We will start operations, then, from the very nature of the case or from the plain fact, which is evidenced by Scriptures that are neither ambiguous nor obscure, that Satan is by far the most cunning and powerful ruler of this world (as we have said), and as long as he reigns the human will is not free nor under its own control, but is the slave of sin and Satan, and can only will what its master wills. Nor will he permit it to will anything good—though even if Satan were not in command of it, sin itself, of which man is the slave, would press heavily enough on him to make him unable to will the good. Moreover, the very next words in the context enforce the same point, though Diatribe treats them with great contempt, despite my having commented on them at considerable length in my Assertions. For this is how Christ proceeds in John 15[:6]: “If anyone does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and they gather him up and cast him into the fire and he burns.” This, I say, Diatribe in her most rhetorical manner has passed over, hoping that her doing so would not be noticed by the dull Lutherans. You see here, however, that Christ himself interprets his own simile of the branch and the Vine, and quite clearly explains what he wishes to be understood by the word “nothing,” namely, that a man apart from Christ is east out and withers. And what else can it mean to be east out and to wither, but to be consigned to the devil and become continually worse? But to become worse is not the same as being able or endeavoring to do something. A withering branch grows more and more ready for the fire, the more it withers. If Christ himself had not thus expanded and applied this simile, no one would have ventured to expand and apply it so. It is therefore clear that in this passage “nothing” must be taken in the strict sense which the nature of the word suggests.
The Bondage of the Will
Luther’s Works Vol. 33