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Prosper on God's General Grace

January 25, 2008

Prosper:

1) Even in our own day when streams of ineffable gifts flood the whole world, grace is not bestowed on all men in the same measure and intensity. Though the ministers of the word and of God’s grace preach the same truth to all and address to all the same exhortations, yet this is God’s husbandry and God’s building, and it is He whose power invisibily acts and gives growth to what they build or cultivate.

St Prosper of Aquitaine, The Call of the Nations, trans., & annot., by P. De Letter. (Westminster Maryland: The Newman Press, 1952), 98.

2) It may be true that, just as we know that in former times some peoples were not admitted to the fellowship of the sons of God, so also to-day there are in the remotest parts of the world some nations who have not yet seen the light of the grace of the Saviour. But we have no doubt that in God’s hidden judgment, for them also a time of calling has been appointed, when they will hear and accept the Gospel which now remains unknown to them. Even now they receive that measure of general help which heaven has always bestowed on all men. Human nature, it is true, has been wounded by such a severe wound that natural speculation cannot lead a person to the full knowledge of God if the true light does not dispel all darkness from his heart.

St Prosper of Aquitaine, The Call of the Nations, trans., & annot., by P. De Letter. (Westminster Maryland: The Newman Press, 1952), 121.

3) Children who die receive the general grace bestowed upon their parents. The reason that regulates the distribution of the gifts of grace is more inscrutable for us than the cause of the miseries which our nature deserved. But this very difficulty in understanding the mystery makes us look up to our Maker. If we ask, how it can be said that God wills all men to be saved, when He does not grant to all the time when they are able to receive grace in a free acceptance of the faith, I think we may believe without irreverence towards God and conceive without impropriety, that those human beings who live only a few days share in the kind of grace which has always been given to all nations.

St Prosper of Aquitaine, The Call of the Nations, trans., & annot., by P. De Letter. (Westminster Maryland: The Newman Press, 1952), 130-131.

4) Whether, then, we look on these last centuries or on the first or on the ages between, we see that reason and religious sense alike make us believe that God wills and has always willed all men to be saved. We prove this from no other source than from the very gifts which God’s Providence generally bestows on all men without any distinction. These gifts are found to be so general in the past and in the present, that men find in their testimony sufficient help to seek the true God. Over and above these gifts which proclaim their Maker throughout the ages, God has scattered a special bounty of grace. And though this grace is bestowed more abundantly nowadays than before, yet the Lord has reserved to Himself the knowledge of the reasons of His dispensations and kept them hidden in the secrecy of His all-powerful will. Were these to come to all men uniformly, then there would be nothing hidden about them. And just as there can be no doubt about His general kindness to all men, so also there would be nothing astounding concerning His special mercy.

St Prosper of Aquitaine, The Call of the Nations, trans., & annot., by P. De Letter. (Westminster Maryland: The Newman Press, 1952), 133-134.

5) In all ages God’s general goodness gave grace to all men, but to the elect He gave His special grace. We have endeavoured to prove as best we could with the Lord’s help, that not only in our own day but in all past ages as well God gave His grace to all men, providing equally for all and showing to all His general goodness, yet in such a manner that the effects of His grace are manifold and the measure of His gifts varying. For in hidden or open ways He is, as the Apostle says, the Saviour of all men, especially of the faithful. This statement is subtle in its brevity and strong in its conclusiveness. If we consider it with a calm mind, we shall notice that it decides the whole of the present controversy. For by saying, who is the Saviour of all men, the Apostle affirmed that God’s goodness is general and takes care of all men. But by adding, especially of the faithful, he showed that there is a section of humankind whom God, thanks to their faith which He himself inspired, leads on with special helps to the supreme and eternal salvation. In doing this, God, who is supremely just and merciful, is above all injustice, and we have not to discuss His judgment about these rulings that would be arrogance but rather to praise it in awe and trembling.

St Prosper of Aquitaine, The Call of the Nations, trans., & annot., by P. De Letter. (Westminster Maryland: The Newman Press, 1952), 143-144.

[editorial note: cf Calvin’s references to “general grace,” and by way of remark, Calvin was familiar with this work and does cite it.]

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