Sect. 114.-ANOTHER passage is that of Gen. viii. 21, "The thought and imagination of man's heart, is evil from his youth." And that also Gen. vi. 5, "Every imagination of man's heart is only evil continually." These passages it evades thus:-"The proneness to evil which is in most men, does not, wholly, take away the freedom of the will."-
Does God, I pray you, here speak of 'most men,' and not rather of all men, when, after the flood, as it were repenting, He promises to those who were then remaining, and to those who were to come, that He would no more bring a flood upon the earth "for man's sake:" assigning this as the reason:-because man is prone to evil! As though He had said, If I should act according to the wickedness of man, I should never cease from bringing a flood. Wherefore, henceforth, I will not act according to that which he deserves, &c. You see, therefore, that God, both before and after the flood, declares that man is evil: so that what the Diatribe says about 'most men,' amounts to nothing at all.
Moreover, a proneness or inclination to evil, appears to the Diatribe, to be a matter of little moment; as though it were in our own power to keep ourselves upright, or to restrain it: whereas the Scripture, by that proneness, signifies the continual bent and impetus of the will, to evil. Why does not the Diatribe here appeal to the Hebrew? Moses says nothing there about proneness. But, that you may have no room for cavillation, the Hebrew, (Gen. vi. 5), runs thus:-"CHOL IETZER MAHESCHEBOTH LIBBO RAK RA CHOL HAIOM:" that is, "Every imagination of the thought of the heart is only evil all days." He does not say, that he is intent or prone to evil; but that, evil altogether, and nothing but evil, is thought or imagined by man throughout his whole life. The nature of his evil is described to be that, which neither does nor can do any thing but evil, as being evil itself: for, according to the testimony of Christ, an evil tree can bring forth none other than evil fruit. (Matt. vii. 17-18).
And as to the Diatribe's pertly objecting-"Why was time given for repentance, then, if no part of repentance depend on Free-will, and all things be conducted according to the law of necessity."-
I answer: You may make the same objection to all the precepts of God; and say, Why does He command at all, if all things take place of necessity? He commands, in order to instruct and admonish, that men, being humbled under the knowledge of their evil, might come to grace, as I have fully shewn already.-This passage, therefore, still remains invincible against the freedom of the will!
Sect. 115.-THE third passage is that in Isaiah xl. 2.-"She hath received at the Lord's hand double for all her sins."-"Jerome (says the Diatribe) interprets this concerning the divine vengeance, not concerning His grace given in return for evil deeds."-
I hear you.-Jerome says so: therefore, it is true!-I am disputing about Isaiah, who here speaks in the clearest words, and Jerome is cast in my teeth; a man, (to say no worse of him) of neither judgment nor application. Where now is that promise of ours, by which we agreed at the outset, 'that we would go according to the Scriptures, and not according to the commentaries of men?' The whole of this chapter of Isaiah, according to the testimony of the evangelists, where they mention it as referring to John the Baptist, "the voice of one crying," speaks of the remission of sins proclaimed by the Gospel. But we will allow Jerome, after his manner, to thrust in the blindness of the Jews for an historical sense, and his own trifling vanities for an allegory; and, turning all grammar upside down, we will understand this passage as speaking of vengeance, which speaks of the remission of sins.-But, I pray you, what vengeance is fulfilled in the preaching of Christ? Let us, however, see how the words run in the Hebrew.
"Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, (in the vocative) or, My people (in the objective) saith your God."-He, I presume, who commands to "comfort," is not executing vengeance! It then follows.
"Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem, and cry unto her." (Isa. xl. 1-2).-"Speak ye to the heart" is a Hebraism, and signifies to speak good things, sweet things, and alluring things. Thus, Shechem, Gen. xxxiv. 3, speaks to the heart of Dinah, whom he defiled: that is, when she was heavy-hearted, he comforted her with tender words, as our translator has rendered it. And what those good and sweet things are, which are commanded to be proclaimed to their comfort, the prophet explains directly afterwards: saying,
"That her warfare is accomplished, her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins."-"Her warfare," (militia,) which our translators have rendered "her evil," (malitia), is considered by the Jews, those audacious grammarians, to signify an appointed time. For thus they understand that passage Job vii. 1. "Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth?" that is, his time is determinately appointed. But I receive it simply, and according to grammatical propriety, as signifying "warfare." Wherefore, you may understand Isaiah, as speaking with reference to the race and labour of the people under the law, who are, as it were, fighting on a platform. Hence Paul compares both the preachers and the hearers of the word to soldiers: as in the case of Timothy, 2 Tim. ii. 3, whom he commands to be "a good soldier," and to "fight the good fight." And, 1 Cor. ix. 24, he represents them as running "in a race:" and observes also, that "no one is crowned except he strive lawfully." He equips the Ephesians and Thessalonians with arms, Ephes. vi. 10-18. And he glories, himself, that he had "fought the good fight," 2 Tim. iv. 7.: with many like instances in other places. So also at 1 Samuel ii; 22, it is in the Hebrew, "And the sons of Eli slept with the women who fought (militantibus) at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation:" of whose fighting, Moses makes mention in Exodus. And hence it is, that the God of that people is called the "Lord of Sabaoth:" that is, the Lord of warfare and of armies.
Isaiah, therefore, is proclaiming, that the warfare of the people under the law, who are pressed down under the law as a burthen intolerable, as Peter saith, Acts xv. 7-10, is to be at an end; and that they being freed from the law, are to be translated into the new warfare of the Spirit. Moreover, this end of their most hard warfare, and this translation to the new and all-free warfare, is not given unto them on account of their merit, seeing that, they could not endure it; nay, it is rather given unto them on account of their demerit; for their warfare is ended, by their iniquities being freely forgiven them.
