THE GOLDEN IDOL OF FREEWILL
SOME expositors have supposed, that this Psalm was penned by the prophet Daniel; on occasion of the miraculous deliverance of Shadrac, Meshac, and Abednego, when they came out, unhurt, from the burning fiery furnace, into which they had been thrown by the command of king Nebuchadnezzar. And, indeed, there are not wanting passages, in the Psalm itself, which seem to countenance this conjecture. As where we read, at the fourth verse (speaking of the idols of the heathens, and, perhaps, with particular reference to that golden image which Nebuchadnezzar commanded to be worshipped), their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands: they have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they but they see not.
I dare say, that, in such an auditory as this, a number of Arminians are present. I fear, that all our public assemblies have too many of them. Perhaps, however, even these people, idolaters as they are, may be apt to blame, and, indeed, with justice, the absurdity of those who worship idols of silver and gold, the work of men's hands. But let me ask: If it be so very absurd, to worship the work of other men's hands; what must it be, to worship the works of our own hands? Perhaps, you may ask, "God forbid that I should do so." Nevertheless, let me tell you, that trust, confidence, reliance, and dependence, for salvation, are all acts and very solemn ones too, of divine worship: and upon whatsoever you depend, whether in whole or in part, for your acceptance with God, and for your justification in His sight, whatsoever, you rely upon, and trust in, for the attainment of grace or glory; if it be any thing short of God in Christ, you are an idolater to all intents and purposes.
Very different is the idea which Scripture gives us, of the ever-blessed God, from that of those false gods worshipped by the heathens; and from that degrading representation of the true God, which Arminianism would palm upon mankind. "Our God [says this Psalm, verse the third] is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased." This is not the Arminian idea of God: for our free-willers and our chance-mongers tell us, that God does not do whatsoever He pleases; that there are a great number of things, which God wishes to do, and tugs and strives to do, and yet cannot bring to pass: they tell us, as one ingeniously expresses it:
That all mankind He fain would save, But longs for what He cannot have. Industrious, thus, to sound abroad, A disappointed, changing God. How does this comport with that majestic description, "Our God is in the heavens"! He sits upon the throne, weighing out, and dispensing, the fates of men; holding all events in His own hand; and guiding every link of every chain of second causes, from the beginning to the end of time. Our God is in heaven, possessed of all power; and (which is the natural consequence of that) He hath done whatsoever He pleased: or as the Apostle expresses it, (the words are different, but the sense is the same) "He worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:11).
Thou art worthy, for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God, by Thy Blood, out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation (Revelation 9:10).
There is a remnant according to the election of grace. And, if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise, grace is no more grace. But if it [i.e. if election] be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise, work is no more work (Romans 11:5-6).
Grace ceases to be grace, unless it be totally and absolutely irrespective of any thing and of every thing, whether good or bad, in the object of it.
For, the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God, according to election [which is the standard of covenant mercy] might remain unshaken, it was said unto her, "The elder shall serve the younger"; as it is written, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Romans 9:11-13).
I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh [a soft, repenting, believing heart] and I will cause ye to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments and do them (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and when through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee (Isaiah 43:2).
If a man were cast into a river, we should look upon him as safe, while he is able to keep his head above water. The Church, Christ's mystic body, is cast into the sea of the world [and, afterwards, into the sea of death]; and Christ, their Head, keeps Himself aloft, even in heaven. Is there, then, any fear, or possibility, of drowning a member of this body? If any should be drowned, then either Christ Himself must be drowned first, or else that member must be pulled from Christ: both which are impossible. By virtue, therefore, of this union, we see that on Christ's safety, our's depends. If he is safe, so are we. If we perish, so must He.
Speak not thou in thine heart.. after that the Lord thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, "For my righteousness, the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land." Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess this land.... Understand, therefore, that the Lord thy God giveth thee not this good land, to possess it, for thy righteousness; for thou are a stiff-necked people (Deuteronomy 9:4-6).