Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 24 [X.]--It May Be Objected that The People of Tyre and Sidon Might, If They Had Heard, Have Believed, and Have Subsequently Lapsed from Their Faith.
A certain catholic disputant of no mean reputation so expounded this passage of the gospel as to say, that the Lord foreknew that the Tyrians and Sidonians would have afterwards departed from the faith, although they had believed the miracles done among them; and that in mercy He did not work those miracles there, because they would have been liable to severer punishment if they had forsaken the faith which they had once held, than if they had at no time held it. In which opinion of a learned and exceedingly acute man, why am I now concerned to say what is still reasonably to be asked, when even this opinion serves me for the purpose at which I aim? For if the Lord in His mercy did not do mighty works among them, since by these works they might possibly become believers, so that they might not be more severely punished when they should subsequently become unbelievers, as He foreknew that they would, -- it is sufficiently and plainly shown that no dead person is judged for those sins which He foreknew that he would have done, if in some manner he were not helped not to do them; just as Christ is said to have come to the aid of the Tyrians and Sidonians, if that opinion be true, who He would rather should not come to the faith at all, than that by a much greater wickedness they should depart from the faith, as, if they had come to it, He foresaw they would have done. Although if it be said, |Why was it not provided that they should rather believe, and this gift should be bestowed on them, that before they forsook the faith they should depart from this life|? I am ignorant what reply can be made. For he who says that to those who would forsake their faith it would have been granted, as a kindness, that they should not begin to have what, by a more serious impiety, they would subsequently forsake, sufficiently indicates that a man is not judged by that which it is foreknown he would have done ill, if by any act of kindness he may be prevented from doing it. Therefore it is an advantage also to him who is taken away, lest wickedness should alter his understanding. But why this advantage should not have been given to the Tyrians and Sidonians, that they might believe and be taken away, lest wickedness should alter their understanding, he perhaps might answer who was pleased in such a way to solve the above question; but, as far as concerns what I am discussing, I see it to be enough that, even according to that very opinion, men are shown not to be judged in respect of those things which they have not done, even although they may have been foreseen as certain to have done them. However, as I have said, let us think shame even to refute this opinion, whereby sins are supposed to be punished in people who die or have died because they have been foreknown as certain to do them if they had lived; lest we also may seem to have thought it to be of some importance, although we would rather repress it by argument than pass it over in silence.