Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 11 [X.]--Grace Subtly Acknowledged by Pelagius.
He then starts an objection to his own position, as if, indeed, another person had raised it, and says: |A man,' you will say, may possibly be [without sin]; but it is by the grace of God.'| He then at once subjoins the following, as if in answer to his own suggestion: |I thank you for your kindness, because you are not merely content to withdraw your opposition to my statement, which you just now opposed, or barely to acknowledge it; but you actually go so far as to approve it. For to say, A man may possibly, but by this or by that,' is in fact nothing else than not only to assent to its possibility, but also to show the mode and condition of its possibility. Nobody, therefore, gives a better assent to the possibility of anything than the man who allows the condition thereof; because, without the thing itself, it is not possible for a condition to be.| After this he raises another objection against. himself: |But, you will say, you here seem to reject the grace of God, inasmuch as you do not even mention it;'| and he then answers the objection: |Now, is it I that reject grace, who by acknowledging the thing must needs also confess the means by which it may be effected, or you, who by denying the thing do undoubtedly also deny whatever may be the means through which the thing is accomplished?| He forgot that he was now answering one who does not deny the thing, and whose objection he had just before set forth in these words: |A man may possibly be [without sin]; but it is by the grace of God.| How then does that man deny the possibility, in defence of which his opponent earnestly contends, when he makes the admission to that opponent that |the thing is possible, but only by the grace of God?| That, however, after he is dismissed who already acknowledges the essential thing, he still has a question against those who maintain the impossibility of a man's being without sin, what is it to us? Let him ply his questions against any opponents he pleases, provided he only confesses this, which cannot be denied without the most criminal impiety, that without the grace of God a man cannot be without sin. He says, indeed: |Whether he confesses it to be by grace, or by aid, or by mercy, whatever that be by which a man can be without sin, -- every one acknowledges the thing itself.|