moral functions, is extremely instructive. Psychology teaches us that rational taste (for instance, the pleasure of literary beauty in reading a fine passage), consists of a judgment, or cluster of judgments, and a peculiar emotion immediately supervening thereon. The sentiment of taste is, then, complex, consisting of an action of the intelligence and a motion of the sensibility. The former is cause; the latter is consequence. After the excitement of the sensibility has wholly waned, the judgment which aroused it remains fixed and unchanged. Now, it is this way with our moral sentiments. A rational judgment of the intrinsic righteousness or wrongness of the act immediately produces an emotion of approbation, or disapprobation, which is original and peculiar.

The whole vividness of the sentiment may pass away; but the rational judgment will remain as permanent as any judgment of truth in propositions. The great distinction between the Aesthetic and ethical actions of the soul, is that the latter carries the practical and sacred perception of obligation.

Conscience, What? Obligation, What?

Conscience, as I conceive, is but the faculty of the soul just described, acting With reference to our own moral acts, conceived as future, done, or remembered as done When we conceive the wrongness of an act as done by ourselves, that judgment and emotion take the form of self-blame, or remorse; wherein the emotion is made more pungent than in other cases of disapprobation, by our instinctive and our self-calculating self-love, one or both. So of the contrasted case. And the merit of an action, looked at as past, is no other than this judgment and feeling of its rightness, which intuitively connects the idea of title to reward with the agent, i. e., our ideas of merit and demerit are intuitions arising immediately upon the conception of the rightness or wrongness of the acts; connecting natural good or evil with moral good or evil, by an immediate tie. Our ideas of desert of reward or punishment, therefore, are not identical with our sentiments of the rightness or wrongness of acts, as Dr. Brown asserts, but are intuitively consequent thereon. Dr. B. also asserts, as also Dr. Alexander, that our notion of obligation is no other than our intuitive judgment of rightness in acts, regarded as prospective. Therefore, it is useless and foolish to raise the question: "Why am I obliged, morally, to do that which is right?" It is as though one should debate why he should believe an axiom. This is substantially correct. But when they say, whatever is right, is obligatory, and vice versa, there is evidently a partial error. For there is a limited class of acts, of which the rightness is not proportioned to the obligation to perform them; but on the contrary, the less obligation, the more admirable is the virtue of doing them gratuitously. Such are some acts of generosity to unworthy enemies: and especially God’s to rebel man. That God was under no obligation to give His Son to die for them, is the very reason His grace in doing so is so admirable! Obligation, therefore, is not always the correlative of rightness in the act, but it is, always, the correlative of a right in the object. This is the distinction which has been overlooked—i. e., a multitude of our acts have a personal object, God, self, a man, or mankind, one or more; and the conscience in many cases apprehends, not only that the act would be right, but that such are the relations of ourselves to the object, that he has a right, a moral title to have it done, in such sense that not only the doing of the opposite to him, but the withholding of the act itself, would be wrong. In every such case, the notion of obligation arises. And that, stronger or weaker, whether the object’s right be perfect or imperfect.

Imperative of Conscience Is Intuitive.

The most important thing, however, for us to observe, is that every sane mind intuitively recognizes this moral obligation.

The judgment and emotion we call conscience carries this peculiarity over all other states of reason or instinct, that it contains the imperative element. It utters a command, the rightness of which the understanding is necessitated to admit. Other motives, rational or instinctive, may often (alas!) overcome it in force; but none of them can dispute its authority.

It is as impossible for the mind, after having given the preference to other motives, to think its choice therein right, as it is to think any other intuition untrue. Conscience is the Maker’s imperative in the soul.

Must Conscience, Misguided, Be Obeyed?

Hence it must follow that the dictate of conscience must always be obeyed; or sin ensues. But conscience is not infallible, as guided by man’s fallible understanding it is clear from both experience and reason, that her fiat may be misdirected. In that case, is the act innocent, or wrong? If you say the latter, you seem involved in a glaring paradox; that to obey would be wrong; and yet to disobey would be wrong. How can both be true? If you say the former, other absurdities would follow. First. Truth would seem to be of no consequence in order to right; and the conscience might just as well be left uninformed, as informed, so far as one man is personally concerned therein. Second. Each man’s view of duty would be valid for him; so that there might be as many clashing views of duty, as men, and each valid in itself; so that we should reach such absurdities as these: A has a right to a given object which B has an equal right to prevent his having; so that B has a moral right to do to A what is to him a moral wrong! Third. Many of the most odious acts in the world, reprobated by all posterity, as the persecutions of a Saul, or a Dominic, would be justified, because the perpetrators believed they were doing God service.


The solution of this seeming paradox is in this fact: that God has not given man a conscience which is capable of misleading him. when lawfully and innocently used. In other words, while lack of knowledge necessary to perceive our whole duty may often occur (in which case it is always innocent to postpone acting), positive error of moral judgment only arises from guilty haste or heedlessness, or indolence, or from sinful passion or prejudice. When, therefore, a man sincerely believes it right in his conscience to do what is intrinsically wrong, the wrongness is not in the fact that he obeyed conscience (for this abstractly is right), but in the fact that he had before, and at the time, perverted conscience by sinful means.

What Constitutes Moral Agency?

We intuitively apprehend that all agents are not blind subjects of moral approbation or disapprobation. Hence, the question must be settled: what are the elements essential to moral responsibility! This can be settled no otherwise than by an appeal to our intuitions. For instance, we may take an act of the form which would have moral quality, if done by a moral agent—e.g., inflicting causeless bodily pain; and attributing it to successive sorts of agents, from lower to higher, ascertain what the elements are, which confer responsibility. As we walk through a grove, a dead branch falls on our heads; we feel that resentment would be absurd, much more disapprobation, the thing is dead. We walk near our horse, he wantonly kicks or bites. There is a certain type of anger; but it is not moral disapprobation; we feel still, that this would be absurd. Here, there is sensibility and will in the agent: but no conscience or reason. We walk with our friend; he treads on our corns and produces intolerable pain; but it is obviously unintentional. We pass through a lunatic asylum; a maniac tries to kill us. Here is sensibility, free will, intention; but reason is dethroned. In neither of these cases should we have moral disapprobation. A stronger man takes hold of our friend, and by brute force makes him strike us; there is no anger towards our friend, he is under coaction. We learn from these various instances, that free agency, intention, and rationality are all necessary, to constitute a man a responsible moral agent.

Chapter 07: Free Agency and the Will

Section One—Defending the Faith
Chapter 7: Free Agency and the Will

Syllabus for Lecture 11:

1. Are man’s actions under a fatal necessity?

Alexander’s Moral Science, chs. 15, 16. Cousin, e vrai c.f., Lecon 14. Jouffroy, Lectures. 4, 5. Morell, Hist. Mod. Phil. on Hobbes and Sensationalism, p. 74, c.f., p. 299, c.f.

2. What constitutes Free Agency? State the theory of Indifferency of the Will and Power of Contrary Choice. State, on the other hand, the theory of Certainty and Efficiency of Motives.

Turrettin, Loc. x, Qu. i, Qu. iii, Sect. 1-4. Alexander, chs. 16, 18, 19. Edwards on the Will, Introduc. and pt. i, Morell, p. 299 c.f. Reid’s Philosophy of Mind. McCosh, Gov. Divine and Moral, p. 273, c.f. Watson’s Theolog. Institutes, Vol. ii. p. 304, p. 435 c.f.

3. Sustain the true doctrine, and answer objections.

Turrettin, Loc. x, Qu. 2. Edwards on the Will, pt. iii. Alexander, as above. Bledsoe on the Will and Theodicy, pt. i. Aristotle, Nicomachian Ethics, bk. vi p. 23. Dr. Wm. Cunningham, Hist. Theology, chs. 20, Sect. 1, 2, 3. Anselm.

Man A Free Agent, Denied By Two Parties.

But is man a free agent? Many have denied it. These may be ranked under two classes Theological Fatalists and Sensualistic Necessitarians. The former argue from the doctrine of God’s foreknowledge and providence; the latter from the certainty, or, as it has unluckily been termed, necessity of the Will. Say the one party; God has foreknown and foreordained all that is done by rational man, as well as by irrational elements, and His almighty providence infallibly effectuates it all. Therefore man’s will is only seemingly free; he must be a machine; compelled by God (for if God had no efficacious means to compel He could not certainly have foreknown) to do what God purposed from eternity; and, therefore, man never had any real choice; he is the slave of this divine fate. Say the other party, headed by Hobbes: man’s volitions are all effects: following with a physical necessity upon the movement of the preponderant desires. But what are his desires? The soul intrinsically is passive; the attributes are nothing but certain susceptibilities of being affected in certain ways, by impressions from without. There is nothing, no thought, no feeling in the mind, except what sensation produced there; indeed all inward states are but modified sensations. Thus, desire is but the reflex of the perception of a desirable object; resentment but the reaction from impact. Man’s emotions, then, are the physical results of outward impressions, and his volitions the necessary effects of his emotions. Man’s whole volitions, therefore, are causatively determined from without. While he supposes himself free, he is the slave of circumstances; of fate, if those circumstances arise by chance.

Replies To Them.

Now, in answer to all this, it would be enough to say, that our consciousness contradicts it. There can be no higher evidence than that of consciousness. Every man feels conscious that wherever he has power to do what he wills, he acts freely. And the validity of this uniform, immediate testimony of consciousness, as Cousin well remarks, on this subject, must, in a sense, supersede all other evidence of our free agency; because all possible premises of such arguments must depend on the testimony of consciousness. But still, it is correct to argue, that man must be a free agent; because this is inevitably involved in his responsibility. Conscience tells us we are responsible for our moral acts. Reason pronounces, intuitively, that responsibility would be absurd were we not free agents. It may be well added, that when you approach revealed theology, you find the Scriptures (which so frequently assert God’s decree and providence), assert and imply with equal frequency, man’s free agency. The king of Babylon (Isa 14) fulfills God’s purpose in capturing the sinful Jews; but he also fulfills the purpose of his own heart. But we can do more than rebut the Fatalist’s views by the testimony of our consciousness; we can expose their sophistry. God’s mode of effectuating His purposes as to the acts of free agents, is not by compelling their acts or wills, contrary to their preferences and dispositions; either secretly or openly; but by operating through their dispositions. And as to the latter argument, from the certainty of the will; we repudiate the whole philosophy of sensationalism, from which it arises. True, volitions are effects; but not effects of the objects upon which they go forth. The perception of these is but the occasion of their rise, not the cause. When desire attaches itself upon any external object, terminating in volition, the whole activity and power are in the mind, not in the object. The true immediate cause of volition is the mind’s own previous view and feeling; and, this, again, is the result of the mind’s spontaneity, as guided by its own prevalent attributes and habitudes.

Freedom and Necessity Defined. Semi-Pelagianism and Calvinists.

What constitutes man a free agent? One party claims the self-determining power of the will, and another claims that the self-determining power of the soul makes man a free agent. The first party tends to view the will as influenced by external criteria; the second party tends the view the will as influenced by the motives of one’s own soul. The one asserts that our acts of volition are uncaused phenomena, that the will remains in equilibrio, after all the preliminary conditions of judgment in the understanding, and emotion of the native dispositions are fulfilled, and that the act of choice is self-determined by the will, and not by the preliminary states of soul tending thereto; so that volitions are in every case, more or less contingent. The other party repudiates, indeed, the old sensational creed, of a physical tie between the external objects which are the occasions of our judgments and feelings; and attributes all action Of will to the soul’s own spontaneity as its efficient source.

But it asserts that this spontaneity, like all other forces in the universe, acts according to law; that this law is the connection between the soul’s own states and its own choices, the former being as much of its own spontaneity as the latter; that therefore volitions are not uncaused, but always follow the actual state of judgment and feeling (single or complex), at the time being; and that this connection is not contingent, but efficient and certain. And this certainty is all that they mean by moral necessity.

Will Determined By Subjective Motives. Arguments.

The latter is evidently the true doctrine, because A. our consciousness says so. Every man feels that when he acts, as a thinking being, he has a motive for acting so; and that if he had not had, he would not have done it. The man is conscious that he determines himself, else, he would not be free; but he is equally conscious that it is himself judging and desiring, which determines himself choosing, B. otherwise there would be no such thing as a recognition of character, or permanent principles. For there would be no efficient influence of the man’s own principles over his actions (and it is by his actions alone we would know his principles), and his principles might be of a given character, and his actions of a different, or of no character.

Consequently there would be no certain result from human influence over man’s character and actions, in education and moral government. We might educate the principles, and still fail to educate the actions and habits. The fact which we all experience every day would be impossible, that we can cause our fellowmen to put forth certain volitions, that we can often do it with a foreseen certainty, and still we feel that those acts are free and responsible, D. otherwise man might be neither a reasonable nor a moral being. Not reasonable, because his acts might be wholly uncontrolled at last by his whole understanding; not moral, because the merit of an act depends on its motive, and his acts would be motiveless. The self-determined volition has its freedom essentially in this, according to its advocates; that it is caused by no motive. Hence, no acts are free and virtuous, except those which a man does without having any reason for them. Is this good sense? Does not the virtuousness of a man’s acts depend upon the kind of reason which moved to them? E. In the choice of one’s summum bonum, the will is certainly not contingent. Can a rational being choose his own misery, apprehended as such, and eschew his own happiness, for their own sakes? Yet that choice is free, and if certainty is compatible with free agency in this the most important case, why not in any other? F. God, angels, saints in glory, and the human nature of Jesus Christ, must be certainly determined to right volitions by the holiness of their own natures, and in all but the first case by the indwelling grace and the determinate purpose of God. So, on the other hand, devils, lost souls, and those who on earth have sinned away their day of grace, must be certainly determined to be evil, by their own decisive evil natures and habits: yet their choice is free in both cases.

If the will were contingent, there could be no scientia media, and we should be compelled to the low and profane ground of the Socinian; that God does not certainly foreknow all things and in the nature of things, cannot. For the definition of scientia media is, that it is that contingent knowledge of what free agents will do in certain foreseen circumstances, arising out of God’s infinite insight into their dispositions. But if the will may decide in the teeth of that foreseen disposition, there can be no certain knowledge how it will decide. Nor is the evasion suggested by modern Arminians (vice, Mansel’s Lim. of Relig. Thought) of any force; that it is incompetent for our finite understandings to say that God cannot have this scientia media, because we cannot see how He is to have it. For the thing is not merely among the incomprehensible, but the impossible. If a thing is certainly foreseen, it must be certain to occur, or else the foreknowledge of its certain occurrence is false. But if it is certain to occur, it must be because there will be an antecedent, certainly, or efficiently connected with the event, as cause. It is, therefore, in the knowledge of this causal connection, that God would find his scientia media, if this branch of His knowledge were mediate. To sum up in a word, the inutility of this evasion, this Semi-Pelagian theory begins by imputing to God an inferential knowledge of man’s free acts, and then, in denying the certain influence of motives takes away the only ground of inference. H. Finally, God would have no efficient means of governing free agents; things would be perpetually emerging through their contingent acts, unforeseen by God, and across His purposes; and His government would be, like man’s, one of sorry expedients to patch up His failures. Nor could He bestow any certain answer to prayer, either for our own protection against temptation and wrong choice, or the evil acts of other free agents. All the predictions of Scripture concerning events in which the free moral acts of rational agents enter as second causes, are arguments against the contingency of the will. But we see striking instances in Joseph, the Assyrians, Cyrus, and especially the Jews who rejected their Lord. From this point of view, the celebrated argument of Edwards for the certainty of the will from God’s foreknowledge of creatures’ free acts, is obvious. The solution of the cavils attempted against it is this position: That the principle, "No event without a cause," which is, to us, a universal and necessary first truth, is also a truth to the divine mind. When God certainly foresees an act, he foresees it as coming certainly out of its cause. Hence, I repeat, if the foresight is certain, the causation must be efficient.

Certainty of the Will Proved By God’s Sovereignty.

I have indicated, both when speaking of fatalism and of the impossibility of a scientia media concerning a contingent will, the argument for the certainty of the will contained in the fact of God’s sovereignty. If He is universal First Cause, then nothing is uncaused. Such is the argument; as simple as it is comprehensive. It cannot be taught that volitions are uncaused, unless you make all free agents a species of gods, independent of Jehovah’s control. In other words, if His providence extends to the acts of free agents, their volitions cannot be uncaused; for providence includes control, and control implies power. The argument from God’s sovereignty is, indeed, so conclusive, that the difficulty, with thinking minds, is not to admit it, but to avoid being led by it to an extreme. The difficulty rather is, to see how, in the presence of this universal, absolute sovereignty, man can retain a true spontaneity. I began by defining that, while the will of man is not self-determining, his soul is. I believe that a free, rational Person does properly originate effects; that he is a true fountain of spontaneity, determining his own powers, from within, to new effects. This is a most glorious part of that image of God, in which he is created. This is free agency! Now, how can this fact be reconciled with what we have seen of God as absolute First Cause?

The demonstration may be closed by the famous Reductio ad absurdum, which Edwards has borrowed from the scholastics. If the will is not determined to choice by motives, but determines itself, then the will must determine itself thereto by an act of choice; for this is the will’s only function. That is, the will must choose to choose. Now, this prior choice must be held by our opponents to be self-determined. Then it must be determined by the will’s act of choice—i. e., the will must choose to choose to choose. Thus we have a ridiculous and endless regressus.

I now return to consider the objections usually advanced against our doctrine. The most formidable is that which shall be first introduced; the supposed incompatibility of God’s sovereignty as universal First Cause, with man’s freedom.

Yet Man Under Providence Is Free.

The reconciliation may and does transcend our comprehension, and yet be neither unreasonable nor incredible. The point where the creature’s volition interpenetrates within the immense circle of the divine will, is beyond human view. When we remember that the wisdom, power and resources of God are infinite, it is not hard to see that there may be a way by which our spontaneity is directed, omnipotently, and yet without infringement of its reality. The sufficient proof is that we, finite creatures, can often efficaciously direct the free will of our fellows, without infringing it. Does any one say that still, in every such case, the agent, if free as to us, has power to do the opposite of what we induce him to do? True, he has physical power. But yet the causative efficacy of our means is certain; witness the fact that we were able certainly to predict our success. A perfect certainty, such as results from God’s infinitely wise and powerful providence over the creature’s will, is all that we mean by moral necessity. We assert no other kind of necessity over the free will. More mature reflection shows us, that so far are God’s sovereignty and providence from infringing man’s free agency, they are its necessary conditions. Consider: What would the power of choice be worth to one if there were no stability in the laws of nature, or no uniformity in its powers? No natural means of effectuating volitions would have any certainty, from such choice would be impotent, and motives would cease to have any reasonable weight. Could you intelligently elect to sow, if there were no ordinance of nature insuring seed time and harvest? But now, what shall give that stability to nature? A mechanical, physical necessity? That results in nothing but fatalism. The only other answer is: it must be the intelligent purpose of an almighty, personal God.

The leading objections echoed by Arminians against the certainty of the will, is, that if man is not free from all constraint, whether of motive or coaction, it is unjust in God to hold him subject to blame, or to command to those acts against which His will is certainly determined, or to punishments for failure. We reply, practically, that men are held blamable and punishable for acts to which their wills are certainly determined, both among men and before God, and all consciences approve. This is indisputable, in the case of those who are overmastered by a malignant emotion, as in Ge 37:4, of devils and lost souls, and of those who have sinned away their day of grace. The Arminian rejoins (Watson, vol. 2, p. 438), such transgressors, notwithstanding their inability of will, are justly held responsible for all subsequent failures in duty, because they sinned away the contingency of their own wills, by their own personal, free act, after they became intelligent agents. But as man is born in this inability of will, through an arrangement with a federal head, to which he had no opportunity to dissent, it would be unjust in God to hold him responsible, unless He had restored the contingency of will to them lost in Adam, by the common sufficient grace bestowed through Christ. But the distinction is worthless: first, because, then, God would have been under an obligation in righteousness, to furnish a plan of redemption; but the Scriptures represent His act therein as purely gracious. Second. Because, then, all the guilt of the subsequent sins of those who had thrown away the contingency of their own wills, would have inherited in the acts alone by which they lost it. True, that act would have been an enormously guilty one, the man would have therein committed moral suicide. But it would also be true that the man was thereafter morally dead, and the dead cannot work. Third. The Arminian should, by parity of reason, conclude, that in any will certainly determined to holiness, the acts are not meritorious, unless that determination resulted from the being’s own voluntary self-culture, and formation of good dispositions and habits. Therefore God’s will, which has been from eternity certainly determined to good, does nothing meritorious!

But the more analytical answer to this class of objections is that the certainty of disobedience in the sinner’s will is no excuse for him, because it proceeds from a voluntary cause—i. e., moral disposition. As the volition is only the man willing, the motive is the man feeling; it is the man’s self. There is no lack of the requisite capacities, if the man would use those capacities aright. Now, a man cannot plead the existence of an obstacle as his excuse, which consists purely in his own spontaneous emission of opposition.

That This Makes Us Machines.

Now the objections most confidently urged, are, first, that our view makes man a machine, an intelligent one, indeed; but a machine in which choice follows motive by a physical tie. And I would agree, to some extent, albeit using an inappropriate illustration, that man is in one sense a machine in that his spontaneous force of action has its regular laws. However, and this is the essential point, I would not agree that man is a machine in his motivations; the power of human motivation is not external to man, but is in himself.

That Man Acts Against His Own Judgment.

First. It is objected that our scheme fails to account for all choices where the man acts against his own better judgment and prevalent feelings; or; in other words, that while the dictate of the understanding as to the truly preferable, is one way, the will acts the other way; e. g., the drunkard breaks his own anxiously made resolutions of temperance, and drinks. I reply, no, still the man has chosen according to what was the prevalent view of his judgment and feelings, as a whole, at the time. That drunkard does judge sobriety the preferable part in the end, and on the whole; but as to the question of this present glass of drink (the only immediate object of volition), his understanding is misinformed by strong propensity and the delusive hope of subsequent reform, combining the advantages of present indulgence with future impunity; so that its judgment is, that the preferable good will be this one glass, rather than present, immediate self-denial.

That Repentance Implies Power of Contrary Choice.

First. It is objected that our repentance for having chosen wrong always implies the feeling that we might have chosen otherwise, had we pleased. I reply, yes, but not unless that choice had been preceded at the time by a different view of the preferable. The thing for which the man blames himself is, that he had not those different feelings and views. Second. It is objected that our theory could never account for a man’s choosing between two alternative objects, equally accessible and desirable, inasmuch as the desire for either is equal, and the will has no self-determining power.

The answer is, that the equality of objects by no means implies the equality of subjective desires. For the mind is never in precisely the same state of feeling to any external object or objects, for two minutes together, but ever ebbing and flowing more or less. In this case, although the objects remain equal, the mind will easily make a difference, perhaps an imaginary one. And further, the two objects being equal, the inertia of will towards choosing a given one of them, may be infinitesimally small; so that an infinitesimally small preponderance of subjective motive may suffice to overcome it. Remember, there is already a subjective motive in the general, to choose some one of them. A favorite instance supposed is that of a rich man, who has in his palm two or three golden guineas, telling a beggar that he may take any one. But they are exactly equal in value. Now, the beggar has a very positive motive to take some one of them, in his desire for the value to him of a guinea. The least imaginative impulse within his mind is enough to decide a supposed difference which is infinitesimal.

Motive, What? the Inducement Not Motive.

Most important light is thrown upon the subject, by the proper answer to the question, what is motive? The will not being, as we have seen, self-moved, what is it which precedes the volition, and is the true cause? I reply, by distinguishing between motive and inducement. The inducement is that external object, towards which the desire tends, in rising to choice. Hence, the gold seen by the thief is the inducement to his volition to steal. But the perception of the gold is not his motive to that volition. His motive is the cupidity of his own soul, projecting itself upon the gold. And this cupidity (as in most instances of motive), is a complex of certain conceptions of the intellect, and concupiscence of the heart; conceptions of various utilities of the gold, and concupiscence towards the pleasures which it could procure. The inducement is objective; the motive is subjective. The inducement is merely the occasion, the motive is the true cause of the resulting volition. The object which is the inducement projects no force into the thief’s soul. On the contrary, it is the passive object of a force of soul projected upon it. The moral power is wholly from within outwards. The action is wholly that of the thief’s soul, the inducement is only acted on. The proof of this all important view is in this case. The same purse of gold is seen, in the same circumstances of opportunity and privacy, by two men; the second is induced by it to steal, on the first, it had no such power. Why the difference? The difference must be subjective in the two men, because objectively, the two cases are identical. Your good sense leads you to explain the different results by the differing characters of the two men. You say: "It is because the first man was honest, the second covetous." That is to say, the causative efficiency which dictated the two volitions was, in each case, from within the two men’s souls, not from the gold. Besides, the objects of sense are inert, dead, senseless, and devoid of will. It is simply foolish to conceive of them as emitting a moral activity. The thief is the only agent in the case.

Sensualistic View of Necessity False.

This plain view sheds a flood of light the doctrine of the will. A volition has always a cause, which is the (subjective) motive. This cause is efficient, Otherwise the effect volition, would not follow. But the motive is subjective; i. e., it is the agent judging and desiring, just as truly as the volition is the agent choosing. And this subjective desire, causative of the choice, is a function of the agent’s activity, not of his passivity. The desire is as much of the agent’s spontaneity (self-action) as is the choosing. In this way we may correct the monstrous view of those who deduce a doctrine of the necessity of the will from a sensualistic psychology.. If volition is efficiently caused by desire, and if desire is but the passive reflex of objective perception, then, indeed, man is a mere machine. His seeming free agency is wholly deceptive; and his choice is dictated from without. Then, indeed, the outcry of the semi-Pelagian against such a necessity is just. But inducement is not motive; desire is an activity, and not a passivity of our souls. Our own subjective judgments and appetencies cause our volitions.

Inducement Receives Its Influence From the Subjective Disposition.

On the other hand, it is equally plain, that the adaptation of any object to be an inducement to volition, depends on some subjective attribute of appetency (or a condition of latent desire or ardor) in the agent. This state of appetency is a priori to the inducement, not created by it, but conferring on the object its whole fitness to be an inducement. In other words, when we seek to propagate a volition, by holding out an inducement as occasion, or means, we always presuppose in the agent whom we address, some active propensity. No one attempts to allure a hungry horse with bacon, or a hungry man with hay. Why! Common sense recognizes in each animal an a priori state of appetite, which has already determined to which of them the bacon shall be inducement and to which the hay. The same thing is true of the spiritual desires, love of applause, of power, of justice, and so on. Hence, it follows, that inducement has no power whatever to revolutionize the subjective states of appetency natural to an agent. The effect cannot determine its own cause.

From this point of view may also be seen the justice of that philosophy of common sense, with which we set out; when we remarked that every one regarded a man’s free acts as indices of an abiding or permanent character. This is only because the abiding appetencies of soul decide which objects shall be, and which shall not, be inducements to choice.

Freedom What?

The student will perceive that I have not used the phrase, "freedom of the will." I exclude it, because, persuaded that it is inaccurate, and that it has occasioned much confusion and error. Freedom is properly predicated of a person, not of a faculty. This was seen by Locke, who says, B. 2, ch. 21, sec. 10, " Liberty is not an idea belonging to volition, or preferring, but to the person having the power." This is so obviously true, as to need no argument. I have preferred therefore to use the phrase, at once popular and exact: "free agency," and "free agent." Turrettin (Loc. x, Qu. 1) sees this objection to the traditional term, "Liberum arbitrium, " and hesitates about its use. But, after carefully defining it, he concedes to custom that it may be cautiously used, in the stipulated sense of the freedom of the Agent who wills. It would have been safer to change it.

I have also preferred to state and argue the old question as to the nature of free agency, in the common form it has borne in the history of theology, before I embarrassed the student with any of the attempted modifications of the doctrine. Locke, following the sensualistic definition, says that "liberty is the idea of a power in any agent to do or forbear any particular action, according to the determination or thought of the mind." But more profound analysts, as Reid and Cousin, saw that it consists in more than the sensualist would represent, mere privilege to execute outwardly what we have willed. My consciousness insists, that I am also a free Agent in having that volition. There, is the essential feature of choice; there, the rational preference first exhibits itself. The rational psychologists, consequently, assert the great, central truth, that the soul is self-determining. They see clearly that the soul, and not the objective inducement, is the true cause of its own acts of choice; and that thereforeman is justly responsible. But in order to sustain this central point, they vacillate towards the old semi-Pelagian absurdity, that not only the man, but the separate faculty of will, is self-determined. They fail to grasp the real facts as to the nature and the power of subjective motive, the exercise of another set of faculties in the soul. Edwards saw more perspicaciously.

Motive, What?

Teaching that motive efficaciously determines the will, he defined motive, as all that which, together moves the will to choice. It is always a complex of some view or judgment of the understanding, and some movement of appetency or repulsion as to an object. These two elements must be, at least virtually and implicitly, in the precedaneous state of soul, or choice, volition, would not result. The intelligence has seen some object in the category of the true (or at least has thought it saw it hence), and the appetency has moved towards it as in the category of the desirable; else, no deliberate, affirmative volition had occurred. The mere presence and perception of the object is the occasion; the soul’s own judgment and appetency form the cause of the act of choice.

Desire Is Not Passive.

But what is appetency? If we conformed it with passion, with mere impression on natural sensibilities, we again fall into the fatal errors of the sensualist. Sir Wm. Hamilton has done yeoman’s service to truth, by illustrating the difference (while he has claimed more than due credit for originating the distinction). He separates the passive powers of "sensibility," from the active powers of "conation." This is but the old (and correct) Calvinistic classification of the powers of the soul under "understanding," "affections," and "will." Here, be it noted, the word "will" is taken, as in some places of our Confession, in a much wider sense than the specific faculty of choice. "Will" here includes all the active powers of the soul, and is synonymous with Sir Wm. Hamilton’s "conative" powers. When we say, then, that man’s soul is self-determining we mean that, in the specific formation of choice, the soul choosing is determined by a complex of previous functions of the same soul seeing and desiring. In this sense the soul is free. But, as has been stated, no cause in the universe acts lawlessly. "Order is heaven’s first law."

Disposition the All-Important Fact.

And the regulative law of souls, when causing volitions, is found in their dispositions. This all-important fact in free agency, is what the scholastic divines called Habitus (not Consuetudo). It is the same notion popularly expressed by the word character. We know that man has such habitus, or disposition, which is more abiding than any access, or one series of acts of any one desire. For we deem that in a knave, for instance, evil disposition is present while he is eating, or laughing, or asleep, or while thinking of anything else than his knavish plans. If we will reflect, we shall see that we intuitively ascribe disposition, of some sort, to every rational free agent: indeed we cannot think such an object without it. God, angel, demon, man, each is invariably conceived as having some abiding disposition, good or bad. It is in this that we find the regulative principle of the free agency of all volition rises according to subjective motive. Subjective motive arises (freely) according to ruling subjective disposition. Disposition also is spontaneous—its very nature is to act freely. Here then, we have the two ultimate factors of free agency; spontaneity, disposition, here we are at the end of all possible analysis. It is as vain to ask: "Why am I inclined in this way?" as to seek a prior root of my spontaneity. The fact of my responsibility as a free agent does not turn on the answer to the question: it turns on this: that the disposition, which is actually my own will, regulates the rise freely of just the subjective motives I entertain. Let the student ponder my main argument (on pages 122-124) and he will see that in no other way is the free agency of either God, angel, or sinner, to be construed by us.

Mccosh’s View of the Will.

Dr. McCosh (Div. and Moral Gov. as cited in the syllabus.) wrests the true doctrine in some degree. He calls the will the "optative faculty" correctly distinguishing desire from sensibility (which he terms emotion). But he erroneously confounds appetency and volition together as the same functions of one power. That this is not correct, is evinced by one short question: May not the soul have two competing appetencies, and choose between them? We must hold fast, with the great body of philosophers, to the fact, that the power of decision, or choice, is unique, and not to be confounded even with subjective desires. It is the executive faculty. Dr. McCosh concedes that motive (as defined by Edwards) efficaciously decides the will; but he then asserts, with Coleridge, that the will determines motives.

Conceding this, he has virtually surrendered his doctrine to the Arminian, and gotten around to a literal self-determination of the will. He seems to have been misled by an inaccurate glimpse of the truth I stated on p. 102, that the disposition determines a priori which sorts of objects shall be inducements to it.

There is a two-fold confusion of this profound and important truth. Disposition is not the will; but a regulative principle of the appetencies, or "optative" functions, through them controlling the will. And, second, it is wholly another thing to say, that this disposition decides which objects shall be inducements, the occasions only of volitions: and to say with Dr. McCosh, that the will chooses among the soul’s own subjective motives, the verae causae of the very acts of choice!

Watts’ View.

Dr. Isaac Watts, as is often stated, attempted to modify the doctrine of the will, by supposing that we had inverted the order of cause and effect. He deemed that we do not choose an object because we have desired it; but that we desire it because we have chosen it. In other words, he thought desire the result and not the forerunner of choice. This scheme obviously leaves the question unanswered: How do volitions arise? And by seeming to leave them without cause, he favors the erroneous scheme of the Arminian. It is enough to say, that no man’s consciousness properly examined, will bear out this position. Do we not often have desires where, in consequence of other causes in the mind, we form no volition at all? This question will be seen decisive.

Bledsoe’s View.

Dr. Albert Taylor Bledsoe in his Reply to Edwards, Theodicy, and other essays, attempts to modify the Arminian theory, without surrendering it. He is too perspicacious to say, with the crowd of semi-Pelagians, that volitions are uncaused results in the mental world; he knows too well the universality of the great, necessary intuition, ex nihilo nihil. But denying that motives, even subjective, are cause of acts of choice, he says the mind is the immediate cause of them. He seems here to approach very near the orthodox view. Even Dr. Alexander could say, while denying the self-determination of the will, that he was ready to admit the self-determination of the mind. But this concession of Dr. Bledsoe does not bring him to the correct ground. It leaves the question unexplained, in what way the mind is determined from within to choice. It refuses to accept the efficient influence of subjective motive. It still asserts that any volition may be contingent as to its use, hence embodying the essential features of Arminianism. And above all, it fails to see or admit the most fundamental fact of all; that original disposition which regulates each being’s desires and volitions. The applications which this author makes of his modified doctrine betray still its essential Arminianism.

In conclusion, it is only necessary at this place to say in one word, that the disposition which is found in every natural man, as to God and godliness, is depravity. Hence his will, according to the theory expounded above, is, in the Scriptural sense, in bondage to sin, while he remains properly a free and responsible agent.

Chapter 08: Responsibility and Province of Reason

Section One—Defending the Faith
Chapter 8: Responsibility and Province of Reason

Syllabus for Lecture 12:

1. Are dispositions and desires, which are a priori to volition, a moral character?

Turrettin, Loc. ix, Qu. 2. Dick, Lecture 105, on 10th Com. Dr. Julius Muller, Christian Doctrine of Sin. Hodge, Theology, pt. ii, ch. 5. Alexander’s Moral Science, chs. 20, 22, 23, 27. Edwards on the Will, pt. iv, Sect. i.

2. Is man responsible for his beliefs?

Alexander’s Moral Science, ch. 9, Lecture on Evidences, Univ. of Va., Lecture 1. Review of the above by Dr. C. R. Vaughan, Southern Lit. Messenger, 1851.

3. What is the proper province of reason in revealed theology?

Turrettin, Loc. I, Vol. i, Qus. 8, 9, 10. Thornwell’s Lect. Vol. i, Lecture 1. Hodge’s Outlines, ch. 2. Hodge’s Syst. Theology, pt. i, ch. 3, Milner’s.

Is Concupiscence Sin?

Wide difference of opinion has long prevailed, as to man’s responsibility for the dispositions, habits and desires tending to moral volitions. Pelagians and semi-Pelagians say, that since responsibility cannot be more extended than freedom of the will, no praise or blame can be attached to dispositions, which they hold to be involuntary. And they say that Calvinists cannot dispute the latter statement, because they make dispositions causes of volition, and hence going before. Hence, also, is the Pelagian definition of sin and holiness, as consisting only of right or wrong acts of soul. The evangelical Arminian is usually found holding the middle ground, that only those dispositions, habits and desires have a moral responsibility attached to them, which have resulted from a series of acts of free will. But we hold that man is praise–or blame–worthy for his dispositions, principles and habits, as well as for his volitions; and that his responsibility depends on the nature, and not on the origin, of the disposition which he spontaneously and intelligently entertains.

First. We make our appeal here to consciousness, which causes us shame and self-reproach for evil propensities not ripened into volitions, and tells us that we would feel equal resentment for evil dispositions towards us and our rights, though never formed into the overt intention of injury. Second. Our minds intuitively judge that the moral character of an act resides in its motives. Witness the process of investigation in the charge for crime before a jury. Indeed, the act of volition, nakedly considered, is a merely natural effect, and has no more moral character than the muscular motions which follow it. For the volition which extends the hand with alms to an enemy, or with a bribe to one to commit a sin, is the same physical volition: we must go back of it, to the motive by which it was caused, to settle its moral character. That element is not in the naked volition; says the Pelagian, it is not in the motives prior to volition; then it is nowhere! Third. The notion is inconsistent with our established idea about character. Here is a man who is said to have a dishonest character. It only becomes cognizable to us by his acts. He must, then, have performed a series of acts, having the common quality of dishonesty. Now, nothing comes from nothing; there must be some cause for. that sameness of character; and that cause is the prevalent disposition to steal, separate from, and prior to, each thievish act. For the bad cause cannot be in the will itself; this would be peculiarly objectionable to the Pelagian. This, then, is what is meant when this man is said to have a bad character. Has the word bad here, no proper meaning? Does the family of daughters, the separate acts, bear no relationship to their mother? Fourth. On the Pelagian scheme, the wickedness of sins of omission would be inexplicable. For in them, there is often no volition at all; and therein consists their wickedness. A man passing by the water sees an innocent child drowning; the idea of rescue is suggested to his mind; but he comes to no choice does nothing, and while he hesitates, the child sinks to rise no more. Is he innocent? Our conscience declares that he is not. Now, we can consistently explain wherein he is not, viz. in the state of his selfish and indolent feelings. But the opposite party have no explanation. There has literally been no volition; on their theory they should say, what every sound conscience rejects, that the neglect has been attended with no guilt. Fifth. A similar argument is presented by instances of impulsive and unpremeditated acts, done before we have a moment for reflection. We properly approve or blame them, according as they are generous or malignant. But there has been no intelligent, deliberate choice; if we confine our view exclusively to the act of soul itself, it appears as purely irrational as the impulses of mere animal instinct. The moral quality of these acts must be found, then, in the dispositions and principles which prompted them.


Such are the reasoning, drawn from the conscience and consciousness of all men. The conclusion cannot be restricted in the way proposed by the Arminian. For, if original or congenital dispositions have no moral quality, because not created by a series of acts of intelligent free will, then, first, God could never have any moral credit, His holy disposition having been not only original and eternal, but necessary. Second. Nor could the holy man, Adam, or the holy angels have been approvable, though perfectly innocent, because their holy dispositions were infused into them by their creator. This contradicts both conscience and Scripture. Third. When mankind see an inherited trait influencing the conduct, like the traditionary bravery of the Briton, or the congenital vengefulness of the American Indian, if they apprehend that the agents are not lunatic, and are exercising a sane spontaneity as qualified by these natural traits, they approve or blame them. This shows that in the judgment of common sense, the responsibility turns only on the question, what the disposition is, and not, from what source the disposition arrives.. Finally, on this view, it would be impossible that the free agent could ever construct a righteous disposition, or habitus, by his own free acts. For all are agreed in that rule of practical law, which judges the moral complexion of the act according to the agent’s intention. But a soul as yet devoid of positively righteous principles would harbor no positively moral intentions. Therefore, the first act of choice which the philosophers look to, for beginning the right moral habitude, would have no moral quality, not being dictated by a moral motive. Then it could contribute nothing to the habit as a moral one. This very plain demonstration decides the whole matter, by showing that, on either the Pelagian or Arminian scheme, a dependent being could never have a positively righteous character or action at all.

But, Objected "That the Involuntary Cannot Be Sin."

Our opponents argue that the involuntary cannot be sin, and they suppose that they have entrenched themselves in the plainest of moral intuitions. The objection, however, is a sophism that is based on the ambiguous use of the word "involuntary." There are at least two subtle meanings to the word which must not be confused. Man’s moral dispositions are involuntary in the sense that they do not immediately result from volitions as their next cause. But this is not the sense in which our intuitions assert the necessity of the voluntary to our responsibility. There is an entirely different sense, in which we say an act is involuntary, when it occurs against the choice of the will. Hence, the fall of the man over the precipice was involuntary, when he was striving to cleave to the edge of the stone. This is the sense in which we say that, self-evidently, the man was not blamable for his fall. The other meaning, sophistically confounded with this, raises the question whether the state or disposition is spontaneous. If it acts spontaneously, not because a stronger agent forces the man to harbor or to indulge it against his choice, then, in the sense necessary to free agency, disposition is voluntary; that is to say, it is spontaneous; it is as truly a function of self-love as volition itself. The evidence is very near and plain. Does any external compulsion cause us to feel our dispositions? No. From their very nature it cannot be: a compelled tendency would not be our disposition, but a violence put upon it. The main question may be submitted to a very practical test. Would a disposition to a wicked act subsist, even as not consented to or formed into a purpose, in a perfectly holy soul, like that of Gabriel, for one instant? It would die in its very incipiency. The attempt to inject concupiscence would be like an attempt to strike sparks from the flint and steel, in a perfect vacuum. The fire would expire in being born. But if the holiness of the nature hence excluded the birth, this clearly shows that the very birth of wrong desire or tendency is wrong.

Answer To Objection That Soul’s Essence Cannot Be Depraved.

Another objection is, that our theory of the immorality of evil dispositions would imply that the soul’s essence is altered; or that depravity is a change in the substance of the soul: which would make God the author of sin, and man an unfortunate, sentient puppet. For, say they, there is nothing but the soul and its acts; and if you deny that all morality resides in acts, some of it must reside in the essence of the soul itself. The sophism of this argument would be sufficiently exposed by asking, what is a moral act. If you make it anything more than a mere notional object of thought, an imagination about which we think, is it any thing besides the soul acting, well, in the same sense, our moral dispositions are but our souls feeling. I reply again, and yet more decisively, that immoral quality is only negative—i. e., H amartia esti h anomia. It is the lack of conformity to God’s will, which constitutes sin. The negative absence of this principle of active conformity is all that is necessary to predicate. Hence, the idea of depravity’s being a substantial change is seen to be out of the question. We might farther reply to the challenge, whether there is anything before us, save the soul and its acts. Yes, There is the soul’s essence, distinguishable from its substance, there is its disposition, there are its liabilities, its affections, its desires. The terms of the cavil are no more than a verbal quibble. What true philosopher ever questioned the existence of qualities, qualifying a spiritual agent, yet not implying either decomposition or change of its simple substance? Then it is possible that it may be qualified morally.

Man Responsible For His Beliefs.

The question whether man is responsible for his belief, is nearly connected with the one just discussed. Many modern writers have urged that he is not, because belief is the necessary and involuntary result of evidence seen by the mind. Further, it is urged; if the doctrine that man is responsible for his belief be held, then the horrible doctrine of persecution will follow; for erroneous beliefs being often very mischievous, if also criminal, it would follow that they ought to be punished by society. To the first, I reply, that while the admission of demonstrative proofs, when weighed by the mind is necessary, and involuntary, the voluntary powers have a great deal to do with the question whether they shall be weighed fairly or not. Inattention, prejudice against the truth or the advocate, heedlessness guilty and wicked habits of perverting the soul’s faculties; all these are voluntary; and I fearlessly assert, that no erroneous belief on any important moral question can arise in a sane mind, except through the operation of one or more of these causes. In this, then, is the guilt of false beliefs on moral subjects. To the second objection, I reply that it does not follow, because a man is responsible for his beliefs, he is responsible to his fellowman. There are abundant reasons for denying the latter, which it would be easy to show, if I were going into the subject of freedom of thought.

Because Nature and Providence Rule

On the affirmative side, I remark, first, that all the analogies of nature show us a Providence holding man responsible for his beliefs. If prejudice, passion, haste, inattention, prevents a man from attaching due weight to testimony or other evidence, as to the poison of a given substance, he experiences its effects just as though he had taken it of set purpose. So of all other things.

Because All Wrong Beliefs Have A Criminal Cause.

Second: Conscience clearly condemns many acts, based immediately on certain beliefs, which were sincerely held at the time of acting. Now, if the belief had been innocent, the act necessarily dictated thereby could not have been blameworthy. Witness Paul, confessing the sin of his persecutions. Indeed, since belief on moral subjects ought to, and must dictate conduct, if man is allowed to be a rational free agent, each man’s own belief must be his own guide; and thusan act might be right to one man, and wrong to another, at the same time. A would have a right (because he believed so) to a thing which B had a right to; and so B would have a moral right to do A what would be to him a moral wrong? And farther; since whatever a man sincerely believed, would be right to him, truth would cease to be of any essential importance. This consequence is monstrous. Hence we must hold men responsible for their moral beliefs. God could not otherwise govern a world of rational free agents; for since the free dictates of each agent’s soul must be, to him, the guide of his conduct, God could not justly condemn him for committing the crime which he supposed at the time to be a right act, after he had been acquitted of all responsibility for the opinion which unavoidably dictated the act. But is every one rash enough to justify all the crimes committed in this world under the influence of moral error heartily held at the time? Then the vilest crimes which have scourged the world, from the retaliatory murders of savages (dictated by stress of tribal honor) to the persecution of God’s saints (by inquisitors who verily thought they were doing God service) are made perfectly innocent.

Paradox Resolved.

It may be well to say a few more words to relieve the seeming paradox in this truth. To this separate element of the act, that it was conformed to the man’s opinion of the right at the time; as that element is abstracted in thought from all other features of the concrete sin; we do not suppose any criminality to attach. But we are bound to go back to the prior question: How came a being endowed with reason and conscience, actually to believe the wrong to be right? Could this result have been innocently brought about? To say this, would be to accuse God his Maker. I can apprehend how God’s finite handiwork, a rational soul, may remain ignorant of many truths known to larger intelligences; but I cannot admit that it can be betrayed into positive error by the normal, legitimate exercise of its powers. There is then, always a prior account of the mental perversion: The conditions of the erroneous result have been sinful indolence in looking at evidence, or unrighteous self-interest, or criminal prejudice against the truth or its advocate, or some other combination of evil affections. To these, specifically, attaches the guilt of the erroneous mental result. We see then that belief is not the involuntary result of evidence apprehended, in any practical moral case. The will (taking that word in its wider sense of the active, optative powers) has a great deal to do with the result, by inclining or disposing the mind to give proper heed to the attainable evidence. So much weight has this fact, that the profound Des Cartes, who almost deserves to be called the founder of modern philosophy, actually ranked belief as a. function of will, rather than of understanding! Here then I place myself: when an action of soul is spontaneous, it may be, to that extent, justly held responsible.

Province of Reason In Revealed Religion.

The question with which we close this brief review of the nature of man’s primary judgments, has ever I been of fundamental importance in the Church: "What is the legitimate province of Reason, in revealed theology?" The pretended warfare between reason and faith has been waged by all those who wished to make a pretext for believing unreasonably and wickedly. On the one hand, it is possible so to exalt the authority of the Church, or of theology, (as is done by Rome,) as to violate the very capacity of reason to which religion appeals. On the other, it is exceedingly easy to give too much play to it, and admit hence the virus of Rationalism in some of its forms.

Rationalism, What?

All the different forms of rationalism, which admit a revelation as true or desirable at all, may be grouped under two classes. First. Those who hold the PROTON PSEUDOS of the Socinians; that man is to hold nothing credible in religion which he cannot comprehend. Second. Those who, like the modern German rationalists, make the interpretations of Scripture square with the teachings of human philosophy, instead of making their philosophy square with the plain meaning of revelation. Under the latter class must be ranked all those who, like Hugh Miller, in his Testimony of the Rocks, hold that the interpretation of the Pentateuch, concerning cosmogony, must be molded supremely by the demands of geological theories, instead of being settled independently by its own laws of fair exegesis. Here, also, belong those who, like A. Barnes, say that the Bible must not be allowed to mean what would legitimate American slavery, because he holds that his ethical arguments prove it cannot be right: Et id omne genus.

Comprehension Not the Measure of Truth.

The absurdity of the first class will be shown, more fully, when we come to deal with the Socinian theology. It is enough to say now, that reason herself repudiates such a boast as preposterous. She does not truly comprehend all of anything, not the whole nature and physiology of the blade of grass which man presses with his foot, nor the modus of that union of body and soul which consciousness compels us to admit. Every line of knowledge which we follow, leads us to the circumference of darkness, where it is lost to our comprehension; and the more man knows, the more frequently is he compelled to stop humbly at that limit, and acknowledge his lack of comprehension. So that the most truly wise man is he who knows and believes most things which he does not comprehend.

That our comprehension is not the measure of truth appears, again, hence: Truth is one and immutable. But the amount of comprehension any given man has, is dependent on his cultivation and knowledge. There was once a time when it would have been wholly incomprehensible to a "field hand," how a message could be sent along a wire by galvanism. It was not incomprehensible to Dr. Joseph Henry, who actually instructed Morse, the nominal inventor, how it might be done. On this Socinian scheme, then, truth would be contradictory for different minds. One man’s valid code of truth would properly be, to a less cultivated man, in large part falsehood and absurdity. But this is preposterous.

Does This Countenance Implicit Faith?

But does not the Protestant assert, against the Papist, that faith, in order to be of any worth, must be intelligent? Do not we scout the "implicit faith" of the Papist?


There is a distinction which fully solves this question, and which is simple and important. Every judgment in the form of a belief is expressed in a proposition. This, grammatically, consists of subject, predicate, and copula (or connection). Now, the condition of rational belief is that the mind shall intelligently see some valid supporting evidence for the copula. If, without this, it announces belief, it is acting unreasonably. But it is wholly another thing to comprehend the whole nature of the predication; and this latter is not at all necessary to a rational faith. The farmer presents me on the palm of his hand, a sound grain of corn, and a pebble. He says: "This is dead, but that is alive." May I not with him, rationally believe in the vitality of the grain? Yes, because we have some intelligent view of the experimental evidence which supports the affirmation. But suppose now I pass to the predication, "alive," and demand of the farmer that he shall give me a full definition of the nature of vegetable vitality? The greatest physicist cannot do this. Neither he nor I comprehend the nature of vegetable vitality. We know by its effects, that there is such a force, but it is a mysterious force. Let the student then hold fast to this simple law: In order to rational belief there must be some intelligent view of evidence sustaining the copula; but there may be no comprehension of the nature of the predicate.

Now, if these things are just and true in all natural knowledge, how much more true in the things of the infinite God? The attempt of the Socinian to make a god altogether comprehensible, has resulted in a plan attended inevitably with more and worse incomprehensibilities, yes, impossibilities, than they reject.

On Rationalist Scheme, No Revealed Rule of Faith.

To the second class of rationalists we may reasonably assert that the sort of revelation they admit is in fact practically no revelation at all. That is, it is no authoritative standard of belief to any soul, on any point on which it may happen to have any opinion derived from other sources than the Bible. For each man’s speculative conclusions are, to him, his philosophy; and if one man is entitled to square his Bible to his philosophy, the other must be equally so. Further, it is well known that the deductions of all philosophies are fallible. The utter inconsistency of Rationalism, with any honest adoption of a Revelation, is apparent in the following illustration: It is the boast of Rationalists, that human science is progressive, that our generation is far in advance of our fathers. May not our children be as far in advance of us? Things now held as scientific truth, will probably be excluded; things not now dreamed of, will probably be discovered and explained. When that time comes, it must follow on the Rationalists’ scheme, that the interpretation of the Scriptures shall receive new modifications from these new lights of reason. Propositions which we now hold as the meaning of Scripture, will then be shown by the lights of human science to be false! What is it reasonable that we should do, at this time, with those places of Scripture? Will any one say, "Reserve your opinion on them, until the light comes?" Alas! There is now no means for us to know whereabouts in the Bible they are! No, we must attempt to construe the whole Scripture as best we may. Will any one say that our construction is true to us, but will be false to our more scientific children? Hardly. If, therefore, the Bible is a revelation from the infallible God, reason herself clearly asserts that where the plain teachings of Scripture clash with such deductions, the latter are to be presumed to be wrong; and unless revelation carries that amount of authority, it is practically worthless. Rationalism is the wolf of infidelity under the sheep’s clothing of faith.

It follows, then, that reason is not to be the measure, nor the ground, of the beliefs of revealed theology.

But Revelation Does Not Violate Reason.

But on the other hand, first, the laws of thought which necessarily rule in the human soul, were established by the same God who gave the Bible. Hence, if there is a revelation from Him, and if these laws of thought are legitimately used, there must be full harmony between reason and Scripture. But man knows that he is not infallible: he knows that he almost always employs his powers of thought with imperfect accuracy.

On the other hand, if revelation is admitted, its very idea implies infallible truth and authority. Hence, it is clearly reasonable that opinion must always hold itself ready to stand corrected by revelation.

2nd. Necessary Laws of Thought Must Be Respected By It.

The Scriptures always address us as rational creatures, and presuppose the authority of our native, fundamental laws of thought. If we think at all, we must do it according to those laws Therefore, to require us to violate or ignore them fundamentally, would be to degrade us to unreasoning animals; we should then be as incapable of religion as they.

3rd. Authenticity of Revelation Not Self-Evident.

The claim which the Scriptures address to us, to be the one, authentic and authoritative revelation from one God, is addressed to our reason. This is clear from the simple fact, that there are presented to the human race more than one professed revelation; and that they cannot demand authoritative witnesses to their own authority prior to its admission. It appears also from this, that man is required not only to obey, but to believe and love the Bible. Now he cannot do this except upon evidence. The evidences of inspiration must, therefore, present themselves to man’s reason; to reason to be employed impartially, humbly, and in the fear of God. He who says he believes, when he sees no proof, is but pretending, or talking without meaning.

4th. Revelation Cannot Authorize Self-Contradictions. Limitations of This Admission.

Among these evidences, we must reasonably entertain this question, whether anything asserted in revelation is inevitably contradictory with reason or some other things asserted in revelation. For if a book clearly contained such things, it would be proof it was not from God; because God, who first created our laws of reason, will not contradict Himself by teaching incompatibles in His works and word. And again, in demanding faith (always a sincere and intelligent faith), of us in such contradictories, He would be requiring of us an impossibility. If I see that a thing is impossible to be true, it is impossible for me to believe it. Yet here, we must guard this concession against abuse; asserting first, that the reason which is entitled to this judgment of contradiction concerning the Scriptures, shall be only a right, humble, and holy reason, acting in the fear and love of God; and not a reason unsanctified, hostile, and blind. Second. The supposed contradiction must be contained in the immediate and unquestioned language of the Scripture itself, and not merely deduced therefrom by some supposed inference. Third. The truth supposed to be overthrown by it shall be also an express statement of God’s word, or some necessary, axiomatic truth, universally held by mankind. For if one should object against the Bible, that some inference he had drawn from its words was irreconcilable with some similar inference, or some supposed deduction of his human logic, we should always be entitled to reply, that his powers of thought being confessedly inaccurate, it was always more probable he had inferred erroneously, than that Scripture had spoken inconsistently.

5th. Reason and Human Knowledge Ancillary To Revelation.

