Calvinism in the Early ChurchThe Doctrines of Grace Taught by the Early Church Fathers
Did the Early Church Believe the Doctrines of Grace?
There are a number of websites (some quite terrible, others a bit scholarly, yet equally terrible) that attempt to dissuade investigative readers to believe that, except for Augustine, or at least until the “time of Augustine”, that the early church did not believe in the depravity of man, in unconditional election and/or a sovereign predestination, a limited atonement in extent of Jesus Christ, grace that is irresistible, and the final perseverance of the saints. This is a tragedy. Why? With a hearty consulting of primary sources, readers can certainly find the “infant stages” of all these Gospel doctrines throughout the writings of the early church. And not only these can be found in “infant stages” but they can be found quite specifically in many of the early writers.
If you want to study Augustine, and you would like a formal study on this topic, then check out my Th.D. dissertation on “Augustine’s Calvinism: The Doctrines of Grace in Augustine’s Writings.” It is filled with quotes and citations from a thorough reading and studying of all Augustine’s writings in context, (see beleow).
Also take into account that many times the early church fathers must be understood in light of their wider corpus of material. This means that in the infant stage of the church, the “fathers” used “infantile” definitions, many times which are more general, undefined, or imprecise, for concepts like free will, predestination, regeneration, sanctification, mortification, and the like. You, the reader, may believe they didn’t believe in regeneration for example, but instead, in studying their literature, we come to find out that regeneration meant, for them, both being born again and included ideas of sanctification. Regeneration for Augustine, for example, included sanctification of the Christian life. The whole Christian life was being regenerated by the Spirit of God. That does not discount him from believing in regeneration as John 3 teaches it, or as Calvin or Westminster defined it, but that their understanding of it was not as defined in his writings in some places as we would like it to be. We have to search a bit more to see that they certainly agreed with the teachings of the Reformation.
There are a number of works which show the early church did in fact beleive the Gospel, and this particular webpage is not meant to be an exhaustive list. If you want to further investigate I would recommend the 4th book of John Gill’s work, The Cause of God and Truth, where Gill, working from primary sources and manuscripts, who was a scholar on languages in his own right, has compiled almost an exhaustive list of the early church and some of the best quotes on these doctrines available.
The Fourth Part of his work was published in 1738, and it gives the sense of the ancient writers of the Christian Church, before the times of Augustine. The importance of this is shown demonstrating that the Roman Catholics, Pelagians and Arminians have very little reason to boast on the account that the church fathers never taught such things. They ought not, having misunderstood these early church writings, not set up deluding websites to that mistaken end; or in the old days, written weak books about it.
These quotes are partly taken from Gill’s work, and partly researched, and partly taken from other Reformed writers who have published some “quotable” works on the early fathers.
In the citations below, I’ve chosen the cutoff date of “around” 380 A.D. If you want to read the myriads of quotes from various men like Arnobius A.D. 290, Epiphanius A.D. 390, Gaudentius Brixiensis A.D. 390, Joannes Chrysostomus A.D. 390, Ruffinus Aquileiensis A.D. 390., Hieronymus A.D. 390, Gregorius Nyssenus A.D. 380, etc, check out Gill’s work. There are scores of people listed. Again, this list is by no means exhaustive. It is simply a small sampling from their works.
LEGEND for the Quotes:
(P) – Predestination / Unconditional Election, (T) Depravity of Man, (L) Limited Atonement, (I) Irresistible Grace, (Per) Perseverance of the Saints.
Clemens Romanus. A.D. 69
(P) “This blessedness comes upon those that are chosen of God by Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Epist. ad Corinth. 1:p. 114).
(T) “All therefore are glorified and magnified, not by themselves or their own works of righteous actions, which they have wrought out, but by his will,” (Clement, Ep. 1, ad. Corinth. p. 72.).
(T) “‘not by ourselves, nor by our wisdom, or understanding, or piety, or the works which we have done in holiness of heart,’ but by faith by which God Almighty hath justified all from the beginning, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen,” (Ibid).
(I) “He that is chaste in the flesh, let him not be proud or insolent: knowing that it is another who furnishes him with the gift of contingence,” (Ep. ad Corinth. 1, p. 78.).
(L) “Making it manifest, that through the blood of the Lord there should be redemption for all those that believe and hope in God,” (Ep. ad Corinth. p. 30).
(P) “God hath chosen the Lord Jesus Christ, and us by him,” (Episi. ad Corinth. p. 130, 114.).
(P) “When he wills, and as he wills, he does all things; none of those things which are decreed by him, shall pass away,” (Epist. ad Corinth. 1:p. 64.)
(L) “Without love nothing is well-pleasing to God; in love the Lord assumed us to himself; because of the love which Christ our Lord hath towards us, he hath given his blood for us, his flesh for our flesh, and his soul for our souls,” (Ep. ad Corinth. p. 112.).
(Per.) “Whereas it is the will of God, that all whom he loves should partake of repentance, and so not perish with the unbelieving and impenitent, he has established it by his almighty will.’ But if any of those whom God wills should partake of the grace of repentance, should afterwards perish, where is his almighty will? And how is this matter settled and established by such a will of his?” (Ep. 1, ad Cor. p. 20).
Barnabas. A.D. 70.
(T) “When we receive the righteous promise, of sin being no more, being made all new by the Lord,’ then shall we be able to sanctify it, being first sanctified ourselves,” (Barnab. Ep. Far. 1, sect. 11. p. 224.).
(Per.) “Because, the kingdom of Jesus depends upon the tree (he means the cross,) wherefore they that hope in him shall live for ever,” (Bernal. Ep. par. 1, c. 6, p. 227.).
Ignatius. A.D. 110
(T) “They that are carnal,” says he, “cannot do the things that are spiritual, nor they that are spiritual do the things that are carnal, as neither faith the things of unbelief, nor unbelief the things of faith,” (Ep. ad Ephesians p. 22.).
