After having set aside in the former books the calumnies hurled against the Catholics, Augustine here proceeds to open up the snares which lie hidden in the remaining part of the second epistle of the Pelagians, in the five heads of their doctrine— in the praise, to wit, of the creature, the praise of marriage, the praise of the law, the praise of free will, and the praise of the saints; in connection with which heads the Pelagians malignantly boast that they are at issue not more with the Manicheans than with the Catholics. Hence these five points may bring us back to this, that they put forward their threefold error— namely, the two first, the denial of original sin; the two following, the assertion that grace is given according to merits; the fifth, their statement that the saints had not sinned in this life. Augustine shows that both heresies, that of the Manicheans and that of the Pelagians, are opposed and equally odious to the Catholic faith, whereby we profess, first, that the nature created by a good God was good, but that, nevertheless, it is in need of a Saviour because of original sin, which passed into all men from the transgression of the first man: then secondly, that marriage is good, truly instituted by God, but that that concupiscence is evil which was associated with marriage by sin: also thirdly that the law of God is good, but in such wise as only to manifest sin, not to take it away: that fourthly free will is assuredly inherent in the nature of man, but that now, however, it is so enslaved that it does not avail to the doing of righteousness, unless when it shall have been made free by grace: but that fifthly the saints, whether of the Old or New Testament, were indeed endued with a righteousness, which was true but not perfect, nor so full that they should be free from all sin. In conclusion, he brings forward the testimonies of Cyprian and Ambrose on behalf of the Catholic faith, some concerning original sin, others about the assistance of grace, and the last concerning the imperfection of present righteousness.
After the matters which I have considered, and to which I have answered, they repeat the same things as those contained in the letter which I have refuted, but in a different manner. For before, they put them forward as objecting to us things which we think as it were falsely; but afterwards, as explaining what they themselves think, they have presented the same things from the opposite side, adding two certain points which they had not mentioned— that is,
that they say that baptism is necessary for all ages, and dogmas hostile to God's grace and to the catholic faith—the praise, to wit, of the creature, the praise of marriage, the praise of the law, the praise of free will, the praise of the saints—I think it is more convenient to make a general discrimination of all that they maintain, the contrary of which they object to us, and to show which of those things pertain to any of those five, that so my answer may be by that very distinction clearer and briefer.
They accomplish the praise of the creature, inasmuch as it pertains to the human race of which the question now is, in these statements:
That God is the Maker of all those that are born, and that the sons of men are God's work; and that all sin descends not from nature, but from the will. With this praise of the creature they connect,
that they say that baptism is necessary for every age, so that, namely,
the creature itself may be adopted among the children of God; not because it derives anything from its parents which must be purified in the laver of regeneration. To this praise they add also,
that they say that Christ the Lord was sprinkled with no stain of sin as far as pertains to His infancy; because they assert that His flesh was most pure from all contagion of sin, not by His own excellence and singular grace, but by His fellowship with the nature which is shared by all infants. It also belongs to this that they introduce the question
of the origin of the soul, thus endeavouring to make all the souls of infants equal to the soul of Christ, maintaining that they likewise are sprinkled with no stain of sin. On this account, also, they say,
They praise marriage truly according to the Scriptures,
because the Lord says in the gospel, He who made men from the beginning made them male and female, and said, Increase and multiply, and replenish the earth. Although this is not written in that passage of the gospel, yet it is written in the law. They add, moreover,
What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder. Matthew 19:4 And these we acknowledge to be gospel words.
In the praise of the law they say,
In the praise of free will they say,
that free will has not perished, since the Lord says by the prophets, 'If you be willing and will hear me, you shall eat the good things of the land: if you are unwilling, and will not hear, the sword shall devour you.' Isaiah 1:19 And thus, also, it is that grace assists the good purpose of any person, but yet does not infuse a desire of virtue into the reluctant heart, because there is no acceptance of persons with God.
In the praise of the saints they conceal themselves, saying
that baptism perfectly renews men, inasmuch as the apostle is a witness who testifies that, by the washing of water, the Church is made out of the heathen holy and spotless; Ephesians 5:26 that the Holy Spirit also assisted pious souls in ancient times, even as the prophet says to God, 'Your good Spirit shall lead me into the right way;' that all the prophets, moreover, and apostles or saints, as well of the New as of the Old Testament, to whom God gives witness, were righteous, not in comparison with the wicked, but by the rule of virtue; and that in future time there is a reward as well of good works as of evil. But that no one can then perform the commandment which here he may have contemned, because the apostle said, 'We must be manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things belonging to the body, according to what he has done, whether good or evil.' 2 Corinthians 5:10
In all these points, whatever they say of the praise of the creature and of marriage, they endeavour to bring us back to this—that there is no original sin; whatever of the praise of law and of free will, to this, that grace does not assist without merit, and that thus grace is no more grace; whatever of the praise of the saints, to this, that mortal life in the saints appears not to have sin, and that it is not necessary for them to pray God for the remitting of their debts.
Let every one who, with a catholic mind, shudders at these impious and damnable doctrines, in this tripartite division, shun the lurking-places and snares of this fivefold error, and be so careful between one and another as in such wise to decline from the Manicheans as not to incline to the Pelagians; and again, so to separate himself from the Pelagians as not to associate himself with the Manicheans; or, if he should already be taken hold of in one or the other bondage, that he should not so pluck himself out of the hands of either as to rush into those of the other. Because they seem to be contrary to one another; since the Manicheans manifest themselves by vituperating these five points, and the Pelagians conceal themselves by praising them. Wherefore he condemns and shuns both, whoever he may be, who according to the rule of the catholic faith so glorifies the Creator in men, that are born of the good creature of flesh and soul (for this the Manichean will not have), as that he yet confesses that on account of the corruption which has passed over into them by the sin of the first man, even infants need a Saviour (for this the Pelagian will not have). He who so distinguishes the evil of shameful concupiscence from the blessing of marriage, as neither, like the Manicheans, to reproach the source of our birth, nor, like the Pelagians, to praise the source of our disorder. He who so maintains the law to have been given holy and just and good through Moses by a holy and just and good God (which Manicheus, in opposition to the apostle, denies), as to say that it both shows forth sin and yet does not take it away, and commands righteousness which yet it does not give (which, again, in opposition to the apostle, Pelagius denies). He who so asserts free will as to say that the evil of both angel and man began, not from I know not what nature always evil, which is no nature, but from the will itself, which overturns Manichean heresy, and nevertheless that even thus the captive will cannot breathe into a wholesome liberty save by God's grace, which overturns the Pelagian heresy. He who so praises in God the holy men of God, not only after Christ manifested in the flesh and subsequently, but even those of the former times, whom the Manicheans dare to blaspheme, as yet to believe their own confessions concerning themselves, more than the lies of the Pelagians. For the word of the saints is, 1 John 1:8
These things being so, what advantage is it to new heretics, enemies of the cross of Christ and opposers of divine grace, that they seem sound from the error of the Manicheans, if they are dying by another pestilence of their own? What advantage is it to them, that in the praise of the creature they say
that the good God is the maker of those that are born, by whom all things were made, and that the children of men are His work, whom the Manicheans say are the work of the prince of darkness; when between them both, or among them both, God's creation, which is in infants, is perishing? For both of them refuse to have it delivered by Christ's flesh and blood,— the one, because they destroy that very flesh and blood, as if He did not take upon Him these at all in man or of man; and the other, because they assert that there is no evil in infants from which they should be delivered by the sacrament of this flesh and blood. Between them lies the human creature in infants, with a good origination, with a corrupted propagation, confessing for its goods a most excellent Creator, seeking for its evils a most merciful Redeemer, having the Manicheans as disparagers of its benefits, having the Pelagians as deniers of its evils, and both as persecutors. And although in infancy there is no power to speak, yet with its silent look and its hidden weakness it addresses the impious vanity of both, saying to the one,
Believe that I am created by Him who creates good things; and saying to the other,
Allow me to be healed by Him who created me. The Manicheans say,
There is nothing of this infant save the good soul to be delivered; the rest, which belongs not to the good God, but to the prince of darkness,
is to be rejected. The Pelagians say,
Certainly there is nothing of this infant to be delivered, because we have shown the whole to be safe. Both lie; but now the accuser of the flesh alone is more bearable than the praiser, who is convicted of cruelty against the whole. But neither does the Manichean help the human soul by blaspheming God, the Author of the entire man; nor does the Pelagian permit the divine grace to come to the help of human infancy by denying original sin. Therefore it is by the catholic faith that God has mercy, seeing that by condemning both mischievous doctrines it comes to the help of the infant for salvation. It says to the Manicheans,
Hear the apostle crying, 'Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost in you?' 1 Corinthians 6:19 and believe that the good God is the Creator of bodies, because the temple of the Holy Ghost cannot be the work of the prince of darkness. It says to the Pelagians,
The infant that you look upon 'was conceived in iniquity, and in sin its mother nourished it in the womb.' Why, as if in defending it as free from all mischief, do you not permit it to be delivered by mercy? No one is pure from uncleanness, not even the infant whose life is of one day upon the earth. Allow the wretched creatures to receive remission of sins, through Him who alone neither as small nor great could have any sin.
