The Power to Will and the Act of Willing

for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. – Philippians 2:13

God works “to will and to do.” A great part of the controversy respecting free will arises from not distinguishing between a power to will and the act of willing. That such a distinction is just, appears most clearly from God’s working in us “to do.” Now, it were absurd to say, God does, that is, prays, watches, and believes for us; but he gives the power. It were equally absurd to say, God wills for us; but he gives the power to will; for he restores free agency. Again: if God necessitated our doing, he would not “work in us to do,” but by us to do; so, if he necessitated our will, he would not work, not “in us to will,” but by us to will. The sense is, that he works in us, that we may ourselves will and do.

God works in us to will. Several operations are necessary here. He enlightens the mind; impresses upon us the things that belong to our peace; and sets before us the motives which persuade the will. This, however, is not power to do. “To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” God strengthens us by the rich effusions of his blessed Spirit. He does not convey all power at once. Some degree of it is given, independently of ourselves. Afterward the power is increased according to our diligence, and faith, and improvement. What then is there that you cannot attain? “God worketh in you.”

Richard Watson (1781-1833)