Sect. 41.-AND, first of all, let us begin regularly with your definition: according to which, you define "Free-will" thus,
-"Moreover I consider Free-will in this light: that it is a power in the human will, by which, a man may apply himself to those things which lead unto eternal salvation, or turn away from the same."-
With a great deal of policy indeed, you have here stated a mere naked definition, without declaring any part of it, (as all others do); because, perhaps, you feared more shipwrecks than one. I therefore am compelled to state the several parts myself. The thing defined itself, if it be closely examined, has a much wider extent than the definition of it: and such a definition, the Sophists would call faulty: that is, when the definition does not fully embrace the thing defined. For I have shown before, that "Free-will" cannot be applied to any one but to God only. You may, perhaps, rightly assign to man some kind of will, but to assign unto him "Free-will" in divine things, is going too far. For the term "Free-will," in the judgment of the ears of all, means, that which can, and does do God-ward, whatever it pleases, restrainable by no law and no command. But you cannot call him Free, who is a servant acting under the power of the Lord. How much less, then, can we rightly call men or angels free, who so live under the all-overruling command of God, (to say nothing of sin and death,) that they cannot consist one moment by their own power.
Here then, at the outset, the definition of the term, and the definition of the thing termed, militate against each other: because the term signifies one thing, and the thing termed is, by experience, found to be another. It would indeed be more properly termed "Vertible-will," or "Mutable-will." For in this way Augustine, and after him the Sophists, diminished the glory and force of the term, free; adding thereby this detriment, that they assign vertibility to "Free-will." And it becomes us thus to speak, lest, by inflated and lofty terms of empty sound, we should deceive the hearts of men. And, as Augustine also thinks, we ought to speak according to a certain rule, in sober and proper words; for in teaching, simplicity and propriety of argumentation is required, and not highflown figures of rhetorical persuasion.
Sect. 42.-BUT that we might not seem to delight in a mere war of words, we cede to that abuse, though great and dangerous, that "Free-will means "Vertible-will." We will cede also that to Erasmus, where he makes "Free-will" 'a power of the human will:' (as though angels had not a "Free-will" too, merely because he designed in this book to treat only on the "Free-will" of men!) We make this remark, otherwise, even in this part, the definition would be too narrow to embrace the thing defined.
We come then to those parts of the definition, which are the hinge upon which the matter turns. Of these things some are manifest enough; the rest shun the light, as if conscious to themselves that they had every thing to fear: because, nothing ought to be expressed more clearly, and more decisively, than a definition; for to define obscurely, is the same thing as defining nothing at all.
The clear parts of the definition then are these:-'power of human will:' and 'by which a man can:' also, 'unto eternal salvation.' But these are Andabatae:-'to apply:' and, 'to those things which lead:' also, 'to turn away.' What shall we divine that this 'to apply' means? And this 'to turn away,' also? And also what these words mean, 'which pertain unto eternal salvation?' Into what dark corner have these withdrawn their meaning? I seem as if I were engaged in dispute with a very Scotinian, or with Heraclitus himself, so as to be in the way of being worn out by a twofold labour. First, that I shall have to find out my adversary by groping and feeling about for him in pits and darkness, (which is an enterprise both venturous and perilous,) and if I do not find him, to fight to no purpose with ghosts, and beat the air in the dark. And, secondly, if I should bring him out into the light, that then, I shall have to fight with him upon equal ground, when I am already worn out with hunting after him.
I suppose, then, what you mean by the 'power of the human will' is this:-a power, or faculty, or disposition, or aptitude, to will or not to will, to choose or refuse, to approve or disapprove, and what other actions soever belong to the will. Now then, what it is for this same power 'to apply itself,' or 'to turn away,' I do not see: unless it be the very, willing or not willing, choosing or refusing, approving or disapproving; that is, the very action itself of the will. But may we suppose, that this power is a kind of medium, between the will itself and the action itself; such as, that by which the will itself allures forth the action itself of willing or not willing, or by which the action itself of willing or not willing is allured forth? Any thing else beside this, it is impossible for one to imagine or think of. And if I am deceived, let the fault be my author's who has given the definition, not mine who examine it. For it is justly said among lawyers, 'his words who speaks obscurely, when he can speak more plainly, are to be interpreted against himself.' And here I wish to know nothing of our moderns and their subtleties, for we must come plainly to close quarters in what we say, for the sake of understanding and teaching.
And as to those words, 'which lead unto eternal salvation,' I suppose by them are meant the words and works of God, which are offered to the human will, that it might either apply itself to them, or turn away from them. But I call both the Law and the Gospel the words of God. By the Law, works are required; and by the Gospel, faith. For there are no other things which lead either unto the grace of God, or unto eternal salvation, but the word and the work of God: because grace or the spirit is the life itself, to which we are led by the word and the work of God.
Sect. 43.-BUT this life or salvation is an eternal matter, incomprehensible to the human capacity: as Paul shews, out of Isaiah, (1 Cor. ii. 9.) "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." For when we speak of eternal life, we speak of that which is numbered among the chiefest articles of our faith. And what "Freewill" avails in this article Paul testifies, (1 Cor. ii. 10.) Also: "God (saith he) hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit." As though he had said, the heart of no man will ever understand or think of any of those things, unless the Spirit shall reveal them; so far is it from possibility, that he should ever apply himself unto them or seek after them.
Look at experience. What have the most exalted minds among the nations thought of a future life, and of the resurrection? Has it not been, that the more exalted they were in mind, the more ridiculous the resurrection and eternal life have appeared to them? Unless you mean to say, that those philosophers and Greeks at Athens, who, (Acts xvii. 18.) called Paul, as he taught these things, a "babbler" and a "setter forth of strange gods," were not of exalted minds. Portius Festus, (Acts xxvi. 24.) calls out that Paul is "mad," on account of his preaching eternal life. What does Pliny bark forth, Book vii.? What does Lucian also, that mighty genius? Were not they men wondered at? Moreover to this day there are many, who, the more renowned they are for talent and erudition, the more they laugh at this article; and that openly, considering it a mere fable. And certainly, no man upon earth, unless imbued with the Holy Spirit, ever secretly knows, or believes in, or wishes for, eternal salvation, how much soever he may boast of it by his voice and by his pen. And may you and I, friend Erasmus, be free from this boasting leaven. So rare is a believing soul in this article!-Have I got the sense of this definition?
