The Calvinist doctrine of “once saved, always saved” or unconditional eternal security was not a doctrine that was taught by the ancient church, nor for that manner, by any well-known theologian before John Calvin. The doctrine of unconditional eternal security teaches that the elect (the only humans who God chooses to redeem) will be the recipients of the persevering power introduced by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and they will infallibly know that they are saved. These believers will be kept in the power of the Spirit and are eternally secure. They can never lose their salvation. Here is a summary of the Calvinist belief from The Canons of Dort:
“God, who is rich in mercy, from his immutable purpose of election, does not wholly take away his Holy Spirit from his own, even in lamentable falls; nor does he so permit them to glide down that they should fall from the grace of adoption and the state of justification; or commit the “sin unto death,” or against the Holy Spirit; that, being deserted by him, they should cast themselves headlong into eternal destruction. So that not by their own merits or strength, but by the gratuitous mercy of God, they obtain it, that they neither totally fall from faith and grace, nor finally continue in their paths and perish.” (The Canons of Dort, 1619)
Only one problem, this doctrine is, in fact, completely foreign in the history of Christianity.
John Calvin created this doctrine from a misinterpretation of Saint Augustine’s Treatise on the Gift of Perseverance, written around A. D. 429. Augustine believed it was possible to experience the justifying grace of God and yet not persevere to the end. Augustine did believe God’s elect would certainly persevere to the end, but he denied that a person could know they were in the elect and he also warned it was possible to be justified but not among the elect. In Augustine’s writings, he taught that initial justification and final perseverance of the elect by God’s free gift of ongoing grace was two different things. Not until Calvin was unconditional election, permanent regeneration, and certitude of final perseverance all connected.
It’s Not a Historical Doctrine
The well-known and highly respected Calvinist theologian, John Jefferson Davis wrote an article titled: “The Perseverance of the Saints: A History of the Doctrine” [Journal of Evangelical Theological Society 34:2 (June 1991)]. What I find interesting about this article is that John Jefferson Davis concludes that the doctrine is a new doctrine that has no precedent in history (click the link at the bottom of the quote to read full the article):
Calvin, Arminius and Wesley agreed that if election were unconditional, then final perseverance would logically follow as a matter of course. Augustine and Aquinas affirmed unconditional election but taught that believers did not enjoy infallible certitude of their election and hence of their final perseverance. Luther believed that the Christian could have certitude concerning the present state of grace but not concerning final perseverance. Like the Roman Catholic tradition that preceded him and the Wesleyan tradition that succeeded him, Luther did not see regeneration as inextricably linked with final salvation. The Calvinistic tradition has understood election as unconditional, regeneration as permanent, and certitude of final perseverance as a genuine possibility for the believer. (The Perseverance of the Saints: A History of the Doctrine by John Jefferson Davis, 1991)
James Akin, a Catholic theologian, said in a debate with Calvinist theologian James White that no one before Calvin taught that predestination to grace automatically entails predestination to glory.
You can check that out for yourself. I did. I searched multiple books and called half a dozen Calvinist seminaries, talking to their systematic theology and church history professors, and no one could name a person before Calvin who taught this thesis. They all said Calvin was the first. I even called John Jefferson Davis, a scholar who published an article in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society on the history of this doctrine, a man who is himself a Calvinist, but who has researched the history of this doctrine thoroughly, and he said Calvin was the first to teach it.
This poses a problem even for those who claim that they take their teachings exclusively from Scripture, namely, “How could a doctrine this important–if true–remain completely undiscovered for the first 1500 years of Church history and, if Jesus comes back any time soon, for three quarters of all of Church history?”
Other important doctrines have been known all through Christian history. Christians always knew, even when heretics denied it,that Jesus Christ was God. Christians always knew, even when heretics denied it, that Jesus Christ is fully man as well as fully God. And Christians always knew, even when heretics denied it, that they were saved purely by God’s grace.
So when it turns out that Christians never knew that true Christians can never fall away, and then suddenly 1500 years later someone starts claiming it, one has to ask who is conveying the true teaching of the apostles and who is teaching the heresy “Are All True Christians Predestined to Persevere?”
Akin’s remarks are accurate and problematic for Calvinist scholars. I would encourage anyone who is concerned with knowing the absolute truth to research for themselves. I have and I have to agree with James Akin. If it was taught prior to Calvin, show me the evidence.
