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De Moor VI:10: The Immutability of the Divine Decrees

Updated: Apr 9, 2022

Finally, fifth, we assert the Immutability of the divine Decrees; which is proven by, α. general Passages, which extol the Immutability of God, James 1:17; Malachi 3:6. For, while the Decrees according to § 5 are an Act of the divine Will, and that on account of God’s Simplicity is not diverse from His Essence; it follows that, with God’s Essence remaining the same, the Decrees also are not able not to remain the same and immovable. β. Specific Passages expressly attribute Immutability to the Decrees, Isaiah 46:10; Hebrews 6:17, etc. γ. The same is evinced by all the Causes of a Change in Counsel being removed from God, both external; since nothing outside of God is able to be conceived that might force the Deity, Independent and upon whom all things depend, to will what He had not willed, or not to will what He had willed. Neither are internal Causes of a Change in Counsel present: since every Change of Counsel arises either from levity of purpose, or from some imprudence or impotency, when unforeseen, intervening factors, which it is not in one’s hand to avert or to change, compel one to take new counsels, which are applicable to the new and unexpected circumstances of altered affairs. But to imagine this defect of Wisdom or Power in the Deity, whereby it would be regarded as necessary to subject His will to the things depending upon Himself, is Stupidity surpassing all measure, says the Most Illustrious VRIESIUS, Exercitatione Rationali XIX, § 5. Inability to execute His Counsel is not able to be ascribed to Him, who is Almighty, such that no one is able to resist Him, Proverbs 21:30; Isaiah 14:27; Romans 9:19. Ignorance, whereby anything unforeseen, which might impede Him in the executing of His Counsels, might befall God, is not applicable to All-Wise Deity, Romans 9:33. No perversity nor rash levity of spirit obtains in Most Holy Deity, Isaiah 6:3. Add, δ. what was seen in § 5, that the divine Decrees are only One, perfectly Simple Act of the divine Will: but this is not able at the same time to be so and not so, diverse from itself, in opposition to itself. The Immutability of the Decrees is proven admirably well by HOORNBEECK, Socinianismo confutato, tome I, book II, chapter VII, section II, pages 493, 494; and SPANHEIM, Decadum Theologicarum VI, § 7, opera, tome 3, columns 1230, 1231.

Johannes Hoornbeeck

[The contrary is maintained, through the influence of the Pelagian hypotheses, concerning the Free Will of Man, not to be determined by God as the first Cause, not only by the Jesuits and Socinians, but also by the Remonstrants with Vorstius; urging, etc.] Concerning the Jesuits, compare the passage of Vorstius cited in § 9, namely, in his Notes on Disputatione VI, de Deo, pages 296, 297. Concerning the Socinians, see HOORNBEECK’S Socinianismum confutatum, tome I, book II, chapter VII, section I, pages 469, 470. Concerning Vorstius, see TRIGLAND’S Kerckelycke Geschiedenissen, volume 4, page 579, out of Vorstius’ Exegese Apologetica, chapter XXII; likewise on page 585 near the end, and page 586, from Tractatu de Deo, pages 212, 306, 63, 207; which Vorstius nevertheless appears to explain his opinion with greater sobriety in Exegese Apologetica, chapter XI, pages 46-50; but from a comparison with chapter XXII, it is evident that according to Vorstius God’s absolute Decree, efficacious and special, concerning whatever Contingencies is antecedently conversant with nothing. Concerning the opinion of the Remonstrants, see the Censuram Confessionis Remonstrantium, chapter II, § 9, pages 41, 42; TRIGLAND’S Antapologiam, chapter IV, page 70a, pages 293b and following. The follies of the Remonstrants concerning God’s Will, Incomplete, Inefficacious, in opposition to complete efficacy in the business of Redemption, are exploded by TRIGLAND, Antapologia, chapter XVI, pages 246, 254.

Objection α: Repentance is attributed to God, Genesis 6:6; 1 Samuel 15:11. I Respond, that this is done Anthropopathically, in comparison with Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; neither is thus indicated a subsequent Change of Counsel in God, but of the Operation outside of God: which Change of Operation at that time had been decreed by God from Eternity, so that the Counsel of God would be changed, if that Change of Operation had not obtained: see Chapter IV, §26, 36.

Johannes Marckius

On Objection β, see the Response of our AUTHOR, and compare Chapter IV, § 16, number 3β, and Chapter VI, § 9, in the Response to Objection α.

Objection γ: God wills, and at the same time wills not, the salvation and damnation of men, Ezekiel 18:32, לֹ֤א אֶחְפֹּץ֙ בְּמ֣וֹת הַמֵּ֔ת, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth; 1 Timothy 2:4; Matthew 23:37.

