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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise Against Two Letters of the...: Chapter 21

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 21.—Man Does No Good Thing Which God Does Not Cause Him to Do.

Wherefore God does many good things in man which man does not do; but man does none which God does not cause man to do. Accordingly, there would be no desire of good in man from the Lord if it were not a good; but if it is a good, we have it not save from Him who is supremely and incommunicably good. For what is the desire for good but love, of which John the apostle speaks without any ambiguity, and p. 401 says, “Love is of God”?  2665 Nor is its beginning of ourselves, and its perfection of God; but if love is of God, we have the whole of it from God. May God by all means turn away this folly of making ourselves first in His gifts, Himself last,—because “His mercy shall prevent me.” 2666 And it is He to whom is faithfully and truthfully sung, “For Thou hast prevented him with the blessings of sweetness.” 2667 And what is here more fitly understood than that very desire of good of which we are speaking? For good begins then to be longed for when it has begun to grow sweet. But when good is done by the fear of penalty, not by the love of righteousness, good is not yet well done. Nor is that done in the heart which seems to be done in the act when a man would rather not do it if he could evade it with impunity. Therefore the “blessing of sweetness” is God’s grace, by which is caused in us that what He prescribes to us delights us, and we desire it,—that is, we love it; in which if God does not precede us, not only is it not perfected, but it is not even begun, from us. For, if without Him we are able to do nothing actually, we are able neither to begin nor to perfect,—because to begin, it is said “His mercy shall prevent me;” 2668 to finish, it is said, “His mercy shall follow me.” 2669



1 John iv. 7.


Ps. lix. 10.


Ps. xxi. 3.


Ps. lix. 10.


Ps. xxiii. 6.

Next: Chapter 22

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