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otherwise how could the free determinations of men and devils be accurately foretold through the whole system of prophecy? Now the question returns, can there be any principle of certainty beside the divine decree?' Must not the divine will be the ultimate source of all certainty? No. But before I assign my direct reason for this laconic answer, let me be allowed to ask another question. Is the divine will the ultimate source of a mathematical point? This is neither matter nor spirit, neither substance nor form. It has neither length, breadth, nor thickness; it has neither thought, consciousness, nor, in brief, any positive being: it is a mere relative nothing: it is negation of length, breadth, and thickness, as related to something that has these properties. Yet will any say, that it is not a source of certainty? Rather, what can be more certain than many mathematical conclusions drawn from this negative idea? Without the idea of a mathematical point, we can have no idea of a mathematical line; and consequently of a circle, a triangle, a square, or any other diagram: but by the admission of this* non-entity as it stands related to dimensions, we have demonstrations of the highest certainty.
§ 17. This, however, is but a specimen of a negative principle inseparably related to every
portion of the created universe. Were I to say that a negative principle pervades every portion of created existence, some minds, led away by fancy rather than corrected by judgment, might connect with the positive term a positive idea. Language was first formed on the principles of sense and physical nature, where so much positive energy is discoverable; and the farther we remove from these appearances, to abstraction of thought, for instance, and to negative ideas especially, it is scarcely possible to employ terms by which we are not liable to be misguided, if not attended with either settled definitions, or frequent explanation of the meaning intended to be conveyed by them. Language, however, is of arbitrary appointment;—and it is a pitiable prejudice too often indulged, that thoughts must be governed by words, as if these were the unerring standard of accurate conception, or that the mind was made for language, and not language for the mind.
§ 18. If there be in every created being a negative principle, itself not created, and if such negative principle may be an adequate reason of certainty, then a divine decree of what is good, does not necessarily imply that any real evil in the universe (of which there is much) is decreed; nor does it follow that a divine decree
of election is inseparable' from adecree of reprobation, in the obnoxious sense of the term. That there is in every created being a negative principle which is itself no created object, is necessarily implied in the negative ideas of limitation and dependence. No proof is required to shew that a creature, however exalted, is limited in his being and properties; and it is as evidently impossible that he should be otherwise, as it is to multiply absolute infinities. It is no honour to the Deity to suppose that he can create an unlimited being : for, in reality, to assert that this cannot be done, is the same thing as to assert that God alone is absolutely infinite. It is equally clear that this limitation is a negative idea, implying a comparative defect,--and no one will affirm, that negation, or defect, as related to the created object, is itself created, because whatever is created must have a positive existence. It cannot be denied, again, that such limitation involves innumerable certainties. It is certain, for instance, from the very idea of limitation, that a creature will not do a great variety of things. The same remarks are applicable to the negative idea of dependence.
§ 19. Now seeing innumerable certain consequences may arise from negative considerations, and these negations are no objects of creating
power, though the beings to which they stand related, are so; it follows that some events may be certain which are not decreed, and if certain, may be foreknown as such. Thus God may foreknow a sinful defect, without decreeing it, though he has created and therefore decreed the being in whom the defect is found. He may foreknow the defects of ignorance, moral weakness, and sinful neglect, which are no objects of his power, and consequently of his decree, though the persons to whom these sinful defects are attached are the objects both of his power and purpose;—and who can consistently doubt, that what he may know, he actually does know. Now as certain and certainly foreknown consequences, may be the necessary result of a negative principle, involved in the ideas of limitation and dependence, the idea of a decree is excluded from these consequences, as involving the notion of doing what is superfluous. Impute to God the decreeing of that which is certain to take place, (as that a dependent and limited creature will not do some things) without a decree, and you impute folly to infinite wisdom.
§ 20. But, on the other hand, human persons and faculties, though limited and dependent, have a positive existence; nor can it admit of a doubt, that certain consequences may arise from a positive principle. Such a principle is the first
cause, without whose enérgy (and consequently purpose) no positive effect can possibly take place. Hence it follows, that whatever is positive in any human act is from God, as its energetic cause, and is therefore good; but whatever is negative in the same, is not from God, and therefore not good, because he is the only source of good, and of good only,---for to say that
any evil proceeds from infinite good, is precisely the same thing as to say, that it is not evil. Before we can assert, that no moral evil is attached to human beings in our world, we must deny not only the testimony of the inspired writings, but also that of our consciences: and to assert that sin, or the sinfulness of actions, is a positive thing, is to make God the ultimate cause of it,—which is virtually to assert that it is a good thing
§ 21. From the whole of the preceding considerations, I humbly conceive, we may safely infer the following particulars: 1. That there are negative principles of consequences which are infallibly certain ; and therefore that there are some events which come to pass without a decree. 2. That a decree to elect some in wisdom and mercy, while not even a good thought or desire of any one is opposed but rather approved, does not imply a decree of Non-Election. 3. That all the good in the