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Proposition I - George Turnbull, The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 2: Christian Philosophy 
The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 2: Christian Philosophy, ed. and with an Introduction by Alexander Broadie (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005).
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It is universal, extending not merely to the material, but likewise to the moral world, and is absolutely uncontroulable.
The providence of God, in which the apostle asserts, it must be a law, “That whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,” (because to deny it is to entertain the most injurious apprehension of the providence or government of God; or to mock God) is in scripture frequently asserted to be universal, or over all, and absolutely irresistible and uncontroulable.
That there is one God, who created and ruleth all things, is the express doctrine of the sacred scriptures in many places. Not only did he create, and doth he support and rule the inanimate material world; but he likewise made, upholds in being, and over-rules all perceptive and all moral beings. Nay, he is represented, not only to have created angels, and men, and all the various orders of rational beings, as well as all the various ranks of merely animal ones, and to have given them all their powers, capacities, affections and appetites; but he is likewise represented to fore-know all the actions of all agents. “The ways of man are before the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings.a His eyes<132> are upon the ways of man, and he fathometh all his goings.”b And all things are open and naked before him from the beginning, from everlasting. And indeed this exactness of knowledge is necessary to the judge of all the earth, in order to his doing that which is right in the final decision of men’s eternal state; or that he may render to every one according to his works, and thus every one may reap as he sows. This is too evident to need being insisted upon. For it is manifest beyond doubt, that, in order to a just distribution of rewards and punishments, or of happiness and misery in the government of men upon the whole of things, God must not only know the actions of men, but likewise be, as is asserted in numberless places of holy writ, a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.c “He must be able to search all hearts, as he is said to be, and to understand all the imaginations of the thoughts.” “The Lord must not see merely as man seeth. For man looketh on the outward appearance: the Lord must be able to look into the heart.”d This perfection is necessary to judge the world in equity, and to render to every one the fruit of his doings; since virtue and vice lie not merely in the outward actions, but principally in the heart. And therefore in scripture, as the inward truth and sincerity of the mind is represented to be what God chiefly regards; so, on the other hand, the heart of man is said to be deceitful above all things, and able not only to deceive others, but to deceive itself by secret partiality, and very difficultly perceptible flattery: but, at the same time it is said, no man can deceive God, who is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things.a The abstruse, difficult question upon this subject, is not how God knows present and past actions, but how he fore-knows future free actions. And this must be such in the nature of things,<133> in consequence of our being created minds, and therefore not able to judge, but by faint analogy, of the extent and manner of the operation of God’s natural powers and perfections: the difficult question relating to this subject is, God’s fore-knowledge of future events. “Known unto the Lord are all his works from the beginning of the world.”b Now, no doubt, God, who gave to us, and all creatures, all the powers they enjoy, and who hath established all the laws, according to which they improve or degenerate, and, in general, operate or admit any changes of whatever kind; and who likewise hath ordered all the laws, according to which external material effects are produced; nay, properly and strictly speaking, immediately produces them; such a being must needs know all the possible results of powers, and laws of powers, which are thus of his own creation and establishment. Here there is no difficulty at all. For such universal knowledge, nay, such an establishment is by none thought inconsistent with liberty of action in men, in any sense of liberty of action. But fore-knowledge of free actions is thought by some an impossibility in the nature of things; and by others, it is judged absolutely repugnant to, and incompatible with the liberty of moral agents: and therefore some have said, that the perfect government of moral beings does not require such pre-science: but that in order to the wise choice of the best system, the full knowledge of all possible connexions, and their results; the perfect comprehension of all the consequences of all possible distributions of powers, and laws of powers, is sufficient. But many predictions of events, which have been exactly fulfilled, recorded in scripture, prove divine fore-knowledge in such instances: and being admitted in some instances, it is not only possible that it may be universal, but it really cannot<134> be supposed not to be universal, or not to extend to all; since no possible reason can be given, why, or how it can take place in any one instance with respect to events depending on free actions of moral agents, and not reach to all, without supposing it to be in such instances, not merely fore-knowledge, but positive decree or appointment, which hypothesis, it is owned, is absolutely incompatible with free agency.
The difficulty therefore with respect to divine prescience of free-actions, as distinguished from consciousness of what is decreed and appointed to happen, is thus accounted for by the best writersa on the subject.
