William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

Important Lessons Drawn from the Decrees of God

by Thomas Boston

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
bad luck and fortune. There are many events in the world which men look upon as
mere accidents, yet all these come by the counsel and appointment of Heaven.
Solomon tells us, Prov. 16:33. that "the lot is cast into the lap, But its every
decision is from the LORD." However disordered and fortuitous things may be with
respect to us, yet they are all determined and directed by the Lord. When that
man drew a bow at random, 1 Kings 22:34, it was merely accidental with respect
to him, yet it was God that guided the motion of the arrow so as to strike the
king of Israel rather than any other man. Nothing then comes to pass, however
random and uncertain it may seem to be, but what was decreed by God.

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 telescope of his own power, so he sees all things to come in the telescope
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 allow them. Therefore his
declaration of things to come is founded on his appointing them Isa 44:7, "And
who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me,
Since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall
come, Let them show these to them." He foreknows the most necessary things
according to the course of nature, because he decreed that such effects should
proceed from and necessarily follow such and such causes: and he knows all
future contingents, all things which shall happen by "chance," and the most free
actions of rational creatures, because he decreed that such things should come
to pass contingently or freely, according to the nature of second causes. So
that what is casual or contingent with respect to us, is certain and necessary
in regard of God.

3. Whoever may be the instruments of any good to us, of whatever sort, we must
look above them, and see the hand and counsel of God in it, which is their first
source, and be duly thankful to God for it. And whatever evil of suffering or
afflictions befall us, we must look above the instruments of it to God.
Affliction does not rise out of the dust, or come to men by chance; but it is
the Lord that sends it, and we should recognise and reverence his hand in it.
This is what David did in the day of his extreme distress; 2 Sam 16:11 "Let him
alone, and let him curse; for so the LORD has ordered him." We should be patient
under whatever distress comes upon us, considering that God is on our side, Job
2:10 "Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?"
This would be a happy means to quiet our complaining at adverse dispensations.
Hence David says, "I was mute, I did not open my mouth, because it was you who
did it," Psa 39:9

4. See here the evil of murmuring and complaining at our lot in the world. How
apt are you to quarrel with God, as if he were in the wrong to you, 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 did this happen to me? Why am I so much
afflicted and distressed? Why am I so long afflicted? And why such an affliction
rather than another? Why am I so poor and another so rich? Thus your hearts rise
up against God. 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. We find the Lord reproving Job for this, chap. 40:2 "Shall the
one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?" When you murmur and brood under
cross and afflictive dispensations, this is a presuming to instruct God how to
deal with you, and to reprove him as if he were in the wrong. Indeed, there is a
kind of implicit blasphemy in it, as if you had more wisdom and justice to
arrange your circumstances, and to carve out your own portion in the world. This
is what you really mean when you say, "If I been on God's counsel, I would have
ordered this matter better; things would not be with me as they are now." Oh
presume not to correct the infinite wisdom of God, seeing he has decreed all
things most wisely and judiciously.

5. There is no reason for people to excuse their sins and failing, from the
doctrine of the divine decrees. Wicked men, when they commit some wicked or
atrocious crime, might attempt to excuse themselves, saying, "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 might
constrain men to sin. This is impossible. 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 their own choice. It is a horrid and detestable
wickedness to cast the blame of your sin upon God's decree. This is to charge
your villainy upon him, as if he were the author of it. It is great folly to
cast your sins upon Satan who tempted you, or upon your neighbour who provoked
you: but it is a far greater sin, nay, horrid blasphemy, to cast it upon God
himself. A greater affront than this cannot be offered to the infinite holiness
of God.

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, who
knows what is best for them, and will make all things work together for their
good. O what a sweet and pleasant life would you have under the heaviest
pressures of affliction, and what heavenly serenity and tranquillity of mind
would you enjoy, would you cheerfully acquiesce in the good will and pleasure of
God, and embrace every dispensation, how no matter how sharp it may be, because
it is determined and appointed for you by the eternal counsel of his will!


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