Part 4
Chapter 4—Of Efficacious  Grace

Section 21—Hieronymus. A.D. 390.

Jerom was a warm defender of the grace of God, against Pelagius and his followers; he asserts, that all the good things we enjoy are from the free grace of God: All things, says he,[1] speaking to and of God are thine; and whatever good thing there is, sine to cujus est, dari non potest, can not be given without thee, whose it is; for God only is he who can instruct his people, and who can give diversitates gratiae, diversities of grace, to them that wait upon him. And elsewhere,[2] having observed God different dispensations towards men and his leaving of them to their own wills that they may receive the reward or punishment thereof, he adds, Not that all that shall come to pass shall be of man, but of the grace of him that gives all things; for so the liberty of the will is to be preserved, ut in omnibus excellat gratia largitoris, ‘that in all things the grace of the giver may excel, according to Psalm 127:1, Romans 9:15.” And a little after he asks, “Where then is the power and judgment of man's own free will without the grace of God?” Upon Jeremiah 32:40 he has this note,[3] “So he gives free will, that notwithstanding the fear which is bestowed, gratia permaneat largitoris, the grace of the giver might remain. In another place, says he,[4] “Whatever thou hast, thou thinkest non tuae esse virtutis sed ejus misericordiae, is not owing to thine own virtue, but to his mercy.” And explaining Ecclesiastes 9:11, he thus expresses himself;[5] “He that is light, and his soul is not oppressed, nevertheless cannot come to the goal, absque Deo ajutore, unless God is his helper. And seeing the battle is against contrary powers, of which it is written, sanctify the battle; though a man may be strong, yet he cannot conquer, propriis viribus, by his own strength.

Also one that is perfect and wise among the children of men cannot have the living and heavenly bread, but through wisdom inviting, Come, eat of my bread. And because that riches are not wanting, of which the apostle says, 1 Timothy 6:18, 1 Corinthians 4:5, it must be known, that a prudent man cannot gather those riches, nisi eas a Domino acceperit, “unless he receives them from the Lord.' Grace also, unless it accompanies knowledge, and is granted by God, though a learned man, he cannot find it.” He frequently inculcates the necessity of divine grace to the understanding of the Scriptures. The knowledge of the Scriptures he represents[6] as “a watered garden, or a paradise of divers trees, sed qui absque gratia spirituali est, ‘ but he that is without spiritual grace' does not so much as bring forth herbs.” And in another place[7] he speaks of some, who though “they did not depart from the head, Christ, yet held things contrary to their head; who promise themselves by their own judgment, a knowledge of the Scriptures, absque magistro et gratia Domini, without a master and the grace of the Lord.” Particularly he observes,[8] that “the whole epistle to the Romans wants interpretation, and is involved in such obscurities, that to understand it Spiritus Sancti indigeamus auxilio, we stand in need of the help of the Holy Spirit;” especially the ninth chapter, and the doctrines contained in it. Yea, he signifies, that all the doctrines of the gospel are unsearchable by man's own diligence and industry; for explaining Ephesians 3:8, he has this observation,[9] “Those things which are in their own nature unsearchable to man, these are known, Deo revelante, ‘God revealing them;' for it is one thing to attain to a secret through one's own curiosity, which after it is found out ceases to be unsearchable, aliud propria diligentia, nequaquam posse comprehendere sed per gratiam cognoscere Dei, ‘another thing in nowise to be able to comprehend it through one's own diligence, but to know it by the grace of God;' which, when thou knowest, and hast also shown it to others, nevertheless remains unsearchable, since it was a secret to thee, as much as in thee lay before it was shown.” He asserts the necessity of the Spirit's assistance, and the grace of God to the right performance of every good action, to which he refers it, when he says,[10] “It is in our power to do any thing, or not to do it; so only that whatsoever, good work we will, desire and fulfill, ad Dei gratiam referimus, ‘we refer to the grace of God,' who, according to the apostle, gives us both to will and to do.” And again,[11] “The divine Word bid and commanded the prophet, saying, Stand upon thy feet; sed sine auxilio Dei et adventu Spiritus Sancti stare non poterat, ‘but without the help of God and the coming of the Holy Spirit he could not stand;' wherefore he entered into him, or took and raised him up, that he might stand firm, and be able to say, He hath set my feet upon a rock.” Yea, he affirms, that the best of men stand in need of the grace of God; thus, explaining the names of Hilkiah, Jeremiah, Shallum, and Hanameel, he says,[12] “Hilkiah is by interpretation the portion of the Lord, a Jeremiah the height of the Lord: for rightly the height of the Lord is born from the portion of the Lord; Shallum may be translated peace or peaceable, Hanameel the gift or grace of God; nor shall we wonder that peace and grace are joined together, when the apostolic epistles begin thus, Grace be unto you, and peace; for, first, we obtain the peace of God, and after peace grace is born in us; quae non in possidentis, sed in arbitrio donantis est, which is not in the will of the possessor, but in the will of the giver.” The grace of God carries the purchase to him who is set in high places, that though he may be seen high, tamen gratia Dei indigeat, yet stands in need of the grace of God.” And elsewhere he says,[13] that “though a man be righteous, yet whilst he is in this flesh he is subject to vices and sins, et majore praesidio indiget, and is in need of a greater succor.” He very plainly and clearly asserts, that the work of sanctification is the work of God, and owing to his grace; yea, that it is a work of his mighty power, and what he even works irresistibly.

