The GOSPEL TRUTH
AN HISTORICAL PRESENTATION OF
AUGUSTINISM AND PELAGIANISM
G. F. WIGGERS, D. D.
CHAPTER VII: Objections of the Pelagians against Augustine's doctrine of original sin and of freewill.
The Augustinian theory of original sin and of freewill as lost by Adam's fall, contained so much that is revolting to the moral sense of man, and was so contradictory to the demands of the moral law, that it exposed assailable points enough to the shrewdness of the Pelagians. Hence a great dialectic adroitness was requisite in Augustine, to sustain his theory in the appearance of truth.
It will not be uninteresting here, to become more acquainted with some of their most acute objections.
Against the Augustinian position, that Adam's sin is propagated among all men by sensual lust in generation, the instance was adduced by the Pelagians, which has already been touched upon in connection with infant baptism. "If baptism cleanses from that old transgression, then those who spring from two that are baptized, must be free from this sin, for they cannot transfer to their descendants what they have not themselves." De Pec. Mer. III. 3. Here Augustine remarks, (4), that even if he may not be able to refute this and other objections, still we must abide by those plain passages of scripture from which it is apparent, that no one can obtain salvation, who is not baptized; that we must explain what is obscure by these passages; and if we are not able to do this, still we must believe it without hesitation. The reply has already been mentioned, however, which Augustine made in order completely to cripple this objections on which the Pelagians, according to their own assertion, placed great reliance. Since, by his theory, concupiscence itself is not removed by baptism, but only the imputation of it is annulled, he must have understood, that the person begotten through concupiscence, has the corrupt nature of his parents, the guilt of which, in him, is also to be canceled by the new birth. This, in conformity with the rest of his theory, he definitely exhibits, and in its true position and just light, in Ep. 194. He further touches upon it, De Pec. Mer. II. 27, where he says: "Regenerated parents do not corporeally generate from the beginnings of what is new in them, but from the remains of what is old." Regenerated parents, says Augustine (De Nupt. et Conc. 1. 18), do not generate as sons of God, but as children of this world. Still he often admits, what one would hardly have expected in his case, that it is something wonderful, that the children of baptized parents should be born with original sin, although the parents are regenerated and original sin forgiven to them; and he is at much pains to make this intelligible, by examples from sensible things, particularly by the example of the wild olive tree, which springs from the seed of the good olive. Nay, he believed, that God has made this example in nature, for the very purpose of aiding us to believe in the possibility of the propagation of original sin. He explains himself extensively on this point, in De Nupt. et Conc. 1. 19. "In a wonderful manner it comes to pass, that what is forgiven to the parents is transferred to the children; and yet it comes to pass. That these things invisible and incredible to unbelievers, might have some visible example, divine providence has given such an example in certain shrubs. For why should we not believe it to be appointed for this purpose, that the wild olive should spring from the fruit of the good olive? May we not believe, that in something which is created for the use of man, the Creator provided and appointed something to serve as an example of the human race? It is, then, wonderful, how those who are by grace freed from the bond of sin, should produce children bound by the same bond, who must be freed in the same way. But when would it be believed that the germ of the wild olive is concealed in the seed of the true olive, if it were not proved by experience? As, then, the wild olive is produced from the seed of the wild olive, and likewise from the seed of the good olive, although there is a great difference between the good and the wild; so is produced from the flesh of a sinner and from the flesh of the just, a sinner in each case, although between the sinner and the just, there is a great difference. But no one is born a sinner in act, and new in origin but old in guilt; but a man by the Creator, a captive by the deceiver, needing a Redeemer. But it is inquired, how the captivity of the progeny can be derived from parents already redeemed. And because it cannot easily be searched out by reason, nor explained by language, it is not believed by unbelievers; just as though what we have said of the wild and the good olive, which are alike in germ but unlike in kind, could be easily investigated by any mind and explained in language. But this fact can be seen by him who is willing to make the experiment. It may therefore be for an example by which that may be believed which cannot be seen." Augustine was very fond of this example; and recurs to it again, II. 34, and there adds, "The offspring of the regenerated, as they are not produced by spiritual but sensual passion, a wild olive tree of our race, as it were, from that good olive, receives in this way the guilt by birth, so that they can be freed from that pest only by the new birth." Compare with this, the passage already quoted from Ep. 194, c. 10, and several passages in C. Jul. VI. Augustine also adduces the wild grape vine (lubrusca, which springs from the seed of the good grape vine, but is more unlike it than the wild olive to the good), as an example how the bad may be propagated from the good. C. Jul. VI. 7.
