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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise Concerning Man’s Perfection...: Section 21

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter X.—(21.) To Whom God’s Commandments are Grievous; And to Whom, Not. Why Scripture Says that God’s Commandments are Not Grievous; A Commandment is a Proof of the Freedom Of Man’s Will; Prayer is a Proof of Grace.

He next quotes passages to show that God’s commandments are not grievous. But who can be ignorant of the fact that, since the generic commandment is love (for “the end of the commandment is love,” 1446 and “love is the fulfilling of the law” 1447 ), whatever is accomplished by the operation of love, and not of fear, is not grievous? They, however, are oppressed by the commandments of God, who try to fulfil them by fearing. “But perfect love casteth out fear;” 1448 and, in respect of the burden of the commandment, it not only takes off the pressure of its heavy weight, but it actually lifts it up as if on wings. In order, however, that this love may be possessed, even as far as it can possibly be possessed in the body of this death, the determination of will avails but little, unless it be helped by God’s grace through our Lord Jesus Christ. For as it must again and again be stated, it is “shed abroad in our hearts,” not by our own selves, but “by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” 1449 And for no other reason does Holy Scripture insist on the truth that God’s commandments are not grievous, than this, that the soul which finds them grievous may understand that it has not yet received those resources which make the Lord’s commandments to be such as they are commended to us as being, even gentle and pleasant; and that it may pray with groaning of the will to obtain the gift of facility. For the man who says, “Let my heart be blameless;”  1450 and, “Order Thou my steps according to Thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me;” 1451 and, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven;” 1452 and, “Lead us not into temptation;” 1453 and other prayers of a like purport, which it would be too long to particularize, does in effect offer up a prayer for ability to keep God’s commandments. Neither, indeed, on the one hand, would any injunctions be laid upon us to keep them, if our own will had nothing to do in the matter; nor, on the other hand, would there be any room for prayer, if our will were alone sufficient. God’s commandments, therefore, are commended to us as being not grievous, in order that he to whom they are grievous may understand that he has not as yet received the gift which removes their grievousness; and that he may not think that he is really performing them, when he so keeps them that they are grievous to him. For it is a cheerful giver whom God loves. 1454 Nevertheless, when a man finds God’s commandments grievous, let him not be broken down by despair; let him rather oblige himself to seek, to ask, and to knock.



1 Tim. i. 8.


Rom. xiii. 10.


1 John iv. 18.


Rom. v. 5.


Ps. cxix. 80.


Ps. cxix. 133.


Matt. vi. 10.


Matt. vi. 13.


2 Cor. ix. 7.

Next: Section 22