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.
He effects all good things. This He does in such a manner that no creature, great or small, can either exist, or move, or do, or suffer anything without His will and counsel; for by things that are good, we are to understand the quantities, qualities and motions of things, as well as their substance, because all things have been created by God; and are, therefore, necessarily included in His providence.
Permits evil things also to be done. Evil is two-fold — the evil of guilt, which is all sin, and the evil of punishment, which includes every affliction, destruction or vexation which God inflicts upon His rational creatures on account of sin. We have an example of evil under both of its forms in Jeremiah 18:8 “If that nation against whom I have pronounced turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil I thought to do unto them.”
The evil of punishment is from God, the author and executioner therefore, not only in as far as it is a certain action or motion, but also in as far as it is the destruction or affliction of the wicked. This proven,
1. Because God is the chief and efficient cause of every thing that is good. Every punishment now has the nature of moral good, because it is the declaration and execution of divine justice. Therefore God is the author of punishment.
2. God is the judge of the world, and the vindicator of His own glory, and desires to be acknowledged as such. Therefore, He is the author of rewards and punishments.
3. Because theScriptures every where, with one voice, refer the punishments of the wicked, as well as the chastisements, trials and martyrdoms of the saints, to the efficacious will of God. “I, the Lord make peace and create evil.” “Shall there be evil (that of punishment) in the city, and the Lord has not done it.” “Rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Isaiah 45:7; Amos 8:6; Matthew 10:28)
The evils of guilt as far as they are such, that is, sins, have not the nature of that which is good. Hence God does not will them, neither does He tempt men to perform them, nor does He effect them or contribute thereto; but He permits devils and men to do them, or does not prohibit them from committing them when He has the power to do so. Therefore these things do indeed also fall under the providence of God, but not as if they were done by Him, but only permitted. The word permit is therefore not to be rejected, seeing that it is sometimes used in the Scriptures. “Therefore I did not let you touch her.” “But God did not allow him to hurt me.” “He permitted no man to do them wrong.” “Who in times past permitted all nations to walk in their own way.” (Genesis 20:6; Genesis 31:7; Psalm 105:14; Acts 14:16) But we must have a correct understanding of the word lest we detract from God a considerable portion of the government of the world, and human affairs. For this permission is not an indifferent contemplation or suspension of the providence and working of God as it respects the actions of the wicked, by which it comes to pass that these actions do not depend so much upon some first cause, as upon the will of the creatures acting; but it is a withdrawl of divine grace by which God (while He accomplishes the decrees of His will through rational creatures) either does not make known to the creature acting what He Himself wishes to be done, or He does not incline the will of the creature to render obedience, and to perform what is agreeable to His will. Yet He, nevertheless, in the meanwhile, controls and influences the creature so deserted and sinning as to accomplish what He has purposed.
Zacharias Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, pp: 153, 154