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Works & Faith in Orthodoxy

Timothy Copple

These are the notes for a talk I gave to an Episcopal Church which had been bringing in different Christian groups to present to them their understanding of "faith and works" within their tradition. I was the last one in that chain of meetings. I gave this talk in 1999.

To start off this evening, I should tell you a little about myself, just so you will know who you are dealing with! I am a convert to the Orthodox Christian Church. I came to it back in 1996, about three years ago. I would tell you that story, but that would get us far off our topic tonight. Before coming into Orthodoxy, I was a Nazarene Pastor. For those unfamiliar with the Nazarene denomination, it basically came out of the Methodist Church during the holiness revivals of the late 1800's, and really took shape during the first ten to twenty years of the century. One of the characteristics that they retained from the Methodist Church was the Wesleyan/Armenian theology.

I take it you have been studying this issue for the last few weeks, and probably already know the whole Armenius vs. Calvin debate that took place, and to some degree continues to our own day, concerning the place of "works" in our salvation. Calvin had taken the strict Augustinian position that man was totally depraved of all ability to do anything "good". Meanwhile, Armenius declared the work of our free will as a real possibility. Calvin, thus, denied that we could "resist" the grace of God in salvation and Armenius said that we could. This is, due to time constraints, an over simplification. One could go into all the different aspects of their theology and what they meant or didn't mean by what they wrote and said. However, I'm not here to give you a complete run down on how this played out in the West, but how the Eastern Church has looked at this issue.

And therein lies the problem. For the Eastern Orthodox Church, this issue has never really been an issue that we have dealt with. It has really only been as the East has encountered the Western theology, and been asked to give the Orthodox view of this, that the Eastern Church has really begun to attempt a more clarified presentation of this as it has always been held in the Eastern Church. This is not an easy thing to do either, because we are talking about a different mind set, a different way of looking at the world, life and theology than what we as Westerners tend to think of it. Some of that will become, I hope, evident as we go along, and I will do my best to "translate".

On the surface, it would appear that the Orthodox Church is much closer to Armenius than it is to Calvin, and this assumption would not be far off. However, it might be an over simplification to say then, that the Orthodox Church is "Armenian" in its theology concerning free will. Rather, it would be more accurate to say that the Orthodox Church holds a unique balance in this Western debate if for no other reason than the fact that it has not been torn asunder by such a debate in the past, but maintained a consistent integrated organic theology based no so much in human reason, but in revelation and experience of the saints.

The Orthodox perspective in St. John Cassian:

To look at this whole issue, we need to go back into Church history a bit. Many who are familiar with Western theology are familiar with the debate between Pelagius and Augustine. Pelagius began teaching that man was created "good" inherently as the Bible says, and that while God's grace is available to aid a person, God has already placed within them the "goodness" by which they can live a righteous life pleasing enough to God where by they could attain salvation. Basically, it was a salvation that did not need God's grace. Man could act first and draw the grace of God to himself.

Augustine, on the other hand, went to the opposite side of the fence and declared that at the fall, man lost all ability to do good, and apart from the grace of God could in no way save himself. Obviously he supported these things by verses like "Apart from Me, you can do nothing." However, this teaching also was based upon some Neo-platonic concepts that he had used to judge what happened at the fall. He assumed an opposite existence from what we experience now, one much less material, where Adam was created good, now he was the exact opposite, with no good in him. Verses like "God wills that all men be saved" had to be made to fit into the theology rather than the other way around.

Pelagius was eventually declared by the Church to not hold the correct teaching that the Father's and Apostles had held up to that point. Man cannot save himself by the merits of his own work. It is a gift of God. However, there arose a subset of this teaching that became a bit more refined, which eventually became to be termed as "semi-pelagism". This was basically a teaching concerning which came first, the will of man to do good, or the grace of God which arises the good within us. Semi-pelagians did not accept that one could be saved on their own, but did feel that within a man there was the possibility of first responding to God on our own, and then God's grace coming to us.

