William Nunn

The Supreme Dominion Of Jehovah

Being The Substance Of A Sermon Preached At St. Matthew’s, Liverpool, On Sunday Evening, September 17th, 1837, By The Rev. William Nunn, M. A., Minister Of St. Clement’s, Manchester—In Which The Author Has Endeavored To Illustrate The Sovereignty Of God In All Things Occurrent, Whenever They Be Good Or Evil


There being no small stir frequently made among professors of religion concerning the Sovereignty of God, as connected with the introduction of evil into the world; some, imagining the fall of man was a matter of mere chance, that it was left to the option of our first parents whether sin should be committed or not; others, thinking that although foreseen of God as most assuredly coming to pass, yet that he had no determination in his own mind to prevent it or not, and not a few, thinking that he had a permissive will distinct from his decretive will, allowing it to come to pass, which nevertheless he never designed should take place, I have thought it well, as advised by several who heard this discourse, to publish it, trusting it may be useful to some of the people of God, who may be led to reflect upon the subject.

The publication is not undertaken with a design to introduce any novel idea upon the matter discussed, but merely to refreshen the memory of those who are seeking the truth, with some passages of scripture, which in their prominent meaning are apt to be overlooked; and are entirely rejected by those who oppose the doctrines of salvation by sovereign grace. The reader will find probably a greater portion of close reasoning upon the dispensations of God than expected, and but a limited reference to the fulness of redeeming love;—that subject so dear to the awakened sensibilities of the soul led into a consciousness of the corruptions which lurk within; and yet, as the Lord the Spirit enters into the hearts of the regenerate through the understand­ing, so it is presumed a means of edification as well as of encou­ragement is here presented to those who love the whole counsel of God. The prominent feature of the text will be borne in mind, and may the God of all grace make it useful even but to one of the lambs of his fold, and to him be all the praise.

William Nunn

No. 1, Lawton-Street, Manchester,
October 26th, 1873

N. B.—Those who heard the sermons may perceive some omissions while reading it, but this must necessarily be expected in printing an extempore discourse, especially a month having nearly elapsed between the time of its delivery, and the attempt to prepare it for the press—I have added, as an Appendix, a piece which I wrote for the Gospel Magazine, and is inserted in the volume for 1833, page 265.


“There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord.”—Proverbs 21:30

And yet there is in the spirit of opposition to his revealed will. But what availeth the enmity of the heart of man against the sovereignty of the Eternal Jehovah? Can it counteract or render null and void his eternal purposes? Assuredly not! For, “He is wise in hearty and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?” Job 4:4 Men in general relying upon the supposed efficiency of their own free will and moral ability, imagine they are at liberty to govern and direct themselves, and have very imperfect and obscure views of the control of God over the judgment, will, and affections of his creatures. Two remarkable instances have we in scripture of the igno­rance of men on this subject. I refer to the language of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, and the answer of God to him: “By thy servants hast thou reproached the Lord, and hast said, By the multitude of my chariots am I come up to the height of the mountains, to the sides of Lebanon; and I will cut down the tall cedars thereof and the choice fir-trees thereof and I will enter into the height of his border, and the forest of his Carmel. I have digged, and drunk water; and with the sole of my feet have I dried up all the rivers of the beseiged places? Such were the lofty words of the proud monarch of Assyria; but observe the reply of the Eternal Jehovah: “Hast thou not heard long ago, how I have done it; and of ancient times, that I have formed it? now have I brought it to pass, that thou shouldest be to lay waste defenced cities into ruinous heaps? Isaiah 37:24-26. From which we perceive clearly how men may be en­tirely unconscious that they are fulfilling the purposes for which the Lord has brought them into existence, and of his using them as instruments for their accomplishment. Ano­ther proof of this unconsciousness, and in the fulfilment of a transaction, the most diabolical of all the deeds ever committed by man, is that recorded in Acts 4:27, 28: “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever they hand and they counsel determined before to be done.” Here we learn that this atrocious act was brought about according to the predetermined mind, and the power of the Almighty God. But were those men by whose, “wicked hands’ (Acts 2:23) the transition was effected, conscious they were then fulfilling the hidden wisdom of God? Certainly not! Hence says the apostle, “for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.” 1 Cor. 2:8

