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“Pelagius - Letter to Demetrias

(chapter 16)

In this letter Pelagius explains his understanding of the relationship of human free will and God's grace.

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Click here to read at in the original Latin (with dictionary lookup links). The English translation below is from Kidd, (Documents Illustrative of the History of the Church, vol. II)

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(tr. J.A. Mourant and W.J. Collinge)

Four Anti-Pelagian Writings (Fathers of the Church)


Gerald Bonner

Church and Faith in the Patristic Tradition: Augustine, Pelagianism, and Early Christian Northumbria (Collected Studies Series, 521)

See particularly chapters

"Pelagianism and Augustine"

"Augustine and Pelagianism"


Peter Brown

Religion and Society in the Age of St. Augustine

See the chapter
"Pelagius and His Supporters: Aims and Environment"


Theodore De Bruyn


J. Patout Burns

The development of Augustine's doctrine of operative grace


Robert Dodaro
Augustine and his Critics

(See chapter See the chapter by James Wetzel: Snares of Truth: Augustine on Free will and Predestination.)


John Ferguson

Pelagius: A Historical and Theological Study


B.R. Rees


B.R. Rees

Pelagius: A Reluctant Heretic


James Wetzel
Augustine and the Limits of Virtue


Robert Van De Weyer

The Letters of Pelagius (Early Christian Writings)


Ed. R. Williams

(See chapters by R. A. Markus, The Legacy of Pelagius; and L. Wickham, Pelagianism in the East.)

16. Let us stop here, O virgin, for a moment and think of the precious pearls with which the bride of Christ should be adorned, taking the Apostle's words one by one.
"Do all things," he says. Not as if we were bound to choose just some of the commandments of good at our own inclination, but to fulfil them all, as a whole. Nor as if we were to look down upon some of His precepts as presents of poor and small worth; but to have regard in everything to the majesty of Him who lays His commands upon us. No commandment of God can be held by us in slight esteem, if we keep our thoughts fixed upon its Author.
"Without murmurings and disputings." We see masters of mean condition and low origin openly looked down upon by bits of servants; who, in respect of the smallest commands, as often as not resist them to their face. But this is not the case with persons of good birth. The more powerful the master, the more ready the servants to obey; and the more difficult their commands, the more readily are they listened to. At the command of a king all are so well prepared and so equipped in readiness to obey that they wish to be commanded; and, not only do they believe themselves good servants if they do what is commanded, but, as if they were good servants for having been commanded; so, in proportion to the rank of him who gives them their commands, they regard their service as a privilege. In our case, God Himself, that eternal Majesty, that ineffable and inestimable Sovereignty, has sent us the Holy Scriptures, as the crown of His truly adorable precepts; and, so far from recovering them at once with joy and veneration, and taking the commands of so illustrious a Sovereign for a high privilege (especially as there is no thought of advantage for Him who gives the command, but only of profit for him who obeys it), on the contrary, with hearts full of scorn and slackness, like proud and worthless servants, we shout in God's face and say, "It's hard! It's difficult! We can't! We are but men, encompassed by the frailty of the flesh!" What blind folly! What rash profanity! We make the God of knowledge guilty of twofold ignorance: of not knowing what He has made, and of not knowing what He has commanded. As if, in forgetfulness of human frailty, which He made, He had laid upon men commandments which they could not bear; and at the same time (oh, the shame of it!) we ascribe unrighteousness to the Just one, and cruelty to the Holy One, first by complaining that He has commanded something impossible, and next by thinking that a man will be condemned by Him for things that he could not help; so that (sacrilegious it is even to hint it), God seems to have been seeking not so much our salvation as our punishment. And so the Apostle, knowing that from a God of righteousness and majesty no precept is impossible, would keep us far from the fault of murmuring; which as a rule comes to birth either when what is commanded is unfair, or not worthy of the person of him who gives the command. Why do we shuffle to no purpose, and confront Him who lays His commands upon us with the frailty of our flesh? No one knows better the measure of our strength than He who gave us our strength; and no one has a better understanding of what is within our power than He who endowed us with the very resources of our power. He has not willed to command anything impossible, for He is righteous; and He will not condemn a man for what he could not help, for He is Holy.

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original Latin text
Epistola ad Demetriadem
Epistula ad Demetriadem
Pelagius' views about free will
Pelagius and Pelagianism
Augustine debate with Pelagius
Migne Latin
Patrologiae Latinae Cursus Completus
Patrologia Latina


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