“The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
“And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.'”
Order of Contents
Common Places of the Christian Religion (1560), Of the Will of God, col. 386a ff.
1. That the Will of God towards us is to be considered Two Ways, cols. 386b-387b
3. Whereby the Will of God may be Known, cols. 388a-389a
Whether that the Will of God may be Hindered or Letted [Prevented]?, cols. 392a-393a He treats of Mt. 23:37; 1 Tim. 2:4 & Eze. 33
Calvin, John – Book 1, ch. 18, ‘The Instrumentality of the Wicked Employed by God…, sections 3-4 in Institutes of the Christian Religion (trans. Beveridge)
Vermigli, Peter Martyr – Part 1, ch. 17, ‘Whether God be the Author of Sin?’, sections 38-44, ‘Of the Will Signified and the Will Effectual’ in The Common Places of the Most Famous & Renowned Divine Doctor Peter Martyr… trans. Anthonie Marten (1583), vol. 1, pp. 201-205
Vermigli (d. 1562)
Marbeck, John – ‘Will of God’, ‘How there is Two Wills in God’ in A Book of Notes and Common Places with their expositions, collected and gathered out of the works of divers singular writers and brought alphabetically into order (1581)
Zanchi, Jerome – Section 2, ‘Will of God’, Positions 2-4 in ‘Observations on the Divine Attributes; Necessary to be Premised in order to our Better Understanding the Doctrine of Predestination’ prefixed to The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination Stated & Asserted, trans. Augustus Toplady (London, 1769), pp. 4-7
Rollock, Robert – A Brief Instruction on the Eternal Approval & Disapproval of the Divine Mind 1593/4 6 pp. trans. Charles Johnson & Travis Fentiman
Rollock, a fountain of reformed theology in Scotland, here treats of the important distinctions to be recognized within God’s decree of predestination, especially as it comes to be variously executed through time in providence. Of special interest is his formulations relating to what would be later known as the sincere free offer of the Gospel:
“Approval without the decree belongs to all good things with respect to themselves, though they are not at any time realized, of which sort are the conversion, faith, and salvation of reprobates; which God surely approves of simply, but does not decree to come about… 1 Tim. 2:4, ‘Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.’”
Rollock’s early paradigm appears to have been influential through later reformed thought as reflections of it occur in later reformed scholastics, including in the Metaphysical Disquisitions of Samuel Rutherford at the end of his Latin treatise on Providence.
Morton, Thomas – pp. 131-134 of ch. 3, section 5 of A Treatise of the Nature of God (London, 1599)
Morton (fl.1596-1599) of Berwick was reformed.
Lyford, William – Ch. 2, ‘Errors Against the Nature & Essence of God… Answered and Cleared’, Section 5, pp. 104 & 108 in The Instructed Christian, or the Plain Man’s Senses Exercised to Discern Both Good and Evil, being a discovery of the Errors, Heresies, and Blasphemies of these Times, and the Toleration of them… (Philadelphia, 1847)
Leigh, Edward – pp. 165-166 of ch. 7, ‘Of God’s Understanding that He is Omniscient, and of his Will’ in A System or Body of Divinity (1654)
Rutherford’s Examination of Arminianism: The Tables of Contents with Excerpts from Every Chapter trans. Johnson & Fentiman (RBO, 2019), Ch. 2, ‘On God’
Section 18, ‘On God’s Revealed Will and Will of Good-Pleasure’, pp. 54-56
Section 19, ‘Whether in the calling of all in the visible Church is the intention of God that all and every person obey and be saved?’, pp. 56-57
Section 20, ‘Whether because God amiably invites and by supplications solicits, entreats and calls upon reprobates, and as He mourns over them, is grieved by them and laments on account of the disobedient, whether He, therefore, intends the obedience of them?’, pp. 57-58
“1. Because out of the amiable invitation, this only is concluded: the simple obligation of the creature to obedience, an earnest approbation and complacency which God has with respect to the obedience, inasmuch as the thing is holy, has been required of him, is morally pleasing, and as it is unto the convenience and salvation of a man.
