Sect. 60.-IN these passages, our friend Diatribe makes no distinction whatever, between the voice of the Law and the voice of the Gospel: because, forsooth, it is so blind and so ignorant, that it knows not what is the Law and what is the Gospel. For out of all the passages from Isaiah, it produces no one word of the law, save this, 'If thou wilt;' all the rest is Gospel, by which, as the word of offered grace, the bruised and afflicted are called unto consolation. Whereas, the Diatribe makes them the words of the law. But, I pray thee, tell me, what can that man do in theological matters, and the Sacred Writings, who has not even gone so far as to know what is Law and what is Gospel, or, who, if he does know, condemns the observance of the distinction between them? Such an one must confound all things, heaven with hell, and life with death; and will never labour to know any thing of Christ. Concerning which, I shall put my friend Diatribe a little in remembrance, in what follows.
Look then, first, at that of Jeremiah and Malachi "If thou wilt turn, then will I turn thee:" and, "turn ye unto me, and I will turn unto you." Does it then follow from "turn ye"-therefore, ye are able to turn? Does it follow also from "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart"-therefore, thou art able to love with all thine heart? If these arguments stand good, what do they conclude, but that "Free-will" needs not the grace of God, but can do all things of its own power? And then, how much more right would it be that the words should be received as they stand-'If thou shalt turn, then will I also turn thee?' That is;-if thou shalt cease from sinning, I also will cease from punishing; and if thou shalt be converted and live well, I also will do well unto thee in turning away thy captivity and thy evils. But even in this way, it does not follow, that man can turn by his own power, nor do the words imply this; but they simply say, "If thou wilt turn;" by which, a man is admonished of what he ought to do. And when he has thus known and seen what he ought to do but cannot do, he would ask how he is to do it, were it not for that Leviathan of the Diatribe (that is, that appendage, and conclusion it has here tacked on) which comes in and between and says,-'therefore, if man cannot turn of his own power, "turn ye" is spoken in vain:' But, of what nature all such conclusion is, and what it amounts to, has been already fully shewn.
It must, however, be a certain stupor or lethargy which can hold, that the power of "Free-will" is confirmed by these words "turn ye," "if thou wilt turn," and the like, and does not see, that for the same reason, it must be confirmed by this Scripture also, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart," seeing that, the meaning of Him who commands and requires is the same in both instances. For the loving of God, is not less required than our conversion, and the keeping of all the commandments; because, the loving of God is our real conversion. And yet, no one attempts to prove "Free-will" from that command 'to love,' although from those words "if thou wilt," "if thou wilt hear," "turn ye", and the like, all attempt to prove it. If therefore from that word, "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart," it does not follow that "Free-will" is any thing or can do anything, it is certain that it neither follows from these words, "if thou wilt," "if thou wilt hear," "turn ye," and the like, which either require less, or require with less force of importance, than these words "Love God!" "Love the Lord!"
Whatever, therefore, is said against drawing a conclusion in support of "Free-will" from this word "love God," the same must be said against drawing a conclusion in support of "Free-will" from every other word of command or requirement. For, if by the command 'to love,' the nature of the law only be shewn, and what we ought to do, but not the power of the will or what we can do, but rather, what we cannot do, the same is shewn by all the other Scriptures of requirement. For it is well known, that even the schoolmen, except the Scotinians and moderns, assert, that man cannot love God with all his heart. Therefore, neither can he perform any one of the other precepts, for all the rest, according to the testimony of Christ, hang on this one. Hence, by the testimony even of the doctors of the schools, this remains as a settled conclusion:-that the words of the law do not prove the power of "Free-will," but shew what we ought to do, and what we cannot do.
Sect. 61.-BUT our friend Diatribe, proceeding to still greater lengths of inconsiderateness, not only infers from that passage of Malachi iii. 7., "turn ye unto me," an indicative sense, but also, goes on with zeal to prove therefrom,
the endeavour of "Free-will," and the grace prepared for the person endeavouring.
Here, at last, it makes mention of the endeavour and by a new kind of grammar, 'to turn,' signifies, with it, the same thing as 'to endeavour:' so that the sense is, "turn ye unto me," that is, endeavour ye to turn; "and I will turn unto you," that is, I will endeavour to turn unto you: so that, at last, it attributes an endeavour even unto God, and perhaps, would have grace to be prepared for Him upon His endeavouring: for if turning signify endeavouring in one place, why not in every place?
Again, it says, that from Jeremiah xv. 19., "If thou shalt separate the precious from the vile," not the endeavour only, but the liberty of choosing is proved; which, before, it declared was 'lost,' and changed into a 'necessity of serving sin.' You see, therefore, that in handling the Scriptures the Diatribe has a "Free-will" with a witness: so that, with it, words of the same kind are compelled to prove endeavour in one place, and liberty in another, just as the turn suits.
But, to away with vanities, the word TURN is used in the Scriptures in a twofold sense, the one legal, the other evangelical. In the legal sense, it is the voice of the exactor and commander, which requires, not an endeavour, but a change in the whole life. In this sense Jeremiah frequently uses it, saying, "Turn ye now every one of you from his evil way:" and, "Turn ye unto the Lord:" in which, he involves the requirement of all the commandments; as is sufficiently evident. In the evangelical sense, it is the voice of the divine consolation and promise, by which nothing is demanded of us, but in which the grace of God is offered unto us. Of this kind is that of Psalm cxxvi. 1, "When the Lord shall turn again the captivity of Zion;" and that of Psalm cxvi. 7, "Turn again into thy rest, O my soul." Hence, Malachi, in a very brief compendium, has set forth the preaching both of the law and of grace. It is the whole sum of the law, where he saith, "Turn ye unto me;" and it is grace, where he saith, "I will turn unto you." Wherefore, as much as "Free-will" is proved from this word, "Love the Lord," or from any other word of particular law, just so much is it proved from this word of summary law,
"TURN YE." It becomes a wise reader of the Scriptures, therefore, to observe what are words of the law and what are words of grace, that he might not be involved in confusion like the unclean Sophists, and like this sleepily-yawning Diatribe.
