WORKS OF ARMINIUS - ANCIENT CHURCH DOCTORS DIDN'T APPROVE THE OPPOSITE OPINION
PREVIOUS SECTION - NEXT SECTION - HELP - FB - TWITTER - GR VIDEOS - GR FORUMS - GR YOUTUBE
THE OPPOSITE OPINION IS APPROVED BY NONE OF THE ANCIENT DOCTORS OF THE CHURCH
1. THE ancients who have interpreted this chapter as relating to a man under grace, and the moderns who give it a similar interpretation, differ very materially from each other; because, by the good which the apostle says he wills and does not, and by the evil which he says he wills not and does, the ancients understand only the not-indulging in concupiscence, and the indulging in it; while the moderns understand GOOD and EVIL actually performed. 2. That such was the opinion of the ancients is proved by citations from Epiphanius, Augustine, Bede, and Thomas Aquinas. 3. The difference between these two diverse explanations of good and evil is so great, in the judgment of the ancients, that, according to both explanations, they cannot agree with a regenerate man. This is proved by citations from Augustine, Bede, Thomas Aquinas, and Hugh the cardinal.
Thesis. -- The meaning which the greater part of our modern divines ascribe to the apostle in this chapter, is not approved by any of the ancient doctors of the church, not even by Augustine himself; but by many of them, it was repudiated and rejected.
In this thesis, I do not assert that none of the ancient doctors has interpreted this chapter as relating to a man who is regenerate and placed under grace; for I have already confessed that St. Augustine and some others give it that interpretation. But I affirm that the interpretation of our divines differs from the explanation of those ancients in a point of great moment; and so great is this difference, that, except by a forced construction and a meaning contrary to the mind of those old authors themselves, the moderns are unable to confirm their opinion on this subject by the authority of the ancients. This will, I think, be proved with sufficient accuracy, if it be shewn that those things which the apostle attributes to this man, are received by our divines in a widely different acceptation from that in which they were understood by those among the ancients who explained the chapter as relating to a man under grace. Indeed the moderns receive it in a sense so far different and dissenting from this explanation of some of the ancients, that these very ancients have entertained the opinion that these attributes, when received according to their modern construction by our divines, do not agree with a man who is regenerate and under grace, but with one who is placed under the law.
The truth of this affirmation I will now proceed to point out in the following manner: That Good which the apostle says he indeed wills but does not, and that EVIL which, he says, he wills not and yet does, are interpreted by most of our divines as referring to ACTUAL GOOD AND EVIL. And they explain the evil by that very deed which is committed, with the consent of the will, through the lusting of the flesh against the lusting of the Spirit; in like manner, they explain the GOOD by that very deed which a man indeed lusts or desires to do according to the Spirit, but which he does not actually perform, being hindered by the lusting of the flesh. let the commentaries of our divines be examined, and it will at once be evident that this is their interpretation of the chapter; and this is openly declared by those who, on this subject, are opposed to me in opinion.
But when St. Augustine, and all those ancients whom I have had an opportunity of perusing, interpret this chapter as referring to a man who is regenerate and placed under grace, they assert that the evil which the apostle says he would not, but did, is to lust or desire; but they interpret the GOOD which he says he would, but did not, by not lusting or coveting; yet they make a distinction between these two -- lusting and going after their lusts -- and not lusting and not going after their lusts. In a manner nearly similar, the apostle St., James denotes this difference in his epistle, i, 14,xv, "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin," that is, actual sin; "and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."
That this was the meaning of the ancients, is proved by
For, that which is said, "What I do I allow not, but what I hate that I do," must not be received concerning that evil which we have performed and completed, but concerning that about which we have only thought. (Heresy 64th, against Origen, lib. 2, tom. 2.)
Otherwise, how should the apostle have indeed chiefly done the evil which displeased him, but not the good which was pleasing, if he had not spoken about extraneous thoughts, which we have occasionally thought, and not willing them, not knowing from what cause they arise?
