God’s Will

3. The manner of God’s revealing his will to men is also very different. Some have had special, personal, and peculiar discoveries of it made to them. So had Samuel about the choice of the person whom he should anoint king, 1 Sam. 9:15. And so had David, 1 Sam. 23:2, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12 where you find upon his enquiry of God (likely by the Urim and Thummim, God told him what was his duty, as to that expedition, and what would be the event of it.
But now, all are tied up to the ordinary standing rule of the written word, and must not expect any such extraordinary revelations from God. The way we now have to know the will of God concerning us in difficult cases, is to search and study the scriptures, and where we find no particular rule to guide us in this, or that particular case, there we are to apply general rules, and govern ourselves according to the analogy, and proportion they bear towards each other.
But now it often falls out, that, in such doubtful cases, we are entangled in our own thoughts, and put to a loss what course to take. We pray with David, that God would make his way plain before us, Psalm 5:8. Afraid we are of displeasing God, and yet doubtful we may do so: whether we resolve this way, or that. And this comes to pass not only through the difficulty of the case, but from our own ignorance and inadvertency: and very frequently from those providences that lie before us, wherein God seems to hint his mind to us this way or that, and whether we may safely guide ourselves by those intimations of providence, is doubtful to us.
That God doth give men secret hints and intimations of his will by his providence, cannot be doubted; but yet providences in themselves, are no stable rule of duty, nor sufficient discovery of the will of God. We may say of them, as it is, Job 23:8, 9. “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him.”
If providence in itself be allowed to be a sufficient discovery of God’s will to us, then we shall be forced oftentimes to justify and condemn the same cause or person, forasmuch as there is one event happens to all; and as it falls out to the good, so to the wicked, Eccl. 9:2. Beside, if providence alone were the rule to judge any action or design by, then a wicked undertaking would cease to be so, if it should succeed well: but sin is sin still, and duty is duty still, whatever the events and issues of either be.

John Flavel, The Whole Works of the Reverend John Flavel, vol. 4 (London; Edinburgh; Dublin: W. Baynes and Son; Waugh and Innes; M. Keene, 1820), 468–469.

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