Page images
PDF
EPUB

Rom. ix. 19, “Who hath resisted his will?" Doubtless it is the property of God alone to be the cause of all things, and to be almighty in his so being. But hereof at present no more. On this supposal, the immutability of the decrees of God would plainly be coincident with the immutability of his nature, before handled.

It is, then, of the decrees and purposes of God, with respect to the matters about which they are, whereof I speak: in which regard, also, they are absolute and immutable;- not that they work any essential change in the things themselves concerning which they are, making that to be immutable from thence which in its own nature is mutable; but only that themselves, as acts of the infinite wisdom and will of God, are not liable to nor suspended on any condition whatever foreign to themselves, nor subject to change or alteration (whence floweth an infallible certainty of actual accomplishment in reference to the things decreed or purposed, be their own nature what it will, or their next causes in themselves never so undetermined to their production), whereof I treat. That the determining purposes or decrees of God's will concerning any thing or things by him to be done or effected do not depend, as to their accomplishment, on any conditions that may be supposed in or about the things themselves whereof they are, and therefore are unchangeable, and shall certainly be brought forth unto the appointed issue, is that which we are to prove. Knowing for whose sakes and for what end this labour was undertaken, I shall choose to lay the whole proof of this assertion upon plain texts of Scripture, rather than mix my discourse with any such philosophical reasonings as are of little use to the most of them whose benefit is hereby intended.

Isa. xlvi. 9-11, The Holy Ghost speaks expressly to our purpose: “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” Verse 9, the Lord asserts his own deity and eternal being, in opposition to all false gods and idols, whom he threatens to destroy, verse l. Of this he gives them a threefold demonstration:

First, From his prescience or foreknowledge: “There is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done;"_“In this am I infinitely discriminated from all the pretended deities of the nations. All things from the beginning to the end are naked before me, and I have declared them by my prophets, even things that are future and contingent in

* Matt. xi. 25; 1 Cor. i. 26-28; James ii. 5; 2 Tim. ii. 10.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

1

themselves. So are the things that I now speak of. The destruction of Babylon by the Medes and Persians is a thing to be carried on through innumerable contingencies; and yet as I have seen it so have I told it, and my counsel concerning it shall certainly be executed.”

Secondly, By his power, in using what instruments he pleaseth for the executing of his purposes and bringing about his own designs:

Calling a ravenous bird from the east;"—one that at first, when he went against Babylon, thought of nothing less than executing the counsel of God, but was wholly bent upon satisfying his own rapine and ambition, not knowing then in the least by whom he was anointed and sanctified for the accomplishment of his will. All the thoughts of his heart, all his consultations and actions, all his progresses and diversions, his success in his great and dreadful undertaking, to break in pieces that “hammer of the whole earth," with all the free deliberations and contingencies wherewith his long war was attended, which were as many, strong, and various, as the nature of things is capable to receive, were not only in every individual act, with its minutest circumstances, by him foreseen, and much also foretold, but also managed in the hand of his power in a regular subservience to that call which he so gave that "ravenous bird” for the accomplishment of his purpose and pleasure.'

Thirdly, By the immutability of his purposes, which can never be frustrated nor altered : “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure;—I have purposed it, and I will also do it.” The standing, or fixedness and unchangeableness, of his counsel, he manifests by the accomplishment of the things which therein he had determined; neither is there any salve for his immutability in his counsel, should it otherwise fall out. And if we may take his own testimony of himself, what he purposeth, that he doth; and in the actual fulfilling and the bringing about of things themselves purposed, and as purposed, without any possibility of diversion from the real end intended, is their stability and unchangeableness in them manifested. An imaginary immutability in God's purposes, which may consist and be preserved under their utter frustration as to the fulfilling of the things themselves under which they are, the Scripture knows not, neither can reason conceive. Now, this unchangeableness of his purposes the Lord brings as one demonstration of his deity; and those who make them liable to alteration, upon any account or supposition whatsoever, do depress him, what in them lies, into the number of such dung-hill gods as he threatens to famish and destroy.

Ps. xxxii. 9-11, “He spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect. The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all

· Jer. 1. li.; Isa. xliv. 25-28. VOL. XI.

10

generations.” The production and establishment of all things in that order wherein they are, are by the psalmist ascribed to the will and power of God. By his word and command they not only are, but stand fast; being fixed in that order by him appointed. Both the making, fixing, and sustaining of all things, is by “ the word of his power.” As the first relates to their being, which they have from creation, so the other to the order in subsistence and operation, which relates to his actual providence. Herein they stand fast. Themselves, with their several and respective relations, dependencies, influences, circumstances, suited to that nature and being which was bestowed on them by his word in their creation, are settled in an exact correspondency to his purposes (of which afterward), not to be shaken or removed. Men have their devices and counsels also, they are free agents, and work by counsel and advice; and therefore God hath not set all things so fast as to overturn and overbear them in their imaginations and undertakings. Saith the psalmist, “They imagine and devise indeed, but their counsel is of nought, and their devices are of none effect; but the counsel of the LORD," etc. The

counsel and purposes of the Lord are set in opposition to the counsel and purposes of men, as to alteration, change, and frustration, in respect of the actual accomplishment of the things about which they are. “Their counsels are so and so; but the counsel of the LORD shall stand.” He that shall cast verse 11 into verse 10, and say, " The counsel of the LORD, that comes to nought, and the thoughts of his heart are of none effect,” let him make what pretences he will or flourishes that he can, or display what supposals and conditions he pleaseth, he will scarcely be able to keep the field against him who will contend with him about His prerogative and glory. And this antithesis between the counsels of men and the purposes of God upon the account of unchangeableness is again confirmed, Prov. xix. 21, “There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand." Herein is the difference between the devices of men and the counsel of God: Men have many devices to try what they can do. If one way take not, they will attempt another "hac non successit, alia aggrediemur via”), and are always disappointed, but only in that wherein they fall in with the will of God. The shallowness of their understanding, the shortness of their foresight, the weakness of their power, the changeableness of their minds, the uncertainty of all the means they use, puts them upon many devices, and often to no purpose. But for Him who is infinite in wisdom and power, to whom all things are present, and to whom nothing can fall out unexpected, yea, what he hath not himself determined, unto whom all emergencies are but the issue of his

