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    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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God Governs

English: Source: http://homepage.mac.com/shane...

God is in every experience, working according to his good pleasure and purpose from the beginning to the fullness of time. According to A. A. Hodge:

Providence, as made known to us in Scripture, history and our religious experience, includes two distinct exercises of the divine energy: (1st) preservation, and (2d) government.

Preservation is the continuous exercise of the divine omnipotence through successive duration upholding all creatures in being and in power. . . . All atoms of matter and all created spirits live and move and have all their being and the unfailing spring of all their energies in him only. If he should withdraw his supporting power, the whole dependent universe would lapse into non-being immediately.

Government includes God’s control of all the activities of all his creatures of every kind, and his direction of them toward the fulfilling of his one eternal plan. That God has one universal plan which he executes with undeviating purpose in all his works of creation and of providence is made very certain, first, from the fact that he is an infinite Intelligence acting from eternity before all worlds, and absolutely unconditioned by any facts or powers external to himself.

Secondly, from all that the Scriptures teach us as to his sovereignty, eternal foreknowledge, and as to making his own glory the single end of all things. And thirdly, the same fact is obviously exhibited in the unexceptional experience of all generations of men, and the revelations of modern science, exhibiting the absolutely unbroken continuity of thought and purpose and of divine superintendence and control in the whole universe, in all its parts and during all its successive ages. . . .

God effectually governs all his creatures and all their actions by a method to us inscrutable, but certainly consistent with his own perfections and with their properties and laws. This government is revealed in the Scriptures and in our experience to be universal, certainly efficient, holy, benevolent and wise. (“The Scriptural Doctrine of Divine Providence”)

Providence, Prophets, and Pretenders

We are often careless Christians when it comes to attributing the reasons behind certain acts of God’s providential workings. A. A. Hodge offers this explanation:

There are two extreme tendencies to which different persons are inclined when regarding the course of events in the world, each of which is evidently false when exclusively indulged, but both of which together, when combined, lead to the true attitude which every Christian should cultivate: the view of the mere naturalist, in which the supernatural is altogether merged in the natural, and, conversely, the view of the pantheist, in which the natural is altogether merged in the supernatural. And these apparently opposite extremes virtually come to the same thing, because they both equally exclude a personal God and human freedom, and maintain a naturalistic fatalism. But both present a side of the one truth. The natural is the fixed and regulated method which the personal heavenly Father has laid down for his own guidance; the supernatural does neither exclude nor supersede the natural, but it is the self-revelation of the heavenly Father, who works through natural law, as the personal Agent who, having ordained law, uses it to accomplish his spiritual purposes. The universe has a personal basis. The laws of nature are the methods self-ordained of a personal Agent. The true scientists are the sons of God, who were not created for the laws of nature, but the laws of nature for them.

After the Charleston earthquakethe Christian preachers endeavored to enforce upon their hearers the scriptural lessons of the event viewed as a divine dispensation. The visiting scientists are represented as

having scoffed contemptuously, maintaining that the preachers should have confined themselves to an exposition of the laws of nature and drawn comfort from the proven exceptional character of such experiences. These men of mere science may have been able and useful in their narrow specialty, but they were certainly very absurd philosophers. They were perfectly right in confining their own investigations to the scientific aspects of the phenomena, and the preachers had an equal authority in calling the attention of the Christian people to the aspect which the light of the inspired Scriptures, when thrown upon the providential facts, presented. We say, advisedly, that the preachers’ authority in the premises is limited to the application of the light of the inspired Scriptures to the current facts. They have no right to assume the role of prophets, as too many are at times inclined to do; and no man not the subject of plenary inspiration should dare to explain the ultimate divine purpose in any particular event or its relation to human guilt. The Master himself said, “Suppose ye that those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell were sinners above all men that dwell in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay; but except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4-5). (“The Scripture Doctrine of Divine Providence”)

General and Special Providence

The true Christian mind finds equally in all things, including the important and unimportant, the divine presence and supreme control of our heavenly Father. According to A. A. Hodge:

The word PROVIDENCE means, first, to see beforehand, and then to exercise all that care and control which God’s infinite prevision of his own ends and his knowledge of his appointed instrumentalities may suggest. . . .

Our term “providence,” then, includes generally the entire sum of all God’s activities exterior to himself and subsequent to creation through all time. . . .

The fact that we cannot understand the modus operandi of God in his works of grace or of miracle can be no objection to the admission of their reality to the man who believes in the reality of God’s ordinary providence without being able to explain its method. We know that God’s methods of operation, whether natural or supernatural, whether in the forms of ordinary providence, of grace or of miracle, are all carried on simultaneously, are all mutually harmonious, are all the activities of one and the same infinite Agent and in the execution of one all comprehensive plan. . . .

