The Decrees of God

by William Cunningham

from Historical Theology

Having been led to enter upon the consideration of the Arminian controversy by an examination of the extent of the atonement, —because it was most natural and convenient to finish, without turning aside to any other topic, the subject of the atonement, which we had been examining as an important department of the Socinian controversy, —we endeavoured to improve this order in the arrangement of the topics, for the purpose of bringing out more fully the important principle, that right scriptural views of the true nature and immediate bearing and effects of the atonement are sufficient to settle the question of its extent; and of showing also that the doctrine of a limited destination of the atonement— which is commonly reckoned the weakest part of the Calvinistic system— is quite able to stand upon its own distinct and appropriate evidence, without being dependent, for the proof of its truth, merely upon the connection subsisting between it and the other doctrines of the system. Having, in this way, been led to advert to the connection subsisting between the impetration and the application of the blessings of redemption, —to the connection subsisting between the sufferings and death of Christ, and not merely reconciliation, pardon, and acceptance (the blessings which involve or imply a change in men’s state in relation to God and His law), but also those blessings which involve or imply a change in their character, and prepare them for the enjoyment of God, —we have further thought it best, in proceeding with the examination of the Arminian controversy, to finish the subject of the application of the blessings of redemption, or the investigation of what it is that God does in bestowing upon men individually the blessings which Christ purchased for them. Accordingly, we have explained the doctrine of our standards in regard to the work of the Spirit in effectual calling, —the doctrine of special, distinguishing, efficacious, insuperable grace in the production of faith, and regeneration, wherever they are produced, —as opposed to the Arminian doctrine of universal vocation, accompanied by the bestowal upon all of grace sufficient to produce faith and regeneration. The connection of the topics, as forming part of the development of a great scheme for securing the salvation of sinners, has thus been preserved; and some other collateral advantages, arising from the order we have been led to adopt, may appear in the course of the investigation of the subject of predestination, which Λνβ have hitherto reserved, but on which we must now enter.

We have now to consider the important and difficult topic of predestination, which formed the subject of the first of the five points in the original discussions between Calvinists and Arminians, about the time of the Synod of Dort, and in connection with which are usually considered most of those general topics that bear upon all the leading doctrines in regard to which the Calvinistic and Arminian systems of theology differ from each other. The consideration of this great doctrine runs up into the most profound and inaccessible subjects that can occupy the minds of men, —the nature and attributes, the purposes and the actings, of the infinite and incomprehensible Jehovah, —viewed especially in their bearing upon the everlasting destinies of His intelligent creatures. The peculiar nature of the subject certainly demands, in right reason, that it should ever be approached and considered with the profoundest humility, caution, and reverence, as it brings us into contact, on the one side, with a subject so inaccessible to our full comprehension as the eternal purposes of the divine mind; and, on the other, with a subject so awful and overwhelming as the everlasting misery of an innumerable multitude of our fellow-men. Many men have discussed the subject in this spirit, but many also have indulged in much presumptuous and irreverent speculation regarding it. There is probably no subject that has occupied more of the attention of intelligent men in every age. It has been most fully discussed in all its bearings, philosophical, theological, and practical; and if there be any subject of speculation with respect to which we are warranted in saying that it has been exhausted, it is this.

Some, at least, of the topics comprehended under this general head have been discussed by almost every philosopher of eminence in ancient as well as in modern times; and it is to this day a standing topic of reproach against Calvinists, that they teach the same doctrines as the ancient Stoics about fate and necessity. The subject was largely discussed in the church in the fifth and sixth centuries, in connection with the Pelagian and semi-Pelagian controversies. It exercised most fully the subtilty of the schoolmen, many of whom held sounder views upon this subject than might have been expected from the general character and tendency, in other respects, of the theology that then generally prevailed, —a fact which, it appears to me, may be fairly regarded as affording a presumption that Calvinistic doctrines upon this subject are the only ones that can really stand a thorough investigation, even upon philosophical grounds, or as mere subjects of intellectual speculation.

