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 vii. 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
In Psalm xxxii.
5. One who speaks of himself
as “holy,” yet confesses his transgression.
16. Explains this, “The
righteous falls, but sins again.”
xviii. 17, LXX. and Vulgate. A righteous man
accuses himself when he begins to speak.
3. Sinners are estranged from
the womb; that is, either, as St. Paul says (Rom. v. 14), they sin “after the similitude
of Adam”; or, “when Christ, as the firstborn, opened the
virgin’s womb” (Exod. xiii. 2). The heretics refused to acknowledge
the mystery, which was prefigured by the Eastern door of the Temple
(Ezek. xliv. 2), which closed again when once the High
Priest had gone through it.5257
17–21. Shall mortal man
be just with God?
The life of man is temptation.
20, 21. If I have sinned, what can I do?
ix. 15, 16. If I were righteous, he would not hear
29–31. If I wash myself with snow water,
If I be righteous, etc.
xiv. 4, 5. Who will be free from uncleanliness?
26, LXX. Man toileth in
Job xl. 4. What shall I answer thee?
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
30. “My yoke is
easy,” are true only in comparison with Judaism, and should be
10. A yoke …which
neither our fathers nor we are able to bear.
11. “Thou judgest the
law,” that is, if you say that the condemnation of sins of
ignorance is unreasonable. That we all sin in such ways is evident
James i. 20. “The wrath of man worketh not the
righteousness of God.” But anger is constantly condemned as
1, LXX. “Wrath destroys
even wise men.”
26. Let not the sun go down
upon your wrath.
22. He who is
angry…shall be in danger of council.
19. “I am the most
foolish of all men.” This is said by Christ in the person of
5. “God, Thou knowest
my foolishness.” But
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
viii. 7. “I hated my life,” and
14. “There be righteous men unto whom
it happeneth according to the work of the wicked;” that is, God
sees evil where we do not.
17. “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.
x. 1. “Dead flies cause the ointment to
stink;” That is, almost everyone is defiled by heresy or other
1 Pet. ii. 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 ἡδονή,
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
, the weakness
of the body and spiritual hosts
in the heavenly places fight
against us. And the same writer5259
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
can perform what he wishes.5260
covereth a multitude of
,” not so much sins
of the past as sins
of the present, that
we may not sin
any more while the love
abideth in us. Wherefore
it is said concerning the woman
that was a sinner
which are many are
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:
In 1 John i. 5, John i. 7, 8,
Matt. v. 14, Christ and the
Apostles are called the Light of the world. The world therefore is
1 Tim. vi.
16. God only hath immortality
and is “only wise”; yet others, like the Prince of Tyre
(Ezek. xxviii. 3), are wise derivatively. So we are pure,
but only by grace. Thus
1 John i.
7. The blood of Christ
Job xxv. 5,
6. The stars are not pure in
16. “By the law no
flesh shall be justified;” but
Rom. iii. 1,
24, 28, 30. Being justified
freely through His grace, etc.
Not under the law, but under grace.
Not of him that willeth, but of God which showeth mercy.
ix. 30–32. The Gentiles…attained to the
righteousness by faith.
Christ is the end of the law to every one that believeth.
8. The Apostle confesses his need of this grace for his
1 Cor. i.
1–3. Grace to you from
That ye come behind in no gift—that no flesh may glory in His
1 Cor. iii.
planted…but God gave the increase.
18, 19. If any man thinketh himself to be wise,
let him become a fool.
iv. 4. I
know nothing against myself, yet I am not hereby justified.
have ye that ye did not receive?
will come to you, if the Lord will.
9. The Apostle shows also his need of grace himself.
Cor. xv. 9, 10. By the grace
of God I am what I am, etc.
2 Cor. iii.
4–6. Our sufficiency is
16. We have believed, that we
might, be justified by faith.
If righteousness come by the law, Christ is dead for nought.
iii. 10; 13. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse
of the law.
law our teacher to bring us to Christ.
v. 4. Ye
are severed from Christ, ye that would be justified by the law.
13. It is God that worketh in
2 Thess. iii.
3. The Lord is faithful, He
shall establish you.
1 Tim. vi. 20,
21. O Timothy, guard that
which is committed unto thee.
4–7. The kindness and
mercy of God our Saviour saved us.
11. We now turn to the Gospels “and supplement the
flickering flame of the Apostolic light with the brightness of the lamp
22. “Every man who is
angry…shall be in danger of the council.” Which of us is
not here condemned?
23, 24. “First be reconciled to thy
brother.” Who is there that finds this command easy?
“Let your speech be Yea, yea, Nay, nay.” Who has ever kept
this commandment? The Psalmist says Ps. cxvi. 11. All men are liars.
34. “Be not anxious for
to-morrow.” Do you fulfil this?
vii. 14. “Narrow is the gate which leadeth
to life.” How can you say that the commandments are easy?
58. “The Son of Man
hath not where to lay His head.” This is interpreted by
12. “Receive him that
is weary, and this is my rest;” and
Is. lxvi. 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?