This charge of semi-pelagism was laid at the feet of one named John Cassian, and the monks that followed him. In reality, this is not strictly true though it is easy to see in some of the wording why a person might suspect that this was the case. But it is more because St. John Cassian looked at the issue from an Eastern standpoint, having grown up in that environment, and much of his monastic training was formed there, that he was taken wrongly by those who wished to uphold the strict Augustinian view of man and his inability to reach out to God. For the East, the whole issue of which came first, works or grace, is much like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg. Even this needs some clarifying.

Aside from some Bible passages, I am going to be drawing from a work by St. John Cassian called the "Conferences". This is basically an account of his journeys among the Egyptian monastic community, and what he learned there from various monks and spiritual elders. In his third book in this series, section 13 entiled "THE THIRD CONFERENCE OF ABBOT CHAEREMON 'ON THE PROTECTION OF GOD,'" he deals with the issue of how our "works" relate to God's grace and our faith.

Reason and Revelation:

At the outset, we should say something about the different approaches to theology in general. This is, of necessity, going to be a generalization, but one which hold true much of the time. Western theology has tended to be a movement from understanding to experience. I know, because that is the way I tend to think and experience God. But in the East, theology properly understood runs the other way. God's revelation is to be experienced and then we can understand.

For the God of all must be held to work in all, so as to incite, protect, and strengthen, but not to take away the freedom of the will which He Himself has once given. If however any more subtle inference of man's argumentation and reasoning seems opposed to this interpretation, it should be avoided rather than brought forward to the destruction of the faith (for we gain not faith from understanding, but understanding from faith, as it is written: "Except ye believe, ye will not understand") for how God works all things in us and yet everything can be ascribed to free will, cannot be fully grasped by the mind and reason of man. (Chapter 18)

Because of this, Orthodoxy has in general avoided trying to rationally define the faith in precise terms. This can be frustrating to a certain extent for Western's who are use to detailed systematic theology books that attempt to dot every I and cross every T. Not that there is not the realization that this is impossible, but we attempt it anyway. My systematic theology professor in college began the semester by telling us that we were starting out that semester to do the impossible: define God and how He works. He said that to illustrate to us the need to realize that we can never on our own reason figure God out. There is always a mystery to Him which is beyond our understanding. But in the West, that doesn't stop one from attempting to define and gel our concepts in as precise terminology as possible. We seek ways to rationally make more and more sense out of God.

What has been demonstrated down through history, however, is that every major heresy was due to someone who began to fit God into a rational framework, rather than allow some paradoxes to exist. Down through Church history, the tendency has been when a definition needed to be formulated, usually in response to a heresy, it was stated in negative terminology in order to form boundaries of what God is not, rather than trying to define specifically what God is. This approach comes from an appreciation of holding the whole of revelation, paradoxes, concepts which don't neatly fit into a theological framework into an organic framework that is experienced more than defined.

Consequently, when you get to definitions of who Christ is, what you end up with is "fully God, fully man, united without confusion, mixture or division." IOW, you can't say that there are not two natures, but you cannot say that there is more than one person, and you cannot say that the humanity was swallowed up into the divinity as a puppet, making it something different from us, nor can you say that the divine nature was modified and changed by the joining of the human flesh, nor is it a half and half mixture of some sorts, nor can you not say that before there were two natures, but now there is only one, yet neither can you say that the two natures even after the incarnation remained two distinct natures the existed individually so that one could say that it was Christ' humanity that died on the cross, not his divinity. A "fence" was formed, which in no way attempted to say exactly what Christ was, but did protect that which had been revealed to them by the Apostles and those who had gone before in all its apparent paradox.

In such a way, there is retained a mystery of God which is simply revealed, we experience it, then we attempt to understand it within the experience.

