TWO LETTERS WRITTEN BY AUGUSTINE TO VALENTINUS AND THE MONKS OF ADRUMETUM, AND FORWARDED WITH THE FOLLOWING TREATISE.
[The 214th of Augustine's Epistles.]
TO MY VERY DEAR LORD AND MOST HONOURED BROTHER AMONG THE MEMBERS OF CHRIST, VALENTINUS, AND TO THE BRETHREN THAT ARE WITH YOU, AUGUSTINE SENDS GREETING IN THE LORD.
I. TWO young men, Cresconius and Felix, have found their way to us, and, introducing themselves as belonging to your brotherhood, have told us that your monastery was disturbed with no small commotion, because certain amongst you preach grace in such a manner as to deny that the will of man is free; and maintain--a more serious matter--that in the day of judgment God will not render to every man according to his works. At the same time, they have pointed out to us, that many of you do not entertain this opinion, but allow that free will is assisted by the grace of God, so as that we may think and do aright; so that, when the Lord shall come to render unto every man according to his works, He shall find those works of ours good which God has prepared in order that we may walk in them. They who think this think rightly.
2. "I beseech you therefore, brethren," even as the apostle besought the Corinthians, "by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you." For, in the first place, the Lord Jesus, as it is written in the Gospel of the Apostle John, "came not to condemn the world, but that the world by Himself might be saved." Then, afterwards, as the Apostle Paul writes, "God shall judge the world when He shall come," as the whole Church confesses in the Creed, "to judge the quick and the dead." Now, I would ask, if there is no grace of God, how does He save the world? and if there is no free will, how does He judge the world? That book of mine, therefore, or epistle, which the above-mentioned brethren have brought with them to you, I wish you to understand in accordance with this faith, so that you may neither deny God's grace, nor uphold free will in such wise as to separate the latter from the grace of God, as if without this we could by any means either think or do anything according to God,--which is quite beyond our power. On this account, indeed, it is, that the Lord when speaking of the fruits of righteousness said, "Without me ye can do nothing."
3. From this you may understand why I wrote the letter which has been referred to, to Sixtus, presbyter of the Church at Rome, against the new Pelagian heretics, who say that the grace of God is bestowed according to our own merits, so that he who glories has to glory not in the Lord, but in himself,--that is to say, in man, not in the Lord. This, however, the apostle forbids in these words: "Let no man glory in man;" while in another passage he says, "He that glorieth let him glory in the Lord." But these heretics, under the idea that they are justified by their own selves, just as if God did not bestow on them this gift, but they themselves obtained it by themselves, glory of course in themselves, and not in the Lord. Now, the apostle says to such, "Who maketh thee to differ from another?" and this he does on the ground that out of the mass of perdition which arose from Adam, none but God distinguishes a man to make him a vessel to honour, and not to dishonour. Lest, however, the carnal man in his foolish pride should, on hearing the question, "Who maketh thee to differ from another?" either in thought or in word answer and say: My faith, or my prayer, or my righteousness makes me to differ from other men, the apostle at once adds these words to the question, and so meets all such notions, saying, "What hast thou that thou didst not receive? now, if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou didst not receive it?" Now, they boast as if they did not receive their gifts by grace, who think that they are justified of their own selves, and who, on this account, glory in themselves, and not in the Lord.
4. Therefore I have in this letter, which has reached you, shown by passages of Holy Scripture, which you can examine for yourselves, that our good works and pious prayers and right faith could not possibly have been in us unless we had received them all from Him, concerning whom the Apostle James says, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights." And so no man can say that it is by the merit of his own works, or by the merit of his own prayers, or by the merit of his own faith, that God's grace has been conferred upon him; nor suppose that the doctrine is true which those heretics hold, that the grace of God is given us in proportion to our own merit. This is altogether a most erroneous opinion; not, indeed, because there is no desert, good in pious persons, or evil in impious ones (for how else shall God judge the world?), but because a man is converted by that mercy and grace of God, of which the Psalmist says, "As for my God, His mercy shall prevent me;" so that the unrighteous man is justified, that is, becomes just instead of impious, and begins to possess that good desert which God will crown when the world shall be judged.
5. There were many things which I wanted to send you, by the perusal whereof you would have been able to gain a more exact and full knowledge of all that has been done by the bishops in their councils against these Pelagian heretics. But the brethren were in haste who came to us from your company. By them we have sent you this letter; which is, however, not an answer to any communication, because, in truth, they brought us no epistle from your beloved selves. Yet we had no hesitation in receiving them; for their simple manners proved to us clearly enough that there could have been nothing unreal or deceptive in their visit to us. They were, however, in much haste, as wishing to spend Easter at home with you; and my earnest prayer is, that so sacred a day may, by the Lord's help, bring peace to you, and not dissension.
