WE are now arrived at the LAST PART OF THIS DISCUSSION. Wherein I am, as I proposed, to bring forward my forces against "Free-will." But I shall not produce them all, for who could do that within the limited of this small book, when the whole Scripture, in every letter and iota, stands on my side? Nor is there any necessity for so doing; seeing that, "Free-will" already lies vanquished and prostrate under a two-fold overthrow. - The one where I have proved, that all those things, which it imagined made for itself, make directly against itself. - The other, where I have made it manifest, that those Scriptures which it attempted to refute, still remain invincible. - If, therefore, it had not been vanquished by the former, it is enough if it be laid prostrate by the one weapon or the other. And now, what need is there that the enemy, already dispatched by the one weapon or the other, should have his dead body stabbed with a number of weapons more? In this part, therefore, I shall be as brief as the subject will allow: and from such numerous armies, I shall produce only two champion-generals with a few of their legions - Paul, and John the Evangelist!
Sect. CXXXV. - PAUL, writing to the Romans, thus enters upon his argument, against Free-will, and for the grace of God. "The wrath of God (saith he) is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." (Rom. i. 18) -
Dost thou hear this general sentence "against all men," - that they are all under the wrath of God? And what is this but declaring, that they all merit wrath and punishment? For he assigns the cause of the wrath against them - they do nothing but that which merits wrath; because they are all ungodly and unrighteous, and hold the truth in unrighteousness. Where is now the power of "Freewill" which can endeavour any thing good? Paul makes it to merit the wrath of God, and pronounces it ungodly and unrighteous. That, therefore, which merits wrath and is ungodly, only endeavours and avails against grace, not for grace.
But some one will here laugh at the yawning inconsiderateness of Luther, for not looking fully into the intention of Paul. Some one will say, that Paul does not here speak of all men, nor of all their doings; but of those only who are ungodly and unrighteous, and who, as the words themselves describe them, "hold the truth in unrighteousness;" but that, it does not hence follow, that all men are the same.
Here I observe, that in this passage of Paul, the words "against all ungodliness of men" are of the same import, as if you should say, - against the ungodliness of all men. For Paul, in almost all these instances, uses a Hebraism: so that, the sense is, - all men are ungodly and unrighteous, and hold the truth in unrighteousness; and therefore, all merit wrath. Hence, in the Greek, there is no relative which might be rendered 'of those who,' but an article, causing the sense to run thus, "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, holding the truth in unrighteousness." So that this may be taken as an epithet, as it were, applicable to all men as "holding the truth in unrighteousness:" even as it is an epithet where it is said, "Our Father which art in heaven:" which might in other words be expressed thus: Our heavenly Father, or Our Father in heaven. For it is so expressed to distinguish those who believe and fear God.
But these things might appear frivolous and vain, did not the very train of Paul's argument require them to be so understood, and prove them to be true. For he had said just before, "The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (Rom. i. 16). These words are surely neither obscure or ambiguous, "to the Jew first and also to the Greek:" that is, the Gospel of the power of God is necessary unto all men, that, believing in it, they might be saved from the wrath of God revealed. Does he not then, I pray you, who declares, that the Jews who excelled in righteousness, in the law of God, and in the power of "Free-will," are, without difference, destitute and in need of the power of God, by which they might be saved, and who makes that power necessary unto them, consider that they are all under wrath? What men then will you pretend to say are not under the wrath of God, when you are thus compelled to believe, that the most excellent men in the world, the Jews and Greeks, were so?
And further, whom among those Jews and Greeks themselves will you except, when Paul subjects all of them, included in the same word, without difference, to the same sentence? And are we to suppose that there were no men, out of these two most exalted nations, who 'aspired to what was meritoriously good?' Were there none among them who thus aspired with all the powers of their "Free-will?" Yet Paul makes no distinction on this account, he includes them all under wrath, and declares them all to be ungodly and unrighteous. And are we not to believe that all the other Apostles each one according to the work he had to do, included all other nations under this wrath, in the same way of declaration?
Sect. CXXXVI. - THIS passage of Paul, therefore, stands firmly and forcibly urging - that "Freewill," even in its most exalted state, in the most exalted men, who were endowed with the law, righteousness, wisdom, and all the virtues, was ungodly and unrighteous, and merited the wrath of God; or the argument of Paul amounts to nothing. And if it stand good, his division leaves no medium: for he makes those who believe the Gospel to be under the salvation, and all the rest to be under the wrath of God: he makes the believing to be righteous, and the unbelieving to be ungodly, unrighteous, and under wrath. For the whole that he means to say is this: - The righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel, that it might be by faith. But God would be wanting in wisdom, if He should reveal righteousness unto men, when they either knew it already or had 'some seeds' of it themselves. Since, however, He is not wanting in wisdom, and yet reveals unto men the righteousness of salvation, it is manifest, that "Free-will" even in the most exalted of men, not only has wrought, and can work no righteousness, but does not even know what is righteous before God. - Unless you mean to say, that the righteousness of God is not revealed unto these most exalted of men, but to the most vile! - But the boasting of Paul is quite the contrary - that he is a debtor, both to the Jews and to the Greeks, to the wise and to the unwise, to the Greeks and to the barbarians.
Wherefore Paul, comprehending, in this passage, all men together in one mass, concludes that they are all ungodly, unrighteous, and ignorant of the righteousness of faith: so far is it from possibility, that they can will or do any thing good. And this conclusion is moreover confirmed from this: - that God reveals the righteousness of faith to them, as being ignorant and sitting in darkness: therefore, of themselves, they know it not. And if they be ignorant of the righteousness of salvation, they are certainly under wrath and damnation: nor can they extricate themselves therefrom, nor endeavour to extricate themselves: for how can you endeavour, if you know neither what you are to endeavour after, nor in what way, nor to what extent, you are to endeavour?
Sect: CXXXVII. - WITH this conclusion both the thing itself and experience agree. For shew me one of the whole race of mankind, be he the most holy and most just of all men, into whose mind it ever came, that the way unto righteousness and salvation, was to believe in Him who is both God and man, who died for the sins of men and rose again, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father, that He might still that wrath of God the Father which Paul here says is revealed from heaven?
Look at the most eminent philosophers! What ideas had they of God! What have they left behind them in their writings concerning the wrath to come! Look at the Jews instructed by so many wonders and so many successive Prophets! What did they think of this way of righteousness? They not only did not receive it, but so hated it, that no nation under heaven has more atrociously persecuted Christ, unto this day. And who would dare to say, that in so great a people, there was not one who cultivated "Free-will," and endeavoured with all its power? How comes it to pass, then, that they all endeavour in the directly opposite, and that that which was the most excellent in the most excellent men, not only did not follow this way of righteousness, not only did not know it, but even thrust it from them with the greatest hatred, and wished to away with it when it was published and revealed? So much so, that Paul saith, this way was "to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Gentiles foolishness." (1 Cor. i. 23.).
Since, therefore, Paul speaks of the Jews and Gentiles without difference, and since it is certain that the Jews and Gentiles comprehend the principal nations under heaven, it is hence certain, that "Free-will" is nothing else than the greatest enemy to righteousness and the salvation of man: for it is impossible, but that there must have been some among the Jews and Gentile Greeks who wrought and endeavoured with all the powers of "Free-will;" and yet, by all that endeavouring, did nothing but carry on a war against grace.
Do you therefore now come forward and say, what "Free-will" can endeavour towards good, when goodness and righteousness themselves are a "stumbling-block" unto it, and "foolishness." Nor can you say that this applies to some and not to all. Paul speaks of all without difference, where he says, "to the Jews a stumbling-block and to the Gentiles foolishness:" nor does he except any but believers. "To us, (saith he,) who are called, and saints, it is the power of God and wisdom of God." (1 Cor. i. 24)). He does not say to some Gentiles, to some Jews; but plainly, to the Gentiles and to the Jews, who are "not of us." Thus, by a manifest division, separating the believing from the unbelieving, and leaving no medium whatever. And we are now speaking of Gentiles as working without grace: to whom Paul saith, the righteousness of God is "foolishness," and they abhor it. - This is that meritorious endeavour of "Free-will" towards good!
Sect. CXXXVIII. - SEE, moreover, whether Paul himself does not particularize the most exalted among the Greeks, where he saith, that the wisest among them "became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened;" that "they became wise in their own conceits:" that is, by their subtle disputations. (Rom. i. 21).
Does he not here, I pray you, touch that, which was the most exalted and most excellent in the Greeks, when he touches their "imaginations?" For these comprehend their most sublime and exalted thoughts and opinions; which they considered as solid wisdom. But he calls that their wisdom, as well in other places "foolishness," as here "vain imagination;" which, by its endeavouring, only became worse; till at last they worshipped an idol in their own darkened hearts, and proceeded to the other enormities, which he afterwards enumerates.
If therefore, the most exalted and devoted endeavours and works in the most exalted of the nations be evil and ungodly, what shall we think of the rest, who are, as it were, the commonalty, and the vilest of the nations? Nor does Paul here make any difference between those who are the most exalted, for he condemns all the devotedness of their wisdom, without any respect of persons. And if he condemn their very works and devoted endeavours, he condemns those who exert them, even though they strive with all the powers of "Free-will." Their most exalted endeavour, I say, is declared to be evil - how much more then the persons themselves who exert it!
So also, just afterwards, he rejects the Jews, without any difference, who are Jews "in the letter" and not "in the spirit." "Thou (saith he) honourest God in the letter, and in the circumcision." Again, "He is not a Jew which is one outwardly, but he is a Jew which is one inwardly." Rom. i. 27-29.
What can be more manifest than the division here made? The Jew outwardly, is a transgressor of the law! And how many Jews must we suppose there were, without the faith, who were men the most wise, the most religious, and the most honourable, who aspired unto righteousness and truth with all the devotion of endeavour? Of these the apostle continually bears testimony: - that they had "a zeal of God," that they "followed after righteousness," that they strove day and night to attain unto salvation, that they lived "blameless:" and yet they are transgressors of the law, because they are not Jews "in the spirit," nay they determinately resist the righteousness of faith. What conclusion then remains to be drawn, but that, "Free-will" is then the worst when it is the best; and that, the more it endeavours, the worse it becomes, and the worse it is! The words are plain - the division is certain - nothing can be said against it.
Sect. CXXXIX. - BUT let us hear Paul, who is his own interpreter. In the third chapter, drawing up, as it were, a conclusion, he saith, "What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise; for we have before proved both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin." (Rom. iii. 9).
