Sect. LXXVI.—THE Diatribe, having thus first cited numberless passages of Scripture, as it were a most formidable army in support of “Free-will,” in order that it might inspire courage into the confessors and martyrs, the men saints and women saints on the side of “Free-will,” and strike terror into all the fearful and trembling deniers of, and transgressors against “Free-will,” imagines to itself a poor contemptible handful only standing up to oppose “Free-will:” and therefore it brings forward no more than two Scriptures, which seem to be more prominent than the rest, to stand up on their side: intent only upon slaughter, and that, to be executed without much trouble. The one of these passages is from Exod. ix. 13, “The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh:” the other is from Malachi i. 2-3, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Paul has explained at large both these passages in the Romans ix. 11-17. But, according to the judgment of the Diatribe, what a detestable and useless discussion has he made of it! So that, did not the Holy Spirit know a little something of rhetoric, there would be some danger, lest, being broken at the outset by such an artfully managed show of contempt, he should despair of his cause, and openly yield to “Free-will” before the sound of the trumpet for the battle. But, however, I, as a recruit taken into the rear of those two passages, will display the forces on our side. Although, where the state of the battle is such, that one can put to flight ten thousand, there is no need of forces. If therefore, one passage shall defeat “Free-will,” its numberless forces will profit it nothing.
Sect. LXXVII.—IN this part of the discussion, then, the Diatribe has found out a new way of eluding the most clear passages: that is, it will have that there is, in the most simple and clear passages, a trope. And as, before, when speaking in defence of “Free-will,” it eluded all the imperative and conditional sentences of the law by means of conclusions tacked, and similitudes added to them; so now, where it designs to speak against us, it twists all the words of the divine promise and declaration just which way it pleases, by means of a trope which it has invented; thus, being everywhere an incomprehensible Proteus! Nay, it demands with a haughty brow, that this permission should be granted it, saying, that we ourselves, when pressed closely, are accustomed to get off by means of invented tropes: as in these instances:—“On which thou wilt, stretch forth thine hand:” (Ex. viii. 5,) that is, grace shall extend thine hand on which it will. “Make you a new heart:” (Ezek. xviii. 31,) that is, grace shall make you a new heart: and the like. It seems, therefore, an indignity offered, that Luther should be allowed to give forth an interpretation so forced and twisted, and that it should not be far more allowable to follow the interpretations of the most approved doctors.
You see then, that here, the contention is not for the text itself, no, nor for conclusions and similitudes, but for tropes and interpretations. When then shall we ever have any plain and pure text, without tropes and conclusions, either for or against “Free-will?” Has the Scriptures no such texts anywhere? And shall the cause of “Freewill” remain for ever in doubt, like a reed shaken with the wind, as being that which can be supported by no certain text, but which stands upon conclusions and tropes only, introduced by men mutually disagreeing with each other?
But let our sentiment rather be this:—that neither conclusion nor trope is to be admitted into the Scriptures, unless the evident strife of the particulars, or the absurdity of any particular as militating against an article of faith, require it: but, that the simple, pure, and natural meaning of the words is to be adhered to, which is according to the rules of grammar, and to that common use of speech which God has given unto men. For if every one be allowed, according to his own lust, to invent conclusions and tropes in the Scriptures, what will the whole Scripture together be, but a reed shaken with the wind, or a kind of Vertumnus? Then, in truth, nothing could, to a certainty, be determined on or proved concerning any one article of faith, which you might not subject to cavillation by means of some trope. But every trope ought to be avoided as the most deadly poison, which is not absolutely required by the Scriptures itself.
See what happened to that trope-inventor, Origen, in expounding the Scriptures. What just occasion did he give the calumniator Porphery, to say, ‘those who favour Origen, can be no great friends to Hieronymus.’ What happened to the Arians by means of that trope, according to which, they made Christ God nominally? What happened in our own times to those new prophets concerning the words of Christ, “This is my body?” One invented a trope in the word “this,” another in the word “is,” another in the word “body.” I have therefore observed this:—that all heresies and errors in the Scriptures, have not arisen from the simplicity of the words, as is the general report throughout the world, but from men not attending to the simplicity of the words, and hatching tropes and conclusions out of their own brain.
For example. “On which soever thou wilt, stretch forth thine hand.” I, as far as I can remember, never put upon these words so violent an interpretation, as to say, ‘grace shall extend thine hand on which soever it will:’ “Make yourselves a new heart,” ‘that is, grace shall make you a new heart, and the like;’ although the Diatribe traduces me thus in a public work, from being so carried away with, and illuded by its own tropes and conclusions, that it knows not what it says about any thing. But I said this:—that by the words, ‘stretch forth thine hand,’ simply taken as they are, without tropes or conclusions, nothing else is signified than what is required of us in the stretching forth of our hand, and what we ought to do; according to the nature of an imperative expression, with grammarians, and in the common use of speech.
But the Diatribe, not attending to this simplicity of the word, but with violence adducing conclusions and tropes, interprets the words thus:—“Stretch forth thine hand;” that is, thou art able by thine own power to stretch forth thine hand. “Make you a new heart,” that is, ye are able to make a new heart. ‘Believe in Christ,’ that is, ye are able to believe in Christ. So that, with it, what is spoken imperatively, and what is spoken indicatively, is the same thing; or else, it is prepared to aver, that the Scripture is ridiculous and to no purpose. And these interpretations, which no grammarian will bear, must not be called, in Theologians, violent or invented, but the productions of the most approved doctors received by so many ages.
But it is easy for the Diatribe to admit and follow tropes in this part of the discussion, seeing that, it cares not at all whether what is said be certain or uncertain. Nay, it aims at making all things uncertain; for its design is, that the doctrines concerning “Free-will” should be left alone, rather than searched into. Therefore, it is enough for it, to be enabled in any way to avoid those passages by which it finds itself closely pressed.
But as for me, who am maintaining a serious cause, and who am inquiring what is, to the greatest certainty, the truth, for the establishing of consciences, I must act very differently. For me, I say, it is not enough that you say there may be a trope here: but I must inquire, whether there ought to be, or can be a trope there. For if you cannot prove that there must, of necessity, be a trope in that passage, you will effect nothing at all. There stands there this word of God—“I will harden the heart of Pharaoh.” (Ex. iv. 21, Rom. ix. 17-18.) If you say that it can be understood or ought to be understood thus:—I will permit it to be hardened: I hear you say, indeed, that it may be so understood. And I hear this trope used by every one, ‘I destroyed you, because I did not correct you immediately when you began to do wrong.’ But here, there is no place for that interpretation. We are not here inquiring, whether that trope be in use; we are not inquiring whether any one can use it in that passage of Paul: but this is the point of inquiry—whether or not it be sure and safe to use this passage plainly as it stands, and whether Paul would have it so used. We are not inquiring into the use of an indifferent reader of this passage, but into the use of the author Paul himself.
What will you do with a conscience inquiring thus?—Behold God, as the Author, saith, “I will harden the heart of Pharaoh:” the meaning of the word “harden” is plain and well known. But a man, who reads this passage, tells me, that in this place, ‘to harden,’ signifies ‘to give an occasion of becoming hardened,’ because, the sinner is not immediately corrected. But by what authority does he this? With what design, by what necessity, is the natural signification of this passage thus twisted? And suppose the reader and interpreter should be in error, how shall it be proved that such a turn ought to be given to this passage? It is dangerous, nay, impious, thus to twist the Word of God, without necessity and without authority. Would you then comfort a poor soul thus labouring, in this way?—Origen thought so and so. Cease to search into such things, because they are curious and superfluous. But he would answer you, this admonition should have been given to Moses or Paul before they wrote, and so also to God Himself, for it is they who vex us with these curious and superfluous Scriptures.
Sect. LXXVIII.—THIS miserable scape-gap of tropes, therefore, profits the Diatribe nothing. But this Proteus of ours must here be held fast, and compelled to satisfy us fully concerning the trope in this passage; and that, by Scriptures the most clear, or by miracles the most evident. For as to its mere opinion, even though supported by the laboured industry of all ages, we give no credit to that whatever. But we urge on and press it home, that there can be here no trope whatever, but that the Word of God is to be understood according to the plain meaning of the words. For it is not given unto us (as the Diatribe persuades itself to turn the words of God backwards and forwards according to our own lust: if that were the case, what is there in the whole Scripture, that might not be resolved into the philosophy of Anaxagoras—‘that any thing might be made from any thing?’ And thus I will say, “God created the heavens and the earth:” that is, He stationed them, but did not make them out of nothing. Or, “He created the heavens and the earth;” that is, the angels and the devils; or the just and the wicked. Who, I ask, if this were the case, might not become a theologian at the first opening of a book?
Let this, therefore, be a fixed and settled point:—that since the Diatribe cannot prove, that there is a trope in these our passages which it utterly destroys, it is compelled to cede to us, that the words are to be understood according to their plain meaning; even though it should prove, that the same trope is contained in all the other passages of Scripture, and used in common by every one. And by the gaining of this one point, all our arguments are at the same time defended, which the Diatribe designed to refute; and thus, its refutation is found to effect nothing, to do nothing, and to be nothing.
Whenever, therefore, this passage of Moses, “I will harden the heart of Pharaoh,” is interpreted thus:—My long-suffering, by which I bear with the sinner, leads, indeed, others unto repentance, but it shall render Pharaoh more hardened in iniquity:—it is a pretty interpretation, but it is not proved that it ought to be so interpreted. But I am not content with what is said, I must have the proof.
And that also of Paul, “He hath mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth, “(Rom. ix. 18,) is plausibly interpreted thus:—that is, God hardens when He does not immediately punish the sinner; and he has mercy when He immediately invites to repentance by afflictions.—But how is this interpretation proved?
And also that of Isaiah lxiii. 17, “Why hast Thou made us to err from Thy ways and hardened our heart from Thy fear?” Be it so, that Jerome interprets it thus from Origen:—He is said to ‘make to err’ who does not immediately recall from error. But who shall certify us that Jerome and Origen interpret rightly? It is, therefore, a settled determination with me, not to argue upon the authority of any teacher whatever, but upon that of the Scripture alone. What Origens and Jeromes does the Diatribe, then, forgetting its own determination, set before us! especially when, among all the ecclesiastical writers, there are scarcely any who have handled the Holy Scriptures less to the purpose, and more absurdly, than Origen and Jerome.
In a word: this liberty of interpretation, by a new and unheard-of kind of grammar, goes to confound all things. So that, when God saith, “I will harden the heart of Pharaoh,” you are to change the persons and understand it thus:—Pharaoh hardens himself by My long-suffering. God hardeneth our hearts;—that is, we harden ourselves by God’s deferring the punishment. Thou, O Lord, has made us to err;—that is, we have made ourselves to err by Thy not punishing us. So also, God’s having mercy, no longer signifies His giving grace, or showing mercy, or forgiving sin, or justifying, or delivering from evil, but, on the contrary, signifies bringing on evil and punishing.
In fact, by these tropes matters will come to this:—you may say, that God had mercy upon the children of Israel when He sent them into Assyria and to Babylon; because, He there punished the sinners, and there invited them, by afflictions, to repentance: and that, on the other hand, when He delivered them and brought them back, He had not then mercy upon them, but hardened them; that is, by His long-suffering and mercy He gave them an occasion of becoming hardened. And also, God’s sending the Saviour Christ into the world, will not be said to be the mercy, but the hardening of God; because, by this mercy, He gave men an occasion of hardening themselves. On the other hand, His destroying Jerusalem, and scattering the Jews even unto this day, is His having mercy on them; because, He punishes the sinners and invites them to repentance. Moreover, His carrying the saints away into heaven at the day of judgment, will not be in mercy, but in hardening; because, by His long-suffering, He will give them an occasion of abusing it. But His thrusting the wicked down to hell, will be His mercy; because, He punishes the sinners.—Who, I pray you, ever heard of such examples of the mercy and wrath of God as these?
And be it so, that good men are made better both by the long-suffering and by the severity of God; yet, when we are speaking of the good and the bad promiscuously, these tropes, by an utter perversion of the common manner of speaking, will make, out of the mercy of God His wrath, and His wrath out of His mercy; seeing that, they call it the wrath of God when He does good, and His mercy when He afflicts.
Moreover, if God be said then to harden, when He does good and endures with long-suffering, and then to have mercy when He afflicts and punishes, why is He more particularly said to harden Pharaoh than to harden the children of Israel, or than the whole world? Did He not do good to the children of Israel? Does He not do good to the whole world? Does He not bear with the wicked? Does He not rain upon the evil and upon the good? Why is He rather said to have mercy upon the children of Israel than upon Pharaoh? Did He not afflict the children of Israel in Egypt, and in the desert?—And be it so, that some abuse, and some rightly use, the goodness and the wrath of God; yet, according to your definition, to harden, is the same as, to indulge the wicked by long-suffering and goodness; and to have mercy, is, not to indulge, but to visit and punish. Therefore, with reference to God, He, by His continual goodness, does nothing but harden; and by His perpetual punishment, does nothing but shew mercy.
Sect. LXXIX.—BUT this is the most excellent statement of all—‘that God is said to harden, when He indulges sinners by long-suffering; but to have mercy upon them, when He visits and afflicts, and thus, by severity, invites to repentance.’—
What, I ask, did God leave undone in afflicting, punishing, and calling Pharaoh to repentance? Are there not, in His dealings with him, ten plagues recorded? If, therefore, your definition stand good, that shewing mercy, is punishing and calling the sinner immediately, God certainly had mercy upon Pharaoh! Why then does not God say, I will have mercy upon Pharaoh? Whereas He saith, “I will harden the heart of Pharaoh.” For, in the very act of having mercy upon him, that is, (as you say) afflicting and punishing him, He saith, “I will harden” him; that is, as you say, I will bear with him and do him good. What can be heard of more enormous! Where are now your tropes? Where are your Origens? Where are your Jeromes? Where are all your most approved doctors whom one poor creature, Luther, daringly contradicts?—But at this rate the flesh must unawares impel the man to talk, who trifles with the words of God, and believes not their solemn importance!
The text of Moses itself, therefore, incontrovertibly proves, that here, these tropes are mere inventions and things of nought, and that by those words, “I will harden the heart of Pharaoh,” something else is signified far different from, and of greater importance than, doing good, or affliction and punishment; because, we cannot deny, that both were tried upon Pharaoh with the greatest care and concern. For what wrath and punishment could be more instant, than his being stricken by so many wonders and with so many plagues, that, as Moses himself testifies, the like had never been? Nay, even Pharaoh himself, repenting, was moved by them more than once; but he was not effectually moved, nor did he persevere. And what long-suffering or goodness of God could be greater, than His taking away the plagues so easily, hardening his sin so often, so often bringing back the good, and so often taking away the evil? Yet neither is of any avail, He still saith, “I will harden the heart of Pharaoh!” You see, therefore, that even if your hardening and mercy, that is, your glosses and tropes, be granted to the greatest extent, as supported by use and by example, and as seen in the case of Pharaoh, there is yet a hardening that still remains; and that the hardening of which Moses speaks must, of necessity, be one, and that of which you dream, another.
Sect LXXX.—BUT since I have to fight with fiction-framers and ghosts, let me turn to ghost-raising also. Let me suppose (which is an impossibility) that the trope of which the Diatribe dreams avails in this passage; in order that I may see, which way the Diatribe will elude the being compelled to declare, that all things take place according to the will of God alone, and from necessity in us; and how it will clear God from being Himself the author and cause of our becoming hardened.—For if it be true that God is then said to “harden” when He bears with long-suffering, and does not immediately punish, these two positions still stand firm.
First, that man, nevertheless, of necessity serves sin. For when it is granted that “Free-will” cannot will any thing good, (which kind of Free-will the Diatribe undertook to prove) then, by the goodness of a long-suffering God, it becomes nothing better, but of necessity worse.—Wherefore, it still remains that all that we do, is done from necessity.
And next, that God appears to be just as cruel in this bearing with us by His long-suffering, as He does by being preached, as willing to harden, by that will inscrutable. For when He sees that, “Free-will” cannot will good, but becomes worse by His enduring with long-suffering; by this very long-suffering He appears to be most cruel, and to delight in our miseries; seeing that, He could remedy them if He willed, and might not thus endure with long-suffering if He willed, nay, that He could not thus endure unless He willed; for who can compel Him against His will? That will, therefore, without which nothing is done, being admitted, and it being admitted also, that “Free-will” cannot will any thing good, all is advanced in vain that is advanced, either in excusation of God, or in accusation of “Free-will.” For the language of “Free-will” is ever this:—I cannot, and God will not. What can I do! If He have mercy upon me by affliction, I shall be nothing benefited, but must of necessity become worse, unless He give me His Spirit. But this He gives me not, though He might give it me if He willed. It is certain, therefore, that He wills, not to give.
Sect. LXXXI.—NOR do the similitudes adduced make any thing to the purpose, where it is said by the Diatribe—“As under the same sun, mud is hardened and wax melted; as by the same shower, the cultivated earth brings forth fruit, and the uncultivated earth thorns; so, by the same long-suffering of God, some are hardened and some converted.”—
For, we are not now dividing “Free-will” into two different natures, and making the one like mud, the other like wax; the one like cultivated earth, the other like uncultivated earth; but we are speaking concerning that one “Free-will” equally impotent in all men; which, as it cannot will good, is nothing but mud, nothing but uncultivated earth. Nor does Paul say that God, as the potter, makes one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour, out of different kinds of clay, but He saith, “Out of the same lump, &c.” (Rom. ix. 21.) Therefore, as mud always becomes harder, and uncultivated earth always becomes more thorny; even so “Free-will,” always becomes worse, both under the hardening sun of long-suffering, and under the softening shower of rain.
If, therefore, “Free-will” be of one and the same nature and impotency in all men, no reason can be given why it should attain unto grace in one, and not in another; if nothing else be preached to all, but the goodness of a long-suffering and the punishment of a mercy-shewing God. For it is a granted position, that “Free-will” in all, is alike defined to be, ‘that which cannot will good.’ And indeed, if it were not so, God could not elect any one, nor would there be any place left for Election; but for “Free-will” only, as choosing or refusing the long-suffering and anger of God. And if God be thus robbed of His power and wisdom to elect, what will there be remaining but that idol Fortune, under the name of which, all things take place at random! Nay, we shall at length come to this: that men may be saved and damned without God’s knowing anything at all about it; as not having determined by certain election who should be saved and who should be damned; but having set before all men in general His hardening goodness and long-suffering, and His mercy shewing correction and punishment, and left them to choose for themselves whether they would be saved or damned; while He, in the mean time, should be gone, as Homer says, to an Ethiopian feast!
It is just such a God as this that Aristotle paints out to us; that is, who sleeps Himself, and leaves every one to use or abuse His long-suffering and punishment just as He will. Nor can reason, of herself, form any other judgment than the Diatribe here does. For as she herself snores over, and looks with contempt upon, divine things; she thinks concerning God, that He sleeps and snores over them too; not exercising His wisdom, will, and presence, in choosing, separating, and inspiring, but leaving the troublesome and irksome business of accepting or refusing His long-suffering and His anger, entirely to men. This is what we come to, when we attempt, by human reason, to limit and make excuses for God, not revering the secrets of His Majesty, but curiously prying into them—being lost in the glory of them, instead of making one excuse for God, we pour forth a thousand blasphemies! And forgetting ourselves, we prate like madmen, both against God and against ourselves; when we are all the while supposing, that we are, with a great deal of wisdom, speaking both for God and for ourselves.
Here then you see, what that trope and gloss of the Diatribe, will make of God. And moreover, how excellently consistent the Diatribe is with itself; which before, by its one definition, made “Free-will” one and the same in all men: and now, in the course of its argumentation, forgetting its own definition, makes one “Free-will” to be cultivated and the other uncultivated, according to the difference of works, of manners, and of men: thus making two different “Free-wills”; the one, that which cannot do good, the other, that which can do good, and that by its own powers before grace: whereas, its former definition declared, that it could not, by those its own powers, will any thing good whatever. Hence, therefore, it comes to pass, that while we do not ascribe unto the will of God only, the will and power of hardening, shewing mercy, and doing all things; we ascribe unto “Freewill” itself the power of doing all things without grace; which, nevertheless, we declared to be unable to do any good whatever without grace.