6. You will, indeed, take the better course (as I earnestly request you), if you will not refuse to send to me the very person by whom they say they have been disturbed. For either he does not understand my book, or else, perhaps, he is himself misunderstood, when he endeavours to solve and explain a question which is a very difficult one, and intelligible to few. For it is none other than the question of God's grace which has caused persons of no understanding to think that the Apostle Paul prescribes it to us as a rule, "Let us do evil that good may come." It is in reference to these that the Apostle Peter writes in his second Epistle; "Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent, that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot and blameless and account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given unto him, hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things: in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction."
7. Take good heed, then, to these fearful words of the great apostle; and when you feel that you do not understand, put your faith in the meanwhile in the inspired word of God, and believe both that man's will is free, and that there is also God's grace, without whose help man's free will can neither be turned towards God, nor make any progress in God. And what you piously believe, that pray that you may have a wise understanding of. And, indeed, it is for this very purpose,--that is, that we may have a wise understanding, that there is a free will. For unless we understood and were wise with a free will, it would not be enjoined to us in the words of Scripture, "Understand now, ye simple among the people; and ye fools, at length be wise," The very precept and injunction which calls on us to be intelligent and wise, requires also our obedience; and we could exercise no obedience without free will. But if it were in our power to obey this precept to be understanding and wise by free will, without the help of God's grace, it would be unnecessary to say to God, "Give me understanding, that I may learn Thy commandments;" nor would it have been written in the gospel, "Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures;" nor should the Apostle James address us in such words as, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." But the Lord is able to grant, both to you and to us, that we may rejoice over very speedy tidings of your peace and pious unanimity. I send you greeting, not in my own name only, but of the brethren also who are with me; and I ask you to pray for us with one accord and with all earnestness. The Lord be with you.
[The 215th of Augustine's Epistles.]
TO MY VERY DEAR LORD AND MOST HONOURED BROTHER AMONG THE MEMBERS OF CHRIST, VALENTINUS, AND TO THE BRETHREN THAT ARE WITH YOU, AUGUSTINE SENDS GREETING IN THE LORD.
1. That Cresconius and Felix, and another Felix, the servants of God, who came to us from your brotherhood, have spent Easter with us is known to your Love. We have detained them somewhile longer in order that they might return to you better instructed against the new Pelagian heretics, into whose error every one falls who supposes that it is according to any human merits that the grace of God is given to us, which alone delivers a man through Jesus Christ our Lord. But he, too, is no less in error who thinks that, when the Lord shall come to judgment, a man is not judged according to his works who has been able to use throughout his life free choice of will. For only infants, who have not yet done any works of their own, either good or bad, will be condemned on account of original sin alone, when they have not been delivered by the Saviour's grace in the layer of regeneration. As for all others who, in the use of their free will, have added to original sin, sins of their own commission, but who have not been delivered by God's grace from the power of darkness and removed into the kingdom of Christ, they will receive judgment according to the deserts not of their original sin only, but also of the acts of their own will. The good, indeed, shall receive their reward according to the merits of their own good-will, but then they received this very good-will through the grace of God; and thus is accomplished that sentence of Scripture, "Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile: but glory, honour, and peace to every man that worketh good; to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile."
2. Touching the very difficult question of will and grace, I have felt no need of treating it further in this letter, having given them another letter also when they were about to return in greater haste. I have written a book likewise for you, and if you, by the Lord's help, read it, and have a lively understanding of it, I think that no further dissension on this subject will arise among you. They take with them other documents besides, which, as we supposed, ought to be sent to you, in order that from these you may ascertain what means the catholic Church has adopted for repelling, in God's mercy, the poison of the Pelagian heresy. For the letters to Pope Innocent, Bishop of Rome, from the Council of the province of Carthage, and from the Council of Numidia, and one written with exceeding care by five bishops, and what he wrote back to these three; our letter also to Pope Zosimus about the African Council, and his answer addressed to all bishops throughout the world; and a brief constitution, which we drew up against the error itself at a later plenary Council of all Africa; and the above-mentioned book of mine, which I have just written for you,--all these we have both read over with them, while they were with us, and have now despatched by their hands to you.
