Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter IV.--(9.) The Ninth Breviate.
IX. |The next question we shall require to be solved,| says he, |is this: By what means is it brought about that man is with sin? -- by the necessity of nature, or by the freedom of choice? If it is by the necessity of nature, he is blameless; if by the freedom of choice, then the question arises, from whom he has received this freedom of choice. No doubt, from God. Well, but that which God bestows is certainly good. This cannot be gainsaid. On what principle, then, is a thing proved to be good, if it is more prone to evil than to good? For it is more prone to evil than to good if by means of it man can be with sin and cannot be without sin.| The answer is this: It came by the freedom of choice that man was with sin; but a penal corruption closely followed thereon, and out of the liberty produced necessity. Hence the cry of faith to God, |Lead Thou me out of my necessities.| With these necessities upon us, we are either unable to understand what we want, or else (while having the wish) we are not strong enough to accomplish what we have come to understand. Now it is just liberty itself that is promised to believers by the Liberator. |If the Son,| says He, |shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.| For, vanquished by the sin into which it fell by its volition, nature has lost liberty. Hence another scripture says, |For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.| Since therefore |the whole need not the physician, but only they that be sick;| so likewise it is not the free that need the Deliverer, but only the enslaved. Hence the cry of joy to Him for deliverance, |Thou hast saved my soul from the straits of necessity.| For true liberty is also real health; and this would never have been lost, if the will had remained good. But because the will has sinned, the hard necessity of having sin has pursued the sinner; until his infirmity be wholly healed, and such freedom be regained, that there must needs be, on the one hand, a permanent will to live happily, and, on the other hand, a voluntary and happy necessity of living virtuously, and never sinning.