Mennonite Articles of Faith (1766) - Article 11
XI. Of Man's Freedom and Ability After the Fall.
Regarding man's free agency, we believe, that however great may be the loss and the ruin that have come upon mankind through the fall in sin (as set forth in Art. IX), yet through God's grace the light of reason and of conscience has not been wholly quenched, as we are taught by Holy Scripture (Romans 1:19-21; 2:1-15) as well as by experience; further, that man still left in the position of a free agent, can either by and through the power of the grace of restoration accept or else reject the divine instruction and the good offered by God in His Son Jesus Christ -- that he can incline in a degree his heart unto them, or turn away and withdraw himself from them. Deuteronomy 11:26-28; 30:15-20. This freedom is so essential to the nature of a rational being that without it his actions could not be reasonably judged as good or bad, nor could they, if virtuous, deserve reward, or, if sinful, come under righteous condemnation, which, however, is most certainly the case with man.
For this reason we acknowledge, that, although without God's prevenient grace it is entirely impossible for our corrupt nature to seek, choose and apprehend the good, and even if the universal gift of divine grace alone arouses and assists our nature, these acts still come very hard and are possible only in a rudimentary way -- yet they must, nevertheless, not be considered as wholly impossible, but rather as actually possible, in a way since the Lord our God certainly deals with us so that, on the one hand, He holds out to us commands (Exodus 20:3-17; Matthew 17:5), counsel (Revelation 3:18), motives (Isaiah 55:1-7; 2 Corinthians 5:11, 18-21; 6:1), promises (Isaiah 55; Matthew 11:28, 29; 2 Corinthians 6:17, 18), blessings for good undertakings (Isaiah 45:22; Luke 18:29, 30), and finally an eternal reward (Matthew 25), but on the other hand, warning (Genesis 4:6, 7; 1 Corinthians 10:11), threatenings (Deuteronomy 27: 26), chastisements (Hebrews 12:5-11; 1 Peter 1:6, 7; Revelation 3:19), and terrible judgments (Deuteronomy 28:15; 29:19, 20) both temporal (Isaiah 29:13-15) and eternal (Matthew 25:46); all of which would otherwise seem strange and inconsistent. Deuteronomy 32:3, 4.
However, from what has thus far been said in a general way, we must be careful not to draw the conclusion that man is as capable to use his free agency arrant in spiritual things as he is in natural things. Luke 12:5457. Far be it! The contrary is plainly taught not only by the Holy Scripture (1Corinthians 2:14), but also by reason and our daily experience. Matthew 7:13.
For this reason we conclude that ordinary impulses in the direction of good, moving simply on the plane of reason, must be carefully distinguished from those that are spiritual, far more powerful (Ezekiel 36:25-27), and special (Romans 9:12-18); that the former, nevertheless, are sufficient to awaken in us certain incipient longings (Proverbs 2:4-7), and that such seeking is the God-ordained way to obtain more (1 Chronicles 28:9; Proverbs 8:17; Matthews 7:7) yet by grace (Isaiah 55:7); that, accordingly, fallen man, to whom grace has come (Micah 6:8; Revelation 3:20), has still the ability left to him to take to heart more or less the general promptings of grace, to prove them, to adapt himself to them, and wait for more grace. Psalms 37:24; 27:14; Isaiah 40:31; Lamentations 3:24, 25. (See further Art. 17.)
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