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inhabited by many creatures, Psal. civ. 25. Now, God decreed to make all these things, Rev. iv. 11. Thou hast created all things.'
Secondly, God hath decreed the government of all his creatures. He preserves and upholds them in their beings, and he guides and governs them in all their motions and actions. He is not only the general spring and origin of all the motions and actions of the creatures, but he appoints and orders them all immediately.
1. He has decreed all their motions and actions: 'For (says the apostle) of him, and through him, and to him, are all things.' Rom. xi. ult. This is clear from God's knowing all these things before they come to pass; which knowledge of them must needs be in the decree, upon which the coming to pass of all things depends.
Not only good things, but evil things fall within the compass of his holy decree. Evils of punishment are truly good, being the execution of justice, as it is good in a magistrate to punish evildoers. God owns himself to be the author of these evils, Amos iii. 6. 'Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it ?' And yet he has decreed the effecting of these. As for tho evils of sin, these also fall within the compass of the decree of God, as is clear in the case of crucifying Christ, Acts ii. 23. 'Ilim (says tho apostle to the Jews) being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.' And says the apostle, Acts iv. 27. 28. 'For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. This appears also in the case of Pharaoh refusing to let Israel go, and pursuing them when they had gone, whose heart God hardened, Exod. xiv. 4; and in the sin of Joseph's brethren in selling him into Egypt; of which Joseph says, Gen. xlv. 8. 'So now it was not you that sent mo hither, but God.' It is true, God decreed not the effecting of sin, for then he should have been the author of it, but he decreed the permission of sin. And though sin in itself is evil, yet God's permitting it is good, seeing he can bring good out of it; and it is just in him to permit it, where he is not bound to hinder it. Yet this is not a naked permission, whereby the thing may either come to pass or not, but such as infers a certainty of the event, so that in respect of the event the sin cannot but come to pass. Hence our Lord says, Matth. xvii. 7. Wo unto the world because of offences ; for it must needs be that offences come,' And says the apostle, 1 Cor. xi. 19. There must be heresies among you.' See also Acts iv. 27, 28. forecited.
2. And not only necessary things, as the burning of the fire, but the most free acts of the creature, and the most casual things, fall under the divine decree. Free acts, as Prov. xx. 1. 'The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will. To this purpose are the foresaid instances of the Jews, Pharoah, and Joseph's brethren.—The most casual, as in the case of the casual slaughter mentioned, Exod. xxi. 12, 13, and Dent. xix. 3. where mention is made of the Lord's delivering the person slain into the hands of the slayer, though he had no intention to slay him. Such also is the case of lots, Prov. xvi. 33. The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.' This holds also in the case of sparrows, and the hairs of the head falling, which cannot be done without God, Matth. x. 29, 30. And thus not only great things, but small things fall within the compass of the divine decree.
But more especially let us consider God's decrees with respect to the government of rational creatures. This we may take up in the following particulars.
1. God has decreed what kingdoms and monarchies should be on the earth, what princes and potentates should rule and govern them, and whether their government should be mild or tyrannical; how long each kingdom should continue, when they should have peace and when war, when prosperity and adversity. We find wonderful discoveries made to Daniel with respect to these things.
2. God has decreed every thing relating to the lot and condition of particular persons.
(1.) He has decreed the time and place of their birth, whether it should be under the law or gospel, in a land of light or darkness; whether among the savage Indians in America, or among the more polite and civilized people of Europe; whether among Mahometans, Papists, or Protestants. All this was decreed by the Lord, who hath made of one blood all nations of men, to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation,' Acts xvii. 26.
(2.) He hath decreed every man's lot and condition, whether it shall be high or low, rich or poor, noble or ignoble, learned or unlearned. He hath determined the trade and employment they should follow, the particular business they should betake themselves to. Many times God's providence over-rules men's purposes and designs, for fulfilling his own counsels. Matters are sometimes strangely wheeled about, so that not what we or our parents designed, but what God hath purposed shall take place. Amos was meanly employed at first, but God designed him for a more honourable calling: he was taken from the office of a herdman, and gatherer of sycamore fruit, and invested with a commission to prophesy to the people of Israel, Amos vii. 14, 15. David followed the ewes, and it is like never raised his thoughts to higher things in the days of his youth; but God made him the royal shepherd of a better flock, Psal. Ixxviii. 70, 71. The most part of the apostles were fishermen; but Christ called them to a more high and eminent station, even to be extraordinary officers in his church, and fishers of men.
(3.) God hath decreed what relations men shall have in the world. Their wives and children are appointed for them. Hence said Abraham's servant, Gen. xxiv. 44. 'Let the same be the woman whom the Lord hath appointed for my master's son.' That such a woman rather than any other, should be wife to such a man, is by the appointment of Heaven. Men's children are also decreed by God. Hence said Eve, Gen. iv. 24. 'God hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew. And says the Psalmist, Psal. cxxvii. 3. 'Lo children are the heritage of the Lord.' God determines the numbers and names of every man's children.
