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THE GOSPEL MESSENGER—February 1889

By Elder F.A. Chick

“The Divine predestination and sovereignty in the betrayal and cruci­fixion of Jesus”

DEAR BRETHREN: My mind has recently been very sweetly and pleasantly occupied in the contemplation of this theme, and in looking up in the scriptures of the Old Testament, the many prophecies concerning it, together with the record of their fulfillment in the New Testament, I do not see how any child of God can fail to be filled with a desire to look into this theme; and with gratitude and adoring wonder at the depth of riches which it contains. If for no other reason, surely he in must find pleasure in such a contemplation, because here the hidden wisdom of God shines forth, and because here also is his own salvation. From such a con­templation the child of God must turn away well assured that in all this there is no chance work, and that every step of the way only displays the perfect wisdom, the eternal purpose, and the almighty power of God. Whatever of mystery may be involved; what­ever questions may arise, unsolvable by the mightiest mind, it is still evident, from a contemplation of the scriptures, that the only self-existent being is God. All other things began to be, and without God they never could have existed. We must regard Him as the author of all, and as the upholder of all, or else we allow the claim of some other being to be self-existent, and there­fore equal in power and might to God. These all are mere statements of facts of Bible authority. Many questions arise here that only eternity can disclose. If, on the other hand, we teach the existence of another being, who is independent of God, we find still other questions assailing us which it is equally impossible for us to answer. What the Bible declares must be accepted as truth, while we humbly confess our inability to comprehend it, I would, in regard to this, but just call attention to this one thought, viz: that it is just as impossible, for us to comprehend the idea of perfect goodness permitting sin when there was power to prevent it, as to see how absolute justice could decree a wicked act, and yet hold the doer of that act to account­ability for it. It is as hard to see how God could per­mit evil and yet be just and good, as to see how he could decree its existence and yet remain holy and just. I merely suggest this to show what mystery surrounds us when we contemplate God and his works.

Whatever may be thought about other things, it will be surely admitted by all who have an experience of grace, that all things that in any way relate to the present condition and future salvation of God’s elect, were appointed before the world was. From the election of vessels of mercy out from the rest of fallen men to their final glory, every step of each one of them was ordained, and so fixed that it must tend to the accomplishment of the purpose of God in their behalf. And this was not an appointment of them in the gen­eral mass, or as a body made up of undetermined indi­viduals, but an appointment of the exact number of units of which the whole is composed. The election is the election of persons, and those persons sinners. God did not choose characters, but persons; he did not choose spirits or angels, but men; he did not choose saints, but sinners, to the end that they might become saints; he did not choose us after we believed, but before we were made of the dust of the ground—yea before the dust itself began to exist; he did not choose us in our own selves, but in Christ. (See Eph. 1st chapter and first five verses.) Now, here surely was divine sovereignty and predestination in the choice of here and there one who afterward should be called to love and serve God. The scriptures also teach that these persons are no more surely chosen than it is sure they shall be finally glori­fied. See Rom. viii. 29, 30. The time of their second birth is also appointed of God; so also is the time of the first or natural birth. And a bound is set to the steps of every man that he cannot pass.

No more surely is the end of his life appointed than that these bounds are on each side of his path; and surely if God has fixed the end of man’s life—the day and the hour when he shall go hence—he has also fixed the manner of his going—whether by chariot, of fire or by the cross—and if the beginning and end of man’s life are ap­pointed, it must also be true that all the pathway to the goal is appointed, and that our God sees to it that our feet tread that way. (I am not so sure about this—I would say that these things were foreknown, but not appointed—DM)

Let us think for a moment of the infinite foreknowl­edge and wisdom that must be embraced when it can be said that the exact moment when a man shall die is known. Think of the multiplied millions of acts, words, thoughts, passions, persons and things which have all had their influence in making that man what he is, mentally, morally and spiritually; which have surrounded and filled him with influences, all of which have helped to fix the time and manner of his death. And all this must certainly be known ere the point at which they culminate can be foreseen and known. Take Paul, for instance; The very moment of his call by grace and of his death, were known and ordained of God; think, then, of the train of circumstances which led to that result; and some of those things were sins, in him or in others, yet all were needful, all were in the plan of God. The very things that men meant for evil, God meant for good; God purposed them and man performed them; man thought he was doing only his own will, but instead he was doing the will of God. Can we not believe that it is always so, in all cases, with all men? It is my comfort and joy to believe this. And so “God works in a mysterious way his wonders to perform.” Behind the wrath of man he hides his gracious purposes. We see the wrath of man and are afraid, not knowing that these clouds are the chariots of God.