Reason is also to be employed to interpret and illustrate the Scriptures. To do this, the whole range of man’s natural knowledge may be taxed. The interpretation is never to presume to make reason the measure of belief, but the mere handmaid of Scripture. And the mode of interpretation is to be by comparing Scripture with Scripture according to the legitimate laws of language. The Scripture must be its own canon of hermeneutics, and that, independent of all other supposed rival sciences. For otherwise, as has been shown above, it would cease to carry a practical authority over the human mind as a rule of faith. A Bible which must wait to hear what philosophy may be pleased to permit it to say, and which must change its dicta as often as philosophy chooses to change, would be no Bible for any sensible man.

Faith Rests On Evidence, Not Dictation.

Now, the prelatic or sacerdotal system of Church authority stands opposed to this Protestant theory of private judgment. Prelatists claim for the reasonableness of their slavish system, this analogy; that the child, in all its primary education, has to accept things on trust as he is told. Human knowledge, say they, begins in dogma, not in reasoning. So should divine. The reply is, that this is a false analogy, in two vital respects. The secular knowledge which begins absolutely in dogma, is only that of signs, not of things and ultimate truths. The child must indeed learn from dogma, that a certain rafter-shaped mark inscribed on the paper is the accepted sign of the vowel sound A. The things of God are not mere signs, but essential truths. Second, the reception of divine truth is not an infantile, but an adult work. We are required to do it in the exercise of a mature intelligence and to be infants only in guilelessness.

Distinguish This System From Rationalism.

Prelatists and papists are fond of charging that the theory of private judgment amounts simply to rationalism. For, say they, "to make revelation wait on reason for the recognition of credentials, virtually gives to the revealed dogma only the force of reason. ‘The stream can rise no higher than its fountain.’ On the Protestant scheme, revelation receives no more authority than reason may confer." The only plausibility of such objections is in the words of a false trope. Revelation it is said, "submits its credentials to the reason," according to us Protestants. Suppose I prefer to say (the correct trope), we hold that revelation imposes its credentials upon the healthy reason. In fact, as when the eye looks at the sun, there are activities of the organ towards the result of vision, such as adjusting the axes of the two balls, directing them, refracting the rays, and so on, and yet, the light is not from the eye, but from the sun; so in apprehending the validity of the Bible’s credentials, the light is from the revelation; not from the mind. Its activities about the apprehension of the evidence, are only receptive, not productive.

But the simple key to the answer is, that the question that we bring to the human reason, "Is this book God speaking?" is one, single question, perfectly defined, and properly within the reach of reason. The other question, which the Rationalist wished to make reason answer, is: "What are the things proper for God to say about Himself and religion?" There is, in fact, a multitude of questions, and mostly wholly above the reach of reason. We may illustrate the difference by the case of an ambassador. The court to which he comes is competent to entertain the question of his credentials. This is implied in the expectation that this court is to treat with him. The matter of credentials is one definite question, to be settled by one or two plain criteria, such as a signature, and the imprint of a seal. But what may be the secret will of his sovereign, is a very different set of questions. To dictate one’s surmises here, and especially to annex the sovereign’s authority to them, is impertinent folly. But the messages of the plenipotentiary carry all the force of the recognized signature and seal.

Moreover, we must remember that man’s state is probationary. There is an intrinsic difference between truth and error, right reasoning and sophism, and the purpose of God in revelation is (necessarily) not to supplant reason, but to put man on his probation for its right use.

No Strife of Reason With Faith.

Finally, let the student, from the first, discard all the false and mischievous ideas generated by the slang of the "contest between reason and faith"—of the propriety of having "reason conquer, faith, or faith conquer reason." There is no such contest. The highest reason is to believe implicitly what God’s word says, as soon as it is clearly ascertained to be God’s word. The dictate of reason herself, is to believe; because she sees the evidences to be reasonable.

I need only add, that I hold the Scriptures to be, in all its parts, of plenary inspiration; and we shall therefore assume this, as proved by the inquiries of another department.

Chapter 09: Arminian Theory of Redemption - Part 1

Section One—Defending the Faith
Chapter 9: Arminian Theory of Redemption
—Part 1

Syllabus for Lecture 48:

1. Give a connected view of the Arminian Five Points.

Art. of Synod of Dort. Whitby’s Five Points. Hill’s Divinity, bk. iv., ch. 8. Stapfer’s Pol. Theol., Vol. iv., ch. 17, Sect. 12-35.

2. Disprove the doctrine of Common Sufficient Grace.

Turrettin, Loc. xv., Qu. 3. Hill, bk. iv., ch. 9, sect. I. Ridgley, Qu. 44. Watson’s Theol. Inst., ch. 24, 25.

3. Is the grace of God in regeneration invincible? And is the will of man in regeneration, active or passive?

Turrettin, Loc. xv., Qu. 5, 6. Hill, bk. iv., ch. 9. Knapp, sect. 130, 132.

4. Can any Pagans be saved, without the instrumentality of the Scriptures?

Turrettin, Loc. I., Qu. 4, and Loc. x., Qu. 5. Ridgley, Qu. 60. Annual Sermon for Presb. Board For. Miss., June, 1858.

Sources of the Arminian Theology.

The subjects which are now brought under discussion introduce us to the very center of the points which are debated between us and Arminians. I propose, therefore, for their farther illustration, and because no better occasion offers, to consider here their scheme.

The sources of Arminian Theology would be best found in the apology of Episcopius, Limborch’s Christian Theology, and Knapp’s Christian Theology. Among the English may be consulted, as a low Arminian, Daniel Whitby’s Five Points; as high Arminians, Wesley’s Doctrinal Tracts, and Watson’s Theological Institutes. For refutation of Arminianism, see Stapfer, Vol. 4; Turrettin; Hill, bk. 4, ch. 9.

I. A connected view of the Arminian tenets.

Five Points of Remonstrants Ambiguous.

The five points handed in by the Arminians to the States General of Holland, in their celebrated Remonstrance, were so covertly worded as scarcely to disclose their true sentiments.

The assertions concerning original Sin and Free will, were seemingly such as Calvinists could accept. The doctrine of common grace was but obscurely hinted, and the perseverance of Saints was only doubted. But their system soon developed itself into semi-Pelagianism, well polished and knit together. Discarding the order of the five points, I will exhibit the theory in its logical connection.

Logical Source In Doctrine of Indifferency of the Will. View of Original Sin.

1. Its starting point is the doctrine of indifference of the will, and a denial of total depravity, as held by Calvinists. According to the universal consent of Pelagians and Socinians, this self determination of the will is held necessary to proper free agency and responsibility. Take Whitby as a type of the grosser Arminians. He thinks Adam was created liable, but not subject, to bodily death, and his immunity in Paradise was secured by his access to the Tree of Life. His sin made death and its attendant pains inevitable, and this his posterity inherit, according to the natural law, that like begets like. This has produced a set of circumstances, making all men so liable to sin, that, practically none escape. But this results from no moral necessity or certainty of the will. Man has natural desires for natural good, but this concupiscentia is not sin till formed into a positive volition. But the sense of guilt and fear drives man from God, the pressure of earthly ills tends to earthly mindedness; man’s pains make him querulous, envious, inordinate in desire, and above all, a general evil example misleads. So that all are, in fact, precipitated into sin, in virtue of untoward circumstances inherited from Adam. This is the only sense in which Adam is our federal head. This relation is not only illustrated by, but similar to that which exists between a bad parent and an unfortunate offspring now—in instance of the same natural law.

Wesleyan View of Original Sin.

But Wesley and Watson repudiate this as too low, and teach a fall in Adam prior to its reparation by common grace, going as far as moderate Calvinists. Watson, for instance, (Vol. ii, p. 53) says that imputation is considered by theologians as mediate and immediate. Mediate imputation he says, is "our mortality of body and corruption of moral nature in virtue of our derivation from Adam." Immediate means "that Adam’s sin is accounted ours in the sight of God, by virtue of our federal relation." This, the student will perceive, is a very different distinction from that drawn by the Reformed divines. Watson then repudiates the first statement as defective, and the latter as extreme. Here he evidently misunderstands us for he proceeds to say, with Dr. Watts, that Adam did act as a public person, our federal head, and that the penal consequences of our sin (not the sin itself), are accounted to us, consisting of bodily ills and death, privation of God’s indwelling (which results in positive depravity), and eternal death. In this sense, says he, "we may safely contend for the imputation of Adam’s sin."

But in defending against Pelagians, the justice of this arrangement of God, he says it must be viewed in connection with that purpose of redemption towards the human race, which coexisted in the divine mind, by which God purposed to purchase and bestow common grace on every fallen man hence repairing his loss in Adam. (The fatal objection to such a justification is that then God would have been under obligations to provide man a Savior, and Christ’s mission would not have been of pure grace).

2. Common Sufficient Grace.

2. This leads us to their next point. God having intended all along to repair the fall, and having immediately thereafter given a promise to our first parents, has ever since communicated to all mankind a common precedaneous sufficient grace, purchased for all by Christ’s work. This is not sufficient to effect a complete redemption, but to enable, both naturally and morally, to fulfill the conditions for securing redeeming grace. This common grace consists in the indifference of man’s will remaining, notwithstanding his fall, the lights of natural conscience, good impulses enabling unregenerate men to do works of social virtue, the outward call of mercy made, as some Arminians suppose, even to heathens through reason, and some lower forms of universal spiritual influence. The essential idea and argument of the Arminian is that God could not punish man justly for unbelief unless He conferred on him both natural and moral ability to believe or not. They quote such Scripture as Ps 81:13; Isa 5:4; Lu 19:42; Re 3:20; Ro 2:14; Joh 1:9. So here we have, by a different track, the old conclusion of the semi-Pelagian. Man, then, decides the whole remaining difference, as to believing or not believing, by his use of this precedent grace, according to his own free will. God’s purpose to produce different results in different men is wholly conditioned on the use which, He foresees, they will make of their common grace. To those who improve it, God stands pledged to give the crowning graces of regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. To the heathen, even, who use their light aright (unfavorable circumstances may make such instances rare), Christ will give gospel light and redeeming grace, in some inscrutable way.

Grace In Regeneration Vincible.

3. Hence, the operations of grace are at every stage vincible by man’s will; to be otherwise, they must violate the conditions of moral agency. Even after regeneration, grace may be so resisted by free will, as to be dethroned from the soul, which then again becomes unrenewed.

Redemption General.

4. The redeeming work of Christ equally for all and every man of the human race, to make his sins pardonable on the condition of faith, to purchase a common sufficient grace actually enjoyed by all, and the efficient graces of a complete redemption suspended on the proper improvement of common grace by free will. Christ’s intention and provision are, therefore, the same to all. But as justice requires that the pardoned rebel shall believe and repent, to those who, of their own choice, refuse this, the provision remains forever ineffective.


5. In the doctrine of justification, again, the lower and higher Arminians differ somewhat. Both define justification as consisting simply of pardon. According to the lower, this justification is only purchased by Christ in this, that He procured from God the admission of a lower Covenant, admitting faith and the Evangelical obedience flowing out of it, as a righteousness, in place of the perfect obedience of the Covenant of works. According to the higher, our faith (without the works its fruits) is imputed to us for righteousness, according, as they suppose, to Ro 4:5. Both deny the proper imputation of Christ’s active (as distinguished from His passive) obedience, and deny any imputation, except of the believer’s own faith; although the higher Arminians, in making this denial, seem to misunderstand imputation as a transference of moral character.

6. Personal Election Conditional.

Hence, it will be easily seen that their conception of election must be the following. The only absolute and unconditional decree which God has made from eternity concerning man’s salvation, is His resolve that unbelievers shall perish. This is not a predestination of individuals, but the fixing of a General Principle. God does, indeed, (as they explain Ro 9-11), providentially and sovereignly elect races to the enjoyment of certain privileges, but this is not an election to salvation, for free will may in any or each man of the race, abuse the privileges, and be lost. So far as God has an external purpose toward individuals, it is founded on His foresight, which He had from eternity, of the use they would make of their common grace. Some, He foresaw, would believe and repent, and therefore elected them to justification. Others, He foresaw, would not only believe and repent, but also persevere to the end, and these He elected to salvation.

A thoroughly-knit system, if its premises are granted.

II. The refutation of the Arminian theory must be deferred, on some points, till we pass to other heads of divinity, as Justification and Final Perseverance. On the extent of the atonement enough has already been said. On the remaining points we shall now attempt to treat.

Common Sufficient Grace Refuted.

In opposition to the assertion of a common sufficient grace, we remark, first, that there is no sufficient evidence of it in Scripture. The passages quoted above do, indeed, prove that God has done for all men under the gospel all that is needed to effect their salvation, if their own wills are not depraved. But they only express the fact that God’s general benevolence would save all to whom the gospel comes, if they would repent, and that the obstacles to that salvation are now only in the sinners. But whether it is God’s secret purpose to overcome that internal obstacle in their own perverse wills, these texts do not say. It will be found, on examination, that they all refer merely to the external call, which we have proved comes short of the effectual call, or that they are addressed to persons who, though shortcoming, or even backsliding, are regarded as God’s children already. Look and see.

2. Doctrine False, In Fact.

The doctrine is false in fact; for how can grace be sufficient, where the essential outward call, even, is lacking (Ro 10:14)? God declares, in Scripture, He has given up many to evil (Ac 14:16; Ro 1:21,28; 9:18). Again, the doctrine is contradicted by the whole doctrine of God, concerning the final desertion of those who have grieved away the Holy Spirit (see Ho 4:17; Ge 6:3; Heb 6:1-6). Here is a class so deserted of grace, that their damnation becomes a certainty. Are they, therefore, no longer free, responsible and blamable?

Three, if we take the Arminian description of common sufficient grace, then many who have its elements most largely, an enlightened conscience, frequent compunctions, competent religious knowledge, amiability, and natural virtues, good impulses and resolutions, are lost; and some, who seem before to have very little of these, are saved. How is this? Again, the doctrine does not commend itself to experience, for this tells us that, among men, good intentions are more rare than good opportunities. We see that some men have vastly more opportunity vouchsafed them by God’s providence than others. It would be strange if, contrary to the fact just stated, all those who have less opportunity should have better intentions than opportunities.

4. Common Grace, If Sufficient, Saves.

We have sometimes illustrated the Wesleyan doctrine of common sufficient grace hence, "All men lie in the ‘slough of despond’ in consequence of the fall. There is a platform, say Arminians, elevated an inch or two above the surface of this slough, but yet firm, to which men must struggle in the exercise of their common sufficient grace alone, the platform of repentance and faith. Now, it is true, that from this platform man could no more climb to heaven without divine grace, than his feet could scale the moon. But God’s grace is pledged to lift up to heaven all those who will so employ their free agency, as to climb to that platform, and stay there." Now, we say, with the Arminian, that a common sufficient grace, which does not work faith and repentance, is in no sense sufficient; for until these graces are exercised, nothing is done (Heb 11:6; Joh 3:36). But he who has these graces, we further assert, has made the whole passage from death to life. That platform is the platform of eternal life. The whole difference between elect and non-elect is already constituted (see Joh 3:36; 1Jo 5:1; Ac 13:48; 2Co 5:17, with Eph 3:17). If then there is sufficient grace, it is none other than the grace which effectuates redemption, and the Arminian should say, if consistent with his false premises, not that God by it puts it in every man’s free will to fulfill the conditions on which further saving communications depend, but that He puts it in every man s free will to save himself.

5. Or Else, It Is Either Not Common, or Not Sufficient.

If the doctrine is true, it is every man’s own uninfluenced choice, and not the purpose of God, which determines his eternal destiny. Either the common grace effects its saving work in those who truly believe, in virtue of some essential addition made to its influences by God, or it does not. If the former, then it was not "common," nor "sufficient," in those who failed to receive that addition. If the latter, then the whole difference in its success must have been made by the man’s own free will resisting less—i. e.,, the essential opposition to grace in some souls, differs from that in others. But see Ro 3:12,27; Ec 8; Eph 2:8-9; 1Co 4:7; Ro 9:16; and the whole tenor of that multitude of texts in which believers ascribe their redemption, not to their own superior docility or penitence, but to distinguishing grace.

To attain the proper point of view for the rational refutation of the doctrine of "common" sufficient grace, it is only necessary to ask this question. What is the nature of the obstacle grace is needed to remove? Scripture answers in substance, that it is inability of will, which has its rudiments in an ungodly habitus of soul. That is to say, the thing grace has to remove is the soul’s own evil disposition. Now, the idea that any cause, natural or supernatural, half rectifies this, so as to bring this disposition to an equipoise, is absurd. It is the nature of disposition to be disposed, this is almost a truism. It is impossible to think a moral agent devoid of any and all disposition. If God did produce in a sinful soul, for one instant, the state which common sufficient grace is supposed to realize, it would be an absurd tertium quid, in a state of moral neutrality. As we argued against the Pelagian, that state, if possible, would be immoral, in that it implied an indifferent equipoise as to positive obligations. And the initial volition arising out of that state would not be morally right, because they would not spring out of positive right motives, and such acts, being worthless, could not foster any holy principles or habits. The dream of common grace is suggested obviously, by the Pelagian confusion of inability of will with compulsion. The inventor has his mind full of some evil necessity which places an external obstruction between the sinner and salvation, hence this dream of an aid, sufficient but not efficacious, which lifts away the obstruction, and yet leaves the sinner undetermined, though free, to embrace Christ. Remember that the obstruction is in the will, and the dream perishes. The aid which removes it can be nothing short of that which determines the will to Christ. The peculiar inconsistency of the Wesleyan is seen in this, that, when the Pelagian advances this idea of Adam’s creation in a state of moral neutrality, the Wesleyan (see Wesley’s Orig. sin. or Watson, ch. 18th), refutes it by the same irrefutable logic with the Calvinists. He proves the very state of soul to be preposterous and impossible. Yet, when he comes to effectual calling, he imagines a common grace which results, at least for a time, in the same impossible state of the soul! It is a reversion to Pelagius.

Grace In Regeneration Invincible.

The views of regeneration which Calvinists present, in calling the grace of God therein invincible, and in denying the synergism sunergeia of man’s will therein, necessarily flow from their view of original sin. We do not deny that the common call is successfully resisted by all non-elect gospel sinners; it is because God never communicates renewing grace, as He never intended in His secret purpose. Nor do we deny that the elect, while under preliminary conviction, struggle against grace, with as much obstinacy as they dare; this is ensured by their depraved nature. But on all those whom God purposes to save, He exerts a power, renewing and persuading the will, so as infallibly to ensure their final and voluntary submission to Christ. Hence we prefer the word invincible to irresistible. This doctrine we prove, by all those texts which speak of God’s power in regeneration as a new creation, birth, resurrection; for the idea of successful resistance to these processes, on the part of the dead matter, or corpse, or faetus, is preposterous. Conviction may be resisted, regeneration is invincible. We prove it again from all those passages which exalt the divine and mighty power exerted in the work (see Eph 1:19-20; Ps 110:3). Another emphatic proof is found in this, that otherwise, God could not be sure of the conversion of all those He purposed to convert; yea, not of a single one of them; and Christ would have no assurance that He should ever "see of the travail of His soul" in a single case! For, in order for God to be sure of the result, He must put forth power adequate to overcome all opposing resistance. But see all those passages, in which the security and immutability of God’s purposes of grace are asserted (Ro 9:21,23; Eph 1:4; Joh 15:16; Eph 2:10).

Mere Foreknowledge Inadequate.

Here, the Arminian rejoins, that God’s scientia media, or foreknowledge of the contingent acts of free agents (arising not from His purpose of control over those acts, but from His infinite insight into their character, and the way it will act under foreseen circumstances), enables Him to foreknow certainly who will improve their common grace, and that some will. His eternal purposes are not crossed, therefore, they say, because He only purposed from eternity to save those latter. The fatal answer is that if the acts of free agents are certainly foreseen, even with this scientia media, they are no longer contingent, but certain, and worse than this, Man’s will being in bondage, all the foreknowledge which God has, from His infinite insight into human character, will be only a foreknowledge of obdurate acts of resistance on man’s part, as long as that will is unsubdued. God’s foreknowledge, in that case, would have been a foreknowledge that every son of Adam would resist and be lost. The only foreknowledge God could have, of any cases of submission, was one founded on His own decisive purpose to make some submit, by invincible grace.

Grace Does Not Destroy Free Agency.

The Arminian objects again that our doctrine represents man as dragged reluctantly into a state of grace, like an angry wild beast into a cage, whereas, freedom of will, and hearty concurrence are essential elements of all service acceptable to God. The answer is that the sinner’s will is the very subject of this invincible grace. God so renews it that it neither can resist nor longer wishes to resist. But this objection virtually reappears in the next part of the question.

The Soul Passive In Its Quickening. Proof.

Calvinists are accustomed also to say in opposition to all synergistic views, that the will of man is not active, but only passive in regeneration. In this proposition, it is only meant that man’s will is the subject, and not the agent, nor one of the agents of the distinctive change. In that renovating, which revolutionizes the active powers of the soul, it is acted on and not agent. Yet, activity is the inalienable attribute of an intelligent being, and in the process of conversion, which begins instantaneously with regeneration, the soul is active in all its exercises towards sin, holiness, God, its Savior, the law.

This doctrine is proved by the natural condition of the active powers of the soul. Man’s propensities are wholly and certainly directed to some form of ungodliness, and to impenitency. How, then, can the will, prompted by these propensities, persuade itself to anything spiritually good and penitent? It is expecting a cause to operate in a direction just the opposite to its nature; as well expect gravity to raise masses flung into the air, when its nature is to bring them down. And this is agreeable to the whole Bible representation. Does the foetus procure its own birth?, the dead body its own resurrection?, the matter of creation its own organization? See, especially, Joh 2:13. Yet this will, hence renewed, chooses God, and acts holiness, freely, just as Lazarus, when resuscitated, put forth the activities of a living man.

The objections of the Arminian may all be summed up in this, that sinners are commanded not only to put forth all the actings of the renewed nature, such as believing, turning from sin, loving God, but are commanded to perform the very act of giving their hearts to God, which seems to contain the very article of regeneration (see Pr 23:26; Isa 1:16; Eze 18:31; De 10:16).

Objection Answered.

The answer is, first, that God’s precepts are no test of the extent of our ability of will, but only of our duty. When our Creator has given to us capacities to know and love Him, and the thing which prevents is our depraved wills, this is no reason why He should or ought to cease demanding that which is His due. If the moral opposition of nature into which God’s creatures may sink themselves by their own fault, were a reason why He should cease to urge His natural rights on them, He would soon have no right left. Again, the will of man, when renovated by grace, needs a rule by which to put forth its renewed activity, just as the eye, relieved of its darkness by the surgeon needs light to see. Hence, we provide light for the renovated eye; not that light alone could make the blind eye see. And hence, God applies His precepts to the renovated will, in order that it may have a law by which to act out its newly bestowed, spiritual free agency. But third, and chiefly, these objections are all removed by making a sound distinction between regeneration and conversion. In the latter the soul is active, and the acts required by all the above passages, are the soul’s (now regenerate) turning to God.

Bible Promises No Salvation To Heathen.

The salvability of any heathen without the gospel is introduced here, because the question illustrates these views concerning the extent of the grace of redemption, and the discussions between us and the Arminians. We must hold that Revelation gives us no evidence that Pagans can find salvation, without Scriptural means. They are sinners. The means in their reach appear to contain no salvation. a). One argument is this, all of them are self convicted of some sin (against the light of nature), "Without the shedding of blood is no remission." But the gospel is the only proposal of atonement to man. b). Paganism provides nothing to meet the other great want of human nature, an agency for moral renovation. Is any man more spiritually minded than decent children of the Church are, because he is a Pagan? Do they need the new birth less than our own beloved offspring? Then it must be at least as true of the heathen that except they be born again, they shall not see the kingdom. But their religions present no agencies for regeneration. They do not even know the Word. So far are their theologies from any sanctifying influence, their morals are immoral, their deities criminals, and the heaven to which they aspire a pandemonium of sensual sin immortalized.

God No More Unjust To Them Than To Non-Elect Under the Gospel.

Now, the Arminians reject this conclusion, thinking God cannot justly condemn any man who is not furnished with such means of knowing and loving Him, as put his destiny in every sense within his own choice. These means the heathen do not fully possess, where their ignorance is invincible. The principle asserted is that God cannot justly hold any man responsible, who is not blessed with both "natural and moral ability." I answer that our doctrine concerning the heathen puts them in the same condition with those unhappy men in Christian lands who have the outward word, but experience no effectual calling of the Spirit. God requires the latter to obey that Law and Gospel, of which they enjoy the clearer lights; and the obstacle which ensures their failure to obey is, indeed, not any physical constraint, but an inability of will. Of the heathen, God would require no more than perfect obedience to the light of nature, and it is the same inability of will which ensures their failure to do this. Hence, as you see, the doctrine of a common sufficient grace, and of the salvability of the heathens, are parts of the same system. So, the consistent Calvinist is able to justify God in the condemnation of adult heathens, according to the principles of Paul. Ro 2:12. On the awful question, whether all heathens, except those to whom the Church carries the gospel, are certainly lost, it does not become us to speak. One thing is certain, that "there is none other Name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Ac 4:12) Guilt must be expiated, and depravity must be cleansed, before the Pagan (or the nominal Christian) can see God. Whether God makes Christ savingly known to some, by means unknown to the Church, we need not determine. We are sure that the soul which "feels after Him if haply he may find Him," will not be cast off of God, because it happens to be outside of Christendom. But are there such? This question it is not ours to answer. We only know, that God in the Scriptures always enjoins on His Church that energy and effort in spreading the gospel, which would be appropriate, were there no other instrumentality but ours. Here is the measure of our duty concerning foreign missions.

Chapter 10: Arminian Theory of Redemption - Part 2

Section One—Defending the Faith
Chapter 10: Arminian Theory of Redemption
—Part 2

Syllabus for Lecture 49:

1. Are God’s decrees of personal election conditional or unconditional?

Turretin, Loc. iv, Qu. 3, 1-7. Qu. II. 10-24. Loc. xv, Qu. 2, 3. Hill, bk, iv, ch. 7, 10. Dick, Lecture 35. Knapp, Chr. Theol., 32. and Note. Watson’s Theol. Inst., ch. 26.

2. Show the relations between the orthodox views of effectual calling and election, and the true theory of the will and free agency. (a). That the natural will is certainly determined to carnality, and yet free agency exists therein. (b). That the renewed will after it is sovereignly renewed to godliness, and efficaciously preserved therein, is yet more free. And therefore, responsibility exists in both states.

See Lecture II, above on the Will. Turrettin, Loc. x, Qu. 4. Southern Presbn. Rev. Oct. 1876, July and Oct., 1877. Articles on Theory of Volition. Alexander’s "Moral Science," chs. 16 to 18. Hill, bk. iv. ch. 9; 3. Edwards on the Will, pt. i., ch. 3, and pt. iii. Watson’s Theol. Inst., ch. 28; 3. Anselm. Cur Deus Homo., pt. i., ch. 24.

1. Conditional Decrees Are Implied In Synergism.

The favorite Arminian dogma that God’s will concerning the salvation of individuals is conditioned on His simple foresight of their improvement of their common grace, in genuine faith, repentance, and holy obedience, is necessary to the coherency of their system. If grace is invincible, and all true faith are its fruits, then God’s purpose as to working them must be absolute in this sense. If grace is only synergistic, and the sinner’s free will alone decides the question of resisting it, or cooperating with it, then, of course, the sovereignty of decision, in this matter, is in the creature, and not in God, and He must be guided in His purpose by what it is foreseen the creature will choose to do. Hence we reach, by a corollary from the Arminian doctrine of "Calling," that which in time is first, the nature of the Divine purpose about it. The student is here referred to the Lecture on the Decree. But as the subject is so illustrative of the two theories of redemption, the Arminian and the orthodox, I shall not hesitate to discuss the same thing again, and to reproduce some of the same ideas.

The Result May Be Conditioned, and Not the Decree.

Let me begin by reminding you of that plain distinction, by the neglect of which Arminians get all the plausibility of their view. It is one thing to say that, in the Divine will, the result purposed is conditioned on the presence of its means, another thing to say that, God’s purpose about it is also conditioned or dependent on the presence of its means. The former is true, the latter false. And this because the presence of the means is itself efficaciously included in this same Divine purpose. Hence, a believer’s salvation is doubtless dependent on his repentance in the sense that, if he does not repent, he will not be saved. But God’s purpose to save him is not dependent on his choosing to repent; for one of the things which God’s purpose efficaciously determines is, that this believer shall have grace to repent. Remember, also, that when we say God’s election is not dependent on the believer’s foreseen faith, we do not represent the Divine purpose as a motiveless caprice. It is a resolve founded most rationally, doubtless, on the best of reasons–only, the superior faith and penitence of that man were not, a priori among them, because had not God already determined, from some better reasons unknown to us, that man would never have had any faith or repentance to foresee. And this is a perfect demonstration, as well as a Scriptural one. The Arminian opinion makes an effect the cause of its own cause. And that our faith, are effects of our calling and election (see Ro 8:29; Eph 1:4-5; 1Th 2:13; 1Co 4:7; Joh 15:16).

Providence Makes Sovereign Distinctions In Men’s Outward Opportunities. Especially of Infants.

(b). But to this I may add the same idea in substance, which I used against Common Sufficient Grace. That, in fact, differences are made, in the temperaments and characters, opportunities and privileges of individuals and nations, which practically result in the death of some in sin. Hence, what practical opportunity, humanly speaking, had the man born in Tahiti, in the 18th century, for redemption through Christ? Now the Arminian himself admits an election of races or nations to such privilege, which is sovereign. Does not this imply a similar disposal of the fate of individuals? Can an infinite understanding fail to comprehend the individuals, in disposing of the destiny of the mass? But, under this head especially, I remark, the time of every man’s death is decided by a sovereign Providence. But by determining this sovereignly, God very often practically decides the man’s eternal destiny. Much more obvious is this in the case of infants. According to Arminians, all that die in infancy are saved. So, then, God’s purpose to end their mortal life in infancy is His purpose to save them. But this purpose cannot be formed from any foresight of their faith or repentance, because they have none to foresee, being saved without them.

If Foreseen, Faith Must Be Certain.

(c). God’s foresight of believers faith and repentance implies the certainty, or "moral necessity" of these acts, just as much as a sovereign decree. For that which is certainly foreseen must be certain. The only evasion from this is the absurdity of Adam Clarke, that God chooses not to foreknow certain things, or the impiety of the Socinians, that He cannot foreknow some things. On both, we may remark, that if this faith and repentance are not actually foreknown, they cannot be the bases of any resolve on God’s part.

Immutable Decree Cannot Be Conditioned On A Mutable Cause. Scripture.

(d) That any purposes of God should depend on the acts of a creature having an indeterminate, contingent will, such as the Arminian describes, is incompatible with their immutability and eternity. But all His decrees are such (see Ps 33; 2Ti 2:11,19; Eph 4:4; Isa, 10:10). In a word, this doctrine places the sovereignty in the creature, instead of God, and makes Him wait on His own servant. It is disparaging to God.

Last, his very purpose of individual election to salvation is often declared to be uncaused by any foreseen good in us (see Mt 11:26; Ro 9:11-16; 11:5-6; etc).

Texts Seeming To Express A Conditioned Purpose.

But Arminians cite many passages, in which they assert, God’s resolve as to what He shall do to men is conditioned on their good or bad conduct. They are such as 1Sa 13:13; Ps 80:13-14; Lu 7:30; Eze 18:21; Lu 19:42. Our opponents here make an obvious confusion of things, which should be distinguished. When God perceptively reveals a connection between two alternative lines of conduct, and their respective results, as established by His law or promise, he does not at all reveal anything thereby, as to what He purposes with reference to permitting or procuring the exercise of that conduct by man. Of course, it does not imply that His purpose on this point is contingent to Him, or that the consequent results were uncertain to Him. We have seen that many of the results decreed by God were dependent on means which man employed, but that God’s resolve was not dependent, because it secretly embraced their performance of those instrumental acts also. But the proof that the Arminians misconstrue those Scripture instances, is this, that the Bible itself contains many instances of these conditional threats and promises, and expressions of compassion, where yet the result of them is expressly foretold. If expressly predicted, they must have been predetermined. See, then, Isa 1:19-20, compared with 7:20. And, more striking yet, Ac 27:23-25, with 31.

Evasion Attempted From Ro 9:11.

Ro 9:11-18, is absolutely conclusive against conditional election. The only evasion by which the Arminian can escape its force, is that this passage teaches only a national election of Israel and Edom, represented in their patriarchs, Jacob and Esau, to the outward privileges of the Gospel. We reply, as before, that Jacob and Esau certainly represented themselves also, so that here are two cases of unconditional predestination. But Paul’s scope shows that the idea is false, for that scope is to explain, how, on his doctrine of justification by grace, many members of Israel were lost, notwithstanding equal outward privileges. And in answering this question, the Apostle evidently dismisses the corporate or collective, in order to consider the individual relation to God’s plan and purpose. See Ro 9:8,15,24. That the election was not merely to privilege, is clearly proved by the allusion of verse 8, compared with verses 4, 21, 24.

Calvinistic View Agreeable To the True Nature of the Will.

2. I am now to show that the Calvinistic scheme is consistent, and the Arminian inconsistent, with the philosophical theory of the will and free agency. Let me here refer you to Lecture xi., where the true doctrine of the will is stated and defended, and request you, if your mastery of the views there given is not perfect, to return and make it so before proceeding. While I shall not repeat the arguments, the definition of the true doctrine is so important (and has so often been imperfectly made by Calvinists) that I shall take the liberty to restate it.

True Theory of the Will Stated.

The Arminian says that free agency consists in the self-determining power of the will, as a distinct faculty in the soul. The Calvinist says, it consists in the self-determining power of the soul. An Arminian says an agent is only free when he has power to choose, as the will may determine itself either way, irrespective of the stronger motive. The Calvinist says that an agent is free when he has power to act as his own will chooses. The Arminian says that in order to be free, the agent must be exempt from the efficient influence of his own motives; the Calvinist, that he must be exempt from co-action, or external constraint; The Arminian says, that in order to be free, the agent must always be capable of having a volition uncaused. The Calvinist says that if an agent has a volition uncaused, he cannot possibly be free therein, because that volition would be wholly irrational; the agent would therein be simply a brute. Every free, rational, responsible volition is such, precisely because it is caused i. e., by the agent’s own motives; the rational agent is morally judged for his volitions according to their motives, or causes.

Motive What?

But when we ask, "What is the motive of a rational volition?" we must make that distinction which all Arminians and many Calvinists heedlessly overlook, between motive and inducement. The object offered to the soul as an inducement to choose is not the cause, the motive of the choice, but only the occasion. The true efficient cause is something of the soul’s own, something subjective, namely, the soul’s own appetite according to his prevalent, subjective disposition. The volition is not efficaciously caused by the inducement or object which appeals, but by the disposition which is appealed to. Hence, the causative spring of a free agent’s action is within, not without him, according to the testimony of our consciousness. (The theory which makes the objective inducement the true cause of volition, is from that old, mischievous, sensualistic psychology, which has always been such a curse to theology). But then, this inward or subjective spring of action is not lawless; it is not indeterminate; if it were, the agent would have neither rationality nor character; and its action would be absolutely blind and brutish. This subjective spring has a law of its own activity—that is to say, its self-action is of a determinate character (of one sort or another). And that character is what is meant by the radical habitus , or natural disposition of the agent. And this subjective disposition is what gives uniform qualify to that series of acts, by which common sense estimates the character of an agent. (And this, as we saw, was a sufficient proof of our doctrine; that otherwise, the exhibition of determinate character by a free agent, would be impossible). God is an excellent Agent, because He has holy original disposition. Satan is a wicked agent, because he has an unholy disposition, etc.

Disposition What?

Now, this habitus or disposition of soul is not by any means always absolutely simple; it is a complex of certain active principles, with mental habitudes proceeding therefrom, and modified by outward circumstances. With reference to some sorts of outward inducements, these active principles may act with less uniformity and determinateness; with reference to others, with more. Here, modifying outward influences may change the direction of the principles. The avaricious man is sometimes prompted to generous volitions, for instance. But our common sense recognizes this truth: that the more, original and primary of those active principles constituting a being’s disposition or habitus, are perfectly determinate and uniform in their action. For instance, no being, when happiness and suffering are the alternatives, is ever prompted by his own disposition, to choose the suffering for its own sake; no being is ever prompted, applause or reproach being equally in its reach, to prefer the reproach to the applause for its own sake. And last, this disposition, while never the effect of specific acts of volition (being always a priori thereto, and cause of them) is spontaneous; that is, in exercising the disposition, both in consideration and choice, the being is self-prompted. When arguing against the Pelagian sophism, that man could not be responsible for his disposition, because it is "involuntary," I showed you the ambiguity wrapped up in that word. Of course, anything which, like disposition, precedes volition, cannot be voluntary in the sense of proceeding out of a volition; what goes before of course does not follow after the same thing. But the question is, "whether disposition is self-prompted." There is a true sense in which we intuitively know that a man ought not to be made responsible for what is "involuntary," viz., for what happens against his will. But does any man’s own disposition subsist against his will? If it did, it would not be his own. There is here a fact of common sense, which is very strangely overlooked; that a man may most freely prefer what is natural to him, and in that sense his prior to his volition choosing it. Let a simple instance serve. Here is a young gentleman to whom nature has given beautiful and silky black hair. He, himself, thinks it very pretty, and altogether prefers it. Does he not thereby give us as clear, and as free an expression of his taste in hair, as though he had selected a black wig? So, were he to purchase hair dye to change his comely locks to a "carroty red," we should regard him as evincing very bad taste. But I ask, if we saw another whom nature had endowed with "carroty red hair," glorying in it with pride and preference, we should doubtless esteem him guilty of precisely the same bad taste, and precisely as free therein as the other. But the color of his hair was determined by nature, not by his original selection. Now, my question is, must we not judge the moral preference just as free in the parallel case, as the aesthetic? I presume that every reflecting mind will give an affirmative answer. If, for instance, a wicked man made you the victim of his extortion, or his malice, you would not think it any palliation to be told by him that he was naturally covetous or malignant, nor would you be satisfied by the plea, that this evil disposition was not at first introduced into his soul by his personal act of soul; while yet he confessed that he was entirely content with it and cherished it with a thorough preference. In fine, whether the moral agent is free in entertaining his connate disposition, may be determined by a very plain test. Does any other agent compel him to feel it, or does he feel it of himself? The obvious answer discloses this fact; that disposition is the most intimate function of our self-hood, and this, whether connate or self-induced.

This Theory Obvious. Calvinism In Harmony With It.

Is not this now the psychology of common sense and consciousness? Its mere statement is sufficiently evincive of its truth. But you have seen a number of arguments by which it is demonstrated, and the rival theory reduced to absurdity. Now, our assertion is, that the Calvinistic doctrine of effectual calling is agreeable to these facts of our free agency, and the Arminian inconsistent with them.

Grace Cannot Produce An Equilibrium Between Holiness and Sin.

(a.) First, the equilibrium of will, to which Arminians suppose the gospel restores all sinners, through common sufficient grace, would be an unnatural and absurd state of soul, if it existed. You will remember that the Wesleyans (the Arminian school which we meet) admit that man lost equilibrium of will in the fall; but say that it is restored through Christ; and that this state is necessary to make man truly free and responsible in choosing the Savior. But we have shown that such a state is impossible for an active agent, and irrational. So far as it existed, it would only show the creature’s action irrational, like that of the beasts. Hence, the evangelical choice arising in such a state would be as motiveless, as reasonless, and therefore, as devoid of right moral character, as the act of a man walking in his sleep. And, to retort the Arminian’s favorite conclusion, all the so-called gracious states of penitence, etc., growing out of that choice, must be devoid of right moral quality. How can those exercises of soul have that quality? Only as they are voluntary, and prompted by right moral motives. But as we have seen, motive is subjective; so that the action of soul cannot acquire right moral quality until it is prompted by right moral disposition. Hence, if that common sufficient grace were anything at all, it would be the grace of moral renovation; all who had it would be regenerate.

The Natural Will Decisively Bent To Carnality.

(b.) Second: We have seen that the notion of a moral agent without determinate, subjective moral character, of some sort, is absurd. Tire radical, ruling habitus has some decisive bent of its own, some way or other. Is not this simply to say that disposition is disposed. The question of fact then arises, which is the bent or determinate direction, which man’s natural disposition has, touching spiritual things? Is it for, or against? Or, as a question of fact, is the disposition of mankind naturally, and uniformly either way? Or, are some men one way disposed by nature, and some the other, as to this object? The answer is, that they are all naturally disposed, in the main, the same way, and that, against the spiritual claims of Christ and God. What are these claims? That the sinner shall choose the holy will of God over his own, and His favor over sensual, earthly, and sinful joys in all their forms. Nothing less than this is evangelical repentance and obedience. Now note, we do not say that no men ever choose any formal act of obedience by nature. Nor, that no man ever desires (what he conceives to be) future blessedness by nature. Nor, that every natural man is as much bent on all forms of rebellion, as every other. But we assert, as a matter of fact, that all naturally prefer self-will to God’s holy will, and earthly, sensual, and sinful joys (in some forms) to God’s favor and communion; that this is the original, fundamental, spontaneous disposition of all; and that in all essential alternatives between self and God, the disposition is, in the natural man, absolutely determinate and certain. If this is true, then the unconverted man without sovereign grace is equally certain to choose carnally, and equally a free agent in choosing so.

Proved By Consciousness and Experience.

But that such is the determinate disposition of every natural man, is obvious both from experience and from Scripture. Every renewed man, in reviewing his own purposes, is conscious that, before regeneration, self-will was, as against God, absolutely dominant in all his feelings and purposes; of which no stronger test can be imagined than this conscious fact; that the very best religious impulses to which his soul could be spurred by remorse or alarm, were but modifications of self-will, (self-righteousness.) Every true Christian looks back to the time when he was absolutely incompetent to find, or even to imagine, any spontaneous good or joy in anything except carnality; and the only apprehension it was possible for him to have of God’s service, in looking forward to the time when, he supposed, the fear of hell would compel him, to undertake it, was of a constraint and a sacrifice. So, when we look without, while we see a good many in the state of nature, partially practicing many secular virtues, and even rendering to God some self-righteous regards, we see none preferring God’s will and favor to self-will and earth. All regard such a choice as an evil per se; all shrink from it obstinately; all do so under inducements to embrace it which reasonably ought to be immense and overwhelming. The experimental evidence, that this carnality is the original and determinate law of their disposition, is as complete as that which shows the desire of happiness is a law of their disposition. And all this remains true of sinners under the gospel, of sinners enlightened, of sinners convicted and awakened by the Holy Spirit in His common operations; which is a complete, practical proof that there is not any such sufficient grace, common to all, as brings their wills into equilibrium about evangelical good. For those are just the elements which the Arminians name, as making up that grace, and we see that where they are, still there is no equilibrium, but the old, spontaneous, native bent, obstinately dominant still.

Proved By Scripture.

The decisiveness of that disposition is also asserted in Scripture in the strongest possible terms. All men are the "servants of sin," (Joh 8:34; Ro 6:20; 2Pe 2:19). They are "sold under sin" (Ro 7:14). They are "in the bond of iniquity" (Ac 8:23). They are "dead in sins" (Eph 2:1). They are "blind"; yea, "blindness" itself (Eph 4:18). Their "hearts are stony" (Eze 36:26). They are "impotent" for evangelical good (2Co 3:5); (Joh 15:5; Ro 5:6; Mt 7:18; 12:34; Joh 6:44). "The carnal mind is enmity, and cannot be subject to the law of God" (Ro 8:7). Surely these, with the multitude of similar testimonies, are enough to prove against all ingenious glosses, that our view of man’s disposition is true. But if man’s free agency is misdirected by such active principles as these, original, uniform, absolutely decisive, it is folly to suppose that the mighty revolution to holiness can originate in that free agency; it must originate without, in almighty grace.

Inability Does Not Supersede Responsibility.

Nor is it hard for the mind which has comprehended this philosophy of common sense and experience, to solve the current Arminian objection, that the man in such a state of will cannot be responsible or blameworthy for his continued impenitency. This "inability of will" does not supersede either free agency or responsibility.

Inability Defined.

There is here an obvious distinction from that external co-action, which the reason and conscience of every man recognizes as a different state, which would supersede responsibility. The Calvinists of the school of Jonathan Edwards make frequent use of the terms, "moral inability,""natural inability," to express that plain, old distinction. Turrettin teaches us that they are not new. In his Locus x., que. 4, section 39, 40, you will find some very sensible remarks, which show that this pair of terms is utterly ambiguous and inappropriate, however good the meaning of the Calvinists who used them. I never employ them. That state which they attempt to describe as "moral inability," our Confession more accurately calls, loss of all "ability of will." (Ch. ix., Section 3). It should be remarked here, that in this phrase, and in many similar ones of our Confession, the word "will" is used in a sense more comprehensive than the specific faculty of choosing. It means the "conative powers," (so called by Hamilton,) including with that specific function, the whole active power of soul. The "inability," then, which we impute to the natural man, and which does not supersede responsibility, while it does make his voluntary continuance in impenitence absolutely certain, and his turning of himself to true holiness impossible, is a very distinct thing from that physical co-action, and that natural lack of essential faculties, either of which would be inconsistent with moral obligation. It is hence defined in Hodge’s outlines: "Ability consists in the power of the agent to change his own subjective state, to make himself prefer what he does not prefer, and to act in a given case in opposition to the co-existent desires and preferences of the agent’s own heart." I will close with a statement of the distinction which I uttered under very responsible circumstances. "All intelligent Calvinists understand very well, that ‘inability’ consists not in the extinction of any of the powers which constituted man the creature he was before Adam’s fall, and which made his essence as a religious being; but in the thorough moral perversion of them all. The soul’s essence is not destroyed by the fall; if it were, in any part, man’s responsibility would be to that extent modified. But all his faculties and susceptibilities now have a decisive and uniform, a native and universal, a perpetual and total moral perversion, by reason of the utter revolt of his will from God and holiness, to self-will and sin; such that it is impossible for him, in his own free will, to choose spiritual good for its own sake."

Regeneration Does Not Violate, But Perfects Free Agency.

(c) Regeneration, correspondingly, does not constrain. Regeneration does a man to will against his dispositions, but it does not violate, but renews the dispositions themselves. It reflects free agency verses the morbid and perverse bias of the will. It rectifies the action of all faculties and affections, previously perverted by that bias. God’s people are "willing in the day of His power" (Ps 110:3). "He worketh in them both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Php 2:13). In that believers now form holy volitions at the prompting of their own subjective principles, unconstrained by force, they are precisely as free as when, before, they spontaneously formed sinful volitions at the prompting of their opposite evil principles. But in that the action of intellect and desire and conscience is now rectified, purified, ennobled, by the divine renovation, the believer is more free than he was before. "He cannot sin because the living and incorruptible seed" of which he is born again "liveth and abideth in him." Hence, regeneration, though almighty, does not infringe free agency, but perfects it.

Objection Solved.

The standing Arminian objection is, that man cannot be praise–or blame–worthy, for what does not proceed from his own free will. Hence, if he does not primarily choose a new heart, but it is wrought in him by another, he has no more moral credit, either for the change or its consequences, than for the native color of his hair. This objection is, as you have seen, of a Pelagian source. By the same argument Adam could have had no concreated righteousness; but we saw that the denial of it to him was absurd. By the same reasoning God Himself could have no moral credit for His holy volitions; for He never chose a righteousness, having been eternally and necessarily righteous. We might reply, also, that the new and holy state is chosen by the regenerate man, for his will is as free and self–moved, when renovated, in preferring his own renovation, as it ever was in sinners.

This Because the Spirit Moulds Disposition a priori to the Will.

To sum up, then, the quickening touch of the Holy Spirit operates, not to contravene any of the free actings of the will, but to mold dispositions which lie back of it. Second, all the subsequent right volitions of the regenerate soul are in view of inducements rationally presented to it. The Spirit acts, not across man’s nature, but according to its better law. Third, the propensities by which the renewed volitions are determined are now noble, not ignoble, harmonious, not confused and hostile; and rational, not unreasonable. Man is most truly free when he has his soul most freely subjected to God’s holy will. See those illustrious passages in Joh 8:36; 2Co 3:17; Ro 8:21. Since this blessed work is like the free agency which it reinstates, one wholly unique among the actions of God, and essentially different from all physical effects, it cannot receive any adequate illustration.

Any parallel attempted, from either material or animal causes, would be incomplete. If, for instance, I were to say that the carnal man "in the bonds of iniquity," is like a wretch, who is hindered from walking in the paths of his duty and safety by some incubus that crushes his strength, I should use a false analogy for the incubus is external; carnality is internal; an evil state qualifying the will itself. But this erroneous parallel may serve us so far; the fortunate subject of effectual calling has no more occasion to complain of violence done to his free agency, than that wretch would, when a deliverer came and rolled the abhorred load off his body, restoring his limbs to the blessed freedom of motion, which might carry him away from the death that threatened to trim. You must learn to think of the almighty grace put forth in effectual calling, as reparative only, not volative. Augustine calls it a Delectatio victrix. It is a secret, omnipotent, silent, beneficent work of God, as gentle, yet powerful, as that which restored the vital spark to the corpse of Lazarus. Such are all God’s beneficent actions, from the launching of the worlds in their orbits, to the germination of the seed in the soil.

Chapter 11: Faith

Section One—Defending the Faith
Chapter 11: Faith

Syllabus for Lecture 50:

1. How many kinds of faith are mentioned in the Bible? Show that temporary and saving faith differ in nature.

See, on whole, Conf. of Faith, ch. 14. Shorter Cat., Qu. 86. Larger Cat. Qu. 72. Turrettin. Loc. xv., Qu. 7, Qu. 15, sections 1-10. Ridgley, Qu. 72. Dick, Lecture 68. Knapp, section 122.

2. What is the immediate object of saving faith?

Turrettin, Loc. xv. Qu. 12, section 7–11. Dick, as above. Hill, bk. v., ch. 1, near the end. Knapp, section 123.

3. Is faith implicit, or intelligent?

Turrettin, Qu. 9, 10. Knapp, section 122. Hill, bk. v., ch. 1.

4. What are the elements which make up saving Faith? Is it a duty and unbelief a sin? Does faith precede regeneration?

Turrettin, Loc. xv., Qu. 8. Mill as above, A. Fuller, "Strictures on Sandeman," Letters 2, 3, 7. Alexander’s Relig. Experience, ch. 6. Chalmer’s Inst. Of Theol Vol. ii, ch. 6. Ridgley, Qu. 72, 73. Watson’s Theol. Inst., ch. 23, section 3. Knapp, section 122, 124.

5. Is Christian love a formal principle of faith?

Council of Trent, Session vi, ch. 7. Calvin, Inst., bk. iii., ch. 2, section 8 to 10. Turrettin, Qu. 13.

6. Is assurance of belief, or assurance of hope, either, or both, of the essence of saving faith?

Council of Trent; Can. de Justif., 12 to 16. Calvin, as above, section 7 to 14. Dick, as above. Turrettin, Qu. 17. Conf. of Faith, ch. 18. Ridgley, Qu. 72, 73. Watson’s Theol. Inst., ch. 24, section ii. Dorner’s Hist. Prot. Theol. Vol. i., section i., ch. 4 section a. Louis Le Blanc, Sieur de Beaulieu, Treatise on Faith, in reply to Bossuet’s Variations of Popery.

7. Why is this faith suitable to be the instrument of justification?

Ridgley, Qu. 73. Turrettin, Loc. xvi., Qu. 7, section 19.

1. Faith of Four Kinds. Temporary Faith Not of the Kind of Saving.

After noting those cases, as 1Ti 1:19, where faith is evidently used for its object, we may say that the Scriptures mention four kinds—historical, temporary, saving and miraculous. As the only difference among theologians in this list respects the question, whether temporary and saving faith are generically different, we shall only enlarge on this. Arminians regard them as the same, in all except their issue. This we deny. Because: (a) The efficient cause of saving faith is effectual calling, proceeding from God’s immutable election; (Tit 2:1; Ac 13:48) that of temporary faith is the common call. (b) The subject of saving faith is a "good heart"; a regenerate soul; that of temporary faith is a stony soul. See Mt 13:5-6, with 8; Joh 3:36, or 1Jo 5:1, with Ac 8:13,23. (c) The firmness and substance of the two differ essentially. Mt 13:21; 1Pe 1:23. (d) Their objects are different; saving faith embracing Christ as He is offered in the gospel, a Savior from sin to holiness; and temporary faith embracing only the impunity and enjoyments of the Christian. (e) Their results are different, the one bearing all the fruits of sanctification, comfort and perseverance; the other bearing no fruit unto perfection. See the parable of the sower again.

2. Christ the Special Object of Faith.

The special object of saving faith is Christ the Redeemer, and the promises of grace in Him. By this, we do not mean that any true believer will willfully and knowingly reject any of the other propositions of God’s word. For the same habit of faith, or disposition of holy assent and obedience to God’s authority, which causes the embracing of gospel propositions, will cause the embracing of all others, as fast as their evidence becomes known. But we mean that in justifying faith, Christ and His grace is the object immediately before the believer’s mind; and that if he have a saving knowledge of this, but be ignorant of all the rest of the gospel, he may still be saved by believing this. The evidences are, that the gospel is so often spoken of as the object of faith; [but this is about Christ]; e. g., Mr 16:15-16; Eph 1:13; Mr 1:15; Ro 1:16-17; et passim. That believing on Christ is so often mentioned as the sole condition, and that, to men who must probably have been ignorant of many heads of divinity; e. g., Ac 16:31; Joh 3:18; 6:40; Ro 10:9, etc. The same thing may be argued from the experiences of Bible saints) who represent themselves as fixing their eyes specially on Christ. 1Ti 1:15, etc., and from the two sacraments of faith, which point immediately to Jesus Christ. Still, this special faith is, in its habitus , a principle of hearty consent to all God’s holy truth, as fast as it is apprehended as His. Faith embraces Christ substantially in all His offices. This must be urged, as of prime practical importance. Owen has in one place very incautiously said, that saving faith in its first movement embraces Christ only in His priestly, or propitiatory work. This teaching is far too common, at least by implication, in our pulpits. Its result is "temporary" faith, which embraces Christ for impunity only, instead of deliverance from sin. Our Catechism defines faith, as embracing Christ "as He is offered to us in the gospel." Our Confession (chap. xiv., section 2), says: "the principle acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification and eternal life." How Christ is offered to us in the gospel, may be seen in Mt 1:21; 1Co 1:30; Eph 5:25-27; Tit 2:14. The tendency of human selfishness is ever to degrade Christ’s sacrifice into a mere expedient for bestowing impunity. The pastor can never be too explicit in teaching that this is a travesty of the gospel; and that no one rises above the faith of the stony ground hearer, until he desires and embraces Christ as a deliverer from depravity and sin, as well as hell.

3. Faith Must Be Explicit.

The papists represent faith as an implicit exercise of the mind, in which the believer accepts the doctrines, not because of his own clear understanding of their evidence, but because of the pious and submissive temper of mind towards the Church; her authority being, to Romanists, the ground of faith. Faith accordingly may be compatible with ignorance, both of the other evidence, (besides the Church’s assertion), and of the very propositions themselves; so that a man may embrace with his faith, doctrines, when he not only does not see evidence for them, but does not know what they are! Indeed, says Aquinas, since agaph; is the formative principle of faith, the less a man’s acceptance of the Catholic doctrine proceeds from intelligence, and the more from the impulse of right dispositions, the more praiseworthy it is. This description of faith is evidently the only one consistent with a denial of private judgment.

Proofs of Romanists Invalid.

