Archive for the ‘Divine Providence’ Category


Again, this providence of God in everything, teaches contentation1 of mind in every estate; yea, in adversity when we lie under the cross, so that all things go against us, forasmuch as God’s providence has appointed us our lot and position. When we live in peace, and have abundance of outward means to maintain us, as plenty, riches, health, pleasure, friends, liberty, and such like, we must remember from whom they come, and so be put in mind to be thankful for them, because they come not to us by chance, but by God’s providence: so that we must not barely look upon them, nor wholly rest upon them, but behold his goodness and blessing in them. For if we consider aright that all prosperity comes from him, as meat, drink, ease, peace, and all plenty, who is not pricked forward, and stirred up unto thanksgiving towards so loving and bountiful a Father? Hence, it is that the apostle says, “In all things give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus” [1 Thess. 5:18.]. The prophet Isaiah2 complains of the unthankfulness of the Jews toward God, “I have nourished and brought up children, but they have rebelled against me, the ox knows his owner, and the ass his mater’s crib, but Israel has not known me, my people have not obeyed me” [Isa. 1:4,5,6,7.]. The prophet David dealt otherwise, and behaved himself with greater duty, teaching us all what to do, when he says, “What shall I render unto the Lord for al his benefits towards me? I will take up the cup of salvation, and praise the name of the Lord” [Psal. 116:12.]. But when these outwards things, whereby life is maintained do fail us, we must not fail to remember, whence famine, war, pestilence, sickness, trouble, and affliction come, that there is no evil in the city which the Lord has not done, Amos 3:6.

Moreover, let us depend upon him for the time to come, assuring ourselves that he will not leave us, not forsake us. He gives us every day experience of his mercies, so that by remembrance of benefits received from him, we cannot doubt of his favor towards us. Lastly, this should be a very strong reason unto us, not to be unmeasurably dismayed, nor excessively offended, when offences and great evils break out among us, as oftentimes it falls out, whereby many are ready to shrink back, and others are much disquieted to see the church of God troubled. We are not to think it strange, or to forsake the faith through these scandals: for God would not suffer any evil to come to pass, unless out of that evil he were able to bring good, and out of that sin to bring forth righteousness, to the glory of his great name, and for the salvation of his dear church. He would never have left Adam unto himself, if he had not determined out of his fall, to gain praise to himself, and to provide better for his people. It is necessary that offences come, but woe to that man by whom they come: Let us not, therefore, fret ourselves because of the wicked men, neither be envious for the evil doers, for they shall soon be cut down like grass, and shall wither as the green herb. And we must rest, and be resolved assuredly, that God does not allow or favor their sin, nor purposes to free them from the guilt and punishment of sin, howsoever he turns there wicked purpose to a good end. For sin is the transgression of his Law [1 John 3:4, John 8:44.]. But God never swerves nor strays from the straight rule of his own will, neither puts wickedness into man, but as the earth affording sap and moisture as well as to evil trees, as the good, cannot be reproved, because the cause why the evil trees bring forth evil fruit is of themselves and their own nature, or as the sun that raises evil smells, and noisome favors from their unsavory puddles, cannot justly be found fault withal, because the reason thereof is not in the sunbeams, in those corrupt places, even so, when God disposes to good ends the sins of men that proceed from the instigation of the Devil, and abide in the ungodly themselves, he cannot be called the cause or author of sin, although by his providence he moves all things, yea, even the ungodly, that are not tbe able to move or remove themselves.

Use 3

Lastly, seeing God’s providence extends to everything that is, and disposes it according to his own pleasure, it directs us in our obedience, and puts us in mind of a Christian duty: namely, to be patient in adversity. If we consider that nothing can befall us, but that which is sent by the fatherly will and counsel of God, who has always just causes to exercise his children with chastisements, either to try them, or to humble them: we shall learn to submit ourselves to him, to hold our peace because he has done it, and to keep silence, that we offend not against him [Psal. 39:9.]. This will keep us that we do not rage against second causes, that we do not mutter and murmur against God. That we seek not the revenge our enemies.