Another objection was presented by the Pelagians, against the propagation of sin by concupiscence in generation, and our subjugation to the devil by birth, viz., that marriage must then be an evil; and both that and the fruit of it, must be the work of the devil. To repel this objection, he wrote his first book on marriage and concupiscence. In that book he attempted to show, that marriage in itself is not an evil, but is good, and an institution of God; but that on this account, sensual lust does not cease to be an evil, which married people, if temperate, use only for a good object, the production of children. "The new heretics," so begins the first chapter, "who maintain, that children born of the flesh, need not the baptism of Christ (medicinam Christi), by which sins are healed, most invidiously vociferate, that we condemn marriage and the divine work by which God creates men from males and females, because we say, that such as are born by such a union, contain original sin; concerning which, the apostle says: By one man, sin hath come into the world, etc., and because we do not deny, that they who are born of any parents whatever, are still subject to the devil unless they are regenerated in Christ, and rescued by his grace from the power of darkness, and brought into the kingdom of Him who would not be born by the same conjunction of the sexes. Therefore, because we say this, which is contained in the most ancient and sure rule of the catholic faith, those asserters of a novel and perverse dogma, who say there is nothing of sin in infants which should be washed away by the laver of regeneration, impiously or ignorantly calumniate us, as though we condemn marriage, and as though we call the work of God, i.e., man who is born of marriage, the work of the devil. Nor do they consider, that the blessing of marriage cannot be accused on account of original sin, which is thereby transferred; just as the evil of adultery and fornication, cannot be excused on account of the natural good which is thence produced. For as sin, whether contracted by infants in this way or that, is the work of the devil; so man, whether born in this way or that, is the work of God. The design of this book therefore is, to distinguish, so far as God shall deign to aid me, between the blessing of marriage, and the evil of carnal concupiscence, on account of which, man, who is born by it, contracts original sin. For if man had not previously sinned, there would have been none of this shameful concupiscence, which is impudently praised by the impudent; but marriage there would have been, if no one had sinned; because there would have been the semination of children in the body of that life without this disease, without which it cannot now take place in the body of this death." And this design of Augustine, he executed minutely enough. He distinguishes what he considered as the essential good of the marriage state (bona nuptialia), from concupiscence, which he does not assign to the essence of wedlock, but which, as an evil derived from the fall, is to be endured and turned to good, i.e., to the production of children, who are to be regenerated by baptism. Among the good things of marriage, he reckons progeny, fidelity, and a sacrament, by which last, marriage acquires its indissoluble character. C. 17. "The devil does not obtain power over children by what is good in marriage, but by the evil of sensual lust, which indeed marriage properly employs, but must nevertheless be ashamed of." 22. See also De Pec. Orig. 33, 34, 37; De Gen. ad Lit. IX. 7; and several other passages in the third and fifth books against Julian.
As might be expected, the Pelagians were at an utter remove from the Augustinian view of concupiscence. They could not comprehend how Augustine could call it an evil. The sexual passion, says Julian (Op. Imp. IV. 43), is implanted by God. The impulse of the members is a divine arrangement. C. Duas Epp. Pel. 1. 15. To this, Augustine replied, according to his system, that God so instituted these that man had not to be ashamed of them. For it was not fitting that his creature should be ashamed of the work of the Creator; but the disobedience of the members, was given as a punishment to the first disobedient pair, of which they were ashamed when they covered their nakedness with fig-leaves, but of which they had not to be ashamed before. But nowhere is the contrasted view of both sides more definitely given, than in C. Jul. III. 21. Here Julian says: "Whoever temperately uses natural concupiscence, uses a good thing well; he who does not observe temperance, uses a good thing badly: but he who, by the love of holy virginity, despises even the temperate use, does still better in not using a good thing; because, in the confidence of his safety and strength, he despises remedies, that he may maintain glorious contests." Julian therefore considered concupiscence as always a good. On the contrary, Augustine says: "Whoever uses carnal concupiscence temperately, uses a bad thing well; he who is not temperate, uses a bad thing badly; but he who, by the love of holy virginity, despises even the moderate use, does still better, in not using a bad thing: because, in the confidence of the divine aid and grace, he despises feeble remedies, that he may maintain more glorious contests." Here Augustine argues sophistically against Julian, from the term remedy, in order to convict him from his own reasoning. For no remedy, forsooth, can be employed against anything good, but only against an evil. But this could only prove, that the term remedy was ill chosen, or, at most, that Julian had attributed an undue value to entire continence; but not that he was wrong in asserting, that concupiscence is in itself good. But Augustine is still more sophistical, in Op. Imp. IV. 53, against Julian, who would not deny concupiscence in Christ, because he had a real body.
