The GOSPEL TRUTH
AN HISTORICAL PRESENTATION OF
AUGUSTINISM AND PELAGIANISM
G. F. WIGGERS, D. D.
Proofs of the Pelagians for their Theory.
Augustine found the principal scripture proofs for his theory of original sin, in the epistle to the Romans. Pelagius knew how to explain these passages so that his theory would be confirmed by them.
In the noted passage, Rom. 5:12, he took _______ death, not with Augustine for bodily death, but for spiritual, or the moral ruin which came into the world by the example and imitation of Adam's sin. Sin, and moral death with sin, came into the world by Adam, for Adam gave the first example or form, as Pelagius expressed himself, of sin, which did not there exist before him. So moral corruption came upon all, with the exception of a few righteous, because all sinned after the example of Adam. The phrase, in whom (in quo) all have sinned, he explained thus, "In as much as (in eo quod) all have sinned, they sin by Adam's example." See his commentary on Rom. 5. The sense of the whole passage, therefore, according to Pelagius, was the following. As by one man sin has come into the world, and moral ruin with sin, so moral corruption has come to all, because all have sinned after Adam's example. By the Pelagian explanation, therefore, there was no proof at all for the Augustinian original sin, in this passage; but it means only thus much, that by Adam, sin and moral corruption came into the world, because he sinned first. "By imitation," not "by propagation," have sin and its consequences come upon the human race. De Pec. Mer. I. 9 sq. De Nat. et Gr. 9; Sermo 294. n. 15.
In a like spirit, Pelagius commented on the comparison which the Apostle instituted, in the following verses, between the consequences of Adam's sin and Christ's merits. See his Commentary. The declaration, "death reigned even over those who had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression," he, without making use of the variation above mentioned as so favorable to him, explained thus Moral corruption reigned over those also who have not, like Adam, broken a command of God, but the natural law. On the words, "who is the image of the future one," (of which he as well as Augustine attempted several explanations), he remarked: "As the first Adam, who transgressed God's command, is an example for those who would transgress God's law, so is Christ, who fulfilled the will of the Father, an example for those who desire to imitate him."Pelagius also knew how to explain away original sin from the rest of the chapter. He supposed Adam only to have given the pattern of Sin by which those died who followed his example. But this does not mean that they suffered temporal death, for this befalls the righteous as well as sinners; but they suffered morally. But Christ by his grace justifies many, in as much as he freely forgives sin, and has given an example of righteousness. By baptism Christians become partakers of Christ's kingdom, without having merited it. This with him was "the abundance of righteousness," the partakers of which were to reign through Jesus Christ. On the words, "by one offence on all men unto condemnation," he took the term all, for many, in consequence of the antithesis "by the righteousness of one, on all men unto justification of life;" because if the term all were on Rom. v. The sense of the whole passage, therefore, according to be taken in the strongest sense, "no one would be left for further punishment," etc. Pelagius also argued from the words, "if by the offence of one many were dead, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of one man Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many," that if Adam's sin has injured those who are not sinners, then Christ's righteousness must also benefit unbelievers, because, according to the Apostle's declaration, more are delivered by one than before perished by one. De Pec. Mer. III. 2; Aug. Sermo 294. c. 17; Mer. in Com. p. 70, 71. This argument, however, Augustine would not admit. "It cannot be positively asserted," replied Augustine, "that Adam's sin has injured those who have not sinned, since scripture says, "in whom all have sinned." Nor are those sins said to be foreign, is though they did not at all belong to children; since all then sinned in Adam, when as yet they were that one, as there was placed in his nature that power by which he could beget them. But the sins are called foreign, because the persons were not yet living their own lives, but the life of that one man contained whatever there was in the future race." De Pec. Mer. III. 7.
That Pelagius explained the words in Genesis, "in the day thou eatest thou shalt die the death," of spiritual death only, or the death of the soul, might be supposed, even if we had not the testimony of Augustine for it, De Pec. Mer. 1. 2, 4. The words of Paul, Rom. 8:10, "If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin," he explained, If ye imitate Christ, sensuality does not resist you, which is as it were dead. The passage, 1 Cor. 15:21, "By man death, and by the resurrection of the dead," Pelagius thus explained As death came into the world by Adam because he died first, so the resurrection by Christ, because he, has risen first. As the former is the pattern of those that die, so is the latter of the resurrection. Or it may be thus explained, adds he: The words, "by man is the resurrection of the dead," may be referred to the hope of the resurrection, and hence understood thus: As in Adam we are mortal, so in Christ we become immortal.
Further; Pelagius sought to prove, from Rom. 7:8, "Without law sin was dead," the absurdity of an original sin which is imputed to us. "If when there is no law, sin is dead, they are insane who maintain that sin comes to us from Adam by propagation. Paul says, sin is dead because it does not live in infants who are without law, i.e., it is committed with impunity. For when the infant maligns its parents it seems indeed to be sin, but it is not a living but a dead sin. Although the lad sins, yet the sin in him is dead, because he is not subject to law." Comment. in Ep. ad Rom. In verses 14-25, he considers Paul as not speaking of himself but in the person of one that finds himself under the law and in whom the habit of sensual desires reigns. For God's grace through Jesus Christ makes free from this, and Paul was already a partaker of this grace when he wrote the passage. By grace, he finally here understood no supernatural influences, but the instructions of Christ. "For what Moses and the law before him, did not teach, that Jesus Christ our Lord taught, namely to despise the world and subjugate vices." Compare the passage quoted by Augustine, (De Gr. Chr. 39), from the third book of Pelagius on freewill. "In the person of a single man," it is here said "the apostle designates the people as still sinning under the old law, who, he says, were to be freed from this evil of custom by Christ, who first forgives all sins through baptism to those who believe on him, and then excites them to perfect holiness by the imitation of himself, and conquers the habit of vices by the example of virtues."
On Eph. 2:3, Pelagius refers the phrase "we were by nature children of wrath," to "the custom of paternal tradition," so that all appeared to be born to condemnation. Com in Ep. ad Eph.
