Reader, remember me in your prayers, that we too may deserve to be made emulators of the spirit. The two former books on The Principles I translated not only at your instance, but even under pressure from you during the days of Lent; but as you, my devout brother Macarius, were not only living near me during that time, but had more leisure at your command than now, so I also worked the harder; whereas I have been longer in explaining these two latter books, seeing you came less frequently from a distant extremity of the city to urge on my labour. Now if you remember what I warned you of in my former preface — that certain persons would be indignant, if they did not hear that we spoke some evil of Origen — that, I imagine, you have immediately experienced, has come to pass. But if those demons who excite the tongues of men to slander were so infuriated by that work, in which he had not as yet fully unveiled their secret proceedings, what, think you, will be the case in this, in which he will expose all those dark and hidden ways, by which they creep into the hearts of men, and deceive weak and unstable souls? You will immediately see all things thrown into confusion, seditions stirred up, clamours raised throughout the whole city, and that individual summoned to receive sentence of condemnation who endeavoured to dispel the diabolical darkness of ignorance by means of the light of the Gospel lamp. Let such things, however, be lightly esteemed by him who is desirous of being trained in divine learning, while retaining in its integrity the rule of the Catholic faith. I think it necessary, however, to remind you that the principle observed in the former books has been observed also in these, viz., not to translate what appeared contrary to Origen's other opinions, and to our own belief, but to pass by such passages as being interpolated and forged by others. But if he has appeared to give expression to any novelties regarding rational creatures (on which subject the essence of our faith does not depend), for the sake of discussion and of adding to our knowledge, when perhaps it was necessary for us to answer in such an order some heretical opinions, I have not omitted to mention these either in the present or preceding books, unless when he wished to repeat in the following books what he had already stated in the previous ones, when I have thought it convenient, for the sake of brevity, to curtail some of these repetitions. Should any one, however, peruse these passages from a desire to enlarge his knowledge, and not to raise captious objections, he will do better to have them expounded by persons of skill. For it is an absurdity to have the fictions of poetry and the ridiculous plays of comedy interpreted by grammarians, and to suppose that without a master and an interpreter any one is able to learn those things which are spoken either of God or of the heavenly virtues, and of the whole universe of things, in which some deplorable error either of pagan philosophers or of heretics is confuted; and the result of which is, that men would rather rashly and ignorantly condemn things that are difficult and obscure, than ascertain their meaning by diligence and study.
1. Some such opinions, we believe, ought to be entertained regarding the divine promises, when we direct our understanding to the contemplation of that eternal and infinite world, and gaze on its ineffable joy and blessedness. But as the preaching of the Church includes a belief in a future and just judgment of God, which belief incites and persuades men to a good and virtuous life, and to an avoidance of sin by all possible means; and as by this it is undoubtedly indicated that it is within our own power to devote ourselves either to a life that is worthy of praise, or to one that is worthy of censure, I therefore deem it necessary to say a few words regarding the freedom of the will, seeing that this topic has been treated by very many writers in no mean style. And that we may ascertain more easily what is the freedom of the will, let us inquire into the nature of will and of desire.
2. Of all things which move, some have the cause of their motion within themselves, others receive it from without: and all those things only are moved from without which are without life, as stones, and pieces of wood, and whatever things are of such a nature as to be held together by the constitution of their matter alone, or of their bodily substance. That view must indeed be dismissed which would regard the dissolution of bodies by corruption as motion, for it has no bearing upon our present purpose. Others, again, have the cause of motion in themselves, as animals, or trees, and all things which are held together by natural life or soul; among which some think ought to be classed the veins of metals. Fire, also, is supposed to be the cause of its own motion, and perhaps also springs of water. And of those things which have the causes of their motion in themselves, some are said to be moved out of themselves, others by themselves. And they so distinguish them, because those things are moved out of themselves which are alive indeed, but have no soul; whereas those things which have a soul are moved by themselves, when a phantasy, i.e., a desire or incitement, is presented to them, which excites them to move towards something. Finally, in certain things endowed with a soul, there is such a phantasy, i.e., a will or feeling, as by a kind of natural instinct calls them forth, and arouses them to orderly and regular motion; as we see to be the case with spiders, which are stirred up in a most orderly manner by a phantasy, i.e., a sort of wish and desire for weaving, to undertake the production of a web, some natural movement undoubtedly calling forth the effort to work of this kind. Nor is this very insect found to possess any other feeling than the natural desire of weaving; as in like manner bees also exhibit a desire to form honeycombs, and to collect, as they say, aerial honey.
3. But since a rational animal not only has within itself these natural movements, but has moreover, to a greater extent than other animals, the power of reason, by which it can judge and determine regarding natural movements, and disapprove and reject some, while approving and adopting others, so by the judgment of this reason may the movements of men be governed and directed towards a commendable life. And from this it follows that, since the nature of this reason which is in man has within itself the power of distinguishing between good and evil, and while distinguishing possesses the faculty of selecting what it has approved, it may justly be deemed worthy of praise in choosing what is good, and deserving of censure in following that which is base or wicked. This indeed must by no means escape our notice, that in some dumb animals there is found a more regular movement than in others, as in hunting-dogs or war-horses, so that they may appear to some to be moved by a kind of rational sense. But we must believe this to be the result not so much of reason as of some natural instinct, largely bestowed for purposes of that kind. Now, as we had begun to remark, seeing that such is the nature of a rational animal, some things may happen to us human beings from without; and these, coming in contact with our sense of sight, or hearing, or any other of our senses, may incite and arouse us to good movements, or the contrary; and seeing they come to us from an external source, it is not within our own power to prevent their coming. But to determine and approve what use we ought to make of those things which thus happen, is the duty of no other than of that reason within us, i.e., of our own judgment; by the decision of which reason we use the incitement, which comes to us from without for that purpose, which reason approves, our natural movements being determined by its authority either to good actions or the reverse.
4. If any one now were to say that those things which happen to us from an external cause, and call forth our movements, are of such a nature that it is impossible to resist them, whether they incite us to good or evil, let the holder of this opinion turn his attention for a little upon himself, and carefully inspect the movements of his own mind, unless he has discovered already, that when an enticement to any desire arises, nothing is accomplished until the assent of the soul is gained, and the authority of the mind has granted indulgence to the wicked suggestion; so that a claim might seem to be made by two parties on certain probable grounds as to a judge residing within the tribunals of our heart, in order that, after the statement of reasons, the decree of execution may proceed from the judgment of reason. For, to take an illustration: if, to a man who has determined to live continently and chastely, and to keep himself free from all pollution with women, a woman should happen to present herself, inciting and alluring him to act contrary to his purpose, that woman is not a complete and absolute cause or necessity of his transgressing, since it is in his power, by remembering his resolution, to bridle the incitements to lust, and by the stern admonitions of virtue to restrain the pleasure of the allurement that solicits him; so that, all feeling of indulgence being driven away, his determination may remain firm and enduring. Finally, if to any men of learning, strengthened by divine training, allurements of that kind present themselves, remembering immediately what they are, and calling to mind what has long been the subject of their meditation and instruction, and fortifying themselves by the support of a holier doctrine, they reject and repel all incitement to pleasure, and drive away opposing lusts by the interposition of the reason implanted within them.
5. Seeing, then, that these positions are thus established by a sort of natural evidence, is it not superfluous to throw back the causes of our actions on those things which happen to us from without, and thus transfer the blame from ourselves, on whom it wholly lies? For this is to say that we are like pieces of wood, or stones, which have no motion in themselves, but receive the causes of their motion from without. Now such an assertion is neither true nor becoming, and is invented only that the freedom of the will may be denied; unless, indeed, we are to suppose that the freedom of the will consists in this, that nothing which happens to us from without can incite us to good or evil. And if any one were to refer the causes of our faults to the natural disorder of the body, such a theory is proved to be contrary to the reason of all teaching. For, as we see in very many individuals, that after living unchastely and intemperately, and after being the captives of luxury and lust, if they should happen to be aroused by the word of teaching and instruction to enter upon a better course of life, there takes place so great a change, that from being luxurious and wicked men, they are converted into those who are sober, and most chaste and gentle; so, again, we see in the case of those who are quiet and honest, that after associating with restless and shameless individuals, their good morals are corrupted by evil conversation, and they become like those whose wickedness is complete. And this is the case sometimes with men of mature age, so that such have lived more chastely in youth than when more advanced years have enabled them to indulge in a freer mode of life. The result of our reasoning, therefore, is to show that those things which happen to us from without are not in our own power; but that to make a good or bad use of those things which do so happen, by help of that reason which is within us, and which distinguishes and determines how these things ought to be used, is within our power.
6. And now, to confirm the deductions of reason by the authority of Scripture — viz., that it is our own doing whether we live rightly or not, and that we are not compelled, either by those causes which come to us from without, or, as some think, by the presence of fate— we adduce the testimony of the prophet Micah, in these words:
If it has been announced to you, O man, what is good, or what the Lord requires of you, except that you should do justice, and love mercy, and be ready to walk with the Lord your God. Moses also speaks as follows:
I have placed before your face the way of life and the way of death: choose what is good, and walk in it. Isaiah, moreover, makes this declaration:
If you are willing, and hear me, you shall eat the good of the land. But if you be unwilling, and will not hear me, the sword shall consume you; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken this. In the Psalm, too, it is written:
If My people had heard Me, if Israel had walked in My ways, I would have humbled her enemies to nothing; by which he shows that it was in the power of the people to hear, and to walk in the ways of God. The Saviour also saying,
I say unto you, Resist not evil; and,
Whoever shall be angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment; and,
Whosoever shall look upon a woman to lust after her, has already committed adultery with her in his heart; and in issuing certain other commands — conveys no other meaning than this, that it is in our own power to observe what is commanded. And therefore we are rightly rendered liable to condemnation if we transgress those commandments which we are able to keep. And hence He Himself also declares:
Every one who hears my words, and does them, I will show to whom he is like: he is like a wise man who built his house upon a rock, etc. So also the declaration:
Whoever hears these things, and does them not, is like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand, etc. Even the words addressed to those who are on His right hand,
Come unto Me, all you blessed of My Father, etc.;
for I was an hungered, and you gave Me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink, manifestly show that it depended upon themselves, that either these should be deserving of praise for doing what was commanded and receiving what was promised, or those deserving of censure who either heard or received the contrary, and to whom it was said,
Depart, you cursed, into everlasting fire. Let us observe also, that the Apostle Paul addresses us as having power over our own will, and as possessing in ourselves the causes either of our salvation or of our ruin:
Do you despise the riches of His goodness, and of His patience, and of His long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But, according to your hardness and impenitent heart, you are treasuring up for yourself wrath on the day of judgment and of the revelation of the just judgment of God, who will render to every one according to his work: to those who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and immortality, eternal life; while to those who are contentious, and believe not the truth, but who believe iniquity, anger, indignation, tribulation, and distress, on every soul of man that works evil, on the Jew first, and (afterwards) on the Greek; but glory, and honour, and peace to every one that does good, to the Jew first, and (afterwards) to the Greek. You will find also innumerable other passages in holy Scripture, which manifestly show that we possess freedom of will. Otherwise there would be a contrariety in commandments being given us, by observing which we may be saved, or by transgressing which we may be condemned, if the power of keeping them were not implanted in us.
7. But, seeing there are found in the sacred Scriptures themselves certain expressions occurring in such a connection, that the opposite of this may appear capable of being understood from them, let us bring them forth before us, and, discussing them according to the rule of piety, let us furnish an explanation of them, in order that from those few passages which we now expound, the solution of those others which resemble them, and by which any power over the will seems to be excluded, may become clear. Those expressions, accordingly, make an impression on very many, which are used by God in speaking of Pharaoh, as when He frequently says,
I will harden Pharaoh's heart. For if he is hardened by God, and commits sin in consequence of being so hardened, the cause of his sin is not himself. And if so, it will appear that Pharaoh does not possess freedom of will; and it will be maintained, as a consequence, that, agreeably to this illustration, neither do others who perish owe the cause of their destruction to the freedom of their own will. That expression, also, in Ezekiel, when he says,
I will take away their stony hearts, and will give them hearts of flesh, that they may walk in My precepts, and keep My ways, may impress some, inasmuch as it seems to be a gift of God, either to walk in His ways or to keep His precepts, if He take away that stony heart which is an obstacle to the keeping of His commandments, and bestow and implant a better and more impressible heart, which is called now a heart of flesh. Consider also the nature of the answer given in the Gospel by our Lord and Saviour to those who inquired of Him why He spoke to the multitude in parables. His words are:
That seeing they may not see; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest they should be converted, and their sins be forgiven them. The words, moreover, used by the Apostle Paul, that
it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy; in another passage also,
that to will and to do are of God: and again, elsewhere,
Therefore has He mercy upon whom He will, and whom He will He hardens. You will say then unto me, Why does He yet find fault? For who shall resist His will? O man, who are you that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to him who has formed it, Why have you made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another to dishonour? — these and similar declarations seem to have no small influence in preventing very many from believing that every one is to be considered as having freedom over his own will, and in making it appear to be a consequence of the will of God whether a man is either saved or lost.
8. Let us begin, then, with those words which were spoken to Pharaoh, who is said to have been hardened by God, in order that he might not let the people go; and, along with his case, the language of the apostle also will be considered, where he says,
Therefore He has mercy on whom He will, and whom He will He hardens. For it is on these passages chiefly that the heretics rely, asserting that salvation is not in our own power, but that souls are of such a nature as must by all means be either lost or saved; and that in no way can a soul which is of an evil nature become good, or one which is of a virtuous nature be made bad. And hence they maintain that Pharaoh, too, being of a ruined nature, was on that account hardened by God, who hardens those that are of an earthly nature, but has compassion on those who are of a spiritual nature. Let us see, then, what is the meaning of their assertion; and let us, in the first place, request them to tell us whether they maintain that the soul of Pharaoh was of an earthly nature, such as they term lost. They will undoubtedly answer that it was of an earthly nature. If so, then to believe God, or to obey Him, when his nature opposed his so doing, was an impossibility. And if this were his condition by nature, what further need was there for his heart to be hardened, and this not once, but several times, unless indeed because it was possible for him to yield to persuasion? Nor could any one be said to be hardened by another, save him who of himself was not obdurate. And if he were not obdurate of himself, it follows that neither was he of an earthly nature, but such an one as might give way when overpowered by signs and wonders. But he was necessary for God's purpose, in order that, for the saving of the multitude, He might manifest in him His power by his offering resistance to numerous miracles, and struggling against the will of God, and his heart being by this means said to be hardened. Such are our answers, in the first place, to these persons; and by these their assertion may be overturned, according to which they think that Pharaoh was destroyed in consequence of his evil nature. And with regard to the language of the Apostle Paul, we must answer them in a similar way. For who are they whom God hardens, according to your view? Those, namely, whom you term of a ruined nature, and who, I am to suppose, would have done something else had they not been hardened. If, indeed, they come to destruction in consequence of being hardened, they no longer perish naturally, but in virtue of what befalls them. Then, in the next place, upon whom does God show mercy? On those, namely, who are to be saved. And in what respect do those persons stand in need of a second compassion, who are to be saved once by their nature, and so come naturally to blessedness, except that it is shown even from their case, that, because it was possible for them to perish, they therefore obtain mercy, that so they may not perish, but come to salvation, and possess the kingdom of the good. And let this be our answer to those who devise and invent the fable of good or bad natures, i.e., of earthly or spiritual souls, in consequence of which, as they say, each one is either saved or lost.
9. And now we must return an answer also to those who would have the God of the law to be just only, and not also good; and let us ask such in what manner they consider the heart of Pharaoh to have been hardened by God— by what acts or by what prospective arrangements. For we must observe the conception of a God who in our opinion is both just and good, but according to them only just. And let them show us how a God whom they also acknowledge to be just, can with justice cause the heart of a man to be hardened, that, in consequence of that very hardening, he may sin and be ruined. And how shall the justice of God be defended, if He Himself is the cause of the destruction of those whom, owing to their unbelief (through their being hardened), He has afterwards condemned by the authority of a judge? For why does He blame him, saying,
But since you will not let My people go, lo, I will smite all the first-born in Egypt, even your first-born, and whatever else was spoken through Moses by God to Pharaoh? For it behooves every one who maintains the truth of what is recorded in Scripture, and who desires to show that the God of the law and the prophets is just, to render a reason for all these things, and to show how there is in them nothing at all derogatory to the justice of God, since, although they deny His goodness, they admit that He is a just judge, and creator of the world. Different, however, is the method of our reply to those who assert that the creator of this world is a malignant being, i.e., a devil.
10. But since we acknowledge the God who spoke by Moses to be not only just, but also good, let us carefully inquire how it is in keeping with the character of a just and good Deity to have hardened the heart of Pharaoh. And let us see whether, following the example of the Apostle Paul, we are able to solve the difficulty by help of some parallel instances: if we can show, e.g., that by one and the same act God has pity upon one individual, but hardens another; not purposing or desiring that he who is hardened should be so, but because, in the manifestation of His goodness and patience, the heart of those who treat His kindness and forbearance with contempt and insolence is hardened by the punishment of their crimes being delayed; while those, on the other hand, who make His goodness and patience the occasion of their repentance and reformation, obtain compassion. To show more clearly, however, what we mean, let us take the illustration employed by the Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where he says,
For the earth, which drinks in the rain that comes oft upon it, and brings forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, will receive blessing from God; but that which bears thorns and briers is rejected, and is near unto cursing, whose end is to be burned. Now from those words of Paul which we have quoted, it is clearly shown that by one and the same act on the part of God — that, viz., by which He sends rain upon the earth — one portion of the ground, when carefully cultivated, brings forth good fruits; while another, neglected and uncared for, produces thorns and thistles. And if one, speaking as it were in the person of the rain, were to say,
It is I, the rain, that have made the good fruits, and it is I that have caused the thorns and thistles to grow, however hard the statement might appear, it would nevertheless be true; for unless the rain had fallen, neither fruits, nor thorns, nor thistles would have sprung up, whereas by the coming of the rain the earth gave birth to both. Now, although it is due to the beneficial action of the rain that the earth has produced herbs of both kinds, it is not to the rain that the diversity of the herbs is properly to be ascribed; but on those will justly rest the blame for the bad seed, who, although they might have turned up the ground by frequent ploughing, and have broken the clods by repeated harrowing, and have extirpated all useless and noxious weeds, and have cleared and prepared the fields for the coming showers by all the labour and toil which cultivation demands, have nevertheless neglected to do this, and who will accordingly reap briers and thorns, the most appropriate fruit of their sloth. And the consequence therefore is, that while the rain falls in kindness and impartiality equally upon the whole earth, yet, by one and the same operation of the rain, that soil which is cultivated yields with a blessing useful fruits to the diligent and careful cultivators, while that which has become hardened through the neglect of the husbandman brings forth only thorns and thistles. Let us therefore view those signs and miracles which were done by God, as the showers furnished by Him from above; and the purpose and desires of men, as the cultivated and uncultivated soil, which is of one and the same nature indeed, as is every soil compared with another, but not in one and the same state of cultivation. From which it follows that every one's will, if untrained, and fierce, and barbarous, is either hardened by the miracles and wonders of God, growing more savage and thorny than ever, or it becomes more pliant, and yields itself up with the whole mind to obedience, if it be cleared from vice and subjected to training.
