“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
London Presbyterian Ministers – Divine Right of Church Government (London, 1645; 1654), pt. 1
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.’, pp. 220-26
“I. Although the will in God is only one and most simple, by which He comprehends all things by a single and most simple act that He sees and understands all things at one glance, yet because it is occupied differently about various objects, it thus happens that in our manner of conception, it may be apprehended as manifold (not in itself and intrinsically on the part of the act of willing, but extrinsically and objectively on the part of the things willed).
XVIII. There cannot be contrariety between these two wills because they do not will and nill the same thing in the same manner and respect…
XIX. Althought God may be said to will the salvation of all by the will of sign and to nill it by the beneplacit will, yet there is no contradiction here….”
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 in On the Nature of God & the Divine Attributes (d. 1640; Leiden, 1620) This disputation is also in the Synopsis of Pure Theology as disputation 6.
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.
“34. The Will of God is the other faculty of the life of God, or the act that follows, by which God knows Himself and wills and approves of all good things as they agree unto the nature and order of his mind, the contraries He necessarily disapproves, which will is called approving; and out of which things He is able to do, some He freely wills, chooses and decrees by a foregoing wisdom, and does, which is the effecting will; and He wills, from Himself commanding, good things to be done and brought forth by the creatures, which is the commanding will; but evil things which He prohibits, however, done from the creatures, assuredly He wills to permit by counsel, which will is called permissive.” – trans. T. Fentiman
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
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.”
Institutes (P&R), vol. 1, 4th Topic, 17th Question, ‘Can there be attributed to God any conditional will, or universal purpose of pitying the whole human race fallen in sin, of destinating Christ as Mediator to each and all, and of calling them all to a saving participation of his benefits? We deny.’, p. 412
“XXXVIII. Although God can be said to will men to be saved who yet are not saved (when it treats of the will of complacency [eurestias] which commands man’s duty and declares what is pleasing to God), yet this cannot be said equally of the will of decree. As many as God wills to be saved, He also wills to save and actually saves at the appointed time, that his will may not be rendered vain and frustrated.
But in this question (as was just said), it is not treated simply of that which He holds dear and wills to be done by men, but of that which He Himself wills to do towards men by destinating to them salvation under the condition of faith, and determining to send Christ for this end that He might acquire it for them. Therefore they are mistaken who discover a hiding place in this distinction, as if in this affair the question were only whether God wills all men to be saved and not whether He wills to save them.”
Richard Muller, PRRD, vol. 3 (Baker, 2003), Part 2, ch. 5.4, E., ‘The Ad Intra–Ad Extra Distinctions’, sections 4, p. 463
“…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.”
That there is an Eternal Foundation in God with Regard to the Revealed Will
Turretin, Francis – On Natural Law, Institues
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 Brief Instruction on the Eternal Approval & Disapproval of the Divine Mind’ trans. Charles Johnson & Travis Fentiman (1593/4; ReformedBooksOnline, 2020), p. 3 Rollock here positis an eternal foundation for the revealed will of God, namely God’s will of approval and disapproval. This paradigm would continue through Rutherford and others.
“God from eternity either approves or disapproves of something. Approval in general is either bare and without the decree, or it is with the decree. Approval without the decree is when God approves something simply, yet He does not decree that it be chosen or followed after.
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; thus He decrees them not to come about…
Concerning approval without the decree, see Dt. 5:29, “O that there were such a heart in them, that they would fear me and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever!” 1 Tim. 2:4, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim. 4:10, “…who is the Savior of all men, specially of those that believe.””
Thysius, Sr., Antoine – Thesis 34 in The Sixth of the Theological Disputations in On the Nature of God & the Divine Attributes (d. 1640; Leiden, 1620) This disputation is also in the Synopsis of Pure Theology as disputation 6.
“34. The Will of God is the other faculty of the life of God, or the act that follows, by which God knows Himself and wills and approves of all good things as they agree unto the nature and order of his mind, the contraries He necessarily disapproves, which will is called approving; and out of which things He is able to do, some He freely wills, chooses and decrees by a foregoing wisdom, and does, which is the effecting will;…”
Commentary on the Whole Bible (London, 1631), vol. 1, pp. 495-498
There is then another exposition [of 1 Tim. 2:4-6], understanding by God’s will, his delight and desire, out of the infinite goodness and benignity of his nature: For this is, that all and every one should be saved, according to the reason by and by rendered, for there is one God, who created and made all men, and therefore as they are his own creatures, his will is, that they should all be saved, and not one of them damned.”
Rutherford’s Examination of Arminianism: The Tables of Contents with Excerpts from Every Chapter trans. Johnson & Fentiman (RBO, 2019), Ch. 2, ‘On God’, 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 [seria] 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 [affectus] 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.”
