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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on Grace and Free Will.: Chapter 31

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 31 [XV.]—Free Will Has Its Function in the Heart’s Conversion; But Grace Too Has Its.

Lest, however, it should be thought that men themselves in this matter do nothing by free will, it is said in the Psalm, “Harden not your hearts;” 3111 and in Ezekiel himself, “Cast away from you all your transgressions, which ye have impiously committed against me; and make you a new heart and a new spirit; and keep all my commandments. For why will ye die, O house of Israel, saith the Lord? for I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: and turn ye, and live.” 3112 We should remember that it is He who says, “Turn ye and live,” to whom it is said in prayer, “Turn us again, O God.” 3113 We should remember that He says, “Cast away from you all your transgressions,” when it is even He who justifies the ungodly. We should remember that He says, “Make you a new heart and a new spirit,” who also promises, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you.” 3114 How is it, then, that He who says, “Make you,” also says, “I will give you”? Why does He command, if He is to give? Why does He give if man is to make, except it be that He gives what He commands when He helps him to obey whom He commands? There is, however, always within us a free will,—but it is not always good; for it is either free from righteousness when it serves sin,—and then it is evil,—or else it is free from sin when it serves righteousness,—and then it is good. But the grace of God is always good; and by it it comes to pass that a man is of a good will, though he was before of an evil one. By it also it comes to pass that the very good will, which has now begun to be, is enlarged, and made so great that it is able to fulfil the divine commandments which it shall wish, when it shall once firmly and perfectly wish. This is the purport of what the Scripture says: “If thou wilt, thou shalt keep the commandments;” 3115 so that the man who wills but is not able knows that he does not yet fully will, and prays that he may p. 457 have so great a will that it may suffice for keeping the commandments. And thus, indeed, he receives assistance to perform what he is commanded. Then is the will of use when we have ability; just as ability is also then of use when we have the will. For what does it profit us if we will what we are unable to do, or else do not will what we are able to do?



Ps. xcv. 8.


Ezek. 18:31, 32.


Ps. lxxx. 3.


Ezek. xxxvi. 26.


Ecclesiasticus 15.15.

Next: Chapter 32

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