[T]he providence of God in all its modes, whether natural or supernatural, whether ordinary, gracious or miraculous, must be, all and several, the execution of one single indivisible plan. There can be no real incongruities or antagonisms between the natural and the supernatural or between ordinary providence and grace. God, being eternal and infinite in knowledge and wisdom, sees the end from the beginning. . . .

Hence it follows with equal certainty that the providence of God must be universal. It must comprehend in its grasp equally every agent and every event without the least discontinuity or exception. One event is never in any degree more providential than any other event. There prevails a very unintelligent and really irreligious habit among many true Christians of passing unnoticed the evidence of God’s presence in the ordinary course of nature, and of recognizing it on the occasion of some event specially involving their supposed interests, as if it were special and unusual. They will say of some sudden, scarcely hoped for deliverance from danger, “Why, I think I may venture to say it was really providential.” But would it have been any the less providential if they had been destroyed and not delivered? Would it have been any the less providential if they had not been in jeopardy at all and had needed no deliverance? …

God is in the atom just as really and effectually as in the planet. He is in the unobserved sighing of the wind in the wilderness as in the earthquake which overthrows a city full of living men, and his infinite wisdom and power are as much concerned in the one event as in the other.

There is a distinction to be observed between God’s natural providence, which is universal and ordinary, and his supernatural providence, which is occasional and special. His natural providence is equally in every thing and event, but his grace and his supernatural intervention are in one event and not in another, at one time and not at another. It is proper, therefore, to distinguish his natural providence as general, and his grace or his supernatural providence as special. But it is essential to understand that in the ordinary sense of providence relating to the course of events in our natural lives, the common distinction between general and special providence is unintelligent and irreligious. All God’s providence is at the same time both general and special, and general because it is special, and special because it is general. . . . That which controls the every link controls the whole chain. That which controls the movement of every atom controls the whole world. That which controls the thought and volition of every man controls the entire course of human history. God does not come down from above upon the course of our lives in spots. His whole infinite being dwells everlastingly in each atom and each spirit. (“The Scripture Doctrine of Divine Providence”)

The Comfort Of Trusting In God’s Providence

In our study of the providence of God, there is one expectation that should be clear to everyone: God expects Christians to have a steady commitment to His glory. This must shape your worldview because it is the guiding principle of your conduct. If God’s glory is accepted as the greatest purpose of your life, then you will be a useful servant to God. Trust God, acknowledge His Word, seek His Wisdom, and His Sovereignty by obeying Him and being thankful for His Providential care. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

God has committed His kingdom of providence, as well as of grace, into the hands of our exalted Savior: Jesus Christ has all the power in heaven and earth to give eternal life to as many as are given Him. If providence brings a difficult situation into your life, the love that is in Christ should and will make for a contented spirit until a way of escape is provided. When different and difficult choices must be made; God’s Providence has brought the Christian into such difficulty in order to enhance and grow our love for His Name, His Word, and His Glory. We should always look at these trying circumstances as occasions to wait upon the Lord and to trust in His Providential care.

God’s love for us in Jesus Christ and a realistic understanding that providence is within God’s absolute control, is our affirmation of Christ’s Honor. It will keep our torch of faith from failing and our souls from being bitter because providence seems to have afflicted us. Such conformity in faith is very desirable. Providence brings the effect of God’s Spirit upon the heart and soul.

Too often, Christians wish to see in what providence has provided an immediate message to their personal concerns. Yet the outcome of the work may be years away from understanding its end. Do not long too hard for immediate signs from God. Begin to wait upon the Lord and He will share His Wisdom at just the right time. Often, we are self-deluding when we too quickly see a spiritual answer to our present circumstances.

Christian, if you love God, you must trust in His Providential care. Accept and believe in His Providential care. Know that whatever circumstances may befall you, that His Providence will eventually work it out to your good. Remember Joseph; his trial lasted a good deal longer than a few days, weeks, or months. Years later, he understood God’s plan perfectly.

Love God’s Providence, for it is His love and care for you. Know that you are completely in His hands. He will never let go of you. He will never leave or forsake you. I pray that the comfort of God’s Providential care will fill all of us completely.

The United States Congress Proclaims A Day Of Thanksgiving In 1783

1783

By the United States in Congress assembled.

A PROCLAMATION.

