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

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    "I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace and create evil. I the Lord do all these things" (Isaiah 45:7).

    "And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?" (Daniel 4:36).

    "Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?" (Amos 3:6).

    "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father" (Matt. 10:29).

    "For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things" (Romans 11:36).

    "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).

    "That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt. 5:45).

    "Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" (Matt. 6:26, 28, 19, 30).

    "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jerem. 10:23).

    "O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in Mine hand, O house of Israel" (Jerem. 18:6).

    "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything, as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God" (2 Cor. 3:5).

    "Thou, even Thou, art Lord alone: Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and Thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth Thee" (Neh. 9:5).

    "And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet; and I will stretch out My hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of My people Israel" (Ezek. 14:6).

    "In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight" (Luke 10:21).

    "Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw His glory, and spake of Him" (John 12:32, 40, 41).

    "Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth" (Romans 9:18).

    "And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusions, that they should believe a lie; That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thess. 2:10-12).

    These passages will show the general tenor of scripture upon this subject.

    Different sense in which God purposes different events.

    1. The great end of all His works and ways He must have purposed positively, that is, absolutely. This end, namely His own good and the highest good of the universe, He set His heart upon securing. This end He no doubt properly intended, or purposed to secure. This must have been His ultimate intention or purpose. This end was no doubt a direct object of choice.

    2. God must no doubt also, in some sense, have purposed all the necessary means to this result. Such actions as tended naturally, or on account of their own nature, to this result, He must have purposed positively, in the sense that He delighted in them, and chose them because of their own nature, or of their natural relation to the great end He proposed to accomplish by them. Observe, the end was an ultimate end, delighted in and chosen for its own sake. This end was the highest good or well-being of Himself and the universe of sentient existences. This has been sufficiently shown in former lectures; and besides it follows of necessity from the nature and attributes of God. If this were not so, He would be neither wise nor good. Since He delighted in and those the end for its own sake or value, and purposed it with a positive purpose, He must also have chosen and delighted in the necessary means. He must have created the universe, both of matter and of mind, and established its laws, with direct reference to, and for the sake of, the end He purposed to accomplish. The end was valuable in itself, and chosen for that reason. The necessary means were as really valuable as the end which depended upon them. This value, though real, because of their tendency and natural results, is not ultimate, but relative; that is, they are not, in the same sense that the end is, valuable in themselves; but they being the necessary means to this end, are as really valuable as the end that depends upon them. Thus our necessary food is not valuable in itself, but is the necessary means of prolonging our lives. Therefore, though not an ultimate good, yet it is a real good of as great value, as the end that naturally depends upon it. The naturally necessary means of securing a valuable end we justly esteem as equally valuable with the end, although this value is not absolute but relative. We are so accustomed to set a value on the means, equal to the estimated importance of the end to which they sustain the relation of necessary means, that we come loosely to regard and to speak of them as valuable in themselves, when in fact their value is not absolute but relative. God must have purposed to secure, so far as He wisely could, obedience to the laws of the universe. These laws were established for the sake of the end to which they tended, and obedience to them must have been regarded by God as of real, though not ultimate, value, equal to that of the end, for the accomplishment of which they were ordained. He must have delighted in obedience to these laws for the sake of the end, and must have purposed to secure this obedience so far as He could in the nature of things; that is, in so far as He wisely could. Since moral law is a rule for the government of free moral agents, it is conceivable, that, in some cases, this law might be violated by the subjects of it, unless God resorted to means to prevent it, that might introduce an evil of greater magnitude than the violation of the law in the instances under consideration would be. It is conceivable, that, in some cases, God might be able so to overrule a violation of His laws, as upon the whole to secure a greater good than could be secured, by introducing such a change into the policy and measures of His administration, or so framing His administration, as to prevent altogether the violation of any law. In this case, He might regard the violation as the less of two evils and suffer it rather than change the arrangements of His government. He might sincerely deplore and abhor these violations of law, and yet might see it not wise to prevent them, because the measures necessary to prevent them might result in an evil of still greater magnitude. He might purpose to suffer these violations, and take the trouble to overrule them, so far as was possible, for the promotion of the end He had in view, rather than interpose for their prevention. These violations He might not have purposed in any other sense than that He foresaw them, and purposed not to prevent them, but on the contrary to suffer them to occur, and to overrule them for good, so far as this was practicable. These events, or violations of law, have no natural tendency to promote the highest well-being of God and of the universe, but have in themselves a directly opposite tendency. Nevertheless, God could so overrule them as that these occurrences would be a less evil than that change would be that could have prevented them. Violations of law then, He might have purposed only to suffer, while obedience to law He might have designed to produce or secure.

    3. We have seen, that God and men may have different motives for the same event, as in the case of the brethren of Joseph, already alluded to: "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).

    As also in the case of the king of Assyria: "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, neither doth his heart think 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).

    Also, "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 foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23).

    These, and such like instances, show that wicked agents may, and often do, and when wicked always do, entertain a very different reason for their conduct from what God entertains in suffering it. They have a selfish end in view, or do what they do for a selfish reason. God, on the contrary, has a benevolent end in view in not interposing to prevent their sin; that is, He hates their sin as tending in itself, to destroy, or defeat the great end of benevolence. But foreseeing that the sin, nevertheless its natural evil tendency, may be so overruled, as upon the whole to result in a less evil than the changes requisite to prevent it would, He benevolently prefers to suffer it rather than interpose to prevent it. He would, no doubt, prefer their perfect obedience, under the circumstances in which they are, but would sooner suffer them to sin, than so change the circumstances as to prevent it; the latter being, all things considered, the greater of two evils. God then always suffers His laws to be violated, because He cannot benevolently prevent it under the circumstances. He suffers it for benevolent reasons. But the sinner always has selfish reasons.

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