Augustin - anti-pelagian 11
11 At the beginning of 419, a considerable work was published by Augustin on one of the more remote corollaries which the Pelagians drew from his teachings. It had come to his ears, that they asserted that his doctrine condemned marriage: “if only sinful offspring come from marriage,” they asked, “is not marriage itself made a sinful thing?” The book which Augustin composed in answer to this query, he dedicated to, and sent along with an explanatory letter to, the Comes Valerius, a trusted servant of the Emperor Honorius, and one of the most steady opponents at court of the Pelagian heresy. Augustin explains why he has desired to address the book to him: first, because Valerius was a striking example of those continent husbands of which that age furnishes us with many instances, and, therefore, the discussion would have especial interest for him; secondly, because of his eminence as an opponent of Pelagianism; and, thirdly, because Augustin had learned that he had read a Pelagian document in which Augustin was charged with condemning marriage by defending original sin. The book in question is the first book of the treatise On Marriage and Concupiscence. It is, naturally, tinged, or rather stained, with the prevalent ascetic notions of the day. Its doctrine is that marriage is good, and God is the maker of the offspring that comes from it, although now there can be no begetting and hence no birth without sin. Sin made concupiscence, and now concupiscence perpetuates sinners. The specific object of the work, as it states it itself, is “to distinguish between the evil of carnal concupiscence, from which man, who is born therefrom, contracts original sin, and the good of marriage” (I. 1). After a brief introduction, in which he explains why he writes, and why he addresses his book to Valerius (1–2), Augustin points out that conjugal chastity, like its higher sister-grace of continence, is God’s gift. Thus copulation, but only for the propagation of children, has divine allowance (3–5). Lust, or “shameful concupiscence,” however, he teaches, is not of the essence, but only an accident, of marriage. It did not exist in Eden, although true marriage existed there; but arose from, and therefore only after, sin (6–7). Its addition to marriage does not destroy the good of marriage: it only conditions the character of the offspring (8). Hence it is that the apostle allows marriage, but forbids the “disease of desire” (1Th 4,3–5); and hence the Old-Testament saints were even permitted more than one wife, because, by multiplying wives, it was not lust, but offspring, that was increased (9–10). Nevertheless, fecundity is not to be thought the only good of marriage: true marriage can exist without offspring, and even without cohabitation (11–13), and cohabitation is now, under the New Testament, no longer a duty as it was under the Old Testament (14–15), but the apostle praises continence above it. We must, then, distinguish between the goods of marriage, and seek the best (16–19). But thus it follows that it is not due to any inherent and necessary evil in marriage, but only to the presence, now, of concupiscence in all cohabitation, that children are born under sin, even the children of the regenerate, just as from the seed of olives only oleasters grow (20–24). And yet again, concupiscence is not itself sin in the regenerate; it is remitted as guilt in baptism: but it is the daughter of sin, and it is the mother of sin, and in the unregenerate it is itself sin, as to yield to it is even to the regenerate (25–39). Finally, as so often, the testimony of Ambrose is appealed to, and it is shown that he too teaches that all born from cohabitation are born guilty (40). In this book, Augustin certainly seems to teach that the bond of connection by which Adam’s sin is conveyed to his offspring is not mere descent, or heredity, or mere inclusion in him, in a realistic sense, as partakers of the same numerical nature, but concupiscence. Without concupiscence in the act of generation, the offspring would not be a partaker of Adam’s sin. This he had taught also previously, as, e.g., in the treatise On Original Sin, from which a few words may be profitably quoted as succinctly summing up the teaching of this book on the subject: “It is, then, manifest, that that must not be laid to the account of marriage, in the absence of which even marriage would still have existed.…Such, however, is the present condition of mortal men, that the connubial intercourse and lust are at the same time in action.…Hence it follows that infants, although incapable of sinning, are yet not born without the contagion of sin,…not, indeed, because of what is lawful, but on account of that which is unseemly: for, from what is lawful, nature is born; from what is unseemly, sin” (42).
Towards the end of the same year (419), Augustin was led to take up again the vexed question of the origin of the soul,—both in a new letter to Optatus, by the zeal of the same monk, Renatus, who had formerly brought Optatus’ inquiries to his notice,—in an elaborate treatise entitled On the Soul and its Origin, by way of reply to a rash adventure of a young man named Vincentius Victor, who blamed him for his uncertainty on such a subject, and attempted to determine all the puzzles of the question, though, as Augustin insists, on assumptions that were partly Pelagian and partly worse. Optatus had written in the hope that Augustin had heard by this time from Jerome, in reply to the treatise he had sent him on this subject. Augustin, in answering his letter, expresses his sorrow that he has not yet been worthy of an answer from Jerome, although five years had passed away since he wrote, but his continued hope that such an answer will in due time come. For himself, he confesses that he has not yet been able to see how the soul can contract sin from Adam and yet not itself be contracted from Adam; and he regrets that Optatus, although holding that God creates each soul for its birth, has not sent him the proofs on which he depends for that opinion, nor met its obvious difficulties. He rebukes Optatus for confounding the question of whether God makes the soul, with the entirely different one of how he makes it, whether ex propagine or sive propagine.No one doubts that God makes the soul, as no one doubts that He makes the body. But when we consider how he makes it, sobriety and vigilance become necessary lest we should unguardedly fall into the Pelagian heresy. Augustin defends his attitude of uncertainty, and enumerates the points as to which he has no doubt: viz., that the soul is spirit, not body; that it is rational or intellectual; that it is not of the nature of God, but is so far a mortal creature that it is capable of deterioration and of alienation from the life of God, and so far immortal that after this life it lives on in bliss or punishment forever; that it was not incarnated because of, or according to, preceding deserts acquired in a previous existence, yet that it is under the curse of sin which it derives from Adam, and therefore in all cases alike needs redemption in Christ).
