Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter XVIII.--(39.) The Eighth Passage. In What Sense He is Said Not to Sin Who is Born of God. In What Way He Who Sins Shall Not See Nor Know God.
|They also quote,| says he, |this passage, |If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.| And this very clear testimony he has endeavoured to meet with apparently contradictory texts, saying thus: |The same St. John in this very epistle says, This, however, brethren, I say, that ye sin not. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin.' Also elsewhere: Whosoever is born of God sinneth not; because his being born of God preserveth him, and the evil one toucheth him not.' And again in another passage, when speaking of the Saviour, he says: Since He was manifested to take away sins, whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him.' And yet again: Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope towards Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.'| And yet, notwithstanding the truth of all these passages, that also is true which he has adduced, without, however, offering any explanation of it: |If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.| Now it follows from the whole of this, that in so far as we are born of God we abide in Him who appeared to take away sins, that is, in Christ, and sin not, -- which is simply that |the inward man is renewed day by day;| but in so far as we are born of that man |through whom sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men,| we are not without sin, because we are not as yet free from his infirmity, until, by that renewal which takes place from day to day (for it is in accordance with this that we were born of God), that infirmity shall be wholly repaired, wherein we were born from the first than, and in which we are not without sin. While the remains of this infirmity abide in our inward man, however much they may be daily lessened in those who are advancing, |we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us, if we say that we have no sin.| Now, however true it is that |whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, nor known Him,| since with that vision and knowledge, which shall be realized in actual sight, no one can in this life see and know Him; yet with that vision and knowledge which come of faith, there may be many who commit sin, -- even apostates themselves, -- who still have believed in Him some time or other; so that of none of these could it be said, according to the vision and knowledge which as yet come of faith, that he has neither seen Him nor known Him. But I suppose it ought to be understood that it is the renewal which awaits perfection that sees and knows Him; whereas the infirmity which is destined to waste and ruin neither sees nor knows Him. And it is owing to the remains of this infirmity, of whatever amount, which remain firm in our inward man, that |we deceive ourselves, and have not the truth in us, when we say that we have no sin.| Although, then, by the grace of renovation |we are the sons of God,| yet by reason of the remains of infirmity within us |it doth not appear what we shall be; only we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.| Then there shall be no more sin, because no infirmity shall any longer remain within us or without us. |And every man that hath this hope towards Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure,| -- purifieth himself, not indeed by himself alone, but by believing in Him, and calling on Him who sanctifieth His saints; which sanctification, when perfected at last (for it is at present only advancing and growing day by day), shall take away from us for ever all the remains of our infirmity.