Calvin, Institutes, Vol.2, Part 6
(... continued from part 5) 

Chapter 5. 
5. The arguments usually alleged in support of free will refuted. 
    Objections reduced to three principal heads:-I. Four 
absurdities advanced by the opponents of the orthodox doctrine 
concerning the slavery of the will, stated and refuted, sec. 1-5. 
II. The passages of Scripture which they pervert in favour of their 
error, reduced to five heads, and explained, sec. 6-15. III. Five 
other passages quoted in defence of free will expounded, sec. 16-19. 
1. Absurd fictions of opponents first refuted, and then certain 
    passages of Scripture explained. Answer by a negative. 
    Confirmation of the answer. 
2. Another absurdity of Aristotle and Pelagius. Answer by a 
    distinction. Answer fortified by passages from Augustine, and 
    supported by the authority of an Apostle. 
3. Third absurdity borrowed from the words of Chrysostom. Answer by 
    a negative. 
4. Fourth absurdity urged of old by the Pelagians. Answer from the 
    works of Augustine. Illustrated by the testimony of our 
    Saviour. Another answer, which explains the use of 
5. A third answer, which contains a fuller explanation of the 
    second. Objection to the previous answers. Objection refuted. 
    Summary of the previous answers. 
6. First class of arguments which the Neo-Pelagians draw from 
    Scripture in defence of free will. 1. The Law demands perfect 
    obedience and therefore God either mocks us, or requires things 
    which are not in our power. Answer by distinguishing precepts 
    into three sorts. The first of these considered in this and the 
    following section. 
7. This general argument from the Law of no avail to the patrons of 
    free will. Promises conjoined with precepts, prove that our sal 
    vation is to be found in the grace of God. Objection, that the 
    Law was given to the persons living at the time. Answer, 
    confirmed by passages from Augustine. 
8. A special consideration of the three classes of precepts of no 
    avail to the defenders of free will. 1. Precepts enjoining us 
    to turn to God. 2. Precepts which simply speak of the 
    observance of the Law. 3. Precepts which enjoin us to persevere 
    in the grace of God. 
9. Objection. Answer. Confirmation of the answer from Jeremiah. 
    Another objection refuted. 
10. A second class of arguments in defence of free will drawn from 
    the promises of God, viz., that the promises which God makes to 
    those who seek him are vain if it is not in our power to do, or 
    not do, the thing required. Answer, which explains the use of 
    promises, and removes the supposed inconsistency. 
11. Third class of arguments drawn from the divine upbraidings, - 
    that it is in vain to upbraid us for evils which it is not in 
    our power to avoid. Answer. Sinners are condemned by their own 
    consciences, and, therefore, the divine upbraidings are just. 
    Moreover, there is a twofold use in these upbraidings. Various 
    passages of Scripture explained by means of the foregoing 
12. Objection founded on the words of Moses. Refutation by the words 
    of an Apostle. Confirmation by argument. 
13. Fourth class of arguments by the defenders of free will. God 
    waits to see whether or not sinners will repent; therefore they 
    can repent. Answer by a dilemma. Passage in Hosea explained. 
14. Fifth class of arguments in defence of free will. God and bad 
    works described as our own, and therefore we are capable of 
    both. Answer by an exposition, which shows that this argument 
    is unavailing. Objection drawn from analogy. Answer. The nature 
    and mode of divine agency in the elect. 
15. Conclusion of the answer to the last class of arguments. 
16. Third and last division of the chapter discussing certain 
    passages of Scripture. 1. A passage from Genesis. Its true 
    meaning explained. 
17. 2. Passage from the Epistle to the Romans. Explanation. 
    Refutation of an objection. Another refutation. A third 
    refutation from Augustine. 3. A passage from First Corinthians. 
    Answer to it. 
18. 4. A passage from Ecclesiastes. Explanation. Another 
19. 5. A passage from Luke. Explanation. Allegorical arguments weak. 
    Another explanation. A third explanation. A fourth from 
    Augustine. Conclusion and summary of the whole discussion 
    concerning free will. 
    1. Enough would seem to have been said on the subject of man's 
will, were there not some who endeavour to urge him to his ruin by a 
false opinion of liberty, and at the same time, in order to support 
their own opinion, assail ours. First, they gather together some 
absurd inferences, by which they endeavour to bring odium upon our 
doctrine, as if it were abhorrent to common sense, and then they 
oppose it with certain passages of Scripture, (infra, sec. 6.) Both 
devices we shall dispose of in their order. If sin, say they, is 
necessary, it ceases to be sin; if it is voluntary, it may be 
avoided. Such, too, were the weapons with which Pelagius assailed 
Augustine. But we are unwilling to crush them by the weight of his 
name, until we have satisfactorily disposed of the objections 
themselves. I deny, therefore, that sin ought to be the less imputed 
because it is necessary; and, on the other hand, I deny the 
inference, that sin may be avoided because it is voluntary. If any 
one will dispute with God, and endeavour to evade his judgement, by 
pretending that he could not have done otherwise, the answer already 
given is sufficient, that it is owing not to creation, but the 
corruption of nature, that man has become the slave of sin, and can 
will nothing but evil. For whence that impotence of which the wicked 
so readily avail themselves as an excuse, but just because Adam 
voluntarily subjected himself to the tyranny of the devil? Hence the 
corruption by which we are held bound as with chains, originated in 
the first man's revolt from his Maker. If all men are justly held 
guilty of this revolt, let them not think themselves excused by a 
necessity in which they see the clearest cause of their 
condemnation. But this I have fully explained above; and in the case 
of the devil himself, have given an example of one who sins not less 
voluntarily that he sins necessarily. I have also shown, in the case 
of the elect angels, that though their will cannot decline from 
good, it does not therefore cease to be will. This Bernard shrewdly 
explains when he says, (Serm. 81, in Cantica,) that we are the more 
miserable in this, that the necessity is voluntary; and yet this 
necessity so binds us who are subject to it, that we are the slaves 
of sin, as we have already observed. The second step in the 
reasoning is vicious, because it leaps from voluntary to free; 
whereas we have proved above, that a thing may be done voluntarily, 
though not subject to free choice. 
