Proverbs 19:21


Here is a contrast which we do well to consider. Between our human spiritual nature and that of the Divine Spirit it is possible to find resemblances and contrasts. Both are interesting and instructive.

I. THE THOUGHTS OF MAN'S MIND. We know how fugitive these are; how they come and go like the flash of the lightning; and even those which linger are but short-lived, they soon give place to others. Even those thoughts which become "fixed," which settle down into plans and purposes, have but a brief tenure in our brain; they, too, pass away and make room for others in their turn. Our thoughts are:

1. Fluctuating and therefore many. We care for one pleasure, we pursue one object now; but in a few weeks, or even days, we may weary of the one, we may be compelled to turn our attention from the other.

2. Feeble and therefore many. We propose and adopt one method, but it fails; and then we try another, and that fails; then we resort to a third, which also fails. We pass from thought to thought, from plan to plan; our very feebleness accounting for the manifoldness of our devices.

3. False and therefore many. We hold certain theories today; tomorrow they will be exploded, and we shall entertain another; before long that will yield to a third.

4. Sinful and therefore many. Nothing that is wrong can last; it must be dethroned, because it is evil, immoral, guilty.

5. Selfish and therefore many. We are concerning ourselves supremely about our own affairs or those of our family; but these are passing interests, changing with the flitting hours.

II. THE THOUGHTS WHICH ARE IN THE MIND OF GOD. His counsel stands (text). "The counsel of the Lord standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations" (Psalm 33:11). God's purpose holds from age to age. For:

1. He rules in righteousness. He is governing the world by Divine and unchanging principles. "With him is no variableness," because he ever loves what is righteous and hates what is unholy and impure and unkind. He cannot change his course, because he cannot change his character.

2. He is working out one great beneficent conclusion. He is redeeming a lost world, reconciling it unto himself, uprooting the multiform sources of wrong and wretchedness, establishing the blessed kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of heaven on the earth.

3. He has ample time and power at his command; he has no need to change his plan, to resort to "devices." His eternal thought moves on His undisturbed affairs; and is working out a glorious consummation which nothing shall avail to avert.

4. His perfect wisdom makes quite unnecessary the adoption of any other course than that which he is employing.

(1) Steadfastness is one sign of wisdom. If we see a man or a Church perpetually changing its methods, we may be sure that it is weak.

(2) Let us make God's great and holy purpose ours;

(a) for it is that with which our eternal interest is bound up;

(b) it is certain to be victorious.

3. Let us work on for our Lord and with him, in the calmness that becomes those who are confident of ultimate success. - C.







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."

(Bp. Sanderson.)

A "man's heart" is a little world, full of scheming and business. Let a man have a full inspection of his heart, its "devices," its schemes, its designs, in their succession. Notice the variety in the kinds of devices, and in men's temper and manner in respect to them. Some men are very communicative of their heart's devices; others are close, reserved, dark. Suppose that all the devices of all men could be brought out, in full manifestation, then you would have human nature displayed in its real quality. What manner of spectacle would it be! Suppose that all these devices could be accomplished. What a world you have then! One man's devices cannot be accomplished compatibly with the accomplishments of another's. The great collective whole of the "devices" of all hearts constitutes the grand complex scheme of the human race for their happiness. To every device of all hearts, God's "counsel," His design, exists parallel, whether in coincidence or in opposition. In other words, respecting the object of every device, He has His design. The text implies a great disconformity — a want of coalescence between the designs of man and God; an estranged spirit of design on the part of man.

I. THE DESIGNS OF MEN'S HEARTS ARE FORMED INDEPENDENTLY OF GOD. In what proportion of men's internal devisings may we conjecture that there is any real acknowledgment of God? Man's devising and prosecuting are in such a spirit as if there were no such thing as Providence to aid or defeat. It is deplorable to see dependent, frail, short-sighted creatures confidently taking on themselves the counsel, execution, and hazard of their schemes for being happy, in the very presence, and as in contempt, of the all-wise and almighty Director.

II. MAN'S HEART ENTERTAINS MANY DEVICES IN CONTRARIETY TO GOD. It can cherish devices which involve a rebellious emotion of displeasure, almost resentment, that there is a Sovereign Lord, whose "counsel shall stand." There is one other Mind, which has the knowledge and command of all things, a fixed design, respecting them all, paramount to all designs and devices. The counsel of the Lord sometimes is, not to prevent man's designs taking effect in the first instance. He can let men bring their iniquitous purposes into effect, and then seize that very effect, reverse its principle of agency, and make it produce immense, unintended good. But in other cases God directly frustrates them. Some devise to oppose religion; others to baffle the practical measures taken for promoting religion; others strive to get rid of the strictness of the laws of God. There are also many projects for temporal gomod, ade in a right spirit, which nevertheless are disappointed and fail, so that we have humbly and complacently to repose in the determination of our God as to what is best.

