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St. Augustine

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CHAPTER XXVI - The Triumph of God's Sovereign Good Will

100. These are "the great works of the Lord, well-considered in all his acts of will"
218 -
and so wisely well-considered that when his angelic and human creation sinned (that is, did not
do what he willed, but what it willed) he could still accomplish what he himself had willed and
this through the same creaturely will by which the first act contrary to the Creator's will had been
done. As the Supreme Good, he made good use of evil deeds, for the damnation of those whom
he had justly predestined to punishment and for the salvation of those whom he had mercifully
predestined to grace.
For, as far as they were concerned, they did what God did not will that they do, but as far as
God's omnipotence is concerned, they were quite unable to achieve their purpose. In their very
act of going against his will, his will was thereby accomplished. This is the meaning of the
statement, "The works of the Lord are great, well-considered in all his acts of will" - that in a
strange and ineffable fashion even that which is done against his will is not done without his will.
For it would not be done without his allowing it - and surely his permission is not unwilling but
willing - nor would he who is good allow the evil to be done, unless in his omnipotence he could
bring good even out of evil.

101. Sometimes, however, a man of good will wills something that God doth not will, even
though God's will is much more, and much more certainly, good - for under no circumstances
can it ever be evil. For example, it is a good son's will that his father live, whereas it is God's
good will that he should die. Or, again, it can happen that a man of evil will can will something
that God also willeth with a good will - as, for example, a bad son wills that his father die and
this is also God's will. Of course, the former wills what God doth not will, whereas the latter
does will what God willeth. Yet the piety of the one, though he wills not what God willeth, is
more consonant with God's will than is the impiety of the other, who wills the same thing that
God willeth. There is a very great difference between what is fitting for man to will and what is
fitting for God - and also between the ends to which a man directs his will - and this difference
determines whether an act of will is to be approved or disapproved. Actually, God achieveth
some of his purposes - which are, of course, all good - through the evil wills of bad men. For
example, it was through the ill will of the Jews that, by the good will of the Father, Christ was
slain for us - a deed so good that when the apostle Peter would have nullified it he was called
"Satan" by him who had come in order to be slain.
219 How good seemed the purposes of the
pious faithful who were unwilling that the apostle Paul should go to Jerusalem, lest there he
should suffer the things that the prophet Agabus had predicted!
220 And yet God had willed
that he should suffer these things for the sake of the preaching of Christ, and for the training of a
martyr for Christ. And this good purpose of his he achieved, not through the good will of the
Christians, but through the ill will of the Jews. Yet they were more fully his who did not will
what he willed than were those who were willing
instruments of his purpose - for while he and the latter did the very same thing, he worked
through them with a good will, whereas they did his good will with their ill will.

102. But, however strong the wills either of angels or of men, whether good or evil, whether
they will what God willeth or will something else, the will of the Omnipotent is always
undefeated. And this will can never be evil, because even when it inflicts evils, it is still just; and
obviously what is just is not evil. Therefore, whether through pity "he hath mercy on whom
he willeth," or in justice "whom he willeth, he hardeneth," the omnipotent God never doth
anything except what he doth will, and doth everything that he willeth.

218 Ps. 110:2 (Vulgate).

219 Matt. 16:23.

220 Acts 21:10-12.

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