We Are Warned in Scripture Against False Doctrines
“As there were false prophets in the past history of our people, so you too will have your false teachers, who will insinuate their own disruptive views and, by disowning the Lord who bought them freedom, will bring upon themselves speedy destruction.” ~ 2 Peter 2:1 (See Also: Ephesians 4:14, 1 Timothy 1:18-20, 2 Timothy 2:16-18, Titus 1:10-11, Hebrews 13:9, 2 Peter 3:17, Romans 16:17-18, 1 Timothy 1:3-4, Galatians 1:8-9, 2 Peter 2:1)
The irony that I find is that while many anti-Catholics falsely accuse the Catholic Church of creating NEW doctrines, here we can see clearly that Calvin created a new doctrine that had never existed before. To his defense, perhaps Calvin was ignorant that he was taking Augustine out of context. In fact it was from Saint Augustine that Calvin mistakenly got both his misinterpreted doctrine on certitude of final perseverance and his even more distorted doctrine on predestination. You can read the words of Saint Augustine himself in his treatise “On the Predestination of the Saints and On the Gift of Perseverance.” Yes, the Catholic Church teaches, and has always taught predestination, but not in the same way as Calvin believed.
Also, what I find interesting is that Calvinist will accept a teaching from John Calvin that had not existed ever before in Christianity for 1500 years, based on a misinterpretation of Saint Augustine, who lived in the supposed time that anti-Catholics accuse the Catholic Church of being corrupted by Constantine. Oh, the contradictions never cease to amaze me. Yet, they will brush off the pre-Constantine Early Church Fathers as unimportant and not relevant.
The Early Church Fathers ARE Relevant and IMPORTANT!
(read my post: Why the Early Church Fathers are so Vitally Important!)
Obviously, it’s easy to brush these early Christians off as irrelevant if they don’t agree with your doctrine. But, this doctrine can clearly be shown to have been an entirely new creation in the 1500s. If one cannot find that the Early Church did not believe this or taught this, and they had the same scripture as we do now, even better because they could read the original Greek and Hebrew, then an intelligent person could conclude that this doctrine is false. Were the Early Church Fathers infallible, well no, but Calvin certainly was NOT either and he lived 1500 years after Christ, not just a few years after.
While the Early Church Father’s did not agree on everything, when they speak with one voice on any particular subject I think wisdom dictates that we should listen and give their voice a great deal of weight. Which by the way, they do speak with one voice on all the doctrines that the Catholic Church still teach to this day. Every doctrine that the Catholic Church teaches today, was taught then! (And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. ~Matt 16:18)
So let’s look at the Early Church Father’s who lived in the pre-Constantine era.
“Since, therefore, the days are evil, and Satan possesses the power of this world, we ought to give heed to ourselves, and diligently inquire into the ordinances of the Lord. Fear and patience, then, are helpers of our faith; and long-suffering and continence are things which fight on our side. While these remain pure in what respects the Lord, Wisdom, Understanding, Science, and Knowledge rejoice along with them… But this rather I commanded them, Let no one of you cherish any evil in his heart against his neighbour, and love not an oath of falsehood.” We ought therefore, being possessed of understanding, to perceive the gracious intention of our Father; for He speaks to us, desirous that we, not going astray like them, should ask how we may approach Him. To us, then, He declares, “A sacrifice [pleasing] to God is a broken spirit; a smell of sweet savour to the Lord is a heart that glorifieth Him that made it.” We ought therefore, brethren, carefully to inquire concerning our salvation, lest the wicked one, having made his entrance by deceit, should hurl us forth from our [true] life.” (The Epistle of Barnabas, 2 [A.D. 70])
“It therefore behoves us, who inquire much concerning events at hand, to search diligently into those things which are able to save us. Let us then utterly flee from all the works of iniquity, lest these should take hold of us; and let us hate the error of the present time, that we may set our love on the world to come: let us not give loose reins to our soul, that it should have power to run with sinners and the wicked, lest we become like them…Let us be spiritually-minded: let us be a perfect temple to God. As much as in us lies, let us meditate upon the fear of God, and let us keep His commandments, that we may rejoice in His ordinances. The Lord will judge the world without respect of persons. Each will receive as he has done: if he is righteous, his righteousness will precede him; if he is wicked, the reward of wickedness is before him. Take heed, lest resting at our ease, as those who are the called [of God], we should fall asleep in our sins, and the wicked prince, acquiring power over us, should thrust us away from the kingdom of the Lord. And all the more attend to this, my brethren, when ye reflect and behold, that after so great signs and wonders were wrought in Israel, they were thus [at length] abandoned. Let us beware lest we be found [fulfilling that saying], as it is written, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” (The Epistle of Barnabas, 4 [A.D. 70])
Clearly we can see as early as A.D. 70 with the epistle of Saint Barnabas that one was NOT guaranteed to be saved just because they were “called” to salvation, that they would KNOW they would persevere to the end. In the last chapters of the epistle of Barnabas (18-21), the author sets two ways before Christians which are described in the metaphors of light and darkness (referring to abstaining from or the practicing of vices). Those who walk in the light “will be glorified in the kingdom of heaven” (Barnabas 21:1), and will be “safe in the day of judgment” (Barnabas 21:6). While those who walk in darkness will experience “eternal death with punishment” (Barnabas 20:1), and will be “destroyed with their works” (Barnabas 21:1).
