Elder Beebe - Dear Sir: If you will give your views, through the SIGNS, on 1 Kings vi. 12, you will much oblige me. Does it not convey the idea that there are conditions on the part of Solomon, which lies entirely to his choice, on his part, whether or not he will accept the warning given, in order to obtain the promise given in the thirteenth verse? And does it not also convey the idea that it is left entirely optional with Solomon, whether or not he will receive the counsel? This, with other similar passages, it appears difficult for me to reconcile with absolute predestination, since there are numerous passages in the Scripture wherein the command, precept or exhortation is given as if it were in the power of the creature to obey or not to obey. I only ask for information, and would be glad of perusing an editorial from you on this subject.
Muffin, Tennessee, April 14, 1860.
Reply: 1 Kings vi. 12, “Concerning this house which thou art in building, if thou wilt walk in my statutes, and execute my judgments and keep all my commandments, to walk in them; then will I perform my word with thee, which I spake unto David, thy father.”
The first interrogative presented by our correspondent, on this text, is, “Does it not convey the idea that there are conditions on the part of Solomon which lie entirely to his choice, on his part, whether or not he will accept the warning given in order to obtain the promise given in the thirteenth verse?” To this inquiry we answer, it does not convey any such idea to our mind, and we should be greatly shocked if it did. What could be our views of the eternal perfections of Jehovah, especially of his truth, and of his immortality, were we compelled to believe that Solomon, as a man, a finite being, had power to decide whether God should or should not perform the things which he had promised David that he would perform? Or that God’s promise to dwell among the children of Israel and not forsake them, depended for its accomplishment on the volition, not of his own will, but on that of a poor, finite, fickle man. In this case a promise was made and sworn to by the immutable God, and David relying on the certainty of its accomplishment had died in faith, but now, according to the horrid suggestion, we are to understand him to waive his own truth and holiness, and submit the whole matter to the decision of Solomon. What confidence could we repose in any of the promises of God, if we were compelled to believe that God could or would change the thing that had gone out of his mouth?
“Let frightened rivers change their course,
And backward hasten to their source;
Swift through the air let rocks be hurl’d,
And mountains like the chaff be twirl’d,
Let suns and stars forget to rise,
Or quit their stations in the skies,
Let heaven and earth both pass away,
Eternal truth shall ne’er decay,
A God, all truth, can never lie.”
That God had predestinated the building of the temple in Jerusalem, and that he had made known his purpose to David, before Solomon had any knowledge of the matter, and perhaps before he was born, establishes the doctrine of predestination which these queries seem to be calculated to assail and to controvert. Instead of Solomon having power to sway the action of God, he, with all other finite beings, was himself subject to the power and providence of God. This Solomon understood when he wrote the proverb, “The King’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water he turneth it whithersoever he will.” - Prov. xxi. 1. To any one who knows the Lord, this declaration of the wise man will commend itself; but what would be the result if this text could be transposed and made to read, The heart, or will of God, is in the hand of man, to be turned whithersoever man willeth? Could such a perversion of the truth of God add to the security of the children of Israel, or to any other of the creatures of God? Jehovah has himself settled this last question, “For I am the Lord, I change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob, [or children of Israel] are not consumed.” - Mal. Iii. 6.
It is very true that Solomon lived under the covenant of works, and that the promises of that covenant were conditional, in form, but not in any way to lessen the sovereignty of God, or make it necessary for him to wait their decisions. He has declared the end from the beginning, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” And we are expressly informed that he worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. And hence it is that “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” In giving the ceremonial law to Israel with all its conditional provisions, the precise effect it should have on them was fully known to God; for known unto him are all his works from the foundation of the world. That law was the shadow of things to come, and embraced the types and figures of what should be more clearly understood under the new, the better covenant, which is unconditional, and abounds with God’s immutable wills and shalls. None but temporal blessings, such as corn, wine and oil, were conditionally promised in that covenant, none but temporal curses were conditionally threatened by it. No spiritual blessings ever were or can be promised conditionally, for they are all embraced in that covenant which is ordered in all things and sure.
