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Enchiridion On Faith, Hope and Love
by Saint Augustine


CHAPTER XXVI

THE TRIUMPH OF GOD'S SOVEREIGN GOOD WILL

100. These are "the great works of the Lord, well-considered in all his acts of

will"218--and so wisely well-considered that when his angelic and human creation

sinned (that is, did not do what he willed, but what it willed) he could still

accomplish what he himself had willed and this through the same creaturely will by

which the first act contrary to the Creator's will had been done. As the Supreme

Good, he made good use of evil deeds, for the damnation of those whom he had

justly predestined to punishment and for the salvation of those whom he had

mercifully predestined to grace.

For, as far as they were concerned, they did what God did not will that they

do, but as far as God's omnipotence is concerned, they were quite unable to achieve

their purpose. In their very act of going against his will, his will was thereby

accomplished. This is the meaning of the statement, "The works of the Lord are

great, well-considered in all his acts of will"--that in a strange and ineffable fashion

even that which is done against his will is not done without his will. For it would

not be done without his allowing it--and surely his permission is not unwilling but

willing--nor would he who is good allow the evil to be done, unless in his

omnipotence he could bring good even out of evil.

101. Sometimes, however, a man of good will wills something that God doth

not will, even though God's will is much more, and much more certainly, good--for

215Rom. 9:19.

216Rom. 9:20, 21.

217I Cor. 1:31.

218Ps. 110:2 (Vulgate).


under no circumstances can it ever be evil. For example, it is a good son's will that

his father live, whereas it is God's good will that he should die. Or, again, it can

happen that a man of evil will can will something that God also willeth with a good

will--as, for example, a bad son wills that his father die and this is also God's will.

Of course, the former wills what God doth not will, whereas the latter does will

what God willeth. Yet the piety of the one, though he wills not what God willeth, is

more consonant with God's will than is the impiety of the other, who wills the same

thing that God willeth. There is a very great difference between what is fitting for

man to will and what is fitting for God--and also between the ends to which a man

directs his will--and this difference determines whether an act of will is to be

approved or disapproved. Actually, God achieveth some of his purposes--which are,

of course, all good--through the evil wills of bad men. For example, it was through

the ill will of the Jews that, by the good will of the Father, Christ was slain for us--a

deed so good that when the apostle Peter would have nullified it he was called

"Satan" by him who had come in order to be slain.219 How good seemed the purposes

of the pious faithful who were unwilling that the apostle Paul should go to

Jerusalem, lest there he should suffer the things that the prophet Agabus had

predicted!220 And yet God had willed that he should suffer these things for the sake

of the preaching of Christ, and for the training of a martyr for Christ. And this good

purpose of his he achieved, not through the good will of the Christians, but through

the ill will of the Jews. Yet they were more fully his who did not will what he willed

than were those who were willing instruments of his purpose--for while he and the

latter did the very same thing, he worked through them with a good will, whereas

they did his good will with their ill will.

102. But, however strong the wills either of angels or of men, whether good or

evil, whether they will what God willeth or will something else, the will of the

Omnipotent is always undefeated. And this will can never be evil, because even

when it inflicts evils, it is still just; and obviously what is just is not evil. Therefore,

whether through pity "he hath mercy on whom he willeth," or in justice "whom he

willeth, he hardeneth," the omnipotent God never doth anything except what he

doth will, and doth everything that he willeth.









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