“It is well, therefore, that he who has learned the judgments of the Lord, as many as have been written, should walk in them. For he who keepeth these shall be glorified in the kingdom of God; but he who chooseth other things shall be destroyed with his works. On this account there will be a resurrection, on this account a retribution. I beseech you who are superiors, if you will receive any counsel of my good-will, have among yourselves those to whom you may show kindness: do not forsake them. For the day is at hand on which all things shall perish with the evil [one]. The Lord is near, and His reward. Again, and yet again, I beseech you: be good lawgivers to one another; continue faithful counsellors of one another; take away from among you all hypocrisy. And may God, who ruleth over all the world, give to you wisdom, intelligence, understanding, knowledge of His judgments, with patience. And be ye taught of God, inquiring diligently what the Lord asks from you; and do it that ye maybe safe in the day of judgment. And if you have any remembrance of what is good, be mindful of me, meditating on these things, in order that both my desire and watchfulness may result in some good. I beseech you, entreating this as a favour. While yet you are in this fair vessel, do not fail in any one of those things, but unceasingly seek after them, and fulfil every commandment; for these things are worthy.” (The Epistle of Barnabas, 21 [A.D. 70])
Saint Clement of Rome
Clement of Rome (c. 96) writes to the Corinthian church whose unity has been threatened because a “few rash and self-confident persons” have kindled shameful and detestable seditions towards the established leaders (presbyters) in the congregation (1 Clement 1). This jealous rivalry and envy has caused righteousness and peace to depart from the community (1 Clement 3). The writer laments: “Every one abandons the fear of God, and is become blind in His faith, neither walks in the ordinances of His appointment, nor acts a part becoming a Christian, but walks after his own wicked lusts, resuming the practice of an unrighteous and ungodly envy, by which death itself entered into the world.” (1 Clement 3) Since history has demonstrated that many evils have flowed from envy and jealously (1 Clement 4-6), the Corinthians are exhorted to repent (1 Clement 7-8), yield obedience to God’s “glorious will,” and to “forsake all fruitless labors and strife, and envy, which leads to death” (1 Clement 9:1). Furthermore, they are to “be of humble mind, laying aside all haughtiness, and pride, and foolishness, and angry feelings” (1 Clement 13), and “to obey God rather than to follow those who, through pride and sedition, have become the leaders of a detestable emulation ” (1 Clement 14). He then warns, “For we shall incur no slight injury, but rather great danger, if we rashly yield ourselves to the inclinations of men who aim at exciting strife and tumults, so as to draw us away from what is good” (1 Clement 14; cf. 47). Clement bids his readers to cleave “to those who cultivate peace with godliness” (1 Clement 15), and to follow the humility and submission that Christ and other saints practiced (1 Clement 16-19), which brings peace and harmony with others (1 Clement 19-20). Clement then gives these exhortations and warnings:
“Take heed, beloved, lest His many kindnesses lead to the condemnation of us all. [For thus it must be] unless we walk worthy of Him, and with one mind do those things which are good and well-pleasing in His sight… For He is a Searcher of the thoughts and desires [of the heart]: His breath is in us; and when He pleases, He will take it away.” (First Epistle to the Corinthians, 21 [A.D. 96])
“Since then all things are seen and heard, let us fear Him, and forsake those wicked works which proceed from evil desires; so that, through His mercy, we may be protected from the judgments to come. For whither can any of us flee from His mighty hand? Or what world will receive any of those who run away from Him?” (First Epistle to the Corinthians, 28 [A.D. 96])
“…Let us therefore earnestly strive to be found in the number of those who wait for Him, in order that we may share in His promised gifts. But how, beloved, shall this be done? If our understanding be fixed by faith towards God; if we earnestly seek the things which are pleasing and acceptable to Him; if we do the things which are in harmony with His blameless will; and if we follow the way of truth, casting away from us all unrighteousness and iniquity, along with all covetousness, strife, evil practices, deceit, whispering, and evil-speaking, all hatred of God, pride and haughtiness, vainglory and ambition. For they that do such things are hateful to God; and not only they that do them, but also those who take pleasure in those who do them.” (First Epistle to the Corinthians, 35 [A.D. 96])
