Without Freedom of Choice in Spiritual Things, Regeneration is Impossible
Who, except a stupid person, cannot see that without freedom of choice in spiritual things man cannot be regenerated? Can he without this approach the Lord, acknowledge Him as the Redeemer and Savior and the God of heaven and earth, as He himself teaches: All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (Matt. 28:18)? Without that freedom of choice who can believe in the Lord, that is, from faith look to Him and worship Him, and adapt himself to receiving the means and benefits of salvation from Him, and from Him cooperate in the reception of them? Who without freedom of choice can do any good to the neighbor, can practice charity, or take into his thought and will other things pertaining to faith and charity, bring them forth, and put them into acts? Otherwise, what is regeneration but a mere word dropped from the lips of the Lord (John 3), which either remains in the ear, or having dropped upon the lips from the thought nearest to speech, becomes merely an articulated sound of twelve letters, which sound cannot by any meaning be raised into any higher region of the mind, but falls upon the air and is dissipated?
Tell me, if you can, whether a blinder stupidity respecting regeneration is possible than that which prevails with those who have confirmed themselves in the faith of the present day, which is, that faith is infused into man while he is like a stock or a stone, and that when it has been infused, it is followed by justification, which is forgiveness of sins, and regeneration, and other gifts besides; and also that man’s effort must be wholly excluded, that it may not do violence to the merit of Christ. In order that this dogma might be still more firmly established, they have deprived man of all freedom of choice in spiritual things, by asserting his complete impotence therein. It is, then, as if God alone were to operate on His part, and no power were given to man to operate on his part, and thus conjoin himself with God. In that case what is man in respect to regeneration, but like one bound hand and foot, like the prisoners on ships called galley-slaves? And like these, if he were to free himself from those manacles and fetters, he would be punished or condemned to death, that is, if, from freedom of choice he were to do good to the neighbor, and of himself were to believe in God for the sake of salvation. If a man were confirmed in such opinions, and yet had a pious desire for heaven, what would he be like but a specter standing and speculating as to whether that faith with its benefits has been infused into him; or if not, whether it will be infused, therefore whether God the Father has taken pity on him, or whether His Son has interceded for him, or whether the Holy Spirit is inoperative because employed elsewhere? And yet, because of his complete ignorance of the matter, he might go away and console himself by saying, “Perhaps that grace is in the morality of my life, which I have and which I retain as formerly, and in me therefore it may be holy, while in those who have not attained to that faith it is profane. Therefore, in order that this holiness may remain in my morality, I will be careful hereafter not to exercise either charity or faith of myself;” with much more. Such a specter, or if you prefer, such a statue of salt, does everyone become who thinks of regeneration separated from freedom of choice in spiritual things.