Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/On Nature and Grace/Chapter 56
Chapter 56 [XLVIII.]—The Assistance of Grace in a Perfect Nature.
Not only, then, are these similes employed by our author false, but so is the matter which he wishes them to illustrate. He goes on to say: “In like manner, touching the possibility of our not sinning, we must understand that it is of us not to sin, but yet that the ability to avoid sin is not of us.” If he were speaking of man’s whole and perfect nature, which we do not now possess (“for we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope. But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it”), his language even in that case would not be correct to the effect that to avoid sinning would be of us alone, although to sin would be of us, for even then there must be the help of God, which must shed itself on those who are willing to receive it, just as the light is given to strong and healthy eyes to assist them in their function of sight. Inasmuch, however, as it is about this present life of ours that he raises the question, wherein our corruptible body weighs down the soul, and our earthly tabernacle depresses our sense with all its many thoughts, I am astonished that he can with any heart suppose that, even without the help of our Saviour’s healing balm, it is in our own power to avoid sin, and the ability not to sin is of nature, which gives only stronger evidence of its own corruption by the very fact of its failing to see its taint.
- Rom. viii. 24, 25.