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Chapter 10—All Perseverance is God’s Gift.
Is such an one as is unwilling to be rebuked still able to say, “What have I done,—I who have not received?” when it appears plainly that he has received, and by his own fault has lost that which he has received? “I am able,” says he, “I am altogether able,—when you reprove me for having of my own will relapsed from a good life into a bad one,—still to say, What have I done,—I who have not received? For I have received faith, which worketh by love, but I have not received perseverance therein to the end. Will any one dare to say that this perseverance is not the gift of God, and that so great a possession as this is ours in such wise that if any one have it the apostle could not say to him, ‘For what hast thou which thou hast not received?’32703270 1 Cor. iv. 7. since he has this in such a manner as that he has not received it?” 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; and that it exists not save it come from Him of whom it is written, “Every best gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.”32713271 Jas. i. 17. But the rebuke of him who has not persevered must not on that account be neglected, “lest God perchance give unto him repentance, and he recover from the snares of the devil;”32723272 2 Tim. ii. 25. since to the usefulness of rebuke the apostle has subjoined this decision, saying, as I have above mentioned, “Rebuking with moderation those that think differently, lest at any time God give them repentance.”32733273 2 Tim. ii. 25. For if we should say that such a perseverance, so laudable and so blessed, is man’s in such wise as that he has it not from God, we first of all make void that which the Lord says to Peter: “I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not.”32743274 Luke xxii. 32. For what did He ask for him, but perseverance to the end? And assuredly, if a man could have this from man, it should not have been asked from God. Then when the apostle says, “Now we pray to God that ye do no evil,”32753275 2 Cor. xiii. 7. beyond a doubt he prays to God on their behalf for perseverance. For certainly he does not “do no evil” who forsakes good, and, not persevering in good, turns to the evil, from which he ought to turn aside.32763276 [The editors have without reason inserted a “not” before “ought” in this sentence, yielding the sense: “who forsakes good, even that from which he ought not to turn away;” Erasmus changes the place of “and,” reading: “who forsakes good from which he ought not to turn aside, and is inclined to evil.” The ms. text is entirely satisfactory.—W.] In that place, moreover, where he says, “I thank my God in every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making quest with joy for your fellowship32773277 Many mss. read “communication.” in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ,”32783278 Phil. i. 3, et seq. —what else does he promise to them from the mercy of God than perseverance in good to the end? And again where he says, “Epaphras saluteth you, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, always striving for you in prayer, that you may stand perfect and fulfilled in all the will of God,”32793279 Col. iv. 12. —what is “that you may stand” but “that you may persevere”? Whence it was said of the devil, “He stood not in the truth;”32803280 John viii. 24. because he was there, but he did not continue. For assuredly those were already standing in the faith. And when we pray that he who stands may stand, we do not pray for anything else than that he may persevere. Jude the apostle, again, when he says, “Now unto Him that is able to keep you without offence, and to establish you before the presence of His glory, immaculate in joy,”32813281 Jude 24. does he not most manifestly show that perseverance in good unto the end is God’s gift? For what but a good perseverance does He give who preserves without offence that He may place before the presence of His glory immaculate in joy? What 476is it, moreover, that we read in the Acts of the Apostles: “And when the Gentiles heard, they rejoiced and received the word of the Lord; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed”? 32823282 Acts xiii. 48. Who could be ordained to eternal life save by the gift of perseverance? And when we read, “He that shall persevere unto the end shall be saved;”32833283 Matt. x. 22. with what salvation but eternal? And when, in the Lord’s Prayer, we say to God the Father, “Hallowed be Thy name,”32843284 Matt. vi. 9. what do we ask but that His name may be hallowed in us? And as this is already accomplished by means of the laver of regeneration, why is it daily asked by believers, except that we may persevere in that which is already done in us? For the blessed Cyprian also understands this in this manner, inasmuch as, in his exposition of the same prayer, he says: “We say, ‘Hallowed be Thy name,’ not that we wish for God that He may be hallowed by our prayers, but that we ask of God that His name may be hallowed in us. But by whom is God hallowed; since He Himself hallows? Well, because He said, ‘Be ye holy, since I also am holy;’32853285 Nearly all mss.: “even as I am holy.” we ask and entreat that we who have been hallowed in baptism may persevere in that which we have begun to be.”32863286 Cyprian, Treatise on the Lord’s Prayer, ch. 12; see The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. v. p. 450. Behold the most glorious martyr is of this opinion, that what in these words Christ’s faithful people are daily asking is, that they may persevere in that which they have begun to be. And no one need doubt, but that whosoever prays from the Lord that he may persevere in good, confesses thereby that such perseverance is His gift.
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