Sect. 44. - UPON the authority of Erasmus, then, "Free-will," is a power of the human will, which can, of itself, will and not will to embrace the word and work of God, by which it is to be led to those things which are beyond its capacity and comprehension. If then, it can will and not will, it can also love and hate. And if it can love and hate, it can, to a certain degree, do the Law and believe the Gospel. For it is impossible, if you can will and not will, that you should not be able by that will to begin some kind of work, even though, from the hindering of another, you should not be able to perfect it. And therefore, as among the works of God which lead to salvation, death, the cross, and all the evils of the world are numbered, human will can will its own death and perdition. Nay, it can will all things while it can will the embracing of the word and work of God. For what is there that can be any where beneath, above, within, and without the word and work of God, but God Himself? And what is there here left to grace and the Holy Spirit? This is plainly to ascribe divinity to "Free-will." For to will to embrace the Law and the Gospel, not to will sin, and to will death, belongs to the power of God alone: as Paul testifies in more places than one.
Wherefore, no one, since the Pelagians, has written more rightly concerning "Free-will" than Erasmus. For I have said above, that "Free-will" is a divine term, and signifies a divine power. But no one hitherto, except the Pelagians, has ever assigned to it that power. Hence, Erasmus by far outstrips the Pelagians themselves: for they assign that divinity to the whole of "Free-will," but Erasmus to the half of it only. They divide "Free-will" into two parts; the power of discerning, and the power of choosing; assigning the one to reason, and the other to will; and the Sophists do the same. But Erasmus, setting aside the power of discerning, exalts the power of choosing alone, and thus makes a lame, half-membered "Free-will," God himself! What must we suppose then he would have done, had he set about describing the whole of "Free-will."
But, not contented with this, he outstrips even the philosophers. For it has never yet been settled among them, whether or not any thing can give motion to itself; and upon this point, the Platonics and Peripatetics are divided in the whole body of philosophy. But according to Erasmus, "Freewill" not only of its own power gives motion to itself, but 'applies itself' to those things which are eternal; that is, which are incomprehensible to itself! A new and unheard-of definer of "Freewill," truly, who leaves the philosophers, the Pelagians, the Sophists, and all the rest of them, far behind him! Nor is this all. He does not even spare himself, but dissents from, and militates against himself, more than against all the rest together. For he had said before, that 'the human will is utterly ineffective without grace:' (unless perhaps this was said only in joke!) but here, where he gives a serious definition, he says, that 'the human will has that power by which it can effectively apply itself to those things which pertain unto eternal salvation;' that is, which are incomparably beyond that power. So that, in this part, Erasmus outstrips even himself!
Sect. 45.-DO you see, friend Erasmus, that by this definition, you (though unwittingly I presume,) betray yourself, and make it manifest that you either know nothing of these things whatever, or that, without any consideration, and in a mere air of contempt, you write upon the subject, not knowing what you say nor whereof you affirm? And as I said before, you say less about, and attribute more to "Free-will," than all others put together; for you do not describe the whole of "Free-will," and yet you assign unto it all things. The opinion of the Sophists, or at least of the father of them, Peter Lombard, is far more tolerable: he says, '"Free-will" is the faculty of discerning, and then choosing also good, if with grace, but evil if grace be wanting.' He plainly agrees in sentiment with Augustine, that '"Freewill," of its own power, cannot do any thing but fall, nor avail unto any thing but to sin.' Wherefore Augustine also, Book ii., against Julian, calls "Free-will" 'under bondage,' rather than 'free.'-But you make the power of "Free-will" equal in both respects: that it can, by its own power, without grace, both apply itself unto good, and turn itself from evil. For you do not imagine how much you assign unto it, by this pronoun itself, and by itself, when you say 'can apply itself:' for you utterly exclude the Holy Spirit with all His power, as a thing superfluous and unnecessary. Your definition, therefore, is condemnable even by the Sophists; who, were they not so blinded by hatred and fury against me, would be enraged at your book rather than at mine. But now, as your intent is to oppose Luther, all that you say is holy and catholic, even though you speak against both yourself and them,-so great is the patience of holy men!
Not that I say this, as approving the sentiments of the Sophists concerning "Free-will," but because I consider them more tolerable, for they approach nearer to the truth. For though they do not say, as I do, that "Free-will" is nothing at all, yet since they say that it can of itself do nothing without grace, they militate against Erasmus, nay, they seem to militate against themselves, and to be tossed to and fro in a mere quarrel of words, being more earnest for contention than for the truth, which is just as Sophists should be. But now, let us suppose that a Sophist of no mean rank were brought before me, with whom I could speak upon these things apart, in familiar conversation, and should ask him for his liberal and candid judgment in this way:-'If any one should tell you, that that was free, which of its own power could only go one way, that is, the bad way, and which could go the other way indeed, that is, the right way, but not by its own power, nay, only by the help of another-could you refrain from laughing in his face, my friend?'-For in this way, I will make it appear, that a stone, or a log of wood has "Freewill," because it can go upwards and downwards; although, by its own power, it can go only downwards, but can go upwards only by the help of another. And, as I said before, by meaning at the same time the thing itself, and also something else which may be joined with it or added to it, I will say, consistently with the use of all words and languages-all men are no man, and all things are nothing!
Thus, by a multiplicity of argumentation, they at last make "Free-will," free by accident; as being that, which may at some time be set free by another. But our point in dispute is concerning the thing itself, concerning the reality of "Free-will." If this be what is to be solved, there now remains nothing, let them say what they will, but the empty name of "Free-will."
The Sophists are deficient also in this-they assign to "Free-will," the power of discerning good from evil. Moreover, they set light by regeneration, and the renewing of the Spirit, and give that other external aid, as it were, to "Freewill:" but of this hereafter.-Let this be sufficient concerning the definition. Now let us look into the arguments that are to exalt this empty thing of a TERM.