11. But, to establish the point more clearly, it will not be superfluous to employ another illustration, as if, e.g., one were to say that it is the sun which hardens and liquefies, although liquefying and hardening are things of an opposite nature. Now it is not incorrect to say that the sun, by one and the same power of its heat, melts wax indeed, but dries up and hardens mud: not that its power operates one way upon mud, and in another way upon wax; but that the qualities of mud and wax are different, although according to nature they are one thing, both being from the earth. In this way, then, one and the same working upon the part of God, which was administered by Moses in signs and wonders, made manifest the hardness of Pharaoh, which he had conceived in the intensity of his wickedness but exhibited the obedience of those other Egyptians who were intermingled with the Israelites, and who are recorded to have quitted Egypt at the same time with the Hebrews. With respect to the statement that the heart of Pharaoh was subdued by degrees, so that on one occasion he said,
Go not far away; you shall go a three days' journey, but leave your wives, and your children, and your cattle, and as regards any other statements, according to which he appears to yield gradually to the signs and wonders, what else is shown, save that the power of the signs and miracles was making some impression on him, but not so much as it ought to have done? For if the hardening were of such a nature as many take it to be, he would not indeed have given way even in a few instances. But I think there is no absurdity in explaining the tropical or figurative nature of that language employed in speaking of
hardening, according to common usage. For those masters who are remarkable for kindness to their slaves, are frequently accustomed to say to the latter, when, through much patience and indulgence on their part, they have become insolent and worthless:
It is I that have made you what you are; I have spoiled you; it is my endurance that has made you good for nothing: I am to blame for your perverse and wicked habits, because I do not have you immediately punished for every delinquency according to your deserts. For we must first attend to the tropical or figurative meaning of the language, and so come to see the force of the expression, and not find fault with the word, whose inner meaning we do not ascertain. Finally, the Apostle Paul, evidently treating of such, says to him who remained in his sins:
Despise the riches of His goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But, after your hardness and impenitent heart, treasure up unto yourself wrath on the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. Such are the words of the apostle to him who is in his sins. Let us apply these very expressions to Pharaoh, and see if they also are not spoken of him with propriety, since, according to his hardness and impenitent heart, he treasured and stored up for himself wrath on the day of wrath, inasmuch as his hardness could never have been declared and manifested, unless signs and wonders of such number and magnificence had been performed.
12. But if the proofs which we have adduced do not appear full enough, and the similitude of the apostle seem wanting in applicability, let us add the voice of prophetic authority, and see what the prophets declare regarding those who at first, indeed, leading a righteous life, have deserved to receive numerous proofs of the goodness of God, but afterwards, as being human beings, have fallen astray, with whom the prophet, making himself also one, says:
Why, O Lord, have You made us to err from Your way? And hardened our heart, that we should not fear Your name? Return, for Your servants' sake, for the tribes of Your inheritance, that we also for a little may obtain some inheritance from Your holy hill. Jeremiah also employs similar language:
O Lord, You have deceived us, and we were deceived; You have held (us), and You have prevailed. The expression, then,
Why, O Lord, have You hardened our heart, that we should not fear Your name? used by those who prayed for mercy, is to be taken in a figurative, moral acceptation, as if one were to say,
Why have You spared us so long, and did not requite us when we sinned, but abandoned us, that so our wickedness might increase, and our liberty of sinning be extended when punishment ceased? In like manner, unless a horse continually feel the spur of his rider, and have his mouth abraded by a bit, he becomes hardened. And a boy also, unless constantly disciplined by chastisement, will grow up to be an insolent youth, and one ready to fall headlong into vice. God accordingly abandons and neglects those whom He has judged undeserving of chastisement:
For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. From which we are to suppose that those are to be received into the rank and affection of sons, who have deserved to be scourged and chastened by the Lord, in order that they also, through endurance of trials and tribulations, may be able to say,
Who shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus? Shall tribulation, or anguish, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? For by all these is each one's resolution manifested and displayed, and the firmness of his perseverance made known, not so much to God, who knows all things before they happen, as to the rational and heavenly virtues, who have obtained a part in the work of procuring human salvation, as being a sort of assistants and ministers to God. Those, on the other hand, who do not yet offer themselves to God with such constancy and affection, and are not ready to come into His service, and to prepare their souls for trial, are said to be abandoned by God, i.e., not to be instructed, inasmuch as they are not prepared for instruction, their training or care being undoubtedly postponed to a later time. These certainly do not know what they will obtain from God, unless they first entertain the desire of being benefited; and this finally will be the case, if a man come first to a knowledge of himself, and feel what are his defects, and understand from whom he either ought or can seek the supply of his deficiencies. For he who does not know beforehand of his weakness or his sickness, cannot seek a physician; or at least, after recovering his health, that man will not be grateful to his physician who did not first recognise the dangerous nature of his ailment. And so, unless a man has first ascertained the defects of his life, and the evil nature of his sins, and made this known by confession from his own lips, he cannot be cleansed or acquitted, lest he should be ignorant that what he possesses has been bestowed on him by favour, but should consider as his own property what flows from the divine liberality, which idea undoubtedly generates arrogance of mind and pride, and finally becomes the cause of the individual's ruin. And this, we must believe, was the case with the devil, who viewed as his own, and not as given him by God, the primacy which he held at the time when he was unstained; and thus was fulfilled in him the declaration, that
every one who exalts himself shall be abased. From which it appears to me that the divine mysteries were concealed from the wise and prudent, according to the statement of Scripture, that happiness, not by their own merits, but by the grace and compassion of God.
13. It is therefore by the sentence of God that he is abandoned who deserves to be so, while over some sinners God exercises forbearance; not, however, without a definite principle of action. Nay, the very fact that He is long-suffering conduces to the advantage of those very persons, since the soul over which He exercises this providential care is immortal; and, as being immortal and everlasting, it is not, although not immediately cared for, excluded from salvation, which is postponed to a more convenient time. For perhaps it is expedient for those who have been more deeply imbued with the poison of wickedness to obtain this salvation at a later period. For as medical men sometimes, although they could quickly cover over the scars of wounds, keep back and delay the cure for the present, in the expectation of a better and more perfect recovery, knowing that it is more salutary to retard the treatment in the cases of swellings caused by wounds, and to allow the malignant humours to flow off for a while, rather than to hasten a superficial cure, by shutting up in the veins the poison of a morbid humour, which, excluded from its customary outlets, will undoubtedly creep into the inner parts of the limbs, and penetrate to the very vitals of the viscera, producing no longer mere disease in the body, but causing destruction to life; so, in like manner, God also, who knows the secret things of the heart, and foreknows the future, in much forbearance allows certain events to happen, which, coming from without upon men, cause to come forth into the light the passions and vices which are concealed within, that by their means those may be cleansed and cured who, through great negligence and carelessness, have admitted within themselves the roots and seeds of sins, so that, when driven outwards and brought to the surface, they may in a certain degree be cast forth and dispersed. And thus, although a man may appear to be afflicted with evils of a serious kind, suffering convulsions in all his limbs, he may nevertheless, at some future time, obtain relief and a cessation from his trouble; and, after enduring his afflictions to satiety, may, after many sufferings, be restored again to his (proper) condition. For God deals with souls not merely with a view to the short space of our present life, included within sixty years or more, but with reference to a perpetual and never-ending period, exercising His providential care over souls that are immortal, even as He Himself is eternal and immortal. For He made the rational nature, which He formed in His own image and likeness, incorruptible; and therefore the soul, which is immortal, is not excluded by the shortness of the present life from the divine remedies and cures.
14. But let us take from the Gospels also the similitudes of those things which we have mentioned, in which is described a certain rock, having on it a little superficial earth, on which, when a seed falls, it is said quickly to spring up; but when sprung up, it withers as the sun ascends in the heavens, and dies away, because it did not cast its root deeply into the ground. Now this rock undoubtedly represents the human soul, hardened on account of its own negligence, and converted into stone because of its wickedness. For God gave no one a stony heart by a creative act; but each individual's heart is said to become stony through his own wickedness and disobedience. As, therefore, if one were to blame a husbandman for not casting his seed more quickly upon rocky ground, because seed cast upon other rocky soil was seen to spring up speedily, the husbandman would certainly say in reply:
I sow this soil more slowly, for this reason, that it may retain the seed which it has received; for it suits this ground to be sown somewhat slowly, lest perhaps the crop, having sprouted too rapidly, and coming forth from the mere surface of a shallow soil, should be unable to withstand the rays of the sun. Would not he who formerly found fault acquiesce in the reasons and superior knowledge of the husbandman, and approve as done on rational grounds what formerly appeared to him as founded on no reason? And in the same way, God, the thoroughly skilled husbandman of all His creation, undoubtedly conceals and delays to another time those things which we think ought to have obtained health sooner, in order that not the outside of things, rather than the inside, may be cured. But if any one now were to object to us that certain seeds do even fall upon rocky ground, i.e., on a hard and stony heart, we should answer that even this does not happen without the arrangement of Divine Providence; inasmuch as, but for this, it would not be known what condemnation was incurred by rashness in hearing and indifference in investigation, nor, certainly, what benefit was derived from being trained in an orderly manner. And hence it happens that the soul comes to know its defects, and to cast the blame upon itself, and, consistently with this, to reserve and submit itself to training, i.e., in order that it may see that its faults must first be removed, and that then it must come to receive the instruction of wisdom. As, therefore, souls are innumerable, so also are their manners, and purposes, and movements, and appetencies, and incitements different, the variety of which can by no means be grasped by the human mind; and therefore to God alone must be left the art, and the knowledge, and the power of an arrangement of this kind, as He alone can know both the remedies for each individual soul, and measure out the time of its cure. It is He alone then who, as we said, recognises the ways of individual men, and determines by what way He ought to lead Pharaoh, that through him His name might be named in all the earth, having previously chastised him by many blows, and finally drowning him in the sea. By this drowning, however, it is not to be supposed that God's providence as regards Pharaoh was terminated; for we must not imagine, because he was drowned, that therefore he had immediately completely perished:
for in the hand of God are both we and our words; all wisdom, also, and knowledge of workmanship, as Scripture declares. But these points we have discussed according to our ability, treating of that chapter of Scripture in which it is said that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and agreeably to the statement,
He has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardens.
15. Let us now look at those passages of Ezekiel where he says, I will take away from them their stony heart, and I will put in them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes, and keep Mine ordinances. For if God, when He pleases, takes away a heart of stone and bestows a heart of flesh, that His ordinances may be observed and His commandments may be obeyed, it will then appear that it is not in our power to put away wickedness. For the taking away of a stony heart seems to be nothing else than the removal of the wickedness by which one is hardened, from whomsoever God pleases to remove it. Nor is the bestowal of a heart of flesh, that the precepts of God may be observed and His commandments obeyed, any other thing than a man becoming obedient, and no longer resisting the truth, but performing works of virtue. If, then, God promises to do this, and if, before He takes away the stony heart, we are unable to remove it from ourselves, it follows that it is not in our power, but in God's only, to cast away wickedness. And again, if it is not our doing to form within us a heart of flesh, but the work of God alone, it will not be in our power to live virtuously, but it will in everything appear to be a work of divine grace. Such are the assertions of those who wish to prove from the authority of Holy Scripture that nothing lies in our own power. Now to these we answer, that these passages are not to be so understood, but in the following manner. Take the case of one who was ignorant and untaught, and who, feeling the disgrace of his ignorance, should, driven either by an exhortation from some person, or incited by a desire to emulate other wise men, hand himself over to one by whom he is assured that he will be carefully trained and competently instructed. If he, then, who had formerly hardened himself in ignorance, yield himself, as we have said, with full purpose of mind to a master, and promise to obey him in all things, the master, on seeing clearly the resolute nature of his determination, will appropriately promise to take away all ignorance, and to implant knowledge within his mind; not that he undertakes to do this if the disciple refuse or resist his efforts, but only on his offering and binding himself to obedience in all things. So also the Word of God promises to those who draw near to Him, that He will take away their stony heart, not indeed from those who do not listen to His word, but from those who receive the precepts of His teaching; as in the Gospels we find the sick approaching the Saviour, asking to receive health, and thus at last be cured. And in order that the blind might be healed and regain their sight, their part consisted in making supplication to the Saviour, and in believing that their cure could be effected by Him; while His part, on the other hand, lay in restoring to them the power of vision. And in this way also does the Word of God promise to bestow instruction by taking away the stony heart, i.e., by the removal of wickedness, that so men may be able to walk in the divine precepts, and observe the commandments of the law.
16. There is next brought before us that declaration uttered by the Saviour in the Gospel:
That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest they should happen to be converted, and their sins be forgiven them. On which our opponent will remark:
If those who shall hear more distinctly are by all means to be corrected and converted, and converted in such a manner as to be worthy of receiving the remission of sins, and if it be not in their own power to hear the word distinctly, but if it depend on the Instructor to teach more openly and distinctly, while he declares that he does not proclaim to them the word with clearness, lest they should perhaps hear and understand, and be converted, and be saved, it will follow, certainly, that their salvation is not dependent upon themselves. And if this be so, then we have no free-will either as regards salvation or destruction. Now were it not for the words that are added,
Lest perhaps they should be converted, and their sins be forgiven them, we might be more inclined to return the answer, that the Saviour was unwilling that those individuals whom He foresaw would not become good, should understand the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, and that therefore He spoke to them in parables; but as that addition follows,
Lest perhaps they should be converted, and their sins be forgiven them, the explanation is rendered more difficult. And, in the first place, we have to notice what defense this passage furnishes against those heretics who are accustomed to hunt out of the Old Testament any expressions which seem, according to their view, to predicate severity and cruelty of God the Creator, as when He is described as being affected with the feeling of vengeance or punishment, or by any of those emotions, however named, from which they deny the existence of goodness in the Creator; for they do not judge of the Gospels with the same mind and feelings, and do not observe whether any such statements are found in them as they condemn and censure in the Old Testament. For manifestly, in the passage referred to, the Saviour is shown, as they themselves admit, not to speak distinctly, for this very reason, that men may not be converted, and when converted, receive the remission of sins. Now, if the words be understood according to the letter merely, nothing less, certainly, will be contained in them than in those passages which they find fault with in the Old Testament. And if they are of opinion that any expressions occurring in such a connection in the New Testament stand in need of explanation, it will necessarily follow that those also occurring in the Old Testament, which are the subject of censure, may be freed from aspersion by an explanation of a similar kind, so that by such means the passages found in both Testaments may be shown to proceed from one and the same God. But let us return, as we best may, to the question proposed.
17. We said formerly, when discussing the case of Pharaoh, that sometimes it does not lead to good results for a man to be cured too quickly, especially if the disease, being shut up within the inner parts of the body, rage with greater fierceness. Whence God, who is acquainted with secret things, and knows all things before they happen, in His great goodness delays the cure of such, and postpones their recovery to a remoter period, and, so to speak, cures them by not curing them, lest a too favourable state of health should render them incurable. It is therefore possible that, in the case of those to whom, as being
without, the words of our Lord and Saviour were addressed, He, seeing from His scrutiny of the hearts and reins that they were not yet able to receive teaching of a clearer type, veiled by the covering of language the meaning of the profounder mysteries, lest perhaps, being rapidly converted and healed, i.e., having quickly obtained the remission of their sins, they should again easily slide back into the same disease which they had found could be healed without any difficulty. For if this be the case, no one can doubt that the punishment is doubled, and the amount of wickedness increased; since not only are the sins which had appeared to be forgiven repeated, but the court of virtue also is desecrated when trodden by deceitful and polluted beings, filled within with hidden wickedness. And what remedy can there ever be for those who, after eating the impure and filthy food of wickedness, have tasted the pleasantness of virtue, and received its sweetness into their mouths, and yet have again betaken themselves to the deadly and poisonous provision of sin? And who doubts that it is better for delay and a temporary abandonment to occur, in order that if, at some future time, they should happen to be satiated with wickedness, and the filth with which they are now delighted should become loathsome, the word of God may at last be appropriately made clear to them, and that which is holy be not given to the dogs, nor pearls be cast before swine, which will trample them under foot, and turn, moreover, and rend and assault those who have proclaimed to them the word of God? These, then, are they who are said to be
without, undoubtedly by way of contrast with those who are said to be
within, and to hear the word of God with greater clearness. And yet those who are
without do hear the word, although it is covered by parables, and overshadowed by proverbs. There are others, also, besides those who are without, who are called Tyrians, and who do not hear at all, respecting whom the Saviour knew that they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes, if the miracles performed among others had been done among them, and yet these do not hear those things which are heard even by those who are
without: and I believe, for this reason, that the rank of such in wickedness was far lower and worse than that of those who are said to be
without, i.e., who are not far from those who are within, and who have deserved to hear the word, although in parables; and because, perhaps, their cure was delayed to that time when it will be more tolerable for them on the day of judgment, than for those before whom those miracles which are recorded were performed, that so at last, being then relieved from the weight of their sins, they may enter with more ease and power of endurance upon the way of safety. And this is a point which I wish impressed upon those who peruse these pages, that with respect to topics of such difficulty and obscurity we use our utmost endeavour, not so much to ascertain clearly the solutions of the questions (for every one will do this as the Spirit gives him utterance), as to maintain the rule of faith in the most unmistakeable manner, by striving to show that the providence of God, which equitably administers all things, governs also immortal souls on the justest principles, (conferring rewards) according to the merits and motives of each individual; the present economy of things not being confined within the life of this world, but the pre-existing state of merit always furnishing the ground for the state that is to follow, and thus by an eternal and immutable law of equity, and by the controlling influence of Divine Providence, the immortal soul is brought to the summit of perfection. If one, however, were to object to our statement, that the word of preaching was purposely put aside by certain men of wicked and worthless character, and (were to inquire) why the word was preached to those over whom the Tyrians, who were certainly despised, are preferred in comparison (by which proceeding, certainly, their wickedness was increased, and their condemnation rendered more severe, that they should hear the word who were not to believe it), they must be answered in the following manner: God, who is the Creator of the minds of all men, foreseeing complaints against His providence, especially on the part of those who say,
How could we believe when we neither beheld those things which others saw, nor heard those words which were preached to others? In so far is the blame removed from us, since they to whom the word was announced, and the signs manifested, made no delay whatever, but became believers, overpowered by the very force of the miracles; wishing to destroy the grounds for complaints of this kind, and to show that it was no concealment of Divine Providence, but the determination of the human mind which was the cause of their ruin, bestowed the grace of His benefits even upon the unworthy and the unbelieving, that every mouth might indeed be shut, and that the mind of man might know that all the deficiency was on its own part, and none on that of God; and that it may, at the same time, be understood and recognised that he receives a heavier sentence of condemnation who has despised the divine benefits conferred upon him than he who has not deserved to obtain or hear them, and that it is a peculiarity of divine compassion, and a mark of the extreme justice of its administration, that it sometimes conceals from certain individuals the opportunity of either seeing or hearing the mysteries of divine power, lest, after beholding the power of the miracles, and recognising and hearing the mysteries of its wisdom, they should, on treating them with contempt and indifference, be punished with greater severity for their impiety.
