Is There Any Providence Of God?

Ursinus-6There are three opinions entertained by philosophers respecting the providence of God: 1. The Epicureans deny that there is any providence respecting the affairs of mortals, or those things which are, and are done in the lower parts of the world. 2. The Stoics have devised and substituted for divine providence, an absolute necessity of all things and changes existing in the very nature of things, to which every thing is subject, including even God himself. This necessity they call fate or destiny. 3. The Peripatetics suppose that God does indeed behold and know all things, but does not direct and govern them, but only excites or keeps up the celestial motions, and through them sends down, by way of influence, some power or virtue into the lower parts of nature, while the operations and motions so excited are depending entirely upon matter and the will of man.

In opposition to these errors the church teaches according to the word of God, that nothing exists, or comes to pass in the whole world, unless by the certain and definite, but nevertheless most free and good counsel of God.

There are two kinds of proofs by which we may establish the doctrine of the providence of God: these are testimonies from scripture, and the force of arguments.

The testimony which the scriptures furnish in support of this doctrine is contained in such passages as the following:

24 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’  Acts 17:24-28

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29, 30

In Him 11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.  Ephesians 1:11, 12

There are also many similar testimonies of scripture which prove the general and particular providence of God; for there is scarcely any doctrine more frequently and diligently inculcated than that of divine providence. As a single instance, God reasons in the book of Jeremiah 27:5, 6 from the general to the particular: that is from the thing itself to the example. “I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in My sight.” And He immediately add the particular, “Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and I have given him also the wild animals of the field to serve him.”

The arguments which establish a divine providence are of two kinds. Some are a posteriori, which include such as are drawn from the effects or works of God: others are a priori, that is such as are drawn from the nature and attributes of God. Both may be clearly demonstrated, and are common to philosophy and theology, unless that the attributes and works of God are better and more fully understood by the church than by philosophy. The arguments, however, which are drawn from the divine works are more obvious. For it is through the arguments a posteriori that we arrive at and obtain a knowledge of those which are a priori.

Zacharias Ursinus, Commentary on The Heidelberg Catechism, pp. 147, 148

His next article is: Arguments In Proof of The Providence of God, Drawn from His Works.

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