William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

The Will of God

by Francis Turretin

The will of God necessarily follows his understanding. P

He is the ultimate end and the highest good which he cannot but
will and love, not only as to specifications (that he can will and
love nothing contrary), but also as to exercise (that he never
ceases from willing and loving himself), for he cannot nill his own
glory or deny himself.

The will of God is one and most simple.

Hence have arisen various distinctions of the will of God. The
first and principal distinction is that of the decretive and
preceptive will. The former means that which God wills to do, or
permits himself; the latter what he wills that we should dothe
former cannot be resisted and is always fulfilled (Rom. 9:19)the
latter is often violated by men (Mt. 23:27)

The will of decree may be that which determines the events of
things, but the will of precept that which prescribes man his duty.
Therefore God can (without contradiction) will as to precept what he
does not will as to decree inasmuch as he wills to prescribe
something to man, but does not will to effect it (as he willed
Pharaoh to release the people, but yet nilled their actual release.)

Although the will eurestias belong also the promises of giving
salvation to believers (which are proposed with the Gospel precept),
it does not follow that it ought to connote any condition, decree or
volition (properly so called) concerning the giving of salvation to
all. For such a decree cannot consist with the decree of
reprobation, or with the wisdom of God, to which it is repugnant to
will anything under an impossible condition (and which God, who
alone can give it, has himself decreed to withhold for the

The will of purpose is the will of event and execution.

Although God may be said to will the salvation of all by the will
of sign and to nill it by the beneplacit will, yet there is not
contradiction here. Besides the fact that the universal proposition
is to be understood not so much of the singulars of the genera as of
the genera of the singulars, the former will relates to the mere
approbation of God and the command of duty, while the latter is
concerned with its futurition and fulfillmentthe former denotes
what is pleasing to God and what he has determined to enjoin upon
man for the obtainment of salvation, but the latter what God has
decreed to do.

The fourth distinction of the will is into the secret and revealed.
The former is commonly applied to the decretive will, which for the
most part lies concealed in God; but the latter to the preceptive
will, which is revealed and manifested in the law and the gospel.

Although God is the best, it is not necessary that he should
exercise a good will to all for salvation by an antecedent will
because the exercise of his goodness depends upon his most wise will
(which pities whom it will and whom it wills hardens). Nor if he
wills to pour out his goodness on the creature by the blessing of
creation or providence, ought he to exercise good will to it unto

Whether the will may be distinguished into antecedent and
consequent? We deny. This distinction is in many ways injurious to
God: 1) because it attributes to him contrary wills (viz., that God
wills the salvation of all and wills the salvation of only some);
that from eternity he seriously willed the salvation of Judas and
yet, at the same time and in the same moment, knew that Judas never
would believe; and that he did not will to give faith to Judas by
which he might infallibly have been converted; yea, would even
permit him to remain in his unbelief and to perishGodis never
without the appropriate means to accomplish what he intends.

This distinction cannot have place in God without ascribing to him
not only folly and importance (by making him intend seriously and
desire with natural affection that which is not performed and cannot
be performed through man because he himself does not will it); but
also mutability because there can be no place for the consequent
will until the antecedent is first rescinded. For how could God at
the same time, by the same act of will, will to save all men and to
damn the greater part of them?

It is repugnant to the gospel which constantly teaches that God
wills to save not all simply, but only the elect and believers in
Christ and that the means of salvation are not offered or conferred
upon all, but only upon some. In fine, it overthrows the eternal
election of God because it leaves it uncertain, founded not upon
the good pleasure of God (eudokias) of God, but upon the human will
(than which nothing is more uncertain and changeable). It makes it
such as that no execution can answer to it (i.e., makes it void and

Can there be attributed to God any conditional will, or universal
purpose of pitying the whole human race in sin, of destinating
Christ as Mediator to each and all, and of calling them all to
saving participation of his benefits? WE DENY. Page 395 v1
They [Arminians] lay universal grace or affection of mercy of God
towards the whole human race with an intention to save them.

Further, it must not be concealed that the Reformed theologian
themselves do not here think alike in all things. There are some
who (although agreeing with us in the center of the Pelagian
controversy concerning election wholly gratuitous an the particular
decree about giving faith to these and not to those [as also
concerning efficacious and irresistible calling] and who differ on
this subject from the Arminians) by a certain pious design (as it
seems) of promoting ecclesiastical peace and from a desire of
disputing more strongly with the Remonstrants (although with less
happy success) have adopted certain hypothesis of their, extending
more widely the periphery of grace and defending the universality of
mercy, redemption and calling, while they maintain that God
(impelled by his philanthropy [philanthropia] and mercy to the human
race) decreed from eternity to send his Son into the world, who
having made satisfaction for sin, might acquire by that method
remission of sins and eternal salvation for all, if they would
embrace him through faith and not refuse to become partaker of so
great salvation). Thus they hold that God in a certain manner
willed that all men might equally might be saved, provided they
would believe, but they add that God influenced no more by His
common philanthropy (philanthropia) than by a certain special kind
of love and mercy, elected some from the totality of men (upon whom
he would bestow faith with this intention that he might lead them
most certainly to salvation; so that no more did he will to save
them provided they would believe, but determined to bring them to
faith in order that they might be saved). And for this reason they
maintain that to decrees are here to be principally considered: the
one general (concerning the saving of believers through Christ by
which God determined to have mercy upon all and everyone and to give
Christ as mediator to all and to call all to salvation); the other
special (by which he decreed to call effectually some certain
persons and bestow upon them faith in preference to others). As to
the former, they agree with Remonstrants; as to the latter they
differ from them (cf. Amyrald, Doctinae de gratia
universalidefensio, in Dissertationes Theologcae Quatuor [1645]
and Testard, Erenikon [1633]).


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