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De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of Will
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Sect. LXXV. — AFTER this, it comes to Paul also, the most determined enemy to “Free-will,” and even he is dragged in to confirm “Free-will;” “Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness, and patience, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth to repentance?” — (Rom. ii. 4.) — “How (says the Diatribe) can the despising of the commandment be imputed where there is not a Free-will? How can God invite to repentance, who is the author of impenitence? How can the damnation be just, where the judge compels unto evil doing?” —

I answer: Let the Diatribe see to these questions itself. What are they unto us! The Diatribe said according to that ‘probable opinion.’ ‘that “Free-will” cannot will good, and is of necessity compelled to serve sin.’ How, therefore, can the despising of the commandment be charged on the will, if it cannot will good, and has no liberty, but is necessarily compelled to the service of sin? How can God invite to repentance who is the author of the reason why it cannot repent, while it leaves, or does not give grace to, that, which cannot of itself will good? How can the damnation be just, where the judge, by taking away his aid, compels the wicked man to be left in his wickedness who cannot of his own power do otherwise?

All these conclusions therefore recoil back upon the head of the Diatribe. Or, if they prove any thing, as I said, they prove that “Free-will” can do all things: which, however, is denied by the Diatribe and by all. Thus these conclusions of reason torment the Diatribe, throughout all the passages of Scripture: seeing that, it must appear ridiculous and coldly useless, to enforce and exact with so much vehemence, when there is no one to be found who can perform: for the apostle’s intent is, by means of these threats, to bring the impious and proud to a knowledge of themselves and of their impotency, that he might prepare them for grace when humbled by the knowledge of sin.

And what need is there to speak of, singly, all those parts which are brought forward out of Paul, seeing that, they are only a collection of imperative or conditional passages, or of those by which Paul exhorts Christians to the fruits of faith? Whereas the Diatribe, by its appended conclusions, forms to itself a power of “Free-will,” such and so great, which can, without grace, do all things which Paul in his exhortations prescribes. Christians, however, are not led by “Free-will,” but by the Spirit of God (Rom. viii. 14): and to be led, is not to lead, but to be impelled, as a saw or an axe is impelled by a carpenter.

And that no one might doubt whether or not Luther asserted things so absurd, the Diatribe recites his own words; which, indeed, I acknowledge. For I confess that that article of Wycliffe, ‘all things take place from necessity, that is, from the immutable will of God, and our will is not compelled indeed, but it cannot of itself do good,’ was falsely condemned by the Council of Constance, or that conspiracy or cabal rather. Nay the Diatribe itself defends the same together with me, while it asserts, ‘that Free-will cannot by its own power will any thing good,’ and that, it of necessity serves sin: although in furnishing this defence, it all the while designs the direct contrary.

Suffice it to have spoken thus in reply to the FIRST PART of the Diatribe, in which it has endeavoured to establish “Free-will.” Let us now consider the latter part in which our arguments are refuted, that is, those by which “Free-will” is utterly overthrown. — Here you will see, what the smoke of man can do, against the thunder and lightning of God!

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