Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 26 [XVII.] -- (3) Why No One in This Life is Without Sin.
[3d.] Let us now consider the point which I mentioned as our third inquiry. Since by divine grace assisting the human will, man may possibly exist in this life without sin, why does he not? To this question I might very easily and truthfully answer: Because men are unwilling. But if I am asked why they are unwilling, we are drawn into a lengthy statement. And yet, without prejudice to a more careful examination, I may briefly say this much: Men are unwilling to do what is right, either because what is right is unknown to them, or because it is unpleasant to them. For we desire a thing more ardently in proportion to the certainty of our knowledge of its goodness, and the warmth of our delight in it. Ignorance, therefore, and infirmity are faults which impede the will from moving either for doing a good work, or for refraining from an evil one. But that what was hidden may come to light, and what was unpleasant may be made agreeable, is of the grace of God which helps the wills of men; and that they are not helped by it, has its cause likewise in themselves, not in God, whether they be predestinated to condemnation, on account of the iniquity of their pride, or whether they are to be judged and disciplined contrary to their very pride, if they are children of mercy. Accordingly Jeremiah, after saying, |I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, and that it belongeth not to any man to walk and direct his steps,| immediately adds, |Correct me, O Lord, but with judgment, and not in Thine anger;| as much as to say, I know that it is for my correction that I am too little assisted by Thee, for my footsteps to be perfectly directed: but yet do not in this so deal with me as Thou dost in Thine anger, when Thou dost determine to condemn the wicked; but as Thou dost in Thy judgment whereby Thou dost teach Thy children not to be proud. Whence in another passage it is said, |And Thy judgments shall help me.|