Addressed to Prosper and Hilary.
Wherein the truth of predestination and grace is defended against the semi-Pelagians—those people to wit, who by no means withdraw altogether from the Pelagian heresy, in that they contend that the beginning of salvation and of faith is of ourselves; so that in virtue, as it were, of this precedent merit, the other good gifts of God are attained. Augustine shows that not only the increase, but the very beginning also of faith is in God's gift. On this matter he does not disavow that he once thought differently, and that in some small works, written before his episcopate, he was in error, as in that exposition, which they object to him, of propositions from the epistle to the Romans. But he points out that he was subsequently convinced chiefly by this testimony, but what have you that you have not received? which he proves is to be taken as a testimony concerning faith itself also. He says that faith is to be counted among other works, which the apostle denies to anticipate God's grace when He says, not of works. He declares that the hardness of the heart is taken away by grace, and that all come to Christ who are taught to come by the Father; but that those whom He teaches, He teaches in mercy, while those whom He teaches not, in judgment He teaches not. That the passage from his hundred and second epistle, Question 2, concerning the time of the Christian religion which is alleged by the semi-Pelagians, may rightly be explained without detriment to the doctrine of grace and predestination. He teaches what is the difference between grace and predestination. Further, he says that God in his predestination foreknew what he had purposed to do. He marvels greatly that the adversaries of predestination, who are said to be unwilling to be dependent on the uncertainty of God's will, prefer rather to trust themselves to their own weakness than to the strength of God's promise. He clearly points out that they abuse this authority, If you believe, you shall be saved. That the truth of grace and perseverance shines forth in the case of infants that are saved, who are distinguished by no merits of their own from others who perish. For that there is no difference between them arising from the foreknowledge of merits which they would have had if they had lived longer. That testimony is wrongfully rejected by the adversaries as being uncanonical, which he adduced for the purpose of this discussion, he was taken away lest wickedness, etc. That the most illustrious instance of predestination and grace is the Saviour Himself, in whom a man obtained the privilege of being the Saviour and the Only-begotten Son of God, through being assumed into oneness of person by the Word co-eternal with the Father, on account of no precedent merits, either of works or of faith. That the predestinated are called by some certain calling peculiar to the elect, and that they have been elected before the foundation of the world; not because they were foreknown as men who would believe and would be holy, but in order that by means of that very election of grace they might be such, etc.
We know that in the Epistle to the Philippians the apostle said, To write the same things to you to me indeed is not grievous but for you it is safe; Philippians 3:1 yet the same apostle writing to the Galatians when he saw that he had done enough among them of what he regarded as being needful for them, by the ministry of his preaching, said, For the rest let no man cause me labour, Galatians 6:17 or as it is read in many codices, Let no one be troublesome to me. But although I confess that it causes me trouble that the divine word in which the grace of God is preached (which is absolutely no grace if it is given according to our merits), great and manifest as it is, is not yielded to, nevertheless my dearest sons, Prosper and Hilary, your zeal and brotherly affection— which makes you so reluctant to see any of the brethren in error, as to wish that, after so many books and letters of mine on this subject, I should write again from here— I love more than I can tell, although I do not dare to say that I love it as much as I ought. Wherefore, behold, I write to you again. And although not with you, yet through you I am still doing what I thought I had done sufficiently.
For on consideration of your letters, I seem to see that those brethren on whose behalf you exhibit a pious care that they may not hold the poetical opinion in which it is affirmed, Every one is a hope for himself, and so fall under that condemnation which is, not poetically, but prophetically, declared, Cursed is every man that has hope in man, Jeremiah 17:5 must be treated in that way wherein the apostle dealt with those to whom he said, And if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Philippians 3:15 For as yet they are in darkness on the question concerning the predestination of the saints, but they have that whence, if in anything they are otherwise minded, God will reveal even this unto them, if they are walking in that to which they have attained. For which reason the apostle, when he had said, If you are in anything otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you, says, Nevertheless whereunto we have attained, let us walk in the same. Philippians 3:16 And those brethren of ours, on whose behalf your pious love is solicitous, have attained with Christ's Church to the belief that the human race is born obnoxious to the sin of the first man, and that none can be delivered from that evil save by the righteousness of the Second Man. Moreover, they have attained to the confession that men's wills are anticipated by God's grace; and to the agreement that no one can suffice to himself either for beginning or for completing any good work. These things, therefore, unto which they have attained, being held fast, abundantly distinguish them from the error of the Pelagians. Further, if they walk in them, and beseech Him who gives understanding, if in anything concerning predestination they are otherwise minded, He will reveal even this unto them. Yet let us also spend upon them the influence of our love, and the ministry of our discourse, according to His gift, whom we have asked that in these letters we might say what should be suitable and profitable to them. For whence do we know whether by this our service, wherein we are serving them in the free love of Christ, our God may not perchance will to effect that purpose?
Therefore I ought first to show that the faith by which we are Christians is the gift of God, if I can do that more thoroughly than I have already done in so many and so large volumes. But I see that I must now reply to those who say that the divine testimonies which I have adduced concerning this matter are of avail for this purpose, to assure us that we have faith itself of ourselves, but that its increase is of God; as if faith were not given to us by Him, but were only increased in us by Him, on the ground of the merit of its having begun from us. Thus there is here no departure from that opinion which Pelagius himself was constrained to condemn in the judgment of the bishops of Palestine, as is testified in the same Proceedings, That the grace of God is given according to our merits, if it is not of God's grace that we begin to believe, but rather that on account of this beginning an addition is made to us of a more full and perfect belief; and so we first give the beginning of our faith to God, that His supplement may also be given to us again, and whatever else we faithfully ask.
But why do we not in opposition to this, rather hear the words, Who has first given to Him and it shall be recompensed to him again? Since of Him, and through Him, and in Him, are all things. Romans 11:35 And from whom, then, is that very beginning of our faith if not from Him? For this is not excepted when other things are spoken of as of Him; but of Him, and through Him, and in Him, are all things. But who can say that he who has already begun to believe deserves nothing from Him in whom he has believed? Whence it results that, to him who already deserves, other things are said to be added by a divine retribution, and thus that God's grace is given according to our merits. And this assertion when put before him, Pelagius himself condemned, that he might not be condemned. Whoever, then, wishes on every side to avoid this condemnable opinion, let him understand that what the apostle says is said with entire truthfulness, Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake. Philippians 1:29 He shows that both are the gifts of God, because he said that both were given. And he does not say, to believe in Him more fully and perfectly, but, to believe in Him. Neither does he say that he himself had obtained mercy to be more faithful, but to be faithful, 1 Corinthians 7:25 because he knew that he had not first given the beginning of his faith to God, and had its increase given back to him again by Him; but that he had been made faithful by God, who also had made him an apostle. For the beginnings of his faith are recorded, and they are very well known by being read in the church on an occasion calculated to distinguish them: how, being turned away from the faith which he was destroying, and being vehemently opposed to it, he was suddenly by a more powerful grace converted to it, by the conversion of Him, to whom as One who would do this very thing it was said by the prophet, You will turn and quicken us; so that not only from one who refused to believe he was made a willing believer, but, moreover, from being a persecutor, he suffered persecution in defence of that faith which he persecuted. Because it was given him by Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.
And, therefore, commending that grace which is not given according to any merits, but is the cause of all good merits, he says, Not that we are sufficient to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God. 2 Corinthians 3:5 Let them give attention to this, and well weigh these words, who think that the beginning of faith is of ourselves, and the supplement of faith is of God. For who cannot see that thinking is prior to believing? For no one believes anything unless he has first thought that it is to be believed. For however suddenly, however rapidly, some thoughts fly before the will to believe, and this presently follows in such wise as to attend them, as it were, in closest conjunction, it is yet necessary that everything which is believed should be believed after thought has preceded; although even belief itself is nothing else than to think with assent. For it is not every one who thinks that believes, since many think in order that they may not believe; but everybody who believes, thinks—both thinks in believing and believes in thinking. Therefore in what pertains to religion and piety (of which the apostle was speaking), if we are not capable of thinking anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, we are certainly not capable of believing anything as of ourselves, since we cannot do this without thinking; but our sufficiency, by which we begin to believe, is of God. Wherefore, as no one is sufficient for himself, for the beginning or the completion of any good work whatever—and this those brethren of yours, as what you have written intimates, already agree to be true, whence, as well in the beginning as in the carrying out of every good work, our sufficiency is of God—so no one is sufficient for himself, either to begin or to perfect faith; but our sufficiency is of God. Because if faith is not a matter of thought, it is of no account; and we are not sufficient to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God.
Care must be taken, brethren, beloved of God, that a man do not lift himself up in opposition to God, when he says that he does what God has promised. Was not the faith of the nations promised to Abraham, and he, giving glory to God, most fully believed that what He promised He is able also to perform? Romans 4:20 He therefore makes the faith of the nations, who is able to do what He has promised. Further, if God works our faith, acting in a wonderful manner in our hearts so that we believe, is there any reason to fear that He cannot do the whole; and does man on that account arrogate to himself its first elements, that he may merit to receive its last from God? Consider if in such a way any other result be gained than that the grace of God is given in some way or other, according to our merit, and so grace is no more grace. For on this principle it is rendered as debt, it is not given gratuitously; for it is due to the believer that his faith itself should be increased by the Lord, and that the increased faith should be the wages of the faith begun; nor is it observed when this is said, that this wage is assigned to believers, not of grace, but of debt. And I do not at all see why the whole should not be attributed to man—as he who could originate for himself what he had not previously, can himself increase what he had originated—except that it is impossible to withstand the most manifest divine testimony by which faith, whence piety takes its beginning, is shown also to be the gift of God: such as is that testimony that God has dealt to every man the measure of faith; Romans 12:3 and that one, Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 6:23 and other similar passages. Man, therefore, unwilling to resist such clear testimonies as these, and yet desiring himself to have the merit of believing, compounds as it were with God to claim a portion of faith for himself, and to leave a portion for Him; and, what is still more arrogant, he takes the first portion for himself and gives the subsequent to Him; and so in that which he says belongs to both, he makes himself the first, and God the second!
It was not thus that that pious and humble teacher thought— I speak of the most blessed Cyprian— when he said that we must boast in nothing, since nothing is our own. And in order to show this, he appealed to the apostle as a witness, where he said, For what have you that you have not received? And if you have received it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? 1 Corinthians 4:7 And it was chiefly by this testimony that I myself also was convinced when I was in a similar error, thinking that faith whereby we believe in God is not God's gift, but that it is in us from ourselves, and that by it we obtain the gifts of God, whereby we may live temperately and righteously and piously in this world. For I did not think that faith was preceded by God's grace, so that by its means would be given to us what we might profitably ask, except that we could not believe if the proclamation of the truth did not precede; but that we should consent when the gospel was preached to us I thought was our own doing, and came to us from ourselves. And this my error is sufficiently indicated in some small works of mine written before my episcopate. Among these is that which you have mentioned in your letters wherein is an exposition of certain propositions from the Epistle to the Romans. Eventually, when I was retracting all my small works, and was committing that retractation to writing, of which task I had already completed two books before I had taken up your more lengthy letters—when in the first volume I had reached the retractation of this book, I then spoke thus:— Also discussing, I say, 'what God could have chosen in him who was as yet unborn, whom He said that the elder should serve; and what in the same elder, equally as yet unborn, He could have rejected; concerning whom, on this account, the prophetic testimony is recorded, although declared long subsequently, Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated,' I carried out my reasoning to the point of saying: 'God did not therefore choose the works of any one in foreknowledge of what He Himself would give them, but he chose the faith, in the foreknowledge that He would choose that very person whom He foreknew would believe in Him—to whom He would give the Holy Spirit, so that by doing good works he might obtain eternal life also.' I had not yet very carefully sought, nor had I as yet found, what is the nature of the election of grace, of which the apostle says, 'A remnant are saved according to the election of grace.' Romans 11:5 Which assuredly is not grace if any merits precede it; lest what is now given, not according to grace, but according to debt, be rather paid to merits than freely given. And what I next subjoined: 'For the same apostle says, The same God which works all in all; 1 Corinthians 12:6 but it was never said, God believes all in all;' and then added, 'Therefore what we believe is our own, but what good thing we do is of Him who gives the Holy Spirit to them that believe:' I certainly could not have said, had I already known that faith itself also is found among those gifts of God which are given by the same Spirit. Both, therefore, are ours on account of the choice of the will, and yet both are given by the spirit of faith and love. For faith is not alone but as it is written, 'Love with faith, from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.' Ephesians 6:23 And what I said a little after, 'For it is ours to believe and to will, but it is His to give to those who believe and will, the power of doing good works through the Holy Spirit, by whom love is shed abroad in our hearts,'— is true indeed; but by the same rule both are also God's, because God prepares the will; and both are ours too, because they are only brought about with our good wills. And thus what I subsequently said also: 'Because we are not able to will unless we are called; and when, after our calling, we would will, our willing is not sufficiently nor our running, unless God gives strength to us that run, and leads us whither He calls us;' and thereupon added: 'It is plain, therefore, that it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy, that we do good works'— this is absolutely most true. But I discovered little concerning the calling itself, which is according to God's purpose; for not such is the calling of all that are called, but only of the elect. Therefore what I said a little afterwards: 'For as in those whom God elects it is not works but faith that begins the merit so as to do good works by the gift of God, so in those whom He condemns, unbelief and impiety begin the merit of punishment, so that even by way of punishment itself they do evil works'— I spoke most truly. But that even the merit itself of faith was God's gift, I neither thought of inquiring into, nor did I say. And in another place I say: 'For whom He has mercy upon, He makes to do good works, and whom He hardens He leaves to do evil works; but that mercy is bestowed upon the preceding merit of faith, and that hardening is applied to preceding iniquity.' And this indeed is true; but it should further have been asked, whether even the merit of faith does not come from God's mercy—that is, whether that mercy is manifested in man only because he is a believer, or whether it is also manifested that he may be a believer? For we read in the apostle's words: 'I obtained mercy to be a believer.' 1 Corinthians 7:25 He does not say, 'Because I was a believer.' Therefore although it is given to the believer, yet it has been given also that he may be a believer. Therefore also, in another place in the same book I most truly said: 'Because, if it is of God's mercy, and not of works, that we are even called that we may believe and it is granted to us who believe to do good works, that mercy must not be grudged to the heathen;'— although I there discoursed less carefully about that calling which is given according to God's purpose.
You see plainly what was at that time my opinion concerning faith and works, although I was labouring in commending God's grace; and in this opinion I see that those brethren of ours now are, because they have not been as careful to make progress with me in my writings as they were in reading them. For if they had been so careful, they would have found that question solved in accordance with the truth of the divine Scriptures in the first book of the two which I wrote in the very beginning of my episcopate to Simplicianus, of blessed memory, Bishop of the Church of Milan, and successor to St. Ambrose. Unless, perchance, they may not have known these books; in which case, take care that they do know them. Of this first of those two books, I first spoke in the second book of the Retractations; and what I said is as follows: Of the books, I say, on which, as a bishop, I have laboured, the first two are addressed to Simplicianus, president of the Church of Milan, who succeeded the most blessed Ambrose, concerning various questions, two of which I gathered into the first book from the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans. The former of them is about what is written: 'What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? By no means;' Romans 7:7 as far as the passage where he says, 'Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.' Romans 7:24 And therein I have expounded those words of the apostle: 'The law is spiritual; but I am carnal,' Romans 7:14 and others in which the flesh is declared to be in conflict against the Spirit in such a way as if a man were there described as still under law, and not yet established under grace. For, long afterwards, I perceived that those words might even be (and probably were) the utterance of a spiritual man. The latter question in this book is gathered from that passage where the apostle says, 'And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one act of intercourse, even by our father Isaac,' Romans 9:10 as far as that place where he says, 'Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we should be as Sodoma, and should have been like Gomorrha.' Romans 9:29 In the solution of this question I laboured indeed on behalf of the free choice of the human will, but God's grace overcame, and I could only reach that point where the apostle is perceived to have said with the most evident truth, 'For who makes you to differ? And what have you that you have not received? Now, if you have received it, why do you glory as if you received it not?' 1 Corinthians 4:7 And this the martyr Cyprian was also desirous of setting forth when he compressed the whole of it in that title: 'That we must boast in nothing, since nothing is our own.' This is why I previously said that it was chiefly by this apostolic testimony that I myself had been convinced, when I thought otherwise concerning this matter; and this God revealed to me as I sought to solve this question when I was writing, as I said, to the Bishop Simplicianus. This testimony, therefore, of the apostle, when for the sake of repressing man's conceit he said, For what have you which you have not received? 1 Corinthians 4:7 does not allow any believer to say, I have faith which I received not. All the arrogance of this answer is absolutely repressed by these apostolic words. Moreover, it cannot even be said, Although I have not a perfected faith, yet I have its beginning, whereby I first of all believed in Christ. Because here also is answered: But what have you that you have not received? Now, if you have received it, why do you glory as if you received it not?
The notion, however, which they entertain, that these words, 'What have you that you have not received?' cannot be said of this faith, because it has remained in the same nature, although corrupted, which at first was endowed with health and perfection, is perceived to have no force for the purpose that they desire if it be considered why the apostle said these words. For he was concerned that no one should glory in man, because dissensions had sprung up among the Corinthian Christians, so that every one was saying, I, indeed, am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos, and another, I am of Cephas; 1 Corinthians 1:12 and thence he went on to say: God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the strong things; and God has chosen the ignoble things of the world, and contemptible things, and those things which are not, to make of no account things which are; that no flesh should glory before God. 1 Corinthians 1:27 Here the intention of the apostle is of a certainty sufficiently plain against the pride of man, that no one should glory in man; and thus, no one should glory in himself. Finally, when he had said that no flesh should glory before God, in order to show in what man ought to glory, he immediately added, But it is of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who is made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:30 Thence that intention of his progressed, till afterwards rebuking them he says, For you are yet carnal; for whereas there are among you envying and contention, are you not carnal, and walk according to man? For while one says I am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos, are you not men? What, then, is Apollos, and what Paul? Ministers by whom you believed; and to every one as the Lord has given. I have planted, and Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. Therefore, neither is he that plants anything, nor he that waters, but God that gives the increase. Do you not see that the sole purpose of the apostle is that man may be humbled, and God alone exalted? Since in all those things, indeed, which are planted and watered, he says that not even are the planter and the waterer anything, but God who gives the increase: and the very fact, also, that one plants and another waters he attributes not to themselves, but to God, when he says, To every one as the Lord has given; I have planted, Apollos watered. Hence, therefore, persisting in the same intention he comes to the point of saying, Therefore let no man glory in man, 1 Corinthians 3:21 for he had already said, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord. After these and some other matters which are associated therewith, that same intention of his is carried on in the words: And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes, that you might learn in us that no one of you should be puffed up for one against another above that which is written. For who makes you to differ? And what have you which you have not received? Now, if you have received it, why do you glory as if you received it not? 1 Corinthians 4:6
In this the apostle's most evident intention, in which he speaks against human pride, so that none should glory in man but in God, it is too absurd, as I think, to suppose God's natural gifts, whether man's entire and perfected nature itself as it was bestowed on him in his first state, or the remains, whatever they may be, of his degraded nature. For is it by such gifts as these, which are common to all men, that men are distinguished from men? But here he first said, For who makes you to differ? and then added, And what have you that you have not received? Because a man, puffed up against another, might say, My faith makes me to differ, or My righteousness, or anything else of the kind. In reply to such notions, the good teacher says, But what have you that you have not received? And from whom but from Him who makes you to differ from another, on whom He bestowed not what He bestowed on you? Now if, says he, you have received it, why do you glory as if you received it not? Is he concerned, I ask, about anything else save that he who glories should glory in the Lord? But nothing is so opposed to this feeling as for any one to glory concerning his own merits in such a way as if he himself had made them for himself, and not the grace of God—a grace, however, which makes the good to differ from the wicked, and is not common to the good and the wicked. Let the grace, therefore, whereby we are living and reasonable creatures, and are distinguished from cattle, be attributed to nature; let that grace also by which, among men themselves, the handsome are made to differ from the ill-formed, or the intelligent from the stupid, or anything of that kind, be ascribed to nature. But he whom the apostle was rebuking did not puff himself up as contrasted with cattle, nor as contrasted with any other man, in respect of any natural endowment which might be found even in the worst of men. But he ascribed to himself, and not to God, some good gift which pertained to a holy life, and was puffed up therewith when he deserved to hear the rebuke, Who has made you to differ? And what have you that you received not? For though the capacity to have faith is of nature, is it also of nature to have it? For all men have not faith, 2 Thessalonians 3:2 although all men have the capacity to have faith. But the apostle does not say, And what have you capacity to have, the capacity to have which you received not? but he says, And what have you which you received not? Accordingly, the capacity to have faith, as the capacity to have love, belongs to men's nature; but to have faith, even as to have love, belongs to the grace of believers. That nature, therefore, in which is given to us the capacity of having faith, does not distinguish man from man, but faith itself makes the believer to differ from the unbeliever. And thus, when it is said, For who makes you to differ? And what have you that you received not? if any one dare to say, I have faith of myself, I did not, therefore, receive it, he directly contradicts this most manifest truth—not because it is not in the choice of man's will to believe or not to believe, but because in the elect the will is prepared by the Lord. Thus, moreover, the passage, For who makes you to differ? And what have you that you received not? refers to that very faith which is in the will of man.
