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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Work on the Proceedings of Pelagius.: Chapter 16

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 16 [VI.]—The Sixth Item of the Accusation, and Pelagius’ Reply.

The next objection was to the effect that Pelagius in that same book of his wrote thus: “A man is able, if he likes, to be without sin;” and that writing to a certain widow he said, flatteringly: “In thee piety may find a dwelling-place, such as she finds nowhere else; in thee righteousness, though a stranger, can find a home; truth, which no one any longer recognises, can discover an abode and a friend in thee; and the law of God, which almost everybody despises, may be honoured by thee alone.” And in another sentence he writes to her: “O how happy and blessed art thou, when that righteousness which we must believe to flourish only in heaven has found a shelter on earth only in thy heart!” In another work addressed to her, after reciting the prayer of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and teaching her in what manner saints ought to pray, he says: “He worthily raises his hands to God, and with a good conscience does he pour out his prayer, who is able to say, ‘Thou, O Lord, knowest how holy, and harmless, and pure from all injury and iniquity and violence, are the hands which I stretch out to Thee; how righteous, and pure, and free from all deceit, are the lips with which I offer to Thee my supplication, that Thou wouldst have mercy upon me.’” To all this Pelagius said in answer: “We asserted that a man could be without sin, and could keep God’s commandments if he wished; for this capacity has been given to him by God. But we never said that any man could be found who at no time whatever, from infancy to old age, had committed sin: but that if any person were converted from his sins, he could by his own labour and God’s grace be without sin; and yet not even thus would he be incapable of change ever afterwards. As for the other statements which they have made against us, they are not to be found in our books, nor have we at any time said such things.” Upon hearing this vindication, the synod put this question to him: “You have denied having ever written such words; are you therefore ready to anathematize those who do hold these opinions?” Pelagius answered: “I anathematize them as fools, not as heretics, for there is no dogma.” The bishops then pronounced their judgment in these words: “Since now Pelagius has with his own mouth anathematized this vague statement as foolish verbiage, justly declaring in his reply, ‘That a man is able with God’s assistance and grace to be without sin,’ let him now proceed to answer the other heads of accusation against him.”

Next: Chapter 17

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