In this manner, Pelagius knew how, by his exegesis, to dispose of the sin propagated from Adam by generation, and to argue against it. Augustine's chief proofs for his original sin, were thus directly weakened or rendered entirely useless. But Julian especially showed great acuteness in assailing the Augustinian theory of original sin, both with exegetical and philosophical weapons, as may be seen by the quotations in Op. Imp., from Julian's work against Augustine.
The whole second book of that work is occupied in explaining the grand passage, Rom. 5:12 sqq., in which Julian at least weakens all Augustine's conclusions, and endeavors to show, that the question here respected the example of sin, which extends, not to all posterity, but only to sinners by imitation. By _______ death, Julian also understood, not bodily death, but the death which was threatened to sinners, eternal death. In quo, ___ _ he explained by propter quod, or quia, on account of which, because, just as this expression is elsewhere used in the Bible. All here stands for many, as in innumerable places in the Bible. Op. Imp. 11. 173-175; C. Jul. VI. 24.
Julian remarks, among other things, (Op. Imp. 11. 56 sqq.), that if the passage, As by one man, etc., were to refer to the propagation of sin by generation, it must have said, as by two persons. For one person can indeed present an example for imitation, but is not enough for propagation.
To this Augustine replied: Eve to be sure sinned first, and by her we all die; but precisely because the apostle would not mean imitation but generation, he has said, sin came into the world by one man. For the man commences generation. Again; the apostle may have said, By one man, because it is written, Twain become one flesh; and this was especially by coition, whereby posterity are propagated, etc. Augustine further remarked (De Nupt. et Conc. II. 27), that if the apostle had meant imitation, he would not have said by one man," but "by the devil." For it is written, (Sap. 2:25), They who are of his party imitate him." But he has said, by one man," in order to teach that original sin passes to all by generation. It was never said of the devil, "in him they have sinned." Sermo 294. c. 15.
Julian proceeds: It is not said that sin has come to all, but death, namely, spiritual death, which is ordained by divine justice as the punishment for sin; and this punishment follows, "not the seed of the bodies, but the corruption of morals." But the death extends to all men, because one form of the sentence comprehends all transgressors in subsequent time; yet neither holy men nor the innocent suffer this death, but they only who imitate the transgression. The transgression was indeed not natural, but yet it was one form of sin; and though it does not injure infants, it accuses imitators. This judicial death has spread further, because all have sinned, though by freewill. By the word all, is not meant the whole human race, but a multitude, after the manner of the scriptures. Op. Imp. II. 63 sqq.
Augustine replied: It appears doubtful, in the passage quoted, whether it was said of sin, or of death, or of both, that they passed upon all men. But the case itself shows what is to be understood. For if sin has not passed to all men, then every man would not be born with the law of sin which is to be found in his members. And if death had not passed to all, then all men would not die.
Julian suggests, that by Augustine's explanation of Paul's words, "And not as by one that sinned, is the gift; for judgment is from one to condemnation, but grace is of many offences to justification," and by his view of original sin, the apostle is made to contradict himself. For if freewill was utterly ruined by the first sin, and afterwards remained so defective in the whole human race, that it could will nothing but evil, and could not turn itself at all to good; if, being by the necessity subject to sin, it is compelled to obey the allurements of vice; if the law of sin dwells in the members, and this has obtained its dominion over the image of God by marriage if the devil's bramble is grafted on man; if this grows by natural increase, becomes green, and loaded with corrupt fruit; if this, by Augustine's position, has been produced by the single crime of the first man then it cannot be said of grace, that it frees from many offences, for, by this supposition, no sins at all would be committed by the proper movement of freewill. One infectious crime of the seed of the first progenitor, is then the cause of so great an evil; and the grace of Christ does not cause justification by the pardon of many offences; but its whole office is limited to freeing from one individual sin. II. 105 sqq.
Augustine replied: The sentence is from one sin to condemnation, because they were condemned in whom this individual sin is innate. But grace helps to justification from many offences, because it removes, not merely that innate sin, but also all the additional sins committed by freewill.
From the two contrary propositions, "As by the offence of one, condemnation [was] to all, so by the righteousness of one, [was the free gift] to all men to justification," Julian inferred, that the question could not here respect any original sin to which all men are subject. II. 135. For had Paul intended to say, that all are brought into condemnation by Adam, how could he have said that all are justified by Christ? The universality of one proposition precludes the universality of the other. [Julian meant, they could not be all condemned and all justified, at the same time. TR.]
Augustine replied, that there is here no contradiction. For no one is brought into condemnation except through Adam and no one is freed from this condemnation, except through Christ. Hence the word all may be used in both propositions. All men died in Adam, and from them Christ makes as many alive as he will.
Julian remarked: Since, by the apostle's representation, grace is greater than sin, because he says, "the benefits abound to many more than the injury invades," (multo in plures abundasse beneficia, quam irrepsisse dispendia), and on the contrary, by the opinion that sin is propagated, sin must have injured more than grace has aided, it follows irresistibly, that Paul was not thinking of such a propagation of sin, but that, by his meaning, the traducians together with the Manichaeans are overthrown in their doctrines. II. 142.
Augustine answered: The apostle has not so expressed himself as Julian pretends. He has said, "much more has grace abounded to many;" not "to many more," but "more abounded." In respect to the last, he remarks (De Pec. Mer. I. 11), that this, as appears from the following, was said in the sense that, while Adam by his single transgression produced the guilty, Christ has also, by his grace, blotted out and forgiven the sins which men have added to original sin. In Op. Imp. II. 205, it is said, "Grace much more abounds towards those, because they through Adam live for a time in a miserable and dying way, but through Christ they are to live most happily and forever." In respect to the following words of Paul, "where sin abounded, grace hath much more abounded," it is added as the reason, "because grace, in those who belong to it, blots out the guilt of all those kinds of sin, and affords, besides, the advantage that the love of sin is overcome by the love of righteousness, and afterwards extends to that life where there will be no sin at all." II. 217.
