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Chapter XVI.

Of the grace of God; to the effect that it transcends the narrow limits of human faith.

But let no one imagine that we have brought forward these instances to try to make out that the chief share in our salvation rests with our faith, according to the profane notion of some who attribute everything to free will and lay down that the grace of God is dispensed in accordance with the desert of each man: but we plainly assert our unconditional opinion that the grace of God is superabounding, and sometimes overflows the narrow limits of man’s lack of faith. And this, as we remember, happened in the case of the ruler in the gospel, who, as he believed that it was an easier thing for his son to be cured when sick than to be raised when dead, implored the Lord to come at once, saying: “Lord, come down ere my child die;” and though Christ reproved his lack of faith with these words: “Except ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe,” yet He did not manifest the grace of His Divinity in proportion to the weakness of his faith, nor did He expell the deadly disease of the fever by His bodily presence, as the man believed he would, but by the word of His power, saying: “Go thy way, thy son liveth.”18561856    S. John iv. 48–50. And we read also that the Lord poured forth this superabundance of grace in the case of the cure of the paralytic, when, though he only asked for the healing of the weakness by which his body was enervated, He first brought health to the soul by saying: “Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee.” After which, when the scribes did not believe that He could forgive men’s sins, in order to confound their incredulity, He set free by the power of His word the man’s limb, and put an end to his disease of paralysis, by saying: “Why think ye evil in your hearts? Whether is easier to say, thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say, arise and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, then saith He to the sick of the palsy: Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.”18571857    S. Matt. ix. 2–6. And in the same way in the case of the man who had been lying for thirty-eight years near the edge of the pool, and hoping for a cure from the moving of the water, He showed the princely character of His bounty unasked. For when in His wish to arouse him for the saving remedy, He had said to him: “willest thou to be made whole,” and when the man complained of his lack of human assistance and said: “I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled,” the Lord in His pity granted pardon to his unbelief and ignorance, and restored him to his former health, not in the way which he expected, but in the way which He Himself willed, saying: “Arise, take up thy bed and go unto thine house.”18581858    S. John v. 6–8. And what wonder if these acts are told of the Lord’s power, when Divine grace has actually wrought similar works by means of His servants! For when Peter and John were entering the temple, when the man who was lame from his mother’s womb and had no idea how to walk, asked an alms, they gave him not the miserable coppers which the sick man asked for, but the power to walk, and when he was only expecting the smallest of gifts to console him, enriched him with the prize of unlooked for health, as Peter said: “Silver and gold have I none: but such as I have, give I unto thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”18591859    Acts iii. 6.


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