Posts Tagged ‘Will of God’

Will of God- Book Third- Chapter 1

Book Third



The term will, which always imports desire, is variously applied, according to the object of that desire.

1. It denotes intention or purpose to act. It is said of Apollos “His will was not at all to come at this time,”[1] i. e., he had not formed the intention or purpose to come. In this sense, the will of God is spoken of: “According to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”[2] Purpose or intention may exist before the time of action arrives. When it has arrived, the mind puts forth an act termed volition, to produce the desired effect. In human beings, purposes may be fickle, and may undergo change before the time for action comes; but God’s purpose or intention is never changed; and when the time for producing the purposed effect arrives, we are not to conceive that a new volition arises in the mind of God; but the effect follows, according to the will of God, without any new effort on his part.

2. It denotes a desire to act, restrained by stronger opposing desires, or other counteracting influences. Pilate was “willing” to release Jesus;[3] but other considerations, present to his mind, overruled this desire, and determined his action. We are compelled to conceive of the divine mind, from the knowledge which we possess of our own; and the Scriptures adapt their language to our conceptions. In this way, a desire to act is sometimes attributed to God, when opposing considerations prevent his action. “I would scatter them, were it not that I feared the wrath of the enemy.”[4] “How often would I have gathered, &e., and ye would not.”[5]

3. It is used with reference to an external object that is desired, or an action which it is desired that another should perform. “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not.”[6] “Be it unto thee as thou wilt.”[7] “Ask what ye will.”[8] “What will ye, that I should do.”[9] In this sense, as expressing simply what is in itself desirable to God, will is attributed to him. “Not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”[10] “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, &c.”[11] “This is the will of God, even your sanctification.”[12]

4. Closely allied to the last signification, and perhaps included in it, is that use of the term will, in which it denotes command, requirement. When the person, whose desire of pleasure it is that an action should be performed by another, has authority over that other, the desire expressed assumes the character of precept. The expressed will of a suppliant, is petition; and expressed will of a ruler, is command. What we know that it is the pleasure of God we should do, it is our duty to do, and his pleasure made known to us becomes a law.

Will of Command.

It is specially important to distinguish between the first and last of the significations which have been enumerated. In the first, the will of God refers exclusively to his own action, and imports his fixed determination as to what he will do. It is called his will of purpose, and always takes effect. In the last sense, it refers to the actions of his creatures, and expresses what it would be pleasing to him that they should do. This is called his will of precept, and it always fails to take effect when the actions of his creatures do not please him, i.e., when they are in violation of his commands. The will of purpose is intended, when it is said, “According to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will,”[13] and, “He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth.”[14] The will of precept is intended, when it is said, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”[15] Let it be noted that, in the former case, God only is the agent, and the effect is certain; in the latter, his creatures are the agents, and the effect is not an object of certain expectation, but of petition.


The Scriptures make the will of God the rule of duty, both to those who have the means of clear knowledge, and those who have not. The disobedience of the former will be punished with many stripes, that of the latter with few. No man will be held accountable, except for the means of knowledge that are within his reach; but these, even in the case of the benighted heathen, are sufficient to render them inexcusable. We have no right to dictate to God in what manner he shall make his will known to us; but we are bound to avail ourselves of all possible means for obtaining the knowledge of it; and, when known, we are bound to obey it perfectly, and from the heart.

Various terms are used to denote the will of God, as made known in the Holy Scriptures, statutes, judgments, laws, precepts, ordinances, &c. The two great precepts, which lie at the foundation of all the laws, are thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself. The first of these is expanded into the four commandments, which constitute the first table of the decalogue; the second into the six commandments, which constitute the second table. The decalogue was given for a law to the children of Israel, as is apparent from its introduction. “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”[17] It was, however, distinguished from the other laws given to that nation, by being pronounced audibly from Sinai with the voice of God, and by being engraved with the finger of God on the tables of stone. When we examine its precepts, we discover that they respect the relations of men, as men, to God and to one another; and we find, in the New Testament, that their obligation is regarded as extending to Gentiles under the gospel dispensation.[18] We infer, therefore, that the decalogue, though given to the Israelites, respected them as men, and not as a peculiar people, and is equally obligatory on all men.

The ceremonial law respected the children of Israel as a worshipping congregation, called “the Congregation of the Lord.” It commenced with the institution of the passover, and ended when Christ our passover was sacrificed for us, and when the handwriting of ordinances was nailed to the cross. Then its obligation ceased. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ceremonies of the Christian dispensation, obligatory on the disciples of Christ, to the end of the world.

The judicial law was given to the Israelites as a nation, and is not obligatory on any other people. The principles of justice on which it was based, are universal, and should be incorporated into every civil code.

Will of Purpose.


God is a voluntary agent. There are many powers in nature which operate without volition. Fire consumes the fuel, steam moves the engine, and poison takes away life; but these have no will. Even beings that possess will, sometimes act involuntarily, and sometimes against their will, or by compulsion from a superior power. God acts voluntarily in every thing that he does;– not by physical necessity; not by compulsion from any superior power; not by mistake, or oversight, or power unintentionally exerted. Men may plead in apology for their acts, that they were done in thoughtlessness, or through inadvertence; but God has never any such apology to make. Known unto him are all his works from the beginning of the world,[20] and therefore they have been duly considered.


God is not omnipotent, if he absolutely wills or desires to do anything, and fails to accomplish it.


That God has a purpose, none can deny, who attribute wisdom to him. To act without purpose is the part of a child, or an idiot. A wise man does not act without purpose, much less can the only wise God. Besides, the Scriptures speak so expressly of his purpose, that no one, who admits the authority of revelation, can reject the doctrine, however much he may misinterpret or abuse it. The term implies that God has an end in view in whatever he does, and that he has a plan according to which he acts.

The purpose of God is eternal and unchangeable. A wise man, in executing a purpose, may have many separate volitions, which are momentary actings of his mind; but his purpose is more durable, continuing from its first formation in the mind to its complete execution. The term will, as applied to the act of the divine mind, does not, in itself, imply duration; but the purpose of God, from the very import of the phrase, must have duration. God must have had a purpose when he created the world; and the Scriptures speak of his purpose before the world began. But the duration of it is still more explicitly declared in the phrase, “the eternal purpose.”[23] The term is never used in the plural number by the inspired writers; as if God had many plans, or a succession of plans. It is one entire, glorious scheme; and the date of it is from everlasting. Its eternity implies its unchangeableness; and its unchangeableness implies its eternity; and its oneness accords with both these properties.

The purpose of God is perfectly free. It is not forced upon him from without; for nothing existed to restrict the infinite mind of him who was before all. It is the purpose which he hath “purposed in himself.”[24] It is his will; and must, therefore, be voluntary. The term purpose and will apply to the same thing in different aspects of it, or according to different modes of conceiving it. If purpose more naturally suggests the idea of duration, will suggests its freeness. It is not the fate believed in by the ancient heathens, by which they considered the gods to be bound, as truly as men.

The purpose of God is infinitely wise. We have argued, that God must have a purpose because he is wise; and, therefore, his wisdom must be concerned in his purpose. It is not an arbitrary or capricious scheme; but one devised by infinite wisdom, having the best possible end to accomplish, and adopting the best possible means for its accomplishment.

