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Letter from Theophilus, Relating to the Divine Prescience

To the Author of the GENERAL MAGAZINE.


There is a Question in the Schools, and I think generally resolved in the Affirmative; Whether God concurs with all human Actions or not? That is, Whether he be the principal efficient Cause of every Action we produce? This Question, I say, is generally resolved in the Affirmative: And the Reason they give is this; Because, say they, if God did not concur with every Action that’s produc’d, then there would be an Action, and consequently some Being, independent of God, which is absurd: Therefore, &c.;

It hath been the Opinion of many great and learned Men, that second Causes have no proper Activity of their own; but that God acts directly and immediately in them and by them; that he produces all the Acts of Thinking, and all the Volitions or Acts of Willing; and that he has from all Eternity decreed, That he will do with such and such a Creature, at such a Time, such and such Acts; which shall infallibly come to pass, the contrary whereof could not fall out from any Principle in the Creature; that the Creature neither can nor ought to have any thing real, nor positively do any Act but what God produces in it.

There is no Possibility, they think, of defending the Doctrine of the Divine Prescience, if this be deny’d. For nothing can be foreknown that is contingent in its own Nature; but every Action depending upon the Will of an Agent, left at Liberty to do as it pleases, is contingent, i. e. it may or may not happen, and therefore cannot be foreknown: For when any Being knows that a Thing will be, it must be, otherwise it could not be an Object of Knowledge: It is absolutely impossible to know, that any Event will come to pass, that may not come to pass.

So that whoever denies God’s immediate Concourse with every Action we produce, must of Consequence deny God’s Foreknowledge.

I should be glad therefore to see some Remarks made upon this Subject; and knowing of no better Method to invite some proper Person to undertake it, I make bold to desire you to insert the Contents hereof in the General Magazine for the Month of March, and you will oblige

Your constant Reader, and
most humble Servant,


The General Magazine, March, 1741