Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume V/On Nature and Grace/Chapter 80

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Chapter 80 [LXVII.]—Augustin Himself. Two Methods Whereby Sins, Like Diseases, are Guarded Against.

Let us now turn to our own case. “Bishop Augustin also,” says your author, “in his books on Free Will has these words: ‘Whatever the cause itself of volition is, if it is impossible to resist it, submission to it is not sinful; if, however, it may be resisted, let it not be submitted to, and there will be no sin. Does it, perchance, deceive the unwary man? Let him then beware that he be not deceived. Is the deception, however, so potent that it is not possible to guard against it? If such is the case, then there are no sins. For who sins in a case where precaution is quite impossible? Sin, however, is committed; precaution therefore is possible.’”[1] I acknowledge it, these are my words; but he, too, should condescend to acknowledge all that was said previously, seeing that the discussion is about the grace of God, which helps us as a medicine through the Mediator; not about the impossibility of righteousness. Whatever, then, may be the cause, it can be resisted. Most certainly it can. Now it is because of this that we pray for help, saying, “Lead us not into temptation,”[2] and we should not ask for help if we supposed that the resistance were quite impossible. It is possible to guard against sin, but by the help of Him who cannot be deceived.[3] For this very circumstance has much to do with guarding against sin that we can unfeignedly say, “Forgive us our debt, as we forgive our debtors.”[4] Now there are two ways whereby, even in bodily maladies, the evil is guarded against,—to prevent its occurrence, and, if it happen, to secure a speedy cure. To prevent its occurrence, we may find precaution in the prayer, “Lead us not into temptation;” to secure the prompt remedy, we have the resource in the prayer, “Forgive us our debts.” Whether then the danger only threaten or be inherent, it may be guarded against.


Footnotes[edit]

  1. Augustin, De Libero Arbitrio, iii. 18 (50).
  2. Matt. vi. 13.
  3. Augustin gives a similar reply to the objection in his Retractations, i. 9.
  4. Matt. vi. 12.