Julian observed further, that by the words, "as by the disobedience of one man, many were constituted sinners, so by the obedience of one many are constituted righteous," the apostle explained what was before said. He gave it to be understood, that he only can venture to lay claim to the rewards of virtue who, after the incarnation of Christ, has sought to obtain them by imitating his holiness; and that he only can be called a sinner in Adam, who has sinned by transgressing the law in imitation of the first man; but that the grace of Christ also refers to innocent children, to whom Adam's guilt has no reference, and he therefore insisted, that God's grace and the gift of the one man Jesus Christ, extend to a far greater number. Hence it follows that the apostle is in opposition to Augustine. The apostle says, that by one man's disobedience, not all, but many became sinners; that by one man's obedience, not all, but many became righteous. Augustine, on the contrary, would have all born liable to punishment through Adam, and some to be freed by the grace of Christ. Augustine therefore opposed the opinion of the apostle. Had Paul thought like Augustine, he must have said, "By the disobedience of one, all became sinners, but by the obedience of Christ, some of these have returned to righteousness." But with this declaration the other could not have been reconciled, that Christ's grace has benefitted more than Adam's transgression has injured. If, then, we did not know at all in what sense many are made sinners by one man's disobedience, yet it would ever remain decided, that what, according to the apostle's declaration, belongs not to all but to many, cannot refer to original sin Op. Imp. II. 146 sqq.
Augustine replies: "He [the apostle] calls them all, and calls the same many. By saying many, he does not deny all, unless he is contrary to himself, as either your improbity deceives or your blindness is deceived. For the apostle said both all and many. But you, by calling them not all whom the apostle has called all, are beyond doubt convicted of being contrary to the apostle," etc.
Finally, it is not true that the apostle has designedly taught, that God's grace and the free gift of the one man Jesus Christ, are to a far greater number, since in the Greek it is not ________ most, but ______ many, etc.
Julian also endeavored to prove from the connection with what follows, that Paul, who must best have understood his own writings, did not intend to teach an Augustinian original sin, Thus Paul speaks in Rom. 6:12, "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body to obedience unto it." This admonition plainly proves, that Paul speaks of voluntary sins. If he were speaking of natural imperfection, he could in no wise admonish us to guard against it, for it were nonsense to warn against natural things. But the apostle has certainly commanded nothing which deserves censure. He therefore meant voluntary sins, which he urges to avoid. The apostle proceeds (v. 13, 14): "Neither present ye your members, the instruments of iniquity unto sin; but present yourselves to God as alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God; for sin has not dominion over you; for ye are not under law but under grace." The greater the freedom, says the apostle, which you now enjoy, the more faithful should you prove yourselves in God's service. When you still had to fear punishment for your transgressions, sin reigned over you; but since you have obtained the highest benefits by the grace of God, and your sins are forgiven, you are bound to show yourselves grateful for this aid. When the apostle subsequently speaks of servants of sin, he gives it to be understood, that he means by them merely those who had voluntarily served vice, but that these afterwards changed their will and became the servants of righteousness. "I say what is human, because of the infirmity of your flesh; for as ye have presented your members to serve uncleanness and iniquity unto iniquity, so now present your members to serve righteousness unto sanctification," adds the apostle, (v. 19). What I say is human, means nothing different from this, what I say is easy, practicable. I demand, says the apostle, nothing too bard, nor impossible; I give you no new precepts. Pursue virtue with only just the same zeal with which you were before devoted to vice. Let us, therefore, adds Julian, believe the teacher of the Gentiles. For what he has enjoined is really human, that the will ought to reform itself and avoid freewill vices. But that it ought to put away the other--something innate--hereditary--would be not only inhuman, but also wrong, nay insane. It is therefore shown, that Paul, this venerable teacher of Christianity, thought of no natural sin, but rather inculcated, that we become the slaves of sin no otherwise than by the will; and that by the same will, when it is reformed, we can serve righteousness. And thus it is made out, that Paul, on whom the traducians place their chief reliance, affords as little support to their opinions as do reason and the catholic church. 11. 226, to the end.
What Augustine places in opposition to this reasoning, is extremely weak. Paul, he remarks among other things, does not say, "let not sin be in your mortal body," but "let it not reign." This presupposes the existence of concupiscence, which can only be in a mortal body. That man can make himself righteous by his own freewill, the whole church denies, which prays publicly what she has learned from her good Master, "Lead us not into temptation," etc.
The words, "In the day ye eat, ye shall die the death," Julian as well as Pelagius referred merely to the death of the soul. Op.. Imp. VI. 10. The words, "Earth thou art and to earth shalt thou go," Julian regarded, not as words of the curse, but rather of consolation. But the curse which God pronounced on Adam and Eve, he supposed to embrace only the punishment of the first pair, not their posterity. From the words, "Multiplying I will multiply thy sorrows," he argued that even without Eve's sin, children would have been born with pain, for the increase presupposes the existence of a thing already. VI. 26, 27.
Julian also considered Rom. 7:14-25, as the language of a Jew living under the law. The "body of death," he considered as the sins committed, and grace as the pardon of them imparted to us in baptism. I. 67. He gave a new translation of Eph. 2:3, in a way to differ from the explanation of Pelagius: "We were wholly children of wrath" making _____ to mean wholly. C. Jul. VI. 10; Op. Imp. II. 228. Augustine protested against this explanation, and maintained, that it was favored by no Latin manuscripts.
Besides the reasons derived from God's justice, an attribute inseparably connected with the existence of God, and by which he can punish those only who sin voluntarily, and can command nothing which one is not able by his nature to perform, and holds no one responsible for things natural, and by which therefore he imputes foreign sins to no one, and hence does not punish innocent children for the sins of their parents, besides these rational grounds, which made it clear how unjust it would be, if guilt were transferred by generation, (which reasons we find quoted by Augustine, Op. Imp. I., and refuted by him as well as he was able from his position, and of which we have already treated above), Julian now sought to make it still further manifest, by particular scripture proofs, that it would be the height of injustice, if the sins of parents were imputed to their children. We find these scripture proofs (Op. Imp, III. 12 sqq.) put together with great dexterity and acuteness, and it will not be uninteresting to see an outline of the use which Julian made of them, and of what Augustine replied, with dialectic art but often feebly enough.
