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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise Against Two Letters of the...: Chapter 15

Early Church Fathers  Index     

p. 398

Chapter 15.—The Apostle Meets the Question by Leaving It Unsolved.

Since in the case of those two twins we have without a doubt one and the same case, the difficulty of the question why the one died in one way, and the other in another, is solved by the apostle as it were by not solving it; for, when he had proposed something of the same kind about two twins, seeing that it was said (not of works, since they had not as yet done anything either of good or of evil, but of Him that calleth), “The older shall serve the younger,”  2644 and, “Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated;” 2645 and he had prolonged the horror of this deep thing even to the point of saying, “Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardeneth:” 2646 he perceived at once what the trouble was, and opposed to himself the words of a gainsayer which he was to check by apostolical authority. For he says, “You say, then, unto me, “Why doth He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will?” And to him who says this he answered, “O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Doth the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power of the clay of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour?” 2647 Then, following on, he opened up this great and hidden secret as far as he judged it fit that it should be disclosed to men, saying, “But if God, willing to show His wrath and to demonstrate His power, endured in much patience the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, even that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy which He has prepared for glory.” 2648 This is not only the assistance, but, moreover, the proof of God’s grace—the assistance, namely, in the vessels of mercy, but the proof in the vessels of wrath; for in these He shows His anger and makes known His power, because His goodness is so mighty that He even uses the evil well; and in those He makes known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, because what the justice of a punisher requires from the vessels of wrath, the grace of the Deliverer remits to the vessels of mercy. Nor would the kindness which is bestowed on some freely appear, unless to other equally guilty and from the same mass God showed what was really due to both, and condemned them with a righteous judgment. “For who maketh thee to differ?” 2649 says the same apostle to a man as it were boasting concerning himself and his own benefits. “For who maketh thee to differ” from the vessels of wrath; of course, from the mass of perdition which has sent all by one into damnation? “Who maketh thee to differ?” And as if he had answered, “My faith maketh me to differ,—my purpose, my merit,”—he says, “For what hast thou which thou hast not received? But if thou hast received it, why dost thou boast as if thou receivedst it not?”—that is, as if that by which thou art made to differ were of thine own. Therefore He maketh thee to differ who bestows that whence thou art made to differ, by removing the penalty that is due, by conferring the grace which is not due. He maketh to differ, who, when the darkness was upon the face of the abyss, said, “Let there be light; and there was light, and divided”—that is, made to differ—“between the light and the darkness.” 2650 For when there was only darkness, He did not find what He should make to differ; but by making the light, He made to differ; so that it may be said to the justified wicked, “For ye were sometime darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.” 2651 And thus he who glories must glory not in himself, but in the Lord. He makes to differ who—of those who are not yet born, and who have not yet done any good or evil, that His purpose, according to the election, might stand not of works, but of Himself that calleth—said, The older shall serve the younger, and commending that very purpose afterwards by the mouth of the prophet, said, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” 2652 Because he said “the election,” and in this God does not find made by another what He may choose, but Himself makes what He may find; just as it is written of the remnant of Israel: “There is made a remnant by the election of grace; but if by grace, then it is no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace.” 2653 On which account you are certainly foolish who, when the Truth declares, “Not of works, but of Him that calleth, it was said,” say that Jacob was loved on account of future works which God foreknew that he would do, and thus contradict the apostle when he says, “Not of works;” as if he could not have said, “Not of present, but of future works.” But he says, “Not of works,” that He might commend grace; “but if of grace, now is it no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace.” For grace, not due, but free, precedes, that by it good works may be done; but if good works should precede, grace should be repaid, as it were, to works, and thus grace should be no more grace.


Footnotes

398:2644

Rom. ix. 11.

398:2645

Rom. ix. 11.

398:2646

Rom. ix. 18.

398:2647

Rom. ix. 19.

398:2648

Rom. 9:22, 23.

398:2649

1 Cor. iv. 7.

398:2650

Gen. i. 2.

398:2651

Eph. v. 8.

398:2652

Mal. i. 2.

398:2653

Rom. xi. 5.


Next: Chapter 16

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