Protestants, on the other hand, hold that faith must be explicit and intelligent, or it cannot be proper faith; that the propositions embraced must be known; and the evidence therefore comprehended intelligently. They grant to Aquinas, that faith derives its moral quality from the holiness of principles and voluntary moral dispositions actuating the exercise; but his conclusion in favor of an unintelligent faith is absurd, because voluntary moral dispositions can only act legitimately, through an intelligent knowledge of their objects. The right intelligence is in order to the right feeling. Protestants again distinguish between a comprehension of the evidence, and a full comprehension of the proposition. The former is the rational ground of belief, not the latter. The affirmations of many propositions, not only in theology, but in other sciences, are rationally believed, because their evidences are intelligently seen, when the predications themselves are not fully or even at all comprehended. This distinction answers at once all the objections made by Papists to an explicit faith, from the case of this Patriarch, who believed a gospel promise only vaguely stated and of us, who believe mysteries we cannot explain. Nor is it of any force to say many Protestants could not give an intelligent view of any one sufficient argument for a given point in their creed. We grant that many professed Protestants have only a spurious faith. Again, a humble mind cannot always state in language intelligently, what he understands intelligently.

Affirmative Arguments.

For an explicit faith, hence defined, we argue: 1. That it is the only sort possible, according to the Laws of the mind. A man cannot believe, except by seeing evidence. As well talk of perception of objects of sight occurring in one, without using one’s own eyes. But, say Papists, the Catholic’s implicit faith is not hence totally blind, but rests on the testimony of the Church. His mind, influenced by agaph, intelligently embraced this as plenary and infallible. Now, may not a man have a conviction in such case, implicit even of unknown propositions; e. g., you Protestants have your authoritative rule of faith, your Scripture. Once adopt this, and you accept its unknown contents as true; of which there are to you some, until your study of Scripture exegesis is exhaustive. Ans. Very true. But the Romanist has no right to resort to this case as a parallel because he does not permit private judgment to exercise itself in rationally weighing the proofs of the Church’s authority, any more than of the Bible’s authority. He cannot, because then, the individual must exercise his private judgment upon the Scripture; the argument for the Church’s authority being dependent thereon, in essential branches. 2. The Bible agrees to this, by directing us to read and understand in order to believe; to search the Scriptures. See Joh 5:39; Ro 10:17; Ps 119:34; Pr 16:22; Ac 28:27; Joh 17:3; 1Co 11:29; John 6:45. 3. We are commanded to be "able to give to every man that asketh of us, a reason of the hope that is in us" (1Pe 3:15). And faith is everywhere spoken of as an intelligent exercise; while religious ignorance is rebuked as sin.

4. Is Faith Simple or Complex?

But we now approach an inquiry concerning faith, on which our own divines are more divided. Is faith a perfectly simple exercise of the soul, by its single faculty of intellect; or is it a complex act of both intellect and active moral powers, when stripped of all antecedent or consequent elements, which do not properly belong to it? The older divines, with the confession, evidently make it a complex act of soul, consisting of an intellectual, and a voluntary element. Turrettin, indeed, discriminates seven elements in the direct and reflex actings of faith: 1. Cognition; 2. Intellectual assent; 3. Trust; 4. Fleeing for refuge; 5. Embracing; and (reflex) 6. Self-consciousness of true actings of faith, with 7. Consolation and assurance of hope. The two latter should rather be named the ulterior consequences of saving faith, than a substantive part thereof. The first is rather a previous condition of faith, and the third, fourth and fifth seem to me either identical, or, at most, phases of the different actings of the will toward gospel truth. Of the old, established definition, I have seen no sounder exponent than A. Fuller. Now, Drs. A. Alexander and Chalmers, among others, teach that saving faith is nothing but a simple belief of propositions; and they seem to regard it as necessary to suppose the act as capable of being analyzed into a perfectly simple one, because it is everywhere spoken of in Scripture as a single one. Dr. Alexander also argues, with great acuteness and beauty of analysis, that since the soul is an absolute unit always, and its faculties are not departments of it, but only different modes it has of acting, the enlightening of the mind in regeneration and the moral renovation of will, must be one simple act of the Holy Spirit and one effect, not two. And hence, there is no ground to suppose that faith, which is the first characteristic acting of the new born, and result of new birth, is complex. Moreover, he argues, since the will always follows the latest dictate of the understanding, it is unnecessary to attribute to faith any other character than a conviction of truth in the intellect, to explain its practical effects in turning the soul from sin to Christ.

The Question To Be Settled By Scripture.

Now, in examining this subject, let us remember that the resort must be to the Bible alone, to learn what it means by pisti". And this Bible was not written for metaphysicians, but for the popular mind; and its statements about exercises of the soul are not intended to be analytical, but practical. This being admitted, and/or Alexander’s definition of the soul and its faculties being adopted as evidently the true one, it appears to me that the fact the Scriptures every where enjoin faith as a single act of the soul (by the doing of which one exercise, without any other, the soul is brought into Christ), does not at all prove it may not be a complex act, performed by the soul through two of its modes of action. Dr. Chalmers, Dr. Alexander, and every other divine often speak of acts as single, which they would yet analyze into two elements, and those not of the same faculties; e. g., the exercise of repentance or moral approval by the soul, consisting (in some order) of a judgment and an emotion.

The Heart Guides the Head In Moral Choice.

In explaining the defect of the other argument of Dr. Alexander, I would remind the student of the distinctions made in defending the doctrine of the immediate agency of the Spirit of regeneration. True, the regenerating touch which enlightens the understanding and renews the will, is one, and not two, separate, or successive exertions of power. True, the will does follow the last dictate of the understanding, on all subjects. But let us go one step farther back: How comes the understanding by its notions, in those cases where the subjects thereof are the objects of its natural active propensities? As we showed, in all these cases, the notion or opinion of the understanding is but the echo and the result of the taste or preference of the propensity. Therefore, the change of opinion can only be brought about by changing the taste or preference. Now, inasmuch as all the leading gospel truths are objects of native and immediate moral propensity, the renovation of those propensities procures the enlightening of the understanding, rather than the contrary. So in faith, the distinctive exercise of the renewed soul (renewed as a soul, and not only as one faculty thereof,) it is more correct to regard the element of active moral propensity (now towards Christ and away from sin) as source, and the new state of opinion concerning gospel truth, as result. But now, the understanding apprehends these objects of natural moral propensity, according to truth, because of the correct actings of the propensity towards them; and according to the soul’s customary law, this apprehension according to truth, is followed by right volitions; the first of which, the embracing of Christ for salvation, is in the Scriptural, practical account of faith, included as a part of the complete act. If that which the Bible represents as a single, may yet be a complex act of the soul, exerting itself in two capacities (which I have proved), then it is no argument to say the embracing of Christ by the will is no part of saving faith proper, but only a consequence; because it is a natural consequence of the law that the will follows the last dictate of the mind. Grant it. Yet why may not that very act of will, hence produced, be the very thing the Bible means by saving faith? (According to the Confession.) Then, to settle this, let us resort to the Bible itself. Be it remembered that, having distinguished the two elements of belief and embracing, it is simply a question of fact, whether the Scriptures mean to include the latter as a part of that exercise, by which the sinner is justified, or a result of it. Then,

The Object of Faith Not An Opinion, But A Good.

1. The very object proposed to faith implies that it must be an act as well as a notion; for that object is not merely truth but good, both natural and moral good. We often determine the character of the soul’s actings by that of their object. Now, the exercise provoked or occasioned by an object of appetency, must be active. Here, we may remark, there is strong evidence for our view in this, that the Scriptures often speak of faith as trust (see Ps 2:12; 17:7; et passim ; Mt 12:21; Eph 1:12, etc). Chalmers most strangely remarks that still faith does not seem to be anything more than simple belief because when we analyze trust in a promise, we find it to consist of a belief in a proposition accompanied by appetency for the good propounded; and the belief is but belief. I reply yes, but the trust is not mere belief only. Our argument is in the fact that the Scriptures say faith is trust, and trust is faith. Chalmers’ is a strangely bald sophism.

Faith Always Active In Scripture.

2. The Scriptures describe faith by almost every imaginable active figure. It is a "looking," (Is. 45:22) a "receiving," (Joh 1:12-13) an "eating" of Him, (Joh 6:54), a "coming," (Joh 5:40), an "embracing," (Heb 11:13,) a "fleeing unto, and laying hold of," (Heb 6:18,) etc. Here it may be added, that every one of the illustrations of faith in Heb 11(whose first verse some quote as against me) come up to the Apostle’s description in the 13th verse, containing an active element of trust and choice, as well as the mental one of belief.

3. The manner in which faith and repentance are coupled together in Scripture plainly shows that, as faith is implicitly present in repentance, so repentance is implicitly in faith. But if so, this gives to faith an active character. (Mr 1:15; Mt 21:32; 2Ti 2:25).

Unbelief A Sin.

4. The Scriptures represent faith, not only as a privilege, but a duty, and unbelief as a sin (1Jo 3:23; Joh 16:9). Now, it seems clear that nothing is a sin, in which there is no voluntary element. The mere notion of the understanding arises upon the sight of evidence involuntary; and there is no moral desert or ill-desert about it, any more than in being hurt when hit. And the reason why we are responsible for our belief on moral subjects is, that there is always an active, or voluntary element, about such belief. The nature thereof is explained by what has been said above on the order of causation between our disposition or propensities, and our opinions concerning their objects.

Historical Faith Differs How?

5. If we make faith nothing but simple belief, we are unable to give a satisfactory account of the difference between historical and saving faith. Chalmers, in the summary of his 6th chapter as good as acknowledges this. But surely that must be a defective theory, which makes it impossible to see a difference, where yet, it admits, a substantial difference exists! Some would get out of the difficulty by denying that, in strictness of speech, there is any historical faith where there is not saving faith—i. e., by denying that such persons truly believe, even with the understanding. Many candid sinners will declare that their consciousness contradicts this. Says Dr. Alexander, the historical faith does not differ in that it believes different propositions; but in that it believes them with a different and inferior grasp of conviction, I would ask, first, whether this statement does not give countenance to that radical Arminian error, which makes saving differ from temporary faith, only in degree, and not in kind? And I would remark, next: This is a singular desertion of a part of the strength of his own position, (although we believe that position includes only a part of the truth.)

It Does Not Accept the Same Propositions.

It is certainly true that historical faith does not believe all the propositions embraced by saving faith, nor the most important of them. Cat. que. 86. It believes, in a sense, that Christ is a Savior, but does it believe that all its best works are sins; that it is a helpless captive to ungodliness; that sin is, at this time, a thing utterly undesirable in itself for that person; and that it is at this moment, a thing altogether to be preferred, to be subdued unto holiness and obedience in Jesus Christ? No, indeed; the true creed of historical faith is that "I am a great sinner, but not utter; that I shall initiate a rebellion against ungodliness successfully some day, when the ‘convenient season’ comes, and I get my own consent. That the Christian’s impunity and inheritance will be a capital thing, when I come to die; but that at present, some form of sin and worldliness is the sweeter, and the Christian’s peculiar sanctity the more repulsive, thing for me." Now, the only way to revolutionize these opinions, is to revolutionize the active, spiritual tastes, of whose verdicts they are the echo—to produce, in a word, spiritual tastes equally active in the opposite direction. We have hence shown that historical faith does not embrace the same propositions as saving; and that the difference is not merely one of stronger mental conviction. But we have shown that the difference is one of contrasted moral activities, dictating opposite opinions as to present spiritual good; and hence procuring action of the will to embrace that good in Christ (see also, 2Th 2:10; Ro 10:9-10).

Faith the Fruit of Regeneration.

It is very clear, that if this account of faith is correct, it can only be an exercise of a regenerate heart. The moral affections which dictate the opinions as to moral good and evil, according to truth and hence procure action are spiritual affections. To this agree the Scriptures (see Ro 8:7; 1Co 2:14; Eph 1:19-20; 2:8; Eze 36:26-27; Php 1:29; Ga 5:22; Tit 1:1; Heb 12:2). To this representation there are three objections urged:


1. "That of the Sandemanian, that by giving faith an active and holy character, we virtually bring back justification by human merit."

2. "That by supposing regeneration (the very germ of redemption) bestowed on the sinner before justification, we make God reconciled to him before He is reconciled."

3. "That we tell the sinner to go to Christ by faith in order to be made holy, while yet he must be made holy in order to go."


The answer to the 1st, is that we define faith as a holy exercise of the soul; but we do not attribute its instrumentality to justify, to its holiness, but to the fact that it embraces Christ’s justifying righteousness. It is neither strange nor unreasonable, that a thing should have two or more attributes, and yet be adapted by one special attribute among them, to a given instrumentality. The diamond is transparent, but it is its hardness which fits it for cutting glass. True faith is obediential, it involves the will; it has moral quality, but its receptive nature is what fits it to be the organ of our justification. Hence it does not follow that we introduce justification by our own moral merit.

To the 2nd, I answer, it owes its whole plausibility to assuming that we make a difference in the order of time between regeneration and justification by faith. But we do not. In this sense, the sinner is justified when he is regenerated, and regenerated when justified. Again, God has purposes of mercy towards His elect considered as unregenerate. For were they not elected as such? In the Covenant of Redemption, Christ’s vicarious engagement for them did not persuade the Father to be merciful to them. On the contrary, it only enabled His original mercy, from which the gift of Christ Himself proceeded, to go forth compatibly with His holiness. Hence, at the application of Redemption, God justifies in the righteousness of Another, in order that He may consistently bless, with regeneration and all other graces; and He regenerates, in order that the sinner may be enabled to embrace that righteousness. In time they are simultaneous; in source, both are gracious, but in the order of production, the sinner is enabled to believe by being regenerated, not vice versa.

Sinner Dependent On Grace.

To the 3rd, I reply, that this is but to re-affirm the sinner’s inability, which is real, and not God’s fault, but his own. True, in the essential revolution from death to life, and curse to blessing, the sinner is dependent on Sovereign grace; (it is the virulence of sin that make him so,) and there is no use in trying to blink the fact. It is every way best for the sinner to find it out; for hence the thoroughness of legal conviction is completed, and self-dependence is slain. Let not the guide of souls try to palliate the inexorable fact, by telling him that he cannot regenerate himself and so adapt himself to believe; but that he can use means, etc., etc. For if the awakened sinner is perspicacious, he will answer, (logically), "Yes; and all my using means and instrumentalities, you tell me, will be adding sin to sin; for I shall use them with wholly carnal motives." If not perspicacious, he will thrust these means between himself and Christ; and be in imminent risk of damnation by endeavoring to make a Savior of them. No, let the pastor only reply to the anxious soul in the words of Paul, (Ac 16:31) "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved," while he also refuses to retract the truth, that "no man cometh unto Christ, except the Father draw him." The healing of the withered arm is here a parallel. Mt 12:10-13. Had that afflicted man possessed the spirit of this cavil, he would have objected to the command, "Stretch forth thy hand"; that it must first be miraculously healed. But he had, instead, the spirit of faith; and He who gave the command, gave also the strength to obey. In the act of obeying he was miraculously enabled.

If the sinner recalcitrate against the gospel paradox, the triumphant answer will be that the root of the reason why he cannot embrace Christ in his own strength is, that his own spontaneous preference is for self-will and ungodliness. So that if he fails in coming to Christ, why does he murmur? He has followed precisely his own secret preference, in staying away. If the minister feels responsible and anxious for the successful issue of the case entrusted hence to his tuition, let him remember: (a) That after all, it is sovereign grace that must regenerate, and not the separate efficiency of any views of truth, however correct; and that he is not responsible to God for persuading the sinner to Christ, which is God’s own work; and (b) That God does in fact make the "sinner’s extremity His own opportunity"; and where we see Him hence slaying carnal self by this thorough law work, it is because He intends thereby to prepare the way for His sovereign regenerating work. Let not the minister, therefore, become disbelieving, and resort to foolish, carnal expedients; let him singly repeat the gospel condition; and then "stand still and see the salvation of God."

This difficulty is presented in its most interesting form, by the question, whether an anxious sinner conscious of an unrenewed state, may begin to pray with an expectation of answer. Some professed Calvinists have been so embarrassed, as to give a very unscriptural answer. They have argued that "without faith it is impossible to please God"; and as faith is a result of regeneration, it is the unrenewed sinner’s duty to abstain from praying, until conscious of the saving change. But Scripture commands sinners to pray. See Ac 8:22; Ro 10:13. Man’s logic is vain, against God’s express word. Again, it is wrong to command any one to abstain from prayer (or any other duty) because he is in a state of unbelief, because it is wrong for him to be in that state. It is preposterous reasoning, which makes a man’s own sin an exemption for him. Do we then, in commanding the unbeliever to begin praying, tell him to offer an unbelieving prayer. By no means. We intend that he shall so begin, that by God’s grace that prayer, begun in the impotency of nature, shall instantly transform itself into the first breathing of a living faith. We say to him, begin praying, "and be no more faithless, but believing." It is most instructive to notice how Christ Himself encourages the anxious sinner to pretermit the obstacle of this seeming paradox. The parables by which He inculcates prayer are evidently constructed with a view to encourage the awakened soul to waive the question whether it is renewed or not. In Mt 7:11, the tenderness of parents for their hungry children is the example by which He emboldens us. But in applying it, He actually breaks the symmetry of His own comparison, in order to widen the promise for the encouragement of sinners. We at first expect Him to conclude hence: "If ye then, though evil, know how to give good things to your children, how much more shall your Father in heaven give His Holy Spirit to His children." But no, He concludes: "to them that ask Him"; hence graciously authorizing us to waive the question whether we have become His children. So, in Lu 18:14, the parable of the publican shows us a man who ventured to pray in the profound and humble conviction of his unrenewed state, and he obtained justification; while the confident professor of godliness was rejected. These instructions authorize the pastor to invite every sinner to the mercy seat, provided only he is hearty in his petition; and to direct him to the free mercy which comes "to seek and save that which is lost." Yet it is certainly true, that the prayer of abiding unbelief will not be accepted. But prayer is God’s own appointed means for giving expression to the implanted faith, and hence passing out of the unbelieving into the believing state.

5. Fides Formata. Distinction.

Rome teaches that historical faith is the substance of saving, fides informis , which becomes true faith by receiving its form, love (hence fides formata). Her doctrine of Justification is accordant, viz., a change of moral, as well as legal state, consisting not only in pardon and acceptance of person, but in the in-working of holy love in the character. Now, in this error, as in most mischievous ones, we find a certain perverted element of truth, (without which errors would not usually have life enough to be current.) For faith, as an act of the soul, has moral character; and that character, holy. But the sophism of Rome is two-fold: (a.) Her fides informis , or historical faith, is not generically the same act of the soul at all as saving faith; being an embracing of different propositions, or at least of far different apprehensions of the gospel propositions, being the acts of different faculties of the soul; (historical faith, characteristically of the head; saving faith, essentially of the heart. Ro 10:10); and being prompted by different motives, so far as the former has motive. For the former is prompted by self-love, the latter by love of holiness and hatred of sin. (b.) Faith does not justify in virtue of its rightness, but in virtue of its receptivity. Whatever right moral quality it has, has no relevancy whatever to be, of itself, a justifying righteousness; and is excluded from the justifying instrumentality of faith; (Ro 4:4-5; 11:6). But faith justifies by its instrumentality of laying hold of Christ’s righteousness, in which aspect it does not contribute, but receives, the moral merit. (c.) Love cannot be the "Form of faith," because they are coordinate graces. See 1Co 13:13. Rome virtually concedes this fatal point, by pleading that love may be metaphorically the form of faith. To the modern mind a conclusive general objection remains, this Peripatetic mode of conception and definition, by matter and form, is wholly irrelevant to a spiritual exercise or function; it is only accurate when applied to concrete objects.

The solution of Rome’s favorite proof texts is easy; e. g., in 1Co 13:2, the faith is that of miracles. In Ga 5:6, faith is the instrument energizing love, and not vice versa. In Jas 2:26, works (loving ones of course), are not the causes, but after–signs of faith’s vitality, as breath is of the body’s (1Co 6:11; Tit 3:5; Eph 1:13; Lu 15:22, etc.), refer to the sanctification following upon justification.

6. Assurance Distinguished.

By Assurance of faith, we mean the certain and undoubting conviction that Christ is all He professes to be, and will do all He promises. It is of the essence of saving faith, as all agree (see Heb 10:22; 11:6; Jas 1:6-7; 1Ti 2:8; Jer 29:13). And it is evident that nothing less than full conviction of the trustworthiness of the gospel would give ground to that entire trust, or envoke the hearty pursuit of Christ, which are requisite for salvation. The assurance of grace and salvation is the assured conviction (with the peace and joy proceeding therefrom) that the individual believer has had his sins pardoned, and his soul saved. Rome stoutly denies that this is a part of faith, or a legitimate reflex act, or consequence thereof, (except in the case of revealed assurance.) Her motive is, to retain anxious souls under the clutch of her priest-craft and tyranny. The Reformers generally seem to have been driven by their hatred of this odious doctrine, to the other extreme, and make assurance of hope of the essence of faith. Hence, Calvin says, in substance: "My faith is a divine and spiritual belief that God has pardoned and accepted me." The sober view of the moderns (see Conf., ch. 18) is, that this assurance is the natural and proper reflex act, or consequence of true faith, and should usually follow, through self-examination and experience; but that itch notch the essence of faith. 1st. Because, then, another proposition would be the object of faith. Not whosoever believeth shall be saved; but "I am saved." The latter is a deduction, in which the former is major premise. 2nd. The humble and modest soul would be inextricably embarrassed in coming to Christ. It would say "I must believe that I am saved, in order to be saved. But I feel myself a lost sinner, in need of salvation." 3rd. God could not justly punish the nonelect for not believing what would not have been true if they had believed it. 4th. The experience of God’s people in all ages contradicts it. (Ps 73:13; 31:22; 77:2,9-10). 5th. The command to go on to the attainment of assurance, as a higher grace, addressed to believers, shows that a true believer may lack it.

7. Faith Suitable Organ of Justification.

God has chosen faith for the peculiar, organic function of instrumentally uniting the soul to Christ, so as to partake of His righteousness and spiritual life. Why? This question should be answered with modesty. One reason, we may suppose, is, that human glorying may be extinguished by attaching man’s whole salvation instrumentally to an act of the soul, whose organic aspect is merely receptive, and has no procuring righteousness whatever (Ro 3:27). Another reason is, that belief is, throughout all the acts of the soul, the preliminary and condition of acting (see 1Jo 5:4-5). Everything man does is because he believes something. Faith, in its widest sense, is the mainspring of man’s whole activity. Every volition arises from a belief, and none can arise without it. Hence, in selecting faith, instead of some other gracious exercise, which may be the fruit of regeneration, as the organic instrument of justification, God has proceeded on a profound knowledge of man’s nature, and in strict conformity thereto. A third reason may perhaps be found in the fact that faith works by love; that it purifies the soul; and is the victory which overcomes worldliness. See Confession of Faith, ch. xiv., section ii., especially its first propositions. Since faith is the principle of sanctification, in a sinner’s heart, it was eminently worthy of a God of holiness, to select it as a term of justification.

Chapter 12: Revealed Theology: God and His Attributes

Section Two—Basic Doctrines of the Faith
Chapter 12: Revealed Theology: God and His Attributes


Syllabus for Lectures 13 & 14:

1. Give the derivation and meaning of the names applied to God in the Scriptures.

Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. 4. Breckinridge’s Theology, Vol. i, p. 199. Concordances and Lexicons.

2. What is the meaning of the term, God’s attributes, and what the most common classifications of them?

Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. 5, c.f. Dick, Lecture 21. Breckinridge, Vol. i, p. 260, c.f. Hodge, Syst. Theol. Vol. i, pp. 369–372. Thornwell, Lecture 6, pp. 162, 166, and 167, c.f.

3. What are the scriptural evidences of God’s unity, spirituality, and simplicity?

Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. 3, 7. Dick, Lectures 17–18.

4. What are the Bible proofs of God’s immensity?

Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. 9. Dick, Lecture 19.

5. What the Scriptural proof of God’s eternity?

Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. 10. Dick, Lecture 17.

6. Prove from Scripture that God is immutable.

Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. 2. Dick, Lecture 20. See on whole, "Charnock on the Attributes."

Lecture 14:

1. What is the Scriptural account of God’s knowledge and wisdom? What is the meaning of His simple, His free, His mediate knowledge? Does God’s free knowledge extend to the future acts of free agents?

Renew of Breckinridge’s Theology by the author. Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qus. 12, 13. Dick, Lectures 21, 22. Watson’s Theo. Inst., pt. ii, chs. 4, 28, Sect. 3. Dr. Chr. Knapp, Sect. xxii.

2. Do the Scriptures teach God to be a voluntary being? What limitation, if any, on His will? Prove that He is omnipotent. Does God govern free agents omnipotently?

Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qus. 14, 21, 22. Dick, Lecture 23. Watson, Theo. Inst. pt. ii, chs. 28, Sect. 3, 4. Knapp, Sect. xxi.

3. What is the distinction between God’s decretive anal preceptive will, Is it just? Between His antecedent and consequent will? Are His volitions ever conditioned on anything out of Himself 7?

Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qus. 15, 16, 17. Knapp, Sect. xxv and xxvi.

4. Is God’s will the sole source of moral distinctions?

Turrettin, Loc iii, Qu. 18.

Infallibility of Scriptures Assumed.

In approaching the department of Revealed Theology, the first question is concerning the inspiration of the Scriptures. This having been settled, we may proceed to assume them as inspired and infallible. Our business now is merely to ascertain and collect their teachings, to systematize them, and to show their relation to each other. The task of the student of Revealed Theology, is, therefore, in the first place, mainly exegetical. Having discovered the teachings of revelation by sound exposition, and having arranged them, he is to add nothing, except what follows "by good and necessary consequence." Consequently, there is no study in which the truth is more important, that "with the lowly is wisdom."

God’s Names Reveal Him.

The New Testament, and still more, the Old, presents us with an interesting subject of study, in the names and titles of God, which they employ to give our feeble mind a conception of His manifold perfections. The names hw:hoyÒ H;y lae yn:doa} H'/laÔ µyIholaÔ yd'v' and t/ab;x] hw:ohy in the Hebrew, and Kurio", Uyisto", Pantokrator in the Greek, give, of themselves, an extensive description of His nature. For they are all, according to the genius of the ancient languages, significant of some quality, and are when rightly interpreted, proof texts to sustain several divine attributes. hw:ohyÒ Jehovah with its abbreviation, Hy: , which most frequently appears in the doxology, Hy: Wll]h' has ever been esteemed by the Church the most distinctive and sacred, because the incommunicable name of God. The student is familiar with the somewhat superstitious reverence with which the later Hebrews regard it, never pronouncing it aloud, but substituting it in reading the Scriptures, by the word yn:doa. There seems little doubt that the sacred name presents the same radicals with hy<h]yI, the future of the substantive verb hy:h. This is strikingly confirmed by Ex 3:14, where God, revealing His name to Moses, says: hy<h]a, rv,a} hy<h]a, "I am that I am" is His name. For we have here, in form the first person future of the substantive verb, and our Saviour, Joh 8:58, claiming the incommunicable divinity, says, imitating this place: "Before Abraham was, I AM." In Ex 6:2-3, we learn that the characteristic name by which God commissioned Moses was Jehovah. This is an additional argument which shows, along with its origin, that the name means self–existence and independence.

This the Incommunicable Name.

Such a meaning would, of itself, lead us to expect that this name, with its kindred derivatives, is never applied to any but the one proper God, first, because no other being has the attribute which it signifies. A further proof is found in the fact that it is never applied as a proper name, to any other being in Scripture. The angel who appeared to Abraham, to Moses, and to Joshua (Ge 18:1; Ex 3:2–4; Jos 5:13; 6:3), was evidently Jehovah–Christ. When Moses named the altar Jehovah–nissi (Ex 17:15), he evidently no more dreamed of calling it Jehovah, than did Abram, when he called a place (Ge 22:14), Jehovah–jireh. And when Aaron said concerning the worship of the calf: "To–morrow is the feast of Jehovah," he evidently considered the image only as representative of the true God. But the last and crowning evidence that this name is always distinctive, is that God expressly reserves it to Himself. (See Ex 3:15; 15:3; 20:2; Ps 83:18; Isa 13:8; 48:2; Am 5:8; 9:6.) The chief value of this fact is not only to vindicate to God exclusively the attribute of self–existence; but greatly to strengthen the argument for the divinity of Christ. When we find the incommunicable name given to Him, it is the strongest proof that he is very God.

Other Names.

Lord, is the equivalent of the Greek Kurio". Its meaning is possession and dominion, expressed by the Latin Dominus, which is its usual translation in the Vulgate, both in the Old and New Testaments, and, unfortunately, is the usual translation of Jehovah also. Hence has arisen the suppression of this name in our English version, where both are translated Lord; and Jehovah is distinguished only by having its translation printed in capitals, (LORD).

yd'v' is also a pluralis excellentiae, expressing omnipotence. Sometimes, as in Job 5:17, it stands by itself; sometimes, as in Ge 17:1, it is connected with la, (where it is rendered "God Almighty"). This seems to be the name by which He entered into special covenant with Abram. It appears in the New Testament in its Greek form of Pantokratwr Re 1:8.

÷/yl][, is said to be a verbal form of the verb hl;[;—"to ascend," and is rendered in Ps 9:3; 21:8, "Most High." This name signifies the exaltation of God’s character.

t/ab;x] Hosts, is frequently used as an epithet qualifying one of the other names of God, as t/ab;x] h/;hyÒ—Jehovah of hosts (i. e., exercituum). In this title, all the ranks or orders of creatures, animate and inanimate, are represented as subject to God, as the divisions of an army are to their commander.

Communicable Names.

We come now to what may be called the communicable names of God; the same words are also I used to express false and imaginary Gods or mighty men, as well as the true God. It is a striking peculiarity, that these alone are subjected to inflection by taking on the construct state and the pronominal suffixes. They are lae expressing the idea of might, and H/'laÔ singular and plural forms of the same root, probably derived from the verb lWa—to be strong. The singular form appears to be used chiefly in books of poetry. The plural ( a pluralis majestatis), is the common term for God Qeo", Deus, expressing the simple idea of His eternity as our Maker, the God of creation and providence.

Gathering up these names alone, and comprehending their conjoined force according to the genius of Oriental language, we find that they compose by themselves an extensive revelation of God’s nature. They clearly show Him to be self–existent, independent, immutable and eternal; infinite in perfections, exalted in majesty, almighty in power, and of universal dominion. We shall find all of God implicitly, in these traits.

The Scriptures give to God a number of expressive metaphorical titles (which some very inaccurately and needlessly would classify as His Metaphorical attributes, whereas they express, not attributes, but relations,) such as "King," "Lawgiver," "Judge," "Rock," "Tower," "Deliverer," "Shepherd," "Husbandman," "Father," and so on. These cannot be properly called His names.

Attributes What? Identical With Essence.

God’s attributes are those permanent, or essential, qualities of His nature, which He has made known to us in His word. When we say they are essential qualities, we do not mean that they compose His substance, as parts thereof making up a whole; still less, that they are members, attached to God, by which He acts. They are trait qualifying His nature always, and making it the nature it is. The question whether God’s attributes are parts of His essence, has divided not only scholastics, Socinians and orthodox, but even Mohammedans, affecting, as it does, the proper conception of His unity and simplicity. We must repudiate the gross idea that they are parts of His substance, or members attached to it; for then He would be susceptible of division, and so of destruction. His substance is a unit, a monad. God’s omniscience, e. g., is not something attached to His substance, whereby He knows; but only a power or quality of knowing, qualifying His infinite substance itself. To avoid this gross error, the scholastics (including many Protestants), used to say that God’s essence, and each or every attribute, are identical, i. e., that His whole essence is identical with each attribute. They were accustomed to say, that God’s knowing is God, God’s willing is God, or that the whole God is in every act; and this they supposed to be necessary to a proper conception of His simplicity. This predication they carried far as to say, that God’s essence was simple in such sense as to exclude, not only all distinctions of parts, or composition, but all logical distinction of substance or essence, entity and essence, and to identify the essence and each attribute absolutely and in a sense altogether different from finite spirits.


Now, as before remarked, (Lecture 4, Nat. Theol.) if all this means anything more than is conceded on the last page, it is pantheism. The charge there made is confirmed by this thought: That if the divine essence must be hence literally identified with each attribute, then the attributes are also identified with each other. There is no virtual, but only a nominal difference, between God’s intellect and will. Hence, it must follow, that God effectuates all He conceives. This not only obliterates the vital distinction between His scientia simplex and scientia visionis; but it also robs God of His freedom as a personal agent, and, if He is infinite by His omniscience, proves that the creation, or His works, is infinite. Here we have two of the very signatures of pantheism. But further, this identification of the distinct functions of intelligence and will violates our rational consciousness. There is a virtual difference between intellection, conation, and sensibility. Every man knows this, as to himself; and yet he believes in the unity of his spirit. It is equally, or more highly, true of God, The fact that He is an infinite spiritual unit, does not militate against this position, but rather facilitates our holding of it; inasmuch as this infinitude accounts for the manifold powers of function exercised, better than our finite spirituality. It will be enough to add, in conclusion, that the fundamental law of our reason forbids our really adopting this scholastic refinement. We can only know substance by its attributes. We can only believe an attribute to be, as we are able to refer it to its substance. This is the only relation of thought, in which the mind can think either. Were the reduction of substance and attribute actually made then, in good faith, the result would be incognoscible to the human intellect.

God is infinite, and therefore incomprehensible, for our minds, in His essence (Job 11:7-9). Now, since our only way of knowing His essence is as we know the attributes which (in our poor, shortcoming phrase) compose it, each of God’s attributes and acts must have an element of the incomprehensible about it. (See Job 26:14; Ps 139:5-6; Isa 40:28; Ro 11:33.) One of the most important attainments for you to make, therefore, is for you to rid your minds for once and all, of the notion, that you either do or can comprehend the whole of what is expressed of any of God’s attributes. Yet there is solid truth in our apprehension of them up to our limited measure—i.e, our conception of them, if scriptural, will be not essentially false, tent only defective. Of this, we have this twofold warrant: First, that God has told us we are, in our own rational and moral attributes, formed in His image, so that His infinite, are the normae of our finite, essential qualities; and second, that God has chosen such and such human words (as wisdom, rectitude knowledge), to express these divine attributes. The Bible does not use words dishonestly.

Are the Seperate Attributes of Infinite Number?

Another question has been raised by orthodox divines (e.g., Breckinridge), whether since God’s essence is infinite, we must not conceive of it as having an infinite number of distinct attributes. That is, whatever may be the revelations of Himself made by God in word and works, and however numerous and glorious the essential attributes displayed therein, an infinite number of other attributes still remain, not dreamed of by His wisest creatures. The origin of this notion seems to be very clearly in Spinozism, which sought to identify the multifarious universe and God, by making all the kinds, however numerous and diverse, modes of His attributes. Now, if the question is asked, can a finite mind prove that this circle of attributes revealed in the Scriptures which seem to us to present a God so perfect, so totus teres et rotundus, are the only distinct essential attributes His essence has, I shall freely answer, no. By the very reason that the essence is infinite and incomprehensible, it must follow that a finite mind can never know whether He has exhausted the enumeration of the distinct qualities thereof or not, any more than He can fully comprehend one of them. But if it be said that the infinitude of the essence necessitates an infinite number of distinct attributes, I again say, no, for would not one infinite attribute mark the essence as infinite? Man cannot reason here. But the same attribute may exhibit numberless varied acts.

Classification of Attributes.

In most sciences, classification of special objects of study, is of prime importance, for two reasons. The study of resemblances and diversities, on which classification proceeds, aids us in learning the individuals classified more accurately. The objects are so exceedingly numerous, that unless general classes were formed, of which general propositions could be predicated, the memory would be overwhelmed, and the task of science endless. The latter reason has very slight application, in treating God’s attributes; because their known number is not great. The former reason applies very fairly. Many classifications have been proposed, of which I will state the chief.

Into Communicable Attributes.

First. The old orthodox classification was into communicable and incommunicable. So, omniscience was called a communicable attribute, because God confers on angels and men, not identically His omniscience, or a part of it, but an attribute of knowledge having a likeness, in its lower degree, to His. His eternity is called an incommunicable attribute, because man has, and can have nothing like it, in any finite measure even. In some of the attributes, as God’s independence and self-existence, this distinction may be maintained; but in many others to which it is usually applied, it seems of little accuracy. For instance, God’s eternity may be stated as His infinite relation to duration. Man’s temporal life is his finite relation to duration, and I see not but the analogy is about as close between this and God’s eternity, as between man’s little knowledge and His omniscience.

Into Relative and Absolute.

Second. Another distribution, proposed by others, is into absolute and relative. God’s immensity, for instance, is His absolute attribute; His omnipresence, His corresponding relative attribute. The distinction happens to be pretty accurate in this case, but it would be impossible to carry it through the whole.

Into Natural and Moral.

Third. Another distribution is into natural and moral attributes; the natural being those which qualify God’s being as an infinite spirit merely—e.g., omniscience, power, ubiquity; the moral, being those which qualify Him as a moral being, viz., righteousness, truth, goodness and holiness. This distinction is just and accurate, but the terms are bungling. For God’s moral attributes are as truly natural (i. e., original,) as the others.

Best Classification.

The distribution into negative and positive, and the Cartesian, into internal (intellect and will) and external, need not be more than mentioned. Dr. Breckinridge has proposed a more numerous classification, into primary, viz: those belonging to God as simply being; essential, viz: these qualifying His being as pure spirit; natural, viz: those constituting Him a free and intelligent spirit; moral, viz: those constituting Him a righteous being; and consummate, being those perfections which belong to Him as the concurrent result of the preceding. The general objection is, that it is too artificial and complicated. It may be remarked, further, that the distinction of primary and essential attributes is unfounded. Common sense would tell us that we cannot know God as being, except as we know Him as spiritual being; and dialectics would say that the consideration of the essentia must precede that of the esse. Further, the subordinate distribution of attributes under the several heads is confused.

The distribution which I would prefer, would conform most nearly to that mentioned in the third place, into moral and nonmoral. The Westminster Assembly, in this case as in many others, has given us the justest and most scientific view of this arrangement, in its Catechism: "God is a spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justness, goodness and truth," This recognizes a real ground of distinction, after which the other tentative arrangements I have described, are evidently groping, with a dim and partial apprehension. There is one class of attributes (wisdom, power, purity, justice, goodness and truth), specifically and immediately qualifying God’s being. There is another class (infinitude, eternity, immutability), which collectively qualify all His other attributes and His being, and which may, therefore, be properly called His consummate attributes. God is, then, infinite, eternal and immutable in all His perfections. In a sense, somewhat similar, all His moral attributes may be said to be qualified by the consummate moral attribute, holiness—the crowning glory of the divine character.

Unity of God.

What we conceive to be the best rational proofs of God’s unity and simplicity, were presented in a previous lecture on Natural Theology; we gave the preference to that from the convergent harmony of creation. Theologians are also accustomed to argue it from the necessity of His excellence (inconclusively), from His infinitude (more solidly). But our best proof is the Word, which asserts His exclusive, as well as His numerical unity, De 6:4;

1Ki 8:60; Isa 44:6; Mr 12:29-32; 1Co 8:4; Eph 4:6; Ga 3:20; 1Ti 2:5; De 32:39; Is. 43:10-11; 37:16, and so on.

He Is A Spirit.

The spirituality of God we argued rationally, first, from the fact that He is an intelligent and voluntary first cause; for our understandings are, properly speaking, unable to attribute these qualities to any other than spiritual substance. We found the same conclusion flowed necessarily from the fact, that God is the ultimate source of all force. It is implied in His immensity and omnipresence. He is Spirit, because the fountain of life. This also is confirmed by Scriptures emphatically (See De 4:15–18; Ps 139:7; Isa 31:3; Joh 4:24; 2Co 3:17). This evidence is greatly strengthened by the fact, that not only is the Father, but the divine nature in Christ, and the Holy Spirit, also are called again and again Spirit. (See, for the former, Ro 1:4; Heb 9:14. For the latter, the title Holy Spirit, Pneuma, everywhere in New Testament, and even in Old.) We may add, also, all those passages which declare God, although always most intimately present, to be beyond the cognizance of all our senses (Col 1:15; 1Ti 1:17; Heb 11:27).

His Simplicity.

The simplicity of God, theologically defined, is not expressly asserted in the Bible. But it follows as a necessary inference, from His spirituality. Our consciousness compels us to conceive of our own spirits as absolutely simple; because the consciousness is always such, and the whole conscious subject, ego, is in each conscious state indivisibly. The very idea of dividing a thought, an emotion, a volition, a sensation, mechanically into parts, is wholly irrelevant to our conception of them; it is impossible. Hence, as God tells us that our spirits were formed in the image of His, and as He has employed this word, Pneuma to express the nature of His substance, we feel authorized to conceive of it as also simple. But there are still stronger reasons for: First. Otherwise God’s absolute unity would be lost. Second. He would not be incapable of change. Third. He might be disintegrated, and so, destroyed.

We are well aware that many representations occur in Scripture which seem to speak of God as having a material form, (e.g., in the theophanies) and parts, as hands, face, and so on, and so on. The latter are obviously only representations adapted to our faculties, to set before us the different modes of God’s workings. The seeming forms, angelic or human, in which He appeared to the patriarchs, were but the symbols of His presence.

Immensity and Omnipresence.

The distinction between God’s immensity and omnipresence has already been stated. Both are asserted in Scriptures. The former in 1Ki 8:27, and parallel in Chron.; Isa 66:1. The latter in Ps 139:7-10; Ac 17:27-28; Jer 23:24; Heb 1:3. It follows, also, from what is asserted of God’s works of creation and providence, and of His infinite knowledge (See Theol. Lecture 4).


God’s eternity has already been defined, as an existence absolutely without beginning, without end, and without succession; and the rational evidences thereof have been presented. As to the question, whether God’s thoughts and purposes are absolutely unconnected with all successive duration, we saw, when treating this question in Natural Theology, good reason to doubt. The grounds of doubt need not be repeated. But there is a more popular sense, in which the punctum stans, may be predicated of the divine existence, that past and future are as distinctly and immutably present with the Divine Mind, as the present. This is probably indicated by the striking phrase, Isa 57:15 and more certainly, by Ex 3:14, compared with Joh 8:58; by Ps 90:4, and 2Pe 3:8. That God’s being has neither beginning nor end is stated in repeated places—as Ge 21:33; Ps 90:1-2; 102:26–28; Isa 41:4; 1Ti 1:17; Heb 1:12; Re 1:8.


That God is immutable in His essence, thoughts, volitions, and all His perfections, has been already argued from His perfection itself, from His independence and sovereignty, from His simplicity and from His blessedness. This unchangeableness not only means that He is devoid of all change, decay, or increase of substance; but that His knowledge, His thoughts and plans, and His moral principles and volitions remain forever the same. This immutability of His knowledge and thoughts flows from their infinitude. For, being complete from eternity, there is nothing new to be added to His knowledge. His nature remaining the same, and the objects present to His mind remaining forever unchanged, it is clear that His active principles and purposes must remain forever in the same state; because there is nothing new to Him to awaken or provoke new feelings or purposes.

Our Confession says, that God hath neither parts nor passions. That He has something analagous to what are called in man active principles, is manifest, for He wills and acts; therefore He must feel. But these active principles must not be conceived of as emotions, in the sense of ebbing and flowing accesses of feeling. In other words, they lack that agitation and rush, that change from cold to hot, and hot to cold, which constitute the characteristics of passion in us. They are, in God, an ineffable, fixed, peaceful, unchangeable calm, although the springs of volition. That such principles may be, although incomprehensible to us, we may learn from this fact: That in the wisest and most sanctified creatures, the active principles have least of passion and agitation, and yet they by no means become inefficacious as springs of action—e.g., moral indignation in the holy and wise parent or ruler. That the above conception of the calm immutability of God’s active principles is necessary, appears from the following: The agitations of literal passions are incompatible with His blessedness. The objects of those feelings are as fully present to the Divine Mind at one time as another; so that there is nothing to cause ebb or flow. And that ebb would constitute a change in Him. When, therefore, the Scriptures speak of God as becoming wroth, as repenting, as indulging His fury against His adversaries, in connection with some particular event occurring in time, we must understand them anthropopathically. What is meant is, that the outward manifestations of His active principles were as though these feelings then arose.

Objections Answered.

God’s immutability is abundantly asserted in Scriptures (Nu 23:19; Ps 102:26; 33:11; 110:4; Isa 46:10; Mal 3:6; Jas 1:17; Heb 6:17; 13:8).

Some suggest that the doctrine of God’s immutability is inconsistent with the incarnation of the Godhead in Christ, with God’s work enacted in time through Christ, and they claim it is especially inconsistent with the evidence of His creation, and with His reconciliation with sinners when they repent.. To the first, it is enough to reply, that neither was God’s substance changed by the incarnation—for there was no confusion of natures in the person of Christ—nor was His plan modified; for He always intended and foresaw it. To the second, the purpose to create precisely all that is created, was from eternity to God, and to do it just at the time He did. Had He not executed that purpose when the set time arrived, there would have been the change. To the third, I reply, the change is not in God: but in the sinner. For God to change His treatment as the sinner’s character changes, this is precisely what His immutability dictates.

God’s Knowledge and Wisdom.

THE difference between knowledge and wisdom has been already defined as this: Knowledge is the simple cognition of things; wisdom is the selecting and subordinating of them to an end, as means. Not only must there be the power of selecting and subordinating means to an end, to constitute wisdom, but to a worthy end. Wisdom, therefore, is a higher attribute than knowledge, involving especially the moral perfections. For when one proceeds to the selection of an end, there is choice, and the moral element is introduced. Wisdom and knowledge are the attributes which characterize God as pure mind, as a being of infinite and essential intelligence. That God’s knowledge is vast, we argued from His spirituality, from His creation of other minds; (Ps 94:7-10), from His work of creation in general, from His omnipresence; (Ps 139:1-12), and from His other perfections of power, and especially, of goodness, truth and righteousness, to the exercise of which knowledge is constantly essential. Of His wisdom, the great natural proof is the wonderful, manifold, and beneficent contrivances in His works of creation (Ps 114:2-4), and providence. That God’s knowledge is distinct, and in every case intuitive, never deductive, seems to flow from its perfection. We only know substances by their attributes; God must know them in their true substance: because it was His creative wisdom which clothed each substance with its essential qualities. We only learn many things by inference from other things; God knows all things intuitively; because there can be no succession in His knowledge, admitting of the relation of premise and conclusion.


We may show the infinite extent of God’s knowledge, by viewing it under several distributions. He perfectly knows Himself (1Co 2:11). He has all the past perfectly before His mind, so that there is no room for any work of recollection (Is 41:22; 43:9). This is also shown by the doctrine of a universal judgment (Ec 12:14; Lu 8:17; Ro 2:16; 3:6; 14:10; Mt 12:36; Ps 61:8; Mal 3:16; Re 20:12; Jer 17:1). All the acts and thoughts of all His creatures, which occur in the present, are known to Him as they occur (Ge 16:13; Pr 15:3; Ps 147:4-5; 34:15; Zec 4:10; Pr 5:21; Job 34:22; Lu 12:6; Heb 4:13). Especially do the Scriptures claim for God a full and perfect knowledge of man’s thoughts, feelings and purposes—however concealed in the soul (Job 34:21; Ps 134; Jer 17:10; Joh 2:25; Ps 44:21, and so on.).

Scientia Simplex. What?

God also knows, and has always known, all that shall ever occur in the future (See Isa 13:9; Ac 15:18). Of this, all God’s predictions likewise afford clear evidence. The particularity of God’s foreknowledge even of the most minute things, may be seen, well defended. Turrettin, Loc. 3, Qu. 12, 4-6.

Or, adopting another distribution, we may assert that God knows all the possible and all the actual. It is His knowledge of the former, which is called by the scholastics scientia simplicis intelligentia: Its object is not that which God has determined to effectuate (the knowledge of which is called "free" or scientia visionis;), but that which His infinite intelligence sees might be effectuated, if He saw fit to will it. (The scholastics call it His knowledge of that which has essentia, but not esse.) That God has an infinite knowledge of possibles, other than those He purposes to actualize, no one can doubt, who considers the fecundity of this intelligence, as exhibited in His actual works. Can it be, that those works have exhausted all God’s conceptions? Further, God’s wise selection of means and ends, implies that conceptions existed in the divine mind, other than those He has embodied in creation or act, from among which He chose.

Theodicea Thence.

The Formalist Divines of the school of Wolff (as represented by Stapfer, Bulfinger, and so on.), make much of this distinction between God’s knowledge of the possible and the actual, to build a defense of God’s holiness and benevolence in the permission of evil. Say they, Scientia simplicis intelligentiae, is not free in God. He is impelled by a metaphysical necessity, to conceive of the possible according to truth. It is God’s conception which generates its essentia; but about this, God exercises no voluntary, and therefore, no moral act of His nature. God’s will is only concerned in bringing the thing out of posse into esse. But the esse changes nothing in the essentia; determines nothing about the quality of the thing actualized. Therefore God’s will is not morally responsible for any evil it produces. This pretended argument scarcely need, exposure. It is Realistic in its whole structure. The plain answer is, that the thing or event only in posse, is nonexistent, with all its evils. God’s will is certainly concerned in bringing. it out of posse and esse. And unless God is bound by fate, His will therein is free. It is, however, perfectly correct, to say that the object of God’s free knowledge owes its futurition primarily to His will. Had He not purposed its production, it would never have been produced; for He is sovereign first cause. Now, if He willed it, of course He foreknew it.

God Knows All Acts of Free Agents With A Scientia Visionis.

This leads us to the often asked question: Whether acts contingent, and especially those of rational free agents, are objects of God’s scientia visionis, or of a scientia media. This is said to have been first invented by the Jesuit Molina, in order to sustain their semi–Pelagian doctrine of a self-determining will, and of conditional election. By mediate foreknowledge, they mean a kind intermediate between God’s knowledge of the possible (for these acts are possessed of futurition), and the scientia visionis: for they suppose the futurition and foreknowledge of it is not the result of God’s will, but of the contingent second cause. It is called mediate again: because they suppose God arrives at it, not directly by knowing His own purpose to effect it, but indirectly; by His infinite insight into the manner in which the contingent second cause will act, under given outward circumstances, foreseen or produced by God. The existence of such a species of knowledge the Calvinists deny in toto. To clear the way for this discussion, I remark, first, that God has a perfect and universal foreknowledge of all the volitions of free agents. The Scriptures expressly assert it (Eze 11:5; Isa 48:8; Ps 139:3-4; 1Sa 23:12; Joh 21:18; 1Jo 3:20; Ac 15:18). It is equally implied in God’s attribute of heart-searching knowledge, which He claims for Himself (Re 2:23, et passim). It is altogether necessary to God’s knowledge and control of all the future into which any creature’s volition enters as a part of the immediate or remote causation. And this department of the future is so vast, so important in God’s government, that if He could not foreknow and control it, He would be one of the most baffled, confused, and harassed of all beings, and His government one of perpetual uncertainties, failures, and partial expedients. Finally, God’s predictions of such free acts of His creatures, and His including them in His decrees, in so many cases, show beyond dispute that He has some certain way to foreknow them. See every prophecy in Scripture where human or angelic acts enter. Where the prediction is positive, and proves true, the foreknowledge must have been certain. For these reasons, the impiety of early Socinians in denying God even a universal scientia media, is to be utterly repudiated.

No Scientia Media. Its Error.

In discussing the question whether God’s foreknowledge of future acts of free agents is mediate in the sense defined, I would beg you to note, I that the theological virus of the proposition, is in this point: That in such cases, the foreknowledge of the act precedes the purpose of God as to it, i. e., They say God purposes, because He foresees it, instead of saying with us, that He only foresees because He purposes to permit it. Against this point of the doctrine, Turrettin’s argument is just and conclusive. Of this the sum, abating His unnecessary distinctions, is: First. These acts are either possible, or future, so that it is impossible to withdraw them from one or the other of the two classes of God’s knowledge, His simple, or His actual. Second. God cannot certainly foreknow an act, unless its futurition is certain. If His foreknowing it made it certain, then His knowledge involves foreordination. If the connection with the second cause producing it made it certain, then it does not belong at all to the class of contingent events! And the causative connection being certain, when God foreordained the existence of the second cause, He equally ordained that of the effect. But there are but the two sources, from which the certainty of its futurition could have come. Third. The doctrine would make God’s knowledge and power dependent on contingent acts of His creatures, hence violating God’s perfections and sovereignty. Fourth. God’s election of men would have to be in every case conditioned on His foresight of their conduct (what semi–Pelagians are seeking here). But in one case at least, it is unconditioned; that of His election of sinners to redemption (Ro 9:16, and so on.).

To God Nothing Is Contingent.

But in a metaphysical point of view, I cannot but think that Turrettin has made unnecessary and erroneous concessions. The future acts of free agents fall under the class of contingent effects, i. e., as Turrettin concedes the definition, of effects such that the cause being in existence, the effect may, or may not follow. (He adopts this, to sustain his scholastic doctrine of immediate physical concursus, of which more, when we treat the doctrine of Providence.) But let me ask: Has this distinction of contingent effects any place at all, in God’s mind? Is it not a distinction relevant only to our ignorance? An effect is, in some cases, to us contingent; because our partial blindness prevents our foreseeing precisely what are the present concurring causes, promoting, or preventing, or whether the things supposed to be, are real causes, under the given circumstances. I assert that wherever the causative tie exists at all, its connections with its effect is certain (metaphysically necessary). If not, it is no true cause at all. There is, therefore, to God, no such thing, in strictness of speech, as a contingent effect. The contingency (in popular phrase, uncertainty), pertains not to the question whether the adequate cause will act certainly, if present; but whether it is certainly present. To God, therefore, whose knowledge is perfect, there is literally no such thing as a contingent effect. And this is true concerning the acts of free agents, emphatically; they are effects. Their second cause is the agent’s own desires as acting upon the objective inducements presented by Providence; the causative connection is certain, in many cases, to our view, in all cases to God’s. Is not this the very doctrine of Turrettin himself, concerning the will? The acts of free agents, then, arise through second causes.

True Distinction of This Knowledge.

The true statement of the matter, then, should be this: The objects of God’s scientia visionis, or free knowledge, fall into two great classes: First. Those which God effectuates per se, without any second cause. Second. Those which He effectuates through their natural second causes. Of the latter, many are physical—e.g., the rearing of vegetables through seeds, and to the latter belong all natural volitions of free agents, caused by the subjective dispositions of their nature, acting on the objective circumstances of their providential position. Now in all effects which God produces through second causes, His foreknowledge, involving as it does, a foreordination, is in a certain sense relative. That is, it embraces those second causes, as means, as well as the effects ordained through them. (And hence it is that "the liberty or contingency of second causes is not taken away, but rather established.") Further, the foreknowledge which purposes to produce a certain effect by means of a given second cause, must, of course, include a thorough knowledge of the nature and power of the cause. That that cause derived that nature from another part or act of God’s purpose, surely is no obstacle to this. Here, then, is a proper sense, in which it may be said that God’s foresight of a given effect is relative—i. e., through His knowledge of the nature and power and presence of its natural, or second cause.

May not relative knowledge be intuitive and positive? Several of our axioms are truths of relation. Yet, it by no means follows, therefore, as the semi–Pelagian would wish, that such a foreknowledge is antecedent to God’s preordination concerning it. Because God, in foreordaining the presence and action of the natural cause, according to His knowledge of its nature, does also efficaciously foreordain the effect.

God’s Relative Knowledge.