The subject was not much discussed at the era of the Reformation, for the Reformers were of one mind concerning it; and the Romanists did not then openly and formally deny the doctrine which the Reformers taught upon this point, —though they laboured to excite a prejudice against the Reformed doctrine, as making God the author of sin. Protestants, however, soon differed upon this and cognate questions; and it has ever since formed a prominent feature in a large proportion of theological discussions. All that the highest human ability, ingenuity, and acuteness can effect, has been brought to bear upon the discussion of this subject; but the difficulties attaching to it have never been fully solved, and we are well warranted in saying that they never will, unless God give us either a fuller revelation or greatly enlarged capacities, —although, perhaps, it would be more correct to say, that, from the very nature of the case, a finite being never can fully comprehend it, since this would imply that he could fully comprehend the infinite mind.

It is "not practicable, and it would not be at all profitable, to enter at any length into the intricacies of this subject, —into the innumerable speculations which have been put forth concerning it. Here, as in regard to most subjects, the topics which it is most important for us clearly to apprehend and to remember, are just the plainest, the most obvious and palpable, views of the question; and to these, therefore, we will confine our attention.

The subject may be said, in general, to embrace the investigation of the plan which God has formed for administering the government of the world, and especially of His rational creatures, and more particularly for regulating the actions and determining the everlasting destinies of man. The materials to be employed in the investigation are, generally, the knowledge we may possess concerning Gods attributes, character, and ways, —especially any knowledge which He may have Himself directly communicated to us upon these subjects; and the survey of what He actually has done and is doing in the government of the world, —viewed in the light of His word, or in connection with any information He may have given us, as to the principle that regulates His procedure. The subject embraces the investigation of such questions as these: Has God formed a plan for governing the world, —for regulating or controlling the actions, and determining the fate, of His rational creatures? If so, when was the plan formed, what are the principles on which it was formed, and the qualities that attach to it? What provision has He made for carrying it into execution, and what are the principles that regulate the. execution of it, and determine its results? Thus wide and various, thus profound and incomprehensible, are the topics involved in the investigation of this subject; and the slightest reference to their general nature and import should impress upon us the necessity of proceeding in the investigation with the profoundest reverence and caution, —of abandoning all confidence in our own discoveries and speculations, —and of submitting our understandings implicitly to anything which God may have revealed to us concerning it.

Let us, first, advert to the meaning and ordinary application of some of the principal terms usually employed in connection with this subject, and then to the settlement of the state of the question as a topic of controversial discussion. The principal terms employed in describing and discussing this subject are these, —the decrees of God, predestination, election, and reprobation. “The decrees of God” is the widest and most comprehensive of these terms, and describes generally the purposes or resolutions which God has formed, and in accordance with which He regulates His own procedure, or orders whatever comes to pass in the government of the world. That God has, and must have, formed decrees— that is, purposes or resolutions— for the regulation of His own procedure, must be admitted by all who regard Him as possessed of intelligence and wisdom; and the disputes which have been raised upon this subject, respect not the existence of the divine decrees, but the foundation on which they rest, —the properties which attach to them, —and the objects which they embrace.

Predestination, or fore-ordination, is sometimes used in so wide a sense, as to comprehend the whole decrees or purposes of God, —the whole plan which He has formed, —including all the resolutions He has adopted for the regulation of the government of the world; and sometimes it is used in a more limited sense, as including only His decrees or purposes with respect to the ultimate destinies of men, as distinguished from the other departments of His government. It is sometimes used in a still more limited sense, as synonymous with election, or that department of God’s decrees or purposes which respects the salvation of those men who are saved, without including reprobation. Election, of course, describes God’s decree or purpose to choose some men out of the human race to be saved, and at length to save them; while reprobation is generally used by theologians to describe the decrees or purposes of God, whatever these may be, in regard to those of the human race who ultimately perish.

