This excerpt appeared in FrontLine Jan/Feb, 1997.
How May a Christian Discover the Will of God and His Own Duty under Dark and Doubtful Providences?
Providence in concurrence with the Word may give some encouragement to us in our way; but no testimony of Providence is to be accepted against the Word. If Scripture and conscience tell you such a way is sinful, you may not venture upon it. … Take this therefore for a sure rule, that no Providence can legitimize or justify any moral evil. If in doubtful cases you would discover God’s will, govern yourselves in your search after it by the following rules:
- Get the true fear of God in your hearts. Be really afraid of offending Him, God will not hide His mind from such a soul. [See Psalm 25:14 and Proverbs 1:7; 9:10.]
- Study the Word more and the concerns and interests of the world less. The Word is a light to your feet (Ps. 119:105); that is, it has a discovering and directing usefulness as to all duties to be done and dangers to be avoided. It is the great oracle at which you are to enquire. Treasure up its rules in your hearts, and you will walk safely. [See Psalm 119:11.]
- Reduce what you know into practice, and you shall know what is your duty to practice. [See John 7:17; Psalm 111:10.]
- Pray for illumination and direction in the way that you should go. Beg the Lord to guide you in straits and that He would not permit you to fall into sin. [See Ezra 8:21.]
- And this being done, follow Providence so far as it agrees with the Word and no further. There is no use to be made of Providence against the Word, but in subservience to it. And there are two excellent uses of Providence in subservience to the Word.
Providences, as they follow promises and prayer are evidences of God’s faithfulness in their accomplishment. [See Psalm 41:10 and 11 and 86:17.]
Also providences give us loud calls to those duties which the command lays upon us and tell us when we are actually and presently under the obligation of the commands as to the performance of them. Thus when sad providences befall the Church or ourselves, they call us to humiliation; and let us know that then the command upon us to humble ourselves at the feet of God is in force upon us. [See Micah 6:9.] And on the contrary, when comfortable providences refresh us, it now informs us this is the time to rejoice in God [Eccles. 7:14]. … It is our duty, therefore, and our wisdom to distinguish seasons, and know the proper duties of every season; and Providence is an index that points them out to us [Eccles. 3:1-11].
John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence, pp. 188-190.
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