A Scholastic Disputation on Divine Providence (Edinburgh, 1649), Metaphysical Inquiries, p. 605 Trans. T. Fentiman. A ‘metonymy’ is something that is indirectly named by something closely related to it. Rutherford here delineates the eternal foundation of the will of sign, namely what Rollock had elucidated, the will of approval in God, which wills the goodness of things in and of themselves.
“[Margin note:] How far the will of sign may be a will
Question 33, Whether the will of sign may improperly and metonymically be the will of God?
Response: The will of sign, according as it designates what is the pleasing and acceptable revealed will of God to us, that which is of our duty, so it is called the approving will, contradistinguished from the will of good-pleasure [of decree], and refers to two things:
1. To that which we ought to believe or do, inasmuch as that is obliging of consciences, since we ought to will to please God and will the reward of obedience following.
2. It refers to obedience, and this so far as God displays that to us by an urging [or incitement, actu], either through special grace or a common concursus.
The first will is of complacency and is properly called will, whose object is the duty of the rational creature. In this way God sincerely [serio] approves and wills obedience, and is pleased in this moral good as a rule and norm, and it is not less a will than that which is called of good-pleasure [or the will of decree].
But the latter way is not an executing will as the will of good-pleasure is, nor does God will, intend or decree through grace or concursus, to work in the creatures that which He commands or prohibits, because He commands or prohibits it.
And in this way the will of sign is so far improperly called ‘the will of sign’; indeed, the punishment is called the wrath of God, because assuredly God punishes that which is done, as men are accustomed to do such being angry and in the passion of wrath, being aroused and agitated, although nonetheless, passions do not occur in God.”
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.’, pp. 222, 224
“X. We may sometimes interchange the eudokian [good-purpose of decree] for the euarestia [good-pleasure or complacency of the revealed will], when it is spoken of those things with which God is pleased because there is in them some quality or condition which agrees with the nature of God and therefore conciliates his favor…
XI. Eurestia contradistinguished from eudokian in this connection means nothing else than the mere complacency by which God approves anything as just and holy and delights in it (and besides wills to prescribe it to the creature as his most just duty). Hence it does not properly include any decree or volition in God, but implies only the agreement of the thing with the nature of God (according to which He cannot but love what is agreeable to his holiness)…
XX. The will of sign which is set forth as extrinsic ought to correspond with some internal will in God that it may not be false and deceptive; but that internal will is not the decree concerning the gift of salvation to this or that one, but the decree concerning the command of faith and promise of salvation if the man does not believe (which is founded both upon the connection established by God between faith and salvation and the internal disposition of God by which, as He loves Himself, He cannot but love his image wherever He sees it shining and is so much pleased with the faith and repentance of the creature as to grant it salvation).”
The Redeemer’s Tears Wept Over Lost Souls, in Works (d. 1705), vol. 2, pp. 358-361 on Lk. 19:41-42
“But when expressions that import anger, or grief, are used [Gen. 6:6; Jud. 10:16; Ps. 78:40; 95:10; etc.], even concerning God Himself, we must sever in our conception everything of imperfection, and ascribe everything of real perfection. We are not to think such expressions signify nothing, that they have no meaning, or that nothing at all is to be attributed to Him under them.
Nor are we, again, to think they signify the same thing with what we find in ourselves, and are wont to express by those names. In the divine nature, there may be real, and yet most serene complacency and displacency, viz. that are unaccompanied with the least commotion, and import nothing of imperfection, but perfection rather, as it is a perfection to apprehend things suitably to what in themselves they are. The holy Scriptures frequently speak of God as angry, and grieved for the sins of men, and their miseries which ensue therefrom: and a real aversion and dislike is signified thereby, and by many other expressions which, in us, would signify vehement agitations of affection that we are sure can have no place in Him. We ought, therefore, in our own thoughts to ascribe to Him that calm aversion of will, in reference to the sins and miseries of men in general…
so these expressions, though they signify not in God such unquiet motions and passions as they would in us, they do signify a mind and will, really, though with the most perfect calmness and tranquility, set against sin and the horrid consequences of it, which yet, for greater reasons than we can understand, He may not see fit to do all He can to prevent. And if we know not how to reconcile such a will in God, with some of our notions concerning the divine nature; shall we, for what we have thought of Him, deny what He has so expressly said of Himself, or pretend to understand his nature better than He Himself does?”
