Ft. Jennings, Ohio, July 20, 1908.
Dear Editors: – If not asking too much, I would like to see the views of Elder Wm. J. Purington on absolute predestination of all things, found on first page of the Signs Of The Times for June 10th, 1856, republished. A great many of our brethren think it something new gotten up among the Baptists.
Yours in a blessed hope,
J. G. FORD.
Beloved Brother Beebe: – As a subject of grave consequence has exercised my mind for some time, I feel disposed to give vent to some of my thoughts through the medium of the pen and send them to you on paper, but after you examine the cogitations of my mind, as penned down, if you think the sentiment unsound, or tending to dishonor the cause of truth, you need not publish my views, and in refusing you will not mar my feelings of special regard to you.
I shall found my remarks upon predestination on the following declaration: “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” – Isaiah xlvi. 10.
Predestination is from prae, before, and destino, to appoint; therefore a before appointment is the technical meaning of the word. If anything is predestinated, the act of setting apart, whether physical or mental, must be absolute, otherwise it has not been separated or determined. A person may meditate upon a subject or subjects and arrive at no definite conclusion; such meditations are not predestination, but merely reflections of the mind; but if a man selects a location for an edifice, the act of choosing was absolute; if he changes his mind the next day, it was an absolute, mental act in the first choice, and will be in every succeeding one, though his mind change hourly; and his mind may change concerning the materials, yet in every change there is an absolute determination for the time being. Men often determine mentally, but they lack physical power to accomplish their designs, yet the predestinating purpose of the mind was absolute.
“Declaring the end from the beginning.” The Being who uttered this by the mouth of Isaiah says, “I dwell in the high and holy place;” also, “I am that I am.” “Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” It was predestinated in the eternal Mind that this earth should have a place in the universe, and that immutable laws should govern it while passing around the sun, and according to chronology it has obeyed the sovereign mandate of the Creator for nearly six thousand years, without any deviatiou from his fixed laws, and who can gaze at the starry heavens and not own the absolute predestination of all things! Verily it seems as though the almighty edict has been proclaimed in tones of thunder from the battlements of heaven, through the pen of inspiration, that all things must transpire according to the will of God. Known unto God were all his works from the beginning, consequently nothing has transpired counter to his omniscience; if nothing has occurred not known to Jehovah, it must have been included in the “all things.” Objection: I think wicked acts are suffered to transpire, not predestinated. Supposing a man knows that on the morrow an event will occur, and should say, I do not want it to take place, for it is very wicked; I have sufficient power to prevent its transpiring, and yet I know it will certainly come to pass on the morrow. Would not all sane persons say or be led to conclude that such a person is insane! Yet the logic is equally as good as it is to assume the position that events transpire by permission, and not according to predestination. Every flower, every spear of grass, every kernel of grain, every shrub, every tree that has been or ever will be on the face of the earth, was determined before time was; every birth, every death, every war, every commotion which has taken place or ever will, was determined with Jehovah in eternity, and the time when all should occur.
Query: Do you think that wicked acts of men were predestinated by an unalterable decree, and that it was according to the will of God for sin to enter into the world! Do we not behold the two opposites in the visible creation, such as light and darkness, heat and cold, land and water, summer and winter, good and evil, black and white, salt and fresh! “I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil. I the Lord do all these.” God knows how “to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” If you take such broad ground relative to the purpose of God in all things, will you not represent him the author of sin! Because a faithful follower of Christ contends for the absolute sovereignty of God, why must it be said, If things are thus and so, God is the author of sin? Does it not look something like attempting to expound that part of God’s mystery, which is too profound for angelic wisdom, for any one to attempt to clear the character of God from what men call sin; but because the Bible declares things are thus, are we justified in attempting to explain it away or alter the plain construction? Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay, for shall the work say of Him that made it, He made me not! or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding!