The words are not 'obscure or ambiguous' here. He saith, that their warfare was ended, by their iniquities being forgiven them: manifestly signifying, that the soldiers under the law, did not fulfill the law, and could not fulfill it: and that they only carried on a warfare of sin, and were soldier-sinners. As though God had said, I am compelled to forgive them their sins, if I would have My law fulfilled by them; nay, I must take away My law entirely when I forgive them; for I see they cannot but sin, and the more so the more they fight; that is, the more they strive to fulfill the law by their own powers. For in the Hebrew, "her iniquity is pardoned" signifies, its being done in gratuitous good-will. And it is thus that the iniquity is pardoned; without any merit, nay, under all demerit; as is shewn in what follows, "for she hath received at the Lord's hand double for all her sins. "-That is, as I said before, not only the remission of sins, but an end of the warfare: which is nothing more or less than this:-the law being taken out of the way, which is "the strength of sin," and their sin being pardoned, which is "the sting of death," they reign in a two-fold liberty by the victory of Jesus Christ: which is what Isaiah means when he says, "from the hand of the Lord:" for they do not obtain it by their own powers, or on account of their own merit, but they receive it from the conqueror and giver, Jesus Christ.
And that which is, according to the Hebrew, "in all her sins," is, according to the Latin, "for all her sins," or, "on account of all her sins." As in Hosea xii. 12, "Israel served in a wife:" that is, "for a wife." And so also in Psalm lix. 3, "They lay in wait in my soul;" that is, "for my soul." Isaiah therefore is here pointing out to us those merits of ours, by which we imagine we are to obtain the two-fold liberty; that of the end of the law-warfare, and that of the pardon of sin; making it appear to us, that they were nothing but sins, nay, all sins.
Could I, therefore, suffer this most beautiful passage, which stands invincible against "Free-will," to be thus bedaubed with Jewish filth cast upon it by Jerome and the Diatribe?-God forbid! No! My Isaiah stands victor over "Free-will"; and clearly shews, that grace is given, not to merits or to the endeavours of "Free-will," but to sins and demerits; and that "Free-will" with all its powers, can do nothing but carry on a warfare of sin; so that, the very law which it imagines to be given as a help, becomes intolerable to it, and makes it the greater sinner, the longer it is under its warfare.
Sect. 116.-BUT as to the Diatribe disputing thus-"Although sin abound by the law, and where sin has abounded, grace much more abound; yet it does not therefore follow, that man, doing by God's help what is pleasing to Him, cannot by works morally good, prepare himself for the favour of God."-
Wonderful! Surely the Diatribe does not speak this out of its own head, but has taken it out of some paper or other, sent or received from another quarter, and inserted it in its book! For it certainly can neither see nor hear the meaning of these words! If sin abound by the law, how is it possible that a man can prepare himself by moral works, for the favour of God? How can works avail any thing, when the law avails nothing? Or, what else is it for sin to abound by the law, but for all the works, done according to the law, to become sins?-But of this elsewhere. But what does it mean when it says, that man, assisted by the help of God, can prepare himself by moral works? Are we here disputing concerning the divine assistance, or concerning "Free-will"? For what is not possible through the divine assistance? But the fact is, as I said before, the Diatribe cares nothing for the cause it has taken up, and therefore it snores and yawns forth such words as these.
But however, it adduces Cornelius the centurion, Acts x. 31, as an example: observing-'that his prayers and alms pleased God before he was baptized, and before he was inspired by the Holy Spirit.'
I have read Luke upon the Acts too, and yet I never perceived from one single syllable, that the works of Cornelius were morally good without the Holy Spirit, as the Diatribe dreams. But on the contrary, I find that he was "a just man and one that feared God:" for thus Luke calls him. But to call a man without the Holy Spirit, "a just man and one that feared God," is the same thing as calling Baal, Christ!
Moreover, the whole context shews, that Cornelius was "clean" before God, even upon the testimony of the vision which was sent down from heaven to Peter, and which reproved him. Are then the righteousness and faith of Cornelius set forth by Luke in such words and attending circumstances, and do the Diatribe and its Sophists remain blind with open eyes, or see the contrary, in a light of words and an evidence of circumstances so clear? Such is their want of diligence in reading and contemplating the Scriptures: and yet, they must brand them with the assertion that they are 'obscure and ambiguous.' But grant it, that he was not as yet baptized, nor had as yet heard the word concerning Christ risen from the dead:-does it therefore follow, that He was without the Holy Spirit? According to this, you will say that John the Baptist and his parents, the mother of Christ, and Simeon, were without the Holy Spirit!-But let us take leave of such thick darkness!
Sect. 117.-THE fourth passage is that of Isaiah in the same chapter. "All flesh is grass, and all the glory of it as the flower of grass: the grass is withered, the flower of grass is fallen: because the Spirit of the Lord hath blown upon it." (Isa. xl. 6-7).-
This Scripture appears to my friend Diatribe, to be treated with violence, by being dragged in as applicable to the causes of grace, and "Free-will." Why so, I pray? 'Because, (it says), Jerome understands "spirit" to signify indignation, and "flesh" to signify the infirm condition of man, which cannot stand against God.' Here again the trifling vanities of Jerome are cast in my teeth instead of Isaiah. And I find I have more to do in fighting against that wearisomeness, with which the Diatribe with so much diligence (to use no harsher term) wears me out, than I have in fighting against the Diatribe itself. But I have given my opinion upon the sentiment of Jerome already.
Let me beg permission of the Diatribe to compare this gentleman with himself. He says 'that "flesh," signifies the infirm condition of man; and "spirit," the divine indignation.'
Has then the divine indignation nothing else to "wither" but that miserable infirm condition of man, which it ought rather to raise up?
This, however, is more excellent still. 'The "flower of grass," is the glory which arises from the prosperity of corporal things.'
The Jews gloried in their temple, their circumcision, and their sacrifices, and the Greeks in their wisdom. Therefore, the "flower of grass," is the glory of the flesh, the righteousness of works, and the wisdom of the world.-How then are righteousness and wisdom called by the Diatribe, 'corporal things?' And after all, what have these to do with Isaiah, who interprets his own meaning in his own words, saying, "Surely the people is grass?" He does not say; Surely the infirm condition of man is grass, but "the people;" and affirms it with an asseveration. And what is the people? Is it the infirm condition of man only? But whether Jerome, by 'the infirm condition of man' means the whole creation together, or the miserable lot and state of man only, I am sure I know not. Be it, however, which it may, he certainly makes the divine indignation to gain a glorious renown and a noble spoil, from withering a miserable creation or a race of wretched men, and not rather, from scattering the proud, pulling down the mighty from their seat, and sending, the rich empty away: as Mary sings! (Luke i. 51-53).
