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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on Grace and Free Will.: Chapter 6

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 6 [IV.]—God’s Grace to Be Maintained Against the Pelagians; The Pelagian Heresy Not an Old One.

It is, however, to be feared lest all these and similar testimonies of Holy Scripture (and undoubtedly there are a great many of them), in the maintenance of free will, be understood in such a way as to leave no room for God’s assistance and grace in leading a godly life and a good conversation, to which the eternal reward is due; and lest poor wretched man, when he leads a good life and performs good works (or rather thinks that he leads a good life and performs good works), should dare to glory in himself and not in the Lord, and to put his hope of righteous living in himself alone; so as to be followed by the prophet Jeremiah’s malediction when he says, “Cursed is the man who has hope in man, and maketh strong the flesh of his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.” 2995 Understand, my brethren, I pray you, this passage of the prophet. Because the prophet did not say, “Cursed is the man who has hope in his own self,” it might seem to some that the passage, “Cursed is the man who has hope in man,” was spoken to prevent man having hope in any other man but himself. In order, therefore, to show that his admonition to man was not to have hope in himself, after saying, “Cursed is the man who has hope in man,” he immediately added, “And maketh strong the flesh of his arm.” He used the word “arm” to designate power in operation. By the term “flesh,” however, must be understood human frailty. And therefore he makes strong the flesh of his arm who supposes that a power which is frail and weak (that is, human) is sufficient for him to perform good works, and therefore puts not his hope in God for help. This is the reason why he subjoined the further clause, “And whose heart departeth from the Lord.” Of this character is the Pelagian heresy, which is not an ancient one, but has only lately come into existence. Against this system of error there was first a good deal of discussion; then, as the ultimate resource, it was referred to sundry episcopal councils, the proceedings of which, not, indeed, in every instance, but in some, I have despatched to you for your perusal. In order, then, to our performance of good works, let us not have hope in man, making strong the flesh of our arm; nor let our heart ever depart from the Lord, but let it say to him, “Be Thou my helper; forsake me not, nor despise me, O God of my salvation.” 2996



Jer. xvii. 5.


Ps. xxvii. 9.

Next: Chapter 7