I. They observe, in general, that our finite understanding may very reasonably be allowed not to comprehend all the ways of infinite knowledge, as the scripture says we cannot. “Can’st thou by searching find out God? Can’st thou find out the Almighty to perfection?”b But this acknowledgement of the incomprehensibleness of God must always be understood, as it really is in the scriptures, and by such writers, with relation to such things only as do not imply any express, clear contradiction: for whenever that is the case, it cannot be said of such things, that they are incomprehensible, or what we cannot understand; but, on the contrary, are such things which we do plainly and distinctly understand that they cannot possibly be. The necessary falsity and absurdity of all such things being as evident to our understandings, as the truth of the plainest principles. It must also be observed, as these authors do take notice, that this acknowledgement ought to be understood only of things expressly revealed, not of any human doctrines or reasonings.
II. Secondly, They observe, that in the matter before us, the question is not, whether men’s actions be free, but whether or no, and how that freedom of action, which makes a moral agent such, and men to<135> be men, can be consistent with fore-knowledge of such actions. For if these two things were really inconsistent and irreconcileable, it would follow, not that men’s actions were not free, (since that would totally subvert all morality and religion, and take away all the moral attributes of God at once); but, on the other side, it would follow, that such free actions as men’s are, and without which rational creatures cannot be rational or moral agents, were not the objects of the divine fore-knowledge. And, in such a case, it would be no more a diminution of God’s omniscience, not to know things impossible and contradictory to be known, than it is a diminution of omnipotence, not to be able to do things impossible and contradictory to be done.
III. But, in the third place, say they, this is not the case; for these things being premised, we may now answer directly to the question, that fore-knowledge of free actions is not an impossibility or contradiction; i.e. is not inconsistent with liberty, because pre-science has no influence at all upon the things fore-known. And it has therefore no influence upon them, because things would be just as they are, and no otherwise, tho’ there was no fore-knowledge. Fore seeing things to come, does no more influence or alter the nature of things, than seeing them when they are. What hath no productive energy, or power, cannot make necessary. But knowledge of no kind, neither knowledge of present, past, nor to come, can have any productive efficiency. It is will alone that produces, gives existence, or brings into being: independently, if the connexion between the will to produce and the effect be necessary, as it must be between the will of an infinite, independent being, and all the effects willed by such a being: dependently, if the connexion between the will immediately choosing or willing the effect, and the existence of the effect so willed, be established by the will of another mind, as must be the case with regard to all<136> derived beings, and their derived efficiency. Knowledge is merely passive, it can give light, point out the path, the proper road and choice, and so persuade to an election and pursuit; or it merely contemplates and reviews an object; but that is all it can do; it therefore produces or gives existence to nothing. It is the same whether we speak of dependent or independent, finite or infinite knowledge in this case; for being but knowledge, it cannot be active or productive, it can only comprehend, understand, see, or persuade. Further, the manner of God’s fore-knowing future free-actions, must not, cannot be supposed to be like his fore-knowledge of things necessary, as all material effects are; for that would be to confound things together, which are totally distinct, and to assert that there is no active power in nature, but the power of God: and perhaps such an assertion does not terminate there, but must really go further. But it is sufficient to our purpose to observe, that to suppose the divine fore-knowledge of free-actions, i.e. of the volitions of rational beings, to be necessary, in the same sense that his fore-knowledge of effects produced by his will and decree that they should exist is necessary, is no more to speak of fore-knowledge in the sense we are now considering it, viz. as distinguished from consciousness of effects to be produced, in consequence of positive will or decree to give them existence; but is merely to speak of that later consciousness, which cannot without impropriety of speech, or, at least, without departing from the question, as above limited and defined, be called pre-science.
