Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 24 [XII.]--Who May Be Said to Wish to Establish Their Own Righteousness. |God's Righteousness,| So Called, Which Man Has from God.
As many, therefore, as are led by their own spirit, trusting in their own virtue, with the addition merely of the law's assistance, without the help of grace, are not the sons of God. Such are they of whom the same apostle speaks as |being ignorant of God's righteousness, and wishing to establish their own righteousness, who have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.| He said this of the Jews, who in their self-assumption rejected grace, and therefore did not believe in Christ. Their own righteousness, indeed, he says, they wish to establish; and this righteousness is of the law, -- not that the law was established by themselves, but that they had constituted their righteousness in the law which is of God, when they supposed themselves able to fulfil that law by their own strength, ignorant of God's righteousness, -- not indeed that by which God is Himself righteous, but that which man has from God. And that you may know that he designated as theirs the righteousness which is of the law, and as God's that which man receives from God, hear what he says in another passage, when speaking of Christ: |For whose sake I counted all things not only as loss, but I deemed them to be dung, that I might win Christ, and be found in Him -- not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, which is of God.| Now what does he mean by |not having my own righteousness, which is of the law,| when the law is really not his at all, but God's, -- except this, that he called it his own righteousness, although it was of the law, because he thought he could fulfil the law by his own will, without the aid of grace which is through faith in Christ? Wherefore, after saying, |Not having my own righteousness, which is of the law,| he immediately subjoined, |But that which is through the faith of Christ, which is of God.| This is what they were ignorant of, of whom he says, |Being ignorant of God's righteousness,| -- that is, the righteousness which is of God (for it is given not by the letter, which kills, but by the life-giving Spirit), |and wishing to establish their own righteousness,| which he expressly described as the righteousness of the law, when he said, |Not having my own righteousness, which is of the law;| they were not subject to the righteousness of God, -- in other words, they submitted not themselves to the grace of God. For they were under the law, not under grace, and therefore sin had dominion over them, from which a man is not freed by the law, but by grace. On which account he elsewhere says, |For sin shall not have dominion over you; because ye are not under the law, but under grace.| Not that the law is evil; but because they are under its power, whom it makes guilty by imposing commandments, not by aiding. It is by grace that any one is a doer of the law; and without this grace, he who is placed under the law will be only a hearer of the law. To such persons he addresses these words: |Ye who are justified by the law are fallen from grace.|