Sect. 46.-FIRST of all, we have that of Ecclesiasticus xv. 15-18.-"God from the beginning made man, and left him in the hand of his own counsel. He gave him also His commandments, and His precepts: saying, If thou wilt keep My commandments, and wilt keep continually, the faith that pleaseth Me, they shall preserve thee. He hath set before thee fire and water; and upon which thou wilt, stretch forth thine hand. Before man is life and death, good and evil; and whichsoever pleaseth him, shall be given unto him."-
Although I might justly refuse this book, yet, nevertheless, I receive it; lest I should, with loss of time, involve myself in a dispute concerning the books that are received into the canon of the Hebrews: which canon you do not a little reproach and deride, when you compare the Proverbs of Solomon, and the Love-song, (as, with a double-meaning sneer, you call it,) with the two books Esdras and Judith, the History of Susannah, of the Dragon, and the Book of Esther, though they have this last in their canon, and according to my judgment, it is much more worthy of being there, than any one of those that are considered not to be in the canon.
But I would briefly answer you here in your own words, 'The Scripture, in this place, is obscure and ambiguous;' therefore, it proves nothing to a certainty. But however, since I stand in the negative, I call upon you to produce that place which declares, in plain words, what "Free-will" is, and what it can do. And this perhaps you will do by about the time of the Greek Calends.-In order to avoid this necessity, you spend many fine sayings upon nothing; and moving along on the tip-toe of prudence, cite numberless opinions concerning "Free-will," and make of Pelagius almost an Evangelist. Moreover, you vamp up a four-fold grace, so as to assign a sort of faith and charity even to the philosophers. And also that new fable, a three-fold law; of nature, of works, and of faith, so as to assert with all boldness, that the precepts of the philosophers agree with the precepts of the Gospel. Again, you apply that of Psalm iv. 6. "The light of Thy countenance is settled upon us," which speaks of the knowledge of the very countenance of the Lord, that is, of faith, to blinded reason. All which things together, if taken into consideration by any Christian, must compel him to suspect, that you are mocking and deriding the doctrines and religion of Christians: For to attribute these things as so much ignorance to him, who has illustrated all our doctrines with so much diligence, and stored them up in memory, appears to me very difficult indeed. But however, I will here abstain from open exposure, contented to wait until a more favourable opportunity shall offer itself. Although I entreat you, friend Erasmus, not to tempt me in this way like one of those who say-who sees us? For it is by no means safe in so great a matter, to be continually mocking every one with Vertumnities of words. But to the subject.
Sect. 47. - OUT of the ONE opinion concerning "Free-will" you make THREE. You say-'that THE FIRST OPINION, of those who deny that man can will good without special grace, who deny that it can begin, who deny that it can make progress, perfect, &c., seems to you severe, though it may be VERY PROBABLE.' And this you prove, as leaving to man the desire and the effort, but not leaving what is to be ascribed to his own power. 'That THE SECOND OPINION of those who contend, that "Free-will" avails unto nothing but to sin, and that grace alone works good in us, &c. is more severe still.' And THIRDLY 'that the opinion of those who say that "Free-will" is an empty term, for that God works in us both good and evil, is most severe. And, that, it is against these last that you profess to write.'-
Do you know what you are saying, friend Erasmus? You are here making three different opinions as if belonging to three different sects: because you do not know that it is the same subject handled by us same professors of the same sect, only by different persons, in a different way and in other words. But let me just put you in remembrance, and set before you the yawning inconsiderateness, or stupidity of your judgment.
How does that definition of "Free-will," let me ask you, which you gave us above, square with this first opinion which you confess to be, 'very probable?' For you said that "Free-will" is a power of the human will, by which a man can apply himself unto good;' whereas here, you say and approve the saying, that 'man, without grace, cannot will good!' The definition, therefore, affirms what its example denies. And hence there are found in your "Free-will" both a YEA and a NAY:" so that, in one and the same doctrine and article, you approve and condemn us, and approve and condemn yourself. For do you think, that to 'apply itself to those things which pertain unto eternal salvation,' which power your definition assigns to "Free-will," is not to do good, when, if there were so much good in "Free-will," that it could apply itself unto good, it would have no need of grace? Therefore, the "Free-will" which you define is one, and the "Free-will" you defend is another. Hence then, Erasmus, outstripping all others, has two "Free-wills;" and they, militating against each other!
Sect. 48.-BUT, setting aside that "Freewill" which the definition defines, let us consider that which the opinion proposes as contrary to it. You grant, that man, without special grace, cannot will good: (for we are not now discussing what the
grace of God can do, but what man can do without grace:) you grant, then, that "Free-will" cannot will good. This is nothing else but granting that it cannot 'apply itself to those things which pertain unto eternal salvation,' according to the tune of your definition. Nay, you say a little before, 'that the human will after sin, is so depraved, that having lost its liberty, it is compelled to serve sin, and cannot recall itself into a better state.' And if I am not mistaken, you make the Pelagians to be of this opinion. Now then I believe, my Proteus has here no way of escape: he is caught and held fast in plain words:-' that the will, having lost its liberty, is tied and bound a slave to sin.' O noble Free-will! which, having lost its liberty, is declared by Erasmus himself, to be the slave of sin! When Luther asserted this, 'nothing was ever heard of so absurd;' 'nothing was more useless than that this paradox should be proclaimed abroad!' So much so, that even a Diatribe must be written against him!
But perhaps no one will believe me, that these things are said by Erasmus. If the Diatribe be read in this part, it will be admired: but I do not so much admire it. For he who does not treat this as a serious subject, and is not interested in the cause, but is in mind alienated from it, and grows weary of it, cold in it, and disgusted with it, how shall not such an one everywhere speak absurdities, follies, and contrarieties, while, as one drunk or slumbering over the cause, he belches out in the midst of his snoring, It is so! it is not so! just as the different words sound against his ears? And therefore it is, that rhetoricians require a feeling of the subject in the person discussing it. Much more then does theology require such a feeling, that it may make the person vigilant, sharp, intent, prudent, and determined.
If therefore "Free-will" without grace, when it has lost its liberty, is compelled to serve sin and cannot will good, I should be glad to know, what that desire is, what that endeavour is, which that first 'probable opinion' leaves it. It cannot be a good desire or a good endeavour, because it cannot will good, as the opinion affirms, and as you grant. Therefore, it is an evil desire and an evil endeavour that is left, which, when the liberty is lost, is compelled to serve sin.-But above all, what, I pray, is the meaning of this saying: 'this opinion leaves the desire and the endeavour, but does not leave what is to be ascribed to its own power.' Who can possibly conceive in his mind what this means? If the desire and the endeavour be left to the power of "Free-will," how are they not ascribed to the same? If they be not ascribed to it, how can they be left to it? Are then that desire and that endeavour before grace, left to grace itself that comes after, and not to "Free-will" so as to be at the same time left, and not left, to the same "Free-will?" If these things be not paradoxes, or rather enormities, then pray what are enormities?