The whole subject of the nature and origin of the soul, however, is most fully discussed in the four books which are gathered together under the common title of On the Soul and its Origin. Vincentius Victor was a young layman who had recently been converted from the Rogatian heresy; on being shown by his friend Peter, a presbyter, a small work of Augustin’s on the origin of the soul, he expressed surprise that so great a man could profess ignorance on a matter so intimate to his very being, and, receiving encouragement, wrote a book for Peter in which he attacked and tried to solve all the difficulties of the subject. Peter received the work with transports of delighted admiration; but Renatus, happening that way, looked upon it with distrust, and, finding that Augustin was spoken of in it with scant courtesy, felt it his duty to send him a copy of it, which he did in the summer of 419. It was probably not until late in the following autumn that Augustin found time to take up the matter; but then he wrote to Renatus, to Peter, and two books to Victor himself, and it is these four books together which constitute the treatise that has come down to us. The first book is a letter to Renatus, and is introduced by an expression of thanks to him for sending Victor’s book, and of kindly feeling towards and appreciation for the high qualities of Victor himself (1–3). Then Victor’s errors are pointed out,—as to the nature of the soul (4–9), including certain far-reaching corollaries that flow from these (10–15), as well as, as to the origin of the soul(16–30); and the letter closes with some remarks on the danger of arguing from the silence of Scripture (31), on the self-contradictions of Victor (34), and on the errors that must be avoided in any theory of the origin of the soul that hopes to be acceptable,—to wit, that souls become sinful by an alien original sin, that unbaptized infants need no salvation, that souls sinned in a previous state, and that they are condemned for sins which they have not committed but would have committed had they lived longer. The second book is a letter to Peter, warning him of the responsibility that rests on him as Victor’s trusted friend and a clergyman, to correct Victor’s errors, and reproving him for the uninstructed delight he had taken in Victor’s crudities. It opens by asking Peter what was the occasion of the great joy which Victor’s book brought him? could it be that he learned from it, for the first time, the old and primary truths it contained? (2–3); or was it due to the new errors that it proclaimed,—seven of which he enumerates? (4–16). Then, after animadverting on the dilemma in which Victor stood, of either being forced to withdraw his violent assertion of creationism, or else of making God unjust in His dealings with new souls (17), he speaks of Victor’s unjustifiable dogmatism in the matter (18–21), and closes with severely solemn words to Peter on his responsibility in the premises (22–23). In the third and fourth books, which are addressed to Victor, the polemic, of course, reaches its height. The third book is entirely taken up with pointing out to Victor, as a father to a son, the errors into which he has fallen, and which, in accordance with his professions of readiness for amendment, he ought to correct. Eleven are enumerated: 1. That the soul was made by God out of Himself (3–7); 2. That God will continuously create souls forever (8); 3. That the soul has desert of good before birth (9); 4. (contradictingly), That the soul has desert of evil before birth (10); 5. That the soul deserved to be sinful before any sin (11); 6. That unbaptized infants are saved (12); 7. That what God predestinates may not occur (13) ; 8. That Sg 4,1 is spoken of infants (14); 9. That some of the mansions with the Father are outside of God’s kingdom (15–17); 10. That the sacrifice of Christ’s blood may be offered for the unbaptized (18); 11. That the unbaptized may attain at the resurrection even to the kingdom of heaven (19). The book closes by reminding Victor of his professions of readiness to correct his errors, and warning him against the obstinacy that makes the heretic (20–23). The fourth book deals with the more personal elements of the controversy, and discusses the points in which Victor had expressed dissent from Augustin. It opens with a statement of the two grounds of complaint that Victor had urged against Augustin; viz., that he refused to express a confident opinion as to the origin of the soul, and that he affirmed that the soul was not corporeal, but spirit (1–2). These two complaints are then taken up at length (2–16 and 17–37). To the first, Augustin replies that man’s knowledge is at best limited, and often most limited about the things nearest to him; we do not know the constitution of our bodies; and, above most others, this subject of the origin of the soul is one on which no one but God is a competent witness. Who remembers his birth? Who remembers what was before birth? But this is just one of the subjects on which God has not spoken unambiguously in the Scriptures. Would it not be better, then, for Victor to imitate Augustin’s cautious ignorance, than that Augustin should imitate Victor’s rash assertion of errors? That the soul is not corporeal, Augustin argues (18–35) from the Scriptures and from the phenomena of dreams; and then shows, in opposition to Victor’s trichotomy, that the Scriptures teach the identity of “soul” and “spirit” (36–37). The book closes with a renewed enumeration of Victor’s eleven errors (38), and a final admonition to his rashness (39). It is pleasant to know that Augustin found in this case, also, that righteousness is the fruit of the faithful wounds of a friend. Victor accepted the rebuke, and professed his better instruction at the hands of his modest but resistless antagonist.
