“The anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.”—2 Sam. 24:1.
“And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.”—1 Chron. 21:1.
The English translators consider the pronoun he in the former of these passages as relating not to Jehovah, but to Satan, referring in the margin to the latter passage as a proof of it. But this seems to be a forced meaning; for not only is the name Jehovah placed as the immediate and only antecedent to the pronoun, but also a reason why he did it.
- It is certain that God did not so move David to sin as either to partake of it, or to become his tempter; for “he cannot be tempted of evil, neither tempteth he any man.” It was Satan that tempted David to sin, not Jehovah.
- It is equally certain that the providence of God was concerned in this affair; and that, Israel having offended him, he determined in this way to punish them.
- God is said to do that which is done upon the minds of men by the ordinary influence of second causes, which causes would not have been productive of such effects but for their depravity. The hardness of clay, no less than the softness of wax, is ascribed to the sun; yet the sun’s producing this effect is entirely owing to the qualities of the object on which he shines. God hardened the heart of Pharaoh by so ordering things by his providence, that considerations should present themselves to his mind, when placed under certain circumstances, which (he being righteously given up of God) would be certain to provoke his pride and resentment, and to determine him to run all risks, for the sake of having his will. In other words, God led him into temptation; and there, in just judgment, left him to its influence. With respect to David, it is probable his mind was previously lifted up with his great successes in war. It is after the relation of these that the story is introduced, both in Samuel and the Chronicles. The Lord therefore led him into temptation, and righteously left him in it; the certain issue of which was that which actually took place.
If it be observed that this is ascribing sin to God indirectly, though not directly, I answer, It is no otherwise ascribing it to God than as any man is willing to have it ascribed to himself. The conduct of a good father may, through the disaffection of a son, cause him to go on worse and worse. His threatenings may harden, and his kindest entreaties and promises excite nothing but contempt. What then? Is this to the father’s dishonour? Certainly not. It were strange if God must cease from doing what is right, lest sinful men should be induced by it to become more sinful.
The best use for us to make of such a doctrine is, not curiously to pry into things too high for us, but when we pray, to say, “Our Father—lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil!”
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 667–684). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.