Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,…
I. When we come to look at THE PURPOSES OF GOD, we must not be misled by words. The word "purpose," with us, supposes several things, which have nothing to do with the same term when applied to God. There is, with God, no ignorance previously to the formation of His purposes; no new light thrown on circumstances, out of which His purpose arises; no period in His past eternity, when His purposes were not formed; no consulting either with Himself or with others, with regard to their formation. Perhaps you may be ready to say, if we are to look at the purpose of God in this way, it is not a purpose at all, in the sense in which we use the term. And it certainly is not, as you will perceive. We accommodate human language to the infinite characteristics of the Divine nature; but we must do it with caution, and must be careful what measure of idea we associate with our common terms, when we are applying them to God. If not, we shall be deceived in the conclusions we draw and the doctrines we believe. If the purpose of God is to be viewed as it really is, we take it to be simply this: God's foreknowledge of everything that is to come to pass, together with the operation of His influence upon that foreknowledge, in connection with those things. His foreknowledge had no beginning; His resolution, as to what He was to do, could have no beginning. From the moment He foresaw, He resolved or purposed. Such appears to be the meaning of the word "purpose" as applied to God. If it should be said, "This is a view of 'purpose' altogether foreign from the view we take of it," we grant it. But why? Because the nature of God is altogether foreign from ours. Ours is a finite and limited nature in itself; His is infinite and unlimited.
II. THE APPLICATION OF GOD'S PURPOSE IN REFERENCE TO MAN.
1. Are we to regard the purposes of God as involving in them the charge of originating immorality and sin? Did God purpose that man should be a sinner? If His purposes are to be taken and explained, as we take and explain our own, then this was the case. If He foresaw that man would fall before He made him, yet had not determined whether He should permit this or not, and then permitted it, we should say that the purpose of God implies in it a part at least of the moral guilt of His creature. But He had formed no such purpose as this. He foresaw that man would fall; He foresaw the provision that was to be made for his case; but there was no period in eternity when He had not foreseen this, and hence no purpose arose out of the mere incident of the liability of man to fall. He was left to the working of those powers which God gave him: and with the working of those powers the purposes of God never interfered.
2. But if we look not merely to the connection between the purpose of God and the origin of evil, but also to the connection between the purpose of God and the free agency of man, we have another field opened to us, in examining which we must very carefully recollect the views that we have taken of the Divine purpose. When God created man, He gave him powers and faculties which He intended to commit to his trust, and which He aid commit to his trust. He foresaw what use he would make of them, and how far he would abuse them; but He did not destroy them, in order that they might not be abused. There is an entire freedom in the operation of our faculties, so far as our own consciousness is concerned; are they not also exhibited to us as free, in the Word of God? Are we not addressed upon the subject of our shortcomings and our sins, as if we were held strictly free by the God that addresses us? Are we not hailed to return from our iniquity, as if we were free to return? Are we not invited to "lay hold on the hope set before us in the Gospel," as if we were free to accept the invitation? Let us look next at the view that men take of our capacity; and we shall find, that except when they are induced to quarrel with the Word of God, except when they are induced to throw difficulties in the way of their own salvation, they too act upon the principle that man is free.
3. But let us look at the purpose of God in reference to man's responsibility. If man were not free, on what ground could he be held to be responsible? and does any one doubt of his responsibility to God? The responsibility of man arises out of the very nature of his faculties, just like the proof of his free agency in the use of them. And we find the Word of God harmonising with the view, which our own faculties would alone give us, in holding the responsibility of man. Then what has the purpose of God to do with our responsibility? It merely foresees the consequences of that responsibility, and purposes to leave the man to those consequences. Reject and neglect the "great salvation," and you cannot be saved: such is the announced purpose of God. Accept that salvation, and "he that believeth shall be saved": such is also the announced purpose of God. His purpose, therefore, in all these respects, is nothing more than His foreknowledge, connected with His determination respecting what He foresees; both the foreknowledge and the determination how He shall act in reference to what He foresees, being eternal.
4. Regarding the purpose of God in this light, we may take yet another view of its application, namely, its connection with the Gospel of Christ. With your belief, or your unbelief, the purpose of God has nothing to do, except so far as that purpose determines to reward the one, and to punish the other.
(1) Remembering these things, which of you would be disposed, in the face of the nature of God, in the face of his own consciousness, in the face of the settled opinions of all men and all ages, in the face of the Word of God itself, to say that he is not held responsible for the exercise of the powers which God has given him? In everything but religion, we act upon this consciousness of freedom and responsibility.
(2) Let us associate our own salvation with the determined purpose of God, that they who come to Him shall "in no wise be cast out," and that he that believeth shall and must be saved.
Parallel VersesKJV: Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,