When duly impressed with a sense of the superlative perfections of Jehovah, the enlightened christian contemplates the principle on which God governs and controls all things, with inexpressible delight; and in the inspired language of the psalmist will say, “The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice.” The grandest theme that moved the prophetic pen, was that in which the absolute government of God is declared unto Zion. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth.” If he were only trying to reign, and unable to overcome the impediments thrown in his way by men and devils, the anxiety of his people would be very great. But the good tidings of good, the publication of peace, the proclamation of salvation, by heaven inspired, is based upon the assurance that the God of Zion reigns. He rules in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of earth. Sparrows are guided and protected by the orders from his throne, and the very hairs of our heads are all numbered, so that not one of them can by any casualty fall to the ground without his decree. The natural heavens declare his glory, the marshalled hosts are governed by his law. The sun, moon and stars obey the sovereign orders of their God. The earth and seas also obey him, and the islands shall wait for his law. The winds and storms are his messengers. He rideth upon the wings thereof, and makes the clouds his chariots. The troubled ocean is calm when he rebukes the tempest, and the monsters of the deep are swift to obey his mandates. Angels, men, and even devils, are encircled by his power; they can neither think nor act in any sphere beyond that which he has appointed them.
In the administration of the divine government, as exemplified in creation, providence and grace, many things are inscrutable to us, for we can only know and comprehend his government so far as he is pleased to enlighten us. The faith which he has given us is brought into active operation, affording us that confidence in God, that we can cheerfully trust in him, where we cannot trace him. When he plants his footsteps in the sea, and when his ways are past finding out, we know that all things do work together for good to them that love him, who are the called according to his purpose. When darkness veils the sky, when thick darkness of the sky is his pavilion, when he keepeth back the face of his throne, and spreads his cloud upon it, even then we learn to “Be still and know that he is God.” And the more dark and inscrutable his government is to us, the more clearly is our faith and confidence in him demonstrated. If the sun and the land were always in sight, the mariner would have no use for his compass. Faith is a fruit of the Spirit, in the saints, which God has ordained shall be subjected to fiery trials; but it has power to shine the brightest when most opposed. Nothing would be allowed to come in conflict with it, if it were not necessary for our good, and God’s declarative glorY.
But the principle or standard of the divine government, is what we designed to notice more particularly in this article. Seeing that all things are governed by the power and providence of our God, how consoling it is to know that Zion’s God is perfectly competent to administer the government over all his works; for, “He worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” Now if we have confidence in his will, if we are reconciled to it, and in the language of the dear Redeemer can say, Not my will, but thy will be done; or in the language of the prayer, Thy will be done in earth as it is done in heaven, then we shall rejoice that the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. If his government were administered according to any other than God’s will, we might fear the result. If he consulted our wills and inclinations, alas, how fickle and trifling are we! Or should the government of earth be left to the popular vote of the race of mankind, how uncertain would be the result. But all is made to depend on his own will, and hence the final result of all things is secure. The supreme will of Jehovah is the standard of all the actions and government of God. He has no other law by which to do his pleasure in the armies of heaven, or among the inhabitants of the earth; and we rejoice that it is so, for his will is perfect, pure, infallible, immutable and holy. No other rule of government therefore could be so honoring to God, or safe for us, as that by which all the orders of his throne are administered. In his will all the eternal attributes of the Godhead are embraced. His wisdom, truth, justice, immutability, omniscience, omnipotence and eternity, affords us indemnity that nothing will be administered that can possibly conflict with the eternal perfections of the Deity. Who then would wish to shorten the sceptre of his power, or pluck one gem from his crown? Could we act rationally or consistently in asking or desiring him to change his administrations, however dark or inscrutable they may seem to us, or to adopt as a rule of his government the will of any or all of his creatures? Or who that knoweth the Lord, can desire to limit his control over the events or destiny of all beings and all worlds? Nay, we can but rejoice that he is King of kings, and Lord of lords. We rejoice not only that the saints are governed by his law, but also that wicked men and devils are under his control; were it otherwise all would be confusion. Their limits are fixed, their bounds are irrevocably set; hereunto they shall come, but no farther. The hearts of kings and proud monarchs of the earth he turneth as the rivers of water are turned. Truly the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast their cords away from us.” But, “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision.” The monarch of Babylon may attempt to ascend above the clouds, to set his throne above the stars, and to be like the Most High, but he shall be brought down to hell, to the borders of the pit. Pharaoh may determine to detain the Lord’s chosen tribes in Egypt, or to pursue and bring them back after God has broken their yoke, but God will display all his wonders on Pharaoh and his