It was the will, pleasure and purpose of God to form that worm of the dust called man, and implant within him, that awful and inscrutable being, the human soul, and give him a command, the transgressing of which justly brought death and condemnation upon all his progeny. Was there a tempter ready to seduce? The Scripture reads thus: “Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” Whether the arch adversary approached our first parents in the serpent or snake, or assumed the form of a serpent, affects not the question at issue, for he approached them with a lie in his mouth, declaring that what God had pronounced upon them if they transgressed should not come to pass; but they listened to his deceitful charms and yielded to the temptation, thereby incurring the wrath of God, received in full the penalty annexed to the restriction. Now was it by divine appointment that they transgressed, or was it a casual circumstance! All orthodox Baptists will admit, I presume, that sin must enter into the world in order that grace might abound, or that the blessed Redeemer might be manifested in the flesh, satisfy the justice of God and redeem the church; otherwise how could the fountain be opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem I for said David, “With thee is the fountain of life.” If it was by divine appointment that sin should enter into the world, the channel through which it was to flow must have been ordained of God. Now if God knows how to reserve the ungodly to be punished, does he not know how to introduce sin into the world and not be the author of it? 0, dear brethren, let us beware how we indulge in the expression, Author of sin, for sin’s being introduced into the world is one of the hidden things of God which has been brought to pass according to the divine arrangement. The enlightened child of grace sometimes hardly knows which should receive the greater degree of admiration, the remedy or the disease; for says the poor creature, Who ever would have known the riches of God’s grace had it not been for transgression? According to Scripture, man was the proper subject for Satan’s wiles to be practiced upon, and man either possessed the inclination to listen to his device, or the devil was empowered to impart the same; but be that as it may, we see that there was an innocent man and a malicious devil, and the combination of these two elements or dispositions has caused all the calamity amongst the family of man from that day to the present time. Now the grave question arises, Is Satan self-existent or a created being? If self-existent, then he is independent; if created, then he is to fulfill a design, and the Scriptures plainly point out that wicked men and devils are environed by almighty power, consequently their acts are limited according to God’s will. Now because Satan possessed a malicious, deceitful disposition, averse to God’s law, and man an upright, innocent nature, and the weaker being tempted of the stronger, and yielding thereto, thereby bringing sin into the world, causing that sable mantle of gloom to be cast over this earth and all that pertains to it, shall we dare to accuse God, in this mysterious transaction, of being the author of sin! Supposing a steam-engine had a very intricate machine attached to it, and the inventor should say to all, Touch it not, lest you be destroyed, and a man should attempt to manage it, contrary to the express command of the architect, and in so doing should be destroyed, would it be just to accuse the inventor of the machine of being a murderer! We find by careful observation that it requires, in many instances, a combination of elements to produce a result. For instance, the storm for watering the earth and nourishing the vegetation is the result of wind, clouds and water combined, and the awful storm of sin, resulting from transgression, was just as necessary for the development of the church as the storm of the natural elements is for the maturing of the vegetation upon the face of the earth. After the serpent beguiled our first parents he received his doom, which was: “Upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.” The literal serpent is deprived of feet, and as a general thing he is found hidden away in the grass or shrubbery (not liking the sunshine very well); by which we can see shadowed forth the hidden, treacherous manner in which the adversary of souls sows broadcast the seeds of disunion and strife among the dear people of God, and it is declared dust shall be the serpent’s meat. We will briefly notice the manner in which the literal serpent takes his food: it is not masticated, but swallowed whole by a gradual process, whether it be a frog or a bird; also some serpents charm their prey. It is a lamentable truth that some of the dear people of God are, to a certain extent, for a time swallowed up of the great adversary, but they do not perish in his huge stomach as the prey does in the literal serpent, but in God’s own time they are spued out again, by which absorption they learn obedience. Did the enemy of all righteousness show to the christian the final issue of his temptation at once, instead of leading him off by degrees, he would perhaps be more on his watch, but like as the snake takes the frog, in the grass, by the foot and swallows him gradually, so are the dear people of God led astray gradually, until they are swallowed up; but, thanks be to God, they will not perish. Truly dust is the serpent’s meat, for that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and the carnal or fleshly mind of the christian is what Satan loves to feed upon, and though he may have occasion at times to use Scripture, as he did when he quoted it to the dear Redeemer, yet he cannot feed upon spiritual food, for dust is his meat, and if he ever has a feast it is when the dear people of God are at variance and feel to bite and devour each other, has not the end been declared from the beginning in giving Satan his doom?
“From ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” God is perfect, pure and holy, and nothing can add to his essential glory or diminish aught therefrom, consequently what transpires in the visible creation as well as in the church of the dear Redeemer is for God’s declarative glory. When God made promise to Abraham concerning his seed, that they should sojourn in a strange land and be cruelly treated, and at the set time be delivered, the way in which they were to go down into Egypt was not made known to Abraham, and for aught we know he had no just conception of God’s method to bring to pass the declaration made to him, but none will deny its ordination of God at the time it was uttered to Abraham by Jehovah, and if ordained of God it must have been absolutely predestinated.
