Calvin, Institutes, Vol.2, Part 3 
(... continued from part 4)  

Chapter 2  
2. Man now deprived of freedom of will, and miserably enslaved.  
Having in the first chapter treated of the fall of man, and the  
corruption of the human race, it becomes necessary to inquire,  
Whether the sons of Adam are deprived of all liberty; and if any  
particle of liberty remains, how far its power extends? The four  
next chapters are devoted to this question. This second chapter may  
be reduced to three general heads: - I. The foundation of the whole  
discussion. II. The opinions of others on the subject of human  
freedom, see. 2-9. III. The true doctrine on the subject, see. 10-  
1. Connection of the previous with the four following chapters. In  
    order to lay a proper foundation for the discussion of free  
    will, two obstacles in the way to be removed, viz., sloth and  
    pride. The basis and sum of the whole discussion. The solid  
    structure of this basis, and a clear demonstration of it by the  
    argument a majori ad minus. Also from the inconveniences and  
    absurdities arising from the obstacle of pride.  
2. The second part of the chapter containing the opinions of others.  
    1. The opinions of philosophers.  
3. The labyrinths of philosophers. A summary of the opinion common  
    to all the philosophers.  
4. The opinions of others continued, viz., The opinions of the  
    ancient theologians on the subject of free will. These composed  
    partly of Philosophy and partly of Theology. Hence their  
    falsehood, extravagance, perplexity, variety, and  
    contradiction. Too great fondness for philosophy in the Church  
    has obscured the knowledge of God and of ourselves. The better  
    to explain the opinions of philosophers, a definition of Free  
    Will given. Wide difference between this definition and these  
5. Certain things annexed to Free Will by the ancient theologians,  
    especially the Schoolmen. Many kinds of Free Will according to  
6. Puzzles of scholastic divines in the explanation of this  
7. The conclusion that so trivial a matter ought not to be so much  
    magnified. Objection of those who have a fondness for new terms  
    in the Church. Objection answered.  
8. Another answer. The Fathers, and especially Augustine, while  
    retaining the term Free Will, yet condemned the doctrine of the  
    heretics on the subject, as destroying the grace of God.  
9. The language of the ancient writers on the subject of Free Will  
    is, with the exception of that of Augustine, almost  
    unintelligible. Still they set little or no value on human  
    virtue, and ascribe the praise of all goodness to the Holy  
10. The last part of the chapter, containing a simple statement of  
    the true doctrine. The fundamental principle is, that man first  
    begins to profit in the knowledge of himself when he becomes  
    sensible of his ruined condition. This confirmed, 1. by  
    passages of Scripture.  
11. Confirmed, 2. by the testimony of ancient theologians.  
12. The foundation being laid, to show how far the power both of the  
    intellect and will now extends, it is maintained in general,  
    and in conformity with the views of Augustine and the  
    Schoolmen, that the natural endowments of man are corrupted,  
    and the supernatural almost entirely lost. A separate  
    consideration of the powers of the Intellect and the Will. Some  
    general considerations, 1. The intellect possesses some powers  
    of perception. Still it labours under a twofold defect.  
13. Man's intelligence extends both to things terrestrial and  
    celestial. The power of the intellect in regard to the  
    knowledge of things terrestrial. First, with regard to matters  
    of civil polity.  
14. The power of the intellect, secondly, with regard to the arts.  
    Particular gifts in this respect conferred on individuals, and  
    attesting the grace of God.  
15. The rise of this knowledge of things terrestrial, first, that we  
    may see how human nature, notwithstanding of its fall, is still  
    adorned by God with excellent endowments.  
16. Use of this knowledge continued. Secondly, that we may see that  
    these endowments bestowed on individuals are intended for the  
    common benefit of mankind. They are sometimes conferred even on  
    the wicked.  
17. Some portion of human nature still left. This, whatever be the  
    amount of it, should be ascribed entire]y to the divine  
    indulgence. Reason of this. Examples.  
18. Second part of the discussion, namely, that which relates to the  
    power of the human intellect in regard to things celestial.  
    These reducible to three heads, namely, divine knowledge,  
    adoption, and will. The blindness of man in regard to these  
    proved and thus tested by a simile.  
19. Proved, moreover, by passages of Scripture, showing, 1. That the  
    sons of Adam are endued with some light, but not enough to  
    enable them to comprehend God. Reasons.  
20. Adoption not from nature, but from our heavenly Father, being  
    sealed in the elect by the Spirit of regeneration. Obvious from  
    many passages of Scripture, that, previous to regeneration, the  
    human intellect is altogether unable to comprehend the things  
    relating to regeneration. This fully proved. First argument.  
    Second argument. Third argument.  
21. Fourth argument. Scripture ascribes the glory of our adoption  
    and salvation to God only. The human intellect blind as to  
    heavenly things until it is illuminated. Disposal of a  
    heretical objection.  
22. Human intellect ignorant of the true knowledge of the divine  
    law. This proved by the testimony of an Apostle, by an  
    inference from the same testimony, and from a consideration of  
    the end and definition of the Law of Nature. Plato obviously  
    mistaken in attributing all sins to ignorance.  
23. Themistius nearer the truth in maintaining, that the delusion of  
    the intellect is manifested not so much in generals as in  
    particulars. Exception to this rule.  
24. Themistius, however, mistaken in thinking that the intellect is  
    so very seldom deceived as to generals. Blindness of the human  
    intellect when tested by the standard of the Divine Law, in  
    regard both to the first and second tables. Examples.  
25. A middle view to be taken, viz., that all sins are not imputable  
    to ignorance, and, at the same time, that all sins do not imply  
    intentional malice. All the human mind conceives and plans in  
    this matter is evil in the sight of God. Need of divine  
    direction every moment.  
26. The will examined. The natural desire of good, which is  
    universally felt, no proof of the freedom of the human will.  
    Two fallacies as to the use of terms, appetite and good.  
27. The doctrine of the Schoolmen on this subject opposed to and  
    refuted by Scripture. The whole man being subject to the power  
    of sin, it follows that the will, which is the chief seat of  
    sin, requires to be most strictly curbed. Nothing ours but sin.  
    1. Having seen that the dominion of sin, ever since the first  
man was brought under it, not only extends to the whole race, but  
has complete possession of every soul, it now remains to consider  
more closely, whether from the period of being thus enslaved, we  
have been deprived of all liberty; and if any portion still remains,  
how far its power extends. In order to facilitate the answer to this  
questions it may be proper in passing to point out the course which  
our inquiry ought to take. The best method of avoiding error is to  
consider the dangers which beset us on either side. Man being devoid  
of all uprightness, immediately takes occasion from the fact to  
indulge in sloth, and having no ability in himself for the study of  
righteousness, treats the whole subject as if he had no concern in  
it. On the other hand, man cannot arrogate any thing, however  
minute, to himself, without robbing God of his honour, and through  
rash confidence subjecting himself to a fall. To keep free of both  
these rocks, our proper course will be, first, to show that man has  
no remaining good in himself, and is beset on every side by the most  
miserable destitution; and then teach him to aspire to the goodness  
of which he is devoid, and the liberty of which he has been  
deprived: thus giving him a stronger stimulus to exertion than he  
could have if he imagined himself possessed of the highest virtue.  
How necessary the latter point is, everybody sees. As to the former,  
several seem to entertain more doubt than they ought. For it being  
admitted as incontrovertible that man is not to be denied any thing  
that is truly his own, it ought also to be admitted, that he is to  
be deprived of every thing like false boasting. If man had no title  
to glory in himself, when, by the kindness of his Maker, he was  
distinguished by the noblest ornaments, how much ought he to be  
humbled now, when his ingratitude has thrust him down from the  
highest glory to extreme ignominy? At the time when he was raised to  
the highest pinnacle of honour, all which Scripture attributes to  
him is, that he was created in the image of God, thereby intimating  
that the blessings in which his happiness consisted were not his  
own, but derived by divine communication. What remains, therefore,  
now that man is stript of all his glory, than to acknowledge the God  
for whose kindness he failed to be grateful, when he was loaded with  
the riches of his grace? Not having glorified him by the  
acknowledgement of his blessings, now, at least, he ought to glorify  
him by the confession of his poverty. In truth, it is no less useful  
for us to renounce all the praise of wisdom and virtue, than to aim  
at the glory of God. Those who invest us with more than we possess  
only add sacrilege to our ruin. For when we are taught to contend in  
our own strength, what more is done than to lift us up, and then  
leave us to lean on a reed which immediately gives way? Indeed, our  
strength is exaggerated when it is compared to a reed. All that  
foolish men invent and prattle on this subject is mere smoke.  
