treatise on the spirit and the letter.
from Augustin's "Retractations,"
Book II. Chap. 37,
the Following Treatise,
"De spiritu et littera."
to whom I had addressed the three books entitled De Peccatorum Meritis et
Remissione, in which I carefully discussed also the baptism of infants,
informed me, when acknowledging my communication, that he was much distrurbed
because I declared it to be possible that a man might be without sin, if he
wanted not the will, by the help of God, although no man either had lived, was
living, or would live in this life so perfect in righteousness. He asked
how I could say that it was possible of which no example could be adduced.
Owing to this inquiry on the part of this person, I wrote the treatise entitled De
Spiritu et Littera, in which I considered at large the apostle's statement,
"The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life."2
In this work, so far as God enabled me, I earnestly disputed with those who
oppose that grace of God which justifies the servances of the Jews, who abstain
from sundry meats and drinks in accordance with their ancient law, I mentioned
the "ceremonies of certain meats" [quarumdam escarum cerimoni]3--a
phrase which, though not used in Holy Scriptures, seemed to me very convenient,
because I remembered that cerimoni is tantamount to carimoni,
as if from carere, to be without, and expresses the abstinence of the
worshippers from certain things. If however, there is any other derivation
of the word, which is inconsistent with the true religion, I meant no refernce
whatever to it; I confined my use to the sense above indicated. This work
of mine begins thus: "After reading the short treatise which I lately
drew up for you, my beloved son Marcellinus," etc.
1 The Tribune Marcellinus with whose name are connected many other treatises of Augustin. In this work the author informs us that the occasion of its composition was furnished by this person, who mooted an inquiry touching a statement in the preceding books Concerning the Merits and the Remission of Sins. Those books, as we have already indicated, were published A.D., 412. Now in the Retractations there is placed after these very books the present work Concerning the Spirit and the Letter,--not indeed, immediately next, but in the fourth place after,--so that it was written, no doubt, about the end of the same year, A.D. 412, some time previous to the death of Marcellinus, who was killed in the month or September of the following year, 413. This present work is also mentioned in the book On Faith and Works, c. 14; and in that On Christian Doctrine, iii. 33. Compare the notes on p. 15 and p. 130.
2 2 Cor. iii. 6.
3 See chap. 36 [xxi.].
Treatise on the spirit and the letter,
aurelius augustin, bishop of hippo;
In One Book,
Addressed to Marcellinus, a.d. 412.
in a letter to Augustin, had expressed some surprise at having read, in the
preceding work, of the possibility being allowed of a man continuing if he
willed it, by God's help, without sin in the present life, although not a single
human example anywhere of such perfect righteousness has ever existed.
Augustin takes the opportunity of discussing, in opposition to the Pelagians,
the subject of the aid of God's grace; and he shows that the divine help to the
working of righteousness by us does not lie in the fact of God's having given us
a law which is full of good and holy precepts; but in the fact that our will
itself, without which we can do nothing good, is assisted and elevated by the
Spirit of grace being imparted to us, without the aid of which the teaching of
the law is "the letter that killeth," because instead of justifying
the ungodly, it rather holds them guilty of transgression. He begins to
treat of the question proposed to him at the commencement of this work, and
returns to it towards its conclusion; he shows that, as all allow, many things
are possible with God's help, of which there occurs indeed no example; and then
concludes that, although a perfect righteousness is unexampled among men, it is
for all that not impossible.
1 [I.] --The Occasion of Writing This Work; A Thing May Be Capable of Being
Done, and Yet May Never Be Done.
reading the short treatises which I lately drew up for you, my beloved son
Marcellinus, about the baptism of infants, and the perfection of man's
righteousness,--how that no one in this life seems either to have attained or to
be likely to attain to it, except only the Mediator, who bore humanity in the
likeness of sinful flesh, without any sin whatever,--you wrote me in answer that
you were embarrassed by the point which I advanced in the second book,1
that it was possible for a man to be without sin, if he wanted not the will, and
was assisted by the aid of God; and yet that except One in whom "all shall
be made alive,"2
no one has ever lived or will live by whom this perfection has been attained
whilst living here. It appeared to you absurd to say that anything was
possible of which no example ever occurred,--although I suppose you would not
hesitate to admit that no camel ever passed through a needle's eye,3
and yet He said that even this was possible with God; you may read, too, that
twelve thousand legions4
of angels could possibly have fought for Christ and rescued Him from suffering,
but in fact did not; you may read that it was possible for the nations to be
exterminated at once out of the land which was given to the
and yet that God willed it to be gradually effected.6
And one may meet with a thousand other incidents, the past or the future
possibility of which we might readily admit, and yet be unable to produce any
proofs of their having ever really happened. Accordingly, it would not be
right for us to deny the possibility of a man's living without sin, on the
ground that amongst men none can be found except Him who is in His nature not
man only, but also God, in whom we could prove such perfection of character to
1 On the Merits of Sins, etc., ii. 6, 7, 20.
2 1 Cor. xv. 22.
3 Matt. xix. 24, 26.
4 Matt. xxvi. 53, but observe the "thousand" inserted.
5 Deut. xxxi. 3.
6 Judg. ii. 3.
2 [II.]--The Examples Apposite.
Here, perhaps, you
will say to me in answer, that the things which I have instanced as not having
been realized, although capable of realization, are divine works; whereas
a man's being without sin falls in the range of a man's own work,--that being
indeed his very noblest work which effects a full and perfect righteousness
complete in every part; and therefore that it is incredible that no man has ever
existed, or is existing, or will exist in this life, who has achieved such a
work, if the achievement is possible for a human being. But then you ought
to reflect that, although this great work, no doubt, belongs to human agency to
accomplish, yet it is also a divine gift, and therefore, not doubt that it is a
divine work; "for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of
His good pleasure."1
3.--Theirs is Comparatively a Harmless Error, Who Say that a Man Lives Here
They therefore are not
a very dangerous set of persons and they ought to be urged to show, if they are
able, that they are themselves such, who hold that man lives or has lived here
without any sin whatever. There are indeed passages of Scripture, in which
I apprehend it is definitely stated that no man who lives on earth, although
enjoying freedom of will, can be found without sin; as, for instance, the place
where it is written, "Enter not into judgment with Thy servant, for in Thy
sight shall no man living be justified."2
If, however, anybody shall have succeeded in showing that this text and the
other similar ones ought to be taken in a different sense from their obvious
one, and shall have proved that some man or men have spent a sinless life on
earth,--whoever does not, not merely refrain from much opposing him, but also
does not rejoice with him to the full, is afflicted by extraordinary goads of
envy. Moreover, if there neither is, has been, nor will be any man endowed
with such perfection of purity (which I am more inclined to believe), and yet it
is firmly set forth and thought there is or has been, or is to be,--so far as I
can judge, no great error is made, and certainly not a dangerous one, when a man
is thus carried away by a certain benevolent feeling; provided that he who
thinks so much of another, does not think himself to be such a being, unless he
has ascertained that he really and clearly is such.
1 Phil. ii. 13.
2 Ps. cxliii. 2.
4.--Theirs is a Much More Serious Error, Requiring a Very Vigorous Refutation,
Who Deny God's Grace to Be Necessary.
They, however, must be
resisted with the utmost ardor and vigor who suppose that without God's help,
the mere power of the human will in itself, can either perfect righteousness, or
advance steadily towards it; and when they begin to be hard pressed about their
presumption in asserting that this result can be reached without the divine
assistance, they check themselves, and do not venture to utter such an opinion,
because they see how impious and insufferable it is. But they allege that
such attainments are not made without God's help on this account, namely,
because God both created man with the free choice of his will, and, by giving
him commandments, teaches him, Himself, how man ought to live; and indeed
assists him, in that He takes away his ignorance by instructing him in the
knowledge of what he ought to avoid and to desire in his actions: and
thus, by means of the free-will naturally implanted within him, he enters on the
way which is pointed out to him, and by persevering in a just and pious course
of life, deserves to attain to the blessedness of eternal life.
5 [III.]--True Grace is the Gift of the Holy Ghost, Which Kindles in the Soul
the Joy and Love of Goodness.
We, however, on our
side affirm that the human will is so divinely aided in the pursuit of
righteousness, that (in addition to man's being created with a free-will, and in
addition to the teaching by which he is instructed how he ought to live) he
receives the Holy Ghost, by whom there is formed in his mind a delight in, and a
love of, that supreme and unchangeable good which is God, even now while he is
still "walking by faith" and not yet "by sight;"1
in order that by this gift to him of the earnest, as it were, of the free gift,
he may conceive an ardent desire to cleave to his Maker, and may burn to enter
upon the participation in that true light, that it may go well with him from Him
to whom he owes his existence. A man's free-will, indeed, avails for
nothing except to sin, if he
not the way of truth; and even after his duty and his proper aim shall begin to
become known to him, unless he also take delight in and feel a love for it, he
neither does his duty, nor sets about it, nor lives rightly. Now, in order
that such a course may engage our affections, God's "love is shed abroad in
our hearts," not through the free-will which arises from ourselves, but
"through the Holy Ghost, which is given to us."2
1 2 Cor. v. 7.
2 Rom. v. 5.
6 [IV.]--The Teaching of Law Without the Life-Giving Spirit is "The Letter
For that teaching
which brings to us the command to live in chastity and righteousness is
"the letter that killeth," unless accompanied with "the spirit
that giveth life." For that is not the sole meaning of the passage,
"The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life,"1
which merely prescribes that we should not take in the literal sense any
figurative phrase which in the proper meaning of its words would produce only
nonsense, but should consider what else it signifies, nourishing the inner man
by our spiritual intelligence, since "being carnally-minded is death,
whilst to be spiritually-minded is life and peace."2
If, for instance, a man were to take in a literal and carnal sense much that is
written in the Song of Solomon, he would minister not to the fruit of a luminous
charity, but to the feeling of a libidinous desire. Therefore, the apostle
is not to be confined to the limited application just mentioned, when he says,
"The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life;"3
but this is also (and indeed especially) equivalent to what he says elsewhere in
the plainest words: "I had not known lust, except the law had said,
Thou shalt not covet;"4
and again, immediately after: "Sin, taking occasion by the
commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me."5
Now from this you may see what is meant by "the letter that killeth."
There is, of course, nothing said figuratively which is not to be accepted in
its plain sense, when it is said, "Thou shall not covet;" but this is
a very plain and salutary precept, and any man who shall fulfil it will have no
sin at all. The apostle, indeed, purposely selected this general precept,
in which he embraced everything, as if this were the voice of the law,
prohibiting us from all sin, when he says, "Thou shalt not covet;" for
there is no sin committed except by evil concupiscence; so that the law which
prohibits this is a good and praiseworthy law. But, when the Holy Ghost
withholds His help, which inspires us with a good desire instead of this evil
desire (in other words, diffuses love in our hearts), that law, however good in
itself, only augments the evil desire by forbidding it. Just as the rush
of water which flows incessantly in a particular direction, becomes more violent
when it meets with any impediment, and when it has overcome the stoppage, falls
in a greater bulk, and with increased impetuosity hurries forward in its
downward course. In some strange way the very object which we covet
becomes all the more pleasant when it is forbidden. And this is the sin
which by the commandment deceives and by it slays, whenever transgression is
actually added, which occurs not where there is no law.6
1 2 Cor. iii. 6.
2 Rom. viii. 6.
3 2 Cor. iii. 6.
4 Rom. vii. 7.
5 Rom. vii. 11.
6 Rom. iv. 15.
7 [V.]--What is Proposed to Be Here Treated.
We will, however,
consider, if you please, the whole of this passage of the apostle and thoroughly
handle it, as the Lord shall enable us. For I want, if possible, to prove
that the apostle's words, "The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth
life," do not refer to figurative phrases,--although even in this sense a
suitable signification might be obtained from them,--but rather plainly to the
law, which forbids whatever is evil. When I shall have proved this, it
will more manifestly appear that to lead a holy life is the gift of God,--not
only because God has given a free-will to man, without which there is no living
ill or well; nor only because He has given him a commandment to teach him how he
ought to live; but because through the Holy Ghost He sheds love abroad in the
of those whom he foreknew, in order to predestinate them; whom He predestinated,
that He might call them; whom He called, that he might justify them; and whom he
justified, that He might glorify them.2
When this point also shall be cleared, you will, I think, see how vain it is to
say that those things only are unexampled possibilities, which are the works of
God,--such as the passage of the camel through the needle's eye, which we have
already referred to, and other similar cases, which to us no doubt are
impossible, but easy enough to God; and that man's righteousness is not to be
counted in this class of things, on the ground of its being properly man's work,
not God's; although there is no reason for supposing, without an example, that
his perfection exists, even if it is possible. That these assertions are
vain will be clear enough, after it has been also plainly shown that even man's
righteousness must be attributed to the operation of God, although not taking
place without man's will; and we therefore cannot deny that his perfection is
possible even in this life, because
things are possible with God,3--both
those which He accomplishes of His own sole will, and those which He appoints to
be done with the cooperation with Himself of His creature's will.
Accordingly, whatever of such things He does not effect is no doubt without an
example in the way of accomplished facts, although with God it possesses both in
His power the cause of its possibility, and in His wisdom the reason of its
unreality. And should this cause be hidden from man, let him not forget
that he is a man; nor charge God with folly simply because he cannot fully
comprehend His wisdom.
1 Rom. vii. 7.
2 Rom. viii. 29, 30.
3 Mark x. 27.
8.--Romans Interprets Corinthians.
carefully, to the apostle while in his Epistle to the Romans he explains and
clearly enough shows that what he wrote to the Corinthians, "The letter
killeth, but the spirit giveth life,"1
must be understood in the sense which we have already indicated,--that the
letter of the law, which teaches us not to commit sin, kills, if the life-giving
spirit be absent, forasmuch as it causes sin to be known rather than avoided,
and therefore to be increased rather than diminished, because to an evil
concupiscense there is now added the transgression of the law.
9 [VI].--Through the Law Sin Has Abounded.
The apostle, then,
wishing to commend the grace which has come to all nations through Jesus Christ,
lest the Jews should extol themselves at the expense of the other peoples on
account of their having received the law, first says that sin and death came on
the human race through one man, and that righteousness and eternal life came
also through one, expressly mentioning Adam as the former, and Christ as the
latter; and then says that "the law, however, entered, that the offence
might abound: but where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through
righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord."2
Then, proposing a question for himself to answer, he adds, "What shall we
say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God
He saw, indeed, that a perverse use might be made by perverse men of what he had
said: "The law entered, that the offence might abound: but
where sin abounded, grace did much more abound,"--as if he had said that
sin had been of advantage by reason of the abundance of grace. Rejecting
this, he answers his question with a "God forbid!" and at once adds:
"How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?"4
as much as to say, When grace has brought it to pass that we should die unto
sin, what else shall we be doing, if we continue to live in it, than showing
ourselves ungrateful to grace? The man who extols the virtue of a medicine
does not contend that the diseases and wounds of which the medicine cures him
are of advantage to him; on the contrary, in proportion to the praise lavished
on the remedy are the blame and horror which are felt of the diseases and wounds
healed by the much-extolled medicine. In like manner, the commendation and
praise of grace are vituperation and condemnation of offences. For there
was need to prove to man how corruptly weak he was, so that against his
iniquity, the holy law brought him no help towards good, but rather increased
than diminished his iniquity; seeing that the law entered, that the offence
might abound; that being thus convicted and confounded, he might see not only
that he needed a physician, but also God as his helper so to direct his steps
that sin should not rule over him, and he might be healed by betaking himself to
the help of the divine mercy; and in this way, where sin abounded grace might
much more abound,--not through the merit of the sinner, but by the intervention
of his Helper.
1 2 Cor. iii. 6.
2 Rom. v. 20, 21.
3 Rom. vi. 1. 2.
4 Rom. vi. 2.
10.--Christ the True Healer.
apostle shows that the same medicine was mystically set forth in the passion and
resurrection of Christ, when he says, "Know ye not, that so many of us as
were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we
were buried with Him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up
from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness
of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His
death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection: knowing this,
that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed,
that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is justified
from sin. Now, if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also
live with Him: knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no
more; death hath no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, He died
unto sin once; but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God. Likewise reckon
ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus
Christ our Lord."1
Now it is plain enough that here by the mystery of the Lord's death and
resurrection is figured the death of our old sinful life, and the rising of the
new; and that here is
forth the abolition of iniquity and the renewal of righteousness. Whence
then arises this vast benefit to man through the letter of the law, except it be
through the faith of Jesus Christ?
