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DISPUTATION XIX ON THE VARIOUS DISTINCTIONS OF THE WILL OF GOD
Though the will of God be one and simple, yet it may be variously distinguished, from its objects, in reference to the mode and order according to which it is borne towards its objects. Of these distinctions the use is important in the whole of the Scriptures, and in explaining many passages in them. II. The will of God is borne towards its object either according to the mode of nature, or that of liberty. In reference to the former, God tends towards his own primary, proper and adequate object, that is, towards himself. But, according to the mode of liberty, he tends towards other things -- and towards all other things by the liberty of exercise, and towards many by the liberty of specification; because he cannot hate things, so far as they have some likeness of God, that is, so far as they are good; though he is not necessarily bound to love them, since he might reduce them to nothing whenever it seemed good to himself. III. The will of God is distinguished into that by which he absolutely wills to do any thing or to prevent it; and into that by which he wills something to be done or omitted by his rational creatures. The former of these is called "the will of his good pleasure," or rather "of his pleasure;" and the latter, "that of his open intimation." The latter is revealed, for this is required by the use to which it is applied. The former is partly revealed, partly secret, or hidden. The former employs a power that is either irresistible, or that is so accommodated to the object and subject as to obtain or insure its success, though it was possible for it to happen otherwise. To these two kinds of the divine will, is opposed the remission of the will, that is, a two-fold permission, the one opposed to the will of open intimation, the other to that of good pleasure. The former is that by which God permits something to the power of a rational creature by not circumscribing some act by a law; the latter is that by which God permits something to the will and capability of the creature, by not placing an impediment in its way, by which the act may in reality be hindered. IV. Whatever things God wills to do, he wills them (1.) either from himself, not on account of any other cause placed beyond him, (whether that be without the consideration of any act perpetrated by the creature, or solely from the occasion of the act of the creature,) (2.) or on account of a preceding cause afforded by the creature. In reference to this distinction, some work is said to be "proper to God," some other "extraneous, strange and foreign." But there is a two-fold difference in those things which he wills to be done; for they are pleasing and acceptable to God, either in themselves, as in the case of moral works; or they please accidentally and on account of some other thing, as in the case of things ceremonial. V. The will of God is either peremptory, or with a condition. (1.) His peremptory will is that which strictly and rigidly obtains, such as the words of the gospel which contain the last revelation of God: "The wrath of God abides on him who does not believe;" "He that believes shall be saved;" also the words of Samuel to Saul: "The Lord hath rejected thee from being king over Israel." (2.) His will, with a condition, is that which has a condition annexed, whether it be a tacit one, such as, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown." "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them," that is, unless he be delivered from this curse as it is expressed in Gal. iii. 13. See also Jer. xviii. 7-10. VI. One will of God is absolute, another respective. His absolute will is that by which he wills any thing simply, without regard to the volition or act of the creature, such as is that about the salvation of believers. His respective will is that by which he wills something with respect to the volition or the act of the creature. It is also either antecedent or consequent. (1.) The antecedent is that by which he wills something with respect to the subsequent will or act of the creature, as, "God wills all men to be saved if they believe." (2.) The consequent is that by which he wills something with respect to the antecedent volition or act of the creature, as, "Woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! Better would it have been for that man if he had never been born! Both depend on the absolute will, and according to it each of them is regulated. VII. God wills some things, so far as they are good, when absolutely considered according to their nature. Thus he wills alms-giving, and to do good to man so far as he is his creature. He also wills some other things, so far as, all circumstances considered, they are understood to be good. According to this will, he says to the wicked man, "What hast thou to do, that thou shouldst take my covenant in thy mouth?" And he speaks thus to Eli: "Be it far from me that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed." This distinction does not differ greatly from the antecedent will of God, which has been already mentioned. VIII. God wills some things per se or per accidens. Of themselves, he wills those things which are simply relatively good. Thus He wills salvation to that man who is obedient. Accidentally, those things which, in some respect are evil, but have a good joined with them, which God wills more than the respective good things that are opposed to those evil. Thus he wills the evils of punishment, because he chooses that the order of justice be preserved in punishment, rather than that a sinning creature should escape punishment, though this impunity might be for the good of the creature. IX. God wills some things in their antecedent causes, that is, he wills their causes relatively, and places them in such order that effects may follow from them; and if they do follow, he wills that they, of themselves, be pleasing to him. God wills other things in themselves. This distinction does not substantially differ from that by which the divine will is distinguished into absolute and selective. COROLLARIES I. Is it possible for two affirmatively contrary volitions of God to tend towards one object which is the same and uniform? We answer in the negative. II. Can one volition of God, that is, one formally, tend towards contrary objects? We reply, It can tend towards objects physically contrary, but not towards objects morally contrary. III. Does God will, as an end, something which is beyond himself, and which does not proceed from his free will? We reply in the negative.
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