18. Let us now look to the expression,
It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. For our opponents assert, that if it does not depend upon him that wills, nor on him that runs, but on God that shows mercy, that a man be saved, our salvation is not in our own power. For our nature is such as to admit of our either being saved or not, or else our salvation rests solely on the will of Him who, if He wills it, shows mercy, and confers salvation. Now let us inquire, in the first place, of such persons, whether to desire blessings be a good or evil act; and whether to hasten after good as a final aim be worthy of praise. If they were to answer that such a procedure was deserving of censure, they would evidently be mad; for all holy men both desire blessings and run after them, and certainly are not blameworthy. How, then, is it that he who is not saved, if he be of an evil nature, desires blessing, and runs after them, but does not find them? For they say that a bad tree does not bring forth good fruits, whereas it is a good fruit to desire blessings. And how is the fruit of a bad tree good? And if they assert that to desire blessings, and to run after them, is an act of indifference, i.e., neither good nor bad, we shall reply, that if it be an indifferent act to desire blessings, and to run after them, then the opposite of that will also be an indifferent act, viz., to desire evils, and to run after them; whereas it is certain that it is not an indifferent act to desire evils, and to run after them, but one that is manifestly wicked. It is established, then, that to desire and follow after blessings is not an indifferent, but a virtuous proceeding.
Having now repelled these objections by the answer which we have given, let us hasten on to the discussion of the subject itself, in which it is said,
It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. In the book of Psalms — in the Songs of Degrees, which are ascribed to Solomon — the following statement occurs:
Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchman wakes but in vain. By which words he does not indeed indicate that we should cease from building or watching over the safe keeping of that city which is within us; but what he points out is this, that whatever is built without God, and whatever is guarded without him, is built in vain, and guarded to no purpose. For in all things that are well built and well protected, the Lord is held to be the cause either of the building or of its protection. As if, e.g., we were to behold some magnificent structure and mass of splendid building reared with beauteous architectural skill, would we not justly and deservedly say that such was built not by human power, but by divine help and might? And yet from such a statement it will not be meant that the labour and industry of human effort were inactive, and effected nothing at all. Or again, if we were to see some city surrounded by a severe blockade of the enemy, in which threatening engines were brought against the walls, and the place hard pressed by a vallum, and weapons, and fire, and all the instruments of war, by which destruction is prepared, would we not rightly and deservedly say, if the enemy were repelled and put to flight, that the deliverance had been wrought for the liberated city by God? And yet we would not mean, by so speaking, that either the vigilance of the sentinels, or the alertness of the young men, or the protection of the guards, had been wanting. And the apostle also must be understood in a similar manner, because the human will alone is not sufficient to obtain salvation; nor is any mortal running able to win the heavenly (rewards), and to obtain the prize of our high calling of God in Christ Jesus, unless this very good will of ours, and ready purpose, and whatever that diligence within us may be, be aided or furnished with divine help. And therefore most logically did the apostle say, that
it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy; in the same manner as if we were to say of agriculture what is actually written:
I planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that plants anything, neither he that waters; but God that gives the increase. As, therefore, when a field has brought good and rich crops to perfect maturity, no one would piously and logically assert that the husbandman had made those fruits, but would acknowledge that they had been produced by God; so also is our own perfection brought about, not indeed by our remaining inactive and idle, (but by some activity on our part): and yet the consummation of it will not be ascribed to us, but to God, who is the first and chief cause of the work. So, when a ship has overcome the dangers of the sea, although the result be accomplished by great labour on the part of the sailors, and by the aid of all the art of navigation, and by the zeal and carefulness of the pilot, and by the favouring influence of the breezes, and the careful observation of the signs of the stars, no one in his sound senses would ascribe the safety of the vessel, when, after being tossed by the waves, and wearied by the billows, it has at last reached the harbour in safety, to anything else than to the mercy of God. Not even the sailors or pilot venture to say,
I have saved the ship, but they refer all to the mercy of God; not that they feel that they have contributed no skill or labour to save the ship, but because they know that while they contributed the labour, the safety of the vessel was ensured by God. So also in the race of our life we ourselves must expend labour, and bring diligence and zeal to bear; but it is from God that salvation is to be hoped for as the fruit of our labour. Otherwise, if God demand none of our labour, His commandments will appear to be superfluous. In vain, also, does Paul blame some for having fallen from the truth, and praise others for abiding in the faith; and to no purpose does he deliver certain precepts and institutions to the Churches: in vain, also, do we ourselves either desire or run after what is good. But it is certain that these things are not done in vain; and it is certain that neither do the apostles give instructions in vain, nor the Lord enact laws without a reason. It follows, therefore, that we declare it to be in vain, rather, for the heretics to speak evil of these good declarations.
19. After this there followed this point, that
to will and to do are of God. Our opponents maintain that if to will be of God, and if to do be of Him, or if, whether we act or desire well or ill, it be of God, then in that case we are not possessed of free-will. Now to this we have to answer, that the words of the apostle do not say that to will evil is of God, or that to will good is of Him; nor that to do good or evil is of God; but his statement is a general one, that to will and to do are of God. For as we have from God this very quality, that we are men, that we breathe, that we move; so also we have from God (the faculty) by which we will, as if we were to say that our power of motion is from God, or that the performing of these duties by the individual members, and their movements, are from God. From which, certainly, I do not understand this, that because the hand moves, e.g., to punish unjustly, or to commit an act of theft, the act is of God, but only that the power of motion is from God; while it is our duty to turn those movements, the power of executing which we have from God, either to purposes of good or evil. And so what the apostle says is, that we receive indeed the power of volition, but that we misuse the will either to good or evil desires. In a similar way, also, we must judge of results.
20. But with respect to the declaration of the apostle,
Therefore has He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardens. You will say then unto me, Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will? Nay but, O man, who are you that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why have you made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? Some one will perhaps say, that as the potter out of the same lump makes some vessels to honour, and others to dishonour, so God creates some men for perdition, and others for salvation; and that it is not therefore in our own power either to be saved or to perish; by which reasoning we appear not to be possessed of free-will. We must answer those who are of this opinion with the question, Whether it is possible for the apostle to contradict himself? And if this cannot be imagined of an apostle, how shall he appear, according to them, to be just in blaming those who committed fornication in Corinth, or those who sinned, and did not repent of their unchastity, and fornication, and uncleanness, which they had committed? How, also, does he greatly praise those who acted rightly, like the house of Onesiphorus, saying,
The Lord give mercy to the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: but, when he had come to Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day. Now it is not consistent with apostolic gravity to blame him who is worthy of blame, i.e., who has sinned, and greatly to praise him who is deserving of praise for his good works; and again, as if it were in no one's power to do any good or evil, to say that it was the Creator's doing that every one should act virtuously or wickedly, seeing He makes one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour. And how can he add that statement,
We must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one of us may receive in his body, according to what he has done, whether it be good or bad? For what reward of good will be conferred on him who could not commit evil, being formed by the Creator to that very end? Or what punishment will deservedly be inflicted on him who was unable to do good in consequence of the creative act of his Maker? Then, again, how is not this opposed to that other declaration elsewhere, that
in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earth, and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, prepared unto every good work. He, accordingly, who purges himself, is made a vessel unto honour, while he who has disdained to cleanse himself from his impurity is made a vessel unto dishonour. From such declarations, in my opinion, the cause of our actions can in no degree be referred to the Creator. For God the Creator makes a certain vessel unto honour, and other vessels to dishonour; but that vessel which has cleansed itself from all impurity He makes a vessel unto honour, while that which has stained itself with the filth of vice He makes a vessel unto dishonour. The conclusion from which, accordingly, is this, that the cause of each one's actions is a pre-existing one; and then every one, according to his deserts, is made by God either a vessel unto honour or dishonour. Therefore every individual vessel has furnished to its Creator out of itself the causes and occasions of its being formed by Him to be either a vessel unto honour or one unto dishonour. And if the assertion appear correct, as it certainly is, and in harmony with all piety, that it is due to previous causes that every vessel be prepared by God either to honour or to dishonour, it does not appear absurd that, in discussing remoter causes in the same order, and in the same method, we should come to the same conclusion respecting the nature of souls, and (believe) that this was the reason why Jacob was beloved before he was born into this world, and Esau hated, while he still was contained in the womb of his mother.
21. Nay, that very declaration, that from the same lump a vessel is formed both to honour and to dishonour, will not push us hard; for we assert that the nature of all rational souls is the same, as one lump of clay is described as being under the treatment of the potter. Seeing, then, the nature of rational creatures is one, God, according to the previous grounds of merit, created and formed out of it, as the potter out of the one lump, some persons to honour and others to dishonour. Now, as regards the language of the apostle, which he utters as if in a tone of censure,
Nay but, O man, who are you that replies against God? he means, I think, to point out that such a censure does not refer to any believer who lives rightly and justly, and who has confidence in God, i.e., to such an one as Moses was, of whom Scripture says that
Moses spoke, and God answered him by a voice; and as God answered Moses, so also does every saint answer God. But he who is an unbeliever, and loses confidence in answering before God owing to the unworthiness of his life and conversation, and who, in relation to these matters, does not seek to learn and make progress, but to oppose and resist, and who, to speak more plainly, is such an one as to be able to say those words which the apostle indicates, when he says,
Why, then, does He yet find fault? For who will resist His will?— to such an one may the censure of the apostle rightly be directed,
Nay but, O man, who are you that replies against God? This censure accordingly applies not to believers and saints, but to unbelievers and wicked men.
Now, to those who introduce souls of different natures, and who turn this declaration of the apostle to the support of their own opinion, we have to reply as follows: If even they are agreed as to what the apostle says, that out of the one lump are formed both those who are made to honour and those who are made to dishonour, whom they term of a nature that is to be saved and destroyed, there will then be no longer souls of different natures, but one nature for all. And if they admit that one and the same potter may undoubtedly denote one Creator, there will not be different creators either of those who are saved, or of those who perish. Now, truly, let them choose whether they will have a good Creator to be intended who creates bad and ruined men, or one who is not good, who creates good men and those who are prepared to honour. For the necessity of returning an answer will extort from them one of these two alternatives. But according to our declaration, whereby we say that it is owing to preceding causes that God makes vessels either to honour or to dishonour, the approval of God's justice is in no respect limited. For it is possible that this vessel, which owing to previous causes was made in this world to honour, may, if it behave negligently, be converted in another world, according to the deserts of its conduct, into a vessel unto dishonour: as again, if any one, owing to preceding causes, was formed by his Creator in this life a vessel unto dishonour, and shall mend his ways and cleanse himself from all filth and vice, he may, in the new world, be made a vessel to honour, sanctified and useful, and prepared unto every good work. Finally, those who were formed by God in this world to be Israelites, and who have lived a life unworthy of the nobility of their race, and have fallen away from the grandeur of their descent, will, in the world to come, in a certain degree be converted, on account of their unbelief, from vessels of honour into vessels of dishonour; while, on the other hand, many who in this life were reckoned among Egyptian or Idumean vessels, having adopted the faith and practice of Israelites, when they shall have done the works of Israelites, and shall have entered the Church of the Lord, will exist as vessels of honour in the revelation of the sons of God. From which it is more agreeable to the rule of piety to believe that every rational being, according to his purpose and manner of life, is converted, sometimes from bad to good, and falls away sometimes from good to bad: that some abide in good, and others advance to a better condition, and always ascend to higher things, until they reach the highest grade of all; while others, again, remain in evil, or, if the wickedness within them begin to spread itself further, they descend to a worse condition, and sink into the lowest depth of wickedness. Whence also we must suppose that it is possible there may be some who began at first indeed with small offenses, but who have poured out wickedness to such a degree, and attained such proficiency in evil, that in the measure of their wickedness they are equal even to the opposing powers: and again, if, by means of many severe administrations of punishment, they are able at some future time to recover their senses, and gradually attempt to find healing for their wounds, they may, on ceasing from their wickedness, be restored to a state of goodness. Whence we are of opinion that, seeing the soul, as we have frequently said, is immortal and eternal, it is possible that, in the many and endless periods of duration in the immeasurable and different worlds, it may descend from the highest good to the lowest evil, or be restored from the lowest evil to the highest good.
22. But since the words of the apostle, in what he says regarding vessels of honour or dishonour, that
if a man therefore purge himself, he will be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the Master's service, and prepared unto every good work, appear to place nothing in the power of God, but all in ourselves; while in those in which he declares that
the potter has power over the clay, to make of the same lump one vessel to honour, another to dishonour, he seems to refer the whole to God — it is not to be understood that those statements are contradictory, but the two meanings are to be reduced to agreement, and one signification must be drawn from both, viz., that we are not to suppose either that those things which are in our own power can be done without the help of God, or that those which are in God's hand can be brought to completion without the intervention of our acts, and desires, and intention; because we have it not in our own power so to will or do anything, as not to know that this very faculty, by which we are able to will or to do, was bestowed on us by God, according to the distinction which we indicated above. Or again, when God forms vessels, some to honour and others to dishonour, we are to suppose that He does not regard either our wills, or our purposes, or our deserts, to be the causes of the honour or dishonour, as if they were a sort of matter from which He may form the vessel of each one of us either to honour or to dishonour; whereas the very movement of the soul itself, or the purpose of the understanding, may of itself suggest to him, who is not unaware of his heart and the thoughts of his mind, whether his vessel ought to be formed to honour or to dishonour. But let these points suffice, which we have discussed as we best could, regarding the questions connected with the freedom of the will.
1. Since in the preaching of the Church there is included the doctrine respecting a just judgment of God, which, when believed to be true, incites those who hear it to live virtuously, and to shun sin by all means, inasmuch as they manifestly acknowledge that things worthy of praise and blame are within our own power, come and let us discuss by themselves a few points regarding the freedom of the will — a question of all others most necessary. And that we may understand what the freedom of the will is, it is necessary to unfold the conception of it, that this being declared with precision, the subject may be placed before us.
2. Of things that move, some have the cause of their motion within themselves; others, again, are moved only from without. Now only portable things are moved from without, such as pieces of wood, and stones, and all matter that is held together by their constitution alone. And let that view be removed from consideration which calls the flux of bodies motion, since it is not needed for our present purpose. But animals and plants have the cause of their motion within themselves, and in general whatever is held together by nature and a soul, to which class of things they say that metals also belong. And besides these, fire too is self-moved, and perhaps also fountains of water. Now, of those things which have the cause of their movement within themselves, some, they say, are moved out of themselves, others from themselves: things without life, out of themselves; animate things, from themselves. For animate things are moved from themselves, a phantasy springing up in them which incites to effort. And again, in certain animals phantasies are formed which call forth an effort, the nature of the phantasy stirring up the effort in an orderly manner, as in the spider is formed the phantasy of weaving; and the attempt to weave follows, the nature of its phantasy inciting the insect in an orderly manner to this alone. And besides its phantasial nature, nothing else is believed to belong to the insect. And in the bee there is formed the phantasy to produce wax.
3. The rational animal, however, has, in addition to its phantasial nature, also reason, which judges the phantasies, and disapproves of some and accepts others, in order that the animal may be led according to them. Therefore, since there are in the nature of reason aids towards the contemplation of virtue and vice, by following which, after beholding good and evil, we select the one and avoid the other, we are deserving of praise when we give ourselves to the practice of virtue, and censurable when we do the reverse. We must not, however, be ignorant that the greater part of the nature assigned to all things is a varying quantity among animals, both in a greater and a less degree; so that the instinct in hunting-dogs and in war-horses approaches somehow, so to speak, to the faculty of reason. Now, to fall under some one of those external causes which stir up within us this phantasy or that, is confessedly not one of those things that are dependent upon ourselves; but to determine that we shall use the occurrence in this way or differently, is the prerogative of nothing else than of the reason within us, which, as occasion offers, arouses us towards efforts inciting to what is virtuous and becoming, or turns us aside to what is the reverse.
4. But if any one maintain that this very external cause is of such a nature that it is impossible to resist it when it comes in such a way, let him turn his attention to his own feelings and movements, (and see) whether there is not an approval, and assent, and inclination of the controlling principle towards some object on account of some specious arguments. For, to take an instance, a woman who has appeared before a man that has determined to be chaste, and to refrain from carnal intercourse, and who has incited him to act contrary to his purpose, is not a perfect cause of annulling his determination. For, being altogether pleased with the luxury and allurement of the pleasure, and not wishing to resist it, or to keep his purpose, he commits an act of licentiousness. Another man, again (when the same things have happened to him who has received more instruction, and has disciplined himself ), encounters, indeed, allurements and enticements; but his reason, as being strengthened to a higher point, and carefully trained, and confirmed in its views towards a virtuous course, or being near to confirmation, repels the incitement, and extinguishes the desire.
5. Such being the case, to say that we are moved from without, and to put away the blame from ourselves, by declaring that we are like to pieces of wood and stones, which are dragged about by those causes that act upon them from without, is neither true nor in conformity with reason, but is the statement of him who wishes to destroy the conception of free-will. For if we were to ask such an one what was free-will, he would say that it consisted in this, that when purposing to do some thing, no external cause came inciting to the reverse. But to blame, on the other hand, the mere constitution of the body, is absurd; for the disciplinary reason, taking hold of those who are most intemperate and savage (if they will follow her exhortation), effects a transformation, so that the alteration and change for the better is most extensive — the most licentious men frequently becoming better than those who formerly did not seem to be such by nature; and the most savage men passing into such a state of mildness, that those persons who never at any time were so savage as they were, appear savage in comparison, so great a degree of gentleness having been produced within them. And we see other men, most steady and respectable, driven from their state of respectability and steadiness by intercourse with evil customs, so as to fall into habits of licentiousness, often beginning their wickedness in middle age, and plunging into disorder after the period of youth has passed, which, so far as its nature is concerned, is unstable. Reason, therefore, demonstrates that external events do not depend on us, but that it is our own business to use them in this way or the opposite, having received reason as a judge and an investigator of the manner in which we ought to meet those events that come from without.
6. Now, that it is our business to live virtuously, and that God asks this of us, as not being dependent on Him nor on any other, nor, as some think, upon fate, but as being our own doing, the prophet Micah will prove when he says:
If it has been announced to you, O man, what is good, or what does the Lord require of you, except to do justice and to love mercy? Moses also:
I have placed before your face the way of life, and the way of death: choose what is good, and walk in it. Isaiah too:
If you are willing, and hear me, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you be unwilling, and will not hear me, the sword will consume you: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it. And in the Psalms:
If My people had heard Me, and Israel had walked in My ways, I would have humbled their enemies to nothing, and laid My hand upon those that afflicted them; showing that it was in the power of His people to hear and to walk in the ways of God. And the Saviour also, when He commands,
But I say unto you, Resist not evil; and,
Whosoever shall be angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment; and,
Whosoever shall look upon a woman to lust after her, has already committed adultery with her in his heart; and by any other commandment which He gives, declares that it lies with ourselves to keep what is enjoined, and that we shall reasonably be liable to condemnation if we transgress. And therefore He says in addition:
He that hears My words, and does them, shall be likened to a prudent man, who built his house upon a rock, etc., etc.;
while he that hears them, but does them not, is like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand, etc. And when He says to those on His right hand,
Come, you blessed of My Father, etc.;
for I was an hungered, and you gave Me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me to drink, it is exceedingly manifest that He gives the promises to these as being deserving of praise. But, on the contrary, to the others, as being censurable in comparison with them, He says,
Depart, you cursed, into everlasting fire! And let us observe how Paul also converses with us as having freedom of will, and as being ourselves the cause of ruin or salvation, when he says,
Do you despise the riches of His goodness, and of His patience, and of His long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But, according to your hardness and impenitent heart, you are treasuring up for yourself wrath on the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every one according to his works: to those who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory and immortality, eternal life; while to those who are contentious, and believe not the truth, but who believe iniquity, anger, wrath, tribulation, and distress, on every soul of man that works evil; on the Jew first, and on the Greek: but glory, and honour, and peace to every one that works good; to the Jew first, and to the Greek. There are, indeed, innumerable passages in the Scriptures which establish with exceeding clearness the existence of freedom of will.
