Excerpts from



Translated by Nicholas Lesse

A. D. 1548 [2]

Lambert’s Preface

 In the declaration and exposition of the old and new holy scriptures, there are many places which are admittedly difficult to understand, with the exception of the doctrine concerning the will of man (which doctrine troubles men’s minds very much) because it is made plainly obvious to us whether a man can or cannot, of himself, perform and do anything which pertains to eternal felicity and life everlasting, such as the keeping and the observing of the Lord’s commandments. It is this doctrine which I will address in my treatise, declaring and making it plainly understood that it might be perceived of all men, that all men may know this truth contained in many places of the scripture. But among others, I am particularly drawn to that text of the Prophet Hosea which states, The spirit hath bound him in his wings.[3] For by these words it is evident by the proceeding verses that by the term ‘spirit’ is meant a reprobate mind whose understanding and knowledge is of the flesh, which is the spirit of fornication.

Lambert follows only Scripture in his exegesis

 First of all, in exegeting scripture to prove my thesis, I would have the gentle reader know that I do not follow the minds and judgment of the many diverse writers on this subject. I follow only the very mind and sense of the scripture, as closely as I can, and as it pleases Christ to give me knowledge and understanding therein, not diminishing nor improving the judgments of other Christian writers and doctors, who do principally cleave and stick fast to the true and pure word of God, men whom we also do look up to as those we should imitate and whose footsteps we should follow. In this we do, indeed, follow their godly minds and judgments in that we can give and ascribe nothing to the power of the will of man, as we shall hereafter plentifully declare and show, God willing.

 Furthermore, in addressing this matter, I would be loathe to think that men should think that by so doing I run headlong into a subject which is too deep, being far from men’s knowledge, as they say, and, thus, not necessary to be known. My reason for writing this is strictly to seek the truth of the matter and also to satisfy the minds of those Christians which desire such knowledge. This subject does not fall into the same category as do those of dark, hidden and profoundly deep matters, of which men contend rather than take a position of godly reverence, committing the knowledge thereof to God. Instead, this subject concerns the important matter of whether man’s will is free or bound, which in turn gives us a right understanding and knowledge of how weak we are of our own power, how we can do nothing ourselves, and, contrarily, how marvelous, how mighty, and how strong the Lord is. This doctrine is no empty or unprofitable matter which we declare to all men. For once this subject is rightly understood Christians do learn to perceive and see how glorious and triumphant a Lord the Lord is in us, and how brittle and miserable we are throughout our entire being when left to ourselves.

Objections to teaching the doctrine of man’s will depraved apart from regeneration by the Spirit

 Notwithstanding all this, there are many who do affirm that it is not expedient either to write or teach the people the knowledge of this article primarily because the carnal and fleshly people (as they think) do by this receive great occasion, as if a large window were open to them, that they might continue to practice and engage in the detestable vices and ungodly, licentious living. They argue that if this doctrine were never spoken to such lewd and naughty persons they might otherwise give up their fleshly and carnal lusts! Another argument is that the declaration and opening of this article could very well be the cause of the elect and godly to be plucked and drawn from the hand of the Lord, and so through error, seduced to perish forever. But this is impossible, for they which are gone from us were not of us. If they had been of us they would have continued with us, as witnesseth I John 2. The Lord doth hold fast the hearts of his elect that they be not slandered by the word of his verity.

 Such objectors as these do teach that all manner of men ought not to know as much as we that are learned do know, and that we ought not disclose wherein and what points the ecumenical councils have erred. Because (as they say) men should not regard or esteem the authority of the fathers any less just because of their having erred in divers matters. They would have us wink at the errors of the fathers, pretending we don’t see them! But, I ask, shall we neglect the most pure truth so that we may flatter the fathers despite their ignorance and errors? Does God need our inventions and lies to hide the truth of the Lord so that we may hide the errors of the ancient councils? Is this not preferring man before God, the fathers before truth? God is true and all men liars.[4] …The Almighty Lord loveth verity and truth, and hateth with great hatred all lies and falsehood.

