Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 46 [XV.]--Rebuke Must Be Varied According to the Variety of Faults. There is No Punishment in the Church Greater Than Excommunication.
Therefore, let brethren who are subject be rebuked by those who are set over them, with rebukes that spring from love, varied according to the diversity of faults, whether smaller or greater. Because that very penalty that is called condemnation, which episcopal judgment inflicts, than which there is no greater punishment in the Church, may, if God will, result and be of advantage for most wholesome rebuke. For we know not what may happen on the coming day; nor must any one be despaired of before the end of this life; nor can God be contradicted, that He may not look down and give repentance, and receive the sacrifice of a troubled spirit and a contrite heart, and absolve from the guilt of condemnation, however just, and so Himself not condemn the condemned person. Yet the necessity of the pastoral office requires, in order that the terrible contagion may not creep through the many, that the diseased sheep should be separated from the sound ones; perchance, by that very separation, to be healed by Him to whom nothing is impossible. For as we know not who belongs to the number of the predestinated, we ought in such wise to be influenced by the affection of love as to will all men to be saved. For this is the case when we endeavour to lead every individual to that point where they may meet with those agencies by which we may prevail, to the accomplishment of the result, that being justified by faith they may have peace with God, -- which peace, moreover, the apostle announced when he said, |Therefore, we discharge an embassage for Christ, as though God were exhorting by us, we pray you in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God.| For what is |to be reconciled| to Him but to have peace with Him? For the sake of which peace, moreover, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself said to His disciples, |Into whatsoever house ye enter first, say, Peace be to this house; and if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it; but if not, it shall return to you again.| When they preach the gospel of this peace of whom it is predicted, |How beautiful are the feet of those that publish peace, that announce good things!| to us, indeed, every one then begins to be a son of peace who obeys and believes this gospel, and who, being justified by faith, has begun to have peace towards God; but, according to God's predestination, he was already a son of peace. For it was not said, Upon whomsoever your peace shall rest, he shall become a son of peace; but Christ says, |If the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon that house.| Already, therefore, and before the announcement of that peace to him, the son of peace was there, as he had been known and foreknown, by -- not the evangelist, but -- God. For we need not fear lest we should lose it, if in our ignorance he to whom we preach is not a son of peace, for it will return to us again -- that is, that preaching will profit us, and not him; but if the peace proclaimed shall rest upon him, it will profit both us and him.