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is the surest; which indeed is but a guessing at the way we should walk in; and yet by this way also, men do often run into a snare, and lay trouble and intricacy upon their consciences, unnecessary burdens which presently they grow weary of; and in striving to shake them off, they gall the neck, and introduce tediousness of spirit, or despair.
25. For we see when religion grows high, the dangers do increase, not only by the proper dangers of that state, and the more violent assaults made against saints than against meaner persons of no religious interest; but because it will be impossible for any man to know certainly what intention of spirit is the ‘minimum religionis,' the necessary condition, under, or less than, which God will not accept the action : and yet sometimes two duties justle one another, and while we are zealous in one, we less attend the other, and therefore cannot easily be certain of our measures; and because sometimes two duties of a very different matter are to be reconciled and waited upon, who can tell what will be the event of it,-since man's nature is so limited and little, that it cannot at once attend upon two objects ?
26. Is it possible that a man should so attend his prayers, that his mind should be always present and never wander? does not every man complain of this, and yet no man can help it? And if of this alone we bad cause to complain, yet even for this we were not innocent in others; and he that is an offender in one, is guilty of all;" and yet it is true that “in many things we all offend.” And all this is true when a man is well and when he is wise; but he may be foolish and he will be sick; and there is a new scene of dangers, new duties, and new infirmities, and new questions, and the old uncertainty of things, and the same certainty of doing our duty weakly, and imperfectly, and pitiably.
Quid tam destro pede concipis, ut te
27. Since therefore every sin is forbidden, and yet it can enter from so many angles, I may conclude in the words of Sedulius”; “ Lex spiritualis est, quia spiritualia mandat, ardua præcipit opera spiritus, prohibens peccata, et ideò non potest impleri :” “God's law is spiritual, and we are carnal and
disproportionate to it while we are in the state of conjunction, and therefore it cannot be kept.”—“ Deus jugum legis homini imponit, homo ferre non valet,” said the fathers of the synod of Frankfort; “God hath imposed a yoke, but man cannot bear it.” For that I may sum up all,
28. In affirmative precepts the measure is,-To love God with all our faculties and degrees.-In negative precepts the measure is,-Not to lust or desire.--Now if any man can say that he can so love God in the proper and full measures, as never to step aside towards the creatures with whom he daily converses, and is of the same kindred with them, and that he can so abstain from the creature, as never to covet what he is forbidden; then indeed he justifies God in imposing a possible law, and condemns himself that he does not what he ought. But in all he infers the absolute necessity of repentance.
29. But because we are sure God is just and cannot be otherwise, all the doctors of the church have endeavoured to tie these things together, and reconcile our state of infirmity with the justification of God. Many lay the whole fault upon man, not on the impossible imposition. But that being the question cannot be concluded on either hand with a bare affirmative or negative; and besides it was condemned by the African councils to say, that a man might, if he pleased, live without sin.
Posse hominem sine peccato decurrere vitam,
Conciliis, mundique mana said Prosper. For if it were only the fault of men, then a man might, if he pleased, keep the whole law, and then might be justified by the law, and should not need a Saviour. St. Austin · indeed thought it no great error, and some African bishops did expressly affirm, that some from their conversion did to the day of their death live without sin. This was worse than that of Pelagius, save only that these took in the grace of God, which (in that sense which the church teaches) the Pelagians did not. But this also was affirmed by - St. Austin; upon which account it must follow that the commandments are therefore possible, because it is only our fault that they are not kept. + Carm. de ingratis, c. 9.
· Epist. ad Innocent. bo Lib. 2. de merit. et remiss. c. 6. lib. de Spirit. et lit. c. 1.
But how to reconcile this opinion and saying of St. Austin and some other Africans, with the African councils, with St. Jerome, Orosius, Lactantius, and with St. Austin himself, and generally the whole ancient church against the Pelagians, I cannot understand : but it is sufficiently confuted by all the foregoing considerations.
30. St. Jerome says, that the observation of the commandments is possible to the whole church, but not to every single person : but then the difficulty remains. For the whole church, being a collection of single persons, is not the subject of a law. Nothing is universal but names and words; a thing cannot be universal, it is a contradiction to say, it is. To say the church can keep it, is to say that every man can keep it ; to say, that every man of the church cannot keep it, is to say, that the whole church cannot keep it: as he that says, mankind is reasonable, says, that every man is; but he that says, every man is not just, says, that all mankind is not just. But if it contains in it another sense, it is a dangerous affirmative, which I shall represent in his own words : “ Ita fit ut quod in alio aut primum aut totum est, in alio ex parte versetur, et tamen non sit in crimine qui non habet omnia, nec condemnetur ex eo quod non habet, sed justificetur ex eo quod possidet d.” I will not be so severe as St. Austin, who in his nineteenth sermon de tempore, calls, it “ blasphemy.” It is indeed a hard saying, if he means that a man can be justified by some virtues, though he retains some vices : “ for he that sins in one, is guilty of all.”—But yet some persons shall be crowned, who never converted souls; and some, that never redeemed captives; and millions that never sold all and to the poor: and there are many graces, of which some lives have no opportunities. The state of marriage hath some graces proper to itself; and the calling of a merchant, and the office of a judge, and the employment of an advocate hath some things of virtue which others do not exercise, and they also have their proper graces: and in this sense it is true what St. Jerome says, that he that hath not all, may be justified by what he hath, and not sentenced for what he hath not; it not being imputed to him that lie hath not that of which he hath no
Now although this be true, yet it is not sufficient to explicate the question : for the commandments are not only c Serm. 49. de tempore.