 ….Besides, if you are demanded by your enemies an answer pertaining to your faith, and you do not confess the truth, you deny Christ. For thou art ashamed of His words. And who that is ashamed of my words, I will be ashamed to acknowledge him before my Father and His Angels, Luke 9.

Errors of other Christians should not be covered-up

 Just as Paul rebuked Peter openly to his face, the errors of the general councils should not be covered-up and hid. They should be declared and shown the people, lest the people be deceived, attributing more to man than to God, and in the place of the truth embracing falsehood and lies. Men should embrace the truth taught by others, not because of who taught it, but because it is the truth.

Further objections to teaching man’s will is bound

 There are some men which do deem and judge that this matter concerning the will of man, as well as other places in God’s scripture which they view as hard and dark, are not to be spoken of, not even once, except among those which are perfect men. By the term ‘perfect men’ they do mean and understand great clerics, as are the hooded and caped masters of the divinity schools, alleging the testimony of Paul in I Cor. 2, that he did teach nothing among them which are carnal men but Jesus Christ and him crucified; and shortly after he said he taught the wisdom of God among them which are perfect.

 These men do teach and write that it is not the same thing to preach the wisdom of God and to preach Jesus Christ crucified. But the knowledge of Christ crucified is the very wisdom of God, I say, and the preaching of whom is the declaration of the wisdom of God!

The unschooled frequently believe God’s Word, whereas the learned ‘Christian’ teachers do not

Furthermore, all who do believe are considered perfect before God because their perfection is Christ. In Him is their true faith. It is also our experience that oftentimes the simple and unlearned do receive and admit the word of God and His wisdom sooner and better than a great many of the divinity schools, even before those who are great clerics, the learned after the flesh.

Our Master Christ doth render glory and praise to His Father because he hath hid his mysteries from the wise men and made them open to the little children, Matt. 11; Luke 10. He doth give understanding to the little ones. Therefore, the truth and the mysteries of the word of God are to be declared and made open to the simple and plain children of God who do believe in Christ, and not to a few in number, as the Papists would.

Also, the wisdom of God and the mysteries of our faith are to be opened to the poor, common people rather than to the proud, arrogant likes of those great clerics. For the Lord will not have the private secrets of His majesty opened to their proud hearts, but instead grants to show them to the meek and low-spirited persons. It is not the degrees attained at schools, nor philosophical knowledge which giveth understanding of the heavenly doctrine. Nor is it the craft and wisdom of this world. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise men, and the understanding of the witty men shall hide itself, Isaiah 29; I Cor. 1. It pleased the Lord through the opprobrium and foolishness of the cross, and by preaching thereof to save all them which do believe.

Finally, there is not to be found one sparkle of the Spirit of God in those puffed-up wise men, but He is given plentifully to the simple and meek children. On whom shall my Spirit rest, but on him which is meek, lowly and quiet, who feareth and trembleth at my words, Isaiah 66. For the verity of God can only be perceived by the Spirit of God, as Paul teaches in I Cor. 2. It is impossible that by one’s human senses, proper industry and labor one can perceive and understand the scriptures of God. Wherefore whosoever goes about to expound and make open the scriptures by man’s reasoning shall never attain to the truth………

God’s truth is not a respecter of persons

How tedious and laborious a thing it is to take this matter in hand concerning the declaration of the will of man, and how unthankful and unpleasant it will be to many, especially those who would build, not on the strong rock-stone which is Christ, but on the sands. That is to say, the glossings[5] of men, which they would have men believe are founded on the scriptures, or rather to be the very scriptures themselves, though they are as clean contrary to the intent of the scriptures as black is to white. I am not ignorant and blind, but I do see and perceive their crafty judging and subtle attitude. They do think to themselves that they have done and wrought no small feat, if they do bring forth a great number of sophistical writers to confirm their blind and false doctrine, men whose babbling, scolding, contentious reasoning and mad disputations, the Holy Ghost doth abhor and detest. The faithful do not allow the bare judgments of men because those men seem to appear holy, as do the Martyrs and bishops, etc. But if the truth of God be in them, yea, though they were women, ploughmen, children, or whoever, that is the thing which is acceptable and pleasant to the true faithful.

