The Corruption of the Will in All its Operations

Corruption of the Will in all its Operations

Anthony Burgess
Treatise on Original Sin
Part 3, Chapter 4, Section 3.


¶. 1.

The Corruption of the Will in all its several Operations.

These doctrinal introductions thus abstracted, let us proceed to open this noisome sepulcher, this dead and defiled will, which hath been spiritually dead, not as Lazarus four days, but ever since Adam’s Fall, and therefore must needs be stinking and unsavory to a spiritual discerning.

First, take notice of its defilement in all its several operations, which the will aboundeth with. And we find them out of the Schoolmen thus marshaled. The will (say they) may be 1) carried out to good simply and absolutely as good, and then it is only a bare volition, which is either inefficacious and conditional, called velleity [i.e. the lowest degree of desire] or efficacious and absolute, then it is volition in the general; or else it may be 2) carried out to good relatively, as it is finis, an end, and then either this end is enjoyed and possessed, which maketh the act of the will, called fruition, or else it is desired and purposed to be obtained, which maketh another act of the will called intention.

In the next place, the will may be considered as it operates about the means to its intended end.

1. There is a yielding unto and embracing of such a mean propounded to that end. This act in the will is called consent, for the understanding that doth properly assent, and the will consent. This act of the will to consent unto a thing is of great importance in Casuistical Divinity, for there may be suggestions and fiery injections of diabolical temptations, but if the will doth not consent, as you see Christ’s holy will did not in his combat with the Devil, they do not become our sins. Of this consent more in its time.

2. If there be several means conducive to such an end, then cometh another act of the will, called election, or a choosing of one thing rather than another. That which consolation is in the understanding, election is in the will.

3. Lastly, when the will hath thus intended the end, and chosen efficaciously its means, then is there the last act of the will, which is called usus the use or the application of all the other powers of the soul to bring this end about. It useth the understanding, it useth the affections, it useth the whole body to accomplish it.

Thus you see what are the several operations of the will. It is now necessary to take all these singly by themselves, to shew how grossly the will is disordered, and by that you will be convinced that the corruption of the will is indeed the corruption of the whole man. This made Augustine frequently define sin by a mala volunt as [entirely bad want], and that which is good by a bona volunt as [entirely good want], because of the dominion the will hath in the whole man.

¶. 2.

The Corruption of the Will in its general Act, which is called Volition.

First therefore, Let us begin with the general act, which is called Volition, the bare willing of a thing, which you heard was either conditional and imperfect, or efficacious. For the former kind, How much corruption is there in the will, and that both about sin and also about good? About sin, What secret wishes are there in a man naturally, that sin were not sin, Utina in hoc non esset peccare, said he, that thy pleasures were not sins, that thy unlawful profits were not sins, there is this secret corruption in the will, whereby it would have the nature of things changed, vice to be virtue, and virtue to be vice.

Some indeed dispute, Whether there be any such actings of the will as may be called velleities, and not volitions? But experience teacheth there are, so the Apostle (Rom. 9:3), “I could wish that myself were accursed,” there is an incomplete act of the will. When the Psalmist saith, “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God” (Psa. 14:4) that is in his wish, in his incomplete will, for absolutely a man cannot will that which is impossible. If then we do but observe the motions of the will in this respect, we shall find the number of these sins to be like the sand upon the sea shore: Oh the many secret ungodly wishes that do by swarms rise up in thy will, which though thou takest no notice of, yet God doth and will accordingly judge thee!

As thus the will is sinful in one way by its incomplete acts, so also when it cometh to what is good, when it should in a powerful, lively, and efficacious manner be carried out to it, it is very remiss and languid. Insomuch that they are but velleities, they are the sluggards wishes that desireth and yet starveth himself, because he never putteth out his hands to work. Is not this half and faint willing of the things that are good, the root and cause of most men’s destruction? Preach to them, press them about repentance, about conversion to God, and they promise you they will do it, and God give us his grace to do it, and no more is done. Whereas thou shouldst will what is good with all thy might and strength, above gold and silver, above life itself: These wishers and woulders in Religion never make true converts. But of this more in its time.

¶. 3.

The Corruption of the Will in its Absolute and Efficacious Willing of a thing.

Come we then to the next act of the will, which is an absolute and efficacious willing of a thing. And here no tongue of men and Angels can express the depravation of it. For if we do consider the true proper and adequate object of the will, it is God only. He is the supreme and universal good, having in him after an eminent manner all good whatsoever. So that no object can fill the capacity of the will but God only. The good things of the creature can no more fill up the will than the air can the stomach of an hungry man. But if we consider how it standeth with our will, as it is now corrupted, of all objects it is most averse to God. Hence the Scripture describeth every wicked man by this, That he hateth God, not under the notion as he is good, but as he is holy, as he is a just Judge, who will punish every wicked transgressor.

Know then, and bewail this unspeakable defilement upon thy will, that it is most averse to its proper object, no stone doth more naturally descend to the center, than thy will should tend to God, Amor mens pondus meum, illuc feror, quocunque feror, A man’s love is his weight; now if thy love be spiritual, that weigheth thee to God, but if thy will be carnal, that presseth thee to carnal objects.

