De Moor IV:16: God as Willing Substance

β. The next Spiritual Faculty of the divine Essence is Will, or that Perfection of the Living God whereby in a most perfect manner He is pleased with Himself in Himself, and with all things that are not opposite to Him. Now, Will is not able to be denied to God, because He is Spirit, neither is it separated from Intellect in a Rational Being. Indeed, it is easily the first Perfection among all, to be the lord of their own actions through supreme αὐτεξουσίαν, free will, without which Deity is not able to be conceived. Neither does the Adorability of a thing agree, in the power of which is no dispensation according to Will of good or evil. Neither is the most perfect Will of God able to be denied, if one attends to the production, preservation, and government of all created things. Indeed, what Will is able to be in the Creature, the surpassing fullness of which does not exist in the Creator, in a manner agreeable to Him? Which again comes to be noted against the Atheism of Spinoza, who removes Will from his God also, which he calls the asylum and refuge of ignorance: see NIEUWENTYT, Gronden van Zekerheid, part IV, chapter XI, § 4, 5, page 284, chapter XIII, § 7-9, pages 300-305. In Sacred Scripture Volition of this sort is expressly attributed to God, Psalm 115:3; Revelation 4:11, while often also in Sacred Scripture the Will of God denotes by metonymy of adjunct, object, or effect, in the place of the subject or cause, the thing Willed, the thing that God wills, Matthew 6:10; Isaiah 46:10.


In this latter sense, that is, with respect to its Object, the divine Will is wont to be distributed into the Will of Good Pleasure and of Sign, etc. Of course, the divine Will, altogether Simple in itself, is thus distinguished according to the diversity of objects and our various modes of contemplation, so that the act of Willing, as it is in God, might be called of Good Pleasure; which will of Good Pleasure they are not lacking that make it the same with the Determining Will, while others comprehend the Will, both Determining and Approving, under the divine Good Pleasure. But the Will of Sign shall designate God’s same act of willing, to the extent that He has manifested it to us by some sort of Sign, whence it is no less rightly able to be called the Sign of Will: but this Will is indeed called the Will of Commandment by synecdoche, because the Will of Commandment, whereby He prescribes Law to rational creatures, is eminent species of the Will of Sign; since otherwise not every mode of manifestation pertains to Commandments, but the Will of Sign is diverse for an argument threatening, promising, or commanding: in a certain little verse the principal Signs, whereby God was wont to reveal His Will to rational creatures, are reduced to five:


Prædicit, Prohibet, Promittit, Præcipit, Implet.

He Predicts, Prohibits, Promises, Warns, Fulfills.


With the prior related distinction we are also wont to speak of the Will of God Hidden and Revealed, and that truly and suitably, since we know by experience that God has not willed His whole Will to lie hidden from us; but at the same time has willed to conceal many things, concerning which a determination had already been made in the eternal Decree, in the bosom of His Wisdom: hence He also willed Moses to lead the way, in distinguishing between the Hidden Things belonging to God, and the Revealed Things belonging to us, Deuteronomy 29:29; on which text consult our AUTHOR, Exercitationibus textualibus, Part II, Exercitation X; and my Oration de Eo quod Nimium est in Scientia Theologica, pages 19, 20.


ECKHARDUS, the Lutheran, rashly criticizes this distinction, in his Fasciculo Controversiarum cum Calvino, chapter XV, question III, pages 314, 315; as, with respect to the twofold distinction now proposed, BUDDEUS also treats in Theologiæ Dogmaticæ, book II, chapter I, § 29, tome I, pages 307, 311-313.


Now, these distinction are all the more to be maintained, since from the denial of the distinction between the Will of Decree, which determines events, and the Will of Precept, which prescribes to a rational Being its duty; and from the assertion of the Determining Will alone, according to which all things are done, the Libertines, Leenhovists,[1] and Hattemists[2] conclude that there is no sin; and that hence sorrow over committed Sin, so called, is to be banished, and there is to be a patient acquiescence in Sin: see TACO HAJO VAN DEN HONERT,[3] Brief aan Leenhof; CREMER,[4] Evangelische Zedenketen on 2 Peter 1:6, part I, pages 346, 347; SPANDAW, bedekte Sponosist ontdekt,[5] preface *** 8; likewise chapter VI, § 19, 26-28; chapter VIII, § 16-19, 38-42.


Within this Twofold Will there is a Diversity, and hence arises an Apparent war; yet precautions are to be taken, lest we ever believe that a True Opposition between the Will Revealed or of Sign, and Hidden or of Good Pleasure, obtains: neither the Simplicity of God, nor the Veracity of the same, allows this. Now, a true Opposition of this sort will be avoided, if only, 1. the Sign be referred to His Good Pleasure. God is able to prescribe to a creature that it do what, nevertheless, He does not actually will it to do. He is able to foretell sins, which He does not will to be done. But the Sign does not therefore lack comformity with the thing signified. For Precept is a Sign, not of that which God actually wills at length to happen, but only of the obligation to duty, to which God manifests by Precept that He wills His creation to be bound. Prediction is a Sign, manifesting the Will of God, not concerning an obligation imposed on the creature to do that which is predicted; but concerning that which simply, and also most frequently beyond the owed duty of the rational creature, is future. And so, as Signs, Commandment ought to be compared with the obliging Will of God, Prophecy with the determining Will of God.


2. To avoid the appearance of this sort of Opposition, Signs ought not to be taken by us in any other sense that in which they are offered according to the intention of God. By tacit condition a Sign is able to be restricted according to the intention of God, which is not quite able to appear absolute to one paying close attention: God is able sometimes to manifest His Will partially, but the unskillful will suppose that He has manifested His whole Will. In which cases the Sign is not to be extended more broadly than God willed it to be extended, He being the best interpreter of Signs given by Himself. Thus God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son; but at the same time He decreed from eternity that He was going to give this commandment to Abraham. Moreover, God had decreed that He was going to prohibit him, that that commandment might not be brought to execution: but this part of the divine Good Pleasure was obliged for some time yet to lie in secret from Abraham; for, if together with commandment received Abraham had next also been made more certain concerning the outcome, that commandment would not have made for the searching of his faith and piety:[6] compare WENDELIN’S[7] Exercitationes theologicas IV; SPANHEIM’S Decadum Theologicarum VII, § 7-9, opera, tome 3, columns 1238-1241; Eckhardus’ Fasciculo Controversiarum cum Calvinianis, chapter II, question IX, pages 57-62.

[1] In 1703, Frederic Van Leenhoff, a minister of Zwol, published Heaven on Earth. The book was judged to be corrupted with the fatalism of Spinoza, and Leenhoff was deposed.


[2] Toward the end of the seventeenth century, Pontinaus van Hattem, a minister in Zealand, started a sect, similar to the Leenhovists in their Spinozistic fatalism. They also denied the reality of sin, and the atoning nature of Christ’s death.


[3] Taco Hajo van den Honert (1666-1740) was a German Reformed Theologian. He served as Professor of Theology at Leiden (1714-1740).


[4] Bernard Sebastian Cremer (1683-1750) was a Reformed theologian. He served as Professor of Theology at Harderwijk (1717-1750).


[5] Spandaw was a pastor of Oudelande. He was an opponent of Spinozism, and he accused Van Hattem of Spinozistic doctrine.


[6] See Genesis 22.


[7] Marcus Friedrich Wendelin (1584-1652) was a Reformed Theologian and educator. He served as Rector at Zerbst from 1610 to 1652.

ABOUT US

Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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