top of page

De Moor VI:14: The Order of the Decrees

[Since the Decree in God is only One.] We saw in § 5 that the Decree in God is only one, altogether simple Act, whereby He ordained from eternity all things, as much those things that have regard to Means, as those those that have regard to Ends; whence in the Decrees regarded formally and with respect to God, Order is not properly to be attended to, because there are not multiple and divided acts. Nevertheless, a certain Order in the divine Decrees is able to be observed objectively and according to our manner of conception: since the Matters Decreed are multiple and altogether diverse, and they are able to have dependence and subordination among themselves; and since we are are compelled to distribute those things that we are not able to grasp at once into various, inadequate conceptions.

The multiple Decrees are able various to be ordered by us, either according to their execution, or even according to the nature of the things; by setting in front in this latter regard the Decree concerning the Decreed End of the Means, since what is last in execution is said to be first in intention; we only seek Means to the extent that they are suitable for pursuing an End: by which Logical and Metaphysical axiom the Supralapsarians are wont principally to defend their Method as more accurate and to be preferred to the other, who conceive that God thought on the manifestation of His Glory in the exercise of His Mercy and Justice in the salvation or damnation of men, before He thought on the creation of man or the permission of his Fall; in such a way that Creation and Permission of the Fall have the relation of Means to the revelation of the divine Justice and Mercy as the End. Hence to those the first Decree is concerning the manifestation of the Glory of God in the exercise of Mercy and Justice through the Salvation and Damnation of men: the second, concerning the Creation; the third, concerning the Permission of the Fall; the fourth concerning the Sending of Christ for our Salvation, whom He had decreed to save. In which manner,

α. The Objects of Mercy, and of Justice and Hatred, are placed before Misery and Sin, which to such an extent are not yet miserable and guilty, nor are able to be considered as such; indeed, concerning the existence and futurition of which nothing as yet is conceived to be definite: but those divine Virtues mentioned are respective, which presuppose, not make, their Object.

β. Thus Sin is conceived to be decreed on account of Damnation, which is too harsh to say: while Damnation appears better to be conceived to have been decreed because of Sin.

Johann a Marck

γ. And what they say concerning the ordination of the ultimate End before the Means, that also is able to be found in the method of the Sublapsarians. But concerning these things our AUTHOR discourses at length, Chapter VII, § 17, 18.

[If Heresy be absent from the matter, a quarrel is not rashly to be moved against anyone on this point.] Our AUTHOR rightly advises this in his Medulla Theologiæ, since the Arminians order the Decrees that have regard to the work of Redemption in such a way that in this Order they seek hiding-places for their Pelagianizing heresy, which they obtrude upon the world under the disguise of a new order.

Namely, to them the first Decree here is the Designation of Christ as the Mediator of the Fallen human race: the second, the Ordination of Faith and Perseverence as the condition for the communication of Salvation, such that God decreed to receive into grace those repenting and believing, and to save those persevering unto the end; but to leave the impenitent and unbelieving in their sin and to condemn them eternally: the third, whereby God decreed to administer the Means, whereby sinners are able to believe and persevere, sufficiently to all: the fourth, whereby He decreed to save or to damn certain individual persons, whom He foresaw from eternity as believing or unbelieving.

Thus is supposed, 1. the Universal Mediation and Merit of Christ, the contrary of which we will see in Chapter XX, § 23, 24. 2. Universal Vocation is supposed, which is to be refuted in Chapters XVII; XXIII. 3. The Grace of God Sufficient for Faith and Perseverence is supposed to be Resistible, against which we will be taught in Chapter XXIII, § 11, 12, just as we have already seen in Chapter IV, § 42, that no Grace of God Sufficient for Salvation is granted, wich is not at the same time Efficacious. 4. Faith is contemplated, not as the fruit, but as the impulsive cause, of Election, contrary to Chapter VII, § 10, not as the gift of God, but as a work of human strength, contrary to Chapter XXII, § 13. 5. Election is thought to be Universal, a choice of conditions rather than of persons, mutable, changing, revocable, more truly the action of men than of God; while the fourth Decree concerning certain persons, being conditional, is uncertain, and is foreknowledge rather than predestination, contrary to Chapter VII, § 23, 16, 13, 10, 6. 6. Indeed, according to these Decrees, it is not due to God that Christ has not died in vain: since, with all the Grace intended for man in these Decrees not withstanding, all had been able to perish.

