James Jones.

An inquiry into the popular notion of an unoriginated, infinite and eternal ... online

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Darvar& Collcae Xibrar?


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Cl^e VopttUir Notion

or AH









Cantaimng a Dialogue between the AutJwr undone of hit Readers,



' Courage to think is infinitely more rare than eeoraca to act; and.'yaC the dangar
in tha former case is only imaginaiy ; in the Utter raaL"

Ntm TtrJt Ckrittum Aivocmtt mU Jtmsl,



OXFORD street; and J. BTEPHENg, 16, OITT ROAD.

1828. •

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The l^l'ACfe ; cidiitlrtttSttg' tf DkdogUe m¥mti the A^tHiM* ttMl «
reader of the following- Treatise . 1

t^AP. I.

A sta«ttB«{tf «f tide; dtWlMke df aii tlAorigiJiieWd; hkilidlii; and etet^
nal P)-e«6ietoee, tt it its' ctiftetitly anid impliciay <eeeh^ hf ^
veryla^|M$|ktfliottof tfaeChnSt&aibwocld 1£^

Chap. II.
On the nature, diversity, and limits of Evidence 25

Chap. III.

The nature, and acquisition, and hounds of Knowledge ; and the
comfteiJene^^ of Kddtvl^g« in httnutn heisgtf Sfi^

Chap. IV.
Of Necessity and Certainty 41

Chap. V.
Of Possibility and Contingency 48

Can*'. VP.

The notion of a certain PreiQretKe in relation to moral actions,
and the final issue of human life^ inconsistent with human xe-
spoii^\)ility, and re|»ugnant to all moral feeling 54

Chap. VII.
The notion of a certain and etetnad Prescience, in relation to all-
BH>ral actions, and the final issue of human life, not consistent
with the moral agency of God, and not compatible witE eternal
existence, and not to be recenciled with the righteous government
of the world 66

mnP. VIII.

An iiifinite And eternal Prescience, not included in the piviae
existence, nor requisite for the government of the world, nor
implied in the knowledge of the hummi heart, nor compatible
with the moral probation of human, beings 77

Ghjip. it.

The doctrine of an eternal Prescience contains no motive to piety
or* moral duty, and is incapable of afibrding any kind of im-
provement or instruction to either the hearts or intellects of
human beings 8^

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Chap. X.

The doctrine of the nunc sUmt, or eternal now, ifl perfectly un-
intelligible ', and is as inconsistent with sound reason, as it is
with the pladnest declaratbns of the word of God 97

Chap. XI.

The popular notion of an eternal Prescience not implied in the
Scripture doctrine of Omnisdenoe, nor contained in any rational
conception of an infinite intelligence 110

Chap. XII.

The obvious and real design of Scripture prophecy not that of
asserting the doctrine of an eternal I^rescienoe, but that of de-

\ monstrating the infinite agency of God in the government of
the world 121

Chap. Xm.
A review of the Old Testament predictions . '. 130

Chap. XIV.
A general review of those ancient predictions, the fulfilment of
which is related in the pages of the New Testament . . . 147

Chap. XV.
A review of New Testament prophecy 155

Chap. XVI.

The success and triumph of the Gospel, and the end of the world,
not the objects of a certain and eternal Prescience .... 169

Chap. XVII.

The popular notion of a purposed secrecy in the contents of the
Sacred Volume, and the general economy of Providence in the
government of the world, mconsistent wiih the character of the
Almighty, and with the avowed purposes of Divine revelation,
and with the general edification of the righteous in the know-
ledge of God, and in the acquisitions of personal piety . . . 176

Chap. XVIII.

The general ambiguity of the prophetic style, and the general
silence of Scripture prophecy about names, dates, and places,
alto^ther inconsistent with the popular notion of an unorigmated,
infinite, and eternal Prescience 185

Chap. XIX.

The moral government of the world perfectiy compatible with the
freedom and contingency of human actions 195

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Reader. Well, Mr. Audior, I have read 3rour wonderftil pro-
ductioiiy and I am heartily glad I have met with you ; for I was
^determined to acquit my conscience of you, the very first time you
fell in my way.

Author. Well, Sir, and I am as heartily glad to meet with a
person who has been at the pains of perusing my production;
and shall now be happy to hear your candid and deliberate opi-
nion of my work.

