Brother Beebe: – I proposed at the conclusion of the preceding number to show from the Scriptures of truth that the predestination of God extends to the wicked actions of men, that is, that God decreed or predestinated every wicked act, which He permits man to perform, so that man does not act out any part of the enmity or corruption of his heart further than God has predestinated to permit Him, and so that every act, however vile, has its allotted place in the government of God, and accomplishes the very purpose for which it was designed in the eternal council. – The first proof I shall bring in support of this position is the declaration of the Apostle, relative to the crucifixion of Christ as recorded in Acts 2:23, “Him being delivered by the determinate council and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” I know there are those who say that the event accomplished by the death of Christ was so glorious and of so great magnitude as to justify the making use of wicked men or predestinating their acts relative to it. But this is measuring the mind of God by our little contracted views. We are apt to be so dazzled by splendid events as to overlook the means by which the event may have been accomplished; whereas if the event had been less splendid, we should have condemned those means. But let us beware of attaching such imperfections to God. – As great as was the benefit accomplished by the death of Christ, it did not lead God to overlook the perpetrators of the act. – Judas received his marked punishment, and went to his own place, and the Jews are to this day receiving the punishment of their crime, as denounced upon them by Moses in Deut. 28. As great as was this event, there were many circumstances connected with it which were done with wicked hands and yet were foretold of God, and of course, had been determined. He was delivered up, that is to be slain, by the determinate council and fore-knowledge of God. Jesus says of His life, “No man taketh it from me but I lay it down of myself.” John 10:18. Yet, in this laying down of His life was involved the wicked act of Judas in betraying Him to the Jews, of the Jews in delivering Him to Pilate, of Pilate sending Him to Herod, and His being sent back, and of Pilate's delivering Him up to be crucified though he found no fault in Him. Judas’ act was evidently predestinated; for Christ said to His Disciples, “One of you shall betray me,” and when asked of John who it was, He designated Judas by a sign; “And after the sop Satan entered into him,” John 13:21-27. And even farther back than this, it was designated, compare Acts 1:15-20 with Psalms 41:9, and 109:8. Thus also Herod and Pilate’s combining to deliver up Christ as also the Jews and Gentiles being united in that act was predestinated of God. See Acts 4:25-28, compared with Psa. 2:1,2. The circumstance of the Jews wagging their heads at Him and mocking Him, &c., their parting His garments among them were prophesied of. See Psalms 22:7, 8-18; and that these circumstances were not foretold upon the mere ground of God's foreknowing that they would do these things. See the circumstance of their giving Christ gall mingled with vinegar as prophesied of in Psalms 69:21, and the fulfillment as recorded in John 19:28-30; from which it is manifest that the prediction governed the event, hence that the prediction might be fulfilled, Jesus says, I thirst. Indeed it is altogether idle to attempt to separate the foreknowledge of God from His predestination; for How could God foreknow that certain persons would give to Christ vinegar and gall unless He had predestinated to bring those very persons into existence, to preserve them alive to that time, to give them health and strength sufficient to attend on the crucifixion, to leave them to the enmity of their hearts, and to give them the occasion to act out this enmity by Christ's saying, I thirst, and then suffer them to offer that insult? So of every event fore-known to God. If God then fore-knows all things, all the circumstances necessary to bring those all things to pass must have been predestinated of God. It is said by the Apostle relative to what Herod and Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, did to Christ, that they did “whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” Acts 4:27,28.
