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power and goodness; and therefore we ought to run towards 2. that again, till we empty all our faculties and excellencies
into that same ocean of divine goodness.
3. This is likewise the end of election and predestination. For he hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children,
to the praise of the glory of his grace. That some are ori dained to eternal life, and others passed by, and suffered to
perish eternally in their sin, is for the manifestation of the infinite perfections and excellencies of God. The glory and beauty of the divine attributes is displayed here with ashining lustre; as his sovereign authority and dominion over all his
creatures to dispose of them to what ends and purposes he . pleaseth ; his knowledge and omniscience, in beholding all Love things past, present, and to come; his vindictive justice, in i ordaining punishments to men, as a just retribution for sin
and his omnipotence, in making good his word, and putting all his threatenings in execution. The glory of his goodness
shines likewise here, in making choice of any, when all most * justly deserved to be rejected. And his mercy shines here
with an amiable lustre, in receiving and admitting all who believe in Jesus into his favour.
4. This was the end that God proposed in that great and astonishing work of redemption. In our redemption by Christ we have the fullest, clearest, and most delightful manifestation of the glory of God that ever was or shall be in this life. All the declarations and manifestations that we have of his glory in the works of creation and common providence, are but dim and obscure in comparison with what is here, Indeed the glory of his wisdom, power, and goodness, is clearly manifested in the works of creation. But the glory of his mercy and love had lain under an eternal eclipse without a Redeemer. God had in several ages of the world pitched upon particular seasons to manifest and discover one or other particular property of his nature. Thus his justice was declared in his drowning the old world with a deluge of water, and burning Sodom with fire from heaven. His truth and power were clearly manifested in freeing the Israelites from the Egyptian chains, and bringing them out from that miserable bondage. His truth was there illustriously displayed in performing a promise which had lain dormant for the space of 430 years, and his power in quelling his implacable enemies by the meanest of his creatures. Again, the glory of one attribute is more seen in one work than in another: in some things there is more of his goodness, in other things more of his wisdom is seen, and in others more of his power. But in the work of redemption all his perfections and excellencies shine forth in their greatest glory. And this is the end that God proposed in their conversion and regeneration. Hence it is said, Isa. xliii. 21. * This people have I formed for myself, they shall shew forth my praise.' Sinners are adopted into God's family, and made a royal priesthood on this very design, 1 Pet. ii. 9. IV. I come now to consider the properties of God's decrees.
1. They are eternal. God makes no decrees in time, but they were all from eternity. So 'the decree of election is said to have been before the foundation of the world, Eph. i. 4. Yea whatever he doth in time, was decreed by hím, seeing it was known to him before time,' Acts xv. 18
. • Known unto God are all his works froin the beginning.” And this foreknowledge is founded on the decree. If the divine decrees were not eternal, God would not be most perfect and unchangeable, but, like weak man, should take new counsels, and would be unable to tell every thing that were to come to pass.
2. They are most wise, according to the counsel of his will.' God cannot properly deliberate or take counsel, as men do ; for he sees all things together and at once. And thus his decrees are made with perfect judgment, and laid in the depth of wisdom, Rom. xi. 33. - o the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out !' So that nothing is determined that could have been better determined.
3. They are most free, according to the counsel of his own will ; depending on no other, but all flowing from the mere pleasure of his own will, Rom. xi. 34. . For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been his counsellor?' Whatsoever he decreeth to work without himself, is from his free choice. So his decrees are all absolute, and there are none of them conditional. He has made no decrees suspended on any condition without himself. Neither has he decreed any thing because he saw it would come to pass, or as that which would come to pass on such or such conditions ; for then they should be no more accordi
ing to the counsel of his will, but the creature's will. For God's decrees being eternal, cannot depend upon a condition which is temporal. They are the determinate counsels of God, but a conditional decree determines nothing. Such conditional decrees are inconsistent with the infinite wisdom of God, and are in men only the effects of weak. ness; and they are inconsistent with the independency of God, making them depend on the creature.
4. They are unchangeable. They are the unalterable laws of heaven. God's decrees are constant; and he by no means alters his purpose, as men do, Psal. xxxiii. 11. The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations. Hence they are compared to mountains of brass, Zech. vi. 1. As nothing can escape his first view, so nothing can be added to his knowledge. Hence Balaam said, God is not a man that he should lie, neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall be not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good ? Numb. xxiii. 19. The decree of election is irreversible : The foundation of God, (says the apostle), standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his,' 2 Tim. ii. 19.