Sect. 62. NOW observe, in what way the Diatribe handles that single passage in Ezekiel xviii. 23, "As I live, saith the Lord, I desire not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live." In the first place-"if (it says) the expressions "shall turn away," "hath done," "hath committed," be so often repeated in this chapter, where are they who deny that man can do any thing?"-
Only remark, I pray, the excellent conclusion! It set out to prove the endeavour and the desire of "Free-will," and now it proves the whole work, that all things are fulfilled by "Free-will! "Where now, I pray, are those who need grace and the Holy Spirit? For it pertly argues thus: saying, 'Ezekiel says, "If the wicked man shall turn away, and shall do righteousness and judgment, he shall live." Therefore, the wicked man does that immediately and can do it.' Whereas Ezekiel is signifying, what ought to be done, but the Diatribe understands it as being done, and having been done. Thus teaching us, by a new kind of grammar, that ought to be is the same as having been, being exacted the same as being performed, and being required the same as being rendered.
And then, that voice of the all-sweet Gospel, "I desire not the death of a sinner," &c., it perverts thus:-"Would the righteous Lord deplore that death of His people which He Himself wrought in them? If, therefore, He wills not our death, it certainly is to be laid to the charge of our own will, if we perish. For, what can you lay to the charge of Him, who can do nothing either of good or evil?"
It was upon this same string that Pelagius harped long ago, when he attributed to "Free-will" not a desire nor an endeavour only, but the power of doing and fulfilling all things. For as I have said before, these conclusions prove that power, if they prove any thing; so that, they make with equal, nay with more force against the Diatribe which denies that power of "Free-will," and which attempts to establish the endeavour only, than they do, against us who deny "Free-will" altogether.-But, to say nothing of the ignorance of the Diatribe, let us speak to the subject.
It is the Gospel voice, and the sweetest consolation to miserable sinners, where Ezekiel saith, "I desire not the death of a sinner, but rather, that he should be converted and live," and it is in all respects like unto that of Psalm xxx. 5.; "For His wrath is but for a moment, in His willingness is life." And that of Psalm xxxvi. 7., "How sweet is thy loving-kindness, O God." Also, "For I am merciful," And that of Christ, (Matt. xi. 28.) "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." And also that of Exodus xx. 6, "I will shew mercy unto thousands of them that love me."
And what is more than half of the Holy Scripture, but mere promises of grace, by which, mercy, life, peace, and salvation, are extended from God unto men? And what else is the whole word of promise but this:-"I desire not the death of a sinner?" Is not His saying, "I am merciful," the same as saying, I am not angry, I am unwilling to punish, I desire not your death, My will is to pardon, My will is to spare? And if there were not these divine promises standing, by which consciences, afflicted with a sense of sin and terrified at the fear of death and judgment might be raised up, what place would there be for pardon or for hope! What sinner would not sink in despair! But as "Free-will" is not proved from any of the other words of mercy, of promise, and of comfort, so neither is it from this:-"I desire not the death of a sinner," &c.
But our friend Diatribe, again making no distinction between the words of the law, and the words of the promise, makes this passage of Ezekiel the voice of the law, and expounds it thus:-"I desire not the death of a sinner:" that is, I desire not that he should sin unto death, or should become a sinner guilty of death; but rather, that he should be converted from sin, if he have committed any, and thus live. For if it do not expound the passage thus, it will make nothing to its purpose. But this is utterly to destroy and take away that most sweet place of Ezekiel, "I desire not the death." If we in our blindness will read and understand the Scriptures thus, what wonder if they be 'obscure and ambiguous.' Whereas God does not say, "I desire not the sin of man, but, I desire not the death of a sinner," which manifestly shews that He is speaking of the punishment of sin, of which the sinner has a sense on account of his sin, that is, of the fear of death; and that He is raising up and comforting the sinner lying under this affliction and desperation, that He might not "break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax," but raise him to the hope of pardon and salvation, in order that he might be further converted, that is, by the conversion unto salvation from the fear of death, and that he might live, that is, might be in peace and rejoice in a good conscience.
And this is also to be observed, that as the voice of the law is not pronounced but upon those who neither feel nor know their sins, as Paul saith, "By the law is the knowledge of sin;" (Rom. iii. 20,) so, the word of grace does not come but unto those, who, feeling their sins, are distressed and exercised with desperation. Therefore, in all the words of the law, you will find sin to be implied while it shews what we ought to do; as on the contrary, in all the words of the promise, you will find the evil to be implied under which the sinners, or those who are raised up, labour: as here, "I desire not the death of a sinner," clearly points out the death and the sinner, both the evil itself which is felt, and the sinner himself who feels it. But by this, 'Love God with all thine heart,' is shewn what good we ought to do, not what evil we feel, in order that we might know, how far we are from doing good.
Sect. 63.-NOTHING, therefore, could be more absurdly adduced in support of "Free-will" than this passage of Ezekiel, nay, it makes with all possible force directly against "Free-will." For it is here shewn, in what state "Free-will" is, and what it can do under the knowledge of sin, and in turning itself from it:-that is, that it can only go on to worse, and add to its sins desperation and impenitency, unless God soon come in to help, and to call back, and raise up by the word of promise. For the concern of God in promising grace to recall and raise up the sinner, is itself an argument sufficiently great and conclusive, that "Free-will," of itself, cannot but go on to worse, and (as the Scripture saith) 'fall down to hell:' unless, indeed, you imagine that God is such a trifler, that He pours forth so great an abundance of the words of promise, not from any necessity of them unto our salvation, but from a mere delight in loquacity! Wherefore, you see, that not only all the words of law stand against "Free-will," but also, that all the words of the promise utterly confute it; that is, that, the whole Scripture makes directly against it.
Hence, you see, this word, "I desire not the death of a sinner," does nothing else but preach and offer divine mercy to the world, which none receive with joy and gratitude but those who are distressed and exercised with the fears of death, for they are they in whom the law has now done its office, that is, in bringing them to the knowledge of sin. But they who have not yet experienced the office of the law, who do not yet know their sin nor feel the fears of death, despise the mercy promised in that word.