Writers on theology have employed the term Decrees, to denote the purpose of God. It is an objection to this term, that there is no inspired authority for its use in this sense. When the Scriptures use the term decree, they signify by it a command promulged, to be observed by those under authority. It is the will of precept, rather than the will of purpose. And further, its use in the plural number does not accord so well with the oneness of the divine plan.

Scarcely any doctrine of religion has given so much occasion for cavil and stumbling as that of God’s decrees. As if men would be wiser than God, they refuse to let him form a plan, or they find fault with it when formed; and very few have so much humility and simplicity of faith, as to escape wholly from the embarrassment which the objections to this doctrine have produced. They, therefore, need a careful examination.

Objection 1.–The purpose of God is inconsistent with the free-agency of man.

It is a full answer to this objection, that a mere purpose cannot interfere with the freedom of any one. When a tyrant designs to imprison one of his subjects, until the design is carried into execution, the liberty of the subject is not invaded. He roams as free as ever, untouched by the premeditated evil. The infringement of his liberty commences when the purpose begins to be executed, and not before. So, in the divine government, the purpose of the Supreme Ruler interferes not at all with the liberty of his subjects, so long as it remains a mere purpose. The objection which we are considering, is wholly inapplicable to the doctrine of God’s purpose. Its proper place, if it has any, is against the doctrine of God’s providence; and, under that head, it will be proper to meet it. It was God’s purpose to create man a free-agent; and he did so create him. Thus far, neither the purpose, not the execution of it, can be charged with infringing man’s moral freedom; but they unite to establish it. It was God’s purpose to govern man as a free-agent; and has he not done so? If every man feels that the providence of God, while it presides in the affairs of men, leaves him perfectly free to act from choice in every thing that he does, what ground is there for the complaint, that the purpose of God interferes with man’s fee-agency? If the evil complained of is not in the execution of the purpose, it is certainly not in the purpose itself.

This objection often comes before us practically. When we are called upon for action to which we are averse, the argument presents itself; if God has fore-ordained whatever comes to pass, the event is certain; and what is to be, will be, without our effort. It is worthy of remark, that this argument never induces us to deviate from a course to which we are inclined. If some pleasure invites, we never excuse ourselves from the indulgence, on the plea, that, if we are to enjoy it, we shall enjoy it. The fact is sufficient to teach us the insincerity of the plea, when admitted in other cases. It prevails with us only through the deceitfulness of sin; and, however specious the argument may appear, when it coincides with our inclinations, we never trust it in any other case. No man in his senses remains at ease in a burning dwelling, on the plea, that, if he is to escape from the flames, he will escape. The providence of God establishes the relation between cause and effect, and gives full scope for the influence of the human will. To argue that effects will be produced without their appropriate causes, is to deny the known arrangement of Providence. He who expects from the purpose of God, that which the providence of God denies him, expects the purpose to be inconsistent with its own development. He charges the plan of the Most Wise, with inconsistency and folly, that he may find a subterfuge for criminal indulgence.

Objection 2.–If God purposed the fall of angels or men, he is the author of their sin.

Before we proceed to answer this objection, it is necessary to examine the terms in which it is expressed. In what sense did God purpose the fall of angels or men, or any sinful action: There is a sense, familiar to the pious, in which any event that takes place, under the overruling providence of God, is attributed to him, whatever subordinate agents may have been concerned in effecting it. The wind, the lightning, the Chaldeans, the Sabeans, were all concerned in the afflictions that fell on the patriarch Job; but he recognised the overruling hand of God in every event, and piously exclaimed; “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”[25] So Joseph, when sold by his brethren in Egypt, saw the hand of God in the event, and explained the design of his providence: “For God did send me before you to preserve life.”[26] In precisely the same sense in which God’s providence is concerned with such events, his purpose is concerned with them; and in no other.

With this explanation, let us proceed to consider the objection. Did Joseph design to charge on God the authorship of his brethrens’ sin? Nothing was further from his mind. They had been truly guilty of their brother’s blood; and their own consciences charged them with it. They felt that they were responsible for the sin, and Joseph knew the same; and nothing that he said was designed to transfer the responsibility from them to God. Yet he saw and delighted to contemplate the purpose of God in the event. That purpose was, “to save much people alive.” This purpose was executed; and God was the author, both of the purpose and the beneficial result. So, in every case, the good which he educes out of moral evil, and not the moral evil itself, is the proper object of his purpose. It should ever be remembered, that his purpose is his intention to act; and that, strictly speaking, it relates to his own action exclusively. It does, indeed, extend to everything that is done under the sun, just as the omnipresence of God extends to everything; but it extends to everything, no otherwise than as he is concerned with everything; and what God does, and nothing else, is the proper object of his purpose. “HE WORKETH all thing after the counsel of his own will.”[27] “I WILL DO all my pleasure.”[28] “HE DOETH according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth.”[29] It cannot be too carefully noticed, that the purpose of God relates strictly and properly to his own actions. Now, God is not the actor of sin, and therefore his purpose can never make him the author of it.

The objection, though it may appear to have greater force when applied to the first sin of man, is not, in reality, more applicable to this, than to every sin which has been since committed. God made Adam, and all his descendants, moral and accountable agents, permitted their sin; and he overrules the evil, from the beginning throughout, to effect a most glorious result. In all this, what God has done, and is doing, he purposed to do. In all, his action is most righteous, wise, and holy; and, therefore, his purpose is so. He is the author, not of the moral evil which he permits, but of the good of which he makes it the occasion.

The distinction between the permission and the authorship of sin some have denied; but, in so doing, they have not the countenance of God’s word. The whole tenor of the inspired volume leads us to regard God as the author of holiness, but not of sin. We are taught that in him is no sin;[30] that “he is light, and in him is no darkness;”[31] that “every good and perfect gift,” not sin, “cometh down from the Father of lights;”[32] that God is not tempted of evil, neither tempteth he any man.[33] In such language we are taught to consider God as the author and source of holiness; and it is as contrary to the doctrine of the holy word to attribute sin to him, as darkness to the sun, yet this same word teaches his permission of evil. “He suffered all nations to walk in their own way.”[34] His long-suffering, of which the Scriptures speak so much, implies the permission of sin. But of that which is highly displeasing to him, even when he bears with it, he cannot be the author.

Objection 3.–If God purposed the final condemnation of the wicked, he made them on purpose to damn them.

This objection, which impiety loves to present in the most repulsive form, it becomes us to approach with profound reverence for him whose character and motives it impugnes. Let us imagine ourselves present at the proceedings of the last day. The righteous Judge sits on his great white throne, and all nations are gathered before him. The books are opened, and every man is impartially judged, according to the deeds done in the body. The award is made up, and the sentence pronounced. The wicked are commanded to “depart into the fire prepared for the devil and his angels;” and the righteous are welcomed into “the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.” The scene is past, and the mysterious economy of God’s forbearance and grace is now finally closed. Is there anything in the transactions of that day which is unworthy of God? Is there anything which the holy inhabitants of heaven, throughout their immortal existence, can ever remember with disapprobation? Not so. The Judge, while he punishes the wicked with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power, is glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believed;”[35] and he will ever appear glorious in the decisions of that day. If God’s action on that day will be so glorious to him, will it be any dishonor to him that he has purposed so to act?

