Chapter 103. Interpretation of the Expression in (1Tim2:4) “Who Will Have All Men to Be Saved.”
Accordingly, when we hear and read in Scripture that, “He will have all men to be saved,” (1Tim2:4), although we know well that all men are not saved, we are not on that account to restrict the omnipotence of God, but are rather to understand the Scripture. Who will have all men to be saved, as meaning that no man is saved unless God wills his salvation: not that there is no man whose salvation He does not will, but that no man is saved apart from His will; and that, therefore, we should pray Him to will our salvation, because if He will it, it must necessarily be accomplished. And it was of prayer to God that the apostle was speaking when he used this expression. And on the same principle we interpret the expression in the Gospel: The “true light which lights every man that comes into the world (Jn1:9):” not that there is no man who is not enlightened, but that no man is enlightened except by Him. Or, it is said, Who will have all men to be saved; not that there is no man whose salvation He does not will (for how, then, explain the fact that He was unwilling to work miracles in the presence of some who, He said, would have repented if He had worked them?), but that we are to understand by all men, the human race in all its varieties of rank and circumstances — kings, subjects; noble, plebeian, high, low, learned, and unlearned; the sound in body, the feeble, the clever, the dull, the foolish, the rich, the poor, and those of middling circumstances; males, females, infants, boys, youths; young, middle-aged, and old men; of every tongue, of every fashion, of all arts, of all professions, with all the innumerable differences of will and conscience, and whatever else there is that makes a distinction among men. For which of all these classes is there out of which God does not will that men should be saved in all nations through His only-begotten Son, our Lord, and therefore does save them; for the Omnipotent cannot will in vain, whatsoever He may will? Now the apostle had enjoined that prayers should be made for all men, and had especially added, For kings, and for all that are in authority, who might be supposed, in the pride and pomp of worldly station, to shrink from the humility of the Christian faith. Then saying, For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, that is, that prayers should be made for such as these, he immediately adds, as if to remove any ground of despair, Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. God, then, in His great condescension has judged it good to grant to the prayers of the humble the salvation of the exalted; and assuredly we have many examples of this. Our Lord, too, makes use of the same mode of speech in the Gospel, when He says to the Pharisees, “You tithe mint, and rue, and every herb.” (Lk11:42). For the Pharisees, did not tithe what belonged to others, nor all the herbs of all the inhabitants of other lands. As, then, in this place we must understand by every herb, every kind of herbs, so in the former passage we may understand by all men, every sort of men. And we may interpret it in any other way we please, so long as we are not compelled to believe that the omnipotent God has willed anything to be done which was not done: for setting aside all ambiguities, if “He has done all that He pleased in heaven and in earth,” as the psalmist sings of Him, (Ps135:6) He certainly did not will to do anything that He has not done.
Chapter 104. God, Foreknowing the Sin of the First Man, Ordered His Own Purposes Accordingly.
Wherefore, God would have been willing to preserve even the first man in that state of salvation in which he was created, and after he had begotten sons to remove him at a fit time, without the intervention of death, to a better place, where he should have been not only free from sin, but free even from the desire of sinning, if He had foreseen that man would have the steadfast will to persist in the state of innocence in which he was created. But as He foresaw that man would make a bad use of his free-will, that is, would sin, God arranged His own designs rather with a view to do good to man even in his sinfulness, that thus the good will of the Omnipotent might not be made void by the evil will of man, but might be fulfilled in spite of it.
Chapter 105. Man Was So Created as to Be Able to Choose Either Good or Evil: in the Future Life, the Choice of Evil Will Be Impossible.
Now it was expedient that man should be at first so created, as to have it in his power both to will what was right and to will what was wrong; not without reward if he willed the former, and not without punishment if he willed the latter. But in the future life it shall not be in his power to will evil; and yet this will constitute no restriction on the freedom of his will. On the contrary, his will shall be much freer when it shall be wholly impossible for him to be the slave of sin. We should never think of blaming the will, or saying that it was no will, or that it was not to be called free, when we so desire happiness, that not only do we shrink from misery, but find it utterly impossible to do otherwise. As, then, the soul even now finds it impossible to desire unhappiness, so in future it shall be wholly impossible for it to desire sin. But God’s arrangement was not to be broken, according to which He willed to show how good is a rational being who is able even to refrain from sin, and yet how much better is one who cannot sin at all; just as that was an inferior sort of immorality, and yet it was immorality, when it was possible for man to avoid death, although there is reserved for the future a more perfect immorality, when it shall be impossible for man to die.