Matt. ix. 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
xiv. 1; 3. They are corrupt…none doeth
Matt. x. 9. “Get you no gold…nor
shoes.” Who has fulfilled this? Not even the Apostles, for
8. The angel bids Peter to
bind on his sandals.
22–34. Describes the
persecutions of Christ’s followers, and gives the command to take
up the cross. Are these easy?
xiv. 31. Even Peter’s faith fails, and he
begins to sink.
xv. 19, 20. Out of the heart came evil thoughts,
xvi. 25. Whosoever will lose his life will find
xviii. 7. “Woe to the man through whom
stumbling cometh.” But
2. In many things we all
stumble or err.
21. All seek their own.
21. The young lawyer had kept
all the law, yet failed.
xxiii. 26–28. The woes on the Pharisees fall in their
measure upon all.
39. “Not as I will, but
as Thou wilt.” Yet Critobulus says, by his own will he can do
37. “Could ye not watch
with me one hour?” They could not.
He could do no mighty works because of their unbelief.
vii. 24. “He went into the borders of Tyre
and Sidon.” If Christ could not do as he wished, how can we?
Peter’s request at the Transfiguration shows his ignorance.
xiii. 32. Even the Son knows not all things; how
then can we?
xiv. 35. If it be possible. How can you say it
is possible every hour to avoid sin?
14. Even the Apostles showed
unbelief and hardness of heart.
1 John v.
19. The world lieth in the
Luke i. 20. Even Zacharias disbelieved
15. The disciples could not
relieve the lunatic, because of unbelief.
34. The disciple’s
dispute about precedence.
54. James and John show a
27. The commands to forsake
all and take up the cross are not easy.
xvi. 15. That which is exalted among men
is abomination in the sight of God.
xvii. 1. It is impossible but that
occasions of stumbling should come.
xvii. 6. The Apostles’ faith was not
even like a grain of mustard seed.
1. We are always to pray.
This shows our weakness.
Who, then, can be saved? It is possible, but to God only.
xxii. 24. The contest for precedence at the last
31, 32. Peter’s faith almost overcome by
xxii. 43. Even Christ in his
agony needs an angel to strengthen Him.
Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
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.
None of you doeth the law.
None of the accusers of the woman taken in adultery were without sin.
Christ wrote their names in the earth (Jerem. xvii. 13).
All who came (not who were sent; Jerem. xiv. 15) before Christ were robbers.
xvii. 12. I kept them—they did not keep
39. Paul and Barnabas
xvi. 6, 7. They were forbidden to preach where
18. Even the Apostles, with their full light, show their
dependence on grace.
30. The times before Christ
were times of ignorance.
1 Cor. iv.
19. I will come if the
10. To stumble in one point
is to be guilty of all.
In many things we all stumble.
8. The tongue is a deadly poison.
1. Wars arise from our lust.
David indeed said,
2. “Examine me and
prove me,” etc. This self-confidence led to his fall.
Have mercy on me, O God.
lxxx. 5. “Thou feedest us with the bread
of tears.” Similarly
Ps. xxx. 6,
7. I said I shall never be
moved…Thou didst hide Thy face.
xxxii. 5. I said I will confess my sin,
xxxvii. 5, 6. He shall make thy righteousness
as the light.
The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord.
xxxviii. 7. There is no soundness in my flesh.
18. In my flesh dwelleth no
8. Vulgate. My loins are
filled with deceits.
xxxix. 5. He hath made our days as
lxix. 5. My sins are not hid from thee.
lxxvii. 2. My soul refused to be comforted.
This is the changing of the right hand of the Most High.5262
| 5262 Vulgate, Rev.
V. I will remember the years, etc. Marg.—The right hand of the
Most High doth change.|
2. Mercy shall be built
From “the thing5263
walketh in darkness
” who can be free? For
“The wicked bend their bow”—an image of the
xcii. 14. Those that are planted in the house of
the Lord shall flourish.
ciii. 8; 10. The Lord is full of compassion.
2 Sam. viii.
13, 14. David receives the
promises with the humble confession of his weakness. “Is this the
law of man, O God?”
xvi. 10. He humbles himself under
Abishai’s violence and Shimei’s curse.
xvii. 14. And is delivered only by God’s
confounding the counsel of Ahithophel.
1 Kings xiv.
8. It was God who gave
Jeroboam the kingdom.
1 Kings xv.
11. Asa, though a good man,
Elijah fled from Jezebel.
6. The Lord is my keeper.
2 Chron. xvii.
3. Jehoshaphat prospers
because the Lord is with him. Yet
He is rebuked for joining with Ahab.
2 Chron. xxii.
9. Ahaziah received burial
among kings because descended from righteous Jehoshaphat.
2 Kings xviii.
3, 4; 7. Hezekiah did great
things, but only through the Lord’s help.
gave the consecrated gold to the king of Assyria.
22. Even the best kings of Judah were imperfect.
2 Kings xx. 1;
5. Hezekiah wept when death
was at hand, and recovered through special mercy.
