The Decrees of God

William Ames (1576-1633)
by Dr. William Ames

1. In the exercise of God’s efficiency, the decree of God comes first.  This manner of working is the most perfect of all and notably agrees with the divine nature.

2. The decree of God is his firm decision by which he performs all things through his almighty power according to his counsel. Ephesians 1:11, “He does all things out of the counsel of His own will.”

3. God’s constancy, truth, and faithfulness appear in His decree.

7. Every decree of God is eternal, 1 Corinthians 2:7, “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:”

9. The counsel of God is, as it were, his deliberation over the best manner of accomplishing anything already approved by the understanding and the will.

10. Counsel is attributed to God because of his perfect judgment whereby he does all things advisedly, i.e. willingly and knowingly, not as a result of inquiry as men make judgments.  For God sees and wills all things and everything at once.  Therefore his counsel is said to resemble deliberation in the strict sense.

11. Three things concur in the perfection of this counsel: one, the purpose [scopus] or the end set forth; two, the mental conception of that end; three, the intention and agreement of the will.

12. The purpose or end of the counsel is the glory of God himself, i.e. the goodness or perfection of God which is manifest in his efficiency and shines forth in his works.   Ephesians 1:6, “To the praise of his glorious grace.”

17. An idea in man is first impressed upon him and afterwards expressed in things, but in God it is only expressed, not impressed, because it does not come from anywhere else.

18. >From this one foundation all errors of merit and foreseen faith can be substantially refuted.  For if a particular decree of God depended upon any foresight then an idea of God would have to come to him from somewhere else, which hardly agrees with his nature.

31. That conjectural knowledge which some attribute to God about future contingencies is plainly incompatible with the divine nature and perfection.

32. The good pleasure of God is an act of the divine will freely and effectively determining all things.

37. This will is effectual, because whatever he wills he effects in his own time; neither is there anything not done if he wills it to be done. Psalm 115:3; 135:6, “Whatsoever he pleases, the Lord does.”

38. The will of God is therefore the first cause of things, Rev. 4:11, “By thy will they are and were created.”  The will of God as it works outwardly does not presuppose the goodness of the object; but he creates and disposes by willing, James 1:8, “Of his own will he begat us,” Romans 9:18, “He has mercy on whom he will.”

48. In whatever God wills he is universally effectual; he is not hindered or frustrated in obtaining what he wills.  For if he should properly will anything and not attain it he would not be wholly perfect and blessed.

51. In the things which God wills there is a certain order to be conceived.  He wills the end before the means to the end because he works according to the most perfect reason.  Among means, he wills first those which come nearest to the end; that which is first in order of execution is last in order of intention and vice versa.

52. The will of God is partly hidden and partly revealed, Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

One Response to “The Decrees of God”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Even if we don’t use “covenant of works” language, we still have an opinion
    about Adam’s pre-fall state. Was Adam upheld by works or by grace, or by a combination? Was Adam righteous, but not yet justified (never having had
    any sin to be justified from)? If Adam hadn’t done some positive dominion work, would that failure have been sin, and would he have lost his righteousness?

    I am still thinking through these questions. I know the sin of Adam was
    already predestined. Therefore I don’t talk about “would have and could
    have”. I see no law-promise to Adam that Adam could get himself off the law
    by doing the law, that after a time the probation would end. I see no
    grace-promise either, and think that Adam was continually under law, obligated not to sin, with his only hope his work.

    To get to the parallel with Christ, we who are saved by grace are saved by
    Christ’s work. God’s justice demands the salvation of all for whom Christ did the work of redemption.

    There can be no mixture of law and grace. Romans 11:6 if grace, then not works; if works, then not grace.

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