Let us now consider the true import of the text in its typical and prophetic application to one who is greater than Solomon. It is not difficult to show that Solomon, in many respects was a brilliant type of Christ: As the son of David and occupant of his throne; as king of Israel; as builder of the temple in Jerusalem, and especially as so identified with the subjects of his government that the great matter of God’s presence with Israel was thus connected inseparably with his obedience to all the precepts and commandments of God. Christ, who is the Son of David, in a spiritual sense, is prefigured in this subject, even he shall build the temple of the Lord, and he shall bear the glory, and he shall sit a priest upon his throne, &c. (Zech. vi. 13.) This is the key of our subject. Leave Jesus out of the Scriptures, and what would they be to us? But how easy to understand, that the whole matter of the salvation of God’s elect, the children of Israel spiritually considered, all rested upon the perfect work of our dear Redeemer. Mark with what force and beauty the text applies to Christ. Concerning the house which thou art in building. What house was Jesus in building? His church; for he said, “Upon this rock will I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. He shall build the temple of the Lord. Paul says to the church of God, Ye are God’s building. Peter say, Of lively stones, built up, a spiritual house, &c. Again, Paul says to the saints at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus, “And ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself, (not Solomon) being the chief corner, in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord.” - Eph. ii. 20, 21. The weighty responsibilities resting upon Christ, and which he came down from heaven to execute, were all “concerning the house, which he is in building.” Such was the vital relations he bore to his people, that all the responsibilities resting on him concerned them, as the house which he was in building.
If we understand Christ to be the antitypical Solomon of our text, we see all the responsibilities of our acceptance resting on him. And he says, “Lo, I come! in the volume of the book it is written of me to do thy will, O God.” And in doing the will of God, he was to fulfill all the jots and tittles of the law, to walk in the statutes of that law, to execute the judgments or decisions of the eternal counsel, and to keep all the commandments, and to walk in them. This he undertook, and this he has finished. The law is honored, justice is satisfied. The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness sake, and the promised results of his obedience are secured to all the children of Israel, that is to all the spiritual seed, for “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to promise.” The word which God had spoken to David, his father, as recorded in the eighty-ninth Psalm, and elsewhere, is secured to those for whom he lived and died and arose from the dead. And furthermore it is now certain that God will dwell with his children, and that he will never leave them or forsake them.
The second query proposed, is, “And does it not also convey the idea that it is left entirely optional with Solomon whether or not he will receive the counsel?” If left entirely optional with Solomon, then God retained no power of decision, laid aside his own will altogether, and consented to be governed wholly by Solomon’s will. Does such a conclusion seem reasonable? Does God work after the counsel of a creature’s will? Be astonished, O heavens, that such a question could be for one moment seriously entertained by any rational being. The option of Solomon was under the control of God. Solomon’s testimony before referred to proves this; besides he says, It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. The preparations of the heart and the answer of the tongue are both of the Lord. But our querist virtually asks us whether Solomon’s heart and actions were governed by the Lord, or the Lord’s course governed by Solomon, and seems strangely to favor the idea that God’s ways were governed by Solomon.
“This,” says our correspondent, “with other similar passages, it appears difficult for me to reconcile with absolute predestination.” But why so? If the matter, as you seem to suppose, was left entirely to the option of Solomon, and Solomon decided by his option whether God should dwell with Israel or not, that was predestination; only man is the sovereign, and God obeys. Now, perhaps after all, the Arminians would subscribe to absolute predestination, so defined as to rob God of all controlling government, and place the royal diadem upon the head of a poor, finite man. We do not wonder that those who stumble at the eternal sovereignty of God, should fail to see the harmony of the Scriptures of truth. There is not a text in the Bible that more clearly, fully and unavoidably teaches to our mind the unchanging purpose of God, and his absolute predestination, than this on which we have written these remarks.
