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A definition of Providence refuting the erroneous dogmas of Philosophers

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015A definition of Providence refuting the erroneous dogmas of Philosophers. Dreams of the Epicureans and Peripatetics.

4. First, then, let the reader remember that the providence we mean is not one by which the Deity, sitting idly in heaven, looks on at what is taking place in the world, but one by which he, as it were, holds the helms and overrules all events. Hence his providence extends not less to the hand than to the eye. When Abraham said to his son, God will provide, (Genesis 22:8,) he meant not merely to assert that the future event was foreknown to Gods but to resign the management of an unknown business to the will of Him whose province it is to bring perplexed and dubious matters to a happy result. Hence it appears that providence consists in action. What many talk of bare prescience is the merest trifling. Those do not err quite so grossly who attribute government to God, but still, as I have observed, a confused and promiscuous government which consists in giving an impulse and general movement to the machine of the globe and each of its parts, but does not specially direct the action of every creature. It is impossible, however, to tolerate this error. For, according to its abettors, there is nothing in this providence, which they call universal, to prevent all the creatures from being moved contingently, or to prevent man from turning himself in this direction or in that, according to the mere freedom of his own will. In this ways they make man a partner with God, — God, by his energy, impressing man with the movement by which he can act, agreeably to the nature conferred upon him while man voluntarily regulates his own actions. In short, their doctrine is, that the world, the affairs of men, and men themselves, are governed by the power, but not by the decree of God. I say nothing of the Epicureans, (a pest with which the world has always been plagued,) who dream of an inert and idle God, and others, not a whit sounder, who of old feigned that God rules the upper regions of the air, but leaves the inferior to Fortune. Against such evident madness even dumb creatures lift their voice.

My intention now is, to refute an opinion which has very generally obtained — an opinion which, while it concedes to God some blind and equivocal movement, withholds what is of principal moment, viz., the disposing and directing of every thing to its proper end by incomprehensible wisdom. By withholding government, it makes God the ruler of the world in name only, not in reality. For what, I ask, is meant by government, if it be not to preside so as to regulate the destiny of that over which you preside? I do not, however, totally repudiate what is said of an universal providence, provided, on the other hand, it is conceded to me that the world is governed by God, not only because he maintains the order of nature appointed by him, but because he takes a special charge of every one of his works. It is true, indeed, that each species of created objects is moved by a secret instinct of nature, as if they obeyed the eternal command of God, and spontaneously followed the course which God at first appointed. And to this we may refer our Savior’s words, that he and his Father have always been at work from the beginning (John 5:17;) also the words of Paul, that “in him we live, and move, and have our being,” (Acts 17:28;) also the words of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, who, when wishing to prove the divinity of Christ, says, that he upholdeth “all things by the word of his power,” (Hebrews 1:3.) But some, under pretext of the general, hide and obscure the special providence, which is so surely and clearly taught in Scripture, that it is strange how any one can bring himself to doubt of it. And, indeed, those who interpose that disguise are themselves forced to modify their doctrine, by adding that many things are done by the special care of God. This, however, they erroneously confine to particular acts. The thing to be proved, therefore, is, that single events are so regulated by God, and all events so proceed from his determinate counsel, that nothing happens fortuitously.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 16-Henry Beveridge Translation

Figment of the Sophists as to an indolent Providence refuted

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015Figment of the Sophists as to an indolent Providence refuted. Consideration of the Omnipotence as combined with the Providence of God. Double benefit resulting from a proper acknowledgment of the Divine Omnipotence. Cavils of Infidelity.