Sect. 64.-BUT, why it is, that some are touched by the law and some are not touched, why some receive the offered grace and some despise it, that is another question which is not here treated on by Ezekiel; because, he is speaking of THE
PREACHED AND OFFERED MERCY OF GOD, not of that SECRET AND TO BE FEARED WILL OF GOD, who, according to His own counsel, ordains whom, and such as He will, to be receivers and partakers of the preached and offered mercy: which WILL, is not to be curiously inquired into, but to be adored with reverence as the most profound SECRET of the divine Majesty, which He reserves unto Himself and keeps hidden from us, and that, much more religiously than the mention of ten thousand Corycian caverns.
But since the Diatribe thus pertly argues-"Would the righteous Lord deplore that death of His people, which He Himself works in them? This would seem quite absurd"-
I answer, as I said before,-we are to argue in one way, concerning the WILL OF GOD preached, revealed, and offered unto us, and worshipped by us; and in another, concerning GOD HIMSELF not preached, not revealed, not offered unto us, and worshipped by us. In whatever, therefore, God hides Himself and will be unknown by us, that is nothing unto us' and here, that sentiment' stands good-'What is above us, does not concern us.'
And that no one might think that this distinction is my own, I follow Paul, who, writing to the Thessalonians concerning Antichrist, saith, (2 Thess. ii. 4.) "that he should exalt himself above all that is God, as preached and worshipped:" evidently intimating, that any one might be exalted above God as He is preached and worshipped, that is, above the word and worship of God, by which He is known unto us and has intercourse with us. But, above God not worshipped and preached, that is, as He is in our own nature and majesty, nothing can be exalted, but all things are under His powerful hand.
God, therefore, is to be left to remain in His own Nature and Majesty; for in this respect, we have nothing to do with Him, nor does He wish us to have, in this respect, anything to do with Him: but we have to do with Him, as far as He is clothed in, and delivered to us by, His Word; for in that He presents Himself unto us, and that is His beauty and His glory, in which the Psalmist celebrates Him as being clothed. Wherefore, we say, that the righteous God does not 'deplore that death of His people which He Himself works in them;' but He deplores that death which He finds in His people, and which He desires to remove from them. For GOD PREACHED desires this:-that, our sin and death being taken away, we might be saved; "He sent His word and healed them." (Psalm cvii. 20.) But GOD HIDDEN IN MAJESTY neither deplores, nor takes away death, but works life and death and all things: nor has He, in this Character, defined Himself in His Word, but has reserved unto Himself, a free power over all things.
But the Diatribe is deceived by its own ignorance, in not making a distinction between GOD PREACHED and GOD HIDDEN: that is, between the word of God and God Himself. God does many things which He does not make known unto us in His word: He also wills many things which He does not in His word make known unto us that He wills. Thus, He does not 'will the death of a sinner,' that is, in His word; but He wills it by that will inscrutable. But in the present case, we are to consider His word only, and to leave that will inscrutable; seeing that, it is by His word, and not by that will inscrutable, that we are to be guided; for who can direct himself according to a will inscrutable and incomprehensible? It is enough to know only, that there is in God a certain will inscrutable: but what, why, and how far that will wills, it is not lawful to inquire, to wish to know, to be concerned about, or to reach unto-it is only to be feared and adored!
Therefore it is rightly said, 'if God does not desire our death, it is to be laid to the charge of our own will, if we perish:' this, I say, is right, if you speak of GOD PREACHED. For He desires that all men should be saved, seeing that, He comes unto all by the word of salvation, and it is the fault of the will which does not receive Him: as He saith. (Matt. xxiii. 37.) "How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldest not!" But WHY that Majesty does not take away or change this fault of the will IN ALL, seeing that, it is not in the power of man to do it; or why He lays that to the charge of the will, which the man cannot avoid, it becomes us not to inquire, and though you should inquire much, yet you will never find out: as Paul saith, (Rom. ix, 20,) "Who art thou that repliest against God!"-Suffice it to have spoken thus upon this passage of Ezekiel. Now let us proceed to the remaining particulars.
Sect. 65.-THE Diatribe next argues-"If what is commanded be not in the power of every one, all the numberless exhortations in the Scriptures, and also all the promises, threatenings, expostulations, reproofs, asseverations, benedictions and maledictions, together with all the forms of precepts, must of necessity stand coldly useless."-
The Diatribe is perpetually forgetting the subject point, and going on with that which is contrary to its professed design: and it does not see, that all these things make with greater force against itself than against us. For from all these passages, it proves the liberty and ability to fulfil all things, as the very words of the conclusion which it draws necessarily declare: whereas, its design was, to prove 'that "Free-will" is that, which cannot will any thing good without grace, and is a certain endeavour that is not to be ascribed to its own powers.' But I do not see that such an endeavour is proved by any of these passages, but that as I have repeatedly said already, that only is required which ought to be done' unless it be needful to repeat it again, as often as the Diatribe harps upon the same string, putting off its readers with a useless profusion of words.
About the last passage which it brings forward out of the Old Testament, is that of Deut. xxx. 11-14. "This commandment which I command thee this day, is not above thee, neither is it far off. Neither is it in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who of us shall ascend up into heaven and bring it down unto us, that we may hear it and do it. But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it." The Diatribe contends-'that it is declared by this passage, that what is commanded is not only placed in us, but is down-hill work, that is, easy to be done, or at least, not difficult.'-
I thank the Diatribe for such wonderful erudition! For if Moses so plainly declare, that there is in us, not only an ability, but also a power to keep all the commandments with ease, why have I been toiling all this time! Why did I not at once produce this passage and assert "Free-will" before the whole world! What need now of Christ! What need of the Spirit! We have now found a passage which stops the mouths of all, and, which not only plainly asserts the liberty of the will, but teaches that the observance of all the commandments is easy!-What need was there for Christ to purchase for us, even with His own blood, the Spirit, as though necessary, in order that He might make the keeping of the commandments easy unto us, when we were already thus qualified by nature! Nay, here, the Diatribe itself recants its own assertions, where it affirmed, that '"Freewill" cannot will any thing good without grace,' and now affirms, that "Free-will" is of such power, that it can, not only will good, but keep the greatest, nay, all the commandments, with ease.
