Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/On the Spirit and the Letter/Chapter 7
Chapter 7 [V.]—What is Proposed to Be Here Treated.
We will, however, consider, if you please, the whole of this passage of the apostle and thoroughly handle it, as the Lord shall enable us. For I want, if possible, to prove that the apostle’s words, “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life,” do not refer to figurative phrases,—although even in this sense a suitable signification might be obtained from them,—but rather plainly to the law, which forbids whatever is evil. When I shall have proved this, it will more manifestly appear that to lead a holy life is the gift of God,—not only because God has given a free-will to man, without which there is no living ill or well; nor only because He has given him a commandment to teach him how he ought to live; but because through the Holy Ghost He sheds love abroad in the hearts of those whom he foreknew, in order to predestinate them; whom He predestinated, that He might call them; whom He called, that he might justify them; and whom he justified, that He might glorify them. When this point also shall be cleared, you will, I think, see how vain it is to say that those things only are unexampled possibilities, which are the works of God,—such as the passage of the camel through the needle’s eye, which we have already referred to, and other similar cases, which to us no doubt are impossible, but easy enough to God; and that man’s righteousness is not to be counted in this class of things, on the ground of its being properly man’s work, not God’s; although there is no reason for supposing, without an example, that his perfection exists, even if it is possible. That these assertions are vain will be clear enough, after it has been also plainly shown that even man’s righteousness must be attributed to the operation of God, although not taking place without man’s will; and we therefore cannot deny that his perfection is possible even in this life, because all things are possible with God, —both those which He accomplishes of His own sole will, and those which He appoints to be done with the cooperation with Himself of His creature’s will. Accordingly, whatever of such things He does not effect is no doubt without an example in the way of accomplished facts, although with God it possesses both in His power the cause of its possibility, and in His wisdom the reason of its unreality. And should this cause be hidden from man, let him not forget that he is a man; nor charge God with folly simply because he cannot fully comprehend His wisdom.
- Rom. vii. 7.
- Rom. viii. 29, 30.
- Mark x. 27.