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unfold one distinction of the will of God, which will leave it clear, what it is that the Arminians oppose, for which we count them worthy of so heavy a charge.
'Divinum velle est ejus esse,' say the schoolmen,* 'The will of God is nothing but God willing,' not differing from his essence, secundum rem, in the thing itself, but only secundum rationem, in that it importeth a relation to the thing willed. The essence of God then, being a most absolute, pure, simple act, or substance, his will consequently can be but simply one, whereof we ought to make neither division nor distinction if that, whereby it is signified, were taken always properly and strictly for the eternal will of God, the differences hereof that are usually given, are rather distinctions of the signification of the word than of the thing.
In which regard they are not only tolerable, but simply necessary; because without them it is utterly impossible to reconcile some places of Scripture, seemingly repugnant. In the 22d chapter of Genesis ver. 2. 'God commandeth Abraham to take his only son Isaac, and offer him for a burnt-offering in the land of Moriah.' Here the words of God are declarative of some will of God unto Abraham, who knew, it ought to be, and little thought but that it should be, performed: but yet, when he actually addressed himself to his duty in obedience to the will of God, he receiveth a countermand, ver. 12. that he should not lay his hand upon the child, to sacrifice him:' the event plainly manifesteth, that it was the will of God that Isaac should not be sacrificed; and yet, notwithstanding by reason of his command, Abraham seems before bound to believe, that it was well-pleasing unto God that he should accomplish what he was enjoined. If the will of God in the Scripture be used but in one acceptation, here is a plain contradiction: thus God commands Pharaoh to let his people go. Could Pharaoh think otherwise; nay, was he not bound to believe, that it was the will of God that he should dismiss the Israelites at the first hearing of the message? Yet God affirms that he would harden his heart, that he should not suffer them to depart until he had shewed his signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. To reconcile these, and the like places of Scripture, both the ancient fathers and schoolmen, with modern divines, do affirm that the one will Aquin. p. q. 19. ar. ad. 1.
of God may be said to be divers or manifold, in regard of the sundry manners whereby he willeth those things to be done which he willeth, as also in other respects, and yet, taken in its proper signification, is simply one and the same. The vulgar distinction of God's secret and revealed will, is such as to which all the other may be reduced, and therefore I have chosen it to insist upon.
The secret will of God, in his eternal, unchangeable purpose, concerning all things which he hath made, to be brought by certain means to their appointed ends: of this himself affirmeth, that his counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure;' Isa. xlvi. 10. This some call the absolute efficacious will of God, the will of his good pleasure always fulfilled; and indeed this is the only proper, eternal, constant, immutable will of God, whose order can neither be broken, nor its law transgressed, so long as with him there is neither change nor shadow of turning.
The revealed will of God containeth not his purpose and decree, but our duty; not what he will do according to his good pleasure, but what we should do if we will please him; and this, consisting in his word, his precepts and promises, belongeth to us and our children, that we may do the will of God. Now this indeed is rather τὸ θελητὸν, than τὸ θέλημα, that which God willeth, than his will; but termed so, as we call that the will of a man which he hath determined shall be done: 'This is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son and believeth on him, may have everlasting life,' saith our Saviour; John vi. 40. that is, this is that which his will hath appointed; hence it is called voluntas signi, or the sign of his will; metaphorically only called his will, saith Aquinas : for inasmuch as our commands are the signs of our wills, the same is said of the precepts of God; this is the rule of our obedience, and whose transgression makes an action sinful, for ἥ ἀμαρτία ἐστιν ἡ ἀνομία, “ sin is the transgression of a law,' and that such a law as is given to the transgressor to be observed. Now God hath not imposed on us the observation of his eternal decree and intention, which as it is utterly impossible for us to transgress or frustrate, so were we unblamable if we should; a master requires of his servant, to do what he commands, not to accomplish what b Aquin. q, g. 19. a 11. c.
he intends, which perhaps he never discovered unto him; nay, the commands of superiors are not always signs that the commander will have the things commanded actually performed, as in all precepts for trial: but only that they who are subjects to this command, shall be obliged to obedience, as far as the sense of it doth extend, et hoc clarum est in præceptis divinis,' saith Durand, &c. and this is clear in the commands of God,' by which we are obliged to do what he commandeth; and yet it is not always his pleasure that the thing itself, in regard of the event, shall be accomplished, as we saw before in the examples of Pharaoh and Abraham.
Now the will of God, in the first acceptation, is said to be hid or secret; not because it is so always, for it is, in some particulars, revealed and made known unto us two ways.