What advantage, then, is it to them that they say
that all sin descends not from nature, but from the will, and resist by the truth of this judgment the Manicheans, who say that evil nature is the cause of sin; when by being unwilling to admit original sin although itself also descends from the will of the first man, they make infants to depart in guilt from the body? What advantage is it to them
that they confess that baptism is necessary for all ages, while the Manicheans say that it is superfluous for every age, while they say that in infants it is false so far as it pertains to the forgiveness of sins? What advantage is it to them that they maintain
the flesh of Christ (which the Manicheans contend was either no flesh at all, or a feigned flesh) to have been not only the true flesh, but also holiness in comparison with these, and these obtain no salvation from that?
In that particular, indeed, wherein they say
that death passed to us by Adam, not sins, they have not the Manicheans as their adversaries: since they, too, deny that original sin from the first man, at first of pure and upright body and spirit, and afterwards depraved by free will, subsequently passed and passes as sin into all with death; but they say that the flesh was evil from the beginning, and was created by an evil spirit and along with an evil spirit; but that a good soul— a portion, to wit, of God— for the deserts of its defilement by food and drink, in which it was before bound up, came into man, and thus by means of copulation was bound in the chain of the flesh. And thus the Manicheans agree with the Pelagians that it was not the guilt of the first man that passed into the human race— neither by the flesh, which they say was never good; nor by the soul, which they assert comes into the flesh of man with the merits of its own defilements with which it was polluted before the flesh. But how do the Pelagians say
that only death passed upon us by Adam's means? For if we die because he died, but he died because be sinned, they say that the punishment passed without the guilt, and that innocent infants are punished with an unjust penalty by deriving death without the deserts of death. This, the catholic faith has known of the one and only mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who condescended to undergo death— that is, the penalty of sin— without sin, for us. As He alone became the Son of man, in order that we might become through Him sons of God, so He alone, on our behalf, undertook punishment without ill deservings, that we through Him might obtain grace without good deservings. Because as to us nothing good was due so to Him nothing bad was due. Therefore, commending His love to them to whom He was about to give undeserved life, He was willing to suffer for them an undeserved death. This special prerogative of the Mediator the Pelagians endeavour to make void, so that this should no longer be special in the Lord, if Adam in such wise suffered a death due to him on account of his guilt, as that infants, drawing from him no guilt, should suffer undeserved death. For although very much good is conferred on the good by means of death, whence some have fitly argued even
of the benefit of death; yet from this what can be declared except the mercy of God, since the punishment of sin is converted into beneficent uses?
In Whom All Have Sinned?
But these speak thus who wish to wrest men from the apostle's words into their own thought. For where the apostle says, Romans 5:12 they will have it there understood not that
death. What, then, is the meaning of what follows,
Whereto all have sinned? For either the apostle says that in that
one man all have sinned of whom he had said,
By one man sin entered into the world, or else in that
sin, or certainly in
death. For it need not disturb us that he said not
in which [using the feminine form of the pronoun], but
in whom [using the masculine] all have sinned; since
death in the Greek language is of the masculine gender. Let them, then, choose which they will,— for either in that
man all have sinned, and it is so said because when he sinned all were in him; or in that sinned, because that was the doing of all in general which all those who were born would have to derive; or it remains for them to say that in that
death all sinned. But in what way this can be understood, I do not clearly see. For all die in the sin; they do not sin in the death; for when sin precedes, death follows— not when death precedes, sin follows. Because sin is the sting of death— that is, the sting by whose stroke death occurs, not the sting with which death strikes. Just as poison, if it is drunk, is called the cup of death, because by that cup death is caused, not because the cup is caused by the death, or is given by death. But if
wherein all have sinned, because in Greek, from which the Epistle is translated, men are understood to have sinned in that first
man, because all men were in him when he sinned; and from him sin is derived by birth, and is not remitted save by being born again. For thus also the sainted Hilary understood what is written,
wherein all have sinned; for he says,
wherein, that is, in Adam,
all have sinned. Then he adds,
It is manifest that all have sinned in Adam, as it were in the mass; for he himself was corrupted by sin, and all whom he begot were born under sin. When he wrote this, Hilary, without any ambiguity, indicated how we should understand the words,
wherein all have sinned.
But on account of what does the same apostle say, that we are reconciled to God by Christ, except on account of what we had become enemies? And what is this but sin? Whence also the prophet says,
Your sins separate between you and God. Isaiah 59:2 On account of this separation, therefore, the Mediator was sent, that He might take away the sin of the world, by which we were separated as enemies, and that we, being reconciled, might be made from enemies children. About this, certainly, the apostle was speaking; hence it happened that he interposed what he says,
That sin entered by one man. For these are his former words. He says,
But God commends His love towards us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more, then, being now justified in His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved in His life. And not only so, but glorying also in God through Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom also we have now received reconciliation. Then he subjoins,
Therefore, as by one man sin entered into this world, and death by sin, and so passed upon all men, for in him all have sinned. Why do the Pelagians evade this matter? If reconciliation through Christ is necessary to all men, on all men has passed sin by which we have become enemies, in order that we should have need of reconciliation. This reconciliation is in the laver of regeneration and in the flesh and blood of Christ, without which not even infants can have life in themselves. For as there was one man for death on account of sin, so there is one man for life on account of righteousness; because
as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive; 1 Corinthians 15:22 and
as by the sin of one upon all men to condemnation, so also by the righteousness of one upon all men unto justification of life. Romans 5:18 Who is there that has turned a deaf ear to these words with such hardiness of wicked impiety, as, having heard them, to contend that death passed upon us through Adam without sin, unless, indeed, they are opposers of the grace of God and enemies of the cross of Christ?— whose end is destruction if they continue in this obstinacy. But let it suffice to have said thus much for the sake of that serpentine subtlety of theirs, by which they wish to corrupt simple minds, and to turn them away from the simplicity of the faith, as if by the praise of the creature.
But further, concerning the praise of marriage, what advantage is it to them that, in opposition to the Manicheans, who assign marriage not to the true and good God, but to the prince of darkness, these men resist the words of true piety, and say,
That the Lord speaks in the gospel, saying, Who from the beginning made them male and female, and said, Increase and multiply and replenish the earth. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder? Matthew 19:4, etc. What does this profit them, by means of the truth to seduce to a falsehood? For they say this in order that infants may be thought to be born free from all fault, and thus that there is no need of their being reconciled to God through Christ, since they have no original sin, on account of which reconciliation is necessary to all by means of one who came into the world without sin, just as the enmities of all were caused by means of one through whom sin entered into the world. And this is believed by Catholics for the sake of the salvation of the nature of men, without detracting from the praise of marriage; because the praise of marriage is a righteous intercourse of the sexes, not a wicked defence of vices. And thus, when, by their praise of marriage, these persons wish to draw over men from the Manicheans to themselves, they desire merely to change their disease, not to heal it.
