Calvin on the Will

In discussing the idea that our wills are not dead, but merely sick and weak, and that God’s grace only helps them along, Calvin writes this:

“In order that no one should make an excuse that good is initiated by the Lord to help the will which by itself is weak, the Spirit elsewhere declares what the will, left to itself, is capable of doing: ‘A new heart shall I give to you, and will put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh, and give you a heart of flesh. And I shall put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes’ (Ezek. 36:26-27). Who shall say that the infirmity of the human will is strengthened by his help in order that it may aspire effectively to the choice of good, when it must rather be wholly transformed and renewed?

“If in a stone there is such plasticity that, made softer by some means, it becomes somewhat bent, I will not deny that man’s heart can be molded to obey the right, provided what is imperfect in him be supplied by God’s grace. But if by this comparison the Lord wished to show that nothing good can ever be wrung from our heart, unless it become wholly other, let us not divide between him and us what he claims for himself alone. If, therefore, a stone is transformed into flesh when God converts us to zeal for the right, whatever is of our own will is effaced. What takes its place is wholly from God. I say that the will is effaced; not in so far as it is will, for in man’s conversion what belongs to his primal nature remains entire. I also say that it is created anew; not meaning that the will now begins to exist, but that it is changed from an evil to a good will…everything good in the will is the work of grace alone.” (Institutes, II.iii.6)



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