This is the whole sum of those words which I have spoken: we have not our eyes open on the authority of men, but only to give ear to the truth and verity of God’s word – to embrace that, to follow that with all our heart.

Chapter One

What the Will of Man Is

In the entire scripture, old and new, you shall not find one place which makes mention or names those two words, ‘free will,’ thereby giving the doctrine of free will some ground of truth. Instead, it is drawn forth from the dregs of the proud and carnal Philosophy, which has craftily crept into the doctrine of Christ, whereby they have obscured and made dark the bright, glittering clarity of the word of God. Therefore, the masters of the high and proud arrogant schools who follow the doctrines and teachings of Aristotle make this distinction of free will, saying, “it is a will joined and annexed to understanding.” They do make of man, as it were, a certain kingdom, wherein the will is as a Lord, president and chief ruler, his understanding its counselor. They also teach that understanding in man doth both judge and counsel, while the will, like a Prince, either commands man to do or leave undone, that which the counselor advises yea or nay. They also declare that the will is a free power which no man, no, not God Himself (mark their devilish doctrine!) can compel or constrain, although they grant that God may change the will.

O Lord God, what a pestilent doctrine is this ‘free will’ in the Church of Christ! For the will, indeed, hath no liberty nor freedom. We do not deny that the will of man is a will annexed unto understanding. But we do say that this will, which is man’s own judgment, choice or election, is in no wise free, but contrariwise bound and captive, as we will prove by the firm testimonies of the word of God.

Chapter Two

The Will of Man is Captive;

Men know this by personal experience

Forasmuch as the choices which man makes includes in them both an understanding and also a will, we shall first declare that both are bound, which shall be strongly proved by the scriptures. But let us now prove our intent with certain reasons manifest and known of all men.

All men acknowledge that they are captive and bound in a certain fashion. For example, some men excel in certain things, while others excel in things different. Not all have the same gifts, nor do they have the same quantity and quality, though they may possess similar gifts. Every man has understanding and knowledge according to that measure given him of the Lord, the giver of all things to all men. Some men wish for better gifts, and some would will themselves different gifts, if it were in their power. But, it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.[6]……I marvel when some men write, holding the opinion that the acts and deeds of our will are free and at liberty, either to be done or not, accordingly as the will willeth. But there is no freedom verily in them! For if it is true that all things which are made and created are under the decree and invariable sentence of the Lord, then it follows the will of man also be under the decree and sentence of the Lord. Likewise, as we have written of the understanding of man, that it can neither know nor seek for any further knowledge then what the Lord permits and allows, so must men acknowledge the same holds true of their will. This is a very easy thing to perceive for anyone who marks and considers the diversities of affections wherewith one is encumbered, being led oftentimes against his will. If the will of man is truly free, then he may will time and again that which pleases him, at his own free choosing. But where is there a man who can do this? Give us knowledge of such a man, bring him forth that we may extol and praise him!

How often have men wished not to desire that which they cannot but help to desire? Contrariwise, how often have men wished to love that which they cannot but help to hate? Where now is the liberty of these men’s wills?

Many men abhor their own filthy condition, morals and lewd vices, and yet they cannot help but to choose to love them, follow them, and continue in them because the affections and desires of the flesh are not subject, but contrary to the law of God.[7] In may things our will is ready and at hand, but how and in what way we can bring our will to pass, with all our wits, we cannot think or devise, being led captive often of the devil.[8] …..Let every man in himself weigh this matter. For so doing I am certain he will tell me a new tale. He shall find his liberty very poor and bare.

Lambert reflects on his Antichristian past as a friar

 As for myself, I will render glory, praise and thanks to the Lord. I will, in the presence of His Church, confess and acknowledge my impiety, with its accompanying feigned and painted holiness in Hypocrisy; not doubting, that I might obtain mercy at the hands of the most merciful Lord. What time (a great while ago) I was of the church and sect of Antichrist, I did lead my life many years in the concupiscence and wicked desires of the body, burning in unlawful and stinking lusts of the flesh, which affections truly I did hate and abhor, and yet I could not resist, nor cast them from my mind. It is true that to punish the body with labor, washings, fasting, yea, with scourging, and other similar hard and sharp punishments of the flesh may well tame and make weak the power and strength of thy body. But as for the concupiscence of the mind it cannot by these means be bridled. Yea, those hard chastenings of the flesh did rather profit to the increase of hypocrisy and counterfeit holiness in us, causing the outward to appear godly and holy. The concupiscence of the flesh still reigns in our hearts, which cannot be hid from the eyes of the Lord.