Little more can be said in the explanation of these terms, without entering into topics which belong rather to the state of the question; but, before proceeding to this, we may make a remark or two in illustration of the phraseology employed upon this subject in the standards of our church. The general title of the chapter in the Confession where this subject is stated, —the third, —is “Of God’s Eternal Decree and under this head is embodied a statement of the leading truths taught in Scripture concerning the whole plan and purposes formed by God from eternity, and executed in time, in governing the world, and in determining the everlasting destiny of all His creatures. God’s decree, made  from eternity, is represented as comprehending everything that takes place in time, so that He has ordained whatsoever comes to pass. In proceeding to state the substance of what is taught in Scripture as to God’s decree or eternal purpose, with respect to the destiny of His intelligent creatures, the Confession represents men and angels as equally included in the decree; while it uses a different phraseology in describing the bearing of the decree upon those of them whose ultimate destiny is life or happiness, from what is employed in regard to those of them whose ultimate destiny is death or misery. The result, in both cases, takes place, with respect to angels and to men, by virtue of God’s decree; but one class, —the saved, —both angels and men, are said to be “predestinated” by the decree to life, while the other class are said to be “fore-ordained” by the decree to death. The statement is this: “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory” (the whole sentence being under the regimen of this important clause), “some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others fore-ordained to everlasting death and that the substitution of the word “fore-ordained” for “predestinated” was intentional, and designed to mark a distinction in the two cases, is evident from the words which immediately follow in the fourth section, where, resuming the whole subject, without reference to the different results of life and death, but stating a point common to both, it introduces both words, in order to include both classes, in this way: “These angels and men, thus predestinated and fore-ordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed.” It can scarcely be said that, either etymologically or according to the general usage of theologians, there is any difference of meaning between the words “predestinated” and “fore-ordained;” but Calvinists, in general, have held that there is an important difference between the way and manner in which the decree of election bears or operates upon the condition and fate of those who are saved, and that in which the decree of reprobation, as it is often called, bears or operates upon the condition of those who perish; and the existence of this difference, though without any exact specification of its nature, the compilers of our Confession seem to have intended to indicate, by restricting the word “predestinate” to the elect, the saved; and using the word “fore-ordained” in regard to the rest. The Confession does not make use of the word “reprobation,” which is commonly employed by theologians upon this subject; and the reason of this undoubtedly was, that it is an expression very liable to be misunderstood and perverted, and thus to excite a prejudice against the truth which Calvinistic theologians intend to convey by it. The Confession further says, that “those men who are predestinated unto life, God . . . hath from eternity also chosen or elected in Christ unto everlasting glory;” that “God hath appointed the elect unto glory,” and has also, “by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, fore-ordained all the means thereunto;”— so that they certainly and infallibly attain to eternal life, in accordance with the provisions of the scheme which God has devised for the salvation of sinners. Though the Confession does not use the word “reprobation,” and does not apply the word “predestinate” to those who perish, it teaches explicitly, that, by the decree of God, some men are fore-ordained to everlasting death; and the further explanation given of this subject is, that “the rest of mankind,” — that is, all those not predestinated unto everlasting life, not chosen or elected in Christ, —“God was pleased ... to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice,” — these expressions being descriptive of two distinct acts, which Calvinistic theologians usually regard as included in what is commonly called the decree of reprobation, —namely, first, privteritio, or passing by, which is an act of sovereignty; and, secondly, proedamnatio, which is a judicial act, described in the Confession as “ordaining them to dishonour and wrath for their sin.”

The views generally entertained by Calvinists upon this subject have been, in some measure, indicated by the explanations we have given of the statements of the Confession. But it will be proper to explain them somewhat more fully, and to compare our doctrine with that of the Arminians, that we may bring out exactly the state of the question. The whole controversy may be said to be involved in the settlement of the question as to the nature and properties of the divine decrees.

The doctrine generally held by Calvinists upon this subject is, —as the Confession says, —that God, from all eternity, did freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass, —that is, that He has eternally formed, and does in time execute, a plan for the government of the world, including in it all actions and events; so that every event that takes place comes to pass, as God had from all eternity purposed and arranged that it should come to pass, and because He had so purposed and arranged. If this doctrine about the divine decrees, in general, be well founded, it determines the whole question about election and reprobation, which are included under the decrees. If the ordinary actions of men are fore-ordained by God, of course their ultimate fate or destiny must also, in every instance, have been determined. The Arminians generally hold, that God only foresees all the events and actions that take place, but deny that He fore-ordained them. They admit that He exerted some land or degree of efficiency in actually bringing them about; but deny that, in doing so, He was carrying into effect, in each case, a purpose which He had formed from eternity, and which He had resolved to execute; or that it was His agency that exerted any determining influence in causing them to come to pass. On this subject, the controversy, as usually conducted, is made to turn principally upon what are called the properties or qualities of the divine decrees; for, that God, in some sense, did make decrees, or form purposes, in regard to the way in which He would govern the world, is not disputed, except by Socinians, who deny that He could even foresee future contingent events, which were, in any sense, dependent upon the volitions of responsible beings. And the chief questions usually discussed with reference to the general properties of the divine decrees are these two: —First, Are they conditional or not? Secondly, Are they unchangeable or not?

