Sect. 93.-THIS, therefore, is not the place, this is not the time for adoring those Corycian caverns, but for adoring the true Majesty in its to-be-feared, wonderful, and incomprehensible judgments; and saying, "Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven." (Matt. vi. 10). Whereas, we are no where more irreverent and rash, than in trespassing and arguing upon these very inscrutable mysteries and judgments. And while we are pretending to a great reverence in searching the Holy Scriptures, those which God has commanded to be searched, we search not; but those which He has forbidden us to search into, those we search into and none other; and that with an unceasing temerity, not to say, blasphemy.
For is it not searching with temerity, when we attempt to make the all-free prescience of God to harmonize with our freedom, prepared to derogate prescience from God, rather than lose our own liberty? Is it not temerity, when He imposes necessity upon us, to say, with murmurings and blasphemies, "Why doth He yet find fault? for who hath resisted His will?" (Rom. ix. 19). Where is the God by nature most merciful? Where is He who "willeth not the death of a sinner?" Has He then created us for this purpose only, that He might delight Himself in the torments of men? And many things of the same kind, which will be howled forth by the damned in hell to all eternity.
But however, natural Reason herself is compelled to confess, that the living and true God must be such an one as, by His own liberty, to impose necessity on us. For He must be a ridiculous God, or idol rather, who did not, to a certainty, foreknow the future, or was liable to be deceived in events, when even the Gentiles ascribed to their gods 'fate inevitable." And He would be equally ridiculous, if He could not do and did not all things, or if any thing could be done without Him. If then the prescience and omnipotence of God be granted, it naturally follows, as an irrefragable consequence that we neither were made by ourselves, nor live by ourselves, nor do any thing by ourselves, but by His Omnipotence. And since He at the first foreknew that we should be such, and since He has made us such, and moves and rules over us as such, how, I ask, can it be pretended, that there is any liberty in us to do, in any respect, otherwise than He at first foreknew and now proceeds in action!
Wherefore, the prescience and Omnipotence of God, are diametrically opposite to our "Free-will." And it must be, that either God is deceived in His prescience and errs in His action, (which is impossible) or we act, and are acted upon, according to His prescience and action.-But by the Omnipotence of God, I mean, not that power by which He does not many things that He could do, but that actual power by which He powerfully works all in all, in which sense the Scripture calls Him Omnipotent. This Omnipotence and prescience of God, I say, utterly abolishes the doctrine of "Free-will." No pretext can here be framed about the obscurity of the Scripture, or the difficulty of the subject-point: the words are most clear, and known to every school-boy; and the point is plain and easy and stands proved by judgment of common sense; so that the series of ages, of times, or of persons, either writing or teaching to the contrary, be it as great as it may, amounts to nothing at all.
Sect. 94.-BUT it is this, that seems to give the greatest offence to common sense or natural reason,-that the God, who is set forth as being so full of mercy and goodness, should, of His mere will, leave men, harden them, and damn them, as though He delighted in the sins, and in the great and eternal torments of the miserable. To think thus of God, seems iniquitous, cruel, intolerable; and it is this that has given offence to so many and great men of so many ages.
And who would not be offended? I myself have been offended more than once, even unto the deepest abyss of desperation; nay, so far, as even to wish that I had never been born a man; that is, before I was brought to know how healthful that desperation was, and how near it was unto grace. Here it is, that there has been so much toiling and labouring, to excuse the goodness of God, and to accuse the will of man. Here it is, that distinctions have been invented between the ordinary will of God and the absolute will of God: between the necessity of the consequence, and the necessity of the thing consequent: and many other inventions of the same kind. By which, nothing has ever been effected but an imposition upon the un-learned, by vanities of words, and by "oppositions of science falsely so called." For after all, a conscious conviction has been left deeply rooted in the heart both of the learned and the unlearned, if ever they have come to an experience of these things; and a knowledge, that our necessity, is a consequence that must follow upon the belief of the prescience and Omnipotence of God.
And even natural Reason herself, who is so offended at this necessity, and who invents so many contrivances to take it out of the way, is compelled to grant it upon her own conviction from her own judgment, even though there were no Scripture at all. For all men find these sentiments written in their hearts, and they acknowledge and approve them (though against their will) whenever they hear them treated on.-First, that God is Omnipotent, not only in power but in action (as I said before): and that, if it were not so, He would be a ridiculous God.-And next, that He knows and foreknows all things, and neither can err nor be deceived. These two points then being granted by the hearts and minds of all, they are at once compelled, from an inevitable consequence, to admit,-that we are not made from our own will, but from necessity: and moreover, that we do not what we will according to the law of "Free-will," but as God foreknew and proceeds in action, according to His infallible and immutable counsel and power. Wherefore, it is found written alike in the hearts of all men, that there is no such thing as "Free-will"; though that writing be obscured by so many contending disputations, and by the great authority of so many men who have, through so many ages, taught otherwise. Even as every other law also, which, according to the testimony of Paul, is written in our hearts, is then acknowledged when it is rightly set forth, and then obscured, when it is confused by wicked teachers, and drawn aside by other opinions.
Sect. 95.-I NOW return to Paul. If he does not, Rom. ix., explain this point, nor clearly state our necessity from the prescience and will of God; what need was there for him to introduce the similitude of the "potter," who, of the "same lump" of clay, makes "one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour?" (Rom. ix. 21). What need was there for him to observe, that the thing formed does not say to him that formed it, "Why hast thou made me thus?" (20). He is there speaking of men; and he compares them to clay, and God to a potter. This similitude, therefore, stands coldly useless, nay, is introduced ridiculously and in vain, if it be not his sentiment, that we have no liberty whatever. Nay, the whole of the argument of Paul, wherein he defends grace, is in vain. For the design of the whole epistle is to shew, that we can do nothing, even when we seem to do well; as he in the same epistle testifies, where he says, that Israel which followed after righteousness, did not attain unto righteousness; but that the Gentiles which followed not after it did attain unto it. (Rom. ix. 30-31). Concerning which I shall speak more at large hereafter, when I produce my forces.
