Hercules Collins on the Foreknowledge of God

The following selection is from Hercules Collins, Mountains of Brass: Or a Discourse Upon the Decrees of God (London: 1690), 20-22.

If God works all things after the counsel of his own will, from hence we infer God’s prescience and foreknowledge. If whatever comes to pass, cometh to pass because it is the counsel of his own will, then he must needs foreknow all things: For, “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.”[1] If there can be nothing come to pass, but what he hath determined, then he must of necessity foreknow whatever comes to pass. This is an incommunicable property of the divine being. When Jehovah would debase all false gods, he interrogates their worshippers, if they could declare things to come, as he could. “Who hath declared from the beginning, that we may know? and before time, that we may say, He is righteous?”[2] The true God declares “the end from the beginning,”[3] therefore he must foreknow whatever comes to pass. And albeit God did not decree sin to be in the world, because contrary to his nature; yet he decreed to permit it, knowing how to bring glory to himself out of it, else would never have permitted it. Now if God foreknow all things, then he cannot be disappointed, in anything, as man is, who knoweth not what shall be on the morrow.[4] Hence when the Scripture saith God looked for grapes, and behold wild grapes,[5] it is not to be understood, as if God were disappointed as a man is, who sometimes looks for one thing, but behold another occurs, which he looked not for, nor foreknew anything of. But it’s written thus, to shew what God might justly expect from that people, considering the means and mercies was bestowed on them. But ‘tis not compatible with Jehovah to be frustrated in his expectations as man is, he declares “the end from the beginning.”[6] He foreknew infallibly who would be saved, and who would miscarry, before he made man. Notwithstanding all the means afforded, God foresaw many thousands would perish. Yet let none say, If sof, why did God make man? Oh have a care of thy thoughts! Who are thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing say to him which formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor? What if God willing to shew his wrath, and make his power know, endured with much long-suffering, the vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction? And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.[7] God foreknew the defects of the elect, who are, saith St. Peter, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God.”[8] Yet that did not hinder them from being vessels prepared afore to glory. If all things in time come to pass according to his eternal will, then he must needs foreknow all things; seeing he could not be ignorant of his own will. So he worketh in time all things after the counsel of his own will in eternity.

[1] Acts 15:18

[2] Isaiah 41:26

[3] Isaiah 46:10

[4] Proverbs 27:1

[5] Isaiah 5:3

[6] Isaiah 46:10

[7] Romans 9:19-23

[8] 1 Peter 1:1-2


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