Julian. Among the laws which God gave the Israelites for the purpose of establishing a more perfect government among them, we find the following in Deut. 24:16. "The Fathers shall not die for the children, and the children shall not die for the fathers. Each one shall die in his own sin." According to this ordinance of God, by which the judicial process of the Israelites was regulated, parents were not to be punished for the crimes of their children, nor children for the crimes of their parents. This principle of justice was therefore established, that relationship should not injure the innocent, but punishment should fall on the individual person who had deserved it. But this principle could find no place, if there were a connection between the will and the seed, or if a voluntary transgression passed by propagation to posterity. By this proof, therefore, the pernicious doctrine of original sin, is completely refuted. Those who maintain an original sin against this declaration, should also now abide by their opposition, and maintain likewise, that sin also extends back from children to parents; for the scripture says that the transgressions of the parents should not injure the children as those of the children should not injure the parents. But God cannot be the transgressor of his own law. If he wills that we should be just, and yet he acts unjustly himself, he wills that we should be more righteous than himself.
Augustine. This passage treats of those already born, and not of the children condemned in their first father, in whom all have sinned and in whom all die. And he gave this command for the direction of men, that the father should not die for the son nor the son for the father, if the father only or the son only should be found guilty. But God has not confined to the law the decisions which he may give by himself or by men whom he endows with the prophetic spirit. For he did not separate the children who had not yet imitated their parents, when he destroyed all, by the flood, except Noah and his family; and the fire did not consume the Sodomites without their children. Had the Almighty willed this, he certainly could have done it. And Achan was found as the only transgressor of the command, and yet he was put to death with his sons and daughters. And of so many cities besieged under the command of Joshua, that man of God, were not all slain so that not one was left alive? What evil had the children done? Did they not, by the divine decision, suffer one common punishment for the sins of their parents, of whom they could know nothing, and whom they could not imitate? God therefore judges in one way, and directs man to judge in another, though he is doubtless more righteous than man.
In Lev. 26:39, God says: "And those who remain of you, shall perish because of their sins and because of the sins of their parents." God says, Deut. 5:9, "I will recompense the sins of the parents on the children," which he often repeats. But he never says, "I will recompense the sins of the children on the parents," although parents may imitate their bad children; a plain proof that he punishes the faults (vitia) of generation, not those of imitation. God therefore deals in one way as God, and directs man as man in another. The higher divine righteousness is above human righteousness, so much the more unsearchable is it and so much the more removed from the latter.
Julian. That God's commands and his decisions do not contradict each other, and that he therefore does not impute foreign sins to men, and forbids them to impute them to others--for the establishment of this truth, the scripture proof is entirely irrefutable. Thus the prophet Ezekiel, who was filled with the Holy Ghost, said (18:2 sqq.): "Why have ye this parable in the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge. As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, this parable shall not be spoken any more in Israel; for all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son, all souls are mine. The soul that sinneth it shall die." The prophet speaks to the Jews, who had brought captivity on themselves by their own vices, but who, in order to turn from themselves the odium of their own transgressions, ascribed the fault to the morals of their ancestors. God, to confirm the righteousness of his sentence, employed an oath, and also declared the reason why foreign sins are not to fall on relatives. All souls, says he, are mine; and therefore it is utterly unfit and unreasonable, that foreign transgressions should burden my image.
In the subsequent verses, the declaration is illustrated by examples. It is shown, that if one, who lives blamelessly and piously, begets a son that leads a bad life and forsakes the way of his father, the glory earned by the father with ever so much assiduity, can avail nothing to his justification. On the other hand, he presents the son of a sinner, who abandons the way of his father, and shows that the misconduct of his father does not injure him. Just such a comparison he instituted between righteousness and sin, thus asserting that the faults of the parents can be no more propagated by the seed than their virtues, but that all souls belong of right to him. By this, also, your assertion, according to which both soul and body are under the dominion of the devil, is shown to be impious. For the prophet proceeds (Ezekiel 18:19, 20): "And ye say, Why is it that the son doth not bear the iniquity of the father? Because, saith he, the soul that sinneth it shall die; but the son shall not receive the unrighteousness of his father, neither shall the father receive the unrighteousness of his son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him." Who of us could have presented this with such clearness?
He derives a still further reason in confirmation of his righteousness, from the acts of mercy, and makes the declaration, that even those who have voluntarily sinned, their past errors shall not injure, provided they repent and reform. "If the wicked," says he (18:21, 22), "turn from his iniquities which he hath done, and keep my commandments, all his faults, whatever he hath done, shall not be remembered. In the righteousness which he hath done, he shall live the life." That is, since I am so merciful as to pardon even the actual transgressions of those who repent, how is it possible that I should impute foreign sins to those who are born? From these as well as from the following words, it is manifest how God would judge. He will not impute the sins of parents to the children, nor the sins of children to the parents. And thus is it also shown from scripture proof, wherein reason did not suffer us to doubt, that in his decisions, God observes the same righteousness which he has observed in his precepts.
Augustine. This promise by the prophet Ezekiel, which you do not understand, refers to the New Testament, where God distinguishes the regenerated from the begotten, by their conduct in riper years. For those of whom it is said, "The soul of the father is mine, and the soul of the son is mine," are already living their own lives. But while the prophet veiled the secret, which in its time was to be unveiled, he did not call it the new birth, by which every son of man passes from Adam to Christ; but he intended that what he did not then say, should be understood when the veil should be removed from those who pass to Christ. I ask you, then, whether if man performs all the works of righteousness which the prophet Ezekiel so often mentions, he shall live, even without being born again? If you say, he shall live, Christ contradicts it, when he says (John 6:54), "Except ye eat my flesh and drink my blood, ye have no life in you." That flesh and drink here refer to the regenerated, your. self, willing or unwilling, must allow. But if, borne down by the weight of such an authority, you reply, that he who does all that good, if not regenerated, does not live, then tell what is the cause, and see, that not imitation, but regeneration, is put in opposition to generation, when the apostle represents Adam on the part of sin, and Christ on the part of righteousness. On account of baneful generation it is said (Deut. 5:9), "I will recompense the sins of the fathers upon the children;" and hence arose the proverb of the sour grapes. But the New Testament is promised on the ground of free regeneration, where this shall no longer be said, because the condemned inheritance derived from Adam, is renounced through the grace of Christ. You therefore do not understand the proverb contained in the words of the prophet.