The fact is, the Diatribe designedly keeps back the body of Paul's argument and its scope, and comfortably satisfies itself with prating upon a few detached and corrupted terms. Nor does the exhortation which Paul afterwards gives, Rom. xi., at all help the Diatribe; where he saith, "Thou standest by faith, be not high-minded;" (20), again, "and they also, if they shall believe, shall be grafted in, &c. (23);" for he says nothing there about the ability of man, but brings forth imperative and conditional expressions; and what effect they are intended to produce, has been fully shewn already. Moreover, Paul, there anticipating the boasters of "Free-will," does not say, they can believe, but he saith, "God is able to graft them in again.." (23).
To be brief: The Diatribe moves along with so much hesitation, and so lingeringly, in handling these passages of Paul, that its conscience seems to give the lie to all that it writes. For just at the point where it ought to have gone on to the proof, it for the most part, stops short with a 'But of this enough;' 'But I shall not now proceed with this;' 'But this is not my present purpose;' 'But here they should have said so and so;' and many evasions of the same kind; and it leaves off the subject just in the middle; so that, you are left in uncertainty whether it wished to be understood as speaking on "Free-will," or whether it was only evading the sense of Paul by means of vanities of words. And all this is being just in its character, as not having a serious thought upon the cause in which it is engaged. But as for me I dare not be thus cold, thus always on the tip-toe of policy, or thus move to and fro as a reed shaken with the wind. I must assert with certainty, with constancy, and with ardour; and prove what I assert solidly, appropriately, and fully.
Sect. 96.-AND now, how excellently does the Diatribe preserve liberty in harmony with necessity, where it says-"Nor does all necessity exclude "Free-will." For instance: God the Father begets a son, of necessity; but yet, He begets him willingly and freely, seeing that, He is not forced."-
Am I here, I pray you, disputing about compulsion and force? Have I not said in all my books again and again, that my dispute, on this subject, is about the necessity of immutability? I know that the Father begets willingly, and that Judas willingly betrayed Christ. But I say, this willing, in the person of Judas, was decreed to take place from immutability and certainty, if God foreknew it. Or, if men do not yet understand what I mean,-I make two necessities: the one a necessity of force, in reference to the act; the other a necessity of immutability in reference to the time. Let him, therefore, who wishes to hear what I have to say, understand, that I here speak of the latter, not of the former: that is, I do not dispute whether Judas became a traitor willingly or unwillingly, but whether or not it was decreed to come to pass, that Judas should will to betray Christ at a certain time infallibly predetermined of God!
But only listen to what the Diatribe says upon this point-"With reference to the immutable prescience of God, Judas was of necessity to become a traitor; nevertheless, Judas had it in his power to change his own will."-
Dost thou understand, friend Diatribe, what thou sayest? (To say nothing of that which has been already proved, that the will cannot will any thing but evil.) How could Judas change his own will, if the immutable prescience of God stand granted! Could he change the prescience of God and render it fallible!
Here the Diatribe gives it up, and, leaving its standard, and throwing down its arms, runs from its post, and hands over the discussion to the subtleties of the schools concerning the necessity of the consequence and of the thing consequent: pretending-'that it does not wish to engage in the discussion of points so nice.'-
A step of policy truly, friend Diatribe!-When you have brought the subject-point into the midst of the field, and just when the champion-disputant was required, then you shew your back, and leave to others the business of answering and defining. But you should have taken this step at the first, and abstained from writing altogether. 'He who ne'er proved the training-field of arms, let him ne'er in the battle's brunt appear.' For it never was expected of Erasmus that he should remove that difficulty which lies in God's foreknowing all things, and our, nevertheless, doing all things by contingency: this difficulty existed in the world long before ever the Diatribe saw the light: but yet, it was expected that he should make some kind of answer, and give some kind of definition. Whereas he, by using a rhetorical transition, drags away us, knowing nothing of rhetoric, along with himself, as though we were here contending for a thing of nought, and were engaged in quibbling about insignificant niceties; and thus, nobly betakes himself out of the midst of the field, bearing the crowns both of the scholar and the conqueror.
But not so, brother! There is no rhetoric of sufficient force to cheat an honest conscience. The voice of conscience is proof against all powers and figures of eloquence. I cannot here suffer a rhetorician to pass on under the cloak of dissimulation. This is not a time for such maneuvering. This is that part of the discussion, where matters come to the turning point. Here is the hinge upon which the whole turns. Here, therefore, "Free-will" must be completely vanquished, or completely triumph. But here you, seeing your danger, nay, the certainty of the victory over "Free-will," pretend that you see nothing but argumentative niceties. Is this to act the part of a faithful theologian? Can you feel a serious interest in your cause, who thus leave your auditors in suspense, and your arguments in a state that confuses and exasperates them, while you, nevertheless, wish to appear to have given honest satisfaction and open explanation? This craft and cunning might, perhaps, be borne with in profane subjects, but in a theological subject, where simple and open truth is the object required, for the salvation of souls, it is utterly hateful and intolerable!
Sect. 97.-THE Sophists also felt the invincible and insupportable force of this argument, and therefore they invented the necessity of the consequence and of the thing consequent. But to what little purpose this figment is, I have shewn already. For they do not all the while observe, what they are saying, and what conclusions they are admitting against themselves. For if you grant the necessity of the consequence, "Free-will" lies vanquished and prostrate, nor does either the necessity, or the contingency of the thing consequent, profit it anything. What is it to me if "Free-will" be not compelled, but do what it does willingly? It is enough for me, that you grant, that it is of necessity, that it does willingly what it does; and that, it cannot do otherwise if God foreknew it would be so.
If God foreknew, either that Judas would be a traitor, or that he would change his willing to be a traitor, whichsoever of the two God foreknew, must, of necessity, take place, or God will be deceived in His prescience and prediction, which is impossible. This is the effect of the necessity of the consequence, that is, if God foreknows a thing, that thing must of necessity take place; that is, there is no such thing as "Free-will." This necessity of the consequence, therefore, is not 'obscure or ambiguous;' so that, even if the doctors of all ages were blinded, yet they must admit it, because it is so manifest and plain, as to be actually palpable. And as to the necessity of the thing consequent, with which they comfort themselves, that is a mere phantom, and is in diametrical opposition to the necessity of the consequence.