Wherefore, it is not without reason that Augustine so often repeats  
the well-known saying, that free will is more destroyed than  
established by its defenders, (August. in Evang. Joann. Tract. 81.)  
It was necessary to premise this much for the sake of some who, when  
they hear that human virtue is totally overthrown, in order that the  
power of God in man may be exalted, conceive an utter dislike to the  
whole subject, as if it were perilous, not to say superfluous,  
whereas it is manifestly both most necessary and most useful.  
    2. Having lately observed, that the faculties of the soul are  
seated in the mind and the heart, let us now consider how far the  
power of each extends. Philosophers generally maintain, that reason  
dwells in the mind like a lamp, throwing light on all its counsels,  
and like a queen, governing the will - that it is so pervaded with  
divine light as to be able to consult for the best, and so endued  
with vigour as to be able perfectly to command; that, on the  
contrary, sense is dull and short-sighted, always creeping on the  
ground, grovelling among inferior objects, and never rising to true  
vision; that the appetite, when it obeys reason, and does not allow  
itself to be subjugated by sense, is borne to the study of virtue,  
holds a straight course, and becomes transformed into will; but that  
when enslaved by sense, it is corrupted and depraved so as to  
degenerate into lust. In a word, since, according to their opinion,  
the faculties which I have mentioned above, namely, intellect,  
sense, and appetite, or will, (the latter being the term in ordinary  
use,) are seated in the soul, they maintain that the intellect is  
endued with reason, the best guide to a virtuous and happy life,  
provided it duly avails itself of its excellence, and exerts the  
power with which it is naturally endued; that, at the same time, the  
inferior movement, which is termed sense, and by which the mind is  
led away to error and delusion, is of such a nature, that it can be  
tamed and gradually subdued by the power of reason. To the will,  
moreover, they give an intermediate place between reason and sense,  
regarding it as possessed of full power and freedom, whether to obey  
the former, or yield itself up to be hurried away by the latter.  
    3. Sometimes, indeed, convinced by their own experience, they  
do not deny how difficult it is for man to establish the supremacy  
of reason in himself, inasmuch as he is at one time enticed by the  
allurements of pleasure; at another, deluded by a false semblance of  
good; and, at another, impelled by unruly passions, and pulled away  
(to use Plato's expression) as by ropes or sinews (Plato, De  
Legibus, lib. 1.) For this reason, Cicero says, that the sparks  
given forth by nature are immediately extinguished by false opinions  
and depraved manners, (Cicero, Tusc, Quest. lib. 3.) They confess  
that when once diseases of this description have seized upon the  
mind, their course is too impetuous to be easily checked, and they  
hesitate not to compare them to fiery steeds, which, having thrown  
off the charioteer, scamper away without restraint. At the same  
time, they set it down as beyond dispute, that virtue and vice are  
in our own power. For, (say they,) If it is in our choice to do this  
thing or that, it must also be in our choice not to do it: Again, If  
it is in our choice not to act, it must also be in our choice to  
act: But both in doing and abstaining we seem to act from free  
choice; and, therefore, if we do good when we please, we can also  
refrain from doing it; if we commit evil, we can also shun the  
commission of it, (Aristot. Ethic. lib. 3 c. 5.) Nay, some have gone  
the length of boasting, (Seneca, passim,) that it is the gift of the  
gods that we live, but our own that we live well and purely. Hence  
Cicero says, in the person of Cotta, that as every one acquires  
virtue for himself, no wise man ever thanked the gods for it. "We  
are praised," says he, "for virtue, and glory in virtue, but this  
could not be, if virtue were the gift of God, and not from  
ourselves," (Cicero, De Nat. Deorum.) A little after, he adds, "The  
opinion of all mankind is, that fortune must be sought from God,  
wisdom from ourselves." Thus, in short, all philosophers maintain,  
that human reason is sufficient for right government; that the will,  
which is inferior to it, may indeed be solicited to evil by sense,  
but having a free choice, there is nothing to prevent it from  
following reason as its guide in all things.  
    4. Among ecclesiastical writers, although there is none who did  
not acknowledge that sound reason in man was seriously injured by  
sin, and the will greatly entangled by vicious desires, yet many of  
them made too near an approach to the philosophers. Some of the most  
ancient writers appear to me to have exalted human strengths from a  
fear that a distinct acknowledgement of its impotence might expose  
them to the jeers of the philosophers with whom they were disputing,  
and also furnish the flesh, already too much disinclined to good,  
with a new pretext for sloth. Therefore, to avoid teaching anything  
which the majority of mankind might deem absurd, they made it their  
study, in some measure, to reconcile the doctrine of Scripture with  
the dogmas of philosophy, at the same time making it their special  
care not to furnish any occasion to sloth. This is obvious from  
their words. Chrysostom says, "God having placed good and evil in  
our power, has given us full freedom of choice; he does not keep  
back the unwilling, but embraces the willing," (Homil. de Prodit.  
Judae.) Again, "He who is wicked is often, when he so chooses,  
changed into good, and he who is good falls through sluggishness,  
and becomes wicked. For the Lord has made our nature free. He does  
not lay us under necessity, but furnishing apposite remedies, allows  
the whole to depend on the views of the patient," (Homily. 18, in  
Genesis.) Again, "As we can do nothing rightly until aided by the  
grace of God, so, until we bring forward what is our own, we cannot  
obtain favour from above," (Homily. 52.) He had previously said, "As  
the whole is not done by divine assistance, we ourselves must of  
necessity bring somewhat." Accordingly, one of his common  
expressions is, "Let us bring what is our own, God will supply the  
rest." In unison with this, Jerome says, "It is ours to begin, God's  
to finish: it is ours to offer what we can, his to supply what we  
cannot," (Dialog. 3 Cont. Pelag.)  
    From these sentences, you see that they have bestowed on man  
more than he possesses for the study of virtue, because they thought  
that they could not shake off our innate sluggishness unless they  
argued that we sin by ourselves alone. With what skill they have  
thus argued we shall afterwards see. Assuredly we shall soon be able  
to show that the sentiments just quoted are most inaccurate.  
Moreover although the Greek Fathers, above others, and especially  
Chrysostom, have exceeded due bounds in extolling the powers of the  
human will, yet all ancient theologians, with the exception of  
Augustine, are so confused, vacillating, and contradictory on this  
subject, that no certainty can be obtained from their writings. It  
is needless, therefore, to be more particular in enumerating every  
separate opinion. It will be sufficient to extract from each as much  
as the exposition of the subject seems to require. Succeeding  
writers (every one courting applause for his acuteness in the  
defence of human nature) have uniformly, one after the other, gone  
more widely astray, until the common dogma came to be, that man was  
corrupted only in the sensual part of his nature, that reason  
remained entire, and will was scarcely impaired. Still the  
expression was often on their lips, that man's natural gifts were  
corrupted, and his supernatural taken away. Of the thing implied by  
these words, however, scarcely one in a hundred had any distinct  
idea. Certainly, were I desirous clearly to express what the  
corruption of nature is, I would not seek for any other expression.  
But it is of great importance attentively to consider what the power  
of man now is when vitiated in all the parts of his nature, and  
deprived of supernatural gifts. Persons professing to be the  
disciples of Christ have spoken too much like the philosophers on  
this subject. As if human nature were still in its integrity, the  
term free will has always been in use among the Latins, while the  
Greeks were not ashamed to use a still more presumptuous term, viz.,  
"autexousion", as if man had still full power in himself.  
    But since the principle entertained by all, even the vulgar,  
is, that man is endued with free will, while some, who would be  
thought more skilful, know not how far its power extends; it will be  
necessary, first to consider the meaning of the term, and afterwards  
ascertain, by a simple appeal to Scripture, what man's natural power  
for good or evil is. The thing meant by free will, though constantly  
occurring in all writers, few have defined. Origin, however, seems  
to have stated the common opinion when he said, It is a power of  
reason to discern between good and evil; of will, to choose the one  
or other. Nor does Augustine differ from him when he says, It is a  
power of reason and will to choose the good, grace assisting, - to  
choose the bad, grace desisting. Bernard, while aiming at greater  
acuteness, speaks more obscurely, when he describes it as consent,  
in regard to the indestructible liberty of the wills and the  
inalienable judgement of reason. Anselm's definition is not very  
intelligible to ordinary understandings. He calls it a power of  
preserving rectitude on its own account. Peter Lombard, and the  
Schoolmen, preferred the definition of Augustine, both because it  
was clearer, and did not exclude divine grace, without which they  
saw that the will was not sufficient of itself. They however add  
something of their own, because they deemed it either better or  
necessary for clearer explanation. First, they agree that the term  
will (arbitrium) has reference to reason, whose office it is to  
distinguish between good and evil, and that the epithet free  
properly belongs to the will, which may incline either way.  
