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Errors of Luther and Calvin Concerning Free Will


- l.-Free will exists. 2.-The Divine Law is not impossible. 3.-Works are necessary. 4.-Faith alone does not justify us. 5.-Of the uncertainty of Justification, Perseverance, and eternal Salvation. 6. -God is not the Author of Sin. 7.-God predestines no one to hell. 8.-Infallibility of General Councils. 


1. I have already stated in this work (1), that the errors of Luther, Calvin, and their disciples, who have added error to error, are almost innumerable; and in particular, as Prateolus remarks, in the Calvinistic heresy alone two hundred and seven errors against Faith are enumerated, and another author brings them up even to fourteen hundred. I, however, refute only the principal errors of Luther, Calvin, and the other Reformers, for the refutation of their other erroneous opinions will be found in Bellarmin, Gotti, and several other authors. One of Calvin’s chief heresies was, that Adam alone had free will, but that by his sin not alone he, but all his posterity lost it, so that free will is only titulus sine re. This error was specially condemned by the Council of Trent (Sess. vi, c. 5): " Si quis hominis arbitrium post Adas peccatum amissum et extinctum esse dixerit, aut rem esse de solo titulo, imo titulum sine re, figmentum denique a Satana invectum in Ecclesiam, anathema sit." (1) Cap. xi, Cent, xvi, ar. 3.  

2. Free will consists of two sorts of liberty, Contradictionis, by which we can either do any thing or let it alone, and Contrarietatis, by which we have the power of doing any thing, and also doing the opposite, as of doing what is good and doing what is bad. Man has retained both species of free will, as the Scriptures prove. First As to the liberty of Contradiction, to do or not to do what is right, we have several texts to prove it. For example, in Ecclesiasticus (xv, 14 16): " God made man from the beginning, and left him in the hand of his own counsel. He added his commandments and precepts. If thou wilt keep the commandments forever, they shall preserve thee;" "It shall depend on the will of her husband whether she shall do it or do it not" (Numb, xxx, 14); " He could have transgressed, and hath not transgressed, and could do evil things and hath not done them" (Eccles. xxxi, 10); " Whilst it remained did it not remain to thee and after it was sold was it not in thy power?" (Acts, v, 4); " The lust thereof shall be under thee, and thou shalt have dominion over it" (Gen. iv, 7). Many texts, likewise, prove the liberty of contrariety: " I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing" (Deut. xxx, 19); " Before man is life and death, good and evil; that which he shall choose shall be given unto him" (Eccl. xv, 18). And lest our adversaries should say that those texts apply to man only in a state of innocence, we will quote others, which speak of him without doubt after the fall: " But if it seem evil to you to serve the Lord, you have your choice; choose this day whom you would rather serve, whether the Gods," &c. (Jos. xxiv, 15); " If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Luke, ix, 23); " For he hath determined, being stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but having power of his own will" (I. Cor. vii, 37); " And I gave her a time, that she might do penance, and she will not repent" (Apoc. ii, 21); " If any man shall hear my voice, and open to me the door, I will come in to him" (Apoc. iii, 20). There are many other texts of a like nature, but these are sufficient to prove that man has preserved his free will after the fall. Luther objects that text of Isaias, (xli, 23): " Do also good or evil, if you can," but he ought to remember that in the text the Prophet is speaking not of man, but of idols, which, as David said, could do nothing: " They have mouths and speak not, they have eyes and see not" (Psalms, cxiii, 5).  

3. That being the case, it is not enough, as Luther, Calvin, and the Jansenists say, to have the liberty coactionis, that is, freedom from restraint, that our actions may be meritorious or otherwise. This is exactly the third Proposition of Jansenius, condemned as heretical: " Ad merendum, et demerendum in statu naturæ lapsas non requitur in homine liber tas a necessitate, sed sufficit libertas a coactione." In this manner we might say that even the beasts have free will, since, without any violence, they are carried on spontaneously (after their way) to seek the pleasures of sense. It is necessary, however, for the true liberty of man, that he should have the liberty necessitate, so that he may choose whatever he pleases, as St. Paul (I. Cor. vii, 37) says, "having no necessity, but having the power of his own will," and it is this will that is required both for merit and demerit. St. Augustine, speaking of sin (2), says: " Peccatum usque adeo voluntarium (that is free, as he afterwards explains it) malum est, ut nullo modo sit peccatum si non sit voluntarium." And the reason is, says the Saint, that God judged that his servants would be better if they served him freely: "Servos suos meliores esse Deus judicavit, si ei servirent liberaliter, quod nullo modo fieri posset, si non voluntate, sed necessitate servirent."

4. They say that it is God who operates in us all the good which we perform, as the Scriptures teach (I. Cor. xii, 6): " The same God who worketh all in all;" " Thou hast wrought all our works for us" (Isaias, xxvi, 12); " And I will cause you to walk in my commandments" (Ezechiel, xxxvi, 27). We answer, that there is no doubt but that free will after the fall was not, indeed, extinguished, but still was weakened, and inclined to evil, as the Council of Trent teaches: " Tametsi in eis liberum arbitrium minime extinctum esset, viribus licet attenuatum, et inclinatum" (Sess. vi, cap. 1). There is no doubt that God operates everything good in us; but, at the same time, he does along with us, as St. Paul (I. Cor. xv, 10) says: " By the grace of God I am what I am but the grace of God with me." Mark this " the grace of God with me." God excites us to do what is good by his preventing grace, and helps us to bring it to perfection by his assisting grace; but he wishes that we should unite our endeavours to his grace, and, therefore, exhorts us to cooperate as much as we can: " Be converted to me" (Zach. i, 3); " Make unto yourselves a new heart" (Ezech. xviii, 31); " Mortify, therefore, your members stripping yourselves of the old man with his deeds, and putting on the new" (Col. iii, 5, &c.) He also reproves those who refuse to obey his call: " I called, and you refused" (Prov. i, 24); " How often would I have gathered together thy children and thou wouldst not (Matt. xxiii, 37); " You always resist the Holy Ghost" (Acts, vii, 51). All these Divine calls and reprovals would be vain and unjust if God did everything regarding our eternal salvation, without any cooperation on our part; but such is not the case. God does all, and whatever good we do, the greater part belongs to him; but still it is his will that we labour a little ourselves, as far as we can, and hence, St. Paul says: " I have laboured more abundantly than all they, yet not I, but the grace of God with me" (I. Cor. xv, 10). By this Divine Grace, therefore, we are not to understand that habitual grace which sanctifies the soul, but the actual preventing and helping grace which enables us to perform what is right, and when this grace is efficacious, it not only gives us strength to do so, in the same manner as sufficient grace does, but more it makes us actually do what is right. From this first error, then, that free will is extinguished in man by sin, the Innovators deduce other erroneous doctrines that it is impossible for us to observe the laws of the Decalogue; that works are not necessary for salvation, but only faith alone; that our cooperation is not required for the justification of the sinner, for that is done by the merits of Christ alone, although man should still continue in sin. We shall treat of those errors immediately. (2) St. Aug. l. de Ver. Rel. c. 14.  

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