Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 24 [XXII.]--Sin and the Penalty of Sin the Same.
|The very matter,| says he, |of sin is its punishment, if the sinner is so much weakened that he commits more sins.| He does not consider how justly the light of truth forsakes the man who transgresses the law. When thus deserted he of course becomes blinded, and necessarily offends more; and by so falling is embarrassed and being embarrassed fails to rise, so as to hear the voice of the law, which admonishes him to beg for the Saviour's grace. Is no punishment due to them of whom the apostle says: |Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened?| This darkening was, of course, already their punishment and penalty; and yet by this very penalty -- that is, by their blindness of heart, which supervenes on the withdrawal of the light of wisdom -- they fell into more grievous sins still. |For giving themselves out as wise, they became fools.| This is a grievous penalty, if one only understands it; and from such a penalty only see to what lengths they ran: |And they changed,| he says, |the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.| All this they did owing to that penalty of their sin, whereby |their foolish heart was darkened.| And yet, owing to these deeds of theirs, which, although coming in the way of punishment, were none the less sins (he goes on to say): |Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts.| See how severely God condemned them, giving them over to uncleanness in the very desires of their heart. Observe also the sins they commit owing to such condemnation: |To dishonour,| says he, |their own bodies among themselves.| Here is the punishment of iniquity, which is itself iniquity; a fact which sets forth in a clearer light the words which follow: |Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.| |For this cause,| says he, |God gave them up unto vile affections.| See how often God inflicts punishment; and out of the self-same punishment sins, more numerous and more severe, arise. |For even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature; and likewise the men also, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly.| Then, to show that these things were so sins themselves, that they were also the penalties of sins, he further says: |And receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.| Observe how often it happens that the very punishment which God inflicts begets other sins as its natural offspring. Attend still further: |And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge,| says he, |God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, odious to God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful.| Here, now, let our opponent say: |Sin ought not so to have been punished, that the sinner, through his punishment, should commit even more sins.|