Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/On Nature and Grace/Chapter 21
Chapter 21 [XIX.]—Pelagius Denies that Human Nature Has Been Depraved or Corrupted by Sin.
You may now see (what bears very closely on our subject) how he endeavours to exhibit human nature, as if it were wholly without fault, and how he struggles against the plainest of God’s Scriptures with that “wisdom of word” which renders the cross of Christ of none effect. That cross, however, shall certainly never be made of none effect; rather shall such wisdom be subverted. Now, after we shall have demonstrated this, it may be that God’s mercy may visit him, so that he may be sorry that he ever said these things: “We have,” he says, “first of all to discuss the position which is maintained, that our nature has been weakened and changed by sin. I think,” continues he, “that before all other things we have to inquire what sin is,—some substance, or wholly a name without substance, whereby is expressed not a thing, not an existence, not some sort of a body, but the doing of a wrongful deed.” He then adds: “I suppose that this is the case; and if so,” he asks, “how could that which lacks all substance have possibly weakened or changed human nature?” Observe, I beg of you, how in his ignorance he struggles to overthrow the most salutary words of the remedial Scriptures: “I said, O Lord, be merciful unto me; heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee.” Now, how can a thing be healed, if it is not wounded nor hurt, nor weakened and corrupted? But, as there is here something to be healed, whence did it receive its injury? You hear [the Psalmist] confessing the fact; what need is there of discussion? He says: “Heal my soul.” Ask him how that which he wants to be healed became injured, and then listen to his following words: “Because I have sinned against Thee.” Let him, however, put a question, and ask what he deemed a suitable inquiry, and say: “O you who exclaim, Heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee! pray tell me what sin is? Some substance, or wholly a name without substance, whereby is expressed, not a thing, not an existence, not some sort of a body, but merely the doing of a wrongful deed?” Then the other returns for answer: “It is even as you say; sin is not some substance; but under its name there is merely expressed the doing of a wrongful deed.” But he rejoins: “Then why cry out, Heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee? How could that have possibly corrupted your soul which lacks all substance?” Then would the other, worn out with the anguish of his wound, in order to avoid being diverted from prayer by the discussion, briefly answer and say: “Go from me, I beseech you; rather discuss the point, if you can, with Him who said: ‘They that are whole need no physician, but they that are sick; I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners,’” —in which words, of course, He designated the righteous as the whole, and sinners as the sick.
- 1 Cor. i. 17.
- Ps. xli. 4.
- Matt. ix. 12, 13.