That also needs to be more accurately defined which, according to your position, the prophet says, namely, that "children are benefitted by no virtues of the parents." For would you deny that through the faith of the parents, the children of mother church are presented for regeneration and baptized by the ministers of God? Shall not therefore the virtue of the parents aid the children at all? Or will you undertake to maintain that Christian faith is no virtue? Are they not aided when they are brought into the kingdom of God by that regeneration? Why, too, was it said to Isaac, of temporal benefits (Gen. 26:24), "I will do it for thee on account of thy father Abraham? And on what ground was Lot, the son of Abraham's brother, benefitted by the merits of his uncle, if the virtues of the fathers do not benefit their children? The parable of the prophet, therefore, means nothing else but that the unregenerated father does not injure the regenerated son, in the attainment of eternal life, to which the expression refers, "he shall live the life;" that the regenerated father does not help the unregenerated son in this; and that again the regenerated son does not help the unregenerated father, or the unregenerated son does not injure the regenerated father, so that the one dies and the other lives.
Thus much for the scripture proofs which Julian employed to show the injustice of imputing foreign sins.
Against the Augustinian assumption, that temporal death is a punishment of Adam's sin, the Pelagians brought the case of Enoch and Elias who, according to scripture, did not die, and that, at the coming of Christ, believers then alive will not die but will go to meet the Lord in the air; and consequently bodily death can be no punishment of sin for all men, for those are free from it. In the prohibition therefore, "in the day thou eatest of the interdicted tree, thou shalt die the death," spiritual and not natural death is to be understood. Sin effects that, but not the seed; in that transgression only occurs, and man can escape it only by repentance. Ep. 193. c. 3, 4. Comp. Lib. de octo Dulcitii Quaestionibus, quaest. 3; Op. Imp. VI. 30.
Here Augustine knew of nothing satisfactory to reply, and came at last to the resort that, according to revelation (John 11:7), it is probable that Enoch and Elijah would again return to this earth for a short time and die, in order that the punishment of Adam's sin might be also accomplished in them. Comp. De Gen. ad Lib. IX. 6. In respect to the words of Paul (1 Thess. 4:15), "we which are alive shall be caught up," etc., he confessed his ignorance and the difficulty of reconciling them with other passages of Paul in which he speaks of the universality of death or the universality of the resurrection. Yet he justly remarked that, allowing some to be freed from death, it does not follow that it is no punishment of Adam's sin. For if besides the sin, God wills also to forgive the punishment of sin to some, what can we have to reply? This would be a special grace. But how the universality of original sin would not hereby fail of proof, this doubt Augustine did not satisfactorily solve.
The passage in Wisdom 12:10, 11, Julian would not take in the strongest sense, but would understand as a comparison. The author would say, that the old inhabitants of the holy land had so despised God's long-suffering and had become so wedded to their vices, that it seemed as though these were born with them. The expression, "cursed seed," he referred to Ham, on whom his father Noah had pronounced the curse.
The scripture proofs of the freedom of the human will. could not fail the Pelagians for they had only to adduce all the passages where the particular application of its power is ascribed to man and he is called to virtue and to a blameless life. And they ceased not to make use of these passages.
In the letter to Demetrias (c. 8), Pelagius proves from scripture, that sinners cannot exculpate themselves on the ground of any necessity in their nature, but fall always by voluntary inclination. Since in the same nature and amid the like circumstances, the deserts are different, the cause is to be sought simply in freewill. Pelagius further remarked, that it would conflict with the righteousness of God, to give man a law which he could not keep. 19. The apostle could not have said to Ananias, Why hath Satan tempted thy heart to lie to the Holy Ghost? if the devil, (whose influence on men Pelagius admitted, with all his contemporaries), could have done this without the consent of the will of Ananias. 29. Pelagius further quoted, as a proof of freewill, Ps. 109:18, where it is said, He delighted in cursing, and it shall come upon him; and he refused blessing, and it shall be far from him. To cripple the proof of this passage, Augustine sought to help himself in a way which he had often tried in the like condition, but by which the very essence of freedom would be totally destroyed, namely, by the assumption that, after the fall, freedom for evil still remains to man. "In that passage," says Augustine (De Gest. Pel. 3), "the question regards the corruption, not of nature as God had formed it, but of the human will which is estranged from God. But if he had not indeed loved the curse and had willed the blessing, and if he had then denied that his will was in this very thing aided by grace, he would have been abandoned to his own guidance as ungrateful and impious; so that without God's guidance, he would be hurled to the abyss and gone to his own punishment, as he could not have been regulated by himself."
Also from one of the apocryphal books of the Old Testament, of which Pelagius as well as Augustine made just the same use as of the canonical, Pelagius borrowed a proof for the moral freedom of man. "He has placed before thee water and fire," it is said in Ecclesiasticus 15:16, 17, "stretch forth thy hand to which thou wilt. Before man, is good and evil, life and death. That which pleases him, shall be given to him." With this, he connected, in his epistle to Demetrias (2), the passage in Deuteronomy: "I have given before thy face, the blessing and the curse. Choose life for thyself, that thou mayest live." In precisely the spirit of his system, Augustine also here remarked (ib.): "It is obvious, that if the man puts his hand into the fire, and evil and death please him, the will of man produces this. But if he loves good and life, the will does this not alone, but is divinely aided. For the eye is adequate of itself for not seeing, i.e., for darkness but it is not competent of itself to see by its own light, if the aid of a clear light from without, is not afforded."
Julian also found in 2 Cor. 5:10, a striking proof of freewill. "Freewill, as we hold it, is that on account of which alone the teacher of the Gentiles writes, "We are to be manifest before the tribunal of Christ, that each one may receive what belongs to his body (propria corporis), according as he hath done either good or evil." Op. Imp. I. 96.
The Mosaic law Julian also regarded as a witness for the freedom of the will. But according to Augustine, it was given, that man might see that he is evil; that he cannot become better by the law and should hence long for the aid of grace. VI. 15.
