And, as evils are of two sorts, either the evil of punishment or the evil of sin; so is God's Will of Purpose twofold: effective of the one, and permissive of the other: but in both most certain and infallible.
God's Will of Purpose doth effect and bring to pass the evil of punishment: Amos iii. 6. Shall there be any evil in the city and the Lord hath not done it? For he doth, both in heaven and in earth, whatsoever pleaseth him. Were it not the will of God, the world had never groaned under so many miseries and calamities, as have in all ages befallen it. Now God never enjoins us this as our duty, although he lays them upon us as our burden.
God's Will of Purpose permits the evil of sin, for wise and gracious ends; that he may bring good out of evil. Even those very sins and wickedness, which his Will of Precept forbids, his Will of Purpose permits: for, if God did not will to permit them, there would be no such thing as sin in the world.
Hence ariseth another very remarkable difference:
That we may effectually resist God's Will of Precept, so as to hinder the accomplishment of it: but whatsoever we do so it is our sin; and will, without repentance, be our condemnation. So Stephen accuseth the Jews: Acts vii. 51. you do always resist the Holy Ghost; that is, by your practices you do always go contrary to the commands of God, revealed by his Spirit in his word. And, were it not for this resisting of the will of God, we should be perfectly holy and blameless.
But we cannot resist the Will of God's Purpose, so as to hinder the execution of it; although sometimes to endeavour it, may be so far from sin, as to be our necessary and indispensable duty. For, though it may be the will of God to bring us into poverty or into prison, or to lay sore diseases upon us: yet, it is not only lawful for us, but we are obliged as far as lies in us, to hinder these evils of punishment from befalling us; and to preserve our estates, our liberty, our health, and all our outward comforts, by all lawful and allowed ways and means.
Much more, if God should will to permit a sin in others or in ourselves, are we bound to hinder the commission of it: for, for us to be willing to permit, because God is, though it be a conformity of our wills to God's Will of Purpose, yet this is not our rule to walk by; and it is a wretched rebellion against his Will of Precept, which alone we are to respect in all our actions, and endeavour to conform ourselves unto.
Doubtless, it was God's Will of Purpose, that Christ, the Lord of Life and Glory, should be crucified; but yet the Jews, conforming themselves according to this will, were guilty of the most horrid wickedness that ever was committed in the world: for both these we have confirmed to us, Acts ii. 23. Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain. Although it was by the determinate counsel and will of God, that Christ should be taken and slain; yet, nevertheless, they were wicked hands that were imbrued in that precious and inestimable blood.
And thus I have shewn how the Will of God's Purpose and Precept do differ...But, yet...Although there be this great difference, yet is there no contrariety or repugnance, but a perfect harmony and uniformity between them.
Some have thought, that if God wills such a thing should be done, as, for instance, the crucifying of our Lord and Saviour by his Will of Purpose; and yet wills that it should not be done, by his Will of Precept; that these two wills must needs contradict one another: and this argument some do make no small use of, to explode the distinction of the will of God. But the solution is most easy.
So, in the aforementioned famous instance of the death of Christ: God willed, by his Will of Purpose, that it should so come to pass in all the circumstances of it as it was perpetrated; but then he willed, by his Will of Precept, that it should be their duty not to do it. Now, certainly, there is no contradiction or absurdity, that duty and event may be quite contrary one to the other: unless we could take away all sin, and authorize all the greatest villainies that ever were committed under the sun" (Ezekiel Hopkins, Works).