Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 9 [VI]--Why They May Justly Be Rebuked Who Do Not Obey God, Although They Have Not Yet Received the Grace of Obedience.
|The apostle says,| say they, |For who maketh thee to differ? And what hast thou that thou hast not received? Now also if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?' Why, then, are we rebuked, censured, reproved, accused? What do we do, we who have not received?| They who say this wish to appear without blame in respect of their not obeying God, because assuredly obedience itself is His gift; and that gift must of necessity be in him in whom dwells love, which without doubt is of God, and the Father gives it to His children. |This,| say they, |we have not received. Why, then, are we rebuked, as if we were able to give it to ourselves, and of our own choice would not give it?| And they do not observe that, if they are not yet regenerated, the first reason why, when they are reproached because they are disobedient to God, they ought to be dissatisfied with themselves is, that God made man upright from the beginning of the human creation, and there is no unrighteousness with God. And thus the first depravity, whereby God is not obeyed, is of man, because, falling by his own evil will from the rectitude in which God at first made him, he became depraved. Is, then, that depravity not to be rebuked in a man because it is not peculiar to him who is rebuked, but is common to all? Nay, let that also be rebuked in individuals, which is common to all. For the circumstance that none is altogether free from it is no reason why it should not attach to each man. Those original sins, indeed, are said to be the sins of others, because individuals derived them from their parents; but they are not unreasonably said to be our own also, because in that one, as the apostle says, all have sinned. Let, then, the damnable source be rebuked, that from the mortification of rebuke may spring the will of regeneration, -- if, indeed, he who is rebuked is a child of promise, -- in order that, by the noise of the rebuke sounding and lashing from without, God may by His hidden inspiration work in him from within to will also. If, however, being already regenerate and justified, he relapses of his own will into an evil life, assuredly he cannot say, |I have not received,| because of his own free choice to evil he has lost the grace of God, that he had received. And if, stung with compunction by rebuke, he wholesomely bewails, and returns to similar good works, or even better, certainly here most manifestly appears the advantage of rebuke. But yet for rebuke by the agency of man to avail, whether it be of love or not, depends only upon God.