Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 26.--The Accusations in the Seventh Item, Which Pelagius Confessed.
Let us now see what were the two points out of all that were alleged which Pelagius was unwilling to anathematize, and admitted to be his own opinions, but to remove their offensive aspect explained in what sense he held them. |That a man,| says he, |is able to be without sin has been asserted already.| Asserted no doubt, and we remember the assertion quite well; but still it was mitigated, and approved by the judges, in that God's grace was added, concerning which nothing was said in the original draft of his doctrine. Touching the second, however, of these points, we ought to pay careful attention to what he said in answer to the charge against him. |Concerning the fact, indeed,| says he, |that before the Lord's coming there were persons without sin, we now again assert that previous to Christ's advent some men lived holy and righteous lives, according to the teaching of the sacred Scriptures.| He did not dare to say: |We now again assert that previous to Christ's advent there were persons without sin,| although this had been laid to his charge after the very words of Coelestius. For he perceived how dangerous such a statement was, and into what trouble it would bring him. So he reduced the sentence to these harmless dimensions: |We again assert that before the coming of Christ there were persons who led holy and righteous lives.| Of course there were: who would deny it? But to say this is a very different thing from saying that they lived |without sin.| Because, indeed, those ancient worthies lived holy and righteous lives, they could for that very reason better confess: |If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.| In the present day, also, many men live holy and righteous lives; but yet it is no untruth they utter when in their prayer they say: |Forgive us our debts, even as we forgive our debtors.| This avowal was accordingly acceptable to the judges, in the sense in which Pelagius solemnly declared his belief; but certainly not in the sense which Coelestius, according to the original charge against him, was said to hold. We must now treat in detail of the topics which still remain, to the best of our ability.