But more especially does the divine sovereignty and predestination appear in the last hours of our blessed Saviour; and this it was in my mind to write about. (I would not use the expression “predestination” here; a better and less confusing one would be “decree.” There are certainly things that God decrees to happen and these decrees will most certainly come to pass; but to say “predestinate” leads to confusion and strife—David Montgomery) Wicked men, with wicked hands and hearts, meaning evil, yet fulfilled the scriptures, and without meaning it, wrought out the purpose of God; filled with rage against Jesus and his salvation, they yet did that with­out which Jesus could not have been exalted a prince and a Saviour to give repentance unto Israel and the forgiveness of sins. Thus shall it ever be; all that men do against the truth shall advance the truth. In all these things we are more than conquerors through Jesus. This was the secret of the perfect submission of the Lord, and of his infinite calmness. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross and despised the shame. The joy was that the worst his enemies could do hut hastened the fulfillment of his joy, and gave him the sooner to see of the travail of his soul, and to be satisfied. All was working out the will of God, and fulfilling his word in the scriptures. Let us refer to some of them: “It pleased the Lord to bruise him.”—Isaiah liii. 10. “I will smite the shepherd.”—Zach. xiii. 7. “Thus it must be,” to fulfill the scriptures.—Matt. xxvi. 54 “This all was done that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.”— Matt. xxvi. 56. “The Son of Man goeth as was deter­mined.”—Luke xxii. 22. “Jesus knowing all that should come upon him.”—John xviii. 4. “All was determined of God beforehand.”—Acts ii. 23; iii. 18; iv. 26, 28. Surely if these scriptures teach anything, they show that every step that the Saviour trod, every pain that he suffered, every blow that he received, all that was done to him by the hands of wicked men, was or­dained beforehand of God. And those who were doing these things were unconsciously doing the will of God. I remember that I used to think that if Jesus’ followers had all been true, he need not have died. I always read this narrative of Jesus’ sufferings and death with an inward feeling of rebellion against it. But we read that once when the Lord had spoken of his death, Peter began to rebuke him, and to say that this should not be; but the Lord said unto him, “Get thee behind me, satan, for thou art an offense to me, for thou savorest not of the things that be of God, but of the things that Le of men.” The will of God was that Jesus should be crucified, and Peter must not say no; to do so is to oppose the will of God, and to be an offense to Jesus.

Now let us notice the minute things connected with the crucifixion of Jesus, which all were prophesied of, and which all must be fulfilled. I quote from the Old Testament. By reading the last chapters of the four gospels it will be seen that every one was exactly ful­filled; all were decreed of God; they must be done. (I wish he would stick to using the expression “decree” as he did here, but alas, he does not—DM) Men did them with wicked hands, but stilt God’s sov­ereignty controlled them, and secretly compelled the fulfillment of his predestination. I say secretly, be­cause they did not know or feel any will but their own; and here the completeness of God’s sovereignty is made to shine out the more brightly. We seem to ourselves to be under no control, except that of our own wills, but yet the will of God is supreme over us all the time. “His judgments are unsearchable, and his ways past finding out.” 

“And so he must be sold for thirty pieces of silver.”—Zach xi. 12. “His garments must be parted, and lots cast for his vesture.”—Psalm xxii. 18. “Judas must show himself the son of perdition.”—Psalm cix. 8. “False witnesses must testify against him.”—Psalm xxvn. 12; xxxv. 11. “The potter’s field must be bought with the price of Judas’ treachery.”—Zach. xi. 13. “They must spit upon him and smite him”—Isaiah 1. 26. “They must give him vinegar and gall to drink.”— Psalm lxix. 21. “Even the wagging of the beads must be done.”—Psalm xxii. 7; cix. 25. “He must be laid in a new tomb.”—Isaiah liii. 9. “It must be that all forsook him.”—Psalm lxxxviii. 8. “Judges must eat with him.”—Psalm xli. 9. “He must be crucified with male­factors.”—.Isaiah liii. 12. “They could not break one of his bones.”—Psalm xxxiv. 20. “Also, to fulfill the type of the Paschal Lamb, the soldiers must pierce his side.”—Psalm xxi. 16; Zach. xii. 10. 