Where is now "Free-will!" All, saith he, both Jews and Greeks are under sin! Are there any 'tropes' or 'difficulties' here? What would the 'invented interpretations' of the whole world do against this all-clear sentence? He who says "all," excepts none. And he who describes them all as being "under sin," that is, the servants of sin, leaves them no degree of good whatever. But where has he given this proof that "they are all, both Jews and Gentiles, under sin?" Nowhere, but where I have already shewn: viz., where he saith, "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." This he proves to them afterwards from experience: shewing them, that being hated of God, they were given up to so many vices, in order that they might be convinced from the fruits of their ungodliness, that they willed and did nothing but evil. And then, he judges the Jews also separately; where he saith, that the Jew "in the letter," is a transgressor of the law: which he proves, in like manner, from the fruits, and from experience: saying, "Thou who declarest that a man should not steal, stealest thyself: thou who abhorrest idols, committest sacrilege." Thus excepting none whatever, but those who are Jews "in the spirit."
Sect. CXL. - BUT let us see how Paul proves his sentiments out of the Holy Scriptures: and whether the passages which he adduces 'are made to have more force in Paul, than they have in their own places.' "As it is written, (saith he,) There is none righteous, no not one. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are all together become unprofitable: there is none that doeth good, no, not one," &c. (Rom. iii. 10-23).
Here let him that can, produce his 'convenient interpretation,' invent 'tropes,' and pretend that the words 'are ambiguous and obscure!' Let him that dares, defend "Free-will" against these damnable doctrines! Then I will at once give up all and recant, and will myself become a confessor and assertor of "Free-will." It is certain, that these words apply to all men: for the prophet introduces God, as looking down from heaven upon men and pronouncing this sentence upon them. So also Psalm xiv. 2-3. "God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand and seek after God. But they are all gone out of the way,"& c. And that the Jews might not imagine that this did not apply to them by anticipation, and asserts, that it applied to them most particularly: saying, "We know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law." (Rom. iii. 19). And his intention is the same, where he saith, "To the Jew first and also to the Greek."
You hence hear, that all the sons of men, all that are under the law, that is, the Gentiles as well as the Jews, are accounted before God ungodly; not understanding, not seeking after God, no, not even one of them; being all gone out of the way and become unprofitable. And surely, among all the "children of men," and those who are "under the law," those must also be numbered who are the best and most laudable, who aspire after that which is meritorious and good, with all the powers of "Free-will;" and those also of whom the Diatribe boasts as having the sense and certain seeds of good implanted in them; - unless it means to contend that they are the "children" of angels!
How then can they endeavour toward good, who are all, without exception, ignorant of God, and neither regard nor seek after God? How can they have a power able to attain unto good, who all, without exception, decline from good and become utterly unprofitable? Are not the words most clear? And do they not declare this, - that all men are ignorant of God and despise God, and then, turn unto evil and become unprofitable unto good? For Paul is not here speaking of the ignorance of seeking food, or the contempt of money, but of the ignorance and contempt of religion and of godliness. And that ignorance and contempt, most undoubtedly, are not in the "flesh," that is, (as you interpret it,) 'the inferior and grosser affections,' but in the most exalted and most noble powers of man, in which, righteousness, godliness, the knowledge and reverence of God, ought to reign; that is, in the reason and in the will; and thus, in the very power of "Free-will," in the very seed of good, in that which is the most excellent in man!
Where are you now, friend Erasmus! you who promised 'that you would freely acknowledge, that the most excellent faculty in man is "flesh," that is, ungodly, if it should be proved from the Scriptures?' Acknowledge now, then, when you hear, that the most excellent faculty in man is not only ungodly, but ignorant of God, existing in the contempt of God, turned to evil, and unable to turn towards good. For what is it to be "unrighteous," but for the will, (which is one of the most noble faculties in man,) to be unrighteous? What is it to understand nothing either of God or good, but for the reason (which is another of the most noble faculties in man) to be ignorant of God and good, that is, to be blind to the knowledge of godliness? What is it to be "gone out of the way," and to have become unprofitable, but for men to have no power in one single faculty, and the least power in their most noble faculties, to turn unto good, but only to turn unto evil! What is it not to fear God, but for men to be in all their faculties, and most of all in their noblest faculties, contemners of all the things of God, of His words, His works, His laws, His precepts, and His will! What then can reason propose, that is right, who is thus blind and ignorant? What can the will choose that is good, which is thus evil and impotent? Nay, what can the will pursue, where the reason can propose nothing, but the darkness of its own blindness and ignorance? And where the reason is thus erroneous, and the will averse, what can the man either do or attempt, that is good!
Sect. CXLI. - BUT perhaps some one may, here sophistically observe - though the will be gone out of the way, and the reason be ignorant, as to the perfection of the act, yet the will can make some attempt, and the reason can attain to some knowledge by its own powers; seeing that, we can attempt many things which we cannot perfect; and we are here speaking, of the existence of a power, not of the perfection of the act. -
I answer: The words of the Prophet comprehend both the act and the power. For his saying, man seeks not God, is the same as if he had said, man cannot seek God: which you may collect from this. - If there were a power or ability in man to will good, it could not be, but that, as the motion of the Divine Omnipotence could not suffer it to remain actionless, or to keep holiday, (as I before observed) it must be moved forth into act in some men, at least, in some one man or other, and must be made manifest so as to afford an example. But this is not the case. For God looks down from heaven, and does not see even one who seeks after Him, or attempts it. Wherefore it follows, that that power is nowhere to be found, which attempts, or wills to attempt, to seek after Him; and that all men "are gone out of the way."
Moreover if Paul be not understood to speak at the same time of impotency, his disputation will amount to nothing. For Paul's whole design is, to make grace necessary unto all men. Whereas, if they could make some sort of beginning themselves, grace would not be necessary. But now, since they cannot make that beginning, grace is necessary. Hence you see that "Free-will" is by this passage utterly abolished, and nothing meritorious or good whatever left in man: seeing that, he is declared to be unrighteous, ignorant of God, a contemner of God, averse to God, and unprofitable in the sight of God. And the words of the prophet are sufficiently forcible both in their own place, and in Paul who adduces them.
Nor is it an inconsiderable assertion, when man is said to be ignorant of, and to despise God: for these are the fountain springs of all iniquities, the sink of all sins, and the hell of all evils. What evil is there not, where there are ignorance and contempt of God? In a word, the whole kingdom of Satan in men, could not be defined in fewer or more expressive words than by saying - they are ignorant of and despise God! For there is unbelief, there is disobedience, there is sacrilege, there is blasphemy against God, there is cruelty and a want of mercy towards our neighbour, there is the love of self in all the things of God and man! - Here you have a description of the glory and power of "Free-will!"
Sect. CXLII. - PAUL however proceeds; and testifies, that he now expressly speaks with reference to all men, and to those more especially who are the greatest and most exalted: saying, "that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight." (Rom. iii. 19-20).
How, I pray you, shall every mouth be stopped, if there be still a power remaining by which we can do something? For one might then say to God - That which is here in the world is not altogether nothing. There is that here which you cannot damn: even that, to which you yourself gave the power of doing something. The mouth of this at least will not be stopped, for it cannot be obnoxious to you. - For if there be any sound power in "Free-will", and it be able to do something, to say that the whole world is obnoxious to, or guilty before God, is false; for that power, whose mouth is not to be stopped, cannot be an inconsiderable thing, or a something in one small part of the world only, but a thing most conspicuous, and most general throughout the whole world. Or, if its mouth be to be stopped, then it must be obnoxious to, and guilty before God, together with the whole world. But how can it rightly be called guilty, if it be not unrighteous and ungodly; that is, meriting punishment and vengeance?
Let your friends, I pray you, find out, by what 'convenient interpretation' that power of man is to be cleared from this charge of guilt, by which the whole world is declared guilty before God; or by what contrivance it is to be excepted from being comprehended in the expression "all the world." These words - "They are all gone out of the way, there is none righteous, no not one," are mighty thunderclaps and riving thunder-bolts; they are in reality that hammer breaking the rock in pieces mentioned by Jeremiah; by which, is broken in pieces every thing that is, not in one man only, nor in some men, nor in a part of men, but in the whole world, no one man being excepted: so that the whole world ought, at those words, to tremble, to fear, and to flee away. For what words more awful or fearful could be uttered than these - The whole world is guilty; all the sons of men are turned out of the way, and become unprofitable; there is no one that fears God; there is no one that is not unrighteous; there is no one that understandeth; there is no one that seeketh after God!
Nevertheless, such ever has been, and still is, the hardness and insensible obstinacy of our hearts, that we never should of ourselves hear or feel the force of these thunder-claps or thunder-bolts, but should, even while they were sounding in our ears, exalt and establish "Free-will" with all its powers in defiance of them, and thus in reality fulfil that of Malachi i. 4, "They build, but I will throw down!"
With the same power of words also is this said - "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight." - "By the deeds of the law" is a forcible expression; as is also this, "The whole world;" and this, "All the children of men." For it is to be observed, that Paul abstains from the mention of persons, and mentions their ways only: that is, that he might comprehend all persons, and whatever in them is most excellent. Whereas, if he had said the commonalty of the Jews, or the Pharisees, or certain of the ungodly, are not justified, he might have seemed to leave some excepted, who, from the power of "Free-will" in them, and by a certain aid from the law, were not altogether unprofitable. But now, when he condemns the works of the law themselves, and makes them unrighteous in the sight of God, it becomes manifest, that he condemns all who were mighty in a devoted observance of the law and of works. And none devotedly observed the law and works but the best and most excellent among them, nor did they thus observe them but with their best and most exalted faculties; that is, their reason and their will.
If therefore, those, who exercised themselves in the observance of the law and of works with all the devoted striving and endeavouring both of reason and of will, that is, with all the power of "Free-will," and who were assisted by the law as a divine aid, and were instructed out of it, and roused to exertion by it; if, I say, these are condemned of impiety because they are not justified, and are declared to be flesh in the sight of God, what then will there be left in the whole race of mankind which is not flesh, and which is not ungodly? For all are condemned alike who are of the works of the law: and whether they exercise themselves in the law with the utmost devotion, or moderate devotion, or with no devotion at all, it matters nothing. None of them could do any thing but work the works of the law, and the works of the law do not justify: and if they do not justify, they prove their workmen to be ungodly, and leave them so: and if they be ungodly, they are guilty, and merit the wrath of God! These things are so clear, that no one can open his mouth against them.
Sect. CXLIII. - BUT many elude and evade Paul, by saying, that he here calls the ceremonial works, works of the law; which works, after the death of Christ, were dead.