Only observe, I pray, what a mind does, where the heart is not in the cause, and how impossible it is that it should not expose itself! And can there still be any need to confute the Diatribe? Who can more effectually confute it, than it confutes itself! This truly, is that beast that devours itself! How true is the proverb, that 'A liar should have a good memory!'
I have already spoken upon this passage of Deuteronomy, I shall now treat upon it briefly; if indeed, there be any need so far to set aside Paul, who, Rom. x. 5-11, so powerfully handles this passage.-You can see nothing here to be said, nor one single syllable to speak, either of the ease or difficulty, of the power or impotency of "Free-will" or of man, either to keep or not to keep the commandments. Except that those, who entangle the Scriptures in their own conclusions and cogitations, make them obscure and ambiguous to themselves, that they might thus make of them what they please. But, if you cannot turn your eyes this way, turn your ears, or feel out what I am about to say with your hands.-Moses saith, "it is not above thee," "neither is it far from thee," "neither is it in heaven," "neither is it beyond the sea." Now, what is the meaning of this, "above thee?" What, of this "far from thee?" What, of this "in heaven?" What, of this "beyond the sea?" Will they then make the most commonly used terms, and even grammar so obscure unto us, that we shall not be able to speak any thing to a certainty, merely that they might establish their assertion, that the Scriptures are obscure?
According to my grammar, these terms signify neither the quality nor the quantity of human powers, but the distance of places only. For "above thee" does not signify a certain power of the will, but a certain place which is above us. So also "far from thee," "in heaven," "beyond the sea," do not signify any thing of ability in man, but a certain place at a distance above us, or on our right hand, or on our left hand, or behind us, or over against us. Some one may perhaps laugh at me for disputing in so plain a way, thus setting, as it were, a ready-marked-out lesson before such great men, as though they were little boys learning their alphabet, and I were teaching them how to put syllables together-but what can I do, when I see darkness to be sought for in a light so clear, and those studiously desiring to be blind, who boastingly enumerate before us such a series of ages, so much talent, so many saints, so many martyrs, so many doctors, and who with so much authority boast of this passage, and yet will not deign to look at the syllables, or to command their cogitations so far, as to give the passage of which they boast one consideration? Let the Diatribe now go home and consider, and say, how it can be, that one poor private individual should see that, which escaped the notice of so many public characters, and of the greatest men of so many ages. This passage surely, even in the judgment of a school-boy, proves that they must have been blind not very unfrequently!
What therefore does Moses mean by these most plain and clear words, but, that he has worthily performed his office as a faithful law-giver; and that therefore, if all men have not before their eyes and do not know all the precepts which are enjoined, the fault does not rest with him; that they have no place left them for excuse, so as to say, they did not know, or had not the precepts, or were obliged to seek them elsewhere; that if they do not keep them, the fault rests not with the law, or with the law-giver, but with themselves, seeing that the law is before them, and the law-giver has taught them; and that they have no place left for excusation of ignorance, only for accusation of negligence and disobedience? It is not, saith he, necessary to fetch the laws down from heaven, nor from lands beyond the sea, nor from afar, nor can you frame as an excuse, that you never had them nor heard them, for you have them nigh unto you; they are they which God hath commanded, which you have heard from my mouth, and which you have had in your hearts and in your mouths continually; you have heard them treated on by the Levites in the midst of you, of which this my word and book are witnesses; this, therefore only remains-that you do them.-What, I pray you, is here attributed unto "Free-will?" What is there, but the 'demanding that it would do the laws which it has, and the taking away from it the excuse of ignorance and the want of the laws?
These passages are the sum of what the Diatribe brings forward out of the Old Testament in support of "Free-will," which being answered, there remains nothing that is not answered at the same time, whether it have brought forward, or wished to bring forward more; seeing that, it could bring forward nothing but imperative, or conditional, or optative passages, by which is signified, not what we can do, or do do, (as I have so often replied, to the so often repeating Diatribe) but what we ought to do, and what is required of us, in order that we might come to the knowledge of our impotency, and that there might be wrought in us the knowledge of our sin. Or, if they do prove any thing, by means of the appended conclusions and similitudes invented by human reason, they prove this:-that "Free-will" is not a certain small degree of endeavour or desire only, but a full and free ability and power to do all things, without the grace of God, and without the Holy Spirit.
Thus, nothing less is proved by the whole sum of that copious, and again and again reiterated and inculcated argumentation, than that which was aimed at to be proved, that is, the PROBABLE OPINION; by which, "Free-will" is defined to be of that impotency, 'that it cannot will any thing good without grace, but is compelled into the service of sin; though it has an endeavour, which, nevertheless, is not to be ascribed to its own powers.'-A monster truly! which, at the same time, can do nothing by its own power, and yet, has an endeavour within its own power: and thus, stands upon the basis of a most manifest contradiction!
Sect. 66.-We now come to the NEW TESTAMENT, where again, are marshalled up in defence of that miserable bondage of "Free-will," an host of imperative sentences, together with all the auxiliaries of carnal reason, such as, conclusions, similitudes, &c., called in from all quarters. And if you ever saw represented in a picture, or imagined in a dream, a king of flies attended by his forces armed with lances and shields of straw or hay, drawn up in battle array against a real and complete army of veteran warriors-it is just thus, that the human dreams of the Diatribe are drawn up in battle array against the hosts of the words of God!
First of all, marches forth in front, that of Matt. xxiii. 37-39, as it were the Achilles of these flies, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldest not."-"If all things be done from necessity (says the Diatribe) might not Jerusalem here have justly said in reply to the Lord, Why dost thou weary thyself with useless tears? If thou didst not will that we should kill the prophets, why didst thou send them? Why dost thou lay that to our charge, which, from will in thee, was done of necessity by us?"-thus the Diatribe.-
I answer: Granting in the mean time that this conclusion and proof of the Diatribe is good and true, what, I ask, is proved thereby?-that 'probable opinion,' which affirms that "Freewill" cannot will good? Nay, the will is proved to be free, whole, and able to do all things which the prophets have spoken; and such a will the Diatribe never intended to prove. But let the Diatribe here reply to itself. If "Free-will" cannot will good, why is it laid to its charge, that it did not hear the prophets, whom, as they taught good, it could not hear by its own powers? Why does Christ in useless tears weep over those as though they could have willed that, which He certainly knew they could not will? Here, I say, let the Diatribe free Christ from the imputation of madness, according to its 'probable opinion,' and then my opinion is immediately set free from that Achilles of the flies. Therefore, that passage of Matthew either forcibly proves "Free-will" altogether, or makes with equal force against the Diatribe itself, and strikes it prostrate with its own weapon!
