Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 22.--Nature of Human Righteousness and Perfection.
For from the place in which he undertook to say these things, he thus began, |Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, who serve God in the Spirit,| -- or, as some codices have it, |who serve God the Spirit,| or |the Spirit of God,| -- |and glory in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.| Here it is manifest that he is speaking against the Jews, who, observing the law carnally, and going about to establish their own righteousness, were slain by the letter, and not made alive by the Spirit, and gloried in themselves while the apostles and all the children of the promise were glorying in Christ. Then he added, |Although I may have confidence in the flesh. If any one else thinks that he has confidence in the flesh, I more.| And enumerating all things which have glory according to the flesh, he ended at that point where he says, |According to the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.| And when he had said that he regarded all these things as altogether loss and disadvantage and dung that he might gain Christ, he added the passage which I am treating, |And be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, but that which is by the faith of Christ, which is from God.| He confessed that he had not yet received the perfection of this righteousness, which will not be except in that excellent knowledge of Christ, on account of which he said that all things were loss to him; and he confessed, therefore, that he was not yet perfect. |But I follow on,| said he, |if I may apprehend that in which I also am apprehended of Christ Jesus.| |I may apprehend that in which I also am apprehended,| is much the same as, |I may know, even as I also am known.| |Brethren,| says he, |I count not myself to have apprehended: but one thing, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those which are before, I follow on according to the purpose for the reward of the supreme calling of God in Christ Jesus.| The order of the words is, |But one thing I follow.| Of which one thing the Lord also is well understood to have admonished Martha, where he says, |Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful.| The apostle, wishing to apprehend this as if set in the way, said that he followed on to the reward of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. For who can delay when he would apprehend that which he declares that he is following, that he shall then have a righteousness equal to the righteousness of the holy angels, none of whom, of course, does any messenger of Satan buffet lest he should be lifted up with the greatness of his revelations? Then, admonishing those who might think themselves already perfect with the fulness of that righteousness, he says, |Let as many of us, therefore, as are perfect, be thus minded.| As if he should say, If, according to the capacity of mortal man for the little measure of this life, we are perfect, let us understand that it also belongs to that perfection that we perceive that we are not yet perfected in that angelical righteousness which we shall have in the manifestation of Christ. |And if in anything,| he said, |ye be otherwise minded, God shall also reveal even this unto you.| How, save to those that are walking and advancing in the way of the faith, until that wandering be finished and they come to the actual vision? Whence following on, he added, |Nevertheless, whereunto we have already attained, let us walk therein.| Then he concludes that they should be bewared of, concerning whom this passage treated at its beginning. |Brethren, be imitators of me, and mark them which so walk as ye have our example. For many walk, of whom I have spoken often, and now tell you even weeping, whose end is destruction,| and the rest. These are the very ones of whom, in the beginning, he had said, |Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers,| and what follows. Therefore all are enemies of the cross of Christ who, going about to establish their own righteousness, which is of the law, -- that is, where only the letter commands, and the Spirit does not fulfil, -- are not subject to the law of God. For if they who are of the law be heirs, faith is made an empty thing. |If righteousness is by the law, then Christ has died in vain: then is the offence of the cross done away.| And thus those are enemies of the cross of Christ who say that righteousness is by the law, to which it belongs to command, not to assist. But the grace of God through Jesus Christ the Lord in the Holy Spirit helpeth our infirmity.