Please help support the mission of New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more all for only $19.99...
This book can hardly be said to form part of a dialogue. It is rather an argument from Scripture to prove the point of the Augustinian arguer, Atticus. From the fourth chapter onwards it consists, like the last five chapters of Book I., of a chain of Scripture texts, taken from the New Testament and the Prophets, to show the universality of sin, and thus to refute the Pelagian assertion that a man can be without sin if he wills. We shall, therefore, give, as in the previous case, a list of the texts and the first words of them, only giving Jerome's words where he introduces some original remark of his own, or some noteworthy comment.
The Pelagian begins by reiterating the dilemma: If the commandments are given to be obeyed, then man can be without sin; if he is, by his creation, such that he must be a sinner, then God, not he, is the author of sin. To the argument that sacrifices are enjoined for sins of ignorance, he replies by appealing from the Old Testament to the New, which leads to a discussion (2, 3) on St. Paul's description of the conflict with sin, in Romans 7. Paul, it is argued, speaks not as a sinner, but as a man, and thus confesses the sinfulness of humanity. That men may be without ingrained vice is possible; that they can be without sin is not. This leads the Augustinian, Atticus, resuming his list of testimonies, to the fact that, though men are found who are righteous as avoiding wickedness (κακία), yet none is without sin (ἀ ναμάρτητος).
xviii. 17, LXX. and Vulgate. A righteous man accuses himself when he begins to speak.
Ps. lviii. 3. Sinners are estranged from the womb; that is, either, as St. Paul says Romans 5:14, they sin
after the similitude of Adam; or,
when Christ, as the firstborn, opened the virgin's womb Exodus 13:2. The heretics refused to acknowledge the mystery, which was prefigured by the Eastern door of the Temple Ezekiel 44:2, which closed again when once the High Priest had gone through it.
20, 21. If I have sinned, what can I do?
ix. 15, 16. If I were righteous, he would not hear me.
29-31. If I wash myself with snow water, etc.
x. 15. If I be righteous, etc.
xiv. 4, 5. Who will be free from uncleanliness? Not one.
Prov. xvi. 26, LXX. Man toils in sorrow.
Job xl. 4. What shall I answer you?
Prov. xx. 9.
Who will boast that he has a clean heart? which shows at least that the commandments are not easy, as Pelagius says they are.
1 John v. 3.
His commandments are not grievous, and
Acts xv. 10. A yoke ...which neither our fathers nor we are able to bear.
Prov. xv. 1, LXX.
Wrath destroys even wise men.
Matt. v. 22. He who is angry...shall be in danger of council.
1 Cor. i. 25. The foolishness of God is wiser than men.
Ecclus. i. 18.
In much wisdom is much grief, shows the wise man's sense of imperfection. So
However much a man may labor, yet he shall not find it; and
ix. 2, 3. There is one event to all. The heart...is full of evil.
1 Peter 2:17, 18. Judgement must begin at the house of God.
6. There are four emotions which agitate mankind, two relating to the present, two to the future; two to good, and two to evil. There is sorrow, called in Greek λύπη, and joy, in Greek χαρά or ἡ δονή, although many translate the latter word by voluptas, pleasure; the one of which is referred to evil, the other to good. And we go too far if we rejoice over such things as we ought not, as, for example, riches, power, distinctions, the bad fortune of enemies, or their death; or, on the other hand, if we are tortured with grief on account of present evils, adversity, exile, poverty, weakness, and the death of kindred, all of which is forbidden by the Apostle. And again, if we covet those things which we consider good, inheritance, distinctions, unvaried prosperity, bodily health, and the like, in the possession of which we rejoice and find enjoyment; or if we fear those things which we deem adverse. Now, according to the Stoics, Zeno that is to say and Chrysippus, it is possible for a perfect man to be free from these emotions; according to the Peripatetics, it is difficult and even impossible, an opinion which has the constant support of all Scripture. Hence Josephus, the historian of the Maccabees, said that the emotions can be subdued and governed, not extirpated, and Cicero's five books of
Tusculan Disputations are full of these discussions. Ephesians 6:12 According to the Apostle, the weakness of the body and spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places fight against us. And the same writer Galatians 5:19 tells us that the works of the flesh and the works of the spirit are manifest, and these are contrary the one to the other, so that we do not the things that we would. If we do not what we would, but what we would not, how can you say that a man can be without sin if he chooses? You see that neither an Apostle, nor any believer can perform what he wishes. 1 Peter 4:8
Love covers a multitude of sins, not so much sins of the past as sins of the present, that we may not sin any more while the love of God abides in us. Wherefore it is said concerning the woman that was a sinner, Luke 7:47
Her sins which are many are forgiven her, for she loved much. And this shows us that the doing what we wish does not depend merely upon our own power, but upon the assistance which God in His mercy gives to our will.
