Prayer: The Great Means
of Salvation

St. Alphonsus Liguori

Chapter 1: God Wishes All Men to be Saved;
Christ Died for All Men, Section 1, Part 3


    But let us return to our point, that God sincerely wills all men to be saved. There are other texts which prove the same thing, as when God says: "As I live, saith the Lord, I desire not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked man turn from his way and live." [Ezek. 33: 11] He not only says that He wills not the death, but that He wills the life of a sinner; and He swears, as Tertullian observes, in order that He may be more readily believed in this: "When moreover
  He swears, saying, as I live, He desires to be believed."

     Further, David says: "For wrath is in His indignation, and life in His will." [Ps. 29: 6] If He chastises us, He does it because our sins provoke Him to indignation; but as to His will, He wills not our death, but our life: "Life is His will." St. Basil says about this text, that God wills all to be made partakers of life. David says elsewhere: "Our God is the God of salvation; and of the Lord of the Lord are the issues from death." [Ps. 67: 21] On this Bellarmine says: 'This is proper to Him, this is His nature, our God is a saving God, and His are the issues from death-----that is, liberation from it;" so that it is God's proper nature to save all, and to deliver all from eternal death.

     Again, our Lord says: "Come to Me, all ye that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you." [Matt. 11: 28] If He calls all to salvation, then He truly wills all to be saved. Again, St. Peter says: "He willeth not that any should perish, but that all should return to penance." [2 Peter 3: 9] He does not will the damnation of anyone, but He wills that all should do penance, and so should be saved.

  Again, our Lord says: "I stand at the gate and knock; if anyone will open, I will enter." [Apoc. 3: 20] "Why will you die, O house of Israel? Return and live." [Ezek. 18: 31] "What is there that I ought to do more to My vineyard, that I have not done to it?" [Is. 5: 4] "How often would I have gathered together thy children, as the hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldst not!" [Matt. 23: 37] How could our Lord have said that He stands knocking at the heart of us sinners? How exhort us so strongly to return to His arms? How reproach us by asking what more He could have done for our salvation? How say that He has willed to receive us as children, if He had not a true will to save all men? Again, St. Luke relates that our Lord, looking over Jerusalem from a distance, and contemplating the destruction of its people because of their sin: "Seeing the city, He wept over it." [19: 41] Why did He weep then, says Theophylact [after St. Chrysostom], seeing the ruin of the Jews, unless it was because He really desired their salvation? Now then, after so many attestations of our Lord, in which He makes known to us that He wills to see all men saved, how can it ever be said that God does not will the salvation of all? "But if these texts of Scripture," says Petavius, "in which God has testified His will in such clear and often-repeated expressions, nay even with tears and with an oath, may be abused and distorted to the very opposite sense,-----namely, that God determined to send all mankind [except a few] to perdition, and never had a will to save them, what dogma of faith is so clear as to be safe from similar injury and cavil?" This great writer says, that to deny that God really wills the salvation of all men, is an insult and cavil against the plainest doctrines of the faith. And Cardinal Sfondratl adds: "Those who think otherwise, seem to me to make God a mere stage-god; like those people who pretend to be kings in a play, when indeed they are anything but kings."


      Moreover, this truth, that God wills all men to be saved, is confirmed by the general consent of the Fathers. There can be no doubt that all the Greek Fathers have been uniform in saying that God wills all and each individual to be saved. So St. Justin, St., Basil, St. Gregory, St. Cyril, St. Methodius, and St. Chrysostom, all adduced by Petavius. But let us see what the Latin Fathers say:
     St. Jerome: [God] "wills to save all; but since no man is saved without his own will, He wills us to will what is good, that when we have willed, He may also will to fulfill His designs in us;" and in another place, "God therefore willed to save those who desire [to be saved]; and He invited them to salvation, that their will might have its reward; but they would not believe in Him."

      St. Hilary: "God would that all men were saved, and not those alone who are to belong to the number of the elect, but all absolutely, so as to make no exception."

 St. Paulinus: "Christ says to all, 'Come to Me,' et.; for He, the Creator of all men, so far as He is concerned, wills every man to be saved."

  St. Ambrose: "Even with respect to the wicked He had to manifest His will [to save them], and therefore He could not pass over His betrayer, that all might see that in the election even of the traitor He exhibits [His desire] of saving all . . . and, so far as God is concerned, He shows to all that He was willing to deliver all."
   The author of the work known as the Commentaries of St. Ambrose [supposed by Petavius to be Hilary the Second] in speaking of the text of St. Paul "Who wills all men," etc., asks this question: "But since God wills that all should be saved, as He is Almighty, why are there so many who are not saved?" And he answers: "He wills them to be saved, if they also are willing; for He who gave the law excluded no one from salvation . . . this medicine is of no use to the unwilling." He says that God has excluded no one from glory, and that He gives grace to all to be saved, but on condition that they are willing to correspond to it; because His grace is of no use to the man who rejects it. St. Chrysostom in like manner asks, "Why then are not all men saved, if God wills all to be saved?" and he answers, "Because every man's will does not coincide with His will, and He forces no man." St. Augustine: "God wills all men to be saved, but not so as to destroy their free will."  . . .