Let us now carry this idea of the certain fulfilment of the will of God into subjects of a happy end and pleasing nature, for if, as above proved, in matters the reverse of what we call good, his will must be done, what an encouragement to know that where he has begun the good work of grace, it shall be completed unto eternal glory. True it is, that it must first be ascertained we are under that saving influence which wins the soul from death, and preserves it unto ever­lasting life: and are enabled from heartfelt experience to say, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his spirit,” 1 John 4:16,13. For then, perceiving the blessing as proceeding from him whose mercies fail not, we can with joyful anticipation press onward to the prize before us. Much mistrust however may prevail in some concerning the reality of the gracious favour of God, as their own personal blessing. From whence arises this mistrust? The feeling sense of the indwelling corruptions which are within warring against the soul. Deep and foul indeed are the stains of that Adam nature in which we are born into this world, and powerful we find the propensities of the evil that is within us. We perpetually prove our origin and constitution. Our whole body, soul, and spirit, are infected by the first transgression. For although Adam as made perfectly upright and very good, yet all his posterity are now formed by God of his fallen clay;—clay(it may be said) now tempered with sin, “Behold I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalm 51:5; “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Job14:4. The corruptions of this our nature are powerfully felt by us who have seen the spirituality of the law, and because of this body of sin and death, we are often bowed down and distressed. It is not then a subject of surprise that some, under these convictions, can hardly believe they are the subjects of diving grace, and as they are led to reflect more particularly upon the infinite purity of God, so may their hope of his favor fail, and they be compelled to adopt language similar to that remarkable expression of St. Peter, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Luke 5:8. Nor will misgivings of heart concerning the grace of God arise only from the cause above named; with this perception of evil, there is a consciousness of the exceeding greatness of the blessing conferred, wherever the special grace of God is bestowed. What unmerited mercy! What abundant grace! All transgressions removed and that for ever! The salvation of the soul secured by the one offering whereby the sanctified are perfected, and the sinner received into communion with the triune Jehovah, as in here of eternal glory. Will might the Psalmist say, “O how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!” Psalm 31:19. As the hesitating believer is brought to reflect upon the fulness of the blessings reserved for the righteous, and as these are compared with the innumerable evils which are perceived within the old and corrupt nature, so the question will arise, can God be merciful to such a sinner as I am? Shall I ever be able to rejoice in the assurance that I am accepted in the Beloved, and shall be preserved unto his heavenly kingdom?

In order that such an awakening of the mind to an inquiry after the possession of spiritual good, may be met with by encouragement derived from the Word of truth, we proceed to consider the subject before us, observing, I.—That in all things the Lord must reign supreme. II.—That there are no powers which can overturn his universal dominion.

I.—That in all things the Lord must reign supreme.

There is no truth in Scripture more plainly and frequently introduced than the universal government of the eternal Jehovah, as expressed in these words, “I praised and honored him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, “What doest thou?” Daniel 4:34, 35. For the confirmation and illustration of this sublime passage we have only to step out into the world of nature;—for a moment reflect upon the sustentation of all things;—the regular and successive return of the seasons;—the growth, maturity, decay, and re-animation of the whole vegetable kingdom, so beautifully described by the Lord himself, “It is” (the earth) “turned as clay to the seal; and they” (the trees, and plants, and flowers) “stand as a garment,” Job 38:14; and we must confess, the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof. Adding to this reflection, that the wonderful construction and preservation of the world are especially designed for the exhibition of his purposes of mercy to the church, “which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all,” Eph. 1:23, we are led to consider more minutely the supreme dominion of the Lord Most High, as connected with the mysteries of redemption, and as set forth in his wisdom, understanding, and counsel.

It must be that in his infinite wisdom he hath appointed all things to exist as they were first framed and constituted: “He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.” Jer. 10:12. And commencing with the first production of his creative power, we may observe that all the angels, fallen and unfallen, must have had their origin from him. Now as the transgression of those who left their first estate must have taken place ere Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan, we may be ready to inquire, wherefore this first introduction of evil? Could it have occurred con­trary to the will of the Lord? Assuredly not! unless we suppose the Creator to be inferior to the creature. We would not be wise above that which is written, and attempt to solve the mysterious subject, how sin was first produced in the apostate spirits, when the eternal Jehovah we believe, withdrew from them the power by which they stood; and an innate principle of evil immediately arose in a way and manner we cannot understand; we are content to know that, it must have been agreeably to the will of God, for as the transgression of the fallen angels was but the prelude to the fall of man, and as already had the Lord Jesus been set up as the appointed Redeemer, so we understand the whole of the mysterious transactions of the fall of the non-elect angels and the fall of man to be in perfect unison with the will of him who “hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” Proverbs 16:4. That God then willed, and that by eternal purpose, the introduction of evil into heaven and upon earth who dare to contradict? To have created either angels or men infinitely holy, would have been to create beings equal to himself. But the elect angels have their purity by communication from the Lord, and their holiness is finite, for their existence is not coeval with the existence of Jehovah himself; and the pure and perfect moral righteousness of Adam was not infinite, had it been so, he could not have fallen. We are aware, in this our contemplation of this mysterious subject, a question may immediately arise, did then the thought of the existence of sin first commence in the mind of the Eternal Jehovah? and if so, will it not impugn the holiness of God? With all humility of soul would we meet the question, and that in the only way in which it can be answered. That as now the Lord in his infinite purity can but observe and know the very nature, weight, and measure of iniquity committed both in earth and hell, and still remain untouched, and uncon­taminated by his knowledge of evil; so could he, ere sin was committed, have beheld the whole series of evil, and the misery arising therefrom, untouched and uncontaminated, in the exercise of his Eternal Purpose, and Prescience con­cerning the same.