    2. They add, that unless virtue and vice proceed from free 
choice, it is absurd either to punish man or reward him. Although 
this argument is taken from Aristotle, I admit that it is also used 
by Chrysostom and Jerome. Jerome, however, does not disguise that it 
was familiar to the Pelagians. He even quotes their words, "If grace 
acts in us, grace, and not we who do the work, will be crowned," 
(Heron. in Ep. ad Ctesiphont. et Dialog. 1) With regard to 
punishment, I answer, that it is properly inflicted on those by whom 
the guilt is contracted. What matters it whether you sin with a free 
or an enslaved judgement, so long as you sin voluntarily, especially 
when man is proved to be a sinner because he is under the bondage of 
sin? In regard to the rewards of righteousness, is there any great 
absurdity in acknowledging that they depend on the kindness of God 
rather than our own merits? How often do we meet in Augustine with 
this expression, - "God crowns not our merits but his own gifts; and 
the name of reward is given not to what is due to our merits, but to 
the recompense of grace previously bestowed?" Some seem to think 
there is acuteness in the remark, that there is no place at all for 
the mind, if good works do not spring from free will as their proper 
source; but in thinking this so very unreasonable they are widely 
mistaken. Augustine does not hesitate uniformly to describe as 
necessary the very thing which they count it impious to acknowledge. 
Thus he asks, "What is human merit? He who came to bestow not due 
recompense but free grace, though himself free from sin, and the 
giver of freedom, found all men sinners," (Augustin. in Psal. 31.) 
Again, "If you are to receive your due, you must be punished. What 
then is done? God has not rendered you due punishment, but bestows 
upon you unmerited grace. If you wish to be an alien from grace, 
boast your merits," (in Psal. 70.) Again, "You are nothing in 
yourself, sin is yours, merit God's. Punishment is your due; and 
when the reward shall come, God shall crown his own gifts, not your 
merits," (Ep. 52.) To the same effect he elsewhere says, (De Verb. 
Apostol. Serm. 15,) that grace is not of merit, but merit of grace. 
And shortly after he concludes, that God by his gifts anticipates 
all our merit, that he may thereby manifest his own merit, and give 
what is absolutely free, because he sees nothing in us that can be a 
ground of salvation. But why extend the list of quotations, when 
similar sentiments are ever and anon recurring in his works? The 
abettors of this error would see a still better refutation of it, if 
they would attend to the source from which the apostle derives the 
glory of the saints, - "Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he 
also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he 
justified, them he also glorified," (Rom. 8: 30.) On what ground, 
then, the apostle being judge, (2 Tim. 4: 8,) are believers crowned? 
Because by the mercy of God, not their own exertions, they are 
predestinated, called, and justified. Away, then, with the vain 
fear, that unless free will stand, there will no longer be any 
merit! It is most foolish to take alarm, and recoil from that which 
Scripture inculcates. "If thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory 
as if thou hadst not received it?" (1 Cor. 4: 7.) You see how every 
thing is denied to free will, for the very purpose of leaving no 
room for merit. And yet, as the beneficence and liberality of God 
are manifold and inexhaustible, the grace which he bestows upon us, 
inasmuch as he makes it our own, he recompenses as if the virtuous 
acts were our own. 
    3. But it is added, in terms which seem to be borrowed from 
Chrysostom, (Homil. 22, in Genes.,) that if our will possesses not 
the power of choosing good or evil, all who are partakers of the 
same nature must be alike good or alike bad. A sentiment akin to 
this occurs in the work De Vocatione Gentium, (lib. 4 c. 4,) usually 
attributed to Ambrose, in which it is argued, that no one would ever 
decline from faith, did not the grace of God leave us in a mutable 
state. It is strange that such men should have so blundered. How did 
it fail to occur to Chrysostom, that it is divine election which 
distinguishes among men? We have not the least hesitation to admit 
what Paul strenuously maintains, that all, without exception, are 
depraved and given over to wickedness; but at the same time we add, 
that through the mercy of God all do not continue in wickedness. 
Therefore, while we all labour naturally under the same disease, 
those only recover health to whom the Lord is pleased to put forth 
his healing hand. The others whom, in just judgement, he passes 
over, pine and rot away till they are consumed. And this is the only 
reason why some persevere to the end, and others, after beginning 
their course, fall away. Perseverance is the gift of God, which he 
does not lavish promiscuously on all, but imparts to whom he 
pleases. If it is asked how the difference arises - why some 
steadily persevere, and others prove deficient in steadfastness, we 
can give no other reason than that the Lord, by his mighty power, 
strengthens and sustains the former, so that they perish not, while 
he does not furnish the same assistance to the latter, but leaves 
them to be monuments of instability. 
    4. Still it is insisted, that exhortations are vain, warnings 
superfluous, and rebukes absurd, if the sinner possesses not the 
power to obey. When similar objections were urged against Augustine, 
he was obliged to write his book, De Correptione et Gratia, where he 
has fully disposed of them. The substance of his answer to his 
opponents is this: "O, man! learn from the precept what you ought to 
do; learn from correction, that it is your own fault you have not 
the power; and learn in prayer, whence it is that you may receive 
the power." Very similar is the argument of his book, De Spiritu et 
Litera, in which he shows that God does not measure the precepts of 
his law by human strength, but, after ordering what is right, freely 
bestows on his elect the power of fulfilling it. The subject, 
indeed, does not require a long discussion. For we are not singular 
in our doctrine, but have Christ and all his apostles with us. Let 
our opponents, then, consider how they are to come off victorious in 
a contest which they wage with such antagonists. Christ declares, 
"without me ye can do nothing," (John 20: 5.) Does he the less 
censure and chastise those who, without him, did wickedly? Does he 
the less exhort every man to be intent on good works? How severely 
does Paul inveigh against the Corinthians for want of charity, (1 
Cor. 3: 3;) and yet at the same time, he prays that charity may be 
given them by the Lord. In the Epistle to the Romans, he declares 
that "it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of 
God that showeth mercy," (Rom. 9: 16.) Still he ceases not to warn, 
exhort, and rebuke them. Why then do they not expostulate with God 
for making sport with men, by demanding of them things which he 
alone can give, and chastising them for faults committed through 
want of his grace? Why do they not admonish Paul to spare those who 