R. Your woric, indeed, Sir ! Why I will tell you plainly, that
I never read such a revolting production in all my days. For
such a book as your's, to be written by any Christian ibinister, is
out of all character, and past all bearing ! If it had been the pro-
duction of a Socinian, or a downright infidel, no person would
have wondered at it ; but in a Christian, and especially in a CSirit-
ttan^'minister, it is nothing less than an abominable shamec *

A. My good Sir, if you have only read over my treatise, under
as much unfavourable excitement, as you are pleased to maaifost
while you are speaking of the book, it cannot be eicpeeted diat
you should entertain any favourable opinion of my performance.
Jt is hardly likely that you have understood my atgumenttftlon,' or
that you have bestowed on the subject any pittleilt itivettigitMMi.

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But pray. Sir, what have you discorered in my book, that appears
to yoUy to savour so highly of Sodniauismy or infideli^ ?

R. Why, Sir, your book would overturn all law and gospel at
once. It is absolutely not fit to be read by any Christian people.

A. Peihapsy my dear Sir, you have mistaken the design of my
arguments. J!bt objeict loi my baqk is fo disprove the doctrine of
an unoriginated, infinite, and eternal prescience ; and I am sure
that I could never discover that doctrine in any part of either the
law or the gospel. It is, I think, pretty certain that not any one
of the ten commandments, contains the doctrine of eternal pre-
science ; and I think it is equally certain that it is not contained ia
any of the laws of Moses. The design of the gospel, as you are
well aware, is that of dispensing the blessings of mercy and sal-
vation, 1^ £udi in J^estts -Quist, and under the wise and righteous
dictates of the law of obedience to God. Pray Sir, on what prin-
ciples will you identify the doctrine of eternal prescience, with
either the law or the gospel? — But I perceive that you smile.
Do tell me the cause of your amusement.

•A. flnRQNkid gladly df> that, if I .were sui-e it would ncA gceatly

A, O, onever imnd^jthat 1 teil «ie nrbat it is. Perhaps it mUl
gratify me as much as it has done yourself.

'R. Why, Sicr a fnesvi lof nune the odieciday^ feiy hMmooQUsly
xib»9Dced^'lhat.yQp<i«biN4d ^vejkalceu a comferttble scat aoMwg
Milt9ii-Bdp«euktjfig: devils; who,

" Apart, sat on a hill, retired,

iSm tboQghta Aone iblevata, aad reawn'd hig^
. ,#f^|irev|^i^e, foteto<Bwledg|^,.»riU, HTd fate,
• ^ixi^.fa^, %ee ;«rill,'for«l^Boi9r^dge>a1)09J^te,
. j3i,I>4 fpi^4 up end, itn.wap4eiriBjg ipsH^

A.r My ^s^3vr9 1^ am of cGtme uoder some obligatiMi to your
J&ifitfd lor hisimoc^t fAesMmiitnes; hyA IvM jftunk you to astf to
him, at ysmr.mfim^t^lmg^ i^tt^e cftason Nrhy>Mihop's lindkgot
«el»ifiM9l;ictrtbeir/8yeieal»tlo»s on the subjecit /of absobite ^know-
Mse^nra^e^iditt^ lweaiM^4;h^ had adopted jibe poet^A own Iheeiy,
mA tii«x»:to}y>iKing Ao j^cim^ )an absohit^ addjetemid pRfciflDce,
^^.^y^fir^^d^M ii »Ml aotioBS. In swtt^ a case, if the>hole
99^)^^^mKmm mi^ Baloa^^t ibbeiif haad» had ,eBl«i»d into adis-,
mmfil^imir(1hU^lvi^e^$ fMS^arided tth«^> IumI ^been. (ieteamined, as


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dMT deioidenf of prescient usuaUy an, ta Hiflk to iMb pnmiMS
widioikt Tegaidmgf thek coikdi]naa% te dkcomm mwt kavt
ended exactly in the place wheieit be^n- But oi liw conlravy^
if ff man'^myMliI Imve #ie boUttew to 4iapato the premiteBy ind
dcttianfr^om^ legHmnlSiWid'flMilfttltDfjr eddsDOS of iMflnUi^ he
woaU awmbe esnviiicMb tkatr it ivoald n<n<ie<|Mfr He intoHcoto^
aa^uBgrt^.to oosgitalto kiniRtf cfaMidy tliiMi^ ihs UbyrMi of tito
docttino of pittcieBteL Milton would in vain ittroke dw tmi»^
anoe of hip tsdktt aHgetoto hind iIk' fctlsn of abiohMto' hnthaom^
ledsge o» flie hinnaa oihid; aay onlilnwy iateHect woold 1« aMo
to snap them BsHnd&fr wHkilr mOiw coM) than aver did Iha aHgfaty
Saaosan te c»td» of deneitfbl DeUiak

R. Well, Sir, then what do you think of those other words e#

" As if fvedastiaelida ^rer-zalad
Thsir will, dispossd hf absolate decne
Or hisb £Diek»wledga$ if I foidnsw,
ForaibDOwMgehad ao influeacsron thair faok.
Which bad ao teas pcovad certaio uafiMreknown."