3. And truly God claims omnipotence to himself, and would have us to acknowledge it, — not the vain, indolent, slumbering omnipotence which sophists feign, but vigilant, efficacious, energetic, and ever active, — not an omnipotence which may only act as a general principle of confused motion, as in ordering a stream to keep within the channel once prescribed to it, but one which is intent on individual and special movements. God is deemed omnipotent, not because he can act though he may cease or be idle, or because by a general instinct he continues the order of nature previously appointed; but because, governing heaven and earth by his providence, he so overrules all things that nothing happens without his counsel. For when it is said in the Psalms, “He has done whatsoever he has pleased,” (Psalm 115:3,) the thing meant is his sure and deliberate purpose. It were insipid to interpret the Psalmist’s words in philosophic fashion, to mean that God is the primary agent, because the beginning and cause of all motion. This rather is the solace of the faithful, in their adversity, that every thing which they endure is by the ordination and command of God, that they are under his hand. But if the government of God thus extends to all his works, it is a childish cavil to confine it to natural influx. Those moreover who confine the providence of God within narrow limits, as if he allowed all things to be born along freely according to a perpetual law of nature, do not more defraud God of his glory than themselves of a most useful doctrine; for nothing were more wretched than man if he were exposed to all possible movements of the sky, the air, the earth, and the water. We may add, that by this view the singular goodness of God towards each individual is unbecomingly impaired. David exclaims, (Psalm 8:3,) that infants hanging at their mothers breasts are eloquent enough to celebrate the glory of God, because, from the very moment of their births they find an aliment prepared for them by heavenly care. Indeed, if we do not shut our eyes and senses to the fact, we must see that some mothers have full provision for their infants, and others almost none, according as it is the pleasure of God to nourish one child more liberally, and another more sparingly. Those who attribute due praise to the omnipotence of God thereby derive a double benefit. He to whom heaven and earth belong, and whose nod all creatures must obey, is fully able to reward the homage which they pay to him, and they can rest secure in the protection of Him to whose control everything that could do them harm is subject, by whose authority, Satan, with all his furies and engines, is curbed as with a bridle, and on whose will everything adverse to our safety depends. In this way, and in no other, can the immoderate and superstitious fears, excited by the dangers to which we are exposed, be calmed or subdued. I say superstitious fears. For such they are, as often as the dangers threatened by any created objects inspire us with such terror, that we tremble as if they had in themselves a power to hurt us, or could hurt at random or by chance; or as if we had not in God a sufficient protection against them. For example, Jeremiah forbids the children of God “ to be dismayed at the signs of heaven, as the heathen are dismayed at them,” (Jeremiah 10:2.) He does not, indeed, condemn every kind of fear. But as unbelievers transfer the government of the world from God to the stars, imagining that happiness or misery depends on their decrees or presages, and not on the Divine will, the consequence is, that their fear, which ought to have reference to him only, is diverted to stars and comets. Let him, therefore, who would beware of such unbelief, always bear in mind, that there is no random power, or agency, or motion in the creatures, who are so governed by the secret counsel of God, that nothing happens but what he has knowingly and willingly decreed.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 16-Henry Beveridge Translation

Even the wicked, under the guidance of carnal sense, acknowledge that God is the Creator. The godly acknowledge not this only, but that he is a most wise and powerful governor and preserver of all created objects

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015Even the wicked, under the guidance of carnal sense, acknowledge that God is the Creator. The godly acknowledge not this only, but that he is a most wise and powerful governor and preserver of all created objects. In so doing, they lean on the Word of God, some passages from which are produced.