7. But, since certain declarations of the Old Testament and of the New lead to the opposite conclusion — namely, that it does not depend on ourselves to keep the commandments and to be saved, or to transgress them and to be lost — let us adduce them one by one, and see the explanations of them, in order that from those which we adduce, any one selecting in a similar way all the passages that seem to nullify free-will, may consider what is said about them by way of explanation. And now, the statements regarding Pharaoh have troubled many, respecting whom God declared several times,
I will harden Pharaoh's heart. For if he is hardened by God, and commits sin in consequence of being hardened, he is not the cause of sin to himself; and if so, then neither does Pharaoh possess free-will. And some one will say that, in a similar way, they who perish have not free-will, and will not perish of themselves. The declaration also in Ezekiel,
I will take away their stony hearts, and will put in them hearts of flesh, that they may walk in My precepts, and keep My commandments, might lead one to think that it was God who gave the power to walk in His commandments, and to keep His precepts, by His withdrawing the hindrance — the stony heart, and implanting a better — a heart of flesh. And let us look also at the passage in the Gospel— the answer which the Saviour returns to those who inquired why He spoke to the multitude in parables. His words are:
That seeing they might not see; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest they should be converted, and their sins be forgiven them. The passage also in Paul:
It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. The declarations, too, in other places, that
both to will and to do are of God;
that God has mercy upon whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardens. You will say then, Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will?
The persuasion is of Him that calls, and not of us.
Nay, O man, who are you that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that has formed it, Why have you made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? Now these passages are sufficient of themselves to trouble the multitude, as if man were not possessed of free-will, but as if it were God who saves and destroys whom He will.
8. Let us begin, then, with what is said about Pharaoh— that he was hardened by God, that he might not send away the people; along with which will be examined also the statement of the apostle,
Therefore has He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardens. And certain of those who hold different opinions misuse these passages, themselves also almost destroying free-will by introducing ruined natures incapable of salvation, and others saved which it is impossible can be lost; and Pharaoh, they say, as being of a ruined nature, is therefore hardened by God, who has mercy upon the spiritual, but hardens the earthly. Let us see now what they mean. For we shall ask them if Pharaoh was of an earthy nature; and when they answer, we shall say that he who is of an earthy nature is altogether disobedient to God: but if disobedient, what need is there of his heart being hardened, and that not once, but frequently? Unless perhaps, since it was possible for him to obey (in which case he would certainly have obeyed, as not being earthy, when hard pressed by the signs and wonders), God needs him to be disobedient to a greater degree, in order that He may manifest His mighty deeds for the salvation of the multitude, and therefore hardens his heart. This will be our answer to them in the first place, in order to overturn their supposition that Pharaoh was of a ruined nature. And the same reply must be given to them with respect to the statement of the apostle. For whom does God harden? Those who perish, as if they would obey unless they were hardened, or manifestly those who would be saved because they are not of a ruined nature. And on whom has He mercy? Is it on those who are to be saved? And how is there need of a second mercy for those who have been prepared once for salvation, and who will by all means become blessed on account of their nature? Unless perhaps, since they are capable of incurring destruction, if they did not receive mercy, they will obtain mercy, in order that they may not incur that destruction of which they are capable, but may be in the condition of those who are saved. And this is our answer to such persons.
9. But to those who think they understand the term
hardened, we must address the inquiry, What do they mean by saying that God, by His working, hardens the heart, and with what purpose does He do this? For let them observe the conception of a God who is in reality just and good; but if they will not allow this, let it be conceded to them for the present that He is just; and let them show how the good and just God, or the just God only, appears to be just, in hardening the heart of him who perishes because of his being hardened: and how the just God becomes the cause of destruction and disobedience, when men are chastened by Him on account of their hardness and disobedience. And why does He find fault with him, saying,
You will not let My people go;
Lo, I will smite all the first-born in Egypt, even your first-born; and whatever else is recorded as spoken from God to Pharaoh through the intervention of Moses? For he who believes that the Scriptures are true, and that God is just, must necessarily endeavour, if he be honest, to show how God, in using such expressions, may be distinctly understood to be just. But if any one should stand, declaring with uncovered head that the Creator of the world was inclined to wickedness, we should need other words to answer them.
10. But since they say that they regard Him as a just God, and we as one who is at the same time good and just, let us consider how the good and just God could harden the heart of Pharaoh. See, then, whether, by an illustration used by the apostle in the Epistle to the Hebrews, we are able to prove that by one operation God has mercy upon one man while He hardens another, although not intending to harden; but, (although) having a good purpose, hardening follows as a result of the inherent principle of wickedness in such persons, and so He is said to harden him who is hardened.
The earth, he says,
which drinks in the rain that comes oft upon it, and brings forth herbs meet for them for whom it is dressed, receives blessing from God; but that which bears thorns and briers is rejected, and is near to cursing, whose end is to be burned. As respects the rain, then, there is one operation; and there being one operation as regards the rain, the ground which is cultivated produces fruit, while that which is neglected and is barren produces thorns. Now, it might seem profane for Him who rains to say,
I produced the fruits, and the thorns that are in the earth; and yet, although profane, it is true. For, had rain not fallen, there would have been neither fruits nor thorns; but, having fallen at the proper time and in moderation, both were produced. The ground, now, which drank in the rain which often fell upon it, and yet produced thorns and briers, is rejected and near to cursing. The blessing, then, of the rain descended even upon the inferior land; but it, being neglected and uncultivated, yielded thorns and thistles. In the same way, therefore, the wonderful works also done by God are, as it were, the rain; while the differing purposes are, as it were, the cultivated and neglected land, being (yet), like earth, of one nature.
11. And as if the sun, uttering a voice, were to say,
I liquefy and dry up, liquefaction and drying up being opposite things, he would not speak falsely as regards the point in question; wax being melted and mud being dried by the same heat; so the same operation, which was performed through the instrumentality of Moses, proved the hardness of Pharaoh on the one hand, the result of his wickedness, and the yielding of the mixed Egyptian multitude who took their departure with the Hebrews. And the brief statement that the heart of Pharaoh was softened, as it were, when he said,
But you shall not go far: you will go a three days' journey, and leave your wives, and anything else which he said, yielding little by little before the signs, proves that the wonders made some impression even upon him, but did not accomplish all (that they might). Yet even this would not have happened, if that which is supposed by the many — the hardening of Pharaoh's heart — had been produced by God Himself. And it is not absurd to soften down such expressions agreeably to common usage: for good masters often say to their slaves, when spoiled by their kindness and forbearance,
I have made you bad, and I am to blame for offenses of such enormity. For we must attend to the character and force of the phrase, and not argue sophistically, disregarding the meaning of the expression. Paul accordingly, having examined these points clearly, says to the sinner:
Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But, after your hardness and impenitent heart, treasure up unto yourself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. Now, let what the apostle says to the sinner be addressed to Pharaoh, and then the announcements made to him will be understood to have been made with peculiar fitness, as to one who, according to his hardness and unrepentant heart, was treasuring up to himself wrath; seeing that his hardness would not have been proved nor made manifest unless miracles had been performed, and miracles, too, of such magnitude and importance.
12. But since such narratives are slow to secure assent, and are considered to be forced, let us see from the prophetical declarations also, what those persons say, who, although they have experienced the great kindness of God, have not lived virtuously, but have afterwards sinned.
Why, O Lord, have You made us to err from Your ways? Why have You hardened our heart, so as not to fear Your name? Return for Your servants' sake, for the tribes of Your inheritance, that we may inherit a small portion of Your holy mountain. And in Jeremiah:
You have deceived me, O Lord, and I was deceived; You were strong, and You prevailed. For the expression,
Why have You hardened our heart, so as not to fear Your name? uttered by those who are begging to receive mercy, is in its nature as follows:
Why have You spared us so long, not visiting us because of our sins, but deserting us, until our transgressions come to a height? Now He leaves the greater part of men unpunished, both in order that the habits of each one may be examined, so far as it depends upon ourselves, and that the virtuous may be made manifest in consequence of the test applied; while the others, not escaping notice from God — for He knows all things before they exist — but from the rational creation and themselves, may afterwards obtain the means of cure, seeing they would not have known the benefit had they not condemned themselves. It is of advantage to each one, that he perceive his own peculiar nature and the grace of God. For he who does not perceive his own weakness and the divine favour, although he receive a benefit, yet, not having made trial of himself, nor having condemned himself, will imagine that the benefit conferred upon him by the grace of Heaven is his own doing. And this imagination, producing also vanity, will be the cause of a downfall: which, we conceive, was the case with the devil, who attributed to himself the priority which he possessed when in a state of sinlessness.
For every one that exalts himself shall be abased, and
every one that humbles himself shall be exalted. And observe, that for this reason divine things have been concealed from the wise and prudent, in order, as says the apostle, that
13. It is not without reason, then, that he who is abandoned, is abandoned to the divine judgment, and that God is long-suffering with certain sinners; but because it will be for their advantage, with respect to the immortality of the soul and the unending world, that they be not quickly brought into a state of salvation, but be conducted to it more slowly, after having experienced many evils. For as physicians, who are able to cure a man quickly, when they suspect that a hidden poison exists in the body, do the reverse of healing, making this more certain through their very desire to heal, deeming it better for a considerable time to retain the patient under inflammation and sickness, in order that he may recover his health more surely, than to appear to produce a rapid recovery, and afterwards to cause a relapse, and (thus) that hasty cure last only for a time; in the same way, God also, who knows the secret things of the heart, and foresees future events, in His long-suffering, permits (certain events to occur), and by means of those things which happen from without extracts the secret evil, in order to cleanse him who through carelessness has received the seeds of sin, that having vomited them forth when they came to the surface, although he may have been deeply involved in evils, he may afterwards obtain healing after his wickedness, and be renewed. For God governs souls not with reference, let me say, to the fifty years of the present life, but with reference to an illimitable age: for He made the thinking principle immortal in its nature, and kindred to Himself; and the rational soul is not, as in this life, excluded from cure.
14. Come now, and let us use the following image from the Gospel. There is a certain rock, with a little surface-soil, on which, if seeds fall, they quickly spring up; but when sprung up, as not having root, they are burned and withered when the sun has arisen. Now this rock is a human soul, hardened on account of its negligence, and converted to stone because of its wickedness; for no one receives from God a heart created of stone, but it becomes such in consequence of wickedness. If one, then, were to find fault with the husbandman for not sowing his seed sooner upon the rocky soil, when he saw other rocky ground which had received seed flourishing, the husbandman would reply,
I shall sow this ground more slowly, casting in seeds that will be able to retain their hold, this slower method being better for the ground, and more secure than that which receives the seed in a more rapid manner, and more upon the surface. (The person finding fault) would yield his assent to the husbandman, as one who spoke with sound reason, and who acted with skill: so also the great Husbandman of all nature postpones that benefit which might be deemed premature, that it may not prove superficial. But it is probable that here some one may object to us with reference to this:
Why do some of the seeds fall upon the earth that has superficial soil, the soul being, as it were, a rock? Now we must say, in answer to this, that it was better for this soul, which desired better things precipitately, and not by a way which led to them, to obtain its desire, in order that, condemning itself on this account, it may, after a long time, endure to receive the husbandry which is according to nature. For souls are, as one may say, innumerable; and their habits are innumerable, and their movements, and their purposes, and their assaults, and their efforts, of which there is only one admirable administrator, who knows both the season, and the fitting helps, and the avenues, and the ways, viz., the God and Father of all things, who knows how He conducts even Pharaoh by so great events, and by drowning in the sea, with which latter occurrence His superintendence of Pharaoh does not cease. For he was not annihilated when drowned:
For in the hand of God are both we and our words; all wisdom also, and knowledge of workmanship. And such is a moderate defense with regard to the statement that
Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and that
God has mercy upon whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardens.
15. Let us look also at the declaration in Ezekiel, which says,
I shall take away their stony hearts, and will put in them hearts of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My precepts. For if God, when He wills, takes away the stony hearts, and implants hearts of flesh, so that His precepts are obeyed and His commandments are observed, it is not in our power to put away wickedness. For the taking away of the stony hearts is nothing else than the taking away of the wickedness, according to which one is hardened, from him from whom God wills to take it; and the implanting of a heart of flesh, so that a man may walk in the precepts of God and keep His commandments, what else is it than to become somewhat yielding and unresistent to the truth, and to be capable of practising virtues? And if God promises to do this, and if, before He takes away the stony hearts, we do not lay them aside, it is manifest that it does not depend upon ourselves to put away wickedness; and if it is not we who do anything towards the production within us of the heart of flesh, but if it is God's doing, it will not be our own act to live agreeably to virtue, but altogether (the result of) divine grace. Such will be the statements of him who, from the mere words (of Scripture), annihilates free-will. But we shall answer, saying, that we ought to understand these passages thus: That as a man, e.g., who happened to be ignorant and uneducated, on perceiving his own defects, either in consequence of an exhortation from his teacher, or in some other way, should spontaneously give himself up to him whom he considers able to introduce him to education and virtue; and, on his yielding himself up, his instructor promises that he will take away his ignorance, and implant instruction, not as if it contributed nothing to his training, and to the avoiding of ignorance, that he brought himself to be healed, but because the instructor promised to improve him who desired improvement; so, in the same way, the Word of God promises to take away wickedness, which it calls a stony heart, from those who come to it, not if they are unwilling, but (only) if they submit themselves to the Physician of the sick, as in the Gospels the sick are found coming to the Saviour, and asking to obtain healing, and so are cured. And, let me say, the recovery of sight by the blind is, so far as their request goes, the act of those who believe that they are capable of being healed; but as respects the restoration of sight, it is the work of our Saviour. Thus, then, does the Word of God promise to implant knowledge in those who come to it, by taking away the stony and hard heart, which is wickedness, in order that one may walk in the divine commandments, and keep the divine injunctions.
16. There was after this the passage from the Gospel, where the Saviour said, that for this reason did He speak to those without in parables, that
seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand; lest they should be converted, and their sins be forgiven them. Now, our opponent will say,
If some persons are assuredly converted on hearing words of greater clearness, so that they become worthy of the remission of sins, and if it does not depend upon themselves to hear these words of greater clearness, but upon him who teaches, and he for this reason does not announce them to them more distinctly, lest they should see and understand, it is not within the power of such to be saved; and if so, we are not possessed of free-will as regards salvation and destruction. Effectual, indeed, would be the reply to such arguments, were it not for the addition,
Lest they should be converted, and their sins be forgiven them,— namely, that the Saviour did not wish those who were not to become good and virtuous to understand the more mystical (parts of His teaching), and for this reason spoke to them in parables; but now, on account of the words,
Lest they should be converted, and their sins be forgiven them, the defense is more difficult. In the first place, then, we must notice the passage in its bearing on the heretics, who hunt out those portions from the Old Testament where is exhibited, as they themselves daringly assert, the cruelty of the Creator of the world in His purpose of avenging and punishing the wicked, or by whatever other name they wish to designate such a quality, so speaking only that they may say that goodness does not exist in the Creator; and who do not deal with the New Testament in a similar manner, nor in a spirit of candour, but pass by places similar to those which they consider censurable in the Old Testament. For manifestly, and according to the Gospel, is the Saviour shown, as they assert, by His former words, not to speak distinctly for this reason, that men might not be converted, and, being converted, might become deserving of the remission of sins: which statement of itself is nothing inferior to those passages from the Old Testament which are objected to. And if they seek to defend the Gospel, we must ask them whether they are not acting in a blameworthy manner in dealing differently with the same questions; and, while not stumbling against the New Testament, but seeking to defend it, they nevertheless bring a charge against the Old regarding similar points, whereas they ought to offer a defense in the same way of the passages from the New. And therefore we shall force them, on account of the resemblances, to regard all as the writings of one God. Come, then, and let us, to the best of our ability, furnish an answer to the question submitted to us.
17. We asserted also, when investigating the subject of Pharaoh, that sometimes a rapid cure is not for the advantage of those who are healed, if, after being seized by troublesome diseases, they should easily get rid of those by which they had been entangled. For, despising the evil as one that is easy of cure, and not being on their guard a second time against falling into it, they will be involved in it (again). Wherefore, in the case of such persons, the everlasting God, the Knower of secrets, who knows all things before they exist, in conformity with His goodness, delays sending them more rapid assistance, and, so to speak, in helping them does not help, the latter course being to their advantage. It is probable, then, that those
without, of whom we are speaking, having been foreseen by the Saviour, according to our supposition, as not (likely) to prove steady in their conversion, if they should hear more clearly the words that were spoken, were (so) treated by the Saviour as not to hear distinctly the deeper (things of His teaching), lest, after a rapid conversion, and after being healed by obtaining remission of sins, they should despise the wounds of their wickedness, as being slight and easy of healing, and should again speedily relapse into them. And perhaps also, suffering punishment for their former transgressions against virtue, which they had committed when they had forsaken her, they had not yet filled up the (full) time; in order that, being abandoned by the divine superintendence, and being filled to a greater degree by their own evils which they had sown, they may afterwards be called to a more stable repentance; so as not to be quickly entangled again in those evils in which they had formerly been involved when they treated with insolence the requirements of virtue, and devoted themselves to worse things. Those, then, who are said to be
without (manifestly by comparison with those
within), not being very far from those
within, while those
within hear clearly, do themselves hear indistinctly, because they are addressed in parables; but nevertheless they do hear. Others, again, of those
without, who are called Tyrians, although it was foreknown that they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes, had the Saviour come near their borders, do not hear even those words which are heard by those
without (being, as is probable, very far inferior in merit to those
without ), in order that at another season, after it has been more tolerable for them than for those who did not receive the word (among whom he mentioned also the Tyrians), they may, on hearing the word at a more appropriate time, obtain a more lasting repentance. But observe whether, besides our desire to investigate (the truth), we do not rather strive to maintain an attitude of piety in everything regarding God and His Christ, seeing we endeavour by every means to prove that, in matters so great and so peculiar regarding the varied providence of God, He takes an oversight of the immortal soul. If, indeed, one were to inquire regarding those things that are objected to, why those who saw wonders and who heard divine words are not benefited, while the Tyrians would have repented if such had been performed and spoken among them; and should ask, and say, Why did the Saviour proclaim such to these persons, to their own hurt, that their sin might be reckoned to them as heavier? We must say, in answer to such an one, that He who understands the dispositions of all those who find fault with His providence— (alleging) that it is owing to it that they have not believed, because it did not permit them to see what it enabled others to behold, and did not arrange for them to hear those words by which others, on hearing them, were benefited — wishing to prove that their defense is not founded on reason, He grants those advantages which those who blame His administration asked; in order that, after obtaining them, they may notwithstanding be convicted of the greatest impiety in not having even then yielded themselves to be benefited, and may cease from such audacity; and having been made free in respect to this very point, may learn that God occasionally, in conferring benefits upon certain persons, delays and procrastinates, not conferring the favour of seeing and hearing those things which, when seen and heard, would render the sin of those who did not believe, after acts so great and peculiar, heavier and more serious.
