Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter XXI.--(44.) Conclusion of the Work. In the Regenerate It is Not Concupiscence, But Consent, Which is Sin.
Whosoever, then, supposes that any man or any men (except the one Mediator between God and man ) have ever lived, or are yet living in this present state, who have not needed, and do not need, forgiveness of sins, he opposes Holy Scripture, wherein it is said by the apostle: |By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, in which all have sinned.| And he must needs go on to assert, with an impious contention, that there may possibly be men who are freed and saved from sin without the liberation and salvation of the one Mediator Christ. Whereas He it is who has said: |They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick;| |I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.| He, moreover, who says that any man, after he has received remission of sins, has ever lived in this body, or still is living, so righteously as to have no sin at all, he contradicts the Apostle John, who declares that |If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.| Observe, the expression is not we had, but |we have.| If, however, anybody contend that the apostle's statement concerns the sin which dwells in our mortal flesh according to the defect which was caused by the will of the first man when he sinned, and concerning which the Apostle Paul enjoins us |not| to |obey it in the lusts thereof, -- so that he does not sin who altogether withholds his consent from this same indwelling sin, and so brings it to no evil work, -- either in deed, or word, or thought, -- although the lusting after it may be excited (which in another sense has received the name of sin, inasmuch as consenting to it would amount to sinning), but excited against our will, -- he certainly is drawing subtle distinctions, and should consider what relation all this bears to the Lord's Prayer, wherein we say, |Forgive us our debts.| Now, if I judge aright, it would be unnecessary to put up such a prayer as this, if we never in the least degree consented to the lusts of the before-mentioned sin, either in a slip of the tongue, or in a wanton thought; all that it would be needful to say would be, |Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.| Nor could the Apostle James say: |In many things we all offend.| For in truth only that man offends whom an evil concupiscence persuades, either by deception or by force, to do or say or think something which he ought to avoid, by directing his appetites or his aversions contrary to the rule of righteousness. Finally, if it be asserted that there either have been, or are in this present life, any persons, with the sole exception of our Great Head, |the Saviour of His body,| who are righteous, without any sin, -- and this, either by not consenting to the lusts thereof, or because that must not be accounted as any sin which is such that God does not impute it to them by reason of their godly lives (although the blessedness of being without sin is a different thing from the blessedness of not having one's sin imputed to him), -- I do not deem it necessary to contest the point over much. I am quite aware that some hold this opinion, whose views on the subject I have not the courage to censure, although, at the same time, I cannot defend them. But if any man says that we ought not to use the prayer, |Lead us not into temptation| (and he says as much who maintains that God's help is unnecessary to a person for the avoidance of sin, and that human will, after accepting only the law, is sufficient for the purpose), then I do not hesitate at once to affirm that such a man ought to be removed from the public ear, and to be anathematized by every mouth.