When, therefore, it is said that God’s foreknowledge of the volitions of free agents is relative in this sense, i. e., through His infinite insight into the way their dispositions will naturally act under given circumstances, placed around them by His intentional providence, the Calvinist should by no means flout it; but accept, under proper limitations. But the term mediate is not accurate, to express this orthodox sense; because it seems to imply derivation subsequent, in the part of God’s cognition said to be mediated, from the independent will of the creature. The Calvinist is the very man to accept this view of a relative foreknowledge with consistency. For, on the theory of the semi–Pelagian, such a foreknowledge by insight is impossible, volitions being uncaused, according to them; but on our theory, it is perfectly reasonable, volitions, according to us, being certain, or necessary effects of dispositions. And I repeat, we need not feel any hyperorthodox fear that this view will infringe the perfection of God’s knowledge, or sovereignty, in His foresight of the free acts of His creatures; it is the very way to establish them, and yet leave the creature responsible. For if God is able to foresee that the causative connection, between the second cause and its effect, is certain; then, in decreeing the presence of the cause and the proper external conditions of its action, He also decrees the occurrence of the effect. And, that volitions are not contingent, but certain effects, is the very thing the Calvinist must contend for, if he would be consistent. The history of this controversy on scientia media presents another instance of the rule; that usually mischievous errors have in them a certain modicum of valuable truth. Without this, they would not have strength in them to run, and do mischief.

God’s Will and Power Omnipotent Over Free Agents Also.

We should apprehend no real distinction between God’s will and His power; because in our spirits, to will is identical with the putting forth of power; and because Scripture represents all God’s working as being done by a simple volition (Ps 33:9; Ge 1:3). That God is a free and voluntary being, we inferred plainly from the selection of contrivances to produce His ends, and of ends to be produced; for these selections are acts of choice. He is Universal Cause, and Spirit.

What is volition but a spirit’s causation? Of His vast power, the works of creation and providence are sufficient, standing proofs. And the successive displays brought to our knowledge have been so numerous and vast, that there seems to reason herself every probability His power is infinite. There must be an inexhaustible reserve, where so much is continually put forth. Finally, were He not omnipotent, He would not be very God. The being, whoever it is, which defies His power would be His rival. The Scriptures also repeatedly assert His omnipotence (Ge 17:1; Re 1:8; Jer 27:17; Mt 19:26; Lu 1:37; Re 19:6; Mt 6:13). They say with equal emphasis, that God exercises full sovereignty over free agents, securing the performance by them, and upon them, of all that He pleases, yet consistently with their freedom and responsibility (Da 4:35; Pr 21:1; Ps 76:10; Php 2:13; Ro 9:19; Eph 1:11 and so on.). The same truth is evinced by every prediction in which God has positively foretold what free agents should do; for had He not some way of securing the result, He would not have predicted it positively. Here may be cited the histories of Pharaoh (Ex 4:21; 6:1; of Joseph, Ge 24:5; of the Assyrian king, Isa 10:5–7; of Cyrus, Isa 14:1; of Judas, Ac 2:23, and so on, and so on.). It is objected by those of Pelagian tendencies, that some such instances of control do not prove that God has universal sovereignty over all free agents; for they may be lucky instances, in which God managed to cause them to carry out His will by some expedient. To say nothing of the texts quoted above, it may be answered, that these cases, with others that might be quoted, are too numerous, too remote, and too strong, to be hence accounted for. Further, if God could control one, He can another; there being no different powers to overcome; and there will hardly be a prouder or more stubborn case than that of Pharaoh or Nebuchadnezzar. A parallel answer may be made to the evasion from the argument for God’s foreknowledge of man’s volitions, from His predictions of them. Once more, if God is not sovereign over free agents, He is of course not sovereign over any events dependent on the volitions of free agents, either simultaneous or previous. But those events make up a vast multitude, and include all the affairs of God’s Government which most interest us and concern His providence. If He has not this power, He is, indeed, a poor dependence for the Christian, and prayer for His protection is little worth. The familiar objection will, of course, be suggested, that if God governs men sovereignly, then they are not free agents. The discussion of it will be postponed till we treat of Providence. Enough meantime, to say, that we have indubitable evidence of both, of the one from consciousness, of the other from Scripture and reason. Yet, that these agents were responsible and guilty (Isa 10:12; Ac 1:25). Their reconciliation may transcend, but does not violate reason—witness the fact that man may often influence his fellowman so decisively as to be able to count on it, and yet that act be free, and responsible.

Omnipotence Does Not To Self-Contradictions.

We have seen (Natural Theology) that God’s omnipotence is not to be understood, notwithstanding the emphatic assertions of Scripture, that all things are possible with Him, as a power to do contradictions. It has also been usually said by Theologians that God’s will is limited, not only by the necessary contradiction, but by His own perfections. The meaning is correct, the phrase is incorrect. God’s will is not limited; for those perfections as much ensure that He will never wish, as that He will never do, those incompatible things. He does absolutely all that He wills. But hence explained, the qualification is fully sustained by Scripture (2Ti 2:13; Tit 1:2; Heb 6:18; Jas 1:13).

Secret and Revealed Will Distinguished.

I have argued that God’s will is absolutely executed over all free agents; and yet Scripture is full of declarations that sinful men and devils disobey His will! There must be, therefore, a distinction between His secret and revealed, His decretive and preceptive will. All God’s will must be, in reality, a single, eternal, immutable act. The distinction, therefore, is one necessitated by our limitation of understanding, and relates only to the manifestation of the parts of this will to the creature. By God’s decretive will, we mean that will by which He foreordains whatever comes to pass. By His preceptive, that by which He enjoins on creatures what is right and proper for them to do. The decretive we also call His secret will, because it is for the most part (except as disclosed in some predictions and the effectuation) retained in His own breast. His preceptive we call His revealed will, because it is published to man for his guidance.

Although this distinction is beset with plausible quibbles, yet every man is impelled to make it; for otherwise, either alternative is odious and absurd. Say that God has no secret decretive will, and He wishes just what He commands and nothing more, and we represent Him as a Being whose desires are perpetually crossed and baffled, yea, trampled on, the most harassed, embarrassed, and impotent Being in the universe. Deny the other part of our distinction, and you represent God as acquiescing in all the iniquities done on earth and in hell. Again, Scripture clearly establishes the distinction. Witness all the texts already quoted to show that God’s sovereignty overrules all the acts of men to His purposes (Add. Ro 11:33, to end: Pr 16:4; De 29:29). Special cases are also presented (the most emphatic possible), in which God’s decretive will differed from His preceptive will, as to the same individuals (Ex 4:21–23; Eze 3:7; 23:31). These authentic cases offer an impregnable bulwark against Arminian objections; and prove that it is not Calvinism, but Inspiration, which teaches the distinction.


The objections are, that this distinction represents God as either insincere in His precepts to His creatures, or else, as having His own volitions at war among themselves, and that, by making His secret will decretive of sinful acts as well as holy, we represent Him as unholy. The seeming inconsistency is removed by these considerations. "God’s preceptive will." In this phrase, the word will is used in a different sense. For, in fact, while God wills the utterance of the precepts, the acts enjoined are not objects of God’s volition, save in the cases where they are actually embraced in His decretive will. All the purposes which God carries out by permitting and overruling the evil acts of His creatures, are infinitely holy and proper for Him to carry out. It may be right for Him to permit what it would be wrong for us to do, and therefore wrong for Him to command us to do. Not only is it righteous and proper for an infinite Sovereign to withhold from His creatures, in their folly, a part of His infinite and wise designs; but it is absolutely unavoidable; for their minds being finite, it is impossible to make them comprehend God’s infinite plan. Seeing, then, that He could not give them His whole immense design as the rule of their conduct, what rule was it most worthy of His goodness and holiness to reveal? Evidently, the moral law, requiring of them what is righteous and good for them. There is no insincerity in God’s giving this law, although He may, in a part of the cases, secretly determine not to give unmerited grace to constrain men to keep it. Remember, also, that if even in these cases men would keep it, God would not fail to reward them according to His promise. But God, foreknowing that they would freely choose not to keep it, for wise reasons determines to leave them to their perverse choice, and overrule it to His holy designs. I freely admit that the divine nature is inscrutable; and that mystery must always attach to the divine purposes. But there is a just sense in which a wise and righteous man might say, that he sincerely wished a given subject of his would not transgress, and yet that, foreseeing his perversity, he fully purposed to permit it, and carry out his purposes thereby. Shall not the same thing be possible for God in a higher sense?

Antecedent and Consequent Will.

There is a sense in which some parts of God’s will may be said to be antecedent to, and some parts consequent to His foresight of man’s acts—i. e., as our finite minds are compelled to conceive them. Hence, although God’s will acts by one, eternal, comprehensive, simultaneous act, we cannot conceive of His determination to permit man’s fall, except as a consequence of His prior purpose to create man (because if none were created, there would be none to fall), and of His decree to give a Redeemer, as consequent on His foresight of the fall. But the Arminian Scholastics have perverted this simple distinction hence, making the antecedent act of God’s will precede the view had by God of the creature’s action; and the consequent, following upon, and produced by that foresight, the purpose to create man was antecedent, to punish his sin consequent.

I object, that this notion really violates the unity and eternity of God’s volition. Second. It derogates from the independence of God’s will, making it determined by, instead of determining, the creature’s conduct. Third. It overlooks the fact that all the parts of the chain, the means as well as the end, the second causes as well as consequences, are equally and as early determined by, and embraced in, God’s comprehensive plan. As to a sequence and dependency between the parts of God’s decree, the truth, so far as man’s mind is capable of comprehending, seems to be this: That the decree is in fact one, in God’s mind, and has no succession; but we being incapable of apprehending it save by parts, are compelled to conceive God, as having regard in one part of His eternal plan to a state of facts destined by Him to proceed out of another part of it, This remark will have no little importance when we come to view supralapsarianism.

God’s Will Absolute.

God’s purposes are all independent of any condition external to Himself in this sense; that they are not caused by anything ab extra. The things decreed may be conditioned on other parts of His own purpose, in that they embrace means necessary to ends. While the purposes have no cause outside of God, they doubtless all have wise and sufficient reasons, known to God.

Is God’s Will the First Rule of Right?

Some, even of Calvinists, have seemed to find this question very intricate, if we may judge by their differences. Let us discriminate clearly then, that by God’s will here we mean his volition in the specific sense, and not will in the comprehensive sense of the whole conative powers. The question is perspicuously stated in this form: Are the precepts right merely because God commands, or does He command, because they are in themselves right? The latter is the true answer. Let it be understood again; that God’s precepts are, for us, an actual, a perfect, and a supreme rule of right. No Christian disputes this. For God’s moral title as our Maker, Owner and Redeemer, with the perfect holiness of His nature, makes it unquestionable, that our rectitude is always in being and doing just what He requires. Let it be understood again, that in denying that God’s volition to command is the mere and sole first source of right, we do not dream of any superior personal will, earlier than God’s and more authoritative than His, instructing and compelling Him to command right. Of course, we repeat, no one holds this; God is the first, being the eternal authority, and He is absolutely supreme.

Does one ask: Where, then, did this moral distinction inhere and abide, before God had given any expression to it, in time, in any legislative acts? The answer is, in the eternal principles of His moral essence, which, like His physical, is self-existent and eternally necessary.


Having cleared the ground, I support my answer hence: First. God has an eternal and inalienable moral claim over His moral creatures, not arising out of any legislative act of His, but immediately out of the relation of creature to Creator, and possession to its absolute Owner. For instance, elect angels owed love and honor to God, before He entered into any covenant of works with them. This right is as unavoidable and indestructible as the very relation of Creator and rational creature. This moral dependence is as original as the natural dependence of being. Hence, it is indisputable that there is a moral title more original than any preceptive act of God’s will. Second. We cannot but think that these axioms of ethical principle are as true of God’s rectitude as of man’s: a. That God’s moral volitions are not uncaused, but have their (subjective) motives. b. That the morality of the volitions is the morality of their intentions. We must meet the question there, as to God, just as to any rational agent. What is the regulative cause of those right volitions? There is no other answer but this: God’s eternally holy dispositions; His necessary moral perfections. Now, then, if a given precept of God is right, His act of will in legislating it must be right, and must have its moral quality. If this act of divine will is such, it must be because its subjective motives have right moral quality. Hence we are, per force, led to recognize moral qualities in something logically prior to the preceptive will of God, viz: in His own moral perfections. Third. Otherwise, this result must follow, which is an outrage to the practical reason: That God’s preceptive will might, conceivably, have been the reverse of what it is, and then the vilest things would have been right, and holiest things vile. Fourth. There would be no ground for the distinction between the "perpetual moral" and the "temporary positive" command. All would be merely positive. But again: the practical reason cannot but see a difference between the prohibition of lying, and the prohibition of eating bacon! Fifth. No argument could be constructed for the necessity of satisfaction for guilt, in order to righteous pardon; so that (as will be seen) our theory of redemption would be reduced to the level of Socinian error. And, last, God’s sovereignty would not be moral. His "might would make His right."


Syllabus for Lecture 15:

1. Define and prove from Scripture God’s absolute and relative, His distributive and punitive justice.

Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. 19. Dick, Lecture 25. Ridgeley, Body of Divinity, Qu. 7, p. 164. Watson’s Theol. Institutes, pt. ii, ch. 7, Sect. (I.) Chr. Knapp, and so on.

2. What is God’s goodness? What the relation of it to His love, His grace and His mercy? What Scriptural proof that He possesses these attributes?

Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. 20. Dick, Lecture 24. Ridgeley, Qu. 7, p. 168, and so on. Charnock, Disc. xii, Sect. 2, 3, (pp. 255–287). Watson’s Theol. Inst., pt. ii, ch. 6. Knapp, 28, 2.

3. Define and prove God’s truth and faithfulness, and defend from objections.

Dick, Lecture 26. Ridgeley, Qu. 7, p. 186, and so on. Watson’s Theol Inst. pt. ii,

4. What is the holiness of God? Prove it. Dick, Lecture 27. Charnock, Disc. xi, Sect. I, (pp. 135-144). Ridgeley, Qu. 7, p. 100, and so on.

5. Prove God’s infinitude.

Turrettin, Loc iii, Qu. 8, 9. Thornwell, Vol. i, Lecture 4.

Moral Attributes God’s Chief Glory.

WE have now reached that which is the most glorious, and at the same time, the most important class of God’s attributes; those which qualify Him as an infinitely perfect moral Being. These are the attributes which regulate His will, and are, therefore, so to speak, His practical perfections. Without these, His infinite presence, power, and wisdom would be rather objects of terror and fear, than of love and trust. Indeed, it is impossible to conceive how the horror of a rational being could be more thoroughly awakened, than by the idea of wicked omnipotence wielding all possible powers for the ruin or promotion of our dearest interests, yet uncontrolled alike by created force, and by moral restraints. The forlorn despair of the wretch who is left alone in the solitude of the ocean, to buffet its innumerable waves, would be a faint shadow of that which would settle over a universe in the hands of such a God. But blessed be His name, He is declared, by His works and word, to be a God of complete moral perfections. And this is the ground on which the Scriptures base their most frequent and strongest claims to the praise and love of His creatures. His power, His knowledge, His wisdom, His immutability are glorious; but the glory and loveliness of His moral attributes excelleth.


God’s distinct moral attributes may be counted as three—His justice, His goodness, and His truth—I these three concurring in His consummate moral attribute, holiness.

Justice Defined.

God’s absolute justice is technically defined by theologians as the general rectitude of character, intrinsic in His own will. His relative justice is the acting out of that rectitude towards His creatures. His distributive justice is the quality more precisely indicated when we call Him a just God, which prompts Him to give to every one his due. His punitive justice is that phase of His distributive justice which prompts Him always to allot its due punishment to sin. No Christian theologian denies to God the quality of absolute justice, nor of a relative, as far as His general dealings with His creatures go. We have seen that even reason infers it clearly from the authority of conscience in man; from the instinctive pleasure accompanying well-doing, and pain attached to ill-doing; from the general tendency which God’s providence has established, by which virtue usually promotes individual and social well-being, and vice destroys them; and from many providential retributions where crimes are made to become their own avengers. And Scripture declares His rectitude in too many places and forms, to be disputed (Ps 71:15; Ezr 9:15; Ps 19:9; 145:17; Re 16:7, and so on, and so on, Ps 89:14; Hab 1:13).

Is God’s Punitive Justice Essential? Different Theories.

It is upon the punitive justice of God that the difference arises. As the establishing of this will establish a fortiori, the general righteousness of God’s dealings, we shall continue the discussion on this point. The Socinians deny that retributive justice is an essential or an immutable attribute of God. They do not, indeed, deny that God punishes sin; nor that it would be right for Him to do so in all cases, if He willed it; but they deny that there is anything in His perfections to ensure His always willing it, as to every sin. Instead of believing that God’s righteous character impels Him unchangeably to show His displeasure against sin in this way, they hold that, in those cases where He wills to punish it, He does it merely for the sinner’s reformation, or the good of His government. The new school of divines also hold that while God’s purpose to punish sin is uniform and unchangeable, it is only that this form of prevention against the mischiefs of sin may be diligently employed, for the good of the universe. They hold that His law is not the expression of His essence, but the invention of His wisdom. Both these opinions have this in common; that they resolve God’s justice into benevolence, or utility. The principle will be more thoroughly discussed by me in the Senior Course, in connection with the satisfaction of Christ. I only remark here that such an account of the divine attribute of justice is attended by all the absurdities which lie against the Utilitarian system of morals among men, and by others. It is opposed to God’s independence, making the creature His end, instead of Himself, and the carrying out of His own perfections. It violates our conscience, which teaches us that to inflict judicial suffering on one innocent, for the sake of utility, would be heinous wrong, and that there is in all sin an inherent desert of punishment for its own sake. It resolves righteousness into mere prudence, and right into advantage.

Affirmative View.

Now Calvinists hold that God is immutably determined by His own eternal and essential justice, to visit every sin with punishment according to its desert. Not indeed that He is constrained, or His free agency is bound herein; for He is immutably impelled by nothing but His own perfection. Nor do they suppose that the unchangeablenes is a blind physical necessity, operating under all circumstances, like gravitation, with a mechanical regularity. It is the perfectly regular operation of a rational perfection, coexisting with His other attributes of mercy, wisdom, and so on, and therefore modifying itself according to its object; as much approving, yea, demanding, the pardon of the penitent and believing sinner, for whose sins penal satisfaction is made and applied, as, before, it demanded his punishment. In this sense, then, that God’s retributive justice is not a mere expedient of benevolent utility, but a distinct essential attribute. I argue, by the following scriptural proofs:

Proved By Scripture.

(a.) Those Scriptures where God is declared to be a just and inflexible judge (Ex 34:7; Ps 5:5; Ge 18:25; Ps 94:2; 1:6; Isa 1:3-4; Ps 96:13, and so on.).

(b.) Those Scriptures where God is declared to hate sin (Ps 7:11; 5:4,6; 14:7; De 4:24; Pr 11:20; Jer 44:4; Isa 61:8). If the Socinian, or the New England view were correct, God could not be said to hate sin, but only the consequences of it. Now, God has no passions. Drop the human dress, in which this principle is stated; and the least we can make of this fixed hatred of God to sin, is a fixed purpose in Him to treat it as hateful.

By the Law.

(c.) From God’s moral law, which is the transcript of His own essential perfections. Of this law, the penal sanction is always an essential part (Ro 10:5; Ga 3:12; Ro 5:12; Ex 20:7).

This fixed opposition to sin is necessary to a pure Being. Moral good and evil are the two poles, to which the magnet, rectitude, acts. The same force which makes one pole attract the magnet, makes the other pole repel it. The Northern end of the needle can only seek the North pole, as it repels the Southern. Since sin and holiness in the creature are similar opposites, that moral action by which the right conscience approves the one, is the counterpart of its opposition to the other. It is as preposterous to claim that God’s approval of right is essential to His perfection, but His disapproval of wrong, is not; as to tell us of a magnet which infallibly turned its one end to the North star, but did not certainly turn its opposite end to the Southern pole. Socinians, like all other legalists, claim that God’s approval of good works is essential in Him. It should be added, that this essential opposition to sin, if it exists in God, must needs show itself in regular penal acts: because He is sovereign and almighty; and He is Supreme Ruler. If He did not treat sin as obnoxious, His regimen would tend to confound moral distinction. To all this corresponds the usual picture of God’s justice in Scripture (Ro 2:6-11; Pr 17:15). The ceremonial law equally proves it; for the great object of all the bloody sacrifices was to hold forth the great theological truth that there is no pardon of the sinner, without the punishment of the sin in a substitute (Heb 9:22).

By Christ’s Death.

(d.) The death of Christ, a sinless being who had no guilt of His own for which to atone. We are told that "our sins were laid upon" Christ; that "He was made sin," that "He suffered the just for the unjust," "that God might be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly"; that "the chastisement of our peace was upon Him," and so on. (Isa 53:5-11; Ro 3:24-26; Ga 3:13-14; 1Pe 3:18, and so on.). Now, if Christ only suffered to make a governmental display of the mischievous consequences of sin, then sin itself was not punished in Him, and all the sins of the pardoned remain forever unpunished, in express contradiction to these Scriptures. Moreover, the transaction at Calvary, instead of being a sublime exhibition of God’s righteousness, was only an immoral farce. And finally, not only is God not immutably just, but He is capable of being positively unjust, in that the only innocent man since Adam was made to suffer most of all men!

Objection, That Magistrates Pardon. Answer.

The particular phase of the argument from God’s rectoral justice, or moral relations to the rational universe as its Ruler, will be considered more appropriately when we come to the doctrine of satisfaction, as also, Socinian objections. One of these, however, has been raised, and is so obvious, that it must be briefly noted here. It is that the righteousness of magistrates, parents, masters and teachers, is not incompatible with some relaxations of punitive justice; why then, should that of our Heavenly Father be so, who is infinitely benevolent; who is the God of love? The answer is, that God’s government differs from theirs in three particulars. They are not the appointed, supreme retributors of crime (Ro 12:19), and their punishments, while founded on retributive justice, are not chiefly guided by this motive, but by the policy of repressing sin and promoting order. Second. They are not immutable, either in fact or profession; so that when they change their threats into pardons without satisfaction to the threatening their natures are not necessarily dishonored. Third. They are not omniscient, to know all the motives of the offender, and all the evidences of guilt in doubtful cases, so as to be able exactly to graduate the degree and certainty of guilt. These three differences being allowed for it, it would be as improper for man to pardon without satisfaction, as God.

God’s Benevolence, Etc.

God’s goodness is, to creatures, one of His loveliest attributes; because it is from this that all the happiness which all enjoy flows, as water from a spring. Goodness is the generic attribute of which the love of benevolence, grace, pity, mercy, forgiveness, are but specific actings, distinguished by the attitude of their objects, rather than by the intrinsic principle. Goodness is God’s infinite will to dispense well–being, in accordance with His other attributes of wisdom, righteousness, and so on, and on all orders of His creatures according to their natures and rights. Love is God’s active (but passionless) affection, by which He delights in His creatures, and in their well being, and delights consequently in conferring it. It is usually distinguished into love of complacency, and love of benevolence. The former is a moral emotion (though in God passionless), being His holy delight in holy qualities in His creatures, cooperating with His simple goodness to them as creatures. The latter is but His goodness manifesting itself, actively. The first loves the holy being on account of his excellence. The second loves the sinner in spite of his wickedness. When the student contrasts such texts as, Ps 7:2.; Ro 5:8, he sees that this distinction must be made. Grace is the exercise of goodness where it is undeserved, as in bestowing assured eternal blessedness on the elect angels, and redemption on hell-deserving man. And because all spiritual and holy qualities in saints are bestowed by God, without desert on their part, they are called also, their graces carismata. Pity, or simple compassion, is goodness going forth towards a suffering object, and prompting, of course, to the removal of suffering. Mercy is pity towards one suffering for guilt. But as all the suffering of God’s rational creatures is for guilt, His compassion to them is always mercy. All mercy is also grace; but all grace is not mercy.

Are All the Moral Attributes Only Phases of Goodness?

Many theologians (of the Socinian, New England and Universalists schools) overstrain God’s goodness, by representing it as His one, universally prevalent moral attribute; in such sense that His justice is but a punitive policy dictated by goodness, His truth but a politic dictate of His benevolence, and so on. Their chief reliance for support of this view is on the supposed contrariety of goodness and retributive justice; and on such passages as: "God is love," and so on. To the last, the answer is plain, if an exclusive sense must be forced upon such a text, as makes it mean that God has no quality but benevolence, then, when Paul and Moses say, "Our God is a consuming fire," we should be taught that He has no quality but justice; and when another says, "God is light," that He is nothing but simple intelligence, without will or character. The interpretation of all must be consistent intersupposed incompatibility of goodness and justice, we utterly deny. They are two phases, or aspects, of the same perfect character. God is not good to a certain extent, and then just, for the rest of the way, as it were by patches; but infinitely good and just at once, in all His character and in all His dealings. He would not be truly good if He were not just. The evidence is this very connection between holiness and happiness, so intimate as to give pretext for the confusion of virtue and benevolence among moralists. God’s wise goodness, so ineffably harmonized by His own wisdom and holiness, would of itself prompt Him to be divinely just; and His justness, while it does not necessitate, approves His divine goodness.

Scriptural Proofs of God’s Goodness.

The rational proofs of God’s goodness have been already presented, drawn from the structure of man’s sensitive, social and moral nature, and from the adaptations of the material world thereto (see Natural Theol. Lecture 4.). To this I might add, that the very act of constructing such a creation, where sentient beings are provided, in their several orders, with their respective natural good, bespeaks God a benevolent Being. For, being sufficient unto Himself, it must have been His desire to communicate His own blessedness, which prompted Him to create these recipients of it. Does any one object, that we say He made all for His own glory; and, therefore, His motive was selfish, and not benevolent? I rejoin: What must be the attributes of that Being, who hence considers His own glory as most appropriately illustrated in bestowing enjoyment? The fact that God makes beneficence His glory, proves Him, in the most intrinsic and noble sense, benevolent.

When we approach Scripture, we find goodness, in all its several phases, profusely asserted of God (Ps 145:8-9; 1Jo 4:8; Ex 34:6; Ps 33:5; 52:1; 103:8; 136; Jas 5:11; 2Pe 3:15, and so on.).

Crowning Proof From Redemption.

But the crowning proof which the Scriptures present of God’s goodness, is the redemption of sinners (Ro 5:8; Joh 3:16; 1Jo 3:1; 4:10). The enhancements of this amazing display are, first, that man’s misery was so entirely self–procured, and the sin which procured it so unspeakably abominable to God’s infinite holiness; second, that the misery from which He delivers is so immense and terrible, while the blessedness He confers is so complete, exalted and everlasting; third, that ruined man was to Him so entirely unimportant and unnecessary, and moreover, so trivial and little when compared with God; fourth, that our continued attitude towards Him throughout all this plan of mercy is one of aggravating unthankfulness, enmity and rebellion, up to our conversion; fifth, that God should have given such a price for such a wretched and hateful object, as the humiliation of His own Son, and the condescending work of the Holy Spirit; and finally, that He should have exerted the highest wisdom known to man in any of the divine counsels, and the noblest energies of divine power, to reconcile His truth and justice with His goodness in man’s redemption. Each of these features has been justly made the subject of eloquent illustration. In this argument is the inexhaustible proof for God’s goodness. The work of redemption reveals a love, compassion, condescension, so strong, that nothing short of eternity will suffice to comprehend it.

The greet standing difficulty concerning the divine goodness has been already briefly considered (Lecture v, iv).

God’s Truth and Faithfulness.

God’s truth may be said to be an attribute which characterizes all God’s other moral attributes, and His intellectual. The word truth is so simple as to be, perhaps, undefinable. It may be said to be that which is agreeable to reality of things. God’s knowledge is perfectly true, being exactly correspondent with the reality of the objects thereof. His wisdom is true, being unbiased by error of knowledge, prejudice, or passion. His justice is true, judging and acting always according to the real state of character and facts. His goodness is true, being perfectly sincere, and its outgoings exactly according to His own perfect knowledge of the real state of its objects, and His justice. But in a more special sense, God’s truth is the attribute which characterizes all His communications to His creatures. When those communications are promissory, or minatory, it is called His faithfulness. This attribute has been manifested through two ways, to man: the testimony of our senses and intelligent faculties, and the testimony of Revelation. If our confidence in God’s truth were undermined, the effect would be universally ruinous. Not only would Scripture with all its doctrines, promises, threatenings, precepts, and predictions, become worthless, but the basis of all confidence in our own faculties would be undermined; and universal skepticism would arrest all action. Man could neither believe his fellowman, nor his own experience, nor senses, nor reason, nor conscience, nor consciousness, if he could not believe his God.

Evidences of It, From Reason.

The evidences of God’s truth and truthfulness are two-fold. We find that He deals truly in the informations which He has ordained our own senses and faculties to give us, whenever they are legitimately used. The grounds upon which we believe them have been briefly reviewed in my remarks upon metaphysical skepticism. God has so formed our minds that we cannot but take for granted the legitimate informations of our senses, consciousness, and intuitions. But this unavoidable trust is abundantly confirmed by subsequent experiences. The testimonies of one sense, for instance, are always confirmed by those of the others, when they are applied, e.g., when the eye tells us a given object is present, the touch, if applied, confirms it. The expectations raised by our intuitive reason, as e.g., that like causes will produce like effects, are always verified by the occurrence of the expected phenomena. Hence a continual process is going on, like the "proving" of a result in arithmetic. Either the seemingly true informations of our senses are really true, or the harmonious coherency of the set of errors which they assert is perfectly miraculous.

From Scripture.

The second class of proofs is that of Scripture. Truth and faithfulness are often predicated of God in the most unqualified terms (2Co 1:18; Re 3:7; 6:10; 15:3; 16:7; De 7:9; Heb 10:23; Tit 1:2). All the statements and doctrines of Scripture, so far as they come within the scope of man’s consciousness and intuitions, are seen to be infallibly true; as, for instance, that "the carnal mind is enmity against God," that we "go astray as soon as we be born, speaking lies," and so on, and so on. Again, Scripture presents us with a multitude of specific evidences of His truth and faithfulness, in the promises, threatenings, and predictions, which are contained there; for all have been fulfilled, so far as ripened.

The supposed exceptions, where threats have been left unfulfilled, as that of Jonah against Nineveh, are of very easy solution. A condition was always either implied or expressed, on which the execution of the threat was suspended.

The apparent insincerity of God’s offers of mercy, and commands of obedience and penitence, held forth to those to whom He secretly intended to give no grace to comply, offers a more plausible objection. But it has been virtually exploded by what was said upon the secret and decretive, as distinguished from the revealed and preceptive will of God. I shall return to it again more particularly when I come to treat of effectual calling.

God’s Holiness.

When places, Mount Zion, utensils, oils, meats, altars, days, and so on, are called holy, the obvious meaning is, that they are consecrated—i. e., set apart to the religious service of God. This idea is also prominent, when God’s priests, prophets, and professed people, are called holy. But when applied to God, the word is most evidently not used in a ceremonial, but a spiritual sense. Most frequently it seems to express the general idea of His moral purity (Le 11:44; Ps 145:17; 1Pe 1:15-16), sometimes it seems to express rather the idea of His majesty, not exclusive of His moral perfections, but inclusive also of His power, knowledge and wisdom (Ps 22:3; 98:1; Isa 6:3; Re 4:8). Holiness, therefore, is to be regarded, not as a distinct attribute, but as the resultant of all God’s moral attributes together And as His justice, goodness, and truth are all predicated of Him as a Being of intellect and will, and would be wholly irrelevant to anything unintelligent and involuntary, so His holiness implies a reference to the same attributes. His moral attributes are the special crown; His intelligence and will are the brow that wears it. His holiness is the collective and consummate glory of His nature as an infinite, morally pure, active, and intelligent Spirit.

God’s Infinity.

We have now gone around the august circle of the Divine attributes, so far as they are known to us. In another sense I may say that the summation of them leads us to God’s other consummate attribute—His infinitude. This is an idea which can only be defined negatively. We mean by it that God’s being and attributes are wholly without bounds. Some divines, indeed, of modern schools, would deny that we mean anything by the term, asserting that infinitude is an idea which the human mind cannot have at all. They employ Sir W. Hamilton’s well known argument that "the finite mind cannot think the unconditioned; because to think it is to limit it." It has always seemed to me that the plain truth on this subject is, that man’s mind does apprehend the idea of infinitude (else whence the word?), but that it cannot comprehend it. It knows that there is the infinite; it cannot fully know what it is. God’s nature is absolutely without bound, as to His substance (immense), as to His duration (eternal), as to His knowledge (omniscience), as to His will, (omnipotence), as to His moral perfections (holiness). It is an infinite essence.


First. One of the consequences which flows from these perfections of God in His absolute sovereignty, which in so often asserted of Him in Scripture (Da 4:35; Re 19:16; Ro 9:15-23; 1Ti 6:15; Re 4:11). By this we do not mean a power to do everything, as e.g., to punish an innocent creature, contradictory to God’s own perfections; but a righteous title to do everything, and control every creature, unconstrained by anything outside His own will, but always in harmony with His own voluntary perfections. When we call it a righteous title, we mean that it is not only a dunami" but an exousia, not only a physical potentia, but a moral potestas. The foundations of this righteous authority are, first, God’s infinite perfections; second, His creation of all His creatures out of nothing; and third, His preservation and blessing of them. This sovereignty, of course, carries with it the correlative duty of implicit obedience on our part.

Second. Another consequence which flows from the infinite perfections of God is that He is entitled not only to dispose of us and our services, for His own glory, but to receive our supreme, sincere affections. Just in degree as the hearts of His intelligent creatures are right, will they admire, revere, and love God, above all creatures, singly or collectively.

Chapter 13: The Trinity

Section Two—Basic Doctrines of the Faith
Chapter 13: The Trinity

Syllabus for Lecture 16:

1. Explain the origin and meaning of the terms, Trinity, Essence, Substance, Subsistence, Person, omoousion.

Turrettin, Loc, iii, Qu. 23. Hill’s Divin., bk. iii. ch. 10, Sect. 2, 3. Knapp, Sect. 42, 3; 43, 2. Dick, Lecture 28. Dr. W. Cunningham, Hist. Theol. ch. 9.

2. Give the history of opinions touching the Trinity, and especially the Patripassian, Sabbellian and Arian.

Knapp, Sect. 42, 43. Hill, bk. iii, ch 10. Dick, Lect. 29. Hagenback Hist. of Doc. Mosheim, Com. de Reb. ante Constantinum, Vol. i, Sect. 68, Vol ii Sect. 32, 33. Dr. W. Cunningham, Hist. Theol., ch. 9, Sect. 1.

3. Define the doctrine of the Trinity, as held by the orthodox, and state the propositions included in it.

Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. 25, 13, Sect. and Qu. 27. Hill and Dick, as above. Jno. Howe, "Calm and Sober Inquiry Concerning Possibility of a Trinity."

4. What rationalistic explanations of the doctrine were attempted by the Origenists, and what by the medieval scholastics? Are they of any value?

Thomas Aquinas, Summa. Hill, as above. Neander Ch. Hist., 2 Am. Edit Boston, Vol. ii, p. 360, and so on, Vol. iv, 457, and so on. Mosheim, Com. Vol. ii, Sect. 27 and 31. Knapp, Sect. 42. Watson, Theol. Inst., pt. ii, ch. 8, i (i.) 2.

5. Present the general Bible evidence of a Trinity, from the Old Testament and from the New.

Turrettin, Loc. iii. Qu. 25 and 26. Dick, Lecture 28. Knapp, Sect. 34, 35.


While a part of the terms introduced by the Scholastics to define this doctrine are useful, others of them illustrate in a striking manner the disposition to substitute words for ideas, and to cheat themselves into the belief that they had extended the latter, by inventing the former. The Greek Fathers, like the theologians of our country, usually make no distinction between essence and substance, representing both by the word ousia, being. But the Latin Scholastics make a distinction between essentia, esse, and substantia. By the first, they mean that which constitutes the substance, the kind of thing it is: or its nature, if it be a thing created. By the second, they mean the state of being in existence. By the third, they mean the subject itself, which exists, and to which the essence belongs. Subsistence differs from substance, as mode differs from that of which it is the mode. To call a thing substance only affirms that it is an existing thing. Its subsistence marks the mode in which it exists. e.g., matter and spirit are both substances of different kinds. But they subsist very differently. The infinite spirit exists as a simple, indivisible substance; but it subsists as three persons. Such is perhaps the most intelligible account of the use of these two terms; but the pupil will see, if he analyzes his own ideas, that they help him to no nearer or clearer affirmative conception of the personal distinction.

The word Person proswpon, persona, (sometimes upostasi" in the later Greek), means more than the Latin idea, of a role sustained for the time being; but less than the popular modern sense, in which it is employed as equivalent to individual. Its meaning will be more fully defined below. Omoousio" means of identical substance. The Greek Fathers also employed the word empepricwphsi" intercomprehension, to signify that the personal distinction implied no separation of substance. But, on the contrary, there is the most intimate mutual embracing of each in each, what we should call, were the substance material, an interpenetration.

Three Tendancies of Option On Trinity.

The subsistence of the three persons in the Godhead was the earliest subject of general schism in the primitive Church. To pass over the primitive Gnostic and Manichaean sects, three tendencies, or schools of opinion, may be marked in the earlier ages, and in all subsequent times, the Orthodox, or Trinitarian, the Monarchian, and the Arian. The first will be expounded in its place. The tendency of mind prompting both the others may be said to be the same, and indeed, the same which has prevailed ever since, viz: a desire to evade the inscrutable mystery of three in one, by so explaining the second and third persons, as to reach an absolute unity both of person and substance, for the self–existent God. (monh arch) Hence, it may justly be said that Arianism, and even Socinianism, are as truly monarchian theories, as that of Noetus, to whom the title was considered as most appropriate.


Noetus, an obscure clergyman, (if a clergyman) of Smyrna, is said to have founded a sect on the doctrine, that there is only one substance and person in the Godhead; that the names, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are nothing but names for certain phases of action or roles, which God successively assumes. Christ was the one person, the Godhead or Father, united to a holy man, Jesus, by a proper Hypostatic union. The Holy Spirit is still this same person, the Father, acting His part as revealer and sanctifier. Thus, it is literally true, that the Father suffered, i. e., in that qualified sense in which the Godhead was concerned in the sufferings experienced by the humanity, in the Mediatorial Person. This theory, while doing violence to Scripture, and deranging our theology in many respects, is less fatal by far, than that of Arians and Socinians: because it retains the proper divinity of the Messiah and of the Holy Spirit.


The Sabellian theory (broached by Sabellius, of Pentapolis in Lybia Cyrenaica, about A. D. 268) has been by some represented as though it were hardly distinguishable from the Patripassian; and as though he made the names, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit the mere titles of three modes of action which the one Godhead successively assumes. By others it has been represented as only a sort of high Socinianism, as though he had taught that the Holy Spirit was an influence emanating from the Godhead, and Christ was a holy man upon whom a similar influence had been projected. But Mosheim has shown, I think, in his Com. de Rebus, and so on, that both are incorrect, and that the theory of Sabellius was even more abstruse than either of these. The term which he seems to have employed was that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three forms (schmata) of the Godhead, which presented real portions of His substance, extended into them, as it were, by a sort of spiritual division. Hence, the Son and Holy Spirit are not parts of the Father; but all three are parts, or forms, of a more recondite godhead. According to this scheme, therefore, the Son and Holy Spirit are precisely as divine as the Father; but it will appear to the attentive student very questionable, whether the true godhead of all three be not vitiated.


The theory of Arius is so fully stated, and well known, that though more important, it needs few words. He represents the Son, prior to His incarnation, as an infinitely exalted creature, produced (or generated) by God out of nothing, endued with the nearest possible approximation to His own perfections, adopted into sonship, clothed with a sort of deputized divinity, and employed by God as His glorious agent in all His works of creation and redemption. The Holy Spirit is merely a ktisma ktismato" produced by the Son.

Patripassian Scheme Refuted.

Now, it has been well stated by Dr. Hill, that there can be but three schemes in substance: the orthodox, the Patripassian, and the Subordinationist. All attempts to devise some other path, have merged themselves virtually into one or the other of these errors. Either the personal distinctions are obliterated, or they are so widened as to make the Son another and an inferior substance.

Now, the refutation of the latter schemes will be sufficiently accomplished if we succeed (in the next Lecture) in establishing the proper divinity, and identity of substance of the Son. The refutation of the former class of theories is effected by showing that some true and definite distinction of persons is predicted in scripture of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It will appear in so many places, asserted in so many forms, so intertwined with the very word of the scriptures, that its denial does fatal violence to the integrity of their language. First. I point to those numerous passages, where one Person is said to act upon, or act through, another (Ex 23:20; Ps 2:6,12; Isa 13:1; 53:12; Joh 15:26; 20:21, and so on.), where God the Father is said to send, to enthrone, to appoint to sacerdotal office, to uphold, to reward the Son, and the Son and Father to send the Holy Spirit. Second. Consider those, in which mutual principles of affection are said to subsist between the persons (Isa 42:1; Joh 10:17-18, and so on. Third. There is a multitude of other passages, where voluntary principles and volitions are said to be exercised by the several persons as such, towards inferior and external objects (Ex 33:21). (The subject is the Messiah, as will be proved: Eph 4:30; Re 6:16, and so on.) Yet, since these principles are all perfectly harmonious, as respects the three persons, there is no dissension of will, breach in unity of council, or difference of perfections. Fourth. There is a still larger multitude of texts, which assert of the persons as such, actions and agencies toward inferior, external objects (Joh 5:19; 1Co 12:11, and so on).

Now, if these personal names, of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, meant no more than three influences or energies, or three phases of action of the same person, or three forms of one substance, is it not incredible that all these properties of personality, choosing, loving, hating, sending and being sent, understanding, acting, should be asserted of them? It would be the wildest abuse of language ever dreamed of.

Definition of Trinity.

The doctrine of the Trinity, as held by the Catholic Church, cannot be better defined, than in the words of our Confession (Recite ch. ii, Sect. 3). It embraces the following propositions:

1. The true unity, indivisibility, and simplicity of God.

2. The subsistence of a threefold personal distinction, marked by a part of the properties of separate personalities, (in some inscrutable manner, entirely compatible with true unity) as intelligence, active principles, volition, action.

3. Identity of substance, so that the whole godhead is truly in each person, without confusion or division, and all the essence belongs alike to all the persons.

4. The distinction of the three persons, each by its property, incommunicable from one person to another, and the existence consequently of eternal relations between them.

Iniscrutable; But Not Impossible.

We freely admit that it is an inscrutible mystery as to how these things can be true. If they also involved a necessary self–contradiction, we should also admit that the understanding would be incapable of receiving them at all. But we do not hold that the persons are three in the same sense in which they are one. If it be asked what is the precise meaning of the phrase, person in the Godhead? We very freely answer, that we know only in part. You will observe that all the Socinian and Rationalist objections mentioned in your textbooks against this doctrine, either proceed on the misrepresentation, that we make three equal to one (as in the notorious Socinian formula: let a. b. c. represent the persons, and x. the Godhead; then a=x, b=x, c=x, add, and we have a+b+c=3 x=x), in the same sense, or they are argumenta ad ignorantiam. But is it not just we should expect, that when God reveals something about the subsistence of His being, it should be thoroughly inscrutable to us? We must remember that the human mind has no cognizance of substance, in fact, except as the existing ground, to which our intuitions impel us to refer properties. It is only the properties that we truly conceive. This is true of material substance; how much more true of spiritual substance? And more yet of the infinite? God, in revealing Himself to the natural reason, only reveals His being and properties or attributes—His substance remains as invisible as ever. Look back, I pray you, to that whole knowledge of God which we have acquired thus far, and you will see that it is nothing but a knowledge of attributes. Of the substance to which these properties are referred, we have only learned that it is. What it is, remains impenetrable to us. We have named it simple spirit, But is this, after all, more than a name, and the affirmation of an unknown fact to our understandings? For, when we proceed to examine our own conception of spirit, we find that it is a negation of material attributes only. Our very attempts to conceive of it (even formed after we have laid down this as our prime feature of it, that it is the antithesis of matter), in its substance, are still obstructed by an inability to get out of a materialistic circle of notions. We name it Pneuma, spiritus, breath, as though it were only a gaseous and transparent form of matter, and only differed hence from the solid and opaque. This obstinate, materialistic limit of our conceptions arises, I suppose, from the fact, that conceptions usually arise from perceptions, and these are only of sensible, i. e., of material ideas. This obstinate incapacity of our minds may be further illustrated by asking ourselves: What is really our conception of God’s immensity? When we attempt the answer do we not detect ourselves always framing the notion of a transparent body extended beyond assignable limits? Nothing more! Yet, reason compels us to hold that God’s substance is not extended at all, neither as a vast solid, nor a measureless ocean of liquid, nor an immense volume of hydrogen gas expanded beyond limit. Extension, in all these forms is a property wholly irrelevant to spirit. Again (and this is most in point), every Socinian objection which has any plausibility in it, involves this idea; that a trinity of Persons must involve a division of God’s substance into three parts. But we know that divisibility is not a property of spirit at all—the idea is wholly irrelevant to it, belonging only to matter.

Objections All Materialistic.

The Socinian would say here: "Precisely so; and that is why we reason against the impossibility of a trinity in unity. If divisibility is totally irrelevant to infinite Spirit, then it is indivisible, and so, can admit no trinity."

Inspect this carefully, and you will find that it is merely a verbal fallacy. The Socinian cheats himself with the notion that he knows something here, of the divine substance, which he does not know. By indivisible here, he would have us understand the mechanical power of utterly resisting division, like that imputed to an atom of matter. But has Spirit this material property? This is still to move in the charmed circle of material conceptions. The true idea is, not that the divine substance is materially atomic; but that the whole idea of parts and separation is irrelevant to its substance, in both a negative and affirmative sense. To say that Spirit is indivisible, in that material sense, is as false as to say that it is divisible. Hence the stock argument of the Socinian against the possibility of a trinity is found to be a fallacy; and it is but another instance of our incompetency to comprehend the real substance of spirit, and of the confusion which always attends our efforts to do so. We cannot disprove here, by our own reasonings, any more than we can prove; for the subject is beyond our cognition.

I pray the student to bear in mind, that I am not here attempting to explain the Trinity, but just the contrary: I am endeavoring to convince him that it cannot be explained. (And because it cannot be explained, it cannot be rationally rebutted.) I would show him that we must reasonably expect to find the doctrine inexplicable, and to leave it so. I wish to show him that all our difficulties on this doctrine arise from the vain conceit that we comprehend something of the subsistence of God’s substance, when, in fact, we only apprehend something. Could men be made to see that they comprehend nothing, all the supposed impossibilities would vanish; there would remain a profound and majestic mystery.

Rational Explanation of Greek Scholastics.

The mind from which every attempted rationale of the Trinity has come, was the New Platonic; and the chief media of their introduction to the Christian Theology, Clem. Alexandrinus and Origen. Following the trinitarian scheme which the New Platonists attributed (with insufficient grounds) to Plato, of To `On, Nou", and Yuch, they usually represent God the Father as the intelligent substance, intrinsically and eternally active, the Nou", as the idea of self, generated from eternity by God’s self–intellection, and the Yuch, as the active complacency arising upon it. The Platonizing fathers, who called themselves orthodox, were not slow to fling the charge of monarchianism (Monh `Arch) against all Patripassians, which I make against the Arians also, as reaching by diverse roads, an assertion of a single divine person. The modern student will be apt to think that their rationalism betrays the very same tendency; an unwillingness to bow the intellect to the dense mystery of a real and proper three in one; and an attempt to evade it by perpetually destroying the personality of the Second and Third Persons.

Of Aquinas.

This attempted explanation appears with new completeness and fullness, after the Peripatetics (followers of Aristotle) had modified the Platonic System, in the Latin Scholastics. Thomas Aquinas, for instance, states the in this way: Infinite activity of thought is the very essence of the Divine substance. But from eternity there was but a two–fold object of thought for this intellect to act on—God’s self, and His decree. Now, as man is made intellectually in God’s image, we cannot conceive of God’s thinking, except by conceiving of our own acts of thought as the finite type of which His is the infinite antitype. Now, when man thinks, or conceives, it is only by means of a species of image of that which is the object of his thought, present before his mind. So, God’s very act of thinking of Himself and His decree generates in the divine mind, a species of them, it generates them eternally, because God is eternally and necessarily active in thinking. This species or idea is therefore eternal as God, yet generated by God, it is of the same essence, for it is noncorporeal, spiritual entity, and God’s essence is pure intellection. It is one with God; for it is God’s idea of Himself, and His own eternal purpose which is Himself purposing. This is the Second Person. Again, as in our souls, the Logo", so in God; the presence of a moral object in conception awakens moral sentiment, and of a plan or device, approval or disapproval; so, God’s contemplation of this idea of Himself and His decree, begets a moral complacency, and a volition to effectuate (when the fullness of time shall have come) the decree. This complacency and volition are the Spirit, the Third or practical Person of the Godhead, proceeding from the Father and the Idea, or Logo".

Objections To It.

This rationale we cannot but regard as worthless, though ingenious. First. The Scriptures inform us in advance, that God is inscrutible; and that we need not expect to explain His subsistence. (Job 2:7). Second. According to this explanation, both the Nou" and the Yuch would be compounded, the former of the two species of God’s being and of His decree, the latter of two feelings, His moral self–complacency and His volition to effectuate His decree. Third. Neither the Second nor Third Persons would be substance at all, but mere idea and feeling, which have no entity whatever, except as affections of the substance of the Father. This seems to our minds an objection so obvious and conclusive, that no doubt the student is almost incredulous that acute men should have seriously advanced a theory obnoxious to it. The answer is, that the Platonic and Peripatetic metaphysics ignored, in a manner astonishing to the modern Christian mind, the distinction between substance and affections. Between the two kinds of entity, they drew no generic distinction. But is this not one of the very traits of modern, transcendental Idealism, from Spinoza down? Fourth. On this scheme of a trinity, I see not how the conclusion could be avoided, that every intelligent free agent is as much a finite trinity in unity as God is an infinite one. Let us then attempt no explanation where explanation is impossible.

Proof of Trinity Wholly From Revelation.

Having defined the doctrine, we proceed to its proof. That the evidence for the Trinity must be wholly a matter of revelation, would appear sufficiently from the weakness of the attempt made by the Scholastics, to find some proof or presumptive probability in the light of reason. The most plausible of these, perhaps, is that which Neander informs us, Raymund Lulley employed against the Unitarian Moslems of Barbary, which is not discarded even by the great Aquinas and the modern Christlieb. They say God is immutable from eternity. He exists now in a state of active benevolence. Hence, there must have always been, from eternity, some sense in which God had an object of His benevolence, in some measure extraneous; else active benevolence would have been impossible; and the result would be, that the creation of the angels (or earliest holy creatures) would have constituted an era of change in God. The reasoning appears unsound by this simple test. God is now actively righteous and punitive, as well as good; and a parallel argument will prove, therefore, with equal conclusiveness, the eternity of a devil. The solution of the sophism is to be found in those remarks by which we defended God’s immutability against the objection, that the creation of the universe constituted a change in God. It does not, because God’s purpose to create, when His chosen time should have come, was unchangeably present with him from eternity. Creation makes the change in the creature, not in God. The argument would be more plausible, if left in its undeveloped form viz: That an eternal absolute solitude was incompatible with absolute blessedness and perfection. Yet the answer is, that we cannot know this to be true of any infinite essence.

General Direct Proofs.

The Scripture evidence for a Trinity presents itself in two forms. The most extensive and conclusive may be called the indirect and inferential proof, which consists in these two facts when collated: First. That God is one. Second. That not only the Father, but the Son and Holy Spirit, are proper God. This evidence presents itself very extensively over the Bible; and the two propositions may be said to be intertwined with its whole woof and warp. The other testimony is the general direct testimony, where a plurality in the one God is either stated, or involved in some direct statement. The latter evidence is the one we present now: the former will become evident as we present the proof of the Divinity of the Second and Third Persons.

The textbooks assigned to the students, present a collection and discussion of those passages so complete, that I shall not make an unnecessary recapitulation. I shall only set down a list of those passages which I consider relevant; and conclude with a few cursive remarks on the argument in a few points. The student, then, may solidly advance the following testimonies, as cited and expounded by the Books from the Old Testament (Ge 1:2, with Ps 104:30; Pr 8:22, and so on.; Ge 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isa 6:8; Nu 6:24-26, may have some feeble weight when collated with Is. 6:3, & 2Co 8:14; Ho 1:7; Isa 13:7-14, & Ps 14:6). The argument from the plural forms µynIdoa}, it seems to me ought to be surrendered after the objections of Calvin and Buxtorff.

In the New Testament a very clear argument arises from the formula of Baptism (Mt 28:19). The only objection of any plausibility, is that from 1Co 10:2—"Baptized unto Moses." In addition to the answers of Turrettin, it is surely sufficient to say, that this is a very different case from that where the names of the Second and Third Persons are connected with that of God the Father in the same sentence and same construction.

Another indisputable argument is derived from the Apostolic benediction (2Co 13:14; Re 1:4-5; 1Co 12:4-6).

The argument from the baptism of Christ seems to me possessed of some force, when the meaning of the Father’s avowal and of the Spirit’s descent are understood in the light of Scripture.

The much litigated passage in 1Jo 5:7, is certainly of too doubtful genuineness to be advanced, polemically, against the adversaries of the Trinity; however, we may believe that the tenour of its teaching is agreeable to that of the Scriptures elsewhere.

Chapter 14: The Divinity of Christ

Section Two—Basic Doctrines of the Faith
Chapter 14: The Divinity of Christ

Syllabus for Lecture 17:

1. Prove that Christ is very God, from what the Scriptures say of His preexistence. Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. 28. Hill, bk. iii, ch. 3, 4. Dick, Lecture 30. Watson’s Theol. Inst., pt. ii, ch. 10.

2. What is the doctrine of the Old Testament concerning the proper divinity of the Messiah? And was He the person revealed in the theophanies?

Hill’s Div., bk. iii, ch. 5. Hengstenberg’s Christologie, Vol. i, ch. 3. Dick, Lecture 31. Watson, pt. ii, ch. 11.

3. Are the divine names ascribed to Christ?

Turrettin, as above. Hill’s Div., bk. iii, ch. 7, Sect. 1. Dick, Lectures 30, 31. Watson, pt. ii, ch. 12.

4. Are the divine attributes given to Christ?

Turrettin, as above. Hill, as above, Sect. 2. Dick, Lecture 31. Watson, as above, ch. 13.

5. Are the divine works ascribed to Christ?

Same authorities. Watson, as above, ch. 14.

6. Is divine worship in the Scriptures rendered to Christ?

Turrettin, as above. Hill as above, Sect. 3. Dick, Lecture 32. Watson, as above ch. 15. See on the whole, Abbadie, on the Trinity. Wardlaw’s Socinian Controversy. Moses Stuart against Channing, Evasions and objections to be argued under their appropriate heads.

A Prime Article.

Here we come to the prime article of revealed theology, a doctrine of deep significance. What we think about Jesus Christ affects not only questions surrounding the subsistence of the Godhead, but it also delves into entirely relevant issues, such as whether or not one should trust, obey and worship Christ as God, the nature and efficacy of His atoning offices, as well as what constitutes a Church and what are its rites. He who believes in the divinity of Jesus Christ is a Christian; he who does not, (whatever his profession), is a mere Deist. Without the Divinity, the Bible is, "the drama of Hamlet, with the part of Hamlet omitted."

