Finding Clarity Within the Conundrum of Grace

 Taken from, “God is Able to Convert Opposing Wills and to Take Away From the Heart its Hardness.”
Adapted from Monergism.

Written by Augustine of Hippo.
Edited for thought and sense.

shutterstock_27778381Now if faith is simply of free will, and it is not given by God, then why do we pray for those who will not believe, that they may believe?

It would be absolutely useless to do this unless we believe, with perfect propriety, that Almighty God is able to turn to belief, those wills that are perverse and opposed to faith. Man’s free will is addressed when it is said, “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”Heb 3.15 But if God were not able to remove from the human heart even its obstinacy and hardness, then He would not say through the prophet, “I will take from them their heart of stone, and will give them a heart of flesh.”Eze 11.19 That all this was foretold in reference to the New Testament is shown clearly enough by the apostle when he says, “You are our epistle …written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tablets of stone, but in fleshly tablets of the heart.”2Cor 3.2-3 We must not, of course, suppose that such a phrase as this is used as if those who ought to live spiritually might live in a fleshly way. But inasmuch as a stone has no feeling—to which man’s hard heart is compared—what was there left Him to compare man’s intelligent heart to, but the flesh, which possesses feeling? For this is what is said by the prophet Ezekiel: “I will give them another heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and I will give them a heart of flesh; that they may walk in my statutes, and keep my ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, says the Lord.”Eze 11.19-20 Now can we possibly (without extreme absurdity) maintain that there previously existed in any man the good merit of a good will, to entitle him to the removal of his stony heart, when all the while this very heart of stone signifies nothing else than a will of the hardest kind, and such that it is absolutely inflexible against God? For where a good will precedes, there is of course, no longer a heart of stone

pcotw_crossTHE GRACE BY WHICH THE STONY HEART IS REMOVED IS NOT PRECEDED BY GOOD DESERTS, BUT BY EVIL ONES

God, in the clearest language, shows us that it is not owing to any good merits on the part of men, but for His own name’s sake, that He does these things. This is His language: “This I do, O house of Israel, but for my holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the heathen, where you went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which you have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle you with clean water, and you shall be clean: from all your own filthiness, and I will cleanse you from all your idols. A new heart also I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and the stony heart shall be taken away out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and will cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them.”Eze 36.22-27 Now who is so blind as not to see, and who is so stone-like as not to feel, that this grace is not given according to the merits of a good will, when the Lord declares and testifies “It is I, O house of Israel, who do this, but for my holy name’s sake”? Now why did He say “It is I that do it, but for my holy name’s sake,” if it were not that they should not think that it was owing to their own good merits that these things were happening, as the Pelagians do not hesitate to say unblushingly? But there were not only no good merits of theirs, but the Lord shows that evil ones actually preceded; for He says, “But for my holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the heathen.” Who can fail to observe how dreadful is the evil of profaning the Lord’s own holy name? And yet, for the sake of this very name of mine, He says, which you have profaned, I, even I, will make you good, but not for your own sakes; and as He adds “I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which you have profaned in the midst of them.” He says that He sanctifies His name, which He had already declared to be holy. Therefore, this is just what we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer—”Hollowed be Your name.” We ask for the hallowing among men of that which, in itself, is undoubtedly always holy. Then it follows, “And the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you.” Although He Himself is always holy, He is nevertheless sanctified in those on whom He bestows His grace: by taking from them that stony heart by which they profaned the name of the Lord.