IN our prospectus. we are pledged to maintain inviolably the several scriptural sentiments embraced in the respective items which were named. We intend to notice them severally in the order in which they were presented.
The first that comes under consideration is “the Existence, Sovereignty, Immutability, Omnipotence and Eternal Perfection of the Great Jehovah - the revelation which God has given of himself as Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” “These three are one.” - 1 John v. 8.
That God exists, we need no farther demonstration than what is presented to our view in creation and in providence. In the former “the heavens declare his glory, and the firmament showeth forth his handy work.” In the latter, “Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.”
The well established laws of summer and winter, of seed-time and harvest, the waxing and waning of the moon, the revolutions of the earth and the planets, all proclaim the existence of the Great First Cause of all causes - a supernatural power; and we are taught by divine revelation that that first cause, that supernatural power, is God. But as the existence of God is seldom denied, we will pass on, and with the most profound reverence consider some of his perfections. And first,
God is a Sovereign.
By the term sovereign, as it applies to God, we are not to understand an arbitrary or tyrannical being, but quite the reverse; an all-wise disposer of all events, an independent, self-existent, and omniscient God; one who holds the eternal destiny of his creatures in his own almighty grasp, working all things after the counsel of his own will, even as he has ordained all things for his own glory; and being independent of and superior to all beings in heaven or on earth, has an incontestable right to do his pleasure in heaven and among thy inhabitants of the earth; having a right to make one vessel to honor and another to dishonor; to have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will to harden; to reveal his gospel unto “babes and sucklings,” and to hid the same from the “wise and prudent;” to love Jacob and to hate Esau, to save his people with an everlasting salvation, and to turn the wicked into hell, with all the nations that forget God.
In view of the sublime doctrine of the divine sovereignty, the inspired writer inquires, “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or, being his counsellor, hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of ·judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed unto him the way of understanding?” - Isaiah xl. 13, 14. The full display of this attribute of the Deity would require a development of all his perfections, but particularly that of his independence and omnipotence, of which we shall have something to say hereafter. But first we will consider his right to dispose of all events according to the pleasure of his own will. And who is prepared to dispute this right? “Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?” “Wo unto him that striveth with his Maker. Let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say unto him that fashioneth it, What maketh thou? or thy work, he hath no hands? Wo unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth?” - Isa xlv. 9, 10. If then we admit that it was God’s sovereign right to create a world, we must acknowledge that it was his right to determine what kind of a world to create, and for what end it should be created, or else we must conclude that he was not absolutely independent; and to form such a conclusion would certainly be a great derogation from his divine perfections. If while we gaze with admiration and delight upon the beauties of creation, we should believe that God was bound by some law or power independent of and superior to himself, to create all things in the xact order in which they are and were created, we could no longer enjoy the delightful reflection that our God is the Most High. We must therefore conclude that it is his sovereign and eternal right to do his pleasure in heaven and on earth, or we must say with the fool, “There is no God.” But the more resplendent is the manifestation of the righteousness of God, when we contemplate him in connection with his independence. “He is before all things, and by him all things consist.” Thus, for in stance, in imagination, strike from the scale of existence every created object, and what would remain? Nothing but God alone ,and inasmuch as he existed before all things, he must have existed independently of all things, and we must deny his immutability, or admit that he continues to be the same independent God now that he was before the highest parts of the habitable world were made. He is self-existent and self sufficient. He speaks the word and it stands fast, he commands and it is done.
The extent of God’s sovereignty is commensurate with his infinity. It is displayed in all his works of creation, providence and grace. In creation serpents as well as doves were made - some men and some angels - all were not made alike, nor for the same end. In providence, we see the beggar raised from the dung-hill to the throne, and the proud monarch hurled from his royal seat down to the most abject state of wretchedness and misery. To some men God has given riches, and to others poverty, to one sickness, and to another health. “There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah,” in the time of severe famine, &c. “But unto none of them was Elijah sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow.”
To make known to the king of Babylon this divine sovereignty, the Lord drove him from his palace and from the society of men, to range with the beasts of the field till seven times were passed over, until in providence he should learn that the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth, and as a sovereign giveth the kingdoms of this world unto whomsoever he pleaseth. The display of divine sovereignty in the kingdom of grace is most striking. The election of his people in Christ Jesus before the world began, unmoved by any regard to their virtues or good works. “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. ii. 9. And in further testimony of God’s sovereignty we hear an inspired apostle say, “Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.” “Unto you therefore which believe he is precious’; but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient; whereunto also they were appointed.” - 1 Peter ii. 7, 8. “Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? who hath resisted his will? Nay, but O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor and another auto dishonor?”
God is immutable.