Sect. 49.-BUT perhaps the Diatribe is dreaming this, that between these two 'can will good' and 'cannot will good' there may be a medium; seeing that, to will is absolute, both in respect of good, and evil. So that thus, by a certain logical subtlety, we may steer clear of the rocks, and say, in the will of man there is a certain willing, which cannot indeed will good without grace, but which, nevertheless, being without grace, does not immediately will nothing but evil, but is a sort of mere abstracted willing, vertible, upwards unto good by grace, and downwards unto evil by sin. But then, what will become of that which you have said, that, 'when it has lost its liberty it is compelled to serve sin?' What will become of that desire and endeavour which are left? Where will be that power of 'applying itself to those things which pertain unto eternal salvation?' For that power of applying itself unto salvation, cannot be a mere willing, unless the salvation itself be said to be a nothing. Nor, again, can that desire and endeavour be a mere willing; for desire must strive and attempt something, (as good perhaps,) and cannot go forth into nothing, nor be absolutely inactive.
In a word, which way soever the Diatribe turns itself, it cannot keep clear of inconsistencies and contradictory assertions; nor avoid making that very "Free-will" which it defends, as much a bond-captive as it is a bond-captive itself. For, in attempting to liberate "Free-will," it is so entangled, that it is bound, together with "Free-will," in bonds indissoluble.
Moreover, it is a mere logical figment that in man there is a medium, a mere willing, nor can they who assert this prove it; it arose from an ignorance of things and an observance of terms. As though the thing were always in reality, as it is set forth in terms; and there are with the Sophists many such misconceptions. Whereas the matter rather stands as Christ saith, "He that is not with Me is against Me." (Matt. xii. 30.) He does not say, He that is not with Me is yet not against Me, but in the medium. For if God be in us, Satan is from us, and it is present with us to will nothing but good. But if God be not in us, Satan is in us, and it is present with us to will evil only, Neither God nor Satan admit of a mere abstracted willing in us; but, as you yourself rightly said, when our liberty is lost we are compelled to serve sin: that is, we will sin and evil, we speak sin and evil, we do sin and evil.
Behold then! invincible and all-powerful truth has driven the witless Diatribe to that dilemma, and so turned its wisdom into foolishness, that whereas, its design was to speak against me, it is compelled to speak for me against itself; just in the same way as "Free-will" does any thing good; for when it attempts so to do, the more it acts against evil the more it acts against good. So that the Diatribe is, in saying, exactly what "Freewill" is in doing. Though the whole Diatribe itself, is nothing else but a notable effort of "Free-will," condemning by defending, and defending by condemning: that is, being a twofold fool, while it would appear to be wise.
This, then, is the state of the first opinion compared with itself:-it denies that a man can will any thing good; but yet that a desire remains; which desire, however, is not his own!
Sect. 50.-NOW let us compare this opinion with the remaining two.
The next of these, is that opinion 'more severe still,' which holds, that "Free-will" avails unto nothing but to sin. And this indeed is Augustine's opinion, expressed, as well in many other places, as more especially, in his book "Concerning the Spirit and the Letter;" in (if I mistake not) the fourth or fifth chapter, where he uses those very words.
The third, is that 'most severe' opinion; that "Free-will" is a mere empty term, and that every thing which we do, is done from necessity under the bondage of sin.-It is with these two that the Diatribe conflicts.
I here observe, that perhaps it may be, that I am not able to discuss this point intelligibly, from not being sufficiently acquainted with the Latin or with the German. But I call God to witness, that I wish nothing else to be said or to be understood by the words of the last two opinions than what is said in the first opinion: nor does Augustine wish any thing else to be understood, nor do I understand any thing else from his words, than that which the first opinion asserts: so that, the three opinions brought forward by the Diatribe are with me nothing else than my one sentiment. For when it is granted and established, that "Free-will," having once lost its liberty, is compulsively bound to the service of sin, and cannot will any thing good: I, from these words, can understand nothing else than that "Free-will" is a mere empty term, whose reality is lost. And a lost liberty, according to my grammar, is no liberty at all. And to give the name of liberty to that which has no liberty, is to give it an empty term. If I am wrong here, let him set me right who can. If these observations be obscure or ambiguous, let him who can, illustrate and make them plain. I for my part, cannot call that health which is lost, health; and if I were to ascribe it to one who was sick, I should think I was giving him nothing else than an empty name,
But away with these enormities of words. For who would bear such an abuse of the manner of speaking, as that we should say a man has "Free-will," and yet at the same time assert, that when that liberty is once lost, he is compulsively bound to the service of sin, and cannot will any thing good? These things are contrary to common sense, and utterly destroy the common manner of speaking. The Diatribe is rather to be condemned, which in a drowsy way, foists forth its own words without any regard to the words of others. It does not, I say, consider what it is, nor how much it is to assert, that man, when his liberty is lost, is compelled to serve sin and cannot will any thing good. For if it were at all vigilant or observant, it would plainly see, that the sentiment contained in the three opinions is one and the same, which it makes to be diverse and contrary. For if a man, when he has lost his liberty, is compelled to serve sin, and cannot will good, what conclusion concerning him can be more justly drawn, than that he can do nothing but sin, and will evil? And such a conclusion, the Sophists themselves would draw, even by their syllogisms. Wherefore, the Diatribe, unhappily, contends against the last two opinions, and approves the first; whereas, that is precisely the same as the other two; and thus again, as usual, it condemns itself and approves my sentiments, in one and the same article.
Sect. 51.-LET us now come to that passage in Ecclesiasticus, and also with it compare that first 'probable opinion.' The opinion saith, 'Freewill cannot will good.' The passage in Ecclesiasticus is adduced to prove, that "Free-will" is something, and can do something. Therefore, the opinion which is to be proved by Ecclesiasticus, asserts one thing; and Ecclesiasticus, which is adduced to prove it, asserts another. This is just as if any one, setting about to prove that Christ was the Messiah, should adduce a passage which proves that Pilate was governor of Syria, or any thing else equally discordant. It is in the same way that "Free-will" is here proved. But, not to mention my having above made it manifest, that nothing clear or certain can be said or proved concerning "Free-will," as to what it is, or what it can do, it is worth while to examine the whole passage thoroughly.