The controversy now entered upon a new stage. Among the evicted bishops of Italy who refused to sign Zosimus’ Epistola Tractoria, Julian of Eclanum was easily the first, and at this point he appears as the champion of Pelagianism. It was a sad fate that arrayed this beloved son of his old friend against Augustin, just when there seemed to be reason to hope that the controversy was at an end, and the victory won, and the plaudits of the world were greeting him as the saviour of the Church. But the now fast-aging bishop was to find, that, in this “very confident young man,” he had yet to meet the most persistent and most dangerous advocate of the new doctrines that had arisen. Julian had sent, at an earlier period, two letters to Zosimus, one of which has come down to us as a “Confession of Faith,” and the other of which attempted to approach Augustinian forms of speech as much as possible; the object of both being to gain standing ground in the Church for the Italian Pelagians. Now he appears as a Pelagian controversialist; and in opposition to the book On Marriage and Concupiscence, which Augustin had sent Valerius, he published an extended work in four thick books addressed to Turbantius. Extracts from the first of these books were sent by some one to Valerius, and were placed by him in the hands of Alypius, who was then in Italy, for transmission to Augustin. Meanwhile, a letter had been sent to Rome by Julian, designed to strengthen the cause of Pelagianism there; and a similar one, in the names of the eighteen Pelagianizing Italian bishops, was addressed to Rufus, bishop of Thessalonica, and representative of the Roman see in that portion of the Eastern Empire which was regarded as ecclesiastically a part of the West, the design of which was to obtain the powerful support of this important magnate, perhaps, also, a refuge from persecution within his jurisdiction. These two letters came into the bands of the new Pope, Boniface, who gave them also to Alypius for transmission to Augustin. Thus provided, Alypius returned to Africa. The tactics of all these writings of Julian were essentially the same; he attempted not so much to defend Pelagianism, as to attack Augustinianism, and thus literally to carry the war into Africa. He insisted that the corruption of nature which Augustin taught was nothing else than Manicheism; that the sovereignty of grace, as taught by him, was only the attribution of “acceptance of persons,” and partiality, to God; and that his doctrine of predestination was mere fatalism. He accused the anti-Pelagians of denying the goodness of the nature that God had created, of the marriage that He had ordained, of the law that He had given, of the free will that He had implanted in man, as well as the perfection of His saints. He insisted that this teaching also did dishonour to baptism itself which it professed so to honour, inasmuch as it asserted the continuance of concupiscence after baptism,—and thus taught that baptism does not take away sins, but only shaves them off as one shaves his beard, and leaves the roots whence the sins may grow anew, and need cutting down again. He complained bitterly of the way in which Pelagianism had been condemned,—that bishops had been compelled to sign a definition of dogma, not in council assembled, but sitting at home; and he demanded a rehearing of the whole case before a lawful council, lest the doctrine of the Manichees should be forced upon the acceptance of the world.
Augustin felt a strong desire to see the whole work of Julian against his book On Marriage and Concupiscence before he undertook a reply to the excerpts sent him by Valerius; but he did not feel justified in delaying obedience to that officer’s request, and so wrote at once two treatises, one an answer to these excerpts, for the benefit of Valerius, constituting the second book of his On Marriage and Concupiscence; and the other, a far more elaborate examination of the letters sent by Boniface, which bears the title, Against Two Letters of the Pelagians. The purpose of the second book of On Marriage and Concupiscence, Augustin himself states, in its introductory sentences, to be “to reply to the taunts of his adversaries with all the truthfulness and scriptural authority he could command.” He begins (2) by identifying the source of the extracts forwarded to him by Valerius, with Julian’s work against his first book, and then remarks upon the garbled form in which he is quoted in them (3–6), and passes on to state and refute Julian’s charge that the catholics had turned Manicheans (7–9). At this point, the refutation of Julian begins in good earnest, and the method that he proposes to use is stated; viz., to adduce the adverse statements, and refute them one by one (10). Beginning at the beginning, he quotes first the title of the paper sent him, which declares that it is directed against “those who condemn matrimony, and ascribe its fruit to the Devil” (11), which certainly, says Augustin, does not describe him or the catholics. The next twenty chapters (10–30), accordingly, following Julian’s order, labour to prove that marriage is good, and ordained by God, but that its good includes fecundity indeed, but not concupiscence, which arose from sin, and contracts sin. It is next argued, that the doctrine of original sin does not imply an evil origin for man (31–51); and in the course of this argument, the following propositions are especially defended: that God makes offspring for good and bad alike, just as He sends the rain and sunshine on just and unjust (31–34); that God makes everything to be found in marriage except its flaw, concupiscence (35–40); that marriage is not the cause of original sin, but only the channel through which it is transmitted (41–47); and that to assert that evil cannot arise from what is good leaves us in the clutches of that very Manicheism which is so unjustly charged against the catholics—for, if evil be not eternal, what else was there from which it could arise but something good? (48–51). In concluding, Augustin recapitulates, and argues especially, that shameful concupiscence is of sin, and the author of sin, and was not in paradise (52–54); that children are made by God, and only marred by the Devil (55); that Julian, in admitting that Christ died for infants, admits that they need salvation (56); that what the Devil makes in children is not a substance, but an injury to a substance (57–58); and that to suppose that concupiscence existed in any form in paradise introduces incongruities in our conception of life in that abode of primeval bliss (59–60).