2. Thy will is corrupted in respect of its object, because all the creatures are to be willed by thee, no otherwise than they tend to God, or lead thee to him, whereas naturally we will the creatures, for the creature’s sake, and so make it instead of a God to us. As the Sun being the primum visibile, all things are to be seen by the light thereof, so God being the primum amabile, the first and chiefest thing to be beloved, all things are to be loved with a participation from it.

But who may not groan under our corruption herein? Every creature we desire, we are apt to terminate ourselves upon that, and to go no further. Do we will health, parts, and the comforts of this life in reference to the glory of God? So that herein we may see the depth of our corruption. It was not thus with Adam in his integrity. There is not a creature that thy will is pitched upon, but thy soul commits fornication with it. Leave not the meditation of this point till thy heart in an holy manner break within thee.

¶. 4.

The Corruption of the Will in its Act of Fruition.

The next Act is that which is called Fruition. An operation of the will when it doth possess a thing as its ultimate end, end resting in it, as a center, and desiring no further. For as the stone cannot of itself hang in the air, but must descend to the earth, and there it resteth: So the will of man moveth up and down in a restless manner, like Noah’s dove, till it find out an object wherein it doth acquiesce with fullness of content. Now there is no object that we may thus frui, enjoy ultimately, and for itself’s sake, but God only.

That distinction of frui and uti, to enjoy and use only, which Augustine first excogitated, the Schoolmen are large upon. To enjoy a thing is to have it for itself’s sake, referring it to no further end. For the rule is Appetitus finis is infinitus, The soul never hath enough of that which it ultimately desireth, but yet desireth nothing else but that. As in Philosophy it is said, Materia semper appetit formam, the Matter doth constantly desire new forms in sublunary things. Hence is that frequent alteration, transmutation and generation, but in the heavenly bodies, the matter (they say) is satiated, desireth no other, because of the great activity and perfection of that form. Thus it is in moral things, the heart of a man, while carried out to any earthly thing, cannot meet with its complement and fullness of blessedness, and therefore like the Horseleech still cryeth, Give, give, Sen caret optatis, seu fruitur miser est. It is a Sheol that is always craving.

Only when terminated upon God, because he is bonum quo nihil melius, there cannot be any good desirable which is not transcendentally in him. Therefore the sanctified will doth enjoy him only. Thus David, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee” (Ps. 73:25). In Heaven David had none but God, not Angels nor Archangels, Heaven would not be Heaven if God were not enjoyed. Indeed Divines do commonly call the enjoyment of God in Heaven fruition, and that is immediate, complete, and perfect fruition, but yet even in this life, believers partake of God, have communion with him, and do enjoy him. It is indeed by faith, not yet by vision, but the object of faith is as real and operative in the soul, though not to such a full degree, as the object seen. Thus you see that according to the true order and constitution of things, God only is to be enjoyed, he only is to be loved and desired for his own sake, and all things else in reference to him.

But oh the breadth, the depth, and length of our natural defilement therein! What spiritual Geometry can measure the dimensions hereof? For doth not every natural man enjoy something or other which is as a god to him? Why is Covetousness called Idolatry (Col. 3:5)? Why are some said to have their belly a god (Phil. 3:19)? Is not all this because they love these things, and enjoy these things for their own self’s sake? Whereas we ought only to use them as instruments of God’s glory, and advantages of grace, not to abide or dwell in them? They are to be taken as physick [medicine], which is not received for itself’s sake, but because of health. So that were it not for health, a man would never use it. Thus it ought to be with us, in all the comforts we have in this world, to use them no further than they are subservient to our spiritual condition. We are ex officio discendere [fallen out of office], not cupiditate ruere [longing to rush headlong], such a crucified and circumcised heart the Apostle exhorteth to (1 Cor. 7).

The time is short, those that marry must be as if they married not, those that rejoice, as if they rejoiced not. If a man desire a garment, he would not have all the cloth in the country but as much as serveth for his garment; So neither are we to desire wealth, riches, honours, any comfort without end, but as much as will conduce for Heaven. The traveler will not burden himself, no not with gold and silver, who hath a long journey to go. Oh then call off thy will again and again? Say, Why art thou fastened here? Why stayest thou here? Look further, look higher, this is not God. As the Angel did on a sudden so ravish John, that he was ready to worship him, but the Angel forbade him, saying, I am thy fellow servant, worship thou God; So these creatures had they a voice would speak, when thou art at any time ravished with the excellency of them, do not love us, love God; do not delight in us, delight thou in God, we are but thy fellow creatures, yea not so much, but inferior and more ignoble than man.

Jansenius following his Augustine, will not allow us any love to anything but God, we may use it (say they) but not love it. Yea he rejects the assertion that we may love the creatures, but moderately; this is (saith he) as if we should say, there is a moderate covetousness, a moderate pride. And we must grant that the Scripture doth many times speak of the love of the creature as absolutely and intrinsically a sin. Thus, “Love not the world, nor the things of the world” (1 John 2:15). He doth not say, Use not the world, but “love not the world“; and thus, “The love of money is the root of all evil“, not the having of it or using of it. But this seemeth to be too rigid and stoical. And it is indeed a mere Question de nomine [of name]; for, take love in the sense they do, for the willing of a thing, for itself’s own sake, thus it is intrinsically a sin to love any creature, it is spiritual Idolatry, and a breach of the first command, but then the Scripture doth allow us to love the creatures, so we do not love them more than God. Thus Husbands are commanded to love their wives, and we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. So that to love the creatures is our duty, we should sin, if we did not, only the excess and inordinacy is sinful, and this we are guilty of when we enjoy anything but God. Now though none will acknowledge themselves guilty of this sin, yet every natural man doth enjoy some creature or other, his will is fastened upon something that is not God. It is true, this sin is very secret and subtle, the godly themselves have much ado to find it out in their own hearts. The will of a man is such an unsearchable Abyss of all evil, but do not thou crawl on the ground like a worm any longer. Set thy affections on things above.

