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Enchiridion On Faith, Hope and Love
by Saint Augustine


CHAPTER XXVII

LIMITS OF GOD'S PLAN FOR HUMAN SALVATION

103. Accordingly, when we hear and read in sacred Scripture that God

"willeth that all men should be saved,"221 although we know well enough that not

all men are saved, we are not on that account to underrate the fully omnipotent will

of God. Rather, we must understand the Scripture, "Who will have all men to be

saved," as meaning that no man is saved unless God willeth his salvation: not that

there is no man whose salvation he doth not will, but that no one is saved unless He

willeth it. Moreover, his will should be sought in prayer, because if he willeth, then

what he willeth must necessarily be. And, indeed, it was of prayer to God that the

apostle was speaking when he made that statement. Thus, we are also to

understand what is written in the Gospel about Him "who enlighteneth every

man."222 This means that there is no man who is enlightened except by God.

In any case, the word concerning God, "who will have all men to be saved,"

does not mean that there is no one whose salvation he doth not will--he who was

unwilling to work miracles among those who, he said, would have repented if he had

wrought them--but by "all men" we are to understand the whole of mankind, in

219Matt. 16:23.

220Acts 21:10-12.

221I Tim. 2:4.

222John 1:9.


every single group into which it can be divided: kings and subjects; nobility and

plebeians; the high and the low; the learned and unlearned; the healthy and the

sick; the bright, the dull, and the stupid; the rich, the poor, and the middle class;

males, females, infants, children, the adolescent, young adults and middle-aged and

very old; of every tongue and fashion, of all the arts, of all professions, with the

countless variety of wills and minds and all the other things that differentiate

people. For from which of these groups doth not God will that some men from every

nation should be saved through his only begotten Son our Lord? Therefore, he doth

save them since the Omnipotent cannot will in vain, whatsoever he willeth.

Now, the apostle had enjoined that prayers should be offered "for all men"223

and especially "for kings and all those of exalted station,"224 whose worldly pomp

and pride could be supposed to be a sufficient cause for them to despise the humility

of the Christian faith. Then, continuing his argument, "for this is good and

acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour"225-- that is, to pray even for such as

these [kings]--the apostle, to remove any warrant for despair, added, "Who willeth

that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth."226 Truly, then, God

hath judged it good that through the prayers of the lowly he would deign to grant

salvation to the exalted--a paradox we have already seen exemplified. Our Lord also

useth the same manner of speech in the Gospel, where he saith to the Pharisees,

"You tithe mint and rue and every herb."227 Obviously, the Pharisees did not tithe

what belonged to others, nor all the herbs of all the people of other lands. Therefore,

just as we should interpret "every herb" to mean "every kind of herb," so also we can

interpret "all men" to mean "all kinds of men." We could interpret it in any other

fashion, as long as we are not compelled to believe that the Omnipotent hath willed

anything to be done which was not done. "He hath done all things in heaven and

earth, whatsoever he willed,"228 as Truth sings of him, and surely he hath not willed

to do anything that he hath not done. There must be no equivocation on this point.









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