From this, Augustine endeavored, by several arguments, to draw the consequence, that Christ, in proportion as he ruled his passions more than other men, must have been more sensual, etc. And from Julian's concession, that we must resist sensual lust and fight against it, Augustine argued, that it is an evil. "There is no conflict without an evil. For when there is conflict, either good and evil are contending, or evil and evil; or if two good things are in conflict, the very contest itself is a great evil." C. Jul. V. 7. "Two good things, which are both from God the father, cannot be in conflict with each other; but continence and concupiscence are in conflict," etc. IV. 13. In like manner, Augustine brought this syllogism against Julian. No work of God, is an object of shame; but concupiscence is an object of shame; therefore it is no work of God. De Nupt. et Conc. 11. 9. The minor part of the syllogism, he also endeavored to prove, from the fact, that the allowed use of concupiscence by virtuous married persons, is connected with shame. C. Duas Epp. Pel. 1. 16. Comp. Norisii Vindiciæ Augustinianæ, p. 19, seq. Julian, on the other hand, to support his assertion that concupiscence is nothing sinful, derived an argument from the fact, that it was conferred as a gift on Abraham and Sarah, when their members had become already dead, Rom. 4:19, and what God confers as a gift, cannot pertain to the work of the devil. To this, Augustine replied, that it would follow from this principle, that if God raises a lame person from the dead, even the lameness must be considered as a gift of God. Such a power of the members was restored by God, as that which the nature of this body of death, brought with itself; but not such that they could produce children without the law of the members, as was the case before the sin of Adam. C. Jul. III. 11. Julian further maintained, as concupiscence, in the wide sense, was the occasion of the first sin, and was therefore found in paradise before sin, that concupiscence cannot now be in itself sinful. Op. Imp. I. 71. To parry this consequence, Augustine said, that, by the sin of the first man, the bad will came first, and then concupiscence followed, and therefore we must regard the former as the cause of the latter. "The sinful will preceded, by which they believed the seducing serpent, and base sensual lust followed, by which they longed for the forbidden food. And hence, though each was sinful, the will induced the desire, and not the desire the will; it did not precede the will, nor resist it."
Nor could the Pelagians conceive how a creature of God, as Augustine considered the infant to be, can be subject to any other authority than the authority of God, or how a person just born can be subject to the authority of the devil. On this point, Julian poured forth his derision most unsparingly. According to Augustine, said he, "men are made by God on purpose that the devil may have them in his own right." C. Jul. III. 9. "God and the devil have entered into a covenant, that what is born, the devil shall have; and what is baptized, God shall have." VI. 9. In several passages, Augustine sought to defend himself against objections of this kind, and to explain how man can be a work of God, and yet can be subject to the devil. "Human nature," says he (De Nupt. et Conc. I. 23), "is not condemned for what it is in itself, which is good, because it is the work of God; but by the damnable vice by which it is corrupted. And because it is condemned, it is subjected to the damned devil. Thus, also, the devil himself is a foul spirit; and yet something good, as a spirit, but bad as being foul. For he is a spirit by nature, but foul by vice: of which two, the first is from God; the last, from himself. He does not therefore reign over men, whether of adult or infant age, because they are men, but because they are unclean. He, therefore, who wonders that a creature of God is subject to the devil, should not wonder. For a creature of God, is subject to a creature of God, the less to the greater, as the man to the angel. Nor is it on account of nature, but vice, that the foul is subject to the foul. This is his fruit from the ancient stock of impurity, which he planted in man, himself having to suffer, by the last judgment, so much the greater punishment as he is the more foul. Nevertheless, they, to whom there shall be a more tolerable punishment, are subject to him as their prince, and the author of sin: for there will be no cause of condemnation, but sin." "Although even this," says he (C. Jul. III. 9), "is more from the power of God than of the devil, that a foul progeny should be subject to a foul prince, unless renovated; yet God does not create men in order that the devil may, in a manner, have a family; but by that goodness, by which he causes all natures to exist, and by which he makes even the devil to subsist. If this goodness were withdrawn from things, they would forthwith become nothing. As, therefore, he does not create animals among the flocks and herds of the impious, in order to their being sacrificed to demons, although he knew they would do this; so does he see the human progeny subject to sin, and yet, according to the most admirable order of generations which he has arranged, he does not withhold his goodness from sustentation." "What God makes and man begets," says he, VI. 14, "is certainly good, in as much as it is man; but it is not therefore without evil, because regeneration alone frees from the sin which generation propagates from the first and great sin." "The devil is the corrupter, not the author of our substance. By that which he has inflicted, he subjects to himself what he did not create, a righteous God giving him this power; from whose power the devil withdraws neither himself nor what is subjected to him." VI. 19. "The whole man, both soul and body, in respect to his substance, belongs of right to the Creator; but by corruption, which is no substance, he is the property of the devil. Still he is under the power of the Creator, under which the devil himself is also placed." III. 46. "Men, as men, are the work of God; but as sinners, they are under the devil, if not rescued from him by Christ." C. Duas Epp. Pel. 1. 18.