Many hear the word of truth; but some believe, while others contradict. Therefore, the former will to believe; the latter do not will. Who does not know this? Who can deny this? But since in some the will is prepared by the Lord, in others it is not prepared, we must assuredly be able to distinguish what comes from God's mercy, and what from His judgment. What Israel sought for, says the apostle, he has not obtained, but the election has obtained it; and the rest were blinded, as it is written, God gave to them the spirit of compunction—eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, even to this day. And David said, Let their table be made a snare, a retribution, and a stumblingblock to them; let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see; and bow down their back always. Romans 11:7 Here is mercy and judgment,— mercy towards the election which has obtained the righteousness of God, but judgment to the rest which have been blinded. And yet the former, because they willed, believed; the latter, because they did not will believed not. Therefore mercy and judgment were manifested in the very wills themselves. Certainly such an election is of grace, not at all of merits. For he had before said, So, therefore, even at this present time, the remnant has been saved by the election of grace. And if by grace, now it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. Romans 11:5 Therefore the election obtained what it obtained gratuitously; there preceded none of those things which they might first give, and it should be given to them again. He saved them for nothing. But to the rest who were blinded, as is there plainly declared, it was done in recompense. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth. But His ways are unsearchable. Therefore the mercy by which He freely delivers, and the truth by which He righteously judges, are equally unsearchable.
But perhaps it may be said: The apostle distinguishes faith from works; he says, indeed, that grace is not of works, but he does not say that it is not of faith. This, indeed, is true. But Jesus says that faith itself also is the work of God, and commands us to work it. For the Jews said to Him, What shall we do that we may work the work of God? Jesus answered, and said unto them, This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent. John 6:28 The apostle, therefore, distinguishes faith from works, just as Judah is distinguished from Israel in the two kingdoms of the Hebrews, although Judah is Israel itself. And he says that a man is justified by faith and not by works, because faith itself is first given, from which may be obtained other things which are specially characterized as works, in which a man may live righteously. For he himself also says, By grace you are saved through faith; and this not of yourselves; but it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8 — that is to say, And in saying 'through faith,' even faith itself is not of yourselves, but is God's gift. Not of works, he says, lest any man should be lifted up. For it is often said, He deserved to believe, because he was a good man even before he believed. Which may be said of Cornelius Acts x since his alms were accepted and his prayers heard before he had believed on Christ; and yet without some faith he neither gave alms nor prayed. For how did he call on him on whom he had not believed? But if he could have been saved without the faith of Christ the Apostle Peter would not have been sent as an architect to build him up; although, Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain who build it. And we are told, Faith is of ourselves; other things which pertain to works of righteousness are of the Lord; as if faith did not belong to the building—as if, I say, the foundation did not belong to the building. But if this primarily and especially belongs to it, he labours in vain who seeks to build up the faith by preaching, unless the Lord in His mercy builds it up from within. Whatever, therefore, of good works Cornelius performed, as well before he believed in Christ as when he believed and after he had believed, are all to be ascribed to God, lest, perchance any man be lifted up.
Accordingly, our only Master and Lord Himself, when He had said what I have above mentioned—This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent,— says a little afterwards in that same discourse of His, I said unto you that you also have seen me and have not believed. All that the Father gives me shall come to me. John 6:36 What is the meaning of shall come to me, but, shall believe in me? But it is the Father's gift that this may be the case. Moreover, a little after He says, Murmur not among yourselves. No one can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all teachable of God. Every man that has heard of the Father, and has learned, comes unto me. What is the meaning of, Every man that has heard from the Father, and has learned, comes unto me, except that there is none who hears from the Father, and learns, who comes not to me? For if every one who has heard from the Father, and has learned, comes, certainly every one who does not come has not heard from the Father; for if he had heard and learned, he would come. For no one has heard and learned, and has not come; but every one, as the Truth declares, who has heard from the Father, and has learned, comes. Far removed from the senses of the flesh is this teaching in which the Father is heard, and teaches to come to the Son. Engaged herein is also the Son Himself, because He is His Word by which He thus teaches; and He does not do this through the ear of the flesh, but of the heart. Herein engaged, also, at the same time, is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son; and He, too, teaches, and does not teach separately, since we have learned that the workings of the Trinity are inseparable. And that is certainly the same Holy Spirit of whom the apostle says, We, however, having the same Spirit of faith. 2 Corinthians 4:13 But this is especially attributed to the Father, for the reason that of Him is begotten the Only Begotten, and from Him proceeds the Holy Spirit, of which it would be tedious to argue more elaborately; and I think that my work in fifteen books on the Trinity which God is, has already reached you. Very far removed, I say, from the senses of the flesh is this instruction wherein God is heard and teaches. We see that many come to the Son because we see that many believe in Christ, but when and how they have heard this from the Father, and have learned, we see not. It is true that that grace is exceedingly secret, but who doubts that it is grace? This grace, therefore, which is hiddenly bestowed in human hearts by the Divine gift, is rejected by no hard heart, because it is given for the sake of first taking away the hardness of the heart. When, therefore, the Father is heard within, and teaches, so that a man comes to the Son, He takes away the heart of stone and gives a heart of flesh, as in the declaration of the prophet He has promised. Because He thus makes them children and vessels of mercy which He has prepared for glory.
Why, then, does He not teach all that they may come to Christ, except because all whom He teaches, He teaches in mercy, while those whom He teaches not, in judgment He teaches not? Since, On whom He will He has mercy, and whom He will He hardens. Romans 9:18 But He has mercy when He gives good things. He hardens when He recompenses what is deserved. Or if, as some would prefer to distinguish them, those words also are his to whom the apostle says, You say then unto me, so that he may be regarded as having said, Therefore has He mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardens, as well as those which follow—to wit, What is it that is still complained of? For who resists His will? does the apostle answer, O man, what you have said is false? No; but he says, O man, who are you that repliest against God? Does the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why have you made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay of the same lump? and what follows, which you very well know. And yet in a certain sense the Father teaches all men to come to His Son. For it was not in vain that it was written in the prophets, And they shall all be teachable of God. John 6:45 And when He too had premised this testimony, He added, Every man, therefore, who has heard of the Father, and has learned, comes to me. As, therefore, we speak justly when we say concerning any teacher of literature who is alone in a city, He teaches literature here to everybody—not that all men learn, but that there is none who learns literature there who does not learn from him—so we justly say, God teaches all men to come to Christ, not because all come, but because none comes in any other way. And why He does not teach all men the apostle explained, as far as he judged that it was to be explained, because, willing to show His wrath, and to exhibit His power, He endured with much patience the vessels of wrath which were perfected for destruction; and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy which He has prepared for glory. Romans 9:22 Hence it is that the word of the cross is foolishness to them that perish; but unto them that are saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18 God teaches all such to come to Christ, for He wills all such to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. And if He had willed to teach even those to whom the word of the cross is foolishness to come to Christ, beyond all doubt these also would have come. For He neither deceives nor is deceived when He says, Everyone that has heard of the Father, and has learned, comes to me. Away, then, with the thought that any one comes not, who has heard of the Father and has learned.
Why, say they, does He not teach all men? If we should say that they whom He does not teach are unwilling to learn, we shall be met with the answer: And what becomes of what is said to Him, O God, You will turn us again, and quicken us? Or if God does not make men willing who were not willing, on what principle does the Church pray, according to the Lord's commandment, for her persecutors? For thus also the blessed Cyprian would have it to be understood that we say, Your will be done, as in heaven so in earth,— that is, as in those who have already believed, and who are, as it were, heaven, so also in those who do not believe, and on this account are still the earth. What, then, do we pray for on behalf of those who are unwilling to believe, except that God would work in them to will also? Certainly the apostle says, Brethren, my heart's good will, indeed, and my prayer to God for them, is for their salvation. Romans 10:1 He prays for those who do not believe—for what, except that they may believe? For in no other way do they obtain salvation. If, then, the faith of the petitioners precede the grace of God, does the faith of them on whose behalf prayer is made that they may believe precede the grace of God?— since this is the very thing that is besought for them, that on them that believe not— that is, who have not faith— faith itself may be bestowed? When, therefore, the gospel is preached, some believe, some believe not; but they who believe at the voice of the preacher from without, hear of the Father from within, and learn; while they who do not believe, hear outwardly, but inwardly do not hear nor learn—that is to say, to the former it is given to believe; to the latter it is not given. Because no man, says He, comes to me, except the Father which sent me draw him. John 6:44 And this is more plainly said afterwards. For after a little time, when He was speaking of eating his flesh and drinking His blood, and some even of His disciples said, This is a hard saying, who can hear it? Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples murmured at this, said unto them, Does this offend you? And a little after He said, The words that I have spoken unto you are spirit and life; but there are some among you which believe not. And immediately the evangelist says, For Jesus knew from the beginning who were the believers, and who should betray Him; and He said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me except it were given him of my Father. Therefore, to be drawn to Christ by the Father, and to hear and learn of the Father in order to come to Christ, is nothing else than to receive from the Father the gift by which to believe in Christ. For it was not the hearers of the gospel that were distinguished from those who did not hear, but the believers from those who did not believe, by Him who said, No man comes to me except it were given him of my Father.
Faith, then, as well in its beginning as in its completion, is God's gift; and let no one have any doubt whatever, unless he desires to resist the plainest sacred writings, that this gift is given to some, while to some it is not given. But why it is not given to all ought not to disturb the believer, who believes that from one all have gone into a condemnation, which undoubtedly is most righteous; so that even if none were delivered therefrom, there would be no just cause for finding fault with God. Whence it is plain that it is a great grace for many to be delivered, and to acknowledge in those that are not delivered what would be due to themselves; so that he that glories may glory not in his own merits, which he sees to be equalled in those that are condemned, but in the Lord. But why He delivers one rather than another—His judgments are unsearchable, and His ways past finding out. Romans 11:33 For it is better in this case for us to hear or to say, O man, who are you that repliest against God? Romans 9:20 than to dare to speak as if we could know what He has chosen to be kept secret. Since, moreover, He could not will anything unrighteous.
But that which you remember my saying in a certain small treatise of mine against Porphyry, under the title of The Time of the Christian Religion, I so said for the sake of escaping this more careful and elaborate argument about grace; although its meaning, which could be unfolded elsewhere or by others, was not wholly omitted, although I had been unwilling in that place to explain it. For, among other matters, I spoke thus in answer to the question proposed, why it was after so long a time that Christ came: Accordingly, I say, since they do not object to Christ that all do not follow His teaching (for even they themselves feel that this could not be objected at all with any justice, either to the wisdom of the philosophers or even to the deity of their own gods), what will they reply, if— leaving out of the question that depth of God's wisdom and knowledge where perchance some other divine plan is far more secretly hidden, without prejudging also other causes, which cannot be traced out by the wise— we say to them only this, for the sake of brevity in the arguing of this question, that Christ willed to appear to men, and that His doctrine should be preached among them, at that time when He knew, and at that place where He knew, that there were some who would believe in Him. For at those times, and in those places, at which His gospel was not preached, He foreknew that all would be in His preaching such as, not indeed all, but many were in His bodily presence, who would not believe in Him, even when the dead were raised by Him; such as we see many now, who, although the declarations of the prophets concerning Him are fulfilled by such manifestations, are still unwilling to believe, and prefer to resist by human astuteness, rather than yield to divine authority so clear and perspicuous, and so lofty, and sublimely made known, so long as the human understanding is small and weak in its approach to divine truth. What wonder is it, then, if Christ knew the world in former ages to be so full of unbelievers, that He should reasonably refuse to appear, or to be preached to them, who, as He foreknew, would believe neither His words nor His miracles? For it is not incredible that all at that time were such as from His coming even to the present time we marvel that so many have been and are. And yet from the beginning of the human race, sometimes more hiddenly, sometimes more evidently, even as to Divine Providence the times seemed to be fitting, there has neither been a failure of prophecy, nor were there wanting those who believed on Him; as well from Adam to Moses, as in the people of Israel itself which by a certain special mystery was a prophetic people; and in other nations before He had come in the flesh. For as some are mentioned in the sacred Hebrew books, as early as the time of Abraham—neither of his fleshly race nor of the people of Israel nor of the foreign society among the people of Israel—who were, nevertheless, sharers in their sacrament, why may we not believe that there were others elsewhere among other people, here and there, although we do not read any mention of them in the same authorities? Thus the salvation of this religion, by which only true one true salvation is truly promised, never failed him who was worthy of it; and whoever it failed was not worthy of it. And from the very beginning of the propagation of man, even to the end, the gospel is preached, to some for a reward, to some for judgment; and thus also those to whom the faith was not announced at all were foreknown as those who would not believe; and those to whom it was announced, although they were not such as would believe, are set forth as an example for the former; while those to whom it is announced who should believe, are prepared for the kingdom of heaven, and the company of the holy angels.
Do you not see that my desire was, without any prejudgment of the hidden counsel of God, and of other reasons, to say what might seem sufficient about Christ's foreknowledge, to convince the unbelief of the pagans who had brought forward this question? For what is more true than that Christ foreknew who should believe in Him, and at what times and places they should believe? But whether by the preaching of Christ to themselves by themselves they were to have faith, or whether they would receive it by God's gift,— that is, whether God only foreknew them, or also predestinated them, I did not at that time think it necessary to inquire or to discuss. Therefore what I said, that Christ willed to appear to men at that time, and that His doctrine should be preached among them when He knew, and where He knew, that there were those who would believe in Him, may also thus be said, That Christ willed to appear to men at that time, and that His gospel should be preached among those, whom He knew, and where He knew, that there were those who had been elected in Himself before the foundation of the world. But since, if it were so said, it would make the reader desirous of asking about those things which now by the warning of Pelagian errors must of necessity be discussed with greater copiousness and care, it seemed to me that what at that time was sufficient should be briefly said, leaving to one side, as I said, the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God, and without prejudging other reasons, concerning which I thought that we might more fittingly argue, not then, but at some other time.
Moreover, that which I said, That the salvation of this religion has never been lacking to him who was worthy of it, and that he to whom it was lacking was not worthy,— if it be discussed and it be asked whence any man can be worthy, there are not wanting those who say— by human will. But we say, by divine grace or predestination. Further, between grace and predestination there is only this difference, that predestination is the preparation for grace, while grace is the donation itself. When, therefore the apostle says, Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus in good works, Ephesians 2:9-10 it is grace; but what follows— which God has prepared that we should walk in them— is predestination, which cannot exist without foreknowledge, although foreknowledge may exist without predestination; because God foreknew by predestination those things which He was about to do, whence it was said, He made those things that shall be. Isaiah 45:11 Moreover, He is able to foreknow even those things which He does not Himself do—as all sins whatever. Because, although there are some which are in such wise sins as that they are also the penalties of sins, whence it is said, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient, Romans 1:28 it is not in such a case the sin that is God's, but the judgment. Therefore God's predestination of good is, as I have said, the preparation of grace; which grace is the effect of that predestination. Therefore when God promised to Abraham in his seed the faith of the nations, saying, I have established you a father of many nations, Genesis 17:5 whence the apostle says, Therefore it is of faith, that the promise, according to grace, might be established to all the seed, Romans 4:16 He promised not from the power of our will but from His own predestination. For He promised what He Himself would do, not what men would do. Because, although men do those good things which pertain to God's worship, He Himself makes them to do what He has commanded; it is not they that cause Him to do what He has promised. Otherwise the fulfilment of God's promises would not be in the power of God, but in that of men; and thus what was promised by God to Abraham would be given to Abraham by men themselves. Abraham, however, did not believe thus, but he believed, giving glory to God, that what He promised He is able also to do. Romans 4:21 He does not say, to foretell— he does not say, to foreknow; for He can foretell and foreknow the doings of strangers also; but he says, He is able also to do; and thus he is speaking not of the doings of others, but of His own.
Did God, perchance, promise to Abraham in his seed the good works of the nations, so as to promise that which He Himself does, but did not promise the faith of the Gentiles, which men do for themselves; but so as to promise what He Himself does, did He foreknow that men would effect that faith? The apostle, indeed, does not speak thus, because God promised children to Abraham, who should follow the footsteps of his faith, as he very plainly says. But if He promised the works, and not the faith of the Gentiles certainly since they are not good works unless they are of faith (for the righteous lives of faith, Habakkuk 2:4 and, Whatsoever is not of faith is sin, Romans 14:23 and, Without faith it is impossible to please Hebrews 11:6), it is nevertheless in man's power that God should fulfil what He has promised. For unless man should do what without the gift of God pertains to man, he will not cause God to give—that is, unless man have faith of himself. God does not fulfil what He has promised, that works of righteousness should be given by God. And thus that God should be able to fulfil His promises is not in God's power, but man's. And if truth and piety do not forbid our believing this, let us believe with Abraham, that what He has promised He is able also to perform. But He promised children to Abraham; and this men cannot be unless they have faith, therefore He gives faith also.
Certainly, when the apostle says, Therefore it is of faith that the promise may be sure according to grace, Romans 4:16 I marvel that men would rather entrust themselves to their own weakness, than to the strength of God's promise. But do you say, God's will concerning myself is to me uncertain? What then? Is your own will concerning yourself certain to you? And do you not fear—Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall? 1 Corinthians 10:12 Since, then, both are uncertain, why does not man commit his faith, hope, and love to the stronger will rather than to the weaker?
But, say they, when it is said, 'If you believe, you shall be saved,' one of these things is required; the other is offered. What is required is in man's power; what is offered is in God's. Why are not both in God's, as well what He commands as what He offers? For He is asked to give what He commands. Believers ask that their faith may be increased; they ask on behalf of those who do not believe, that faith may be given to them; therefore both in its increase and in its beginnings, faith is the gift of God. But it is said thus: If you believe, you shall be saved, in the same way that it is said, If by the Spirit you shall mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live. Romans 8:13 For in this case also, of these two things one is required, the other is offered. It is said, If by the Spirit you shall mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live. Therefore, that we mortify the deeds of the flesh is required, but that we may live is offered. Is it, then, fitting for us to say, that to mortify the deeds of the flesh is not a gift of God, and not to confess it to be a gift of God, because we hear it required of us, with the offer of life as a reward if we shall do it? Away with this being approved by the partakers and champions of grace! This is the condemnable error of the Pelagians, whose mouths the apostle immediately stopped when he added, For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God; Romans 8:14 lest we should believe that we mortify the deeds of the flesh, not by God's Spirit, but by our own. And of this Spirit of God, moreover, he was speaking in that place where he says, But all these works that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing unto every man what is his own, as He will; 1 Corinthians 12:11 and among all these things, as you know, he also named faith. As, therefore, although it is the gift of God to mortify the deeds of the flesh, yet it is required of us, and life is set before us as a reward; so also faith is the gift of God, although when it is said, If you believe, you shall be saved, faith is required of us, and salvation is proposed to us as a reward. For these things are both commanded us, and are shown to be God's gifts, in order that we may understand both that we do them, and that God makes us to do them, as He most plainly says by the prophet Ezekiel. For what is plainer than when He says, I will cause you to do? Ezekiel 36:27 Give heed to that passage of Scripture, and you will see that God promises that He will make them to do those things which He commands to be done. He truly is not silent as to the merits but as to the evil deeds, of those to whom He shows that He is returning good for evil, by the very fact that He causes them thenceforth to have good works, in causing them to do the divine commands.
But all this reasoning, whereby we maintain that the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord is truly grace, that is, is not given according to our merits, although it is most manifestly asserted by the witness of the divine declarations, yet, among those who think that they are withheld from all zeal for piety unless they can attribute to themselves something, which they first give that it may be recompensed to them again, involves somewhat of a difficulty in respect of the condition of grown-up people, who are already exercising the choice of will. But when we come to the case of infants, and to the Mediator between God and man Himself, the man Christ Jesus, there is wanting all assertion of human merits that precede the grace of God, because the former are not distinguished from others by any preceding good merits that they should belong to the Deliverer of men; any more than He Himself being Himself a man, was made the Deliverer of men by virtue of any precedent human merits.
For who can hear that infants, baptized in the condition of mere infancy, are said to depart from this life by reason of their future merits, and that others not baptized are said to die in the same age because their future merits are foreknown—but as evil; so that God rewards or condemns in them not their good or evil life, but no life at all? The apostle, indeed, fixed a limit which man's incautious suspicion, to speak gently, ought not to transgress, for he says, We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive according to the things which he has done by means of the body, whether it be good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:10 Has done, he said; and he did not add, or would have done. But I know not whence this thought should have entered the minds of such men, that infants' future merits (which shall not be) should be punished or honoured. But why is it said that a man is to be judged according to those things which he has done by means of the body, when many things are done by the mind alone, and not by the body, nor by any member of the body; and for the most part things of such importance, that a most righteous punishment would be due to such thought, such as—to say nothing of others—that The fool has said in his heart there is no God? What, then, is the meaning of, According to those things that he has done by means of the body, except according to those things which he has done during that time in which he was in the body, so that we may understand by means of the body as meaning throughout the season of bodily life? But after the body, no one will be in the body except at the last resurrection,— not for the purpose of establishing any claims of merit, but for the sake of receiving recompenses for good merits, and enduring punishments for evil merits. But in this intermediate period between the putting off and the taking again of the body, the souls are either tormented or they are in repose, according to those things which they have done during the period of the bodily life. And to this period of the bodily life moreover pertains, what the Pelagians deny, but Christ's Church confesses, original sin; and according to whether this is by God's grace loosed, or by God's judgment not loosed, when infants die, they pass, on the one hand, by the merit of regeneration from evil to good, or on the other, by the merit of their origin from evil to evil. The catholic faith acknowledges this, and even some heretics, without any contradiction, agree to this. But in the height of wonder and astonishment I am unable to discover whence men, whose intelligence your letters show to be by no means contemptible, could entertain the opinion that any one should be judged not according to the merits that he had as long as he was in the body, but according to the merits which he would have had if he had lived longer in the body; and I should not dare to believe that there were such men, if I could venture to disbelieve you. But I hope that God will interpose, so that when they are admonished they may at once perceive, that if those sins which, as is said, would have been, can rightly be punished by God's judgment in those who are not baptized, they may alo be rightly remitted by God's grace in those who are baptized. For whoever says that future sins can only be punished by God's judgment, but cannot be pardoned by God's mercy, ought to consider how great a wrong he is doing to God and His grace; as if future sin could be foreknown, and could not be foregone. And if this is absurd, it is the greater reason that help should be afforded to those who would be sinners if they lived longer, when they die in early life, by means of that laver wherein sins are washed away.