Sect. 118.-BUT let us dispatch these hobgoblins of glosses, and take Isaiah's words as they are. "The people (he saith) is grass." "People" does not signify flesh merely, or the infirm condition of human nature, but it comprehends every thing that there is in people-the rich, the wise, the just, the saints. Unless you mean to say, that the pharisees, the elders, the princes, the nobles, and the rich men, were not of the people of the Jews! The "flower of grass" is rightly called their glory, because it was in their kingdom, their government, and above all, in the law, in God, in righteousness, and in wisdom, that they gloried: as Paul shews, Rom. ii. iii and ix.
When, therefore, Isaiah saith, "All flesh," what else does he mean but all "grass," or, all "people?" For he does not say "flesh" only, but "all flesh." And to "people" belong soul, body, mind, reason, judgment, and whatever is called or found to be most excellent in man. For when he says "all flesh is grass," he excepts nothing but the spirit which withereth it. Nor does he omit any thing when he says, "the people is grass." Speak, therefore, of "Free-will," speak of anything that can be called the highest or the lowest in the people,-Isaiah calls the whole "flesh and grass!" Because, those three terms "flesh," "grass," and "people," according to his interpretation who is himself the writer of the book, signify in that place, the same thing.
Moreover, you yourself affirm, that the wisdom of the Greeks and the righteousness of the Jews which were withered by the Gospel, were "grass" and "the flower of grass." Do you then think, that the wisdom which the Greeks had was not the most excellent? and that the righteousness which the Jews wrought was not the most excellent? If you do, shew us what was more excellent. With what assurance then is it, that you, Philip-like, flout and say,
-"If any one shall contend, that that which is most excellent in the nature of man, is nothing else but "flesh;" that is, that it is impious, I will agree with him, when he shall have proved his assertion by testimonies from the Holy Scripture?"-
You have here Isaiah, who cries with a loud voice that the people, devoid of the Spirit of the Lord, is "flesh;" although you will not understand him thus. You have also your own confession, where you said, (though unwittingly perhaps), that the wisdom of the Greeks was "grass," or the glory of grass; which is the same thing as saying, it was "flesh."-Unless you mean to say, that the wisdom of the Greeks did not pertain to reason, or to the EGEMONICON, as you say, that is, the principal part of man. If, therefore, you will not deign to listen to me, listen to yourself; where, being caught in the powerful trap of truth, you speak the truth.
You have moreover the testimony of John, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John iii. 6). You have, I say, this passage, which makes it evidently manifest, that what is not born of the Spirit, is flesh: for if it be not so, the distinction of Christ could not subsist, who divides all men into two distinct divisions, "flesh" and "spirit." This passage you floutingly pass by, as if it did not give you the information you want, and betake yourself somewhere else, as usual; just dropping as you go along an observation, that John is here saying, that those who believe are born of God, and are made the sons of God, nay, that they are gods, and new creatures. You pay no regard, therefore, to the conclusion that is to be drawn from this division, but merely tell us at your ease, what persons are on one side of the division: thus confidently relying upon your rhetorical maneuver, as though there were no one likely to discover an evasion and dissimulation so subtlely managed.
Sect. 119.-IT is difficult to refrain from concluding, that you are, in this passage, crafty and double-dealing. For he who treats of the Scriptures with that prevarication and hypocrisy which you practice in treating of them, may have face enough to pretend, that he is not as yet fully acquainted with the Scriptures, and is willing to be taught; when, at the same time, he wills nothing less, and merely prates thus, in order to cast a reproach upon the all-clear light of the Scriptures, and to cover with the best cloak his determinate perseverance in his own opinions. Thus the Jews, even to this day, pretend, that what Christ, the Apostles, and the whole church have taught, is not to be proved by the Scriptures. The papists too pretend, that they do not yet fully understand the Scriptures; although the very stones speak aloud the truth. But perhaps you are waiting for a passage to be produced from the Scriptures, which shall contain these letters and syllables, 'The principal part of man is flesh:' or, 'That which is most excellent in man is flesh:' otherwise, you will declare yourself an invincible victor. Just as though the Jews should require, that a portion be produced from the prophets, which shall consist of these letters, 'Jesus the son of the carpenter, who was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, is the Messiah the Son of God!'
Here, where you are closely put to it by a plain sentence, you challenge us to produce letters and syllables. In another place, where you are overcome both by the sentence and by the letters too, you have recourse to 'tropes,' to 'difficulties,' and to 'sound interpretations.' And there is no place, in which you do not invent something whereby to contradict the Scriptures. At one time, you fly to the interpretations of the Fathers: at another, to absurdities of Reason: and when neither of these will serve your turn, you dwell on that which is irrelevant or contingent: yet with an especial care, that you are not caught by the passage immediately in point. But what shall I call you? Proteus is not half a Proteus compared with you! Yet after all you cannot get off. What victories did the Arians boast of, because these syllables and letters, HOMOOUSIOS, were not to be found in the Scriptures? Considering it nothing to the purpose, that the same thing could be most effectually proved in other words. But whether or not this be a sign of a good, (not to say pious,) mind, and a mind desiring to be taught, let impiety or iniquity itself be judge.
Take your victory, then; while we, as the vanquished confess, that these characters and syllables, 'That, which is most excellent in man is nothing but flesh,' is not to be found in the Scriptures. But just behold what a victory you have gained, when we most abundantly prove, that though it is not found in the Scriptures, that one detached portion, or 'that which is most excellent,' or the 'principal part,' of man is flesh, but that the whole of man is flesh! And not only so, but that the whole people is flesh! And further still, that the whole human race is flesh! For Christ saith, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." Do you here set about your difficulty-solving, your trope-inventing, and searching for the interpretations of the Fathers; or, turning quite another way, enter upon a dissertation on the Trojan war, in order to avoid seeing and hearing this passage now adduced.
We do not believe only, but we see and experience, that the whole human race is "born of the flesh;" and therefore, we are compelled to believe upon the word of Christ, that which we do not see; that the whole human race "is flesh." Do we now then give the Sophists any room to doubt and dispute, whether or not the principal (egemonica) part of man be comprehended in the whole man, in the whole people, in the whole race of men? We know, however, that in the whole human race, both the body and soul are comprehended, together with all their powers and works, with all their vices and virtues, with all their wisdom and folly, with all their righteousness and unrighteousness! All things are "flesh;" because, all things savour of the flesh, that is, of their own; and are, as Paul saith, Without the glory of God, and the Spirit of God! (Rom. iii. 23; viii. 5-9).