I answer: This is that notable error and ignorance of Jerome which, although Augustine strenuously resisted it, yet, by the withdrawing of God and the prevailing of Satan, has found its way throughout the world, and has continued down to this day. By means of which, it has come to pass, that it has been impossible to understand Paul, and the knowledge of Christ has, consequently, been obscured. Therefore, if there had been no other error in the church, this one might have been sufficiently pestilent and powerful to destroy the Gospel: for which, Jerome, if peculiar grace did not interpose, has deserved hell rather than heaven: so far am I from daring to canonize him, or call him a saint! But however, it is not truth that Paul is here speaking of the ceremonial works only: for if that be the case, how will his argument stand good, whereby he concludes, that all are unrighteous and need grace? But perhaps you will say - Be it so, that we are not justified by the ceremonial works, yet one might be justified by the moral works of the decalogue. By this syllogism of yours then, you have proved, that to such, grace is not necessary. If this be the case, how very useful must that grace be, which delivers us from the ceremonial works only, the easiest of all works, which may be extorted from us through mere fear or self-love!
And this, moreover, is erroneous - that ceremonial works are dead and unlawful, since the death of Christ. Paul never said any such thing. He says, that they do not justify, and that they profit the man nothing in the sight of God, so as to make him free from unrighteousness. Holding this truth, any one may do them, and yet do nothing that is unlawful. Thus, to eat and to drink are works, which do not justify or recommend us to God; and yet, he who eats and drinks does not, therefore, do that which is unlawful.
These men err also in this. - The ceremonial works, were as much commanded and exacted in the old law, and in the decalogue, as the moral works: and therefore, the latter had neither more nor less force than the former. For Paul is here speaking, principally, to the Jews, as he saith, Rom. i.: wherefore, let no one doubt, that by the works of the law here, all the works of the whole law are to be understood. For if the law be abrogated and dead, they cannot be called the works of the law; for an abrogated or dead law, is no longer a law; and that Paul knew full well. Therefore, he does not speak of the law abrogated, when he speaks of the works of the law, but of the law in force and authority: otherwise, how easy would it have been for him to say, The law is now abrogated? And then, he would have spoken openly and clearly.
But let us bring forward Paul himself, who is the best interpreter of himself. He saith, Gal. iii. 10, "As many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things, which are written in the book of the law, to do them." You see that Paul here, where he is urging the same point as he is in his epistle to the Romans, and in the same words, speaks, wherever he makes mention of the works of the law, of all the laws that are written in the Book of the Law.
And what is still more worthy of remark, Paul himself cites Moses, who curses those that continue not in the law; whereas, he himself curses those who are of the works of the law; thus adducing a testimony of a different scope from that of his own sentiment; the former being in the negative, the latter in the affirmative. But this he does, because the real state of the case is such in the sight of God, that those who are the most devoted to the works of the law, are the farthest from fulfilling the law, as being without the Spirit, who only is the fulfiller of the law, which such may attempt to fulfil by their own powers, but they will effect nothing after all. Wherefore, both declarations are truth - that of Moses, that they are accursed who continue not in the works of the law; and that of Paul, that they are accursed who are of the works of the law. For both characters of persons require the Spirit, without which, the works of the law, how many and excellent soever they may be, justify not, as Paul saith; wherefore neither character of persons continue in all things that are written, as Moses saith.
Sect. CXLIV. - IN a word: Paul by this division of his, fully confirms that which I maintain. For he divides law-working men into two classes, those who work after the spirit, and those who work after the flesh, leaving no medium whatever. He speaks thus: "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified." (Rom. iii. 20). What is this but saying, that those whose works, profit them not, work the works of the law without the Spirit, as being themselves flesh; that is, unrighteous and ignorant of God. So, Gal. iii. 2, making the same division, he saith, "received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" Again Rom. iii. 21, "but now, the righteousness of God is manifest without the law." And again Rom. iii. 28, "We conclude, therefore, that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law."
From all which it is manifest and clear, that in Paul, the Spirit is set in opposition to the works of the law, as well as to all other things which are not spiritual, including all the powers of, and every thing pertaining to the flesh. So that, the meaning of Paul, is evidently the same as that of Christ, John iii. 6, that every thing which is not of the Spirit is flesh, be it never so specious, holy and great, nay, be they works of the divine law the most excellent, and wrought by all the powers imaginable; for the Spirit of Christ is wanting; without which, all things are nothing short of being damnable.
Let it then be a settled point, that Paul, by the works of the law, means not the ceremonial works, but the works of the whole law; then, this will be a settled point also, that in the works of the law, every thing is condemned that is without the Spirit. And without the Spirit, is that power of "Free-will," (for that is the point in dispute), - that most exalted faculty in man! For, to be "of the works of the law," is the most exalted state in which man can be. The apostle, therefore, does not say, who are of sins, and of ungodliness against the law, but who are "of the works of the law;" that is, who are the best of men, and the most devoted to the law: and who are, in addition to the power of "Free-will," even assisted, that is, instructed and roused into action, by the law itself.
If therefore "Free-will" assisted by the law and exercising all its powers in the law, profit nothing and justify not, but be left in sin and in the flesh, what must we suppose it able to do, when left to itself without the law!
"By the law (saith Paul) is the knowledge of sin." (Rom. iii. 20). Here he shews how much, and how far the law profits: - that "Free-will" is of itself so blind, that it does not even know what is sin, but has need of the law for its teacher. And what can that man do towards taking away sin, who does not even know what is sin? All that he can do, is, to mistake that which is sin for that which is no sin, and that which is no sin for that which is sin. And this, experience sufficiently proves. How does the world, by the medium of those whom it accounts the most excellent and the most devoted to righteousness and piety, hate and persecute the righteousness of God preached in the Gospel, and brand it with the name of heresy, error, and every opprobrious appellation, while it boasts of and sets forth its own works and devices, which are really sin and error, as righteousness and wisdom? By this Scripture, therefore, Paul stops the mouth of "Free-will" where he teaches, that by the law its sin is discovered unto it, of which sin it was before ignorant; so far is he from conceding to it any power whatever to attempt that which is good.
Sect. CXLV. - AND here is solved that question of the Diatribe so often repeated throughout its book - "if we can do nothing, to what purpose are so many laws, so many precepts, so many threatenings, and so many promises?" -
Paul here gives an answer: "By the law is the knowledge of sin." His answer is far different from that which would enter the thoughts of man, or of "Free-will." He does not say, by the law is proved "Free-will," because it co-operates with it unto righteousness. For righteousness is not by the law, but, "by the law is the knowledge of sin:" seeing that, the effect, the work, and the office of the law, is to be a light to the ignorant and the blind; such a light, as discovers to them disease, sin, evil, death, hell, and the wrath of God; though it does not deliver from these, but shews them only. And when a man is thus brought to a knowledge of the disease of sin, he is cast down, is afflicted, nay despairs: the law does not help him, much less can he help himself. Another light is necessary, which might discover to him the remedy. This is the voice of the Gospel, revealing Christ as the Deliverer from all these evils. Neither "Free-will" nor reason can discover Him. And how should, it discover Him, when it is itself dark and devoid even of the light of the law, which might discover to it its disease, which disease, in its own light it seeth not, but believes it to be sound health.
So also in Galatians iii., treating on the same point, he saith, "Wherefore then serveth the law?" To which he answers, not as the Diatribe does, in a way that proves the existence of "Free-will," but he saith, "it was added because of transgressions, until the Seed should come, to whom the promise was made." (Gal. iii. 19). He saith, "because of transgressions;" not, however, to restrain them, as Jerome dreams; (for Paul shews, that to take away and to restrain sins, by the gift of righteousness, was that which was promised to the Seed to come;) but to cause transgressions to abound, as he saith Rom. v. 20, "The law entered that sin might abound." Not that sins were not committed and did not abound without the law, but they were not known to be transgressions and sins of such magnitude; for the most and greatest of them, were considered to be righteousnesses. And while sins are thus unknown, there is no place for remedy, or for hope; because, they will not submit to the hand of the healer, considering themselves to be whole, and not to want a physician. Therefore, the law is necessary, which might give the knowledge of sin; in order that, he who is proud and whole in his own eyes, being humbled down into the knowledge of the iniquity and greatness of his sin, might groan and breathe after the grace that is laid up in Christ.
Only observe, therefore, the simplicity of the words - "By the law is the knowledge of sin;" and yet, these alone are of force sufficient to confound and overthrow "Free-will" altogether. For if it be true, that of itself, it knows not what is sin, and what is evil, as the apostle saith here, and Rom. vii. 7-8, "I should not have known that concupiscence was sin, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet," how can it ever know what is righteousness and good? And if it know not what righteousness is, how can it endeavour to attain unto it? We know not the sin in which we were born, in which we live, in which we move and exist, and which lives, moves, and reigns in us; how then should we know that righteousness which is without us, and which reigns in heaven? These works bring that miserable thing "Free-will" to nothing - nothing at all!
Sect. CXLVI. - THE state of the case, therefore, being thus, Paul speaks openly with full confidence and authority, saying, "But now the righteousness of God is manifest without the law, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe in Him: (for there is no difference, for all have sinned and are without the glory of God:) being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation for sin, through faith in His blood, &c." (Rom. iii. 22-26).
Here Paul speaks forth very thunder-bolts against "Free-will." First, he saith, "The righteousness of God without the law is manifested." Here he marks the distinction between the righteousness of God, and the righteousness of the law: because, the righteousness of faith comes by grace, without the law. His saying, "without the law," can mean nothing else, but that Christian righteousness exists, without the works of the law: inasmuch as the works of the law avail nothing, and can do nothing, toward the attainment unto it. As he afterwards saith, "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." (Rom. iii. 28). The same also he had said before, "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight." (Rom. iii. 20).
From all which it is most clearly manifest, that the endeavour and desire of "Free-will" are a nothing at all. For if the righteousness of God exist without the law, and without the works of the law, how shall it not much rather exist without "Free-will''! especially, since the most devoted effort of "Free-will" is, to exercise itself in moral righteousness, or the works of that law, from which its blindness and impotency derive their 'assistance!' This word "without," therefore abolishes all moral works, abolishes all moral righteousness, abolishes all preparations unto grace. In a word, scrape together every thing you can as that which pertains to the ability of "Free-will," and Paul will still stand invincible saying, - the righteousness of God is "without" it!