11 [VII.]--From What Fountain Good Works Flow.
This holy meditation
preserves "the children of men, who put their trust under the shadow of
so that they are "drunken with the fatness of His house, and drink of the
full stream of His pleasure. For with Him is the fountain of life, and in
His light shall they see light. For He extendeth His mercy to them that
know Him, and His righteousness to the upright in heart."3
He does not, indeed, extend His mercy to them because they know Him, but that
they may know Him; nor is it because they are upright in heart, but that they
may become so, that He extends to them His righteousness, whereby He justifies
This meditation does not elevate with pride: this sin arises when any man
has too much confidence in himself, and makes himself the chief end of living.
Impelled by this vain feeling, he departs from that fountain of life, from the
draughts of which alone is imbibed the holiness which is itself the good
life,--and from that unchanging light, by sharing in which the reasonable soul
is in a certain sense inflamed, and becomes itself a created and reflected
luminary; even as "John was a burning and a shining light,"5
who notwithstanding acknowledged the source of his own illumination in the
words, "Of His fulness have all we received."6
Whose, I would ask, but His, of course, in comparison with whom John
indeed was no light at all? For "that was the true light, which
lighteth every man that cometh into the world."7
Therefore, in the same psalm, after saying, "Extend Thy mercy to them that
know Thee, and Thy righteousness to the upright in heart,"8
he adds, "Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hands
of sinners move me. There have fallen all the workers of iniquity:
they are cast out, and are not able to stand."9
Since by that impiety which leads each to attribute to himself the
excellence which is God's, he is cast out into his own native darkness, in which
consist the works of iniquity. For it is manifestly these works which he
does, and for the achievement of such alone is he naturally fit. The works
of righteousness he never does, except as he receives ability from that fountain
and that light, where the life is that wants for nothing, and where is "no
variableness, nor the shadow of turning."10
1 Rom. vi. 3-11.
2 Ps. xxxvi. 7.
3 Ps. xxxvi. 8-10.
4 Rom. iv. 5.
5 John v. 35.
6 John i. 16.
7 John i. 9.
8 Ps. xxxvi. 10.
9 Ps. xxxvi. 11, 12.
10 Jas. i. 17.
12.--Paul, Whence So Called; Bravely Contends for Grace.
Accordingly Paul, who,
although he was formerly called Saul,1
chose this new designation, for no other reason, as it seems to me, than because
he would show himself little,2--the
"least of the apostles,"3--contends
with much courage and earnestness against the proud and arrogant, and such as
plume themselves on their own works, in order that he may commend the grace of
God. This grace, indeed, appeared more obvious and manifest in his case,
inasmuch as, while he was pursuing such vehement measures of persecution against
the Church of God as made him worthy of the greatest punishment, he found mercy
instead of condemnation, and instead of punishment obtained grace. Very
properly, therefore, does he lift voice and hand in defence of grace, and care
not for the envy either of those who understood not a subject too profound and
abstruse for them, or of those who perversely misinterpreted his own sound
words; whilst at the same time he unfalteringly preaches that gift of God,
whereby alone salvation accrues to those who are the children of the promise,
children of the divine goodness, children of grace and mercy, children of the
new covenant. In the salutation with which he begins every epistle, he
prays: "Grace be to you, and peace, from God the Father, and from the
Lord Jesus Christ;"4
whilst this forms almost the only topic discussed for the Romans, and it is
plied with so much persistence and variety of argument, as fairly to fatigue the
reader's attention, yet with a fatigue so useful and salutary, that it rather
exercises than breaks the faculties of the inner man.
1 Acts. xiii. 9.
2 See Augustin's Confessions, viii. 4.
3 1 Cor. xv. 9.
4 See Rom. i. 7, 1 Cor. i. 3, and Gal. i. 3.
13 [VIII.]--Keeping the Law; The Jews' Glorying; The Fear of Punishment; The
Circumcision of the Heart.
Then comes what I
mentioned above; then he shows what the Jew is, and says that he is called a
Jew, but by no means fulfils what he promises to do. "But if,"
says he, "thou callest thyself a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest
thy boast of God, and knowest His will, and triest the things that are
different, being instructed out of the law; and art confident that thou art
thyself a guide of the blind, a light of them that are in darkness, an
instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge
and of the truth in the law. Thou therefore who teachest another, teachest
thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? thou that sayest a
man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest
idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? thou that makest thy boast of the law,
through breaking the law dishonorest thou God? For the name of God is
blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written. Circumcision
verily profiteth, if thou keep the law; but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy
circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore, if the uncircumcision keep
the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for
circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it
fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress
the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that
circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew who is one
inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the
letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God."1
Here he plainly showed in what sense he said, "Thou makest thy boast of
God." For undoubtedly if one who was truly a Jew made his boast of
God in the way which grace demands (which is bestowed not for merit of works,
but gratuitously), then his praise would be of God, and not of men. But
they, in fact, were making their boast of God, as if they alone had deserved to
receive His law, as the Psalmist said: "He did not the like to any
nation, nor His judgments has He displayed to them."2
And yet, they thought they were fulfilling the law of God by their
righteousness, when they were rather breakers of it all the while!
Accordingly, it "wrought wrath"3
upon them, and sin abounded, committed as it was by them who knew the law.
For whoever did even what the law commanded, without the assistance of the
Spirit of grace, acted through fear of punishment, not from love of
righteousness, and hence in the sight of God that was not in the will, which in
the sight of men appeared in the work; and such doers of the law were held
rather guilty of that which God knew they would have preferred to commit, if
only it had been possible with impunity. He calls, however, "the
circumcision of the heart" the will that is pure from all unlawful desire;
which comes not from the letter, inculcating and threatening, but from
the Spirit, assisting and healing. Such doers of the law have their
praise therefore, not of men but of God, who by His grace provides the grounds
on which they receive praise, of whom it is said, "My soul shall make her
boast of the Lord;"4
and to whom it is said, "My praise shall be of Thee:"5
but those are not such who would have God praised because they are men; but
themselves, because they are righteous.
1 Rom. ii. 17-29.
2 Ps. cxlvii. 20.
3 Rom. iv. 15.
4 Ps. xxxiv. 2.
5 Ps. xxii. 25
What Respect the Pelagians Acknowledge God as the Author of Our Justification.
they, "we do praise God as the Author of our righteousness, in that He gave
the law, by the teaching of which we have learned how we ought to live."
But they give no heed to what they read: "By the law there shall no
flesh be justified in the sight of God."1
This may indeed be possible before men, but not before Him who looks into our
very heart and inmost will, where He sees that, although the man who fears the
law keeps a certain precept, he would nevertheless rather do another thing if he
were permitted. And lest any one should suppose that, in the passage just
quoted from him, the apostle had meant to say that none are justified by that
law, which contains many precepts, under the figure of the ancient sacraments,
and among them that circumcision of the flesh itself, which infants were
commanded to receive on the eighth day after birth; he immediately adds what law
he meant, and says, "For by the law is the knowledge of sin."2
He refers then to that law of which he afterwards declares, "I had not
known sin but by the law; for I had not known lust except the law had said, Thou
shalt not covet."3
For what means this but that "by the law comes the knowledge of sin?"
15 [IX.]--The Righteousness of God Manifested by the Law and the Prophets.
Here, perhaps, it may
be said by that presumption of man, which is ignorant of the righteousness of
God, and wishes to establish one of its own, that the apostle quite properly
said, "For by the law shall no man be justified,"4
inasmuch as the law merely shows what one ought to do, and what one ought to
guard against, in order that what the law thus points out may be accomplished by
the will, and so man be justified, not indeed by the power of the law, but by
his free determination. But I ask your attention, O man, to what follows.
"But now the righteousness of God," says he, "without the law is
manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets."5
Does this then sound a light thing in deaf ears? He says, "The
righteousness of God is manifested." Now this righteousness they are
ignorant of, who wish to establish one of their own; they will not submit
themselves to it.6
His words are, "The righteousness of God
manifested:" he does not say, the righteousness of man, or the
righteousness of his own will, but the "righteousness of God,"--not
that whereby He is Himself righteous, but that with which He endows man when He
justifies the ungodly. This is witnessed by the law and the prophets; in
other words, the law and the prophets each afford it testimony. The law,
indeed, by issuing its commands and threats, and by justifying no man,
sufficiently shows that it is by God's gift, through the help of the Spirit,
that a man is justified; and the prophets, because it was what they predicted
that Christ at His coming accomplished. Accordingly he advances a step
further, and adds, "But righteousness of God by faith of Jesus
that is by the faith wherewith one believes in Christ for just as there is not
meant the faith with which Christ Himself believes, so also there is not meant
the righteousness whereby God is Himself righteous. Both no doubt are
ours, but yet they are called God's, and Christ's, because it is by their bounty
that these gifts are bestowed upon us. The righteousness of God then is
without the law, but not manifested without the law; for if it were manifested
without the law, how could it be witnessed by the law? That righteousness
of God, however, is without the law, which God by the Spirit of grace bestows on
the believer without the help of the law,--that is, when not helped by the law.
When, indeed, He by the law discovers to a man his weakness, it is in order that
by faith he may flee for refuge to His mercy, and be healed. And thus
concerning His wisdom we are told, that "she carries law and mercy upon her
"law," whereby she may convict the proud, the "mercy,"
wherewith she may justify the humbled. "The righteousness of
God," then, "by faith of Jesus Christ, is unto all that believe; for
there is no difference, for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of
of their own glory. For what have they, which they have not received?
Now if they received it, why do they glory as if they had not received it?10
Well, then, they come short of the glory of God; now observe what follows:
"Being justified freely by His grace."11
It is not, therefore, by the law, nor is it by their own will, that they are
justified; but they are justified freely by His grace,--not that it is
wrought without our will; but our will is by the law shown to be weak, that
grace may heal its infirmity; and that our healed will may fulfil the law, not
by compact under the law, nor yet in the absence of law.
1 Rom. iii. 20.
2 Rom. iii. 20.
3 Rom. vii. 7.
4 Rom. iii. 20.
5 Rom. iii. 21.
6 Rom. x. 3.
7 Rom. iii. 22.
8 Prov. iii. 16.
9 Rom. iii. 22, 23.
10 1 Cor. iv. 7.
11 Rom. iii. 24.
16 [X.]--How the Law Was Not Made for a Righteous Man.
Because "for a
righteous man the law was not made;"1
and yet "the law is good, if a man use it lawfully."2
Now by connecting together these two seemingly contrary statements, the apostle
warns and urges his reader to sift the question and solve it too. For how
can it be that "the law is good, if a man use it lawfully," if what
follows is also true: "Knowing this, that the law is not made for a
For who but a righteous man lawfully uses the law? Yet it is not for him
that it is made, but for the unrighteous. Must then the unrighteous man,
in order that he may be justified,--that is, become a righteous man,--lawfully
use the law, to lead him, as by the schoolmaster's hand,4
to that grace by which alone he can fulfil what the law commands? Now it
is freely that he is justified thereby,--that is, on account of no antecedent
merits of his own works; "otherwise grace is no more grace,"5
since it is bestowed on us, not because we have done good works, but that we may
be able to do them,--in other words, not because we have fulfilled the law, but
in order that we may be able to fulfil the law. Now He said, "I am
not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil it,"6
of whom it was said, "We have seen His glory, the glory as of the
only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."7
This is the glory which is meant in the words, "All have sinned, and come
short of the glory of God;"8
and this the grace of which he speaks in the next verse, "Being justified
freely by His grace."9
The unrighteous man therefore lawfully uses the law, that he may become
righteous; but when he has become so, he must no longer use it as a chariot, for
he has arrived at his journey's end,--or rather (that I may employ the apostle's
own simile, which has been already mentioned) as a schoolmaster, seeing that he
is now fully learned. How then is the law not made for a righteous man, if
it is necessary for the righteous man too, not that he may be brought as an
unrighteous man to the grace that justifies, but that he may use it lawfully,
now that he is righteous? Does not the case perhaps stand thus,--nay, not perhaps,
but rather certainly,--that the man who is become righteous thus lawfully
uses the law, when he applies it to alarm the unrighteous, so that whenever the
disease of some unusual desire begins in them, too, to be augmented by the
incentive of the law's prohibition and an increased
of transgression, they may in faith flee for refuge to the grace that justifies,
and becoming delighted with the sweet pleasures of holiness, may escape the
penalty of the law's menacing letter through the spirit's soothing gift?
In this way the two statements will not be contrary, nor will they be repugnant
to each other: even the righteous man may lawfully use a good law, and yet
the law be not made for the righteous man; for it is not by the law that he
becomes righteous, but by the law of faith, which led him to believe that no
other resource was possible to his weakness for fulfilling the precepts which
"the law of works"10
commanded, except to be assisted by the grace of God.
1 1 Tim. i. 8.
2 1 Tim. i. 9.
3 1 Tim. i. 9.
4 Gal. iii. 24.
5 Rom. xi. 6.
6 Matt. v. 17.
7 John i. 14.
8 Rom. iii. 23.
9 Rom. iii. 24.
10 Rom. iii. 27.
17.--The Exclusion of Boasting.
Accordingly he says,
"Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works?
Nay; but by the law of faith."1
He may either mean, the laudable boasting, which is in the Lord; and that it is excluded,
not in the sense that it is driven off so as to pass away, but that it is
clearly manifested so as to stand out prominently. Whence certain
artificers in silver are called "exclusores."2
In this sense it occurs also in that passage in the Psalms: "That
they may be excluded, who have been proved with silver,"3--that
is, that they may stand out in prominence, who have been tried by the word of
God. For in another passage it is said: "The words of the Lord
are pure words, as silver which is tried in the fire."4
Or if this be not his meaning, he must have wished to mention that vicious
boasting which comes of pride--that is, of those who appear to themselves to
lead righteous lives, and boast of their excellence as if they had not received
it,--and further to inform us, that by the law of faith, not by the law of
works, this boasting was excluded, in the other sense of shut out and
driven away; because by the law of faith every one learns that whatever good
life he leads he has from the grace of God, and that from no other source
whatever can he obtain the means of becoming perfect in the love of
18 [XI.]--Piety is Wisdom; That is Called the Righteousness of God, Which He
Now, this meditation
makes a man godly, and this godliness is true wisdom. By godliness I mean
that which the Greeks designate qeosbeia,--that very virtue which is commended to man in the passage of Job,
where it is said to him, "Behold, godliness is wisdom."5
Now if the word qeosbeia be interpreted according to its derivation, it might be
called "the worship of God;"6
and in this worship the essential point is, that the soul be not ungrateful to
Him. Whence it is that in the most true and excellent sacrifice we are
admonished to "give thanks unto our Lord God."7
Ungrateful however, our soul would be, were it to attribute to itself that which
it received from God, especially the righteousness, with the works of which (the
especial property, as it were, of itself, and produced, so to speak, by the soul
itself for itself) it is not puffed up in a vulgar pride, as it might be with
riches, or beauty of limb, or eloquence, or those other accomplishments,
external or internal, bodily or mental, which wicked men too are in the habit of
possessing, but, if I may say so, in a wise complacency, as of things which
constitute in an especial manner the good works of the good. It is owing
to this sin of vulgar pride that even some great men have drifted from the sure
anchorage of the divine nature, and have floated down into the shame of
idolatry. Whence the apostle again in the same epistle, wherein he so
firmly maintains the principle of grace, after saying that he was a debtor both
to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise, and
professing himself ready, so far as to him pertained, to preach the gospel even
to those who lived in Rome, adds: "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of
Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that
believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the
righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The
just shall live by faith."8
This is the righteousness of God, which was veiled in the Old Testament, and is
revealed in the New; and it is called the righteousness of God, because
by His bestowal of it He makes us righteous, just as we read that
"salvation is the Lord's,"9
because He makes us safe. And this is the faith "from which" and
"to which" it is revealed,--from the faith of them who preach
it, to the faith of those who obey it. By this faith of Jesus
Christ--that is, the faith which Christ has given to us--we believe it is from
God that we now have, and shall have more and more, the ability of living
righteously; wherefore we give Him thanks with that dutiful worship with which
He only is to be worshipped.
