I suppose that every one who professes to believe the Bible at all, looks for the fulfillment of the prophecies. To what quarter then are we to look for this fulfillment? How can those who deny predestination, either in part or in whole, ever expect the exact, timely and certain fulfillment of any or all of the prophecies of the divine oracles? God has declared the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand and I will do all my pleasure. Part at least of this declaration he has made known unto us by the mouths of his prophets as recorded in the holy Scriptures. The events thus foretold must certainly have been foreordained or predestinated, and therefore must be fulfilled, each in its time and season. The Saviour said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass, until all be fulfilled.”
When God says a thing shall come to pass, does he mean that he will bring it to pass? When he says a thing shall be done, does he not pledge his word for its performance? Were the prophecies of the Scriptures uttered upon any other authority than the authority of God’s decree? Do they rest upon any vicissitude of time for their fulfillment that God’s decrees do not embrace? Would mere foreknowledge, or bare permission warrant or even justify the expression, “It shall come to pass;” or the expression “shall,” in any sense of the word? In this part of the country people read and notice Hick’s weather forecasts. When such changes come as have been prophesied, they will say, “Hicks hit it this time;” when the forecasts fail, they say, “Hicks missed it this time.” Are we to look upon God’s prophesies in this way? Are we to say, when we see the Scriptures fulfilled in this thing, God hit it this time; or when we fail to see them fulfilled in that thing, God missed it this time.
Are we to treat his prophecies as mere prognostications? One would say, O no, God knew all these things would come to pass, and so he was kind enough and thoughtful enough to tell us of them beforehand. This is a very puerile makeshift, a very fallacious and deceptive subterfuge, and involves the one accepting it in a difficulty far more serious and ungodly than he supposes the one to be which he is trying to evade, to wit, God’s decree of predestination; for if God knew that an event would transpire, that event is inevitable; that is, it cannot fail to come to pass exactly as foreknown. If inevitable, then it has been determined, and if determined, who determined it? If God did not, who did? The difficulty that I meet here, is an absolutely determined future, and with no determining power outside of God, and independent of him. This is fatalism, and the one accepting such a theory is a fatalist in the fullest sense of that word. So here he is plunged into the very thing which he flattered himself that he was avoiding. In endeavoring to shun an imaginary Scylla, he has fallen into a real Charybdis.
How often do we come upon the expression in the New Testament, “This was done that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.” When Herod sent forth and killed the little children in Bethlehem and all the coasts thereof, it was said then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “in Ramah there was a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted because they are not.” Suppose Herod had not sent forth and killed the little children, then the words of Jeremiah would not have been fulfilled; if his word should fail in one thing, what confidence would his prophecies be entitled to in anything? But it is not Jeremiah’s word which is at stake here, it is God’s word that must be fulfilled. Herod’s persecution also caused the flight into Egypt, and this was done that the Scripture might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt have I called my Son.” On the return from Egypt, notwithstanding Joseph had been warned of God to take the young child and his mother and go into the land of Israel, he through unbelief, fearing Archeiaus, turned aside and dwelt in Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” Here not only the wicked persecution by Herod, but also the unbelief of Joseph alike fulfilled the Scriptures.
When the time arrived that Jesus should be betrayed into the hands of wicked men, the betrayer was at hand, not as one who accidentally turned up in time of the emergency, but one who had been foretold by prophecy. David had given a pen picture of him hundreds of years before. It had also been said by Christ that one of the twelve should betray him. Not only was the man marked out by prophecy who should do this, but it had also been foretold how much the traitor should receive for his work; and also what should be finally done with the money. The son of man truly went as it was written of him. He was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, and when Herod and Pilate and the Gentiles and the people of Israel were gathered together against him, they were gathered to do whatsoever God’s hand and God’s counsel determined before to be done. Acts 4:27,28.
