John Cameron (1579-1625) on the Order of the Decrees

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in God who Ordains


This matter stands thus in my view. In God, ther are two kinds of perfections and propertys, (I speak after our narrow way of considering God,) from which as many kinds of actions proceed. Ther are some divine perfections and propertys, wherof the actions or excercises require not only ane object and matter upon which they are to work, but also certain qualitys and dispositions. For instance, the divine justice and mercy. For justice, whether vindictive or remunerative, not only goes upon a person, but a person so and so affected and situated; vindictive supposes sin, remunerative according to the law supposes a person free of sin. Again, mercy, as it pardons sin, requires in its object faith and repentance. Ther are other propertys or perfections in God, quhich,1 in the excercise of them, either require no object at all, or, if they suppose an object, yet they do not require any conditions or qualifications, such as the divine power and wisdom, quhich displayed themselves in the creation of the world. These did not suppose, but made their object. And in the restoration of a fallen world, although those perfections have an object,–man dead in trespases and sins, or rather the actions coming from those, for example, the effectuall call,–those perfections and actions do not require any condition in the object, but they constitute the condition and qualification in the object, to wit, faith and repentance. From quhich it is plain, that those last kind of actions are merely and every way free, en no condition or qualification is required in the object, but quhat2 is wrought and given; and God may do them, or not do them. The first kind of actions, indeed, are in God free; but not so, but [that is, as if] God certainly must do them. That is, God could creat or not create the world, restore a fallen creature or not restore him. But when he exerts justice or mercy, its necessary ther be some conditions and qualifications according to which he must proceed. Accordingly, ther are two kinds of decrees, one of them requires a condition, the other not. Those may be termed conditional, and the last absolut. Upon the first sort depends justification, and so that requires necessarily faith and repentance. On the last sort hangs effectuall calling, and that requires no conditions and dispositions. But then the divine propertys, actions, and decrees of the last kind subserve, as it wer, to the propertys, actions, and decrees of the first kind, and prepare and constitute their object. And the propertys, actions, and decrees of the first kind are taken up about the object already constitute and prepared for them. The first decree, then, is to restore the divine image upon the creature, in a way wherein the rights of justice may be safe. The second is to send God’s Son into the world to save every one who believes in him, that is, are his members. The third is to render men fit and able to believe. The fourth is to save those who believe. The first two are generall, the last two speciall and particular. In our method of considering things, the principall are before the less principall. The generall ones are prior to the speciall and particular. Since, therfor, the restoring of the divine image, in a consistency with justice, is the principall thing, I have given it the first room. And since it may be considered two ways, generally, so that if one would say, God wills to restore the human race in a consistency with justice, he tells the thing, but not the manner of it–or more specially, as if any should say, God willeth, by his Son crucifijed and raised from the dead, to restore the human race, then he not only signifyes the thing, but the manner of it; yet because this is a speciall designation of the thing, it comes in the second room to be considered in God. The third and the fourth decrees are not only speciall, but have a relation to individuals and single persons, and yet not without an order. For God considers man first as believing, and then as to be saved; and therefore in the decree faith is before salvation. The third decree, then, to make men able and fit to believe, goes befor the fourth. But all this is to be understood as spoken of God, in a way accomodated to the infirmity of the human mind.

Cited from, Robert Wodrow, Collections Upon the Lives of the Reformers and Most Eminent Ministers of the Church of Scotland (Glasow: Edward Khull, Printer to the University, 1845), 2:179-181. [Spelling original; formatting original; bracketed inserts original; and footnotes mine.]


1Archaic form of “which.”

2Archaic form of “what.”

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