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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
William S. Andrews, 1829
Having, in a former article, explained in what manner foreknowledge on the part of the Deity was consistent with moral liberty on the part of man, I come now to the doctrine of foreordination.
By foreordination is meant the bringing to pass all the results desired, in the progress of events, so far as they are in accordance with the system of government God has framed, and exercises over the universe; which system embraces moral freedom on the part of man, and a superintending providence on the part of Deity.
In this sense it is the necessary consequence of his foreknowledge, and not the cause of it, as has been generally supposed. The Deity did not, from the beginning of time, decree that certain events should take place, and that his creatures should act in a certain way in reference to them, making them mere machines in accomplishing his purposes.
But he foresaw what would be their conduct in relation to the events which he should order, and what course it would be necessary for him to pursue, to assist or counteract this conduct, as it might, or might not, be conformable to his will. He first determined upon the wisest plan by which he should govern his moral creation, and then determined to regulate his own proceedings by this plan.
He did not arbitrarily determine that he would accomplish certain purposes at all events, whatever measures should be required, and even though they should go to infringe or destroy the moral liberty of his creatures; but he determined to accomplish such purposes only as should be consistent with his own plan first laid down, and should in the progress of events develop themselves. In other words, he bound himself by the system of government he prescribed to himself, and cannot deviate from it without impeaching his own character and attributes.
For as this system is the best, which infinite wisdom, power, and benevolence could conceive and execute, it would be in derogation of this wisdom, power, and goodness, were he to depart from it. And this view of the subject is no more a limitation of the power of the Deity in the moral universe, than it would be in the natural one to say that he could not make two hills without a valley intervening between them.
For, as, in the latter case, it is a physical contradiction, and only a declaration of the impossibility of a thing existing and not existing at the same time; so in the former, it is a moral contradiction, and only a declaration of the impossibility that he should, and should not proceed, according to a certain plan, at the same time.
This explanation of the doctrine of foreordination, and that it is the consequence and not the cause of foreknowledge, is strictly in accordance with scripture. Thus in Acts 2:23, "Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." Determinate council, because of the foreknowledge, and not vice versa.
Again, Romans 8:29. "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed," etc. Here the predestination is mentioned as the consequence of the foreknowledge. It follows it, and does not precede it.–Again, Romans 11:2. "God hath not cast away his people whom he foreknew." He hath not cast them away, because he foreknew he should not cast them away.
Or, in other words, because he foreknew they would not conduct in such a manner, as to make it necessary that he should cast them away. So too, 1 Pet. 1:2. "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father." Elect, because God foreknew or foresaw, that they would render themselves worthy to be elected. And this is the only rational, and of course the only scriptural notion of the doctrine of election. Whether a man be one of the elect, will depend altogether upon himself, although the fact whether he will or will not make himself so, is foreknown by the Deity.
And agreeably to this explanation of the plan of government pursued by the Deity, in adapting his own conduct to that of his creatures–may all his proceedings be accounted for, in which he is said in Scripture to have caused certain actions to be done, which very actions were made the objects of his displeasure and punishment.
As in the case of the plagues which he sent upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians, because they would not let Moses and the children of Israel go out of Egypt;–it is said, that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not let them go.
But all that is here meant, without doubt, is, that he suffered Pharaoh’s heart to continue hardened, that is, that he did not exert an irresistible force at once to subdue his obstinacy and compel him to let them go,–but permitted him to act according to his own pleasure for a certain length of time, subjecting him to repeated punishments, which, not effecting the desired object, he and his host were finally overwhelmed in the Red Sea.
In this way the government of God was vindicated, and an impressive lesson of his superintending Providence was taught the children of Israel, by their own signal deliverance and the destruction of their enemies.–This explanation will, I apprehend, apply to all the events related in the Bible of a similar kind.