First he saith, "God made man in the beginning.' Here he speaks of the creation of man; nor does he say any thing, as yet, concerning either "Free-will" or the commandments.
Then he goes on, "and left him in the hand of his own counsel." And what is here? Is "Freewill" built upon this? But there is not here any mention of commandments, for the doing of which "Free-will" is required; nor do we read any thing of this kind in the creation of man. If any thing be understood by "the hand of his own counsel," that should rather be understood which is in Genesis i. and ii.: that man was made lord of all things that he might freely exercise dominion over them: and as Moses saith, "Let us make man, and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea:" nor can any thing else be proved from those words: for it is in these things only that man may act of his own will, as being subject unto him. And moreover, he calls this man's counsel, in contradiction as it were to the counsel of God. But after this, when He has said, that man was made and left thus in the hand of his own counsel-he adds,
"He added moreover His commandments and His precepts." Unto what did He add them? Certainly unto that counsel and will of man, and over and above unto that constituting of His dominion over other things. By which commandments He took from man the dominion over one part of His creatures, (that is, over the tree of knowledge of good and evil,) and willed rather that he should not be free.-Having added the commandments, He then comes to the will of man towards God and towards the things of God.
"If thou wilt keep the commandments they shall preserve thee," &c. From this part, therefore, "If thou wilt," begins the question concerning "Free-will." So that, from Ecclesiasticus we learn, that man is constituted as divided into two kingdoms.-The one, is that in which he is led according to his own will and counsel, without the precepts and the commandments of God: that is, in those things which are beneath him. Here he has dominion and is lord, as "left in the hand of his own counsel." Not that God so leaves him to himself, as that He does not co-operate with him; but He commits unto him the free use of things according to his own will, without prohibiting him by any laws or injunctions. As we may say, by way of similitude, the Gospel has left us in the hands of our own counsel, that we may use, and have dominion over all things as we will. But Moses and the Pope left us not in that counsel, but restrained us by laws, and subjected us rather to their own will.-But in the other kingdom, he is not left in the hand of his own counsel, but is directed and led according to the Will and Counsel of God. And as, in his own kingdom, he is led according to his own will, without the precepts of another; so, in the kingdom of God, he is led according to the precepts of another, without his own will. And this is what Ecclesiasticus means, when he says, "He added moreover His commandments and His precepts: saying, If thou wilt," &c.
If, therefore, these things be satisfactorily clear, I have made it fully evident, that this passage of Ecclesiasticus does not make for "Freewill," but directly against it: seeing that, it subjects man to the precepts and will of God, and takes from him his "Free-will." But if they be not satisfactorily clear, I have at least made it manifest, that this passage cannot make for "Freewill;" seeing that, it may be understood in a sense different from that which they put upon it, that is, in my sense already stated, which is not absurd, but most holy and in harmony with the whole Scripture. Whereas, their sense militates against the whole Scripture, and is fetched from this one passage only, contrary to the tenor of the whole Scripture. I stand therefore, secure in the good sense, the negative of "Free-will," until they shall have confirmed their strained and forced affirmative.
When, therefore, Ecclesiasticus says, "If thou wilt keep the commandments, and keep the faith that pleaseth Me, they shall preserve thee," I do not see that "Free-will" can be proved from those words. For, "if thou wilt," is a verb of the subjunctive mood, which asserts nothing: as the logicians say, 'a conditional asserts nothing indicatively:' such as, if the devil be God, he is deservedly worshipped: if an ass fly, an ass has wings, so also, if there be "Free-will," grace is nothing at all. Therefore, if Ecclesiasticus had wished to assert "Free-will," he ought to have spoken thus:-man is able to keep the commandments of God, or, man, has the power to keep the commandments.
Sect. 52.-BUT here the Diatribe will sharply retort-"Ecclesiasticus by saying, "if thou wilt keep," signifies that there is a will in man, to keep, and not to keep: otherwise, what is the use of saying unto him who has no will, "if thou wilt?" Would it not be ridiculous if any were to say to a blind man, if thou wilt see, thou mayest find a treasure? Or, to a deaf man, if thou wilt hear, I will relate to thee an excellent story? This would be to laugh at their misery" -
I answer: These are the arguments of human reason, which is wont to shoot forth many such sprigs of wisdom. Wherefore, I must dispute now, not with Ecclesiasticus, but with human reason concerning a conclusion; for she, by her conclusions and syllogisms, interprets and twists the Scriptures of God just which way she pleases. But I will enter upon this willingly, and with confidence, knowing, that she can prate nothing but follies and absurdities; and that more especially, when she attempts to make a shew of her wisdom in these divine matters.
First then, if I should demand of her how it can be proved, that the freedom of the will in man is signified and inferred, wherever these expressions are used, 'if thou wilt,' 'if thou shalt do,' 'if thou shalt hear;' she would say, because the nature of words, and the common use of speech among men, seem to require it. Therefore, she judges of divine things and words according to the customs and things of men; than which, what can be more perverse; seeing that, the former things are heavenly, the latter earthly. Like a fool, therefore, she exposes herself, making it manifest that she has not a thought concerning God but what is human.
But, what if I prove, that the nature of words and the use of speech even among men, are not always of that tendency, as to make a laughing stock of those to whom it is said, 'if thou wilt,' 'if thou shalt do it.' 'if thou shalt hear?'-How often do parents thus play with their children, when they bid them come to them, or do this or that, for this purpose only, that it may plainly appear to them how unable they are to do it, and that they may call for the aid of the parent's hand? How often does a faithful physician bid his obstinate patient do or omit those things which are either injurious to him or impossible, to the intent that, he may bring him, by an experience, to the knowledge of his disease or his weakness? And what is more general and common, than to use words of insult or provocation, when we would show either enemies or friends, what they can do and what they cannot do?
I merely go over these things, to shew Reason her own conclusions, and how absurdly she tacks them to the Scriptures: moreover, how blind she must be not to see, that they do not always stand good even in human words and things. But the case is, if she see it to be done once, she rushes on headlong, taking it for granted, that it is done generally in all the things of God and men, thus making, according to the way of her wisdom, of a particularity an universality.
