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Chapter 33.—It is in the Power of Evil Men to Sin; But to Do This or That by Means of that Wickedness is in God’s Power Alone.

Moreover, it was this that he had in view when he said, “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”35153515     Rom. xi. 29. And in that saying also consider for a little what was its purport. For when he had said, “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, that ye may not be wise in yourselves, that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel should be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Sion one who shall deliver, and turn away impiety from Jacob: and this is the 514covenant to them from me, when I shall take away their sins;”35163516     Rom. xi. 25 ff. he immediately added, what is to be very carefully understood, “As concerning the gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sakes: but as concerning the election, they are beloved for their fathers’ sakes.”35173517     Rom. xi. 28. What is the meaning of, “as concerning the gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sake,” but that their enmity wherewith they put Christ to death was, without doubt, as we see, an advantage to the gospel? And he shows that this came about by God’s ordering, who knew how to make a good use even of evil things; not that the vessels of wrath might be of advantage to Him, but that by His own good use of them they might be of advantage to the vessels of mercy. For what could be said more plainly than what is actually said, “As concerning the gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sakes”? It is, therefore, in the power of the wicked to sin; but that in sinning they should do this or that by that wickedness is not in their power, but in God’s, who divides the darkness and regulates it; so that hence even what they do contrary to God’s will is not fulfilled except it be God’s will. We read in the Acts of the Apostles that when the apostles had been sent away by the Jews, and had come to their own friends, and shown them what great things the priests and elders said to them, they all with one consent lifted up their voices to the Lord and said, “Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein; who, by the mouth of our father David, thy holy servant, hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the princes were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ. For in truth, there have assembled together in this city against Thy holy child Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, Herod and Pilate, and the people of Israel, to do whatever Thy hand and counsel predestinated to be done.”35183518     Acts iv. 24 ff. See what is said: “As concerning the gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sakes.” Because God’s hand and counsel predestinated such things to be done by the hostile Jews as were necessary for the gospel, for our sakes. But what is it that follows? “But as concerning the election, they are beloved for their fathers’ sakes.” For are those enemies who perished in their enmity and those of the same people who still perish in their opposition to Christ,—are those chosen and beloved? Away with the thought! Who is so utterly foolish as to say this? But both expressions, although contrary to one another—that is, “enemies” and “beloved”—are appropriate, though not to the same men, yet to the same Jewish people, and to the same carnal seed of lsrael, of whom some belonged to the falling away, and some to the blessing of Israel himself. For the apostle previously explained this meaning more clearly when he said, “That which lsrael wrought for, he hath not obtained; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded?”35193519     Rom. xi. 7. Yet in both cases it was the very same Israel. Where, therefore, we hear, “Israel hath not obtained,” or, “The rest were blinded,” there are to be understood the enemies for our sakes; but where we hear, “that the election hath obtained it,” there are to be understood the beloved for their father’s sakes, to which fathers those things were assuredly promised; because “the promises were made to Abraham and his seed,”35203520     Gal. iii. 16. whence also in that olive-tree is grafted the wild olive-tree of the Gentiles. Now subsequently we certainly ought to fall in with the election, of which he says that it is according to grace, not according to debt, because “there was made a remnant by the election of grace”35213521     Rom. xi. 5. This election obtained it, the rest being blinded. As concerning this election, the Israelites were beloved for the sake of their fathers. For they were not called with that calling of which it is said, “Many are called,” but with that whereby the chosen are called. Whence also after he had said, “But as concerning the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes,” he went on to add those words whence this discussion arose: “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance,”—that is, they are firmly established without change. Those who belong to this calling are all teachable by God; nor can any of them say, “I believed in order to being thus called,” because the mercy of God anticipated him, because he was so called in order that he might believe. For all who are teachable of God come to the Son because they have heard and learned from the Father through the Son, who most clearly says, “Every one who has heard of the Father, and has learned, cometh unto me.”35223522     John vi. 45. But of such as these none perishes, because “of all that the Father hath given Him, He will lose none.”35233523     John vi. 39. Whoever, therefore, is of these does not perish at all; nor was any who perishes ever of these. For which reason it is said, “They went out from among us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would certainly have continued with us.”35243524     John ii. 19.


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