Argued Scripturally Under Five Heads.

We have already established a Trinity of persons in the Godhead; and this alone, if validly proved, would show the divinity of Jesus Christ. For where else in Revelation, than in the persons of Him and the Holy Spirit, can the other persons be so naturally and plausibly found? But not to urge this: the general strain of the language of the Old and New Testaments produces an overwhelming impression, that they mean to represent the Messiah as divine. Note the contrast between their descriptions of Him and of Moses, the greatest of men; the fact that Jews have almost uniformly understood the New Testament as inculcating it, and have rejected it as idolatrous; the laborious evasions to which Socinians are obliged to resort; and the fact that the great majority of both friends and enemies have so understood it. If the Apostles did not intend to teach this doctrine they have certainly had the remarkable ill luck of producing the very impression which they should have avoided, especially in a Book intended to subvert idolatry.

There is, as has been intimated, a general testimony for this truth, interwoven with the whole texture of Scripture, which cannot be adequately presented in a few propositions, because of its extent. It can only be appreciated by the extended and familiar study of the whole Bible. But the more specific arguments for the divinity of Jesus Christ have usually been digested into the five heads: of His Preexistence, Names, Attributes, Works and Worship. This distribution is sufficiently correct. My purpose will be, to employ the very limited space I can allot to so extensive an argument, first in giving you a syllabus of it, which shall possess some degree of completeness; and second, in illustrating some of the more important testimonies, so as to exhibit, in a few instances, the manner in which they apply, and exegetical evasions are to be met.

Christ’s Pre–Existence.

If Jesus Christ had an existence before he was born of the virgin, this at once settles the question, as Hill remarks, that He is not mere man. And if this preexistence was characterized by eternity, independence, or divine works of Creation and Providence, it further settles the question that He was not a creature. The theophanies of a second person of the Godhead, if revealed in the Old Testament, (and if that person can be identified with Jesus Christ), as well as His works of creation, if ascribed to Him, will be parts of this argument for His preexistence, as well as fall under other heads.

But we find a more direct testimony for His preexistence contained in a number of passages, where Christ is said to have been "sent" to have "come from heaven," to "come into the world," to be "made flesh," etc, and so on. (Joh 3:31; 6:38; 16:28; 13:3; 6:62; 1:14; Heb 2:7,9,14,16). Of one of us, it may be popularly said that we came into existence, came into the world; but those phrases could not be used with propriety, of one who then only began to exist.

Consult also, Joh 1:1-17,15,30; 3:13; 8:58; 17:5; 1Co 15:47; 2Co 8:9; Heb 1:10-11; Re 1:8,17; 2:8; 3:14.John 1:1-17, c.f. In the passage, from Joh 1:1-17, only two evasions seem to have a show of plausibility: First, to deny the personality of the Logo"; second, to deny that His preexistence is taught in the phrase, en arch. But the first is refuted by showing that the Logo" is the creator of all; that in verse 4, He is identified with the, Fw", which Fw" again, verses 6, 7, was the object of John Baptist’s preparatory ministry; which Fw" again was rejected by the world (verses 10, 11); and this Fw", identical with the Logo", was incarnate, (verse 14), was testified unto by John Baptist, (verse 15); and is finally identified, (verse 17), with Jesus Christ, the giver of grace and truth. That the phrase, en arch, does assert His preexistence is proved by the resemblance of it to the Septuagint rendering of Ge 1:1. By the author’s use of hn, instead of egeneto, by His association with God, verse 2, showing a preexistence similar to God’s; by His creation of all things, (verse 3), and by the utter folly of the gloss which would make the Evangelist say that Jesus Christ was in existence when His ministry began. That John should have used the peculiar philosophic titles, Logo", and Fw", for Jesus Christ, is most reasonably explained by the state of opinion and theological language when He wrote His gospel. The Chaldean Paraphrase, and the Platonizing tendencies of Philo and his sect, had familiarized the speculative Jews to these terms, as expressive of the second person; and meantime, the impious speculations of Judazing Gnostics, represented by Cerinthus, had attempted to identify Jesus Christ with one of the Aeiwne" of their dreams, a sort of luminous emanation of the divine intelligence. It was to vindicate the truth from this folly, that St. John adopts the words Logo" and Fw" in this emphatic assertion of the Messiah’s proper divinity (1Jo 1:1; Re 19:13).

Divinity of Christ In Old Testament.

That the Messiah was to be human, was so clearly revealed in the Old Testament, that no Jew misunderstood it. He was to be the Son of David according to the flesh. It may seem somewhat incompatible with a similar disclosure of His proper divinity, that the Jewish mind should have been so obstinately closed to that doctrine. But the evidences of it in the Old Testament are so strong, that we are compelled to account for the failure of the unbelieving Jews to embrace it, by the stubbornness of prejudice, and death in sin. The Messianic predictions of the Old Testament have formed the subject by themselves, of large volumes; I can, therefore, do little more than enumerate the most conclusive of them as to His divinity, giving the preference, of course, to those of them which are interpreted of, and applied to, Jesus Christ, by the infallible exposition of the New Testament. Compare, then, Nu 14:22; 21:5-6, and Ps 95:9, with 1Co 10:9. The tempting of the Lord of the Old Testament, is described by Paul as tempting Christ, in consequence of which they were destroyed of serpents. Ps 102:26, ascribes to God an immutable eternity; but Heb 1:10-11, applies it to Jesus Christ. In Isa 6, the prophet sees a vision of Jehovah, surrounded with every circumstance of divine majesty. But Joh 12:41, explains: "These things said Esaias, when he saw His glory, and spake of Him." (Isa 14:22-23); Jehovah says: "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth"; but Ro 14:11, and 1Co 1:30, evidently apply the context to Jesus Christ. Also, compare Ps 18:18 with Eph 4:8-9; Joe 2:32 with Ro 10:13; Isa 7:14 with Mt 1:22-23; Mic 5:2 with Mt 2:6; and Mal 3:6. with Mr 1:2 and Lu 1:76. The last three pairs of references contain a proof peculiarly striking. In Isa 7:14, the child born of a virgin is to be named "God with us." In Mt 1:22-23, a child, Jesus Christ, is born of a virgin, and receives, by divine injunction, through the mouth of an angel, the name "God with us"; because He was conceived of the Holy Spirit, and was to save His people from their sins. In Mic 5:2, Bethlehem is destined to the honor of bringing forth the Ruler whose attribute was eternity; in Mt 2:6, it is declared that this prediction is fulfilled by the appearance of Jesus Christ. In Mal 3:6, the Angel of the Covenant is foretold. He is identified with Jesus Christ by his forerunner, John, who is expressly declared to be the person here predicted, by Lu 1:76. But that this Angel is divine, is clear from his propriety in the temple (his temple) which is God’s house, and from the divine functions of judge and heart searcher, which He there exercises. In Ps 110:6. David calls the Messiah yn:doa} though his descendant according to the flesh. In Mt 22:45, Christ Himself applies this to the Messiah ("What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is He?") and challenges them (in substance) to account for it without granting His divinity. And this eleventh Psalm, then proceeds to ascribe to this Being eternity of priesthood (verse 4), as expounded in Heb 7:3, as having "neither beginning of days, nor end of life," supreme authority, and judgment over mankind. Ps 2, describes God as setting His King upon His holy hill of Zion: who is declared to be His eternal Son (verse 7), the Ruler of the whole earth (verse 8), the sovereign avenger of His opponents (verse 9), and the appointed object of religious trust. Surely these are divine attributes. Compare Jer 27:5. But Ac 4:25–28, attribute the whole prediction to Jesus Christ. So Ps 14:6, calls the king God, µyhil¿aÔ and attributes to Him an everlasting throne. But Heb 1:8, applies these words to the Son, afterwards defined to be Jesus Christ. So let the student compare for himself (for time will fail me to go into explanation of every text), Zec 12:10, with Joh 19:37; Isa 61:1, (Speaker calls Himself I, the LORD, verse 8) with Lu 4:18-21. Examine, also, Isa 4:2; 9:5-7; 11:4,10; Ps 72:17,5; Da 7:13-14. Zec 8:7 compared with 11:13; 12:10; Jer 23:5-6. Ps 97:7 with Heb 1:6.

Argument From the Theophanies and Angel of Covenant.

But a second important class of Old Testament evidences for the divinity of Christ, will appear when we inquire who was the Person who appeared) in the theophanies granted to the Patriarchs. A personal distinction by which God the Father might disclose Himself to man in another person than His own, seems to be indicated by His nature. He is called the invisible God (1Ti 1:17; Heb 11:27). It is declared that no man can see Him and live (Ex 33:20). And we read, in the cases of some of the theophanies, that the persons favored with them were amazed at their surviving the fearful privilege (Ge 32:30; Jg 6:22-23). But besides this concealed Person, who, though everywhere present, rarely makes Himself cognizable, and never visible to mortals, the New Testament, especially, informs us of another Person, the same in essence whose office it has ever been, since God had a Church, to act as the mediating Messenger and Teacher of that Church, and. bring man into providential and gracious relations with the inaccessible God. This function Christ has performed, both before and since His incarnation; and therefore He is the Word, the Light, the visible Image to man of the invisible Godhead (Joh 14:8-9; 1:18; 1Jo 1:1-2; 2Co 4:4; Heb 1:3).

Yet this distinction cannot be pushed so far as though the Father never communicates with men, as the First Person. Some of the very places cited to prove the divinity of the Son, show the Father as such, testifying to the Son (Ps 2; 110). And in Ex 23:20; 32:34, language is used by a person, concerning another person, under the title of angel, which cannot possibly be identified as a single person, yet both are divine. It would be a great error, therefore, and would throw this whole argument into confusion, to exclude Jehovah the Father wholly from these communications to Old Testament saints, and attribute all the messages to the Son immediately. It so happens that Moses received these theophanies, in which we are compelled to admit the personal presence of the First Person per se, as well as the Second. May not this be the explanation, that He was honored to be the Mesith" of the Old Testament Church, in a sense in which no other mere man ever was; in that, He communicated directly with the person of the Father (Ex 33:11; Nu 12:6-8; De 34:10). Did not Jehovah Christ speak face to face to Jacob, Abraham, Manoah, and so on.?

Augustine’s Difficulty.

Another seeming difficulty presents itself (said to have been urged with confidence by St. Augustine and other Fathers) from Heb 1:1-2; 2:2-3. The Apostle, it is urged, seems here to teach, that the Old Testament was distinguished from the New, by being not communicated through God, (the Son,) but through creatures, as agents. I answer, if the texts be strained into this meaning they will then contradict the context. For the theophanies and other immediate divine communications must be imputed to a divine person, the Father, if not the Son; and then there would be no basis, on their premises, for the Apostle’s argument, that the New Testament was more authoritative, because the teaching of a divine minister. The truth is, that the Apostle’s contrast is only this: In the Old Testament, the Messiah did not appear as an incarnate prophet, ministering His own message ordinarily and publicly among the people. (His theophanic teachings were usually private to some one human agent.) In the New Testament, He did. Nor can it be supposed that The Angel of Jehovah, who presented these theophanies, is explained by the di aggelwn of Heb 2:2. He was wholly a different Being; their ministry was only attendant, and cooperative, at Sinai (see Stephen, Ac 7:53; Ps 68; 17).

Instances of Theophanies.

The Second Person seems to be identified in the following places: (Ge 26:7) the Angel of Jehovah found Hagar (Ge 26:7), He promises to exert divine power (verse 10), claims to have heard her distress (verse 11), Hagar is surprised that she survives the Divine vision (verse 13), Three men visit Abraham identified (Ge 18), as angels (29:1). The chief angel of these three (18:1, 14, 17, and so on.), makes Himself known as Jehovah, receives Abraham’s worship, and so on. And in Ge 48:15-16, this Jehovah is called by Jacob, "the Angel which redeemed me from all evil," and so on, and invoked to bless Joseph’s sons, a divine function. Again, in Ge 21:17, the Angel of God speaks to Hagar, promising her (verse 18), a divine exertion of power. In Ge 22:1, µYhi/laÔ commands Abraham to take his son Isaac and sacrifice him (verse 11), when in the act of doing it, the Angel of Jehovah arrests, and says (verse 13), "Thou hast not withheld thy son from me"; and (verse 14), Abraham names the place Jehovah-jireh. In Ge 31:11, the Angel of Jehovah appears to Jacob in a dream (verse 13), identified with God, the God of Ge 28:11-22, the God of Bethel then declared Jehovah. In Ge 32:25, Jacob wrestles with an angel, seeks his blessing, and names the place (verse 30), Peniel. This Angel is in the narrative called Elohim, and Ho 12:4-6, describing the same transaction, Elohim, Angel and Jehovah of Hosts. In the same method compare Ex 3:2 with verses 4, 6, 14-16; Ex 14:19 with verse 24; Ex 23:20 with subsequent verse; Ex 34:13 to verse 2, with 32:3, 4, 14, 15; Nu 22:22 with verses 32-35; Jos 5:13 to 6:2; Jg 2:1-4.

Compare Jg 6:11 with verses 14, 15, 18, 21, 22, and so on. Jg 13:3 with verses 21, 22. And Isa 63:9; Zec 1:12-15, compare 6:15. Compare Zec 3:2 with verse 1; Ps 34:7; 35:5.


Now, the amount of what has been proved in these citations is, that two Persons, both having unquestionable divine attributes, yet sometimes employing the incommunicable name in common, appear on the stage. They are distinguished by unquestioned personal distinctions of willing, acting, feeling, One is the Sender, the other is the Sent, (a;l]m'). The one usually acts with a certain reserve and invisibility, the other is called the "Angel of His countenance" (Isa 13:9; compare with Col 1:15; Heb 1:3). To this latter the phrase, Angel of Jehovah is so often applied, that it becomes at length a proper name. And the completing link of the evidence is given by Mal 3:1–3 and Isa 40:3. The forerunner is predicted in the latter of these places, as a "voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of Jehovah," and so on. Malachi teaches that a forerunner was to precede, when the Lord whom the Jews were expecting, even the Angel of the Covenant, would suddenly come to His temple. And this Being is clearly shown to be divine, by his proprietorship in the temple, and the sovereign judicial functions he would perform there. But now, when we look into the New Testament, we find, that the forerunner was John the Baptist, and the person introduced was our Lord Jesus Christ (Mt 11:10; Mr 1:2; Lu 1:76; 7:27). Jesus Christ was, therefore, the Angel of the Covenant, the owner of the Temple, the Jehovah of Isa 40:3,5, whose glory John was to usher in. Hence, these theophanies not only disclose a personal distinction in the Godhead, but show the preexistence and divinity of Christ.

Names of God Given To Christ.

For objections and theories of evasion, see Hengstenberg. The argument from the application of the divine names to Jesus Christ has been in part anticipated under the last head. To comprehend its full force, the student must recall the evidences by which we showed that Jehovah, especially, was God’s incommunicable name. But in the New Testament this is not characteristically rendered, except by Kurio", which stands also for Adonai, and Adoni, (the latter applied to human masters). Therefore, it may be supposed that the Socinian evasion will be more damaging to all the argument from the cases in which the New Testament applies the terms, Kurio" Qeo", to Jesus Christ. That evasion, as you know, is, that the titles, God, Lord, are applied in Bible language to Magnates, Magistrates, and Angels; and, therefore, their application to Jesus Christ proves not His proper divinity, but only His dignity. But let it be borne in mind, that if the language of the New Testament is deficient in the power of distinguishing the communicable from the incommunicable titles of God, it also lacks the usage of applying His titles to exalted creatures. There is no example of such a thing in the New Testament, except those quoted from the Septuagint. Hence, when the New Testament calls Christ Lord and God, the conclusion is fair, that it attributes to Him proper divinity.


But we argue, first, He is also called God’s Son; and to show that this means more than when Angels, Church members, and others are called sons of God, He is called the beloved Son—God’s own Son—God’s only begotten Son (Ps 2:7; Mt 3:17; 17:5; Da 3:25; Mt 4:3; 26:63; 27:43,54; Lu 1:35; Joh 3:18; 10:36; 9:35-37; Re 2:18; of verse 8). Here He is called Son, because He can work miracles, because begotten by the Holy Spirit. His title of Son is conceived by His enemies as a claim of proper divinity, which He dies rather than repudiate. The attempts to evade the force of the title Only begotten seem peculiarly impotent. One is, that He is so called, although only a man, because conceived, without natural father, by the Holy Spirit. Adam was still more so, having had neither natural father nor mother. Yet he is never called only begotten. Another is, that Christ is Son, because of His commission and inspiration. In this sense, Moses, Elijah, and so on, were generically the same (Heb 3:1-6). The third is, that He is called God’s only begotten Son, because He enjoyed the privilege of a resurrection. But the dead man of 2Ki 13:21, the son of the Shunemite, and the saints who arose when Christ died, enjoyed the privilege earlier; and Enoch and Elijah enjoyed one still more glorious, a translation.

For the arguments which rebut the Socinian evasions on this head, the student must, for the rest, be referred to text Books and Comments. The following proof texts will be found justly applicable: Joh 1:1-2; 10:30; 20:31; Ac 20:28; (somewhat doubtful), Ro 9:5; 1Ti 3:16; Php 2:6; Heb 1:8; 1Jo 5:20.

Texts Added By Dr. Middleton.

By the application of a principle of criticism asserted by Dr. Granville Sharpe and Dr. Wordsworth, of the English Church, and afterwards subjected to a most searching test, by Dr. Middleton on the Greek Article, this list of divine names applied to Jesus Christ, may be much enlarged. Dr. Middleton states it thus: "When two or more attributives (i. e., adjectives, participles, descriptive substantives) joined by a copulative or copulatives, are assumed of the same person or thing, before the first attributive, the article is inserted, before the remaining ones omitted: e.g., Plutarch; Rosko", o uio" kai klhronomo" tou teqnhkoto", where uio" and klhronomo" describe the one person Roscius. (Proper nouns, abstract nouns, and simple names of substances without descriptive connotation, are exempted from this rule.) Its correctness is sustained by its consistent rationale, founded on the nature of the Article, by a multitude of classical examples, and by the manner in which the Greek Fathers uniformly cite the passages in question from the New Testament. They are to be presumed to be best acquainted with their own idiom. For instance, Eph 5:5, we have, en th basileia tou Cristou kai Qeou. Instead of rendering ‘Kingdom of Christ and of God,’ we should read, Kingdom of Him who is Christ and God. In Tit 2:13, tou megalou Qeou kai zwthro" hmwn ihsou Cristou, is rendered ‘of the great God and (of) our Saviour Jesus Christ.’ It should be ‘of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.’"

Winer (Gram. N. T. Greek. Article Sect. 19, 5), impugns this conclusion, as countenanced by Tholuck and other eminent Germans. His grounds are, that in Tit 2:13 Swthro" is sufficiently defined by the possessive genitive, hmwn, so that, although anarthrous, it may stand for a separate object; and second, that it is inconsistent with Paul’s doctrinal system to call Christ the "great God." To the last point we reply, that it is not a grammatical one, (as Winer admits); but a doctrinal hypothesis: and an erroneous one. Witness Ro 9:5. To advance such a surmise in exegesis of Paul is begging the question. The emptiness of the first ground is shown by a comparison of 2Pe 1:6. There, when the writer would separate Christ from the Father as an object of thought, he uses not only the genitive, but the article: en epignwsei tou Qeou kai Ihsou tou kuriou hmwn. Compare also, Jude 4, end.

4. Attributes.

The names of God may not be incommunicable, and the application of them might possibly be ambiguous therefore; but when we see the incommunicable attributes of God given to Jesus Christ, they compose a more irresistible proof that He is very God. This is especially strong when those qualities which God reserves to Himself alone, are ascribed to Jesus Christ. We find, then: Eternity clearly ascribed to Christ in Ps 102:26, as interpreted in Heb 1:11-12; Pr 8:23, and so on. Isa 9:6; Mic 5:2; Joh 1:2; 1Jo 1:2; Re 1:7-8,17; 3:14; 22:13; and the last three employ the very phraseology in which God asserts His eternity in Isa 13:10; 44:6.

Immutability, the kindred attribute, and necessary corollary of eternity (Ps 102:26, as before; Heb 13:8).

Immensity and omnipresence (Mt 28:20,20; Joh 3:13; Col 1:17).

Omniscience (Mr 11:27; Joh 2:24-25; Heb 4:12-13; Lu 6:8; Joh 16:30; 21:17; Re 2:23, compared with 1Ki 8:39; Jer 17:10). Here Christ knows the most inscrutable of all Beings, God Himself; and the human heart, which God claims it as His peculiar power to fathom.

Sovereignty and power (Joh 5:17; Mt 28:18; Heb 1:3; Re 1:8; 11:15–17; Col 2:9; 1:19). The last subdivision will suggest the next head of argument, that from His divine works. But upon the whole, it may be remarked that these ascriptions of divine attributes to Christ leave no evasion. For it is in the nature of things simply impossible that a finite nature should receive infinite endowments. Even Omnipotence cannot make a part to contain the whole.


Divine works are ascribed to Christ. Hill, with an affectation of philosophic fairness, which he sometimes carries to an unnecessary length, seems to yield the point to the Arians, in part: that as God has endued His different orders of creatures with degrees of power so exceedingly various, He may have given to this exalted creature powers which, to man, appear actually boundless; and that even the proposition, that God might enable him to create a world, by filling him with His mighty power, does not appear necessarily absurd. But it seems clear, that there is a limit plain and distinct between those things which finite and dependent power can, by a vast extension, be enabled to do, and those for which all measures of created power are alike incompetent. There are many things which are superhuman, which perhaps are not super-angelic. Satan may perhaps have power to move an atmospheric storm, before which man and his mightiest works would be as stubble. But Satan is as unable to create a fly out of nothing, as is man. For the performance of this kind of works, by deputation, no increase of finite power can prepare a creature. Moreover, to create a world such as ours, to direct it by a controlling providence, to judge its rational inhabitants, so as to apportion to every man according to his works; all this implies the possession of omnipresence, infinite knowledge, memory, and attention, as impossible for a creature to exercise, as infinite power. But, however, this may be, Scripture always ascribes creation to God as a divine work. This is done, first, in many express passages (Jer 10:10-12; Ps 95:4; Re 4:10-11); and second, by all those passages (Ps 19:1-7), in which we are directed to read the greatness and character of God in the works of creation. If He used some other rational agent in the work, why is Creator so emphatically His title? And why are we so often referred to His works to learn His attributes? And once more, the most noted passages (Joh 1:1–3), in which creation is ascribed to the Son, contain most emphatic assertions of His partaking of the divine essence; so that it is plain the divinity of the work was in the writer’s mind.

The space allotted to this argument will forbid my going into the Socinian evasions of the several texts, tortuous and varied as they are. The most important of them may be seen handled with great skill by Dr. Hill, Bk. iii, ch. 3 and 4. But we clearly find the following divine works ascribed to Jesus Christ: Creation of the world (Pr 8:23,27, and so on.; Joh 1:1-3; Col 1:15-17; Heb 1:1,3,10). And along with this, may be mentioned his sustentation of all things, asserted in the same passages.

Miracles, performed, not by deputed, but by autocratic power (Joh 5:21; 6:40; Ac 4:7,10; 9:34; cf. Joh 5:36; Mr 2:8-11; Joh 2:19; 10:18; Ro 1:4).

Forgiving sin (Mr 2:10).

Judging men and angels (Mt 25:31-32; 2Co 5:10; Ro 14:10; Ac 17:31; Joh 5:22). True, it is said that the Twelve shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Mt 14:28), and that the saints shall judge angels; but other Scriptures explain this, that they shall be merely assessors of Jesus Christ.


Finally. The peculiar worship of God is given to Christ (Mt 28:19; Lu 24:52; Joh 5:23; Ac 7:59-60; Joh 14:1; and Ps 12 compared with Jer 17:5; Ac 10:25-26; 1Co 1; Php 2:10; Heb 1:6; Re 1:5-6; 7:10; 5:13).

In connection, weigh these passages, as showing how unlikely the Scripture would be to permit such worship, (or Christ Himself), if He were not proper God (Isa 13:8; Mt 4:16; or Lu 4:8; Mr 12:29; Ac 14:14-15; Re 19:10; 22:9). Remember that the great object of Scripture is to reclaim the world from idolatry.

The Arian and Socinian evasions are well stated and refuted by Hill, Bk. iii, ch. 7, Sect. 3.

Chapter 15: The Divinity of the Holy Spirit and of the Son

Section Two—Basic Doctrines of the Faith
Chapter 15: The Divinity of the Holy Spirit and of the Son

Syllabus for Lecture 18:

1. What is the doctrine of the Socinians, the Arians and the Orthodox concerning the Holy Spirit?

See Hagenback, Hist. of Doctr. on Arianism. Hill, bk. iii, ch. 9. Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. 30. Dr. Wm. Cunningham, Hist. Theol. ch. 9, Sect. 4.

2. Prove the personality of the Holy Spirit.

Turretun, Loc. iii, Qu. 30, Sect. I–II. Owen on the Holy Spirit, bk. i, chs. 2, 3. Dick, Lect. 33. Hill, as above. Dwight’s Theol. Sermon 70th Knapp.

3. Prove from the Scriptures the Divinity of this Person.

Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. 30, Sect. 12, end. Dick, Hill and Dwight as above.

4. State the controversy between the Greek and Latin Churches, on the Procession of the Holy Spirit. Which party is right? Why?

Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. 31. Dick and Hill as above.

5. Show how the of offices of the Second and Third Persons in redemption imply the possession of proper divinity by them.

Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qu. 24; Loc. xiii, Qu. 3. Dick, Lecture 32. Hill, bk. ii, ch. 8, end. Anselm, Cur Deus Homo?

History of Doctrine of Holy Spirit.

The Arian controversy was so fiercely agitated concerning the divinity of the Second Person that the Third Person was almost overlooked in it, by both parties. It is stated that Arius held the Holy Spirit to be a person—but a creature—the first creature namely, which the Son brought into existence by the Father’s instruction, after His own creation. He was hence, ktisma ktismato". On the other hand, few, perhaps, of the orthodox, except Athanasius, saw clearly the necessity of extending to Him likewise the same essence, omoousion, with the Father; and attributing to Him in the work of Redemption, proper, divine attributes. The most of them, e.g., a great anti–Arian writer, Hilary of Arles, contented themselves with saying that He was a Person, and was spoken of in the Scriptures as a divine Spirit, and God’s beneficent Agent in sanctification; but, farther than this, the scriptures did not bear Him out. A little after the middle of the 4th century, Macedonius, primate of Constantinople, was led, by his semi–Arian views, to teach that the Holy Spirit was but a name for the divine power and influences, diffused from the Father through the Son. It was this error, along with others, occasioned the revisal of the Nicene Creed by the second Ecumenical Council, that of Constantinople. Yet even this, while attributing to the Holy Spirit a procession from the Father, and the same worship and glory attributed to the Father and Son, and while calling Him Lifegiving Lord, still did not expressly ascribe to Him the phrase, omoousion tw Patri. The consubstantial divinity of the Holy Spirit, however, continued to be the practical doctrine of the Church Catholic. When the Socinians, in the 16th century, sought to overthrow the doctrine of the Trinity, they represented all that is said of the Holy Spirit as mere parallel locutions for the Godhead itself, or as impersonations of the power, energy, wisdom, or general influence of the Godhead on created souls. The words Holy Spirit, then, are, with them, the name, not of a Person, but of an abstraction.

His Personality.

Therefore, the first task which we should assume is to learn what the scriptures teach concerning the personality of this Being. We may premise, with Dick, that it is natural and reasonable that the Scriptures would say less to evince the personality and divinity of the Holy Spirit than of the Son; because in the order of the divine manifestation in Redemption, the Son is naturally and properly revealed first. The purchase precedes the application of Redemption. But after a plurality in unity was once established, it was easy to admit a trinity.

Now, we may freely admit that in several places, represented by Ps 139:7, the word Spirit is a mere parallelism to express God’s self. We may freely admit that were there no passages, except those in which the Holy Spirit is said to be shed forth (Isa 32:15), it would not be proved that it might not mean only God’s influences. But there are many others which admit of no such explanation. First. A number of personal acts are attributed to the Holy Spirit, as creation (Ge 1:2; Ps 104:30), the generation of Christ’s body and soul (Mt 1:18; Lu 1:35). Teaching and revealing (Joh 14:26; 15:25-26; Ga 4:6; Ro 8:16; 1Ti 4:1; 1Pe 1:11; 2Pe 1:21; Isa 11:2-3). To search the decree of God (1Co 2:10). To set apart to the ministry (Isa 61:1; Ac 13:2; 20:28). To intercede, paraklhto" (Joh 17:7; Ro 8:27). To have volitions (1Co 12:11). To regenerate and sanctify (Joh 3:6; 2Co 3:6; Eph 2:22, and so on.). Add here, as showing the personal agencies of the Holy Spirit (Lu 12:12; Ac 5:32; 15:28; 16:6; 28:25; Ro 15:16; 1Co 2:13; Heb 2:4; 3:7).

Second. The Holy Spirit is said to exercise the active feelings of a person; to be tempted (Ac 5:9); to be vexed (Isa 63:10); to be grieved (Eph 4:30).

No Prospopoeia Here.

But here we must meet the well known evasion of the Socinian, who pleads that these are but instances of the trope of Impersonation, like those of Ro 7:11; 3:19; 1Co 13:7; Ge 4:10; Heb 12:24. We will not plead with Turrettin, that the explanation is inapplicable to the Holy Spirit; because impersonations are usually of things corporeal and inanimate, as when the blood of Abel cried, and so on.; for the case of 1Co 13:7, proves that the Scripture does not limit the figure to this class of objects, but sometimes impersonate abstractions.

(a.) The true answers are, that the Socinian explanation is inapplicable, because no candid writer uses an impersonation, without placing something in his context, or afterwards dropping the figure, so as to show unmistakably to the reader, that he meant only an impersonation. The force of this is only seen when the reader gathers the multitude of places in the Scriptures, where such language prevails, speaking of the Holy Spirit as though He were a person; and when he finds the utter absence of the proper qualification. (b.) The explanation is impossible, because in a multitude of places the Holy Spirit is distinguished from the Godhead, whose impersonated attribute He would be on this supposition; e.g., when it is said, "charity suffereth long and is kind," the only possible meaning is, that the charitable man does so. When it is said God’s Spirit will guide us into all truth, if the figure of impersonation were there, the meaning would be, that God, who is spiritual, will guide us. But in that very passage the spirit that guides is distinguished from God. "Whatsoever he shall hear, (i. e., from the Father and Son,) that shall he speak."

This leads us to argue: (c) That the Holy Spirit must be a Person, because distinguished so clearly from the Father, whose quality or influence He would be, if He were an abstraction; and farther because distinguished in some places alike from the Father and Son, e. g., He is sent by both (Joh 14:16; 15:26; 16:7). The pneuma, though neuter, is constructed with the masculine pronouns (Joh 16:13; Eph 1:13-14). He concurs with the Father and Son, in acts or honors which are to them undoubtedly personal: and Hence, to Him likewise (Mt 28:19; 2Co 13:14).

(d) His presence is represented by visible symbols, a thing which is never done for a mere abstraction elsewhere in Scripture, and is, indeed, logically preposterous. For the propriety of the material symbol depends wholly on some metaphorical resemblance between the accidents of the matter, and the attributes of the Being symbolized, e.g., Shekinah represents God. Its brightness represents His glory. Its purity—His holiness. Its fierce heat—His jealousy, and so on, and so on. Now, if the dove (Mt 3:16), and the fiery tongue (Ac 2:3), symbolize the Holy Spirit, and He an abstraction, the analogy has to be sought between the accidents or qualities of the dove and the fire, and the attributes of an abstraction! (Quid rides.) But moreover, in Mt 3:16, the three persons all attest their presence at once—the Father, in His voice from heaven; the Son, in His human person; the Spirit, in the descending dove. Here, surely, the dove does not personate an abstract attribute of the Father or Son, for this would be to personate them as possessing that attribute. But they, at the moment, had their distinct personal representations.

(e) The personality of the Holy Spirit is most plainly implied in the act of sinning against Him, committed by Ananias (Ac 5:3), Israel (Isa 13:10; to the Pharisees, Mt 12:31-32). Some one may say, that 1Ti 6:1, speaks of the sin of blasphemy against God’s word and doctrine. Such an explanation is impossible in the above cases, and especially in Mt 12:31-32. For if the Holy Spirit only represents an attribute of God, then to blaspheme that attribute is simply to blaspheme God. But in this case, the acts of blaspheming the Father and Son, are expressly distinguished from that of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, and have different grades of guilt assigned them.

(f) It is also implied that the Holy Spirit is a Person, by the distinction made between Him and His gifts (1Co 12:4,8). If the Holy Spirit were an influence, or exertion of God’s power on the creature, as He must be held to be in these places, by Socinians, then He would be virtually here, the gift of a gift! This leads us to notice a class of texts, in which the Socian explanation appears supremely ridiculous; it is those in which the Holy Spirit is distinguished from the power of God. Now, if He be but a name of God’s influences and energies upon the souls of men, the general word power, (dunami"), ought to represent the idea of Him with substantial correctness. Then when Lu 4:14 says: Christ returned from the desert to Galilee "in the power of the Spirit," it is equivalent to: "In the power of the power." Ac 1:8—"But ye shall receive power, after that the holy power is come unto you."1Co 2:4—"And my speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the power, and of power" (also Ac 10:38; Ro 14:13,19).

The Holy Spirit then, is not an abstraction, nor an influence merely, but a Person, in the full sense in which that word is applied to the Father and Son, possessing will and active principles, intelligence, and action.

This Person Is Divine.

The next step is to prove His proper divinity; and this has now become comparatively easy. We follow the familiar order, showing that He has in Scripture the names, attributes, works, and worship of God. The principles upon which the argument proceeds, are the same already unfolded in the argument for the divinity of Christ. First. We find the name Jehovah applied to the Spirit, by comparing Ex 17:7 with Heb 3:9; 2Sa 23:2; Isa 6:9 with Ac 28:25; possibly Jer 31:31, compared with Heb 10:15. The name God, is by plain implication ascribed to Him in Ac 5:3-4, and so on, and 1Co 3:16 with 6:19. The name Highest, seems to be given Him in Lu 1:35. Second. The attributes are ascribed to Him; as omnipresence, implied by 1Co 3:16, and by the promises of the Holy Spirit to an innumerable multitude of Christians at once. Omniscience (1Co 2:10 with 5:11); Omnipresence (1Co 12:13). The same thing appears from His agency in inspiration and prophecy (Joh 16:13; 2Pe 1:21). Sovereignty (1Co 12:11). Third. The works of God, as of creation (Ge 1:2). Preservation (Ps 104:30). Miracles (Mt 12:28; 1Co 12:4). Regeneration and sanctification (Joh 3:5; 1Co 6:11; 2Th 2:13; 1Pe 1:2). Resurrection of the dead (Ro 8:11). Fourth. The worship of God is also attributed to Him, in the formula of Baptism, the Apostolic benediction, and the prayer of Re 1:4. Other passages cited seem to me of very questionable application.

Objections Answered.

Against the Spirit’s personality, it has been urged, that it is preposterous to speak of a Person as shed forth, poured out; as constituting the material of an anointing (1Jo 2:27); whereas, if the Holy Spirit is understood as only a name for God’s influences, the figure is proper. The answer is, that the Holy Spirit’s gifts are meant, when the giver is named, a most common and natural metonymy. The expressions are surely no harder to reconcile, than those of "putting on Christ," to be "baptized into Christ" (Eph 5:30; Ro 13:14; Ga 3:27).

To the proper divinity of the Holy Spirit it has been objected, that He is evidently subordinate, inasmuch as He is sent by the Father and the Son, and is limited in His messages by what they commit to Him (Joh 16:7,13). The obvious answer is, that this subordination is only economical, relating to the official work to which the Divine Spirit condescends for man’s redemption, and it no more proves His inferiority, than the humiliation of the Son, His.

History of Question of Procession.

The Nicene Creed, as settled A.D. 381, by the Council of Constantinople, had stated that the Holy Spirit proceedeth from the Father, saying nothing of any procession from the Son. But the Western Doctors, especially Augustine, leaned more and more towards the view, that His personal relation connected Him in the same inscrutable way, with the Father and the Son. As the Arian Christians of the Gothic nations, who had occupied the Western provinces of the empire, began to come into the Orthodox Catholic Church, it was judged more important, to assert the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son equally with the Father, in order to eradicate any lingering ideas of a subordination of substance in the Son, which converts from Arianism might be supposed to feel. Hence, we are told a provincial council in Toledo, A.D. 458, first enacted that the Latin form of the creed should receive the addition of the words, filioque. But this, although popular in Spain and France, was not adopted in Rome, even so late as A.D. 809, when Charlemagne endeavored in vain to secure its adoption by the Bishop of Rome. But the Latin Christians were continually using it more extensively, to the indignation of the Greeks. This addition, as yet unwarranted, was the bone of contention (along with others), throughout the 9th and subsequent centuries. The Latin Primate seems to have sanctioned the addition to the creed, about the 11th century, proceeding upon that general doctrinal consent, which the Latin Church had for so many centuries, held to be the voice of inspiration, according to the maxim of Vincentius of Lerins. In the great Council of Lyons, A.D. 1374, the Greeks, eager for a compromise, on account of the pressure of the Mohammedans, submitted to the Latin doctrine. But they soon returned to their old views with new violence. Again, in 1439, the kingdom of Constantinople, then tottering to its fall, submitted to a partial compromise, in order to secure Western support; and it was agreed in the Council of Florence (adjourned to Pisa), that it should be said: the Holy Spirit proceedeth from the Father through the Son. But even this, the Greeks soon repudiated; and both parties have returned, ever since, to their opposition.

Argument Inconclusive.

To the dispassionate mind, the dispute cannot but appear of small importance, and the grounds of both parties uncertain. The basis on which the idea itself of an eternal and necessary relation of procession rests, seems to me scarcely sufficiently solid without the analogy of the Son. It is composed of the facts that the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit, pneuma, of the Father (from pnew), and that in one solitary passage (Joh 15:26), it is said, He "proceedeth from the Father." All parties admit, that if there is such an eternal relation as procession, it is inscrutable. On the one hand, the Greeks rely on the fact that He is never said to proceed from the Son; and on the ancient view of the Greek scholastic fathers, that the Father alone is the Arch, or phgh Qeou. On the other hand, the Latins urge, that the Holy Spirit is stated to be related to the Son, in the Scriptures, in every way, except procession, just as He is to the Father. He is the "Spirit of the Son," as well as the Spirit of the Father (and they suppose the very name, Spirit, expresses His eternal relation as much as the word procession). He is sent by the Son, and He is sent by the Father; He shows the things of the Son as much as those of the Father; for Christ says, "All things that the Father hath are mine" (Joh 16:15). But as Dick well observes: Unless it can be proved that spiration, mission, and speaking the things of Christ, exhaust the whole meaning of procession, the demonstration is not complete. And since the whole meaning of procession is not intelligible to human minds, that quality of meaning cannot be known, except by an express assertion of God Himself. Such an express word we lack; and Hence, it appears to me, that this is a subject on which we should not dogmatize. Should it be that the Son does not share with the Father the eternal spiration of the Spirit, this would no more imply an essential inferiority of the Second Person, than does his filiation. The essence is common to the three Persons; the relations incommunicable. Enough for us to know the blessed truth, that under the Covenant of Grace, the Divine Spirit condescends economically to commit the dispensation of His saving influences to the Son as our king, and to come at His bidding, according to the agreement, to subdue, sanctify, and save us. It may be said, that, as there is a peculiar point of view from which the grace, condescension and majesty of both the other persons are especially displayed, calling for our gratitude and reverence, so the same thing is true of the Holy Spirit. The Father condescends, in giving his Son. The Son, in assuming our nature and guilt; and the Spirit, in making His immediate abiding place in our guilty breasts, and there purging out the depravity, which His majesty and justice, as very God, would rather prompt Him to avenge.

Divinity of the 2nd and 3rd Persons Proved By Offices In Redemption.

The nature of the offices performed by the Second and Third Persons in redemption, implies and demands a proper divinity. This argument will require us to anticipate some truths concerning the I mediatorial offices, and the doctrines of redemption; but I trust that sufficient general knowledge exists in all well informed young Christians, to make the discussion intelligible to them. This argument is peculiarly important and interesting, although too little urged by theologians, ancient or modern. It shows that this high mystery of the Trinity has a most extensive practical aspect; and that the scheme of the Socinian not only impugns a mystery, but makes havoc of the Christian’s most practical hopes.

Christ performs the work of our redemption in three offices, as prophet, priest, and king. The offices of the Holy Spirit, in applying redemption, connect themselves with the first in enlightening and guiding us, and with the third in converting us. I shall, therefore, couple the evidence of His divinity from those two offices, with what I have to say of the Son’s under the same heads.

Christ and Holy Spirit As Guides, Must Be Divine.

(a.) Christ and His Spirit cannot be the sufficient guides of an immortal spirit, unless they have a truly infinite understanding. If our view be limited only to the preparation of a Bible for us, and all the constant, varied, endless, inward guidance be left out of view, then the wonder would be, how one moderate volume could be made to contain principles sufficient for an infinite diversity of applications. No human book does this. To draw up, select topics for, digest such a code, required omniscience.

But this is not all. We have daily inward guidance, by the Holy Spirit and providences applying the word. Now, so endlessly diversified and novel are the exigencies of any one soul, and so eternal and infinite the consequence connected, it may be, with any one act, that it requires an infinite understanding to lead one soul, infallibly, through its mortal life, in such a way as to insure safe consequences to all eternity. How much more to lead all Christians at once?

But this is not all. Saints will be under duty in heaven. They will have approached towards moral stability and wisdom to an indefinite degree, by means of their ages of holy action and strengthening habits. But they will still not be omniscient nor absolutely immutable. These perfections belong to God only. To a fallible creature, every precept and duty implies a possible error and transgression, just as a right branch in a highway implies a left. But as the saint’s existence is protracted to immortality, the number and variety of these moral exigencies become literally infinite. Hence, had he only a finite wisdom and holiness to guide him through them, the possibility of error, sin and fall at some one of these tests, would become a probability, and would grow ever towards a violent one, approaching a certainty. The gospel promises that the saint’s glorified state shall be everlasting and infallible. This can only be accomplished by his having the guidance of infinite perfections. But since we are assured that "the Lamb is their light," we see at once, that his light is none other than that of omniscience.

Christ As A Priest, Must Be Divine.

(b.) None but a properly divine being could undertake Christ’s priestly work. Had he been the noblest creature in heaven, his life and powers would have been the property of God, our offended Judge; and our Advocate could not have claimed as He does (Joh 10:18), that He had, exousian, to lay down His life and to take it again. Then: unless above law, He could have no imputable, active obedience. (c.) Unless sustained by omnipotence, unless sustained by inward omnipotence, He could never have endured the wrath of the Almighty for the sins of the world; it would have sunk Him into perdition. (d.) Had there not been a divine nature to reflect an infinite dignity upon His person, His suffering the curse of sin for a few years, would not have been a satisfaction sufficient to propitiate God for the sins of a world. After the sacrifice, comes intercession. His petitioners and their wants are so numerous, that unless He were endowed with sleepless attention, an omnipotence which can never tire, an infinite understanding, omnipresence, and exhaustless kindness, He could not wisely and graciously attend to so many and multifarious calls. Here we see how worthless are Popish intercessors, who are only creatures.

Our King Must Be Divine.

(c.) Christ, through His Holy Spirit, begins His kingly work with us, by "subduing us unto Himself." This is effected in the work of regeneration. Now we shall see, when we discuss effectual calling, that this is a directly almighty work. Our sanctification also demands omniscience. For he who would cure the ulcer, must probe it; but the heart is deceitful beyond all created ken. If the Holy Spirit, who is the practical, indwelling agent of these works, is a creature, then we have but a creature redemption, no matter how divine the Beings that send Him. For the channel of communication to our souls being finite, the communications would be limited. If you have the whole Atlantic Ocean connected with your reservoir by an inch pipe, you can draw but an inch of water at once. The vastness of the source does you no good, beyond the caliber of the connecting pipe. Moreover, Christ has all power committed to His hand, for the Church’s good. It requires omniscience to comprehend this, and omnipotence to wield it, especially when we recall the power of our enemies (Ro 8:38-39; Eph 6:12).

In fine, all is enhanced, when we remember that our stake is the soul, our all, whose loss is irreparable. There is no comfort unless we have an infallible dependence.

Chapter 16: Personal Distinctions in the Trinity

Section Two—Basic Doctrines of the Faith
Chapter 16: Personal Distinctions in the Trinity

Syllabus for Lecture 19:

1. State the opinions of Socinians, Arians and Orthodox, concerning the generation and filiation of the Son.

Turrettin, Loc. iii, Qus. 27, 29. Hill’s Divinity, bk, iii, ch. 10. Dr. S. Hopkins’ System, Vol. i, p. 362, and so on. Dick, Lecture 29. Cunningham’s Hist. Theol., ch. 9, Sect. 3. Knapp, Sect. 43. Alexander Campbell, "Christian System," ch. 4.

2. What were the opinions of the ante–Nicene Fathers, concerning the subordination, of the Second and Third Persons, the three–fold generation of the Son, and the distinction of Logo" endiaqeto" and Logo" Proforiko"?

The same citations. Knapp, Lecture 42. Neander, ch. Hist., Vol. i, p. 585.

3. Prove the eternal generation of the Son; refute the common objections, and overthrow the Socinian and Arian explanations thereof.

Same citations. "Letters on the Eternal Sonship of Christ," by Dr. Samuel Miller, iii, iv. Watson’s Theol. Inst., pt. ii, ch. 12, Sect. 5.

4. What is the difference between the generation of the Son, and the Procession of the Spirit? Can the latter be proved eternal?

Same citations.

1. The discussions and definitions of the more formal and scholastic Theologians, concerning the personal distinctions in the Godhead, have always seemed to me to present a striking instance of the reluctance of the human mind to confess its own weakness. For, let any read them with the closest attention, and he will perceive that he has acquired little more than a set of terms, whose abstruseness serves to conceal from him their practical lack of meaning. It is debated whether the personal distinction is real, or formal, or virtual, or personal, or modal. Turrettin decides that it may best be called modal—i. e., as a distinction in the modus subsistendi. But what those modes of subsistence are, remains none the less inscrutable; and the chief reason why the term modal is least objectionable, seems to be that it is most general. After all, the mind must be content with these facts, the truth of which it may apprehend, although their full meaning cannot be comprehended by us; that there is an eternal and necessary distinction between the essence and the persons, the former being absolute, and the latter relative; that the whole essence is truly in each person, with all its attributes; that yet the essence is not divided or distributed between them, but single and indivisible; that the distinction of persons is one truly subsisting, subsisting eternally by the very necessity of the divine nature, and not merely relative to our apprehensions of it; and that the persons are not convertible the one into the other, nor the properties of the one predicable of another.

Personal Properties.

Each Person has its peculiar property, which is not indeed constitutive of, but distinctive of it. The property of the Father is to be unbegotten; of the Son, generation; and of the Spirit, procession. Hence, three characteristic relations—in the Father, paternity; in the Son, filiation; and in the Holy Spirit, spiration. That there are such properties and relations, we know; what they are, we do not know.

2. Order of the Persons.

We find ourselves speaking almost inevitably of First, Second, and Third persons, implying some form of order in the persons. No orthodox Christian, of course, understands this order as relating to a priority of time, or of essential dignity. To what, then, does it relate? And is there any substantial reason for assigning such an order at all? We reply, there must be, when we find that where the three persons are mentioned by Scripture, in connection, as in Mt 27:19, etc. they are usually mentioned as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and not in reversed order; that in all allusions to the properties and relations of the three, the Father is always spoken of (e. g., the word Father) by some term or trait implying primary rank, and the other two, by some implying secondariness; as Christ is His Son, the Holy Spirit His Spirit; they are sent, He the Sender; and in their working, there is always a sort of reference to the Father’s primariness (if I may coin a word), directing their operation (Joh 5:26; 10:38; 14:11; 17:21; Heb 1:3).

View of Greek Fathers Thereon.

But if it be asked, what is the primariness, the answer is not so easy. It was the usual answer of the ante Nicene, and especially the Greek Fathers, that it indicated the order of derivation, that the personality of the Son is from that of the Father, not the Father’s from the Son; and so of the Holy Spirit. (And so far, it must be allowed, the fair force of the Scripture facts just stated, carries them properly enough.) The Father they regarded as anaitio", as phgh Qeou, or Arch Qeou, the Son and Holy Spirit as aitiatoi, as Qeoi ek Qeou, and as deriving their personal subsistence from the eternal act of the Father in communicating the divine essence to them in those modes of subsistence. And this view was embodied in both forms of the Nicene Creed, of A.D. 325 and 381, where the Son is called, "God of God, Light of Light, and very God of very God"; language never applied to the Father as to the Son. Their idea is, that the Father, the original Godhead, eternally generates the person, not the substance of the Son, and produces by procession the person, not the substance of the Holy Spirit, by inscrutably communicating the whole indivisible divine substance, essentially identical with Himself in these two modes of subsistence; hence eternally causing the two persons, by causing the two additional modes of subsistence. This statement, they suppose, was virtually implied in the very relation of terms, Father and His Son, Father and His pneuma, by the primariness of order always assigned to the Father, and by the distinction in the order of working. And they relied upon view to vindicate the doctrine of the Trinity from the charge of tritheism. You will probably think, with me, that its value for this last purpose is questionable, for this reason: that the modes of subsistence of the persons being wholly inscrutable, the true answer to the charge of tritheism is to be found for our minds, in that fact, coupled with the Scriptural affirmation, that God is one as truly as the persons are three. No explanation of the derivation of one subsistence from another really brings us any nearer to the secret, how it is one and three. But the answers, which the advocates of this Patristic view presented to objections, seem to my mind much more consistent than Dick would intimate. Was it objected, that they represented the Second and Third Persons as beginning to exist, and hence robbed them of a true self–existence and eternity? These Fathers could answer with justice: No, the processes of personal derivation were eternal, immanent processes, and the Father has a personal priority, not in time, but only in causation; e. g., the sun’s rays have existed precisely as long as he has; yet the rays are from the sun and not the sun from the rays. And the Second Person may be derived as to His personality, Qeo" ek Qeou, and yet self–existent God; because His essence is the one self–existent essence, and it is only His personality which is derived. They regard self–existence as an attribute of essence, not of person. Was it objected that these derived personalities were unequal to the First Person? They answer: No, because the Father put His whole essence in the two other modes of subsistence. Was it said, that then the personal subsistence of the Second and Third was dependent on the good pleasure of the First; and, therefore, revocable at His pleasure? They answered, that the generation and procession were not free, contingent acts, but necessary and essential acts, free indeed, yet necessitated by the very perfection of the eternal substance. You will perceive that I have not used the word subordination, but derivation, to express this personal relation. If you ask me whether I adopt the Patristic view, hence cleared, as my own, I reply, that there seems to me nothing in itinconsistent with revealed truth; yet it seems to me rather a rational explanation of revealed facts, than a revealed fact itself. On such a subject, therefore, none should dogmatize.

Logo" Endiaqeto", Etc.

It may be well to explain, also, how the Rationalizing Fathers connected their theory of the Trinity with this generation of the Son. Attempting to comprehend the Divine essence through the analogy of the human spirit, and according to the Platonic metaphysics, they said that the Son or Logo", is God’s Reason or intellective action; and the Holy Spirit His yuch, or emotive and vital activity.

In the ages of eternity the Son was the Dogo" endiaqeto" or Ratio insita, God’s reason acting only by self–comprehension, according to Pr 8:22; Joh 1:2. When, in time, God began to effectuate His decree in works of creation and providence, He became the Logo" proyoriko", or ratio prolata. When at length He was born of the flesh for man’s redemption.

He became the Logo" ensarkiko", incarnate. Hence, the Father maybe said to have made three productions of the Son—one from eternity, one when, in time, the Son was sent out as Agent of God’s working, one when He was born of the Virgin.

3. Is Christ’s Generation Eternal?

This is the transition point, to enable us to comprehend the views of the Arians concerning Christ’s generation. These heretics usually admitted the justice of the metaphysical explanation of God’s immanent acts. But, said they, as the human mind has not one, but a numerous series of acts of intellection, nohmata, so a fortiori, the infinite mind of God. There is, of course, some primary nohma and this is the eternal, immanent Logo" of Joh 1:2. There are other nohmata in the divine mind, and some one of these is the one embodied, in time, in the creation of the Son, "by whom He made the worlds." Hence they endeavoured to reconcile the creation of the Son out of nothing, with the eternity of a Logo". How worthless all this is, I need not say.

Scripture Language Thereon.

The Arians, like all others, heterodox and orthodox, find in the Scriptures ascriptions of a peculiar Sonship of Christ, needing some explanation. And we might as well array the more general of these Scripture representations here, as at a later stage of the discussion. I shall then pursue the method of bringing the several explanations of the Arian, Socinian, and orthodox, to the test of these Scriptures.

The Messiah is called the Son of God, directly or indirectly, once in the Old Testament, and about one hundred and sixteen times in the New Testament, and the Father receives that title two hundred and twenty times; while no creature is ever called the Son of God, in the singular number, except Adam. Lu 3:38. And there the peculiarity is accounted for by the fact that it was the Evangelist’s purpose to show that Adam, like Christ, had no human father. Christ is God’s beloved Son (Mt 3:17; 17:5; Mr 1:11, etc). He is the Son who alone knoweth the Father (Lu 10:22; Joh 10:15); and who reveals Him. He claims God as "His own Father," in such a sense as to make the Jews believe that He made Himself equal with God (Joh 5:17–19). He is a Son to be honoured as the Father is (Joh 5:23). He doeth whatever He seeth the Father do (Joh 5:19). He is one with the Father (Joh 10:30). He is in the bosom of the Father, though incarnate (Joh 1:18); and is the only–begotten of the Father (Joh 1:14); and prwtotoko" pash" ktisew"(Col 1:15). Here, surely, is evidence of some peculiar relation other than that borne by God’s rational, or even His holy creatures generally.

Arian Exposition.

Now, says the Arian, this Divine Creature is called the Son, and only begotten, because He is the first Creature the Father ever produced out of nothing, and the only one whom He produced immediately, by His own agency; all subsequent productions, including those of the Holy Spirit, being through the agency of this Son. He is called Son, moreover, because He has received a peculiar adoption, is deputized God to other creatures, and a splendid creature image of the divine glory. He is also called Son, as being born by miraculous power of a virgin, and being constituted God’s Messenger to fallen man. And last: He is Son, as being the Heir, by adoption, of God’s throne and glory.

Socinian Explanation.

The Socinian makes Jesus Christ only a holy man: and in his eyes His peculiar Sonship means nothing more than that He was born of a virgin without human father, that He was adopted by God, and endued with most eminent spiritual endowments, that He was sent forth as God’s chosen mouth piece to call a fallen race to repentance and obedience; and that He received the privilege of an immediate glorification, including His resurrection, ascension, and exaltation to God’s throne.

A Peculiar View of Some Trinitarians.

But among Trinitarians themselves there are some, who give to Christ’s Sonship a merely temporal meaning. They believe that the Second and the Third persons are as truly divine as we do; they believe with us, that there is a personal distinction, which has been eternal; but they do not believe that the terms generation and procession were ever intended by Scripture to express that eternal relation. On the contrary, they suppose that they merely denote the temporal functions which the persons assume for man’s redemption. Such appears to have been the view of the Hollander Roell, of Dr. Ridgeley, in Eng; of Emmons and Moses Stuart, of New Eng.; and of the notorious Alex. Campbell.

