Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 28.--Pelagius' Reply to the Eighth Item of Accusation.
But to this objection he replied with a watchful caution such as the catholic judges no doubt approved. |It has,| says he, |been asserted by me, -- but in such a sense that the Church is by the laver cleansed from every spot and wrinkle, and in this purity the Lord wishes her to continue.| Whereupon the synod said: |Of this also we approve.| And who amongst us denies that in baptism the sins of all men are remitted, and that all believers come up spotless and pure from the laver of regeneration? Or what catholic Christian is there who wishes not, as his Lord also wishes, and as it is meant to be, that the Church should remain always without spot or wrinkle? For in very deed God is now in His mercy and truth bringing it about, that His holy Church should be conducted to that perfect state in which she is to remain without spot or wrinkle for evermore. But between the laver, where all past stains and deformities are removed, and the kingdom, where the Church will remain for ever without any spot or wrinkle, there is this present intermediate time of prayer, during which her cry must of necessity be: |Forgive us our debts.| Hence arose the objection against them for saying that |the Church here on earth is without spot or wrinkle;| from the doubt whether by this opinion they did not boldly prohibit that prayer whereby the Church in her present baptized state entreats day and night for herself the forgiveness of her sins. On the subject of this intervening period between the remission of sins which takes place in baptism, and the perpetuity of sinlessness which is to be in the kingdom of heaven, no proceedings ensued with Pelagius, and no decision was pronounced by the bishops. Only he thought that some brief indication ought to be given that he had not expressed himself in the way which the accusation against him seemed to state. As to his saying, |This has been asserted by me, -- but in such a sense,| what else did he mean to convey than the idea that he had not in fact expressed himself in the same manner as he was supposed to have done by his accusers? That, however, which induced the judges to say that they were satisfied with his answer was baptism as the means of being washed from our sins; and the kingdom of heaven, in which the holy Church, which is now in process of cleansing, shall continue in a sinless state for ever: this is clear from the evidence, so far as I can form an opinion.