The long and important treatise, Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, consists of four books, the first of which replies to the letter sent to Rome, and the other three to that sent to Thessalonica. After a short introduction, in which he thanks Boniface for his kindness, and gives reasons why heretical writings should be answered (1–3), Augustin begins at once to rebut the calumnies which the letter before him brings against the catholics (4–28). These are seven in number: 1. That the catholics destroy free will; to which Augustin replies that none are “forced into sin by the necessity of their flesh,” but all sin by free will, though no man can have a righteous will save by God’s grace, and that it is really the Pelagians that destroy free will by exaggerating it (4–8); 2. That Augustin declares that such marriage as now exists is not of God (9); 3. That sexual desire and intercourse are made a device of the Devil, which is sheer Manicheism (10–11); 4. That the Old-Testament saints are said to have died in sin (12); 5. That Paul and the other apostles are asserted to have been polluted by lust all their days; Augustin’s answer to which includes a running commentary on Rm 7,7 sq., in which (correcting his older exegesis) he shows that Paul is giving here a transcript of his own experience as a typical Christian (13–24); 6. That Christ is said not to have been free from sin (25); 7. That baptism does not give complete remission of sins, but leaves roots from which they may again grow; to which Augustin replies that baptism does remit all sins, but leaves concupiscence, which, although not sin, is the source of sin (26–28). Next, the positive part of Julian’s letter is taken up, and his profession of faith against the catholics examined (29–41). The seven affirmations that Julian makes here are designed as the obverse of the seven charges against the catholics. He believed: 1. That free will is in all by nature, and could not perish by Adam’s sin (29); 2. That marriage, as now existent, was ordained by God (30); 3. That sexual impulse and virility are from God, (31–35); 4. That men are God’s work, and no one is forced to do good or evil unwillingly, but are assisted by grace to good, and incited by the Devil to evil (36–38); 5. That the saints of the Old Testament were perfected in righteousness here, and so passed into eternal life (39); 6. That the grace of Christ (ambiguously meant) is necessary for all, and all children—even those of baptized parents—are to be baptized (40); 7. And that baptism gives full cleansing from all sins; to which Augustin pointedly asks, “What does it do for infants, then?” (41). The book concludes with an answer to Julian’s conclusion, in which he demands a general council, and charges the catholics with Manicheism.
The second, third, and fourth books deal with the letter to Rufus in a somewhat similar way, the second and third books being occupied with the calumnies brought against the catholics, and the fourth with the claims made by the Pelagians. The second begins by repelling the charge of Manicheism brought against the catholics (1–4), to which the pointed remark is added, that the Pelagians cannot hope to escape condemnation because they are willing to condemn another heresy; and then defends (with less success) the Roman clergy against the charge of prevarication in their dealing with the Pelagians (5–8), in the course of which all that can be said in defence of Zosimus’ wavering policy is said well and strongly. Next the charges against catholic teaching are taken up and answered (9–16), especially the two important accusations that they maintain fate under the name of grace (9–12), and that they make God an “accepter of persons” (13–16). Augustin’s replies to these charges are in every way admirable. The charge of “fate” rests solely on the catholic denial that grace is given according to preceding merits; but the Pelagians do not escape the same charge when they acknowledge that the “fates” of baptized and unbaptized infants do differ. It is, in truth, not a question of “fate,” but of gratuitous bounty; and “it is not the catholics that assert fate under the name of grace, but the Pelagians that choose to call divine grace by the name of ‘fate’ ”(12). As to “acceptance of persons,” we must define what we mean by that. God certainly does not accept one’s “person” above another’s; He does not give to one rather than to another because He sees something to please Him in one rather than another: quite the opposite. He gives of His bounty to one while giving all their due to all, as in the parable (Mt 20,9 sq). To ask why He does this, is to ask in vain: the apostle answers by not answering (Rm ix).; and before the dumb infants, who are yet made to differ, all objection to God is dumb. From this point, the book becomes an examination of the Pelagian doctrine of prevenient merit (17–23), concluding that God gives all by grace from the beginning to the end of every process of doing good. 1. He commands the good; 2. He gives the desire to do it; and, 3. He gives the power to do it: and all, of His gratuitous mercy. The third book continues the discussion of the calumnies of the Pelagians against the catholics, and enumerates and answers six of them: viz., that the catholics teach, 1. That the Old-Testament law was given, not to justify the obedient, but to serve as cause of greater sin (2–3); 2. That baptism does not give entire remission of sins, but the baptized are partly God’s and partly the Devil’s (4–5); 3. That the Holy Ghost did not assist virtue in the Old Testament (6–13); 4. That the Bible saints were not holy, but only less wicked than others (14–15); 5. That Christ was a sinner by necessity of His flesh (doubtless, Julian’s inference from the doctrine of race-sin) (16); 6. That men will begin to fulfil God’s commandments only after the resurrection (17–23). Augustin shows that at the basis of all these calumnies lies either misapprehension or misrepresentation; and, in concluding the book, enumerates the three chief points in the Pelagian heresy, with the five claims growing out of them, of which they most boasted, and then elucidates the mutual relations of the three parties, catholics, Pelagians, and Manicheans, with reference to these points, showing that the catholics stand asunder from both the others, and condemn both (24–27). This conclusion is really a preparation for the fourth book, which takes up these five Pelagian claims, and, after showing the catholic position on them all in brief (1–3), discusses them in turn (4–19): viz., the praise of the creature (4–8), the praise of marriage (9), the praise of the law (10–11), the praise of free will (12–16), and the praise of the saints (17–18). At the end, Augustin calls on the Pelagians to cease to oppose the Manicheans, only to fall into as bad heresy as theirs (19); and then, in reply to their accusation that the catholics were proclaiming novel doctrine, he adduces the testimony of Cyprian and Ambrose, both of whom had received Pelagius’ praise, on each of the three main points of Pelagianism (20–32), and then closes with the declaration that the “impious and foolish doctrine,” as they called it, of the catholics, is immemorial truth (33), and with a denial of the right of the Pelagians to ask for a general council to condemn them (34). All heresies do not need an ecumenical synod for their condemnation; usually it is best to stamp them out locally, and not allow what may be confined to a corner to disturb the whole world.
