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

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 27.—Reference to the “Retractations.”

Finally, in the first book of the Retractations3614 which work of mine you have not yet read, when I had come to the reconsidering of those same books, that is, on the subject of Free Will, I thus spoke: “In these books,” I say, “many things were so discussed that on the occurring of some questions which either I was not able to elucidate, or which required a long discussion at once, they were so deferred as that from either side, or from all sides, of those questions in which what was most in harmony with the truth did not appear, yet my reasoning might be conclusive for this, namely, that whichever of them might be true, God might be believed, or even be shown, to be worthy of praise. Because that discussion was undertaken for the sake of those who deny that the origin of evil is derived from the free choice of the will, and contend that God,—if He be so,—as the Creator of all natures, is worthy of blame; desiring in that manner, according to the error of their impiety (for they are Manicheans), to introduce a certain immutable nature of evil co-eternal with God.” Also, after a little time, in another place I say: “Then it was said, From this misery, most righteously inflicted on sinners, God’s grace delivers, because man of his own accord, that is, by free will, could fall, but could not also rise. To this misery of just condemnation belong the ignorance and the difficulty which every man suffers from the beginning of his birth, and no one is delivered from that evil except by the grace of God. And this misery the Pelagians will not have to descend from a just condemnation, because they deny original sin; although even if the ignorance and difficulty were the natural beginnings of man, God would not even thus deserve to be reproached, but to be praised, as I have argued in the same third book. 3615 Which argument must be regarded as against the Manicheans, who do not receive the holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, in which original sin is narrated; and whatever thence is read in the apostolic epistles, they contend was introduced p. 536 with a detestable impudence by the corrupters of the Scriptures, assuming that it was not said by the apostles. But against the Pelagians that must be maintained which both Scriptures commend, as they profess to receive them.” These things I said in my first book of Retractations, when I was reconsidering the books on Free Will. Nor, indeed, were these things all that were said by me there about these books, but there were many others also, which I thought it would be tedious to insert in this work for you, and not necessary; and this I think you also will judge when you have read all. Although, therefore, in the third book on Free Will I have in such wise argued concerning infants, that even if what the Pelagians say were true,—that ignorance and difficulty, without which no man is born, are elements, not punishments, of our nature,—still the Manicheans would be overcome, who will have it that the two natures, to wit, of good and evil, are co-eternal. Is, therefore, the faith to be called in question or forsaken, which the catholic Church maintains against those very Pelagians, asserting as she does that it is original sin, the guilt of which, contracted by generation, must be remitted by regeneration? And if they confess this with us, so that we may at once, in this matter of the Pelagians, destroy error, why do they think that it must be doubted that God can deliver even infants, to whom He gives His grace by the sacrament of baptism, from the power of darkness, and translate them into the kingdom of the Son of His love? 3616 In the fact, therefore, that He gives that grace to some, and does not give it to others, why will they not sing to the Lord His mercy and judgment? 3617 Why, however, is it given to these, rather than to those,—who has known the mind of the Lord? who is able to look into unsearchable things? who to trace out that which is past finding out?



Retractations, Book i. ch. 9.


Retractations, Book i. ch. 20.


Col. i. 13.


Ps. c. 1.

Next: Chapter 28