Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/On Nature and Grace/Chapter 83
Chapter 83 [LXIX.]—God Enjoins No Impossibility, Because All Things are Possible and Easy to Love.
But “the precepts of the law are very good,” if we use them lawfully. Indeed, by the very fact (of which we have the firmest conviction) “that the just and good God could not possibly have enjoined impossibilities,” we are admonished both what to do in easy paths and what to ask for when they are difficult. Now all things are easy for love to effect, to which (and which alone) “Christ’s burden is light,”—or rather, it is itself alone the burden which is light. Accordingly it is said, “And His commandments are not grievous;” so that whoever finds them grievous must regard the inspired statement about their “not being grievous” as having been capable of only this meaning, that there may be a state of heart to which they are not burdensome, and he must pray for that disposition which he at present wants, so as to be able to fulfil all that is commanded him. And this is the purport of what is said to Israel in Deuteronomy, if understood in a godly, sacred, and spiritual sense, since the apostle, after quoting the passage, “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart” (and, as the verse also has it, in thine hands, for in man’s heart are his spiritual hands), adds in explanation, “This is the word of faith which we preach.” No man, therefore, who “returns to the Lord his God,” as he is there commanded, “with all his heart and with all his soul,” will find God’s commandment “grievous.” How, indeed, can it be grievous, when it is the precept of love? Either, therefore, a man has not love, and then it is grievous; or he has love, and then it is not grievous. But he possesses love if he does what is there enjoined on Israel, by returning to the Lord his God with all his heart and with all his soul. “A new commandment,” says He, “do I give unto you, that ye love one another;” and “He that loveth his neighbour hath fulfilled the law;” and again, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” In accordance with these sayings is that passage, “Had they trodden good paths, they would have found, indeed, the ways of righteousness easy.” How then is it written, “Because of the words of Thy lips, I have kept the paths of difficulty,” except it be that both statements are true: These paths are paths of difficulty to fear; but to love they are easy?
- See 1 Tim. i. 8.
- Matt. xi. 30.
- 1 John v. 3.
- Deut. xxx. 14, quoted Rom. x. 8.
- According to the Septuagint, which adds after ἐν τῇ καρδία σου the words καὶ ἐν ταῖς χερσί σου. This was probably Pelagius’ reading. Compare Quæstion. in Deuteron. Book v. 54.
- Rom. x. 8.
- Deut. xxx. 2.
- John xiii. 34.
- Rom. xiii. 8.
- Rom. xiii. 10.
- Prov. ii. 20.
- Ps. xvii. 4.