3. Furthermore, we have read to them the work of the most blessed martyr Cyprian on the Lord's Prayer, and have pointed out to them how He taught that all things pertaining to our morals, which constitute right living, must be sought from our Father which is in heaven, test, by presuming on free will, we fall from divine grace. From the same treatise we have also shown them how the same glorious martyr has taught us that it behoves us to pray even for our enemies who have not yet believed in Christ, that they may believe; which would of course be all in vain unless the Church believed that even the evil and unbelieving wills of men might, by the grace of God, be converted to good. This book of St. Cyprian, however, we have not sent you, because they told us that you possessed it among yourselves already. My letter, also, which had been sent to Sixtus, presbyter of the Church at Rome, and which they brought with them to us, we read over with them, and pointed out how that it had been written in opposition to those who say that God's grace is bestowed according to our merits,--that is to say, in opposition to the same Pelagians.
4. As far, then, as lay in our power, we have used our influence with them, as both your brethren and our own, with a view to their persevering in the soundness of the catholic faith, Which neither denies free will whether for an evil or a good life, nor attributes to it so much power that it can avail anything without God's grace, whether that it may be changed from evil to good, or that it may persevere in the pursuit of good, or that it may attain to eternal good when there is no further fear of failure. To yourselves, too, my most dearly beloved, I also, in this letter, give the same exhortation which the apostle addresses to us all, "not to think of yourselves more highly than you ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith."
5. Mark well the counsel which the Holy Ghost gives us by Solomon: "Make straight paths for thy feet, and order thy ways aright. Turn not aside to the right hand nor to the left, but turn away thy foot from the evil way; for the Lord knoweth the ways on the right hand, but those on the left are perverse. He will make thy ways straight, and will direct thy steps in peace." Now consider, my brethren, that in these words of Holy Scripture, if there were no free will, it would not be said, "Make straight paths for thy feet, and order thy ways; turn not aside to the right hand, nor to the left." Nor yet, were this possible for us to achieve without the grace of God, would it be afterwards added, "He will make thy ways straight, and will direct thy steps in peace."
6. Decline, therefore, neither to the right hand nor to the left, although the paths on the right hand are praised, and those on the left hand are blamed. This is why he added, "Turn away thy foot from the evil way,"--that is, from the left-hand path. This he makes manifest in the following words, saying, "For the Lord knoweth the ways on the right hand; but those on the left are perverse." In those ways we ought surely to walk which the Lord knows; and it is of these that we read in the Psalm, "The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish;" for this way, which is on the left hand, the Lord does not know. As He will also say at last to such as are placed on His left hand at the day of judgment: "I know you not." Now what is that which He knows not, who knows all things, both good and evil, in man? But what is the meaning of the words, "I know you not," unless it be that you are now such as I never made you? Precisely as that passage runs, which is spoken of the Lord Jesus Christ, that "He knew no sin." How knew it not, except that He had never made it? And, therefore, how is to be understood the passage, "The ways which are on the right hand the Lord knoweth," except in the sense that He made those ways Himself,--even "the paths of the righteous," which no doubt are "those good works that God," as the apostle tells us, "hath before ordained that we should walk in them"? Whereas the left-hand ways--those perverse paths of the unrighteous--He truly knows nothing of, because He never made them for man, but man made them for himself. Wherefore tie says, "The perverse ways of the wicked I utterly abhor; they are on the left hand."
7. But the reply is made: Why did He say, "Turn not aside to the right hand, nor to the left," when he clearly ought rather to have said, Keep to the right hand, and turn not off to the left, if the right-hand paths are good? Why, do we think, except this, that the paths on the right hand are so good that it is not good to turn off from them, even to the right? For that man, indeed, is to be understood as declining to the right who chooses to attribute to himself, and not to God, even those good works which appertain to right-hand ways. Hence it was that after saying, "For the Lord knoweth the ways on the right hand, but those on the left hand are perverse," as if the objection were raised to Him, Wherefore, then, do you not wish us to turn aside to the right? He immediately added as follows: "He will Himself make thy paths straight, and will direct thy ways in peace." Understand, therefore, the precept, "Make straight paths for thy feet, and order thy ways aright," in such a sense as to know that whenever you do all this, it is the Lord God who enables you to do it. Then you will not turn off to the right, although you are walking in right-hand paths, not trusting in your own strength; and He will Himself be your strength, who will make straight paths for your feet, and will direct your ways in peace.
