For a brief and concise explanation of this essential subordination of the decree of reprobation to the decree of election we can do no better than to quote from the mimeographed Dogmatics of the Rev. H. Hoeksema., He writes, “Theology,” page 201, ff.: 

“We therefore place ourselves without reservation on the standpoint of supralapsarianism, and maintain that it is the Scriptural and the only consistent presentation of the decree of God’s predestination. But we would like to modify this supralapsarian view in such a way that it is in harmony with our organic conception of things. We must emphasize not so much what is first or last in the decree of God, but much rather place ourselves before the question: what in those decrees is conceived as purpose, and what as means? What is the main object in those decrees, and what is subordinate and subservient to that main object? In this way we first of all escape the danger to leave the impression that there after all is a temporal order in the decrees of God. And in the second place, according to our way of presenting the doctrine of predestination we may open the way to find an answer to the question: why is there a reprobation? It is true that supralapsarians give a partial answer to this question, when they assert that God also has willed the ungodly for His own name’s sake and to the manifestation of His righteousness, justice, power, and wrath. But this is by no means the final answer that may be given to this question; nor does it satisfy us, for in this way we still cannot escape the impression that there is arbitrariness in God. The reprobate are evidently not necessary to reveal God’s power and wrath and righteousness; for these virtues certainly never came to a clearer, more definite revelation than at the cross of Jesus Christ. He certainly satisfied the justice and the righteousness of God and bore all His wrath. 

“We, therefore, would like to present the matter of God’s counsel of predestination as follows. God conceived and willed all things in His eternal decree for His own name’s sake, that is, to the glory of His name and the reflection of His divine virtues and life. And as the highest in God is His own covenant life, He willed to establish and to reveal. His covenant in Christ; and all other things in the counsel of God are related to that main purpose of God as means. Hence, we obtain the following order: 1) God wants to reveal His own eternal glory in the establishment of His covenant. 2) For the realization of this purpose the Son becomes Christ, the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature, that in Him as the first begotten of the dead all the fullness of God might dwell. 3) For that Christ and the revelation of all His fullness the Church is decreed, and all the elect. In the decree of God Christ is not designed for the Church, but the Church for Christ. The Church is His body, and serves the purpose to reveal the fullness there is in Him. 4) For the purpose of realizing this Church of Christ, and, therefore, the glory of Christ, the reprobate are determined as vessels of wrath. Reprobation serves the purpose of election as chaff serves the ripening of the wheat. This is in harmony with the current thought of Scripture, and we find it expressed literally in Isaiah 43:3, 4; ‘For I am the Lord thy God, the holy one of Israel, thy Savior: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee; therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.’ 5) Finally, in the counsel of God all other things in heaven and on earth are designed as means to the realization of both election and reprobation, and therefore of the glory of Christ and His Church. And because in the decree of God all things are conceived in this manner, therefore all things must work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose. And in this light we can also understand Scripture when it teaches us, as in I Cor. 3:21-23, that all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” 

This same view is worked out in great detail in the “Christology” of the Rev. H. Hoeksema, pp. 3-84, in his thorough discussion of the “Pactum Salutis,” (Counsel of Peace). In this connection we take just a few statements, in order to show that the author does by no means coordinate election and reprobation. We quote from page 80: 

“Hence, in God’s decree of the covenant and upon His election of the Christ follows immediately the election of the church. Reprobation is indeed immediately connected with election, but cannot be placed with election on a par. Reprobation follows upon election and the former serves the latter. (Italics mine, H.C.H.). It has its motive in the divine will to realize the covenant in the antithetical way of sin and grace. For the fullness of the godhead dwells in the resurrected Christ. From the depth of misery and death Christ enters into the glory of the full covenant life of God. And this way from suffering to glory, from sin to righteousness, the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven, from death into life; also the church must follow. And in following this way the reprobate shell of the human organism serves the church in Christ. In the shell of reprobation the elect kernel becomes ripe. For that reason reprobation cannot be put on the same line with election. Election is the divine foreordination of the one church with its millions of elect unto salvation of the life of God’s covenant in Christ. The church serves Christ. The elect church is given to Christ as His body. She must serve to manifest and radiate in a thousand-fold way the glory that is in Christ Jesus, which is the glory of God . . . . .” 

