Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 31 [XVI.]--Why God Proceeds to Create Human Beings, Who He Knows Will Be Born in Sin.
Let us now look at those three clauses of his, than which three, he says, nothing more profane could possibly be uttered: |Either God did not make man, or else He made him for the devil; or, at any rate, the devil framed God's image, that is, man.| Now, the first and the last of these sentences, even he himself must allow, if he be not reckless and perverse, were never uttered by us. The dispute is confined to that which he puts second between the other two. In respect of this, he is so far mistaken as to suppose that we had said that God made man for the devil; as if, in the case of human beings whom God creates of human parents, His care and purpose and provision were, that by means of His workmanship the devil should have as slaves those whom he is unable to make for himself. God forbid that any sort of pious belief, however childish, should ever entertain such a sentiment as this! Of His own goodness God has made man -- the first without sin, all others under sin -- for the purposes of His own profound thoughts. For just as He knew full well what to do with reference to the malice of the devil himself, and what He does is just and good, however unjust and evil he is, about whom He takes His measures; and just as He was not unwilling to create him because He foresaw that he would be evil; so in regard to the entire human race, though not a man of it is born without the taint of sin, He who is supremely good Himself is always working out good, making some men, as it were, |vessels of mercy,| whom grace distinguishes from those who are |vessels of wrath;| whilst He makes others, as it were, |vessels of wrath,| that He may make known the riches of His glory towards the vessels of mercy. Let, then, this objector go and contest the point against the apostle, whose words I use; nay, against the very Potter, whom the apostle forbids us answering again, in the well-known words: |Who art thou, O man, that repliest against God! Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?| Well now, will this man contend that the vessels of wrath are not under the dominion of the devil? or else, because they are under this dominion, are they made by another creator than He who makes the vessels of mercy? Or does He make them of other material, and not out of the self-same lump? Here, then, he may object, and say: |Therefore God makes these vessels for the devil.| As if God knew not how to make such a use of even these for the furtherance of His own good and righteous works, as He makes of the very devil himself.