Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/On Nature and Grace/Chapter 77
What Christian, again, is unaware of what he quotes the most blessed Xystus, bishop of Rome and martyr of Christ, as having said, “God has conferred upon men liberty of their own will, in order that by purity and sinlessness of life they may become like unto God?” But the man who appeals to free will ought to listen and believe, and ask Him in whom he believes to give him His assistance not to sin. For when he speaks of “becoming like unto God,” it is indeed through God’s love that men are to be like unto God,—even the love which is “shed abroad in our hearts,” not by any ability of nature or the free will within us, but “by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Then, in respect of what the same martyr further says, “A pure mind is a holy temple for God, and a heart clean and without sin is His best altar,” who knows not that the clean heart must be brought to this perfection, whilst “the inward man is renewed day by day,” but yet not without the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord? Again, when he says, “A man of chastity and without sin has received power from God to be a son of God,” he of course meant it as an admonition that on a man’s becoming so chaste and sinless (without raising any question as to where and when this perfection was to be obtained by him,—although in fact it is quite an interesting question among godly men, who are notwithstanding agreed as to the possibility of such perfection on the one hand, and on the other hand its impossibility except through “the one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus”);—nevertheless, as I began to say, Xystus designed his words to be an admonition that, on any man’s attaining such a high character, and thereby being rightly reckoned to be among the sons of God, the attainment must not be thought to have been the work of his own power. This indeed he, through grace, received from God, since he did not have it in a nature which had become corrupted and depraved,—even as we read in the Gospel, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God;” which they were not by nature, nor could at all become, unless by receiving Him they also received power through His grace. This is the power which is claimed for itself by the fortitude of that love which is only communicated to us by the Holy Ghost bestowed upon us.
- This passage, which Pelagius had quoted as from Xystus the Roman bishop and martyr, Augustin subsequently ascertained to have had for its author Sextus, a Pythagorean philosopher. See the passage of the Retractations, ii. 42, at the head of this treatise.
- Rom. v. 5.
- 2 Cor. iv. 16.
- 1 Tim. ii. 5.
- John i. 12.