Having thus considered the first manifestations of the Almighty power of God, we proceed to trace the continued proofs of his omnipotence in the work of his hands upon succeeding generations: and what do we now behold? a fallen world; a ruined race of human beings, brought into existence and destined to fill up their various positions in life by the irreversible decree of him, of whom “are all things.” Rom. 11:36. Every person born into the world, is appointed unto, and fitted for, the peculiar sphere in which he has to move. His character, whether virtuous, or vicious, in no wise being an accidental opposition to the holiness or power of God, but brought into existence and maintained therein by him in whom “we live, and move, and have our being.” Acts 17:28. Every human being may be said to have a circle drawn around him by the invisible hand of God, out of which he cannot pass, and in which he must fill up his time on earth according to the Lord’s eternal pur­pose, as thus stated, “hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” Acts 17:26. But it may be enquired here, Are we then to ascribe to the determinate purpose of God the existence of all character in whatever evil form it is known to exist? Is not this charging God as being the author of sin, in its first beginning, and as now committed among men; and is it not rather that all the viciousness of man be ascribed only to his fallen condition, and his willing propensity to evil? If by the words the author of sin be meant, infusing sin into men, (as the term is generally used) we say in reply, the use of the words in that sense is extremely improper, for the non-communication of infinite purity to the non-elect angels, and to Adam prior to the fall; was not infusing sin, and there be no need now to infuse that which is inherent. We deny therefore God being the author of sin as working or producing it in the creature. The very being of God in his essential holiness forbids the idea; and yet we cannot suppose that he left the introduction of evil entirely to the will of either Satan or Adam; without having in himself a de­termination upon the subject. While then God is not the author of the confusion and misery brought into the world, as implied in the term, (the Author of sin,) and which we reject; it is well to bear in mind, that all the evil which ever did or can exist is not a matter of confusion with him. All things, good or bad, must harmonize with the one eternal plan formed by him in the creation of all things, in heaven, earth, and hell, and He can see the excellency of the good arising out of evil as ordained by him to come to pass. We come therefore to the plain and scriptural inference, that the eternal Jehovah, having from everlasting willed the redemption of the elect; their birth and existence as transgressors in a world of sin, is but a part of that stupendous scheme of salvation which is set forth in the everlasting word. It is very evident therefore, that all the innumerable circumstances of good and evil developed in the thoughts, words, and ac­tions of men, from the commencement of the world unto its annihilation, must have been foreseen of God as resulting from his determination to suppress evil, or produce good, in such measure as resolved by himself; at the same time determining to judge those who die in transgression, by his righ­teous law, unto which they are in life amenable. To any who say, What right hath God to condemn me, seeing I cannot by my very nature do otherwise than transgress? We answer in the language of scripture, “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? shall the thing formed say to him that formed it. Why hast thou made me thus?” &c. Rom. 9:20.

But the purpose and foreknowledge of God concerning his dispensations to man were incomplete if not attended with Almighty power preventing the failure of the transactions determined. Hence from the beginning we find mankind surrounded with circumstances conducive for bring­ing about the various actions which mark their character. Who shall say that the famine which drove Abram into Egypt was not of the Lord’s appointment, and a leading providential cause of Abram’s falsehood in concealing the truth concerning his wife; and as striking an evidence of the sovereignly of God, as that of his providence in the ram being caught by his horns at the very moment when required as a sacrifice in the room of Isaac? True indeed it is, the original corruption of man is so great, that without exter­nal objects exciting to iniquity, man will of himself, by his internal depravity be inclined to transgress, but as the Eternal Jehovah does not prevent the occasions which bring out the character, so we see the imbecility of the creature in his yielding to them. Who can question the Almighty power of God in raising up tyrants, who have been instru­ments in his hand for the execution of purposes attendant with sin and misery to thousands of their fellow-creatures: and pursuing the subject further, brought into existence have such men been, that the Lord might set forth his sovereign power in retaining them under the dominion of their corrupt nature, as is recorded concerning Pharaoh, “For this same purpose hare I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee.” Rom. 9:17. We know what that power was: the hardening his heart unto destruction. In like manner was Judas raised up, that after a series of iniquities “he might go to his own place.” Acts 1:25. Some imagine there was no special appointment of such men unto the filling up the measure of their iniquity; but was not the person and conduct of Judas expressly foretold? therefore said Peter, “Men and brethren, this Scripture” (see Psalms 41:9, 55:12, 13, 109:8.) “must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before con­cerning Judas” Acts 1:16. While however we are compelled to acknowledge these solemn displays of the power of God, how sweet it is to reflect that by the same Almighty power are dispensations brought about, pregnant with pur­poses of mercy, truth, and love, to hundreds and thousands ordained to inherit the blessings of grace here, and of glory hereafter.

