The Decrees of God

“…being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will”

Eph. 1:11

“Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”

Rom. 9:21



Infralapsarianism & Supralapsarianism



Order of Contents

Predestination & Reprobation Contrasted

Supra & Infralapsarianism
What does the word ‘Sovereignty’ Mean?



Predestination and Reprobation Contrasted

R.A. Finlayson, was a Free Church of Scotland professor during the mid-1900’s.

Reformed Theological Writings of R.A. Finlayson, p. 265

Predestination & Reprobation Contrasted

1. The [Westminster] Confession does not teach or imply a double predestination. In an attempt to distinguish between election and reprobation we should use predestination for the elect and foreordination for the reprobate [as the Confession does].

2. Election and reprobation rest on different grounds: election on the redeeming love of God that undertakes the salvation of the lost; reprobation on the moral necessity to manifest to the universe the nature and consequences of sin in moral personality.

3. Means are used of God to fulfil the purpose of election, but God uses no means to fulfil His purpose of reprobation. It is left to sin to run its course and receive its wages.

4. The fruits of election are attributable to divine grace, the fruits of reprobation to personal sin. This means that while there is grace to some, there is injustice to none.

5. While God finds pleasure in the salvation of the elect, He has sworn by Himself that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. God does not need sin or its retribution for His self-manifestation, but its reality in the universe can serve that end.

6. That the elect will constitute a recreation of the race under a new Head is evident, while the reprobate are but the branches cut off from the tree of humanity. Christ will be revealed as the Savior of the world, though many are lost in the process.




Ames, William – ‘Of Predestination’  from The Marrow of Theology

Ames’ discussion is superb, especially his treatment of Reprobation.

Berkhof, Louis – The Divine Decrees and Predestination  1949, 55 paragraphs from his Systematic Theology

Buchanan, James

The Doctrine of Natural Laws and Second Causes, p. 252, 11 pages, from his Modern Atheism, vol. 2

The Constitution of Man in its relation to the Government of God, p. 264, 18 pages, from his Modern Atheism, vol. 2

Theories of Chance and Fate, p. 303, 19 pages, from his Modern Atheism, vol. 2

Cunningham, William

God’s Providence and Man’s Sin, p. 625, 13 pages, from his Historical Theology, vol. 1 

The Decrees of God and Predestination, 1863, p. 416, 73 pages, from his Historical Theology, vol. 2

Girardeau, John

The Doctrine of Election Stated and Proved, 1890  145 pp.  from his Calvinism and Evangelical Arminianism

The Doctrine of Reprobation Stated and Proved  17 pp.  from his Calvinism and Evangelical Arminianism

Waddell, James – ‘Re-Examination of Dr. Girardeau’s Views of the Freedom of the Will’  1880  26 pp.  from The Southern Presbyterian Review, 31.4, Oct., 1880, 690-716.  Girardeau initially wrote two articles regarding the Fall of Adam in 1879 for The Southern Presbyterian Review.  Waddell then responded with criticisms in the same journal.  In two issues of the journal in 1880 Girardeau responded to Waddell.  Here is Waddell’s response to Girardeau’s defense.

This article takes up the very interesting and somewhat complex issues regarding the nature of the decree of sin, whether it was permissive or not, and in what sense, the nature of its certainty, the relation of the decree to God’s foreknowledge, and Calvin’s interpretation of all of these things. 

Walker, James – Predestination and Providence, 1888, starting on p. 36, 30 pages, from his The Theology and Theologians of Scotland: chiefly of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, 236 pages

This is an excellent survey of the thought of the 1600’s Scottish writers on the subject



What does the word ‘Sovereignty’ Mean?

William Shedd, Calvinism: Pure and Mixed, 1893, reprinted 1993 by Banner of Truth, pp. 70-1

Sovereignty is a comprehensive term.  It contains several elements. 

First it denotes supremacy.  A sovereign ruler is supreme in his dominions.  All other rulers are under him. 

Secondly, sovereignty denotes independence.  Says Woolsey,

‘In the intercourse  of nations certain states have a position of entire independence of others.  They have the power of self-government, that is, of independence of all other states as far as their own territory and citizens are concerned.  This power of independent action in external and internal relations constitutes complete sovereignty.’ (Political Science, i., 204)

Thirdly, sovereignty denotes optional power; that is, the power to act or not in a given instance.  It is more particularly with reference to this latter characteristic of free alternative decision, that ‘the sovereignty of God in election’ is spoken of.  In his election of a sinner to salvation, God as supreme, independent, and sovereign, acts with entire liberty of decision, and not as obliged and shut up to one course of action.

This is the common understanding and definition of sovereignty as applied to decisions and acts.  Says Blackstone [one of the most influential writers on English law]:

‘By the sovereign power is meant the power of making laws; for wherever that power resides all other powers must conform to, and be directed by it, whatever appearance the outward form and administration of the government may put on.  For it is at any time in the option of the legislature to alter that form and administration by a new edict or rule, and put the execution of the law into whatever hands it pleases, by constituting one, or a few, or many executive magistrates.’ (Introduction, 2)

Blackstone gives the same definition of sovereignty, when it is vested in a king (Book II., ch. vii.).  The king has no superior to oblige or compel him to one course of action.  He has independent and optional power.




 “God decrees [evil] for the sake of the good that he causes to arise from the sinfulness thereof; man decrees it for the sake of the evil that is in it.”

Jonathan Edwards