These books were written late in 420, or early in 421, and Alypius appears to have conveyed them to Italy during the latter year. Before its close, Augustin, having obtained and read the whole of Julian’s attack on the first book of his work On Marriage and Concupiscence, wrote out a complete answer to it, —a task that he was all the more anxious to complete, on perceiving that the extracts sent by Valerius were not only all from the first book of Julian’s treatise, but were somewhat altered in the extracting. The resulting work, Against Julian, one of the longest that he wrote in the whole course of the Pelagian controversy, shows its author at his best: according to Cardinal Noris’s judgment, he appears in it “almost divine,” and Augustin himself clearly set great store by it. In the first book of this noble treatise, after professing his continued love for Julian, “whom he was unable not to love, whatever he [Julian] should say against him” (35), he undertakes to show that in affixing the opprobrious name of Manicheans on those who assert original sin, Julian is incriminating many of the most famous fathers, both of the Latin and Greek Churches. In proof of this, he makes appropriate quotations from Irenaeus, Cyprian, Reticius, Olympius, Hilary, Ambrose, Gregory Nazianzenus, Basil, Jn of Constantinople. Then he argues, that, so far from the catholics falling into Manichean heresy, Julian plays, himself, into the hands of the Manicheans in their strife against the catholics, by many unguarded statements, such as, e.g., when he says that an evil thing cannot arise from what is good, that the work of the Devil cannot be suffered to be diffused by means of a work of God, that a root of evil cannot be placed within a gift of God, and the like. The second book advances to greater detail, and adduces the five great arguments which the Pelagians urged against the catholics, in order to test them by the voice of antiquity. These arguments are stated as follows (2): “For you say, ‘That we, by asserting original sin, affirm that the Devil is the maker of infants, condemn marriage, deny that all sins are remitted in baptism, accuse God of the guilt of sin, and produce despair of perfection.’ You contend that all these are consequences, if we believe that infants are born bound by the sin of the first man, and are therefore under the Devil unless they are born again in Christ. For, ‘It is the Devil that creates,’ you say, ‘if they are created from that wound which the Devil inflicted on the human nature that was made at first.’ ‘And marriage is condemned,’ you say, ‘if it is to be believed to have something about it whence it produces those worthy of condemnation.’ ‘And all sins are not remitted in baptism,’ you say, ‘if there remains any evil in baptized couples whence evil offspring are produced.’ ‘And how is God,’ you ask, ‘not unjust, if He, while remitting their own sins to baptized persons, yet condemns their offspring, inasmuch as, although it is created by Him, it yet ignorantly and involuntarily contracts the sins of others from those very parents to whom they are remitted?’ ‘Nor can men believe,’ you add, ‘that virtue—to which corruption is to be understood to be contrary—can be perfected, if they cannot believe that it can destroy the inbred vices, although, no doubt, these can scarcely be considered vices, since he does not sin, who is unable to be other than he was created.’ ”These arguments are then tested, one by one, by the authority of the earlier teachers who were appealed to in the first book, and shown to be condemned by them. The remaining four books follow Julian’s four books, argument by argument, refuting him in detail. In the third book it is urged that although God is good, and made man good, and instituted marriage which is, therefore, good, nevertheless concupiscence is evil, and in it the flesh lusts against the spirit. Although chaste spouses use this evil well, continent believers do better in not using it at all. It is pointed out, how far all this is from the madness of the Manicheans, who dream of matter as essentially evil and co-eternal with God; and shown that evil concupiscence sprang from Adam’s disobedience and, being transmitted to us, can be removed only by Christ. It is shown, also, that Julian himself confesses lust to be evil, inasmuch as he speaks of remedies against it, wishes it to be bridled, and speaks of the continent waging a glorious warfare. The fourth book follows the second book of Julian’s work, and makes two chief contentions: that unbelievers have no true virtues, and that even the heathen recognize concupiscence as evil. It also argues that grace is not given according to merit, and yet is not to be confounded with fate; and explains the text that asserts that ‘God wishes all men to be saved,’ in the sense that ‘all men’ means ‘all that are to be saved’ since none are saved except by His will. The fifth book, in like manner, follows Julian’s third book, and treats of such subjects as these: that it is due to sin that any infants are lost; that shame arose in our first parents through sin; that sin can well be the punishment of preceding sin; that concupiscence is always evil, even in those who do not assent to it; that true marriage may exist without intercourse; that the “flesh” of Christ differs from the “sinful flesh” of other men; and the like. In the sixth book, Julian’s fourth book is followed, and original sin is proved from the baptism of infants, the teaching of the apostles, and the rites of exorcism and exsufflation incorporated in the form of baptism. Then, by the help of the illustration drawn from the olive and the oleaster, it is explained how Christian parents can produce unregenerate offspring; and the originally voluntary character of sin is asserted, even though it now comes by inheritance.
