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it is said, that his people shall be willing, in the day of his
power. In the conversion of sinners, we notice the exceeding greatness of the power and sovereignty of Jehovah." In nothing does the holy sovereignty of God : appear more conspicuously, than in the great plan and work of salvation by the Redeemer; and especially in carrying into effect this glorious plan, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Finally ; The sovereignty of God appears in every thing. To this is owing all our prosperity, and all our adversity. “Shall there be evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it ?" To him it belongs to wound and to heal, to kill and to make alive. 6 For of him, and through him, and to him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen."
The subject leads to
1. In attending to this subject we should be cautious of all prejudice against names and titles. We are liable to attach to the word sovereignty, an idea of something odious and detestable, and on this account, to harbor a prejudice against the doctrine of God's sovereignty. Could another term be substituted, more expressive of God's kingly office, we should have no objection. But why should this term be more offensive, when applied to God, who is the King of Kings, than when applied to the best of earthly kings ? “ I am a great king, saith the Lord of hosts." Wherein does this differ froin his saying, “ ] am a great Sovereign, saith the Lord of hosts p" "In
both terms, the infinite holiness of God is equally understood. And it is to be feared, that those who object to this term, which is in so common use, and is so well understood ; have a secret, if not an open abhorrence of the true doctrine of divine sovereignty.
2. Assured as we are, of all the divine perfections, and especially, of the infinite holiness of God, which, as we have found, comprises all his moral perfections ; who can avoid rejoicing in his government. Who can cherish a
wish to escape from the absolute dominion of Jehovah ? Is not the greatest welfare and happiness of the universe suspended on his wise and holy sovereignty? Is not this the ground of every christian's consolation ? If this foundation were destroyed, what could the righteous do ? Dethrone, in your hearts, the Holy One of Israel, and your case is hopeless. Without the sovereignty of God, the universe also must go to ruin and destruction. And what is of infinitely more consequence is, God must lose his glory, and the great plan of redemption, must be defeated.
The Decrees of God.
Having in some preceding essays, considered the marvellous works of God, his works of creation and providence, and the holy sovereignty which he exercises in all his works, especially in his government of the moral system
; We may, in the next place, attend to the doctrine of his Decrees. For it is absurd to suppose, that his great and wonderful works, which have been brought into view, could have been performed, without any previous purpose or decree. The Psalmist, when he was about to relate, in a way of prophecy, the glorious things to be accomplished by the Messiah, says, I will declare the decree."
These things, were the execution of a divine decree. Had there been no decree respecting the coming of Christ, and the great work of redemption, who can suppose it possible, that these works should ever have been accomplished ?
In the discussion of this weighty and important subject, an attempt will be made to prove that every event in the universe, without exception, goes to the accomplishment of the decrees of God. ` of him it is said, as we have no
ticed already, that he " worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.?? His working all things, is the work of divine providence; and the counsel of his own will is his decree. His decree, therefore, as well as his works of providence, extends to all things. It is indeed very evident from reason, as well as scripture, that no rational being can be supposed to act without an established plan and purpose. But the plan and purpose of God constitute his decrees. Admit that he is a rational being, who acts in view of the highest motives, and the doctrine of his decrees is established. It is, at least, evident, that whatever God, or any other rational being does, by his own free and immediate agency, is done in consequence of a decree. And since we have found evidence, that God is an eternal and immutable being; it clearly follows, that all his purposes are eternal and immutable. If we consult the scriptures of truth, on this important subject, we shall find, that God has a purpose, or decree, as well as a providential agency, in the production of all events. All depend on his will and pleasure. Surely, God, who created the heavens and the earth, and the fulness thereof, so that all were pronounced very good, must have had a definite plan of operation. If not, how could he make all things for himself ? How could he secure to himself the highest possible glory? How could he declare, with the least appearance of truth, " My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure."
That the decrees of God extend to all events, is evident from the universality of his providence. If the works of divine providence, or the works of creation, or any other works, extend beyond the divine decrees; then these extra works are altogether undesigned, uncontrolled, and useless. Indeed voluntary actions are impossible, if they are supposed to be destitute of a purpose or decree. What is there, in the nature of things, which can prompt the divine Being to action, beyond the extent of his purpose or decree? Certainly nothing
Corresponding with the view which we have taken of the decrees of God, we have a very lucid and scriptural definition in the shorter catechism. 66 The decrees of
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God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his own will, whereby for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” Decree, foreordination, and eternal purpose are synonymous terms. Another term, synonymous with these, is predestination. "Being predestinated, according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." “ Having predestinated us to the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ, to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will." 66 Whom he did foreknow, them he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son." Eternal purpose, counsel, or decree, is always represented as preceding the works of God. For instance, the great work of creation, by which is displayed the mani, fold wisdom of God, is said, by the Apostle, to be “ According to the eternal purpose, which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Also the greater works of regeneration and conversion to God, are said to be divine operations, according to the foreordination of God. “ For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained, that we should walk in them." Foreordination and decree are not only the same thing; but they are a thing which invariably precedes the great work of divine grace, in the regeneration and conversion of sinners; and all other divine works of every name and nature whatsoever.
The doctrine of God's decrees, which is now under consideration, is still further evident from his absolute foreknowledge of all things. “ Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world;" or from eternity. But the foreknowledge of God, depends on the fixed certainty of the things foreknown. It is impossible that any future event should be known, unless it be unalterably fixed, and rendered certain of an existence. But how can any event, which is yet future, be rendered certain, by any means short of the purpose and will of God? Without these, nothing can be established ; and without being established, nothing can be known. Thus the foreknowledge of God depends entirely on his decrees. In the order of nature, therefore, his decree must be an
tecedent to his foreknowledge, and must be the only ground of it. God is the cause, the designing and efficient cause of all the objects and events which he foreknows. The order of expression in the scriptures, sometimes implies, that the decree of God precedes his foreknowledge. Particularly, in what is said concerning the delivering of Christ to be crucified. “ Him being delivered, by the determinate counsel, and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands, have crucified and slain." To show, that there is strictly speaking no succession, no fore nor after, in the divine mind;. the decree and foreknowledge of God are expressed as being equally eternal. For instance, it is said, “ Whorn he did foreknow, them he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.The decrees of God evidently extend to all events; because such is the extent of his knowledge. Omniscience evidently rests on the divine decrees. Eternal foreknowledge, which most people allow and admit to be an essential attribute of God; presupposes an eternal decree. So that if one is denied, the other must be denied. In scripture it is affirmned, that “ All things are naked and open unto the eyes of him, with whom we have to do.” Of course, all things are unalterably fixed in the divine mind. For if this were not the case, nothing that is future could be known, even by the Deity himself. For nothing but certainties and realities can possibly be the objects of knowledge.
Still further to confirm the doctrine of God's decrees, let it be carefully observed, that all those views and motives which have operated in the divine mind to produce any purposes or decrees, are eternally and immutably the
But if the motives are the same, even from eternity, why not the decrees? Can it be supposed, that the divine Being foresaw from eternity, that a certain, definite system of events would make the richest display of his own glory, and in the highest possible degree, promote the general good; and yet, that he neglected to ratify and establish that system, by his decree? If so, where is the evidence of his goodness ? If all the benevolent motives