Part 4
Chapter 5—Of Perseverance

Section 22—Hieronymus. A.D. 390.

Jerom says many things which countenance the doctrine of the perseverance of the church, of righteous persons, true believers, and regenerate ones. Upon Amos 9:14, he has this note,[1] “From hence we understand, that the church, to the end of the world, will be shaken indeed with persecution, sed nequaquam posse subverti, ‘but can in nowise be overthrown;' will be attempted but not overcome; and this will be, because the Lord God omnipotent, or the Lord God of it, that is, of the church, hath promised that he will do it,” And in another place says,[2] We know that the church, in faith, hope and love, is inaccessible and inexpugnable, there is none in it immature, every one is docible; impetus irrumpere vel arte illudere potest nullus, no one by force can break in upon it, or by art allude it.” And elsewhere he observes,[3] that “as the islands are indeed smitten with frequent whirlwinds, storms, and tempests, but are not overthrown, for an example of the evangelic house, which is founded upon a rock of a mighty bulk; so the churches which hope in the law, and in the name of the Lord the Savior, speak by' Isaiah, saying, I am a strong city, a city which is not assaulted;' that is, so as to be taken and destroyed. Much like to this is his remark,[4] on Isaiah 51:5, The right hand and arm of the Lord is he who saves for himself those who first were lost, ut nullus periret de his quos ei Pater dederat, ‘that none of them might perish whom the Father had given to him;' for that either the souls of the saints, who in the midst of the persecutions of this world, anna in Deum solididatae sunt fide, ‘are established with a firm faith in God,' or the multitude of churches among the Gentiles, are called isles, we have frequently declared,” Having mentioned[5] Proverbs 24:17, he puts these questions, “If he falls, how is he just? If just, how does he fall?” which he answers thus, “but he does not lose the name of a just man, who by repentance, always rises again:” moreover, having cited Psalm 92:12, he explains it after this manner,[6] “They that are planted in the house of the Lord are just men in ecclesia conformati, ‘established in the church;' but they, not at present, but hereafter shall flourish in the courts of the Lord, where there is pure and safe possession.” And, says he,[7] in another place, “Dost thou say that the resurrection is of the soul, or of the flesh I answer, Which with the soul is regenerated in the laver; Et quomodo peribit quae in Christo renata est, And how shall that perish which is regenerated in Christ?” And else where he observes,[8] that “he who with his whole mind trusts in Christ, though as a fallen man he was dead in sin, fide sua vivit in perpetuum, by his faith lives for ever.” Once more, “The building,” says he,[9] “which is laid upon the foundation of Christ, of which the apostle speaks, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, nunquum destruetur, sed permanebit in perpetuam shall never be destroyed, but shall abide for ever.” He asserts the security of the saints notwithstanding all the efforts and attempts of Satan by his power and policy to destroy them. “He” (the devil,) says ‘he,[10] “will endeavor to enter into Judah, that is, the house of confession, and frequently, through them who are negligent in the church, he will come up even to the neck, desiring to suffocate believers in Christ; and he will stretch out his wings, filling the whole country of Immanuel, sed non poterit obtinere, quia habet Judas praesentem Deum, but cannot obtain, because Judah has God present with him.” Upon Isaiah 14:16, he makes this remark,[11] “He shook, he does not overthrow; hence one of them that were shaken, and yet did not fall, says, my feet were almost gone; and the apostle speaks to believers to take the amour of God, and stand against the snares of the devil. The house indeed which is founded on a rock, is not shaken by any tempest; that is, so as to be overthrown. He has another passage to the same effect.[12] “When,” says he, “the devil shall come, who is, by interpretation, the reprover and corrector, upon the land and country of believers, and of them whom the Lord shall feed, in the strength and in the majesty of the Lord his God; and he, the devil, shall tread upon them through various tribulations, and as a proud man shall ascend and depress the houses of our souls, that is, our bodies, et tamen nihil nos a Christi charitate separaverit, yet nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ.” The grace of love he more thou once represents as that which shall abide, and never be lost. Upon Matthew 34:12, he has this note;[13] “he does not deny the faith of all, but many, for many are called, but few chosen; for in the apostles, et similibus eorum, permansura est charitas, ‘and them that are like them, love remains;' concerning which it is written in Song of Solomon 8:7 and Romans 8:35.” And in another place he expresses himself thus;[14] “And because love never fails, he who is in the soundness of love,” that is, as he explains it in the same place, “who loves the Lot with all his soul, with all his heart, and with all his strength, nunquam et ipse corruit, he himself also never falls,' according to Romans 8:35.”