1. It were cold and lifeless to represent God as a momentary Creator, who completed his work once for all, and then left it. Here, especially, we must dissent from the profane, and maintain that the presence of the divine power is conspicuous, not less in the perpetual condition of the world then in its first creation. For, although even wicked men are forced, by the mere view of the earth and sky, to rise to the Creator, yet faith has a method of its own in assigning the whole praise of creation to God. To this effect is the passage of the Apostle already quoted that by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, (Hebrews 11:3;) because, without proceeding to his Providence, we cannot understand the full force of what is meant by God being the Creator, how much soever we may seem to comprehend it with our mind, and confess it with our tongue. The carnal mind, when once it has perceived the power of God in the creation, stops there, and, at the farthest, thinks and ponders on nothing else than the wisdom, power, and goodness displayed by the Author of such a work, (matters which rise spontaneously, and force themselves on the notice even of the unwilling,) or on some general agency on which the power of motion depends, exercised in preserving and governing it. In short, it imagines that all things are sufficiently sustained by the energy divinely infused into them at first. But faith must penetrate deeper. After learning that there is a Creator, it must forthwith infer that he is also a Governor and Preserver, and that, not by producing a kind of general motion in the machine of the globe as well as in each of its parts, but by a special providence sustaining, cherishing, superintending, all the things which he has made, to the very minutest, even to a sparrow. Thus David, after briefly premising that the world was created by God, immediately descends to the continual course of Providence, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens framed, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth;” immediately adding, “The Lord looketh from heaven, he beholdeth the children of men,” (Psalm 33:6, 13, etc.) He subjoins other things to the same effect. For although all do not reason so accurately, yet because it would not be credible that human affairs were superintended by God, unless he were the maker of the world, and no one could seriously believe that he is its Creator without feeling convinced that he takes care of his works; David with good reason, and in admirable order, leads us from the one to the other. In general, indeed, philosophers teach, and the human mind conceives, that all the parts of the world are invigorated by the secret inspiration of God. They do not, however reach the height to which David rises taking all the pious along with him, when he says, “These wait all upon thee, that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good. Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created, and thou renewest the face of the earth,” (Psalm 104:27-30.) Nay, though they subscribe to the sentiment of Paul, that in God “we live, and move, and have our being,” (Acts 17:28,) yet they are far from having a serious apprehension of the grace which he commends, because they have not the least relish for that special care in which alone the paternal favor of God is discerned.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 16-Henry Beveridge Translation

Forgotten Providence

November 10, 2014 1 comment

by Rebekah Earnshaw

Providence is so sixteenth century.

We seem to have moved past needing to talk about God’s providence—we’re quite sophisticated these days. By ‘we’, I mean especially our modern, western, secular society, but also the church within it. We no longer tend to think of the sun suspended and directed by God in its course. Rather, we hurtle through a vacuum on a rock, directed by the seemingly inexplicable distortion of the space time continuum created by one lump of energy condensed as matter that then directs its motion towards another. (Or so my astrophysicist friends tell me, anyway.)

Twenty-first century sensibilities dismiss the idea of an overruling God in preference to self-direction. Healthy, wealthy, intelligent, capable humans take responsibility and control of their own future through education, insurance, prudent financial investment, savvy work choices and the occasional international holiday. Christianity seems to have outgrown providence.

But life isn’t always quite so neat, is it? Our self-built image of control is all-too-easily shattered by chronic or mental illness, sudden tragic death, redundancy, relationship breakdown, and injustice. Very occasionally we realize what a tiny fragment of the vast order of the universe we actually occupy or understand.

 

 

 
Read the entire article here.

The world hates the doctrine known as Divine Sovereignty

September 15, 2014 3 comments

Spurgeon 6On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by worldlings, no truth of which they have made such a football, as; the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except upon His throne. They will allow Him to be in His workshop to fashion worlds and to make stars. They will allow Him to be in His almonry to dispense His alms and bestow His bounties. They will allow Him to sustain the earth and bear up the pillars thereof, or light the lamps of Heaven, or rule the waves of the ever moving ocean; but when God ascends His throne, His creatures then gnash their teeth; and when we proclaim an enthroned God, and His right to do as He wills with His own, to dispose of His creatures as He thinks well, without consulting them in the matter, then it is that we are hissed and execrated, and then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us, for God on His throne is not the God they love. They love Him anywhere better than they do when He sits with His scepter in His hand and His crown upon His head. But it is God upon the throne that we love to preach. It is. God upon His throne whom we trust. It is God upon His throne of whom we have been singing this morning; and it is God upon His throne of whom we shall speak in this discourse. I shall dwell only, however, upon one portion of God’s Sovereignty, and that is God’s Sovereignty in the distribution of His gifts. In this respect I believe He has a right to do as He wills with His own, and that He exercises that right.

