We can never enter upon the path of virtue unless we have hope as our guide and companion and if every effort expended in seeking something is nullified by despair of ever finding it.
The best incentive for the mind consists of teaching it that it is possible to do anything which one really wants to do.
We ought to measure the good of human nature by reference to its creator (I mean God, of course.) If it is He who, as report goes, has made all the works of and within the world good, exceedingly good, how much more excellent do you suppose that He has made mankind?
And before actually making us, He determines to fashion us in His own image and likeness and shows what kind of creature He intends to make us.
The Lord of Justice wished mankind to be free to act and not under compulsion; it was for this reason that, “He left him free to make his own decisions” (Sir. 15:14) and set before him life and death, good and evil, and he shall be given whatever pleases him (ibid. 17). Hence, we read in the Book Deuteronomy also: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you may live.” (30.19).
It is on this choice between two ways, on this freedom to choose either alternative, that the glory of the rational mind is based, it is in this that the whole honor of our nature consists; it is from this that its dignity is derived, and all good men win others' praise and their own reward.
Nor would there be any virtue at all in the good done by the one who perseveres, if they could not at any time cross over to the path of evil.
It was because God wished to bestow on the rational creature the gift of doing good of his own free will and the capacity to exercise free choice, by implanting in us the possibility of choosing either alternative, that he made it his peculiar right to be what he wanted to be, so that with his capacity for good and evil he could do either quite naturally and then bend his will in the other direction, too.
He could not claim to possess the good of his own volition, unless he were the kind of creature that could also have possessed evil.
No one knows better the true measure of our strength than He Who has given it to us nor does anyone understand better how much we are able to do than He who has given us this very capacity of ours to be able; nor has He who is just wished to command anything impossible or He who is good intended to condemn a man for doing what he could not avoid doing.
Come now, let us approach the secret places of our soul, let everyone examine themselves more attentively, let us ask what opinion our own personal thoughts have of this matter, let our conscience itself deliver its judgement on the good of our nature.
(Adapted from “A Letter to Demetrias” by Pelagius, AD 413)