Once more, in the praise of the law, what advantage is it to them that, in opposition to the Manicheans, they say the truth when they wish to bring men from that view to this which they hold falsely against the Catholics? For they say,
We confess that even the old law, according to the apostle, is holy and just and good, and that this could confer eternal life on those that kept its commandments, and lived righteously by faith, like the prophets and patriarchs, and all the saints. By which words, very craftily expressed, they praise the law in opposition to grace; for certainly that law, although just and holy and good, could not confer eternal life on all those men of God, but the faith which is in Christ. For this faith works by love, not according to the letter which kills, but according to the Spirit which makes alive, to which grace of God the law, as it were a schoolmaster, leads by deterring from transgression, that so that might be conferred upon man which it could not itself confer. For to those words of theirs in which they say
that the law was able to confer eternal life on the prophets and patriarchs, and all saints who kept its commandments, the apostle replies,
If righteousness be by the law, then has Christ died in vain. Galatians 2:21
If the inheritance be by the law, then is it no more of promise. Galatians 3:18
If they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise is made of none effect. Romans 4:14
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, is evident: for, The just by faith lives. Galatians 3:11
But the law is not of faith: but The man that does them shall live in them. Galatians 3:12 Which testimony, quoted by the apostle from the law, is understood in respect of temporal life, in respect of the fear of losing which, men were in the habit of doing the works of the law, not of faith; because the transgressors of the law were commanded by the same law to be put to death by the people. Or, if it must be understood more highly, that
He who does these things shall live in them was written in reference to eternal life; the power of the law is so expressed that the weakness of man in himself, itself failing to do what the law commands, might seek help from the grace of God rather of faith, seeing that by His mercy even faith itself is bestowed. Because faith is thus possessed, according as God has given to every one the measure of faith. Romans 12:3 For if men have it not of themselves, but men receive the Spirit of power and of love and of continence, whence that very same teacher of the Gentiles says, 2 Timothy 1:7 — assuredly also the Spirit of faith is received, of which he says,
Having also the same Spirit of faith. 2 Corinthians 4:13 Truly, then, says the law,
He who does these things shall live in them. But in order to do these things, and live in them, there is necessary not law which ordains this, but faith which obtains this. Which faith, however, that it may deserve to receive these things, is itself given freely.
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. Because, by their different modes of speaking, and by variety of words in all their arguments, they wish the law to be understood as 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 puffs up, does not edify, according to the same apostle, who most openly says,
Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. 1 Corinthians 8:1 Which saying is like to that in which it is said,
The letter kills, the spirit makes alive. 2 Corinthians 3:6 For
Knowledge puffs up, corresponds to
The letter kills: and,
Love edifies, to
The spirit makes alive; because
the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us. Romans 5:5 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, Romans 3:31 which by terrifying leads to faith. Thus certainly the law works 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, Proverbs 3:16 — 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 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, Galatians 3:21 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.
Moreover, that, in opposition to the Manicheans, they praise free will, making use of the prophetic testimony,
If you shall be willing and will hear me, you shall eat what is good in the land; but if you shall be unwilling and will not hear me, the sword shall consume you: Isaiah 1:19-20 what advantage is this to them, when, indeed, it is not so much against the Manicheans that they are maintaining, as against the Catholics that they are extolling, free will? For they wish what is said,
If you be willing and will hear me, to be so understood, as if in the preceding will itself were the merit of the grace that follows; and thus grace were no more grace, seeing that it is not free when it is rendered as a debt. But if they should so understand what is written,
If you be willing, as to confess that He prepares even that good will itself of whom it is written,
The will is prepared by the Lord, Proverbs 8:35 they would use this testimony as Catholics, and not only would overcome the ancient heresy of the Manicheans, but would not found the new one of the Pelagians.
What does it profit them, that in the praise of that same free will
they say that grace assists the good purpose of every one? This would be received without scruple as being said in a catholic spirit, if they did not attribute merit to the good purpose, to which merit now a wage is paid of debt, not according to grace, but would understand and confess that even that very good purpose, which the grace which follows assists could not have been in the man if grace had not preceded it. For how is there a good purpose in a man without the mercy of God first, since it is that very good will which is prepared by the Lord? Proverbs 8:35 But when they had said this,
that grace also assists every one's good purpose, and presently added, known. For, for the resisting heart a hearing for the divine call is first procured by the grace of God itself, and then in that heart, now no more resisting, the desire of virtue is kindled. Nevertheless, in all things which any one does according to God, His mercy precedes him. And this they will not have, because they choose to be not Catholics, but Pelagians. For it much delights a proud impiety, that even that which a man is forced to confess to be given by the Lord should seem to be not bestowed on himself, but repaid; so that, to wit, the children of perdition, not of the promise, may be thought themselves to have made themselves good, and God to have repaid to those who are now good, having been made so by themselves, the reward due for that their work.
For that very pride has so stopped the ears of their heart that they do not hear,
For what have you that you have not received? 1 Corinthians 4:7 They do not hear,
Without me you can do nothing; John 15:5 they do not hear,
Love is of God; 1 John 4:7 they do not hear, Romans 12:3 they do not hear,
The Spirit breathes where it will, John 3:8 and,
They who are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God; Romans 8:14 they do not hear,
No one can come unto me, unless it were given him of my Father; John 6:65 they do not hear what Esdras writes,
Blessed is the Lord of our fathers, who has put into the heart of the king to glorify His house which is in Jerusalem; Ezra 8:25 they do not hear what the Lord says by Jeremiah,
And I will put my fear into their heart, that they depart not from me; and I will visit them to make them good; Jeremiah 32:40-41 and specially that word by Ezekiel the prophet, where God fully shows that He is induced by no good deservings of men to make them good, that is, obedient to His commands, but rather that He repays to them good for evil, by doing this for His own sake, and not for theirs. For He says,
These things says the Lord God: I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for my own holy name's sake, which has been profaned among the nations, whither you have gone in there; and I will sanctify my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned in the midst of them; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord, says Adonai the Lord, when I shall be sanctified among you before their eyes. And I will take you from among the nations, and gather you together out of all lands, and will bring you into your own land. And I will sprinkle upon you clean water, and you shall be cleansed from all your filthiness, and I will cleanse you. And I will give unto you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you: and the stony heart shall be taken away out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and will cause you to walk in my righteousness, and to observe my judgments, and do them. And after a few words, by the same prophet He says,
Not for your sakes do I do this, says the Lord God; it shall be known unto you: be ye confounded and blush for your ways, O house of Israel. These things says the Lord God: In the day in which I shall cleanse you from all your iniquities, and shall ordain cities, and the wilderness shall be built, and the desolated land shall be tilled, whereas it was desolated before the eyes of every passer by. And they shall say, This land that was desolated has become as a garden of pleasure; and the wasted and desolated and ruined cities have settled down fortified. And whatever nations have been left round about you shall know that I the Lord have built the ruined places, I have planted the desolated places: I the Lord have spoken, and have done it. Thus says the Lord: I will yet for this inquire of the house of Israel, that I may do it for them; I will multiply them men like sheep, as holy sheep, as the sheep of Jerusalem in the days of her feast; so shall be those desolated cities full of men as sheep: and they shall know that I am the Lord.
What remained to the carrion skin whence it might be puffed up, and could disdain when it glories to glory in the Lord? 1 Corinthians 1:31 What remained to it, when whatsoever it shall have said that it has done in such a way that after that preceding merit of man had originated from man, God should subsequently do that of which the man is deserving—it shall be answered, it shall be exclaimed against, it shall be contradicted,
I do it; but for my own holy name's sake; not for your sakes, do I do it, says the Lord God? Ezekiel 36:22 Nothing so overturns the Pelagians when they say that the grace of God is given in respect of our merits. Which, indeed, Pelagius himself condemned, and if not by correcting it, yet by being afraid of the Eastern judges. Nothing so overturns the presumption of men who say,
We do it, that we may deserve those things with which God may do it. It is not Pelagius that answers you, but the Lord Himself,
I do it and not for your sakes, but for my own holy name's sake. Ezekiel 36:22 For what good can you do out of a heart which is not good? But that you may have a good heart, He says,
I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new Spirit within you. Can you say, We will first walk in His righteousness, and will observe His judgment, and will do so that we may be worthy, such as He should give His grace to? But what good would ye evil men do, and how should you do those good things, unless you were yourselves good? But who causes that men should be good save Him who said,
And I will visit them to make them good? And who said
I will put my Spirit within you, and will cause you to walk in my righteousness, and to observe my judgments, and do them? Are ye thus not yet awake? Do ye not yet hear,
I will cause you to walk, I will make you to observe, lastly,
I will make you to do? What! Are you still puffing yourselves up? We indeed walk, it is true; we observe; we do; but He makes us to walk, to observe, to do. This is the grace of God making us good; this is His mercy preventing us. What do waste and desolated and dug-up places deserve, which yet shall be built and tilled and fortified? Are these things for the merits of their wasteness, their desolation, their uprooting? Far from it. For such things as these are evil deservings, while those gifts are good. Therefore good things are given for evil ones— gratuitous, therefore; not of debt, and therefore grace.
