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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on Grace and Free Will.: Chapter 42

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 42 [XXI]—God Does Whatsoever He Wills in the Hearts of Even Wicked Men.

Who can help trembling at those judgments of God by which He does in the hearts of even wicked men whatsoever He wills, at the same time rendering to them according to their deeds? Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, rejected the salutary counsel of the old men, not to deal harshly with the people, and preferred listening to the words of the young men of his own age, by returning a rough answer to those to whom he should have spoken gently. Now whence arose such conduct, except from his own will? Upon this, however, the ten tribes of Israel revolted from him, and chose for themselves another king, even Jeroboam, that the will of God in His anger might be accomplished which He had predicted would come to pass. 3197 For what says the Scripture? “The king hearkened not unto the people; for the turning was from the Lord, that He might perform His saying, which the Lord spake to Ahijah the Shilonite concerning Jeroboam the son of Nebat.” 3198 All this, indeed, was done by the will of man, although the turning was from the Lord. Read the books of the Chronicles, and you will find the following passage in the second book: “Moreover, the Lord stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the Philistines, and of the Arabians, that were neighbours to the Ethiopians; and they came up to the land of Judah, and ravaged it, and carried away all the substance which was found in the king’s house.” 3199 Here it is shown that God stirs up enemies to devastate the countries which He adjudges deserving of such chastisement. Still, did these Philistines and Arabians invade the land of Judah to waste it with no will of their own? Or were their movements so directed by their own will that the Scripture lies which tells us that “the Lord stirred up their spirit” to do all this? Both statements to be sure are true, because they both came by their own will, and yet the Lord stirred up their spirit; and this may also with equal truth be stated the other way: The Lord both stirred up their spirit, and yet they came of their own will. For the Almighty sets in motion even in the innermost hearts of men the movement of their will, so that He does through their agency whatsoever He wishes to perform through them,—even He who knows not how to will anything in unrighteousness. What, again, is the purport of that which the man of God said to King Amaziah: “Let not the army of Israel go with thee; for the Lord is not with Israel, even with all the children of Ephraim: for if thou shalt think to obtain with these, the Lord shall put thee to flight before thine enemies: for God hath power either to strengthen or to put to flight”? 3200 Now, how does the power of God help some in war by giving them confidence, and put others to flight by injecting fear into them, except it be that He who has made all things according to His own will, in heaven and on earth, 3201 also works in the hearts of men? We read also what Joash, king of Israel, said when he sent a message to Amaziah, king of Judah, who wanted to fight with him. After certain other words, he added, “Now tarry at home; why dost thou challenge me to thine hurt, that thou shouldest fall, even thou, and Judah with thee?” 3202 Then the Scripture has added this sequel: “But Amaziah would not hear; for it came of God, that he might be delivered into their hands, because they sought after the gods of Edom.” 3203 Behold, now, how God, wishing to punish the sin of idolatry, wrought this in this man’s heart, with whom He was indeed justly angry, not to listen to sound advice, but to despise it, and go to the battle, in which he with his army was routed. God says by the prophet Ezekiel, “If the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet: I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.”  3204 Then there is the book of Esther, who was a woman of the people of Israel, and in the land of their captivity became the wife of the foreign King Ahasuerus. In this book it is written, that, being driven by necessity to interpose in behalf of her people, whom the king had ordered to be slain in every part of his dominions, she prayed to the Lord. So strongly was she urged by the necessity of the case, that she even ventured into the royal presence withp. 463 out the king’s command, and contrary to her own custom. Now observe what the Scripture says: “He looked at her like a bull in the vehemence of his indignation; and the queen was afraid, and her colour changed as she fainted; and she bowed herself upon the head of her delicate maiden which went before her. But God turned the king, and transformed his indignation into gentleness.” 3205 The Scripture says in the Proverbs of Solomon, “Even as the rush of water, so is the heart of a king in God’s hand; He will turn it in whatever way He shall choose.” 3206 Again, in the 104th Psalm, in reference to the Egyptians, one reads what God did to them: “And He turned their heart to hate His people, to deal subtilly with His servants.” 3207 Observe, likewise, what is written in the letters of the apostles. In the Epistle of Paul, the Apostle, to the Romans occur these words: “Wherefore God gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts;” 3208 and a little afterwards: “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections;” 3209 again, in the next passage: “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.” 3210 So also in his second Epistle to the Thessalonians, the apostle says of sundry persons, “Inasmuch as they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved; therefore also God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 3211



1 Kings xii. 8-14.


1 Kings xii. 15.


2 Chr. 21:16, 17.


2 Chr. 25:7, 8.


Ps. cxxxv. 6.


2 Kings xiv. 10.


2 Chron. xxv. 20.


Ezek. xiv. 9.


Esther v. (according to the Sept.).


Prov. xxi. 1.


Ps. cv. 25.


Rom. i. 24.


Rom. i. 26.


Rom. i. 28.


2 Thess. ii. 10-12.

Next: Chapter 43