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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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LOVE THAT PASSES KNOWLEDGE

Charles Hodge:

Charles Hodge“It is the love of Christ, i. e. his love to us which passes knowledge. It is infinite; not only because it inheres in an infinite subject, but because the condescension and sufferings to which it led, and the blessings which it secures for its objects, are beyond our comprehension. This love of Christ, though it surpasses the power of our understanding to comprehend, is still a subject of experimental knowledge. We may know how excellent, how wonderful, how free, how disinterested, how long-suffering, how manifold and constant, it is, and that it is infinite. And this is the highest and most sanctifying of all knowledge. Those who thus know the love of Christ towards them, purify themselves even as he is pure.” (A Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians)

No Such Thing as Chance

Think about this: God could not be sovereign, if chance existed. God cannot be sovereign unless He is sovereign over all things. If God is not sovereign, He is not God.  A. A. Hodge weaves a discussion of “chance” into the following article on God’s providential care:

The providence of God over his rational creatures involves three elements: First, his working in the entire sphere of their environment, presenting external motives and influences, molding character and stimulating to action. Secondly, his working in their bodies and souls through the natural laws of their organizations, through the entire process of their growth. And thirdly, his immanent working within their will, whereby his directive energy becomes confluent with their own spontaneity, and “he turns the hearts of men as the rivers of water are turned,” and “works in us to will, and be willing to do, of his own good pleasure.”

The redeemed Christian is a child already at home in his Father’s house. All these beauties and all this abundant wealth belong to our Father, and are set apart for our use. All things whatsoever that come to pass, however dark and enigmatical, are expressions of our Father’s will, and are wisely designed to promote our welfare in the present and to secure it with infallible certainty in the great Hereafter. The word “chance” expresses simply a relation. An event happens by “chance” when the causes which produce it are so complex or so unusual as to be incapable of rational expectation by us. Hence, as far as God is concerned, there is absolutely no such thing as chance. As far as we are concerned, all events which lie beyond the reach of scientific prediction fall into the category of chance. But by faith we embrace the infinitely wise will of God and accept all events as the excellent will of our heavenly Father. Creation and providence are seen to be the preparatory work which culminates in redemption. We read all the means in the light of the glorious end, even in him. “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:11-12 ESV) “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36 ESV)

God Governs

English: Source: http://homepage.mac.com/shane...

God is in every experience, working according to his good pleasure and purpose from the beginning to the fullness of time. According to A. A. Hodge:

Providence, as made known to us in Scripture, history and our religious experience, includes two distinct exercises of the divine energy: (1st) preservation, and (2d) government.

Preservation is the continuous exercise of the divine omnipotence through successive duration upholding all creatures in being and in power. . . . All atoms of matter and all created spirits live and move and have all their being and the unfailing spring of all their energies in him only. If he should withdraw his supporting power, the whole dependent universe would lapse into non-being immediately.

Government includes God’s control of all the activities of all his creatures of every kind, and his direction of them toward the fulfilling of his one eternal plan. That God has one universal plan which he executes with undeviating purpose in all his works of creation and of providence is made very certain, first, from the fact that he is an infinite Intelligence acting from eternity before all worlds, and absolutely unconditioned by any facts or powers external to himself.

Secondly, from all that the Scriptures teach us as to his sovereignty, eternal foreknowledge, and as to making his own glory the single end of all things. And thirdly, the same fact is obviously exhibited in the unexceptional experience of all generations of men, and the revelations of modern science, exhibiting the absolutely unbroken continuity of thought and purpose and of divine superintendence and control in the whole universe, in all its parts and during all its successive ages. . . .

God effectually governs all his creatures and all their actions by a method to us inscrutable, but certainly consistent with his own perfections and with their properties and laws. This government is revealed in the Scriptures and in our experience to be universal, certainly efficient, holy, benevolent and wise. (“The Scriptural Doctrine of Divine Providence”)

Providence, Prophets, and Pretenders

We are often careless Christians when it comes to attributing the reasons behind certain acts of God’s providential workings. A. A. Hodge offers this explanation:

There are two extreme tendencies to which different persons are inclined when regarding the course of events in the world, each of which is evidently false when exclusively indulged, but both of which together, when combined, lead to the true attitude which every Christian should cultivate: the view of the mere naturalist, in which the supernatural is altogether merged in the natural, and, conversely, the view of the pantheist, in which the natural is altogether merged in the supernatural. And these apparently opposite extremes virtually come to the same thing, because they both equally exclude a personal God and human freedom, and maintain a naturalistic fatalism. But both present a side of the one truth. The natural is the fixed and regulated method which the personal heavenly Father has laid down for his own guidance; the supernatural does neither exclude nor supersede the natural, but it is the self-revelation of the heavenly Father, who works through natural law, as the personal Agent who, having ordained law, uses it to accomplish his spiritual purposes. The universe has a personal basis. The laws of nature are the methods self-ordained of a personal Agent. The true scientists are the sons of God, who were not created for the laws of nature, but the laws of nature for them.

