A Treatise on the Gift of Perseverance, Being the Second Book
Preface to the American Edition.
“This volume contains all the Anti-Pelagian writings of Augustin, collected by the Benedictine editors in their tenth volume, with the exception only of the two long works Against Julian, and The Unfinished Work, which have been necessarily excluded on account of their bulk. The translation here printed is that of the English version of Augustin’s works, published by Messrs. T. and T. Clark at Edinburgh. This translation has been carefully compared with the Latin throughout, and corrected on every page into more accurate conformity to its sense. But this has not so altered its character that it ceases to be the Edinburgh translation,—bettered somewhat, but still essentially the same. The excellent translation of the three treatises, On the Spirit and the Letter, On Nature and Grace, and On the Proceedings of Pelagius, published in the early summer of this year by two Oxford scholars, Messrs. Woods and Johnston (London: David Nutt), was unfortunately too late in reaching America to be of any service to the editor.
“What may be called the explanatory matter of the Edinburgh translation, has been treated here even more freely than the text. The headings to the chapters have been added to until nearly every chapter is now provided with a caption. The brackets which distinguished the notes added by the translator from those which he translated from the Benedictine editor, have been generally removed, and the notes themselves often verbally changed, or otherwise altered. A few notes have been added,—chiefly with the design of rendering the allusions in the text intelligible to the uninstructed reader; and the more lengthy of these have been enclosed in brackets, and signed with a W. The result of all this is, that it is unsafe to hold the Edinburgh translators too closely responsible for the unbracketed matter; but that the American editor has not claimed as his own more than is really his.
“In preparing an Introductory Essay for the volume, two objects have been kept in view: to place the necessary Prolegomena to the following treatises in the hands of the reader, and to furnish the English reader with some illustrations of the Anti-Pelagian treatises from the other writings of Augustin. In the former interest, a brief sketch of the history of the Pelagian controversy and of the Pelagian and Augustinian systems has been given, and the occasions, objects, and contents of the several treatises have been briefly stated. In the latter, Augustin’s letters and sermons have been as copiously extracted as the limits of space allowed. In the nature of the case, the sources have been independently examined for these materials; but those who have written of Pelagianism and of Augustin’s part in the controversy with it, have not been neglected. Above others, probably special obligations ought to be acknowledged to the Benedictine preface to their tenth volume, and to Canon Bright’s Introduction to his edition of Select Anti-Pelagian Treatises. The purpose of this essay will be subserved if it enables the reader to attack the treatises themselves with increased interest and readiness to assimilate and estimate their contents.
“References to the treatises in the essay, and cross-references in the treatises themselves, have been inserted wherever they seemed absolutely necessary; but they have been often omitted where otherwise they would have been inserted because it has been thought that the Index of Subjects will suffice for all the needs of comparison of passages that are likely to arise. In the Index of Texts, an asterisk marks some of those places where a text is fully explained; and students of the history of Biblical Interpretation may find this feature helpful to them. It will not be strange, if, on turning up a few passages, they will find their notion of the power, exactness, and devout truth of Augustin as an interpreter of Scripture very much raised above what the current histories of interpretation have taught them.”
The above has been prepared by Dr. Warfield. I need only add that the present volume contains the most important of the doctrinal and polemical works of Augustin, which exerted a powerful influence upon the Reformers of the sixteenth century and upon the Jansenists in the seventeenth. They constitute what is popularly called the Augustinian system, though they only represent one side of it. Enough has been said on their merits in the Prolegomena to the first volume, and in the valuable Introductory Essay of Dr. Warfield, who has been called to fill the chair of systematic theology once adorned by the learning and piety of the immortal Hodges, father and son.
The remaining three volumes will contain the exegetical writings of the great Bishop of Hippo.
New York, September, 1887.
A Select Bibliography of the Pelagian Controversy.
(Adapted from Dr. Schaff’s Church History, vol. iii.)
I. Three works of Pelagius, printed among the works of Jerome (Vallarsius’ edition, vol. Xi.): viz., the Expositions on Paul’s Epistles, written before 410 (but somewhat, especially in Romans, interpolated) ; the Epistle to Demetrias, 413; and the Confession of Faith, 417, addressed to Innocent I. Copious fragments of other works (On Nature, In Defence of Free Will. Chapters, Letter to Innocent) are found quoted in Augustin’s refutations; as also of certain works by Coelestius (e.g., his Definitions, Confession to Zosimus), and of the writings of Julian, Here also belong Cassian’sCollationes Patrum, and the works of the other semi-Pelagian writers.