Wherefore, since liberty properly belongs to the will, Thomas  
Aquinas says, (Part 1 Quast. 83, Art. 3,) that the most congruous  
definition is to call free will an elective power, combining  
intelligence and appetite, but inclining more to appetite. We now  
perceive in what it is they suppose the faculty of free will to  
consist, viz., in reason and will. It remains to see how much they  
attribute to each.  
    5. In general, they are wont to place under the free will of  
man only intermediate things, viz., those which pertain not to the  
kingdom of God, while they refer true righteousness to the special  
grace of God and spiritual regeneration. The author of the work, "De  
Vocatione Gentium," (On the Calling of the Gentiles,) wishing to  
show this, describes the will as threefold, viz., sensitive, animal,  
and spiritual. The two former, he says, are free to man, but the  
last is the work of the Holy Spirit. What truth there is in this  
will be considered in its own place. Our intention at present is  
only to mention the opinions of others, not to refute them. When  
writers treat of free will, their inquiry is chiefly directed not to  
what its power is in relation to civil or external actions, but to  
the obedience required by the divine law. The latter I admit to be  
the great question, but I cannot think the former should be  
altogether neglected; and I hope to be able to give the best reason  
for so thinking, (sec. 12 to 18.) The schools, however, have adopted  
a distinction which enumerates three kinds of freedom, (see Lombard,  
lib. 2 Dist. 25;) the first, a freedom from necessity; the second, a  
freedom from sin; and the third, a freedom from misery: the first  
naturally so inherent in man, that he cannot possibly be deprived of  
it; while through sin the other two have been lost. I willingly  
admit this distinction, except in so far as it confounds necessity  
with compulsion. How widely the things differ, and how important it  
is to attend to the difference, will appear elsewhere.  
    6. All this being admitted, it will be beyond dispute, that  
free will does not enable any man to perform good works, unless he  
is assisted by grace; indeed, the special grace which the elect  
alone receive through regeneration. For I stay not to consider the  
extravagance of those who say that grace is offered equally and  
promiscuously to all, (Lomb. lib. 2 Dist. 26.) But it has not yet  
been shown whether man is entirely deprived of the power of  
well-doing, or whether he still possesses it in some, though in a  
very feeble and limited degree - a degree so feeble and limited,  
that it can do nothing of itself, but when assisted by grace, is  
able also to perform its part. The Master of the Sentences,  
(Lombard, ibid.) wishing to explain this, teaches that a twofold  
grace is necessary to fit for any good work. The one he calls  
Operating. To it, it is owing that we effectually will what is good.  
The other, which succeeds this good will, and aids it, he calls  
Co-operating. My objection to this division (see infra, chap. 3 sec.  
10, and chap. 7 sec. 9) is, that while it attributes the effectual  
desire of good to divine grace, it insinuates that man, by his own  
nature, desires good in some degree, though ineffectually. Thus  
Bernard, while maintaining that a good will is the work of God,  
concedes this much to man, viz., that of his own nature he longs for  
such a good will. This differs widely from the view of Augustine,  
though Lombard pretends to have taken the division from him.  
Besides, there is an ambiguity in the second division, which has led  
to an erroneous interpretation. For it has been thought that we  
co-operate with subsequent grace, inasmuch as it pertains to us  
either to nullify the first grace, by rejecting its or to confirm  
it, by obediently yielding to it. The author of the work De  
Vocatione Gentium expresses it thus: It is free to those who enjoy  
the faculty of reason to depart from grace, so that the not  
departing is a reward, and that which cannot be done without the  
co-operation of the Spirit is imputed as merit to those whose will  
might have made it otherwise, (lib. 2 cap. 4.) It seemed proper to  
make these two observations in passing, that the reader may see how  
far I differ from the sounder of the Schoolmen. Still further do I  
differ from more modern sophists, who have departed even more widely  
than the Schoolmen from the ancient doctrine. The division, however,  
shows in what respect free will is attributed to man. For Lombard  
ultimately declares, (lib. 2 Dist. 25,) that our freedom is not to  
the extent of leaving us equally inclined to good and evil in act or  
in thought, but only to the extent of freeing us from compulsion.  
This liberty is compatible with our being depraved, the servants of  
sin, able to do nothing but sin.  
    7. In this way, then, man is said to have free will, not  
because he has a free choice of good and evil, but because he acts  
voluntarily, and not by compulsion. This is perfectly true: but why  
should so small a matter have been dignified with so proud a title?  
An admirable freedom! that man is not forced to be the servant of  
sin, while he is, however, "ethelodoulos", (a voluntary slave;) his  
will being bound by the fetters of sin. I abominate mere verbal  
disputes, by which the Church is harassed to no purpose; but I think  
we ought religiously to eschew terms which imply some absurdity,  
especially in subjects where error is of pernicious consequence. How  
few are there who, when they hear free will attributed to man, do  
not immediately imagine that he is the master of his mind and will  
in such a sense, that he can of himself incline himself either to  
good or evil? It may be said that such dangers are removed by  
carefully expounding the meaning to the people. But such is the  
proneness of the human mind to go astray, that it will more quickly  
draw error from one little word, than truth from a lengthened  
discourse. Of this, the very term in question furnishes too strong a  
proof. For the explanation given by ancient Christian writers having  
been lost sight of, almost all who have come after them, by  
attending only to the etymology of the term, have been led to  
indulge a fatal confidence.  
    8. As to the Fathers, (if their authority weighs with us,) they  
have the term constantly in their mouths; but they, at the same  
time, declare what extent of meaning they attach to it. In  
particular, Augustine hesitates not to call the will a slave. In  
another passages he is offended with those who deny free will; but  
his chief reason for this is explained when he says, "Only lest any  
one should presume so to deny freedom of will, from a desire to  
excuse sin." It is certain he elsewhere admits, that without the  
Spirit the will of man is not free, inasmuch as it is subject to  
lusts which chain and master it. And again, that nature began to  
want liberty the moment the will was vanquished by the revolt into  
which it fell. Again, that man, by making a bad use of free will,  
lost both himself and his will. Again, that free will having been  
made a captive, can do nothing in the way of righteousness. Again,  
that no will is free which has not been made so by divine grace.  
Again, that the righteousness of God is not fulfilled when the law  
orders, and man acts, as it were, by his own strength, but when the  
Spirit assists, and the will (not the free will of man, but the will  
freed by God) obeys. He briefly states the ground of all these  
observations, when he says, that man at his creation received a  
great degree of free will, but lost it by sinning. In another place,  
after showing that free will is established by grace, he strongly  
inveighs against those who arrogate any thing to themselves without  
grace. His words are, "How much soever miserable men presume to  
plume themselves on free will before they are made free, or on their  
strength after they are made free, they do not consider that, in the  
very expression, free will, liberty is implied. 'Where the Spirit of  
the Lord is, there is liberty,' (2 Cor. 3: 17.) If, therefore, they  
are the servants of sin, why do they boast of free will? He who has  
been vanquished is the servant of him who vanquished him. But if men  
have been made free, why do they boast of it as of their own work?  
Are they so free that they are unwilling to be the servants of Him  
who has said, 'Without me ye can do nothing'?" (John 15: 5.) In  
another passage he even seems to ridicule the word, when he says,  
"That the will is indeed free, but not freed - free of  
righteousness, but enslaved to sin." The same idea he elsewhere  
repeats and explains, when he says, "That man is not free from  
righteousness save by the choice of his will, and is not made free  
from sin save by the grace of the Saviour." Declaring that the  
freedom of man is nothing else than emancipation or manumission from  
righteousness, he seems to jest at the emptiness of the name. If any  
one, then, chooses to make use of this terms without attaching any  
bad meaning to it, he shall not be troubled by me on that account;  
but as it cannot be retained without very great danger, I think the  
abolition of it would be of great advantage to the Church. I am  
unwilling to use it myself; and others if they will take my advice,  
will do well to abstain from it.  
