Of Free Will!


Article 18: Of Free Will: Concerning free will it is taught that to some extent man has freedom of will to lead a just and honourable life, to choose between things which reason comprehends; but without grace, assistance, and the operations of the Holy Spirit; he is unable to become pleasing to God, or to fear God in heart, or to believe in him, or to cast out of his heart the innate evil propensity; but these things are effect through the Holy Spirit, which is given through the word of God.


It is rightly said, on the contrary, that is conversion, God, through the drawing of the Holy Spirit, makes willing men out of the obstinate and unwilling; and that after such conversion the regenerated will of man does not remain inactive in the daily exercise of repentance, but cooperates in all the works of the Holy Spirit which he performs through us.
Also, that Doctor Luther has written that the will of man in his conversion remains purely passive, that is, that it does nothing at all, is to be understood that is, when the Spirit of God through the heard word, or through the use of the holy sacraments, lays hold on the will of man and effects the new birth and conversion. For, when the Holy Spirit has effected and accomplished this, and through His divine power and operation alone has changed and renewed the will of man, then the new will of man is an instrument and organ of God the Holy Spirit, so that it not only accepts the grace, but also cooperates in subsequent works of the Holy Spirit.
Consequently, before the conversion of man, there are but two efficient causes found, namely, the HOLY SPIRIT, and the WORD OF GOD, as the instrument of the Holy Spirit, through which he affects conversion, and which man is to hear; he cannot, however, give credence to it and accept it through his own powers, but exclusively through the grace and operation of God the Holy Spirit.


In regeneration, the understanding is enlightened by the Holy Spirit to understand both the mysteries and the will of God, and the will itself is not only changed by the Spirit, but also furnished with powers both to will and to do good spontaneously (Romans 8:5-6).


Article 10: The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own strength and good works to faith and calling upon God; wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will.


Article 12: we are so dead, so blind, and so perverse, that neither can we feel when we are pricked, see the light when it shines, nor assent to the will of God when it is revealed, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus quicken that which is dead, remove the darkness from our minds, and bow our stubborn hearts to the obedience of his blessed will.


We believe that by the secret grace of the Holy Spirit we are made partakers of the light of faith, which is the gracious gift of God, and peculiar to those alone to whom God sees meet to impart it.


Our nature is so vitiated and has such a propensity to sin, that unless it is renewed by the Holy Spirit, no man can do or will what is good of himself.


Article 8: There are not various decrees of election, but one and the same decree respecting all those, who shall be saved, both under the Old and New Testament: since the scripture declares the good pleasure, purpose and counsel of the divine will to be one, according to which he hath chosen us from eternity, both to grace and glory, to salvation and the way of salvation, which he hath ordained that we should walk therein.

Article 9: This election was not founded upon foreseen faith, and the obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality of disposition in man, as the pre-requisite, cause or condition on which it depended; but men are chosen to faith and to the obedience of faith, holiness, etc., therefore election is the fountain of every saving good; from which proceed faith, holiness, and the other gifts of salvation, and finally eternal life itself, as its fruits and effects, according to that of the apostle: “He hath chosen us (not because we were) but that we should be holy, and without blame, before him in love,” (Ephesians 1:4).

Article 10: The good pleasure of God is the sole cause of this gracious election; which doth not consist herein, that out of all possible qualities and actions of men God has chosen some as a condition of salvation; but that he was pleased out of the common mass of sinners to adopt some certain persons as a peculiar people to himself, as it is written, “For the children being not yet born neither having done any good or evil,” etc., it was said (namely to Rebecca): “the elder shall serve the younger; as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated,” (Romans 9:11,12,13).”And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed,” (Acts 13:48).

Articles 11: And as God himself is most wise, unchangeable, omniscient and omnipotent, so the election made by him can neither be interrupted nor changed, recalled or annulled; neither can the elect be cast away, nor their number diminished.

Article 12: The elect in due time, though in various degrees and in different measures, attain the assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable election, not by inquisitively prying into the secret and deep things of God, but by observing in themselves with a spiritual joy and holy pleasure, the infallible fruits of election pointed out in the Word of God – such as a true faith in Christ, filial fear, a godly sorrow for sin, a hungering and thirsting after righteousness, etc.

Article 13: The sense and certainty of this election afford to the children of God additional matter for daily humiliation before him, for adoring the depth of his mercies, for cleansing themselves, and rendering grateful returns of ardent love to him, who first manifested so great love towards them. The consideration of this doctrine of election is so far from encouraging remissness in the observance of the divine commands, or from sinking men in carnal security, that these, in the just judgment of God, are the usual effects of rash presumption, or of idle and wanton trifling with the grace of election, in those who refuse to walk in the ways of the elect.

Article 14: As the doctrine of divine election by the most wise counsel of God, was declared by the prophets, by Christ himself, and by the apostles, and is clearly revealed in the Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testament, so it is still to be published in due time and place in the Church of God, for which it was peculiarly designed, provided it be done with reverence, in the spirit of discretion and piety, for the glory of God’s most holy name, and for enlivening and comforting his people, without vainly attempting to investigate the secret ways of the Most High. (Acts 20:27;Romans 11:33,34;12:3;Hebrews 6:17,18).

(James R Hamilton, written May 2020)

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