Man’s will cannot override God’s decree for his life;
Therefore, it is not free

You do now see the great servitude and bondage wherein we are knit and tied. How are we then free and at liberty? Truly, no man has the power to either will or not will this thing or that, more or less than the Lord doth give strength. For likewise, as fire and all creatures are in bondage and servitude unto the firm decree and ordinance of God, even so is man. Fire doth consume all things over which it has power, unless the Lord takes away its natural strength. Man also cannot but choose to think that thing which is full of all impiety and wickedness, sinning in all his doings, unless he is bridled with the Spirit of Christ. Our impiety and sinfulness can go no further than it hath pleased the Lord from the beginning to allow. For he hath limited all the thoughts, cogitations, and wills of men within certain limits and terms, which no man can pass or go beyond.[9] What then has become of that free will choice and liberty to do what we lust, which men affirm to be in us? Is it not altogether captive and in bondage?

The lie that man can either will or nil his own salvation;
How can he will that which is foolishness to him?

 There be also those who do make this definition of free will, saying, ‘Free will is a power and strength of man’s will wherewith he either doth apply himself to or neglect those things which do lead us to eternity happiness and everlasting salvation. But I pray you, what strength and power have we when the understanding and will of man can do nothing of itself, but only that which is carnal and fleshly. Our own understanding and knowledge doth judge that such things as riches, health, honors, promotions and the glory of this world are good things. The contrary we perceive to be evil and good for nothing. As for the knowledge of good and godly matters which pertain to eternal salvation, the will perceives nothing at all of itself. Yea, though a man would peruse and read over all the holy scriptures, teaching them to other men, or being taught them by others, his own understanding and knowledge by its own power shall never truly (as he ought to do) know the Lord and His will, His power, His justice, His goodness, His mercy, His anger. He shall not believe and rest on the truth and verity of God. He shall only do so after a lying fashion in hypocrisy, which is nothing less than unbelief. For it is written, The foolish man said in his heart there is no God.[10] Behold, the knowledge which man has naturally doth not only not know God, but also denies God to be God when he says there is no God. The carnal man doth not perceive those things which be of the Spirit of God, for the Spirit of God and the things thereto pertaining are foolishness to him.[11] He cannot understand and judge that they are to be spiritually discerned. These words pertain not only to the man’s understanding, but also to his will. For likewise as the understanding perceives nothing but what is carnal, even so the will of man doth hate and abhor all things which are truly good, loving that which is evil, carnal, and which shall not last. It can neither love nor fear God nor His truth. From this we may then logically argue that the will of man is not free, but captive and bound, as we will now prove by the testimonies of the scriptures of God.

The first scriptural proof man’s will is bound:

Hosea 4:19

Our first proof is from the Prophet Hosea, The spirit hath bound him in its wings. These words are manifest to be spoken of the carnal people of Israel, which people were before declared by the Prophet to be deceived by the spirit of fornication. That is to say, by the judgment and sense of the flesh, in the wings whereof he affirms them to be bound fast.

First he declares them to be deceived, and afterward to be bound, so that now there could be nothing else but corrupt fornication, being separated from God. All their judgments, knowledge, understanding and will, all their deeds were nothing else but fornication according to the Lord, because they were not of faith. Thus it follows that all men who are carnal and fleshly are tied fast in bonds. The carnal synagogue is called in the scripture, the bond daughter of Zion.[12] Our Saviour also preached remission of sins to the captive and bound, and deliverance to them which were shut fast in prison, Isaiah 61; Luke 4.

