William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

The Properties Of God's Decrees Explained

by Thomas Boston

1. They are eternal. God makes no decrees in time, but they were all from
eternity. So the decree of election is said to have been "before the foundation
of the world," Eph. 1:4, "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of
the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love," Indeed,
whatever he does in time, was decreed by him, seeing it was known to him before
time, Acts 15:18, "Known to God from eternity are all His works." And this
foreknowledge is founded on the decree. If the divine decrees were not eternal,
God would not be most perfect and unchangeable. Weak like man, he would have to
change his plans and would be unable to tell every thing that would to come to

2. They are most wise, "according to the counsel of his will." God cannot
properly deliberate or take counsel, as men do; for he sees all things together
and at once. And thus his decrees are made with perfect judgment, and laid in
the depth of wisdom, Rom 11:33, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom
and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past
finding out!" So that nothing is determined that could have been better

3. They are most free, according to the counsel of his own will; depending on no
other, but all flowing from the mere pleasure of his own will, Rom 11:34, "For
who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?" Whatsoever
he decrees to work outside of himself is from his free choice. So his decrees
are all absolute, and there are none of them conditional. He has made no decrees
suspended on any condition outside himself. Neither has he decreed any thing
because he saw it would come to pass, or as that which would come to pass on
such or such conditions; for then they should be no more according to the
counsel of his will, but the creature's will.

God's decrees being eternal, they cannot depend upon a condition which is
temporal. They are the determinate counsels of God, but a conditional decree
determines nothing. Such conditional decrees are inconsistent with the infinite
wisdom of God, and are in men only the effects of weakness; and they are
inconsistent with the independence of God, making them depend on the creature.

4. They are unchangeable. They are the unalterable laws of heaven. God's decrees
are constant; and he by no means alters his purpose, as men do. Psalm 33:11,
"The counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart to all
generations." Hence they are compared to mountains of brass, Zech. 6:1. As
nothing can escape his first view, so nothing can be added to his knowledge.
Hence Balaam said, "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that
He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He
not make it good?" Num 23:19. The decree of election is irreversible: "The solid
foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His,"
2 Tim 2:19

5. They are most holy and pure. For as the sun darts its beams upon a dunghill,
and yet is no way defiled by it; so God decrees the permission of sin, yet is
not the author of sin: 1 John 1:5. "God is light, and in him is no darkness at
all." James 1:13, "God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt
anyone," and verse 17, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or
shadow of turning."

6. They are effective; that is, whatsoever God decrees, comes to pass
infallibly, Isa 46:10 "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure."
He cannot fall short of what he has determined. Yet the liberty of second causes
is not hereby taken away; for the decree of God offers no violence to the
creature's will; as appears from the free and unforced actions of Joseph's
brethren, Pharaoh, the Jews that crucified Christ, etc. Nor does it take away
the contingency of second causes, either in themselves or as to us, as appears
by the lot cast into the lap. Nay, they are thereby established, because he hath
efficaciously foreordained that such effects shall follow on such causes.


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