Chapter 106. The Grace of God Was Necessary to Man’s Salvation Before the Fall as Well as After It.
The former immorality man lost through the exercise of his free-will; the latter he shall obtain through grace, whereas, if he had not sinned, he should have obtained it by desert. Even in that case, however, there could have been no merit without grace; because, although the mere exercise of man’s free-will was sufficient to bring in sin, his free-will would not have sufficed for his maintenance in righteousness, unless God had assisted it by imparting a portion of His unchangeable goodness. Just as it is in man’s power to die whenever he will (for, not to speak of other means, any one can put an end to himself by simple abstinence from food), but the mere will cannot preserve life in the absence of food and the other means of life; so man in paradise was able of his mere will, simply by abandoning righteousness, to destroy himself; but to have maintained a life of righteousness would have been too much for his will, unless it had been sustained by the Creator’s power. After the fall, however, a more abundant exercise of God’s mercy was required, because the will itself had to be freed from the bondage in which it was held by sin and death. And the will owes its freedom in no degree to itself, but solely to the grace of God which comes by faith in Jesus Christ; so that the very will, through which we accept all the other gifts of God which lead us on to His eternal gift, is itself prepared of the Lord, as the Scripture says.
Chapter 107. Eternal Life, Though the Reward of Good Works, is Itself the Gift of God.
Wherefore, even eternal life itself, which is surely the reward of good works, the apostle calls the gift of God. For the wages of sin, he says, is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Wages (stipendium) is paid as a recompense for military service; it is not a gift: wherefore he says, the wages of sin is death, to show that death was not inflicted undeservedly, but as the due recompense of sin. But a gift, unless it is wholly unearned, is not a gift at all. We are to understand, then, that man’s good deserts are themselves the gift of God,so that when these obtain the recompense of eternal life, it is simply grace given for grace. Man, therefore, was thus made upright that, though unable to remain in his uprightness without divine help, he could of his own mere will depart from it. And whichever of these courses he had chosen, God will would have been done, either by him, or concerning him. Therefore, as he chose to do his own will rather than God’s, the will of God is fulfilled concerning him; for God, out of one and the same heap of perdition which constitutes the race of man, makes one vessel to honor, another to dishonor; to honor in mercy, to dishonor in judgment; that no one may glory in man, and consequently not in himself.
Chapter 108. A Mediator Was Necessary to Reconcile Us to God; And Unless This Mediator Had Been God, He Could Not Have Been Our Redeemer.
For we could not be redeemed, even through the one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, if He were not also God. Now when Adam was created, he, being a righteous man, had no need of a mediator. But when sin had placed a wide gulf between God and the human race, it was expedient that a Mediator, who alone of the human race was born, lived, and died without sin, should reconcile us to God, and procure even for our bodies a resurrection to eternal life, in order that the pride of man might be exposed and cured through the humility of God; that man might be shown how far he had departed from God,when God became incarnate to bring him back; that an example might be set to disobedient man in the life of obedience of the God-Man; that the fountain of grace might be opened by the Only-begotten taking upon Himself the form of a servant, a form which had no antecedent merit; that an earnest of that resurrection of the body which is promised to the redeemed might be given in the resurrection of the Redeemer; that the devil might be subdued by the same nature which it was his boast to have deceived, and yet man not glorified, lest pride should again spring up; and, in fine, with a view to all the advantages which the thoughtful can perceive and describe, or perceive without being able to describe, as flowing from the transcendent mystery of the person of the Mediator.
Chapter 109. The State of the Soul During the Interval Between Death and the Resurrection.
During the time, moreover, which intervenes between a man’s death and the final resurrection, the soul dwells in a hidden retreat, where it enjoys rest or suffers affliction just in proportion to the merit it has earned by the life which it led on earth.