Wherefore, this is placed within us: to will, that we will not think about these things. Yet this is not placed within us: to gain our end, that they be dispersed so as not to return again to our minds, but only that we may in some degree use them, or not use them -- as is the sentiment in the subsequent passage: "For the good that I would I do not;" for I will not to think on those things which hurt me, because this is a good and immaculate employment, and devoid of reprehension, according to the common saying, [in reference to another affair.] "a square may be formed either in the mind, or by the hands, without any blame." Therefore, "the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do;" I will not to think, and yet I think on those things which I will not.
But now, if any venture to dispute these words by objecting, "The apostle teaches us this, by these words -- For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do that they are to be referred not only to our thinking evil in our minds from which we are averse and which we avoid, but likewise to our actually doing and performing evil," we therefore request the man who reasons thus, if what he says be correct, to explain to us what that evil was which, though the apostle hated and nilled to do, yet he did it. Or, on the contrary, let him inform us what good that was which he willed greatly to perform, but which he was not able to do, &c.
(Ibid.) Consult the remaining portion of this passage.
And it follows, "I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me;" that is, I find a law to be within me when I will to do the good which the law wills; because "evil is present," not with the law itself which says, "Thou shalt not covet" or lust, but "evil is present with me," because I likewise unwillingly lust. (On Marriage and Concupiscence, cap. 30, ten,. 7.)
To "the body of this death," therefore, is understood to belong, that "another law in the members wages war indeed against the law of the mind;" while the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, although it does not subjugate the mind, because the Spirit also lusteth against the flesh; and thus, though the law of sin itself holds some part of the flesh in captivity, by which it may resist the law of the mind, yet it does not reign in our body, though it be mortal, if we do not obey it in the lusts thereof (Ibid. cap. 31. )
But the apostle subjoins this expression: "So, then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh, the law of sin," which must be understood in this manner: "With my mind I serve the law of God, by not consenting to the law of sin; but with the flesh, I serve the law of sin by having desires of sin, to which, though I do not yield my consent, yet I am not totally free from them."
Or perhaps we are afraid of those words which follow: "For that which I do, I allow not; for what I would that do I not; but what I hate, that do 1." Are we afraid that, from these words, any one should suspect the apostle of consenting to the concupiscence of the flesh to evil works, But we must take into our consideration that which the apostle immediately subjoins: "If, then, I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good." For he here says that he consents to the law more than to the concupiscence of the flesh because he bestows on this latter the appellation of "sin." Therefore, he said that he does and performs not with an inclination of consenting and fulfilling, but with the very motion of lusting or coveting. Hence, therefore, he says, "I consent to the law that it is good."I consent," because I will what it does not will. He afterwards says, "Now it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." What does this mean -- "Now then," -- except that he is now under grace, which has delivered the delighting of the will from consenting with lust, Neither is the other part of the clause any better understood: "It is no more I that do it," than that he does not now consent to "yield his members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin." For if he both lusts, and consents, and performs, how is it "no more he that does it," though he is grieved at his doing it, and grievously groans on account of having been conquered? (Against the two Epistles of the Pelagians, cap. 10.)
And from these things he afterwards concludes -- "So, then, with the mind, I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh, the law of sin," that is, "with the flesh, the law of sin" by indulging in concupiscence, "but with the mind, the law of God" by not consenting to such concupiscence.