The idea, were any one disposed seriously to entertain it, that God will be taken by surprise at the last judgment, and compelled to pass an unpremeditated sentence, is for ever set aside by the fact that, as early as the days of Enoch, the seventh from Adam, the great day, and especially the fearful doom of the ungodly, were foretold. “Behold the Lord cometh, with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all; and to convince all that are ungodly among them, of all their ungodly deeds.”[36] This fact also demonstrates that the Lord will not punish for the mere pleasure of punishing. Why does he give warning of that day? Why are his messengers sent to warn men to flee from the wrath to come? Why are these messages delivered with so earnest entreaty and expostulation, so that his servants say, “As though God did beseech you by us, we pray you, in Christ’s stead, be by reconciled to God.”[37] As creatures, formed by his hand, he has not, and cannot have, any pleasure in rendering them unhappy; but, as rebels against his authority, enemies to his character and government, and the good order of this universal empire, and obstinate rejecters of his scheme of mercy and reconciliation, he will take pleasure in inflicting on them the punishment which his justice requires. The reward of the righteous is a kingdom prepared for them from before the foundation of the world; but the fire into which the wicked will be driven, is said to be prepared, not for them, but for the devil and his angels.[38] In this significant manner, God has been pleased to teach us, that his punishments are prepared, not for his creatures, as such, but only for sinners, and in view of sins already committed. Must he, to secure himself from disgrace and reproach, be able to plead that he has been taken by surprise, and that, from the beginning of the world, he had never expected the fearful result? If the proceedings of this great day will be so glorious to God that he will regard them with pleasure through all future eternity, why may he not have regarded them with pleasure through all eternity past?

The objection, originating in dislike of God’s justice, wholly misrepresents the character of his righteous judgment. It leaps from the creation of man to the final doom of the wicked, and wholly overlooks the intermediate cause of that doom. It proceeds as if sin were a very inconsiderable matter, and as if it must have been so regarded by God; and, therefore, it represents the punishment inflicted for it as if inflicted for its own sake. The sentence pronounced will be, in the judgment of God, for just the sufficient cause; and, in all the purpose of God respecting that sentence, the cause has been contemplated. What God does, and why he does it, are equally included in the divine purpose; and this connection the objection wholly overlooks. God did not regard sin as a trifling thing, when, on account of it, he destroyed the old world with the flood; and, as if to answer the very objection now before us, and convince men that he did not make them for the pleasure of destroying them, it is recorded; “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth; and it grieved him at his heart.”[39]

Our best judgment decides that the world ought not to have been made without a purpose, and that, for its mighty movements now to proceed without any purpose, is infinitely undesirable. The best work of human hands that we contemplate with any pleasure, has been formed with some purpose; and no intelligent being can view the works of God with satisfaction, if he can imagine them to have been undertaken and executed without design. Who would not grieve to think that this vast machinery is moving to accomplish no end; that the planets are hurled through space wildly, guided in their course, and controlled in their velocity, by no wise counsel; that the sun shines, that animals exist, that immortal man lives, moves, and has his being, without purpose? In this view, what an enigma is our life? Our understandings may consent not to comprehend the purpose for which the world was made, but to consent that it was made for no purpose, they cannot. Our intelligent natures wholly reject the thought.

The doctrine of God’s purpose, while it recommends itself to our understandings, applies a test to the moral principles of our hearts. If God has a purpose, we should delight to study it, and rejoice in the accomplishment of it; and our hearts and lives should be regulated in harmony with it. When we prefer that God should have no purpose, or that it should be different from what it is, our hearts cannot be right in his sight. If we loved him as we ought, we should rejoice in the accomplishment of his will, and view with pleasure the unfolding of his grand designes. Holy angels study the mystery of redeeming love, and learn, from the dispensations toward the Church, the manifold wisdom of God.[40] If right principles prevailed in our hearts, we would not presume to dictate to the Infinitely Wise, nor find fault with his plans, but wait with pleasure on the development of his will: and when we cannot see the wisdom and goodness of his works, we should, in the simplicity of faith, rest assured that his plan, when fully unfolded, will be found most righteous and most wise.

[1] 1 Cor. xvi. 12.

[2] Eph. i. 11.

[3] Luke xxiii. 20.

[4] Deut. xxxii. 27.

[5] Matt. xxiii. 37.

[6] Heb. x. 5.

[7] Matt. xv. 28.

[8] John xv. 7.

[9] Mark. xv. 12.

[10] 2 Peter iii. 9.

[11] Ezek. xxxiii. 11.

[12] 1 Thess. iv. 3.

[13] Eph. i. 11.

[14] Dan. iv. 35.

[15] Matt. vi. 10.

[16] Ps. xl. 8; cxlii. 10; Matt. vi. 10; Rom ii. 18; Ex. xx; Rom. ii. 12-15; Eccl. xii. 13.

[17] Ex. xx. 2.

[18] Rom. xiii. 8, 9; Eph. vi. 2.

[19] Job xxiii. 13; Dan. iv. 35; Eph. i. 11.

[20] Acts xv. 13.

[21] Job xxiii. 13; Dan. iv. 35; Eph. i.11; Isa. xlvi. 10; Dan. xi. 36.

[22] Job xxiii.13; Isa. xl. 14; xlvi. 10; Jer. li. 29; Rom. viii. 28; Eph i. 11; iii. ll; 2 Tim. i. 9.

[23] Eph. iii. 11.

[24] Eph. i. 9.

[25] Job. i. 21.

[26] Gen. xlv. 5.

[27] Eph. i. ll.

[28] Isaiah xlvi. 10

[29] Dan. iv. 35.

[30] 1 John i. 5.

[31] Ibid.

[32] James i. 17

[33] James i. 13.

[34] Acts xiv. 16.

[35] 2 Thes. i. 9, 10.

[36] Jude 14, 15.

[37] 2 Cor. v. 20.

[38] Matt. xxv. 34, 41.

[39] Gen. vi. 6, 7.

[40] Eph. iii.10.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

SCRBPC ’16 lecture titles as of today

June 30, 2016 1 comment

Drs. Stefan T. Lindblad, B.A. in History and Classics from Seattle Pacific University, M.Div. from Westminster Seminary California and the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies, and Ph.D. candidate in Systematic and Historical Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary, is our speaker at this fall’s conference. The conference will be held on October 24-25, 2016.

Here are the lecture titles thus far:

1. Tremendum Mysterium: A Historical and Theological Primer on the Divine Decree

2. The Will of God: One or Three?

3. Christ & the Decree Revisited

4. A Prelude to Dordt: Arminius & Trelcatius at the University of Leiden



Source [SCRBPC]

Objection answered, that there must be two contrary wills in God, refuted and why the one simple will of God seems to us as if it were manifold

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015These objections originate in a spirit of pride and blasphemy. Objection, that there must be two contrary wills in God, refuted. Why the one simple will of God seems to us as if it were manifold.

3. As I have hitherto stated only what is plainly and unambiguously taught in Scripture, those who hesitate not to stigmatize what is thus taught by the sacred oracles, had better beware what kind of censure they employ. If, under a pretense of ignorance, they seek the praise of modesty, what greater arrogance can be imagined than to utter one word in opposition to the authority of God — to say, for instance, “I think otherwise,” — “I would not have this subject touched?” But if they openly blaspheme, what will they gain by assaulting heaven? Such petulance, indeed, is not new. In all ages there have been wicked and profane men, who rabidly assailed this branch of doctrine. But what the Spirit declared of old by the mouth of David, (Psalm 51:6,) they will feel by experience to be true — God will overcome when he is judged. David indirectly rebukes the infatuation of those whose license is so unbridled, that from their groveling spot of earth they not only plead against God, but arrogate to themselves the right of censuring him. At the same time, he briefly intimates that the blasphemies which they belch forth against heaven, instead of reaching God, only illustrate his justice, when the mists of their calumnies are dispersed. Even our faith, because founded on the sacred word of God, is superior to the whole world, and is able from its height to look down upon such mists.

