Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/On Grace and Free Will/Abstract/Chapter 33
Chapter 33 [XVII.]—A Good Will May Be Small and Weak; An Ample Will, Great Love. Operating and Co-operating Grace.
He, therefore, who wishes to do God’s commandment, but is unable, already possesses a good will, but as yet a small and weak one; he will, however, become able when he shall have acquired a great and robust will. When the martyrs did the great commandments which they obeyed, they acted by a great will,—that is, with great love. Of this love the Lord Himself thus speaks: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  In accordance with this, the apostle also says, “He that loveth his neighbour hath fulfilled the law. For this: Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” This love the Apostle Peter did not yet possess, when he for fear thrice denied the Lord. “There is no fear in love,” says the Evangelist John in his first Epistle, “but perfect love casteth out fear.” But yet, however small and imperfect his love was, it was not wholly wanting when he said to the Lord, “I will lay down my life for Thy sake;” for he supposed himself able to effect what he felt himself willing to do. And who was it that had begun to give him his love, however small, but He who prepares the will, and perfects by His co-operation what He initiates by His operation? Forasmuch as in beginning He works in us that we may have the will, and in perfecting works with us when we have the will. On which account the apostle says, “I am confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” He operates, therefore, without us, in order that we may will; but when we will, and so will that we may act, He co-operates with us. We can, however, ourselves do nothing to effect good works of piety without Him either working that we may will, or co-working when we will. Now, concerning His working that we may will, it is said: “It is God which worketh in you, even to will.” While of His co-working with us, when we will and act by willing, the apostle says, “We know that in all things there is co-working for good to them that love God.” What does this phrase, “all things,” mean, but the terrible and cruel sufferings which affect our condition? That burden, indeed, of Christ, which is heavy for our infirmity, becomes light to love. For to such did the Lord say that His burden was light, as Peter was when he suffered for Christ, not as he was when he denied Him.
- John xv. 13.
- Lev. xix. 18.
- Rom. xiii. 8–10.
- Matt. xxvi. 69–75.
- 1 John iv. 18.
- John xiii. 37.
- Compare Art. X. of the Church of England.
- Phil. i. 6.
- Phil. ii. 13.
- Rom. viii. 28. The Latin indefinite passive co-operatur invited this turn in the usage of the passage.
- Matt. xi. 30.