October 27, 2009

Augustine on God's Will

Chap. 100.–THE WILL OF GOD IS NEVER DEFEATED, THOUGH MUCH IS DONE THAT IS CONTRARY TO HIS WILL.

These are the great works of the Lord, sought out according to all His pleasure, and so wisely sought out, that when the intelligent creation, both angelic and human, sinned, doing not His will but their own, He used the very will of the creature which was working in opposition to the Creator's will as an instrument for carrying out His will, the supremely Good thus turning to good account even what is evil, to the condemnation of those whom in His justice He has predestined to punishment, and to the salvation of those whom in His mercy He has predestined to grace. For, as far as relates to their own consciousness, these creatures did what God wished not to be done: but in view of God's omnipotence, they could in no wise effect their purpose. For in the very fact that they acted in opposition to His will, His will concerning them was fulfilled. And hence it is that "the works of the Lord are great, sought out according to all His pleasure," because in a way unspeakably strange and wonderful, even what is done in opposition to His will does not defeat His will. For it would not be done did He not permit it (and of course His permission is not unwilling, but willing); nor would a Good Being permit evil to be done only that in His omnipotence He can turn evil into good.
Augustine, "On Faith, Hope and Love," in NPNF, 1st series, ed. P. Schaff (1888; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004), 3:269.

Here is the Latin:
C. Haec sunt magna opera Domini, exquisita in omnes voluntates eius), et tam sapienter exquisita, ut quum angelica et humana creatura peccasset, id est, non quod ille, sed quod voluit ipsa fecisset, etiam per eamdem creaturae voluntatem, qua factum est, quod creator noluit, impleret ipse quod voluit, bene utens et malis, tamquam summe bonus ad eorum damnationem, quos iuste praedestinavit ad poenam, et ad eorum salutem, quos benigne praedestinavit ad gratiam.) Quantum enim ad ipsos adtinet, quod Deus noluit, fecerunt; quantum vero ad omnipotentiam Dei, nullo modo id efficere valuerunt. Hoc quippe ipso, quod contra voluntas eius. Propterea namque magna opera Domini, exquisita in omnes voluntates eius, ut miro et ineffabili modo non fiat praeter eius voluntatem, quod etiam contra eius fit voluntatem; quia non fieret, si non sineret (nec utique nolens sinit, sed volens); nec sineret bonus fieri male, nisi omnipotens et de malo facere posset bene.
S. Aurelii Augustini, “Enchiridion ad Laurent,” in  De Doctrina Christiana Libri Quatuor et Enchiridion ad Laurentium, ed. Car. Herm. Bruder (Lipsiae: Sumtimbus Et Typis Caroli Tauchnitii, 1838), 238.

Since I have seen this section in Augustine's Enchiridion referenced in a number of the Puritans (like John Arrowsmith, a Westminster divine), I decided to post the entire chapter. See also Thomas Watson on God's will of precept and permissive decree. Théodore Bèze, Walter Haddon, Jacob Kimedoncius, Edward Bulkley, William Perkins, Guillaume Bucanus, Daniel Featley, Richard Resbury, Wiliam Twisse, John Knox, William Whitaker, and Johannes  Hermanus Dalhusius also cite this section from Augustine approvingly.

Prosper rightly represents historic Augustinianism on God's will, and he said this:
Likewise, he who says that God will not have all men to be saved but only the fixed number of the predestined, speaks more harshly than we should speak of the depth of the unsearchable grace of God.
Prosper of Aquitaine: Defense of St. Augustine, trans. by P. De letter (New York: Newman Press, 1963), 159.

Update on 10-18-14:
“These are the great works of the Lord, sought out unto all His wills” (ver. 2): through which mercy forsaketh none who confesseth, no man’s wickedness is unpunished. . . . Let man choose for himself what he listeth: the works of the Lord are not so constituted, that the creature, having free discretion allowed him, should transcend the will of the Creator, even though he act contrary to His will. God willeth not that thou shouldest sin; for He forbiddeth it: yet if thou hast sinned, imagine not that the man hath done what he willed, and that hath happened to God which He willed not. For as He would that man would not sin, so would He spare the sinner, that he may return and live; He so willeth finally to punish him who persisteth in his sin, that the rebellious cannot escape the power of justice. Thus whatever choice thou hast made, the Almighty will not be at a loss to fulfill His will concerning thee.
Augustine, "Exposition on the Book of Psalms," NPNF, 1st Series, ed. by Philip Schaff (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004), 8:545. [Note: Augustine's meaning in the underlined portion above is this: In the sense that God doesn't want man to sin (but rather to obey), in that sense (i.e. according to the revealed will) he wishes to spare the sinner, that he may return and live.]

Calvin cites both of these quotes (from Augustine's Enchiridion and Exposition of the Psalms) in his Institutes 1.18.3.

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