IV. Now, in the fourth place, they add, That the divine fore-knowledge of free-actions we may have some obscure glimse of, in some such manner as this. What one man will freely do upon any particular occasion, another man, by observation and attention, may in some measure judge; and the wiser the person be who makes the observation, the more<137> probable will his judgment be, the seldomer will he be deceived, and the more may he, or others, depend upon it in their resolutions and actions of the greatest moment. An angel, in the like case, would make a judgment of the future event as much nearer to certainty than that of the wisest man, as the angelick nature and faculties are superior to the human. And therefore, in God himself, whose powers are all, in every respect, infinitely transcending those of the highest creatures, it must needs be, beyond any assignable bounds in respect of certainty, superior to what any the most perfect creature can attain to; that is, it must be certain beyond any chance or hazard of mistake or error; or, in other words, it must be absolutely certain and infallible; for where there is no hazard of erring, knowledge must be infallible. But however certain it may be, it cannot have any influence upon the fore-known free-actions, unless we say the fore-knowledge of wise men in particular cases, upon the certainty of which their greatest interests may be ventured, and daily are very wisely adventured, can have some proportionable influence upon them; and the more certain fore-knowledge of a higher creature a proportionable greater influence. For will being out of the question, whatever influence knowledge can have as knowledge, cannot belong solely and wholly to the most perfect knowledge; but can only belong to such knowledge, in a degree proportionable to its perfection, and must belong to knowledge, as knowledge, in every degree of it, in some proportional degree. But who ever imagined, that the fore-knowledge of a most perfect creature, however certain, however much to be depended upon in matters of the highest importance, had or could have any influence upon free actions, so certainly foreseen by it. In fine, while knowledge, either of present, past, or to come, as knowledge, can have no influence, the degrees of its certainty can make no alteration in that respect; that<138> is, they can produce no influence. Because this maxim is universally true, “that whatever belongs to any property as such, must belong to it in proportion to the degree in which it is such a property; in proportion, so to speak, to its moment or quantity, in like manner, as what belongs to gravity as such, must belong to every quantity of it proportionally.” Another thing I would add, (for what hath been just now said, and what follows I would not have imputed to any other but myself, by whom they are added, lest they should be found not to be true, of which however I have no apprehension) is, that when a ruling passion is established in the breast, good or bad, that being known, and the circumstances in which it is placed being known, the determinations choices, and actions of such persons may be very certainly determined. No wise man, for instance, is at a loss to determine how a thoroughly good and wise man he is thoroughly acquainted with will act in any given case; or how any man, whom he certainly knows to be governed by any given ruling passion, will be swayed in any particular assigned circumstances.
But it is time to leave a subject which hath been so often handled by others.
What remains to be observed concerning providence, according to the scripture account of it is, that it is absolutely irresistible.a No counsel, no devise against the Lord can prosper: his will, his power is absolutely irresistible. And therefore when we read of the Devil’s setting up a kingdom in opposition to the kingdom of God, great care must be taken that we do not so understand it, as if the Devil had, properly speaking, any power against God. We are<139> sufficiently instructed not to take such ways of speaking in that absurd sense; since, in scripture, wicked men are said to set themselves up against God, resist his will, and exalt themselves in opposition to God’s kingdom, which sure no person can understand of natural power in man to resist God. But like ways of speaking about the Devil’s opposition to God, without entering into an enquiry what the Devil is, must be interpreted in the same sense, as meaning not opposition of natural powers, but of moral powers and dispositions to God, by doing things wicked and displeasing to God, as wicked men likewise do. Not only is it an absurdity to suppose any created power able to contend, fight against, or oppose God, the supreme Author of all power; but in scripture we read in many places of God’s absolute power and supremacy over all malicious wicked spirits; and of his giving power to the good, as such, to discomfit the temptations and machinations of such against them. I beheld Satan, as lightning fall from heaven: behold I give unto you power over the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.b God is faithful, and will not suffer us to be tempted above what we are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it.c Resist the Devil, says St. James, and he will flee from you.d And St. Jude assures us,e that the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.
