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AUGUSTINE


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AUGUSTINE


either by the prepared providential action of exterior ■auses, or interiorly by a Divine illumination given o the soul. — Let us take one last step ^^ith Augustine: Not only does God send at His pleasure those at- tractive motives which inspire the will with its de- tLrminations, but, before choosing between these illuminations of the natural and the supernatural order, God ktwu-s the response tchich the soul, inth all freedom, irill rnake to each of them. Thus, in the l)i\ine knowledge, there is for each created will an

idefinite series of motives which de facto (but very freely) win the consent to what is good. God. there- lore," can. at His pleasure, obtain the salvation of Judas, if He wishes, or let Peter go down to perdition. Xo freedom, as a matter of fact, will resist what He has planned, although it always keeps the power of going to perdition. Consequently, it is God alone, n His perfect independence, who determines, by the ■hoice of such a motive or such an inspiration (of which he knows the future influence), whether the will is going to decide for good or for evil. Hence, the man who has acted well must thank C!od for lia\'ing sent him an inspiration which was foreseen to be efficacious, while that favour has been denied

0 another. .4. fortiori, everj' one of the elect owes

X to the Di%'ine goodness alone that he has received a series of graces which God saw to be infallibly, though freely, bound up 'n'ith final perseverance.

Assuredly we may reject this theorj', for the Church, which always maintains the two principles of the absolute dependence of the will and of freedom, has not yet adopted as its own this reconciliation of the two extremes. We may ask where and how God knows the effect of these graces. Augustine has always affirmed the fact; he has never inquired about the mode; and it is here that ilolinism has added to and developed his thoughts, in attempting to answer this question. But can the thinker, ^^llo created and until his dying day maintained this system which is so logically concatenated, be accused of fatalism and Manichifism?

It remains to be shown that our interpretation exactly reproduces the thought of the great Doctor. The texts (indicated in Vacant's "Diet, de th^ologie catholique", I, col. 2390 sqq.) are too numerous and too long to be reproduced here. But there is one work of Augustine, dating from the j-ear 397, in which he clearly explains his thought — a work which he not only did not disavow later on, but to which in particular he referred, at the end of his career, those of his readers who were troubled by his con- stant affirmation of grace. For example, to the monks of Adrumetum who thought that liberty was irreconcilable with this affirmation, he addressed a copy of this book "De Diversis qu^stionibus ad Simplicianum", feeling sure that their doubts would be dissipated. There, in fact, he formulates his thoughts with great clearness. Simplician had asked how he should vmderstand the Epistle to the Romans ix, on the predestination of Jacob and Esau. Au- gustine first lays doT\Ti the fundamental principle of St. Paul, that every good uill comes from grace, so that no man can take glorj- to Irimself for his merits, and this grace is so sure of its results that human liberty will never in reality resist it, although it has the power to do so. Then he affirms that this effica- cious grace is not necessarj' for us to be able to act well, but because, in fact, without it we woidd not wish to act well. From that arises the great difficulty: How does the power of resisting grace fit in with the cer- tainty of the result? And it is here that Augustine replies: There are many ways of inviting faith. Souls being differently disposed, God knencs what invitation <ciU be accepted, what other will not be accepted. Only those are the elect for whom God chooses the invitation which is foreseen to be efficacious, but God could convert them all: "Cujus autem miseretur, II.— 7


sic eum vocat , quomodo scit ei congruere ut vocantem non respuat" (op. cit., I, q. ii, n. 2, 12, 13).

Is there in this a vestige of an irresistible grace or of that impulse against which it is impossible to fight, forcing some to good, and others to sin and hell? It cannot be too often repeated that this is not an idea flung off in passing, but a fundamental explana- tion which if not understood leaves us in the im- possibility of grasping anj-lhing of his doctrine; but if it is seized Augustine entertains no feelings of uneasiness on the score of freedom. In fact he sup- poses freedom everywhere, and reverts incessantly to that knowledge on God's part which precedes predestination, directs it, and assures its infallible result. In the "De Dono perseverantiEe " (xvii, n. 42), ^\Titten at the end of his life, he explains the whole of predestination by the choice of the vocation which is foreseen as efficacious. Thus is explained the chief part attributed to that external providence which prepares, by ill health, by warnings, etc.. the good thoughts which it knows will bring about good resolutions. Finally, this explanation alone har- monizes with the moral action which he attributes to victorious grace. Nowhere does Augustine repre- sent it as an irresistible impulse impressed by the stronger on the weaker. It is always an appeal, an invitation which attracts and seeks to persuade. He describes this attraction, which is mthout violence, under the graceful image of dainties offered to a cliild, green leaves offered to a sheep (In Joannem, tract, xxvi, n. 5). And always the infallibility of the result is assured by the Divine knowledge which directs the choice of the invitation.

(4) The Augustinian predestination presents no new difficulty if one has understood the function of this Divine knowledge in the choice of graces. The problem is reduced to this: Does God in his creative decree and, before any act of human liberty, deter- mine by an immutable choice the elect and the reprobate? — Must the elect during eternity thank God only for having rewarded their merits, or must they also thank Him for having, prior to any merit on their part, chosen them to the meriting of this reward? One system, that of the Seraipelagians, decides in favour of man: God pre>!estines to salvation all alike, and gives to all an equal measure of grace; human liberty alone decides whether one is lost or saved; from which we must logically conclude (and they really insinuated it) that the number of the elect is not fixed or certain. The opposite system, that of the Predestinationists (the Semipelagians falsely ascribed this view to the Doctor of Hippo), affirms not only a privileged choice of the elect by God, but at the same time (a) the predestination of the reprobate to hell and (b) the absolute powerlessness of one or the other to escape from the irresi.':tible impulse which drags them either to good or to e\-il. This is the system of Calvin.

Between these two extreme opinions Augustine formulated (not invented) the Catholic dogma, which affirms these two truths at the same time: (a) the eternal choice of the elect by God is verj' real, verj' gratuitous, and constitutes the grace of graces; (b) but this decree does not destroy the Divine will to save all men, which, moreover, is not realized except by the human liberty that leaves to the elect full power to fall and to the non-elect full power to rise. Here is how the theorj' of St. Augustine, already explained, forces us to conceive of the Divine decree: Before all decision to create the world, the infinite knowledge of God presents to Him all the graces, and different series of graces, which He can prepare for each soul, along with the consent or re- fusal which would follow in each circumstance, and that in millions and millions of possible combinations. Thus He sees that if Peter had received such another grace, he would not liave been converted; and if on