But, to grant that "Free-will" can, by its endeavour, move itself in some direction, we will say, unto good works, or unto the righteousness of the civil or moral law; yet, it is not moved toward the righteousness of God, nor does God in any respect allow its devoted efforts to be worthy unto the attainment of this righteousness: for He saith, that His righteousness availeth without the works of the law. If therefore, it cannot move itself unto the attainment of the righteousness of God, what will it be profited, if it move itself by its own works and endeavours, unto the attainment of (if it were possible) the righteousness of angels! Here, I presume, the words are not 'obscure or ambiguous,' nor is any place left for 'tropes' of any kind. Here Paul distinguishes most manifestly the two righteousnesses; assigning the one to the law, the other to grace; and declares that the latter is given without the former, and without its works; and that the former justifies not, nor avails anything, without the latter. I should like to see, therefore, how "Free-will" can stand, or be defended, against these Scriptures!
Sect. CXLVII. - ANOTHER thunder-bolt is this - The apostle saith, that the righteousness of God is manifested and avails, "unto all and upon all them that believe" in Christ: and that, "there is no difference." (Rom. iii. 21-22). -
Here again, he divides in the clearest words, the whole race of men into two distinct divisions. To the believing he gives the righteousness of God, but takes it from the unbelieving. Now, no one, I suppose, will be madman enough to doubt, whether or not the power or endeavour of "Free-will" be a something that is not faith in Christ Jesus. Paul then denies that any thing which is not this faith, is righteous before God. And if it be not righteous before God, it must be sin. For there is with God no medium between righteousness and sin, which can be as it were a neuter - neither righteousness nor sin. Otherwise the whole argument of Paul would amount to nothing: for it proceeds wholly upon this distinct division - that whatever is done and carried on by men, must be in the sight of God, either righteousness or sin: righteousness, if done in faith; sin, if faith be wanting. With men, indeed, things pass thus. - All cases in which men, in their intercourse with each other, neither owe any thing as a due, nor do any thing as a free benefit, are called medium and neuter. But here the ungodly man sins against God, whether he eat, or whether he drink, or whatever he do; because, he abuses the creature of God by his ungodliness and perpetual ingratitude, and does not, at any one moment, give glory to God from his heart.
Sect. CXLVIII. - THIS also, is no powerless thunder-bolt where the apostle says, "All have sinned and are without the glory of God: for there is no difference." (Rom. iii. 23).
What, I pray you, could be spoken more clearly? Produce one of your "Free-will" workmen, and say to me - does this man, sin in this his endeavour? If he does not sin, why does not Paul except him? Why does he include him also without difference? Surely he that saith "all," excepts no one in any place, at any time, in any work or endeavour. If therefore you except any man, for any kind of devoted desire or work, - you make Paul a liar; because he includes that "Free-will"-workman or striver, among all the rest, and in all that he saith concerning them; whereas, Paul should have had some respect for this person, and not have numbered him among the general herd of sinners!
There is also that part, where he saith, that they are "without the glory of God."
You may understand "the glory of God" here two ways, actively and passively. For Paul writes thus from his frequent use of Hebraisms. "The glory of God," understood actively, is that glory by which God glories in us; understood passively, it is that glory by which we glory in God. But it seems to me proper, to understand it now, passively. So, "the faith of Christ," is, according to the Latin, the faith which Christ has; but, according to the Hebrew, "the faith of Christ," is the faith which we have in Christ. So, also, "the righteousness of God," signifies, according to the Latin, the righteousness which God has; but according to the Hebrews, it signifies the righteousness which we have from God and before God. Thus also "the glory of God," we understand according to the Latin, not according to the Hebrew; and receive it as signifying, the glory which we have from God and before God; which may be called, our glory in God. And that man glories in God who knows, to a certainty, that God has a favour unto him, and deigns to look upon him with kind regard; and that, whatever he does pleases God, and what does not please him, is borne with by Him and pardoned.
If therefore, the endeavour or desire of "Free-will" be not sin, but good before God, it can certainly glory; and in that glorying, say with confidence, - This pleases God, God favours this, God looks upon and accepts this, or at least, bears with it and pardons it. For this is the glorying of the faithful in God: and they that have not this, are rather confounded before God. But Paul here denies that these men have this; saying, that they are all entirely without this glory.
This also experience itself proves. - Put the question to all the exercisers of "Free-will" to a man, and see if you can shew me one, who can honestly, and from his heart, say of any one of his devoted efforts and endeavours, - This pleases God! If you can bring forward a single one, I am ready to acknowledge myself overthrown, and to cede to you the palm. But I know there is not one to be found. And if this glory be wanting, so that the conscience dares not say, to a certainty, and with confidence, - this pleases God, it is certain that it does not please God. For as a man believes, so it is unto him: because, he does not, to a certainty, believe that he pleases God; which, nevertheless, it is necessary to believe; for to doubt of the favour of God, is the very sin itself of unbelief; because, He will have it believed with the most assuring faith that He is favourable. Therefore, I have convinced them upon the testimony of their own conscience, that "Free-will," being "without the glory of God," is, with all its powers, its devoted strivings and endeavours, perpetually under the guilt of the sin of unbelief.
And what will the advocates of "Free-will" say to that which follows, "being justified freely by His grace?" (Rom. iii. 24). What is the meaning of the word "freely?" What is the meaning of "by His grace?" How will merit, and endeavour, accord with freely-given righteousness? But, perhaps, they will here say - that they attribute to "Free-will" a very little indeed, and that which is by no means the 'merit of worthiness' (meritum condignum!) These, however, are mere empty words: for all that is sought for in the defence of "Free-will," is to make place for merit. This is manifest: for the Diatribe has, throughout, argued and expostulated thus,
- "If there be no freedom of will, how can there be place for merit? And if there be no place for merit, how can there be place for reward? To whom will the reward be assigned, if justification be without merit?
Paul here gives you an answer. - That there is no such thing as merit at all; but that all who are justified are justified "freely;" that this is ascribed to no one but to the grace of God. - And when this righteousness is given, the kingdom and life eternal are given with it! Where is your endeavouring now? Where is your devoted effort? Where are your works? Where are your merits of "Free-will?" Where is the profit of them all put together? You cannot here make, as a pretence, 'obscurity and ambiguity:' the facts and the works are most clear and most plain. But be it so, that they attribute to "Free-will" a very little indeed, yet they teach us that by that very little we can attain unto righteousness and grace. Nor do they solve that question, Why does God justify one and leave another? in any other way, than by asserting the freedom of the will, and saying, Because, the one endeavours and the other does not: and God regards the one for his endeavouring, and despises the other for his not endeavouring; lest, if he did otherwise, He should appear to be unjust.
And notwithstanding all their pretence, both by their tongue and pen, that they do not profess to attain unto grace by 'the merit of worthiness' (meritum condignum) nor call it the merit of worthiness, yet they only mock us with a term, and hold fast their tenet all the while. For what is the amount of their pretence that they do not call it 'the merit of worthiness,' if nevertheless they assign unto it all that belongs to the merit of worthiness? - saying, that he in the sight of God attains unto grace who endeavours, and he who does not endeavour, does not attain unto it? Is this not plainly making it to be the merit of worthiness? Is it not making God a respecter of works, of merits, and of persons to say that one man is devoid of grace from his own fault, because he did not endeavour after it, but that another, because he did endeavour after it, has attained unto grace, unto which he would not have attained, if he had not endeavoured after it? If this be not 'the merit of worthiness,' then I should like to be informed what it is that is called 'the merit of worthiness.'
In this way you may play a game of mockery upon all words; and say, it is not indeed the merit of worthiness, but is in effect the same as the 'merit of worthiness.' - The thorn is not a bad tree, but is in effect the same as a bad tree! - The fig is not a good tree, but is in effect the same as a good tree! - The Diatribe is not, indeed, impious, but says and does nothing but what is impious!
Sect. CXLIX. - IT has happened to these assertors of "Free-will" according to the old proverb, 'Striving dire Scylla's rock to shun, they 'gainst Charybdis headlong run.' For devotedly striving to dissent from the Pelagians, they begin to deny the 'merit of worthiness;' whereas, by the very way in which they deny it, they establish it more firmly than ever. They deny it by their word and pen, but establish it in reality, and in heart-sentiment: and thus, they are worse than the Pelagians themselves: and that, on two accounts. First, the Pelagians plainly, candidly, and ingenuously, assert the 'merit of worthiness;' thus calling a boat a boat, and a fig a fig; and teaching what they really think. Whereas, our "Free-will" friends, while they think and teach the same thing, yet mock us with lying words and false appearances, as though they dissented from the Pelagians; when the fact is quite the contrary. So that, with respect to their hypocrisy, they seem to be the Pelagians' strongest opposers, but with respect to the reality of the matter, and their heart-tenet, they are twice-dipped Pelagians. And next, under this hypocrisy, they estimate and purchase the grace of God at a much lower rate than the Pelagians themselves. For these assert, that it is not a certain little something in us by which we attain unto grace, but whole, full, perfect, great, and many, devoted efforts and works. Whereas, our friends declare, that it is a certain little something, almost a nothing, by which we deserve grace.
If therefore there must be error, they err with more honesty and less pride, who say, that the grace of God is purchased at a great price, and who account it dear and precious, than those who teach, that it may be purchased at that which is very little, and inconsiderable, and who account it cheap and contemptible. But however, Paul pounds both in pieces in one mortar, by one word, where he saith, that all are "justified freely;" and again that they are justified "without the law" and "without the works of the law." And he who asserts that the justification must be free in all who are justified, leaves none excepted who work, deserve, or prepare themselves; he leaves no work which can be called 'merit of congruity' or 'merit of worthiness;' and by the one hurling of this thunder-bolt, he dashes in pieces both the Pelagians with their 'whole merit,' and the Sophists with their 'very little merit.' For a free justification allows of no workmen: because, a free gift, and a work-preparation, are manifestly in opposition to each other.
Moreover, the being justified through grace, will not allow of respect unto the worthiness of any person: as the apostle saith also afterwards, chap. xi., "If by grace then it is no more of works: otherwise, grace is no more grace." (Rom. xi. 6). He saith the same also, "Now to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt." (Rom. iv. 4). Wherefore, my Paul stands an invincible destroyer of "Free-will," and lays prostrate two armies by one word. For if we be justified "without works," all works are condemned, whether they be very little, or very great. He excepts none, but thunders alike against all.
