Part 4
Chapter 5—Of Perseverance

Section 13—Athanasius. A.D. 350.

Athanasius expressly asserts the stability of the church, and the safety of believers, as they are established upon the rock Christ Jesus. Having cited Matthew 16:18, he makes this observation upon it:[1] “Faithful is the saying, and immoveable the promise, kai e ekklesia aettetos, ‘and the church invincible,' though hell itself should be moved, and the rulers of darkness in it.” And in another place he says,[2] “A faithful disciple of the gospel, that has grace to discern spiritual things, builds his house of faith upon a rock, kai esteken edraios kai asphales apo tes touton apates diamenon, and stands firm, and ‘abides safe from their deceit;” that is, from the deceit of false christs and false prophets he had been speaking of before. And having elsewhere[3] mentioned some instances, in the Psalms, he adds, “Wherefore it is manifest, that we being made one, are able, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, bebaion echein tes agates ton sundesmon, to hold the bond of love firm.” He suggests, that the reason why Christ receives grace for men, is, that it might remain safe for them. “He, the Lord,” says he,[4] “received, that the gift residing in him, bebaia e charis diamene, ‘grace might remain firm;' for if men only had received, it was possible that it might be taken away again, which is shown in Adam, for what he received he lost; ina de anaphairetos e charis genetai kai bebaia phugachthe tois anthropois, ‘now that this grace might not he taken away, but be kept safe from men,' therefore he made this gift his own, and says, that he received power as man, which he always had as God.” He also represents[5] it as the effect of Christ's redemption, that the redeemed die no more; for thus he introduces Christ's speaking: “I have finished the work, which thou, Father, gavest me; the work is finished; for the men that are redeemed from sin, ouketi menousi nekcroi, no longer remain dead. But if any of them should perish who are redeemed by Christ, how would this end of redemption be answered in such persons, or the effect of it appear in them? Vossius[6] appeals to a passage in Athanasius,[7] as militating against this doctrine, which is this: “When any one falls from the Spirit, through some wickedness, grace indeed remains irrevocable, with those who are willing; though a man falls, he may repent; but such an one that falls is no longer in God, because the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, which is in God, departs from him; but the sinner is in him, to whom he has subjected himself, as in the case of Saul; for ‘the Spirit of God departed from him, and an evil spirit afflicted him.'” But this must be understood of the external gifts of the Spirit, as the instance of Saul directs us to observe, and not of the special grace of the Spirit in effectual vocation; for Athanasius, in the very same page, says, that it never fails, is without repentance, and being once bestowed, is never revoked.' His words are these: That phrase, as we are one, referring to John 17:92, means nothing else, than that the grace of the Spirit which the disciples had, might be adiaptotos kai ametameletos, ‘never-failing and irrevocable;' for, as I said before, what the Word had by nature to be in the Father, he desires might be irrevocably given us by the Spirit; which the apostle knowing, said, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? For the gifts of God, and the grace of calling, are without repentance.'”


[1] Athanas. Orat. unum esse. Christum, vol. 1. p. 667.

[2] Ibid. contr. Arian. orat. 1. p. 287.

[3] Ibid. orat. 4, p. 474.

[4] Ibid. p. 490.

[5] Ibid. p. 476.

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

[7] Contr. Arian. orat. 4, p. 477.