Chapter 16 – God By His Power Nourishes and Maintains the World Created By Him, and Rules Its Several Parts By His Providence
Psalm 33:6 - By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host.
Psalm 33:13 - The Lord looks down from heaven; He sees all the children of man;
Psalm 104:27-30 - These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. 28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath they die and return to their dust. 30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.
What about “fortune” or “chance”? “We must consider that the Providence of God, as taught in Scripture, is opposed to fortune and fortuitous causes. By an erroneous opinion prevailing in all ages, an opinion almost universally prevailing in our own day, viz., that all things happen fortuitously, the true doctrine of Providence has not only been obscured, but almost buried.”
“When we read, that at the prayer of Joshua the sun was stayed in its course, (Josh. 10:13;) that as a favour to Hezekiah, its shadow receded ten degrees, (2 Kings 20:11;) by these miracles God declared that the sun does not daily rise and set by a blind instinct of nature, but is governed by Him in its course, that he may renew the remembrance of his paternal favour toward us.”
God is deemed omnipotent, …because, governing heaven and earth by his providence, he so overrules all things that nothing happens without his counsel.
“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.”
“Let him, therefore, …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.”
What about “fate”? “For we do not with the Stoics imagine a necessity consisting of a perpetual chain of causes, and a kind of involved series contained in nature, but we hold that God is the disposer and ruler of all things,—that from the remotest eternity, according to his own wisdom, he decreed what he was to do, and now by his power executes what he decreed.”
How should we understand “randomness”? Calvin says that from our perspective, events can appear fortuitous, that is, appear to be random or by “chance” but that is because God’s eternal decree is hidden with Him. All things take place by God’s will but from our perspective they give off the appearance of randomness.
Gen. 30:2; Ps. 75:6-7, 107:25, 29; Prov. 16:1, 16:33, 20:24, 29:13; Isa 3:1; Jer. 10:23; Amos 4:9; Matt. 10:29;
Chapter 17 – How We May Apply This Doctrine To Our Greatest Benefit
In revealing in Scripture to us His providence, God has 3 purposes:
God’s providence includes all things – past, present, and future
At times God works through means, at other times without means, and at other times against means
God takes care of the whole of humanity, but especially in governing His people
Deuteronomy 29:29 - The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
The doctrine of Providence does not absolve us of responsibility for our deeds.
“The eternal decrees of God by no means prevent us from proceeding, under his will, to provide for ourselves, and arrange all our affairs. And the reason for this is clear. For he who has fixed the boundaries of our life, has at the same time entrusted us with the care of it, provided us with the means of preserving it, forewarned us of the dangers to which we are exposed, and supplied cautions and remedies, that we may not be overwhelmed unawares”
So what are benefits of God’s providence in the world, but especially to us believers?
All events happen by the ordination of God.
All things contribute to the advantage of the godly.
The hearts of men and all their endeavors are in the hand of God.
Providence watches for the safety of the righteous.
God has a special care of His elect.
God in various ways curbs and defeats the enemies of the Church.
God overrules all creatures, even Satan himself, for the good of His people.
God trains the godly to patience and moderation through adversity. [Ex: Joseph, Job, David]
God shakes off their lethargy and urges them to repentance.
When the godly become negligent or imprudent in the discharge of duty, Providence reminds them of their fault.
Providence condemns the iniquities of the wicked.
Providence causes the godly to reign themselves to the wisdom and omnipotence of God, and, at the same time, makes them diligent in their calling.
Though human life is beset with innumerable evils, the righteous feel perfectly secure because they trust God and His providence.
“Providence teaches us that God is in control, and, knowing that, our fear and anxiety can give way to comfort and assurance.” –J. Mark Beach
Chapter 18 – God So Uses the Works Of The Ungodly, and So Bends Their Minds To Carry Out His Judgments, That He Remains Pure From Every Stain
First Objection: In order to avoid God being tainted by sin, distinction is made between “permission” and “will.” In other words, God “wills” good things but only “permits” evil things.
Psalm 115:3 - Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
Job 1:12 – “And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.”
1 Samuel 16:14 - Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him.
Isaiah 45:7 – “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.”
Acts 4:27-28 – “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”
Second Objection: There is contradiction within God if He secretly decrees things that go against His revealed will.
“while in himself the will is one and undivided, to us it appears manifold, because, from the feebleness of our intellect, we cannot comprehend how, though after a different manner, he wills and wills not the very same thing. … Since, on account of the dullness of our sense, the wisdom of God seems manifold, are we, therefore, to dream of some variation in God, as if he either changed his counsel, or disagreed with himself? Nay, when we cannot comprehend how God can will that to be done which he forbids us to do, let us call to mind our imbecility, and remember that the light in which he dwells is not without cause termed inaccessible, (1 Tim. 6:16,) because shrouded in darkness.”
The key to solving this objection is to recognize that God has His own righteous motives for evil acts, while the immediate human agent of the evil has wicked motives driving him or her to act.
“For through the bad wills of evil men God fulfills what he righteously wills.” –St. Augustine
“God uses sin, sinlessly.” --Dr. Doug Kelly
Third Objection: If God wills even the evil actions of man, God is unjust to hold them responsible for their evil deeds since they are ultimately carrying out God’s will.
This is a confusing of God’s “decree” with God’s “precept”
Example: Absalom committed adultery with David’s wives, which violates God’s precepts [revealed will], but He fulfilled God’s decree to punish David’s adultery (2 Samuel 12:11-12, 16:22)
“Thus we must hold, that while by means of the wicked God performs what he had secretly decreed, they are not excusable as if they were obeying his precept, which of set purpose they violate according to their lust.”
“For our wisdom ought to be nothing else than to embrace with humble teachableness, and at least without finding fault, whatever is taught in Sacred Scripture.”