Chapter 5.6, 7
February 15, 2013
vi. As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous Judge, for former sins, does blind and harden, from them He not only withholds His grace whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon in their hearts; but sometimes also withdraws the gifts which they had, and exposes them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin; and, withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan, whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, even under those means which God uses for the softening of others.
vii. As the providence of God does, in general, reach to all creatures; so, after a most special manner, it takes care of His Church, and disposes all things to the good thereof.
The Confession concludes its teaching on divine providence by distinguishing between the ways in which God governs the unrighteous and the loving care that he constantly gives to his people.
With regard to the ungodly, there are certain things that God does to confirm them in their ungodliness, such as blinding their eyes to the truth of his word. This is what God sometimes did to Israel (see Isa. 6:9-10; Rom. 11:7-8). Part of God's righteous judgment against sin is the hardening of the sinner's heart.
But when the Confession talks about the ways in which God's providence affects unbelievers, most of the things it mentions are things that God does not do for them. He does not give them his saving grace. He does not persuade their minds of the truth of his Word, or open their hearts to his love. He does not protect the gifts that he has given to them, whether spiritual or otherwise. He does not deliver them from temptation or protect them from the power of Satan.
In short, God abandons the wicked to their wickedness, which is only just. As a result of this hard providence, the ungodly are unable to profit from the means of grace, such as prayer or the preaching of God's Word. God becomes so hateful to them that such divine gifts harden their hearts instead of softening them.
All of this stands in absolute contrast to the loving care that God provides for his own people. While it is true that his providence rules over all, he shows special grace to the true followers of Christ, or the church. Indeed, he promises to work everything for our good (Romans 8:28).
Dr. Philip G. Ryken is the president of Wheaton College.