In the use of the word "wisdom" in this connection, which is more popular than precise, we mean chiefly knowledge -- knowledge of all things and all events; knowledge which embraces all possibilities and excludes all contingencies. This is a necessary element in the character of Deity -- a part of his essence. We cannot take away the attribute of omniscience, and leave the idea of God and the Creator perfect. All things are of God. Creation is but the out-birth of his thought and action. All events flow from causes which his will has set in motion, and, therefore, of necessity, he knows all things as the original cause of all things.
This fact is recognized everywhere in the Bible, in such passages among others as these: -- "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18). "Great is the Lord, and of great power; his understanding is infinite" (Ps. 147:5). "He is perfect in knowledge." . . . . "With him is strength and wisdom; the deceiver and the deceived are his" (Ps. 22, 26). "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure" (Isa. 46:10). "For thou, even thou only knowest the hearts of all the children of men" (1 Kings 8:39). "For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall <page 33> come and see my glory" (Isa. 46:18). "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight; but all things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do" (Heb. 4:13). "Doth not he see my way, and count all my steps? . . . . For his eyes are on the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings. . . . Therefore, he knoweth their works and overturneth them" (Job 31, 34). "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good" (Prov. 15:3). "Thou understandest my thought afar off (i.e. before it has fairly reached me, or come into my own mind), and art acquainted with all my ways. There is not a work in my tongue, but lo! O Lord, thou knowest it altogether" (Ps. 139). "Behold the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them" (Isa 92:9).
These passages set forth the doctrine of God's omniscience in clearest terms. The past, the present, and the future, are all one to him, as the darkness and light are one. The future cannot hide from him any more than the darkness. Eternity cannot teach him anything new.
There can be no additions to his knowledge, by the occurrence of events which he did not foresee or anticipate; events or results which were not embraced in his original plan. Nothing can come to pass by the action of causes outside of himself, causes independent of his will, and self-creative.
Both the character of God as sole Creator, as the Alpha and Omega of the universe, and the Scriptures as the authorized exponent of his attributes, establish<page 34> beyond controversy, the fact that all things are known unto him from the beginning to the end. He knows what is to be, and he shows this knowledge in the spirit of prophecy, by foretelling the events before they come to pass. He knows the thoughts and purposes of the hearts of all the children of men, the evil and the good; marks all their ways, counts their steps, and numbers the very hairs of their heads. Every thing, thought, word, desire, action, event, lies open, naked before his all-seeing eye, fro the establishment of a solar system, or the destruction of a nation, down to the idle word, or the heart-pulse of the obscurest mortal on earth; yea, down to the least interest of the invisible animalcule. "His understanding is infinite; he is perfect in knowledge".
The logical deductions from these divinely authorized premises, are obvious to every one who has given any thought to the subject. The Divine Knowledge embraces the future and final condition of every soul of man, and did embrace it from the beginning, as a part and portion of the original plan of God, inherent in the very purpose and end He had in view in the creation of man.
Let us consider this well. Far back in the solitudes of eternity, neither man nor the earth had an existence. It was entirely optional with God, whether he would or not, shape this earth, and set it running through its orbit; whether he would or not, create such a being as man, and put him here to live out his threescore years and ten. There was no power nor influence outside of his own choice, to compel him to create. He was perfectly free to do, or leave undone.
<page 35> But he chose to do. He determined to create just such a world as we are living in, and just such a race of creatures as mankind. Of course, he did not do this without a motive, without some specific object in view, and some clearly defined plan, or method, by which this object was to be obtained. He could not foreordain the end, without a foreordination of the means necessary to it. We cannot suppose he began the work of creation, as the man of the parable began to build his house, without counting the cost, or considering whether he were able to finish or not.
Let us now take the case of a single soul, and follow it through its various experiences to the close of its earthly course, and its entrance upon the scenes of its future and final destiny. By the will of God this soul exists. Why did he bring it into being? Was it from caprice or sudden impulse, without a motive or a plan, without knowing what he should do with it, or what was to become of it? Or, did he enter upon the solemn work of giving existence to this immortal creature, for a good and satisfactory reason, knowing perfectly what the was doing, seeing into all the future of its life in time and eternity, having a distinct and settled purpose in regard to its destination, and having all the agencies appointed and arranged, by which this purpose was to be accomplished?
Certainly this last. The very idea of infinite knowledge, of unerring and all comprehensive wisdom, compels to this conclusion. Of course, then, it follows, that in creating this soul with a specific end in view, with a pre-determined object to be realized, he would endow it with reference to this end and object.<page 36> Whatever moral powers and faculties, whatever physical passions and propensities, whatever strength or weakness, knowledge or ignorance, entered into the organization of this being, it would be with a perfect foresight of their operative relations to the plan with which, or the specific destiny for which, he was created. All his attributes of spirit and body, all his intellectual and moral qualities, would be harmonized with this plan. Nothing would be allowed to enter into his composition, which would work to the defeat of this plan. This is implied in the notion or conception of plan. He would not create this immortal being for a fore=ordained destiny, and then endow him with moral and mental qualities, which he distinctly saw would, and of course, therefore, intended should, forever prevent it from realizing that destiny!
Let us have this in a more definite form. "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death. These angels and men thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably determined, and their number is so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished."
