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God, His Unity and Perfection: The Foreknowledge and Providence of God

A new instalment in our series from Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, 1.5:

Who hath wrought and done these things, calling the generations from the beginning? I the Lord, I am the first and the last, (Isaiah 41:4 DRB) who in the centre of my eternity see all begin and all end. Babylon, assemble your divines: what do I say, your divines? Assemble your Gods. Let them come, and tell us all things that are to come: tell us the former things what they were (and that they make a bond one with another): and we will set our heart upon them Tell us the things that are to come. Shew the things that are to come hereafter, announce them to us and we shall know that ye are gods. Do ye also good or evil, if you can: for if you can do them at your whim, you can foresee and divine them: Behold, you are of nothing, since you are false gods, Your work of that which hath no being: he that hath chosen you is an abomination. (Isaiah 41:22-24) It is so that the prophet Isaiah and with him all the saints convict to nothing the gods of the Pagans.

But I, says the Lord by the mouth of this holy Prophet, as I do everything, I predict what I want. Who will be the one who makes them come from the East: who calls them from afar, so that they will follow? Who will dissipate the nations like dust in front of his sword and armies like straw in the wind in front of his bow? I will make come from the North and the East he whom I know and which I see from all eternity. It is Cyrus whom I have named to be liberator of my people. He will know my name: all the princes will be in front of him like people who gather from the mud. Who is he who has proclaimed this from the beginning? It is I the Lord: my name is there; I will neither give my glory to another nor my praise to idols. That which I have announced at the beginning and which appeared first in my oracles, look, he arrives. I will then uncover new things: before they appear, I will make you hear of them. Israel, you are a dissipated people. Who gave you as prey to your enemies, if not the Lord himself, because we have sinned; and he has spread on us the breath of his anger? And now, says the Lord, I will create you anew, Jacob: and I form you, Israel. I am. There is no God ahead of me and there will be none afterwards. I am. I am the Lord and only I save. From the beginning I am: I am the Lord your Holy, the King and creator of Israel. Do not dream of things past: I will make you new ones. I formed these people for me and I wish that they tell my praises. I am the first and the last at the same time and there is no God but me alone. I am the Lord who makes all: who makes useless all the predictions of the diviners: I change their spirit and I change their wisdom into folly. But to the contrary, after several centuries I will carry out, and I will make the word of my Prophet whom I have inspired come alive: and I will carry out the predictions of my messengers. I say to Jerusalem ruined and made alone: you will be filled with inhabitants. I say to the cities of Judah: be rebuilt: I will rebuild your ruins and I will fill your lonely and abandoned streets. I said to Cyrus: you are the prince I have chosen: you have carried out my will. I say to Jerusalem: you will be built, and to the temple reduced to ashes, you will be founded anew. I named Cyrus to make this happen. I said to Cyrus, my anointed, whom I take by the hand to throw down the nations and make the Kings in front of him flee. I will deliver hidden treasures: that which is stored away in the most hidden places will be open to you, so that you will know that I am the Lord, I the God of Israel who calls you by name. I am not doing this for love of you, but for the love of Israel my servant and of Jacob whom I have chosen. It is for him that I called you by name. I set forth to you: I appeared to you such as you are. You did not know me: and I, I invested you with power, so that from getting up to going to bed one would know that there is no other God but me, and that I, and no other, I am the Lord. It is I who created the light and who scattered the darkness: I pardon and I punish: I distribute good and evil, peace and war, by the merit of each one. I am the Lord who does these things. Such spoke Isaiah, the two hundred fifty years later, Cyrus, conqueror by this oracle, saw the prophet and published this edict: Here is what Cyrus King of the Persians says: the God of heaven, the Lord, has delivered to me all the kingdoms of the earth and has commanded me to rebuild his house in Jerusalem.

A hundred other similar examples justify the foreknowledge and providence of God: but this one understands all and leaves nothing to be desired.


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