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Wendelin's "Christian Theology": Doctrine of Providence, Part 1

Thesis I: Hitherto concerning creation. Government follows, which elsewhere is called actual providence, and is defined as a work of God, whereby He cares for and governs all created things, and among them especially mankind.

EXPLANATION: * Divine providence pertains directly to the will of God, to which belong principally the preservation and government of things. And, since this government is most wise, it is not able to be without wisdom and omniscience: as also elsewhere the work of the divine will is not without the action of the intellect. Now, this work of the divine will, most wisely governing all things, flows from the eternal decree of God. Whence divine providence includes foreordination, by reason of the decree, which is called the ὡρισμένη βουλὴ Θεοῦ, determinate counsel of God, Acts 2:23; Ephesians 1:11;[1] Psalm 115:3.

THESIS II: The causes, adjuncts, and sorts of divine providence are to be considered.

THESIS III: The Efficient of actual providence, or the government of the creatures, is God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

EXPLANATION: 1. That the world is cared for and governed by God, is proven from the testimonies of Scripture and rational arguments.

The testimonies of Scripture are: Psalm 14:2, Jehovah looketh down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there be any that do understand, and seek God. Psalm 33:13, and Jehovah looketh from heaven; He beholdeth all the sons of men. To this pertains the entirety of Psalm 104, and Psalm 94:8-11, understand, O ye most brutish among the people and foolish; when will ye be wise? He that planted the ear, shall He not hear? or He that formed the eye, shall He not see? He that chastiseth the nations, shall He not correct? He that teacheth men knowledged, shall He not know? Jehovah knoweth the thoughts of men, that they are vanity. Acts 17:25, He Himself giveth to all life and breath, and all things. And verse 28, Through Him we live, and move, and have our being. Ephesians 1:11, God worketh all things after the good pleasure of His own will. See Exercitation 25.

Rational arguments for asserting the providence of God are sought:

(1.) From the infinite wisdom and power of God: for it belongs to the wise to govern all things that he knows and is able to do. But God knows and is able to do all things.

(2.) From the marvelous and altogether regular order in the heavenly and sublunary world: For all things, above and below, in heaven and on earth, continually run by the same laws. Therefore, they have the same most wise and powerful governor.

(3.) From the force of conscience of good and evil: which argues God as inspector of all deeds, and the rewarder of the good, but an avenger of the evil.

(4.) From the altogether certain predictions of future and contingent things. For, if God through His Prophets infallibly predicted future contingencies: Then He arranged those things, before they were done: neither did He cease to care for them after they were done.

II. Against the providence of God in general exception is taken:

(1.) Confused things are not governed by wisdom.

But in the world a great many things are confused. Whence in all ages the pious have bewailed the manifold ἀταξίᾳ/disorderliness and confusion that occurs in the world. Therefore, a great many things in the world are not governed by the wisdom of God.

Response to the major premise: Confused things that are confused in every respect, in which there is no order, and tat are reduced unto no order: confused things of this sort, I say, are not governed by wisdom. With this limitation accepted, the minor is false. For, in the world there is nothing so confused that it might not in a certain respect be reduced to order by divine providence. Thus monstrous was the ἀταξία/disorderliness of the sons of Jacob in fact, selling their broth Joseph out of hostile enmity: And yet Joseph himself at this point acknowledges and declares the admirable τάξιν/arrangement and order of divine providence, Genesis 50:20, Indeed, ye thought evil against me; but God thought to turn it into good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

Concerning similar things, a similar judgment is to be passed, even if we do not always understand the reason for the order of divine providence.

(2.) That which is repugnant to the divine will, is not governed by God. But the will of the impious and of devils is repugnant to the divine will.

Therefore, it is not governed by God: and hence divine providence does not have a place here.

Response: The major premise is not true in a simple way. For, as refractory horse is nevertheless governed by its rider, and is directed to a certain end: and as a magistrate also governs and restrains rebellious subjects: So also the refractory wills of the impious and of devils God governs by the bridle of His providence and reduces to order.

(3.) What things are done by the providence of God, God is the author of them.

But God is not the author of evils, or of sins.

Therefore, evils or sins are not done by the providence of God.

Response to the major premise by means of a distinction: What things are done effectively by the providence of God, God is the author of them: But evil, as far as they are evils, are not done effectively by the providence of God, but permissively: as we will explain below. Evils of sin are said to be done by providence, because they are accomplished by men and devils. God governs. Thus a lame horse is governed by a horseman, who nevertheless is not the cause of the lameness.

THESIS IV: The material or object of divine providence is the entire world, and whatever is in it. For, God takes care of and governs the great and the small, the necessary and the contingent, the good and the bad.

EXPLANATION: I. That all things are cared for, and are preserved in some manner, by God, is proven in general, Hebrews 1:3, He sustaineth all things by the word of His power; Nehemiah 9:6, thou, even thou, art Lord alone, who hast made the heaven of heavens and all their host, and the earth, and whatever is therein: thou preservest all these.

II. That even the least things are preserved and cared for by God, is evident: because He has even the hairs of our head in number, Matthew 10:30; neither does a tiny sparrow fall from the roof apart from the will of God, verse 29. So also does He given food to the young of ravens, Psalm 147:9. And so Cicero lied, when he said: The gods care for the great things, but neglect the small.[2]

But Paul appears to stand in the way, who exempts oxen from the care of God, 1 Corinthians 9:9, doth God take care for oxen?