When the Saviour was crucified, he was put to death between two thieves. This was done that the Scripture might be fulfilled which said, “he was numbered with the transgressors.” Suppose there had been no thieves or transgressors, how then could the Scriptures have been fulfilled? It was the custom to break the legs of those who were put to death by crucifixion, but on this occasion they broke the legs of the thieves, but did not break the legs of Christ. This was done that the Scriptures might be fulfilled which said, “Not a bone of him shall be broken.” This prophecy was fulfilled in its reference to the literal body of Christ, but it still remains in force in its relation to his spiritual body, and must be fulfilled to the utmost in this also. So this prophecy warrants the eternal security of all the redeemed family, for we are members of his body and of his flesh and of his bones; so not a bone of him shall indeed be broken. Instead of breaking his legs according to the custom and the request of the Jews, they pierced his side with a spear. This was done that the Scripture might be fulfilled. “They shall look upon him whom they pierced.” When in his last agony he said, “I thirst,” they in their fiendish cruelty, gave him vinegar to drink. This was done that the Scripture might be fulfilled, “they gave me vinegar to drink.” And after all, when they came to dispose of his raiment, they gambled for that, in order to fulfill the Scripture, “they parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture did they cast lots.” In the most exact way, the Scriptures were fulfilled in the life and death of Christ, so that it may well be said, “He died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”
Men are saved to fulfill the Scriptures. “Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion,” is a prophecy that must be fulfilled; but for it to be fulfilled, the redeemed of the Lord must return and come to Zion. This prophecy cannot be satisfied as long as one for whom Christ died, is away from Zion. “All that the Father giveth me shall come unto me,” saith the Son. The righteousness, wisdom, power and grace of God are all engaged to fulfill these words, therefore there is no power or contingency that can ever interfere with the timely and triumphant victory of all the election of grace over every enemy. On the day of Pentecost, when that great number of people cried out, “Men and brethren what shall we do?” was exemplified in the fulfillment of prophecy. A great number of these men were Jews, those who only a few days before had crucified the Son of God with wicked hands; they had spit upon him, had called him Beelzebub, the prince of devils; and to express their resolution never to repent, they said, “Let his blood to upon us and our children.” But their obduracy could not holdout. God’s prophecy must be fulfilled. The redeemed of the Lord must return and come to Zion. When Abel offered unto the Lord a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, this prophecy lay at the root of the matter. In the days of Seth, when men began to call upon the name of the Lord, the words of the prophet, “Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion,” was being fulfilled in them. One might say that this prophecy had not been written in the days of Seth. It had not been written upon parchment, but it had been written in the book of God’s decrees, and experienced in the hearts and consciences of men. All the prophesies of Jehovah are from eternity, and are yea and amen in Christ. Every poor pilgrim, whose anxious heart and weary footsteps seek that city whose builder and maker is God, is upheld, forwarded and guided on his journey by the immutable decree that the redeemed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion; and through the certain fulfillment of God’s word, he shall reach the holy city and rest forever in her sacred palaces.
Men are lost to fulfill the Scriptures. Is this a hard saying? Can you not hear it? I am not responsible for the saying, however hard it may appear to be. The Saviour said to the Father in speaking of the twelve, “All of them have I kept, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.” John 16:12. Had Judas not been lost, the Scriptures would have been broken. The thoughtless and presumptuous man would say, If Judas had to do what he did, he would have been exempt from crime; he would have had no sin. Upon what ground would he have been without sin? What law would exempt him? According to whose judgment would he be innocent? State the law and name the judge, and if it be the law of God and God himself be the judge, then I will agree that the conclusion is the correct one. Jesus, who is himself the embodiment of all law, and the judge both of the living and dead, said with regard to this matter in reply to Pilate, “Thou couldst 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.” Instead of the judgment of Christ in this matter concurring with the judgment of men, that under such circumstances a man would be without sin, he declared that for this very reason, he had the greater sin. Here is a question of responsibility for some of the champions of that cause to settle. And here is another one: Christ said to the Jews, “Behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of righteous Zacharias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.” Matt.23:34,35. The Saviour here declares that these men should fill up the measures of their fathers. He also designates the crimes that they should commit in order to do this, not only generic crime but specific crimes; and the end to be answered thereby was that upon them might come all the righteous blood that had been shed upon the earth, from the blood of Abel to the blood of their most recent victim.
