Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 38 [XXIV.]--Victor's Chief Errors Again Pointed Out.
Wherefore if you take these books, which I have with a sincere and affectionate interest written in answer to your opinions, and read them with a reciprocal love for me; if you attend to what you have yourself declared in the beginning of your first book, and |are anxious not to insist on any opinion of your own, if it be found an improbable one,| then I beseech you to beware especially of those eleven errors which I warned you of in the preceding book of this treatise. Do not say, that |the soul is of God in such a sense that He created it not out of no, nor out of another, but out of His own nature;| or that, |as God who gives is Himself ever existent, so is He ever giving souls through infinite time;| or that |the soul lost some merit through the flesh, which it had previous to the flesh;| or that |the soul by means of the flesh repairs its ancient condition, and is born again through the very same flesh, by which it had deserved to be polluted;| or that |the soul deserved to be sinful even prior to sin;| or that |infants who die without the regeneration of baptism, may yet attain to forgiveness of their original sins;| or that |they whom the Lord has predestinated to be baptized can be taken away from His predestination, or die before that has been accomplished in them which the Almighty had predetermined;| or that |it is of those who expire before they are baptized that the Scripture says, Speedily was he taken away, lest wickedness should alter his understanding,'| -- with the remainder of the passage to the same effect; or that |there are some mansions outside the kingdom of God, belonging to the many,' which the Lord said were in His Father's house;| or that |the sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ ought to be offered in behalf of those who have departed out of the body without being baptized;| or that |any of those persons who die without Christ's baptism, are received for a while into paradise, and afterwards attain even to the blessedness of the kingdom of heaven.| Above all things, beware of these opinions, my son, and, as you wish to be the vanquisher of error, do not rejoice in the surname of |Vincentius.| And when you are ignorant on any subject, do not think that you know it; but in order to get real knowledge, learn how to be ignorant. For we commit a sin by affecting to be ignorant of nothing among |the secret things of God;| by constructing random theories about unknown things, and taking them for known; and by producing and defending errors as if they were truth. As for my own ignorance on the question whether the souls of men are created afresh at every birth, or are transmitted by the parents (an ignorance which is, however, modified by my belief, which it would be impious to falter in, that they are certainly made by the Divine Creator, though not of His own substance), I think that your loving self will by this time be persuaded that it either ought not to be censured at all, or, if it ought, that it should be done by a man who is capable by his learning of removing it altogether; and so also with respect to my other opinions, that while souls have in them the incorporeal semblances of bodies, they are not themselves bodies; and that, without impairing the natural distinction between soul and spirit, the soul is in a general sense actually designated spirit. If, indeed, I have unfortunately failed to persuade you, I must leave it rather to my readers to determine whether what I have advanced ought not to have convinced you.