18. Let us look next at the passage:
So, then, it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. For they who find fault say: If
it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy, salvation does not depend upon ourselves, but upon the arrangement made by Him who has formed us such as we are, or on the purpose of Him who shows mercy when he pleases. Now we must ask these persons the following questions: Whether to desire what is good is virtuous or vicious; and whether the desire to run in order to reach the goal in the pursuit of what is good be worthy of praise or censure? And if they shall say that it is worthy of censure, they will return an absurd answer; since the saints desire and run, and manifestly in so acting do nothing that is blameworthy. But if they shall say that it is virtuous to desire what is good, and to run after what is good, we shall ask them how a perishing nature desires better things; for it is like an evil tree producing good fruit, since it is a virtuous act to desire better things. They will give (perhaps) a third answer, that to desire and run after what is good is one of those things that are indifferent, and neither beautiful nor wicked. Now to this we must say, that if to desire and to run after what is good be a thing of indifference, then the opposite also is a thing of indifference, viz., to desire what is evil, and to run after it. But it is not a thing of indifference to desire what is evil, and to run after it. And therefore also, to desire what is good, and to run after it, is not a thing of indifference. Such, then, is the defense which I think we can offer to the statement, that
it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. Solomon says in the book of Psalms (for the Song of Degrees is his, from which we shall quote the words):
Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchman wakes in vain: not dissuading us from building, nor teaching us not to keep watch in order to guard the city in our soul, but showing that what is built without God, and does not receive a guard from Him, is built in vain and watched to no purpose, because God might reasonably be entitled the Lord of the building; and the Governor of all things, the Ruler of the guard of the city. As, then, if we were to say that such a building is not the work of the builder, but of God, and that it was not owing to the successful effort of the watcher, but of the God who is over all, that such a city suffered no injury from its enemies, we should not be wrong, it being understood that something also had been done by human means, but the benefit being gratefully referred to God who brought it to pass; so, seeing that the (mere) human desire is not sufficient to attain the end, and that the running of those who are, as it were, athletes, does not enable them to gain the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus — for these things are accomplished with the assistance of God — it is well said that
it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. As if also it were said with regard to husbandry what also is actually recorded:
I planted, Apollos watered; and God gave the increase. So then neither is he that plants anything, neither he that waters; but God that gives the increase. Now we could not piously assert that the production of full crops was the work of the husbandman, or of him that watered, but the work of God. So also our own perfection is brought about, not as if we ourselves did nothing; for it is not completed by us, but God produces the greater part of it. And that this assertion may be more clearly believed, we shall take an illustration from the art of navigation. For in comparison with the effect of the winds, and the mildness of the air, and the light of the stars, all co-operating in the preservation of the crew, what proportion could the art of navigation be said to bear in the bringing of the ship into harbour? — since even the sailors themselves, from piety, do not venture to assert often that they had saved the ship, but refer all to God; not as if they had done nothing, but because what had been done by Providence was infinitely greater than what had been effected by their art. And in the matter of our salvation, what is done by God is infinitely greater than what is done by ourselves; and therefore, I think, is it said that
it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. For if in the manner which they imagine we must explain the statement, that
it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy, the commandments are superfluous; and it is in vain that Paul himself blames some for having fallen away, and approves of others as having remained upright, and enacts laws for the Churches: it is in vain also that we give ourselves up to desire better things, and in vain also (to attempt) to run. But it is not in vain that Paul gives such advice, censuring some and approving of others; nor in vain that we give ourselves up to the desire of better things, and to the chase after things that are pre-eminent. They have accordingly not well explained the meaning of the passage.
19. Besides these, there is the passage,
Both to will and to do are of God. And some assert that, if to will be of God, and to do be of God, and if, whether we will evil or do evil, these (movements) come to us from God, then, if so, we are not possessed of free-will. But again, on the other hand, when we will better things, and do things that are more excellent, seeing that willing and doing are from God, it is not we who have done the more excellent things, but we only appeared (to perform them), while it was God that bestowed them; so that even in this respect we do not possess free-will. Now to this we have to answer, that the language of the apostle does not assert that to will evil is of God, or to will good is of Him (and similarly with respect to doing better and worse); but that to will in a general way, and to run in a general way, (are from Him). For as we have from God (the property) of being living things and human beings, so also have we that of willing generally, and, so to speak, of motion in general. And as, possessing (the property) of life and of motion, and of moving, e.g., these members, the hands or the feet, we could not rightly say that we had from God this species of motion, whereby we moved to strike, or destroy, or take away another's goods, but that we had received from Him simply the generic power of motion, which we employed to better or worse purposes; so we have obtained from God (the power) of acting, in respect of our being living things, and (the power) to will from the Creator while we employ the power of will, as well as that of action, for the noblest objects, or the opposite.
20. Still the declaration of the apostle will appear to drag us to the conclusion that we are not possessed of freedom of will, in which, objecting against himself, he says,
Therefore has He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardens. You will say then unto me, Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will? Nay but, O man, who are you that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why have you made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? For it will be said: If the potter of the same lump make some vessels to honour and others to dishonour, and God thus form some men for salvation and others for ruin, then salvation or ruin does not depend upon ourselves, nor are we possessed of free-will. Now we must ask him who deals so with these passages, whether it is possible to conceive of the apostle as contradicting himself. I presume, however, that no one will venture to say so. If, then, the apostle does not utter contradictions, how can he, according to him who so understands him, reasonably find fault, censuring the individual at Corinth who had committed fornication, or those who had fallen away, and had not repented of the licentiousness and impurity of which they had been guilty? And how can he bless those whom he praises as having done well, as he does the house of Onesiphorus in these words:
The Lord give mercy to the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: but, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day. It is not consistent for the same apostle to blame the sinner as worthy of censure, and to praise him who had done well as deserving of approval; and again, on the other hand, to say, as if nothing depended on ourselves, that the cause was in the Creator why the one vessel was formed to honour, and the other to dishonour. And how is this statement correct:
For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad, since they who have done evil have advanced to this pitch of wickedness because they were created vessels unto dishonour, while they that have lived virtuously have done good because they were created from the beginning for this purpose, and became vessels unto honour? And again, how does not the statement made elsewhere conflict with the view which these persons draw from the words which we have quoted (that it is the fault of the Creator that one vessel is in honour and another in dishonour), viz.,
that in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work; for if he who purges himself becomes a vessel unto honour, and he who allows himself to remain unpurged becomes a vessel unto dishonour, then, so far as these words are concerned, the Creator is not at all to blame. For the Creator makes vessels of honour and vessels of dishonour, not from the beginning according to His foreknowledge, since He does not condemn or justify beforehand according to it; but (He makes) those into vessels of honour who purged themselves, and those into vessels of dishonour who allowed themselves to remain unpurged: so that it results from older causes (which operated) in the formation of the vessels unto honour and dishonour, that one was created for the former condition, and another for the latter. But if we once admit that there were certain older causes (at work) in the forming of a vessel unto honour, and of one unto dishonour, what absurdity is there in going back to the subject of the soul, and (in supposing) that a more ancient cause for Jacob being loved and for Esau being hated existed with respect to Jacob before his assumption of a body, and with regard to Esau before he was conceived in the womb of Rebecca?
21. And at the same time, it is clearly shown that, as far as regards the underlying nature, as there is one (piece of) clay which is under the hands of the potter, from which piece vessels are formed unto honour and dishonour; so the one nature of every soul being in the hands of God, and, so to speak, there being (only) one lump of reasonable beings, certain causes of more ancient date led to some being created vessels unto honour, and others vessels unto dishonour. But if the language of the apostle convey a censure when he says,
Nay but, O man, who are you that replies against God? it teaches us that he who has confidence before God, and is faithful, and has lived virtuously, would not hear the words,
Who are you that replies against God? Such an one, e.g., as Moses was,
For Moses spoke, and God answered him with a voice; and as God answers Moses, so does a saint also answer God. But he who does not possess this confidence, manifestly, either because he has lost it, or because he investigates these matters not from a love of knowledge, but from a desire to find fault, and who therefore says,
Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will? would merit the language of censure, which says,
Nay but, O man, who are you that replies against God?
Now to those who introduce different natures, and who make use of the declaration of the apostle (to support their view), the following must be our answer. If they maintain that those who perish and those who are saved are formed of one lump, and that the Creator of those who are saved is the Creator also of them who are lost, and if He is good who creates not only spiritual but also earthy (natures) (for this follows from their view), it is nevertheless possible that he who, in consequence of certain former acts of righteousness, had now been made a vessel of honour, but who had not (afterwards) acted in a similar manner, nor done things befitting a vessel of honour, was converted in another world into a vessel of dishonour; as, on the other hand, it is possible that he who, owing to causes more ancient than the present life, was here a vessel of dishonour, may after reformation become in the new creation
a vessel of honour, sanctified and meet for the Master's use, prepared unto every good work. And perhaps those who are now Israelites, not having lived worthily of their descent, will be deprived of their rank, being changed, as it were, from vessels of honour into those of dishonour; and many of the present Egyptians and Idumeans who came near to Israel, when they shall have borne fruit to a larger extent, shall enter into the Church of the Lord, being no longer accounted Egyptians and Idumeans, but becoming Israelites: so that, according to this view, it is owing to their (varying) purposes that some advance from a worse to a better condition, and others fall from better to worse; while others, again, are preserved in a virtuous course, or ascend from good to better; and others, on the contrary, remain in a course of evil, or from bad become worse, as their wickedness flows on.
22. But since the apostle in one place does not pretend that the becoming of a vessel unto honour or dishonour depends upon God, but refers back the whole to ourselves, saying,
If, then, a man purge himself, he will be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work; and elsewhere does not even pretend that it is dependent upon ourselves, but appears to attribute the whole to God, saying,
The potter has power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour and another to dishonour; and as his statements are not contradictory, we must reconcile them, and extract one complete statement from both. Neither does our own power, apart from the knowledge of God, compel us to make progress; nor does the knowledge of God (do so), unless we ourselves also contribute something to the good result; nor does our own power, apart from the knowledge of God, and the use of the power that worthily belongs to us, make a man become (a vessel) unto honour or dishonour; nor does the will of God alone form a man to honour or to dishonour, unless He hold our will to be a kind of matter that admits of variation, and that inclines to a better or worse course of conduct. And these observations are sufficient to have been made by us on the subject of free-will.
1. We have now to notice, agreeably to the statements of Scripture, how the opposing powers, or the devil himself, contends with the human race, inciting and instigating men to sin. And in the first place, in the book of Genesis, the serpent is described as having seduced Eve; regarding whom, in the work entitled The Ascension of Moses (a little treatise, of which the Apostle Jude makes mention in his Epistle), the archangel Michael, when disputing with the devil regarding the body of Moses, says that the serpent, being inspired by the devil, was the cause of Adam and Eve's transgression. This also is made a subject of inquiry by some, viz., who the angel was that, speaking from heaven to Abraham, said, angel who said that he knew then that Abraham feared God, and had not spared his beloved son, as the Scripture declares, although he did not say that it was on account of God that Abraham had done this, but on his, that is, the speaker's account. We must also ascertain who that is of whom it is stated in the book of Exodus that he wished to slay Moses, because he was taking his departure for Egypt; and afterwards, also, who he is that is called the destroying angel, as well as he who in the book of Leviticus is called Apopompæus, i.e., Averter, regarding whom Scripture says,
One lot for the Lord, and one lot for Apopompæus, i.e., the Averter. In the first book of Kings, also, an evil spirit is said to strangle Saul; and in the third book, Micaiah the prophet says,
I saw the Lord of Israel sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him, on His right hand and on His left. And the Lord said, Who will deceive Achab king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will deceive him. And the Lord said to him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And He said, You shall deceive him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so quickly. And now therefore the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all your prophets: the Lord has spoken evil concerning you. Now by this last quotation it is clearly shown that a certain spirit, from his own (free) will and choice, elected to deceive (Achab), and to work a lie, in order that the Lord might mislead the king to his death, for he deserved to suffer. In the first book of Chronicles also it is said, Psalms, moreover, an evil angel is said to harass certain persons. In the book of Ecclesiastes, too, Solomon says,
If the spirit of the ruler rise up against you, leave not your place; for soundness will restrain many transgressions. In Zechariah we read that the devil stood on the right hand of Joshua, and resisted him. Isaiah says that the sword of the Lord arises against the dragon, the crooked serpent. And what shall I say of Ezekiel, who in his second vision prophesies most unmistakeably to the prince of Tyre regarding an opposing power, and who says also that the dragon dwells in the rivers of Egypt? Nay, with what else are the contents of the whole work which is written regarding Job occupied, save with the (doings) of the devil, who asks that power may be given him over all that Job possesses, and over his sons, and even over his person? And yet the devil is defeated through the patience of Job. In that book the Lord has by His answers imparted much information regarding the power of that dragon which opposes us. Such, meanwhile, are the statements made in the Old Testament, so far as we can at present recall them, on the subject of hostile powers being either named in Scripture, or being said to oppose the human race, and to be afterwards subjected to punishment.
Let us now look also to the New Testament, where Satan approaches the Saviour, and tempts Him: wherein also it is stated that evil spirits and unclean demons, which had taken possession of very many, were expelled by the Saviour from the bodies of the sufferers, who are said also to be made free by Him. Even Judas, too, when the devil had already put it in his heart to betray Christ, afterwards received Satan wholly into him; for it is written, that after the sop
Satan entered into him. And the Apostle Paul teaches us that we ought not to give place to the devil; but
put on, he says, saints have to
wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Nay, he says that the Saviour even was crucified by the princes of this world, who shall come to nought, whose wisdom also, he says, he does not speak. By all this, therefore, holy Scripture teaches us that there are certain invisible enemies that fight against us, and against whom it commands us to arm ourselves. Whence, also, the more simple among the believers in the Lord Christ are of opinion, that all the sins which men have committed are caused by the persistent efforts of these opposing powers exerted upon the minds of sinners, because in that invisible struggle these powers are found to be superior (to man). For if, for example, there were no devil, no single human being would go astray.
2. We, however, who see the reason (of the thing) more clearly, do not hold this opinion, taking into account those (sins) which manifestly originate as a necessary consequence of our bodily constitution. Must we indeed suppose that the devil is the cause of our feeling hunger or thirst? Nobody, I think, will venture to maintain that. If, then, he is not the cause of our feeling hunger and thirst, wherein lies the difference when each individual has attained the age of puberty, and that period has called forth the incentives of the natural heat? It will undoubtedly follow, that as the devil is not the cause of our feeling hunger and thirst, so neither is he the cause of that appetency which naturally arises at the time of maturity, viz., the desire of sexual intercourse. Now it is certain that this cause is not always so set in motion by the devil that we should be obliged to suppose that bodies would nor possess a desire for intercourse of that kind if the devil did not exist. Let us consider, in the next place, if, as we have already shown, food is desired by human beings, not from a suggestion of the devil, but by a kind of natural instinct, whether, if there were no devil, it were possible for human experience to exhibit such restraint in partaking of food as never to exceed the proper limits; i.e., that no one would either take otherwise than the case required, or more than reason would allow; and so it would result that men, observing due measure and moderation in the matter of eating, would never go wrong. I do not think, indeed, that so great moderation could be observed by men (even if there were no instigation by the devil inciting thereto), as that no individual, in partaking of food, would go beyond due limits and restraint, until he had learned to do so from long usage and experience. What, then, is the state of the case? In the matter of eating and drinking it was possible for us to go wrong, even without any incitement from the devil, if we should happen to be either less temperate or less careful (than we ought); and are we to suppose, then, in our appetite for sexual intercourse, or in the restraint of our natural desires, our condition is not something similar? I am of opinion, indeed, that the same course of reasoning must be understood to apply to other natural movements as those of covetousness, or of anger, or of sorrow, or of all those generally which through the vice of intemperance exceed the natural bounds of moderation. There are therefore manifest reasons for holding the opinion, that as in good things the human will is of itself weak to accomplish any good (for it is by divine help that it is brought to perfection in everything); so also, in things of an opposite nature we receive certain initial elements, and, as it were, seeds of sins, from those things which we use agreeably to nature; but when we have indulged them beyond what is proper, and have not resisted the first movements to intemperance, then the hostile power, seizing the occasion of this first transgression, incites and presses us hard in every way, seeking to extend our sins over a wider field, and furnishing us human beings with occasions and beginnings of sins, which these hostile powers spread far and wide, and, if possible, beyond all limits. Thus, when men at first for a little desire money, covetousness begins to grow as the passion increases, and finally the fall into avarice takes place. And after this, when blindness of mind has succeeded passion, and the hostile powers, by their suggestions, hurry on the mind, money is now no longer desired, but stolen, and acquired by force, or even by shedding human blood. Finally, a confirmatory evidence of the fact that vices of such enormity proceed from demons, may be easily seen in this, that those individuals who are oppressed either by immoderate love, or incontrollable anger, or excessive sorrow, do not suffer less than those who are bodily vexed by devils. For it is recorded in certain histories, that some have fallen into madness from a state of love, others from a state of anger, not a few from a state of sorrow, and even from one of excessive joy; which results, I think, from this, that those opposing powers, i.e., those demons, having gained a lodgment in their minds which has been already laid open to them by intemperance, have taken complete possession of their sensitive nature, especially when no feeling of the glory of virtue has aroused them to resistance.
3. That there are certain sins, however, which do not proceed from the opposing powers, but take their beginnings from the natural movements of the body, is manifestly declared by the Apostle Paul in the passage:
The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other; so that you cannot do the things that you would. If, then, the flesh lust against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, we have occasionally to wrestle against flesh and blood, i.e., as being men, and walking according to the flesh, and not capable of being tempted by greater than human temptations; since it is said of us,
There has no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able. For as the presidents of the public games do not allow the competitors to enter the lists indiscriminately or fortuitously, but after a careful examination, pairing in a most impartial consideration either of size or age, this individual with that — boys, e.g., with boys, men with men, who are nearly related to each other either in age or strength; so also must we understand the procedure of divine providence, which arranges on most impartial principles all who descend into the struggles of this human life, according to the nature of each individual's power, which is known only to Him who alone beholds the hearts of men: so that one individual fights against one temptation of the flesh, another against a second; one is exposed to its influence for so long a period of time, another only for so long; one is tempted by the flesh to this or that indulgence, another to one of a different kind; one has to resist this or that hostile power, another has to combat two or three at the same time; or at one time this hostile influence, at another that; at some particular date having to resist one enemy, and at another a different one; being, after the performance of certain acts, exposed to one set of enemies, after others to a second. And observe whether some such state of things be not indicated by the language of the apostle:
God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able, i.e., each one is tempted in proportion to the amount of his strength or power of resistance. Now, although we have said that it is by the just judgment of God that every one is tempted according to the amount of his strength, we are not therefore to suppose that he who is tempted ought by all means to prove victorious in the struggle; in like manner as he who contends in the lists, although paired with his adversary on a just principle of arrangement, will nevertheless not necessarily prove conqueror. But unless the powers of the combatants are equal, the prize of the victor will not be justly won; nor will blame justly attach to the vanquished, because He allows us indeed to be tempted, but not
beyond what we are able: for it is in proportion to our strength that we are tempted; and it is not written that, in temptation, He will make also a way to escape so as that we should bear it, but a way to escape so as that we should be able to bear it. But it depends upon ourselves to use either with energy or feebleness this power which He has given us. For there is no doubt that under every temptation we have a power of endurance, if we employ properly the strength that is granted us. But it is not the same thing to possess the power of conquering and to be victorious, as the apostle himself has shown in very cautious language, saying,
God will make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it, not that you will bear it. For many do not sustain temptation, but are overcome by it. Now God enables us not to sustain (temptation), (otherwise there would appear to be no struggle), but to have the power of sustaining it. But this power which is given us to enable us to conquer may be used, according to our faculty of free-will, either in a diligent manner, and then we prove victorious, or in a slothful manner, and then we are defeated. For if such a power were wholly given us as that we must by all means prove victorious, and never be defeated, what further reason for a struggle could remain to him who cannot be overcome? Or what merit is there in a victory, where the power of successful resistance is taken away? But if the possibility of conquering be equally conferred on us all, and if it be in our own power how to use this possibility, i.e., either diligently or slothfully, then will the vanquished be justly censured, and the victor be deservedly lauded. Now from these points which we have discussed to the best of our power, it is, I think, clearly evident that there are certain transgressions which we by no means commit under the pressure of malignant powers; while there are others, again, to which we are incited by instigation on their part to excessive and immoderate indulgence. Whence it follows that we have to inquire how those opposing powers produce these incitements within us.