But I here observe as I have observed before, that we are not to dispute concerning that SECRET WILL of the divine Majesty; and that, that human temerity, which, with incessant perverseness, is ever leaving those things that are necessary, and attacking and trying this point, is to be called off and driven back, that it employ not itself in prying into those secrets of Majesty which it is impossible to attain unto, seeing that, they dwell in that light which is inaccessible; as Paul witnesseth. (1 Tim. vi. 16.) But let the man acquaint himself with the God Incarnate, or, as Paul saith, with Jesus crucified, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge-but hidden! for in Him, there is an abundance both of that which he ought to know, and of that which he ought not to know.
[See Note <\l >] The God Incarnate, then, here speaks thus-"I WOULDand THOU WOULDST NOT!" The God Incarnate,-I say, was sent for this purpose-that He might desire, speak, do, suffer, and offer unto all, all things that are necessary unto salvation, although He should offend many, who, being either left or hardened by that secret will of Majesty, should not receive Him thus desiring, speaking, doing, and offering: as John i. 5, saith, "The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." And again, "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not." (11.) It belongs also to this same God Incarnate, to weep, to lament, and to sigh over the perdition of the wicked, even while that will of Majesty, from purpose, leaves and reprobates some, that they might perish. Nor does it become us to inquire why He does so, but to revere that God who can do, and wills to do, such things.
Nor do I suppose that any one will cavillingly deny, that that will which here saith, "How often would I!" was displayed to the Jews, even before God became Incarnate; seeing that, they are accused of having slain the prophets, before Christ, and having thus resisted His will. For it is well known among Christians, that all things were done by the prophets in the name of Christ to come, who was promised that He should become Incarnate: so that, whatever has been offered unto men by the ministers of the word from the foundation of the world, may be rightly called, the Will of Christ.
Sect. 67.-BUT here Reason, who is always very knowing and loquacious, will say,-This is an excellently invented scape-gap; that, as often as we are pressed close by the force of arguments, we might run back to that to-be-revered will of Majesty, and thus silence the disputant as soon as he becomes troublesome; just as astrologers, do, who, by their invented epicycles, elude all questions concerning the motion of the whole heaven.-
I answer: It is no invention of mine, but a command supported by the Holy Scriptures. Paul, (Rom. ix. 19,) speaks thus: "Why therefore doth God find fault; for who hath resisted His will? Nay, but O man, who art thou that contendest with God?" "Hath not the potter power?" And so on. And before him, Isaiah lviii. 2, "Yet they seek Me daily, and desire to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness: they ask of Me the ordinances of justice, and desire to approach unto God."
From these words it is, I think, sufficiently manifest that it is not lawful for men to search into that will of Majesty. And this subject is of that nature, that perverse men are here the most led to pry into that to-be-revered will, and therefore, there is here the greatest reason why they should be exhorted to silence and reverence. In other subjects, where those things are handled for which we can give a reason, and for which we are commanded to give a reason, we do not this. And if any one still persist in searching into the reason of that will, and do not choose to hearken to our admonition, we let him go on, and, like the giants, fight against God; while we look on to see what triumph he will gain, persuaded in ourselves, that he will do nothing, either to injure our cause or to advance his own. For it will still remain unalterable, that he must either prove that "Free-will" can do all things, or that the Scriptures which he adduces must make against himself. And, which soever of the two shall take place, he vanquished, lies prostrate, while we as conquerors "stand upright!"
Sect. 68.-ANOTHER passage is that of Matt. xix. 17,) "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments."-"With what face, (says the Diatribe,) can "if thou wilt" be said to him who has not a Free-will?'-
To which I reply:-Is, therefore, the will, according to this word of Christ, free? But you wish to prove, that "Free-will" cannot will any thing good; and that, without grace, it of necessity serves sin. With what face, then, do you now make will wholly free?
The same reply will be made to that also-"If thou wilt be perfect," "If any one will come after me," "He that will save his life," "If ye love me," "If Ye shall continue." In a word, as I said before, (to ease the Diatribe's labour in adducing such a load of words) let all the conditional ifs and all the imperative verbs be collected together.-"All these precepts (says the Diatribe) stand coldly useless, if nothing be attributed to the human will. How ill does that conjunctive if accord with mere necessity?"-
I answer: If they stand coldly useless, it is your fault that they stand coldly useless, who, at one time, assert that nothing is to be attributed to "Free-will," while you make "Free-will" unable to will good, and who, on the contrary, here make the same "Free-will" able to will all good; nay, you thus make them to stand as nothing at all: unless, with you, the same words stand coldly useless and warmly useful at the same time, while they at once assert all things and deny all things.
I wonder how any author can delight in repeating the same things so continually, and to be as continually forgetting his subject design: unless perhaps, distrusting his cause, he wishes to overcome his adversary by the bulk of his book, or to weary him out with the tedium and toil of reading it. By what conclusion, I ask, does it follow, that will and power must immediately take place as often as it is said, 'If thou wilt,' 'If any one will,' 'If thou shalt?' Do we not most frequently imply in such expressions impotency rather, and impossibility? For instance.-If thou wilt equal Virgil in singing, my friend Mevius, thou must sing in another strain.-If thou wilt surpass Cicero, friend Scotus, instead of thy subtle jargon, thou must have the most exalted eloquence. If thou wilt stand in competition with David, thou must of necessity produce Psalms like his. Here are plainly signified things impossible to our own powers, although, by divine power, all these things may be done. So it is in the Scriptures, that by such expressions, it might be shewn what we cannot do ourselves, but what can be done in us by the power of God.
