ST. JEROME

AGAINST THE PELAGIANS
DIALOGUE BETWEEN ATTICUS
A CATHOLIC AND CRITOBULUS, A HERETIC
Book II

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 (<greek>lamia</greek>), yet none is without sin (<greek>anamarthtos</greek>).

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 <greek>luph</greek>, and joy, in Greek <greek>kara</greek> or <greek>hdonh</greek>, 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.[1] Accord-to the Apostle, the weakness of the body and spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places fight against us. And the same writer[2] 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.[3] "Love covereth 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 abideth in us. Wherefore it is said concerning the woman that was a sinner,[4] "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: Luke xxii. 43. Even Christ in his agony needs an angel to strengthen Him. 46. Pray that ye enter not into temptation.

17 to 24. 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 doeth the law. viii. 3. None of the accusers of the woman taken in adultery were without sin. Christ wrote their names in the earth (Jerem. xvii. 13). x. 8. All who came (not who were sent; Jerem. xiv. 15) before Christ were robbers. xvii. 12. I kept them--they did not keep themselves.

Acts xv. 39. Paul and Barnabas quarrelled. xvi. 6, 7. They were forbidden to preach where they chose. Even the Apostles, with their full light, showy their dependence on grace. Acts xvii. 30. The times before Christ were times of ignorance.

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. James iv. 1. Wars arise from our lust. David indeed said,

Ps. xxvi. 2. "Examine me and prove me," etc. This self-confidence led to his fall. li. 1. 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. 39. The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord. xxxviii. 7. There is no soundness in my flesh.

Rom. vii. 18. In my flesh dwelleth no good thing.

Ps. xxxviii. 8. Vulgate. My loins are filled with deceits. xxxix. 5. He hath made our days as handbreadths. lxix. 5. My sins are not hid from thee. lxxvii. 2. My soul refused to be comforted, 10. This is the changing of the right hand of the Most High. (1) Ps. lxxxix. 2.Mercy shall be built up forever. xci. 6. From "the thing (2) that walketh in darkness" who can be free? For xi. 2. "The wicked bend their bow "--an image of the heretics. 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, was faulty. xix. 4.Elijah fled from Jezebel.

Ps. cxviii. 6. The Lord is my keeper.

2 Chron. xvii. 3. Jehoshaphat prospers because the Lord is with him. Yet xix. 2. 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. 14. He 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 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 23. The prophets also are weak and sinful.

Lam. iv. 20. Jeremiah (3) 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 unfaithfulness. xi. 9. "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. vi. 8.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 side," and James iv. 6.God giveth grace to the humble.

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 (1)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 (2) proclaiming by the mouth of Isaiah: "O my people, they which call thee happy cause thee to err, and destroy 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 Lord's commandments? To men of this sort, God (3) says, "Woe unto you that are wise in your own eyes, and prudent in your own sight." Isaiah, if we follow the Hebrew, laments (4) 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 mine 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 (5) 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 (6)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. (7) "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 Even the stars are unclean in His sight," and again, (9) "He chargeth 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:

25. Is xxxiv. 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). xlv. 9. Woe unto him who striveth with his Maker. liii. 6. We have all gone astray like sheep.

Ezek. xvi. 14. Jerusalem is perfect in beauty; yet Ezek. xvi. 60, 61. Her salvation is not of merit but of mercy.

Nahum i. 3. Though he cleanse, (1) yet will he not make thee innocent.

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. (2)"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, (3)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: Jerem. v. 1, 2. Is there any that doeth justly, etc. vii. 21, 22. God rejects the sacrifices, because of the worshippers' evil lives. xiii. 23. Can the Ethiopian change his skin?

27. 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. xxvi. 21-24. Jeremiah needed the help of Ahikam. How much more do we need that of God.

28. Jerem. xxxi. 34. The promise of the new covenant. xxxii. 30. The children of Israel have perpetually done evil. xxxvii. 18, 19. Yet Jeremiah himself trembled before Zedekiah. xxx. 10, 11. Fear not, O Jacob, for I am with thee.

29. Amos vi. 14. "We have taken us horns by our own strength." These are the boasts of heretics. But Is. xvi. 6. His strength (Moab's) is by no means according to his arrogance. (4)

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. Lam. iii. 26-42. It is good that a man should quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.

30. Dan. iv. 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. I7. He deeth 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 20. "While I was yet praying," etc., to be a personal, not only a national confession. 24. The 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. (5)"I know nothing against myself," says St. Paul, "yet am I not hereby justified." (6)"Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." Before Him no man is justified. And so Paul says confidently, (7)"All bare sinned, and come short of the glory of God"; and (8)"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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