Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/Against Two Letters of the Pelagians/Book IV/Chapter 26
Chapter 26.—Further Appeals to Cyprian’s Teaching.
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 hast thou that thou hast 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, “Thy 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”? 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.
- Prov. viii. 36.