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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Grace of Christ, and...: Chapter 34

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 34.—Pelagius Says that Grace is Given According to Men’s Merits. The Beginning, However, of Merit is Faith; And This is a Gratuitous Gift, Not a Recompense for Our Merits.

Then, again, whatever it is which he means by “grace,” he says is given even to Christians according to their merits, although (as I have already mentioned above 1870 ), when he was in Palestine, in his very remarkable vindication of himself, he condemned those who hold this opinion. Now these are his words: “In the one,” says he, “the good of their created 1871 condition is naked and defenceless;” meaning in those who are not Christians. Then adding the rest: “In these, however, who belong to Christ, there is defence afforded by Christ’s help.” You see it is still uncertain what the help is, according to the remark we have already made on the same subject. He goes on, however, to say of those who are not Christians: “Those deserve judgment and condemnation, because, although they possess free will whereby they could come to have faith and deserve God’s grace, they make a bad use of the freedom which has been granted to them. But these deserve to be rewarded, who by the right use of free will merit the Lord’s grace, and keep His commandments.” Now it is clear that he says grace is bestowed according to merit, whatever and of what kind soever the grace is which he means, but which he does not plainly declare. For when he speaks of those persons as deserving reward who make a good use of their free will, and as therefore meriting the Lord’s grace, he asserts in fact that a debt is paid to them. What, then, becomes of the apostle’s saying, “Being justified freely by His grace”? 1872 And what of his other statement too, “By grace are ye saved”? 1873 —where, that he might prevent p. 229 men’s supposing that it is by works, he expressly added, “by faith.” 1874 And yet further, lest it should be imagined that faith itself is to be attributed to men independently of the grace of God, the apostle says: “And that not of yourselves; for it is the gift of God.” 1875 It follows, therefore, that we receive, without any merit of our own, that from which everything which, according to them, we obtain because of our merit, has its beginning—that is, faith itself. If, however, they insist on denying that this is freely given to us, what is the meaning of the apostle’s words: “According as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith”? 1876 But if it is contended that faith is so bestowed as to be a recompense for merit, not a free gift, what then becomes of another saying of the apostle: “Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake”? 1877 Each is by the apostle’s testimony made a gift,—both that he believes in Christ, and that each suffers for His sake. These men however, attribute faith to free will in such a way as to make it appear that grace is rendered to faith not as a gratuitous gift, but as a debt—thus ceasing to be grace any longer, because that is not grace which is not gratuitous.



In ch. 23 [xxii.].


Conditionis bonum.


Rom. iii. 24.


Eph. i. 8.


Eph. i. 8.


Eph. i. 8.


Rom. xii. 3.


Phil. i. 29.

Next: Chapter 35

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