Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/Against Two Letters of the Pelagians/Book I/Chapter 37
Chapter 37 [XIX.]—The Beginning of a Good Will is the Gift of Grace.
But you think that a man is so aided by the grace of God in a good work, that in stirring up his will to that very good work you believe that grace does nothing; for this your own words sufficiently declare. For why have you not said that a man is incited by God’s grace to a good work, as you have said that he is incited to evil by the suggestions of the devil, but have said that in a good work he is always aided by God’s grace?—as if by his own will, and without any grace of God, he undertook a good work, and were then divinely assisted in the work itself, for the sake, that is to say, of the merits of his good will; so that grace is rendered as due,—not given as not due,—and thus grace is made no more grace. But this is what, in the Palestinian judgment, Pelagius with a deceitful heart condemned,—that the grace of God, namely, is given according to our merits. Tell me, I beseech you, what good, Paul, while he was as yet Saul, willed, and not rather great evils, when breathing out slaughter he went, in horrible darkness of mind and madness, to lay waste the Christians? For what merits of a good will did God convert him by a marvellous and sudden calling from those evils to good things? What shall I say, when he himself cries, “Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us”? What is that which I have already mentioned as having been said by the Lord, “No one can come to me,”—which is understood as “believe on me,”—unless it were given him of my Father”? Whether is this given to him who is already willing to believe, for the sake of the merits of a good will? or rather is the will itself, as in the case of Saul, stirred up from above, that he may believe, even although he is so averse from the faith as even to persecute the believers? For how has the Lord commanded us to pray for those who persecute us? Do we pray thus that the grace of God may be recompensed them for the sake of their good will, and not rather that the evil will itself may be changed into a good one? Just as we believe that at that time the saints whom he was persecuting did not pray for Saul in vain, that his will might be converted to the faith which he was destroying. And indeed that his conversion was effected from above, appeared even by a manifest miracle. But how many enemies of Christ are at the present day suddenly drawn by God’s secret grace to Christ! And if I had not set down this word from the gospel, what things would that man have said in this behalf concerning me, since even now he is stirring, not against me, but against Him who cries, “No man can come to me, except the Father who hath sent me draw him”! For He does not say, “except He lead him,” so that we can thus in any way understand that his will precedes. For who is “drawn,” if he was already willing? And yet no man comes unless he is willing. Therefore he is drawn in wondrous ways to will, by Him who knows how to work within the very hearts of men. Not that men who are unwilling should believe, which cannot be, but that they should be made willing from being unwilling.
- Rom. xi. 6.
- Acts ix. 1.
- Tit. iii. 5.
- See above, ch. 6.
- John vi. 66.
- John vi. 44.