The similitudes, therefore, of the sun and of the shower, make nothing at all to the purpose. The Christian would use those similitudes more rightly, if he were to make the sun and the shower to represent the Gospel, as Psalm xix. does, and as does also Hebrews vi. 7; and were to make the cultivated earth to represent the elect, and the uncultivated the reprobate; for the former are, by the word, edified and made better, while the latter are offended and made worse. Or, if this distinction be not made, then, as to “Free-will” itself, that, is in all men uncultivated earth and the kingdom of Satan.
Sect. LXXXII.—BUT let us now inquire into the reason why this trope was invented in this passage.—“It appears absurd (says the Diatribe) that God, who is not only just but also good, should be said to have hardened the heart of a man, in order that, by his iniquity, He might shew forth His own power. The same also occurred to Origen; who confesses, that the occasion of becoming hardened was given of God, but throws all the fault upon Pharaoh. He has, moreover, made a remark upon that which the Lord saith, “For this very purpose have I raised thee up.” He does not say, (he observes) For this very purpose have I made thee: otherwise, Pharaoh could not have been wicked, if God had made him such an one as he was, for God beheld all His works, and they were “very good”—thus the Diatribe.
It appears then, that one of the principal causes why the words of Moses and of Paul are not received, is their absurdity. But against what article of faith does that absurdity militate? Or, who is offended at it? It is human Reason that is offended; who, being blind, deaf, impious, and sacrilegious in all the words and works of God, is, in the case of this passage, introduced as a judge of the words and works of God. According to the same argument of absurdity, you will deny all the Articles of Faith: because, it is of all things the most absurd, and as Paul saith, foolishness to the Gentiles, and a stumbling-block to the Jews, that God should be man, the son of a virgin, crucified, and sitting at the right hand of His Father: it is, I say, absurd to believe such things. Therefore, let us invent some tropes with the Arians, and say, that Christ is not truly God. Let us invent some tropes with the Manichees, and say, that He is not truly man, but a phantom introduced by means of a virgin; or a reflection conveyed by glass, which fell, and was crucified. And in this way, we shall handle the Scriptures to excellent purpose indeed!
After all, then, the tropes amount to nothing; nor is the absurdity avoided. For it still remains absurd, (according to the judgment of reason,) that that God, who is just and good, should exact of “Free-will” impossibilities and that, when “Freewill” cannot will good and of necessity serves sin, that sin should yet be laid to its charge and that, moreover, when He does not give the Spirit, He should, nevertheless, act so severely and unmercifully, as to harden, or permit to become hardened: these things, Reason will still say, are not becoming a God good and merciful. Thus, they too far exceed her capacity; nor can she so bring herself into subjection as to believe, and judge, that the God who does such things, is good; but setting aside faith, she wants, to feel out, and see, and comprehend how He can be good, and not cruel. But she will comprehend that, when this shall be said of God:—He hardens no one, He damns no one; but He has mercy upon all, He saves all; and He has so utterly destroyed hell, that no future punishment need be dreaded. It is thus that Reason blusters and contends, in attempting to clear God, and to defend Him as just and good.
But faith and the Spirit judge otherwise; who believe, that God would be good, even though he should destroy all men. And to what profit is it, to weary ourselves with all these reasonings, in order that we might throw the fault of hardening upon “Free-will”! Let all the “Free-will” in the world, do all it can with all its powers, and yet, it never will give one proof, either that it can avoid being hardened where God gives not His Spirit, or merit mercy where it is left to its own powers. And what does it signify whether it be hardened, or deserve being hardened, if the hardening be of necessity, as long as it remains in that impotency, in which, according to the testimony of the Diatribe, it cannot will good? Since, therefore, the absurdity is not taken out of the way by these tropes; or, if it be taken out of the way, greater absurdities still are introduced in their stead, and all things are ascribed unto “Free-will”; away with such useless and seducing tropes, and let us cleave close to the pure and simple Word of God!
Sect. LXXXIII.—AS to the other point—‘that those things which God has made, are very good: and that God did not say, for this purpose have I made thee, but “For this purpose have I raised thee up.”—
I observe, first of all, that this, Gen. i., concerning the works of God being very good, was said before the fall of man. But it is recorded directly after, in Gen. iii. how man became evil,—when God departed from him and left him to himself. And from this one man thus corrupt, all the wicked were born, and Pharaoh also: as Paul saith, “We were all by nature the children of wrath even as others.” (Eph. ii. 8). Therefore God made Pharaoh wicked; that is, from a wicked and corrupt seed: as He saith in the Proverbs of Solomon, xvi. 4, “God hath made all things for Himself, yea, even the wicked for the day of evil:” that is, not by creating evil in them, but fly forming them out of a corrupt seed, and ruling over them. This therefore is not a just conclusion—God made man wicked: therefore, he is not wicked. For how can he not be wicked from a wicked seed? As Ps. li. 5, saith, “Behold I was conceived in sin.” And Job xiv. 4, “Who can make that clean which is conceived from unclean seed?” For although God did not make sin, yet, He ceases not to form and multiply that nature, which, from the Spirit being withdrawn, is defiled by sin. And as it is, when a carpenter makes statues of corrupt wood; so such as the nature is, such are the men made, when God creates and forms them out of that nature. Again: If you understand the words, “They were very good,” as referring to the works of God after the fall, you will be pleased to observe, that this was said, not with reference to us, but with reference to God. For it is not said, Man saw all the things that God had made, and behold they were very good. Many things seem very good unto God, and are very good, which seem unto us very evil, and are considered to be very evil. Thus, afflictions, evils, errors, hell, nay, all the very best works of God, are, in the sight of the world, very evil, and even damnable. What is better than Christ and the Gospel? But what is more execrated by the world? And therefore, how those things are good in the sight of God, which are evil in our sight, is known only unto God and unto those who see with the eyes of God; that is, who have the Spirit. But there is no need of argumentation so close as this, the preceding answer is sufficient.
Sect. LXXXIV.—BUT here, perhaps, it will be asked, how can God be said to work evil in us, in the same way as He is said to harden us, to give us up to our own desires, to cause us to err, &c.?
We ought, indeed, to be content with the Word of God, and simply to believe what that saith; seeing that, the works of God are utterly unspeakable. But however, in compliance with Reason, that is, human foolery, I will just act the fool and the stupid fellow for once, and try, by a little babbling, if I can produce any effect upon her.
First, then, both Reason and the Diatribe grant, that God works all in all; and that, without Him, nothing is either done or effective, because He is Omnipotent; and because, therefore, all things come under His Omnipotence, as Paul saith to the Ephesians.
Now then, Satan and man being fallen and left of God, cannot will good; that is, those things which please God, or which God wills; but are ever turned the way of their own desires, so that they cannot but seek their own. This, therefore, their will and nature, so turned from God, cannot be a nothing: nor are Satan and the wicked man a nothing: nor are the nature and the will which they have a nothing, although it be a nature corrupt and averse. That remnant of nature, therefore, in Satan and the wicked man, of which we speak, as being the creature and work of God, is not less subject to the divine omnipotence and action, than all the rest of the creatures and works of God.
Since, therefore, God moves and does all in all, He necessarily moves and does all in Satan and the wicked man. But He so does all in them, as they themselves are, and as He finds them: that is, as they are themselves averse and evil, being carried along by that motion of the Divine Omnipotence, they cannot but do what is averse and evil. Just as it is with a man driving a horse lame on one foot, or lame on two feet; he drives him just so as the horse himself is; that is, the horse moves badly. But what can the man do? He is driving along this kind of horse together with sound horses; he, indeed, goes badly, and the rest well; but it cannot be otherwise, unless the horse be made sound.
Here then you see, that, when God works in, and by, evil men, the evils themselves are inwrought, but yet, God cannot do evil, although He thus works the evils by evil men; because, being good Himself He cannot do evil; but He uses evil instruments, which cannot escape the sway and motion of His Omnipotence. The fault, therefore, is in the instruments, which God allows not to remain action-less; seeing that, the evils are done as God Himself moves. Just in the same manner as a carpenter would cut badly with a saw-edged or broken-edged axe. Hence it is, that the wicked man cannot but always err and sin; because, being carried along by the motion of the Divine Omnipotence, he is not permitted to remain motionless, but must will, desire, and act according to his nature. All this is fixed certainty, if we believe that God is Omnipotent!
It is, moreover, as certain, that the wicked man is the creature of God; though being averse and left to himself without the Spirit of God, he cannot will or do good. For the Omnipotence of God makes it, that the wicked man cannot evade the motion and action of God, but, being of necessity subject to it, he yields; though his corruption and aversion to God, makes him that he cannot be carried along and moved unto good. God cannot suspend His Omnipotence on account of his aversion, nor can the wicked man change his aversion. Wherefore it is, that he must continue of necessity to sin and err, until he be amended by the Spirit of God. Meanwhile, in all these, Satan goes on to reign in peace, and keeps his palace undisturbed under this motion of the Divine Omnipotence.
Sect. LXXXV.—BUT now follows the act itself of hardening, which is thus:—The wicked man (as we have said) like his prince Satan, is turned totally the way of selfishness, and his own; he seeks not God, nor cares for the things of God; he seeks his own riches, his own glory, his own doings, his own wisdom, his own power, and, in a word, his own kingdom; and wills only to enjoy them in peace. And if any one oppose him or wish to diminish any of these things, with the same aversion to God under which he seeks these, with the same is he moved, enraged, and roused to indignation against his adversary. And he is as much unable to overcome this rage, as he is to overcome his desire of self-seeking; and he can no more avoid this seeking, than he can avoid his own existence; and this he cannot do, as being the creature of God, though a corrupt one.
The same is that fury of the world against the Gospel of God. For, by the Gospel, comes that “stronger than he,” who overcomes the quiet possessor of the palace, and condemns those desires of glory, of riches, of wisdom, of self-righteousness, and of all things in which he trusts. This very irritation of the wicked, when God speaks and acts contrary to what they willed, is their hardening and their galling weight. For as they are in this state of aversion from the very corruption of nature, so they become more and more averse, and worse and worse, as this aversion is opposed or turned out of its way. And thus, when God threatened to take away from the wicked Pharaoh his power, he irritated and aggravated him, and hardened his heart the more, the more He came to him with His word by Moses, making known His intention to take away his kingdom and to deliver His own people from his power: because He did not give him His Spirit within, but permitted his wicked corruption, under the dominion of Satan, to grow angry, to swell with pride, to burn with rage, and to go on still in a certain secure contempt.
Sect. LXXXVI.—LET no one think, therefore, that God, where He is said to harden, or to work evil in us (for to harden is to do evil), so does the evil as though He created evil in us anew, in the same way as a malignant liquor-seller, being himself bad, would pour poison into, or mix it up in, a vessel that was not bad, where the vessel itself did nothing but receive, or passively accomplish the purpose of the malignity of the poison-mixer. For when people hear it said by us, that God works in us both good and evil, and that we from mere necessity passively submit to the working of God, they seem to imagine, that a man who is good, or not evil himself, is passive while God works evil in him: not rightly considering that God, is far from being inactive in all His creatures, and never suffers any one of them to keep holiday.
But whoever wishes to understand these things let him think thus:—that God works evil in us, that is, by us, not from the fault of God, but from the fault of evil in us:—that is, as we are evil by nature, God, who is truly good, carrying us along by His own action, according to the nature of His Omnipotence, cannot do otherwise than do evil by us, as instruments, though He Himself be good; though by His wisdom, He overrules that evil well, to His own glory and to our salvation.
Thus God, finding the will of Satan evil, not creating it so, but leaving it while Satan sinningly commits the evil, carries it along by His working, and moves it which way He will; though that will ceases not to be evil by this motion of God.
In this same way also David spoke concerning Shimei. “Let him curse, for God hath bidden him to curse David.” (2 Samuel xvi. 10). How could God bid to curse, an action so evil and virulent! There was no where an external precept to that effect. David, therefore, looks to this:—the Omnipotent God saith and it is done: that is, He does all things by His external word. Wherefore, here, the divine action and omnipotence, the good God Himself, carries along the will of Shimei, already evil together with all his members, and before incensed against David, and, while David is thus opportunely situated and deserving such blasphemy, commands the blasphemy, (that is, by his word which is his act, that is, the motion of his action), by this evil and blaspheming instrument.
Sect. LXXXVII.—IT is thus God hardens Pharaoh—He presents to his impious and evil will His word and His work, which that will hates; that is, by its engendered and natural corruption. And thus, while God does not change by His Spirit that will within, but goes on presenting and enforcing; and while Pharaoh, considering his own resources, his riches and his power, trusts to them from the same naturally evil inclination; it comes to pass, that being inflated and uplifted by the imagination of his own greatness on the one hand, and swollen into a proud contempt of Moses coming in all humility with the unostentatious word of God on the other, he becomes hardened; and then, the more and more irritated and chafed, the more Moses advances and threatens: whereas, this his evil will would not, of itself, have been moved or hardened at all. But as the omnipotent Agent moved it by that His inevitable motion, it must of necessity will one way or the other.—And thus, as soon as he presented to it outwardly, that which naturally irritated and offended it, then it was, that Pharaoh could not avoid becoming hardened; even as he could not avoid the action of the Divine Omnipotence, and the aversion or enmity of his own will.
Wherefore, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart by God, is wrought thus,—God presents outwardly to his enmity, that which he naturally hates; and then, He ceases not to move within, by His omnipotent motion, the evil will which He there finds. He, from the enmity of his will, cannot but hate that which is contrary to him, and trust to his own powers; and that, so obstinately, that he can neither hear nor feel, but is carried away, in the possession of Satan, like a madman or a fury.
If I have brought these things home with convincing persuasion, the victory in this point is mine. And having exploded the tropes and glosses of men, I understand the words of God simply; so that, there is no necessity for clearing God or accusing Him of iniquity. For when He saith, “I will harden the heart of Pharaoh,” He speaks simply: as though He Should say, I will so work, that the heart of Pharaoh shall be hardened: or, by My operation and working, the heart of Pharaoh shall be hardened. And how this was to be done, we have heard:—that is, by My general motion, I will so move his very evil will, that he shall go on in his course and lust of willing, nor will I cease to move it, nor can I do otherwise. I will, nevertheless, present to him My word and work; against which, that evil impetus will run; for he, being evil, cannot but will evil while I move him by the power of My Omnipotence.
Thus God with the greatest certainty knew, and with the greatest certainty declared, that Pharaoh would be hardened; because, He with the greatest certainty knew, that the will of Pharaoh could neither resist the motion of His Omnipotence, nor put away its own enmity, nor receive its adversary Moses; and that, as that evil will still remained, he must, of necessity, become worse, more hardened, and more proud, while, by his course and impetus, trusting to his own powers, he ran against that which he would not receive, and which he despised.
Here therefore, you see, it is confirmed even by this very Scripture, that “Free-will” can do nothing but evil, while God, who is not deceived from ignorance nor lies from iniquity, so surely promises the hardening of Pharaoh; because, He was certain, that an evil will could will nothing but evil, and that, as the good which it hated was presented to it, it could not but wax worse and worse.
Sect. LXXXVIII.—IT now then remains, that perhaps some one may ask—Why then does not God cease from that motion of His Omnipotence, by which the will of the wicked is moved to go on in evil, and to become worse? I answer: this is to wish that God, for the sake of the wicked, would cease to be God; for this you really desire, when you desire His power and action to cease; that is, that He should cease to be good, lest the wicked should become worse.
Again, it may be asked - Why does He not then change, in His motion, those evil wills which He moves? This belongs to those secrets of Majesty, where “His judgments are past finding out.” Nor is it ours to search into, but to adore these mysteries. If “flesh and blood” here take offence and murmur, let it murmur, but it will be just where it was before. God is not, on that account, changed! And if numbers of the wicked be offended and “go away,” yet, the elect shall remain!
The same answer will be given to those who ask—Why did He permit Adam to fall? And why did He make all of us to be infected with the same sin, when He might have kept him, and might have created us from some other seed, or might first have cleansed that, before He created us from it?—
God is that Being, for whose will no cause or reason is to be assigned, as a rule or standard by which it acts; seeing that, nothing is superior or equal to it, but it is itself the rule of all things. For if it acted by any rule or standard, or from any cause or reason, it would be no longer the will of GOD. Wherefore, what God wills, is not therefore right, because He ought or ever was bound so to will; but on the contrary, what takes place is therefore right, because He so wills. A cause and reason are assigned for the will of the creature, but not for the will of the Creator; unless you set up, over Him, another Creator.
Sect. LXXXIX.—BY these arguments, I presume, the trope-inventing Diatribe, together with its trope, are sufficiently confuted. Let us, however, come to the text itself, for the purpose of seeing, what agreement there is between the text and the trope. For it is the way with all those who elude arguments by means of tropes, to hold the text itself in sovereign contempt, and to aim only, at picking out a certain term, and twisting and crucifying it upon the cross of their own opinion, without paying any regard whatever, either to circumstance, to consequence, to precedence, or to the intention or object of the author. Thus the Diatribe, in this passage, utterly disregarding the intention of Moses and the scope of his words, tears out of the text this term, “I will harden,” and makes of it just what it will, according to its own lust: not at all considering, whether that can be again inserted so as to agree and square with the body of the text. And this is the reason why the Scripture was not sufficiently clear to those most received and most learned men of so many ages. And no wonder, for even the sun itself would not shine, if it should be assailed by such arts as these.
But (to say nothing about that, which I have already proved from the Scriptures, that Pharaoh cannot rightly be said to be hardened, ‘because, being borne with by the long-suffering of God, he was not immediately punished,’ seeing that, he was punished by so many plagues;) if hardening be ‘bearing with divine long-suffering and not immediately punishing;’ what need was there that God should so many times promise that He would then harden the heart of Pharaoh when the signs should be wrought, who now, before those signs were wrought, and before that hardening, was such, that, being inflated with his success, prosperity and wealth, and being borne with by the divine long-suffering and not punished, inflicted so many evils on the children of Israel? You see, therefore, that this trope of yours makes not at all to the purpose in this passage; seeing that, it applies generally unto all, as sinning because they are borne with by the divine long-suffering. And thus, we shall be compelled to say, that all are hardened, seeing that, there is no one who does not sin; and that, no one sins, but he who is borne with by the divine long-suffering. Wherefore, this hardening of Pharaoh, is another hardening, independent of that general hardening as produced by the long-suffering of the divine goodness.
Sect. XC.—THE more immediate design of Moses then is, to announce, not so much the hardening of Pharaoh, as the veracity and mercy of God; that is, that the children of Israel might not distrust the promise of God, wherein He promised, that He would deliver them. (Ex. vi. 1). And since this was a matter of the greatest moment, He foretells them the difficulty, that they might not fall away from their faith; knowing, that all those things which were foretold must be accomplished in the order in which, He who had made the promise, had arranged them. As if He had said, I will deliver you, indeed, but you will with difficulty believe it; because, Pharaoh will so resist, and put off the deliverance. Nevertheless, believe ye; for the whole of his putting off shall, by My way of operation, only be the means of My working the more and greater miracles to your confirmation in faith, and to the display of My power; that henceforth, ye might the more steadily believe Me upon all other occasions.
In the same way does Christ also act, when, at the last supper, He promises His disciples a kingdom. He foretells them numberless difficulties, such as, His own death and their many tribulations; to the intent that, when it should come to pass, they might afterwards the more steadily believe.