Jacob had twelve sons, and one of them (Joseph) had two dreams or visions, which his brethren understood as an omen against them, and they resolved to rid themselves of the dreamer. While Joseph’s brethren were feeding the flock in Shechem, Israel sent him unto them, and when they saw him afar off they conspired against him to slay him; but God would not permit them to destroy him, for Reuben delivered him out of their hands and said, “Let us not kill him.” He was stripped of his coat of many colors and cast into a pit, but while he was in the pit there passed by Ishmaelites, and tiny drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit and sold him to the Ishmaelites, and they carried Joseph into Egypt and sold him unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s. Though Joseph was in bondage, God gave him special favor in the sight of Pharaoh, and though Joseph was unjustly cast into prison, he was not forsaken, and when the time had come for his deliverance from prison he was set tree. It seems that Pharaoh’s dreams could not be interpreted by any but Joseph, and after the wonderful explanation of the dreams Joseph was restored to be the first in Egypt, Pharaoh only excepted. During the years of plenty, Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, and after the years of plenty came on a sore famine, which was over the face of the whole earth, and when Jacob heard there was an abundance of corn in Egypt he sent his sons thither to buy corn for sustenance, and we find by tracing the history of this wonderful transaction that Joseph’s dreams concerning his father’s family were fulfilled, and in the ultimatum Jacob and his posterity went into Egypt. And Joseph said to his brethren, “Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you, to preserve life.” Joseph was either mistaken or God did send him into Egypt, but we conclude that God did send him, and as God sent him, was not the way ordained in the mind of Infinity in which he should go into bondage? Was not the course pursued by a majority of Joseph’s brethren to all human appearance very wicked? Surely it was; yet it was the appointed way to save much people alive, and dare any accuse God of being the author of sin in this mysterious transaction! Did not Joseph’s brethren act out voluntarily their envious disposition towards him? Yet it was to be for their own good at last. Truly God’s judgments are unsearchable, and his ways past finding out. Verily, “Secret things belong unto the Lord our God.” Did not God’s counsel stand, and he do all his pleasure concerning Joseph and his brethren? We can plainly see that God appointed the sending of Jacob’s family into Egypt as the way in which Abraham’s seed should go into bondage, and as time passed on and Israel multiplied they became sorely oppressed, and their lives were bitter by reason of their hard bondage. As Israel multiplied, an edict was issued that all the male children of the Hebrews should be slain, but notwithstanding this, Moses was reared to be a leader to Israel, and through him God was to multiply his signs and wonders in Egypt. Pharaoh could not let Israel go until the appointed time, and if he promised to let Israel go while the judgments were before him, soon as they were removed his heart was hardened so that he would not let Israel go. God said unto Pharaoh, “And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.” “For this.” Was Pharaoh raised up to oppress the seed of Abraham and bring all those dreadful, vindictive judgments upon the Egyptians, even to the slaying of the firstborn, before Israel could go? So says the Scripture. After the host of Israel left Egypt Pharaoh’s heart was again hardened, and he pursued Israel; and as they were in great fear, having the Red Sea before them, the mountains upon each hand and Pharaoh and his host behind them, God said, “I will get me honor upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.” After the children of Israel had passed through the sea, Pharaoh and his host pursued them, but their chariot wheels were taken off so that they drove heavily, and in the morning all the host of Pharaoh were overthrown in the midst of the sea. Did not the counsel of God stand and he do all his pleasure concerning the seed of Abraham and the Egyptians! Jesus told his disciples that he must go unto Jerusalem and what he must suffer. “Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offence unto me; for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” If the things which Jesus was about to suffer were of God, they were so by divine appointment, consequently could not be revoked. It seems that Peter possessed a wonderful degree of love and sympathy, declaring, “This shall not be unto thee;” and how often do we hear it said, Such things need not be, for God did not predestinate that they should take place; but let us remember Peter’s zeal, and the exceedingly severe rebuke of the Master to him. Jesus came down from heaven not to do his own will, but the will of Him who had sent him, therefore it was appointed for him to be rejected of men, to suffer and die on the cross. In the garden of Gethsemane he prayed to his Father, saying, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me! nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” It was not possible for the cup (of almighty vengeance, which be must drink for his dear people,) to pass from him, for God said by the mouth of Hosea, “Repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.” Behold the awful agony of the dear Redeemer in the garden; still justice knew no forgiveness. Shocking precept, mysterious mandate, that he who was spotless was doomed to suffer. When he was delivered into the hands of wicked men, one of his followers manifested a carnal disposition, for he used the sword, but the command was, “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword, shall perish with the sword.” Then said Jesus, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels! But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be!” “Thus it must be;” therefore the decree could not be changed, and Judas was as absolutely predestinated to sell his Master for the thirty pieces of silver, and then repent and hang himself, as Christ was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was, that he might in the fullness of time be manifested in the flesh, to be delivered up for the offences of his people, die for them and be raised again for their justification. “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” Christ was not only delivered by God’s counsel, but it was by his determinate counsel, and he was crucified by wicked hands. Did not God ordain that wicked hands should crucify his Son! And though it was done by wicked bands, still it was for the glory of God and the redemption of the church. Verily the wrath of man is made to praise God, and he restrains the remainder as seems good in his sight. Said Christ, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil!” Also, “Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the Scripture might he fulfilled.” How could Judas he the son of perdition unless he was born of perdition!
