RPM, Volume 14, Number 15, April 8 to April 14, 2012

The Bondage of the Will


By   Martin Luther    


Section CXVIII.


      Sect. CXVIII.  BUT let us dispatch these hobgoblins of glosses, and take Isaiah's words as they are. The people (he saith) is grass. People does not signify flesh merely, or the infirm condition of human nature, but it comprehends every thing that there is in people  the rich, the wise, the just, the saints. Unless you mean to say, that the Pharisees, the elders, the princes, the nobles, and the rich men, were not of the people of the Jews! The flower of grass is rightly called their glory, because it was in their kingdom, their government, and above all, in the law, in God, in righteousness, and in wisdom, that they gloried: as Paul shews, Rom. ii.iii. and ix.  

When, therefore, Isaiah saith, All flesh, what else does he mean but all grass, or, all people? For he does not say flesh only, but all flesh. And to people belong soul, body, mind, reason, judgment, and whatever is called or found to be most excellent in man. For when he says all flesh is grass, he excepts nothing but the spirit which withereth it. Nor does he omit any thing when he says, the people is grass. Speak, therefore, of Free-will, speak of anything that can be called the highest or the lowest in the people,  Isaiah calls the whole flesh and grass! Because, those three terms flesh, grass, and people, according to his interpretation who is himself the writer of the book, signify in that place, the same thing.  

Moreover, you yourself affirm, that the wisdom of the Greeks and the righteousness of the Jews which were withered by the Gospel, were grass and the flower of grass. Do you then think, that the wisdom which the Greeks had was not the most excellent? and that the righteousness which the Jews wrought was not the most excellent? If you do, shew us what was more excellent. With what assurance then is it, that you, Philip-like, flout and say,  

- If any one shall contend, that that which is most excellent in the nature of man, is nothing else but flesh; that is, that it is impious, I will agree with him, when he shall have proved his assertion by testimonies from the Holy Scripture?  

You have here Isaiah, who cries with a loud voice that the people, devoid of the Spirit of the Lord, is flesh; although you will not understand him thus. You have also your own confession, where you said, (though unwittingly perhaps), that the wisdom of the Greeks was grass, or the glory of grass; which is the same thing as saying, it was flesh. Unless you mean to say, that the wisdom of the Greeks did not pertain to reason, or to the EGEMONICON, as you say, that is, the principal part of man. If, therefore, you will not deign to listen to me, listen to yourself; where, being caught in the powerful trap of truth, you speak the truth.  

You have moreover the testimony of John, That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.(John iii. 6). You have, I say, this passage, which makes it evidently manifest, that what is not born of the Spirit, is flesh: for if it be not so, the distinction of Christ could not subsist, who divides all men into two distinct divisions, flesh and spirit. This passage you floutingly pass by, as if it did not give you the information you want, and betake yourself somewhere else, as usual; just dropping as you go along an observation, that John is here saying, that those who believe are born of God, and are made the sons of God, nay, that they are gods, and new creatures. You pay no regard, therefore, to the conclusion that is to be drawn from this division, but merely tell us at your ease, what persons are on one side of the division: thus confidently relying upon your rhetorical maneuver, as though there were no one likely to discover an evasion and dissimulation so subtlely managed.            

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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