Sect. 120.-AND as to your saying-"Yet every affection of man is not flesh. There is an affection called, soul: there is an affection called, spirit: by which, we aspire to what is meritoriously good, as the philosophers aspired: who taught, that we should rather die a thousand deaths than commit one base action, even though we were assured that men would never know it, and that God would pardon it."-
I answer: He who believes nothing certainly, may easily believe and say any thing. I will not ask you, but let your friend Lucian ask you, whether you can bring forward any one out of the whole human race, let him be two-fold or seven-fold greater than Socrates himself, who ever performed this of which you speak, and which you say they taught. Why then do you thus babble in vanities of words? Could they ever aspire to that which is meritoriously good, who did not even know what good is?
If I should ask you for some of the brightest examples of your meritorious good, you would say, perhaps, that it was meritoriously good when men died for their country, for their wives and children, and for their parents; or when they refrained from lying, or from treachery; or when they endured exquisite torments, as did Q. Scevola, M. Regulus, and others. But what can you point out in all those men, but an external shew of works. For did you ever see their hearts? Nay, it was manifest from the very appearance of their works, that they did all these things for their own glory; so much so, that they were not even ashamed to confess, and to boast, that they sought their own glory. For the Romans, according to their own testimonies, did whatever they did of virtue or valour, from a thirst after glory. The same did the Greeks, the same did the Jews, the same do all the race of men.
But though this be meritoriously good before men, yet, before God, nothing is less meritoriously good than all this; nay, it is most impious, and the greatest of sacrilege; because, they did it not for the glory of God, nor that they might glorify God, but with the most impious of all robbery. For as they were robbing God of His glory and taking it to themselves, they never were farther from meritorious good, never more base, than when they were shining in their most exalted virtues. How could they do what they did for the glory of God, when they neither knew God nor His glory? Not, however, because it did not appear, but because the "flesh" did not permit them to see the glory of God, from their fury and madness after their own glory. This, therefore, is that right-ruling 'spirit,' that 'principal part of man, which aspires to what is meritoriously good'-it is a plunderer of the divine glory, and an usurper of the divine Majesty! and then the most so, when men are at the highest of their meritorious good, and the most glittering in their brightest virtues! Deny, therefore, if you can, that these are "flesh" and carried away by an impious affection.
But I do not believe, that the Diatribe can be so much offended at the expression, where man is said to be, either "flesh" or "spirit;" because a Latin would here say, Man is either carnal or spiritual. For this particularity, as well as many others, must be granted to the Hebrew tongue, that when it says, Man is "flesh" or "spirit," its signification is the same as ours is, when we say, Man is carnal or spiritual. The same signification which the Latins also convey, when they say, 'The wolf is destructive to the folds,' 'Moisture is favourable to the young corn:' or when they say, 'This fellow is iniquity and evil itself.' So also the Holy Scripture, by a force of expression, calls man "flesh;" that is, carnality itself; because it savours too much of, nay, of nothing but, those things which are of the flesh: and "spirit," because he savours of, seeks, does, and can endure, nothing but those things which are of the spirit.
Unless, perhaps, the Diatribe should still make this remaining query-Supposing the whole of man to be "flesh," and that which is most excellent in man to be called "flesh," must therefore that which is called "flesh" be at once called ungodly?-I call him ungodly who is without the Spirit of God. For the Scripture saith, that the Spirit was therefore given, that He might justify the ungodly. And as Christ makes a distinction between the spirit and the flesh, saying, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh," and adds, that that which is born of the flesh "cannot see the kingdom of God" (John iii. 3-6), it evidently follows, that whatsoever is flesh is ungodly, under the wrath of God, and a stranger to the kingdom of God. And if it be a stranger to the kingdom of God, it necessarily follows, that it is under the kingdom and spirit of Satan. For there is no medium between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan; they are mutually and eternally opposed to each other.
These are the arguments that prove, that the most exalted virtues among the nations, the highest perfections of the philosophers, and the greatest excellencies among men, appear indeed, in the sight of men, to be meritoriously virtuous and good, and are so called; but that, in the sight of God, they are in truth "flesh," and subservient to the kingdom of Satan: that is, ungodly, sacrilegious, and, in every respect, evil!
Sect. 121.-BUT pray let us suppose the sentiment of the Diatribe to stand good-'that every affection is not "flesh;" that is, ungodly; but is that which is called good and sound spirit.'-Only observe what absurdity must hence follow; not only with respect to human reason, but with respect to the Christian religion, and the most important Articles of Faith. For if that which is most excellent in man be not ungodly, nor utterly depraved, nor damnable, but that which is flesh only, that is the grosser and viler affections, what sort of a Redeemer shall we make Christ? Shall we rate the price of His blood so low as to say, that it redeemed that part of man only which is the most vile, and that the most excellent part of man has power to work its own salvation, and does not want Christ? Henceforth then, I must preach Christ as the Redeemer, not of the whole man, but of his vilest part; that is, of his flesh; but that the man himself is his own redeemer, in his better part!
Have it, therefore, which way you will. If the better part of man be sound, it does not want Christ as a Redeemer. And if it does not want Christ, it triumphs in a glory above that of Christ: for it takes care of the redemption of the better part itself, whereas Christ only takes care of that of the vile part. And then, moreover, the kingdom of Satan will come to nothing at all, for it will reign only in the viler part of man, because the man himself will rule over the better part.
So that, by this doctrine of yours, concerning 'the principal part of man,' it will come to pass, that man will be exalted above Christ and the devil both: that is, he will be made God of gods, and Lord of lords!-Where is now that 'probable opinion' which asserted 'that "Free-will" cannot will any thing good?' It here contends, 'that it is a principal part, meritoriously good, and sound; and that, it does not even want Christ, but can do more than God Himself and the devil can do, put together!
I say this, that you may again see, how eminently perilous a matter it is to attempt sacred and divine things, without the Spirit of God, in the temerity of human reason. If, therefore, Christ be the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world, it follows, that the whole world is under sin, damnation, and the devil. Hence your distinction between the principal parts, and the parts not principal, profits you nothing: for the world, signifies men, savouring of nothing but the things of the world, throughout all their faculties.
