“Cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in my hand, O house of Israel.”
MUCH OF THE present controversy is concerning the will of God. On this point many questions have arisen. The chief one is that which touches on the connection between the will of God and the will of man. What is the relation between these? What is the order in which they stand to each other? Which is the first? There is no dispute as to the existence of these two separate wills. There is a will in God, and there is also a will in man. Both of these are in continual exercise: God willeth, and man willeth. Nothing in the universe takes place without the will of God. This is admitted. But it is asked: Is this will first in everything?
I answer, yes. Nothing that is good can exist which God did not will to be, and nothing that is evil can exist which God did not will to allow. The will of God goes before all other wills. It does not depend on them, but they depend on it. Its movements regulate them. The “I will” of Jehovah, is the spring and origin of all that is done throughout the universe, great and small, among things animate and inanimate. It was this “I will” that brought angels into being, and still sustains them. It was this “I will” that was the origin of salvation to a lost world. It was this “I will” that provided a Redeemer, and accomplished redemption. It was this “I will” that begins, and carries on, and ends salvation in each soul that is redeemed. It is this “I will” that opens the blind eye, and unstops the deaf ear. It was this “I will” that awakens the slumberer, and raises the dead. I do not mean that, merely generally speaking. God has declared His will concerning these things: but each individual conversion, nay, and each movement that forms part of it, originates in this supreme “I will”. When Jesus healed the leper, He said, “I will, be thou clean;” so when a soul is converted, there is the same distinct and special forthputting of the Divine will. “I will, be thou converted.” Everything that can be called good in man, or in the universe, originates in the “I will” of Jehovah.
I do not deny that in conversion man himself wills. In everything that he does, thinks, feels, he of necessity wills. In believing he wills; in repenting he wills; in turning from his evil ways he wills. All this is true. The opposite is both untrue and absurd. But while fully admitting this, there is another question behind it of great interest and moment. Are these movements of man’s will towards good the effects of the forthputting of God’s will? Is man willing, because he has made himself so, or because God has made him so? Does he become willing entirely by an act of his own will, or by chance, or by moral suasion, or because acted on by created causes and influences from without?
I answer unhesitatingly, he becomes willing, because another and a superior will, even that of God, has come into contact with his, altering its nature and its bent. This new bent is the result of a change produced upon it by Him who alone, of all beings, has the right, without control, to say, in regard to all events and changes, “I will.” The man’s will has followed the movement of the Divine will. God has made him willing. God’s will is first in the movement, not second. Even a holy and perfect will depends for guidance upon the will of God. Even when renewed it still follows , it does not lead . Much more an unholy will, for its bent must be first changed; and how can this be, if God is not to interpose His hand and power? --Horatius Bonar 1851