II. The Will of God, with regard to which we assert as follows:

Position 1.—The Deity is possessed not only of infinite knowledge, but likewise of absolute liberty of will, so that whatever He does, or permits to be done, He does and permits freely and of His own good pleasure.

Consequently, it is His free pleasure to permit sin, since, without His permission, neither men nor devils can do anything. Now, to permit is, at least, the same as not to hinder, though it be in our power to hinder if we please, and this permission, or non-hinderance, is certainly an act of the Divine will. Hence Augustine[1] says, ”Those things which, seemingly, thwart the Divine will are, nevertheless, agreeable to it, for, if God did not permit them, they could not be done, and whatever God permits, He permits freely and willingly. He does nothing, neither suffers anything to be done, against His own will.” And Luther[2] observes that “God permitted Adam to fall into sin because He willed that he should.

Position 2.—Although the will of God, considered in itself, is simply one and the same, yet, in condescension to the present capacities of man, the Divine will is very properly distinguished into secret and revealed. Thus it was His revealed will that Pharaoh should let the Israelites go, that Abraham should sacrifice his son, and that Peter should not deny Christ; but, as was proved by the event, it was His secret will that Pharaoh should not let Israel go (Exod. 4:21), that Abraham should not sacrifice Isaac (Gen. 22:12), and that Peter should deny his Lord (Matt. 24:34).

Position 3.—The will of God, respecting the salvation and condemnation of men, is never contrary to itself; He immutably wills the salvation of the elect and vice versa; nor can He ever vary or deviate from His own will in any instance whatever, so as that that should be done, which He willeth not, or that not be brought to pass, which He willeth. “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure ” (Isa. 46:10). “The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, and the thoughts of His heart to all generations.” (Psalm 33:11). “He is in one mind, and who can turn Him? and what His soul desireth, even that He doeth. For He performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with Him.” (Job 23:13,14). “Being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.” (Eph. 1:11).

Thus, for instance, Hophni and Phineas hearkened not to the voice of their father, who reproved them for their wickedness, because the Lord would slay them (1 Sam. 2:25), and Sihon, king of Heshbon, would not receive the peaceable message sent him by Moses because the Lord God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that He might deliver him into the hand of Israel (Deut. 2:26,30). Thus also, to add no more, we find that there have been, and ever will be, some whose eyes God blindeth, and whose hearts He hardeneth, i.e., whom God permits to continue blind and hardened on purpose to prevent their seeing with their eyes and understanding with their hearts, and to hinder their conversion to God and spiritual healing by Him (Isa. 6:9; John 12:39,40).

Position 4.—Because God’s will of precept may, in some instances, appear to thwart His will of determination, it does not follow either (1) that He mocks His creatures, or (2) that they are excusable for neglecting to observe His will of command.

(1) He does not hereby mock His creatures, for if men do not believe His word nor observe His precepts, the fault is not in Him, but in themselves; their unbelief and disobedience are not owing to any ill infused into them by God, but to the vitiosity of their depraved nature and the perverseness of their own wills. Now, if God invited all men to come to Him, and then shut the door of mercy against any who were desirous of entering, His invitation would be a mockery and unworthy of Himself; but we insist on it, that He does not invite all men to come to Him in a saving way, and that every individual person who is, through His gracious influence on his heart, made willing to come to Him, shall sooner or later be surely saved by Him, and that with an everlasting salvation.

(2) Man is not excusable for neglecting God’s will of command. Pharaoh was faulty, and therefore justly punishable, for not obeying God’s revealed will, though God’s secret will rendered that obedience impossible. Abraham would have committed sin had he refused to sacrifice Isaac, and in looking to God’s secret will would have acted counter to His revealed one. So Herod, Pontius Pilate, and the reprobate Jews were justly condemned for putting Christ to death, inasmuch as it was a most notorious breach of God’s revealed will. “Thou shalt do no murder,” yet, in slaying the Messiah, they did no more than God’s hand and His counsel—i.e., His secret, ordaining will—determined before should be done (Acts 4:27,28); and Judas is justly punished for perfidiously and wickedly betraying Christ, though his perfidy and wickedness were (but not with hie design) subservient to the accomplishment of the decree and word of God.

The brief of the matter is this: secret things belong to God, and those that are revealed belong to us; therefore, when we meet with a plain precept, we should simply endeavour to obey it, without tarrying to inquire into God’s hidden purpose. Venerable Bucer, after taking notice how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and making some observations on the apostle’s simile of a potter and his clay, adds[3] that “Though God has at least the same right over His creatures, and is at liberty to make them what He will and direct them to the end that pleaseth Himself, according to His sovereign and secret determination, yet it by no means follows that they do not act freely and spontaneously, or that the evil they commit is to be charged on God.”

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[1] Enchir. cap. 100.
[2] De Serv. Arb. o. 153.
[3] Bucer ad Horn. ix.



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