Sect. 122.-"IF the whole man, (says the Diatribe) even when regenerated by faith, is nothing else but "flesh," where is the "spirit" born of the Spirit? Where is the child of God? Where is the new-creature? I want information upon these points."-Thus the Diatribe
Where now! Where now! my very dear friend, Diatribe! What dream now! You demand to be informed, how the "spirit" born of the Spirit can be "flesh." Oh how elated, how secure of victory do you insultingly put this question to me, as though it were impossible for me to stand my ground here.-All this while, you are abusing the authority of the Ancients: for they say 'that there are certain seeds of good implanted in the minds of men. But, however, whether you use, or whether abuse, the authority of the Ancients, it is all one to me: you will see by and by what you believe, when you believe men prating out of their own brain, without the Word of God. Though perhaps your care about religion does not give you much concern, as to what any one believes; since you so easily believe men, without at all regarding, whether or not that which they say be certain or uncertain in the sight of God. And I also wish to be informed, when I ever taught that, with which you so freely and publicly charge me. Who would be so mad as to say, that he who is "born of the Spirit," is nothing but "flesh?"
I make a manifest distinction between "flesh" and "spirit," as things that directly militate against each other; and I say, according to the divine oracles, that the man who is not regenerated by faith "is flesh;" but I say, that he who is thus regenerated; is no longer flesh, excepting as to the remnants of the flesh, which war against the first fruits of the Spirit received. Nor do I suppose you wish to attempt to charge me, invidiously, with any thing wrong here; if you do, there is no charge that you could more iniquitously bring against me.
But you either understand nothing of my side of the subject, or else you find yourself unequal to the magnitude of the cause; by which you are, perhaps, so overwhelmed and confounded, that you do not rightly know what you say against me, or for yourself. For where you declare it to be your belief, upon the authority of the ancients, 'that there are certain seeds of good implanted in the minds of men, you must surely quite forget yourself; because, you before asserted, 'that "Free-will" cannot will any thing good.' And how 'cannot will any thing good,' and 'certain seeds of good' can stand in harmony together, I know not. Thus am I perpetually compelled to remind you of the subject-design with which you set out; from which you with perpetual forgetfulness depart, and take up something contrary to your professed purpose.
Sect. 123.-ANOTHER passage is that of Jeremiah x. 23, "I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps."-This passage (says the Diatribe) rather applies "to the events of prosperity, than to the power of Free-will."-
Here again the Diatribe, with its usual audacity, introduces a gloss according to its own pleasure, as though the Scripture were fully under its control. But in order to any one's considering the sense and intent of the prophet, what need was there for the opinion of a man of so great authority!-Erasmus says so! it is enough! it must be so! If this liberty of glossing as they lust, be permitted the adversaries, what point is there which they might not carry? Let therefore Erasmus shew us the validity of this gloss from the scope of the context, and we will believe him.
I, however, will shew from the scope of the context, that the prophet, when he saw that he taught the ungodly with so much earnestness in vain, was at once convinced, that his word could avail nothing unless God should teach them within; and that, therefore, it was not in man to hear the Word of God, and to will good. Seeing this judgment of God, he was alarmed, and asks of God that He would correct him, but with judgment, if he had need to be corrected; and that he might not be given up to His divine wrath with the ungodly, whom he suffered to be hardened and to remain in unbelief.
But let us suppose that the passage is to be understood concerning the events of adversity and prosperity, what will you say, if this gloss should go most directly to overthrow "Free-will?" This new evasion is invented, indeed, that ignorant and lazy deceivers may consider it satisfactory. The same which they also had in view who invented that evasion, 'the necessity of the consequence.' And so drawn away are they by these newly-invented terms, that they do not see that they are, by these evasions, ten-fold more effectually entangled and caught than they would have been without them.-As in the present instance: if the event of these things which are temporal, and over which man, Gen. i. 26-30, was constituted lord, be not in our own power, how, I pray you, can that heavenly thing, the grace of God, which depends on the will of God alone, be in our own power? Can that endeavour of "Free-will" attain unto eternal salvation, which is not able to retain a farthing or a hair of the head? When we have no power to obtain the creature, shall it be said that we have power to obtain the Creator? What madness is this! The endeavouring of man, therefore, unto good or unto evil, when applied to events, is a thousandfold more enormous; because, he is in both much more deceived, and has much less liberty, than he has in striving after money, or glory, or pleasure. What an excellent evasion is this gloss, then, which denies the liberty of man in trifling and created events, and preaches it up in the greatest and divine events? This is as if one should say, Codrus is not able to pay a groat, but he is able to pay thousands of thousands of pounds! I am astonished that the Diatribe, having all along so inveighed against that tenet of Wycliffe, 'that all things take place of necessity,' should now itself grant, that events come upon us of necessity.
-"And even if you do (says, the Diatribe) forcedly twist this to apply to "Free-will," all confess that no one can hold on a right course of life without the grace of God. Nevertheless, we still strive ourselves with all our powers: for we pray daily, 'O Lord my God, direct my goings in Thy sight.' He, therefore, who implores aid, does not lay aside his own endeavours."-
The Diatribe thinks, that it matters not what it answers, so that it does not remain silent with nothing to say; and then, it would have what it does say to appear satisfactory; such a vain confidence has it in its own authority. It ought here to have proved, whether or not we strive by our own powers; whereas, it proved, that he who prays attempts something. But, I pray, is it here laughing at us, or mocking the papists? For he who prays, prays by the Spirit; nay, it is the Spirit Himself that prays in us (Rom. viii. 26-27). How then is the power of "Free-will" proved by the strivings of the Holy Spirit? Are "Free-will" and the Holy Spirit, with the Diatribe, one and the same thing? Or, are we disputing now about what the Holy Spirit can do? The Diatribe, therefore, leaves me this passage of Jeremiah uninjured and invincible; and only produces the gloss out of its own brain. I also can 'strive by my own powers:' and Luther, will be compelled to believe this gloss,-if he will!
Sect. 124.-THERE is that passage of Prov, xvi. 1, 9, also, "It is of man to prepare the heart, but of the Lord to govern the tongue, "which the Diatribe says-'refers to events of things.'-
As though this the Diatribe's own saying would satisfy us, without any farther authority. But however, it is quite sufficient, that, allowing the sense of these passages to be concerning the events of things, we have evidently come off victorious by the arguments which we have just advanced: 'that, if we have no such thing as Freedom of Will in our own things and works, much less have we any such thing in divine things and works.'