Their first objection — that if nothing happens without the will of God, he must have two contrary wills, decreeing by a secret counsel what he has openly forbidden in his law — is easily disposed of. But before I reply to it, I would again remind my readers, that this cavil is directed not against me, but against the Holy Spirit, who certainly dictated this confession to that holy man Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away,” when, after being plundered by robbers, he acknowledges that their injustice and mischief was a just chastisement from God. And what says the Scripture elsewhere? The sons of Eli “hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the Lord would slay them,” (1 Samuel 2:25.) Another prophet also exclaims, “Our God is in the heavens: he has done whatsoever he has pleased,” (Psalm 115:3.) I have already shown clearly enough that God is the author of all those things which, according to these objectors, happen only by his inactive permission. He testifies that he creates light and darkness, forms good and evil, (Isaiah 45:7;) that no evil happens which he has not done, (Amos 3:6.) Let them tell me whether God exercises his judgments willingly or unwillingly. As Moses teaches that he who is accidentally killed by the blow of an ax, is delivered by God into the hand of him who smites him, (Deuteronomy 19:5,) so the Gospel, by the mouth of Luke, declares, that Herod and Pontius Pilate conspired “to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done,” (Acts 4:28.) And, in truth, if Christ was not crucified by the will of God, where is our redemption? Still, however, the will of God is not at variance with itself. It undergoes no change. He makes no pretense of not willing what he wills, but while in himself the will is one and undivided, to us it appears manifold, because, from the feebleness of our intellect, we cannot comprehend how, though after a different manner, he wills and wills not the very same thing. Paul terms the calling of the Gentiles a hidden mystery, and shortly after adds, that therein was manifested the manifold wisdom of God, (Ephesians 3:10.) Since, on account of the dullness of our sense, the wisdom of God seems manifold, (or, as an old interpreter rendered it, multiform,) are we, therefore, to dream of some variation in God, as if he either changed his counsel, or disagreed with himself? Nay, when we cannot comprehend how God can will that to be done which he forbids us to do, let us call to mind our imbecility, and remember that the light in which he dwells is not without cause termed inaccessible, (1 Timothy 6:16,) because shrouded in darkness. Hence, all pious and modest men will readily acquiesce in the sentiment of Augustine: “Man sometimes with a good will wishes something which God does not will, as when a good son wishes his father to live, while God wills him to die. Again, it may happen that man with a bad will wishes what God wills righteously, as when a bad son wishes his father to die, and God also wills it. The former wishes what God wills not, the latter wishes what God also wills. And yet the filial affection of the former is more consonant to the good will of God, though willing differently, than the unnatural affection of the latter, though willing the same thing; so much does approbation or condemnation depend on what it is befitting in man, and what in God to will, and to what end the will of each has respect. For the things which God rightly wills, he accomplishes by the evil wills of bad men,” — (August. Enchirid. ad Laurent. cap. 101.) He had said a little before, (cap. 100,) that the apostate angels, by their revolt, and all the reprobate, as far as they themselves were concerned, did what God willed not; but, in regard to his omnipotence, it was impossible for them to do so: for, while they act against the will of God, his will is accomplished in them. Hence he exclaims, “Great is the work of God, exquisite in all he wills! so that, in a manner wondrous and ineffable, that is not done without his will which is done contrary to it, because it could not be done if he did not permit; nor does he permit it unwillingly, but willingly; nor would He who is good permit evil to be done, were he not omnipotent to bring good out of evil,” (Augustin. in Psalm 111:2.)

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 18-Henry Beveridge Translation

Free Ebook: Seasonable Counsel or, Advice To Sufferers

October 19, 2015 2 comments

seasonableby John Bunyan

in ePub, .mobi & .pdf fomats

THIS valuable treatise was first published in a pocket volume in 1684, and has only been reprinted in Whitfield’s edition of Bunyan’s works, 2 vols. folio, 1767.

No man could have been better qualified to give advice to sufferers for righteousness’ sake, than John Bunyan: and this work is exclusively devoted to that object. Shut up in a noisome jail, under the iron hand of persecution, for nearly thirteen years, in the constant fear of being hanged as a malefactor, for refusing conformity to the national liturgy, he well knew what sufferings were, and equally well did he know the sources of consolation. It was wisely ordered by Divine Providence, that before the king pardoned him, he had a legal return under the hand and seal of the sheriff of Bedfordshire, certifying the reasons of this frightful imprisonment. This is entered in the minutes of the Privy Council on the 8th and 15th of May, 1672; and it proves that he was thus cruelly punished for “being at conventicles for nonconformity” and for no other cause. In this “Advice” we find his opinion on the origin of persecution—the instruments—the motives—its cruelty—with cautions, counsels, and support to the persecuted. He considers persecution a strange anomaly,—”The reason is that Christianity is a harmless thing—that be it never so openly professed it hurts no man.”

Simple-hearted, honest John, thou dreamest. What wouldest thou have thought of a system by which all would have been taught to tag their laces and mend their own pots and kettles? What would have become of thy trade as a brazier? Christianity teaches all mankind not to trust in those empirics who profess to cure souls for Peter’s pence, tithes, mortuaries, and profits; but to go by themselves to the Great Physician, and he will pour in his wine and oil, his infallible remedies for a sin-sick soul, without money and without price. To Bunyan this was not only harmless to others, but the most boundless mercy that God could bestow upon man. What could be more destructive to the hierarchy of popes, cardinals, and papal nuncios of the Latin, with the patriarchs, archimandrites, and papas of the Greek churches? A system by which all their services are dispensed with, and priestly and prelatic pride is leveled with the dust. Can we wonder that those who preached the holy, humbling, self-denying doctrines of the cross, were persecuted to the death? Bunyan’s opinion is, that Satan is the author of persecution, by which he intended to root out Christianity. The whirlwind and the tempest drives away those who are not rooted and grounded in the faith, some of whom may have stood like stately cedars until the trying time of trial came. But the humble Christian in such a season takes deeper root—a stronger grasp. Faith, his anchor, is sure and steadfast; it enters eternity and heaven, where Satan can find no entrance to disturb its hold. In persecution, men are but the devil’s tools, and little think that they are doing his drudgery.

The man of God declares the truth in plain terms, “No one is a Christian except he is born of God by the anointing of the Holy One.” Carnal men cannot endure this; and then “the game begins,” how such troublesome fellows may be put out of the way, and their families be robbed of their possessions to enrich the persecutors. “The holy places, vestures, gestures—the shows and outward greatness of false religion, are in danger.” Their sumptuous ceremonies, glorious ornaments, new- fashioned carriages,[1] “will fall before the simplicity and majesty of truth.” The Christian falls out with sin at home, and then with sinful ceremonies in divine worship. With him all that is not prescribed in the word of God is forbidden. Sentiments like these are a blow at the root of superstition with all its fraudful emoluments. Hence the storms of persecution which fall on the faithful followers of Christ. Antichrist declares the excellency of human inventions to supply what he considers defects in God’s system.

