Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume XI/John Cassian/Conferences of John Cassian, Part II/Conference XIII/Chapter 10

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Chapter X.

On the weakness of free will.

For Holy Scripture supports the freedom of the will where it says: “Keep thy heart with all diligence,”[1] but the Apostle indicates its weakness by saying “The Lord keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”[2] David asserts the power of free will, where he says “I have inclined my heart to do Thy righteous acts,”[3] but the same man in like manner teaches us its weakness, by praying and saying, “Incline my heart unto Thy testimonies and not to covetousness:”[4] Solomon also: “The Lord incline our hearts unto Himself that we may walk in all His ways and keep His commandments, and ordinances and judgments.”[5] The Psalmist denotes the power of our will, where he says: “Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips that they speak no guile,”[6] our prayer testifies to its weakness, when we say: “O Lord, set a watch before my mouth, and keep the door of my lips.”[7] The importance of our will is maintained by the Lord, when we find “Break the chains of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion:”[8] of its weakness the prophet sings, when he says: “The Lord looseth them that are bound:”  and “Thou hast broken my chains: To Thee will I offer the sacrifice of praise.”[9] We hear in the gospel the Lord summoning us to come speedily to Him by our free will: “Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you,”[10] but the same Lord testifies to its weakness, by saying: “No man can come unto Me except the Father which sent Me draw him.”[11] The Apostle indicates our free will by saying: “So run that ye may obtain:”[12] but to its weakness John Baptist bears witness where he says: “No man can receive anything of himself, except it be given him from above.”[13] We are commanded to keep our souls with all care, when the Prophet says: “Keep your souls,”[14] but by the same spirit another Prophet proclaims: “Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”[15] The Apostle writing to the Philippians, to show that their will is free, says “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” but to point out its weakness, he adds: “For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”[16]


Footnotes[edit]

  1. Prov. iv. 23.
  2. Phil. iv. 7.
  3. Ps. cxviii. (cxix.) 112.
  4. Ib. ver. 36.
  5. 1 Kings viii. 58.
  6. Ps. xxxiii. (xxxiv.) 14.
  7. Ps. cxl. (cxli.) 3.
  8. Is. lii. 2.
  9. Ps. cxlv (cxlvi.) 7; cxv. (cxvi.) 16, 17.
  10. S. Matt. xi. 28.
  11. S. John vi. 44.
  12. 1 Cor. ix. 24.
  13. S. John iii. 27.
  14. Jer. xvii. 21.
  15. Ps. cxxvi. (cxxvii.) 1.
  16. Phil. ii. 12, 13.