Socinian Explanation Fails.

Now, to begin with the lowest scheme, the Socinian: it utterly fails at the first blush of the contest. It does not explain why Christ is called the Son, while all other creatures are called sons in the plural only. It does not explain why He was the beloved Son, why He comprehended and revealed the Father, why He was of equal honour, and identical substance, rather than other holy creatures. It utterly fails to explain why He is only begotten; for Adam was begotten by God’s direct power, not only without father, but without mother. His endowments and His mission only differed, according to Socinians, in degree from those of other prophets, who were, therefore, in this sense, as truly sons as He. And finally, His resurrection and glorification leave Him behind Enoch and Elijah, who were translated.

Arian Explanation Fails.

The Arian scheme also fails to explain how His Sonship made Him one with the Father, and of equal honour; how it capacitates Him to be the revealer and image of the Father’s person and glory in a manner generically different from all other creatures; and how it proves Him only–begotten. It leaves unsatisfied the declaration, that while they were ktisia" He was prwtotoko"; and begotten before every creature; so that He would be produced in a totally different way from, and produced before, the whole creature class to which, on their scheme, He belongs! And last, like the Socinian scheme, it leaves wholly unexplained how a creature (therefore finite) could be competent to the exercise of all the works he seeth the Father do, and to a divine glorification.

Only An Eternal Generation Meets the Texts.

Against the third view I would urge the general force of the passages I collected above. It may at least be said, that if it were not intended to teach that the permanent personal distinction was that of filiation, the Scriptures have been singularly unfortunate. But I shall proceed to cite other authorities, which are more decisive of the point. In doing this I shall be also adding to the overthrow of the Arian and Socinian views by an a fortiori argument. For if a scheme of temporal filiation, coupled with the admission of a true and eternal, though unnamed, personal distinction, will not satisfy the meaning of the texts; still less will the scheme of a temporal filiation which denies the eternity and divinity of the Second person.

Because Christ Is Son, When Sent.

A. In a number of passages it is said, that God "sent," "gave," His Son: e.g., Ro 8:3. "God sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh," (Joh 3:16,8; 4:9; Ga 4:4; Ac 3:26). Now, who would dream that when God says, "He sends the Son in the flesh," He was not His Son before, but was made such by the sending (1Ti 3:16; 1Jo 3:8)?

Son, When Pre–Existent.

The three Old Testament passages (Ps 2:7; Pr 8:7,22-23; Mic 5:2), are advanced with great subtlety and force by Turrettin. He favours, for the first, the interpretation of the "today" ("have I begotten thee"), as the punctum stans, or eternal now, of the divine decree. The great objection is, that the idiom and usage of the Psalms do not sustain it. It is better, with Calvin and Hengstenberg, to understand the verb, "have begotten," according to a frequent Hebrew usage, as equivalent to the manifestation, or declaration, of His generation. This took place when Christ was revealed to His Church. The passage then does not prove, but neither does it disprove, the eternity of His generation. In this text, as well as Pr 8:22-23, Turrettin argues the identity of the subject with Jesus Christ, with great force. In Mic 5:2, the application to Jesus Christ is indisputable, being fixed by Mt 2:6. The relevancy of the text to His eternal generation depends on two points—whether the phrase "going forth," taox;/m

means generation or production, or only manifestation in action; and whether the phrase "from of old, from days of forever" means eternity, or only antiquity. As to the former question, we are shut up to the first meaning of generation, by the usage. (Gesenius giving only "origin, descent"), and by the consideration that Christ’s manifestation in action has not been eternal. B. As to the second question, the sense of proper eternity is certainly the most natural. The only plausible rendering besides the one given by Turrettin is the one hinted by Gesenius: ("whose descent is from antiquity"; referring to the antiquity of Christ’s human lineage). And manifestly this gives to the noun the perverted sense of channels of descent instead of act of production, its proper meaning.

Father Is Eternally Father.

C. We find another argument for the eternal generation of the Son, in a number of passages, as the Baptismal formula; the Apostolic benediction (Mt 11:27; Lu 10:22; Joh 5:22; 10:33–37; Ro 8:32; and so on). In all these cases the word Son is used in Immediate connection with the word Father, so that it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the one is reciprocal to the other. The Son is evidently Son in a sense answering to that in which the Father is Father. But do these passages permit us to believe that the first Person here receives that term, only because He has produced a human nature in which to clothe the Son, when the two first passages give an enumeration of the three divine Persons as making up the Godhead, presented in its most distinctive divine attitude, receiving the highest acts of worship, and all the others bring to view acts in which the Father and Son mutually share essentially divine acts or honours? It is plain that the paternity here means something characteristic and permanent; so, then, does the filiation.

Ro 1:3–4.

D. In Ro 1:3-4; we read that the "Son of God was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, declared with power orisqento" to be the Son of God according to the Spirit of Holiness," and so on. Here we not only find the evidence of head that the Son was made flesh, and so was Son before; but the evident antithesis between the flesh and the Spirit of holiness, His divine nature, compels us to read that His resurrection forcibly manifested Him to be God’s Son as to His divine nature, even as He was David’s as to His human. But if His filiation to God respects His divine nature, as contrasted with His human, the question is settled.

Christ Is Son When Creating.

E. I may group together two very similar passages, Col 1:14–17 and Heb 1:3–6. The Sonship, is surely not merely the incarnation, when it is stated to be a begetting before every creature! The Son as Son, and not as incarnate only, is represented in both passages as performing divine functions, as representing the Father’s nature and glory; from which we must infer that His Sonship is something belonging to His divinity, not His humanity merely. And in Heb 5:5-6, the Apostle seems to aim explicitly to separate His Sonship from that of all others as divine and peculiar. Consider hence: Heb 1:2; 3:5-6; 7:3,28. In a word, the generation of the Son, and procession of the Spirit, however mysterious, are unavoidable corollaries from two facts. The essence of the Godhead is one; the persons are three. If these are both true, there must be some way, in which the Godhead multiplies its personal modes of subsistence, without multiplying or dividing its substance. The Scriptures call one of these modes a genesi" and the other an ekporeusi". We hence learn two truths. The Second and Third substances are eternally propagated in dissimilar modes. The inscrutable mode of the Second substance bears some mysterious analogy to the generation of human sons.


It has been supposed that the following texts were repugnant to our view, by showing that the filiation had a temporal origin in Christ’s incarnation and exaltation as a mediatorial Person (Mt 16:16; Lu 1:35; Joh 1:49); seem, it is said, to imply that His Sonship is nothing else than His Messiahship, and in Joh 10:35-36; it is said, He states Himself to be Son because sanctified and sent into the world by the Father. The answer is, that this argument confounds the traits which define Him as Son with those which constitute Him the Son. To say that the Messiah, the Sent, is the one who is Son, is far short of saying that these offices make Him the Son. It is said that Ac 13:33, and Col 1:18, refer the Sonship to his resurrection, the former of these passages especially, citing Ps 2:7 in support of that view. I reply, that it is only a mistranslation which seems to make Ac 13:33 relate to Christ’s resurrection at all. We should read, in that God hath set up (as Messiah) Jesus: as it is written in Ps 2—"Thou art my Son: this day have I begotten Thee." Here we see a striking confirmation of the sense given above to this Psalm viz: that Christ’s Sonship was declaratively manifested by His installment as Messiah. In the Col 1:18, Christ is said to be the prwtotoko" ek twn nekrwn. But evidently the concluding words should explain the meaning: "That in all things He might have the preeminence," in the resurrection of New Testament saints, as well as in an eternal generation.

Once more, it is claimed that Lu 1:35; plainly defines the incarnation as the ground of the Sonship. The simplest reply is, that the divine nature (compare Ro 1:4), was never born of the virgin but only the humanity. This nature, hence united in the mediatorial Person, was called God’s Son, because of its miraculous generation, so that the whole mediatorial person, in both natures, might be Son of God; that which is eternal, eternally Son, and that which is temporal, temporally Son. If the adverse rendering is to hold, then, first, the Holy Spirit, and not the First Person, is the Father of Christ, and second, His Sonship would be only equal to Adam’s.

General Force of Words: Father–Son.

In fine, there is a general argument for the eternal generation of the Son, in the simple fact the Scripture has chosen this most simple and important pair of words to express a relation between the First and Second Persons. There must have been a reason for the choice, there must be something corresponding to the well–known meaning of this pair of words, else eternal truth would not have employed them. That meaning must of course be compatible with God’s immateriality and eternity, and must be stripped of all the elements arising from man’s corporeal and finite nature and temporal existence. It is not corporeal generation, nor generation in time; but after stripping it of all this, do we not inevitably get this, as the residuum of meaning, that the personal subsistence of the Son is derivative, though eternal, and constitutes His nature the same with the Father’s?

Personal Relation of Holy Spirit.

Fourth. It is a remarkable fact, that while so many terms and traits belonging to generation are given to the Second Person, not one of them is ever given in Scripture to the Third. He is indeed "sent" as the Son is "sent," but this is in both cases, not the modal, but merely the official term. The nature of the Third personality is always represented by the word "breath," and his production is only called a "proceeding out" The inference seems fair, that the mode of personal subsistence, and the personal relation is therefore different from that of the Son. But as both are inscrutable, we cannot tell in what they differ (see Turrettin, Locus 3, Qu. 31, § 3).

Is It Eternal?

The evidence for the eternity of this personal relation, between the Spirit and the other two Persons, is much more scanty than that for the eternity of the Son’s filiation. In only one place (Joh 15:26), is the Holy Spirit said to proceed from the Father. If that place stood alone, it could never be determined from it whether it was intended by our Saviour to define the mode of the eternal subsistence of the Third person, or only to denote his official function in time. But besides the analogy of the Son’s relation, we may infer with reasonable certainty that it intends an eternal relation. As his generation is not a mere commissioning in time, so the Spirit’s procession is not a mere sending or an office in time. Otherwise the symmetry of the doctrine of the Trinity would be fatally broken; while the Scriptures hold out three coordinate Persons, eternally subsisting and related as Persons, inter se, we should be guilty of representing the Third as bearing no permanent relation to the others.

Chapter 17: The Decrees of God

Section Two—Basic Doctrines of the Faith
Chapter 17: The Decrees of God

Syllabus for Lecture 20:

1. How do Theologians classify the acts of God?

Turrettin, Loc. iv, Qu. 1. Dick, Lecture 34.

2. What is God’s Decree? Where is it different from Fate? What is the distinction between permissive and efficacious?

Conf. of Faith, ch. 3. Turrettin, ubi supra, and Loc. vi Qu. 2. Dick, ubi supra. Calv. Inst., bk. iii, ch. 21.

3. Establish the following properties of the decree, A. Unity, B. Eternity, C. Universality, embracing especially the future acts of free agents, D. Efficiency, E. Absoluteness from conditions, F. Freedom, and G. Wisdom.

Turrettin, Loc. iv, Qus. 2, 3 and 4. Hill, bk. iv, ch. 7, Sect. 1-3. Dick, ubi supra. Watson’s Theol. Inst., ch. 26, Sect. I. Knapp, Sect. 32. Witsius on Cov., bk, iii, ch. 4. Dr. S. Hopkins’ System, Vol. i, pp. 136–153.

4. How may the objections be answered; A. That the Decree destroys free agency and responsibility; B. Supersedes the use of means; C. Makes God the author of Sin.

Turrettin, as above. Dick, Lectures 34 and 36.

God’s Acts Classified.

Our study now leads us from the consideration of God’s nature to His acts. Theologians have usually classified them under three sorts. The first are God’s immanent eternal acts, which are wholly subjective. These are the generation of the Son, and procession of the Holy Spirit. Second, are God’s immanent and eternal acts having reference to objects out of Himself. This class includes His decree; an unchangeable and eternal act of God never passing over so as to cease to be His act, yet being relative to His creatures. Third, are God’s transient acts towards the universe external to Himself, including all His works of creation and providence done in time.

Decree Proved By God’s Intelligence.

"The decrees of God are His eternal purpose according to the counsel of His will, whereby, for His own glory, He hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass."

Nature and Revelation concur to teach us that God is a Being of infinite intelligence, and of will. The eternal object of His cognition, as we saw, when investigating His omniscience, is nothing less than the whole of the possible; for the wisdom and selection displayed in the creation of the actual, show that there was more before the Divine Mind, than what was effectuated. But when we inquire for the ground of the difference between God’s natural and His voluntary knowledge, we find no other than His volition. That is, the only way in which any object can by any possibility have passed from God’s vision of the possible into His foreknowledge of the actual, is by His purposing to effectuate it Himself, or intentionally and purposely to permit its effectuation by some other agent whom He expressly purposed to bring into existence. This is clear from this fact. An effect conceived in posse only rises into actuality by virtue of an efficient cause or causes. When God was looking forward from the point of view of His original infinite prescience, there was but one cause, Himself. If any other cause or agent is ever to arise, it must be by God’s agency. If effects are embraced in God’s infinite prescience, which these other agents are to produce, still, in willing these other agents into existence, with infinite prescience, God did virtually will into existence, or purpose, all the effects of which they were to be efficients. That this prescience is all-embracing, the Scriptures assert in too many places (Ac 15:18; Isa 42:9; 46:10; Ps 147:5; Joh 21:17). Therefore, His purpose must extend to all that is, or is to be effectuated.

By His Power.

The same conclusion follows by a more popular reasoning from God’s power; that power extends to all beings and events, and is the source of all existence. Now it is impossible for us to conceive how an intelligent Being can set about producing anything, save as He has the conception of the thing to be produced in His mind, and the intention to produce it in His will. Least of all can we attribute an unintelligent and aimless working to God. But if He is concerned in the production of all things, and had an intelligent purpose with reference to all which He produced, there is His decree; and His perfections, as we shall see, forbid our imputing any beginning to it. So, the sovereignty of God, which regulates all the universe, the doctrine of His providence, so fully asserted in Scripture, and His concurring perfections of knowledge and wisdom, show that He must have a purpose as to all things (Eph 1:11; Ps 33:11). Other passages, extending this purpose specifically to various departments of events, and especially to those concerning which the decree is most contested, will be cited in other connections. These also are appropriate here.

Is the Decree In God Essentially?

The question whether God’s decrees abide in Him essentially or accidentally, is but the same with that which we saw raised concerning the simplicity of the divine essence. The scholastic divines, in order to defend their metaphysical notion of this said that God knows, feels, wills, and so on, by His essence, or that God’s knowledge is but His essence knowing, and so on. As we then concluded concerning His knowledge, so I now say concerning His purpose. If it is meant that God’s purpose is but God purposing, and as abstracted from Him, is but an abstraction, and not an existent thing, I fully concur. But in the same sense, the purpose of a human soul is but that soul purposing. The difference of the two cases is, that God’s purpose is immanent and immutable, the man’s evanescent and mutable. To make the decree of God’s essence in any other sense, is to give it essence; to make it a mode of the divine subsistence. And this trenches hard by the awful verge of pantheism. For if the decree is but a mode of the divine subsistence, then its effectuation in the creature’s existence must still have the same essence, and all creatures are but modes of God, and their acts of God’s acts. The decrees are not accidents with God, in the sense that, being the result of God’s immutable perfections, they cannot change nor fail, but are as permanent as God’s essence.

Fate, What?

The doctrine of God’s decree has been often impugned as no better than the Stoic’s Fate. The modern, and indeed, the ancient interpreters of their doctrine, differ as to their meaning. Some, as Seneca, seem to represent fate as no other than the intelligent, eternal purpose of the Almighty. But others describe it as a physical necessity, self-existent and immanent in the links of causation themselves, by which effect is evolved out of cause according to a law eternally and necessarily existent in the Universe and all its parts. To this necessity Gods are as much subject as men. This definition is more probably the true one, because it agrees with a pantheistic system, and such Stoicism was. Now it is obvious, that this fate necessitates God as much as man, and that not by the influence of His own intelligence and perfections, but by an influence physical and despotic. Whereas our view of God’s purpose makes it His most free, sovereign, wise and holy act of choice. This fate is a blind necessity; God’s decree is intelligent, just, wise and benevolent. Fate was a necessity, destroying man’s spontaneity. God’s decree, in purposing to make and keep man a free agent, first produced and then protects the exercise of it.

God’s Decree Effective or Permissive.

First. God’s decree "foreordains whatsoever comes to pass"; there was no event in the womb of the future, the futurition of which was not made certain to God by it. But we believe that this certainty is effectuated in different ways, according to the different natures of God’s creatures. One class of effects God produces by His own immediate agency (as creations, regenerations, inspirations), and by physical causes, which are continually and immediately energized by His power. This latter subdivision is covered by what we call the laws of material nature. As to these, God’s purpose is called effective, because He Himself effects the results, without the agency of other intelligent agents. The other class of effects is, the spontaneous acts of rational free agents other than God. The being and powers of these are derived from and dependent on God. But yet He has been pleased to bestow on them a rational spontaneity of choice which makes them as truly agents, sources of self-determined agency, in their little, dependent sphere of action, as though there were no sovereign over them. In my theory of the will, I admitted and claimed as a great truth of our consciousness, that man’s action is spontaneous, that the soul is self-determined (though not the faculty of willing) in all its free acts, that the fountain of the volition is in the soul itself; and that the external object of the action is but the occasional cause of volition. Yet these spontaneous acts God has some way of directing (only partially known to us), and these are the objects of His permissive decree. By calling it permissive, we do not mean that their futurition is not certain to God; or that He has not made it certain; we mean that they are such acts as He efficiently brings about by simply leaving the spontaneity of other free agents, as upheld by His providence, to work of itself, under incitements, occasions, bounds and limitations, which His wisdom and power throw around. To this class may be attributed all the acts of rational free agents, except such as are evoked by God’s own grace, and especially, all their sinful acts.

Properties—The Decree A Unit.

The properties of God’s decree are, first, Unity. It is one act of the divine mind; and not many. This view is at least suggested by Scripture, which speaks of it usually as a proqesi", a "purpose," a "counsel." It follows from the nature of God. As His natural knowledge is all immediate and cotemporaneous not successive, like ours, and His comprehension of it all infinitely complete always, His purpose founded thereon, must be a single, all comprehensive and simultaneous act. Besides, the whole decree is eternal and immutable. All therefore must coexist together always in God’s mind. Finally, God’s plan is shown, in its effectuation, to be one; cause is linked with effect and what was effect becomes cause; and influences of events on events interlace with each other, and descend in widening streams to subsequent events; so that the whole complex result is interconnected through every part. As astronomers suppose that the removal of one planet from our system would modify more or less the balance and orbits of all the rest, so the failure of one event in this plan would derange the whole, directly or indirectly. God’s plan is, never to effectuate a result apart from, but always by, its own cause. As the plan is hence a unit in its effectuation, so it must have been in its conception. Most of the errors, which have arisen in the doctrine, have come from the mistake of imputing to God that apprehension of His purpose in successive parts, to which the limitations of our minds confine us, in conceiving of it.

The Decree Eternal—Objections.

Second. The decree is eternal. One may object, that God must exist before His decree, the subject before its act. I reply, He exists before it only in the order of production, not in time. For intellection is His essential state, and His comprehension of His purpose may be as eternal as Himself. The sun’s rays are from the sun, but measuring by duration, there were rays as early as there was a sun. It has been objected that some parts of the decree are consequent on other parts, and cannot therefore be equally early. I reply, the real sequence is only in the events as effectuated, not in the decree of them. The latter is a coexistent unit with God, and there is no sequence of parts in it, except in our feeble minds. It is said the comprehension of the possible must have gone before in the divine mind, in order that the determination to effectuate that part which commended itself to the divine wisdom, might follow. I reply, God does not need to learn things deductively, or to view them piecemeal and successively; but His infinite mind sees all by immediate intuition and together; and in seeing, concludes. The most plausible objection is, that many of God’s purposes must have been formed in time, because suspended on the acts of other free agents to be done in time; e. g. (De 28:2,15; Jer 18:10). The answer is, that all these acts, though contingent to man, were certainly foreknown to God.

Its Eternity Argued From God’s Perfections and Scripture.

Having cleared away objections, we might argue very simply: If God had an intention to act, before each act, when was that intention born? No answer will be found tenable till we run back to eternity. For, God’s knowledge was always perfect, so that He finds out nothing new, to become the occasion of a new plan. His wisdom was always perfect, to give Him the same guidance in selecting means and ends. His power was always infinite, to prevent any failure, or successful resistance, which would cause Him to resort to new expedients.

His character is immutable; so that He will not causelessly change His own mind. There is therefore nothing to account for any addition to His original plan. But we may reason more comprehensively. It is, as we saw, only God’s purpose, which causes a part of the possible to become the actual. As the whole of God’s scientifia simplicis intelligentiae was present to Him from eternity, a reason is utterly wanting in Him, why any part of the decree should be formed later than any other part.

And to this agree the Scriptures (Isa 46:10; Mt 25:34; 1Co 2:7; Eph 1:4; 2Th 2:13; 2Ti 1:9; 1Pe 1:20). On these, two remarks should be made. Although they do not expressly assert the eternity of all God’s decrees, several of them do assert the eternity of the very ones most impugned, His decrees concerning events dependent on free agent. In the language of Scripture, to say a thing was done "before the formation of the world," is to say it is from eternity, because with the creation of the universe began successive duration. All before this is the measureless eternity. In conclusion, I add the express assertion of Ac 25:18.

The Decree Universal.

Third. The decree is universal, embracing absolutely all creatures, and all their actions. No nominal Christians contest this, except as to the acts of free agents, which the Arminians, but especially the Socinians, exempted from God’s sovereign decree, and the latter heretics from His foreknowledge. We have seen that God’s foreknowledge is founded on His foreordination. If then we prove that God has a perfect foreknowledge of all future events, we shall have virtually proved that He has foreordained them. The Socinians are more consistent than the Arminians here, in that they deny both to God. They define God’s omniscience as His knowledge of all the cognizable. All the future acts of free agents, say they, cannot be foreknown, because a multitude of them are purely contingent; the volitions springing from a will in equilibrio. It is therefore no derogation to God’s understanding, that He does not foreknow all of them, any more than it would be to the goodness of an eye, that it does not see what as yet does not exist. When free agents perform acts unforeseen to God, His wisdom, say they, provides Him with a multitude of resources, by which He overrules the result, and still makes them concur substantially (not absolutely) with His wise and good plans.

Includes the Volitions of Free Agents.

Now, in opposition to all this, we have shown that the future volitions of free agents are none of them among the unknowable; because none contingent to God. We argue farther that God must have foreordained, and so foreknown all events, including these volitions: A. Because, else, His providence would not be sovereign, and His independence and omnipotence would be impugned. We have seen that the course of events is a chain, in which every link has a direct or remote connection with every other. Into a multitude of physical events, the volitions of free agents enter as part causes; and if God has not a control over all these, He could not have over the dependent results. His government would be a capricious patchwork of new expedients. Because He could not control everything, He would not be absolutely sure of controlling anything, for all are Interdependent. B. God’s knowledge would receive continual accretions, and thus His feelings and plans would change with them; His immutability would be gone. C. Prophecy concerning the acts of free agents would have been impossible. For unless all the collateral links of causation are under God’s control, it may be that He will be unable to control a single result. But a multitude of the acts of the proudest, most arrogant and rebellious men were exactly and confidently predicted, of your Nebuchadnezzars, Pharaohs, Cyrus, and so on. To this last agree the Scriptures (Eph 1:10-11; Ro 11:33; Heb 4:13; Ro 9:15,18; Ac 15:18; 17:26; Job 14:5; Isa 46:10). Men’s volitions, especially including the evil (Eph 2:10; Ac 2:23; 4:27-28; Ps 76:10; Pr 16:4,33; Da 4:34-35; Ge 14:5; Isa 10:5,15; Jos 11:20; Pr 20:24; Isa 14:7; Am 3:6; Ps 107:17; 1Sa 2:25; 2Sa 16:10; 1Ki 12:15,24; 2Ki 25:2-3,20). Add all those texts where the universality of God’s providential control is asserted: for Providence is but the execution of the decree.

The Decree Efficient.

Fourth. Nearly akin to this is the remark that the decree is efficient. By this I mean that God’s purpose is in every case absolutely sure to be effectuated. Nearly all the arguments adduced under the last head apply here: God’s sovereignty, God’s wisdom, His independence, and the dependence of all other things on Him, the "immutability of His counsel," and of His knowledge and other attributes, the certainty of His predictions, all demand that "His counsel shall stand, and He shall do all His pleasure" (Mt 26:54; Lu 22:22; Ac 4:28; Pr 16:33; Mt 10:29-30). Here we see that things most minute, most contingent in our view of them, and most voluntary, are yet efficaciously produced by God.

Over Free Agents Also.

The Arminians have too much reverence for God’s perfections to limit His knowledge as to the actions of free agents. But they endeavor to evade the inevitable conclusion of the decree, and to save their favorite doctrine of conditional purposes, by limiting His concern with the acts, and especially sins, of free agents, to a mere foreknowledge, permission, and intention to make the permitted act a condition of some part of the decree. I urge that they who concede so much, cannot consistently stop there. If the sinful act (to make the least possible concession to the Calvinist), of the free agent has been from eternity certainly foreseen by God, then its occurrence must be certain. But in this universe, nothing comes without a cause; there must therefore be some ground for the certainty of its occurrence. And it is upon that ground that God’s foreknowledge of it rests. Do you ask what that ground is? I reply by asking: How does God’s knowledge of the possible pass into His knowledge of the actual? Only by His determining to secure the occurrence of all the latter. Conceive of God as just now about to create a free agent, according to His plan, and launch him out on his path of freedom. If God foreknows all that the free agent will choose to do, if created; does He not purpose the doing of all tiers, when He creates him? To deny this is a contradiction. We may not be able to see fully how God certainly procures the doing of such acts by free agents, still leaving them to act purely from their own spontaneity; but we cannot deny that He does, without overthrowing His sovereignty and foreknowledge. Such events may. be wholly contingent to man; but to God none of them can be contingent; else all the parts of His decree, connected as effects with them as causes, would be in the same degree contingent. For instance: if Christ be not "taken, and by wicked hands crucified and slain," then, unless God is to proceed by rupturing the natural ties of cause and effect, all the natural and historical consequences of Christ’s sacrifice must also fail, down to the end of time and through eternity. If God is to be able to prevent all that failure, we must ascribe to Him power to make sure by His determinate counsel and foreknowledge that the wicked hands shall not fail to take and slay the victim. The same argument may be extended to every sinful act, from which the adorable wisdom of God has evolved good consequences. When we remind ourselves how moral causes interlace and spread as time flows on, we see that, unless the decree extends to sinful acts, making them also certain, God will be robbed, by our day, of nearly all His providential power over free agents, and His foreknowledge of their doings. As this branch of the decree is most impugned (by Arminians and Cumberland Presbyterians) let it be fortified by these additional Scriptures. First. They assert that God’s purpose is concerned in such sins as those of Eli’s sons (1Sa 2:25, of Shimei; 2Sa 16:10-11, of Ahithophel; 2Sa 17:14, of the Chaldeans; 2 Kings 26:2, 3, 20, of Jeroboam; 1Ki 12:15,24, of Amaziah; 2Ch 25:20, of Nebuchadnezzar; Jer 25:9; 51:20, of Pilate and Herod; Ac 3:17-18). Second. The Scriptures say that God, in some way, moves men to actions, such as Hadad, the Edomite, and Rezon, the son of Eliada, against Solomon (1Ki 11:14,23). David to number Israel (2Sa 24:1). Pul and Tiglath-pileser (1Ch 5:26). The Medes against them (Isa 13:17). The Egyptians (Ps 105:25). The secular Popish princes (Re 17:17). Third. The Bible represents God as being concerned, by His purpose and providence, in men’s self–deceptions (Job 12:16; Eze 14:9; 2Th 2:11-12). Fourth. God is described as "hardening" sinners’ hearts, in order to effectuate some righteous purpose (Isa 6:9-10; 29:10; Ro 11:7-8; Ex 4:21), et passim (Ro 9:18). How can all those declarations be explained away? We do not, of course, advance them as strewing God to be the author of sin, but they can mean no less than that His purpose determines, and His providence superintends the occurrence of sins, for His own holy ends.

The Decree Not Conditional.

We are now prepared to approach the proposition, that God’s act in forming His decree is unconditioned on anything to be done by His creatures. In another sense, a multitude of the things decreed are conditional; God’s whole plan is a wise unit, linking means with ends, and causes with effects. In regard to each of these effects, the occurrence of it is conditional on the presence of its cause, and is made so dependent by God’s decree itself. But while the events decreed are conditional, God’s act in forming the decree is not conditional, on anything which is to occur in time; because in the case of each dependent event, His decree as much determined the occurrence of the cause, as of its effect. And this is true equally of those events in His plan dependent on the free acts of free agents. No better illustration can be given, of the mode in which God decrees dependent or conditioned events, absolutely, by equally decreeing the conditions through which they are to be brought about than Ac 27:22 with 31. The Arminian admits that all such intermediate acts of men were eternally foreseen of God, and hence embraced in His plan as conditions: but not foreordained. We reply, if they were certainly foreseen, their occurrence was certain; if this was certain, then there must have been something to determine that certainty; and that something was either God’s wise foreordination, or a blind physical fate. Let the Arminian choose.

Scientia Media.

Here enters the theory of scientia media in God; and here we detect one of the objects for which it is invented. Were the free acts of moral agents contingent to God, the conclusion of the Socinian would be true, that they are not certainly cognizable, even to an infinite mind. Arminians who recoil from this irreverent position, refer us to the infinitude of God’s mind to account for His having certain prescience of all these contingent acts, inconceivable as it is to us. But I reply, it is worse than inconceivable, absolutely contradictory. What does the Arminian propose as the medium, or middle premise, of this inferential knowledge in God? His insight into the dispositions of all creatures enables Him, they suppose, to infer how they will act in the presence of the conditions which His omniscience foresees, will surround them at any given time. But it is obvious, this supposes such an efficient and causative connection between disposition and volition, as the Calvinist asserts, and the Arminian denies. So that, if volitions are contingent, the middle term is annihilated. We ask then, does mental perfection prompt a rational being to draw a certain inference after the sole and essential premise thereof is gone? Does infinitude help any mind to this baseless logic? Is this a compliment, or an insult to the divine intelligence? To every plain mind it is clear, that whether an intellect be greater or smaller, it would be its imperfection and not its glory. to infer without a ground of inference.

Therefore, it follows, that the eternity of the decree, already proved, offers us a demonstration against a conditional decree in God. For, scientia media of a contingent act of the creature being impossible, whenever an event decreed was conditioned on such contingent, creature act, as second cause, it might have been, that God would be obliged to wait until the creature acted, before He could form a positive purposes to the evens. Therefore we must hold, this creature act never was contingent to God, since His purpose about it was eternal; and the effect was foreordained in foreordaining the condition of its production.

Fifth. The immutability of God’s decree argues the same, and in the same way. If the condition on which His results hung were truly contingent, then it might turn out in one or another of several different ways. Hence it would always be possible that God might have to change His plans.

It is equally plain that His sovereignty would no longer be entire: but God would be dependent on His creatures for ability to effectuate many of His plans; and some might fail in spite of all He could do. I have already indicated that God’s foreknowledge of the conditions, and of all dependent on them, could not possibly be certain. For if a thing is not certain to occur, a certain expectation that it will occur, is an erroneous one. Hence, the Arminian should be driven by consistency to the conclusion of the Socinian. limiting God’s knowledge. But Arminians are exceedingly fond of saying, that the dream of absolute decrees is a metaphysical invention not sustained by Scripture, and only demanded by consistency with other unhallowed, human speculation. Hence I shall take pains, as on other points, to show that it is expressly the doctrine of Scripture. Here may be cited all the proofs by which I showed that the decree is universal and efficacious. For the very conception of the matter which I have inculcated is, that events are conditioned on events, but that the decree is not; because it embraces the conditions as efficaciously as the results (Isa 46:10-11; Ro 9:11; Mt 11:25-26; Eph 1:5,11; Isa 40:13; Ro 9:15-18; Ac 2:23; 3:18; Ge 50:20), His decree includes means and conditions (2Th 2:13; 1Pe 1:2; Php 2:13; Eph 2:8; 2Ti 2:25).

Does This Make God the Author of Sin?

But against this view objections are urged with great clamor and confidence. They may be summed up into two; that absolute decrees make God the author of sin, and that the Scriptures contradict our view by displaying many conditional threats and promises of God, (e.g., Eze 28:21; Ps 81:13-14, and so on) and some cases in which decrees were actually revoked and changed in consequence of men’s conduct as 1Sa 13:13; Lu 7:30.

That God is not, and cannot be the author of sin, is plain from express Scripture (Jas 1:13,7; 1Jo 1:5; Ec 7:29; Ps 92:15); from God’s law, which prohibits all sin; from the holiness of His nature, which is incapable of it; and from the nature of sin itself, which must be man’s own free activity, or else is not responsible and guilty. But I remark, first, that so far as the great mystery of God’s permission of sin enters into this objection, our minds are incapable of a complete explanation. But this incapacity is precisely the same, whatever scheme we adopt for accounting for it, unless we deny to God complete foreknowledge and power. Second. The simple fact that God clearly foresaw every sin the creature would commit, and yet created him, is attended with all the difficulty which attaches to our view. But that foresight the Arminian admits. By determining to create the creature, foreknowing that he would sin, God obviously determined the occurrence of the sin, through the creature’s free agency; for at least He could have refrained from creating him. But this is just as strong as our view of the case involves. The Arminian pleads, yea, but God determined to create a creature who, He. foresaw, would sin, not for the sake of sin, but for the sake of the good and holy ends connected therewith. I reply, Third. Well, the very same plea avails for us. We can say just as consistently: God purposed to produce these free agents, to sustain their free agency untrammeled, to surround them with outward circumstances of a given kind, to permit that free agency, moved by those circumstances as occasional causes, to exert itself in a multitude of acts, some sinful, not for the sake of the sin, but for the sake of some good and holy results which His infinite wisdom has seen best to connect therewith. Finally, in the sinful act, the agency and choice is the sinner’s alone; because the inscrutable modes God has for effectuating the certain occurrence of His volitions never cramp or control the creature’s spontaneity, as consciousness testifies.

Objected That God’s Threats and Promises Are Conditional.

The second class of objections Arminians also advance with great confidence; saying that unless we are willing to charge God with insincerity, His conditional promise or threat must be received by us as an exact disclosure of His real purpose. Let us test this in any case, such as our adversaries usually select, e.g., Isa 1:19—"If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land." Did not God know, at the time He uttered these words, that they would not be willing and obedient (see Isa 6:10-12). Was it not His fixed intention, at that very moment to deprive them of the good of the land, in consequence of their clearly foreseen disobedience? Here then is the very same ground for the pretended charge of insincerity in God. The truth is, that God’s preceptive threats and promises are not a disclosure of His secret purpose. But the distinction between His secret and revealed will is one which is inevitably made by every thinking mind, and is absolutely unavoidable, unless man’s mind can become as capacious as God’s (De 29:29). Nor does this impugn God’s sincerity. The sophism of the Arminian is just that, in this case, already pointed out; confounding conditionality of events decreed, with conditionality of God’s decree. God purposed, in this case, that the event, Israel’s punishment, should be conditioned on the other event, their disobedience. So that his conditional promise was perfectly truthful. But He also purposed, secretly, to withhold that undeserved constraining grace, which might have prevented Israel’s disobedience, so that the condition, and the thing conditioned on it should both come to pass. Again, the idea that God has revocable decrees, is as utterly incompatible with the foreknowledge of man’s free acts, as with their foreordination. When it is said that the Pharisees rejected the counsel of God concerning themselves, the word counsel means but precept (cf. Ps 107:11; Pr 1:25,30; Re 3:18).

The Decree Free.

Sixth. The freedom of God’s decree follows from what has been already argued. If it was eternal, then, when it was formed, there was no Being outside of Himself to constrain or be the motive of it. If absolute, then God was induced to it by no act of other agents, but only by His own perfections. And this leads us to remark, that when we say the decree is free, we do not mean God acts in forming it, in disregard of His own perfections, but under the guidance of His own perfections alone (Eph 1:5. Ro 11:34).

Seventh. The wisdom of God’s decree is manifest from the wisdom of that part of His plan which has been unfolded. Although much there is inscrutable to us, we see enough to convince us that all is wise (Ro 11:33-34).

Does the Decree Superceed Means?

Of the general objections against the decree of God, to which I called your attention, two remain to be noticed. One is, that if it were true, it would supersede the use of all means. "If what is to be will be, why trouble ourselves with the useless and vain attempt either to procure or prevent it?"

This popular objection is exceedingly shallow. The answer is, that the use of the means, where free agents are concerned, is just as much included in the decree, as the result. God’s purpose to institute and sustain the laws of causation in nature is the very thing which gives efficacy to meads, instead of taking it away. Further, both Scripture and consciousness tell us, that in using man’s acts as means, God’s infinite skill does it always without marring his freedom in the least.

Is It Inconsistent With Free Agency?

But it is objected, second, that if there were an absolute decree, man could not be free; and so, could not be responsible. But consciousness and God’s word assure us we are free. I reply, the facts cannot be incompatible because Scripture most undoubtedly asserts both, and both together. See Isa 10:5 to 15; Ac 2:23. Second, feeble man procures free acts from his fellow-man, by availing himself of the power of circumstances as inducements to his known dispositions, and yet he regards the agent as free and responsible, and the agent so regards himself. If man can do this sometimes, why may not an infinite God do it all the time? Third, If there is anything about absolute decrees to impinge upon man’s freedom of choice, it must be in their mode of execution, for God’s merely having such a purpose in His secret breast could affect man in no way. But Scripture and consciousness assure us that God executes this purpose as to man’s acts, not against, but through and with man’s own free will. In producing spiritually good acts, He "worketh in man to will and to do;" and determines that he shall be willing in the day of His power." And in bringing about bad acts, He simply leaves the sinner in circumstances such that he does, of himself only, yet certainly, choose the wrong. Last: This objection implies that man’s acts of choice could not be free, unless contingent and uncaused. But we have seen that this theory of the will is false, foolish, and especially destructive to rational liberty.

Chapter 18: Predestination

Section Two—Basic Doctrines of the Faith
Chapter 18: Predestination

Syllabus for Lectures 21 & 22:

1. Wherein are the terms Predestination and Election distinguished from God’s Decree? What the usage and meaning of the original words, Prognwsi", eklogh and cognates?

Turrettin, Loc. 4. Qu. 7. Dick, Lecture 35. Conf. of F., ch. 3.

2. Prove that there is a definite election of individual men to salvation, whose number can neither be increased nor diminished.

Turrettin, Loc. 4., Qu. 12, 16. Conf. of F., ch. 3. Calv. Inst., bk. 3., chs. 21, 22. Witsius, bk. iii ch. 4. Dick, Lect 35. Hill’s Div., bk. 4. ch. 7

Burnet on 39 Articles, Art. 17. Knapp, 32. Watson’s Theol. Inst., ch. 26, 1, 2.

3. Has the decree of predestination the qualities predicated of the whole decree?

Dick, Lecture 35.

4. Does predestination embrace angels as well as men, and with the same kind of decree?

Turrettin, Loc. 4., Qu. 8.

5. State the differences between the Sublapsarian and Supralapsarian schemes. Which is correct?

Dick, Lecture 35. Turrettin, Loc. 4., Qu. 9, 14 and 18, 1-5. Burnet, as above.

6. State the doctrine as taught by the Hypothetic Universalists, Amyraut and Camero.

Turrettin Loc. 4., Qu. 17 and 18, 13-20. Watson’s Theol. Inst., ch. 28, 1, 2. Richard Baxter’s "Universal Redemption."

7. State and refute the Arminian scheme of predestination.

Turrettin, Loc 4., Qu. 10, 11, and 17–Hill, Div., bk. 4. ch. 7, 2 and 3. Dick, Lecture 35. Watson’s ubi supra .

8. What is God’s decree of predestination as to those finally lost? What its ground? How proved? And how does God harden such?

Turrettin, Loc. 4., Qu. 14, 15. Hill, as above. Dick, Lecture 36. Wesley’s Sermons.

9. Is predestination consistent with God’s justice? With His holiness? With His benevolence and sincerity in the offer of mercy to all? Calvin’s Inst., bk. 3., ch. 23. Hill, as above. Dick, Lecture 36. John. Howe, Letter to Ro. Boyle. Turrettin, Fontes Sol ., Loc. 4., Qu. 17.

10. What should be the mode of preaching and practical effect of the doctrine of predestination on the Christian life.

Turrettin, Loc. 4., Qu. 6. Dick, Lecture 36. Conf. of Faith, ch. 3.


While God’s decree is His purpose as to all things, His predestination may be defined to be His purpose concerning the everlasting destiny of His rational creatures. His election is His purpose of saving eternally some men and angels. Election and reprobation are both included in predestination. The word proorismo" the proper original for predestination, does not occur in this connection in the New Testament; but the kindred verb and participle are found in the following passages, describing God’s foreordination of the religious state or acts of persons; Ac 4:28; Ro 8:29-30; Eph 1:5; Lu 22:22. That this predetermination of men’s privileges and destinies by God includes the reprobation of the wicked, as well as the election of the saints, will be established more fully in the next lecture.

The words prognwsi" proginwskw , as applied to this subject mean more than a simple, inactive cognition of the future state of men by God, a positive or active selection. This is proved by the Hebraistic usage of this class of words: as in 1Th 5:12; Joh 10:14; Ps 1:6; 2Ti 2:9, and by the following passages, where the latter meaning is indisputable: Ro 11:2; 1Pe 1:20. This will appear extremely reasonable, when we remember that according to the order of God’s acts, His foreknowledge is the effect of His foreordination.

Eklogh, eklegw are used for various kinds of selection to office, etc., and once by metonymy, for the body of Elect, Ro 11:7. When applied to God’s call to religious privilege or to salvation, it is sometimes inclusive of effectual calling; as Joh 15:16,19. Some would make this all of election: but that it means a prior and different selection is plain in Mt 20:16; 2Th 2:13. The words proqesi" , Ro 8:28; 9:11; Eph 1:11, and tassw , Ac 13:48, very clearly express a foreordination of God as to man’s religious state.


"By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His own glory, some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death."

"These angels and men, thus predestined and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished."

Predestination of Men Proved. From Decree.

To discuss this thesis, first, as to men. I would argue first, as to men. I would argue first: From the general doctrine of the decree. The decree is universal, If God has anything to with the sinner’s redemption, it must be embraced in that decree. But salvation is everywhere attributed to God, as His work. He calls. He justifies. He regenerates. He keeps us by faith unto salvation. He sanctifies. All the arguments drawn from God’s attributes of wisdom, infinite knowledge, omnipotence, and immutability, in support of His eternal decree, show that His agency in saving the sinners who are saved, is a purposed one and that this purpose is eternal (Ps 33:11; Nu 23:19; Mal 3:6; Jas 1:17; Heb 6:17).

From Original Sin.

2. The same thing follows from what Scripture and observation teach us of the heart of all men. We are by nature ungodly, hostile to God, and His law, blind in mind, and certainly determined to worldliness in preference to godliness, by a native disposition. Hence, no man comes to Christ, except the Father who hath sent Him draw him. Unless some power above man made the difference between the believer and unbeliever, it would never vitally appear. But if God makes it, He does it of purpose, and that purpose must be eternal. Hence, no intelligent mind which admits original sin, denies election. The two doctrines stand or fall together.

From Scripture Testimonies.

3. A number of passages of Scripture assert God’s election of individuals, in language too clear to be evaded: Mt 24:24; Joh 15:16; Ac 13:48; Ro 8:29-30; 9:11,16,22,24; 11:5,7; Eph 1:4,11; Php 4:3; 2Ti 1:9; 2:19. The most of these you will find commented on in your text books, in such a manner as effectually to clear them of the evasions of adversaries. 4th. The saints have their names "written in the book of life," or in "the Lamb’s book," or "in Heaven." See Php 4:3; Heb 12:23; Re 13:8. The book of life mentioned in Scripture is of three kinds: 1st, of natural life, Ex 32:32; when Moses, interceding for Israel prays God, that he may be removed from this life, rather than see the destruction of his brethren: 2nd, of federal, visible, church life: as in Eze 13:9; lying prophets "shall not be written in the writing of the house of Israel": 3rd, of eternal life, as in the places first cited. This is the catalogue of the elect.

Predestination More Than Selection of A Character To Be Favored.

This class of passages is peculiarly convincing: and especially against that phase of error, which makes God’s election nothing else than a determination that whosoever believes and repents shall be saved, or in other words, a selection of a certain quality or trait, as the one which procures for its possessors the favor of God. This feeble notion may be farther refuted by remarking that all the language employed about predestination is personal, and the pronouns and other adjuncts indicate persons and not classes. It is "whom (masculine) He foreknow, them He also did predestine." It is "As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed," (masc.) Ac 13:48. The verb proorizw means a definite decision. Christ tells His disciples that their names are written in heaven; not merely the general conditions of their salvation. Lu 10:20; In Php 4:3, Clement and his comrades’ names are written in the book of life. The condition is one; but in the book are multitudes of names written. Again: a mere determination to bestow favor on the possessors of certain qualities, would be inert and passive as to the propagation of those qualities; whereas God’s election propagates the very qualities (see Ro 11:18,22-23; Eph 1:4-5; 2Th 2:13). "He hath chosen us to salvation through, etc." And once more: were this determination to bestow favor on faith and penitence the whole of election, no one would ever possess those qualities; for, as we have seen, all men’s hearts are fully set in them to do evil, and would certainly continue impenitent did not God, out of His gracious purpose, efficaciously persuade some to come to Him. These qualities which are thus supposed to be elected, are themselves the consequences of election.

Predestination Proved By Providence.

5. An extremely convincing proof of predestination is a practical observation of God’s providence at work. Providence sovereignly determines the allotments and limits of each and every individual’s privileges, of one’s existence, life and windows of opportunity. . It determines whether one shall be born and live in a Pagan, or a Christian country, how long he shall enjoy means of grace, and of what efficacy, and when and where he shall die. Now in deciding these things sovereignly, the salvation or loss of the man’s soul is practically decided, for without time, means, and opportunity, he will not be saved, This is peculiarly strong as to two classes, Pagans and infants. Arminians admit a sovereign election of nations in the aggregate to religious privileges, or rejection therefrom. But it is indisputable that in fixing their outward condition, the religious fate is virtually fixed forever. What chance has that man practically, for reaching Heaven, whom God caused to be born, to live, to die, in Tahiti in the sixteenth century? Did not the casting of his lot there virtually fix his lot for eternity? In short, the sovereign election of aggregate nations to privileges necessarily implies, with such a mind as Cod’s, the intelligent and intentional decision of the fate of individuals, practically fixed thereby. Is not God’s mind infinite? Are not His perceptions perfect? Does He, like a feeble mortal, "shoot at the covey, without perceiving the individual birds?" As to infants, Arminians believe that all such, which die in infancy, are redeemed. When, therefore, God’s providence determines that a given human being shall die an infant, He infallibly determines its redemption, and in this case, at least, the decision cannot have been by foresight of faith, repentance, or good works; because the little soul has none, until after its redemption. This point is especially conclusive against the Arminians because they are so positive that all who die in infancy are saved.

Evasions of Ro 9. Considered.

The declarations of the Holy Spirit in Ro 9; 11 are so decisive in our favor, that they should realistically end the debate for all who revere the Divine authority, but for an evasion. The escape usually sought by Arminians (as by Watson, Inst.) is: That the Apostle in these places, teaches, not a personal election to salvation, but a national or aggregate election to privileges. My first and main objection to this is, that it is utterly irreconcilable with the scope of St. Paul in the passage. What is that scope? Obviously to defend his great proposition of "Justification by free grace through faith," common to Jew and Gentile, from a cavil which, from pharisaic view, was unanswerable, specifically: "That if Paul’s doctrine were true, then the covenant of election with Abraham was falsified." How does the Apostle answer? Obviously (and irresistibly) that this covenant was never meant to embrace all his lineage as an aggregate, Ro 9:6. "Not as though the word (covenant) of God had taken none effect." "For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel," etc. This decisive fact he then proves, by reminding the Jews that, at the very first descent, one of Abraham’s sons was excluded. and the other chosen; and at the next descent, where not only the father, but the mother was the same, and the children were even twins of one birth, (to make the most absolute possible identity of lineage) one was again sovereignly excluded. So, all down the line, some Hebrews of regular lineage were excluded, and some chosen. Thus, the Apostle’s scope requires the disintegrating of the supposed aggregates; the very line of his argument compels us to deal with individuals, instead of masses. But according to Watson, the Apostle, in speaking of the rejection of Esau, and the selection of Jacob, and of the remaining selections of Rom. 9. and 11., only employs the names of the two Patriarchs, to impersonate the two nations of Israel and Edom. He quotes in confirmation, Mal 1:2; 3; Ge 25:23. But as Calvin well remarks, the primogeniture typified the blessing of true redemption; so that Jacob’s election to the former represented that to the latter. Let the personal histories of the two men decide thIsa. Did not the mean, supplanting Jacob become the humble, penitent saint; while the generous, dashing Esau degenerated into the reckless, Pagan, Nomad chief? The selection of the two posterities the one for Church privileges, and the other for Pagan defection, was the consequence of the personal election and rejection of the two progenitors. The Arminian gloss violates every law of Hebrew thought and religious usage. According to these, the posterity follow the status of their progenitor. According to the Arminians, the progenitors would follow the status of their posterity. Farther, the whole discussion of these chapters is personal, it is individuals with whom God deals here. The election cannot be of masses to privilege, because the elect are explicitly excepted out of the masses to which they belonged ecclesiastically. See chapter 9:6, 7, 15, 23, 24; chapter 9, 2, 4, 5, 7. "The election hath obtained it and the rest were blinded." The discussion ranges, also, over others than Hebrews and Edomites, to Pharaoh, an individual unbeliever, etc. Last, the blessings given in this election are personal (see Ro 8:29; Eph 1:5; 2Th 2:13).

Predestination Eternal, Efficacious, Unchangeable, Etc.

God’s decree we found possessed of the properties of unity, universality, eternity, efficiency and immutability, sovereignty, absoluteness and wisdom. Inasmuch as predestination is but a part, to our apprehension, of this decree, it partakes of all those properties, as a part of the whole. And the general evidence would be the same presented on the general subject of the decree. The part of course is not universal as was the whole. But we shall find just what the general argument would have led us to expect: that the decree of predestination is:

(a) Eternal Eph 1:4, "He hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world." 2Th 2:13, "From the beginning." 2Ti 1:9, "Before the world began." (See last Lecture)

(b) Immutably efficacious. There is no reason why this part of the decree should not be as much so as all the rest: for God’s foreknowledge and control of the acts of all His creatures have been already established. He has no more difficulty in securing the certain occurrence of all those acts of volition, from man and devils, which are necessary to the certain redemption of the elect, than in any other department of His almighty providence. Why then, should this part of the decree be exempted from those emphatic assertions of its universal and absolute efficacy (Nu 23:19; Ps 33:11; Isa 46:10)? But farther, unless God’s purpose of saving each elect sinner were immutable and efficacious, Christ would have no certain warrant that He would ever see of the travail of His soul at all. For the same causes that seduce one might seduce another. Again: no sinner is saved without special and Almighty grace; for his depravity is total, and his heart wholly averse from God; so that if God has not provided, in His eternal plan, resources of gracious power, adequate to subdue unto Himself, and to sustain in grace, every sinner He attempts to save, I see no probability that any will be saved at all. For, the proneness to apostasy is such in all, that if God did not take efficacious care of them, the best would backslide and fail of Heaven. The efficacy of the decree of election is also proved by the fact, that God has pre-arranged all the means for its effectuation. See. Ro 8:29-30. And in fine, a multitude of Scripture confirms this precious truth (Mt 24:25; Joh 10:28-30; 17:6,12; Heb 6:17; 2Ti 2:19).

Objections To Efficient Predestination.

Objections against this gracious truth are almost countless, as though, instead of being one of the most precious in Scripture, it were oppressive and cruel. It is said that the infallibility of the elect, and their security in Christ, Mt 24:24; Joh 10:28, only guarantee them against such assaults as their free will may refuse to assent to; and imply nothing as to the purpose of God to permit or prevent the object of His favor from going astray of his own accord. Not to tarry on more minute answers, the simple reply to this is: that then, there would be no guarantees at all; and these gracious Scriptures are mere mockeries of our hope; for it is notorious that the only way the spiritual safety of a believer can be injured is by the assent of his own free will; because it is only then that there is responsibility or guilt.

Objected That the Saints Are Warned Against Falling.

It is objected that this election cannot be immutably efficacious, because we read in Scripture of saints who are warned against forfeiting it; of others who felt a wholesome fear of doing so; and of God’s threats that He would on occasion of certain sins blot their names from His book of life, etc. (Ro 14:15; 1Co 9:27; Ps 69:28; Re 22:19; 2Pe 1:10). As to the last passage, to make sure bebaian poieisqai, our election, is most manifestly spoken only with reference to the believer’s own apprehension of it, and comfort from it; not as to the reality of God’s secret purpose. This is fully borne out by the means indicated—diligence in holy living. Such fruits being the consequence, and not the cause of God’s grace to us, it would simply be preposterous to propose to ensure or strengthen His secret purpose of grace, by their productions. All they can do is to strengthen our own apprehension that such a purpose exists. When the persecuted Psalmist prays, Ps 69:28, that God would "blot his enemies out of the book of the living," it by no means seems clear that anything more is imprecated than their removal from this life. But grant the other meaning, as we do, in Re 22:19, the obvious explanation is that God speaks of them according to their seeming and profession. The language is adapted ad hominem . It is not intended to decide whether God has a secret immutable purpose of love or not, as to them, whether they were ever elected and effectually called indeed, and may yet be lost; but it only states the practical truth, that wickedness would forfeit that position in God’s grace, which they professed to have. Several of the other passages are in part explained by the fact that the Christians addressed had not yet attained a comfortable assurance that they were elected. Hence they might most consistently feel all these wholesome fears, lest the partial and uncertain hope they entertained might turn out spurious. But the most general and thorough answer which covers all these cases is this: Granting that God has a secret purpose infallibly to save a given soul, that purpose embraces means as fully as ends; and those means are such as suit a rational free agent, including all reasonable appeals to hope and fear, prospect of danger, and such like reasonable motives. Now, that an elect man may fall totally, is naturally possible, considering him in his own powers; hence, when God plies this soul with fears of falling it is by no means any proof that God intends to permit him to fall, in His secret purpose. Those fears may be the very means designed by God to keep him from it.

Selection Not A Caprice.

God’s predestination is wise. It is not grounded on the foreseen excellence of the elect, but it is doubtless grounded on good reasons, worthy of the divine wisdom. See Ro 11–end, words spoken by Paul with especial reference to this part of the decree. The sovereignty and unconditional nature of God’s predestination will be postponed till we come to discuss the Arminian view.

Angels Are Predestined.

