“The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men, and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God; who being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin” (V.4).
God’s providence extends to the first fall and to all other sins of angels and men. As was stated earlier, God ordained and caused the fall of angels and men in order that He might show mercy on certain sinners. All those whom Christ represented at the cross (Romans 5:18), are concluded in unbelief that God may freely bestow mercy upon them all. All those for whom Christ did NOT die will not be shown mercy; but all for whom Christ DID die will be shown mercy without fail:
“For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?” (Romans 11:32-34)
The men of Westminster deny a “bare permission” (i.e., an otiose or unwilling permission), but nevertheless do affirm a “willing permission.” This language is similar to what they had employed previously in III.7, when they falsely asserted that God “passes by” the reprobate. They say that this permission has joined with it a “powerful bounding” and an “ordering and governing” to His own holy ends. This is just their carefully articulated way of affirming the nonsense that God is in control of His creatures without actually controlling them. As was seen earlier, there was none of this permissive bounding and governing in the situation of Pharaoh. God actively caused Pharaoh to rebel against His command and the culpable sin of rebellion proceeded from Pharaoh, and not from God. To actively cause the sin is in no way to approve or commit the sin. God demonstrates His holy wrath and hatred of sin by so causing (Romans 9:22). God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to rebel against Him, but God was obviously not the one rebelling against God–Pharaoh was the one rebelling.
Those who say that to actively cause the sin is to ipso facto perpetrate and/or approve the sin are making a carnal philosophical argument, not a Biblical one. In actively causing the reprobate to sin, God is demonstrating His wrath and making His power known in them. Despite what any carnally minded God-haters might say to this, the truth is that when God actively causes them to rebel against His sovereignty, the culpable guilt of their maniacal mutiny adheres to them only, and not to Him who is neither the culpable author, nor approver of their sin.
Those who say that God’s direct and active hardening of the hearts of the reprobate makes God the “culpable author of sin” are making their objection against the Apostle Paul: “Why doth he yet find fault?” (Romans 9:19) Those who deny God’s active hardening are the God-hating, Christ-dishonoring objectors of Romans 9:19.
Read the following verses and ask yourself if the WCF does not pervert the Scriptures with their made up philosophical doctrine of permission:
“For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses” (Joshua 11:20).
“But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day” (Deuteronomy 2:30).
“When Abimelech had reigned three years over Israel, Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech” (Judges 9:22-23).
“O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few. For he saith, Are not my princes altogether kings? Is not Calno as Carchemish? is not Hamath as Arpad? is not Samaria as Damascus? As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria; Shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols? Wherefore it shall come to pass,that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man: And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped. Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood” (Isaiah 10:5-15).
“If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them” (1 Samuel 2:25).
“Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun” (2 Samuel 12:11-12).
“And he increased his people greatly; and made them stronger than their enemies. He turned their heart to hate his people, to deal subtilly with his servants” (Psalm 105:24-25).
There is no “permissive and powerful bounding” going on in the above passages. To point to a specific set of verses like Isaiah 10:5-15: The framers of the WCF show themselves to be the vaunting axe that magnifies itself against Him who chops with it. Axes are certainly not permitted to swing all by themselves with this action being accompanied by a “most wise and powerful bounding.” Can an axe be “left to itself” and still swing? If you were to chop a tree down with an axe, what would you think if the axe started saying that you permitted or allowed it to chop down the tree? Or that you accompanied this “permission” with a “wise and powerful bounding”? Would you not think that the axe was extremely prideful? Would you not think that the axe is vainly attempting to put itself in your place, as the woodsman who chops? So does the WCF vainly vaunt against their sovereign Creator in vainly attempting to usurp His rightful place as the sovereign Controller of the Universe.
Who allows or permits an axe to chop all by itself? No, no. When you swing an axe, you begin by taking a firm grip on the handle, and then you actively swing it!
“Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?” (Isaiah 45:9)
The WCF—and those who profess adherence to its doctrinal contents–show themselves to be potsherds who are striving with their Maker. However, they do exhibit a “felicitous” or “blessed inconsistency” because what they superficially give with one hand–that He that fashioneth them, indeed has hands–they take away with the other by denying that their Maker has hands when it comes to His active sovereign control over them.