February 14, 2013
v. The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave, for a season, His own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon Himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.
When Christians think about providence, we often think first of God's generous provision for our daily needs. But there are also darker dimensions of God's work in our lives, the experiences that led the hymn writer William Cowper to write about "a frowning providence."
As we have seen, evil and sin do not fall outside the governance of God. Here the Confession makes this truth personal as it addresses the temptations we face and the sin that we see within our hearts. God does not always deliver us from temptation; nor does he sanctify us perfectly in this life. Rather, in his wise providence, he frequently exposes us to temptation and reveals in various ways the deep depravity of our hearts.
God's purposes for doing this are entirely beneficial. Sometimes temptations come as a form of fatherly correction for our former sins. Sometimes God uncovers our ungodliness so that we can see our sin and turn to him for grace. Sometimes he uses trials and temptations to teach us to rely more completely on his love and mercy. These are some of the wise, righteous, and ultimately gracious purposes that God may have in allowing us to struggle with sin.
This is one of the many places where we are reminded that the men who wrote the Westminster Confession were pastors who had a heart for the people of God. They wanted us to have the comfort of knowing that God is not against us but has good purposes for us, even when we are struggling with sin and temptation. When life does not seem to be going well for us, we should not doubt the providence of God, but wait patiently to see its good work revealed in our lives.