Archive for the ‘God’s Will for the Salvation of All Men’ Category


William Whately (1583-1639) on God’s Willingness to Pardon All

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


This is of the wideness and largeness of God’s promises to sinners, which are of such an unlimited extent, that they exclude no sinner for no sin, and in no time of coming to him. For in all these respects, are his promises wondrous large and of great extent. I say first they shut not out any sinner, but run in this generality, “Come unto me (all) that are heavy laden, even all, all without any exception, so that whosoever he be that is heavy laden, he sees the gate of God’s goodness standing open to him, wide enough to receive even him also among the rest of sinners. Next he excepts not any sin, but tells us thus, “The blood of Christ purges us from all sin” [1 Joh. 1:7.]. And again, “If your sins were as red as scarlet they shall be as white as snow” [Isa. 1:18.]. And again, “I will blot all his iniquities out of my remembrance” [Ezek. 18:22.], and he bids them pray thus, “Take away all iniquity” [Hos., 14:2], and allowed David to cry and say, “Blot out all mine iniquities” [Psal. 51:9.]. Do you not hear how general these promises be, not narrowed with any exception, but alone to be understood with this qualification of the persons if they be humbled for sin. And in like manner for the time of coming lies not the promise, in the “day that the sinner turns?” [Ezek. 33:12.], meaning when so ever, sooner or later, first or last, so that he turn in truth, you see no time excepted for the grant of pardon of sin. Indeed, in regard of crosses, it may fall out, that a man may seek to God for freedom of them and not find it, but for pardon of sins, he that comes in truth, comes never too late. And here now is the right use of those universal promises, which are set down in Scripture. Godwould have no man perish,’ “but would have all men saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” [ 1 Tim. 2:4.], and “He is a propitiation for the sins of the whole world” [1 Joh. 2:2.], and “He gave himself a ransom for all” [1 Tim. 2:6.], and “He tasted death for every man” [Heb. 2:9.]. Which the Lord has of set purpose conceived in this ample form of words, that there might be sure and certain ground and footing, for the faith of any man whatsoever, that being tired with his sins, does run unto this grace of God in Christ to find help in time of need. Seeing God has not excepted thy person, or thy faults, or thy time of coming, do not thou except thyself, make not the gate of God’s promises scanter or norrower than it is. He has opened both the leaves of these doors as wide as may be, and thinks it not fit to close them up, against any humbled and confessing sinner, at any time: O do not thou put a distrustful hand upon them, to shut them against thyself, but let them stand wide open and enter boldly, and ask mercy, and look for mercy, and find it.

William Whately, The Oyle of Gladdnesse. Or, Comfort for Dejected Sinners (London: Printed by G M for George Edwards, and are to be sold at his house in Greene-Arbour, at the Signe of the Angell, 1637), 94-100. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernize; marginal references cited inline; and underlining mine.]


No grace or gift is bestowed upon any man for this very end, that he may abuse it, but many excellent graces and gifts have been temporally bestowed upon angels and men not-elected with an eternal decree or purpose of God Not to keep them from abusing them, Not to keep them from incurring eternal death by abusing. This is the decree of reprobation which we admit: and if this author1 can rightly infer that, this is contrary to the end and use of God’s gifts, we will subscribe to his conditional election and reprobation. If he hope to infer this conclusion, his premisses must be, Every absolute decree of God to permit the final abuse of any of his good gifts or graces, is contrary to the use or end of bestowing them upon man. But that decree of absolute negative reprobation which we defend is an absolute decree, &c. ERGO, it is contrary, &c. The major proposition will be denied by all judicious Divines, and can never be proved by the Remonstrants. Non institutio bonarei sed exorbitatio reproband est.2

