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Edward Leigh on the Will of God

June 3, 2008

Edward Leigh:

God wills:1

1. Most freely: for as liberty is essential to every will, so it is chiefly proper to the Divinity, because it is a will especially: yet God wills good necessarily with a necessity of Immutability, but not with a necessity of coaction: for he is necessarily and naturally Good, and that which he once willed, he always wills immutably, and yet freely.
2. God wills efficaciously: for no man resists, nor can resist his will. Dan. 4.32. Rom. 9:19. Voluntas Dei semper impletur aut de nobis aut a’ Deo in nobis. Augustine.

Will is taken:

First properly.

1. For a faculty or power of the soul whereby we will; so we say, there are these faculties in the soul, the understanding, and the will. So for that faculty of willing which is in God, so it is one with God’s Essence.
2. For the act of his willing, called Volitio: so it is one with his Essence. For as he is Eternal and Immutable, so is also his will.

Secondly, Metonymically.

For the Object or thing willed, so John 6. “This is the will of my Father,” that is, that which he wills and has decreed. “Thy will be done,” 1 Thess. 4.3. So we say, It is the Princes will, that is, that which the Prince wills; he wills his own glory chiefly.

God’s will is his Essence, whereby he freely wills good, and nills evil: or it is a faculty whereby God chooses all and only good, and refuses all and only evil. Voluntas in Deo nihil alind est, quam Deus volens. Zanchi. de natura Dei. L.3. c. 4. Quest. 1.

God wills things wisely, Ephes. 1.11.

1. He wills according to an infinite foreknowledge. Counsel is attributed to God, Non propter inquisitionem sed propter certitudinem cognitionis. Aquinas. Acts 15:18.
2. Wills all things according to an immutable Decree.
3. Wills everything to a certain end, and to the highest and best end, himself, Prov. 16.4. Rom. 11.35.

The will of God is:

1. Most holy, Rom. 12.2. Psal. 119.137. The rule of justice, Lam. 3.37. Ephes. 1.11. Deut. 29.29, Isa. 8.20.
2. Eternal, Rom. 9.11.
3. Unchangeable, Mal. 3.6. Rom 11.1.
4. Free, liberum id est, quod sui juris est. Petavius.

The will of God is one and the same, but it is distinguished:

1. In respect of the Object into voluntatem beneplaciti & placiti. God wills good things, and good effects with the will of his good pleasure, approving them first of all, and by himself, he intends their end and means, Ephes. 1.5. but evil, and the evil effects as they are evil, he nills, disapproves and dislikes. Yet he voluntarily permits evil, and as there is a good end of it, he wills it with his will of pleasure, for it is good that there should be evil, Psalm 81.12. Acts 14.16. 1 Cor. 10.5. Divines thus distinguish: There is volitio mala & mali, to will sin to be, is not sinful, it had never come into the world, if God had not willed it.
2. In respect of application to the creature, into

1. Absolute, when God wills and concludes any thing concerning us without any condition in us.
2. Conditional, when he wills, some condition being put in us, so God would have all men of years saved on the condition of faith.2 The first of these is by another name called Voluntas beneplaciti, the last Voluntas signi.

God’s will is:

1. Secret, Voluntas propositi, that whereby he has absolutely, and freely determined with himself what he will do, permit, or hinder, Psal. 36.7. Acts 1.7.

2. Revealed, Voluntas praecepti, that whereby God has manifested what he would have believed, done or lets undone by his reasonable creatures, Mark 3.35. 1 Thess. 4.3. That distinction of God’s will into beneplaciti & signi, differs little from this. Signi is the same revealed. Beneplacitum is the decree properly so called, which may be either hidden or manifest.

It serves, First, to comfort us in adversities: God is a most free Agent, therefore he is not bound to second causes, so as he cannot help without them, Psalm 115.3.

Secondly, To exhort us to Sobriety in our judgement of God’s works. He is a most free Agent, therefore we should not rashly exact of him a reason of his deeds.

1. We should labour, first to know God’s will, so did Eli, 1 Sam. 3.17.
2. Our wills should be taken as pliable to the will of God.

All goodness and truth in the creatures is a conformity cum Archetypo, say the Schoolmen, of truth in the mind of God, and of goodness to the will of God, the first truth and goodness is in him: those passages therefore in some men’s writings had need to be well-weighed, Iuaedam volita quiabona, & quaedam bona quia volita, God wills some things because they are good, as if some things were antecedently good to the will of God. His will is the rule of all goodness, Non ideo volitum quia bonnum, sed ideo bonum quia volitum. The power of grace mainly consists in a ready submission of God.

Reason.