Moreover, if such expressions should be used in those things which are utterly impossible to be done, as being those which God would never do, then, indeed, they might rightly be called either coldly useless, or ridiculous, because they would be spoken in vain. Whereas now, they are so used, that by them, not only the impotency of "Free-will" is shewn, by which no one of those things can be done, but it is also signified, that a time will come when all those things shall be done, but by a power not our own, that is, by the divine power; provided that, we fully admit, that in such expressions, there is a certain signification of things possible and to be done: as if any one should interpret them thus:-"If thou wilt keep the commandments, (that is, if thou shalt at any time have the will to keep the commandments, though thou wilt have it, not of thyself, but of God, who giveth it to whom He will,) they also shall preserve thee."
But, to take a wider scope.-These expressions, especially those which are conditional, seem to be so placed also, on account of the Predestination of God, and to involve that as being unknown to us. As if they should speak thus:-"If thou desire," "If thou wilt:" that is, if thou be such with God, that he shall deign to give thee this will to keep the commandments, thou shalt be saved. According to which manner of speaking, it is given us to understand both truths.-That we can do nothing ourselves; and that, if we do any thing, God works that in us. This is what I would say to those, who will not be content to have it said, that by these words our impotency only is shewn, and who will contend, that there is also proved a certain power and ability to do those things which are commanded. And in this way, it will also appear to be truth, that we are not able to do any of the things which are commanded, and yet, 'that we are able to do them all: that is, speaking of the former, with reference to our own powers, and of the latter, with reference to the grace of God.
Sect. 69.-THE third particular that moves the Diatribe is this:-"How there can be (it observes) any place for mere necessity there, where mention is so frequently made of good works and of bad works, and where there is mention made of reward, I cannot understand; for neither nature nor necessity can have merit."-
Nor can I understand any thing but this:-that that 'probable opinion,' asserts 'mere necessity' where it affirms that "Free-will" cannot will any thing good, and yet, nevertheless, here attributes to it even 'merit.' Hence, "Free-will" gains ground so fast, as the book and argumentation of the Diatribe increases, that now, it not only has an endeavour and desire of its own, 'though not by its own powers,' nay, not only wills good and does good, but also merits eternal life according to that saying of Christ, (Matt. v. 12,) "Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven." "Your reward," that is, the reward of "Free-will." For the Diatribe so understands this passage, that Christ and the Spirit of God are nothing. For what need is there of them, if we have good works and merit by "Free-will!" I say these things, that we may see, that it is no rare thing for men of exalted talent, to be blind in a matter which is plainly manifest even to one of a thick and uninformed understanding; and that we may also see, how weak, arguments drawn from human authority are in divine things, where the authority of God alone avails.
But we have here to speak upon two things. First, upon the precepts of the New Testament. And next, upon merit. We shall touch upon each briefly, having already spoken upon them more fully elsewhere.
The New Testament, properly, consists of promises and exhortations, even as the Old, properly, consists of laws and threatenings. For in the New Testament, the Gospel is preached; which is nothing else than the word, by which, are offered unto us the Spirit, grace; and the remission of sins obtained for us by Christ crucified; and all entirely free, through the mere mercy of God the Father, thus favouring us unworthy creatures, who deserve damnation rather than any thing else.
And then follow exhortations, in order to animate those who are already justified, and who have obtained mercy, to be diligent in the fruits of the Spirit and of righteousness received, to exercise themselves in charity and good works, and to bear courageously the cross and all the other tribulations of this world. This is the whole sum of the New Testament. But how little Erasmus understands of this matter is manifest from this:-it knows not how to make any distinction between the Old Testament and the New, for it can see nothing any where but precepts, by which, men are formed to good manners only. But what the new-birth is, the new-creature, regeneration, and the whole work of the Spirit, of all this it sees nothing whatever. So that, I am struck with wonder and astonishment, that the man, who has spent so much time and study upon these things, should know so little about them.
This passage therefore, "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven," agrees as well with "Free-will" as light does with darkness. For Christ is there exhorting, not "Free-will," but His apostles, (who were not only raised above "Free-will" in grace, and justified, but were stationed in the ministry of the Word, that is, in the highest degree of grace,) to endure the tribulations of the world. But we are now disputing about "Free-will," and that particularly, as it is without Grace; which, by laws and threats, or the Old Testament, is instructed in the knowledge of itself only, that it might flee to the promises presented to it in the New Testament.
Sect. 70.-AS to merit, or a proposed reward, what is it else but a certain promise? But that promise does not prove that we can do any thing; it proves nothing more than this:-if any one shall do this thing or that, he shall then have a reward. Whereas, our subject inquiry is, not what reward is to be given, or how it is to be given, but, whether or not we can do those things, for the doing of which the reward is to be given. This is the point to be settled and proved. Would not these be ridiculous conclusions?-The prize is set before all that run in the race: therefore, all can so run as to obtain.-If Cæsar shall conquer the Turks, he shall gain the kingdom of Syria: therefore, Cæsar can conquer, and does conquer the Turks.-If "Free-will" shall gain dominion over sin, it shall be holy before the Lord: therefore "Free-will' is holy before the Lord.
But away with things so stupid and openly absurd: (except that, "Free-will' deserves to be proved what it is by arguments so excellent) let us rather speak to this point:-'that necessity, has neither merit nor reward.' If we speak of the necessity of compulsion, it is true: if we speak of the necessity of immutability, it is false. For who would bestow a reward upon, or ascribe merit to, an unwilling workman? But with respect to those who do good or evil willingly, even though they cannot alter that necessity by their own power, the reward or punishment follows naturally and necessarily: as it is written "thou shalt render unto every man according to his works." (Pro. xxiv. 12.) It naturally follows-if thou remain under water, thou wilt be suffocated; if thou swim out, thou wilt be saved.
To be brief: As it respects merit or reward, you must speak, either of the worthiness or of the consequence. If you speak of the worthiness, there is no merit, no reward. For if "Free-will" cannot of itself will good, but wills good by grace alone, (for we are speaking of "Free-will" apart from grace and inquiring into the power which properly belongs to each) who does not see, that that good
will, merit, and reward, belong to grace alone. Here then, again, the Diatribe dissents from itself, while it argues from merit the freedom of the will; and with me, against whom it fights, it stands in the same condemnation as ever; that is, its asserting that there is merit, reward, and liberty, makes the same as ever directly against itself; seeing that, it asserted above, that it could will nothing good, and undertook to prove that assertion.