have it not in their power to will or to run, unless the mercy of 
God, which has forsaken them, precede? As if the doctrine were not 
founded on the strongest reason - reason which no serious inquirer 
can fail to perceive. The extent to which doctrine, and exhortation, 
and rebuke, are in themselves able to change the mind, is indicated 
by Paul when he says, "Neither is he that planteth any thing, 
neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase," (1 Cor 
3: 7 ) in like manner, we see that Moses delivers the precepts of 
the Law under a heavy sanction, and that the prophets strongly urge 
and threaten transgressors though they at the same time confess, 
that men are wise only when an understanding heart is given them; 
that it is the proper work of God to circumcise the heart, and to 
change it from stone into flesh; to write his law on their inward 
parts; in short, to renew souls so as to give efficacy to doctrine 
    5. What purpose, then, is served by exhortations? It is this: 
As the wicked, with obstinate heart, despise them, they will be a 
testimony against them when they stand at the judgement-seat of God; 
nay, they even now strike and lash their consciences. For, however 
they may petulantly deride, they cannot disapprove them. But what, 
you will ask, can a miserable mortal do, when softness of heart, 
which is necessary to obedience, is denied him? I ask, in reply, Why 
have recourse to evasion, since hardness of heart cannot be imputed 
to any but the sinner himself? The ungodly, though they would gladly 
evade the divine admonitions, are forced, whether they will or not, 
to feel their power. But their chief use is to be seen in the case 
of believers, in whom the Lord, while he always acts by his Spirit, 
also omits not the instrumentality of his word, but employs it, and 
not without effect. Let this, then, be a standing truth, that the 
whole strength of the godly consists in the grace of God, according 
to the words of the prophet, "I will give them one heart, and I will 
put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of 
their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh, that they may 
walk in my statutes," (Ezek. 11: 19, 20.) But it will be asked, why 
are they now admonished of their duty, and not rather left to the 
guidance of the Spirit? Why are they urged with exhortations when 
they cannot hasten any faster than the Spirit impels them? and why 
are they chastised, if at any time they go astray, seeing that this 
is caused by the necessary infirmity of the flesh? "O, man! who art 
thou that replies against God?" If, in order to prepare us for the 
grace which enables us to obey exhortation, God sees meet to employ 
exhortation, what is there in such an arrangement for you to carp 
and scoff at? Had exhortations and reprimands no other profit with 
the godly than to convince them of sin, they could not be deemed 
altogether useless. Now, when, by the Spirit of God acting within, 
they have the effect of inflaming their desire of good, of arousing 
them from lethargy, of destroying the pleasure and honeyed sweetness 
of sin, making it hateful and loathsome, who will presume to cavil 
at them as superfluous? 
    Should any one wish a clearer reply, let him take the 
following: - God works in his elect in two ways: inwardly, by his 
Spirit; outwardly, by his Word. By his Spirit illuminating their 
minds, and training their hearts to the practice of righteousness, 
he makes them new creatures, while, by his Word, he stimulates them 
to long and seek for this renovation. In both, he exerts the might 
of his hand in proportion to the measure in which he dispenses them. 
The Word, when addressed to the reprobate, though not effectual for 
their amendment, has another use. It urges their consciences now, 
and will render them more inexcusable on the day of judgement. Thus, 
our Saviour, while declaring that none can come to him but those 
whom the Father draws, and that the elect come after they have heard 
and learned of the Father, (John 6: 44, 45,) does not lay aside the 
office of teacher, but carefully invites those who must be taught 
inwardly by the Spirit before they can make any profit. The 
reprobate, again, are admonished by Paul, that the doctrine is not 
in vain; because, while it is in them a savour of death unto death, 
it is still a sweet savour unto God, (2 Cor. 2: 16.) 
    6. The enemies of this doctrine are at great pains in 
collecting passages of Scripture, as if, unable to accomplish any 
thing by their weight, they were to overwhelm us by their number. 
But as in battle, when it is come to close quarters, an unwarlike 
multitude, how great soever the pomp and show they make, give way 
after a few blows, and take to flight, so we shall have little 
difficulty here in disposing of our opponents and their host. All 
the passages which they pervert in opposing us are very similar in 
their import; and hence, when they are arranged under their proper 
heads, one answer will suffice for several; it is not necessary to 
give a separate consideration to each. Precepts seem to be regarded 
as their stronghold. These they think so accommodated to our 
abilities, as to make it follow as a matter of course, that whatever 
they enjoin we are able to perform. Accordingly, they run over all 
the precepts, and by them fix the measure of our power. For, say 
they, when God enjoins meekness, submission, love, chastity, piety, 
and holiness, and when he forbids anger, pride, theft, uncleanness, 
idolatry, and the like, he either mocks us, or only requires things 
which are in our power. 
    All the precepts which they thus heap together may be divided 
into three classes. Some enjoin a first conversion unto God, others 
speak simply of the observance of the law, and others inculcate 
perseverance in the grace which has been received. We shall first 
treat of precepts in general, and then proceed to consider each 
separate class. That the abilities of man are equal to the precepts 
of the divine law, has long been a common idea, and has some show of 
plausibility. It is founded, however, on the grossest ignorance of 
the law. Those who deem it a kind of sacrilege to say, that the 
observance of the law is impossible, insist, as their strongest 
argument, that, if it is so, the Law has been given in vain, (infra, 
Chap. 7 sec. 5.) For they speak just as if Paul had never said 
anything about the Law. But what, pray, is meant by saying, that the 
Law "was added because of transgressions;" "by the law is the 
knowledge of sin;" "I had not known sin but by the law;" "the law 
entered that the offence might abound?" (Gal. 3: 19; Rom. 3: 20; 7: 
7; 5: 20.) Is it meant that the Law was to be limited to our 
strength, lest it should be given in vain? Is it not rather meant 
that it was placed far above us, in order to convince us of our 
utter feebleness? Paul indeed declares, that charity is the end and 
fulfilling of the Law, (1 Tim. 1: 5.) But when he prays that the 
minds of the Thessalonians may be filled with it, he clearly enough 
acknowledges that the Law sounds in our ears without profit, if God 
do not implant it thoroughly in our hearts, (1 Thess. 3: 12.) 