And Moses by no means obscurely sets forth this meaning, where he saith, “But Pharaoh shall not send you away, that many wonders might be wrought in Egypt.” And again, “For this purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew in thee My power; that My name might be declared throughout all the earth.” (Ex. ix. 16; Rom. ix. 17). Here, you see that Pharaoh was for this purpose hardened, that he might resist God and put off the redemption; in order that, there might be an occasion given for the working of signs, and for the display of the power of God, that He might be declared and believed on throughout all the earth. And what is this but shewing, that all these things were said and done to confirm faith, and to comfort the weak, that they might afterwards freely believe in God as true, faithful, powerful, and merciful? Just as though He had spoken to them in the kindest manner, as to little children, and had said, Be not terrified at the hardness of Pharaoh, for I work that very hardness Myself; and I, who deliver you, have it in My own hand. I will only use it, that I may thereby work many signs, and declare My Majesty, for the furtherance of your faith.
And this is the reason why Moses generally after each plague repeats, “And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, so that he would not let the people go; as the Lord had spoken.” (Ex. vii. 13, 22; viii. 15, 32; ix. 12, etc.). What is the intent of this, “as the Lord had spoken,” but, that the Lord might appear true, who had foretold that he should be hardened?—Now, if there had been any vertibility or liberty of will in Pharaoh, which could turn either way, God could not with such certainty have foretold his hardening. But as He promised, who could neither be deceived nor lie, it of certainty and of necessity came to pass, that he was hardened: which could not have taken place, had not the hardening been totally apart from the power of man, and in the power of God alone, in the same manner as I said before; viz. from God being certain, that He should not omit the general operation of His Omnipotence in Pharaoh, or on Pharaoh’s account; nay, that He could not omit it.
Moreover, God was equally certain, that the will of Pharaoh; being naturally evil and averse, could not consent to the word and work of God, which was contrary to it, and that, therefore, while the impetus of willing was preserved in Pharaoh by the Omnipotence of God, and while the hated word and work was continually set before his eyes without, nothing else could take place in Pharaoh, but offence and the hardening of his heart. For if God had then omitted the action of His Omnipotence in Pharaoh, when He set before him the word of Moses which he hated, and the will of Pharaoh might be supposed to have acted alone by its own power, then, perhaps, there might have been room for a discussion, which way it had power to turn. But now, since it was led on and carried away by its own willing, no violence was done to its will, because it was not forced against its will, but was carried along, by the natural operation of God, to will naturally just as it was by nature, that is, evil; and therefore, it could not but run against the word, and thus become hardened. Hence we see, that this passage makes most forcibly against “Freewill”; and in this way—God who promised could not lie, and if He could not lie, then Pharaoh could not but be hardened.
Sect. XCI.—BUT let us also look into Paul, who takes up this passage of Moses, Rom. ix. How miserably is the Diatribe tortured with that part of the Scripture! Lest it should lose its hold of “Freewill,” it puts on every shape. At one time it says, ‘that there is a necessity of the consequence, but not a necessity of the thing consequent.’ At another, ‘that there is an ordinary will, or will of the sign, which may be resisted; and a will of decree, which cannot be resisted.’ At another, ‘that those passages adduced from Paul do not contend for, do not speak about, the salvation of man.’ In one place it says ‘that the prescience of God does impose necessity:’ in another, ‘that it does not impose necessity.’ Again, in another place it asserts, ‘that grace prevents the will that it might will, and then attends it as it proceeds and brings it to a happy issue.’ Here it states, ‘that the first cause does all things itself:’ and directly afterwards, ‘that it acts by second causes, remaining itself inactive.’
By these and the like sportings with words, it does nothing but fill up its time, and at the same time obscure the subject point from our sight, drawing us aside to something else. So stupid and doltish does it imagine us to be, that it thinks we feel no more interested in the cause than it feels itself. Or, as little children, when fearing the rod or at play, cover their eyes with their hands, and think, that as they see nobody themselves, nobody sees them; so the Diatribe, not being able to endure the brightness, nay the lightning of the most clear Scriptures, pretending by every kind of maneuver that it does not see, (which is in truth the case) wishes to persuade us that our eyes are also so covered that we cannot see. But all these maneuvers, are but evidences of a convicted mind rashly struggling against invincible truth.
That figment about ‘the necessity of the consequence, but not the necessity of the thing consequent,’ has been before refuted. Let then Erasmus invent and invent again, cavil and cavil again, as much as he will—if God foreknew that Judas would be a traitor, Judas became a traitor of necessity; nor was it in the power of Judas nor of any other creature to alter it, or to change that will; though he did what he did willingly, not by compulsion; for that willing of his was his own work; which God, by the motion of His Omnipotence, moved on into action, as He does everything else.—God does not lie, nor is He deceived. This is a truth evident and invincible. There are no obscure or ambiguous words here, even though all the most learned men of all ages should be so blinded as to think and say to the contrary. How much soever, therefore, you may turn your back upon it, yet, the convicted conscience of yourself and all men is compelled to confess, that, IF GOD BE NOT DECEIVED IN THAT WHICH HE FOREKNOWS, THAT WHICH HE FOREKNOWS MUST, OF NECESSITY, TAKE PLACE. If it were not so, who could believe His promises, who would fear His threatenings, if what He promised or threatened did not of necessity take place! Or, how could He promise or threaten, if His prescience could be deceived or hindered by our mutability! This all-clear light of certain truth manifestly stops the mouths of all, puts an end to all questions, and forever settles the victory over all evasive subtleties.
We know, indeed, that the prescience of man is fallible. We know that an eclipse does not therefore take place, because it is foreknown; but, that it is therefore foreknown, because it is to take place. But what have we to do with this prescience? We are disputing about the prescience of God! And if you do not ascribe to this, the necessity of the consequent foreknown, you take away faith and the fear of God, you destroy the force of all the divine promises and threatenings, and thus deny divinity itself. But, however, the Diatribe itself, after having held out for a long time and tried all things, and being pressed hard by the force of truth, at last confesses my sentiment: saying—
Sect. XCII.—“THE question concerning the will and predestination of God, is somewhat difficult. For God wills those same things which He foreknows. And this is the substance of what Paul subjoins, “Who hath resisted His will,” if He have mercy on whom He will, and harden whom He will? For if there were a king who could effect whatever he chose, and no one could resist him, he would be said to do whatsoever he willed. So the will of God, as it is the principal cause of all things which take place, seems to impose a necessity on our will.”—Thus the Diatribe.
At last then I give thanks to God for a sound sentence in the Diatribe! Where now then is “Free-will”?—But again this slippery eel is twisted aside in a moment, saying,
—“But Paul does not explain this point, he only rebukes the disputer; “Who art thou, O man, that repliest against God!” (Rom. ix. 20.)—
O notable evasion! Is this the way to handle the Holy Scriptures, thus to make a declaration upon ones own authority, and out of ones own brain, without a Scripture, without a miracle, nay, to corrupt the most clear words of God? What! does not Paul explain that point? What does he then? ‘He only rebukes the disputer,’ says the Diatribe. And is not that rebuke the most complete explanation? For what was inquired into by that question concerning the will of God? Was it not this—whether or not it imposed a necessity on our will? Paul, then, answers that it is thus:—“He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth. It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” (Rom. ix. 15-16, 18.). Moreover, not content with this explanation, he introduces those who murmur against this explanation in their defence of “Free-will,” and prate that there is no merit allowed, that we are damned when the fault is not our own, and the like, and stops their murmuring and indignation: saying, “Thou wilt say then, Why doth He yet find fault? for who hath resisted His will?” (Rom. ix. 19.).
Do you not see that this is addressed to those, who, hearing that the will of God imposes necessity on us, say, “Why doth He yet find fault?” That is, Why does God thus insist, thus urge, thus exact, thus find fault? Why does He accuse, why does He reprove, as though we men could do what He requires if we would? He has no just cause for thus finding fault; let Him rather accuse His own will; let Him find fault with that; let Him press His requirement upon that; “For who hath resisted His will?” Who can obtain mercy if He wills not? Who can become softened if He wills to harden? It is not in our power to change His will, much less to resist it, where He wills us to be hardened; by that will, therefore, we are compelled to be hardened, whether we will or no.
If Paul had not explained this question, and had not stated to a certainty, that necessity is imposed on us by the prescience of God, what need was there for his introducing the murmurers and complainers saying, That His will cannot be resisted? For who would have murmured or been indignant, if he had not found necessity to be stated? Paul’s words are not ambiguous where he speaks of resisting the will of God. Is there any thing ambiguous in what resisting is, or what His will is? Is it at all ambiguous concerning what he is speaking, when he speaks concerning the will of God? Let the myriads of the most approved doctors be blind; let them pretend, if they will, that the Scriptures are not quite clear, and that they tremble at a difficult question; we have words the most clear which plainly speak thus: “He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth:” and also, “Thou wilt say to me then, Why doth He yet complain, for who hath resisted His will?”
The question, therefore, is not difficult; nay, nothing can be more plain to common sense, than that this conclusion is certain, stable, and true:—if it be pre-established from the Scriptures, that God neither errs nor is deceived; then, whatever God foreknows, must, of necessity, take place. It would be a difficult question indeed, nay, an impossibility, I confess, if you should attempt to establish, both the prescience of God, and the “Free-Will” of man. For what could be more difficult, nay a greater impossibility, than to attempt to prove, that contradictions do not clash; or that a number may, at the same time, be both nine and ten? There is no difficulty on our side of the question, but it is sought for and introduced, just as ambiguity and obscurity are sought for and violently introduced into the Scriptures.
The apostle, therefore, restrains the impious who are offended at these most clear words, by letting them know, that the divine will is accomplished, by necessity in us; and by letting them know also, that it is defined to a certainty, that they have nothing of liberty or “Free-will” left, but that all things depend upon the will of God alone. But he restrains them in this way:—by commanding them to be silent, and to revere the majesty of the divine power and will, over which we have no control, but which has over us a full control to do whatever it will. And yet it does us no injury, seeing that it is not indebted to us, it never received any thing from us, it never promised us any thing but what itself pleased and willed.
Sect. XCIII.—THIS, therefore, is not the place, this is not the time for adoring those Corycian caverns, but for adoring the true Majesty in its to-be-feared, wonderful, and incomprehensible judgments; and saying, “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. vi. 10). Whereas, we are no where more irreverent and rash, than in trespassing and arguing upon these very inscrutable mysteries and judgments. And while we are pretending to a great reverence in searching the Holy Scriptures, those which God has commanded to be searched, we search not; but those which He has forbidden us to search into, those we search into and none other; and that with an unceasing temerity, not to say, blasphemy.
For is it not searching with temerity, when we attempt to make the all-free prescience of God to harmonize with our freedom, prepared to derogate prescience from God, rather than lose our own liberty? Is it not temerity, when He imposes necessity upon us, to say, with murmurings and blasphemies, “Why doth He yet find fault? for who hath resisted His will?” (Rom. ix. 19). Where is the God by nature most merciful? Where is He who “willeth not the death of a sinner?” Has He then created us for this purpose only, that He might delight Himself in the torments of men? And many things of the same kind, which will be howled forth by the damned in hell to all eternity.
But however, natural Reason herself is compelled to confess, that the living and true God must be such an one as, by His own liberty, to impose necessity on us. For He must be a ridiculous God, or idol rather, who did not, to a certainty, foreknow the future, or was liable to be deceived in events, when even the Gentiles ascribed to their gods ‘fate inevitable.” And He would be equally ridiculous, if He could not do and did not all things, or if any thing could be done without Him. If then the prescience and omnipotence of God be granted, it naturally follows, as an irrefragable consequence that we neither were made by ourselves, nor live by ourselves, nor do any thing by ourselves, but by His Omnipotence. And since He at the first foreknew that we should be such, and since He has made us such, and moves and rules over us as such, how, I ask, can it be pretended, that there is any liberty in us to do, in any respect, otherwise than He at first foreknew and now proceeds in action!
Wherefore, the prescience and Omnipotence of God, are diametrically opposite to our “Free-will.” And it must be, that either God is deceived in His prescience and errs in His action, (which is impossible) or we act, and are acted upon, according to His prescience and action.—But by the Omnipotence of God, I mean, not that power by which He does not many things that He could do, but that actual power by which He powerfully works all in all, in which sense the Scripture calls Him Omnipotent. This Omnipotence and prescience of God, I say, utterly abolishes the doctrine of “Free-will.” No pretext can here be framed about the obscurity of the Scripture, or the difficulty of the subject-point: the words are most clear, and known to every school-boy; and the point is plain and easy and stands proved by judgment of common sense; so that the series of ages, of times, or of persons, either writing or teaching to the contrary, be it as great as it may, amounts to nothing at all.
Sect. XCIV.—BUT it is this, that seems to give the greatest offence to common sense or natural reason,—that the God, who is set forth as being so full of mercy and goodness, should, of His mere will, leave men, harden them, and damn them, as though He delighted in the sins, and in the great and eternal torments of the miserable. To think thus of God, seems iniquitous, cruel, intolerable; and it is this that has given offence to so many and great men of so many ages.
And who would not be offended? I myself have been offended more than once, even unto the deepest abyss of desperation; nay, so far, as even to wish that I had never been born a man; that is, before I was brought to know how healthful that desperation was, and how near it was unto grace. Here it is, that there has been so much toiling and labouring, to excuse the goodness of God, and to accuse the will of man. Here it is, that distinctions have been invented between the ordinary will of God and the absolute will of God: between the necessity of the consequence, and the necessity of the thing consequent: and many other inventions of the same kind. By which, nothing has ever been effected but an imposition upon the unlearned, by vanities of words, and by “oppositions of science falsely so called.” For after all, a conscious conviction has been left deeply rooted in the heart both of the learned and the unlearned, if ever they have come to an experience of these things; and a knowledge, that our necessity, is a consequence that must follow upon the belief of the prescience and Omnipotence of God.
And even natural Reason herself, who is so offended at this necessity, and who invents so many contrivances to take it out of the way, is compelled to grant it upon her own conviction from her own judgment, even though there were no Scripture at all. For all men find these sentiments written in their hearts, and they acknowledge and approve them (though against their will) whenever they hear them treated on.—First, that God is Omnipotent, not only in power but in action (as I said before): and that, if it were not so, He would be a ridiculous God.—And next, that He knows and foreknows all things, and neither can err nor be deceived. These two points then being granted by the hearts and minds of all, they are at once compelled, from an inevitable consequence, to admit,—that we are not made from our own will, but from necessity: and moreover, that we do not what we will according to the law of “Free-will,” but as God foreknew and proceeds in action, according to His infallible and immutable counsel and power. Wherefore, it is found written alike in the hearts of all men, that there is no such thing as “Free-will”; though that writing be obscured by so many contending disputations, and by the great authority of so many men who have, through so many ages, taught otherwise. Even as every other law also, which, according to the testimony of Paul, is written in our hearts, is then acknowledged when it is rightly set forth, and then obscured, when it is confused by wicked teachers, and drawn aside by other opinions.
Sect. XCV.—I NOW return to Paul. If he does not, Rom. ix., explain this point, nor clearly state our necessity from the prescience and will of God; what need was there for him to introduce the similitude of the “potter,” who, of the “same lump” of clay, makes “one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour?” (Rom. ix. 21). What need was there for him to observe, that the thing formed does not say to him that formed it, “Why hast thou made me thus?” (20). He is there speaking of men; and he compares them to clay, and God to a potter. This similitude, therefore, stands coldly useless, nay, is introduced ridiculously and in vain, if it be not his sentiment, that we have no liberty whatever. Nay, the whole of the argument of Paul, wherein he defends grace, is in vain. For the design of the whole epistle is to shew, that we can do nothing, even when we seem to do well; as he in the same epistle testifies, where he says, that Israel which followed after righteousness, did not attain unto righteousness; but that the Gentiles which followed not after it did attain unto it. (Rom. ix. 30-31). Concerning which I shall speak more at large hereafter, when I produce my forces.
The fact is, the Diatribe designedly keeps back the body of Paul’s argument and its scope, and comfortably satisfies itself with prating upon a few detached and corrupted terms. Nor does the exhortation which Paul afterwards gives, Rom. xi., at all help the Diatribe; where he saith, “Thou standest by faith, be not high-minded;” (20), again, “and they also, if they shall believe, shall be grafted in, &c. (23);” for he says nothing there about the ability of man, but brings forth imperative and conditional expressions; and what effect they are intended to produce, has been fully shewn already. Moreover, Paul, there anticipating the boasters of “Free-will,” does not say, they can believe, but he saith, “God is able to graft them in again.” (23).
To be brief: The Diatribe moves along with so much hesitation, and so lingeringly, in handling these passages of Paul, that its conscience seems to give the lie to all that it writes. For just at the point where it ought to have gone on to the proof, it for the most part, stops short with a ‘But of this enough;’ ‘But I shall not now proceed with this;’ ‘But this is not my present purpose;’ ‘But here they should have said so and so;’ and many evasions of the same kind; and it leaves off the subject just in the middle; so that, you are left in uncertainty whether it wished to be understood as speaking on “Free-will,” or whether it was only evading the sense of Paul by means of vanities of words. And all this is being just in its character, as not having a serious thought upon the cause in which it is engaged. But as for me I dare not be thus cold, thus always on the tip-toe of policy, or thus move to and fro as a reed shaken with the wind. I must assert with certainty, with constancy, and with ardour; and prove what I assert solidly, appropriately, and fully.
Sect. XCVI.—AND now, how excellently does the Diatribe preserve liberty in harmony with necessity, where it says—“Nor does all necessity exclude “Free-will.” For instance: God the Father begets a son, of necessity; but yet, He begets him willingly and freely, seeing that, He is not forced.”—
Am I here, I pray you, disputing about compulsion and force? Have I not said in all my books again and again, that my dispute, on this subject, is about the necessity of immutability? I know that the Father begets willingly, and that Judas willingly betrayed Christ. But I say, this willing, in the person of Judas, was decreed to take place from immutability and certainty, if God foreknew it. Or, if men do not yet understand what I mean,—I make two necessities: the one a necessity of force, in reference to the act; the other a necessity of immutability in reference to the time. Let him, therefore, who wishes to hear what I have to say, understand, that I here speak of the latter, not of the former: that is, I do not dispute whether Judas became a traitor willingly or unwillingly, but whether or not it was decreed to come to pass, that Judas should will to betray Christ at a certain time infallibly predetermined of God!
But only listen to what the Diatribe says upon this point—“With reference to the immutable prescience of God, Judas was of necessity to become a traitor; nevertheless, Judas had it in his power to change his own will.”—
Dost thou understand, friend Diatribe, what thou sayest? (To say nothing of that which has been already proved, that the will cannot will any thing but evil.) How could Judas change his own will, if the immutable prescience of God stand granted! Could he change the prescience of God and render it fallible!
Here the Diatribe gives it up, and, leaving its standard, and throwing down its arms, runs from its post, and hands over the discussion to the subtleties of the schools concerning the necessity of the consequence and of the thing consequent: pretending—‘that it does not wish to engage in the discussion of points so nice.’—
A step of policy truly, friend Diatribe!—When you have brought the subject-point into the midst of the field, and just when the champion-disputant was required, then you shew your back, and leave to others the business of answering and defining. But you should have taken this step at the first, and abstained from writing altogether. ‘He who ne’er proved the training-field of arms, let him ne’er in the battle’s brunt appear.’ For it never was expected of Erasmus that he should remove that difficulty which lies in God’s foreknowing all things, and our, nevertheless, doing all things by contingency: this difficulty existed in the world long before ever the Diatribe saw the light: but yet, it was expected that he should make some kind of answer, and give some kind of definition. Whereas he, by using a rhetorical transition, drags away us, knowing nothing of rhetoric, along with himself, as though we were here contending for a thing of nought, and were engaged in quibbling about insignificant niceties; and thus, nobly betakes himself out of the midst of the field, bearing the crowns both of the scholar and the conqueror.
