Thoughts On The Will


J. H. Oliphant



The Arminians argue that if the will be determined to sin or holiness, then this fact would destroy all ground for praise or commendation for the obedient, and so all ground for condemning the wicked. They urge that there would be as little reason for loving a being for holiness as for loving the sun for its brightness.

I think I have shown that a determined state of the mind to holiness increases our esteem for those thus determined, and I have shown that a determined state of the mind to sin does not destroy liberty in sin, nor remove blame.

They argue that choice is necessary to a free act and also to accountability. Gill answers this by saying, "supposing choice is necessary to free actions, a determined state of the will to some one thing is not contrary to choice, for the will of Christ and the will of angels, and glorified saints, are determined only to that which is good, and yet they both choose and do that good freely, * * * besides neither the disability of man, nor the efficacious influences of grace at all hinder the freedom of human actions. A wicked man, who is under the strongest bias, power and dominion of his lusts, acts freely in 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 the holy spirit."

Gill, in Cause of God and Truth, p.183 to 202, shows that for one to be" determined" to holiness instead of lessening his virtue it increases it, and on the other hand, persons "determined" to sin are not exempt from punishment or blame for such determination. A wife who is so determined to virtue that she could not one moment meditate infidelity is the more worthy on account of such determination, and a wife "poised" or in "equilibrio" in regard to loyalty to her husband is utterly unworthy.

A man who is determined to honesty is surely worthy of commendation, and so one determined to dishonesty is the more to be condemned and rejected. Gill refers to God as eternally determined to holiness in every act, yet such determination is every way consistent with liberty of will as also with praise for His holiness.

Edwards gives a long chapter on this topic showing that a determined state of the will is every way consistent with the liberty of the will. Edwards argues that the obedience of Christ was "necessary," that it was morally impossible for Him to fail to do His Father's will and yet that He of all beings is most to be praised. Whereas, if Arminians are right in saying that a determined state of the will to holiness is destructive to all liberty of will as well as of all ground for praise and commendation, then Christ Himself was shorn of all liberty of will as well as unworthy of any praise whatever. Dr. Whitby urged that a determined state of the will to sin is inconsistent with such liberty as is necessary to moral government. That persons determined to sin are not suitable beings for moral government; not suitable beings to whom to present threatenings or rewards.

In answer to all this, Gill, Calvin, Edwards and others argue that Jesus Christ is the most determined to holiness of all beings and yet is subject to his Father"s will, subject to his commands and rewards," &c. Edwards' lengthy and irresistible argument is found, p. 41 to 46, where he cites scores of texts that prove Christ"s obedience was certain and yet a willing obedience, that he was subject to commands and rewards, &c., and if all this is true then the Arminian argument that freedom of will, accountability, &c., are inconsistent with a determined state of the will, must go for nothing. I will quote a few lines on this subject from Edwards: "Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that doth so easily beset us and let us run with patience the race set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despised the shame, and is set down on the right hand of the throne of God."

"How strange would it be to hear any Christian assert that the holy and excellent temper and behavior of Christ * * * was not virtuous or praiseworthy because his will was not free, but was unalterably determined to one, that on this account there is no virtue at all in all Christ"s humility, meekness, patience, charity, forgiveness of enemies, contempt of the world, heavenly mindedness, submission to the will of God, perfect obedience to his commands unto death, even the death of the cross, his great compassion to the afflicted, his love to mankind * * * his praying for his enemies even when nailing him to the cross, that virtue when applied to these things is but an empty name, that there is no merit in any of these things, that Christ was worthy of nothing at all on account of these things, worthy of no reward, no praise, no honor, or respect, from God or man, and all because his will was not indifferent, "in equilibrio," and free either to these things or the contrary; but under such a strong inclination, or bias, to the things that were excellent, as made it impossible he should choose the contrary;" that he was worthy of no more honor "than a clock or mere machine that is purely passive and moved by physical necessity."

These authors have buried forever the notion that a determined state of the mind to either sin or holiness, is destructive to liberty of will, or accountability, or that it renders one unfit for a moral government, and unworthy of rewards, or unsuitable for punishment. I will cite some of the texts that show that Christ "necessarily" obeyed his Father in all things. 2nd Sam. 23, 50; Rom. 5,19; Phil. 2, 18; Heb. 5, 8; Isa. 53, 10, 11, 12; Ps. 2, 110; Isa. 49, 7, 8, 9; Jno. 10, 17, 18; and especially Rev. 5, 8 to 12. These places show that Christ's will was "determined" that he was subject to the commands of God, and that in the end he was praised for all this. And so this fact demolishes the argument of Arminians that a determined state of the mind to holiness renders one unfit for praise, and unsuitable for moral government, and also utterly divested of freedom of will.