It seems pretty plain, that if they are conditional and changeable, as the Arminians hold, they cannot, in any proper sense, be the decrees or purposes of a Being of infinite power, knowledge, and wisdom; in other words, the Arminian doctrine amounts to a virtual denial of the existence of divine decrees, in any proper sense of the word. If God has formed plans and purposes with regard to the actual administration of the whole government of the world, and the regulation of man’s actions and fate, —and if these plans or purposes were not conditional and changeable, —that is, if they were not left dependent for their execution upon what creatures might do, independently of God, and liable to be changed or altered, according to the manner in which these creatures might choose to act, —and all this seems to be necessarily involved in all that we know concerning the divine perfections, both from reason and Scripture, —then the substance of all this truth is just expressed in the doctrine taught in our Confession, that “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.”

The foundations of this great doctrine are these: —that unless God left the world, and all the creatures whom He had formed, to rule and govern themselves, altogether independently of Him, He must, from eternity, have formed plans and purposes for regulating its affairs, —for determining and controlling their actions, —that these plans and purposes could not be conditional and changeable, —that is, left to be dependent upon the volitions of creatures, and liable to be changed, according to the nature and results of these volitions, —but must have been formed in the exercise of His infinite knowledge, and all His other infinite perfections, and must therefore certainly and infallibly be in time carried into full effect. These are the topics usually discussed under the head “De Decretis Dei,” taken in its widest sense; and it is manifest, as we formerly remarked, that if the Calvinistic doctrine upon this great general question be established, this settles all the questions bearing upon the subjects of election and reprobation, or the purposes and actings of God with respect to the character and fate of men individually. If God has unchangeably fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass, and if, in point of fact, some men are saved and the rest perish, then it must be true that He has predestinated sonic men to everlasting life, and has fore-ordained others to everlasting death.

It is, however, upon the field of this latter and more limited question that the controversy has been chiefly conducted; and there is no doubt that there are more full and abundant materials furnished to us in Scripture upon this more limited topic, than upon the wider and more comprehensive one of the divine decrees in general, in their bearing upon whatsoever comes to pass. We have seen, in the Confession, what is the doctrine held by Calvinists upon this subject. It is in substance this, —that from all eternity God chose or elected some men— certain definite persons of the human race— to everlasting life; that He decreed or determined, certainly and infallibly, and not conditionally and mutably, to bring those persons to salvation by a Redeemer; that in making this selection of some men, and in decreeing to save them, He was not influenced or determined by anything existing in them, or foreseen in them, —such as faith or good works, —by which they were distinguished from other men, or by anything out of Himself, by any reason known to us, or comprehensible by us; and that this eternal purpose or decree He certainly and infallibly executes, in regard to each and every one included under it; while all the rest of men not thus elected He decreed to pass by, —to leave in their natural state of sin and misery, and finally to punish eternally for their sin.

The Arminians, on the contrary, hold that God made no decree, —formed no purpose, —bearing immediately upon the salvation of men, except this general one, that he would save and admit to heaven all who should, in fact, repent and believe, and that He would condemn and consign to punishment all who should continue impenitent and unbelieving. God having formed this general purpose, and announced it to men, and having sent His Son into the world to remove the obstacles that stood in the way of their salvation, virtually left it to men themselves to comply or not with the terms or conditions He had prescribed, having no purpose to exercise, and, of course, not in fact exercising, any determining influence upon the result in any case.