William Attersoll, A Commentary Upon the Epistle of Saint Paule to Philemon (Printed at London by Tho. Cotes, and are to be sold by Michael Speake, dwelling at the sign of the blue Bible in Greene-Arbor, 1633), 302-304. [Some spelling modernized; marginal references cited inline; footnote mine; and underlining mine.]


1Archaic word denoting ‘to be content.’

2Original: Esay.

Confessio Catholica:

Concerning Providence

Providence is of two sorts. The general, by which God preserves, cares for, governs, sustains, and feeds His creatures. This is spoken of in Acts, “In him we live, move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). “The Father and I are at work” ( John 5:17). “Not a sparrow falls to the ground without His wish” (Matt. 10:29). “So has He clothed them” (Matt. 6:29-30). “He brings up His sun upon both good and wicked” (Matt. 5:45). “Thou gives food to all creatures” (Ps. 136:25; 146:7).

The particular is that by which He cares especially for the needs of the creatures; as He rules and governs His elect by His Spirit, grace, and Word (Isa. 46, 49, 54; Jer. 30, 31, 32; Ezek. 11, 16).”With my hands have I formed thee, in my bosom will I carry thee:’ He cares for and feeds His church especially (Luke 10; Matt. 18). “I will be with you” (Matt. 28:20; Eph. 5). Frequently, He works singularly in the vessels of wrath as in His other creatures, turning the evil will of men whichever way He wishes. Frequently, He ordains men to punishments, as it is said, “I have created the destroyer for destruction:’ (Isa. 54:16), “the wicked for the day of evil,” (Prov. 16:4), i.e., I have established and ordered that they are servants of my wrath in the punishment of Satan and men, by not causing in them grief for sin. But the wicked per se, He raises up and ordains to the evil of punishment by His just judgment (Isa. 45, 54; 1 Kings 22).

Do All Things Happen by Chance,
Randomly, or According to Fate?

With regard to foreknowledge and providence, nothing happens by chance, whether good or evil (Isa. 45; Lam. 3; Amos 3; 1 Cor. 12). By His power, all things take place. Even those that in our eyes seem to happen randomly take place by the ordination of the providence of God, such as death, sudden destruction, chance missions, as you have in Exodus 21 and Proverbs 16, 20. “The hearts of kings are in His hand and He turns them which way He will” (Prov. 21:1). For nothing is hidden from God; all things are open before His eyes (so say Augustine, Book 1, Retractions; to Simplicianus; concerning predestination; Jerome; Jer. 9; Ambrose, Fulgentius, Prosper). With respect to us, to whom distant things are unknown, and who do not know the causes of all things that occur, all unfamiliar things may [seem] to happen by chance, of which causes, order, and results we understand do not happen by chance.

Not everything takes place in the course of fate (fatum) of which the Stoics speak. We repudiate the fatalistic necessity established by the Stoics. However, insofar as all things take place by the foreknowledge of God and the ordinance of His providence, then the  foreknowledge of God in those things that occur is infallible. To that extent, all things happen not by chance but by the ordinance of God’s foreknowledge; even those bad things that have happened hitherto. The evil of offense, however, He only permits to happen; He does not accomplish them directly and causally Himself.

“The Hungarian Confessio Catholica (1562),” in Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, ed., James T. Dennison, (Grand Rapids Michigan: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), 2:482-483. [Some spelling modernized and underlining mine.]

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Wilhelmus a’ Brakel on Divine Governance and Permission of Sin

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism

A’ Brakel:

1) Fourthly, nothing exists or comes to pass apart from the operation of God. God sustains everything by His omnipotent and omnipresent power. Nothing can move without divine cooperation and thus everything transpires according to His decree, be it either by the Lord’s initiation or permission, directing things in such a manner that they accomplish His purpose. Thus it becomes evident that the Lord has prior knowledge concerning all things. You will comprehend this with more clarity and be less confused if you keep in mind that God is omniscient and has decreed all that transpires. His knowledge is not derived from existing matters and secondary causes as is true for man. Keep in mind that from God’s perspective, who is the first cause of all things, everything is an absolute certainty even though it appears to be uncertain when viewed from the perspective of secondary causes. From God’s perspective there are no contingencies; such is only true from man’s perspective. Thus, in defining the freedom of the will we must not think of it as functioning independently from God, on an equal plane with His will, or as a neutral entity; rather, this freedom is a function of necessity. Thus, the freedom of the will does not contradict the certain foreknowledge of God. Man, without coercion and by arbitrary choice, performs that which God has most certainly decreed, and of which He was cognizant that it would occur. Wilhemus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, trans., by Bartel Elshout, (Ligonier, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publ., 1992), 1:104-105

