RPM, Volume 14, Number 51, December 16 to December 22, 2012

The Bondage of the Will

Section CLV.

By Martin Luther

Sect. CLV. — ADD to this that example, Rom. x. 24, taken out of Isaiah, "I was found of them that sought Me not, I was made manifest unto them that asked not for Me." He speaks this with reference to the Gentiles: — that it was given unto them to hear and know Christ, when before, they could not even think of Him, much less seek Him, or prepare themselves for Him by the power of "Free-will." From this example it is sufficiently evident, that grace comes so free, that no thought concerning it, or attempt or desire after it, precedes. So also Paul — when he was Saul, what did he do by that exalted power of "Free-will?" Certainly, in respect of reason, he intended that which was best and most meritoriously good. But by what endeavours did he come unto grace? He did not only not seek after it, but received it even when he was furiously maddened against it!

On the other hand, he saith of the Jews "The Gentiles which followed not after righteousness have attained unto the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel which followed after the law of righteousness hath not attained unto the law of righteousness" (Rom. ix. 30-31). What has any advocate for "Free-will" to mutter against this? The Gentiles when filled with ungodliness and every vice, receive righteousness freely from a mercy-shewing God: while the Jews, who follow after righteousness with all their devoted effort and endeavour, are frustrated. Is this not plainly saying, that the endeavour of "Free-will" is all in vain, even when it strives to do the best; and that "Freewill," of itself, can only fall back and grow worse and worse?

Nor can any one say, that the Jews did not follow after righteousness with all the power of "Free-will." For Paul himself bears this testimony of them, "That they had a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge," (Rom. x. 2). Therefore, nothing which is attributed to "Free-will" was wanting to the Jews; and yet, it attained unto nothing, nay unto the contrary of that after which they strove. Whereas, there was nothing in the Gentiles which is attributed to "Free-will," and they attained unto the righteousness of God. And what is this but a most manifest example from each nation, and a most clear testimony of Paul, proving that grace is given freely to the most undeserving and unworthy, and is not attained unto by any devoted efforts, endeavours, or works, either small or great, of any men, be they the best and most meritorious, or even of those who have sought and followed after righteousness with all the ardour of zeal?

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