Now upon what principle of justice and judgment could four thousand years of crime be required at the hand of one generation? Let some of the champions of free agency solve this problem from their favorite standpoint of accountability. I have been accused of denying human responsibility, but in this as in many other things, I have been willfully misrepresented. I have only denied that the atonement of Christ left any responsibility upon his people; and further, I have denied the foolish, imaginary, sentimental and ungrounded conclusion that predestination relieves men of accountability and acquits them of crime upon principles of equity and justice, and that therefore in order to be accountable, a man must be what men are pleased to call a free agent. I have here referred to these things to show that in the fulfillment of God’s decrees according to his word, a deeper principle of justice is involved, than human standards set forth, or human pleaders comprehended.
Again it is said of some in the divine record, that they were before of old ordained to this condemnation. Now if they were before of old ordained to condemnation, when the condemnation came, did it not come in fulfillment of a decree? Who made the decree? Some would say that God made it, but he made it upon conditions. This they think necessary in order that the character of God stand above reproach in the judgment of men. They admit that the decree of election unto life is unconditional, but that the ordination of condemnation is conditional, and that the subjects of this decree are endowed with a free agency whereby they are permitted to work out their condemnation. This notion involves a monstrous absurdity, and that absurdity is this; That God has denied to man the freedom and ability to righteousness whereby we must be saved, but that he has endowed man with that freedom and ability whereby he may and can work out a sure and foreknown condemnation. And this is resorted to in the vain imagination that the character of God is thus vindicated from the charge of unrighteousness, and be justified in his ways to man. Peter in speaking of certain ones, says they were appointed to disobedience and stumbling. I Peter 2:8. Now if they were appointed to disobedience, must they not fulfill the appointment? This they must do, even though God sends them strong delusions to accomplish it. II Thess. 2:11.
Many are ready to exclaim now, If this be true, who is to be blamed? This is an old question, and I will give an old and authoritative answer. I will first state the question in its ancient form: “Thou wilt say unto me then, Why doth he yet find fault; for who hath resisted his will?” Reader, do you recognize your question? If you have never seen it before, read the ninth chapter of Romans, and you will find it. I will now give the ancient, time honored answer: “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 unto dishonor?” Do you recognize the answer? If not, read the ninth chapter of Romans and you will find it. This is not your question; this is not a question of this age only. This question was asked two thousand years ago. Neither is this my answer. This is God's answer, and I am satisfied with it. This question comprehends everything that the cavilers of all ages have urged against the doctrine of God’s sovereign decrees. Is not the answer of inspiration plain and decisive? If the solution of this problem is to be found in exceptions to God’s decrees, and in making excuses for him, would he not have put a very different answer in the mouth of his inspired apostle? Is not this the place above all places for such an excuse to be given? Is not this question sprung here for the express purpose of giving a decisive and unequivocal answer? Is not such an answer given? Shall we receive it as final and decisive, as coming from God himself, or shall we seek another, which, although necessarily false, is more pleasing to our pride and presumption, and more acceptable to ignorance and unbelief?
The unbelief of the Jews fulfilled the Scriptures. It is recorded by John that, although he had done many miracles, yet they believed not on him, that the saying of Esaias, the prophet, might be fulfilled: “Lord, who hath believed our report; and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe, because Esaias said again, “He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, that I might heal them.” John 12:37-40. Here it is expressly stated that the reason they could not believe, was that Esaias had foretold their blindness and hardness, and further that this blindness and hardness of heart was given from God. The object of this blindness and hardening was to prevent them from being converted that he might heal them. This language seems to imply that there might have been a possibility of their believing and being converted, had not God’s decree intercepted and cut them off.
Heaven and earth shall pass away, said Christ, but my word shall not pass away until all be fulfilled. Whatever the divine record says shall be, must be. The same authority that says, “The redeemed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion,” has also said, “The wicked shall do wickedly, and none of the wicked shall understand.” The same book that says, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me,” has also said, “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse.” The same God that opened Lydia’s heart, that she attended to the things spoken by Paul, hardened Pharaoh’s heart that he would not let the people go. The same God that works in his people both to will and to do of his good pleasure, has also put it in the hearts of wicked rulers to fulfill his will, and to agree and give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God be fulfilled. Rev.17:17.
When Paul was arraigned by the Jews for preaching what was to them an obnoxious and destructive doctrine, his defense was that he had preached nothing but what Moses and the prophets said should come. If I am censured for what I have herein written, I have but one defense to make, and that is, I have only written what Moses and the prophets and Christ and the apostles have said should be.
H. M. Curry.