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Jerome Zanchi (1516–1590) the Conditional Will of God

October 9, 2009


The third question.

Whether the will of God be simply one, or divers; and if divers, which they be.

The Proposition.

The will of God in divers respects is both and divers.

Divines do make many divisions of the will of God: some divide it into antecedent or consequent, as Damascus, 1.2.c.46, others into the will of his good pleasure, and the will of sign, that is, by which he signifies what his pleasure is: as the Schoolmen, others into his secret and revealed will: others into his absolute and conditional will; others into that which he will do with us, and that which he will have done by us. Others though they seem divers, yet if they be well weighed they all come to the same purpose. But how this will is both one and divers, it is hard to set down. if we take will in any of three acceptations which I mentioned before, it will appear that the will of God is one only, both in efficacy, in act, and in his object. And this will of God is his free, eternal, most wise, and immutable decree, by which he brings every singular creature which he made to their several use and end, by such means as he has appointed: and to permit sins which he neither did not, nor does make, to be in the world; and all for the manifestation of his glory.  I call it a decree, because the Scripture does so: “My counsel or decree,” says the prophet of God, “shall stand, and I will do whatsoever I will,” [Isai, 46:10.]: where counsel and will are joined together as all one.  So the Apostles said that Herod and Pontius Pilate were gathered together, to do whatsoever the counsel of God had determined before to be done “[Act. 4:28]: and Paul calls the will of God concerning the salvation of the elect, predestination [Rom. 8:29]: and when Christ says that a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without the will of his Father [Matt. 10:26.], his meaning is, without his certain, and eternal decree: as also Ioho[?], 6:40, “and who has resisted his will:” his immutable decree. I call it free, because none more free then God, whose decree is therefore called the “God pleasure of his will,[Eph. 1:8]. I said eternal, because look what he now will, he ever would: and we are said to be elected before the foundation of the world: the like may be said of all other things that they were purposed from eternity. I added most wise, because God is wisdom itself: and immutable, because he is without change. I mention every singular creature, because all were made by him, and that very good: and are directed to their several ends: directed, for God does either immediately, or mediately move all things: to their several ends and uses; for there is one use of fire, another of water: one of godly, another of the godless: and therefore they are called vessels of mercy, those of wrath. And these ends are either near or far off: the next end of the wicked is death, of the godly life, the last is God’s glory, who created all things for himself even the wicked against the evil day. And all this God does by such means as he has appointed: his children are elected, but in Christ; called to him, but outwardly by the word preached: inwardly by the Spirit: brought to him by the knowledge of the law and the Gospel:” engrafted in him by faith: sanctified by the Spirit and by good works brought into the possession of eternal life. As for sins, I said he decreed to permit them: for sin as it is sin, and evil as it is evil, God is not the author of it; but as all men confess permitted it, not unwillingly, but willingly; and therefore it was the eternal decree and will of God to permit the same. The end of all I said to be the glory of God, all things which God either has willed or does will, are comprehended under this eternal decree and will, the which if it were not one but divers the Scripture would not ever speak of it in the singular number, and term it counsel, good pleasure, will: but would sometimes use the plural number, as they do not: nay God would not ever command us to do his will, that is, his commandments: neither should it be said that all things are governed according to his will, as one, but as many:” so then though God will not all things after one sort, but some things for himself as that which is good’; others for other respects as those things which are evil: some absolutely as whatsoever he will; others conditionally as that which he promises, if we do this or that, yet if we consider God who wills we shall see that his decree or will is one only, by which he wills whatsoever he will.

Nevertheless in the two respects is this will said to be manifold. First in respect of the manifold sorts of things which God will. For hence it is that both that is called the will of God which he has towards us, and that all graces which he bestows upon us to eternal life and all those promises which in Christ are yea and amen: the second which we must have towards him, and he will have us perform, is set down in the moral law, and in the Gospel: the one commanding us obedience, the other confidence in the merits of Christ. The one is called the will of God in the Old Testament, “Do this and thou shalt live:” of which David says, “Teach me to do thy will” [Psal. 143:10]: And the Apostle to the Jews, “thou know his will,” [Rom. 2:18]. The other is called his will in the New Testament, “Believe and thou shall be saved without the works of the law.” Of this Christ says, “This is the will of my Father, that he which sees the Son and believes in him, shall have eternal life,” [Joh. 6:4.]. Thus in respect of divers things the will of God is divers; yea and we shall read that several commandments of God are called for this cause, wills in the plural number.

