Theologica Germanica

Chapter 51

Wherefore God hath created Self-will, seeing that it is so contrary to Him.

Now some may ask: ’Since this tree, to wit, Self-will, is so contrary to God and the Eternal Will, wherefore hath God created it, and set it in Paradise?’

Answer: whatever man or creature desireth to dive into and understand the secret counsel and will of God, so that he would fain know wherefore God doeth this, or doeth not that, and the like, desireth the same as Adam and the Devil. For this desire is seldom from aught else than that the man taketh delight in knowing, and glorieth therein, and this is sheer pride. And so long as this desire lasteth, the truth will never be known, and the man is even as Adam or the Devil. A truly humble and enlightened man doth not desire of God that He should reveal His secrets unto him, and ask wherefore God doeth this or that, or hindereth or alloweth such a thing, and so forth; but he desireth only to know how he may please God, and become as nought in himself, having no will, and that the Eternal Will may live in him, and have full possession of him, undisturbed by any other will, and how its due may be rendered to the Eternal Will, by him and through him.

However, there is yet another answer to this question, for we may say: the most noble and delightful gift that is bestowed on any creature is that of perceiving, or Reason, and Will. And these two are so bound together, that where the one is, there the other is also. And if it were not for these two gifts, there would be no reasonable creatures, but only brutes and brutishness; and that were a great loss, for God would never have His due, and behold Himself and His attributes manifested in deeds and works; the which ought to be, and is, necessary to perfection. Now, behold, Perception and Reason are created and bestowed along with Will, to the intent that they may instruct the will and also themselves, that neither perception nor will is of itself, nor is nor ought to be unto itself, nor ought to seek or obey itself. Neither shall they turn themselves to their own advantage, nor make use of themselves to their own ends and purposes; for His they are from Whom they do proceed, and unto Him shall they submit, and flow back into Him, and become nought in themselves, that is, in their selfishness.

But here ye must consider more particularly, somewhat touching the Will. There is an Eternal Will, which is in God a first Principle and substance, apart from all works and effects, and the same will is in Man, or the creature, willing certain things, and bringing them to pass. For it belongeth unto the Will, and is its property, that it shall will something. What else is it for? For it were in vain, unless it had some work to do, and this it cannot have without the creature. Therefore there must be creatures, and God will have them, to the end that the Will may be put in exercise by their means, and work, which in God is and must be without work. Therefore the will in the creature, which we call a created will, is as truly God’s as the Eternal Will, and is not of the creature.

And now, since God cannot bring His will into exercise, working and causing changes, without the creature, therefore it pleaseth Him to do so in and with the creature. Therefore the will is not given to be exerted by the creature, but only by God, who hath a right to work out His own will by means of the will which is in man, and yet is God’s. And in whatever man or creature it should be purely and wholly thus, the will would be exerted not by the man but by God, and thus it would not be self-will, and the man would not will otherwise than as God willeth; for God Himself would move the will and not man. And thus the will would be one with the Eternal Will, and flow out into it, though the man would still keep his sense of liking and disliking, pleasure and pain, and the like. For wherever the will is exerted, there must be a sense of liking and disliking; for if things go according to his will, the man liketh it, and if they do not, he disliketh it, and this liking and disliking are not of the man’s producing, but of God’s. For whatever is the source of the will, is the source of these also. Now the will cometh not of man but of God, therefore liking and disliking come from Him also. But nothing is complained of, save only what is contrary to God. So also there is no joy but of God alone, and that which is His and belongeth unto Him. And as it is with the will, so is it also with perception, reason, gifts, love, and all the powers of man; they are all of God, and not of man. And wherever the will should be altogether surrendered to God, the rest would of a certainty be surrendered likewise, and God would have His right, and the man’s will would not be his own. Behold, therefore hath God created the will, but not that it should be self-will.

