RPM, Volume 14, Number 48, November 25 to December 1, 2012

The Bondage of the Will


Section CLII.

By Martin Luther

Sect. CLII. — I HERE omit to bring forward those all-powerful arguments drawn from the purpose of grace, from the promise, from the force of the law, from original sin, and from the election of God; of which, there is no one that would not of itself utterly overthrow "Free-will." For if grace come by the purpose of God, or by election, it comes of necessity, and not by any devoted effort or endeavour of our own; as I have already shown. Moreover, if God promised grace before the law, as Paul argues here, and in his epistle to the Galatians also, then it does not come by works or by the law; otherwise, it would be no longer a promise. And so also faith, if works were of any avail, would come to nothing: by which, nevertheless, Abraham was justified before the law was given. Again, as the law is the strength of sin, and only discovers sin, but does not take it away, it brings the conscience in guilty before God. This is what Paul means when he saith, "the law worketh wrath." (Rom. iv. 15). How then can it be possible, that righteousness should be obtained by the law? And if we derive no help from the law, how can we derive any help from the power of "Free-will" alone?

Moreover, since we all lie under the same sin and damnation of the one man Adam, how can we attempt any thing which is not sin and damnable? For when he saith "all," he excepts no one; neither the power of "Free-will," nor any workman; whether he work or work not, attempt or attempt not, he must of necessity be included among the rest in the "all." Nor should we sin or be damned by that one sin of Adam, if the sin were not our own: for who could be damned for the sin of another, especially in the sight of God? Nor is the sin ours by imitation, or by working; for this would not be the one sin of Adam; because, then, it would not be the sin which he committed, but which we committed ourselves; — it becomes our sin by generation. — But of this in some other place. — Original sin itself, therefore, will not allow of any other power in "Free-will," but that of sinning and going on unto damnation.

These arguments, I say, I omit to bring forward, both because they are most manifest and most forcible, and because I have touched upon them already. For if I wished to produce all those parts of Paul which overthrow "Free-will," I could not do better, than go through with a continued commentary on the whole of his epistle, as I have done on the third and fourth chapters. On which, I have dwelt thus particularly, that I might shew all our "Free-will" friends their yawning inconsiderateness, who so read Paul in these all-clear parts, as to see any thing in them but these most powerful arguments against "Free-will;" and that I might expose the folly of that confidence which they place in the authority and writings of the ancient teachers, and leave them to consider with what force the remaining most clear arguments must make against them, if they should be handled with care and judgment.

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