13. The Pelagians object, firstly, if you admit that Grace is absolutely necessary to perform any act conducive to salvation, you must confess that man has no liberty, and free will is destroyed altogether. We answer, with St. Augustine, that man, after the fall, is undoubtedly no longer free without Grace, either to begin or bring to perfection any act conducive to eternal life, but by the Grace of God he recovers this liberty, for the strength which he is in need of to do what is good is subministered to him by Grace, through the merits of Jesus Christ; this Grace restores his liberty to him, and gives him strength to work out his eternal salvation, without, however, compelling him to do so : ” Peccato Adæ arbitrium liberum de hominum natura perisse, non dicimus, sed ad peccandum valere in homine subdito diabolo. Ad bene autem, pieque vivendum non valere, nisi ipsa voluntas hominis Dei gratia fuerit liberata, et ad omne bonum actionis, sermonis, cogitationis adjuta.” Such are St. Augustine’s sentiments (1).
14. They object, secondly, that God said to Cyrus : ” Who say to Cyrus, thou art my shepherd, and thou shalt perform all my pleasure” (Isaias, xliv, 28); and, in chap, xlvi, v. 11, he calls him, ” a man of his will.” Now, say the Pelagians, Cyrus was an idolater, and, therefore, deprived of the Grace which is given by Jesus Christ, and still, according to the text of the Prophet, he observed all the natural precepts; therefore without Grace a man may observe all the precepts of the law of nature. We answer, that in order to understand this, we should distinguish, with theologians, between the will of Beneplacitum and the will called of Signum. The Beneplacitum is that established by God by an absolute decree, and which God wills should be infallibly followed by us. This is always fulfilled by the wicked. But the other will (voluntas signi), is that which regards the Divine commandments signified to us, but for the fulfilment of this Divine will our co-operation is required, and this we cannot apply of ourselves, but require the assistance of the Divine Grace to do so; this will the wicked do not always fulfil. Now the Lord in Isaias does not speak of this will (Signum}, in respect of Cyrus, but of the other will (Beneplacitum), that is, that Cyrus should free the Jews from captivity, and permit them to rebuild the city and temple; that was all that was required then from him, but, on the other hand, he was an idolater, and a sanguinary invader of the neighbouring kingdoms, and, therefore, he did not fulfil the precepts of the natural law.
15. They object, thirdly, that fact related by St. Mark, of the man who was exhorted by our Redeemer to observe the commandments, and he answered : ” Master, all these things I have observed from my youth,” and the Evangelist proves that he spoke the truth, for “Jesus, looking on him, loved him” (Mark, x, 20, 21). See here, say the Pelagians, is a man who, without Grace, and who had not even as yet believed in Christ, observed all the natural precepts. We answer, first, this man was a Jew, and, as such, believed in God, and also implicitly in Christ, and there was, therefore, nothing to prevent him from having Grace to observe the commandments of the Decalogue. Secondly We answer, that when he said, ” All these things I have observed from my youth,” we are not to understand that he observed all the Commandments, but only those which Christ mentioned to him : ” Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, & c.
(1) St. Augus. l. 2, con. 2, Epis. Pelag, c. 5.
Even the Gospel itself proves that he was not ardent in the observance of the precept to love God above all things, for when Christ told him to leave his wealth and follow him, he refused to obey, and, therefore, our Lord tacitly reproved him, when he said : ” How hardly shall they who have riches enter into the kingdom of God” (ver. 23).
16. They object, fourthly, that St. Paul, while still under the law, and not having yet received Grace, observed all the law, as he himself attests : ” According to the justice that is in the law, conversing without blame” (Phil, iii, 6). We answer, that the Apostle, at that time, observed the law externally, but not internally, by loving God above all things, as he himself says : “For we ourselves, also, were some time unwise, incredulous, erring, slaves to divers desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hating one another” (Tit. iii, 3).
17. They object, fifthly, all the precepts of the Decalogue are either possible or impossible; if they are possible, we can observe them by the strength of our free will alone, but if they are impossible, no one is bound to observe them, for no one is obliged to do impossibilities. We answer, that all these precepts are impossible to us without Grace, but are quite possible with the assistance of Grace. This is the answer of St. Thomas (2) : ” Illud quod possumus cum auxili Divino, non est nobis omnino impossibile ……..Unde Hieronymus confitetur, sic nostrum esse liberum arbitrium, ut dicamus nos semper indigere Dei auxilio.” Therefore, as the observance of the Commandments is quite possible to us with the assistance of the Divine Grace, we are bound to observe them. We will answer the other objections of the Pelagians in the next chapter, the Refutation of the Semi-Pelagian heresy.
(2) St. Thom. 1, 2, 9, 109, a. 4, ad. 2.