Such is the mad folly of the human heart! Dust and ashes find fault with a system which is the perfection of wisdom, mercy, and love. And such their infatuation, that “none must be suffered to live and breathe that refuseth conformity thereto.” Mr. Bunyan’s cautions and counsels are full of peace— “submission to the powers that be.” Pray for the persecutor— return good for his evil. He is in the hand of God, who will soon level him with the dust, and call his soul to solemn judgment. Although the sufferer’s cause is good, do not run yourself into trouble—Christ withdrew himself—Paul escaped by being lowered down the city wall in a basket. If they persecute you in one city, flee to another. “A minister can quickly pack up and carry his religion with him, and offer what he knows of his God to another people.” God is the support of his persecuted ones. “His power in holding up some, his wrath in leaving of others; his making of shrubs to stand, and his suffering of cedars to fall; his infatuating of the counsels of men, and his making of the devil to outwit himself; his giving of his presence to his people, and his leaving of his foes in the dark; his discovering the uprightness of the hearts of his sanctified ones, and laying open the hypocrisy of others, is a working of spiritual wonders in the day of his wrath, and of the whirlwind and storm.” “Alas! we have need of these bitter pills at which we so much winch and shuck.

The physician has us in hand. May God by these try and judge us as he judges his saints, that we may not be condemned with the world.” Such were the feelings of John Bunyan after his long sufferings; they are the fruits of a sanctified mind. Reader, great are our mercies—the arm of the persecutor is paralysed by the extension of the knowledge of Christ. Still we have to pass through taunts and revilings, and sometimes the loss of goods; but we are saved from those awful trials through which our pilgrim forefathers passed. May our mercies be sanctified, and may grace be bestowed upon us in rich abundance, to enable us to pity and forgive those sects who, in a bye-gone age, were the tools of Satan, and whose habitations were full of cruelty.













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Should You be a Pastor or a Professor? Thinking Through the Options

by Michael J. Kruger

Since I am a professor at a seminary, it is not unusual (indeed, it is very common) for students to come to me for advice about whether they should enter the pastorate or seek to be a professor. While many of these students may have entered seminary with the intention of entering pastoral ministry, they have found themselves falling in love with a deep study of theology and the Bible. And so, they think, perhaps the academic world is right for them.

I confess that I am often torn when students come to me with this question. On the one hand, I want to discourage students from pursuing the Ph.D./professor route. In addition to the fact that Ph.D. work is far more rigorous (and costly) than they think, there is a great need for solid, bible-centered preachers/pastors today. The more solid folks in the pulpit the better.

On the other hand, we also need good seminary professors. Indeed, it is these professors that shape the theology, philosophy, and ethos of the next generation of pastors. Strong seminaries lead to strong churches. Thus, I am always on the look out for the next potential faculty member who can shape these future Christian leaders.




Read the entire article here.

Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 1-Chapter 20-The Will of God

April 17, 2015 2 comments


In all intelligent beings there is a will, men and angels and God have wills. In men the will is the faculty of the mind by which choice is made of a future action determined upon. In willing a man has the purpose of action in view. And his will is the cause of the action, else he would be a mere machine or automation. If I take a gun and shoot another man, the will worked before the hand did; the purpose was before the act. But if I am held by another man, and a gun is placed in my hand, and another hand moves my finger to pull the trigger, that is not my act because I did not will or choose to do it. In that act I was not a responsible being, but a mere machine or tool of another.

In God the will is the attribute by which He determines and executes future events. “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (#Joh 6:39). His will includes “whatsoever comes to pass,” hence everything that comes to pass is providential and not accidental so far as God is concerned. “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (#Eph 1:11). The sparrow does not fall without the will of God.

Webster defines Providence as an event divinely ordained. Now it is well known that events happen in sequence, that is, they are related in order of time and one event is the cause of another event. So it seems evident, that if some events are ordained then all events are ordained. It is usual for men to distinguish events as providential and accidental. Even Christians are prone to classify their experiences either as providential or accidental. They associate providence with good things, and accident with evil things; therefore, they speak of having an accident. The Rickenbacker party regarded their rescue at sea as providential, but the writer regards the whole of their experiences as providential. The fall of their plane into the sea was as much providential as was their rescue. We need to see God’s will in our afflictions as well as in our blessings. Job was speaking of both “And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (#Job 1:21). And when his wife pleaded with him to curse God and die, “But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips” (#Job 2:10). And when he had lost all earthly comforts; seeing God’s hand in it all he said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him” (#Job 13:15).

The will of God includes the wicked actions of sinful men, but does not take away their blame worthiness. We may not see how this can be, but the Scriptures declare it and we should believe it. The Scriptures were not written to confirm our reasoning but rather to correct it. On the day of Pentecost Peter said, concerning Jesus, “Him being delivered by the determinate counsel (will) and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (#Ac 2:23). And on a later occasion he said that “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel (will) determined before to be done” (#Ac 4:27,28). We may not be able to see how God can will or determine a sin without becoming the author of sin, but the fact remains that the greatest of all sins, the slaying of the Son of God, was divinely ordained.


Theologians have made many distinctions in the will of God; some of them are false, others are vain and useless, but there is one distinction that is necessary, and which will prove helpful in rightly dividing the word of truth. This is that which distinguishes between God’s decretive will and His preceptive will, or His will of purpose and His will of command. God’s will of purpose is always done; His will of command is often left undone. God’s will of purpose cannot be thwarted, for this would mean His dethronement; His will of command is often violated, for men are in rebellion against Him. If the human will is greater in power than the Divine will then, of course, this human rebellion will succeed and God will be dethroned. If human rebellion can overthrow the government of God, we have no supreme Being at all. To further amplify the distinction between God’s decretive and preceptive wills we will consider each separately.


1. It is eternal. God is not forming any new purposes, for His counsels are of old: “O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth” (#Isa 25:1). His purpose in Christ is said to be eternal: “According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:” (#Eph 3:11). What is to be will be, therefore, “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (#Ac 15:18).

2. It is effectual. God’s will of purpose is always accomplished. God is not man that He should engage in wishful thinking. There are no mere wishes with Him which He cannot perform. “The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders. This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations. For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?” (#Isa 14:24-27). For example, back in eternity God willed or determined the death of His Son, and centuries after time began we see Him controlling and directing the free actions of sinful men to bring this event to pass. Moreover, He predestinated and predicted the detail when, where, and how His Son should die. And so in the four gospels we are told that this and that was done to Him that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

3. It is immutable. God never changes His will of purpose. There are only two possible reasons for anybody changing his will; it must be either because he sees that what he purposed was not wise, or that he sees it cannot be accomplished. But neither of these reasons can apply to God. He was All wise in planning and is All powerful in performing.

Prayer does not change God’s will, but it does change things. Changes wrought by prayer are all within the circle of God’s purposing will. “And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (#Ro 8:27). Answered prayer is made in the energy of the Holy Spirit. A man may pray without the Spirit and get what he asks for, but it would not be in answer to prayer. Two generals on opposing sides may pray for victory in the coming battle, but both could not be praying in the Holy Spirit, and it is possible that neither of them are. In all true prayer this thought is implied or expressed: Not my will but Thine be done.

“Thy way, not mine, O Lord,
However dark it be;
O lead me by Thine own right hand,
Choose out the path for me.