While Jesus was enduring contradictions of sinners against himself in the judgment hall, Pilate said unto him, “Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee!” To which the blessed Son of God responded, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.” Pilate received his power against the Son of God by divine appointment, consequently the Jews and Romans were about to do what his hand and counsel had before determined should be done, therefore it was impossible for the decree to be changed. At the time when Christ was to be mocked, scourged, spit upon and crucified, there were characters possessing the very disposition and will to accomplish the purpose of God. Now were not those very characters prepared of God to accomplish his will in proclaiming, “Crucify him, crucify him,” and let his blood he upon us and our children, and to conduct the dear Lamb of God to Calvary, and then and there to nail those dear hands and feet to the cross, as much as the blessed Redeemer was ordained of God to suffer the awful agony about to he inflicted upon him? Was it not according to the. counsel of God that in the fifteenth century a Columbus should be raised up to discover the continent of America, in which place the Gentile church should find an asylum and her members be favored with the blessed privilege of worshiping God according to the dictates of their own consciences! Was it not according to the will of God that this country should be inhabited by another race, and the aborigines be disinherited! Such sayings or questions may be termed very severe, but have we not examples recorded in Scripture equally severe! Samuel, the prophet of the Lord, said unto Saul, the king of Israel, “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” Objection: Amalek had done evil unto Israel, therefore justice demanded retribution, consequently the aborigines of this country were not guilty like the Amalekites. Such an inference does not affect the grave question of absolute predestination; they (the Amalekites) were to be utterly destroyed, infants and adults, as well as all their substance; but, admitting the fact that the sin of the Amalekites was the only cause of their destruction, how do we know that the aborigines of this country had not committed as great or greater sins against the Almighty! “And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord. And Samuel said: What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear!” Saul said, “The people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God.” What wonderful benevolence and charity Saul possessed, for he chose to listen to the people rather than obey the voice of God. Was not Saul’s benevolence the same kind of charity which Peter possessed when he said, Far be it from thee, Lord! Saul spared Agag, the king, but Samuel said, “Bring ye hither to me Agag king of the Amalekites: and Agag (?) unto him delicately. And Agag (?) Surely the bitterness of death is past. And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.” What, after Saul, king of Israel, had spared Agag, must Samuel, the prophet of the Lord, hew him in pieces! I might refer to numerous other examples of what men call cruelty, recorded in Scripture, to prove all things transpire according to the eternal purpose of God, but if the instances already cited are not sufficient to prove the absolute predestinating purpose of God in all things, I despair of substantiating it, either by Scripture or argument. The emperor of Russia, the sultan of Turkey, the emperor of France and the queen of England (all of whom were lately engaged in war) are just as much God’s instruments to fulfill some wise design as Alexander and Cyrus were, and all the tumult now abroad in the earth is for the good of God’s dear people, or else the inspired apostle was wrong when he said, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Said the Redeemer by the mouth of David, “My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” We are led to conclude from the declaration of David that God has absolutely predestinated the number of the children of promise (or recorded in the book of life all the members of Christ’s mystical body), and as “there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” the time when each one shall be developed in the flesh, and how and when each one of them shall be brought to a knowledge of the truth, is unalterably fixed in the eternal Mind. And there is a definite number of faithful ministers to be developed for the comfort and edification of the church, and though there be some now among the families of men upon the face of the earth wicked and envious as Saul of Tarsus was toward Jesus of Nazareth prior to his being called of God to the work of the ministry, if God has designed them to be servants of the church, they will be made willing and obedient at the appointed time; therefore all the efforts of men will not add one to the fixed number, neither will their malice take one therefrom. It is to be feared that many are crowding themselves into the ministry among the different religious sects who have no knowledge of the justification of the church through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Some go into the ministry for money, some for a good name, some to be elevated to honorable stations, and a few are driven by almighty power to proclaim to the church of Christ the riches of God’s grace, and such ones feel, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.”
Brethren, may we all remember that God works all things after the counsel of his own will, therefore let us be still and know that he is God.
WM. J. PURINGTON.
North Anson, Maine, Jan. 14, 1856.
[It is rather unusual for us to republish matter in the Signs, except the editorials of the late Elder Gilbert Beebe, and that for the same purpose that brother Ford wished the above good article from the pen of the late Elder Wm. J.Purington republished; but that the brethren may understand the doctrine of “absolute predestination of all things” is not “a new thing” among Old School Baptists, but one of the solid foundations ever contended for by our people, we take pleasure in granting the request of brother Ford. – Ed.]
Signs Of The Times
Volume 76., No. 16.
AUGUST 15, 1908.