Some men have been given up to sin, and this fact does not relieve them of blame for sin, but if Arminians are right that a "determined state of the mind to sin removes, all liberty and all grounds for blame," &c., then it would not be a disadvantage to be thus given up to sin. Ps. 81, 12; "So I gave them up to their own counsels."

Acts. 7, 42; "Then God turned and gave them up to worship the hosts of heaven." Rom. 1, 24; wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts" &c.; (ver. 20) "For this cause God gave them up to vile affections" &c.; (ver. 28) "and even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things that are not convenient," &c.

In all these instances we find persons that none can deny but that their wills are "determined" to sin, and if this fact destroys liberty, and accountability then to be thus given up would be an advantage rather than a disadvantage. I admit that so far as I can see it would destroy accountability, &c., for God by some positive act to make men to be bad and invest them with an evil nature. But in the cases above cited there is no evidence that God made any of those persons to be bad, but rather his procedure was a judicial hardening for past sins, as in the case of Pharaoh. In the hardening of his heart, he was not made to be bad, but rather punished for past sins. So in the case of Joseph and his brethren, there is not the slightest evidence that God made any of them to be bad; also the circumstance of David"s numbering Israel. There is no proof that God made David to be bad, but this was a punishment for past sins. So in the case of the lieing spirit being sent from God to Ahabs prophets. No evidence here that God made the spirit to be a liar or those prophets to be bad. The one was a liar before this event and the others were false prophets before this event; and all that can be said of these circumstances is that God so controlled Devils; false prophets, lieing spirits and evil men as to accomplish his will.

A recent writer cited some of these places to show that "Predestination sustains the same relation to evil that it does to good," but in none of the above cases, nor in the bible anywhere, is there evidence that God made any one to be a sinful being, while hundreds of places show that God has made man to be good and holy. So no text can be found showing that the decrees of God are related to sin just as they are related to holiness.

The circumstances crucifixion and being delivered "according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, to be taken with wicked hands." These hands were not made wicked by the decree of God. All that this whole circumstance can prove is that evil men were, and are so under the control of God as to carry out His purposes.

How different it is with the Saints, who are made worthy and holy by the efficacious work of the Spirit.

I regret that our brethren, any of them, should insist that predestination sustains the same relation to evil that it sustains to good, for if so, certainly it would be so related to evil as as to produce it. All admit that the efficacious decree of God is essential to holiness, and if so, and God"s decree of sin is efficacious, then as sure as God"s decree is productive of holiness so sure would it be of sin. I have felt astonished at the efforts of brethren to defend the position that predestination sustains the same relation to sin that it does to holiness.

If we would defend the doctrine of grace, we must not so explain predestination or anything else as to make an excuse for sin; for so far as sin is excusable, so far it is not sin at all; and so if we excuse sin, or make out that men are not blameworthy for sin we rob grace of its dues, by insisting that there is nothing for grace to do.

If men are not "worthy of death" if they are not blamable for sin, then there is but little or nothing for grace to do. Any theory that apologizes for sin is destructive of the doctrine of grace. Arminians do this by urging that God in the very nature of things ought to give all men a chance for salvation, and so universalists apologize for sin.

Every theory of two seedism also, by finding some quality in the elect that stands as the reason why they are saved.

An extreme view of predestination does the same thing by tracing sin up to the decrees of God as a cause for it.

If we would know the riches of his grace we must find no apologies for sin of any kind whatever.

When we consider our own experience we have a light that shines in a dark place, and we find there no excuse claimed, or even admitted.

If we hold that the wicked do the will of God and that every sin is but the carrying out of God"s will, with no distinction between the sense in which wicked persons do his will, and that in which the obedient Christian does his will, thus confounding and confusing all sin and holiness right and wrong, and obscuring the need and work of grace, leaving little or nothing for grace to do, I say in holding these views we obscure and lose sight of the doctrine of grace.


Thoughts On The Will. J.H. Oliphant. Press of Moore & Langen Printing Co. Terre Haute, IN. 1899. Pages 71-79.