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De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of Will
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Sect. XLIV. — UPON the authority of Erasmus, then, “Free-will,” is a power of the human will, which can, of itself, will and not will to embrace the word and work of God, by which it is to be led to those things which are beyond its capacity and comprehension. If then, it can will and not will, it can also love and hate. And if it can love and hate, it can, to a certain degree, do the Law and believe the Gospel. For it is impossible, if you can will and not will, that you should not be able by that will to begin some kind of work, even though, from the hindering of another, you should not be able to perfect it. And therefore, as among the works of God which lead to salvation, death, the cross, and all the evils of the world are numbered, human will can will its own death and perdition. Nay, it can will all things while it can will the embracing of the word and work of God. For what is there that can be any where beneath, above, within, and without the word and work of God, but God Himself? And what is there here left to grace and the Holy Spirit? This is plainly to ascribe divinity to “Free-will.” For to will to embrace the Law and the Gospel, not to will sin, and to will death, belongs to the power of God alone: as Paul testifies in more places than one.

Wherefore, no one, since the Pelagians, has written more rightly concerning “Free-will” than Erasmus. For I have said above, that “Free-will” is a divine term, and signifies a divine power. But no one hitherto, except the Pelagians, has ever assigned to it that power. Hence, Erasmus by far outstrips the Pelagians themselves: for they assign that divinity to the whole of “Free-will,” but Erasmus to the half of it only. They divide “Free-will” into two parts; the power of discerning, and the power of choosing; assigning the one to reason, and the other to will; and the Sophists do the same. But Erasmus, setting aside the power of discerning, exalts the power of choosing alone, and thus makes a lame, half-membered “Free-will,” God himself! What must we suppose then he would have done, had he set about describing the whole of “Free-will.”

But, not contented with this, he outstrips even the philosophers. For it has never yet been settled among them, whether or not any thing can give motion to itself; and upon this point, the Platonics and Peripatetics are divided in the whole body of philosophy. But according to Erasmus, “Freewill” not only of its own power gives motion to itself, but ‘applies itself’ to those things which are eternal; that is, which are incomprehensible to itself! A new and unheard-of definer of “Freewill,” truly, who leaves the philosophers, the Pelagians, the Sophists, and all the rest of them, far behind him! Nor is this all. He does not even spare himself, but dissents from, and militates against himself, more than against all the rest together. For he had said before, that ‘the human will is utterly ineffective without grace:’ (unless perhaps this was said only in joke!) but here, where he gives a serious definition, he says, that ‘the human will has that power by which it can effectively apply itself to those things which pertain unto eternal salvation;’ that is, which are incomparably beyond that power. So that, in this part, Erasmus outstrips even himself!

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