But not so, brother! There is no rhetoric of sufficient force to cheat an honest conscience. The voice of conscience is proof against all powers and figures of eloquence. I cannot here suffer a rhetorician to pass on under the cloak of dissimulation. This is not a time for such maneuvering. This is that part of the discussion, where matters come to the turning point. Here is the hinge upon which the whole turns. Here, therefore, “Free-will” must be completely vanquished, or completely triumph. But here you, seeing your danger, nay, the certainty of the victory over “Free-will,” pretend that you see nothing but argumentative niceties. Is this to act the part of a faithful theologian? Can you feel a serious interest in your cause, who thus leave your auditors in suspense, and your arguments in a state that confuses and exasperates them, while you, nevertheless, wish to appear to have given honest satisfaction and open explanation? This craft and cunning might, perhaps, be borne with in profane subjects, but in a theological subject, where simple and open truth is the object required, for the salvation of souls, it is utterly hateful and intolerable!
Sect. XCVII.—THE Sophists also felt the invincible and insupportable force of this argument, and therefore they invented the necessity of the consequence and of the thing consequent. But to what little purpose this figment is, I have shewn already. For they do not all the while observe, what they are saying, and what conclusions they are admitting against themselves. For if you grant the necessity of the consequence, “Free-will” lies vanquished and prostrate, nor does either the necessity, or the contingency of the thing consequent, profit it anything. What is it to me if “Free-will” be not compelled, but do what it does willingly? It is enough for me, that you grant, that it is of necessity, that it does willingly what it does; and that, it cannot do otherwise if God foreknew it would be so.
If God foreknew, either that Judas would be a traitor, or that he would change his willing to be a traitor, whichsoever of the two God foreknew, must, of necessity, take place, or God will be deceived in His prescience and prediction, which is impossible. This is the effect of the necessity of the consequence, that is, if God foreknows a thing, that thing must of necessity take place; that is, there is no such thing as “Free-will.” This necessity of the consequence, therefore, is not ‘obscure or ambiguous;’ so that, even if the doctors of all ages were blinded, yet they must admit it, because it is so manifest and plain, as to be actually palpable. And as to the necessity of the thing consequent, with which they comfort themselves, that is a mere phantom, and is in diametrical opposition to the necessity of the consequence.
For example: The necessity of the consequence is, (so to set it forth,) God foreknows that Judas will be a traitor—therefore it will certainly and infallibly come to pass, that Judas shall be a traitor. Against this necessity of the consequence, you comfort yourself thus:—But since Judas can change his willing to betray, therefore, there is no necessity of the thing consequent. How, I ask you, will these two positions harmonize, Judas is able to will not to betray, and, Judas must of necessity will to betray? Do not these two directly contradict and militate against each other? But he will not be compelled, you say, to betray against his will. What is that to the purpose? You were speaking of the necessity of the thing consequent; and saying, that that need not, of necessity, follow, from the necessity of the consequence; you were not speaking of the compulsive necessity of the thing consequent. The question was, concerning the necessity of the thing consequent, and you produce an example concerning the compulsive necessity of the thing consequent. I ask one thing, and you answer another. But this arises from that yawning sleepiness, under which you do not observe, what nothingness that figment amounts to, concerning the necessity of the thing consequent.
Suffice it to have spoken thus to the former part of this SECOND PART, which has been concerning the hardening of Pharaoh, and which involves, indeed, all the Scriptures, and all our forces, and those invincible. Now let us proceed to the remaining part concerning Jacob and Esau, who are spoken of as being “not yet born.” (Rom. ix. 11).
Sect. XCVIII.—THIS place the Diatribe evades by saying—‘that it does not properly pertain to the salvation of man. For God (it says) may will that a man shall be a servant, or a poor man; and yet, not reject him from eternal salvation.’—
Only observe, I pray you, how many evasions and ways of escape a slippery mind will invent, which would flee from the truth, and yet cannot get away from it after all. Be it so, that this passage does not pertain to the salvation of man, (to which point I shall speak hereafter), are we to suppose, then, that Paul who adduces it, does so, for no purpose whatever? Shall we make Paul to be ridiculous, or a vain trifler, in a discussion so serious?
But all this breathes nothing but Jerome, who dares to say, in more places than one, with a supercilious brow and a sacrilegious mouth, ‘that those things are made to be of force in Paul, which, in their own places, are of no force.’ This is no less than saying, that Paul, where he lays the foundation of the Christian doctrine, does nothing but corrupt the Holy Scriptures, and delude believing souls with sentiments hatched out of his own brain, and violently thrust into the Scriptures.—Is this honouring the Holy Spirit in Paul, that sanctified and elect instrument of God! Thus, when Jerome ought to be read with judgment, and this saying of his to be numbered among those many things which that man impiously wrote, (such was his yawning inconsiderateness, and his stupidity in understanding the Scriptures), the Diatribe drags him in without any judgment; and not thinking it right, that his authority should be lessened by any mitigating gloss whatever, takes him as a most certain oracle, whereby to judge of, and attemper the Scriptures. And thus it is; we take the impious sayings of men as rules and guides in the Holy Scripture, and then wonder that it should become ‘obscure and ambiguous;’ and that so many fathers should be blind in it; whereas, the whole proceeds from this impious and sacrilegious Reason.
Sect. XCIX.—LET him, then, be anathema who shall say, ‘that those things which are of no force in their own places are made to be of force in Paul.’ This, however, is only said, it is not proved. And it is said by those, who understand neither Paul, nor the passages adduced by him, but are deceived by terms; that is, by their own impious interpretations of them. And if it be allowed that this passage, Gen. xxv. 21-23 is to be understood in a temporal sense (which is not the true sense) yet it is rightly and effectually adduced by Paul, when he proves from it, that it was not of the “merits” of Jacob and Esau, “but of Him that calleth,” that it was said unto Rebecca, “the elder shall serve the younger.” (Rom. ix. 11-16).
Paul is argumentatively considering, whether or not they attained unto that which was said of them, by the power or merits of “Free-will”; and he proves, that they did not; but that Jacob attained unto that, unto which Esau attained not, solely by the grace “of Him that calleth.” And he proves that, by the incontrovertible words of the Scripture: that is, that they were “not yet born:” and also, that they had “done neither good nor evil.” This proof contains the weighty sum of his whole subject point: and by the same proof, our subject point is settled also.
The Diatribe, however, having dissemblingly passed over all these particulars, with an excellent rhetorical fetch, does not here argue at all upon merit, (which, nevertheless, it undertook to do, and which this subject point of Paul requires), but cavils about temporal bondage, as though that were at all to the purpose;—but it is merely that it might not seem to be overthrown by the all-forcible words of Paul. For what had it, which it could yelp against Paul in support of “Free-will”? What did “Free-will” do for Jacob, or what did it do against Esau, when it was already determined, by the prescience and predestination of God, before either of them was born, what should be the portion of each; that is, that the one should serve, and the other rule? Thus the rewards were decreed, before the workmen wrought, or were born. It is to this that the Diatribe ought to have answered. Paul contends for this:—that neither had done either good or evil: and yet, that by the divine sentence, the one was decreed to be servant, the other lord. The question here, is not, whether that servitude pertained unto salvation, but from what merit it was imposed on him who had not deserved it. But it is wearisome to contend with these depraved attempts to pervert and evade the Scripture.
Sect. C.—BUT however, that Moses does not intend their servitude only, and that Paul is perfectly right, in understanding it concerning eternal salvation, is manifest from the text itself. And although this is somewhat wide of our present purpose, yet I will not suffer Paul to be contaminated with the calumnies of the sacrilegious. The oracle in Moses is thus—“Two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels, and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” (Gen. xxv. 23).
Here, manifestly, are two people distinctly mentioned. The one, though the younger, is received into the grace of God; to the intent that, he might overcome the other; not by his own strength, indeed, but by a favouring God: for how could the younger overcome the elder unless God were with him!
Since, therefore, the younger was to be the people of God, it is not only the external rule or servitude which is there spoken of, but all that pertains to the spirit of God; that is, the blessing, the word, the Spirit, the promise of Christ, and the everlasting kingdom. And this the Scripture more fully confirms afterwards, where it describes Jacob as being blessed, and receiving the promises and the kingdom.
All this Paul briefly intimates, where he saith, “The elder shall serve the younger:” and he sends us to Moses, who treats upon the particulars more fully. So that you may say, in reply to the sacrilegious sentiment of Jerome and the Diatribe, that these passages which Paul adduces have more force in their own place than they have in his Epistle. And this is true also, not of Paul only, but of all the Apostles; who adduce Scriptures as testimonies and assertions of their own sentiments. But it would be ridiculous to adduce that as a testimony, which testifies nothing, and does not make at all to the purpose. And even if there were some among the philosophers so ridiculous as to prove that which was unknown, by that which was less known still, or by that which was totally irrelevant to the subject, with what face can we attribute such kind of proceeding to the greatest champions and authors of the Christian doctrines, especially, since they teach those things which are the essential articles of faith, and on which the salvation of souls depends? But such a face becomes those who, in the Holy Scriptures, feel no serious interest whatever.
Sect. CI.—AND with respect to that of Malachi which Paul annexes, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated;” (Mal. i. 2-3). that, the Diatribe perverts by a threefold contrivance. The first is—“If (it says) you stick to the letter, God does not love as we love, nor does He hate any one: because, passions of this kind do not pertain unto God.”—
What do I hear! Are we now inquiring whether or not God loves and hates, and not rather why He loves and hates? Our inquiry is, from what merit it is in us that He loves or hates. We know well enough, that God does not love or hate as we do; because, we love and hate mutably, but He loves and hates from an eternal and immutable nature; and hence it is, that accidents and passions do not pertain unto Him.
And it is this very state of the truth, that of necessity proves “Free-will” to be nothing at all; seeing that, the love and hatred of God towards men is immutable and eternal; existing, not only before there was any merit or work of “Free-will,” but before the worlds were made; and that, all things take place in us from necessity, accordingly as He loved or loved not from all eternity. So that, not the love of God only, but even the manner of His love imposes on us necessity. Here then it may be seen, how much its invented ways of escape profit the Diatribe; for the more it attempts to get away from the truth, the more it runs upon it; with so little success does it fight against it!
But be it so, that your trope stands good—that the love of God is the effect of love, and the hatred of God the effect of hatred. Does, then, that effect take place without, and independent of, the will of God? Will you here say also, that God does not will as we do, and that the passion of willing does not pertain to Him? If then those effects take place, they do not take place but according to the will of God. Hence, therefore, what God wills, that He loves and hates. Now then, tell me, for what merit did God love Jacob or hate Esau, before they wrought, or were born? Wherefore it stands manifest, that Paul most rightly adduces Malachi in support of the passage from Moses: that is, that God therefore called Jacob before he was born, because He loved him; but that He was not first loved by Jacob, nor moved to love him from any merit in him. So that, in the cases of Jacob and Esau, it is shewn—what ability there is in our “Free-will”!
Sect. CII.—THE second contrivance is this:—‘that Malachi does not seem to speak of that hatred by which we are damned to all eternity, but of temporal affliction: seeing that, those are reproved who wished to destroy Edom.’—
This, again, is advanced in contempt of Paul, as though he had done violence to the Scriptures. Thus, we hold in no reverence whatever, the majesty of the Holy Spirit, and only aim at establishing our own sentiments. But let us bear with this contempt for a moment, and see what it effects. Malachi, then, speaks of temporal affliction. And what if he do? What is that to your purpose? Paul proves out of Malachi, that that affliction was laid on Esau without any desert, by the hatred of God only: and this he does, that he might thence conclude, that there is no such thing as “Free-will.” This is the point that makes against you, and it is to this you ought to have answered. I am arguing about merit, and you are all the while talking about reward; and yet, you so talk about it, as not to evade that which you wish to evade; nay, in your very talking about reward, you acknowledge merit; and yet, pretend you do not see it. Tell me, then, what moved God to love Jacob, and to hate Esau, even before they were born?
But however, the assertion, that Malachi is speaking of temporal affliction only, is false: nor is he speaking of the destroying of Edom: you entirely pervert the sense of the prophet by this contrivance. The prophet shews what he means, in words the most clear.—He upbraids the Israelites with ingratitude: because, after God had loved them, they did not, in return, either love Him as their Father, or fear Him as their Lord. (Mal. i. 6.).
That God had loved them, he proves, both by the Scriptures, and by facts: viz. in this:—that although Jacob and Esau were brothers, as Moses records Gen. xxv. 21-28, yet He loved Jacob and chose him before he was born, as we have heard from Paul already; but that, He so hated Esau, that He removed away his dwelling into the desert; that moreover, he so continued and pursued that hatred, that when He brought back Jacob from captivity and restored him, He would not suffer the Edomites to be restored; and that, even if they at any time said they wished to build, He threatened them with destruction. If this be not the plain meaning of the prophet’s text, let the whole world prove me a liar.—Therefore the temerity of the Edomites is not here reproved, but, as I said before, the ingratitude of the sons of Jacob; who do not see what God has done, for them, and against their brethren the Edomites; and for no other reason, than because, He hated the one, and loved the other.
How then will your assertion stand good, that the prophet is here speaking of temporal affliction, when he testifies, in the plainest words, that he is speaking of the two people as proceeding from the two patriarchs, the one received to be a people and saved, and the other left and at last destroyed? To be received as a people, and not to be received as a people, does not pertain to temporal good and evil only, but unto all things. For our God is not the God of temporal things only, but of all things. Nor does God will to be thy God so as to be worshipped with one shoulder, or with a lame foot, but with all thy might, and with all thy heart, that He may be thy God as well here, as hereafter, in all things, times, and works.
Sect. CIII.—THE third contrivance is—‘that, according to the trope interpretation of the passage, God neither loves all the Gentiles, nor hates all the Jews; but, out of each people, some. And that, by this use of the trope, the Scripture testimony in question, does not at all go to prove necessity, but to beat down the arrogance of the Jews.’—The Diatribe having opened this way of escape, then comes to this—‘that God is said to hate men before they are born, because, He foreknows that they will do that which will merit hatred: and that thus, the hatred and love of God do not at all militate against “Free-will”—And at last, it draws this conclusion—‘that the Jews were cut off from the olive tree on account of the merit of unbelief, and the Gentiles grafted in on account of the merit of faith, according to the authority of Paul; and that, a trope is held out to those who are cut off, of being grafted in again, and a warning given to those who are grafted in, that they fall not off.’—
May I perish if the Diatribe itself knows what it is talking about. But, perhaps, this is also a rhetorical fetch; which teaches you, when any danger seems to be at hand, always to render your sense obscure, lest you should be taken in your own words. I, for my part, can see no place whatever in this passage for those trope-interpretations, of which the Diatribe dreams, but which it cannot establish by proof. Therefore, it is no wonder that this testimony does not make against it, in the trope-interpreted sense, because, it has no such sense.
Moreover, we are not disputing about cutting off and grafting in, of which Paul here speaks in his exhortations. I know that men are grafted in by faith, and cut off by unbelief; and that they are to be exhorted to believe that they be not cut off. But it does not follow, nor is it proved from this, that they can believe or fall away by the power of “Free-will,” which is now the point in question. We are not disputing about, who are the believing and who are not; who are Jews and who are Gentiles; and what is the consequence of believing and falling away; that pertains unto exhortation. Our point in dispute is, by what merit or work they attain unto that faith by which they are grafted in, or unto that unbelief by which they are cut off. This is the point that belongs to you as the teacher of “Free-will.” And pray, describe to me this merit.
Paul teaches us, that this comes to them by no work of theirs, but only according to the love or the hatred of God: and when it is come to them, he exhorts them to persevere, that they be not cut off. But this exhortation does not prove what we can do, but what we ought to do.
I am compelled thus to hedge in my adversary with many words, lest he should slip away from, and leave the subject point, and take up any thing but that: and in fact, to hold him thus to the point, is to vanquish him. For all that he aims at, is to slide away from the point, withdraw himself out of sight, and take up any thing but that, which he first laid down as his subject design.
Sect. CIV.—THE next passage which the Diatribe takes up is that of Isaiah xlv. 9, “Shall the clay say to Him that fashioneth it, what makest Thou?” And that of Jeremiah xviii. 6, “Behold as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in Mine hand.” Here the Diatribe says again—“these passages are made to have more force in Paul, than they have in the places of the prophets from which they are taken; because, in the prophets they speak of temporal affliction, but Paul uses them, with reference to eternal election and reprobation.”—So that, here again, temerity or ignorance in Paul, is insinuated.
But before we see how the Diatribe proves, that neither of these passages excludes “Free-will,” I will make this remark:—that Paul does not appear to have taken this passage out of the Scriptures, nor does the Diatribe prove that he has. For Paul usually mentions the name of his author, or declares that he has taken a certain part from the Scriptures; whereas, here, he does neither. It is most probable, therefore, that Paul uses this general similitude according to his spirit in support of his own cause, as others have used it in support of theirs. It is in the same way that he uses this similitude. “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” which, 1 Cor. v. 6, he uses to represent corrupt morals: and applies it in another place (Gal. v. 9) to those who corrupt the Word of God: so Christ also speaks of the “leaven of Herod” and “of the Pharisees.” (Mark viii. 15; Matt. xvi. 6).
Supposing, therefore, that the prophets use this similitude, when speaking more particularly of temporal punishment; (upon which I shall not now dwell, lest I should be too much occupied about irrelevant questions, and kept away from the subject point,) yet Paul uses it, in his spirit, against “Free-will.” And as to saying that the liberty of the will is not destroyed by our being as clay in the hand of an afflicting God, I know not what it means, nor why the Diatribe contends for such a point: for, without doubt, afflictions come upon us from God against our will, and impose upon us the necessity of bearing them, whether we will or no: nor is it in our power to avert them: though we are exhorted to bear them with a willing mind.
Sect. CV.—BUT it is worth while to hear the Diatribe make out, how it is that the argument of Paul does not exclude “Free-will” by that similitude: for it brings forward two absurd objections: the one taken from the Scriptures, the other from Reason. From the Scriptures it collects this objection.
—When Paul, 2 Tim. ii. 20, had said, that “in a great house there are vessels of gold and silver, wood and earth, some to honour and some to dishonour,” he immediately adds, “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, &c.” (21.)—Then the Diatribe goes on to argue thus:—“What could be more ridiculous than for any one to say to an earthen chamber-convenience, If thou shalt purify thyself, thou shalt be a vessel unto honour? But this would be rightly said to a rational earthen vessel, which can, when admonished, form itself according to the will of the Lord.”—By these observations it means to say, that the similitude is not in all respects applicable, and is so mistaken, that it effects nothing at all.
I answer: (not to cavil upon this point:)—that Paul does not say, if any one shall purify himself from his own filth, but “from these;” that is, from the vessels unto dishonour: so that the sense is, if any one shall remain separate, and shall not mingle himself with wicked teachers, he shall be a vessel unto honour. Let us grant also that this passage of Paul makes for the Diatribe just as it wishes: that is, that the similitude is not effective. But how will it prove, that Paul is here speaking on the same subject as he is in Rom. ix. 11-23, which is the passage in dispute? Is it enough to cite a different passage without at all regarding whether it have the same or a different tendency? There is not (as I have often shewn) a more easy or more frequent fall in the Scriptures, than the bringing together different Scripture passages as being of the same meaning. Hence, the similitude in those passages, of which the Diatribe boasts, makes less to its purpose than our similitude which it would refute.
But (not to be contentious), let us grant, that each passage of Paul is of the same tendency; and that a similitude does not always apply in all respects; (which is without controversy true; for otherwise, it would not be a similitude, nor a translation, but the thing itself; according to the proverb, ‘A similitude halts, and does not always go upon four feet;’) yet the Diatribe errs and transgresses in this:—neglecting the scope of the similitude, which is to be most particularly observed, it contentiously catches at certain words of it: whereas, ‘the knowledge of what is said, (as Hilary observes,) is to be gained from the scope of what is said, not from certain detached words only.’ Thus, the efficacy of a similitude depends upon the cause of the similitude. Why then does the Diatribe disregard that, for the purpose of which Paul uses this similitude, and catch at that, which he says is unconnected with the purport of the similitude? That is to say, it is an exhortation where he saith, “If a man purge himself from these;” but a point of doctrine where he saith, “In a great house, there are vessels of gold, &c.” So that, from all the circumstances of the words and mind of Paul, you may understand that he is establishing the doctrine concerning the diversity and use of vessels.
