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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Predestination of the...: Chapter 10

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 10.—It is God’s Grace Which Specially Distinguishes One Man from Another.

In this the apostle’s most evident intention, in which he speaks against human pride, so that none should glory in man but in God, it is too absurd, as I think, to suppose God’s natural gifts, whether man’s entire and perfected nature itself as it was bestowed on him in his first state, or the remains, whatever they may be, of his degraded nature. For is it by such gifts as these, which are common to all men, that men are distinguished from men? But here he first said, “For who maketh thee to differ?” and then added, “And what hast thou that thou hast not received?” Because a man, puffed up against another, might say, “My faith makes me to differ,” or “My righteousness,” or anything else of the kind. In reply to such notions, the good teacher says, “But what hast thou that thou hast not received?” And from whom but from Him who maketh thee to differ from another, on whom He bestowed not what He bestowed on thee? “Now if,” says he, “thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou receivedst it not?” Is he concerned, I ask, about anything else save that he who glorieth should glory in the Lord? But nothing is so opposed to this feeling as for any one to glory concerning his own merits in such a way as if he himself had made them for himself, and not the grace of God,—a grace, however, which makes the good to differ from the wicked, and is not common to the good and the wicked. Let the grace, therefore, whereby we are living and reasonable creatures, and are distinguished from cattle, be attributed to nature; let that grace also by which, among men themselves, the handsome are made to differ from the ill-formed, or the intelligent from the stupid, or anything of that kind, be ascribed to nature. But he whom the apostle was rebuking did not puff himself up as contrasted with cattle, nor as contrasted with any other man, in respect of any natural endowment which might be found even in the worst of men. But he ascribed to himself, and not to God, some good gift which pertained to a holy life, and was puffed up therewith when he deserved to hear the rebuke, “Who hath made thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou receivedst not?” For though the capacity to have faith is of nature, is it also of nature to have it? “For all men have not faith,” 3456 although all men have the capacity to have faith. But the apostle does not say, “And what hast thou capacity to have, the capacity to have which thou receivedst not?” but he says, “And what hast thou which thou receivedst not?” Accordingly, the capacity to have faith, 3457 as the capacity to have love, belongs to men’s nature; but to have faith, even as to have love, belongs to the grace of believers. That nature, therefore, in which is given to us the capacity of having faith, does not distinguish man from man, but faith itself makes the believer to differ from the unbeliever. And thus, when it is said, “For who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou receivedst not?” if any one dare to say, “I have faith of myself, I did not, therefore, receive it,” he directly contradicts this most manifest truth,—not because it is not in the choice of man’s will to believe or not to believe, but because in the elect the will is prepared by the Lord. Thus, moreover, the passage, “For who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou receivedst not?” refers to that very faith which is in the will of man.


Footnotes

503:3456

2 Thess. iii. 2.

503:3457

Thence says Bernard, in his treatise On Grace and Free Will, ch. i.: “God is the author of salvation. Free will is only capable of it.” Comp. On the Calling of the Gentiles, Book ii. ch. 2, and Fulgentius, On the Incarnation and Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, chs. 22, 23, and 24.


Next: Chapter 11

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