8. Wherefore, most dearly beloved, whosoever says, My will suffices for me to perform good works, declines to the right. But, on the other hand, they who think that a good way of life should be forsaken, when they hear God's grace so preached as to lead to the supposition and belief that it of itself makes men's wills from evil to good, and it even of itself keeps them what it has made them; and who, as the result of this opinion, go on to say, "Let us do evil that good may come," --these persons decline to the left. This is the reason why he said to you, "Turn not aside to the right hand, nor to the left;" in other words, do not uphold free will in such wise as to attribute good works to it without the grace of God, nor so defend and maintain grace as if, by reason of it, you may love evil works in security and safety,--which may God's grace itself avert from you! Now it was the words of such as these which the apostle had in view when he said, "What shall we say, then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?" And to this cavil of erring men, who know nothing about the grace of God, he returned such an answer as he ought in these words: "God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" Nothing could have been said more succinctly, and yet to the point. For what more useful gift does the grace of God confer upon us, in this present evil world, than our dying unto sin? Hence he shows himself ungrateful to grace itself who chooses to live in sin by reason of that whereby we die unto sin. May God, however, who is rich in mercy, grant you both to think soundly and wisely, and to continue perseveringly and progressively to the end in every good determination and purpose. For yourselves, for us, for all who love you, and for those who hate you, pray that this gift may be attained,--pray earnestly and vigilantly in brotherly peace. Live unto God. If I deserve any favour at your hands, let brother Florus come to me.
A TREATISE ON GRACE AND FREE WILL.
BY AURELIUS AUGUSTINE, BISHOP OF HIPPO;
ADDRESSED TO VALENTINUS AND THE MONKS OF ADRUMETUM,
AND COMPLETED IN ONE BOOK.
WRITTEN IN A.D. 426 OR A.D. 427.
IN THIS TREATISE AUGUSTINE TEACHES US TO BEWARE OF MAINTAINING GRACE BY DENYING FREE WILL, OR FREE WILL BY DENYING GRACE; FOR THAT IT IS EVIDENT FROM THE TESTIMONY OF SCRIPTURE THAT THERE IS IN MAN A FREE CHOICE OF WILL; AND THERE ARE ALSO IN THE SAME SCRIPTURES INSPIRED PROOFS GIVEN OF THAT VERY GRACE OF GOD WITHOUT WHICH WE CAN DO NOTHING GOOD. AFTERWARDS, IN OPPOSITION TO THE PELAGIANS, HE PROVES THAT GRACE IS NOT BESTOWED ACCORDING TO OUR MERITS. HE EXPLAINS HOW ETERNAL LIFE, WHICH IS RENDERED TO GOOD WORKS, IS REALLY OF GRACE. HE THEN GOES ON TO SHOW THAT THE GRACE WHICH IS GIVEN TO US THROUGH OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST IS NEITHER THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE LAW, NOR NATURE, NOR SIMPLY REMISSION OF SINS; BUT THAT IT IS GRACE THAT MAKES US FULFIL THE LAW, AND CAUSES NATURE TO BE LIBERATED FROM THE DOMINION OF SIN. HE DEMOLISHES THAT VAIN SUBTERFUGE OF THE PELAGIANS, TO THE EFFECT THAT "GRACE, ALTHOUGH IT IS NOT BESTOWED ACCORDING TO THE MERITS OF GOOD WORKS, IS YET GIVEN ACCORDING TO THE MERITS OF THE ANTECEDENT GOOD-WILL OF THE MAN WHO BELIEVES AND PRAYS." HE INCIDENTALLY TOUCHES THE QUESTION, WHY GOD COMMANDS WHAT HE MEANS HIMSELF TO GIVE, AND WHETHER HE IMPOSES ON US ANY COMMANDS WHICH WE ARE UNABLE TO PERFORM. HE CLEARLY SHOWS THAT THE LOVE WHICH IS INDISPENSABLE FOR FULFILLING THE COMMANDMENTS IS ONLY WITHIN US FROM GOD HIMSELF. HE POINTS OUT THAT GOD WORKS IN MEN'S HEARTS TO INCLINE THEIR WILLS WHITHERSOEVER HE WILLETH, EITHER TO GOOD WORKS ACCORDING TO HIS MERCY, OR TO EVIL ONES IN RETURN FOR THEIR DESERVING; HIS JUDGMENT, INDEED, BEING SOMETIMES MANIFEST, SOMETIMES HIDDEN, BUT ALWAYS RIGHTEOUS. LASTLY, HE TEACHES US THAT A CLEAR EXAMPLE OF THE GRATUITOUSNESS OF GRACE,NOT GIVEN IN RETURN FOR OUR DESERTS, IS SUPPLIED TO US IN THE CASE OF THOSE INFANTS WHICH ARE SAVED, WHILE OTHERS PERISH THOUGH THEIR CASE IS IDENTICAL WITH THAT OF THE REST.
CHAP. I [I.]--THE OCCASION AND ARGUMENT OF THIS WORK.