    7. I admit, indeed, that if the Scripture taught nothing else 
on the subject than that the Law is a rule of life by which we ought 
to regulate our pursuits, I should at once assent to their opinion; 
but since it carefully and clearly explains that the use of the Law 
is manifold, the proper course is to learn from that explanation 
what the power of the Law is in man. In regard to the present 
question, while it explains what our duty is it teaches that the 
power of obeying it is derived from the goodness of God, and it 
accordingly urges us to pray that this power may be given us. If 
there were merely a command and no promise, it would be necessary to 
try whether our strength were sufficient to fulfil the command; but 
since promises are annexed, which proclaim not only that aid, but 
that our whole power is derived from divine grace, they at the same 
time abundantly testify that we are not only unequal to the 
observance of the Law, but mere fools in regard to it. Therefore, 
let us hear no more of a proportion between our ability and the 
divine precepts, as if the Lord had accommodated the standard of 
justice which he was to give in the Law to our feeble capacities. We 
should rather gather from the promises hove ill provided we are, 
having in everything so much need of grace. But say they, Who will 
believe that the Lord designed his Law for blocks and stones? There 
is no wish to make any one believe this. The ungodly are neither 
blocks nor stones, when, taught by the Law that their lusts are 
offensive to God, they are proved guilty by their own confession; 
nor are the godly blocks or stones, when admonished of their 
powerlessness, they take refuge in grace. To this effect are the 
pithy sayings of Augustine, "God orders what we cannot do, that we 
may know what we ought to ask of him. There is a great utility in 
precepts, if all that is given to free will is to do greater honour 
to divine grace. Faith acquires what the Law requires; nay, the Law 
requires, in order that faith may acquire what is thus required; 
nay, more, God demands of us faith itself, and finds not what he 
thus demands, until by giving he makes it possible to find it." 
Again, he says, "Let God give what he orders, and order what he 
    8. This will be more clearly seen by again attending to the 
three classes of precepts to which we above referred. Both in the 
Law and in the Prophets, God repeatedly calls upon us to turn to 
him. But, on the other hand, a prophet exclaims, "Turn thou me, and 
I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I 
was turned, I repented." He orders us to circumcise the foreskins of 
our hearts; but Moses declares, that that circumcision is made by 
his own hand. In many passages he demands a new heart, but in others 
he declares that he gives it. As Augustine says, "What God promises, 
we ourselves do not through choice or nature, but he himself does by 
grace." The same observation is made, when, in enumerating the rules 
of Tichonius, he states the third in effect to be - that we 
distinguish carefully between the Law and the promises, or between 
the commands and grace, (Augustin. de Doctrine Christiana, lib. 3.) 
Let them now go and gather from precepts what man's power of 
obedience is, when they would destroy the divine grace by which the 
precepts themselves are accomplished. The precepts of the second 
class are simply those which enjoin us to worship God, to obey and 
adhere to his will, to do his pleasure, and follow his teaching. But 
innumerable passages testify that every degree of purity, piety, 
holiness, and justices which we possess, is his gift. Of the third 
class of precepts is the exhortation of Paul and Barnabas to the 
proselytes, as recorded by Luke; they "persuaded them to continue in 
the grace of God," (Acts 13: 43.) But the source from which this 
power of continuance must be sought is elsewhere explained by Paul, 
when he says, "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord," (Eph. 
6: 10.) In another passage he says, "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of 
God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption," (Eph. 4: 
30.) But as the thing here enjoined could not be performed by man, 
he prays in behalf of the Thessalonians, that God would count them 
"worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his 
goodness, and the work of faith with power," (2 Thess. 1: 11.) In 
the same way, in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, when 
treating of alms, he repeatedly commends their good and pious 
inclination. A little farther on, however, he exclaims, "Thanks be 
to God, which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for 
you. For indeed he accepted the exhortation," (2 Cor. 8: 16, 17.) If 
Titus could not even perform the office of being a mouth to exhort 
others, except in so far as God suggested, how could the others have 
been voluntary agents in acting, if the Lord Jesus had not directed 
their hearts? 
    9. Some, who would be thought more acute, endeavour to evade 
all these passages, by the quibble, that there is nothing to hinder 
us from contributing our part, while God, at the same time, supplies 
our deficiencies. They, moreover, adduce passages from the Prophets, 
in which the work of our conversion seems to be shared between God 
and ourselves; "Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will 
turn unto you, saith the Lord of hosts," (Zech. 1: 3.) The kind of 
assistance which God gives us has been shown above, (sect. 7, 8,) 
and need not now be repeated. One thing only I ask to be conceded to 
me, that it is vain to think we have a power of fulfilling the Law, 
merely because we are enjoined to obey it. Since, in order to our 
fulfilling the divine precepts, the grace of the Lawgiver is both 
necessary, and has been promised to us, this much at least is clear, 
that more is demanded of us than we are able to pay. Nor can any 
cavil evade the declaration in Jeremiah, that the covenant which God 
made with his ancient people was broken, because it was only of the 
letter - that to make it effectual, it was necessary for the Spirit 
to interpose and train the heart to obedience, (Jer. 31: 32.) The 
opinion we now combat is not aided by the words, "Turn unto me, and 
I will turn unto you." The turning there spoken of is not that by 
which God renews the heart unto repentance; but that in which, by 
bestowing prosperity, he manifests his kindness and favour, just in 
the same way as he sometimes expresses his displeasure by sending 
adversity. The people complaining under the many calamities which 
befell them, that they were forsaken by God, he answers, that his 
kindness would not fail them, if they would return to a right 
course, and to himself, the standard of righteousness. The passage, 
therefore, is wrested from its proper meaning when it is made to 
countenance the idea that the work of conversion is divided between 
God and man, (supra, Chap. 2 sec. 27.) We have only glanced briefly 
at this subject, as the proper place for it will occur when we come 
to treat of the Law, (Chap. 7 sec. 2 and 3.) 
    10. The second class of objections is akin to the former. They 
allege the promises in which the Lord makes a paction with our will. 