“Faith,” he says,[14] “flows from the free will of a man's own mind (which I suppose he means of the acts and exercise of faith being performed with freedom of will from the strength of grace; but, adds he,) sanctification is sometimes begun without our will, ex sanctificantis largitate, by the free gift of the sanctifier.” And a little after he says,[15] “As God being good, according to his essence and nature, nos communione sui effecit bonos, ‘hath made us good by the communion of himself:” and speaks to Israel, Be ye holy, for I am holy; so he himself being blessed makes us blessed.” Upon Ephesians 2:8-10, he has these words;[16] “This faith is not of yourselves, but of him that calleth you: this therefore is said, lest, perhaps, a secret thought should creep into us, if we are not saved by our works, surely either by faith we are saved, and it is ours in another kind that we are saved; therefore he adds, and says, fidem quoque ipsam non nostrae voluntatis esse sed Dei muneris, ‘that this faith itself also is not of our will, but of God's gift;' not that he takes away free will from man; but since the liberty of the will has God for its author, all things are to be referred to his grace; seeing he even permits us to will that which is good; all this is therefore lest any one should glory in himself, and that he is not saved by God.” He goes on, and observes, that “God gives reasons why we are saved by grace, through faith, and that not of ourselves, but of the gift of God; saying, for we are his workmanship, that is, that we live, that we breathe, that we understand, et credere possumus, and are able to believe.” And that the work of grace is a work of almighty power, he declares[17] in his note on Jeremiah 13:23, “That which is impossible to men is possible to God, so that the Ethiopian or leopard can in nowise seem to change their nature; but he who works in the Ethiopian and leopard, according to Philippians 4:13, 1 Corinthians 15:10 Galatians 2:20, 1 Corinthians 4:7; for which reasons “let not the wise man glory in his wisdom nor the strong man in his strength, nor the rich man in his riches, nor the chaste man in his chastity; knowing that in all these Christi virtus sit, is the power of Christ, not theirs who glory in their own virtues.” And that he thought, that God when he works, works irresistibly, so as that which he works it shall be accomplished, appears from these expressions of his;[18] “We men will to do most things by counsel, but the effect in nowise follows the will; but no one can resist him so that he cannot do all that he wills: he wills whatsoever things are full of reason and counsel; he wills that all may be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth; but because no man is saved without his own will, for we are endued with free will, he wills, that we will that which is good, that when we have willed, velit in nobis et ipsius suum implere consilium, he also wills in to fulfill his own counsel.”


[1] Hieron. Comment. in Hierremiam, tom. 5, p. 138.

[2] Ibid. p. 143, A, P.

[3] Ibid. p. 162, I. K.

[4] Comment. in Ezech. p. 256, K.

[5] Ibid. in Eccl. tom. p. 39, K, L.

[6] Ibid. in Isaiah tom. 5:p. 5, E.

[7] Ibid. in Mich. tom. 6. p. 27, G.

[8] Epist. ad Hedib. tom. 3 p. 48, H.

[9] Comment in Ephes. tom. 9. p. 95 K.

[10] Com. in Hieremiam, tom. 5. p. 152, D.

[11] Ibid. In Eccl. tom. 7. p. 177, C.

[12] Ibid. in Hieremiam, 5. p. 160, K.

[13] Ibid. in Eccl. tom. 7. p. 36, L.

[14] Comment. in Ephesians tom. 9, p. 89, L.

[15] Ibid. M.

[16] Ibid. p. 93, H, I.

[17] Ibid. in Hieremiam, tom. 5. p. 137, G, H.

[18] Ibid. in Ephes. tom. 9. p. 91, E.