WITH reference to those persons who so preach and defend man's free will, as boldly to deny, and endeavour to do away with, the grace of God which Calls us to Him, and delivers us from our evil deserts, and by which we obtain the good deserts which lead to everlasting life: we have already said a good deal in discussion, and committed it to writing, so far as the Lord has vouchsafed to enable us. But since there are some persons who so defend God's grace as to deny man's free will, or who suppose that free will is denied when grace is defended, I have determined to write somewhat on this point to your Love, my brother Valentinus, and the rest of you, who are serving God together under the impulse of a mutual love. For it has been told me concerning you, brethren, by some members of your brotherhood who have visited us, and are the bearers of this communication of ours to you, that there are dissensions among you on this subject. This, then, being the case, dearly beloved, that you be not disturbed by the obscurity of this question, I counsel you first to thank God for such things as you understand; but as for all which is beyond the reach of your mind, pray for understanding from the Lord, observing, at the same time peace and love among yourselves; and until He Himself lead you to perceive what at present is beyond your comprehension, walk firmly on the ground of which you are sure. This is the advice of the Apostle Paul, who, after saying that he was not yet perfect, a little later adds, "Let us, therefore, as many as are perfect, be thus minded," --meaning perfect to a certain extent, but not having attained to a perfection sufficient for us; and then immediately adds, "And if, in any thing, ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereunto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule." For by walking in what we have attained, we shall be able to advance to what we have not yet attained,--God revealing it to us if in anything we are otherwise minded,--provided we do not give up what He has already revealed.
CHAP. 2 [II]--PROVES THE EXISTENCE OF FREE WILL IN MAN FROM THE PRECEPTS ADDRESSED TO HIM BY GOD.
Now He has revealed to us, through His Holy Scriptures, that there is in a man a free choice of will. But how He has revealed this I do not recount in human language, but in divine. There is, to begin with, the fact that God's precepts themselves would be of no use to a man unless he had free choice of will, so that by performing them he might obtain the promised rewards. For they are given that no one might be able to plead the excuse of ignorance, as the Lord says concerning the Jews in the gospel: "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin." Of what sin does He speak but of that great one which He foreknew, while speaking thus, that they would make their own--that is, the death they were going to inflict upon Him? For they did not have "no sin" before Christ came to them in the flesh. The apostle also says: "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold back the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him are from the creation of the world clearly seen--being understood by the things that are made--even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are inexcusable." In what sense does he pronounce them to be "inexcusable," except with reference to such excuse as human pride is apt to allege in such words as, "If I had only known, I would have done it; did I not fail to do it because I was ignorant of it?" or," I would do it if I knew how; but I do not know, therefore I do not do it"? All such excuse is removed from them when the precept is given them, or the knowledge is made manifest to them how to avoid sin.
CHAP. 3.--SINNERS ARE CONVICTED WHEN ATTEMPTING TO EXCUSE THEMSELVES BY BLAMING GOD, BECAUSE THEY HAVE FREE WILL.
There are, however, persons who attempt to find excuse for themselves even from God. The Apostle James says to such: "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man. But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then, when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." Solomon, too, in his book of Proverbs, has this answer for such as wish to find an excuse for themselves from God Himself: "The folly of a man spoils his ways; but he blames God in his heart." And in the book of Ecclesiasticus we read: "Say not thou, It is through the Lord that I fell away; for thou oughtest not to do the things that He hateth: nor do thou say, He hath caused me to err; for He hath no need of the sinful man. The Lord hateth all abomination, and they that fear God love it not. He Himself made man from the beginning, and left him in the hand of His counsel. If thou be willing, thou shalt keep His commandments, and perform true fidelity. He hath set fire and water before thee: stretch forth thine hand unto whether thou wilt. Before man is life and death, and whichsoever pleaseth him shall be given to him." Observe how very plainly is set before our view the free choice of the human will.
CHAP. 4.--THE DIVINE COMMANDS WHICH ARE MOST SUITED TO THE WILL ITSELF ILLUSTRATE ITS FREEDOM.
