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“THE ETERNAL PURPOSE.”

Beloved Brethren In Christ: – The only true God is the God of purpose, as be has so fully revealed in the Scriptures, and it is impressed upon me to write to you upon this sublime theme, in humble dependence upon him.

Text: “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.” – Isaiah xiv. 24. Now, the fulfillment of this solemn oath of Jehovah depends upon his attributes of omniscience, omnipotence and immutability, all of which are fully declared in his sacred oracles, and to deny these absolute attributes is to deny his Godhead, which is open infidelity. The Almighty cannot be limited in any attribute or perfection of his divine nature or Being, but he is infinite in them all, as abundantly revealed in the Holy Bible. His omniscience includes absolute knowledge of all things and infinite wisdom; his omnipotence includes universal authority and dominion and almighty power; and his immutability includes his “eternal purpose,” and crowns him with eternity. These are self-evident truths, and no believer in God will have the presumption to deny them. “With God is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,” says the Scripture. This is not true of any other being. Therefore, if angel or man had “sworn,” as in the text, it might fail to come to pass, or stand, as is true in the purposes of the best men. “I am the Lord, (Jehovah) I change not,” is the voice of the Almighty. This makes it evident that there is nothing new and nothing old with him; that all creatures, things and events are ever present before him and known unto him, from everlasting to everlasting, as the Scriptures fully declare. The four and twenty elders cast their crowns before his holy throne, saying, “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. iv. 11. The Lord’s dominion is universal and unlimited, then, and his government and control is over all things, because he alone is the Creator and supreme Ruler of all worlds and things, and they are all known unto him and subject to his omnipotent power. “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” – Col. i. 16, 17.

Now then, it is most clear that “the only blessed God,” is not only the God of purpose, but that his purpose is eternal, like himself, and that his “eternal purpose “is at once immutable or cannot change, and it extends to and embraces all things which he has created. For God did not create anything in vain, or without a wise purpose. To say he did, is to impeach his wisdom and deny his Godhead; and to say that his eternal purpose does not include all things that exist, is to both deny and frustrate his purpose, and to disappoint him and overthrow his government and control of all things, or dethrone and undeify him. Or to say that God has more than one purpose, involves the same awful consequence; for to impute purposes to him, is to say that he has changed his purpose, just as imperfect men change from one purpose to other purposes; therefore there cannot be an eternal purpose with any creature. This infinite perfection belongs to God only, “whose name alone is Jehovah,” whose thought is one, and his purpose one, reaching from everlasting to everlasting, extending to all things in heaven and in earth, who speaks and it is done, who commands and it stands fast, This is the God of the Bible, the Creator of all things, the God of “the eternal purpose,” and the Bible declares this of him. “The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.”

Purpose means, a fixed determination to do or attain an end or object; to intend, resolve, design, as the eternal purpose of God. – Standard Dictionary. Hence, every intelligent being has a purpose in all things he does, or in everything subject to his control, or else folly would be charged to him. Outside of purpose, then, there could be nothing but blind fate, or uncertain chance in the universe, and this would be ruinous and destructive. How good and excellent, therefore, that the Lord of hosts, in his infinite compassion to his people, “hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” In his thought and purpose there is an absolute certainty, and according thereto everything shall so come to pass and stand. If not so, then both his wisdom and power would be at fault and fail, and he would be disappointed and defeated. What a dreadful consequeuce! From this every rational mind must shrink with horror. For then it would be as “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.”

But one thing now remains to be known: Is there any creature and event and thing in all the universe beyond and outside of the thought and purpose of God? To say there is, at once limits the omnipresent One, and wrests the crown of universal dominion and sovereignty from him. It is worse than folly to limit his thought and purpose, therefore, because it denies his infiniteness and eternity, and puts a limit upon his omniscience and omnipotence and omnipresence. These are the essential attributes of his essence and nature or being and Godhead, and to deny them is to deny God. Holy Scripture abounds with testimony to all these perfections of our holy God, and they also show that in these very perfections of the everlasting and unlimited and unchangeable Almighty Father, is the security and salvation and blessedness of all his chosen, called and justified people.

“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. Hearken unto me, ye stout-hearted, that are far from righteousness: I bring near my righteousness; It shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry; and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.” – Isaiah xlvi. 9-13. The execution of this purpose of God included the awful calamity of war and the overthrow of a powerful nation, by other nations. All this was true also of the long bondage of Israel in Egypt, the final destruction of Pharaoh and his hosts, and of the warring nations in the wilderness and in the land of Canaan; for God had purposed and foretold all those awful calamities and righteous judgments, concerning the afflictions and deliverance of Israel his people.

