From the Vault of the Australian Church Record, March 29, 1956.
39 Articles: Article 10 – Of Free-Will
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[i], that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will.
The Tenth Article was considerably extended by Archbishop Parker. The Articles of 1553 contained only the last section beginning “Wherefore we have no power to do good works.” The 1553 Articles contained an Article on Grace which was omitted. The Article reflects the controversies of the time. Not only was there much discussion amongst the Reformed but there were prolonged debates between the Franciscans and the Dominicans on the important question of the relation between Grace and Free-Will. It is necessary to consider carefully what the Article says:
( I ) It asserts that, since the Fall, man cannot turn and prepare himself to faith by his own natural strength and good works. This asserts emphatically the necessity of a Divine operation on the heart of man if there is to be a response to God’s call. We see this idea expressed by St. Luke when he wrote “Then opened He their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45 ). And again Luke refers to the same phenomenon when he wrote concerning Lydia “whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” The Council of Trent admits the need of this prevenient grace but refuses to adopt altogether the vigorous language of the Article. Instead of saying “the condition of man . . . is such that he cannot turn and prepare himself,” the Council declares “neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight.”
(2) The Article rejects this view which excludes the human will from the direct operation of Divine grace by asserting that the object of “the grace of God by Christ preventing us” is “that we may have a good will.”
Beyond our Power.
The Article asserts that the faith or calling upon God lies beyond the power of man’s natural ability. If we truly trust God and repose on the merits’ of Jesus Christ our Lord it is because of a supernatural work wrought in us by God the Holy Spirit. Were man now as God created him, the most natural exercise of his gifts would be to turn in unquestioning confidence to God. But man’s fall has introduced such a dislocation of his moral being that he dreads God and is averse to any close relation with Him. Before man can repose trust in God there must be a reorientation of his whole being called in Scripture the New Birth or Regeneration. It is worth noting that there is agreement between the Roman Catholic and the Reformed faiths on this crucial necessity. Both unite in stating “Man is not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight.” But our Article is more definite. It speaks of preventing grace as a gift of God by which “we may have a goodwill.” By “a goodwill” we understand “a will to good.” The will does not stand apart from the rest of man’s being as an isolated determinant directing his actions now in this direction and now in that. On the contrary the will is the expression of the man’s whole personality, the final expression of his purposes, hopes and fears. It is for that reason we bend our energies to educating youth. We believe that careful training will induce habits of discipline and correct adjustment and that the individual will learn to identify himself with certain courses of action so that they will become the normal expression of his personal predilections. To say that a person who has been carefully taught can reject all he has learned may in certain instances be true, but it is so remarkable as to demand some further explanation. The explanation is not sought in the will but in the motives that are conceived as directing the will.
The Will Follows the Wit.
If that be true of ordinary educational matters then the entrance of God into the soul cannot be without effect on the human will. Once we are able to see Him as He is we can not refuse to repose glad reliance upon Him and seek to do His will. Augustine saw this clearly when he wrote: “Draw us and we will run after Thee.” Why do men revolt from God? The Article answers: “It is due to the condition of man after the fall of Adam.- Why do men return to God ? The Article answers “It is due to the grace of God by Christ preventing them so that they may have a goodwill.” The Article expresses the truth emphasized by St. Paul when he wrote “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9.)
This article from the ACR Vault is part of our Articulate series, listening to T.C. Hammond unpack the 39 Articles one by one.
[i] ACR Ed: Meaning ‘going before us’ (rather than hindering us), from the Latin nos praeveniente.