“Why are there strifes, and tumults, and divisions, and schisms, and wars among you? Have we not one God and one Christ? Is there not one Spirit of grace poured out upon us? And have we not one calling in Christ? Why do we divide and tear to pieces the members of Christ, and raise up strife against our own body, and have reached such a height of madness as to forget that “we are members one of another?” Remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, how He said, “Woe to that man ! It were better for him that he had never been born, than that he should cast a stumbling-block before one of my elect. Yea, it were better for him that a millstone should be hung about, and he should be sunk in the depths of the sea, than that he should cast a stumbling-block before one of my little ones.” Your schism has subverted many, has discouraged many, has given rise to doubt in many, and has caused grief to us all. And still your sedition continues.” (First Epistle to the Corinthians, 46 [A.D. 96])
Those responsible for laying the foundation of this sedition are urged to submit to the presbyters, repent, and to lay aside their pride and arrogance. For it is better that they occupy a humble place in the flock of Christ, than being highly exalted and ultimately “cast out from the hope of His people” (1 Clement 57). It does not appear to me that Clement is teaching anything that even remotely resembles eternal security. So just 60 years after the resurrection the christians are already getting it wrong and the world will have to wait for 1500 years for Calvin to come along and finally get it right? (sarcasm)
Saint Ignatius of Antioch
Similar to Clement, Ignatius of Antioch (c. 107) warns believers about following a schismatic person, warning them that to do so can lead to their eternal damnation.
“Keep yourselves from those evil plants which Jesus Christ does not tend, because they are not the planting of the Father. Not that I have found any division among you, but exceeding purity. For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren. If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Epistle to the Philadelphians, 3 [A.D. 110])
Friend and disciple of Saint John the beloved disciple of Jesus, the same Saint John that stood at the foot of the cross, wrote in his Epistle to the Philippians (2nd century) the vice of covetousness is a significant danger. Priests (presbyters) are advised to be “keeping far off from all covetousness” (Philippians 6). Polycarp expresses his grief over a former priest Valens and his wife* who apparently committed some act of covetousness. He hopes that the Lord will grant them repentance. He enjoins his readers to “abstain from covetousness,” and “every form of evil,” and goes on to give this warning, “If a man does not keep himself from covetousness, he shall be defiled by idolatry, and shall be judged as one of the heathen” (Philippians 11). Polycarp says believers “ought to walk worthy of His commandments and glory,” and that deacons are to be blameless, not slanderers or lovers of money, but temperate in all things, “walking according to the truth of the Lord” (Philippians 5). He then adds:
“If we please Him in this present world, we shall receive also the future world, according as He has promised to us that He will raise us again from the dead, and that if we live worthily of Him, “we shall also reign together with Him,” provided only we believe. In like manner, let the young men also be blameless in all things, being especially careful to preserve purity, and keeping themselves in, as with a bridle, from every kind of evil. For it is well that they should be cut off from the lusts that are in the world, since “every lust wars against the spirit;” and “neither fornicators, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, shall inherit the kingdom of God,” nor those who do things inconsistent and unbecoming. Wherefore, it is needful to abstain from all these things, being subject to the presbyters and deacons, as unto God and Christ.” (Epistle to the Philippians, 3 [A.D. 120])
Saint Justin Martyr
In Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho in A.D. 160, Justin says that if a person once believed in Christ, and then went back to the old ways and denied Christ, that that person would not be saved if he did not repent. No, this doesn’t sound like the doctrine of eternal security. One who follows eternal security would have said, “the one who goes back to the old ways after believing” wasn’t really saved in the first place. Which begs the question, then how can one know with infallible certitude that one is saved? You can’t, and no one taught it before Calvin.