5. They are most holy and pure. For as the sun darts its beams upon a dunghill, and yet is no way defiled by it; so God decrees the permission of sin, as above explained, yet is not the author of sin : 1 John i. 5. 'God is light, and in him is no darkness at all, Jam. i. 13, 17. God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. With him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.'
6. Lastly, They are effectual; that is, whatsoever God decrees comes to pass infallibly, Isa. xlvi. 10. My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.' He cannot fall short of what he has determined. Yet the liberty of second causes is not hereby taken away ; for the decree of God offers no violence to the creature's will; as appears from the free and unforced actings of Joseph's brethren, Pharaoh, the Jews that crucified Christ, &c. Nor does it take away the contingency of second causes, either in themselves or as to us, as appears by the lot cast into the lap. Nay, they are thereby established, because he hath efficaciously foreordained that such effects shall follow on such causes.
Before proceeding to the application of this doctrine, it may not be improper to answer some objections which are brought against the doctrine of the divine decrees,
1. It is objected by some, that if all things that come to pass in time be appointed of God by an irreversible decree, then this seems to make God the author of sin, as if he had ordained that horrid and hateful evil to come into the world, which is so dishonourable to himself, and so destructive to the children of men. In answer to this, you would know,
1. That all sinful actions fall under the divine decree. Though sin itself flows from transgressing the law, yet the futurition of it is from the decree of God. No such thing could ever have been in the world, if it had not been determined by the eternal counsel of Heaven for a holy and just end. This is plainly asserted by the apostle Peter, with respect to the greatest villainy that was ever committed on the earth, namely, the death and sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ, at the hands of sinful men, Acts ii
. 23. forecited. And the church gives this account of it, 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. There was never such an atrocious crime or higher act of wickedness committed, than the murdering of the Lord of glory. And yet it appears from these texts of scripture, that, in this bloody and horrid scene, wicked men did no more than God's hand and counsel determined before to be done.
2. That the decree of God is properly distinguished into that which is effective, and that which is permissive.
(1.) His effective decree respects all the good that comes to pass, whether it be moral or natural goodness. All the actions and motions of the creatures have a natural good. ness in them; and even sinful actions considered abstractly from any irregularity, obliquity, or deformity cleaving to them, have a natural goodness in them, so far as they are actions: they have a goodness of being considered purely and simply as actions. Now, God has decrecd to effect ail these, yea even sinful actions considered purely as natural. For he is the first and universal cause of all things, the fountain and original of all good. And it is said with
i respect to the oppressions of the church by wicked men,
Psal. cxv. 3. 'Our God is in the heavens; he hath done whatsoever he pleased.'
(2.) His permissive decree doth only respect the irregulabi rity and pravity that is in sinful actions. God decreed to
permit the same, or he determined it to be, himself pers mitting it. Hence it is said, Acts xiv. 16. In times past he
suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.' And God doth nothing in time, but what he did from eternity decree, to do. So that the futurition of sin is from the decree of God. God determined that it should be. He did not decree to have any efficiency in sin, considered as such ; but he willed that it should be done, himself permitting it. The counsel of God' did not determine to do it, but that it should be done.
3. God decreed the permission of sin for great and glorious ends. It is true, sin in its own nature has no tendency to any good end. If it end in any good, it is from the overruling providence of God, and that infinite divine skill that can bring good out of evil, as well as light out of darkness. Now, the great and glorious end for which God decreed the after-being of sin, is his own glory: and the ends subordinate thereunto are not a few. Particularly, God decreed the futurition of sin, (1.) That he might have occasion of glorifying his infinite wisdom, love, and grace
in the redemption and salvation of a company of lost sinners through the death and sufferings of his own dear Son. (2). That his patience and long suffering in bearing with and forbearing sinners, might be magnified, admired, and adored. (3.) That he might be honoured and glorified by the faith and repentance of his people, and their walking humbly with him. (4.) That his justice might be illustriously displayed and glorified in the eternal damnation of reprobate sinners for their own sins and abominations, sin being the cause of their damnation, though not of their reprobation. Thus God decreed the futurition of sin for these holy and wise ends, that he might glorify his wisdom in bringing good out of so great an evil, and a greater good than the evil he decreed to permit.
4. The decree of God about the permission of sin does not infringe the liberty of man's will. For sin doth not follow the decree by a necessity of co-action or compulsion,