· Heb. i. 3; Rev. iv. 11; Acts xvii. 28, ii. 23, iv. 28; Gen. I. 20; Eccles. iii. 11. • Isa. viii. 9, 10; Job viii. 9, xi. 12; Eccles. viii. 7, ix. 12.

own good pleasure, who proportions out what efficacy he pleaseth unto the means he useth,-his counsels, his purposes, his decrees shall stand, being, as Job' tells us, “as mountains of brass.” By this he differenceth himself from all others, idols and men; as also by his certain foreknowledge of what shall come to pass and be accomplished upon those purposes of his. Hence the apostle, Heb. vi. 17, 18, acquaints us that his promise and his oath, those “two immutable things,” do but declare å jstáderov rñs Bouañs, “the unchangeableness of his counsel;" which God is abundantly willing to manifest, though men are abundantly unwilling to receive it. Job determines this business in chap. xxiii. 13, 14, “He is of one mind, and who can turn him? what his soul desireth, even that he doeth. For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me.” Desires are the least and faintest kind of purposes, in Mr Goodwin's distinctions; yet the certain accomplishment of them, as they are ascribed unto God, is here asserted by the Holy Ghost.

Were the confirmation of the matter of our present discourse my only design in hand, I could farther confirm it by enlarging these ensuing reasons:

First, From the immutability of God, the least questioning whereof falls foul on all the perfections of the divine nature, which require a correspondent affection of all the internal and eternal acts of his mind and will.

Secondly, From his sovereignty, in making and executing all his purposes, which will not admit of any such mixture of consults or co-operations of others as should render his thoughts liable to alteration, Rom. xi. 33–36. The Lord in his purposes is considered as the great former of all things, who, having his clay in the hand of his almighty power, ordains every parcel to what kind of vessel and to what use he pleaseth. Hence the apostle concludes the consideration of them, and the distinguishing grace flowing from them, with that admiration, 'n Bádos!—“O the depth!” etc.

Thirdly, From their eternity, which exempts them from all shadow of change, and lifts them up above all those spheres that either from within and in their own nature, or from without by the impression of others, are exposed to turning. That which is eternal is also immutable, Acts xv. 18; 1 Cor. ii. 7-11.

Fourthly, From the absoluteness and independency of his will, whereof they are the acts and emanations, Rom. ix. 15–21. Whatever hath any influence upon that, so as to move it, cause it, change it, must be before it, above it, better than it, as every cause is than its effect as such. This will of his, as was said, is the fountain of all being; to which free and independent act all creatures owe their being and subsistence, their operations and manner thereof, their whole differi Zechariah ? Zech. vi. 1.-Ed.

· 182. xliv. 7, xlvi. 10.

ence from those worlds of beings which his power can produce, but which yet shall lie bound up to eternity in their nothingness and possibility, upon the account of his good pleasure. Into this doth

. our Saviour resolve the disposal of himself, Matt. xxvi. 42, and of all others, chap. xi. 25, 26. Certainly men in their wrangling disputes and contests about it have scarce seriously considered with whom they have to do. “Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?'

Fifthly, From the engagement of his omnipotency for the accomplishment of all his purposes and designs, as is emphatically expressed, Isa. xiv. 24–27, “ The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: that I will break the Assyrian in my land. . This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations. For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back ?” The Lord doth not only assert the certain accomplishment of all his purposes, but also, to prevent and obviate the unbelief of them who were concerned in their fulfilling, he manifests upon what account it is that they shall certainly be brought to pass; and that is, by the stretching out of his hand, or exalting of his mighty power, for the doing of it; so that if there be a failing therein, it must be through the shortness of that band of his so stretched out, in that it could not reach the end aimed at. A worm will put forth its strength for the fulfilling of that whereunto it is inclined; and the sons of men will draw out all their power for the compassing of their designs. If there be wisdom in the laying of them, and foresight of emergencies, they alter not, nor turn aside to the right hand or to the left, in the pursuit of them. And shall the infinitely wise, holy, and righteous thoughts and designs of God.not have his power engaged for their accomplishment? His infinite wisdom and understanding are at the foundation of them; they are the counsels of his will: Rom. xi, 34, “Who hath known his mind” in them? saith the apostle, "or who hath been his counsellor?" Though no creature can see the paths wherein he walks, nor apprehend the reason of the ways he is delighted in, yet this he lets us know, for the satisfying of our hearts and teaching of our inquiries, that his own infinite wisdom is in them all. I cannot but fear that sometimes men have"darkened counsel by words without knowledge," in curious contests about the decrees and purposes of God, as though they were to be measured by our rule and line, and as though" by searching we could find out the Almighty unto perfection.” But he is wise in heart; he that contendeth with him, let him instruct him. Add, that this wisdom in his counsel is attended with infallible prescience of all that will fall in by the way, or in the course of the ac

:

« PreviousContinue »