The Augustinian assumption of the propagation of sin by generation, appeared to the Pelagians to stand in the closest connection with the assumption, that the soul is also propagated by generation. But the propagation of the soul by generation, was doubtless questionable in their view, because the soul would thus seem to be brought down to the sphere of the corporeal world; a consequence which Tertullian, who first set up that hypothesis in the church, even directly acknowledged! (Aug. Ep. 190. c. 4). Hence the remark, that Augustine's theory of original sin leads to the traducianism of the soul, must have appeared to the Pelagians as an objection to its soundness. But Augustine would not acknowledge the necessary connection between the propagation of Adam's sin by generation, and the propagation of the soul; although, as we shall hereafter see, he was much inclined to this hypothesis. That objection was made to Augustine by Julian, in a very biting way. Op. Imp. II. 178. "You say," so he addresses Augustine, "that sin then passed over, when all men, (to use your own words), were that one. By such an argument you show nothing but your own impiety; impiety, I say, by which you believe that souls are propagated just like bodies; which error was formerly condemned as profane in Tertullian and Manes; and which is so nefarious, that, since we made the objection to you in the letter which we sent to the east, you have endeavored to repel it by a denial, in the books you have lately addressed to Boniface, (C. Duas Epp. Pel.) For you say, men report us as maintaining the propagation of souls, but, in whose books they have read this, I know not; just as if you would protest, that no such thing had been said by you. But that the fallacy may be disclosed by a comparison of your language, how can you say that the truly profane opinion of the propagation of souls, is not contained in your meaning, when you profess that all men were that one? For if you do not believe the soul to be contained in the seed, with what countenance can you affirm, that all men were Adam alone, since man cannot exist at all except there be both soul and body at the same time?" And as, in the work addressed to Boniface, Augustine assumes the skeptic, in regard to the origin of the soul, and says, that he adheres to the plain teaching of scripture respecting an original sin, which is to be remitted to children by the laver of the new birth, and allows the origin of the soul--a very obscure matter--to pass by, and only maintains, that every assumption concerning the origin of the soul, which stands in opposition to that plain instruction, must be false; so he also says here, it is an assertion conformable to scripture, that at the time when Adam sinned, all men were in him, or were Adam himself; but whether only in respect to the body, or in respect to both body and soul, he knows not, and is not ashamed to confess his ignorance in the matter. Comp. C. Jul. V. 15. In other passages, too, Augustine, though so dogmatic in other points, assumes the part of the skeptic in respect to this. "As therefore," says he (C. Jul. V. 4), "both soul and flesh are alike punished, unless what is born is purified by regeneration, certainly either both are derived in their corrupt state from man, [traducianism], or the one is corrupted in the other, as if in a corrupt vessel, where it is placed by the secret justice of the divine law, [creationism]. But which of these is true, I would rather learn than teach, lest I should presume to teach what I do not know." In reply to Julian, he says (Op. Imp. IV. 104), "Blame my hesitation as to the origin of the soul, because I do not venture to teach or to maintain what I do not know. Bring forward, on this so dark a subject, what you please, if only that sentiment remain firm and unshaken, that the death of all is the fault of that individual, and that in him all have sinned." Also, in Ep. 190, he says, that on the origin of the soul, he has many doubts; but whatever one may think respecting it, never should he bring in doubt the truth, that every descendant of Adam is under his guilt and punishment, and never can be freed from them but by the new birth in Christ. In Ep. 164, c. 7, he sets it forth as doubtful, whether original sin is not propagated by the flesh, which has its origin from Adam. In Ep. 166, written about the year 415, he asks Jerome for instruction respecting the origin of the soul. This assumption of the part of the skeptic, was doubtless the wisest which Augustine could adopt. For in fact, he here found himself in a difficult situation. If he maintained the propagation of the soul by generation, he could scarcely escape the reproach of materialism; and if he conceded that the soul is not thus propagated, the argumentation of Pelagius hit him, which he mentions himself, in De Pec. Mer. III. 3, and Ep. 190, c. 6. "If the soul is not propagated, and only the flesh propagates sin, then this only deserves punishment. For it is unrighteous that the soul just born, and not originating from the mass of Adam, should bear a sin so old and foreign; for it is by no means to be allowed, that God, who forgives one's own sins, should impute a single foreign sin."
Finally, Augustine, as it was in accordance with all the rest of his system, was inclined to assume, as the peculiar seat of sin, not so much the body as the soul. "The sinning soul," says he (De Civ. Dei, XIV. 3), "has brought forth the corruption of the flesh." He allowed, however, that, by the mutual action of soul and body, "some incitements to vice, and even some passions proceed from the corruption of the flesh." Were the body only the seat of sin, "the devil, who has no body," might be pronounced free from sin. But, by the transgression of the first man, the body as well as the soul was corrupted. "In paradise, arrogance (elatio) took its rise indeed through the soul, and hence the propensity to transgress the command, because the serpent said, Ye shall be as gods but the whole man completed that sin. Then originated that flesh of sin, whose infirmities are healed only by the likeness of the flesh of sin." C. Jul. V. 4. That the Pelagians placed sin in the soul, scarcely needs to be further remarked. Hence Jerome, in his dialogue against the Pelagians, III. 11, makes his Pelagian, Critobulus, say, "As sickness and wounds are in the body, so sin is found in the soul."
But that God punishes sin with sin, and consequently, by the punishment of sin, causes more sins to be committed, the Pelagians regarded as a position injurious to the holiness of God, as God is thus made the author of sin. Pelagius himself gives his opinion on this point, in his book on nature. See Aug. De Nat. et Gr. 21, 22. Here Augustine sought to defend himself by quoting some passages from the Bible, and particularly from Paul.