What is the import of the fact that in so many passages God requires all His commandments to be kept and fulfilled? How does He make this requisition, if there is no free will? What means "the happy man," of whom the Psalmist says that "his will has been the law of the Lord"? Does he not clearly enough show that a man by his own will takes his stand in the law of God? Then again, there are so many commandments which in some way are expressly adapted to the human will; for instance, there is, "Be not overcome of evil," and others of similar import, such as, "Be not like a horse or a mule, which have no understanding;" and, "Reject not the counsels of thy mother;" and, "Be not wise in thine own conceit;" and, "Despise not the chastening of the Lord;" and, "Forget not my law;" and, "Forbear not to do good to the poor;" and, "Devise not evil against thy friend;" and, "Give no heed to a worthless woman; and, "He is not inclined to understand how to do good;" and, "They refused to attend to my counsel;" with numberless other passages of the inspired Scriptures of the Old Testament. And what do they all show us but the free choice of the human will? So, again, in the evangelical and apostolic books of the New Testament what other lesson is taught us? As when it is said, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth; " and, "Fear not them which kill the body;" and, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself;" and again, "Peace on earth to men of good will." So also that the Apostle Paul says: "Let him do what he willeth; he sinneth not if he marry. Nevertheless, he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well." And so again," If I do this willingly, I have a reward;" while in another passage he says, "Be ye sober and righteous, and sin not;" and again, "As ye have a readiness to will, so also let there be a prompt performance;" then he remarks to Timothy about the younger widows, "When they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they choose to marry." So in another passage, "All that will to live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution;" while to Timothy himself he says, "Neglect not the gift that is in thee." Then to Philemon he addresses this explanation: "That thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but of thine own will." Servants also he advises to obey their masters "with a good will." In strict accordance with this, James says: "Do not err, my beloved brethren . . . and have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ with respect to persons;" and," Do not speak evil one of another." So also John in his Epistle writes," Do not love the world," and other things of the same import. Now wherever it is said, "Do not do this," and "Do not do that," and wherever there is any requirement in the divine admonitions for the work of the will to do anything, or to refrain from doing anything, there is at once a sufficient proof of free will. No man, therefore, when he sins, can in his heart blame God for it, but every man must impute the fault to himself. Nor does it detract at all from a man's own will when he performs any act in accordance with God. Indeed, a work is then to be pronounced a good one when a person does it willingly; then, too, may the reward of a good work be hoped for from Him concerning whom it is written, "He shall reward every man according to his works."
CHAP. 5.--HE SHOWS THAT IGNORANCE AFFORDS NO SUCH EXCUSE AS SHALL FREE THE OFFENDER FROM PUNISHMENT; BUT THAT TO SIN WITH KNOWLEDGE IS A GRAVER THING THAN TO SIN IN IGNORANCE.
The excuse such as men are in the habit of alleging from ignorance is taken away from those persons who know God's commandments. But neither will those be without punishment who know not the law of God. "For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law; and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law." Now the apostle does not appear to me to have said this as if he meant that they would have to suffer something worse who in their sins are ignorant of the law than they who know it. [III.] It is seemingly worse, no doubt, "to perish" than "to be judged;" but inasmuch as he was speaking of the Gentiles and of the Jews when he used these words, because the former were without the law, but the latter had received the law, who can venture to say that the Jews who sin in the law will not perish, since they refused to believe in Christ, when it was of them that the apostle said, "They shall be judged by the law"? For without faith in Christ no man can be delivered; and therefore they will be so judged that they perish. If, indeed, the condition of those who are ignorant of the law of God is worse than the condition of those who know it, how can that be true which the Lord says in the gospel: "The servant who knows not his lord's will, and commits things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes; whereas the servant who knows his lord's will, and commits things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with many stripes"? Observe how clearly He here shows that it is a graver matter for a man to sin with knowledge than in ignorance. And yet we must not on this account betake ourselves for refuge to the shades of ignorance, with the view of finding our excuse therein. It is one thing to be ignorant, and another thing to be unwilling to know. For the will is at fault in the case of the man of whom it is said, "He is not inclined to understand, so as to do good." But even the ignorance, which is not theirs who refuse to know, but theirs who are, as it were, simply ignorant, does not so far excuse any one as to exempt him from the punishment of eternal fire, though his failure to believe has been the result of his not having at all heard what he should believe; but probably only so far as to mitigate his punishment. For it was not said without reason: "Pour out Thy wrath upon the heathen that have not known Thee;" nor again according to what the apostle says: "When He shall come from heaven in a flame of fire to take vengeance on them that know not God." But yet in order that we may have that knowledge that will prevent our saying, each one of us, "I did not know," "I did not hear," "I did not understand;" the human will is summoned, in such words as these: "Wish not to be as the horse or as the mule, which have no understanding;" although it may show itself even worse, of which it is written, "A stubborn servant will not be reproved by words; for even if he understand, yet he will not obey." But when a man says, "I cannot do what I am commanded, because I am mastered by my concupiscence," he has no longer any excuse to plead from ignorance, nor reason to blame God in his heart, but he recognises and laments his own evil in himself; and still to such an one the apostle says: "Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good;" and of course the very fact that the injunction, "Consent not to be overcome," is addressed to him, undoubtedly summons the determination of his will. For to consent and to refuse are functions proper to will.