For example: The necessity of the consequence is, (so to set it forth,) God foreknows that Judas will be a traitor-therefore it will certainly and infallibly come to pass, that Judas shall be a traitor. Against this necessity of the consequence, you comfort yourself thus:-But since Judas can change his willing to betray, therefore, there is no necessity of the thing consequent. How, I ask you, will these two positions harmonize, Judas is able to will not to betray, and, Judas must of necessity will to betray? Do not these two directly contradict and militate against each other? But he will not be compelled, you say, to betray against his will. What is that to the purpose? You were speaking of the necessity of the thing consequent; and saying, that that need not, of necessity, follow, from the necessity of the consequence; you were not speaking of the compulsive necessity of the thing consequent. The question was, concerning the necessity of the thing consequent, and you produce an example concerning the compulsive necessity of the thing consequent. I ask one thing, and you answer another. But this arises from that yawning sleepiness, under which you do not observe, what nothingness that figment amounts to, concerning the necessity of the thing consequent.
Suffice it to have spoken thus to the former part of this SECOND PART, which has been concerning the hardening of Pharaoh, and which involves, indeed, all the Scriptures, and all our forces, and those invincible. Now let us proceed to the remaining part concerning Jacob and Esau, who are spoken of as being "not yet born." (Rom. ix. 11).
Sect. 98.-THIS place the Diatribe evades by saying-'that it does not properly pertain to the salvation of man. For God (it says) may will that a man shall be a servant, or a poor man; and yet, not reject him from eternal salvation.'-
Only observe, I pray you, how many evasions and ways of escape a slippery mind will invent, which would flee from the truth, and yet cannot get away from it after all. Be it so, that this passage does not pertain to the salvation of man, (to which point I shall speak hereafter), are we to suppose, then, that Paul who adduces it, does so, for no purpose whatever? Shall we make Paul to be ridiculous, or a vain trifler, in a discussion so serious?
But all this breathes nothing but Jerome, who dares to say, in more places than one, with a supercilious brow and a sacrilegious mouth, 'that those things are made to be of force in Paul, which, in their own places, are of no force.' This is no less than saying, that Paul, where he lays the foundation of the Christian doctrine, does nothing but corrupt the Holy Scriptures, and delude believing souls with sentiments hatched out of his own brain, and violently thrust into the Scriptures.-Is this honouring the Holy Spirit in Paul, that sanctified and elect instrument of God! Thus, when Jerome ought to be read with judgment, and this saying of his to be numbered among those many things which that man impiously wrote, (such was his yawning inconsiderateness, and his stupidity in understanding the Scriptures), the Diatribe drags him in without any judgment; and not thinking it right, that his authority should be lessened by any mitigating gloss whatever, takes him as a most certain oracle, whereby to judge of, and attemper the Scriptures. And thus it is; we take the impious sayings of men as rules and guides in the Holy Scripture, and then wonder that it should become 'obscure and ambiguous;' and that so many fathers should be blind in it; whereas, the whole proceeds from this impious and sacrilegious Reason.
Sect. 99.-LET him, then, be anathema who shall say, 'that those things which are of no force in their own places are made to be of force in Paul.' This, however, is only said, it is not proved. And it is said by those, who understand neither Paul, nor the passages adduced by him, but are deceived by terms; that is, by their own impious interpretations of them. And if it be allowed that this passage, Gen. xxv. 21-23 is to be understood in a temporal sense (which is not the true sense) yet it is rightly and effectually adduced by Paul, when he proves from it, that it was not of the "merits" of Jacob and Esau, "but of Him that calleth," that it was said unto Rebecca, "the elder shall serve the younger." (Rom. ix. 11-16).
Paul is argumentatively considering, whether or not they attained unto that which was said of them, by the power or merits of "Free-will"; and he proves, that they did not; but that Jacob attained unto that, unto which Esau attained not, solely by the grace "of Him that calleth." And he proves that, by the incontrovertible words of the Scripture: that is, that they were "not yet born:" and also, that they had "done neither good nor evil." This proof contains the weighty sum of his whole subject point: and by the same proof, our subject point is settled also.
The Diatribe, however, having dissemblingly passed over all these particulars, with an excellent rhetorical fetch, does not here argue at all upon merit, (which, nevertheless, it undertook to do, and which this subject point of Paul requires), but cavils about temporal bondage, as though that were at all to the purpose;-but it is merely that it might not seem to be overthrown by the all-forcible words of Paul. For what had it, which it could yelp against Paul in support of "Free-will"? What did "Free-will" do for Jacob, or what did it do against Esau, when it was already determined, by the prescience and predestination of God, before either of them was born, what should be the portion of each; that is, that the one should serve, and the other rule? Thus the rewards were decreed, before the workmen wrought, or were born. It is to this that the Diatribe ought to have answered. Paul contends for this:-that neither had done either good or evil: and yet, that by the divine sentence, the one was decreed to be servant, the other lord. The question here, is not, whether that servitude pertained unto salvation, but from what merit it was imposed on him who had not deserved it. But it is wearisome to contend with these depraved attempts to pervert and evade the Scripture.
Sect. 100.-BUT however, that Moses does not intend their servitude only, and that Paul is perfectly right, in understanding it concerning eternal salvation, is manifest from the text itself. And although this is somewhat wide of our present purpose, yet I will not suffer Paul to be contaminated with the calumnies of the sacrilegious. The oracle in Moses is thus-"Two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels, and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger." (Gen. xxv. 23).
Here, manifestly, are two people distinctly mentioned. The one, though the younger, is received into the grace of God; to the intent that, he might overcome the other; not by his own strength, indeed, but by a favouring God: for how could the younger overcome the elder unless God were with him!
Since, therefore, the younger was to be the people of God, it is not only the external rule or servitude which is there spoken of, but all that pertains to the spirit of God; that is, the blessing, the word, the Spirit, the promise of Christ, and the everlasting kingdom. And this the Scripture more fully confirms afterwards, where it describes Jacob as being blessed, and receiving the promises and the kingdom.
