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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Work on the Proceedings of Pelagius.: Chapter 29

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 29 [XIII.]—The Ninth Item of the Accusation; And Pelagius’ Reply.

The next objections were urged out of the book of Cœlestius, following the contents of each several chapter, but rather according to the sense than the words. These indeed he expatiates on rather fully; they, however, who presented the indictment against Pelagius said that they had been unable at the moment to adduce all the words. In the first chapter, then, of Cœlestius’ book they alleged that the following was written: “That we do more than is commanded us in the law and the gospel.” To this p. 196 Pelagius replied: “This they have set down as my statement. What we said, however, was in keeping with the apostle’s assertion concerning virginity, of which Paul writes: ‘I have no commandment of the Lord.’” 1685 Upon this the synod said: “This also the Church receives.” I have read for myself the meaning which Cœlestius gives to this in his book,—for he does not deny that the book is his. Now he made this statement obviously with the view of persuading us that we possess through the nature of free will so great an ability for avoiding sin, that we are able to do more than is commanded us; for a perpetual virginity is maintained by very many persons, and this is not commanded; whereas, in order to avoid sin, it is sufficient to fulfil what is commanded. When the judges, however, accepted Pelagius’ answer, they did not take it to convey the idea that those persons keep all the commandments of the law and the gospel who over and above maintain the state of virginity, which is not commanded,—but only this, that virginity, which is not commanded, is something more than conjugal chastity, which is commanded; so that to observe the one is of course more than to keep the other; whereas, at the same time, neither can be maintained without the grace of God, inasmuch as the apostle, in speaking of this very subject, says: “But I would that all men were even as I myself. Every man, however, hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.” 1686 And even the Lord Himself, upon the disciples remarking, “If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not expedient to marry” (or, as it may be better expressed in Latin, “it is not expedient to take a wife”), 1687 said to them: “All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.” 1688 This, therefore, is the doctrine which the bishops of the synod declared to be received by the Church, that the state of virginity, persevered in to the last, which is not commanded, is more than the chastity of married life, which is commanded. In what view Pelagius or Cœlestius regarded this subject, the judges were not aware.



1 Cor. vii. 25.


1 Cor. vii. 7.


This “better expression,” “non expedit ducere,” Augustin substitutes for the reading “non expedit nubere,” as applied to a woman’s taking a husband. The original, γαμῆσαι [not γαμεῖσθαι], justifies Augustin’s preference.


Matt. 19:10, 11.

Next: Chapter 30

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