7. The quotations from Scripture are now continued:
1 John i. 7. The blood of Christ cleanses us.
Job 25:5, 6. The stars are not pure in his sight.
Gal. ii. 16.
By the law no flesh shall be justified; but
Romans 3:1, 24, 28, 30. Being justified freely through His grace, etc.
ix. 16. Not of him that wills, but of God which shows mercy.
8. The Apostle confesses his need of this grace for his work.
7, 8. That ye come behind in no gift — that no flesh may glory in His sight.
18, 19. If any man thinks himself to be wise, let him become a fool.
7. What have ye that you did not receive?
19. I will come to you, if the Lord will.
9. The Apostle shows also his need of grace himself.
1 Corinthians 15:9, 10. By the grace of God I am what I am, etc.
ii. 21. If righteousness come by the law, Christ is dead for nought.
iii. 10, 13. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law.
v. 4. You are severed from Christ, you that would be justified by the law.
Phil. ii. 13. It is God that works in you.
2 Thess. iii. 3. The Lord is faithful, He shall establish you.
1 Timothy 6:20, 21. O Timothy, guard that which is committed unto you.
Tit. iii. 4-7. The kindness and mercy of God our Saviour saved us.
Matt. v. 22.
Every man who is angry...shall be in danger of the council. Which of us is not here condemned?
First be reconciled to your brother. Who is there that finds this command easy?
Matt. vi. 34.
Be not anxious for tomorrow. Do you fulfil this?
Narrow is the gate which leads to life. How can you say that the commandments are easy?
Is. xxviii. 12.
Receive him that is weary, and this is my rest; and
Isaiah 66:1, 2.
On whom shall I rest but on him that is humble? Christ finds few on whom to rest. How then can His commands be said to be easy?
Matthew 9:12, 13.
I came not to call the righteous.
They that are whole need not the physician. Had the world not been full of sin, Christ would not have come. So
Ps. xii. 1. Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases.
xiv. 1, 3. They are corrupt...none does good.
Matt. x. 9.
Get you no gold...nor shoes. Who has fulfilled this? Not even the Apostles, for
xv. 19, 20. Out of the heart came evil thoughts, etc.
xvi. 25. Whosoever will lose his life will find it.
Woe to the man through whom stumbling comes. But
Phil. ii. 21. All seek their own.
Matt. xix. 21. The young lawyer had kept all the law, yet failed.
Matt. xxvi. 39.
Not as I will, but as You will. Yet Critobulus says, by his own will he can do right.
Mark xiv. 37.
Could ye not watch with me one hour? They could not.
vi. 5. He could do no mighty works because of their unbelief.
Mark xvi. 14. Even the Apostles showed unbelief and hardness of heart.
Luke i. 20. Even Zacharias disbelieved God's message.
Luke ix. 54. James and John show a vindictive spirit.
Luke 14:26-27. The commands to forsake all and take up the cross are not easy.
xvii. 1. It is impossible but that occasions of stumbling should come.
27. Who, then, can be saved? It is possible, but to God only.
xxii. 24. The contest for precedence at the last supper.
John v. 30. Even Christ says,
I cannot do anything by myself; and
vii. 10. Was irresolute about going up to the Feast of Tabernacles.
19. None of you does the law.
xvii. 12. I kept them — they did not keep themselves.
xvi. 6, 7. They were forbidden to preach where they chose.