After the completion of this important work, there succeeded a lull in the controversy, of some years duration; and the calm refutation of Pelagianism and exposition of Christian grace, which Augustin gave in his Enchiridion, might well have seemed to him his closing word on this all-absorbing subject. But he had not yet given the world all he had in treasure for it, and we can rejoice in the chance that five or six years afterwards drew from him a renewed discussion of some of the more important aspects of the doctrine of grace. The circumstances which brought this about are sufficiently interesting in themselves, and open up to us an unwonted view into the monastic life of the times. There was an important monastery at Adrumetum, the metropolitan city of the province of Byzacium, from which a monk named Florus went out on a journey of charity to his native country of Uzalis about 426. On the journey he met with Augustin’s letter to Sixtus, in which the doctrines of gratuitous and prevenient grace were expounded. He was much delighted with it, and, procuring a copy, sent it back to his monastery for the edification of his brethren, while he himself went on to Carthage. At the monastery, the letter created great disturbance: without the knowledge of the abbot, Valentinus, it was read aloud to the monks, many of whom were unskilled in theological questions; and some five or more were greatly offended, and declared that free will was destroyed by it. A secret strife arose among the brethren, some taking extreme grounds on both sides. Of all this, Valentinus remained ignorant until the return of Florus, who was attacked as the author of all the trouble, and who felt it his duty to inform the abbot of the state of affairs. Valentinus applied first to the bishop, Evodius, for such instruction as would make Augustin’s letter clear to the most simple. Evodius replied, praising their zeal and deprecating their contentiousness, and explaining that Adam had full free will, but that it is now wounded and weak, and Christ’s mission was as a physician to cure and recuperate it. “Let them read,” is his prescription, “the words of God’s elders.…And when they do not understand, let them not quickly reprehend, but pray to understand.” This did not, however, cure the malecontents, and the holy presbyter Sabrinus was appealed to, and sent a book with clear interpretations. But neither was this satisfactory; and Valentinus, at last, reluctantly consented that Augustin himself should be consulted,—fearing, he says, lest by making inquiries he should seem to waver about the truth. Two members of the community were consequently permitted to journey to Hippo, but they took with them no introduction and no commendation from their abbot. Augustin, nevertheless, received them without hesitation, as they bore themselves with too great simplicity to allow him to suspect them of deception. Now we get a glimpse of life in the great bishop’s monastic home. The monks told their story, and were listened to with courtesy and instructed with patience; and, as they were anxious to get home before Easter, they received a letter for Valentinus in which Augustin briefly explains the nature of the misapprehension that had arisen, and points out that both grace and free will must be defended, and neither so exaggerated as to deny the other. The letter of Sixtus, he explains, was written against the Pelagians, who assert that grace is given according to merit, and briefly expounds the true doctrine of grace as necessarily gratuitous and therefore prevenient. When the monks were on the point of starting home, they were joined by a third companion from Adrumetum, and were led to prolong their visit. This gave him the opportunity he craved for their fuller instruction: he read with them and explained to them not only his letter to Sixtus, from which the strife had risen, but much of the chief literature of the Pelagian controversy, copies of which also were made for them to take home with them; and when they were ready to go, he sent by them another and longer letter to Valentinus, and placed in their hands a treatise composed for their especial use, which, moreover, he explained to them. This longer letter is essentially an exhortation “to turn aside neither to the right hand nor to the left,”—neither to the left hand of the Pelagian error of upholding free will in such a manner as to deny grace, nor to the right hand of the equal error of so upholding grace as if we might yield ourselves to evil with impunity. Both grace and free will are to be proclaimed; and it is true both that grace is not given to merits, and that we are to be judged at the last day according to our works. The treatise which Augustin composed for a fuller exposition of these doctrines is the important work On Grace and Free Will. After a brief introduction, explaining the occasion of his writing, and exhorting the monks to humility and teachableness before God’s revelations (1), Augustin begins by asserting and proving the two propositions that the Scriptures clearly teach that man has free will (2–5), and, as clearly, the necessity of grace for doing any good (6–9). He then examines the passages which the Pelagians claim as teaching that we must first turn to God, before He visits us with His grace (10–11), and then undertakes to show that grace is not given to merit (12 sq)., appealing especially to Paul’s teaching and example, and replying to the assertion that forgiveness is the only grace that is not given according to our merits (15–18), and to the query, “How can eternal life be both of grace and of reward?” (19–21). The nature of grace, what it is, is next explained (22 sq).. It is not the law, which gives only knowledge of sin (22–24), nor nature, which would render Christ’s death