Secondly it is divers in respect of divers sorts of manners by which he seems to will those things which he will. For he wills good after one sort even for himself, evil after another, and for another respect then for itself, to wit, for the good may come of it: that is called his good will; for this his permissive will, or voluntary permission. Again he wills some things simply, as to create the world, save the elect, send his Son, &c., others he wills conditionally, as if all men will be saved they must keep the commandments; or believe in Christ: and so some do interpret that place, “God would have all men to be saved.” His absolute will, say some, is ever done, his conditional will is not, but when the condition is performed: and therefore both these wills have divers names amongst divines. The first is called voluntas beneplaciti, the will of his good pleasure, because it simply so pleases God that this or that shall be done, which is properly his will: the other is called voluntas signi, the will of sign: because that precepts and promises with condition observing them, are signs that God will do so, though always and in all things he simply will not that which he commands, or promises: as we may see both in Abraham and Pharaoh. He commanded Abraham to kill his son, and it was a sign he would have had him done so, because he commanded: yet God would not that he should do it, for he forbad him, and he did it not: and this was the will of his good pleasure. He commanded Pharaoh to let Israel go: but he would not have him do so, for he hardened his heart lest he should let them depart: yet his commandment was a sign of his will, but such as one as Ludovieus Vives says, is improperly called his will.

Again, the absolute will of God is called his consequent or following will: and is concerning all those things which come to pass, and are done: the which is called a consequent or following will, because it sill following upon our obedience or disobedience, and is seen in the mercy or anger of God. But in very truth as it is the decree of God either to save one through faith, or condemn another through disobedience and infidelity, it goes before man’s both obedience and disobedience. As for the conditional will of God it is called his antecedent or forgoing will, because that God before he either blesses or curses any, sends before his commandments, as heralds, by which he signifies what he likes of; and after adds threats and promises, by which he declares how he will reward man’s both obedience and disobedience: yet even that also which follows upon our obedience or disobedience, God had determined and decreed absolutely before: and therefore is called of some his consequent will, because it is of such things as infallibly come to pass. Thirdly, Augustine calls God’s absolute will, his most omnipotent, effectual, and invincible will, because it is ever done: but his conditional ineffectual will, because it is not done; depending upon such conditions as we do not perform. See August. Enchirid. ad Lauren. c. 102. 103. Last of all the will of absolute is called secret; conditional revealed. It is called secret not because it is not revealed, but because till it be revealed we know it not, and when it is revealed we know not the cause of it.

[Girolamo Zanchi] Live Everlasting: Or The True Knowledge of One Iehova, Three Elohim and Jesus Immanuel: Collected Out of the Best Modern Divines, and compiled into one volume by Robert Hill, ([Cambridge:] Printed by Iohn Legat, printer to the Vniuersitie of Cambridge. And are to be sold [in London] at the signe of the Crowne in Pauls Church-yard by Simon Waterson), 250-253. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; side-headers included; and underlining mine.]

[Notes: Worldcat and Wing identify this as as: “Largely a translation and abridgement of Zanchi, Girolamo. De natura Dei. Zanchi is identified in the side-note on page 655—STC…” I have inserted Zanchi’s name in the title as a reflection that because: 1) as noted, this is largely a translation of Zanchi’s work; 2) because it quite probably does reflect Zanchi’s theology; 3) because Wing attributes the authorship to Zanchi, and Hill as the translator; and 4) from the opening “Epistle Dedicatory” (3rd page) Hill identifies a work by Zanchi as the principal text upon which this work is based. Lastly, I actually suspect this is a much more reliable translation than Toplady’s briefer translation from the same work.]

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