Now, as to the thought and purpose of God in the text, if the kind reader will please read both the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of Isaiah, that he may see the entire connection of the text, it will he understood that this was determined in regard to the utter downfall of Babylon, and the deliverance of the children of Israel from their long captivity in Babylon, of which the prophet herein gives a grand and awful history. “The Lord of hosts mustereth the host of the battle. They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even the Lord, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land. Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. * * * Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it. * * * For I will rise up against them, saith the Lord of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and Son, and nephew, saith the Lord. I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water; and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of hosts. 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, and upon my mountains tread him underfoot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders. 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? Who can read all these solemn declarations of the Lord of hosts, and then say that his purpose does not cover the whole universe, and extend to all nations, peoples and things! Why, all history is but a fulfillment of the word of the Lord by his inspired prophets, as the text and context and the whole Bible show; and the counsel, thought and purpose of the Lord of hosts run through it all, and chain every event to his eternal throne, so that nothing can frustrate his counsel and thought, or overthrow and defeat his “eternal purpose.” We should be glad and rejoice that it is so, my dear brethren, for herein (in the eternal God) is our refuge and strength, and our everlasting safety. It was this divine assurance that enabled Paul to say, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” For Paul had been made to understand that God, “who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were,” had, “according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord,” ordained his people unto eternal life, through the redemption that is in him; and he therefore says, “In whom we also have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated [foreordained] according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” – Eph. i. 11. Paul again says of God, “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace; which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” – 2 Tim. i. 9. All this Scripture testimony, and much more, clearly establish the fact that the foreknown and foreordained people of God in all ages and places are connected with the nations of the earth, and history of the world, and with all things in time, either directly or indirectly; that therefore, “for the elect’s sake,” he “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will,” and for” the ultimate good of “the called according to his purpose.” Thus it is shown in the divine record that the counsel, thought and purpose of the Lord of hosts comprehends, reaches to and controls all nations, creatures and things, and fixes limits and bounds to them, which they cannot pass. For this cause the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church, nor any creature separate his people from his love in Christ. Knowing this, David said to God, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath thou shalt restrain.” It requires omniscience, omnipotence and “eternal purpose” to accomplish all this, but our God has these and is this, for he is God alone, the Almighty. “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live forever. * * * There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, [Israel] who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them. Israel then shall dwell in safety alone. * * * Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord.” These wonderful words did God declare to his people by his servant Moses. But the Lord again says, “Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy. No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.” – Is. liv. 15-17. O Lord, thou Most High, my spirit rejoices in thee for this, and I adore thy Majesty, power and glory; for thou canst do all things, and cause me to triumph in thy might and salvation. Glory be unto thy holy name. The Lord’s own declaration here to his people is, first, that he has created the smith, the fire, and the waster to destroy; and, second, that, according to his unchanging purpose, he has laid his restraining hand upon every weapon of destruction, and has put a bridle upon every accusing tongue, so that wicked men, warring nations, persecuting foes, false friends and raving devils are firmly held in and controlled by his almighty hand of power. It is in this fact alone, my brethren, that Job did not curse God, perish in his affliction, and die; that the hosts of Israel did not perish in Egypt, nor in the Red Sea, nor in the terrible wilderness, nor at the fiery Sinai, nor in cruel Babylon; that neither the fiery furnace nor the den of lions could destroy the tried servants of God who were thrown in them, but did devour their enemies. It was for this cause that Joseph (type of Jesus) did not perish in the pit, nor in the prison; that his father’s house (the people of the covenant, according to the purpose of God,) did not perish by the famine; “For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it! and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?” Omniscience directs his purpose in all things unto eternal ages, and Omnipotence executes his unlimited, “eternal purpose,” so there is never a failure – “So shall it stand.” O, brethren, let us trust in the Lord of hosts, and give him the glory due to his name. It is the most awful presumption for a poor creature, sin (?) to prescribe (?) and set (?) for the eternal one, “the only wise God,” or to try to beg the question, apologize and make excuses for him, of whom Jesus said, “There is none good, but one, that is God.” For a sinful man, therefore, to be so puffed up in his vain and fleshly mind as to assert that he is both wiser and better than the Holy One, is very wickedness and a dreadful sin. Therefore, every one should put his shoes off his feet when he treads upon this holy ground, and speaks of God, for deep reverence and lowly humility should fill us with solemn awe, and we should say, with the meek Moses, “I exceedingly fear and tremble.” It is exceedingly presuming and shocking when any poor mortal, whose very breath God gives him, will flippantly fly in the face of the Lord God Omnipotent, whose name is holiness, deny his very perfections and essential attributes, by limiting him by the finite line of his own little mind, and say, if God goes beyond or does more than this, he would be unjust, rob his creature man of his accountability, and himself be the author or perpetrator of all the sin and wickedness in his universe. This is the most revolting and blasphemous folly, than which the blatant and disgusting Ingersol has not uttered worse, and God will rebuke it. He said to Job, “Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him! he that reproveth God, let him answer it. * * * Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous!” – See Job xl.

“And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him [Moses] there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty.” – Exodus xxxiv. 5-7. Thus does our holy and blessed God declare that he will maintain the purity and righteousness of his own “great white throne,” and that his holiness will vindicate his judgments and his mercy.

