Prosper on 1 Timothy 2:4

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in 1 Timothy 2:4-6


Prosper’s early remarks

General Comment:

1)14. Hence, when the apostles began to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, Holy Scripture reports of one section of those who heard them preach: And the Gentiles hearing were glad and glorified the word of the Lord, and as many as were ordained to life everlasting believed. And elsewhere it says, when many women listened to Paul’s re aching: A certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, one that worshiped God, did hear: whose heart the Lord opened to attend to those things which were said by Paul. And again, at the very moment that the preachers of the gospel were sent out to all the nations, the apostles were forbidden to go to certain regions by Him who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, with the result, of course, that many, detained and going astray during this delay of the gospel, died without having known the truth and without having been sanctified in baptism. Let, then, Holy Scripture say what happened: And when they had passed through Phrygia and the country of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia. And when they were come into Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not. Is there any wonder that at the very beginning of the preaching of the gospel the apostles could not go except where the Spirit of God wanted them to go, when even now we see that many of the nations only begin to have a share in the Christian grace, while others have not yet got a glimpse of that divine gift? Prosper of Aquitaine: Defense of St. Augustine, trans., by P. De letter, (New York: Newman Press, 1963), 34.

Specific Comments:

2) Article 8

OBJECTION: God will not have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, but only the fixed number of the predestined.

ANSWER: To assert that throughout the ages God’s will concerning the salvation of the human race and its call to the knowledge of the truth is universal and equal for all, in the sense that it never passed over any single individual, is to trespass on the unfathomable depths of God’s judgments. For why is it that in times past God suffered all nations to walk in their own ways, when He chose Jacob unto Himself, and did not do in like manner to every nation and did not make manifest to them His judgments? Why is it that that which was no people is now the people of God, and that to those on whom He had no mercy He now is merciful? Why is it that Israel hath not obtained what he sought, but the election hath obtained it and the rest have been blinded? The why of all this it is not possible for us to understand, and it is dangerous inquisitiveness to try to know it. Yet, no one is allowed to be unaware that there is no iniquity with God. Nor should one think that any man was made just, either before the law or under the law, by another grace or another faith than the grace and the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to the decree of God’s will, came at the end of times to seek and to save that which was lost. But one who gives the wills and actions of men as the reason of God’s decrees and judgments, though he cannot find any of these in the case of the adoption or rejection of infants, one who says that the dispositions of God’s providence vary according to the various ways of the free wills of men, declares that for him God’s judgments are comprehensible and His ways searchable. The mystery which the Apostle of the Gentiles did not dare to consider, he thinks he has discovered and can explain. Worse error still: he means to teach that the grace by which we are saved is either rendered for merit or obstructed by demerit.

Let us, then, set aside the whirl of these obscure questions and turn to the broad light of what God has revealed to us about grace. Let us say with the Apostle: God will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Let us listen to the Lord’s instruction to His apostles: Going, therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. Let us listen to God’s promise to Abraham: In thy seed all the tribes of the earth shall be blessed. If we are sons of the promise, let us not stagger by distrusts but with our father Abraham give glory to God and believe absolutely that whatsoever He has promised, He is able to perform.

Let us read David’s prophecies: All the ends of the earth shall remember and shall be converted to the Lord, and all the kindreds of the Gentiles shall adore in His sight. Another: And in Him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed, all nations shall magnify Him. Another: All the nations thou hast made shall come and adore before thee, O Lord, and they shall glorify thy name. These prophecies, being infallible, cannot fail to come true, and they are actually being fulfilled in the elect who are saved the world over, for whatsoever God has promised, He is able also to perform. That is exactly what we mean by God’s acceptance of the whole human race, by the adoption of the sons of God, of that fulness of the Gentiles which was foreknown and re destined in Christ before the creation of the world. That is the Jerusalem which is being built up from the beginning till the end of times with living and picked stones, a town built on the very cornerstone, Jesus Christ, in whom all the building being framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord. None of these stones is rejected, or chopped, or torn away. Truth Itself says: All that the Father giveth to me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will not cast Or again: You do not believe, because you are not of my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. And I know them, and they follow me. And I gave them life everlasting, and they shall not perish forever. And no man shall pluck them out of my hand.