needless (25), nor mere forgiveness of sins, as the Lord’s Prayer (which should be read with Cyprian’s comments on it) is enough to show (26). Nor will it do to say that it is given to the merit of a good will, thus distinguishing the good work which is of grace from the good will which precedes grace (27–30); for the Scriptures oppose this, and our prayers for others prove that we expect God to be the first mover, as indeed both Scripture and experience prove that He is. It is next shown that both free will and grace are concerned in the heart’s conversion (31–32), and that love is the spring of all good in man (33–40), which, however, we have only because God first loved us (38), and which is certainly greater than knowledge, although the Pelagians admit only the latter to be from God (40). God’s sovereign government of men’s wills is then proved from Scripture (41–43), and the wholly gratuitous character of grace is illustrated (44), while the only possible theodicy is found in the certainty that the Lord of all the earth will do right. For, though no one knows why He takes one and leaves another, we all know that He hardens judicially and saves graciously,—that He hardens none who do not deserve hardening, but none that He saves deserve to be saved (45). The treatise closes with an exhortation to its prayerful and repeated study (46).
The one request that Augustin made, on sending this work to Valentinus, was that Florus, through whom the controversy had arisen, should be sent to him, that he might converse with him and learn whether he had been misunderstood, or himself had misunderstood Augustin. In due time Florus arrived at Hippo, bringing a letter from Valentinus which addresses Augustin as “Lord Pope” (domine papa), thanks him for his “sweet” and “healing” instruction, and introduces Florus as one whose true faith could be confided in. It is very clear, both from Valentinus’ letter and from the hints that Augustin gives, that his loving dealing with the monks had borne admirable fruit: “none were cast down for the worse, some were built up for the better.” But it was reported to him that some one at the monastery had objected to the doctrine he had taught them, that “no man ought, then, to be rebuked for not keeping God’s commandments; but only God should be besought that he might keep them.” In other words, it was said that if all good was, in the last resort, from God’s grace, man ought not to be blamed for not doing what he could not do, but God ought to be besought to do for man what He alone could do: we ought, in a word, to apply to the source of power. This occasioned the composition of yet another treatise On Rebuke and Grace, the object of which was to explain the relations of grace to human conduct, and especially to make it plain that the sovereignty of God’s grace does not supersede our duty to ourselves or our fellow-men. It begins by thanking Valentinus for his letter and for sending Florus (whom Augustin finds well instructed in the truth), thanking God for the good effect of the previous book, and recommending its continued study, and then by briefly expounding the Catholic faith concerning grace, free-will, and the law (1–2). The general proposition that is defended is that the gratuitous sovereignty of God’s grace does not supersede human means for obtaining and continuing it (3 sq). This is shown by the apostle’s example, who used all human means for the prosecution of his work, and yet confessed that it was “God that gave the increase” (3). Objections are then answered (4 sq).,—especially the great one that “it is not my fault if I do not do what I have not received grace for doing” (6); to which Augustin replies (7–10), that we deserve rebuke for our very unwillingness to be rebuked, that on the same reasoning the prescription of the law and the preaching of the gospel would be useless, that the apostle’s example opposes such a position, and that our consciousness witnesses that we deserve rebuke for not persevering in the right way. From this point an important discussion arises, in this interest, of the gift of perseverance (11–19), and of God’s election (20–24); the teaching being that no one is saved who does not persevere, and all that are predestinated or “called according to the purpose” (Augustin’s phrase for what we should call “effectual calling”) will persevere, and yet that we co-operate by our will in all good deeds, and deserve rebuke if we do not. Whether Adam received the gift of perseverance, and, in general, the difference between the grace given to him, which was that grace by which he could stand) and that now given to God’s children (which is that grace by which we are actually made to stand), are next discussed (26–38), with the result of showing the superior greatness of the gifts of grace now to those given before the fall. The necessity of God’s mercy at all times, and our constant dependence on it, are next vigorously asserted (39–42); even in the day of judgment, if we are not judged “with mercy” we cannot be saved (41). The treatise is brought to an end by a concluding application of the whole discussion to the special matter in hand, rebuke (43–49). Seeing that rebuke is one of God’s means of working out his gracious purposes, it cannot be inconsistent with the sovereignty of that grace; for, of course, God predestinates the means with the end (43). Nor can we know, in our ignorance, whether our rebuke is, in any particular case, to be the means of amendment or the ground of greater condemnation. How dare we, then, withhold it? Let it be, however, graduated to the fault, and let us always remember its purpose (46–48). Above all, let us not dare hold it back, lest we hold back from our brother the means of his recovery, and, as well, disobey the command of God (49).