First, By his word, as where God affirmeth that the dead shall rise: we doubt not, but that they shall rise, and that it is the absolute will of God that they shall do so. Secondly, By the effects, for when any thing cometh to pass, we may cast the event on the will of God as its cause, and look upon it as a revelation of his purpose. Jacob's sons little imagined, that it was the will of God, by them to send their brother into Egypt; yet afterward, Joseph tells them plainly, it was not they, but God that sent him thither; Gen. xlv. but it is said to be secret for two causes: first, Because for the most part it is so, there is nothing in divers issues. declarative of God's determination but only the event; which, while it is future, is hidden to them who have faculties to judge of things past and present, but not to discern things for to come. Hence, St. James bids us not be too peremptory in our determinations that we will do this, or that, not knowing how God will close with us for its performance. Secondly, It is said to be secret, in reference to its cause, which for the most part is past our finding out: his paths are in the deeps, and his footsteps are not known.
It appeareth, then, that the secret and revealed will of God are divers, in sundry respects, but chiefly in regard of their acts, and their objects. First, In regard of their acts, the secret will of God is his eternal decree and determination, concerning any thing to be done in its appointed time: his
c Durand. dist. c. 48. q. 3.
revealed will is an act whereby he declareth himself to love or approve any thing, whether ever it be done or no.
Secondly, They are divers in regard of their objects. The object of God's purpose and decree, is that which is good in any kind, with reference to its actual existence, for it must infallibly be performed; but the object of his revealed will, is that only which is morally good (I speak of it inasmuch as it approveth or commandeth), agreeing to the law and the gospel and that considered, only inasmuch as it is good; for whether it be ever actually performed or no, is accidental to the object of God's revealed will.
Now of these two differences the first is perpetual, in regard of their several acts, but not so the latter. They are sometimes coincident in regard of their objects: for instance, God commandeth us to believe: here his revealed will is that we should so do; withal he intendeth we shall do so, and therefore ingenerateth faith in our hearts that we may believe. Here his secret and revealed will are coincident, the former being his precept that we should believe, the latter his purpose that we shall believe. In this case, I say, the object of the one and the other is the same, even what we ought to do, and what he will do.
And this, inasmuch as he hath wrought all our works in us;' Isa. xxvi. 12. they are our own works, which he works in us; his act in us, and by us, is oft-times our duty towards him. He commands us by his revealed will to walk in his statutes, and keep his laws: upon this he also promiseth that he will so effect all things, that of some this shall be performed; Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh: and I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments and do them ;' so that the self-same obedience of the people of God is here the object of his will, taken in either acceptation; and yet the precept of God is not here, as some learned men suppose, declarative of God's intention, for then it must be so to all to whom it is given, which evidently it is not; for many are commanded to believe, on whom God never bestoweth faith it is still to be looked upon as a mere declaration of our duty, its closing with
God's intention, being accidental unto it. There is a wide difference betwixt, do such a thing, and you shall do it: if God's command to Judas to believe, imported as much as it is my purpose and intention that Judas shall believe, it must needs contradict that will of God, whereby he determined that Judas for his infidelity should go to his own place: his precepts are in all obedience of us to be performed, but do not signify his will, that we shall actually fulfil his commands. Abraham was not bound to believe, that it was God's intention that Isaac should be sacrificed, but that it was his duty; there was no obligation on Pharaoh to think it was God's purpose the people should depart, at the first summons, he had nothing to do with that; but there was one, to believe that if he would please God, he must let them go. Hence divers things of good use in these controversies may be collected.
First, That God may command many things by his word, which he never decreed that they should actually be performed; because, in such things, his words are not a revelation of his eternal decree and purpose: but only a declaration of some thing wherewith he is well-pleased, be it by us performed or no; in the forecited case, he commanded Pharaoh to let his people go, and plagued him for refusing to obey his command; hence we may not collect, that God intended the obedience and conversion of Pharaoh by this his precept, but was frustrated of his intention; for the Scripture is evident and clear, that God purposed by his disobedience, to accomplish an end far different, even a manifestation of his glory by his punishment; but only that obedience unto his commands is pleasing unto him; as 1 Sam. xv. 22.
Secondly, That the will of God to which our obedience is required, is the revealed will of God, contained in his word, whose compliance with his decree is such, that hence we learn three things tending to the execution of it. First, That it is the condition of the word of God, and the dispensation thereof, instantly to persuade to faith and obedience. Secondly, That it is our duty, by all means to aspire to the performance of all things by it enjoined, and our fault if we do not. Thirdly, That God by these means, will accomplish his eternal decree of saving his elect, and that he willeth the