There is undoubtedly a predestination of angels. They are a part of God’s creation and government and if what we have asserted of the universality of His purpose is true, it must fix. their destiny and foresee all their acts, just as men’s. His sovereignty, wisdom, infinite foreknowledge, and power necessitate the supposition. The Scriptures confirm it, telling us of elect angels (1Ti 5:21); of "holy angels," (Mt 25:31), et passim , as contrasted with wicked angels; that "God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto 2Pe 2:4. Of the "everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Mt 25:41). Of the "angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, whom God hath reserved under darkness, in everlasting chains unto the judgment of the great day," (Jude 6) and of Michael and his angels, and the Dragon and his angels" (Re 12:7). Collating these passages, I think we clearly learn, that there are two kinds of spirits of that order; holy and sinful angels, servants of Christ and servants of Satan; that they were all created in an estate of holiness and happiness, and abode in the region called Heaven; (God’s holiness and goodness are sufficient proof that He would never have created them otherwise), that the evil angels voluntarily forfeited their estate by sinning, and were then excluded forever from Heaven and holiness; that those who maintained their estate were elected thereto by God, and that their estate of holiness and blessedness is now forever assured. Now the most natural inference from these Bible facts is, that a covenant of works was the dispensation under which God’s predestination of angels was effectuated. The fact that those who sinned, fell thereby into a state of irreparable condemnation is most naturally explained by such a covenant. The fact that the elect angels received the adoption of life by maintaining their holiness for a time, seems almost to necessitate that supposition. That the probation under that covenant was temporary, is implied in the fact that some are already separated and known as elect, while others are condemned. The former must be finally justified and confirmed; the latter finally reprobated.

Predestinations of Angels Differs From Man’s.

1st. Now it is manifest, that these gracious and righteous dealings of God with His angels in time, were all foreordained by Him from eternity. Those who fell, He must have permissively ordained to fall, and those who are confirmed, He must have selected from eternity to be confirmed. But in two respects, this election of angels differs from that of men. God’s predestination apprehended men, as all lying alike in a mass of total depravity and condemnation, and the difference He has made was in pure mercy, unprompted by any thing of good foreseen in the saints. But God’s predestination apprehended angels as standing alike in innocency at first, and as left to the determination of a will which, as yet, had full ability to keep the law perfectly. In the election of men, while the decree is unconditional, its execution is dependent on the elect man’s believing and repenting. So, in the case of angels, while the decree was unconditional, the effectuation of it seems to have been conditioned on the elect angel’s keeping the law perfectly for a given time. Now here is the difference of the two cases; in the elect man the ability of will to perform that condition of his salvation is inwrought in him by God’s power, executing His efficacious decree, (see the Chapter of Decrees.) by His sovereign and almighty regeneration of the dead soul. In the case of the elect angel, the condition of his salvation was fulfilled in his own natural strength; and was ordained by God no otherwise than by His permissive decree. So also, the effectuating of the reprobation of the non–elect angels was dependent on their voluntary disobedience, and this too was only determined by God’s permissive decree. It has been asked if all the angels were alike innocent and peccable, with full ability of will to keep the law perfectly, and yet with freedom of will to sin; how came it that the experiment did not result alike for all, that all did not fall or stand, that like causes did not produce like effects? Must there not have been a cause for the different results? And must not this cause be sought outside the angels’ wills, in God’s agency? The answer may be, that the outward relations of no two beings to circumstances and beings other than themselves can ever be identical. In those different circumstances, were presented occasional causes for volitions, sufficient to account for different volitions from wills that were at first in similar moral states. And it was by His providential ordering of those outward relations and circumstances, that God was able permissively to determine the results. Yet the acts of the two classes of angels, good and bad, were wholly their own.

2nd Difference.

The second difference between their election and man’s, is that the angels were not chosen in a mediator. They needed none, because they were not chosen out of a state of guilt, and had not arrayed God’s moral attributes against them. Some have supposed that their confirming grace was and is mediated to them by Jesus Christ, quoting Col 2:10; 1Pe 1:12; Heb 1:6; Php 2:10; 1Pe 3:22; Eph 1:10; Col 1:14-15,20.

These passages doubtless teach that the Son was, in the beginning, the immediate agent of creation for these, as for all other beings; and that the God-man now includes angels in His mediatorial kingdom, in the same sense in which He includes the rest of the universe, besides the saints. But that He is not a mediator for angels is clear, from the fact that, while He is never called such, He is so emphatically called "the Mediator between God and man" (1Ti 2:5). Second. He has assumed no community of nature with angels. Last. It is expressly denied in Heb 2:16-17. (Greek.)

5. All who call themselves Calvinists admit that God’s decree is, in His mind, a contemporaneous unit. Yet the attempt to assign an order to its relative parts, has led to three different schemes of predestination: that of the Supralapsarian, of the Sublapsarian, and of the Hypothetic Universalist.

Supralapsarian Scheme.

The first suppose that in a rational mind, that which is ultimate as end, is first in design; and that, in the process of planning, the mind passes from the end to the means, traveling as it were backwards. Hence, God first designed His own glory by the salvation of a definite number of men conceived as yet only as in posse , and the reprobation of another definite number; that then He purposed their creation, then the permission of their fall, and then the other parts of the plan of redemption for the elect. I do not mean to represent that they impute to God an actual succession of time as to the rise of the parts of the decree in His eternal mind, but that these divines represent God as planning man’s creation and fall, as a means for carrying out His predestination, instead of planning his election as a means for repairing his fall.

Sublapsarian Scheme.

The Sublapsarian assigns the opposite order; that God determined to create man in His own image, to place him under a covenant of works, to permit his fall, and with reference to the fallen and guilty state thus produced, to elect in sovereign mercy some to be saved, passing by the rest in righteous judgment upon their sins, and that He further decreed to send Jesus Christ to redeem the elect. This milder scheme the Supralapsarians assert to be attended with the vice of the Arminian, in making the decree conditional; in that God’s decree of predestination is made dependent on man’s use of his free will under the covenant of works. They also assert that their scheme is the symmetrical one, in that it assigns the rational order which exists between ultimate end and intermediate means.

Both Erroneous.

In my opinion this is a question which never ought to have been raised. Both schemes are illogical and contradictory to the true state of facts. But the Sublapsarian is far more Scriptural in its tendencies, and its general spirit far more honorable to God. The Supralapsarian, under a pretense of greater symmetry, is in reality the more illogical of the two, and misrepresents the divine character and the facts of Scripture in a repulsive manner. The view from which it starts, that the ultimate end must be first in design, and then the intermediate means, is of force only with reference to a finite mind. God’s decree has no succession; and to Him no successive order of parts; because it is a contemporaneous unit, comprehended altogether, by one infinite intuition. In this thing, the statements of both parties are untrue to God’s thought. The true statement of the matter is, that in this co-etaneous, unit plan, one part of the plan is devised by God with reference to a state of facts which He intended to result from another part of the plan; but all parts equally present, and all equally primary to His mind. As to the decree to create man, to permit his fall, to elect some to life; neither part preceded any other part with God. But His purpose to elect had reference to a state of facts which was to result from His purpose to create, and permit the fall. It does not seem to me that the Sublapsarian scheme makes the decree conditional. True, one result decreed is dependent on another result decreed; but this is totally another thing. No scheme can avoid this, not even the Supralapsarian, unless it does away with all agency except God’s, and makes Him the direct author of sin.

Objections To the Supralapsarian.

But we object more particularly to the Supralapsarian scheme.

(a) That it is erroneous in representing God as having before His mind, as the objects of predestination, men conceived in posse only; and in making creation a means of their salvation or damnation. Whereas, an object must be conceived as existing, in order to have its destiny given to it. And creation can with no propriety be called a means for effectuating a decree of predestination as to creatures. It is rather a prerequisite of such decree.

(b.) It contradicts Scripture, which teaches us that God chose His elect "out of the world," Joh 15:19, and out of the "same lump" with the vessels of dishonor (Ro 9:21). They were then regarded as being, along with the non–elect, in the common state of sin and misery.

(c.) Our election is in Christ our Redeemer (Eph 1:4; 3:11), which clearly shows that we are conceived as being fallen, and in need of a Redeemer, in this act. And, moreover, our election is an election to the exercise of saving graces to be wrought in us by Christ (1Pe 1:2; 2Th 2:13). (d.) Election is declared to be an act of mercy (Ro 9:15; 16; 11:5-6), and preterition is an act of justice (Ro 9:22). Now as mercy and goodness imply an apprehension of guilt and misery in their object, so justice implies ill-desert. This shows that man is predestined as fallen; and is not permitted to fall because predestined. I will conclude this part, by repeating the language of Turrettin, Loc. 4, Qu. 18, 5.

1. "By this hypothesis, the first act of God’s will towards some of His creatures is conceived to be an act of hatred, in so far as He willed to demonstrate His righteousness in their damnation, and indeed before they were considered as in sin, and consequently before they were deserving of hatred; nay, while they were conceived as still innocent, and so rather the objects of love. This does not seem compatible with God’s ineffable goodness.

2. "It is likewise harsh that, according to this scheme, God is supposed to have imparted to them far the greatest effects of love, out of a principle of hatred, in that He determines to create them in a state of integrity to this end, that He may illustrate His righteousness in their damnation. This seems to express Him neither as supremely good nor as supremely wise and just.

3. "It is erroneously supposed that God exercised an act of mercy and justice towards His creatures in His foreordination of their salvation and destruction, in that they are conceived as neither wretched, nor even existing as yet. But since those virtues (mercy and justice) are relative, they pre-suppose their object, do not make it.

4. "It is also asserted without warrant, that creation and the fall are means of election and reprobation, since they are antecedent to them: else sin would be on account of damnation, whereas damnation is on account of sin; and God would be said to have created men that He might destroy them."

Hypothetic Scheme.

SOME French Presbyterian Divines of Saumur about 1630-50, devised still another scheme of relations between the parts of the decree, representing God as first (in order, not in time) purposing to create man; second, to place him under a covenant of works, and to permit his fall; third, to send Christ to provide and offer satisfaction for all, out of His general compassion for all the fallen; but fourth, foreseeing that all would surely reject it because of their total depravity, to select out of the rebellious mass, some, in His sovereign mercy, to whom He would give effectual calling. They supposed that this theory would remove the difficulties concerning the extent of the sacrifice of Christ, and also reconcile the passages of Scripture which declare God’s universal compassion for sinners, with His reprobation of the non-elect.

Wherein Untenable.

This scheme is free from many of the objections which lie against the Arminian; it holds fast to the truth of original sin, and it avoids the absurdity of conditioning God’s decree of election on a foresight of the saints’ faith and repentance. But in two respects it is untenable. If the idea of a real succession in time between the parts of the divine decree be relinquished, as it must be; then this scheme is perfectly illusory, in representing God as decreeing to send Christ to provide a redemption to be offered to all, on condition of faith, and this out of His general compassion. For if He foresees the certain rejection of all at the time, and at the same time purposes sovereignly to withhold the grace which would work faith in the soul, from some, this scheme of election really makes Christ to be related, in God’s purpose, to the non–elect, no more closely nor beneficially than the stricter Calvinistic scheme. But second and chiefly, it represents Christ as not purchasing for His people the grace of effectual calling, by which they are persuaded and enabled to embrace redemption. But God’s purpose to confer this is represented as disconnected with Christ and His purchase, and subsequent, in order, to His work, and the foresight of its rejection by sinners. Whereas Scripture represents that this gift, along with all other graces of redemption, is given us in Christ, having been purchased for His people by Him (Eph 1:3; Php 1:29: Heb 12:2).

Arminian Scheme.

I have postponed to the last, the fourth scheme for arranging the order of the parts of the decree, which is the Arminian. Unwilling to rob God openly of His infinite perfection, as is done by the Socinians, they admit that He has some means of foreseeing the contingent acts of free-agents, although He neither can nor does, consistently with their free-agency, exercise any direct foreordination over those acts. Such contingent acts, they say, would be unknowable to a finite mind, but this does not prove that God may not have some mode of certainly foreknowing them, which implies no foreordination, and which is inscrutable to us. This foresight combines with His eternal purpose in the following order. 1st. God decreed to create man holy and happy) and to place him under a covenant of works. 2nd. God foreseeing man’s fall into a state of total depravity and condemnation, decreed to send Jesus Christ to provide redemption for all. (This redemption included the purchase of common, sufficient grace for all sinners.) And God also, in this connection, determined the general principle that faith should be the condition of an actual interest in this redemption. 3rd. Next He foresaw that some would so improve their common grace as to come to Christ, turn from sin and persevere in holiness to the end of life. These He eternally purposed to save. Others, He foresaw, would neglect their privileges, so as to reject, or after embracing, to forsake Christ; and these He eternally purposed to leave in their guilt and ruin. Thus His purpose as to individuals, while eternal, is conditioned wholly on the conduct foreseen in them.

Objections. 1st. That the Decree Cannot Be Conditional.

This plausible scheme seems to be, at the first glance, attended with several advantages for reconciling God’s goodness and sincerity with the sinner’s damnation. But the advantages are only seeming For 1. The scheme is overthrown by all the reasons which showed generally that God’s decrees cannot be conditional; and especially by these. (a) That every one of the creature acts is also foreordained, on which a part of the decree is supposed to be conditioned. (b.) That all the future events into which these contingent acts enter, directly or indirectly, as causes, must be also contingent; which would cast a quality of uncertainty and possible failure over God’s whole plan of redemption and moral government, and much of His other providence. (c.) And that God would no longer be absolute sovereign; for, instead of the creatures depending on Him alone, He would depend on the creature.

2nd. That Paul Does Does Not Reply Thus To Cavils.

One can scarcely believe that Paul would have answered the objections usually raised against God’s sovereign decree, as He does in Ro 9., had He inculcated this Arminian view of it. In verses 14 and 19, he anticipates those objections; 1st that God would be unjust; 2d that He would destroy man’s free agency, and He deigns no other answer than to reaffirm the absolute sovereignty of God in the matter, and to repudiate the objections as sinful cavils. How different this from the answer of the Arminian to these cavils. He always politely evades them by saying that all God’s dealings with men are suspended on the improvement they choose to make of His common mercy offered to them. This contrast leads us to believe that St. Paul was not an Arminian.

3rd. Faith, Etc., Consequences of Electing Grace.

The believer’s faith, penitence, and perseverance in holiness could never be so foreseen by God, as to be the condition moving Him to determine to bestow salvation on him, because no child of Adam ever has any true faith, etc., except as fruits of God’s grace bestowed in election. This is evinced in manifold ways throughout Scripture. (a.) Man is too depraved ever to exercise these graces, except as moved thereto by God (Ro 8:7; 2Co 3:5; Ro 7:18; Ge 6:5). (b.) The elect are declared to be chosen to the enjoyment of these graces, not on account of the exercise of them (Ro 8:29; 2 Thess. 2:13 14; Eph 1:4; 2:10). (c.) The very faith, penitence and perseverance in holiness which Arminians represent as conditions moving God to elect man, the Scripture represents as gifts of God’s grace inwrought by Him in the elect, as consequences of His election (Eph 2:8; Ac 5:31; 2Ti 2:25; Php 1:6; 2Pe 1:3). (d.) All the elect believe on Christ (Joh 10:16,27 to 29; Joh 6:37,39; 17:2,9,24), and none others do (Joh 10:26: Ac 13:48; 2:47). Couple these two facts together, and they furnish a strong evidence that faith is the consequence (therefore not the cause) of election.

4th. Express Texts.

The Scriptures in the most express and emphatic terms declare that it was no goodness in the elect which caused God to choose them; that His electing love found them lying in the same mass of corruption and wrath with the reprobate, every way deserving the same fate, and chose them out of it for reasons commending themselves to His own good pleasure, and in sovereign benevolence. This was seen in Jacob and Esau (Ro 9:11-13), as to Israel (Eze 16:3-6). As to all sinners (Ro 9:15-16,18,21; 8:28). (Here the Arminians claim that God’s foreknowledge precedes and prompts His foreordination. But we have shown that this foreknowledge implies selection.) 1Ti 1:9; Mt 11:26; Joh 15:16-19.

5th. From the Arminian doctrine of conditional election, must flow this distinction, admitted by many Wesleyans. Those who God foresaw would believe and repent, He thereupon elected to adoption. But all Arminians believe that an adopted believer may "fall from grace." Hence, the smaller number, who God foresaw would persevere in gospel grace, unto death, He thereupon elected to eternal life. And the persons elected to eternal life on foresight of their perseverance, are not identical with those elected to adoption on foresight of their faith. But now, if the former are, in the omniscience of God, elected to eternal life on foresight of their perseverance, then they must be certain to persevere. We have here, therefore, the doctrine of the perseverance of this class of the elect. The inference is unavoidable. On this result we remark first: It is generally conceded by both Calvinists and Arminians, that the doctrine of perseverance is consistent only with that of unconditional election, and refutes the opposite. Second: In every instance of the perseverance of those elected unto eternal life (on certain foresight of their perseverance) we have a case of volitions free and responsible, and yet certainly occurring. But this, the Arminians hold, infringes man’s freedom. Third: No effect is without a cause. Hence, there must be some efficient cause for this certain perseverance. Where shall it be sought? In a contingent will? or in efficacious grace? These are the only known sources. It cannot be found in a contingent source; for this is a contradiction. It must then be sought in efficacious grace. But this, if dispensed by omniscience, can be no other than a proof and result of electing grace.


The word reprobate (adokimo") is not, so far as I know, applied in the Scriptures to the subject of predestination. Its etymology and usage would suggest the meaning of something rejected upon undergoing a test or trial, and hence, something condemned or rejected. Thus Ro 1:28, adokimon noun , a mind given over to condemnation and desertion, in consequence of great sin (2Ti 3:8). Sectaries, adokomoi peri thn pistin , finally condemned and given over to apostasy concerning the Christian system. 1Co 9:27, "Lest after I have preached to others, I myself should be adokimo" ," rejected at the final test, i. e., Judgment Day. Hence the more general sense of "worthless," Tit 1:16; Heb 6:8.

The Word Ill-Chosen.

The application of this word to the negative part of the decree of predestination has doubtless prejudiced our cause. It is calculated to misrepresent and mislead, because it suggests too much the idea of a comparative judicial result. For then, the query arises, if the non-elect and elect have been tested as to their deserts, in the divine mind, how comes it that the elect are acquitted when they are as guilty, and the non-elect condemned when they are no worse? Is not this partiality? But the fact is, that in election, God acted as a sovereign, as well as a judge; and that the elect are not taken because they are less guilty upon trial, but because God had other secret, though sufficient reasons. If the negative part of the decree of predestination then must be spoken of as a decree of reprobation, it must be understood in a modified sense.

Does It Include Preterition and Predamnation.

The theologians, while admitting the strict unity of God’s decree, divide reprobation into two elements, as apprehended by us, preterition and pre–damnation. These Calvinists, were they consistent, would apply a similar analysis to the decree of election, and divide it into a selection and a prejustification. Thus we should have the doctrine of an eternal justification, which they properly reject as erroneous. Hence, the distinction should be consistently dropped in explaining God’s negative predestination.

I would rather say, that it consists simply of a sovereign, yet righteous purpose to leave out the non–elect, which preterition was foreseen and intended to result in their final righteous condemnation. The decree of reprobation is then, in its essence, a simple preterition. It is indeed intelligent and intentional in God. He leaves them out of His efficacious plan and purpose of mercy, not out of a general inattention or overlooking of them, but knowingly and sovereignly. Yet objectively this act is only negative, because God does nothing to those thus passed by, to make their case any worse, or to give any additional momentum to their downward course. He leaves them as they are. Yea, incidentally, He does them many kindnesses, extends to multitudes of them the calls of His word, and even the remonstrances of His Spirit, preventing them from becoming as wicked as they would otherwise have been. But the practical or efficacious part of His decree is, simply that He will not "make them willing in the day of His power."

Preterition Proved.

When we thus explain it, there is abundant evidence of a decree of preterition. It is inevitably implied in the decree of election, coupled with the fact that all are neither elected nor saved. If salvation is of God; if God is a Being of infinite intelligence, and if He has eternally purposed to save some; then He has ipso facto equally purposed from eternity to leave the others in their ruin. And to this agree the Scriptures (Ro 9:13,17-18,21-22; Mt 11:25; Ro 11:7; 2Ti 2:20; Jude 4; 1Pe 2:8).

Objections. Answers.

This is a part of God’s word which has ever been assailed with the fiercest cavils. It has been represented as picturing a God, who created a number of unfortunate immortals, and endued them with capacities for sinning and suffering, only in order that He might damn them forever; and to this wretched fate they are inexorably shut up, by the iron decree, no matter what penitent efforts or what cries for mercy and escape they may put forth; while the equally or more guilty objects of the divine caprice and favoritism are admitted to a Heaven which they cannot forfeit, no matter how vilely they behave. There is no wonder that a Wesley should denounce the doctrine thus misrepresented, as worthy only of Satan. There is, indeed, enough in the truth of this subject, to fill every thoughtful mind with solemn awe and holy fear of that God, who holds the issues of our redemption in His sovereign hand. But how differently does His dealing appear, when we remember that He created all His creatures at first in holiness and happiness; that He gave them an adequate opportunity to stand; that He has done nothing to make the case of the non-elect worse than their own choice makes it, but on the contrary, sincerely and mercifully warns them by conscience and His word against that wicked choice; that it is all a monstrous dream to fancy one of these non–elect seeking Heaven by true penitence, and excluded by the inexorable decree, because they all surely yet voluntarily prefer their impenitence, so that God is but leaving them to their preferred ways; and that the only way He ensures the elect from the destruction due their sins, is by ensuring their repentance, faith, and diligent strivings to the end in a holy life.

Is Preterition Grounded On the Sin of Those Passd By.

Yet it must be confessed that some of the odiousness of the doctrine is in part due to the unwise views of it presented by the Orthodox. sometimes, going beyond all that God’s majesty, sovereignty and word require, out of a love of hypothesis. Thus, it is disputed what is the ground of this righteous preterition of the non-elect. The honest reader of his Bible would suppose that it was, of course, their guilt and wickedness foreseen by God, and, for wise reasons, permissively decreed by Him. This, we saw, all but the supralapsarian admitted in substance. God’s election is everywhere represented in Scripture, as an act of mercy, and His preterition as an act of righteous anger against sin. The elect are vessels of mercy, the non-elect, of wrath. (God does not show anger at anything but sin) as in Ro 9:22. Everywhere it is sin which excludes from His favor, and sin alone.

But it is urged, with an affected over-refinement, the sin of the non-elect cannot be the ground of God’s preterition, because all Adam’s seed being viewed as equally depraved, had this been the ground, all would have been passed by. I reply, yes; if this had been the only consideration, pro or con , present in God’s mind. The ill-desert of all was in itself a sufficient ground for God to pass by all. But when His sovereign wisdom suggested some reason, unconnected with the relative desert or ill-desert of sinners, which was a good and sufficient ground for God’s choosing a part; this only left the same original ground, ill-desert, operating on His mind as to the remainder. It is perfectly true that God’s sovereignty concerns itself with the preterition as well as the election; for the separate reason which grounded the latter is sovereign. But with what propriety can it be said that this secret sovereign reason is the ground of his preterition, when the very point of the case was that it was a reason which did not apply to the non-elect, but only to the elect? As to the elect, it overruled the ground for their preterition, which would otherwise have been found, in their common ill-desert. As to the non-elect, it did not apply, and thus left the original ground, their ill-deserts, in full force. If all sinning men had been subjects of a decree of prete–nobody would have questioned, but that God’s ground for passing them by was simply their ill-desert. Now, then, if a secret, sovereign motive, counterpoising that presented by the ill-desert, led to the election of some; how does this alter the ground for God’s preterition of the rest? Three traitors are justly condemned to death for capital crimes confessed. The king ascertains that two of them are sons of a noble citizen, who had died for the commonwealth; and the supreme judge is moved by this consideration to spare the lives of these men. For what is the third criminal hung? No one has any doubt in answering: "For his treason." The original cause of death remains in operation against him, because no contravening fact existed in his case.

But it is said again: that if we make the sin of the non–elect the ground of their rejection, then by parity of reasoning, we must make the foreseen piety of the elect the ground of their election; and thus return to the error of conditional decrees. This perversely overlooks the fact, that, while the elect have no piety of their own originating to be foreseen, the others have an impiety of their own. Reviewing the arguments against conditional election, the student will see that this is the key to all: It cannot be, because no men will have any piety to foresee, save as it is the result of God’s grace bestowed from election. But is it so with men’s sin? Just the opposite. Sin is the very condition in which God foresees all men as standing, for all except supralapsarians admit that God in predestination regards man as fallen. Man’s foreseen sin may be the ground of God’s preterition, because it is not the effect of that preterition, but of another part of His eternal purpose, viz: that to permit the fall. And, as again and again taught, while the decree is absolute, the results decreed are conditioned; and we cannot but conceive God as predicating one part of His eternal purpose on a state of facts which was destined to proceed out of another part thereof.

Again: it is said, Scriptures teach, that the sin of the non–elect was not the ground of their preterition. "In Joh 10:26, continued unbelief is the consequence, and therefore not the ground of the Pharisees preterition" (Mt 11:25; Rom. 9:11 18). "God’s will," they say, "and not the non-sin, is the ground of His purpose to harden." And "Esau was rejected as much without regard to his evil, as Jacob was elected without regard to his good deeds." To the first of these points I reply, that the withholding of God’s grace is but the negative occasion of a sinner’s unbelief, just as the absence of the physician from a sick man is the occasion, and not the cause, of His death. Men say that "he died because he failed to receive medical help," when speaking popularly. But they know that the disease, and not the physician, killed him. So, our Savior teaches, in Joh 10:26; that the stubborn unbelief of the Pharisees was occasioned by God’s refraining from the bestowal of renewing grace. But He does not deny that that this unbelief was caused by their own depravity, as left uninfluenced by the Spirit. Turrettin (Loc. 4: Qu. 15.) although inconsistently asserting on this point the supralapsarian extreme, says, (Sec. 3,) that we must distinguish between the non–elect man’s original unbelief, and his acquired: and that it is the latter only, which he denies to be a ground of preterition, because it is a result thereof. He admits that the original unbelief may be a ground of preterition. This virtually concedes the point. To the second argument, we reply, that God’s decree of preterition is, like all others, guided by His eudokia . But is this sovereign good pleasure motiveless? Is it irrational caprice? Surely not. It is the purpose of a sovereign; but of one who is as rational, just, holy and good, as He is absolute. Such a being would not pass by, in righteous displeasure, His creature in whom He saw no desert of displeasure. The third point is made from the oft-cited case of the twins, Esau and Jacob. Let the supralapsarian strain the passage to mean that Esau’s preterition was no more grounded in his ill-desert, than Jacob’s election in his merit, because "the children had not done good nor evil;" and he will only reach a result obnoxious to his own view as to mine. He will make the Apostle teach that these children had no original sin, and that they stood before the divine prescience in that impossible state of moral neutrality, of which Pelagians prate. We are shut up to interpret the passage, just as Turrettin does elsewhere, that it is only a relative guilt and innocence between Esau and Jacob, which the Apostle asserts. In fact, both "were by nature children of wrath, even as others."

God’s Hardening What?

When it is said that God hardens the non–elect, it is not, and cannot be intended, that He exerts positive influence upon them to make them worse. The proof of this was given under the question, whether God can be the author of sin. See especially Jas 1:13 God is only the negative cause of hardening—the positive depravation comes only from the sinner’s own voluntary feelings and acts. And the mode in which God gives place to, or permits this self–inflicted work, is by righteously withholding His restraining word and Spirit; and second, by surrounding the sinner through His permissive providence) with such occasions and opportunities as the guilty man’s perverse heart will voluntarily abuse to increase his guilt and obduracy. This dealing, though wrong in men, is righteous in God. Even when God’s decree and providence concerning sins are thus explained, our opponents cavil at the facts. They say that the rule of holiness enjoined on us is, not only to do no sin, but to prevent all the sin in others we righteously can. They say that the same rule obliges God. They say we represent Him as like a man who, witnessing the perpetration of a crime, and having both the right and power to prevent it, stands idly by: and they refer us to such Scriptures as Pr 24:11-12. And when we remind them, that God permissively ordains those sins, not for the sake of their evil, but for the sake of the excellent and holy ends He will bring out, they retort, that we represent Him as "doing evil that good may come." These objections derive all their plausibility from forgetting that we are creatures and bondsmen of God, while He is supreme judge. The judicial retribution of sin is not our function: He claims it as His own (Ro 12:19). It is a recognized principle of His rule to make permitted sins the punishment of sins. Hence, we deny that it follows, the same rules oblige Him, which bind us. It does not follow, that the sovereign proprietor can righteously deal towards His possessions, only in the modes in which fellow servants can properly treat each other. Hence such dealing, making guilty souls the executors, in part, of their own righteous punishment, as would be an intrusion for us, is righteous and holy for Him.

Is Predestination Unjustly Partial?

To notice briefly the standing objections: The doctrine of predestination as we have defined it, is not inconsistent with the justice and impartiality of God. His agency in the fall of angels and men was only permissive—the act and choice were theirs. They having broken God’s laws and depraved themselves, it would have been just in God to leave them all under condemnation. How then can it be more than just when He punishes only a part? The charge of partiality has been absurdly Drought here, as though there could be partiality where there are no rights at all, in any creature, on the mercy of God; and Ac 10:34; Le 19:15; De 1:17; 2Sa 14:14; Ro 2:11 have been quoted against us. As Calvin very acutely remarks on the first of these, one’s persona , proswpon , in the sense of these passages, means, not the moral character, as judicially well or ill-deserving, but his accidental position in society, as Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, plebeian or nobleman. And in this sense it is literally true of election, that in it God respects no man’s persona , but takes him irrespective of all these factitious advantages and disadvantages. To this foolish charge, Mt 20:15, is a sufficient answer. God’s sovereignty ought undoubtedly to come in as a reply. Within the bounds of His other perfections of righteousness, truth and benevolence, God is entitled to make what disposal of His own He is pleased, and men are His property—Romans 9:20 21. Paul does not imply here that God is capable of doing injustice to an innocent creature, in order to illustrate His sovereignty; but that in such a case as this of predestination, where the condemnation of all would have been no more than they deserved, He can exercise His sovereignty, in sparing and punishing just such as He pleases, without a particle of injustice.

Is It Unholy?

2. It is objected, that God’s holiness would forbid such a predestination. How, it is said, can it be compatible with the fact that God hates sin, for Him to construct an arrangement, He having full power to effectuate a different one, by which He voluntarily and intentionally leaves multitudes of His creatures in increasing and everlasting wickedness? And the same objection is raised against it from His benevolence. The answer is, that this is but the same difficulty presented by the origin of evil; and it presses on the Calvinist with no more force than on the Arminian, or even on the Socinian. Allow to God a universal, perfect foreknowledge, as the Arminian does, and the very same difficulty is presented, how an almighty God should have knowingly adopted a system for the universe, which would embody such results. For even if the grossest Pelagian view be adopted, that God is literally unable certainly to prevent the wicked acts of man’s free will, and yet leave him a free agent, it would doubtless have been in His power to let alone creating those who, He foresaw, would make a miserable immortality for themselves, in spite of His grace. The Arminian is obliged to say: "There are doubtless inscrutable reasons, unknown to us, but seen by God to be sufficient, why He should permit it?" The same appeal to our ignorance is just as available for the Calvinist. And if the lowest Socinian ground is taken, which denies to God a universal foreknowledge of the volitions of free agents, still we must suppose one of two things. He must either have less wisdom than many of His creatures, or else, He made these men and angels, knowing in the general, that large immortal misery would result. So that there is no evasion of this difficulty, except by so robbing God of His perfections as practically to dethrone Him. It is not Calvinism which creates it; but the simple existence of sin and misery, destined never to be wholly in the government of an almighty and omniscient God. He who thinks he can master it by his theory, only displays his folly.

How Reconciled With Gospel Offers To All?

3. It is objected that God’s goodness and sincerity in the offer of the Gospel to all is inconsistent with predestination. It is urged: God says He "hath no pleasure in the death of him that dieth;" that He would have all men to be saved; and that Christ declared His wish to save reprobate Jerusalem. Now, how can these things, and His universal offer: "Whosoever will, let him come," consist with the fixed determination that the non-elect shall never be saved? I reply, that this difficulty (which cannot be wholly solved) is not generated by predestination, but lies equally against any other theory which leaves God His divine attributes. Let one take this set of facts. Here is a company of sinners; God could convert all by the same powers by which He converts one. He offers His salvation to all, and assures them of His general benevolence. He knows perfectly that some will neglect the offer; and yet, so knowing, He intentionally refrains from exerting those powers, to overrule their reluctance, which He is able to exert if He chose. This is but a statement of stubborn facts; it cannot be evaded without impugning the omniscience, or omnipotence of God, or both. Yet, see if the whole difficulty is not involved in it. Every evangelical Christian, therefore, is just as much interested in seeking the solution of this difficulty as the Calvinist. And it is to be sought in the following brief suggestions. God’s concern in the transgression and impenitence of those whom He suffers to neglect His warnings and invitations, is only permissive. He merely leaves men to their own sinful choice. His invitations are always impliedly, or explicitly conditional; suspended on the sinner’s turning. He has never said that He desires the salvation of a sinner as impenitent; He only says, if the sinner will turn, he is welcome to salvation. And this is always literally true; were it in the line of possibilities that one non–elect should turn, he would find it true in his case. All, therefore, that we have to reconcile is these three facts; that God should see a reason why it is not proper, in certain cases, to put forth His almighty grace to overcome a sinner’s reluctance; and yet that He should be able to do it if He chose; and yet should be benevolent and pitiful towards all His creatures. Now God says in His Word that He does compassionate lost sinners. He says that He could save if He pleased. His word and providence both show us that some are permitted to be lost. In a wise and good man, we can easily understand how a power to pardon, a sincere compassion for a guilty criminal, and yet a fixed purpose to punish, could coexist; the power and compassion being overruled by His wisdom. Why may not something analogous take place in God, according to His immutable nature? Is it said: such an explanation implies a struggle in the breast between competing considerations, inconsistent with God’s calm blessedness? I reply, God’s revelations of His wrath, love, pity, repentance, etc., are all anthropopathic, and the difficulty is no greater here, than in all these cases. Or is it said, that there can be nothing except a lack of will, or a lack of power to make the sinner both holy and happy? I answer: it is exceeding presumption to suppose that, because we do not see such a cause, none can be known to God!

How To Be Taught, and Its Results.

"The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care." In preaching it, that proportion should be observed, which obtains in the Bible; and no polemical zeal against the impugners of the doctrine ought to tempt the minister to obtrude it more often. To press it prominently on anxious inquirers, or on those already confused by cavils of heretics or Satanic suggestions, or to urge it upon one inclined to skepticism, or one devoid of sufficient Christian knowledge, experience and humility, is unsuitable and imprudent. And when taught, it should be in the mode which usually prevails in Scripture, viz: a posteriori , as inferred from its result, effectual calling.

But when thus taught, the doctrine of predestination is full of edification. It gives ground for humility, because it leaves man no ground for claiming any of the credit of either originating or carrying on his salvation. It lays a foundation for confident hope; because it shows that "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." It should open the fountains of love and gratitude, because it shows the undeserved and eternal love of God for the undeserving. See here an eloquent passage in Witsius, b. 3, chap. 4, 30. We should learn to teach and to view the doctrine, not from an exclusive, but from an inclusive point of view. It is sin which shuts out from the favor of God, and which ruins. It is God’s decree which calls back, and repairs and saves all who are saved. Whatever of sin, of guilt, of misery, of despair the universe exhibits, arises wholly out of man’s and Satan’s transgression. Whatever of redemption, of hope, of comfort, of holiness and of bliss alleviates this sad panorama, all this proceeds from the decree of God. The decree is the fountain of universal benevolence; voluntary sin is the fountain of woe. Shall the fountain of mercy be maligned because, although it emits all the happiness in the universe, it has a limit to its streams?

Chapter 19: Creation

Section Two—Basic Doctrines of the Faith
Chapter 19: Creation

Syllabus for Lecture 23:

1. What is the usage and meaning of the word ’create’ in Scripture?

Turrettin, Loc. 5., Qu. 1. Lexicons. Dick, Lecture 37.

2. How else have philosophers accounted for the existence of the universe, except by a creation out of nothing?

Turrettin, ubi supra . Dick, as above. Brucher’s Hist. of Phil. British Encyclopedias articles "Atomic Philosophy," and "Platonism."

3. Prove that God created the world out of nothing; first from Scripture, and second, from Reason and the objections to the eternity of the Universe and matter.

Turrettin, Loc. 5., Qu. 3. Dr. S. Clarke, Discourses of Being, etc., of God. Dick, as above. Hodge Theology, Vol. 1., pp. 558, etc. Thornwell, Lecture 9, pp. 206-7 Christlieb, Mod. Doubt and Chr. Belief, Lect. 3.

4. Can a creature receive the power of creating, by delegation from God?

Turrettin, Loc. 5., Qu. 2.

5. What was each day’s work of creation, in the Mosaic week?

Genesis, ch. 1. Turrettin, Loc. 5., Qu. 5, 6. On this and the previous questions, see Knapp’s Chr. Theol., Art. 5., 45 to 50.

6. What are the theories of modern Geologists concerning the age of the earth? Their grounds, and the several modes proposed for reconciling them with the Mosaic history?

Hitchcock’s Relig. and Geology. Univ. Lectures, Dr. Lewis Green. Hugh

Miller, Testimony of the Rocks. Tayler Lewis’ Symbol Days. David, N. Lord on Geol. Sir Charles Lyell’s System of Geol. Dr. Gerald Molloy Wiseman’s Lectures, etc.

Terms Defined.

The words rendered to create, cannot be considered, in their etymology and usage, very distinctive of the nature of the act. The authorities make ar;B; mean "to cut or carve," primarily; (from the idea of splitting off parts, or separation) hence "to fashion," then to "create;" and thence the more derivative sense of producing or generating, regenerating the heart, etc. The verb hc;[; carries, according to the authorities, more of the sense of the Greek verb poiew—to do or to make," and is used for fashioning, manufacturing, doing (as a function or business), acquiring property, etc. The verb rx'y seems to me to carry more distinctively the idea of fashioning out of pre–existent materials, as a potter rxe/y out of clay, etc. And it will be observed that wherever it is applied to making man or animals in Gen., the material out of which, is mentioned or implied, as Ge 2:7. God fashioned man r10, yIYw" out of the dust of the earth. The word usually employed from Greek in Septuagint and New Testament to express the idea of creating, as distinguished from begetting or generating is ktizw. This, authorities say, means primarily to "found," or "build," and hence, "to make," "create."

Creation Was Out of Nothing.

It will be clearly seen hence, that the nature of the creative act is but faintly defined by the mere force of the words. Yet Scripture does not lack passages, which explicitly teach, that God produced the whole Universe out of nothing by His almighty power; i. e., that His first work of creation did not consist merely of fashioning materials already existent, but of bringing all substance, except His own, out of non-existence into existence. How impossible this seemed to the ancient mind appears from this fact, that the opposite was regarded as an axiom (ex nihilo nihil fit) and lay as such at the basis of every system of human device. So that it was from an accurate knowledge, that the author of Hebrews says (11:3,) that the true doctrine of creation was purely one of faith. And this is our most emphatic proof text. We may add to it (Ro 4:17; perhaps 1Co 1:28; 2Co 4:6; Ac 17:28; Col 1:17). The same meaning may be fairly argued for the word ar;B; (Ge 1:1), from the fact that its sense there is absolutely unqualified or limited by any previous proposition, or reference to any material, and also from the second verse. The work of the first verse expressed by ar;B; left the earth a chaos. Therefore it cannot contain the idea of fashioning, so that if you refuse to it the sense of an absolute production out of nothing, you seem to leave it no meaning whatever. This truth also appears very strongly, from the contrast which is so often run by Scripture between God’s eternity and the temporal nature of the creation. See Ps 90:2; Mt 25:34; 2Ti 1:9; Re 1:11 and especially Pr 8:23-26, "nor the highest part of the dust of the world." It is hard to see how it could be more strongly asserted, that not only was the organization, but the very material of the world as yet all non-existent.

This Inscrutable, But Not Impossible.

How almighty power brings substance into existence from absolute non–entity, our minds may not be able to conceive. Like so many other questions of ontology, it is too impalpable for the grasp of our understandings. As we have seen, the mind neither sees nor conceives substance, not even material; but only its attributes; only, it is intuitively impelled to refer those attributes (of which alone it has perception, to some substratum as the substance in which they inhere. The entity itself being mysterious, it need not surprise us to find that its rise out of non-entity is so. It is objected that a creation out of nothing is a contradiction, because it makes nothing a material to act on, and thus, an existence. We reply that this is a mere play upon the meaning of a preposition; We do not mean that "nothing" is a material out of which existences are fashioned; but the term from which an existence absolutely begins. God created a world where nothing was before. Is it objected that, in all our experiential knowledge of causation, the object to receive, is as necessary as the agent to emit power? True; but our knowledge of power is not an experimental idea, but an intuitive, rational notion; and in the most ordinary effect which we witness, is as really inscrutable to our perception and imagination, as the causation of a totally new existence. The latter is beyond our finite powers; we are certainly incompetent to say that it is beyond the reach of infinite power. So, all the transcendental difficulties which Pantheists make against a creation ex nihilo , have this common vice: They are attempts to bring down to our conceptual forms of thought the relations of the infinite, which inevitably transcend them.

There are three other schemes which offer us an alternative to this of an absolute creation; that of the atomic philosophers, that of the Platonists, and that of the Pantheists.

Atomic Theory. Refutation.

The ante-Socratic Greek philosopher Democritus, along with Leucippus, proposed the Atomic theory of the Universe, which was later adopted by Epicurus, and greatly opposed by Plato and his followers. This particular theory might be expressed in such a way, if it were freed from the mechanical technicalities of the Greeks, so as to embrace as few absurdities as perhaps any possible anti-Christian system. That is, it has the merit of atheism, of making two or three gigantic falsehoods, assumed at the outset, supersede a whole train of minor absurdities. Grant, say the atomists, the eternal existence of matter, in the state of ultimate atoms, endued by the necessity of nature, with these three eternal attributes, motion, a perpetual appetency to aggregation, and diversity of ultimate form, and you have all that is necessary, to account for universal organization. Now, without dwelling on the metaphysical objection (whose soundness is questionable) that necessary existence is inconsistent with diversity of form, these obvious reasons show that the postulates are not only unproved (proof I have never seen attempted) but impossible. First: motion is not a necessary attribute of matter: but on the contrary, it is indifferent to a state of rest or motion, requiring power to cause it to pass out of either state into the opposite. Second: Intelligent contrivance could never be generated by mere necessary, mechanical aggregations of material atoms; but remains still an effect without a cause. Third: the materialistic account of human and other spirits, which this theory gives, is impossible.

Platonic Scheme. Refutation.

The Pantheistic theory has been already refuted, as space would allow, in the first Chapter. . The Platonic is certainly attended with fewest absurdities, and best satisfied the demands of thinking minds not possessed of Revelation. Starting; with the maxim ex nihilo nihil fit , it supposes two eternal substances, the sources of all that exists; the spiritual God, and chaotic matter; the spirits of demi-gods, and men being emanations of the former, and the material universe having been fashioned out of the latter, in time, through the agency of the Nou" or Dhmiourgo" . The usual arguments against the eternity of the unorganized matter of the universe, have been weighed in the Second Lecture, and many of them found wanting, (which see). I now aim only to add to what is there said, such considerations as human reason seems able to advance solidly against this doctrine. You will remember that I there argued, 1st: From the testimony of the human race itself, and 2nd, from the recency of population, history, traditions, arts, etc., on the earth, against the eternity of its organized state. To this we may add: 3rd. If matter unorganized was eternal, it must have been self-existent, and hence, whatever attributes it had from eternity must have been absolutely necessary. Hence there was a necessary limitation on the power of God, in working with such a material; and it may be that He did not make what He would have preferred to make, but only did the best He could under the circumstances. (Indeed, the Platonist, knowing nothing of the doctrine of a fall in Adam, accounted for all the disorders and defects in the world, by the refractory nature of eternal matter. The creator excuses himself as a smith does, who, though thoroughly skillful, produces an imperfect edge-tool, because he had nothing but bad steel). But, if this is so, then: (a) God as Creator is not infinite; there are limitations upon His powers, as necessary and eternal as His own attributes. And these limits obstruct His providential action as they did His creative. Hence, He is no longer an. object of religious trust, and perfect confidence. He is only an able artifices. (b) Then, also, God’s knowledge of this self–existent matter, external to Himself, was experimentally gained; and the doctrine of His omniscience is fatally vitiated. 4th. The elementary properties of matter, which on this theory, must have been eternal and necessary, have an adaptation to God’s purposes in creation, that displays intelligent contrivance, just as clearly as any organized thing can. But matter is unintelligent; this design must have had a cause. 5th. The production of spiritual substance out of nothing is, we presume, just as hard to account for as material substance. Hence, if an instance of the former is presented, the doctrine of the eternity of the Universe may as well be surrendered. But our souls each present such an instance. No particle of evidence exists from consciousness or recollection, that they pre-existed, and everything is against the notion that they are scintillations of God’s substance. They began to exist: at least man has no knowledge whatever of any other origin: and by the rule: De ignotis idem quasi de non existentibus , any other origin is out of the debate. They were produced out of nothing. In conclusion, it may be said that, if the idea of the production of something out of nothing is found to be not impossible, as we think, when we have supposed an Almighty Creator, we have cause enough to account for everything, and it is unnecessary to suppose another.

No Creature Can Be Enabled To Create.

The question whether a creature can receive, if God choose, delegated power to create, has been agitated between the Orthodox and some of the Roman Catholics, (who would fain introduce a plea for the making of a Savior by the priest, in the pretended miracle of the mass) and the old Arians and Socinians, who would thus evade the argument for Christ’s proper divinity, from the evident ascription to Him of works of creation. We believe not only that the noblest of finite creatures is incapable of exercising creative power proper, of his own motion; but of receiving it by delegation from God, so that the latter is one of those natural s which it would argue imperfection in omnipotence to be capable of doing.

(a) God, in a multitude of places, claims creation as His characteristic work, by which His Godhead is manifested, and His superiority shown to all false gods and idols (Isa 44:7,24; 40:12; 13; 18; 28: Job 9:8; Jer 10:11-12; Isa 37:16; Ps 96:5). Thus Creator comes to be one of God’s names.

(b) To bring anything, however small, out of non-existence is so far above man’s capabilities, that he cannot even conceive how it can be done. In order that a work may be conceivable or feasible for us, it must have subject and agent. Man has no faculty which can be directed upon non-entity in any way, to bring anything out of it. Indeed, however small the thing thus produced out of nothing; there is an exertion of infinite power. The distance to be passed over between the two is a fathomless gulf to every finite mind.

(c.) To make one thing, however limited, might require infinite powers of understanding For however simple, a number of the laws of nature would be involved in its structure; and the successful construction would demand a perfect acquaintance with those laws, at least, in their infinite particularity, and in all their possible combinations, and with the substance as well as attributes. Consider any of the constructions of man’s shaping and joining materials God has given him, and this will be found true. The working of miracles by prophets, apostles, etc., offers no instance to the contrary, because it is really God who works the miracle, and the human agent only announces, and appeals to the interposition of divine power. See Ac 3:12.

The Creative Week.

If we suppose that Ge 1:1 describes a previous production in a time left indefinite, of the heavens and the matter of the earth, then the work of the first of the six days will be the production of light. It may seem unreasonable at the first glance, that light should be created, and should make three days before the sun, its great fountain at present, was formed. But all the researches of modern optics go more and more to overthrow the belief that light is a substantive emanation from the sun. What it is, whether a substance, or an affection of other substance, is still unknown. Hence it cannot be held unreasonable that it should have existed before the sun; nor that God should have regulated it in alternations of day and night. On the second day the atmosphere seems to have been created, (the expanse) or else disengaged from chaos, and assigned its place around the surface of the earth. This, by sustaining the clouds, separated the waters from the waters. The work of the third day was to separate the terrestrial waters from the dry ground, to assign each their bounds, and to stock the vegetable kingdom with its genera of trees and plants. The fourth day was occupied with the creation, or else the assignment to their present functions, of sun, moon and stars. And henceforth these became the chief depositories, or else propagators, of natural light. The fifth day witnessed the creation of all oviparous animals, including the three classes of fishes, reptiles and birds. The sixth day God created the terrestrial animals of the higher order, now known as mammalia, and man, His crowning work.

The View of Modern Geology Explained.

In our age, as you are aware, modern geologists teach, with great unanimity, that the state of the structures which compose the earth’s crust shows it to be vastly more than 6,000 years old. To explain this supposed evidence to you, I may take for granted your acquaintance with the classes into which they distribute the rocks and soils that form the earth, so far as man has pierced it. Lowest in order, and earliest in age, are the azoic rocks, many of them crystalline in texture, and all devoid of fossils. Above them are rocks, by the older geologists termed secondary and tertiary, but now termed palaeozoic; mesozoic, and cainozoic. Above them are alluvia, the more recent of which contain remains of existing genera . Only the barest outline of their classification is necessary for our purpose. Now, the theory of the geologists is, that the materials of the stratified rocks were derived, by disintegration, from masses older than themselves; and that all this material has been re-arranged by natural processes of deposition, since the creation of our globe. And hence, that creation must have been thousands of ages before Adam. (a.) Because the crystalline rocks, which are supposed to have furnished the material for all the later, seemed to have resulted from a gradual cooling, and are very hard, disintegrating very slowly. (b.) The made-rocks and earths are very abundant, giving an average thickness of from six to ten miles. Hence a very great time was requisite to disintegrate so much hard material. (c.) The position of these made strata or layers, indicates long series of changes, since they were deposited, as upheavals, dislocations, depressions, subsequent re-dissolvings.

(d.) They contain 30, 000 species and more, of fossil remains of animal life, besides vegetable; of which, not only are whole genera now extinct, but were wholly extinct ages before another cluster of genera were first created; which are now extinct also. And the vast quantities of these fossils, as shells in some limestone, remains of vegetation in vast coal beds, etc., etc., point to a long time, for their gradual accumulation.

(f.) There are no human fossils found with these remains of earlier life, whence they were pre-Adamite.

Last. Since the last great geologic changes in the strata of the made rocks, changes have been produced in them by natural and gradual causes, which could not have been made in 6, 000 years, as whole deltas of alluvial mud deposited, e. g., . Louisiana, deep channels dug out by rivers, as Niagara from Lake Ontario to the falls, water worn caves in the coast lines, and former coast lines of countries, e. g., Great Britain, which are rock-bound.

Attempts To Reconcile This With Moses. 1st Scheme.

Modern divines, usually yield this as a demonstration: and offer one of two solutions to rescue Moses from the appearance of mistake. 1. Drs. Pye Smith, Chalmers, Hitchcock, Hodge, etc., suppose Ge 1:1-2,1st clause, to describe God’s primeval, creative act; which may have been separated by thousands of ages from Adam’s day, and in that vast interval, occurred all those successive changes which geologists describe as pre-Adamite, and then lived and died all those extinct genera of animals and vegetables. The scene had been closed, perhaps ages before, by changes which left the earth’s surface void, formless and dark. But all this Moses passes over with only one word; because the objects of a religious revelation to man were not concerned with it. The second verse only describes how God took the earth in hand, at this stage, and in six days gave it the order, the genera of plants and animals, and last, the human race, which now possesses it.

The geological objections which Hugh Miller, its ablest Christian assailant, brings, may be all summed up in this: That the fossils show there was not such a clean cutting off of all the genera of plants and animals at the close of the pre-Adamite period, and re-stocking of the earth with the existing genera; because many of the existing co-exist with the prevalent pleiogenera, in the tertiary rocks, and many of those again, with the older genera, in the palaeozoic rocks. This does not seem at all conclusive, because it may have suited God, at the close of the pre-Adamite period, to suffer the extinction of all, and then to create, along with the totally different new genera, some bearing so close a likeness to some extinct genera, as to be indistinguishable by their fossils.

Exegetical Difficulties.

The exegetical objections are chiefly these. 1. That the sun, moon and light were only created at the Adamic period. Without these there could have been neither vegetable nor animal life before. 2. We seem to learn from Ge 1:31; 3:17-19; Ro 5:12; 8:19-22, that all animal suffering and death came upon our earth as a punishment for man’s sin; which our conceptions of the justice and benevolence of God seem to confirm. To the 1st the common answer is, that the chaotic condition into which the earth had fallen just before the Adamic period, had probably shut out all influences of the heavenly bodies; and that the making of sun, moon, etc., and ordaining them for lights, etc., probably only means their apparent creation, i. e., their reintroduction to the earth. To the 2nd it is replied, that the proper application of the texts attributing all terrestrial disorder and suffering to man’s fall, is only to the earth as contemporary with man; and that we are too ignorant of God’s plan, and of what sin of rational free agents may, or may not have occurred on the pre-Adamite earth, to dogmatize about it. These replies seem plausible, and may be tenable. This mode of reconciling geology to Moses, is certainly the least objectionable, and most respectable.

The Theory of Six Symbolic Days.

The second mode of reconciliation, now made most fashionable by H. Miller, Tayler Lewis, etc., supposes that the word µ/y day, in the account of creation, does not mean a natural day of 24 hours, but is symbolical of a vast period; during which God was, by natural laws, carrying on changes in the earth’s surface and its inhabitants. And they regard the passage as an account of a sort of symbolic vision, in which God gave Moses a picture, in six. tableaux, of these six vast series of geologic and creative changes: so that the language is, to use Dr. Kurtz’ (of Dorpat) fantastic idea, a sort of prophecy of the past, and is to be understood according to the laws of prophetic symbols. This they confirm by saying that Moses makes three days before he has any sun or moon to make them: that in Ge 2:4, the word is used for something other than a natural day; and that it is often used in Hebrew as a general and undefined term for season or period. Miller also argues, that geology reveals the same succession of fossils which Moses describes; first plants, then monstrous fishes and reptiles and birds, (all oviparous), then quadrupeds and mammalia, and last, man.


The following objections lie against this scheme. Geologists are not agreed that the succession of fossils is that which its advocates assert. Some of the weightiest authorities declare that plants (assigned by this scheme to the third day, and to the earliest production of organic things) are not the earliest fossils. Crustaceous and even vertebrate animals precede the plants. Second. The narrative seems historical, and not symbolical; and hence the strong initial presumption is, that all its parts are to be taken in their obvious sense. The advocates of the symbolic days (as Dr. G. Molloy) attach much importance to their claim that theirs is not an afterthought, suggested by geologic difficulties, but that the exposition was advanced by many of the "Fathers." After listening to their citations, we are constrained to reply that the vague suggestions of the different Fathers do not yield them any support, because they do not adopt their theory of explanation. Third. The sacred writer seems to shut us up to the literal interpretation, by describing the day as composed of its natural parts, "morning and evening." Is the attempt made to break the force of this, by reminding us, that the "evening and the morning "do not make up the whole of the civic day of twenty–four hours; and that the words are different from those just before, and commonly afterwards employed to denote the "day" and the "night," which together make up the natural day? We reply: it is true, morning and evening do not literally fill the twenty-four hours. But these epochs mark the beginnings of the two seasons, day and night, which do fill the twenty-four hours. And it is hard to see what a writer can mean, by naming evening and morning as making a first, or a second "day"; except that he meant us to understand that time which includes just one of each of these successive epochs:—one beginning of night, and one beginning of day. These gentlemen cannot construe the expression at all. The plain reader has no trouble with it. When we have had one evening and one morning, we know we have just one civic day; for the intervening hours have made just that time. Fourth. In Ge 2:2-3; Ex 20:11, God’s creating the world and its creatures in six days, and resting the seventh, is given as the ground of His sanctifying the Sabbath day. The latter is the natural day; why not the former? The evasions from this seem peculiarly weak. Fifth. It is freely admitted that the word day is often used in the Greek Scriptures as well as the Hebrew (as in our common speech) for an epoch, a season, a time. But yet, this use is confessedly derivative. The natural day is its literal and primary meaning. Now, it is apprehended that in construing any document, while we are ready to adopt, at the demand of the context, the derived or tropical meaning, we revert to the primary one, when no such demand exists in the context. Last. The attributing of the changes ascribed to each day by Moses, to the slow operation of natural causes, as Miller’s theory does, tramples upon the proper scope of the passage, and the meaning of the word "create;" which teach us this very truth especially; that these things were not brought about by natural law at all, but by a supernatural divine exertion, directly opposed thereto See Ge 2:5. If Moses does not here mean to teach us that in the time named by the six "days" (whatever it may be), God was employed in miraculously creating and not naturally "growing" a world, I see not how language can be construed. This; decisive difficulty is wholly separate from the questions about the much debated word, "day," in this passage.

