The Conferences Of John Cassian by John Cassian
Chapter IX. Of the power of our good will, and the grace of God.
Whence human reason cannot easily decide how the Lord gives to those that ask, is found by those that seek, and opens to those that knock, and on the other hand is found by those that sought Him not, appears openly among those who asked not for Him, and all the day long stretches forth His hands to an unbelieving and gainsaying people, calls those who resist and stand afar off, draws men against their will to salvation, takes away from those who want to sin the faculty of carrying out their desire, in His goodness stands in the way of those who are rushing into wickedness. But who can easily see how it is that the completion of our salvation is assigned to our own will, of which it is said: |If ye be willing, and hearken unto Me, ye shall eat the good things of the land,| and how it is |not of him that willeth or runneth, but of God that hath mercy?| What too is this, that God |will render to every man according to his works;| and |it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do, of His good pleasure;| and |this is not of yourselves but it is the gift of God: not of works, that no man may boast?| What is this too which is said: |Draw near to the Lord, and He will draw near to you,| and what He says elsewhere: |No man cometh unto Me except the Father who sent Me draw Him?| What is it that we find: |Make straight paths for your feet and direct your ways,| and what is it that we say in our prayers: |Direct my way in Thy sight,| and |establish my goings in Thy paths, that my footsteps be not moved?| What is it again that we are admonished: |Make you a new heart and a new spirit,| and what is this which is promised to us: |I will give them one heart and will put a new spirit within them:| and |I will take away the stony heart from their flesh and will give them an heart of flesh that they may walk in Thy statutes and keep My judgments?| What is it that the Lord commands, where He says: |Wash thine heart of iniquity, O Jerusalem, that thou mayest be saved,| and what is it that the prophet asks for from the Lord, when he says |Create in me a clean heart, O God,| and again: |Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow?| What is it that is said to us: |Enlighten yourselves with the light of knowledge;| and this which is said of God: |Who teacheth man knowledge;| and: |the Lord enlightens the blind,| or at any rate this, which we say in our prayers with the prophet: |Lighten mine eyes that I sleep not in death,| unless in all these there is a declaration of the grace of God and the freedom of our will, because even of his own motion a man can be led to the quest of virtue, but always stands in need of the help of the Lord? For neither does anyone enjoy good health whenever he will, nor is he at his own will and pleasure set free from disease and sickness. But what good is it to have desired the blessing of health, unless God, who grants us the enjoyments of life itself, grant also vigorous and sound health? But that it may be still clearer that through the excellence of nature which is granted by the goodness of the Creator, sometimes first beginnings of a good will arise, which however cannot attain to the complete performance of what is good unless it is guided by the Lord, the Apostle bears witness and says: |For to will is present with me, but to perform what is good I find not.|