Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. IX:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
John of Damascus: Exposition of the Orthodox Faith.: Concerning Providence.
Chapter XXIX.—Concerning Providence.
Providence, then, is the care that God takes over existing things. And again: Providence is the will of God through which all existing things receive their fitting issue 1887 . But if Providence is Gods will, according to true reasoning all things that come into being through Providence must necessarily be both most fair and most excellent, and such that they cannot be surpassed. For the same person must of necessity be creator of and provider for what exists: for it is not meet nor fitting that the creator of what exists and the provider should be separate persons. For in that case they would both assuredly be deficient, the one in creating, the other in providing 1888 . God therefore is both Creator and Provider, and His creative and preserving and providing power is simply His good-will. For whatsoever the Lord pleased that did He in heaven and in earth 1889 , and no one resisted His will 1890 . He willed that all things should be and they were. He wills the universe to be framed and it is framed, and all that He wills comes to pass.
That He provides, and that He provides excellently 1891 , one can most readily perceive thus. God alone is good and wise by nature. Since then He is good, He provides: for he who does not provide is not good. For even men and creatures without reason provide for their own offspring according to their nature, and he who does not provide is blamed. Again, since He is wise, He takes the best care over what exists.
When, therefore, we give heed to these things we ought to be filled with wonder at all the works of Providence, and praise them all 1892 , and accept them all without enquiry, even though they are in the eyes of many unjust, because the Providence of God is beyond our ken and comprehension, while our reasonings and actions and the future are revealed to His eyes alone. And by “all” I mean those that are not in our hands: for those that are in our power are outside the sphere of Providence and within that of our Free-will.
Now the works of Providence are partly according to the good-will 1893 (of God) and partly according to permission 1894 . Works of good-will include all those that are undeniably good, while works of permission are…… 1895 . For Providence often permits the just man to encounter misfortune in order that he may reveal to others the virtue that lies concealed within him 1896 , as was the case with Job 1897 . At other times it allows something strange to be done in order that something great and marvellous might be accomplished through the seemingly-strange act, as when the salvation of men was brought about through the Cross. In another way it allows the pious man to suffer sore trials in order that he may not depart from a right conscience nor lapse into pride on account of the power and grace granted to him, as was the case with Paul 1898 .
One man is forsaken for a season with a view to anothers restoration, in order that others when they see his state may be taught a lesson 1899 , as in the case of Lazarus and the rich man 1900 . For it belongs to our nature to be p. 42b cast down when we see persons in distress. Another is deserted by Providence in order that another may be glorified, and not for his own sin or that of his parents, just as the man who was blind from his birth ministered to the glory of the Son of Man 1901 . Again another is permitted to suffer in order to stir up emulation in the breasts of others, so that others by magnifying the glory of the sufferer may resolutely welcome suffering in the hope of future glory and the desire for future blessings, as in the case of the martyrs. Another is allowed to fall at times into some act of baseness in order that another worse fault may be thus corrected, as for instance when God allows a man who takes pride in his virtue and righteousness to fall away into fornication in order that he may be brought through this fall into the perception of his own weakness and be humbled and approach and make confession to the Lord.
Moreover, it is to be observed 1902 that the choice of what is to be done is in our own hands 1903 : but the final issue depends, in the one case when our actions are good, on the cooperation of God, Who in His justice brings help according to His foreknowledge to such as choose the good with a right conscience, and, in the other case when our actions are to evil, on the desertion by God, Who again in His justice stands aloof in accordance with His foreknowledge 1904 .
Now there are two forms of desertion: for there is desertion in the matters of guidance and training, and there is complete and hopeless desertion. The former has in view the restoration and safety and glory of the sufferer, or the rousing of feelings of emulation and imitation in others, or the glory of God: but the latter is when man, after God has done all that was possible to save him, remains of his own set purpose blind and uncured, or rather incurable, and then he is handed over to utter destruction, as was Judas 1905 . May God be gracious to us, and deliver us from such desertion.
Observe further that the ways of Gods providence are many, and they cannot be explained in words nor conceived by the mind.
And remember that all the assaults of dark and evil fortune contribute to the salvation of those who receive them with thankfulness, and are assuredly ambassadors of help.
Also one must bear in mind 1906 that Gods original wish was that all should be saved and come to His Kingdom 1907 . For it was not for punishment that He formed us but to share in His goodness, inasmuch as He is a good God. But inasmuch as He is a just God, His will is that sinners should suffer punishment.
The first then is called Gods antecedent will and pleasure, and springs from Himself, while the second is called Gods consequent will and permission, and has its origin in us. And the latter is two-fold; one part dealing with matters of guidance and training, and having in view our salvation, and the other being hopeless and leading to our utter punishment, as we said above. And this is the case with actions that are not left in our hands 1908 .
But of actions that are in our hands the good ones depend on His antecedent goodwill and pleasure, while the wicked ones depend neither on His antecedent nor on His consequent will, but are a concession to free-will. For that which is the result of compulsion has neither reason nor virtue in it. God 1909 makes provision for all creation and makes all creation the instrument of His help and training, yea often even the demons themselves, as for example in the cases of Job and the swine 1910 .
Nemes., ch. 43.41b:1888
Ibid., ch. 42.41b:1889
Ps. cxxxv. 6.41b:1890
Rom. ix. 19.41b:1891
Nemes., ch. 44.41b:1892
The words πάντα ἐπαινεῖν are wanting in Cod. R. 2 and in Nemes., ch. 44.41b:1893
There is a hiatus here in Edit. Veron. and in Cod. R. 2927. Various readings are found in other mss., some with no sense and others evidently supplied by librarians. It is best supplied from Nemesius, ch. 44, τῆς δὲ συγχωρήσεως πολλὰ εἴδη, “but there are many forms of concession.”41b:1896
Nemes, ch. 44.41b:1897
Job i. 11.41b:1898
2 Cor. ii. 7.41b:1899
Nemes., ch. 44.41b:1900
St. Luke xvi. 19.42b:1901
St. John ix. 1.42b:1902
Nemes., ch. 37.42b:1903
Cf. Nemes., c. 27; also Ciceros statement on Providence in the Academ. Quest.42b:1904
See the reference in Migne.42b:1905
St. Matt. xxvi. 24.42b:1906
See Chrysostom, Hom. 1, in Epist. ad. Ephes., and Hom. 18, in Epist. ad Hebræos.42b:1907
1 Tim. ii. 4.42b:1908
These words are wanting in two mss.42b:1909
This last sentence is absent in one Codex.42b:1910
St. Matt. viii. 30 seqq.
Next: Concerning Prescience and Predestination.
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