And now let us see how these Attributes of Wisdom, Prescience, and Power, as exhibited in the universal domi­nion of God over his creatures, may be considered as yielding the highest consolation to a soul brought under the con­viction of sin, and the sensible impression of the mercy of God, amounting to a good hope of an interest in the re­demption of the Lord Jesus. The sinner brought under such a consciousness of guilt, will perceive, that these con­victions are powerful impressions produced through the word by the spirit of God: he knows they arise not from the spirit of the world, that they are not the produce of his own sinful and corrupt nature, much less can they have been excited by the prince of darkness, whose aim is rather to delude sinners by a false hope into the indulgence of a peace, which is none other than hardened indifference. Are not then the convictions we speak of, the fulfilment of the promise, “And the Lord shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall shew the lighting down of his arm.” Isaiah 3:30. Another impression is fastened on the mind not to be erased; even that the discoveries now made to the believing soul, must be by the enlightening and invincible influence of the Holy Spirit: by him, the awakened sinner now perceives the relation existing between himself and the Eternal Jehovah; and through faith in the word of truth, he perceives that by the grace of adoption he is an heir of God, and that the inheritance is secured to him by a covenant between the three Persons in the Godhead, as is recorded in Psalm 89:19, 28: “Then thou spakest in vision to they Holy One, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.—My covenant shall stand fast with him.” He is led by the teaching of the Spirit to comprehend in measure the fulness of the love, mercy, and truth of God, as all designed for his immediate comfort, encouragement, and support; and ascribes all the knowledge he has to God himself, as the giver of every spiritual gift he enjoys. He perceives further, that the heavenly affections of his heart aspiring to the en­joyment of spiritual good, are wrought by the sovereign power of God in his soul, a blessed testimony that in the midst of his corruptions, and under his manifold infirmities, the Lord is pleased to manifest his subduing energy in sup­ pressing the power of evil, and calling into exercise the quickening efficacy of his spirit on the soul. For what of meditation, or prayer, or praise, or any other spiritual act, are they not all from him to whom that fervent desire is addressed, “Now the God of peace,—make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight,” Heb. 13:20, 21; and just as the waters exhaled from the ocean, descend from the mountain’s side, and cause the river to flow, so the streams of grace derive their origin from God as their inexhaustible source, and in their communication to the elect of God, enrich the soul with joy and peace in believing.

As then the wisdom and power of God are made manifest in the renewings of grace, so we understand the result of his unchanging mind in the perseverance of the believer, under the most trying dispensations which may harass his mind, and through temptations which tend to draw the soul from its spiritual vocation. How often does the Christian pilgrim find himself seduced by the snares of the evil one, to indulge in sensual gratification beneath his character as a child of God, and allured by the vanities of the world to a disrelish of spiritual blessings; and daily experience will prove that he is left to himself, in the midst of these depar­tures from the Lord; “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him along.” Hosea 4:17. In all this we perceive it is not the will of God that the believer shall be always under the influ­ence of the Spirit, whereby he is moved unto the exercise of spiritual capacities. There is a difference between the call as set forth in the letter of the Word, and the call which coming immediately from God draws the soul into manifest fellowship with him. The spouse does not at all times recognise the voice of the bridegroom in the words, “Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards.” Sol. 4:8. So far from the believer being alway under divine influence, the Lord sees fit sometimes to resign him to the influence of the wicked one, even as “Jesus was led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” Matt. 4:1. Or, it may be, the Lord sends some mes­senger of Satan to buffet him; for he says of him to that apostate spirit, as he once did concerning Job, “Behold, he is in thine hand.” Job 2:6. Nor is strength to escape from these temptations always given in answer to prayer. If the Lord be not pleased to lift up a standard against the enemies of the believer, it follows necessarily that a flood of them will rush in and overwhelm the soul; and yet, O wonderful grace! in the midst of all these withholdings of spiritual strength, does the favor of God remain the same, and hence David and Peter, whose transgressions could not be otherwise than, hateful to God, were (because their iniquity did not cause his loving kindness to be removed from them in the midst of their transgression) blest with a spirit of conviction and repentance, and restored to the joys of salvation. We may be assured then the Lord will com­plete or fill up the measure of grace determined by himself for the preservation of his elect, through a world of sin and misery unto eternal glory, as it is written, “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.” Psalm 138. And the prospective view of the apostle sets forth this matter clearly to our souls’ comfort, “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified” Rom. 8:30. Who then can overturn the blessed truth, that the chosen of God shall assuredly enter into the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.

An objection may be raised against this positive certainty of the eternal happiness of the believer, because there are some who have made a fair and plausible profession of de­votedness to the truth of the Word of life, and yet have proved by their apostacy the possibility of falling away from the hope of the Gospel. True it is, a person may fall away from the hope of the Gospel but not with the hope of the Gospel, for in whomsoever that hope is implanted by the Spirit of God, there eternal life is granted, and shall be maintained by the power of the Lord. We do indeed know of some who have had only a name to live and no more, who have known the letter, but who have not had a saving knowledge of the truth; have had satisfaction in their natural apprehensions of the Word, and have been drawn into the use of outward religious privileges, (see Hebrews 6:4, 5) and yet have been without one ray of spiritual light or spark of eternal life in their soul. All this has been manifested by their wandering from the faithful ministry of the Gospel, and retaining only a partial apprehension of the great mysteries of Redeeming love. And what saith the Word: “ The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.” Pro. 21:16. Among the household of faith, yet he is still where he always was, in the congregation of the dead. Another evidence which proves how much a spirit of attachment to, and belief in the truth may be taken up merely on natural principles, is the manifest want of spiritual affection to the people of God. Destitute of real Christian fellowship they are those “who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.” Jude 9. There is not in such persons that blessed bond, whereby the elect body by virtue of its oneness in, and with the Lord, are inseparably connected, even as it is said, “And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3. But if some poor faltering souls should fear that such a departure from the truth may be the result of their profession, and prove eventually that their religion is only of the flesh, let such try whether the world or self can yield rest and peace to the mind. Be the question put to them, “Will ye also go away?” what will the answer be, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” John 6: 67,68. But now let us consider the second part of our subject, namely,

II.—That there are no powers which can overturn the supreme dominion of the Lord.

