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De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of Will
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Sect. LXIV. — BUT, why it is, that some are touched by the law and some are not touched, why some receive the offered grace and some despise it, that is another question which is not here treated on by Ezekiel; because, he is speaking of THE PREACHED AND OFFERED MERCY OF GOD, not of that SECRET AND TO BE FEARED WILL OF GOD, who, according to His own counsel, ordains whom, and such as He will, to be receivers and partakers of the preached and offered mercy: which WILL, is not to be curiously inquired into, but to be adored with reverence as the most profound SECRET of the divine Majesty, which He reserves unto Himself and keeps hidden from us, and that, much more religiously than the mention of ten thousand Corycian caverns.

But since the Diatribe thus pertly argues — “Would the righteous Lord deplore that death of His people, which He Himself works in them? This would seem quite absurd” —

I answer, as I said before, — we are to argue in one way, concerning the WILL OF GOD preached, revealed, and offered unto us, and worshipped by us; and in another, concerning GOD HIMSELF not preached, not revealed, not offered unto us, and worshipped by us. In whatever, therefore, God hides Himself and will be unknown by us, that is nothing unto us ‘and here, that sentiment’ stands good — ‘What is above us, does not concern us.’

And that no one might think that this distinction is my own, I follow Paul, who, writing to the Thessalonians concerning Antichrist, saith, (2 Thess. ii. 4.) “that he should exalt himself above all that is God, as preached and worshipped:” evidently intimating, that any one might be exalted above God as He is preached and worshipped, that is, above the word and worship of God, by which He is known unto us and has intercourse with us. But, above God not worshipped and preached, that is, as He is in our own nature and majesty, nothing can be exalted, but all things are under His powerful hand.

God, therefore, is to be left to remain in His own Nature and Majesty; for in this respect, we have nothing to do with Him, nor does He wish us to have, in this respect, anything to do with Him: but we have to do with Him, as far as He is clothed in, and delivered to us by, His Word; for in that He presents Himself unto us, and that is His beauty and His glory, in which the Psalmist celebrates Him as being clothed. Wherefore, we say, that the righteous God does not ‘deplore that death of His people which He Himself works in them;’ but He deplores that death which He finds in His people, and which He desires to remove from them. For GOD PREACHED desires this: — that, our sin and death being taken away, we might be saved; “He sent His word and healed them.” (Psalm cvii. 20.) But GOD HIDDEN IN MAJESTY neither deplores, nor takes away death, but works life and death and all things: nor has He, in this Character, defined Himself in His Word, but has reserved unto Himself, a free power over all things.

But the Diatribe is deceived by its own ignorance, in not making a distinction between GOD PREACHED and GOD HIDDEN: that is, between the word of God and God Himself. God does many things which He does not make known unto us in His word: He also wills many things which He does not in His word make known unto us that He wills. Thus, He does not ‘will the death of a sinner,’ that is, in His word; but He wills it by that will inscrutable. But in the present case, we are to consider His word only, and to leave that will inscrutable; seeing that, it is by His word, and not by that will inscrutable, that we are to be guided; for who can direct himself according to a will inscrutable and incomprehensible? It is enough to know only, that there is in God a certain will inscrutable: but what, why, and how far that will wills, it is not lawful to inquire, to wish to know, to be concerned about, or to reach unto — it is only to be feared and adored!

Therefore it is rightly said, ‘if God does not desire our death, it is to be laid to the charge of our own will, if we perish:’ this, I say, is right, if you speak of GOD PREACHED. For He desires that all men should be saved, seeing that, He comes unto all by the word of salvation, and it is the fault of the will which does not receive Him: as He saith. (Matt. xxiii. 37.) “How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldest not!” But WHY that Majesty does not take away or change this fault of the will IN ALL, seeing that, it is not in the power of man to do it; or why He lays that to the charge of the will, which the man cannot avoid, it becomes us not to inquire, and though you should inquire much, yet you will never find out: as Paul saith, (Rom. ix, 20,) “Who art thou that repliest against God!” — Suffice it to have spoken thus upon this passage of Ezekiel. Now let us proceed to the remaining particulars.

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