Such are the following: "Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live," 
(Amos 5: 14.) "If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good 
of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with 
the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it," (Isaiah 1: 19, 
20.) "If thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then 
thou shalt not remove," (Jer. 4: 1.) "It shall come to pass, if thou 
shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to 
observe and do all the commandments which I command thee this days 
that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the 
earth," (Deut. 28: 1.) There are other similar passages, (Lev. 26: 
3, &c.) They think that the blessings contained in these promises 
are offered to our will absurdly and in mockery, if it is not in our 
power to secure or reject them. It is, indeed, an easy matter to 
indulge in declamatory complaint on this subject, to say that we are 
cruelly mocked by the Lord, when he declares that his kindness 
depends on our wills if we are not masters of our wills - that it 
would be a strange liberality on the part of God to set his 
blessings before us, while we have no power of enjoying them, - a 
strange certainty of promises, which, to prevent their ever being 
fulfilled, are made to depend on an impossibility. Of promises of 
this description, which have a condition annexed to them, we shall 
elsewhere speak, and make it plain that there is nothing absurd in 
the impossible fulfilment of them. In regard to the matter in hand, 
I deny that God cruelly mocks us when he invites us to merit 
blessings which he knows we are altogether unable to merit. The 
promises being offered alike to believers and to the ungodly, have 
their use in regard to both. As God by his precepts stings the 
consciences of the ungodly, so as to prevent them from enjoying 
their sins while they have no remembrance of his judgements, so, in 
his promises, he in a manner takes them to witness how unworthy they 
are of his kindness. Who can deny that it is most just and most 
becoming in God to do good to those who worship him, and to punish 
with due severity those who despise his majesty? God, therefore, 
proceeds in due order, when, though the wicked are bound by the 
fetters of sin, he lays down the law in his promises, that he will 
do them good only if they depart from their wickedness. This would 
be right, though His only object were to let them understand that 
they are deservedly excluded from the favour due to his true 
worshipers. On the other hand, as he desires by all means to stir up 
believers to supplicate his grace, it surely should not seem strange 
that he attempts to accomplish by promises the same thing which, as 
we have shown, he to their great benefit accomplishes by means of 
precepts. Being taught by precepts what the will of God is, we are 
reminded of our wretchedness in being so completely at variance with 
that will, and, at the same time, are stimulated to invoke the aid 
of the Spirit to guide us into the right path. But as our indolence 
is not sufficiently aroused by precepts, promises are added, that 
they may attract us by their sweetness, and produce a feeling of 
love for the precept. The greater our desire of righteousness, the 
greater will be our earnestness to obtain the grace of God. And thus 
it is, that in the protestations, "if we be willing", "if thou shalt 
hearken", the Lord neither attributes to us a full power of willing 
and hearkening, nor yet mocks us for our impotence. 
    11. The third class of objections is not unlike the other two. 
For they produce passages in which God upbraids his people for their 
ingratitude, intimating that it was not his fault that they did not 
obtain all kinds of favour from his indulgence. Of such passages, 
the following are examples: "The Amalekites and the Canaanites are 
before you, and ye shall fall by the sword: because ye are turned 
away from the Lord, therefore the Lord will not be with you," (Num. 
14: 43.) "Because ye have done all these works, saith the Lord, and 
I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; 
and I called you, but ye answered not; therefore will I do unto this 
house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the 
place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to 
Shiloh," (Jer. 7: 13, 14.) "They obeyed not thy voice, neither 
walked in thy law; they have done nothing of all that thou 
commandedst them to do: therefore thou hast caused all this evil to 
come upon them," (Jer. 32: 23.) How, they ask, can such upbraiding 
be directed against those who have it in their power immediately to 
reply, - Prosperity was dear to us: we feared adversity; that we did 
not, in order to obtain the one and avoid the other, obey the Lord, 
and listen to his voice, is owing to its not being free for us to do 
so in consequence of our subjection to the dominion of sin; in vain, 
therefore, are we upbraided with evils which it was not in our power 
to escape. But to say nothing of the pretext of necessity, which is 
but a feeble and flimsy defence of their conduct, can they, I ask, 
deny their guilt? If they are held convicted of any fault, the Lord 
is not unjust in upbraiding them for having, by their own 
perverseness, deprived themselves of the advantages of his kindness. 
Let them say, then, whether they can deny that their own will is the 
depraved cause of their rebellion. If they find within themselves a 
fountain of wickedness, why do they stand declaiming about 
extraneous causes, with the view of making it appear that they are 
not the authors of their own destruction? If it be true that it is 
not for another's faults that sinners are both deprived of the 
divine favour, and visited with punishment, there is good reason why 
they should hear these rebukes from the mouth of God. If they 
obstinately persist in their vices, let them learn in their 
calamities to accuse and detest their own wickedness, instead of 
charging God with cruelty and injustice. If they have not manifested 
docility, let them, under a feeling of disgust at the sins which 
they see to be the cause of their misery and ruin, return to the 
right path, and, with serious contrition, confess the very thing of 
which the Lord by his rebuke reminds them. Of what use those 
upbraidings of the prophets above quoted are to believers, appears 
from the solemn prayer of Daniel, as given in his ninth chapter. Of 
their use in regard to the ungodly, we see an example in the Jews, 
to whom Jeremiah was ordered to explain the cause of their miseries, 
though the event could not be otherwise than the Lord had foretold. 
"Therefore thou shalt speak these words unto them; but they will not 
hearken unto thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not 
answer thee," (Jer. 7: 27.) Of what use, then, was it to talk to the 
deaf? It was, that even against their will they might understand 
that what they heard was true, and that it was impious blasphemy to 
transfer the blame of their wickedness to God, when it resided in 
    These few explanations will make it very easy for the reader to 
disentangle himself from the immense heap of passages (containing 
both precepts and reprimands) which the enemies of divine grace are 
in the habit of piling up, that they may thereon erect their statue 
of free will. The Psalmist upbraids the Jews as "a stubborn and 
rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart 
aright," (Psalm 78: 8;) and in another passage, he exhorts the men 
of his time, "Harden not your heart," (Psalm 95: 8.) This implies 
that the whole blame of the rebellion lies in human depravity. But 
it is foolish thence to infer, that the heart, the preparation of 
which is from the Lord, may be equally bent in either direction. The 
Psalmist says, "I have inclined my heart to perform thy statutes 
alway," (Psalm 119: 112;) meaning, that with willing and cheerful 
readiness of mind he had devoted himself to God. He does not boast, 
however, that he was the author of that disposition, for in the same 
psalm he acknowledges it to be the gift of God. We must, therefore, 
attend to the admonition of Paul, when he thus addresses believers, 
"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God 
which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure," 
(Philip. 2: 12, 13.) He ascribes to them a part in acting that they 
may not indulge in carnal sloth, but by enjoining fear and 
trembling, he humbles them so as to keep them in remembrance, that 
the very thing which they are ordered to do is the proper work of 
God - distinctly intimating, that believers act (if I may so speak) 
passively in as much as the power is given them from heaven, and 
cannot in any way be arrogated to themselves. Accordingly, when 
Peter exhorts us to "add to faith virtue," (2 Pet. 1: 5,) he does 
not concede to us the possession of a second place, as if we could 
do anything separately. He only arouses the sluggishness of our 
flesh, by which faith itself is frequently stifled. To the same 
effect are the words of Paul. He says, "Quench not the Spirit," (1 
Thess. 5: 19;) because a spirit of sloth, if not guarded against, is 
ever and anon creeping in upon believers. But should any thence 
infer that it is entirely in their own power to foster the offered 
light, his ignorance will easily be refuted by the fact, that the 
very diligence which Paul enjoins is derived only from God, (2 Cor. 
