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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Work on the Proceedings of Pelagius.: Chapter 20

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 20.—The Same Continued. Pelagius Acknowledges the Doctrine of Grace in Deceptive Terms.

There can be no doubt that what Pelagius has acknowledged as his own is as yet very obscure. I suppose, however, that it will become apparent in the subsequent details of these proceedings. Now he says: “We have affirmed that a man is able to be without sin, and to keep the commandments of God if he wishes, inasmuch as God has given him this ability. But we have not said that any man can be found, who from infancy to old age has never committed sin; but that if any person were converted from his sins, he could by his own exertion and God’s grace p. 192 be without sin; and yet not even thus would he be incapable of change afterwards.” Now it is quite uncertain what he means in these words by the grace of God; and the judges, catholic as they were, could not possibly understand by the phrase anything else than the grace which is so very strongly recommended to us in the apostle’s teaching. Now this is the grace whereby we hope that we can be delivered from the body of this death through our Lord Jesus Christ, 1655 [VII.] and for the obtaining of which we pray that we may not be led into temptation. 1656 This grace is not nature, but that which renders assistance to frail and corrupted nature. This grace is not the knowledge of the law, but is that of which the apostle says: “I will not make void the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” 1657 Therefore it is not “the letter that killeth, but the life-giving spirit.” 1658 For the knowledge of the law, without the grace of the Spirit, produces all kinds of concupiscence in man; for, as the apostle says, “I had not known sin but by the law: I had not known lust, unless the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.” 1659 By saying this, however, he blames not the law; he rather praises it, for he says afterwards: “The law indeed is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” 1660 And he goes on to ask: “Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, wrought death in me by that which is good.” 1661 And, again, he praises the law by saying: “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I know not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.” 1662 Observe, then, he knows the law, praises it, and consents to it; for what it commands, that he also wishes; and what it forbids, and condemns, that he also hates: but for all that, what he hates, that he actually does. There is in his mind, therefore, a knowledge of the holy law of God, but still his evil concupiscence is not cured. He has a good will within him, but still what he does is evil. Hence it comes to pass that, amidst the mutual struggles of the two laws within him,—“the law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and making him captive to the law of sin,” 1663 —he confesses his misery; and exclaims in such words as these: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death? The grace of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1664



Rom. 7:24, 25.


Matt. vi. 13.


Gal. ii. 21.


2 Cor. iii. 6.


Rom. 7:7, 8.


Rom. vii. 12.


Rom. vii. 13.


Rom. vii. 14-16.


Rom. vii. 23.


Rom. 7:24, 25.

Next: Chapter 21