It is true, therefore, that God takes care of all men and that there is no one to whom either the preaching of the gospel or the commandments of the law or the voice of nature does not transmit God’s call. The unbelief of some we must ascribe to men themselves, and the faith of others we must proclaim to be a gift of God, without whose grace no one comes to grace. With the two hundred and fourteen bishops whose decree against the enemies of God’s grace was accepted by the whole world, let us confess the truth and say in their own words: The grace of God through the Lord Jesus Christ assists us in every one of our good actions, not only to know but also to do what is right, in such a manner that without grace we are unable to think, to say, or to do anything which is truly holy and salutary. Nor should we believe that all these gifts come from God only in the sense that, being the author of our nature, He gave them in our very creation. It is true that from the beginning He gave men the power of knowing and doing what is right, but we have all lost it in him in whom we have all sinned. Accordingly, are in need of being renewed by another creation and another principle of life in Christ, in whom we are a new creation, a new handiwork, and through whom, without any previous merit of our own and despite many a previous demerit, we are given to be transformed from the vessels of wrath we were into vessels of mercy. Prosper of Aquitaine: Defense of St. Augustine, trans., by P. De letter, (New York: Newman Press, 1963), 146-149.

3) QUALIFICATION OF ARTICLE 8: Likewise, he who says that God will not have all men to be saved but only the fixed number of the predestined, speaks more harshly than we should speak of the depth of the unsearchable grace of God.

God, who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth fulfills this free decree of His in those whom He foreknew and predestined, predestined and called, called and justified, justified and glorified. In so doing, He does not lose anyone that belongs to that fulness of the nations and to that completeness of the race of Israel for whom the eternal kingdom was prepared in Christ before the creation of the world. Out of the entire world the whole world of the elect is chosen; out of the totality of men the totality of the elect are adapted. Nor can the unbelief and disobedience of many annul the promise God made to Abraham: In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”Whatsoever God has promised, He is able to perform.'” And so the elect are saved because God willed them to be saved, and the reprobate are lost because they I deserve to be lost. Prosper of Aquitaine: Defense of St. Augustine, trans., by P. De letter, (New York: Newman Press, 1963), 159.

4) Article 2 OBJECTION: God does not wish to save all men, even though all should wish to be saved.

ANSWER: When Truth Itself says: If you, being evil, know how to give good things to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him how could it be that God, who saves even those of whom it cannot be said that they wish to be saved, does not wish to save some others, even though they wish to be saved? There must be some reasons hidden from us but well known to Him of whom it cannot be said that He had to do anything in another manner than He actually did. Leaving aside, then, the reasons for a division which God’s wisdom keeps hidden in the mystery of His justice, we must believe sincerely and profess loudly that God will have all men to be saved. For the Apostle who said this commands with great insistence what is now the observance in all churches, that prayers be offered to God for all men. If many of those for whom we pray are lost, it is only through their own fault. If many are saved, it is through a gift of their Saviour. When a sinner incurs eternal damnation, it is through an effect of God’s blameless justice; but if a sinner is made just, it is by an ineffable gift of God’s grace. Prosper of Aquitaine: Defense of St. Augustine, trans., by P. De letter, (New York: Newman Press, 1963), 165.

Prosper’s later remarks:


Three points are certain in this matter: God wills all men to be saved, the knowledge of truth and salvation is due to grace, and God’s judgments are inscrutable. If we give up completely all wrangling that springs up in the heat of immoderate disputes, it will be clear that we must hold for certain three points concerning the problem on which we begin our Second Book. First, we must confess that God wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth. Secondly, there can be no doubt that all who actually come to the knowledge of the truth and to salvation, do so not in virtue of their own merits but of the efficacious help of divine grace. Thirdly, we must admit that human understanding is unable to fathom the depths of God’s judgments, and we ought not to inquire why He who wishes all men to be saved does not in fact save all. For if we do not search into what we cannot know, then we shall have no difficulty in reconciling the first point with the second, but we shall be able to preach and to believe them both with the security of an undisturbed faith. God indeed in whom there is no injustice and all of whose ways are mercy and truth, is the beneficent Creator of all men and their just Ruler. He condemns no one without guilt and saves no one for his merits. When He chastises the guilty, He punishes our demerits, and when He makes us just, He bestows of His own gifts. Thus the mouth is stopped of them that speak wicked things and God is justified in His words and overcomes when He is judged. The condemned cannot complain in justice that they did not deserve punishment, nor can the justified truthfully claim that they have merited grace.