Charles H. Spurgeon-Sermon-Divine Sovereignty-Delivered May 4 1856

There is no attribute more comforting than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty

September 8, 2014 1 comment

CharlesSpurgeonThere is no attribute of God more comforting to His children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe that ‘Sovereignty hath ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children of God ought more earnestly to contend than the dominion of their Master over all creation — the kingship of God over all the works of His own hands — the throne of God, and His right to sit upon that throne.

Charles H. Spurgeon-Sermon-Divine Sovereignty-Delivered May 4 1856

Chapter 27-The Offices of Christ

The Offices of Christ

 

THREE offices are ascribed by the Scriptures to Christ–those of prophet, priest and king.

I. CHRIST AS PROPHET.

This word is to be taken in its wider sense of inspired teacher.

It is frequently confined, in common language, to one who foretells future events. But it literally means one who speaks for his God, and denotes a divine teacher merely. Thus Moses is spoken of as a prophet, and Christ was foretold as a prophet who should he like unto Moses.

It is in connection with this that the term Logos, or Word, applied to Christ in the 1st chapter of John is appropriate.

With the office of teacher, Christ united, as was common with the prophets, the prediction of future events and the working of miracles. But the office of teacher was his special work as prophet.

This work is discharged in the following ways:

1. In the personal revelations which he made, before the days of his incarnation, to our first parents, to the patriarchs and to others of their day, to Moses and the people of God in the wilderness, and to various others, as Manoah, the children in the furnace, etc. These were made in appearances of human form, in the burning bush, in the pillar of cloud and fire, in the Shechinah, etc., etc.

2. In the inspired revelations which he made through holy men of old, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. The Old Testament Scriptures are composed of a portion of these.

3. While on earth in his incarnation.

(1) Personally as, (a) he set forth by his own acts the divine attributes, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, eternity of existence, etc., and (b) as he exhibited God’s love for man, his hatred of sin, and his love of holiness and righteousness in the work of man’s salvation.

(2) By his instructions, as he taught (a) in words to his disciples and others what he exhibited in his person as to the matters above stated, and (b) the truths relative to the kingdom he was to establish, its nature, its subjects, the relations they should bear to each other, to him and the Father, and their future destiny and glory as well as the condition and fate of those who should reject him.

4. By the instructions he gave through his apostles and other inspired men after his ascension.

5. By the revelation of himself in the lives and character of his true disciples in all ages.

6. By the instructions given through his preached word in all ages.

7. By the revelations of glory he shall make to the church of first-born ones in the world to come.

8. By the revelation which through these, he shall make of the glory of God to the universe of created intelligences.

 

II. CHRIST AS PRIEST.

The office of “Priest” is one of divine appointment. That of Christ corresponds to that of the High Priest under the Mosaic economy, and is foreshadowed by it. The Epistle to the Hebrews sets this forth very plainly and explicitly. The priesthood of Christ, however, varies from that of the High Priest in several particulars. Christ’s priesthood is perpetual, is in one person, without predecessor or successor, making one offering, once for all; an offering actually not symbolically effective, deriving value not from appointment alone, but from its nature also. In this case, also, the victim is the same person as the High Priest. Consequently Christ’s office as priest is to be contemplated in the twofold aspect of priest and victim.

1. As Priest, he offers up the sacrifice, laying it upon the altar of oblation, and through it appeasing the wrath of God, making reconciliation between God and man, and securing, in its proper presentation, the removal of guilt and punishment from man.

As Priest he also intercedes with God for pardon or justification or other blessings for all for whom he died, in all the respects in which his death is available for each.