All this Paul briefly intimates, where he saith, "The elder shall serve the younger:" and he sends us to Moses, who treats upon the particulars more fully. So that you may say, in reply to the sacrilegious sentiment of Jerome and the Diatribe, that these passages which Paul adduces have more force in their own place than they have in his Epistle. And this is true also, not of Paul only, but of all the Apostles; who adduce Scriptures as testimonies and assertions of their own sentiments. But it would be ridiculous to adduce that as a testimony, which testifies nothing, and does not make at all to the purpose. And even if there were some among the philosophers so ridiculous as to prove that which was unknown, by that which was less known still, or by that which was totally irrelevant to the subject, with what face can we attribute such kind of proceeding to the greatest champions and authors of the Christian doctrines, especially, since they teach those things which are the essential articles of faith, and on which the salvation of souls depends? But such a face becomes those who, in the Holy Scriptures, feel no serious interest whatever.
Sect. 101.-AND with respect to that of Malachi which Paul annexes, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated;" (Mal. i. 2-3). that, the Diatribe perverts by a threefold contrivance. The first is - "If (it says) you stick to the letter, God does not love as we love, nor does He hate any one: because, passions of this kind do not pertain unto God."-
What do I hear! Are we now inquiring whether or not God loves and hates, and not rather why He loves and hates? Our inquiry is, from what merit it is in us that He loves or hates. We know well enough, that God does not love or hate as we do; because, we love and hate mutably, but He loves and hates from an eternal and immutable nature; and hence it is, that accidents and passions do not pertain unto Him.
And it is this very state of the truth, that of necessity proves "Free-will" to be nothing at all; seeing that, the love and hatred of God towards men is immutable and eternal; existing, not only before there was any merit or work of "Free-will," but before the worlds were made; and that, all things take place in us from necessity, accordingly as He loved or loved not from all eternity. So that, not the love of God only, but even the manner of His love imposes on us necessity. Here then it may be seen, how much its invented ways of escape profit the Diatribe; for the more it attempts to get away from the truth, the more it runs upon it; with so little success does it fight against it!
But be it so, that your trope stands good-that the love of God is the effect of love, and the hatred of God the effect of hatred. Does, then, that effect take place without, and independent of, the will of God? Will you here say also, that God does not will as we do, and that the passion of willing does not pertain to Him? If then those effects take place, they do not take place but according to the will of God. Hence, therefore, what God wills, that He loves and hates. Now then, tell me, for what merit did God love Jacob or hate Esau, before they wrought, or were born? Wherefore it stands manifest, that Paul most rightly adduces Malachi in support of the passage from Moses: that is, that God therefore called Jacob before he was born, because He loved him; but that He was not first loved by Jacob, nor moved to love him from any merit in him. So that, in the cases of Jacob and Esau, it is shewn-what ability there is in our "Free-will"!
Sect. 102.-THE second contrivance is this: -'that Malachi does not seem to speak of that hatred by which we are damned to all eternity, but of temporal affliction: seeing that, those are reproved who wished to destroy Edom.'-
This, again, is advanced in contempt of Paul, as though he had done violence to the Scriptures. Thus, we hold in no reverence whatever, the majesty of the Holy Spirit, and only aim at establishing our own sentiments. But let us bear with this contempt for a moment, and see what it effects. Malachi, then, speaks of temporal affliction. And what if he do? What is that to your purpose? Paul proves out of Malachi, that that affliction was laid on Esau without any desert, by the hatred of God only: and this he does, that he might thence conclude, that there is no such thing as "Free-will." This is the point that makes against you, and it is to this you ought to have answered. I am arguing about merit, and you are all the while talking about reward; and yet, you so talk about it, as not to evade that which you wish to evade; nay, in your very talking about reward, you acknowledge merit; and yet, pretend you do not see it. Tell me, then, what moved God to love Jacob, and to hate Esau, even before they were born?
But however, the assertion, that Malachi is speaking of temporal affliction only, is false: nor is he speaking of the destroying of Edom: you entirely pervert the sense of the prophet by this contrivance. The prophet shews what he means, in words the most clear.-He upbraids the Israelites with ingratitude: because, after God had loved them, they did not, in return, either love Him as their Father, or fear Him as their Lord. (Mai. i. 6.).
That God had loved them, he proves, both by the Scriptures, and by facts: viz. in this:-that although Jacob and Esau were brothers, as Moses records Gen. xxv. 21-28, yet He loved Jacob and chose him before he was born, as we have heard from Paul already; but that, He so hated Esau, that He removed away his dwelling into the desert; that moreover, he so continued and pursued that hatred, that when He brought back Jacob from captivity and restored him, He would not suffer the Edomites to be restored; and that, even if they at any time said they wished to build, He threatened them with destruction. If this be not the plain meaning of the prophet's text, let the whole world prove me a liar.-Therefore the temerity of the Edomites is not here reproved, but, as I said before, the ingratitude of the sons of Jacob; who do not see what God has done, for them, and against their brethren the Edomites; and for no other reason, than because, He hated the one, and loved the other.
How then will your assertion stand good, that the prophet is here speaking of temporal affliction, when he testifies, in the plainest words, that he is speaking of the two people as proceeding from the two patriarchs, the one received to be a people and saved, and the other left and at last destroyed? To be received as a people, and not to be received as a people, does not pertain to temporal good and evil only, but unto all things. For our God is not the God of temporal things only, but of all things. Nor does God will to be thy God so as to be worshipped with one shoulder, or with a lame foot, but with all thy might, and with all thy heart, that He may be thy God as well here, as hereafter, in all things, times, and works.
Sect. 103.-THE third contrivance is-'that, according to the trope interpretation of the passage, God neither loves all the Gentiles, nor hates all the Jews; but, out of each people, some. And that, by this use of the trope, the Scripture testimony in question, does not at all go to prove necessity, but to beat down the arrogance of the Jews.'-The Diatribe having opened this way of escape, then comes to this-'that God is said to hate men before they are born, because, He foreknows that they will do that which will merit hatred: and that thus, the hatred and love of God do not at all militate against "Free-will"'-And at last, it draws this conclusion-'that the Jews were cut off from the olive tree on account of the merit of unbelief, and the Gentiles grafted in on account of the merit of faith, according to the authority of Paul; and that, a trope is held out to those who are cut off, of being grafted in again, and a warning given to those who are grafted in, that they fall not off.'-
May I perish if the Diatribe itself knows what it is talking about. But, perhaps, this is also a rhetorical fetch; which teaches you, when any danger seems to be at hand, always to render your sense obscure, lest you should be taken in your own words. I, for my part, can see no place whatever in this passage for those trope-interpretations, of which the Diatribe dreams, but which it cannot establish by proof. Therefore, it is no wonder that this testimony does not make against it, in the trope-interpreted sense, because, it has no such sense.