Against the Augustinian doctrine, that, besides sin itself, the other punishments of Adam's sin have passed over to his posterity, many objections were likewise made by the Pelagians, and particularly by Julian, as may be seen from Op. Imp. VI. A few of the most striking, may here find a place.
Against Augustine's assertion, that bodily death is a consequence of Adam's sin, Julian made the acute objection, that, according to the opinion of the church, Adam was pardoned after repentance, and how then could bodily death now remain to Adam's posterity, as a punishment of his sin? To meet this objection, Augustine distinguished between the temporal and the eternal punishment. To the temporal, belongs death; and this was not removed by Adam's repentance; but in respect to eternal punishment, his repentance had the effect, that he should indeed be chastised by a long, but not an eternal punishment; for Christ, by his descent to hell, has freed Adam from hell. Op. Imp. VI. 22, 30. Comp. Ep. 164.
Nor was there any lack of striking objections against the other punishments which, according to Augustine's position, come on Adam's posterity for his sin. "How insane," says Julian (Op. Imp. VI. 26), "is what you assert, first, that the pain of parturition is the attendant of sin; since it is so plain, that it has more regard to the condition of the sex than to the punishment of crimes, in as much as all animals, not stained with sin, endure those pains and utter groans in parturition. Hence it can manifestly be no proof of sin, as it is found where there is no sin. Then, you bring forward another assertion, still more foolish. Woman [you say], would not suffer if she were not a partaker in the guilt; and yet there you add, But this sin for which woman suffers, is not found in the mother, but in the child. For baptized women, you say, are free from the sin, but suffer for the sins of the children they bear. According to this opinion, the transmission of sin, is not from the mother to the child, but from the child back to the parents. For if the baptized woman thus experiences pain, because iniquities are found in the child, the propagation begins to be backward, not forward. But, you will say, she does not suffer for the sin of the child, but because she brought sin with herself when she was born. You have said, however, that this evil is removed from her by grace. If, therefore, the pain of parturition belongs to the sin of the mother, the removal of sin ought to cure the pain. But if the pain, which women suffer after baptism, cannot here be without sin, then sin is not removed from them by grace, and the pomp of baptism becomes worthless. But if there are, in these mysteries, the truth and power which we believe, and you do not fabricate, and all sin is removed, and still the pain, produced by the difficulty of parturition, remains, the pain is manifestly an index of nature and not of criminality." On the other hand, Augustine replied, that it is doubtful whether brutes experience the pains of parturition. But, granting that they feel such pains, "the punishment of the image of God, then, accrues to the condition of brutes; but the punishment of the image of God, could not be just, if no fault preceded." To the objection, that baptized women suffer these pains, Augustine answered: "These pains, which we say are a punishment of sin, in a nature vitiated by transgression, thus remain after remission, in order that faith may be proved, by which we believe in a coming age when these things will not be."
This objection, derived from baptism, against the Augustinian original sin, was often repeated by Julian, and answered by Augustine in the like way. By baptism, as Julian believed, all evil must be removed, and hence concupiscence too. If one denied this, he would have to admit, that there is no saving efficacy in the mysteries of Christ. To this, Augustine replied, that the baptized person is indeed free from all sin, but not from all evil, or as he thought it might be more clearly expressed, he is free from the imputation of all evil, but not from all evil itself. There remains still, after baptism, the corruptibility of the body, and ignorance. Such evils remain in order that faith may find scope. For if the reward were already given to faith, faith would cease, because this in its nature respects something future. It therefore endures the present evils, and confidently and patiently expects the promised good. C. Jul. VI. 16, 17; Op. Imp. II. 94. Comp. De Pec. Mer. 11. 27, 31 sqq.; and Op. Imp. II. 93, where he replies to the following objection: If bodily death is the punishment of sin, why should the baptized child die, since sin is forgiven to him by baptism? The removal of sin must also bring the taking away of death, or else sin would produce more injury than redemption brings benefit. Why does the punishment of sin remain, when sin itself is no more? Temporal death, replies Augustine, remains for the exercise of faith. What was the punishment of sinners before forgiveness, is the conflict and exercise of the righteous after forgiveness. Comp. Ep. 157. c. 3; De Civ. Dei, XIII. 4. He also remarked, in regard to concupiscence, that "this, though called sin, is not so called because it is itself sin, but because it is produced by sin; just as writing is called the hand of some one, because the hand produced it. But sins are what are unlawfully done, said, or thought, according to fleshly concupiscence, or ignorance; which, when transacted, hold the persons guilty, if not forgiven." C. Duas Epp. Pel. I. 13.
Finally, against the Augustinian idea, that the sweat of labor, etc., is a punishment of Adam's sin, many keen remarks were made by Julian, which Augustine, in the sixth book of his Unfinished Work, endeavored to refute at great length, (but not always to the purpose), chiefly by quotations from scripture, which he explains in his own way and which he calls the catholic way.
