The Absolute Predestination Of All Things
In our last number we promised to notice the request of brother Burson, who desired our views on the subject of the absolute predestination of all things. We have frequently given our views on this subject, and still feel willing to give such views as we have on this and all other scriptural subjects.
Although it is common for all wise men to lay out their plans and predetermine, or predestinate what they intend to do, it is exceedingly hard for men to comprehend the doctrine in its application to him who has “Declared the end from the beginning, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”
Although our Savior has called that man a fool who without predestinating, preconcerting his arrangements, or predetermining in regard to his undertakings, would attempt to build a house, it is thought by many incompatable with the divine perfections of our Lord that he should predetermine, pre-arrange or predestinate, in the building of a world.
If God has declared the end from the beginning, he has so declared on the ground of positive knowledge of the end, and if he absolutely foreknew all things, all things must have been before determined, either by himself or by some other power.
If not predetermined by himself it might well be demanded, With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him, when he measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with a span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? (Isaiah 40:12-14).
We must admit that God possessed all this knowledge of himself independently, or deny his omniscience; and we must acknowledge that his perfect knowledge rested on the counsel of his own sovereign will and pleasure, or conclude that he was instructed by some other, which conclusion we think none who know the Lord will be likely to make. But we need not speculate, nor attempt to establish this matter by inferences, however clearly drawn, for in his holy word we are informed that it is the theme of reverence and worship of the four beasts, and the four and twenty elders, who, falling down before him, and casting their crowns before his throne, continually cry, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” – Rev. 4:10-11.
And in his word Jehovah claims that he has created all things for himself, yea, even the wicked for the day of evil; and he says, in vindication of his supreme Godhead, “I form the light, and I create darkness; I make peace and I create evil; I the Lord do all these things.” We cannot read these declarations from the mouth of God himself, and resist the conviction that our God worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.
But our brother desires us to speak more particularly on the words, “all things.”
There are those who profess to believe that God has predestinated some things, but they cannot comprehend the idea that he has predestinated all things. Among the things which they allow that he has predestinated, are the redemption of his people from sin, and their eternal justification and immortal glory, the unspeakable gift of his dear Son, his advent to our world, his sufferings, death, resurrection and ascension to glory; but they cannot admit that God absolutely ordained that sin should enter into the world, that there should be any sinners to redeem, or that wicked men should, with wicked hands, crucify and slay the Lord of life and glory.
The Lord predestinated that Joseph should lay up corn in Egypt, but had nothing to do with his dreams, the envy of his brethren, or any of the circumstances of their projecting his murder, had no hand in sending the Ishmaelitish merchants to intercept their wicked designs, or with his being sold to Potiphar, nor the strange course of Potiphar’s wife, or the dreams of the butler and baker, who were fellow prisoners with Joseph.
But we confess we cannot conceive how anything can be predestinated unless all things are. In regard to both the cases referred to, we are informed that God did control all the events. Peter, being inspired by the Holy Ghost, charged upon the Jews the murder of our Redeemer, in these words: “Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands, have crucified and slain.” – Acts 2:23.
Again, “For a of 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.” – Acts 4:27-28.
In regard to the case of Joseph, God had made know to his great-grandfather Abraham, his control over this matter, and that the children of Israel should sojourn in Egypt, and be entreated evil for the space of four hundred years. (Gen. 15:13-14)
So also we are informed in the word that “the wrath of man shall praise God, and the remainder of wrath he will restrain.” – Psalm 75:10.
From this last quotation we learn that God, in his providential government, according to his inscrutable wisdom and the eternal counsel of his own will, allows wicked men and devils to go just so far in wickedness as he designs to overrule for his own glory, and no farther; they would if they could, do more, but God restrains them. His providential government, which is based upon the pleasure of his own will, according to which he works all things, extends to the falling of a sparrow, and the numbering of the hairs of our heads, and it is and should be a consoling thought to all of God’s dear children that
“Death and hell can do no more
Than what our Father please.”
But it is argued by the opposers of Predestination, that if God has predestinated all things, man is not accountable; and some go so far as to say that God is the author of sin. The apostle Paul anticipates the blasphemous cavilings of the enemies of divine sovereignty. “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault?” or why doth he hold men accountable for wicked actions? “For who hath resisted his will?”
It is true that God’s eternal and immutable will cannot be successfully resisted or thwarted, for he doeth his pleasure in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of earth, and none can stay his hand. This the apostle does not deny or modify to avoid their blasphemous cavils; but he says, “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, Why has thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endureth with much long-suffering 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.” – Rom. 9:20-23.
As it is a mercy to us when God restrains us from sinning, and “leads us not into temptation, but delivers us from evil;” so is a manifestation of his wrath, upon the vessels of wrath, when he endureth with long-suffering, or allows them to fill up the cup or allotted measure of their iniquities, and when he sends them strong delusions that they may believe a lie, that they all may be damned who believe not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thess. 2:11-12)
That the purpose and predestination of all things do not exculpate men from blame, nor involve the Supreme Jehovah as the author of sin, in the manner urged by the opponents of the doctrine, is very apparent from what is recorded in connection with the events to which we have made allusion. Although Christ was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God; those who were charged with his crucifixion were guilty of doing it with wicked hands. They acted as voluntarily and maliciously as though no such determinate counsel had determined beforehand what they should do. Joseph told his brethren that God had, for their sakes, brought him to Egypt, and although they meant it for evil, God designed it for good; to save much people alive. Pharaoh was punished for his wickedness, although God had for that purpose raised him up, that he might make his power known in him, and from time to time harden his heart that he should not let the children of Israel go until God’s wonders were displayed in Egypt.
Every intelligent being knows that in committing sin, he acts voluntarily, and follows the impulse of his own depraved nature, and every one who is born of God and taught by his Spirit, knows that sin is the opposite of holiness; that God is holy, and that sin is of the devil, and not of God. Still a consciousness of God’s supreme power and wisdom, to fix its bounds, and say to it as he has said to the waters of the deep, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no farther; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed,” affords a strong consolation to all who look alone to God for succor, protection and support, while destined to remain as strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
May 1, 1858.
Elder Gilbert Beebe