Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/On the Spirit and the Letter/Chapter 57
Chapter 57 [XXXIII.]—Whence Comes the Will to Believe?
But it remains for us briefly to inquire, Whether the will by which we believe be itself the gift of God, or whether it arise from that free will which is naturally implanted in us? If we say that it is not the gift of God, we must then incur the fear of supposing that we have discovered some answer to the apostle’s reproachful appeal: “What hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now, if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”—even some such an answer as this: “See, we have the will to believe, which we did not receive. See in what we glory,—even in what we did not receive!” If, however, we were to say that this kind of will is nothing but the gift of God, we should then have to fear lest unbelieving and ungodly men might not unreasonably seem to have some fair excuse for their unbelief, in the fact that God has refused to give them this will. Now this that the apostle says, “It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His own good pleasure,” belongs already to that grace which faith secures, in order that good works may be within the reach of man,—even the good works which faith achieves through the love which is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost which is given to us. If we believe that we may attain this grace (and of course believe voluntarily), then the question arises whence we have this will?—if from nature, why it is not at everybody’s command, since the same God made all men? if from God’s gift, then again, why is not the gift open to all, since “He will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth?”
- 1 Cor. iv. 7.
- Phil. ii. 13.
- 1 Tim. ii. 4.