The Universalists among the Reformed, by the hypothesis of Universal Grace, distribute the Decrees in such a way that in various things they accede to the hypotheses of the Remonstrants, but in other things recede from them. To the Decree of Predestination they refer two General Decrees and two Particular. The First General Decree concerns the giving of Christ as Mediator to the whole human race. The Other General Decree concerns the Universal Calling of all to partake of the Grace acquired by Christ for all. But, because God foresaw that no one was going to believe because of the innate depravity of man, and that the Gospel of Christ was going to be rejected by all, they contend that God by a Special Decree then elected some, whom He would give to Christ and gift with faith, and whom He would arrange afterwards to save, with others left in their unbelief and impenitency; so that here again a twofold Special Decree is to be attended to, the first concerning the giving of Faith to some, the other concerning the giving of Salvation to them: which would arise from special Love, wherewith God pursues His elect: as the former twofold general Decree depends upon the φιλανθρωπίᾳ/philanthropy of God and His Universal Mercy toward mankind. The General Decree here concerns Objective Grace, to be given to each and to all: the Special concerns Subjective Grace, and either the giving or withholding of it. The General Decree depends upon the Velleity of Salvation, or the Will earnestly desiring the salvation of men, and for this reason ordaining Christ to acquire it; but not exhibiting the Omnipotence to confer it. But the Special depends upon the Will, powerfully Efficacious, or effective.

These Universalists among the Reformed recede from the Arminians in this, 1. that they trace Faith back, not to the Free Will of men, but to the efficacious Grace of God, and acknowledge that the giving of it is not to be spurned or rejected by man. 2. That they attribute the infallible Election of certain persons to the Good Pleasure of God, and take from man the power to differentiate himself.

Nevertheless, in various ways this opinion and Ordering of the Decrees dashes against the rocks.

1. With the Remonstrants they urge Universal Election, Redemption, and Vocation, to be refuted in Chapters VII, XVII, XX, XXIII.

2. The attribute to God a twofold Decree, altogether diverse, indeed, altogether adverse, which is not able to be reconciled with the Unity and Simplicity of the Will of the decreeing God. More specifically, in the General Decree God wills the Salvation of all, but in the Special, of only a few; in the former He lavishly loves those whom in the latter He hates and opposes: in the former He decrees to give Christ and to call to faith and repentence, before He reprobates; but in the latter He reprobates those that He foresaw were going to be rebels against His Calling.

3. Thus a twofold, diverse intention is attributed to Christ giving Satisfaction, first of satisfying for all, then of satisfying efficaciously only for the Elect, for whom He merited, not a possible, but a certain, Salvation: but only actual Reconciliation with God and eternal Redemption is time and again contemplated as the fruit of Christ’s death, Hebrews 9:12; Colossians 1:20.

4. Thus Faith is withdrawn from the Merit of Christ, because Satisfaction for all is conceived to precede the Decree concerning the giving of Faith to some; and thus there are those that are excluded from acquiring Faith in Christ, who nevertheless are not excluded from His Redemption and Merit: since Faith is fetched only from the free Decree of God, and is called the Gift of the Father rather than of the Son: while nevertheless Scripture time and again relates that this was received in Christ, no less than all other spiritual gifts, Ephesians 1:3; Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:29: see Chapter XXII, § 13.

5. Thus Calling is placed before Election, contrary to Romans 8:30; 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14, from which passage it is evident that external Calling through the Word, and also the internal Calling by the Spirit, are to be subordinated to Election: for, although that external Vocation extends much more broadly than Election, because secondarily it is also extended to Reprobates mixed with the Elect, to whom in this way duty is prescribed and the way of Salvation declared; it does not cease to be a means, properly so called, for the Salvation of the Elect, by whom the Gospel is received by Faith, and in whom it works efficaciously; and in this regard it is extended no farther than that very end, even the Salvation of the Elect: and so these had to appear before God as those to be brought to Faith and Salvation, before God is conceived to have decreed concerning Calling through the Gospel.

6. They urge that those General Decrees are necessary,

a. To defend the Goodness of God, who thus will have taken pity on all, will have given Christ to all, and will have called all: but this does nothing to extol the Goodness of God, when it is stated at the same time that He decreed efficaciously to give Faith only to some, without which no one is able to come to Faith; and without this the Universal Death of Christ and Universal Calling are able to confer nothing upon anyone for Salvation. Therefore, the Greater Goodness of God, which the Brethren imagine for themselves by a Universal Decree, will be only a chimera of Goodness, since it is vain and inefficacious.

b. To preserve the Truth of the invitation of all men to Salvation. But, if the Sincerity of the Calling is not able to stand without the General Will to save all; by the sentence of the Brethren a hypocritical Calling of many must be attributed to God, since with the Velleity of saving all they themselves join a Special Decree concerning the conferring of Salvation upon some with the exclusion of others.

c. To defend the Righteousness of God towards the Reprobates: but that remains ever blameless, whether God condemns men because of their sins admitted against the Law, or He convicts them as guilty of unbelief against the Gospel.

d. To reconcile various Passage of Sacred Scripture, which concering the Grace of God and the Merit of Christ appear to speak sometimes more broadly, sometimes more strictly: but, that they are able easily to be reconciled without this, will be evident from the passages themselves: see Chapter VII, § 23, 32, Chapter XVII, § 10, Chapter XX, § 24.