But the Pelagians, particularly Julian, fixed a keen eye on that side where the Augustinian theory of original sin, exposes a very naked spot, I mean, the contradiction between that theory and the righteousness of God. How Pelagius argues, from the idea of God's justice, against Augustine's doctrine of original sin, by which foreign guilt is imputed to a man, we have already seen above, while presenting his theory of the natural state of man. Augustine thus replied to him, in the spirit of his system: "Nor are those sins called foreign (aliena) in such a sense as if they did not belong at all to infants; since in Adam all sinned, as there was placed in his nature the power of producing them, and they were all as yet one with him (adhuc omnes ille unus fuerunt). But the sins are called foreign, because the persons were not yet living their own lives, but the life of one man contained whatever there was in the future offspring. But by no means is it granted, say they, that God, who pardons men's own sins, imputes to them foreign sins. He pardons, but by the spirit of regeneration, not by the flesh of generation: but he does not impute what are now foreign, but their own. They were foreign, to be sure, when they who should bear them as propagated, were not as yet; but now, by carnal generation, they are theirs to whom they have not yet been forgiven by spiritual regeneration." De Pec. Mer. III. 8. Julian reasons in the same way as Pelagius, from the justice of God, against Augustine's original sin. If God is just, says he, he can impute no foreign sin [the sin of another] to children. But God must be just, if he is to deserve the name of a God. Justice is inseparably connected with the being of God. To this, Augustine replied in the first part of the first book of his Unfinished Work. In addition, however, to the remark against Julian, that original sins have become our own by the contagion of their origin, he knew of nothing to say to the purpose, but to appeal to the depth of the wisdom of God. With greater appearance of truth, he thus replies to this Julian, who speaks very strongly, in another place, of the injustice of God as following from Augustine's doctrine of original sin: "Divine justice is as much more inscrutable than human justice, as it is above it; and it differs proportionably from it. For what just man suffers a crime to be perpetrated, which it is in his power not to suffer? And yet God suffers these things, who is incomparably more just than all the just, and whose power is incomparably greater than all powers. Think of these things, and do not compare God the judge to human judges, who is undoubtedly just, even when he does what would seem to men unjust, and what man would be unjust in doing." Op. Imp. III. 24. In another place, I. 57, he says to Julian: "You rather make God unjust, as it seems to you unjust to visit the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, which he frequently declares by words and shows by deeds that he does. You, I say, make God unjust; since, when you see infants, under the care of him, the omnipotent, pressed with a grievous yoke of misery, you contend, that they have no sin, thus at once accusing both God and the church: God, if they are oppressed and afflicted, while innocent; the church, if they are blown upon [exorcised], while exempt from the dominion of diabolical power." As Julian, therefore, argued from the justice of God to the non-existence of original sin, so Augustine argued, from the justice of God and the various evils which happen to children, to the existence of original sin. Without this, it would be unjust, in his view, that children should be loaded with such misery. III. 7, 68.
Furthermore, the contradiction that lies in the idea of original sin, if freedom is presupposed in sin, (as is proper,) and if sin is a wilful transgression of the divine law, did not escape the Pelagians. This contradiction between freedom and Augustine's original sin, and consequently between freedom and necessity, Pelagius had in his eye, in his book On Nature. "How can a man be guilty, before God, of a sin which he has never known to be his? For it is not his, if it is necessary. Or if it is his, it is voluntary; and if it is voluntary, it can be avoided." De Nat. et Gr. 30. "If there is no sin without will," says Julian, according to Op. Imp. I. 48, "and if there is no will without free liberty, and if there is no liberty where there is no power of choice by reason, by what prodigy can sin be found in infants, who have not the use of reason? and therefore not the power of choice, and consequently no will; and these being irrefutably conceded, therefore no will at all?" What Augustine replied, here and in other passages, to arguments of this sort, while still holding fast to the shadow of a freedom, is wholly inapplicable. See, for example, IV. 93, 103. The contradiction, however, between original sin and freedom, could properly be no objection to Augustine, since, according to his theory, as he has carried it out in the Pelagian controversy, the loss of freedom by Adam's fall, belonged to original sin and constituted an essential part of it.
The Pelagians also remarked, that there can be no natural sin, for that which is natural, cannot be denominated sin. To this, Augustine replied, but without hitting the objection itself, that there is indeed no natural sin; but the will of nature, especially of corrupt nature, (whereby we have by nature become children of wrath,) is not adequate to refraining from sin, unless aided and amended by the grace of God through Christ. De Perf. Just. Hom. 2. Julian in particular, showed, that there is no natural sin, because God is the author of nature, and he can produce nothing evil. What Augustine, who did not regard the expression, natural sin, as quite proper, replied to this, in accordance with his own view, may well be supposed from what has heretofore been said. Op. Imp. V. 63.