Whereas it hath pleased the Supreme Ruler of all human events, to dispose the hearts of the late belligerent powers to put a period to the effusion of human blood, by proclaiming a cessation of all hostilities by sea and land, and these United States are not only happily rescued from the dangers distresses and calamities which they have so long and so magnanimously sustained to which they have been so long exposed, but their freedom, sovereignty and independence ultimately acknowledged by the king of Great Britain. And whereas in the progress of a contest on which the most essential rights of human nature depended, the interposition of Divine Providence in our favor hath been most abundantly and most graciously manifested, and the citizens of these United States have every possible reason for praise and gratitude to the God of their salvation. Impressed, therefore, with an exalted sense of the magnitude of the blessings by which we are surrounded, and of our entire dependence on that Almighty Being, from whose goodness and bounty they are derived, the United States in Congress assembled do recommend it to the several States, to set apart the second Thursday in December next, as a day of public thanksgiving, that all the people may then assemble to celebrate with one voice grateful hearts and united voices, the praises of their Supreme and all bountiful Benefactor, for his numberless favors and mercies. That he hath been pleased to conduct us in safety through all the perils and vicissitudes of the war; that he hath given us unanimity and resolution to adhere to our just rights; that he hath raised up a powerful ally to assist us in supporting them, and hath so far crowned our united efforts with success, that in the course of the present year, hostilities have ceased, and we are left in the undisputed possession of our liberties and independence, and of the fruits of our own land, and in the free participation of the treasures of the sea; that he hath prospered the labor of our husbandmen with plentiful harvests; and above all, that he hath been pleased to continue to us the light of the blessed gospel, and secured to us in the fullest extent the rights of conscience in faith and worship. And while our hearts overflow with gratitude, and our lips set forth the praises of our great Creator, that we also offer up fervent supplications, that it may please him to pardon all our offenses, to give wisdom and unanimity to our public councils, to cement all our citizens in the bonds of affection, and to inspire them with an earnest regard for the national honor and interest, to enable them to improve the days of prosperity by every good work, and to be lovers of peace and tranquillity; that he may be pleased to bless us in our husbandry, our commerce and navigation; to smile upon our seminaries and means of education, to cause pure religion and virtue to flourish, to give peace to all nations, and to fill the world with his glory.

Done by the United States in Congress assembled, witness his Excellency Elias Boudinot, our President, this 18th day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-three, and of the sovereignty and independence of the United States of America the eighth.

Blessings And Human Effort

Samuel Davies

The necessity for God’s blessing is clearly asserted in the Scriptures. Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:44) This is not just a blessing of enablement, but also a blessing of free grace accomplished by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For once the inclination of the heart has been changed by grace: “All that the Father gives me will come to me,” says Jesus, “and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37) On November 19th, 1752, Samuel Davies preached on the need for divine influence upon all the works of men at a church in Hanover County, Virginia:

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:7)

[T]he promises of God to bestow blessings upon us, do not render needless our most vigorous endeavors to obtain them; and, on the other hand, that our most vigorous endeavors do not supersede the influences of the Spirit to work in us the dispositions we are laboring after. . . .

This may be illustrated by various instances. God commands us strictly to circumcise the foreskins of our hearts, to make ourselves new hearts and new spirits, Jeremiah 4:4, and to cleanse ourselves from mortal pollution, Isaiah 1:16, as if this were wholly our work, and he had no efficiency in it. In the meantime, he promises us absolutely to circumcise our hearts to love him, to give us new hearts, and to purge us from all our filthiness, and from all our abominations, as though he performed all the work without our using means. Now we are sure these things are consistent; for the sacred oracles are not a heap of contradictions. And how does their consistency appear? Why, thus: It is our duty to use the most vigorous endeavors to obtain these graces promised, because it is only in the use of vigorous endeavors that we have reason to expect divine influences. And yet those endeavors of ours do not in the least work those graces in us, and therefore there is certainly as much need of the promised agency of divine grace to effect the work, as if we should do nothing at all. Our utmost endeavors fall entirely short of it, and do not entitle us to divine assistance; and this we must have an humble sense of, before we can receive the accomplishment of such promises as the effect of free grace alone. But we should continue in these endeavors, because we have no reason to hope for the accomplishment of the promises in a course of sloth and negligence.

