Thoughts On The Will


J. H. Oliphant



I desire to give a lengthy quotation from Gill's "Cause af God and Truth" which will show how our people met Arminius in his time, as well as show the subject in hand, page 183.

"It is said that 'freedom of the will in this state of trial and temptation, can not consist with a determination to one, namely on the one hand, in a determination to good only, by the efficacy of divine grace,' seeing that this puts man out of a state of trial, and makes him equal to the state of angels; nor with the contrary determination to evil only, for then man in this state of trial must be reduced to the condition of the Devil and damned spirits,' and it is more than once urged; "that the doctrine that teaches that man is so utterly disabled by the fall of Adam, that without efficacious grace, which God vouchsafes only to some few who are the objects of his election to salvation, he hath no power to do what is spiritually good, or to avoid what is spiritually bad, must be destructive of the liberty belonging to man, in a state of trial and probation."

The above is Whitby's argument against our people. The following is Gill's reply:

"This seems to be the principle argument, and on which the greatest stress is laid, since it is so often referred to.

"In my first part, I have considered this case, whether man is now in such a state of trial as is contended for; I have shown, by several arguments, that man is not in such a state, and have given answer to those which are brought in favor of it, and therefore am not concerned to reconcile the doctrine of man's disability to do that which is spiritually good, to the liberty of man in such a state, or what becomes of this imaginary state, and the liberty of man in it. But though man is not in such a state, and his will is biased and determined, either by the efficacy of divine grace, to that which is good, or through the corruption of nature to that which is evil, yet he is not, by the one made equal to angels, nor by the other reduced to the condition of the devil, for though regenerated persons, when and while they are under the divine impulse or powerful operation of grace, are biased and determined to that which is good as the angels are, without any violation of the natural liberty of their wills, yet they are not in an equal state with them, for they are still liable to sin, and their obedience is imperfect, neither of which can be said of angels; besides there is a principle of corruption in them, sin that dwells in them; the old man which is as much biased and determined to that which is evil as the new man is to that which is good. And as for unregenerate men, * * * though their hearts and inclinations may be as bad as the devils * * * yet they are not reduced to the same condition with them."

Gill contends for liberty of will, yet not as the Arminians of his times. Again he says: "The doctrine of man's disability to that which is good, is not destructive of any of the natural faculties of the soul or spirit, nor of the will, nor of the natural liberty of it. "It is argued that 'If the will be determined to that which is good, by the grace of God, or to that which is evil through the disability contracted by the fall; this must take away the liberty of men's actions, since then there is no place for election and determination.' To which I reply, supposing choice necessary to free actions, a determination of the will to some one thing is not contrary to choice, for the will of Christ, and the will of angels and glorified spirits are determined only to that which is good, and yet t they both choose and do that freely."

"A wicked man who is under the strongest bias power and dominion of his lusts, acts freely in his fulfilling of them, as does also a good man in doing what is spiritually good, and never more so than when he is under the most powerful influences of grace."

The Arminian argued that if the will of an evil man were determined to sin only this fact would destroy liberty of will, and also that it would clear the sinner of all blames, for sin. Gill argued that the will is free and yet determined to evil only, which I think I will demonstrate to be true later on in the work.

"It is said 'that the freedom of man's will pleaded for is absolutely requisite to render our actions worthy of praise or dispraise, and that a determination to one leaves no room for either of these.' As to good men they are not solicitous about the praise of their actions, being very willing to give the praise and glory of them to the grace of God, by which they are what they are and do what they do. Though I see no reason why these should not be praiseworthy, and the more for being done in a dependence on the grace of God.

"The good actions of angels and glorified saints are praiseworthy, they are commended for doing the commandments of the Lord, for their constant and perfect obedience to his will, hence our Lord taught his disciples to pray that the will of God might be done in earth as it is done in heaven, and yet the wills of these celestial inhabitants are only determined to that which is good, and as to the actions of wicked men, notwithstanding their disability to do good, they are worthy of dispraise, for if bad fruit may be dispraised which comes from a bad tree, * * much more must the actions of wicked men be worthy of dispraise, who voluntarily choose their own ways.

"The actions of apostate angels deserve dispraise and they have been rebuked for them by the Lord himself, and yet their wills are determined to that which is evil only."

I would beg the reader to notice that Gill argues that the wills of evil men are determined to evil only, yet this fact does not destroy liberty nor obligation. The battle ground was not as to whether the will is free, but as to whether a determined state of the mind to good or evil consists with accountability, with commendation for obedience, or disapprobation for disobedience, and this is the real issue yet.

