Part 4
Chapter 4—Of Efficacious  Grace

Section 4—Irenaeus. A.D. 180.

Irenaeus, in many places, shows that the Spirit and grace of God are necessary to the knowledge of God, to our performance of good works, and bringing forth good fruits of righteousness; for, says he,[1] “the Lord hath taught us, that no man can know God nisi Deo docente, hoc est, sine Deo non cognosci Deum, unless God teaches him, that is, God is not or cannot be known without God.” And in another place:[2] “Him we rightly show is known by none, unless by the Son, and such to whom the Son will reveal him; for the Son reveals him to all to whom the Father would be known, et nique sine bona voluntate Patris, neque sine administratione Filii cognoscet quisquam Deum, and neither without the good will and pleasure of the Father, nor without the administration of the Son, can any one know God.” And in the same place he represents men in a state of nature as comparable to stones, in whom Christ, by the mighty power of his grace, works the same kind of faith as was in Abraham: for having cited Matthew 3:9, he makes this observation: “This Jesus did, drawing us off from the religion of stones, and translating us a nostris duris et infructuosis cogitationibus, et similem Abrahae fidem constituens, from our hard and unfruitful thoughts, putting in us faith like to that of Abraham.” Very observable, and much to our purpose, is the following passage of this ancient writer. “As.” says he,[3] “of dry wheat, one lump, or one loaf, cannot be made without moisture, so neither we, being many, can be made one in Christ Jesus, sine aqua quae de coelo est, without the water which is from heaven.” And as the dry earth, if it receives not moisture, does not “bring forth fruit, so likewise we, lignum aridum existentes primum, nunquam fructificaremus vitam, sine superna voluntaria pluvia, hoe est Spiritu Sancto, being first a dry tree, can never bring forth fruit unto life, without the rain which comes freely from above, that is, the Holy Spirit.” And a little after, having compared the Spirit of God to dew, adds, qua propter necessarius nobis est ros Dei, “wherefore the dew of God is necessary for us, that we be not burnt up, nor become unfruitful.” And when he elsewhere says,[4] Facere proprium est benignitatis Dei, fieri autem proprium est hominis naturae, “To make, belongs to the kindness of grace of God; to be made, is the property of man's nature.” What else does he suggest, but that God is active, and men passive, as in the old, so in the new creation? Dr. Whitby,[5] to prove that the fathers taught, that God only persuades men, and leaves them under a power to neglect and resist his persuasions, cites a passage from Irenaeus,[6] in which he says, that God redeems his from the apostate spirit, non vi sed suadela, not by force, but by persuasion, quemadmodum decebat Deum suadentem et non vim inferentem accipere quae vellet, as it became God to receive what he would by persuasion, and not by force.” But upon examining the place, it will appear, that Irenaeus is speaking not of God's operation upon the hearts of men, but of Christ's redeeming his from the apostate spirit rationally, in a way of righteousness, mildly, gently, and not by force and violence; and that the persuasion, whatever Irenaeus means by it, is used not with the persons redeemed, but with the apostate spirit who had usurped dominion over them.


[1] Adv. Hoeres. 1.4, c. 14, p. 331.

[2] Ibid. c. 19, p. 333.

[3] Ibid. 1.3, c. 19, p. 280.

[4] Ibid. 1. 4, c. 76, p. 422.

[5] Discourse, &e. p. 226; ed. 2. 260.

[6] Adv. Haeres. 1. 5, c. 1, p. 432.