If you speak of the consequence, there is nothing either good or evil which has not its reward. And here arises an error, that, in speaking of merits and rewards, we agitate opinions and questions concerning worthiness, which has not existence, when we ought to be disputing concerning consequences. For there remains, as a necessary consequence the judgment of God and a hell for the wicked, even though they themselves neither conceive nor think of such a reward for their sins, nay, they utterly detest it; and, as Peter saith, execrate it. (2 Pet. ii. 10-14.)
In the same manner, there remains a kingdom for the just, even though they themselves neither seek it nor think of it; seeing that, it was prepared for them by their Father, not only before they themselves existed, but before the foundation of the world. Nay, if they should work good in order to obtain the Kingdom, they never would obtain it, but would be numbered rather with the wicked, who, with an evil and mercenary eye, seek the things of self even in God. Whereas, the sons of God, do good with a free-will, seeking no reward, but the glory and will of God only; ready to do good, even if (which is impossible) there were neither a Kingdom nor a hell.
These things are, I believe, sufficiently confirmed even from that saying of Christ only, which I have just cited, Matt. xxv. 34, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom which was prepared for you from the foundation of the world."-How can they merit that, which is theirs, and prepared for them before they had existence? So that we might much more rightly say, the kingdom of God merits us its possessors; and thus, place the merit where these place the reward, and the reward where these place the merit. For the kingdom is not merited, but before prepared: and the sons of the kingdom are before prepared for the kingdom, but do not merit the kingdom for themselves: that is, the kingdom merits the sons, not the sons the kingdom. So also hell more properly merits and prepares its sons, seeing that, Christ saith, "Depart, ye cursed, into eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matt. xxv. 41.)
Sect. 71.-BUT, says the Diatribe-"what then mean all those Scriptures which promise a kingdom and threaten hell? Why is the word reward so often repeated in the Scriptures; as, "Thou hast thy reward," "I am thy exceeding great reward?" Again, "Who rendereth unto every man according to his work;" and Paul, Rom. ii. 6, "Who by patient continuance in well doing, seek for eternal life," and many of the same kind?" (Rom. ii. 6,7.)-
It is answered: By all these passages, the consequence of reward is proved and nothing else, but by no means the worthiness of merit: seeing that, those who do good, do it not from a servile and mercenary principle in order to obtain eternal life, but they seek eternal life, that is, they are in that way, in which they shall come unto and find eternal life. So that seeking, is striving with desire, and pursuing with ardent diligence, that, which always leads unto eternal life. And the reason why it is declared in the Scriptures, that those things shall follow and take place after a good or bad life, is, that men might be instructed, admonished, awakened, and terrified. For as "by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. iii. 20,) and an admonition of our impotency, and as from that, it cannot be inferred that we can do any thing ourselves; so, by these promises and threats, there is conveyed an admonition, by which we are taught, what will follow sin and that impotency made known by the law; but there is not, by them, any thing of worthiness ascribed unto our merit
Wherefore, as the words of the law are for instruction and illumination, to teach us what we ought to do, and also what we are not able to do; so the words of reward, while they signify what will be hereafter, are for exhortation and threatening, by which the just are animated, comforted, and raised up to go forward, to persevere, and to conquer; that they might not be wearied or disheartened either in doing good or in enduring evil; as Paul exhorts his Corinthians, saying, "Be ye steadfast, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Cor. xv. 58.) So also God supports Abraham, saying "I am thy exceeding great reward." (Gen. xv. 1.) Just in the same manner as you would console any one, by signifying to him, that his works certainly pleased God, which kind of consolation the Scripture frequently uses; nor is it a small consolation for any one to know, that he so pleases God, that nothing but a good consequence can follow, even though it seem to him impossible.
Sect. 72.-TO this point pertain all those words which are spoken concerning the hope and expectation, that those things which we hope for will certainly come to pass. For the pious do not hope because of these words themselves, nor do they expect such things because they hope for them. So also the wicked by the words of threatening, and of a future judgment, are only terrified and cast down that they might cease and abstain from sin, and not become proud, secure, and hardened in their sins.
But if Reason should here turn up her nose and say-Why does God will these things to be done by His words, when by such words nothing is effected, and when the will can turn itself neither one way nor the other? Why does He not do what He does without the Word, when He can do all things without the Word? For the will is of no more power, and does no more with the Word, if the Spirit to move within be wanting; nor is it of less power, nor does it do less without the Word, if the Spirit be present, seeing that, all depends upon the power and operation of the Holy Spirit.
I answer: Thus it pleaseth God-not to give the Spirit without the Word, but through the Word; that He might have us as workers together with Him, while we sound forth in the Word without, what He alone works by the breath of His Spirit within, wheresoever it pleaseth Him; which, nevertheless, He could do without the Word, but such is not His will. And who are we that we should inquire into the cause of the divine will? It is enough for us to know, that such is the will of God; and it becomes us, bridling the temerity of reason, to reverence, love, and adore that will. For Christ, (Matt. xi. 25-26,) gives no other reason why the Gospel is hidden from the wise, and revealed unto babes, than this:-So it pleased the Father! In the same manner also, He might nourish us without bread; and indeed He has given a power which nourishes us without bread, as Matt. iv. 4, saith, "Man doth not live by bread alone, but by the Word of God:" but yet, it hath pleased Him to nourish us by His Spirit within, by means of the bread, and instead of the bread used without.
It is certain, therefore, that merit cannot be proved from the reward, at least out of the Scriptures; and that, moreover, "Free-will" cannot be proved from merit, much less such a "Free-will" as the Diatribe set out to prove, that is, 'which of itself cannot will any thing good!' And even if you grant merit, and add to it, moreover, those usual similitudes and conclusions of reason, such as, 'it is commanded in vain,' 'the reward is promised in vain,' 'threatenings are denounced in vain,' if there be no "Free-will:" all these, I say, if they prove any thing, prove this:-that "Free-will" can of itself do all things. But if it cannot of itself do all things, then that conclusion of reason still remains-therefore, the precepts are given in vain, the promises are made in vain, and the threatenings are denounced in vain.