A. Why my good Sir, those harmonious lines are compoaa^
cmiitly of assartioiis withmit pnroof ; aad of assertioiM whkh are
^: aoatradietoiy aad icreoanoilaMe. as light and daahnesaL No oae
<»f MiHott^s nameivooaadiBiiaBB taanld be Me to siNMr how cteiaal
fHaaeience and moral fresdom^ ma^ possibly coasport wilfe each
<A»r, Tbo poet's moral syaftpafthias^ abhoned te- doafriaft of
aiiaohMla predesliQation ; b«it he lited in an age of tiw Cbliilian
okttfeb, that did not possess a sofficiaQcy of oouia^s to dispote
the doctrine of eternal prescience. If luS' Boble nind had aaly
dwttbtsd tha tratlk of thadl doatnai^ and if he had invastigated^ in
eoHfte^oentey ita daaiaa oa a raiionali bdss^ he waidd saoaihaMi
baav eenvineed of ita Mkacy, and would hBTo cast that doetrina
awagry wiHt die reiics of papal idotatsy, to d» moka aad th^

H. Sir, I am sonry to tell yo% that evaiy osOMdott CbiiafeiaB,
who will tsdce the trooble to read yous book wiflb atteatian^ awst
be fully coBfidneed that if you had, only yomr own* way, you waiald
qasakly ofvertam die fiath of God's elect, and wonftd ^o^tfiaiy vbat
tboosands upoa tboasuids of pioas and sensible peof^^ from go*
netatioB: t» ganteralioBy have legasdad as being saand Ghiisfiaa

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theology, and an integral and rital part of Christiani^. Sir, gire
me leave to tell you, that the doctrine of fordaiowledge was firmly
beUefiedy ages before you were bom.

A. And sOy my dear Sir, were the doctrines of polytheism^ and
Aose of the Goran, and diat of Metempsychosis : and so were the
doctrines of Socinus, and Pelagius, and that of tiansubstantiadon ;
and indeed a thousand other doctrines of equal standing and equal
notoiiety; all of which have been fully and repeatedly disproved.
And if the doctrine of eternal prescience also be ialse, why should
not that doctrine be openly disproved, and exposed, and rejected ?
— ^You speak, Sir, of the antiquity of this doctrine?

R. Yes, Sir, I do. And what have you to say against its an-

A. Why, my good friend, I have only to say that the advocates
of the doctrine of eternal prescience, haheir utmost
conclusiims : but all those words and sentiments, which have glared
so fearfully in your eyes, on the pages of my treatise, are legitimate
deductions from the doctrine of eternal prescience. Or, at all events,
if they be not legitimate deductions, you have now a feir oppoitunity
of detecting their fallacy. But if you are not able to detect their
fellacy, and shew where fhey are not fair and legitimate, you
ought, as honest men, and ingenuous opponents, to renounce your
fevourite premises as being untenable and delusive.

R. But after all, you have not justified your conduct in assailiDg
those pious persons who continue to hold that doctrine, and who,
'acoording to your own confessions, are worthy of your respect.
For if those persons may be in a state of salvation, while they

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eontinae in the belief of liii^ doetrine, what soffieitiiC retson ue
you able to assign for assailing the ftitb of snch penoos, with sndi
unmeasored and unbridled iniy ?

