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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on Grace and Free Will.: Chapter 4

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 4.—The Divine Commands Which are Most Suited to the Will Itself Illustrate Its Freedom.

What is the import of the fact that in so many p. 445 passages God requires all His commandments to be kept and fulfilled? How does He make this requisition, if there is no free will? What means “the happy man,” of whom the Psalmist says that “his will has been the law of the Lord”? 2959 Does he not clearly enough show that a man by his own will takes his stand in the law of God? Then again, there are so many commandments which in some way are expressly adapted to the human will; for instance, there is, “Be not overcome of evil,” 2960 and others of similar import, such as, “Be not like a horse or a mule, which have no understanding;” 2961 and, “Reject not the counsels of thy mother;” 2962 and, “Be not wise in thine own conceit;” 2963 and, “Despise not the chastening of the Lord;” 2964 and, “Forget not my law;” 2965 and, “Forbear not to do good to the poor;” 2966 and, “Devise not evil against thy friend;” 2967 and, “Give no heed to a worthless woman;” 2968 and, “He is not inclined to understand how to do good;” 2969 and, “They refused to attend to my counsel;” 2970 with numberless other passages of the inspired Scriptures of the Old Testament. And what do they all show us but the free choice of the human will? So, again, in the evangelical and apostolic books of the New Testament what other lesson is taught us? As when it is said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth;” 2971 and, “Fear not them which kill the body;” 2972 and, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself;” 2973 and again, “Peace on earth to men of good will.” 2974 So also that the Apostle Paul says: “Let him do what he willeth; he sinneth not if he marry. Nevertheless, he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.” 2975 And so again, “If I do this willingly, I have a reward;” 2976 while in another passage he says, “Be ye sober and righteous, and sin not;” 2977 and again, “As ye have a readiness to will, so also let there be a prompt performance;” 2978 then he remarks to Timothy about the younger widows, “When they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they choose to marry.” So in another passage, “All that will to live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution;” 2979 while to Timothy himself he says, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee.” 2980 Then to Philemon he addresses this explanation: “That thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but of thine own will.” 2981 Servants also he advises to obey their masters “with a good will.” 2982 In strict accordance with this, James says: “Do not err, my beloved brethren . . . and have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ with respect to persons;” 2983 and, “Do not speak evil one of another.” 2984 So also John in his Epistle writes, “Do not love the world,” 2985 and other things of the same import. Now wherever it is said, “Do not do this,” and “Do not do that,” and wherever there is any requirement in the divine admonitions for the work of the will to do anything, or to refrain from doing anything, there is at once a sufficient proof of free will. No man, therefore, when he sins, can in his heart blame God for it, but every man must impute the fault to himself. Nor does it detract at all from a man’s own will when he performs any act in accordance with God. Indeed, a work is then to be pronounced a good one when a person does it willingly; then, too, may the reward of a good work be hoped for from Him concerning whom it is written, “He shall reward every man according to his works.” 2986



Ps. i. 2.


Rom. xii. 1.


Ps. xxxii. 9.


Prov. i. 8.


Prov. iii. 7.


Prov. iii. 11.


Prov. iii. 1.


Prov. iii. 27.


Prov. iii. 29.


Prov. v. 2.


Ps. xxxvi. 3.


Prov. i. 30.


Matt. vi. 19.


Matt. x. 28.


Matt. xvi. 24.


Luke ii. 14.


1 Cor. 7:36, 37.


1 Cor. ix. 17.


1 Cor. xv. 34.


2 Cor. viii. 11.


2 Tim. iii. 12.


1 Tim. iv. 14.


Philemon 14.


Eph. vi. 7.


Jas. 1:16, Jas. 2:1.


Jas. iv. 11.


1 John ii. 15.


Matt. xvi. 27.

Next: Chapter 5

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