It is indeed a Question worthy much inquiring into, How a man shall know whether he doth enjoy a creature or use it only, when it is a Sarah, when an Hagar only? And here the godly themselves are often in great uncertainties. The root of things lieth hid under ground. The first Letter commonly which beginneth a Book hath so many gaudy flourishes about it that it is hard to know what it is: Thus also it is in our hearts and conversations what is the Summum bonum, the great wheel that moveth all, the ultimate rest of our soul, it is very difficult to find out.

But it is not my work now to dive into this, it is enough that we know, The will of every man is naturally so polluted, that it enjoyeth a creature instead of God, it cannot will, love, and embrace him as the chiefest good. Proceed we then to the next act of the will about the end, and that not as possessed and enjoined, but as obtained and acquired, and that by some means, which we call Intention, and we shall find the will horribly corrupted in this respect also.

¶. 5.

The Pollution of the Will in its Act of Intention.

The word Intention is a metaphor from the archer, who aiming at a mark, useth his greatest skill and endeavor to hit. The Scripture speaks of the Benjamites, as famous in this way. Now everything that man doth as a rational agent is to have some end, some mark and aim. And what that is, the Scripture doth direct unto, God’s glory is the aim. “Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). So then we see what is to be the object of our intention, what we are to aim at in all that we do. Whence also we must be directed and guided therein by the Word of God. This being concluded on, we see that the will in every sin it commits, doth fail and err in its intention, therefore is all sin called an aberration from the scope. Every action that is not done for God is like an arrow shot besides the mark, that shooting is lost, it was to no purpose, and it cannot be recovered again. All rational agents intend an end, and if that be not obtained, there is a miscarriage. So that as in natural things, when there is some errour, a monster is brought forth. Thus it is in voluntary and moral things. Every sin is a monster, and thou oughtst to be more astonished and trembling under every sin, than a woman would be in seeing a monster come from her. In every sin the will is corrupted in its intention. But yet more particularly let us consider how the intention of the will is depraved, and that in these ways:

1. Depravity of the Will in the Intention of Secondary Ends Above the Chief End.

First, When the chief end is not intended, but secondary ends, intermediate ends. Yea when those things which should be but means are intended as ends, when we make a wilderness a Canaan, a Tabernacle the Temple, the Inn a Dwelling place. A secondary end which a man is to intend is the salvation of his own soul, the principal and most noble is the glory of God.

It is true, God hath so inseparably conjoined his glory, and man’s salvation together that one cannot be divided from the other: Therefore it is too rigid of some who press this as a duty upon Christians to be willing to be damned for God’s glory. That we are to will our destruction so that God may be glorified thereby, for we are to seek for immortality and glory. It would be a sin to will our damnation, only this is a subordinate end, God’s glory is the principal. Neither is a Christian anxiously to perplex himself with this Question, Whether they love God’s glory, or their own salvation best? Some timorated [devout] consciences, and tender spirits have been apt to judge themselves hypocrites in this thing, thinking they serve God only for Heaven’s sake, for their own ends and safety, not for God’s glory, which yet is a greater good, and more to be preferred than the salvation of the whole world. Better all men be damned than God not be glorified. But it is not good for a Christian to put such Questions to his soul.

Neither was that a wise wish of one who desired there were neither Heaven or Hell, that so he might know whether he served God purely for himself or no. Though these things are to be granted, yet on the other hand, we must also yield that the glory of God is the ultimate end, and our salvation in subordination thereunto. Not that they are to be divided or opposed, for Subordinata non pugnant [subordinates do not conflict], only one is less principal, and the other more principal.

But how corrupt is the will’s intention herein? How many will Heaven as a place of salvation, but not as a place of God’s glory? They desire salvation as it freeth from Hell’s torments, but not as it is a perfect sanctification of the whole man for the enjoyment of God. Here thy intention is sinful and incomplete, when thou intendest Heaven and happiness, thou art to desire all of it, not some parts of it.

Again, Our intention is much more corrupted in making the means to be the end. We make a perfect period and stop at a comma or a colon. And truly this is the general and universal corruption of every man’s natural intention. He shooteth his arrow too short. He intends no further than a happy, pleasant, and merry life in this world; one intends honours, another intends wealth, another intends pleasures: There is no natural man who can intend any higher good than some creature or other. As the brute beasts have a kind of improper intention, as they have of reason, whereby they are carried out to those things only that are obvious to sense, thus it is with man in his natural estate, destitute of regeneration. A worm can as soon fly like a Lark towards Heaven as this man intend anything that is spiritually good. For the natural man hath neither a mind nor a heart for such holy things, and so is like an Archer that hath neither eyes or hands, and thereby can never reach the mark.

