God wills and desires the salvation of all:1

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. Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 3, Q 7, S 3, pp., 63-64.

2) Obj. He who rigorously exacts his right, shuts out every expectation of clemency. God rigorously exacts his right. Therefore with him there is no clemency. Or the objection may be thus stated: He who does not yield any thing in relation to his rights, is not merciful, but only just. God does not yield any thing as it respects his rights, because he punishes every sin with a punishment that corresponds with its just desert. Ana. We deny the minor proposition, because God, although he punishes sin with eternal punishment, does nevertheless yield much as it respects his right. He exhibits great clemency, for instance, towards the reprobate, for he defers the punishment which they deserve, and invites them to repentance by strong and powerful motives. And as to the punishment which he will inflict upon them in the world to come, it will be lighter than they deserved. So he also exercises great mercy towards the faithful, for he has, from his mercy alone, without being bound by any law or merit on our part, given his son, and subjected him to punishment for our sake. We also deny the major proposition, if applied either to him who is endowed with such wisdom that he can discover a method of exercising mercy without violating his justice, or when applied to him who, whilst he executes his justice, does not rejoice in the destruction of man, but would rather that he be saved [Lat. “sed mallet eu esse saluum“]. As a judge, when he passes the sentence upon a robber that he deserves to be put to the torture, and yet does not take pleasure in his punishment, exhibits great equity and clemency, even though he seems to exact the most rigorous demand of the law, so God is far more equitable and clement, although, in his just judgment, he punishes sin, for he does not delight in the destruction of the wicked, (Ez. 18:23; 33:11.) and has also shown his mercy and compassion towards us, by laying the punishment which we deserved upon his own Son. Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 4, Question 11, pp., 69-70. [Note: on this last, the earliest English translation of Ursinus’ commentary has nearly identical wording, even down to, “but had rather he were saved.” The Summe of the Christian Religion, Delivered by Zacharias Ursinus, trans., D. Henry Parry, (London: Printed by Robert Young, 1633), 102.]

3) 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.

4) 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.

5) 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 7, p., 294.

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.

God’s desire as Decree:

1) Obj. It is not necessary that we should desire that which is always done, and which will certainly come to pass, even though we do not pray for it. The will of God is always done, and will most certainly come to pass, even though we do not desire it. Therefore it is not necessary that we should pray that it may be done. Ans. There is in the major proposition a fallacy in regarding that as a cause which is none; for we do not pray that the will of God may be done as if it would not be done, if we did not desire and pray for it, but for other causes, viz. that it may also be done by us, and that the events which God has ordained may contribute to our comfort and salvation. These events will not turn out to our advantage and salvation, unless we submit to the will of God, and desire only that to be done which God has decreed and desires to be done. p, 639.2

2) 2. God is so powerful that it is not possible that anything can be done which he does not simply wish; neither can it be done in a manner different from what he desires; but whatever is done must necessarily be done according to his will and direction. Therefore those things which are daily done, are accomplished according to the will of Almighty God, and so by his providence. p., 150.

God’s precept expressive of God’s desire:

1) There are four classes of things concerning which men give commandment. These are, first, divine precepts, which God desires, that men should propose unto themselves for their observance, not, however, in their own name, but by the authority of God himself, as being the ministers and messengers, and not the authors of these precepts. p., 519-520.

God’s desire as desiderative :

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. p., 54.

God’s Revealed Desire:

1) The example of Christ and of his saints. “The servant is not above his Lord.” (Matt. 10:24.) God also desires that we should be conformed to the image of his Son. We then follow Christ in reproach, and glory. Gratitude requires this; because Christ died for our salvation. Holy martyrs have suffered, nor did they perish under their afflictions.

We ought not to ask for ourselves a better lot than theirs, since we are not better than they, but much worse. They have suffered and have been delivered by God. Let us therefore look for a similar event, because the love of God towards his people is unchangeable. “So persecuted they the prophets, which were before you.” “Resist steadfast in the faith, know ing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” (Matt. 5:12. 1 Pet. 5:9.) p., 75-76.

2) Because God desires to be praised and glorified forever by man. “He hath made us to the praise of the glory of his grace.” “Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain.” (Eph. 1:6. Ps. 89:47.) p., 81.

3) Reply 3. But it is said, “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12.) Therefore God does not promise perseverance, but makes our salvation dependent upon ourselves, which is to make it doubtful. Ans. There is here a fallacy in regarding that a cause which is none; for God, by this exhortation, wishes to nourish, to preserve and perfect the salvation of believers by urging them to their duty, and not to commit their perseverance to their own strength and will. Wherefore, if we now truly believe, we ought certainly to rest assured that God will also preserve us in time to come; for if he desires that we should be assured of his present grace, he will also have us certain of that which is still future, for he is unchangeable. p., 115.

