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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Grace of Christ, and...: Chapter 14

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 14 [XII.]—The Righteousness Which is of God, and the Righteousness Which is of the Law.

If this grace is to be called “teaching,” let it at any rate be so called in such wise that God may be believed to infuse it, along with an ineffable sweetness, more deeply and more internally, not only by their agency who plant and water from without, but likewise by His own too who ministers in secret His own increase,—in such a way, that He not only exhibits truth, but likewise imparts love. For it is thus that God teaches those who have been called according to His purpose, giving them simultaneously both to know what they ought to do, and to do what they know. Accordingly, the apostle thus speaks to the Thessalonians: “As touching love of the brethren, ye need not that I write unto you; for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.” 1814 And then, by way of proving that they had been taught of God, he subjoined: “And indeed ye do it towards all the brethren which are in all Macedonia.” 1815 As if the surest sign that you have been taught of God, is that you put into practice what you have been taught. Of that character are all who are called accordp. 222 ing to God’s purpose, as it is written in the prophets: “They shall be all taught of God.” 1816 The man, however, who has learned what ought to be done, but does it not, has not as yet been “taught of God” according to grace, but only according to the law,—not according to the spirit, but only according to the letter. Although there are many who appear to do what the law commands, through fear of punishment, not through love of righteousness; and such righteousness as this the apostle calls “his own which is after the law,”—a thing as it were commanded, not given. When, indeed, it has been given, it is not called our own righteousness, but God’s; because it becomes our own only so that we have it from God. These are the apostle’s words: “That I may be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ the righteousness which is of God by faith.” 1817 So great, then, is the difference between the law and grace, that although the law is undoubtedly of God, yet the righteousness which is “of the law” is not “of God,” but the righteousness which is consummated by grace is “of God.” The one is designated “the righteousness of the law,” because it is done through fear of the curse of the law; while the other is called “the righteousness of God,” because it is bestowed through the beneficence of His grace, so that it is not a terrible but a pleasant commandment, according to the prayer in the psalm: “Good art Thou, O Lord, therefore in Thy goodness teach me Thy righteousness;” 1818 that is, that I may not be compelled like a slave to live under the law with fear of punishment; but rather in the freedom of love may be delighted to live with law as my companion. When the freeman keeps a commandment, he does it readily. And whosoever learns his duty in this spirit, does everything that he has learned ought to be done.



1 Thess. iv. 9.


1 Thess. iv. 10.


Isa. 54:13, Jer. 31:34, John 6:45.


Phil. iii. 9.


Ps. cxix. 68.

Next: Chapter 15