Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 53 [XLV.]--Pelagius Distinguishes Between a Power and Its Use.
Well, are there other things to listen to? Yes, certainly; both to listen to, and correct and guard against. |Now, when it is said,| he says, |that the very ability is not at all of man's will, but of the Author of nature, -- that is, God, -- how can that possibly be understood to be without the grace of God which is deemed especially to belong to God?| Already we begin to see what he means; but that we may not lie under any mistake, he explains himself with greater breadth and clearness: |That this may become still plainer, we must,| says he, |enter on a somewhat fuller discussion of the point. Now we affirm that the possibility of anything lies not so much in the ability of a man's will as in the necessity of nature.| He then proceeds to illustrate his meaning by examples and similes. |Take,| says he, |for instance, my ability to speak. That I am able to speak is not my own; but that I do speak is my own, -- that is, of my own will. And because the act of my speaking is my own, I have the power of alternative action, -- that is to say, both to speak and to refrain from speaking. But because my ability to speak is not my own, that is, is not of my own determination and will, it is of necessity that I am always able to speak; and though I wished not to be able to speak, I am unable, nevertheless, to be unable to speak, unless perhaps I were to deprive myself of that member whereby the function of speaking is to be performed.| Many means, indeed, might be mentioned whereby, if he wish it, a man may deprive himself of the possibility of speaking, without removing the organ of speech. If, for instance, anything were to happen to a man to destroy his voice, he would be unable to speak, although the members remained; for a man's voice is of course no member. There may, in short, be an injury done to the member internally, short of the actual loss of it. I am, however, unwilling to press the argument for a word; and it may be replied to me in the contest, Why, even to injure is to lose. But yet we can so contrive matters, by closing and shutting the mouth with bandages, as to be quite incapable of opening it, and to put the opening of it out of our power, although it was quite in our own power to shut it while the strength and healthy exercise of the limbs remained.