1 Rom. iii. 27.
2 [The allusion appears to be to the special workmen engaged in producing hammered or beaten (repouss) work. For other special classes of silver workers, see Guhl and Koner: The Life of the Greeks and Romans, p. 449.--W.]
3 Ps. lxviii. 30.
4 Ps. xii. 6.
5 Job xxviii. 28.
6 Cultus Dei is Augustin's Latin expression for the synonym.
7 One of the suffrages of the Sursum Corda in the Communion Service [preserved also in the English service, which reads as follows: "Priest. Lift up your hearts. Answer. We lift them up to the Lord. Priest. Let us give thanks unto our Lord God. Answer. It is meet and right so to do."--W.]
8 Rom. i. 14-17.
9 Ps. iii. 8.
19 [XII]--The Knowledge of God Through the Creation.
And then the apostle
very properly turns from this point to describe with detestation those men who,
light-minded and puffed up by the sin which I have mentioned in the preceding
chapter, have been carried away of their own conceit, as it were, through empty
space where they could find no resting-place, only to fall shattered to pieces
against the vain figments of their idols, as against stones. For, after he
had commended the piety of that faith, whereby, being justified, we must needs
be pleasing to God, he proceeds to call our attention to what we ought to
abominate as the opposite. "For the wrath of God," says he,
"is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of
men, who hold down the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known
of God is manifest in them: for God hath showed it unto them. For
the invisible things of Him are clearly seen from the creation of the world,
being understood through the things that are made, even His eternal power and
divinity; so that they are without excuse: because, knowing God, they yet
glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their
imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves
to be wise, they became fools; and they changed the glory of the uncorruptible
God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and to four footed
beasts, and to creeping things."1
Observe, he does not say that they were ignorant of the truth, but that they
held down the truth in unrighteousness. For it occurred to him, that he
would inquire whence the knowledge of the truth could be obtained by those to
whom God had not given the law; and he was not silent on the source whence they
could have obtained it: for he declares that it was through the visible
works of creation that they arrived at the knowledge of the invisible attributes
of the Creator. And, in very deed, as they continued to possess great
faculties for searching, so they were able to find. Wherein then lay their
impiety? Because "when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God,
nor gave Him thanks, but became vain in their imaginations." Vanity
is a disease especially of those who mislead themselves, and "think
themselves to be something, when they are nothing."2
Such men, indeed, darken themselves in that swelling pride, the foot of which
the holy singer prays that it may not come against him,3
after saying, "In Thy light shall we see light;"4
from which very light of unchanging truth they turn aside, and "their
foolish heart is darkened."5
For theirs was not a wise heart, even though they knew God; but it was foolish
rather, because they did not glorify Him as God, or give Him thanks; for
"He said unto man, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom."6
So by this conduct, while "professing themselves to be wise" (which
can only be understood to mean that they attributed this to themselves),
"they became fools."7
1 Rom. i. 18-23.
2 Gal. vi. 3.
3 Ps. xxxvi. 11.
4 Ps. xxxvi. 9.
5 Rom. i. 21.
6 Job xxviii. 28.
7 Rom. i. 22.
20.--The Law Without Grace.
Now why need I speak
of what follows? For why it was that by this their impiety those men--I
mean those who could have known the Creator through the creature--fell (since
"God resisteth the proud"1)
and whither they plunged, is better shown in the sequel of this epistle than we
can here mention. For in this letter of mine we have not undertaken to
expound this epistle, but only mainly on its authority, to demonstrate, so far
as we are able, that we are assisted by divine aid towards the achievement of
righteousness,--not merely because God has given us a law fall of good and holy
precepts, but because our very will without which we cannot do any good thing,
is assisted and elevated by the importation of the Spirit of grace, without
which help mere teaching is "the letter that killeth,"2
forasmuch as it rather holds them guilty of transgression, than justifies the
ungodly. Now just as those who come to know the Creator through the
creature received no benefit towards salvation, from their knowledge,--because
"though they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, nor gave Him thanks,
although professing themselves to be wise;"3--so
also they who know from the law how man ought to live, are not made righteous by
their knowledge, because, "going about to establish their own
righteousness, they have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of
21 [XIII.]--The Law of Works and the Law of Faith.
The law, then, of
deeds, that is, the law of works, whereby this boasting is not excluded, and the
law of faith, by which it is excluded, differ from each other; and this
difference it is worth our while to consider, if so be we are able to observe
and discern it. Hastily, indeed, one might say that the law of works lay
in Judaism, and the law of faith in Christianity; forasmuch as circumcision and
the other works prescribed by the law are just those which the Christian system
no longer retains. But there is a fallacy
this distinction, the greatness of which I have for some time been endeavoring
to expose; and to such as are acute in appreciating distinctions, especially to
yourself and those like you, I have possibly succeeded in my effort.
Since, however, the subject is an important one, it will not be unsuitable, if
with a view to its illustration, we linger over the many testimonies which again
and again meet our view. Now, the apostle says that that law by which no
man is justified,5
entered in that the offence might abound,6
and yet in order to save it from the aspersions of the ignorant and the
accusations of the impious, he defends this very law in such words as these:
"What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay,
I had not known sin but by the law: for I had not known concupiscence,
except the law had said, Thou shall not covet. But sin, taking occasion,
wrought, by the commandment, in me all manner of concupiscence."7
He says also: "The law indeed is holy, and the commandment is holy,
and just, and good; but sin, that it might appear sin, worked death in me by
that which is good."8
It is therefore the very letter that kills which says, "Thou shalt not
covet," and it is of this that he speaks in a passage which I have before
referred to: "By the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the
righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law
and the prophets; even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus
Christ upon all them that believe; for there is no difference: seeing that
all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God: being justified
freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God
hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His
righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance
of God; to declare His righteousness at this time; that He might be just, and
the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."9
And then he adds the passage which is now under consideration:
"Where, then, is your boasting? It is excluded. By what law? of
works? Nay; but by the law of faith."10
And so it is the very law of works itself which says, "Thou shalt not
covet;" because thereby comes the knowledge of sin. Now I wish to
know, if anybody will dare to tell me, whether the law of faith does not say to
us, "Thou shalt not covet"? For if it does not say so to us,
what reason is there why we, who are placed under it, should not sin in safety
and with impunity? Indeed, this is just what those people thought the
apostle meant, of whom he writes: "Even as some affirm that we say,
Let us do evil, that good may come; whose damnation is just."11
If, on the contrary, it too says to us, "Thou shall not covet" (even
as numerous passages in the gospels and epistles so often testify and urge),
then why is not this law also called the law of works? For it by no means
follows that, because it retains not the "works" of the ancient
sacraments,--even circumcision and the other ceremonies,--it therefore has no
"works" in its own sacraments, which are adapted to the present age;
unless, indeed, the question was about sacramental works, when mention was made
of the law, just because by it is the knowledge of sin, and therefore nobody is
justified by it, so that it is not by it that boasting is excluded, but by the
law of faith, whereby the just man lives. But is there not by it too the
knowledge of sin, when even it says, "Thou shall not covet?"
1 Jas. iv. 6.
2 2 Cor. iii. 6.
3 Rom. i. 21.
4 Rom. x. 3.
5 Rom. iii. 20.
6 Rom. v. 20.
7 Rom. vii. 7, 8.
8 Rom. vii. 12, 13.
9 Rom. iii. 20-26.
10 Rom. iii. 27.
11 Rom. iii. 8.
22.--No Man Justified by Works.
What the difference
between them is, I will briefly explain. What the law of works enjoins by
menace, that the law of faith secures by faith. The one says, "Thou
shalt not covet;"1
the other says, "When I perceived that nobody could be continent, except
God gave it to him; and that this was the very point of wisdom, to know whose
gift she was; I approached unto the Lord, and I besought Him."2
This indeed is the very wisdom which is called piety, in which is
worshipped "the Father of lights, from whom is every best giving and
This worship, however, consists in the sacrifice of praise and giving of thanks,
so that the worshipper of God boasts not in himself, but in Him.4
Accordingly, by the law of works, God says to us, Do what I command thee; but by
the law of faith we say to God, Give me what Thou commandest. Now this is
the reason why the law gives its command,--to admonish us what faith ought to
do, that is, that he to whom the command is given, if he is as yet unable to
perform it, may know what to ask for; but if he has at once the ability, and
complies with the command, he ought also to be aware from whose gift the ability
comes. "For we have received not the spirit of this world," says
again that most constant preacher of grace, "but the Spirit which is of
God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God."5
What, however, "is the spirit of this world," but the spirit of pride?
By it their foolish heart is darkened, who, although knowing God, glorified Him
by giving Him thanks.6
Moreover, it is really by this same spirit that they too are deceived, who,
while ignorant of the righteousness of God, and wishing to establish their own
righteousness, have not submitted to God's righteousness.7
It appears to me, therefore, that he is much more "a child of faith"
who has learned from what source to hope for what he has not yet, than he who
attributes to himself whatever he has; although, no doubt, to both of these must
be preferred the man who both has, and at the same time knows from whom he has
it, if nevertheless he does not believe himself to be what he has not yet
attained to. Let him not fall into the mistake of the Pharisee, who, while
thanking God for what he possessed, yet failed to ask for any further gift, just
as if he stood in want of nothing for the increase or perfection of his
Now, having duly considered and weighed all these circumstances and testimonies,
we conclude that a man is not justified by the precepts of a holy life, but by
faith in Jesus Christ,--in a word, not by the law of works, but by the law of
faith; not by the letter, but by the spirit; not by the merits of deeds, but by
1 Ex. xx. 17.
2 Wisdom viii. 21.
3 Jas. i. 17.
4 2 Cor. x. 17.
5 1 Cor. ii. 12.
6 Rom. i. 21.
7 Rom. x. 3.
8 Luke xviii. 11, 12.
23 [XIV.]--How the Decalogue Kills, If Grace Be Not Present.
the apostle seems to reprove and correct those who were being persuaded to be
circumcised, in such terms as to designate by the word "law"
circumcision itself and other similar legal observances, which are now rejected
as shadows of a future substance by Christians who yet hold what those shadows
figuratively promised; he at the same time nevertheless would have it to be
clearly understood that the law, by which he says no man is justified, lies not
merely in those sacramental institutions which contained promissory figures, but
also in those works by which whosoever has done them lives holily, and amongst
which occurs this prohibition: "Thou shalt not covet."
Now, to make our statement all the clearer, let us look at the Decalogue itself.
It is certain, then, that Moses on the mount received the law, that he might
deliver it to the people, written on tables of stone by the finger of God.
It is summed up in these ten commandments, in which there is no precept about
circumcision, nor anything concerning those animal sacrifices which have ceased
to be offered by Christians. Well, now, I should like to be told what
there is in these ten commandments, except the observance of the Sabbath, which
ought not to be kept by a Christian,--whether it prohibit the making and
worshipping of idols and of any other gods than the one true God, or the taking
of God's name in vain; or prescribe honour to parents; or give warning against
fornication, murder, theft, false witness, adultery, or coveting other men's
property? Which of these commandments would any one say that the Christian
ought not to keep? Is it possible to contend that it is not the law which
was written on those two tables that the apostle describes as "the letter
that killeth," but the law of circumcision and the other sacred rites which
are now abolished? But then how can we think so, when in the law occurs
this precept, "Thou shall not covet," by which very commandment,
notwithstanding its being holy, just, and good, "sin," says the
apostle, "deceived me, and by it slew me?"1
What else can this be than "the letter" that "killeth"?
1 See Rom. vii. 7-12.
24.--The Passage in Corinthians.
In the passage where
he speaks to the Corinthians about the letter that kills, and the spirit that
gives life, he expresses himself more clearly, but he does not mean even there
any other "letter" to be understood than the Decalogue itself, which
was written on the two tables. For these are His words:
"Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ
ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God;
not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust
have we through Christ to God-ward: not that we are sufficient of
ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who
hath made us fit, as ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of
the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But
if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so
that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for
the glory of his countenance, which was to be done away; how shall not the
ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of
condemnation be glory, much more shall the ministration of righteousness abound
A good deal might be said about these words; but perhaps we shall have a more
fitting opportunity at some future time. At present, however, I beg you to
observe how he speaks of the letter that killeth, and contrasts therewith the
spirit that giveth life. Now this must certainly be "the ministration
of death written and engraven in stones," and "the ministration of
condemnation," since the law entered that sin might abound.2
But the commandments themselves are so useful and salutary to the doer of them,
no one could have life unless he kept them. Well, then, is it owing to the
one precept about the Sabbath-day, which is included in it, that the Decalogue
is called "the letter that killeth?" Because, forsooth, every
man that still observes that day in its literal appointment is carnally wise,
but to be carnally wise is nothing else than death? And must the other
nine commandments, which are rightly observed in their literal form, not be
regarded as belonging to the law of works by which none is justified, but to the
law of faith whereby the just man lives? Who can possibly entertain so
absurd an opinion as to suppose that "the ministration of death, written
and engraven in stones," is not said equally of all the ten commandments,
but only of the solitary one touching the Sabbath-day? In which class do
we place that which is thus spoken of: "The law worketh wrath:
for where no law is, there is no transgression?"3
and again thus: "Until the law sin was in the world: but sin is
not imputed when there is no law?"4
and also that which we have already so often quoted: "By the law is
the knowledge of sin?"5
and especially the passage in which the apostle has more clearly expressed the
question of which we are treating: "I had not known lust, except the
law had said, Thou shalt not covet?"6
1 2 Cor. iii. 3-9.
2 Rom. v. 20.
3 Rom. iv. 15.
4 Rom. v. 13.
5 Rom. iii. 20.
6 Rom. vii. 7.
25.--The Passage in Romans.
Now carefully consider
this entire passage, and see whether it says anything about circumcision, or the
Sabbath, or anything else pertaining to a foreshadowing sacrament. Does
not its whole scope amount to this, that the letter which forbids sin fails to
give man life, but rather "killeth," by increasing concupiscence, and
aggravating sinfulness by transgression, unless indeed grace liberates us by the
law of faith, which is in Christ Jesus, when His love is "shed abroad in
our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given to us?"1
The apostle having used these words: "That we should serve in newness
of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter,"2
goes on to inquire, "What shall we say then? Is the law sin?
God forbid. Nay; I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not
known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking
occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.
For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once;
but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the
commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For
sin, taking occasion by the commandment deceived me, and by it slew me.
Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin,
that it might appear sin, worked death in me by that which is good; that sin by
the commandment might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is
spiritual; whereas I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I
allow not: for what I would, that I do not; but what I hate, that I do.
If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
But then it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I
know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing. To will,
indeed, is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Now, if I do that which I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin
that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil
is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and
bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O
wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
The grace of God, through Jesus Christ out Lord. So then with the mind I
myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin."3
1 Rom. v. 5.
2 Rom. vii. 6.
3 Rom. vii. 7-25.
26.--No Fruit Good Except It Grow from the Root of Love.
It is evident, then,
that the oldness of the letter, in the absence of the newness of the spirit,
instead of freeing us from sin, rather makes us guilty by the knowledge of sin.
Whence it is written in another part of Scripture, "He that increaseth
knowledge, increaseth sorrow,"1--not
that the law is itself evil, but because the commandment has its good in the
demonstration of the letter, not in the assistance of the spirit; and if this
commandment is kept from the fear of punishment and not from the love of
righteousness, it is servilely kept, not freely, and therefore it is not kept at
all. For no fruit is good which does not grow from the root of love.
If, however, that faith be present which worketh by love,2
then one begins to delight in the law of God after the inward man,3
and this delight is the gift of the spirit, not of the letter; even though there
is another law in our members still warring against the law of the mind, until
the old state is changed, and passes into that newness which increases from day
to day in the
man, whilst the grace of God is liberating us from the body of this death
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
27 [XV.]--Grace, Concealed in the Old Testament, is Revealed in the New.
This grace hid itself
under a veil in the Old Testament, but it has been revealed in the New Testament
according to the most perfectly ordered dispensation of the ages, forasmuch as
God knew how to dispose all things. And perhaps it is a part of this
hiding of grace, that in the Decalogue, which was given on Mount Sinai, only the
portion which relates to the Sabbath was hidden under a prefiguring precept.