Moreover, we are not disputing about cutting off and grafting in, of which Paul here speaks in his exhortations. I know that men are grafted in by faith, and cut off by unbelief; and that they are to be exhorted to believe that they be not cut off. But it does not follow, nor is it proved from this, that they can believe or fall away by the power of "Free-will," which is now the point in question. We are not disputing about, who are the believing and who are not; who are Jews and who are Gentiles; and what is the consequence of believing and falling away; that pertains unto exhortation. Our point in dispute is, by what merit or work they attain unto that faith by which they are grafted in, or unto that unbelief by which they are cut off. This is the point that belongs to you as the teacher of "Free-will." And pray, describe to me this merit.
Paul teaches us, that this comes to them by no work of theirs, but only according to the love or the hatred of God: and when it is come to them, he exhorts them to persevere, that they be not cut off. But this exhortation does not prove what we can do, but what we ought to do.
I am compelled thus to hedge in my adversary with many words, lest he should slip away from, and leave the subject point, and take up any thing but that: and in fact, to hold him thus to the point, is to vanquish him. For all that he aims at, is to slide away from the point, withdraw himself out of sight, and take up any thing but that, which he first laid down as his subject design.
Sect. 104.-THE next passage which the Diatribe takes up is that of Isaiah xlv. 9, "Shall the clay say to Him that fashioneth it, what makest Thou?" And that of Jeremiah xviii. 6, "Behold as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in Mine hand." Here the Diatribe says again-"these passages are made to have more force in Paul, than they have in the places of the prophets from which they are taken; because, in the prophets they speak of temporal affliction, but Paul uses them, with reference to eternal election and reprobation."-So that, here again, temerity or ignorance in Paul, is insinuated.
But before we see how the Diatribe proves, that neither of these passages excludes "Free-will," I will make this remark:-that Paul does not appear to have taken this passage out of the Scriptures, nor does the Diatribe prove that he has. For Paul usually mentions the name of his author, or declares that he has taken a certain part from the Scriptures; whereas, here, he does neither. It is most probable, therefore, that Paul uses this general similitude according to his spirit in support of his own cause, as others have used it in support of theirs. It is in the same way that he uses this similitude. "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump'" which, 1 Cor. v. 6, he uses to represent corrupt morals: and applies it in another place (Gal. v. 9) to those who corrupt the Word of God: so Christ also speaks of the "leaven of Herod" and "of the Pharisees." (Mark viii. 15; Matt. xvi. 6).
Supposing, therefore, that the prophets use this similitude, when speaking more particularly of temporal punishment; (upon which I shall not now dwell, lest I should be too much occupied about irrelevant questions, and kept away from the subject point,) yet Paul uses it, in his spirit, against "Free-will." And as to saying that the liberty of the will is not destroyed by our being as clay in the hand of an afflicting God, I know not what it means, nor why the Diatribe contends for such a point: for, without doubt, afflictions come upon us from God against our will, and impose upon us the necessity of bearing them, whether we will or no: nor is it in our power to avert them: though we are exhorted to bear them with a willing mind.
Sect. 105.-BUT it is worth while to hear the Diatribe make out, how it is that the argument of Paul does not exclude "Free-will" by that similitude: for it brings forward two absurd objections: the one taken from the Scriptures, the other from Reason. From the Scriptures it collects this objection.
-When Paul, 2 Tim. ii. 20, had said, that "in a great house there are vessels of gold and silver, wood and earth, some to honour and some to dishonour," he immediately adds, "If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, &c." (21.)-Then the Diatribe goes on to argue thus:-"What could be more ridiculous than for any one to say to an earthen chamber-convenience, If thou shalt purify thyself, thou shalt be a vessel unto honour? But this would be rightly said to a rational earthen vessel, which can, when admonished, form itself according to the will of the Lord."-By these observations it means to say, that the similitude is not in all respects applicable, and is so mistaken, that it effects nothing at all.
I answer: (not to cavil upon this point:)-that Paul does not say, if any one shall purify himself from his own filth, but "from these;" that is, from the vessels unto dishonour: so that the sense is, if any one shall remain separate, and shall not mingle himself with wicked teachers, he shall be a vessel unto honour. Let us grant also that this passage of Paul makes for the Diatribe just as it wishes: that is, that the similitude is not effective. But how will it prove, that Paul is here speaking on the same subject as he is in Rom. ix. 11-23, which is the passage in dispute? Is it enough to cite a different passage without at all regarding whether it have the same or a different tendency? There is not (as I have often shewn) a more easy or more frequent fall in the Scriptures, than the bringing together different Scripture passages as being of the same meaning. Hence, the similitude in those passages, of which the Diatribe boasts, makes less to its purpose than our similitude which it would refute.
But (not to be contentious), let us grant, that each passage of Paul is of the same tendency; and that a similitude does not always apply in all respects; (which is without controversy true; for otherwise, it would not be a similitude, nor a translation, but the thing itself; according to the proverb, 'A similitude halts, and does not always go upon four feet;') yet the Diatribe errs and transgresses in this:-neglecting the scope of the similitude, which is to be most particularly observed, it contentiously catches at certain words of it: whereas, 'the knowledge of what is said, (as Hilary observes,) is to be gained from the scope of what is said, not from certain detached words only.' Thus, the efficacy of a similitude depends upon the cause of the similitude. Why then does the Diatribe disregard that, for the purpose of which Paul uses this similitude, and catch at that, which he says is unconnected with the purport of the similitude? That is to say, it is an exhortation where he saith, "If a man purge himself from these;" but a point of doctrine where he saith, "In a great house, there are vessels of gold, &c." So that, from all the circumstances of the words and mind of Paul, you may understand that he is establishing the doctrine concerning the diversity and use of vessels.