Compare PFAFF’S[1]Historiam Formulæ Consensus Helveticæ, chapter I, § 1-5; Examen van het Ontwerp van Tolerantie, part 7, pages 455-493.

Concerning the order of the Decree of Predestination according to the Lutherans, see the discourse of BUDDEUS, Institutionibus Theologiæ dogmaticæ, tome 2, book V, chapter II, § 4, 5, pages 1599-1602, in which discourse what errors occur from Universalism, Middle Knowledge, man’s own distinguishing of himself and possible apostasy, are time and again noted and refuted in our System.

And so, with these things discharged in a general way, and not incorrectly, the Decrees of God are ordained in such a way that, 1. before all things God decreed from eternity to reveal His own Glory outwardly, and that in a diversity of ways. 2. Then, according to the twofold sort of divine Works of Nature and Grace, twofold Decrees of God are also established, having regard both to Providence, and to Predestination. In His eternal Providence God is conceived first to have contemplated the manifestation of His own Glory through the Creation of man, then through Permission of the Fall. In Predestination God is conceived first to have contemplated the manifestation of His own Glory in the exercise of Mercy and Righteousness, through the Election of some and the Reprobation of others; then the Means necessary for obtaining this end. But Salvation is able to be considered under a threefold σχέσει/relation, with respect to its Destination, its Acquisition, or its Application: and so a threefold Decree is considered concerning it, the first, whereby out of God’s Free Grace and φιλανθρωπίᾳ/philanthropy Salvation is determined for some certain men through Election: the second, whereby its Acquisition is procured by Redemption: for, because God, with His righteousness preserved, was not able to confer Salvation upon Fallen man, unless He satisfy His Justice; He determined Christ as the Mediator of the Elect, who, with the fullest possible Satisfaction rendered for them, would acquire Salvation and all salvific benefits for them: to which the third follows closely, whereby the Application of Salvation was ordained through Calling, etc.; for, since Salvation would have been acquired for the Elect in vain, unless it be applied to them, God efficaciously decreed also to call the Elect, to be redeemed through Christ, to Christ through the Gospel and the Grace of the Holy Spirit, and thus infallibly to confer Salvation upon them.

And so, after the Contemplation of the ultimate End, or the divine Glory to be declared outwardly in many ways, here is conceived, 1. the Decree concerning the Creation of man, 2. concerning the permission of his Fall, whereby he drew his posterity after him unto destruction: 3. concerning the election of some to Salvation, and the reprobation of others: 4. concerning the sending of Christ into the World as the Mediator of the Elect, who, with God’s Justice satisfied, has obtained a complete and sure Salvation for those alone: 5. concerning the efficacious calling of those by the Gospel and Spirit, the giving of Faith, justification, sanctification, and finally glorification. This order is commended, α. by Scripture, which subordinates the Sending and Redemption of Christ to His Election, and fetches all redemptive benefits from His Merit. β. By the nature of the matter, which requires the End in intention to precede the Means: but the intended End in the Works of Grace is the Salvation of the Elect; the Means tending to this End are the Mediation of Christ and Vocation to Him by Word and Spirit: since, unless the Elect were to be redeemed and to be brought to communion with God, Christ would not have come into the World, nor would the Gospel have been preached. γ. By the Economic operation of the Persons of the Trinity in the work of Salvation; since thus, as many as are chosen by the Father, neither more nor fewer, are conceived to be redeemed by the Son, to be regenerated and sanctified by the Spirit; neither is anyone conceived to be given to the Son to be redeemed, who was not chosen by the Father, nor to be sanctified by the Spirit.

Compare TURRETIN at greater length on the Order of the Decrees, Theologiæ Elencticæ, locus IV, question XVIII, pages 459-473.

[1] Christoph Matthæus Pfaff (1686-1760) was a German Lutheran Theologian of encyclopedic learning. He was appointed Professor of Theology at Tubingen (1716). Within four years, he became chancellor, and held the post for thirty-six years.

1 Comment

bottom of page