If then God, as a Father, deal with us as with sons, that He might shew us who are in ignorance our impotency, or as a faithful physician, that He might make our disease known unto us, or that He might insult His enemies who proudly resist His counsel; and for this end, say to us by proposed laws (as being those means by which He accomplishes His design the most effectually) 'do,' 'hear,' 'keep,' or, 'if thou wilt,' 'if thou wilt do,' 'if thou wilt hear;' can this be drawn herefrom as a just conclusion-therefore, either we have free power to act, or God laughs at us? Why is this not rather drawn as a conclusion-therefore, God tries us, that by His law He might bring us to a knowledge of our impotency, if we be His friends; or, He thereby righteously and deservedly insults and derides us, if we be His proud enemies.' For this, as Paul teaches, is the intent of the divine legislation. (Rom. iii. 20; v. 20. Gal. iii. 19, 24.) Because human nature is blind, so that it knows not its own powers, or rather its own diseases. Moreover, being proud, it self-conceitedly imagines, that it knows and can do all things. To remedy which pride and ignorance, God can use no means more effectual than His proposed law: of which we shall say more in its place: let it suffice to have thus touched upon it here, to refute this conclusion of carnal and absurd wisdom:-'if thou wilt'-therefore thou art able to will freely.
The Diatribe dreams, that man is whole and sound, as, to human appearance, he is in his own affairs; and therefore, from these words, 'if thou wilt,' 'if thou wilt do,' 'if thou wilt hear,' it pertly argues, that man, if his will be not free, is laughed at. Whereas, the Scripture describes man as corrupt and a captive; and added to that, as proudly contemning and ignorant of his corruption and captivity: and therefore, by those words, it goads him and rouses him up, that he might know, by a real experience, how unable he is to do any one of those things.
Sect. 53.-BUT I will attack the Diatribe itself. If thou really think, O Madam Reason! that these conclusions stand good, 'If thou wilt-therefore thou hast a free power,' why dost thou not follow the same thyself? For thou sayest, according to that 'probable opinion,' that "Free-will" cannot will any thing good. By what conclusion then can such a sentiment flow from this passage also, 'if thou wilt keep,' when thou sayest that the conclusion flowing from this, is, that man can will and not will freely? What! can bitter and sweet flow from the same fountain? Dost thou not here much more deride man thyself, when thou sayest, that he can keep that, which he can neither will nor choose? Therefore, neither dost thou, from thy heart, believe that this is a just conclusion, 'if thou wilt-therefore thou hast a free power,' although thou contendest for it with so much zeal, or, if thou dost believe it, then thou dost not, from thy heart, say, that that opinion is 'probable,' which holds that man cannot will good. Thus, reason is so caught in the conclusions and words of her own wisdom, that she knows not what she says, nor concerning what she speaks: nay, knows nothing but that which it is most right she should know-that "Free-will" is defended with such arguments as mutually devour, and put an end to each other; just as the Midianites destroyed each other by mutual slaughter, when they fought against Gideon and the people of God. Judges vii.
Nay, I will expostulate more fully with this wisdom of the Diatribe. Ecclesiasticus does not say, 'if thou shalt have the desire and the endeavour of keeping,' (for this is not to be ascribed to that power of yours, as you have concluded) but he says, "if thou wilt keep the commandments they shall preserve thee." Now then, if we, after the manner of your wisdom, wish to draw conclusions, we should infer thus:-therefore, man is able to keep the commandments. And thus, we shall not here make a certain small degree of desire, or a certain little effort of endeavour to be left in man, but we shall ascribe unto him the whole, full, and abundant power of keeping the commandments. Otherwise, Ecclesiasticus will be made to laugh at the misery of man, as commanding him to 'keep,' who, he knows, is not able to 'keep.' Nor would it have been sufficient if he had supposed the desire and the endeavour to be in the man, for he would not then have escaped the suspicion of deriding him, unless he had signified his having the full power of keeping.
But however, let us suppose that that desire and endeavour of "Free-will" are a real something. What shall we say to those, (the Pelagians, I mean) who, from this passage, have denied grace in toto, and ascribed all to "Free-will?" If the conclusion of the Diatribe stand good, the Pelagians have evidently established their point. For the words of Ecclesiasticus speak of keeping, not of desiring or endeavouring. If, therefore, you deny the Pelagians their conclusion concerning keeping, they, in reply, will much more rightly deny you your conclusion concerning endeavouring. And if you take from them the whole of "Free-will," they will take from you your remnant particle of it: for you cannot assert a remnant particle of that, which you deny in toto. In what degree soever, therefore, you speak against the Pelagians, who from this passage ascribe the whole to "Freewill," in the same degree, and with much more determination, shall we speak against that certain small remnant desire of your "Free-will." And in this, the Pelagians themselves will agree with us, that, if their opinion cannot be proved from this passage, much less will any other of the same kind be proved from it: seeing, that if the subject be to be conducted by conclusions, Ecclesiasticus, above all makes the most forcibly for the Pelagians: for he speaks in plain words concerning keeping only, "If thou wilt keep the commandments:" nay, he speaks also concerning faith, "If thou wilt keep the faith:" so that, by the same conclusion, keeping the faith ought also to be in our power, which, however, is the peculiar and precious gift of God.
In a word, since so many opinions are brought forward in support of "Free-will," and there is no one that does not catch at this passage of Ecclesiasticus in defence of itself; and since they are diverse from, and contrary to each other, it is impossible but that they must make Ecclesiasticus contradictory to, and diverse from themselves in the self same words; and therefore, they can from him prove nothing. Although, if that conclusion of yours be admitted, it will make for the Pelagians against all the others; and consequently, it makes against the Diatribe; which, in this passage, is stabbed by its own sword!
Sect. 54.-BUT, as I said at first, so I say here: this passage of Ecclesiasticus is in favour of no one of those who assert "Free-will," but makes against them all. For that conclusion is not to be admitted, 'If thou wilt-therefore thou art able;' but those words, and all like unto them, are to be understood thus:-that by them man is admonished of his impotency; which, without such admonitions, being proud and ignorant, he would neither know nor feel.