The Sabbath is a day of sanctification; and it is not without significance that,
among all the works which God accomplished, the first sound of sanctification
was heard on the day when He rested from all His labours. On this, indeed,
we must not now enlarge. But at the same time I deem it to be enough for
the point now in question, that it was not for nothing that the nation was
commanded on that day to abstain from all servile work, by which sin is
signified; but because not to commit sin belongs to sanctification, that is, to
God's gift through the Holy Spirit. And this precept alone among the
others, was placed in the law, which was written on the two tables of stone, in
a prefiguring shadow, under which the Jews observe the Sabbath, that by this
very circumstance it might be signified that it was then the time for concealing
the grace, which had to be revealed in the New Testament by the death of
Christ,--the rending, as it were, of the veil.4
"For when," says the apostle, "it shall turn to the Lord, the
veil shall be taken away."5
1 Eccles. i. 18.
2 Gal. v. 6.
3 Rom. vii. 22.
4 Matt. xxvii. 51.
5 2 Cor. iii. 16.
28 [XVI]--Why the Holy Ghost is Called the Finger of God.
"Now the Lord is
that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."1
Now this Spirit of God, by whose gift we are justified, whence it comes to pass
that we delight not to sin,--in which is liberty; even as, when we are without
this Spirit, we delight to sin,--in which is slavery, from the works of which we
must abstain;--this Holy Spirit, through whom love is shed abroad in our hearts,
which is the fulfilment of the law, is designated in the gospel as "the
finger of God."2
Is it not because those very tables of the law were written by the finger of
God, that the Spirit of God by whom we are sanctified is also the finger of
God, in order that, living by faith, we may do good works through love?
Who is not touched by this congruity, and at the same time diversity? For
as fifty days are reckoned from the celebration of the Passover (which was
ordered by Moses to be offered by slaying the typical lamb,3
to signify, indeed, the future death of the Lord) to the day when Moses received
the law written on the tables of stone by the finger of God,4
so, in like manner, from the death and resurrection of Him who was led as a lamb
to the slaughter,5
there were fifty complete days up to the time when the finger of God--that is,
the Holy Spirit--gathered together in one6
perfect company those who believed.
1 2 Cor. iii. 17.
2 Luke xi. 20.
3 Ex. xii. 3.
4 Ex. xxxi. 18.
5 Isa. liii. 7.
6 Acts ii. 2.
29 [XVII.]--A Comparison of the Law of Moses and of the New Law.
Now, amidst this
admirable correspondence, there is at least this very considerable diversity in
the cases, in that the people in the earlier instance were deterred by a
horrible dread from approaching the place where the law was given; whereas in
the other case the Holy Ghost came upon them who were gathered together in
expectation of His promised gift. There it was on tables of stone
that the finger of God operated; here it was on the hearts of men. There
the law was given outwardly, so that the unrighteous might be terrified;1
here it was given inwardly, so that they might be justified.2
For this, "Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt
not covet; and if there be any other commandment,"--such, of course, as was
written on those tables,--"it is briefly comprehended," says he,
"in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of
Now this was not written on the tables of stone, but "is shed abroad in our
hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us."4
God's law, therefore, is love. "To it the carnal mind is not subject,
neither indeed can be;"5
but when the works of love are written on tables to alarm the carnal mind, there
arises the law of works and "the letter which killeth" the
transgressor; but when love itself is shed abroad in the hearts of believers,
then we have the law of faith, and the spirit which gives life to him that
1 Ex. xix. 12, 16.
2 Acts ii. 1-47.
3 Rom. xiii. 9, 10.
4 Rom. v. 5.
5 Rom. viii. 7.
30.--The New Law Written Within.
Now, observe how
consonant this diversity is with those words of the apostle which I quoted not
long ago in another connection, and which
postponed for a more careful consideration afterwards:
"Forasmuch," says he, "as ye are manifestly declared to be the
epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of
the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart."1
See how he shows that the one is written without man, that it may alarm him from
without; the other within man himself, that it may justify him from within.
He speaks of the "fleshy tables of the heart," not of the carnal mind,
but of a living agent possessing sensation, in comparison with a stone, which is
senseless. The assertion which he subsequently makes,--that "the
children of Israel could not look stedfastly on the end of the face of
Moses," and that he accordingly spoke to them through a veil,2--signifies
that the letter of the law justifies no man, but that rather a veil is placed on
the reading of the Old Testament, until it shall be turned to Christ, and the
veil be removed;--in other words, until it shall be turned to grace, and be
understood that from Him accrues to us the justification, whereby we do what He
commands. And He commands, in order that, because we lack in ourselves, we
may flee to Him for refuge. Accordingly, after most guardedly saying,
"Such trust have we through Christ to God-ward,"3
the apostle immediately goes on to add the statement which underlies our
subject, to prevent our confidence being attributed to any strength of our own.
He says: "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything
as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us fit to be
ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for
the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life."4
1 2 Cor. iii. 3.
2 2 Cor. iii. 13.
3 2 Cor. iii. 4.
4 2 Cor. iii. 5, 6.
31 [XVIII.]--The Old Law Ministers Death; The New, Righteousness.
Now, since, as he says
in another passage, "the law was added because of transgression,"1
meaning the law which is written externally to man, he therefore designates it
both as "the ministration of death,"2
and "the ministration of condemnation;"3
but the other, that is, the law of the New Testament, he calls "the
ministration of the Spirit"4
and "the ministration of righteousness,"5
because through the Spirit we work righteousness, and are delivered from the
condemnation due to transgression. The one, therefore, vanishes away, the
other abides; for the terrifying schoolmaster will be dispensed with, when love
has succeeded to fear. Now "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is
But that this ministration is vouchsafed to us, not on account of our deserving,
but from His mercy, the apostle thus declares: "Seeing then that we
have this ministry, as we have received mercy, let us faint not; but let us
renounce the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor
adulterating the word of God with deceit."7
By this "craftiness" and "deceitfulness" he would have us
understand the hypocrisy with which the arrogant would fain be supposed to be
righteous. Whence in the psalm, which the apostle cites in testimony of
this grace of God, it is said, "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will
not impute sin, and in whose mouth is no guile."8
This is the confession of lowly saints, who do not boast to be what they are
not. Then, in a passage which follows not long after, the apostle writes
thus: "For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and
ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light
to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the
knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."9
This is the knowledge of His glory, whereby we know that He is the light which
illumines our darkness. And I beg you to observe how he inculcates this
very point: "We have," says he, "this treasure in earthen
vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."10
When further on he commends in glowing terms this same grace, in the Lord Jesus
Christ, until he comes to that vestment of the righteousness of faith,
"clothed with which we cannot be found naked," and whilst longing for
which "we groan, being burdened" with mortality, "earnestly
desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from Heaven,"
"that mortality might be swallowed up of life;"11--observe
what he says: "Now He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is
God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit;"12
and after a little he thus briefly draws the conclusion of the matter:
"That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."13
This is not the righteousness whereby God is Himself righteous, but that whereby
we are made righteous by Him.
1 Gal. iii. 19.
2 2 Cor. iii. 7.
3 2 Cor. iii. 9.
4 2 Cor. iii. 8.
5 2 Cor. iii. 9.
6 2 Cor. iii. 17.
7 2 Cor. iv. 1, 2.
8 Ps. xxxii. 2.
9 2 Cor. iv. 5, 6.
10 2 Cor. iv. 7.
11 See 2 Cor. v. 1-4.
12 2 Cor. v. 5.
13 2 Cor. v. 21.
32 [XIX.]--The Christian Faith Touching the Assistance of Grace.
Let no Christian then
stray from this faith, which alone is the Christian one; nor let any one, when
he has been made to feel ashamed to
that we become righteous through our own selves, without the grace of God
working this in us,--because he sees, when such an allegation is made, how
unable pious believers are to endure it,--resort to any subterfuge on this
point, by affirming that the reason why we cannot become righteous without the
operation of God's grace is this, that He gave the law, He instituted its
teaching, He commanded its precepts of good. For there is no doubt that,
without His assisting grace, the law is "the letter which killeth;"
but when the life-giving spirit is present, the law causes that to be loved as
written within, which it once caused to be feared as written without.
33.--The Prophecy of Jeremiah Concerning the New Testament.
Observe this also in
that testimony which was given by the prophet on this subject in the clearest
way: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will consummate a
new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah; not
according to the covenant which I made with their fathers, in the day that I
took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt. Because
they continued not in my covenant, I also have rejected them, saith the Lord.
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel;
After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and
write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother,
saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least unto the
greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I
will remember their sin no more."1
What say we to this? One nowhere, or hardly anywhere, except in this
passage of the prophet, finds in the Old Testament Scriptures any mention so
made of the New Testament as to indicate it by its very name. It is no
doubt often referred to and foretold as about to be given, but not so plainly as
to have its very name mentioned. Consider then carefully, what difference
God has testified as existing between the two testaments--the old covenant and
1 Jer. xxxi. 31-34.
34.--The Law; Grace.
"Not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day
that I took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt,"
observe what He adds: "Because they continued not in my
covenant." He reckons it as their own fault that they did not
continue in God's covenant, lest the law, which they received at that time,
should seem to be deserving of blame. For it was the very law that Christ
"came not to destroy, but to fulfil."1
Nevertheless, it is not by that law that the ungodly are made righteous, but by
grace; and this change is effected by the life-giving Spirit, without whom the
letter kills. "For if there had been a law given which could have
given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the
Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus
Christ might be given to them that believe."2
Out of this promise, that is, out of the kindness of God, the law is fulfilled,
which without the said promise only makes men transgressors, either by the
actual commission of some sinful deed, if the flame of concupiscence have
greater power than even the restraints of fear, or at least by their mere will,
if the fear of punishment transcend the pleasure of lust. In what he says,
"The Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of
Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe," it is the benefit of
this "conclusion" itself which is asserted. For what
purposes "hath it concluded," except as it is expressed in the
next sentence: "Before, indeed, faith came, we were kept under the
law, concluded for the faith which was afterwards revealed?"3
The law was therefore given, in order that grace might be sought; grace was
given, in order that the law might be fulfilled. Now it was not through
any fault of its own that the law was not fulfilled, but by the fault of the
carnal mind; and this fault was to be demonstrated by the law, and healed by
grace. "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through
the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin,
condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled
in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."4
Accordingly, in the passage which we cited from the prophet, he says, "I
will consummate a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of
what means I will consummate but I will fulfil?--"not,
according to the covenant which I made with their fathers, in the day that I
took them by the hand, to bring them out of the land of Egypt."6
1 Matt. v. 17.
2 Gal. iii. 21, 22.
3 Gal. iii. 23.
4 Rom. viii. 3, 4.
5 Jer. xxxi. 31.
6 Jer. xxxi. 32.
35 [XX.]--The Old Law; The New Law.
The one was therefore
old, because the other is new. But whence comes it that one is old and the
other new, when the same law, which said in the Old Testament, "Thou shalt
is fulfilled by the New Testament? "Because," says the prophet,
"they continued not in my covenant, I have also rejected them, saith the
It is then on account of the offence of the old man, which was by no means
healed by the letter which commanded and threatened, that it is called the old
covenant; whereas the other is called the new covenant, because of the newness
of the spirit, which heals the new man of the fault of the old. Then
consider what follows, and see in how clear a light the fact is placed, that men
who bare faith are unwilling to trust in themselves: "Because,"
says he, "this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel;
After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and
write it in their hearts."3
See how similarly the apostle states it in the passage we have already quoted:
"Not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart,"4
because "not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God."5
And I apprehend that the apostle in this passage had no other reason for
mentioning "the New Testament" ("who hath made us able ministers
of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit"), than
because he had an eye to the words of the prophet, when he said "Not in
tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart," inasmuch as in the
prophet it runs: "I will write it in their hearts."6
1 Ex. xx. 17.
2 Jer. xxxi. 32.
3 Jer. xxxi. 33.
36 [XXI.]--The Law Written in Our Hearts.
What then is God's law
written by God Himself in the hearts of men, but the very presence of the Holy
Spirit, who is "the finger of God," and by whose presence is shed
abroad in our hearts the love which is the fulfilling of the law,1
and the end of the commandment?2
Now the promises of the Old Testament are earthly; and yet (with the exception
of the sacramental ordinances which were the shadow of things to come, such as
circumcision, the Sabbath and other observances of days, and the ceremonies of
and the complicated ritual of sacrifices and sacred things which suited
"the oldness" of the carnal law and its slavish yoke) it contains such
precepts of righteousness as we are even now taught to observe, which were
especially expressly drawn out on the two tables without figure or shadow:
for instance, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," "Thou shalt do no
murder," "Thou shalt not covet,"4
"and whatsoever other commandment is briefly comprehended in the saying,
Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself."5
Nevertheless, whereas as in the said Testament earthly and temporal promises
are, as I have said, recited, and these are goods of this corruptible flesh
(although they prefigure those heavenly and everlasting blessings which belong
to the New Testament), what is now promised is a good for the heart itself, a
good for the mind, a good of the spirit, that is, an intellectual good; since it
is said, "I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their hearts will
I write them,"6--by
which He signified that men would not fear the law which alarmed them
externally, but would love the very righteousness of the law which dwelt
inwardly in their hearts.
1 Rom. xiii. 10.
2 1 Tim. i. 5.
3 See Retractations, ii. 37, printed at the head of this treatise.
4 Ex. xx. 13, 14, 17.
5 Rom. xiii. 9.
6 Jer. xxxi. 33.
37 [XXII.]--The Eternal Reward.
He then went on to
state the reward: "I will be their God, and they shall be my
This corresponds to the Psalmist's words to God: "It is good for me
to hold me fast by God."2
"I will be," says God, "their God, and they shall be my
people." What is better than this good, what happier than this
happiness,--to live to God, to live from God, with whom is the fountain of life,
and in whose light we shall see light?3
Of this life the Lord Himself speaks in these words: "This is life
eternal that they may know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou
is, "Thee and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent," the one true God.
For no less than this did Himself promise to those who love Him: "He
that loveth me, keepeth my commandments; and he that loveth me shall be loved of
my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him"5--in
the form, no doubt, of God, wherein He is equal to the Father; not in the form
of a servant, for in this He will display Himself even to the wicked also.
Then, however, shall that come to pass which is written, "Let the ungodly
man be taken away, that he see not the glory of the Lord."6
Then also shall "the wicked go into everlasting punishment, and the
righteous into life eternal."7
Now this eternal life, as I have just mentioned, has been defined to be, that
they may know the one true God.8
Accordingly John again says: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God;
and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He
shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is."9
This likeness begins even now to be reformed in us, while the inward man is
being renewed from day to day, according to the image of Him that created him.10
1 Jer. xxxi. 33.
2 Ps. lxxiii. 28.
3 Ps. xxxvi. 9.
4 John xvii. 3.
5 John xiv. 21.
6 Isa. xxvi. 10.
7 Matt. xxv. 46.
8 John xvii. 3.
9 1 John iii. 2.
10 Col. iii. 10.
38 [XXIII.]--The Re-Formation Which is Now Being Effected, Compared with the
Perfection of the Life to Come.
But what is this
change, and how great, in
with the perfect eminence which is then to be realized? The apostle
applies some sort of illustration, derived from well-known things, to these
indescribable things, comparing the period of childhood with the age of manhood.
"When I was a child," says he, "I used to speak as a child, to
understand as a child, to think as a child; but when I became a man, I put aside
He then immediately explains why he said this in these words: "For
now we see by means of a mirror, darkly but then face to face: now I know
in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."2
39 [XXIV]--The Eternal Reward Which is Specially Declared in the New Testament,
Foretold by the Prophet.
Accordingly, in our
prophet likewise, whose testimony we are dealing with, this is added, that in
God is the reward, in Him the end, in Him the perfection of happiness, in Him
the sum of the blessed and eternal life. For after saying, "I will be
their God, and they shall be my people," he at once adds, "And they
shall no more teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying,
Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least even unto the
greatest of them."3
Now, the present is certainly the time of the New Testament, the promise of
which is given by the prophet in the words which we have quoted from his
prophecy. Why then does each man still say even now to his neighbour and
his brother, "Know the Lord?" Or is it not perhaps meant that
this is everywhere said when the gospel is preached, and when this is its very
proclamation? For on what ground does the apostle call himself
"a teacher of the Gentiles,"4
if it be not that what he himself implies in the following passage becomes
realized: "How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall
they hear without a preacher?"5
Since, then, this preaching is now everywhere spreading, in what way is it the
time of the New Testament of which the prophet spoke in the words, "And
they shall not every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying,
Know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the
greatest of them,"6
unless it be that he has included in his prophetic forecast the eternal reward
of the said New Testament, by promising us the most blessed contemplation of God
1 1 Cor. xiii. 11.
