Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 7.--The Same Continued.
As for the passage from the psalm, |He loved cursing, and it shall come upon him; and he willed not blessing, so it shall be far removed from him,| which he quoted in the same book of Chapters, as if to prove that |all men are ruled by their own will,| who can be ignorant that this is a fault not of nature as God created it, but of human will which departed from God? The fact indeed is, that even if he had not loved cursing, and had willed blessing, he would in this very case, too, deny that his will had received any assistance from God; in his ingratitude and impiety, moreover, he would submit himself to be ruled by himself, until he found out by his penalties that, sunk as he was into ruin, without God to govern him he was utterly unable to direct his own self. In like manner, from the passage which he quoted in the same book under the same head, |He hath set fire and water before thee; stretch forth thy hand unto whether thou wilt; before man are good and evil, life and death, and whichever he liketh shall be given to him,| it is manifest that, if he applies his hand to fire, and if evil and death please him, his human will effects all this; but if, on the contrary, he loves goodness and life, not alone does his will accomplish the happy choice, but it is assisted by divine grace. The eye indeed is sufficient for itself, for not seeing, that is, for darkness; but for seeing, it is in its own light not sufficient for itself unless the assistance of a clear external light is rendered to it. God forbid, however, that they who are |the called according to His purpose, whom He also foreknew, and predestinated to be conformed to the likeness of His Son,| should be given up to their own desire to perish. This is suffered only by |the vessels of wrath,| who are perfected for perdition; in whose very destruction, indeed, God |makes known the riches of His glory on the vessels of His mercy.| Now it is on this account that, after saying, |He is my God, His mercy shall go before me,| he immediately adds, |My God will show me vengeance upon my enemies.| That therefore happens to them which is mentioned in Scripture, |God gave them up to the lusts of their own heart.| This, however, does not happen to the predestinated, who are ruled by the Spirit of God, for not in vain is their cry: |Deliver me not, O Lord, to the sinner, according to my desire.| With regard, indeed, to the evil lusts which assail them, their prayer has ever assumed some such shape as this: |Take away from me the concupiscence of the belly; and let not the desire of lust take hold of me.| Upon those whom He governs as His subjects does God bestow this gift; but not upon those who think themselves capable of governing themselves, and who, in the stiff-necked confidence of their own will, disdain to have Him as their ruler.