Consequently, when St. John Cassian responded to the excessive theological direction of Augustine, though he appreciated much of what Augustine had to say, he did so from this Orthodox perspective. Meanwhile, those who responded to him, tended to do so in an attempt to hold fast to the framework that Augustine had used, and in so doing tended to look at what was being said in a more "precise" theological mode of reason rather than a holistic sense of what St. John Cassian was attempting to communicate. Because they did not appreciate that he was in a sense setting up boundaries, it was too easy for them to look at a boundary as a dogmatic statement, ignoring offsetting remarks, and declare him as holding to a semi-pelagian view. It would be much like someone who took the above Christological statement, and picked out "two natures" and thereby concluded that we did not hold equally to a complete unity in one person that is inseparable, even as there remains two natures. Reason says it has to be one way or the other. The recognition of God's existence beyond our understanding, however, takes as a given that there are going to be paradoxes, but these are not important as long as we hold to the full revelation God has given. Thus, St. John Cassian writes:

Finally the blessed Apostle when revolving in his mind this manifold bounty of God's providence, as he sees that he has fallen into some vast and boundless ocean of God's goodness, exclaims: "O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are the judgments of God and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord?" Whoever then imagines that he can by human reason fathom the depths of that inconceivable abyss, will be trying to explain away the astonishment at that knowledge, at which that great and mighty teacher of the gentiles was awed. For if a man thinks that he can either conceive in his mind or discuss exhaustively the dispensation of God whereby He works salvation in men, he certainly impugns the truth of the Apostle's words and asserts with profane audacity that His judgments can be scrutinized, and His ways searched out. (Chapter 17)

Thus, what you consistently see in St. John Cassian's writings is a holding together of both Free Will and God's grace as one organic holistic unit. God's sovereign will does not negate man's free will, neither does man's free will negate God's sovereignty and will. In some mysterious way they are held together and to affirm one over the other ends up causing us to deny another equally valid truth which has been amply revealed in the Scriptures.

AND so these are somehow mixed up and indiscriminately confused, so that among many persons, which depends on the other is involved in great questionings, i.e., does God have compassion upon us because we have shown the beginning of a good will, or does the beginning of a good will follow because God has had compassion upon us? For many believing each of these and asserting them more widely than is right are entangled in all kinds of opposite errors. (Chapter 11)
Adam and Free Will:

Now that we have laid those stones, I want to lay one more that will help us to understand the perspective of Orthodox "grace and works". For the foundation of this whole understanding lays in how one views both the way in which Adam was created, and what took place at the fall. We cannot take as long of a time on this as it deserves, but it will be important to touch upon an issue or two.

St. John Cassian writes:

FOR we should not hold that God made man such that he can never will or be capable of what is good: or else He has not granted him a free will, if He has suffered him only to will or be capable of evil, but neither to will or be capable of what is good of himself. And, in this case how will that first statement of the Lord made about men after the fall stand: "Behold, Adam is become as one of us, knowing good and evil?" For we cannot think that before, he was such as to be altogether ignorant of good. Otherwise we should have to admit that he was formed like some irrational and insensate beast: which is sufficiently absurd and altogether alien from the Catholic faith. Moreover as the wisest Solomon says: "God made man upright," i.e., always to enjoy the knowledge of good only, "But they have sought out many imaginations," for they came, as has been said, to know good and evil. Adam therefore after the fall conceived a knowledge of evil which he had not previously, but did not lose the knowledge of good which he had before. Finally the Apostle's words very clearly show that mankind did not lose after the fall of Adam the knowledge of good: as he says: "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things of the law, these, though they have not the law, are a law to themselves, as they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to these, and their thoughts within them either accusing or else excusing them, in the day in which God shall judge the secrets of men." (Chapter 12)

Orthodox understand that when God created man, He created them in the image and likeness of God. These tend to get mashed together in Western thought, but in Orthodox theology, the image refers to our nature as being a reflection of the glory of God, which includes a free will. The likeness refers to that "light" or characteristic expression of God's being. These are generally referred to as the "virtues". Not just the outward "moral" manifestations of these, but more than that an inner heart of humility, joy, hope, faith, founded on a real union with God Himself living in us. The loss of these is the negative; pride, fear, despair, disbelief, and hatred. It was this divine "likeness" which was lost at the fall. The life of God shining in Adam literally "died" on the very day he ate of that tree. Without the life of God in him, what remained was a lifeless shell of the image of God no longer shining with the life of God. Adam, as St. John tells us above, knew "good" before the fall. That is, he experienced that good indwelling light within his heart. But with the death of this life, leaving only his own fleshly desires to rule in his life, he immediately began to experience a "nakedness" of soul. He was no longer clothed with the glory of God's life and light. He experienced the corruption taking hold that began the decay process because the "life" was contained in God's breath. Death took over and no longer was he a part of "Paradise" but that Paradise was now outside him since within him he no longer had the sustainer of that paradise pulsing through his heart and life.

