Freedom of the Will
Freedom of will is a power in the will, whereby it doth of its own accord, without it, choose or refuse what is proposed to it by the understanding. And man hath this freedom of will in whatever state he be. But this power of the will is not of the same extent in all states. In the state of innocence, it extended both to good and evil; that is to say, man had a freedom of will, whereby he could wholly turn, either to the one side or the other, to good or evil, proposed by his understanding: and that man was created thus mutable, was suitable to the state of trial. (Works VII 27) This is that state of innocence in which God placed man in the world. It is described in the holy Scripture with a running pen, in comparison of the following states; for it was of no continuance, but passed away as a flying shadow, by man’s abusing the freedom of his will. (Works VIII 11) Now, the special act of providence about the fall of our first parents, was that God left them to the freedom of their own will; and the use they made of that, was, that they went freely, of their own accord, to the side of sin. (Works VII 27)
…our first parents had a freedom of will. Freedom of will is a liberty in the will, whereby of its own accord, freely and spontaneously, without any force upon it, it chooses or refuses what is proposed to it by the understanding. And this freedom of will, man hath in whatever state he be. But there is a great difference of the freedom of the will in the different states of man. … The freedom of will that man had in the state of innocence was different from [freedom of will in the states of nature, grace or glory]. In [the state of innocence, man] had a freedom of will both to good and evil; and so had a power wholly to choose good, or wholly to choose evil: which differences it from the freedom of will in the state of grace. He had a free will to good, yea, the natural set of his will was to good only, Eccl. 7:29, being “made upright;” but it was liable to change through the power of temptation, and so free to evil also, as mournful experience has evidenced. Man was created holy and righteous, and received a power from God constantly to persevere in goodness, if he would! yet the act of perseverance was left to the choice and liberty of his own will. … To illustrate this a little, we may observe some resemblance of it in nature. God creates the eye, says one, and puts into it the faculty of seeing, and withal he adds to the eye necessary helps by the light of the sun. As for the act of seeing, it is left to man’s liberty; for he may see if he will, and if he will he may shut his eyes. The physician, again, by his art procures an appetite, and provides convenient food for the patient: but the act of eating is in the pleasure of the patient; for he may eat, or abstain from it if he will. Thus God gave Adam strength and power to persevere in righteousness, but the will he left to himself. (Works I 246 -247)
A former friendship and favour [is implied in the nature of reconciliation]. God and man were once in good terms. There was a time wherein they met and lovingly conversed together. When Adam dropped from the fingers of his Creator, he was the friend and favourite of Heaven. He had the law of God written on his heart, and a strong bent and inclination in his will to obey it. In that state there was no place for reconciliation: for then there was no breach between God and his creature. (Works I 460f.) The parts of the image of God impressed on his soul, were, knowledge on his mind, righteousness on his will, and holiness on his affections. His knowledge was a sufficient understanding of what was necessary to make him completely happy, Gen. 1:26; Col. 3:10. His righteousness was a perfect conformity of his will to the will of God; and his holiness was the perfect purity of all his affections; Eccl. 7:29, “God made man upright.” (Works VII 20-22) God left man to the freedom of his own will in [the covenant of works]. He was not the cause of his fall; he moved him not, nor could he move him to it; James 1:13, “For God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” Such is the holiness of his nature. He gave him a power to stand if he would, and he took not away from him any grace given; but, for his trial, left him to his freedom of will, with which he was created. God made him good and righteous, and the natural set of his will was to good only, Eccl. 7:29. But it was liable to change, yet only to change by himself; he could only be made evil or sinful by his own choice. (Works XI 229f.)
Let no man quarrel, that God made Adam liable to change in his goodness; for if he had been unchangeably holy, he behoved to be so either by nature or by free grace: if by nature, that were to make him God; if of free grace, then there was no wrong done him in withholding what was not due. And he would have got the grace of confirmation, if he had stood the time of his trial (Works I 246 -247) If it be asked, why man was not set beyond the possibility of change. It is to be remembered, that absolute immutability is the peculiar prerogative of God himself, and every creature, in as far as it is a creature, is incapable of being so immutable. Yet the creature may be in some sense made immutable, that is, so as it shall not be possible for it actually to fall from its goodness, though there is still a changeableness in its nature. Now, if man had been created without so much as a remote power in himself to change himself, he had not been a free agent; but God might have so established him, as that he could not actually have fallen; yet that would have been owing to confirming grace. The which, why the Lord did not bestow on him, it belongs not to us to define; only he was no debtor to him for it. (Works XI 229f.)
