top of page

De Moor VI:9: The Independence of the Divine Decrees

[Fourth, Independence is by no means to be passed over, by which the Decrees are Absolute, not without Means of execution, but without doubtful and antecedent conditions.] That is, the Decree of God does not admit any Condition that precedes the Will of God, and that is not determined by God, but rather depends upon the Free Will of the human creature: as if the divine Will is suspended upon the Will of a created thing, and, as a Consequent Decree under Condition, remains uncertain. In this respect, the Decrees of God are to be said to be Absolute, not Conditional. Nevertheless, God determines many things together with a Condition, with the Decree itself at the same time remaining Absolute and Certain; which Condition, as Decreed, with respect to God and the thing ought rather then to be called a Means; but with respect to man, being ignorant of the outcome, it is able to be called a Condition. Of course, it is one thing to consider it a Condition with respect to the internal Act or the divine Volition itself, but another with respect to the external Object or thing willed: in the latter sense we admit the Things Willed to be Conditional, or the Things Decreed not to be Absolute, without Means of execution, since God decreed the Means together with the End; but in the former sense we deny the Volition of God itself to depend upon a Condition. For example, Salvation, as decreed for us by God, is able to be called Conditional, because it is not granted except with Father intervening; but not the Decree of Salvation itself, which is absolute, as much with respect to the End, that is, Salvation, as with respect to the Means, which God absolutely and without condition determined to grant to all His elect. Hence, that Proposition, that God wills Salvation for men, if they believe, is able to be taken in two ways: for, either it signifies that God decreed Salvation to be granted to men under the Condition of Faith, that is, provided that they believe, which is altogether certain. But in this case, only with respect to man is Salvation made Conditional, but not the Will of God itself, which, on the other hand, determined as much the Condition as the Salvation. Or it signifies that, from the Condition of Faith posited, or at least foreseen, in God arises the Will of conferring Salvation on men, which divine Will, only with the aforementioned Condition intervening, which is left to the Free Determination of Creatures, is delivered for execution/ accomplishment: but in this sense the proposition is false. It is rather to be said, not that God wills to save men, if they believe; but, He wills them to believe, so that they might be saved; or, He wills to save them by Faith, which He has determined to give to them.

This Independence of the Divine Decrees also follows; α. From the very Independent Nature of the decreeing God, whence with the Will this Act of the Will also must be Independent. For each and every thing in a manner consistent with its own Nature works whatever it works. And so to what Being being itself belongs is an Independent being; the activity of that Being in willing is not able not to involve an Independence equal with its Nature in every respect. β. From the Dependence of all Things and Events upon the divine Will. For, if the Will of an Independent Being depends upon another, it must depend upon another Independent of itself: but such a thing other than God is not able even to be thought without contradiction: but it is an absurdity for the Will of God to depend upon that which totally depends upon it. And so the thing willed is not the measure of of the Independent divine Counsel; but the Independent Decree of God is the sol norm of the thing willed. Since it is so, it is also an absurdity for the decreeing God to conceive of any Event/Outcome under this or that Antecedent and Indeterminate Condition; If this or that comes to pass, then I will do this or that: for, unless God will have decreed that Antecedent Condition, it will never be. γ. From the Immutable Efficacy of all the Decrees, to be proven in § 10: but, if the Decree of God is suspended upon an uncertain Condition, not determined, itself suspended upon the Indifferent Choice of man, it could happen with great frequency, that the Event decreed under that Condition, upon which it was suspended, would not come into effect, with the prerequisite Condition failing; which would force God to change His Counsel: hence the Decree would be Ineffectual and Mutable; any such thing is very outrageous to consider concerning God. δ. Conditional Decrees are not able to be posited without supposing that either He who decreed was ignorant of the outcome, or the outcome is not in the power of the One Decreeing, or He determined nothing concerning the outcome certainly or absolutely: all which, since they are especially insulting to God, neither are able nor ought to be attributed to Him. For thus is disturbed either God’s Omniscience, or Omnipotence, or Independence. ε. The Condition, under which God is conceived to will a thing, either certainly will be by the Decree of God, or certainly will not be, indeed, is not possible. If the former, the Decree of God will not be Conditional, but Absolute; since God is supposed to will the Condition, certainly not conditionally, because otherwise there would be an infinite regress, but absolutely: thus God willed certainly to save the Apostle Peter by faith, which He would irresistibly work in him. If the latter, thus the situation would stand, if you should say that God decreed the salvation of Judas under the Condition of faith; thus God will be thought earnestly to intend something under a Condition that is never going to be, and is indeed impossible, which God Himself does not will to grant, who alone is able to grant it: which, if it is not able to be said concerning a wise man, neither is it able to be attributed to Him without the highest insult to the most wise and independent divine Majesty: compare HOORNBEECK’S Socinianismum confutatum, tome I, book II, chapter VII, section II, pages 491, 492.