What is the history of the world but a corroboration of the truth of the revealed will of God, as set forth in prophecy? What has been the rise and fall of nations and kingdoms, but the development of his mind before whom all nations “are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.” Isaiah 40:17. Consider for a moment the preservation of the Jews as a distinct people, who for centuries were under the special regard of the Eternal Jehovah, were endowed with privileges withheld from thousands and millions around them; and what is their state now, and what has it been for the last eighteen hundred years; are they not a manifest token of the Almighty power of God, who by Moses and succeeding prophets foretold the state to which they should be reduced; the obduracy and blindness to which they should be given up? How clearly have these prophecies been fulfilled, “And the Lord shall scatter you among the nations.” Debt. 4:27. “And I wilt deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth for their hurt, to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them.” Jer. 24:9. Observe another prominent testimony of the Lord’s purposes and their fulfilment, in the spreading forth of the light of his truth among the nations of the earth from the time of his rejection of Israel; “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” Isaiah 9:2. If the condition of the one people and the other, had not been predicted for centuries prior to the position in which we find them placed, we might have doubted the purposes of God therein, but who can arise from the perusal of prophecy, without being convinced of the incapacity of man to frustrate the wisdom and counsel of God? But bringing the truth of the Lord’s supreme dominion down to matters of personal demonstration, how clearly is it made manifest. What an invincible hold hath God upon the consciences of men! Why do not the ungodly shake off the impression of the existence of Jehovah as the supreme Judge of all the earth, and remove from themselves the impression that they are amenable to him for their actions? We may say to them, try and get rid of the con­viction that God sees and knows every thought, and word, and action; but you cannot, and who, in the attempt to flee from his presence, shall escape from his control over them; “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him?—Do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord?” Jer. 23:24. In addition to this hold which God has upon the consciences of men, how often do we find his supreme dominion over men made manifest in the procedure and ter­mination of earthly matters happening contrary to the will and expectation of the creature. How often do men devise, contrive, and desire, in the prosecution of an object, good or bad as influenced by virtuous or vicious principles; and what is frequently the result of their own contrivances but defeat and dismay. David would have built an house to the Lord, and received from the prophet an assurance of accomplishing his purpose, “Go, do all that is in thine heart; for the Lord is with thee.” 2Sam. 7:3. But it was the Lord’s will that his desire should not be attained, and that Solomon should accomplish the work,“He shall build an house for my name.” 2 Sam. 7:13. With what a spirit of rebellion did Absalom determine again and again to destroy David, and usurp the kingdom to himself, but how frequently was he, by the providence of God, thwarted in his designs to his own hurt, specially in raising up Hushai to counteract the advice of Ahithophel; “For the Lord had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the Lord might bring evil upon Absolom,” 2 Samuel 17:14. What of all the schemes of the Scribes and Pharisees, in their endeavour to prevent the resurrection of the Lord of life and glory, when they gave the order to secure the sepul­chre, seal the stone, and set the watch; surely all their efforts were but a confirmation of the prophecy, “I am the Lord that maketh all things;—that frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and taketh their knowledge foolish.” Isaiah 44:24; 25.

But, as in the movements of men in earthly matters, the Lord will shew that the devices of the people are of none effect, and that his counsel standeth for ever, so is it also in spiritual matters. While entering upon this part of our subject, let it be observed, that as in the spirit of reverential awe we approach it, so also with firmness of mind we pro­ceed, adducing from the Word of truth ample testimony that many are rejected and left to perish in their iniquity, as well as that others are chosen to inherit everlasting life, as saith the Scripture, “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” Romans 9:18. It is in the imagination of men generally, that God, in his eternal purpose to create mankind, had no determination in himself whether they should be created for good or evil, but that although he foresaw the evil that would come into the world, yet that neither his wisdom, understanding, nor counsel, were concerned as to the appropriation of, or with­holding that special grace, whereby any of the human race could be delivered from the guilt and consequences of trans­gression. Such an imagination, however, ill comports with a mind versed in the truth of the revelation of God. Who shall take upon themselves to say that there are not a pecu­liar people eternally beloved of God, or deny that there are others assigned unto Satan, as is made manifest by being left to perish in their transgression. For thus saith the Word of God, “He” (that is, Christ) “shall divide the spoil with the strong,” (that is, Satan,) Isaiah 53:12; again, the portion belonging to the devil are thus described: “But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption.” 2 Pet. 2:12. Such moreover are found furnished for the very position they are appointed to fill, and are called “the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction,” Rom. 9:22, and are said to be given up “unto vile affections,” Rom. 1:26. Some there are who evade the strong language used by the apostles, by denying that any are made for destruction. But a stay to such gainsaying is at once effected, by asking such opposers to the Word of God, unto what then were the reprobate created? if for salvation, then the purposes of God have been frustrated: but as this cannot be, they must have been “ordained to this condemnation.” Jude 4. True it is, that their iniquities may be said to render them fit objects for the manifestation of the displeasure of God against sin, but we must at the same time acknowledge, that their existence and position among men are “according to the purpose” (that is, decree) “of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” Eph. 1:11. To say that men might, if they would, prevent their being brought into such a state, is to deny the necessity of the new birth, and would impose the idea that the omnipotent Jehovah is but a mere observer of the actions of men, having no counsel or hand in delivering a soul from natural darkness unto the glorious light of the gospel. But some would say, have men no will and power to work a change of life and conduct? We answer, no! for as the unhewn timber lies motionless, until under the hand of the artificer, so must every sinner lie until brought under the moving power of him who is “wonderful in coun­sel, and excellent in working,” Isaiah 28:29; and therefore of the regenerate it is said, “which were horn, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:13. It is indeed a hard saying for men to hear that according to the decrees of God they are born, and live, and die, and that if not in the covenant of grace they must perish eternally: but what saith the Scripture, “And whosoever was not found written in the hook of life was cast into the lake of fire” Rev. 20:15. In an unhumbled state surely must that heart and understanding be, which cannot perceive and acknowledge the sovereignty of God in these matters. No more is here stated than what has been confirmed by the Scriptures quoted, and we find by daily experience that men, unrestrained or not upheld by the power of God, do only pursue that which is evil. Proceed­ing with our subject, we may then inquire,

