Confession of Faith (1617) - Article IX
Of the free will or power of man before and after the fall; and of the saving grace of God.
Of this we confess: That God Almighty in the beginning created the man Adam and his wife in His image and likeness, endowing them, above all creatures, with virtues, knowledge, speech, reason, and a free will or power; so that they could know, love, fear, and obediently serve their Creator; or could voluntarily and disobediently forsake their God; as appeared in the first transgression, when Adam and his wife, through the subtlety of the devil, who appeared in the form of a deceitful serpent, departed from the commandment of God; hence they did not sin through the foreordination or the will of God; but as they had been created with a free will, and to do as they would, they sinned through their own voluntary desire, and transgressed the command of God contrary to His will.
The man Adam and his wife having thus through their own sin fallen under the wrath and disfavor of God, whereby they became sinful and mortal, were again received into favor by God their Creator; so that they were not utterly divested of their former wisdom, speech, and knowledge, above all other creatures, nor of their previous free will or power, as may be seen from their voluntarily accepting God's gracious promises unto life, and obeying the voice of the Lord; and as also clearly appears from the fact that God the Lord very strictly appointed an angel with a flaming sword to keep the tree of life from Adam; lest through his free will or power he should eat of the tree of life and live forever; which would have been in Adam's power. And this free will or power has been transmitted to all their descendants, who proceed from them as branches from their stem; so that even as men are endowed of God with knowledge, reason and voluntary power, by which they can perform manifold works, and seek and desire from God the health of their diseased and infirm bodies, and are not without action, as the irrational creatures, blocks and stones, so likewise, man, through the grace, of God, and the moving of the Spirit, by which men live, and are moved, may open the door of the heart to the salutary grace of God -- which through the Gospel is offered to all men, and through which death and life is set before man -- and seek the health of his wounded soul; or he may voluntarily resist, reject and neglect this offered grace and moving of the 'Spirit. Thus also, as men have eyes and ears, to see and to hear, yet not of themselves, but only from God the Giver, so they also, through the grace of God, have a free will or power to do the good and to leave the evil.
But men, considered in themselves, seeing they are without the grace of God, are of themselves incapable -of thinking anything that is good, much less are they able to do it. But it is almighty God, who through His Spirit of grace works in man both to will and to do, moves, draws, and chooses them, and accepts them as His children, so that men are only recipients of God's saving grace. Hence all Christians are in duty bound to ascribe the beginning, middle and end of their faith, with all the good fruits thereof, not to themselves, but only to the unmerited grace of God in Christ Jesus.
We confess moreover: That this saving grace of God is not limited to a few particular men, but even as the Almighty God lets His sun rise and shine on the evil and on the good, so He has extended His grace to all of Adam's race; as it is also evident that God, in His goodness, did not leave Himself without witness among the heathen, doing, them good, and so moving their hearts, that their thoughts and consciences accused and excused them, so that they could do by nature, without the hearing of the law of Moses, the things contained in the law. This appears in still greater clearness in the coming of Christ, that Almighty God has proclaimed the saving grace through the Gospel to the whole world, for a witness unto all nations, by which all excuse is taken from men, and as an evidence, that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should repent and be saved. According to the import of the holy and everlasting Gospel, a righteous, eternal, and irrevocable judgment shall be pronounced, in the last day, through Christ Jesus, the blessed, over all nations. Hence all men who now in this time of grace believe and accept the Gospel, attain unto life, but all who do not believe the Gospel, but voluntarily reject it, will receive death as their portion.
On the other hand, we reject the belief of those who say that Almighty God has indeed caused the word of reconciliation to be preached to all, or many, but does nevertheless withhold His grace from many of them, so that the greater part of mankind cannot accept the word of reconciliation and be saved, but will, through the purpose or eternal counsel and will of God, inevitably have to perish forever, and be damned.
On this subject read various Scripture passages ascribing a will to man. And the Holy Spirit does not speak in vain in the Scriptures: "He himself made man from the beginning, and left him in the hand of his counsel; if thou wilt, to keep the commandments, and to perform acceptable faithfulness. He hath set fire and water before thee; stretch forth thy hand unto whether thou wilt. Before man is life and death; and whether him liketh shall be given him" (Sirach 15:14-17; Deuteronomy 11:26; 30:15; 2 Esdras 7:59).
God the Lord said to Cain: "If thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door: and unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him" (Genesis 4:7).
Concerning man's free will, read: "Let him do what he will, he sinneth not; let them marry. Nevertheless he that standeth steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will" (1 Corinthians 7:36-38).
"And whosoever offereth a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the Lord to accomplish his vow, or a free will offering" (Leviticus 22:21, 23).
"Who might offend, and hath not offended? or done evil, and hath not done it?" (Sirach 31:10).
And Paul also says: "For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves. Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also" (2 Corinthians 8:3, 11; Philippians 14; Mark 14:7; 1 Corinthians 7:36).
Man can do nothing good of himself, by his own power; but through the grace of God, he, in his imperfectness, is able to keep God's commandments. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).
"Thou timeliest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have, ears to hear, and hear not" (Ezekiel 12:2).
"For to wilt is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not" (Romans 7:18-21).
Read here all the Scriptures which unanimously testify that God does not desire the death of the sinner, but that he be converted, and live (Ezekiel 18:32; 33:11; Wisdom 1: 13; Isaiah 55:7).
And that God has extended His saving grace not only to the elect, but to all of Adam's race; and that He also died for those that perish. Concerning this, read: "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men" (Titus 2:11 ).
"Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth" (Isaiah 45:22).
"Therefore, as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life" (Romans 5:18).
"Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness," etc. (Acts 14:16, 17; Romans 1:19; 2:15).
"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction" (2 Peter 2:1).
"And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again" (2 Corinthians 5:15). "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son," etc. (John 3:16).
"Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29).
"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and come unto the knowledge of truth" (1 Timothy 2:3, 4).
"He is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9; Romans 2:4; James 4:6; Acts 13:46. Read also: Matthew 23:36, 37; Luke 13:34; 2 Esdras 1:30).
As to how God the righteous judge will pronounce the final judgment upon those who disobey the Gospel, read: "When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8; Mark 16:16).
"This is the book of the commandments of God, and the law that endureth forever: all they that keep it shall come to life; but such as leave it shall die" (Baruch 4:1).
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