It was not long afterwards (about 427) when Augustin was called upon to attempt to reclaim a Carthaginian brother, Vitalis by name, who had been brought to trial on the charge of teaching that the beginning of faith was not the gift of God, but the act of man’s own free will (ex propria voluntatis). This was essentially the semi-Pelagian position which was subsequently to make so large a figure in history; and Augustin treats it now as necessarily implying the basal idea of Pelagianism. In the important letter which he sent to Vitalis, he first argues that his position is inconsistent with the prayers of the church. He, Augustin, prays that Vitalis may come to the true faith; but does not this prayer ascribe the origination of right faith to God? The Church so prays for all men: the priest at the altar exhorts the people to pray God for unbelievers, that He may convert them to the faith; for catechumens, that He may breathe into them a desire for regeneration; for the faithful, that by His aid they may persevere in what they have begun: will Vitalis refuse to obey these exhortations, because, forsooth, faith is of free will and not of God’s gift? Nay, will a Carthaginian scholar array himself against Cyprian’s exposition of the Lord’s Prayer? for he certainly teaches that we are to ask of God what Vitalis says is to be had of ourselves. We may go farther: it is not Cyprian, but Paul, who says, “Let us pray to God that we do no evil” (2Co 13,7); it is the Psalmist who says, “The steps of man are directed by God” (Ps 36,23). “If we wish to defend free will, let us not strive against that by which it is made free. For he who strives against grace, by which the will is made free for refusing evil and doing good, wishes his will to remain captive. Tell us, I beg you, how the apostle can say, ‘We give thanks to the Father who made us fit to have our lot with the saints in light, who delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love’ (Col i. 12, 13), if not He, but itself, frees our choice? It is, then, a false rendering of thanks to God, as if He does what He does not do; and he has erred who has said that ‘He makes us fit, etc.’ ‘The grace of God,’ therefore, does not consist in the nature of free-will, and in law and teaching, as the Pelagian perversity dreams; but it is given for each single act by His will, concerning whom it is written,”—quoting Ps lxvii. 10. About the middle of the letter, Augustin lays down twelve propositions against the Pelagians, which are important as communicating to us what he thought, at the end of the controversy, were the chief points in dispute. “Since, therefore,” he writes, “we are catholic Christians: 1. We know that new-born children have not yet done anything in their own lives, good or evil, neither have they come into the miseries of this life according to the deserts of some previous life, which none of them can have had in their own persons; and yet, because they are born carnally after Adam, they contract the contagion of ancient death, by the first birth, and are not freed from the punishment of eternal death (which is contracted by a just condemnation, passing over from one to all), except they are by grace born again in Christ. 2. We know that the grace of God is given neither to children nor to adults according to our deserts. 3. We know that it is given to adults for each several act. 4. We know that it is not given to all men; and to those to whom it is given, it is not only not given according to the merits of works, but it is not even given to them according to the merits of their will; and this is especially apparent in children. 5. We know that to those to whom it is given, it is given by the gratuitous mercy of God. 6. We know that to those to whom it is not given, it is not given by the just judgment of God. 7. We know that we shall all stand before the tribunal of Christ, and each shall receive according to what he has done through the body,—not according to what he would have done, had he lived longer,—whether good or evil. 8. We know that even children are to receive according to what they have done through the body, whether good or evil. But according to what “they have done” not by their own act, but by the act of those by whose responses for them they are said both to renounce the Devil and to believe in God, wherefore they are counted among the number of the faithful, and have part in the statement of the Lord when He says, “Whosoever shall believe and be baptized, shall be saved.” Therefore also, to those who do not receive this sacrament, belongs what follows, “But whosoever shall not have believed, shall be damned” (Mc 16,16). Whence these too, as I have said, if they die in that early age, are judged, of course, according to what they have done through the body, i.e., in the time in which they were in the body, when they believe or do not believe by the heart and mouth of their sponsors, when they are baptized or not baptized, when they eat or do not eat the flesh of Christ, when they drink or do not drink His blood,—according to those things, then, which they have done through the body, not according to those which, had they lived longer, they would have done. 9. We know that blessed are the dead that die in the Lord; and that what they would have done had they lived longer, is not imputed to them. 10. We know that those that believe, with their own heart, in the Lord, do so by their own free will and choice. 11. We know that we who already believe act with right faith towards those who do not wish to believe, when we pray to God that they may wish it. 12. We know that for those who have believed out of this number, we both ought and are rightly and truly accustomed to return thanks to God, as for his benefits.” Certainly such a body of propositions commends their author to us as Christian both in head and heart: they are admirable in every respect; and even in the matter of the salvation of infants, where he had not yet seen the light of truth, he expresses himself in a way as engaging in its hearty faith in God’s goodness as it is honorable in its loyalty to what he believed to be truth and justice. Here his doctrine of the Church ran athwart and clouded his view of the reach of grace; but we seem to see between the lines the promise of the brighter dawn of truth that was yet to come. The rest of the epistle is occupied with an exposition and commendation of these propositions, which ranks with the richest passages of the anti-Pelagian writings, and which breathes everywhere a yearning for his correspondent which we cannot help hoping proved salutary to his faith.
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