Here are sixteen special things connected with the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus, not one of which could fail, without making void the Scriptures. All this is worthy of our regard and earnest attention. 

From it we may learn that our God takes care of, and has appointed, the small things as well as the great things. With him there is nothing great, and neither is there anything small. We may not see what all these things had to do with our salvation, but yet they must be. Seeing, therefore, that such minute things were ordered of God, we can infer his complete care of his children now. In such a God we can feel that it is safe to trust. With God there is no uncertainty as to any part of the future life of any of us. From all this we learn that every sorrow or joy in our lives is measured out, and that the persecution of wicked men is all in the purpose of God working out good for us now, as it did then. What complete rest and comfort there is here! By faith may we enter in and enjoy it. May these thoughts comfort the brethren as they have me. 

I remain as ever, your brother in hope,  

F. A. CHICK.

 

 

REPLY TO ELDER CHICK BY ELDER MITCHELL

The plainness and humble simplicity in which Elder Chick presents such a sublime theme in this issue of the MESSENGER, as the “Sovereignty and Predestination of God in the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus,” is cer­tainly worthy of the careful consideration of every child of God who searches the scriptures to learn what they testify of Christ. 

That the wicked thoughts, acts and doings of men and devils are circumscribed and limited by the sov­ereign power and predestination of God, is a comfort­ing truth to all who are prepared of God to receive it in the love thereof. It is true that our Lord has many things to say which his people are not able, at all times, to receive or bear. Like the herds and flocks of Jacob, when he went to meet his brother Esau, they must not be forced, but go gently along by slow degrees, as they may be able to bear it. To do otherwise would bring about a feeble, sickly and unfruitful condition among Christians. “The flocks and herds,” said Jacob, “are tender, and if men shall overdrive them one day, all the flock will die;” “I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me, and the children be able to endure.”—Gen. xxxiii. 13. They cannot know all they are to know in this life at once. They must be prepared by experience and growth in grace, step by step, from one degree of faith to another. Like new born babes, Christians have inward cravings and hungerings, causing them to “desire the sincere milk of the word that they may grow thereby.”—l Pet. ii. 

Jesus said to his disciples, “I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.”—John xvi. 12. He would not force these things upon them, because they had not then acquired sufficient strength of faith to bear them. Their faith must be increased of the Lord and enlarged by trials, to bring forth its richest and best fruits of patience and experience. “Tribulation worketh patience, and patience experi­ence.” The process and method by which faith is enlarged, is such as the carnal nature of Christians would not choose. They pray for an increase of their faith and the Lord answers their prayers, but it is in such a way as to drive them almost to utter despair. One trial after another comes upon them until, like Job, they are stripped of everything and every comfort that earth could yield, and made loathsome unto themselves and to their dearest earthly friends. Thus tried and tempted, they stand naked and helpless to hear what God, the Lard, will speak. He speaks by the irresistible whirlwind of his power, lifting up, dashing down and whirling about as pleaseth him, until their faith is so enlarged in the sovereignty of God that they can say by experience, each for himself, “I know thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.”—Job xlii. 2. It is by slow degrees that even many humble Christians are brought to receive and understand how the wrath of man can be made to praise God. Especially is this the case when they read that “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”—James i. 20. Yet the Psalmist says, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee.”—Psa. lxxvi. 10. Are those texts both true? Are they in harmony one with the other? Does that sinful wrath of man that does not work the righteousness of God tend in any way to praise God? In spite of ourselves, these or similar questions will arise in our minds when we search and meditate upon the word of the Lord, and they can only be truthfully answered in the affirmative. The wrath or sins of men cannot, of themselves, be anything but hateful to God. Everywhere in his holy word wickedness and sin are condemned. But when sin is bounded by the eternal purpose and almighty power of God, so that it shall not frustrate the purpose of God, but be kept, like the evil that Joseph’s brethren thought against him, in that very channel which infinite wisdom and goodness had marked out for it, then it praiseth God in the sense presented to us in Psalms lxxvi. 10. But we must learn these things, not only in the letter of the Scriptures, but by experience also, if we enjoy their sweetness. Tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience. Patient endurance will work in the child of God an experience of the overruling power and sustaining grace of God. He will, like Joseph, often see that what wicked men and false brethren design against him for evil, God designs that very wicked act of theirs to be so bounded and circumscribed by his will, purpose and decree, that it shall work together for good to them that love God, who are the called according to his purpose.—Rom. viii. 28. 