But mark the great acuteness of the Diatribe-"How can it be of man to prepare the heart, when Luther affirms that all things are carried on by necessity?"-
I answer: If the events of things be not in our power, as you say, how can it be in man to perform the causing acts? The same answer which you gave me, the same receive yourself! Nay, we are commanded to work the more for this very reason, because all things future are to us uncertain: as saith Ecclesiastes, "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening hold not thine hand: for thou knowest not: which shall prosper, either this or that" (Eccles. xi. 6). All things future, I say, are to us uncertain, in knowledge, but necessary in event. The necessity strikes into us a fear of God that we presume not, or become secure, while the uncertainty works in us a trusting, that we sink not in despair.
Sect. 125.-BUT the Diatribe returns to harping upon its old string-'that in the book of Proverbs, many things are said in confirmation of "Free-will": as this, "Commit thy works unto the Lord." Do you hear this (says the Diatribe,) thy works?'-
Many things in confirmation! What because there are, in that book, many imperative and conditional verbs, and pronouns of the second person! For it is upon these foundations that you build your proof of the Freedom of the Will. Thus, "Commit"-therefore thou canst commit thy works: therefore thou doest them. So also this passage, "I am thy God," (Isa. xli. 10), you will understand thus:-that is, Thou makest Me thy God. "Thy faith hath saved thee" (Luke vii. 50): do you hear this word "thy?" therefore, expound it thus: Thou makest thy faith: and then you have proved "Freewill." Nor am I here merely game-making; but I am shewing the Diatribe, that there is nothing serious on its side of the subject.
This passage also in the same chapter, "The Lord hath made all things for Himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil," (Prov. xvi. 4), it modifies by its own words, and excuses God as having never created a creature evil.'-
As though I had spoken concerning the creation, and not rather concerning that continual operation of God upon the things created; in which operation, God acts upon the wicked; as we have before shewn in the case of Pharaoh. But He creates the wicked, not by creating wickedness or a wicked creature; (which is impossible) but, from the operation of God, a wicked man is made, or created, from a corrupt seed; not from the fault of the Maker, but from that of the material.
Nor does that of "The heart of the king is in the Lord's hand: He inclineth it whithersoever He will," (Prov. xxi. 1), seem to the Diatribe to imply force.-"He who inclines (it observes) does not immediately compel."-
As though we were speaking of compulsion, and not rather concerning the necessity of Immutability. And that is implied in the inclining of God: which inclining, is not so snoring and lazy a thing, as the Diatribe imagines, but is that most active operation of God, which a man cannot avoid or alter, but under which he has, of necessity, such a will as God has given him, and such as he carries along by his motion: as I have before shewn.
Moreover, where Solomon is speaking of "the king's heart," the Diatribe thinks-'that the passage cannot rightly be strained to apply in a general sense: but that the meaning is the same as that of Job, where he says, in another place, "He maketh the hypocrite to reign, because of the sins of the people."' At last, however, it concedes, that the king is inclined unto evil by God: but so, 'that He permits the king to be carried away by his inclination, in order to chastise the people.'-
I answer: Whether God permit, or whether He incline, that permitting or inclining does not take place without the will and operation of God: because, the will of the king cannot avoid the action of the omnipotent God: seeing that, the will of all is carried along just as He wills and acts, whether that will be good or evil.
And as to my having made out of the particular will of the king, a general application; I did it, I presume, neither vainly nor unskillfully. For if the heart of the king, which seems to be of all the most free, and to rule over others, cannot will good but where God inclines it, how much less can any other among men will good! And this conclusion will stand valid, drawn, not from the will of the king only, but from that of any other man. For if any one man, how private soever he be, cannot will before God but where God inclines, the same must be said of all men. Thus in the instance of Balaam, his not being able to speak what he wished, is an evident argument from the Scriptures, that man is not in his own power, nor a free chooser and doer of what he does: were it not so, no examples of it could subsist in the Scriptures.
Sect. 126.-THE Diatribe after this, having said that many such testimonies, as Luther collects, may be collected out of the book of Proverbs; but which, by a convenient interpretation, may stand both for and against "Free-will"; adduces at last that Achillean and invincible weapon of Luther, "Without me ye can do nothing," &c. (John xv. 5).
I too, must laud that notable champion-disputant for "Free-will," who teaches us, to modify the testimonies of Scripture just as it serves our turn, by convenient interpretations, in order to make them appear to stand truly in confirmation of "Free-will"; that is, that they might be made to prove, not what they ought, but what we please; and who merely pretends a fear of one Achillean Scripture, that the silly reader, seeing this one overthrown, might hold all the rest in utter contempt. But I will just look on and see, by what force the full-mouthed and heroic Diatribe will conquer my Achilles; which hitherto, has never wounded a common soldier, nor even a Thersites, but has ever miserably dispatched itself with its own weapons.
Catching hold of this one word "nothing," it stabs it with many words and many examples; and, by means of a convenient interpretation, brings it to this; that "nothing," may signify that which is in degree and imperfect. That is, it means to say, in other words, that the Sophists have hitherto explained this passage thus.-"Without me ye can do nothing;" that is, perfectly. This gloss, which has been long worn out and obsolete, the Diatribe, by its power of rhetoric, renders new; and so presses it forward, as though it had first invented it, and it had never been heard of before, thus making it appear to be a sort of miracle. In the mean time, however, it is quite self-secure, thinking nothing about the text itself, nor what precedes or follows it, whence alone the knowledge of the passage is to be obtained.
But (to say no more about its having attempted to prove by so many words and examples, that the term "nothing" may, in this passage, be understood as meaning 'that which is in a certain degree, or imperfect,' as though we were disputing whether or not it may be, whereas, what was to be proved is whether or not it ought to be, so understood;) the whole of this grand interpretation effects nothing, if it affect any thing, but this:-the rendering of this passage of John uncertain and obscure. And no wonder, for all that the Diatribe aims at, is to make the Scriptures of God in every place obscure, to the intent that it might not be compelled to use them; and the authorities of the Ancients certain, to the intent that it might abuse them;-a wonderful kind of religion truly, making the words of God to be useless, and the words of man useful!
