Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 12.--He Proves Out of St. Paul that Grace is Not Given According to Men's Merits.
Now there was, no doubt, a decided merit in the Apostle Paul, but it was an evil one, while he persecuted the Church, and he says of it: |I am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.| And it was while he had this evil merit that a good one was rendered to him instead of the evil; and, therefore, he went on at once to say, |But by the grace of God I am what I am.| Then, in order to exhibit also his free will, he added in the next clause, |And His grace within me was not in vain, but I have laboured more abundantly than they all.| This free will of man he appeals to in the case of others also, as when he says to them, |We beseech you that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.| Now, how could he so enjoin them, if they received God's grace in such a manner as to lose their own will? Nevertheless, lest the will itself should be deemed capable of doing any good thing without the grace of God, after saying, |His grace within me was not in vain, but I have laboured more abundantly than they all,| he immediately added the qualifying clause, |Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.| In other words, Not I alone, but the grace of God with me. And thus, neither was it the grace of God alone, nor was it he himself alone, but it was the grace of God with him. For his call, however, from heaven and his conversion by that great and most effectual call, God's grace was alone, because his merits, though great, were yet evil. Then, to quote one passage more, he says to Timothy: |But be thou a co-labourer with the gospel, according to the power of God, who saveth us and calleth us with His holy calling, -- not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus.| Then, elsewhere, he enumerates his merits, and gives us this description of their evil character: |For we ourselves also were formerly foolish, unbelieving, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.| Nothing, to be sure, but punishment was due to such a course of evil desert! God, however, who returns good for evil by His grace, which is not given according to our merits, enabled the apostle to conclude his statement and say: |But when the kindness and love of our Saviour God shone upon us, -- not of works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the laver of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Ghost, whom He shed upon us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.|