The Conferences Of John Cassian by John Cassian
Chapter XIII. How human efforts cannot be set against the grace of God.
And so the grace of God always co-operates with our will for its advantage, and in all things assists, protects, and defends it, in such a way as sometimes even to require and look for some efforts of good will from it that it may not appear to confer its gifts on one who is asleep or relaxed in sluggish ease, as it seeks opportunities to show that as the torpor of man's sluggishness is shaken off its bounty is not unreasonable, when it bestows it on account of some desire and efforts to gain it. And none the less does God's grace continue to be free grace while in return for some small and trivial efforts it bestows with priceless bounty such glory of immortality, and such gifts of eternal bliss. For because the faith of the thief on the cross came as the first thing, no one would say that therefore the blessed abode of Paradise was not promised to him as a free gift, nor could we hold that it was the penitence of King David's single word which he uttered: |I have sinned against the Lord,| and not rather the mercy of God which removed those two grievous sins of his, so that it was vouchsafed to him to hear from the prophet Nathan: |The Lord also hath put away thine iniquity: thou shalt not die.| The fact then that he added murder to adultery, was certainly due to free will: but that he was reproved by the prophet, this was the grace of Divine Compassion. Again it was his own doing that he was humbled and acknowledged his guilt; but that in a very short interval of time he was granted pardon for such sins, this was the gift of the merciful Lord. And what shall we say of this brief confession and of the incomparable infinity of Divine reward, when it is easy to see what the blessed Apostle, as he fixes his gaze on the greatness of future remuneration, announced on those countless persecutions of his? |for,| says he, |our light affliction which is but for a moment worketh in us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,| of which elsewhere he constantly affirms, saying that |the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the future glory which shall be revealed in us.| However much then human weakness may strive, it cannot come up to the future reward, nor by its efforts so take off from Divine grace that it should not always remain a free gift. And therefore the aforesaid teacher of the Gentiles, though he bears his witness that he had obtained the grade of the Apostolate by the grace of God, saying: |By the grace of God I am what I am,| yet also declares that he himself had corresponded to Divine Grace, where he says: |And His Grace in me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: and yet not I, but the Grace of God with me.| For when he says: |I laboured,| he shows the effort of his own will; when he says: |yet not I, but the grace of God,| he points out the value of Divine protection; when he says: |with me,| he affirms that it cooperates with him when he was not idle or careless, but working and making an effort.