“I hold that we ought to join ourselves to such, and associate with them in all things as kinsmen and brethren. But if, Trypho,” I continued, “some of your race, who say they believe in this Christ, compel those Gentiles who believe in this Christ to live in all respects according to the law given by Moses, or choose not to associate so intimately with them, I in like manner do not approve of them. But I believe that even those,who have been persuaded by them to observe the legal dispensation along with their confession of God in Christ, shall probably be saved. And I hold, further, that such as have confessed and known this man to be Christ, yet who have gone back from some cause to the legal dispensation, and have denied that this man is Christ, and have repented not before death, shall by no means be saved.” (Dialogue with Trypho, 3 [A.D. 160])
Saint Irenaeus (c. 180) recounts how God has recorded the sins of men of old (David and Solomon) for our instruction . . . that we might know, in the first place, that our God and theirs is one, and that sins do not please Him although committed by men of renown; and in the second place, that we should keep from wickedness. For if these men of old time, who preceded us in the gifts, and for whom the Son of God had not yet suffered, when they committed any sin and served fleshly lusts, were rendered objects of such disgrace, what shall the men of the present day suffer, who have despised the Lord’s coming, and become the slaves of their own lusts? And truly the death of the Lord became healing and remission of sins to the former, but Christ shall not die again in behalf of those who now commit sin, for death shall no more have dominion over Him. . . . We ought not, therefore, as that priest (presbyter) remarks, to be puffed up, nor be severe upon those of old time, but ought ourselves to fear, lest perchance, after the knowledge of Christ, if we do things displeasing to God, we obtain no further forgiveness of sins, but be shut out from His kingdom. And therefore it was that Paul said, “For if spared not the natural branches, lest He also spare not thee” . . . . (Against Heresies, Book 4:27.2)
Irenaeus proceeds to quote from 1 Corinthians 10:1–12, where Israel fell under the judgment of God for craving evil things, and then comments:
“As then the unrighteous, the idolaters, and fornicators perished, so also is it now: for both the Lord declares, that such persons are sent into eternal fire; and the apostle says, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, not effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” And as it was not to those who are without that he said these things, but to us—lest we should be cast forth from the kingdom of God, by doing any such thing. . . . And again does the apostle say, “Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of mistrust. Be not ye therefore partakers with them.” (Against Heresies, Book 4:27.4, [A.D. 180])
How interesting is that? I have used that same passage with a Calvinist to show how in scripture that we are not “guaranteed” salvation once we accept Jesus but that we have to obey God and stay away from all that is contrary to God. The answer I got was “that passage is not referring to Christians”….Huh?? The scripture is right there clear and plain as the nose on your face, even an early church father confirms what it is saying and still they can’t see it.
So I haven’t even gotten to the third century yet and there is no evidence whatsoever of any teaching that even remotely resembles the doctrine of eternal security. Shall I go on?
In the book “A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs” by David Bercot, there is a section on “Salvation” with the sub-heading “Can those who are saved ever be lost?” In that section there are quotes affirming that believers can lose salvation from nearly every significant church Father up to the “Apoatolic Constitutions” in c. 390, including 4 quotes from Irenaeus, 4 quotes from Clement of Alexandria, 6 quotes from Tertullian, 4 quotes from Origen, and 20 quotes from Cyprian.