What worldly wisdom can overturn the doctrines of salva­tion by sovereign grace? For as the events prior to the beginning of the world are in close connection with those which immediately followed its creation, so the election of some of the angels and the ejection of the rest, was but a prior manifestation of the sovereignty of God, in the exer­cise of that discriminating grace, whereby some of mankind are brought out from the corrupt mass, and endowed with the special blessings of redeeming love, while others are left to perish in their iniquity. How singular and strange it seems, that men should imagine there is a power in the crea­ture by the exercise of mere natural wisdom, to attain unto hat knowledge which maketh wise unto salvation:—or, to commence a life of devotedness to God, without that new heart and right spirit, which are God’s own gift: and how unwise it is to imagine that those passages of Scripture, which are given as a direction unto life, may be considered as intimations that men may, if they will, become religious, and walk in the exercise of godliness. What is all this, but introducing the mere human sophistry that a chance of being saved is given to all, and that God, being faithful, must of course grant eternal life to those who desire it, thus making man the author of his salvation, and bringing the will and power of God in subjection to the will and power of the creature. Another vain opinion is, that a measure of grace is conferred upon all men, and if the creature will but co­ operate with this grace bestowed, a state of salvation will be attained; this however is but another mode of indulging in the vain conceit, that man is not such a fallen creature as he is represented in the Word of truth. But what saith the Scripture, “There are many devices in a man’s heart, ne­vertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” Prov. 19:21. But who shall be delivered from this present evil world, if he be not in that covenant whereby the elect are ordained to grace and glory?

Seeing then that it is the purpose of God to save whom­soever he will, we cannot imagine that any human perception or forethought can avert the fixed determination of God in the great matter of salvation. To imagine we have power to secure to ourselves any sure and certain results from the energies of the soul in spiritual things, is but the offspring of pride, an assumption not warranted by scripture: as well might the husbandman indulge in a positive assurance that he should reap a good harvest whether the season be propi­tious or not. How opposite is the imagination of such inhe­rent capacities to the humiliating language of the Apostle, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God. 2 Cor. 3:5. How foolish then to put our dim-sightedness into compe­tition with the wisdom of God, rather let us remember, that we know not what a day or an hour may bring forth, and that we are entirely in the hand of the Lord, predestinated to fill up our situation in life surrounded by circumstances eternally ordained to come to pass, whether trivial or impor­tant. How simply and beautifully is this pointed out in that expression, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.” Matt. 10:29. As then such an incident of so little moment cannot take place without the interposition of God, how well may we rest assured that all the circumstances of human life are brought to pass according to the arrangement of his everlasting mind. How supporting this to the tried and troubled pilgrim while passing through this world of temptation and sorrow. Where can the believer move and the Lord be not with him? Fear thou not, for I will be with thee, does the very incident of the fallen sparrow teach to the meek and lowly followers of the Lord.

Tracing the subject further, we may say, What ingenuity of man can prevail for the guiding of himself in spiritual matters? Is he not entirely passive in the hand of God as to every step he takes in the new or divine life? “A marts heart deviseth his way; but the Lord directeth his steps.” Prov. 16:9. Often will the tempted believer find himself foiled in his anxious desire to live in the enjoyment of the favour and light of God’s countenance; the flesh lusting against the Spirit, so that he cannot do the things that he would. Although he may have been abundantly refreshed from the fulness of the grace of God, and have been drawn out in love towards him whose name is as ointment poured forth, yet how perpetually prone to sink under the weight of his own corruptions, and grovel in the dust of spiritual death. In bitter experience compelled to adopt the language of the church generally, “My soul failed when he spake.” Sol. 5:6. In the course of his pilgrimage will he find that the Lord doth sometimes withdraw the light of his life-giving countenance, and bring before the conscience the remem­brance of transgressions long since repented of, but again made a subject of embittered reflection. In the anguish of his soul will he be led to cry out, “ Thee arrows of the Al­mighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.” Job 6:4. And who shall raise the soul again to its wonted enjoyment, save he to whom David prayed, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” Ps. 51:12. From the absolute certainty therefore that the renewing of spiritual strength is entirely in the will and by the power of God, would we remind the tried and weary pilgrim that he may yet have his mouth filled with “arguments,” Job, 23:4, and be fortified against impending evil. For be it so, that he is reduced to the lowest depths of spiritual trouble, and the dying embers of hope be almost extinct, and he be led to feel the truth of the expression, “He hath destroyed me on every side, and I am gone: and mine hope he hath removed like a tree,” Job 19:10, yet will he not in the firmness of that judgment which God hath given him, find some support in the assu­rance of God’s power and purpose to raise him up again in his own due time. Surely he will be led to meditate upon such words as these: “Is any thing too hard for the Lord,” Gen. 18:14; “Shalt I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the Lord.” Isaiah 66:9. Committing himself to the righteous government of God, he will be ready to say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Job 13:15.

