Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/On the Proceedings of Pelagius/Chapter 65

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Chapter 65.—Recapitulation of What Pelagius Condemned.

Let us now, by a like recapitulation, bestow a little more attention on those subjects which the bishops said he rejected and condemned as “contrary;” for herein especially lies the whole of that heresy. We will entirely pass over the strange terms of adulation which he is reported to have put into writing in praise of a certain widow; these he denied having ever inserted in any of his writings, or ever given utterance to, and he anathematized all who held the opinions in question not indeed as heretics, but as fools.[1] The following are the wild thickets of this heresy, which we are sorry to see shooting out buds, nay growing into trees, day by day:—“That[2] Adam was made mortal, and would have died whether he had sinned or not; that Adam’s sin injured only himself, and not the human race; that the law no less than the gospel leads to the kingdom; that new-born infants are in the same condition that Adam was before the transgression; that the whole human race does not, on the one hand, die in consequence of Adam’s death and transgression, nor, on the other hand, does the whole human race rise again through the resurrection of Christ; that infants, even if they die unbaptized, have eternal life; that rich men, even if baptized, unless they renounce and surrender everything, have, whatever good they may seem to have done, nothing of it reckoned to them, neither can they possess the kingdom of God; that[3] God’s grace and assistance are not given for single actions, but reside in free will, and in the law and teaching; that the grace of God is bestowed according to our merits, so that grace really lies in the will of man, as he makes himself worthy or unworthy of it; that men cannot be called children of God, unless they have become entirely free from sin; that forgetfulness and ignorance do not come under sin, as they do not happen through the will, but of necessity; that there is no free will, if it needs the help of God, inasmuch as every one has his proper will either to do something, or to abstain from doing it; that our victory comes not from God’s help, but from free will; that from what Peter says, that ‘we are partakers of the divine nature,’[4] it must follow that the soul has the power of being without sin, just in the way that God Himself has.” For this have I read in the eleventh chapter of the book, which bears no title of its author, but is commonly reported to be the work of Cœlestius,—expressed in these words: “Now how can anybody,” asks the author, “become a partaker of the thing from the condition and power of which he is distinctly declared to be a stranger?” Accordingly, the brethren who prepared these objections understood him to have said that man’s soul and God are of the same nature, and to have asserted that the soul is part of God; for thus they understood that he meant that the soul partakes of the same condition and power as God. Moreover in the last of the objections laid to his charge there occurs this position: “That pardon is not given to penitents according to the grace and mercy of God, but according to their own merits and effort, since through repentance they have been worthy of mercy.” Now all these dogmas, and the arguments which were advanced in support of them, were repudiated and anathematized by Pelagius, and his conduct herein was approved of by the judges, who accordingly pronounced that he had, by his rejection and anathema, condemned the opinions in question as contrary to the faith. Let us therefore rejoice—whatever may be the circumstances of the case, whether Cœlestius laid down these theses or not, or whether Pelagius believed them or not—that the injurious principles of this new heresy were condemned before that ecclesiastical tribunal; and let us thank God for such a result, and proclaim His praises.


Footnotes[edit]

  1. See above, 16.
  2. See above, 24.
  3. See above, 30.
  4. 2 Pet. i. 4.