A. Sir^ are you aware that the Teiy same i nt errogations might
have been offered to the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christy by
the ancient pagans? That the same intenrogations may be made
to every person who may endeavour to convert a sinner, of any
descrqptitMi, to the Christian fiudi? I diink that you yourself
wo«id not ventuie to affirm that it is absolutely impossible for any
Jewy whatever his character may be, to be received at last into
eternal felicity. And I think you would not ventare to maintain^
that it is absolutely impossible for any heathen, or Mahomedan, or
Sociniain, to be saved ; or that no such person was ever yet re-
ceived mto glory. But if it be only possible for a Jew, or a pagan,
or a MalMHnedan to be saved, why not let tkem akme ? and why
trouble them with the peculiarities of the Christian creed ? Be-
sides, my good Sir, how will you justify ftte conduct of Luther,
and Melancthon, or any of the reformers, in endeavouring to re-
cover the Christian world from the errors of the church of Rome,
if you condemn the part which I have acted, in relation to die
doctrine of eternal prescience ? Was there no pious individual
left witiiin the pale of the Romish diurch? And how will you
make it to appear that Thomas k Kempis did not act a more wise
and worthy part, in adhering to the c6urch of Rome, and in re-
fusing to trouble his mind about the doctrines of Protestantism,
than Luther and Melancthon did by all the clamour of reform?
May not a speculative Socinian possibly hold the peculiarities of
his creed in the same dormant and inoperative state, as a pious
' predestinarian does the peculiarities of his speculative system?
and in spite of his antichristian speculation, actually place all
his practical dependence for salvation upon the atoning sacrifice of
the Son of God? And if so, why would you molest him m his
errors ? and why will you not let him go on in his errors vrithout
molestation or hinderance ?

R. I tell you, it is my serious and decided opinion that you
wUl only unsettle people's minds, and cause a great deal of un-
easiness and trouble in the religious world.

A. The very same objection might have been brought against
Luther and Melancthon, and all the Protestant reformers: and, in-

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dBtAf dw TOf nine bbjcction ngbl be nrgitd agMMst tbs ialio^
diKtioii of Clunlnuiiljiii e^mry place.

R. But, Sir, let me ask you, Did not Lathet mAMOamAan,
and all the Refdniwr% briie?* in thia very dottriae^ of eternal pre-

▲^ It is possible iSbaj might: but eireB in tbit caae^ it will- only
fidk>ir, tibat althoagh they exposed and fefonsed many eaon of
te diarck of Biome, diey did not lelbrm aU its emuMOtv doc*-
tosesw The yefyprincsfde upon: wbsdi the ageats <tf tbeR efcn—
titm founded their innoyatioBS oa the dMNoh of Rome, is diat on
wiiidi I am now procecdiog; die right and oonpetency of pcivttle
judgmant in the intecpieiatioa of the woid of Ood. And sm t»
UBsetding people's minda^ them is no possibility of leojahnring
paopk from eEk>ry eaacept by unsettbag their opinionsL But ^ by
the unsattliofl^ of peeple*s opinions, ire can oidy lead theaa to the
hiiowledge of the tnith, and to the enjoymientof personal sal i miun,
then the acquisition of pen^nai piety, and ooirect -wiemt of ve*
Ugious tmdi, must ccstainly be regaided as an ample reoonpeBae
ibt all die trouble occasioned tot thena dierd»y. Are yovi a m nic,
my good ftioid, that the vesy same objection has beea ui^edr by
the worid against ouv endeftvours to coopert the wifd^ed from- tbe
eirois of their ways T

R. Sir^ such subjects are far too mysterious for homan conr-
prehension. It is in vain'to think of undeistanding them» Thty
am Christian mysteries ; and as Christian mysteries diey nrnst be
betievedy and received.

A. My good Sia, say rather they aie Christian centvadietions ;, and
as Christian eontradictioBs they must be believed and received. J
am weU aware that the philosophy of religious truth may indeed
be ineompvehenrible ; but the possibittty oi eveiy Christian doe-
trine must be intuitively evident : or odierwise the foot can neMr
be a subject of rational convicticHi. If the mysteiy, of rather the
absoffdity, of a doctrine may be argued as si valid objection to the
cordial belief of it, then I am quite sure that no person can have
any rational conviction of the doctrine of eternal prescience.
Your aigiimenty my good Sir, is solely and obviously against
yourself. If we are not to have any thing to do with mysteries
or rather with cootraidictcMry things, then I am veiy sure we have
no business with the doctrine of an eternal p w scienoe>


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R. Well, Sir, I can only tell you, that you wUl be sore to pio-
cure for yourself a great deal of ill will, and make a great number
of enemies.

A. The very same ptudent caution mi^^t have been adminis-
tered to our blessed Lord; and the same might have been said to
the Apostles and early Christians : the same might have been said
to the Protestant refonners, and the very same may be said to
every person, who may endeavour to expose any error, or refoim
any popular eviL If a person must oonoeal the truth, because
the exposure of error may |»t)cure him ill will and popular in-
dignakion, it will be impossible, hereafter, to introduce any kind of
intprovement among human beings.