From these considerations, may we not assuredly gather, that no ingenuity of Satan, or treachery of the world, or deceit of sin, shall prevent the manifestations of the grace of God, to those who have been chosen and called unto the experimental possession of spiritual good. The believer, en­dowed with spiritual discernment, can detect the suggestions of the great adversary of the church, as said the Apostle, “we are not ignorant of his devices.” 2 Cor 2:11. But his knowledge is obtained, for the most part, by dear-bought experience. It is not at court, but during the encampment, the Christian soldier has to ascertain personally the strength and subtlety of his deadly enemy: often will he tempt the believer to count light of iniquity, in order to allure him into transgression, and then try to bring him into a state of despondency. Sometimes filling the soul with unbelief will infuse a persuasion that all truth in the judgment, and expe­rience in the heart, are destitute of foundation, and only imaginary. These for a while are seasons of triumph to the prince of darkness, but the Lord is the Christian’s shield, and the rock of his salvation. He endures the conflict, and in the name of the Lord can say, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.” Micah 7:8. Beset by the vanities of an alluring world, the believer fears its flattery more than he dreads its frowns. He finds that there is a congeniality between his own heart, and its cares and vanities, and often finds to his soul’s loss how much he is absorbed both in the one and the other. But he perceives it is not his rest. Nor can he, mindful of his vocation, participate in the spirit of the world, when its hatred of the truth is made in any degree manifest. His fervent desire is, that the Lord may make manifest in him the truth of the expression, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” John 17:16. But his own corrupt nature, and its sinful propensities, appear his greatest adversaries, then indeed he is seduced from his spiritual vocation, “when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” James 1:14, 15. Often will the imaginations of his heart, which are only evil, and that continually, reign predominant, and his spiritual wounds stink through his foolishness. But in the midst of all this a change is determined, the eye of God is upon the harrassed soul, and deliverance is nigh at hand. In the exercise of faith upon his covenant God, he knows the declaration shall be proved to be true, “Sin shall not have the dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, hut under grace.” Rom 6:14 He perceives the under current of sin rolling onward in all its filthiness, but there is the upper current of grace, which prevents sin having the ascendant triumph. He knows that hard as his heart may be, and although it may seem to increase in hardness, yet he knows experimentally the saturating influence of the Spirit, and in the exercise of faith he looks for relief from him who hath said, “Who can stay the bottles of heaven, when the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together,” Job 38:37, 38. Experimentally taught then, that neither Satan, ore the world, nor sin, shall effectually draw him from under the protection of God, he can in confidence say, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Rom. 8:31. And in expectation of aid from on high, proves the truth of the expression, “He shall not he afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.” Ps. 112:7.

Moreover, who shall disannul that covenant of grace by which the fulness of the love of God shall be accomplished. In that covenant the believer stands, by it he is surrounded, and through it he shall be preserved for ever. Let us for a while meditate upon the efficiency of that precious blood which seals for ever the counsel of the Lord on behalf of the redeemed. Can we read and believe the words, “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall he satisfied,” Isaiah 53:11, and not perceive the encouragement to be adduced from them? Consider for a moment the agonizing conflict of the Lord Jesus, when he uttered the words, “O, my Father, if it he possible, let this cup pass from me.” Matt. 26:39. Conceive, if possible, the immensity of the weight he endured, when the wrath due unto the elect was poured out upon him to the uttermost, and then reflect,—Can such a manifestation of this faithfulness of God have ben exhibited to an astonished world, and the design therein be unfulfilled? Oh blessed church thus beloved by thy glo­rious Lord. All thy transgressions for ever cancelled by his precious blood, and now thy risen Head shall commu­nicate to every member of the mystic body grace for grace, until the fulness of the stature shall come; for the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

What then may be our concluding remarks. May we not assuredly assert that, according to the counsel of God, the regenerate are delivered from condemnation, and shall be preserved for ever and ever, and as no powers can withstand the purposes of Him who hath said, “I will work, and who shall let it,” Isaiah 43:13, so may the subjects of redeeming grace be assured they shall press onward to the prize before them. The Lord the Spirit shall reveal to them the fulness of Christ, and produce in them that faith whereby they shall apprehend their safety in him. Moreover the absolute certainty of the Lord’s upholding power, is doubtless the most effectual means for reanimating the soul with renewed zeal in the service of God. The believer knows it is not at a peradventure he contends with the works of darkness. Under the consciousness that there is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel, against the Lord, in the name and strength of his God, he can practically adopt the language of the Apostle, “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air,” (upon which no impression can be made) “But I keep under my body,” (that is, in the power of the Spirit rising above the dead­ening influence of the body of sin within him,) “and bring it into subjection,” (the restraining influence of grace leading it as a captive eventually doomed to die,) “lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a cast away,” 1 Cor 9:26, 27: that is, lest through the temptations to which he is constantly liable, he may, after having either in a public or private capacity, set forth by his conduct the truth and excellency of the gospel, be, by dis­gracing his profession, rendered useless, or cast aside, as being unfitted to benefit the church. By the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, he is how­ ever enabled to proceed, and through faith endures to the end, under the protection of his covenant God, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen! and Amen!