(L) That Christ suffered, “for us, that we might be saved,” “for our sins.” “Jesus Christ died for us, that believing in his death, you may escape dying,” for, “Jesus is the life of believers,” (Ignat. ep. ad Smyrn. p. 2, 5; ad. Polycarp, p. 12; ad. Ephesians p. 17; ad. Romans p. 59. Ep. ad Tralles, p. 47. Ep. ad Romans p. 59. Apol. Pro Christ. 1, p. 45.).
Justin. A.D. 150.
We bear, that we may not, “with our voice deny Christ, by whom we are called unto the salvation which is before prepared by our Father,” (Dialog. cum. Tryph. p. 360).
“The Lord of glory, who exists for ever, would give to them all to enjoy honor and rest, with the elect,” (Epist. ad Zeuam et Sereu. p. 515.)
(T) “Mankind by Adam fell under death, and the deception of the serpent; that ‘we are born sinners;’ and that we are entirely flesh, and no good thing dwells in us; he asserts the weakness and disability of men either to understand or perform spiritual things, and denies that man, by the natural sharpness of his wit, can attain to the knowledge of divine things, or by any innate power in him save himself, and procure eternal life,” (Epist. ad Zenam, p. 506.).
(T) “Having sometime before convinced us to of the impossibility of our nature to obtain life, hath now shown us the Savior, who is able to save that which otherwise were impossible to be saved,” (Epist. ad Diognet. p. 500.).
(P) “God, out of all nations, took your nation to himself, a nation unprofitable, disobedient, and unfaithful; thereby pointing out, those that are chosen out of every nation to obey his will, by Christ, whom also he calls Jacob, and names Israel,” (Dialog. cum Tryph, 359, 360.).
(L) “The offering of fine flour for the leper, was a figure of the bread of the Eucharist, which Jesus Christ our Lord hath delivered unto us to do in commemoration of his sufferings; which he endured for those men whose souls are purified from all iniquity, (Dialog. cum Tryph. p. 259, 260.).
(L) Jesus died for men of every kind, not all men. “As Jacob served Laban for the cattle that were spotted, and of various forms, so Christ served even to the cross, for men of every kind, of many and various shapes, procuring them by his blood, and the mystery of the cross,” (Dialog. cum Tryph, p. 364.).
(I) “Do you think, O men, that we could ever have been able to have understood these things in the Scriptures, unless by the will of him that wills these things, we had received grace to understand them,” (Dialog. cum Tryph. p. 346.).
Minutius Felix. A.D. 170.
Irenaeus. A.D. 180.
(P) “God is not so poor and indigent as not to give to every body its own soul as its proper form. Hence, having completed the number which he before determined with himself, all those who are written, or ordained unto life, shall rise again, having their own bodies, souls, and spirits, in which they pleased God; but those who are deserving of punishment shall go into it, having also their own souls and bodies in which they departed from the grace of God,” (L. 2, c. 62, inter Fragment. Graec. ad. calcem).
(P) “The tower of election being everywhere exalted and glorious,” (L. 4, c. 70, p. 412.
(T) Man, “will be justly condemned, because being made rational, ‘he has lost true reason,’ and lives irrationally, is contrary to the justice of God, giving himself up to every earthly spirit, and serves all pleasure,” (Adv. Haeres. 1. 4, c. 16, p. 460.).
(L) “All things he did for the younger Rachel, who had good eyes, who prefigured the church, for whom Christ endured, that is, sufferings and death,” (Adv. Haeres, c. 47, 1.88, p. 376.).
(L) Clement distinguishes between Christ’s being a Savior of some, and a Lord of others; for he says, that he is “the Savior of them that believe; but the Lord of them that believe not,” (Strom. 1.7, p. 703.).
(P) Having cited several passages of Scripture which respect the blinding and hardening of the heart of Pharaoh, and others, such as Isaiah 6:9, 10, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Romans 1:28, 2 Thessalonians 2:11, 12, which are commonly made use of in handling the doctrine of reprobation, he thus descants upon them, “If therefore now, as many as God knows, will not believe, since he foreknows all things, he hath given them up to their infidelity, and turns his face from them, leaving them in the darkness which they have chosen for themselves; is it to be wondered at, that he then gave up Pharaoh, who would never believe, with them that were with him, to their own infidelity?” (L. 4, c. 48, p. 389.)
(I) “Him we rightly show is known by none, unless by the Son, and such to whom the Son will reveal him; for the Son reveals him to all to whom the Father would be known,and neither without the good will and pleasure of the Father, nor without the administration of the Son, can any one know God,” (Adv. Hoeres. 1.4, c. 19, p. 333.).
(I) And as the dry earth, if it receives not moisture, does not “bring forth fruit, so likewise we, being first a dry tree, can never bring forth fruit unto life, without the rain which comes freely from above, that is, the Holy Spirit,” (Adv. Hoeres. 1.3, c. 19, p. 280.).
(Per.) Concerning Christians, “but the Spirit encompasses man within and without, as always abiding, and never leaves him,” (Iren. adv. Haeres. 1. 5, c. 12, p. 450; vide Fragm. Graec. ad Calcem Ireuaei.).
Clements Alexandrinus. A.D. 190.
(P) “According to the fitness which every one has, He, that is, God, distributes his benefits both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians; and to them who are predestinated from among them, and are in his own time called, faithful, and elect,” (Ibid. 50:7, p. 702, 703.).
(I) “Faith is not to be calumniated, as easy and vulgar, and what every one has. I say, therefore, that faith, whether it is founded on love or on fear, as the adversaries say, is something divine,” (Stromat, 1. 2, p. 372.).
(I) “It remains, that by divine grace, and by the word alone, which is from God, we understand that which is unknown,” (Stromat. 1.5, p. 588.).
(Per.) Speaking of a devout and religious person, he says, that, “such a soul shall never at any time be separated from God,” ( Stromat. 1. 6, p. 670).
(Per.) “We shall not fall, into corruption, who pass through into incorruption, because he sustains us; for he hath said, and he will do it.” And a little after he says,“his, that is, Christ’s goodness towards them, who through hearing have believed, is immoveable, and turns neither one way nor another,” (Paedagog. 1. 1, c. 9, p. 125-126.).
