Of Predestination

by William Ames

1. Because this application of redemption is made to some certain men, and not to all, so that it shows a manifest difference between men in respect to the dispensation of grace, it hence makes the predestination of God concerning men apparent to us in the first place.

2. Predestination indeed was from eternity. Eph 1.4, He chose us before the foundations of the World were laid. 2Tim 1.9, Which grace was given to us before all ages. And it also worked from the beginning of the works of God; but it makes no inward difference in the Predestinate themselves, before the actual dispensation of this application. Eph 2.3, And we were by nature the children of wrath as well as others. 1Cor 6.11, Thus you were indeed. For Predestination, prior to the application of grace, puts nothing in the person that is Predestined, but it lies hidden only in him that Predestines.

3. This Predestination is the decree of God, manifesting his special glory in the eternal condition of men. Rom 9.22-23, Willing to show his wrath and to make his power

known, he suffered with much long suffering the vessels of wrath, prepared for destruction, and to make known the riches of his glory towards the vessels of mercy which he had prepared for glory. 1Thes 5.9, God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain mercy.393

4. It is called destination because it is a certain determination of the order of means to the end. But because God had determined this order with himself, before any actual existence of things, it is not simply called destination, but pre-destination.

5. It is called a decree because it contains a definite sentence to be executed by certain counsel. In the same sense, it is also called a purpose and counsel, because it propounds an end to be attained, as it were, with an advised deliberation.

6. Hence predestination has the greatest wisdom, freedom, firmness, and immutability joined with it, because these are found in all the decrees of God.

7. Therefore the reason for Predestination is unmovable and indissoluble. 2Tim 2.19, The foundation of God stands sure, having this seal: “The Lord knows who are his. And in that respect, he knows the number of the predestined — not only the formal number, or number numbering, as they say (i.e., how many men at length shall be saved, and how many not), but also the material number, or number numbered (i.e., who those several men are). This number is certain with God, not only by certainty of foreknowledge, but also by certainty of the order of means. Luk 10.20, Rejoice that your names are written in the Heavens.

8. For Predestination does not necessarily presuppose either its limit or object as existing, but it makes it exist; so that by the force of predestination, it is ordered that it should be. 1Pet 1.20, Foreknown by Christ before the foundations of the world were laid.394

9. This is why it also depends on no cause, reason, or outward condition, but it proceeds purely from the will of him that predestines. Mat 11.26, Even so, Father, because it pleased you. Rom 9.16, 18, It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows

mercy. He has mercy on whom he will, and whom he will, he hardens.

10. Hence it is not necessary or agreeable to the Scriptures either to appoint any fore-required quality in man, as if it were the formal object of Predestination; or to so assign any certain condition of man that the rest should be excluded. For it is sufficient to understand that men are the object of this decree; so that the difference of the decree does not depend upon man – rather, that difference which is found in men follows upon the decree.

11. In order of intention, there is no fore-knowledge required, nor should any be presupposed for the decree of Predestination, besides that simple intelligence of all possible things. This is because it does not depend on any reason or eternal condition, but it proceeds purely from the will of him that predestines. Eph 1.5, 9, He has predestined us according to the good pleasure of his own will; according to his free good will which he purposed in himself.

12. Predestination is properly an act of God’s Will whereby it is exercised about a certain object, which it determines to bring to a certain end, by certain means. Eph 1.11, We were chosen when we were predestined according to the purpose of him that works all things according to the pleasure395 of his own will.

13. This decree, as it exists in the mind of God, presupposing an act of the will, is called fore-knowledge; from which it comes to pass that fore-knowledge signifies as much sometimes as Predestination, but less properly so. Rom 11.2, He has not cast away his people whom he foreknew.

14. There is only one act of will in God, properly speaking, because all things in him are together; there is nothing before or after; and so there is only one decree about the end and means. But in our way of conceiving it, God in his order of intention wills the end before the means. Rom 8.30, Those whom he predestined, he called — even though in order of execution, he wills the means first, before their direction to the end. 2Thes 2.13, He has chosen us to salvation through sanctification and faith.

15. Some things are the means, and the end, and also the causes of other means. Joh 6.37, Whatever the Father gives me shall come to me, and the one that comes to me I will in no way cast out. Yet they are not causes of the act itself of Predestination, nor of all its effects.

16. There are some means which, by their own nature, are ordered to the end of Predestination. Of this sort are all those things which pertain to the grace revealed in the Gospel; but other things in a certain outward respect are subjected to this order: those that are naturally good or evil things which, above or beyond their nature through the over-ruling direction of grace, work together for our salvation.396

17. Of Predestination there are two kinds, Election and Reprobation [thesis 30].

18. Election is the predestination of some certain men, so that the glorious grace of God may be manifested in them. Eph 1.4-6, He has chosen us, he has predestined us, to the praise of his glorious grace.

19. Election is an act of the will, which in God is only one simple will; yet in our manner of conceiving it, it presents itself (by Synecdoche) by diverse acts.

20. The first act of election then is to will the glory of God’s grace in the salvation of some men. 2Thes 2.13, God has chosen us from the beginning unto salvation.