But if, perchance, they say that sins are re-remitted to penitents, and that those who die in infancy are not baptized because they are foreknown as not such as would repent if they should live, while God has foreknown that those who are baptized and die in infancy would have repented if they had lived, let them observe and see that if it be so it is not in this case original sins which are punished in infants that die without baptism, but what would have been the sins of each one had he lived; and also in baptized infants, that it is not original sins that are washed away, but their own future sins if they should live, since they could not sin except in more mature age; but that some were foreseen as such as would repent, and others as such as would not repent, therefore some were baptized, and others departed from this life without baptism. If the Pelagians should dare to say this, by their denial of original sin they would thus be relieved of the necessity of seeking, on behalf of infants outside of the kingdom of God, for some place of I know not what happiness of their own; especially since they are convinced that they cannot have eternal life because they have not eaten the flesh nor drank the blood of Christ; and because in them who have no sin at all, baptism, which is given for the remission of sins, is falsified. For they would go on to say that there is no original sin, but that those who as infants are released are either baptized or not baptized according to their future merits if they should live, and that according to their future merits they either receive or do not receive the body and blood of Christ, without which they absolutely cannot have life; and are baptized for the true remission of sins although they derived no sins from Adam, because the sins are remitted unto them concerning which God foreknew that they would repent. Thus with the greatest ease they would plead and would win their cause, in which they deny that there is any original sin, and contend that the grace of God is only given according to our merits. But that the future merits of men, which merits will never come into existence are beyond all doubt no merits at all, it is certainly most easy to see: for this reason even the Pelagians were not able to say this; and much rather these ought not to say it. For it cannot be said with what pain I find that they who with us on catholic authority condemn the error of those heretics, have not seen this, which the Pelagians themselves have seen to be most false and absurd.
Cyprian wrote a work On the Mortality, known with approval to many and almost all who love ecclesiastical literature, wherein he says that death is not only not disadvantageous to believers, but that it is even found to be advantageous, because it withdraws men from the risks of sinning, and establishes them in a security of not sinning. But wherein is the advantage of this, if even future sins which have not been committed are punished? Yet he argues most copiously and well that the risks of sinning are not wanting in this life, and that they do not continue after this life is done; where also he adduces that testimony from the book of Wisdom: He was taken away, lest wickedness should alter his understanding. Wisdom 4:11 And this was also adduced by me, though you said that those brethren of yours had rejected it on the ground of its not having been brought forward from a canonical book; as if, even setting aside the attestation of this book, the thing itself were not clear which I wished to be taught therefrom. For what Christian would dare to deny that the righteous man, if he should be prematurely laid hold of by death, will be in repose? Let who will, say this, and what man of sound faith will think that he can withstand it? Moreover, if he should say that the righteous man, if he should depart from his righteousness in which he has long lived, and should die in that impiety after having lived in it, I say not a year, but one day, will go hence into the punishment due to the wicked, his righteousness having no power in the future to avail him—will any believer contradict this evident truth? Further, if we are asked whether, if he had died then at the time that he was righteous, he would have incurred punishment or repose, shall we hesitate to answer, repose? This is the whole reason why it is said—whoever says it—He was taken away lest wickedness should alter his understanding. For it was said in reference to the risks of this life, not with reference to the foreknowledge of God, who foreknew that which was to be, not that which was not to be— that is, that He would bestow on him an untimely death in order that he might be withdrawn from the uncertainty of temptations; not that he would sin, since he was not to remain in temptation. Because, concerning this life, we read in the book of Job, Is not the life of man upon earth a temptation? Job 7:1 But why it should be granted to some to be taken away from the perils of this life while they are righteous, while others who are righteous until they fall from righteousness are kept in the same risks in a more lengthened life—who has known the mind of the Lord? And yet it is permitted to be understood from this, that even those righteous people who maintain good and pious characters, even to the maturity of old age and to the last day of this life, must not glory in their own merits, but in the Lord, since He who took away the righteous man from the shortness of life, lest wickedness should alter his understanding, Himself guards the righteous man in any length of life, that wickedness may not alter his understanding. But why He should have kept the righteous man here to fall, when He might have withdrawn him before—His judgments, although absolutely righteous, are yet unsearchable.
And since these things are so, the judgment of the book of Wisdom ought not to be repudiated, since for so long a course of years that book has deserved to be read in the Church of Christ from the station of the readers of the Church of Christ, and to be heard by all Christians, from bishops downwards, even to the lowest lay believers, penitents, and catechumens, with the veneration paid to divine authority. For assuredly, if, from those who have been before me in commenting on the divine Scriptures, I should bring forward a defence of this judgment, which we are now called upon to defend more carefully and copiously than usual against the new error of the Pelagians—that is, that God's grace is not given according to our merits, and that it is given freely to whom it is given, because it is neither of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy; but that by righteous judgment it is not given to whom it is not given, because there is no unrighteousness with God—if, therefore, I should put forth a defence of this opinion from catholic commentators on the divine oracles who have preceded us, assuredly these brethren for whose sake I am now discoursing would acquiesce, for this you have intimated in your letters. What need is there, then, for us to look into the writings of those who, before this heresy sprang up, had no necessity to be conversant in a question so difficult of solution as this, which beyond a doubt they would have done if they had been compelled to answer such things? Whence it arose that they touched upon what they thought of God's grace briefly in some passages of their writings, and cursorily; but on those matters which they argued against the enemies of the Church, and in exhortations to every virtue by which to serve the living and true God for the purpose of attaining eternal life and true happiness, they dwelt at length. But the grace of God, what it could do, shows itself artlessly by its frequent mention in prayers; for what God commands to be done would not be asked for from God, unless it could be given by Him that it should be done.
But if any wish to be instructed in the opinions of those who have handled the subject, it behooves them to prefer to all commentators the book of Wisdom, where it is read, He was taken away, that wickedness should not alter his understanding; because illustrious commentators, even in the times nearest to the apostles, preferred it to themselves, seeing that when they made use of it for a testimony they believed that they were making use of nothing but a divine testimony; and certainly it appears that the most blessed Cyprian, in order to commend the advantage of an earlier death, contended that those who end this life, wherein sin is possible, are taken away from the risks of sins. In the same treatise, among other things, he says, Why, when you are about to be with Christ, and are secure of the divine promise, do you not embrace being called to Christ, and rejoice that you are free from the devil? And in another place he says, Boys escape the peril of their unstable age. And again, in another place, he says, Why do we not hasten and run, that we may see our country, that we may hail our relatives? A great number of those who are dear to us are expecting us there—a dense and abundant crowd of parents, brethren, sons, are longing for us; already secure of their own safety, but still anxious about our salvation. By these and such like sentiments, that teacher sufficiently and plainly testifies, in the clearest light of the catholic faith, that perils of sin and trials are to be feared even until the putting off of this body, but that afterwards no one shall suffer any such things. And even if he did not testify thus, when could any manner of Christian be in doubt on this matter? How, then, should it not have been of advantage to a man who has lapsed, and who finishes his life wretchedly in that same state of lapse, and passes into the punishment due to such as he—how, I say, should it not have been of the greatest and highest advantage to such an one to be snatched by death from this sphere of temptations before his fall?
And thus, unless we indulge in reckless disputation, the entire question is concluded concerning him who is taken away lest wickedness should alter his understanding. And the book of Wisdom, which for such a series of years has deserved to be read in Christ's Church, and in which this is read, ought not to suffer injustice because it withstands those who are mistaken on behalf of men's merit, so as to come in opposition to the most manifest grace of God: and this grace chiefly appears in infants, and while some of these baptized, and some not baptized, come to the end of this life, they sufficiently point to God's mercy and His judgment,— His mercy, indeed, gratuitous, His judgment, of debt. For if men should be judged according to the merits of their life, which merits they have been prevented by death from actually having, but would have had if they had lived, it would be of no advantage to him who is taken away lest wickedness should alter his understanding; it would be of no advantage to those who die in a state of lapse if they should die before. And this no Christian will venture to say. Wherefore our brethren, who with us on behalf of the catholic faith assail the pest of the Pelagian error, ought not to such an extent to favour the Pelagian opinion, wherein they conceive that God's grace is given according to our merits, as to endeavour (which they cannot dare) to invalidate a true sentiment, plainly and from ancient times Christian—He was taken away, lest wickedness should alter his understanding; and to build up that which we should think, I do not say, no one would believe, but no one would dream,— to wit, that any deceased person would be judged according to those things which he would have done if he had lived for a more lengthened period. Surely thus what we say manifests itself clearly to be incontestable,— that the grace of God is not given according to our merits; so that ingenious men who contradict this truth are constrained to say things which must be rejected from the ears and from the thoughts of all men.
Moreover, the most illustrious Light of predestination and grace is the Saviour Himself—the Mediator Himself between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. And, pray, by what preceding merits of its own, whether of works or of faith, did the human nature which is in Him procure for itself that it should be this? Let this have an answer, I beg. That man, whence did He deserve this— to be assumed by the Word co-eternal with the Father into unity of person, and be the only-begotten Son of God? Was it because any kind of goodness in Him preceded? What did He do before? What did He believe? What did He ask, that He should attain to this unspeakable excellence? Was it not by the act and the assumption of the Word that that man, from the time He began to be, began to be the only Son of God? Did not that woman, full of grace, conceive the only Son of God? Was He not born the only Son of God, of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary—not of the lust of the flesh, but by God's peculiar gift? Was it to be feared that as age matured this man, He would sin of free will? Or was the will in Him not free on that account? And was it not so much the more free in proportion to the greater impossibility of His becoming the servant of sin? Certainly, in Him human nature— that is to say, our nature— specially received all those specially admirable gifts, and any others that may most truly be said to be peculiar to Him, by virtue of no preceding merits of its own. Let a man here answer to God if he dare, and say, Why was it not I also? And if he should hear, O man, who are you that repliest against God? Romans 9:10 let him not at this point restrain himself, but increase his impudence and say, How is it that I hear, Who are you, O man? Since I am what I hear—that is, a man, and He of whom I speak is but the same? Why should not I also be what He is? For it is by grace that He is such and so great; why is grace different when nature is common? Assuredly, there is no respect of persons with God. I say, not what Christian man, but what madman will say this?
Therefore in Him who is our Head let there appear to be the very fountain of grace, whence, according to the measure of every man, He diffuses Himself through all His members. It is by that grace that every man from the beginning of his faith becomes a Christian, by which grace that one man from His beginning became Christ. Of the same Spirit also the former is born again of which the latter was born. By the same Spirit is effected in us the remission of sins, by which Spirit it was effected that He should have no sin. God certainly foreknew that He would do these things. This, therefore, is that same predestination of the saints which most especially shone forth in the Saint of saints; and who is there of those who rightly understand the declarations of the truth that can deny this predestination? For we have learned that the Lord of glory Himself was predestinated in so far as the man was made the Son of God. The teacher of the Gentiles exclaims, in the beginning of his epistles, Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God (which He had promised afore by His prophets in the Holy Scriptures) concerning His Son, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was predestinated the Son of God in power, according to the Spirit of sanctification by the resurrection of the dead. Therefore Jesus was predestinated, so that He who was to be the Son of David according to the flesh should yet be in power the Son of God, according to the Spirit of sanctification, because He was born of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary. This is that ineffably accomplished sole taking up of man by God the Word, so that He might truly and properly be called at the same time the Son of God and the Son of man—Son of man on account of the man taken up, and the Son of God on account of the God only-begotten who took Him up, so that a Trinity and not a Quaternity might be believed in. Such a transporting of human nature was predestinated, so great, so lofty, and so sublime that there was no exalting it more highly—just as on our behalf that divinity had no possibility of more humbly putting itself off, than by the assumption of man's nature with the weakness of the flesh, even to the death of the cross. As, therefore, that one man was predestinated to be our Head, so we being many are predestinated to be His members. Here let human merits which have perished through Adam keep silence, and let that grace of God reign which reigns through Jesus Christ our Lord, the only Son of God, the one Lord. Let whoever can find in our Head the merits which preceded that peculiar generation, seek in us His members for those merits which preceded our manifold regeneration. For that generation was not recompensed to Christ, but given; that He should be born, namely, of the Spirit and the Virgin, separate from all entanglement of sin. Thus also our being born again of water and the Spirit is not recompensed to us for any merit, but freely given; and if faith has brought us to the laver of regeneration, we ought not therefore to suppose that we have first given anything, so that the regeneration of salvation should be recompensed to us again; because He made us to believe in Christ, who made for us a Christ on whom we believe. He makes in men the beginning and the completion of the faith in Jesus who made the man Jesus the beginner and finisher of faith; Hebrews 12:2 for thus, as you know, He is called in the epistle which is addressed to the Hebrews.
God indeed calls many predestinated children of His, to make them members of His only predestinated Son,— not with that calling with which they were called who would not come to the marriage, since with that calling were called also the Jews, to whom Christ crucified is an offense, and the Gentiles, to whom Christ crucified is foolishness; but with that calling He calls the predestinated which the apostle distinguished when he said that he preached Christ, the wisdom of God and the power of God, to them that were called, Jews as well as Greeks. For thus he says But unto them which are called, 1 Corinthians 1:24 in order to show that there were some who were not called; knowing that there is a certain sure calling of those who are called according to God's purpose, whom He has foreknown and predestinated before to be conformed to the image of His Son. And it was this calling he meant when he said, Not of works, but of Him that calls; it was said unto her, That the elder shall serve the younger. Romans 9:12 Did he say, Not of works, but of him that believes? Rather, he actually took this away from man, that he might give the whole to God. Therefore he said, But of Him that calls,— not with any sort of calling whatever, but with that calling wherewith a man is made a believer.
Moreover, it was this that he had in view when he said, The gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Romans 11:29 And in that saying also consider for a little what was its purport. For when he had said, For I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, that you may not be wise in yourselves, that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel should be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Sion one who shall deliver, and turn away impiety from Jacob: and this is the covenant to them from me, when I shall take away their sins; he immediately added, what is to be very carefully understood, As concerning the gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sakes: but as concerning the election, they are beloved for their fathers' sakes. Romans 11:28 What is the meaning of, as concerning the gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sake, but that their enmity wherewith they put Christ to death was, without doubt, as we see, an advantage to the gospel? And he shows that this came about by God's ordering, who knew how to make a good use even of evil things; not that the vessels of wrath might be of advantage to Him, but that by His own good use of them they might be of advantage to the vessels of mercy. For what could be said more plainly than what is actually said, As concerning the gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sakes? It is, therefore, in the power of the wicked to sin; but that in sinning they should do this or that by that wickedness is not in their power, but in God's, who divides the darkness and regulates it; so that hence even what they do contrary to God's will is not fulfilled except it be God's will. We read in the Acts of the Apostles that when the apostles had been sent away by the Jews, and had come to their own friends, and shown them what great things the priests and elders said to them, they all with one consent lifted up their voices to the Lord and said, Lord, you are God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein; who, by the mouth of our father David, your holy servant, hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the princes were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ. For in truth, there have assembled together in this city against Your holy child Jesus, whom You have anointed, Herod and Pilate, and the people of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and counsel predestinated to be done. See what is said: As concerning the gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sakes. Because God's hand and counsel predestinated such things to be done by the hostile Jews as were necessary for the gospel, for our sakes. But what is it that follows? But as concerning the election, they are beloved for their fathers' sakes. For are those enemies who perished in their enmity and those of the same people who still perish in their opposition to Christ—are those chosen and beloved? Away with the thought! Who is so utterly foolish as to say this? But both expressions, although contrary to one another— that is, enemies and beloved— are appropriate, though not to the same men, yet to the same Jewish people, and to the same carnal seed of lsrael, of whom some belonged to the falling away, and some to the blessing of Israel himself. For the apostle previously explained this meaning more clearly when he said, That which lsrael wrought for, he has not obtained; but the election has obtained it, and the rest were blinded? Romans 11:7 Yet in both cases it was the very same Israel. Where, therefore, we hear, Israel has not obtained, or, The rest were blinded, there are to be understood the enemies for our sakes; but where we hear, that the election has obtained it, there are to be understood the beloved for their father's sakes, to which fathers those things were assuredly promised; because the promises were made to Abraham and his seed, Galatians 3:16 whence also in that olive-tree is grafted the wild olive-tree of the Gentiles. Now subsequently we certainly ought to fall in with the election, of which he says that it is according to grace, not according to debt, because there was made a remnant by the election of grace Romans 11:5 This election obtained it, the rest being blinded. As concerning this election, the Israelites were beloved for the sake of their fathers. For they were not called with that calling of which it is said, Many are called, but with that whereby the chosen are called. Whence also after he had said, But as concerning the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes, he went on to add those words whence this discussion arose: For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance,— that is, they are firmly established without change. Those who belong to this calling are all teachable by God; nor can any of them say, I believed in order to being thus called, because the mercy of God anticipated him, because he was so called in order that he might believe. For all who are teachable of God come to the Son because they have heard and learned from the Father through the Son, who most clearly says, Every one who has heard of the Father, and has learned, comes unto me. John 6:45 But of such as these none perishes, because of all that the Father has given Him, He will lose none. John 6:39 Whoever, therefore, is of these does not perish at all; nor was any who perishes ever of these. For which reason it is said, They went out from among us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would certainly have continued with us. John 2:19
Let us, then, understand the calling whereby they become elected,— not those who are elected because they have believed, but who are elected that they may believe. For the Lord Himself also sufficiently explains this calling when He says, You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you. John 15:16 For if they had been elected because they had believed, they themselves would certainly have first chosen Him by believing in Him, so that they should deserve to be elected. But He takes away this supposition altogether when He says, You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you. And yet they themselves, beyond a doubt, chose Him when they believed on Him. Whence it is not for any other reason that He says, You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, than because they did not choose Him that He should choose them, but He chose them that they might choose Him; because His mercy preceded them according to grace, not according to debt. Therefore He chose them out of the world while He was wearing flesh, but as those who were already chosen in Himself before the foundation of the world. This is the changeless truth concerning predestination and grace. For what is it that the apostle says, As He has chosen us in Himself before the foundation of the world? Ephesians 1:4 And assuredly, if this were said because God foreknew that they would believe, not because He Himself would make them believers, the Son is speaking against such a foreknowledge as that when He says, You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you; when God should rather have foreknown this very thing, that they themselves would have chosen Him, so that they might deserve to be chosen by Him. Therefore they were elected before the foundation of the world with that predestination in which God foreknew what He Himself would do; but they were elected out of the world with that calling whereby God fulfilled that which He predestinated. For whom He predestinated, them He also called, with that calling, to wit, which is according to the purpose. Not others, therefore, but those whom He predestinated, them He also called; nor others, but those whom He so called, them He also justified; nor others, but those whom He predestinated, called, and justified, them He also glorified; assuredly to that end which has no end. Therefore God elected believers; but He chose them that they might be so, not because they were already so. The Apostle James says: Has not God chosen the poor in this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which God has promised to them that love Him? James 2:5 By choosing them, therefore; He makes them rich in faith, as He makes them heirs of the kingdom; because He is rightly said to choose that in them, in order to make which in them He chose them. I ask, who can hear the Lord saying, You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and can dare to say that men believe in order to be elected, when they are rather elected to believe; lest against the judgment of truth they be found to have first chosen Christ to whom Christ says, You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you? John 16:16
Who can hear the apostle saying, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in all spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ; as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without spot in His sight; in love predestinating us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself according to the good pleasure of His will, wherein He has shown us favour in His beloved Son; in whom we have redemption through His blood, the remission of sins according to the riches of His grace, which has abounded to us in all wisdom and prudence; that He might show to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He has purposed in Himself, in the dispensation of the fullness of times, to restore all things in Christ, which are in heaven, and in the earth, in Him: in whom also we have obtained a share, being predestinated according to the purpose; who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we should be to the praise of his glory; — who, I say, can hear these words with attention and intelligence, and can venture to have any doubt concerning a truth so clear as this which we are defending? God chose Christ's members in Him before the foundation of the world; and how should He choose those who as yet did not exist, except by predestinating them? Therefore He chose us by predestinating us. Would he choose the unholy and the unclean? Now if the question be proposed, whether He would choose such, or rather the holy and unstained, who can ask which of these he may answer, and not give his opinion at once in favour of the holy and pure?
Therefore, says the Pelagian, He foreknew who would be holy and immaculate by the choice of free will, and on that account elected them before the foundation of the world in that same foreknowledge of His in which He foreknew that they would be such. Therefore He elected them, says he, before they existed, predestinating them to be children whom He foreknew to be holy and immaculate. Certainly He did not make them so; nor did He foresee that He would make them so, but that they would be so. Let us, then, look into the words of the apostle and see whether He chose us before the foundation of the world because we were going to be holy and immaculate, or in order that we might be so. Blessed, says he, be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in all spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ; even as He has chosen us in Himself before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted. Ephesians 1:3 Not, then, because we were to be so, but that we might be so. Assuredly it is certain,— assuredly it is manifest. Certainly we were to be such for the reason that He has chosen us, predestinating us to be such by His grace. Therefore He blessed us with spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ Jesus, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and immaculate in His sight, in order that we might not in so great a benefit of grace glory concerning the good pleasure of our will. In which, says he, He has shown us favour in His beloved Son,— in which, certainly, His own will, He has shown us favour. Thus, it is said, He has shown us grace by grace, even as it is said, He has made us righteous by righteousness. In whom, he says, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace, which has abounded to us in all wisdom and prudence; that he might show to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure. In this mystery of His will, He placed the riches of His grace, according to His good pleasure, not according to ours, which could not possibly be good unless He Himself, according to His own good pleasure, should aid it to become so. But when he had said, According to His good pleasure, he added, which He purposed in Him, that is, in His beloved Son, in the dispensation of the fullness of times to restore all things in Christ, which are in heaven, and which are in earth, in Him: in whom also we too have obtained a lot, being predestinated according to His purpose who works all things according to the counsel of His will; that we should be to the praise of His glory.