The doctrine of predestination does not dispute the application of the commands, exhortations and precepts enjoined by the Scriptures, and demanding obedience; but it shows that if the fear of God is in our hearts, God has there implanted it, and if we be willing or obedient, it is because God has absolutely predestinated that Christ’s people shall be willing in the day of his power. And it asserts that it is God that worketh in their hearts, both to will and to do his good pleasure. Our friend, of course, only asks these questions for information. We will not question his honesty, but pity his deplorable want of understanding of divine things. May the Lord, if consistent with his immutable will, enlighten the eyes of his understanding, that he may see and rejoice in the divine government of the All-Wise and Infinite Jehovah.
Upon the subject of the Absolute Predestination of all things, and the free volition of the human will, many seem to be perplexed. They cannot see how God can positively ordain and control all the actions and movements of men and devils, and yet in such a way as to leave man to act voluntarily and justly accountable to God for his actions. Could we, poor finite beings, comprehend the infinity of God, we might be able to trace his footsteps in the mighty deep, and his ways would no longer be past our finding out. Who will dispute that the feathered tribes of the air move voluntarily from place to place? We can perceive no restraint upon them, yet we are told that not a sparrow can fall to the earth without our heavenly Father. Does God care for or provide for sparrows, attend to the wants of ravens, and number the hairs on our heads, and has he irrevocably ordained that not a hair shall fall to the earth without an order from his throne, and left the final destiny of mankind unsettled and undetermined?
See by the laws of nature with what regularity the marshalled hosts of heaven fill their orbits, and move in their appointed spheres, without collision, for ages, while moving with a rapidity which mocks our vain attempts to comprehend them, and then inquire, Has God in wisdom decreed their every movement, and left the final destiny of man to rest on chance or uncertainty? That Infidels and Arminians should belch out their maniac ravings against the predestination of God, is only what we reasonably expect from them, but that any who are born of God, taught by his Spirit, and who believe the doctrine of eternal, unconditional election, can doubt the all-pervading providence of God, is strange indeed to us. Many clear examples are given us in the sacred Scriptures of the absolute purpose and determinate counsel of God, determining beforehand the result of the wicked actions of men and devils, and yet the perfectly voluntary action of men and devils, in bringing those very results to pass.
Herod acted out the unrestrained wickedness of his murderous heart when he sought to slay the child Jesus, but by his wicked machinations, occasion was furnished for the fulfillment of the Scriptures: “Out of Egypt have I called my son.” He also acted without restraint when, by his wicked action in the murder of the infants of his dominion, God caused to be fulfilled the prediction of “Rachel weeping for her children,” &c. The brethren of Joseph acted voluntarily in selling him into Egypt, yet God had a design to be accomplished in his being thus conveyed to that place. The Jews acted according to their wicked inclinations when they persecuted the primitive saints, and drove them from their homes, but God made their wicked conduct the occasion of the gospel’s being preached everywhere. Our Lord Jesus Christ was delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, when the Jews and Romans crucified him with wicked hands.
In view of these examples of the power and absolute government of God over all the events of time, what folly, what madness, what infidelity, for men to deny his predetermination of all things. He is supremely holy, in the broadest sense; but can we believe that to maintain his spotless purity he must yield up his government or any part of it? Must devils be unchained, and all the flood-gates of wickedness thrown open, and Chance enthroned to rule in his place, in order to preserve the unblemished glory of the eternal God? Is it not much more difficult to imagine how God’s majesty could be sustained, if anything could possibly transpire by chance, or independently of an order from his throne? None can rejoice in spirit that the Lord God Omnipotent doth reign; that he doeth his pleasure in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth, who desire to pluck the crown of ruling power from his head, and place the sacred diadem on Chance. Who would feel secure under his protecting providence if he were not the only and blessed Potentate? or how could we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, if we did not know that he worketh all things after the counsel of his own will?
Middletown, N. Y.
May 15, 1860.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 342 - 349