I, says the Lord:
I, the Lord. Does not such a word as that restrain you, O human pride, when you say, I do such things as to deserve from the Lord to be built and planted? Do you not hear,
I do it not on your account; I the Lord have built up the destroyed cities, and I have planted the desolated lands; I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, yet not for your sakes, but for my own holy name's sake? Who multiplies men as sheep, as holy sheep, as the sheep of Jerusalem? Who causes those desolated cities to be full of men as sheep, save He who goes on, and says,
And they shall know that I am the Lord? But with what men as sheep does He fill the cities as He promised? Those which He finds, or those which He makes? Let us interrogate the Psalm; lo, it answers; let us hear:
O come, let us worship and fall down before Him: and let us weep before the Lord who made us; because He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. He therefore makes the sheep, with which He may fill the desolated cities. What wonder, when, indeed, to that single sheep, that is, the Church whose members are all the human sheep, it is said,
Because I am the Lord who make you? What do you pretend to me of free will, which will not be free to do righteousness, unless you should be a sheep? He then who makes men His sheep, He frees the wills of men for the obedience of piety.
But wherefore does God make these men sheep, and those not, since with Him there is no acceptance of persons? This is the very question which the blessed apostle thus answers to those who propose it with more curiosity than propriety,
O man, who are you that repliest against God? Does the thing formed say to him that formed it, Wherefore have you made me thus? Romans 9:20 This is the very question which belongs to that depth desiring to look into which the same apostle was in a certain measure terrified, and exclaimed,
Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counsellor? Or who has first given to Him, that it should be recompensed to Him again? Because of Him, and through Him, and in Him, are all things: to Him be glory for ages of ages. Let them not, then, dare to pry into that unsearchable question who defend merit before grace, and therefore even against grace, and wish first to give unto God, that it may be given to them again—first, of course, to give something of free will, that grace may be given them again as a reward; and let them wisely understand or faithfully believe that even what they think that they have first given, they have received from Him, from whom are all things, by whom are all things, in whom are all things. But why this man should receive, and that should not receive, when neither of them deserves to receive, and whichever of them receives, receives undeservingly,— let them measure their own strength, and not search into things too strong for them. Let it suffice them to know that there is no unrighteousness with God. For when the apostle could find no merits for which Jacob should take precedence of his twin-brother with God, he said,
What, then, shall we say? Is there unrighteousness with God? Away with the thought! For He says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will show compassion on whom I will show compassion. Therefore it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. Let, therefore, His free compassion be grateful to us, even although this profound question be still unsolved; which, nevertheless, is so far solved as the same apostle solves it, saying,
But if God, willing to show His wrath, and to demonstrate His power, endured in much patience the vessels of wrath which are fitted to destruction; and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He has prepared for glory. Romans 9:22-23 Certainly wrath is not repaid unless it is due, lest there be unrighteousness with God; but mercy, even when it is bestowed, and not due, is not unrighteousness with God. And hence, let the vessels of mercy understand how freely mercy is afforded to them, because to the vessels of wrath with whom they have common cause and measure of perdition, is repaid wrath, righteous and due. This is now enough in opposition to those who, by freedom of will, desire to destroy the liberality of grace.
In that, indeed, in the praise of the saints, they will not drive us with the zeal of that publican Luke 18:10-14 to hunger and thirst after righteousness, but with the vanity of the Pharisees, as it were, to overflow with sufficiency and fullness; what does it profit them that— in opposition to the Manicheans, who do away with baptism— they say
that men are perfectly renewed by baptism, and apply the apostle's testimony for this—
who testifies that, by the washing of water, the Church is made holy and spotless from the Gentiles, Ephesians 5:26 — when, with a proud and perverse meaning, they put forth their arguments in opposition to the prayers of the Church itself. For they say this in order that the Church may be believed after holy baptism— in which is accomplished the forgiveness of all sins— to have no further sin; when, in opposition to them, from the rising of the sun even to its setting, in all its members it cries to God,
Forgive us our debts. Matthew 6:12 But if they are interrogated regarding themselves in this matter, they find not what to answer. For if they should say that they have no sin, John answers them, that they deceive themselves, and the truth is not in them. 1 John 1:8 But if they confess their sins, since they wish themselves to be members of Christ's body, how will that body, that is, the Church, be even in this time perfectly, as they think, without spot or wrinkle, if its members without falsehood confess themselves to have sins? Wherefore in baptism all sins are forgiven, and, by that very washing of water in the word, the Church is set forth in Christ without spot or wrinkle; Ephesians 5:27 and unless it were baptized, it would fruitlessly say,
Forgive us our debts, until it be brought to glory, when there is in it absolutely no spot or wrinkle.
It is to be confessed that
the Holy Spirit, even in the old times, not only
aided good dispositions, which even they allow, but that it even made them good, which they will not have.
That all, also, of the prophets and apostles or saints, both evangelical and ancient, to whom God gives His witness, were righteous, not in comparison with the wicked, but by the rule of virtue, is not doubtful. And this is opposed to the Manicheans, who blaspheme the patriarchs and prophets; but what is opposed to the Pelagians is, that all of these, when interrogated concerning themselves while they lived in the body, with one most accordant voice would answer, 1 John 1:8
But in the future time, it is not to be denied
that there will be a reward as well of good works as of evil, and that no one will be commanded to do the commandments there which here he has contemned, but that a sufficiency of perfect righteousness where sin cannot be, a righteousness which is here hungered and thirsted after by the saints, is here hoped for in precept, is there received as a reward, on the entreaty of alms and prayers; so that what here may have been wanting in fulfilment of the commandments may become unpunished for the forgiveness of sin.
And if these things be so, let the Pelagians cease by their most insidious praises of these five things— that is, the praise of the creature, the praise of marriage, the praise of the law, the praise of free will, the praise of the saints— from feigning that they desire to pluck men, as it were, from the little snares of the Manicheans, in order that they may entangle them in their own nets— that is, that they may deny original sin; may begrudge to infants the aid of Christ the physician; may say that the grace of God is given according to our merits, and thus that grace is no more grace; and may say that the saints in this life had not sin, and thus make the prayer of none effect which He gave to the saints who had no sin, and by which all sin is pardoned to the saints that pray unto Him. To these three evil doctrines, they by their deceitful praise of these five good things seduce careless and unlearned men. Concerning all which things, I think I have sufficiently censured their most cruel and wicked and proud vanity.
But since they say
throughout nearly the whole of the West a dogma not less foolish than impious is taken up, and from simple bishops sitting in their places without a Synodal congregation a subscription is extorted to confirm this dogma,— although the Church of Christ, both Western and Eastern shuddered at the profane novelties of their words— I think it belongs to my care not only to avail myself of the sacred canonical Scriptures as witnesses against them, which I have already sufficiently done, but, moreover, to bring forward some proofs from the writings of the holy men who before us have treated upon those Scriptures with the most widespread reputation and great glory. Not that I would put the authority of any controversialist on a level with the canonical books, as if there were nothing which is better or more truly thought by one catholic than by another who likewise is a catholic; but that those may be admonished who think that these men say anything as it used to be said, before their empty talk on these subjects, by catholic teachers following the divine oracles, and may know that the true and anciently established catholic faith is by us defended against the receding presumption and mischief of the Pelagian heretics.
Even that heresiarch of these men, Pelagius himself, mentions with the honour that is certainly due to him, the most blessed Cyprian, most glorious with even the crown of martyrdom, not only in the African and the Western, but also in the Eastern Churches, well known by the report of fame, and by the diffusion far and wide of his writings—when, writing a book of testimonies, he asserts that he is imitating him, saying that
he was doing to Romanus what Cypria had done to Quirinus. Let us, then, see what Cyprian thought concerning original sin, which entered by one man into the world. In the epistle on
Works and Alms he thus speaks:
When the Lord at His advent had cured these wounds which Adam had introduced, and had healed the old poisons of the serpent, He gave a law to the sound man, and bade him sin no more, lest a worse thing should happen to him if he sinned. We had been limited and shut up into a narrow space by the commandment of innocence; nor would the infirmity and weakness of human frailty have any resource unless the divine mercy coming once more in aid should open some way of securing salvation by pointing out works of justice and mercy, so that by almsgiving we may wash away whatever foulness we subsequently contract. By this testimony this witness refutes two falsehoods of theirs—the one, wherein they say that the human race draws no sin from Adam which needs cure and healing through Christ; the other, in which they say that the saints have no sin after baptism. Again, in the same epistle he says,
Let each one place before his eyes the devil with his servants—that is, with the people of perdition and death—as springing forth into the midst and provoking the people of Christ—Himself being present and judging,— with the trial of comparison in these words: 'I, on behalf of those whom you see with me, neither received buffets, nor bore scourgings, nor endured the cross, nor shed my blood, nor redeemed my family at the price of my suffering and blood; but neither do I promise them a celestial kingdom, nor do I recall them to Paradise, having again restored to them immortality.' Let the Pelagians answer and say when we could have been in the immortality of Paradise, and how we could have been expelled thence so as to be recalled there by the grace of Christ. And, although they may be unable to find what they can answer in this case on behalf of their own perversity, let them observe in what manner Cyprian understood what the apostle says,
In whom all have sinned. And let not the Pelagian heretics, freed from the old Manichean heretics, dare to suggest any calumny against a catholic, lest they should be convicted of doing so wicked a wrong even to the ancient martyr Cyprian.
