In whom also we have obtained an inheritance…
I. I am to explain THE NATURE OF A DECREE. The text calls it a purpose, a will. For God to decree is to purpose and fore-ordain, to will and appoint that a thing shall be or not be. And such decrees must needs be granted, seeing God is absolutely perfect, and therefore nothing can come to pass without His will; seeing there is an absolute and necessary dependence of all things and persons on God as the first cause. But there is a vast difference betwixt the decrees of God and men; whereof this is the principal. Men's purposes or decrees are distinct from themselves, but the decrees of God are not distinct from Himself. God's decrees are nothing else but God Himself, who is one simple act; and they are many only in respect of their objects, not as they are in God; even as the one heat of the sun melts wax and hardens clay.
II. I proceed to consider THE OBJECT OF GOD'S DECREES. This is whatsoever comes to pass. He worketh all things, says the text. We may consider the extent of the Divine decree under the three following heads.
1. God has decreed the creation of all things that have a being.
2. He has decreed to rule and govern the creatures which He was to make. He has decreed the eternal state of all His rational creatures.
III. I come to consider THE END OF GOD'S DECREES. And this is no other than His own glory. Every rational agent acts for an end; and God being the most perfect agent, and His glory the highest end, there can be no doubt but all His decrees are directed to that end.
1. This was God's end in the creation of the world. The Divine perfections are admirably glorified here, not only in regard of the greatness of the effect, which comprehends the heavens and the earth, and all things therein; but in regard of the marvellous way of its production.
2. The glory of God was His chief end and design in making men and angels. The rest of the creatures glorified God in an objective way, as they are evidences and manifestations of His infinite wisdom, goodness, and power. But this higher rank of beings are endued with rational faculties, and so are capable to glorify God actively. Hence it is said (Proverbs 16:4), "The Lord hath made all things for Himself." If all things were made for Him, then man and angels especially, who are the masterpieces of the whole creation. We have our rise and being from the pure fountain of God's infinite power and goodness; and therefore we ought to run towards that again, till we empty all our faculties and excellencies into that same ocean of Divine goodness.
3. This is likewise the end of election and predestination.
4. This was the end that God proposed in that great and astonishing work of redemption. In our redemption by Christ we have the fullest, clearest, and most delightful manifestation of the glory of God that ever was or shall be in this life.
IV. I come now to consider THE PROPERTIES OF GOD'S DECREES.
1. They are eternal. God makes no decrees in time, but they were all from eternity. So the decree of election is said to have been "before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4).
2. They are most wise, "according to the counsel of His will." God cannot properly deliberate or take counsel, as men do; for He sees all things together and at once.
3. They are most free, according to the counsel of His own will; depending on no other, but all flowing from the mere pleasure of His own will (Romans 11:34). "For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been His counsellor?"
4. They are unchangeable.
5. They are most holy and pure.
6. They are effectual. Whatever God decrees comes to pass infallibly (Isaiah 46:10).I conclude all with a few inferences.
1. Has God decreed all things that come to pass? Then there is nothing that falls out by chance, nor are we to ascribe what we meet with either to good or ill luck and fortune.
2. Hence we see God's certain knowledge of all things that happen in the world, seeing His knowledge is founded on His decree. As He sees all things possible in the glass of His own power, so He sees all things to come in the glass of His own will; of His effecting will, if He hath decreed to produce them; and of His permitting will, if He hath decreed to suffer them.
3. Whoever be the instruments of any good to us, of whatever sort, we must look above them, and eye the hand and counsel of God in it, which is the first spring, and be duly thankful to God for it. And whatever evil of crosses or afflictions befalls us, we must look above the instruments of it to God.
4. See here the evil of murmuring and complaining at our lot in the world. How apt are ye to quarrel with God, as if He were in the wrong when His dealings with you are not according to your own desires and wishes? You demand a reason, and call God to an account, Why am I thus? But you should remember that this is to defame the counsels of infinite wisdom, as if God had not ordered your affairs wisely enough in His eternal counsel.
5. There is no reason for people to excuse their sins and falls, from the doctrine of the Divine decrees. Wicked men, when they commit some villainy or atrocious crime, are apt to plead thus for their excuse, Who can help it? God would have it so; it was appointed for me before I was born, so that I could not avoid it. This is a horrid abuse of the Divine decrees, as if they did constrain men to sin: whereas the decree is an immanent act of God, and so can have no influence, physical or moral, upon the wills of men, but leaves them to the liberty and free choice of their own hearts; and what sinners do, they do most freely and of choice.
6. Let the people of God comfort themselves in all cases by this doctrine of the Divine decrees; and, amidst whatever befalls them, rest quietly and Submissively in the bosom of God, considering that whatever comes or can come to pass, proceeds from the decree of their gracious Friend and reconciled Father.
(T. Boston, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: