Treatise on Original Sin
Part 3, Chapter 4, Section 4.
The Defilement of the Will in its Affections and Properties, or the sinful Adjuncts inseparably cleaving unto it.
“So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Romans 9:16).
Hitherto we have been declaring the native pollution of the noble faculty of the Will in the several operations thereof. But we have not (as yet) manifested the least of all that filthiness which adhereth to it. You have seen but a drop in respect of the Ocean. We proceed therefore to a further discovery of the original contagion thereof, and that in its Affections and Properties: The sinful Adjuncts inseparably cleaving to it, proclaim it to be a defiled subject.
This Scripture opened, vindicated and improved against the Doctrine of Free-will.
This truth cannot be superstructed better than upon this foundation in the Text, which is a noble ingredient into that famous portion of Scripture wherein the doctrine of those sublime mysteries about Election and Reprobation are professedly handled, and those objections which the presumption of human reason is ready to produce are fully answered. Whereas in other places that doctrine is only occasionally or incidentally handled, here the Apostle doth industriously treat of the nature of it. Thus it hath of old been interpreted, and of late by the Orthodox.
Only Arminius, following Suecanus in part, and the Remonstrants after Arminius, have excogitated a new analysis of this chapter, full of absurdity and impertinence. For they would not have the Apostle at all to treat of Election and Reprobation of persons, they turn themselves and the Scripture into all shapes and forms to evade that, but they interpret it of a two-fold purpose or decree of God. The one whereof they say is, That whosoever doth believe shall obtain Justification, Adoption, and Salvation. The other, That whosoever seek for righteousness by the works of the Law shall be rejected from all these. This (they say) is the scope of the Apostle. But who seeth not what forcing and wresting this is of Scripture? So that we may wonder how such an interpretation could come into their mind.
For the Apostle doth not speak of conditions, but of persons, his scope is not to shew that they are believers who are received, and workers who are rejected. The Apostle had abundantly confirmed this in the fourth chapter, but he intends to shew the dominion and sovereignty of God in the eternal disposing of men’s persons, and that upon the occasion of God’s rejecting the Jews, and calling in the Gentiles. Therefore he saith, To “whom he will,” he sheweth mercy, and “whom he will he hardeneth” [Rom. 9:18]. He puts the discrimination upon God’s will, not upon any internal qualification in the subject. Also he instanceth in Esau and Jacob before they had done good or evil, whereas if Jacob were considered as a believer, then God did look upon him as having good in him.
Further, he bringeth in Pharaoh for an example, how that God did reject him, and whether the word exegeirō (v. 17) be rendered, I have raised thee up, or I have kept thee alive in those judgments, and not destroyed thee, as the Remonstrants and others vehemently contend. Yea some Orthodox do yield, it will all come to the sense, that he was an object on whom God would demonstrate his power and justice, or kept by God for a while, as some Anatomists do a dead body before they bury it, to gather profitable observations for the good of others. Not that God infused any evil in Pharaoh’s heart, though the Scripture useth three words concerning Pharaoh, the one is to confirm or corroborate his heart, and that is ascribed to God seven times. The other is to harden, and that is once, though we render the word to corroborate, to harden. The last is, To aggravate or make heavy, which is once likewise ascribed to God (which is also rendered by our Interpreters to harden), not (I say) that this expression denoteth, God did put any sinful frame into Pharaoh’s heart. Nor yet on the other side is it to be understood of a mere bare permission of God, as if he did no more than suffer him by his patience to be hardened. But God as a just Judge did for Pharaoh’s sin antecedent justly deny him any mollifying grace, leaving him to his lusts, which in such occasions as he had, did break out into a more violent flame. So that the whole blame lay upon Pharaoh himself, not on God. Hence it is, that he is so often said to harden his own heart.
Now this example of Pharaoh could not make at all to Paul’s purpose, if his intent was to prove that God would reject all such who seek for righteousness by the works of the Law, for Pharaoh was an Heathen, he was ignorant of God’s Law, and could not seek for Justification by the works thereof. Besides, if the Apostle did not intend to shew God’s purpose absolutely and unconditionally (in a well explained sense) about persons, but only his decree about their qualifications, what occasion was there for Paul to make such an objection: “Is there unrighteousness with God?” [v. 14]. And then first to objurgate the objector, “Who art thou, O man, that disputest against God?” [v. 20]. And then returneth a full answer to the objection, from the less to the greater, from the Potter, who hath power over the same clay to make a vessel of honor or dishonor. These Objections and Answers could have no place in the Remonstrant analysis and interpretation. For who would argue it injustice in God to reject such who did not believe in Christ, but sought for Justification by the Law? If the Apostle did prove only two such decrees about the ways to salvation and damnation, here was no such mystery transcending human expectation.
This is certain, the Remonstrants commend their way of common Election, making the determinate event to be by man himself, in a most plausible and colourable manner, as being most agreeable to human reason and equity. There is no man who would dispute against God in this, whereas the other exposition strongly pursued by Augustine, and for the dreadfulness of it to flesh and blood, which is ready to call God to an account for his administrations was greatly disliked by many and a scandal to them. Even as at this day, it still meeteth with the same unkind entertainment from Lutherans, Socinians, and Arminians, who make an Universal Conditional Election, whereby (they say) God would have all to be saved, even the Calvinists themselves, as they are pleased to instance by derision. Well if this part of Scripture will not convince, I know not what light will, and they must needs be prepossessed who can let their judgments assent to such a remote and forced explication. Not to add that the decree which they make about God’s rejection of such who seek for Justification by works is false. For did not many Jews following the righteousness of the Law at last believe in Christ? Was not Paul once zealous for the works of the Law? Yet afterward an affectionate admirer of the righteousness by faith. But we leave these bold Interpreters who do assume more to themselves in turning the sense of these words this way and that way, than do allow God in the disposing of mankind, as if the Text were like the Potter’s clay, that they might make a sense of honor and a sense of dishonor.
Come we therefore more particularly to the words in hand, and as appeareth by the illation [deduction]. So then they are an inference from Paul’s preceding discourse. As for those, though men of great antiquity who suppose these words spoken not by Paul himself, as in his own person, but in the person of some opponent, it is so weak that it is not worth the rebuttal. For the Apostle in the beginning of the chapter, useth great asseveration and attestation, even with a solemn oath concerning his great affection to the Jews and their salvation, to whom also he attributeth great Church privileges and spiritual prerogatives. And this he doth because he was to deliver most dreadful matter, which would be exceeding displeasing to that Nation, and which might seem to come from hatred to them. But this Preface is to mollify them.
And whereas it might be objected, If a greater part of the Jews, who were once God’s people, and to whom the promises did belong, were rejected, how could God’s Word be true? The Apostle distinguisheth of the Israelites, and sheweth, that the promise in regard of the spiritual efficacy did belong only to Abraham’s seed after the promise, or who were the children of Abraham in a supernatural way, imitating him and walking in his steps. The other were Abraham’s sons after the flesh, not but that they were children of the promise also in respect of the Covenant externally administered, they were circumcised as well as the other, and called “the children of the promise” [Rom. 9:8], and if this were not so, the Apostle should in the same breath almost have contradicted himself, for he said of the Nation in the general that to them did belong the covenants and the promises [v. 4]. Hence that whole Nation is sometimes called his son, yea his first born, and son of delights. But though Abraham’s children thus after the flesh, and in some sense of the promise also, yet not in that sense, as the Apostle meaneth here, so as to be the blessed seed, and elected by God in Christ.
Hence Paul sheweth that the promises in respect of the efficacy and gracious benefits flowing from them did belong only to the elect. And this he proveth first from Ishmael and Isaac. And whereas it might be said, Ishmael for his actual impiety deriding of, and persecuting Isaac was rejected, and also that he was born of Hagar a bond-woman; then he further exemplifyeth in Esau and Jacob, born both of the same father and mother, and at the same time, and yet before they had done good or evil. The one, even the younger, was loved of God, and the elder to whom the birthright did belong was hated.
Whether these instances be propounded as types only (so that for all this both Ishmael and Esau might be elected, as some have charitably thought of Esau, that he repented of his cruel intentions to his brother, changing his mind to him, and so (as they think) dying a converted man), or whether they be propounded as Examples also as well as Types (as those persons whom God had excluded from grace, and therefore the Scripture giveth this Character of Esau that he was a profane man), is not much material. This is enough, that the discourse of Paul is carried on with great strength. And whereas it might be objected that God was unrighteous in making such a difference between those that were equal, the Apostle answereth from a Text of Scripture where Moses desiring to see the glory of God, God grants his request, giving this reason, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and merciful to whom I will be merciful” (Ex. 33:19). Thus even Moses hath that great glory put upon him, even to speak to God face to face, and that not for any worth or dignity in himself, but the mere gracious will of God. Therefore there is no unrighteousness in this act whereby God receiveth one and leaveth another, because this assumption is an act of grace and savor; and in things of favor and liberality, there is no injustice. If I meet two poor men equally indigent, and I relieve one passing by the other, there is no injustice in not relieving of him. Now from this expression of God to Moses, the Apostle maketh this inference in my Text, removing all causes and merits of the grace of God from man, and attributing it wholly to God.
In the negation we have a distribution, “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth” [Rom. 9:16]. Here is much dispute, what is meant by that? But the context maketh it evident that election is not, nor the blessed effects of Election, Conversion, Justification, and Salvation. Some also add, The act of volition, It is not of him that willeth to will. For God worketh in us to will [Phil 2:13]. All is to be given to God. For Voluntas bons, is one of God’s good gifts to us, Nelentem pravenit ut velit, volentem subsequitur ne finstra velit: A good will cannot precede God’s gifts, seeing that itself is one of God’s gifts.
“Not of him that willeth…” Here we see plainly the will of man so impotent, yea so polluted by sin, that it cannot put itself forth to any good.
Again, “It is not of him that runneth.” The Remonstrants limit this too much as if it were an allusion to Esau, who neither by running (when he wearied himself in hunting for venison) nor by willing (when with tears he so earnestly desired the blessing) could obtain it. For the Scripture doth usually compare Christianity to a race, and our conversation to a running. So that it is neither our inward willing, or outward performing of duties (though with much industry), that make us obtain this grace from God. Not that we are to sit still and to be idle, but we are to wait on the means only, it’s God’s grace not our wills which do make us holy and happy. Therefore you have the positive cause of all, “but of God that sheweth mercy.”
It is then the mere mercy and compassion of God which maketh a difference between men lying in the same sin and misery. He speaketh not of justifying mercy, adopting mercy, but of electing mercy, converting and calling mercy. This discriminating power and grace of God doth evidently appear everywhere, there being two in a family, one taken, the other left. Two hearing a sermon, one humbled and converted, the other remaining blind and obdurate. If to this it be replied, that the meaning is, It is not of the will alone, nor of him that runneth alone, but of God’s mercy also, then (as Augustine of old did solidly observe) it might as truly be said, That it is not of God that sheweth mercy, but of him that willeth and runneth. And this is very absurd, Pia aures non ferunt, Godly ears (saith Aquinas on this place) would not endure it; and Newe Christianus dicere andebit, (said Augustine). The weightiness of the matter hath made me thus long in opening the Text: We come to the Observation:
The will of man is so greatly defiled by sin that we cannot obtain any spiritual mercy by it. It’s the grace of God, the compassion of God that maketh thee abhor thy sins, and close with that which is holy, thy will is naturally an enemy and an adversary to it. Should God let thee alone till thou come to meet him, thy condition would be hopeless. The will of a man naturally stands at a defiance against the things of God, else why is it that under such means of grace that many enjoy, why is it that when there are so many invitations and expostulations that the understanding and conscience is convinced, that cannot tell what to say, yet the will of a man is obstinate and refractory?
The Will is so fallen from its primitive honor, that it’s not worthy to be called Will but Lust.
Let us take notice of the great depravation of the will.
First, It is seen in this, That it is so fallen from its primitive honor. That it is no more worthy to be called voluntas but cupiditas, not will, but lust. For the will signifieth a rational appetite following the dictates of reason, but our will doth not, cannot do so. And therefore as she said, “Call me not Naomi, call me Mara” [Ruth 1:20], so it is here, call it no more a will, but a lust. And thus the Scripture doth by thelēma mean lust (Eph. 2:3). “Fulfilling the desires,” or lusts, “of the flesh” (“the will,” as it is in the original). “To have wrought the will of the Gentiles” (1 Peter 4:3), is explained by walking in lusts; and verse 2, “the lusts of men,” which is nothing but their wills is opposed to the will of God. Thus “those that will be rich” (1 Tim. 6:9), that will to be rich is a sin against that command “Thou shalt not lust.”
Oh then think seriously of this, my will is become a lust, my virgin an whore, I cannot will anything but it is a lusting after it rather than a willing of it! It is not willing of riches, but lusting after them; not willing of honours, but lusting after them. We call it a lust not a will because it doth excessively (and beyond Scripture bounds) will a thing, neither doth it will with subordination and reference to God’s glory. Thus a man’s will is his lust.
The Will is wholly perverted about the Ultimate End.
Although the will of man be subject to more defilements than the body of a man is exposed to diseases, yet I shall briefly select some of the more remarkable instances.
First, Herein is the natural sinfulness of the will manifested, In that it is wholly perverted about the ultimate end, which is the proper and adequate object of it. God is the supreme and ultimate end of the will. Therefore were our souls endowed with this noble faculty, that the will might firmly and immovably adhere to him. That as the elements have their proper principles of motion, whereby they never rest till they come to their center, or ultimate term in which they wholly acquiesce. Thus also if we respect the primitive institution, the will was given us for such a principle which should carry us out constantly to the enjoying of God.
But oh the sad perversion and inordinacy that is now come upon this chief power of the soul, for now a man’s self is put into God’s room. So that whereas God was the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of a man’s will, now a man’s self is made his god, he willeth himself, he loveth himself, all things are done in reference to himself as the utmost end. So that this self-seeking, this self-loving is the root of all other iniquities. When the Apostle was to reckon up a catalog of manifold notorious impieties, he reckons up men, “lovers of themselves” (2 Tim. 3:2), as the bitter root of all wormwood springing from it. You cannot reckon up any sin, whether spiritual or carnal, that doth not flow from this, because a man doth inordinately will, and love himself.
As Aristotle reporteth of one Antipheron, which through the weakness of his eyes, the very air was instead of a Looking glass, making a constant reflection so that he saw himself, beheld himself all the day long. Thus it is with the will. All the motions and actings of it are only to self-glory, self-pleasure, self-profit, etc. Whereas at first the will was created so subordinate to God, that it did will the glory, honor, and blessedness of God infinitely above its own self. If they could say to David, “Thou art worth ten thousand of us” [2 Sam. 18:3], how much more could Adam in the state of integrity say unto God, that his Name, his Glory and Majesty were to be esteemed and set up far above the good of all men and Angels. Augustine observeth truly that those two cities, Jerusalem and Babel, of God and the Devil, had these two contrary foundations: Babel had Amor sui usque, and Contemptum Dei, The love of a man’s self, even to the contempt of God. And Jerusalem, The love of God, even to the contempt of a man’s self.
Oh then look upon this as the Goliath-sin, as the Beelzebub-evil in thy will, that it cannot, it doth not anything but excessively will and love itself to the contempt of, and rebellion against God! The command of God is to love him with all our heart, soul, and might, and to love our neighbor also, but there is no injunction to love ourselves. Indeed that is supposed as a duty, when a man’s self is made the rule and measure of love to our neighbor. Some think the reason why there is no express command to love ourselves is because that is required in loving of God, because he only loveth himself that loveth God, and in loving of God we love ourselves. Whereas when we love ourselves for ourselves sake, not subordinate to God, we do indeed hate ourselves, procuring our self damnation.
Let us then bewail this fall of the will by original sin from God into itself, whereby we will our own glory rather than God’s. Our own interest than the great God’s, who yet giveth us all we have. This is to break the order which the wise and holy will of God hath immutably ordained, namely the submission and subjection of the creature to the Creator.
The Privacy and Propriety of the Will.
Secondly, Another extensive and powerful defilement of the will is a consequent from the former, viz. The Privacy and Propriety of it. For whereas by the primitive Institution our will is to be commensurate and regulated by the will of God; now it naturally abhorreth and refuseth any such agreement, as if our will were to take place of God’s will, as if the prayer were that our will (not God’s will) might be done. In this is an Abyss of all evil, that our will naturally inclineth to be independent of God’s will. We would have that a measure and rule even to God’s will, that God should not will but what we would have. Oh horrible blasphemy and confusion! For the human will of the Lord Christ was not a rule and measure of things to be done, being the will of a creature, therefore he prayeth, “Not my will, but thine be done” (Luke 22:42). If then Christ’s human will was to be regulated by that superior and uncreated will, how much more is the will of a sinful and corrupt man?
This then is that which maketh the whole soul like a Blackmoor. This is the essence (as it were) of all sin. A man’s own will, not God’s will is regarded. A man’s own proper will is wholly followed, we would give Laws to God, and not God to us. Whensoever thy heart is carried out to lusts, to any wickedness, What is this but to exalt thy will, and to depress the will of God? Hath God said, Be not proud? thou wilt be proud: Hath God said, Swear not? thou wilt swear: Thus all sin is nothing but a man’s own will lifted up against the will of God. No wonder then if one said, Cesset voluntas propria & non ardebit gehenna; Let there be no longer our own will, and there will be no longer any Hell. It’s this proper private will of ours that was the cause of Hell. Adam and Eve preferred their will before God’s will, and that brought in death and damnation.
Therefore regeneration is the writing of God’s Law in our hearts, whereby we come to say, as Christ, I come to do thy will O God. And Paul immediately upon his conversion saith, Lord what wilt thou have me do, he giveth up his will as a blank on which God may write his will. O Lord there shall not be any longer my will to persecute, my will to oppose thy Church, I will break this will of mine, renounce this will of mine. Thus as a vessel melted in the fire may be put into any form or fashion the artificer pleaseth, so was it with Paul’s will. This proper private will of thine likewise maketh all the trouble and misery thou meetest with. It is thy own will that maketh thee to walk so heavily and discontentedly. For were thy will resigned up into God’s, were thou able to say in all things, the will of the Lord be done, I have no will, but what God would have me to exercise, this would keep thee in a quiet calm frame all the day long. Whereas now all the dispute and contention is whether thy will or God’s will must give place to each other. Oh vain and wretched man! How long shall this self-will of thine be thy ruin? Is it not reason that the will of the creature should give place to the will of the Creator, as the stars do not appear, when the Sun beginneth to arise?
The Pride and Haughtiness of the Will.
Thirdly, The great and notable pollution of the Will is the pride and haughtiness of it, not only refusing subjection to the Will of God, and to be under that, (as hath been shewed) but in some remarkable particulars.
The first whereof is an affectation of equality with God himself. Thus the will of a poor weak wretch, that cannot turn a white hair into black, whose breath is in his nostrils, that hath the same originals for his body as a worm hath, yet aspireth after a Deity, and would be like God himself:
1. in attempting to make gods, and then to worship them. What pride and vanity is in man to take upon him to make what he intends to worship? So that what man pleaseth shall be a god, and what pleaseth him not shall be none, Deus non erit Deus nisi homini placuerit. Thus whereas God at first made man after his image, now man maketh God after his image. Besides the horrible blindness that is upon the mind in this thing, there is also pride and arrogance of the will. What is this but to assume superiority over their own gods, which yet they worship and adore?
2. This pride of the will is more conspicuously manifested in affecting to be like the true God, not to endure him to be a superior above us. While our first parents had not any internal pollution at all upon them, yet this sin did presently insinuate them, whereby they aspired after a Deity. Therefore the Devil tempted them with this suitable bait, “Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” That sin of Adam hath still a more peculiar impression upon mankind: Whence came that abominable and blasphemous custom into the world of deifying men (which they called Daemons), but from that inbred pride of the will, desiring to be like God. Thus it was with that Prince of Tyrus, he lifted up himself and said, “I am a god, I sit in the seat of God” (Ezek. 28:2), thou hast set thine heart as the heart of God. What detestable and loathsome arrogance is here? Oh the patience of God that doth not immediately consume such a wretch, as he did Herod who sinned not so highly, for he did not proclaim he was God only the people by way of flattering cried out the voice of God, and not of man, which because he did not disclaim but secretly owned, therefore was such a remarkable punishment inflicted upon him [Acts 12:21-23]. We see from these instances what pride lurketh in man’s will. There is the cockatrice egg which may quickly prove to be a flying Serpent.
This pride is thought also to be the sin of the Devil, whereby he was not contented with the station God had put him, but was ambitious of a divine nature, as if he with Christ might think it no robbery to be equal with God. This unspeakable arrogance did shew itself notoriously in some great Potentates of the world, Gaius Caesar especially, (for which cause Grotius though absurdly maketh him to be the Antichrist) that did exalt himself above all that is called God. This madness of pride was as visible in Alexander, who though sometimes through the consciousness of human imbecility (as when he was wounded and saw blood fall from him) would refuse such a thought, yet at other times he did industriously affect to be related among the number of the gods and to have divine worship performed to him. And as the son of Jupiter, Hammon, would be pictured with horns, and Jupiter’s Priest meeting of him instead of that form did purposely mistake, saying, Hail thou son of Jupiter. Yea, he sends into Greece, that by a public Edict he might be acknowledged for a god, which the Lacedemonians in scoff did without scruple admit, saying, Qundoquidem Alexander vult esse Deus, Deus esto, Seeing Alexander will be god, let him be one. But the Athenians being more scrupulous, or at least of greater hatred against him, punished Demades the Orator for advising them to receive him as god. For he had said, Look (Ye Athenians) Nè dum coelum custodies terram amittatis, while ye keep heaven ye loose the earth. This carnal counsel is admired as infallible policy almost by all the Potentates of the world.
Thus you see what pride is latent in the will of a man, and how far it may rise by temptations. Though the experience of human imbecilities may quickly rebuke such mad insolence, yet some excuse or other they use to put it off. As when it thundered, one asked Alexander whether he could do so, he put it of and said he would not terrify his friends. If you say this corruption of the will is not in every man by nature, I grant it for the degree, but it is habitually and radically there. Let any man be put in such temptations as Herod and Alexander were, and left alone to this inbred pride and original pollution, it would break out into as great a flame. Original sin needeth time to conceive and bring forth its loathsome monsters.
3. This pride of the will is seen in the presumption and boldness of it to inquire into the counsels of his Majesty and to call God himself to account for his administrations. “O man, who art thou that repliest against God?” (Rom. 9:20). “O man” is spoken to humble and debase him. Wilt thou call God to an account? Shall God be thought unjust because thou canst not comprehend his depths? Certainly God hath more power over us than the Potter over his clay. For the Potter doth not make the materials of that, he only tempereth it, whereas God giveth us our very beings. And therefore it is intolerable impudence for us to ask God why he made us so. Yet how proud and presumptuous is man to dispute about God’s preceding, whereas the great Governors of the world will not allow any subject to say, “why dost thou so” to them? The Psalmist complaineth of this pride in some men, “Our lips are our own, who is lord over us?” (Ps. 12:4). Thus Pharaoh said to Moses, who is the Lord that I should obey him? This pride in the will, whereby men will audaciously intrude into things they know not, hath made these heretics in judgments, the Pelagians and Socinians. Their will doth not captivate their understanding to God’s Ipse dixit, for us the Schoolmen observe truly, in every act of faith, there is required pia affectio and inclinatio voluntatis [pious affection and an inclining will], and when that is refractory and unsubmitting, it causeth many damnable heresies in the judgment. For it is the pertinacy of the will that doth greatly promote the making of an heretic.
Lastly, This pride of the will is seen in raging and rebellious risings up against God in his proceedings against us. In this the pride of the will doth sadly discover itself. What rage, what fretting and discontent do we find in our hearts, when God’s will is to chastise or afflict us? If we could bind the arms of the Omnipotent to prevent his blows, how ready is presumptuous man to do it? It is therefore a great work of regeneration to mollify and soften the will, to make it facile and ductile, so as to be in what form God would have us to be.
When David had such holy power over his will that in his miserable flight from Absalom he could say, “I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him” (2 Sam. 15:26). He could abound and want, be rich and poor, a king and no king all in a day, this argued the great work of sanctification upon his will. This iron was now in the fire, and so could be molested as God would have it. Thus in the aforementioned instance of Paul, when he cried out, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? Here was a tender humble resignation of the whole will to God, without any conditions or provisos. But oh the pride and unruliness of the will, if left to its natural pollution! When God shall any ways bring his judgments upon us, how impatiently do we rise against God, even as if we would be revenged of his Majesty?
As it is said of the Thracians, when it thundereth and lighteneth, they shoot against heaven, as if they would bring God to order. Xerxes scourged the sea, and sent a bill of defiance against the hill of Athos. Augustus being beaten with a tempest at sea, defied their god Neptune, and caused his image to be taken down from the place where the rest of their gods were. Yea Charron speaketh of a Christian King, who having received a blow from God, swore he would be revenged, and gave a commandment that for ten years no man should pray to him, or speak of him. I tremble to mention these dreadful instances, but they are useful to demonstrate what pride and unsubdued contumacy is in the will of man, even against God himself, when he crosseth us of our wills. Yea do not the godly themselves, though grace hath much mollified their will and made it in a great measure obsequious to God, yet do they not mourn, and pray, and groan under the pride of their will? Do they not complain, oh they cannot bring their will to God’s will! They cannot be content and patient under God’s dispensations. They fret, they mutter, they repine. Is not all this because the will is proud, the will doth not submit? Heavenly skill and art to order thy will, would make thee find rest in every estate.
The Contumacy and Refractoriness of the Will.
Another instance of the native pollution of the will is the contumacy and refractoriness of the will, it is obstinate and impenetrable. The Scripture useth the word heart for the mind, will, and conscience, not attending to philosophical distinctions, so that the stony heart, the uncircumcised heart, is the same with a stubborn and disobedient will. Thus the Scripture putteth the whole cause of a man’s not conversion, of his not repenting upon the refractory will in a man especially. “If ye will not hearken to me, and will not do all these commandments” (Lev. 26:14), “If ye will not yet for all this hearken to me” (v. 18), “if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me” (v. 23). Observe how all is put upon the will, so that if their will had been pliable and ready, then the whole work of conversion and reformation had been accomplished. So the disobedient son returneth this answer to his father, “I will not” (Mat. 21:29).
This contumacy therefore of the will may be called the bad tree that is the cause of all thy bad fruit. A regenerated will, a sanctified will, would make thee prepared for every good work. It is for want of this that all preaching is in vain. All God’s mercies and all judgments are in vain. Why should not the hammer of God’s Word break it? Why should not the fire of it melt it? But because the stubbornness of the will is so great that it will not receive any impression ’tis called a stony heart, not an iron heart, for iron by the fire may be mollified and put into any shape, but a stone will never melt. It will sooner break into many pieces and fly in the face. Thus the will of a man hath naturally that horrible hardness and refractoriness, that instead of loving and embracing the holy things of God, it doth rather rage and hate with all abomination such things.
The Enmity and Contrariety of the Will to God’s Will.
In the second place, That inbred sinful propriety of the will, which accompanyeth it as heat doth fire, is the enmity and contrariety of the will to God’s will. There is not only a privative incapacity, but a positive contrariety, even as between fire and water. God’s will is an holy will, thine is unholy. God’s will is pure, thine is impure. God’s will is carried out to will his own glory, honor, and greatness, thine is carried out to will the dishonor and reproach of God. Thus as God’s will is infinitely good, and the cause of all good, so in some sense, thy will is infinitely evil, and the cause of all that evil thou art plunged into. Therefore when the Apostle saith that the carnal mind is enmity against God (Rom. 8:7), phronēma comprehends the actings of the will and the affections, as well as of the mind. It is enmity in the very abstract, so that it is neither subject to God, nor can be.
Oh that God would set this truth more powerfully upon our hearts! For what tongue can express the misery of this, that thy will should naturally have such irreconcilable opposition and implacable enmity to the Law of God? That it should be diametrically opposite to God’s will, which at first was made so amicable and compliant with God’s will, that there was the Idem velle and Idem nolle [same willing and same unwilling]. Besides, many other considerations there are two especially that may break and exceedingly humble our souls herein.
1. God’s will and his law, which is his will objectively taken, are absolutely in themselves very good, and therefore the proper object of thy will. So that if thy will be carried out to anything in the world, it should be carried out to God’s Law above anything. This is to be willed above any created good whatsoever. How is it that thou canst will pleasures, profits, and such created good things, and art not more ravished and drawn out in thy desires after the chiefest good, but to be in a state of opposition to this chiefest good, to contradict and withstand it, this is the heinous aggravation? Could there be a Summum malum [chief evil], it would be in the will because of its direct opposition to the Summum bonum [chief good]? Herein man’s will and the Devil’s will do both agree, that they are with hatred and contrariety carried out against God’s will. If therefore thou wert to live thousands of years upon the earth, and thou hadst no other work to do but to consider and meditate about the sinfulness and wretchedness of the will in this particular, thou wouldst even then take up but drops in respect of the Ocean, and little crumbs in respect of the sand upon the sea shore.
2. This contrariety of thy will is not only against that which absolutely in itself is the chiefest good, but relatively it would be so to thee, and therefore thy contrariety to it is the more unjustifiable. What to be carried out with unspeakable hatred, to that which would be thy blessedness and happiness, who can bewail this enough? To have a delight and a connaturality with those things that will be thy eternal damnation, with much readiness and joy to will them, and then to be horribly averse and repugnant to those things, which if willed and embraced would make thee happy to all eternity.
Oh miserable and wretched man, thy condition is far more lamentable than that of the beasts! For they have a natural instinct to preserve themselves, and to desire such things as are wholesome to them, but thou art naturally inclining to will and embrace all those things which will be thy eternal woe and misery! What is the cause that thy will cannot embrace the Law of God? Why art thou so contrary to it? Alas no just reason can be given, but original sin is like an occult quality in thy will, making an antipathy in it against the same; so that thou doest not love what is holy, neither art thou able to say why, only thou dost not love it. Yea, there is the greatest reason in the world, and all the Word of God requireth it likewise, that thy will should be subordinate and commensurate unto it. But there is no other cause of this evil will than the evil of it. It is evil, and therefore cannot abide that which is good.
The Rebellion of the Will against the light of the mind, and slavery of it to the sensitive part in a man.
Thirdly, The original pollution of the will is seen in the rebellion of it against the light of the mind, and the slavery of it to the sensitive part in a man, to the carnal and sinful affections therein. Both which do sadly proclaim how the will is by nature out of all holy order, and fallen from its primitive integrity. For in the former respect therefore did God give us reason, that by the light and guidance thereof the will should proceed to its operations. For the will to move itself before it hath direction from the mind is like the servant that would set upon business before his master commands him, like an unnatured dog that runneth before his master do set him on. To will a thing first, and afterwards to exercise the mind about it, is to set the Earth where Heaven should be. But oh the unspeakable desolation that is brought upon the soul in this very particular! The will stayeth for no guidance, expecteth no direction, but willeth because it will what is suitable and agreeable to the corrupt nature thereof, that it embraceth be it never so destructive and damning. God made the mind at first, that it could say like the Centurion, I bid the will go and it goeth; the affections move, and they move; but now the inferior soldier biddeth the Centurion go and he goeth.
This then is the great condemnation of the will, that though light come in upon it, yet it loveth not the light, but rebelleth against it. This sinfulness of the will is more palpably discovered under the means of grace, and the light of the Gospel, than under the light of nature merely, for such are said comparatively to sit in darkness, and to have no light. The more then the light of the Gospel doth appear, the more any beams of truth do gloriously shine into thy breast, and thou for all this gain-sayest them, livest against them, the more is thy will in a sin. This then doth greatly aggravate the polluted nature of the will, that it can contradict the powerful arguments of the soul when it was made subordinate to knowledge, then to become tyrannical and usurping over it. This argueth the will hath a peculiar infection in it, insomuch that if it had never so much light, yet it would be evil because it will be evil.
I know there are many learned men that say, The will cannot but follow the practical dictate of the understanding. There is (say they) a natural connection between them, so that if the will at any time offend, it is because the light and conviction of the mind is faint and inefficacious. But this opinion doth greatly retract from the nature of grace, and the nature of our original sin. From grace, as if that did sanctify the understanding and affections only; and from original sin, as if that were not seated in the will, but in the other parts only. Whereas the will of a man may be called the throne of wickedness, because from it properly all sins have their rise and being. Do we not see this plainly in the Devils, who are greatly knowing and understanding, yet no Devil is able to will what is good, but willeth to sin always, and cannot restrain it? How cometh this about? They do not lack knowledge, they are not capable of sins of ignorance, and yet with what irreconcilable enmity is the Devil set against that which is good, insomuch that he cannot all the day long, but will those things that are offensive to God. Although they know this is to their eternal torment. By which you see how depraved and poisoned without Christ the will is, though the understanding meet it like an Angel to stop this Balaam in wicked and unjust ways.