Yet, Adam still knew what the "good" was even as he experienced for the first time the "evil". The "good" actually became a much more vivid memory in his mind as it began to be contrasted to the evil and death that he was experiencing, sending him into true repentance at what he had lost. Orthodoxy says that the nature of man does have the capacity for good. Not of its own merits, but because God created man in His own image for the express purpose of maintaining a relationship. It takes two to have a relationship. One cannot have a relationship of love with a puppet, but with one who has the ability to love you back of their own volition. What Adam lost was the union with God, who was his life. What Christ came to give us back was this very life which flows in Him, back into us so that an inner relationship can once again be established and Paradise be reborn in our hearts, and eventually us in paradise.

It is this understanding of salvation as a relationship that brings a totally different focus on the whole issue of faith and works. We are not just after forgiveness, nor just a justification. Salvation contains that but is more than that. These are just the doors whereby we are open to once again have the relationship with the one who is the "Way, Truth and the Life." Only through relationship with Christ in the Holy Spirit can we approach the Father with "incorruptible" life rather than our own corruptible rags. It is only in the context of a loving relationship that works are no longer seen as something to earn points with God, but as expressions of love for Him.

St. Paul says:

(1 Cor 3:10-15 NKJV) According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. {11} For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. {12} Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, {13} each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. {14} If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. {15} If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Salvation is laid in the life of Christ as our foundation. However, our works for him don't earn us salvation, but neither are they unimportant. There is a reward, and that reward according to the Fathers is communion with Him more fully and completely. For the more we gain His "likeness" in this life, the more joy we will experience as we come into His presence. The less of His likeness we gain, the more "pain" we will endure even if we do get saved in the end. The purging fire of God's presence is only a warmth for the one already purged and purified with the life we lead here, but for the one who has wasted their life paying little attention to developing the relationship of love with God the fire of judgement day will be painful and disappointing, only offset by the joy of coming to the end of the purging process in His presence and experiencing the joy of His light and warmth simply because of the life of Christ in us.

When salvation is expressed purely in legalistic terms of acquittal and justification; when salvation is seen as being forgiven and getting to heaven where everything is going to be wonderful; when the relationship aspect is not present as an end goal and direction; any "work" that we do for whatever reason has no lasting purpose or eternal value other than right here and now. It tends to get viewed as an attempt to gain favor with the judge, because there is no other value to attach to it beyond one's own happiness. But when you put it in the context of a relationship, like marriage, a "work" is not seen as gaining brownie points, but simply the interaction of two people who love one another and wish to grow closer together by looking out for each other's happiness. In that understanding of salvation, our "works" are no longer something that tries to supplant the place of grace and faith with God, but are one whole experience in the life of a relationship with God.

This is why Jesus says:

(John 14:21-24 NKJV) "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him." {22} Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, "Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?" {23} Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. {24} "He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me. [emphasis mine]

Love and our obedience to Him go hand in hand. One cannot artificially separate them into two opposing views. Apart from love, our works are only selfish fulfillment of our own wills and desires.

Synergy:

The one word that tends to pop up in Orthodox discussions on this issue of grace and works is "synergy". This is basically a Greek word which means "cooperation" or a "working together" of two things. St. John Cassian discusses this concept:

