Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 68 [LVIII.]--Despite the Devil, Man May, by God's Help, Be Perfected.
If, therefore, we feel rightly on this matter, it is our duty at once to be thankful for what is already healed within us, and to pray for such further healing as shall enable us to enjoy full liberty, in that most absolute state of health which is incapable of addition, the perfect pleasure of God. For we do not deny that human nature can be without sin; nor ought we by any means to refuse to it the ability to become perfect, since we admit its capacity for progress, -- by God's grace, however, through our Lord Jesus Christ. By His assistance we aver that it becomes holy and happy, by whom it was created in order to be so. There is accordingly an easy refutation of the objection which our author says is alleged by some against him: |The devil opposes us.| This objection we also meet in entirely identical language with that which he uses in reply: |We must resist him, and he will flee. Resist the devil,' says the blessed apostle, and he will flee from you.' From which it may be observed, what his harming amounts to against those whom he flees; or what power he is to be understood as possessing, when he prevails only against those who do not resist him.| Such language is my own also; for it is impossible to employ truer words. There is, however, this difference between us and them, that we, whenever the devil has to be resisted, not only do not deny, but actually teach, that God's help must be sought; whereas they attribute so much power to will as to take away prayer from religious duty. Now it is certainly with a view to resisting the devil and his fleeing from us that we say when we pray, |Lead us not into temptation;| to the same end also are we warned by our Captain, exhorting us as soldiers in the words: |Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.|