18. Even the Apostles, with their full light, show their dependence on grace.
1 Cor. iv. 19. I will come if the Lord will.
James ii. 10. To stumble in one point is to be guilty of all.
iii. 2. In many things we all stumble.
8. The tongue is a deadly poison.
Ps. xxvi. 2.
Examine me and prove me, etc. This self-confidence led to his fall.
li. 1. Have mercy on me, O God.
You feed us with the bread of tears. Similarly
Psalm 30:6, 7. I said I shall never be moved...You hid Your face.
xxxvii. 5, 6. He shall make your righteousness as the light.
xxxviii. 7. There is no soundness in my flesh.
Rom. vii. 18. In my flesh dwells no good thing.
Ps. xxxviii. 8. Vulgate. My loins are filled with deceits.
xxxix. 5. He has made our days as handbreadths.
10. This is the changing of the right hand of the Most High.
Ps. lxxxix. 2. Mercy shall be built up forever.
xci. 6. From
the thing that walks in darkness who can be free? For
xcii. 14. Those that are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish.
ciii. 8, 10. The Lord is full of compassion.
xvii. 14. And is delivered only by God's confounding the counsel of Ahithophel.
Ps. cxviii. 6. The Lord is my keeper.
xix. 2. He is rebuked for joining with Ahab.
2 Kings 18:3, 4, 7. Hezekiah did great things, but only through the Lord's help.
22. Even the best kings of Judah were imperfect.
2 Kings 20:1, 5. Hezekiah wept when death was at hand, and recovered through special mercy.
13, 17. But he sinned in receiving the Babylonian envoys.
2 Chron. xxxii. 26. He fell by the lifting up of his heart.
xxxiv. 2. Josiah was a righteous man; yet
22, 23. He needed the aid of Huldah; and
xxxv. 22. He was slain through not heeding God's warning; and
Lam. iv. 20. Jeremiah lamented his fall.
I will not enter into the city. Only the Holy One is not joined to the mass of ungodliness.
Amos vi. 13. We turn righteousness into wormwood.
Jonah i. 14. The sailors confess that God is just in raising the storm.
Micah vii. 2. The godly man is perished from the earth, etc.
Habakkuk iii. 16. Let rottenness enter into my bones, if only I may rest, etc.
Zech. iii. 1. Joshua is represented as clothed in filthy garments, and is freed through God's mercy.
But Jovinian's heir says
I am quite free from sin, I have no filthy garments, I am governed by my own will, I am greater than an Apostle. The Apostle does what he would not, and what he would he does not; but I do what I will, and what I would not I do not: the kingdom of heaven has been prepared for me, or rather I have by my virtuous life prepared it for myself. Adam was subject to punishment, and so are others who think themselves guilty after the similitude of Adam's transgressions; I and my crew alone have nothing to fear. Other men shut up in their cells and who never see women, because, poor creatures! They do not listen to my words, are tormented with desire: crowds of women may surround me, I feel no stirring of concupiscence. For to me may be applied the words, 'Holy stones are rolled upon the ground,' and the reason why I am insensible to the attraction of sin is that in the power of free will I carry Christ's trophy about with me. But let us listen to God Isaiah 3:12 proclaiming by the mouth of Isaiah:
Woe unto you that are wise in your own eyes, and prudent in your own sight. Isaiah, if we follow the Hebrew, laments and says,
Woe is me because I have been silent, because I am a man of unclean lips: and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the Lord of Hosts. He for his meritorious and virtuous life enjoyed the sight of God, and conscious of his sins confessed that he had unclean lips. Not that he had said anything repugnant to the will of God, but because, either from fear, or from a deep sense of shame, he had been silent, and had not reproved the errors of the people so freely as a prophet should. When do we sinners rebuke offenders, we who flatter wealth and accept the persons of sinners for the sake of filthy lucre? For we shall hardly say that we speak with perfect frankness to men of whose assistance we stand in need. Suppose that we do not such things as they, suppose we keep ourselves from every form of sin; to refrain from speaking the truth is certainly sin. In the Septuagint, however, we do not find the words
because I have been silent, but
because I was pricked, that is with the consciousness of sin; and thus the words of the prophet are fulfilled.