“I dare not choose my lot;
I would not if I might;
But choose Thou for me, O my God,
So shall I walk aright.

“Take thou my cup, and it
With joy or sorrow fill;
As ever best to Thee may seem,
Choose Thou my good and ill.

“Not mine, not mine the choice,
In things of great or small;
Be Thou my guide, my guard, my strength,
My wisdom, and my all.”

4. God’s will of purpose was the cause of our conversion. I am a converted or saved man. I have been born again. What is the explanation of this tremendous change? Back of every performance or action there must be a will. Did I will myself into a new man? Did some other man effectually will my second birth? “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (#Joh 1:12,13). Saving faith does not originate with our parents, nor with ourselves, nor with some other man; it is the gift and work of God. “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (#Jas 1:18).


1. God’s preceptive will refers to what He has prescribed as our rule of thought and conduct. The will of God is expressed in all Divine law. In Eden it was God’s will that determined what kind of law would be given to Adam and Eve. At Sinai God did not consult Moses or the children of Israel about what laws they would be under. In a democracy the people make their own laws through chosen representatives who serve in legislative halls. This gives rise to pressure groups and class legislation because men are selfish; they do not love their neighbors as themselves. But in our relation to God we are not dealing with a democracy but with a Theocracy. In God’s will of command we have the sovereignty of authority; in God’s will of purpose we have the sovereignty of power.

2. It is God’s will of command and not His will of purpose that men are responsible to perform. It was His will of purpose that Christ should be crucified, but it was not His will of command. In putting Jesus Christ to death men were fulfilling the purpose of God, but they were not obeying any command of God. There can be no sin in doing what God has commanded. Peter tells us that they put Christ to death with wicked hands; “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (#Ac 2:23); therefore, they were not obeying a command of God. What God purposes is the determining factor; what He commands is our duty. It seems easy for men to see this distinction in everything except religion. A man who can see only one side of the truth will say, “If it is God’s will or purpose to save me, He will save me; therefore, I will sit down and do nothing about it.” Now this same man would not dare reason this way about other things. Concerning this year’s crop, God’s will of purpose determines the harvest, but His command is to plow and plant, cultivate and reap. God’s will of purpose determines whether we live or die: “For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (#Jas 4:15), but it is His will of command that we regard the laws of health. Nobody quits eating because he believes God’s will of purpose determines whether he lives or dies. God’s will of purpose will determine the outcome of this war, but it would be foolish to sit down and say: “If it is God’s will we will win, if not we will lose; therefore, let us strike and stop mining coal and producing steel.” God’s will of purpose determines the result of our witnessing for Christ. “In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good” (#Ec 11:6). “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (#Isa 55:10,11). It is God’s will of command that we sow beside all waters, to preach the Gospel to every creature, and His will of purpose will take care of the results and make it accomplish what He pleases.

It is God’s will of purpose that determines whether I am saved or not, but it is folly to sit down and say that if I am one of the elect I will be saved; therefore, I need not take any interest in the matter. God’s will of command is to repent and believe, and this is every man’s responsibility. We are commanded “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:” (#2Pe 1:10). We are commanded to “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (#Lu 13:24). The man who takes no interest in his soul and has no concern for his salvation; if he persists in this attitude will surely land in the lake of fire; for he that believeth not shall be damned. Much of God’s will of purpose belongs to His secret will, “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (#De 29:29).

C. D. Cole-Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 1

A holy design is required to interpret the scriptures

October 14, 2014 1 comment

Arthur PinkFifth, a holy design. Many are deceived in this matter, mistaking an eagerness to acquire scriptural knowledge for a love of the Truth itself. Inquisitiveness to discover what the Bible says is why some read it. A sense of shame to be unable to discover its teaching prompts others. The desire to be familiar with its contents so as to hold their own in an argument moves still others. If it be nothing better than a mere desire to be well versed in its details which causes us to read the Bible, it is more than likely that the garden of our souls will remain barren. The inspiring motive should be honestly examined. Do I search the Scriptures in order to become better acquainted with their Author and His will for me? Is the dominating purpose which actuates me that I may grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord? Is it that I may ascertain more clearly and fully how I should order the details of my life, so that it will be more pleasing and honoring to Him? Is it that I may be brought into a closer walking with God and the enjoyment of more unbroken communion with Him? Nothing less is a worthy aim than that I may be conformed to and transformed by its holy teaching.

In this chapter we have dealt only with the elementary side of our subject, nevertheless of what is of basic importance, and which few attend unto. Even in the palmy days of the Puritans, Owen had to complain, “the number is very small of those who diligently, humbly, and conscientiously endeavor to learn the Truth from the voice of God in the Scriptures, or to grow wise in the mysteries of the Gospel by such ways as wherein alone that wisdom is attainable. And is it any wonder if many, the greater number of men, wander after vain imaginations of their own or others?” May it not be so with those who read this chapter.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

Chapter 12-The Will of God

February 26, 2014 4 comments

Chapter 12-The Will of God


By the will of God is meant that power inherent in his nature, by which he purposes and chooses any end or object, or determines its existence.

I. That God must have this power is evident.

1. Because it is an attribute of personality. A conscious personal being cannot be without will. Every proof that we have, therefore, that God has personal existence, is evidence that he must have will.

2. Will is also a perfection, and must be found in the being of all perfection.

3. The absolutely independent God, who is controlled by, and dependent upon no person nor thing, must have will, which determines his own acts.

4. It cannot be separated from the possession of the power and wisdom seen in the creation of the universe and in all God’s outward acts, for, without it, the things which wisdom devises and power executes could neither be devised nor executed.

5. It is essential to the sovereignty by which he rules the universe, for will is the element in which sovereignty consists.

6. Without it there could be no existence whatever, not even of God himself.

II. The objects of that will are all beings that exist, and all events that take place.

1. God must will his own existence and nature. These are objects of supreme desire. The infinite excellence of that nature, which furnishes a completely worthy object of his complacent love, cannot be contemplated without a correspondingly infinite desire that it should exist, and should be what it is. The will thus exercised, however, is not causal, as it is towards all other objects. It does not give existence to God, nor make his nature what it is, but on the contrary, it is because God exists and has such a nature, that he must so will.

2. The will of God is also exercised in establishing and maintaining the personal relations revealed to us as existing in the Godhead. It is by the will of the Father that he begets the Son, and by the will of the Father and the Son that the Spirit proceeds. The action of the will here is causal, although these relations are eternal, and are characteristic of the Godhead. They are the results of the divine activity, and, as effects, must find their ultimate cause in the will which moves to action. The fact that because this is divine will and action, there can be no priority of time in the will to the act, does not forbid the causal relation which, because of the eternity of God, must make cause and effect in him co-eternal.

3. Another exhibition of will in the divine being is connected with the mutual love of the divine persons toward each other. This love proceeds from these persons as one form of eternal activity, and is willed by each to the full extent of its infinite exercise.

4. The will of God is more plainly made known, however, to his creatures, in his outward activity in creation. This was called into existence by the word of his power. He willed, and it was done. But for that will, it had not been. Viewed as a whole, or in its minutest part, the universe presents everywhere the impress of its maker’s will. To that will is due not only all material, but also all spiritual existence.