On account of this disposition in God, nothing is further added by the simple complacency of God around obedience except a certain quasi-intention and vehemency of divine obligation to the thing, which testifies to the obedience of all by an earnestness from the precept and from having obliged men to the thing; and thus it is to Him singularly and vehemently pleasing in his sight inasmuch as salvation is made glorious to men; but except He decree it, by the corruption of men, it will not come to be.” – pp. 57-58
Owen, John – pp. 44-49 of Ch. 5, ‘Whether the Will and Purpose of God may be Resisted, and He be Frustrate of his Intentions’ in A Display of Arminianism in Works, vol. 10
Turretin, Francis – Institutes of Elenctic Theology, ed. Dennison Buy (1679–1685; P&R, 1992), vol. 1, 3rd Topic, ‘The Will of God’, 15th Question, ‘May the will be properly distinguished into the will of decree and of precept, good purpose (eudokias) and good pleasure (euarestias), signified, secret and revealed? We affirm.’
Pictet, Benedict – Book 2, ch. 5, ‘Of the Will and Affections of God’ in Christian Theology, pp. 81-89
Pictet (d. 1724) was the Swiss professor of divinity in Geneva after Turretin. He was the last to hold the orthodox faith there before the rise of the Enlightenment.
Heppe, Heinrich – Ch. 5, ‘The Attributes of God’, Sections 25-28 in Reformed Dogmatics, ed. Bizer (1950; Wipf & Stock, 2007), pp. 85-92
Heppe quotes Seegedin, Polanus, Durandus, Walaeus, Hottinger, Braun, Heidan, Alting, Heidegger, Mastricht, Rissen & Trelcatius for the distinction between the hidden and revealed will of God (and related terms).
“The former will [of command] is called by the [Medieval] Scholastics, on the authority, it is thought, of Hugh of St. Victor, voluntas signi, whether because it is signified by some sign, like a word, precept, interdict, etc.; or because it signifies God’s will as the effect and adjunct of it…” – p. 88
Hodge, Charles – C. ‘The Decretive & Preceptive Will of God’ through F. ‘The Will of God as the Ground of Moral Obligation’ in Part 1, Ch. 5, ‘The Nature & Attributes of God’, Section 9, ‘The Will of God’ in Systematic Theology (New York, 1884), vol. 1, pp. 403-406
Of the Nature of God, or of the Divine Attributes, in 5 Books (Heidelberg, 1577), Book 3, ch. 4, ‘Of the Will of God’
III. Whether it is only one will or whether it may truly be multifold? And if multifold, in what way multifold? And further, whether there are many wills? 307
V. Further, what difference is there between the will by which it wills good things and by which it wills evil things? We are not able, in fact, to simply exclude the will of God from evil, unless we deny his foreknowledge and omnipotence, and by that his providence and deity. 332
XII. Whether God’s will may always be just & the rule of all justice? 370
Zanchi (1516-1590) was an Italian, protestant Reformation clergyman and educator who influenced the development of Reformed theology during the years following John Calvin’s death.
Beumler, Marcus – Theses 19-24 in Theses on the Will of God under Christ (Zurich: 1599)
Beumler (1555-1611) was a professor of Greek, Catechesis & Greek at Zurich.
Polanus, Amandus – ‘4th, the Will of God is Revealed or Hidden’ in Book 2, ch. 19, ‘Of the Will of God in General’ in A System of Theology (Hanau, 1609; 1615), 1.1030
Thysius, Sr., Antoine – Thesis 34 in The Sixth of the Theological Disputations, On the Nature of God & the Divine Attributes (Leiden, 1620)
Thysius (1565–1640) was a Dutch, reformed theologian and professor at the University of Harderwijk and the University of Leiden, known for his being one of the four professors who oversaw the disputations published in A Synopsis of Pure Theology.
Thysius in this thesis gives a foundation in the eternal will of God (in God Himself) to the ‘Approving’ Will, and sets it as logically prior to his efficient and permitting will decreeing all that comes to pass.
Diodati, Giovanni – Theses 27-28 in A Theological Disputation On God (Geneva, 1625)
Diodati (1576-1649) was a Genevan-born Italian, reformed theologian and translator. He was the first translator of the Bible into Italian from Hebrew and Greek sources.