Sect. CL. - HERE you may see the yawning inconsiderateness of all our friends, and what it profits a man to rely upon the ancient fathers, who have been approved through the series of so many ages. Were they not also all alike blind to, nay rather, did they not disregard, the most clear and most manifest words of Paul? Pray what is there that can be spoken clearly and plainly in defence of grace, against "Free-will," if the argument of Paul be not clear and plain? He proceeds with a glow of argument, and exalts grace against works; and that, in words the most clear and most plain; saying, that we are "justified freely," and that grace is no more grace, if it be sought by works. Thus most manifestly excluding all works in the matter of justification, to the intent that, he might establish grace only and free justification. And yet we, in all this light, still seek after darkness; and when we cannot ascribe unto ourselves great things, and all things, we endeavour to ascribe unto ourselves a something 'in degree,' 'a very little;' merely that, we might maintain our tenet, that justification through the grace of God is not "free" and "without works." - As though he who declares, that greater things, and all things profit us nothing unto justification, does not much more deny that things 'in degree,' and things 'very little,' profit us nothing also: particularly when he has settled the point, that we are justified by grace alone without any works whatever, and therefore, without the law itself, in which are comprehended all works, great and little, works of 'congruity' and works of 'worthiness.'
Go now then and boast of the authorities of the ancients, and depend on what they say; all of whom you see, to a man, disregarded Paul, that most plain and most clear teacher; and, as it were, purposely shunned this morning star, yea, this sun rather, because, being wrapped up in their own carnal reason, they thought it absurd that no place should be left to merit.
Sect. CLI. - LET us now bring forward that example of Abraham which Paul afterwards adduces. "If (saith he) Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not before God. For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." (Rom. iv. 2-3.).
Mark here again, I pray you, the distinction of Paul, where he is shewing the two-fold righteousness of Abraham. - The one, is of works; that is, moral and civil; but he denies that he was justified by this before God, even though he were justified by it before men. Moreover, by that righteousness, "he hath whereof to glory" before men, but is all the while himself without the glory of God. Nor can any one here say, that they are the works of the law, or of ceremonies, which are here condemned; seeing that, Abraham existed so many years before the law. Paul plainly speaks of the works of Abraham, and those his best works. For it would be ridiculous to dispute, whether or not any one were justified by evil works.
If therefore, Abraham be righteous by no works whatever, and if both he himself and all his works be left under sin, unless he be clothed with another righteousness, even with the righteousness of faith, it is quite manifest, that no man can do any thing by works towards his becoming righteous: and moreover, that no works, no devoted efforts, no endeavours of "Free-will," avail any thing in the sight of God, but are all judged to be ungodly, unrighteous, and evil. For if the man himself be not righteous, neither will his works or endeavours be righteous: and if they be not righteous, they are damnable, and merit wrath.
The other righteousness is that of faith; which consists, not in any works, but in the favour and imputation of God through grace. And mark how Paul dwells upon the word "imputed;" how he urges it, repeats it, and inculcates it. - "Now (saith he) to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth in Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness," Rom. iv. 4-5), according to the purpose of the grace of God. Then he adduces David, saying the same thing concerning the imputation through grace. "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin," &c. (Rom. iv. 6-8).
In this chapter, he repeats the word "impute" above ten times. In a word, he distinctively sets forth "him that worketh," and "him that worketh not," leaving no medium between them. He declares, that righteousness is not imputed "to him that worketh," but asserts that righteousness is imputed "to him that worketh not," if he believe! Here is no way by which "Free-will," with its devoted efforts and endeavours, can escape or get off: it must be numbered with "him that worketh," or with "him that worketh not." If it be numbered with "him that worketh," you hear that righteousness is not imputed unto it; if it be numbered with "him that worketh not, but believeth" in God, righteousness is imputed unto it. And then, it will not be the power of "Free-will," but the new creature by faith. But if righteousness be not imputed unto it, being "him that worketh," then, it becomes manifest, that all its works are nothing but sins, evils, and impieties before God.
Nor can any Sophist here snarl, and say, that, although man be evil, yet his work may not be evil. For Paul speaks not of the man simply, but of "him that worketh," to the very intent that, he might declare in the plainest words, that the works and devoted efforts themselves of man are condemned, whatever they may be, by what name soever they may be called, or under what form soever they may be done. He here also speaks of good works; because, the points of his argument are, justification, and merits. And when he speaks of "him that worketh," he speaks of all workers and of all their works; but more especially of their good and meritorious works. Otherwise, his distinction between "him that worketh," and "him that worketh not," will amount to nothing.
Sect. CLII. - I HERE omit to bring forward those all-powerful arguments drawn from the purpose of grace, from the promise, from the force of the law, from original sin, and from the election of God; of which, there is no one that would not of itself utterly overthrow "Free-will." For if grace come by the purpose of God, or by election, it comes of necessity, and not by any devoted effort or endeavour of our own; as I have already shown. Moreover, if God promised grace before the law, as Paul argues here, and in his epistle to the Galatians also, then it does not come by works or by the law; otherwise, it would be no longer a promise. And so also faith, if works were of any avail, would come to nothing: by which, nevertheless, Abraham was justified before the law was given. Again, as the law is the strength of sin, and only discovers sin, but does not take it away, it brings the conscience in guilty before God. This is what Paul means when he saith, "the law worketh wrath." (Rom. iv. 15). How then can it be possible, that righteousness should be obtained by the law? And if we derive no help from the law, how can we derive any help from the power of "Free-will" alone?
Moreover, since we all lie under the same sin and damnation of the one man Adam, how can we attempt any thing which is not sin and damnable? For when he saith "all," he excepts no one; neither the power of "Free-will," nor any workman; whether he work or work not, attempt or attempt not, he must of necessity be included among the rest in the "all." Nor should we sin or be damned by that one sin of Adam, if the sin were not our own: for who could be damned for the sin of another, especially in the sight of God? Nor is the sin ours by imitation, or by working; for this would not be the one sin of Adam; because, then, it would not be the sin which he committed, but which we committed ourselves; - it becomes our sin by generation. - But of this in some other place. - Original sin itself, therefore, will not allow of any other power in "Free-will," but that of sinning and going on unto damnation.
These arguments, I say, I omit to bring forward, both because they are most manifest and most forcible, and because I have touched upon them already. For if I wished to produce all those parts of Paul which overthrow "Free-will," I could not do better, than go through with a continued commentary on the whole of his epistle, as I have done on the third and fourth chapters. On which, I have dwelt thus particularly, that I might shew all our "Free-will" friends their yawning inconsiderateness, who so read Paul in these all-clear parts, as to see any thing in them but these most powerful arguments against "Free-will;" and that I might expose the folly of that confidence which they place in the authority and writings of the ancient teachers, and leave them to consider with what force the remaining most clear arguments must make against them, if they should be handled with care and judgment.
Sect. CLIII. - As to myself, I must confess, I am more than astonished, that, when Paul so often uses those universally applying words "all," "none," "not," "not one," "without," thus, "they are all gone out of the way, there is none that doeth good, no not one;" all are sinners and condemned by the one sin of Adam; we are justified by faith "without" the law; "without" the works of the law; so that, if any one wished to speak otherwise so as to be more intelligible, he could not speak in words more clear and more plain; - I am more than a astonished, I say, how it is, that words and sentences, contrary and contradictory to these universally applying words and sentences, have gained so much ground; which say, - Some are not gone out of the way, are not unrighteous, are not evil, are not sinners, are not condemned: there is something in man which is good and which endeavours after good: as though that man, whoever he be, who endeavours after good, were not comprehended in this one word "all," or "none," or "not."
I could find nothing, even if I wished it, to advance against Paul, or to reply in contradiction to him: but should be compelled to acknowledge that the power of my "Free-will," together with its endeavours, is comprehended in those "alls," and "nones," of whom Paul here speaks; if, that is, no new kind of grammar or new manner of speech were introduced.
Moreover, if Paul had used this mode of expression once, or in one place only, there might have been room for imagining a trope, or for taking hold of and twisting some detached terms. Whereas, he uses it perpetually both in the affirmative and in the negative: and so expresses his sentiments by his argument and by his distinctive division, in every place and in all parts, that not the nature of his words only and the current of his language, but that which follows and that which precedes, the circumstances, the scope, and the very body of the whole disputation, all compel us to conclude, according to common sense, that the meaning of Paul is, - that out of the faith of Christ there is nothing but sin and damnation.
It was thus that we promised we would refute "Free-will," so that all our adversaries should not be able to resist: which, I presume, I have effected, even though they shall not so far acknowledge themselves vanquished, as to come over to my opinion, or to be silent: for that is not in my power: that is the gift of the Spirit of God!
Sect. CLIV. - BUT however, before we hear the Evangelist John, I will just add the crowning testimony from Paul: and I am prepared, if this be not sufficient, to oppose Paul to "Free-will" by commenting upon him throughout. Where he divides the human race into two distinctive divisions, "flesh" and "spirit," he speaks thus - "They that are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, do mind the things of the Spirit," (Rom. viii. 5). As Christ also does, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," (John iii 6).
That Paul here calls all carnal who are not spiritual, is manifest, both from the division itself and the opposition of spirit to flesh, and from the very words of Paul himself, where he adds, "But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His" (Rom. viii. 9). What else is the meaning of "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of Christ dwell in you," but, that those who have not the "Spirit," are, necessarily, in the "flesh?" And if any man be not of Christ, what else is he but of Satan? It is manifest, therefore, that those who are devoid of the Spirit, are "in the flesh," and under Satan.
Now let us see what his opinion is concerning the endeavour and the power of "Free-will" in the carnal, who are in the flesh. "They cannot please God." Again, "The carnal mind is death." Again, "The carnal mind is enmity against God," And again, "It is not subject to the law of God neither indeed can be." (Rom. viii. 5-8). Here let the advocate for "Free-will" answer me - How can that endeavour toward good "which is death," which "cannot please God," which "is enmity against God," which "is not subject to God," and "cannot" be subject to him? Nor does Paul mean to say, that the carnal mind is dead and inimical to God; but that, it is death itself, enmity itself which cannot possibly be subject to the law of God or please God, as he had said just before, "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God did," &c. (Rom. viii. 3).
But I am very well acquainted with that fable of Origen concerning the three-fold affection; the one of which he calls 'flesh,' the other 'soul,' and the other 'spirit,' making the soul that medium affection, vertible either way, towards the flesh or towards the spirit. But these are merely his own dreams; he speaks them forth only, but does not prove them. Paul here calls every thing "flesh" that is without the "Spirit," as I have already shewn. Therefore, those most exalted virtues of the best men are in the flesh; that is, they are dead, and at enmity against God; they are not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be; and they please not God. For Paul does not only say that such men are not subject, but that they cannot be subject. So also Christ saith, "An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit." (Matt. vii. 17). And again, "How can ye being evil speak that which is good," (Matt. xii. 34). Here you see, we not only speak that which is evil, but cannot speak that which is good.
