« PreviousContinue »
THE REVEALED WILL OF GOD THE ONLY RULE OF DUTY.
DEUTERONOMY, xxix. 29. 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.
It is a mark of the moral depravity of mankind, that they are generally more inquisitive to know their fortune, than 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 symbolizing with the idolatrous nations through whom he was leading them, and among whom he was about to fix their permanent residence. This law they publickly 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, 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 ; II. Consider what his revealed will respects; and,
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 exist
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. 66 It is the counsel of his own will, whereby for his own glory, he hath fore-ordained 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
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 unlioly, 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 now,
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.
4. 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 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 disannul 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." After God has revealed his will to us in his word, we have no occasion for any further information from him, in respect to duty. Șo Moses told the people of God, “ Secret things belong unto the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong unto us, and unto our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” God's secret purposes concern his own conduct, not ours. It concerns him to do all that he determined to do from eternity, or to carry
into effect all his wise and holy purposes: and it concerns us to do all that his holy word or revealed will requires us to do. We have no occasion of knowing his secret will, in order to know his revealed will ; for his revealed will does not depend upon his secret will, nor does our obligation to obey his revealed will depend upon our knowing his secret will. The obligation of a child to do what his parent requires, does not depend upon his knowing the secret will of his parent, or the reason why he commands him to do this, or that lawful thing. The obligation of a subject to do what a civil ruler requires hiin to do, does not depend upon his knowing the reasons of state, or why the civil ruler requires certain acts of obedience. So the obligation of creatures to obey the revealed will of their creator, does not depend upon their knowing his secret will, or the reasons of his commands. It is the revealed will of God, therefore, and not his secret will, which is our infallible rule of duty.
3. God's secret or decretal will cannot be known, and for that reason, cannot be a rule of duty to any of his creatures. It is essential to a law or rule of duty, that it should be published or made known to those, who are to be bound by it. So long as God conceals his own purposes in his own breast, they cannot bind his creatures to regard them any more than if they did not exist in his mind. No human law can bind any human being before it is published or made known, any more than it can bind before it is enacted. God has told us, that he has reserved the times and seasons in his own power; which means that he has concealed most of his purposes respecting future events, from the knowledge of his intelligent creatures. The angels in heaven know no more than we do, with respect to the future conversion and salvation of sinners in this world. The decree of election and reprobation, respecting sinners in time to come, is a profound secret in the divine mind, and so is his secret will, respecting thousands and millions of other future events. And whatever secret purposes God may have in his own mind, concerning future events in this, or any other