Some Arminians profess to believe, that God has made, from eternity, fixed and unchangeable decrees, with respect to the eternal condition of men individually. But those of them who, in accommodation to the language of Scripture, choose to adopt this mode of expressing their statements, do not, in reality, hold anything different from the rest; for they make the sole ground or foundation of these decrees or purposes, in regard to the salvation of individuals, God’s foreknowledge of the faith and repentance of some, and of the unbelief and impenitence of others. All that is implied in the election of a particular individual to life is, that God foresees that that individual will repent and believe; and that, on this ground, this being the cause or condition moving Him thereto, God decrees or purposes to admit him to heaven, and to give him everlasting life, —the result being thus determined by the man himself; and God’s decree, with respect to his salvation, being nothing more than a recognition of him as one who would, without God’s efficacious determining interposition, comply with the conditions announced to him. This being all that any Arminians do, or can, admit, as to the bearing or import of any decree or purpose of God, upon the salvation of men individually, those Arminians act much the more manly and consistent part, who deny altogether any decree or purpose of God, with respect to the salvation of men individually.

The fundamental position of the Arminians, at the time of the Synod of Dort, was, that the only and whole decree of election consisted in this, that God had formed a general purpose or determination, that all who should repent and believe would be saved, and that all who should continue impenitent and unbelieving would be condemned, without any reference whatever to individuals, except the bare foresight or foreknowledge of what would be, in fact, the result in the case of each person. A decree or purpose, based or founded solely upon the foreknowledge or foresight of the faith and obedience of individuals, is, of course, the same thing as the entire want or non-existence of any purpose or decree in regard to them. It determines nothing concerning them, —bestows nothing upon them, —secures nothing to them. It is a mere word or name, the use of which only tends to involve the subject in obscurity and confusion: whereas, upon Calvinistic principles, God’s electing decree, in choosing some men to life, is the effectual source, or determining cause, of the faith and holiness which are ultimately wrought in them, and of the eternal happiness to which they at last attain. God elects certain men to life, not because He foresees that they will repent, and believe, and persevere in faith and holiness, but for reasons no doubt fully accordant with His wisdom and justice, though wholly unknown to us, and certainly not based upon anything foreseen in them, as distinguished from other men; and then further decrees to give to those men, in due time, everything necessary, in order to their being admitted to the enjoyment of eternal life, in accordance with the provisions of the scheme which His wisdom has devised for saving sinners.

The Arminians do not well know how to explain the source of the faith and holiness by which some men come to be distinguished, and to be prepared for heaven. They do not venture, as the Socinians do, to exclude God’s agency wholly from the production of them; and they can scarcely deny, that whatever God does in the production of them, He decreed or resolved to do, and decreed and resolved to do it from eternity; and on this account, as well as for other reasons, they are much fonder of dwelling upon reprobation than election; because they think that, in regard to the former subject, they can make out a more plausible case than with respect to the latter, if not in defending their own views, at least in assailing those of the Calvinists. The Arminians at the Synod of Dort wished to begin, under the first article, with discussing the subject of reprobation, and complained of it as injustice, when the Synod refused to concede this demand. The demand was obviously unreasonable; it did not, and could not, spring from an honest love of truth, and it was not fitted to promote the cause of truth; and yet this has been substantially, though not in form, the course generally adopted by Arminians, in stating and discussing this subject. They usually endeavour to excite a prejudice against the doctrine of reprobation, or God’s decree or purpose with relation to those who ultimately perish, often by distorting and misrepresenting the views held by Calivinists upon this subject; and then, after having produced all they can allege against this doctrine, they argue that, as there is no such thing as reprobation, so neither can there be any such thing as election.

Calvinists, on the contrary, usually produce first the evidence for the doctrine of election, and then show, that this doctrine being once established, all that they hold on the subject of reprobation followers as a matter of course. They do not, indeed, regard the doctrine of reprobation as wholly dependent for its evidence upon the doctrine of election; for they believe that the doctrine of reprobation has its own distinct scriptural proof; but they think that the proof of the doctrine of election is quite sufficient to establish all they hold on the subject of reprobation, and that there are much fuller materials in Scripture bearing upon the former subject than upon the latter. It is this last consideration that establishes the utter unfairness of the course usually pursued by the Arminians, in giving priority and superior prominence to the discussion of the doctrine of reprobation. As the Scriptures give us much more information as to what God does in producing faith and regeneration in those who believe and are converted, than as to His mode of procedure in regard to those who are left in impenitence and unbelief, so it tells us much more, with respect to His decrees and purposes with regard to those who are saved, than with regard to those who perish; and if so, we ought, in our investigations into the subject, to begin with the former, and not with the latter, and to endeavour to form our opinion of what is less clearly revealed in Scripture by what is more plainly declared. Calvinists do not shrink from discussing the subject of reprobation, though, from its awful character, they have no satisfaction in dwelling upon it, and feel deeply the propriety of being peculiarly careful here not to attempt to be wise above what is written. They do not hesitate to admit that it is necessarily involved in, or deducible from, the doctrine of election; and they think they can fully prove and defend all that they really hold regarding it. What they hold upon this subject is this, —that God decreed, or purposed, to do from eternity what He actually does in time, in regard to those who perish, as well as in regard to those who are. saved; and this is, in substance, to withhold from them, or to abstain from communicating to them, those gracious and insuperable influences of His Spirit, by which alone faith and regeneration can be produced, —to leave them in their natural state of sin, and then to inflict upon them the punishment which, by their sin, they have deserved.

