St Augustine on the Predestination of the Saints
|Jesus Christ, son of David according to the flesh|
The shining example of predestination and grace is the Saviour himself, the mediator between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus. What merits, of good deeds or faith, did his human nature have beforehand, to make this happen? Please, let me have an answer: how did that man earn the privilege of being taken up into unity of person by the Word co-eternal with the Father and of being the only-begotten Son of God? What good quality of his can have made him deserve this? What had he done, what had he believed, what had he prayed for, to come to this indescribable excellence? Surely it was no action of his, but the action of the Word lifting him up, that caused this man, at the moment that he was coming into being, to come into being as the only Son of God!
Let us see, in our own bodies, how the head is the source of grace that flows through the members, filling each according to its capacity. The grace by which every man, from the moment when he comes to believe, becomes a Christian is the same grace by which that man, from the moment when he came to be, became Christ. The Spirit through whom we are reborn is the same Spirit through whom he was born. The Spirit that brings us remission of our sins is the same Spirit that gave him freedom from sin.
God certainly knew beforehand that he was going to make these things happen. This is exactly the predestination of the saints and it shines out most clearly in the predestination of the Saint of saints. How can anyone deny this who properly understands the utterances of the Truth? For we see that even the Lord of glory is the subject of God’s predestination, in so far as at his incarnation a man became the Son of God.
So Jesus was predestined, so that he who was to be, according to the flesh, a son of David should nevertheless be the Son of God in power, according to the Spirit of holiness – because he was born of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary. Thus in a unique and indescribable way a man was taken up into God the Word so that he could be at once a son of man and the Son of God – a son of man according to the nature that was taken up, the Son of God because of the only-begotten God who took him up. If it were not like this, we would have to believe not in a Trinity but in a Quaternity.
This predestined elevation of human nature is so great, so high, so exalted that there is no greater height left to which it could be raised. On the other side, the very godhead could not throw itself down lower than it did, to the taking on of human nature with all its weaknesses and a final death on a cross. As he, the one, was predestined to be our head, so we, the many, were predestined to be his members.
Let any merits that men may have be silent here – they died through Adam. Let God’s grace reign, as it does reign: the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord, the one Son of God, the one Lord. If anyone can find in that man, our Head, pre-existing merits that led to his unique birth, let him look in us, his members, for pre-existing merits that might lead to the rebirth of us all.