(John Foster.)

The Westminster divines say, "The decrees of God are His eternal purpose, according to the counsel of His will, whereby for His own glory He hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass." This embraces three propositions.

I. THERE ARE DECREES OF GOD. God must have formed a plan by which to conduct all His operations. God knows the arrangements upon the accomplishment of which He has determined. The word "decree" is of the same meaning as the word "determine."

II. THE DECREES OF GOD ARE ALL INVOLVED IN ONE ETERNAL PURPOSE. All the future, and everything included in all the future, is at once and for ever before the glance of His eye.

III. THE DECREES OF GOD WERE ALL FORMED ACCORDING TO THE COUNSEL OF HIS WILL. Who can comprehend all that the counsel of His will embraced as to things decreed to exist?

IV. THE DECREES OF GOD TAKE EFFECT IN EVERYTHING THAT COMES TO PASS. This has its illustration in —

1. God's works of creation.

2. God's works of providence.

3. God's works of grace.Objections to this explanation of the decrees of God may be taken.

(1)Some say that this doctrine annihilates man's responsibility.

(2)Some say, "Then if we are to be saved, we shall be saved; and if to be lost, lost."But this is a gross perversion of gospel truth. The means, through the appointed use of which eternal life may be obtained, should be diligently and unweariedly cultivated.

(Thomas Adam.)

Two parts in this text — the proposition and the qualification.

I. THE PROPOSITION.

1. The property mentioned. "Many devices"; by which we may understand "conceits" or "contrivances." Man by nature is very apt and prone to these, whether in matter of apprehension or resolution. Reference here is specially to vain and foolish, or wicked and sinful, devices, which man easily frames, since he voluntarily and wilfully forsook the counsel of God. The variety of man's devices from the impetuousness and unsatiableness which is commonly in men's desires; from the levity and inconstancy which is upon men's souls; from a variety of lusts, and corrupt and inordinate principles, with which the heart of man is cumbered.

2. The subject of this property, man, and precisely, the heart of man. Devices seem to belong to the head rather than to the heart. The heart is here put for the whole mind and soul. The devices are in the heart originally, as the spring and fountain of all. Men's opinions and conceits take their rise first from their heart.

II. THE QUALIFICATION.

1. The simple assertion. The counsel of God may be the Word and truth of God, or the purpose and decree of God.

2. The additional opposition or correction of it. "Nevertheless." Here is the consistence of God's counsels with man's. Though man has his devices, God will have His. Because man has his devices, therefore God the Father has His. His counsel is even promoted by man's devices.

(T. Horton, D. D.)

I. MEN PROJECTING. They keep their designs to themselves, but they cannot hide them from God. There are devices against God's counsels, without His counsels, and unlike His counsels. Men are wavering in their devices, and often absurd and unjust; but God's counsels are wise and holy, steady and uniform.

II. GOD OVERRULING. His counsel often breaks men's measures, and baffles their devices; but their devices cannot in the least alter His counsel, nor disturb the proceedings of it, nor put Him upon new counsels. What a check does this put on designing men, who think they can outwit all mankind! There is a.God in heaven who laughs at them! (Psalm 2:4).

( Matthew Henry.)

The Evangelist.
I. THE DEVICES OF MEN'S HEARTS. The heart of man is a little world of scheming, and planning, and business. We are always devising.

II. THE VANITY OF THESE DEVICES. Our safety consists in their being kept in. They could not be suffered to come forth but at the expense of the ruin of the world. They cannot all be accomplished, because they oppose each other.

III. THE COUNSEL OF THE LORD OVERRULING THESE DEVICES. Amidst all these various devices, there is one mighty will going on. All human devices serve God's counsel. Therefore we should seek to have our devices in principle compatible with God's counsel.

(The Evangelist.)

I. The mind of man has MANY DEVICES; the mind of God has but ONE COUNSEL.

II. The mind of man is SUBORDINATE, the mind of God SUPREME.

1. This is a fact well attested by history.

2. This is a fact that reveals the greatness of God.

III. The mind of man is CHANGEABLE, the mind of God UNALTERABLE. Lessons:

1. The inevitable fall of all that is opposed to the will of God.

2. The inevitable fulfilment of all God's promises.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

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