7: 1.) We are often commanded to purge ourselves of all impurity, 
though the Spirit claims this as his peculiar office. In fine, that 
what properly belongs to God is transferred to us only by way of 
concession, is plain from the words of John, "He that is begotten of 
God keepeth himself," (1 John 5: 18.) The advocates of free will 
fasten upon the expression as if it implied, that we are kept partly 
by the power of God, partly by our own, whereas the very keeping of 
which the Apostle speaks is itself from heaven. Hence, Christ prays 
his Father to keep us from evil, (John 17: 15,) and we know that 
believers, in their warfare against Satan, owe their victory to the 
armour of God. Accordingly, Peter, after saying, "Ye have purified 
your souls in obeying the truth," immediately adds by way of 
correction, "through the Spirit," (1 Pet. 1: 22.) In fine, the 
nothingness of human strength in the spiritual contest is briefly 
shown by John, when he says, that "Whosoever is born of God does not 
commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him" (1 John 3: 9.) He 
elsewhere gives the reasons "This is the victory that overcometh the 
world, even our faith," (1 John 5: 4.) 
    12. But a passage is produced from the Law of Moses, which 
seems very adverse to the view now given. After promulgating the 
Law, he takes the people to witness in these terms: "This 
commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from 
thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou 
shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto 
us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto 
thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it," 
(Deut. 30: 11, 12, 14.) Certainly, if this is to be understood of 
mere precepts, I admit that it is of no little importance to the 
matter in hand. For, though it were easy to evade the difficulty by 
saying, that the thing here treated of is not the observance of the 
law, but the facility and readiness of becoming acquainted with it, 
some scruple, perhaps, would still remain. The Apostle Paul, 
however, no mean interpreter, removes all doubt when he affirms, 
that Moses here spoke of the doctrine of the Gospel, (Rom. 10: 8.) 
If any one is so refractory as to contend that Paul violently 
wrested the words in applying them to the Gospel, though his 
hardihood is chargeable with impiety, we are still able, 
independently of the authority of the Apostle, to repel the 
objection. For, if Moses spoke of precepts merely, he was only 
inflating the people with vain confidence. Had they attempted the 
observance of the law in their own strength, as a matter in which 
they should find no difficulty, what else could have been the result 
than to throw them headlong? Where, then, was that easy means of 
observing the law, when the only access to it was over a fatal 
precipice? Accordingly, nothing is more certain than that under 
these words is comprehended the covenant of mercy, which had been 
promulgated along with the demands of the law. A few verses before, 
he had said, "The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the 
heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, 
and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live," (Deut. 30: 6.) 
Therefore, the readiness of which he immediately after speaks was 
placed not in the power of man, but in the protection and help of 
the Holy Spirit, who mightily performs his own work in our weakness. 
The passage, however, is not to be understood of precepts simply, 
but rather of the Gospel promises, which, so far from proving any 
power in us to fulfil righteousness, utterly disprove it. This is 
confirmed by the testimony of Paul, when he observes that the Gospel 
holds forth salvation to us, not under the harsh arduous, and 
impossible terms on which the law treats with us, (namely, that 
those shall obtain it who fulfil all its demands,) but on terms 
easy, expeditious, and readily obtained. This passage, therefore, 
tends in no degree to establish the freedom of the human will. 
    13. They are wont also to adduce certain passages in which God 
is said occasionally to try men, by withdrawing the assistance of 
his grace, and to wait until they turn to him, as in Hosea, "I will 
go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and 
seek my face," (Hosea 5: 15.) It were absurd, (say they,) that the 
Lord should wait till Israel should seek his face, if their minds 
were not flexible, so as to turn in either direction of their own 
accord. As if anything were more common in the prophetical writings 
than for God to put on the semblance of rejecting and casting off 
his people until they reform their lives. But what can our opponents 
extract from such threats? If they mean to maintain that a people, 
when abandoned by God, are able of themselves to think of turning 
unto him, they will do it in the very face of Scripture. On the 
other hand, if they admit that divine grace is necessary to 
conversion, why do they dispute with us? But while they admit that 
grace is so far necessary, they insist on reserving some ability for 
man. How do they prove it? Certainly not from this nor any similar 
passage; for it is one thing to withdraw from man, and look to what 
he will do when thus abandoned and left to himself, and another 
thing to assist his powers, (whatever they may be,) in proportion to 
their weakness. What, then, it will be asked, is meant by such 
expressions? I answer, just the same as if God were to say, Since 
nothing is gained by admonishing, exhorting, rebuking this stubborn 
people, I will withdraw for a little, and silently leave them to be 
afflicted; I shall see whether, after long calamity, any remembrance 
of me will return, and induce them to seek my face. But by the 
departure of the Lord to a distance is meant the withdrawal of 
prophecy. By his waiting to see what men will do is meant that he, 
while silent, and in a manner hiding himself, tries them for a 
season with various afflictions. Both he does that he may humble us 
the more; for we shall sooner be broken than corrected by the 
strokes of adversity, unless his Spirit train us to docility. 
Moreover, when the Lord, offended and, as it were, fatigued with our 
obstinate perverseness, leaves us for a while, (by withdrawing his 
word, in which he is wont in some degree to manifest his presence,) 
and makes trial of what we will do in his absence, from this it is 
erroneously inferred, that there is some power of free will, the 
extent of which is to be considered and tried, whereas the only end 
which he has in view is to bring us to an acknowledgement of our 
utter nothingness. 
    14. Another objection is founded on a mode of speaking which is 
constantly observed both in Scripture and in common discourse. God 
works are said to be ours, and we are said to do what is holy and 
acceptable to God, just as we are said to commit sin. But if sins 
are justly imputed to us, as proceeding from ourselves, for the same 
reason (say they) some share must certainly be attributed to us in 
works of righteousness. It could not be accordant with reason to 
say, that we do those things which we are incapable of doing of our 
own motion, God moving us, as if we were stones. These expressions, 
therefore, it is said, indicate that while, in the matter of grace, 
we give the first place to God, a secondary place must be assigned 
to our agency. If the only thing here insisted on were, that good 
works are termed ours, I, in my turn, would reply, that the bread 
which we ask God to give us is also termed ours. What, then, can be 
inferred from the title of possession, but simply that, by the 
kindness and free gift of Gods that becomes ours which in other 
respects is by no means due to us? Therefore let them either 
ridicule the same absurdity in the Lord's Prayer, or let them cease 
to regard it as absurd, that good works should be called ours, 
though our only property in them is derived from the liberality of 
God. But there is something stronger in the fact, that we are often 
said in Scripture to worship God, do justice, obey the law, and 
follow good works. These being proper offices of the mind and will, 
how can they be consistently referred to the Spirit, and, at the 
same time, attributed to us, unless there be some concurrence on our 
part with the divine agency? This difficulty will be easily disposed 
of if we attend to the manner in which the Holy Spirit acts in the 
righteous. The similitude with which they invidiously assail us is 
foreign to the purpose; for who is so absurd as to imagine that 
movement in man differs in nothing from the impulse given to a 
stone? Nor can anything of the kind be inferred from our doctrine. 
