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Concerning this class of events, I would further remark that they are not only contingent in such a sense, that they might in every case by natural possibility be other than they are, but there may be, humanly speaking, the utmost danger that they will be otherwise than they really will be, that is, there may be danger, and the utmost danger, in the only sense in which there can be in fact any danger that any event will be otherwise than what it turns out to be. All events being really certain, there is in fact no danger that any event whatever will turn out differently from what it does, in the sense that it is not certain how it will be. But since all acts of free will, and all events dependent on those acts, are contingent in the highest sense in which any event can in the nature of things be contingent; and in the sense that, humanly speaking, there may be millions of chances to one that they will be otherwise than they will in fact turn out to be, we say of all this class of events, that there is danger that they may or may not occur.
Again: I remark in respect to this class of events, that God may foresee that so intricate is the labyrinth, and so complicated are the occasions of failure, that nothing but the utmost watchfulness and diligent use of means on His part, and on our part, can secure the occurrence of the event. Everything revealed in the Bible concerning the perseverance and final salvation of the saints, and everything that is true, and that God knows of the free actions and destinies of the saints, may be of this class. These events are nevertheless certain, and are known to God as certainties. Not one of them will, in fact, turn out differently from what He foresees that they will; and yet by natural possibility, they might every one of them turn out differently; and there may, in the only sense in which danger is predicable of anything, be the utmost danger that some or all of them will turn out differently from what they in fact will. These events are contingent in such a sense, that should the means fail to be used, or should any event in the whole chain of influences connected with their occurrence, be otherwise than it is, the end or event resulting, would or might be otherwise, than in fact it will be. They are, nevertheless, certain, every one of them, together with all the influences upon which each free act depends. Nothing is uncertain in respect to whether it will occur or not; and yet no free act, or event depending upon a free act, is certain, in the sense that it cannot by natural possibility be otherwise, nor in the sense that there may not be great danger, or, humanly speaking, a probability that it will be otherwise, and that, humanly speaking, there may not be many chances to one that it will be otherwise.
When I say, that any event may, by natural possibility, be otherwise than what it will in fact be, I mean, that the free agent has natural power in every instance to choose otherwise than he does or actually will choose. As an illustration of both the contingency and the certainty of this class of events, suppose a man about to attempt to cross Lake Erie on a wire, or to pass down the falls of Niagara in a bark canoe. The result of this attempt is really certain. God must know how it will be. But this result, though certain, is conditionated upon a multitude of things, each of which the agent has natural power to make otherwise than in fact he will. To secure his safe crossing, every volition must be just what and as it will be; but there is not one among them that might not, by natural possibility, be the opposite of what it will be.
Again, the case may be such, and the danger of failure so great, that nothing could secure the safe crossing, but a revelation from God that would inspire confidence, that the adventurer should in fact cross the lake, or venture down the falls safely: I say, this revelation of God might be indispensable to his safe crossing. Suppose it were revealed to a man under such circumstances, that he should actually arrive in safety; but the revelation was accompanied with the emphatic assurance, that the end depended upon the most diligent, cautious, and persevering use of means on his part, and that any failure in these would defeat the end. Both the revelation of the certainty of success, and the emphatic warning, might be indispensable to the securing of the end. Now, if the adventurer had confidence in the promise of success, he would have confidence in the caution not to neglect the necessary means, and his confidence in both might secure the desired result. But take an example from scripture:
"But after long abstinence. Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul: thou must be brought before Caesar: and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me. However we must be cast upon a certain island. But when the fourteenth night was come, as we were driven up and down in Adria, about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country; And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms. Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day. And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under color as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved" (Acts 27:21-31). Here the end was foreknown and expressly foretold at first, without any condition expressed, though they plainly understood that the end was to be secured by means. Paul afterwards informed them, that if they neglected the means, the end would fail. Both the means and the end were certain in fact, and God therefore expressly revealed the certainty of the result, and afterwards by a subsequent revelation secured the use of the necessary means. There was uncertainty, in the sense that the thing might, in fact, turn out otherwise than it did, and yet it was uncertain in the sense that, by natural possibility, both the means and the end might fail.
I remark, again, in respect to events that are morally certain, that if they are greatly desired, they are not the more, but all the less, in danger of failing, by how much stronger the confidence is that they will occur, provided it be understood, that they are certain only by a moral certainty; that is, provided it be understood, that the event is conditionated upon the free acts of the agent himself.
Again: it is generally admitted, that hope is a condition of success in any enterprise; and if this is so, assurance of success, upon the proper conditions, cannot tend to defeat the end.