Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 65 [LV.]--|This Body of Death,| So Called from Its Defect, Not from Its Substance.
Now, I ask, when did our nature lose that liberty, which he craves to be given to him when he says: |Who shall liberate me?| For even he finds no fault with the substance of the flesh when he expresses his desire to be liberated from the body of this death, since the nature of the body, as well as of the soul, must be attributed to the good God as the author thereof. But what he speaks of undoubtedly concerns the offences of the body. Now from the body the death of the body separates us; whereas the offences contracted from the body remain, and their just punishment awaits them, as the rich man found in hell. From these it was that he was unable to liberate himself, who said: |Who shall liberate me from the body of this death?| But whensoever it was that he lost this liberty, at least there remains that |inseparable capacity| of nature, -- he has the ability from natural resources, -- he has the volition from free will. Why does he seek the sacrament of baptism? Is it because of past sins, in order that they may be forgiven, since they cannot be undone? Well, suppose you acquit and release a man on these terms, he must still utter the old cry; for he not only wants to be mercifully let off from punishment for past offences, but to be strengthened and fortified against sinning for the time to come. For he |delights in the law of God, after the inward man; but then he sees another law in his members, warring against the law of his mind.| Observe, he sees that there is, not recollects that there was. It is a present pressure, not a past memory. And he sees the other law not only |warring,| but even |bringing him into captivity to the law of sin, which is|(not which was) |in his members.| Hence comes that cry of his: |O wretched man that I am! who shall liberate me from the body of this death?| Let him pray, let him entreat for the help of the mighty Physician. Why gainsay that prayer? Why cry down that entreaty? Why shall the unhappy suitor be hindered from begging for the mercy of Christ, -- and that too by Christians? For, it was even they who were accompanying Christ that tried to prevent the blind man, by clamouring him down, from begging for light; but even amidst the din and throng of the gainsayers He hears the suppliant; whence the response: |The grace of God, through Jesus Christ out Lord.|