Archibald Alexander on God's providence

Archibald Alexander writes:

"The only reason which has induced any to entertain the opinion that the plan of the Almighty has been disconcerted, is the introduction of sin into the world by the actions of free agents.  It has been assumed as a principle, that God is not only not the author of sin, which is true, but that, consistently with his holiness, he could not form a purpose, that it should be permitted to exist. Though the motive which has led many to maintain that sin has come into the world in opposition to the purpose of God is good, yet the opinion is utterly untenable, in consistency with the perfections of Jehovah.  It would make it necessary to believe, not only that he did not design that evil should exist, but that he did not foresee the event; for if he had foreseen it he could have prevented it, if in no other way yet by omitting to bring into existence a creature capable of frustrating his plan; or by producing a creature who, he foreknew, would not transgress.  

We must believe, therefore, that the purpose of God cannot fail of their accomplishment, and hence, that he not only foresaw, but determined to suffer his creatures, in the exercise of their freedom, to commit sin.  Yet this permission does not imply that he was the author of sin, or that he can look upon it with the least favour or approbation;  for sin is ever that abominable thing which God hates.  But he permitted free agents to commit sin;  that is, he did not interpose to hinder them from acting as they pleased, because he knew that he could make the existence of sin and misery, the occasion of more illustriously displaying his attributes, particularly his justice and his mercy, than could have been done in other circumstances.  The reason then, why sin was permitted to exist was, that God might have an opportunity of manifesting his own glory to all intelligent creatures more conspicuously;  which is the great end of all his works and dispensations.  

The providence of God in regard to sin consists, first, in his purpose to permit free agents, in the exercise of their freedom, to commit sin;  secondly, in so directing and governing sinful creatures, that their actions may be made subservient to his own wise purposes;  and when they would not have this tendency they are restrained, according to that declaration in the Psalms, 'Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: and the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.'  

The Holy Scriptures constantly represent the providence of God as concerned in the evil actions of men, not as causing or approving them, but as permitting, governing, and directing them, so that they may promote his own glory.  Thus, the envy of Joseph's brethren, which led them to sell him as a slave, was overruled to the occasion of preserving the whole family from death.  The crucifixion of our Lord was by the hands of wicked men, in the free indulgence of their own malice, but it was nevertheless, 'by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.'  And the same is true of all sinful actions;  they are hateful to God, considered in their own nature, and yet his providence is concerned in their permission, and direction, so as to promote a good end.  The providence of God, therefore, in its relation to the sins of men, is most holy and wise, and does not interfere in the least with man's free agency.  'He worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will:' and his 'counsel shall stand.'  'Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?' Amos iii. 6.

The providence of God extends to all events, great and small.  Both reason and revelation teach this doctrine.  For if God governs the world at all, his providence must extend to small things as well as to great, because of the concatenation of events, according to which the great often depend for their existence on the small.  And if reason were silent, the Scriptures speak out clearly on this point.  'The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposal thereof is of the Lord.'  'Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing, and one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father.'  'For the very hairs of your head are all numbered.'


The doctrine of a particular superintending providence, as it is a most reasonable, so is a most comfortable truth.  If any thing could occur without being included in the plan of the divine government, we never could feel that we were safe.  The sure ground of our trust in God is, 'that he works all things according to the counsel of his own will.'  When the dark and cloudy day of adversity comes, and billow after billow rolls over us, and threatens to overwhelm us, our consolation is that our God rideth on the whirlwind and directeth the storm.  We may often think with Jacob, 'that all these things are against us;'  but when we can view every event, however afflictive, as the appointment of our heavenly Father, we can say with Eli, 'It is the Lord;  let him do what seemeth him good.'  It is a delightful thought to the true Christian, that all events are under the government of Divine Providence.  The book of providence, the leaves of which are successively unfolded day after day, should be carefully studied, and its indications faithfully used in directing us in the path of duty." (Archibald Alexander, A Brief Compendium of Bible Truth, pp. 74-76; underlining mine--CD)

Archibald Alexander does not discern that he is the craftsman/smelter who constructs a "casted image" who takes counsel and is taught the path of justice concerning how he may "control" his creatures while remaining righteous in their sight.  Alexander's idol bows in reverence to the dignity and honor of the sovereign freedom of man. Evidently mans’ will is a kind of "Holy of Holies" where this casted image of Calvinism is to tread with much trepidation.

"Who has meted out the Spirit of Jehovah, or a man His counsel taught Him?  With whom did He take counsel, and [who] trained Him and taught Him in the path of justice; and taught Him knowledge, and made known to Him the way of discernment? Lo, nations [are] as a drop from a bucket, and are reckoned as dust of the scales. Lo, He takes up coasts as a little thing. And Lebanon [is] not enough to burn, nor are its beasts enough [for] a burnt offering. All the nations [are] as nothing before Him; to Him they are reckoned less than nothing and emptiness. And to whom will you liken God? Or what likeness will you array to Him? The craftsman pours out the casted image, the smelter spreads it with gold; and he casts the chains of silver." (Isaiah 40:13-19)