RPM, Volume 13, Number 29, July 17 to July 23 2011

The Bondage of the Will

By Martin Luther


Section LXXX.

Sect LXXX. — BUT since I have to fight with fiction-framers and ghosts, let me turn to ghost-raising also. Let me suppose (which is an impossibility) that the trope of which the Diatribe dreams avails in this passage; in order that I may see, which way the Diatribe will elude the being compelled to declare, that all things take place according to the will of God alone, and from necessity in us; and how it will clear God from being Himself the author and cause of our becoming hardened. — For if it be true that God is then said to "harden" when He bears with long-suffering, and does not immediately punish, these two positions still stand firm.

First, that man, nevertheless, of necessity serves sin. For when it is granted that "Free-will" cannot will any thing good, (which kind of Free-will the Diatribe undertook to prove) then, by the goodness of a long-suffering God, it becomes nothing better, but of necessity worse. — Wherefore, it still remains that all that we do, is done from necessity. .

And next, that God appears to be just as cruel in this bearing with us by His long-suffering, as He does by being preached, as willing to harden, by that will inscrutable. For when He sees that, "Free-will" cannot will good, but becomes worse by His enduring with long-suffering; by this very long-suffering He appears to be most cruel, and to delight in our miseries; seeing that, He could remedy them if He willed, and might not thus endure with long-suffering if He willed, nay, that He could not thus endure unless He willed; for who can compel Him against His will? That will, therefore, without which nothing is done, being admitted, and it being admitted also, that "Free-will" cannot will any thing good, all is advanced in vain that is advanced, either in excusation of God, or in accusation of "Free-will." For the language of "Free-will" is ever this: — I cannot, and God will not. What can I do! If He have mercy upon me by affliction, I shall be nothing benefited, but must of necessity become worse, unless He give me His Spirit. But this He gives me not, though He might give it me if He willed. It is certain, therefore, that He wills, not to give.

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

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