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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise Concerning Man’s Perfection...: Section 32

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XIV.—(32.) The Fourth Passage. In What Sense God Only is Good. With God to Be Good and to Be Himself are the Same Thing.

“They likewise,” says he, “quote what the Saviour says: ‘Why callest thou me good? There is none good save one, that is, God?’” 1504 This statement, however, he makes no attempt whatever to explain; all he does is to oppose to it sundry other passages which seem to contradict it, which he adduces to show that man, too, is good. Here are his remarks: “We must answer this text with another, in which the same Lord says, ‘A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things.’ 1505 And again: ‘He maketh His sun to rise on the good and on the evil.’ 1506 Then in another passage it is written, ‘For the good things are created from the beginning;’ 1507 and yet again, ‘They that are good shall dwell in the land.’” 1508 Now to all this we must say in answer, that the passages in question must be understood in the same sense as the former one, “There is none good, save one, that is, God.” Either because all created things, although God made them very p. 171 good, are yet, when compared with their Creator, not good, being in fact incapable of any comparison with Him. For in a transcendent, and yet very proper sense, He said of Himself, “I Am that I Am.” 1509 The statement therefore before us, “None is good save one, that is, God,” is used in some such way as that which is said of John, “He was not that light;” 1510 although the Lord calls him “a lamp,” 1511 just as He says to His disciples: “Ye are the light of the world: . . .neither do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel.” 1512 Still, in comparison with that light which is “the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world,” 1513 he was not light. Or else, because the very sons of God even, when compared with themselves as they shall hereafter become in their eternal perfection, are good in such a way that they still remain also evil. Although I should not have dared to say this of them (for who would be so bold as to call them evil who have God for their Father?) unless the Lord had Himself said: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?” 1514 Of course, by applying to them the words, “your Father,” He proved that they were already sons of God; and yet at the same time He did not hesitate to say that they were “evil.” Your author, however, does not explain to us how they are good, whilst yet “there is none good save one, that is, God.” Accordingly the man who asked “what good thing he was to do,” 1515 was admonished to seek Him 1516 by whose grace he might be good; to whom also to be good is nothing else than to be Himself, because He is unchangeably good, and cannot be evil at all.



Luke xviii. 19.


Matt. xii. 35.


Matt. v. 45.


Ecclesiasticus 39.25.


Prov. ii. 21.


Ex. iii. 14.


John i. 8.


John v. 35: [“lucernam,” not “lux:” as also in the Dies Iræ it is said of John, “non lux iste, sed lucernam,” in allusion to these passages.—W.]


Matt. 5:14, 15.


John i. 9.


Matt. vii. 11.


Matt. xix. 16.


Luke 10:27, 28.

Next: Section 33