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John Brown of Haddington (1722-1787) on Divine Permission

September 4, 2009

Brown:

1)
Q. In what manner doth God hate sin?
A . With boundless hatred, as a thing most abominable to him.

Q. How then is God in scripture said to bid men sin, and to harden them in it?
A. The meaning only is, that he permits, and punishes men by sin, 2 Sam. xvi. 10.

Q. If God hate sin so much, how can he permit it?
A. His permission doth not in the least effect or encourage sin; nor would he have permitted it, but to display his holiness by occasion thereof, especially in punishing it upon Christ, and saving men from it through him.   John Brown, An Essay Towards an Easy, Plain, Practical, and Extensive Explication of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism (New York: Robert Carter, 1846), 37. [Some Reformatting; some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]

Q. How is God’s providence exercised about angels
A. In permitting some to sin, and lie therein; establishing the rest in holiness and happiness, and employing them in the administration of his mercy and justice.   John Brown, An Essay Towards an Easy, Plain, Practical, and Extensive Explication of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism (New York: Robert Carter, 1846), 50. [Some Reformatting; some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]

2)
Q. How is God’s providence peculiarly exercised about men?
A. In giving or withholding from them the ordinary means of salvation, and enabling them to improve, or suffering them to abuse these means, as he sees meet, Psal. cxlvii. 19, 20. Rom. ix. John Brown, An Essay Towards an Easy, Plain, Practical, and Extensive Explication of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism (New York: Robert Carter, 1846), 59. [Some Reformatting; some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]

3)
Q. How is God’s providence exercised about casual or accidental actions, as killing a man with a bow-shot at a venture, &c.?
A. In joining or disjoining the circumstances of these actions otherwise than the actors thereof intended, Exod. xxi. 13, 2 Kings xxii. 34.

Q. How is God’s providence more generally exercised about moral and reasonable actions?
A. In prescribing a law to be the rule of them, end in annexing rewards punishments to them, Exod. xx., Deut. xxviii

Q. How may moral actions be distinguished?
A Into good and evil, Deut. xxviii. 1. 15.

Q, Are no reasonable actions indifferent, that is neither good nor evil?
A. They may be indifferent in their nature; but with respect to their manner and end, they must be either good or evil, 1 Tim. i. 5, 6.

Q How is God’s providence specially exercised about good actions?
A. In stirring up to, directing in, and giving power and opportunity. for them, Phil. ii. 12. 13.

Q. How is God’s providence exercised about sinful actions?
A. In concurring to the substance of the act; and in permitting, bounding, and over-ruling to his own glory the sinfulness of it, Iso. xxxvii. 29.

Q. Doth not this way make God the author of sin?
A. No; when God so hates and punishes sin, he can never in any respect be the author of it, Zeph. iii. 6.

Q. Does God’s exciting or concurring in actions any way cheek the free will of creatures?
A. No.

Q. Whence it then that men raise an outcry against God’s providential concurrence with all, especially sinful actions, as if that and his decree put a farce upon the will of creatures?
A. It arises from their great pride and ignorance, in measuring God by themselves; for, because they could not effect the matter of a sinful action, and not its sinfulness, neither absolutely decree, nor infallibly determine another to an action, without forcing his will, they conclude that God is incapable to do it; forgetting that as the heavens are high above the earth, so are God’s ways above our ways, Isa. Iv. 9.      John Brown, An Essay Towards an Easy, Plain, Practical, and Extensive Explication of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism (New York: Robert Carter, 1846), 59-60.  [Some Reformatting; some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]

4)
Q. How doth tho curse of God consume men’s wealth?
A. It deprives them of prudence to keep it, blasts their endeavors to increase it, and permits others unjustly to bereave them of it, Zech. v. 4. Job xx.

Q. How doth the curse of God slay the souls of men by their wealth?
A. By permitting them to improve it as an excitement to, and instrument of spiritual idolatry, carelessness about salvation, pride, uncleanness, &c.    John Brown, An Essay Towards an Easy, Plain, Practical, and Extensive Explication of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism (New York: Robert Carter, 1846), 258. [Some Reformatting; some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]

5)
Q What do you mean by temptation?
A. Temptation properly signifies an enticing to sin.

Q. Does God the properly: tempt any man?
A. No; God tempts no man, but only tries them, James i. 13.

Q. What then is meant by God’s leading into temptation?
A. His laying such occasions before men, as their lusts can improve to sinful purposes; withdrawing his grace; and permitting Satan, the world, and the flesh, to seduce them into sin, Joshua vii. 21, Job i. and ii.    John Brown, An Essay Towards an Easy, Plain, Practical, and Extensive Explication of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism (New York: Robert Carter, 1846), 352.  [Some Reformatting; some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]

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