The reasoning of Julian, is characteristic, and not without point, which Mercator adduces in his Commonitorium, p. 115. He relates that Julian, during his abode at Rome, asked a simple Christian, What is original sin, something good, or evil? Evil, by all means, was the answer. Upon this, he further inquired, whether God is the author and producer of this evil? Not in the least, was the reply. He then inquired, whether sin is a substance or nature; or whether it is an accident? And when the simple Christian had hesitated a while for an answer, he added: Sin is by no means a substance or nature; because, if it be, it has God for its author or producer. For there is no nature which God has not made. But as it is decided that God is not the author of evil, so sin, which is manifestly an evil, is not a substance or nature. But what is no substance, we can with no justice or reason believe to pass over into a substance or nature, which man is. And hence he inferred, that it is incorrect and foolish, to believe any sin to be propagated down from Adam by generation. In this spirit, was the objection of Pelagius, in his book On Nature. "Before all things, I believe we must inquire, what is sin? Is it a substance at all? or a name to which there is no substance, and by which is expressed, not a thing, not an existence or bodily substance, but the performance of a bad act? I believe this is the case; and if it is so, how can that, which has no substance, weaken or change human nature?" Finally, we have already seen how Augustine endeavored to avoid the Pelagian conclusion, that the Manichaean doctrine of a bad nature of man, follows from his theory, and that this nature could therefore have been produced only by a bad author; for Augustine explained original sin as being, not the substance of man, but an accident. See C. Jul. III. 8. The nature of man, as such, he regarded as good. "This is good; and God is not the author of evil. We do not complain of the nature of the soul or the body, which God has made, and which is wholly good; but we say, that it is corrupted by its own will, and cannot be healed but by the grace of God. The nature of man is good, and may be without any evil." De Perf. Just. Hom. 6. "God makes the nature of men; but not the corruption by which they are evil. He makes them as men; but not as sinners." Op. Imp. 1. 114. Comp. VI. 18, 19. "The bad will is not from God. This is against nature, which is from God." De Civ. Dei, V. 9. "Corruption is so much against nature, that it cannot but injure nature." XI. 17. "No one is bad by nature; but every one that is bad, is bad by corruption." XIV. 6. On the other hand, Augustine charged on the Pelagians the consequence, (unfounded indeed,) of making God the author of sin, by believing in carnal passions before the fall, and therefore of falling into Manichaeism. Op. Imp. VI. 14.
In the quotations already made, there are likewise some very striking objections against the Augustinian doctrine of man's loss of freedom by the fall. If man has no freewill, he cannot be accountable, and it must be in the highest degree unjust in God, to punish a man for anything, the performance or the neglect of which, does not depend on himself. Hence Pelagius says, in his book On Nature (Aug. De Nat. et Gr. 7), "If men are thus because they cannot be different, they are not to blame." And in c. 12, he says: "Sins ought not to be visited with even the smallest punishment, provided they cannot be avoided." But all virtue ceases, and every admonition to repentance and holiness of life, is useless, and the commands of God are needless, if man has no freewill. This was very well set forth, particularly by Pelagius in his letter to Demetrias, c. 8, 19. Julian also remarked, in respect to one of Christ's admonitions to the Jews, that the whole of this species of warning, is without meaning, if man has lost freewill. Op. Imp. I. 88. This objection, Augustine could not answer at all satisfactorily; for the freewill, which he, compelled by objections of this kind, occasionally, but sophistically, admitted in words, was, as we have seen, no freewill at all; and Julian could not refrain from ridiculing the idea, that a freewill should not be able to will what is good. The depth of the wisdom of God, as well as passages of scripture which he quoted and explained in his own way, must here often have helped him out of difficulty.
Julian also made the shrewd remark, that freewill itself could not be lost by the bad application of freewill. For the bad will is even a proof of its freedom. And how could the very capacity of its exercise, be annihilated by the commencement of its exercise? etc. Op. Imp. VI. 11.
But how revolting it was to the Pelagians, that Augustine should hold to the eternal condemnation of men on account of Adam's sin, we have already seen while on infant baptism.
These are some of the objections with which the Pelagians assailed the Augustinian theory of original sin, and against which Augustine could only defend himself with difficulty. He betook himself mostly to defence. Here and there, however, he ventured an assault on the Pelagian theory as opposed to his.
We have already seen how Augustine attacked the Pelagian principle, that concupiscence is always something good. Two other assaults on his part, may here find a place, which have already indeed, in part, been indicated, but not presented in all their consequences.