2. The intention of the will is corrupted in its error about its object.

Secondly, The intention of the will is corrupted in its error and mistake about its object. It shooteth at a wrong mark. It’s really and indeed evil which he intendeth, though it be apparently good, it is in truth poison, though it be gilded. It is true, the rule is Nemo intendens malum operatur, No man intendeth evil as evil, but it is propounded under the notion of good, and that even in those who sin against the light, and dictates of their own conscience. But yet the Scripture speaketh constantly of wicked men as those that love evil, and will evil, and hate good, because it is evil which their wills are carried out unto, though it hath the outward bait and color of what is good. Herein then we have cause with bitterness of heart to bewail our sinful intentions. Thou dost but cozen and delude thy own self. Though thou hast many glosses, many colors and pretenses to deceive thyself with, yet that which in deed and truth doth allure and bewitch thy soul is evil in the appearance, (as it were) of some real good: a strumpet, in Matron’s clothes.

3. The Intention of the Will is Defiled in Spiritual Duties.

Thirdly, The intention of the will is herein also greatly defiled, that when it doth any holy and spiritual duties, the true motive and proper reason of their intention is not regarded, but false and carnal ones. Finis operis [the end of the act], and Finis operantis [the end of acting] are not the same, as they ought to be. This is the wickedness of man, so great that no heads, though fountains of waters, can weep enough because of it. The Pharisees were very constant and busy in prayers, in giving of alms, but what was their intention all the while? It was to be seen of man; and therefore in the just judgment of God, they had that reward. This intention of the will is thought by some to be the eye our Saviour speaketh of, If that be dark, the whole body is dark (Mat. 6:22). Jebus did many things in a glorious manner, as if none were so zealous as he, but like the kite, though he soared high yet still his eye was to see what prey lay on the ground, that he might devour it; it was a kingdom not God’s glory he intended. Thus Judas intended a bag, and riches, in all that seeming love and service he professed to Christ. Oh take heed of the intention of thy will in every holy duty! This maketh, or marreth all.

To what hath been said may be further added,

We Seek to Justify Sin by Our Good Intentions.

First, That we foolishly labor to justify our bad and sinful actions by our good intentions, as if they were able to turn evil unto good, and black into white. Is not this a continual plea among natural people, that though what they do be unlawful, yet they mean no hurt in it, they have good hearts and good intentions? Hence it is, that when they have done evil in the eyes of God, then they study to defend themselves by some intended good or other.

Thus Judas, when he muttered about the ointment, poured on our Saviour, yet he pretends to good intentions, That the ointment might have been sold and given to the poor (Mat. 26:9). Saul, when he had rebelliously spared the best of the cattle, yet he carrieth it as if his intention had been to keep them for a sacrifice to the Lord (1 Sam. 15). Yea, the Pharisees in all their malicious and devilish designs against Christ would be thought that their high and pure intentions for the glory of God did carry them forward in all they did. By such instances we see how prone every man is to put a good intention upon a bad action, and thereby think to wash himself clean from all guilt. But it is against the principles of Divinity that a good intention should justify that which is a bad action.

It is true, a bad intention will corrupt a good action; so vain glory, or to do any religious duty to be seen of men. This is a worm which will devour the best rose. This is a dead fly in a box of ointment (Ecc. 10:1). But it doth not hold true on the contrary, That a good intention will change the nature of an evil action. The reason whereof is that known rule: Malum est è quolibet defectu, bonum non est, nisi ex integris causis [evil is from any defect, good is not but from the entire cause]. Even as in a picture, one defect is enough to make it uncomely, but the beauty of it is not, unless everything be concurrent. So in music, any one jar is enough to spoil the harmony, but to make sweet music, there must be the consent of all. Do not therefore fly to thy good heart, to thy good meanings, thou intendest no hurt, for if thy action cannot be warranted by the Word, if it have not a good and lawful superscription upon it, this will never endure the fiery trial. The Apostle maketh all such conclusions full of horror and blasphemy (as it were) that argue, Let us do evil that good may come of it (Rom. 3:8). Augustine said it was not lawful to lie, though it were to save a world.

Consider then the sinfulness of thy will, and be more affected with it than hitherto thou hast been. When thou art overtaken with any sin, doest thou not excuse thyself with a good intention? Doest thou not plead some good or other though aimest at in all such unlawful ways? But though man cannot judge thee, yet the all seeing eye of God doth pierce into all thy intentions, and he knoweth thee better than thou knowest thyself.

We Seek to Justify Will-Worship by Our Good Intentions.

Secondly, The intention of the will is greatly corrupted in this particular also, That it will add to the worship of God, and accumulate precepts and means of grace (as they think) in his service, and all this while thinking a good intention will bear them out. If you ask, Why the Church of God hath not always been contented with the simplicity of the Gospel, why she hath not wholly kept herself to divine Institutions? You will find this corrupt intention of the will to be the cause thereof. A good intention brought in most of the superstitious and uninstituted Ceremonies that ever have been in the several ages of the Church. “In vain do ye worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mat. 15:9). The Pharisees thought by their commands and doctrines to teach men the fear and the worship of God.