The Reconcileableness of God’s Prescience of the Sins of Men with the Wisdom and Sincerity of His Counsels, Exhortations, and Whatsoever Means He Uses to Prevent Them, Section 19, page 51-2
“It seems, I confess, by its more obvious aspect [in the term ‘will of sign’, which is often misunderstood], too much to countenance the ignominious slander which profane and atheistical dispositions would fasten on God, and the course of his procedure towards men; and which it is the design of these papers to evince of as much absurdity and folly, as it is guilty of impiety and wickedness: as though He only intended to seem willing of what He really was not; that there was an appearance to which nothing did subesse [exist under].
And then why is the latter called voluntas [will]? unless the meaning be, He did only will the sign; which is false and impious;”
The Redeemer’s Tears Wept Over Lost Souls, Appendix, “How God is said to Will the Salvation of them that Perish”, pp. 386-8
“Shall it be said that sin does not displease God; that He has no will against sin; it is not repugnant to his will? Yes; it is to his revealed will, to his law. But is that an untrue revelation? His law is not his will itself, but the signum [sign], the discovery of his will. Now, is it an insignificant sign? A sign that signifies nothing? Or to which there belongs no correspondent significatum [signification]? –nothing that is signified by it? Is that which is signified (for sure no one will say it signifies nothing) his real will, yea or no? Who can deny it? That will, then (and a most calm, sedate, impassionate will it must be understood to be), sin and consequently the consequent miseries of his creatures, are repugnant unto.
Therefore, it seems out of question, that the holy God does constantly and perpetually, in a true sense, will universal obedience, and the consequent felicity of all his creatures capable thereof; i.e. He does will it with simple complacency, as what were highly grateful to Him, simply considered by itself. Who can doubt, but that purity, holiness, blessedness, wheresoever they were to be beheld among his creatures, would be a pleasing and delightful spectacle to Him, being most agreeable to the perfect excellency, purity, and benignity of his own nature, and that their deformity and misery must be consequently unpleasing?”
Jonathan Edwards †1758
Remarks on Important Theological Controversies, Ch. 3, “Concerning the Divine Decrees in General, & Election in Particular,” from paragraphs 9 & 13, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. Edward Hickman, vol. 2, pp. 527-28
13. …There is all in God that is good, and perfect, and excellent in our desires and wishes for the conversion and salvation of wicked men. As, for instance, there is a love to holiness, absolutely considered, or an agreeableness of holiness to his nature and will; or, in other words, to his natural inclination. The holiness and happiness of the creature, absolutely considered, are things that he loves. These things are infinitely more agreeable to his nature than to ours.
There is all in God that belongs to our desire of the holiness and happiness of unconverted men and reprobates, excepting what implies imperfection. All that is consistent with infinite knowledge, wisdom, power, self-sufficience, infinite happiness, and immutability. Therefore, there is no reason that his absolute prescience, or his wise determination and ordering what is future, should hinder his expressing this disposition of his nature, in like manner as we are wont to express such a disposition in ourselves, viz. by calls and invitations, and the like.
The disagreeableness of the wickedness and misery of the creature, absolutely considered, to the nature of God, is all that is good in pious and holy men’s lamenting the past misery and wickedness of men. Their lamenting these, is good no farther than it proceeds from the disagreeableness of those things to their holy and good nature. This is also all that is good in wishing for the future holiness and happiness of men.”
Systematic Theology (1951), V. Calling in General & External Calling, C. External Calling
2. The Characteristics of External Calling
b. It is a bona fide [by good-faith] calling. The external calling is a calling in good faith, a calling that is seriously meant. It is not an invitation coupled with the hope that it will not be accepted. When God calls the sinner to accept Christ by faith, He earnestly desires this; and when He promises those who repent and believe eternal life, His promise is dependable. This follows from the very nature, from the veracity, of God. It is blasphemous to think that God would be guilty of equivocation and deception, that He would say one thing and mean another, that He would earnestly plead with the sinner to repent and believe unto salvation, and at the same time not desire it in any sense of the word. The bona fide character of the external call is proved by the following passages of Scripture: Num. 23:19; Ps. 81:13-16; Prov. 1:24; Isa. 1:18-20; Ezek. 18:23,32; 33:11; Matt. 21:37; 2 Tim. 2:13.”
PRRD, vol. 3 (Baker, 2003), Part 2, ch. 5.4, E., ‘The Ad Intra–Ad Extra Distinctions’, sections 1, p. 458
“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.”
Trigland, Sr., Jacob – ‘Of the Will of Sign & of Good-Pleasure’, pp. 158-64 in Meditations of Jacob Trigland on Various Opinions on the Will of God & Universal Grace, where is yet something of Middle Knowledge (Leiden, 1642)
Trigland here 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
On Absolute & Relative Attributes of God (the latter being founded on the former)