1. Providence (Remastered)

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 15 2024

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  • Series: Sin and Perfection (Remastered)
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Proverbs 16:33, Matthew 10:29-31

Hear now the Word of God as it is given to us in Proverbs 16:33, and Matthew 10:29-31.

Proverbs 16:33;

The lot is cast into the lap;

But the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.

Matthew 10:29-31;

“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.”

There was a time when, basic to the Reformed faith, was the doctrine of providence. Perhaps no other doctrine was more characteristic of the Puritans than precisely this. Not only did they rejoice in it, speak of it, but they would name towns and ships and their homes with the word ‘providence.’ Without the doctrine of providence, the Reformed faith is dead. Without the doctrine of providence, the doctrine of predestination becomes only an academic doctrine, and irrelevant to everyday life, why?

What the doctrine of predestination affirms is that; ‘God from all eternity did decree, ordain and establish all things that come to pass.’ Now by itself, that doctrine can become an abstract, a cold, a Neoplatonic, or an Islamic concept. Indeed, in the modern Reformed community, it is to a large extent a Neoplatonic concept. The Neoplatonic doctrine of the ‘idea’ is that the universe is made up between two different things: ideas on the one hand, and matter on the other. These are brought together in an unhappy, and unstable compromise, but they are forever distinct and different. But scripture declares that God the Lord made all things by His sovereign Word, and that all creation is one being; created being, and it cannot be separated into diverse elements, as though one were above and beyond the other. Now, when Neoplatonism through Cambridge University began to corrupt and destroy Puritanism, what it did was to make predestination into a Neoplatonic idea, up there in the heavens, and very quickly, providence dropped out of theology.

How long has it been since a book was written on providence? You have to go back to the Puritans to find one. They wrote, they preached endlessly about providence, because, to them it was the most basic, the most marvelous doctrine of all of Scripture. It meant that the God who established and ordained all things by His predestinating counsel, also governed all things closely, intimately, closer to us than we are to ourselves. Which of us knows the every hair of our head? Now as the years have passed, I’ve come closer and closer to being able to count the hairs on my head, but I still can’t, thank God! But the Lord tells us that God knows me and knows you so intimately, so personally that He knows the very hair of our head; not a hair falls apart from His government.

Do you see what that does? It brings predestination out from the heavens into our very being. The lot, the dice, is cast into the lap, and its every roll is the determining of God. The sparrow falls, but not apart from the will of our Father. Instead of being an abstract and cold doctrine, when predestination and providence are made inseparable, as they were intended to be by the reformers, then the doctrine is precisely what Calvin called it, not a matter of abstract disputation by schoolmen, but for the comfort of the saints.

I submit therefore, we need to think more about the doctrine of providence, because it is this doctrine that makes God more real to our daily lives than anything else around us or within us. What The Catechism and The Confession of Faith tell us on providence is very moving. The first paragraph of The Westminster Confession of Faith declares, when it speaks of providence;

“God, the great creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose and govern all creatures, actions and things from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge and the free and immutable counsel of His own will to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness and mercy.” 1

Now, what happens when we deny that doctrine? It does not disappear, it is simply transferred elsewhere, because providence being a part of God’s plan and purpose, it is like everything God has done, an inescapable aspect of this world. Man cannot help but think in terms of the categories of God’s creation. Marx talked about abolishing the Biblical ideas of heaven and hell, and then he turned around and insisted on portraying the communist utopia as a heaven on earth, and said that all who opposed the socialist revolution had to be portrayed as enemies, as devils, who needed to be put into a kind of humanistic hell. He couldn’t abolish the language; he simply transferred it from scripture into communist thinking.

The same is true of the doctrine of providence; when it began to fall out of theology, it fell into politics. Our politics today is the politics of predestination and providence. Notice the confession said that: “...that God doth uphold, direct, dispose and govern all creatures, actions and things from the greatest even to the least.” Now, isn’t that exactly what the modern State, which seeks to be God walking upon earth, tries to do? Exactly! Remember what the word providence comes from the same word as provide. It’s another way of saying; ‘providence’. And when man does not look to God for His providence, he will look to the state for its providence. Men have not ceased to believe in providence but they do not look to the triune God for it, they look to Washington or the state capitol. And the result is the corruption of our lives, the destruction of our characters, the confounding of our religious faith because we have broken the link between predestination and providence so the state having taken over providence is now taking over predestination, cradle-to-grave security, womb-to-tomb care. Government planning and control, master plans; all these are evidences of the modern doctrine of predestination and providence. Inescapable! If you deny it to God, you will affirm it to the state or some human agency.