This is, of course, the view which some delight to characterize as “super supralapsarianism,” but which may more properly be called a “modified supralapsarianism.” And to a large extent, though not exclusively, that modification consists exactly in the fact that this form subordinates, rather than coordinates, reprobation to election. We freely grant that it is not the view of the Canons. We also insist that it is not contradictory of the Canons, and that historically supralapsarianism was not condemned by Dordrecht, simply because it was not an issue there. Dordrecht was rather non-committal on the issue, though indeed it had the opportunity to condemn certain supra expressions, but refused. 

In the light of this conception of reprobation it may be said with even stronger emphasis: “What peculiarly tends to illustrate and recommend to us the eternal and unmerited grace of election, is the express testimony of sacred Scripture, that not all, but some only are elected.” For in this light we not only see our election against the background of the fact that some are sovereignly not elected, though we are no different than they in ourselves. But we behold much more richly the eternal and unmerited character of the grace of election that us, in whom could never be found the reason for the divine choice, He has nevertheless chosen to make the objects of His covenant friendship, to include in His wonderful purpose, while the others, reprobate, He has determined not to give a place in that purpose, but instead to employ them as vessels of wrath as so many means to the realization of His purpose of our salvation. What wondrously free grace that is! Well may we ever acknowledge, when we behold them whom God has from eternity and sovereignly determined to be vessels of wrath and to employ them as mere means to the realization of His purpose: “There, but for the eternal and unmerited grace of God, go I. For it is not of myself that He chose me. Of myself I would never have shown anything else than utter unworthiness to be one of His chosen ones. But it was of His free, absolutely sovereign grace. Glory to His name alone!” 

The final element in this article concerning reprobation is the assertion that this doctrine by no means makes God the author of sin, the very thought of which is blasphemy; but that this doctrine certainly does declare, God to be an awful, irreprehensible, and righteous judge and avenger of sin. In general we make the following remarks concerning this statement:

1) In the first place, it is directed against the Arminians. For it was the Arminians who cast this accusation in the teeth of those who wanted to maintain sovereign reprobation. In this connection we may note too that it is only against the Reformed man, who maintains that reprobation is sovereign, that this accusation is ever brought. Against anyone else the accusation simply does not fit. For only when you teach that the fact of sin is sovereignly included in the counsel of God do men come with the charge that you make God the author of sin. 2) In the second place, this statement is simply a denial. Dordrecht casts the accusation for away, as a blasphemous suggestion. We may not even consider that God might ever be the author of sin. The very opposite is true: God is the judge and avenger of sin. 3) In the third place, it is not true that this is peculiarly the property of infralapsarianism. Also infra includes the fact of sin and the fall in the sovereign counsel of God, even when it speaks of God’s “permissive will.” And also infra must face this accusation, as is plain from this very 15th Article. But also supra emphatically maintains: “The very thought that God might be the author of sin is blasphemous.” 

In explanation of this statement of the Canons,—an explanation which the fathers do not trouble to make at this point,—we may bear in mind the following. God created man, and therefore also conceived of man in His counsel, as a rational, moral, responsible being. The question of the authorship of any deed, good or evil, concerns this rational, moral, responsible nature of man. As long as this rational; moral creature is not touched in his spiritual, ethical existence, and thus compelled to do certain deeds by an outside force, that creature is morally free, and therefore from an ethical point of view the cause of his own actions. Man’s sinful deeds are always such rational, moral actions, performed according to the determination of his own will. He wants to sin. He is the author of his own sin, even though God remains on the throne and sovereignly controls also the moral actions of that sinful man. God hates sin; the sinner loves it. And man indeed chooses sin, while God rules and controls also that choosing man, and realizes His own counsel. And therefore, we may say in the second place, that while God is certainly not the author of sin, God has sovereignly determined that man shall be the author and the cause of his own sin. Unless this is maintained, the entire concept of God’s sovereign counsel is destroyed. 

And therefore let it be well understood: we who maintain a sovereign decree of reprobation consider it blasphemy to consider that God is the author of sin. He is the infinitely holy one. Instead, we maintain that this very decree of reprobation declares God to be the awful, unblameable, and righteous judge and avenger of sin. Our God is a consuming fire!