    9. It may, perhaps, seem that I have greatly prejudiced my own  
view by confessing that all the ecclesiastical writers, with the  
exception of Augustine, have spoken so ambiguously or inconsistently  
on this subject, that no certainty is attainable from their  
writings. Some will interpret this to mean, that I wish to deprive  
them of their right of suffrage, because they are opposed to me.  
Truly, however, I have had no other end in view than to consult,  
simply and in good faith, for the advantage of pious minds, which,  
if they trust to those writers for their opinion, will always  
fluctuate in uncertainty. At one time they teach, that man having  
been deprived of the power of free Will must flee to grace alone; at  
another, they equip or seem to equip him in armour of his own. It is  
not difficult, however, to show, that notwithstanding of the  
ambiguous manner in which those writers express themselves, they  
hold human virtue in little or no account, and ascribe the whole  
merit of all that is good to the Holy Spirit. To make this more  
manifest, I may here quote some passages from them. What, then, is  
meant by Cyprian in the passage so often lauded by Augustine, "Let  
us glory in nothing, because nothing is ours," unless it be, that  
man being utterly destitute, considered in himself, should entirely  
depend on God? What is meant by Augustine and Eucherius, when they  
expound that Christ is the tree of life, and that whose puts forth  
his hand to it shall live; that the choice of the will is the tree  
of the knowledge of good and evil, and that he who, forsaking the  
grace of God, tastes of it shall die? What is meant by Chrysostom,  
When he says, "That every man is not only naturally a sinner, but is  
wholly sin"? If there is nothing good in us; if man, from the crown  
of the head to the sole of the foot, is wholly sin; if it is not  
even lawful to try how far the power of the will extends, - how can  
it be lawful to share the merit of a good work between God and man?  
I might quote many passages to the same effect from other writers;  
but lest any caviller should say, that I select those only which  
serve my purpose, and cunningly pass by those which are against me,  
I desist. This much, however, I dare affirm, that though they  
sometimes go too far in extolling free will, the main object which  
they had in view was to teach man entirely to renounce all  
self-confidence, and place his strength in God alone. I now proceed  
to a simple exposition of the truth in regard to the nature of man.  
    10. Here however, I must again repeat what I premised at the  
outset of this chapter, that he who is most deeply abased and  
alarmed, by the consciousness of his disgrace, nakedness, want, and  
misery, has made the greatest progress in the knowledge of himself.  
Man is in no danger of taking too much from himself, provided he  
learns that whatever he wants is to be recovered in God. But he  
cannot arrogate to himself one particle beyond his due, without  
losing himself in vain confidence, and, by transferring divine  
honour to himself, becoming guilty of the greatest impiety. And,  
assuredly, whenever our minds are seized with a longing to possess a  
somewhat of our own, which may reside in us rather than in God, we  
may rest assured that the thought is suggested by no other  
counsellor than he who enticed our first parents to aspire to be  
like gods, knowing good and evil. It is sweet, indeed, to have so  
much virtue of our own as to be able to rest in ourselves; but let  
the many solemn passages by which our pride is sternly humbled,  
deter us from indulging this vain confidence: "Cursed be the man  
that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm." (Jer. 17: 5.) "He  
delighteth not in the strength of the horse; he taketh not pleasure  
in the legs of a man. The Lord taketh pleasure in those that fear  
him, in those that hope in his mercy," (Ps. 147: 10, l1.) "He giveth  
power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth  
strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young  
men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew  
their strength," (Is. 40: 29-31.) The scope of all these passages is  
that we must not entertain any opinion whatever of our own strength,  
if we would enjoy the favour of God, who "resisteth the proud, but  
giveth grace unto the humble," (James 4: 6.) Then let us call to  
mind such promises as these, "I will pour water upon him that is  
thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground," (Is. 44: 3;) "Ho, every  
one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters," (Is. 55: 1.) These  
passages declare, that none are admitted to enjoy the blessings of  
God save those who are pining under a sense of their own poverty.  
Nor ought such passages as the following to be omitted: "The sun  
shall no more be thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the  
moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee an  
everlasting light, and thy God thy glory," (Is. 60: 19.) The Lord  
certainly does not deprive his servants of the light of the sun or  
moon, but as he would alone appear glorious in them, he dissuades  
them from confidence even in those objects which they deem most  
    11. I have always been exceedingly delighted with the words of  
Chrysostom, "The foundation of our philosophy is humility;" and  
still more with those of Augustine, "As the orator, when asked, What  
is the first precept in eloquence? answered, Delivery: What is the  
second? Delivery: What the third? Delivery: so, if you ask me in  
regard to the precepts of the Christian Religion, I will answer,  
first, second, and third, Humility." By humility he means not when a  
man, with a consciousness of some virtue, refrains from pride, but  
when he truly feels that he has no refuge but in humility. This is  
clear from another passage, "Let no man," says he, "flatter himself:  
of himself he is a devil: his happiness he owes entirely to God.  
What have you of your own but sin? Take your sin which is your own;  
for righteousness is of God." Again, "Why presume so much on the  
capability of nature? It is wounded, maimed, vexed, lost. The thing  
wanted is genuine confession, not false defence." "When any one  
knows that he is nothing in himself, and has no help from himself,  
the weapons within himself are broken, and the war is ended." All  
the weapons of impiety must be bruised, and broken, and burnt in the  
fire; you must remain unarmed, having no help in yourself. The more  
infirm you are, the more the Lord will sustain you. So, in  
expounding the seventieth Psalm, he forbids us to remember our own  
righteousness, in order that we may recognise the righteousness of  
God, and shows that God bestows his grace upon us, that we may know  
that we are nothing; that we stand only by the mercy of God, seeing  
that in ourselves eve are altogether wicked. Let us not contend with  
God for our right, as if anything attributed to him were lost to our  
salvation. As our insignificance is his exaltation, so the  
confession of our insignificance has its remedy provided in his  
mercy. I do not ask, however, that man should voluntarily yield  
without being convinced, or that, if he has any powers, he should  
shut his eyes to them, that he may thus be subdued to true humility;  
but that getting quit of the disease of self-love and ambition,  
"filautia kai filoneikia", under the blinding influences of which he  
thinks of himself more highly than he ought to think, he may see  
himself as he really is, by looking into the faithful mirror of  
    12. I feel pleased with the well-known saying which has been  
borrowed from the writings of Augustine, that man's natural gifts  
were corrupted by sin, and his supernatural gifts withdrawn; meaning  
by supernatural gifts the light of faith and righteousness, which  
would have been sufficient for the attainment of heavenly life and  
everlasting felicity. Man, when he withdrew his allegiance to God,  
was deprived of the spiritual gifts by which he had been raised to  
the hope of eternal salvation. Hence it follows, that he is now an  
exile from the kingdom of God, so that all things which pertain to  
the blessed life of the soul are extinguished in him until he  
recover them by the grace of regeneration. Among these are faith,  
love to God, charity towards our neighbour, the study of  
righteousness and holiness. All these, when restored to us by  
Christ, are to be regarded as adventitious and above nature. If so,  
we infer that they were previously abolished. On the other hand,  
soundness of mind and integrity of heart were, at the same time,  
withdrawn, and it is this which constitutes the corruption of  
natural gifts. For although there is still some residue of  
intelligence and judgement as well as will, we cannot call a mind  
sound and entire which is both weak and immersed in darkness. As to  
the will, its depravity is but too well known. Therefore, since  
reason, by which man discerns between good and evil, and by which he  
understands and judges, is a natural gift, it could not be entirely  
destroyed; but being partly weakened and partly corrupted, a  
shapeless ruin is all that remains. In this sense it is said, (John  
1: 5,) that "the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness  
comprehended it not;" these words clearly expressing both points,  
viz., that in the perverted and degenerate nature of man there are  
still some sparks which show that he is a rational animal, and  
differs from the brutes, inasmuch as he is endued with intelligence,  
and yet, that this light is so smothered by clouds of darkness that  
it cannot shine forth to any good effect. In like manner, the will,  
because inseparable from the nature of man, did not perish, but was  
so enslaved by depraved lusts as to be incapable of one righteous  
desire. The definition now given is complete, but there are several  
points which require to be explained. Therefore, proceeding  
agreeably to that primary distinction, (Book 1 c. 15 sec. 7 and 8,)  
by which we divided the soul into intellect and will, we will now  
inquire into the power of the intellect.  