Responses: 1. The quote from God, reported in Ezekiel, does not prove the Will of God to be Inefficacious and His Desire to be vain, with respect to those that are damned: but the language of חפץ denotes delight and complacency, so that God might be said not to delight in the punishment of the impious, insofar as it is the ruin of the creature; although He wills it, as far as it makes a demonstration of His Righteousness. Thus God is said to will the repentance of sinners approbatively and perceptively, as a thing altogether appropriate and modeled on His commandment; even if He wills it not decretively and effectively with respect to all.

2. To the end that 1 Timothy 2:4 might be reconciled with other passages of Scripture, it is not necessary to devise a twofold Will of God, one Antecedent, whereby He will to save all, but which is able to be resisted; the other Consequent, whereby, after intervening acts of the creature, He does not will to save all, but to destroy certain ones. For, a. such contrary Wills do not befit God; neither is it possible to be reconciled with His Perfections, that from eternity He earnestly willed salvation for Judas, and yet at the same time also knew in that moment that Judas was never going to believe, and did not will to give faith to Judas whereby he might be infallibly converted, indeed, allowing him to remain and perish in his unbelief. Not to a man of sane mind, much less to God, is it fitting to attribute such Wills, that He is said to will earnestly and ardently that which, nevertheless, He knew was never going to be, and indeed was never going to be because He did not will to bring it to pass, upon whom alone the effect depends. But, b. it is rather to be said, either, a. that Paul speaks of the Will of command and complacency, so that God might be said to hold the salvation and conversion of men as pleasing, and to invite them to it through the preaching of the Word, whence the Apostle said that God wills all σωθῆναι, to be saved, not σώζειν, to save, all. b. Or that the speech is, not of individuals of classes, but of classes of individuals; not of individuals universally, but of whomsoever indiscriminately; in which sense the syncategorematic all quite frequently occurs in Sacred Scripture, and here in cotenxt is also used, when Paul wishes prayers to be made in every place, verse 8,[1] compared with John 4:21, and for all men, verse 1, compared with 1 John 5:16: and this sense is also required in verse 4 by the scope of Paul, who wants to teach that prayer is to be offered even for Pagan Magistrates, because God was will to lead men of whatever nation to salvation. However the case may stand, God wills men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth, in the same manner: but, that the latter was not accomplished in the case of innumerable men, nor is accomplished at this day, is certain. But if God earnestly will one and another thing with respect to individual men, that would most certainly be given to execution, in comparison with Psalm 33:11; Isaiah 46:10: see at greater length below in Chapter VII, § 23.

3. Neither is it to be said, that God willed with an Antecedent Will to gather the Jews, as a hen her chicks: and that, after they had resisted it, then by His Consequent Will He willed to disperse them, Matthew 23:37. For, a. Christ is not said to will to disperse those whom He had willed to gather: but that Christ willed to gather those whom Jerusalem, that is, the nobles of the people, were unwilling to be gathered, but whom Christ, with their opposite efforts notwithstanding, gathered anyway; whence AUGUSTINE, Enchiridion, chapter XCVII, opera, tome 6, column 170, “That city willed not that its children should be gathered by Him; but, even with it being unwilling, He gathered its children, as many as He willed:” see that place for a more lengthy treatment. Therefore, distinguish Jerusalem from its children, according to the sequence of the Chapter, in which from verse 13 to verse 37 the Lord addresses the Scribes and Pharisees, to whom He brings up as a reproach, that they themselves enter not into the kingdom of heaven, nor suffer others to enter. b. Moreover, the Will of Decree is not treated here, which is one and simple, and is hidden from man: but the Will of Precept, more frequently brought into view, known to the Jews, similar to that Hen, whereby He had called the Jews to communion with Him through the preaching of the Gospel: How often willed I? see a more lengthy treatment below concerning the sense of this passage in Chapter XXIII, § 8.

4. Neither is it to be objected, that the Invitation of all externally called to Faith under a promise of Salvation must depend upon an Antecedent and Conditional Decree concerning the granting of Salvation to all and each, if they believe; which is then followed by another Decree, Consequent and Peremptory, according to the faith or unbelief of the men called. For that Evangelical proposition, every believer shall be saved, does not depend upon a Decree of God about individual persons, concerning the conferring of Salvation on all, if they believe; which is not able to stand with the Decree of Reprobation of certain persons: but it depends upon God’s Decree about the things themselves, that is, the ordaining and inseparable connection made by God between Faith and Salvation, as between means and an end: which connection He decreed to reveal to a man through the preaching of the Gospel.

Objection δ: The Use of Prayers and Means would clearly be in vain, if every Decree of God was altogether Immutable. See the Response in our AUTHOR; with which are consonant those things that VRIESIUS has in Exercitatione Rationali XIX, § 18, “Neither do we in this manner take away the use of Means. For we say that by the Decree there has been a determination of Means, and their connection with the End, no less than of the End itself. But is the necessity of the Means taken away, when we teach that the End is able to be obtained only by those means according to the Decree?”

[1] 1 Timothy 2:8: “I will therefore that men pray every where (ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ, in every place), lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday

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