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Ursinus on the Will of God:

September 21, 2007

1) Obj. 3. What God desires us to do, we have the power of doing. God desires us to do that which contributes to our well-being. Therefore, we have the ability, of ourselves, to do that which is good, and consequently do not need the grace and influence of the Holy Spirit. Ans. There is in this syllogism, an incorrect chain of reasoning, arising from the ambiguity of the word desire. In the major, it is used in its ordinary and proper sense. But in the minor, it is used improperly; for God is here said to desire, through a figure of speech, by which he is represented as being affected after the manner of men. Hence, there is a different kind of affirmation in the major from what there is in the minor God desires in two respects. First, in respect to his commandments and invitations. Secondly, in respect to the love which he cherishes towards his creatures, and the torments of those that perish, but not in respect to the execution of his justice. Reply. He who invites others to do that which is good, and rejoice in their well-doing, declares that it is in their power to do this, and not in the power of him who invites. But God invites us to do that which is good, and approves of our conduct when we thus act. Therefore, it is in our power to do the good. Ans. We deny the minor proposition; because it is not sufficient for God to invite. It is also necessary that our wills consent to do the good, which they will not do unless God incline them.  Z. Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 3, Q 7, S 3, pp., 63-64.

2) Merciful. God’s mercy appears in this: 1. That he wills the salvation of all men. 2. That he defers punishment, and invites all to repentance. 3. That he accommodates himself to our infirmity. 4. That he redeems those who are called into his service. 5. That he gave and delivered up to death his only begotten Son. 6. That he promises and does all these things most freely out of his mercy. 7. That he confers benefits upon his enemies, and such as are unworthy of his regard. Obj. 1. But God seems to take pleasure in avenging himself upon the ungodly. Ans. Only in as far as it is the execution of his justice. Obj. 2. He refuses mercy to the ungodly. Ans. Only to such as do not repent. Obj. 3. He does not save all when he has the power. Ans. God acts thus that he may exhibit his justice with his mercy. Obj. 4. He does not exercise his mercy without a sufficient satisfaction. Ans. Yet he has most freely given his Son, that he might make satisfaction by his death. Z. Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 8, Q 25, S 2, p., 127.

3) What is the cause of the difference between the church and the rest of mankind?

There are three classes of men in the world, which differ very much from each other. There are some, who by their own avowed declarations, are so entirely alienated from the church as to deny the necessity of faith and repentance, and are, therefore, the avowed enemies of God and the church. There are others again who are called, but not effectually, as hypocrites, who make a profession of faith without any true conversion to God. And finally, there are others who are effectually called, as are the elect, of which class there is but a comparatively small number, according to the declaration of Christ: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matt. 20:16.)

What now is the cause of this difference? The efficient cause of this difference is the election of God, who purposes to gather to himself in this world a church. The Son of God is the mediate executor of the will of the Father, whilst the Holy Ghost is the immediate executor. The word of God is the instrumental cause: “God in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.” “God hath mercy, upon whom he will have mercy, and whom he will be hardeneth.” “All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me.” “Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate, to be conformed to the image of his Son. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called,” &c. (Acts 14:16. Rom. 9:18; 8:23, 30. John 6:37.) We are taught by these declarations that the promise of grace is general in respect to those that believe. God does indeed will that all should be saved, and that, both on account of the desire which he has for the salvation of all, and also because he invites all to seek salvation. “But the election hath obtained it, (this salvation) and the rest were blinded.” (Rom. 11:7.) Z. Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 21, Q 54, S 6, p., 292.

4) Obj. 1. But the promise of grace is universal. Ans. It is universal in respect to the faithful, that is, it extends to all those that believe. And it is particular in respect to all men. Our adversaries, however, deny that it is universal, because, say they, those who are converted may fall away, which is to weaken the general promise.

To this it is objected, that God wills that all men should be saved. (2- Tim. 2:4.) We reply, that there are other passages which must be taken in connection with this: such as these: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” “This people’s heart is waxed gross, saith the Lord, lest they should be converted, and I should heal them.” (Matt. 20:16; 13:15.) Here it is declared that God wills that some should not be saved. Are we then to infer, that these declarations of divine truth contradict each other? God forbid! God wills that all men should be saved, in as far a he rejoices in the salvation of all: and he rejoices in the punishment of the wicked, yet not; in as far as it is the torment of his creatures; but in as much as it is the execution of his justice. God wills that all should be saved, in as much as he, in a certain respect, invites, and calls all to repentance, but he does not will the salvation of all, as it respects the efficacy of this calling. He blesses all, “if haply they might feel after him, and find him:” (Acts 17:27.) He invites all, and says to all; Honesty and obedience are pleasing to me, and due to me from you; but he does not say to all, I will produce this honesty, and obedience in you; but to the elect alone, and that because, from everlasting it has so pleased him.”The election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.” (Rom. 11:7.) Z. Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 21, Q 54, S 6, p., 294. 

God wills obedience:

1) Obj. 4. God made man fallible; nor did he establish him in the good ness in which he created him. Therefore, it was according to his will that man sinned. Ans. The Scriptures rebuke and put to silence this froward ness of men wickedly curious, saying, “Who art thou that repliest against God,”for Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker.” (Rom. 9:20. Is. 45:9.) Unless man had been created fallible, there would have been no praise attaching itself to his work, or virtue; for he would have been good from necessity. And what if it had been proper that man should have been thus created? The very nature of God required it to be thus. God does not give his glory to any creature. Adam was a man, and not God. And as God is good, so is he also just. He does good to men, but he wills that they be obedient and grateful to him. He bestowed innumerable benefits upon man; therefore, it behooved him to be thankful, obedient, and subject to God, who has declared, in his law, what would be pleasing to him, and what would not. saying, “Of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat, lest thou die.” (Gen. 2 : 17.) As if he would say, thou shalt have respect to me, adhere to me, serve and obey me ; thou shalt not ask and seek rules of good and evil from any one else than from me ; thou shalt thus show thyself obedient to me. Z. Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 3, Q 7, S 4,  p., 54.

God’s Two-fold will:

1) Almighty, To believe in God Almighty, is to believe in such a God: 1. Who is able to accomplish whatever he wills, yea even those things which he does not will, if they are not contrary to his nature, as he might have delivered Christ from death, but he would not. 2. Who can accomplish all things by his simple command, and without any difficulty. 8. Who alone has power to do all things, and is the dispenser of that power which is in all his creatures. 4. Who is also almighty for my benefit, and can and will direct and make all things subservient to my salvation. Z. Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 9, Q 26,  p., 140-141.

2) The third objection is in respect to contradictory wills.

He who, in his secret counsel, wills and prohibits by his law the same work, in him there are contradictory wills. But in God there are no contradictory wills. Therefore he does not, by his secret determination, will those things which he prohibits in his law, as robbery, murder, lust, theft, &c. Ans. 1. We grant the whole argument in as far as these things are done by creatures contrary to the law, and are sins. In this sense God neither wills nor approves of them, but only in as far as they are certain motions and punishments of the wicked. 2. We must make a distinction in reference to the major proposition ; for it is contradictory to say he wills and forbids the same work in the same respect, and with the same end. God wills and forbids the same things, but in a different respect, and with a different end. He willed, for instance, the selling of Joseph in as far as it was the occasion of his elevation, the preservation of the family of Jacob and the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the bondage of the seed of Abraham in Egypt. But in as far as he was sent away by the hatred of his brethren, he did not will it. but denounced arid condemned it as horrible fratricide. And so of the other examples we have adduced.  Z. Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 10, Q 27, S 1, p., 161.


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