He does not say, how to do or to perform, but "how to fulfill or complete that which is good;" because to perform or to do what is good, is, not to go after lusts; but to fulfill or to perfect what is good, is not to lust or to indulge in concupiscence. That, therefore, which is said to the Galatians, (v, 16,) "ye shall not fulfill or perfect the lusts of the flesh," is said about a contrary object in this passage of the epistle to the Romans -- "but how to fulfill or perfect that which is good, I find not." Because those lusts are not perfected or fulfilled in evil, when the assent of our will is not added to them; nor is our will perfected or fulfilled in good, so long as the motion of those lusts continues, though we do not consent to such motion. But this conflict, in which even those who are baptized struggle as in an agony, when "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh," in which the Spirit also does or performs a good work, by not consenting to evil concupiscence; but it does not fulfill or perfect such work, because it does not consume or remove those evil desires or lusts. The flesh, likewise, does or performs an evil desire; but it does not fulfill or perfect it, because, the Spirit not consenting to it, the flesh also does not come so far as to the condemned works. This conflict, therefore, is not that of the Jews nor of any other description of men whatsoever, but it is evidently that of Christian believers, and of those who live good lives and labour hard in this contest, as is briefly shewn by the apostle, in Romans vii, 25, where he says, "then, with the mind, I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." (Against Julian the Pelagian, lib. I, cap. 26.)
Be unwilling, therefore, to do that which you are not willing to suffer; and do not say, that we allure you to sweet deeds, about which we cite the apostle as thus declaring himself: "For I know that in me, (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing." For, though "they do not perfect or fulfill the good which they would" in not indulging in concupiscence; yet they do or perform good, in not going after their lusts. (Ibid. lib. 5, cap. 5.)
Be it far from us, therefore, to assert what you pretend, that we affirm that, "the apostle spake these words as though he was desirous to be understood by them, that he was in the act of fornication, struggling hard against it, whilst he was led away by some hand of a pestiferous voluptuousness," when the apostle himself says, It is no more I that do it; thus shewing that the lusts of the flesh did work only a libidinous impulse without a consent to the sin. (Ibid. lib. 6. cap 11.)
He likewise refrains himself from every evil thing, who has sin which he does not suffer to reign within him, and into whom secretly creeps a reprehensible thought which he does not permit to arrive at the end [intended] of a deed or performance. But it is one thing not to have sin, and it is another not to obey its desires or lusts. it is one thing to fulfill that which is commanded, "Thou shalt not covet or lust," and it is another at least, by a certain attempt at abstinence, to do that which is also written: "Thou shalt not go after thy lusts." Yet it is impossible for us to know any of these things correctly, without the grace of the saviour. To do or perform righteousness, therefore, in the true worship of God, is to fight by an internal conflict against the inward evil of concupiscence, and not at all to have, to perfect, or fulfill that which is its opposite. For he who fights, is still not only in great peril, but is also sometimes smitten, though he is not utterly cast down. But he who has no adversary, rejoices in full peace and tranquillity. He also is most truly said to be without sin, in whom no sin dwells, but not he, who, through abstaining from an evil work, says, "It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." (On Nature and Grace, cap. 62.)
Therefore, the apostle "does that which he would not," because he wills not to lust or indulge in concupiscence, and yet he lusts; therefore, "he does that which he would not." Did that evil concupiscence draw the apostle into subjection to concupiscence to commit fornication? Far from it. Let not such a thought as this arise in our hearts. He struggled hard, and was not subdued. But because he was unwilling also to have this against which he was struggling, therefore, he said, "I do that which I would not;" I am unwilling to indulge in concupiscence, and yet I lust. Therefore, "I do that which I would not," but yet I no not consent to concupiscence. For otherwise he would not have said, "Ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh," if he himself fulfilled them. (On Time, Sermon 55, tom. 10.)
How do I perform that which is good, and not perfect what is good, I do or perform good, when I do not consent to evil concupiscence; but I do not perfect or fulfill what is good, in not entirely refraining from concupiscence. Again, therefore, how does my enemy perform that which is evil, and not perfect what is evil? He does or performs evil, because he moves an evil desire; and he does not perfect what is evil, because he does not draw me to evil.
