| # abr/17 · Editado por: General Patton|
Beyond the action of God there is only the action of man; beyond divine providence there is nothing but human liberty. The combination of this liberty with that providence, constitutes the rich and varied course of history.
The free will of man is the masterpiece of creation, and the most wonderful, if I may say so, of the divine wonders. All things are invariably directed to it, in such a way that creation would be inexplicable without man, and man inexplicable if he were not free. His liberty is at once his own explanation, and the explanation of all things. But who will explain that sublime, inviolable, holy liberty, so holy, so sublime, and so inviolable, that He who gave it to him cannot deprive him of it, and with which he can resist and conquer Him who gave it to him, with an invincible resistance and a tremendous victory? Who will explain how, in that victory of man over God, God becomes the conqueror, and man the conquered, though the victory of man is a true victory, and the defeat of God a true defeat? What victory is that which is necessarily followed by the death of the victor? And what defeat is that which ends in the glorification of the conquered? How is paradise the reward of defeat, and hell the penalty of victory? If my reward be in my defeat, why do I naturally reject what will save me? And if my condemnation be in my victory, why do I naturally seek what will damn me?
These are questions which occupied all intellects in the ages of the great doctors, and are regarded to-day with contempt by petulant sophists, who are incapable of lifting from the ground the formidable arms those holy doctors easily and humbly wielded. Today it appears inexcusable madness to touch with humility, and aided by grace, on the deep designs of God in His profound mysteries; as if man could know anything without understanding something of those profound mysteries and deep designs. All the great questions about God appear today sterile and superfluous; as if it were possible to treat of God, who is intelligence and truth, without gaining in truth and intelligence.
Coming to the tremendous question which is the subject of this chapter, and which I will endeavour to confine within the narrowest limits possible, I hold that the notion generally entertained of freewill is entirely false. Freewill does not consist, as is generally believed, in the faculty of choosing good or evil, which solicit it with two contrary solicitations. If freewill consisted in that faculty, the following consequences, one relative to man, the other to God, and both evidently absurd, must necessarily follow. The one relative to man consists in the fact that he would be less free the more perfect he became, as he cannot increase in perfection without becoming subject to the sway of that which solicits him to good, nor become subject to the sway of good without proportionately escaping from the sway of evil, which, by more or less altering, according to the degree of his perfection, the equilibrium between those two contrary solicitations, must diminish his liberty, that is, his faculty of choosing, in the same degree in which the equilibrium is altered. As the highest perfection consists in the annihilation of one of those two contrary solicitations, and as perfect liberty is supposed to be the faculty of choosing between them, it is clear, that between the perfection and the liberty of man there is an evident contradiction and an absolute incompatibility. The absurdity of this consequence consists in the fact that man, being free, and bound to aspire to perfection, he cannot preserve his liberty without renouncing his perfection, nor become perfect without forfeiting his liberty.
The consequence relative to God consists in the fact that, as He is subject to no contrary solicitations, He would be totally devoid of liberty, if it consisted in the faculty of choosing between contrary solicitations. For God to be free, it is necessary He should be capable of choosing between good and evil, sanctity and sin. Between the nature of God and liberty, thus defined, there is, then, a radical contradiction and an absolute incompatibility. And as it is absurd to suppose, on the one hand, that God cannot be free and remain God, nor be God and remain free, and, on the other, that man cannot attain his perfection without forfeiting his liberty, nor be free without renouncing his perfection, it follows that the notion of liberty generally entertained is totally false, contradictory, and absurd.
The error I am refuting consists in supposing that liberty is the faculty of choosing, when it is only the faculty of willing, which supposes the faculty of understanding. Every being gifted with understanding and will is free, and its liberty is not something distinct from its will and its understanding, but its will and understanding taken together. When we say of one being that it has understanding and will, and of another that it is free, we say the same thing of both, but expressed in two different ways.
