Many scholars believe this work, published in 1754, is the most important argument against Arminianism published in America. Freedom of the Will is divided into four parts.
The first deals with terminology; the nature and determination of the will; the meaning of necessity, impossibility, and contingency; the distinction between natural and moral necessity; and the nature of moral agency and liberty.
The second considers the possibility of self-determination.
The third analyzes divine agency regarding human beings and the world.
In the conclusion, Edwards anticipates the reception the work will receive.
Noteworthy is Edwardss essential agreement with the empiricist John Locke that the question of whether or not the will was free was badly posed; the real issue, he said, is whether the person is free. The majority of the work, however, deals with the wills freedom (in contrast to the freedom of the whole person) as it seeks to refute the Arminian notion of the will. For Edwards, the errors of the Arminians essentially resulted from denying Gods absolute sovereignty; in contrast to Calvinist orthodoxy, Arminians insisted that secondary causes could operate in the individual apart from the influence of the divine will. This notion of the wills freedom had Pelagian roots, which Edwards rightly exposed.
Furthermore, the refusal of the Arminians to acknowledge the individuals total corruption promoted further error. The will cannot be free as the Arminians would have it, Edwards argued, for true freedom can only belong to God, who is self-sustaining and therefore free from other influences.
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