The first of these priestly offices was discharged upon earth, the second is discharging in heaven. It does not cease with his life on earth, but he is represented as continuing as an ever-living High Priest to make intercession for us, Heb. 7:23-25; sitting down at the right hand of’ God, Acts 2:33-36; Heb. 8:1; 9:12-21. (See the law as to the Jewish High Priest entering in once every year in Heb. 9:27; also in the law laid down in Ex. 30:10; Lev. 16:2, 11, 12, 15, 34; see also Heb. 7:27; 10:10. 1 Pet. 3:18, confines it to their sufferings and does not include the offering.) It is not for the purpose of offering the sacrifice that he is there, Heb. 9:24, 25; but to make intercession for those for whom the sacrifice has already been offered, Heb. 10:11, 12, 14-18. These passages show it was such an offering as actually sanctified (v. 10), and purified (v. 14) them that are sanctified.

While we are not to suppose that he is engaged in actual spoken prayer before God, we are also not to understand by this a mere influence of his sacrifice continued without further activity on his part, but some real activity corresponding fully to the essence of prayer and petition, to which is due all the blessings to which his people attain.

This intercession is made for his people, Luke 22:32, John 14:16; 17:9, 15, 20, 24; Eph. 2:18; Heb. 4:14-16. The passages in Isaiah 53:12 and Luke 23:34 have been adduced as indicating intercession which avails in some respect for all men. But such benefits are not the result of intercessory prayer, nor of Christ’s atoning work conferring general benefits; but they come from the necessary co-existence of the persons thus benefited with those to whom the resulting benefits of the atoning work belong.

2. Christ as the victim.

(1) His qualifications.

(a) His sinlessness; for this position he needed to be pure, holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and one in whom there was no sin. He must be a spotless Lamb.

(b) His humanity; that he might be of common nature with those for whom he died, and that he might be capable of suffering, and of such suffering as man may endure.

(c) His divinity; that his successful Prosecution of the work might be assured, and that his offering might have merit sufficient to ransom those for whom he died.

(d) His federal relation; that he might he a proper substitute for sinners, not any securing righteousness by obedience, but bearing and removing their guilt by making satisfaction for it.

(2) The offering. Thus qualified he was offered up as a victim; his body to the suffering which culminated in his death on the cross, and his soul to the anguish due to the realized presence of imputed sin, to the wrath endured from God, and to the separation from God’s favor while bearing that wrath.

 

III. CHRIST AS KING.

Christ announced to his disciples just before his ascension, “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.” Math 28:18. Peter at Pentecost declared, “that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified;” Acts 2:36.

Constant references had been previously made to his kingdom. It was not simply spoken of as the kingdom of God, and kingdom of heaven, but as closely connected with Christ. Luke 22:29, 30; 23:42; John 18:37.

1. Christ as the God-man is Mediatorial king.

As Son of God he had the right of rule over the universe. Of this he emptied himself and became man, that he might become Mediator and do the work of salvation. Having become man he died on the cross. On this account he has been exalted, so “that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, * * * and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God, the Father.” Phil. 2:6-11. Compare Acts 2:22-36, especially verse 36. “God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified.” Also 1 Cor. 15:24-26.

2. Christ reigns over his spiritual kingdom, securing the final result of the establishment of that kingdom in the persons of all his people when he shall “present the church to himself, a glorious church.” Eph. 5:27.

3. He reigns over his visible churches on earth through the laws he has given, through the Spirit by which he dwells in them, and by his providences, overruling, controlling, and accomplishing all his purposes.

4. The rules over this world as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, causing all things to work together for his ends.

5. He rules over the universe. His sway is not limited to earth.

6. His Mediatorial reign is not confined to human subjects, but extends also to angelic. The angels of heaven are his attendants and his messengers.

7. He even rules over Satan and his evil angels. Their exercise of power for evil is permitted only for a time. Even during that time it is controlled by Christ; so that it is limited by his will, and is, therefore, truly subjected to him.

 

Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887