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Sect. CXXXI. — After this, it enumerates a multitude of similitudes: by which, it effects nothing but the drawing aside the witless reader to irrelevant things, according to its custom, and at the same time leaves the subject point entirely out of the question. Thus, — “God indeed preserves the ship, but the mariner conducts it into harbour: wherefore, the mariner does not do nothing.” — This similitude makes a difference of work: that is, it attributes that of preserving to God, and that of conducting to the mariner. And thus, if it prove any thing, it proves this: — that the whole work of preserving is of God, and the whole work of conducting of the mariner. And yet, it is a beautiful and apt similitude.

Thus, again — “the husbandman gathers in the increase, but it was God that gave it.” — Here again, it attributes different operations to God and to man: unless it mean to make the husbandman the creator also, who gave the increase. But even supposing the same works be attributed to God and to man — what do these similitudes prove? Nothing more, than that the creature co-operates with the operating God! But are we now disputing about co-operation, and not rather concerning the power and operation of “Free-will,” as of itself! Whither therefore has the renowned rhetorician betaken himself? He set out with the professed design to dispute concerning a palm; whereas all his discourse has been about a gourd! ‘A noble vase was designed by the potter; why then is a pitcher produced at last?’

I also know very well, that Paul co-operates with God in teaching the Corinthians, while he preaches without, and God teaches within; and that, where their works are different. And that, in like manner, he co-operates with God while he speaks by the Spirit of God; and that, where the work is the same. For what I assert and contend for is this: — that God, where He operates without the grace of His Spirit, works all in all, even in the ungodly; while He alone moves, acts on, and carries along by the motion of His omnipotence, all those things which He alone has created, which motion those things can neither avoid nor change, but of necessity follow and obey, each one according to the measure of power given of God: — thus all things, even the ungodly, co-operate with God! On the other hand, when He acts by the Spirit of His grace on those whom He has justified, that is, in His own kingdom, He moves and carries them along in the same manner; and they, as they are the new creatures, follow and co-operate with Him; or rather, as Paul saith, are led by Him. (Rom. viii. 14, 30.)

But the present is not the place for discussing these points. We are not now considering, what we can do in co-operation with God, but what we can do of ourselves: that is, whether, created as we are out of nothing, we can do or attempt any thing of ourselves, under the general motion of God’s omnipotence, whereby to prepare ourselves unto the new Creation of the Spirit. — This is the point to which Erasmus ought to have answered, and not to have turned aside to a something else!

What I have to say upon this point is this: — As man, before he is created man, does nothing and endeavours nothing towards his being made a creature; and as, after he is made and created, he does nothing and endeavours nothing towards his preservation, or towards his continuing in his creature-existence, but each takes place alone by the will of the omnipotent power and goodness of God, creating us and preserving us, without ourselves; but as God, nevertheless, does not work in us without us, seeing we are for that purpose created and preserved, that He might work in us and that we might co-operate with Him, whether it be out of His kingdom under His general omnipotence, or in His kingdom under the peculiar power of His Spirit; — so, man, before he is regenerated into the new creation of the kingdom of the Spirit, does nothing and endeavours nothing towards his new creation into that kingdom, and after he is re-created does nothing and endeavours nothing towards his perseverance in that kingdom; but the Spirit alone effects both in us, regenerating us and preserving us when regenerated, without ourselves; as James saith, “Of His own will begat He us by the word of His power, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures,” — (Jas. i. 18) (where he speaks of the renewed creation:) nevertheless, He does not work in us without us, seeing that He has for this purpose created and preserved us, that He might operate in us, and that we might co-operate with Him: thus, by us He preaches, shews mercy to the poor, and comforts the afflicted. — But what is hereby attributed to “Free-will?” Nay, what is there left it but nothing at all? And in truth it is nothing at all!

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