Friday, November 23, 2018

Predestination: God's Wonderful Plan

Image result for ichabod spencerThe excerpt below is taken from Ichabod Spencer’s A Pastor’s Sketches. It is the best definition of the purpose of the doctrine of predestination that I have yet read. It is unfortunate that so many look upon this doctrine as though God made some arbitrary decision who to save and who to condemn. In reality, it is the Great God of the Universe marking out a people to save in Christ in order to glorify Himself for all eternity.

“The Bible presents this doctrine of predestination, as I think, only for three purposes. First, to teach men the character of God—his grandeur, wisdom, and incomprehensibility; and thus, lead them to render to him the homage which belongs to him. If the doctrine is deep and mysterious, so is God. Whoever believes in the existence of God at all, believes in an infinite mystery. And since he is himself such a mystery, we ought to expert mystery in his plans and providence, and not quarrel where we ought to worship and bow down before him, filled with awe at his amazing grandeur.

“The second purpose is, to repress the audacity of the wicked. God would have the wicked know that they cannot outreach him—that with all their malignity, they cannot even sin but he will foil them. ‘He maketh the wrath of man to praise him, and the remainder of that wrath he will restrain.’ He lets them know that his eternal counsels are deeper than their malignity. If they will sin, he leads their mind back behind the curtain which veils his eternal majesty, and lets them know that his eternal plans are not to be thwarted by the wickedness of man or malice of devils. He shows them that his plans encompass them as with a net; that he has his hook in their nose, and his bridle in their mouth; ‘and that if they will sin, their malice will be foiled—they shall not sin an item but God will overrule it all for his glory, and all their disobedience and hardihood shall only defeat their own purposes, and bring just judgement on the heads of the willing perpetrators. You have an instance of this solemn and instructive use of the doctrine, when an apostle addresses the crucifiers of Christ: ‘Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.’ Their ‘wicked hands’ could only carry out his ‘determinate counsel.’ The counsel was his—the wickedness theirs. This doctrine shows the wicked that there is a plan which lies back of their wickedness—that they cannot overreach God, that they are hemmed in on every side by the plan and the predestination of the Eternal One.

“The third, and main purpose of this doctrines is, as I suppose, to comfort God’s people. The grand trial of life of religion is a trial of the heart. We have sins, we have weaknesses and temptations, which tend to a dreadful discouragement. Sin easily besets us. We easily wander from God. Holiness is an uphill work. Our feet often stagger in the path of our pilgrimage, and tears of bitterness gush from our eyes, lest such weak, and tempted, and erring creatures should never reach heaven. Devils tempt us. The world presents its deceitful allurements, and more deceitful and dangerous claims. What shall cheer us when our heart sinks within us? Whither shall we fly for comfort, when our hearts are bleeding, when our sins are so many, when our gain in holiness is so little, when our light goes out and the gloom of an impenetrable midnight settles down upon our poor and helpless soul?

“We cannot, indeed mount up to the inner sanctuary of God, open the seven-sealed book, and read our names recorded in it by the pen of the Eternal. But we can know that such a book is there; and that the pen of our Father has filled it with his eternal decrees, not one of which shall fail of accomplishment, as surely as his own throne shall stand. And when we find in our ourselves, amid our tearful struggles, even the feeble beginnings of holiness, we know that God has commenced his work for us—a work which he planned before the world was; and that he who has ‘begun a good work in us, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ,’ carrying into effect his eternal plan.

“Just as well as we know our election of God. We know that our holiness is his work, a work which he purposed from the beginning. If he had purposed it but just when he began it—if it were a work undertaken from some recent impulse, then we should have a good reason to fear that some other impulse would drive him to abandon it. But when we know it forms a part of his eternal counsels, and is no side work, no episode, no interlude, or sudden interposition not before provided for—then we are assured that God is not going to forsake us; and deep as is our home-bred depravity, and many and malignant as are our foes, we are cheered with the assurance, that God will bring us off victorious, and ‘the purpose according to election shall stand.’

“We love to see our salvation embraced in the eternal plan of God; and we know it is embraced there, if we are his children by faith in Christ Jesus. We cannot read his secret counsels; but we can read his spiritual workings in us. We know the counsels by the evidence of the workings; and then we are cheered and encouraged amid our trials, by the idea that God will no more abandon us than he will abandon the eternal plan which his wisdom formed before the foundation of the world. ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect’? He had their names in his book before they had shed a tear, before the devil existed to tempt them.”

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