The sense, therefore, is this:—seeing that so many depart from the faith, there is no comfort for us but the being certain that “the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His. And let every one that calleth upon the name of the Lord depart from evil.” (2 Tim. ii. 19). This then is the cause and efficacy of the similitude—that God knows His own! Then follows the similitude—that there are different vessels, some to honour and some to dishonour. By this it is proved at once, that the vessels do not prepare themselves, but that the Master prepares them. And this is what Paul means, where he saith, “Hath not the potter power over the clay, &c.” (Rom. ix. 21). Thus, the similitude of Paul stands most effective: and that to prove, that there is no such thing as “Free-will” in the sight of God.
After this, follows the exhortation: “If a man purify himself from these,” &c. and for what purpose this is, may be clearly collected from what we have said already. It does not follow from this, that the man can purify himself. Nay, if any thing be proved hereby it is this:—that “Free-will” can purify itself without grace. For he does not say, if grace purify a man; but, “if a man purify himself.” But concerning imperative and conditional passages, we have said enough. Moreover, the similitude is not set forth in conditional, but in indicative verbs—that the elect and the reprobate, are as vessels of honour and of dishonour. In a word, if this fetch stand good, the whole argument of Paul comes to nothing. For in vain does he introduce vessels murmuring against God as the potter, if the fault plainly appear to be in the vessel, and not in the potter. For who would murmur at hearing him damned, who merited damnation!
Sect. CVI.—THE other absurd objection, the Diatribe gathers from Madam Reason; who is called, Human Reason—that the fault is not to be laid on the vessel, but on the potter: especially, since He is such a potter, who creates the clay as well as attempers it.—“Whereas, (says the Diatribe) here the vessel is cast into eternal fire, which merited nothing: except that it had no power of its own.”—
In no one place does the Diatribe more openly betray itself, than in this. For it is here heard to say, in other words indeed, but in the same meaning, that which Paul makes the impious to say, “Why doth He yet complain? for who hath resisted His will?” (Rom. ix. 19). This is that which Reason cannot receive, and cannot bear. This is that, which has offended so many men renowned for talent, who have been received through so many ages. Here they require, that God should act according to human laws, and do what seems right unto men, or cease to be God! ‘His secrets of Majesty, say they, do not better His character in our estimation. Let Him render a reason why He is God, or why He wills and does that, which has no appearance of justice in it. It is as if one should ask a cobbler or a collar-maker to take the seat of judgment.’
Thus, flesh does not think God worthy of so great glory, that it should believe Him to be just and good, while He says and does those things which are above that, which the volume of Justin and the fifth book of Aristotle’s Ethics, have defined to be justice. That Majesty which is the Creating Cause of all things, must bow to one of the dregs of His creation: and that Corycian cavern must, vice versa, fear its spectators. It is absurd that He should condemn him; who cannot avoid the merit of damnation. And, on account of this absurdity, it must be false, that “God has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and hardens whom He will.” (Rom. ix. 18). He must be brought to order. He must have certain laws prescribed to Him, that he damn not any one but him, who, according to our judgment, deserves to be damned.
And thus, an effectual answer is given to Paul and his similitude. He must recall it, and allow it to be utterly ineffective: and must so attemper it, that this potter (according to the Diatribe’s interpretation) make the vessel to dishonour from merit preceding in the same manner in which He rejected some Jews on account of unbelief, and received Gentiles on account of faith. But if God work thus, and have respect unto merit, why do those impious ones murmur and expostulate? Why do they say, “Why doth He find fault? for who hath resisted His will?” (Rom. ix. 19). And what need was there for Paul to restrain them? For who wonders even, much less is indignant and expostulates, when any one is damned who merited damnation? Moreover where remains the power of the potter to make what vessel He will, if, being subject to merit and laws, He is not permitted to make what He will, but is required to make what He ought? The respect of merit militates against the power and liberty of making what He will: as is proved by that “good man of the house,” who, when the workmen murmured and expostulated concerning their right, objected in answer, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?”—These are the arguments, which will not permit the gloss of the Diatribe to be of any avail.
Sect. CVII.—BUT let us, I pray you, suppose that God ought to be such an one, who should have respect unto merit in those who are to be damned. Must we not, in like manner; also require and grant, that He ought to have respect unto merit in those who are to be saved? For if we are to follow Reason, it is equally unjust, that the undeserving should be crowned, as that the undeserving should be damned. We will conclude, therefore, that God ought to justify from merit preceding, or we will declare Him to be unjust, as being one who delights in evil and wicked men, and who invites and crowns their impiety by rewards.—And then, woe unto you, sensibly miserable sinners, under that God! For who among you can be saved!
Behold, therefore, the iniquity of the human heart! When God saves the undeserving without merit, nay, justifies the impious with all their demerit, it does not accuse Him of iniquity, it does not expostulate with Him why He does it, although it is, in its own judgment, most iniquitous; but because it is to its own profit, and plausible, it considers it just and good. But when He damns the undeserving, this, because it is not to its own profit, is iniquitous; this is intolerable; here it expostulates, here it murmurs, here it blasphemes!
You see, therefore, that the Diatribe, together with its friends, do not, in this cause, judge according to equity, but according to the feeling sense of their own profit. For, if they regarded equity, they would expostulate with God when He crowned the undeserving, as they expostulate with Him when He damns the undeserving. And also, they would equally praise and proclaim God when He damns the undeserving, as they do when He saves the undeserving; for the iniquity in either instance is the same, if our own opinion be regarded: - unless they mean to say, that the iniquity is not equal, whether you laud Cain for his fratricide and make him a king, or cast the innocent Abel into prison and murder him!
Since, therefore, Reason praises God when He saves the undeserving, but accuses Him when He damns the undeserving; it stands convicted of not praising God as God, but as a certain one who serves its own profit; that is, it seeks, in God, itself and the things of itself, but seeks not God and the things of God. But if it be pleased with a God who crowns the undeserving, it ought not to be displeased with a God who damns the undeserving. For if He be just in the one instance, how shall He not be just in the other? seeing that, in the one instance, He pours forth grace and mercy upon the undeserving, and in the other, pours forth wrath and severity upon the undeserving?—He is, however, in both instances, monstrous and iniquitous in the sight of men; yet just and true in Himself. But, how it is just, that He should crown the undeserving, is incomprehensible now, but we shall see when we come there, where it will be no longer believed, but seen in revelation face to face. So also, how it is just, that He should damn the undeserving, is incomprehensible now, yet, we believe it, until the Son of Man shall be revealed!
Sect. CVIII.—THE Diatribe, however, being itself bitterly offended at this similitude of the “potter’’ and the “clay,” is not a little indignant, that it should be so pestered with it. And at last it comes to this. Having collected together different passages of Scripture, some of which seem to attribute all to man, and others all to grace, it angrily contends—‘that the Scriptures on both sides should be understood according to a sound interpretation, and not received simply as they stand: and that, otherwise, if we still so press upon it that similitude, it is prepared to press upon us, in retaliation, those subjunctive and conditional passages; and especially, that of Paul, “If a man purify himself from these.” This passage (it says) makes Paul to contradict himself, and to attribute all to man, unless a sound interpretation be brought in to make it clear. And if an interpretation be admitted here, in order to clear up the cause of grace, why should not an interpretation be admitted in the similitude of the potter also, to clear up the cause of “Free-will?” -
I answer: It matters not with me, whether you receive the passages in a simple sense, a twofold sense, or a hundred-fold sense. What I say is this: that by this sound interpretation of yours, nothing that you desire is either effected or proved. For that which is required to be proved, according to your design is, that “Free-will” cannot will good. Whereas, by this passage, “If a man purify himself from these,” as it is a conditional sentence, neither any thing nor nothing is proved, for it is only an exhortation of Paul. Or, if you add the conclusion of the Diatribe, and say, ‘the exhortation is in vain, if a man cannot purify himself;’ then it proves, that “Free-will” can do all things without grace. And thus the Diatribe explodes itself.
We are waiting, therefore, for some passage of the Scripture, to shew us that this interpretation is right; we give no credit to those who hatch it out of their own brain. For, we deny, that any passage can be found which attributes all to man. We deny that Paul contradicts himself, where he says, “If a man shall purify himself from these.” And we aver, that both the contradiction and the interpretation which exhorts it, are fictions; that they are both thought of, but neither of them proved. This, indeed, we confess, that, if we were permitted to augment the Scriptures by the conclusions and additions of the Diatribe, and to say, ‘if we are not able to perform the things which are commanded, the precepts are given in vain;’ then, in truth, Paul would militate against himself, as would the whole Scripture also: for then, the Scripture would be different from what it was before, and would prove that “Free-will” can do all things. What wonder, however, if he should then contradict himself again, where he saith, in another place, that “God worketh all in all!” (1 Cor. xii. 6).
But, however, the Scripture in question, thus augmented, makes not only against us, but against the Diatribe itself, which defined “Free-will” to be that, ‘which cannot will any thing good.’ Let, therefore, the Diatribe clear itself first, and say, how these two assertions agree with Paul:—‘Free-will cannot will any thing good,’ and also, ‘If a man purify himself from these: therefore, man can purify himself, or it is said in vain.’—You see, therefore, that the Diatribe, being entangled and overcome by that similitude of the potter, only aims at evading it; not at all considering in the meantime, how its interpretation militates against its subject point, and how it is refuting and laughing at itself.
Sect. CIX.—BUT as to myself, as I said before, I never aimed at any kind of invented interpretation. Nor did I ever speak thus: ‘Stretch forth thine hand; that is, grace shall stretch it forth.’ All these things, are the Diatribe’s own inventions Concerning me, to the furtherance of its own cause. What I said was this:—that there is no contradiction in the words of the Scripture, nor any need of an invented interpretation to clear up a difficulty. But that the assertors of “Free-will” willfully stumbled upon plain ground, and dream of contradictions where there are none.
For example: There is no contradiction in these Scriptures, “If a man purify himself,” and, “God worketh all in all.” Nor is it necessary to say, in order to explain this difficulty, God does something and man does something. Because, the former Scripture is conditional, which neither affirms or denies any work or power in man, but simply shews what work or power there ought to be in man. There is nothing figurative here; nothing that requires an invented interpretation; the words are plain, the sense is plain; that is, if you do not add conclusions and corruptions, after the manner of the Diatribe: for then, the sense would not be plain: not, however, by its own fault, but by the fault of the corruptor.
But the latter Scripture, “God worketh all in all,” (1 Cor. xii. 6), is an indicative passage; declaring, that all works and all power are of God. How then do these two passages, the one of which says nothing of the power of man, and the other of which attributes all to God, contradict each other, and not rather sweetly harmonize. But the Diatribe is so drowned, suffocated in, and corrupted with, that sense of the carnal interpretation, ‘that impossibilities are commanded in vain,’ that it has no power over itself; but as soon as it hears an imperative or conditional word, it immediately tacks to it its indicative conclusions:—a certain thing is commanded: therefore, we are able to do it, and do do it, or the command is ridiculous.
On this side it bursts forth and boasts of its complete victory: as though it held it as a settled point, that these conclusions, as soon as hatched in thought, were established as firmly as the Divine Authority. And hence, it pronounces with all confidence, that in some places of the Scripture all is attributed to man: and that, therefore, there is a contradiction that requires interpretation. But it does not see, that all this is the figment of its own brain, no where confirmed by one iota of Scripture. And not only so, but that it is of such a nature, that if it were admitted, it would confute no one more directly than itself: because, if it proved any thing, it would prove that “Free-will” can do all things: whereas, it undertook to prove the directly contrary.
Sect. CX.—IN the same way also it so continually repeats this:—“If man do nothing, there is no place for merit, and where there is no place for merit, there can be no place either for punishment or for reward.” -
Here again, it does not see, that by these carnal arguments, it refutes itself more directly than it refutes us. For what do these conclusions prove, but that all merit is in the power of “Free-will?” And then, where is any room for grace? Moreover, supposing “Free-will” to merit a certain little, and grace the rest, why does “Free-will” receive the whole reward? Or, shall we suppose it to receive but a certain small portion of reward? Then, if there be a place for merit, in order that there might be a place for reward, the merit must be as great as the reward.
But why do I thus lose both words and time upon a thing of nought? For, even supposing the whole were established at which the Diatribe is aiming, and that merit is partly the work of man, and partly the work of God; yet it cannot define that work itself, what it is, of what kind it is, or how far it is to extend; therefore, its disputation is about nothing at all. Since, therefore, it cannot prove any one thing which it asserts, nor establish its interpretation nor contradiction, nor bring forward a passage that attributes all to man; and since all are the phantoms of its own cogitation, Paul’s similitude of the “potter” and the “clay,” stands unshaken and invincible - that it is not according to our “Free-will,” what kind of vessels we are made. And as to the exhortations of Paul, “If a man purify himself from these,” and the like, they are certain models, according to which, we ought to be formed; but they are not proofs of our working power, or of our desire. Suffice it to have spoken thus upon these points, the HARDENING OF PHARAOH, the CASE OF ESAU, and the SIMILITUDE OF THE POTTER.
Sect. CXI.—THE Diatribe at length comes to THE PASSAGES CITED BY LUTHER AGAINST “FREE-WILL,” WITH THE INTENT TO REFUTE THEM.
The first passage, is that of Gen. vi. 3, “My Spirit shall not always remain in man; seeing that he is flesh.” This passage it confutes, variously. First, it says, ‘that flesh, here, does not signify vile affection, but infirmity.’ Then it augments the text of Moses, ‘that this saying of his, refers to the men of that age, and not to the whole race of men: as if he had said, in these men.’ And moreover, ‘that it does not refer to all the men, even of that age; because, Noah was excepted,’ And at last it says, ‘that this word has, in the Hebrew, another signification; that it signifies the mercy, and not the severity, of God; according to the authority of Jerome.’ By this it would, perhaps, persuade us, that since that saying did not apply to Noah but to the wicked, it was not the mercy, but the severity of God that was shewn to Noah, and the mercy, not the severity of God that was shewn to the wicked.
But let us away with these ridiculing vanities of the Diatribe: for there is nothing which it advances, which does not evince that it looks upon the Scriptures as mere fables. What Jerome here triflingly talks about, is nothing at all to me; for it is certain that he cannot prove any thing that he says. Nor is our dispute concerning the sense of Jerome, but concerning the sense of the Scripture. Let that perverter of the Scriptures attempt to make it appear, that the Spirit of God signifies indignation.—I say, that he is deficient in both parts of the necessary two-fold proof. First, he cannot produce one passage of the Scripture, in which the Spirit of God is understood as signifying indignation: for, on the contrary, kindness and sweetness are every where ascribed to the Spirit. And next, if he should prove that it is understood in any place as signifying indignation, yet, he cannot easily prove, that it follows of necessity, that it is so to be received in this place.
So also, let him attempt to make it appear, that “flesh,” is here to be understood as signifying infirmity; yet, he is as deficient as ever in proof. For where Paul calls the Corinthians “carnal,” he does not signify infirmity, but corrupt affection, because, he charges them with “strife and divisions;’’ which is not infirmity, or incapacity to receive “stronger” doctrine, but malice and that “old leaven,” which he commands them to “purge out.” (1 Cor. iii. 3; v. 7.) But let us examine the Hebrew.
Sect. CXII.—“MY Spirit shall not always judge in man; for he is flesh.” These are, verbatim, the words of Moses: and if we would away with our own dreams, the words as they there stand, are, I think, sufficiently plain and clear. And that they are the words of an angry God, is fully manifest, both from what precedes, and from what follows, together with the effect—the flood! The cause of their being spoken, was, the sons of men taking unto them wives from the mere lust of the flesh, and then, so filling the earth with violence, as to cause God to hasten the flood, and scarcely to delay that for “an hundred and twenty years,” (Gen. vi. 1-3,) which, but for them, He would never have brought upon the earth at all. Read and study Moses, and you will plainly see that this is his meaning.
But it is no wonder that the Scriptures should be obscure, or that you should be enabled to establish from them, not only a free, but a divine will, where you are allowed so to trifle with them, as to seek to make out of them a Virgilian patch-work. And this is what you call, clearing up difficulties, and putting an end to all dispute by means of an interpretation! But it is with these trifling vanities that Jerome and Origen have filled the world: and have been the original cause of that pestilent practice—the not attending to the simplicity of the Scriptures.
It is enough for me to prove, that in this passage, the divine authority calls men “flesh;” and flesh, in that sense, that the Spirit of God could not continue among them, but was, at a decreed time, to be taken from them. And what God meant when He declared that His Spirit should not “always judge among men,” is explained immediately afterwards, where He determines “an hundred and twenty years” as the time that He would still continue to judge.
Here He contrasts “spirit” with “flesh:” shewing that men being flesh, receive not the Spirit: and He, as being a Spirit, cannot approve of flesh: ‘wherefore it is, that the Spirit, after “an hundred and twenty years,” is to be withdrawn. Hence you may understand the passage of Moses thus—My Spirit, which is in Noah and in the other holy men, rebukes those impious ones, by the word of their preaching, and by their holy lives, (for to “judge among men,” is to act among them in the office of the word; to reprove, to rebuke, to beseech them, opportunely and importunely,) but in vain: for they, being blinded and hardened by the flesh, only become the worse the more they are judged.—And so it ever is, that wherever the Word of God comes forth in the world, these men become the worse, the more they hear of it. And this is the reason why wrath is hastened, even as the flood was hastened at that time: because, they now, not only sin, but even despise grace: as Christ saith, “Light is come into the world, and men hate the light.” (John iii. 19.)
Since, therefore, men, according to the testimony of God Himself, are “flesh,” they can savour of nothing but flesh; so far is it from possibility that “Free-will” should do any thing but sin. And if, even while the Spirit of God is among them calling and teaching, they only become worse, what will they do when left to themselves without the Spirit of God!
Sect. CXIII.—NOR is it at all to the purpose, your saying,—‘that Moses is speaking with reference to the men of that age’—for the same applies unto all men; because, all are flesh; as Christ saith, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” (John iii. 6.) And how deep a corruption that is, He Himself shews in the same chapter, where He saith, “Except a man be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Let, therefore, the Christian know, that Origen and Jerome, together with all their train, perniciously err, when they say, that “flesh” ought not, in these passages, to be understood as meaning ‘corrupt affection:’ because, that of 1 Cor. iii. 3, “For ye are yet carnal,” signifies ungodliness. For Paul means, that there are some among them still ungodly: and moreover, that even the saints, in as far as they savour of carnal things, are “carnal,” though justified by the Spirit.
In a word; you may take this as a general observation upon the Scriptures.—Wherever mention is made of “flesh” in contradistinction to “spirit,” you may there, by “flesh,” understand every thing that is contrary to spirit: as in this passage, “The flesh profiteth nothing.” (John vi. 63.) But where it is used abstractedly, there you may understand the corporal state and nature: as “They twain shall be one flesh,” (Matt. xix. 5,) “My flesh is meat indeed,” (John vi. 55,) “The Word was made flesh,” (John i. 14.) In such passages, you may make a figurative alteration in the Hebrew, and for ‘flesh,’ say ‘body’. For in the Hebrew tongue, the one term “flesh” embraces in signification our two terms, ‘flesh’ and ‘body.’ And I could wish that these two terms had been distinctively used throughout the Canon of the Scripture.—Thus then, I presume, my passage Gen. vi. still stands directly against “Free-will:” since “flesh” is proved to be that which Paul declares, Rom. viii. 5-8, cannot be subject to God, as we may there see; and since the Diatribe itself asserts, ‘that it cannot will any thing good.’