Pelagius could find no proof of the want of freedom in the passage quoted for this purpose by Augustine from Rom. 7:15, 19, "What I will I do not, but what I hate, that I do," etc. In his commentary on Romans, Pelagius explained this passage as referring to the power of habit, by which one comes, as by intoxication, to forgetfulness of himself. But he also proposed other interpretations which were different from the Augustinian. In the power of evil habit, freedom always remains entire; for with Pelagius, the evil habit itself was something culpable. Still less could he find, in Rom. 6:20-21, "when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness," what Augustine found in it, namely, that by the sin of Adam, man's freedom was lost as the "possibility of good and evil." "Ye were free from righteousness," was nothing else with Pelagius but, Ye did not serve righteousness. The fruit of it was death, i.e., temporal and eternal unhappiness. But now, as ye are freed from sin, and have become the servants of righteousness, ye have the fruit of living as consecrated by baptism. In this way Pelagius could bring the passage to harmonize with his system. In like manner Julian interpreted it. Op. Imp. 1. 107 sqq.
In John 8:36, If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed, Julian found that deliverance from punishment, which is granted to sinners through Christ. "In these words, the Lord promises pardon (indulgentiam) to the guilty who have lost by sin, not the freedom of will, but the consciousness of rectitude. But freewill is as complete (plenum)) after sin as it was before sin; for by its operation, it comes to pass that most men abandon the hidden things of infamy (2 Cor. 4:2), and after forsaking disgraceful vices, they become adorned with the badges of virtue." Op. Imp. 1. 91. Julian also quoted (93), in support of freewill, John 5:43. Matt. 12:33. 23:37, 38. John 10:38.
The truth of the Pelagian opinion, that man can be without sin, for which Jerome, though unjustly, reproached the Pelagians with teaching a stoical apathy--Caelestius sought also to prove from scripture passages; and placed these in opposition to Augustine's scripture proofs for the contrary position. Augustine also, (De Perf. Just. Hom. 11. sqq.), knew how to adapt them to his system.
In the letter to Demetrias, c. 8, Pelagius endeavored to make the goodness of human nature itself intuitively evident from the fact, that men were without the law for so many years before the time of Moses. God knew, said Pelagius, that he had so formed human nature that it might do without the law.
The passage in 1 John 2:16, The lust of the flesh is not from the Father, and from which Augustine endeavored to prove that concupiscence is something sinful, was interpreted by Julian in another way. He explained "concupiscence of the flesh" by luxury (luxuria). To this Augustine replied, that as luxury is a bad thing, how can a desire which seeks what is bad, be a good thing? Op.Imp. IV. 69.
Finally, as respects the question of the origin and propagation of the soul, creationism was taken under patronage by the Pelagians. "We believe," says Pelagius in his confession of faith, "that souls are given by God, and say they are made by himself. We condemn connected with the bodies, or have resided in heaven." They were the error of those who maintain that they have sinned before being inclined to creationism for precisely the same reason that Augustine could not adopt it, namely, because it would not harmonize with his assumption of original sin. C. d. Epp. Pel. It. 2. From Ezek. 18:4, As the soul of the father so also the soul of the son, all souls are mine, Julian sought to prove, though not in a strictly demonstrative way, that the work of propagation can have no influence on the soul, which belongs to God. Op. Imp. 111. 44.
The words in Col. 1:13, "Who delivereth us from the power of darkness," which Augustine brought as a proof that man in his natural state is found under the power of the devil, Pelagius in his commentary referred to ignorance or error. Julian would at least not have them applied to infants.
The Pelagians, having now defended their theory of the uncorrupted state of human nature, and of the moral freedom of the will, both by philosophy and scripture, and having wrested from the hands of Augustine the exegetical weapons for his original sin, needed no scripture proofs at all for their other doctrines in opposition to Augustine; for these followed of course from that theory. If there is no original sin, then the pardon of it cannot be the object of infant baptism; and then, too, the children that die before baptism, cannot be eternally damned; for all ground for such a condemnation fails, and it is utterly opposed to correct ideas of God's holiness and justice. The passages particularly quoted by Augustine for his theory of infant baptism, could cause but little trouble to the Pelagians. We do not indeed find how they explained themselves respecting the passage in Mark, He that believeth not shall be damned; but they needed only to understand it of unbelieving adults to whom the gospel is preached, in order completely to destroy all Augustine's argument. John 3:5, Except one be born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God, they might aptly bring into harmony with their theory, by which they made a distinction between salvation and the kingdom of God. According to that theory, none but the baptized enter the kingdom of God. The words in Rom. 6:3 sq., Whoever of us have been baptized in Christ Jesus, have been baptized in his death (in morte), etc., Pelagius, in his commentary, referred to adults who had gone over to Christianity by baptism. These were bound by baptism to die to sin and to renounce their previous sinful life. And Julian found in this passage, not a proof of original sin, but a call to virtue. Op. Imp. II. 223. And 2 Cor. 5:14, One died for all; therefore all were dead, etc., Pelagius explained thus: Christ was the individual who was presented as a spotless victim for all who were dead in sin.
What there was further in the Pelagian theory of grace that particularly differed from the Augustinian--for even supernatural influences of grace the Pelagians admitted in a certain sense--followed of itself from their theory of the incorrupt state of man and the moral freedom remaining to man after the sin of Adam. Hence it followed that, by supernatural influence, the practice of virtue is rendered easier to man, but is not thus made possible; that consequently many individual good acts may be performed without the aid of grace; that we must seek to deserve this grace by the application of our own power; and that grace is not irresistible. Only in this way can a supernatural grace be brought to harmonize with the Pelagian view of man's moral nature, as well as the moral attributes of God.
The scripture passages by which man's freedom can be proved, were hence also proof texts for the Pelagian limitations under which alone their defenders admitted any supernatural influences of grace. From passages like Zech. 1:3, Turn unto me and I will turn unto you, they endeavored to prove, that grace is imparted according to our merits; against which Augustine could easily adduce declarations of the Bible which appear to have an opposite meaning. De Gr. et Lib. Arb. 5.
