Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 34 [XIX.]--The Pelagians Argue that Cohabitation Rightly Used is a Good, and What is Born from It is Good.
I request your attention now to the following words. He says, |That children, however, who are conceived in wedlock are by nature good, we may learn from the apostle's words, when he speaks of men who, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust, men with men working together that which is disgraceful. Here,| says he, |the apostle shows the use of the woman to be both natural and, in its way, laudable; the abuse consisting in the exercise of one's own will in opposition to the decent use of the institution. Deservedly then,| says he, |in those who make a right use thereof, concupiscence is commended in its kind and mode; whilst the excess of it, in which abandoned persons indulge, is punished. Indeed, at the very time when God punished the abuse in Sodom with His judgment of fire, He invigorated the generative powers of Abraham and Sarah, which had become impotent through old age. If, therefore,| he goes on to say, |you think that fault must be found with the strength of the generative organs, because the Sodomites were steeped in sin thereby, you will have also to censure such created things as bread and wine, since Holy Scripture informs us that they sinned also in the abuse of these gifts. For the Lord, by the mouth of His prophet Ezekiel, says: These, moreover, were the sins of thy sister Sodom; in their pride, she and her children overflowed in fulness of bread and abundance of wine; and they helped not the hand of the poor and needy.' Choose, therefore,| says he, |which alternative you would rather have: either impute to the work of God the sexual connection of human bodies, or account such created things as bread and wine to be equally evil. But if you should prefer this latter conclusion, you prove yourself to be a Manichean. The truth, however, is this: he who observes moderation in natural concupiscence uses a good thing well; but he who does not observe moderation, abuses a good thing. What means your statement, then,| he asks, |when you say that the good of marriage is no more impeachable on account of the original sin which is derived herefrom, than the evil of adultery and fornication can be excused because of the natural good which is born of them'? In these words,| says he, |you conceded what you had denied, and what you had conceded you nullified; and you aim at nothing so much as to be unintelligible. Show me any bodily marriage without sexual connection. Else impose some one name on this operation, and designate the conjugal union as either a good or an evil. You answer, no doubt, that you have already defined marriages to be good. Well then, if marriage is good, -- if the human being is the good fruit of marriage; if this fruit, being God's work, cannot be evil, born as it is by good agency out of good, -- where is the original evil which has been set aside by so many prior admissions?|