Another proof in support of the doctrine that the wicked actions of men are predestinated of God is found in Isaiah 10:5,6 “O Assyrian; the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation, I will send him against an hypocritical nation and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.” Here God in the clearest manner declares what use He will make of the Assyrian. Can any say that He did not predestinate the Assyrians taking the prey, &c.? Yet, these were acts of violence and cruelty in the Assyrians as is manifest from the connection, verse 7, “Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so, but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few.” And verse 12, “Wherefore it shall come to pass that when the Lord hath performed His whole work upon Mount Zion and on Jerusalem I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the King of Assyria and the glory of his high looks.” In perfect accordance with what God says of the Assyrians relative to their ambitions, murderous course, that they are the rod of His anger. The Psalmist in praying to be delivered from the wicked that opposed him, and from his deadly enemies, says, “Deliver my soul from the wicked which is Thy sword, from men which are Thy hand, O Lord, &c.” Psalms 17:9-13,14. Can the wicked thus be God’s sword and God’s hand, and He not determine and govern their acts. And if their acts were fore-known to God, did He not predetermine or predestinate those acts? Hence it is said in Proverbs 16:4, “The Lord hath made all things for Himself, yea even the wicked for the day of evil.” Some may suppose that by the day of evil, for which the wicked are made, we are to understand their own destruction. But such is not the faith of the Old School Baptists. They do not believe that God in bringing the wicked into existence had no higher object in view than their destruction. By the day of evil, we understand, the day in which God brings evil upon His people or upon others. It has pleased God to bring His church and people through great tribulations; from whence are their tribulations to arise but from the persecutions of the wicked? God will give those blood to drink who have shed the blood of saints and prophets; by whom will He do it? Not by the righteous. He has made the wicked for this day of evil; and so has He prepared instruments for every evil day. Thus says the Psalmist, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee; the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain,” Ps. 76:10. What is this but a predestination, that limits and bounds even the wrath of man, letting it go just so far as to accomplish the purpose of God, and no further?
If the above is not sufficient to establish the fact that God predestinates the evil acts of men, we have additional proof from the history of Joseph and his brethren.
Joseph says to his brethren, “Be not grieved nor angry with yourselves that ye sold me hither, for God did send me before you to preserve life;” and again, “God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So it was not you that sent me hither, but God.” Gen.45:5-7,8. And in Gen.50:20, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass as it is this day, to save much people alive.” Thus we see that whilst Joseph's brethren thought evil against him and wickedly devised means to put him out of the way, in order to disappoint his dreams, God had determined that this very wickedness of theirs should be the means of bringing about the fulfillment of those dreams, and to terminate in His and their good. So also He employed the wickedness of Potiphar's wife, to bring about the ultimate exaltation of Joseph, and consequently to fulfill the purpose for which God sent him into Egypt. So full was Joseph in the belief of the predestination of God in that thing from the manifestation he had received that he said plainly to his brethren, It was not you that sent me hither, but God. And as full proof that this affair was determined on before-hand, or predestinated of God, we have not only the thing revealed to Joseph in dreams, but the dwelling of Israel in Egypt and the length of time they should be there was foretold to Abraham. See Gen. 15:13-16.
These several proofs which I have brought forward are not to be considered as so many peculiar instances in which God's government is exerted over the wicked actions of men; but rather as special illustrations of the universal government of God. They show how surely He will cause the wrath of man to praise Him, and the remainder of wrath He will restrain. Ps. 76:10. The soldiers must not break the legs of Jesus though so commanded, but they pierce His side that the Scripture might be fulfilled; that is, that the foretold purpose of God should stand. See John 19:31-37. So Joseph's brethren could neither kill him, nor leave him to perish in the pit, nor could Reuben deliver him; but the company of Ishmaelites must needs come along at that juncture of time and they sell him to be carried down into Egypt. These several instances which are thus particularly recorded of God's making the wickedness of men and devils subserve His purpose, are sure pledges that in spite of the combined malice and rage of both, He will roll on His gracious purposes, accomplish all His promises, and fulfill every prophecy. He that could make the enmity of Joseph's brethren, and desire of gain in the Ishmaelities, the wickedness of Potipher's wife and the ingratitude of Pharoah's steward all combine to accomplish the exaltation of Joseph and the purpose God had in view, will while He causes judgment to begin at the house of God, surely accomplish at the appointed time, the complete destruction of the Man of sin, in all his branches.
And dear child of grace, however much men may revile you and hate you, or Satan may desire to have you, – you have a sure pledge both from the declaration of God, and from what you have seen of His overruling providence that all things work for your good, as they did for the good of Joseph when taken from his father, and for the good of David when hunted as a partridge upon the mountains. For as it is said in Prov. 16:9, “Man’s heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps.” In the next number I purpose noticing some of the objections brought against this doctrine.
Fairfax Court House, Va. Jan. 7, 1834
Signs of the Times
Volume 2, No. 5.
February 5, 1834