d Lib. 1. dial. adv. Pelag.
impossible in this sense ; but even in that where the sense of his duty does lie, and where his graces ought to have been exercised, every man is a sinner, every man hath failed in his proper duty and calling. So that now to say, the commandments are possible to the whole church, and not to every single person, is to divide the duty of a Christian, and to give to every one a portion of duty, which must leave in every one a portion of impiety; and to say that this is keeping the commandments, or a sufficient means of justification, is that which St. Austin called blasphemy. 31. But St. Jerome hath another answer :
« Hoc et nos dicimus, posse hominem non peccare, si velit, pro tempore, pro loco, pro imbecillitate corporea, quamdiu intentus est animus, quamdiu chorda nullo vitio laxatur in cithara :"«God hath not imposed an impossible law. For there is no commandment, but a man that considers, that endeavours, that understands, that watches, that labours, may do in time and place; and so long as he adverts, and is dispassionate, so long his instrument is in tune :' which answer is like that saying of the schools, that there is no difficulty in things, but every thing is easy to be understood; but that we find difficulty, is because of the weakness of the understanding ; that is, things are easy to be understood, if we were wise enough to understand them: but because our understanding is weak, therefore things are hard ; for to be intelligible, is a relative term ; and it is not sense to say, that a thing is in itself easy
to be understood, but hard to the understanding ; for it is as if it were said, it is easy, but that it is hard; and that is the thing, which, in this question, is complained of on all hands. For an oak is easy to be pulled up by the roots, if a man had strength enough to do it; but if this be imposed upon a weak man or a child, they have reason to complain: and a bushel or two of wheat is no great thing to carry, but it is too great for me, I cannot do it. So by this account of St. Jerome, the commandments are not impossible, for there is not any one of them, but any man can do at some time, while he considers and is in perfect disposition. But then we are to remember, that the commandments are always imposed, and we are not always in that condition of good things to be wise and watchful, well disposed, and well
• Dial. extr. adv. Pelag. 1. 3. VOL. VIII.
resolved, standing upon our guard, and doing what we can at other times; and therefore it is that the commandments are impossible. So that still the difficulty remains, and the inquiry must go on, how we are to understand the divine justice in exacting an impossible law? or if he does not exact it, how we understand the way of the divine wisdom in imposing that law, which he cannot justly exact ?
32. To the first I answer, that God doth not exact of us what is not possible to be done. The highest severity of the Gospel is,'to love God with all our soul,' that is, to love him as much as we can love him; and that is certain we can do. Every man can do as much as he can, and God requires no more : and even those things which we can do, though he
lls upon us to do the most, yet he punishes us not if we do it heartily and sincerely, though with less passion and exactness. Now as God's justice was secured in the imposition of the law of Moses, because whatever severity was held over them to restrain their loosenesses, yet God exacted it only by the measures of a man, and healed all their breaches by the medicine of repentance: so now, in the Gospel, he hath done it much more γυμνή τη κεφαλή, God hath taken the vail of, and professed it openly, he hath included this mercy in the very constitution of the covenant. For the Gospel is the covenant of repentance : we shall not have leave to sin, but we shall have leave to repent, if we have sinned : so that God hath imposed a law of perfection, but he exacts it according to the possibilities of imperfect persons; “ Omnia mandata Dei facta deputantur, quando quicquid non fit, ignoscitur;" “And then we have kept the commandments, when we have received our pardon for what we have not kept'.”
33. II. As the law of Moses was not of itself impossible absolutely and naturally; so neither are the commandments of the Gospel. For if we consider the particulars of Moses's law, they were such a burden which the Jews themselves were loath to part withal ; because it was, in the moral part of it, but a law of abstinence from evil; to which fear and temporal promises were, as they understood it, a sufficient endearment: but that burden, which neither" they nor their fathers were able to bear," was the sting of the law, that it allowed no repentance for great crimes, but the transgressor
St. August. lib. 1. Retract. c. 19.