Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/On the Proceedings of Pelagius/Chapter 4
Chapter 4 [II.]—The Same Continued.
If Pelagius, as he possibly might, were to say in reply to this, that that very thing was what he meant by “the knowledge of the law, without which a man is unable to be free from sins,” which is communicated by the teaching of faith to converts and to babes in Christ, and in which candidates for baptism are catechetically instructed with a view to their knowing the creed, certainly this is not what is usually meant when any one is said to have a knowledge of the law. This phrase is only applied to such persons as are skilled in the law. But if he persists in describing the knowledge of the law by the words in question, which, however few in number, are great in weight, and are used to designate all who are faithfully baptized according to the prescribed rule of the Churches; and if he maintains that it was of this that he said, “No one is without sin, but the man who has acquired the knowledge of the law,”—a knowledge which must needs be conveyed to believers before they attain to the actual remission of sins,—even in such case there would crowd around him a countless multitude, not indeed of angry disputants, but of crying baptized infants, who would exclaim,—not, to be sure, in words, but in the very truthfulness of innocence,—“What is it, O what is it that you have written: ‘He only can be without sin who has acquired a knowledge of the law?’ See here are we, a large flock of lambs, without sin, and yet we have no knowledge of the law.” Now surely they with their silent tongue would compel him to silence, or, perhaps, even to confess that he was corrected of his great perverseness; or else (if you will), that he had already for some time entertained the opinion which he acknowledged before his ecclesiastical examiners, but that he had failed before to express his opinion in words of sufficient care,—that his faith, therefore, should be approved, but this book revised and amended. For, as the Scripture says: “There is that slippeth in his speech, but not in his heart.” Now if he would only admit this, or were already saying it, who would not most readily forgive those words which he had committed to writing with too great heedlessness and neglect, especially on his declining to defend the opinion which the said words contain, and affirming that to be his proper view which the truth approves? This we must suppose would have been in the minds of the pious judges themselves, if they could only have duly understood the contents of his Latin book, thoroughly interpreted to them, as they understood his reply to the synod, which was spoken in Greek, and therefore quite intelligible to them, and adjudged it as not alien from the Church. Let us go on to consider the other cases.
- Ecclus. xix. 16.