2 1 Cor. xiii. 12.
3 Jer. xxxi. 34.
4 1 Tim. ii. 7.
5 Rom. x. 14.
6 Jer. xxxi. 34.
40.--How that is to Be the Reward of All; The Apostle Earnestly Defends Grace.
What then is the
import of the "All, from the least unto the greatest of them,"
but all that belong spiritually to the house of Israel and to the house of
Judah,--that is, to the children of Isaac, to the seed of Abraham? For
such is the promise, wherein it was said to him, "In Isaac shall thy seed
be called; for they which are the children of the flesh are not the children of
God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. For
this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a
son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even
by our father Isaac, (for the children being not yet born, neither having done
any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not
of works, but of Him that calleth,) it was said unto her, "The elder shall
serve the younger."1
This is the house of Israel, or rather the house of Judah, on account of Christ,
who came of the tribe of Judah. This is the house of the children of
promise,--not by reason of their own merits, but of the kindness of God.
For God promises what He Himself performs: He does not Himself promise,
and another perform; which would no longer be promising, but prophesying.
Hence it is "not of works, but of Him that calleth,"2
lest the result should be their own, not God's; lest the reward should be
ascribed not to His grace, but to their due; and so grace should be no longer
grace which was so earnestly defended and maintained by him who, though the
least of the apostles, laboured more abundantly than all the rest,--yet not
himself, but the grace of God that was with him.3
"They shall all know me,"4
He says,--"All," the house of Israel and house of Judah.
"All," however, "are not Israel which are of Israel,"5
but they only to whom it is said in "the psalm concerning the morning
(that is, concerning the new refreshing light, meaning that of the new
testament), "All ye the seed of Jacob, glorify Him; and fear Him, all ye
the seed of Israel."7
All the seed, without exception, even the entire seed of the promise and of the
called, but only of those who are the called according to His purpose.8
"For whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called,
them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified."9
"Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the
promise might be sure to all the seed: not to that only which is of the
law,"--that is, which comes from the Old Testament into the New,--"but
to that also which is of faith," which was indeed prior to the law, even
"the faith of Abraham,"--meaning those who imitate the faith of
Abraham,--"who is the father of us all; as it is written, I have made
the father of many nations."10
Now all these predestinated, called, justified, glorified ones, shall know God
by the grace of the new testament, from the least to the greatest of them.
1 Rom. ix. 7-12.
2 Rom. ix. 11.
3 1 Cor. xv. 9, 10.
4 Jer. xxxi. 34.
5 Rom. ix. 6.
6 See title of Ps. xxii. (xxi. Sept.) in the Sept. and Latin.
7 Ps. xxii. 23.
8 Rom. viii. 28.
9 Rom. viii. 30.
10 Rom. iv. 16, 17.
41.--The Law Written in the Heart, and the Reward of the Eternal Contemplation
of God, Belong to the New Covenant; Who Among the Saints are the Least and the
As then the law of
works, which was written on the tables of stone, and its reward, the land of
promise, which the house of the carnal Israel after their liberation from Egypt
received, belonged to the old testament, so the law of faith, written on the
heart, and its reward, the beatific vision which the house of the spiritual
Israel, when delivered from the present world, shall perceive, belong to the new
testament. Then shall come to pass what the apostle describes:
"Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues,
they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away,"1--even
that imperfect knowledge of "the child"2
in which this present life is passed, and which is but "in part,"
"by means of a mirror darkly."3
Because of this, indeed, "prophecy" is necessary, for still to the
past succeeds the future; and because of this, too, "tongues" are
required,--that is, a multiplicity of expressions, since it is by different ones
that different things are suggested to him who does not as yet contemplate with
a perfectly purified mind the everlasting light of transparent truth.
"When that, however, which is perfect is come, then that which is in part
shall be done away,"4
then, what appeared to the flesh in assumed flesh shall display Itself as It is
in Itself to all who love It; then, there shall be eternal life for us to know
the one very God;5
then shall we be like Him,6
because "we shall then know, even as we are known;"7
then "they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his
brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know me, from the least unto
the greatest of them."8
Now this may be understood in several ways: Either, that in that life the
saints shall differ one from another in glory, as star from star. It
matters not how the expression runs,--whether (as in the passage before us) it
be, "From the least unto the greatest of them," or the other way, From
the greatest unto the least. And, in like manner, it matters not even if
we understand "the least" to mean those who simply believe, and
"the greatest" those who have been further able to
understand--so far as may be in this world--the light which is incorporeal and
unchangeable. Or, "the least" may mean those who are
later in time; whilst by "the greatest" He may have intended to
indicate those who were prior in time. For they are all to receive the
promised vision of God hereafter, since it was for us that they foresaw the
future which would be better than their present, that they without us should not
arrive at complete perfection.9
And so the earlier are found to be the lesser, because they were less deferred
in time; as in the case of the gospel "penny a day," which is given
for an illustration.10
This penny they are the first to receive who came last into the vineyard.
Or, "the least and the greatest" ought perhaps to be taken in some
other sense, which at present does not occur to my mind.
1 1 Cor. xiii. 8.
2 Ib. ver. 11.
3 Ib. ver. 12.
4 1 Cor. xiii. 10.
5 John xvii. 3.
6 1 John iii. 2.
7 1 Cor. xiii. 12.
8 Jer. xxxi. 34.
9 Heb. xi. 40.
10 Matt. xx. 8.
42 [XXV.]--Difference Between the Old and the New Testaments.
I beg of you, however,
carefully to observe, as far as you can, what I am endeavouring to prove with so
much effort. When the prophet promised a new covenant, not according to
the covenant which had been formerly made with the people of Israel when
liberated from Egypt, he said nothing about a change in the sacrifices or any
sacred ordinances, although such change, too, was without doubt to follow, as we
see in fact that it did follow, even as the same prophetic scripture testifies
in many other passages; but he simply called attention to this difference, that
God would impress His laws on the mind of those who belonged to this covenant,
and would write them in their hearts,1
whence the apostle drew his conclusion,--"not with ink, but with the Spirit
of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the
and that the eternal recompense of this righteousness was not the land out of
which were driven the Amorites and Hittites, and other nations who dwelt there,3
but God Himself, "to whom it is good to hold fast,"4
in order that God's good that they love, may be the God Himself whom they love,
between whom and men nothing but sin produces separation; and this is remitted
only by grace. Accordingly, after saying, "For all shall know me,
from the least to the greatest of them," He instantly added, "For I
will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."5
By the law of works, then, the Lord says, "Thou shalt not covet:"6
but by the law of faith He says, "Without me ye can do nothing;"7
for He was treating of good works, even the fruit of the vine-branches. It
is therefore apparent what dif
there is between the old covenant and the new,--that in the former the law is
written on tables, while in the latter on hearts; so that what in the one alarms
from without, in the other delights from within; and in the former man becomes a
transgressor through the letter that kills, in the other a lover through the
life-giving spirit. We must therefore avoid saying, that the way in which
God assists us to work righteousness, and "works in us both to will and to
do of His good pleasure,"8
is by externally addressing to our faculties precepts of holiness; for He gives
His increase internally,9
by shedding love abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given to
1 Jer. xxxi. 32, 33.
2 2 Cor. iii. 3.
3 Josh. xii.
4 Ps. lxxiii. 28.
5 Jer. xxxi. 34.
6 Ex. xx. 17.
7 John xv. 5.
8 Phil. ii. 13.
9 1 Cor. iii. 7.
10 Rom. v. 5.
43 [XXVI.]--A Question Touching the Passage in the Apostle About the Gentiles
Who are Said to Do by Nature the Law's Commands, Which They are Also Said to
Have Written on Their Hearts.
Now we must see in
what sense it is that the apostle says, "For when the Gentiles, which have
not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the
law, are a law unto themselves, which show the work of the law written in their
lest there should seem to be no certain difference in the new testament, in that
the Lord promised that He would write His laws in the hearts of His people,
inasmuch as the Gentiles have this done for them naturally. This question
therefore has to be sifted, arising as it does as one of no inconsiderable
importance. For some one may say, "If God distinguishes the new
testament from the old by this circumstance, that in the old He wrote His law on
tables, but in the new He wrote them on men's hearts, by what are the faithful
of the new testament discriminated from the Gentiles, which have the work of the
law written on their hearts, whereby they do by nature the things of the law,2
as if, forsooth, they were better than the ancient people, which received the
law on tables, and before the new people, which has that conferred on it by the
new testament which nature has already bestowed on them?"
44.--The Answer Is, that the Passage Must Be Understood of the Faithful of the
Has the apostle
perhaps mentioned those Gentiles as having the law written in their hearts who
belong to the new testament? We must look at the previous context.
First, then, referring to the gospel, he says, "It is the power of God unto
salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as
it is written, The just shall live by faith."3
Then he goes on to speak of the ungodly, who by reason of their pride profit not
by the knowledge of God, since they did not glorify Him as God, neither were
He then passes to those who think and do the very things which they
condemn,--having in view, no doubt, the Jews, who made their boast of God's law,
but as yet not mentioning them expressly by name; and then he says,
"Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man
that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile: but glory,
honour, and peace, to every soul that doeth good; to the Jew first, and also to
the Gentile: for there is no respect of persons with God. For as
many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law; and as many as
have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law; for not the hearers of the
law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified."5
Who they are that are treated of in these words, he goes on to tell us:
"For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things
contained in the law,"6
and so forth in the passage which I have quoted already. Evidently,
therefore, no others are here signified under the name of Gentiles than those
whom he had before designated by the name of "Greek" when he said,
"To the Jew first, and also to the Greek."7
Since then the gospel is "the power of God unto salvation to every one that
believeth, to the Jew first, and, also to the Greek;"8
and since "indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, are upon every
soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek: but
glory, honour, and peace, to every man that doeth good; to the Jew first, and
also to the Greek;" since, moreover, the Greek is indicated by the term
"Gentiles" who do by nature the things contained in the law, and which
have the work of the law written in their hearts: it follows that such
Gentiles as have the law written in their hearts belong to the gospel, since to
them, on their believing, it is the power of God unto salvation. To what
Gentiles, however, would he promise glory, and honour, and peace, in their doing
good works, if living without the grace of the gospel? Since there is no
respect of persons with God,9
and since it is not the hearers of the law, but the doers thereof, that are
it follows that any man of any nation, whether Jew or Greek, who shall believe,
will equally have salvation under the gospel. "For there is no
difference," as he says afterwards; "for all have sinned, and come
the glory of God: being justified freely by His grace."11
How then could he say that any Gentile person, who was a doer of the law, was
justified without the Saviour's grace?
1 Rom. ii. l4, 15.
2 Rom. ii. 14.
3 Rom. i. 16, 17.
4 Rom. i. 21.
5 Rom. ii. 8-13.
6 Rom. ii. 14.
7 Rom. i. 16.
8 Rom. i. 16.
9 Rom. ii. 11.
10 Rom. ii. 13.
11 Rom. iii. 22-24.
45.--It is Not by Their Works, But by Grace, that the Doers of the Law are
Justified; God's Saints and God's Name Hallowed in Different Senses.
Now he could not mean
to contradict himself in saying, "The doers of the law shall be
as if their justification came through their works, and not through grace; since
he declares that a man is justified freely by His grace without the works of the
intending by the term "freely" nothing else than that works do
not precede justification. For in another passage he expressly says,
"If by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no longer
But the statement that "the doers of the law shall be justified"4
must be so understood, as that we may know that they are not otherwise doers of
the law, unless they be justified, so that justification does not subsequently
accrue to them as doers of the law, but justification precedes them as doers of
the law. For what else does the phrase "being justified" signify
than being made righteous,--by Him, of course, who justifies the ungodly man,
that he may become a godly one instead? For if we were to express a
certain fact by saying, "The men will be liberated," the phrase would
of course be understood as asserting that the liberation would accrue to those
who were men already; but if we were to say, The men will be created, we should
certainly not be understood as asserting that the creation would happen to those
who were already in existence, but that they became men by the creation itself.
If in like manner it were said, The doers of the law shall be honoured, we
should only interpret the statement correctly if we supposed that the honour was
to accrue to those who were already doers of the law: but when the
allegation is, "The doers of the law shall be justified," what else
does it mean than that the just shall be justified? for of course the doers of
the law are just persons. And thus it amounts to the same thing as if it
were said, The doers of the law shall be created,--not those who were so
already, but that they may become such; in order that the Jews who were hearers
of the law might hereby understand that they wanted the grace of the Justifier,
in order to be able to become its doers also. Or else the term "They
shall be justified" is used in the sense of, They shall be deemed, or
reckoned as just, as it is predicated of a certain man in the Gospel, "But
he, willing to justify himself,"5--meaning
that he wished to be thought and accounted just. In like manner, we attach
one meaning to the statement, "God sanctifies His saints," and another
to the words, "Sanctified be Thy name;"6
for in the former case we suppose the words to mean that He makes those to be
saints who were not saints before, and in the latter, that the prayer would have
that which is always holy in itself be also regarded as holy by men,--in a word,
be feared with a hallowed awe.
1 Rom. ii. 13.
2 Rom. iii. 24, 28.
3 Rom. xi. 6.
4 Rom. ii. 13.
5 Luke x. 29.
6 Matt. vi. 9.
46.--How the Passage of the Law Agrees with that of the Prophet.
If therefore the
apostle, when he mentioned that the Gentiles do by nature the things contained
in the law, and have the work of the law written in their hearts,1
intended those to be understood who believed in Christ,--who do not come to the
faith like the Jews, through a precedent law,--there is no good reason why we
should endeavour to distinguish them from those to whom the Lord by the prophet
promises the new covenant, telling them that He will write His laws in their
inasmuch as they too, by the grafting which he says had been made of the wild
olive, belong to the self-same olive-tree,3--in
other words, to the same people of God. There is therefore a good
agreement of this passage of the apostle with the words of the prophet so that
belonging to the new testament means having the law of God not written on
tables, but on the heart,--that is, embracing the righteousness of the law with
innermost affection, where faith works by love.4
Because it is by faith that God justifies the Gentiles; and the Scripture
foreseeing this, preached the gospel before to Abraham, saying, "In thy
seed shall all nations be blessed,"5
in order that by this grace of promise the wild olive might be grafted into the
good olive, and believing Gentiles might be made children of Abraham, "in
Abraham's seed, which is Christ,"6
by following the faith of him who, without receiving the law written on tables,
and not yet possessing even circumcision, "believed God, and it was counted
to him for righteousness."7
Now what the apostle attributed to Gentiles of this character,--how that
"they have the work of the law written in their hearts;"8
must be some such thing as what he says to the Corinthians: "not in
tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart."9
For thus do they become of the house of Israel, when their uncircumcision is
accounted circumcision, by the fact that they do not exhibit the righteousness
of the law by the excis
of the flesh, but keep it by the charity of the heart. "If,"
says he, "the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not
his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?"10
And therefore in the house of the true Israel, in which is no guile,11
they are partakers of the new testament, since God puts His laws into their
mind, and writes them in their hearts with his own finger, the Holy Ghost, by
whom is shed abroad in them the love12
which is the" fulfilling of the law."13
1 Rom. ii. 14, 15.
2 Jer. xxxii. 32.
3 Rom. xi. 24.
4 Gal. v. 6.
5 Gal. iii. 8; Gen. xxii. 18.
6 Gal. iii. 16.
7 Gen. xv. 6; Rom. iv. 2.
8 Rom. ii. 15.
9 2 Cor. iii. 3.
10 Rom. ii. 26.
11 See John i. 47.
12 Rom. v. 5.
13 Rom. xiii. 10.
47 [XXVII.]--The Law "Being Done by Nature" Means, Done by Nature as
Restored by Grace.
