The First Property of the Divine Decree; it is ETERNAL
This is proved from the following reasons:
1. God's internal and immanent acts are the same with His essence: such an act is the Divine decree: and, therefore, as God's essence is eternal, so His decree must be eternal also. Now the decree is God's decreeing, because whatever is in God is God; it is God Himself by one eternal act, decreeing and determining whatsoever should come to pass unto the praise of His own glory.
2. The second reason is deduced from the simplicity of God, which is, God considered as one mere and perfect act, without any composition or succession. There can be no more a new thought, a new intent, or a new purpose in God, than there can be a new God. Whatever God thinks He ever thought, and always doth and will think. Whatever God purposes He always purposed, and ever and doth and will purpose. He saith, "I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end" (Jer 29:11). As He cannot know anything new, neither can He intend anything new, for His name is, I AM. He takes not new counsels, as man, neither draws up new determinations.
3. The third reason is taken from Christ. If Christ was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (as He is called, Rev 13:8), then predestination to life must needs be before time, because Christ is the Foundation of election. We are elected in Him. "According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world" (Eph 1:4); and predestinated by Him, "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself" (Eph 1:5). Christ is the means. Now the end cannot be of a later date and determination than the means to that end; they have relations to each other. And if Christ be the eternal purpose of the Father, the act of electing in Christ must needs be His eternal purpose also.
4. Scripture expressly proves the eternity of the decree, saying, it was "before the world began" (2Ti 1:9; Tit 1:2); and "before the foundation of the world" (Eph 1:4); and it was an "eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Eph 3:11).
5. It is the royal prerogative of the great Jehovah to order as well as appoint things that are coming and that shall come: "I appointed the ancient people, and the things that are coming and shall come" (Isa 44:7). None can appoint God the time. He saith, "Who is like Me? and who will appoint Me the time?" (Jer 50:44). Hence time is said to travail with those eternal decrees of God, and brings forth the accomplishment of them in their proper season; and the decree will bring forth ("Before the decree bring forth," Zep 2:2). Every thing hath its accomplishment in time, which was decreed to fall out from all eternity.
6. If human concerns have this encomium that "these are ancient things" (1Ch 4:22), how much more the Divine decree, which is not the work of yesterday! If the negative part of predestination (the ungodly) were "of old ordained" (Jude 1:4), then much more the positive, God's purpose of loving Jacob, as well as hating Esau, was before they had done "either good or evil" (Romans 9:11).
Objection. Some may object, saying, We grant God's prescience or foreknowledge to be eternal, but not His predestination; that choice or election mentioned in 1Co 1:27-29 must be a temporal, not an eternal, election.
1. With God, the knowledge of things that shall come to pass must follow the decree of it; for things must first be decreed, and then foreseen in that being which they have in the decree; in this sense prescience presupposes predestination. "Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18). God hath not an imperfect but a thorough foreknowledge of all future things; the means and the end; not only as they may be, but also as they shall be, by His Divine determination.
2. Prescience, or fore-knowledge, is taken for God's love from eternity. "Whom He did foreknow He also did predestinate" (Romans 8:29); that is, "whom He fore-loved" so Zanchius reads it. Whom He foreknew, not only with the knowledge of observation, but with the knowledge of approbation also; He foreknew them to be His. So it is predestination itself; and to grant an eternal prescience without an
eternal predestination, is to break the links of that golden chain in Romans 8:29,30. "God hath not," and God will not, "cast away His people which He foreknew" (Romans 11:2).
3. Some grant a predestination eternal to the elect only, but to the non-elect only a prescience or naked foresight (without any pre- ordination), lest they should make God the author of the creature's sin and ruin. But these men fear where no fear is; for the worst evil that ever was committed in the world, to wit, the crucifying of the Prince of glory, Jesus Christ, did not only fall under the foreknowledge of God, but
also under His determinate counsel, "Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Act 2:23; 4:28); the taking and apprehension of Christ was not barely foreknown but unchangeably determined.
4. Even suppose it be granted that the apostle speaks of a temporal election, or choice, in 1Co 1:27, etc., yet that signifies no more than our vocation or calling; and temporal reprobation intimates no more than man's obduration. The accomplishment of both these is granted to be in time, so may not be confounded with this eternal decree of God; these are but fruits and effects of that eternal decree.
Inferences drawn from the foregoing.
1. Is God's love eternal? Then Satan cannot get beyond or between this love of God and us; for it was before the world was, and so before Satan was.
2. Augustine told a curious fool that asked what God did before the world was made, "that He made hell for such as him;" but this teaches us that God was choosing us to Himself before the world began. O wonderful!
3. If so, believer, then thy saintship and sufferings have eternal glory wrapped up in them. All this comfort is lost in the contrary doctrine.