Some Calvinists have been disposed to go to the other extreme from that which we have just exposed on the part of the Arminians. The Arminian extreme is to press reprobation, as a topic of discussion, into Undue and unfair prominence; the other is, to throw it too much out of sight. Those to whom we now refer, are disposed to assert God’s eternal, unconditional, and unchangeable decree or purpose, electing some men to everlasting life, and effecting and ensuring their salvation; but to omit all mention of His decrees or purposes in regard to those who ultimately perish. This is the course adopted in the seventeenth article of the Church of England, where the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination to life is set forth so plainly, that it is strange that men could have persuaded themselves that the article fairly admits of an Arminian sense, but where nothing is said of what theologians have been accustomed to discuss under the head of reprobation. Whatever respect may be entertained for the motives in which such an omission originates, or for the general character of some of the men who are influenced by them, the omission itself is unwarranted. Every one who adopts the Calvinistic interpretation of those passages of Scripture on which the doctrine of election to life is founded, must admit that there are indications in Scripture— though certainly neither so full nor so numerous— of God’s decrees or purposes with respect to those who perish, as well as with respect to those who are saved. And unless men deliberately refuse to follow out their principles Jo their legitimate consequences, they cannot dispute that the election of some men necessarily implies a corresponding preterition, or passing by, of the rest. And though there is certainly no subject where the obligation to keep t within the limits of what is revealed is more imperative, and none I that ought to be stated and discussed under a deeper feeling of reverence and holy awe, yet there is no reason why, upon this, any more than other subjects, we should not ascertain and bring out all that “is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.” 

In stating and discussing the question with respect to reprobation, Calvinists are careful to distinguish between the two different acts formerly referred to, decreed or resolved upon by God from eternity, and executed by Him in time, —the one negative and the other positive, —the one sovereign and the other judicial. The first, which they call non-election, preterition, or passing by, is simply decreeing to leave, —and, in consequence, leaving— men in their natural state of sin, —to withhold from 'them, or to abstain from conferring upon them, those special, supernatural, gracious influences, which are necessary to enable them to repent and believe; so that the result is, that they continue in their sin, with the guilt of their transgression upon their head. The second— the positive judicial act, —is more properly that which is called, in our Confession, “fore-ordaining to everlasting death,” and “ordaining those who have been passed by to dishonour and wrath for their sin.” God ordains' none to wrath or punishment, except on account of their sin, and makes no decree to subject them to punishment which is not founded on, and has reference to, their sin, as a thing certain and contemplated. But the first, or negative, act of preterition, or passing by, is not founded upon their sin, all perseverance in it as foreseen. Were sin foreseen the proper ground or cause of the act of preterition or passing by, preterition must have been the fate equally of all men, for all have sinned, and, of course, were foreseen as sinners. It is not alleged that those who are not elected, or who are passed by, have been always greater sinners than those who have been chosen and brought to eternal life. And with respect to the idea, that final impenitence or unbelief foreseen might be the ground or cause of the first act of preterition, as distinguished from fore-ordination to wrath because of sin, this Calvinists regard as plainly inconsistent with the scriptural statements, which ascribe the production of faith and regeneration, and perseverance in faith and holiness, solely to the good pleasure of God and the efficacious operation of His Spirit, and with the intimations which Scripture also gives, that there is something about God's decrees and purposes, even in regard to those who perish, which can be resolved only into His own good pleasure, —into the most wise and holy counsel of His will.


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