4. With respect to the thoughts which proceed from our heart, or the recollection of things which we have done, or the contemplation of any things or causes whatever, we find that they sometimes proceed from ourselves, and sometimes are originated by the opposing powers; not seldom also are they suggested by God, or by the holy angels. Now such a statement will perhaps appear incredible, unless it be confirmed by the testimony of holy Scripture. That, then, thoughts arise within ourselves, David testifies in the Psalms, saying,
The thought of a man will make confession to You, and the rest of the thought shall observe to You a festival day. That this, however, is also brought about by the opposing powers, is shown by Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes in the following manner:
If the spirit of the ruler rise up against you, leave not your place; for soundness restrains great offenses. The Apostle Paul also will bear testimony to the same point in the words:
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalted itself against the knowledge of Christ. That it is an effect due to God, nevertheless, is declared by David, when he says in the Psalms,
Blessed is the man whose help is in You, O Lord, Your ascents (are) in his heart. And the apostle says that
God put it into the heart of Titus. That certain thoughts are suggested to men's hearts either by good or evil angels, is shown both by the angel that accompanied Tobias, and by the language of the prophet, where he says,
And the angel who spoke in me answered. The book of the Shepherd declares the same, saying that each individual is attended by two angels; that whenever good thoughts arise in our hearts, they are suggested by the good angel; but when of a contrary kind, they are the instigation of the evil angel. The same is declared by Barnabas in his Epistle, where he says there are two ways, one of light and one of darkness, over which he asserts that certain angels are placed — the angels of God over the way of light, the angels of Satan over the way of darkness. We are not, however, to imagine that any other result follows from what is suggested to our heart, whether good or bad, save a (mental) commotion only, and an incitement instigating us either to good or evil. For it is quite within our reach, when a malignant power has begun to incite us to evil, to cast away from us the wicked suggestions, and to resist the vile inducements, and to do nothing that is at all deserving of blame. And, on the other hand, it is possible, when a divine power calls us to better things, not to obey the call; our freedom of will being preserved to us in either case. We said, indeed, in the foregoing pages, that certain recollections of good or evil actions were suggested to us either by the act of divine providence or by the opposing powers, as is shown in the book of Esther, when Artaxerxes had not remembered the services of that just man Mordecai, but, when wearied out with his nightly vigils, had it put into his mind by God to require that the annals of his great deeds should be read to him; whereon, being reminded of the benefits received from Mordecai, he ordered his enemy Haman to be hanged, but splendid honours to be conferred on him, and impunity from the threatened danger to be granted to the whole of the holy nation. On the other hand, however, we must suppose that it was through the hostile influence of the devil that the suggestion was introduced into the minds of the high priests and the scribes which they made to Pilate, when they came and said,
Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. The design of Judas, also, respecting the betrayal of our Lord and Saviour, did not originate in the wickedness of his mind alone. For Scripture testifies that the
devil had already put it into his heart to betray Him. And therefore Solomon rightly commanded, saying,
Keep your heart with all diligence. And the Apostle Paul warns us:
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest perhaps we should let them slip. And when he says,
Neither give place to the devil, he shows by that injunction that it is through certain acts, or a kind of mental slothfulness, that room is made for the devil, so that, if he once enter our heart, he will either gain possession of us, or at least will pollute the soul, if he has not obtained the entire mastery over it, by casting on us his fiery darts; and by these we are sometimes deeply wounded, and sometimes only set on fire. Seldom indeed, and only in a few instances, are these fiery darts quenched, so as not to find a place where they may wound, i.e., when one is covered by the strong and mighty shield of faith. The declaration, indeed, in the Epistle to the Ephesians,
We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places, must be so understood as if
I Paul, and you Ephesians, and all who have not to wrestle against flesh and blood: for such have to struggle against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, not like the Corinthians, whose struggle was as yet against flesh and blood, and who had been overtaken by no temptation but such as is common to man.
5. We are not, however, to suppose that each individual has to contend against all these (adversaries). For it is impossible for any man, although he were a saint, to carry on a contest against all of them at the same time. If that indeed were by any means to be the case, as it is certainly impossible it should be so, human nature could not possibly bear it without undergoing entire destruction. But as, for example, if fifty soldiers were to say that they were about to engage with fifty others, they would not be understood to mean that one of them had to contend against the whole fifty, but each one would rightly say that
our battle was against fifty, all against all; so also this is to be understood as the apostle's meaning, that all the athletes and soldiers of Christ have to wrestle and struggle against all the adversaries enumerated — the struggle having, indeed, to be maintained against all, but by single individuals either with individual powers, or at least in such manner as shall be determined by God, who is the just president of the struggle. For I am of opinion that there is a certain limit to the powers of human nature, although there may be a Paul, of whom it is said,
He is a chosen vessel unto Me; or a Peter, against whom the gates of hell do not prevail; or a Moses, the friend of God: yet not one of them could sustain, without destruction to himself, the whole simultaneous assault of these opposing powers, unless indeed the might of Him alone were to work in him, who said,
Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. And therefore Paul exclaims with confidence,
I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me; and again,
I laboured more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. On account, then, of this power, which certainly is not of human origin operating and speaking in him, Paul could say,
For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor power, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. For I do not think that human nature can alone of itself maintain a contest with angels, and with the powers of the height and of the abyss, and with any other creature; but when it feels the presence of the Lord dwelling within it, confidence in the divine help will lead it to say,
The Lord is my light, and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the protector of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the enemies draw near to me, to eat my flesh, my enemies who trouble me, they stumbled and fell. Though an host encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in Him shall I be confident. From which I infer that a man perhaps would never be able of himself to vanquish an opposing power, unless he had the benefit of divine assistance. Hence, also, the angel is said to have wrestled with Jacob. Here, however, I understand the writer to mean, that it was not the same thing for the angel to have wrestled with Jacob, and to have wrestled against him; but the angel that wrestles with him is he who was present with him in order to secure his safety, who, after knowing also his moral progress, gave him in addition the name of Israel, i.e., he is with him in the struggle, and assists him in the contest; seeing there was undoubtedly another angel against whom he contended, and against whom he had to carry on a contest. Finally, Paul has not said that we wrestle with princes, or with powers, but against principalities and powers. And hence, although Jacob wrestled, it was unquestionably against some one of those powers which, Paul declares, resist and contend with the human race, and especially with the saints. And therefore at last the Scripture says of him that angel, but the prize of success conducts the conqueror to God.
6. Nor are we, indeed, to suppose that struggles of this kind are carried on by the exercise of bodily strength, and of the arts of the wrestling school; but spirit contends with spirit, according to the declaration of Paul, that our struggle is against principalities, and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world. Nay, the following is to be understood as the nature of the struggles; when, e.g., losses and dangers befall us, or calumnies and false accusations are brought against us, it not being the object of the hostile powers that we should suffer these (trials) only, but that by means of them we should be driven either to excess of anger or sorrow, or to the last pitch of despair; or at least, which is a greater sin, should be forced, when fatigued and overcome by any annoyances, to make complaints against God, as one who does not administer human life justly and equitably; the consequence of which is, that our faith may be weakened, or our hopes disappointed, or we may be compelled to give up the truth of our opinions, or be led to entertain irreligious sentiments regarding God. For some such things are written regarding Job, after the devil had requested God that power should be given him over his goods. By which also we are taught, that it is not by any accidental attacks that we are assailed, whenever we are visited with any such loss of property, nor that it is owing to chance when one of us is taken prisoner, or when the dwellings in which those who are dear to us are crushed to death, fall in ruins; for, with respect to all these occurrences, every believer ought to say,
You could have no power at all against Me, except it were given you from above. For observe that the house of Job did not fall upon his sons until the devil had first received power against them; nor would the horsemen have made an irruption in three bands, to carry away his camels or his oxen, and other cattle, unless they had been instigated by that spirit to whom they had delivered themselves up as the servants of his will. Nor would that fire, as it seemed to be, or thunderbolt, as it has been considered, have fallen upon the sheep of the patriarch, until the devil had said to God,
Have You not made a hedge about all that is without and within his house and around all the rest of his property? But now put forth Your hand, and touch all that he has, (and see) if he do not renounce You to Your face.
7. The result of all the foregoing remarks is to show, that all the occurrences in the world which are considered to be of an intermediate kind, whether they be mournful or otherwise are brought about, not indeed by God, and yet not without Him; while He not only does not prevent those wicked and opposing powers that are desirous to bring about these things (from accomplishing their purpose), but even permits them to do so, although only on certain occasions and to certain individuals, as is said with respect to Job himself, that for a certain time he was made to fall under the power of others, and to have his house plundered by unjust persons. And therefore holy Scripture teaches us to receive all that happens as sent by God, knowing that without Him no event occurs. For how can we doubt that such is the case, viz., that nothing comes to man without (the will of) God, when our Lord and Saviour declares,
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father who is in heaven. But the necessity of the case has drawn us away in a lengthened digression on the subject of the struggle waged by the hostile powers against men, and of those sadder events which happen to human life, i.e., its temptations— according to the declaration of Job,
Is not the whole life of man upon the earth a temptation? — in order that the manner of their occurrence, and the spirit in which we should regard them, might be clearly shown. Let us notice next, how men fall away into the sin of false knowledge, or with what object the opposing powers are wont to stir up conflict with us regarding such things.
1. The holy apostle, wishing to teach us some great and hidden truth respecting science and wisdom, says, in the first Epistle to the Corinthians:
We speak wisdom among them that are perfect; yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of the world, that come to nought: but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of the world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. In this passage, wishing to describe the different kinds of wisdom, he points out that there is a wisdom of this world, and a wisdom of the princes of this world, and another wisdom of God. But when he uses the expression
wisdom of the princes of this world, I do not think that he means a wisdom common to all the princes of this world, but one rather that is peculiar to certain individuals among them. And again, when he says,
We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory, we must inquire whether his meaning be, that this is the same wisdom of God which was hidden from other times and generations, and was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets, and which was also that wisdom of God before the advent of the Saviour, by means of which Solomon obtained his wisdom, and in reference to which the language of the Saviour Himself declared, that what He taught was greater than Solomon, in these words,
Behold, a greater than Solomon is here, — words which show, that those who were instructed by the Saviour were instructed in something higher than the knowledge of Solomon. For if one were to assert that the Saviour did indeed Himself possess greater knowledge, but did not communicate more to others than Solomon did, how will that agree with the statement which follows:
The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment, and condemn the men of this generation, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here? There is therefore a wisdom of this world, and also probably a wisdom belonging to each individual prince of this world. But with respect to the wisdom of God alone, we perceive that this is indicated, that it operated to a less degree in ancient and former times, and was (afterwards) more fully revealed and manifested through Christ. We shall inquire, however, regarding the wisdom of God in the proper place.
2. But now, since we are treating of the manner in which the opposing powers stir up those contests, by means of which false knowledge is introduced into the minds of men, and human souls led astray, while they imagine that they have discovered wisdom, I think it necessary to name and distinguish the wisdom of this world, and of the princes of this world, that by so doing we may discover who are the fathers of this wisdom, nay, even of these kinds of wisdom. I am of opinion, therefore, as I have stated above, that there is another wisdom of this world besides those (different kinds of) wisdom which belong to the princes of this world, by which wisdom those things seem to be understood and comprehended which belong to this world. This wisdom, however, possesses in itself no fitness for forming any opinion either respecting divine things, or the plan of the world's government, or any other subjects of importance, or regarding the training for a good or happy life; but is such as deals wholly with the art of poetry, e.g., or that of grammar, or rhetoric, or geometry, or music, with which also, perhaps, medicine should be classed. In all these subjects we are to suppose that the wisdom of this world is included. The wisdom of the princes of this world, on the other hand, we understand to be such as the secret and occult philosophy, as they call it, of the Egyptians, and the astrology of the Chaldeans and Indians, who make profession of the knowledge of high things, and also that manifold variety of opinion which prevails among the Greeks regarding divine things. Accordingly, in the holy Scriptures we find that there are princes over individual nations; as in Daniel we read that there was a prince of the kingdom of Persia, and another prince of the kingdom of Græcia, who are clearly shown, by the nature of the passage, to be not human beings, but certain powers. In the prophecies of Ezekiel, also, the prince of Tyre is unmistakeably shown to be a kind of spiritual power. When these, then, and others of the same kind, possessing each his own wisdom, and building up his own opinions and sentiments, beheld our Lord and Saviour professing and declaring that He had for this purpose come into the world, that all the opinions of science, falsely so called, might be destroyed, not knowing what was concealed within Him, they immediately laid a snare for Him: for
the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers assembled together, against the Lord and His Christ. But their snares being discovered, and the plans which they had attempted to carry out being made manifest when they crucified the Lord of glory, therefore the apostle says,
3. We must, indeed, endeavour to ascertain whether that wisdom of the princes of this world, with which they endeavour to imbue men, is introduced into their minds by the opposing powers, with the purpose of ensnaring and injuring them, or only for the purpose of deceiving them, i.e., not with the object of doing any hurt to man; but, as these princes of this world esteem such opinions to be true, they desire to impart to others what they themselves believe to be the truth: and this is the view which I am inclined to adopt. For as, to take an illustration, certain Greek authors, or the leaders of some heretical sect, after having imbibed an error in doctrine instead of the truth, and having come to the conclusion in their own minds that such is the truth, proceed, in the next place, to endeavour to persuade others of the correctness of their opinions; so, in like manner, are we to suppose is the procedure of the princes of this world, in which to certain spiritual powers has been assigned the rule over certain nations, and who are termed on that account the princes of this world. There are besides, in addition to these princes, certain special energies of this world, i.e., spiritual powers, which bring about certain effects, which they have themselves, in virtue of their freedom of will, chosen to produce, and to these belong those princes who practise the wisdom of this world: there being, for example, a peculiar energy and power, which is the inspirer of poetry; another, of geometry; and so a separate power, to remind us of each of the arts and professions of this kind. Lastly, many Greek writers have been of opinion that the art of poetry cannot exist without madness; whence also it is several times related in their histories, that those whom they call poets were suddenly filled with a kind of spirit of madness. And what are we to say also of those whom they call diviners, from whom, by the working of those demons who have the mastery over them, answers are given in carefully constructed verses? Those persons, too, whom they term Magi or Malevolent, frequently, by invoking demons over boys of tender years, have made them repeat poetical compositions which were the admiration and amazement of all. Now these effects we are to suppose are brought about in the following manner: As holy and immaculate souls, after devoting themselves to God with all affection and purity, and after preserving themselves free from all contagion of evil spirits, and after being purified by lengthened abstinence, and imbued with holy and religious training, assume by this means a portion of divinity, and earn the grace of prophecy, and other divine gifts; so also are we to suppose that those who place themselves in the way of the opposing powers, i.e., who purposely admire and adopt their manner of life and habits, receive their inspiration, and become partakers of their wisdom and doctrine. And the result of this is, that they are filled with the working of those spirits to whose service they have subjected themselves.
4. With respect to those, indeed, who teach differently regarding Christ from what the rule of Scripture allows, it is no idle task to ascertain whether it is from a treacherous purpose that these opposing powers, in their struggles to prevent a belief in Christ, have devised certain fabulous and impious doctrines; or whether, on hearing the word of Christ, and not being able to cast it forth from the secrecy of their conscience, nor yet to retain it pure and holy, they have, by means of vessels that were convenient to their use, and, so to speak, through their prophets, introduced various errors contrary to the rule of Christian truth. Now we are to suppose rather that apostate and refugee powers, which have departed from God out of the very wickedness of their mind and will, or from envy of those for whom there is prepared (on their becoming acquainted with the truth) an ascent to the same rank, whence they themselves had fallen, did, in order to prevent any progress of that kind, invent these errors and delusions of false doctrine. It is then clearly established, by many proofs, that while the soul of man exists in this body, it may admit different energies, i.e., operations, from a diversity of good and evil spirits. Now, of wicked spirits there is a twofold mode of operation: i.e., when they either take complete and entire possession of the mind, so as to allow their captives the power neither of understanding nor feeling; as, for instance, is the case with those commonly called possessed, whom we see to be deprived of reason, and insane (such as those were who are related in the Gospel to have been cured by the Saviour); or when by their wicked suggestions they deprave a sentient and intelligent soul with thoughts of various kinds, persuading it to evil, of which Judas is an illustration, who was induced at the suggestion of the devil to commit the crime of treason, according to the declaration of Scripture, that
the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot to betray him.
But a man receives the energy, i.e., the working, of a good spirit, when he is stirred and incited to good, and is inspired to heavenly or divine things; as the holy angels and God Himself wrought in the prophets, arousing and exhorting them by their holy suggestions to a better course of life, yet so, indeed, that it remained within the will and judgment of the individual, either to be willing or unwilling to follow the call to divine and heavenly things. And from this manifest distinction, it is seen how the soul is moved by the presence of a better spirit, i.e., if it encounter no perturbation or alienation of mind whatever from the impending inspiration, nor lose the free control of its will; as, for instance, is the case with all, whether prophets or apostles, who ministered to the divine responses without any perturbation of mind. Now, that by the suggestions of a good spirit the memory of man is aroused to the recollection of better things, we have already shown by previous instances, when we mentioned the cases of Mordecai and Artaxerxes.
5. This too, I think, should next be inquired into, viz., what are the reasons why a human soul is acted on at one time by good (spirits), and at another by bad: the grounds of which I suspect to be older than the bodily birth of the individual, as John (the Baptist) showed by his leaping and exulting in his mother's womb, when the voice of the salutation of Mary reached the ears of his mother Elisabeth; and as Jeremiah the prophet declares, who was known to God before he was formed in his mother's womb, and before he was born was sanctified by Him, and while yet a boy received the grace of prophecy. And again, on the other hand it is shown beyond a doubt, that some have been possessed by hostile spirits from the very beginning of their lives: i.e., some were born with an evil spirit; and others, according to credible histories, have practised divination from childhood. Others have been under the influence of the demon called Python, i.e., the ventriloquial spirit, from the commencement of their existence. To all which instances, those who maintain that everything in the world is under the administration of Divine Providence (as is also our own belief), can, as it appears to me, give no other answer, so as to show that no shadow of injustice rests upon the divine government, than by holding that there were certain causes of prior existence, in consequence of which the souls, before their birth in the body, contracted a certain amount of guilt in their sensitive nature, or in their movements, on account of which they have been judged worthy by Divine Providence of being placed in this condition. For a soul is always in possession of free-will, as well when it is in the body as when it is without it; and freedom of will is always directed either to good or evil. Nor can any rational and sentient being, i.e., a mind or soul, exist without some movement either good or bad. And it is probable that these movements furnish grounds for merit even before they do anything in this world; so that on account of these merits or grounds they are, immediately on their birth, and even before it, so to speak, assorted by Divine Providence for the endurance either of good or evil.