CHAP. 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." 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."
CHAP. 7.--GRACE IS NECESSARY ALONG WITH FREE WILL TO LEAD A GOOD LIFE.
Therefore, my dearly beloved, as we have now proved by our former testimonies from Holy Scripture that there is in man a free determination of will for living rightly and acting rightly; so now let us see what are the divine testimonies concerning the grace of God, without which we are not able to do any good thing. And first of all, I will say something about the very profession which you make in your brotherhood. Now your society, in which you are leading lives of continence, could not hold together unless you despised conjugal pleasure. Well, the Lord was one day conversing on this very topic, when His disciples remarked to Him, "If such be the case of a man with his wife, it is not good to marry." He then answered them, "All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given." And was it not to Timothy's free will that the apostle appealed, when he exhorted him in these words: "Keep thyself continent"? He also explained the power of the will in this matter when He said, "Having no necessity, but possessing power over his own will, to keep his virgin." And yet. "all men do not receive this saying, except those to whom the power is given." Now they to whom this is not given either are unwilling or do not fulfil what they will; whereas they to whom it is given so will as to accomplish what they will. In order, therefore, that this saying, which is not received by all men, may yet be received by some, there are both the gift of God and free will.
CHAP. 8.--CONJUGAL CHASTITY IS ITSELF THE GIFT OF GOD.
It is concerning conjugal chastity itself that the apostle treats, when he says, "Let him do what he will, he sinneth not if he marry;" and yet this too is God's gift, for the Scripture says, "It is by the Lord that the woman is joined to her husband." Accordingly the teacher of the Gentiles, in one of his discourses, commends both conjugal chastity, whereby adulteries are prevented, and the still more perfect continence which foregoes all cohabitation, and shows how both one and the other are severally the gift of God. Writing to the Corinthians, he admonished married persons not to defraud each other; and then, after his admonition to these, he added: "But I could wish that all men were even as I am myself," --meaning, of course, that he abstained from all cohabitation; and then proceeded to say: "But every man hath his own gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that." Now, do the many precepts which are written in the law of God, forbidding all fornication and adultery, indicate anything else than free will? Surely such precepts would not be given unless a man had a will of his own, wherewith to obey the divine commandments. And yet it is God's gift which is indispensable for the observance of the precepts of chastity. Accordingly, it is said in the Book of Wisdom: "When I knew that no one could be continent, except God gives it, then this became a point of wisdom to know whose gift it was." "Every man," however, "is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed" not to observe and keep these holy precepts of chastity. If he should say in respect of these commandments, "I wish to keep them, but am mastered by my concupiscence," then the Scripture responds to his free will, as I have already said: "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." In order, however, that this victory may be gained, grace renders its help; and were not this help given, then the law would be nothing but the strength of sin. For concupiscence is increased and receives greater energies from the prohibition of the law, unless the spirit of grace helps. This explains the statement of the great Teacher of the Gentiles, when he says, "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law." See, then, I pray you, whence originates this confession of weakness, when a man says, "I desire to keep what the law commands, but am overcome by the strength of my concupiscence." And when his will is addressed, and it is said, "Be not overcome of evil," of what avail is anything but the succour of God's grace to the accomplishment of the precept? This the apostle himself afterwards stated; for after saying "The strength of sin is the law" he immediately subjoined, "But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ." It follows, then, that the victory in which sin is vanquished is nothing else than the gift of God, who in this contest helps free will.
CHAP. 9.--ENTERING INTO TEMPTATION. PRAYER IS A PROOF OF GRACE.
Wherefore, our Heavenly Master also says: "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." Let every man, therefore, when fighting against his own concupiscence, pray that he enter not into temptation; that is, that he be not drawn aside and enticed by it. But he does not enter into temptation if he conquers his evil concupiscence by good will. And yet the determination of the human will is insufficient, unless the Lord grant it victory in answer to prayer that it enter not into temptation. What, indeed, affords clearer evidence of the grace of God than the acceptance of prayer in any petition? If our Saviour had only said, "Watch that ye enter not into temptation," He would appear to have done nothing further than admonish man's will; but since He added the words, "and pray," He showed that God helps us not to enter into temptation. It is to the free will of man that the words are addressed: "My son, remove not thyself from the chastening of the Lord." And the Lord said: "I have prayed for thee, Peter, that thy faith fail not." So that a man is assisted by grace, in order that his will may not be uselessly commanded.
CHAP. 10 [V.]--FREE WILL AND GOD'S GRACE ARE SIMULTANEOUSLY COMMENDED.
