Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 31.--Remarks on the Tenth Item.
I shall make my next remark with greater satisfaction. In a former section I expressed a fear that, when Pelagius said that |a man was able by the help of God's grace to live without sin,| he perhaps meant by the term |grace| the capability possessed by nature as created by God with a free will, as it is understood in that book which I received as his and to which I replied; and that by these means he was deceiving the judges, who were ignorant of the circumstances. Now, however, since he anathematizes those persons who hold that |God's grace and assistance is not given for single actions, but is imparted in the freedom of the will, or in the law and in doctrine,| it is quite evident that he really means the grace which is preached in the Church of Christ, and is conferred by the ministration of the Holy Ghost for the purpose of helping us in our single actions, whence it is that we pray for needful and suitable grace that we enter not into any temptation. Nor, again, have I any longer a fear that, when he said, |No man can be without sin unless he has acquired a knowledge of the law,| and added this explanation of his words, that |he posited in the knowledge of the law, help towards the avoidance of sin,| he at all meant the said knowledge to be considered as tantamount to the grace of God; for, observe, he anathematizes such as hold this opinion. See, too, how he refuses to hold our natural free will, or the law and doctrine, as equivalent to that grace of God which helps us through our single actions. What else then is left to him but to understand that grace which the apostle tells us is given by |the supply of the Spirit?| and concerning which the Lord said: |Take no thought how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.| Nor, again, need I be under any apprehension that, when he asserted, |All men are ruled by their own will,| and afterwards explained that he had made that statement |in the interest of the freedom of our will, of which God is the helper whenever it makes choice of good,| that he perhaps here also held God's helping grace as synonymous with our natural free will and the teaching of the law. For inasmuch as he rightly anathematized the persons who hold that God's grace or assistance is not given for single actions, but lies in the gift of free will, or in the law and doctrine, it follows, of course, that God's grace or assistance is given us for single actions, -- free will, or the law and the doctrine, being left out of consideration; and thus through all the single actions of our life, when we act rightly, we are ruled and directed by God; nor is our prayer a useless one, wherein we say: |Order my steps according to Thy word, and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.|