A Treatise on the gift of perseverance 1
by aurelius augustin, bishop of hippo;
Being the Second Book,
Of the Treatise "On the Predestination of the Saints."
addressed to prosper and hilary.
a.d. 428 or 429
In the first part of the book he proves that the perseverance by which a man perseveres in Christ to the end is God's gift; for that it is a mockery to ask of God that which is not believed to be given by God. Moreover, that in the Lord's prayer scarcely anything is asked for but perseverance, according to the exposition of the martyr Cyprian, by which exposition the enemies to this grace were convicted before they were born. He teaches that the grace of perseverance is not given according to the merits of the receivers, but to some it is given by God's mercy; to others it is not given, by His righteous judgment. That it is inscrutable why, of adults, one rather than another should be called; just as, moreover, of two infants it is inscrutable why the one should be taken, the other left. But that it is still more inscrutable why, of two pious persons, to one it should be given to persevere, to the other it should not be given; but that this is most certain, that the former is of the predestinated, the latter is not. He observes that the mystery of predestination is set forth in our Lord's words concerning the people of Tyre and Sidon, who would have repented if the same miracles had been done among them which had been done in Chorazin. He shows that the case of infants is of force to confirm the truth of predestination and grace in older people; and he answers the passage of his third book on free will, unsoundly alleged on this point by his adversaries. Subsequently, in the second part of this work, he rebuts what they say,--to wit, that the definition of predestination is opposed to the usefulness of exhortation and rebuke. He asserts, on the other hand, that it is advantageous to preach predestination, so that man may not glory in himself, but in the Lord. As to the objections, however, which they make against predestination, he shows that the same objections may be twisted in no unlike manner either against God's foreknowledge or against that grace which they all agree to be necessary for other good things (with the exception of the beginning of faith and the completion of perseverance). For that the predestination of the saints is nothing else than God's foreknowledge and preparation for His benefits, by which whoever are delivered are most certainly delivered. But he bids that predestination should be preached in a harmonious manner, and not in such a way as to seem to an unskilful multitude as if it were disproved by its very preaching. Lastly, he commends to us Jesus Christ, as placed before our eyes, as the most eminent instance of predestination.
[In some editions and in many mss. the title is, On the Benefit of Perseverance, and the book is so cited by Remigius, Florus (or Bede), Hincmar, and others. Probably neither title is authentic. Prosper speaks of it to Hilary as if it simply bore the name of the second book of the Predestination of the Saints. "In the books," he writes, "of Bishop Augustin, of blessed memory, which bear the title, On the Predestination of the Saints."--W.] ↩