By request of a very dear brother in Kentucky, the following thoughts on this important and fundamental point of the doctrine of God our Savior are submitted for the consideration of those who love the truth.
As the subject has been discussed in all ages, and by all professed orders of religionists, it is not expected that any new light can be shed upon its bearing or its truth by what is now written; but the importance of this link in the chain of the revelation which God has given in the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ, demands that it should be well understood and reverently appreciated by all who hope in that salvation which is through his matchless name. That our God works ALL THINGS, in the most unlimited sense of the term, after the counsel of his own sovereign will, is so clearly declared in the inspired Scriptures that none but open infidels can directly deny the fact. – Eph. i. 11. To question this truth is to deny the entire testimony of the sacred Scriptures; and the very perfection of Deity requires this attribute, without which an unchanging being would be inferior to mortal man. Man knows things which have transpired under his observation; but if God did not know before, and is unchangeable, he cannot know after their occurrence, and consequently is less wise than man. Or, if he knows now what he did not before the first of his creatures was made, he has changed, and is not perfect in his immutability. Again, if he has so changed, he must have been imperfect before that change; otherwise he is not perfect since. So it is inconsistent with every attribute of Deity to deny the fixed and unalterable counsel of his will, by which all events are controlled. Even a man who acts without purpose is accounted insane; do those who deny that God predestinates mean to assert that the object of their worship is crazy?
When the conscious sinner, sinking in despair, hears the voice of the Redeemer speaking peace and pardon, when all his sin is at once washed away by the blood of Jesus, how would it overwhelm him with doubt, despair and sorrow to believe that pardon was only a temporary respite, that perhaps the next moment might bring the dreadful tidings that wrath and condemnation should yet be visited upon him, and all his hope and joy should be swallowed up in hopeless misery! All this might be if the purpose of God could change. This purpose, the counsel of his will, is what men call predestination. As time is itself a creature of God, it is impossible that it should affect him. Therefore his will is ever present with himself; but as revealed to us, this will is predestination, because as creatures we are in time, and can only grasp the idea of this changeless purpose in its application to our temporal state as past, present and future. When bewildered by the devices of the tempter, the tried christian forgets that his hope rests on the oath and promise of the unchangeable God, he falls easily into the temptation to doubt his hope. The foundations are destroyed by this infidel suggestion, and what can the righteous do? – Psalm xi. 3. The truth and immutability of God, on which the only hope of salvation rests, are destroyed in our enjoyment of their blessed assurance, whenever the immutable purpose of the love of God is doubted. Where then is our hope, and the confidence which hath great recompense of reward? Not only does the great assurance of final deliverance from sin and translation to the everlasting joys reserved in heaven for you who are here kept by the power of God, rest upon this firm foundation, but all the support which enables you to overcome the trials of the way, to endure hardness as good soldiers, to be patient in tribulation, and to cast all your care upon him who careth for you, is also swept away by this crafty device of your adversary. If this truth be doubted, what assurance can you have that your hope is more than a vain delusion? But knowing that “The counsel of the Lord standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations,” you may well rejoice in him. His counsel is indeed hidden from human wisdom, so that all the way in which he leads you is dark to your mind, but his truth is still your stay. If it were not that his purpose is unchanging, you could have no assurance on which to rest in your trials and darkness; the memory of his exceeding great and precious promises could afford no comfort if his purpose could be changed. But in deepest darkness, as in the clearest manifestation of the light of his face, his purpose is unchanged. Still are his everlasting arms of love and power underneath you in the most fathomless depths to which you may be sunken. Even though we believe not, he abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself. – 2 Tim. ii. 13. Well may the saints be directed to trust in this God forever. He is a very present help in trouble. His truth secures the fulfillment of all his promised mercy to the subjects of his grace. How vastly superior is this God of purpose to those idols who would do a great many good things for their worshipers if men would do their part, if men would only believe, and if men would accept of their offered favor. Well did Moses sing, “Their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.” Those who worship gods without power or wisdom to predestinate do not describe the God of salvation when they talk of their idols. Without predestination there can be no salvation. For the whole system of redeeming grace originates in the determinate counsel of the will of God, which he hath purposed in himself. This is what we call the predestination of God, “his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” – 2 Tim. i. 9.
One very common device of the adversary in trying the faith of the saints is substantially the same to which the serpent resorted in the temptation of Eve, that is, to partly admit the truth while effectually denying it. So it is sometimes suggested that the salvation of the saints is indeed fully predestinated, with all that is essential to that salvation, but the wickedness of ungodly men is not predestinated. In this specious fallacy is concealed the flat denial of the absolute sovereignty of God, which would logically lead to atheism. So far is it from being consistent with the revealed truth, that it subverts all that revelation. The sovereign purpose of God as fully limits the wickedness of men and devils, as it controls the storms and winds of the material world. While no act of wickedness was ever committed with the design on the part of the wicked to do the will of God, yet “his kingdom ruleth over all.” – Psalm ciii. 19. “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee; the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.” – Pslam lxxvi. 10. “The Lord hath made all for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” – Prov. xvi. 4.
While the awfully infinite God cannot be comprehended by created intelligence, it has pleased him to reveal some truth to the faith of his people. In this revelation his sovereign will and infinite power are displayed for the comfort and support of the helpless ones who hope in his grace; and he has said, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” – Isaiah xlvi. 10. This includes all the doctrine of predestination. So it is recorded, “But our God is in the heavens; he hath done whatsoever he pleased.” – Psalm cxv. 3. “Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and in all deep places.” – Psalm cxxxv. 6. Those who believe the truth of the inspired record will hardly need further confirmation of the sovereign purpose of God in all things. Those who can see no predestination in these references, would not be able to receive the witness of any testimony which might be adduced. To the trembling saints, who are troubled on every side in their heritage of tribulation in the world, the certainty of the predestination of God affords strong consolation. He makes them, with Jacob, “To suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock.” To them there is sweet comfort in the everlasting truth of the unchanging electing love of God; and the flinty rock of his immutable counsel or absolute predestination yields them broad rivers of the oil of joy and everlasting consolation.
There is no limit to this boundless subject. Its contemplation carries us back to the unsearchable depth of the love of God, in which the mystery of redemption is first manifested by the revelation of God. It includes all created worlds and beings. It covers all events; and after this mere incident of time shall cease, it over-whelms thought in the unimaginable revelation of eternal glory, where neither the soaring thought of the raptured psalmist, the inspired vision of prophets, nor the rapt adoration of apostles, can comprehend its fullness of glory.
Elder William L. Beebe
Middletown, N. Y.
Editorial – Signs of the Times
Volume 49, No. 20,
October 15, 1881