Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/Against Two Letters of the Pelagians/Book IV/Chapter 21
Chapter 21.—Pelagius, in Imitation of Cyprian, Wrote a Book of Testimonies.
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 alms-giving 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 thou seest 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 thither 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.
- That is, his Capitula. See On the Proceedings of Pelagius, 6.
- Work cited, ch. 1; see The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. v. p. 476.
- Work cited, ch. 22; in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. v. p. 482.