aA
aA
aA
aA
aA
aA
De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of Will
« Prev Section LIII. Next »

Sect. LIII. — BUT I will attack the Diatribe itself. If thou really think, O Madam Reason! that these conclusions stand good, ‘If thou wilt — therefore thou hast a free power,’ why dost thou not follow the same thyself? For thou sayest, according to that ‘probable opinion,’ that “Free-will” cannot will any thing good. By what conclusion then can such a sentiment flow from this passage also, ‘if thou wilt keep,’ when thou sayest that the conclusion flowing from this, is, that man can will and not will freely? What! can bitter and sweet flow from the same fountain? Dost thou not here much more deride man thyself, when thou sayest, that he can keep that, which he can neither will nor choose? Therefore, neither dost thou, from thy heart, believe that this is a just conclusion, ‘if thou wilt — therefore thou hast a free power,’ although thou contendest for it with so much zeal, or, if thou dost believe it, then thou dost not, from thy heart, say, that that opinion is ‘probable,’ which holds that man cannot will good. Thus, reason is so caught in the conclusions and words of her own wisdom, that she knows not what she says, nor concerning what she speaks: nay, knows nothing but that which it is most right she should know — that “Free-will” is defended with such arguments as mutually devour, and put an end to each other; just as the Midianites destroyed each other by mutual slaughter, when they fought against Gideon and the people of God. Judges vii.

Nay, I will expostulate more fully with this wisdom of the Diatribe. Ecclesiasticus does not say, ‘if thou shalt have the desire and the endeavour of keeping,’ (for this is not to be ascribed to that power of yours, as you have concluded) but he says, “if thou wilt keep the commandments they shall preserve thee.” Now then, if we, after the manner of your wisdom, wish to draw conclusions, we should infer thus: — therefore, man is able to keep the commandments. And thus, we shall not here make a certain small degree of desire, or a certain little effort of endeavour to be left in man, but we shall ascribe unto him the whole, full, and abundant power of keeping the commandments. Otherwise, Ecclesiasticus will be made to laugh at the misery of man, as commanding him to ‘keep,’ who, he knows, is not able to ‘keep.’ Nor would it have been sufficient if he had supposed the desire and the endeavour to be in the man, for he would not then have escaped the suspicion of deriding him, unless he had signified his having the full power of keeping.

But however, let us suppose that that desire and endeavour of “Free-will” are a real something. What shall we say to those, (the Pelagians, I mean) who, from this passage, have denied grace in toto, and ascribed all to “Free-will?” If the conclusion of the Diatribe stand good, the Pelagians have evidently established their point. For the words of Ecclesiasticus speak of keeping, not of desiring or endeavouring. If, therefore, you deny the Pelagians their conclusion concerning keeping, they, in reply, will much more rightly deny you your conclusion concerning endeavouring. And if you take from them the whole of “Free-will,” they will take from you your remnant particle of it: for you cannot assert a remnant particle of that, which you deny in toto. In what degree soever, therefore, you speak against the Pelagians, who from this passage ascribe the whole to “Freewill,” in the same degree, and with much more determination, shall we speak against that certain small remnant desire of your “Free-will.” And in this, the Pelagians themselves will agree with us, that, if their opinion cannot be proved from this passage, much less will any other of the same kind be proved from it: seeing, that if the subject be to be conducted by conclusions, Ecclesiasticus, above all makes the most forcibly for the Pelagians: for he speaks in plain words concerning keeping only, “If thou wilt keep the commandments:” nay, he speaks also concerning faith, “If thou wilt keep the faith:” so that, by the same conclusion, keeping the faith ought also to be in our power, which, however, is the peculiar and precious gift of God.

In a word, since so many opinions are brought forward in support of “Free-will,” and there is no one that does not catch at this passage of Ecclesiasticus in defence of itself; and since they are diverse from, and contrary to each other, it is impossible but that they must make Ecclesiasticus contradictory to, and diverse from themselves in the self same words; and therefore, they can from him prove nothing. Although, if that conclusion of yours be admitted, it will make for the Pelagians against all the others; and consequently, it makes against the Diatribe; which, in this passage, is stabbed by its own sword!

« Prev Section LIII. Next »

Advertisements


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |