Difficulties Concerning God's Providence
Job 11:7
Can you by searching find out God? can you find out the Almighty to perfection?…

Zophar reproved Job as if he had replied against God in order to justify himself. The argument upon which Zophar proceeds is this, That after all our inquiries concerning the nature or attributes of God, and the reasons of His conduct, we are still to seek, and shall never be able perfectly to comprehend or account for them. But we may upon a modest and pious search have a true notion of God's attributes, and justify His providential dispensation. Difficulties —

I. IN RELATION TO THE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES. By our strongest efforts we cannot know what the essential properties are of a Being infinitely perfect. By the attributes of God, we are to understand the several apprehensions we have of Him according to the different lights wherein our minds are capable of beholding Him, or the different subjects upon which He is pleased to operate.

1. With respect to God's power. That power is a perfection will not be disputed. How shall we form to ourselves any perfect idea of infinite power? Especially if we consider Omnipotence as operating on mere privation, and raising almost an infinite variety of beings out of nothing. And if creation implies only the disposing of existing things into a beautiful and useful order, this equally gives us a sublime idea of power.

2. With respect to God's eternity. Who can distinctly apprehend how one single and permanent act of duration should extend to all periods of time, without succession of time? But how the eternity of God should be one single and permanent act of duration, present to all past as well as future time, is a difficulty sufficient to turn the edge of the finest wit, and the force of the strongest head.

3. With respect to the immensity of God. That a single individual substance, without extension or parts, should spread itself into and over all parts; that it should fill all places, and be circumscribed to no place, and yet be intimately present in every place; are truths discoverable by reason and confirmed by revelation. To say that God is present only by His knowledge does not solve the difficulty of conceiving His ubiquity. Where God is present in any attribute, He is essentially present.

4. With respect to the omniscience of God. God does not only foreknow what He has effectually decreed shall come to pass, but what is of a casual and contingent nature, and depends on the good or ill use man will make of his liberty. So that we must suppose in God a certain and determinate knowledge of events, which yet are of arbitrary and uncertain determination in their causes. The best answer is, that God is present to all time, and to all the events which happen in time. Futurity in respect to Him is only a term we are forced to make use of, from the defects of our finite capacity. The difficulty, however, of His predictions remains. We have more clear and distinct ideas of the moral perfections of His nature, than of His incommunicable properties.


1. How far is God's wisdom affected or impeached by the sufferings of good men? One of the principal designs of God is to promote the interests of religion. The sufferings of good men appear to obstruct such a design, as they seem to lessen the force of those arguments which we draw from the temporal rewards of religion; and as circumstances of distress are commonly supposed to sour and embitter the spirits of men. The promises made to the Jews rap all along upon temporal blessings and enjoyments. But the principal motives to our Christian obedience are taken from the happiness and rewards of a life after this. Religion does, however, entitle men to the temporal advantages of life, but the Christian promises relate principally to the inward peace and tranquillity of mind which naturally flow from a religious conduct; or to the inward consolations wherewith God is sometimes pleased more eminently to reward piety in this life. The necessary supports of life are assured. To lay too great a stress on the temporal rewards of religion seems of ill consequence to religion on two accounts. As it tends to confirm people in the opinion that the happiness of human life consists in the abundance of things that a man possesses. And men are hereby tempted to suspect the truth of religion itself, or to make false and uncharitable judgments on persons truly religious. Such judgments the friends made of suffering Job.

2. Prejudices against the goodness of God. The notion we have of goodness is, that it disposes to good and beneficent actions. But pain and sickness, etc., are things naturally evil. Such things seem inconsistent with the nature of God. But God may have special ends in view in afflicting, and He may be treating men as a parent treats his child.

3. Prejudices concerning the justice of God. But the best of men are conscious to themselves of many sins and defects which might justly have provoked God to inflict what they suffer upon them. And this life is not properly a state of rewards and punishments, but of trial and discipline. So the afflictions of good men are parts of the training work of Divine goodness and mercy. Seek then to have the best and largest thoughts of the Divine perfections you possibly can. Frequently reflect on the moral perfections of the Divine nature. Since we cannot by searching find out the Almighty to perfection, nor even discover all the particular reasons of His providence in this world, let us labour for eternity. There our minds will not only be united to God in perfect vision, but our hearts in perfect love.

(R. Fiddes.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?

WEB: "Can you fathom the mystery of God? Or can you probe the limits of the Almighty?

Oh that God Would Speak!
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