Let such, then, be our views respecting those events which appear to befall men, either immediately after birth, or even before they enter upon the light. But as regards the suggestions which are made to the soul, i.e., to the faculty of human thought, by different spirits, and which arouse men to good actions or the contrary, even in such a case we must suppose that there sometimes existed certain causes anterior to bodily birth. For occasionally the mind, when watchful, and casting away from it what is evil, calls to itself the aid of the good; or if it be, on the contrary, negligent and slothful, it makes room through insufficient caution for these spirits, which, lying in wait secretly like robbers, contrive to rush into the minds of men when they see a lodgment made for them by sloth; as the Apostle Peter says,
that our adversary the devil goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. On which account our heart must be kept with all carefulness both by day and night, and no place be given to the devil; but every effort must be used that the ministers of God — those spirits, viz., who were sent to minister to them who are called to be heirs of salvation — may find a place within us, and be delighted to enter into the -chamber of our soul, and dwelling within us may guide us by their counsels; if, indeed, they shall find the habitation of our heart adorned by the practice of virtue and holiness. But let that be sufficient which we have said, as we best could, regarding those powers which are hostile to the human race.
1. And now the subject of human temptations must not, in my opinion, be passed over in silence, which take their rise sometimes from flesh and blood, or from the wisdom of flesh and blood, which is said to be hostile to God. And whether the statement be true which certain allege, viz., that each individual has as it were two souls, we shall determine after we have explained the nature of those temptations, which are said to be more powerful than any of human origin, i.e., which we sustain from principalities and powers, and from the rulers of the darkness of this world, and from spiritual wickedness in high places, or to which we are subjected from wicked spirits and unclean demons. Now, in the investigation of this subject, we must, I think, inquire according to a logical method whether there be in us human beings, who are composed of soul and body and vital spirit, some other element, possessing an incitement of its own, and evoking a movement towards evil. For a question of this kind is wont to be discussed by some in this way: whether, viz., as two souls are said to co-exist within us, the one is more divine and heavenly and the other inferior; or whether, from the very fact that we inhere in bodily structures which according to their own proper nature are dead, and altogether devoid of life (seeing it is from us, i.e., from our souls, that the material body derives its life, it being contrary and hostile to the spirit), we are drawn on and enticed to the practice of those evils which are agreeable to the body; or whether, thirdly (which was the opinion of some of the Greek philosophers), although our soul is one in substance, it nevertheless consists of several elements, and one portion of it is called rational and another irrational, and that which is termed the irrational part is again separated into two affections — those of covetousness and passion. These three opinions, then, regarding the soul, which we have stated above, we have found to be entertained by some, but that one of them, which we have mentioned as being adopted by certain Grecian philosophers, viz., that the soul is tripartite, I do not observe to be greatly confirmed by the authority of holy Scripture; while with respect to the remaining two there is found a considerable number of passages in the holy Scriptures which seem capable of application to them.
2. Now, of these opinions, let us first discuss that which is maintained by some, that there is in us a good and heavenly soul, and another earthly and inferior; and that the better soul is implanted within us from heaven, such as was that which, while Jacob was still in the womb, gave him the prize of victory in supplanting his brother Esau, and which in the case of Jeremiah was sanctified from his birth, and in that of John was filled by the Holy Spirit from the womb. Now, that which they term the inferior soul is produced, they allege, along with the body itself out of the seed of the body, whence they say it cannot live or subsist beyond the body, on which account also they say it is frequently termed flesh. For the expression, soul, which is properly the soul of the flesh. From these words, moreover, they endeavour notwithstanding to make good the declaration in Leviticus:
The life of all flesh is the blood thereof. For, from the circumstance that it is the diffusion of the blood throughout the whole flesh which produces life in the flesh, they assert that this soul, which is said to be the life of all flesh, is contained in the blood. This statement, moreover, that the flesh struggles against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and the further statement, that
the life of all flesh is the blood thereof, is, according to these writers, simply calling the wisdom of the flesh by another name, because it is a kind of material spirit, which is not subject to the law of God, nor can be so, because it has earthly wishes and bodily desires. And it is with respect to this that they think the apostle uttered the words:
I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. And if one were to object to them that these words were spoken of the nature of the body, which indeed, agreeably to the peculiarity of its nature, is dead, but is said to have sensibility, or wisdom which is hostile to God, or which struggles against the spirit; or if one were to say that, in a certain degree, the flesh itself was possessed of a voice, which should cry out against the endurance of hunger, or thirst, or cold, or of any discomfort arising either from abundance or poverty, — they would endeavour to weaken and impair the force of such (arguments), by showing that there were many other mental perturbations which derive their origin in no respect from the flesh, and yet against which the spirit struggles, such as ambition, avarice, emulation, envy, pride, and others like these; and seeing that with these the human mind or spirit wages a kind of contest, they lay down as the cause of all these evils, nothing else than this corporal soul, as it were, of which we have spoken above, and which is generated from the seed by a process of traducianism. They are accustomed also to adduce, in support of their assertion, the declaration of the apostle,
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, poisonings, hatred, contentions, emulations, wrath, quarrelling, dissensions, heresies, sects, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and the like; asserting that all these do not derive their origin from the habits or pleasures of the flesh, so that all such movements are to be regarded as inherent in that substance which has not a soul, i.e., the flesh. The declaration, moreover,
For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men among you according to the flesh are called, would seem to require to be understood as if there were one kind of wisdom, carnal and material, and another according to the spirit, the former of which cannot indeed be called wisdom, unless there be a soul of the flesh, which is wise in respect of what is called carnal wisdom. And in addition to these passages they adduce the following:
Since the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, so that we cannot do the things that we would. What are these things now respecting which he says,
that we cannot do the things that we would? It is certain, they reply, that the spirit cannot be intended; for the will of the spirit suffers no hindrance. But neither can the flesh be meant, because if it has not a soul of its own, neither can it assuredly possess a will. It remains, then, that the will of this soul be intended which is capable of having a will of its own, and which certainly is opposed to the will of the spirit. And if this be the case, it is established that the will of the soul is something intermediate between the flesh and the spirit, undoubtedly obeying and serving that one of the two which it has elected to obey. And if it yield itself up to the pleasures of the flesh, it renders men carnal; but when it unites itself with the spirit, it produces men of the Spirit, and who on that account are termed spiritual. And this seems to be the meaning of the apostle in the words,
But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.
We have accordingly to ascertain what is this very will (intermediate) between flesh and spirit, besides that will which is said to belong to the flesh or the spirit. For it is held as certain, that everything which is said to be a work of the spirit is (a product of) the will of the spirit, and everything that is called a work of the flesh (proceeds from) the will of the flesh. What else then, besides these, is that will of the soul which receives a separate name, and which will, the apostle being opposed to our executing, says:
You cannot do the things that you would? By this it would seem to be intended, that it ought to adhere to neither of these two, i.e., to neither flesh nor spirit. But some one will say, that as it is better for the soul to execute its own will than that of the flesh; so, on the other hand, it is better to do the will of the spirit than its own will. How, then, does the apostle say,
that you cannot do the things that you would? Because in that contest which is waged between flesh and spirit, the spirit is by no means certain of victory, it being manifest that in very many individuals the flesh has the mastery.
3. But since the subject of discussion on which we have entered is one of great profundity, which it is necessary to consider in all its bearings, let us see whether some such point as this may not be determined: that as it is better for the soul to follow the spirit when the latter has overcome the flesh, so also, if it seem to be a worse course for the former to follow the flesh in its struggles against the spirit, when the latter would recall the soul to its influence, it may nevertheless appear a more advantageous procedure for the soul to be under the mastery of the flesh than to remain under the power of its own will. For, since it is said to be neither hot nor cold, but to continue in a sort of tepid condition, it will find conversion a slow and somewhat difficult undertaking. If indeed it clung to the flesh, then, satiated at length, and filled with those very evils which it suffers from the vices of the flesh, and wearied as it were by the heavy burdens of luxury and lust, it may sometimes be converted with greater ease and rapidity from the filthiness of matter to a desire for heavenly things, and (to a taste for) spiritual graces. And the apostle must be supposed to have said, that
the Spirit contends against the flesh, and the flesh against the Spirit, so that we cannot do the things that we would (those things, undoubtedly, which are designated as being beyond the will of the spirit, and the will of the flesh), meaning (as if we were to express it in other words) that it is better for a man to be either in a state of virtue or in one of wickedness, than in neither of these; but that the soul, before its conversion to the spirit, and its union with it, appears during its adherence to the body, and its meditation of carnal things, to be neither in a good condition nor in a manifestly bad one, but resembles, so to speak, an animal. It is better, however, for it, if possible, to be rendered spiritual through adherence to the spirit; but if that cannot be done, it is more expedient for it to follow even the wickedness of the flesh, than, placed under the influence of its own will, to retain the position of an irrational animal.
These points we have now discussed, in our desire to consider each individual opinion, at greater length than we intended, that those views might not be supposed to have escaped our notice which are generally brought forward by those who inquire whether there is within us any other soul than this heavenly and rational one, which is naturally opposed to the latter, and is called either the flesh, or the wisdom of the flesh, or the soul of the flesh.
4. Let us now see what answer is usually returned to these statements by those who maintain that there is in us one movement, and one life, proceeding from one and the same soul, both the salvation and the destruction of which are ascribed to itself as a result of its own actions. And, in the first place, let us notice of what nature those commotions of the soul are which we suffer, when we feel ourselves inwardly drawn in different directions; when there arises a kind of contest of thoughts in our hearts, and certain probabilities are suggested us, agreeably to which we lean now to this side, now to that, and by which we are sometimes convicted of error, and sometimes approve of our acts. It is nothing remarkable, however, to say of wicked spirits, that they have a varying and conflicting judgment, and one out of harmony with itself, since such is found to be the case in all men, whenever, in deliberating upon an uncertain event, council is taken, and men consider and consult what is to be chosen as the better and more useful course. It is not therefore surprising that, if two probabilities meet, and suggest opposite views, they should drag the mind in contrary directions. For example, if a man be led by reflection to believe and to fear God, it cannot then be said that the flesh contends against the Spirit; but, amidst the uncertainty of what may be true and advantageous, the mind is drawn in opposite directions. So, also, when it is supposed that the flesh provokes to the indulgence of lust, but better counsels oppose allurements of that kind, we are not to suppose that it is one life which is resisting another, but that it is the tendency of the nature of the body, which is eager to empty out and cleanse the places filled with seminal moisture; as, in like manner, it is not to be supposed that it is any opposing power, or the life of another soul, which excites within us the appetite of thirst, and impels us to drink, or which causes us to feel hunger, and drives us to satisfy it. But as it is by the natural movements of the body that food and drink are either desired or rejected, so also the natural seed, collected together in course of time in the various vessels, has an eager desire to be expelled and thrown away, and is so far from never being removed, save by the impulse of some exciting cause, that it is even sometimes spontaneously emitted. When, therefore, it is said that
the flesh struggles against the Spirit, these persons understand the expression to mean that habit or necessity, or the delights of the flesh, arouse a man, and withdraw him from divine and spiritual things. For, owing to the necessity of the body being drawn away, we are not allowed to have leisure for divine things, which are to be eternally advantageous. So again, the soul, devoting itself to divine and spiritual pursuits, and being united to the spirit, is said to fight against the flesh, by not permitting it to be relaxed by indulgence, and to become unsteady through the influence of those pleasures for which it feels a natural delight. In this way, also, they claim to understand the words,
The wisdom of the flesh is hostile to God, not that the flesh really has a soul, or a wisdom of its own. But as we are accustomed to say, by an abuse of language, that the earth is thirsty, and wishes to drink in water, this use of the word
wishes is not proper, but catachrestic — as if we were to say again, that this house wants to be rebuilt, and many other similar expressions; so also is the wisdom of the flesh to be understood, or the expression, that
the flesh lusts against the Spirit. They generally connect with these the expression,
The voice of your brother's blood cries unto Me from the ground. For what cries unto the Lord is not properly the blood which was shed; but the blood is said improperly to cry out, vengeance being demanded upon him who had shed it. The declaration also of the apostle,
I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, they so understand as if he had said, That he who wishes to devote himself to the word of God is, on account of his bodily necessities and habits, which like a sort of law are ingrained in the body, distracted, and divided, and impeded, lest, by devoting himself vigorously to the study of wisdom, he should be enabled to behold the divine mysteries.
5. With respect, however, to the following being ranked among the works of the flesh, viz., heresies, and envyings, and contentions, or other (vices), they so understand the passage, that the mind, being rendered grosser in feeling, from its yielding itself to the passions of the body, and being oppressed by the mass of its vices, and having no refined or spiritual feelings, is said to be made flesh, and derives its name from that in which it exhibits more vigour and force of will. They also make this further inquiry,
Who will be found, or who will be said to be, the creator of this evil sense, called the sense of the flesh? Because they defend the opinion that there is no other creator of soul and flesh than God. And if we were to assert that the good God created anything in His own creation that was hostile to Himself, it would appear to be a manifest absurdity. If, then, it is written, that
carnal wisdom is enmity against God, and if this be declared to be a result of creation, God Himself will appear to have formed a nature hostile to Himself, which cannot be subject to Him nor to His law, as if it were (supposed to be) an animal of which such qualities are predicated. And if this view be admitted, in what respect will it appear to differ from that of those who maintain that souls of different natures are created, which, according to their natures, are destined either to be lost or saved? But this is an opinion of the heretics alone, who, not being able to maintain the justice of God on grounds of piety, compose impious inventions of this kind. And now we have brought forward to the best of our ability, in the person of each of the parties, what might be advanced by way of argument regarding the several views, and let the reader choose out of them for himself that which he thinks ought to be preferred.
1. And now, since there is one of the articles of the Church which is held principally in consequence of our belief in the truth of our sacred history, viz. that this world was created and took its beginning at a certain time, and, in conformity to the cycle of time decreed to all things, is to be destroyed on account of its corruption, there seems no absurdity in re-discussing a few points connected with this subject. And so far, indeed, as the credibility of Scripture is concerned, the declarations on such a matter seem easy of proof. Even the heretics, although widely opposed on many other things, yet on this appear to be at one, yielding to the authority of Scripture.
Concerning, then, the creation of the world, what portion of Scripture can give us more information regarding it, than the account which Moses has transmitted respecting its origin? And although it comprehends matters of profounder significance than the mere historical narrative appears to indicate, and contains very many things that are to be spiritually understood, and employs the letter, as a kind of veil, in treating of profound and mystical subjects; nevertheless the language of the narrator shows that all visible things were created at a certain time. But with regard to the consummation of the world, Jacob is the first who gives any information, in addressing his children in the words:
Gather yourselves together unto me, you sons of Jacob, that I may tell you what shall be in the last days, or
after the last days. If, then, there be
last days, or a period
succeeding the last days, the days which had a beginning must necessarily come to an end. David, too, declares:
The heavens shall perish, but You shall endure; yea, all of them shall wax old as does a garment: as a vesture shall You change them, and they shall be changed: but You are the same, and Your years shall have no end. Our Lord and Saviour, indeed, in the words,
He who made them at the beginning, made them male and female, Himself bears witness that the world was created; and again, when He says,
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My word shall not pass away, He points out that they are perishable, and must come to an end. The apostle, moreover, in declaring that
the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who has subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God, manifestly announces the end of the world; as he does also when he again says,
The fashion of this world passes away. Now, by the expression which he employs,
that the creature was made subject to vanity, he shows that there was a beginning to this world: for if the creature were made subject to vanity on account of some hope, it was certainly made subject from a cause; and seeing it was from a cause, it must necessarily have had a beginning: for, without some beginning, the creature could not be subject to vanity, nor could that (creature) hope to be freed from the bondage of corruption, which had not begun to serve. But any one who chooses to search at his leisure, will find numerous other passages in holy Scripture in which the world is both said to have a beginning and to hope for an end.
2. Now, if there be any one who would here oppose either the authority or credibility of our Scriptures, we would ask of him whether he asserts that God can, or cannot, comprehend all things? To assert that He cannot, would manifestly be an act of impiety. If then he answer, as he must, that God comprehends all things, it follows from the very fact of their being capable of comprehension, that they are understood to have a beginning and an end, seeing that which is altogether without any beginning cannot be at all comprehended. For however far understanding may extend, so far is the faculty of comprehending illimitably withdrawn and removed when there is held to be no beginning.
3. But this is the objection which they generally raise: they say,
If the world had its beginning in time, what was God doing before the world began? For it is at once impious and absurd to say that the nature of God is inactive and immoveable, or to suppose that goodness at one time did not do good, and omnipotence at one time did not exercise its power. Such is the objection which they are accustomed to make to our statement that this world had its beginning at a certain time, and that, agreeably to our belief in Scripture, we can calculate the years of its past duration. To these propositions I consider that none of the heretics can easily return an answer that will be in conformity with the nature of their opinions. But we can give a logical answer in accordance with the standard of religion, when we say that not then for the first time did God begin to work when He made this visible world; but as, after its destruction, there will be another world, so also we believe that others existed before the present came into being. And both of these positions will be confirmed by the authority of holy Scripture. For that there will be another world after this, is taught by Isaiah, who says,
There will be new heavens, and a new earth, which I shall make to abide in my sight, says the Lord; and that before this world others also existed is shown by Eccelesiastes, in the words:
What is that which has been? Even that which shall be. And what is that which has been created? Even this which is to be created: and there is nothing altogether new under the sun. Who shall speak and declare, Lo, this is new? It has already been in the ages which have been before us. By these testimonies it is established both that there were ages before our own, and that there will be others after it. It is not, however, to be supposed that several worlds existed at once, but that, after the end of this present world, others will take their beginning; respecting which it is unnecessary to repeat each particular statement, seeing we have already done so in the preceding pages.
4. This point, indeed, is not to be idly passed by, that the holy Scriptures have called the creation of the world by a new and peculiar name, terming it καταβολή, which has been very improperly translated into Latin by
constitutio; for in Greek καταβολή signifies rather
dejicere, i.e., to cast downwards — a word which has been, as we have already remarked, improperly translated into Latin by the phrase
constitutio mundi, as in the Gospel according to John, where the Saviour says,
And there will be tribulation in those days, such as was not since the beginning of the world; in which passage καταβολή is rendered by beginning (constitutio), which is to be understood as above explained. The apostle also, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, has employed the same language, saying,
Who has chosen us before the foundation of the world; and this foundation he calls καταβολή, to be understood in the same sense as before. It seems worth while, then, to inquire what is meant by this new term; and I am, indeed, of opinion that, as the end and consummation of the saints will be in those (ages) which are not seen, and are eternal, we must conclude (as frequently pointed out in the preceding pages), from a contemplation of that very end, that rational creatures had also a similar beginning. And if they had a beginning such as the end for which they hope, they existed undoubtedly from the very beginning in those (ages) which are not seen, and are eternal. And if this is so, then there has been a descent from a higher to a lower condition, on the part not only of those souls who have deserved the change by the variety of their movements, but also on that of those who, in order to serve the whole world, were brought down from those higher and invisible spheres to these lower and visible ones, although against their will —
Because the creature was subjected to vanity, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected the same in hope; so that both sun, and moon, and stars, and angels might discharge their duty to the world, and to those souls which, on account of their excessive mental defects, stood in need of bodies of a grosser and more solid nature; and for the sake of those for whom this arrangement was necessary, this visible world was also called into being. From this it follows, that by the use of the word a descent from a higher to a lower condition, shared by all in common, would seem to be pointed out. The hope indeed of freedom is entertained by the whole of creation — of being liberated from the corruption of slavery — when the sons of God, who either fell away or were scattered abroad, shall be gathered together into one, or when they shall have fulfilled their other duties in this world, which are known to God alone, the Disposer of all things. We are, indeed, to suppose that the world was created of such quality and capacity as to contain not only all those souls which it was determined should be trained in this world, but also all those powers which were prepared to attend, and serve, and assist them. For it is established by many declarations that all rational creatures are of one nature: on which ground alone could the justice of God in all His dealings with them be defended, seeing every one has the reason in himself, why he has been placed in this or that rank in life.