If we would see the foundation and plan of this mystery, we must look back before all ages unto the depths of the eternal counsels in the breast of God, before the world was, now revealed to us by the Gospel. … [T]he ground upon which it was raised … was the eternal foresight of man’s fall from a state of holiness and happiness, into a state of sin and misery, Rom 9:21. This presupposes a twofold purpose. 1. A purpose of creating man; … 2. A purpose of permitting man to fall, to leave him to the freedom of his own will, and not to hinder his falling away. God was not the cause of man’s fall; for, saith the apostle, James 1:13, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” But had he not permitted, or willed not to hinder his fall, it could not have happened; Rev. 3:7, “These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth, and shutteth, and no man openeth.” This permission taking place in time, was then decreed from eternity; Eph. 1:11, “Being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” (Works X 436)
Man abused his own liberty or freedom of will, and complied with the temptation, and so broke the covenant. He only himself was the true and proper cause of his own falling: not God, for he can never be the author of sin; not the devil, nor Eve, for they could only tempt and entice, but not force him. It was his own choice; he did it freely without co-action or compulsion; and he could have stood if he would. And thus was the fatal step made, whereby the covenant was broken. (Works XI 230) Man being thus left to the freedom of his own will, abused his liberty in complying with the temptation, and freely apostatised from God. And so man himself, and he only, was the true and proper cause of his own sinning. Not God, for he is unchangeably holy; not the devil, for he could only tempt, not force: therefore, man himself only is to blame; Eccl. 7:29, “God made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions.” (Works I 254)
In the natural corrupt state, man has a free will only to evil; Gen. 6:5, “Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually.” Eph. 2:1, “He is dead in trespasses and sins.” He freely chooseth evil without any force on his will; and he cannot do otherwise, being under the bondage of sin. (Works I 246 -247) … in the state of corrupt nature, the power of the will extends only to evil; Gen. 6:5, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Works VII 27) The decree of God about the permission of sin does not infringe the liberty of man’s will. For sin doth not follow the decree by a necessity of co-action or compulsion, which indeed would destroy human liberty; but by a necessity of infallibility, which is very consistent with it. It is sufficient unto human liberty, or the freedom of man’s will, that a man act without all constraint, and out of choice. Now, this is not taken away by the decree. Men sin as freely as if there were no decree, and yet as infallibly as if there were no liberty. And men sin, not to fulfil God’s decree, which is hid from them, but to serve and gratify their vile lusts and corrupt affections. (Works I 161)
In the state of grace, man has a free will, partly to good and partly to evil. Hence the apostle says, Rom. 7:22, 24, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members.” In this state, the will sometimes chooses that which is good, and sometimes that which is evil. This freedom of will is in all regenerate persons who have in some measure recovered the image of God. They choose good freely, by virtue of a principle of grace wrought in them by the sanctifying operations of the Divine Spirit; yet through the remainders of corruption that abides in them, their wills are sometimes inclined to that which is evil. (Works I 246 -247)
Christ’s Spirit begins his work with conviction of sin and misery. He makes the captives to see where they are, whose they are, and what is their case. This rouses them out of their lethargy, makes them prize this liberty; it makes them glad to come away with their deliverer: “O Israel thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thine help.” (Works IX 576) In the state of grace, [the power of the will] extends partly to good, and partly to evil; Rom. 7:23, “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members.” (Works VII 27)
Access to God, as children to a Father, Eph. 3:12, as one friend to another [and f]reedom from the slavery of sin and Satan, John 8:32 [are benefits that accompany justification, adoption and sanctification.] The war being ended, and peace concluded, the communication betwixt heaven and earth is opened. They may export thither all their wants, petitions, and requests, being sure that they will be taken off their hands; and import supplies of all kinds necessary to make them happy, light, life, strength, &c. They that are sanctified by the Spirit, are loosed from the Egyptian bondage, and made the Lord’s freemen. Though Satan and sin molest them, and put them hard to it, they shall never get them back again into their former house of bondage. But they shall, like a dog snarling at the horses heels, be bruised under their feet at length; and the soul shall be more than conqueror. (Works I 578)