And right here, as we have incidentally referred to God’s dealings with Joseph and his brethren, as recorded in ten chapters of Genesis, suffer us to say that to understand this subject in all its bearings as there re­corded would go far to silence all caviling and disputa­tion among beloved brethren on the subject of God’s purpose and predestination. The gist and essence of the whole matter of dispute is summed up and embraced in the few loving words of Joseph to his brethren: 

“But as for you, ye thought evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring to pass as it is this day, to save much people alive”—Gen. 1. 20. Here is a plain declaration that the very thoughts of evil which Joseph’s brethren had were purposed of God to be so under his sovereign control and direction as to bear a part in working out that good which he had purposed to his chosen Israel. This to us may be deep and incompre­hensible, but it is nevertheless truth. It is high, and we cannot attain unto a full understanding and com­prehension of it. But can we not receive it in faith and love as the truth of God? 

And here, brethren, it strikes us with some force that could we but understand and believe this as Joseph did, it would greatly reconcile us to God, and to those who may intend evil against us. The belief of this doctrine of the over-ruling Providence and power of God over sin will make us kind and tender towards our erring brethren. It had this effect upon Joseph, and if we believe it in our hearts and feel its force as Joseph did, the same fruits of forbearance, compassion, love and kindness will be manifest in us as they were in him.” 

“Now, therefore, fear ye not,” says Joseph. “I will nourish you and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.”—Gen. 1. 21. 

Here are some of the blessed fruits of a belief in the absolute sovereignty of God in controlling evil and turning it to work for good to them that love God. He spake kindly to his erring brethren, and nourished the little ones with wholesome words of gospel truth. This is in harmony with every principle of the gospel. The strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak. Nour­ish, comfort, and speak kindly unto them, though they be weak in faith. 

In this circumstance of Joseph and his brethren many things come up for our consideration, each of which had its part to work under the limitations of God’s will and purpose to bring to pass all that he had promised. Jacob’s special love for Joseph tended to stir up envy in his brethren against him. “But God meant it for good.” Joseph’s dreams also had their part to work, and the telling of them stirred up still greater envy, until they sold him to a company of Ishmaelites, who car­ried him to Egypt, where the Lord had a use for him, and so bounded every wicked act of men, and of a base and treacherous woman, as to bring to pass everything He had before purposed to be done, just as He did in the “betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus.” 

But we are not at alt inclined to discuss this subject now. Our limited space, as well as other considerations, forbids it. But the careful reader will see that there is a vast difference between the control which God exer­cises over sin and sinners, and his approval of their wicked works. He does not approve of sin. He hates and condemns it wherever found. But as he ruleth in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, he certainly has supreme control over the works of wicked men and devils, either to defeat their pur­poses or to turn them into the channel of his own purpose for good to his people, and for the glory of his holy name. “He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” The will of God is just as sovereign in hardening as it is in having mercy. And whether he hardens or has mercy, it is all for the glory of his holy name. “For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.” Rom. ix. 20. The purpose of God in elevating Pharaoh to the throne of Egypt, and hardening his heart, was not because Pharaoh was worse than other men by nature, nor was it for the purpose of sending him to an eternal hell, but it was designed to show forth God’s power in delivering his people, and thereby declare the name of God throughout all the earth.

Let us be still and know that he is God, and that he saith “I will be exalted in all the earth.” “For what­soever the Lord pleased that doeth he in heaven, in earth, and in all deep places.”—Psalms.

W.M Mitchell

NOTE: I have no problem at all with Elder Mitchell’s article. He used Scriptural terminology and taught the truth of the Bible. If all of our people, in their writing and speeches, would adopt this practice; there would far less division and strife among us. Our history has so many divisions that could have been avoided if one or others had adopted clearer terminology in expressing their opinions….on the other hand, many of those very same divisions could likewise been avoided had the other side and communicated their dissent more effectively and more efforts made to come to an understanding.  This is why I rejoice to see efforts made along those lines and it is the reason I never criticize nor question where a minister goes to preach. If he can help establish truth, peace and fellowship in a particular troubled region, then I thank the Lord for it. Besides, it is none of my business anyway. DM

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