Beloved Editors And Brethren: – A reverential and scriptural inquiry into the revealed attributes and purposes of the eternal God, who is at once infinitely holy and wise and almighty, is commendable, and should glorify him in our view. Unto this end, therefore, let me kindly ask a serious consideration of these solemn things, always remembering when we speak of God, that “reverend and holy is his name.” That there exists a failure of a right understanding of the eternal and unchangeable perfections of the Almighty, is painfully evident from published Baptist writings, which should call for deep heart-searchings, humility and supplications before the Lord, that he will mercifully turn unto his erring people a pure language, heal their backglidings, give them the humble and contrite spirit of holy awe before him, and cause them to ever feel and adoringly say, “Hallowed be thy name.” For then we should be spared the trial of seeing and hearing the shocking reproaches against the name of the Holy Lord God Almighty, because he is the Almighty Sovereign, the Controller of all things in the universe.
The foreknowledge of God is admitted by all kinds of Baptists, and many others who profess to believe in him. It is so evidently true of him who is infinitely perfect, that to deny it would be to charge ignorance and imperfection to the holy One, in whom are all the infinite treasures of wisdom and knowledge and power. Therefore as yet few among religious writers have the irreverence to do this. We know that the Bible abounds with inspired testimony to the everlasting foreknowledge of the unlimited God, who is omniscient and omnipresent, filling all eternity and time, “beholding the evil and the good,” with whom all things and times and beings ever were and are present. The holy book reveals him thus. There is no lack, no ignorance, no weakness, no failure in God. In wisdom and knowledge, holiness and power, he is the unlimited and infinite One, who inhabiteth and filleth eternity. Not the least thing in unlimited space, from eternity to eternity, was ever hidden from his all-seeing eye, but all things are naked and open unto him with whom we have to do. And while known unto God are all things from the beginning, so that his knowledge is limitless and eternal, so also are all his perfections, his attributes, his very essence and being, his counsel and “eternal purpose,” his justice and truth, his wisdom and holiness, “his eternal power and Godhead.” In all these God is as unlimited and perfect as in his boundless foreknowledge. To deny this is a denial of his infinite perfections and of the Bible. It is at once self-evident that any single perfection of the. Almighty is no more infinitely perfect than every other perfection; therefore the wisdom and counsel, purpose and power, truth and holiness of our blessed God, are equally commensurate and extensive and limitless with his foreknowledge, so that there is not the least discrepance, confusion, conflict or lack of infinite unity in any of the changeless perfections of the Godhead. “He is in one mind, and none can turn him, and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.” God is from everlasting to everlasting the same, and changes not. Any one who would dispute this, and all this, would say, “There is no God.” But those who know God, and knowing him, revere and love him, will believe that he is thus perfect in all his attributes, and holy in all his way and work.
Then the foreknowledge of the Almighty is presided over by his perfect wisdom and counsel, and is harmonious with his infinite purpose, and all this according to his omnipotent power and unto his eternal glory.
Either the power and wisdom and purpose of the Lord thus stand, and are the support of his foreknowledge, and he “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will,” as inspiration declares, or else the wisdom and power of the Lord are less than his knowledge, and too deficient to control all things. For, admitting that the everlasting God is absolutely perfect in wisdom, and almighty in power, and foreknew all things, “Declaring the end from the beginning, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure,” then it is certain that his counsel and purpose and power are equal to his foreknowledge of all things, and that he purposed them no less than he foreknew them. For his wisdom and power certainly would have prevented anything and everything which was not according to his infinite purpose. The text which says that the wrath of man shall surely praise the Lord, and the remainder of wrath he shalt restrain, proves this truth, which is also self-evident.
It is true, then, that with the Almighty there is no such thing as chance, but all things are known to him, and subjected to his counsel and purpose, power and control. He whose word of creative power spoke all things into existence, said of all things foreknown, Let it be so. His infinite and eternal purpose bounded and ran through all his foreknowledge of all things, any and all of which he had the power to prevent, but in his perfect wisdom he saw through it all to the end, to the last thing, the last enemy, which is death, the wages of sin, and he sovereignly determined that in all things his power should be made known, in subduing all under the feet of his Son, and that his name should be declared throughout all the earth, and God himself should be glorified in the highest in his holiness and power for ever and ever.
“Foreknowledge is an act of the infinite intelligence of God, knowing from all eternity, without change, the certain futurity of all events of every class whatsoever that ever will come to pass.”