For he here speaks, not concerning the first man only, but concerning any man: though it is of little consequence whether you understand it concerning the first man, or any others. For although the first man was not impotent, from the assistance of grace, yet, by this commandment, God plainly shews him how impotent he would be without grace. For if that man, who had the Spirit, could not by his new will, will good newly proposed, that is, obedience, because the Spirit did not add it unto him, what can we do without the Spirit toward the good that is lost! In this man, therefore, it is shewn, by a terrible example for the breaking down of our pride, what our "Free-will" can do when it is left to itself, and not continually moved and increased by the Spirit of God. He could do nothing to increase the Spirit who had its first-fruits, but fell from the first-fruits of the Spirit. What then can we who are fallen, do towards the first-fruits of the Spirit which are taken away? Especially, since Satan now reigns in us with full power, who cast him down, not then reigning in him, but by temptation alone! Nothing can be more forcibly brought against "Free-will," than this passage of Ecclesiasticus, considered together with the fall of Adam. But we have no room for these observations here, an opportunity may perhaps offer itself elsewhere. Meanwhile, it is sufficient to have shewn, that Ecclesiasticus, in this place, says nothing whatever in favour of "Free-will" (which nevertheless they consider as their principal authority), and that these expressions and the like, 'if thou wilt,' 'if thou hear,' 'if thou do,' shew, not what men can do, but what they ought to do!
Sect. 55.-ANOTHER passage is adduced by our Diatribe out of Gen. iv. 7.: where the Lord saith unto Cain, "Under thee shall be the desire of sin, and thou shalt rule over it."-"Here it is shewn (saith the Diatribe) that the motions of the mind to evil can be overcome, and that they do not carry with them the necessity of sinning."-
These words, 'the motions of the mind to evil can be overcomes' though spoken with ambiguity, yet, from the scope of the sentiment, the consequence, and the circumstances, must mean this:-that "Free-will," has the power of overcoming its motions to evil; and that, those motions do not bring upon it the necessity of sinning. Here, again; what is there excepted which is not ascribed unto "Free-will?" What need is there of the Spirit, what need of Christ, what need of God, if "Free-will" can overcome the motions of the mind to evil! And where, again, is that 'probable opinion' which affirms, that "Free-will" cannot so much as will good? For here, the victory over evil is ascribed unto that, which neither wills nor wishes for good. The inconsiderateness of our Diatribe is really-too-too bad!
Take the truth of the matter in a few words. As I have before observed, by such passages as these, it is shewn to man what he ought to do, not what he can do. It is said, therefore, unto Cain, that he ought to rule over his sin, and to hold its desires in subjection under him. But this he neither did nor could do, because he was already pressed down under the contrary dominion of Satan.-It is well known, that the Hebrews frequently use the future indicative for the imperative: as in Exod. xx. 1-17. "Thou shalt, have none other gods but Me," "Thou shalt not kill," "Thou shalt not commit adultery," and in numberless other instances of the same kind. Otherwise, if these sentences were taken indicatively, as they really stand, they would be promises of God; and as He cannot lie, it would come to pass that no man could sin; and then, as commands, they would be unnecessary; and if this were the case, then our interpreter would have translated this passage more correctly thus:-"let its desire be under thee, and rule thou over it," (Gen. iv. 7.) Even as it then ought also to be said concerning the woman, "Be thou under thy husband, and let him rule over thee," (Gen. iii. 16.) But that it was not spoken indicatively unto Cain is manifest from this:-it would then have been a promise. Whereas, it was not a promise; because, from the conduct of Cain, the event proved the contrary.
Sect. 56. - THE third passage is from Moses, (Deut. xxx. 19.) "I have set before thy face life and death, choose what is good, &c."-"What words (says the Diatribe) can be more plain? It leaves to man the liberty of choosing."-
I answer: What is more plain, than, that you are blind? How, I pray, does it leave the liberty of choosing? Is it by the expression 'choose'?-Therefore, as Moses saith 'choose,' does it immediately come to pass that they do choose? Then, there is no need of the Spirit. And as you so often repeat and inculcate the same things, I shall be justified in repeating the same things also.-If there be a liberty of choosing, why has the 'probable opinion' said that "Freewill" cannot will good? Can it choose not willing or against its will? But let us listen to the similitude,-
-"It would be ridiculous to say to a man standing in a place where two ways met, Thou seest two roads, go by which thou wilt, when one only was open."-
This, as I have before observed, is from the arguments of human reason, which thinks, that a man is mocked by a command impossible: whereas I say, that the man, by this means, is admonished and roused to see his own impotency. True it is, that we are in a place where two ways meet, and that one of them only is open, yea rather neither of them is open. But by the law it is shewn how impossible the one is, that is, to good, unless God freely give His Spirit; and how wide and easy the other is, if God leave us to ourselves. Therefore, it would not be said ridiculously, but with a necessary seriousness, to the man thus standing in a place where two ways meet, 'go by which thou wilt,' if he, being in reality impotent, wished to seem to himself strong, or contended that neither way was hedged up.
Wherefore, the words of the law are spoken, not that they might assert the power of the will, but that they might illuminate the blindness of reason, that it might see that its own light is nothing, and that the power of the will is nothing. "Bythe law (saith Paul) is the knowledge of sin," (Rom. iii. 20.): he does not say-is the abolition of, or the escape from sin. The whole nature and design of the law is to give knowledge only, and that of nothing else save of sin, but not to discover or communicate any power whatever. For knowledge is not power, nor does it communicate power, but it teaches and shows how great the impotency must there be, where there is no power. And what else can the knowledge of sin be, but the knowledge of our evil and infirmity? For he does not say-by the law comes the knowledge of strength or of good. The whole that the law does, according to the testimony of Paul, is to make known sin.
And this is the place, where I take occasion to enforce this my general reply:-that man, by the words of the law, is admonished and taught what he ought to do, not what he can do: that is, that he is brought to know his sin, but not to believe that he has any strength in himself. Wherefore, friend Erasmus, as often as you throw in my teeth the Words of the law, so often I throw in yours that of Paul, "By the law is the knowledge of sin,"-not of the power of the will. Heap together, therefore, out of the large Concordances all the imperative words into one chaos, provided that, they be not words of the promise but of the requirement of the law only, and I will immediately declare, that by them is always shewn what men ought to do, not what they can do, or do do. And even common grammarians and every little school-boy in the street knows, that by verbs of the imperative mood, nothing else is signified than that which ought to be done, and that, what is done or can be done, is expressed by verbs of the indicative mood.
