500. XI. IF MEN HAD NOT FREEDOM OF CHOICE IN SPIRITUAL THINGS, ALL THE INHABITANTS OF THE WORLD MIGHT IN ONE DAY BE LED TO BELIEVE IN THE LORD; BUT THIS CANNOT BE DONE, BECAUSE THAT WHICH IS NOT RECEIVED BY MAN WITH FREEDOM OF CHOICE DOES NOT REMAIN.
That God could, in one day, if freedom of choice in spiritual things had not been given to man, lead all the inhabitants of the world to believe in Him, follows as a true conclusion from the Divine omnipotence when not rightly understood. Those who do not understand the Divine omnipotence, may suppose either that there is no such thing as order, or that God can act contrary to order as well as according to it; when yet, without order, no creation was possible. The primary thing of order is for man to be an image of God, consequently, that he be continually perfecting in love and wisdom, and thus becoming that image more and more. To this end God is working continually in man; but this would be in vain, for it would be impossible, if man were destitute of freedom of choice in spiritual things, whereby he could turn to God and reciprocally conjoin himself with God. For there is an order from which and according to which the whole universe, with each and all things in it, was created; and because all creation was effected from that order and according to it God is called order itself. Thus it is the same whether we say, acting contrary to order, or acting contrary to God. God Himself, even, cannot act contrary to His own Divine order, since this would be to act contrary to His very Self; and therefore He leads every man according to that order which is Himself, guiding the wandering and the fallen into it, and the resisting toward it. If man could have been created without freedom of choice in spiritual things, what would have been more easy for an omnipotent God than to lead all the inhabitants of the world to believe in the Lord? Could He not have implanted this faith in everyone, both without means and by means, without means by His absolute power and its irresistible operation, which is unceasing in its efforts to save man; or by means, through torments brought upon man's conscience, or through mortal convulsions of the body and awful threats of death, if he did not receive that faith; or still further, by the opening of hell and the presence of devils therefrom holding frightful torches in their hands, or by calling forth therefrom the dead whom they had known, in the forms of fearful specters? But to all this there is a reply in the words of Abraham to the rich man in hell,
If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead (Luke 16:31).