(P) “Jeremiah 1:5, 7, Do not say, I am a child; before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee, etc., his note upon it is, this prophecy intimates unto us, that those who before the foundation of the world are known by God unto faith; that is, are appointed by him to faith, are now babes, because of the will of God lately fulfilled, as we are new-born unto vocation and salvation,” (Paedadog. 50:1, c. 7, p. 111.)
(P) “It is not becoming, that a friend of God, on whom God has predestinated before the foundation of the world, to be put into the high adoption of children, should fall into pleasures or fears, and be unemployed in repressing the passions,” (Stromat. 50:6, p. 652.)
Tertullian. A.D. 200.
(T) Satan is “the angel of wickedness, the artificer of every error, the interpolator of every age; by whom man from the beginning being circumvented, so as to transgress the commands of God, was therefore delivered unto death, hence he has also made the whole kind, or all mankind, which springs from his seed, infected, partaker of his damnation,” (Tertullian. de Testimon. Animae, c. 3, p. 82.).
(L) “Yea, in that body in which he could die through the flesh, he died, not through the church, but verily for the church, by changing body for body, and that which is fleshly for that which is spiritual,” (Adv. Marcion. 1. 5, c. 19, p, 613.).
(Per.) Tertullian asserts, that the work of God cannot be lost, extinguished, or cease; “for what is of God is not so extinguished, as it is overshadowed; for it may be overshadowed,, because it is not God;. it cannot be extinguished, because it is of God,” (de Anima, c. 4,1, p. 342.).
(I) “By whom is truth found out without God? To whom is God known without Christ? By whom is Christ explored without the Holy Spirit? To whom is the Holy Spirit applied without the mystery of faith?” (De Anima, c. 1, p. 304.).
(I) “It is one thing to make, and another to create, but both he gives to one; man is the workmanship of the Creator, the same therefore who hath made, hath created in Christ. With respect to substance, he hath made him; with respect to grace, he hath created him,” (Adv. Marcio, 1. 5, c. 17, p. 609.).
Origenus Alexandrinus. A.D. 230.
“Not therefore any thing will be because God knows it to be future, but because it is future it is known by God before it comes to pass,” (In Romans 1:7, fol. 199, E.). Which entirely accords with what we assert, that God did not decree any thing because he foresaw it, but he foresaw it because he decreed it.
“All that are loved by God the Father, and preserved in Christ Jesus,” (In Matthew Homil. 30, fol. 62, B.).
(T) “In Adam,56 as saith the word, all die, and are condemned in the likeness of Adam’s transgression, which the divine word says not so much of some one, as of all mankind—for the curse of Adam is common to all,” (Contr. Cels. 1. 4, p. 191.).
(T) “This” he says, shows, that through sin the kingdom is given to death; nor could it reign many, unless it receives the right of reigning from sin; by which seems to be pointed out, that whereas the soul was created free by God, it could reduce itself into bondage through sin,” (Comm. in Joannem, p. 316.).
(T) “Because our free will is not sufficient to have a clean heart, but we are in need of God, who creates such an one; therefore it is said by him, who knew how to pray, Create in me a clean heart, O God!”(Contr. Cels. 1. 5, 1, 7, p. 354.).
(L) “The sufferings of Christ, indeed, confer life on them that believe, but death on them that believe not,” (Leviticus homil. 3, fol. 57, D.).
(L) “The church of Christ is strengthened by the grace of him who was crucified for her,” (In Genesis homil. 3, fol. 8, E.).
(L) “And to give his life a ransom for many,” thus, “for the many that believed on him,” (Com. in Matthew p. 422.).
(P) “Whoever dies in his sins, even if he profess to believe in Christ, does not truly believe in him; and even if that which exists without works be called faith, such faith is dead in itself, as we read in the epistle bearing the name of James (Commentaries on John 19:6).
(P) We are they “upon whom the ends of the ages have met, having ended their course.” We have been predestined by God, before the world was, (to arise) in the extreme end of the times. And so we are trained by God for the purpose of chastising, and (so to say) emasculating, the world. We are the circumcision–spiritual and carnal–of all things; for both in the spirit and in the flesh we circumcise worldly principles. (On the apparel of Women–Book II, Chapter 9)
(P) “All these things look this way, that the apostle may prove this; That if either Isaac or Jacob, for their merits, had been chosen to those things which they, being in the flesh sought after, and, by the works of the flesh, had deserved to be justified; then the grace of their merit might belong to the posterity of flesh and blood also, but now, since, their election does not arise from works, but from the purpose of God, from the will of him that calleth,” (In Rom.l. 7, fol. 195, G.).
(I) “Those words in Matthew 11:27 manifestly show, that God is known by a certain divine favor or grace,’ which is infused into the soul, not without God, but by a sort of an afflatus, or inspiration,” (Contr. Cels. 1. 6, p. 309, 310.).
(I) “It is the united sense of the whole church, that all the law is indeed spiritual; yet these things which the law breathes out are not known to all, but to them only to whom the grace of the Holy Spirit is given, in the word of wisdom and knowledge,” (Peri Arcwn, 1. 1, Proem. fol. 112, C.).
(Per.) “Our soul is enlightened either with the true light, which shall never be put out, which is Christ; or if it has not in it that light which is eternal, without doubt it is enlightened with a temporal and extinguishable light, by him who transforms himself into an angel of light,” (In Jud. homil.1, fol. 177, C; et in Malt. homil. 30, fol. 60, E.).
(P) “Ye have already learned above (in Lecture XLV.) who the sheep are: be ye sheep. They are sheep through believing, sheep in following the Shepherd, sheep in not despising their Redeemer, sheep in entering by the door, sheep in going out and finding pasture, sheep in the enjoyment of eternal life. What did He mean, then, in saying to them, “Ye are not of my sheep”? That He saw them predestined to everlasting destruction, not won to eternal life by the price of His own blood,” (Lectures or Tractates on the Gospel According to St. John. Tractates XLV to XLIX, Chapter 10.22-42, par. 4).
