J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 1.)
What is will? I have often thought and yet do not know, I mean have not sufficiently analysed. There is, strange to say, unconscious will - a dead, or better a sleepy man tumbles down, or even an animal in many respects does not act on his muscles. At any rate man - he holds himself up - asleep, he does not. Take a dead bird, its wings hang about, etc. - alive, they would not in the same way. It is not a judgment of preference; animal will is the mind to act on certain present motives - a pig runs to the food trough, he is shut in and cannot, but has a will - judgment of preference is not, discernment of right and wrong is not. There may be a general moral will to do right, but temptation determines the will which puts us in activity at the moment, i.e., lust may be stronger than the reflective will. Judgment of right is not even reflective will or intention, but reflective intention is not will, or is moral will, and not the will that decides conduct when man does actually will. I may will according to it, but will is the present determination actively to do, though I may be hindered doing. The man is determined when there is a will, he may have determined before, so as to purpose; will is subject to present motives, good or bad, in the creature when it acts as will - to the judgment of motives when it purposes. A man may purpose to seek pleasure, or, purposing otherwise, have his will actually determined by temptation. Purpose is my moral condition in itself then; will, my actual state as to power over myself and temptation, only the want of power connects itself with conditions on certain sides. But I doubt it can be called will, till there is an actual determination, when the matter to be determined is before us, perhaps before our minds, but before us as something to be done. But a vast deal of the moral state or condition precedes that, perhaps all - will being a result.
I may say it would be a good thing for me to go and visit such an one to-day, and I purpose doing it - "I will go and see," is another thing; the motives have determined the judgment and intention in the first case - the will overcoming the influence of obstacles in the second. There is no will till, having the object willed about before me, I am decided in purpose as to it. Video meliora, proboque, deteriora sequor (I see the better, and I approve, I follow the worse); here, video meliora, proboque, is no will - deteriora sequor is the fruit of will - to know, consent, take pleasure (Rom. 7), is not will, but besides that which in such case determines the will, to will parakeitai moi (is present with me). It was really the law of the new nature, but was brought into captivity, the law of sin carried the will away.
162 Christianity makes free too; man is perfectly free to will, i.e., there is no determination ab extra in his natural state; but he is not free in will, because the law in his members brings it into captivity, which is merely saying he has a sinful nature. It is a matter of fact, because the rule, or nature, or law of good and evil cannot change, and, however overlaid by false education or customs, can be reached by the truth, and so the word does by the power of the Spirit of God; it penetrates, and natural conscience resumes and asserts its empire - that does not set free, nor deliver, so that we carry out the will determined by the conscience - the hindrance of lust is there, but there is deliverance in Christ. But it is here that Romans 7, and natural conscience come together, the applied rule awakes the conscience, and gives it its title in the moral judgment. Besides that, quickening power determines the will, but still deliverance is to be sought, for right desires are not power, even when will is included in the desire. It will be given surely if sought, but that is another thing, and an important difference, because it casts us in dependence on God, gives the sense of guilt and inability in the flesh to please God, so that we have first to be in Christ. Redemption goes before power, and that is an immense fact, and alone puts us in our place, quod nota.
At any rate free-will has no sense, because there is no will till it be determined; free to will as to external compulsion is another thing, in that sense the will is free; but if I have a sinful nature, it is de facto inclined to evil, till I am born again. Conscience is another matter.
No being can have a will free, unless it can create, for otherwise it is always acted on by, i.e., is the result of, motives; hence, to say the will is in bondage is strictly true; morally, man unfallen had no will, for creature perfection is obedience; man, fallen, is governed in disobedience by corrupt motives, and thus is merely a sinner, and his will is under sin.
I have already spoken of free-will, but there are one or two points perhaps not clearly and shortly stated, if I remember right; nor the difference of sense in the word free, i.e., free from external constraint, and free morally and internally; in the latter sense it is pure nonsense. If it be meant merely that God does not hinder man from choosing the good, surely he is free enough, or that He did not force him to remain obedient when he was innocent, that is true - it would not have been a test thus, nor any real obedience at least proved - he might have been obedient without its being shown, or disobedient in will without its being shown. Man is free, if by that is meant that God does not hinder his choosing good, or force him to choose evil. But an interiorly free will is all nonsense for a creature determined by motives, and that is what is meant by free to choose. And were he what is called, free, he would be in the most absolute state of degradation. It never was, nor could be so; man was never a blank sheet, good and evil being before him, neither when innocent, nor now - but besides, to be so, he must be perfectly indifferent to good and evil, i.e., in the most degraded state possible (and if he be so, what is to determine his will?), or have no moral existence at all.
163 If it be said: But there is a latent disposition called out by the presenting good and evil - a latent disposition to what? If there is to one, then the will morally is determined - if to both equally (i.e., to neither when presented), then he is in the last state of moral degradation, and there is no ground in his nature for a preference. This is not true of God, for He loves the good, and hates evil. He is free to do what He pleases, and can will, and so create objects of delight; but a creature's place is to obey, not have a will in this sense of will. A free will is really nonsense, for a man where will is wills something, i.e., it is determined on an object, but of this I have spoken; but in the moral sense of choosing good and evil, it is a horror, a dark vacuity of evil to be absolutely indifferent to them. Historically it never was, man should have rejoiced in the good and enjoyed it before his fall, and did. He fell freely, but did not know good and evil - the moment he had a will, he was gone. When inclined to evil, to leave him to choose is mockery, or the proof of evil; in God's dealings it is the latter. It will be asked where then is responsibility? First, it is too late to ask as regards God. But I answer, it is as to its principle this - to live according to the relationship in which I am. That is true responsibility, I have to fulfil its obligations - this is true in every respect. The acquirement of a position by conduct is a fallen state, it is the principle of law. If a being is created in a given state, he ought to live up to that state - keep it. Now man has lost it, and is out of relationship with God, he is ruined on the ground of responsibility already - the law, which proposes life to him by his doing, is the means of convincing of sin. When Christ is presented, man is free to receive Him, and life in Christ for him; but his actual state is proved by his seeing no beauty in Him to desire Him.