Sect. 127.-BUT it is most excellent to observe how well this gloss, "nothing" may be understood to signify 'that which is in degree," consists with itself: yet the Diatribe says,-'that in this sense of the passage, it is most true that we can do nothing without Christ: because, He is speaking of evangelical fruits, which cannot be produced but by those who remain in the vine, which is Christ.'-
Here the Diatribe itself confesses, that fruit cannot be produced but by those who remain in the vine: and it does the same in that 'convenient interpretation,' by which it proves, that "nothing" is the same as in degree, and imperfect. But perhaps, its own adverb 'cannot,' ought also to be conveniently interpreted, so as to signify, that evangelical fruits can be produced without Christ in degree and imperfectly. So that we may preach, that the ungodly who are without Christ can, while Satan reigns in them, and wars against Christ, produce some of the fruits of life: that is, that the enemies of Christ may do something for the glory of Christ.-But away with these things.
Here however, I should like to be taught, how we are to resist heretics, who, using this rule throughout the Scriptures, may contend that nothing and not are to be understood as signifying that which is imperfect. Thus-Without Him "nothing" can be done; that is a little.-"The fool hath said in his heart there is not a God;" that is, there is an imperfect God.-"He hath made us, and not we ourselves;" that is, we did a little towards making ourselves. And who can number all the passages in the Scripture where 'nothing' and 'not' are found?
Shall we then here say that a 'convenient interpretation' is to be attended to? And is this clearing up difficulties-to open such a door of liberty to corrupt minds and deceiving spirits? Such a license of interpretation is, I grant, convenient to you who care nothing whatever about the certainty of the Scripture; but as for me who labour to establish consciences, this is an inconvenience; than which, nothing can be more inconvenient, nothing more injurious, nothing more pestilential. Hear me, therefore, thou great conqueress of the Lutheran Achilles! Unless you shall prove, that 'nothing' not only may be, but ought to be understood as signifying a 'little,' you have done nothing by all this profusion of words or examples, but fight against fire with dry straw. What have I to do with your may be, which only demands of you to prove your ought to be? And if you do not prove that, I stand by the natural and grammatical signification of the term, laughing both at your armies and at your triumphs.
Where is now that 'probable opinion' which determined, 'that "Free-will" can will nothing good?' But perhaps, the 'convenient interpretation' comes in here, to say, that 'nothing good' signifies, something good-a kind of grammar and logic never before heard of; that nothing, is the same as something: which, with logicians, is an impossibility, because they are contradictions. Where now then remains that article of our faith; that Satan is the prince of the world, and, according to the testimonies of Christ and Paul, rules in the wills and minds of those men who are his captives and servants? Shall that roaring lion, that implacable and ever-restless enemy of the grace of God and the salvation of man, suffer it to be, that man, his slave and a part of his kingdom, should attempt good by any motion in any degree, whereby he might escape from his tyranny, and that he should not rather spur and urge him on to will and do the contrary to grace with all his powers? especially, when the just, and those who are led by the Spirit of God, and who will and do good, can hardly resist him, so great is his rage against them?
You who make it out, that the human will is a something placed in a free medium, and left to itself, certainly make it out, at the same time, that there is an endeavour which can exert itself either way; because, you make both God and the devil to be at a distance, spectators only, as it were, of this mutable and "Free-will"; though you do not believe, that they are impellers and agitators of that bondage will, the most hostilely opposed to each other. Admitting, therefore, this part of your faith only, my sentiment stands firmly established, and "Free-will" lies prostrate; as I have shewn already.-For, it must either be, that the kingdom of Satan in man is nothing at all, and thus Christ will be made to lie; or, if his kingdom be such as Christ describes, "Free-will" must be nothing but a beast of burden, the captive of Satan, which cannot be liberated, unless the devil be first cast out by the finger of God.
From what has been advanced I presume, friend Diatribe, thou fully understandest what that is, and what it amounts to, where thy Author, detesting the obstinate way of assertion in Luther, is accustomed to say-'Luther indeed pushes his cause with plenty of Scriptures; but they may all by one word, be brought to nothing.' Who does not know, that all Scriptures may, by one word, be brought to nothing? I knew this full well before I ever heard the name of Erasmus. But the question is, whether it be sufficient to bring a Scripture, by one word, to nothing. The point in dispute is, whether it be rightly brought to nothing, and whether it ought to be brought to nothing. Let a man consider these points, and he will then see, whether or not it be easy to bring Scriptures to nothing, and whether or not the obstinacy of Luther be detestable. He will then see, that not one word only is ineffective, but all the gates of hell cannot bring them to nothing!
Sect. 128.-WHAT, therefore, the Diatribe cannot do in its affirmative, I will do in the negative; and though I am not called upon to prove the negative, yet I will do it here, and will make it by the force of argument undeniably appear, that "nothing," in this passage, not only may be but ought to be understood as meaning, not a certain small degree, but that which the term naturally signifies. And this I will do, in addition to that invincible argument by which I am already victorious; viz.. 'that all terms are to be preserved in their natural signification and use, unless the contrary shall be proved:' which the Diatribe neither has done, nor can do.-First of all then I will make that evidently manifest, which is plainly proved by Scriptures neither ambiguous nor obscure,-that Satan, is by far the most powerful and crafty prince of this world; (as I said before,) under the reigning power of whom, the human will, being no longer free nor in its own power, but the servant of sin and of Satan, can will nothing but that which its prince wills. And he will not permit it to will any thing good: though, even if Satan did not reign over it, sin itself, of which man is the slave, would sufficiently harden it to prevent it from willing good.
Moreover, the following part of the context itself evidently proves the same: which the Diatribe proudly sneers at, although I have commented upon it very copiously in my Assertions. For Christ proceeds thus, John xv. 6, "Whoso abideth not in me, is cast forth as a branch and is withered; and men gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." This, I say, the Diatribe, in a most excellent rhetorical way, passed by; hoping that the intent of this evasion would not be comprehended by the shallow-brained Lutherans. But here you see that Christ, who is the interpreter of His own similitude of the vine and the branch, plainly declares what He would have understood by the term "nothing"-that man who is without Christ, "is cast forth and is withered."