AND so the grace of God always co-operates with our will for its advantage, and in all things assists, protects, and defends it, in such a way as sometimes even to require and look for some efforts of good will from it that it may not appear to confer its gifts on one who is asleep or relaxed in sluggish ease, as it seeks opportunities to show that as the torpor of man's sluggishness is shaken off its bounty is not unreasonable, when it bestows it on account of some desire and efforts to gain it. And none the less does God's grace continue to be free grace while in return for some small and trivial efforts it bestows with priceless bounty such glory of immortality, and such gifts of eternal bliss. For because the faith of the thief on the cross came as the first thing, no one would say that therefore the blessed abode of Paradise was not promised to him as a free gift, nor could we hold that it was the penitence of King David's single word which he uttered: "I have sinned against the Lord," and not rather the mercy of God which removed those two grievous sins of his, so that it was vouchsafed to him to hear from the prophet Nathan: "The Lord also hath put away thine iniquity: thou shalt not die." The fact then that he added murder to adultery, was certainly due to free will: but that he was reproved by the prophet, this was the grace of Divine Compassion. (Chapter 13)

The grace of God is the beginning of all things. Without Him, from whom all things were created and in whom all things consist (Col. 2) we find the ability to live in a manner please to Him. But notice, that even in our creation, in our being created in the image of God, we find the hand of God and grace active in us. Some people have "natural" talents, whereby what they mean is that they didn't have to work real hard to become real good at something. It came "natural" to them. However, does this negate the work and grace of God? Was it not God who created this person with this ability and natural affinity for a certain virtue or talent? Some do not easily become angry while others it is a constant battle and temptation. While some have through long struggle conquered by God's grace anger, many who do not easily anger are that way by their "nature", because their personality is just set up that way. They did not struggle to get over anger, and when it does hit them they sometimes do not know how to handle it rightly.

Those who take the view that a "work" is anything that we attempt to do for our salvation, as they might understand it, and so exclude anything labeled as a "work", have artificially separated a person's works into two categories, one that can be brought on by grace and those that cannot. Someone who "has faith" is in itself a work. It is something that the person does. We see Jesus often granting miracles and forgiveness of sins according to the person's faith, that is, in response to some quality that He sees in the person themselves. This is dismissed, because St. Paul says that even this is not of ourselves, but a gift of God. However, is not everything a gift of God? If so, then why do we attribute the "work" of faith in a person as the gift and work of God, but in other areas we do not? John 15, Jesus tells us that without Him we can do nothing. Yet, St. Paul tells us that with Christ, we can do anything. That is because in Him all things consist and have their being, and we are hid in Christ. It is Christ that takes what we have and makes it into a life bearing grace filled act of love. Apart from Christ, however, any act no matter how "good" is only a lifeless shell, only fostering pride and legalism.

This is the "synergy", the working together of grace and works. This is most vividly illustrated by two teachings of Christ. The first is a story we are probably all familiar with:

(Mat 14:13-21 NKJV) When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. {14} And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. {15} When it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, "This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food." {16} But Jesus said to them, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat." {17} And they said to Him, "We have here only five loaves and two fish." {18} He said, "Bring them here to Me." {19} Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. {20} So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. {21} Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

In this story we find so vividly illustrated to us that God wishes to work in us and through us, not over and above us. He wants to work with us in a relationship of love and joy. Thus, when Jesus ask them what they should do, they say that we need to send the people away. But Christ, who could have turned the bread into stone before their eyes and amazed the crowds with such a miracle, instead tells the disciples to feed them.

What do they have? Five loaves and two fish which is hardly enough for my own family. I have a wife and three kids, one a teenager, so you know what I'm taking about. There was no way that this little food was enough to feed that crowd. Yet, Jesus does not despise it. He does not cast it aside as negating His divine power and grace. Rather, He takes what we offer Him and by grace makes it sufficient for the job it needs to do. In all our lives, this is our relationship with our "works". They are totally insufficient to gain us points with God, they would not even pay for one brick in a heavenly mansion. However, in God's grace, our "works" offered to Him do not return void, but obtain for us eternal value and reward in union with God. Just as you do things to please your spouse not because you are keeping tabs on who is ahead in the points war (or at least this shouldn't be the way it works) but because you desire a deeper union with him or her through the bond of love.