That God wills the good of men in bestowing any good gifts or graces upon them, needed no proof at all: We have always affirmed willing granted this proposition. Yet for the true understanding thereof it must be observed, that when we say this is God’s will, this is God’s aim or intent, these words have not always the same signification. This author by confounding the divers meaning of these and the like words does strangely entangle himself through his whole discourse. For therefore, any thing is said to be according to God’s will, which considered in itself is according to the goodness and purity of the Divine nature. This is a perpetual necessary volition in God, qua deo placet omne bonum. And this simplex complancentia towards3 all good actions of men or events unto men, is possible circa creaturas omnes etiam nunquam futuras: For there is no goodness imaginable, which has not an agreement with the good will of God, which we call amorem simplicus complacentia.4 Satis constat hujusmodi complacentiam dei versari circa pœnitentiam, gratum & gloriam possibilem Iuda ant cujus libert damnati. 2. Secondly, God is said to will, desire, or aim-at that good, for the obtaining whereof he affords fitting means, though withal he wills that it shall be in the liberty of the creature to hinder and frustrate those means, and those he have absolutely decreed to permit the creature to abuse them unto his own destruction. This is that which usually is termed by Divines voluntas antecedens voluntas conditionata, voluntas simplicis complacentiæ. And thus God is said to aim-at or to will and desire the conversation and salvation of those who never shall be converted, justified or saved. Neither must we think that by these means5 God’s omnipotent will is cross, because his voluntas simplicis complantæ is not fulfilled. For the absolute will of God was, that in such persons their own free-will might hinder the good effect of his gifts and graces, which he was absolutely resolved to permit for some greater good. Lastly, there is a will in God strictly and most properly is called voluntas beneplaciti or his absolute will, which is not only a liking of the good willed unto the creature, and an ordering of fit means whereby the creature (if his own free-will hinder not) may attain it; but a merciful decree of so ordering the means and the very will of the creature, that it shall infallibly and unfrustatingly obtain the good end whereunto such means were accommodated. And of this Ruiz truly affirms, Sola hæ c voluntas absoluta simpliciter amplectitur objectum, & ideo sola simpliciter & absolute meritur nomen voluntatis beneplaciti.6 We grant, therefore, that in the second acception7 of the word will God truly wills, likes, desires the repentance, faith, perseverance, and salvation of all to whom the Gospel is preached and Christ offered. But in the last and most proper acception, God wills the perseverance and salvation only of his elect, in whom he never ceases working till the happy effect is produced.

Our Divines at Dort granted a true and serious will in God according to the second acception of the word will, but not according to the last. Which will simplicis complacentæ may stand with absolute reprobation.

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1) There are several instances where Scripture mentions God’s revealed will. In the Lord’s prayer the petition, “Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6: 10) is a prayer that people would obey God’s revealed will, his commands, on earth just as they do in heaven (that is, fully and completely). This could not be a prayer that God’s secret will (that is, his decrees for events that he has planned) would in fact be fulfilled, for what God has decreed in his secret will shall certainly come to pass. To ask God to bring about what he has already decreed to happen would simply be to pray, “May what is going to happen happen.” That would be a hollow prayer indeed, for it would not be asking for anything at all. Furthermore, since we do not know God’s secret will regarding the future, the person praying a prayer for God’s secret will to be done would never know for what he or she was praying. It would be a prayer without understandable content and without effect. Rather, the prayer “Your will be done” must be understood as an appeal for the revealed will of God to be followed on earth.

If the phrase is understood in this way, it provides a pattern for us to pray on the basis of God’s commands in Scripture. In this sense, Jesus provides us with a guide for an exceedingly broad range of prayer requests. We are encouraged by Christ here to pray that people would obey God’s laws, that they would follow his principles for life, that they would obey his commands to repent of sin and trust in Christ as Savior. To pray these things is to pray that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.

A little later, Jesus says, “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Once again, the reference cannot be to God’s secret will or will of decree (for all mankind follows this, even if unknowingly), but to God’s revealed will, namely, the moral law of God that Christ’s followers are to obey (cf. Matt. 12:50; probably also 18:14). When Paul commands the Ephesians to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5: 17; cf. Rom. 2: 18), he again is speaking of God’s revealed will. So also is John when he says, “If we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (l John 5: 14).

It is probably best to put 1 Timothy 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 in this category as well. Paul says that God “desires [or ‘wills, wishes,’ Gk. theleo] all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (l Tim. 2:4). Peter says that the Lord “is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). In neither of these verses can God’s will be understood to be his secret will, his decree concerning what will certainly occur. This is because the New Testament is clear that there will be a final judgment and not all will be saved. It is best therefore to understand these references as speaking of God’s revealed will his commands for mankind to obey and his declaration to us of what is pleasing in his sight.

On the other hand, many passages speak of God’s secret will. When James tells us to say, “If the Lord wills we shall live and we shall do this or that” (James 4:15), he cannot be talking about God’s revealed will or will of precept, for with regard to many of our actions we know that it is according to God’s command that we do one or another activity that we have planned. Rather, to trust in the secret will of God overcomes pride and expresses humble dependence on God’s sovereign control over the events of our lives.  Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 214.  [Italics original;  and underlining mine.]