“For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore, ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” - Mal. iii. 6. “But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth that he doeth.” - Job xxiii. 13. “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever.” - Heb. xiii. 8. “The Father of Lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” - James i. 17. Farther testimony to establish the doctrine of God’s immutability seems to be quite unnecessary; were we for a moment to suppose God to be a mutable being, like unto ourselves, we might then say with the fool, “There is no God.” In giving up the immutability of God we would give up all; for if it could be proved that God ever changed it would prove the forfeiture of his truth. He says, “I change not;” and could his truth fail, his holiness could not remain unimpaired, his wisdom would stand impeached, and his glory forever be eclipsed. Again, if God has changed, or ever should change, that change must be either for the better or for the worse; if for the better, he was once imperfect, and if for the worse, he is now imperfect. The awful absurdity and blasphemy of the doctrine is enough to make one tremble.
God is Omnipotent.
By the Omnipotence of Jehovah we understand that universal and almighty power which is essential to his being as God, and that this power is an attribute peculiar to himself. This divine perfection of the Godhead was manifested in the creation of the world. He said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And also in providence, as exemplified in the entire history of the children of Israel, in their elevation above all other nations under heaven, in their redemption from Egyptian captivity, in their passage through the Red Sea, in the miraculous manner in which they were fed with manna, and supplied with water, and in the signal victories given them over their enemies. Nor is the manifestation of omnipotent power confined to any particular event, or train of events. It shone in dreadful majesty from Sinai’s flaming top, nor with less grandeur from Mount Calvary, when the meridian sun was dressed in sack-cloth, the rocks were rent. the dead were raised, the vail of the temple was rent asunder, and the most holy place exposed to view, while frighted nature, as with a voice of mighty thunder, proclaimed the doctrine of God’s omnipotence. If a further illustration or demonstration of the almighty power of God were necessary, we might advert to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, when “God went up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.”
In the economy of salvation, too, God has made ample display of his omnipotence. The fulfillment of the holy law, the perfect satisfaction rendered to divine justice, the opening of the prison doors to them that were bound, and the emancipation of the prisoners, the conquest of our beloved Lord over death, hell and sin, the destruction of death, and him that had the power of death, which is the devil, the regeneration and quickening of his elect, together with their preservation in grace unto eternal glory, the resurrection of their bodies in the likeness of his own glorious body, and the consummation of their everlasting happiness in the world to come. The man must surely be a stranger in Israel who cannot trace the power and Godhead throughout the whole work of salvation, from the foundation to the top stone.
The perfections of God are eternal.
It cannot reasonably be expected of finite beings that they should be able to comprehend the eternity or infinity of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” We are therefore able only to contemplate the divine perfections of Jehovah, as far as they are revealed to us by his word and Spirit, and if through the abundant revelation made we could vie with the brightest prophets and inspired men of God in our conceptions of the Holy One, or with the tongues of men or angels, could set forth our views of God, we would be with them constrained to say, “Lo, these are parts of his ways; but how little a portion is heard of him; but the thunder of his power, who can understand?” That God is a being of infinite and eternal perfection, but few in our age are bold enough, in so many words, to deny. But yet while many will admit this truth in general terms, they will deny it in all its particular bearings on the redemption and salvation of sinners. Many very zealous professors of religion will form in their own imagination a standard of right and wrong, and then say, if God should vary from their standard he would be unequal, unjust or imperfect. But we know of no higher standard of perfection than God himself, hence all that is done or decreed by him is perfect, because it is done or decreed in accordance with his own mind and will, and must therefore be compatable with his nature. It cannot be the prerogative of creatures of yesterday, whose breath is in their nostrils, to set up a standard of human wisdom by which to scan the perfections of their Maker. If it be admitted then that God is perfect, it needs no more than the admission of his immutability to establish time doctrine of the eternity of his perfections. As far as God has been graciously pleased to reveal himself unto, us, we have been constrained to pray that he would conform us to his will, and by his sovereign grace, which is treasured up in Christ Jesus our Lord, conform us to the image of him who is the “brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person.” The above brief statement of our views of the “existence, sovereignty, immutability, omnipotence and eternal perfections of the great Jehovah,” &c., are sentiments which we hold dear to our heart, and such as we stand solemnly pledged to inviolably maintain in this paper. The doctrine is neither strange nor new to the Baptists of the school of Christ.
In the revelation of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. “These three are One.” - 1 John i. 5, 8. On this important point of doctrine our views are happily expressed in the above scripture, quoted from the apostle John, while all human language utterly fails in setting forth the mode of God’s existence. We rejoice that the record which he has been pleased to give of himself in the bible contains all necessary information on the subject; at present we shall for want of room omit giving our views at large on this point; we will only say that we shall cautiously avoid all such doctrines as do either deny or refuse to acknowledge the eternal power and Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
“This God is the God we adore, Our faithful, unchangeble friend Whose love is as great as his power,
And knows neither measure nor end.”
New Vernon, N. Y.
January 2, 1833.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 13 – 19