Extract from The Gospel Magazine, June, 1833

To the Editors of the Gospel Magazine.

Dear Sirs,— Perusing a month or two ago a paper in your valuable Magazine on the existence of sin, and thinking the writer did not take up the subject so fully as I could have desired, I send you a few lines upon it, which if you choose to insert, may, God willing, be serviceable to some of the Lord’s family. In presenting my views, I wish it to be understood that I would not entertain disrespect towards or esteem less any brother or sister in the Lord who may not see the subject in the same view in which I regard it; for certainly the Lord the Spirit is pleased in his diversity of operations, to present different degrees of light on many matters very interesting and important to the church militant. I am, dear sir, your servant in Christ,

A. Watchman.

On the Nature of Sin and its Cause

Sin, as it respects the whole human race we know to be in its very nature, the contrary to holiness; the absence of the divine influence, and in its actings proves itself to be the very reverse of the moral law of God, and being so, does most righteously deserve the eternal curse and damnation of the Everlasting Jehovah.

With respect to its origin, it is not unusual with some of the family of God to say, there are those of their brethren, who so speak of the subject, as if God were the author of sin; but if those who bring the charge were themselves to explain what they mean by the term author, that very explanation would doubtless prove that there is more agreement on the subject that might at first be imagined. Now in reflecting upon the existence of sin we are generally accustomed to trace the Adam-fall transgression up to the fall of Satan as the procuring cause of the entrance of sin into the world; following this train of thought, we are led to enquire, Did Satan then transgress of his own free will? and was the eter­nal Jehovah in no way concerned in that first manifestation of the existence of sin? The term, elect angels, forbids the idea that God was unconcerned, for the decree of the reprobation of angels had passed prior to the fall. The enquiry then now will be, did the eternal Jehovah elect some angels to the enjoyment of eternal felicity, and foreseeing that others would fall, did he then reprobate them? or did he elect and repro­bate prior to his foreseeing the fall of Satan and his angels? Before I proceed I would observe, that in thus speaking of the prior and after prescience of the Triune Jehovah, I would not lose sight of the idea that all these subjects passing through the eternal mind, as we say successively, are never­theless as one instantaneous act with him: But to the point! Did the election and reprobation of angels exist in the mind of God previous to, or after his foreknowledge of the fall of Satan? now if the answer be in the affirmative, the non-elect angels must necessarily have fallen; and if some, rejecting this would say, that the decrees of election and reprobation of angels was in consequence of the foreseen fall, yet even then the fall of the non-elect angels must have been agreeable to the everlasting mind and will of God, for if any act or deed could be done contrary thereto, it must be done by some one being greater than himself, which would be absurd.

We see them on looking at the subject in either point of view, that sin could not have existed without the fixed and immutable will and decree of God. Hence when the ever­lasting Jehovah withdrew from Satan the power by which his standing was maintained he fell and resisting strength not being communicated to Adam, he fell too, thus then we account for the introduction of sin into the world, and cannot conceive it to be otherwise than as perfectly agreeable to the council, will, and pleasure of God! It may be replied here; then the origin of sin is charged upon God! The answer is, the charge of the origin of sin upon God, is no more or less than the non-communication of grace is the cause or reason of the existence of sin now.

But it may be further asked: could God contemplate the existence of sin prior to its existence, and that decretively, and be himself uncontaminated therewith while the tremen­dous subject was thus revolved and revolving in his eternal mind? The answer is, that as he now perceives, and knows, and has his mind exercised upon the transgressions of mankind, and remains uncontaminated in the exercise of that knowledge and perception; so his everlasting purity and holiness can never have been contaminated by the conception of sin before the foundation of the world, any more than that they can be sullied with the perception of sin as now existing. We may add, that although man being made subject to trans­gression could not otherwise than fall, yet his willingness to transgress contrary to his knowledge of right and wrong renders him both responsible and guilty. There is however one main argument upon which the necessary existence of sin seems to rest.—The glory of Christ in his eternal union with his church, as her Mediatorial Lord, could not have been devised or brought to pass without the ordained purpose of her fall and redemption, nor the wisdom of the Eternal Three have been so gloriously displayed had sin never existed, all being accomplished for the reason assigned by the apostle. To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church, the manifold wisdom of God according to the eternal purpose, which he purposed in Jesus Christ our Lord.

William Nunn (1786-1840) was a High-Calvinist Anglican preacher. He served for twenty-two years as minister of St. Clement’s Church, Manchester.