This corrupt intention hath eaten out the very life and power of godliness; men taking upon them a more excellent stay (as they think) than the Scripture hath revealed, to teach reverence and devotion. From whence are those frequent commands to the people of Israel, That they must not go after the imagination of their own hearts; That they must not do what is good in their own eyes; That they must not add to, or take from the word of God. By these straight and close injunctions, we see that no intention whatsoever (though never so seemingly pious and reverential) will warrant a man to appoint any worship of God from his own head. Uzzah had a good intention when he endeavored to stay the Ark from falling, but God was so displeased thereat, that he struck him dead immediately. Now the reason was because God’s order was not kept about the Ark. Uzzah’s intention did not preserve him from God’s displeasure, so neither will their devout intention justify such who do superadd to God’s worship.

Some observe that expression of Eve’s where she saith, That God had said, they should not eat of it, nor touch it, lest they die (Gen. 3:3). We do not read that God forbade them to touch, yet (it’s thought) this was added by Eve for caution sake, as if she were so careful to keep God’s command about eating, that she addeth, they must not so much as touch it. From whence Ambrose gathereth, Nihil vel boni causâ addendum est precepto.

But oh how busy and active have many at all times been in the Church to bring in new worship, new institutions, of which there is no footstep in God’s Word, as if they were more careful of God’s honor and glory than he himself is! But though with men this sin be accounted small, saying, They cannot worship God too much, they cannot be excessive in serving of him, yet this is an high sin in the Scripture account. It being one of God’s royalties to prescribe what shall be his worship. Shall a servant take upon him to make rules in his Master’s house? Let men that dote upon superstition, and are enamored with customs of devotion that have no command from Scripture lay this very seriously to heart. Oh how terrible will it be when thy devotion and Religion will appear abomination! God asking thee, Who hath required this thing at thy hands? The ape is therefore the more deformed, because so like a man, and yet is not a man. Thus all that worship, which hath the greatest appearance of humility, zeal, and mortification, which yet hath not its origin from God, is the more loathsome to such as are of a spiritual taste and judgment in heavenly things, serving of God, not in the way they choose, but in the manner he hath commanded. And thus much for the act of Intention.

¶. 6.

The Pollution of the Will in its Acts of Election or Choosing.

We shall in the next place, consider those that relate to the means which lead to the end. I shall first begin with Election or Choosing, because in that is contained either life or death. For as the Election of God, or his mere choosing of some to eternal life, is the fountain of all the good which such persons partake of, all their springs are in it. So the election or choice of man is the womb wherein all happiness or misery is conceived. If a man have right intentions and true ends, yet if he choose false, sinful, and ungodly means, he can never come to that end. It is as if a man should intend his home, or dwelling place, which is in the North, and he choose that road or way, which leadeth into the South. It is acknowledged by all, That in every man there is an innate appetite to the chiefest good, but as naturally all men do err about the knowledge of it, what it is, so also about the means, how to attain it. But let us open this viper, and see what a poisonous brood is in it.

1. The Will Embraces Things that Please the Flesh.

First, Herein is the sinfulness of the wills choice manifested, That it electeth and embraceth such things as are pleasing to flesh and blood, that are suitable to sense, although there be never so many snares and temptations, thereby to endanger the soul. As it was with Lot (Gen. 13:10-11), when he beheld all the plain of Jordan to be well watered, and that it was like the garden of God, he chose all that country, and departed from Abraham. But in what sad dangers did this unwise choice of his cast him into? And thus it is with every man naturally, he chooseth such conditions, such ways, as are full of pleasure, profit, and advantages, in the mean while not considering how quickly this honey is turned into choler, that rugged and difficult ways had been better than such sweet and pleasant ways.

Whereas then Moral Philosophy maketh a three-fold good, Utile, Jucundum, and Honestum, Profitable, Pleasant, and Honest or Virtuous, and the later is properly and fully the object of the will, that is so depraved, that it chooseth only what is advantageous or pleasant. Experience doth abundantly confirm this, for what man naturally till regenerated doth choose anything, but as it is natural to, and commensurate with, that depraved appetite within. David being enlivened with a supernatural life, see what a choice he declareth that he had made (Psal. 119:30,173). In both those verses he professeth he had chosen the commandments of God. Hence the wise man, who knew what was fittest to be chosen, saith (Prov. 16:16) That wisdom and understanding (which is nothing but grace) is to be chosen rather then gold or silver. If then the will were truly sanctified, it would not choose a thing because it is delight-some and profitable, but because it’s holy and commanded by God. It is made the description of a child, That he knoweth not to refuse the evil, and choose the good (Isa. 7:15). Thus the child (and a fool) he will choose his bauble before gold or silver; such folly and simplicity is upon us. The will is so perverted that it will choose anything rather than that which is indeed and solidly good.

2. The Will Chooses Uncertain Things Before Certain Things.

Secondly, The election of the will is grossly depraved, In that it chooseth uncertain things before certain; not only pleasant and profitable things before holy and honest, but uncertain and fading things before that which is eternal and will continue ever. And wherein can the will’s sinfulness be proclaimed more than in this? Is it not a rule commended by all wise men, Tene certum & demitte incertum, Hold that which is certain, and let go that which is uncertain? All men have such a will in worldly things, they would choose a certain estate rather than what is mere arbitrary, and may be lost the next day; but if we bring these men unto spiritual objects, and temporal objects, lay one on the one side, and the other on the other side, yet they will choose the temporal, and let go the spiritual. Though the temporal are transitory and fleeing away, whereas spiritual things would be eternal, they would continue thine forever. Oh foolish and unwise men who make such a choice! And yet this is the state of every unregenerate man. What doth he say? Give me the good things of this world, though I lose Heaven and eternal Glory. Let me have a day pleasure, a moments profit, though I have an eternity of loss and torments.