Hence, also this expression, "I do that which I would not;" "for the flesh lusteth against the Spirit" and I am unwilling that it should lust. I account it a great matter if I do not consent, for I wish to abstain from it; therefore, "I do that which I would not." For I will that the flesh lust not against the Spirit, and I am unable; this is what I have said, "I do that which I would not." (Sermon 13th, on the Words of the Apostle.)
If, therefore, "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit," that in this very thing you do not what you would, because you will not to indulge in concupiscence and are not able, [to refrain from such indulgence,] at least hold thy will in the grace of the Lord, and persevere by its assistance. Repeat before him that which you have sung, "Direct my steps according to thy word; and let not any iniquity have dominion over me." (Psalm cxix, 133.) What is this, "Let not any iniquity have dominion over me"? Listen to the apostle: "Let not sin reign in your mortal body." What is this reigning, "By obeying it in the lusts thereof." He has not said, Do not have evil desires. For how have I not evil desires "in this mortal body," in which "the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh"? This thing, therefore, "Let not sin reign," &c.
3. VENERABLE BEDE
But if it be himself, (that is, the apostle,) let us not so understand that which he has said: "What I would, that do I not, but what I hate, that I do;" as if he willed to be chaste and yet was an adulterer, or willed to be merciful and was cruel, or willed to be pious and was impious. But what are we to understand, I will not to indulge in concupiscence, and yet I do indulge in it. (On Romans 7.)
Though I do not consent to concupiscence, and though I do not go after my lusts, yet I still indulge in concupiscence.
But that which I do, is to indulge in concupiscence, not to consent to it; that no one may now seek in the apostle an example for himself of sinning, and afford a bad example. "What I would, that do I not." For what says the law? "Thou shalt not lust or covet." And I would not lust, and yet I do lust, although I do not yield up my consent to concupiscence, and though I do not go after it. For I offer resistance, I turn away my mind, I give a denial to the instruments, I repress my members; and yet that is done within me which I will not. That which the law likewise wills not, I nill with the law. What it would not, that I would not. Therefore, "I consent to the law." I am in the flesh, I am in the mind; but I am more in the mind than in the flesh. Because, when I am in the mind, I am in that which governs; for the mind governs; the flesh is governed. And I am more in that by which I rule or govern, than in that by which I am governed. Therefore, I rule more in the mind.
4. THOMAS AQUINAS
To will is present with me, that is, to me who am now recovered by grace. It is through the operation of divine grace, by which indeed I not only will that which is good, but I also perform something that is good, because I offer resistance to concupiscence, and under the guidance of the Spirit, I act against it. But I do not find in my power the manner in which I may perform that which is good, that is, in order entirely to exclude concupiscence. (On Romans 7.)
3. But these two explanations of those attributes are, in the judgment of those very ancients who have explained this chapter as relating to a regenerate man, so vastly diverse and dissentient, that the same things cannot agree with a regenerate man according to both these explanations; nay, that, according to the first of these explanations, they can agree with a regenerate man, but according to the second they can agree only with a man who is under sin and under the law. This I will now proceed to prove from the testimonies of those ancients themselves:
For in no better manner is this understood -- "It is no more I that do it" - than that he does not consent "to yield his members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin." For if he both lusts, and consents, and does, how is it "no more he that does it," though he is grieved that he does it, and groans grievously at being conquered, (Against the two Epistles of the Pelagians, lib. I, cap. 10.)
On two of these three passages we have before disputed, and which say, "But I am carnal, sold under sin:" And this is the third: "- bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." On account of all the three, the apostle may seem to be describing him who is still living under the law, and not yet under grace. But as we have already expounded the two former of them to be spoken in reference to the flesh which is yet corruptible, so may this third passage likewise be understood; as if it said that I was brought into captivity by the flesh not by the mind, by motion not by consent; and that it therefore brought me into captivity, because in my flesh itself there is no other than our common [sinful] nature.