Providence, thus, is a very important doctrine. We had better believe it. Our lives and the lives of our children and our children’s children hang in the balances. Are they going to be under the government of the Triune God or under the government of totalitarians? Believing in providence, our forefathers here in this country came into a wilderness and faced all kinds of problems. Because they believed that; “...whithersoever thou goest, I will be with thee.” “I will both lay me down in peace and sleep for Thou, Lord only makest me to dwell in safety.” “I will not leave thee nor forsake thee...” The promises of providence are so many.

True, they knew that God determines the course of providence, that it is not in terms of the purposes of man, but the purposes of God. As The Larger Catechism, question eighteen asks;

“Q. What are God’s works of providence?

A. God’s works of providence are His most holy, wise, and powerful, preserving and governing all His creatures, ordering them and all their actions to His own glory.”

And whose wisdom and whose glory is the greater? God’s or man’s? God’s or the State’s? And in whose hands are our lives most secure? In ours, or the State’s or the Lord’s?

To believe in providence is to cast our every care upon Him, knowing He careth for us. To believe in providence is to know that; “...all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” To believe in providence is to know that while we may not feel all things that happen to us as joy, because as God tells us through Paul His apostle, we can be at times, “...for His sake, slaughtered like sheep all the day long...”, and yet we know that whatever it may mean for us, we can feel it, not as joy, but count it all joy in the Lord. We know that we and our loved ones are in His hands.

My maternal grandfather was killed by a very anti-Christian people, the Turks. When he was going towards an ancient church on a pilgrimage, and he saw them step out of the bush behind the trees to kill him. At home was his wife, expecting what was to be his first-born son, and five daughters. He began to sing a hymn and went to his death. He believed in providence. And I’m here today because of the providence of God.

To believe in providence is to say that God is all wise, all holy, that: “...known unto Him are all His works from the foundation of the world...,” that He who sits on the great throne before Him all the ages are as a crystal sea. And that when we, in eternity, see the totality of His purpose for all of history and for our lives, its full and glorious unfolding, we shall cry, “...Great and marvelous are Thy works, O Lord!”

You see, the focus of providence is on God’s glory, God’s purpose, God’s kingdom, and God’s sovereignty, not man’s. “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things to whom be glory forever, amen.”

When the world withdrew providence from theology, it reappeared in politics. And so today, we are in crisis. We face a world in which the screws, the torture screws of the state’s doctrine of predestination and providence are being fastened upon man. They spell the slave labor camps of The Soviet Union and the growing claim of the state to more and more of that which is yours. We see that doctrine of providence in Pittsburgh, where a man had to go to court to fight for his bone marrow from the claims of the state, because a cousin of his was dying and needed bone marrow, and so he was hailed to court to fight for his bone marrow. Or in France today where a new government regulation says that unless your parents or our relatives or your children step in when you’re dying, your body organs can be raided for an organ bank by the state. And it’s justified by the French civil government in the name of providing for the people; providence, man’s providence! We are being ruled increasingly by the would-be gods of creation; men.

Providence means that:

“God, the great creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions and things from the greatest even to the least by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise and the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness and mercy.”

Do you believe that? If you do, you will take the state’s hands off your lives and you will take your own hands off your lives because you are the Lord’s possession, and you will walk as free men in Jesus Christ, knowing that it is His government, His providence which alone is all wise and all holy.

Let us pray.

* * *

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we come before Thee to confess that other gods have had dominion over us. We have sought to rule ourselves, and we have given ourselves into the hands of ungodly men and we now, as a people, groan under the burden of our sins. Oh, Lord our God, free us from men, free us from ourselves, free us from our sin, into the glorious freedom of Thy providence, to walk in Thy care, and Thy government, to know that the very hairs of our head are all numbered, that even the very roll of dice is according to Thy purpose and plan, that there is not a thing that happens, O Lord, that Thou dost not ordain and make to work together for good in terms of Thy glorious purpose. O Lord our God, how great and marvelous are Thy ways, and we praise Thee. We thank Thee our God, for Thy providence. Work in us that which is pleasing in Thy sight and make us bold and confident in Thy government, that through Christ our Lord and King, we may be more than conquerors. Grant us this, we beseech Thee, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

1 Schaff, P. (1882). The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes: The Evangelical Protestant Creeds, with Translations (Vol. 3, p. 612). Harper & Brothers.

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