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cause. But there is a vast difference betwixt the decrees of God and men; whereof this is the principal: Mens purposes or decrees are distinct from themselves, but the decrees of God are not distinct from himself. God's decrees are nothing else but God himself, who is one simple act; and they are many only in respect of their objects, not as they are in God; even as the one heat of the sun melts wax and hardens clay. To say otherwise is to derogate from the absolute simplicity of God, and to make him a compound being. It is also to derogate from his infinite perfection; for whatsoever is added to any thing argues a want, which is made up by the accession of that thing, and so introduces a change; but God is absolutely unchangeable. Neither could God's decrees be eternal, if it were not so; for there is nothing eternal but God. - ll. I proceed to consider the object of God's decrees. This is whatsoever comes to pass. He worketh all things, says the text. God has decreed whatsoever comes to pass; and nothing comes to pass but what he has decreed to come to pass. We may consider the extent of the divine decree under the three following heads. 1. God has decreed the creation of all things that have a being. o He has decreed to rule and govern the creatures which be was to make. 3. He has decreed the eternal state of all his rational creatureS. First, God decreed to rear up this stately fabric of the world, the heavens and the earth, the sea and the land, with all the great variety of creatures which inhabit them. There are myriads of holy angels in heaven, cherubims and seraphims, thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, angels and archangels. There are many shining luminaries in the firmament, the sun, and the moon, and innumerable glittering stars. There is a great variety of creatures on the earth, animals, plants, trees, and minerals, with various forms, shapes, colours, smells, virtues, and qualities. The sea is inhabited by many creatures, Psal, civ. 25. Now, God decreed to make all these things, Rev. iv. 11. ‘Thou hast created all things.” Secondly, God hath decreed the government of all his creatures. He preserves and yo. them in their beings, 2
and he guides and governs them in all their motions and actions. He is not only the general spring and origin of all the motions and actions of the creatures, but he appoints and orders them all immediately. 1. He has decreed all their motions and actions : “For (says the apostle) of him, and through him, and to him are all things.” Rom. xi. ult. This is clear from God's know. ing all these things before they come to pass; which know. ledge of them must needs be in the decree, upon which the coming to pass of all things depends. Not only good things, but evil things fall within the com. pass of his holy decree. Evils of punishment are truly good, being the execution of justice, as it is good in a magistrate to punish evil-doers. God owns himself to be the author of these evils, Amos iii. 6. “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?’ And yet he has decreed the effecting of these. As for the evils of sin, these also fall within the compass of the decrge of God, as is clear in the case of crucifying of Christ, ii. 23. “Him (says the apostle to the Jews) being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” And says the apos. tle, Acts iv. 27. 28. ‘For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were ga. thered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.’ This appears also in the case of Pharaoh refusing to let Israel go, and pursuing them when they had gone, whose heart God hardened, Exod. xiv. 4; and in the sin of Joseph's brethren in selling him into Egypt; of which Joseph says, Gen. xlv. 8. “So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God.” It is true, God decreed not the effecting of sin, for then he should have been the author of it, but he decreed the permission of sin. And though sin in itself is evil, yet God's permitting of it is good, seeing he can bring good out of it; and it is just in him to permit it, where he is not bound to hinder it. Yet this is not a naked permission, whereby the thing may either come to pass or not, but such as infers a certainty of the event, so that in respect of the event the sin cannot but come to pass. Hence our Lord says, Matth. xviii. 7. “Wo unto the world because of offences; for it must needs be
that offences come.’ And says the apostle, 1 Cor. xi. 19.
2. God has decreed every thing relating tô the lot and
condition of particular persons.
ther it shall be high or low, rich or poor, noble or ignoble, learned or unlearned. He hath determined the trade and employment they should follow, the particular business they shall betake themselves to. Many times God’s providence over-rules mens purposes and designs, for fulfilling his own counsels. Matters are sometimes strangely wheeled about, so that not what we or our parents designed, but what God hath purposed, shall take place. Amos was meanly employed at first, but God designed him for a more honourable calling: he was taken from the office of a herdman, and gatherer of sycamore fruit, and invested with a commission to prophesy to the people of Israel, Amos vii. 14, 15. David followed the ewes, and it is like never raised his thoughts to higher things in the days of his youth; but God made him the royal shepherd of a better flock, Psal. lxxviii. 70, 71, The most part of the apostles were fishermen; but Christ called them to a more high and eminent station, even to be extraordinary officers in his church, and fishers of men. (3.) God hath decreed what relations men shall have in the world. Their wives and children are appointed for them. Hence said Abraham's servant, Gen. xxiv. 44. ‘Let the same be the woman whom the Lord hath appointed for my master's Son.” That such a woman rather than any other, should be wife to such a man, is by the appointment of Heaven. Mens children are also decreed by God. Hence said Eve, Gen. iv. 24. “God hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.’ And says the Psalmist, Psal. cxxvii. 3. ‘Lochildren are the heritage of the Lord.” God determines the numbers and names of every man's children. (4.) All the comforts of mens lives are under the divine appointment, both those temporal and spiritual. Hence says the prophet, Isa. xxvi. 1. ‘We have a strong city: salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.’ 5. All mens afflictions are determined by a decree of Hea. ven, Micah vi. 9. “Hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.” Such are public calamities and distresses, as war, fa. mine and pestilence, all bodily pains and sickness, poverties and pinching straits, and whatever is grievous and afflictive to men. None of these spring out of the dust, or come by chance. The kind and nature of people's troubles, their measure and degree, time and season, continuance and dura.
tion, and all the circumstances of them, are determined, and weighed in the scale of his eternal counsel. Hence says the apostle, 1 Thess. iii. 3. “No man should be moved by these afflictions: for you yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.” (6.) The time of every man's life in the world is appointed. Hence says Job, chap. vii. 1. ‘Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth 2 are not his days also like the days of an hireling?' And says the same great man, chap. xiv. 5. “His days are determined; and the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.’ The term of our life is fixed and limited, our days are determined, and our months numbered. Hence David prays, Psal. xxxix. 4. ‘Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am.” Our days are measured; they are as the days of an hireling. As the hireling hath a set time
to work in, so every man and woman hath an appointed .
time for acting and working in this world. We are all pilgrims and strangers on the earth, and in a little time we must go hence and be no more. We are here like men upon a stage to act our parts, and in a short time we must retire within the curtain of death, and others will come in our room. Our glass is continually running, and the da and hour in which it will run out is settled and fixed by the order of Heaven. We find in scripture that God hath often foretold the precise term of particular men's lives. He set a hundred and twenty years to those who lived in the old world before the flood came upon them, Gen. vi. 3. He foretold the time of Moses’ life, of that of Jeroboam’s son, of that of Ahaziah king of Israel, and of many others. All this was from his own decree and counsel. Thirdly, God hath determined the eternal state of all his rational creatures, both men and angels. Our Confession of Faith tells us, agreeably to scripture, chap. iii. art. 3. that “by the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others are fore-ordained to everlasting death.” More particularly,
1. We read of the elect angels, 1 Tim. v. 21. The perse.
verance and standing of the holy angels in the state of their primitive integrity, and their confirmation therein, was de