All things are done contingently.
This Article is expressed in such a stupid and senseless manner, that they who attribute it to me, declare by this very circumstance, that they do not perceive under how many falsities this expression labours; nay, they do not understand what is the meaning of the words which they employ. For if that is said to be done contingently which it is possible not to do, or which may not be done, after all the causes required for its being done have been fixed; and, on the other hand, if that is said to be done necessarily which cannot be left undone which cannot but be done-after all the causes required for its performance have been fixed; and if I grant, that, after some causes have been fixed, it is impossible for any other event to ensue than that the thing should be done and exist, how then can I be of opinion that| all things are done, or happen, contingently?.| But they have deceived themselves by their own ignorance; from which it would be possible for them to be liberated, if they would bestow a becoming and proper attention on sentiments that are more correct, and would in a friendly manner obtain from the author a knowledge of his views and opinions.
I have both declared and taught that |necessity, in reference to its being said to be or to happen necessarily, is either absolute or relative.| It is an absolute necessity, in relation to a thing being said simply |to be or to happen necessarily,| without any regard being had to the supposition, or laying down, of any cause whatever. It is a relative necessity, when a thing is said |to be or to happen necessarily,| after some cause had been laid down or fixed. Thus, God exists by an absolute necessity; and by the same absolute necessity, he both understands and loves himself. But the world, and all things produced from it, are, according to an absolute consideration, contingent, and are produced contingently by God, freely operating. But it being granted that God wills to form the world by his infinite power, to which NOTHING ITSELF must be equal to matter in the most perfect state of preparation -- and it being likewise granted that God actually employs this power -- it will then be said, |It was impossible for the world to do otherwise than exist from this cause;| or, |from this cause, the world could not but exist.| And this is a relative necessity, which is so called from the hypothesis of an antecedent cause being laid down or fixed.
I will explain my meaning in a different manner. Two things in this place come under our consideration, the CAUSE and the EFFECT. If both of them be necessarily fixed, that is, if not only the effect be fixed necessarily when the cause fixed, but if the cause also necessarily exist and be necessarily supposed to operate, the necessity of the effect is in that case simple and absolute. In this manner arises the absolute necessity of the Divine effect, by which God is said to know and love himself; for the Divine understanding and the Divine will cannot be inoperative, [cannot but operate]. This operation of God is not only an internal one, but it is also ad intra, [inwards,] tending towards an object, which is himself. But whatever God may do ad extra, [externally,] that is, when acting on an object which is something beside himself, [or something different from himself,] whether this object be united to him in understanding and he tend towards it by an internal act, or whether it be in reality separated from him and towards which he tends by an external act, the whole of this he does freely, and the whole of it is, therefore, said to be absolutely contingent. Thus God freely decreed to form the world, and did freely form it. And, in this sense, all things are done contingently in respect to the ]Divine decree; because no necessity exists why the decree of God should be appointed, since it proceeds from his own pure and free [or unconstrained] will.
Or, to express it in another form: That is called the simple and absolute necessity of any effect, |when the cause necessarily exists, necessarily operates, and employs that power through which it is impossible for the thing not to exist,| [or through which it cannot but exist]. In the nature of things, such an effect as this cannot be contemplated. For the intellect of the Deity, by which he understands himself, proceeds from a cause that necessarily exists and that necessarily understands itself; but it does not proceed from a cause which employs a power of action for such an understanding.
Under this consideration, the relative necessity of any event is two-fold. FIRST. When a cause that necessarily exists, but does not necessarily operate, uses a power of action that cannot be resisted. Thus it being fixed, that |God, who is a necessary being, wills to create a world by his omnipotence,| a world must in that case necessarily come into existence. SECONDLY. When a cause that does not necessarily exist and yet necessarily operates, acts with such efficacy as is impossible to be resisted by the matter or subject on which it operates. Thus, straw is said to be necessarily burnt [or consumed] by the fire, if it be cast into the flame. Because it is impossible either for the fire to restrain its power of burning so as not actually to burn, or for the straw to resist the fire. But because God can prevent the fire from burning any combustible matter that is brought near it or put into it, this kind of necessity is called partial in respect to the cause, and only according to the nature of the things themselves and the mutual affection [or relation] between them.
When these matters have been thus explained, I could wish to see what can possibly be said in opposition.lam desirous, that we should in preference contend FOR THE NECESSITY OF GOD ALONE, that is, for his necessary existence and for the necessary production of his ad intra [internal] acts, and that we should contend for the CONTINGENCY OF ALL OTHER THINGS AND EFFECTS. Such a procedure on our part would conduce far more to the glory of God; to whom by this method would be attributed both the GLORY of his necessary existence, that is, of his eternity, according to which it is a pure act without [the exercise of] power, and the GLORY of his free creation of all other things, by which also his goodness becomes a supreme object of our commendation.