The sense, therefore, is this:-seeing that so many depart from the faith, there is no comfort for us but the being certain that "the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His. And let every one that calleth upon the name of the Lord depart from evil." (2 Tim. ii. 19). This then is the cause and efficacy of the similitude-that God knows His own! Then follows the similitude-that there are different vessels, some to honour and some to dishonour. By this it is proved at once, that the vessels do not prepare themselves, but that the Master prepares them. And this is what Paul means, where he saith, "Hath not the potter power over the clay, &c." (Rom. ix. 21). Thus, the similitude of Paul stands most effective: and that to prove, that there is no such thing as "Free-will" in the sight of God.
After this, follows the exhortation: "If a man purify himself from these," &c. and for what purpose this is, may be clearly collected from what we have said already. It does not follow from this, that the man can purify himself. Nay, if any thing be proved hereby it is this:-that "Free-will" can purify itself without grace. For he does not say, if grace purify a man; but, "if a man purify himself." But concerning imperative and conditional passages, we have said enough. Moreover, the similitude is not set forth in conditional, but in indicative verbs-that the elect and the reprobate, are as vessels of honour and of dishonour. In a word, if this fetch stand good, the whole argument of Paul comes to nothing. For in vain does he introduce vessels murmuring against God as the potter, if the fault plainly appear to be in the vessel, and not in the potter. For who would murmur at hearing him damned, who merited damnation!
Sect. 106.-THE other absurd objection, the Diatribe gathers from Madam Reason; who is called, Human Reason-that the fault is not to be laid on the vessel, but on the potter: especially, since He is such a potter, who creates the clay as well as attempers it.-"Whereas, (says the Diatribe) here the vessel is cast into eternal fire, which merited nothing: except that it had no power of its own."-
In no one place does the Diatribe more openly betray itself, than in this. For it is here heard to say, in other words indeed, but in the same meaning, that which Paul makes the impious to say, "Why doth He yet complain? for who hath resisted His will?" (Rom. ix. 19). This is that which Reason cannot receive, and cannot bear. This is that, which has offended so many men renowned for talent, who have been received through so many ages. Here they require, that God should act according to human laws, and do what seems right unto men, or cease to be God! 'His secrets of Majesty, say they, do not better His character in our estimation. Let Him render a reason why He is God, or why He wills and does that, which has no appearance of justice in it. It is as if one should ask a cobbler or a collar-maker to take the seat of judgment.'
Thus, flesh does not think God worthy of so great glory, that it should believe Him to be just and good, while He says and does those things which are above that, which the volume of Justin and the fifth book of Aristotle's Ethics, have defined to be justice. That Majesty which is the Creating Cause of all things, must bow to one of the dregs of His creation: and that Corycian cavern must, vice versa, fear its spectators. It is absurd that He should condemn him; who cannot avoid the merit of damnation. And, on account of this absurdity, it must be false, that "God has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and hardens whom He will." (Rom. ix. 18). He must be brought to order. He must have certain laws prescribed to Him, that he damn not any one but him, who, according to our judgment, deserves to be damned.
And thus, an effectual answer is given to Paul and his similitude. He must recall it, and allow it to be utterly ineffective: and must so attemper it, that this potter (according to the Diatribe's interpretation) make the vessel to dishonour from merit preceding:in the same manner in which He rejected some Jews on account of unbelief, and received Gentiles on account of faith. But if God work thus, and have respect unto merit, why do those impious ones murmur and expostulate? Why do they say, "Why doth He find fault? for who hath resisted His will?" (Rom. ix. 19). And what need was there for Paul to restrain them? For who wonders even, much less is indignant and expostulates, when any one is damned who merited damnation? Moreover where remains the power of the potter to make what vessel He will, if, being subject to merit and laws, He is not permitted to make what He will, but is required to make what He ought? The respect of merit militates against the power and liberty of making what He will: as is proved by that "good man of the house," who, when the workmen murmured and expostulated concerning their right, objected in answer, "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?"-These are the arguments, which will not permit the gloss of the Diatribe to be of any avail.
Sect. 107.-BUT let us, I pray you, suppose that God ought to be such an one, who should have respect unto merit in those who are to be damned. Must we not, in like manner; also require and grant, that He ought to have respect unto merit in those who are to be saved? For if we are to follow Reason, it is equally unjust, that the undeserving should be crowned, as that the undeserving should be damned. We will conclude, therefore, that God ought to justify from merit preceding, or we will declare Him to be unjust, as being one who delights in evil and wicked men, and who invites and crowns their impiety by rewards.-And then, woe unto you, sensibly miserable sinners, under that God! For who among you can be saved!
Behold, therefore, the iniquity of the human heart! When God saves the undeserving without merit, nay, justifies the impious with all their demerit, it does not accuse Him of iniquity, it does not expostulate with Him why He does it, although it is, in its own judgment, most iniquitous; but because it is to its own profit, and plausible, it considers it just and good. But when He damns the undeserving, this, because it is not to its own profit, is iniquitous; this is intolerable; here it expostulates, here it murmurs, here it blasphemes!
You see, therefore, that the Diatribe, together with its friends, do not, in this cause, judge according to equity, but according to the feeling sense of their own profit. For, if they regarded equity, they would expostulate with God when He crowned the undeserving, as they expostulate with Him when He damns the undeserving. And also, they would equally praise and proclaim God when He damns the undeserving, as they do when He saves the undeserving; for the iniquity in either instance is the same, if our own opinion be regarded:-unless they mean to say, that the iniquity is not equal, whether you laud Cain for his fratricide and make him a king, or cast the innocent Abel into prison and murder him! [See Note <l >]
Since, therefore, Reason praises God when He saves the undeserving, but accuses Him when He damns the undeserving; it stands convicted of not praising God as God, but as a certain one who serves its own profit; that is, it seeks, in God, itself and the things of itself, but seeks not God and the things of God. But if it be pleased with a God who crowns the undeserving, it ought not to be displeased with a God who damns the undeserving. For if He be just in the one instance, how shall He not be just in the other? seeing that, in the one instance, He pours forth grace and mercy upon the undeserving, and in the other, pours forth wrath and severity upon the undeserving?-He is, however, in both instances, monstrous and iniquitous in the sight of men; yet just and true in Himself. But, how it is just, that He should crown the undeserving, is incomprehensible now, but we shall see when we come there, where it will be no longer believed, but seen in revelation face to face. So also, how it is just, that He should damn the undeserving, is incomprehensible now, yet, we believe it, until the Son of Man shall be revealed!