5. This arrangement of things, then, which God afterwards appointed (for He had, from the very origin of the world, clearly perceived the reasons and causes affecting those who, either owing to mental deficiencies, deserved to enter into bodies, or those who were carried away by their desire for visible things, and those also who, either willingly or unwillingly, were compelled, (by Him who subjected the same in hope), to perform certain services to such as had fallen into that condition), not being understood by some, who failed to perceive that it was owing to preceding causes, originating in free-will, that this variety of arrangement had been instituted by God, they have concluded that all things in this world are directed either by fortuitous movements or by a necessary fate, and that nothing is within the power of our own will. And, therefore, also they were unable to show that the providence of God was beyond the reach of censure.
6. But as we have said that all the souls who lived in this world stood in need of many ministers, or rulers, or assistants; so, in the last times, when the end of the world is already imminent and near, and the whole human race is verging upon the last destruction, and when not only those who were governed by others have been reduced to weakness, but those also to whom had been committed the cares of government, it was no longer such help nor such defenders that were needed, but the help of the Author and Creator Himself was required to restore to the one the discipline of obedience, which had been corrupted and profaned, and to the other the discipline of rule. And hence the only-begotten Son of God, who was the Word and the Wisdom of the Father, when He was in the possession of that glory with the Father, which He had before the world was, divested Himself of it, and, taking the form of a servant, was made obedient unto death, that He might teach obedience to those who could not otherwise than by obedience obtain salvation. He restored also the laws of rule and government which had been corrupted, by subduing all enemies under His feet, that by this means (for it was necessary that He should reign until He had put all enemies under His feet, and destroyed the last enemy — death) He might teach rulers themselves moderation in their government. As He had come, then, to restore the discipline, not only of government, but of obedience, as we have said, accomplishing in Himself first what He desired to be accomplished by others, He became obedient to the Father, not only to the death of the cross, but also, in the end of the world, embracing in Himself all whom He subjects to the Father, and who by Him come to salvation, He Himself, along with them, and in them, is said also to be subject to the Father; all things subsisting in Him, and He Himself being the Head of all things, and in Him being the salvation and the fullness of those who obtain salvation. And this consequently is what the apostle says of Him:
And when all things shall be subjected to Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject to Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.
7. I know not, indeed, how the heretics, not understanding the meaning of the apostle in these words, consider the term
subjection degrading as applied to the Son; for if the propriety of the title be called in question, it may easily be ascertained from making a contrary supposition. Because if it be not good to be in subjection, it follows that the opposite will be good, viz., not to be in subjection. Now the language of the apostle, according to their view, appears to indicate by these words,
And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that He, who is not now in subjection to the Father, will become subject to Him when the Father shall have first subdued all things unto Him. But I am astonished how it can be conceived to be the meaning, that He who, while all things are not yet subdued to Him, is not Himself in subjection, should — at a time when all things have been subdued to Him, and when He has become King of all men, and holds sway over all things — be supposed then to be made subject, seeing He was not formerly in subjection; for such do not understand that the subjection of Christ to the Father indicates that our happiness has attained to perfection, and that the work undertaken by Him has been brought to a victorious termination, seeing He has not only purified the power of supreme government over the whole of creation, but presents to the Father the principles of the obedience and subjection of the human race in a corrected and improved condition. If, then, that subjection be held to be good and salutary by which the Son is said to be subject to the Father, it is an extremely rational and logical inference to deduce that the subjection also of enemies, which is said to be made to the Son of God, should be understood as being also salutary and useful; as if, when the Son is said to be subject to the Father, the perfect restoration of the whole of creation is signified, so also, when enemies are said to be subjected to the Son of God, the salvation of the conquered and the restoration of the lost is in that understood to consist.
8. This subjection, however, will be accomplished in certain ways, and after certain training, and at certain times; for it is not to be imagined that the subjection is to be brought about by the pressure of necessity (lest the whole world should then appear to be subdued to God by force), but by word, reason, and doctrine; by a call to a better course of things, by the best systems of training, by the employment also of suitable and appropriate threatenings, which will justly impend over those who despise any care or attention to their salvation and usefulness. In a word, we men also, in training either our slaves or children, restrain them by threats and fear while they are, by reason of their tender age, incapable of using their reason; but when they have begun to understand what is good, and useful, and honourable, the fear of the lash being over, they acquiesce through the suasion of words and reason in all that is good. But how, consistently with the preservation of freedom of will in all rational creatures, each one ought to be regulated, i.e., who they are whom the word of God finds and trains, as if they were already prepared and capable of it; who they are whom it puts off to a later time; who these are from whom it is altogether concealed, and who are so situated as to be far from hearing it; who those, again, are who despise the word of God when made known and preached to them, and who are driven by a kind of correction and chastisement to salvation, and whose conversion is in a certain degree demanded and extorted; who those are to whom certain opportunities of salvation are afforded, so that sometimes, their faith being proved by an answer alone, they have unquestionably obtained salvation; — from what causes or on what occasions these results take place, or what the divine wisdom sees within them, or what movements of their will leads God so to arrange all these things, is known to Him alone, and to His only-begotten Son, through whom all things were created and restored, and to the Holy Spirit, through whom all things are sanctified, who proceeds from the Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
1. Now, respecting the end of the world and the consummation of all things, we have stated in the preceding pages, to the best of our ability, so far as the authority of holy Scripture enabled us, what we deem sufficient for purposes of instruction; and we shall here only add a few admonitory remarks, since the order of investigation has brought us back to the subject. The highest good, then, after the attainment of which the whole of rational nature is seeking, which is also called the end of all blessings, is defined by many philosophers as follows: The highest good, they say, is to become as like to God as possible. But this definition I regard not so much as a discovery of theirs, as a view derived from holy Scripture. For this is pointed out by Moses, before all other philosophers, when he describes the first creation of man in these words:
And God said, Let Us make man in Our own image, and after Our likeness; and then he adds the words:
So God created man in His own image: in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them, and He blessed them. Now the expression,
In the image of God created He him, without any mention of the word likeness, conveys no other meaning than this, that man received the dignity of God's image at his first creation; but that the perfection of his likeness has been reserved for the consummation — namely, that he might acquire it for himself by the exercise of his own diligence in the imitation of God, the possibility of attaining to perfection being granted him at the beginning through the dignity of the divine image, and the perfect realization of the divine likeness being reached in the end by the fulfilment of the (necessary) works. Now, that such is the case, the Apostle John points out more clearly and unmistakeably, when he makes this declaration:
Little children, we do not yet know what we shall be; but if a revelation be made to us from the Saviour, you will say, without any doubt, we shall be like Him. By which expression he points out with the utmost certainty, that not only was the end of all things to be hoped for, which he says was still unknown to him, but also the likeness to God, which will be conferred in proportion to the completeness of our deserts. The Lord Himself, in the Gospel, not only declares that these same results are future, but that they are to be brought about by His own intercession, He Himself deigning to obtain them from the Father for His disciples, saying,
Father, I will that where I am, these also may be with Me; and as You and I are one, they also may be one in Us. In which the divine likeness itself already appears to advance, if we may so express ourselves, and from being merely similar, to become the same, because undoubtedly in the consummation or end God is
all and in all. And with reference to this, it is made a question by some whether the nature of bodily matter, although cleansed and purified, and rendered altogether spiritual, does not seem either to offer an obstruction towards attaining the dignity of the (divine) likeness, or to the property of unity, because neither can a corporeal nature appear capable of any resemblance to a divine nature which is certainly incorporeal; nor can it be truly and deservedly designated one with it, especially since we are taught by the truths of our religion that that which alone is one, viz., the Son with the Father, must be referred to a peculiarity of the (divine) nature.
2. Since, then, it is promised that in the end God will be all and in all, we are not, as is fitting, to suppose that animals, either sheep or other cattle, come to that end, lest it should be implied that God dwelt even in animals, whether sheep or other cattle; and so, too, with pieces of wood or stones, lest it should be said that God is in these also. So, again, nothing that is wicked must be supposed to attain to that end, lest, while God is said to be in all things, He may also be said to be in a vessel of wickedness. For if we now assert that God is everywhere and in all things, on the ground that nothing can be empty of God, we nevertheless do not say that He is now
all things in those in whom He is. And hence we must look more carefully as to what that is which denotes the perfection of blessedness and the end of things, which is not only said to be God in all things, but also
all in all. Let us then inquire what all those things are which God is to become in all.
3. I am of opinion that the expression, by which God is said to be
all in all, means that He is
all in each individual person. Now He will be
all in each individual in this way: when all which any rational understanding, cleansed from the dregs of every sort of vice, and with every cloud of wickedness completely swept away, can either feel, or understand, or think, will be wholly God; and when it will no longer behold or retain anything else than God, but when God will be the measure and standard of all its movements; and thus God will be
all, for there will no longer be any distinction of good and evil, seeing evil nowhere exists; for God is all things, and to Him no evil is near: nor will there be any longer a desire to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, on the part of him who is always in the possession of good, and to whom God is all. So then, when the end has been restored to the beginning, and the termination of things compared with their commencement, that condition of things will be re-established in which rational nature was placed, when it had no need to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; so that when all feeling of wickedness has been removed, and the individual has been purified and cleansed, He who alone is the one good God becomes to him
all, and that not in the case of a few individuals, or of a considerable number, but He Himself is
all in all. And when death shall no longer anywhere exist, nor the sting of death, nor any evil at all, then verily God will be
all in all. But some are of opinion that that perfection and blessedness of rational creatures, or natures, can only remain in that same condition of which we have spoken above, i.e., that all things should possess God, and God should be to them all things, if they are in no degree prevented by their union with a bodily nature. Otherwise they think that the glory of the highest blessedness is impeded by the intermixture of any material substance. But this subject we have discussed at greater length, as may be seen in the preceding pages.
4. And now, as we find the apostle making mention of a spiritual body, let us inquire, to the best of our ability, what idea we are to form of such a thing. So far, then, as our understanding can grasp it, we consider a spiritual body to be of such a nature as ought to be inhabited not only by all holy and perfect souls, but also by all those creatures which will be liberated from the slavery of corruption. Respecting the body also, the apostle has said,
We have a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, i.e., in the mansions of the blessed. And from this statement we may form a conjecture, how pure, how refined, and how glorious are the qualities of that body, if we compare it with those which, although they are celestial bodies, and of most brilliant splendour, were nevertheless made with hands, and are visible to our sight. But of that body it is said, that it is a house not made with hands, but eternal in the heavens. Since, then, those things
which are seen are temporal, but those things which are not seen are eternal, all those bodies which we see either on earth or in heaven, and which are capable of being seen, and have been made with hands, but are not eternal, are far excelled in glory by that which is not visible, nor made with hands, but is eternal. From which comparison it may be conceived how great are the comeliness, and splendour, and brilliancy of a spiritual body; and how true it is, that
eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man to conceive, what God has prepared for them that love Him. We ought not, however, to doubt that the nature of this present body of ours may, by the will of God, who made it what it is, be raised to those qualities of refinement, and purity, and splendour (which characterize the body referred to), according as the condition of things requires, and the deserts of our rational nature shall demand. Finally, when the world required variety and diversity, matter yielded itself with all docility throughout the diverse appearances and species of things to the Creator, as to its Lord and Maker, that He might educe from it the various forms of celestial and terrestrial beings. But when things have begun to hasten to that consummation that all may be one, as the Father is one with the Son, it may be understood as a rational inference, that where all are one, there will no longer be any diversity.
5. The last enemy, moreover, who is called death, is said on this account to be destroyed, that there may not be anything left of a mournful kind when death does not exist, nor anything that is adverse when there is no enemy. The destruction of the last enemy, indeed, is to be understood, not as if its substance, which was formed by God, is to perish, but because its mind and hostile will, which came not from God, but from itself, are to be destroyed. Its destruction, therefore, will not be its non-existence, but its ceasing to be an enemy, and (to be) death. For nothing is impossible to the Omnipotent, nor is anything incapable of restoration to its Creator: for He made all things that they might exist, and those things which were made for existence cannot cease to be. For this reason also will they admit of change and variety, so as to be placed, according to their merits, either in a better or worse position; but no destruction of substance can befall those things which were created by God for the purpose of permanent existence. For those things which agreeably to the common opinion are believed to perish, the nature either of our faith or of the truth will not permit us to suppose to be destroyed. Finally, our flesh is supposed by ignorant men and unbelievers to be destroyed after death, in such a degree that it retains no relic at all of its former substance. We, however, who believe in its resurrection, understand that a change only has been produced by death, but that its substance certainly remains; and that by the will of its Creator, and at the time appointed, it will be restored to life; and that a second time a change will take place in it, so that what at first was flesh (formed) out of earthly soil, and was afterwards dissolved by death, and again reduced to dust and ashes (
For dust you are, it is said,
and to dust shall you return), will be again raised from the earth, and shall after this, according to the merits of the indwelling soul, advance to the glory of a spiritual body.
6. Into this condition, then, we are to suppose that all this bodily substance of ours will be brought, when all things shall be re-established in a state of unity, and when God shall be all in all. And this result must be understood as being brought about, not suddenly, but slowly and gradually, seeing that the process of amendment and correction will take place imperceptibly in the individual instances during the lapse of countless and unmeasured ages, some outstripping others, and tending by a swifter course towards perfection, while others again follow close at hand, and some again a long way behind; and thus, through the numerous and uncounted orders of progressive beings who are being reconciled to God from a state of enmity, the last enemy is finally reached, who is called death, so that he also may be destroyed, and no longer be an enemy. When, therefore, all rational souls shall have been restored to a condition of this kind, then the nature of this body of ours will undergo a change into the glory of a spiritual body. For as we see it not to be the case with rational natures, that some of them have lived in a condition of degradation owing to their sins, while others have been called to a state of happiness on account of their merits; but as we see those same souls who had formerly been sinful, assisted, after their conversion and reconciliation to God, to a state of happiness; so also are we to consider, with respect to the nature of the body, that the one which we now make use of in a state of meanness, and corruption, and weakness, is not a different body from that which we shall possess in incorruption, and in power, and in glory; but that the same body, when it has cast away the infirmities in which it is now entangled, shall be transmuted into a condition of glory, being rendered spiritual, so that what was a vessel of dishonour may, when cleansed, become a vessel unto honour, and an abode of blessedness. And in this condition, also, we are to believe, that by the will of the Creator, it will abide for ever without any change, as is confirmed by the declaration of the apostle, when he says,
We have a house, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For the faith of the Church does not admit the view of certain Grecian philosophers, that there is besides the body, composed of four elements, another fifth body, which is different in all its parts, and diverse from this our present body; since neither out of sacred Scripture can any produce the slightest suspicion of evidence for such an opinion, nor can any rational inference from things allow the reception of it, especially when the holy apostle manifestly declares, that it is not new bodies which are given to those who rise from the dead, but that they receive those identical ones which they had possessed when living, transformed from an inferior into a better condition. For his words are:
It is sown an animal body, it will rise a spiritual body; it is sown in corruption, it will arise in incorruption: it is sown in weakness, it will arise in power: it is sown in dishonour, it will arise in glory. As, therefore, there is a kind of advance in man, so that from being first an animal being, and not understanding what belongs to the Spirit of God, he reaches by means of instruction the stage of being made a spiritual being, and of judging all things, while he himself is judged by no one; so also, with respect to the state of the body, we are to hold that this very body which now, on account of its service to the soul, is styled an animal body, will, by means of a certain progress, when the soul, united to God, shall have been made one spirit with Him (the body even then ministering, as it were, to the spirit), attain to a spiritual condition and quality, especially since, as we have often pointed out, bodily nature was so formed by the Creator, as to pass easily into whatever condition he should wish, or the nature of the case demand.
7. The whole of this reasoning, then, amounts to this: that God created two general natures — a visible, i.e., a corporeal nature; and an invisible nature, which is incorporeal. Now these two natures admit of two different permutations. That invisible and rational nature changes in mind and purpose, because it is endowed with freedom of will, and is on this account found sometimes to be engaged in the practice of good, and sometimes in that of the opposite. But this corporeal nature admits of a change in substance; whence also God, the arranger of all things, has the service of this matter at His command in the moulding, or fabrication, or re-touching of whatever He wishes, so that corporeal nature may be transmuted, and transformed into any forms or species whatever, according as the deserts of things may demand; which the prophet evidently has in view when he says,
It is God who makes and transforms all things.
8. And now the point for investigation is, whether, when God shall be all in all, the whole of bodily nature will, in the consummation of all things, consist of one species, and the sole quality of body be that which shall shine in the indescribable glory which is to be regarded as the future possession of the spiritual body. For if we rightly understand the matter, this is the statement of Moses in the beginning of his book, when he says,
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. For this is the beginning of all creation: to this beginning the end and consummation of all things must be recalled, i.e., in order that that heaven and that earth may be the habitation and resting-place of the pious; so that all the holy ones, and the meek, may first obtain an inheritance in that land, since this is the teaching of the law, and of the prophets, and of the Gospel. In which land I believe there exist the true and living forms of that worship which Moses handed down under the shadow of the law; of which it is said, that
they serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things — those, viz., who were in subjection in the law. To Moses himself also was the injunction given,
Look that you make them after the form and pattern which were showed you on the mount. From which it appears to me, that as on this earth the law was a sort of schoolmaster to those who by it were to be conducted to Christ, in order that, being instructed and trained by it, they might more easily, after the training of the law, receive the more perfect principles of Christ; so also another earth, which receives into it all the saints, may first imbue and mould them by the institutions of the true and everlasting law, that they may more easily gain possession of those perfect institutions of heaven, to which nothing can be added; in which there will be, of a truth, that Gospel which is called everlasting, and that Testament, ever new, which shall never grow old.
9. In this way, accordingly, we are to suppose that at the consummation and restoration of all things, those who make a gradual advance, and who ascend (in the scale of improvement), will arrive in due measure and order at that land, and at that training which is contained in it, where they may be prepared for those better institutions to which no addition can be made. For, after His agents and servants, the Lord Christ, who is King of all, will Himself assume the kingdom; i.e., after instruction in the holy virtues, He will Himself instruct those who are capable of receiving Him in respect of His being wisdom, reigning in them until He has subjected them to the Father, who has subdued all things to Himself, i.e., that when they shall have been made capable of receiving God, God may be to them all in all. Then accordingly, as a necessary consequence, bodily nature will obtain that highest condition to which nothing more can be added. Having discussed, up to this point, the quality of bodily nature, or of spiritual body, we leave it to the choice of the reader to determine what he shall consider best. And here we may bring the third book to a conclusion.
Source. Translated by Frederick Crombie. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/04123.htm>.
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