Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom, and power to will and to do that which was good and well pleasing to God; but yet, mutably, so that he might fall from it.WCF 9.2 (Eccl. 7:29, Gen 1:26; Gen 2:16-17; 3:6)
In this paragraph 2 of chapter 9, we begin by looking at the first of what is often known as the fourfold-state of man as it relates to the nature of his will, which are his states of innocency, sin, grace, and glory.
In the state of innocency, man “had freedom, and power to will and to do that which was good and well pleasing to God.” It is important to note that “innocency” does not refer to someone who has simply not been found guilty of wrongdoing, as the common understanding of the word “innocent” today may suggest. God made man, not as a blank slate or a neutral being, but as a righteous one (Eccl. 7:29). Adam and Eve were not fifty-fifty between good and evil and had to make their own choice which they would like to be. That is not what free will means. Man was made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26), which means that his will had every tendency towards that which is good.
But unlike God, however, Adam and Eve were mutable, or changeable—able to either remain in, or fall from this first state. They were posse peccare, able to sin, able to be deceived, as Eve was in the temptation. They were able to distrust God’s instruction and disregard his threat of death for disobedience, which they did (Gen. 2:16,17; 3:6). How one who was perfect in his knowledge and conscience could, in the absence of any distress whatsoever, so willingly do something so completely opposed to reason and righteousness is beyond explanation, but also beyond excuse.
To make this confession of the innocency of our first state from which we have fallen means that we must take all the responsibility for all the sins that we have committed as the children of Adam and Eve, and all of the subsequent fallout from those sins. We can’t say to God, “we didn’t stand a chance since we’re so sinful.” No, we had the most perfect opportunity imaginable to be obedient to God and be blessed for it, and still we blew it, and now we’re simply suffering the consequences for it. We deserve all the suffering we have had to endure to this day and an eternity more of it. None of it was pushed upon us. God made us upright, but we have sought out many devices to do, knowingly and willingly, that which ought not to be done (Eccl. 7:29).
This should sober us to the reality of how subtle a deceiver Satan is, and even more so humble us as to how frail our nature is and how easily even the best of us can slide into sin and rebellion against God. This should lead us, not to trust in our “free will” to do what is right, but to flee from ourselves and to Christ, the Second Adam from heaven, who showed from his birth to his death and proved by his resurrection and ascension into heaven how he is the only immutably righteous one, who willingly obeyed the Father even unto death.
Here we are also reminded to pray that God would, for Christ’s sake, renew and direct our wills every step of the way (Psalm 37:23), as we also long for the day when we will not only be restored to our original righteousness, but be brought to the fullness of Christ in his new creation, with a new and immutable perfection from which we can never fall. And may the Lord hasten that day.
This is the second in a series of five articles written on each of the paragraphs in Chapter 9 of the Westminster Confession of Faith “Of Free Will”. These articles were originally written to be read before worship services.