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Unless otherwise noted, definitions are from Webster's American Dictionary (1828)
Among the Articles of Religion mentioned in the Title prefix'd to these Discourses; this of the Decrees is the first and chief, and on which all the rest depend. It is certain, that this mightily Influences on every one of them; so that the right Decision of them cannot be expected, without a clear understanding the Nature of the Divine Decrees. Therefore I will begin with this, and I will make this Proposition as clear and manifest as any in our whole Religion, That God hath from Eternity decreed all things that come to pass in time, and all things that shall be to Eternal Ages. The Apostle's Assertion is universal, He worketh all things after the counsel of his own Will,
Eph. 1.11. Every thing that happens, is according to this Counsel of God's Will, called the determinate Counsel of God, Acts 2.23. This is no other than his Eternal Decree, (for the Decree was an Act of his Will) whereby he hath determin'd what things shall be, whereby he hath purposed to do or not to do such and such things, to permit or not to permit them, whereby he hath appointed how every thing shall happen, in what order and manner they shall be effected And nothing is done, nothing happens, nothing is effected, but according to this Divine Counsel and Will. The Decrees are large and Comprehensive, and have respect to all Causes, Effects, and Events, all things past, present and to come, whether they relate to Angels, good or bad, or to Men, or to any other Creatures whatsoever. The Eternal Decrees reach not only the end, but the Means in order to it. They extend not only to Persons and Things, but to Time and Place, and all other Circumstances belonging to them Which shall be afterwards distinctly and clearly prov'd.
Yea, All Natural, and even Inanimate Things, and their Effects and Operations, are fixed by the Divine Decrees, and are thereby immoveable and unalterable. Concerning the glorious Works of the Creation, the Psalmist thus speaks, He hath made a Decree which shall not pass, that is he hath made an unchangable Decree concerning them, Ps. 148.6. Particularly concerning that noted Meteor the [Rain] Job assures us, that God hath made a Decree for it, [chap.] 28.26. It is the very same* word in the Original, that is used by the Psalmist in the fore-mention’d place. The number of the Showers of Rain,*[?]
and of the very drops of them, is determin’d. And the particular Places and Cities which shall have the benefit of them, are also appointed, Am. 4.7. And God himself, speaking of the wonderful [Confining and Restraining] of the vast Ocean, saith thus, I broke up for it my decreed place, Job 38.10.
Or, according to the Hebrew, I established my Decree upon it. It is the very same word still in the Original. So again, in Prov. 8.29. He gives to the Sea his Decree, that the waters should not pass his Commandment. And we are informed from v 23 that this Decree was from everlasting, from the beginning. Then it was determin’d, That the profound and spacious Cavities of the Earth, should be the Receptacles of the Waters of the Sea, and that the Shore should be the Boundaries thereof. Therefore God himself saith, He hath placed the Sands for the bounds of the Sea by* a perpetual Decree, that it cannot pass it, Jer. 5.22. By virtue of this Decree the roaring Waves, the raging Billows, which of themselves are apt to fly out, are kept within their proper Chanels.
This Divine Decree or Order concerning the Regulating of Natural Bodies, and then Motions and Operations, is mention'd in other places of Holy Writ, where we read of the Ordinances of Heaven and Earth, Jer. 33.25. In which Texts the same [?] Hebrew word is made use of, that I took notice of before, and it lets us see, that the Decrees and the Ordinances in these places are the same. Unto which it must be attributed, that all things appertaining to the Heavens and the Earth, are invariably kept*[?]
up and maintain'd; and that they remain in the same equal and steady Posture thro' all Generations. It is by virtue of the Decree that there is this Settlement.
But tho' the Divine Decree be thus General and Extensive, and is God's Eternal Purpose and Disposal, concerning all Things and Beings whatsoever, yet we are more especially to consider it as it hath a particular Respect unto Men, and that, first, as to their Temporal and Bodily Concerns; and secondly, as to those which are Spiritual, those that relate to their Souls, and the Condition of them in this and the other World. My present Undertaking obliges me chiefly to speak of the Decree, as it respects the Salvation or Damnation of Mankind, but yet, to lay open fully the Doctrine of the Decrees, I will consider them in their utmost Extent and Latitude; And accordingly, for the sake of the true Lovers of God and Truth, I will first shew, that all the Temporal and Worldly Concerns of Mankind, are the Object of the Divine Decrees; and then I will more largly and amply Discourse of these Decrees, as they have regard to our Spiritual State, namely, that of Grace and Salvation, and that other of Sin and Perdition.