II. Augustin’s anti-Pelagian treatises; also his work On Heresies, 88, 428; many of his letters, as e.g., those numbered by the Benedicitons, 140, 157, 178, 179, 190, 191, 193, 194; and many of his letters, as e.g., 155, 163, 165, 168, 169, 174, 176, 293, 294, etc. Jerome’s Letter to Ctesiphon (133), and his three books of Dialogue against the Pelagians (vol. ii. of Vallarsius); Paulus Orosius’ Apology against Pelagius; Marius Mercator’sCommonitoria; Prosper of Aquitaine’s writings as also those of such late writers as Avitus. Caisarius, Fulgentius, who bore the brunt of the semi-Pelagian controversy.
III. The collections of Acta of the councils and other public documents, in Mansi and in the appendix to the Benedictine edition of Augustin’s anti-Pelagian writings (vol.x.).
IV. Literature.—A. Special works on the subject: Gerh. Joh. Vossius, Hist. de Controversiis quas Pelagius efusque reliquioe moverunt, 1655; Henr. Norisius, Historia Pelagiana, etc., 1673; Garnier, Dissert, vii. quibus integra continuentur Pelaguanorum Hist. (in his edition of Marius Mercator, I. 113); the Praefatio to vol. x. of the Benedictine edition of Augustin’s works; Corn. Jansenius, Augustinus sive doctrina S. Aufustini, etc., adversus Pelagianos et Massilienses, 1640; Jac. Sirmond, Historia Praedestinatiana, 1648; Tillemont, Memoires xiii. I-1075; Ch. Wilh. Fr. Walch, Ketzerhistorie, Bd. iv. and v., 1770; Johann Geffken, Historia semi-pelagianismi antiquissima, 1826; G. F. Wiggers, Versuch einer pragmatischen Darstellung des Augstinismus und Pelagianismus, 1821–1833 (Part I. dealing with Pelagianism proper, in an E. T. by Professor Emerson, Andover, 1840) ; J. L. Jacobi, Die Lehre des Pelagius, 1842; P. Schaff, The Pelagian Controversy, in the Bibliotheca Sacra, May, 1884; Theod. Gangauf, Metaphysische Psychologie des Heiligen Augustinus, 1852; Julius Müller, Die Christliche Lehre von der Sünde, 5th edition 1866 (E. T. by Urwick, Edinburgh) ; Do., Der Pelagianismus, 1854; F. Wörter, Der Pelagianismus u. s. w. 1866; Mozley, On the Augustinian Doctrine of Predestination, 1855; Nourrisson, La philosophie de S. Augustin, 1868; Bright, Select anti-Pelagian Treatises of St. Augustine, 1880; William Cunningham (not to be confounded with the Scotch professor of that name), S.Austin and his Place in the History of Christian Thought, being the Hulsean Lectures for 1885 ; James Field Spalding, The teaching and Influence of St. Augustine, 1886; Hermann Reuter, Augustinische Studien, 1887.
B. The appropriate section in the Histories of Doctrine, as for example those of Münchner, Baum-Garten-Crusius, Hagenbach (also E. T.), Baur, Beck, Thomasius, Harnack (vol. ii. in the press); and in English, W. Cunningham, Shedd, etc.
C. The appropriate chapters in the various larger church histories, e.g., those of Schröckh, Fleury, Gieseler (also E. T.), Neander (also E.T.), Hefele (History of the Councils, also E. T.), Kurtz (also E. T.); and in English, Schaff, Milman, Roberstson, etc.
Introductory Essay on Augustin and the Pelagian Controversy.
By Professor B. B. Warfield, D.D.
I. The Origin and Nature of Pelagianism.
It was inevitable that the energy of the Church in intellectually realizing and defining its doctrines in relation to one another, should first be directed towards the objective side of Christian truth. The chief controversies of the first four centuries and the resulting definitions of doctrine, concerned the nature of God and the person of Christ; and it was not until these theological and Christological questions were well upon their way to final settlement, that the Church could turn its attention to the more subjective side of truth. Meanwhile she bore in her bosom a full recognition, side by side, of the freedom of the will, the evil consequences of the fall, and the necessity of divine grace for salvation. Individual writers, or even the several sections of the Church, might exhibit a tendency to throw emphasis on one or another of the elements that made up this deposit of faith that was the common inheritance of all. The East, for instance, laid especial stress on free will: and the West dwelt more pointedly on the ruin of the human race and the absolute need of God’s grace for salvation. But neither did the Eastern theologians forget the universal sinfulness and need of redemption, or the necessity, for the realization of that redemption, of God’s gracious influences; nor did those of the West deny the self-determination or accountability of men. All the elements of the composite doctrine of man were everywhere confessed; but they were variously emphasized, according to the temper of the writers or the controversial demands of the times. Such a state of affairs, however, was an invitation to heresy, and a prophecy of controversy; just as the simultaneous confession of the unity of God and the Deity of Christ, or of the Deity and the humanity of Christ, inevitably carried in its train a series of heresies and controversies, until the definitions of the doctrines of the Trinity and of the person of Christ were complete. In like manner, it was inevitable that sooner or later some one should arise who would so one-sidedly emphasize one element or the other of the Church’s teaching as to salvation, as to throw himself into heresy, and drive the Church, through controversy with him, into a precise definition of the doctrines of free will and grace in their mutual relations.
