RPM, Volume 14, Number 14, April 1 to April 7, 2012

The Bondage of the Will


By   Martin Luther    


Section CXVII.


Sect. CXVII. THE fourth passage is that of Isaiah in the same chapter. All flesh is grass, and all the glory of it as the flower of grass: the grass is withered, the flower of grass is fallen: because the Spirit of the Lord hath blown upon it. (Isa. xl. 6-7).

This Scripture appears to my friend Diatribe, to be treated with violence, by being dragged in as applicable to the causes of grace, and Free-will. Why so, I pray? Because, (it says), Jerome understands spirit to signify indignation, and flesh to signify the infirm condition of man, which cannot stand against God. Here again the trifling vanities of Jerome are cast in my teeth instead of Isaiah. And I find I have more to do in fighting against that wearisomeness, with which the Diatribe with so much diligence (to use no harsher term) wears me out, than I have in fighting against the Diatribe itself. But I have given my opinion upon the sentiment of Jerome already.  

Let me beg permission of the Diatribe to compare this gentleman with himself. He says that flesh, signifies the infirm condition of man; and spirit, the divine indignation.  

Has then the divine indignation nothing else to wither but that miserable infirm condition of man, which it ought rather to raise up?  

This, however, is more excellent still. The flower of grass, is the glory which arises from the prosperity of corporal things.  

The Jews gloried in their temple, their circumcision, and their sacrifices, and the Greeks in their wisdom. Therefore, the flower of grass, is the glory of the flesh, the righteousness of works, and the wisdom of the world. How then are righteousness and wisdom called by the Diatribe, corporal things? And after all, what have these to do with Isaiah, who interprets his own meaning in his own words, saying, Surely the people is grass? He does not say; Surely the infirm condition of man is grass, but the people; and affirms it with an asseveration. And what is the people? Is it the infirm condition of man only? But whether Jerome, by the infirm condition of man means the whole creation together, or the miserable lot and state of man only, I am sure I know not. Be it, however, which it may, he certainly makes the divine indignation to gain a glorious renown and a noble spoil, from withering a miserable creation or a race of wretched men, and not rather, from scattering the proud, pulling down the mighty from their seat, and sending, the rich empty away: as Mary sings! (Luke 1:51-53).    

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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