Creation, Providence and Redemption, which is the execution of the decrees.
The decrees are the first operation of the attributes, and the first manifestation of personality of which we have any knowledge within the Godhead. They presuppose those essential acts or movements within the divine nature which we call generation and procession. They involve by way of consequence that execution of the decrees, which we call Creation, Providence and Redemption, but they are not to be confounded with either of these.
(g) The decrees are therefore not addressed to creatures; are not of the nature of statute law; and lay neither compulsion nor obligation upon the wills of men.
So ordering the universe that men will pursue a given course of action is a very different thing from declaring, ordering, or commanding that they shall. ?Our acts are in accordance with the decrees, but not necessarily so ? we can do otherwise and often should? (Park). The Frenchman who fell into the water and cried: ?I will drown, ? no one shall help me!? was very naturally permitted to drown; if he had said: ?I shall drown, ? no one will help me!? he might perchance have called some friendly person to his aid.
(h) All human acts, whether evil or good, enter into the divine plan and so are objects of God?s decrees, although God?s actual agency with regard to the evil is only a permissive agency.
No decree of God reads: ?You shall sin.? For
(1) no decree is addressed to you,
(2) no decree with respect to you says shall and
(3) God cannot cause sin, or decree to cause it. He simply decrees to create, and himself to act, in such a way that you will, of your own free choice, commit sin. God determines upon his own acts, foreseeing what the results will be in the free acts of his creatures, and so he determines those results. This permissive decree is the only decree of God with respect to sin. Man, of himself, is capable of producing sin. Of himself he is not capable of producing holiness. In the production of holiness two powers must concur, God?s will and man?s will, and God?s will must act first. The decree of good, therefore, is not simply a permissive decree, as in the case of evil. God?s decree, in the former ease, is a decree to bring to bear positive agencies for its production,
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