THE RIGHTS OF CREATURE AND CREATOR GERMANE TO THE SUBJECTThe Foreknowledge of God - L. D. McCabe
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IF an agent is the sole author of his endless destiny, then he ought to be endowed with capacities to do things, the certain foreknowledge of which transcends the sweep of Omniscience. Not thus to endow an independent agent would be to exalt and degrade him at the same moment. If the sovereign has left the momentous question of my eternal destiny for me to determine, the simplest justice, as well as the proprieties, demand that he should await my final decision. If he has endued me with such a stupendous responsibility and such majesty of endowments, he oughtin profoundest reverence be it saidto leave me free and untrammeled to work out my destiny. To make a being responsible for his endless welfare, and then to give him no power to do any thing that is not foreknown by the Ruler, would be like creating a sun and then quenching his light and fire in an interminable eclipse. Reason and justice both demand that, in a matter so momentous, there should be a correspondence, a just correlation, between the parties so deeply interested in its results between the omnipotent and revered party who creates the being and the immortal party who decides the eternal destiny of that being. Those volitions which involve my eternal destiny are absolutely free and self-determined, and therefore they must be incapable of certain prefixedness. If they ever are to become a fixity, I alone am the being to determine that fixity, and God can not justly interfere therewith so long as he holds me alone responsible. Nor is there, in the nature of things, a single consideration to make it logically necessary that God should from eternity foreknow that fixity. On the other hand, such a divine knowledge would be detrimental to me and equally embarrassing to God. It would send paralysis over all my spiritual energies and creative and causative faculties. And with such hindrances and embarrassments I certainly ought not to be weighed down and enervated. And, on the other hand, if God foreknows my eternal destiny, then he too must be embarrassed, and feel the inconsistency of his situation, in his efforts to do with appropriate earnestness and in perfect good faith and patience all that he ought to do to aid me, his sensitive and immortal offspring, in a work so inexpressibly difficult, hazardous, and possibly fatal. Is it possible to conceive of God's putting forth efforts with that burning earnestness which the urgent necessities of the case demand, in order to snatch from everlasting death an endangered moral agent when he is absolutely certain that that agent is going forward to endless perdition? Unless the destiny of his creatures be uncertain to him, it is impossible in the necessary relations of things, that he should make efforts to save them becomingly vehement, protracted, and patiently exhaustive of his resources.
If he foreknows that I am to be lost, already my destiny is inevitable, and if it be inevitable, why allow longer probation to one who he foresees will certainly perish? Probation to those who are inevitably to be lost can only be a farce. All the costly agencies of my redemption, all the instrumentalities of my reason and conscience, and all the exhibitions of goodness as seen in the incarnation of the Son of God are profitless to me if God foreknows that I shall be among the finally lost. But no theory which necessitates such misapprehensions respecting God can be founded in truth.
You may reply: Every man must have a chance. But what to any one can a chance be worth which is only certain to increase the depth and darkness of his damnation? What can an opportunity of making an eternal fortune signify if the results of that opportunity be now certain and irrevocable? If a soul by disobedience dooms itself to eternal perdition, the sooner, Judas like, he goes to his appropriate place the better. For he only treasures up wrath against the day of wrath, after he has fixed his doom by sins for which there is no plan of repentance. It was, therefore, as soon as the Canaanites had outlawed themselves from the covenant of grace, and had lost by transgression the possibility of a future life, and had satisfied God that there was no hope in their case, that he promptly ordered their destruction and removal from a probationary state.
Yet you may say, every man must develop himself in the eyes of a witnessing moral universe. But where is the necessity for that? Could not God publish to intelligent worlds, "I foresaw what the reprobate would do if permitted to live, and therefore, to prevent his baleful exhibitions of wickedness, and to lessen his sentence of condemnation, I sent him at once into that place to which I foresaw he would inevitably go?" But possibly you might reply, that it is necessary that God reveal to me his will and my duty, in order to furnish me with an opportunity of obeying or disobeying; that it is necessary that the alternative of obedience or disobedience be clearly proffered to the free subject, in order that his will may be actually tested; that invitations and threatenings by the Ruler must be addressed to him; that these indispensable conditions of trial must be furnished the subject before the results of his testing can exist; that the results of his future testing are foreknown as the results of actual experience; and that the actual prior experience of trial is necessary to the existence of the subsequent results.