Nor ought it to
disturb us that the apostle described them as doing that which is contained in
the law "by nature,"--not by the Spirit of God, not by faith,
not by grace. For it is the Spirit of grace that does it, in order to
restore in us the image of God, in which we were naturally created.1
Sin, indeed, is contrary to nature, and it is grace that heals it,--on which
account the prayer is offered to God, "Be merciful unto me: heal my
soul; for I have sinned against Thee."2
Therefore it is by nature that men do the things which are contained in the law;3
for they who do not, fail to do so by reason of their sinful defect. In
consequence of this sinfulness, the law of God is erased out of their hearts;
and therefore, when, the sin being healed, it is written there, the
prescriptions of the law are done "by nature,"--not that by
nature grace is denied, but rather by grace nature is repaired. For
"by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death
passed upon all men; in which all have sinned;"4
wherefore "there is no difference: they all come short of the glory
of God, being justified freely by His grace."5
By this grace there is written on the renewed inner man that righteousness which
sin had blotted out; and this mercy comes upon the human race through our Lord
Jesus Christ. "For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and
men, the Man Christ Jesus."6
1 Gen. i. 27.
2 Ps. xli. 4.
3 Rom. ii. 14.
4 Rom. v. 12.
5 Rom. iii. 22-24.
6 1 Tim. ii. 5.
48.--The Image of God is Not Wholly Blotted Out in These Unbelievers; Venial
According to some,
however, they who do by nature the things contained in the law must not be
regarded as yet in the number of those whom Christ's grace justifies, but rather
as among those some of whose actions (although they are those of ungodly men,
who do not truly and rightly worship the true God) we not only cannot blame, but
even justly and rightly praise, since they have been done--so far as we read, or
know, or hear--according to the rule of righteousness; though at the same time,
were we to discuss the question with what motive they are done, they would
hardly be found to be such as deserve the praise and defence which are due to
righteous conduct. [XXVIII.] Still, since God's image has not been
so completely erased in the soul of man by the stain of earthly affections, as
to have left remaining there not even the merest lineaments of it whence it
might be justly said that man, even in the ungodliness of his life, does, or
appreciates, some things contained in the law; if this is what is meant by the
statement that "the Gentiles, which have not the law" (that is, the
law of God), "do by nature the things contained in the law,"1
and that men of this character "are a law to themselves," and
"show the work of the law written in their hearts,"--that is to say,
what was impressed on their hearts when they were created in the image of God
has not been wholly blotted out:--even in this view of the subject, that wide
difference will not be disturbed, which separates the new covenant from the old,
and which lies in the fact that by the new covenant the law of God is written in
the hearts of believers, whereas in the old it was inscribed on tables of stone.
For this writing in the heart is effected by renovation, although it had not
been completely blotted out by the old nature. For just as that image of
God is renewed in the mind of believers by the new testament, which impiety had
not quite abolished (for there had remained undoubtedly that which the soul of
man cannot be except it be rational), so also the law of God, which had not been
wholly blotted out there by unrighteousness, is certainly written thereon,
renewed by grace. Now in the Jews the law which was written on tables
could not effect this new inscription, which is justification, but only
transgression. For they too were men, and there was inherent in them that
power of nature, which enables the rational soul both to perceive and do what is
lawful; but the godliness which transfers to another life happy and immortal has
"a spotless law, converting souls,"2
so that by the light thereof they may be renewed, and that be accomplished in
them which is written, "There has been manifested over us, O Lord, the
light of Thy countenance."3
Turned away from which, they have deserved to grow old, whilst they are
incapable of renovation except by the grace of Christ,--in other words, without
the intercession of the Mediator; there being "one God and one Mediator
between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself
ransom for all."4
Should those be strangers to His grace of whom we are treating, and who (after
the manner of which we have spoken with sufficient fulness already) "do by
nature the things contained in the law,"5
of what use will be their "excusing thoughts" to them "in the day
when God shall judge the secrets of men,"6
unless it be perhaps to procure for them a milder punishment? For as, on
the one hand, there are certain venial sins which do not hinder the righteous
man from the attainment of eternal life, and which are unavoidable in this life,
so, on the other hand, there are some good works which are of no avail to an
ungodly man towards the attainment of everlasting life, although it would be
very difficult to find the life of any very bad man whatever entirely without
them. But inasmuch as in the kingdom of God the saints differ in glory as
one star does from another,7
so likewise, in the condemnation of everlasting punishment, it will be more
tolerable for Sodom than for that other city;8
whilst some men will be twofold more the children of hell than others.9
Thus in the judgment of God not even this fact will be without its
influence,--that one man will have sinned more, or less, than another, even when
both are involved in the ungodliness that is worthy of damnation.
1 Rom. ii. 14.
2 Ps. xix. 7.
3 Ps. iv. 6.
4 1 Tim. ii. 5, 6.
5 Rom. ii. 14.
6 Rom. ii. 15, 16.
7 1 Cor. xv. 41.
8 Luke x. 12.
9 Matt. xxiii. 15.
49.--The Grace Promised by the Prophet for the New Covenant.
What then could the
apostle have meant to imply by,--after checking the boasting of the Jews, by
telling them that "not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the
doers of the law shall be justified,"1--immediately
afterwards speaking of them "which, having not the law, do by nature the
things contained in the law,"2
if in this description not they are to be understood who belong to the
Mediator's grace, but rather they who, while not worshipping the true God with
true godliness, do yet exhibit some good works in the general course of their
ungodly lives? Or did the apostle perhaps deem it probable, because he had
previously said that "with God there is no respect of persons,"3
and had afterwards said that "God is not the God of the Jews only, but also
of the Gentiles,"4--that
even such scanty little works of the law, as are suggested by nature, were not
discovered in such as received not the law, except as the result of the remains
of the image of God; which He does not disdain when they believe in Him, with
whom there is no respect of persons? But whichever of these views is
accepted, it is evident that the grace of God was promised to the new testament
even by the prophet, and that this grace was definitively announced to take this
shape,--God's laws were to be written in men's hearts; and they were to arrive
at such a knowledge of God, that they were not each one to teach his neighbour
and brother, saying, Know the Lord; for all were to know Him, from the least to
the greatest of them.5
This is the gift of the Holy Ghost, by which love is shed abroad in our hearts,6--not,
indeed, any kind of love, but the love of God, "out of a pure heart, and a
good conscience, and an unfeigned faith,"7
by means of which the just man, while living in this pilgrim state, is led on,
after the stages of "the glass," and "the enigma," and
"what is in part," to the actual vision, that, face to face, he may
know even as he is known.8
For one thing has he required of the Lord, and that he still seeks after, that
he may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, in order to
behold the pleasantness of the Lord.9
1 Rom. ii. 13.
2 Rom. ii. 14.
3 Rom. ii. 11.
4 Rom. iii. 29.
5 Jer. xxxi. 33, 34.
6 Rom. v. 5.
7 1 Tim. i. 5.
8 1 Cor. xiii. 12.
9 Ps. xxvii. 4.
50 [XXIX.]--Righteousness is the Gift of God.
Let no man therefore
boast of that which he seems to possess, as if he had not received it;1
nor let him think that he has received it merely because the external letter of
the law has been either exhibited to him to read, or sounded in his ear for him
to hear. For "if righteousness is by the law, then Christ has died in
Seeing, however, that if He has not died in vain, He has ascended up on
high, and has led captivity captive, and has given gifts to men,3
it follows that whosoever has, has from this source. But whosoever denies
that he has from Him, either has not, or is in great danger of being deprived of
what he has.4
"For it is one God which justifies the circumcision by faith, and the
uncircumcision through faith;"5
in which clauses there is no real difference in the sense, as if the phrase
"by faith" meant one thing, and "through faith"
another, but only a variety of expression. For in one passage, when
speaking of the Gentiles,--that is, of the uncircumcision,--he says, "The
Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen by faith;"6
and again, in another, when speaking of the circumcision, to which he himself
belonged, he says, "We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the
Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but through
faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed in Jesus Christ."7
Observe, he says that both the uncircumcision are justified by
and the circumcision through faith, if, indeed, the circumcision keep the
righteousness of faith. For the Gentiles, which followed not after
righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is
obtaining it of God, not by assuming it of themselves. But Israel, which
followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of
righteousness. And why? Because they sought it not by faith, but as
it were by works9--in
other words, working it out as it were by themselves, not believing that it is
God who works within them. "For it is God which worketh in us both to
will and to do of His own good pleasure."10
And hereby "they stumbled at the stumbling-stone."11
For what he said, "not by faith, but as it were by works,"12
he most clearly explained in the following words: "They, being
ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own
righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that
Then are we still in doubt what are those works of the law by which a man is not
justified, if he believes them to be his own works, as it were, without the help
and gift of God, which is "by the faith of Jesus Christ?" And do
we suppose that they are circumcision and the other like ordinances, because
some such things in other passages are read concerning these sacramental rites
too? In this place, however, it is certainly not circumcision which they
wanted to establish as their own righteousness, because God established this by
prescribing it Himself. Nor is it possible for us to understand this
statement, of those works concerning which the Lord says to them, "Ye
reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition;"14
because, as the apostle says, Israel, which followed after the law of
righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness."15
He did not say, Which followed after their own traditions, framing them and
relying on them. This then is the sole distinction, that the very precept,
"Thou shalt not covet,"16
and God's other good and holy commandments, they attributed to themselves;
whereas, that man may keep them, God must work in him through faith in Jesus
Christ, who is "the end of the law for righteousness to every one that
That is to say, every one who is incorporated into Him and made a member of His
body, is able, by His giving the increase within, to work righteousness.
It is of such a man's works that Christ Himself has said, "Without me ye
can do nothing."18
1 1 Cor. iv. 7.
2 Gal. ii. 21.
3 Ps. lxviii. 18; Eph. iv. 8.
4 Luke viii. 18; xix. 26.
5 Rom. iii. 30.
6 Gal. iii. 8.
7 Gal. ii. 15, 16. [The discussion turns on the difference in the Latin prepositions ex and per, representing the Greek k and dia.--W.]
8 Rom. ix. 30.
9 Rom. ix. 31, 32.
10 Phil. ii. 13.
11 Rom. ix. 32.
12 Rom. ix. 32.
13 Rom. x. 3, 4.
14 Mark vii. 9.
15 Rom. ix. 31.
16 Ex. xx. 17.
17 Rom. x. 4.
18 John xv. 5.
51.--Faith the Ground of All Righteousness.
The righteousness of
the law is proposed in these terms,--that whosoever shall do it shall live in
it; and the purpose is, that when each has discovered his own weakness, he may
not by his own strength, nor by the letter of the law (which cannot be done),
but by faith, conciliating the Justifier, attain, and do, and live in it.
For the work in which he who does it shall live, is not done except by one who
is justified. His justification, however, is obtained by faith; and
concerning faith it is written, "Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend
into heaven? (that is, to bring down Christ therefrom;) or, Who shall descend
into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what
saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart:
that is (says he), the word of faith which we preach: That if thou shalt
confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God
hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved."1
As far as he is saved, so far is he righteous. For by this faith we
believe that God will raise even us from the dead,--even now in the spirit, that
we may in this present world live soberly, righteously, and godly in the renewal
of His grace; and by and by in our flesh, which shall rise again to immortality,
which indeed is the reward of the Spirit, who precedes it by a resurrection
which is appropriate to Himself,--that is, by justification. "For we
are buried with Christ by baptism unto death, that like as Christ was raised up
from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness
By faith, therefore, in Jesus Christ we obtain salvation,--both in so far as it
is begun within us in reality, and in so far as its perfection is waited for in
hope; "for whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be
"How abundant," says the Psalmist, "is the multitude of Thy
goodness, O Lord, which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee, and hast
perfected for them that hope in Thee!"4
By the law we fear God; by faith we hope in God: but from those who fear
punishment grace is hidden. And the soul which labours under this fear,
since it has not conquered its evil concupiscence, and from which this fear,
like a harsh master, has not departed,--let it flee by faith for refuge to the
mercy of God, that He may give it what He commands, and may, by inspiring into
it the sweetness of His grace through His Holy Spirit, cause the soul to delight
more in what He teaches it, than it delights in what opposes His instruction.
In this manner it is that the great abundance of His sweet
is, the law of faith,--His love which is in our hearts, and shed abroad, is
perfected in them that hope in Him, that good may be wrought by the soul, healed
not by the fear of punishment, but by the love of righteousness.
1 Rom. x. 6-9.
2 Rom. vi. 4.
3 Rom. x. 13; Joel ii. 32.
4 Ps. xxxi. 19.
52 [XXX.]--Grace Establishes Free Will.
Do we then by grace
make void free will? God forbid! Nay, rather we establish free will.
For even as the law by faith, so free will by grace, is not made void, but
For neither is the law fulfilled except by free will; but by the law is the
knowledge of sin, by faith the acquisition of grace against sin, by grace the
healing of the soul from the disease of sin, by the health of the soul freedom
of will, by free will the love of righteousness, by love of righteousness the
accomplishment of the law. Accordingly, as the law is not made void, but
is established through faith, since faith procures grace whereby the law is
fulfilled; so free will is not made void through grace, but is established,
since grace cures the will whereby righteousness is freely loved. Now all
the stages which I have here connected together in their successive links, have
severally their proper voices in the sacred Scriptures. The law says:
"Thou shall not covet."2
Faith says: "Heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee."3
Grace says: "Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a
worse thing come unto thee."4
Health says: "O Lord my God, I cried unto Thee, and Thou hast healed
Free will says: "I will freely sacrifice unto Thee."6
Love of righteousness says: "Transgressors told me pleasant tales,
but not according to Thy law, O Lord."7
How is it then that miserable men dare to be proud, either of their free will,
before they are freed, or of their own strength, if they have been freed?
They do not observe that in the very mention of free will they pronounce the
name of liberty. But "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is
If, therefore, they are the slaves of sin, why do they boast of free will?
For by what a man is overcome, to the same is he delivered as a slave.9
But if they have been freed, why do they vaunt themselves as if it were by their
own doing, and boast, as if they had not received? Or are they free in
such sort that they do not choose to have Him for their Lord who says to them:
"Without me ye can do nothing;"10
and "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed?"11
1 Rom. iii. 31.
2 Ex. xx. 17.
3 Ps. xli. 4.
4 John v. 14.
5 Ps. xxx. 2.
6 Ps. liv. 6.
7 Ps. cxix. 85.
8 2 Cor. iii. 17.
9 2 Pet. ii. 19.
10 John xv. 5.
11 John viii. 36.
53 [XXXI.]--Volition and Ability.
Some one will ask
whether the faith itself, in which seems to be the beginning either of
salvation, or of that series leading to salvation which I have just mentioned,
is placed in our power. We shall see more easily, if we first examine with
some care what "our power" means. Since, then, there are two
things,--will and ability; it follows that not every one that has the will has
therefore the ability also, nor has every one that possesses the ability the
will also; for as we sometimes will what we cannot do, so also we sometimes can
do what we do not will. From the words themselves when sufficiently
considered, we shall detect, in the very ring of the terms, the derivation of
volition from willingness, and of ability from ableness.1
Therefore, even as the man who wishes has volition, so also the man who can has
ability. But in order that a thing may be done by ability, the volition
must be present. For no man is usually said to do a thing with ability if
he did it unwillingly. Although, at the same time, if we observe more
precisely, even what a man is compelled to do unwillingly, he does, if he does
it, by his volition; only he is said to be an unwilling agent, or to act against
his will, because he would prefer some other thing. He is compelled,
indeed, by some unfortunate influence, to do what he does under compulsion,
wishing to escape it or to remove it out of his way. For if his volition
be so strong that he prefers not doing this to not suffering that, then beyond
doubt he resists the compelling influence, and does it not. And
accordingly, if he does it, it is not with a full and free will, but yet it is
not without will that he does it; and inasmuch as the volition is followed by
its effect, we cannot say that he lacked the ability to do it. If, indeed,
he willed to do it, yielding to compulsion, but could not, although we should
allow that a coerced will was present, we should yet say that ability was
absent. But when he did not do the thing because he was unwilling, then of
course the ability was present, but the volition was absent, since he did it
not, by his resistance to the compelling influence. Hence it is that even
they who compel, or who persuade, are accustomed to say, Why don't you do what
you have in your ability, in order to avoid this evil? While they who are
utterly unable to do what they are compelled to do, because they are supposed to
be able usually answer by excusing themselves, and say, I would do it if it were
in my ability. What then do we ask more, since we call that ability when
to the volition is added the faculty of doing? Accordingly, every one is
said to have that in his ability which he does if he likes, and does not if he
1 [That is, in the Latin, "voluntas" (choice, will, volition) comes from velle (to wish, desire, determine), and "potestas" (power, ability) from "posse" (to be able).--W.]