Another parable of Jesus gives us another perspective on this issue:

(Mat 25:14-30 NKJV) "For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. {15} "And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. {16} "Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. {17} "And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. {18} "But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money. {19} "After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. {20} "So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.' {21} "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' {22} "He also who had received two talents came and said, 'Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.' {23} "His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' {24} "Then he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. {25} 'And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.' {26} "But his lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. {27} 'So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. {28} 'Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. {29} 'For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. {30} 'And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

This parable speaks of our lives, and the grace that we have been given. Some have been given more and some less. For those who have more, more will be required. Yet, the important thing was the effort to take that grace and invest it in their lives, to take action, IOW, to work out your salvation in fear and trembling. So when the master returns, the only one who really gets in trouble is not the one who earned less, and even the one who earned nothing, you do not get the impression that it was because of this he stood condemned. It was because he failed to invest that which he had been given into his life.

Grace, in this instance, does not manifest itself in a merit system. However it does show that the neglect of this grace, of which every man experiences to some degree or another, results in damnation and loss of what little grace one may have had. There are countless exhortation, too numerous to mention, that instruct us to let out light shine in the world in order that we might glorify God who is the light. We are encouraged to set our minds on the Spirit and not on the flesh. We are told by Christ to pick up our cross and follow. In short, we are told to work. Not because we expect anything for it:

(Luke 17:7-10 NKJV) "And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and sit down to eat'? {8} "But will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink'? {9} "Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. {10} "So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.'"

We expect no merit for what we do as God commands. It is an act of love for our master who gave us life and life abundantly. But to neglect these commandments, we fall into one who opens the door through repentance and forgiveness, but refuses to step inside the house to sup with Christ. Or finally hearing Christ knocking on the door of our hearts, we fail to get up and let Him in. Is this the response of love? No, indeed, it keeps one from the kingdom because we chose to not respond to the gentle grace of God in our hearts. If we fail to invest that grace into our life, it will be taken away and then where will we be?

By this very instance which you bring forward we can still more clearly prove that the exertions of the worker can do nothing without God's aid. For neither can the husbandman, when he has spent the utmost pains in cultivating the ground, forthwith ascribe the produce of the crops and the rich fruits to his own exertions, as he finds that these are often in vain unless opportune rains and a quiet and calm winter aids them, so that we have often seen fruits already ripe and set and thoroughly matured snatched as it were from the hands of those who were grasping them; and their continuous and earnest efforts were of no use to the workers because they were not under the guidance of the Lord's assistance. As then the Divine goodness does not grant these rich crops to idle husbandmen who do not till their fields by frequent ploughing, so also toil all night long is of no use to the workers unless the mercy of the Lord prospers it. But herein human pride should never try to put itself on a level with the grace of God or to intermingle itself with it, so as to fancy that its own efforts were the cause of Divine bounty, or to boast that a very plentiful crop of fruits was an answer to the merits of its own exertions. For a man should consider and with a most careful scrutiny weigh the fact that he could not by his own strength apply those very efforts which he has earnestly used in his desire for wealth, unless the Lord's protection and pity had given him strength for the performance of all agricultural labors; and that his own will and strength would have been powerless unless Divine compassion had supplied the means for the completion of them, as they sometimes fail either from too much or from too little rain. For when vigor has been granted by the Lord to the oxen, and bodily health and the power to do all the work, and prosperity in undertakings, still a man must pray lest there come to him, as Scripture says, "a heaven of brass and an earth of iron," and "the cankerworm eat what the locust hath left, and the palmerworm eat what the cankerworm hath left, and the mildew destroys what the palmerworm hath left." (Chapter 3)

There is no work of man that is of value in and of itself apart from God's grace. But we have been created to have a grace of God within us. The fall did not totally destroy that which God had done in us. Though we lost the likeness to God because of death, we retained the image by which we could still respond to God not as a senseless animal, but as one who can commune in love with Him. In Himself, the unknowable God has made us living images of His glory that we might commune with Him in it. In this He maintains His complete control and yet does not violate thereby our free will to accept or reject His love for us. He wants all men to be saved, and it is His will that not one of these little ones should perish. There is not an arbirary decision on God's part, based completely separate from our inner spirit, to chose who would be saved and who would not. Those who are the "chosen" are those who respond in their hearts to the grace of God around them.


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