Certain ancient corrupters of religion in the primitive times, from the many evils and wickednesses which are in the world, inferred, there was a supreme evil principle originally opposite to and independent upon the power of God, which monstrous opinion was first taught by some Persian philosophers, 18 who<140> called the good principle light, and the evil principle darkness. And against this absurd opinion it is, that Isaias, in his prophecy to Cyrus, King of Persia,a thus declares: “I am the Lord, and there is none else: I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace and create evil: I, the Lord, do all these things.” This doctrine is directly contrary to the whole tenor of the scripture, which expressly asserts one supreme cause the fountain of all power, who is infinitely good and we shall immediately have occasion to shew more fully than hath been yet done, that an independent mind absolutely evil is an impossibility. Mean time, with regard to many ways of speaking in the scripture about the devil and his kingdom, ’tis well worth while briefly to take notice of a very important observation that hath been often made on this subject, which is, that all rational beings whatsoever, capable of good and evil, must be created originally in a state of trial or probation. Answerable therefore to what we see among men, ’tis reasonable to suppose that among all other creatures, likewise indued with the power of willing or choosing, and consequently invested with a certain sphere of activity and dominion, allowing for their respective circumstances, powers, and capacities, there will be proportionally a difference of conduct and behaviour. And accordingly the scripture assures us, that among angels some continued to be the favourites of God, who do his pleasure; and that others of them sinned, and kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation. And concerning the chief of those, our Saviour tells us,a that from the begining he abode not in the truth. What the particular sin of those disobedient angels was, is not distinctly revealed; and therefore it is a vain thing to make conjectures about it. This only we may be sure of, that it was not, as some have incautiously represented it, a<141> rebelling against God, by way of open force; but a presuming foolishly, as wicked men also do, to transgress the laws of their nature and their God: and they are punished not beyond, but suitably to their deserts, or they reap the fruit of their doings. From the figurativeness of the expressions applied to fallen angels, and to sinful men, when they are said to resist or oppose God, as well as from the nature and evident reason of the thing, ’tis plain, that the kingdom of Satan set up in opposition to the kingdom of God, is not literally a kingdom of force or power, but in the spiritual sense a kingdom or party, a dominion or prevalency of sin, in opposition to the kingdom or establishment of righteousness. Departing from virtue and goodness, is revolting from the kingdom of God, and declaring, that we will not have him to reign over us. Hence wicked men are called the children of the devil, and good men the children, the sons of God. The phrase is very elegant, and according to the analogy of the Jewish language, very usual and expressive. For the highest way in that language of expressing any particular quality, similitude, or relation, is by stiling them the children of that thing or person by which any extraordinary quality, similitude, or relation is intended to be expressed. Thus men of meek, calm spirits, are in scripture called the sons of peace; and outrageous oppressors, sons of violence. Men of true courage are sons of valour; and in still a sublimer sense, sons of thunder; persons of exemplary virtue, faith, and piety, of whatever nation they are of, are children of Abraham. Men under the sentence of death are called sons of death. Judas for his singular corruptness is stiled the son of perdition. And persons under any great or lasting distress, sons and daughters of affliction. Many of which figures have a very great grace, nay, give a very extraordinary energy even to modern poesy, as those acquainted with the sublimest of poets, Milton, will readily acknowledge.<142>
Thus then we have proved that, agreeably to reason and scripture, the divine providence is as universal as is necessary, in order to the exact observance of that rule of just and equitable moral government asserted in the text, “That as one sows, so shall he reap.”
[a. ]Prov. v. 21.
[b. ]Job xxxiv. 21.
[c. ]Heb. iv. 12. 1 Chron. xxviii. 9.
[d. ]1 Sam. xvi. 7. Psal. xxxiv. 13, 14, 15.
[a. ]1 John iii. 20.
[b. ]Acts xv. 18.
[a. ]Dr. Samuel Clark, and Mr. Woolaston. [Samuel Clarke discusses this in A Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God, proposition 10; William Wollaston discusses it in The Religion of Nature Delineated, 99–110.]
[b. ]Job xi. 7.
[a. ]Deut. x. 17. 1 Sam. xiv. 6. Job xl. 2, iv. 2. Jerem. i. 19. James iv. 2. Rev. xix. 6. Psal. lxxxvi. 3. cxv. cxxv. cxlv. Isaiah xl. 10, &c. Dan. iv. 13. &c. Ephes. i. 11, 17.
[b. ]St. Luke x. 18-19.
[c. ]1 Cor. x. 13.
[d. ]Chap. iv. 7.
[e. ]Ver. 6.
[18. ]Manichaeism, the gnostic religion founded by the Persian Mani (216–77), taught these doctrines. Clarke criticizes Manichaeism in his sermon 10 in his Works, 1:62.
[a. ]Chap. xlv. 6, 7.
[a. ]John viii. 44.