The second scriptural proof man’s will is bound:

Genesis 6:3

 The Lord said in Genesis 6, My Spirit shall never be permanent in man because he is flesh….that is to say, ‘the judgment of my Spirit shall not always be permanent in them because they be flesh,’ meaning altogether natural, carnal and deceivable. Therefore, the wicked judgment of the flesh, which is repugnant to the judgment of the Spirit doth reign in them….I do believe there is no punishment of God more bitter, more sharp, than to be forsaken of Him, to be left to thine own judgment without the judgment of His Spirit. I pray the Lord keep from me this most fearful and dreadful wrath of thee. Let thy Spirit, which is true and holy, and not my spirit full of fornication and lies, judge and give true knowledge and understanding in me. Whip me good, Lord, and scourge me, rather than to forsake me to myself, if it seemeth to be good for the setting forth of thy glory. Confirm and make thy servant strong with thy spirit and never take it from me.

 The wicked here in Genesis 6 are called flesh, Paul also using this term in his many Epistles. For the wicked with all their cogitations, affections and works are nothing else but flesh, because they want and lack the holy Spirit. Yea, the very spirit of man is flesh because it cannot behold the Spirit of God, but only carnal things to which it is addicted.

An opponent argues that this Scripture speaks only of men before the flood and is not to be taken universally of all

 The sense and meaning of this text which I have just declared is not true, says my opponent, because this text of Genesis doth not pertain to all men, but to those men which lived in the time of Noah. I respond: How much clearer can this Scripture be? Were not those men after the flood also flesh? Verily, so was Ham, the son of Noah, who did mock and scorn his father as were Cain and Judas traitors. Perhaps my opponent doth think and conjecture in his mind that there was a different kind of spirit of fornication in man before the flood than was after. Or else he fantasizes in his brain that God had altered and changed the nature of man from that which it was in the beginning, making yet another nature besides that one which He makes with His most mighty and strong hand in them which do believe on Him! Although we do read that years and times have changed and been altered, yet we find not that the nature of man was ever altered.

 I do grant that those words in Genesis were spoken in the time of Noah. But they were spoken not only of those who lived then, but also of them who came after the flood. For all men of themselves are flesh, like grass, fading in glory as the flower of the field, Isaiah 40. All the children of Adam of themselves have heavy and sad hearts that love vanity, that seek after lies and untruth, Psalm 4. All men, without exception, have gone out of the right way and are become unprofitable. There is none that can do any good, no not one in the world, Psalm 14……

 Yet my opponents go further, saying and reasoning on this manner: The propensity and ready inclination toward evil which is in many men (as though it were not in all men!) doth not altogether take away the liberty and freedom of man’s will; yea, though the aforesaid evil inclination cannot be overcome and completely subdued without the help (as they confess) of the grace of God. Is it not a great bondage and captivity not to be able to overcome and subdue that thing which we would rather have far from us? By these premises it doth follow that we are servants to that concupiscence and inclination to evil until the time we are delivered and made free, indeed, by Christ.

The third Scriptural proof man’s will is bound: Proverbs 16

 It is said in Proverbs 16, The Lord doth all things for his own sake; yea, when he reserveth the ungodly for the day of wrath. This place manifestly and openly declares to us that the Lord has already judged the reprobate and outcast persons from the beginning to eternal punishment. There are many which, contrary to righteousness, do inquire and search into these things, that they might know that which is hidden in the majesty of God, asking this question: ‘Why did not the Lord revoke and pluck the ungodly from his impiety and wickedness after He had made him? Why does He not give His Spirit to all men? With these unscrupulous and envious questions my opponents show they are blinded and deceived, making the Lord merciless and cruel, a tyrant.

 I desire and exhort all men that with all reverence they, in fear, steadfastly believe that in their judgment of the Highest He is in all His works just, faithful and true, and that we be of ourselves miserable, false, unjust and spiteful. The Lord, then, hath made the wicked man for the evil day, remaining just and full of mercy. The wicked man of himself can do nothing that is pleasant and acceptable to God. O the profound depth of the judgments of the Lord; how unsearchable, how incomprehensible are His ways. For of him, by him, and in him are all things. To him, therefore, be only glory and empire for ever and ever. Amen.