host, and Israel shall sing the song of deliverance in full sight of their vanquished enemies. All this results from the administration of the divine government according to the will of God. Can any saint be found to say, This is more power or government than what properly belongs to God? Will any say that his power should be restricted to good men, and their good actions, and that he has no right to control evil men, and evil actions of men, according to the counsel of his own will? We hope not. But it is sometimes objected, that if God works all things after the counsel of his own will, and nothing after the counsel of his creatures’ will, and if his will is eternally the same, from everlasting to everlasting, so that he has “Declared the end from the beginning,” and said, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure,” then we are only machines, bound fast in the decrees of fate, and only like clay in the hands of the potter. If this be true, they say, we are not accountable beings, and “Why doth he yet find fault? Who hath resisted his will?” “Nay, who art thou O man that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say unto 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 unto dishonor?” The apostle did not shrink from a defense of the sovereignty of God because men would surely say, “Why doth he yet find fault?” &c., but rebukes the faultfinder with merited severity. The inferences and conclusions of men in regard to the nature and tendency of this doctrine are not reliable. Man is by no means released from his accountability, nor is he propelled like a machine in his action; he acts voluntarily in his course of wickedness, without any fear of God before his eyes, and is therefore guilty in the eyes of the law and justice for his wickedness, and he is held accountable for his conduct, and will be punished for his sins, according to the testimony of the Scriptures. Many have failed to perceive how God can govern the world, and control all events, without influencing men to sin, or being the author of sin. By the terms “author of sin,” we suppose they mean the fountain or source of sin. If this be their meaning, nothing can be more remote from the truth. For God is perfectly holy in his nature, and in all his administrations. Men are never influenced to do wickedly by any impulse directly from him. Their fallen natures incline them to do wickedly, and so far as God will permit them to have their own way, they will drink in iniquity as the ox drinketh water. This we know to be the case by our own experience, as well as by the testimony of the Scriptures. Hence God’s perfect knowledge, and even his design in all they do, does not change either their inclination to sin, or their accountability for sinning. Joseph’s brethren acted voluntarily in meditating his murder, and in selling him to the Ishmaelites to be carried down to Egypt; and they were held accountable for their wickedness, as much so as though God had had no purpose in the matter; yet the event shows, and the word of God declares, that God had a purpose in it all; and we conclude that God had as much purpose in Joseph’s going into Egypt, as though his brethren had had no agency in the matter. How these things can be, may be a mystery to men, but all is plain with God.
The Jews and Romans were guilty in putting Christ to death, although they could only do what God’s hand and purpose had before determined should be done. It was not a divine influence that filled them with malice and hatred to Christ, nor was it by any gracious impulse of the Spirit of God, they crucified the Lord of glory. The spirit of their carnal minds, and the influence of Satan, urged them on in the bloody work, and they were without excuse. And as it was in the case of Joseph, and in the crucifixion of Christ, so we believe it is in regard to all the wicked acts of men.
A brother has used the figure of the good tree and the evil tree, which were created with all their subsequent developments in them, and under the unavoidable necessity of bringing forth the fruit which was according to their nature. This is unquestionably true in regard to trees, but trees have no volition; they are passive, and to them attaches neither blame nor approval. Men are accountable beings, and act voluntarily in sinning, and are subjects of condemnation and wrath. The figure of trees is applied to men, we admit, but not in reference to their original creation. Christ says, “First make the tree good, and his fruit shall be good,” &c. But his application of the figure contemplates man as a fallen sinner, already condemned; he is like a corrupt tree; in his present state he can bring forth corrupt fruit, but he cannot bring forth good fruit. But God is able to purge the tree, and make it bring forth good fruit. All men are by nature, that is, in their fallen nature, evil trees, and polluted fountains, so that until God makes good the tree, and cleanses the fountain, no pure or holy productions can be developed.
We would not indulge in any vain speculations in regard to God, or in the contemplation of his perfections; the subject is too sacred to be approached but with the most profound reverence, but we do rejoice in believing that the God of Zion presides in power and majesty over all the works of his hands, and accomplishes his own purpose, and worketh all things after the counsel of his own will; causing the wrath of man to praise him, and restraining the remainder of their wrath. And we do rejoice to know that the will of God is the invariable rule of all his work of creation, providence and grace. “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” We entertain no fear of his exceeding his eternal right in executing the counsel of his will; and so far as he instructs us that justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne, we shall be led in Spirit to cry out, “Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most Mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty; and in majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things.”
Middletown, N. Y.
October 15, 1855.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 3
Pages 252 - 258