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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Grace of Christ, and...: Chapter 27

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 27 [XXVI.]—What True Grace Is, and Wherefore Given. Merits Do Not Precede Grace.

Now even Pelagius should frankly confess that this grace is plainly set forth in the inspired Scriptures; nor should he with shameless effrontery hide the fact that he has too long opposed it, but admit it with salutary regret; so that the holy Church may cease to be harassed by his stubborn persistence, and rather rejoice in his sincere conversion. Let him distinguish between knowledge and love, as they ought to be distinguished; because “knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth.” 1857 And then knowledge no longer puffeth up when love builds up. And inasmuch as each is the gift of God (although one is less, and the other greater), he must not extol our righteousness above the praise which is due to Him who justifies us, in such a way as to assign to the lesser of these two gifts the help of divine grace, and to claim the greater one for the human will. And should he consent that we receive love from the grace of God, he must not suppose that any merits of our own preceded our reception of the gift. For what merits could we possibly have had at the time when we loved not God? In order, indeed, that we might receive that love whereby we might love, we were loved while as yet we had no love ourselves. This the Apostle John most expressly declares: “Not that we loved God,” says he, “but that He loved us;” 1858 and again, “We love Him, because He first loved us.” 1859 Most excellently and truly spoken! For we could not have wherewithal to love Him, unless we received it from Him in His first loving us. p. 227 And what good could we possibly do if we possessed no love? Or how could we help doing good if we have love? For although God’s commandment appears sometimes to be kept by those who do not love Him, but only fear Him; yet where there is no love, no good work is imputed, nor is there any good work, rightly so called; because “whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” 1860 and “faith worketh by love.” 1861 Hence also that grace of God, whereby “His love is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us,” 1862 must be so confessed by the man who would make a true confession, as to show his undoubting belief that nothing whatever in the way of goodness pertaining to godliness and real holiness can be accomplished without it. Not after the fashion of him who clearly enough shows us what he thinks of it when he says, that “grace is bestowed in order that what God commands may be the more easily fulfilled;” which of course means, that even without grace God’s commandments may, although less easily, yet actually, be accomplished.



1 Cor. viii. 1.


1 John iv. 10.


1 John iv. 19.


Rom. xiv. 23.


Gal. v. 6.


Rom. v. 5.

Next: Chapter 28