Johannes Hoornbeeck

All the Jesuits, Socinians, Arminians, and Pelagians maintain the contrary for the sake of Free Will, that they might extol that, and build Election upon forseen faith. Concerning the Socinians, see HOORNBEECK’S Socinianismum confutatum, tome I, book II, chapter VII, section I, page 469. Concerning the Arminians, consult TRIGLAND, Antapologia, chapter VI, page 92, chapter XIX, pages 293b and following. Concerning Vorstius, see TRIGLAND’S Kerckelycke Geschiedenissen, volume 4, page 579 out of Exegese Apologetica, chapter XXI, pages 113-116, compared with chapter XXII, pages 122, 123, and Notis ad Disputationem VI, de Deo, pages 296, 297, where he even appeals to the consensus of the Scholastics and Jesuits.

Objection: α. The Words of God are Conditional, namely, in His Promises and Threats. I Respond with our AUTHOR, That flows, not from a Conditional Decree, but from God’s Absolute Decree concerning the Connection of an End with its Means; and Conditional Words of this sort are nevertheless altogether true without a Conditional Decree, because a Condition posits nothing in being. Conditional Promises and Threats do not properly declare the Futurition of anything, but show the Connection of an antecedent with a consequent: they do not so much predict what is actually going to happen, but what is able to happen. With the Condition supplied or neglected: and they all the more pertain to God’s Preceptive Will as appendices to the commandments, and spurs added to them to rouse men; than to His Decretive Will, which categorically determines concerning a thing future or not future. Thus the Evangelical proposition, Believe and thou shalt be saved, Mark 16:16; Acts 16:31. It only indicates the inviolable Connection of Faith with Salvation, which flows from the Absolute Decree concerning the connection of Faith with Salvation, John 6:40; but it by no means supposes that God decreed salvation for all, under the Condition of Faith. By the same right, but no less absurdly, from the proposition of Paul, Romans 8:13a, εἰ κατὰ σάρκα ζῆτε, μέλλετε ἀποθνήσκειν, if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die, you might conclude that God made a Conditional Decree concerning the death of all, even of elect believers, if they should live according to the flesh: while they words simply teach that God by His Absolute Decree conjoined sin and death with the tightest bond.

What you read in Numbers 14:30, if ye are going to enter the land, in which I swore that I was going to gather you: it does not suppose a Conditional Decree concerning the introduction of these individual Israelites into Canaan, if they would be obedient to the divine voice. 1. God, whose Counsel stands immovable, had certainly determined the Persons to be introduced into Canaan, who actually also entered into this land: but this matter was hidden from men beforehand. He had also decreed to permit the murmurings and outrages of the others, and that consequently He was going to destroy the same in the desert to show the glory of His Justice. 2. It suffices, if the Oath of God concerning the giving of the land of Canaan to them is explained indefinitely of the given of the land to this Israelite Nation, without determination of the individuals, Deuteronomy 1:35, where the promise of the giving of this land is now said to have been made with the very fathers of these rebels. 3. Now, all the hope that these rebels had presumed in heart concerning the possession of the land of Canaan by themselves was at most able to be located in a Conditional Revelation, which was not depending on a Conditional Decree concerning the bringing in of these under the condition of obedience, but on the Absolute Decree, whereby a bond between Piety and Felicity was made, whence Piety is said to have the promise of life, present and future, 1 Timothy 4:18.

Likewise, what things occur in 1 Samuel 2:30 and 13:13 concerning the confirmation of the High Priesthood in the house of Eli and of the Kingdom in the family of Saul; do not depend upon a Conditional Decree concerning a matter that is never going to be, and the contrary of which God Himself had decreed: but only upon the Absolute Decree concerning the tie between piety and prosperity, which God reveals by promises: and the sins of the house of Eli and of Saul are declared to be the true causes of the misfortune coming upon them: compare HOORNBEECK’S Socinianismum confutatum, tome I, book II, chapter VII, section III, pages 515-517.

Objection: β. The Oaths of God differ from the Outcome, Psalm 81:14; Isaiah 48:18. I Respond with our AUTHOR, I attribute those things to God Anthropopathically, with respect to His Commandment and Complacency, Approbation and Applause, which quite frequently differ from the Decree even in a human Judge. If, 1. Oaths of this sort have regard to the past, as what things our AUTHOR cites out of Psalm 81:14; Isaiah 48:18, they involve the grave disapproval of the sins committed with the reproving of the ingratitude of men, and a declaration of the good things of which they would be deprived, and of the evils into which they would fall by their sins. But if, 2. they have regard to the future, as in Deuteronomy 5:29, they contain a weighty commandment, undergirded with promises and threats, whereby God declares what He approves as honest and holy, and how greatly they please Him, who obey divine commandments.