Scripture teaches that God wills all men to be saved. We must not profane with our human dialectics the texts quoted from the divine Scriptures to explain what grace is; that would be to drag so many clear and concordant statements into the uncertainty of a misleading interpretation. In the same way, no argumentation to the contrary must defile what we find in the same body of Scripture about the salvation of all men. Rather, the more difficult is its understanding the more praiseworthy will the faith be that believes. That assent is indeed very strong whose motive is derived from authority as a sufficient proof of truth, even though the why of things remain hidden.

Let us, then, carefully examine the behest which our Lord makes to the preachers of the gospel According to Matthew, He says: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going, therefore, teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. According to Mark, He speaks thus to the same Apostles: Go ye into the world and preach the gospel to every creature, and he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned.

Does this command make a difference between any peoples or any individuals? No, He welcomed no one for his merits, singled out no one for his birth, made no distinction with anyone because of his social state. The gospel of the Cross of Christ was extended to all men without exception. And that no one should consider the ministry of the preachers as but a merely human enterprise, He said, Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. That is, when you will go like sheep in the midst of wolves, do not be afraid on account of your weakness; have confidence in my power, for I shall not forsake you in this great mission till the end of the world. Not that you will have nothing to suffer; but what is much greater, I shall give you strength that you may not be overcome by any cruelty of savage tyrants. For you will preach with my power; and through me it will come about that from among your opponents and persecutors sons of Abraham will be raised up from the very stones. I shall instil my doctrine, I shall accomplish my promise. For they will deliver you up in councils and they will scourge you in their synagogues. And you shall stand before kings and governors for my sake, for a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they shall deliver you up, take no thought how or what to speak. . . . For it is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you. The brother also shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the son; and “the children shall raise up against their parents and shall put them to death. And you shall be hated by all men, for my name’s sake. But he that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved. Therefore, as the Apostle says, the grace of God our Saviour hath appeared to all men; and yet the ministers of His grace were hated by all. There were those who hated on the one hand, and on the other, those who were oppressed by the hatred of their persecutors; but neither group was excluded in the term “all men,” even though the class of the rebels suffered the loss of their salvation, while the faithful in their privileged condition were accounted a totality. For the Apostle John says: But if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Just. And He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for our sins only, but also for those of the whole world. St Prosper of Aquitaine, The Call of the Nations, trans., & annot., by P.De Letter. (Westminster Maryland: The Newman Press, 1952), 89-91.


God’s will to save all men is active in all ages.

These and other evidences from the Scriptures prove beyond doubt that the great wealth, power, and beneficence of grace which in these last times m calls all the Gentiles into the kingdom of Christ, was in former centuries hidden in the secret counsel of God. No knowledge can comprehend, no understanding can penetrate the reason why this abundance of grace which has now come to the knowledge of all nations, was not revealed to them before. Yet we believe with complete trust in God’s goodness that He wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth: this we must hold as His changeless will from eternity, which manifests itself in the different measures in which He in His wisdom chose to augment His general gifts with special favours. Thus those who did not share in His grace plead guilty of malice, and those who were resplendent with its light, cannot glory in their own merit but only in the Lord. St Prosper of Aquitaine, The Call of the Nations, trans., & annot., by P.De Letter. (Westminster Maryland: The Newman Press, 1952), 125.


With His general grace given to all, God always wills and has willed all men to be saved; but His special grace is not granted to all. 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. Consequently, the former would appear to be a grace, while the latter would not. But God was pleased to grant this latter grace to many and to withhold the former from no one. He wished to make it clear from both that He did not refuse to all mankind what He gave to some men, but that in some men grace prevailed and in others nature recoiled. St Prosper of Aquitaine, The Call of the Nations, trans., & annot., by P. De Letter. (Westminster Maryland: The Newman Press, 1952), 133-134.

To be continued…

[Notes: 1) I have not included the footnotes or the style-formatting from the original translations. 2) In modern times, some have doubted the authorship of Call of the Gentiles. For a discussion on this, see De Letter’s Introduction. However, what is important is that throughout the Middle-Ages, the Reformation and the Protestant Scholastic eras, Prosper was generally the assumed Author (Eg, see Turretin’s Institutes, 3:584). This editor assumes that Prosper was the author of the work. 3) It is also believed that Prosper went through three basic phases in his life. However, there is no evidence, as De Letter acknowledges, that Prosper compromised or denied his Augustinianism, nor does there appear to be any evidence that the theology of the work was rejected. What is important is that Prosper’s maturer exegesis on this verse range appears to have been the favoured interpretive paradigm in the Middle-Ages and the early Reformation period.]

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