The fourth Scriptural proof man’s will is bound: Proverbs 21

 It is written in Proverbs 21, Like as the rivers of the waters: even so the heart of a king is in the hands of the Lord. The Lord may turn his heart which way soever it shall please him. First, in this place thou dost see that the rivers and the division of waters are the works of God, as well as all things which can be named in heaven, or in earth or in the waters. The text is so clear that it needs no long explanation, for by it we do perceive that the heart or will of a king (for in the Scriptures the heart and will are synonymous) is not free, nor is it at his liberty and pleasure, but captive and bound to the pleasure and will of the Lord, causing it to incline and lean where it pleaseth Him, either to godliness or the contrary, both fulfilling His will. Yet for all that, good Reader, beware you do not mistakenly understand me wrongly because I say that God doth turn and incline the heart. I do not infer for one moment that in so doing God works ungodliness. For this Scripture which describes His inclining or turning is as much to say He softens or hardens, letting a man run into a reprobate mind, holding away his hand from him, which is as much to say (to make it more plain) that the Lord doth relinquish and leave him to his own mere natural frailness. That lesson, which you do read here of the heart or will of a king, should as well be understood of all men, for if that one be true, that the king’s heart and will be subject to the will of God, how much more are other men’s cogitations, thoughts, wills, and deeds.

Objections answered

 They say and again object that the inclination and moving of the hand of the Lord doth not cause or work bondage or necessity in the will of man, wherein they be foul deceived, not giving glory to the Lord as they ought to do. For the Lord doth move and stir a man to Godliness as often as he doth pour into him His Spirit and true faith….To be brief, in all things where the Spirit of God doth move and stir us, is contained a necessity and bondage of the Spirit, decreed and ordained from the beginning. Likewise, also of those things which a man doth work inclined to ungodliness, that is to say, given to a reprobate mind, being left to the spirit of fornication, to himself, to his own natural fragility and weakness. For the wicked cannot but choose to do wickedly, for as much as he is flesh, and therefore all his works sin.

 It is also not possible that the Lord did not know that man’s wickedness committed at any time would occur, for by His prescience and foreknowledge He did know from the beginning what would occur. Whereby we do argue from logic that all these things whereto they do either move and stir us or harden us, leaving us to our own selves, are done or committed of inevitable necessity.

 Take heed once again, gentle Reader, and beware thou dost not reason too far in this matter, lest thou dost fall into inconvenience and a wrong judgment or opinion of the Lord to thine own destruction and death. Always reverence His most blessed judgment to the profound deepness whereof no man at any time is able to attain.

The fifth Scriptural proof of man’s will is bound: Exodus 9 and Romans 9

 It is written in Exodus 9 and Romans 9, Therefore have I kept thee, saith the Lord, to shew in thee my strength and that my name should be spread and blazed through all the earth. This place the flesh will not have to be understood correctly, but reasons in this manner: ‘It is a foul inconvenience to say that the Lord hath hardened man’s heart to the intent that by the wickedness and ungodliness of him who is hardened the Lord should set forth and shew His mighty power and glory.’ This is the reasoning of the flesh. But I pray you, brethren, let us be wise and sober, not too rash, nor more wise then we need be or is profitable. Why do men go about to find fault and reprehend the word of the Lord? The miserable and ungracious flesh doth find fault at that which she doth not understand nor know. Let not our flesh be our judge. But let the Spirit of God judge in us by His word. The wicked and forsaken people of God in this verse might reason and gather that the Lord hath need of the ungodliness of man, to the setting forth of His glory to the world. Such interpretations come from the devil, for God hath need of nothing. Rather, it pleases Him to use His creatures after His divine and most Godly pleasure and will.

 The Lord did leave Pharaoh in the spirit of fornication, that is to say, in the understanding and judgment of the flesh. By so doing, one is hardened and stirred against God. For the sense of the flesh is hard and always rises up against the Spirit of God. Wherefore, Pharaoh being left and forsaken of God, could not choose but be hardened and so strive against the Lord…

 Therefore, the Lord said unto Pharaoh, I have kept thee, which is as much to say, ‘I have left thee without my Spirit, and therefore of necessity thou must needs resist me and strive against my will. Thou wilt withstand me with all thy power when I will bring and lead forth my people out of Egypt. Thou shalt not rest, but every day grow more stiff-necked against me.’…….

