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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on Grace and Free Will.: Chapter 22

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 22 [X.]—Who is the Transgressor of the Law? The Oldness of Its Letter. The Newness of Its Spirit.

Therefore, brethren, you ought by free will not do evil but do good; this, indeed, is the lesson taught us in the law of God, in the Holy Scriptures—both Old and New. Let us, however, read, and by the Lord’s help understand, what the apostle tells us: “Because by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” 3072 Observe, he says “the knowledge,” not “the destruction,” of sin. But when a man knows sin, and grace does not help him to avoid what he knows, undoubtedly the law works wrath. And this the apostle explicitly says in another passage. His words are: “The law worketh wrath.” 3073 The reason of this statement lies in the fact that God’s wrath is greater in the case of the transgressor who by the law knows sin, and yet commits it; such a man is thus a transgressor of the law, even as the apostle says in another sentence, “For where no law is, there is no transgression.” 3074 It is in accordance with this principle that he elsewhere says, “That we may serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter;” 3075 wishing the law to be here understood by “the oldness of the letter,” and what else by “newness of spirit” than grace? Then, that it might not be thought that he had brought any accusation, or suggested any blame, against the law, he immediately takes himself to task with this inquiry: “What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? God forbid.” He then adds the statement: “Nay, I had not known sin but by the law;” 3076 which is of the same import as the passage above quoted: “By the law p. 453 is the knowledge of sin.” 3077 Then: “For I had not known lust,” he says, “except the law had said, ‘Thou shalt not covet.’ 3078 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy; and the commandment holy, just, and good. Was, then, that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, worked death in me by that which is good,—in order that the sinner, or 3079 the sin, might by the commandment become beyond measure.” 3080 And to the Galatians he writes: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, except through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” 3081



Rom. iii. 20.


Rom. iv. 15.


Rom. iv. 15.


Rom. vii. 6.


Rom. 7:6, 7.


Rom. iii. 20.


Ex. xx. 17.


Ut fiat supra modum peccator, aut peccatum, etc. [This odd reading probably arose from mistaking the Greek article for the disjunctive particle . It occurs frequently in Augustin.—W.]


Rom. vii. 7-13.


Gal. ii. 16.

Next: Chapter 23

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