Consider then with thyself, what a foolish choice thy will doth make all the day long. Thou choosest that which will leave thee, which is here to day, and like the grass tomorrow is thrown into the oven, and in the meanwhile there is that good which will abide, though Heaven and Earth should fall, and this thou art willing to pass by. Was not Dives called a fool upon this account? This night thy soul shall be taken away, and then whose shall all these things be? The sinfulness of thy will herein, will never be enough lamented, till with Dives thy eyes be opened in Hell, and then thou behold what a choice thou hast made. Christ giveth Mary this commendation, That she had chosen the better part (Luke 10:42) and that should never be taken from her. Oh that this also could be said of thee truly, thou hast chosen the good part! Though the wicked and ungodly of the world think it is the worse part, and they would never take it, yet it is the good part, and that because it will never be taken from thee: Thy grace, thy good works will never leave thee, but they will go to the grave with thee, to Heaven with thee.

3. We Would Rather Sin Than Suffer.

Thirdly, This sinfulness of thy will in choosing, is seen, when thou hadst rather sin than become afflicted; and yet this is naturally adhering to everyone, he will rather choose to wound conscience, to go against light rather than be brought into trouble. Doth not every man naturally judge this the best, and so choose it? Hence he never mattereth what God requireth, what may damn his soul hereafter, only he is resolved he will not put himself upon any hardship for Christ, but will launch no further in this deep than he can safely retire back again. Every man would naturally get an Ark to save himself in, when any public water do overflow; so they escape danger, they regard not God’s glory, or the Church’s good. Job’s friends did fasten this upon him, but falsely (Job 36:21). Take heed, regard not iniquity, for this hast thou chosen rather than affliction. They thought Job desired to sin, and would choose that rather than to be afflicted by God, though Job being sanctified was free from this charge. Yet it is too true of every man by nature.

Oh what power of grace is necessary to make a man choose to do his duty rather than have all the advantages of the world! It was Anselm’s expression that if sin were on one side, and Hell flames on the other, he would choose rather to go through them rather than sin. Even Aristotle could say, A virtuous man would die rather than do any dishonest thing. But the Scripture giveth an admirable commendation of Moses, worthy all our imitation, Choosing rather to suffer for Christ, than the pleasures of Egypt (Heb. 11:25-26). Moses might have had all the pleasure and honours of Egypt, yet because he could not have them without sin, he rather chooseth the poor and despised estate that his brethren were in. So that Moses doth in this case something like Hiram (1 Kings 9:13) to whom Solomon gave many cities, but Hiram did not like them, and called that place Cabul, that is, displeasing or dirty. Thus Moses called Pharaoh’s Court, and all his honours Cabul in respect of Christ’s favor and his love. Did not all the holy Martyrs likewise do the same things? Were not many of them offered life, liberty, yea great places of honor, if they would renounce Christ, if they would forsake his way? But they did not stand deliberating and doubting, what they should do, they immediately choose to be imprisoned, burnt at the stake, rather than not confess Christ and his way. But the will naturally cannot make such a choice.

¶. 7.

The will’s loss of that Aptitude and readiness it should have to follow the deliberation and advice of the Understanding.

The sinfulness of the will in its noble and famous operation of Election or choosing hath been in a great measure considered, I shall add two particulars more, and what is further to be taken notice of in this point will seasonably come in when we are to treat of the will in its freedom, or rather servitude.

The first of these two to be mentioned is, The loss of that aptitude and readiness it should have to follow the deliberation and prudent advice of the understanding. For this is the private Institution and nature of the soul in its operations. The understanding when the end is pitched upon doth consult and deliberate in a prudential way about the means which may conduce to that end, and when prudence doth direct about those things which are to be done, then the will is to embrace and elect that medium rather than any other, which reason doth thus wisely suggest. Thus it ought to be. Now, the will being wholly corrupt doth not choose according to the dictates of prudence, but the suggestions of sense, and the carnal affections within us. So that naturally a man chooseth an object not because reason or prudence saith, This is good, this is according to God’s will, but because sense or affection saith, this is pleasant and delightful. This sad perverting of the order of the will in its operations, if rightly considered, would throw us upon the ground and make us with great amazement and astonishment cry out of ourselves. For what can be more absurd and grievous than the will which is so essentially subordinated in its choosing to the guidance of the understanding, should now be so debased, that like Samson without eyes, it is made to grind in every mill, that any carnal affection shall command.