And though He saith in another place, that we who are evil know how to give good gifts unto our children, (Matt. vi. 11), yet He denies that we do good, even when we give good gifts; because those good gifts which we give are the creatures of God; but we ourselves not being good, cannot give those good gifts well. For He is speaking unto all men; nay, even unto His own disciples. So that these two sentiments of Paul, that the just man liveth "by faith," (Rom. i. 17), and that "whatsoever is not of faith is sin," (Rom. xiv. 23), stand confirmed: the latter of which follows from the former. For if there be nothing by which we are justified but faith only, it is evident that those who are not of faith, are not justified. And if they be not justified, they are sinners. And if they be sinners, they are evil trees and can do nothing but sin and bring forth evil fruit - Wherefore, "Free-will" is nothing but the servant of sin, of death, and of Satan, doing nothing, and being able to do or attempt nothing, but evil!
Sect. CLV. - ADD to this that example, Rom. x. 24, taken out of Isaiah, "I was found of them that sought Me not, I was made manifest unto them that asked not for Me." He speaks this with reference to the Gentiles: - that it was given unto them to hear and know Christ, when before, they could not even think of Him, much less seek Him, or prepare themselves for Him by the power of "Free-will." From this example it is sufficiently evident, that grace comes so free, that no thought concerning it, or attempt or desire after it, precedes. So also Paul - when he was Saul, what did he do by that exalted power of "Free-will?" Certainly, in respect of reason, he intended that which was best and most meritoriously good. But by what endeavours did he come unto grace? He did not only not seek after it, but received it even when he was furiously maddened against it!
On the other hand, he saith of the Jews "The Gentiles which followed not after righteousness have attained unto the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel which followed after the law of righteousness hath not attained unto the law of righteousness" (Rom. ix. 30-31). What has any advocate for "Free-will" to mutter against this? The Gentiles when filled with ungodliness and every vice, receive righteousness freely from a mercy-shewing God: while the Jews, who follow after righteousness with all their devoted effort and endeavour, are frustrated. Is this not plainly saying, that the endeavour of "Free-will" is all in vain, even when it strives to do the best; and that "Freewill," of itself, can only fall back and grow worse and worse?
Nor can any one say, that the Jews did not follow after righteousness with all the power of "Free-will." For Paul himself bears this testimony of them, "That they had a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge," (Rom. x. 2). Therefore, nothing which is attributed to "Free-will" was wanting to the Jews; and yet, it attained unto nothing, nay unto the contrary of that after which they strove. Whereas, there was nothing in the Gentiles which is attributed to "Free-will," and they attained unto the righteousness of God. And what is this but a most manifest example from each nation, and a most clear testimony of Paul, proving that grace is given freely to the most undeserving and unworthy, and is not attained unto by any devoted efforts, endeavours, or works, either small or great, of any men, be they the best and most meritorious, or even of those who have sought and followed after righteousness with all the ardour of zeal?
Sect. CLVI. - NOW let us come to JOHN, who is also a most copious and powerful subverter of "Free-will."
He, at the very first outset, attributes to "Free-will" such blindness, that it cannot even see the light of the truth: so far is it from possibility, that it should endeavour after it. He speaks thus, "The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." (John i. 5). And directly afterwards, "He was in the world, and the world knew Him not; He came unto His own, and His own knew Him not." (Verses 10-11).
What do you imagine he means by "world?" Will you attempt to separate any man from being included in this term, but him who is born again of the Holy Spirit? The term "world" is very particularly used by this apostle; by which he means, the whole race of men. Whatever, therefore, he says of the "world," is to be understood of the whole race of men. And hence, whatever he says of the "world," is to be understood also of "Free-will," as that which is most excellent in man. According to this apostle, then, the "world" does not know the light of truth; the "world" hates Christ and His; the "world" neither knows nor sees the Holy Spirit; the whole "world" is settled in enmity; all that is in the "world," is "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." "Love not the world." "Ye (saith He) are not of the world." "The world cannot hate you; but Me it hateth, because I testify of it that the works thereof are evil."
All these and many other like passages are proclamations of what "Free-will' is - 'the principal part' of the world, ruling the empire of Satan! For John also himself speaks of the world by antithesis; making the "world" to be, every thing in the world which is not translated into the kingdom of the Spirit. So also Christ saith to the apostles, "I have chosen you out of the world, and ordained you," &c, (John xv. 16). If therefore, there were any in the world, who, by the powers of "Free-will, "endeavoured so as to attain unto good, (which would be the case if "Free-will" could do any thing) John certainly ought, in reverence for these persons, to have softened down the term, lest, by a word of such general application, he should involve them in all those evils of which he condemns the world. But as he does not this, it is evident that he makes "Free-will" guilty of all that is laid to the charge of the world: because, whatever the world does, it does by the power of "Free-will": that is, by its will and by its reason, which are its most exalted faculties. - He then goes on,
"But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God; even to them that believe on His Name. Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John i. 12-13).
Having finished this distinctive division, he rejects from the kingdom of Christ, all that is "of blood," "of the will of the flesh," and "of the will of man." By "blood," I believe, he means the Jews; that is, those who wished to be the children of the kingdom, because they were the children of Abraham and of the Fathers; and hence, gloried in their "blood." By "the will of the flesh," I understand the devoted efforts of the people, which they exercised in the law and in works: for "flesh" here signifies the carnal without the Spirit, who had indeed a will, and an endeavour, but who, because the Spirit was not in them, were carnal. By "the will of man," I understand the devoted efforts of all generally, that is, of the nations, or of any men whatever, whether exercised in the law, or without the law. So that the sense is - they become the sons of God, neither by the birth of the flesh, nor by a devoted observance of the law, nor by any devoted human effort whatever, but by a Divine birth only.
If therefore, they be neither born of the flesh, nor brought up by the law, nor prepared by any human discipline, but are born again of God, it is manifest, that "Free-will" here profits nothing. For I understand "man," to signify here, according to the Hebrew manner of speech, any man, or all men; even as "flesh," is understood to signify, by antithesis, the people without the Spirit: and "the will of man," I understand to signify the greatest power in men, that is, that 'principal part,' "Free-will."
But be it so, that we do not dwell thus upon the signification of the words, singly; yet, the sum and substance of the meaning is most clear; - that John, by this distinctive division, rejects every thing that is not of Divine generation; since he says, that men are made the sons of God none otherwise than by being born of God; which takes place, according to his own interpretation - by believing on His name! In this rejection therefore, "the will of man," or "Free-will," as it is not of divine generation, nor faith, is necessarily included. But if "Free-will" avail any thing, "the will of man" ought not to be rejected by John, nor ought men to be drawn away from it, and sent to faith and to the new birth only; lest that of Isaiah should be pronounced, against him, "Woe unto you that call good evil." Whereas now, since he rejects alike all "blood," "the will of the flesh," and "the will of man," it is evident, that "the will of man" avails nothing more towards making men the sons of God, than "blood" does, or the carnal birth. And no one doubts whether or not the carnal birth makes men the sons of God; for as Paul saith, "They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God;" (Rom. ix. 8), which he proves by the examples of Ishmael and Esau.
Sect. CLVII. - THE same John, introduces the Baptist speaking thus of Christ, "And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace." (John i.16).
He says, that grace is received by us out of the fullness of Christ - but for what merit or devoted effort? "For grace," saith He; that is, of Christ; as Paul also saith, "The grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many." (Rom. v. 15). - Where is now the endeavour of "Free-will" by which grace is obtained! John and Paul here saith, that grace is not only not received for any devoted effort of our own, but even for the grace of another, or the merit of another, that is "of one Man Jesus Christ." Therefore, it is either false, that we receive our grace for the grace of another, or else it is evident, that "Free-will" is nothing at all; for both cannot consist - that the grace of God, is both so cheap, that it may be obtained in common and every where by the 'little endeavour' of any man; and at the same time so dear, that it is given unto us only in and through the grace of one Man, and He so great!
And I would also, that the advocates for "Free-will" be admonished in this place, that when they assert "Free-will," they are deniers of Christ. For if I obtain grace by my own endeavours, what need have I of the grace of Christ for the receiving of my grace? Or, what do I want when I have gotten the grace of God? For the Diatribe has said, and all the Sophists say, that we obtain grace, and are prepared for the reception of it, by our own endeavours; not however according to 'worthiness,' but according to 'congruity.' This is plainly denying Christ: for whose grace, the Baptist here testifies, that we receive grace. For as to that fetch about 'worthiness' and 'congruity,' I have refuted that already, and proved it to be a mere play upon empty words, while the 'merit of worthiness' is really intended; and that, to a more impious length than ever the Pelagians themselves went, as I have already shewn. And hence, the ungodly Sophists, together with the Diatribe, have more awfully denied the Lord Christ who bought us, than ever the Pelagians, or any heretics have denied Him. So far is it from possibility, that grace should allow of any particle or power of "Free-will!"
But however, that the advocates for "Free-will" deny Christ, is proved, not by this Scripture only, but by their own very way of life. For by their "Free-will," they have made Christ to be unto them no longer a sweet Mediator, but a dreaded Judge, whom they strive to please by the intercessions of the Virgin Mother, and of the Saints; and also, by variously invented works, by rites, ordinances, and vows; by all which, they aim at appeasing Christ, in order that He might give them grace. But they do not believe, that He intercedes before God and obtains grace for them by His blood and grace; as it is here said, "for grace." And as they believe, so it is unto them! For Christ is in truth, an inexorable judge to them, and justly so; for they leave Him, who is a Mediator and most merciful Saviour, and account His blood and grace of less value than the devoted efforts and endeavours of their "Free-will!"
Sect. CLVIII. - Now let us hear an example of "Free-will." - Nicodemus is a man in whom there is every thing that you can desire, which "Free-will" is able to do. For what does that man omit either of devoted effort, or endeavour? He confesses Christ to be true, and to have come from God; he declares His miracles; he comes by night to hear Him, and to converse with Him. Does he not appear to have sought after, by the power of "Free-will," those things which pertain unto piety and salvation? But mark what shipwreck he makes. When he hears the true way of salvation by a new-birth to be taught by Christ, does he acknowledge it, or confess that he had ever sought after it? Nay, he revolts from it, and is confounded; so much so, that he does not only say he does not understand it, but heaves against it as impossible - "How (says he) can these things be?" (John iii. 9).