Never then plead ignorance, or plead passions, for it is the defect and wickedness of the will that makes thee so vile. But as the will in the upper region (as it were) is so much polluted, so in the lower region also. For if we consider it as bordering upon the affections, there we shall find as horrible a sin daily committed as when God’s Law forbids a woman to fall down before a beast. For when the will, which is in itself a rational appetite, shall make itself like one of the vile affections and passions, what is this but a spiritual and unclean lust with a beast? Lay then this more to heart than thou dost. Think how horrid a sight it would be if thy body should become like a beast’s, and thou go on the ground as that doth. What would then become of that so sublime? And is not this as bad when thy will is made a vassal to every inordinate affection? Thou willest what thy passions call for, yet thus it is with everyone till grace doth elevate the will, and set it in its proper throne.
The Mutability and Inconstancy of the Will.
Fourthly, The mutability and inconstancy of the will about what is holy is a great part of the original desolation upon it. It is true, Adam’s will was mutable at the first Creation, though he had full power and perfection to stand, yet because his will was changeable, therefore he fell from his holy estate. And no wonder that Adam’s will was mutable, for the will of the Angels so greatly transcending man in glory was also convertible and changeable, so that to have the will confirmed in what is good, that it cannot fall into the contrary condition, is a blessed and gracious privilege vouchsafed by God alone. Therefore there are no men, though never so much sanctified, but their wills would make them fall off from God, had God not outwardly support him. This natural mutability is in the will because it’s the will of a creature. Only the will of God is immutable and unchangeable. And this is only a negative imperfection, it is not a sin, but the inconstancy and changeableness that I now mention is a sinful and corrupt one.
This mutability of the will and instability, discovers itself in these particulars:
1. In some great fears or judgments of God upon a man, though he hath no more but nature, yet his will doth sometimes seem to yield and to melt before God. Thus Pharaoh’s will, Ahab’s will, did abate of their contumacy while the heavy rod of God was upon them. But how quickly did they lick up their vomit again? When the iron was taken out of the fire it grew as cold as ever. And is not this inconstant will the ruin of many? Oh that thou hadst such a will always as thou hadst in such straits, in such extremities, then how happy wouldst thou be!
2. This inconstancy of thy will appeareth to thy undoing when, in some Ordinance, the Word preached, the Sacrament administered, or reproof applied to thee, then thou beginnest to yield, then thou sayest, I will do it, I will be so no more, I will become new; but these April showers hold for a season, the winter will come when all will be frost and snow. Matthew 21:29, one of those sons who said to his father, I go, sir, seeming to be very willing (whereas on the other side said “I will not“), did quickly falsify his word. So that he who refused at first, proved better than he that seemed so forward. Thus truly it falleth out sometimes that the later end is far better of some, who for a long while say they will not, that are stubborn and rebellious, but God afterwards maketh them to will, than of such who give many fair promises, now they will, and then they will, in such sickness they will, in such a powerful motion they will, but afterwards they will not.
3. The sinful inconstancy of the will about holy things is when after a ready and willing profession of Christ, in times of temptation and great extremities then they fall off, and their fall is great. This is because the will was not resolved and fixed, that whatsoever should fall out, yet they would not treacherously depart from God. Acts 11:23, Barnabas exhorted the Disciples that with purpose of heart they should cleave to God, otherwise if the will be not steadfast and resolved, every temptation is able to drive it back.
Lastly, The lazy, sluggish, and half desires of the will about good things manifest the inconstancy of it. James 1, A double-minded man (and so a double-willed man), is inconstant in all his ways. When the will is divided between the creature and the Creator. Or when like the sluggard, he desireth meat, but will not put forth his hand out of his bosom, he willeth and willeth, but never doth effectually set himself upon working. This man is like a reed that is tossed up and down with every wind.
Many more sinful affections might be named, for they are like the motes in the air, or the sand upon the sea shore. But let this suffice, because more will then be discovered when we speak of the slavery of it to evil, having no freedom to will what is good. Only let this Truth be like a coal of fire fallen upon thy heart, let it kindle a divine flame in thy breast, consider this corrupt will is the root of all evil. If thy will were changed, if thy will were turned to God, this would bring the whole man with it. Oh pray to God, to master thy will, to conquer thy will! Say, O Lord, though it be too hard for me, yet it is not for thee. Remember Hell will be the breaking of thy corrupt will. Thou that wouldst not do God’s will here shall not have thy will in anything when in Hell.