54.--Whether Faith Be in a Man's Own Power.
Attend now to the
point which we have laid down for discussion: whether faith is in our own
power? We now speak of that faith which we employ when we believe
anything, not that which we give when we make a promise; for this too is called faith.1
We use the word in one sense when we say, "He had no faith in me," and
in another sense when we say, "He did not keep faith with me."
The one phrase means, "He did not believe what I said;" the other,
"He did not do what he promised." According to the faith by
which we believe, we are faithful to God; but according to that whereby a thing
is brought to pass which is promised, God Himself even is faithful to us; for
the apostle declares, "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be
tempted above that ye are able."2
Well, now, the former is the faith about which we inquire, Whether it be in our
power? even the faith by which we believe God, or believe on God. For of
this it is written, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for
And again, "To him that believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his
faith is counted for righteousness."4
Consider now whether anybody believes, if he be unwilling; or whether he
believes not, if he shall have willed it. Such a position, indeed, is
absurd (for what is believing but consenting to the truth of what is said? and
this consent is certainly voluntary): faith, therefore, is in our own
power. But, as the apostle says: "There is no power but comes
what reason then is there why it may not be said to us even of this:
"What hast thou which thou hast not received?"6--for
it is God who gave us even to believe. Nowhere, however, in Holy Scripture
do we find such an assertion as, There is no volition but comes from God.
And rightly is it not so written, because it is not true: otherwise God
would be the author even of sins (which Heaven forbid!), if there were no
volition except what comes from Him; inasmuch as an evil volition alone is
already a sin, even if the effect be wanting,--in other words, if it has not
ability. But when the evil volition receives ability to accomplish its
intention, this proceeds from the judgment of God, with whom there is no
He indeed punishes after this manner; nor is His chastisement unjust because it
is secret. The ungodly man, however, is not aware that he is being
punished, except when he unwillingly discovers by an open penalty how much evil
he has willingly committed. This is just what the apostle says of certain
men: "God hath given them up to the evil desires of their own hearts,
. . .to do those things that are not convenient."8
Accordingly, the Lord also said to Pilate: "Thou couldest have no
power at all against me, except it were given thee from above."9
But still, when the ability is given, surely no necessity is imposed.
Therefore, although David had received ability to kill Saul, he preferred
sparing to striking him.10
Whence we understand that bad men receive ability for the condemnation of their
depraved will, while good men receive ability for trying of their good will.
1 [That is, in Latin, faith ("fides") is both active and passive, and means both trust and trustworthiness, both faith and faithfulness. This is also true in English, as Augustin's own examples illustrate--W.]
2 1 Cor. x. 13.
3 Rom. iv. 3; comp. Gen. xv. 6.
4 Rom. iv. 5.
5 Rom. xiii. 1.
6 1 Cor. iv. 7.
7 Rom. ix. 14.
8 Rom. i. 24, 28.
9 John xix. 11.
10 1 Sam. xxiv. 7, and xxvi. 9.
55 [XXXII.]--What Faith is Laudable.
Since faith, then, is
in our power, inasmuch as every one believes when he likes, and, when he
believes, believes voluntarily; our next inquiry, which we must conduct with
care, is, What faith it is which the apostle commends with so much earnestness?
For indiscriminate faith is not good. Accordingly we find this caution:
"Brethren, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are
Nor must the clause in commendation of love, that it "believeth all
be so understood as if we should detract from the love of any one, if he refuses
to believe at once what he hears. For the same love admonishes us that we
ought not readily to believe anything evil about a brother; and when anything of
the kind is said of him, does it not judge it to be more suitable to its
character not to believe? Lastly, the same love, "which believeth all
things," does not believe every spirit. Accordingly, charity believes
all things no doubt, but it believes in God. Observe, it is not
said, Believes in all things. It cannot therefore be doubted that
the faith which is commended by the apostle is the faith whereby we believe in
56.--The Faith of Those Who are Under the Law Different from the Faith of
But there is yet
another distinction to be observed,--since they who are under the law both
attempt to work their own righteousness through fear of punishment, and fail to
do God's righteousness, because this is accomplished by the love to which only
what is lawful is pleasing, and never by the fear which is forced to have in its
work the thing which is lawful, although it has something else in its will which
would prefer, if it were only possible, that to be lawful
is not lawful. These persons also believe in God; for if they had no faith
in Him at all, neither would they of course have any dread of the penalty of His
law. This, however, is not the faith which the apostle commends. He
says: "Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but
ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father."4
The fear, then, of which we speak is slavish; and therefore, even though there
be in it a belief in the Lord, yet righteousness is not loved by it, but
condemnation is feared. God's children, however, exclaim, "Abba,
Father,"--one of which words they of the circumcision utter; the other,
they of the uncircumcision,--the Jew first, and then the Greek;5
since there is "one God, which justifieth the circumcision by faith, and
the uncircumcision through faith."6
When indeed they utter this call, they seek something; and what do they seek,
but that which they hunger and thirst after? And what else is this but
that which is said of them, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst
after righteousness, for they shall be filled?"7
Let, then, those who are under the law pass over hither, and become sons instead
of slaves; and yet not so as to cease to be slaves, but so as, while they are
sons, still to serve their Lord and Father freely. For even this have they
received; for the Only-begotten "gave them power to become the sons of God,
even to them that believe on His name;"8
and He advised them to ask, to seek, and to knock, in order to receive, to find,
and to have the gate opened to them,9
adding by way of rebuke, the words : "If ye, being evil, know how to
give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in
heaven give good things to them that ask Him?"10
When, therefore, that strength of sin, the law,11
inflamed the sting of death, even sin, to take occasion and by the commandment
work all manner of concupiscence in them,12
of whom were they to ask for the gift of continence but of Him who knows how to
give good gifts to His children? Perhaps, however, a man, in his folly, is
unaware that no one can be continent except God give him the gift. To know
this, indeed, he requires Wisdom herself.13
Why, then, does he not listen to the Spirit of his Father, speaking through
Christ's apostle, or even Christ Himself, who says in His gospel, "Seek and
ye shall find;"14
and who also says to us, speaking by His apostle: "If any one of you
lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and
upbraideth not, and it shall be given to him. Let him, however, ask in
faith, nothing wavering?"15
This is the faith by which the just man lives;16
this is the faith whereby he believes on Him who justifies the ungodly;17
this is the faith through which boasting is excluded,18
either by the retreat of that with which we become self-inflated, or by the
rising of that with which we glory in the Lord. This, again, is the faith
by which we procure that largess of the Spirit, of which it is said:
"We indeed through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by
But this admits of the further question, Whether he meant by "the hope of
righteousness" that by which righteousness hopes, or that whereby
righteousness is itself hoped for? For the just man, who lives by faith,
hopes undoubtedly for eternal life; and the faith likewise, which hungers and
thirsts for righteousness, makes progress therein by the renewal of the inward
man day by day,20
and hopes to be satiated therewith in that eternal life, where shall be realized
that which is said of God by the psalm: "Who satisfieth thy desire
with good things."21
This, moreover, is the faith whereby they are saved to whom it is said:
"By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it
is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we
are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath
before ordained that we should walk in them."22
This, in short, is the faith which works not by fear, but by love;23
not by dreading punishment, but by loving righteousness. Whence,
therefore, arises this love,--that is to say, this charity,--by which faith
works, if not from the source whence faith itself obtained it? For it
would not be within us, to what extent soever it is in us, if it were not
diffused in our hearts by the Holy Ghost who is given to us.24
Now "the love of God" is said to be shed abroad in our hearts,
not because He loves us, but because He makes us lovers of Himself; just as
"the righteousness of God"25
is used in the sense of our being made righteous by His gift; and "the
salvation of the Lord,"26
in that we are saved by Him; and "the faith of Jesus Christ,"27
because He makes us believers in Him. This is that righteousness of God,
which He not only teaches us by the precept of His law, but also bestows upon us
by the gift of His Spirit.
1 1 John iv. 1.
2 1 Cor. xiii. 7.
3 Rom. iv. 3.
4 Rom. viii. 15.
5 Rom. ii. 9.
6 Rom. iii. 30.
7 Matt. v. 6.
8 John i. 12.
9 See Matt. vii. 7.
10 Matt. vii. 11.
11 1 Cor. xv. 56.
12 Rom. vii. 8.
13 Wisd. viii. 21.
14 Matt. vii. 7.
15 Jas. i. 5, 6.
16 Rom. i. 17.
17 Rom. iv. 5.
18 Rom. iii. 27.
19 Gal. v. 5.
20 2 Cor. iv. 16.
21 Ps. ciii. 5.
22 Eph. ii. 8-10.
23 Gal. v. 6.
24 Rom. v. 5.
25 Rom. iii. 21.
26 Ps. iii. 8.
27 Gal. ii. 16.
57 [XXXIII.]--Whence Comes the Will to Believe?
But it remains for us
briefly to inquire, Whether the will by which we believe be itself the gift of
God, or whether it arise from that free will which is naturally implanted in us?
If we say that it is not the gift of God, we must
incur the fear of supposing that we have discovered some answer to the apostle's
reproachful appeal: "What hast thou that thou didst not receive?
Now, if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not
some such an answer as this: "See, we have the will to believe, which
we did not receive. See in what we glory,--even in what we did not
receive!" If, however, we were to say that this kind of will is
nothing but the gift of God, we should then have to fear lest unbelieving and
ungodly men might not unreasonably seem to have some fair excuse for their
unbelief, in the fact that God has refused to give them this will. Now
this that the apostle says, "It is God that worketh in you both to will and
to do of His own good pleasure,"2
belongs already to that grace which faith secures, in order that good works may
be within the reach of man,--even the good works which faith achieves through
the love which is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost which is given to
us. If we believe that we may attain this grace (and of course believe
voluntarily), then the question arises whence we have this will?--if from
nature, why it is not at everybody's command, since the same God made all men?
if from God's gift, then again, why is not the gift open to all, since "He
will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the
58.--The Free Will of Man is an Intermediate Power.
Let us then, first of
all, lay down this proposition, and see whether it satisfies the question before
us: that free will, naturally assigned by the Creator to our rational
soul, is such a neutral4
power, as can either incline towards faith, or turn towards unbelief.
Consequently a man cannot be said to have even that will with which he believes
in God, without having received it; since this rises at the call of God out of
the free will which he received naturally when he was created. God no
doubt wishes all men to be saved5
and to come into the knowledge of the truth; but yet not so as to take away from
them free will, for the good or the evil use of which they may be most
righteously judged. This being the case, unbelievers indeed do contrary to
the will of God when they do not believe His gospel; nevertheless they do not
therefore overcome His will, but rob their own selves of the great, nay, the
very greatest, good, and implicate themselves in penalties of punishment,
destined to experience the power of Him in punishments whose mercy in His gifts
they despised. Thus God's will is for ever invincible; but it would be
vanquished, unless it devised what to do with such as despised it, or if these
despises could in any way escape from the retribution which He has appointed for
such as they. Suppose a master, for example, who should say to his
servants, I wish you to labour in my vineyard, and, after your work is done, to
feast and take your rest but who, at the same time, should require any who
refused to work to grind in the mill ever after. Whoever neglected such a
command would evidently act contrary to the master's will; but he would do more
than that,--he would vanquish that will, if he also escaped the mill.
This, however, cannot possibly happen under the government of God. Whence
it is written, "God hath spoken once,"--that is,
irrevocably,--although the passage may refer also to His one only Word.6
He then adds what it is which He had irrevocably uttered, saying:
"Twice have I heard this, that power belongeth unto God. Also unto
Thee, O Lord, doth mercy belong: because Thou wilt render to every man
according to his work."7
He therefore will be guilty unto condemnation under God's power, who shall think
too contemptuously of His mercy to believe in Him. But whosoever shall put
his trust in Him, and yield himself up to Him, for the forgiveness of all his
sins, for the cure of all his corruption, and for the kindling and illumination
of his soul by His warmth and light, shall have good works by his grace; and by
he shall be even in his body redeemed from the corruption of death, crowned,
satisfied with blessings,--not temporal, but eternal,--above what we can ask or
1 1 Cor. iv. 7.
2 Phil. ii. 13.
3 1 Tim. ii. 4.
4 ["Media vis," a "midway power," as Dr. Bright translates it; i.e., it is indifferent in itself, and neither good nor bad, but may be used for either.--W.]
5 1 Tim. ii. 4.
6 John i. 1.
7 Ps. lxii. 11, 12.
8 Ex quibus.
59.--Mercy and Pity in the Judgment of God.
This is the order
observed in the psalm, where it is said: "Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all His recompenses; who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who
healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth
thee with loving-kindness and tender mercy; who satisfieth thy desire with good
And lest by any chance these great blessings should be despaired of under the
deformity of our old, that is, mortal condition, the Psalmist at once says,
"Thy youth shall be renewed like the eagle's;"2
as much as to say, All that you have heard belongs to the new man and to the new
covenant. Now let us consider together briefly these things, and with
delight contemplate the praise of mercy, that is, of the grace of God.
"Bless the Lord, O my soul," he says, "and forget not all His
recompenses." Observe, he does not say blessings, but recompenses;3
He recompenses evil with good. "Who forgiveth all thine
iniquities:" this is done in the sacrament of baptism.
"Who healeth all thy diseases:" this is effected by the believer
in the present life, while the flesh so lusts against the spirit, and the spirit
against the flesh, that we do not the things we would;4
whilst also another law in our members wars against the law of our mind;5
whilst to will is present indeed to us but not how to perform that which is
These are the diseases of a man's old nature which, however, if we only advance
with persevering purpose, are healed by the growth of the new nature day by day,
by the faith which operates through love.7
"Who redeemeth thy life from destruction;" this will take place at the
resurrection of the dead in the last day. "Who crowneth thee with
loving-kindness and tender mercy;" this shall be accomplished in the day of
judgment; for when the righteous King shall sit upon His throne to render to
every man according to his works, who shall then boast of having a pure heart?
or who shall glory of being clean from sin? It was therefore necessary to
mention God's loving-kindness and tender mercy there, where one might expect
debts to be demanded and deserts recompensed so strictly as to leave no room for
mercy. He crowns, therefore, with loving-kindness and tender mercy; but
even so according to works. For he shall be separated to the right hand,
to whom, it is said, "I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat."8
There will, however, be also "judgment without mercy;" but it will be
for him "that hath not showed mercy."9
But "blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy"10
of God. Then, as soon as those on the left hand shall have gone into
eternal fire, the righteous, too, shall go into everlasting life,11
because He says: "This is life eternal, that they may know Thee the
only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent."12
And with this knowledge, this vision, this contemplation, shall the desire of
their soul be satisfied; for it shall be enough for it to have this and nothing
else,--there being nothing more for it to desire, to aspire to, or to require.
It was with a craving after this full joy that his heart glowed who said to the
Lord Christ, "Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us;" and to whom
the answer was returned, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father."13
Because He is Himself the eternal life, in order that men may know the one true
God, Thee and whom Thou hast sent, Jesus Christ. If, however, he that has
seen the Son has also seen the Father, then assuredly he who sees the Father and
the Son sees also the Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son. So we do not
take away free will, whilst our soul blesses the Lord and forgets not all His
nor does it, in ignorance of God's righteousness, wish to set up one of its own;15
but it believes in Him who justifies the ungodly,16
and until it arrives at sight, it lives by faith,--even the faith which works by
And this love is shed abroad in our hearts, not by the sufficiency of our own
will, nor by the letter of the law, but by the Holy Ghost who has been given to
1 Ps. ciii. 2-5.
2 Ps. ciii. 5.
3 Non tributiones, sed retributiones.
4 Gal. v. 17.
5 Rom. vii. 23.
6 Rom. vii. 18.
7 Gal. v. 6.
8 Matt. xxv. 35.
9 Jas. ii. 13.
10 Matt. v. 7.
11 Matt. xxv. 46.
12 John xvii. 3.
13 John xiv. 8, 9.
14 Ps. ciii. 2.
15 Rom. x. 3.
16 Rom. iv. 5.
17 Gal. v. 6.
18 Rom. v. 5.
60 [XXXIV.]--The Will to Believe is from God.