In his commentaries, Pelagius knew how to give a sense consistent with his theory, to passages in Paul's epistles in which to think and to will as well as to perform good, seem to be presented as the immediate effect of Deity. Rom. 8:14, Those who are led by the spirit of God, are the sons of God, he explained as, Those who deserve to be ruled by the Holy Ghost; just as, on the other hand, they who sin are led by the spirit of the devil. Or, they who live according to the teaching of the Holy Ghost, are those who are moved by the spirit of God. 1 Cor. 12:11, All these things worketh one and the same spirit, etc., he understood of miraculous gifts, among which he also reckoned faith, in as much as this is capable of working miracles, e.g., to remove mountains. 2 Cor. 3:5, We are not sufficient to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, he referred to the apostles who, without God's grace, could not save the world. Paul intended to show that he did nothing by his own skill or power. Phil. 1:29, To you it is given, on Christ's account, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer, he explained thus: "The occasion of faith is given by God; for if Christ had not come and taught, we should not believe at all. In other respects, we find even faith to be voluntary in the acts of the law," i.e., in the books of the Old Testament. "He therefore designs you should have not only the merit of faith, but also the reward of martyrdom; while God suffers you to be tempted in order that you may conquer." On Phil. 2:13, For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of good will, he remarked: "The willing he produces by persuading and by promising rewards. But the doing as well as the willing is ours, since by the limitation of the passage itself, both belong together." The words, "of good will" (pro bono voluntate), he referred, not to God, but to man, and explained them thus: "If ye continue in the same (si in ea maneatis)." Rom 5:5, The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us, he explained thus: "How God loves us, we know from this, that he has not only forgiven our sins through the death of his son, but has also given us the Holy Ghost, who now shows us the glory of things future." In 1 Cor. 8:1, he understands by "knowledge (scientia)" human knowledge. This puffeth up those who have not divine knowledge with it. Passages like 1 Cor. 4:7, What hast thou which thou hast not received? be referred, not to an immediate, but an indirect operation of God. De Pec. Mer. 11. 18. The Pelagians also quoted Prov. 16:1, It belongs to man to prepare the heart (hominis est preparare cor) and the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. From this they argued, that man can commence virtue without the aid of grace. C. d. Epp. Pel. 11. 9.
On the other hand, Augustine endeavored to show, from passages of scripture, that all which man does, takes place from God. "Man does no good things," says Augustine, "which God does not make him do."
In opposition to the Augustinian belief of an impartation of grace by which it does not depend and cannot depend on man's conduct, and consequently as little on a resistance as on prayer or knocking, the Pelagians endeavored to make Matt. 7:7, avail them, where it is said, Ask and ye shall receive; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you, etc. On the contrary, Augustine remarked, (C. Jul. IV. 8), that grace must precede this knocking and seeking; it must already have touched the man's heart. "Your explanation" that it depends on man's will in seeking and knocking, "infants themselves refute by their silence, who no more ask than seek or knock; but besides, when baptized, they cry and oppose and struggle against it, and still they receive, and find, and it is opened unto them. And they go hence into the kingdom of God, where they have the salvation of eternity and the reception of the truth, while far more children are not received to that grace by him who wills all men to be saved." In what sense Augustine understood the last passage, we have already seen.
Finally, as respects the Pelagian doctrine of predestination, it stood in the closest connection with the other doctrines of the Pelagians. In his predestination to salvation, God must have had respect to man's worthiness, for otherwise man would cease to be a moral being. The application of the power which he has, must first make him capable and worthy of salvation. And the redemption of Christ must extend to the whole human race, because all have a like promise of salvation, based simply on the good use of their powers.
How the passages in Romans which seem to bear an Augustinian import, would be explained by Pelagius, has been already shown while presenting his view of predestination. It is here only needful to remark further, that the words (C. 9), "Therefore it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy," to "why doth he yet find fault," were taken by Pelagius as an objection which Paul raises against himself, and in opposition to which he maintains the freedom of man. But Augustine considered the Pelagian explanation of those passages of Paul in which he saw his "absolute," but they their "conditional predestination," to be totally at variance with the connection. If God, said Augustine, loved Jacob and hated Esau, because he foresaw their future works, why did he not say this, when he raised the objection to himself (Rom. 9:14), "What shall we then say? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid." Here was the place to explain himself in so brief and clear a manner as the following, "for God foresaw their works when he said, the elder shall serve the younger," etc, Ep. 194. c. 8.
Julian especially knew how to explain away, with great acuteness, the unconditional decree which Augustine found so plainly asserted in the apostle's declaration (Rom. ix.), He hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth.
He commences with the remark, that the apostle was disputing with the Jews, who, as they were so proud of their origin, could not endure to have the Gentile believers enjoy equal privileges as Christians. Paul therefore taught and showed them, that it well comported with the justice and grace of God, for God first to distinguish the Jews by the knowledge of his law; and afterwards, by the preaching of Christ, to call the heathen also to the Christian religion. God, says he, is not the God of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles. He gives to each his own, without defrauding him and without grace, i.e., without respect of persons, (for in this sense is the word grace to be taken in the definition of righteousness), and he will reward Jews and heathen according to their conduct. The teacher of the Gentiles therefore endeavors to quell the pride of the Jews, and shows, by the example of Jacob and Esau, that the preference of a people rests, not on desert, but on moral conduct.
While the apostle carries this through the whole controversy, he nevertheless speaks in some passages, in order to humble the arrogance of the circumcised, of the mere power of God under the name of grace. For instance, addressing these, who sought their glory in the observance of ceremonies and the presentation of sacrifices, and on this account believed that other nations, who were not bound to the customs of the law, could not and ought not immediately to come into communion with themselves, he says that, even if the sum of righteousness consisted in those observances, still God had it in his power to make a change among nations, so as to reject whom he would, and adopt whom he would. Hereupon, he suffers a Jew to make the objection, So then nothing more can be required of the will of man, since God has mercy on whom he will, and hardens whom he will. Against this, the apostle subjoins, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? and introduces the testimony of Isaiah, Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus? and adds of himself, Or has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel to honor and another to dishonor? That is to say; Because I have commended the will of God and set forth the authority of his grace by saying that he has shown mercy to him on whom he has had mercy, thou, O Jew, bringest the malicious objection against me, as though the commendation I have presented of the divine will and the divine power, undermined God's justice; and because I have said, He doeth what he will, thou inferrest that nothing more can be required of the will of man, if God doeth all according to his own will. But when I say of God, He doeth what he will, I say nothing else but that He doeth what he ought because I show that he willeth nothing but what he ought. Both are the same. Where, therefore, will and justice are inseparably connected, there I have indicated both when I have mentioned one.