2) God’s Government and Sin

Nevertheless God’s government also encompasses sin, for otherwise the entire human race, being sinful in its deeds, would be removed from God’s government. God’s government regarding sin cannot be denied by someone who believes God’s Word, from which we will prove this with utmost clarity.

For a correct understanding of God’s government relative to sin we must take notice of three matters which pertain to every sin: the natural activity, the deviation in this activity, and God’s government in bringing this activity to a good end.

(1) The natural activity, considered in and of itself, proceeds from God. This has been demonstrated in discussing the second act of providence, cooperation.

(2) We shall soon demonstrate that God governs sin to a good end.

(3) The deviation, the abuse of the energizing power of God, the corruption of this power, and the irregularity of the activity as far as manner and objective are concerned whether such activity is internal or external do not proceed from God, but from man himself. Man is nevertheless not independent in the act of sin for he corrupts the energy upon which he depends for his activity. God’s government concerning sin relates 1) to its commencement, 2) to its progression, and 3) to its ultimate outcome.

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Heinrich Bullinger (1504–1575) on the Providence of God

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


That the whole world is maintained and very well governed by God’s providence.

The fourth Chapter.

That God
does yet
now preserve
the things
he has made.
John 5.

But God did not only make this world, and all things that are therein, but also preserves the same, and yet now God’s power works in preserving of it. Whereupon Christ our Lord says, “My Father works hitherto and I work.” Now it were a fond thing to grant that the Whole was created by God, and to deny that he cares for it, or governs it. Therefore all things that are, and do move anywhere are and do move by God his providence, the Elements, the courses of the Starts, seasons and varieties of times, fruit, and other things, which the earth brings forth, continual springs of fountains, the certain courses of Rivers, Monsters of the Sea, besides these beginning continuance and change of Empires, and those things which are punishments all these things, and whatsoever else may be reckoned up, are ruled by God’s providence and counsel. And that these things are very well and excellently governed, not only the Holy Scriptures,  but also daily experience does teach, and all the saints in Heaven do confess. Apoca. 4th and 5th chapters.


Amongst the Gentiles in times past the Epicures, who had regard neither of God nor man (whose like would to God we had not in our time a great many), did think God neither cares for us at all, neither yet sees what we do, and that there was no providence of God at all: and others judge all things to be ruled either of nature, or fortune, and therefore that all things come to pass either by chance, or at all adventures, or else to be ordered by constellations, that is by the force and power of Stars, or by man’s means and counsel. But such as hold these opinions, these never have any regard of God, or commit their affairs unto God. Wherefore such men are fro good cause rebuked by S. James which says, “go to now you which say, today, or tomorrow we will go into that city, and remain a year there, and will use merchandise, and get grain, whereas you should rather say if the Lord will, and if we live, we will do this or that,” [ James. 4.]. For Christ our Lord has also commanded us not to be careful for all things to come, [Mat. 5. Luke. 12.] but for to do those things which are commanded of God, and finally to cast all our care upon him [ 1 Peter. 5. Heb. 13.], for so much as as with our carefulness we cannot make one hair either white or black [Mat. 10.], and that all the hairs of our heads are numbered unto God, without whose will, not the very smallest birds that are, fall unto the ground. And saint Paul says, God gives unto all men life, breath, and to be short all things, for through him, we live and have our being and move. And David says: “The eyes of all things are cast upon thee O Lord, and thou gives them meat in due season, and opening thy hand feeds all things living, which being shut up, all things perish and decay,” [Psal. 147.].

