As we stated in our preceding article, we, as Protestant Reformed Churches do not believe in Hyper-Calvinism. That God is sovereign and has surely willed sin does not annul our calling to demand of all who hear the preaching of the gospel to repent and believe. Continually we are admonished as people of God unto faith and repentance because the truth stands sure that God does all things, but also that He causes us to stand in His grace. If it is God Who worketh in us the willing and the doing, we then, as the result of that work of God, must will and do. And as far as the wicked are concerned, who refuse to walk in the way of God’s commandments, who reject the living God because Christ saves from sin and they love sin, they will be held accountable for the fact that they loved darkness rather than the light and walked in the ways of iniquity because they hated the living God.
The call to repentance and faith which must be addressed seriously to all who hear the preaching of the gospel does not negate either God’s counsel of double predestination, or the sinner’s total inability to turn from his evil way unto the living God. We are aware of the fact that we are often charged with the error of not being able, seriously, to demand of all sinners repentance and faith because of our emphasis upon the Calvinistic doctrines of God’s double and sovereign predestination, Christ’s particular atonement, the sinner’s utter inability to do any good, and the irresistible efficacy of divine grace. However, we surely subscribe to what we read in our Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 4, in answer to Question 8: “Doth not God then do injustice to man by requiring from him in His law, that which he cannot perform?”, and we quote the answer of the catechism: “Not at all; for God made man capable of performing it; but man, by the instigation of the devil, and his own willful disobedience, deprived himself and all his posterity of those divine gifts.” Notice, please, that God requires of man that which he cannot perform. Indeed, the demand of repentance and faith is not nullified by the sinner’s inability to do what is good. Pelagianism and Arminianism are not the answer to the possibility of preaching the gospel to all its hearers, demanding of them repentance and faith.
How wonderfully comforting is the truth of God’s Providence and Sin to which we have been calling attention in these articles. God is absolutely sovereign. This can never be emphasized too emphatically. We may well ask: what do you prefer, that God is in absolute control or that the devil is in control? Somebody must have control. The sinner surely does not control things. The affairs and development of them in the midst of the world are certainly not in his hand. They are controlled by a power or powers outside of him. So, the question is all-important: who is in control?
This truth of God’s absolute providence, also as governing the reality of sin, is comforting, first of all, from the viewpoint of the position of the church of God in the midst of the world. Now this is primarily the viewpoint of our Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Day 10. Our Heidelberg instructor discusses in Lord’s Day 10 the providence of God. This providence of the Lord had already been mentioned in Answer 26 of Lord’s Day 9. We read in Question 28: “What advantage is it to us to know that God has created and by His providence doth still uphold all things?” Now it is evident that the Catechism here refers also the wicked world. He speaks in Answer 26 of “whatever evils He sends upon me.” We read in Answer 28: “since all creatures are so in His hand, that without His will they cannot so much as move.” And we also read in Answer 27 that the providence of God is the almighty and everywhere present power of God whereby, as it were by His hand, He upholds and governs heaven and earth and all creatures. Indeed, this power of God also controls the wicked world. Now this comfort is very apparent. If all things are controlled by Jehovah, the church is surely perfectly safe in the midst of the world. Then no harm can possibly befall us. No devil, then can do me any harm. Fact is, all things are in the hands of my almighty Father. In His constant care we, of course, are perfectly safe.
This, however, is not the only comfort which we may derive from the truth of God’s Providence and Sin. It is surely true, of course, that the Lord causes all things to work together unto my good. But of what benefit is it to me that the Lord has willed sin? Would it not have been far better for you and me to enter into glory without the way of sin and grace? But, we must understand, this present night of sin and darkness and death is no accident. Although the infralapsarian begins in God’s counsel with the phenomenon of sin, and declares that God has sovereignly elected and reprobated out of a fallen human race, the supralapsarian position has never been condemned. And the infralapsarian himself concedes that he does not do justice to certain strong Scriptural passages. Hence, would it not have been better for God’s people to enter into glory without the way of sin and grace? O, it is indeed true that this truth is comforting from the viewpoint of the church of God in the midst of the world. Indeed, all things are under our God’s sovereign control, also this present night of sin and death, this valley of the shadow of death.
