it begins this thirteenth article with the words, “We believe that the same God . . . .” Our Heidelberg Catechism already points to this in clear language in the well-known Question and Answer 1, where this truth of God’s providence is placed in the context of our only comfort in life and death. Moreover, the Heidelberg Catechism, in Lord’s Days IX and X includes this truth of God’s providence under the question, “What believest thou when thou sayest, ‘I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth?'” And also here providence is plainly considered in the context of the Christian’s only comfort.
It is fundamental that we understand this fact and its implications. For it is of sweeping significance.
In the first place, this means that faith in the God of providence is emphatically faith in the invisible and incomprehensible God. The work of providence belongs in the realm of the things that are not seen. You cannot arrive at it by a reasoning process. You cannot prove it, even as you cannot prove the doctrine of creation. You cannot prove the existence of the providential God by reasoning from the fact of a certain order in all things to the existence of Him Who orders and designs them all. Even when you consider providence as a bare power of God whereby He upholds all things, and they continue to exist, and even when you consider it from the point of view of its being that power of God according to which He directs and controls all things, this can only be explained from the fact that God did not leave Himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” But especially when we consider the doctrine of God’s providence in its full scope, as it includes not only a bare government and control of all things, but a government and control that has its end, its goal, in the day of Christ, in the realization of God’s everlasting tabernacle with men, in the salvation of the elect and the judgment and condemnation of the ungodly, the reprobate, as it includes the, knowledge and the confidence that “all things work together for good to them that love. God, who are the called according to his purpose,”—I say, especially then the truth of God’s providence cannot possibly be apprehended except in the light of God’s revelation in Christ Jesus our Lord, and therefore by faith. First of all, we must remember that the faith of providence is a matter of the heart, not merely of the mind. And even as with the testimony of God in creation, so with the testimony of God in His work of upholding and governing all things, the natural man changes the truth of God into the lie, and worships and serves the creature rather than the Creator. Secondly, apart from Christ, man can only apprehend the wrath of God that is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness. Apart from Christ there is no “kind Providence” who smiles benignly upon the children of men. Indeed, men will speak of providence, especially with respect to the good and favorable things and events of life, or especially when in a pseudo-religious feeling, faced by catastrophic events or fearing catastrophic possibilities, they feel called upon to invoke some kind of outside help in coping with troubles and obstacles which seem overwhelming. They will do this even though for the rest they speak of luck, or chance, or fate. They will speak thus though they will hate and deny with all their power the very idea that also the so-called evil events of history come by God’s all-wise government. All this only serves to emphasize the fact that while men know very well that there is a God in heaven who upholds and governs all things to His own determinate purpose, they nevertheless hate Him and will not and cannot believe in Him. The unbeliever, the man outside of Christ, cannot possibly understand that all things,—also adversity, sickness, war, famine, pestilence, death,—are brought to pass by God’s providence; and he certainly cannot understand and will not .acknowledge that all things work together for good. And small wonder! For to the ungodly all things do not work together for good, but for evil. Moreover, this unbelief becomes manifest very readily. Confront an unbeliever with the truth that sickness, suffering, death, adversity, poverty, famine, drought, pestilence, war are sent by God; and his blasphemous reaction will be, “Such a God I do not want. In that kind of God I cannot believe. God would never do such things.”
In the second place, as we have already suggested above, that providence is a matter of faith means that it can only be understood and apprehended in the light of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ our Lord. The God of providence is the God and Father of our. Lord Jesus Christ, and our Father for Christ’s sake. It is only in the light of Christ, in the light of the cross and resurrection, and in the light of the salvation accomplished and realized through Jesus Christ that one can understand and lay hold of this blessed truth of God’s providence. A mere, bare doctrine of providence is a horrible thing. Such a providence is horrible because it is the providence of a God Who is against us! But in Christ Jesus and in connection with God’s purpose of election in Christ, the whole operation of God’s providence becomes clear. All the problems of the divine government of the world and its history have their solution in Christ, the Firstborn of every creature, and that too, as the firstborn from the dead. In that light alone, “we know that all things work together for good.”
And therefore, in the third place, that providence is a matter of faith implies that it can be known and understood and believed strictly and only in the light of Holy Scripture. And, as our Confession has it, we must be content to learn only those things that are revealed to us in God’s Word. Only from it can we know the God of providence.