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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Spirit and the Letter.: Chapter 58

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 58.—The Free Will of Man is an Intermediate Power.

Let us then, first of all, lay down this proposition, and see whether it satisfies the question before us: that free will, naturally assigned by the Creator to our rational soul, is such a neutral 1046 power, as can either incline towards faith, or turn towards unbelief. Consequently a man cannot be said to have even that will with which he believes in God, without having received it; since this rises at the call of God out of the free will which he received naturally when he was created. God no doubt wishes all men to be saved 1047 and to come into the knowledge of the truth; but yet not so as to take away from them free will, for the good or the evil use of which they may be most righteously judged. This being the case, unbelievers indeed do contrary to the will of God when they do not believe His gospel; nevertheless they do not therefore overcome His will, but rob their own selves of the great, nay, the very greatest, good, and implicate themselves in penalties of punishment, destined to experience the power of Him in punishments whose mercy in His gifts they despised. Thus God’s will is for ever invincible; but it would be vanquished, unless it devised what to do with such as despised it, or if these despises could in any way escape from the retribution which He has appointed for such as they. Suppose a master, for example, who should say to his servants, I wish you to labour in my vineyard, and, after your work is done, to feast and take your rest but who, at the same time, should require any who refused to work to grind in the mill ever after. Whoever neglected such a command would evidently act contrary to the master’s will; but he would do more than that,—he would vanquish that will, if he also escaped the mill. This, however, cannot possibly happen under the government of God. Whence it is written, “God hath spoken once,”—that is, irrevocably,—although the passage may refer also to His one only Word. 1048 He then adds what it is which He had irrevocably uttered, saying: “Twice have I heard this, that power belongeth unto God. Also unto Thee, O Lord, doth mercy belong: because Thou wilt render to every man according to his work.” 1049 He therefore will be guilty unto condemnation under God’s power, who shall think too contemptuously of His mercy to believe in Him. But whosoever shall put his trust in Him, and yield himself up to Him, for the forgiveness of all his sins, for the cure of all his corruption, and for the kindling and illumination of his soul by His warmth and light, shall have good works by his grace; and by them 1050 he shall be even in his body redeemed from the corruption of death, crowned, satisfied with blessings,—not temporal, but eternal,—above what we can ask or understand.



[“Media vis,” a “midway power,” as Dr. Bright translates it; i.e., it is indifferent in itself, and neither good nor bad, but may be used for either.—W.]


1 Tim. ii. 4.


John i. 1.


Ps. 62:11, 12.


Ex quibus.

Next: Chapter 59