1: God Wishes All Men to be Saved;
2. THE CELEBRATED TEXT OF ST. PAUL
On the other hand, both the Scriptures and all the Fathers assure us that God sincerely and really wishes the salvation of all men and the conversion of all sinners, as long as they are in this world. For this we have, first of all, the express text of St. Paul: "Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth." The sentence of the Apostle is absolute and indicative-----"God wills all men to be saved". [1 Tim. 2: 4] These words in their natural sense declare that God truly wills all men to be saved; and it is a certain rule, received in common by all, that the words in Scripture are not to be distorted to an unnatural sense, except in the sole case when the literal meaning is repugnant to faith or morals. St. Bonaventure writes precisely to our purpose when he says, "We must hold that when the Apostle says, God wills all men to be saved, it is necessary to grant that He does will it."
It is true
and St. Thomas mention different interpretations which have been given
to this text; but both these Doctors understand it to mean a real will
of God to save all, without exception.
And concerning St. Augustine, we shall see just now that this was his true opinion; so that St. Prosper protests against attributing to him the supposition that God did not sincerely wish the salvation of all men, and of each individual, as an aspersion on the holy Doctor. Hence the same St. Prosper, who was a most faithful disciple of his, says, "It is most sincerely to be believed and confessed that God wills all men to be saved; since the Apostle [whose very words these are] is particular in commanding that prayers should be made to God for all."
The argument of the Saint is clear, founded on St. Paul's words in the above-cited passage-----"I beseech therefore, first of all that prayers should be made for all men"; and then he adds, "For, this is good and acceptable before God our Savior, Who wills all men to be saved." So the Apostle wishes us to pray for all, exactly in the same sense that God wishes the salvation of all. St. Chrysostom uses the same argument: "If He wills all to be saved, surely we ought to pray for all. If He desires all to be saved, do you also be of one mind with Him." And if in some passages in his controversy with the Semi-Pelagians, St. Augustine seems to have held a different interpretation of this text, saying that God does not will the salvation of each individual, but only of some, Petavius well observes that here the holy Father speaks only incidentally, not with direct intention; or, at any rate, that he speaks of the grace of that absolute and victorious will [voluntas absoluta et victrix] with which God absolutely wills the salvation of some persons, and of which the Saint elsewhere says, 'The will of the Almighty is always invincible." [Enchir. c. 102]
us hear how St.
Thomas uses another method of reconciling the opinion of St. Augustine
with that of St. John Damascene, who holds that antecedently God wills
all and each individual to be saved: "God's first intention is to will
all men to be saved, that as good He may make us partakers of His
but after we have sinned, He wills to punish us as just." On the other
hand, St. Augustine [as we have seen] seems in a few passages to think
differently. But St. Thomas reconciles these opinions, and says that
Damascene spoke of the antecedent will of God, by which He really wills
all men to be saved, while St. Augustine spoke of the consequent will.
He then goes on to explain the meaning of antecedent and consequent
"Antecedent will is that by which God wills all to be saved; but when
all the circumstances of this or that individual are considered, it is
found to be good that all men should be saved; for it is good that he
prepares himself, and consents to it, should be saved; but not he who
is unwilling and resists, etc. And this is called the consequent will,
because it presupposes a foreknowledge of a man's deeds, not as a cause
of the act of will, but as a reason for the thing willed and