13; 17. But he sinned in receiving the
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
23. The prophets also are weak and sinful.
| 5264 The words of
the Lamentations refer to Zedekiah.|
lamented his fall.
Numb. xx. 10;
12. Moses is punished for his
sin at Meribah. This is the meaning of Ps. cxli. 6. Vulgate. Their judges were swallowed
up, joined to the Rock, etc.
Hosea ii. 19. God in mercy forgives Israel’s
“I will not enter into the city.” Only the Holy One is not
joined to the mass of ungodliness.
13. We turn righteousness
14. The sailors confess that
God is just in raising the storm.
2. The godly man is perished
from the earth, etc.
The command of justice, mercy, and a humble walk with God is only
possible to humble faith, for
Ps. cxl. 6. “The wicked walk on every
6. God giveth grace to the
16. Let rottenness enter into
my bones, if only I may rest, etc.
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 the5265
words, ‘Holy stones
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
’s trophy about with me.” But let us listen to God5266
proclaiming by the mouth of Isaiah:
“O my people, they which call thee happy
cause thee to err, and
the way of thy paths.” Who is the greatest subverter of
the people of God
—he who, relying on the power
of free choice,
despises the help of the Creator, and is satisfied with following his
own will, or he who dreads to be judged by the details of the
? To men of this sort, God5267
says, “Woe unto you that are
in your own eyes
, and prudent
in your own sight.” Isaiah, if
we follow the Hebrew, laments5268
“Woe is me because I have been silent
, because I am a man of
: and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips
have seen the Lord
.” 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
sense of shame
, he had been5269
| 5269 That is,
according to Jerome’s rendering of the Hebrew. R.V. has “I
am undone.” For the Sept. rendering see below.|
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
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
“because I was pricked,” that is with the consciousness of
; and thus the words of the5270
are fulfilled. “My life
was turned into misery while I was
pierced by the thorn
.” He was pricked by the thorn
are decked with the flowers
shall be ashamed
the sun confounded
, when the Lord
high.” This is explained by another passage.5272
“Even the stars
His sight,” and again,5273
chargeth His angels
.” The moon
, the sun is
, and the sky
covered with sackcloth
, and shall we fearlessly
and joyously, as though we were free from all sin
, face the majesty
, 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
, or angelic powers, when the heavens shall be rolled together as
, and all their host
shall fade away like leaves
The argument is now carried on mostly by the quotation
of passages from the prophets:
5. “My sword hath 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
Cor. xv. 50).
Woe unto him who striveth with his Maker.
liii. 6. We have all gone astray like sheep.
14. Jerusalem is perfect in
Ezek. xvi. 60, 61. Her salvation is not of merit but of
Nahum i. 3. Though he cleanse,5274
Mundans: not in the Vulgate nor in A.V.|
yet will he not make thee
1 Cor. xv.
9. I am not
worthy—because I persecuted.
Ezek. xx. 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.5275
“And ye say the way of the Lord
is not equal, when your ways are not equal.” It is Pharisaic
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,
of the spiritual temple
, that is the Church
go not out to the people in their
, lest by human intercourse they may lose their
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:
Jerem. v. 1,
2. Is there any that doeth
vii. 21, 22. God rejects the sacrifices, because of
the worshippers’ evil lives.
xiii. 23. Can the Ethiopian change his skin?
14. “Heal me, O
Lord.” Otherwise Jeremiah could only say, as in the text next
xx. 14, 17, 18. Cursed be the day wherein I was born,
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
xxvi. 21–24. Jeremiah needed the help of Ahikam. How
much more do we need that of God.
34. The promise of the new
xxxii. 30. The children of Israel have perpetually
xxxvii. 18, 19. Yet Jeremiah himself trembled before
Jerem. xxx. 10,
11. Fear not, O Jacob, for
I am with thee.
14. “We have taken us
horns by our own strength.” These are the boasts of heretics.
Is. xvi. 6. His strength (Moab’s) is by
no means according to his arrogance.5277
| 5277 This is the
sense of the Vulgate, but not the exact words.|
Jerem. i. 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.
26–42. It is good that
a man should quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.
17. The Most High ruleth in
the kingdom of men.
Ps. cxiii. 7,
8. He raiseth up the poor out
of the dust.
Is. xl. 17. He doeth what He will in heaven
and in earth.
The words of 2
Maccabees v. 17, which say
that Antiochus Epiphanes had power to overthrow the Temple,
“because of the multitude of sins,” are quoted in
connection with the confessions of Daniel.
Dan. ix. 5. “We have sinned and dealt
perversely,” which is shown by
“While I was yet praying,” etc., to be a personal, not only
a national confession.
prophecy of the seventy weeks shows that the prophet looked to God
alone for the establishment of righteousness.
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 changeth 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.5278
“I know nothing against
myself,” says St. Paul
, “yet am I not hereby
looketh on the outward appearance
, but the Lord
looketh on the
.” Before Him no man is justified. And so Paul
, and come short of the glory
of God”; and5281
“God hath shut up all under sin
that He may have mercy upon all”; and similarly in other passages
which we have repeated again and again.
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