When God says, "Turn ye unto me, and I will turn unto you,"(I) one of these clauses--that which invites our return to God--evidently belongs to our will; while the other, which promises His return to us, belongs to His grace. Here, possibly, the Pelagians think they have a justification for their opinion which they so prominently advance, that God's grace is given according to our merits. In the East, indeed, that is to say, in the province of Palestine , in which is the city of Jerusalem , Pelagius, when examined in person by the bishop, did not venture to affirm this. For it happened that among the objections which were brought up against him, this in particular was objected, that he maintained that the grace of God was given according to our merits,--an opinion which was so diverse from catholic doctrine, and so hostile to the grace of Christ, that unless he had anathematized it, as laid to his charge, he himself must have been anathematized on its account. He pronounced, indeed, the required anathema upon the dogma, but how insincerely his later books plainly show; for in them he maintains absolutely no other opinion than that the grace of God is given according to our merits. Such passages do they collect out of the Scriptures,--like the one which I just now quoted, "Turn ye unto me, and I will turn unto you,"--as if it were owing to the merit of our turning to God that His grace were given us, wherein He Himself even turns unto us. Now the persons who hold this opinion fail to observe that, unless our turning to God were itself God's gift, it would not be said to Him in prayer, "Turn us again, O God of hosts;" and, "Thou, O God, wilt turn and quicken us;" and again, "Turn us, O God of our salvation," --with other passages of similar import, too numerous to mention here. For, with respect to our coming unto Christ, what else does it mean than our being turned to Him by believing? And yet He says: "No man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father."
CHAP. 11.--OTHER PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE WHICH THE PELAGIANS ABUSE.
Then, again, there is the Scripture contained in the second book of the Chronicles: "The Lord is with you when ye are with Him: and if ye shall seek Him ye shall find Him; but if ye forsake Him, He also will forsake you." this passage, no doubt, clearly manifests the choice of the will. But they who maintain that God's grace is given according to our merits, receive these testimonies of Scripture in such a manner as to believe that our merit lies in the circumstance of our "being with God," while His grace is given according to this merit, so that He too may be with us. In like manner, that our merit lies in the fact of "our seeking God," and then His grace is given according to this merit, in order that we may find Him." Again, there is a passage in the first book of the same Chronicles which declares the choice of the will: "And thou, Solomon, my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve Him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts; if thou seek Him, He will be found of thee; but if thou forsake Him, He will cast thee off for ever." But these people find some room for human merit in the clause, "If thou seek Him," and then the grace is thought to be given according to this merit in what is said in the ensuing words, "He will be found of thee." And so they labour with all their might to show that God's grace is given according to our merits,--in other words, that grace is not grace. For, as the apostle most expressly says, to them who receive reward according to merit "the recompense is not reckoned of grace but of debt."
CHAP. 12.--HE PROVES OUT OF ST. PAUL THAT GRACE IS NOT GIVEN ACCORDING TO MEN'S MERITS.
Now there was, no doubt, a decided merit in the Apostle Paul, but it was an evil one, while he persecuted the Church, and he says of it: "I am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God ." And it was While he had this evil merit that a good one was rendered to him instead of the evil; and, therefore, he went on at once to say, "But by the grace of God I am what I am." Then, in order to exhibit also his free will, he added in the next clasue, "And His grace within me was not in vain, but I have laboured more abundantly than they all." This free will of man he appeals to in the case of others also, as when he says to them, "We beseech you that ye receive not the grace of God in vain." Now, how could he so enjoin them, if they received God's grace in such a manner as to lose their own will? Nevertheless, lest the will itself should be deemed capable of doing any good thing without the grace of God, after saying, "His grace within me was not in vain, but I have laboured more abundantly than they all," he immediately added the qualifying clause, "Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." In other words, Not I alone, but the grace of God with me.
And thus, neither was it the grace of God alone, nor was it he himself alone, but it was the grace Of God with him. For his call, however, from heaven and his conversion by that great and most effectual call, God's grace was alone, because his merits, though great, were yet evil. Then, to quote one passage more, he says to Timothy: "But be thou a co-labourer with the gospel, according to the power of God, who saveth us and calleth us with His holy calling,--not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus." Then, elsewhere, he enumerates his merits, and gives us this description of their evil character: "For we ourselves also were formerly foolish, unbelieving, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another." Nothing, to be sure, but punishment was due to such a course of evil desert! God, however, who returns good for evil by His grace, which is not given according to our merits, enabled the apostle to conclude his statement and say: "But when the kindness and love of our Saviour God shone upon us,--not of works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the layer of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Ghost, whom He shed upon us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
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