Now suppose the soul, whose case is under review, was one of the number "foreordained to everlasting death." Suppose God had, at the time of its creation, purposed and predetermined that it should, in common phrase, be damned, is it likely he would bestow upon it such spiritual faculties and tendencies, and surround it with such heavenly influences as would surely work out its salvation? Suppose, on<page 37> the other hand, that this soul was one of the number "predestinated unto everlasting life." Can we for a moment believe that he, who created it, and in creating had the choice of what it should and what it should not be, would endow it with any powers or agencies which he knew certainly would forever prevent it from attaining to this everlasting life? Or, in briefer phrase, if God intended this soul for hell, would he send a Savior into the world to bring it to heaven? And if he intended it for heaven, would he send a devil into the world to drag it down to hell?
This places the subject in its true position, and the old Calvinistic ground set out in the above quotation, is the only ground on which the doctrine of endless woe can make any show of defense. If a single soul be damned, it is because it was created for this end, foreseen and foreordained. It was the original thought and plan of God in creating it, and not because he has made a mistake; not because the soul is anything different from what he expected; not because its faculties have been so perverted to his great grief, that the design of its creation is defeated. This is the only consistent and logical ground for those who assert the omnipotence and omniscience of God.
But for those who also believe in the infinite goodness of God this ground is impossible. It is impossible to believe that "God is Love," as the Apostle declares (1 John 4), and at the same time believe that he deliberately sat down to the work of giving existence to an immortal soul only that he might make that existence an endless curse to it? There <page 38> can be no more awful blasphemy than this yoking together Infinite and Everlasting Love with Infinite and Everlasting Woe.
[Note: John Foster, distinguished among the English Baptists as a thinker and writer, in his letter to a young clergyman troubled with doubts in regard to endless punishment, says, "I acknowledge myself not convinced of the orthodox doctrine, ENDLESS punishment! Hopeless misery through a duration to which the most enormous terms of time will be absolutely NOTHING! I acknowledge my inability (I would say it reverently,) to admit this belief together with a belief in the DIVINE GOODNESS -- the belief that GOD IS LOVE, that his tender mercies are over all his works." -- Sheppard's Life and Correspondence of John Foster. Letter 226.]But one conclusion, therefore, remains, that God, at the time of creating this soul -- and the argument is from one soul to all souls -- intended it for everlasting life and blessedness; for an endless growth in knowledge, in spiritual power and heavenly glory. Hence we have such testimonies as these: "Thou art worthy, O Lord, ro receive glory and honor and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created" (Rev. 4:11). "Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, ACCORDING TO HIS GOOD PLEASURE which he hath purposed in himself; that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him" (Eph. 1). Here we have a plain and emphatic declaration of the purpose and pleasure of God in regard to the creation and final destiny of all intelligences, whether in heaven or on earth. We see what he crated them for. There is no doubt as to his original intention and design.
And now the argument for his infinite wisdom <page 39> returns with irresistible force. Creating with this design, he of course arranged his plan of operations, and ordered his government and laws in reference to it. The nature he bestowed on man, the mental forces, the moral sentiments, the religious element, the bodily appetites, were all harmonized to this central thought and aim. The divine omniscience took in all the possibilities and certainties of his life, determined all the circumstances of his lot, foresaw all the influences, however subtle, and inappreciable by us, which would act on him; and pre-arranged that they would all, directly or indirectly, contribute to the purposed result; and to the development and glory of "the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God, and of his unsearchable judgments" (Rom. 9). Or in the truthful lines of Akenside:
[Note: The following is from Dr. Johnson, the great lexicographer (if Bp. Porteus is right,) and while it is directly to the point argued in the text, it will show the opinion of this literary giant in regard to the great restoration. The passages are from sermons published by Dr. Taylor, but which were undoubtedly written by Dr. Johnson. See Boswell's Life, vol. 3, chap. 4. -- "We know that God is infinite in wisdom, in power, and in goodness; that therefore he designs the happiness of ALL HIS CREATURES that he cannot but know the proper means by which this end may be obtained; and that, in the use of these means, as he cannot be mistaken because he is omniscient, so he cannot be defeated because he is almighty." In another of these sermons on Psalm 145:9, he says, "Far and wide as is the vast range of existence, so is the Divine benevolence extended; and both in the previous trial and FINAL RETRIBUTION OF ALL HIS RATIONAL AND MORAL PRODUCTIONS, the Lord is good to ALL, and his tender mercies are over ALL his works."]
We must not forget that both the use and the abuse of the freedom of man, lay within the sweep of God's omniscience at the time of creating him. If he had foreseen that man would so abuse this moral freedom as to defeat his purpose in creating, he would have arranged it differently. And as he did not arrange it differently, we need have no fears of its being a hindrance in the way of the fulfilment of that purpose.
Whatever, therefore, the measure of man's freedom, it was embraced in the original plan of his creation, and is perfectly consistent with the aim and end of that plan, viz.: the highest perfection and <page 41> blessedness of which he is constitutionally capable. To this result the wisdom of God is pledged; and all the foreseen means for its accomplishment lie within the reach, and ready at the fitting time for the use, of that Almighty Power which "worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (Eph 1). And the next section will illustrate the manner in which the Divine Will conforms the human will to its gracious purposes, without in any respect violating its rights, or restraining its freedom or voluntary action.