    To charge the intellect with perpetual blindness, so as to  
leave it no intelligence of any description whatever, is repugnant  
not only to the Word of God, but to common experience. We see that  
there has been implanted in the human mind a certain desire of  
investigating truth, to which it never would aspire unless some  
relish for truth antecedently existed. There is, therefore, now, in  
the human mind, discernment to this extent, that it is naturally  
influenced by the love of truth, the neglect of which in the lower  
animals is a proof of their gross and irrational nature. Still it is  
true that this love of truth fails before it reaches the goal,  
forthwith falling away into vanity. As the human mind is unable,  
from dullness, to pursue the right path of investigation, and, after  
various wanderings, stumbling every now and then like one groping in  
darkness, at length gets completely bewildered, so its whole  
procedure proves how unfit it is to search the truth and find it.  
Then it labours under another grievous defect, in that it frequently  
fails to discern what the knowledge is which it should study to  
acquire. Hence, under the influence of a vain curiosity, it torments  
itself with superfluous and useless discussions, either not  
adverting at all to the things necessary to be known, or casting  
only a cursory and contemptuous glance at them. At all events, it  
scarcely ever studies them in sober earnest. Profane writers are  
constantly complaining of this perverse procedure, and yet almost  
all of them are found pursuing it. Hence Solomon, throughout the  
Book of Ecclesiastes, after enumerating all the studies in which men  
think they attain the highest wisdom, pronounces them vain and  
    13. Still, however, man's efforts are not always so utterly  
fruitless as not to lead to some result, especially when his  
attention is directed to inferior objects. Nay, even with regard to  
superior objects, though he is more careless in investigating them,  
he makes some little progress. Here, however, his ability is more  
limited, and he is never made more sensible of his weakness than  
when he attempts to soar above the sphere of the present life. It  
may therefore be proper, in order to make it more manifest how far  
our ability extends in regard to these two classes of objects, to  
draw a distinction between them. The distinction is, that we have  
one kind of intelligence of earthly things, and another of heavenly  
things. By earthly things, I mean those which relate not to God and  
his kingdom, to true righteousness and future blessedness, but have  
some connection with the present life, and are in a manner confined  
within its boundaries. By heavenly things, I mean the pure knowledge  
of God, the method of true righteousness, and the mysteries of the  
heavenly kingdom. To the former belong matters of policy and  
economy, all mechanical arts and liberal studies. To the latter (as  
to which, see the eighteenth and following sections) belong the  
knowledge of God and of his will, and the means of framing the life  
in accordance with them. As to the former, the view to be taken is  
this: Since man is by nature a social animal, he is disposed, from  
natural instinct, to cherish and preserve society; and accordingly  
we see that the minds of all men have impressions of civil order and  
honesty. Hence it is that every individual understands how human  
societies must he regulated by laws, and also is able to comprehend  
the principles of those laws. Hence the universal agreement in  
regard to such subjects, both among nations and individuals, the  
seeds of them being implanted in the breasts of all without a  
teacher or lawgiver. The truth of this fact is not affected by the  
wars and dissensions which immediately arise, while some, such as  
thieves and robbers, would invert the rules of justice, loosen the  
bonds of law, and give free scope to their lust; and while others (a  
vice of most frequent occurrence) deem that to be unjust which is  
elsewhere regarded as just, and, on the contrary, hold that to be  
praiseworthy which is elsewhere forbidden. For such persons do not  
hate the laws from not knowing that they are good and sacred, but,  
inflamed with headlong passion, quarrel with what is clearly  
reasonable, and licentiously hate what their mind and understanding  
approve. Quarrels of this latter kind do not destroy the primary  
idea of justice. For while men dispute with each other as to  
particular enactments, their ideas of equity agree in substance.  
This, no doubt, proves the weakness of the human mind, which, even  
when it seems on the right path, halts and hesitates. Still,  
however, it is true, that some principle of civil order is impressed  
on all. And this is ample proof, that, in regard to the constitution  
of the present life, no man is devoid of the light of reason.  
    14. Next come manual and liberal arts, in learning which, as  
all have some degree of aptitude, the full force of human acuteness  
is displayed. But though all are not equally able to learn all the  
arts, we have sufficient evidence of a common capacity in the fact,  
that there is scarcely an individual who does not display  
intelligence in some particular art. And this capacity extends not  
merely to the learning of the art, but to the devising of something  
new, or the improving of what had been previously learned. This led  
Plato to adopt the erroneous idea, that such knowledge was nothing  
but recollection. So cogently does it oblige us to acknowledge that  
its principle is naturally implanted in the human mind. But while  
these proofs openly attest the fact of a universal reason and  
intelligence naturally implanted, this universality is of a kind  
which should lead every individual for himself to recognise it as a  
special gift of God. To this gratitude we have a sufficient call  
from the Creator himself, when, in the case of idiots, he shows what  
the endowments of the soul would be were it not pervaded with his  
light. Though natural to all, it is so in such a sense that it ought  
to be regarded as a gratuitous gift of his beneficence to each.  
Moreover, the invention, the methodical arrangement, and the more  
thorough and superior knowledge of the arts, being confined to a few  
individuals cannot be regarded as a solid proof of common  
shrewdness. Still, however, as they are bestowed indiscriminately on  
the good and the bad, they are justly classed among natural  
    15. Therefore, in reading profane authors, the admirable light  
of truth displayed in them should remind us, that the human mind,  
however much fallen and perverted from its original integrity, is  
still adorned and invested with admirable gifts from its Creator. If  
we reflect that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we  
will be careful, as we would avoid offering insult to him, not to  
reject or condemn truth wherever it appears. In despising the gifts,  
we insult the Giver. How, then, can we deny that truth must have  
beamed on those ancient lawgivers who arranged civil order and  
discipline with so much equity? Shall we say that the philosophers,  
in their exquisite researches and skilful description of nature,  
were blind? Shall we deny the possession of intellect to those who  
drew up rules for discourse, and taught us to speak in accordance  
with reason? Shall we say that those who, by the cultivation of the  
medical art, expended their industry in our behalf were only raving?  
What shall we say of the mathematical sciences? Shall we deem them  
to be the dreams of madmen? Nay, we cannot read the writings of the  
ancients on these subjects without the highest admiration; an  
admiration which their excellence will not allow us to withhold. But  
shall we deem anything to be noble and praiseworthy, without tracing  
it to the hand of God? Far from us be such ingratitude; an  
ingratitude not chargeable even on heathen poets, who acknowledged  
that philosophy and laws, and all useful arts were the inventions of  
the gods. Therefore, since it is manifest that men whom the  
Scriptures term carnal, are so acute and clear-sighted in the  
investigation of inferior things, their example should teach us how  
many gifts the Lord has left in possession of human nature,  
notwithstanding of its having been despoiled of the true good.  
    16. Moreover, let us not forget that there are most excellent  
blessings which the Divine Spirit dispenses to whom he will for the  
common benefit of mankind. For if the skill and knowledge required  
for the construction of the Tabernacle behaved to be imparted to  
Bezaleel and Aholiab, by the Spirit of God, (Exod. 31: 2; 35: 30,)  
it is not strange that the knowledge of those things which are of  
the highest excellence in human life is said to be communicated to  
us by the Spirit. Nor is there any ground for asking what concourse  
the Spirit can have with the ungodly, who are altogether alienated  
from God? For what is said as to the Spirit dwelling in believers  
only, is to be understood of the Spirit of holiness by which we are  
consecrated to God as temples. Notwithstanding of this, He fills,  
moves, and invigorates all things by the virtue of the Spirit, and  
that according to the peculiar nature which each class of beings has  
received by the Law of Creation. But if the Lord has been pleased to  
assist us by the work and ministry of the ungodly in physics,  
dialectics, mathematics, and other similar sciences, let us avail  
ourselves of it, lest, by neglecting the gifts of God spontaneously  
offered to us, we be justly punished for our sloth. Lest any one,  
however, should imagine a man to be very happy merely because, with  
reference to the elements of this world, he has been endued with  
great talents for the investigation of truth, we ought to add, that  
the whole power of intellect thus bestowed is, in the sight of God,  
fleeting and vain whenever it is not based on a solid foundation of  
truth. Augustine, (supra, sec. 4 and 12,) to whom, as we have  
observed, the Master of Sentences, (lib. 2 Dist. 25,) and the  
Schoolmen, are forced to subscribe, says most correctly that as the  
gratuitous gifts bestowed on man were withdrawn, so the natural  
gifts which remained were corrupted after the fall. Not that they  
can be polluted in themselves in so far as they proceed from God,  
but that they have ceased to be pure to polluted man, lest he should  
by their means obtain any praise.  