(P) And they shall never perish:” you may hear the undertone, as if He had said to them, Ye shall perish for ever, because ye are not of my sheep. “No one shall pluck them out of my hand.” Give still greater heed to this: “That which my Father gave me is greater than all.”What can the wolf do? What can the thief and the robber? They destroy none but those predestined to destruction. But of those sheep of which the apostle says, “The Lord knoweth them that are His;” and “Whom He did foreknow, them He also did predestinate; and whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified;”–there is none of such sheep as these that the wolf seizes, or the thief steals, or the robber slays.(Lectures or Tractates on the Gospel According to St. John. Tractates XLV to XLIX, Chapter 10.22-42, par. 6)
Caecilius Thascius Cyprianus. A.D. 250.
(P) “All these things look this way, that the apostle may prove this; That if either Isaac or Jacob, for their merits, had been chosen to those things which they, being in the flesh sought after, and, by the works of the flesh, had deserved to be justified; then the grace of their merit might belong to the posterity of flesh and blood also, but now, since, their election does not arise from works, but from the purpose of God, from the will of him that calleth,” (In Rom.l. 7, fol. 195, G.).
(T) Whatsoever, is grateful, is to be ascribed not to man’s power, but to God’s gift. It is God’s, I say, all is God’s that we can do;’ hence we live, hence we excel, etc.” (Ep. 2, ad Donat. p. 6.).
(I) “A new man, a regenerated person, and one restored to his God, through his grace,’ says, in the first place, Father, because now he begins to be a son,” (De Oratione Dominica, p. 265.).
(I) “Most beloved brethren,” says he, “we ought to consider and understand not only this, that we call Father which is in heaven, but we add and say, Our Father, that is, of them that believe; of them, who being sanctified by him,and repaired through the birth of spiritual grace,’ begin to be the children of God,” (De Oratione Dominica, p. 266.).
(Per.) “The strength of believers remains immoveable, and that integrity continues stable and strong with those who fear and love God with their whole heart,” (Epist. 52, ad Antonianum, p. 94.).
Lactantius. A.D. 320.
(T) “To undertake a thing is easy, to fulfill is difficult; for when thou committest thyself to a combat and conflict, the victory lies in the will of God, not in thine own,” (Divin. Institut. 1. 6, c. 6, p. 452.).
(Per.) “Virtue is perpetual, without any intermission; nor can it depart from him who has once received it,” (Lactant. Institut. Divin. 1. 7. c. 10, p. 562.).
Novatianus. A.D. 250.
Athanasius. A.D. 350.
(P) “How therefore should he choose us before we were, unless, as he has said, we were before delineated in him? how verily, before men were created, should he predestinate us,” (Athanas. Contr. Arian. Orat. 3, p. 245, 246, vol. i.)
(P) “Having life and spiritual blessings prepared, before the world, for us in the word, according to election,” (Athanas. contr. Arian. Orat. 3, p. 447.).
(P) And elsewhere, he affirms that the foundation of true religion is more ancient than the prophets, and even from eternity; for speaking of the times in which they prophesied he says, “Not that they laid the foundation of godliness, for it was before them, and always was, yea, even before the foundation of the world, this God before prepared for us in Christ,” (De Synodi Arimin. & Seleuc. p. 871.).
(T) Concerning being one with God, ““This phrase in us is the same as if it was said, that they may be made one by the power of the Father and of the Son; or without God it is impossible that this can be done,” (Athanas. de Incarnatione, orat. 4, p. 474.).
(I) “God being good, hath imparted his image, our Lord Jesus Christ, to men; and hath made them according to his image and likeness, that they, through such grace,’ understanding the image, the Word of the Father, might be able, through him, to receive the knowledge of the Father; and so knowing the Creator might live a truly happy and blessed life,” (De Incarnat. Verbi Dei, p. 63, 64.
(Per.) “That phrase, as we are one, referring to John 17:92, means nothing else, than that the grace of the Spirit which the disciples had, might be never-failing and irrevocable,” (Contr. Arian. orat. 4, p. 477.).
(P) “Not therefore any thing will be because God knows it to be future, but because it is future it is known by God before it comes to pass,” (In Romans 1:7, fol. 199, E.). Which entirely accords with what we assert, that God did not decree any thing because he foresaw it, but he foresaw it because he decreed it.
(P) “All that are loved by God the Father, and preserved in Christ Jesus,” (In Matthew Homil. 30, fol. 62, B.).
(T) “The devil wrought sin from the beginning in the rational and understanding nature of man; for which reason it is impossible for nature, being rational, and willing, and being under the condemnation of death, to restore itself to liberty,” Athanas. contr. Arian. orat. 2, vol. 1. p. 358. de Salutar. adv. Jes. Christ. vol. 1. p. 638.).
(I) “He only is the true and natural image of the Father; for though we are made again after his image, and are called the glory and image of God, but not because of ourselves; but because that the true image and glory of God, which is the Word of God, dwells in us, who being at last made flesh for us, we have the grace of this vocation,” (Contr. Arian. orat. 4, p. 463, 472.).
(Per.) “He received that the gift residing in him, grace might remain firm; for if men only had received, it was possible that it might be taken away again, which is shown in Adam, for what he received he lost; now that this grace might not he taken away, but be kept safe from men,’ therefore he made this gift his own, and says, that he received power as man, which he always had as God,” (contr. Arian. orat. 4, p. 490.).
Hilarius Pictaviensis. A.D. 363.
(L) Christ, “is appointed a mediator in himself, ad salutem ecclesiae, for the salvation of the church,” which is what he means by the house of David, as the subject of redemption; when commenting on these words, Hosanna to the son of David, he observes,146 “The words of praise express the power of redemption: for by Osanna in the Hebrew language, is signified the redemption of the house of David,” (De Trinitate. 50:9. p. 116.).
(Per.) “This is the constitution of invariable truth, in the beginning of the words of God is truth, that the new man, regenerated in Christ, may henceforth live eternal, according to the image of the eternal God, that is of the heavenly Adam,” (In Psalm 119. Res, p. 519, 520.).
