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Let this doctrine be renounced and overthrown, and there remains nothing of any real importance or solidity in the universe. It is written, “ The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.” And can he be less unwise, who says with his tongue, there is a God, and yet denies the doctrine of his decrees? But who, that has any wisdom and goodness, can wish that this doctrine, which is the very foundation of the gospel, and of the whole glory of the universe, were untrue ? Every scheme of doctrine which excludes the decrees of God subverts the whole gospel, and strikes at the foundation of rational and revealed religion. And it must be essentially and fundamentally erroneous.
4. They who reject the doctrine of divine decrees must, to be consistent, wholly reject the gospel. The decrees of God exactly agree with his character, and perfectly exhibit his eternal and infinite greatness and goodness. They who oppose and reject the decrees of God, oppose and reject his real character. The whole conduct of God, in the wonders of creation, providence, and redemption, agrees exactly with his decrees. They who oppose and reject the decrees of God, oppose and reject his wise, holy, and sovereign agency. The decrees of God are his glory, and they who reject his decrees reject his glory. And when the character, conduct, and glory of God are rejected, what can be seen of God, either in creation, providence, or redemption ? It is absurd to suppose that any thing of the gospel of the grace of God can be supported, when his decrees, which are the foundation of the gospel, are rejected from the system of divine truth. Many persons, and not a small number of professed teachers of divine truth, can trace their declension and apostacy from sound doctrine to the rejection of the doctrine of divine decrees. Being displeased by this doctrine, they have turned from the infinite holiness and sovereignty of the living and true God. They have next turned from the divinity, mediation, and atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. They have then rejected the sovereign and special influence of the Holy Spirit in the sanctification of sinners. They have then discarded the essential difference between saints and sinners. They have then denied the doctrine of future and eternal rewards and punishments. They have next discarded the plenary inspiration of the scriptures. And having renounced in reality, if not in profession, the light of divine truth, they have groped at noonday as in the night; and have groped as though they had no eyes. Now can it be fully and clearly denied, that such persons as reject the doctrine of divine decrees, act consistently with themselves in their declension and apostacy from every doctrine of the gospel ? Having
rejected the foundation, how can they support any part of the superstructure? It is utterly impossible for such persons as reject the doctrine of divine decrees to maintain, systematically and consistently, any doctrine of the gospel.
5. It concerns all persons to attend seriously and candidly to the doctrine of divine decrees, in reference to their own character and condition. No person can be indifferent in respect to this subject. It brings God near to us, and places us, with all our interests, in his holy and sovereign hand. Nor is there any thing in the gospel which is wholly founded on the decrees of God, that can take us from the hand of our holy and sovereign Creator. Is it, then, the comfort and joy of our hearts, that God will deal with us, and dispose of us for ever, according to his eternal decrees? Can we perform any duty, can we have any true joy, or peace, or life, while our hearts rise against God, 6 who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will ?" Can we imagine that we love the gospel, while we reject and hate the doctrine of divine decrees, which are the eternal and immovable foundation of the whole gospel of the grace of God? Let no one deceive himself; and let no one be deceived by the vain and false notions of such religious professors, and of such professed teachers of the gospel, as oppose and reject the very foundation on which the whole gospel rests.
THE REVEALED WILL OF GOD THE ONLY RULE
The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are re. vealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may
do all the words of this law. - DEUT. xxix. 29.
It is a mark of the moral depravity of mankind, that they are generally more inquisitive to know their fortune, ihan to know their duty. They are much more solicitous to know what God intends, than what he requires. He has told them their duty, which they do not desire to know; but he has not told them their fortune, which they are fond of being told. This general propensity to know futurity has led the great mass of mankind, from age to age, to practice the grossest idolatry. When God led his people Israel out of Egypt by the hand of Moses, he gave them his written law at Mount Sinai, to prevent their conforming to the idolatrous nations through whom he was leading them, and among whom he was about to fix their permanent residence. This law they publicly and solemnly engaged to keep, at the very time it was given. But God knew their native propensity to disregard their most sacred vows and engagements, and therefore he commanded them to renew their covenant to obey his revealed will just before they entered into the land of promise. But still farther to guard them against seeking to magicians, astrologers, or soothsayers, to know things which God had not seen fit to reveal, Moses gave them the admonition in the text. “ The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us, and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law." The plain meaning of Moses is,
That the revealed will of God, and not his secret will, is the rule of duty. I shall,
