Chapter 5: Of Divine Providence

  1. God, the good Creator of all things, in his infinite power and wisdom, upholds, directs, disposes, and governs1 all creatures, and things, from the greatest to the very least,2 by his perfectly wise and holy providence, to the end for which they were created. He does this in accordance with his infallible foreknowledge and the free and unchangeable counsel of his own will,3 to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness and mercy.

1 Heb 1.3; Jb 38.11; Is 46.10-11; Ps 135.6 2 Mt 10.29-31 3 Eph 1.11

  1. Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, who is the first cause, all things come to pass immutably [unchangeably] and infallibly4 (so that there is nothing that happens to anyone by chance,5 or without his providence), nevertheless, by that same providence God orders all things to come to pass according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently [conditionally].6

4 Acts 2.23 5 Prv 16.33 6 Gen 8.22

  1. God in his ordinary providence makes use of means,7 but he is free to work without,8 above,9 and against them10 as he pleases.

7 Acts 27.31, 44; Is 55.10-11 8 Hos 1.7 9 Rom 4.19-21 10 Dan 3.27

  1. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God are so entirely demonstrated in his providence that his determinate counsel [sovereign plan and government bringing about an intended end] extends itself even to the first fall, and all other sinful actions both of angels and men.11 These things come to pass not by mere permission [passive allowance], but even these he wisely and powerfully limits, and otherwise orders and governs12 in a manifold [varied and complex] dispensation [government or arrangement] to accomplish his entirely holy purposes.13 However, this comes to pass in such a way that the sinfulness of these acts comes only from the creatures, and not from God who – being utterly holy and righteous – neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.14

11 Rom 11.32-34; 2Sam 24.1; 1Chr 21.1 12 2Kgs 19.28; Ps 76.10 13 Gen 50.20; Is 10.6-7, 12 14 Ps 50.21; 1Jn 2.16

  1. The perfectly wise, righteous, and gracious God often leaves his own children to various temptations and to the corruptions of their own hearts for a time. He does this to discipline them for their former sins, or to reveal to them the hidden strength of corruption and the deceitfulness of their hearts, in order that they may be humbled. He also does it to bring them to a closer [more concentrated] and more constant dependence on himself for their support; and, to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for other just and holy ends.15 Therefore, whatever happens to any of his elect is by his appointment, for his glory, and for their good.16

15 2Chr 32.25-26, 31; 2Sam 24.1; 2Cor 12.7-9 16 Rom 8.28

  1. As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God as a righteous judge blinds and hardens because of former sin:17 from them he not only withholds his grace, by which they might have been enlightened in their understanding, and worked upon in their hearts,18 but sometimes he also withdraws the gifts which they had,19 and exposes them to such situations as their corruptions make an occasion of sin.20 Moreover, he gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan,21 by which it eventually happens that they harden themselves,22 even under those means which God uses for the softening of others.

17 Rom 1.24, 26, 28; Rom 11.7-8 18 Dt 29.4 19 Mt 13.12 20 Dt 2.30; 2Kgs 8.12-13 21 Ps 81.11-12; 2Thes 2.10-12 22 Ex 8.15, 32; Is 6.9-10; 1Pt 2.7-8

  1. As the providence of God does in general extend to all creatures, so in a distinctive and particular way it takes care of his church,23 and orders all things for her good.

23 1Tim 4.10; Am 9.8-9; Is 43.3-5