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4. You are to be fully persuaded of the truth of the general free promise, in your own particular case, that if you believe on Christ sincerely, you shall have everlasting life, as well as any other in the world, without performing any condition of works to procure an interest in Christ, for the promise is universal: “Whoever believes on Him, shall not be ashamed,” (Rom. 9:33), without exception. And, if God exclude you not, you must not exclude yourselves, but rather conclude peremptorily that, how vile, wicked and unworthy you are, yet, if you come, you shall be accepted as well as any others in the world. You are to believe that great article in the Creed, the remission of sins, in your own case, when you are principally concerned, or else it will little profit you to believe it in the case of others. This is that which hinders many broken wounded spirits from coming to the great Physician, when they are convinced of the abominable filthiness of their hearts, that they are dead in sin, without the least spark of true grace and holiness in them. They think that it is in vain for such as they are to trust on Christ for salvation, and that Christ will never save such as they are. Why so? They can be but lost creatures at worst, and Christ came to seek them that are lost. If they who are dead in sin cannot be saved, then all must despair and perish, for none have any spiritual life until they receive it by believing on Christ. Some think themselves to be worse than others, and that none have such wicked hearts as they, and though others be accepted, yet they shall be rejected. But they should know that “Christ came to save the chief of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15); and that the design of God is to “show the exceeding riches of His grace in our salvation,” (Eph. 2:7), which is most glorified by pardoning the greatest sinners. And it is but our ignorance to think ourselves like nobody, for all others, as well as we, are naturally “dead in trespasses and sins;” their “mind is enmity to God, and is not subject to His law, nor indeed can be,” (Rom. 8:7); and “every imagination of the thoughts of their hearts are only evil,” and continually so (Gen. 6:5); they have all the same corrupt fountain of all abominations in their hearts, though we may have exceeded many others in several actual sins. Others think that they have out stayed their time, and therefore now they should find no pace for repentance, though they should seek it carefully with tears (Heb. 12:17). But, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation,” (2 Cor. 6:2), even as long as God calls on you by the gospel. And, although Esau was rejected, who sought rather the earthly than the spiritual blessings of the birthright, yet they shall not be rejected that seek the enjoyment of Christ and His salvation as their only happiness. If you come into Christ’s vineyard at the eleventh hour of the day, you shall have your penny, as well as those that came early in the morning, because the reward is of grace, and not of merit (Matt. 20:9, 10). And here you must be sure to believe steadfastly that Christ and all His salvation is bestowed as a free gift upon those that do not work to procure any right or title to Him, or meetness or worthiness to receive Him, but only “believe on Him that justifies the ungodly,” (Rom. 4:5). If you put any condition of works, or good qualifications between yourselves and Christ, it will be a partition-wall which you can never climb over.

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Jonathan Warne on God’s Will for the Salvation of All Men

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


Thirdly, when God does offer Grace to Men, he doth not immediately infuse his grace into their Hearts, but he works it in them by the Use of Means: Now Reprobates, when as God tenders Grace unto them, do always slight, neglect, and vilify the outward means by which he offers, and conveys his grace; so that if they miss of grace, as they always do, they cannot lay the fault on God; or say, that he intended not to convert them; but they must take the blame upon themselves alone; because if they had used the means with care, with conscience as they ought, and done all that which was requisite on their parts; God would have wrought effectually by his Spirit in their hearts, for ought that they could tell, or think to the contrary.

Fourthly, when God doth seriously invite us to Repentance, to true saving faith; he doth not always peremptorily promise, much less resolve to work this faith, or repentance in our hearts, for then they should be always wrought effectually in us, because God’s purposed, God’s resolved will, is always executed, and cannot be resisted; but he doth only seriously declare what things he doth approve, and require in us, and what course we ourselves must take, if we will be saved: A king may seriously wish and desire, that such a Subject of his were a rich, or honorable person; and withal inform him of the way and means to purchase wealth or honor; but yet he may not purposely resolve to make him such a one. God doth earnestly wish, command and desire, that all men should repent and turn unto him, that none should offend, or sin against him; but yet he hath not eternally purposed to cause them to repent, or to enable them to convert, and not to sin; for most men go on in sin, without repentance; in many things we offend all; and there is no man that lives and sinns not. God may desire something in his revealed will, which he hath not decreed to effect in his secret will: He desires not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should repent and live; yet sinners always die in sin without repentance: He desires that all men should be saved, and that none perish; yet we know, that few are saved, and that most men perish: Since therefore God may command, desire, and require something in his revealed will, which he hath not absolutely decreed to effect in his hidden will, it follows not that God doth therefore resolve to work effectually by his grace in reprobates, when as he offers means of grace unto them, and so he mocks them not.

Jonathan Warne, The Downfall of Arminianism (London: Printed for T. Cooper, at the Globe in Pater-noster-Row; and S. Mason, Bookseller, over-against Love-Lane in Wood-Street, 1742), 99-100. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]

[Credit to Tony for the find.]