This point may be illustrated by the consistency of the use of means and the agency of providence in the natural world. God has peremptorily promised, that while the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest shall not cease, Genesis 8:22. But this promise does not render it needless for us to cultivate the earth; nor does all our cultivation render this promise needless: for all our labor would be in vain without the influence of divine providence; and this influence is to be expected only in the use of labor. Thus, in the moral world, the efficacy belongs to God, as much as if we made no use of means at all; and the most vigorous endeavors are as much our duty as if we could effect the work ourselves, and he had no special hand in it. Were this remark attended to, it would guard us against the pernicious extremes of turning the grace of God into wantonness, and pleading it as an excuse for our idleness; and of self-righteousness, and depending upon our own endeavors. In this guarded manner does Paul handle this point: Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do, of his good pleasure, Philippians 2:12-13. (“The Success of the Ministry of the Gospel, Owing to a Divine Influence”)

The Permissive Providence Of God

B.H. Carroll

Does the providence of God sometimes keep us from sinning? What happens when God lifts His providential care from protecting us against sin? As you read the following, please keep this verse in mind, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” (James 1:13-14) B.H. Carroll (1843-1914) explains:

The permissive providence of God is simply God’s not putting forth His preventive force; that is all. We sometimes see that God permits a man to sin who has been hindered a week, a year, two years, five years. He has tried hard hitherto to do this mean, devilish thing and God has withheld opportunity. God has brought in somebody or something to interrupt him.

Some force visible or [supernatural] has stayed his hand. But he incorrigibly followed after that sin until at last God said, “Now I will just remove my prevention, I will not incite him, but I will break down my hedge of thorns.”

God never tempts to sin. That is what is called “letting a man alone,” “leaving him to his own devices.” God says to His Spirit, “Let him alone. You have been preventing. You have been guarding. You have been hedging. And he fights against the restraint and bruises himself against the hedge, and manifests an incorrigible spirit to go on and commit this offense. Now, if he will, let him go his way. I will call him no more. I will visit him neither by day nor by night. So far as that providence is concerned which has hovered over him and kept him back from presumptuous sin, I will take it away. Now, sinner, commit thy sin.” That is permissive providence.

The case of a good man, Hezekiah, is an example. He had grown unmindful of God’s care for him and got to thinking that he was holding himself up until it became necessary to teach him a lesson. The Scriptures tell us, in the 32nd chapter of 2 Chronicles, how this man, who it seemed could not make a mistake, that went along accomplishing everything he wished, until he really thought that he was infallible and invincible, all at once stumbled and fell, as much to his own surprise as to the wonder of others.

God explains it to him. He had let him alone for a little season to show him that his help was in the Lord. It needed to be done. It was a part of God’s discipline. So dealt the Lord with David, another good man. David knew his fundamental principles of divine government, that as power rested in God it made no difference about numbers; that the Lord could work with a few people; that one could chase a thousand and two could put ten thousand to flight. But David got into his mind a vain conceit that frequently misleads modern Christians – pride in numbers: “I have a large people now, let us count them and glory in their multitude.”

Seeing David’s bent, the Lord took away the hedge and let him do what he pleased. One scripture expresses it, “The Lord moved David to number Israel,” while another, referring to the same event, says, “Satan moved David to number Israel.” And the question is, “How can both be true?” The answer is this: Satan had been trying to move him to do that for a long while and Satan could not make him do it because this intervening providence of God had kept him from it. Now when God just gets out of the way, Satan gets in and you may say the Lord moved, or the Lord permitted it to be done. Satan moved him. He would have moved him sooner if God had permitted. (“The Providence of God”)

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

What Is The Providence Of God?

B.H. Carroll

God administers all of creation; everything is subordinated to His Will. Yet, as much as this is a mystery to us, God’s Will is continuously and effectively, the all- comprehensive power that makes all events in the physical and moral universe fulfill the purpose for which He created it. B.H. Carroll (1843-1914) shares the following insights into the Providence of God:

If the foundations be destroyed what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3)

I do not understand this question to imply that the foundations can be destroyed, except in the fears of the righteous. But whenever, in the mind of a righteous person there is distrust as to the stability of the foundation of his hope, and then he may well say, “What can I do?” Just to the extent of our distrust of the foundations is the despondency with which we look upon the tangled and conflicting affairs of this life. All our heartiness in work, boldness in enterprise, endurance of affliction, persistence in effort, and courage in danger is measured by the degree of our faith in the stability of the foundations upon which the Christian religion stands.

If the issues of life are determined by fate or chance, there are no foundations. In the one case we become the effortless children of apathy upon whom no responsibility devolves, our only consolation being the Oriental proverb, “Kismet.” In the other case we become the devotees of ephemeral pleasure with no higher watchword than, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

Hence my theme today: The Providence of God is the Christian’s foundation. Under these three – Fate, Chance and Divine Providence may be grouped all the theories and philosophies of life. There is no room for another classification. . . .