R« Sir, it is my decided opinion, and the opinion of every per-
soa who has either read or heard of your book, that you had done
better to have wriHen upon some more profitable subject ; and not
have diverted pepple's minds from the important business of experi-
mental aiul practical godli^eas.

A. Nay, my good Sir, the sole object of my book, is to call off
the attention of mankind from the doctrine of eternal prescience,
by demonstrating that it is devoid of truth, and utterly incapebls
of yielding the smallest particle of benefit or unprovement to either
the intellect or the heart of man. Permit me, 1^, to say, that no-
thing could be more disingenuous than the objection which you
have now advanced. Will even the sturdiest advocate of the
doctrine of an eternal prescience, profess that it is the edifying
nature of that doctrine, which induces him to esteem it so highly,
and to contend for it so earnestly? And vrill any of those gioiis
persons who continue in the implicit belief of. that doctrine, say
they have ever found it to minister to their edification in the
knowledge, or enjoyment, or practice of piety? Why, Sir, even
your own objection, indirectly concedes the point of its total
inutility. The charge of unprofitableness, therefore, lies against
the advocates and believers of this doctrine, and not against the
optK>sers and rejectors of this doctrine. All the edification and
benefit which the subject can ever oceaMon to its advocates and
admirers, must be those, of an inquiiy into the evidence by which
it is supported, a discoveiy and conviction of its total felsity and
futility, a prompt and entire rejection of it, both in speculauon
and in practice ; and a plenary and lively conviction of their own

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unpuHcipsted r«Bp9aubillfy as enAtaies^m probktiOft idr the et<er-

R. Sir, I tell yott plainlyy there is a general dislike of lA^ apixit
in wbicb yonai fa««« wntlMi. Y^ ha^e iid ««spe6l Ibf people's
feelings^ you eottimit Ae ttwt Wolettl outrages Off their r^gdotts
asMciBtion^} a&d when yon pteteiid to dtedlace yt>trf coB^eqoecieesf
fs6m our pcenmes/ yov pioduee im> eoavMioii' <m peof^s tmnds;
you only exdfe fe^figs of deep iiidigiiiBitidtf^ airi a i«96hite d^
ttttmiiiatioifi not to be beateft off oi£ir gr^ad wMh WJM^^KMia Hfte
yoar's. I teR you, Sir, the worid tHH KvM hettflfeirlo yoa.

A. MygoodiHeiid, yoodonof seetttb^beawarelJhMMieiheQd
has no claims upon courtesy, and that ent>r ham no right Uy tolene
tron : and yet if is^ a notoriousf fut^ that the dl^etrine o# eternal
pfesoienee is-rdlSHked in tbei efeed of noM of Its atdt^oeafe^ tiMftr^
by the exeieise of aibM^ogieal tolemioii, or by 4ntof a Himw^
tioal eomifaaioe. The most gisliiog rdigiotfif enwti.thall linte erer
been expelled from th« sanctuary ef Chufm^sm Asotogy, T»«i«r at
one tiaae hnpMify and uaivevsatty leeehred, and wene banded
denniiftom generation to genetal&oii^ as Chdsinn verity 6f ini"
dadvtesl aiKhanty : at length tfaeif! tmdi began tv be smpoclcd ;
bKithepefsoni who fiist dictated then pttlM dowtt ttp«m their
httidlsi ttQtfaiBg b«l popular ochumy and ec<iMia«tical aaati^nias;
Ages da|NKd befose the public mind became ftMy enltgfait«ned to
MO their fidsity, while tfMnsands who inspected thdr tMidiy or were
oonrii&eed of dieir Malty, continued to>yield thxm a verbal SMtoiow*
led^ment. But when once tiitty faav^e been actual^ gibbeted in
te^ndblie esteemy ttnd the vilMny of tlieir chanieter baai beea My
«sposed to flie ccftdmon sense of mankind, the indignane woiid hai
andfeied them, to hang up atf a public waming, swinging wkb
ereiy bieexe, and eveaking with ereiy stoim, until they hsve
dmpped away piecenoieal,^ from the gidtows,- and not a veatige of
tfatir carcass bas' been left to disturb the publie tianquillitf, ov to

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Online LibraryJames JonesAn inquiry into the popular notion of an unoriginated, infinite and eternal ... → online text (page 1 of 19)