    17. The sum of the whole is this: From a general survey of the  
human race, it appears that one of the essential properties of our  
nature is reason, which distinguishes us from the lower animals,  
just as these by means of sense are distinguished from inanimate  
objects. For although some individuals are born without reason, that  
defect does not impair the general kindness of God, but rather  
serves to remind us, that whatever we retain ought justly to be  
ascribed to the Divine indulgence. Had God not so spared us, our  
revolt would have carried along with it the entire destruction of  
nature. In that some excel in acuteness, and some in judgement,  
while others have greater readiness in learning some peculiar art,  
God, by this variety commends his favour toward us, lest any one  
should presume to arrogate to himself that which flows from His mere  
liberality. For whence is it that one is more excellent than  
another, but that in a common nature the grace of God is specially  
displayed in passing by many and thus proclaiming that it is under  
obligation to none. We may add, that each individual is brought  
under particular influences according to his calling. Many examples  
of this occur in the Book of Judges, in which the Spirit of the Lord  
is said to have come upon those whom he called to govern his people,  
(Judges 6: 34.) In short, in every distinguished act there is a  
special inspiration. Thus it is said of Saul, that "there went with  
him a band of men whose hearts the Lord had touched," (1 Sam. 10:  
26.) And when his inauguration to the kingdom is foretold, Samuel  
thus addresses him, "The Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and  
thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another  
man," (1 Sam. 10: 6.) This extends to the whole course of  
government, as it is afterwards said of David, "The Spirit of the  
Lord came upon David from that day forward," (1 Sam. 16: 13.) The  
same thing is elsewhere said with reference to particular movements.  
Nay, even in Homer, men are said to excel in genius, not only  
according as Jupiter has distributed to each, but according as he  
leads them day by day, "hoion ep hemas ageisi". And certainly  
experience shows when those who were most skilful and ingenious  
stand stupefied, that the minds of men are entirely under the  
control of God, who rules them every moment. Hence it is said, that  
"He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the  
wilderness where there is no way," (Ps. 107: 40.) Still, in this  
diversity we can trace some remains of the divine image  
distinguishing the whole human race from other creatures.  
    18. We must now explain what the power of human reason is, in  
regard to the kingdom of God, and spiritual discernments which  
consists chiefly of three things - the knowledge of God, the  
knowledge of his paternal favour towards us, which constitutes our  
salvation, and the method of regulating of our conduct in accordance  
with the Divine Law. With regard to the former two, but more  
properly the second, men otherwise the most ingenious are blinder  
than moles. I deny not, indeed, that in the writings of philosophers  
we meet occasionally with shrewd and apposite remarks on the nature  
of God, though they invariably savour somewhat of giddy imagination.  
As observed above, the Lord has bestowed on them some slight  
perception of his Godhead that they might not plead ignorance as an  
excuse for their impiety, and has, at times, instigated them to  
deliver some truths, the confession of which should be their own  
condemnation. Still, though seeing, they saw not. Their discernment  
was not such as to direct them to the truth, far less to enable them  
to attain it, but resembled that of the bewildered traveller, who  
sees the flash of lightning glance far and wide for a moment, and  
then vanish into the darkness of the night, before he can advance a  
single step. So far is such assistance from enabling him to find the  
right path. Besides, how many monstrous falsehoods intermingle with  
those minute particles of truth scattered up and down in their  
writings as if by chance. In short, not one of them even made the  
least approach to that assurance of the divine favour, without which  
the mind of man must ever remain a mere chaos of confusion. To the  
great truths, What God is in himself, and what he is in relation to  
us, human reason makes not the least approach. (See Book 3 c. 2 sec.  
14, 15, 16.)  
    19. But since we are intoxicated with a false opinion of our  
own discernment, and can scarcely be persuaded that in divine things  
it is altogether stupid and blind, I believe the best course will be  
to establish the fact, not by argument, but by Scripture. Most  
admirable to this effect is the passage which I lately quoted from  
John, when he says, "In him was life; and the life was the light of  
men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness  
comprehended it not," (John 1: 4, 5.) He intimates that the human  
soul is indeed irradiated with a beam of divine light, so that it is  
never left utterly devoid of some small flame, or rather spark,  
though not such as to enable it to comprehend God. And why so?  
Because its acuteness is, in reference to the knowledge of God, mere  
blindness. When the Spirit describes men under the term "darkness"  
he declares them void of all power of spiritual intelligence. For  
this reason, it is said that believers, in embracing Christ, are  
"born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will  
of man, but of God," (John 1: 13;) in other words, that the flesh  
has no capacity for such sublime wisdom as to apprehend God, and the  
things of God, unless illumined by His Spirit. In like manner our  
Saviour, when he was acknowledged by Peter, declared that it was by  
special revelation from the Father, (Matth. 16: 17.)  
    20. If we were persuaded of a truth which ought to be beyond  
dispute, viz., that human nature possesses none of the gifts which  
the elect receive from their heavenly Father through the Spirit of  
regeneration, there would be no room here for hesitation. For thus  
speaks the congregation of the faithful, by the mouth of the  
prophet: "With thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we  
see light," (Ps. 36: 9.) To the same effect is the testimony of the  
Apostle Paul, when he declares, that "no man can say that Jesus is  
the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost," (1 Cor. 12: 3.) And John Baptist,  
on seeing the dullness of his disciples, exclaims, "A man can  
receive nothing, unless it be given him from heaven," (John 3: 27.)  
That the gift to which he here refers must be understood not of  
ordinary natural gifts, but of special illumination, appears from  
this - that he was complaining how little his disciples had profited  
by all that he had said to them in commendation of Christ. "I see,"  
says he, "that my words are of no effect in imbuing the minds of men  
with divine things, unless the Lord enlighten their understandings  
by His Spirit." Nay, Moses also, while upbraiding the people for  
their forgetfulness, at the same time observes, that they could not  
become wise in the mysteries of God without his assistance. "Ye have  
seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt,  
unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; the  
great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and these  
great miracles: yet the Lord has not given you an heart to perceive,  
and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this, day," (Deut. 29: 2, 3,  
4.) Would the expression have been stronger had he called us mere  
blocks in regard to the contemplation of divine things? Hence the  
Lord, by the mouth of the Prophet, promises to the Israelites as a  
singular favour, "I will give them an heart to know me," (Jer. 24:  
7;) intimating, that in spiritual things the human mind is wise only  
in so far as he enlightens it. This was also clearly confirmed by  
our Saviour when he said, "No man can come to me, except the Father  
which has sent me draw him," (John 6: 44.) Nay, is not he himself  
the living image of his Father, in which the full brightness of his  
glory is manifested to us? Therefore, how far our faculty of knowing  
God extends could not be better shown than when it is declared, that  
though his image is so plainly exhibited, we have not eyes to  
perceive it. What? Did not Christ descend into the world that he  
might make the will of his Father manifest to men, and did he not  
faithfully perform the office? True! He did; but nothing is  
accomplished by his preaching unless the inner teacher, the Spirit,  
open the way into our minds. Only those, therefore, come to him who  
have heard and learned of the Father. And in what is the method of  
this hearing and learning? It is when the Spirit, with a wondrous  
and special energy, forms the ear to hear and the mind to  
understand. Lest this should seem new, our Saviour refers to the  
prophecy of Isaiah, which contains a promise of the renovation of  
the Church. "For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great  
mercies will I gather thee," (Is. 54: 7.) If the Lord here predicts  
some special blessing to his elect, it is plain that the teaching to  
which he refers is not that which is common to them with the ungodly  
and profane.  