It would be too tedious to argue about the several points. But you see without doubt, you see with what evidence of apostolic declaration this grace is defended, in opposition to which human merits are set up, as if man should first give something for it to be recompensed to him again. Therefore God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, predestinating us to the adoption of children, not because we were going to be of ourselves holy and immaculate, but He chose and predestinated us that we might be so. Moreover, He did this according to the good pleasure of His will, so that nobody might glory concerning his own will, but about God's will towards himself. He did this according to the riches of His grace, according to His good-will, which He purposed in His beloved Son; in whom we have obtained a share, being predestinated according to the purpose, not ours, but His, who works all things to such an extent as that He works in us to will also. Moreover, He works according to the counsel of His will, that we may be to the praise of His glory. Philippians 2:13 For this reason it is that we cry that no one should glory in man, and, thus, not in himself; but whoever glories let him glory in the Lord, that he may be for the praise of His glory. Because He Himself works according to His purpose that we may be to the praise of His glory, and, of course, holy and immaculate, for which purpose He called us, predestinating us before the foundation of the world. Out of this, His purpose, is that special calling of the elect for whom He co-works with all things for good, because they are called according to His purpose, and the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Romans 11:29
But these brethren of ours, about whom and on whose behalf we are now discoursing, say, perhaps, that the Pelagians are refuted by this testimony in which it is said that we are chosen in Christ and predestinated before the foundation of the world, in order that we should be holy and immaculate in His sight in love. For they think that having received God's commands we are of ourselves by the choice of our free will made holy and immaculate in His sight in love; and since God foresaw that this would be the case, they say, He therefore chose and predestinated us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Although the apostle says that it was not because He foreknew that we should be such, but in order that we might be such by the same election of His grace, by which He showed us favour in His beloved Son. When, therefore, He predestinated us, He foreknew His own work by which He makes us holy and immaculate. Whence the Pelagian error is rightly refuted by this testimony. But we say, say they, that God did not foreknow anything as ours except that faith by which we begin to believe, and that He chose and predestinated us before the foundation of the world, in order that we might be holy and immaculate by His grace and by His work. But let them also hear in this testimony the words where he says, We have obtained a lot, being predestinated according to His purpose who works all things. Ephesians 1:11 He, therefore, works the beginning of our belief who works all things; because faith itself does not precede that calling of which it is said: For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance; Romans 11:29 and of which it is said: Not of works, but of Him that calls Romans 9:12 (although He might have said, of Him that believes); and the election which the Lord signified when He said: You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you. John 15:16 For He chose us, not because we believed, but that we might believe, lest we should be said first to have chosen Him, and so His word be false (which be it far from us to think possible), You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you. Neither are we called because we believed, but that we may believe; and by that calling which is without repentance it is effected and carried through that we should believe. But all the many things which we have said concerning this matter need not to be repeated.
Finally, also, in what follows this testimony, the apostle gives thanks to God on behalf of those who have believed—not, certainly, because the gospel has been declared to them, but because they have believed. For he says, In whom also after ye had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, after that you believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the pledge of our inheritance, to the redemption of the purchased possession unto the praise of His glory. Wherefore I also, after I had heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and with reference to all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you. Their faith was new and recent on the preaching of the gospel to them, which faith when he hears of, the apostle gives thanks to God on their behalf. If he were to give thanks to man for that which he might either think or know that man had not given, it would be called a flattery or a mockery, rather than a giving of thanks. Do not err, for God is not mocked; Galatians 6:7 for His gift is also the beginning of faith, unless the apostolic giving of thanks be rightly judged to be either mistaken or fallacious. What then? Does that not appear as the beginning of the faith of the Thessalonians, for which, nevertheless, the same apostle gives thanks to God when he says, For this cause also we thank God without ceasing, because when you had received from us the word of the hearing of God, you received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the word of God, which effectually works in you and which you believed? 1 Thessalonians 2:13 What is that for which he here gives thanks to God? Assuredly it is a vain and idle thing if He to whom he gives thanks did not Himself do the thing. But, since this is not a vain and idle thing, certainly God, to whom he gave thanks concerning this work, Himself did it; that when they had received the word of the hearing of God, they received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the word of God. God, therefore, works in the hearts of men with that calling according to His purpose, of which we have spoken a great deal, that they should not hear the gospel in vain, but when they heard it, should be converted and believe, receiving it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the word of God.
Moreover, we are admonished that the beginning of men's faith is God's gift, since the apostle signifies this when, in the Epistle to the Colossians, he says, Continue in prayer, and watch in the same in giving of thanks. Withal praying also for us that God would open unto us the door of His word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which also I am in bonds, that I may so make it manifest as I ought to speak. How is the door of His word opened, except when the sense of the hearer is opened so that he may believe, and, having made a beginning of faith, may admit those things which are declared and reasoned, for the purpose of building up wholesome doctrine, lest, by a heart closed through unbelief, he reject and repel those things which are spoken? Whence, also, he says to the Corinthians: But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great and evident door is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries. 1 Corinthians 16:8 What else can be understood here, save that, when the gospel had been first of all preached there by him, many had believed, and there had appeared many adversaries of the same faith, in accordance with that saying of the Lord, No one comes unto me, unless it were given him of my Father; John 6:66 and, To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given? Luke 8:10 Therefore, there is an open door in those to whom it is given, but there are many adversaries among those to whom it is not given.
And again, the same apostle says to the same people, in his second Epistle: When I had come to Troas for the gospel of Christ, and a door had been opened unto me in the Lord, I had no rest in my spirit, because I found not Titus, my brother: but, making my farewell to them, I went away into Macedonia. 2 Corinthians 2:12-13 To whom did he bid farewell but to those who had believed—to wit, in whose hearts the door was opened for his preaching of the gospel? But attend to what he adds, saying, Now thanks be unto God, who always causes us to triumph in Christ, and makes manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place: because we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ in them who are saved, and in them who perish: to some, indeed, we are the savour of death unto death, but to some the savour of life unto life. See concerning what this most zealous soldier and invincible defender of grace gives thanks. See concerning what he gives thanks—that the apostles are a sweet savour of Christ unto God, both in those who are saved by His grace, and in those who perish by His judgment. But in order that those who little understand these things may be less enraged, he himself gives a warning when he adds the words: And who is sufficient for these things? 2 Corinthians 2:16 But let us return to the opening of the door by which the apostle signified the beginning of faith in his hearers. For what is the meaning of, Withal praying also for us that God would open unto us a door of the word, Colossians 4:3 unless it is a most manifest demonstration that even the very beginning of faith is the gift of God? For it would not be sought for from Him in prayer, unless it were believed to be given by Him. This gift of heavenly grace had descended to that seller of purple Acts 16:14 for whom, as Scripture says in the Acts of the Apostles, The Lord opened her heart, and she gave heed unto the things which were said by Paul; for she was so called that she might believe. Because God does what He will in the hearts of men, either by assistance or by judgment; so that, even through their means, may be fulfilled what His hand and counsel have predestinated to be done.
Therefore also it is in vain that objectors have alleged, that what we have proved by Scripture testimony from the books of Kings and Chronicles is not pertinent to the subject of which we are discoursing: such, for instance, as that when God wills that to be done which ought only to be done by the willing men, their hearts are inclined to will this—inclined, that is to say, by His power, who, in a marvellous and ineffable manner, works in us also to will. What else is this than to say nothing, and yet to contradict? Unless perchance, they have given some reason to you for the view that they have taken, which reason you have preferred to say nothing about in your letters. But what that reason can be I do not know. Whether, possibly, since we have shown that God has so acted on the hearts of men, and has induced the wills of those whom He pleased to this point, that Saul or David should be established as king—do they not think that these instances are appropriate to this subject, because to reign in this world temporally is not the same thing as to reign eternally with God? And so do they suppose that God inclines the wills of those whom He pleases to the attainment of earthly kingdoms, but does not incline them to the attainment of a heavenly kingdom? But I think that it was in reference to the kingdom of heaven, and not to an earthly kingdom, that it was said, Incline my heart unto Your testimonies; or, The steps of a man are ordered by the Lord, and He will will His way; or, The will is prepared by the Lord; or, Let our Lord be with us as with our fathers; let Him not forsake us, nor turn Himself away from us; let Him incline our hearts unto Him, that we may walk in all His ways; 1 Kings 8:57 or, I will give them a heart to know me, and ears that hear; Baruch 2:31 or, I will give them another heart, and a new spirit will I give them. Ezekiel 11:19 Let them also hear this, I will give my Spirit within you, and I will cause you to walk in my righteousness; and you shall observe my judgments, and do them. Ezekiel 36:27 Let them hear, Man's goings are directed by the Lord, and how can a man understand His ways? Proverbs 20:24 Let them hear, Every man seems right to himself, but the Lord directs the hearts. Proverbs 21:2 Let them hear, As many as were ordained to eternal life believed. Acts 13:48 Let them hear these passages, and whatever others of the kind I have not mentioned in which God is declared to prepare and to convert men's wills, even for the kingdom of heaven and for eternal life. And consider what sort of a thing it is to believe that God works men's wills for the foundation of earthly kingdoms, but that men work their own wills for the attainment of the kingdom of heaven.
I have said a great deal, and, perchance, I could long ago have persuaded you what I wished, and am still speaking this to such intelligent minds as if they were obtuse, to whom even what is too much is not enough. But let them pardon me, for a new question has compelled me to this. Because, although in my former little treatises I had proved by sufficiently appropriate proofs that faith also was the gift of God, there was found this ground of contradiction, viz., that those testimonies were good for this purpose, to show that the increase of faith was God's gift, but that the beginning of faith, whereby a man first of all believes in Christ, is of the man himself, and is not the gift of God—but that God requires this, so that when it has preceded, other gifts may follow, as it were on the ground of this merit, and these are the gifts of God; and that none of them is given freely, although in them God's grace is declared, which is not grace except as being gratuitous. And you see how absurd all this is. Wherefore I determined, as far as I could, to set forth that this very beginning also is God's gift. And if I have done this at a greater length than perhaps those on whose account I did it might wish, I am prepared to be reproached for it by them, so long as they nevertheless confess that, although at greater length than they wished, although with the disgust and weariness of those that understand, I have done what I have done: that is, I have taught that even the beginning of faith, as continence, patience, righteousness, piety, and the rest, concerning which there is no dispute with them, is God's gift. Let this, therefore, be the end of this treatise, lest too great length in this one may give offense.
In the first part of the book he proves that the perseverance by which a man perseveres in Christ to the end is God's gift; for that it is a mockery to ask of God that which is not believed to be given by God. Moreover, that in the Lord's prayer scarcely anything is asked for but perseverance, according to the exposition of the martyr Cyprian, by which exposition the enemies to this grace were convicted before they were born. He teaches that the grace of perseverance is not given according to the merits of the receivers, but to some it is given by God's mercy; to others it is not given, by His righteous judgment. That it is inscrutable why, of adults, one rather than another should be called; just as, moreover, of two infants it is inscrutable why the one should be taken, the other left. But that it is still more inscrutable why, of two pious persons, to one it should be given to persevere, to the other it should not be given; but that this is most certain, that the former is of the predestinated, the latter is not. He observes that the mystery of predestination is set forth in our Lord's words concerning the people of Tyre and Sidon, who would have repented if the same miracles had been done among them which had been done in Chorazin. He shows that the case of infants is of force to confirm the truth of predestination and grace in older people; and he answers the passage of his third book on free will, unsoundly alleged on this point by his adversaries. Subsequently, in the second part of this work, he rebuts what they say—to wit, that the definition of predestination is opposed to the usefulness of exhortation and rebuke. He asserts, on the other hand, that it is advantageous to preach predestination, so that man may not glory in himself, but in the Lord. As to the objections, how ever, which they make against predestination, he shows that the same objections may be twisted in no unlike manner either against God's foreknowledge or against that grace which they all agree to be necessary for other good things (with the exception of the beginning of faith and the completion of perseverance). For that the predestination of the saints is nothing else than God's foreknowledge and preparation for His benefits, by which whoever are delivered are most certainly delivered. But he bids that predestination should be preached in a harmonious manner, and not in such a way as to seem to an unskilful multitude as if it were disproved by its very preaching. Lastly, he commends to us Jesus Christ, as placed before our eyes, as the most eminent instance of predestination.
I Have now to consider the subject of perseverance with greater care; for in the former book also I said some things on this subject when I was discussing the beginning of faith. I assert, therefore, that the perseverance by which we persevere in Christ even to the end is the gift of God; and I call that the end by which is finished that life wherein alone there is peril of falling. Therefore it is uncertain whether any one has received this gift so long as he is still alive. For if he fall before he dies, he is, of course, said not to have persevered; and most truly is it said. How, then, should he be said to have received or to have had perseverance who has not persevered? For if any one have continence, and fall away from that virtue and become incontinent—or, in like manner, if he have righteousness, if patience, if even faith, and fall away, he is rightly said to have had these virtues and to have them no longer; for he was continent, or he was righteous, or he was patient, or he was believing, as long as he was so; but when he ceased to be so, he no longer is what he was. But how should he who has not persevered have ever been persevering, since it is only by persevering that any one shows himself persevering—and this he has not done? But lest any one should object to this, and say, If from the time at which any one became a believer he has lived— for the sake of argument— ten years, and in the midst of them has fallen from the faith, has he not persevered for five years? I am not contending about words. If it be thought that this also should be called perseverance, as it were for so long as it lasts, assuredly he is not to be said to have had in any degree that perseverance of which we are now discoursing, by which one perseveres in Christ even to the end. And the believer of one year, or of a period as much shorter as may be conceived of, if he has lived faithfully until he died, has rather had this perseverance than the believer of many years' standing, if a little time before his death he has fallen away from the steadfastness of his faith.
This matter being settled, let us see whether this perseverance, of which it was said, He that perseveres unto the end, the same shall be saved, Matthew 10:22 is a gift of God. And if it be not, how is that saying of the apostle true: Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake? Philippians 2:29 Of these things, certainly, one has respect to the beginning, the other to the end. Yet each is the gift of God, because both are said to be given; as, also, I have already said above. For what is more truly the beginning for a Christian than to believe in Christ? What end is better than to suffer for Christ? But so far as pertains to believing in Christ, whatever kind of contradiction has been discovered, that not the beginning but the increase of faith should be called God's gift,— to this opinion, by God's gift, I have answered enough, and more than enough. But what reason can be given why perseverance to the end should not be given in Christ to him to whom it is given to suffer for Christ, or, to speak more distinctly, to whom it is given to die for Christ? For the Apostle Peter, showing that this is the gift of God, says, It is better, if the will of God be so, to suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing. 1 Peter 3:17 When he says, If the will of God be so, he shows that this is divinely given, and yet not to all saints, to suffer for Christ's sake. For certainly those whom the will of God does not will to attain to the experience and the glory of suffering, do not fail to attain to the kingdom of God if they persevere in Christ to the end. But who can say that this perseverance is not given to those who die in Christ from any weakness of body, or by any kind of accident, although a far more difficult perseverance is given to those by whom even death itself is undergone for Christ's sake? Because perseverance is much more difficult when the persecutor is engaged in preventing a man's perseverance; and therefore he is sustained in his perseverance unto death. Hence it is more difficult to have the former perseverance,— easier to have the latter; but to Him to whom nothing is difficult it is easy to give both. For God has promised this, saying, I will put my fear in their hearts, that they may not depart from me. Jeremiah 32:40 And what else is this than, Such and so great shall be my fear that I will put into their hearts that they will perseveringly cleave to me?
But why is that perseverance asked for from God if it is not given by God? Is that, too, a mocking petition, when that is asked from Him which it is known that He does not give, but, though He gives it not, is in man's power; just as that giving of thanks is a mockery, if thanks are given to God for that which He did not give nor do? But what I have said there, I say also here again: Be not deceived, says the apostle, God is not mocked. Galatians 6:6 O man, God is a witness not only of your words, but also of your thoughts. If you ask anything in truth and faith of one who is so rich, believe that you receive from Him from whom you ask, what you ask. Abstain from honouring Him with your lips and extolling yourself over Him in your heart, by believing that you have from yourself what you are pretending to beseech from Him. Is not this perseverance, perchance, asked for from Him? He who says this is not to be rebuked by any arguments, but must be overwhelmed with the prayers of the saints. Is there any of these who does not ask for himself from God that he may persevere in Him, when in that very prayer which is called the Lord's— because the Lord taught it— when it is prayed by the saints, scarcely anything else is understood to be prayed for but perseverance?
Read with a little more attention its exposition in the treatise of the blessed martyr Cyprian, which he wrote concerning this matter, the title of which is, On the Lord's Prayer; and see how many years ago, and what sort of an antidote was prepared against those poisons which the Pelagians were one day to use. For there are three points, as you know, which the catholic Church chiefly maintains against them. One of these is, that the grace of God is not given according to our merits; because even every one of the merits of the righteous is God's gift, and is conferred by God's grace. The second is, that no one lives in this corruptible body, however righteous he may be, without sins of some kind. The third is, that man is born obnoxious to the first man's sin, and bound by the chain of condemnation, unless the guilt which is contracted by generation be loosed by regeneration. Of these three points, that which I have placed last is the only one that is not treated of in the above-named book of the glorious martyr; but of the two others the discourse there is of such perspicuity, that the above-named heretics, modern enemies of the grace of Christ, are found to have been convicted long before they were born. Among these merits of the saints, then, which are no merits unless they are the gifts of God, he says that perseverance also is God's gift, in these words: We say, 'Hallowed be Your name;' not that we ask for God that He may be hallowed by our prayers, but that we beseech of Him that His name may be hallowed in us. But by whom is God sanctified, since He Himself sanctifies? Well, because He says, Be holy because I also am holy, we ask and entreat that we, who were sanctified in baptism, may persevere in that which we have begun to be. And a little after, still arguing about that self-same matter, and teaching that we entreat perseverance from the Lord, which we could in no wise rightly and truly do unless it were His gift, he says: We pray that this sanctification may abide in us; and because our Lord and Judge warns the man that was healed and quickened by Him to sin no more, lest a worse thing happen unto him, we make this supplication in our constant prayers; we ask this, day and night, that the sanctification and quickening which is received from the grace of God may be preserved by His protection. That teacher, therefore, understands that we are asking from Him for perseverance in sanctification, that is, that we should persevere in sanctification, when we who are sanctified say, Hallowed be Your name. For what else is it to ask for what we have already received, than that it be given to us also not to cease from its possession? As, therefore, the saint, when he asks God that he may be holy, is certainly asking that he may continue to be holy, so certainly the chaste person also, when he asks that he may be chaste, the continent that he may be continent, the righteous that he may be righteous, the pious that he may be pious, and the like—which things, against the Pelagians, we maintain to be God's gifts,— are asking, without doubt, that they may persevere in those good things which they have acknowledged that they have received. And if they receive this, assuredly they also receive perseverance itself, the great gift of God, whereby His other gifts are preserved.
What, when we say, Your kingdom come, do we ask else, but that that should also come to us which we do not doubt will come to all saints? And therefore here also, what do they who are already holy pray for, save that they may persevere in that holiness which has been given them? For no otherwise will the kingdom of God come to them; which it is certain will come not to others, but to those who persevere to the end.
The third petition is, Your will be done in heaven and in earth; or, as it is read in many codices, and is more frequently made use of by petitioners, As in heaven, so also in earth, which many people understand, As the holy angels, so also may we do your will. That teacher and martyr will have heaven and earth, however, to be understood as spirit and flesh, and says that we pray that we may do the will of God with the full concord of both. He saw in these words also another meaning, congruous to the soundest faith, of which meaning I have already spoken above—to wit, that for unbelievers, who are as yet earth, bearing in their first birth only the earthly man, believers are understood to pray, who, being clothed with the heavenly man, are not unreasonably called by the name of heaven; where he plainly shows that the beginning of faith also is God's gift, since the holy Church prays not only for believers, that faith may be increased or may continue in them, but, moreover, for unbelievers, that they may begin to have what they have not had at all, and against which, besides, they were indulging hostile feelings. Now, however, I am arguing not concerning the beginning of faith, of which I have already spoken much in the former book, but of that perseverance which must be had even to the end—which assuredly even the saints, who do the will of God, seek when they say in prayer, Your will be done. For, since it is already done in them, why do they still ask that it may be done, except that they may persevere in that which they have begun to be? Nevertheless, it may here be said that the saints do not ask that the will of God may be done in heaven, but that it may be done in earth as in heaven,— that is to say, that earth may imitate heaven, that is, that man may imitate the angel, or that an unbeliever may imitate a believer; and thus that the saints are asking that that may be which is not yet, not that that which is may continue. For, by whatever holiness men may be distinguished, they are not yet equal to the angels of God; not yet, therefore, is the will of God done in them as it is in heaven. And if this be so, in that portion indeed in which we ask that men from unbelievers may become believers, it is not perseverance, but beginning, that seems to be asked for; but in that in which we ask that men may be made equal to the angels of God in doing God's will—where the saints pray for this, they are found to be praying for perseverance; since no one attains to that highest blessedness which is in the kingdom, unless he shall persevere unto the end in that holiness which he has received on earth.