And Daniel says, wisdom and power of the Lord’s, which changes times and seasons, which puts down kings and makes kings, &c [Daniel. 2.]. If any man be desirous to have more testimonies of this, sort let him read Levit. 26; Deu. 28; Job. 38; and 39. Esai; 40; Jere. 10; Psa. 104, 107, 139, and 147; and the commentaries of Saint Augustine upon the 148th Psalm.

What profit comes
by the knowledge
of God’s providence.

And this true and perfect knowledge of God’s providence whereby all things are governed, makes men patient in adversity, modest and ware, and in all all matters it keeps in us the remembrance and reverence of God, and stirs us up ti praise and call upon God.

Henry Bullinger, Common Places of Christian Religion, (Imprinted at London by Tho. East, and H. Middleton, for George Byshop, 1572), 38-40. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]


John Marbeck (ca. 1510-ca.1585) on the Providence of God

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism



Of the providence of God, what it is.

Providence is not only that unspeakable power whereby it comes to pass, that God has foreseen all things from everlasting, and most wisely provided for all things beforehand: But also that eternal decree or ordinance of the most wise and righteous God, whereby that everything that has been, has been: and everything that is, is: and everything that shall be, shall be: according as it liked him to appoint from everlasting


We mean by the providence of God, that even as he is creator of all things, he is also the conserver, which does by his eternal power and wisdom, guide and govern them, and by his sovereign  goodness in such sort, that nothing comes by adventure, neither in heaven nor in earth, without his counsel and ordinance, and his most just will, be it in general, or in particular.

Peter Viret.

No good or evil does happen without a cause, or by fortune without God’s providence, but all things do happen after his judgment.

Hierom., upon Eze.

Providence is sometime as much to say as knowledge, and foreknowledge of things to come. Sometime it signifies an ability to foresee for others of things necessary, so it is said that God in heaven does foresee and care for all. Again, some do decline the providence of God after this wise: Providence is the everlasting and unchangeable kingdom and administration of all things. They do mean (says Musculus), by the word of kingdom, dominion and power, and by the word of administration, the temperature of that dominion which they added, because of the finding and giving of all things unto us, which seems in show, to be a condition of ministry, as well as of dominion.

Musc., Fol. 425. and 426.

God’s providence we call that sovereign Empire and supreme dominion, which God always keeps in the government of all things in heaven and earth contained. And these two (that is, prescience and providence), we so attribute unto God, that with the Apostle we fear not to affirm, that in him we have our being, moving and life. We fear not to affirm, that the way of man is not in his own power, but that his foot-steps are directed by the eternal God (that the sorts and lots which appear most subject to fortune), go so forth by his providence, that a sparrow falls not on the ground, without our heavenly Father. And thus we give not to God any prescience, by an idle sight, and a providence by a general moving of his creatures (as not only some Philosophers, but also more then is to be wished in our days do), but we attribute uto him such a knowledge and providence, as is extended to every one of his creatures. In which he so works, that willingly they tend and incline to the end, to the which they are appointed by him, &c.

Knox, fol. 21.

Because we know not all things (says S. Austen), which God does concerning us in most good order, that therefore in only good-will we do according to the law, because his providence is an unchangeable law. Therefore since God does claim unto himself the power to rule the world, which is to us unknown. Let this be a law to us of soberness and modesty, quietly to obey his sovereign authority, that his will may be unto us the only rule Justice, as the most just cause of all things. I mean not that absolute will, of which the Sophists do babble, separating by wicked and profane disagreement, his Justice from his power, but I mean that providence, which is the governess of all things, from which proceeds nothing but right, although the causes he hidden from us.

Calvin, 1. book, chapt. 17, Sect. 3.

Iohn Marbeck, A Book of Notes and Common Places, collected and gathered out of the works of diuers singular Witers, and brought Alphabetically in order (Imprinted at London by Thomas East, 1581), 880-881. [Some reformatting; spelling modernized.] [Note: Marbeck’s reference to Hierom probably refers to Hieronymus Zanchius, the Latinized and alternative spelling used for Jerome or Zanchi, also known as, Girolamo Zanchi. And needless to say, Musc. refers to Musculus.]