A Theological Collection of all that which is Extant, including Theological Theses through Common Places in the Academy of Franeker (Franeker, 1641), First Part, Collection 1, ‘of Predestination’
Disputation 2, ‘Of the Will of Sign’, pp. 4-8
Exercise 2, ‘Of Notions of the Divine Will’, ch. 1, ‘Of God’s Revealed Will [Signi] and His Will of Good-pleasure’ in Apologetic Exercises for Divine Grace (Amsterdam, 1636; 1651), pp. 213-238
“From this, these things we posit, saying:
1. God seriously wills, that is, He loves, approves and by an act of complacency He lifts up for the obedience of reprobates, insofar as it is a good and holy thing, whether the obedience may come forth by the act, or not…
5. For God to intend and decree the death of a sinner, and for God not to delight in the death of a sinner, as He swears in Eze. 33:11, are in no way contradictions.” – p. 232-233
A Scholastic Disputation on Divine Providence (Edinburgh, 1649)
10 – Whether the Creator may be able to command something injurious to the creature [No], and what sort of right does God have in the creatures? 573
To what extent justice belongs to God essentially, and what follows. 584
Whether the Will of Sign is the Will of God improperly and metonymically? [Yes; Rutherford explains that the Approving will that lies behind it in God is properly called his will, though the communication directing that to the creature, by creaturely signs and commands, is not properly God’s will as God has not willed it to be in the event.] 605
Whether the act, or whether truly the lawlessness or malice of the act may be formally prohibited? 608
Whether God properly dispensed with the law when He commanded Abraham to slay his only begotten son? It is minimally true. 610
Whether the will of sign & the permitting will may coincide? 611
Trigland, Sr., Jacob
Meditations of Jacob Trigland on Various Opinions on the Will of God & Universal Grace, where is yet something of Middle Knowledge (Leiden, 1642)
‘Whether God does not will Misery’, pp. 85-87
‘Of the Will of Sign & of Good-Pleasure’, pp. 158-165 See especially pp. 160-161 where Trigland affirms arguments of the Medieval Scholastics that the Will of Sign always externally signifies something of the internal will of God and his good-pleasure. He then gives counter arguments to those who deny such.
“Rightly therefore and truly we say those signs truly and properly are signs of the divine will.” – p. 163
End of Thesis 5 to Thesis 13 in A Theological Disputation on the Will of God ([Leiden?], 1651)
Trigland (1583-1654) was a reformed, Dutch, professor of theology at Leiden. He succeeded Andrew Rivet and wrote against the Remonstrants after the Synod of Dort (1618-19).
Chamier, Daniel – Ch. 2. ‘In which it is Proved out of Sacred Scripture that Theology has been Revealed’ in A Body of Theology, or Theological Common Places by way of Public Lectures in the Academy… (Geneva, 1653), pp. 2-3
Of the Will & Actions of God about Sin,in 4 Books: the Judgment of the Reformed Churches, especially of Scotland, humbly offered & most willingly submitted (Amsterdam, 1657)
Book 1, in which the State of the Controversy in Explained…
Ch. 3, ‘Of the Distinctions & Divisions of the Divine Will’, pp. 8-18 See especially pp. 12-13.
Book 2, in which is Displayed that God Never Wills Sins, or Determines the Created Will to Them, or is the Cause of Them, but that He Permits & Orders Them
Ch. 21, ‘Of Divine Approval & the Approving Will’, pp. 393-397
Strang (1584-1654) was a Scottish minister and principal of Glasgow University. This work of his was an infralapsarian response to Rutherford’s Treatise on Providence (which cause him a bit of turmoil with the covenanters).
Amyraut, Moses – Disputation 8, ‘Theological Theses on the Will of God’, Sections 13-21 in Cappel, Louis; Moses Amyraut & Joshua La Place, An Arrangement of the Theological Theses Disputed at various times in the Academy of Salmur, vol. 1 (2nd ed. Saumur, 1664-5), Part 4, pp. 109-112. See especially the end of Thesis 20.
Cocceius, Johannes – Sections 43 & 47-48 of ch. 10, ‘Of the Communicable Attributes of God’ in A Sum of Theology Rehearsed out of the Scriptures (Geneva, 1665), pp. 149-150 See especially the end of section 47.
Speaking of the Revealed Will:
“48. That which God wills, that is, swears to be, is not in diverse times, nor does He swear [jubet, commandingly oblige] and call by distinct actions, but by one most simple act. And therefore diverse decrees ought not to be discerned in God. Nor is it true with [amidst, apud] God ‘that which is last in execution, that is the first in intention’, unless we may assuredly so interpret this phrase, ‘that which is last in execution, that is the first in intention’ in the manner that every good most evidently shines forth from preceding acts.”
Wyss, David – Theses 23-24 in A Theological Disputation on the Divine Attributes, in General & in Specific 1676
Wyss (1632-1700) was a reformed professor of philosophy, Hebrew, theology and catechetical theology at Bern, Switzerland.
Holtzfus, Barthold – in ch. 8, ‘Of the Will of God & of the Distinctions of the Divine Will’ in A Theological Tract on God, Attributes and the Divine Decrees, Three Academic Dissertations (1707), pp. 109-122
Thesis 6 on Hidden & Revealed
Thesis 7 on Good-Pleasure & Sign
Theses 8-9 on Antecedent & Consequent
Thesis 11 on Governor of the World vs. the Legislator
Thesis 12 on Effectual & Ineffectual
Holtzfus (1659-1717) was a reformed professor of philosophy and theology at Frankfurt.
