RPM, Volume 13, Number 43, October 23 to October 29 2011

The Bondage of the Will

By Martin Luther


Section XCIV.

Sect. XCIV. — BUT it is this, that seems to give the greatest offence to common sense or natural reason, — that the God, who is set forth as being so full of mercy and goodness, should, of His mere will, leave men, harden them, and damn them, as though He delighted in the sins, and in the great and eternal torments of the miserable. To think thus of God, seems iniquitous, cruel, intolerable; and it is this that has given offence to so many and great men of so many ages.

And who would not be offended? I myself have been offended more than once, even unto the deepest abyss of desperation; nay, so far, as even to wish that I had never been born a man; that is, before I was brought to know how healthful that desperation was, and how near it was unto grace. Here it is, that there has been so much toiling and labouring, to excuse the goodness of God, and to accuse the will of man. Here it is, that distinctions have been invented between the ordinary will of God and the absolute will of God: between the necessity of the consequence, and the necessity of the thing consequent: and many other inventions of the same kind. By which, nothing has ever been effected but an imposition upon the un-learned, by vanities of words, and by "oppositions of science falsely so called." For after all, a conscious conviction has been left deeply rooted in the heart both of the learned and the unlearned, if ever they have come to an experience of these things; and a knowledge, that our necessity, is a consequence that must follow upon the belief of the prescience and Omnipotence of God.

And even natural Reason herself, who is so offended at this necessity, and who invents so many contrivances to take it out of the way, is compelled to grant it upon her own conviction from her own judgment, even though there were no Scripture at all. For all men find these sentiments written in their hearts, and they acknowledge and approve them (though against their will) whenever they hear them treated on. — First, that God is Omnipotent, not only in power but in action (as I said before): and that, if it were not so, He would be a ridiculous God. — And next, that He knows and foreknows all things, and neither can err nor be deceived. These two points then being granted by the hearts and minds of all, they are at once compelled, from an inevitable consequence, to admit, — that we are not made from our own will, but from necessity: and moreover, that we do not what we will according to the law of "Free-will," but as God foreknew and proceeds in action, according to His infallible and immutable counsel and power. Wherefore, it is found written alike in the hearts of all men, that there is no such thing as "Free-will"; though that writing be obscured by so many contending disputations, and by the great authority of so many men who have, through so many ages, taught otherwise. Even as every other law also, which, according to the testimony of Paul, is written in our hearts, is then acknowledged when it is rightly set forth, and then obscured, when it is confused by wicked teachers, and drawn aside by other opinions.

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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