The fourth petition is, Give us this day our daily bread, Matthew 6:11 where the blessed Cyprian shows how here also perseverance is understood to be asked for. Because he says, among other things, And we ask that this bread should be given to us daily, that we who are in Christ, and daily receive the Eucharist for the food of salvation, may not by the interposition of some heinous sin be separated from Christ's body by being withheld from communicating and prevented from partaking of the heavenly bread. These words of the holy man of God indicate that the saints ask for perseverance directly from God, when with this intention they say, Give us this day our daily bread, that they may not be separated from Christ's body, but may continue in that holiness in which they allow no crime by which they may deserve to be separated from it.
In the fifth sentence of the prayer we say, Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors, Matthew 6:12 in which petition alone perseverance is not found to be asked for. For the sins which we ask to be forgiven us are past, but perseverance, which saves us for eternity, is indeed necessary for the time of this life; but not for the time which is past, but for that which remains even to its end. Yet it is worth the labour to consider for a little, how even already in this petition the heretics who were to arise long after were transfixed by the tongue of Cyprian, as if by the most invincible dart of truth. For the Pelagians dare to say even this: that the righteous man in this life has no sin at all, and that in such men there is even at the present time a Church not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, Ephesians 5:27 which is the one and only bride of Christ; as if she were not His bride who throughout the whole earth says what she has learned from Him, Forgive us our debts. But observe how the most glorious Cyprian destroys these. For when he was expounding that very clause of the Lord's Prayer, he says among other things: And how necessarily, how providently, and salutarily are we admonished that we are sinners, since we are compelled to entreat for our sins; and while pardon is asked for from God, the soul recalls its own consciousness. Lest any one should flatter himself that he is innocent, and by exalting himself should more deeply perish, he is instructed and taught that he sins daily, in that he is bidden daily to entreat for his sins. Thus, moreover, John also in his Epistle warns us, and says, 1 John 1:8 'If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.' And the rest, which it would be long to insert in this place.
Now, moreover, when the saints say, Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, Matthew 6:13 what do they pray for but that they may persevere in holiness? For, assuredly, when that gift of God is granted to them—which is sufficiently plainly shown to be God's gift, since it is asked of Him—that gift of God, then, being granted to them that they may not be led into temptation, none of the saints fails to keep his perseverance in holiness even to the end. For there is not any one who ceases to persevere in the Christian purpose unless he is first of all led into temptation. If, therefore, it be granted to him according to his prayer that he may not be led, certainly by the gift of God he persists in that sanctification which by the gift of God he has received.
But you write that these brethren will not have this perseverance so preached as that it cannot be obtained by prayer or lost by obstinacy. In this they are little careful in considering what they say. For we are speaking of that perseverance whereby one perseveres unto the end, and if this is given, one does persevere unto the end; but if one does not persevere unto the end, it is not given, which I have already sufficiently discussed above. Let not men say, then, that perseverance is given to any one to the end, except when the end itself has come, and he to whom it has been given has been found to have persevered unto the end. Certainly, we say that one whom we have known to be chaste is chaste, whether he should continue or not in the same chastity; and if he should have any other divine endowment which may be kept and lost, we say that he has it as long as he has it; and if he should lose it, we say that he had it. But since no one has perseverance to the end except he who does persevere to the end, many people may have it, but none can lose it. For it is not to be feared that perchance when a man has persevered unto the end, some evil will may arise in him, so that he does not persevere unto the end. This gift of God, therefore, may be obtained by prayer, but when it has been given, it cannot be lost by contumacy. For when any one has persevered unto the end, he neither can lose this gift, nor others which he could lose before the end. How, then, can that be lost, whereby it is brought about that even that which could be lost is not lost?
But, lest perchance it be said that perseverance even to the end is not indeed lost when it has once been given—that is, when a man has persevered unto the end—but that it is lost, in some sense, when a man by contumacy so acts that he is not able to attain to it; just as we say that a man who has not persevered unto the end has lost eternal life or the kingdom of God, not because he had already received and actually had it, but because he would have received and had it if he had persevered;— let us lay aside controversies of words, and say that some things even which are not possessed, but are hoped to be possessed, may be lost. Let any one who dares, tell me whether God cannot give what He has commanded to be asked from Him. Certainly he who affirms this, I say not is a fool, but he is mad. But God commanded that His saints should say to Him in prayer, Lead us not into temptation. Whoever, therefore, is heard when he asks this, is not led into the temptation of contumacy, whereby he could or would be worthy to lose perseverance in holiness.
But, on the other hand, of his own will a man forsakes God, so as to be deservedly forsaken by God. Who would deny this? But it is for that reason we ask not to be led into temptation, so that this may not happen. And if we are heard, certainly it does not happen, because God does not allow it to happen. For nothing comes to pass except what either He Himself does, or Himself allows to be done. Therefore He is powerful both to turn wills from evil to good, and to convert those that are inclined to fall, or to direct them into a way pleasing to Himself. For to Him it is not said in vain, O God, You shall turn again and quicken us; it is not vainly said, Give not my foot to be moved; it is not vainly said, Give me not over, O Lord, from my desire to the sinner; finally, not to mention many passages, since probably more may occur to you, it is not vainly said, Lead us not into temptation. Matthew 6:13 For whoever is not led into temptation, certainly is not led into the temptation of his own evil will; and he who is not led into the temptation of his own evil will, is absolutely led into no temptation. For every one is tempted, as it is written, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed; James 1:14 but God tempts no man, James 1:13 — that is to say, with a hurtful temptation. For temptation is moreover beneficial by which we are not deceived or overwhelmed, but proved, according to that which is said, Prove me, O Lord, and try me. Therefore, with that hurtful temptation which the apostle signifies when he says, Lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain, 1 Thessalonians 3:5 God tempts no man, as I have said—that is, He brings or leads no one into temptation. For to be tempted and not to be led into temptation is not evil—nay, it is even good; for this it is to be proved. When, therefore, we say to God, Lead us not into temptation, what do we say but, Permit us not to be led? Whence some pray in this manner, and it is read in many codices, and the most blessed Cyprian thus uses it: Do not suffer us to be led into temptation. In the Greek gospel, however, I have never found it otherwise than, Lead us not into temptation. We live, therefore, more securely if we give up the whole to God, and do not entrust ourselves partly to Him and partly to ourselves, as that venerable martyr saw. For when he would expound the same clause of the prayer, he says among other things, But when we ask that we may not come into temptation, we are reminded of our infirmity and weakness while we thus ask, lest any should insolently vaunt himself—lest any should proudly and arrogantly assume anything to himself—lest any should take to himself the glory either of confession or suffering as his own; since the Lord Himself, teaching humility, said, 'Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation; the Spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.' So that when a humble and submissive confession comes first and all is attributed to God, whatever is sought for suppliantly, with the fear of God, may be granted by His own loving-kindness.
If, then, there were no other proofs, this Lord's Prayer alone would be sufficient for us on behalf of the grace which I am defending; because it leaves us nothing wherein we may, as it were, glory as in our own, since it shows that our not departing from God is not given except by God, when it shows that it must be asked for from God. For he who is not led into temptation does not depart from God. This is absolutely not in the strength of free will, such as it now is; but it had been in man before he fell. And yet how much this freedom of will availed in the excellence of that primal state appeared in the angels; who, when the devil and his angels fell, stood in the truth, and deserved to attain to that perpetual security of not falling, in which we are most certain that they are now established. But, after the fall of man, God willed it to pertain only to His grace that man should approach to Him; nor did He will it to pertain to anything but His grace that man should not depart from Him.
This grace He placed in Him in whom we have obtained a lot, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who works all things. Ephesians 1:11 And thus as He works that we come to Him, so He works that we do not depart. Wherefore it was said to Him by the mouth of the prophet, Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, and upon the Son of man whom You made strong for Yourself, and we will not depart from You. This certainly is not the first Adam, in whom we departed from Him, but the second Adam, upon whom His hand is placed, so that we do not depart from Him. For Christ altogether with His members is— for the Church's sake, which is His body— the fullness of Him. When, therefore, God's hand is upon Him, that we depart not from God, assuredly God's work reaches to us (for this is God's hand); by which work of God we are caused to be abiding in Christ with God— not, as in Adam, departing from God. For in Christ we have obtained a lot, being predestinated according to His purpose who works all things. This, therefore, is God's hand, not ours, that we depart not from God. That, I say, is His hand who said, I will put my fear in their hearts, that they depart not from me. Jeremiah 32:40
Wherefore, also He willed that He should be asked that we may not be led into temptation, because if we are not led, we by no means depart from Him. And this might have been given to us even without our praying for it, but by our prayer He willed us to be admonished from whom we receive these benefits. For from whom do we receive but from Him from whom it is right for us to ask? Truly in this matter let not the Church look for laborious disputations, but consider its own daily prayers. It prays that the unbelieving may believe; therefore God converts to the faith. It prays that believers may persevere; therefore God gives perseverance to the end. God foreknew that He would do this. This is the very predestination of the saints, whom He has chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and unspotted before Him in love; predestinating them unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, in which He has shown them favour in His beloved Son, in whom they have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace, which has abounded towards them in all wisdom and prudence; that He might show them the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure which He has purposed in Him, in the dispensation of the fullness of times to restore all things in Christ which are in heaven and which are in earth; in Him, in whom also we have obtained a lot, being predestinated according to His purpose who works all things. Ephesians 1:4-11 Against a trumpet of truth so clear as this, what man of sober and watchful faith can receive any human arguments?
But why, says one, is not the grace of God given according to men's merits? I answer, Because God is merciful. Why, then, it is asked, is it not given to all? And here I reply, Because God is a Judge. Romans 9:20 And thus grace is given by Him freely; and by His righteous judgment it is shown in some what grace confers on those to whom it is given. Let us not then be ungrateful, that according to the good pleasure of His will a merciful God delivers so many to the praise of the glory of His grace from such deserved perdition; as, if He should deliver no one therefrom, He would not be unrighteous. Let him, therefore, who is delivered love His grace. Let him who is not delivered acknowledge his due. If, in remitting a debt, goodness is perceived, in requiring it, justice— unrighteousness is never found to be with God.
But why, it is said, in one and the same case, not only of infants, but even of twin children, is the judgment so diverse? Is it not a similar question, Why in a different case is the judgment the same? Let us recall, then, those labourers in the vineyard who worked the whole day, and those who toiled one hour. Certainly the case was different as to the labour expended, and yet there was the same judgment in paying the wages. Did the murmurers in this case hear anything from the householder except, Such is my will? Certainly such was his liberality towards some, that there could be no injustice towards others. And both these classes, indeed, are among the good. Nevertheless, so far as it concerns justice and grace, it may be truly said to the guilty who is condemned, also concerning the guilty who is delivered, Take what is yours, and go your way; Matthew 20:14, etc. I will give unto this one that which is not due; Is it not lawful for me to do what I will? Is your eye evil because I am good? And how if he should say, Why not to me also? He will hear, and with reason, Who are you, O man, that repliest against God? Romans 9:20 And although assuredly in the one case you see a most benignant benefactor, and in your own case a most righteous exactor, in neither case do you behold an unjust God. For although He would be righteous even if He were to punish both, he who is delivered has good ground for thankfulness, he who is condemned has no ground for finding fault.
But if, it is said, it was necessary that, although all were not condemned, He should still show what was due to all, and so He should commend His grace more freely to the vessels of mercy; why in the same case will He punish me more than another, or deliver him more than me? I say not this. If you ask wherefore; because I confess that I can find no answer to make. And if you further ask why is this, it is because in this matter, even as His anger is righteous and as His mercy is great, so His judgments are unsearchable.
Let the inquirer still go on, and say, Why is it that to some who have in good faith worshipped Him He has not given to persevere to the end? Why except because he does not speak falsely who says, They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, doubtless they would have continued with us. 1 John 2:19 Are there, then, two natures of men? By no means. If there were two natures there would not be any grace, for there would be given a gratuitous deliverance to none if it were paid as a debt to nature. But it seems to men that all who appear good believers ought to receive perseverance to the end. But God has judged it to be better to mingle some who would not persevere with a certain number of His saints, so that those for whom security from temptation in this life is not desirable may not be secure. For that which the apostle says, checks many from mischievous elation: Wherefore let him who seems to stand take heed lest he fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12 But he who falls, falls by his own will, and he who stands, stands by God's will. For God is able to make him stand; Romans 14:4 therefore he is not able to make himself stand, but God. Nevertheless, it is good not to be high-minded, but to fear. Moreover, it is in his own thought that every one either falls or stands. Now, as the apostle says, and as I have mentioned in my former treatise, We are not sufficient to think anything of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God. 2 Corinthians 3:5 Following whom also the blessed Ambrose ventures to say, For our heart is not in our own power, nor are our thoughts. And this everybody who is humbly and truly pious feels to be most true.
And when Ambrose said this, he was speaking in that treatise which he wrote concerning Flight from the World, wherein he taught that this world was to be fled not by the body, but by the heart, which he argued could not be done except by God's help. For he says: We hear frequent discourse concerning fleeing from this world, and I would that the mind was as careful and solicitous as the discourse is easy; but what is worse, the enticement of earthly lusts constantly creeps in, and the pouring out of vanities takes possession of the mind; so that what you desire to avoid, this you think of and consider in your mind. And this is difficult for a man to beware of, but impossible to get rid of. Finally, the prophet bears witness that it is a matter of wish rather than of accomplishment, when he says, 'Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness.' For our heart and our thoughts are not in our own power, and these, poured forth unexpectedly, confuse our mind and soul, and draw them in a different direction from that which you have proposed to yourself; they recall you to worldly things, they interpose things of time, they suggest voluptuous things, they inweave enticing things, and in the very moment when we are seeking to elevate our mind, we are for the most part filled with vain thoughts and cast down to earthly things. Therefore it is not in the power of men, but in that of God, that men have power to become sons of God. John 1:12 Because they receive it from Him who gives pious thoughts to the human heart, by which it has faith, which works by love; Galatians 5:6 for the receiving and keeping of which benefit, and for carrying it on perseveringly unto the end, we are not sufficient to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, 2 Corinthians 3:5 in whose power is our heart and our thoughts.
Therefore, of two infants, equally bound by original sin, why the one is taken and the other left; and of two wicked men of already mature years, why this one should be so called as to follow Him that calls, while that one is either not called at all, or is not called in such a manner—the judgments of God are unsearchable. But of two pious men, why to the one should be given perseverance unto the end, and to the other it should not be given, God's judgments are even more unsearchable. Yet to believers it ought to be a most certain fact that the former is of the predestinated, the latter is not. For if they had been of us, says one of the predestinated, who had drunk this secret from the breast of the Lord, certainly they would have continued with us. 1 John 2:19 What, I ask, is the meaning of, They were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would certainly have continued with us? Were not both created by God— both born of Adam— both made from the earth, and given from Him who said, I have created all breath, souls of one and the same nature? Lastly, had not both been called, and followed Him that called them? And had not both become, from wicked men, justified men, and both been renewed by the laver of regeneration? But if he were to hear this who beyond all doubt knew what he was saying, he might answer and say: These things are true. In respect of all these things, they were of us. Nevertheless, in respect of a certain other distinction, they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they certainly would have continued with us. What then is this distinction? God's books lie open, let us not turn away our view; the divine Scripture cries aloud, let us give it a hearing. They were not of them, because they had not been called according to the purpose; they had not been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world; they had not gained a lot in Him; they had not been predestinated according to His purpose who works all things. For if they had been this, they would have been of them, and without doubt they would have continued with them.
For not to say how possible it may be for God to convert the wills of men averse and opposed to His faith, and to operate on their hearts so that they yield to no adversities, and are overcome by no temptation so as to depart from Him—since He also can do what the apostle says, namely, not allow them to be tempted above that which they are able—not, then, to say this, God foreknowing that they would fall, was certainly able to take them away from this life before that fall should occur. Are we to return to that point of still arguing how absurdly it is said that dead men are judged even for those sins which God foreknew that they would have committed if they had lived? Which is so abhorrent to the feelings of Christians, or even of human beings, that one is even ashamed to rebut it. Why should it not be said that even the gospel itself has been preached, with so much labour and sufferings of the saints, in vain, or is even still preached in vain, if men could be judged, even without hearing the gospel, according to the contumacy or obedience which God foreknew that they would have had if they had heard it? Tyre and Sidon would not have been condemned, although more slightly than those cities in which, although they did not believe, wonderful works were done by Christ the Lord; because if they had been done in them, they would have repented in dust and ashes, as the utterances of the Truth declare, in which words of His the Lord Jesus shows to us the loftier mystery of predestination.
For if we are asked why such miracles were done among those who, when they saw them, would not believe them, and were not done among those who would have believed them if they had seen them, what shall we answer? Shall we say what I have said in that book wherein I answered some six questions of the Pagans, yet without prejudice of other matters which the wise can inquire into? This indeed I said, as you know, when it was asked why Christ came after so long a time: that at those times and in those places in which His gospel was not preached, He foreknew that all men would, in regard of His preaching, be such as many were in His bodily presence—people, namely, who would not believe in Him, even though the dead were raised by Him. Moreover, a little after in the same book, and on the same question, I say, What wonder, if Christ knew in former ages that the world was so filled with unbelievers, that He was, with reason, unwilling for His gospel to be preached to them whom He foreknew to be such as would not believe either His words or His miracles? Certainly we cannot say this of Tyre and Sidon; and in their case we recognise that those divine judgments had reference to those causes of predestination, without prejudice to which hidden causes I said that I was then answering such questions as those. Certainly it is easy to accuse the unbelief of the Jews, arising as it did from their free will, since they refused to believe in such great wonders done among themselves. And this the Lord, reproaching them, declares when He says, Woe unto you, Chorazin and Bethsaida, because if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon which have been done in you, they would long ago have repented in dust and ashes. Luke 10:13 But can we say that even the Tyrians and Sidonians would have refused to believe such mighty works done among them, or would not have believed them if they had been done, when the Lord Himself bears witness to them that they would have repented with great humility if those signs of divine power had been done among them? And yet in the day of judgment they will be punished; although with a less punishment than those cities which would not believe the mighty works done in them. For the Lord goes on to say, Nevertheless, I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. Matthew 11:22 Therefore the former shall be punished with greater severity, the latter with less; but yet they shall be punished. Again, if the dead are judged even in respect of deeds which they would have done if they had lived, assuredly since these would have been believers if the gospel had been preached to them with so great miracles, they certainly ought not to be punished; but they will be punished. It is therefore false that the dead are judged in respect also of those things which they would have done if the gospel had reached them when they were alive. And if this is false, there is no ground for saying, concerning infants who perish because they die without baptism, that this happens in their case deservedly, because God foreknew that if they should live and the gospel should be preached to them, they would hear it with unbelief. It remains, therefore, that they are kept bound by original sin alone, and for this alone they go into condemnation; and we see that in others in the same case this is not remitted, except by the gratuitous grace of God in regeneration; and that, by His secret yet righteous judgment— because there is no unrighteousness with God— that some, who even after baptism will perish by evil living, are yet kept in this life until they perish, who would not have perished if bodily death had forestalled their lapse into sin, and so come to their help. Because no dead man is judged by the good or evil things which he would have done if he had not died, otherwise the Tyrians and Sidonians would not have suffered the penalties according to what they did; but rather according to those things that they would have done, if those evangelical mighty works had been done in them, they would have obtained salvation by great repentance, and by the faith of Christ.
A certain catholic disputant of no mean reputation so expounded this passage of the gospel as to say, that the Lord foreknew that the Tyrians and Sidonians would have afterwards departed from the faith, although they had believed the miracles done among them; and that in mercy He did not work those miracles there, because they would have been liable to severer punishment if they had forsaken the faith which they had once held, than if they had at no time held it. In which opinion of a learned and exceedingly acute man, why am I now concerned to say what is still reasonably to be asked, when even this opinion serves me for the purpose at which I aim? For if the Lord in His mercy did not do mighty works among them, since by these works they might possibly become believers, so that they might not be more severely punished when they should subsequently become unbelievers, as He foreknew that they would—it is sufficiently and plainly shown that no dead person is judged for those sins which He foreknew that he would have done, if in some manner he were not helped not to do them; just as Christ is said to have come to the aid of the Tyrians and Sidonians, if that opinion be true, who He would rather should not come to the faith at all, than that by a much greater wickedness they should depart from the faith, as, if they had come to it, He foresaw they would have done. Although if it be said, Why was it not provided that they should rather believe, and this gift should be bestowed on them, that before they forsook the faith they should depart from this life? I am ignorant what reply can be made. For he who says that to those who would forsake their faith it would have been granted, as a kindness, that they should not begin to have what, by a more serious impiety, they would subsequently forsake, sufficiently indicates that a man is not judged by that which it is foreknown he would have done ill, if by any act of kindness he may be prevented from doing it. Therefore it is an advantage also to him who is taken away, lest wickedness should alter his understanding. But why this advantage should not have been given to the Tyrians and Sidonians, that they might believe and be taken away, lest wickedness should alter their understanding, he perhaps might answer who was pleased in such a way to solve the above question; but, as far as concerns what I am discussing, I see it to be enough that, even according to that very opinion, men are shown not to be judged in respect of those things which they have not done, even although they may have been foreseen as certain to have done them. However, as I have said, let us think shame even to refute this opinion, whereby sins are supposed to be punished in people who die or have died because they have been foreknown as certain to do them if they had lived; lest we also may seem to have thought it to be of some importance, although we would rather repress it by argument than pass it over in silence.