After the Charleston earthquakethe Christian preachers endeavored to enforce upon their hearers the scriptural lessons of the event viewed as a divine dispensation. The visiting scientists are represented as

having scoffed contemptuously, maintaining that the preachers should have confined themselves to an exposition of the laws of nature and drawn comfort from the proven exceptional character of such experiences. These men of mere science may have been able and useful in their narrow specialty, but they were certainly very absurd philosophers. They were perfectly right in confining their own investigations to the scientific aspects of the phenomena, and the preachers had an equal authority in calling the attention of the Christian people to the aspect which the light of the inspired Scriptures, when thrown upon the providential facts, presented. We say, advisedly, that the preachers’ authority in the premises is limited to the application of the light of the inspired Scriptures to the current facts. They have no right to assume the role of prophets, as too many are at times inclined to do; and no man not the subject of plenary inspiration should dare to explain the ultimate divine purpose in any particular event or its relation to human guilt. The Master himself said, “Suppose ye that those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell were sinners above all men that dwell in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay; but except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4-5). (“The Scripture Doctrine of Divine Providence”)

The Infinite Power and Goodness of God

What limitations have you put upon God’s relationship to you? Is it wise for the finite to judge the infinite? According to A. A. Hodge:

God’s providence, in every part of it, must be an expression of his essential perfections, of infinite wisdom and power and of absolute righteousness and benevolence. Nothing can be a surprise to his intelligence, or too complicated for his wisdom, or too difficult for his power, or inconsistent with his perfect righteousness or love. These essential attributes of the great Ruler are abundantly manifested in all his works.

The whole universe and the entire course of its history as far as known to us, exhibit unquestioned evidence of limitless intelligence and power and of unmistakable righteousness and benevolence. This is witnessed to by the entire volume of human literature, that of philosophers, scientists and poets, as well as that of the special devotees of religion. Nevertheless, the course of providence from the point of view of man unilluminated by a supernatural revelation is full of anomalies to him utterly insoluble. The question is not whether the face of nature and the course of providence give evidence of the intelligence, power, righteousness and goodness of God this is admitted by all sober men but the true question is, as put by John Stuart Mill in his posthumously published Essay on Theism, “Are the facts of nature and the history of events, as we know them, possibly reconcilable with the belief that the Creator and Controller of the world is at the same time infinite in his wisdom and in his power and in his righteousness and in his goodness?”

Mr. Mill is assured that this reconciliation is impossible in view of the awful prevalence of moral and physical evil. He is sure that God must be limited either in his wisdom or his power or his benevolence, and is inclined to think that he is limited in all, and upon the whole, with an imperfect standard and a limited ability, strives to do as well as he can.

The apparent incongruousness of the facts, and hence the difficulty of the problem, we admit. But we have seen God because we have seen Christ, and we have learned to read all the course of providence in the light of the Cross. Since the baptism of Pentecost we have been convicted of sin and of a guilt we are utterly unable to gainsay [deny] or remove. We have been convinced that the finite can never measure the Infinite, and that self-convicted sinners can never judge the integrity of the All Holy.

In the light of Calvary we have an impregnable assurance that the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is unlimited in wisdom and in power, and that he can do no wrong. Bowing our heads in unquestioning submission to his sovereign rights and with confidence in his absolute perfection, we exclaim in the face of all apparent anomalies, [“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36 ESV)] (Popular Lectures on Theological Themes)

General and Special Providence

The true Christian mind finds equally in all things, including the important and unimportant, the divine presence and supreme control of our heavenly Father. According to A. A. Hodge:

The word PROVIDENCE means, first, to see beforehand, and then to exercise all that care and control which God’s infinite prevision of his own ends and his knowledge of his appointed instrumentalities may suggest. . . .

Our term “providence,” then, includes generally the entire sum of all God’s activities exterior to himself and subsequent to creation through all time. . . .

The fact that we cannot understand the modus operandi of God in his works of grace or of miracle can be no objection to the admission of their reality to the man who believes in the reality of God’s ordinary providence without being able to explain its method. We know that God’s methods of operation, whether natural or supernatural, whether in the forms of ordinary providence, of grace or of miracle, are all carried on simultaneously, are all mutually harmonious, are all the activities of one and the same infinite Agent and in the execution of one all comprehensive plan. . . .

[T]he providence of God in all its modes, whether natural or supernatural, whether ordinary, gracious or miraculous, must be, all and several, the execution of one single indivisible plan. There can be no real incongruities or antagonisms between the natural and the supernatural or between ordinary providence and grace. God, being eternal and infinite in knowledge and wisdom, sees the end from the beginning. . . .

Hence it follows with equal certainty that the providence of God must be universal. It must comprehend in its grasp equally every agent and every event without the least discontinuity or exception. One event is never in any degree more providential than any other event. There prevails a very unintelligent and really irreligious habit among many true Christians of passing unnoticed the evidence of God’s presence in the ordinary course of nature, and of recognizing it on the occasion of some event specially involving their supposed interests, as if it were special and unusual. They will say of some sudden, scarcely hoped for deliverance from danger, “Why, I think I may venture to say it was really providential.” But would it have been any the less providential if they had been destroyed and not delivered? Would it have been any the less providential if they had not been in jeopardy at all and had needed no deliverance? …

God is in the atom just as really and effectually as in the planet. He is in the unobserved sighing of the wind in the wilderness as in the earthquake which overthrows a city full of living men, and his infinite wisdom and power are as much concerned in the one event as in the other.

There is a distinction to be observed between God’s natural providence, which is universal and ordinary, and his supernatural providence, which is occasional and special. His natural providence is equally in every thing and event, but his grace and his supernatural intervention are in one event and not in another, at one time and not at another. It is proper, therefore, to distinguish his natural providence as general, and his grace or his supernatural providence as special. But it is essential to understand that in the ordinary sense of providence relating to the course of events in our natural lives, the common distinction between general and special providence is unintelligent and irreligious. All God’s providence is at the same time both general and special, and general because it is special, and special because it is general. . . . That which controls the every link controls the whole chain. That which controls the movement of every atom controls the whole world. That which controls the thought and volition of every man controls the entire course of human history. God does not come down from above upon the course of our lives in spots. His whole infinite being dwells everlastingly in each atom and each spirit. (“The Scripture Doctrine of Divine Providence”)

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