First, I shall make it evident from the express and frequent Testimonies of the Inspired Writings, which are the infallible Rule and Standard of all Divine Truth, that Man's Life here upon Earth, and all things appertaining to it, are unalterably appointed and predetermin'd. The very individual and precise Term of his continuance in this World, is prefix'd and limited by the Almighty. Which being admitted and believ'd, we can scarcely doubt whether all Mens particular Conditions, together with all the Circumstances and Concomitants of Humane Life, be not also irrevocably fix'd and determin'd. Wherefore I shall endeavour the proof of the former, and
then I reckon that the latter will be granted, as a Consequent of it. However, lest any should presume to deny it, I will evince the Truth of it.
Who is more able to inform us concerning the Set Determination of the Time of Man's Life, than Holy Job, whose days were imbitter'd by all sorts of Troubles, Afflictions and Calamities, and who was reduced to such a deplorable and wretched Condition, that he was weary of his life, and passionatly long'd for a period of it? This put him upon studying this grand Point, and enquiring into the true State of this Question, namely, Whether the Divine Destiny had set any particular Limits and Boundaries to his Life, and to the Lives of all other Men? And now hear his Resolution of this Problem, Is there not an appointed time to man upon Earth? Job 7.1. which way of speaking, by way of Interrogation, is equivalent with a positive Assertion, in the usual Stile of Scripture, and therefore it is as much as if he had directly and expressly [averr'd], That the Time of Man upon Earth is appointed. Indeed the Hebrew word Tlaba, is translated by some a Warfare; for that is the import of it sometimes. But if we rightly consider it, we shall find that it amounts to the same thing which is here expressed in our Translation. For tho' it primarily signifies warfare, yet the next denotation of it is the Time of Warfare; the particular set time of a Soldiers being in Arms, and more especially of being upon Service and Action. And thence it comes to denote any Set and Prefixed Time, and consequently is fitly and properly rendred here an appointed Time. Such is Man's Life, saith our Inspired Author, in this World, it is set and determin'd by Him who gave him his Being.
And therefore, in another place, is call'd by this Holy Man the days of our appointed time, Job 14.14,
because the Days of it are appointed and determined by God, because there are certain Limits set to it, beyond which there is no [sallying] forth Which is confirm'd by what the holy Man there saith, that he will [wait] till this appointed Time, which is accompanied with so great a Change, shall come. Which clearly implies, that the period of his Days was precisely fix'd, and that it could not be hastned or delay'd. That is the reason why he waited for it, and patiently expected it. Whereas if the term of our Life were not immovable, we could not be said to wait till it arrived; this importing, that we must weather out all the time with patient and contented Minds, not entertaining a fond imagination that it can be either lengtned or shortned; And therefore there is good ground for our patient waiting.
I return back to the first Verse of the seventh Chapter, where we had these words, Is there not an appointed time to man upon Earth? And then it immediately follows, Are not his days like the days of an hireling? Where we see, that the latter Clause explains the former, and instructs us in this Doctine, That the Days of our Lives are set and fix;d, for they are the days of a Hireling, which are set and determin'd for a particular time, and when these are expired, he is no longer an Hireling, for he was hired only for a determinate Time. To which purpose let those words in Isai. 16.14. be consulted, The Lord hath spoken, saying, Within three years, as the years of an hireling, and the glory of Moab shall be contemned. And those in Isai. 21.16. Thus hath the Lord said unto me, Within a year, according to the years of an hireling, and all the glory of Kedar shall fail. Whence 'tis evident, that the Years or Days of a Hireling, signifie a precise and prefixt Time, and such as is absolutly Determin'd. The reason of which is plain,
because of old (as well as since) hired Workmen or Servants were agreed with for a certain determinate number of years or days, and as soon as that term was ended, they look'd for their Hire. Thus this fit Similitude doth both prove and illustrate the Truth which I'm now advancing, That the Days and Years of all Mens Lives are fix'd by an Eternal Decree. The familiar Comparison which the Holy Ghost makes use of here, doth sufficiently Establish us in this Belief.
Last updated 9 Jul 14