    It thus appears that none can enter the kingdom of God save  
those whose minds have been renewed by the enlightening of the Holy  
Spirit. On this subject the clearest exposition is given by Paul,  
who, when expressly handling it, after condemning the whole wisdom  
of the world as foolishness and vanity, and thereby declaring man's  
utter destitution, thus concludes, "The natural man receiveth not  
the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him:  
neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned," (1  
Cor. 2: 14.) Whom does he mean by the "natural man"? The man who  
trusts to the light of nature. Such a man has no understanding in  
the spiritual mysteries of God. Why so? Is it because through sloth  
he neglects them? Nay, though he exert himself, it is of no avail;  
they are "spiritually discerned." And what does this mean? That  
altogether hidden from human discernment, they are made known only  
by the revelation of the Spirit; so that they are accounted  
foolishness wherever the Spirit does not give light. The Apostle had  
previously declared, that "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither  
have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has  
prepared for them that love him;" nay, that the wisdom of the world  
is a kind of veil by which the mind is prevented from beholding God,  
(1 Cor. 2: 9.) What would we more? The Apostle declares that God has  
"made foolish the wisdom of this world," (1 Cor. 1: 20;) and shall  
we attribute to it an acuteness capable of penetrating to God, and  
the hidden mysteries of his kingdom? Far from us be such  
    21. What the Apostle here denies to man, he, in another place,  
ascribes to God alone, when he prays, "that the God of our Lord  
Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of  
wisdom and revelation," (Eph. 1: 17.) You now hear that all wisdom  
and revelation is the gift of God. What follows? "The eyes of your  
understanding being enlightened." Surely, if they require a new  
enlightening, they must in themselves be blind. The next words are,  
"that ye may know what is the hope of his calling," (Eph. 1: 18.) In  
other words, the minds of men have not capacity enough to know their  
calling. Let no prating Pelagian here allege that God obviates this  
rudeness or stupidity, when, by the doctrine of his word, he directs  
us to a path which we could not have found without a guide. David  
had the law, comprehending in it all the wisdom that could be  
desired, and yet not contented with this, he prays, "Open thou mine  
eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law," (Ps. 119:  
18.) By this expression, he certainly intimates, that it is like  
sunrise to the earth when the word of God shines forth; but that men  
do not derive much benefit from it until he himself, who is for this  
reason called the Father of lights (James 1: 17,) either gives eyes  
or opens them; because, whatever is not illuminated by his Spirit is  
wholly darkness. The Apostles had been duly and amply instructed by  
the best of teachers. Still, as they wanted the Spirit of truth to  
complete their education in the very doctrine which they had  
previously heard, they were ordered to wait for him, (John 14: 26.)  
If we confess that what we ask of God is lacking to us, and He by  
the very thing promised intimates our want, no man can hesitate to  
acknowledge that he is able to understand the mysteries of God, only  
in so far as illuminated by his grace. He who ascribes to himself  
more understanding than this, is the blinder for not acknowledging  
his blindness.  
    22. It remains to consider the third branch of the knowledge of  
spiritual things, viz., the method of properly regulating the  
conduct. This is correctly termed the knowledge of the works of  
righteousness, a branch in which the human mind seems to have  
somewhat more discernment than in the former two, since an Apostle  
declares, "When the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature  
the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a  
law unto themselves: which show the work of the law written in their  
hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts  
the meantime accusing or else excusing one another" (Rom. 2: 14,  
15.) If the Gentiles have the righteousness of the law naturally  
engraven on their minds, we certainly cannot say that they are  
altogether blind as to the rule of life. Nothing, indeed is more  
common, than for man to be sufficiently instructed in a right course  
of conduct by natural law, of which the Apostle here speaks. Let us  
consider, however for what end this knowledge of the law was given  
to men. For from this it will forthwith appear how far it can  
conduct them in the way of reason and truth. This is even plain from  
the words of Paul, if we attend to their arrangement. He had said a  
little before, that those who had sinned in the law will be judged  
by the law; and those who have sinned without the law will perish  
without the law. As it might seem unaccountable that the Gentiles  
should perish without any previous judgement, he immediately  
subjoins, that conscience served them instead of the law, and was  
therefore sufficient for their righteous condemnation. The end of  
the natural law, therefore, is to render man inexcusable, and may be  
not improperly defined - the judgement of conscience distinguishing  
sufficiently between just and unjust, and by convicting men on their  
own testimony depriving them of all pretext for ignorance. So  
indulgent is man towards himself, that, while doing evil, he always  
endeavours as much as he can to suppress the idea of sin. It was  
this, apparently, which induced Plato (in his Protagoras) to suppose  
that sins were committed only through ignorance. There might be some  
ground for this, if hypocrisy were so successful in hiding vice as  
to keep the conscience clear in the sight of God. But since the  
sinner, when trying to evade the judgement of good and evil  
implanted in him, is ever and anon dragged forward, and not  
permitted to wink so effectually as not to be compelled at times,  
whether he will or not, to open his eyes, it is false to say that he  
sins only through ignorance.  
    23. Themistius is more accurate in teaching, (Paraphr. in Lib.  
3 de Anima, cap. 46,) that the intellect is very seldom mistaken in  
the general definition or essence of the matter; but that deception  
begins as it advances farther, namely, when it descends to  
particulars. That homicide, putting the case in the abstract, is an  
evil, no man will deny; and yet one who is conspiring the death of  
his enemy deliberates on it as if the thing was good. The adulterer  
will condemn adultery in the abstract, and yet flatter himself while  
privately committing it. The ignorance lies here: that man, when he  
comes to the particular, forgets the rule which he had laid down in  
the general case. Augustine treats most admirably on this subject in  
his exposition of the first verse of the fifty-seventh Psalm. The  
doctrine of Themistius, however, does not always hold true: for the  
turpitude of the crime sometimes presses so on the conscience, that  
the sinner does not impose upon himself by a false semblance of  
good, but rushes into sin knowingly and willingly. Hence the  
expression, - I see the better course, and approve it: I follow the  
worse, (Medea of Ovid.) For this reason, Aristotle seems to me to  
have made a very shrewd distinction between incontinence and  
intemperance, (Ethic. lib. 7 cap. 3) Where incontinence ("akrasia")  
reigns, he says, that through the passion ("pathos") particular  
knowledge is suppressed: so that the individual sees not in his own  
misdeed the evil which he sees generally in similar cases; but when  
the passion is over, repentance immediately succeeds. Intemperance,  
("akolasia"), again, is not extinguished or diminished by a sense of  
sin, but, on the contrary, persists in the evil choice which it has  
once made.  
    24. Moreover, when you hear of a universal judgement in man  
distinguishing between good and evil, you must not suppose that this  
judgement is, in every respect, sound and entire. For if the hearts  
of men are imbued with a sense of justice and injustice, in order  
that they may have no pretext to allege ignorance, it is by no means  
necessary for this purpose that they should discern the truth in  
particular cases. It is even more than sufficient if they understand  
so far as to be unable to practice evasion without being convicted  
by their own conscience, and beginning even now to tremble at the  
judgement-seat of God. Indeed, if we would test our reason by the  
Divine Law, which is a perfect standard of righteousness, we should  
find how blind it is in many respects. It certainly attains not to  
the principal heads in the First Table, such as, trust in God, the  
ascription to him of all praise in virtue and righteousness, the  
invocation of his name, and the true observance of his day of rest.  
Did ever any soul, under the guidance of natural sense, imagine that  
these and the like constitute the legitimate worship of God? When  
profane men would worship God, how often soever they may be drawn  
off from their vain trifling, they constantly relapse into it. They  
admit, indeed, that sacrifices are not pleasing, to God, unless  
accompanied with sincerity of mind; and by this they testify that  
they have some conception of spiritual worship, though they  
immediately pervert it by false devices: for it is impossible to  
persuade them that every thing which the law enjoins on the subject  
is true. Shall I then extol the discernment of a mind which can  
neither acquire wisdom by itself, nor listen to advice? As to the  
precepts of the Second Table, there is considerably more knowledge  
of them, inasmuch as they are more closely connected with the  
preservation of civil society. Even here, however, there is  
something defective. Every man of understanding deems it most absurd  
to submit to unjust and tyrannical domination, provided it can by  
any means be thrown off, and there is but one opinion among men,  
that it is the part of an abject and servile mind to bear it  
patiently, the part of an honourable and high-spirited mind to rise  
up against it. Indeed, the revenge of injuries is not regarded by  
philosophers as a vice. But the Lord condemning this too lofty  
spirit, prescribes to his people that patience which mankind deem  
infamous. In regard to the general observance of the law,  
concupiscence altogether escapes our animadversion. For the natural  
man cannot bear to recognise diseases in his lusts. The light of  
nature is stifled sooner than take the first step into this profound  
abyss. For, when philosophers class immoderate movements of the mind  
among vices, they mean those which break forth and manifest  
themselves in grosser forms. Depraved desires, in which the mind can  
quietly indulge, they regard as nothing, (see infra, chap. 8 sect.  