[Jesus proclaims] [l]iberty, that is, freedom of Spirit in the service or God; 2 Cor. 3:17, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” The Spirit of Christ is called a free spirit, because he makes free. Satan’s captives may yield some obedience to God, but it is burdensome, because they act therein as slaves, from a slavish fear of hell and wrath. But Christ’s freemen act from a nobler principle, love; Rom. 8:15, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby ye cry, Abba, Father.” 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment; he that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (Works IX 581)
In the state of glory, man has a free will to good only. In this state, the blessed choose good freely; and being confirmed in a holy state, they cannot sin. (Works I 246 -247) And in the state of glory [the power of the will] extends only to good; Heb. 12:23, “To the spirits of just men made perfect.” (Works VII 27)
The Lord is pleased often to represent unto us the glorious state of the saints, by speaking of them as clothed in “white garments.” It is promised to the conqueror, that he shall be “clothed in white raiment,” Rev. 3:5. The elders about the throne are “clothed in white raiment,” chap. 4:4. The multitude before the throne are “clothed with white robes,” chap. 7:9; “arrayed in white robes,” ver. 13; “made white in the blood of the Lamb,” ver. 14. I own, the last two testimonies respect the state of the saints on earth; yet the terms are borrowed from the state of the church in heaven. All garments, properly so called, being badges of sin and shame, shall be laid aside by the saints when they come to their state of glory. But if we consider on what occasions white garments were wont to be put on, we shall find much of heaven under them.
The Romans, when they made their bond-servants free, gave them a white garment as a badge of their freedom. So shall the saints that day receive their white robes; for it is the day of “the glorious liberty of the children of God,” Rom. 8:21, the day of “the redemption of their body,” ver. 23. They shall no more see the house of bondage, nor lie any more among the pots. If we compare the state of the saints on earth with that of the wicked, it is indeed a state of freedom, whereas the other is a state of slavery; but, in comparison with their state in heaven, it is but a servitude. A saint on earth is indeed a young prince, and heir to the crown; but his motto may be, “I serve;” “for he differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all,” Gal. 4:1. What are the groans of a saint, the sordid and base work which he is sometimes found employed in, the black and tattered garments which he walks in, but badges of this comparative servitude? But from the day the saints come to the crown, they receive their complete freedom, and serve no more.
They shall be fully freed from sin, which of all evils is the worst, both in itself, and in their apprehension too; how great then must that freedom be, when these “Egyptians, whom they see to-day,” they “shall see them again no more for ever.” They shall be free from all temptation to sin: Satan can have no access to tempt them any more, by himself, or by his agents. A full answer will then be given to that petition they have so often repeated, “Lead us not into temptation.” No hissing serpent can come into the paradise above; no snare or trap can be laid there, to catch the feet of the saints: they may walk there without fear, for they can be in no hazard; there are no lions’ dens, no mountains of leopards, in the promised land. Nay, they shall be set beyond the possibility of sinning, for they shall be confirmed in goodness. It will be the consummate freedom of their will, to be for ever unalterably determined to good. And they shall be freed from all the effects of sin: “There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain,” Rev. 21:4. What kingdom is like unto this? Death makes its way now into a palace, as easily as into a cottage; sorrow fills the heart of one who wears a crown on his head: royal robes are no defence against pain, and crying by reason of pain. But in this kingdom no misery can have place. All reproaches shall be wiped off; and never shall a tear drop any more from their eyes. They shall not complain of desertions again; the Lord will never hide his face from them: but the Sun of Righteousness shining upon them in his meridian brightness, will dispel all clouds, and give them an everlasting day, without the least mixture of darkness. A deluge of wrath, after a fearful thunder-clap from the throne, will sweep away the wicked from before the judgment-seat, into the lake of fire: but they are, in the first place, like Noah, brought into the ark, and out of harm’s way. (Works VIII 319f.)