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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on Grace and Free Will.: Chapter 16

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 16 [VII.]—Paul Fought, But God Gave the Victory: He Ran, But God Showed Mercy.

Let us, therefore, consider those very merits of the Apostle Paul which he said the Righteous Judge would recompense with the crown of righteousness; and let us see whether these merits of his were really his own—I mean, whether they were obtained by him of himself, or were the gifts of God. “I have fought,” says he, “the good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith.” 3039 Now, in the first place, these good works were nothing, unless they had been preceded by good thoughts. Observe, therefore, what he says concerning these very thoughts. His words, when writing to the Corinthians, are: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” 3040 Then let us look at each several merit. “I have fought the good fight.” Well, now, I want to know by what power he fought. Was it by a power which he possessed of himself, or by strength given to him from above? It is impossible to suppose that so great a teacher as the apostle was ignorant of the law of God, which proclaims the following in Deuteronomy: “Say not in thine heart, My own strength and energy of hand hath wrought for me this great power; but thou shalt remember the Lord thy God, how it is He that giveth thee strength to acquire such power.” 3041 And what avails “the good fight,” unless followed by victory? And who gives the victory but He of whom the apostle says himself, “Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”? 3042 Then, in another passage, having quoted from the Psalm these words: “Because for Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for slaughter,” 3043 he went on to declare: “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us.” 3044 Not by ourselves, therefore, is the victory accomplished, but by Him who hath loved us. In the second clause he says, “I have finished my course.” Now, who is it that says this, but he who declares in another passage, “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” 3045 And this sentence can by no means be transposed, so that it could be said: It is not of God, who showeth mercy, but of the man who willeth and runneth. If any person be bold enough to express the matter thus, he shows himself most plainly to be at issue with the apostle.



2 Tim. iv. 7.


2 Cor. iii. 5.


Deut. viii. 17.


1 Cor. xv. 57.


Ps. xliv. 22.


Rom. viii. 37.


Rom. ix. 16.

Next: Chapter 17