“Foreordination is an act of the infinitely intelligent, foreknowing, righteous and benevolent will of God, from all eternity determining the certain futurition of all events of every class whatsoever that come to pass. Foreknowledge recognizes the certain futurition of events, while foreordination makes them certainly future.”
“Permission. The act of permitting or allowing; license or liberty granted; authorization; consent.”
These correct definitions are given in the accurate Standard Dictionary. They show the perfect concurrence between the foreknowledge and the foreordination of God, and that between these there is no collision, but harmony. And certainly there is consistency and harmony, wisdom and counsel in all the purpose and acts of the perfect and holy Almighty, in whom there is no darkness at all.
But the word permission is believed to better qualify and guard the foreordination or predestination, decree or determination (which mean the same) of God, relating to his “eternal purpose” in all things foreknown to him. It is admitted that the all-wise and all-powerful Jehovah was pleased to permit all things to be just as he foreknew them, for he had the power to prevent them, but it was according to his counsel and purpose to let them take place. It is thought that the idea of God’s permissive decrees, or that he purposed in himself not to hinder or prevent anything from taking place which he foreknew, frees his predestination from censure, reproach and blame among men; that this view does not make his predestination of all things the responsible cause of all things, yet it admits that all things whatsoever come to pass are so certainly embraced in his permissive decree that with God there is no chance event.
Giving every advantage to this word that it is entitled to, yet to say that God foreordained to permit all things to come to pass, according to his eternal foreknowledge of them, equally establishes the certainty of all things, just as he foreknew them and consented to allow them to be. And since it is admitted that the permission of God suffers all things to take place, it must likewise be admitted that he forever purposed and determined to permit them to come to pass, for he is in one mind, and with him is not the shadow of turning. But to say that God consents to and permits all things to come to pass, yet to deny that he eternally predestinated or determined to permit them, is to impute change to the immutable One, which is not true of him. But if to escape this it should be held that the counsel, purpose and decree of the Lord do not extend to, include and control all things which are foreknown to him, then his sovereignty is impeached, his wisdom to compass and order all things, and his power to subdue and control them, are denied, and the consequence is involved that the counsel, purpose and power of the Lord God omnipotent are not equal to his knowledge, which is terribly dishonoring and untrue. Surely none who truly believe that God is, will also hold that there is either antagonism or inequality between the foreknowledge and foreordination of God, or between any of all his eternal perfections, nor affirm that his permission of all things is without his “eternal purpose “that thus should all things come to pass even as he foreknew them. For unless the infinitely wise and omnipotent Lord God of the holy prophets had eternally purposed and determined to let all things come to pass, according to his immutable counsel, just as embraced in his infallible foreknowledge of them, they could not possibly exist and take place, because his wisdom and power would have ordered otherwise and prevented them. Therefore his word says, “Who saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not!” “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made: and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to naught; 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 generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. The Lord looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men. From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth.” – Psalms xxxiii. This inspired and precious testimony proves all that has here been said of the infinite and holy perfections of the Most High, whose wisdom directs and whose power controls all worlds and all things.
Now, though the permissive predestination of all things be insisted upon, yet the predestination of all things in any sense whatever, makes all things absolutely certain, because everything that God has at all foreordained or determined is thereby made infallibly sure. If this be denied, then the Lord himself is virtually charged with fallibility and weakness, and that many things which come to pass are entirely beyond the counsel and purpose and power of the Almighty. But the holy Bible fully reveals the omnipotence, sovereignty and dominion of the Lord over all beings and things in all places. Therefore, with him there is no such thing as accident and chance, nor the least frustration, disappointment, turning about, and never an effort. “I blessed the Most High; and I praised and honored him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: 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?”