Now cometh the Devil or Adam, that is to say, false nature, and taketh this will unto itself and maketh the same its own, and useth it for itself and its own ends. And this is the mischief and wrong, and the bite that Adam made in the apple, which is forbidden, because it is contrary to God. And therefore, so long as there is any self-will, there will never be true love, true peace, true rest. This we see both in man and in the Devil. And there will never be true blessedness either in time or eternity, where this self-will is working, that is to say, where man taketh the will unto himself and maketh it his own. And if it be not surrendered in this present time, but carried over into eternity, it may be foreseen that it will never be surrendered, and then of a truth there will never be content, nor rest, nor blessedness; as we may see by the Devil. If there were no reason or will in the creatures, God were, and must remain for ever, unknown, unloved, unpraised, and unhonoured, and all the creatures would be worth nothing, and were of no avail to God. Behold thus the question which was put to us is answered. And if there were any who, by my much writing (which yet is brief and profitable in God), might be led to amend their ways, this were indeed well-pleasing unto God.

That which is free, none may call his own, and he who maketh it his own, committeth a wrong. Now, in the whole realm of freedom, nothing is so free as the will, and he who maketh it his own, and suffereth it not to remain in its excellent freedom, and free nobility, and in its free exercise, doeth a grievous wrong. This is what is done by the Devil and Adam and all their followers. But he who leaveth the will in its noble freedom doeth right, and this doth Christ with all His followers. And whoso robbeth the will of its noble freedom and maketh it his own, must of necessity as his reward, be laden with cares and troubles, with discontent, disquiet, unrest, and all manner of wretchedness, and this will remain and endure in time and in eternity. But he who leaveth the will in its freedom, hath content, peace, rest, and blessedness in time and in eternity. Wherever there is a man in whom the will is not enslaved, but continueth noble and free, there is a true freeman not in bondage to any, one of those to whom Christ said: ’The truth shall make you free’; and immediately after, he saith: ’If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.’

Furthermore, mark ye that where the will enjoyeth its freedom, it hath its proper work, that is, willing. And where it chooseth whatever it will unhindered, it always chooseth in all things what is noblest and best, and all that is not noble and good it hateth, and findeth to be a grief and offence unto it. And the more free and unhindered the will is, the more is it pained by evil, injustice, iniquity, and in short all manner of wickedness and sin, and the more do they grieve and afflict it. This we see in Christ, whose will was the purest and the least fettered or brought into bondage of any man’s that ever lived. So likewise was Christ’s human nature the most free and single of all creatures, and yet felt the deepest grief, pain, and indignation at sin that any creature ever felt. But when men claim freedom for their own, so as to feel no sorrow or indignation at sin and what is contrary to God, but say that we must heed nothing and care for nothing, but be, in this present time, as Christ was after His resurrection, and the like; -- this is no true and divine freedom springing from the true divine Light, but a natural, unrighteous, false, and deceitful freedom, springing from a natural, false, and deluded light.

Were there no self-will, there would be also no ownership. In heaven there is no ownership; hence there are found content, true peace, and all blessedness. If any one there took upon him to call anything his own, he would straightway be thrust out into hell, and would become an evil spirit. But in hell everyone will have self-will, therefore there is all manner of misery and wretchedness. So is it also here on earth. But if there were one in hell who should get quit of his self-will and call nothing his own, he would come out of hell into heaven. Now, in this present time, man is set between heaven and hell, and may turn himself towards which he will. For the more he hath of ownership, the more he hath of hell and misery; and the less of self-will, the less of hell, and the nearer he is to the Kingdom of Heaven. And could a man, while on earth, be wholly quit of self-will and ownership, and stand up free and at large in God’s true light, and continue therein, he would be sure of the Kingdom of Heaven. He who hath something, or seeketh or longeth to have something of his own, is himself a slave; and he who hath nothing of his own, nor seeketh nor longeth thereafter, is free and at large, and in bondage to none.

All that hath here been said, Christ taught in words and fulfilled in works for three-and-thirty years, and He teacheth it to us very briefly when He saith: ’Follow Me.’ But he who will follow Him must forsake all things, for He renounced all things so utterly as no man else hath ever done. Moreover, he who will come after Him, must take up the cross, and the cross is nothing else than Christ’s life, for that is a bitter cross to nature. Therefore He saith: ’And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me, and cannot be My disciple.’ But nature, in her false freedom, weeneth she hath forsaken all things, yet she will have none of the cross, and saith she hath had enough of it already, and needeth it no longer, and thus she is deceived. For had she ever tasted the cross she would never part with it again. He that believeth on Christ must believe all that is here written.

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