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De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of Will
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Sect. CXVI. — BUT as to the Diatribe disputing thus — “Although sin abound by the law, and where sin has abounded, grace much more abound; yet it does not therefore follow, that man, doing by God’s help what is pleasing to Him, cannot by works morally good, prepare himself for the favour of God.” —

Wonderful! Surely the Diatribe does not speak this out of its own head, but has taken it out of some paper or other, sent or received from another quarter, and inserted it in its book! For it certainly can neither see nor hear the meaning of these words! If sin abound by the law, how is it possible that a man can prepare himself by moral works, for the favour of God? How can works avail any thing, when the law avails nothing? Or, what else is it for sin to abound by the law, but for all the works, done according to the law, to become sins? — But of this elsewhere. But what does it mean when it says, that man, assisted by the help of God, can prepare himself by moral works? Are we here disputing concerning the divine assistance, or concerning “Free-will”? For what is not possible through the divine assistance? But the fact is, as I said before, the Diatribe cares nothing for the cause it has taken up, and therefore it snores and yawns forth such words as these.

But however, it adduces Cornelius the centurion, Acts x. 31, as an example: observing — ‘that his prayers and alms pleased God before he was baptized, and before he was inspired by the Holy Spirit.’

I have read Luke upon the Acts too, and yet I never perceived from one single syllable, that the works of Cornelius were morally good without the Holy Spirit, as the Diatribe dreams. But on the contrary, I find that he was “a just man and one that feared God:” for thus Luke calls him. But to call a man without the Holy Spirit, “a just man and one that feared God,” is the same thing as calling Baal, Christ!

Moreover, the whole context shews, that Cornelius was “clean” before God, even upon the testimony of the vision which was sent down from heaven to Peter, and which reproved him. Are then the righteousness and faith of Cornelius set forth by Luke in such words and attending circumstances, and do the Diatribe and its Sophists remain blind with open eyes, or see the contrary, in a light of words and an evidence of circumstances so clear? Such is their want of diligence in reading and contemplating the Scriptures: and yet, they must brand them with the assertion that they are ‘obscure and ambiguous.’ But grant it, that he was not as yet baptized, nor had as yet heard the word concerning Christ risen from the dead: — does it therefore follow, that He was without the Holy Spirit? According to this, you will say that John the Baptist and his parents, the mother of Christ, and Simeon, were without the Holy Spirit! — But let us take leave of such thick darkness!

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