Objectively, this foundation [Providence] will be considered in this sermon as impregnable and indestructible. But subjectively, that is in the minds of God’s people, the foundation may oftentimes seem to shake. It is not affirmed that this timorous apprehension is the habitual state of mind of even the weakest of God’s people, but that even with the strongest and bravest, in exceptional emergencies, there may be temporary distrust. This distrust again is more in practice than in theory. . . .

What does the doctrine of Providence imply? It implies the being of God, that there is a God. It implies that this God possesses all of the requisite attributes of Deity; that is, omniscience, knowing all things; omnipotence, having all power; omnipresence, being everywhere; and holiness and love. It implies that such a God, having the attributes of omniscience and omnipotence and omnipresence and holiness and love, created the universe, brought into being everything that you see – what is above us, what is below us, ourselves. It implies that this intelligent and powerful and benevolent being brought into existence everything that is. In other words, that God created this universe with all its creatures.

This implication denies atheism by assuming the being of God. It denies polytheism, for but one being can possess the divine attributes. It denies materialism and pantheism by assuming God’s existence before matter and His creation of it. . . .

Providence is God’s continual oversight or government of the universe He created. To enlarge somewhat, the term, Providence, expresses the divine agency in the direction, control and issue of all the events in the physical and moral universe. All of them? Yes. Does He direct every event in the physical world? Every one. . . .

He directs every event in the physical world. I do not refer simply to the events that relate to the spheres in their magnitude and in their movements. I refer to the most infinitesimal detail, minutia that takes place in the whole physical world. He has just that kind of direction in the moral world, as it relates to human beings and angelic intelligences; that it is not only direction but control; that it is not only control, but that it governs the issue, the direction, the control, the issue or outcome of all events in the physical and in the moral universe.

In other words, having created the universe, He governs the universe. He did not make the world and wind it up like a clock and go to sleep and let it run itself. I mean that His direction and control and government of the issue apply to all forces that are in operation in the physical world, otherwise called laws of nature. They are nothing more than the expressions of the divine will.

Thomas Boston On God’s Providence

Thomas Boston

God’s providence is often difficult for us to understand intellectually or experimentally. We simply do not see things in the moment as God sees them in eternity. Therefore, we should not judge the providence of God harshly. Thomas Boston offers below some sound advice concerning the providence of God:

Beware of drawing an excuse for your sin from the providence of God; for it is most holy, and is in no way any cause of any sin you commit. Every sin is an act of rebellion against God; a breach of his holy law, and deserves his wrath and curse; and therefore cannot be authorized by an infinitely-holy God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity without detestation and abhorrence. Though he has by a permissive decree allowed moral evil to be in the world, yet that has no influence on the sinner to commit it. For it is not the fulfilling of God’s decree, which is an absolute secret to every mortal, but the gratification of their own lusts and perverse inclinations, that men intend and mind in the commission of sin.

Beware of murmuring and fretting under any dispensations of providence that you meet with; remembering that nothing falls out without a wise and holy providence, which knows best what is fit and proper for you. And in all cases, even in the middle of the most afflicting incidents that happen to you, learn submission to the will of God, as Job did, when he said upon the end of a series of the heaviest calamities that happened to him, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord,” Job, I. 21. In the most distressing case, say with the disciples, “The will of the Lord be done,” Acts, 21:14.

Beware of anxious cares and fearfulness about your material well-being in the world. Our Lord has cautioned his followers against, Matt. 6:31. “Take no thought, (that is, anxious and perplexing thought,) saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” Never let the fear of man stop you from duty, Matt. 10:28, 29; but let your souls learn to trust in God, who guides and superintends all the events and administrations of providence, by whatever hands they are performed.

Do not think little of means, seeing God works by them; and he that has appointed the end, orders the means necessary for gaining the end. Do not rely upon means, for they can do nothing without God, Matt. 4:4. Do not despair if there be no means, for God can work without them, as well as with them; Hosea 1:7. “I will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.” If the means be unlikely, he can work above them, Rom. 4:19. “He considered not his own body now dead, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb.” If the means be contrary, he can work by contrary means, as he saved Jonah by the whale that devoured him. That fish swallowed up the prophet, but by the direction of providence, it vomited him out upon dry land.

Lastly, Happy is the people whose God is the Lord: for all things shall work together for their good. They may sit secure in exercising faith upon God, come what will. They have good reason for prayer; for God is a prayer-hearing God, and will be enquired of by his people as to all their concerns in the world. And they have ground for the greatest encouragement and comfort in the middle of all the events of providence, seeing they are managed by their covenant God and gracious friend, who will never neglect or overlook his dear people, and whatever concerns them. For he has said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you,” Heb. 13:5.

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