"The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith and calling upon God; wherefore, we have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will."
Scripture: Proverbs 16:1 and 20:24; Jeremiah 10:23; John 15:5; Matthew 16:13; John 6:44, 65; Romans 5:6-8; Ephesians 2:5-9; Philippians 2:13 and 4:13.
This article was originally framed in 1553 and put in its present form in 1563 by Archbishop Parker. Its language is that of Augustine from his work "On Grace and Free Will," which says, "we have no power to do good works without God working that we may have a good will, and cooperating when we have that good will."
No doubt part of it was taken from the Confession of Wurtenburg. The article disavows all sympathy with the Anabaptists who decry the absolute need of grace.
Let us consider the article under two headings; (1) Free will; (2) The need of grace.
1. Free Will
Little is said concerning free will in the article. What is denied in the article is the power and ability to turn to God and do good works without the assistance of God Himself. What is asserted is the absolute need of grace preventing and co-operating.
I think that we should look at this word "preventing." We do not use this old English word today as it was used in the days of James and Elizabeth.
David says, "He prevented the morning." This does not mean that he kept day from dawning but that he arose before daylight or dawn to pray. I think this will give us some light upon the meaning of the word. Webster defines it; the root is prevent which means "to intercept with foresight and care." The Spirit of God does all this for those who are His and will to do His will.
The church of England, in which John Wesley was a priest, declared that the original sin of Adam and Eve corrupted and depraved our total human nature. They declared that man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to do evil. In other words, mans bent is to do wrong rather that right.
The church declared, and supported by Scripture, that the condition of man after the fall of Adam is such that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and good works to faith and calling upon God.
The article does declare that though the will of man is free, that without the aid or power of God, man finds himself
helpless to do it. Quoting from the Church fathers, "though there remains a certain freedom of the will in those things that
pertain to the desires and works of this present life, yet to perform spiritual and heavenly things, free will is of itself
insufficient; and therefore the power of mans free will, being thus wounded and decayed, hath need of a physician to heal it,
and help to repair it."
2. The Need of Grace
The article declares: "We have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing (or going before and enabling us), that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will."
We must not, however, think that this article is concerned with Gods dealings with those who are brought into covenant with Him through hearing the Gospel and has no bearing upon those who live and die without ever hearing the Gospel of Christ. This article is primarily concerned with the work of Christians done in a Christian spirit and from Christian motives.
The article states that a two-fold grace is needed: (a) preventing prevenient grace and (b) co-operating grace, assisting man to act and to do.
The doctrine of preventing or prevenient grace is well documented by Scripture. Paul says in Philippians 2:13, "For it is God that worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure." We also read in Mark 16:20, "The Lord also working with them." Jesus says in John 6:44, "No man can come to me, except the Father, which sent me, draw him."
There are many references in the Word relating to the co-operating grace of God. See I Corinthians 15:10; Galatians 2:20; John 15:4-5; James 1:17.
Yet, it remains true, that it is mans responsibility to respond to the moving of Gods grace. We cannot reconcile and harmonize the two counter truths of free will and the need of grace; but we can hold them both and place them side by side as Paul does so many times in his epistles. For example, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,"(there is mans freedom, for it is idle to tell him to "work" unless he is free to work or not to work). "For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do His good pleasure" (there is the need of grace prevenient or preventing and co-operating).
Paul in his epistle to the Romans (chapter 7) shows more clearly than in any other writing, the state of the case as regards the freedom of the will, and makes it apparent that, though left free by God, the will of man has since the Fall, been warped in the direction of evil, and thus man finds himself, as it were, under two different and incompatible laws. On the one hand, he approves of the law of God, and acknowledges himself bound to obey it. On the other hand, he feels that he is under the dominion of another law which continually leads to sin. Paul expresses this in Romans 7:18-23. This double state or condition, in which man finds himself, is recognized even by heathen poets and moralists. We quote from Seneca as an example: "What is it, which, while we are going one way, drags us another, and impels us thither, from whence we are longing to recede? What is it, that struggles with our soul and never permits us to do anything? We vacillate between two opinions; we will nothing freely, nothing perfectly, nothing always." It has in its favour the testimony of facts, and our natural instincts which lead us while recognizing our freedom and moral responsibility to refer everything that is 200d in us to God. But Scripture alone throws any light on its origin. Mans greatness is fallen greatness. This is the only explanation of the perpetual contrast between man s aspirations and mans achievements, the greatness and nobility of the one, and the lamentable failure of the other. The doctrine of the Fall is the key to the riddle of human nature.
This article, by its guarded reference to free will, which it neither asserts or denies, escapes the error with which Luther fell when he used such extreme language on the slavery of the will. In his treatise he denied all human responsibility. We quote from Luther; "in his actings towards God, in things pertaining to salvation or damnation, man has no free will, but is the captive, the subject, and the servant, either of the will of God or Satan--If we believe that God foreknows that there can be no such thing as free will in man or angel or any other creature." This, we know, is contrary to Scripture.
This article also avoids the Pelagian heresy which had been revived by the Anabaptists which denied the necessity of any grace or supernatural assistance. In their case it was by mans choice, through his own will alone, that good and salvation were accomplished.
This article also avoided the exaggerations of the Calvinist, who maintained a theory of "irresistible grace." This went to the other extreme, making man an automaton or a robot with no will of his own at all.
The Anabaptist pushed their belief in absolute predestination to such frightful lengths that human actions were esteemed involuntary, and the evil choice of man ascribed to a necessitating fiat or decree of his Maker. This would make God the author of evil.
The article is carefully worded to avoid either or both of these errors and states clearly the teaching Scripture as it relates
both to the free will of man and the working of Gods grace in the heart of man for his salvation.