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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Grace of Christ, and...: Chapter 26

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 26 [XXV.]—The Pelagian Grace of “Capacity” Exploded. The Scripture Teaches the Need of God’s Help in Doing, Speaking, and Thinking, Alike.

Let Pelagius, therefore, cease at last to deceive both himself and others by his disputations against the grace of God. It is not on account of only one of these three 1849 —that is to say, of the “capacity” of a good will and work—that the grace of God towards us ought to be proclaimed; but also on account of the good “will” and “work” themselves. This “capacity,” indeed, according to his definition, avails for both directions; and yet our sins must not also be attributed to God in consequence, as our good actions, according to his view, are attributed to Him owing to the same capacity. It is not only, therefore, on this account that the help of God’s grace is maintained, because it assists our natural capacity. He must cease to say, “That we are able to do, say, think any good, is from Him who has given us this ability, and who also assists this ability; whereas that we really do a good thing, or speak a good word, or think a good thought, proceeds from our own selves.” He must, I repeat, cease to say this. For God has not only given us the ability and aids it, but He further works in us “to will and to do.”  1850 It is not because we do not will, or do not do, that we will and do nothing good, but because we are without His help. How can he say, “That we are able to do good is of God, but that we actually do it is of ourselves,” when the apostle tells us that he “prays to God” in behalf of those to whom he was writing, “that they should do no evil, but that they should do that which is good?” 1851 His words are not, “We pray that ye be able to do nothing evil;” but, “that ye do no evil.” Neither does he say, “that ye be able to do good;” but, “that ye do good.” Forasmuch as it is written, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God,” 1852 it follows that, in order that they may do that which is good, they must be led by Him who is good. How can Pelagius say, “That we are able to make a good use of speech comes from God; but that we do actually make this good use of speech proceeds from ourselves,” when the Lord declares, “It is the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you”? 1853 He does not say, “It is not you who have given to yourselves the power of speaking well;” but His words are, “It is not ye that speak.” 1854 Nor does He say, “It is the Spirit of your Father which giveth, or hath given, you the power to speak well;” but He says, “which speaketh in you.” He does not allude to the motion 1855 of “the capacity,” but He asserts the effect of the co-operation. How can this arrogant asserter of free will say, “That we are able to think a good thought comes from God, but that we actually think a good thought proceeds from ourselves”? He has his answer from the humble preacher of grace, who says, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God.” 1856 Observe he does not say, “to be able to think anything;” but, “to think anything.”



See above, ch. 4.


Phil. ii. 13.


See 2 Cor. xiii. 7.


Rom. viii. 14.


Matt. x. 20.


Matt. x. 20.


See ch. 15 at the end.


2 Cor. iii. 5.

Next: Chapter 27

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