There may be some force in this reply so far as this, that certain conditions of probation are necessary to leave the subject wholly without excuse, and the justice of God immaculate. But every Christian knows that these conditions of trial have been so far extended and multiplied in his own case, beyond what justice required on the part of divine mercy, as to leave him without excuse; and justify his eternal banishment from heaven. And if God foreknows infallibly that he is finally to be lost, why should he multiply his benevolent efforts to save him so much beyond that which is simply needful to meet all the claims of divine justice? If he now knows that I am to be lost, I do desire him to cease his efforts to save me the moment all has been done for me, all opportunities have been afforded me, that justice could demand. Every effort and every privilege beyond that is not only uncalled for on the part of God, but it contributes to the severity of my condemnation and the depravation of my nature. Justice sternly demands that benevolent efforts in my behalf should cease the moment I stand without excuse, if God now foresees my eternal doom.
But if God foresaw with certainty that I would not obey, why did he not determine on greater and more especial efforts, if possible, to influence my will? If he could foresee just what degree of motive would influence my free will in the right direction, why did he not determine to exert that needed degree of motive? His refusal to do so would be an act the most unnatural in an infinitely benevolent Father. No benevolent parent could lay a command upon a child when he knew beforehand that that child would certainly disobey him, and thus ruin himself forever. How then could a Being who is infinitely holy and happy, and infinitely sufficient in himself, bind upon a soul a command when he foreknew that he would not obey it, but would disobey it and perish forever? Such a procedure would be so indefensible and so at war with all our instincts and intuitions as to be entirely unbelievable.
We believe that men every day do disobey God, and go forth to everlasting death; but we also believe that the terrible vision is shut out from the eye of infinite goodness, until forced upon it by actual decisions of the will. And if, in the nature of things, difficulties or incompatibilities render impossible such divine foreknowledge, then the heart of infinite benevolence is rescued from the grief that from all eternity must have attended the foreknowing of these deprecated and dreadful realities as certainties. And assuredly until some semblance of a reason can be adduced, showing the necessity of such divine foresight, the candid and devout questioning thereof ought not to be pronounced either detrimental to piety or irreverent toward the Creator.
The absurdity of the doctrine of the divine foreknowledge of free choices
is also seen in the contradiction which it impliesnamely, that a being
is on trial and yet is not on trial at the same time. If choice determines
character, then the character of a moral agent ought not to be determined
in the mind of God until the actual choices of that agent have been
exercised. But if Omniscience foreknows these choices, my character
determined before I have a character. He visits me with his divine
displeasure, aversion, and abhorrence, long before I have wrought out
for myself. And if this be so, God virtually sat in judgment over and
passed sentence of everlasting destruction from his presence upon lost
millions ages upon ages before they had any being. Their weepings and
wailings, which are revealed to us by the Savior himself, have been
reverberating through his soul of infinite goodness and mercy through
all the eternity
past. From a view so painful to sensitive minds, should not any plausible
refuge be hailed with inexpressible gratification? And should not he
who would point to such a refuge be welcomed as a messenger of mercy?
Who can believe that our merciful and loving God, every morning as
he visits the numberless cradles of earth filled with new-born infants,
too lovely for mortal words to describe, infants around whom man's
sympathies cluster, and who have been the subjects of uncounted prayers
and tears and maternal sorrows, could then deliberately label them
for either heaven or hell, saying, "This one is a vessel of mercy and shall
dwell in joy forever with the saved"; and "That one is a vessel of wrath,
an incorrigible son of perdition, and his destiny is to be outer darkness,
world without end?" But such a distressing performance, such a horrible
program, is just what the theory of divine foreknowledge, if true, would
compel the Almighty Father to go through with, every hour of human probation.
What should induce any man to embrace a belief so unnatural and so monstrous
rather than surrender a dogma that is inconceivable in itself, and wholly
unnecessary in constructing a system of divinity; one too, that is so
paralyzing in all its influences, and so derogatory to the character
of him whose name and nature is love, and whose "tender mercies are overall
his works?" If liberty and accountability be bestowed upon the creature,
then his probation and destiny ought to be contingent and undetermined,
and unforeknown to the Creator.
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