 We must consider that there are two kinds of men: the faithful and the obdurate. The faithful are they which have the Spirit of Christ, being taught, learned and instructed by Him, they do cleave to the commandment of the Lord, quickly obeying His word and voice. Those which he hardened are they who have not the Spirit of Christ, without which no man can do anything good. The lack and want of the Spirit is the cause of their not harkening to the Lord, instead showing themselves to be hard-hearted and rebellious against His most Godly will and commandment.

 [Lambert then states the false opinion of men who claim that by speedily chastening a sinner that sinner will the sooner stop sinning. Lambert refutes this opinion because experience teaches that there are many men who are not one whit better for their punishment, but instead become more indurate. Lambert gives many examples of Israel being punished, yet stubbornly remaining in sin and unbelief. It is not until the Lord pours out His Spirit that man may be turned from his sin.]

 ………As for the correction and chastening of the Lord, it profiteth if the Spirit of God be present, otherwise it drives one to desperation. The correction and punishment of the wicked may outwardly cause them to refrain and abstain from evil doing, but their heart is no better. The correction of the wicked make them to be hypocrites and not the servants of God, as the 4th chapter of Hosea declares.

 ………The Lord purposed from the beginning, yea, and before the beginning, that the king of Egypt should be indurate and stiff-necked against him, that he should live without His Spirit, remaining in the spirit of fornication, that is to say, in his own natural and fleshly sense and understanding. For this cause he could not choose but be against the Lord and His people. The affection of the flesh, or of the spirit of the flesh is not subject to the law of God and always repugnant thereto, Romans 8. The spirit did bind him in his wings as it did the Israelites, drawing him by his power to all kinds of evil. Is not Pharaoh’s will then bound and constrained by necessity to do this or do that? Is not Pharaoh’s hardness of heart and obstinacy like a bridle in his mouth, drawing and plucking him from God, which pricks and stirs him against the will of the Lord? Yet he justly perished, although it was not in his power to do well or Godly.

 If thou wilt now go about to reason and argue by means of the spirit of fornication and the flesh, thou shalt straightway fall into fornication against God. Be content, therefore, and reason no further. For to reason otherwise is to dishonor the Lord just because it surpasses your capacity to understand. Because Pharaoh was a miserable and unjust man, he was justly hardened and made even harder, not able to apply himself to the Lord’s will. Wherefore, it was most just that his end was destruction.

Objections answered

 Many do think, because God stirred up Pharaoh against him, that God wrought those sins in him, causing him to sin. Likewise, they say, that just as God works good in us, He also works evil in us, rewarding us for the good works, and punishing us for those evil works. God forbid I should either speak or think any such thing, which I know to be far from any Godly doctrine. But in this I dare be bold to say that Pharaoh was indurated, that is to say, forsaken of the Lord and left to himself, by which cause was he against God in his heart. Afterward, God stirred him up to utter and display openly in the sight of all men his great wickedness and hardness of heart to the great and exceeding glory of God. And yet for all that we do not say that God did work that wickedness in Pharaoh because all wickedness and ungodliness proceedeth not of Him, but of the lack and want of the spirit of the understanding of the flesh and spirit of fornication. O most inscrutable and unsearchable deepness of the judgment of God. What man knows these things? They are to thine own self secret, O Lord. To Thee only it pertains to conclude and determine these thing, whereunto no man is able to penetrate and attain. Wherefore, whosoever doth fear thy most godly and marvelous name, let him commit these unsearchable things unto Thee.

Lambert summarizes biblical teaching on the will of man

 By all that we have said on the matter any man may easily answer those who hold the [erroneous] opinion that the intent, endeavor, or purpose to do, is in the [power of the] will of man, contending the will of man shall be free to intend, endeavor, or to purpose any manner of thing. Yet [the Bible teaches] the purpose, intent or mind to do a thing is [naturally] wicked and ungodly, springing from his own hardness which forces a man to all evil – for an indurate man must needs do that which is evil.