Response: But it is certain that oxen are cared for by God, Psalm 36:6, thou preservest man and beast, O Lord. And Psalm 147:9, He giveth to the beasts their food. And so Paul in the text alleged is not simply exempting oxen from the care of God: but he only denies that that law, thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the threshing ox, was written principally because of oxen, but rather because of men, so that they might understand what belongs to their duty towards those whose works they use, especially towards ministers of the Gospel.

III. What things appear especially fortuitous and contingent to us, are nevertheless governed by God: nothing appears more fortuitous in this way than the casting of the lot, and yet the whole disposing of the lot is from God, Proverbs 16:33. Thus whoever is killed by another without intention, he is said to have been delivered by God into the hands of his killer, Exodus 21:13.

IV. What things happen by natural causes, like clouds, thunderings, lightning, rains, snows, winds, and all things springing from the soil, are governed by and dependent upon divine providence, Jeremiah 10:14; Psalm 104; 147, which especially commend and illustrate the providence of God.

V. But, even if God governs and takes care for all things, yet in a singular manner God takes care for and governs man, as the foremost of His creatures. And so,

He forms him in his mother’s womb, Job 10:10, 11.

He determined for him a certain end of life, which he is not able to surpass, Job 14:5: but to what extent He takes care for the whole course of life and life itself, David everywhere declares by his own example in the Psalms, and Paul resigns the care of both body and soul equally to God, 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

He governs his thoughts, Proverbs 21:1.

He governs the speech of the tongue, Proverbs 16:1.

He directs his steps, Psalm 37:23.

He gathers his tears, and has them in number, Psalm 56:8.

They do not far differ from Epicureanism, who declare only the concursus and universal influx of God with second causes, which sort belongs to heavenly causes, and then deny the particular with particulars, against manifest Scriptures: which acknowledge God’s particular care in particulars, even the least.

* VI. At this point the Lutherans disagree, who prefer God’s decrees to be conditional, suspended upon mutable conditions, drawn from the prescience of God, altogether unworthy of God. So also they imagine for themselves a terminus to human life principally depending upon men, which, disposed by the power of man, is able to be changed, whether by lengthening or by shortening, by man.

They set the following arguments in opposition:

(1.) The end of life is bounded, by the mutable conditions of penitence and impenitence, of honesty and dishonesty, Exodus 20:12; Psalm 6:2; Proverbs 3:1, 2.

Therefore, it is not cut short, but mutable.

Response: The antecedent concerning the end of life established by the decree of God is denied. The proof from the alleged passages is inconsequent. Indeed, that decree includes intervening causes, but it does not depend upon them, nor is it changed by them, but rather orders and directs them to their end according to His choice. At the same time, man is obliged to repentance and honesty: which are often the means of a longer life, but sometimes are not. Whence the life of men wicked men is longer than that of the honest.

(2.) Sometimes life is prolonged beyond the determined end. Therefore, that end is not immutable. The Antecedent is proven from the instance of the live of Hezekiah, 2 Kings 20:1, 6, of the Ninevites, Jonah 3, of the Israelites, Numbers 17.

Response: The antecedent concerning the end defined by the decree of God is denied. The proof is inconsequent. Those denunciations were conditional, as the event taught: and so they were not signs of the divine decree concerning the end of life; but means leading to the end defined by God.

(3.) If the end of life is immutable, it follows that those laying violent hands on themselves were destined to this sort of death. But the consequent is false: therefore also the antecedent. The Minor is proven: Because in this manner God would be the author of sin.

Response: The Minor is denied. God does nothing in time, that He has not decreed from eternity to do. Therefore, those that God calls from this life through violent means, He also decreed from eternity to call out through the same. The proof is inconsequent. The punishment inflicted by one’s own hands is the judgment of God: which without any fault on His part God even exercises through evil means furnished by men: thus through the cruel Jews He exercised judgment against the Son.

VII. Finally, even evils, perpetrated by men, are governed by God, and are directed in such a way that they serve for the illustration of the divine glory. Thus God directed the selling of Joseph by his brethren in such a way that it might serve His glory; which was illustrious in the marvelous exaltation of Joseph, and conservation of the family of Jacob, and of the whole Church, Genesis 50:20. Thus Christ is said to have been delivered to the Jews by the determinate counsel and providence of God, and to have been slain and crucified by wicked hands, Acts 2:23. Herod and Pontius Pilate were gathered together against Jesus, for to do whatsoever God’s hand and counsel determined before to be done, Acts 4:27, 28.

[1] Ephesians 1:11: “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 (προορισθέντες κατὰ πρόθεσιν τοῦ τὰ πάντα ἐνεργοῦντος κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ)…” [2]Concerning the Nature of the Gods, book II, section 66.

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Jun 23, 2023

Westminster Confession of Faith 5:1-3: God the great Creator of all things doth uphold,1 direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things,2 from the greatest even to the least,3 by His most wise and holy providence,4 according to His infallible foreknowledge,5 and the free and immutable counsel of His own will,6 to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.7

1 Heb. 1:3.

2 Dan. 4:34,35; Ps. 135:6; Acts 17:25,26,28; Job 38,39,40,41.

3 Matt. 10:29,30,31.

4 Prov. 15:3; Ps. 104:24; Ps. 145:17.

5 Acts 15:8; Ps. 94:8,9,10,11.

6 Eph. 1:11; Ps. 33:10,11.

7 Isa. 63:14; Eph. 3:10; Rom. 9:17; Gen. 45:7, Ps. 145:7.

2. Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God…


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
Jun 23, 2023
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