Accordingly, as says the apostle, It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy, Romans 9:16 who both comes to the help of such infants as He will, although they neither will nor run, since He chose them in Christ before the foundation of the world as those to whom He intended to give His grace freely—that is, with no merits of theirs, either of faith or of works, preceding; and does not come to the help of those who are more mature, although He foresaw that they would believe His miracles if they should be done among them, because He wills not to come to their help, since in His predestination He, secretly indeed, but yet righteously, has otherwise determined concerning them. For there is no unrighteousness with God; Romans 9:14 but His judgments are unsearchable, and His ways are past finding out; all the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth. Therefore the mercy is past finding out by which He has mercy on whom He will, no merits of his own preceding; and the truth is unsearchable by which He hardens whom He will, even although his merits may have preceded, but merits for the most part common to him with the man on whom He has mercy. As of two twins, of which one is taken and the other left, the end is unequal, while the deserts are common, yet in these the one is in such wise delivered by God's great goodness, that the other is condemned by no injustice of God's. For is there unrighteousness with God? Away with the thought! But His ways are past finding out. Therefore let us believe in His mercy in the case of those who are delivered, and in His truth in the case of those who are punished, without any hesitation; and let us not endeavour to look into that which is inscrutable, nor to trace that which cannot be found out. Because out of the mouth of babes and sucklings He perfects His praise, so that what we see in those whose deliverance is preceded by no good deservings of theirs, and in those whose condemnation is only preceded by original sin, common alike to both—this we by no means shrink from as occurring in the case of grown-up people, that is, because we do not think either that grace is given to any one according to his own merits, or that any one is punished except for his own merits, whether they are alike who are delivered and who are punished, or have unequal degrees of evil; so that he who thinks he stands may take heed lest he fall, and he who glories may glory not in himself, but in the Lord.
But wherefore is the case of infants not allowed, as you write, to be alleged as an example for their elders, by men who do not hesitate to affirm against the Pelagians that there is original sin, which entered by one man into the world, and that from one all have gone into condemnation? This, the Manicheans, too, do not receive, who not only reject all the Scriptures of the Old Testament as of authority, but even receive those which belong to the New Testament in such a manner as that each man, by his own prerogative as it were, or rather by his own sacrilege, takes what he likes, and rejects what he does not like—in opposition to whom I treated in my writings on Free Will, whence they think that they have a ground of objection against me. I have been unwilling to deal plainly with the very laborious questions that occurred, lest my work should become too long, in a case which, as opposed to such perverse men, I could not have the assistance of the authority of the sacred Scriptures. And I was able—as I actually did, whether anything of the divine testimonies might be true or not, seeing that I did not definitely introduce them into the argument—nevertheless, by certain reasoning, to conclude that God in all things is to be praised, without any necessity of believing, as they would have us, that there are two co-eternal, confounded substances of good and evil.
Finally, in the first book of the Retractations, which work of mine you have not yet read, when I had come to the reconsidering of those same books, that is, on the subject of Free Will, I thus spoke: In these books, I say, many things were so discussed that on the occurring of some questions which either I was not able to elucidate, or which required a long discussion at once, they were so deferred as that from either side, or from all sides, of those questions in which what was most in harmony with the truth did not appear, yet my reasoning might be conclusive for this, namely, that whichever of them might be true, God might be believed, or even be shown, to be worthy of praise. Because that discussion was undertaken for the sake of those who deny that the origin of evil is derived from the free choice of the will, and contend that God—if He be so—as the Creator of all natures, is worthy of blame; desiring in that manner, according to the error of their impiety (for they are Manicheans), to introduce a certain immutable nature of evil co-eternal with God. Also, after a little time, in another place I say: Then it was said, From this misery, most righteously inflicted on sinners, God's grace delivers, because man of his own accord, that is, by free will, could fall, but could not also rise. To this misery of just condemnation belong the ignorance and the difficulty which every man suffers from the beginning of his birth, and no one is delivered from that evil except by the grace of God. And this misery the Pelagians will not have to descend from a just condemnation, because they deny original sin; although even if the ignorance and difficulty were the natural beginnings of man, God would not even thus deserve to be reproached, but to be praised, as I have argued in the same third book. Which argument must be regarded as against the Manicheans, who do not receive the holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, in which original sin is narrated; and whatever thence is read in the apostolic epistles, they contend was introduced with a detestable impudence by the corrupters of the Scriptures, assuming that it was not said by the apostles. But against the Pelagians that must be maintained which both Scriptures commend, as they profess to receive them. These things I said in my first book of Retractations, when I was reconsidering the books on Free Will. Nor, indeed, were these things all that were said by me there about these books, but there were many others also, which I thought it would be tedious to insert in this work for you, and not necessary; and this I think you also will judge when you have read all. Although, therefore, in the third book on Free Will I have in such wise argued concerning infants, that even if what the Pelagians say were true—that ignorance and difficulty, without which no man is born, are elements, not punishments, of our nature,— still the Manicheans would be overcome, who will have it that the two natures, to wit, of good and evil, are co-eternal. Is, therefore, the faith to be called in question or forsaken, which the catholic Church maintains against those very Pelagians, asserting as she does that it is original sin, the guilt of which, contracted by generation, must be remitted by regeneration? And if they confess this with us, so that we may at once, in this matter of the Pelagians, destroy error, why do they think that it must be doubted that God can deliver even infants, to whom He gives His grace by the sacrament of baptism, from the power of darkness, and translate them into the kingdom of the Son of His love? Colossians 1:13 In the fact, therefore, that He gives that grace to some, and does not give it to others, why will they not sing to the Lord His mercy and judgment? Why, however, is it given to these, rather than to those—who has known the mind of the Lord? Who is able to look into unsearchable things? Who to trace out that which is past finding out?
It is therefore settled that God's grace is not given according to the deserts of the recipients, but according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise and glory of His own grace; so that he who glories may by no means glory in himself, but in the Lord, who gives to those men to whom He will, because He is merciful, what if, however, He does not give, He is righteous: and He does not give to whom He will not, that He may make known the riches of His glory to the vessels of mercy. Romans 9:23 For by giving to some what they do not deserve, He has certainly willed that His grace should be gratuitous, and thus genuine grace; by not giving to all, He has shown what all deserve. Good in His goodness to some, righteous in the punishment of others; both good in respect of all, because it is good when that which is due is rendered, and righteous in respect of all, since that which is not due is given without wrong to any one.
But God's grace, that is, true grace without merits, is maintained, even if infants, when baptized, according to the view of the Pelagians, are not plucked out of the power of darkness, because they are held guilty of no sin, as the Pelagians think, but are only transferred into the Lord's kingdom: for even thus, without any good merits, the kingdom is given to those to whom it is given; and without any evil merits it is not given to them to whom it is not given. And this we are in the habit of saying in opposition to the same Pelagians, when they object to us that we attribute God's grace to fate, when we say that it is given not in respect to our merits. For they themselves rather attribute God's grace to fate in the case of infants, if they say that when there is no merit it is fate. Certainly, even according to the Pelagians themselves, no merits can be found in infants to cause that some of them should be admitted into the kingdom, and others should be alienated from the kingdom. But now, just as in order to show that God's grace is not given according to our merits, I preferred to maintain this truth in accordance with both opinions—both in accordance with our own, to wit, who say that infants are bound by original sin, and according to that of the Pelagians, who deny that there is original sin, and yet I cannot on that account doubt that infants have what He can pardon them who saves His people from their sins: so in the third book on Free Will, according to both views, I have withstood the Manicheans, whether ignorance and difficulty be punishments or elements of nature without which no man is born; and yet I hold one of these views. There, moreover, it is sufficiently evidently declared by me, that that is not the nature of man as he was ordained, but his punishment as condemned.
Therefore it is in vain that it is prescribed to me from that old book of mine, that I may not argue the case as I ought to argue it in respect of infants; and that thence I may not persuade my opponents by the light of a manifest truth, that God's grace is not given according to men's merits. For if, when I began my books concerning Free Will as a layman, and finished them as a presbyter, I still doubted of the condemnation of infants not born again, and of the deliverance of infants that were born again, no one, as I think, would be so unfair and envious as to hinder my progress, and judge that I must continue in that uncertainty. But it can more correctly be understood that it ought to be believed that I did not doubt in that matter, for the reason that they against whom my purpose was directed seemed to me in such wise to be rebutted, as that whether there was a punishment of original sin in infants, according to the truth, or whether there was not, as some mistaken people think, yet in no degree should such a confusion of the two natures be believed in, to wit, of good and evil, as the error of the Manicheans introduces. Be it therefore far from us so to forsake the case of infants as to say to ourselves that it is uncertain whether, being regenerated in Christ, if they die in infancy they pass into eternal salvation; but that, not being regenerated, they pass into the second death. Because that which is written, By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, Romans 5:12 cannot be rightly understood in any other manner; nor from that eternal death which is most righteously repaid to sin does any deliver any one, small or great, save He who, for the sake of remitting our sins, both original and personal, died without any sin of His own, either original or personal. But why some rather than others? Again and again we say, and do not shrink from it, O man, who are you that repliest against God? Romans 9:20 His judgments are unsearchable, and His ways past finding out. Romans 11:33 And let us add this, Seek not out the things that are too high for you, and search not the things that are above your strength. Sirach 3:21
For you see, beloved, how absurd it is, and how foreign from soundness of faith and sincerity of truth, for us to say that infants, when they die, should be judged according to those things which they are foreknown to be going to do if they should live. For to this opinion, from which certainly every human feeling, on however little reason it may be founded, and especially every Christian feeling, revolts, they are compelled to advance who have chosen in such wise to be withdrawn from the error of the Pelagians as still to think that they must believe, and, moreover, must profess in argument, that the grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, by which alone after the fall of the first man, in whom we all fell, help is afforded to us, is given according to our merits. And this belief Pelagius himself, before the Eastern bishops as judges, condemned in fear of his own condemnation. And if this be not said of the good or bad works of those who have died, which they would have done if they had lived—and thus of no works, and works that would never exist, even in the foreknowledge of God—if this, therefore, be not said, and you see under how great a mistake it is said, what will remain but that we confess, when the darkness of contention is removed, that the grace of God is not given according to our merits, which position the catholic Church defends against the Pelagian heresy; and that we see this in more evident truth especially in infants? For God is not compelled by fate to come to the help of these infants, and not to come to the help of those—since the case is alike to both. Or shall we think that human affairs in the case of infants are not managed by Divine Providence, but by fortuitous chances, when rational souls are either to be condemned or delivered, although, indeed, not a sparrow falls to the ground without the will of our Father which is in heaven? Matthew 10:29 Or must we so attribute it to the negligence of parents that infants die without baptism, as that heavenly judgments have nothing to do with it; as if they themselves who in this way die badly had of their own will chosen the negligent parents for themselves of whom they were born? What shall I say when an infant expires some time before he can possibly be advantaged by the ministry of baptism? For often when the parents are eager and the ministers prepared for giving baptism to the infants, it still is not given, because God does not choose; since He has not kept it in this life for a little while in order that baptism might be given it. What, moreover, when sometimes aid could be afforded by baptism to the children of unbelievers, that they should not go into perdition, and could not be afforded to the children of believers? In which case it is certainly shown that there is no acceptance of persons with God; otherwise He would rather deliver the children of His worshippers than the children of His enemies.
But now, since we are now treating of the gift of perseverance, why is it that aid is afforded to the person about to die who is not baptized, while to the baptized person about to fall, aid is not afforded, so as to die before? Unless, perchance, we shall still listen to that absurdity by which it is said that it is of no advantage to any one to die before his fall, because he will be judged according to those actions which God foreknew that he would have done if he had lived. Who can hear with patience this perversity, so violently opposed to the soundness of the faith? Who can bear it? And yet they are driven to say this who do not confess that God's grace is not bestowed in respect of our deservings. They, however, who will not say that any one who has died is judged according to those things which God foreknew that he would have done if he had lived, considering with how manifest a falsehood and how great an absurdity this would be said, have no further reason to say, what the Church condemned in the Pelagians, and caused to be condemned by Pelagius himself—that the grace of God, namely, is given according to our merits,— when they see some infants not regenerated taken from this life to eternal death, and others regenerated, to eternal life; and those themselves that are regenerated, some going hence, persevering even to the end, and others kept in this life even until they fall, who certainly would not have fallen if they had departed hence before their lapse; and again some falling, but not departing from this life until they return, who certainly would have perished if they had departed before their return.
From all which it is shown with sufficient clearness that the grace of God, which both begins a man's faith and which enables it to persevere unto the end, is not given according to our merits, but is given according to His own most secret and at the same time most righteous, wise, and beneficent will; since those whom He predestinated, them He also called, Romans 8:30 with that calling of which it is said, The gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Romans 11:29 To which calling there is no man that can be said by men with any certainty of affirmation to belong, until he has departed from this world; but in this life of man, which is a state of trial upon the earth, Job 7:1 he who seems to stand must take heed lest he fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12 Since (as I have already said before) those who will not persevere are, by the most foreseeing will of God, mingled with those who will persevere, for the reason that we may learn not to mind high things, but to consent to the lowly, and may work out our own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that works in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13 We therefore will, but God works in us to will also. We therefore work, but God works in us to work also for His good pleasure. This is profitable for us both to believe and to say—this is pious, this is true, that our confession be lowly and submissive, and that all should be given to God. Thinking, we believe; thinking, we speak; thinking, we do whatever we do; 2 Corinthians 3:5 but, in respect of what concerns the way of piety and the true worship of God, we are not sufficient to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God. For our heart and our thoughts are not in our own power; whence the same Ambrose who says this says also: But who is so blessed as in his heart always to rise upwards? And how can this be done without divine help? Assuredly, by no means. Finally, he says, the same Scripture affirms above, 'Blessed is the man whose help is of You; O Lord, ascent is in his heart.' Assuredly, Ambrose was not only enabled to say this by reading in the holy writings, but as of such a man is to be without doubt believed, he felt it also in his own heart. Therefore, as is said in the sacraments of believers, that we should lift up our hearts to the Lord, is God's gift; for which gift they to whom this is said are admonished by the priest after this word to give thanks to our Lord God Himself; and they answer that it is meet and right so to do. For, since our heart is not in our own power, but is lifted up by the divine help, so that it ascends and takes cognizance of those things which are above, Colossians 3:1 where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, and, not those things that are upon the earth, to whom are thanks to be given for so great a gift as this unless to our Lord God who does this—who in so great kindness has chosen us by delivering us from the abyss of this world, and has predestinated us before the foundation of the world?
But they say that the definition of predestination is opposed to the advantage of preaching, — as if, indeed, it were opposed to the preaching of the apostle! Did not that teacher of the heathen so often, in faith and truth, both commend predestination, and not cease to preach the word of God? Because he said, It is God that works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure, Philippians 2:13 did he not also exhort that we should both will and do what is pleasing to God? Or because he said, He who has begun a good work in you shall carry it on even unto the day of Christ Jesus, Philippians 1:6 did he on that account cease to persuade men to begin and to persevere unto the end? Doubtless, our Lord Himself commanded men to believe, and said, Believe in God, believe also in me: John 14:1 and yet His opinion is not therefore false, nor is His definition idle when He says, No man comes unto me— that is, no man believes in me— except it has been given him of my Father. John 6:66 Nor, again, because this definition is true, is the former precept vain. Why, therefore, do we think the definition of predestination useless to preaching, to precept, to exhortation, to rebuke—all which things the divine Scripture repeats frequently—seeing that the same Scripture commends this doctrine?
Will any man dare to say that God did not foreknow those to whom He would give to believe, or whom He would give to His Son, that of them He should lose none? John 18:9 And certainly, if He foreknew these things, He as certainly foreknew His own kindnesses, wherewith He condescends to deliver us. This is the predestination of the saints—nothing else; to wit, the foreknowledge and the preparation of God's kindnesses, whereby they are most certainly delivered, whoever they are that are delivered. But where are the rest left by the righteous divine judgment except in the mass of ruin, where the Tyrians and the Sidonians were left? Who, moreover, might have believed if they had seen Christ's wonderful miracles. But since it was not given to them to believe, the means of believing also were denied them. From which fact it appears that some have in their understanding itself a naturally divine gift of intelligence, by which they may be moved to the faith, if they either hear the words or behold the signs congruous to their minds; and yet if, in the higher judgment of God, they are not by the predestination of grace separated from the mass of perdition, neither those very divine words nor deeds are applied to them by which they might believe if they only heard or saw such things. Moreover, in the same mass of ruin the Jews were left, because they could not believe such great and eminent mighty works as were done in their sight. For the gospel has not been silent about the reason why they could not believe, since it says: But though He had done such great miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him; that the saying of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled which he spoke, Isaiah 53:1 Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? And, therefore, they could not believe, because that Isaiah said again, Isaiah 6:10 He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. Therefore the eyes of the Tyrians and Sidonians were not so blinded nor was their heart so hardened, since they would have believed if they had seen such mighty works, as the Jews saw. But it did not profit them that they were able to believe, because they were not predestinated by Him whose judgments are inscrutable and His ways past finding out. Neither would inability to believe have been a hindrance to them, if they had been so predestinated as that God should illuminate those blind eyes, and should will to take away the stony heart from those hardened ones. But what the Lord said of the Tyrians and Sidonians may perchance be understood in another way: that no one nevertheless comes to Christ unless it were given him, and that it is given to those who are chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, he confesses beyond a doubt who hears the divine utterance, not with the deaf ears of the flesh, but with the ears of the heart; and yet this predestination, which is plainly enough unfolded even by the words of the gospels, did not prevent the Lord's saying as well in respect of the commencement, what I have a little before mentioned, Believe in God; believe also in me, as in respect of perseverance, A man ought always to pray, and not to faint. Luke 18:1 For they hear these things and do them to whom it is given; but they do them not, whether they hear or do not hear, to whom it is not given. Because, To you, said He, it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. Matthew 13:11 Of these, the one refers to the mercy, the other to the judgment of Him to whom our soul cries, I will sing of mercy and judgment unto You, O Lord.
Therefore, by the preaching of predestination, the preaching of a persevering and progressive faith is not to be hindered; and thus they may hear what is necessary to whom it is given that they should obey. For how shall they hear without a preacher? Neither, again, is the preaching of a progressive faith which continues even to the end to hinder the preaching of predestination, so that he who is living faithfully and obediently may not be lifted up by that very obedience, as if by a benefit of his own, not received; but that he that glories may glory in the Lord. For we must boast in nothing, since nothing is our own. And this, Cyprian most faithfully saw and most fearlessly explained, and thus he pronounced predestination to be most assured. For if we must boast in nothing, seeing that nothing is our own, certainly we must not boast of the most persevering obedience. Nor is it so to be called our own, as if it were not given to us from above. And, therefore, it is God's gift, which, by the confession of all Christians, God foreknew that He would give to His people, who were called by that calling whereof it was said, The gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Romans 11:29 This, then, is the predestination which we faithfully and humbly preach. Nor yet did the same teacher and doer, who both believed on Christ and most perseveringly lived in holy obedience, even to suffering for Christ, cease on that account to preach the gospel, to exhort to faith and to pious manners, and to that very perseverance to the end, because he said, We must boast in nothing, since nothing is our own; and here he declared without ambiguity the true grace of God, that is, that which is not given in respect of our merits; and since God foreknew that He would give it, predestination was announced beyond a doubt by these words of Cyprian; and if this did not prevent Cyprian from preaching obedience, it certainly ought not to prevent us.
Although, therefore, we say that obedience is the gift of God, we still exhort men to it. But to those who obediently hear the exhortation of truth is given the gift of God itself— that is, to hear obediently; while to those who do not thus hear it is not given. For it was not some one only, but Christ who said, No man comes unto me, except it were given him of my Father; John 6:66 and, To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. Matthew 13:11 And concerning continence He says, Not all receive this saying, but they to whom it is given. Matthew 19:11 And when the apostle would exhort married people to conjugal chastity, he says, I would that all men were even as I myself; but every man has his proper gift of God, one after this manner, another after that; 1 Corinthians 7:7 where he plainly shows not only that continence is a gift of God, but even the chastity of those who are married. And although these things are true, we still exhort to them as much as is given to any one of us to be able to exhort, because this also is His gift in whose hand are both ourselves and our discourses. Whence also says the apostle, According to this grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise architect, I have laid the foundation. 1 Corinthians 3:10 And in another place he says, Even as the Lord has given to every man: I have planted, Apollos has watered, but God has given the increase. Therefore neither is he that plants anything, nor he that waters, but God that gives the increase. 1 Corinthians 3:5 And thus as only he preaches and exhorts rightly who has received this gift, so assuredly he who obediently hears him who rightly exhorts and preaches is he who has received this gift. Hence is what the Lord said, when, speaking to those who had their fleshly ears open, He nevertheless told them, He that has ears to hear let him hear; Luke 8:8 which beyond a doubt he knew that not all had. And from whom they have, whosoever they be that have them, the Lord Himself shows when He says, I will give them a heart to know me, and ears to hear. Baruch 2:31 Therefore, having ears is itself the gift of obeying, so that they who had that came to Him, to whom no one comes unless it were given to him of His Father. Therefore we exhort and preach, but they who have ears to hear obediently hear us, while in them who have them not, it comes to pass what is written, that hearing they do not hear—hearing, to wit, with the bodily sense, they do not hear with the assent of the heart. But why these should have ears to hear, and those have them not—that is, why to these it should be given by the Father to come to the Son, while to those it should not be given—who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counsellor? Or who are you, O man, that repliest against God? Must that which is manifest be denied, because that which is hidden cannot be comprehended? Shall we, I say, declare that what we see to be so is not so, because we cannot find out why it is so?