If liberty consists in the faculty of understanding and willing, perfect liberty will consist in understanding and willing perfectly; and as God alone understands and wills with all perfection, it follows by necessary consequence, that God alone is perfectly free.
If liberty consists in understanding and willing, man is free, because he is gifted with will and understanding; but he is not perfectly free, because he is not gifted with an infinite and perfect understanding and will.
The imperfection of his understanding consists, on the one hand, in its not understanding all that is to be understood, and, on the other, in its being subject to error. The imperfection of his will consists, on the one hand, in its not willing all that should be willed, and, on the other, in its being liable to be solicited and conquered by evil. Whence it follows that the imperfection of his liberty consists in the faculty he possesses of pursuing evil and embracing error; which means, that the imperfection of human liberty consists precisely in that faculty of choosing, which, according to the general opinion, constitutes its absolute perfection.
When man came from the hands of God, he understood the good; and because he understood, he willed it; and because he willed, he executed it; and by executing the good his will desired and his intellect understood, he was free. That this is the Christian signification of liberty is clear from the following words of the Gospel: "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). Between his liberty and that of God there was, then, no difference but that which there is between one thing which can be diminished and lost, and another which can suffer neither loss nor diminution—between one thing that is naturally limited, and another that is by nature infinite.
When the woman lent an attentive and curious ear to the voice of the fallen angel, her understanding became immediately obscured, and her will weakened; separated from God, who was her support, she fell into a moral swoon. On that instant her liberty, which was not distinct from her will and understanding, became impaired. When she passed from the culpable contemplation to the culpable act, her understanding suffered a great obscurity—her will, a profound weakness; the woman dragged the man with her, and human liberty became miserably enfeebled.
Confounding the notion of liberty with that of sovereign independence, some ask why it is said that man was a slave when he fell under the jurisdiction of the devil, while at the same time it is held that he was free when placed absolutely in the hands of God? To which we answer, that it cannot be said of man that he is a slave solely because he does not belong to himself, in which case he would never cease to be a slave, because he never belongs to himself in an independent and sovereign manner. He is a slave only when he falls into the hands of a usurper, and free only when he obeys his legitimate master. There is no other slavery but subjection to a tyrant, no other tyrant but him who exercises usurped power, nor other liberty but that which consists in voluntary obedience to legitimate authority. Others do not comprehend how the grace by which we were placed in liberty, and redeemed, is reconciled with that liberty and redemption, thinking that, in that mysterious operation, God alone is active and man passive; in which they are totally in error, because in this great mystery God and man concur, the former acting and the latter co-operating. And for this very reason God is accustomed to give, generally speaking, only the grace sufficient to move the will with gentleness. Fearing to oppress, He contents Himself with calling it to Him with alluring accents. Man, on his part, when he obeys the gentle call of grace, obeys with incomparable suavity and complacency; and when the gentle will of man, which delights in the call, is joined with the gentle will of God, who takes delight in calling him, and calls him because He takes delight in it, then that grace which was only sufficient, becomes efficacious, through the concourse of these two gentle wills.
As to those who conceive liberty only in the absence of all solicitation which can move the will of man, I will only say that they inadvertently fall into one of these two great absurdities—into that, which supposes that a rational being can be moved without some species of motive, or into that, which consists in supposing that a being which is not rational, can be free.
If what we have said be true, the faculty of choosing given to man, far from being the necessary condition, is the danger of liberty, since the possibility of wandering from the good and falling into error lies in it, as also of renouncing the obedience due to God, and of falling into the hands of a tyrant. All the efforts of man should be directed, with the aid of grace, to rendering that faculty inoperative, until it is entirely destroyed, or, if that be impossible, until it falls into perpetual disuse. Only he who loses it understands, wills, and executes the good; and only he who does this is perfectly free; and only he who is free is perfect; and only he who is perfect is blessed. Hence none of the blessed has it, nor does God, nor His saints, nor the choirs of His angels.