Now, let us a little further consider the unfailing purpose of God. “The Lord of hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth.” – Isa. xxiii. 9. Having purposed this, he will certainly bring it to pass; “and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble.” – Mal. iv. 1. “For every purpose of the Lord shall be performed against Babylon, to make the land of Babylon a desolation without an inhabitant.” – Jer. li. 29. This is also true of the purpose of the Lord as it regards all lauds and peoples and nations and kingdoms of the world, as declared above, “to stain the pride of all glory.” “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” – Dan. iv. 35. For the Lord had sent Daniel the prophet to declare his purpose to the proud king, to whom he said, “This is the decree of the Most High, which is come upon my lord the king: That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.” We, as well as this king, should know this, and give honor and glory to God, as he then did. “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. * * * The great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter.” – Dan. ii. 44, 45. These are most wonderful declarations, spoken with absolute certainty, and they clearly show the immutable purpose of God, not only as it regards his own kingdom and people, but also concerning “all these kingdoms,” which should be broken in pieces and destroyed, as a potter’s vessel is dashed in pieces, and his people should be separated from the kingdoms of the world. In this the infinite purpose and omnipotent power of God are made known. All came to pass, just as decreed and foretold. There is a positiveness in the purpose of the Lord of hosts which will not admit of contingency or conditions; therefore, “the kingdom shall not be left to other people.” It is folly, then, to try to bring “other people “into the kingdom. The kingdoms that should be broken in pieces are no more, but the people of the Most High were gathered out of them by his own right hand, and his kingdom still stands, as the house built on the rock, and it is given to his saints. And now, because his people are to be redeemed “out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation,” among whom they are scattered as sheep gone astray, therefore “the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth,” reaches also to “every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation,” under heaven, as certainly as it did to Egypt, and Babylon, and Persia, and Asia, and Home, and all the ancient kingdoms which the Lord of hosts judged, punished and overthrew. For some of his people are connected in some sense to all the peoples and events and kingdoms of the earth; therefore the inheritance of the saints in Christ is “according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” If it were not thus, but the purpose and counsel of the Lord were limited, then his decree and control would also be limited to the extent of his purpose and counsel, because his controlling power cannot go beyond his purpose and act without purpose, and there could be no security or safety for his people, who are surrounded by “all things,” not merely by all good things, but often by the worst things. Read of the dreadful things, dangers and perils by land and sea, which Paul recounts that he was in, out of which the Lord delivered him. Surely the counsel and purpose of God extended to all these things, and equally, therefore, to all other things; for the Cod of purpose does not put forth his hand of power without any design or counsel or purpose. A fool might do so, but not the only wise God our Savior.” Among the many all things which are subjected to the purpose or decree of God, “who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will,” Paul names “tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword; death, life, angels, principalities, powers, things present, things to come, height, depth, nor any other creature.” Many of these things are the most terrible, and all “who are the called according to his purpose,” certainly have to encounter some of these all things, as did Paul and thousands of his martyred brethren, and all the called of God have to antagonize a sinful life, and the monster death. If the purpose and decree of God had not included all these direful things, and destroyed them, then they must have destroyed all his foreordained people. But how could his people be ordained to eternal life, and yet these destructive things not also be ordained to be put under their feet and destroyed? For the almighty power of our God is never exerted only according to his “eternal purpose,” and his purpose places an absolute limit upon sin and death and all other things, as positively as does his ordination or decree; for nothing whatever can take place outside of the infinite foreknowledge of God, and his immutable and “eternal purpose” is certainly as unlimited as is his foreknowledge. To say it is not, is to put some things outside of God’s wisdom, counsel and purpose, and so outside of or beyond his power and control, unless it is said that he controls some things without any purpose, which is to charge him with weakness and folly. In fact, a denial of the unlimited purpose of God, is to deny his unlimited foreknowledge, which is equal to a denial of his perfections or infinite fullness and changeless attributes. The purpose of God, then, is defined by his infinite wisdom, and both run parallel with his prescience or foreknowledge of all things, and all three are sanctified by his absolute holiness, and sustained by his omnipotent and eternal power and Godhead.

A reverential and solemn awe has possessed my spirit while I have thus written upon these most sublime realities, for such they are, and I verily realize that the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and moved me to thus write. It will glorify God, therefore, and he will sanctify it to his humble children, who have grace whereby they serve him with reverence and godly fear. In this divine assurance it is sent forth to all to whom it may come, with the prayer that all may speak and write of the God of all goodness and holiness and power with the sacred reverence and honor that should characterize all who believe in God and worship him.

It will not be long, dear brethren, till many of us shall enter into that within the veil, and appear in the holy presence of God; so we should no more presume to speak a word against his infinite perfections now, nor criticise his acts, than we would then. This sorrowful admonition is needful, and it is given in love.

“And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace.”
D. BARTLEY.
Crawfordsville, Ind., July 11, 1899.

Signs Of The Times
Volume 67, No. 16.
AUGUST 15, 1899.