There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.
It being impossible for us to know God absolutely, the highest degree of knowledge we can hope to attain unto is by way of comparison with ourselves and other creatures. But because we fail in right knowledge of ourselves, we fail also in right knowledge of God. We think God is altogether such an one as ourselves, and yet we do not know what we ourselves are. The subject introduced by this text is, the difference between the devices of a man and the counsel of the Lord.
I. THE DIFFERENCES.
1. In the names. Devices, imaginations, fancies, chimaeras, "castles in the air." The vanity of men's fancies is seen in our ordinary dreams. The name of devices is too high an appellation to bestow upon our vain imaginations, if we knew a worse; so the name of counsel is too low to bestow upon God Almighty's eternal purpose, if we knew a better.
2. In the number. Ours are devices — in the plural; His but one — counsel in the singular. Men's purposes are various and changeable. It is the honour of God that His counsel is but one, and unchangeable. The immutability of His counsel. With God there is no after-counsel, to correct the errors of the former.
3. The efficacy. Seen in their different manner of existing. The devices of man are in his heart, but he cannot make them stand. The counsel of the Lord "shall stand"; nothing can hinder it from having its intended effect. The foundation of God standeth firm.
II. THE REASONS FOR THESE DIFFERENCES.
1. God is the prima causa, the sovereign agent, and first mover in every motion and inclination of the creature. God so orders the vain things of man's devices by His overruling providence as to make them subservient to His everlasting counsels.
2. God's eternity. Man is but of yesterday, and his thoughts casual. As himself is mutable, fickle, and uncertain, so are the things he hath to do with subject to contingencies and variations. But the nature of the Godhead is not subject to mutability. All change is either for the better or for the worse, but God cannot change for the better, because He is already best; nor for the worse, for then He should cease to be best.
3. The wisdom of God. Besides their natural ignorance, through precipitancy, misinformation, prejudice, partial affections, and other causes, they are subject to very many mistakes and aberrations. God alone is wise. He will not deceive, being of infinite goodness; He cannot be deceived by any, being of infinite wisdom. There is no room for second thoughts or after-counsels.
4. The power of God. It is not in the power of man to remove those obstacles which prevent his accomplishing his devices, but the power of God has no bars or bounds other than those of His own will.
III. THE INFERENCES.
1. Learn not to trust too much to our own wit; neither to lean to our own understandings; nor to please ourselves over-much in the vain devices, imaginations, fancies, and dreams of our own hearts.
2. However judgment may begin at the house of God, most certain it is that it shall not end there.
3. This is a comfortable consideration to all those that with patience and cheerfulness suffer for the testimony of God, or a good conscience, and in a good cause, under the insolences of proud and powerful persecutors. God can curb and restrain their malice, when they have devised wicked devices.
4. It is well for us, and our bounden duty, to submit to such sufferings as God shall call us to. Give up thyself faithfully to follow the good counsel of God in His revealed will; and then give up thy desires entirely, to be disposed by His wise counsel in His secret will; and He shall undoubtedly give thee thy heart's desire. If we submit our wills to His, both in doing and suffering, doubtless we cannot finally miscarry. He will consult nothing but for our good; and what He hath consulted must "stand."
Parallel VersesKJV: There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.