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De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of Will
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Sect. LXXXI. — NOR do the similitudes adduced make any thing to the purpose, where it is said by the Diatribe — “As under the same sun, mud is hardened and wax melted; as by the same shower, the cultivated earth brings forth fruit, and the uncultivated earth thorns; so, by the same long-suffering of God, some are hardened and some converted.” —

For, we are not now dividing “Free-will” into two different natures, and making the one like mud, the other like wax; the one like cultivated earth, the other like uncultivated earth; but we are speaking concerning that one “Free-will” equally impotent in all men; which, as it cannot will good, is nothing but mud, nothing but uncultivated earth. Nor does Paul say that God, as the potter, makes one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour, out of different kinds of clay, but He saith, “Out of the same lump, &c.” (Rom. ix. 21.) Therefore, as mud always becomes harder, and uncultivated earth always becomes more thorny; even so “Free-will,” always becomes worse, both under the hardening sun of long-suffering, and under the softening shower of rain.

If, therefore, “Free-will” be of one and the same nature and impotency in all men, no reason can be given why it should attain unto grace in one, and not in another; if nothing else be preached to all, but the goodness of a long-suffering and the punishment of a mercy-shewing God. For it is a granted position, that “Free-will” in all, is alike defined to be, ‘that which cannot will good.’ And indeed, if it were not so, God could not elect any one, nor would there be any place left for Election; but for “Free-will” only, as choosing or refusing the long-suffering and anger of God. And if God be thus robbed of His power and wisdom to elect, what will there be remaining but that idol Fortune, under the name of which, all things take place at random! Nay, we shall at length come to this: that men may be saved and damned without God’s knowing anything at all about it; as not having determined by certain election who should be saved and who should be damned; but having set before all men in general His hardening goodness and long-suffering, and His mercy shewing correction and punishment, and left them to choose for themselves whether they would be saved or damned; while He, in the mean time, should be gone, as Homer says, to an Ethiopian feast!

It is just such a God as this that Aristotle paints out to us; that is, who sleeps Himself, and leaves every one to use or abuse His long-suffering and punishment just as He will. Nor can reason, of herself, form any other judgment than the Diatribe here does. For as she herself snores over, and looks with contempt upon, divine things; she thinks concerning God, that He sleeps and snores over them too; not exercising His wisdom, will, and presence, in choosing, separating, and inspiring, but leaving the troublesome and irksome business of accepting or refusing His long-suffering and His anger, entirely to men. This is what we come to, when we attempt, by human reason, to limit and make excuses for God, not revering the secrets of His Majesty, but curiously prying into them — being lost in the glory of them, instead of making one excuse for God, we pour forth a thousand blasphemies! And forgetting ourselves, we prate like madmen, both against God and against ourselves; when we are all the while supposing, that we are, with a great deal of wisdom, speaking both for God and for ourselves.

Here then you see, what that trope and gloss of the Diatribe, will make of God. And moreover, how excellently consistent the Diatribe is with itself; which before, by its one definition, made “Free-will” one and the same in all men: and now, in the course of its argumentation, forgetting its own definition, makes one “Free-will” to be cultivated and the other uncultivated, according to the difference of works, of manners, and of men: thus making two different “Free-wills”; the one, that which cannot do good, the other, that which can do good, and that by its own powers before grace: whereas, its former definition declared, that it could not, by those its own powers, will any thing good whatever. Hence, therefore, it comes to pass, that while we do not ascribe unto the will of God only, the will and power of hardening, shewing mercy, and doing all things; we ascribe unto “Freewill” itself the power of doing all things without grace; which, nevertheless, we declared to be unable to do any good whatever without grace.

The similitudes, therefore, of the sun and of the shower, make nothing at all to the purpose. The Christian would use those similitudes more rightly, if he were to make the sun and the shower to represent the Gospel, as Psalm xix. does, and as does also Hebrews vi. 7; and were to make the cultivated earth to represent the elect, and the uncultivated the reprobate; for the former are, by the word, edified and made better, while the latter are offended and made worse. Or, if this distinction be not made, then, as to “Free-will” itself, that, is in all men uncultivated earth and the kingdom of Satan.

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