21. The second act of election is to appoint some certain men who shall be made partakers of this salvation. 2Tim 2.19, The Lord knows who are his.

22. But the proper reason for election is in this second act, which contains these three things in its conception: 1. Love, Rom 9.13.397 2. Love with respect to a supernatural and chief good, Jer 31.3; Eph 5.25.398 And 3. Love by separating some from others, in which, in a comparative way, contains a certain virtual intention of love, Rom 9.13; Joh 17.6; 1Cor 1.27-28.399

23. The third act of election is a purpose or intention to prepare and direct those means by which elected men are certainly led through to salvation as to an end. But these means are properly redemption, and the application of redemption, Joh 6.37; 2Thes 2.13.400

24. This third act in a special respect is called predestination, which in the Scriptures is sometimes distinguished from election, specifically as it respects the elect above, Rom 8.29; Eph 1.4-5. Whom he foreknew, those he also predestined; As he has chosen us; Who has predestined us. Although otherwise, by a synecdoche, it is used in the same sense as election.

25. Hence Predestination is sometimes said to be according to God’s purpose, and the counsel of his will, Eph 1.11; and his purpose according to election, Rom 9.11; and also adoption according to the good pleasure of the Will of God, Eph 1.5.

26. In the mind of God, a certain knowledge particularly accompanies these acts of will in election, whereby God most certainly knows the heirs of eternal life. This is also why election itself is called knowledge or foreknowledge, Rom 8.29. But this knowledge of God retains with greatest firmness the distinct names of those that are to be saved, and the good things appointed for them, as if all were written in God’s Book; therefore it is called the Book of Life, Psa 69.28; Rev 3.5; 13.8.

27. There was only one election in God respecting the whole of Christ mystically considered; that is, of Christ and of those who are in Christ — just as there was one Creation of all mankind. Yet, as a certain distinction, election may be conceived according to reason: Christ was first elected as the Head, and then some men were elected as members in him, Eph 1.4.401

28. Yet Christ is not the meritorious or impulsive cause in respect to the election of men itself, even though sending him has reason to be a cause in respect to all the effects of election which followed sending Christ.

29. Christ himself, in the first act of election,402 as touching the work of redemption, is rightly said to be an effect, and the means ordained for the salvation of man (as the end), as this salvation is the action of God. Joh 17.6, Yours they were, and you gave them to me. Yet as this salvation is our good, Christ is not the effect, but the cause of it. So it may be rightly said in respect to the first act of election, that Christ the Redeemer was the effect and subordinate means; but in the third act of election,403 he is to be considered as a cause. Eph 1.3, He has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the Heavens, in Christ.

30. Reprobation is predestining some certain men, so that the glory of God’s justice might be manifested in them, Rom 9.22; 2Thes 2.12; Jud 1.4.404

31. Three acts are to be conceived in Reprobation, as there were before in election.

32. The first act of reprobation is to will the setting forth of Justice. Therefore the end of God in reprobation is not properly the destruction of the Creature, but upholding the Justice of God, which shines forth in the form of destruction.

33. In this the first difference in reason between Election and Reprobation: for in election, not only does the glorious grace of God have respect to an end, but also the salvation of men themselves; in reprobation, damnation in itself does not have respect to an end, or to good.

34. The second act of reprobation is to appoint those certain men in whom this Justice of God should be made manifest, Jud 1.4.

35. That act cannot properly be called election, because it is not done out of love; nor does it bestow any good, but the privation of it. Therefore it is properly called reprobation, because it rejects or removes those who are its objects from that love with which the elect are appointed to salvation. Therefore, as in election there is love with discerning, so in reprobation there is the denial of love, thus putting a difference between them.405

36. But because this negative setting apart which is found in reprobation, depends on that setting apart which is found in election, the remote end of reprobation is thus the glory of that grace which is manifested in election, Rom 9.22-23. He allowed the vessels of wrath, that he might make known the riches of his glory toward the vessels of mercy.

37. Because of this setting apart whereby God will not communicate blessedness to some, he is therefore said to “hate” them, Rom 9.13. This hatred is called negative or privative, because it denies election; but it includes a positive act whereby God wills that some should be deprived of eternal life.

38. Nonetheless, in this the second difference in reason between election and reprobation is found: that the love in election bestows the good on the Creature immediately; but the hatred of reprobation only denies good; it does not bring or inflict evil. But coming between the two is the desert of the Creature.

39. The third act of reprobation is an intention to direct those means by which Justice may be manifested in the reprobate.406 The most proper means of this are permitting sin, and living in sin, Rom 9.18; 2Thes 2.11-12.407

40. In this act is the third difference in reason between election and reprobation: election is the cause not only of salvation, but also of all those things which are considered a cause for salvation; but reprobation is not properly a cause either of damnation, or of sin which deserves damnation; it is only an antecedent.

41. From this also follows a fourth disparity: the means do not always have respect to a cause and effect among themselves; for the permission of sin is not the cause of forsaking, hardening, or punishing; rather, the cause of these is sin itself.


From The Marrow of Sacred Divinity by William Ames

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