This new heresiarch came, at the opening of the fifth century, in the person of the British monk, Pelagius. The novelty of the doctrine which he taught is repeatedly asserted by Augustin, and is evident to the historian; but it consisted not in the emphasis that he laid on free will, but rather in the fact that, in emphasizing free will, he denied the ruin of the race and the necessity of grace. This was not only new in Christianity; it was even anti-Christian. Jerome, as well as Augustin, saw this at the time, and speaks of Pelagianism as the “heresy of Pythagoras and Zeno;” and modern writers of the various schools have more or less fully recognized it. Thus Dean Milman thinks that “the greater part” of Pelagius’ letter to Demetrias “might have been written by an ancient academic;” Dr. De Pressensé identifies the Pelagian idea of liberty with that of Paganism; and Bishop Hefele openly declares that their fundamental doctrine, “that man is virtuous entirely of his own merit, not of the gift of grace,” seems to him “to be a rehabilitation of the general heathen view of the world,” and compares with it Cicero’s words: “For gold, lands, and all the blessings of life, we have to return thanks to the Gods; but no one ever returned thanks to the Gods for virtues.” The struggle with Pelagianism was thus in reality a struggle for the very foundations of Christianity; and even more dangerously than in the previous theological and Christological controversies, here the practical substance of Christianity was in jeopardy. The real question at issue was whether there was any need for Christianity at all; whether by his own power man might not attain eternal felicity; whether the function of Christianity was to save, or only to render an eternity of happiness more easily attainable by man.
Genetically speaking, Pelagianism was the daughter of legalism; but when it itself conceived, it brought forth an essential deism. It is not without significance that its originators were “a certain sort of monks;” that is, laymen of ascetic life. From this point of view the Divine law is looked upon as a collection of separate commandments, moral perfection as a simple complex of separate virtues, and a distinct value as a meritorious demand on Divine approbation is ascribed to each good work or attainment in the exercises of piety. It was because this was essentially his point of view that Pelagius could regard man’s powers as sufficient to the attainment of sanctity,—nay, that he could even assert it to be possible for a man to do more than was required of him. But this involved an essentially deistic conception of man’s relations to his Maker. God had endowed His creature with a capacity (possibilitas) or ability (posse) for action, and it was for him to use it. Man was thus a machine, which, just because it was well made, needed no Divine interference for its right working; and the Creator, having once framed him, and endowed him with the posse, henceforth leaves the velle and the esse to him.
At this point we have touched the central and formative principle of Pelagianism. It lies in the assumption of the plenary ability of man; his ability to do all that righteousness can demand,—to work out not only his own salvation, but also his own perfection. This is the core of the whole theory; and all the other postulates not only depend upon it, but arise out of it. Both chronologically and logically this is the root of the system.
When we first hear of Pelagius, he is already advanced in years, living in Rome in the odour of sanctity, and enjoying a well-deserved reputation for zeal in exhorting others to a good life, which grew especially warm against those who endeavoured to shelter themselves, when charged with their sins, behind the weakness of nature. He was outraged by the universal excuses on such occasions,—“It is hard!” “it is difficult!” “we are not able!” “we are men!”—“Oh, blind madness!” he cried: “we accuse God of a twofold ignorance,—that He does not seem to know what He has made, nor what He has commanded,—as if forgetting the human weakness of which He is Himself the Author, He has imposed laws on man which He cannot endure.” He himself tells us to that it was his custom, therefore, whenever he had to speak on moral improvement and the conduct of a holy life, to begin by pointing out the power and quality of human nature, and by showing what it was capable of doing. For (he says) he esteemed it of small use to exhort men to what they deemed impossible: hope must rather be our companion, and all longing and effort die when we despair of attaining. So exceedingly ardent an advocate was he of man’s unaided ability to do all that God commanded, that when Augustin’s noble and entirely scriptural prayer—“Give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou wilt”—was repeated in his hearing, he was unable to endure it; and somewhat inconsistently contradicted it with such violence as almost to become involved in a strife. The powers of man, he held, were gifts of God; and it was, therefore, a reproach against Him as if He had made man ill or evil, to believe that they were insufficient for the keeping of His law. Nay, do what we will, we cannot rid ourselves of their sufficiency: “whether we will, or whether we will not, we have the capacity of not sinning.” “I say,” he says, “that man is able to be without sin, and that he is able to keep the commandments of God;” and this sufficiently direct statement of human ability is in reality the hinge of his whole system.