On Objection γ, whereby they contend that thus all Things/Events will be Necessary, compare the Response to Objection 2 in § 11.

And so all Antecedent and Conditional Will in God falls; just as, of course, the Arminians, Arminius versus Perkins, Corvinus versus De Moulin,[1] maintain such an Antecedent Will to be in God, whereby God wills something for the rational Creature before all or any act of that Creature: but Consequent, whereby He wills something for the rational Creature after some act, or after many acts, of the Creature, or after the foreseen determination of the will of the Creature; even indeed in such a way that the effect of the divine Will is suspended upon the will of the Creature, and the divine Will changes its Counsel according to the change of the free will of Creatures: thus by His Antecedent Will God willed to establish the Kingdom of Saul; but by His Consequent Will to drive him from the Kingdom. Which things fall because of the things observed above: compare TRIGLAND’S Kerckelycke Geschiedenissen, part 1, pages 46, 47; WALÆUS’ Responsionem ad Censuram Corvini in Molinæi Anatomen Arminianismi, chapter V, opera, tome 2, pages 125-135; HOORNBEECK’S Miscellanea Sacra, book III, chapter X, pages 389, 390; SPANHEIM’S Disputationem inauguralem de Quinque Controversiis, § 15, opera, tome 3, column 1171.

There are also those of Our Men, who speak of an Antecedent and Consequent Will in God in a different and sound sense. With respect to His Commandments, they maintain that God’s Antecedent Will has its place in the precepts, the Consequent Will in the promises and threats, which are therefore added as sanctions to the precepts, and in the blessings and punishments, which follow man’s obedience or rebellion. With respect to the Decrees, they speak of an Antecedent Will only with respect to order and our manner of conception, so that that might be called His Antecedent Will, which is conceived to go before, for example, the Will to create man, which is conceived to go before His Will to preserve man and to permit him to Fall, etc.: on the other hand, that is called his Consequent Will, which is conceived to follow some act of the Will. Thus some of Our Men also admit a Conditional Will, whereby God wills to save Judas, if he should believe; they admit that, I say, less properly with respect to the Preceptive Will, because promises and threats are set forth conditionally: where you will more properly ascertain a conditional proposition of God’s Absolute Will. However, with respect to His Will of Good Pleasure, our AUTHOR does not approve of their expression. For, since it is evident that the Decrees of God are One and the same altogether Simple Act of the Will, only very improperly is expression made of an Antecedent and Consequent Will in God. But a Conditional Will with respect to the Will of Decree or Good Pleasure, for example, concerning the salvation of man, if he believe, who by the same Decree of God is destined for damnation; on account of the arguments alleged above is deservedly exploded: compare HEINRICH ALTING, Problematica Theologia nova, locus IV, problem IX, pages 266 and following; and the declaration of the opinion of Amyraut and Testard with respect to the modes of this manner of speech concerning God’s Conditional Will, in the Acts of the National Synod of Alençon, in the year 1637, chapter XV, § 19, page 573, and the declaration of the Decree of Synod, § 22, page 574; SPANHEIM the Younger’s Defensionem primam pro Parente adversus Dallæi Pseudo-Apologiam, chapter V, pages 59, 60, 63, 67. That the Lutherans’ manner of speaking concerning an Antecedent and Consequent Will in God is able to be admitted, STAPFER[2] judges, provided that this distinction be equivalent to the other concerning His Will of Sign and of Good Pleasure, Theologicæ polemicæ, tome 5, chapter XX, § 72, 73, pages 178, 179, compared with § 62, page 168. But, while BUDDEUS, Institutionibus Theologiæ dogmaticæ, tome I, book II, chapter I, § 29, pages 307, 311-313, pronounces the distinction between the Will of Good Pleasure and of Sign unworthy of God and to be rejected as repugnant to His holiness; on the other hand, he defends the distinction between the Antecedent and Consequent Will in such a way that he know it greatly to displease us, pages 309-311, § 31, pages 320, 321. On behalf of the Independence of divine Decrees also read thoroughly Examen van het Ontwerp van Tolerantie, part 6, pages 249-275.

[1] Pierre du Moulin (1568-1658) was a Huguenot pastor and theologian. He served as Professor of Theology at Sedan (1621-1658). [2] John Frederick Stapfer (1708-1775) was a Swiss Reformed divine of the first order. He served as a Pastor in the canton in Berne. His Institutiones theologicæ, polemicæ, universæ, ordine scientifico dispositæ ranks among the best elenctic theologies.

1 Comment

bottom of page