Roy, Albert – Theses 10-16 in Theological Exercise 24, which is on the Will of God (Bern, 1717)
Roy (1663-1733) was a reformed, professor of Hebrew, Catechesis and theology at Lausanne, Switzerland.
Quotes in English
The Mosaic Polity (Sources in Early Modern Economics, Ethics, and Law) (CLP Academic, 2015), thesis 2
“We assert that the eternal law is above the nature of all other laws (as we just now said). For when we call the eternal law the immutable concept and form of reason, we demonstrate that it is pure, unadulterated act, just as God is a simple actuality on whom, as the universal principle, entirely all things depend. Moreover, when we say that that form of reason has been conceived by God and in God for the common good, we manifestly distinguish the eternal law of God from the rest of the reason of the divine wisdom that acts and occupies itself with created things. For the reason of that divine wisdom, which is prominent in acting, moving, and sustaining created things, is occupied with all things all the time.”
“This law is eternal and divine, and therefore the universal principle and exemplar of all other rules. This law is immutable, and accordingly (as we should say with the scholastics) it is never ruled by any other law… the law is nothing other than the very wisdom of God that determines the rationale of what is lawful and unlawful in all things created according to his own image.”
A Golden Chain: or The Description of Theology containing the order of the causes of salvation and damnation, according to God’s Word (Cambridge, 1600)
Ch. 54, ‘Concerning a New Devised Doctrine of Predestination, taught by some New and Late [Arminian] Divines’, the 1st Error, the Confutation
“Objection V: God will not the death of a sinner, but rather that he repent and live, Eze. 18:23.
Answer. Augustin in his 1st book to Simplicius, 2nd question, answers this question. You must, saith he, distinguish betwixt man, as he is born man, and man as he is a sinner. For God is not delighted with the destruction of man, as he is man, but as he is a sinner: neither will He simply the death of any as he is a sinner, or as it is the ruin and destruction of his creature: but in that, by the detestation and revenge of sin with eternal death, his glory is exceedingly advanced.
God therefore will the death of a sinner, but as it is a punishment, that is, as it is a means to declare and set out his divine justice: and therefore it is an untruth for a man to say that God would have none condemned. For whereas men are once condemned, it must be either with God’s will, or without it: if without it, then the will of God must needs suffer violence, the which to affirm is great impiety: if with his will, God must needs change his sentence before set down, but we must not presume to say so.”
A Survey of the Survey of that Sum of Church-Discipline Penned by Mr. Thomas Hooker (1658), Book 1, ch. 8, p. 33
“Mr. [Thomas] Hooker [a congregationalist] leaveth out the chief word, wherein standeth the force of my argument, he speaketh nothing of God’s revealed intention and command to call in fools that they may be made wise, and he frameth his answer, as if I had argued from the bare intention and hidden decree of God.
But I find that M. Hooker utterly mistaketh the distinction of God’s decree, and of his approving will, and therefore he taketh for one and the same, the decree or intention of God (from which I bring not my argument) and the revealed intention of God, or his commanding will: the ignorance of which is a stumbling to Arminians, and Socinians, and to Mr. Hooker, who, as we shall hear, goeth on with them, but I judge it one mistake in judgment in that godly man, but no heretical spirit, and therefore his defenders and followers would take heed to it.”
Richard Muller, PRRD, vol. 3 (Baker, 2003), Part 2, ch. 5.4, E., ‘The Ad Intra–Ad Extra Distinctions’, sections 1 & 4, pp. 458 & 463
“The term voluntas signi, literally, the will of the sign, is closely related to the term signum voluntatis, the sing of the will or purpose. It indicates an overt sign or indication that someone wills something and can therefore be understood as a revealed will or, specifically, as a revealed precept or ‘preceptive will’–thus, what is literally called the ‘signified will’ is a will that God makes known and in effect ‘signifies’ what is commanded… The voluntas signi, therefore, is not a ‘mere sign’ but one that corresponds with something that is truly in God.”
“…but they [the reformed scholastics] nonetheless assume that the revealed will is largely preceptive and promissory, not utterly reflecting the divine good pleasure: in his revealed will, God genuinely calls all who hear the gospel and promises to accept all who answer his invitation–in his hidden will, He determines those to whom the grace will be given that enables response to his calling.”