But providence is the eternal, most free, immutable, wise, just and good counsel of God, according to which He effects all good things in His creatures; permits also evil things to be done, and directs all, both good and evil, to His own glory and the salvation of His people.
Counsel. Divine providence is called in the Scriptures the counsel of God. “The counsel of the Lord stands forever.” “My counsel shall stand” “God willing to show the immutability of His counsel.” (Psalm 32:11; Isaiah 46:10; Hebrews 6:17;) Also Isaiah 14:26; Isaiah 19:17; Isaiah 28:29; Jeremiah 32:19
24 The Lord of hosts has sworn saying, “Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand, 25 to break Assyria in My land, and I will trample him on My mountains. Then his yoke will be removed from them and his burden removed from their shoulder. 26 This is the plan devised against the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out against all the nations. 27 For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?” Isaiah 14:24-27
16 In that day the Egyptians will become like women, and they will tremble and be in dread because of the waving of the hand of the Lord of hosts, which He is going to wave over them. 17 The land of Judah will become a terror to Egypt; everyone to whom it is mentioned will be in dread of it, because of the purpose of the Lord of hosts which He is purposing against them. Isaiah 19:16, 17
17 ‘Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You, 18 who shows loving-kindness to thousands, but repays the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children after them, O great and mighty God. The Lord of hosts is His name; 19 great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, giving to everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds; 20 who has set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and even to this day both in Israel and among mankind; and You have made a name for Yourself, as at this day. Jeremiah 32:17-20
From these declarations it is evident that by the term providence we are to understand not only the knowledge of things present and future, but also the decree or will and effectual working of God; for the term counsel comprehends an understanding or foreknowledge of things which are to be done, or which are yet future, with the causes on account of which they are or are not to be done; and also a will determining something from certain causes. Providence, therefore, is not the bare fore-sight or fore-knowledge of God, but it also includes the will of God. Just as (the Greek word) which we translate providence, signifies with the Greeks, both a knowledge and care of things.
Eternal. Because, as there can be no ignorance nor increase of knowledge, nor any change of will in God, there is a necessity that He must have known and decreed all things from everlasting. “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His ways.” “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done.” “He has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world.” “We speak the wisdom of God, which He has ordained before the world.” (Proverbs 8:22; Isaiah 46:10; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Corinthians 2:7)
Most free. Because He has so decreed from everlasting, as was pleasing to Himself, according to His immense wisdom and goodness; when He had full power to have arranged His counsel otherwise, or even to have omitted it, or to have accomplished things differently from what He determined to do by His counsel. “He has done whatsoever He pleased.” “As the clay is in the potter’s hands, so are you in My hands.” (Psalm 115:3; Jeremiah 18:6)
Zacharias Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, p. 151