Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/Against Two Letters of the Pelagians/Book IV/Chapter 2
Chapter 2 [II.]—The Praise of the Creature.
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, “that nothing of evil passed from Adam upon the rest of humanity except death, which,” they say, “is not always an evil, since to the martyrs, for instance, it is for the sake of rewards; and it is not the dissolution of the bodies, which in every kind of men shall be raised up, that can make death to be called either good or evil, but the diversity of merits which arises from human liberty.” These things they write in this letter concerning the praise of the creature.
They praise marriage truly according to the Scriptures, “because the Lord saith 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 hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” And these we acknowledge to be gospel words.
In the praise of the law they say, “that the old law was, according to the apostle, holy and just and good; that on those who keep its commandments, and live righteously by faith, such as the prophets and patriarchs, and all the saints, life eternal could be conferred.”
In the praise of free will they say, “that free will has not perished, since the Lord says by the prophets, ‘If ye be willing and will hear me, ye shall eat the good things of the land: if ye are unwilling, and will not hear, the sword shall devour you.’ 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; that the Holy Spirit also assisted pious souls in ancient times, even as the prophet says to God, ‘Thy 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.’”
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.
- Matt. xix. 4.
- Isa. i. 19.
- Eph. v. 26.
- Ps. cxliii. 10.
- 2 Cor. v. 10.