Wednesday, January 12, 2011

St. Augustine On The Hardening Of Pharaoh's Heart

St. Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 AD
St. Augustine of Hippo | But why do we ask such a question? The apostle himself goes on. "The Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, For this very purpose did I raise thee up, that I might show in thee my power, and that my name might be published abroad in all the earth." The apostle adds this as an example to prove what he had said above, that, "it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy." As if some one had said to him, 'What is the source of this doctrine of yours?' His reply is "The Scripture saith unto Pharaoh" etc. Thus he shows that it is not of him that willeth but God that hath mercy. And he concludes with these words: "So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth." Earlier he had not stated both of these truths. He said: "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy"; but he did not say "It is not if him that is unwilling, nor of him that contemneth, but of God who causeth the hardening of the heart." 

So by putting both sides--He hath mercy o whom He will have mercy, and whom He will hardeneth--we are given to understand that the new statement agrees with the former one, viz., the hardening which God causes is an unwillingness to be merciful. We must not think that anything is imposed by God whereby a man is made worse, but only that he provides nothing whereby a man is made better. But if there be no distinction of merits, who would not break out into the objection which the apostle brings against himself? "Whou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he still find fault? For who withstandeth his will?" God often finds fault with men because the will not believe and live righteously, as is apparent from many passages of Scripture. Hence faithful people who do the will of God are said to walk blamelessly, because Scripture finds no fault with them. But he says, "Why does he find fault? Who withstandeth his will" through "he hath mercy on whom he will and whom he will hardeneth." Let us look at what was said above and let it direct our interpretation as the Lord himself gives us aid. 

~ To Simplician–On Various Questions, Chapter 15

4 comments:

  1. Good quote from the Old Bishop from Hippo. A point of interest: Augustine says, "We must not think that anything is imposed by God whereby a man is made worse, but only that he provides nothing whereby a man is made better." What do you think of that? Must we not think that God is active in hardening, or at least that he can be?
    -Tim

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  2. Tim,

    So far as I understand the passage (i.e. Romans 9:7) and the doctrine, reprobation consists in God's determination not only to withhold grace from certain sinners, but to actively increase their guilt by granting temporal benefits which they willfully abuse. Case in point, God gave Pharaoh political power but withheld regenerating grace. Further, God withheld a degree of restraining grace from him, and by this means built the vessel up higher to hold a greater outpouring of wrath.

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  3. *I mean Romans 9:17, not 9:7.

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  4. Very good. I concur right down the line.

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