He is spiritual because he lives according to the Spirit; but still, on the part of mortal flesh, the same man is spiritual and carnal. Behold the spiritual man: "With the mind I myself serve the law of God.", Behold the carnal man: "But with the flesh I serve the law of sin." Is, then, this same man both spiritual and carnal? He is evidently so, as long as he is a dweller on earth. Whosoever thou art, be not surprised if thou yieldest and consentest to any lusts whatsoever, since thou either supposest them to be good for fulfilling libidinous excess, or thou undoubtedly seest them now to be so evil, that yet by yielding to them thou consentest, and followest whither they lead, and dost perpetrate those things which they wickedly suggest; thou art entirely carnal, whosoever thou art that dost correspond with this description -- thou art totally carnal. But if indeed thou lustest or desirest that which the law forbids when it says: "Thou shaft not covet," yet if thou dost also observe that other thing which the law likewise says, "Thou shalt not go after thy lusts," in thy mind thou art spiritual, and in thy flesh carnal. For it is one thing, not to lust or not to indulge in concupiscence; and it is another, not to go after its lusts. The non-indulgence in concupiscence is the property of one who is entirely perfect; not to go after his lusts, is that of one who is fighting, engaged in a struggle, and labouring. Let me be allowed, likewise, to add what the thing itself requires, that it is also the property of him who does not walk after his lusts; it is the property of a man who is conquering and overcoming. For the first of these [the non- indulgence in concupiscence] is obtained by the battle, the struggle and the labour, but not till after the victory has been secured. (On the Words of the Apostle, Sermon 5.)
It is apparent, therefore, from the mind of St. Augustine, that, if this chapter be explained as relating to consent and to the actual perpetration of evil, it can by no means be understood concerning a regenerate man, but concerning a man who is under the law, and "is merely carnal," as he expresses himself.
2. VENERABLE BEDE
We know that the law is spiritual. There is, therefore, perhaps, some other; probably thou art the man; either thou art he, or I am. If, then, he be some one of us, let us listen to him about himself, and, not being offended, let us correct ourselves. But if it be himself, (that is, the apostle,) let us not so understand that which he has said: "What I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that I do;" as if it was his will to be chaste and yet he was an adulterer, or to be merciful and yet was cruel, or to be pious and yet was impious. But what are we to understand? My will is, not to indulge in concupiscence; and yet I do indulge in it. (On Romans 7.)
3. THOMAS AQUINAS
Of all these writers, Thomas Aquinas most plainly places the two explanations in opposition to each other; and he declares that the things which are in this chapter attributed by the apostle to the man about whom he is treating, according to one of these explanations agree with a regenerate man, but, according to the other they agree with a man who is under sin:
Man, therefore, is said to be carnal, because his reason is carnal. It is called "carnal" on two accounts: On the First, because when the reason consents to those things to which it is instigated by the flesh, it is brought into subjection to the flesh, according to the declaration in 1 Corinthians iii, 3: "For, whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal?" In this manner, it is also understood about a man not yet restored by grace. On the Second account, reason is said to be carnal from the circumstance of its being attacked by the flesh; according to that declaration in Gal. v, 17, "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit." And, in this manner, the reason even of a man who is placed under grace is understood to be carnal. But both these carnalities proceed from sin, &c.
Hence he says, "For that which I do I understand not," [or "allow not,"] that is, that it ought to be performed. This may indeed be understood in two ways: In the ONE mode, it may be understood concerning him who is subjected to sin, who knows in general that sin must not be committed, yet, being conquered, by the suggestion of the devil, or by passion, or by the inclination of a perverse habit, he commits it, and is, therefore, said to perform that which he understands ought not to be performed, doing this against his conscience, as it is said in Luke xii, 47, "That servant, who knew his Lord's will, and did not according to his will, shall deservedly be beaten with many stripes." In the other mode, it may be understood concerning him who is placed in grace, who indeed does that which is evil; not indeed by executing it in operation or with a consenting mind, but only by indulging in concupiscence according to the feeling of the sensual appetite. And that concupiscence is on account of the reason and the understanding, because it precedes his judgment, at this approach of which such an actual operation is hindered, &c.