And no wonder: for who ever heard, that man must be born again unto salvation "of water and of the Spirit?" (5). Who ever thought, that the Son of God must be exalted, "that whosoever should believe in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life?" (15). Did the greatest and most acute philosophers ever make mention of this? Did the princes of this world ever possess this knowledge? Did the "Free-will" of any man ever attain unto this, by endeavours? Does not Paul confess it to be "wisdom hidden in a mystery," foretold indeed by the Prophets, but revealed by the Gospel? So that, it was secret and hidden from the world.
In a word: Ask experience: and the whole world, human reason itself, and in consequence, "Free-will" itself is compelled to confess, that it never knew Christ, nor heard of Him, before the Gospel came into the world. And if it did not know Him, much less could it seek after Him, search for Him, or endeavour to come unto Him. But Christ is "the way" of truth, life, and salvation. It must confess, therefore, whether it will or no, that, of its own powers, it neither knew nor could seek after those things which pertain unto the way of truth and salvation. And yet, contrary to this our own very confession and experience, like madmen we dispute in empty words, that there is in us that power remaining, which can both know and apply itself unto those things which pertain unto salvation! This is nothing more or less than saying, that Christ the Son of God was exalted for us, when no one could ever have known it or thought of it; but that, nevertheless, this very ignorance is not an ignorance, but a knowledge of Christ; that is, of those things which pertain unto salvation.
Do you not yet then see and palpably feel out, that the assertors of "Free-will" are plainly mad, while they call that knowledge, which they themselves confess to be ignorance? Is this not to "put darkness for light?" (Isaiah v. 20). But so it is, though God so powerfully stop the mouth of "Free-will" by its own confession and experience, yet even then, it cannot keep silence and give God the glory.
Sect. CLIX. - AND now farther, as Christ is said to be "the way, the truth, and the life," (John xiv. 6), and that, by positive assertion, so that whatever is not Christ is not the way but error, is not the truth but a lie, is not the life but death, it of necessity follows, that "Free-will," as it is neither Christ nor in Christ, must be bound in error, in a lie, and in death. Where now will be found that medium and neuter - that the power of "Free-will," which is not in Christ, that is, in the way, the truth, and the life, is yet not, of necessity, either error, or a lie, or death?
For if all things which are said concerning Christ and grace were not said by positive assertion, that they might be opposed to their contraries; that is, that out of Christ there is nothing but Satan, out of grace nothing but wrath, out of the light nothing but darkness, out of the life nothing but death - what, I ask you, would be the use of all the Writings of the Apostles, nay, of the whole Scripture? The whole would be written in vain; because, they would not fix the point, that Christ is necessary (which, nevertheless, is their especial design) and for this reason, - because a medium would be found out, which of itself, would be neither evil nor good, neither of Christ nor of Satan, neither true nor false, neither alive nor dead, and perhaps, neither any thing nor nothing; and that would be called, 'that which is most excellent and most exalted' in the whole race of men!
Take it therefore which way you will. - If you grant that the Scriptures speak in positive assertion, you can say nothing for "Free-will," but that which is contrary to Christ: that is, you will say, that error, death, Satan, and all evils, reign in Him. If you do not grant that they speak in positive assertion, you weaken the Scriptures, make them to establish nothing, not even to prove that Christ is necessary. And thus, while you establish "Free-will," you make Christ void, and bring the whole Scripture to destruction. And though you may pretend, verbally, that you confess Christ; yet, in reality and in heart, you deny Him. For if the power of "Free-will" be not a thing erroneous altogether, and damnable, but sees and wills those things which are good and meritorious, and which pertain unto salvation, it is whole, it wants not the physician Christ, nor does Christ redeem that part of man. - For what need is there for light and life, where there is light and life already?
Moreover, if that power be not redeemed, the best part in man is not redeemed, but is of itself good and whole. And then also, God is unjust if He damn any man; because, He damns that which is the most excellent in man, and whole; that is, He damns him when innocent. For there is no man who has not "Free-will." And although the evil man abuse this, yet this power itself, (according to what you teach) is not so destroyed, but that it can, and does endeavour towards good. And if it be such, it is without doubt good, holy, and just: wherefore, it ought not to be damned, but to be distinctly separated from the man who is to be damned. But this cannot be done, and even if it could be done, man would then be without "Free-will," nay, he would not be man at all, he would neither have merit nor demerit, he could neither be damned nor saved, but would be completely a brute, and no longer immortal. It follows therefore, that God is unjust who damns that good, just, and holy power, which, though it be in an evil man, does not need Christ as the evil man does.
Sect. CLX. - BUT let us proceed with John. "He that believeth on Him, (saith he) is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the Name of the only begotten Son of God. (John iii. 18).
Tell me! - Is "Free-will" included in the number of those that believe, or not? If it be, then again, it has no need of grace; because, of itself, it believes on Christ - whom, of itself it never knew nor thought of! If it be not, then it is judged already and what is this but saying, that it is damned in the sight of God? But God damns none but the ungodly: therefore, it is ungodly. And what godliness can that which is ungodly endeavour after? For I do not think that the power of "Free-will" can be excepted; seeing that, he speaks of the whole man as being condemned.
Moreover, unbelief is not one of the grosser affections, but is that chief affection seated and ruling on the throne of the will and reason; just the same as its contrary, faith. For to be unbelieving, is to deny God, and to make him a liar; "If we believe not we make God a liar," (1 John v. 10). How then can that power, which is contrary to God, and which makes Him a liar, endeavour after that which is good? And if that power be not unbelieving and ungodly, John ought not to say of the whole man that he is condemned already, but to speak thus, - Man, according to his 'grosser affections,' is condemned already; but according to that which is best and 'most excellent,' he is not condemned; because, that endeavours after faith, or rather, is already believing.
Hence, where the Scripture so often saith, "All men are liars," we must, upon the authority of "Free-will," on the contrary say - the Scripture rather, lies; because, man is not a liar as to his best part, that is, his reason and will, but as to his flesh only, that is, his blood and his grosser part: so that that whole, according to which he is called man, that is, his reason and his will, is sound and holy. Again, there is that of the Baptist, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." (John iii. 36). We must understand "upon him" thus: - that is, the wrath of God abideth upon the 'grosser affections' of the man: but upon that power of "Free-will," that is, upon his will and his reason, abide grace and everlasting life.
Hence, according to this, in order that "Free-will" might stand, whatever is in the Scriptures said against the ungodly, you are, by the figure synecdoche, to twist round to apply to that brutal part of man, that the truly rational and human part might remain safe. I have therefore, to render thanks to the assertors of "Free-will;" because, I may sin with all confidence; knowing that, my reason and will, or my "Free-will," cannot be damned, because it cannot be destroyed by my sinning, but for ever remains sound, righteous, and holy. And thus, happy in my will and reason, I shall rejoice that my filthy and brutal flesh is distinctly separated from me, and damned; so far shall I be from wishing Christ to become its Redeemer! - You see, here, to what the doctrine of "Free-will" brings us - it denies all things, divine and human, temporal and eternal; and with all these enormities, makes a laughing-stock of itself!
Sect. CLXI – AGAIN, the Baptist saith, "A man can receive nothing, except it were given him from above." (John iii. 27).
Let not the Diatribe here produce its forces, where it enumerates all those things which we have from heaven. We are now disputing, not about nature, but about grace: we are inquiring, not what we are upon earth, but what we are in heaven before God. We know that man was constituted lord over those things which are beneath himself; over which, he has a right and a Free-will, that those things might do, and obey as he wills and thinks. But we are now inquiring whether he has a "Free-will" over God, that He should do and obey in those things which man wills: or rather, whether God has not a Free-will over man, that he should will and do what God wills, and should be able to do nothing but what He wills and does. The Baptist here says, that he "can receive nothing, except it be given him from above." - Wherefore, "Free-will" must be a nothing at all!
Again, "He that is of the earth, is earthly and speaketh of the earth, He that cometh from heaven is above all." (John iii. 31).
Here again, he makes all those earthly, who are not of Christ, and says that they savour and speak of earthly things only, nor does he leave any medium characters. But surely, "Free-will" is not "He that cometh from heaven." Wherefore it must of necessity, be "he that is of the earth," and that speaks of the earth and savours of the earth. But if there were any power in man, which at any time, in any place, or by any work, did not savour of the earth, the Baptist ought to have excepted this person, and not to have said in a general way concerning all those who are out of Christ, that they are of the earth, and speak of the earth.
So also afterwards, Christ saith, "Ye are of the world, I am not of the world. Ye are from beneath, I am from above." (John viii. 23).
And yet, those to whom He spoke had "Free-will," that is, reason and will; but still He says, that they are "of the world." But what news would He have told, if He had merely said, that they were of the world, as to their 'grosser affections?' Did not the whole world know this before? Moreover, what need was there for His saying that men were of the world, as to that part in which they are brutal? For according to that, beasts are also of the world.
Sect. CLXII. - AND now what do those words of Christ, where He saith, "No one can come unto Me except My Father which hath sent Me draw him," (John vi. 44), leave to "Free-will?" For He says it is necessary, that every one should hear and learn of the Father Himself, and that all must be "taught of God." Here, indeed, He not only declares that the works and devoted efforts of "Free-will" are of no avail, but that even the word of the Gospel itself, (of which He is here speaking,) is heard in vain, unless the Father Himself speak within, and teach and draw. "No one can," "No one can (saith He) come:" by which, that power, whereby man can endeavour something towards Christ, that is, towards those things which pertain unto salvation, is declared to be a nothing at all.
Nor does that at all profit "Free-will," which the Diatribe brings forward out of Augustine, by way of casting a slur upon this all-clear and all-powerful Scripture - 'that God draws us, in the same way as we draw a sheep, by holding out to it a green bough.' By this similitude he would prove, that there is in us a power to follow the drawing of God. But this similitude avails nothing in the present passage. For God holds out, not one of His good things only, but many, nay, even His Son, Christ Himself; and yet no man follows Him, unless the Father hold Him forth otherwise within, and draw otherwise! - Nay, the whole world follows the Son whom He holds forth!
But this similitude harmonizes sweetly with the experience of the godly, who are now made sheep, and know God their Shepherd. These, living in, and being moved by, the Spirit, follow wherever God wills, and whatever He holds out to them. But the ungodly man comes not unto Him, even when he hears the word, unless the Father draw and teach within: which He does by shedding abroad His Spirit. And where that is done, there is a different kind of drawing from that which is without: there, Christ is held forth in the illumination of the Spirit, whereby the man is drawn unto Christ with the sweetest of all drawing: under which, he is passive while God speaks, teaches, and draws, rather than seeks or runs of himself.
Sect. CLXIII. - I WILL produce yet one more passage from John, where, he saith, "The Spirit shall reprove the world of sin, because they believe not in me." (John xvi. 9).