Now this perseverance and continuance in grace he denies is owing to the free will of man, but is to be ascribed to the mercy and power of God; which he concludes[15] from 2 Thessalonians 3:3, ergo non liberi arbitrii potestatesed Dei clementia conservamur, “therefore,” says he, “we are preserved, not by the power of free will, but by the clemency of God.” And a little after,[16] having mentioned the words of Christ to Peter in Luke 22:32, he thus addresses the Pelagians et certe juxto vos in apostoli erat positum potestate, si voluisset, ut non deficeret fides ejus, “but truly, according to you, it was in the power of the apostle, if he would, that his faith should not fail.” Jerom does indeed sometimes[17] speak of the Spirit of God being taken away and quenched, but then by the Spirit, he means the gifts of the Spirit, such as are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. The text in Ecclesiastes 7:15, he understands,[18] not of one that is really just, but of one who seems to himself to be so. It must be owned that there are some expressions of Jerom's here and there, which are not easy to be reconciled either with himself or this doctrine; as when he seems[19] to make the perpetuity of God's gifts to depend upon the worthiness of men, and men's continuance of grace to lie in the power of their wills, contrary to what he at other times asserted, which has been already observed; as also when he says that “God indeed has[20] planted, and no man can root up his plantation; but because this planting is in his own free will, no other can root up, nisi ipsa praebuerit assensum, unless that assents to it.” And in another place he says,[21] that “though no one can pluck out of the hand of God, yet he that is held may fall out of the hand of God, propria voluntate, by his own will. And again, that “he who is like an adamant stone, which cannot be hurt or overcome by any, yet may be dissolved by the alone heat of deadly lust.” And this he says[22] after he had expressed the doctrine of the saints' perseverance in a very strong manner. Moreover, he asserts,[23] that the Ethiopians may, upon repentance, become the children of God; and the children of God, by falling into sin, may become Ethiopians; and yet in the same leaf stands a testimony to the doctrine of perseverance, which is cited above. But these must be reckoned among Jerom's unguarded expressions, by which we are not to form a judgment of his sentiments against the numerous testimonies produced to the contrary.


[1] Hieron. Comment. in Amos, tom. 5, p. 50, M.

[2] Ibid. adv. Jovinian. 1. 1, tom. 2 p. 7, D.

[3] Hieron, ad Algasiam, tom. 3. p. 51, L, M.

[4] Ibid. comment, in Isaiah tom. 5. p. 86. C.

[5] Ibid. ad Rusticum, tom. 1. p. 76, E.

[6] Ibid. adv. Pelag. 1. 2. tom. 2. p. 97, C.

[7] Ibid. adv. Error. Joan. Hierosol. p. 60, E.

[8] Ibid. ad Minerium, tom. 3. p. 62, 1.

[9] Ibid. Comment. in Hieremiam, tom. 5. p. 160, F; vide etiam Comment. in Oscam, tom. 6, p. 20, K, p. 21, G.

[10] Ibid. Comment. in Isaiah tom. 5. p. 17, F.

[11] Ibid. p. 37, E.

[12] Hieron. Comment. in Mich. tom. 6. p. 68, C.

[13] Ibid. in Matt, tom. 9. p. 33, B, C.

[14] Ibid. in Tit. p. 110, M.

[15] Ibid. adv Pelag. l.l, tom. 2. p. 9.95, E.

[16] Ibid. p. 96, F.

[17] Ibid. ad Hedib. tom. 3. p. 49, L. p. 50, C.

[18] Ibid. Comment. in Isaiah tom. 5. p. 50, B.

[19] Ibid. in Hieremiam, tom. 5. p. 150, G.

[20] Ibid. in Matthew tom 9. p. 22. B.

[21] Ibid. in Oscam, tom. 6. p. 10, L.

[22] Hieron Comment., in, Amos, p. 47, A.

[23] Ibid. p. 50, C.