First, therefore, he says, in reference to the omission of good, "for the good which it is my will to do, I do not." This may indeed be understood, in one mode, about a man who is placed under sin; and thus that which he says in this place, "I do," must be received according to a complete act, which is exercised externally, through the consent of reason. But when he says, "It is my will," it must be understood not indeed in reference to a complete will which is preceptive of a work or operation, but in reference to a certain incomplete will, by which men will in general that which is good, as they also have in general a correct judgment concerning one thing; and such a will is corrupted in particular because it does not what it understands in general ought to be done, and that which it wills to do. But according to its being understood respecting a man recovered by grace, we must, on the contrary, understand by this which he says, "It is my will," a complete will continuing throughout in the election or choice of a particular operation, that by this which he says, "I do," may be understood an incomplete act which consists only in the sensual appetite, and does not extend to the consent of reason. For a man who is placed under grace, wills indeed to preserve his mind from corrupt lusts; but he does not perform this good, because of the inordinate motions of concupiscence which rise up in his sensual appetite. Similar to this is what he says in Gal. v, 17, "so that ye do not the things which ye would."
Secondly, he subjoins, in reference to the perpetration of evil, "But the evil which I hate, that I do." If this be indeed understood concerning a man who is a sinner, then by this which is said, "I hate," is understood a certain imperfect hatred, according to which every man naturally hates evil. But by this which he says, "I do," is understood an act perfected by the execution of a work according to the consent of reason; for that hatred in general is taken away in a particular which is eligible through the inclination of a habit or passion. But if it be understood concerning a man placed under grace, then by this which he says, "I do," is, on the contrary, understood an imperfect act, which consists solely in the concupiscence of the sensual appetite; and by this which he says, "I hate," is understood a perfect hatred, by which any one perseveres in the detestation of evil, until the final reprobation of it, &c.
But the law of sin brings a man into captivity in two ways: By the one mode, through consent and operation, it captivates a man who is a sinner; by the other mode, it captivates a man placed under grace, with respect to the motion of concupiscence.
Grace delivers from the body of this death in two ways: By the ONE mode, that the corruption of the body may not have the dominion over the mind, drawing it to summit sin; by the OTHER mode, that the corruption of the body may be totally removed. Therefore, with respect to the First, it appertains to the sinner to say, "Grace has delivered me from the body of this death, that is, it has delivered me from sin, into which my soul was led through the corruption of the body." But from sin a righteous man has been already delivered; wherefore it belong, to him to say, "The grace of God hath made me free from the body of this death, that is, that there may not be in my body the corruption of sin or of death," which will occur in the resurrection.
Afterwards when he says "so then with the mind I myself serve the law of God," &c., he infers a conclusion, which is inferred according to these two premised expositions, in different ways, from the premises. For, according to the exposition of the preceding words in the person of a sinner, the conclusion must be inferred thus: "It has been said that the grace of God hath made me free from the body of this death, that I may not be led away by it to sin. Therefore, since I shall now be free, with the mind I serve the law of God; but with the flesh I serve the law of sin, which indeed remains in the flesh with respect to the fuel, by which the flesh lusts against the Spirit." But if the preceding words be understood [as proceeding] from the person of a righteous man, then the conclusion must be thus inferred: "The grace of God through Jesus Christ hath made me free from the body of this death; that is, so that the corruption of sin and death may not be in me."
4. HUGH THE CARDINAL
There is, therefore, now no condemnation. The preceding words have been expounded concerning the captivity of mortal sin, under which the man was carnally living; and concerning the captivity of venial sin, of the man who is in grace. But he gives the appellation of "mortal sin" to that which is exercised in operation itself, and "venial" to that which consists in the act and motion of lusting or indulging in concupiscence, without the consent of the will.