There were three specially important corollaries which flowed from this assertion of human ability, and Augustin himself recognized these as the chief elements of the system. It would be inexplicable on such an assumption, if no man had ever used his ability in keeping God’s law; and Pelagius consistently asserted not only that all might be sinless if they chose, but also that many saints, even before Christ, had actually lived free from sin. Again, it follows from man’s inalienable ability to be free from sin, that each man comes into the world without entailment of sin or moral weakness from the past acts of men; and Pelagius consistently denied the whole doctrine of original sin. And still again, it follows from the same assumption of ability that man has no need of supernatural assistance in his striving to obey righteousness; and Pelagius consistently denied both the need and reality of divine grace in the sense of an inward help (and especially of a prevenient help) to man’s weakness.
It was upon this last point that the greatest stress was laid in the controversy, and Augustin was most of all disturbed that thus God’s grace was denied and opposed. No doubt the Pelagians spoke constantly of “grace,” but they meant by this the primal endowment of man with free will, and the subsequent aid given him in order to its proper use by the revelation of the law and the teaching of the gospel, and, above all, by the forgiveness of past sins in Christ and by Christ’s holy example. Anything further than this external help they utterly denied; and they denied that this external help itself was absolutely necessary, affirming that it only rendered it easier for man to do what otherwise he had plenary ability for doing. Chronologically, this contention seems to have preceded the assertion which must logically lie at its base, of the freedom of man from any taint, corruption, or weakness due to sin. It was in order that they might deny that man needed help, that they denied that Adam’s sin had any further effect on his posterity than might arise from his bad example. “Before the action of his own proper will,” said Pelagius plainly, “that only is in man which God made.” “As we are procreated without virtue,” he said, “so also without vice.” In a word, “Nothing that is good and evil, on account of which we are either praiseworthy or blameworthy, is born with us,—it is rather done by us; for we are born with capacity for either, but provided with neither.” So his later follower, Julian, plainly asserts his “faith that God creates men obnoxious to no sin, but full of natural innocence, and with capacity for voluntary virtues.” So intrenched is free will in nature, that, according to Julian, it is “just as complete after sins as it was before sins;” and what this means may be gathered from Pelagius’ definition in the “Confession of Faith,” that he sent to Innocent: “We say that man is always able both to sin and not to sin, so as that we may confess that we have free will.” That sin in such circumstances was so common as to be well-nigh universal, was accounted for by the bad example of Adam and the power of habit, the latter being simply the result of imitation of the former. “Nothing makes well-doing so hard,” writes Pelagius to Demetrias, “as the long custom of sins which begins from childhood and gradually brings us more and more under its power until it seems to have in some degree the force of nature (vim naturae).” He is even ready to allow for the force of habit in a broad way, on the world at large; and so divides all history into progressive periods, marked by God’s (external) grace. At first the light of nature was so strong that men by it alone could live in holiness. And it was only when men’s manners became corrupt and tarnished nature began to be insufficient for holy living, that by God’s grace the Law was given as an addition to mere nature; and by it “the original lustre was restored to nature after its blush had been impaired.” And so again, after the habit of sinning once more prevailed among men, and “the law became unequal to the task of curing it,” Christ was given, furnishing men with forgiveness of sins, exhortations to imitation of the example and the holy example itself. But though thus a progressive deterioration was confessed, and such a deterioration as rendered desirable at least two supernatural interpositions (in the giving of the law and the coming of Christ), yet no corruption of nature, even by growing habit, is really allowed. It was only an ever-increasing facility in imitating vice which arose from so long a schooling in evil; and all that was needed to rescue men from it was a new explanation of what was right (in the law), or, at the most, the encouragement of forgiveness for what was already done, and a holy example (in Christ) for imitation. Pelagius still asserted our continuous possession of “a free will which is unimpaired for sinning and for not sinning;” and Julian, that “our free will is just as full after sins as it was before sins;” although Augustin does not fail to twit him with a charge of inconsistency.