Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 13 [VII.]--He Repels the Calumny Concerning the Acceptance of Persons.
And, moreover, we rightly call it |acceptance of persons| where he who judges, neglecting the merit of the cause concerning which he is judging, favours the one against the other, because he finds something in his person which is worthy of honour or of pity. But if any one have two debtors, and he choose to remit the debt to the one, to require it of the other, he gives to whom he will and defrauds nobody; nor is this to be called |acceptance of persons,| since there is no injustice. The acceptance of persons may seem otherwise to those who are of small understanding, where the lord of the vineyard gave to those labourers who had done work therein for one hour as much as to those who had borne the burden and heat of the day, making them equal in wages in the labour of whom there had been such a difference. But what did he reply to those who murmured against the goodman of the house concerning this, as it were, acceptance of persons? |Friend,| said he, |I do thee no wrong. Hast not thou agreed with me for a denarius? Take what thine is, and go; but I choose to give to this last as to thee. Is it not lawful to me to do what I will? Is thine eye evil because I am good?| Here, forsooth, is the entire justice: |I choose this. To thee,| he says, |I have repaid; on him I have bestowed; nor have I taken anything away from thee to bestow it on him; nor have I either diminished or denied what I owed to you.| |May I not do what I will? Is thine eye evil because I am good?| As, therefore, here there is no acceptance of persons, because one is honoured freely in such wise as that another is not defrauded of what is due to him: so also when, according to the purpose of God, one is called, another is not called, a gratuitous benefit is bestowed on the one that is called, of which benefit the calling itself is the beginning, -- an evil is repaid to him that is not called, because all are guilty, from the fact that by one man sin entered into the world. And in that parable of the labourers, indeed, where they received one denarius who laboured for one hour, as well as those who laboured twelve times as long, -- though assuredly these latter, according to human reasonings, however vain, ought in proportion to the amount of their labour to have received twelve denarii, -- both were put on an equality in respect of benefit, not some delivered and others condemned; because even those who laboured more had it from the goodman of the house himself, both that they were so called as to come, and that they were so fed as to have no want. But where it is said, |Therefore, on whom He will He has mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth,| who |maketh one vessel to honour and another to dishonour| it is given indeed without deserving, and freely, because he is of the same mass to whom it is not given; but evil is deservedly and of debt repaid, since in the mass of perdition evil is not repaid to the evil unjustly. And to him to whom it is repaid it is evil, because it is his punishment; while to Him by whom it is repaid it is good, because it is His right to do it. Nor is there any acceptance of persons in the case of two debtors equally guilty, if to the one is remitted and from the other is claimed that which is equally owed by both.