To the natural powers of man we ascribe approving and rejecting, 
willing and not willing, striving and resisting, viz., approving 
vanity, rejecting solid good, willing evil and not willing good, 
striving for wickedness and resisting righteousness. What then does 
the Lord do? If he sees meet to employ depravity of this description 
as an instrument of his anger, he gives it whatever aim and 
direction he pleases, that, by a guilty hand, he may accomplish his 
own good work. A wicked man thus serving the power of God, while he 
is bent only on following his own lust, can we compare to a stone, 
which, driven by an external impulse, is borne along without motion, 
or sense, or will of its own? We see how wide the difference is. But 
how stands the case with the godly, as to whom chiefly the question 
is raised? When God erects his kingdom in them, he, by means of his 
Spirit, curbs their will, that it may not follow its natural bent, 
and be carried hither and thither by vagrant lusts; bends, frames 
trains, and guides it according to the rule of his justice, so as to 
incline it to righteousness and holiness, and establishes and 
strengthens it by the energy of his Spirit, that it may not stumble 
or fall. For which reason Augustine thus expresses himself, (De 
Corrept. et Gratia, cap. 2,) "It will be said we are therefore acted 
upon, and do not act. Nay, you act and are acted upon, and you then 
act well when you are acted upon by one that is good. The Spirit of 
God who actuates you is your helper in acting, and bears the name of 
helper, because you, too, do something." In the former member of 
this sentence, he reminds us that the agency of man is not destroyed 
by the motion of the Holy Spirit, because nature furnishes the will 
which is guided so as to aspire to good. As to the second member of 
the sentence, in which he says that the very idea of help implies 
that we also do something, we must not understand it as if he were 
attributing to us some independent power of action; but not to 
foster a feeling of sloth, he reconciles the agency of God with our 
own agency, by saying, that to wish is from nature, to wish well is 
from grace. Accordingly, he had said a little before, "Did not God 
assist us, we should not only not be able to conquer, but not able 
even to fight." 
    15. Hence it appears that the grace of God (as this name is 
used when regeneration is spoken of) is the rule of the Spirit, in 
directing and governing the human will. Govern he cannot, without 
correcting, reforming, renovating, (hence we say that the beginning 
of regeneration consists in the abolition of what is ours;) in like 
manner, he cannot govern without moving, impelling, urging, and 
restraining. Accordingly, all the actions which are afterwards done 
are truly said to be wholly his. Meanwhile, we deny not the truth of 
Augustine's doctrine, that the will is not destroyed, but rather 
repaired, by grace - the two things being perfectly consistent, 
viz., that the human will may be said to be renewed when its 
vitiosity and perverseness being corrected, it is conformed to the 
true standard of righteousness and that, at the same time, the will 
may be said to be made new, being so vitiated and corrupted that its 
nature must be entirely changed. There is nothing then to prevent us 
from saying, that our will does what the Spirit does in us, although 
the will contributes nothing of itself apart from grace. We must, 
therefore, remember what we quoted from Augustine, that some men 
labour in vain to find in the human will some good quality properly 
belonging to it. Any intermixture which men attempt to make by 
conjoining the effort of their own will with divine grace is 
corruption, just as when unwholesome and muddy water is used to 
dilute wine. But though every thing good in the will is entirely 
derived from the influence of the Spirit, yet, because we have 
naturally an innate power of willing, we are not improperly said to 
do the things of which God claims for himself all the praise; first, 
because every thing which his kindness produces in us is our own, 
(only we must understand that it is not of ourselves;) and, 
secondly, because it is our mind, our will, our study which are 
guided by him to what is good. 
    16. The other passages which they gather together from 
different quarters will not give much trouble to any person of 
tolerable understanding, who pays due attention to the explanations 
already given. They adduce the passage of Genesis, "Unto thee shall 
be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him," (Gen. 4: 7.) This they 
interpret of sin, as if the Lord were promising Cain that the 
dominion of sin should not prevail over his mind, if he would labour 
in subduing it. We, however, maintain that it is much more agreeable 
to the context to understand the words as referring to Abel, it 
being there the purpose of God to point out the injustice of the 
envy which Cain had conceived against his brother. And this He does 
in two ways, by showing, first, that it was vain to think he could, 
by means of wickedness, surpass his brother in the favour of God, by 
whom nothing is esteemed but righteousness; and, secondly, how 
ungrateful he was for the kindness he had already received, in not 
being able to bear with a brother who had been subjected to his 
authority. But lest it should be thought that we embrace this 
interpretation because the other is contrary to our view, let us 
grant that God does here speak of sin. If so, his words contain 
either an order or a promise. If an order, we have already 
demonstrated that this is no proof of man's ability; if a promise, 
where is the fulfilment of the promise when Cain yielded to the sin 
over which he ought to have prevailed? They will allege a tacit 
condition in the promise, as if it were said that he would gain the 
victory if he contended. This subterfuge is altogether unavailing. 
For, if the dominion spoken of refers to sin, no man can have any 
doubt that the form of expression is imperative, declaring not what 
we are able, but what it is our duty to do, even if beyond our 
ability. Although both the nature of the case, and the rule of 
grammatical construction, require that it be regarded as a 
comparison between Cain and Abel, we think the only preference given 
to the younger brother was, that the elder made himself inferior by 
his own wickedness. 
