Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 4 [III.]--Misrepresentation Concerning the Effect of Baptism.
|They assert,| say they, |that baptism, moreover, does not make men new -- that is, does not give complete remission of sins; but they contend that they are partly made children of God and partly remain children of the world, that is, of the devil.| They deceive; they lay traps; they shuffle; we do not say this. For we say that all men who are children of the devil are also children of the world; but not that all children of the world are also children of the devil. Far be it from us to say that the holy fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and others of this kind, were children of the devil when they were begetting in marriage, and those believers who until now and still hereafter continue to beget. And yet we cannot contradict the Lord when He says, |The children of this world marry and give in marriage.| Some, therefore, are children of this world, and yet are not children of the devil. For although the devil is the author and source of all sins, yet it is not every sin that makes children of the devil; for the children of God also sin, since if they say they have no sins they deceive themselves, and the truth is not in them. But they sin in virtue of that condition by which they are still children of this world; but by that grace wherewith they are the children of God they certainly sin not, because every one that is born of God sinneth not. But unbelief makes children of the devil; and unbelief is specially called sin, as if it were the only one, if it is not expressed what is the nature of the sin. As when the |apostle| is spoken of, if it be not expressed what apostle, none is understood but Paul; because he is better known by his many epistles, and he laboured more than they all. For which reason, in what the Lord said of the Holy Spirit, |He shall convict the world of sin,| He meant unbelief to be understood; for He said this when He was explaining, |Of sin because they believed not on me,| and when He says, |If I had not come and spoken to them, they should not have sin.| For He meant not that before they had no sin, but He wished to indicate that very want of faith by which they did not believe Him even when He was present to them and speaking to them; since they belonged to him of whom the apostle says, |According to the prince of the power of the air, who now worketh in the children of unbelief.| Therefore they in whom there is not faith are the children of the devil, because they have not in the inner man any reason why there should be forgiven them whatever is committed either by human infirmity, or by ignorance, or by any evil will whatever. But those are the children of God who certainly, if they should |say that they have no sin, deceive themselves, and the truth is not in them, but immediately| (as it continues) |when they confess their sins| (which the children of the devil do not do, or do not do according to the faith which is peculiar to the children of God), |He is faithful and just to forgive them their sins, and to cleanse them from all unrighteousness.| And in order that what we say may be more fully understood, let Jesus Himself be heard, who certainly was speaking to the children of God when He said: |And if ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him.| For if these were not the children of God, He would not say to them, |Your Father which is in heaven.| And yet He says that they are evil, and that they know how to give good gifts to their children. Are they, then, evil in that they are the children of God? Away with the thought! But they are thence evil because they are still the children of this world, although now made children of God by the pledge of the Holy Spirit.