And what can the being "cast forth and withered" signify but the being delivered up to the devil, and becoming continually worse and worse; and surely, becoming worse and worse, is not doing or attempting any thing good. The withering branch is more and more prepared for the fire the more it withers. And had not Christ Himself thus amplified and applied this similitude, no one would have dared so to amplify and apply it. It stands manifest, therefore, that "nothing," ought, in this place, to be understood in its proper signification, according to the nature of the term.
Sect. 129.-LET us now consider the examples also, by which it proves, that "nothing" signifies, in some places, 'a certain small degree:' in order that we may make it evident, that the Diatribe is nothing, and effects nothing in this part of it: in which, though it should do much, yet it would effect nothing:-such a nothing is the Diatribe in all things, and in every way.
It says-"Generally, he is said to do nothing, who does not achieve that, at which he aims; and yet, for the most part, he who attempts it, makes some certain degree of progress in the attempt."-
I answer: I never heard this general usage of the term: you have invented it by your own license. The words are to be considered according to the subject-matter, (as they say,) and according to the intention of the speaker.-No one calls that 'nothing' which he does in attempting, nor does he then speak of the attempt but of the effect: it is to this the person refers when he says, he does nothing, or he effects nothing; that is, achieves and accomplishes nothing. But supposing, your example to stand good, (which however it does not) it makes more for me than for yourself. For this is what I maintain and would invincibly establish, that "Free-will" does many things, which, nevertheless, are "nothing" before God. What does it profit, therefore, to attempt, if it effect nothing at which it aims? So that, let the Diatribe turn which way it will, it only runs against, and confutes itself which generally happens to those, who undertake to support a bad cause.
With the same unhappy effect does it adduce that example out of Paul, "Neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God who giveth the increase." (1 Cor. iii. 7).-"That (says the Diatribe,) which is of the least moment, and useless of itself, he calls nothing."-
Who?-Do you, pretend to say, that the ministry of the word is of itself useless, and of the least moment, when Paul everywhere, and especially 2 Cor. iii. 6-9, highly exalts it, and calls it the ministration "of life," and "of glory?" Here again you neither consider the subject matter, nor the intention of the speaker. As to the gift of the increase, the planter and waterer are certainly 'nothing;' but as to the planting and sowing, they are not 'nothing;' seeing that, to teach and to exhort, are the greatest work of the Spirit in the Church of God. This is the intended meaning of Paul, and this his words convey with satisfactory plainness. But be it so, that this ridiculous example stands good; again, it stands in favour of me. For what I maintain is this: that "Free-will" is 'nothing,' that is, is useless of itself (as you expound it) before God; and it is concerning its being nothing as to what it can do of itself that we are now speaking: for as to what it essentially is in itself, we know, that an impious will must be a something, and cannot be a mere nothing.
Sect. 130.-THERE is also that of 1 Cor. xiii. 2. "If I have not charity I am nothing:" Why the Diatribe adduces this as an example I cannot see, unless it seeks only numbers and forces, or thinks that we have no arms at all, by which we can effectually wound it. For he who is without charity, is, truly and properly, 'nothing' before God. The same also we say of "Free-will." Wherefore, this example also stands for us against the Diatribe. Or, can it be that the Diatribe does not yet know the argument ground upon which I am contending?-I am not speaking about the essence of nature, but the essence of grace (as they term it.) I know, that "Free-will" can by nature do something; it can eat, drink, beget, rule, &c. Nor need the Diatribe laugh at me as having prating frenzy enough to imply, when I press home so closely the term 'nothing,' that "Free-will" cannot even sin without Christ: whereas Luther, nevertheless says, 'that "Free-will" can do nothing but sin '-but so it pleases the wise Diatribe to play the fool in a matter so serious. For I say, that man without the grace of God, remains, nevertheless, under the general Omnipotence of an acting God, who moves and carries along all things, of necessity, in the course of His infallible motion; but that the man's being thus carried along, is nothing; that is, avails nothing in the sight of God, nor is considered any thing else but sin. Thus in grace, he that is without love, is nothing. Why then does the Diatribe, when it confesses itself, that we are here speaking of evangelical fruits, as that which cannot be produced without Christ, turn aside immediately from the subject point, harp upon another string, and cavil about nothing but natural works and human fruits? Except it be to evince, that he who is devoid of the truth, is never consistent with himself.
So also that of John iii. 27, "A man can receive nothing except it were given him from above."
John is here speaking of man, who is now a something, and denies that this man can receive any thing; that is, the Spirit with His gifts; for it is in reference to that he is speaking, not in reference to nature. For he did not want the Diatribe as an instructor to teach him, that man has already eyes nose, ears, mouth, hands, mind, will, reason, and all things that belong to man.-Unless the Diatribe believes, that the Baptist, when he made mention of man, was thinking of the 'chaos' of Plato, the 'vacuum' of Leucippus, or the 'infinity' of Aristotle, or some other nothing, which, by a gift from heaven, should at last be made a something.-Is this producing examples out of the Scripture, thus to trifle designedly in a matter so important!
And to what purpose is all that profusion of words, where it teaches us, 'that fire, the escape from evil, the endeavour after good, and other things are from heaven,' as though there were any one who did not know, or who denied those things? We are now talking about grace, and, as the Diatribe itself said, concerning Christ and evangelical fruits; whereas, it is itself, making out its time in fabling about nature; thus dragging out the cause, and covering the witless reader with a cloud. In the mean time, it does not produce one single example as it professed to do, wherein 'nothing,' is to be understood as signifying some small degree. Nay, it openly exposes itself as neither understanding nor caring what Christ or grace is, nor how it is, that grace is one thing and nature another, when even the Sophists of the meanest rank know, and have continually taught this difference in their schools, in the most common way. Nor does it all the while see, that every one of its examples make for me, and against itself. For the word of the Baptist goes to establish this:-that man can receive nothing unless it be given him from above; and that, therefore, "Free-will" is nothing at all.
Thus it is, then, that my Achilles is conquered-the Diatribe puts weapons into his hand, by which it is itself dispatched, naked and weapon-less. And thus it is also that the Scriptures, by which that obstinate assertor Luther urges his cause, are, 'by one word, brought to nothing.'
Sect. 131.-After this, it enumerates a multitude of similitudes: by which, it effects nothing but the drawing aside the witless reader to irrelevant things, according to its custom, and at the same time leaves the subject point entirely out of the question. Thus