The fact that God has determined anything whatever that comes to pass, does not necessarily make him the actor or doer of all things before determined by him, neither is he the responsible author of any wicked act or sinful thing. Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train tilled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory. His people should reverently ever say the same, and will when they see him sitting upon his high throne, nor presume in their littleness and weakness to cavil at his infinite sovereignty, but adore the majesty of his power. Jesus said, “And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!” “And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.” “Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above; therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.” To Peter he said again, “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it!” Of the death of Christ on the cross, Peter said that we were redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, bat was manifest in these last times for you,” &c. The apostles “lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is. * * * The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. 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 gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” All these words of the betrayed Lamb of God and his inspired apostles, most positively prove that the acts of those wicked men, in the betrayal and death of the holy Son of God, were by him before determined, according as God foreordained before the foundation of the world. Yet this was the most astounding and wicked crime of all time, and God upon his holy throne has so judged it, and visited his righteous and awful judgments upon its guilty perpetrators. How base and horrible would be the imputation of all this great wickedness and chiefest of all crimes to the holy throne of heaven and earth! May God in his rich mercy forgive such an abhorrent thought against his infinite holiness and majesty. While he before determined that Judas should betray his holy and darling Son and Lamb, whom he verily foreordained to die on the Roman cross, for the redemption of his foreordained people, and his hand and his counsel before determined whatsoever was done by the earthly kings and rulers, the high priest, Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles, and the Jews, yet they were impelled only by their own wicked hearts and Satan in doing all this monstrous crime; for God did not incite nor prompt their wickedness, neither did his ordained and holy purpose influence or cause them to betray and crucify the Lamb of God. And this is equally true in every other species of sin and all wicked works, for they neither emanate from the holy Lord God Almighty, nor are they influenced at all by his “eternal purpose “in ordaining them. The unlimited foreknowledge of God, beyond which not the least thing can ever possibly take place, just as unfailingly establishes the absolute certainty of all things, in all places of his universal dominion, as does his before determined purpose concerning all things, known as predestination or foreordination. Therefore all the objections and replies which are made against the foreordination of God, as embracing and controlling all things, may also be made against the foreknowledge of God, which equally bounds and controls all things. If this is denied, then the foreknowledge of God as including all things is also denied; for if anything may either be or not be, it is not foreknown, but a mere chance event. The admission of this denies the perfection of God’s knowledge, and at once imputes ignorance to him.
Of the universal and unlimited knowledge of God, the Scriptures plainly testify, as in the following texts: “Known unto God are all his works, from the beginning of the world.” “God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.” “Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men.” “Now we are sure that thou knowest all things.” “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.” “He that is perfect in knowledge is with thee.” “O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising; thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.” How all this truth should both humble and comfort us. “Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee: but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.” From eternity to eternity the Most High was thus infinite in knowledge, as in goodness and wisdom and power. O fear him, ye saints. We have seen that all the perfections of God are coextensive with his eternal knowledge, and run parallel with it, and cannot conflict with it. And so Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said of Christ, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” They did this wickedly, and were the betrayers and murderers of the Lord of life and glory, and they alone were the guilty and responsible authors and doers of this crime of crimes. But we are told by the Holy Spirit that in all this most momentous event of the world, the determined counsel of the holy One united with his foreknowledge in delivering his lamb-like Son into their wicked hands. And the words of wisdom and truth place the determinate counsel of God before his foreknowledge. This is their true order, therefore, and it reveals the wisdom of the Lord in making his foreknowledge harmonious with and subservient to his foreordination, or his “determinate counsel,” according to which all things are determined, and cannot be overthrown. For if they could be, then not his foreknowledge only, but his dominion, sovereignty, counsel, power and throne as well might be overthrown. But almighty majesty and eternal power belong to the infinitely wise and holy and blessed God, whose arm rules for him, and “who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” His foreknowledge includes all things, and according to the counsel of his own will he worketh all things; and so his counsel and unchangeable will or “eternal purpose “are as extensive and limitless as his eternal knowledge, and all are unfailingly established and upheld by “his eternal power and Godhead.” The clause, “worketh all things after the counsel of his own will,” affirms that God directs, determines and controls all things according to his counsel and the purpose of his sovereign will. And the word “worketh,” makes it evident that the Almighty actively and sovereignly governs and controls all things. O thou infinite and blessed majesty! who that knoweth thy power and glory would not stand in awe of thee, and devoutly adore and worship thee? “Lord, thou has been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.”
O, brethren, that we might all meekly and reverently ascribe all power and holiness unto the Most High. God is in! heaven; we are upon the earth. We should never reply against God, nor charge unrighteousness to him. His holiness is as supreme as his omnipotence “His kingdom ruleth over all.” “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” Let us trust in his power, and rejoice in his goodness. He is the God of salvation, the Savior of all who love him. O, who that knows anything of his power and holiness and glory, would not supremely love and praise him? “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” “The Lord shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the Lord.” “Grace be with you all. Amen.”
Crawfordsville, Ind., July 13, 1901.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 69, No. 23.
DECEMBER 1, 1901.