"I have already observed, that actions to which men are directed, influenced, and determined by the grace of God, are commendable and praiseworthy; as the services of angels and glorified saints, and so are rewardable by the grace of God, though not through any merit or desert in them; for as the saints have all they have through the grace of God, and do all they do, that is well done, by the assistance of it, so they expect no other reward but what is according to it. And as to wicked men, they are justly liable to punishment for their wicked actions, since these are committed by them against the law of God, voluntarily, with a full will, desire, delight, and affection; without any force upon them; though they are influenced and determined to them by the corruption of their nature; which corruption of nature is so far from excusing them from condemnation and punishment, that it is an aggravation of it; even as the devils are not only liable to punishment for their former transgressions, but to greater degrees thereof, by their daily repeated sins; though their wills, through the malice and wickedness of their natures, are only determined to sin.

"The learned writer attended to, argues from what he had more largely insisted on elsewhere, to show that 'God acts suitably to our faculties by the illumination of our understanding, and by persuading the will by moral causes; and from his having demonstrated the falsehood of that supposition that though God has laid no necessity upon man to do evil by his decrees, yet man lies under a necessity of doing evil since the fall, by reason of the disability he bath contracted by it, to do anything which is truly good; and from his having shown, that, though the evil habits added to our natural corruption do render it exceeding dificult, they do not render it impossible for them to do what is good and acceptable in the sight of God.' I reply; if no more light were put into the understanding of man, or communicated to him but what is done by moral causes, he would never be capable of knowing and receiving the things of the Spirit of God; and if the will of man were no otherwise wrought upon than by moral suasion, it would never be subject to the law of God or gospel of Christ. Nor has this author demonstrated the falsehood of the hypothethis that though God has laid no necessity upon men to sin, by His decrees, yet such is the disability of man, contracted by the fall, that he can not but sin; for God's decrees do not at all infringe the liberty of the will, as the case of Joseph being sold by his brethren, and the crucifixion of Christ do abundantly declare; and that such is the state of man since the fall, such the corruption and impotency of his nature that he cannot do that which is spiritually good, and is fully set and wholly bent upon that which is evil, both Scripture and all experience sufficiently testify."

Again on Page 197 he says: "God is a most free agent and liberty in him is in its utmost perfection, and yet does not lie in an indifference to good or evil; he has no freedom to that which is evil, he cannot commit iniquity, he cannot lie or deny himself; his will is determined only to that which is good; he can do no other.

He is the author of all good and that only, and what he does, he does freely and yet necessarily. It is said that 'this argument is not good, since he is in no state of trial nor can he be tempted to do evil.' I reply, neither is man in a state of trial as has been shown, he may be and is tempted to do evil, and there is a propensity in his nature, nay, he is only determined to it, before a principle of grace is wrought in him, which shows that the liberty of his will lies in a determination to one. Moreover, since God cannot be tempted to evil nor is it possible that he ever should commit it, it follows that true liberty does not lie in an indifference to good or evil.

"The human nature of Christ, or the man Christ Jesus, who as, he was born without sin, and lived without it, all his days on earth, so was impeccable, could not sin. He lay under some kind of necessity, from the purpose of God, the command of God, the covenant between God and him, as well as from the purity of his nature, to fulfill all righteousness, and yet he did it most freely and voluntarily, which proves that the liberty of will, in its greatest perfection does not lie in equilibrio, in an indifference to good or evil, but is consistent with some kind of necessity, and with a determination to that which is good only.

* * * The good angels, holy and elect, who are confirmed in the state in which they are, and by the confirming grace of God are become impeccable, cannot sin or fall from that happy state, yet perform their whole duty, do God's will cheerfully and willingly. The freedom of their wills is not lost, nor in the least curtailed by their impeccability, confirmed state, and determination to do that which is only good."

Gill and Baptists of his times argued that evil men are determined to sin only by the corruption of their nature. The Arminians argued that if their wills were determined to sin only this would destroy all liberty of will, and leave sinners blameless.

It is an Arminian sentiment to say that a determination to evil only is destructive to all liberty. Arminians also held that a determination to holiness would also destroy all liberty of will, and also would shear our Saviour, himself, of all right and title to praise for his holiness. I will try to ascertain whether men are inclined to sin, and whether that inclination is such as to constitute a determination to evil, and whether a determination to evil does destroy liberty of will or remove all just ground for censure.


Thoughts On The Will. J.H. Oliphant. Press of Moore & Langen Printing Co. Terre Haute, IN. 1899. Pages 36-44.