 But this doctrine the flesh cannot abide, instead it complains and boasts that it is free and at liberty [to choose or not]. But what man can withstand the eternal decrees of the Lord? The compulsion is not of God, but of man’s own induration. This is the most righteous work of God, and also most terrible and to be feared. But the sophists reason among themselves that God works sin and wickedness, compelling a man to work that which is evil. The Lord keep such words from our mouths! Rather, let us say that herein lies hid the secrets of God which no man is able to open.

 Contrariwise, if man’s study, intent, endeavor or purpose is godly, it comes from the Holy Spirit, from whom no wicked thing may proceed. From this, how then can one conclude that we have liberty of the will? For either it is captive and bound to the spirit of fornication or to the Spirit of God, although to be captive to the Spirit of God is most sweet and pleasant liberty, as we shall later declare.

Lambert expounds further on Romans 9

 Furthermore, Paul concludes the 9th chapter of Romans by adding, It is not in him that wills, nor in him that runs, but in the Lord which hath mercy and compassion. Now some expositors do expound this verse by saying, The mercy of God is first extended, to which our will consents, joining to it, enabling us to endeavor or purpose to some good end and effect. But by saying this they then believe that we do run, we do will, we do covet, we do attain and obtain our purpose, though ascribing it fully to God, whose handiwork we are.

 What is that thing which we call our own?; what is it in us but sin, impiety and unrighteousness? If we are just, that is not from our doing, but from God alone. If our running, willing, or obtaining be ours, then it is wicked, for all the ways of man is vanity, Psalm 39:5. If we ascribe to God our sins because He hath hardened us, making His that which is ours, what error can be greater?

 No doubt the will of God did go before our will to destroy it, for with His Spirit in us, He doth renounce and utterly deny us, He doth crucify us day by day, He willeth is us His will, He purposes and endeavors in us His will; He prays, He runs, He obtains, He does all things in us, and at the last day He does crown us for that which is His [work in us]. For every faithful man says with Paul, I do live, now not I, but in me Christ Jesus. I do run, I do pray, now not I, but these things and all other Christ does in me………

Another objection answered – whether we ever merit our reward

 They have another objection, wherein they do demand when, how and which way we do begin to merit [by our good works our rewards]; if we do all things by compulsion, by a continual urgent necessity, and if our will is not at any time free.

 To this objection I answer and say that all merits are the merits only of Christ, and that all confidence and trust of the merits of our works must be taken away from us, and yet we must persevere and continue still in good works which are of faith. In the 4th chapter of the Revelation, the 24 elders did lay down their crowns before the throne and seat of the Lamb of God, acknowledging by this that their crowns of glory were received from the Lord’s hand by the merits of Christ. Cornelius the Centurion did not obtain the praise and commendation of the Lord by his own merits and works, but only by the grace of the Lord and the goodness of Christ. Neither Cornelius obtained the favor of the Lord, nor Paul the crown of glory, by the merits of their own industry and travail, but only by the gift of the Lord, by the quickening of His Spirit and by the free election of God.



[1] Lambert’s Latin treatise was published in 1525.

[2] Original title of this English publication, The minde and judgement of Master Francis Lambert Of Avenna, declarynge and proving howe and after what sorte it is captive and bonde, and not free: taken out of hys commentaries upon Osee the Prophete, wherein upon the iiii. Chapter of the sayd prophet, he most Godly, plainlye and learnedly, entreateth and writeth of the same, as hereafter evidently shal appeare. Slight alterations in original text by this present editor are for clarity only.

[3] Hosea 4:19. The KJV reads, The wind hath bound her up in her wings. ‘Wind’ and ‘spirit’ are frequently used as synonyms.

[4] Romans 3:4.

[5] I. e., verse by verse authoritative Roman Catholic commentaries.

[6] Romans 9:16.

[7] Romans 8:7.

[8] II Timothy 2:26.

[9] Proverbs 16:1; Acts 17:26; Rev. 17:17.

[10] Psalm 53:1.

[11] I Cor. 2:14.

[12] Isaiah 52:2.