Words Have Meaning And Stuff

Name and Place for Tuesday, November 25 (’14)

Many tiJonathan_Edwards_engravingmes amid the hubbub circulating on the Internet these days concerning man’s autonomous freewill and ability to choose God, we forget to look to past brothers who have eloquently smashed that concept of “freewill” with such grace and fervor.

Jonathan Edwards’ works have echoed throughout time and he has, rightly so, earned the title of “America’s Greatest Theologian”. That say’s something, folks. His book “Freedom of the Will” is considered by R.C. Sproul to be “the most important theological work ever published in America.”  Here’s a sampling, and I wish I could write like this.

The plain and obvious meaning of the words freedom and liberty, in common speech, is power, opportunity, or advantage, that any one has to do as he pleases. Or in other words, his being free from hindrance or impediment in the way of doing, or conducting, in any respect, as he wills. And the contrary to liberty, whatever name we call that by, is a persons being hindered or unable to conduct as he will, or being necessitated to do otherwise.

If this which I have mentioned be the meaning of the word liberty, in the ordinary use of language, as I trust that none that has ever learned to talk, and is unprejudiced, will deny; then it will follow that in propriety of speech, neither liberty, nor it’s contrary, can properly be ascribed to any being or thing, but that which has such a faculty, power, or property, as is called the will. For that which is possessed of no such thing as will, can not have any power or opportunity of doing according to its will, nor be necessitated to act contrary to its will, nor be restrained from acting agreeably to it. And therefore, to talk of liberty, or the contrary, as belonging to the very will itself, is not to speak good sense, if we judge of sense and nonsense if we judge of sense and nonsense by the original and proper signification of the words. For the will itself is not an agent that has a will; the power of choosing itself is not a power of choosing. That which has the power of volition or choice, is the man or the soul, and not the power of volition itself. And he that has the liberty of doing according to his will, is the agent of doer who is possessed of the will, and not the will which he is possessed of. We say with propriety, that a bird let loose has ability and liberty to fly; but not that a bird’s power of flying has a power and liberty of flying. To be free, is the property of an agent who is possessed of powers and faculties, as much as to be cunning, valiant, bountiful, or zealous. But these qualities are the properties of men or persons, and not the properties of properties (31-32).


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