For he says also this in the epistle whose title is inscribed,
On the Mortality:
The kingdom of God, beloved brethren, is beginning to be at hand; the reward of life, and the rejoicing of eternal salvation and perpetual gladness, and the possession formerly lost of Paradise, are now coming with the passing away of the world. This again, in the same epistle, he says:
Let us greet the day which assigns each of us to his own home, which snatches us hence and sets us free from the snares of the world, and restores us to Paradise and the kingdom. Moreover, he says in the epistle concerning Patience:
Let the judgment of God be pondered, which, even in the beginning of the world and of the human race, Adam, forgetful of the commandment and a transgressor of the law that had been given, received. Then we shall know how patient in this life we ought to be, who are born in such a state that we labour here with afflictions and contests. Because, says He, 'you have hearkened to the voice of your wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which alone I had charged you that you should not eat, cursed shall be the ground in all your works: in sorrow and in groaning shall you eat of it all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles shall it give forth to you, and you shall eat the food of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat your bread, till you return unto the ground from which you were taken: for earth you are, and unto earth shall you go.' We are all tied and bound with the chain of this sentence until, death being destroyed, we depart from this world. And, moreover, in the same epistle he says:
For, since in that first transgression of the commandment strength of body departed with immortality, and weakness came on with death, and strength cannot be received unless when immortality also has been received, it behooves us in this bodily frailty and weakness always to struggle and fight; and this struggle and encounter cannot be sustained but by the strength of patience.
And in the epistle which he wrote with sixty-six of his joint-bishops to Bishop Fidus, when he was consulted by him in respect of the law of circumcision, whether an infant might be baptized before the eighth day, this matter is treated in such a way as if by a divine forethought the catholic Church would already confute the Pelagian heretics who would appear so long afterwards. For he who had consulted had no doubt on the subject whether children on birth inherited original sin, which they might wash away by being born again. For be it far from the Christian faith to have at any time doubted on this matter. But he was in doubt whether the washing of regeneration, by which he made no question but that original sin was put away, ought to be given before the eighth day. To which consultation the most blessed Cyprian in reply said:
But as regards the case of infants, which you say ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, and that the law of the ancient circumcision should be regarded, so that you think that one who is born should not be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day, we all thought very differently in our council. For to the course which you thought was to be taken no one agreed, but we all rather judged that the grace of a merciful God was not to be denied to any one born of men; for, as the Lord says in His gospel, 'the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.' Luke 9:56 As far as we can, we must strive that, if possible, no soul be lost. And a little afterwards he says:
Nor ought any of us to shudder at what God has condescended to make. For although the infant is still fresh from its birth, yet it is not such that any one should shudder at kissing it in giving grace and in making peace, since in the kiss of an infant every one of us ought for his very religion's sake to consider the still recent hands of God themselves, which in some sort we are kissing in the man just formed and newly born, when we are embracing that which God has made. A little after, also, he says:
But if anything could hinder men from obtaining grace, their more heinous sins might rather hinder those who are mature and grown up and older. But again, if even to the greatest sinners, and to those who have before sinned much against God, when they have subsequently believed, remission of sins is granted, and nobody is hindered from baptism and from grace; how much rather ought we to shrink from hindering an infant, who, being lately born, has not sinned, except that, being born after the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of the ancient death at his earliest birth; who approaches more easily on this very account to the reception of the forgiveness of sins, in that to him are remitted not his own sins, but the sins of another!
What will be said to such things as these, by those who are not only the forsakers, but also the persecutors of God's grace? What will they say to such things as these? On what ground is the
possession of Paradise restored to us? How are we restored to Paradise if we have never been there? Or how have we been there, except because we were there in Adam? And how do we belong to that
judgment which was spoken against the transgressor, if we do not inherit injury from the transgressor? Finally, he thinks that infants are to be baptized, even before the eighth day; lest
by the contagion of the ancient death, contracted in the first birth, the souls of the infants should perish. How do they perish if they who are born even of believing men are not held by the devil until they are born again in Christ, and plucked out from the power of darkness, and transferred into His kingdom? And who says that the souls of those who are born will perish unless they are born again? No other than he who so praises the Creator and the creature, the workman and the work, as to restrain and correct the horror of human feeling with which men refuse to kiss infants fresh from the womb, by interposing the veneration of the Creator Himself, saying that in the kiss of infants of that age the recent hands of God were to be considered! Did he, then, in confessing original sin, condemn either nature or marriage? Did he, because he applied to the infant born guilty from Adam, the cleansing of regeneration, therefore deny God as the Creator of those that were born? Because, in his dread that souls of any age whatever should perish, he, with his council of colleagues, decided that even before the eighth day they were to be delivered by the sacrament of baptism, did he therefore accuse marriage, when, indeed, in the case of an infant—whether born of marriage or of adultery, yet because it was born a man—he declared that the recent hands of God were worthy even of the kiss of peace? If, then, the holy bishop and most glorious martyr Cyprian could think that original sin in infants must be healed by the medicine of Christ, without denying the praise of the creature, without denying the praise of marriage, why does a novel pestilence, although it does not dare to call such an one as him a Manichean, think that another person's fault is to be objected against Catholics who maintain these things, in order to conceal its own? So the most lauded commentator on the divine declarations, before even the slightest taint of the Manichean plague had touched our lands, without any reproach of the divine work and of marriage, confesses original sin—not saying that Christ was stained with any spot of sin, nor yet comparing with Him the flesh of sin in others that were born, to whom by means of the likeness of sinful flesh He might afford the aid of cleansing; neither is he deterred by the obscure question of the origin of souls, from confessing that those who are made free by the grace of Christ return into Paradise. Does he say that the condition of death passed upon men from Adam without the contagion of sin? For it is not on account of avoiding the death of the body, but on account of the sin which entered by one man into the world, Romans 5:12 that he says that help is to be afforded by baptism to infants, however fresh they may be from the womb.
