Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 19 [XII]--The Knowledge of God Through the Creation.
And then the apostle very properly turns from this point to describe with detestation those men who, light-minded and puffed up by the sin which I have mentioned in the preceding chapter, have been carried away of their own conceit, as it were, through empty space where they could find no resting-place, only to fall shattered to pieces against the vain figments of their idols, as against stones. For, after he had commended the piety of that faith, whereby, being justified, we must needs be pleasing to God, he proceeds to call our attention to what we ought to abominate as the opposite. |For the wrath of God,| says he, |is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold down the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them: for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him are clearly seen from the creation of the world, being understood through the things that are made, even His eternal power and divinity; so that they are without excuse: because, knowing God, they yet glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools; and they changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and to four footed beasts, and to creeping things.| Observe, he does not say that they were ignorant of the truth, but that they held down the truth in unrighteousness. For it occurred to him, that he would inquire whence the knowledge of the truth could be obtained by those to whom God had not given the law; and he was not silent on the source whence they could have obtained it: for he declares that it was through the visible works of creation that they arrived at the knowledge of the invisible attributes of the Creator. And, in very deed, as they continued to possess great faculties for searching, so they were able to find. Wherein then lay their impiety? Because |when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, nor gave Him thanks, but became vain in their imaginations.| Vanity is a disease especially of those who mislead themselves, and |think themselves to be something, when they are nothing.| Such men, indeed, darken themselves in that swelling pride, the foot of which the holy singer prays that it may not come against him, after saying, |In Thy light shall we see light;| from which very light of unchanging truth they turn aside, and |their foolish heart is darkened.| For theirs was not a wise heart, even though they knew God; but it was foolish rather, because they did not glorify Him as God, or give Him thanks; for |He said unto man, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom.| So by this conduct, while |professing themselves to be wise| (which can only be understood to mean that they attributed this to themselves), |they became fools.|