However, this is not all. We must also maintain that the eternal glory of the alone living God is my comfort. On the one hand, this conception of God’s sovereign control over all things, including sin and darkness, maintains God as God. We must face the reality of iniquity. To cause sin to have its origin apart from God gives the church of God no comfort. Shall we maintain the truth of Isaiah 45:7: “I form light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things”? We realize that when we read in this passage that the Lord creates darkness and also that He creates evil, this does not negate the truth that the Lord is never the author of sin; or, to express it positively, it does not teach that God is the author of sin and darkness and evil, and it surely does not negate the truth that the Lord willed sin as committed by man who is a moral-rational, responsible creature. Nevertheless, if God be not the sovereign Creator of evil and darkness, (Isaiah 45:7), then this night of sin and evil must be ascribed to the devil. Then all this night of sin and evil is of that evil one. Can we possibly prefer this? It is either or, God or the devil. Do we prefer to have the devil in charge? Then we lose God. However, to know God as the only true God is eternal life (John 17:3). It must be and surely is the desire and longing of my heart that God remain God. And the Scriptures declare that He alone is God, that there is none beside Him. That He is God, Whom I love, that He works all things, that He holds the reins of all things in His hand, is of supreme importance and comfort to the child and church of God. The church cannot possibly live without this truth. It is the rock of all my salvation and comfort.
And this is not all. God did not simply will sin as such. More can and indeed must be said. God must be God, yes, but He must be God also as the omniscient and holy One. Now we know that the sinner loves sin, but to the Lord this sin is an abomination. And we do not hesitate to say that we rejoice in the fact, in connection with the presence of evil in the midst of the world, that the good and holy God has willed it. No, we do not rejoice in the fact of sin itself, or in its presence in the world. But we do rejoice in the fact that the good and holy God has willed it. If the devil held the reins of history in his hand I would not have a moment of peace. Imagine, if you please, that he were in control! Or, imagine that an accident took place in Paradise when Adam fell, which would imply that it occurred outside of the Lord’s control and jurisdiction. This would imply that all things would be “repair work.” Imagine that as far as God is concerned, Adam could have earned or obtained for the whole human race eternal life in the way of obedience. Imagine that we and all men could have attained unto life everlasting! And now Adam sins and the entire human race lies in the midst of sin and death. Now the Lord is attempting to salvage what He can. He is as it were “picking up the pieces.” He offers His salvation to all those who hear the gospel. What a shame it is, then, that the church does not reach more men with this general well-meaning offer of the gospel. The Lord, Who would have all men be saved, must now be satisfied with a mere handful. What a pity! Indeed, what a pity in the light of the possibility that the whole human race could have been spared this terrible night of sin and darkness and death!
Shall we endorse this view? God forbid! The Lord is unchangeable sovereign, irresistible and almighty, also as far as sin and all the powers of darkness are concerned. Indeed, no accident occurred. Never does the devil hold the reins of history in his hand. God indeed willed sin. And now all is well. All is well. Sin must indeed serve the highest glory of God’s everlasting Name. O, the Lord did not will sin for sin’s sake. It is not so, as the Arminians would have us believe, that the Lord throws people into hell, casts, as they say, little babies into endless perdition. The Lord casts sinners into hell, also as far as those little babies who perish are concerned. Indeed, He did not will sin for sin’s sake. Sin is an abomination to the Lord. But He willed sin for His own Name’s sake; He realizes the glory of His Name in the way of sin and grace. Darkness must serve the light. Even as a diamond shines so much more brilliantly upon the background of a coal pile, even so sin and darkness must serve the power and glory of His grace and the Lord’s own adorable sovereignty. All things shall unite in the glory of Jehovah, positively in heaven, but also in hell as the everlasting manifestation of His adorable holiness and righteousness. A remnant is being saved that cannot possibly save itself. The people of God must suffer for Jesus’ sake, in His behalf, that the ages to come may declare forever His faithfulness and the power and glory of His grace. Well may we say, how truly we may and do abhor all evil: O, Lord, if this sin, all this darkness must serve the light, what and how great shall the light be, the eternal glory of Thy Name! Indeed, what depths of the wisdom of God! Who, O Lord, hath been Thy counselor? None, and none could possibly be that counselor. All things shall glorify His Name. We may, therefore, praise Him, always realizing that our covenant God is realizing His glory sovereignly, and this throughout the ages. What a wonderful truth and confession this is, proclaimed by the church of God throughout the ages. “For who hath know the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counselor? Or, who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto Him again? For of Him, and through Him, and unto Him are all things: to Whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:34-36). With this majestic, inspired word of the apostle we conclude these articles. Our God reigneth, our almighty and sovereign God reigneth, and He is our God, now and forever. The enemy may fume and rage at this truth, but we will cleave to it, our only comfort in life and death, now and even forevermore.