We may see the good method and rule the will should walk by in its choice, by that which Moses said, “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil…I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life” (Deut. 30:15&19). Observe what should direct us in choosing, namely that which the servants of God deliver from the Word, and so that which the mind of a man enlightened from thence doth declare to us. And for defect herein it is that we choose evil and death, for how often doth the Minister of the Gospel yea thy own conscience it may be within thee, obtest and adjure thy will, as herein the Text Moses did the people of Israel. I call heaven and earth to witness, saith conscience, that I have shewed thee the good thou wert to do, I have terrified and threatened thee with Hell, and that vengeance of God which will follow thee upon the commission of such sins. Therefore look to thy election, see again and again what it is that thou choosest. But though all this be done, yet the will will choose what affections say, what sense suggesteth, dealing herein like Rehoboam, who would not hearken to the advice and direction of the ancient grave and wise counselors, (thou plus valet umbrasenis, quam gladius juvenus, as the expression is in the civil law) but he gave his ear to the young men that flattered him, and were brought up with him, which proved to his destruction. Thus the will in its choice it maketh, listeneth not to what the mind doth with deliberation and prudence direct to, but what the inferior appetite doth move unto, that it followeth.

And this is the foundation of all those sad and unsuccessful choices we make in the world, this layeth work for that bitter repentance and confusion of soul which many fall into afterward. Oh that I had never chosen this way! Oh that I had never used such means! Oh me never wise! Oh foolish, and wretched man that I am! Especially this bitter bewailing and howling about what we have chosen will be discovered in Hell. What will those eternal yells and everlasting roars of soul be, but to cry out, Oh that I had never chosen to commit such sins! Oh that I had never chosen such companions to acquaint with! Thus the foolish and sinful choice thou makest in this life, will be the oil as it were poured into those flames of fire in Hell, to make them burn seven times hotter.

2. The Will Chooses Sinful Means.

Secondly, The other particular wherein this corrupt frame of the will in election is seen is, That in the means it doth choose, it never considereth how just, and lawful, and warranted the means are, but how useful. Therefore, though God be offended, though his Law be broken, yet he will choose to do such things. Whereas we must know that God hath not only required the goodness of an end, but also the lawfulness, and goodness of the means. The sanctified will dareth not use an unlawful medium to bring about the most desired good that is, but the carnal heart taketh up that rule of the Atheistic Politician, Quod utile est, illud justum est, That which is profitable, that is just and righteous.

That famous act of the Athenians, being provoked to it by Aristides the Just, may shame many Christians, when Themistocles had a stratagem in his head against their enemies, telling the people, he had a matter of great weight in his mind, but it was not fit to be communicated to the people. The people required him to impart it to Aristides, who being acquainted with it, declareth it to the people, That Themistocles counsel was utile, but injustum, profitable but unjust; by which means the people would not pursue it. Here was some restraint upon men by the very principles of a natural conscience. But if the will be left to itself, and God neither sanctifying or restraining it, it looketh only to the goodness and profitableness in means, never to the lawfulness of them.

Some have disputed, Whether it be not lawful to persuade to use a less evil that a greater may be avoided? They instance in Lot offering his daughters to the Sodomites to be abused by them, rather than commit a more horrid impiety by abusing themselves with mankind (as they thought those strangers to be) but the Scripture rule is evident and undeniable, We must not do evil that good may come of it (Rom. 3:8). Neither doth a less evil cease to be an evil, though compared with a greater. As in a Syllogism, if one of the premises be false, there cannot be inferred a true conclusion, è falso nil nisi falsum, so also, è malo nil nisi malum, from an evil means there can never come but that which is evil, though indeed God may by his omnipotent power work good out of evil. Know then that it cometh from the pollution of thy will that thou darest make choice of means, not because just or righteous, but because profitable for that end thou desirest.

¶. 8.

The Pollution of the Will in its Acts of Consent.

We proceed to another act of the will, as it is exercised about the means which is called Consent. Though in order of nature, this doth precede election. Yet because I intend not to say much about it at this time, because more will be spoken to it when I shall treat of the immediate effects of original sin, I therefore bring it in here.

1. Indeliberate Motions of The Will.

To discover the sinfulness hereof, we must know that the will hath a two-fold operation or motion in this respect, for there are motus primo primi, the immediate and first stirrings of the will antecedent to any deliberation or consent. The natural man being wholly carnal cannot feel these, no more than a blind man can discern the motes in the air when the Sunbeams do enlighten it. But the godly man, as appeareth in Romans 7 findeth such motions and insurrections of sin within him, and that against his will. Now although it be true, when there are such motions of the will, but resisted and gainsayed, they are not such sins as shall be imputed unto us; and thus far Bernard’s expression is to be received, Non necet sensus rei deest consensus, yet they are in themselves truly and properly sins.

The Papists and Protestants are at great difference in this point [c.f. Misconceptions About Desire and Temptation (James 1:14-15)]. The Romanists denying all such indeliberate motions antecedent to our consent to be properly sins, but the Reformed do positively conclude they are, and that because the Apostle (Rom. 7) calleth them often sins, and sins that are against the law, and which ought to be mortified. It is true, we further add, when the sanctified soul doth withstand them, cry out to God for aid against them; as the maid in danger to be deflowered, if she called out for her help, the Law of God did then free her; so God also will through Christ forgive such sinful motions of thy soul, which appear in thy heart, whether thou wilt, or no. Yet for all this, these stirrings of the will being inordinate and against the Law of God, which requireth not only pure streams, but a pure fountain also, therefore they are truly culpable, and so damnable.

Let then a man observe, whether Egypt was once fuller of flies than thy heart is of inordinate motions. For as the pulse in the body is always beating, so the will is always in action. It’s always moving to some object or other, and being naturally corrupted. It doth always tend, either to an object unlawful, or if lawful, in an unlawful and immoderate way.