4) The evil of punishment is from God, the author and executioner thereof, not only in as far as it is a certain action or motion, but also in as far as it is the destruction or affliction of the wicked. This is proven, 1. Because God is the chief arid efficient cause of every thing that is good. Every punishment now has the nature of moral good, because it is the declaration and execution of divine justice. Therefore God is the author of punishment. 2. God is the judge of the world, and the vindicator of his own glory, and desires to be acknowledged as such. Therefore lie is the author

of rewards and punishments. 3. Because the Scriptures every where, with one voice, refer the punishments of the wicked, as well as the chastisements, trials and martyrdoms of the saints, to the efficacious will of God. “I, the Lord make peace and create evil.” ” Shall there be evil (that of punishment) in the city, and the Lord hath not done it.” ” Rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Is. 45:7. Amos 3:6. Matt. 10:28.) p., 153.

5) That it might be a memorial of the first Passover, and deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt. God desired that the remembrance of such a great benefit should be preserved among his people, lest their posterity might become ungrateful. “Seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; (for thou earnest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste) that thou mayest remember the day when thou earnest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life.” (Deut. 16:3.) p., 438.

6) It is true, indeed, that the judicial law has been abolished, as well as the ceremonies which belonged to tho Jewish dispensation; but that great distinction which was observed between the members of the Jewish church and others, has not been set aside. There is in the prophecy of Isaiah, a whole sermon directed against the wicked who offer sacrifices unto God; nor did God desire that such persons should offer sacrifices unto him. Hence he does not desire that they should be admitted to the sacraments of his house. His language is, “Bring no more vain oblations,” &c. (Is. 1:13.) But it is said, by way of objection, God desired, yea, also commanded all to celebrate the Passover. We reply that he did indeed command all those who were regarded as members of his people to observe the Passover; but not such as were rebellious, for he expressly commanded them to be excluded from the number of those who stood in covenant relations with him. p., 443.

7) And seeing that God desires to be chiefly honored and praised by us, by invocation and prayer, it follows, lastly, that prayer is likewise necessary, in order that we may properly express our thankfulness to God. p., 465.

8) 7. That we may obtain from God those temporal and spiritual rewards, which, according to the divine promise, accompany good works both in this and in a future life. ” Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” (1 Tim. 4:8.) And if God did not desire that the hope of reward, and the fear of punishment should be moving causes of good works, he would not use them as arguments in the promises and threatenings which he addresses unto us in his word. p., 484.

9) Obj. 2. The Holy Scriptures attribute to God the different members of the human body, and thus declare his nature and properties. Therefore it is also lawful to represent God by images. Ans. There is a difference between these figurative expressions used in reference to God, and images; because in the former case there is always something connected with those expressions which guards us against being led astray into idolatry, nor is the worship of God ordinarily tied to those figurative expressions. But it is different in regard to images, for here there is no such safeguard, and it is easy for men to give adoration and worship to them. God himself, therefore, used those metaphors of himself figuratively, that he might help our infirmity, and permits us, in speaking of him, to use the same forms of expression; but he has never represented himself by images and pictures; neither does he desire us to use them for the purpose of representing him, but has, on the other hand, solemnly forbidden them. p., 527.

10) Obj. 6. All that is necessary is, that men should not, by the preaching of the gospel, have images in their hearts. Therefore it is not necessary that they should be removed from our churches. Ans. We deny the antecedent; because God not only forbids us to have idols in our hearts; but also before our eyes, seeing that he does not merely desire us to be no idolaters, but to avoid even the appearance of idolatry, according as it is said; “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” (1 Thes. 5:22.). p., 534.

11) The preface is contained in the words, Oar Father which art in heaven. This again consists of two parts: a calling upon the true God contained in the words, Our Father, and a description of the true God expressed by the words, Who art in heaven. Christ will have us to pray in this way, because God desires to be called upon with due honor, which consists, 1. In true knowledge. 2. In confidence. 3. In obedience. Obedience comprehends true love, fear, hope, humility and patience. p., 626.

12) Neither ought the magistrate to whom it belongs to inflict punishment, to remit it except for just and weighty reasons; for God desires that his justice and law should be put into execution. This Paul also forgave Alexander in as far as it had respect to him. Yet he at the same time desired that he should be punished of God, in case he would persist in sin. p., 653.

1All citations from the Willard edition of Ursinus’ Commentary.

2Because of the number of these citations, from hereon, only page numbers are supplied.

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    […] on this page being the one in which Ursinus addresses speaking in a wrong way about desires in God: Calvin and Calvinism

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