Remember from our last post that Augustine appealed to God's omnipotence to defend his doctrine of Reprobation. All would be saved if God wanted them to be. He does not convert all men because he wants to show his wrath against some of them. It is the will of God both when men are saved and when they are damned.
“Why he does not teach all men the apostle explained, as far as he judged that it was to be explained, because, ‘willing to show his wrath, and to exhibit his power, he endured with much patience the vessels of wrath which were perfected for destruction; and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy which he has prepared for glory.’ Hence it is that the ‘word of the cross is foolishness to them that perish; but unto them that are saved it is the power of God.’ God teaches all such to come to Christ, for he wills all such to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. And if he had willed to teach even those to whom the word of the cross is foolishness to come to Christ beyond all doubt these also would have come. For he neither deceives nor is deceived when he says, ‘every one that hath heard of the Father, and hath learned, cometh to me.’” (The Predestination of the Saints 14)
Note two important things: One, how often Augustine appeals to God’s power; and two, that God, almighty as He is, does not convert all men whom He undoubtedly could.
Furthermore, Augustine comments on Matthew 11:20-24 that God obviously does not will the salvation of all men, head for head, since He refused to work miracles for people who would have otherwise repented.
He writes, “Or, it is said, ‘who will have all men to be saved;’ not that there is no man whose salvation he does not will (for how, then, explain the fact that he was unwilling to work miracles in the presence of some who, he said, would have repented if he had worked them?), but that we are to understand by ‘all men,’ the human race in all its varieties of rank and circumstances.” (Enchiridion 103)
Note that he is saying that God infallibly saves all who are saved but to some it is ‘not given’.
He continues, “This is the predestination of the saints, – nothing else; to wit, the foreknowledge and the preparation of God’s gifts, whereby they are most certainly delivered, whoever they are that are delivered. But where are the rest left by the righteous divine judgment except in the mass of ruin, where the Tyrians and the Sidonians were left? who, moreover, might have believed if they had seen Christ’s wonderful miracles. But since it was not given to them to believe, the means of believing also were denied them… But what the Lord said of the Tyrians and Sidonians may perchance be understood in another way: that no one nevertheless comes to Christ unless it were given him, and that it is given to those who are chosen in him before the foundation of the world, he confesses beyond a doubt who hears the divine utterance… ‘To you,’ said he, ‘it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.’” (The Gift of Perseverance 35)
This shows us the mystery of Predestination, for: “Tyre and Sidon would not have been condemned, although more slightly than those cities in which, although they did not believe, wonderful works were done by Christ the Lord; because if they had been done in them, they would have repented in dust and ashes, as the utterances of the Truth declare, in which words of his the Lord Jesus shows to us the loftier mystery of predestination… But can we say that even the Tyrians and Sidonians would have refused to believe such mighty works done among them, or would not have believed them if they had been done, when the Lord himself bears witness to them that they would have repented with great humility if those signs of divine power had been done among them? And yet in the day of judgment they will be punished; although with a less punishment than those cities which would not believe the mighty works done in them.” (The Gift of Perseverance 22, 23)
There can be no doubt what Augustine’s position on the subject was. He clearly held that “all men” meant “all kinds/classes of men,” and was strictly limited to the Elect. This was not a new position. Origen read John 3:16 as saying that God so loved the Elect that He gave His Son. John of Damascus, working (we assume) independently of Augustine, read “all men” as meaning “all classes of men.” This notion was arrived at by reading verse 4 (1 Tim. 2:4) in the light of verses 1 and 2, since they clearly define who “all men” are, viz., people from all ranks and stations from kings on down to the lowliest subject.
In our previous post we looked at the teaching of Augustine of Hippo with regard to the question of whether or not God truly desires or will the salvation of all men indiscriminately. We saw that this was answered negatively. By an appeal to God’s omnipotence, Augustine argued simply, succinctly, and convincingly that were it God’s will to save everyone, all men would infallibly be saved since none can resist God’s omnipotent will. If some are not saved, it is not because they have thwarted God, but because He never intended to save them. In this post we have further demonstrated this by more extensive appeal to his writings. The next post will look at the same subject in the writings of Prosper of Aquitaine.