But they say, as you write: That no one can be aroused by the incentives of rebuke if it be said in the assembly of the Church to the multitude of hearers: The definite meaning of God's will concerning predestination stands in such wise, that some of you will receive the will to obey and will come out of unbelief unto faith, or will receive perseverance and abide in the faith; but others who are lingering in the delight of sins have not yet arisen, for the reason that the aid of pitying grace has not yet indeed raised you up. But yet, if there are any whom by His grace He has predestinated to be chosen, who are not yet called, you shall receive that grace by which you may will and be chosen; and if any obey, if you are predestinated to be rejected, the strength to obey shall be withdrawn from you, so that you may cease to obey. Although these things may be said, they ought not so to deter us from confessing the true grace of God—that is, the grace which is not given to us in respect of our merits,— and from confessing the predestination of the saints in accordance therewith, even as we are not deterred from confessing God's foreknowledge, although one should thus speak to the people concerning it, and say: Whether you are now living righteously or unrighteously, you shall be such by and by as the Lord has foreknown that you will be—either good, if He has foreknown you as good, or bad, if He has foreknown you as bad. For if on the hearing of this some should be turned to torpor and slothfulness, and from striving should go headlong to lust after their own desires, is it therefore to be counted that what has been said about the foreknowledge of God is false? If God has foreknown that they will be good, will they not be good, whatever be the depth of evil in which they are now engaged? And if He has foreknown them evil, will they not be evil, whatever goodness may now be discerned in them? There was a man in our monastery, who, when the brethren rebuked him for doing some things that ought not to be done, and for not doing some things that ought to be done, replied, Whatever I may now be, I shall be such as God has foreknown that I shall be. And this man certainly both said what was true, and was not profited by this truth for good, but so far made way in evil as to desert the society of the monastery, and become a dog returned to his vomit; and, nevertheless, it is uncertain what he is yet to become. For the sake of souls of this kind, then, is the truth which is spoken about God's foreknowledge either to be denied or to be kept back—at such times, for instance, when, if it is not spoken, other errors are incurred?
There are some, moreover, who either do not pray at all, or pray coldly, because, from the Lord's words, they have learned that God knows what is necessary for us before we ask it of Him. Must the truth of this declaration be given up, or shall we think that it should be erased from the gospel because of such people? Nay, since it is manifest that God has prepared some things to be given even to those who do not pray for them, such as the beginning of faith, and other things not to be given except to those who pray for them, such as perseverance even unto the end, certainly he who thinks that he has this latter from himself does not pray to have it. Therefore we must take care lest, while we are afraid of exhortation growing lukewarm, prayer should be stifled and arrogance stimulated.
Therefore let the truth be spoken, especially when any question impels us to declare it; and let them receive it who are able, lest, perchance, while we are silent on account of those who cannot receive it, they be not only defrauded of the truth but be taken captive by falsehood, who are able to receive the truth whereby falsehood may be avoided. For it is easy, nay, and it is useful, that some truth should be kept back because of those who are incapable of apprehending it. For whence is that word of our Lord: I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now? John 16:12 And that of the apostle: I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal: as if unto babes in Christ I have given you to drink milk, and not meat, for hitherto you were not able, neither yet indeed now are you able? 1 Corinthians 3:1 Although, in a certain manner of speaking, it might happen that what is said should be both milk to infants and meat for grown-up persons. As in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, John 1:1 what Christian can keep it back? Who can receive it? Or what in sound doctrine can be found more comprehensive? And yet this is not kept back either from infants or from grown-up people, nor is it hidden from infants by those who are mature. But the reason of keeping back the truth is one, the necessity of speaking the truth is another. It would be a tedious business to inquire into or to put down all the reasons for keeping back the truth; of which, nevertheless, there is this one—lest we should make those who do not understand worse, while wishing to make those who do understand more learned; although these latter do not become more learned when we withhold any such thing on the one hand, but also do not become worse. When, however, a truth is of such a nature that he who cannot receive it is made worse by our speaking it, and he who can receive it is made worse by our silence concerning it, what do we think is to be done? Must we not speak the truth, that he who can receive it may receive it, rather than keep silence, so that not only neither may receive it, but that even he who is more intelligent should himself be made worse? For if he should hear and receive it, by his means also many might learn. For in proportion as he is more capable of learning, he is the more fitted for teaching others. The enemy of grace presses on and urges in all ways to make us believe that grace is given according to our deservings, and thus grace is no more grace; and are we unwilling to say what we can say by the testimony of Scripture? Do we fear, forsooth, to offend by our speaking him who is not able to receive the truth? And are we not afraid lest by our silence he who can receive the truth may be involved in falsehood?
For either predestination must be preached, in the way and degree in which the Holy Scripture plainly declares it, so that in the predestinated the gifts and calling of God may be without repentance; or it must be avowed that God's grace is given according to our merits,— which is the opinion of the Pelagians; although that opinion of theirs, as I have often said already, may be read in the Proceedings of the Eastern bishops to have been condemned by the lips of Pelagius himself. Further, those on whose account I am discoursing are only removed from the heretical perversity of the Pelagians, inasmuch as, although they will not confess that they who by God's grace are made obedient and so abide, are predestinated, they still confess, nevertheless, that this grace precedes their will to whom it is given; in such a way certainly as that grace may not be thought to be given freely, as the truth declares, but rather according to the merits of a preceding will, as the Pelagian error says, in contradiction to the truth. Therefore, also, grace precedes faith; otherwise, if faith precedes grace, beyond a doubt will also precedes it, because there cannot be faith without will. But if grace precedes faith because it precedes will, certainly it precedes all obedience; it also precedes love, by which alone God is truly and pleasantly obeyed. And all these things grace works in him to whom it is given, and in whom it precedes all these things. [XVII.] Among these benefits there remains perseverance unto the end, which is daily asked for in vain from the Lord, if the Lord by His grace does not effect it in him whose prayers He hears. See now how foreign it is from the truth to deny that perseverance even to the end of this life is the gift of God; since He Himself puts an end to this life when He wills, and if He puts an end before a fall that is threatening, He makes the man to persevere even unto the end. But more marvellous and more manifest to believers is the largess of God's goodness, that this grace is given even to infants, although there is no obedience at that age to which it may be given. To whomsoever, therefore, God gives His gifts, beyond a doubt He has foreknown that He will bestow them on them, and in His foreknowledge He has prepared them for them. Therefore, those whom He predestinated, them He also called with that calling which I am not reluctant often to make mention of, of which it is said, The gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Romans 11:24 For the ordering of His future works in His foreknowledge, which cannot be deceived and changed, is absolute, and is nothing but, predestination. But, as he whom God has foreknown to be chaste, although he may regard it as uncertain, so acts as to be chaste, so he whom He has predestinated to be chaste, although he may regard that as uncertain, does not, therefore, fail to act so as to be chaste because he hears that he is to be what he will be by the gift of God. Nay, rather, his love rejoices, and he is not puffed up as if he had not received it. Not only, therefore, is he not hindered from this work by the preaching of predestination, but he is even assisted to it, so that although he glories he may glory in the Lord.
And what I said of chastity, can be said also of faith, of piety, of love, of perseverance, and, not to enumerate single virtues, it may be said with the utmost truthfulness of all the obedience with which God is obeyed. But those who place only the beginning of faith and perseverance to the end in such wise in our power as not to regard them as God's gifts, nor to think that God works on our thoughts and wills so as that we may have and retain them, grant, nevertheless, that He gives other things—since they are obtained from Him by the faith of the believer. Why are they not afraid that exhortation to these other things, and the preaching of these other things, should be hindered by the definition of predestination? Or, perchance, do they say that such things are not predestinated? Then they are not given by God, or He has not known that He would give them. Because, if they are both given, and He foreknew that He would give them, certainly He predestinated them. As, therefore, they themselves also exhort to chastity, charity, piety, and other things which they confess to be God's gifts, and cannot deny that they are also foreknown by Him, and therefore predestinated; nor do they say that their exhortations are hindered by the preaching of God's predestination, that is, by the preaching of God's foreknowledge of those future gifts of His: so they may see that neither are their exhortations to faith or to perseverance hindered, even although those very things may be said, as is the truth, to be gifts of God, and that those things are foreknown, that is, predestinated to be given; but let them rather see that by this preaching of predestination only that most pernicious error is hindered and overthrown, whereby it is said that the grace of God is given according to our deservings, so that he who glories may glory not in the Lord, but in himself.
And in order that I may more openly unfold this for the sake of those who are somewhat slow of apprehension, let those who are endowed with an intelligence that flies in advance bear with my delay. The Apostle James says, If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally and upbraids not, and it shall be given him. James 1:5 It is written also in the Proverbs of Solomon, Because theLord gives wisdom. Proverbs 2:6 And of continency it is read in the book of Wisdom, whose authority has been used by great and learned men who have commented upon the divine utterances long before us; there, therefore, it is read, When I knew that no one can be continent unless God gives it, and that this was of wisdom, to know whose gift this was. Wisdom 8:21 Therefore these are God's gifts,— that is, to say nothing of others, wisdom and continency. Let those also acquiesce: for they are not Pelagians, to contend against such a manifest truth as this with hard and heretical perversity. But, say they, that these things are given to us of God is obtained by faith, which has its beginning from us; and both to begin to have this faith, and to abide in it even to the end, they contend is our own doing, as if we received it not from the Lord. This, beyond a doubt, is in contradiction to the apostle when he says, For what have you that you have not received? 1 Corinthians 4:7 It is in contradiction also to the saying of the martyr Cyprian, That we must boast in nothing, since nothing is our own. When we have said this, and many other things which it is wearisome to repeat, and have shown that both the commencement of faith and perseverance to the end are gifts of God; and that it is impossible that God should not foreknow any of His future gifts, as well what should be given as to whom they should be given; and that thus those whom He delivers and crowns are predestinated by Him; they think it well to reply, that the assertion of predestination is opposed to the advantage of preaching, for the reason that when this is heard no one can be stirred up by the incentives of rebuke. When they say this, they are unwilling that it should be declared to men, that coming to the faith and abiding in the faith are God's gifts, lest despair rather than encouragement should appear to be suggested, inasmuch as they who hear think that it is uncertain to human ignorance on whom God bestows, or on whom He does not bestow, these gifts. Why, then, do they themselves also preach with us that wisdom and continency are God's gifts? But if, when these things are declared to be God's gifts, there is no hindrance of the exhortation with which we exhort men to be wise and continent; what is after all the reason for their thinking that the exhortation is hindered wherewith we exhort men to come to the faith, and to abide in it to the end, if these also are said to be God's gifts, as is proved by the Scriptures, which are His witnesses?
Now, to say nothing more of continency, and to argue in this place of wisdom alone, certainly the Apostle James above mentioned says, But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, modest, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, inestimable, without simulation. James 3:17 Do you not see, I beseech you, how this wisdom descends from the Father of Lights, laden with many and great benefits? Because, as the same apostle says, Every excellent gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of Lights. James 3:17 Why, then— to set aside other matters— do we rebuke the impure and contentious, to whom we nevertheless preach that the gift of God is wisdom, pure and peaceable; and are not afraid that they should be influenced, by the uncertainty of the divine will, to find in this preaching more of despair than of exhortation; and that they should not be stirred up by the incentives of rebuke rather against us than against themselves, because we rebuke them for not having those things which we ourselves say are not produced by human will, but are given by the divine liberality? Finally, why did the preaching of this grace not deter the Apostle James from rebuking restless souls, and saying, If you have bitter envying, and contentions are in your hearts, glory not, and be not liars against the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, animal, devilish; for where envying and contention are, there are inconstancy and every evil work? James 3:14 As, therefore, the restless are to be rebuked, both by the testimony of the divine declarations, and by those very impulses of ours which they have in common with ourselves; and is it no argument against this rebuke that we declare the peaceful wisdom, whereby the contentions are corrected and healed, to be the gift of God; unbelievers are in such wise to be rebuked, as those who do not abide in the faith, without any hindrance to that rebuke from the preaching of God's grace, although that preaching commends that very grace and the continuance in it as the gifts of God. Because, although wisdom is obtained from faith, even as James himself, when he had said, If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and upbraids not, and it shall be given, James 1:5 immediately added, But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering: it is not, nevertheless, because faith is given before it is asked for by him to whom it is given, that it must therefore be said not to be the gift of God, but to be of ourselves, because it is given to us without our asking for it! For the apostle very plainly says, Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 6:23 From whom, therefore, are peace and love, from Him also is faith; wherefore, from Him we ask not only that it may be increased to those that possess it, but also that it may be given to those that possess it not.
Nor do those on whose account I am saying these things, who cry out that exhortation is checked by the preaching of predestination and grace, exhort to those gifts alone which they contend are not given by God, but are from ourselves, such as are the beginning of faith, and perseverance in it even to the end. This certainly they ought to do, in such a way as only to exhort unbelievers to believe, and believers to continue to believe. But those things which with us they do not deny to be God's gifts, so as that with us they demolish the error of the Pelagians, such as modesty, continence, patience, and other virtues that pertain to a holy life, and are obtained by faith from the Lord, they ought to show as needing to be prayed for, and to pray for only, either for themselves or others; but they ought not to exhort any one to strive after them and retain them. But when they exhort to these things, according to their ability, and confess that men ought to be exhorted—certainly they show plainly enough that exhortations are not hindered by that preaching, whether they are exhortations to faith or to perseverance to the end, because we also preach that such things are God's gifts, and are not given by any man to himself, but are given by God.
But it is said, It is by his own fault that any one deserts the faith, when he yields and consents to the temptation which is the cause of his desertion of the faith. Who denies it? But because of this, perseverance in the faith is not to be said not to be a gift of God. For it is this that a man daily asks for when he says, Lead us not into temptation; Matthew 6:13 and if he is heard, it is this that he receives. And thus as he daily asks for perseverance, he assuredly places the hope of his perseverance not in himself, but in God. I, however, am loth to exaggerate the case with my words, but I rather leave it to them to consider, and see what it is of which they have persuaded themselves— to wit, that by the preaching of predestination, more of despair than of exhortation is impressed upon the hearers. For this is to say that a man then despairs of his salvation when he has learned to place his hope not in himself, but in God, although the prophet cries, Cursed is he who has his hope in man. Jeremiah 17:5
These gifts, therefore, of God, which are given to the elect who are called according to God's purpose, among which gifts is both the beginning of belief and perseverance in the faith to the termination of this life, as I have proved by such a concurrent testimony of reasons and authorities,— these gifts of God, I say, if there is no such predestination as I am maintaining, are not foreknown by God. But they are foreknown. This, therefore, is the predestination which I maintain. [XVIII.] Consequently sometimes the same predestination is signified also under the name of foreknowledge; as says the apostle, God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Romans 11:2 Here, when he says, He foreknew, the sense is not rightly understood except as He predestinated, as is shown by the context of the passage itself. For he was speaking of the remnant of the Jews which were saved, while the rest perished. For above he had said that the prophet had declared to Israel, All day long I have stretched forth my hands to an unbelieving and a gainsaying people. And as if it were answered, What, then, has become of the promises of God to Israel? He added in continuation, I say, then, has God cast away His people? God forbid! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. Then he added the words which I am now treating: God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. And in order to show that the remnant had been left by God's grace, not by any merits of their works, he went on to add, Do you not know what the Scripture says in Elias, in what way he makes intercession with God against Israel? and the rest. But what, says he, says the answer of God unto him? 'I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee before Baal.' Romans 11:5 For He says not, There are left to me, or They have reserved themselves to me, but, I have reserved to myself. Even so, then, at this present time also there is made a remnant by the election of grace. And if of grace, then it is no more by works; otherwise grace is no more grace. And connecting this with what I have above quoted, What then? Romans 11:7 and in answer to this inquiry, he says, Israel has not obtained that which he was seeking for, but the election has obtained it, and the rest were blinded. Therefore, in the election, and in this remnant which were made so by the election of grace, he wished to be understood the people which God did not reject, because He foreknew them. This is that election by which He elected those, whom He willed, in Christ before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and without spot in His sight, in love, predestinating them unto the adoption of sons. No one, therefore, who understands these things is permitted to doubt that, when the apostle says, God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew, He intended to signify predestination. For He foreknew the remnant which He should make so according to the election of grace. That is, therefore, He predestinated them; for without doubt He foreknew if He predestinated; but to have predestinated is to have foreknown that which He should do.
What, then, hinders us, when we read of God's foreknowledge in some commentators on God's word, and they are treating of the calling of the elect, from understanding the same predestination? For they would perchance have rather used in this matter this word which, moreover, is better understood, and which is not inconsistent with, nay, is in accordance with, the truth which is declared concerning the predestination of grace. This I know, that no one has been able to dispute, except erroneously, against that predestination which I am maintaining in accordance with the Holy Scriptures. Yet I think that they who ask for the opinions of commentators on this matter ought to be satisfied with men so holy and so laudably celebrated everywhere in the faith and Christian doctrine as Cyprian and Ambrose, of whom I have given such clear testimonies; and that for both doctrines— that is, that they should both believe absolutely and preach everywhere that the grace of God is gratuitous, as we must believe and declare it to be; and that they should not think that preaching opposed to the preaching whereby we exhort the indolent or rebuke the evil; because these celebrated men also, although they were preaching God's grace in such a manner as that one of them said, That we must boast in nothing, because nothing is our own; and the other, Our heart and our thoughts are not in our own power; yet ceased not to exhort and rebuke, in order that the divine commands might be obeyed. Neither were they afraid of its being said to them, Why do you exhort us, and why do you rebuke us, if no good thing that we have is from us, and if our hearts are not in our own power? These holy men could by no means fear that such things should be said to them, since they were of the mind to understand that it is given to very few to receive the teaching of salvation through God Himself, or through the angels of heaven, without any human preaching to them; but that it is given to many to believe in God through human agency. Yet, in whatever manner the word of God is spoken to man, beyond a doubt for man to hear it in such a way as to obey it, is God's gift.
Wherefore, the above-mentioned most excellent commentators on the divine declarations both preached the true grace of God as it ought to be preached—that is, as a grace preceded by no human deservings,— and urgently exhorted to the doing of the divine commandments, that they who might have the gift of obedience should hear what commands they ought to obey. For if any merits of ours precede grace, certainly it is the merit of some deed, or word, or thought, wherein also is understood a good will itself. But he very briefly summed up the kinds of all deservings who said, We must glory in nothing, because nothing is our own. And he who says, Our heart and our thoughts are not in our own power, did not pass over acts and words also, for there is no act or word of man which does not proceed from the heart and the thought. But what more could that most glorious martyr and most luminous doctor Cyprian say concerning this matter, than when he impressed upon us that it behooves us to pray, in the Lord's Prayer, even for the adversaries of the Christian faith, showing what he thought of the beginning of the faith, that it also is God's gift, and pointing out that the Church of Christ prays daily for perseverance unto the end, because none but God gives that perseverance to those who have persevered? Moreover, the blessed Ambrose, when he was expounding the passage where the Evangelist Luke says, It seemed good to me also, Luke 1:3 says, What he declares to have seemed good to himself cannot have seemed good to him alone. For not alone by human will did it seem good, but as it pleased Him who speaks in me, Christ, who effects that that which is good may also seem good to us: for whom He has mercy on He also calls. And therefore he who follows Christ may answer, when he is asked why he wished to become a Christian, 'It seemed good to me also.' And when he says this, he does not deny that it seemed good to God; for the will of men is prepared by God. For it is God's grace that God should be honoured by the saint. Moreover, in the same work—that is, in the exposition of the same Gospel, when he had come to that place where the Samaritans would not receive the Lord when His face was as going to Jerusalem,— he says, Learn at the same time that He would not be received by those who were not converted in simpleness of mind. For if He had been willing, He would have made them devout who were undevout. And why they would not receive Him, the evangelist himself mentioned, saying, 'Because His face was as of one going towards Jerusalem.' Luke 9:53 But the disciples earnestly desired to be received into Samaria. But God calls those whom He makes worthy, and makes religious whom He will. What more evident, what more manifest do we ask from commentators on God's word, if we are pleased to hear from them what is clear in the Scriptures? But to these two, who ought to be enough, let us add also a third, the holy Gregory, who testifies that it is the gift of God both to believe in God and to confess what we believe, saying, I beg of you confess the Trinity of one godhead; but if you wish otherwise, say that it is of one nature, and God will be besought that a voice shall be given to you by the Holy Spirit; that is, God will be besought to allow a voice to be given to you by which you may confess what you believe. For He will give, I am certain. He who gave what is first, will give also what is second. He who gave belief, will also give confession.
Such doctors, and so great as these, when they say that there is nothing of which we may boast as if of our own which God has not given us, and that our very heart and our thoughts are not in our own power; and when they give the whole to God, and confess that from Him we receive that we are converted to Him in such wise as to continue—that that which is good appears also to us to be good, and we wish for it—that we honour God and receive Christ,— that from undevout people we are made devout and religious,— that we believe in the Trinity itself, and also confess with our voice what we believe:— certainly attribute all these things to God's grace, acknowledge them as God's gifts, and testify that they come to us from Him, and are not from ourselves. But will any one say that they in such wise confessed that grace of God as to venture to deny His foreknowledge,which not only learned but unlearned men also confess? Again, if they had so known that God gives these things that they were not ignorant that He foreknew that He would give them, and could not have been ignorant to whom He would give them: beyond a doubt they had known the predestination which, as preached by the apostles, we laboriously and diligently maintain against the modern heretics. Nor would it be with any manner of justice said, nevertheless, to them because they preach obedience, and fervently exhort, to the extent of the ability of each one, to its practice, If you do not wish that the obedience to which you are stirring us up should grow cold in our heart, forbear to preach to us that grace of God by which you confess that God gives what you are exhorting us to do.