(I) “What is so possible to the power of God, than that he can save through faith? That he can regenerate by it?” (In Matthew can. 20, p. 305.).
(Per.) “We do not depend on uncertain and idle hopes, as mariners, who, sometimes sailing rather, by wishes than in confidence, the wandering and unstable either drive or leave; but we have the insuperable spirit of faith, through the gift of the only begotten of God,’ abiding, and leading us by an unalterable course to the quiet haven,” (De Trinitate 1. 12, p. 182.).
Ambrosius Mediolanensis. A.D. 380.
(P) “That in predestination the church of God always has been; and that the fruitfulness of faith is prepared, whenever the Lord shall command it to break forth, but by the will of the Lord it is reserved for a certain time,” (De Abraham, 50:2. c. 10, p. 265).
(P) “That the members can cleave to their own head, especially since we are predestinated from the beginning, unto the adoption of the children of God, by Jesus Christ, in himself; which predestination he hath proved, asserting that which from the beginning is before declared, Therefore shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they both shall be one flesh, to be the mystery of Christ and the church,” (Epist. 50:5, epist. 37, p. 283.).
(L) “Do not trust in riches; for all such things are left here, faith alone will accompany you. And righteousness indeed will go with you if faith has led the way. Why do riches entice you ? “Ye were not redeemed with gold and silver,” with possessions, or silk garments, “from your vain conversation, but with the precious Blood of Christ. ” He then is rich who is an heir of God, a joint heir with Christ. Despise not the poor man, he has made you rich. ” This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him.” Do not reject a poor man, Christ when He was rich became poor, and became poor because of you, that by His poverty He might make you rich. Do not then as though rich exalt yourself, He sent forth His apostles without money,” (Ambrose, Letter 63, par. 87)
(I) “What is impossible by human desires, that can be possible by divine grace alone, for, who can change nature, but he who hath created nature?” (In Psalm 119. Heth, p. 935.).
(I) “The grace of the Lord is given, not as from merit of reward, but as of will, according to 1 Corinthians 12:11, as he will, he says, not as is due; wherefore there is no room nor reason for boasting in the creature,” (De Exhort. ad Virgin. p, 437.).
(Per.) “Perseverance, is neither of man that willeth or runneth; for it is not in the power of man,’ but it is of God that showeth mercy, that thou canst fulfill what thou hast begun,” (In Psalm 119. Jod, p. 963.).
(L) “Although Christ suffered for all, yet He suffered for us particularly, because He suffered for the Church.” Saint Ambrose of Milan, Exposition of the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke, trans. Theodosia Tomkinson (Etna: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1998), Book VI, §25, p. 201.
Fulgentius, Bishop of Ruspe, A.D. 467-532
Fulgentius, bishop of Ruspe (c. 467-532): For this reason regarding all those whom God wishes to save, we must understand that we do not think anyone can be saved apart from God who wills it. Further, let us not imagine that the will of the omnipotent God either is not fulfilled or is in any way impeded in certain people. For all whom God wishes to save are unquestionably saved, and they cannot be saved unless God wishes them to be saved, and each person whom God does not will to be saved is not saved, since our God “has done all things that he willed.” Therefore, all are saved whom he wishes to be saved, for this salvation is not born of the human will but is supplied by God’s good will. Nevertheless, these “all men” whom God wishes to save include not the entire human race altogether, but rather the totality of those who are to be saved. So the word “all” is mentioned because the divine kindness saves all kinds from among all men, that is, from every race, status, and age, from every language and every region. In all of these people, this message of our Redeemer is fulfilled where he says, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself.” Now he did not say this because he draws all men whatsoever, but because no one is saved unless he himself draws him. For he also says: “No one can come to me unless the Father who has sent me draws him.” He also says in another place: “Everything that the Father has given me will come to me.” Therefore, these are all the ones whom God wills to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Fathers of the Church, Vol. 126, Fulgentius of Ruspe and the Scythian Monks, Correspondence on Christology and Grace, trans. Bob Roy McGregor and Donald Fairbairn (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2013), p. 101. See Epistola XVII in PL 65.
Latin text: Quos omnes homines Deus vult salvos fieri. Per omnes homines non semper totum genus humanum intelligitur.—61. Quocirca illos omnes quos Deus vult salvos fieri, sic intelligere debemus, ut nec aliquem putemus salvum fieri posse nisi voluntate Dei, nec existimemus voluntatem omnipotentis Dei, aut in aliquo non impleri, aut aliquatenus impediri. Omnes enim quos Deus vult salvos fieri, sine dubitatione salvantur, nec possunt salvari, nisi quos Deus vult salvos fieri, nec est quisquam quem Deus salvari velit qui (al. et) non salvetur: quia Deus noster omnia quaecunque voluit fecit. Ipsi omnes utique salvi fiunt, quos omnes vult salvos fieri: quia haec salus non illis ex humana voluntate nascitur, sed ex Dei bona voluntate praestatur. Verumtamen in his omnibus hominibus quos Deus vult salvos facere non totum omnino genus significatur hominum, sed omnium universitas salvandorum. Ideo autem omnes dicti sunt, quia ex omnibus hominibus omnes istos divina bonitas salvat, id est, ex omni gente, conditione, aetate, ex omni lingua, ex omni provincia. In his omnibus ille sermo nostri Redemptoris impletur, quo ait: Cum exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia traham ad meipsum. Quod non ideo dixit, quia omnes omnino trahit, sed quia nemo salvus fit, nisi quem ipse traxerit. Nam et alibi dicit: Nemo potest venire ad me, nisi Pater, qui misit me, traxerit eum. Item alibi: Omne quod dedit mihi Pater ad me veniet.Hi ergo sunt omnes quos vult Deus salvos fieri et ad agnitionem veritatis venire. Epistola XVII, Caput XXXI, §61, PL 65:489.
