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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Work on the Proceedings of Pelagius.: Chapter 32

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 32.—The Eleventh Item of the Accusation.

But what comes afterwards again fills me with anxiety. On its being objected to him, from the fifth chapter of Cœlestius’ book, that “they say that every individual has the ability to possess all powers and graces, thus taking away that ‘diversity of graces,’ which the apostle teaches,” Pelagius replied: “We have certainly said so much; but yet they have laid against us a malignant and blundering charge. We do not take away the diversity of graces; but we declare that God gives to the person, who has proved himself worthy to receive them, all graces, even as He conferred them on the Apostle Paul.” Hereupon the Synod said: “You accordingly do yourself hold the doctrine of the Church touching the gift of the graces, which are collectively possessed by the apostle.” Here some one may say, “Why then is he anxious? Do you on your side deny that all the powers and graces were combined in the apostle?” For my own part, indeed, if all those are to be understood which the apostle has himself mentioned together in one passage,—as, I suppose, the bishops understood Pelagius to mean when they approved of his answer, and pronounced it to be in keeping with the sense of the Church,—then I do not doubt that the apostle had them all; for he says: “And God hath set some in the Church, first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers; after that miracles; then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” 1696 What then? shall we say that the Apostle Paul did not possess all these gifts himself? Who would be bold enough to assert this? The very fact that he was an apostle showed, of course, that he possessed the grace of the apostolate. He possessed also that of prophecy; for was not that a prophecy of his in which he says: “In the last times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils?” 1697 He was, moreover, “the teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.” 1698 He performed miracles also and cures; for he shook off from his hand, unhurt, the biting viper; 1699 and the cripple stood upright on his feet at the apostle’s word, and his strength was at once restored. 1700 It is not clear what he means by helps, for the term is of very wide application; but who can say that he was wanting even in this grace, when through his labours such helps were manifestly afforded towards the salvation of mankind? Then as to his possessing the grace of “government,” what could be more excellent than his administration, when the Lord at that time governed so many churches by his personal agency, and governs them still in our day through his epistles? And in respect of the “diversities of tongues,” what tongues could have been wanting to him, when he says himself: “I thank my God that I speak with tongues more than you all?” 1701 p. 198 It being thus inevitable to suppose that not one of these was wanting to the Apostle Paul, the judges approved of Pelagius’ answer, wherein he said “that all graces were conferred upon him.” But there are other graces in addition to these which are not mentioned here. For it is not to be supposed, however greatly the Apostle Paul excelled others as a member of Christ’s body, that the very Head itself of the entire body did not receive more and ampler graces still, whether in His flesh or His soul as man; for such a created nature did the Word of God assume as His own into the unity of His Person, that He might be our Head, and we His body. And in very deed, if all gifts could be in each member, it would be evident that the similitude, which is used to illustrate this subject, of the several members of our body is inapplicable; for some things are common to the members in general, such as life and health, whilst other things are peculiar to the separate members, since the ear has no perception of colours, nor the eye of voices. Hence it is written: “If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? if the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?” 1702 Now this of course is not said as if it were impossible for God to impart to the ear the sense of seeing, or to the eye the function of hearing. However, what He does in Christ’s body, which is the Church, and what the apostle meant by diversity of graces 1703 as if through the different members, there might be gifts proper even to every one separately, is clearly known. Why, too, and on what ground they who raised the objection were so unwilling to have taken away all difference in graces, why, moreover, the bishops of the synod were able to approve of the answer given by Pelagius in deference to the Apostle Paul, in whom we admit the combination of all those graces which he mentioned in the one particular passage, is by this time clear also.



1 Cor. xii. 28.


1 Tim. iv. 1.


1 Tim. ii. 7.


Acts xxviii. 5.


Acts 14:8, 9.


1 Cor. xiv. 18.


1 Cor. xii. 17.


Another reading has Ecclesiarum, instead of gratiarum; q.d. “difference in churches.”

Next: Chapter 33

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