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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 85

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 85.—185.  Petilianus said:  "For the Lord Christ says, ‘No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.’ 2201   But why do we not permit each several person to follow his free will, since the Lord God Himself has given free will to men, showing to them, however, the way of righteousness, lest any one by chance should perish from ignorance of it?  For He said, ‘I have placed before thee good and evil.  I have set fire and water before thee; choose which thou wilt.’  From which choice, you wretched men, you have chosen for yourselves not water, but rather fire.  ‘But yet,’ He says, ‘choose the good, that thou mayest live.’ 2202   p. 574 You who will not choose the good, have, by your own sentence, declared that you do not wish to live."

186.  Augustin answered:  If I were to propose to you the question how God the Father draws men to the Son, when He has left them to themselves in freedom of action, you would perhaps find it difficult of solution.  For how does He draw them to Him if He leaves them to themselves, so that each should choose what he pleases?  And yet both these facts are true; but this is a truth which few have intellect enough to penetrate.  As therefore it is possible that, after leaving men to themselves in free will, the Father should yet draw them to the Son, so is it also possible that those warnings which are given by the correction of the laws do not take away free will.  For whenever a man suffers anything that is harsh and unpleasing, he is warned to consider why it is that he is suffering, so that, if he shall discover that he is suffering in the cause of justice, he may choose the good that consists in the very act of suffering as he does in the cause of justice; but if he sees that it is unrighteousness for which he suffers, he may be induced, from the consideration that he is suffering and being tormented most fruitlessly, to change his purpose for the better, and may at the same time escape both the fruitless annoyance and the unrighteousness itself, which is likely to prove yet more hurtful and pernicious in the mischief it produces.  And so you, when kings make any enactments against you, should consider that you are receiving a warning to consider why this is being done to you.  For if it is for righteousness’ sake, then are they truly your persecutors; but you are the blessed ones, who, being persecuted for righteousness’ sake, shall inherit the kingdom of heaven: 2203   but if it is because of the iniquity of your schism, what are they more than your correctors; while you, like all the others who are guilty of various crimes, and pay the penalty appointed by the law, are undoubtedly unhappy both in this world and in that which is to come?  No one, therefore, takes away from you your free will.  But I would urge you diligently to consider which you would rather choose,—whether to live corrected in peace, or, by persevering in malice, to undergo real punishment under the false name of martyrdom.  But I am addressing you just as though you were suffering something proportionate to your sin, whereas you are committing sins of such enormity and reigning in such impunity.  You are so furious, that you cause more terror than a war trumpet with your cry of "Praise to God;" so full of calumny, that even when you throw yourselves over precipices without any provocation, you impute it to our persecutions.

187.  He says also, like the kindest of teachers,  "You who will not choose the good, have, by your own sentence, declared that you do not wish to live."  According to this, if we were to believe your accusations, we should live in kindness; but because we believe the promises of God, we declare by our own sentence that we do not wish to live.  You remember well, it seems to me, what the apostles answered to the Jews when they were desired to abstain from preaching Christ.  This therefore we also say, that you should answer us whether we ought rather to obey God or man. 2204   Traditors, offerers of incense, persecutors:  these are the words of men against men.  Christ remained only in the love of Donatus:  these are the words of men extolling the glory of a man under the name of Christ, that the glory of Christ Himself may be diminished.  For it is written, "In the multitude of people is the king’s honor: but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince:" 2205   these, therefore, are the words of men.  But those words in the gospel, "It behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem," 2206 are the words of Christ, showing forth the glory which He received from His Father in the wideness of His kingdom.  When we have heard them both, we choose in preference the communion of the Church, and prefer the words of Christ to the words of men.  I ask, who is there that can say that we have chosen what is evil, except one who shall say that Christ taught what was evil?



John vi. 44.


Sir. 15:16, 17.


Matt. 5:10, 1 Pet. 2:20.


Acts v. 29.


Prov. xiv. 28.


Luke 24:46, 47.

Next: Chapter 86

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