Let this discussion suffice, if it satisfactorily meets the question we had to solve. It may be, however, objected in reply, that we must take heed lest some one should suppose that the sin would have to be imputed to God which is committed by free will, if in the passage where it is asked, "What hast thou which thou didst not receive?"1 the very will by which we believe is reckoned as a gift of God, because it arises out of the free will which we received at our creation. Let the objector, however, attentively observe that this will is to be ascribed to the divine gift, not merely because it arises from our free will, which was created naturally with us; but also because God acts upon us by the incentives of our perceptions, to will and to believe, either externally by evangelical exhortations, where even the commands of the law also do something, if they so far admonish a man of his infirmity that he betakes himself to the grace that justifies by believing; or internally, where no man has in his own control what shall enter into his thoughts, although it appertains to his own will to consent or to dissent. Since God, therefore, in such ways acts upon the reasonable soul in order that it may believe in Him (and certainly there is no ability whatever in free will to believe, unless there be persuasion or summons towards some one in whom to believe), it surely follows that it is God who both works in man the willing to believe, and in all things prevents us with His mercy. To yield our consent, indeed, to God's summons, or to withhold it, is (as I have said) the function of our own will. And this not only does not invalidate what is said, "For what hast thou that thou didst not receive?"2 but it really confirms it. For the soul cannot receive and possess these gifts, which are here referred to, except by yielding its consent. And thus whatever it possesses, and whatever it receives, is from God; and yet the act of receiving and having belongs, of course, to the receiver and possessor. Now, should any man be for constraining us to examine into this profound mystery, why this person is so per suaded as to yield, and that person is not, there are only two things occurring to me, which I should like to advance as my answer: "O the depth of the riches!"3 and "Is there unrighteousness with God?"4 If the man is displeased with such an answer, he must seek more learned disputants; but let him beware lest he find presumptuous ones.
1 1 Cor. iv. 7.
2 1 Cor. iv. 7.
3 Rom. xi. 33.
4 Rom. ix. 14.
61 [XXXV.]--Conclusion of the Work.
Let us at last bring
our book to an end. I hardly know whether we have accomplished our purpose
at all by our great prolixity. It is not in respect of you, [my
Marcellinus,] that I have this misgiving, for I know your faith; but with
reference to the minds of those for whose sake you wished me to write,--who so
much in opposition to my opinion, but (to speak mildly, and not to mention Him
who spoke in His apostles) certainly against not only the opinion of the great
Apostle Paul, but also his strong, earnest, and vigilant conflict, prefer
maintaining their own views with tenacity to listening to him, when he
"beseeches them by the mercies of God," and tells them, "through
the grace of God which was given to him, not to think of themselves more highly
than they ought to think, but to think soberly, according as God had dealt to
every man the measure of faith."1
62.--He Returns to the Question Which Marcellinus Had Proposed to Him.
But I beg of you to
advert to the question which you proposed to me, and to what we have made out of
it in the lengthy process of this discussion. You were perplexed how I
could have said that it was possible for a man to be without sin, if his will
were not wanting, by the help of God's aid, although no man in the present life
had ever lived, was living, or would live, of such perfect righteousness.
Now, in the books which I formerly addressed to you, I set forth this very
question. I said: "If I were asked whether it be possible for a
man to be without sin in this life, I should allow the possibility, by the grace
of God, and his own free will; for I should have no doubt that the free will
itself is of God's grace,--that is, has its place among the gifts of God,--not
only as to its existence, but also in respect of its goodness; that is, that it
applies itself to doing the commandments of God. And so, God's grace not
only shows what ought to be done, but also helps to the possibility of doing
what it shows."2
You seemed to think it absurd, that a thing which was possible should be
unexampled. Hence arose the subject treated of in this book; and thus did
it devolve on me to show that a thing was possible although no example of it
could be found. We accordingly adduced certain cases out of the gospel and
of the law, at the beginning of this work,--such as the passing of a camel
through the eye of a needle;3
and the twelve thousand legions of angels, who could fight for Christ, if He
and those nations which God said He could have exterminated at once from the
face of His people,5--none
of which possibilities were ever reduced to fact. To these instances may
be added those which are referred to in the Book of Wisdom,6
suggesting how many are the strange torments and troubles which God was able to
employ against ungodly men, by using the creature which was obedient to His
beck, which, however, He did not employ. One might also allude to that
mountain, which faith could remove into the sea,7
although, nevertheless, it was never done, so far as we have ever read8
or heard. Now you see how thoughtless and foolish would be the man who
should say that any one of these things is impossible with God, and how opposed
to the sense of Scripture would be his assertion. Many other cases of this
kind may occur to anybody who reads or thinks, the possibility of which with God
we cannot deny, although an example of them be lacking.
1 Rom. xii. 1, 3.
2 See his work preceding this, De Peccat. Meritis, ii. 7.
3 Matt. xix. 24.
4 Matt. xxvi. 53.
5 Deut. xxxi. 3; comp. Judg. ii. 3.
6 Wisdom xvi.
7 Matt. xxi. 21.
8 Augustin, it would then seem had not met with the statement of Eusebius, as translated by Rufinus (Hist. vi. 24), to the effect that Gregory, bishop of Neocsarea, in Pontus, once performed the miracle of removing a mountain or rock from its place; which Bede also mentions, Comment. on Mark xi., Book iii.
But inasmuch as it may
be said that the instances which I have been quoting are divine works, whereas
to live righteously is a work that belongs to ourselves, I undertook to show
that even this too is a divine work. This I have done in the present book,
with perhaps a fuller statement than is necessary, although I seem to myself to
have said too little against the opponents of the grace of God. And I am
never so much delighted in my treatment of a subject as when Scripture comes
most copiously to my aid; and when the question to be discussed requires that
"he that glorieth should glory in the Lord;"1
and that we should in all things lift up our hearts and give thanks to the Lord
our God, from whom, "as the Father of lights, every good and every perfect
gift cometh down."2
Now if a gift is not God's gift, because it is wrought by us, or because we act
by His gift, then it is not a work of God that "a mountain should be
removed into the sea," inasmuch as, according to the Lord's statement, it
is by the faith of men that this is possible. Moreover, He attributes the
deed to their actual operation: "If ye have faith
yourselves as a grain of mustard-seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, "Be
thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and it shall be done, and nothing
shall be impossible to you."3
Observe how He said "to you," not "to Me" or "to the
Father;" and yet it is certain that no man does such a thing without God's
gift and operation. See how an instance of perfect righteousness is
unexampled among men, and yet is not impossible. For it might be achieved
if there were only applied so much of will as suffices for so great a thing.
There would, however, be so much will, if there were hidden from us none of
those conditions which pertain to righteousness; and at the same time these so
delighted our mind, that whatever hindrance of pleasure or pain might else
occur, this delight in holiness would prevail over every rival affection.
And that this is not realized, is not owing to any intrinsic impossibility, but
to God's judicial act. For who can be ignorant, that what he should know
is not in man's power; nor does it follow that what he has discovered to be a
desirable object is actually desired, unless he also feel a delight in that
object, commensurate with its claims on his affection? For this belongs to
health of soul.
1 2 Cor. x. 17.
2 Jas. i. 17.
3 Compare Matt. xvii. 20, Mark xi. 23, Luke xvii. 6.
64 [XXXVI.]--When the Commandment to Love is Fulfilled.
But somebody will
perhaps think that we lack nothing for the knowledge of righteousness, since the
Lord, when He summarily and briefly expounded His word on earth, informed us
that the whole law and the prophets depend on two commandments;1
nor was He silent as to what these were, but declared them in the plainest
words: "Thou shall love," said He, "the Lord thy God, with
all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind;" and
"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."2
What is more surely true than that, if these be fulfilled, all righteousness is
fulfilled? But the man who sets his mind on this truth must also carefully
attend to another,--in how many things we all of us offend,3
while we suppose that what we do is pleasant, or, at all events, not unpleasing,
to God whom we love; and afterwards, having (through His inspired word, or else
by being warned in some clear and certain way) learned what is not pleasing to
Him, we pray to Him that He would forgive us on our repentance. The life
of man is full of examples of this. But whence comes it that we fall short
of knowing what is pleasing to Him, if it be not that He is to that extent
unknown to us? "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face
Who, however, can make so bold, on arriving far enough, to say: "Then
shall I know even as also I am known,"5
as to think that they who shall see God will have no greater love towards Him
than they have who now believe in Him? or that the one ought to be compared to
the other, as if they were very near to each other? Now, if love increases
just in proportion as our knowledge of its object becomes more intimate, of
course we ought to believe that there is as much wanting now to the fulfilment
of righteousness as there is defective in our love of it. A thing may
indeed be known or believed, and yet not loved; but it is an impossibility that
a thing can be loved which is neither known nor believed. But if the
saints, in the exercise of their faith, could arrive at that great love, than
which (as the Lord Himself testified) no greater can possibly be exhibited in
the present life,--even to lay down their lives for the faith, or for their
after their pilgrimage here, in which their walk is by "faith," when
they shall have reached the "sight" of that final happiness7
which we hope for, though as yet we see it not, and wait for in patience,8
then undoubtedly love itself shall be not only greater than that which we here
experience, but far higher than all which we ask or think;9
and yet it cannot be possibly more than "with all our heart, and with all
our soul, and with all our mind." For there remains in us nothing
which can be added to the whole; since, if anything did remain, there would not
be the whole. Therefore the first commandment about righteousness, which
bids us love the Lord with all our heart, and soul, and mind10
(the next to which is, that we love our neighbour as ourselves), we shall
completely fulfil in that life when we shall see face to face.11
But even now this commandment is enjoined upon us, that we may be reminded what
we ought by faith to require, and what we should in our hope look forward to,
and, "forgetting the things which are behind, reach forth to the things
which are before."12
And thus, as it appears to me, that man has made a far advance, even in the
present life, in the righteousness which is to be perfected hereafter, who has
discovered by this very advance how very far removed he is from the completion
1 Matt. xxii. 40.
2 Matt. xxii. 37, 39.
3 Jas. iii. 2.
4 1 Cor. xiii. 12.
5 1 Cor. xiii. 12.
6 John xv. 13.
7 2 Cor. v. 7.
8 Rom. viii. 23.
9 Eph. iii. 20.
10 Matt. xxii. 37.
11 1 Cor. xiii. 12.
12 Phil. iii. 13.
65.--In What Sense a Sinless Righteousness in This Life Can Be Asserted.
Forasmuch, however, as
an inferior righteousness may be said to be competent to this life, whereby the
just man lives by faith1
although absent from the Lord, and, therefore, walking
faith and not yet by sight,2--it
may be without absurdity said, no doubt, in respect of it, that it is free from
sin; for it ought not to be attributed to it as a fault, that it is not as yet
sufficient for so great a love to God as is due to the final, complete, and
perfect condition thereof. It is one thing to fail at present in attaining
to the fulness of love, and another thing to be swayed by no lust. A man
ought therefore to abstain from every unlawful desire, although he loves God now
far less than it is possible to love Him when He becomes an object of sight;
just as in matters connected with the bodily senses, the eye can receive no
pleasure from any kind of darkness, although it may be unable to look with a
firm sight amidst refulgent light. Only let us see to it that we so
constitute the soul of man in this corruptible body, that, although it has not
yet swallowed up and consumed the motions of earthly lust in that super-eminent
perfection of the love of God, it nevertheless, in that inferior righteousness
to which we have referred, gives no consent to the aforesaid lust for the
purpose of effecting any unlawful thing. In respect, therefore, of that
immortal life, the commandment is even now applicable: "Thou shalt
love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all
but in reference to the present life the following: "Let not sin
reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof."4
To the one, again, belongs, "Thou shalt not covet;"5
to the other, "Thou shalt not go after thy lusts."6
To the one it appertains to seek for nothing more than to continue in its
perfect state; to the other it belongs actively to do the duty committed to it,
and to hope as its reward for the perfection of the future life,--so that in the
one the just man may live forevermore in the sight of that happiness which in
this life was his object of desire; in the other, he may live by that faith
whereon rests his desire for the ultimate blessedness as its certain end.
(These things being so, it will be sin in the man who lives by faith ever to
consent to an unlawful delight,--by committing not only frightful deeds and
crimes, but even trifling faults; sinful, if he lend an ear to a word that ought
not to be listened to, or a tongue to a phrase which should not be uttered;
sinful, if he entertains a thought in his heart in such a way as to wish that an
evil pleasure were a lawful one, although known to be unlawful by the
commandment,--for this amounts to a consent to sin, which would certainly be
carried out in act, unless fear of punishment deterred.)7
Have such just men, while living by faith, no need to say: "Forgive
us our debts, as we forgive our debtors?"8
And do they prove this to be wrong which is written, "In Thy sight shall no
man living be justified?"9
and this: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and
the truth is not in us?"10
and, "There is no man that sinneth not;"11
and again, "There is not on the earth a righteous man, who doeth good and
(for both these statements are expressed in a general future
sense,--"sinneth not," "will not sin,"--not in the past
time, "has not sinned")?--and all other places of this purport
contained in the Holy Scripture? Since, however, these passages cannot
possibly be false, it plainly follows, to my mind, that whatever be the quality
or extent of the righteousness which we may definitely ascribe to the present
life, there is not a man living in it who is absolutely free from all sin; and
that it is necessary for every one to give, that it may be given to him;13
and to forgive, that it may be forgiven him;14
and whatever righteousness he has, not to presume that he has it of himself, but
from the grace of God, who justifies him, and still to go on hungering and
thirsting for righteousness15
from Him who is the living bread,16
and with whom is the fountain of life;17
who works in His saints, whilst labouring amidst temptation in this life, their
justification in such manner that He may still have somewhat to impart to them
liberally when they ask, and something mercifully to forgive them when they
1 Rom. i. 17.
2 2 Cor. v. 7.
3 Deut. vi. 5.
4 Rom. vi. 12.
5 Ex. xx. 17.
6 Ecclus. xviii. 30.
7 The Benedictine editor is not satisfied with the place of the lines in the parenthesis. He would put them in an earlier position, perhaps before the clause beginning with, "Only let us see to it," etc.
8 Matt. vi. 12.
9 Ps. cxliii. 2.
10 1 John i. 8.
11 1 Kings viii. 46.
12 Ecclus. vii. 21.
13 Luke vi. 30, 38.
14 Luke xi. 4.
15 Matt. v. 6.
16 John vi. 51.
17 Ps. xxxvi. 9.
66.--Although Perfect Righteousness Be Not Found Here on Earth, It is Still Not
But let objectors
find, if they can, any man, while living under the weight of this corruption, in
whom God has no longer anything to forgive; unless nevertheless they acknowledge
that such an individual has been aided in the attainment of his good character
not merely by the teaching of the law which God gave, but also by the infusion
of the Spirit of grace--they will incur the charge of ungodliness itself, not of
this or that particular sin. Of course they are not at all able to
discover such a man, if they receive in a becoming manner the testimony of the
divine writings. Still, for all that, it must not by any means be said
that the possibility is lacking to God whereby the will of man can be so
assisted, that there can be accomplished in every respect even now in a man, not
that righteousness only which is of faith,1
but that also in accordance with which we shall by and by have to live for ever
in the very vision of God. For if he should now
even that this corruptible in any particular man should put on incorruption,2
and to command him so to live among mortal men (not destined himself to die)
that his old nature should be wholly and entirely withdrawn, and there should be
no law in his members warring against the law of his mind,3--moreover,
that he should discover God to be everywhere present, as the saints shall
hereafter know and behold Him,--who will madly venture to affirm that this is
impossible? Men, however, ask why He does not do this; but they who raise
the question consider not duly the fact that they are human. I am quite
certain that, as nothing is impossible with God4
so also there is no iniquity with Him.5
Equally sure am I that He resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble.6
I know also that to him who had a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to
buffet him, lest he should be exalted above measure, it was said, when he
besought God for its removal once, twice, nay thrice: "My grace is
sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness."7
There is, therefore, in the hidden depths of God's judgments, a certain reason
why every mouth even of the righteous should be shut in its own praise, and only
opened for the praise of God. But what this certain reason is, who can
search, who investigate, who know? So "unsearchable are His
judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of
the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? or who hath first given to Him, and
it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and
to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen."8
1 Rom. x. 6.
2 1 Cor. xv. 53.
3 Rom. vii. 23.
4 Luke i. 37.
5 Rom. ix. 14.
6 Jas. iv. 6.
7 2 Cor. xii. 7-9.8 Rom. xi. 33-36.