Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 5.--Baptism Puts Away All Sins, But It Does Not at Once Heal All Infirmities.
Baptism, therefore, washes away indeed all sins -- absolutely all sins, whether of deeds or words or thoughts, whether original or added, whether such as are committed in ignorance or allowed in knowledge; but it does not take away the weakness which the regenerate man resists when he fights the good fight, but to which he consents when as man he is overtaken in any fault; on account of the former, rejoicing with thanksgiving, but on account of the latter, groaning in the utterance of prayers. On account of the former, saying, |What shall I render to the Lord for all that He has given me?| On account of the latter, saying, |Forgive us our debts.| On account of the former, saying, |I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength.| On account of the latter, saying, |Have mercy on me, O Lord; for I am weak.| On account of the former, saying, |Mine eyes are ever towards the Lord; for He shall pluck my feet out of the net.| On account of the latter, saying, |Mine eye is troubled with wrath.| And there are innumerable passages with which the divine writings are filled, which alternately, either in exultation over God's benefits or in lamentation over our own evils, are uttered by children of God by faith as long as they are still children of this world in respect of the weakness of this life; whom, nevertheless, God distinguishes from the children of the devil, not only by the laver of regeneration, but moreover by the righteousness of that faith which worketh by love, because the just lives by faith. But this weakness with which we contend, with alternating failure and progress, even to the death of the body, and which is of great importance as to what it can overcome in us, shall be consumed by another regeneration, of which the Lord says, |In the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones,| etc. Certainly in this passage He without doubt calls the last resurrection the regeneration, which Paul the Apostle also calls both the adoption and the redemption, where he says, |But even we ourselves, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, ourselves also groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption, of our body.| Have we not been regenerated, adopted, and redeemed by the holy washing? And yet there remains a regeneration, an adoption, a redemption, which we ought now patiently to be waiting for as to come in the end, that we may then be in no degree any longer children of this world. Whosoever, then, takes away from baptism that which we only receive by its means, corrupts the faith; but whosoever attributes to it now that which we shall receive by its means indeed, but yet hereafter, cuts off hope. For if any one should ask of me whether we have been saved by baptism, I shall not be able to deny it, since the apostle says, |He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.| But if he should ask whether by the same washing He has already absolutely in every way saved us, I shall answer: It is not so. Because the same apostle also says, |For we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, we with patience wait for it.| Therefore the salvation of man is effected in baptism, because whatever sin he has derived from his parents is remitted, or whatever, moreover, he himself has sinned on his own account before baptism; but his salvation will hereafter be such that he cannot sin at all.