Thus, the Diatribe is perpetually arguing against itself, as often as it attempts to argue against me. For God alone by His Spirit works in us both merit and reward, but He makes known and declares each, by His external Word, to the whole world; to the intent that, His power and glory and our impotency and vileness might be proclaimed even among the wicked, the unbelieving, and the ignorant, although those alone who fear God receive these things into their heart, and keep them faithfully; the rest despise them.
Sect. 73.-IT would be too tedious to repeat here each imperative passage which the Diatribe enumerates out of the New Testament, always tacking to them her own conclusions, and vainly arguing, that those things which are so said are 'to no purpose,' are 'superfluous,' are 'coldly useless,' are 'ridiculous,' are 'nothing at all,' if the will be not free. And I have already repeatedly observed, even to disgust, that nothing whatever is effected by such arguments; and that if any thing be proved, the whole of "Free-will" is proved. And this is nothing less than overthrowing the Diatribe altogether; seeing that, it set out to prove such a "Free-will" as cannot of itself do good, but serves sin; and then goes on to prove such a "Free-will" as can do all things; thus, throughout, forgetting and not knowing itself.
It is mere cavillation where it makes these remarks-"By their fruits, saith the Lord, 'ye shall know them.' (Matt. vii. 16, 20.) He calls works fruits, and He calls them ours, but they are not ours if all things be done by necessity."-
I pray you, are not those things most rightly called ours, which we did not indeed make ourselves, but which we received from others? Why should not those works be called ours, which God has given unto us by His Spirit? Shall we then not call Christ ours, because we did not make Him, but only received Him? Again: if we made all those things which are called ours-therefore, we made our own eyes, we made our own hands, we made our own feet: unless you mean to say, that our eyes, our hands, and our feet are not called our own! Nay, "What have we that we did not receive," saith Paul. (1 Cor. iv. 7.) Shall we then say, that those things are either not ours, or else we made them ourselves? But suppose they are called our fruits because we made them, where then remain grace and the Spirit?-Nor does He say, "By their fruits, which are in a certain small part their own, ye shall know them." This cavillation rather is ridiculous, superfluous, to no purpose, coldly useless, nay, absurd and detestable, by which the holy words of God are defiled and profaned.
In the same way also is that saying of Christ upon the cross trifled with, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke xxiii. 34.) Here, where some assertion might have been expected which should make for "Free-will," recourse is again had to conclusions-"How much more rightly (says the Diatribe) would He have excused them on this ground-because they have not a Free-will, nor can they if they willed it, do otherwise."-
No! nor is that "Free-will" which 'cannot will any thing good,' concerning which we are disputing, proved by this conclusion either; but that "Free-will" is proved by it which can do all things; concerning which no one disputes, to except the Pelagians.
Here, where Christ openly saith, "they know not what they do," does He not testify that they could not will good? For how can you will that which you do not know? You certainly cannot desire that of which you know nothing! What more forcible can be advanced against "Free-will", than that it is such a thing of nought, that it not only cannot will good, but cannot even know what evil it does, and what good is? Is there then any obscurity in this saying, "they know not what they do?" What is there remaining in the Scriptures which may not, upon the authority of the Diatribe, declare for "Free-will," since this word of Christ is made to declare for it, which is so clearly and so directly against it? In the same easy way any one might affirm that this word declares for "Free-will"-"And the earth was without form and void:" (Gen. i. 2.) or this, "And God rested on the seventh day:" (Gen. ii. 2,) or any word of the same kind. Then, indeed, the Scriptures; would be obscure and ambiguous, nay, would be nothing at all. But to dare to make use of the Scriptures in this way, argues a mind that is in a signal manner, a contemner both of God and man, and that deserves no forbearance whatever.
Sect. 74.-AGAIN the Diatribe receives that word of John i. 12, "To them gave He power to become the sons of God," thus-"How can there be power given unto them, to become the sons of God, if there be no liberty in our will?"-
This word also, is a hammer that beats down "Free-will," as is nearly the whole of the evangelist John, and yet, even this is brought forward in support of "Free-will." Let us, I pray you, just took into this word. John is not speaking concerning any work of man, either great or small but concerning the very renewal and transformation of the old man who is a son of the devil, into the new man who is a son of God. This man is merely passive (as the term is used), nor does he do any thing, but is wholly made: and John is speaking of being made: he saith we are made the sons of God by a power given unto us from above, not by the power of "Free-will" inherent in ourselves.
Whereas, our friend Diatribe here concludes, that "Free-will" is of so much power, that it makes us the sons of God; if not, it is prepared to aver, that the word of John is ridiculous and stands coldly useless. But who ever so exalted "Freewill" as to assign unto it the power of making us the sons of God, especially such a "Free-will as cannot even will good, which "Free-will" it is that the Diatribe has taken upon itself to establish? But let this conclusion be gone after the rest which have been so often repeated; by which, nothing else is proved, if any thing be proved at all, than that which the Diatribe denies-that "Free-will" can do all things.
The meaning of John is this.-That by the coming of Christ into the world by His Gospel, by which grace was offered, but not works required, a full opportunity was given to all men of becoming the sons of God, if they would believe. But as
to this willing and this believing on His name, as "Free-will" never knew it nor thought of it before, so much less could it then do it of its own power. For how could reason then think that faith in Jesus as the Son of God and man was necessary, when even at this day it could neither receive nor believe it, though the whole Creation should cry out together-there is a certain person who is both God and man! Nay it is rather offended at such a saying, as Paul affirms. (1 Cor. i. 17-31.) so far is it from possibility that it should either will it, or believe it.
John, therefore, is preaching, not the power of "Free-will," but the riches of the kingdom of God offered to the world by the Gospel; and signifying at the same time, how few there are who receive it; that is, from the enmity of the "Free-will" against it; the power of which is nothing else than this:-Satan reigning over it and causing it to reject grace, and the Spirit which fulfils the law. So excellently do its 'endeavour' and 'desire' avail unto the fulfilling of the law.