You here see, that it is sin, not to believe in Christ: And this sin is seated, not in the skin, nor in the hairs of the head, but in the very reason and will. Moreover, as Christ makes the whole world guilty from this sin, and as it is known by experience that the world is ignorant of this sin, as much so as it is ignorant of Christ, seeing that, it must be revealed by the reproof of the Spirit; it is manifest, that "Free-will," together with its will and reason, is accounted a captive of this sin, and condemned before God. Wherefore, as long as it is ignorant of Christ and believes not in Him, it can will or attempt nothing good, but necessarily serves that sin of which it is ignorant.
In a word: Since the Scripture declares Christ everywhere by positive assertion and by antithesis, (as I said before), in order that, it might subject every thing that is without the Spirit of Christ, to Satan, to ungodliness, to error, to darkness, to sin, to death, and to the wrath of God, all the testimonies concerning Christ must make directly against "Free-will;" and they are innumerable, nay, the whole of the Scripture. If therefore our subject of discussion is to be decided by the judgment of the Scripture, the victory, in every respect, is mine; for there is not one jot or tittle of the Scripture remaining, which does not condemn the doctrine of "Free-will" altogether!
But if the great theologians and defenders of "Free-will" know not, or pretend not to know, that the Scripture every where declares Christ by positive assertion and by antithesis, yet all Christians know it, and in common confess it. They know, I say, that there are two kingdoms in the world mutually militating against each other. - That Satan reigns in the one, who, on that account is by Christ called "the prince of this world," (John xii 31), and by Paul "the God of this world;" (2 Cor. iv. 4), who, according to the testimony of the same Paul, holds all captive according to his will, who are not rescued from him by the Spirit of Christ: nor does he suffer any to be rescued by any other power but that of the Spirit of God: as Christ testifies in the parable of "the strong man armed" keeping his palace in peace. - In the other kingdom Christ reigns: which kingdom, continually resists and wars against that of Satan: into which we are translated, not by any power of our own, but by the grace of God, whereby we are delivered from this present evil world, and are snatched from the power of darkness. The knowledge and confession of these two kingdoms, which thus ever mutually war against each other with so much power and force, would alone be sufficient to confute the doctrine of "Free-will:" seeing that, we are compelled to serve in the kingdom of Satan, until we be liberated by a Divine Power. All this, I say, is known in common among Christians, and fully confessed in their proverbs, by their prayers, by their pursuits, and by their whole lives.
Sect. CLXIV. - I OMIT to bring forward that truly Achillean Scripture of mine, which the Diatribe proudly passes by untouched - I mean, that which Paul teaches, Rom. vii. and Gal. v., that there is in the saints, and in the godly, so powerful a warfare between the spirit and the flesh, that they cannot do what they would. From this warfare I argue thus: - If the nature of man be so evil, even in those who are born again of the Spirit, that it does not only not endeavour after good, but is even averse to, and militates against good, how should it endeavour after good in those who are not born again of the Spirit, and who are still in the "old man," and serve under Satan? Nor does Paul there speak of the 'grosser affections' only, (by means of which, as a common scape-gap, the Diatribe is accustomed to get out of the way of all the Scriptures,) but he enumerates among the works of the flesh heresy, idolatry, contentions, divisions, &c.; which he describes as reigning in those most exalted faculties; that is, in the reason and the will. If therefore, flesh with these affections war against the Spirit in the saints, much more will it war against God in the ungodly, and in "Free-will." Hence, Rom. viii. 7, he calls it "enmity against God." - I should like, I say, to see this argument of mine overturned, and "Free-will" defended against it.
As to myself, I openly confess, that I should not wish "Free-will" to be granted me, even if it could be so, nor anything else to be left in my own hands, whereby I might endeavour something towards my own salvation. And that, not merely because in so many opposing dangers, and so many assaulting devils, I could not stand and hold it fast, (in which state no man could be saved, seeing that one devil is stronger than all men;) but because, even though there were no dangers, no conflicts, no devils, I should be compelled to labour under a continual uncertainty, and to beat the air only. Nor would my conscience, even if I should live and work to all eternity, ever come to a settled certainty, how much it ought to do in order to satisfy God. For whatever work should be done, there would still remain a scrupling, whether or not it pleased God, or whether He required any thing more; as is proved in the experience of all justiciaries, and as I myself learned to my bitter cost, through so many years of my own experience.
But now, since God has put my salvation out of the way of my will, and has taken it under His own, and has promised to save me, not according to my working or manner of life, but according to His own grace and mercy, I rest fully assured and persuaded that He is faithful, and will not lie, and moreover great and powerful, so that no devils, no adversities can destroy Him, or pluck me out of His hand. "No one (saith He) shall pluck them out of My hand, because My Father which gave them Me is greater than all." (John x. 27-28). Hence it is certain, that in this way, if all are not saved, yet some, yea, many shall be saved; whereas by the power of "Free-will," no one whatever could be saved, but all must perish together. And moreover, we are certain and persuaded, that in this way, we please God, not from the merit of our own works, but from the favour of His mercy promised unto us; and that, if we work less, or work badly, He does not impute it unto us, but, as a Father, pardons us and makes us better. - This is the glorying which all the saints have in their God!
Sect. CLXV. - AND if you are concerned about this, - that it is difficult to defend the mercy and justice of God, seeing that, He damns the undeserving, that is, those who are for that reason ungodly, because, being born in iniquity, they cannot by any means prevent themselves from being ungodly, and from remaining so, and being damned, but are compelled from the necessity of nature to sin and perish, as Paul saith, "We all were the children of wrath, even as others," (Eph. ii. 3.), when at the same time, they were created such by God Himself from a corrupt seed, by means of the sin of Adam, -
Here God is to be honoured and revered, as being most merciful towards those, whom He justifies and saves under all their unworthiness: and it is to be in no small degree ascribed unto His wisdom, that He causes us to believe Him to be just, even where He appears to be unjust. For if His righteousness were such, that it was considered to be righteousness according to human judgment, it would be no longer divine, nor would it in any thing differ from human righteousness. But as He is the one and true God, and moreover incomprehensible and inaccessible by human reason, it is right, nay, it is necessary, that His righteousness should be incomprehensible: even as Paul exclaims, saying, "Oh the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (Rom. xi. 33). But they would be no longer "past finding out" if we were in all things able to see how they were righteous. What is man, compared with God! What can our power do, when compared with His power! What is our strength, compared with His strength! What is our knowledge compared with His wisdom! What is our substance, compared with His substance! In a word, what is all that we are, compared with all that He is!
If then we confess, even according to the teaching of nature, that human power, strength, wisdom, knowledge, substance, and all human things together, are nothing when compared with the divine power, strength, wisdom, knowledge, and substance, what perverseness must it be in us to attack the righteousness and judgments of God only, and to arrogate so much to our own judgment, as to wish to comprehend, judge, and rate, the divine judgments! Why do we not, here in like manner say at once - What! is our judgment nothing, when compared with the divine judgments! - But ask reason herself if she is not, from conviction, compelled to confess, that she is foolish and rash for not allowing the judgments of God to be incomprehensible, when she confesses that all the other divine things are incomprehensible? In every thing else we concede to God a Divine Majesty; and yet, are ready to deny it to His judgments! Nor can we for a little while believe, that He is just, even when He promises that it shall come to pass, that when He shall reveal His glory, we shall all see, and palpably feel, that He ever was, and is, - just!
Sect. CLXVI. - BUT I will produce an example that may go to confirm this faith, and to console that "evil eye" which suspects God of injustice. - Behold! God so governs this corporal world in external things, that, according to human reason and judgment, you must be compelled to say, either that there is no God, or that God is unjust: as a certain one saith, 'I am often tempted to think there is no God.' For see the great prosperity of the wicked, and on the contrary the great adversity of the good; according to the testimony of the proverbs, and of experience the parent of all proverbs. The more abandoned men are, the more successful! "The tabernacles of robbers (saith Job) prosper." And Psalm lxxiii, complains, that the sinners of the world abound in riches. Is it not, I pray you, in the judgment of all, most unjust, that the evil should be prosperous, and the good afflicted? Yet so it is in the events of the world. And here it is, that the most exalted minds have so fallen, as to deny that there is any God at all; and to fable, that fortune disposes of all things at random: such were Epicurus and Pliny. And Aristotle, in order that he might make his 'First-cause Being' free from every kind of misery, is of opinion, that he thinks of nothing whatever but himself; because he considers, that it must be most irksome to him, to see so many evils and so many injuries.
But the Prophets themselves, who believed there is a God, were tempted still more concerning the injustice of God, as Jeremiah, Job, David, Asaph, and others. And what do you suppose Demosthenes and Cicero thought, who, after they had done all they could, received no other reward than a miserable death? And yet all this, which is so very much like injustice in God, when set forth in those arguments which no reason or light of nature can resist, is most easily cleared up by the light of the Gospel, and the knowledge of grace: by which, we are taught, that the wicked flourish in their bodies, but lose their souls! And the whole of this insolvable question is solved in one word - There is a life after this life: in which will be punished and repaid, every thing that is not punished and repaid here: for this life is nothing more than an entrance on, and a beginning of, the life which is to come!
If then even the light of the Gospel, which stands in the word and in the faith only, is able to effect so much as with ease to do away with, and settle, this question which has been agitated through so many ages and never solved; how do you suppose matters will appear, when the light of the word and of faith shall cease, and the essential Truth itself shall be revealed in the Divine Majesty? Do you not suppose that the light of glory will then most easily solve that question, which is now insolvable by the light of the word and of grace, even as the light of grace now easily solves that question, which is insolvable by the light of nature?
Let us therefore hold in consideration the three lights - the light of nature, the light of grace, and the light of glory; which is the common, and a very good distinction. By the light of nature, it is insolvable how it can be just, that the good man should be afflicted and the wicked should prosper: but this is solved by the light of grace. By the light of grace it is insolvable, how God can damn him, who, by his own powers, can do nothing but sin and become guilty. Both the light of nature and the light of grace here say, that the fault is not in the miserable man, but in the unjust God: nor can they judge otherwise of that God, who crowns the wicked man freely without any merit, and yet crowns not, but damns another, who is perhaps less, or at least not more wicked. But the light of glory speaks otherwise. - That will shew, that God, to whom alone belongeth the judgment of incomprehensible righteousness, is of righteousness most perfect and most manifest; in order that we may, in the meantime, believe it, being admonished and confirmed by that example of the light of grace, which solves that, which is as great a miracle to the light of nature!