He argues thus. What fault have small children committed, if no original sin be allowed, that they are born so weak and ignorant, when Adam was furnished with such great endowments? De Pec. Mer. I. 36. "As original sin is denied in them, let it be answered, why such great innocence is sometimes born blind, sometimes deaf? Who can endure, (what belongs to the mind itself,) that the image of God, enriched, as you say, with the dowry of innocence, should be born idiotic, if no evil merits pass from parents to children? But who does not know, that those vulgarly called fools, are by nature so idiotic, that the sense of brutes may almost be compared with some of them?" C. Jul. III. 4. "Whence the evil in the world, with which some of those are born, who have not yet the use of their freewill? Whence that concupiscence, the conflict between the flesh and the spirit?" etc. Op. Imp. VI. 5. "What crime has the image of God committed, that it is encumbered with a decaying body, to the hindrance of useful knowledge, if there is no original sin?" III. 44. "And it cannot be said, that the child suffers evil in order that his virtue may be exercised, since as yet there is none of it in him." 49. "If it is not admitted, that such gross and manifest evil, with which men are born, is derived from an origin corrupted by sin, then must we adopt the Manichaean doctrine of an evil nature, by the intermingling of which, the nature of God is corrupted." V. 54. To arguments of this kind, the Pelagians might have urged much in reply. They might have adduced all with which theodicaea, of later times, has defended, the holiness and justice of God, against objections of the same sort. And they might here, with greater propriety than Augustine, have appealed to the depth of the wisdom of God, as the question pertained, not to a hypothesis unproved, and even at war with the moral demands of reason and with revelation, but to the undeniable experience of the world of sense. But we do not find that they embarked in the refutation of these objections. What Augustine adduces as Julian's opinion in this respect, is utterly insignificant. VI. 27.
From their own concessions, also, Augustine brought against the Pelagians the objection: If there is no original sin, what guilt has the new-born child contracted, by which it is excluded from the kingdom of heaven, according to your doctrine, if it dies before baptism? 1. 136. Nothing further, however, follows from this, but the unsatisfactoriness of the Pelagian distinction between salvation and the kingdom of heaven.
Augustine also proposed this further instance to Julian, who admitted only eternal death as the punishment of sin. "If only eternal, and not also temporal death, be the punishment of sin, why does nature, which you praise as if you denied it to be corrupted, fear this? Why does the child, just emerging from infancy, fear to die? Why is not sense (sensus) inclined to death, just as to sleep? Why are those so highly esteemed, who fear not death? and why are they so rare? If, therefore, the fear of death is without cause, the very fear of it is a punishment. But if the soul naturally fears a separation from the body, death itself is a punishment, although divine grace may turn it to a good purpose." II. 186.
As Julian defended the Pelagian explanation of freedom, as being "the possibility of good and evil," and justified the position, that virtue is not voluntary when it is necessary, and that it would have the character of necessity, if there was not the possibility of the opposite, Augustine remarked, that Julian had forgotten to think of God in this matter, whose virtue is necessary just in proportion as he cannot help willing it. V. 61. We need not suggest how unphilosophical it was, to speak of virtue in God, of which holiness is predicated. [?-TR.] Augustine also urged against the Pelagians the consequence, that, according to their definition, freedom must be denied to God, since there is no "possibility of evil" in him. III. 120. The [glorified] saints, too, must have lost their freedom, for they also cannot sin, VI. 10; and yet this is to be called a higher degree of freedom. De Cor. et Gr. 12; Op. Imp. VI. 19. To this, as well as to the foregoing objections, we find no answer, on the part of the Pelagians; which, however, would not have been difficult; but in which, the question agitated between the theists, on the one hand, and the pantheists and materialists, on the other, must have been touched upon, viz., whether, and in what sense, reason and freedom can be attributed to the Absolute.
Finally, as it respects the Pelagian position of man's being able to be without sin, in this life, a position which, in regard to its abstract possibility, follows from the idea of freedom, and the truth of which could not therefore be denied, the moment moral freedom was allowed, Augustine explained himself (De Pec. Mer. II. 6; De Spir. et Lit. 5, 35, 37), as so far allowing the possibility of man's being without sin, that the possibility is conditioned on grace and freewill, although no one is in fact found to be without sin. "We should not, with inconsiderate heat, oppose those who maintain, that man may be without sin in this life. For if we deny the possibility, we detract both from the freewill of the man who voluntarily desires this, and also from the power or mercy of God, which effects it by his aid." As Augustine regarded the good conduct of man as a "divine gift," he had to allow the possibility, that God could always afford such a gift, for with God, he added, nothing is impossible. Still he remarked (De Pec. Mer. II. 20), that man must always be a sinner previously to his being able to reach such a degree of sanctification. This followed most conclusively from Augustine's supposition of a radical corruption, to which all men are subjected. But, again; he regarded freewill, which he mentions as a condition of being without sin, as an immediate effect of divine grace; by which freewill, therefore, ceases to be freewill. Consequently, Augustine agreed with the Pelagians in granting the possibility of man's being without sin; but conformably to the spirit of his system, he differed from them in referring this ability to grace, while Pelagius and his adherents referred it to freewill. "If I also allow, that some have been or are without sin, still I maintain, that in no other way are they or have they been able to be so but by being justified by the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord, who was crucified." De Nat. et Gr. 44. In respect to the virgin Mary, he was doubtful whether we ought to say that she was without sin; but he always held it improper, and contrary to the reverence due to Jesus, to speak of the sin of Mary. For we know not but grace was given her wholly to vanquish sin, who was worthy (meruit) to conceive and bear him who had no sin. 36.
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