But now it plainly appears in what way Cyprian proclaims the grace of God against such as these, when he is arguing about the Lord's Prayer. For he says:
We say, 'May Your name be made holy,' not that we wish for God that He may be made holy by our prayers, but that we beseech of Him that His name may be made holy in us. But by whom is God made holy, since He Himself makes holy? But, because He says, 'Be holy, because I also am holy,' we ask and entreat this, that we who were made holy in baptism may continue in that which we have begun to be. And in another place in the same epistle he says:
We add also, and say, 'Your will be done in heaven, and in earth,' not in order that God may do what He wills, but that we may be able to do what God wills. For who resists God that He may not do what He wills? But, since we are hindered by the devil from obeying God with our thought and deed in all things, we pray and ask that God's will may be done in us. And that it may be done in us, we have need of God's will, that is, of His help and protection; since no one is strong in his own strength, but he is safe by the indulgence and mercy of God. In another place also:
Moreover, we ask that the will of God may be done both in heaven and in earth, each of which things pertains to the fulfilment of our safety and salvation. For since we possess the body from the earth, and the spirit from heaven, we are ourselves earth and heaven; and in both, that is, both in body and in spirit, we pray that God's will be done. For between the flesh and the spirit there is a struggle, and there is a daily strife as they disagree one with the other; so that we cannot do the very things that we would, in that the spirit seeks heavenly and divine things, while the flesh lusts after earthly and temporal things. And, therefore, we ask that, by the help and assistance of God, agreement may be made between these two natures; so that while the will of God is done both in the spirit and in the flesh, the soul which is newborn by Him may be preserved. And this the Apostle Paul openly and manifestly declares by his words. 'The flesh,' says he, 'lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other, so that you cannot do the things that you would.' And a little after he says:
And it may be thus understood, most beloved brethren, that since the Lord commands and teaches us even to love our enemies, and to pray even for those who persecute us, we should ask even for those who are still earth, and have not yet begun to be heavenly, that even in respect of these God's will may be done, which Christ accomplished in preserving and renewing humanity. And again, in another place he says:
But we ask that this bread should be given to us daily, that we who are in Christ, and daily receive the Eucharist for the food of salvation, may not, by the interposition of some more heinous sin—by being prevented, as those abstaining and not communicating, from partaking of the heavenly bread—be separated from Christ's body. And a little afterwards, in the same treatise he says:
But when we ask that we may not come into temptation, we are reminded of our infirmity and weakness, while we so ask as that no one should insolently vaunt himself; that none should proudly and arrogantly assume anything to himself; that none should take to himself the glory either of confession or of suffering as his own, when the Lord Himself teaching humility said, 'Watch and pray, that you come not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak;' so that while a humble and submissive confession comes first, and all is attributed to God, whatever is sought for suppliantly, with fear and honour of God, may be granted by His own loving-kindness. Moreover, in his treatise addressed to Quirinus, in respect to which work Pelagius wishes himself to appear as his imitator, he says in the Third Book
that we must boast in nothing, since nothing is our own. And subjoining the divine testimonies to this proposition, he added among others that apostolic word with which especially the mouths of such as these must be closed:
For what have you, which you have not received? But if you have received it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? Also in the epistle concerning Patience he says:
Does that holy and so memorable instructor of the Churches in the word of truth, deny that there is free will in men, because he attributes to God the whole of your righteous living? Does he reproach God's law, because he intimates that man is not justified by it, seeing that he declares that what that law commands must be obtained from the Lord God by prayers? Does he assert fate under the name of grace, by saying that we must boast in nothing, since nothing is our own? Does he, like these, believe that the Holy Spirit is in such wise the aider of virtue, as if that very virtue which it assists springs from ourselves, when, asserting that nothing is our own, he mentions in this respect that the apostle said,
For what have you that you have not received? and says that the most excellent virtue, that is, patience, does not begin from us, and afterwards receive aid by the Spirit of God, but from Him Himself takes its source, from Him takes its origin? Finally, he confesses that neither good purpose, nor desire of virtue, nor good dispositions, begin to be in men without God's grace, when he says that
we must boast in nothing, since nothing is our own. What is so established in free will as what the law says, that we must not worship an idol, must not commit adultery, must do no murder? Nay, these crimes, and such like, are of such a kind that, if any one should commit them, he is removed from the communion of the body of Christ. And yet, if the blessed Cyprian thought that our own will was sufficient for not committing these crimes, he would not in such wise understand what we say in the Lord's Prayer,
Give us this day our daily bread, as that he should assert that we ask
that we may not by the interposition of some heinous sin— by being prevented as abstaining, and not communicating, from partaking of the heavenly bread— be separated from Christ's body. Let these new heretics answer of a surety what good merit precedes, in men who are enemies of the name of Christ? For not only have they no good merit, but they have, moreover, the very worst merit. And yet, Cyprian even thus understands what we say in the prayer,
Your will be done in heaven, and in earth: that we pray also for those very persons who in this respect are called earth. We pray, therefore, not only for the unwilling, but also for the objecting and resisting. What, then, do we ask, but that from unwilling they may be made willing; from objecting, consenting; from resisting, loving? And by whom, but by Him of whom it is written,
The will is prepared by God? Proverbs 8:36 Let them, then, who disdain, if they do not do any evil and if they do any good, to glory, not in themselves, but in the Lord, learn to be Catholics.
Let us, then, see that third point, which in these men is not less shocking to every member of Christ and to His whole body—that they contend that there are in this life, or that there have been, righteous men having absolutely no sin. In which presumption they most manifestly contradict the Lord's Prayer, wherein, with truthful heart and with daily words, all the members of Christ cry aloud,
Forgive us our debts. Let us see, then, what Cyprian, most glorious in the Lord, thought of this—what he not only said for the instruction of the Churches, not, of course, of the Manicheans, but of the Catholics, but also committed to letters and to memory. In the epistle on
Works and Alms, he says:
Let us then acknowledge, beloved brethren, the wholesome gift of the divine mercy, and let us who cannot be without some wound of conscience heal our wounds by the spiritual remedies for the cleansing and purging of our sins. Nor let any one so flatter himself with the notion of a pure and immaculate heart, as, in dependence on his own innocence, to think that the medicine needs not to be applied to his wounds; since it is written, 'Who shall boast that he has a clean heart, or who shall boast that he is pure from sins?' Proverbs 20:9 And again, in his epistle, John lays it down and says, 'If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.' 1 John 1:8 But if no one can be without sin, and whoever should say that he is without fault is either proud or foolish, how needful, how kind is the divine mercy, which, knowing that there are still found some wounds in those that have been healed, has given even after their healing wholesome remedies for the curing and healing of their wounds anew! Again, in the same treatise he says:
And since there cannot fail daily to be sins committed in the sight of God, there failed not daily sacrifices wherewith the sins might be cleansed away. Also, in the treatise on the Mortality, he says:
Our warfare is with avarice, with immodesty, with anger, with ambition; our trying and toilsome wrestling with carnal vices, with the enticements of the world. The mind of man besieged, and on every hand invested with the onsets of the devil, scarcely meets the repeated attacks, scarcely resists them. If avarice is prostrated, lust springs up. If lust is overcome, ambition takes its place. If ambition is despised, anger exasperates, pride puffs up, wine-bibbing entices; envy breaks concord; jealousy cuts friendship; you are constrained to curse, which the divine law forbids; you are compelled to swear, which is not lawful. So many persecutions the soul suffers daily, with so many risks is the heart wearied; and yet it delights to abide here long among the devil's weapons, although it should rather be our craving and wish to hasten to Christ by the aid of a quicker death. Again, in the same treatise he says:
The blessed Apostle Paul in his epistle lays it down, saying, 'To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain;' Philippians 1:21 counting it the greatest gain no longer to be held by the snares of this world, no longer to be liable to the sins and vices of the flesh. Moreover, on the Lord's Prayer, explaining what it is we ask when we say,
Hallowed be your name, he says, among other matters:
For we have need of daily sanctification, that we, who daily fall away, may wash out our sins by continual sanctification. Again, in the same treatise, when he would explain our saying,
Forgive us our debts, he says:
And how necessarily, how providently and salutarily, are we admonished that we are sinners, since we are compelled to entreat for our sins; and while pardon is asked for from God, the soul recalls its own consciousness of guilt. Lest any one should flatter himself as being innocent, and by exalting himself should more deeply perish, he is instructed and taught that he sins daily, in that he is bidden to entreat daily for his sins. Thus, moreover, John also in his epistle warns us, and says: 'If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.' Rightly, also, he proposed in his letter to Quirinus his own most absolute judgment on this subject, to which he subjoined the divine testimonies,
That no one is without filth and without sin. There also he set down those testimonies by which original sin is confirmed, which these men endeavour to twist into I know not what new and evil meanings, whether what the holy Job says,
No one is pure from filth, not one even if his life be of one day upon the earth, Job 14:4-5 or what is read in the Psalm,
Behold, I was conceived in iniquity; and in sins has my mother nourished me in the womb. To which testimonies, on account of those also who are already holy in mature age, since even they are not without filth and sin, he added also that word of the most blessed John, which he often mentions in many other places besides,
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves; 1 John 1:8 and other passages of the same sentiment, which are asserted by all Catholics, by way of opposing those
who deceive themselves, and the truth is not in them.