    25. As we have above animadverted on Plato's error, in  
ascribing all sins to ignorance, so we must repudiate the opinion of  
those who hold that all sins proceed from preconceived gravity and  
malice. We know too well from experience how often we fall, even  
when our intention is good. Our reason is exposed to so many forms  
of delusion, is liable to so many errors, stumbles on so many  
obstacles, is entangled by so many snares, that it is ever wandering  
from the right direction. Of how little value it is in the sight of  
God, in regard to all the parts of life, Paul shows, when he says,  
that we are not "sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of  
ourselves," (2 Cor. 3: 5.) He is not speaking of the will or  
affection; he denies us the power of thinking aright how any thing  
cam be duly performed. Is it, indeed, true, that all thought,  
intelligence, discernment, and industry, are so defective, that, in  
the sight of the Lord, we cannot think or aim at any thing that is  
right? To us, who can scarcely bear to part with acuteness of  
intellect, (in our estimation a most precious endowment,) it seems  
hard to admit this, whereas it is regarded as most just by the Holy  
Spirit, who "knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity,"  
(Ps. 94: 11,) and distinctly declares, that "every imagination of  
the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually," (Gen. 6: 5; 8:  
21.) If every thing which our mind conceives, meditates plans, and  
resolves, is always evil, how can it ever think of doing what is  
pleasing to God, to whom righteousness and holiness alone are  
acceptable? It is thus plain, that our mind, in what direction  
soever it turns, is miserably exposed to vanity. David was conscious  
of its weakness when he prayed, "Give me understanding, and I shall  
keep thy law," (Ps. 119: 34.) By desiring to obtain a new  
understanding, he intimates that his own was by no means sufficient.  
This he does not once only, but in one psalm repeats the same prayer  
almost ten times, the repetition intimating how strong the necessity  
which urged him to pray. What he thus asked for himself alone, Paul  
prays for the churches in general. "For this cause," says he, "we  
also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and  
to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will, in  
all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you might walk worthy  
of the Lord," &c., (Col. 1: 9, 10.) Whenever he represents this as a  
blessing from God, we should remember that he at the same time  
testifies that it is not in the power of man. Accordingly,  
Augustine, in speaking of this inability of human reason to  
understand the things of God, says, that he deems the grace of  
illumination not less necessary to the mind than the light of the  
sun to the eye, (August. de Peccat. Merit. et Remiss. lib. 2 cap.  
5.) And, not content with this, he modifies his expression, adding,  
that we open our eyes to behold the light, whereas the mental eye  
remains shut, until it is opened by the Lord. Nor does Scripture say  
that our minds are illuminated in a single day, so as afterwards to  
see of themselves. The passage, which I lately quoted from the  
Apostle Paul, refers to continual progress and increase. David, too,  
expresses this distinctly in these words: "With my whole heart have  
I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments," (Ps. 119:  
10.) Though he had been regenerated, and so had made no ordinary  
progress in true piety, he confesses that he stood in need of  
direction every moment, in order that he might not decline from the  
knowledge with which he had been endued. Hence, he elsewhere prays  
for a renewal of a right spirit, which he had lost by his sin, (Ps.  
51: 12.) For that which God gave at first, while temporarily  
withdrawn, it is equally his province to restore.  
    26. We must now examine the will, on which the question of  
freedom principally turns, the power of choice belonging to it  
rather than the intellect, as we have already seen, (supra, sect.  
4.) And at the outset, to guard against its being thought that the  
doctrine taught by philosophers, and generally received, viz., that  
all things by natural instinct have a desire of good, is any proof  
of the rectitude of the human will, - let us observe, that the power  
of free will is not to be considered in any of those desires which  
proceed more from instinct than mental deliberation. Even the  
schoolmen admit, (Thomas, Part 1, Quest. 83, art. 3,) that there is  
no act of free will, unless when reason looks at opposites. By this  
they mean, that the things desired must be such as may be made the  
object of choice, and that to pave the way for choice, deliberation  
must precede. And, undoubtedly, if you attend to what this natural  
desire of good in man is, you will find that it is common to him  
with the brutes. They, too, desire what is good; and when any  
semblance of good capable of moving the sense appears, they follow  
after it. Here, however, man does not, in accordance with the  
excellence of his immortal nature, rationally choose, and studiously  
pursue, what is truly for his good. He does not admit reason to his  
counsel, nor exert his intellect; but without reason, without  
counsel, follows the bent of his nature like the lower animals. The  
question of freedom, therefore, has nothing to do with the fact of  
man's being led by natural instinct to desire good. The question is,  
Does man, after determining by right reason what is good, choose  
what he thus knows, and pursue what he thus chooses? Lest any doubt  
should be entertained as to this, we must attend to the double  
misnomer. For this appetite is not properly a movement of the will,  
but natural inclination; and this good is not one of virtue or  
righteousness, but of condition, viz., that the individual may feel  
comfortable. In fine, how much soever man may desire to obtain what  
is good, he does not follow it. There is no man who would not be  
pleased with eternal blessedness; and yet, without the impulse of  
the Spirit, no man aspires to it. Since, then, the natural desire of  
happiness in man no more proves the freedom of the will, than the  
tendency in metals and stones to attain the perfection of their  
nature, let us consider, in other respects, whether the will is so  
utterly vitiated and corrupted in every part as to produce nothing  
but evil, or whether it retains some portion uninjured, and  
productive of good desires.  
    27. Those who ascribe our willing effectually, to the primary  
grace of Gods (supra, sect. 6,) seem conversely to insinuate that  
the soul has in itself a power of aspiring to good, though a power  
too feeble to rise to solid affection or active endeavour. There is  
no doubt that this opinion, adopted from Origin and certain of the  
ancient Fathers, has been generally embraced by the schoolmen, who  
are wont to apply to man in his natural state (in puris naturalibus,  
as they express it) the following description of the apostle: - "For  
that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but  
what I hate, that do I." "To will is present with me; but how to  
perform that which is good I find not," (Rom. 7: 15, 18.) But, in  
this way, the whole scope of Paul's discourse is inverted. He is  
speaking of the Christian struggle, (touched on more briefly in the  
Epistle to the Galatians,) which believers constantly experience  
from the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit. But the Spirit  
is not from nature, but from regeneration. That the apostle is  
speaking of the regenerate is apparent from this, that after saying,  
"in me dwells no good thing," he immediately adds the explanation,  
"in my flesh." Accordingly, he declares, "It is no more I that do  
it, but sin that dwelleth in me." What is the meaning of the  
correction, "in me, (that is, in my flesh?") It is just as if he had  
spoken in this way, No good thing dwells in me, of myself, for in my  
flesh nothing good can be found. Hence follows the species of  
excuse, It is not I myself that do evil, but sin that dwelleth in  
me. This applies to none but the regenerate, who, with the leading  
powers of the soul, tend towards what is good. The whole is made  
plain by the conclusion, "I delight in the law of God after the  
inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the  
law of my mind," (Rom. 7: 22, 23.) Who has this struggle in himself,  
save those who, regenerated by the Spirit of God, bear about with  
them the remains of the flesh? Accordingly, Augustine, who had at  
one time thought that the discourse related to the natural man,  
(August. ad Bonifac. lib. 1 c. 10,) afterwards retracted his  
exposition as unsound and inconsistent. And, indeed if we admit that  
men, without grace, have any motions to good, however feeble, what  
answer shall we give to the apostles who declares that "we are  
incapable of thinking a good thought?" (2 Cor. 3: 6.) What answer  
shall we give to the Lord, who declares, by Moses, that "every  
imagination of man's heart is only evil continually?" (Gen. 8: 21.)  
Since the blunder has thus arisen from an erroneous view of a single  
passage, it seems unnecessary to dwell upon it. Let us rather give  
due weight to our Saviour's words, "Whosoever committeth sin is the  
servant of sin," (John 8: 34.) We are all sinners by nature,  
therefore we are held under the yoke of sin. But if the whole man is  
subject to the dominion of sin, surely the will, which is its  
principal seat, must be bound with the closest chains. And, indeed,  
if divine grace were preceded by any will of ours, Paul could not  
have said that "it is God which worketh in us both to will and to  
do," (Philip. 2: 13.) Away, then, with all the absurd trifling which  
many have indulged in with regard to preparation. Although believers  
sometimes ask to have their heart trained to the obedience of the  
divine law, as David does in several passages, (Ps. 51: 12,) it is  
to be observed, that even this longing in prayer is from God. This  
is apparent from the language used. When he prays, "Create in me a  
clean heart," he certainly does not attribute the beginning of the  
creation to himself. Let us therefore rather adopt the sentiment of  
Augustine, "God will prevent you in all things, but do you sometimes  
prevent his anger. How? Confess that you have all these things from  
God, that all the good you have is from him, all the evil from  
yourself," (August. De Verbis Apost. Serm. 10.) Shortly after he  
says "Of our own we have nothing but sin."  
Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 2, Part 3
(continued in part 4...) 
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