Thus, therefore, it comes to pass, that you theologians, are so senseless and so many degrees below even school-boys, that when you have caught hold of one imperative verb you infer an indicative sense, as though what was commanded were immediately and even necessarily done, or possible to be done. But how many slips are there between the cup and the lip! So that, what you command to be done, and is therefore quite possible to be done, is yet never done at all. Such a difference is there, between verbs imperative and verbs indicative, even in the most common and easy things. Whereas you, in these things which are as far above those, as the heavens are above the earth, so quickly make indicatives out of imperatives, that the moment you hear the voice of him commanding, saying, "do," "keep," "choose," you will have, that it is immediately kept, done, chosen, or fulfilled, or, that our powers are able so to do.
Sect. 57.-IN the fourth place, you adduce from Deuteronomy xxx. many passages of the same kind which speak of choosing, of turning away from, of keeping; as, 'If thou shalt keep,' 'if thou shalt turn away from,' 'if thou shalt choose.'-"All these expressions (you say) are made use of preposterously if there be not a "Free-will" in man unto good"-
I answer: And you, friend Diatribe, preposterously enough also conclude from these expressions the freedom of the will. You set out to prove the endeavour and desire of "Free-will" only, and you have adduced no passage which proves such an endeavour. But now, you adduce those passages, which, if your conclusion hold good, will ascribe all to "Free-will."
Let me here then again make a distinction, between the words of the Scripture adduced, and the conclusion of the Diatribe tacked to them. The words adduced are imperative, and they say nothing but what ought to be done. For, Moses does not say, 'thou hast the power and strength to choose.' The words 'choose,' 'keep,' 'do,' convey the precept 'to keep,' but they do not describe the ability of man. But the conclusion tacked to them by that wisdom-aping Diatribe, infers thus:-therefore, man can do those things, otherwise the precepts are given in vain. To whom this reply must be made:-Madam Diatribe, you make a bad inference, and do not prove your conclusion, but the conclusion and the proof merely seem to be right to your blind and inadvertent self. But know, that these precepts are not given preposterously nor in vain; but that proud and blind man might, by them, learn the disease of his own impotency, if he should attempt to do what is commanded. And hence your similitude amounts to nothing where you say.
-"Otherwise it would be precisely the same, as if any one should say to a man who was so bound that he could only stretch forth his left arm,-Behold! thou hast on thy right hand excellent wine, thou hast on thy left poison; on which thou wilt stretch forth thy hand"-
These your similitudes I presume are particular favourites of yours. But you do not all the while see, that if the similitudes stand good, they prove much more than you ever purposed to prove, nay, that they prove what you deny and would have to be disproved:-that "Free-will" can do all things. For by the whole scope of your argument, forgetting what you said, 'that "Free-will" can do nothing without grace,' you actually prove that "Free-will" can do all things without grace. For your conclusions and similitudes go to prove this:-that either "Free-will" can of itself do those things which are said and commanded, or they are commanded in vain, ridiculously, and preposterously. But these are nothing more than the old songs of the Pelagians sung over again, which even the Sophists have exploded, and which you have yourself condemned. And by all this your forgetfulness and disorder of memory, you do nothing but evince how little you know of the subject, and how little you are affected by it. And what can be worse in a rhetorician, than to be continually bringing forward things wide of the nature of the subject, and not only so, but to be always declaiming against his subject and against himself?
Sect. 58.-WHEREFORE I observe, finally, the passages of Scripture adduced by you are imperative, and neither prove any thing, nor determine any thing concerning the ability of man, but enjoin only what things are to be done, and what are not to be done. And as to your conclusions or appendages, and similitudes, if they prove any thing they prove this:-that "Free-will" can do all things without grace. Whereas this you did not undertake to prove, nay, it is by you denied. Wherefore, these your proofs are nothing else but the most direct confutations.
For, (that I may, if I can, rouse the Diatribe from its lethargy) suppose I argue thus-If Moses say, 'Choose life and keep the commandment', unless man be able to choose life and keep the commandment, Moses gives that precept to man ridiculously.-Have I by this argument proved my side of the subject, that "Free-will" can do nothing good, and that it has no external endeavour separate from its own power? Nay, on the contrary, I have proved, by an assertion sufficiently forcible, that either man can choose life and keep the commandment as it is commanded, or Moses is a ridiculous law-giver? But who would dare to assert that Moses was a ridiculous law-giver? It follows therefore, that man can do the things that are commanded.
This is the way in which the Diatribe argues throughout, contrary to its own purposed design; wherein, it promised that it would not argue thus, but would prove a certain endeavour of "Freewill;" of which however, so far from proving it, it scarcely makes mention in the whole string of its arguments; nay, it proves the contrary rather; so that it may itself be more properly said to affirm and argue all things ridiculously.
And as to its making it, according to its own adduced similitude, to be ridiculous, that a man 'having his right arm bound, should be ordered to stretch forth his right hand when he could only stretch forth his left.'-Would it, I pray, be ridiculous, if a man, having both his arms bound, and proudly contending or ignorantly presuming that he could do any thing right or left, should be commanded to stretch forth his hand right and left, not that his captivity might be derided, but that he might be convinced of his false presumption of liberty and power, and might be brought to know his ignorance of his captivity and misery?
The Diatribe is perpetually setting before us such a man, who either can do what is commanded, or at least knows that he cannot do it. Whereas, no such man is to be found. If there were such an one, then indeed, either impossibilities would be ridiculously commanded, or the Spirit of Christ would be in vain.
The Scripture, however, sets forth such a man, who is not only bound, miserable, captive, sick, and dead, but who, by the operation of his lord, Satan, to his other miseries, adds that of blindness: so that he believes he is free, happy, at liberty, powerful, whole, and alive. For Satan well knows that if men knew their own misery he could retain no one of them in his kingdom: because, it could not be, but that God would immediately pity and succour their known misery and calamity: seeing that, He is with so much praise set forth, throughout the whole Scripture as, being near unto the contrite in heart, that Isaiah lxi. 1-3, testifies, that Christ was sent "to prea