Sect. 108.-THE Diatribe, however, being itself bitterly offended at this similitude of the "potter' and the "clay," is not a little indignant, that it should be so pestered with it. And at last it comes to this. Having collected together different passages of Scripture, some of which seem to attribute all to man, and others all to grace, it angrily contends-'that the Scriptures on both sides should be understood according to a sound interpretation, and not received simply as they stand: and that, otherwise, if we still so press upon it that similitude, it is prepared to press upon us, in retaliation, those subjunctive and conditional passages; and especially, that of Paul, "If a man purify himself from these." This passage (it says) makes Paul to contradict himself, and to attribute all to man, unless a sound interpretation be brought in to make it clear. And if an interpretation be admitted here, in order to clear up the cause of grace, why should not an interpretation be admitted in the similitude of the potter also, to clear up the cause of "Free-will?"-
I answer: It matters not with me, whether you receive the passages in a simple sense, a twofold sense, or a hundred-fold sense. What I say is this: that by this sound interpretation of yours, nothing that you desire is either effected or proved. For that which is required to be proved, according to your design is, that "Free-will" cannot will good. Whereas, by this passage, "If a man purify himself from these," as it is a conditional sentence, neither any thing nor nothing is proved, for it is only an exhortation of Paul. Or, if you add the conclusion of the Diatribe, and say, 'the exhortation is in vain, if a man cannot purify himself;' then it proves, that "Free-will" can do all things without grace. And thus the Diatribe explodes itself.
We are waiting, therefore, for some passage of the Scripture, to shew us that this interpretation is right; we give no credit to those who hatch it out of their own brain. For, we deny, that any passage can be found which attributes all to man. We deny that Paul contradicts himself, where he says, "If a man shall purify himself from these." And we aver, that both the contradiction and the interpretation which exhorts it, are fictions; that they are both thought of, but neither of them proved. This, indeed, we confess, that, if we were permitted to augment the Scriptures by the conclusions and additions of the Diatribe, and to say, 'if we are not able to perform the things which are commanded, the precepts are given in vain;' then, in truth, Paul would militate against himself, as would the whole Scripture also: for then, the Scripture would be different from what it was before, and would prove that "Free-will" can do all things. What wonder, however, if he should then contradict himself again, where he saith, in another place, that "God worketh all in all!" (1 Cor. xii. 6).
But, however, the Scripture in question, thus augmented, makes not only against us, but against the Diatribe itself, which defined "Free-will" to be that, 'which cannot will any thing good.' Let, therefore, the Diatribe clear itself first, and say, how these two assertions agree with Paul:-'Free-will cannot will any thing good,' and also, 'If a man purify himself from these: therefore, man can purify himself, or it is said in vain.'-You see, therefore, that the Diatribe, being entangled and overcome by that similitude of the potter, only aims at evading it; not at all considering in the meantime, how its interpretation militates against its subject point, and how it is refuting and laughing at itself.
Sect. 109.-BUT as to myself, as I said before, I never aimed at any kind of invented interpretation. Nor did I ever speak thus: 'Stretch forth thine hand; that is, grace shall stretch it forth.' All these things, are the Diatribe's own inventions Concerning me, to the furtherance of its own cause. What I said was this:-that there is no contradiction in the words of the Scripture, nor any need of an invented interpretation to clear up a difficulty. But that the assertors of "Free-will" willfully stumbled upon plain ground, and dream of contradictions where there are none.
For example: There is no contradiction in these Scriptures, "If a man purify himself," and, "God worketh all in all." Nor is it necessary to say, in order to explain this difficulty, God does something and man does something. Because, the former Scripture is conditional, which neither affirms or denies any work or power in man, but simply shews what work or power there ought to be in man. There is nothing figurative here; nothing that requires an invented interpretation; the words are plain, the sense is plain; that is, if you do not add conclusions and corruptions, after the manner of the Diatribe: for then, the sense would not be plain: not, however, by its own fault, but by the fault of the corruptor.
But the latter Scripture, "God worketh all in all," (1 Cor. xii. 6), is an indicative passage; declaring, that all works and all power are of God. How then do these two passages, the one of which says nothing of the power of man, and the other of which attributes all to God, contradict each other, and not rather sweetly harmonize. But the Diatribe is so drowned, suffocated in, and corrupted with, that sense of the carnal interpretation, 'that impossibilities are commanded in vain,' that it has no power over itself; but as soon as it hears an imperative or conditional word, it immediately tacks to it its indicative conclusions:-a certain thing is commanded: therefore, we are able to do it, and do do it, or the command is ridiculous.
On this side it bursts forth and boasts of its complete victory: as though it held it as a settled point, that these conclusions, as soon as hatched in thought, were established as firmly as the Divine Authority. And hence, it pronounces with all confidence, that in some places of the Scripture all is attributed to man: and that, therefore, there is a contradiction that requires interpretation. But it does not see, that all this is the figment of its own brain, no where confirmed by one iota of Scripture. And not only so, but that it is of such a nature, that if it were admitted, it would confute no one more directly than itself: because, if it proved any thing, it would prove that "Free-will" can do all things: whereas, it undertook to prove the directly contrary.
Sect. 110.-IN the same way also it so continually repeats this:-"If man do nothing, there is no place for merit, and where there is no place for merit, there can be no place either for punishment or for reward."-
Here again, it does not see, that by these carnal arguments, it refutes itself more directly than it refutes us. For what do these conclusions prove, but that all merit is in the power of "Free-will?" And then, where is any room for grace? Moreover, supposing "Free-will" to merit a certain little, and grace the rest, why does "Free-will" receive the whole reward? Or, shall we suppose it to receive but a certain small portion of reward? Then, if there be a place for merit, in order that there might be a place for reward, the merit must be as great as the reward.
But why do I thus lose both words and time upon a thing of nought? For, even supposing the whole were established at which the Diatribe is aiming, and that merit is partly the work of man, and partly the work of God; yet it cannot define that work itself, what it is, of what kind it is, or how far it is to extend; therefore, its disputation is about nothing at all. Since, therefore, it cannot prove any one thing which it asserts, nor establish its interpretation nor contradiction, nor bring forward a passage that attributes all to man; and since all are the phantoms of its own cogitation, Paul's similitude of the "potter" and the "clay," stands unshaken and invincible-that it is not according to our "Free-will," what kind of vessels we are made. And as to the exhortations of Paul, "If a man purify himself from these," and the like, they are certain models, according to which, we ought to be formed; but they are not proofs of our working power, or of our desire. Suffice it to have spoken thus upon these points, the HARDENING OF PHARAOH, the CASE OF ESAU, and the SIMILITUDE OF THE POTTER.
