Part 4
Chapter 5—Of Perseverance

Section 4—Irenaeus. A.D. 180.

Irenaeus has several passages in his writings which favor this doctrine. Allegorizing the history of Lot's wife, he thus expresses himself:[1] “The church which is the salt of the earth, is left in the confines of the of the earth, suffering the things which are human; and whilst whole members are often taken away from it, perseverat statua salis qued est firmamentum fidei, firmans et praemittens filios ad Patrem ipsorum, ‘ the pillar of salt continues, which is the firmament of faith, confirming and sending before the children to their Father.” He speaks of the grace of love as an abiding one: “Love,” says he,[2] “perfects the perfect man; and he that loves God is perfect both in this world, and in that which is to come; nunquam enim desivimus diligentus Deum, for we never cease loving God, but the more we look upon him, the more we love him.” He also represents the Spirit of God as never leaving the man he has taken up his residence in; for, he says,[3] “The breath of life is one thing, which makes the man animal, and another the quickening Spirit, which makes him spiritual. That which is made is different from him that makes it, wherefore the breath is temporal, to de Pneuma aennaon, the Spirit eternal.” The breath indeed is vigorous for a little while, and remains some time, after which it goes away, leaving it breathless where it was before; but the Spirit encompasses man within and without, ate aei paramonimon oudepote kataleipei auton, as always abiding, and never leaves him.” Yea, he represents it as blasphemy to say, that the members of Christ shall not be saved, but destroyed; for he makes this observation on 1 Corinthians 3:17, If any one defile the temple of God, etc.: Templum igitur Dei in quo Spiritus inhabitat Patris, et membra Christi non participare salutem, sed in perditionem redigi dicere, quomodo non maximae est blasphemiae? Therefore to say, that the temple of God, in which the Spirit of the Father dwells, and the members of Christ, shall not partake of salvation, but be brought down to destruction, is it not the highest blasphemy? Vossius[4] refers to a chapter in Irenaeus,[5] as militating against the doctrine of the saints' final perseverance, in which are these expressions: “All are of the same nature, and able to retain and do good, and able to lose it again, and not do it.” And a little after,[6] “Disobedience to God, and loss of good, are indeed in the power of man.” But it should be known and observed, that Irenaeus is disputing against those heretics who held, that some men were by nature good, and others evil; whereas, he says, they are all of the same nature, as at first created by God, capable of doing good and evil. Besides, he speaks only of the loss of natural and moral good in the natural man, and not of the loss of spiritual good, or of supernatural grace in the regenerate man. Moreover, Irenaeus has a passage in the very same chapter[7] which seems to favor the saints' perseverance; for he says, that “the Lord bore all these things for us, that by all things being learned in all, we might be cautious for the future, et perseveremus in omni ejus dilectione, and persevere in all love to him.”


[1] Iren. adv. Haeres. 1. 4, c. 51. p. 392.

[2] Ibid. c. 25, p. 342.

[3] Ibid.1. 5, c. 12, p. 450; vide Fragm. Graec. ad Calcem Ireuaei.

[4] Hist, Pelag. 1. 6, thes. 12, p. 566.

[5] Adv. Haeres. 1. 4, c. 72, p. 419.

[6] Ibid. p. 418.

[7] Adv. Haeres. 1. 4, c. 72, p. 419.