    17. They appeal, moreover, to the testimony of the Apostle 
Paul, because he says, "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him 
that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy," (Rom. 9: 15.) From 
this they infer, that there is something in will and endeavour, 
which, though weak in themselves, still, being mercifully aided by 
God, are not without some measure of success. But if they would 
attend in sober earnest to the subject there handled by Paul, they 
would not so rashly pervert his meaning. I am aware they can quote 
Origin and Jerome in support of this exposition. To these I might, 
in my turn, oppose Augustine. But it is of no consequence what they 
thought, if it is clear what Paul meant. He teaches that salvation 
is prepared for those only on whom the Lord is pleased to bestow his 
mercy - that ruin and death await all whom he has not chosen. He had 
proved the condition of the reprobate by the example of Pharaoh, and 
confirmed the certainty of gratuitous election by the passage in 
Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy." Thereafter he 
concludes, that it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that 
runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. If these words are 
understood to mean that the will or endeavour are not sufficient, 
because unequal to such a task, the Apostle has not used them very 
appropriately. We must therefore abandon this absurd mode of 
arguing, "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth;" 
therefore, there is some will, some running. Paul's meaning is more 
simple - there is no will nor running by which we can prepare the 
way for our salvation - it is wholly of the divine mercy. He indeed 
says nothing more than he says to Titus, when he writes, "After that 
the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by 
works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his 
mercy he saved us," (Titus 3: 4, 5.) Those who argue that Paul 
insinuated there was some will and some running when he said, "It is 
not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth," would not allow 
me to argue after the same fashion, that we have done some righteous 
works, because Paul says that we have attained the divine favour, 
"not by works of righteousness which we have done." But if they see 
a flaw in this mode of arguing, let them open their eyes, and they 
will see that their own mode is not free from a similar fallacy. The 
argument which Augustine uses is well founded, "If it is said, 'It 
is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth,' because 
neither will nor running are sufficient; it may, on the other hand, 
be retorted, it is not 'of God that showeth mercy,' because mercy 
does not act alone," (August. Ep. 170, ad Vital. See also Enchirid. 
ad Laurent. cap. 32.) This second proposition being absurd, 
Augustine justly concludes the meaning of the words to be, that 
there is no good will in man until it is prepared by the Lord; not 
that we ought not to will and run, but that both are produced in us 
by God. Some, with equal unskilfulness, wrest the saying of Paul, 
"We are labourers together with God," (1 Cor. 3: 9.) There cannot be 
a doubt that these words apply to ministers only, who are called 
"labourers with God," not from bringing any thing of their own, but 
because God makes use of their instrumentality after he has rendered 
them fit, and provided them with the necessary endowments. 
    18. They appeal also to Ecclesiasticus, who is well known to be 
a writer of doubtful authority. But, though we might justly decline 
his testimony, let us see what he says in support of free will. His 
words are, "He himself made man from the beginning, and left him in 
the hand of his counsel; If thou wilt, to keep the commandments, and 
perform acceptable faithfulness. He has set fire and water before 
thee: stretch forth thy hand unto whether thou wilt. Before man is 
life and death; and whether him liketh shall be given him," 
(Ecclesiasticus 15: 14-17.) Grant that man received at his creation 
a power of acquiring life or death; what, then, if we, on the other 
hand, can reply that he has lost it? Assuredly I have no intention 
to contradict Solomon, who asserts that "God has made man upright;" 
that "they have sought out many inventions," (Eccl. 7: 29.) But 
since man, by degenerating, has made shipwreck of himself and all 
his blessings, it certainly does not follow, that every thing 
attributed to his nature, as originally constituted, applies to it 
now when vitiated and degenerate. Therefore, not only to my 
opponents, but to the author of Ecclesiasticus himself, (whoever he 
may have been,) this is my answer: If you mean to tell man that in 
himself there is a power of acquiring salvation, your authority with 
us is not so great as, in the least degree, to prejudice the 
undoubted word of God; but if only wishing to curb the malignity of 
the fleshy which by transferring the blame of its own wickedness to 
God, is wont to catch at a vain defence, you say that rectitude was 
given to man, in order to make it apparent he was the cause of his 
own destruction, I willingly assent. Only agree with me in this, 
that it is by his own fault he is stript of the ornaments in which 
the Lord at first attired him, and then let us unite in 
acknowledging that what he now wants is a physician, and not a 
    19. There is nothing more frequent in their mouths than the 
parable of the traveller who fell among thieves, and was left half 
dead, (Luke 10: 32.) I am aware that it is a common idea with almost 
all writers, that under the figure of the traveller is represented 
the calamity of the human race. Hence our opponents argue that man 
was not so mutilated by the robbery of sin and the devil as not to 
preserve some remains of his former endowments; because it is said 
he was left half dead. For where is the half living, unless some 
portion of right will and reason remain? First, were I to deny that 
there is any room for their allegory, what could they say? There can 
be no doubt that the Fathers invented it contrary to the genuine 
sense of the parable. Allegories ought to be carried no further than 
Scripture expressly sanctions: so far are they from forming a 
sufficient basis to found doctrines upon. And were I so disposed I 
might easily find the means of tearing up this fiction by the roots. 
The Word of God leaves no half life to man, but teaches, that, in 
regard to life and happiness, he has utterly perished. Paul, when he 
speaks of our redemption, says not that the half dead are cured 
(Eph. 2: 5, 30; 5: 14) but that those who were dead are raised up. 
He does not call upon the half dead to receive the illumination of 
Christ, but upon those who are asleep and buried. In the same way 
our Lord himself says, "The hour is coming, and now is, when the 
dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God," (John 5: 25.) How can 
they presume to set up a flimsy allegory in opposition to so many 
clear statements? But be it that this allegory is good evidence, 
what can they extort out of it? Man is half dead, therefore there is 
some soundness in him. True! he has a mind capable of understanding, 
though incapable of attaining to heavenly and spiritual wisdom; he 
has some discernment of what is honourable; he has some sense of the 
Divinity, though he cannot reach the true knowledge of God. But to 
what do these amount? They certainly do not refute the doctrine of 
Augustine - a doctrine confirmed by the common suffrages even of the 
Schoolmen, that after the fall, the free gifts on which salvation 
depends were withdrawn, and natural gifts corrupted and defiled, 
(supra, chap. 2 sec. 2.) Let it stand, therefore, as an indubitable 
truth, which no engines can shake, that the mind of man is so 
entirely alienated from the righteousness of God that he cannot 
conceive, desire, or design any thing but what is wicked, distorted, 
foul, impure, and iniquitous; that his heart is so thoroughly 
envenomed by sin that it can breathe out nothing but corruption and 
rottenness; that if some men occasionally make a show of goodness, 
their mind is ever interwoven with hypocrisy and deceit, their soul 
inwardly bound with the fetters of wickedness. 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 2, Part 6
(continued in part 7...)

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