5. The will of God is also manifested in his providential care and government of the universe. In creating it, he has established laws, both mechanical and spiritual, by which it is regulated. Yet he has not withdrawn his own presence and power in its continued guidance and preservation; but is constantly developing, through it and in it, his eternal purpose.

6. In human affairs, however, the will of God is most distinctively exhibited in the work of redemption. Let this be admitted as a true work of God, and, at once, appear the proofs of a far-reaching end, accomplished by frequent acts of interposition and guidance, in which concentres and culminates the entire scope of God’s outward activity. The will of God is seen to be the propelling force of his devising wisdom and executing power in the accomplishment of one great purpose to which is indissolubly linked all his other acts and volitions.

III. A question arises as to this will of God, whether, in its exercise, he acts necessarily or freely.

It has been answered, that his will is exercised both necessarily and freely, according to the object of that will.

1. He is said to will necessarily, himself, his holy nature, and character, and the personal relations in the Godhead. This language may be admitted, if it be borne in mind, that the necessity here declared, is not one of fate, nor of outward compulsion. Whatever is meant by it must be fully consistent with God’s free agency. It is a necessity that arises from his nature, because of which, such must be the will of God, that he wills himself, his existence, and the relations of the persons of the Godhead. Such being the nature of the necessity, it would be better to express it in some way which would indicate its source and prevent misapprehension. The word “naturally” would suffice, were it not for its ambiguity in common use; consequently “essentially” is suggested as expressive of all the necessity, and at the same time of all the freedom which must accompany an act of the will proceeding from the very essence or nature of God.

2. As to all else than himself, God wills freely, whether his will has regard to their existence, or mode of existence, or their actions, or the events which influence or control them. He does his own will, not that of another. He chooses what, and whom he will create, and the times, places and circumstances in which he will place those he creates. He marks out to all his intelligent creatures the paths of their lives. He uses them for his purposes. Though he gives to them also, like freedom of will, yet is their will subordinate to his, and, with their actions, is controlled by it. Yet is this so wisely done, and so truly in accordance with their own natures, as fully to preserve in them consciousness and conviction of the power of contrary choice, and of full responsibility for what they choose and do.

When it is said, however, that God will freely, it is not meant that no influence is exerted upon his will. It is only intended to deny that his will is influenced from without. In all his outward acts, as well as in those within, he is governed by his own nature. That nature, and that will, must always be in unison. As he is infinitely wise, so must his will and action be directed towards wise ends in the use of wise means. His infinite justice forbids that he should will or do anything contrary to the strictest justice. The God of truth must also purpose in accordance with truth and faithfulness. His love, too, which is so gracious a characteristic of God, forbids that he shall will otherwise than benevolently towards all; securing the happiness of the innocent, an desiring that even of the guilty, when it can be made consistent with his justice. The holiness of his nature makes it essential that, as all perfection, in perfect harmony, is involved in that holiness, so also must it be found in every purpose which he forms, as well as in every action by which his purposes are accomplished. When, therefore, God is said to will freely in all matters which are without, it is not meant to deny that he is governed by his nature in all respects, in which that nature ought to affect his will.

But, even in the volition thus formed, God does not will freely, in the sense of willing arbitrarily. He is not indifferent as to what he will do. There is choice, and not arbitrary choice. There are reasons perceived by him, which induce him to choose one end, rather than another, and one set of means to that end, in preference to others. There is in each case a prevailing motive, not necessarily dependent upon its own force or power, but upon the simple fact, that, in the midst of the numerous ends and means known to him through his infinite knowledge, this motive makes this end, and these means best pleasing to him. The very nature of choice in any being of intelligence and free agency makes this the method by which the will forms its decision. There is nothing in the nature of the omniscient and all-purposing God, which forbids that this also should be the method of his volitions. Our conception of God in this respect cannot be incorrect, although, as in all instances in which we attempt to arrive at the perfections of God through those recognized as such in man, this conception may be very inadequate.

IV. The discussion of the preceding question shows how truly man, so far as his will is concerned, had been made in the image of God. It suggests the propriety, therefore, of setting forth more particularly the points of similarity and dissimilarity between the will of man and that of God.

1. Some points of similarity may be mentioned.

(1.) In man, will is the element in which sovereignty exists; so also in God.

(2.) In man, will depends upon the understanding, that is, it is exercised, all other things being equal, in accordance with its dictates; so also in God.

(3.) In man, the will is essentially influenced by his nature; so also in God.

(4.) In man, the will is controlled by the prevailing motive, which is made the strongest, because it is that most pleasing to him; so also in God.

2. But there are also points of dissimilarity between these wills.

(1.) God never wills what he cannot do; man often does.

(2.) In God, the will is never influenced from without; in man this is frequently done.

By the outward control in man is not here meant that physical compulsion by which a man is sometimes said to act against his will; but those legitimate outward influences from persons, circumstances, and events, which lead men freely to choose, in accordance with the laws of the mind.

(3.) In God, the prevailing motive is not only the most pleasing, but, presumably, the best; in man, it is only the most pleasing, not the most reasonable and right, nor the most conducive to happiness; but often the very contrary of these.

(4.) In God there is but one will, or purpose, which comprehends all his ends and means; he does not will, by successive acts, nor in successive moments, but simultaneously, and eternally; man wills successively, one will follows another, and the volition of one man often succeeds the acts, as well as the volitions, of others.

(5.) The will of God is always accomplished; that of man is often defeated.

(6.) God never changes his will, nor perceives any reason for such change; man changes his frequently, from caprice, or because of new information, or because he sees the importance of a better life, or is carried off by passion to one that is worse.

V. Various distinctions as to the will of God have been pointed out, some of which are correct, or at least admissible, and others incorrect, and objectionable.

The following list is given by Turretine in the fifteenth and sixteenth questions of his third book. The statements made are in the main taken from his discussion.

1. The correct distinctions.

(1.) The first distinction is between the decretive and preceptive will of God.

By the decretive will is meant that will of God by which he purposes or decrees, whatever shall come to pass, whether he will to accomplish it himself effectively, or causatively, or to permit it to occur through the unrestrained agency or will of his creatures. In either case, however, he has determined, purposed, or decreed, either to bring it to pass, or to cause, or to permit it to be brought to pass.

By the preceptive will is meant that which he has prescribed to be done by others. Such are the laws under which he places his creatures, or the duties which he enjoins upon them. It is the rule of duty.

The decretive will must always be fulfilled; the preceptive may be disobeyed, and therefore remain unfulfilled.

(2.) Nearly corresponding to this first distinction is another into the will of eudokia, and that of euarestia. As the former was taken from two Latin, so this is from two Greek words, and these Greek words are scriptural. The former division was made in connection with purpose to do; this in connection with pleasure in doing, or desire to do, or to see done. But the two correspond in the fact that the will of eudokia, like that of decree, comprises what shall certainly be accomplished, and that of euarestia like that of precept embraces simply what it pleases God that his creatures shall do.

It must not be supposed, however, that, because of the meaning eudokia, (well pleasing,) the decretive will, expressed by this word, is confined to those volitions of God, in which the happiness and blessing of man are involved. It was with reference both to evil to some, and blessing to others, that Christ used it when he said, “Yea Father for so it was well pleasing in thy sight.” Matt. 11:26. The decretive will of God, whatever its effect upon his creatures, is “well pleasing” to God.

(3.) A third distinction is between the will of the signum and that of the beneplacitum.

