The Ruling Will
James Smith, 1859
"All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does according to his will with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: What have you done?" Daniel 4:35
So said Nebuchadnezzar, after his severe trial and restoration. And this is a lesson which we had need to learn, and have impressed upon our minds; for though in words we confess it, we are not properly affected and influenced by it. The will of God is the law of the universe, and the rule of his procedure with his creatures. His will cannot be wrong, because his nature is perfect, and is characterized by justice, holiness, and love. There are many things in nature, providence, and grace, which we can only account for on this principle—it is the will of God.
His secret and eternal will rules all his own actions—but his revealed will must regulate ours. By the former he determines what he will do, and by the latter what he will have us do. For the former we cannot always find a reason—but for the latter we always may. His secret and eternal will, like his nature—is unchangeable, always running in the channel of righteousness and truth.
The will of God rules in our election. That he would choose a people, choose them in his Son, and choose them to be holy and happy with himself forever—is according to his own will. His will fixed the number, ordained the people, and wrote their names in the book of life. His will arranged all the means, and appointed the agency, by which they are to be brought into the enjoyment of this high and holy privilege.
His will rules in our redemption, for his will appointed the Redeemer, gave him the people to redeem, fixed all the terms of redemption, and sends the Holy Spirit to apply it and make it known.
His will rules in our justification, he arranged, and accepted the substitution of his Son for us, agreed to impute his righteousness to us, and to work faith in our hearts to receive it; that so being justified by faith, we may rejoice in hope of his glory.
His will rules in our effectual calling and conversion too, for he fixed the time when, the place where, and the means by which we would be turned from darkness to light, and made new creatures in Christ Jesus.
The will of God fixed our situation in the church, and ruled in reference to our gifts, graces, and capacities.
The will of God also fixed our station in the world, whether in poverty, sufficiency, or affluence.
His will rules and overrules all things for our good, and will be glorified in our complete salvation.
"He does according to his will with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: What have you done?" His wisdom plans, his will purposes, and his power brings to pass those purposes. He wills to work, or he wills to permit, whatever comes to pass. And though clouds and darkness are round about him, justice and judgement are the habitation of his throne.
We may through ignorance or depravity cavil at his will now—but by and bye we shall see that all good flowed from the will of God, and that a world of evil has been prevented by the will of God. His will may act sovereignly—but it cannot act unwisely, unjustly, or unkindly. However things may appear to us, so far as the will of God has to do with them—all is right, all is holy, and all is good.
Nor does the will of God, in any way, interfere, with the responsibility, or accountability of man. Man acts freely. He acts because he wills to act, and he wills to act from some reason which induces him to act. At no time does a man act more freely, than at the time when he acts under the influence of the Holy Spirit; for then he acts from conviction, produced by instruction and persuasion. The Spirit only interferes to produce good, or to prevent evil; and surely we cannot complain of this, especially as no coercion is employed.
That some will must give law to, and rule this vast world, is clear, or all would be confusion and disorder; and whose will should—but that of its Creator and Preserver. The will that rules a world like this, must be infinitely wise, if it is to be ruled according to any plan, or if right is to be respected. And there is only one will that is infinitely wise, that is the will of God, and therefore he does according to his will.
That we, as individuals, as believers in Jesus, must have all our affairs regulated by some supreme will—if our good is to be secured, and our ruin prevented, is clear; but what will—but the will of God is capable of arranging, ruling, and regulating all our affairs so as to secure such an end?
Let us therefore rejoice, that God who is infinitely wise and holy, who knows all and can manage all, rules among men: and especially let us rejoice in this, that God is our Father, and has set his heart upon doing us good!
O for calm, quiet, constant submission to the will of God! O to acquiesce in the will of God, and be pleased with it at all times! O to live, daily and hourly, yielding up my will to God, that he may direct it, sanctify it, and conform it to his own! Amen.