My life was turned into misery while I was pierced by the thorn. He was pricked by the thorn of sin: you are decked with the flowers of virtue. Isaiah 24:21
The moon shall be ashamed, and the sun confounded, when the Lord shall punish the host of heaven on high. This is explained by another passage. Job 25:5
Even the stars are unclean in His sight, and again, Job 4:18
He charges His angels with folly. The moon is ashamed, the sun is confounded, and the sky covered with sackcloth, and shall we fearlessly and joyously, as though we were free from all sin, face the majesty of the Judge, when the mountains shall melt away, that is, all who are lifted up by pride, and all the host of the heavens, whether they be stars, or angelic powers, when the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll, and all their host shall fade away like leaves?
The argument is now carried on mostly by the quotation of passages from the prophets:
Is. xxxiv. 5.
My sword has drunk its fill in the heavens. It will come down in Edom. How much more is there wrath against sin on earth! Edom means blood, which cannot inherit the kingdom 1 Corinthians 15:50.
xlv. 9. Woe unto him who strives with his Maker.
liii. 6. We have all gone astray like sheep.
Ezek. xvi. 14. Jerusalem is perfect in beauty; yet
Ezekiel 16:60, 61. Her salvation is not of merit but of mercy.
Nahum i. 3. Though he cleanse, yet will he not make you innocent.
Ezekiel 20:43, 44. When pardoned, Jerusalem will still remember her sin.
Let us confess with shame that these are the utterances of men who have already won their reward; sinners upon earth, and still in our frail and mortal bodies let us adopt the language of the saints in heaven who have even been endowed with incorruption and immortality. Ezekiel 32:17
And ye say the way of the Lord is not equal, when your ways are not equal. It is Pharisaic pride to attribute to the injustice of the Creator sins which are due to our own will, and to slander His righteousness. The sons of Zadok, the priests of the spiritual temple, that is the Church, go not out to the people in their ministerial robes, lest by human intercourse they may lose their holiness and be defiled. And do you suppose that you, in the thick of the throng, and an ordinary individual, are pure?
26. Let us hastily run through the prophet Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 5:1, 2. Is there any that does justly, etc.
Jerem. xvii. 14.
Heal me, O Lord. Otherwise Jeremiah could only say, as in the text next quoted,
xx. 14, 17, 18. Cursed be the day wherein I was born, etc.
xxiii. 23. Am I a God at hand, etc. So conscious is he of God's power.
xxiv. 6, 7. God, not they themselves, will plant them, etc.
Jerem. xxxi. 34. The promise of the new covenant.
xxxvii. 18, 19. Yet Jeremiah himself trembled before Zedekiah.
Jeremiah 30:10, 11. Fear not, O Jacob, for I am with you.
Is. xvi. 6. His strength (Moab's) is by no means according to his arrogance.
Jeremiah 1:7, 20. Men's sin will only be abolished because God is gracious to them. If you will abandon your assertions of natural ability, I will concede that your whole contention stands good, but only by the gift of God.
Dan. iv. 17. The Most High rules in the kingdom of men.
Psalm 113:7, 8. He raises up the poor out of the dust.
Is. xl. 17. He does what He will in heaven and in earth.
So then, until that end shall come, and this corruptible and mortal shall put on incorruption and immortality, we must be liable to sin; not, as you falsely say, owing to the fault of our nature and creation, but through the frailty and fickleness of human will, which varies from moment to moment; because God alone changes not. You ask in what respects Abel, Enoch, Joshua the Son of Nun, or Elisha, and the rest of the saints have sinned. There is no need to look for a knot in a bulrush; I freely confess I do not know; and I only wish that, when sins are manifest, I might still be silent. 1 Corinthians 4:4
I know nothing against myself, says St. Paul,
yet am I not hereby justified. 1 Samuel 16:7
Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. Before Him no man is justified. And so Paul says confidently, Romans 3:23 Galatians 3:22
Source. Translated by W.H. Fremantle, G. Lewis and W.G. Martley. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 6. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1893.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/30112.htm>.
Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is feedback732 at newadvent.org. (To help fight spam, this address might change occasionally.) Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.