Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 6 [VI.]--How It is that the Body Dead Because of Sin.
One wonders that anything is required clearer than the proof we have given. But we must perhaps be content to hear this clear illustration gainsaid by the contention, that we must understand |the dead body| here in the sense of the passage where it is said, |Mortify your members which are upon the earth.| But it is because of righteousness and not because of sin that the body is in this sense mortified; for it is to do the works of righteousness that we mortify our bodies which are upon the earth. Or if they suppose that the phrase, |because of sin,| is added, not that we should understand |because sin has been committed,| but |in order that sin may not be committed| -- as if it were said, |The body indeed is dead, in order to prevent the commission of sin:| what then does he mean in the next clause by adding the words, |because of righteousness,| to the statement, |The spirit is life?| For it would have been enough simply to have adjoined |the spirit is life,| to have secured that we should supply here too, |in order to prevent the commission of sin;| so that we should thus understand the two propositions to point to one thing -- that both |the body is dead,| and |the spirit is life,| for the one common purpose of |preventing the commission of sin.| So likewise if he had merely meant to say, |because of righteousness,| in the sense of |for the purpose of doing righteousness,| the two clauses might possibly be referred to this one purpose -- to the effect, that both |the body is dead,| and |the spirit is life,| |for the purpose of doing righteousness.| But as the passage actually stands, it declares that |the body is dead because of sin,| and |the spirit is life because of righteousness,| attributing different merits to different things -- the demerit of sin to the death of the body, and the merit of righteousness to the life of the spirit. Wherefore if, as no one can doubt, |the spirit is life because of righteousness,| that is, as the desert, of righteousness; how ought we, or can we, understand by the statement, |The body is dead because of sin,| anything else than that the body is dead as the desert of sin, unless indeed we try to pervert or wrest the plainest sense of Scripture to our own arbitrary will? But besides this, additional light is afforded by the words which follow. For it is with limitation to the present time, when he says, that on the one hand |the body is dead because of sin,| since, whilst the body is unrenovated by the resurrection, there remains in it the desert of sin, that is, the necessity of dying; and on the other hand, that |the spirit is life because of righteousness,| since, notwithstanding the fact of our being still burdened with |the body of this death,| we have already by the renewal which is begun in our inner man, new aspirations after the righteousness of faith. Yet, lest man in his ignorance should fail to entertain hope of the resurrection of the body, he says that the very body which he had just declared to be |dead because of sin| in this world, will in the next world be made alive |because of righteousness,| -- and that not only in such a way as to become alive from the dead, but immortal from its mortality.