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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Work on the Proceedings of Pelagius.: Chapter 36

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 36.—The Same Continued. The Monk Pelagius. Grace is Conferred on the Unworthy.

His due reward, therefore, is recompensed to the apostle as worthy of it; but still it was grace which bestowed on him the apostleship itself, which was not his due, and of which he was not worthy. Shall I be sorry for having said this? God forbid! For under his own testimony shall I find a ready protection from such reproach; nor will any man charge me with audacity, unless he be himself audacious enough to charge the apostle with mendacity. He frankly says, nay he protests, that he commends the gifts of God within himself, so that he glories not in himself at all, but in the Lord; 1720 he not only declares that he possessed no good deserts in himself why he should be made an apostle, but he even mentions his own demerits, in order to manifest and preach the grace of God. “I am not meet,” says he, “to be called an apostle;” 1721 and what else does this mean than “I am not worthy”—as indeed several Latin copies read the phrase. Now this, to be sure, is the very gist of our question; for undoubtedly in this grace of apostleship all those graces are contained. For it was neither convenient nor right that an apostle should not possess the gift of prophecy, nor be a teacher, nor be illustrious for miracles and the gifts of healings, nor furnish needful helps, nor provide governments over the churches, nor excel in diversities of tongues. All these functions the one name of apostleship embraces. Let us, therefore, consult the man himself, nay listen wholly to him. Let us say to him: “Holy Apostle Paul, the monk Pelagius declares that thou wast worthy to receive all the graces of thine apostleship. What dost thou say thyself?” He answers: “I am not worthy to be called an apostle.” Shall I then, under pretence of honouring Paul, in a matter concerning Paul, dare to believe Pelagius in preference to Paul? I will p. 200 not do so; for if I did, I should only prove to be more onerous to myself than honouring to him. 1722 Let us hear also why he is not worthy to be called an apostle: “Because,” says he, “I persecuted the Church of God.” 1723 Now, were we to follow up the idea here expressed, who would not judge that he rather deserved from Christ condemnation, instead of an apostolic call? Who could so love the preacher as not to loathe the persecutor? Well, therefore, and truly does he say of himself: “I am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.” As thou wroughtest then such evil, how camest thou to earn such good? Let all men hear his answer: “But by the grace of God, I am what I am.” Is there, then, no other way in which grace is commended, than because it is conferred on an unworthy recipient? “And His grace,” he adds, “which was bestowed on me was not in vain.” 1724 He says this as a lesson to others also, to show the freedom of the will, when he says: “We then, as workers together with Him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” 1725 Whence however does he derive his proof, that “His grace bestowed on himself was not in vain,” except from the fact which he goes on to mention: “But I laboured more abundantly than they all?” 1726 So it seems he did not labour in order to receive grace, but he received grace in order that he might labour. And thus, when unworthy, he gratuitously received grace, whereby he might become worthy to receive the due reward. Not that he ventured to claim even his labour for himself; for, after saying: “I laboured more abundantly than they all,” he at once subjoined: “Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” 1727 O mighty teacher, confessor, and preacher of grace! What meaneth this: “I laboured more, yet not I?” Where the will exalted itself ever so little, there piety was instantly on the watch, and humility trembled, because weakness recognised itself.



1 Cor. i. 31.


1 Cor. xv. 9.


This is a poor imitation of Augustin’s playful words: “Me potius onerabo quam illum honorabo.”


1 Cor. xv. 9.


1 Cor. xv. 10.


2 Cor. vi. 1.


1 Cor. xv. 10.


1 Cor. xv. 10.

Next: Chapter 37

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