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Prevenient Grace and Divine Providence
Prevenient grace is providential grace, the secret operation of grace that precedes and prepares the way for GodŐs saving grace. This is illustrated in many ways in the Word of God.
From the Womb
GodŐs marvellous prevenient grace orders all the affairs of the lives of chosen sinners, forming their lives, molding their personalities, and ordering their steps from the womb (Galatians 1:15; Jeremiah 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:15). It puts each one in precisely the family and circumstances by which the chosen, redeemed sinner will be sweetly prepared to experience GodŐs saving mercy and prepared to serve him on this earth.
It is often seen as restraining grace (1 Samuel 25:13-26; Genesis 20:6) —Sometimes the Lord wisely, in his infinite wisdom and grace, lays the reins on the neck of the wild assŐs colt and lets his chosen run into utter debauchery, as we see in the parable of the prodigal son, that he might bring his chosen home in brokenness, humiliation, and repentance. But, even then, the Lord God has set the boundaries to which the wild ass may run, saying, ŇHitherto shalt thou go and no further!Ó
In other cases, the Lord graciously restrains the wild ass rebel from the evil he is capable of doing, or even determined to do, as he restrained Abimelech from sinning (Genesis 20:6) and restrained David in the matter of Nabal (1 Samuel 25:26).
In all cases, GodŐs prevenient grace operating in the lives of his chosen before conversion overrules evil for good, hedging up the way of his chosen, sweetly causing each, at the appointed time of love, to come to Christ. This is beautifully illustrated in the story of Hosea and Gomer by which the Lord God
gives us a picture of his love for his chosen, and the story of Onesimus the runaway slave (Hosea 1:1-3:5; Philemon 1:15). — ŇSurely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrainÓ (Psalms 76:10)
How I rejoice and give thanks to God for His free, covenant grace and for His secret, prevenient grace. It is this prevenient grace that keeps and preserves his elect throughout their days of rebellion unto the day of their calling (Jude 1:1). It is GodŐs prevenient grace that gives the angels their charge (Hebrews 1:14).
Prevenient grace is the grace of God pursuing his chosen, chasing them into the arms of Christ. Our preservation in Christ did not keep us from the sin and fall of our father Adam, because it was never intended so to do. Had that been the case, we would have been kept from all the blessings of redemption, grace, and salvation arising from AdamŐs transgression. Rather, AdamŐs fall was a part of GodŐs wondrous purpose and plan of grace.
ŇDetermined to save,
He watched oŐer my path
When, SatanŐs blind slave,
I sported with death.Ó
It is GodŐs prevenient grace of which David sang in Psalm 23:6, saying, ŇSurely, goodness and mercy shall follow (pursue - chase) me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever!Ó In his wise, adorable, and good providence, our heavenly Father works all things together for good to all his elect in prevenient grace (Isaiah 43:1-6; Romans 8:28-30; 11:33-36).
Here is a prophecy that must be fulfilled. Before time is no more the Lord God will Ňsay to the north, give up; and to the south, keep not back: bring My sons from far, and My daughters from the ends of the earth.Ó The Lord our God has a people in this world whom he is determined to save. Their salvation is a matter of certainty. We have every reason, therefore, to throw ourselves wholeheartedly into the work of seeking the salvation of GodŐs elect. Our labor will not be in vain!
In all nations, among all people, there is a remnant according to the election of grace upon whom GodŐs eye has been set from eternity. He has declared, in His eternal purpose, — ŇThey shall be Mine in that day when I make up My jewelsÓ (Malachi 3:17).
God has given commandment for the salvation of all his chosen sons and daughters. — ŇBring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.Ó It is a command given to all of providence. Everything that happens in the mysterious movements of providence is under GodŐs control and works by his sovereign power and purpose for the salvation of his people. Long before regenerating grace comes to the chosen, prevenient grace watches over them, orders their steps, and keeps them from going down to the pit, because God has found a ransom for them.