Sect. CXIV.—ANOTHER passage is that of Gen. viii. 21, “The thought and imagination of man’s heart, is evil from his youth.” And that also Gen. vi. 5, “Every imagination of man’s heart is only evil continually.” These passages it evades thus:—“The proneness to evil which is in most men, does not, wholly, take away the freedom of the will.”—
Does God, I pray you, here speak of ‘most men,’ and not rather of all men, when, after the flood, as it were repenting, He promises to those who were then remaining, and to those who were to come, that He would no more bring a flood upon the earth “for man’s sake:” assigning this as the reason:—because man is prone to evil! As though He had said, If I should act according to the wickedness of man, I should never cease from bringing a flood. Wherefore, henceforth, I will not act according to that which he deserves, &c. You see, therefore, that God, both before and after the flood, declares that man is evil: so that what the Diatribe says about ‘most men,’ amounts to nothing at all.
Moreover, a proneness or inclination to evil, appears to the Diatribe, to be a matter of little moment; as though it were in our own power to keep ourselves upright, or to restrain it: whereas the Scripture, by that proneness, signifies the continual bent and impetus of the will, to evil. Why does not the Diatribe here appeal to the Hebrew? Moses says nothing there about proneness. But, that you may have no room for cavillation, the Hebrew, (Gen. vi. 5), runs thus:—“CHOL IETZER MAHESCHEBOTH LIBBO RAK RA CHOL HAIOM:” that is, “Every imagination of the thought of the heart is only evil all days.” He does not say, that he is intent or prone to evil; but that, evil altogether, and nothing but evil, is thought or imagined by man throughout his whole life. The nature of his evil is described to be that, which neither does nor can do any thing but evil, as being evil itself: for, according to the testimony of Christ, an evil tree can bring forth none other than evil fruit. (Matt. vii. 17-18).
And as to the Diatribe’s pertly objecting—“Why was time given for repentance, then, if no part of repentance depend on Free-will, and all things be conducted according to the law of necessity.”—
I answer: You may make the same objection to all the precepts of God; and say, Why does He command at all, if all things take place of necessity? He commands, in order to instruct and admonish, that men, being humbled under the knowledge of their evil, might come to grace, as I have fully shewn already.—This passage, therefore, still remains invincible against the freedom of the will!
Sect. CXV.—THE third passage is that in Isaiah xl. 2.—“She hath received at the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”—“Jerome (says the Diatribe) interprets this concerning the divine vengeance, not concerning His grace given in return for evil deeds.”—
I hear you.—Jerome says so: therefore, it is true!—I am disputing about Isaiah, who here speaks in the clearest words, and Jerome is cast in my teeth; a man, (to say no worse of him) of neither judgment nor application. Where now is that promise of ours, by which we agreed at the outset, ‘that we would go according to the Scriptures, and not according to the commentaries of men?’ The whole of this chapter of Isaiah, according to the testimony of the evangelists, where they mention it as referring to John the Baptist, “the voice of one crying,” speaks of the remission of sins proclaimed by the Gospel. But we will allow Jerome, after his manner, to thrust in the blindness of the Jews for an historical sense, and his own trifling vanities for an allegory; and, turning all grammar upside down, we will understand this passage as speaking of vengeance, which speaks of the remission of sins.—But, I pray you, what vengeance is fulfilled in the preaching of Christ? Let us, however, see how the words run in the Hebrew.
“Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, (in the vocative) or, My people (in the objective) saith your God.”—He, I presume, who commands to “comfort,” is not executing vengeance! It then follows.
“Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem, and cry unto her.” (Isa. xl. 1-2).—“Speak ye to the heart” is a Hebraism, and signifies to speak good things, sweet things, and alluring things. Thus, Shechem, Gen. xxxiv. 3, speaks to the heart of Dinah, whom he defiled: that is, when she was heavy-hearted, he comforted her with tender words, as our translator has rendered it. And what those good and sweet things are, which are commanded to be proclaimed to their comfort, the prophet explains directly afterwards: saying,
“That her warfare is accomplished, her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”—“Her warfare,” (militia,) which our translators have rendered “her evil,” (malitia), is considered by the Jews, those audacious grammarians, to signify an appointed time. For thus they understand that passage Job vii. 1. “Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth?” that is, his time is determinately appointed. But I receive it simply, and according to grammatical propriety, as signifying “warfare.” Wherefore, you may understand Isaiah, as speaking with reference to the race and labour of the people under the law, who are, as it were, fighting on a platform. Hence Paul compares both the preachers and the hearers of the word to soldiers: as in the case of Timothy, 2 Tim. ii. 3, whom he commands to be “a good soldier,” and to “fight the good fight.” And, 1 Cor. ix. 24, he represents them as running “in a race:” and observes also, that “no one is crowned except he strive lawfully.” He equips the Ephesians and Thessalonians with arms, Ephes. vi. 10-18. And he glories, himself, that he had “fought the good fight,” 2 Tim. iv. 7.: with many like instances in other places. So also at 1 Samuel ii; 22, it is in the Hebrew, “And the sons of Eli slept with the women who fought (militantibus) at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation:” of whose fighting, Moses makes mention in Exodus. And hence it is, that the God of that people is called the “Lord of Sabaoth:” that is, the Lord of warfare and of armies.
Isaiah, therefore, is proclaiming, that the warfare of the people under the law, who are pressed down under the law as a burthen intolerable, as Peter saith, Acts xv. 7-10, is to be at an end; and that they being freed from the law, are to be translated into the new warfare of the Spirit. Moreover, this end of their most hard warfare, and this translation to the new and all-free warfare, is not given unto them on account of their merit, seeing that, they could not endure it; nay, it is rather given unto them on account of their demerit; for their warfare is ended, by their iniquities being freely forgiven them.
The words are not ‘obscure or ambiguous’ here. He saith, that their warfare was ended, by their iniquities being forgiven them: manifestly signifying, that the soldiers under the law, did not fulfil the law, and could not fulfil it: and that they only carried on a warfare of sin, and were soldier-sinners. As though God had said, I am compelled to forgive them their sins, if I would have My law fulfilled by them; nay, I must take away My law entirely when I forgive them; for I see they cannot but sin, and the more so the more they fight; that is, the more they strive to fulfil the law by their own powers. For in the Hebrew, “her iniquity is pardoned” signifies, its being done in gratuitous good-will. And it is thus that the iniquity is pardoned; without any merit, nay, under all demerit; as is shewn in what follows, “for she hath received at the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”—That is, as I said before, not only the remission of sins, but an end of the warfare: which is nothing more or less than this:—the law being taken out of the way, which is “the strength of sin,” and their sin being pardoned, which is “the sting of death,” they reign in a two-fold liberty by the victory of Jesus Christ: which is what Isaiah means when he says, “from the hand of the Lord:” for they do not obtain it by their own powers, or on account of their own merit, but they receive it from the conqueror and giver, Jesus Christ.
And that which is, according to the Hebrew, “in all her sins,” is, according to the Latin, “for all her sins,” or, “on account of all her sins.” As in Hosea xii. 12, “Israel served in a wife:” that is, “for a wife.” And so also in Psalm lix. 3, “They lay in wait in my soul;” that is, “for my soul.” Isaiah therefore is here pointing out to us those merits of ours, by which we imagine we are to obtain the two-fold liberty; that of the end of the law-warfare, and that of the pardon of sin; making it appear to us, that they were nothing but sins, nay, all sins.
Could I, therefore, suffer this most beautiful passage, which stands invincible against “Free-will,” to be thus bedaubed with Jewish filth cast upon it by Jerome and the Diatribe?—God forbid! No! My Isaiah stands victor over “Free-will”; and clearly shews, that grace is given, not to merits or to the endeavours of “Free-will,” but to sins and demerits; and that “Free-will” with all its powers, can do nothing but carry on a warfare of sin; so that, the very law which it imagines to be given as a help, becomes intolerable to it, and makes it the greater sinner, the longer it is under its warfare.
Sect. CXVI.—BUT as to the Diatribe disputing thus—“Although sin abound by the law, and where sin has abounded, grace much more abound; yet it does not therefore follow, that man, doing by God’s help what is pleasing to Him, cannot by works morally good, prepare himself for the favour of God.”—
Wonderful! Surely the Diatribe does not speak this out of its own head, but has taken it out of some paper or other, sent or received from another quarter, and inserted it in its book! For it certainly can neither see nor hear the meaning of these words! If sin abound by the law, how is it possible that a man can prepare himself by moral works, for the favour of God? How can works avail any thing, when the law avails nothing? Or, what else is it for sin to abound by the law, but for all the works, done according to the law, to become sins?—But of this elsewhere. But what does it mean when it says, that man, assisted by the help of God, can prepare himself by moral works? Are we here disputing concerning the divine assistance, or concerning “Free-will”? For what is not possible through the divine assistance? But the fact is, as I said before, the Diatribe cares nothing for the cause it has taken up, and therefore it snores and yawns forth such words as these.
But however, it adduces Cornelius the centurion, Acts x. 31, as an example: observing—‘that his prayers and alms pleased God before he was baptized, and before he was inspired by the Holy Spirit.’
I have read Luke upon the Acts too, and yet I never perceived from one single syllable, that the works of Cornelius were morally good without the Holy Spirit, as the Diatribe dreams. But on the contrary, I find that he was “a just man and one that feared God:” for thus Luke calls him. But to call a man without the Holy Spirit, “a just man and one that feared God,” is the same thing as calling Baal, Christ!
Moreover, the whole context shews, that Cornelius was “clean” before God, even upon the testimony of the vision which was sent down from heaven to Peter, and which reproved him. Are then the righteousness and faith of Cornelius set forth by Luke in such words and attending circumstances, and do the Diatribe and its Sophists remain blind with open eyes, or see the contrary, in a light of words and an evidence of circumstances so clear? Such is their want of diligence in reading and contemplating the Scriptures: and yet, they must brand them with the assertion that they are ‘obscure and ambiguous.’ But grant it, that he was not as yet baptized, nor had as yet heard the word concerning Christ risen from the dead:—does it therefore follow, that He was without the Holy Spirit? According to this, you will say that John the Baptist and his parents, the mother of Christ, and Simeon, were without the Holy Spirit!—But let us take leave of such thick darkness!
Sect. CXVII.—THE fourth passage is that of Isaiah in the same chapter. “All flesh is grass, and all the glory of it as the flower of grass: the grass is withered, the flower of grass is fallen: because the Spirit of the Lord hath blown upon it.” (Isa. xl. 6-7).—
This Scripture appears to my friend Diatribe, to be treated with violence, by being dragged in as applicable to the causes of grace, and “Free-will.” Why so, I pray? ‘Because, (it says), Jerome understands “spirit” to signify indignation, and “flesh” to signify the infirm condition of man, which cannot stand against God.’ Here again the trifling vanities of Jerome are cast in my teeth instead of Isaiah. And I find I have more to do in fighting against that wearisomeness, with which the Diatribe with so much diligence (to use no harsher term) wears me out, than I have in fighting against the Diatribe itself. But I have given my opinion upon the sentiment of Jerome already.
Let me beg permission of the Diatribe to compare this gentleman with himself. He says ‘that “flesh,” signifies the infirm condition of man; and “spirit,” the divine indignation.’
Has then the divine indignation nothing else to “wither” but that miserable infirm condition of man, which it ought rather to raise up?
This, however, is more excellent still. ‘The “flower of grass,” is the glory which arises from the prosperity of corporal things.’
The Jews gloried in their temple, their circumcision, and their sacrifices, and the Greeks in their wisdom. Therefore, the “flower of grass,” is the glory of the flesh, the righteousness of works, and the wisdom of the world.—How then are righteousness and wisdom called by the Diatribe, ‘corporal things?’ And after all, what have these to do with Isaiah, who interprets his own meaning in his own words, saying, “Surely the people is grass?” He does not say; Surely the infirm condition of man is grass, but “the people;” and affirms it with an asseveration. And what is the people? Is it the infirm condition of man only? But whether Jerome, by ‘the infirm condition of man’ means the whole creation together, or the miserable lot and state of man only, I am sure I know not. Be it, however, which it may, he certainly makes the divine indignation to gain a glorious renown and a noble spoil, from withering a miserable creation or a race of wretched men, and not rather, from scattering the proud, pulling down the mighty from their seat, and sending, the rich empty away: as Mary sings! (Luke i. 51-53).
Sect. CXVIII.—BUT let us dispatch these hobgoblins of glosses, and take Isaiah’s words as they are. “The people (he saith) is grass.” “People” does not signify flesh merely, or the infirm condition of human nature, but it comprehends every thing that there is in people—the rich, the wise, the just, the saints. Unless you mean to say, that the pharisees, the elders, the princes, the nobles, and the rich men, were not of the people of the Jews! The “flower of grass” is rightly called their glory, because it was in their kingdom, their government, and above all, in the law, in God, in righteousness, and in wisdom, that they gloried: as Paul shews, Rom. ii. iii and ix.
When, therefore, Isaiah saith, “All flesh,” what else does he mean but all “grass,” or, all “people?” For he does not say “flesh” only, but “all flesh.” And to “people” belong soul, body, mind, reason, judgment, and whatever is called or found to be most excellent in man. For when he says “all flesh is grass,” he excepts nothing but the spirit which withereth it. Nor does he omit any thing when he says, “the people is grass.” Speak, therefore, of “Free-will,” speak of anything that can be called the highest or the lowest in the people,—Isaiah calls the whole “flesh and grass!” Because, those three terms “flesh,” “grass,” and “people,”—according to his interpretation who is himself the writer of the book, signify in that place, the same thing.
Moreover, you yourself affirm, that the wisdom of the Greeks and the righteousness of the Jews which were withered by the Gospel, were “grass” and “the flower of grass.” Do you then think, that the wisdom which the Greeks had was not the most excellent? and that the righteousness which the Jews wrought was not the most excellent? If you do, shew us what was more excellent. With what assurance then is it, that you, Philip-like, flout and say,
—“If any one shall contend, that that which is most excellent in the nature of man, is nothing else but “flesh;” that is, that it is impious, I will agree with him, when he shall have proved his assertion by testimonies from the Holy Scripture?”—
You have here Isaiah, who cries with a loud voice that the people, devoid of the Spirit of the Lord, is “flesh;” although you will not understand him thus. You have also your own confession, where you said, (though unwittingly perhaps), that the wisdom of the Greeks was “grass,” or the glory of grass; which is the same thing as saying, it was “flesh.”—Unless you mean to say, that the wisdom of the Greeks did not pertain to reason, or to the EGEMONICON, as you say, that is, the principal part of man. If, therefore, you will not deign to listen to me, listen to yourself; where, being caught in the powerful trap of truth, you speak the truth.
You have moreover the testimony of John, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John iii. 6). You have, I say, this passage, which makes it evidently manifest, that what is not born of the Spirit, is flesh: for if it be not so, the distinction of Christ could not subsist, who divides all men into two distinct divisions, “flesh” and “spirit.” This passage you floutingly pass by, as if it did not give you the information you want, and betake yourself somewhere else, as usual; just dropping as you go along an observation, that John is here saying, that those who believe are born of God, and are made the sons of God, nay, that they are gods, and new creatures. You pay no regard, therefore, to the conclusion that is to be drawn from this division, but merely tell us at your ease, what persons are on one side of the division: thus confidently relying upon your rhetorical maneuver, as though there were no one likely to discover an evasion and dissimulation so subtlely managed.
Sect. CXIX.—IT is difficult to refrain from concluding, that you are, in this passage, crafty and double-dealing. For he who treats of the Scriptures with that prevarication and hypocrisy which you practice in treating of them, may have face enough to pretend, that he is not as yet fully acquainted with the Scriptures, and is willing to be taught; when, at the same time, he wills nothing less, and merely prates thus, in order to cast a reproach upon the all-clear light of the Scriptures, and to cover with the best cloak his determinate perseverance in his own opinions. Thus the Jews, even to this day, pretend, that what Christ, the Apostles, and the whole church have taught, is not to be proved by the Scriptures. The papists too pretend, that they do not yet fully understand the Scriptures; although the very stones speak aloud the truth. But perhaps you are waiting for a passage to be produced from the Scriptures, which shall contain these letters and syllables, ‘The principal part of man is flesh:’ or, ‘That which is most excellent in man is flesh:’ otherwise, you will declare yourself an invincible victor. Just as though the Jews should require, that a portion be produced from the prophets, which shall consist of these letters, ‘Jesus the son of the carpenter, who was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, is the Messiah the Son of God!’
Here, where you are closely put to it by a plain sentence, you challenge us to produce letters and syllables. In another place, where you are overcome both by the sentence and by the letters too, you have recourse to ‘tropes,’ to ‘difficulties,’ and to ‘sound interpretations.’ And there is no place, in which you do not invent something whereby to contradict the Scriptures. At one time, you fly to the interpretations of the Fathers: at another, to absurdities of Reason: and when neither of these will serve your turn, you dwell on that which is irrelevant or contingent: yet with an especial care, that you are not caught by the passage immediately in point. But what shall I call you? Proteus is not half a Proteus compared with you! Yet after all you cannot get off. What victories did the Arians boast of, because these syllables and letters, HOMOOUSIOS, were not to be found in the Scriptures? Considering it nothing to the purpose, that the same thing could be most effectually proved in other words. But whether or not this be a sign of a good, (not to say pious,) mind, and a mind desiring to be taught, let impiety or iniquity itself be judge.
Take your victory, then; while we, as the vanquished confess, that these characters and syllables, ‘That, which is most excellent in man is nothing but flesh,’ is not to be found in the Scriptures. But just behold what a victory you have gained, when we most abundantly prove, that though it is not found in the Scriptures, that one detached portion, or ‘that which is most excellent,’ or the ‘principal part,’ of man is flesh, but that the whole of man is flesh! And not only so, but that the whole people is flesh! And further still, that the whole human race is flesh! For Christ saith, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” Do you here set about your difficulty-solving, your trope-inventing, and searching for the interpretations of the Fathers; or, turning quite another way, enter upon a dissertation on the Trojan war, in order to avoid seeing and hearing this passage now adduced.
We do not believe only, but we see and experience, that the whole human race is “born of the flesh;” and therefore, we are compelled to believe upon the word of Christ, that which we do not see; that the whole human race “is flesh.” Do we now then give the Sophists any room to doubt and dispute, whether or not the principal (egemonica) part of man be comprehended in the whole man, in the whole people, in the whole race of men? We know, however, that in the whole human race, both the body and soul are comprehended, together with all their powers and works, with all their vices and virtues, with all their wisdom and folly, with all their righteousness and unrighteousness! All things are “flesh;” because, all things savour of the flesh, that is, of their own; and are, as Paul saith, Without the glory of God, and the Spirit of God! (Rom. iii. 23; viii. 5-9).
Sect. CXX.—AND as to your saying—“Yet every affection of man is not flesh. There is an affection called, soul: there is an affection called, spirit: by which, we aspire to what is meritoriously good, as the philosophers aspired: who taught, that we should rather die a thousand deaths than commit one base action, even though we were assured that men would never know it, and that God would pardon it.”—
I answer: He who believes nothing certainly, may easily believe and say any thing. I will not ask you, but let your friend Lucian ask you, whether you can bring forward any one out of the whole human race, let him be two-fold or seven-fold greater than Socrates himself, who ever performed this of which you speak, and which you say they taught. Why then do you thus babble in vanities of words? Could they ever aspire to that which is meritoriously good, who did not even know what good is?
If I should ask you for some of the brightest examples of your meritorious good, you would say, perhaps, that it was meritoriously good when men died for their country, for their wives and children, and for their parents; or when they refrained from lying, or from treachery; or when they endured exquisite torments, as did Q. Scevola, M. Regulus, and others. But what can you point out in all those men, but an external shew of works. For did you ever see their hearts? Nay, it was manifest from the very appearance of their works, that they did all these things for their own glory; so much so, that they were not even ashamed to confess, and to boast, that they sought their own glory. For the Romans, according to their own testimonies, did whatever they did of virtue or valour, from a thirst after glory. The same did the Greeks, the same did the Jews, the same do all the race of men.
