Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XI:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Works of John Cassian.: Chapter XVIII. The decision of the fathers that free will is not equal to save a man.
The decision of the fathers that free will is not equal to save a man.
And from this it is clearly gathered by those who, led not by chattering words but by experience, measure the magnitude of grace, and the paltry limits of mans will, that “the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, nor food to the wise, nor riches to the prudent, nor grace to the learned,” but that “all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will.” 1862 And therefore it is proved by no doubtful faith but by experience which can (so to speak) be laid hold of, that God the Father of all things worketh indifferently all things in all, as the Apostle says, like some most kind father and most benign physician; and that now He puts into us the very beginnings of salvation, and gives to each the zeal of his free will; and now grants the carrying out of the work, and the perfecting of goodness; and now saves men, even against their will and without their knowledge, from ruin that is close at hand, and a headlong fall; and now affords them occasions and opportunities of salvation, and wards off headlong and violent attacks from purposes that would bring death; and assists some who are already willing and running, while He draws others who are unwilling and resisting, and forces them to a good will. But that, when we do not always resist or remain persistently unwilling, everything is granted to us by God, and that the main share in our salvation is to be ascribed not to the merit of our own works but to heavenly grace, we are thus taught by the words of the Lord Himself: “And you shall remember your ways and all your wicked doings with which you have been defiled; and you shall be displeased with yourselves in your own sight for all your wicked deeds which you have committed. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall have done well by you for My own names sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your wicked deeds, O house of Israel.” 1863 And therefore it is laid down by all the Catholic fathers who have taught perfection of heart not by empty disputes of words, but in deed and act, that the first stage in the Divine gift is for each man to be inflamed with the desire of everything that is good, but in such a way that the choice of free will is open to either side: and that the second stage in Divine grace is for the aforesaid practices of virtue to be able to be performed, but in such a way that the possibilities of the will are not destroyed: the third stage also belongs to the gifts of God, so that it may be held by the persistence of the goodness already acquired, and in such a way that the liberty may not be surrendered and experience bondage. For the God of all must be held to work in all, so as to incite, protect, and strengthen, but not to take away the freedom of the will which He Himself has once given. If however any more subtle p. 435 inference of mans argumentation and reasoning seems opposed to this interpretation, it should be avoided rather than brought forward to the destruction of the faith (for we gain not faith from understanding, but understanding from faith, as it is written: “Except ye believe, ye will not understand” 1864 ) for how God works all things in us and yet everything can be ascribed to free will, cannot be fully grasped by the mind and reason of man.
Strengthened by this food the blessed Chæremon prevented us from feeling the toil of so difficult a journey.
Eccl. 9:11, 1 Cor. 12:11.434:1863
Ezek. 20:43, 44.435:1864
Is. vii. 9.
Next: Conference XIV. The First Conference of Abbot Nesteros. On Spiritual Knowledge.
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