Saint Clement of Alexandria
“It is neither the faith, nor the love, nor the endurance of one day; rather, “he that endures to the end will be saved.”” (c. 195)
“God gives forgiveness of past sins. However, as to future sins, each one procures this for himself. He does this by repenting, by condemning the past deeds, and by begging the Father to blot them out. For only the Father is the one who is able to undo what is done….So even in the case of the one who has done the greatest good deeds in life, but at the end has run headlong into wickedness, all his former pains are profitless to him. For at the climax of the drama, he has given up his part.” (c. 195)
The world returns to sin…and so it is destined to fire. So is the man who after baptism renews his sins.” (c. 198)
“We ought indeed to walk so holily, and with so entire substantiality of faith, as to be confident and secure in regard of our own conscience, desiring that it may abide in us to the end. Yet, we should not presume [that it will]. For he who presumes, feels less apprehension. He who feels less apprehension, takes less precaution. He who takes less precaution, runs more risk. Fear is the foundation of salvation. Presumption is an impediment to fear….More useful, then, is it to apprehend that we may possibly fail, than to presume that we cannot. For apprehension will lead us to fear, fear to caution, and caution to salvation. On the other hand, if we presume, there will be neither fear nor caution to save us.” (c. 198)
[The(Gnostic)Valentinians claim] that since they are already naturalized in the brotherly bond of the spiritual state, they will obtain a certain salvation- one which is on all accounts their due.” (c. 200)
“Some think that God is under necessity of bestowing even on the unworthy what He has promised [to give]. So they turn His liberality into His slavery….For do not many afterwards fall out of [grace]? Is not this gift taken away from many? These, no doubt, are they who,….after approaching to the faith of repentence, build on the sands a house doomed to ruin.” (c. 203)
God had foreseen…that faith- even after baptism- would be endangered. He saw that most persons- after obtaining salvation-would be lost again, by soiling the wedding dress, by failing to provide oil for their torches.” (c. 213)
“A man may possess an acquired righteousness, from which it is possible for him to fall away.” (c. 225)
“Certain ones of those [heretics] who hold differing opinions misuse these passages [like Rom. 9]. They essentially destroy free will by introducing ruined natures incapable of salvation and by introducing others as being saved in such a way that they cannot be lost.” (c. 225)
“You are still in the world. You are still in the battlefield. You daily fight for your lives. So you must be careful that…what you have begun to be with such blessed commencement will be consummated in you. It is a small thing to have first received something. It is a greater thing to be able to keep what you have attained. Faith itself and the saving birth do not make alive by merely being received. Rather, they must be preserved. It is not the actual attainment, but the perfecting, that keeps a man for God. The Lord taught this in His instruction when He said, “Look! You have been made whole. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”…Solomon, Saul, and many others were able to keep the grace given them so long as they walked in the Lord’s ways. However, when the discipline of the Lord was forsaken by them, grace also forsook them.” (c. 250)
I ask…that you grieve with me at the spiritual death of my sister. For in this time of devastation, she has fallen from Christ.” (c. 250)
He who wills that no one should perish, desires that sinners should repent, and by repentance, should return again to life.” (c. 250)
“It is clear that the devil is driven out in baptism by the faith of the believer. But he returns if faith should afterward fail.” (c. 250)
The Conclusion from History is Obvious
I would like to specifically point out the last quote from Origen above, isn’t that one interesting? Origen actually points out that there were heretics in his time that actually believed that free will was lost and that salvation was guaranteed, which sounds very much like calvinist doctrine. I have to laugh, because I have actually heard a calvinist try to argue “see, Origen is actually the heretic, this shows that calvinist doctrine existed before Calvin” except one thing…Origen was writing about a gnostic sect!
I advise anyone who wants to investigate this matter to look at more than just what Calvinist writers put forth as proof for their position. Many will take the Early Church Fathers out of context and bend the writings to make them say what the want. The Ante-Nicene Fathers (pre-Constantine) constitute a considerable body of work, and it is for that reason that I just shake my head when a non-Catholic says “Oh, I’ve read the early church fathers and they don’t all agree and besides they don’t matter, they weren’t apostles.” When I hear that I think what is really being said is, “well I don’t want to believe it because that would mean I would have to concede that what I have been believing was a lie and I have been deceived.” I have not read ALL the early Church Fathers exhaustively, but I have read a significant amount of the pre-Constantine, Ante-Nicene Fathers, and from what I have read, there was unanimous agreement among these fathers against the Calvinist doctrine of Perseverance, which was a teaching held only by heretics like the gnostics [as two of the above quotes demonstrate].
If you really want to know the Truth, I suggest you pray that God will open your heart and lead you to the Truth. The Truth that the Apostles taught, as confirmed by the teachings of the Early Church Fathers, as has been kept safe and whole by the Catholic Church for 2000 years.
I would also like to suggest this link for further understanding of the errors of the calvinist doctrines from a former calvinist, Dr. David Anders:
“Have you been Born Again? Catholic Reflections on a Protestant Doctrine, or How Calvin’s view of Salvation destroyed his Doctrine of the Church”
* In the early Church, just as in the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church today, a married man could become a priest, but a single priest could not marry.