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  • PURPOSES OF GOD - A,
    CHARLES FINNEY SYS. THEOLOGY

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    In discussing this subject I shall endeavor to show,

    What I understand by the purposes of God. Purposes, in this discussion, I shall use as synonymous with design, intention. The purposes of God must be ultimate and proximate. That is, God has and must have an ultimate end. He must purpose to accomplish something by His works and providence, which He regards as a good in itself, or as valuable to Himself, and to being in general. This I call His ultimate end. That God has such an end or purpose, follows from the already established facts, that God is a moral agent, and that He is infinitely wise and good. For surely He could not be justly considered as either wise or good, had He no intrinsically valuable end which He aims to realize, by His works of creation and providence. His purpose to secure His great and ultimate end, I call His ultimate purpose. His proximate purposes respect the means by which He aims to secure His end. If He purposes to realize an end, He must of course purpose the necessary means for its accomplishment. The purposes that respect the means are what I call in this discussion, His proximate purposes.

    Distinction between purpose and decree.

    Purpose has just been defined, and the definition need not be repeated. The term decree is used in a variety of senses. The term is used in the Bible as synonymous:

    1. With foreordination or determination, appointment.

    "He putteth forth His hand upon the rock; he overturneth the mountains by the roots. When He made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder" (Job 28:10, 26).

    "I will declare the decree, the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my son; this day have I begotten Thee" (Psalms 11:2).

    "He hath also established them for ever and ever; He hath made a decree which shall not pass" (Psalms 148:6).

    "When He gave to the sea His decree, that the waters should not pass His commandment; when He appointed the foundations of the earth" (Prov. 8:29).

    "Fear ye not Me?, saith the Lord: Will ye not tremble at My presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea, by a perpetual decree that it cannot pass it, and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?" (Jerem. 5:22).

    "This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king" (Daniel 4:24).

    2. It is used as synonymous with ordinance, statute, law.

    "All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counselors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. I make a decree, that in every dominion of My kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel; for He is the living God, and steadfast for ever, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall be even unto the end" (Daniel 6:7-8, 26).

    This term has been generally used by theological writers as synonymous with fore-ordination, appointment. To decree, with these writers, is to appoint, ordain, establish, settle, fix, render certain. This class of writers also often confound decree with purpose, and use the word as meaning the same thing. I see no objection to using the term decree, in respect to a certain class of physical events, as synonymous with appointment, foreordination, fixing, rendering certain. But I think this use of it, applied, as it has been, to the actions of moral agents, is highly objectionable, and calculated to countenance the idea of fatality and necessity, in respect to the actions of men. It seems inadmissible to speak of God's decreeing the free actions of moral agents, in the sense of fixing, settling, determining foreordaining them as He fixes, settles, renders certain all physical events. The latter He has fixed or rendered certain by a law of necessity. The former, that is, free acts, although they may be, and are certain, yet they are not rendered so by a law of fate or necessity; or by an ordinance or decree that fixes them so, that it is not possible they should be otherwise.

    In respect to the government of God, I prefer to use the term purpose, as I have said, to signify the design of God, both in respect to the end at which He aims, and the means He intends or purposes to use to accomplish it. The term decree I use as synonymous with command, law, or ordinance. The former I use as expressive of what God purposes or designs to do Himself, and by His own agency, and also what He purposes or designs to accomplish by others. The latter I use as expressive of God's will, command, or law. He regulates His own conduct and agency in accordance with the former, that is, with His purposes. He requires His creatures to conform to the latter, that is, to His decrees or laws. We shall see, in its proper place, that both His purposes and His actions are conformed to the spirit of His decrees, or laws; that is, that He is benevolent in His purposes and conduct, as He requires His creatures to be. I distinguish what God purposes or designs to accomplish by others, and what they design. God's end or purpose is always benevolent. He always designs good. His creatures are often selfish, and their designs are often the direct opposite to the purpose of God, even in the same events. For example, see the following cases:

    "And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you; and they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. Now therefore, be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you, to preserve life. For these two years hath the famine been in the land, and yet there are five years, in the which there shall neither be earing nor harvest" (Gen. 45:4-6).

    "And Joseph said unto them, Fear not; for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive" (Gen. 1:19-20).

    "O Assyrian, the rod of Mine anger, and the staff in their hand is Mine indignation. I will send him against a hypocritical nation, and against the people of My wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. However he meaneth not so, but it is in his heart to destroy, and cut off nations not a few. Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed His whole work upon Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks" (Isaiah 10:5-7, 12).

    "But Pilate answered them, saying, Will ye that I release unto you the king of the Jews? (For he knew that the chief priests had delivered Him for envy)" (Mark 15:9-10).

    "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

    "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and fore-knowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23).

    There must be some sense in which God's purposes extend to all events.

    1. This is evident from reason. His plans must, in some sense, include all actual events. He must foreknow all events by a law of necessity. This is implied in His omniscience. He must have matured and adopted His plan in view of, and with reference to, all events. He must have had some purpose or design respecting all events that He foresaw. All events transpire in consequence of His own creating agency; that is, they all result in some way directly or indirectly, either by His design or sufferance, from His own agency. He either designedly brings them to pass, or suffers them to come to pass without interposing to prevent them. He must have known that they would occur. He must have either positively designed that they should, or, knowing that they would result from the mistakes or selfishness of His creatures, negatively designed not to prevent them, or, He had no purpose or design about them. The last hypothesis is plainly impossible. He cannot be indifferent to any event. He knows all events, and must have some purpose or design respecting them.

    2. The Bible abundantly represents God's purposes as in some sense extending to all events. For example:

    "He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are judgment; a God of truth, and without iniquity; just and right is He" (Deut. 32:4).

    "O Lord, how wonderful are Thy works; in wisdom hast Thou made them all; the earth is full of Thy riches" (Psalms 104:24).

    "Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with Thee; Thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass" (Job 14:5).

    "This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations" (Isaiah 19:26).

    "And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation" (Acts 17:26).

    "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Eph. 1:11).

    "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and fore-knowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23).

    "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 gathered together, For to do whatever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done" (Acts 4:27-28).

    "And when they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulcher" (Acts 13:29).

    "For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God, into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 4).

    "For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil His will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled" (Rev. 17:17).

    "And now I exhort you to be of good cheer; for there shall be no loss of any man's life among yon, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not Paul, thou must be brought before Caesar; and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under color as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved" (Acts 37:22-24, 30-31).

    "But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth" (2 Thess. 2:13).

    "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:2).

    "Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains. He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry. He sendeth forth His commandment upon earth; His word runneth very swiftly. He giveth snow like wool; He scattereth the hoar-frost like ashes. He casteth forth His ice like morsels; who can stand before His cold? He sendeth out His word and melteth them, He causeth His winds to blow, and the waters flow" (Psalms 147:8, 9, 15-18).

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