I. Consider what the secret will of God respects.
III. Show that his revealed will, and not his secret will, is the rule of duty. .
I. We are to consider what the secret will of God respects. The text supposes that there are secret things in the mind of the Deity which he has not revealed; or that he has secret designs concerning future events, which he intends shall remain undisclosed until they are actually accomplished. Before the foundation of the world, he formed in his own mind a complete scheme of his own conduct through all future ages. This scheme comprehended all things that ever have been and ever will be brought into existence. His secret will solely respects the taking place of those things which he determined from eternity should take place, without any regard to the nature of them, whether morally good, or morally evil. It was his secret will that not only holiness and happiness, but that sin and misery also, should take place among his intelligent creatures. Though he loved only holiness and happiness, and perfectly hated sin and misery, yet he determined that both should take place. It was his secret will that Lucifer should rebel, and Adam should disobey, though he hated both the rebellion of Lucifer and the disobedience of Adam. It was his secret will that Judas should betray and Peter should deny Christ, though he hated the conduct of both Judas and Peter. It is his secret will that all the elect shall repent and believe, and that all the non-elect shall live and die in impenitence and unbelief, though he loves faith and repentance, and hates impenitence and unbelief. It always was, and is, and will be, his secret will that all things shall take place which he sees will best promote his own glory and the highest good of the universe, whether they are good or evil, right or wrong, in their own nature. The Assembly of divines have given a just and accurate definition of God's secret will. It is “the counsel of his own will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” His secret will entirely respects his decree, his purpose, his intention, or his determination, concerning the actual existence, or the actual taking place, of all things, in both the natural and moral world. Let us now consider,
II. What the revealed will of God respects. . It respects something very different from what his secret will respects. It respects what is right and wrong, what is good and evil, or what is duty and sin, without any regard to the taking place of these things. God has revealed in his word what is agreeable and disagreeable to him, in its own nature. His precepts require nothing but what is right and pleasing to him; and his prohibitions forbid nothing but what is morally wrong and displeasing to him. He has declared in his word that he shall be pleased with men if they are holy, but displeased with them if they are unholy. He has declared in his word that he will reward men if they are holy, but if they are unholy he will punish them. In this sense, the precepts and prohibitions of the divine law are a transcript of the divine character, or in other words, are holy, just and good. When God requires men to love him with all the heart, he lets them know that it is his pleasure that they should love him with all the heart, but not that it is his secret or decretive will that they should love him with all the heart; for in some cases it is his secret will that they should not love him with all the heart. And when he threatens to punish them for not loving him with all the heart, he lets them know that it is his disposition to punish them, but not that it is his intention or design to punish them, for not loving him with all the heart; for in some cases it is his secret will or design to save them from the punishment which he has threatened to inflict upon them for disobedience. So that his precepts and prohibitions in his word do not respect his secret or decretive will at all. They have no respect to the taking place of things, whether good or evil; but only to what is morally right and morally wrong, or what is, in itself considered, agreeable and disagreeable to him. We come
III. To show that God's revealed will, and not his secret will, is the rule of duty. And this will appear, if we consider,
1. That God has revealed his will in his word for the very purpose of giving us a rule of duty. So Moses 'expressly declares in the text. « The secret things belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” The law of God reveals to us what is pleasing and what is displeasing to him, and at the same time requires us to do what is pleasing and to avoid what is displeasing to him, which lays us under the strongest obligation to obedience. The law of God is a perfect rule of duty, and enforced by eternal rewards and punishments. This rule of duty is binding at all times and under all circumstances. No secret purpose, intention, or design of the Deity, can annul or diminish our obligation to obey, this his revealed will.
2. The will of God revealed in his word is a complete rule of duty. The apostle asserts that all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."