Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 61.--Use of the Third Person Rather Than the Second.
But now I marvel if any weak brother among the Christian congregation can hear in any way with patience what is connected with these words, when it is said to them, |And if any of you obey, if you are predestinated to be rejected, the power of obeying will be withdrawn from you, that you may cease to obey.| For what does saying this seem, except to curse, or in a certain way to predict evils? But if, however, it is desirable or necessary to say anything concerning those who do not persevere, why is it not rather at least said in such a way as was a little while ago said by me, -- first of all, so that this should be said, not of them who hear in the congregation, but about others to them; that is, that it should not be said, |If any of you obey, if you are predestinated to be rejected,| but, |If any obey,| and the rest, using the third person of the verb, not the second? For it is not to be said to be desirable, but abominable, and it is excessively harsh and hateful to fly as it were into the face of an audience with abuse, when he who speaks to them says, |And if there are any of you who obey, and are predestinated to be rejected, the power of obedience shall be withdrawn from you, that you may cease to obey.| For what is wanting to the doctrine if it is thus expressed: |But if any obey, and are not predestinated to His kingdom and glory, they are only for a season, and shall not continue in that obedience unto the end|? Is not the same thing said both more truly and more fittingly, so that we may seem not as it were to be desiring so much for them, as to relate of others the evil which they hate, and think does not belong to them, by hoping and praying for better things? But in that manner in which they think that it must be said, the same judgment may be pronounced almost in the same words also of God's foreknowledge, which certainly they cannot deny, so as to say, |And if any of you obey, if you are foreknown to be rejected you shall cease to obey.| Doubtless this is very true, assuredly it is; but it is very monstrous, very inconsiderate, and very unsuitable, not by its false declaration, but by its declaration not wholesomely applied to the health of human infirmity.