(4.) All the comforts of men's lives are under the divine appointment, both those temporal and spiritual. Hence says the prophet, Isa. xxvi. 1. We have a strong city: salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.'
5. All men's afflictions are determined by a decree of Heaven, Micah vi. 9. 'Hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.' Such are public calamities and distresses, as war, famine and pestilence, all bodily pains and sickness, poverties and pinching straits, and whatever is grievous and afflictive to men. None of these spring out of the dust, or come by chance. The kind and nature of people's troubles, their measure and degree, time and season, continuance and duration, and all the circumstances of them, are determined, and weighed in the scale of his eternal counsel. Hence says the apostle, 1 Thess. iii. 3. 'No man should be moved by these afflictions: for you yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.'
(6.) The time of every man's life in the world is appointed. Hence says Job, chap. vii. 1. 'Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days also like the days of an hireling ?' And says the same great man, chap. xiv. 5. His days are determined: and the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.' The term of our life is fixed and limited, our days are determined, and our months numbered. Hence David prays, Psal. xxxix. 4. 'Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is : that I may know how frail I am.' Our days are measured; they are as
the days of an hireling. As the hireling hath a set time to work in, so every man and woman hath an appointed time for acting and working in this world. We are all pilgrims and strangers on the earth, and in a little time we must go hence and be no more. are here like men upon a stage to act our parts, and in a short time we must retire within the curtain of death, and others will come in our room. Our glass is continually running, and the day and hour in which it will run out is settled and fixed by the order of Heaven. We find in scripture that God hath often foretold the precise term of particular men's lives. He set a hundred and twenty years to those who lived in the old world before the flood came upon them, Gen. vi. 3. He foretold the time of Moses' life, of that of Jeroboam's son, of that of Ahaziah king of Israel, and of many others. All this was from his own decree and counsel.
Thirdly, God hath determined the eternal state of all his rational creatures, both men and angels. Our Confession of Faith tells us, agreeably to scripture, chap. iii. art. 3. that by the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others are fore-ordained to everlasting death. More particularly,
1. We read of the elect angels, 1 Tim. v. 21. The perseverance and standing of the holy angels in the state of their primitive integrity, and their confirmation therein, was determined by the purpose of God. In the morning of the creation heaven shined with innumerable glittering stars, the angels of light, of whom a vast number are, by their rebellion against God, become wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. Now, the good angels are in a supernatural state, without the least danger of change, or any separation from the blessed presence of God in glory, flowing from the continual irradiations of divine grace, which preserves their minds from errors, and their wills from irregular desires; and consequently they cannot sin, nor forfeit their felicity.
It was by an eternal decree of God, that he passed by the angels that fell, and doomed them to everlasting misery. The apostle tells us, 2 Pet. ii. 4. that God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved into judgment.' And saith Jude, ver. 6. 'The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day. Mercy did not interpose to avert or suspend their judgment; but immediately they were expelled from the Divine Presence. Their present misery is insupportable, and worse awaits them. Their judgment is irreversible; they are under the blackness of darkness for ever. They have not the least glimpse of hope to allay their sorrows, and no star-light to sweeten the horrors of their eternal night. It were a kind of mercy to them to be capable of death ; but God will never be so far reconciled to them as to annihilate them. Immortality, which is the privilege of their nature, infinitely increases their torment.
2. God hath likewise appointed the final and eternal state of men and women. It is said, Rom. ix. 21, 22, 23. 'Hath not the potter
, power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction : and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory V
(1.) He hath elected some to everlasting life by an irreversible decree, Rom. viii. 29, 30. 'For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called : and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.' Eph. i. 4. • According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.' 2 Thess. ii. 13. 'God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation. From eternity God elected some from among terity of Adam to everlasting life and glory, according to the good pleasure of his own will. Therefore all is referred by our Saviour to the good pleasure of God, Matth. xi. 25, 26. And all the means for accomplishing the ends of election are likewise of divine appointment; particularly the redemption of ruined sinners by the death and sufferings of Christ : He hath chosen us in Christ,' Eph. i. 4. The Father did first, in the order of nature, cause Christ to the Mediatory office, and as the chief corner-stone to bear up the whole building; whence he is called God's elect, Isa. xlii. 1. And then he chose a company of lost sinners to be saved by and through Christ; and therefore he is said to predestinate them to be conformed to the image of his Son.
2. God hath passed by the rest of mankind, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, and hath ordained them to dishonour and wrath for their sins, to the praise of his glorious justice. Hence Christ is said to be a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence to them that stumble at the word being disobedient: wherennto also they were
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