But though this be meritoriously good before men, yet, before God, nothing is less meritoriously good than all this; nay, it is most impious, and the greatest of sacrilege; because, they did it not for the glory of God, nor that they might glorify God, but with the most impious of all robbery. For as they were robbing God of His glory and taking it to themselves, they never were farther from meritorious good, never more base, than when they were shining in their most exalted virtues. How could they do what they did for the glory of God, when they neither knew God nor His glory? Not, however, because it did not appear, but because the “flesh” did not permit them to see the glory of God, from their fury and madness after their own glory. This, therefore, is that right-ruling ‘spirit,’ that ‘principal part of man, which aspires to what is meritoriously good’—it is a plunderer of the divine glory, and an usurper of the divine Majesty! and then the most so, when men are at the highest of their meritorious good, and the most glittering in their brightest virtues! Deny, therefore, if you can, that these are “flesh” and carried away by an impious affection.
But I do not believe, that the Diatribe can be so much offended at the expression, where man is said to be, either “flesh” or “spirit;” because a Latin would here say, Man is either carnal or spiritual. For this particularity, as well as many others, must be granted to the Hebrew tongue, that when it says, Man is “flesh” or “spirit,” its signification is the same as ours is, when we say, Man is carnal or spiritual. The same signification which the Latins also convey, when they say, ‘The wolf is destructive to the folds,’ ‘Moisture is favourable to the young corn:’ or when they say, ‘This fellow is iniquity and evil itself.’ So also the Holy Scripture, by a force of expression, calls man “flesh;” that is, carnality itself; because it savours too much of, nay, of nothing but, those things which are of the flesh: and “spirit,” because he savours of, seeks, does, and can endure, nothing but those things which are of the spirit.
Unless, perhaps, the Diatribe should still make this remaining query.—Supposing the whole of man to be “flesh,” and that which is most excellent in man to be called “flesh,” must therefore that which is called “flesh” be at once called ungodly?—I call him ungodly who is without the Spirit of God. For the Scripture saith, that the Spirit was therefore given, that He might justify the ungodly. And as Christ makes a distinction between the spirit and the flesh, saying, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh,” and adds, that that which is born of the flesh “cannot see the kingdom of God” (John iii. 3-6), it evidently follows, that whatsoever is flesh is ungodly, under the wrath of God, and a stranger to the kingdom of God. And if it be a stranger to the kingdom of God, it necessarily follows, that it is under the kingdom and spirit of Satan. For there is no medium between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan; they are mutually and eternally opposed to each other.
These are the arguments that prove, that the most exalted virtues among the nations, the highest perfections of the philosophers, and the greatest excellencies among men, appear indeed, in the sight of men, to be meritoriously virtuous and good, and are so called; but that, in the sight of God, they are in truth “flesh,” and subservient to the kingdom of Satan: that is, ungodly, sacrilegious, and, in every respect, evil!
Sect. CXXI.—BUT pray let us suppose the sentiment of the Diatribe to stand good—‘that every affection is not “flesh;” that is, ungodly; but is that which is called good and sound spirit.’—Only observe what absurdity must hence follow; not only with respect to human reason, but with respect to the Christian religion, and the most important Articles of Faith. For if that which is most excellent in man be not ungodly, nor utterly depraved, nor damnable, but that which is flesh only, that is the grosser and viler affections, what sort of a Redeemer shall we make Christ? Shall we rate the price of His blood so low as to say, that it redeemed that part of man only which is the most vile, and that the most excellent part of man has power to work its own salvation, and does not want Christ? Henceforth then, I must preach Christ as the Redeemer, not of the whole man, but of his vilest part; that is, of his flesh; but that the man himself is his own redeemer, in his better part!
Have it, therefore, which way you will. If the better part of man be sound, it does not want Christ as a Redeemer. And if it does not want Christ, it triumphs in a glory above that of Christ: for it takes care of the redemption of the better part itself, whereas Christ only takes care of that of the vile part. And then, moreover, the kingdom of Satan will come to nothing at all, for it will reign only in the viler part of man, because the man himself will rule over the better part.
So that, by this doctrine of yours, concerning ‘the principal part of man,’ it will come to pass, that man will be exalted above Christ and the devil both: that is, he will be made God of gods, and Lord of lords!—Where is now that ‘probable opinion’ which asserted ‘that “Free-will” cannot will any thing good?’ It here contends, ‘that it is a principal part, meritoriously good, and sound; and that, it does not even want Christ, but can do more than God Himself and the devil can do, put together!
I say this, that you may again see, how eminently perilous a matter it is to attempt sacred and divine things, without the Spirit of God, in the temerity of human reason. If, therefore, Christ be the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world, it follows, that the whole world is under sin, damnation, and the devil. Hence your distinction between the principal parts, and the parts not principal, profits you nothing: for the world, signifies men, savouring of nothing but the things of the world, throughout all their faculties.
Sect. CXXII.—“IF the whole man, (says the Diatribe) even when regenerated by faith, is nothing else but “flesh,” where is the “spirit” born of the Spirit? Where is the child of God? Where is the new-creature? I want information upon these points.”—Thus the Diatribe
Where now! Where now! my very dear friend, Diatribe! What dream now! You demand to be informed, how the “spirit” born of the Spirit can be “flesh.” Oh how elated, how secure of victory do you insultingly put this question to me, as though it were impossible for me to stand my ground here.—All this while, you are abusing the authority of the Ancients: for they say ‘that there are certain seeds of good implanted in the minds of men. But, however, whether you use, or whether abuse, the authority of the Ancients, it is all one to me: you will see by and by what you believe, when you believe men prating out of their own brain, without the Word of God. Though perhaps your care about religion does not give you much concern, as to what any one believes; since you so easily believe men, without at all regarding, whether or not that which they say be certain or uncertain in the sight of God. And I also wish to be informed, when I ever taught that, with which you so freely and publicly charge me. Who would be so mad as to say, that he who is “born of the Spirit,” is nothing but “flesh?”
I make a manifest distinction between “flesh” and “spirit,” as things that directly militate against each other; and I say, according to the divine oracles, that the man who is not regenerated by faith “is flesh;” but I say, that he who is thus regenerated; is no longer flesh, excepting as to the remnants of the flesh, which war against the first fruits of the Spirit received. Nor do I suppose you wish to attempt to charge me, invidiously, with any thing wrong here; if you do, there is no charge that you could more iniquitously bring against me.
But you either understand nothing of my side of the subject, or else you find yourself unequal to the magnitude of the cause; by which you are, perhaps, so overwhelmed and confounded, that you do not rightly know what you say against me, or for yourself. For where you declare it to be your belief, upon the authority of the ancients, ‘that there are certain seeds of good implanted in the minds of men, you must surely quite forget yourself; because, you before asserted, ‘that “Free-will” cannot will any thing good.’ And how ‘cannot will any thing good,’ and ‘certain seeds of good’ can stand in harmony together, I know not. Thus am I perpetually compelled to remind you of the subject-design with which you set out; from which you with perpetual forgetfulness depart, and take up something contrary to your professed purpose.
Sect. CXXIII.—ANOTHER passage is that of Jeremiah x. 23, “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.”—This passage (says the Diatribe) rather applies “to the events of prosperity, than to the power of Free-will.”—
Here again the Diatribe, with its usual audacity, introduces a gloss according to its own pleasure, as though the Scripture were fully under its control. But in order to any one’s considering the sense and intent of the prophet, what need was there for the opinion of a man of so great authority!—Erasmus says so! it is enough! it must be so! If this liberty of glossing as they lust, be permitted the adversaries, what point is there which they might not carry? Let therefore Erasmus shew us the validity of this gloss from the scope of the context, and we will believe him.
I, however, will shew from the scope of the context, that the prophet, when he saw that he taught the ungodly with so much earnestness in vain, was at once convinced, that his word could avail nothing unless God should teach them within; and that, therefore, it was not in man to hear the Word of God, and to will good. Seeing this judgment of God, he was alarmed, and asks of God that He would correct him, but with judgment, if he had need to be corrected; and that he might not be given up to His divine wrath with the ungodly, whom he suffered to be hardened and to remain in unbelief.
But let us suppose that the passage is to be understood concerning the events of adversity and prosperity, what will you say, if this gloss should go most directly to overthrow “Free-will?” This new evasion is invented, indeed, that ignorant and lazy deceivers may consider it satisfactory. The same which they also had in view who invented that evasion, ‘the necessity of the consequence.’ And so drawn away are they by these newly-invented terms, that they do not see that they are, by these evasions, ten-fold more effectually entangled and caught than they would have been without them.—As in the present instance: if the event of these things which are temporal, and over which man, Gen. i. 26-30, was constituted lord, be not in our own power, how, I pray you, can that heavenly thing, the grace of God, which depends on the will of God alone, be in our own power? Can that endeavour of “Free-will” attain unto eternal salvation, which is not able to retain a farthing or a hair of the head? When we have no power to obtain the creature, shall it be said that we have power to obtain the Creator? What madness is this! The endeavouring of man, therefore, unto good or unto evil, when applied to events, is a thousandfold more enormous; because, he is in both much more deceived, and has much less liberty, than he has in striving after money, or glory, or pleasure. What an excellent evasion is this gloss, then, which denies the liberty of man in trifling and created events, and preaches it up in the greatest and divine events? This is as if one should say, Codrus is not able to pay a groat, but he is able to pay thousands of thousands of pounds! I am astonished that the Diatribe, having all along so inveighed against that tenet of Wycliffe, ‘that all things take place of necessity,’ should now itself grant, that events come upon us of necessity.
—“And even if you do (says, the Diatribe) forcedly twist this to apply to “Free-will,” all confess that no one can hold on a right course of life without the grace of God. Nevertheless, we still strive ourselves with all our powers: for we pray daily, ‘O Lord my God, direct my goings in Thy sight.’ He, therefore, who implores aid, does not lay aside his own endeavours.”—
The Diatribe thinks, that it matters not what it answers, so that it does not remain silent with nothing to say; and then, it would have what it does say to appear satisfactory; such a vain confidence has it in its own authority. It ought here to have proved, whether or not we strive by our own powers; whereas, it proved, that he who prays attempts something. But, I pray, is it here laughing at us, or mocking the papists? For he who prays, prays by the Spirit; nay, it is the Spirit Himself that prays in us (Rom. viii. 26-27). How then is the power of “Free-will” proved by the strivings of the Holy Spirit? Are “Free-will” and the Holy Spirit, with the Diatribe, one and the same thing? Or, are we disputing now about what the Holy Spirit can do? The Diatribe, therefore, leaves me this passage of Jeremiah uninjured and invincible; and only produces the gloss out of its own brain. I also can ‘strive by my own powers:’ and Luther, will be compelled to believe this gloss,—if he will!
Sect. CXXIV.—THERE is that passage of Prov, xvi. 1, 9, also, “It is of man to prepare the heart, but of the Lord to govern the tongue, “which the Diatribe says—‘refers to events of things.’ -
As though this the Diatribe’s own saying would satisfy us, without any farther authority. But however, it is quite sufficient, that, allowing the sense of these passages to be concerning the events of things, we have evidently come off victorious by the arguments which we have just advanced: ‘that, if we have no such thing as Freedom of Will in our own things and works, much less have we any such thing in divine things and works.’
But mark the great acuteness of the Diatribe.—“How can it be of man to prepare the heart, when Luther affirms that all things are carried on by necessity?”—
I answer: If the events of things be not in our power, as you say, how can it be in man to perform the causing acts? The same answer which you gave me, the same receive yourself! Nay, we are commanded to work the more for this very reason, because all things future are to us uncertain: as saith Ecclesiastes, “In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening hold not thine hand: for thou knowest not: which shall prosper, either this or that” (Eccles. xi. 6). All things future, I say, are to us uncertain, in knowledge, but necessary in event. The necessity strikes into us a fear of God that we presume not, or become secure, while the uncertainty works in us a trusting, that we sink not in despair.
Sect. CXXV.—BUT the Diatribe returns to harping upon its old string—‘that in the book of Proverbs, many things are said in confirmation of “Free-will”: as this, “Commit thy works unto the Lord.” Do you hear this (says the Diatribe,) thy works?’—
Many things in confirmation! What because there are, in that book, many imperative and conditional verbs, and pronouns of the second person! For it is upon these foundations that you build your proof of the Freedom of the Will. Thus, “Commit”—therefore thou canst commit thy works: therefore thou doest them. So also this passage, “I am thy God,” (Isa. xli. 10), you will understand thus:—that is, Thou makest Me thy God. “Thy faith hath saved thee” (Luke vii. 50): do you hear this word “thy?” therefore, expound it thus: Thou makest thy faith: and then you have proved “Freewill.” Nor am I here merely game-making; but I am shewing the Diatribe, that there is nothing serious on its side of the subject.
This passage also in the same chapter, “The Lord hath made all things for Himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil,” (Prov. xvi. 4), it modifies by its own words, and excuses God as having never created a creature evil.’—
As though I had spoken concerning the creation, and not rather concerning that continual operation of God upon the things created; in which operation, God acts upon the wicked; as we have before shewn in the case of Pharaoh. But He creates the wicked, not by creating wickedness or a wicked creature; (which is impossible) but, from the operation of God, a wicked man is made, or created, from a corrupt seed; not from the fault of the Maker, but from that of the material.
Nor does that of “The heart of the king is in the Lord’s hand: He inclineth it whithersoever He will,” (Prov. xxi. 1), seem to the Diatribe to imply force.—“He who inclines (it observes) does not immediately compel.”—
As though we were speaking of compulsion, and not rather concerning the necessity of Immutability. And that is implied in the inclining of God: which inclining, is not so snoring and lazy a thing, as the Diatribe imagines, but is that most active operation of God, which a man cannot avoid or alter, but under which he has, of necessity, such a will as God has given him, and such as he carries along by his motion: as I have before shewn.
Moreover, where Solomon is speaking of “the king’s heart,” the Diatribe thinks—‘that the passage cannot rightly be strained to apply in a general sense: but that the meaning is the same as that of Job, where he says, in another place, “He maketh the hypocrite to reign, because of the sins of the people.”‘ At last, however, it concedes, that the king is inclined unto evil by God: but so, ‘that He permits the king to be carried away by his inclination, in order to chastise the people.’—
I answer: Whether God permit, or whether He incline, that permitting or inclining does not take place without the will and operation of God: because, the will of the king cannot avoid the action of the omnipotent God: seeing that, the will of all is carried along just as He wills and acts, whether that will be good or evil.
And as to my having made out of the particular will of the king, a general application; I did it, I presume, neither vainly nor unskillfully. For if the heart of the king, which seems to be of all the most free, and to rule over others, cannot will good but where God inclines it, how much less can any other among men will good! And this conclusion will stand valid, drawn, not from the will of the king only, but from that of any other man. For if any one man, how private soever he be, cannot will before God but where God inclines, the same must be said of all men. Thus in the instance of Balaam, his not being able to speak what he wished, is an evident argument from the Scriptures, that man is not in his own power, nor a free chooser and doer of what he does: were it not so, no examples of it could subsist in the Scriptures.
Sect. CXXVI.—THE Diatribe after this, having said that many such testimonies, as Luther collects, may be collected out of the book of Proverbs; but which, by a convenient interpretation, may stand both for and against “Free-will”; adduces at last that Achillean and invincible weapon of Luther, “Without me ye can do nothing,” &c. (John xv. 5).
I too, must laud that notable champion-disputant for “Free-will,” who teaches us, to modify the testimonies of Scripture just as it serves our turn, by convenient interpretations, in order to make them appear to stand truly in confirmation of “Free-will”; that is, that they might be made to prove, not what they ought, but what we please; and who merely pretends a fear of one Achillean Scripture, that the silly reader, seeing this one overthrown, might hold all the rest in utter contempt. But I will just look on and see, by what force the full-mouthed and heroic Diatribe will conquer my Achilles; which hitherto, has never wounded a common soldier, nor even a Thersites, but has ever miserably dispatched itself with its own weapons.
Catching hold of this one word “nothing,” it stabs it with many words and many examples; and, by means of a convenient interpretation, brings it to this; that “nothing,” may signify that which is in degree and imperfect. That is, it means to say, in other words, that the Sophists have hitherto explained this passage thus.—“Without me ye can do nothing;” that is, perfectly. This gloss, which has been long worn out and obsolete, the Diatribe, by its power of rhetoric, renders new; and so presses it forward, as though it had first invented it, and it had never been heard of before, thus making it appear to be a sort of miracle. In the mean time, however, it is quite self-secure, thinking nothing about the text itself, nor what precedes or follows it, whence alone the knowledge of the passage is to be obtained.
But (to say no more about its having attempted to prove by so many words and examples, that the term “nothing” may, in this passage, be understood as meaning ‘that which is in a certain degree, or imperfect,’ as though we were disputing whether or not it may be, whereas, what was to be proved is whether or not it ought to be, so understood;) the whole of this grand interpretation effects nothing, if it affect any thing, but this:—the rendering of this passage of John uncertain and obscure. And no wonder, for all that the Diatribe aims at, is to make the Scriptures of God in every place obscure, to the intent that it might not be compelled to use them; and the authorities of the Ancients certain, to the intent that it might abuse them;—a wonderful kind of religion truly, making the words of God to be useless, and the words of man useful!
Sect. CXXVII.—BUT it is most excellent to observe how well this gloss, “nothing” may be understood to signify ‘that which is in degree,” consists with itself: yet the Diatribe says,—‘that in this sense of the passage, it is most true that we can do nothing without Christ: because, He is speaking of evangelical fruits, which cannot be produced but by those who remain in the vine, which is Christ.’—
Here the Diatribe itself confesses, that fruit cannot be produced but by those who remain in the vine: and it does the same in that ‘convenient interpretation,’ by which it proves, that “nothing” is the same as in degree, and imperfect. But perhaps, its own adverb ‘cannot,’ ought also to be conveniently interpreted, so as to signify, that evangelical fruits can be produced without Christ in degree and imperfectly. So that we may preach, that the ungodly who are without Christ can, while Satan reigns in them, and wars against Christ, produce some of the fruits of life: that is, that the enemies of Christ may do something for the glory of Christ.—But away with these things.
Here however, I should like to be taught, how we are to resist heretics, who, using this rule throughout the Scriptures, may contend that nothing and not are to be understood as signifying that which is imperfect. Thus—Without Him “nothing” can be done; that is a little.—“The fool hath said in his heart there is not a God;” that is, there is an imperfect God.—“He hath made us, and not we ourselves;” that is, we did a little towards making ourselves. And who can number all the passages in the Scripture where ‘nothing’ and ‘not’ are found?
Shall we then here say that a ‘convenient interpretation’ is to be attended to? And is this clearing up difficulties—to open such a door of liberty to corrupt minds and deceiving spirits? Such a license of interpretation is, I grant, convenient to you who care nothing whatever about the certainty of the Scripture; but as for me who labour to establish consciences, this is an inconvenience; than which, nothing can be more inconvenient, nothing more injurious, nothing more pestilential. Hear me, therefore, thou great conqueress of the Lutheran Achilles! Unless you shall prove, that ‘nothing’ not only may be, but ought to be understood as signifying a ‘little,’ you have done nothing by all this profusion of words or examples, but fight against fire with dry straw. What have I to do with your may be, which only demands of you to prove your ought to be? And if you do not prove that, I stand by the natural and grammatical signification of the term, laughing both at your armies and at your triumphs.