Let the Pelagians say, if they dare, that this man of God was perverted by the error of the Manicheans, in so praising the saints as yet to confess that no one in this life had attained to such a perfection of righteousness as to have no sin at all, confirming his judgment by the clear truth and divine authority of the canonical testimonies. For does he deny that in baptism all sins are forgiven, because he confesses that there remain frailty and infirmity, whence he says that we sin after baptism and even to the end of this life, having unceasing conflict with the vices of the flesh? Or did he not remember what the apostle said about the Church without spot, that he prescribed that no one ought so to flatter himself in respect of a pure and spotless heart as to trust in his own innocence, and think that no medicine needed to be applied to his wounds? I think that these new heretics may concede to this catholic man that he knew
that the Holy Spirit even in the old times aided good dispositions; nay, even, what they themselves will not allow, that they could not have possessed good dispositions except through the Holy Spirit. I think that Cyprian knew that all the prophets and apostles or saints of any kind soever who pleased the Lord at any time were righteous—
not in comparison with the wicked, as they falsely assert that we say,
but by the rule of virtue, as they boast that they say; although Cyprian says, nevertheless, no one can be without sin, and whoever should assert that he is blameless is either proud or a fool. Nor is it with reference to anything else that he understands the Scripture,
Who shall boast that he has a pure heart? Or who shall boast that he is pure from sins? Proverbs 20:9 I think that Cyprian would not have needed to be taught by such as these, what he very well knew,
that, in the time to come, there would be a reward of good works and a punishment of evil works, but that no one could then perform the commands which here he might have despised; and yet he does not understand and assert the Apostle Paul, who was assuredly not a contemner of the divine commands, to have said,
To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain, Philippians 2:21 on any other account, except that he reckoned it the greatest gain after this life no longer to be held in worldly entanglements, no longer to be obnoxious to the sins and vices of the flesh. Therefore the most blessed Cyprian felt, and in the truth of the divine Scriptures saw, that even the life of the apostles themselves, however good, holy, and righteous, suffered some involvements of worldly entanglements, was obnoxious to some sins and vices of the flesh; and that they desired death that they might be free from those evils, and that they might attain to that perfect righteousness which would not suffer such things, and which would no more have to be achieved in the way of command merely, but to be received in the way of reward. For not even when that shall have come for which we pray when we say,
Your kingdom come, will there be in that kingdom of God no righteousness; since the apostle says,
The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Romans 14:17 Certainly these three things are commanded among other divine precepts. Here righteousness is prescribed to us when it is said,
Do righteousness; Isaiah 56:1 peace is prescribed when it is said,
Have peace among yourselves; Mark 9:49 joy is prescribed when it is said,
Rejoice in the Lord always. Philippians 4:4 Let, then, the Pelagians deny that these things shall be in the kingdom of God, where we shall live without end; or let them be so mad, if it appears good, as to contend that righteousness, peace, and joy, will be such there as they are here to the righteous. But if they both shall be, and yet shall not be the same, assuredly here, in respect of the commandment of them, the doing is to be cared for—there the perfection is to be hoped for in the way of reward; when, not being withheld by any earthly entanglements, and being liable to no sins and vices of the flesh (on account of which the apostle, as Cyprian received this testimony, said that to die would be to him gain), we may perfectly love God, the contemplation of whom will be face to face; we may also perfectly love our neighbour, since, when the thoughts of the heart are made manifest, no suspicion of any evil can disturb any one concerning any one.
But now also to the most glorious martyr Cyprian, let me add, for the sake of more amply confuting these men, the most blessed Ambrose; because even Pelagius praised him so much as to say that in his writings could be found nothing to be blamed even by his enemies. Since, then, the Pelagians say that there is no original sin with which infants are born, and object to the Catholics the guilt of the Manichean heresy, who withstand them on behalf of the most ancient faith of the Church, let this catholic man of God, Ambrose, praised even by Pelagius himself in the truth of the faith, answer them concerning this matter. When he was expounding the prophet Isaiah, he says:
Christ was, therefore, without spot, because He was not stained even in the usual condition itself of birth. And in another place in the same work, speaking of the Apostle Peter, he says:
He offered himself, which he thought before to be sin, asking for himself that not only his feet but his head also should be washed, because he had directly understood that by the washing of the feet, for those who fell in the first man, the filth of the obnoxious succession was abolished. Also in the same work he says:
It was preserved, therefore, that of a man and woman, that is, by that mingling of bodies, no one could be seen to be free from sin; but He who is free from sin is free also from this kind of conception. Also writing against the Novatians he says:
All of us men are born under sin. And our very origin is in corruption, as you have it read in the words of David, 'For lo, I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins has my mother brought me forth.' Also in the apology of the prophet David, he says:
Before we are born we are spotted with contagion, and before the use of light we receive the mischief of that origin. We are conceived in iniquity. Also speaking of the Lord, he says:
It was certainly fitting that He who was not to have the sin of a bodily fall, should feel no natural contagion of generation. Rightly, therefore, David with weeping deplored in himself these defilements of nature, and the fact that the stain had begun in man before his life. Again, in the Ark of Noah he says:
Therefore by one Lord Jesus the coming salvation is declared to the nations; for He only could be righteous, although every generation should go astray, nor for any other reason than that, being born of a virgin, He was not at all bound by the ordinance of a guilty generation. 'Behold,' he says, 'I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins has my mother brought me forth;' he who was esteemed righteous beyond others so speaks. Whom, then, should I now call righteous unless Him who is free from those chains, whom the bonds of our common nature do not hold fast? Behold, this holy man, most approved, even by the witness of Pelagius, in the catholic faith, condemned the Pelagians who deny original sin with such evidence as this; and yet he does not with the Manicheans deny either God to be the Creator of those who are born, or condemn marriage, which God ordained and blessed.
The Pelagians say that merit begins from man by free will, to which God repays the subsequent aid of grace. Let the venerable Ambrose here also refute them, when he says, in his exposition of the prophet Isaiah,
that human care without divine help is powerless for healing, and needs a divine helper. Also, in the treatise which is inscribed,
On the Avoidance of the World, he says:
Our discourse is frequent on the avoidance of this world; and I wish that our disposition were as cautious and careful as our discourse is easy. But what is worse, the enticement of earthly lusts frequently creeps in, and the flowing forth of vanities takes hold of the mind, so that the very thing that you desire to avoid you think upon, and turn over in your mind; and this it is difficult for a man to beware of, but to get rid of it is impossible. Finally, that that is rather a matter to be wished than to be accomplished the prophet testifies when he says, 'Incline my heart unto your testimonies, and not to avarice.' For our heart and our thoughts are not in our power, seeing that they are suddenly forced forth and confuse the mind and the soul and draw them in other directions from those which you have proposed for them—they recall to things of time, they suggest worldly things, they obtrude voluptuous thoughts, they inweave seducing thoughts, and, in the very season in which we are proposing to lift up our mind, vain thoughts are intruded upon us, and we are cast down for the most part to things of earth; and who is so happy as always to rise upwards in his heart? And how can this be done without the divine help? Absolutely in no manner. Finally, of old Scripture says the same thing, 'Blessed is the man whose help is of You, O Lord; in his heart is going up.' What can be said more openly and more sufficiently? But lest the Pelagians perchance should answer that, in that very point in which divine help is asked for, man's merit precedes, saying that that very thing is merit, that by his prayer he is desiring that divine grace should come to his assistance, let them give heed to what the same holy man says in his exposition of Isaiah. He says:
And to pray God is a spiritual grace; for no man says that Jesus is the Lord, except in the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:13 Whence also, expounding the Gospel according to Luke, he says:
You see certainly that everywhere the power of the Lord cooperates with human desires, so that no man can build without the Lord, no man can undertake anything without the Lord. Because such a man as Ambrose says this, and commends God's grace, as it is fitting for a son of promise to do, with grateful piety, does he therefore destroy free will? Or does he mean grace to be understood as the Pelagians in their different discourses will have to appear nothing but law— so that, for instance, God may be believed to help us not to do what we may know, but to know what we may do? If they think that such a man of God as this is of this mind, let them hear what he has said about the law itself. In the book
On the Avoidance of the World, he says:
The law could stop the mouth of all men; it could not convert their mind. In another place also, in the same treatise, he says:
The law condemns the deed; it does not take away its wickedness. Let them see that this faithful and catholic man agrees with the apostle who says,
Now we know that what things soever the law says, it says to those who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Because by the law no flesh shall be justified in His sight. Romans 3:19-20 For from that apostolic opinion Ambrose took and wrote these things.
