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Grace Establishes Free Will, by Augustin of Hippo

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by Jason Smathers on September 12, 2009

Do we then by grace make void free will? God forbid! Nay, rather we establish free will. For even as the law by faith, so free will by grace, is not made void, but established.(Romans 3:31) For neither is the law fulfilled except by free will; but by the law is the knowledge of sin, by faith the acquisition of grace against sin, by grace the healing of the soul from the disease of sin, by the health of the soul freedom of will, by free will the love of righteousness, by love of righteousness the accomplishment of the law. Accordingly, as the law is not made void, but is established through faith, since faith procures grace whereby the law is fulfilled; so free will is not made void through grace, but is established, since grace cures the will whereby righteousness is freely loved. Now all the stages which I have here connected together in their successive links, have severally their proper voices in the sacred Scriptures. The law says: “Thou shall not covet.”(Exodus 20:17) Faith says: “Heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee.”(Psalm 41:4) Grace says: “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.”(John 5:14) Health says: “O Lord my God, I cried unto Thee, and Thou hast healed me.”(Psalm 30:2) Free will says: “I will freely sacrifice unto Thee.”(Psalm 54:6) Love of righteousness says: “Transgressors told me pleasant tales, but not according to Thy law, O Lord.”(Psalm 119:85) How is it then that miserable men dare to be proud, either of their free will, before they are freed, or of their own strength, if they have been freed? They do not observe that in the very mention of free will they pronounce the name of liberty. But “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”(2 Corinthians 3:17) If, therefore, they are the slaves of sin, why do they boast of free will? For by what a man is overcome, to the same is he delivered as a slave.(2 Peter 2:19) But if they have been freed, why do they vaunt themselves as if it were by their own doing, and boast, as if they had not received? Or are they free in such sort that they do not choose to have Him for their Lord who says to them: “Without me ye can do nothing;”(John 15:5) and “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed?”(John 8:36)


Copied from A Treatise on the spirit and the letter, by Aurelius Augustin, bishop of hippo; In One Book, Addressed to Marcellinus, a.d. 412.

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