Part 4
Chapter 3—Of Original Sin

Section 16—Hilarius Pictaviensis. A.D. 360.

Hilary of Poictiers says many things concerning original sin, and which show the depravity of human nature, its imbecility to do that which is good, yea, its servitude to sin, and the need it stands in of divine grace and assistance. “Sin,” he says,[1] “the father of our body, unbelief, the mother of the soul, began to be in following generations, ex pecato atque infidelitate primi parentis, ‘from the sin and unbelief of the first parent;' for from these we took our rise, through the transgression of the first parent.” And in another place,[2] speaking of the parable of the lost sheep, he says, “The one sheep is to be understood of man, and under one man the whole is to be reckoned, sed in unius Adae errore, but in the error of one Adam all mankind went astray.” Again, upon mentioning David's confession in Psalm 51:5,[3] “Who will boast that he has a pure heart before God? No, not an infant, though but of one day, the original and law of sin remaining in us.” And upon a repetition of the same words he has this note,[4] “He knew that he was born sub peccati origine, et sub peccati lege, under original sin, and under the law of sin.” Hence he represents man as in a state of great ignorance, and as incapable of knowing divine things without divine teachings; “It ought,” says he,[5] “to be a doubt to none, that we must make use of divine doctrines to know divine things; neither can human weakness of itself attain to the knowledge of heavenly things; nor can the sense of corporal things assume to itself the understanding of invisible ones.” In another place,[6] “God cannot be understood unless by God. We must not think of God according to human judgment; for neither is there that nature in us ut se in coelestem cognitionem suis viribns efferat, so as that it can, by its own strength, lift up itself ‘to heavenly knowledge.' From God we must learn what is to be understood of God; for he is not known but by himself, the author.” Again he says,[7] “For the truth of faith, that is, the understanding of God the Father and the Lord, which especially our justification will be proved, quanta opus est nobis Dei gratia, ‘how much of the grace of God do we need,' that we may think rightly.” Many more passages[8] might be produced to the same purpose. He denies[9] faith to be exnostro arbitro, ‘of our free will;' and affirms,[10] that “we have no love to God the Father but through believing in the Son.” He frequently suggests the weakness of man to keep the commands of God or to do his will. “Statues,” says he,[11] “are more and different, that is, than commands, and are tempered for the observing of each kind of duties; for the keeping of which, nisi a Deo derigamur, infirmi per naturam nostram erimus, ‘unless we are directed by God, we shall by our nature be infirm;' therefore we must be helped and directed by his grace, that we may follow the order of the statutes that are commanded.” In another place he says:[12] “The prophet freely ran the way of the Lord, after he began to have his heart enlarged; for he could not run the way of God before he was made a habitation, large and worthy of God.” And elsewhere he observes,[13] that David prays, Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for,” says he, “he knew that his nature was weak, and that he could not attempt that path without a guide. And a little after, ‘The prophet refers all to the hands of God,' whether that the law of statutes may be appointed for him by the Lord, or that understanding may be given him, or that he may be led in the path, or that his heart may be inclined to them testimonies;” wherefore he often intimates,[14] what need we stand in of divine assistance upon these and other accounts, which is far from the notion of the power of free will as maintained by Pelagians and Arminians; yea, he represents man as in a state of bondage and slavery, and his will a servant and not free. “In Peter's wife's mother,” says he,[15] “an account may be taken of the vicious affection of unbelief, to which adjoins the liberty of the will. She shall be called unbelief, because until she believed voluntatis suae servitio detinebatur, she was held under the bondage of her own will.” And in another place:[16] “The Gentiles are bound in the bonds of their own sins, from which, through infidelity, they cannot loose themselves; according to what is said, the sinner is holden with the cords of his sins.” Once more, citing those words in John 8:34-36, He that committeth sin is the servant of sin, etc., he makes this remark,[17] Therefore we are taken and bound, and serve, not so much in body as in mind;” all which agrees with our sense of free will; though it must be owned, that there are some passages in this writer which cannot well be reconciled to the more frequent expressions of his; two are cited by Dr Whitby[18] and others by Vossius,[19] showing that the beginning of good is from the will of man, and the finishing and perfecting of it from God.


[1] Com. in Matthew can. 10, p. 277.

[2] Ibid. can. 18, p. 301.

[3] Euarr. in Psal. 58:p. 392.

[4] In Psalm 119. Tau, p. 522.

[5] De Trin. 1. 4, p. 37.

[6] Ibid. 1. 5, p 53, 54.

[7] In Psalm 119. Aleph, p. 457.

[8] Vide de Trin 1. 1, p. 12; in Psalm 119. Aleph. p. 453, Lamed, p. 489.

[9] De Trin. 1. 7, p. 93.

[10] Ibid. p. 76.

[11] In Psalm 119. Aleph, p. 456.

[12] In Psalm 119. Daleth, p. 468.

[13] Ibid. in He, p. 470.

[14] Ibid. Samech, p. 502, et. in Phe, p. 511.

[15] In Matthew can. 7, p. 267.

[16] In Psalm 2. p. 347.

[17] In Psalm 136, p. 591.

[18] Discourse, etc. p. 378; ed. 2. 368.

[19] Hist. Pelag. 1.4, par. 2, p. 437, 438.