Fulgentius, bishop of Ruspe (c. 467-532): These are all those on whom God has mercy because they are preceded by his mercy so that they may believe and be freely saved through faith. The fact that they believe does not take its beginning from the human will, but faith is given to the will itself in accordance with the free generosity of the merciful God. Blessed Paul recorded this distinction between different senses of the word “all” (a distinction that a faithful understanding must preserve completely) at one place in his letter so that even when he says “all men” without noting any exceptions, he might still indicate all men of a certain kind while excluding others. Fathers of the Church, Vol. 126, Fulgentius of Ruspe and the Scythian Monks, Correspondence on Christology and Grace, Fulgentius’s First Letter to the Scythian Monks, trans. Bob Roy McGregor and Donald Fairbairn (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2013), p. 103.
Latin text: Hi sunt ergo omnes quorum Deus miseretur, quia misericordia ipsius praeveniuntur, ut credant et gratis salvi fiant per fidem. Eorum namque credulitas non ex humana voluntate sumit initium, sed ipsi voluntati fides gratuita Dei miserantis largitate donatur. Hanc omnium discretionem, quam fidelis debet intellectus omnino servare, beatus Paulus uno Epistolae suae loco sic posuit, ut omnes homines sine aliqua exceptione dicens, statim quosdam omnes homines exceptis aliis intimaret. Epistola XVII, Caput XXXI, §64, PL 65:490.
Ambrosiaster: The people of God hath its own fulness. In the elect and foreknown, distinguished from the generality of all, there is accounted a certain special universality; so that the whole world seems to be delivered from the whole world, and all men to be taken out of all men. See Works of John Owen, Vol. 10, p. 423.
Latin text: Habet ergo populus Dei plenitudinem suam, et quamvis magna pars hominum, salvantis gratiam aut repellat aut negligat, in electis tamen et praescitis, atque ab omnium generalitate discretis, specialis quaedam censetur universitas, ut de toto mundo totus mundus liberatus, et de omnibus hominibus omnes homines videantur assumpti: De Vocatione Gentium, Liber Primus, Caput III, PL 17:1084.
Jerome (347-420) on Matthew 20:28: He does not say that he gave his life for all, but for many, that is, for all those who would believe. See Turretin, Vol. 2, p. 462.
Latin text: Non dixit animam suam redemptionem dare pro omnibus, sed pro multis, id est, pro his qui credere voluerint. Commentariorum in Evangelium Matthaei, Liber Tertius, PL 26:144-145.
Hilary of Arles (c. 401-449) commenting on 1 John 2:2: When John says that Christ died for the sins of the “whole world,” what he means is that he died for the whole church. Introductory Commentary on 1 John. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 177.
Latin text: et non pro nostris tantum. set etiam pro totius mundi peccatis; Aecclesiam mundi nomine appellat. Expositio In Epistolas Catholiicas, Incipit Epistola Sancti Iohannis Apostoli, Cap. II, v. 2, PL Supp. 3:118.
Chrysostom (349-407) on Hebrews 9:28. “So Christ was once offered.”: By whom offered? evidently by Himself. Here he says that He is not Priest only, but Victim also, and what is sacrificed. On this account are [the words] “was offered.” “Was once offered” (he says) “to bear the sins of many.” Why “of many,” and not “of all”? Because not all believed, For He died indeed for all, that is His part: for that death was a counterbalance against the destruction of all men. But He did not bear the sins of all men, because they were not willing. NPNF1: Vol. XIV, Epistle to the Hebrews, Homly 17.
Prosper of Aquitaine (d. 463): He is not crucified with Christ who is not a member of the body of Christ. When, therefore, our Saviour is said to be crucified for the redemption of the whole world, because of his true assumption of the human nature, yet may he be said to be crucified only for them unto whom his death was profitable. . . . Diverse from these is their lot who are reckoned amongst them of whom is is said, ‘the world knew him not.’
Latin text: Non est autem crucifixus in Christo, qui non est membrum corporis Christi, nec est membrum corporis Christi, qui non per aquam et Spiritum sanctum induit Christum. Qui ideo in infirmitate nostra communionem subiit mortis, ut nos in virtute ejus haberemus consortium resurrectionis. Cum itaque rectissime dicatur Salvator pro totius mundi redemptione crucifixus, propter veram humanae naturae susceptionem, et propter communem in primo homine omnium perditionem: potest tamen dici pro his tantum crucifixus quibus mors ipsius profuit. . . . Diversa ergo ab istis sors eorum est qui inter illos censentur de quibus dicitur; Mundus eum non cognovit. Responsiones ad Capitula Gallorum, Capitulum IX, Responsio, PL 51:165.
Prosper of Aquitaine (d. 463): Doubtless the propriety of redemption is theirs from whom the prince of this world is cast out. The death of Christ is not to be so laid out for human-kind, that they also should belong unto his redemption who were not to be regenerated.
Latin text: Redemptionis proprietas haud dubie penes illos est, de quibus princeps mundi missus est foras, et jam non vasa diaboli, sed membra sunt Christi. Cujus mors non ita impensa est humano generi, ut ad redemptionem ejus etiam qui regenerandi non erant pertinerint. Responsiones ad Capitula Objectionum Vincentianarum, Capitulum Primum, Responsio, PL 51:178.
Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393-466) commenting on Hebrews 9:27-28: As it is appointed for each human being to die once, and the one who accepts death’s decree no longer sins but awaits the examination of what was done in life, so Christ the Lord, after being offered once for us and taking up our sins, will come to us again, with sin no longer in force, that is, with sin no longer occupying a place as far as human beings are concerned. He said himself, remember, when he still had a mortal body, “He committed no sin, nor was guile found in his mouth.” It should be noted, of course, that he bore the sins of many, not of all: not all came to faith, so he removed the sins of the believers only. Robert Charles Hill, Theodoret of Cyrus: Commentary on the Letters of St. Paul, Vol. 2 (Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2001), p. 175.
Bede (672/673-735) commenting on 1 John 2:1: The Lord intercedes for us not by words but by his dying compassion, because he took upon himself the sins which he was unwilling to condemn his elect for. On 1 John. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 177.