Where is now that ‘probable opinion’ which determined, ‘that “Free-will” can will nothing good?’ But perhaps, the ‘convenient interpretation’ comes in here, to say, that ‘nothing good’ signifies, something good—a kind of grammar and logic never before heard of; that nothing, is the same as something: which, with logicians, is an impossibility, because they are contradictions. Where now then remains that article of our faith; that Satan is the prince of the world, and, according to the testimonies of Christ and Paul, rules in the wills and minds of those men who are his captives and servants? Shall that roaring lion, that implacable and ever-restless enemy of the grace of God and the salvation of man, suffer it to be, that man, his slave and a part of his kingdom, should attempt good by any motion in any degree, whereby he might escape from his tyranny, and that he should not rather spur and urge him on to will and do the contrary to grace with all his powers? especially, when the just, and those who are led by the Spirit of God, and who will and do good, can hardly resist him, so great is his rage against them?
You who make it out, that the human will is a something placed in a free medium, and left to itself, certainly make it out, at the same time, that there is an endeavour which can exert itself either way; because, you make both God and the devil to be at a distance, spectators only, as it were, of this mutable and “Free-will”; though you do not believe, that they are impellers and agitators of that bondage will, the most hostilely opposed to each other. Admitting, therefore, this part of your faith only, my sentiment stands firmly established, and “Free-will” lies prostrate; as I have shewn already.—For, it must either be, that the kingdom of Satan in man is nothing at all, and thus Christ will be made to lie; or, if his kingdom be such as Christ describes, “Free-will” must be nothing but a beast of burden, the captive of Satan, which cannot be liberated, unless the devil be first cast out by the finger of God.
From what has been advanced I presume, friend Diatribe, thou fully understandest what that is, and what it amounts to, where thy Author, detesting the obstinate way of assertion in Luther, is accustomed to say—‘Luther indeed pushes his cause with plenty of Scriptures; but they may all by one word, be brought to nothing.’ Who does not know, that all Scriptures may, by one word, be brought to nothing? I knew this full well before I ever heard the name of Erasmus. But the question is, whether it be sufficient to bring a Scripture, by one word, to nothing. The point in dispute is, whether it be rightly brought to nothing, and whether it ought to be brought to nothing. Let a man consider these points, and he will then see, whether or not it be easy to bring Scriptures to nothing, and whether or not the obstinacy of Luther be detestable. He will then see, that not one word only is ineffective, but all the gates of hell cannot bring them to nothing!
Sect. CXXVIII.—WHAT, therefore, the Diatribe cannot do in its affirmative, I will do in the negative; and though I am not called upon to prove the negative, yet I will do it here, and will make it by the force of argument undeniably appear, that “nothing,” in this passage, not only may be but ought to be understood as meaning, not a certain small degree, but that which the term naturally signifies. And this I will do, in addition to that invincible argument by which I am already victorious; viz. ‘that all terms are to be preserved in their natural signification and use, unless the contrary shall be proved:’ which the Diatribe neither has done, nor can do.—First of all then I will make that evidently manifest, which is plainly proved by Scriptures neither ambiguous nor obscure,—that Satan, is by far the most powerful and crafty prince of this world; (as I said before,) under the reigning power of whom, the human will, being no longer free nor in its own power, but the servant of sin and of Satan, can will nothing but that which its prince wills. And he will not permit it to will any thing good: though, even if Satan did not reign over it, sin itself, of which man is the slave, would sufficiently harden it to prevent it from willing good.
Moreover, the following part of the context itself evidently proves the same: which the Diatribe proudly sneers at, although I have commented upon it very copiously in my Assertions. For Christ proceeds thus, John xv. 6, “Whoso abideth not in me, is cast forth as a branch and is withered; and men gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” This, I say, the Diatribe, in a most excellent rhetorical way, passed by; hoping that the intent of this evasion would not be comprehended by the shallow-brained Lutherans. But here you see that Christ, who is the interpreter of His own similitude of the vine and the branch, plainly declares what He would have understood by the term “nothing”—that man who is without Christ, “is cast forth and is withered.”
And what can the being “cast forth and withered” signify but the being delivered up to the devil, and becoming continually worse and worse; and surely, becoming worse and worse, is not doing or attempting any thing good. The withering branch is more and more prepared for the fire the more it withers. And had not Christ Himself thus amplified and applied this similitude, no one would have dared so to amplify and apply it. It stands manifest, therefore, that “nothing,” ought, in this place, to be understood in its proper signification, according to the nature of the term.
Sect. CXXIX.—LET us now consider the examples also, by which it proves, that “nothing” signifies, in some places, ‘a certain small degree:’ in order that we may make it evident, that the Diatribe is nothing, and effects nothing in this part of it: in which, though it should do much, yet it would effect nothing:—such a nothing is the Diatribe in all things, and in every way.
It says—“Generally, he is said to do nothing, who does not achieve that, at which he aims; and yet, for the most part, he who attempts it, makes some certain degree of progress in the attempt.”—
I answer: I never heard this general usage of the term: you have invented it by your own license. The words are to be considered according to the subject-matter, (as they say,) and according to the intention of the speaker.—No one calls that ‘nothing’ which he does in attempting, nor does he then speak of the attempt but of the effect: it is to this the person refers when he says, he does nothing, or he effects nothing; that is, achieves and accomplishes nothing. But supposing, your example to stand good, (which however it does not) it makes more for me than for yourself. For this is what I maintain and would invincibly establish, that “Free-will” does many things, which, nevertheless, are “nothing” before God. What does it profit, therefore, to attempt, if it effect nothing at which it aims? So that, let the Diatribe turn which way it will, it only runs against, and confutes itself which generally happens to those, who undertake to support a bad cause.
With the same unhappy effect does it adduce that example out of Paul, “Neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God who giveth the increase.” (1 Cor. iii. 7).—“That (says the Diatribe,) which is of the least moment, and useless of itself, he calls nothing.”—
Who?—Do you, pretend to say, that the ministry of the word is of itself useless, and of the least moment, when Paul everywhere, and especially 2 Cor. iii. 6-9, highly exalts it, and calls it the ministration “of life,” and “of glory?” Here again you neither consider the subject matter, nor the intention of the speaker. As to the gift of the increase, the planter and waterer are certainly ‘nothing;’ but as to the planting and sowing, they are not ‘nothing;’ seeing that, to teach and to exhort, are the greatest work of the Spirit in the Church of God. This is the intended meaning of Paul, and this his words convey with satisfactory plainness. But be it so, that this ridiculous example stands good; again, it stands in favour of me. For what I maintain is this: that “Free-will” is ‘nothing,’ that is, is useless of itself (as you expound it) before God; and it is concerning its being nothing as to what it can do of itself that we are now speaking: for as to what it essentially is in itself, we know, that an impious will must be a something, and cannot be a mere nothing.
Sect. CXXX.—THERE is also that of 1 Cor. xiii. 2. “If I have not charity I am nothing:” Why the Diatribe adduces this as an example I cannot see, unless it seeks only numbers and forces, or thinks that we have no arms at all, by which we can effectually wound it. For he who is without charity, is, truly and properly, ‘nothing’ before God. The same also we say of “Free-will.” Wherefore, this example also stands for us against the Diatribe. Or, can it be that the Diatribe does not yet know the argument ground upon which I am contending?—I am not speaking about the essence of nature, but the essence of grace (as they term it.) I know, that “Free-will” can by nature do something; it can eat, drink, beget, rule, &c. Nor need the Diatribe laugh at me as having prating frenzy enough to imply, when I press home so closely the term ‘nothing,’ that “Free-will” cannot even sin without Christ: whereas Luther, nevertheless says, ‘that “Free-will” can do nothing but sin—but so it pleases the wise Diatribe to play the fool in a matter so serious. For I say, that man without the grace of God, remains, nevertheless, under the general Omnipotence of an acting God, who moves and carries along all things, of necessity, in the course of His infallible motion; but that the man’s being thus carried along, is nothing; that is, avails nothing in the sight of God, nor is considered any thing else but sin. Thus in grace, he that is without love, is nothing. Why then does the Diatribe, when it confesses itself, that we are here speaking of evangelical fruits, as that which cannot be produced without Christ, turn aside immediately from the subject point, harp upon another string, and cavil about nothing but natural works and human fruits? Except it be to evince, that he who is devoid of the truth, is never consistent with himself.
So also that of John iii. 27, “A man can receive nothing except it were given him from above.”
John is here speaking of man, who is now a something, and denies that this man can receive any thing; that is, the Spirit with His gifts; for it is in reference to that he is speaking, not in reference to nature. For he did not want the Diatribe as an instructor to teach him, that man has already eyes nose, ears, mouth, hands, mind, will, reason, and all things that belong to man.—Unless the Diatribe believes, that the Baptist, when he made mention of man, was thinking of the ‘chaos’ of Plato, the ‘vacuum’ of Leucippus, or the ‘infinity’ of Aristotle, or some other nothing, which, by a gift from heaven, should at last be made a something.—Is this producing examples out of the Scripture, thus to trifle designedly in a matter so important!
And to what purpose is all that profusion of words, where it teaches us, ‘that fire, the escape from evil, the endeavour after good, and other things are from heaven,’ as though there were any one who did not know, or who denied those things? We are now talking about grace, and, as the Diatribe itself said, concerning Christ and evangelical fruits; whereas, it is itself, making out its time in fabling about nature; thus dragging out the cause, and covering the witless reader with a cloud. In the mean time, it does not produce one single example as it professed to do, wherein ‘nothing,’ is to be understood as signifying some small degree. Nay, it openly exposes itself as neither understanding nor caring what Christ or grace is, nor how it is, that grace is one thing and nature another, when even the Sophists of the meanest rank know, and have continually taught this difference in their schools, in the most common way. Nor does it all the while see, that every one of its examples make for me, and against itself. For the word of the Baptist goes to establish this:—that man can receive nothing unless it be given him from above; and that, therefore, “Free-will” is nothing at all.
Thus it is, then, that my Achilles is conquered—the Diatribe puts weapons into his hand, by which it is itself dispatched, naked and weapon-less. And thus it is also that the Scriptures, by which that obstinate assertor Luther urges his cause, are, ‘by one word, brought to nothing.’
Sect. CXXXI.—After this, it enumerates a multitude of similitudes: by which, it effects nothing but the drawing aside the witless reader to irrelevant things, according to its custom, and at the same time leaves the subject point entirely out of the question. Thus,—“God indeed preserves the ship, but the mariner conducts it into harbour: wherefore, the mariner does not do nothing.”—This similitude makes a difference of work: that is, it attributes that of preserving to God, and that of conducting to the mariner. And thus, if it prove any thing, it proves this:—that the whole work of preserving is of God, and the whole work of conducting of the mariner. And yet, it is a beautiful and apt similitude.
Thus, again—“the husbandman gathers in the increase, but it was God that gave it.”—Here again, it attributes different operations to God and to man: unless it mean to make the husbandman the creator also, who gave the increase. But even supposing the same works be attributed to God and to man—what do these similitudes prove? Nothing more, than that the creature co-operates with the operating God! But are we now disputing about co-operation, and not rather concerning the power and operation of “Free-will,” as of itself! Whither therefore has the renowned rhetorician betaken himself? He set out with the professed design to dispute concerning a palm; whereas all his discourse has been about a gourd! ‘A noble vase was designed by the potter; why then is a pitcher produced at last?’
I also know very well, that Paul co-operates with God in teaching the Corinthians, while he preaches without, and God teaches within; and that, where their works are different. And that, in like manner, he co-operates with God while he speaks by the Spirit of God; and that, where the work is the same. For what I assert and contend for is this:—that God, where He operates without the grace of His Spirit, works all in all, even in the ungodly; while He alone moves, acts on, and carries along by the motion of His omnipotence, all those things which He alone has created, which motion those things can neither avoid nor change, but of necessity follow and obey, each one according to the measure of power given of God:—thus all things, even the ungodly, co-operate with God! On the other hand, when He acts by the Spirit of His grace on those whom He has justified, that is, in His own kingdom, He moves and carries them along in the same manner; and they, as they are the new creatures, follow and co-operate with Him; or rather, as Paul saith, are led by Him. (Rom. viii. 14, 30.)
But the present is not the place for discussing these points. We are not now considering, what we can do in co-operation with God, but what we can do of ourselves: that is, whether, created as we are out of nothing, we can do or attempt any thing of ourselves, under the general motion of God’s omnipotence, whereby to prepare ourselves unto the new Creation of the Spirit.—This is the point to which Erasmus ought to have answered, and not to have turned aside to a something else!
What I have to say upon this point is this:—As man, before he is created man, does nothing and endeavours nothing towards his being made a creature; and as, after he is made and created, he does nothing and endeavours nothing towards his preservation, or towards his continuing in his creature-existence, but each takes place alone by the will of the omnipotent power and goodness of God, creating us and preserving us, without ourselves; but as God, nevertheless, does not work in us without us, seeing we are for that purpose created and preserved, that He might work in us and that we might co-operate with Him, whether it be out of His kingdom under His general omnipotence, or in His kingdom under the peculiar power of His Spirit;—so, man, before he is regenerated into the new creation of the kingdom of the Spirit, does nothing and endeavours nothing towards his new creation into that kingdom, and after he is re-created does nothing and endeavours nothing towards his perseverance in that kingdom; but the Spirit alone effects both in us, regenerating us and preserving us when regenerated, without ourselves; as James saith, “Of His own will begat He us by the word of His power, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures,”—(Jas. i. 18) (where he speaks of the renewed creation:) nevertheless, He does not work in us without us, seeing that He has for this purpose created and preserved us, that He might operate in us, and that we might co-operate with Him: thus, by us He preaches, shews mercy to the poor, and comforts the afflicted.—But what is hereby attributed to “Free-will?” Nay, what is there left it but nothing at all? And in truth it is nothing at all!
Sect. CXXXII.—READ therefore the Diatribe in this part through five or six pages, and you will find, that by similitudes of this kind, and by some of the most beautiful passages and parables selected from the Gospel and from Paul, it does nothing else but shew us, that innumerable passages (as it observes) are to be found in the Scriptures which speak of the co-operation and assistance of God: from which, if I should draw this conclusion.—Man can do nothing without the assisting grace of God: therefore, no works of man are good—it would on the contrary conclude, as it has done by a rhetorical inversion.—“Nay, there is nothing that man cannot do by the assisting grace of God: therefore, all the works of man can be good. For as many passages as there are in the Holy Scriptures which make mention of assistance, so many are there which confirm “Free-will;” and they are innumerable. Therefore, if we go by the number of testimonies, the victory is mine.”—
Do you think the Diatribe could be sober or in its right senses when it wrote this? For I cannot attribute it to malice or iniquity: unless it be that it designed to effectually wear me out by perpetually wearying me, while thus, ever like itself, it is continually turning aside to something contrary to its professed design. But if it is pleased thus to play the fool in a matter so important, then I will be pleased to expose its voluntary fooleries publicly.
In the first place, I do not dispute, nor am I ignorant, that all the works of man may be good, if they be done by the assisting grace of God. And moreover that there is nothing which a man might not do by the assisting grace of God. But I cannot feel enough surprise at your negligence, who, having set out with the professed design to write upon the power of “Free-will,” go on writing upon the power of grace. And moreover, dare to assert publicly, as if all men were posts or stones, that “Free-will” is established by those passages of Scripture which exalt the grace of God. And not only dare to do that, but even to sound forth encomiums on yourself as a victor most gloriously triumphant! From this very word and act of yours, I truly perceive what “Free-will” is, and what the effect of it is—it makes men mad! For what, I ask, can it be in you that talks at this rate, but “Free-will!”
But just listen to your own conclusions.—The Scripture commends the grace of God: therefore, it proves “Free-will.”—It exalts the assistance of the grace of God: therefore, it establishes “Free-will.” By what kind of logic did you learn such conclusions as these? On the contrary, why not conclude thus?—Grace is preached: therefore, “Free-will” has no existence. The assistance of grace is exalted: therefore, “Free-will” is abolished. For, to what intent is grace given? Is it for this: that “Freewill,” as being of sufficient power itself, might proudly display and sport grace on fair-days, as a superfluous ornament!
Wherefore, I will invert your order of reasoning, and though no rhetorician, will establish a conclusion more firm than yours.—As many places as there are in the Holy Scriptures which make mention of assistance, so many are there which abolish “Free-will:” and they are innumerable. Therefore, if we are to go by the number of testimonies, the victory is mine. For grace is therefore needed, and the assistance of grace is therefore given, because “Free-will” can of itself do nothing; as Erasmus himself has asserted according to that ‘probable opinion’ that “Free-will” ‘cannot will any thing good.’ Therefore, when grace is commended, and the assistance of grace declared, the impotency of “Free-will” is declared at the same time.—This is a sound inference—a firm conclusion—against which, not even the gates of hell will ever prevail!
Sect. CXXXIII.—HERE, I bring to a conclusion, THE DEFENCE OF MY SCRIPTURES WHICH THE DIATRIBE ATTEMPTED TO REFUTE; lest my book should be swelled to too great a bulk: and if there be anything yet remaining that is worthy of notice, it shall be taken into THE FOLLOWING PART; WHEREIN, I MAKE MY ASSERTIONS. For as to what Erasmus says in his conclusion—‘that, if my sentiments stand good, the numberless precepts, the numberless threatenings, the numberless promises, are all in vain, and no place is left for merit or demerit, for rewards or punishments; that moreover, it is difficult to defend the mercy, nay, even the justice of God, if God damn sinners of necessity; and that many other difficulties follow, which have so troubled some of the greatest men, as even to utterly overthrow them,’—
To all these things I have fully replied already. Nor will I receive or bear with that moderate medium, which Erasmus would (with a good intention, I believe,) recommend to me;—‘that we should grant some certain little to “Free-will;” in order that, the contradictions of the Scripture, and the difficulties before mentioned, might be the more easily remedied.’—For by this moderate medium, the matter is not bettered, nor is any advantage gained whatever. Because, unless you ascribe the whole and all things to “Free-will,” as the Pelagians do, the ‘contradictions’ in the Scriptures are not altered, merit and reward are taken entirely away, the mercy and justice of God are abolished, and all the difficulties which we try to avoid by allowing this ‘certain little ineffective power’ to “Free-will,” remain just as they were before; as I have already fully shewn. Therefore, we must come to the plain extreme, deny “Free-will” altogether, and ascribe all unto God! Thus, there will be in the Scriptures no contradictions; and if there be any difficulties, they will be borne with, where they cannot be remedied.
Sect. CXXXIV.—THIS one thing, however, my friend Erasmus, I entreat of you—do not consider that I conduct this cause more according to my temper, than according to my principles. I will not suffer it to be insinuated, that I am hypocrite enough to write one thing and believe another. I have not (as you say of me) been carried so far by the heat of defensive argument, as to deny here “Free-will” altogether for the first time, having conceded something to it before.’ Confident I am, that you can find no such concession any where in my works. There are questions and discussions of mine extant, in which I have continued to assert, down to this hour, that there is no such thing as “Free-will;” that it is a thing formed out of an empty term; (which are the words I have there used). And I then thus believed and thus wrote, as overpowered by the force of truth when called and compelled to the discussion. And as to my always conducting discussions with ardour, I acknowledge my fault, if it be a fault: nay, I greatly glory in this testimony which the world bears of me, in the cause of God: and may God Himself confirm the same testimony in the last day! Then, who more happy than Luther—to be honoured with the universal testimony of his age, that he did not maintain the Cause of Truth lazily, nor deceitfully, but with a real, if not too great, ardour! Then shall I be blessedly clear from that word of Jeremiah, “Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully!” (Jer. xlviii. 10).
But if I seem to be somewhat more severe than usual upon your Diatribe—pardon me. I do it not from a malignant heart, but from concern; because I know, that by the weight of your name you greatly endanger this cause of Christ: though, by your learning, as to real effect, you can do nothing at all. And who can always so temper his pen as never to grow warm? For even you, who from a show of moderation grow almost cold in this book of yours, not unfrequently hurl a fiery and gall-dipped dart: so much so, that if the reader were not very liberal and kind, he could not but consider you virulent. But however, this is nothing to the subject point. We must mutually pardon each other in these things; for we are but men, and there is nothing in us that is not touched with human infirmity.