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in we have a discovery of this incomprehensible mystery ! This is a truth which nature's light could never have found out. It is above reason, though not contrary to it; for reason, though it could never have brought it to light, yet when it is discovered, it must needs yield to it; for as the judgment of sense must be corrected by reason, so the judgment of reason by faith.
2. See here that God whom you are to take for your God, to love, trust in, worship and obey, even the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This is that God who offers himself to you in the gospel, and whom you are to take for your God in Christ. This is that Father who elected a select company of sinners unto salvation; this is that Son that redeemed them unto God by his blood ; and this is that Spirit that renews and sanctifies them, making them meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.
3. Lastly, Take this Father for your Father, who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; and be obedient children, if he would be reckoned of his seed. Receive the Son, and slight him not. Give your consent to the gospel.offer, seeing it is your Maker that offers to be your husband. And grieve not the Holy Spirit, lest ye be found fighters against God.
OF THE DECREES OF GOD.
Ephes. i. 11.- According to the purpose of him who worketh
all things after the counsel of his own will.
"HE apostle here gives an instance of the sovereign free
dom of divine grace through Jesus Christ in the believing Jews.
1. There is here the high privilege they were advanced to, a right to the heavenly inheritance, which had been forfeited by the sin of man.
2. Through whom they had obtained it in him; by virtue of the merits, the obedience and satisfaction of Christ.
3. Why they obtained it, while others had not. Not that they were more worthy than others, but because they were predestinated, elected, or fore-ordained to salvation, and all the means of it.
4. There is the certainty of the efficacy of predestination. Vol. I.
It is according to his purpose ; that is, his firm purpose and peremptory decree to bring such things to pass. And this certainly in particular is evinced by a general truth, Who worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will. Wherein we may notice.
(1.) God's effectual operation, he worketh. The word signifies to work powerfully and efficaciously, so as to overcome all contrary resistance, and all difficulties in the way; which is exactly God's way of working. And this working takes place in the works of creation and
providence. (2.) The manner how God works. The plan and scheme according to which his works are framed, is the counsel of his will. His will is his decree and intention; and it is called the counsel of his will, to denote the wisdom of his decrees, his most wise and free determination therein. As God's decree is an act of his will, and so most free, considered in relation to the creatures; so his decree and will are never without counsel; he willeth or decreeth things to be done with the greatest reason and judgment, most wisely as well as freely.
(3.) The object of his working after this manner, all things. This cannot be restricted to the blessings which the apostle had been speaking of immediately before, but must be understood of all things whatsoever, and of all their motions and actions as such; which therefore are the object of God's decrees.
The text plainly affords this doctrine, viz. Doct. God hath fore-ordained, according to the counsel
of his own will, whatsoever comes to pass.
I. Explain the nature of a decree.
V. Make improvement. 1. I am to explain the nature of a decree. The text calls it a purpose, a will
. For God to decree is to purpose and fore-ordain, to will and appoint that a thing shall be or not be. And such decrees must reeds be granted, seeing God is absolutely perfect, and therefore nothing can come to pass without his will; seeing there is an absolute and necessary dependence of all things and persons on God as the first
cause. But there is a vast difference betwixt the decrees of God and men ; whereof this is the principal: Mens purposes or decrees are distinct from themselves, but the decrees of God are not distinct from himself. God's decrees are nothing else but God himself, who is one simple act; and they are many only in respect of their objects, not as they are in God; even as the one heat of the sun melts wax and har. dens clay. To say otherwise is to derogate from the absolute simplicity of God, and to make him a compound being. It is also to derogate from his infinite perfection; for whatsoever is added to any thing argues a want, which is made up by the accession of that thing, and so introduces a change; but God is absolutely unchangeable. Neither could God's decrees be eternal, if it were not so; for there is nothing eternal but God.
II. I proceed to consider the object of God's decrees. This is whatsoever comes to pass. He worketh all things, says the text. God has decreed whatsoever comes to pass ; and nothing comes to pass but what he has decreed to come to pass. We may consider the extent of the divine decree under the three following heads.
1. God has decreed the creation of all things that have a being.
2. He has decreed to rule and govern the creatures which he was to make.
3. He has decreed the eternal state of all his rational creatures.
First, God decreed to rear up this stately fabric of the world, the heavens and the earth, the sea and the land, with all the great variety of creatures which inhabit them. There are myriads of holy angels in heaven, cherubims and seraphims, thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, angels and archangels. There are many shining luminaries in the firmament, the sun, and the moon, and innumerable glittering stars. There is a great variety of creatures on the earth, animals, plants, trees, and minerals, with various forms, shapes, colours, smells, virtues, and qualities. The sea is 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 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 evil-doers. 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 the evils of sin, these also fall within the compass of the decree of God, as is clear in the case of crucifying of Christ, Acts ii. 23. "Him (says the 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 ga. thered 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 me 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 of 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. xviii. 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, Pharaoh, and Joseph's brethren.-The most casual, as in the case of the casual slaughter mentioned, Exod. xxi. 12, 13. and Deut. 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 re. spect to the government of rạtional 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 when 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 tiine and place of their birth, whether it should be under the law or gospel, in a land of light or darkness; whether among the sayage 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 log and condition, whe.