Latin text: Interpellat ergo pro nobis Dominus, non voce, sed miseratione, quia quod damnare in electis noluit, suscipiendo servavit. In Primam Epistolam S. Joannis, Caput II, PL 93:89.
Bede (672/673-735) commenting on 1 John 2:2: In his humanity Christ pleads for our sins before the Father, but in his divinity he has propitiated them for us with the Father. Furthermore, he has not done this only for those who were alive at the time of his death, but also for the whole church which is scattered over the full compass of the world, and it will be valid for everyone, from the very first among the elect until the last one who will be born at the end of time. This verse is therefore a rebuke to the Donatists, who thought that the true church was to be found only in Africa. The Lord pleads for the sins of the whole world, because the church which he has bought with his blood exists in every corner of the globe. On 1 John. Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament, Vol. XI, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 178.
Latin text: Qui per humanitatem interpellat pro nobis apud Patrem, idem per divinitatem propitiatur nobis cum Patre. . . . Non pro illis solum propitiatio est Dominus, quibus tunc in carne viventibus scribebat Joannes, sed etiam pro omni Ecclesia quae per totam mundi latitudinem diffusa est, primo nimirum electo usque ad ultimum qui in fine mundi nasciturus est porrecta. Quibus verbis Donatistarum schisma reprobat, qui in Africae solum finibus Ecclesiam Christi esse dicebant inclusam. Pro totius ergo mundi peccatis interpellat Dominus, quia per totum mundum est Ecclesia, quam suo sanguine comparavit. In Primam Epistolam S. Joannis, Caput II, PL 93:90.
Putting Amazing Back into Grace by Michael Horton
The following quotes are taken from the Appendix of Michael Horton’s Book, “Putting Amazing Back into Grace.” They have no citations. The reader can do their own work in checking these quotes out; (and yes, Horton included some of Augustine).
Barnabas (A.D. 70): “Learn: before we believed in God, the habitation of our heart was corrupt and weak.”
Ignatius (A.D. 110): “They that are carnal cannot do the things that are spiritual…Nor can the unbelievers do the things of belief.”
Justin Martyr (A.D. 150): “Mankind by Adam fell under death, and the deception of the serpent; we are born sinners…No good thing dwells in us…For neither by nature, nor by human understanding is it possible for me to acquire the knowledge of things so great and so divine, but by the energy of the Divine Spirit…Of ourselves it is impossible to enter the kingdom of God…He has convicted us of the impossibility of our nature to obtain life…Free will has destroyed us; we who were free are become slaves and for our sin are sold…Being pressed down by our sins, we cannot move upward toward God; we are like birds who have wings, but are unable to fly.”
Clement Of Alexandria (A.D. 190): “The soul cannot rise nor fly, nor be lifted up above the things that are on high, without special grace.”
Origen: “Our free will…or human nature is not sufficient to seek God in any manner.”
Eusebius (A.D. 330): “The liberty of our will in choosing things that are good is destroyed.”
Augustine (A.D. 370): “If, therefore, they are servants of sin (2 Cor. 3:17), why do they boast of free will?…O, man! Learn from the precept what you ought to do; learn from correction, that it is your own fault you have not the power…Let human effort, which perished by Adam, here be silent, and let the grace of God reign by Jesus Christ…What God promises, we ourselves do not through free will of human nature, but He Himself does by grace within us…Men labor to find in our own will something that is our own, and not God’s; how can they find it, I know not.”
Clement Of Rome (A.D. 69): “Let us therefore approach Him in holiness of soul, lifting up pure and undefiled hands unto Him, with love towards our gentle and compassionate Father because He made us an elect portion unto Himself…Seeing then that we are the special elect portion of a Holy God, let us do all things that pertain unto holiness…There was given a declaration of blessedness upon them that have been elected by God through Jesus Christ our Lord…Jesus Christ is the hope of the elect…”
Barnabas (A.D. 70): “We are elected to hope, committed by God unto faith, appointed to salvation.”
Ignatius: “To the predestined ones before all ages, that is, before the world began, united and elect in a true passion, by the eternal will of the Father…”
Justin Martyr: “In all these discourses I have brought all my proofs out of your own holy and prophetic writings, hoping that some of you may be found of the elect number which through the grace that comes from the Lord of Sabaoth, is left or reserved [set apart] for everlasting salvation.”
Irenaeus (A.D. 198): “God hath completed the number which He before determined with Himself, all those who are written, or ordained unto eternal life…Being predestined indeed according to the love of the Father that we would belong to Him forever.”
Clement Of Alexandria (A.D. 190): “Through faith the elect of God are saved. The generation of those who seek God is the elect nation, not [an earthly] place, but the congregation of the elect, which I call the Church…If every person had known the truth, they would all have leaped into the way, and there would have been no election…You are those who are chosen from among men and as those who are predestined from among men, and in His own time called, faithful, and elect, those who before the foundation of the world are known intimately by God unto faith; that is, are appointed by Him to faith, grow beyond babyhood.”
Cyprian (A.D. 250): “This is therefore the predestination which we faithfully and humbly preach.”
Ambrose Of Milan (A.D. 380): “In predestination the Church of God has always existed.”
Augustine (A.D. 380): “Here certainly, there is no place for the vain argument of those who defend the foreknowledge of God against the grace of God, and accordingly maintain that we were elected before the foundation of the world because God foreknew that we would be good, not that He Himself would make us good. This is not the language of Him who said, ‘You did not choose Me, but I chose you’ (John 15:16).”
Barnabas (A.D. 70): “[Christ speaking] I see that I shall thus offer My flesh for the sins of the new people.”
Justin Martyr (A.D. 150): “He endured the sufferings for those men whose souls are [actually] purified from all iniquity…As Jacob served Laban for the cattle that were spotted, and of various forms, so Christ served even to the cross for men of every kind, of many and various shapes, procuring them by His blood and the mystery of the cross.”