Wherefore, if both the apostles and the teachers of the Church who succeeded them and imitated them did both these things—that is, both truly preached the grace of God which is not given according to our merits, and inculcated by wholesome precepts a pious obedience—what is it which these people of our time think themselves rightly bound by the invincible force of truth to say, Even if what is said of the predestination of God's benefits be true, yet it must not be preached to the people? It must absolutely be preached, so that he who has ears to hear, may hear. And who has them if he has not received them from Him who says, I will give them a heart to know me, and ears to hear? Baruch 2:31 Assuredly, he who has not received may reject; while, yet, he who receives may take and drink, may drink and live. For as piety must be preached, that, by him who has ears to hear, God may be rightly worshipped; modesty must be preached, that, by him who has ears to hear, no illicit act may be perpetrated by his fleshly nature; charity must be preached, that, by him who has ears to hear, God and his neighbours may be loved;— so also must be preached such a predestination of God's benefits that he who has ears to hear may glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.
But in respect of their saying that it was not necessary that the hearts of so many people of little intelligence should be disquieted by the uncertainty of this kind of disputation, since the catholic faith has been defended for so many years, with no less advantage, without this definition of predestination, as well against others as especially against the Pelagians, in so many books that have gone before, as well of Catholics and others as our own; — I much wonder that they should say this, and not observe— to say nothing of other writings in this place— that those very treatises of mine were both composed and published before the Pelagians had begun to appear; and that they do not see in how many passages of those treatises I was unawares cutting down a future Pelagian heresy, by preaching the grace by which God delivers us from evil errors and from our habits, without any preceding merits of ours—doing this according to His gratuitous mercy. And this I began more fully to apprehend in that disputation which I wrote to Simplicianus, the bishop of the Church of Milan, of blessed memory, in the beginning of my episcopate, when, moreover, I both perceived and asserted that the beginning of faith is God's gift.
And which of my smaller works has been able to be more generally and more agreeably known than the books of my Confessions? And although I published them before the Pelagian heresy had come into existence, certainly in them I said to my God, and said it frequently, Give what You command, and command what You will. Which words of mine, Pelagius at Rome, when they were mentioned in his presence by a certain brother and fellow bishop of mine, could not bear; and contradicting somewhat too excitedly, nearly came to a quarrel with him who had mentioned them. But what, indeed, does God primarily and chiefly command, but that we believe in Him? And this, therefore, He Himself gives, if it is well said to Him, Give what You command. And, moreover, in those same books, in respect of what I have related concerning my conversion, when God converted me to that faith which, with a most miserable and raging talkativeness, I was destroying, do you not remember that it was so narrated how I showed that I was granted to the faithful and daily tears of my mother, that I should not perish? Where certainly I declared that God by His grace converted to the true faith the wills of men, which were not only averse to it, but even adverse to it. Further, in what manner I besought God concerning my growth in perseverance, you know, and you are able to review if you wish it. Therefore, that all the gifts of God which in that work I either asked for or praised, were foreknown by God that He would give, and that He could never be ignorant of the persons to whom He would give them, who can dare, I will not say to deny, but even to doubt? This is the manifest and assured predestination of the saints, which subsequently necessity compelled me more carefully and laboriously to defend when I was already disputing against the Pelagians. For I learned that each special heresy introduced its own peculiar questions into the Church— against which the sacred Scripture might be more carefully defended than if no such necessity compelled their defence. And what compelled those passages of Scripture in which predestination is commended to be defended more abundantly and clearly by that labour of mine, than the fact that the Pelagians say that God's grace is given according to our merits; for what else is this than an absolute denial of grace?
Therefore that this opinion, which is unpleasing to God, and hostile to those gratuitous benefits of God whereby we are delivered, may be destroyed, I maintain that both the beginning of faith and the perseverance therein, even to the end, are, according to the Scriptures— of which I have already quoted many— God's gifts. Because if we say that the beginning of faith is of ourselves, so that by it we deserve to receive other gifts of God, the Pelagians conclude that God's grace is given according to our merits. And this the catholic faith held in such dread, that Pelagius himself, in fear of condemnation, condemned it. And, moreover, if we say that our perseverance is of ourselves, not of God, they answer that we have the beginning of our faith of ourselves in such wise as the end, thus arguing that we have that beginning of ourselves much more, if of ourselves we have the continuance unto the end, since to perfect is much greater than to begin; and thus repeatedly they conclude that the grace of God is given according to our merits. But if both are God's gifts, and God foreknew that He would give these His gifts (and who can deny this?), predestination must be preached—that God's true grace, that is, the grace which is not given according to our merits, may be maintained with insuperable defence.
And, indeed, in that treatise of which the title is, Of Rebuke and Grace, which could not suffice for all my lovers, I think that I have so established that it is the gift of God also to persevere to the end, as I have either never before or almost never so expressly and evidently maintained this in writing, unless my memory deceives me. But I have now said this in a way in which no one before me has said it. Certainly the blessed Cyprian, in the Lord's Prayer, as I have already shown, so explained our petitions as to say that in its very first petition we were asking for perseverance, asserting that we pray for it when we say, Hallowed be Your name, Matthew 6:9 although we have been already hallowed in baptism—so that we may persevere in that which we have begun to be. Let those, however, to whom, in their love for me, I ought not to be ungrateful, who profess that they embrace, over and above that which comes into the argument, all my views, as you write—let those, I say, see whether, in the latter portions of the first book of those two which I wrote in the beginning of my episcopate, before the appearance of the Pelagian heresy, to Simplicianus, the bishop of Milan, there remained anything whereby it might be called in question that God's grace is not given according to our merits; and whether I have not there sufficiently argued that even the beginning of faith is God's gift; and whether from what is there said it does not by consequence result, although it is not expressed, that even perseverance to the end is not given, except by Him who has predestinated us to His kingdom and glory. Then, did not I many years ago publish that letter which I had already written to the holy Paulinus, bishop of Nola, against the Pelagians, which they have lately begun to contradict? Let them also look into that letter which I sent to Sixtus, the presbyter of the Roman Church when we contended in a very sharp conflict against the Pelagians, and they will find it such as is that one to Paulinus. Whence they may gather that the same sort of things were already said and written several years ago against the Pelagian heresy, and that it is to be wondered at that these should now displease them; although I should wish that no one would so embrace all my views as to follow me, except in those things in which he should see me not to have erred. For I am now writing treatises in which I have undertaken to retract my smaller works, for the purpose of demonstrating that even I myself have not in all things followed myself; but I think that, with God's mercy, I have written progressively, and not begun from perfection; since, indeed, I speak more arrogantly than truly, if even now I say that I have at length in this age of mine arrived at perfection, without any error in what I write. But the difference is in the extent and the subject of an error, and in the facility with which any one corrects it, or the pertinacity with which one endeavours to defend his error. Certainly there is good hope of that man whom the last day of this life shall find so progressing that whatever was wanting to his progress may be added to him, and that he should be adjudged rather to need perfecting than punishment.
Wherefore if I am unwilling to appear ungrateful to men who have loved me, because some advantage of my labour has attained to them before they loved me, how much rather am I unwilling to be ungrateful to God, whom we should not love unless He had first loved us and made us to love Him! since love is of Him, 1 John 4:7 as they have said whom He made not only His great lovers, but also His great preachers. And what is more ungrateful than to deny the grace of God itself, by saying that it is given to us according to our merits? And this the catholic faith shuddered at in the Pelagians, and this it objected to Pelagius himself as a capital crime; and this Pelagius himself condemned, not indeed from love of God's truth, but yet for fear of his own condemnation. But whoever as a faithful catholic is horrified to say that the grace of God is given according to our merits, let him not withdraw faith itself from God's grace, whereby he obtained mercy that he should be faithful; and thus let him attribute also perseverance to the end to God's grace, whereby he obtains the mercy which he daily asks for, not to be led into temptation. But between the beginning of faith and the perfection of perseverance there are those means whereby we live righteously, which they themselves are agreed in regarding as given by God to us at the prayer of faith. And all these things— the beginning of faith, to wit, and His other gifts even to the end— God foreknew that He would bestow on His called. It is a matter therefore, of too excessive contentiousness to contradict predestination, or to doubt concerning predestination.
And yet this doctrine must not be preached to congregations in such a way as to seem to an unskilled multitude, or a people of slower understanding, to be in some measure confuted by that very preaching of it. Just as even the foreknowledge of God, which certainly men cannot deny, seems to be refuted if it be said to them, Whether you run or sleep, you shall be that which He who cannot be deceived has foreknown you to be. And it is the part of a deceitful or an unskilled physician so to compound even a useful medicament, that it either does no good or does harm. But it must be said, So run that you may lay hold; 1 Corinthians 9:24 and thus by your very running you may know yourselves to be foreknown as those who should run lawfully: and in whatever other manner the foreknowledge of God may be so preached, that the slothfulness of man may be repulsed.
Now, therefore, the definite determination of God's will concerning predestination is of such a kind that some from unbelief receive the will to obey, and are converted to the faith or persevere in the faith, while others who abide in the delight of damnable sins, even if they have been predestinated, have not yet arisen, because the aid of pitying grace has not yet lifted them up. For if any are not yet called whom by His grace He has predestinated to be elected, they will receive that grace whereby they may will to be elected, and may be so; and if any obey, but have not been predestinated to His kingdom and glory, they are for a season, and will not abide in the same obedience to the end. Although, then, these things are true, yet they must not be so said to the multitude of hearers as that the address may be applied to themselves also, and those words of those people may be said to them which you have set down in your letter, and which I have above introduced: The definite determination of God's will concerning predestination is of such a kind that some of you from unbelief shall receive the will to obey, and come to the faith. What need is there for saying, Some of you? For if we speak to God's Church, if we speak to believers, why do we say that some of them had come to the faith, and seem to do a wrong to the rest, when we may more fittingly say the definite determination of the will of God concerning predestination is of such a kind that from unbelief you shall receive the will to obey, and come to the faith, and shall receive perseverance, and abide to the end?
Neither is what follows by any means to be said—that is, But others of you who abide in the delight of sins have not yet arisen, because the aid of pitying grace has not yet lifted you up; when it may be and ought to be well and conveniently said, But if any of you are still delaying in the delightfulness of damnable sins, lay hold of the most wholesome discipline; and yet when you have done this be not lifted up, as if by your own works, nor boast as if you had not received this. For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good will, Philippians 1:13 and your steps are directed by the Lord, so that you choose His way. But of your own good and righteous course, learn carefully that it is attributable to the predestination of divine grace.
Moreover, what follows where it is said, But yet if any of you are not yet called, whom by his grace He has predestinated to be called, you shall receive that grace whereby you shall will to be, and be, elected, is said more hardly than it could be said if we consider that we are speaking not to men in general, but to the Church of Christ. For why is it not rather said thus: And if any of you are not yet called, let us pray for them that they may be called. For perchance they are so predestinated as to be granted to our prayers, and to receive that grace whereby they may will, and be made elected? For God, who fulfilled all that He predestinated, has willed us also to pray for the enemies of the faith, that we might hence understand that He Himself also gives to the unbelievers the gift of faith, and makes willing men out of those that were unwilling.
But now I marvel if any weak brother among the Christian congregation can hear in any way with patience what is connected with these words, when it is said to them, And if any of you obey, if you are predestinated to be rejected, the power of obeying will be withdrawn from you, that you may cease to obey. For what does saying this seem, except to curse, or in a certain way to predict evils? But if, however, it is desirable or necessary to say anything concerning those who do not persevere, why is it not rather at least said in such a way as was a little while ago said by me—first of all, so that this should be said, not of them who hear in the congregation, but about others to them; that is, that it should not be said, If any of you obey, if you are predestinated to be rejected, but, If any obey, and the rest, using the third person of the verb, not the second? For it is not to be said to be desirable, but abominable, and it is excessively harsh and hateful to fly as it were into the face of an audience with abuse, when he who speaks to them says, And if there are any of you who obey, and are predestinated to be rejected, the power of obedience shall be withdrawn from you, that you may cease to obey. For what is wanting to the doctrine if it is thus expressed: But if any obey, and are not predestinated to His kingdom and glory, they are only for a season, and shall not continue in that obedience unto the end? Is not the same thing said both more truly and more fittingly, so that we may seem not as it were to be desiring so much for them, as to relate of others the evil which they hate, and think does not belong to them, by hoping and praying for better things? But in that manner in which they think that it must be said, the same judgment may be pronounced almost in the same words also of God's foreknowledge, which certainly they cannot deny, so as to say, And if any of you obey, if you are foreknown to be rejected you shall cease to obey. Doubtless this is very true, assuredly it is; but it is very monstrous, very inconsiderate, and very unsuitable, not by its false declaration, but by its declaration not wholesomely applied to the health of human infirmity.
But I do not think that manner which I have said should be adopted in the preaching of predestination ought to be sufficient for him who speaks to the congregation, except he adds this, or something of this kind, saying, You, therefore, ought also to hope for that perseverance in obedience from the Father of Lights, from whom comes down every excellent gift and every perfect gift, James 1:17 and to ask for it in your daily prayers; and in doing this ought to trust that you are not aliens from the predestination of His people, because it is He Himself who bestows even the power of doing this. And far be it from you to despair of yourselves, because you are bidden to have your hope in Him, not in yourselves. For cursed is every one who has hope in man; James 17:5 and it is good rather to trust in the Lord than to trust in man, because blessed are all they that put their trust in Him. Holding this hope, serve the Lord in fear, and rejoice unto Him with trembling. Because no one can be certain of the life eternal which God who does not lie has promised to the children of promise before the times of eternity—no one, unless that life of his, which is a state of trial upon the earth, is completed. Job 7:1 But He will make us to persevere in Himself unto the end of that life, since we daily say to Him, 'Lead us not into temptation.' Matthew 6:13 When these things and things of this kind are said, whether to few Christians or to the multitude of the Church, why do we fear to preach the predestination of the saints and the true grace of God—that is, the grace which is not given according to our merits,— as the Holy Scripture declares it? Or, indeed, must it be feared that a man should then despair of himself when his hope is shown to be placed in God, and should not rather despair of himself if he should, in his excess of pride and unhappiness, place it in himself?
And I wish that those who are slow and weak of heart, who cannot, or cannot as yet, understand the Scriptures or the explanations of them, would so hear or not hear our arguments in this question as to consider more carefully their prayers, which the Church has always used and will use, even from its beginnings until this age shall be completed. For of this matter, which I am now compelled not only to mention, but even to protect and defend against these new heretics, the Church has never been silent in its prayers, although in its discourses it has not thought that it need be put forth, as there was no adversary compelling it. For when was not prayer made in the Church for unbelievers and its opponents that they should believe? When has any believer had a friend, a neighbour, a wife, who did not believe, and has not asked on their behalf from the Lord for a mind obedient to the Christian faith? And who has there ever been who has not prayed for himself that he might abide in the Lord? And who has dared, not only with his voice, but even in thought, to blame the priest who invokes the Lord on behalf of believers, if at any time he has said, Give to them, O Lord, perseverance in You to the end! and has not rather responded, over such a benediction of his, as well with confessing lips as believing heart, Amen? Since in the Lord's Prayer itself the believers do not pray for anything else, especially when they say that petition, Lead us not into temptation, save that they may persevere in holy obedience. As, therefore, the Church has both been born and grows and has grown in these prayers, so it has been born and grows and has grown in this faith, by which faith it is believed that God's grace is not given according to the merits of the receivers. For, certainly, the Church would not pray that faith should be given to unbelievers, unless it believed that God converts to Himself both the averse and adverse wills of men. Nor would the Church pray that it might persevere in the faith of Christ, not deceived nor overcome by the temptations of the world, unless it believed that the Lord has our heart in His power, in such wise as that the good which we do not hold save by our own will, we nevertheless do not hold except He works in us to will also. For if the Church indeed asks these things from Him, but thinks that the same things are given to itself by itself, it makes use of prayers which are not true, but perfunctory,— which be far from us! For who truly groans, desiring to receive what he prays for from the Lord, if he thinks that he receives it from himself, and not from the Lord?
And this especially since we know not what to pray for as we ought, says the apostle, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered; and He that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because He makes intercession for the saints according to God. Romans 3:26 What is the Spirit Himself makes intercession, but, causes to make intercession, with groanings that cannot be uttered, but truthful, since the Spirit is truth? For He it is of whom the apostle says in another place, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father! Galatians 4:6 And here what is the meaning of crying, but making to cry, by that figure of speech whereby we call a day that makes people glad, a glad day? And this he makes plain elsewhere when he says, For you have not received the Spirit of bondage again in fear, but you have received the Spirit of the adoption of sons, in whom we cry, Abba, Father. Romans 8:15 He there said, crying, but here, in whom we cry; opening up, that is to say, the meaning with which he said crying,— that is, as I have already explained, causing to cry, when we understand that this is also itself the gift of God, that with a true heart and spiritually we cry to God. Let them, therefore, observe how they are mistaken who think that our seeking, asking, knocking is of ourselves, and is not given to us; and say that this is the case because grace is preceded by our merits; that it follows them when we ask and receive, and seek and find, and it is opened to us when we knock. And they will not understand that this is also of the divine gift, that we pray; that is, that we ask, seek, and knock. For we have received the spirit of adoption of sons, in which we cry, Abba, Father. And this the blessed Ambrose also said. For he says, To pray to God also is the work of spiritual grace, as it is written, No one says, Jesus is the Lord, but in the Holy Spirit.
These things, therefore, which the Church asks from the Lord, and always has asked from the time she began to exist, God so foreknew that He would give to His called, that He has already given them in predestination itself; as the apostle declares without any ambiguity. For, writing to Timothy, he says, Labour along with the gospel according to the power of God, who saves us, and calls us with His holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the times of eternity, but is now made manifest by the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 1:8, etc. Let him, therefore, say that the Church at any time has not had in its belief the truth of this predestination and grace, which is now maintained with a more careful heed against the late heretics; let him say this who dares to say that at any time it has not prayed, or not truthfully prayed, as well that unbelievers might believe, as that believers might persevere. And if the Church has always prayed for these benefits, it has always believed them to be certainly God's gifts; nor was it ever right for it to deny that they were foreknown by Him. And thus Christ's Church has never failed to hold the faith of this predestination, which is now being defended with new solicitude against these modern heretics.
But what more shall I say? I think that I have taught sufficiently, or rather more than sufficiently, that both the beginning of faith in the Lord, and continuance in the Lord unto the end, are God's gifts. And other good things which pertain to a good life, whereby God is rightly worshipped, even they themselves on whose behalf I am writing this treatise concede to be God's gifts. Further, they cannot deny that God has foreknown all His gifts, and the people on whom He was going to bestow them. As, therefore, other things must be preached so that he who preaches them may be heard with obedience, so predestination must be preached so that he who hears these things with obedience may glory not in man, and therefore not in himself, but in the Lord; for this also is God's precept, and to hear this precept with obedience— to wit, that he who glories should glory in the Lord 1 Corinthians 1:31 — in like manner as the rest, is God's gift. And he who has not this gift,— I shrink not from saying it—whatever others he has, has them in vain. That the Pelagians may have this we pray, and that our own brethren may have it more abundantly. Let us not, therefore, be prompt in arguments and indolent in prayers. Let us pray, dearly beloved, let us pray that the God of grace may give even to our enemies, and especially to our brethren and lovers, to understand and confess that after that great and unspeakable ruin wherein we have all fallen in one, no one is delivered save by God's grace, and that grace is not repaid according to the merits of the receivers as if it were due, but is given freely as true grace, with no merits preceding.
But there is no more illustrious instance of predestination than Jesus Himself, concerning which also I have already argued in the former treatise; and in the end of this I have chosen to insist upon it. There is no more eminent instance, I say, of predestination than the Mediator Himself. If any believer wishes thoroughly to understand this doctrine, let him consider Him, and in Him he will find himself also. The believer, I say; who in Him believes and confesses the true human nature that is our own, however singularly elevated by assumption by God the Word into the only Son of God, so that He who assumed, and what He assumed, should be one person in Trinity. For it was not a Quaternity that resulted from the assumption of man, but it remained a Trinity, inasmuch as that assumption ineffably made the truth of one person in God and man. Because we say that Christ was not only God, as the Manichean heretics contend; nor only man, as the Photinian heretics assert; nor in such wise man as to have less of anything which of a certainty pertains to human nature—whether a soul, or in the soul itself a rational mind, or flesh not taken of the woman, but made from the Word converted and changed into flesh—all which three false and empty notions have made the three various and diverse parties of the Apollinarian heretics; but we say that Christ was true God, born of God the Father without any beginning of time; and that He was also true or very man, born of human mother in the certain fullness of time; and that His humanity, whereby He is less than the Father, does not diminish anything from His divinity, whereby He is equal to the Father. For both of them are One Christ— who, moreover, most truly said in respect of the God, I and the Father are one; John 10:30 and most truly said in respect of the man, My Father is greater than I. John 14:28 He, therefore, who made of the seed of David this righteous man, who never should be unrighteous, without any merit of His preceding will, is the same who also makes righteous men of unrighteous, without any merit of their will preceding; that He might be the head, and they His members. He, therefore, who made that man with no precedent merits of His, neither to deduce from His origin nor to commit by His will any sin which should be remitted to Him, the same makes believers on Him with no preceding merits of theirs, to whom He forgives all sin. He who made Him such that He never had or should have an evil will, the same makes in His members a good will out of an evil one. Therefore He predestinated both Him and us, because both in Him that He might be our head, and in us that we should be His body, He foreknew that our merits would not precede, but that His doings should.
Let those who read this, if they understand, give God thanks, and let those who do not understand, pray that they may have the inward Teacher, from whose presence comes knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6 But let those who think that I am in error, consider again and again carefully what is here said, lest perchance they themselves may be mistaken. And when, by means of those who read my writings, I become not only wiser, but even more perfect, I acknowledge God's favour to me; and this I especially look for at the hands of the teachers of the Church, if what I write comes into their hands, and they condescend to acknowledge it.