The Third Property of the Divine Decree: It is ABSOLUTE
It is absolute in respect of the efficient impulsive cause which cannot be anything out of God, as the following reasons evince.
1. If the Divine decree be eternal it must be absolute; for nothing can be assigned before an eternal act, as the efficient cause of it. There cannot be a cause of the will of God out of God. Predestination is an immanent act of the Divine will; and so, not only the cause, but also the first cause of all created beings; and therefore cannot (in any good sense) be said to depend on foreseen transient acts in the creature; so, by consequence, must be an absolute act, unless we will make the volitions of God to come behind the created and temporary volitions of man, which is grossly absurd. This goes to a denial of God being the first cause of all things.
2. First, if God be God; if He be an almighty, all wise, all free, and an all-disposing God, then His decree of Election must be absolute; for a conditional decree makes a conditional God, and plainly ungods Him, by ascribing such imperfections to Him as are unworthy His majesty, and below His Divine being; as, first, it opposes His omnipotence--if some conditions be antecedent to the will of God, then the same are antecedent also to the power of God. Second, it takes away the glory of the Divine wisdom in ordering all things; for if Peter must be willing to believe before God's decree concerning Peter, then Divine wisdom doth not determine concerning the order of things. Thirdly, it takes away the glory of God's absolute liberty and independence; for if Peter's believing and Judas's not believing be antecedent to
the decree of God concerning them, then Peter and Judas make themselves the objects of election and non-election, and God hath not an absolute dominion over His own creatures. The potter hath not freedom to make this lump of clay a vessel of honour and that a vessel of dishonour, and the difference will arise more from the quality of the clay than the will of the potter, and God's will must be dependent on the will of man for its determinations. This plainly overthrows the independency of God. Fourth, it takes away the glory of His all-disposing providence. If the decree be not absolute, how can God be said wholly to dispose of lots that are cast into the lap, as in Pro 16:33? Shall we say that the lot of the apostleship fell to Matthias by chance (Acts 1:26); was it not rather absolutely ordained and ordered by the Lord, to whom the Apostles prayed, as in Acts 1:24, saying, "Thou, Lord, which knoweth the hearts of all men, show whether (or which) of these two Thou has chosen . . . And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias" (Act 1:24,26)? Thus by the disposal of lots in the lap was Achan discovered to be Israel's curse, and Saul appointed to be Israel's king (Jos 7:14-18; 1Sa 10:19-21). Man purposeth, but God disposeth; because God by an absolute decree hath foreordained all things that do come to pass. They fall not out casually and beyond God's intention; thus it is said, "It behoved Christ to suffer" (Luke 24:46).
3. If the will of the potter be an absolute will over his pots, much more is the will of God an absolute will over mankind. It is God's own comparison (Romans 9:20,21). God compares not Himself to a goldsmith, because a goldsmith hath costly materials, such as silver and gold, which lays some obligation on him to make honourable vessels therewith. But He compareth Himself to a potter, because first, the materials of a potter are vile and sordid, to wit, clay, so more answerable to fallen mankind, out of which God maketh His choice. We are not only clay (Job 4:19), but sinful clay through the fall. Second, the potter doth not make this difference among his pots for any foreseen inherent goodness in his clay (for the whole lump before him is of an equal temper and quality), but from the pleasure of His own will. Thus the potter's power over his materials is clearer from exception than that of the goldsmith, and illustrates more the absoluteness of God's will in His choice both in vessels of honour and vessels of dishonour. Again, the distance between the clay and potter is but a finite distance, even the distance only between one creature and another, animate and inanimate; but the distance between God and mankind is infinite, not only the natural distance between God and us, as we are creatures, but also the moral distance between us, as we are sinners. The potter also must have his clay made to his hand; he cannot make his own clay, though he may temper it for his work when he hath found it; but the great God creates His own clay. He created the earth out of which man was formed. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Gen 1:1). "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground" (Gen 2:7). It follows then, if the potter by an absolute will disposes of his pots, much more hath God a right concerning His creatures.
Inferences drawn from the preceding.
1. If the absolute will of God be the universal cause of all things, then no event can fall beyond or beside. God's will; and fortune (in the world's sense of it) is but the devil's blasphemous spit upon Divine providence.
2. God's absolute will cannot be resisted; as He hath willed, so shall it come to pass; and there is no hindering the execution of it. "The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand" (Isa 14:24). "Our God is in the Heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased" (Psalms 115:3), "I know that Thou canst do everything" (Job 42:2).
3. Then let us learn submission to the will of God. Proud, yet brittle clay, will be knocking their sides against the absolute will of God, till they break in pieces; so did Adonijah, when Solomon must rule; compare 1Ki 1:5 with 1Ch 22:9, and mark the end of it, 1Ki 2:23-25. O for the grace of humility to enable us to adopt the language of the prophet, "Now, O Lord, Thou art our Father; we are the clay, and Thou our Potter, and we all are the work of Thy hand" (Isa 64:8).