Irenaeus (A.D. 180): “He came to save all, all, I say, who through Him are born again unto God, infants, and little ones, and children, and young men, and old men…Jesus is the Savior of them that believe; but the Lord of them that believe not. Wherefore, Christ is introduced in the gospel weary…promising to give His life a ransom, in the room of, many.”
Tertullian (A.D. 200): “Christ died for the salvation of His people…for the church.”
Cyprian (A.D. 250): “All the sheep which Christ hath sought up by His blood and sufferings are saved…Whosoever shall be found in the blood, and with the mark of Christ shall only escape…He redeemed the believers with the price of His own blood…Let him be afraid to die who is not reckoned to have any part in the cross and sufferings of Christ.”
Lactantius (A.D. 320): “He was to suffer and be slain for the salvation of many people…who having suffered death for us, hath made us heirs of the everlasting kingdom, having abdicated and disinherited the people of the Jews…He stretched out His hands in the passion and measured the world, that He might at the very time show that a large people, gathered out of all languages and tribes, should come under His wings, and receive the most great and sublime sign.”
Eusebius (A.D. 330): “To what ‘us’ does he refer, unless to them that beleive in Him? For to them that do not believe in Him, He is the author of their fire and burning. The cause of Christ’s coming is the redemption of those that were to be saved by Him.”
Julius (A.D. 350): “The Son of God, by the pouring out of His precious blood, redeemed His set apart ones; they are delivered by the blood of Christ.”
Hilarion (A.D. 363): “He shall remain in the sight of God forever, having already taken all whom He hath redeemed to be kings of heaven, and co-heirs of eternity, delivering them as the kingdom of God to the Father.”
Ambrose (A.D. 380): “Before the foundation of the world, it was God’s will that Christ should suffer for our salvation…Can He damn thee, whom He hath redeemed from death, for whom He offered Himself, whose life He knows is the reward of His own death?”
Pacian (A.D. 380): “Much more, He will not allow him that is redeemed to be destroyed, nor will He cast away those whom He has redeemed with a great price.”
Epiphanius (A.D. 390): “If you are redeemed…If therefore ye are bought with blood, thou are not the number of them who were bought with blood, O Manes, because thou deniest the blood…He gave His life for His own sheep.”
Jerome (A.D. 390): “Christ is sacrificed for the salvation of believers…Not all are redeemed, for not all shall be saved, but the remnant…All those who are redeemed and delivered by Thy blood return to Zion, which Thou hast prepared for Thyself by Thine own blood…Christ came to redeem Zion with His blood. But lest we should think that all are Zion or every one is Zion is truly redeemed of the Lord, who are redeemed by the blood of Christ form the Church…He did not give His life for every man, but for many, that is, for those who would believe.”
Barnabas (A.D. 70): “God gives repentance to us, introducing us into the incorruptible temple.”
Ignatius: “Pray for them, if so by they may repent, which is very difficult; but Jesus Christ, our true life, has the power of this.”
Justin Martyr (A.D. 150): “Having sometime before convinced us of the impossibility of our nature to obtain life, hath now shown us the Savior, who is able to save them which otherwise were impossible to be saved…Free will has destroyed us; we are sold into sin.”
Irenaeus (A.D. 180): “Not of ourselves, but of God, is the blessing of our salvation…Man, who was before led captive, is taken out of the power of the possessor, according to the mercy of God the Father, and restoring it, gives salvation to it by the Word; that is, by Christ; that many may experimentally learn that not of himself, but by the gift of God, he receives immortality.”
Tertullian (A.D. 200): “Do you think, O men, that we should ever have been able to have understood these things in the Scriptures unless by the will of Him that wills all things, we had received grace to understand them?…But by this it is plain, that [faith] is not given to thee by God, because thou dost not ascribe it to Him alone.”
Cyprian (A.D. 250): “Whatsoever is grateful is to be ascribed not to man’s power, but to God’s gift. It is God’s, I say, all is God’s that we can do. Yea, that in nothing must we glory, since nothing is ours.”
Arnobius (A.D. 303): “You place the salvation of your souls in yourselves, and trust that you may be made gods by your inward endeavor, yet it is not our own power to reach things above.”
Lactantius (A.D. 320): “The vistory lies in the will of God, not in thine own. To overcome is not in our power.”
Athanasius (A.D. 350): “To believe is not ours, or in our power, but the Spirit’s who is in us, and abides in us.”
Jerome (A.D. 390): “This is the chief righteousness of man, to reckon that whatsoever power he can have, is not his own, but the Lord’s who gives it…See how great is the help of God, and how frail the condition of man that we cannot by any means fulfill this, that we repent, unless the Lord first convert us…When [Jesus] says, ‘No man can come to Me,’ He breaks the proud liberty of free will; for man can desire nothing, and in vain he endeavors…Where is the proud boasting of free will?…We pray in vain if it is in our own will. Why should men pray for that from the Lord which they have in the power of their own free will?”
Augustine (A.D. 370): “Faith itself is to be attributed to God…Faith is made a gift. These men, however, attribute faith to free will, so grace is rendered to faith not as a gratuitous gift, but as a debt…They must cease from saying this.”
PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS
Clement Of Rome (A.D. 69): “It is the will of God that all whom He loves should partake of repentance, and so not perish with the unbelieving and impenitent. He has established it by His almighty will. But if any of those whom God wills should partake of the grace of repentance, should afterwards perish, where is His almighty will? And how is this matter settled and established by such a will of His?”
Clement Of Alexandria (A.D. 190): “Such a soul [of a Christian] shall never at any time be separated from God…Faith, I say, is something divine, which cannot be pulled asunder by any other worldly friendship, nor be dissolved by present fear.”
Tertullian: “God forbid that we should believe that the soul of any saint should be drawn out by the devil…For what is of God is never extinguished.”
Augustine: “Of these believers no one perishes, because they were all elected. And they were elected because they were called according to the purpose–the purpose, however, not their own, but God’s…Obedience then is God’s gift…To this, indeed, we are not able to deny, that perseverance in good, progressing even to the end, is also a great gift of God.”