First, Grace is the law written in the heart, Jer. 31.33. when there is a disposition there fruitable to every Commandment, Praesbendo vires efficacissimas voluntati, says Augustine.

Secondly, The highest subjection of the soul to God is the subjection of the will.

He will be obeyed as worshiped, as a God:

1. You are his servants, his will should be subdued to his Master’s ends, he is to have no will of his own.
2. You are said to be married to God, Hos. 2.19. The woman is to subject her will to the husband, Gen. 3.16.
3. Because the act of the will is the act of the man, Actus voluntatis est actus suppositi, Psa 119.30. that is an act of a man, which if he were free he would chose to do, Psal. 40.6.
4. The main power of sin lies inn the will, the blame is still laid upon that, “Israel would have none of me, you will not come to me, that you may have life; I would, and you would not:” “I am bound,” (says Augustine) Meaferrea voluntate.
5. The main work of the Spirit in the omnipotency of it, is seen in subduing the will, Ephes. 1.19. Psal. 110.3.
6. Our sanctification shall be perfect, when our wills shall be perfectly subjected to God, Heb. 12.23.

We should be careful:

1. To do his will cheerfully, speedily, sincerely, constantly; a Christian makes God in Christ his portion, that is his faith; and the word of God his Rule, that is his obedience.
2. Be patient under the hand of God in all afflictions; for nothing can befall us but that which is the good pleasure of our heavenly Father.
3. We should not depart from the Word of God, but make the warrant of all our actions; for there is nothing sin, but what God forbids, and nothing acceptable, but what he commands. A man may with good will, will that which God nills: s if a good Son desire his Father’s life whom God would have die, and one may will with an ill will, that which God wills with a good will; as if all an ill Son should desire his Father’s death, which God also wills.
4. Pry not into the Lord’s secrets, they belong not unto thee, but be wise unto Sobriety.
5. We should be afraid to sin against God, who can punish how he will, when he will, and where he will: God wills seriously the conversion of all men, by the preaching of the Word, Voluntas approbationis, by way of allowance, but not Voluntast effectionis & intenionis, not effectually, bu way of full intention to work it in them. It is one thing to approve and end as good, another thing to will it with a purpose of using all means to effect it. God’s Commandments and Exhortations, show what he approves and wills, to be done as good; but his promises or threatenings show what he intends effectually to bring to pass.

Under God’s will are comprehended affections, which are attributed to God, and are divers motions of his will, according to the diversity of Objects. Yet they are not sudden and vehement perturbations of God as they are in man, rising and falling as occasion serves, but constant, fixed, tranquil, and eternal Acts and Inclinations of the will, according to the different nature of things, either contrary or agreeable to it. There are in man some habitual and perpetual affections, as love and hatred; much more has the Eternal will of God, Eternal affections, whiles it moves itself to the objects, without alteration, imperfection and passion. God is so far affected toward particulars, as they agree or disagree with the universal and immutable notions and Ideas of good existing in God from Eternity: so God hates evil and loves good, both in the abstract and universal Idea, and also in the concrete and particular subject, as far as it agrees with the general.

Edward Leigh, A System or Body of Divinity, (Printed by A.M. for William Lee, at the Sign of the Turk’s-head in Fleet-street over against Fetter-lane, 1652), 197- 200.


 

1I have not included the marginal Latin notes, or the numerous extra Scripture citations.
2What is interesting is that Calvin embraced the language of conditional will, as did Zanchi. When Amyraut spoke of a “conditional decree” he meant “conditional will, pertaining to the revealed will;” c.f., F.P. Van Stam, The Controversy over the Theology of Saumur, 1635-1650 (Amsterdam: APA-Holland University Press, 1988), 132.

 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Martin permalink
    June 4, 2008 4:07 pm

    Thanks for this. I found this a useful and fuller explanation than others I have seen. Would you say this is representative of the early reformed and 2nd generation reformers?

  2. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    June 4, 2008 7:14 pm

    Hey Martin,

    Well thats hard to say. In style and subject ranges no. It reflects the 17thC Protestant Scholastic method as that movement revised and reworked the Medieval Scholastic styles.

    There is nothing comparable in Leigh’s treatment to that in Musculus or Calvin. I haven’t gotten around to reading all of Bullinger’s Common Places yet, so I cant comment there. I will get around to typing out Polanus’ discussion on the will sooner or later. I think Polanus and Leigh will look more alike.

    The content is interesting too. The comment on conditional will was considered bad by Leigh’s time as far as I can tell. But Leigh definitely was his own man. He has gobs of citations from early church fathers, from Testard, Amyraut, as well as the Orthodox. He certainly knew his historical theology.

    Were you thinking of something specific in your question?

    Take care,
    David

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