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Chapter X


The Foreknowledge of God - L. D. McCabe

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FATALISM, in all its demoralizing power, has maintained almost universal sway over not only all degraded peoples, but also over the most enlightened of heathen nations. Hence conceptions of fatalism find expression in the literature extant in those most perfected and marvelous languages, the Greek, the Latin, and the Sanskrit. All our scholars have encountered in heathen mythologies and philosophies fatalistic ideas. They have felt the force of such sentiments, so detrimental to all moral character, while, at the same time, so flattering to the human intellect. They have realized their unsettling influences about the foundations of their morality, religion, and views of a future life. For the most thoughtful of the heathen believed and taught that no man could escape impending evils, however innocent he might be.

Fatalistic notions crept stealthily into the formal statements of Christian doctrine, and in a few instances into the translation of the Holy Scriptures made under King James. In religion, philosophy, and political science terms were introduced which were tinged with their enervating influences. For example, our word motive would never have been introduced into the discussions of the human will, had it not been for the unconscious influence impressed on the Christian consciousness by the subtle ideas of fatalism. The term, motive, is from the Latin motum (from movere, to move). Here we have the clear idea of a force, having in itself an element of coerciveness, that which may constrain the will. And therefore it was that Dr. Jonathan Edwards, a master in theology, the Plato of the New World, under the unconscious influence of fatalistic associations derived from his studies of antiquity, defined motive to be "that which moves them into volition." Whereas, the free will is not a passive thing, which is determined or moved necessarily by pleasure or pain, or any consideration ab extra .

Now, such definitions of motive carry in them the latent influences and implications of fatalism. What has been said of motive might also be said of many other words of frequent use in theological and philosophical discussions. "As God knew," says Charnock, "of what temper the faculties were with which he had endowed man, and how far they were able to endure the assaults of temptation, so also he foreknew the grand subtlety of Satan; how he would lay his mine, and at what point he would drive his temptations; how he would propose and manage them, and direct his battery against the sensitive appetite and assault the weakest part of the fort, might he not foresee that the efficacy of the temptation would exceed the measure of resistance? Can not God know how far the malice of Satan would extend, what shots he would use, how far he would charge his temptations without his powerful restraint, as well as an engineer can judge how many shots of cannon will make a breach in a tower, or how many casks of powder will blowup a fortress, who never yet built the one or founded the other? God could not be deceived in his judgment of the issue and event, since he knew how far he would let Satan loose, and how far he would permit man to act. He therefore foresaw that Adam would sink under the allurements of the temptation."

How manifestly that great man here applies to moral subjects and free volitions the constraint or necessity that controls material forces. But his rare discrimination was beclouded by the influence of the fatalistic ideas of his times. The deep depravity of our nature strongly inclines us to practical atheism. Many of our race, like Bonaparte, this hour give themselves up to some most inexcusable and indefensible course of wickedness, under the strange hallucination that it is simply their destiny, and from it there can be no escape: "I am that which I am made, and I can not be or do otherwise." And thus they are drifting, drifting on the waste of waters, without any of the qualities and prerogatives of individuality, having no conception of the vast capacities of freedom with which the human will is endowed. They do not seem to realize that they have the high prerogative of free volition, and therefore are thoroughly responsible. Although few persons deny, yet almost none recognize the fullness of moral liberty, the initiatory, active freedom of the human mind. To the millions in China liberty is obscured by their civil laws, and in all India it is made positively sinful to entertain a desire for such freedom. A belief in fatalism, in election and reprobation, in absolute divine foreknowledge and foreordination, tends logically and powerfully to hold men fast in the delusion that they have no liberty and little or no responsibility. These beliefs tend to eliminate from men the natural sense of right, justice, and accountability in respect to implicit obedience and high moral aspirations. While, therefore, we should earnestly vindicate and most profoundly revere the sovereignty of Jehovah, we should not say nor do nor assume any thing that must inevitably lessen our estimation of the independence, the accountability, the grandeur, or the vast capabilities of the human will. He certainly does not do honor to his Maker who depreciates man to a condition of moral imbecility.

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