Chapter 20: Angels

Section Two—Basic Doctrines of the Faith
Chapter 20: Angels

Syllabus for Lecture 24:

1. Prove the existence and personality of Angels; and show the probable time of their creation.

Turrettin, Loc. 7., Qu. 2, 3, 5, 6, 7. Calvin’s Inst., bk. 1., ch. 14. Dick, Lecture 38. Knapp, 58, 59.

2. What is revealed of their numbers nature, powers and ranks?

Turrettin, as above. Dick and Calvin, as above. Knapp, as above, and 61.

3 In what moral state were they created, and under what covenant were they placed? How did this probation result?

Turrettin, Loc. 7., Qu. 4, Loc. 9., Qu. 5, Loc. 4., Qu. 8, a 1–8. Dick, Lecture 39. Calvin, as above.

4. What are the offices of the good angels? Have He saints individual guardian angels?

Turrettin, Loc. 7., Qu. 8. Dick, Lecture 38. Calvin, as above, Knapp, 60.

5. Prove the personality and headship of Satan, and the personal existence of his angels.

Calvin as above. Dick as above. Knapp, 62, 63.

6 What do the Scriptures teach as to the powers of evil angels over natural elements and animal bodies over the minds and hearts of men: in demoniacal possessions of ancient and modern times; in witchcraft and magic, and of the grade of guilt of wizards etc.?

Turrettin Loc. 7. Qu. 5, Loc. 9., Qu. 5, Loc. 4., Qu. 8, 18. Calvin’s Inst., bk. 1., ch. 2., 13–20. Ridgeley, Qu. 19. Knapp, 64 to 66. Commentaries.

7. What personal Christian duties result from this exposure to the assaults of evil angels?

Personality of Angels.

Against ancient Sadducees, who taught neither resurrection, angel, nor spirit, (Ac 23:8) and made the angels only good thoughts and motions visiting human breasts; and our modern Sadducees, among Rationalists, Socinians and Universalists, who teach that they are impersonations of divine energies, or of good and bad principles, or of diseases and natural influences; we prove the real, personal existence of angels thus: The Scriptures speak of them as having all the acts and properties, which can characterize real persons. They were created, by God, through the agency of the Son. (Col 1:16; Ge 2:1; Ex 20:11). Have a nature, for Christ did not assume it (Heb 2:16). Are holy or unholy (Re 14:10). Love and rejoice (Lu 15:10). Desire (1Pe 1:12). Contend (Re 12:7). Worship (Heb 1:6). Go and come (Ge 19; Lu 9:26). Talk (Zec 1:9; Lu 1:13). Have knowledge and wisdom, (finite) (2Sa 14:20; Mt 24:36). Minister in various acts (Mt 13:29,49; Lu 16:22; Ac 5:19). Dwell with saints, who resemble them, in heaven (Mt 22:30), etc. If all this language was not intended to assure us of their personal existence, then there is no dependence to be placed on the word of God, or the laws of its interpretation.

The name angel (messenger) is indeed applied to ordinary messengers (Job 1:14; Lu 7:24); to prophets (Isa 42:19: Mal 3:1); to priests (Mt 2:7); to ministers of the Church Re 1:20), and to the Messiah (Mt 3:1). But the other sense of personal and spiritual existences, is none the less perspicuous. They are called angels generally, because they fulfill missions for God.

Spiritual Creatures Possible.

The invisible and spiritual nature of these beings does not make their existence less credible, to any, except atheists and materialists. True, we have no sensible experience of their existence. Neither have we, directly, of our own souls, nor of God. If the existence of pure, finite spirits is impossible, then man cannot be immortal; but the death of the body is the death of the being. Indeed, analogy would rather lead us to infer the existence of angels, from the almost numberless gradations of beings below man. Is all the vast gap between him and God a blank?

Date Unknown.

To fix the date of the creation of angels is more difficult. The old opinion of the orthodox Reformers was, that their creation was a part of the first day’s work. (a.) Because they, being inhabitants, or hosts (see Ps 103:21; 148:2) of heaven, were created when the heavens were. But see Ge 1:1; 2:1; Ex 20:11. (b.) Because Scripture seems to speak of all the past eternity "before the foundation of the world" as an unbroken infinity, in which nothing existed except the uncreated; so that to speak of a being as existing before that, is in their language, to represent him as uncreated (see Pr 8:22; Ps 90:2; Joh 1:1). Now I concede that the including of the angels with the heavens, under the term hosts of them, is correct. But first, the angels were certainly already in existence when this earth was begun. See Job 37:7. Second: the "beginning" in which God made the heavens and the earth (Ge 1:1), is by no means necessarily the first of the six creative days. Nor does Ge 2:1, ("Thus were finished," is an unnecessarily strong rendering of WlkiyÒw") prove it. Hence, third, it may be granted that the beginning of the creation of God’s created universe may mark the dividing point between unsuccessive eternity, and successive time, and between the existence of the uncreated alone, and of the creature; and yet it does not follow that this point was the first of the Mosaic days. Hence, it is best to say, with Calvin, that the age of the angels is unrevealed, except that they are older than the world and man.

Qualities of the Angels; Incorporeal? Whence the Forms of Their Apparitions?

The angels are exceedingly numerous (Ge 32:2; Da 7:10: Lu 2:13; 8:30; Mt 26:53; Heb 12:22). Their nature is undoubtedly spiritual, belonging generally to that class of substances to which man’s rational soul belongs, They are called Pneumata (Heb 1:13-14,7; Lu 20:36; 24:39; Col 1:16). This also follows from what we learn of their traits, as intelligent and voluntary beings, as invisible, except when they assume bodies temporarily, as inexpressibly quick in motion; and as penetrable, so that they occupy the same space with matter, without displacing or being displaced by it. Several supposed objections to their mere spirituality have been mooted. One is, that they have, as we shall see, so much physical power. The answer is, that the ultimate source of all force is in spirits; our limbs only have it, as moved by our spirit’s volitions. Another is, that if pure spirits, they would be ubiquitous, because to suppose any substance possessed of locality must imply that it is defined by extension and local limits. But extension cannot be an attribute of spirit: I reply, that it must be possible for a spirit to have locality "definitely," though not "circumscriptively," because our consciousness assures us that our spirits are within the superficies of our body, in some true sense in which they are not elsewhere; yet it is equally impossible for us to attribute dimension, either to our spirits or their thoughts. And just as really as our spirits pass through space, when our bodies move, so really angels change their locality, though far more swiftly, by an actual motion, through extension; though not implying extension in the thing moved. Again, it is objected: angels are spoken of as having wings, figure, and often, human shape, in which they were sometimes, not merely visible, but tangible, and performed the characteristic material acts of eating and drinking. See Ge 18:2,5,8; 19:10,16. On this it may be remarked that Scripture expressly assigns wings to no orders but cherubim and seraphim. We see Da 9:21, and Re 14:6, speaking of angels, not cherubim and seraphim, as "flying," But this may be in the general sense of rapid motion; not motion with wings. The purpose of these appearances is obvious, to briny the presence and functions of the angelic visitant under the scope of the senses of God’s servants, for some particular purpose of mercy. Angelic apparitions seem to have appeared under three circumstances—in dreams—in states of inspired ecstacy, and when the observer was in the usual exercise of his senses. Only the latter need any explanation; for the former cases are accounted for by the ideal impression made on the conception of the dreaming or ecstatic mind by God. But in such cases as that of Ge 18; 19, we are bound to believe that these heavenly spirits occupied for the time, real, material bodies. Any other opinion does violence at once to the laws of exegesis of Scripture language, and to the validity of our senses as inlets of certain and truthful perceptions. Whence then, those bodies? Say some, they were the actual bodies of living men, which the angels occupied, suppressing, for the nonce, the consciousness and personality of the human soul to which the body belonged. Some, that they are material, but glorified substances, kept in heaven, ready for the occasional occupancy of angels on their missions; as we keep a Sunday-coat in our wardrobes. Some, that they were aerial bodies, composed of compacted atmosphere, formed thus for their temporary occupancy, by divine power, and then dissolved into air again. And still others, that they were created by God for them, out of matter as Adam’s body was, and then laid aside. Where God has not seen fit to inform us, I think it best to have no opinion on this mysterious subject. The Scriptures plainly show us, that this incorporation is temporary.

The Angels Intelligent Agents.

The angels are intelligent and voluntary beings, as is most manifest, from their functions of praising, worshipping, teaching the prophets, and ministering to saints, and from their very spirituality; for thought is the characteristic attribute of spirit. We naturally infer that as angels are incorporeal, they have neither senses, nor sensation, nor literal language. Since our senses are the inlets of all our objective knowledge, and the occasional causes of all mental action, we have no experience nor conception of a knowledge without senses. But it does not seem unreasonable to believe that our bodies obstruct the cognitions of our souls, somewhat as imprisoning one within solid walls does his communication with others; that our five senses are the windows, pierced through this barrier, to let in partial perceptions; and that consequently, the disembodied soul perceives and knows somehow, with vastly greater freedom and fullness, by direct spiritual apprehension. Yet all of the knowledge of angels is not direct intuition. No doubt much of it is mediate and deductive, as is so much of ours; for the opposite form of cognition can only be universal, in an infinite understanding. It is very clear also, that the knowledge of angels is finite and susceptible of increase. Mr 13:32; Eph 3:10; 1Pe 1:12; Da 8:16 Turrettin’s four classes of angelic knowledge—natural, experimental, supernatural, and revealed—might, I think, be better arranged as their concreated, their acquired, and their revealed knowledge. It is, in fine, clear that their knowledge and wisdom are great. They appear, Dan. and Rev., as man’s teachers, they are glorious and splendid creatures, and they enjoy more favor and communion from God. See also, 2Sa 14:20.


They are also beings of great power; passing over vast spaces with almost incredible speed, Da 9:23; exercising portentous physical powers, 2Ki 19:35; Zec 12:8; Ac 12:7,10; Mt 28:2, and they are often spoken of as mighty beings Ps 103:20; Re 10:1; 5:2, and are spoken of as dunamei" , principalities, etc., Eph 6:12; 2Th 1:7. This power is undoubtedly always within God’s control, and never truly super-natural, although superhuman. It seems to have extended at times, by God’s permission, to men’s bodies, to diseases, to the atmosphere, and other elements.

Their Orders.

The romantic distribution of the angels into a hierarchy of three classes and nine orders, borrowed by the Pseudo Dionysius from the Platonizing Jews, need not be refuted here. It is supposed by many Protestants, that there are differences of grade among angels, (though what, we know not) from the fact—(a) That Paul uses several terms to describe them, Col 1:16; (b) That there is at least one superior angel among the evil angels; (c) That we hear of an archangel, Michael; (d) That God’s terrestrial works exhibit every where, gradations.

Michael Not Angel of Covenant.

If, as some suppose, Michael is identical with the Angel of the Covenant, the third of these considerations is removed. Their reasons are, that he is called the Archangel, and is the only one to whom the title is given; that he is called the Prince, and great Prince, who stood for Israel, (Da 10:21; 12:1,) and that he is seen, (Re 12:7) heading the heavenly war against Satan and his kingdom; a function suited to none so well as to the Messiah. But it is objected, with entire justice, that his name (Who is as God?) is not any more significant of the Messiah than that of Michaiah, and is several times the name of a man—that he is one, "one of the chief princes" (Da 10:13). That in Jude, he was under authority in his dispute over Moses’ body, and that he is plainly distinguished from Christ, (1Th 4:16) where Christ descends from heaven with the voice of the archangel, and trump of God.

Cherubim. What?

A more difficult question is, what were the cherubim mentioned (Ge 3:24; Ex 25:18; 1Ki 6:23; Ps 18:10; Eze 10:5,7, etc.), and most probably, under the name of seraphim, in Isa 6:2. It is very evident, also, that the "living creatures, described in Ezekiel’s vision, chapter 1:5, as accompanying the wheels, and sustaining the divine throne, were the same. Dr. Fairbairn, the most quoted of modern interpreters of types and symbols, teaches that the cherubim are not existences at all, but mere ideal symbols, representing humanity redeemed and glorified. His chief argument, omitting many fanciful ones drawn from the fourfold nature, and their wings, etc., is: that they are manifestly identical with the swa of Re 4:6-8, which evidently symbolize, chapter 5:8-10, somehow, the ransomed Church. The great objections are, that the identification is not certain, inasmuch as John’s Zwa had but one face each; that there is no propriety in founding God’s heavenly throne and providence on glorified humanity, as His immediate attendants; but chiefly, that while it might consist with prophetic vision to make them ideal symbols, it utterly outrages the plain narrative of Ge 3:24. And the duty of the cherubim, there described, obstructing sinful man’s approach to the tree of life, with a flaming sword, the symbol of justice, is one utterly unfitted to redeemed and glorified humanity. Hence, I believe, with the current of older divines, that the cherubim are not identical with John’s "living creatures," but are angels, like all the others, real, spiritual, intelligent beings; and that when God was pleased to appear to Isaiah and Ezekiel in prophetic vision, they received temporarily these mixed forms, to be symbolical of certain traits of obedience, intelligence, strength, and swiftness, which they show as ministers of God’s providence and worshippers of His upper sanctuary. (The etymology of the word is utterly obscure.)

The Angel’s First Estate, Their Probation, and Issue Thereof.

That all these spiritual beings were created holy and happy, is evident from God’s character, which is incapable of producing sin or misery (see Ge 1:31), from the frequent use of the term holy angels, and from all that is revealed of their occupations and affections, which are pure, blessed and happy. The same truth is implied, in what is said, 2Pe 2:4, of "angels that sinned," and so were not spared, but cast down to hell, and Jude 6, of "angels that kept not their first estate." This first estate was, no doubt, in all, an estate of holiness and happiness. As to the change which has taken place in it, we are indeed left mainly to inference, by God’s word; but it is inference so well supported by His attributes, and the analogy of man’s case, that I feel a good degree of confidence in drawing it. A holy, intelligent creature, would owe service to God, with love and worship, by its natural relation to Him. And while God would be under no obligations to such a creature, to preserve its being, or bestow a happy immortality, yet His own righteousness and benevolence would forbid His visiting external suffering on that creature, while holy. The natural relation then, between such a creature and God, would be this: God would bestow perfect happiness, just so long as the creature continued to render perfect obedience, and no longer. For both the natural and legal consequence of sin would be spiritual death. But it would seem that some of the angels are elect, and these are now confirmed in a state of everlasting holiness and bliss. For holiness is their peculiarity, their blessedness seems complete, and they are mentioned as sharing with man the heavenly mansions, whence we know glorified saints will never fall. On the other hand, another class of the angels have finally and irrevocably fallen into spiritual death. The inference from these facts would seem to be, that the angels, like the human race, have passed under the probation of a covenant of works. The elect kept it, the non-elect broke it; the difference between them being made, so far as God was the author of it, not by His efficacious active decree and grace, but by His permissive decree, in which both classes were wholly left to the freedom of their wills. God only determining by His Providence the circumstances surrounding them, which became the occasional causes of their different choices, and limiting their conduct. On those who kept their probation, through the efficacy of this permissive decree, God graciously bestowed confirmation in holiness, adoption, and inheritance in life everlasting. This, being more than a temporary obedience could earn, was of pure grace; yet not through a Mediator; because the angels, being innocent, needed none. When this probation began, what was its particular condition, and when it ended, we know not; except that the fall of Satan, and most probably that of his angels, preceded Adam’s. Nor is the nature of the sin known. Some, from Mr 3:29, suppose it was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Others, from 1Ti 3:6, suppose it was pride; neither conclusively. Guessing is vain, where there is no key to a solution. It may very possibly be that pride was the sin, for it is one to which Satan’s spiritual nature and exalted state might be liable. The great difficulty is how, in a will prevalently holy, and not even swayed by innocent bodily wants and appetites, and where there was not in the whole universe a single creature to entice to sin, the first wrong volition could have place. At the proper time I will attempt to throw on this what light is in my power.

Occupations of Good Angels.

The chief action of the good angels is to worship and adore the living God. (Mt 18:10; Re 5:11). Moreover, God also employs them as his emmissaries in administering His gracious and providential government over the world. To this end they have aided in supplying special Revelation, such as in the Law (Ac 7:53; Ga 3:19) and in several prophetic messages and disclosures, as in Daniel chapter ten. The good angels also are concerned somewhat with social and national events, accomplishing God’s purposes (see v. 13 of Da 10.) Also, they are sent by God as instruments of wrath, punishing enemies (2Ki 19:35; Ac 12:23; 1Ch 21:16), as well as ministers of salvation to the elect (Heb 1:14; Ac 12:7; Ps 91:10,12). Good angels are also the guides of Christians from the door of death to the doors of their heavenly mansions (Lu 16:22); and lastly, they serve as Christ’s agents in the general judgment and resurrection. (Mt 13:39; 24:31; 1Th 4:17-18).

How Exercised?

As to the exact nature of the agencies exerted for the saints by the ministering angels, Christians are perhaps not very well instructed, nor agreed. A generation ago, it was currently believed that they communicated to their minds instructions important to their duty or welfare, by dreams, presentiments, or impressions. Of these, many Christians are now skeptical. It seems more certain that they exert an invisible superintendence over our welfare, in and under the laws of nature. Whether they influence our waking minds unconsciously by suggesting thoughts and feelings through our law of associated ideas, is much debated. I see in it nothing incredible. The pleasing and fanciful idea of guardian angels is grounded on the following scriptures: Da 10:13,20; Mt 18:10; Ac 12:15. The most that these passages can prove is that provinces and countries may have their affairs committed in some degree to the special care of some of the higher ranks of angels; and that superstitious Jews supposed that Peter had his own guardian angel who might borrow Peter’s body for the purpose of an apparition. The idea has more support in New Platonism than in Scripture.

Satan A Person.

The personality of Satan and his angels is to be established by an argument exactly similar to that employed for the good angels. Almost every possible act and attribute of personality is ascribed to them; so that we may say, the Scripture contains scarcely more proof of the existence of a personal God, than of a Devil. He speaks, goes, comes, reasons, hates, is judged, and is punished. See for instance, such passages as Mt 4:1-11; Joh 8:44; Job 1:6 to Job 2:7.

Scriptures Induce Over Whole Bible History the Form of the Two Rival Kingdoms.

There is no subject on which we may more properly remember that "There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy."

It is evidently the design of the Scriptures to make much of Satan and his work. From first to last, the favorite representation of the world’s history is, that it is the arena for a struggle between two kingdoms—Christ’s and Satan’s. Christ leads the kingdom of the good, Satan that of the evil; though with different authorities and powers. The headship of Satan over his demons is implied where they are called "his angels." He is also called Prince of Devils (Eph 2:2; Mt 25:41; 9:34). Prince of the powers of the air, and Prince of darkness (Eph 6:12). This pre-eminence he doubtless acquired partly by seducing them at first, and probably confirmed by his superior powers. His dominion is compacted by fear and hatred of God, and common purposes of malice. It is by their concert of action that they seem to approach so near to ubiquity in their influences. That Satan is also the tyrant and head of sinful men is equally plain. This prevalent Bible picture of the two kingdoms may be seen carried out in these particulars. (a) Satan originated sin (Ge 3:1; Re 12:9, to; 20:2, 10; 1Jo 3:8; Joh 8:44; 2Co 11:3). (b) Satan remains the leader of the human and angelic hosts which he seduced into hostility, and employs them in desperate resistance to Christ and His Father. He is the " God of this world" (2Co 4:4). "The Spirit that worketh in the children of this world." Eph 2:2. Wicked men are his captives. See above, and 2Ti 2:26. He is "the Adversary " (Satan,) "the Accuser," (Diabolo" ) "the Destroyer," (Apolluwn ) (c) The progress of Christ to the final overthrow of this kingdom is the one great business of all time; the history of the conflict is the history of man and redemption (Ge 3:15; Joh 12:31; 1Jo 3:8-10; 1Pe 5:8; Eph 6:11; Joh 8:44; Mr 3:23-27; Ro 16:20; Ac 26:18; Lu 10:18). The single fact that ungodly men, until the end of the world, compose Satan’s kingdom, proves that he has, and will have some power or influence over their souls.

Powers of Bad Angels.

The powers of Satan and his angels are (a) always, and in all forms, strictly under the control of God and His permissive decree and providence. (b) They are often, perhaps, super-human, but never supernatural. If they do what man cannot, it is not by possession of omniscience or omnipotence, but by natural law: as a son of Anak could lift more than a common man, or a Davy or Brewster could control more of the powers of nature than a peasant.

There is a supposition, which seems to have plausible grounds, that as the plan of redemption advances, the scope of Satan’s operations is progressively narrowed; just as the general who is defeated, is cut off from one and another of his resources, and hemmed in to a narrower theater of war, until his final capture. It may be, then, that his power of afflicting human bodies, of moving the material elements, of communicating with wizards, of producing mania by his possessions, has been, or will be successively retrenched; until at last the millennium shall take away his remaining power of ordinary temptation. See Lu 10:18: Mr 3:27; Re 20:3.

However, the power of the devil must not be minimized. The following is descriptive of the scope and limits of Satan’s power over the human dominion:

(1) Over Nature.

Satan once had, and for anything that can be proved, may now have extensive powers over the atmosphere and elements. The first is proved by Job, chapters 1 and 2. From this would naturally follow influence over the bodily health of men. No one can prove that some pestilences and droughts, tempests and earthquakes are not his work now.

(2) Over Human Minds.

He once had at least an occasional power of direct injection of conceptions and emotions, both independent of the man’s senses and suggestions. See Mt 4:3, etc. This is the counterpart of the power of good angels, seen in Da 9:22; Mt 2:13. It this power which makes the crime of witchcraft possible. The wizard was a man, and the witch a woman, who was supposed to communicate with an evil angel, and receive from him, at the cost of some profane and damnable price, power to do superhuman things, or to reveal secrets beyond human ken. Its criminality was in its profanity, in the alliance with God’s enemy, and its malignity in employing the arch-murderer, and always for wicked or malicious ends against others.


In Ex 22:18, witchcraft is made a capital sin; and in Ga 5:20, it is still mentioned as a "work of the flesh." Yet some suppose that the sin never could be really committed. They account for Moses’ statute by supposing that the class actually existed as impostors, and God justly punished them for their animus . This, I think, is hardly tenable. Others suppose the sin was anciently actual; but that now, according to the supposition of a gradual restriction, God no longer permits it; so that all modern wizards are impostors. Doubtless there was, at all times, a large infusion of imposture. Others suppose that God still occasionally permits the sin, relaxing His curb on Satan in judicial anger against men, as in the age of Moses. There is nothing unscriptural in this. I do not admit the reality of any modern case of witchcraft, only because I have seen no evidence that stands a judicial examination.

(3) Possession.

Evil spirits had power over men’s bodies and souls, by usurping a violent control over their suggestions, emotions and volitions, and thus violating their rational personality, and making the human members, for the time, their implements. This, no doubt, was attended with unutterable horror and agitation of consciousness, in the victim.

These Real.

This has been a favorite topic of neologic skepticism. They urge that the Evangelists did not really mean to teach actual possession; but their object being theological, and not medical or psychological, they used the customary language of their day, not meaning thereby to endorse it, as scientific or accurate; because any other language would have been pedantic and useless. They refer to Jos 10:12. In Mt 4:24, lunatics (selhniazomenoi ) are named; but we do not suppose the author meant to assert they were moonstruck. They remind us of similar cases of mania now cured by opiates or blisters. They remind us that "possessions," like other superstitions, are limited to the dark ages. They argue that demons are said, Jude 6th, to be in chains, etc.

In this case the theory is incompatible with the candor of the sacred writers. For: 1st. They distinguish between "possessions" and diseases of a physiological source, by mentioning both separately. See Mr 1:32; Lu 6:17-18; Mt 4:24, etc. 2d. The demons, as distinct from the possessed man, speak, and are spoken to, are addressed, commanded and rebuked by our Savior, and deprecate His wrath. Mr 1:25,34; 9:25; Mt 8:32; 18:3d. They have personality after they go out of men; whereas the disease has no entity apart from the body of which it was an affection. See Luke 8:32. 4th. A definite number of demons possessed one man, Mr 5:9, and one woman, Mr 9:5th Their moral quality is assigned. 6th. The victories of Christ and I His Apostles over them, announced the triumph of a spiritual kingdom over Satan’s. Mr 3:27; Lu 11:20.

Do "possessions" now exist? Many reply, No; some, on the supposition of a progressive restriction of Satan’s license; others, supposing that in the age of miracles, Providence made special allowance of this malice, in order to give Christ and His missionaries special opportunity to evince the power of His kingdom, and show earnests of its overthrow. The latter is one object of Christ’s victories over these "possessions." See Mr 3:27: Lu 11:20; 10:17-20, (where we have a separate proof of the spiritual nature of these possessions, as above shown). Whether "possessions" occur now, I do not feel qualified to affirm or deny.


The fourth power of Satan and demons is doubtless ordinary, and will be until the millennium; that of tempting to sin. This they may still carry on by direct injection of conceptions into our thoughts, or affections of the sensibility, without using the natural laws of sensibility or suggestion; and which they certainly do practice through the natural co-operation of those laws. Thus: A given mental state has a natural power to suggest any other with which it is associated. So that of several associated states, either one might naturally arise in the mind by the next suggestion. Now, these evil spirits seem to have the power of giving a prevalent vividness (and thus power over the attention and emotions) to that one of the associated states which best suits their malignant purposes. Thus: shall the sight of the wine-cup suggest most vividly, the jollity and pleasure of the past, or the nausea and remorse that followed it? If the latter, the mind will tend to sobriety: but if the former, it is tempted to sin. Here is the subtlety, and hence the danger of these practices, that they are not distinguished in our consciousness from natural suggestions, because the Satanic agency is strictly through the natural channels.

May Operate Through the Body.

The mutual influence of the physiological states of the nerves and acts of organs of sense, over the mind, and vice versa , is a very obscure subject. We know, at least, that there is a mass of important truth there, as yet partially explored. Many believe that a concept, for instance, actually colors the retina of the eye, as though the visual spectrum of the object was formed on it. All have experienced the influence of emotions over our sense–perceptions. Animal influences on the organs of sense and nerves influence both concepts and percepts. Now, if evil spirits can produce an animal effect on our functions of nervous sensibility, they have a mysterious mode of affecting our souls.

Recurring Suggestions Unwholesome.

We must also consider the regular psychological law, that vivid suggestions recurring too often always evoke a morbid action of the soul. The same subject of anxiety, for instance, too frequently recalled, begets an exaggerated anxiety. The "One idea-man" is a monomaniac. It thus becomes obvious, how Satan may now cause various grades of lunacy, and often does. (This is not to be confounded with actual "possessions.") Hence, in part, religious melancholies, the most frightful of mental diseases. The maniac even, has recessions of disease; or he has seasons of glee, which, if maniacal, are actual joy to his present consciousness. But the victim of religious melancholy has no respite; he is crushed by a perpetual incubus . You can see how Satan (especially if bodily disease co-operates) can help to propagate it by securing the too constant recurrence of subjects of spiritual doubt or anxiety. You will see also, that the only successful mode to deal with the victims of these attacks is by producing diversion of the habitual trains of thought and feeling.

7. How powerful is the motive to prayer, and gratitude for exemption from these calamitous spiritual assaults, for which we have no adequate defense in ourselves? The duty of watchfulness against temptations and their occasions, is plain. It becomes an obvious Christian duty to attempt to preserve the health of the nervous system, refraining from habits and stimulants which may have, we know not what influence on our nervous idiosyncrasy. It is also the duty of all to avoid overcoming and inordinate emotions about any object; and to abstain from a too constant pursuit of any carnal object, lest Satan should get his advantage of us thereby.

This discussion shows us how beneficent is the interruption of secular cares by the Sabbath’s break.

Chapter 21: Providence

Section Two—Basic Doctrines of the Faith
Chapter 21:

Syllabus for Lecture 25:

1. Define God’s Providence. State the other theories of His practical relation to the universe. What concern has Providence in physical causes and laws? Conf. of Faith, ch. 5. Turrettin, Loc. 6, Qu. 1, 2, 4. Dick Lecture 41, 42. Calvin’s Inst., bk. i, ch. 16 to 18. "Reign of Law," by Duke of Argyll Southern Presbyterian Review, Jan., 1870, Art. 1. Knapp, Chr. Theol., Art. viii McCosh, Div. Gov., bk. 2, ch. 1.

2. Argue the doctrine of a special, from that of a general Providence. Turrettin, Loc. 6, Qu. 3 Dick and Calvin as above.

3. Prove the doctrine of Providence; (a) from God’s perfections, (b) from man’s moral intuition, (c) from the observed course of nature and human history (d) from the dependence of creatures.

Turrettin, Loc. vi Qu. 1. Calvin and Dick as above. Knapp, Art. vi2, Sect. 68. 4. Present the Scriptural argument; (a) from prophecies; (b) from express testimonies Answer objections.

Same authorities, and Dick, Lecture 43.

5. Does God’s Providence extend to all acts of rational free-agents? What is His concern in the gracious acts of saints? What, in the evil acts of sinners? Discuss the doctrine of an immediate concursus in the latter.

Turrettin, Loc. 6, Qu. 4-8. Calvin, Inst., bk. 1Ch 18. Witsius, de Oec Fed bk. i, ch. 8, 13-Z9. Dick, Lecture 42, 43. Hill’s Div., bk. 4, ch. 9, 3. Knapp, Art. 8., 70-72, Hodge’s Outlines, ch. 13. Hodge, Syst. Theol, Vol. i, ch. 2. I, 3, 4.

1 & 2 Definitions and Other Theories.

Providentia Greek, pronoia , is the execution in successive time, of God’s eternal, unsuccessive purpose, or proqesi" . We believe the Scriptures to teach, not only that God originated the whole universe, but that He bears a perpetual, active relation to it; and that these works of providence are "His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures, and all their actions." It may be said that there are, besides this, three other theories concerning God’s relation to the Universe; that of the Epicurean, who, though admitting an intelligent deity, supposed it inconsistent with His blessedness and perfections, to have any likings or anger, care or concern in the multiform events of the worlds; that of the Rational Deists, Socinians, and many rationalists, that God’s concern with the Universe is not universal, special and perpetual, but only general, viz: by first endowing it with general laws of action, to the operation of which each individual being is then wholly left, God only exercising a general oversight of the laws, and not of specific agents; and that of the Pantheists, who identify all seeming substances with God, by making them mere modes of His self-development; so that there is no providential relation, but an actual identity; and all the events and acts of the Universe are simply God acting.

General Providence Unreasonable Without Special.

The first theory is, as we shall see, practical atheism, and is contradicted by a proper view of God’s attributes. The third has been already refused, as time and ability allowed. Against the second, or Deistical, I object that the seeming analogy by which it is suggested is a false one. That analogy is doubtless of human rulers—e. g., a commander of an army, who regulates general rules and important events, without being himself cognizant of special details; and of machinists, who construct a machine and start its motion, so that it performs a multitude of special evolutions, not individually directed by the maker. The vital difference is, that the human ruler employs a multitude of intelligent subordinates, independent of him for being, whose intention specifically embraces the details; whereas God directs inanimate nature) according to deists, without such intervention. The Platonist conception of a providence administered over particulars by demons is more consistent with this analogy. And the machinist does but adjust some motive power which God’s providence supplies (water on his wheel, the elasticity of a spring, etc.) to move his machine in his absence; whereas God’s providence itself must be the motive power of His universal machine. 2d. On this Deistical scheme of providence, results must either be fortuitous to God, (and then He is no longer Sovereign nor Almighty, and we reach practical atheism) or else their occurrence is determined by Him through the medium of causations possessed of a physical necessity, (and we are thus landed in stoical fate!) 3d. It is a mere illusion to talk of a certain direction of the general, which does not embrace the particulars; for a general class is nothing, when separated from the particulars which compose it, but an abstraction of the mind. Practically, the general is only produced by producing all the specials which compose it. If the agents or instruments by which a general superintendence is exercised, be contingent and fallible, the providence must be such also. God’s providence is efficient and almighty: it must then be special, or all its instruments God’s. 4th. God’s providence evolves all events by using second causes according to their natures. But all events are interconnected, nearly or remotely, as causes and effects. And the most minute events often bear the connection with the grandest; e. A., the burning of a city from a vagrant spark; the change of King Ahab’s dynasty by an errant arrow. Hence, according to this mode of providence, which we see God usually employs, unless His care extended to every event specially, it could not effectuate any, certainly. To exercise a general providence without a special, is as though a man should form a chain without forming its links.

The definition of Providence, which we adopted from the Catechism, divides it into two works—sustentation and government.

Scholastic Conception of Sustentation.

According to the Augustinian scholastics, the Cartesians, and many of the stricter Calvinistic Reformers, this sustentation of creatures in being is effected by a perpetual, active efflux or concursus of divine power at every successive instant, identical with that act of will and power by which they were brought out of nihil into esse ; and they conceive that on the cessation of this act of God, for one instant, towards any creature whatsoever, it would return incontinently to non-existence. So that it is no figure of speech with them to say, "Sustentation is a perpetual re-creation." Their arguments are, that God alone is self-existent; hence those things which have a dependent existence cannot have the ground of the continuance of their existence in themselves. That all creatures exist in successive time: but the instants of successive time have no substantive tie between them by which one produces the next; but they only follow each other, whence it results that successive existence is momentarily returning to nihil and is only kept out of it by a perpetual re-creation. And 3d: They quote Scriptures, as Ne 9:6; Job 10:12; Ps 104:27-30; Ac 17:28; Heb 1:3; Col 1:17; Isa 10:18.

This Not Proved.

This speculation has always seemed to me without basis, and its demonstration, to say the least, impossible for the human understanding. But let me distinctly premise, that both the existence and essence or the being and properties of every created thing, originated out of nothing, in the mere will and power of God; that they are absolutely subject, at every instant of their successive existence, to His sovereign power; that their action is all regulated by His special providence, and that He could reduce them to nothing as easily as He created them. Yet, when I am required to believe that their sustentation is a literal, continuous re-production by God’s special act out of nihil I cannot but remember that, after all, the human mind has no cognition of substance itself, except as the unknown substratum of properties, and no insight into the manner in which it subsists. Hence we are not qualified to judge, whether its subsistence is maintained in this way. The arguments seem to me invalid.

If man’s reason has any necessary ontological judgment whatever, it is this: That substance involves reality, continuity of existence, and permanency. Such is, in short, substantially the description which the best mental science now gives of that thing, so essential to our perception. When we deny self-existence to creatures, we deny that the cause which originates their existence can be in them; but this is far from proving that God, in originating their existence, may not have conferred it as a permanent gift, continuing itself so on, as He permits it. e. g., Motion is never assumed by matter of itself; but when impressed from without, it is never self-arrested. To say that finite creatures exist in successive time, or have their existence measured by it, is wholly another thing from showing that this succession constitutes their existence. What is time, but an abstract idea of our minds, which we project upon the finite existence which we think of or observe? Let any man analyze his own conception, and he will find that the existence is conceived of as possessing a true continuity; it is the time by which his mind measures it, that lacks the continuity. Last. These general statements of Scripture only assert the practical and entire dependence of creatures; no doubt their authors would be very much surprised to hear them interpreted into these metaphysical subtleties.

Monads Not Dependent In Same Way As Organisms.

You will observe that the class of ideas which leads to this doctrine of a perpetual efflux of divine power, in recreation, are usually borrowed from organized, material bodies. Men forget that the existence of organisms may be, and probably is, dependent, in a very different sense, from that of simple existence, such as a material ultimate atom, or a pure spirit. For the existence of an organized body is nothing but the continuance of its organization, i. e., of the aggregation of its parts in certain modes. This, in turn, is the effect of natural causes; but these causes operate under the perpetual, active superintendence of God. So that it is literally true, the existence of a compounded organism, like the human body, is the result of God’s perpetual, providential activity; and the mere cessation of this would be the end of the organism. But the same fact is not proved of simple, monadic substances.

What Is Second Cause?

But what are natural causes and laws? This question enters intimately into our views of providence, inasmuch as they are the means with which providence works. The much-abused phrase, law of nature, has been vaguely used in various senses. The Duke of Argyle says he finds the word "Law," used in five senses. 1. For an observed order of facts. 2. The unknown force implied therein. 3. The ascertained limit of a force. 4. Combinations of force for a "final cause." 5. The order of thought which the reason supplies for explanation of observed effects, as in Mechanics, the "first law of motion." The list might be larger, but properly it means that it is the observed regular mode or rule, according to which a given cause, or class of causes operates under given conditions. This definition of itself will show us the absurdity of offering a law of nature to account for the existence of anything. For nature is but an abstraction, and the law is but the regular mode of acting of a cause; so that instead of accounting for, it needs to be accounted for itself. The fact that a phenomenon is produced again and again regularly, does not account for its production! The true question which lies at the root of the matter is, concerning the real power which is present in natural causes. We say that they are those things which, under certain conditions, have power to produce certain effects. What, then, is the power? It is answered that the power resides in some property of the thing we call cause, when that property is brought into certain relations with the properties of some other thing. But still the question recurs: Is the power, the activity, a true property of the thing which acts as cause, or is the power truly God’s force, and the occurrence of the relation between the properties of cause and effect, merely the appointed occasion of its exertion? This is the question. Let me premise, before stating the answers given, that the question should be limited to the laws of material nature, and to physical causes. All sound philosophy now regards intelligent spirits as themselves proper fountains of causation, because possessed of a true spontaneity and self-determination, not indeed emancipated from God’s sovereign control, yet real and intrinsically active, as permitted and regulated by Him.

Some Admit No Natural Force But God.

But, as to physical causes, orthodox divines and philosophers give different answers. Say the one class, as Dick, matter is only passive. The coming of the properties of the cause into the suitable relation to the effect, is only the occasion, the true agency is but God’s immediately. All physical power is God directly exerting Himself through passive matter; and the law of the cause is but the regular mode which He proposes to Himself for such exertions of His power. Hence, the true difference between natural power and miraculous, would only be, that the former is customary under certain conditions, the latter under those conditions, unusual. When a man feels his weary limbs drawn towards the earth, by what men call gravity, it is in fact as really God drawing them, as when against gravity, the body of Elijah or Christ was miraculously borne on high. And the reason they assign is: that matter is negative and inert and can only be the recipient of power: and that it is incapable of that intelligence, recollection, and volition, implied in obedience to a regular law.

Theory of Mccosh Defective.

Others, as McCosh, Hodge, etc., would say, that to deny all properties of action to material things is to reduce them to practical nonentity; leaving God the only agent and the only true existence, in the material universe. Their view is that God, in creating and organizing material bodies, endued them with certain properties. These properties He sustains in them by that perpetual support and superintendence He exerts. And these properties are specific powers of acting or being acted on, when brought into suitable relations with the properties of other bodies. Hence, while power is really in the physical cause, it originated in, and is sustained by, God’s power. The question then arises: If this be so, if the power is intrinsically in the physical cause, wherein does God exert any special providence in each case of causation? Is not His providential control banished from the domain of these natural laws, and limited to His act of creation, which endued physical causes with their power? The answer which McCosh makes to this question is: that nothing is a cause by itself; nor does a mere capacity for producing a given effect make a thing a cause; unless it be placed in a given relation with a suitable property of some other thing. And here, says he, is God’s special, present providence; in constituting those suitable relations for inter-action, by His superintendence. The obvious objection to this answer seems to have been overlooked; that these juxtapositions, or relations, are themselves always brought about by God (except where free agents are employed) by natural causes. Hence, the view of God’s providence that would result, would be nothing more than the pre-established harmony of Leibnitz, from whom, indeed, his views seem derived. This would, indeed, give the highest conception of the wisdom, power, and sovereignty. exercised in establishing the amazing plan; but it would leave God no actual providential functions to perform in time, except the doubtful one of the mere sustentation of simple being. For, you must note: since the continued aggregation of the parts of an organism results from the operation of natural laws between its elementary parts, His concern in the sustentation of compounded bodies would be no other than in the working of natural laws. The explanation is therefore obviously defective.

How Amended?

Let us see to what extent the defect can be supplied. The problem which the Rationalist supposes to be involved is this: How God’s effective providence can intervene consistently with the uniformity of natural laws. Now, the laws of nature are invariable, only in the sense defined above. When a given law is the expression of the mode in which a real, natural cause acts; then it is invariable in this sense, that granting the same conditions in every respect, the same power will produce the same effect. But it must be noted, that in nature, effects are never the sole results of a single power. Combination of natural powers is the condition of all effects. Our description of God’s providence over nature must be, in a good sense, "anthropopathic." How then, does man’s personal will use the powers of nature? He is not able, and does not aim, to change the invariability of either of the powers which he borrows. But, knowing the invariable law of one cause, he combines with this some other power, or powers, which are also used in strict accordance with their laws, so as to control the conditions under which they together act. Thus, he modifies the effects, without infringing at all the regularity of the natural laws. And this is rational con- trivance for an end. Thus, even in man’s hands, while the law of each power is invariable, by combination of a rational providence, the uses are widely flexible. Must not this be much more possible in God’s hands? Thus, for instance, man constructs a clock, for the purpose of keeping time. He avails himself of one law, the gravitation of a mass of metal suspended, which is absolutely unchangeable. He combines with this, by a set of wheels, and an "escapement," the action of another law; the regular beat of a pendulum thirty-nine inches long. This is also invariable. But by this combination, the mechanic has made a clock, which he can cause to keep, or solar time, to run faster or slower. It is not by interrupting the regularity of two forces, but by virtue of that regularity, that he is enabled to produce these varied effects. By a rational providence, these invariable forces are made to perform a new function.

Is Providence, Then, Supernatural.

Now, man’s agency here is supra material , namely, personal, intelligent and voluntary. Is then, all God’s working in special providence supernatural? The answer is, it is supra physical being personal; but not in the proper sense supernatural, any more than man’s similar agency. For that which Personal Will effectuates through the regular laws of second causes, is properly natural. The supernatural is that which God effectuates by power above those causes.


It may be objected, that, as we observe the clock maker shaping and adjusting the parts of machinery, by which he combines two or more invariable powers for a varying function, so, we should have experimental knowledge of God’s processes in His providence. We reply: Is the machinist’s result any the less natural, because he chose to work only in secret? The answer contained in this question has its force greatly enhanced by remarking that the Agent of providence is an invisible Spirit. It is also certainly a part of His purpose that His hand shall be invisible, in His ordinary working. This His objects require. Hence, we are to reconcile our minds to this fact, that while the reality of a special providence, and its possibility, are rationally demonstrable, man is not to find its method explicable. Here faith must perform her humble office. But when the possibility of its execution by infinite power and wisdom are shown, all is done that is needed to silence rationalism.

Is A Miracle the Result of An Inner Law.

The speculations of the Duke of Argyle have been mentioned above, with approbation. This imposes a necessity of dissenting from his opinion as to the miracle. Desiring, apparently, to conciliate the rationalistic cavil, that the "invariability of the laws of nature," renders a miracle absolutely impossible and incredible, he advances this definition; Let a miracle be called an effect which while above and beside all laws of nature explored by man, will yet be found (in the light of heaven perhaps) to be but an expression of some higher and more recondite law. From this view I wholly dissent. It is inconsistent with tile prime end for which God has introduced miracles to be attestations to man of God’s messages. For, we have only to suppose human physical science carried to higher stages, and the events which were miraculous to a ruder age, would become natural. All miracles would cease to be shmeia just so soon as they were comprehended; but it is the glory of the true miracle, that the more fully it is comprehended, the more certainly it would be a shmeion . On this plan the effects of the electric telegraph, to us merely human, would have been veritable miracles to Peter and Paul, and would now be, to the Hottentot Christian. This definition then, virtually destroys the Christian miracles. We must hold fast to tile old doctrine; that a miracle is a phenomenal effect above all the powers of nature; properly the result of supernatural power: i. e., of God’s immediate power which He has not regularly put into any second causes, lower or higher. The advocates of the new definition may retort, that in denying miracles to be expressions of some higher, recondite law, I assign them a lawless character. Should we not, they ask, claim for them, as for all God’s acts, a lucid method, a rational order? I reply: By all means; yes. Miracles are not anarchical infractions of nature’s order. But they confound the law of the divine purpose, which is but the infinite thought regulating God’s own will and acts, with some recondite natural law. Every miracle was wrought in strict conformity with God’s decree. But this is in God: the natural law is impressed on the nature of second causes.

We see, then, that all general providence is special. And the special is as truly natural as the general.

The natural arose out of the supernatural, and in that sense, reposes upon it at all times. The Divine will is perpetually present, underlying all the natural. Else God is shut back to the beginning of the universe, and has no present action nor administration in His empire. Reason: Because, if you allow Him any occasional, or special present interventions, at decisive crises, or as to cardinal events, those interventions are found to be, as events, no less natural than all other events. They also come through natural law.

Providence Proved, 1St, From God’s Perfections.

A divine providence is proved: (a.) From God’s perfections. His infinite essence, immensity, omniscience, and omnipotence enable Him to sustain such functions to His universe, if He pleases. And we believe it is His will to do so, first, because His wisdom would not have permitted Him to make a universe without an object; and when made, the same wisdom will undoubtedly employ due means to attain that end. Second. His good- ness would not permit Him to desert the well being of the various orders of sentient beings He has created and endued with capacities for suffering. Third. His righteousness ensures that after having brought moral relations into existence between Himself and His moral creatures, by the very act of creating them, He cannot desert and neglect those relations.

(b.) Man’s moral intuitions impel him to believe that God is just, good, true and holy; and that the natural connection which generally prevails in the course of this life, between man’s exercise of these virtues, and well-being, is intentional and retributive. If so, then God’s providence is concerned in all that course of nature. So we argue from the instinct of prayer. (c.) The intelligent order which we see in the working of material nature splendidly displays a Providence. A multitude of elements and bodies are here seen connected by most multifarious influences, and yet the complex machine moves on, and never goes wrong. There is a guiding hand! The same fact is revealed by the steadiness of all the laws of reproduction in nature, especially in the vegetable and animal world, and in man’s and animal’s sensitive, and man’s emotional and intellectual nature. Like does not fail to beget like. Why? It is strikingly seen in the ratio of the sexes among human births, and the diversity of human countenances. And the revelation of wise designs made at least occasionally in human history (e. g., in the formation of Washington’s character, prevalence of the Greek language at the Christian era) shows that it moves on under the constant superintendence of God.

From Man’s Dependence.

Man’s conscious dependence teaches him the same truth. He has no control over a single one of the laws of nature, such as enables him to educe anything necessary to his well-being from them, with any certainty. If there is no controlling mind to govern them for him, he is the child of a mechanical fate, or of capricious chance.

From Scriptures.

Scriptures prove a Providence. A preliminary doctrinal argument may be found in God’s decree. If its existence is proved, then a providence is proved: for the one is complementary to the other, (a.) By its predictions, promises, and threats, many of which have been explicit and detailed, and long afterwards have been accurately accomplished. e. g., Ex 12:46, with Joh 19:36; Ps 22:18, with Joh 19:24; 2Ki 20:13, with 20:14, 15-18; Mic 5:2, with Mt 2:5; Isa 14:23; Jer 1:13 to end; Jer 49:17, etc.; Eze 26:4-5. Without a control that was efficacious, over particular events, God could not thus positively speak. Ps 91.

(b.) The duty and privilege of prayer, as exercised by inspired saints, and enjoined in precepts, implies a providence; for else, God has no sure way to answer. No Providence is practical atheism.

(c.) A multitude of express Scriptures assert God’s providence to be universal. e. g., Ps 103:17-19; Da 4:34-35; Ps 22:28-29; Job 12:10, and Chaps.38-41; Col 1:17; Heb 1:3; Ac 17:28.

Efficacious and Sovereign.—Job 23:13; Ps 33:11; 135:6; 2Sa 17:14.

The evolution of His eternal purpose.—Ps 104:24; Isa 28:29; Ac 15:18; Eph 1:11.

Special and particular.—Matt. 10:29:31; Lu 12:6-7; Ne 9:6; Mt 6:26; Ps 36:6; 145:15-16; Ge 22:13-14; Jon 4:6-8.

Over the material world.—Job, Chaps. 38-41; Ps 104:14; 15; 5-7; 147:8-18; 148:7-8; Ac 14:17; Mt 6:30,26.

Over acts to us fortuitous, i. e., those of which the natural causes are unassignable by us, either because undiscovered, as yet, or so subtle, or complex. Ge 24:12-13, etc.; Ex 21:12-13; De 19:4; Ps 75:6-7; Job 5:6; Pr 16:33; 21:31.

Last: over the good and bad acts of free agents. Reason shows this; for otherwise God could not govern any of the physical events into which human volitions enter as modifying causes, either immediately or remotely. Prophecy, threats, promises, and the duty of prayer prove it, (see on Decrees) and Scripture expressly asserts it Pr 16:9; 20:24; 21:1; Jer 10:23; Ps 33:14-15; Ge 48:8, etc.; Ex 12:36; Ps 25:9-15; Php 2:13; Ac 2:23; 2Sa 16:10; 24:1; Ro 11:36; Ac 4:28; Ro 9:18; 1Sa 12:11; 1Ki 22:23; Ps 105:25.


The objections against the Bible doctrines may all be reduced to these heads:

1. Epicurean; that God would be fatigued from so many cares.

2. That it is derogatory to His dignity to be concerned with trivialities.

3. The disorders existing in material nature, and in the course of human affairs, would be inconsistent with His benevolence and righteousness.

4. The doctrine infringes the efficacy of second causes, and the free-agency of intelligent creatures.

5. Last: It makes God the author of sin.

For answers, see discussions above and below: and Dick. Lect. 43.

5. In proceeding to speak of the control of Providence over the acts of intelligent free agents, we must bear in mind the essential difference between them and physical bodies. A body is not intrinsically a cause. Causation only takes place when a certain relation between given properties of two bodies, is established by God’s providence. (See 1.) But a soul is a fountain of spontaneity; it is capable of will, in itself, and is self-determined to will, by its own prevalent dispositions. Soul is a cause.

God’s Agency In Man’s Spiritual Acts.

Now, the Bible attributes all the spiritually good acts of man to God. Ro 7:18; Php 2:13; 4:13; 2Co 12:9, l0; Eph 2:10; Ga 5:22-25. God’s concern in such acts may be explained as composed of three elements. (a.) He perpetually protects and preserves the human person with the capacities which He gave to it naturally. (b.) He graciously renews the dispositions by His immediate, almighty will, so as to incline them, and keep them inclined by the Holy Spirit, to the spiritually good. (c.) He providentially disposes the objects and truths before the soul thus renewed, so that they become the occasional causes of holy volitions freely put forth by the sanctified will. Thus God is, in an efficient sense, the intentional author of the holy acts, and of the holiness of the acts, of His saints.

God’s Agency In Man’s Sins. Is There A Concursus?

But, the question of His concern in the evil acts of free agents (and the naturally indifferent) is more difficult. The Dominican Scholastics, or Thomists, followed by some Calvinistic Reformers, felt themselves constrained, in order to uphold the efficiency and certainty of God’s control over the evil acts of His creatures, to teach their doctrine of the physical concursus of God in all such acts, (as well as in all good acts, and physical causes). This is not merely God’s sustentation of the being and capacities of creatures; not merely a moral influence by truths or motives providentially set before them; not merely an infusion of a general power of acting to which the creature gives the specific direction, by his choice alone, in each individual act; but in addition to all this, a direct, immediate physical energizing of the active power of the creature, disposing and predetermining it efficaciously to the specific act, and also enabling it thereto, and so passing over with the agency of the creature, into the action. Thus, it is an immediate, physical, predisposing, specific and concurrent influence to act. Their various arguments may be summed up in these three: that the Scripture, e. g., Ge 14:7; Isa 10:15, etc.; Ac 17:28; Php 2:13; Col 1:13, demand the converses of God to satisfy their full meaning: That as man’s esse is dependent on the perpetual, recreative efflux of God’s power, so his acting must perpetually depend on God’s concursus because the creature must act according to his being. Under this head, for instance, Witsius may be seen, following Aquinas, arguing thus: Nothing but a first cause can act without the aid and influence of a prior cause. Hence, if the human will were able to produce any action of which God was not the efficient, the creature’s will would hold the state of a First Cause. Again: All action proceeds from powers: but the creature’s powers emanate from his essence. Hence if the essence is derived, the action must also be derived. They argue, in the third place, that without the concursus they describe, God’s providence over human acts could not be efficient and sovereign, as the Scripture teaches, and as we must infer from the doctrine of the decree, and from the certain fulfillment of prophecy.

Turrettin obviously implies, in his argument, that the rational creature’s will, like a second cause in matter, is indeterminate to any specific effect. For he argues that a cause thus indeterminate or indifferent must receive its determination to a specific effect, from some cause out of, and above itself, which must be active, and determining to the specific elect. (QU 5, 8, etc.)

Now, on this I remark, see here the great importance of the distinction I made (in last lecture, and on the difference of permissive and efficacious decrees) between material and rational second causes.

Again: Consider if Turrettin does not here surrender a vital point of his own doctrine concerning the will. That point is, that the rational will is not in equilibrio , that volitions are not contingent phenomena, but regular effects. Effects of what? Sound metaphysics says, of subjective motive. The soul (not the faculty of choice itself) is self-determining—i. e., spontaneous. But this according to a law, its subjective law.

It Is Not Revealed By Consciousness.

Now, to this I reply farther, (a) The doctrine that God’s sustentation is by a perpetual active efflux of creative power, we found to be unproved as to spirits, which unlike bodies possess the properties of true being, absolute unity and simplicity. That doctrine is only true, in any sense, of organized bodies; which are not proper beings, but rather organized collections of a multitude of separate beings, or atoms. My consciousness tells me that I have a power of acting (according to the laws of my nature) dependent indeed, and controlled always by God, yet which is personally my own. It originates in the spring of my own spontaneity. As to the relation between personal power in us, and the power of the first cause, we know nothing; for neither He, nor consciousness, tells us anything.

Not Required By God’s Sovereignty.

(b) Surely the meaning of all such Scriptures as those referred to, is sufficiently satisfied, as well as the demands of God’s attributes and government, by securing these two points. First, God is not the author of sin; Second, His control over ail the acts of all His creatures is certain, sovereign and efficacious; and such as to have been determined from eternity. If a way can be shown, in which God thus controls these sinful acts, without this physical concursus , the force of the other arguments for it is all removed. May not this mode be found in this direction? Thus:

How, Then, Does God Secure Men’s Free Acts?

God’s eternal purpose as to evil acts of free agents is more than barely permissive; His prescience of it is more than a scientia media of what is, to Him, contingent. It is a determinate purpose achieved in providence by means efficient, and to Him, certain in their influence on free agents. What are those means? Volitions are caused. The efficient causes of volitions are the soul’s own dispositions; the occasional causes are the objects providentially presented to those dispositions. Even we may, in many cases, so know dispositions as efficiently to procure, and certainly to predict, given volitions, through the presentation of objective causes thereof. An