2. Deliberate Motions of the Will.

But in the second place, Besides these indeliberate motions, there are those which are deliberate, to which the will doth give free and full consent. These are greater sins than the former, because the more voluntary. Certainly the will of a man is as full of sinful consents as the Sea is of water. Whensoever any lust, any sin cometh to tempt thee, How easily and quickly is thy consent obtained? Indeed outwardly to commit the sin that is many times hardly accomplished, there may want the opportunity, fear or shame may restrain men, but to consent to sin, yea that which is most abominable, may be a thousand times over committed by the will in a little space.

Now that the will’s consent to a sin is a sin, if it be kept within only, and not expressed in the outward act, is difficulty believed; even as they think their thoughts, so also the desires of their will are free in this particular. Yea it seemeth to be the constant doctrine of the Pharisees that if a man did externally obey the Law of God, though in his heart he did will the contrary, yet the Law did not condemn him. Hence it is that in Matthew 5 our Saviour doth expound the Law so exactly and spiritually, and that it seemed a great Paradox to the received Traditions at that time. For our Lord doth there shew that if a man doth lust after a woman in his heart it is adultery and so of all other gross sins. If then thou dost will in thy heart, desire and consent in thy heart to any sin, though thou canst not, or darest not commit it, here God looketh upon thee as such a sinner. For as in holy things God accepteth the will for the deed, so in evil things, the will to do it, the consent to do it, is as if thou hadst done it. Tantum fecimus, quantum volumus, even Seneca could say.

What thunder and lightning is in this truth, if rightly understood! Go and search thy will, make strict examination about it, and thou wilt find sparks do not fly faster from the forge than sinful consents do issue from thee all the day long. No sooner doth any voluptuous, ambitious, or profitable object appear in thy soul, but thy will hath secretly consented to it, and embraced, even before thou canst tell what thou hast done. Now this sinful temper of the will is the more pernicious and dangerous, because these consents inwardly to sin are so sudden and imperceivable, that thousands of them came from the soul almost in a twinkling of an eye, and the heart feeleth them not. Do not then think to justify thyself because thou canst with the Pharisee thank God that thou art no adulterer, no drunkard, no Publican. For if thou hast at any time a secret consent to these things, if thy heart embrace them, though thou darest not externally commit them, the holy and spiritual Law of God will find out these sins in thee, and condemn thee for them.

3. Express vs. Virtual Consent to Sin.

In the next place, Consider also that there is a two-fold consent to a sin, express and Formal, or Interpretative and Virtual. An express consent is when the will doth actually yield itself up to any lust that doth tempt it. Thus Cain expressly consented to the murder of Abel, Judas to the betraying of Christ. But a virtual consent is when we yield to that from which such a sin will either necessarily, or probably follow, although we do not expressly think of the sin. Thus a man that is voluntarily drunk, if in his drunken fits he kill any, or commit any other gross impiety, he may be said interpretatively to will all that wickedness, though for the present he knoweth not what he doth. Thus the best Casuists do determine, and the reason is, because such a man doth voluntarily expose himself to the cause of all such evils, and he who willeth the cause of a sin, may be justly said to will the sin that is the effect.

Know then thy consent to sin may extend further than ever thou thoughtest of. Such sins may lie at thy door ready to arraign thee, because though thou didst not expressly will them, yet by consequence thou didst. Therefore when those workers of iniquity plead that they never saw Christ hungry or in prison, and did not minister to him, our Saviour replyeth, That because they did not such things to his Disciples, they did them not to him (Mat. 25:44).

4. Consent to Other’s Sins.

Lastly, This consent of the will is not only to the evil that we do in our own persons commit, but also to that which others are guilty of. And here now might be a large field, wherein the sinfulness of our corrupt will may be discovered. This consent of the will to other men’s sins, may be (as Divines shew) many ways, but I must not enlarge therein. It is enough for the present to know the will is so corrupt, that as if it were too little to consent to its own sin, it’s frequently yielding to the sins of others, whereby the sins of other men are made ours, and so at the Day of Judgment shall stand arraigned, both for our own and other men’s sins also.

¶. 9.

The Pollution of the Will in its Use of the Other Parts of the Soul and Body.

The last act of the will is, That which they call usus, the application of the other parts of the soul and body to bring about the evil desired. In this also the will, because of the universal dominion it hath, doth demonstrate the vast extent of its sinful kingdom. This sinful will commands the body in a despicable manner to be instrumental to sin. It bids the eye look upon wanton objects, and it doth it. It commands the tongue to speak obscenely, wantonly, to lie, or curse, or swear, and it doth it. All thy bodily sinfulness is committed because the will commandeth it to be done. And although the affections are not under such an absolute command by the will, but rather they sometimes subjugate and keep that under them, yet at other times, the will causeth them to arise, men love and hate, because they will. Melancthon is said to wrote thus to Calvin, Judicas prout amas, aut odio habes, amas vero aut odio habes, prout vis; The will of a man is that which sometimes stirreth up all the passions of the soul. Hence is that usual expression, I will have my will whatsoever it cost me. Yea the understanding, though it be a light, yet the will many times putteth it under a bushel. Yea it will command the mind to divert its thoughts. Hence men will not understand, will not be convinced, because the will applieth to other objects. But of this more in its time.


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