The apostle would therefore beat down the pride of the Jews; who glossed their inactivity with the varnish of necessity for the purpose of opposing the reception of the heathen to the privileges of the gospel and making but one community of both, and who urged, that either the heathen should not be admitted to share the promise, or else that freewill would be destroyed. Hence he said, If it were even as thou pretendest, still thou oughtest humbly to pray to God, and not to raise rebellion. And he does not push the matter further, but, as he commended the power of God, so he also defends the justice of God, in as much is in the sequel he says expressly, that the vessels, which are formed to dishonor or to honor, receive this as a punishment or a reward of their own will. "For if God, willing to show his wrath and make his power known in much patience, in the vessels of wrath completely prepared for perdition: And that he might make known the riches of his glory in the vessels of mercy which he has prepared for glory, whom he has also called, even us, not only of the Jews but also of the Gentiles." Here he says expressly, that God suffers those vessels only to feel his wrath, who are completely fitted for destruction, but that glory is awarded to those who are before prepared for it. But by whom such vessels are prepared for punishment or for salvation, the apostle plainly declares (2 Tim. 2:20, 21): "In a great house, there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and earth; some indeed to honor, and others to dishonor. If one therefore shall cleanse himself from these things, he shall be a vessel sanctified unto honor, useful to the Lord, prepared for every good work." In the words, "If he shall cleanse himself," the work of freewill is recognized. By "vile vessels," are to be understood the vicious. These vessels are therefore prepared by their own efforts either for wrath or for salvation. But in both, God shows his power, as he either exercises his severity towards the ungodly, or bestows his blessing on the faithful. Op. Imp. 1. 131 sqq.
By this explanation, Julian endeavored to wrest from Augustine Rom. ix, as favoring his doctrine of predestination. It was not the apostle, but a proud Jew who would grudge the proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles, that would draw from the words of Paul the inference, "He hath mercy on whom he will," etc. This the Apostle would refute, and would show the harmony of God's justice and his power, by which man's freedom is saved. But what he says himself of the divine grace that has no respect to man's desert, has merely for its object to humble the arrogance of the Jews.
The passage in Isaiah also, from which the apostle had borrowed some words, Julian could bring into harmony with his view, as well as with other declarations of the prophet, in which the latter exhorts to abandon evil and do good, (Is. 1:16 sq.).
Augustine, as may well be supposed, was not satisfied with this explanation of Julian. He therefore took all pains to show his own interpretation to be the only true one. God, said he, owes grace to none. He appealed to the example of Paul in order to refute the position of Julian, that God does what he ought, and that consequently his will is in accordance with justice, and therefore his grace is guided by man's desert. God brought Paul to himself by his power and yet he had persecuted the Christians. He had therefore acquired no merits. He appealed to many passages of scripture, e.g., Rom. 11:5, 6; Ezek. 36:23, in which it is declared that grace is afforded not at all on account of good works. He says of the patriarch Jacob, that he was not elected on account of his mild and good character and his obedience to his parents, as Julian would have it; but that he was made a good man because he was elected He conceded, in regard to 2 Tim. 2:21, that it may be said of a man, that he prepares himself for salvation; but he there made the remark, which again removes freedom, that the will must be before prepared by the Lord. According to the Apostle's express declaration, it depends not on the willing and the running of man, but on the mercy of God. God therefore did not show mercy because Jacob willed and ran; but Jacob willed and ran because God showed mercy. But God shows mercy according to grace, which is given gratuitously, and is not awarded to merit; but he hardens in judgment, which is sent according to desert. For out of a condemned mass to make a vessel to honor, is manifest grace; but to make a vessel to dishonor, is a righteous judgment of God, etc.
The passage in Eph. 1:4 sq., on which Augustine laid great stress, Pelagius explains, in his commentary, in a manner agreeable to his theory. On the words, As he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and immaculate, he says, in accordance with his conditional predestination, "Because there is nothing new with him, all was with him before it takes place; not as some heretics dream, as though the souls had been assembled in heaven." And on the words, He predestinated us to the adoption of sons, etc. "He decreed that men who would believe, should have power to become children of God, as it is written, They spoke with assurance to every one that would believe." "According to the purpose of his will," he explained as "Not according to our merit."
The words of Paul therefore contain a predestination; but precisely because it has respect to the conduct of man, it is in no contradiction with the freedom of the human will. On the other hand, it is to be regarded as grace and not as merit, that God will permit the salvation of Christianity to be imparted to man on the condition of his own application of his power.
Pelagius found the universality of redemption plainly enough declared even in Paul's epistles: "Christ died for all," (2 Cor. 8:15), means, according to Pelagius's interpretation, Christ was presented as a spotless offering for all sinners. On 1 Tim. 2:4, Who would have all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, he remarked, that the objection from the hardening of Pharaoh and the rest of the objections of this kind, are removed. God wills that all should be relieved, if they will all only give ear to God's call. On verse 6, "Who gave himself as redemption for all," he remarked, He has given himself for all if all would be redeemed.
Thus much for the reasons which Augustine, on one side, and Pelagius on the other, employed as proofs of the soundness of their theories. We are yet to cast a searching glance on those proofs at the close of this work. But the question is first to be answered, how the fathers previous to Augustine thought respecting the contested doctrines, as it must not be passed over in a pragmatic history of the Augustinian and Pelagian controversies.
REMARK BY THE TRANSLATOR.
Here our author closes what was more appropriately the result of his own investigation of the original sources of the history. For the matter contained in the ensuing chapter, he appears to have relied, in no small degree, on the labors of his predecessors in the same field, Horn, Münscher, etc.
Nor is it to be expected that he should here show the same depth of research as in the previous portion which he had assumed as his more appropriate subject of investigation. Of course his individual opinion on any topic pertaining to this earlier period, though certainly worthy of regard, cannot justly challenge so high a degree of deference as on topics of the period he had so much mote thoroughly studied.
Here, too, he can no longer follow the exhausting method, but is compelled to give only a brief and compendious view of the opinions of the earlier fathers on the points in question. In some cases, this view has indeed appeared to me so brief as hardly to convey, to one not previously acquainted with the subject, either a very clear or just conception of the matter presented: and in such cases I have felt it a duty to make room for considerably more extended extracts from the original sources, as well as for explanatory remarks.
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