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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise Against Two Letters of the...: Chapter 11

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 11.—The Pelagians Understand that the Law Itself is God’s Grace.

But those enemies of grace never endeavour to lay more secret snares for more vehement opposition to that same grace than when they praise the law, which, without doubt, is worthy to be praised. 2801 Because, by their different modes of speaking, and by variety of words in all their arguments, they wish the law to be understood as “grace”—that, to wit, we may have from the Lord God the help of knowledge, whereby we may know those things which have to be done,—not the inspiration of love, that, when known, we may do them with a holy love, which is properly grace. For the knowledge of the law without love puffeth up, does not edify, according to the same apostle, who most openly says, “Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth.” 2802 Which saying is like to that in which it is said, “The letter killeth, the spirit maketh alive.” 2803 For “Knowledge puffeth up,” corresponds to “The letter killeth:” and, “Love edifieth,” to “The spirit maketh alive;” because “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us.” 2804 Therefore the knowledge of the law makes a proud transgressor; but, by the gift of charity, he delights to be a doer of the law. We do not then make void the law through faith, but we establish the law, 2805 which by terrifying leads to faith. Thus certainly the law worketh wrath, that the mercy of God may bestow grace on the sinner, frightened and turned to the fulfilment of the righteousness of the law through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is that wisdom of God of which it is written, “She carries law and mercy on her tongue,” 2806 —law whereby she frightens, mercy by which she may help,—law by His servant, mercy by Himself,—the law, as it were, in the staff which Elisha 2807 sent to raise up the son of the widow, and it failed to raise him up, “For if a law had been given which could have given life, righteousness would altogether have been by the law,” 2808 but mercy, as it were, in Elisha himself, who, wearing the figure of Christ, by giving life to the dead was joined in the signification of the great sacrament, as it were, of the New Testament.



See On the Grace of Christ, ch. 8, and following.


1 Cor. viii. 1.


2 Cor. iii. 6.


Rom. v. 5.


Rom. iii. 31.


Prov. iii. 16.


2 Kings iv. 29 sq.


Gal. iii. 21.

Next: Chapter 12