Sect. 111.-THE Diatribe at length comes to THE PASSAGES CITED BY LUTHER AGAINST "FREE-WILL," WITH THE INTENT TO REFUTE THEM.
The first passage, is that of Gen. vi. 3, "My Spirit shall not always remain in man; seeing that he is flesh." This passage it confutes, variously. First, it says, 'that flesh, here, does not signify vile affection, but infirmity.' Then it augments the text of Moses, 'that this saying of his, refers to the men of that age, and not to the whole race of men: as if he had said, in these men.' And moreover, 'that it does not refer to all the men, even of that age; because, Noah was excepted,' And at last it says, 'that this word has, in the Hebrew, another signification; that it signifies the mercy, and not the severity, of God; according to the authority of Jerome.' By this it would, perhaps, persuade us, that since that saying did not apply to Noah but to the wicked, it was not the mercy, but the severity of God that was shewn to Noah, and the mercy, not the severity of God that was shewn to the wicked.
But let us away with these ridiculing vanities of the Diatribe: for there is nothing which it advances, which does not evince that it looks upon the Scriptures as mere fables. What Jerome here triflingly talks about, is nothing at all to me; for it is certain that he cannot prove any thing that he says. Nor is our dispute concerning the sense of Jerome, but concerning the sense of the Scripture. Let that perverter of the Scriptures attempt to make it appear, that the Spirit of God signifies indignation.-I say, that he is deficient in both parts of the necessary two-fold proof. First, he cannot produce one passage of the Scripture, in which the Spirit of God is understood as signifying indignation: for, on the contrary, kindness and sweetness are every where ascribed to the Spirit. And next, if he should prove that it is understood in any place as signifying indignation, yet, he cannot easily prove, that it follows of necessity, that it is so to be received in this place.
So also, let him attempt to make it appear, that "flesh," is here to be understood as signifying infirmity; yet, he is as deficient as ever in proof. For where Paul calls the Corinthians "carnal," he does not signify infirmity, but corrupt affection, because, he charges them with "strife and divisions;' which is not infirmity, or incapacity to receive "stronger" doctrine, but malice and that "old leaven," which he commands them to "purge out." (1 Cor. iii. 3; v. 7.) But let us examine the Hebrew.
Sect. 112.-"MY Spirit shall not always judge in man; for he is flesh." These are, verbatim, the words of Moses: and if we would away with our own dreams, the words as they there stand, are, I think, sufficiently plain and clear. And that they are the words of an angry God, is fully manifest, both from what precedes, and from what follows, together with the effect-the flood! The cause of their being spoken, was, the sons of men taking unto them wives from the mere lust of the flesh, and then, so filling the earth with violence, as to cause God to hasten the flood, and scarcely to delay that for "an hundred and twenty years," (Gen. vi. 1-3,) which, but for them, He would never have brought upon the earth at all. Read and study Moses, and you will plainly see that this is his meaning.
But it is no wonder that the Scriptures should be obscure, or that you should be enabled to establish from them, not only a free, but a divine will, where you are allowed so to trifle with them, as to seek to make out of them a Virgilian patch-work. And this is what you call, clearing up difficulties, and putting an end to all dispute by means of an interpretation! But it is with these trifling vanities that Jerome and Origen have filled the world: and have been the original cause of that pestilent practice-the not attending to the simplicity of the Scriptures.
It is enough for me to prove, that in this passage, the divine authority calls men "flesh;" and flesh, in that sense, that the Spirit of God could not continue among them, but was, at a decreed time, to be taken from them. And what God meant when He declared that His Spirit should not "always judge among men," is explained immediately afterwards, where He determines "an hundred and twenty years" as the time that He would still continue to judge.
Here He contrasts "spirit" with "flesh:" shewing that men being flesh, receive not the Spirit: and He, as being a Spirit, cannot approve of flesh: 'wherefore it is, that the Spirit, after "an hundred and twenty years," is to be withdrawn. Hence you may understand the passage of Moses thus-My Spirit, which is in Noah and in the other holy men, rebukes those impious ones, by the word of their preaching, and by their holy lives, (for to "judge among men," is to act among them in the office of the word; to reprove, to rebuke, to beseech them, opportunely and importunely,) but in vain: for they, being blinded and hardened by the flesh, only become the worse the more they are judged.-And so it ever is, that wherever the Word of God comes forth in the world, these men become the worse, the more they hear of it. And this is the reason why wrath is hastened, even as the flood was hastened at that time: because, they now, not only sin, but even despise grace: as Christ saith, "Light is come into the world, and men hate the light." (John iii. 19.)
Since, therefore, men, according to the testimony of God Himself, are "flesh," they can savour of nothing but flesh; so far is it from possibility that "Free-will" should do any thing but sin. And if, even while the Spirit of God is among them calling and teaching, they only become worse, what will they do when left to themselves without the Spirit of God!
Sect. 113.-NOR is it at all to the purpose, your saying,-'that Moses is speaking with reference to the men of that age'-for the same applies unto all men; because, all are flesh; as Christ saith, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." (John iii. 6.) And how deep a corruption that is, He Himself shews in the same chapter, where He saith, "Except a man be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." Let, therefore, the Christian know, that Origen and Jerome, together with all their train, perniciously err, when they say, that "flesh" ought not, in these passages, to be understood as meaning 'corrupt affection:' because, that of 1 Cor. iii. 3, "For ye are yet carnal," signifies ungodliness. For Paul means, that there are some among them still ungodly: and moreover, that even the saints, in as far as they savour of carnal things, are "carnal," though justified by the Spirit.
In a word; you may take this as a general observation upon the Scriptures.-Wherever mention is made of "flesh" in contradistinction to "spirit," you may there, by "flesh," understand every thing that is contrary to spirit: as in this passage, "The flesh profiteth nothing.&qu