Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 24.--Even the Sins of the Elect are Turned by God to Their Advantage.
To such as love Him, God co-worketh with all things for good; so absolutely all things, that even if any of them go astray, and break out of the way, even this itself He makes to avail them for good, so that they return more lowly and more instructed. For they learn that in the right way itself they ought to rejoice with trembling; not with arrogation to themselves of confidence of abiding as if by their own strength; not with saying, in their abundance, |We shall not be moved for ever.| For which reason it is said to them, |Serve the Lord in fear, and rejoice unto Him with trembling, lest at any time the Lord should be angry, and ye perish from the right way.| For He does not say, |And ye come not into the right way;| but He says, |Lest ye perish from the right way.| And what does this show, but that those who are already walking in the right way are reminded to serve God in fear; that is, |not to be high-minded, but to fear|? which signifies, that they should not be haughty, but humble. Whence also He says in another place, |not minding high things, but consenting with the lowly;| let them rejoice in God, but with trembling; glorying in none, since nothing is ours, so that he who glorieth may glory in the Lord, lest they perish from the right way in which they have already begun to walk, while they are ascribing to themselves their very presence in it. These words also the apostle made use of when he says, |Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.| And setting forth why with fear and trembling, he says, |For it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do for His good pleasure.| For he had not this fear and trembling who said in his abundance, |I shall not be moved for ever.| But because he was a child of the promise, not of perdition, he experienced in God's desertion for a little while what he himself was: |Lord,| said he, |in Thy favour Thou gavest strength to my honour; Thou turnedst away Thy face from me, and I became troubled.| Behold how much better instructed, and for this reason also more humble, he held on his way, at length seeing and confessing that by His will God had endowed his honour with strength; and this he had attributed to himself and presumed to be from himself, in such abundance as God had afforded it, and not from Him who had given it, and so had said, |I shall not be moved for ever!| Therefore he became troubled so that he found himself, and being lowly minded learnt not only of eternal life, but, moreover, of a pious conversation and perseverance in this life, as that in which hope should be maintained. This might moreover be the word of the Apostle Peter, because he also had said in his abundance, |I will lay down my life for Thy sake;| attributing to himself, in his eagerness, what was afterwards to be bestowed on him by his Lord. But the Lord turned away His face from him, and he became troubled, so that in his fear of dying for Him he thrice denied Him. But the Lord again turned His face to him, and washed away his sin with his tears. For what else is, |He turned and looked upon him,| but, He restored to him the face which, for a little while, He had turned away from him? Therefore he had become troubled; but because he learned not to be confident concerning himself, even this was of excellent profit to him, by His agency who co-works for good with all things to those who love Him; because he had been called according to the purpose, so that no one could pluck him out of the hand of Christ, to whom he had been given.