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Faith, Hope, and Love, 26 - Triumph of God's Sovereign Good Will

By St. 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 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.

      NOTES:

      [218] Ps. 110:2 (Vulgate).

      [219] Matt. 16:23.

      [220] Acts 21:10-12.

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See Also:
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 1 - The Occasion and Purpose of this Manual
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 2 - The Creed and the Lord's Prayer as Guides
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 3 - God the Creator of All; and the Goodness of All Creation
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 4 - The Problem of Evil
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 5 - The Kinds and Degrees of Error
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 6 - The Problem of Lying
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 7 - Disputed Questions about the Limits of Knowledge and Certainty
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 8 - The Plight of Man After the Fall
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 9 - The Replacement of the Fallen Angels By Elect Men
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 10 - Jesus Christ the Mediator
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 11 - The Incarnation as Example of God's Grace
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 12 - The Role of the Holy Spirit
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 13 - Baptism and Original Sin
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 14 - he Mysteries of Christ's Mediatorial Work and Justification
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 15 - The Holy Spirit and the Church
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 16 - Problems About Heavenly and Earthly Divisions of the Church
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 17 - Forgiveness of Sins in the Church
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 18 - Faith and Works
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 19 - Almsgiving and Forgiveness
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 20 - Spiritual Almsgiving
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 21 - Problems of Casuistry
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 22 - The Two Causes of Sin
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 23 - Reality of the Resurrection
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 24 - Solution to Present Spiritual Enigmas
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 25 - Predestination and the Justice of God
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 26 - Triumph of God's Sovereign Good Will
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 27 - Limits of God's Plan for Human Salvation
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 28 - The Destiny of Man
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 29 - The Last Things
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 30 - The Principles of Christian Living: Faith and Hope
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 31 - Love
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 32 - The End of All the Law
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 33 - Conclusion

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