By the beneplacitum is intended, a will of God which is confined to himself, until he makes it known by some revelation, or by the event itself. Any will thus made known becomes the signum. Manifestly these may differ in several respects.

If the will of the beneplacitum be confined, as it should be, to the decretive will of God, it will be broader, and narrower, than that of the signum; broader, because at no time has the whole decretive will of God been revealed; and narrower, because the will of the signum must extend, also, to the preceptive will of God, which God prescribes as duty, and yet does not determine shall be performed. In some cases, God even gives commands, which are, for the time, a rule of duty, and, therefore, a part of his preceptive will, and thus also of this will of signum, obedience to which he actually intends to prevent. Thus he ordered Abraham by the will of signum to sacrifice Isaac, which was thus made to his servant a rule of duty, yet, by the will of the beneplacitum, he not only did not purpose the sacrifice, but intended to interpose to prevent it.

(4.) A fourth distinction is between the secret and the revealed will of God. Turretine says, “The former of these is commonly referred to the will of decree, which for the most part is hidden in God; the latter to the will of the precept, which is revealed, and disclosed in the Law and the Gospel. Its basis is sought in Deut. 29:29: ‘The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but the things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.’ The former is called a great deep and an unsearchable abyss. Ps. 36:6; Rom. 11:33, 34. The latter is accessible to all, nor is it far from us. Deut. 30:14; Rom. 10:8. That has for its object all those things which God will either to effect, or permit, and which, especially, he wishes to do concerning each man, and which are, therefore, absolute and fixed without exception. The latter refers to those things which belong to our duty, and which are conditionally set forth. The former is always done, the latter is often violated.”

2. The incorrect distinctions:

(1.) That of antecedent and consequent volitions.

By this is not meant one will, or decree, which precedes another in its logical order in the divine mind, or in its execution by God, as that of the creation of man, before that of his redemption; nor one will of the precept, which consists in the prescribed duty, followed by another which sets forth the consequent rewards and punishments. Were this so, the distinction would be objectionable only because of its inaccuracy in transferring to God such methods of our action, or logical conception, as belong to that succession in our acts and will which cannot exist in God. It would be only the same kind of misstatement, of which orthodox theologians are guilty, when under the form of sublapsarianism, or supralapsarianism, they attempt to set forth the order of God’s decrees. In one form, in which this distinction is incorrectly made, it is claimed that a consequent will in God arises after he sees the results of one which is previous, or antecedent; another that he forms a particular volition, especially affecting an individual man, following upon a general volition, or disposition, to seek the happiness of his creatures, or to prescribe a course by which that happiness may be secured.

To the distinction of antecedent, and consequent volitions, in these forms, there are many objections.

(a.) It admits succession in the decrees of God, and makes them many, when they are but one.

(b.) It makes them temporal, when they are eternal.

(c.) Turretine ably argues, that thus contrary wills would exist in God, who would thus be at one and the same time willing, and not willing, the same event.

(d.) He also justly states, that the antecedent will thus spoken of, could be only a mere wishing (velleitas), and not a will (voluntas.)

(e.) He suggests that thus the independence of God would be taken away, since he must wait upon man to will, and act, before he could will.

(2.) A second incorrect distinction is between the efficacious and inefficacious will of God.

This distinction would also be admissible, if by the efficacious will were meant that of the decree, and by the inefficacious, that of the precept. But, as introduced, both terms are applied to the will of the decree. Turretine objects to the application, in the first place, “because the scripture testifies, that the purpose of God is immutable, and his will cannot be resisted. Isa. 46:10; Rom. 9:19; but. if it cannot be resisted, he will surely perfect that which he intends; secondly, inefficacious will cannot be attributed to God, unless he is accused either of ignorance, because he knew not that the event would not occur, or of impotence, because he could not accomplish the result he purposed; finally, the same reasons which prove that antecedent and consequent will are not allowable, are also proofs against efficacious and inefficacious.”

(3.) The third of the incorrect distinctions is that of absolute and conditional.

If, by the conditional will, were meant the conditions appended to the preceptive will of God, in the promises and threats given as inducements to duty, it would not be objected to. But the object of those who present it, is to apply it to the decretive will, and to suppose that God, in his purposes, determines, on certain conditions, that he will do a certain act, which he will not do if those conditions fail. Whether these conditions shall fail, or not, is supposed to be unknown to God, or, if known, yet at least so far undetermined, that he has formed no purpose whether or not to permit, or to accomplish them. The purposes of God, thus formed, are not, therefore, absolute decrees, as are all those concerning what shall actually and absolutely take place, but are only conditional ones, based upon some antecedent condition, which must first occur.

This distinction is introduced, chiefly, to show how God can make an absolute decree about the salvation of mankind in general, and, yet, not about that of any one man in particular. Absolutely he decrees the salvation in general of all who believe. But the salvation of each one is decreed, only upon the condition that he believes. Whether that faith will be exercised by any one, is not determined by God. Nor so far as involved in any purpose made by him is it even known to God.

Such is the theory and purpose of this distinction. The objections presented against the other two of these incorrect distinctions are also justly made against it.


Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887

The love of God defined

October 11, 2013 3 comments

Chapter I


HAVING considered the attributes of God as laid down in Scripture, and so far cleared our way to the doctrine of predestination, I shall, before I enter further on the subject, explain the principal terms generally made use of when treating of it, and settle their true meaning. In discoursing on the Divine decrees, mention is frequently made of God’s love and hatred, of election and reprobation, and of the Divine purpose, foreknowledge and predestination, each of which we shall distinctly and briefly consider.

I.-When love is predicated of God, we do not mean that He is possessed of it as a passion or affection. In us it is such, but if, considered in that sense, it should be ascribed to the Deity, it would be utterly subversive of the simplicity, perfection and independency of His being. Love, therefore, when attributed to Him, signifies-

(1) His eternal benevolence, 1:e., His everlasting will, purpose and determination to deliver, bless and save His people. Of this, no good works wrought by them are in any sense the cause. Neither are even the merits of Christ Himself to be considered as any way moving or exciting this good will of God to His elect, since the gift of Christ, to be their Mediator and Redeemer, is itself an effect of this free and eternal favour borne to them by God the Father (John 3:16). His love towards them arises merely from “the good pleasure of His own will,” without the least regard to anything ad extra or out of Himself.

(2) The term implies complacency, delight and approbation. With this love God cannot love even His elect as considered in themselves, because in that view they are guilty, polluted sinners, but they were, from all eternity, objects of it, as they stood united to Christ and partakers of His righteousness.

(3) Love implies actual beneficence, which, properly speaking, is nothing else than the effect or accomplishment of the other two: those are the cause of this. This actual beneficence respects all blessings, whether of a temporal, spiritual or eternal nature. Temporal good things are indeed indiscriminately bestowed in a greater or less degree on all, whether elect or reprobate, but they are given in a covenant way and as blessings to the elect only, to whom also the other benefits respecting grace and glory are peculiar. And this love of beneficence, no less than that of benevolence and complacency, is absolutely free, and irrespective of any worthiness in man.

Jerome Zanchius-The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination Stated and Asserted-Translated by Augustus Montague Toplady

Question 23-Puritan Catechism

Spurgeon 1

Q. How does Christ execute the office of a prophet?

A. Christ executes the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, (John 1:18) by his Word, (John 20:31) and Spirit, (John 14:26) the will of God for our salvation.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon-A Puritan Catechism