Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume XI/John Cassian/Conferences of John Cassian, Part I/Conference III/Chapter 15
That the understanding, by means of which we can recognize God’s commands, and the performance of a good will are both gifts from the Lord.
Further the blessed David asks of the Lord that he may gain that very understanding, by which he can recognize God’s commands which, he well knew, were written in the book of the law, and he says “I am Thy servant: O give me understanding that I may learn Thy commandments.” Certainly he was in possession of understanding, which had been granted to him by nature, and also had at his fingers’ ends a knowledge of God’s commands which were preserved in writing in the law: and still he prayed the Lord that he might learn this more thoroughly as he knew that what came to him by nature would never be sufficient for him, unless his understanding was enlightened by the Lord by a daily illumination from Him, to understand the law spiritually and to recognize His commands more clearly, as the “chosen vessel” also declares very plainly this which we are insisting on. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do according to good will.” What could well be clearer than the assertion that both our good will and the completion of our work are fully wrought in us by the Lord? And again “For it is granted to you for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for Him.” Here also he declares that the beginning of our conversion and faith, and the endurance of suffering is a gift to us from the Lord. And David too, as he knows this, similarly prays that the same thing may be granted to him by God’s mercy. “Strengthen, O God, that which Thou hast wrought in us:” showing that it is not enough for the beginning of our salvation to be granted by the gift and grace of God, unless it has been continued and ended by the same pity and continual help from Him. For not free will but the Lord “looseth them that are bound.” No strength of ours, but the Lord “raiseth them that are fallen:” no diligence in reading, but “the Lord enlightens the blind:” where the Greeks have κύριος σοφοῖ τυφλούς, i.e., “the Lord maketh wise the blind:” no care on our part, but “the Lord careth for the stranger:” no courage of ours, but “the Lord assists (or supports) all those who are down.” But this we say, not to slight our zeal and efforts and diligence, as if they were applied unnecessarily and foolishly, but that we may know that we cannot strive without the help of God, nor can our efforts be of any use in securing the great reward of purity, unless it has been granted to us by the assistance and mercy of the Lord: for “a horse is prepared for the day of battle: but help cometh from the Lord,” “for no man can prevail by strength.” We ought then always to sing with the blessed David: “My strength and my praise is” not my free will, but “the Lord, and He is become my salvation.” And the teacher of the Gentiles was not ignorant of this when he declared that he was made capable of the ministry of the New Testament not by his own merits or efforts but by the mercy of God. “Not” says he, “that we are capable of thinking anything of ourselves as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, which can be put in less good Latin but more forcibly, “our capability is of God,” and then there follows: “Who also made us capable ministers of the New Testament.”
- Ps. cxviii. (cxix.) 125.
- Phil. ii. 13.
- Phil. i. 29.
- Ps. lxvii. (lxviii.) 29.
- Ps. cxlv. (cxlvi.) 7, 8, 9; cxliv. (cxlv.) 16.
- Prov. xxi. 31.
- 1 Sam. ii. 9.
- Ps. cxvii. (cxviii.) 14.
- 2 Cor. iii. 5, 6.