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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XI:
The Works of John Cassian.: Chapter I. Discourse of Abbot Theonas on the Apostle's words: “For I do not the good which I would.“

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter I.

Discourse of Abbot Theonas on the Apostle’s words: “For I do not the good which I would.”

At the return of light therefore, as the old man was forced by our intense urgency to investigate the depths of the Apostle’s subject, he spoke as follows: As for the passages by which you try to prove that the Apostle Paul spoke not in his own person but in that of sinners: “For I do not the good that I would, but the evil which I hate, that I do;” or this: “But if I do that which I would not, it is no longer I that do it but sin that dwelleth in me;” or what follows: “For I delight in the law of God after the inner man, but I see another law in my members opposing the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members;” 2229 these passages on the contrary plainly show that they cannot possibly fit the person of sinners, but that what is said can only apply to those that are perfect, and that it only suits the chastity of those who follow the good example of the Apostles. Else how could these words apply to the person of sinners: “For I do not the good which I would, but the evil which I hate that I do”? or even this: “But if I do what I would not it is no longer I that do it but sin that dwelleth in me”? For what sinner defiles himself unwillingly by adulteries and fornication? Who against his will prepares plots against his neighbour? Who is driven by unavoidable necessity to oppress a man by false witness or cheat him by theft, or covet the goods of another or shed his blood? Nay rather, as Scripture says, “Mankind is diligently inclined to wickedness from his youth.” 2230 For to such an extent are all inflamed by the love of sin and desire to carry out what they like, that they actually look out with watchful care for an opportunity of committing wickedness and are afraid of being too slow to enjoy their lusts, and glory in their shame and the mass of their crimes, as the Apostle says in censure, 2231 and seek credit for themselves out of their own confusion, of whom also the prophet Jeremiah maintains that they commit their flagitious crimes not only not unwillingly nor with ease of heart and body, but with laborious efforts to such an extent that they come to toil to carry them out, so that they are prevented even by the hindrance of arduous difficulty from their deadly quest of sin; as he says: “They have laboured to do wickedly.” 2232 Who also will say that this applies to sinners: “And so with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin,” as it is plain that they serve God neither with the mind nor the flesh? Or how can those who sin with the body serve God with the mind, when the flesh p. 520 receives the incitement to sin from the heart, and the Creator of either nature Himself declares that the fount and spring of sin flows from the latter, saying: “From the heart proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, etc.” 2233 Wherefore it is clearly shown that this cannot in any way be taken of the person of sinners, who not only do not hate, but actually love what is evil and are so far from serving God with either the mind or the flesh that they sin with the mind before they do with the flesh, and before they carry out the pleasures of the body are overcome by sin in their mind and thoughts.



Rom. vii. 18, sq.


Gen. viii. 21.


Cf. Phil. iii. 19.


Jer. ix. 5.


S. Matt. xv. 19.

Next: Chapter II. How the Apostle completed many good actions.

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