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NPNF-211. Sulpitius Severus, Vincent of Lerins, John Cassian
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Chapter XII.

That a good will should not always be attributed to grace, nor always to man himself.

For we should not hold that God made man such that he can never will or be capable of what is good: or else He has not granted him a free will, if He has suffered him only to will or be capable of evil, but neither to will or be capable of what is good of himself. And, in this case how will that first statement of the Lord made about men after the fall stand: “Behold, Adam is become as one of us, knowing good and evil?”18041804    Gen. iii. 22. For we cannot think that before, he was such as to be altogether ignorant of good. Otherwise we should have to admit that he was formed like some irrational and insensate beast: which is sufficiently absurd and altogether alien from the Catholic faith. Moreover as the wisest Solomon says: “God made man upright,” i.e., always to enjoy the knowledge of good only, “But they have sought out many imaginations,”18051805    Eccl. vii. 29 (LXX.). for they came, as has been said, to know good and evil. Adam therefore after the fall conceived a knowledge of evil which he had not previously, but did not lose the knowledge of good which he had before. Finally the Apostle’s words very clearly show that mankind did not lose after the fall of Adam the knowledge of good: as he says: “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things of the law, these, though they have not the law, are a law to themselves, as they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to these, and their thoughts within them either accusing or else excusing them, in the day in which God shall judge the secrets of men.”18061806    Rom. ii. 14–16. And with the same meaning the Lord rebukes by the prophet the unnatural but freely chosen blindness of the Jews, which they by their obstinacy brought upon themselves, saying: “Hear ye deaf, and ye blind, behold that you may see. Who is deaf but My servant? and blind, but he to whom I have sent My messengers?”18071807    Is. xlii. 18, 19. And that no one might ascribe this blindness of theirs to nature instead of to their own will, elsewhere He says: “Bring forth the people that are blind and have eyes: that are deaf and have ears;” and again: “having eyes, but ye see not; and ears, but ye hear not.”18081808    Is. xliii. 8; Jer. v. 21. The Lord also says in the gospel: “Because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not neither do they understand.”18091809    S. Matt. xiii. 13. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: “Hearing ye shall hear and shall not understand: and seeing ye shall see and shall not see. For the heart of this people is waxed fat, and their ears are dull of hearing: and they have closed their eyes, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart, and be turned and I should heal them.”18101810    Is. vi. 9, 10. Finally in order to denote that the possibility of good was in them, in chiding the Pharisees, He says: “But why of your own selves do ye not judge what is right?”18111811    S. Luke xii. 57. And this he certainly would not have said to them, unless He knew that by their natural judgment they could discern what was fair. Wherefore we must take care not to refer all the merits of the saints to the Lord in such a way as to ascribe nothing but what is evil and perverse to human nature: in doing which we are confuted by the evidence of the most wise Solomon, or rather of the Lord Himself, Whose words these are; for when the building of the Temple was finished and he was praying, he spoke as follows: “And David my father would have built a house to the name of the Lord God of Israel: and the Lord said to David my father: Whereas thou hast thought in thine heart to build a house to My name, thou hast well done in having this same thing in thy mind. Nevertheless thou shalt not build a house to My name.”18121812    1 Kings viii. 17–19. This thought then and this purpose of king David, are we to call it good and from God or bad and from man? For if that thought was good and from God, why did He by whom it was inspired refuse that it should be carried into effect? But if it is bad and from man, why is it praised by the Lord? It remains then that we must take it as good and from man. And in the same way we can take our own thoughts today. For it was not given only to David to think what is good of himself, nor is it denied to us naturally to think or imagine anything that is good. It cannot then be doubted that there are by nature some seeds of goodness in every soul implanted by the kindness of the Creator: but unless these are quickened by the assistance of God, they will not be able to attain to an increase of perfection, for, as the blessed Apostle says: “Neither is he that planteth anything nor he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase.”18131813    1 Cor. iii. 7. But that freedom of the will is to some degree in a man’s own power is very clearly taught in the book termed the Pastor,18141814    Cf. Conf. VIII. c. xvii. where two angels are said to be attached to each one of us, i.e., a good and a bad one, while it lies at a man’s own option to choose which to follow. And therefore the will always remains free in man, and can either neglect or delight in the grace of God. For the Apostle would not have commanded saying: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” had he not known that it could be advanced or neglected by us. But that men might not fancy that they had no need of Divine aid for the work of Salvation, he subjoins: “For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do, of His good pleasure.”18151815    Phil. ii. 12, 13. And therefore he warns Timothy and says: “Neglect not the grace of God which is in thee;” and again: “For which cause I exhort thee to stir up the grace of God which is in thee.”18161816    1 Tim. iv. 14; 2 Tim. i. 6. Hence also in writing to the Corinthians he exhorts and warns them not through their unfruitful works to show themselves unworthy of the grace of God, saying: “And we helping, exhort you that ye receive not the grace of God in vain:”18171817    2 Cor. vi. 1. for the reception of saving grace was of no profit to Simon doubtless because he had received it in vain; for he would not obey the command of the blessed Peter who said: “Repent of thine iniquity, and pray God if haply the thoughts of thine heart may be forgiven thee; for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity.”18181818    Acts viii. 22, 23. It prevents therefore the will of man, for it is said:  “My God will prevent me with His mercy;”18191819    Ps. lviii. (lix.) 11. and again when God waits and for our good delays, that He may put our desires to the test, our will precedes, for it is said: “And in the morning my prayer shall prevent Thee;” and again: “I prevented the dawning of the day and cried;” and: “Mine eyes have prevented the morning.”18201820    Ps. lxxxvii. (lxxxviii.) 14; cxviii. (cxix.) 147, 148. For He calls and invites us, when He says: “All the day long I stretched forth My hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people;”18211821    Rom. x. 21. and He is invited by us when we say to Him: “All the day long I have stretched forth My hands unto Thee.”18221822    Ps. lxxxvii. (lxxxviii.) 10. He waits for us, when it is said by the prophet: “Wherefore the Lord waiteth to have compassion upon us;”18231823    Is. xxx. 18. and He is waited for by us, when we say: “I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined unto me;” and: “I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord.”18241824    Ps. xxxix. (xl.) 2; cxviii. (cxix.) 166. He strengthens us when He says: “And I have chastised them, and strengthened their arms; and they have imagined evil against me;”18251825    Hosea vii. 15. and He exhorts us to strengthen ourselves when He says: “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and make strong the feeble knees.”18261826    Is. xxxv. 3. Jesus cries: “If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink;”18271827    S. John vii. 37. the prophet also cries to Him: “I have laboured with crying, my jaws are become hoarse: mine eyes have failed, whilst I hope in my God.”18281828    Ps. lxviii. (lxix.) 4. The Lord seeks us, when He says: “I sought and there was no man. I called, and there was none to answer;”18291829    Cant. v. 6. and He Himself is sought by the bride who mourns with tears: “I sought on my bed by night Him whom my soul loved: I sought Him and found Him not; I called Him, and He gave me no answer.”18301830    Cant. iii. 1.


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