But now, since the Pelagians say that there either are or have been righteous men in this life who have lived without any sin, to such an extent that the future life which is to be hoped for as a reward cannot be more advanced or more perfect, let Ambrose here also answer them and refute them. For, expounding Isaiah the Prophet in reference to what is written,
I have begotten and brought up children, and they have despised me, Isaiah 1:2 he undertook to dispute concerning the generations which are of God, and in that argument he quoted the testimony of John when he says,
He that is born of God sins not. 1 John 3:9 And, treating the same very difficult question, he says:
Since in this world there is none who is free from sin; since John himself says, 'If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar.' 1 John 1:10 But if 'they that are born of God sin not,' and if these words refer to those of them who are in the world, it is necessary that we should regard them as those numberless people who have obtained God's grace by the regeneration of the laver. But yet, when the prophet says, 'All things are waiting upon You, that You may give them meat in season. That You give them they gather for themselves; when You open Your hand, all things shall be filled with goodness. But when You turn away Your face, they shall be troubled: You shall take away their breath, and they shall fail, and shall be turned into their dust. You shall send forth Your Spirit, and they shall be created: and You shall renew the face of the earth,' such things as these cannot seem to have been said of any time whatever but of that future time, in which there shall be a new earth and a new heaven. Therefore they shall be disturbed that they may take their beginning. 'And when You open Your hand all things shall be filled with goodness,' which is not easily characteristic of this age. For concerning this age what does Scripture say? 'There is none that does good, no, not one.' If, therefore, there are different generations—and here the very entrance into this life is the receiver of sins to such an extent that even he who begot should be despised; while another generation does not receive sins—let us consider whether by any means there may not be a regeneration for us after the course of this life—of which regeneration it is said, 'In the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory.' Matthew 19:28 For as that is called the regeneration of washing whereby we are renewed from the filth of sins washed away, so that seems to be called a regeneration by which we are purified from every stain of bodily materiality, and are regenerated in the pure sense of the soul to life eternal; so that every quality of regeneration may be purer than of that washing, so that no suspicion of sins can fall either on a man's doings, or even on his very thoughts themselves. Moreover, in another place in the same work he says:
We see it to be impossible that any person created in a body can be absolutely spotless, since even Paul says that he is imperfect. For thus he has it: 'Not that I have already received, or am already perfect.' Philippians 3:12 and yet after a little he says, 'As many of us, therefore, as are perfect.' Philippians 3:15 Unless, perchance, there is one perfection in this world, another after this is completed, of which he says to the Corinthians, 'When that which is perfect has come;' 1 Corinthians 13:10 and elsewhere, 'Till we all come into the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, into the perfect man to the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ.' Ephesians 4:13 As, then, the apostle says that many are placed in this world who are perfect along with him, but who, if you have regard to true perfection, could not be perfect, since he says, 'We see now through a mirror, enigmatically; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall know even as also I am known:' 1 Corinthians 13:12 so also there both are those who are 'spotless' in this world, and will be those who are 'spotless' in the kingdom of God, although certainly, if you consider it accurately, no person can be spotless, because no person is without sin. Also in the same he says:
We see that, while we live in this life, we ought to purify ourselves and to seek God; and to begin from the purification of our soul, and as it were to establish the foundations of virtue, so that we may deserve to attain the perfection of our purgation after this life. And again, in the same he says:
But laden and groaning, who does not say, 'O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' Romans 7:24 So with the same teacher we give all varieties of interpretation. For if he is unhappy who recognises himself as involved in the evils of the body, certainly everybody is unhappy; for I should not call that man happy who, being confused with any darkness of his mind, does not know his own condition. That, moreover, has not absurdly come to be understood; for if a man who knows himself is unhappy, assuredly all are wretched, because every one either recognises his weakness by wisdom, or by folly is ignorant of it. Moreover, in the treatise
On the Benefit of Death, he says:
Let death work in us, in order that that may work life also, a good life after death—that is, a good life after victory, a good life after the contest is finished; so that now no longer the law of the flesh may know how to resist the law of the mind, that no longer we may have any contention with the body of death. Again, in the same treatise he says:
Therefore, because the righteous have this reward, that they see the face of God, and that light which lightens every man, let us henceforth put on the desire of this kind of reward, that our soul may draw near to God, our prayer may draw near to Him, our desire may cleave to Him, that we be not separated from Him. And placed here as we are, let us by meditating, by reading, by seeking, be united with God. Let us know Him as we can. For we know Him in part here; because here all things are imperfect, there all are perfect; here we are infants, there we shall be strong men. 'We see,' says he, 'now through a mirror in an enigma, but then face to face.' Then, His face being revealed, we shall be allowed to look upon the glory of God, which now our souls, involved in the compacted dregs of this body, and shadowed by some stains and filth of this flesh, cannot clearly see. 'For who,' He says, 'shall see my face and live?' and rightly. For if our eyes cannot bear the rays of the sun—and if any one should gaze too long on the region of the sun he is said to be blinded—if a creature cannot look upon a creature without deceit and offense, how can he without his own peril look upon the glittering face of the eternal Creator, covered as he is with the clothing of this body? For who is justified in God's sight, when even the infant of one day cannot be pure from sin, and no one can boast of his integrity and pureness of heart?
It would be too long if I were to seek to mention everything which the holy Ambrose said and wrote against this heresy of the Pelagians, which was to arise so long afterwards; not indeed with a view to answer them, but with a view to declare the catholic faith, and to build up men in it. Moreover, I neither could nor ought to mention all those things which Cyprian, most glorious in the Lord, wrote in his letters, whereby it is shown how this which we hold is the true and truly Christian and catholic faith, as it was delivered of old by the Holy Scriptures, and so retained and kept by our fathers and even to this time, in which these heretics have attempted to destroy it, and as it will hereafter by God's good will be retained and kept. For that these things and things of this kind were thus delivered to Cyprian, and by Cyprian, is testified by the testimonies produced from his letters; and that thus they were maintained up to our times is shown by these things which Ambrose wrote about these matters before these heretics had begun to rage, and catholic ears had shuddered at their profane novelties which are everywhere; and that thus, moreover, they shall be maintained hereafter, was declared with sufficient vigour partly by the condemnation of such opinions as these, partly by their correction. For whatever they may dare to mutter against the sound faith of Cyprian and Ambrose, I do not think that they will break out into such a madness as to dare to call those noted and memorable men of God, Manicheans.
What is it, then, which in their raging blindness of mind they are now spreading about,
that almost throughout the entire West a dogma not less foolish than impious is taken up; when by the mercy of God and by His merciful governance of His Church, the catholic faith has been so watchful that the dogma,
not less foolish than wicked, as of the Manicheans, so also of these heretics, should not be taken up? So holy and learned catholic men, such as are attested to be so by the report of the whole Church, praise both God's creation, and marriage as ordained by Him, and the law given by Him by means of the holy Moses, and the free will implanted into man's nature, and the holy patriarchs and prophets, with due and fitting proclamation; all which five things the Manicheans condemn, partly by denying, and partly also by abominating. Whence it appears that these catholic doctors were far removed from the notions of the Manicheans, and yet they assert original sin; they assert God's grace above free will, as antecedent to all merit, so as truly to afford a gratuitous divine assistance; they assert that the saints lived righteously in this flesh, in such wise that the help of prayer was necessary to them, by which their daily sins might be forgiven; and that a perfected righteousness which could not have sin would be in another life the reward of those who should live righteously here.
What is it, then, that they say, that
subscription was extorted from simple bishops sitting in their places without any Synodal congregation? Was subscription extorted against such heretics as these from the most blessed and excellent men in the faith, Cyprian and Ambrose, before such heretics as these were in existence?— seeing that they overthrow their impious dogmas with such clearness that we can scarcely find anything more manifest to say against them. Or, indeed, was there any need of the congregation of a Synod to condemn this open pest, as if no heresy could at any time be condemned except by a Synodal congregation?— when, on the contrary, very few heresies can be found for the sake of condemning which any such necessity has arisen; and those have been many and incomparably more which have deserved to be accused and condemned in the place where they arose, and thence could be known and avoided over the rest of the lands. But the pride of such as these, which lifts itself up so much against God as not to be willing to glory in Him but rather in free will, is understood as grasping also at this glory, that a Synod of the East and West should be gathered together on their account. In fact, they endeavour, forsooth, to disturb the catholic world, because, the Lord being against them, they are unable to pervert it; when rather they ought to have been trodden out wherever those wolves might have appeared, by watchfulness and pastoral diligence, after a competent and sufficient judgment made concerning them; whether with a view of their being healed and changed, or with a view of their being shunned by the safety and soundness of others, by the help of the Shepherd of the sheep, who seeks the lost sheep also among the little ones, who makes the sheep holy and righteous freely; who both providently instructs them, although sanctified and justified, yet in their frailty and infirmity to pray for a daily remission for their daily sins, without which no one lives in this world, even although he may live well; and mercifully listens to their prayers.
Source. Translated by Peter Holmes and Robert Ernest Wallis, and revised by Benjamin B. Warfield. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 5. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/15094.htm>.