Augustine Refutes the
common grace (psychology) ideas
of Scottish Common Sense Realism
and Pelagianism, and how this relates to
the Heresy of Decisional Regeneration
This is the 2nd of 13 parts
Many modern Calvinists think SAINT AUGUSTINE had a view of salvation similar to their own. But in the eighteenth century, Scottish Common Sense Realism saddled Calvinism with the "verbal restrictive" theory of the Holy Spirit, jettisoning the Calvinist understanding of regeneration as a supernatural change of nature and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
This discussion by Augustine should prove to be a real "eye-opener" for many...in the process of defending the possibility that a Christian might be able to live free from experiential sin, he refutes the Pelagian and Scottish Common Sense Realism view of how people come to God with the ordinary means known as "common grace".
Augustine’s A Treatise on the Spirit And The Letter from His Retractions
Augustine's words are black, comments are in blue.
Augustine refutes the Scottish Common Sense Realism error of regeneration being merely a tipping point in a process of gradual change of the mind by moral persuasion. Scottish Common Sense Realism teaches the “verbal restrictive” theory that limits Holy Spirit activity to moral persuasion by “quickening” scripture truth to the rational mind, while Augustine teaches that the immediate activity of the Holy Spirit is essential to regeneration.
IS REGENERATION A SPECIES CHANGE FROM SOULISH TO SPIRITUAL OR MERELY A CHANGE OF DIRECTION OF THE WILL?Augustine over and over gain makes the point that regeneration is a species change, but in item 10 he swerves temporarily into the possibility that it can also be seen as a change of direction (as long as God is responsible), but quickly returns to the species change arguments
How this work came to be written:
1) Augustine says just because something has not happened, it does not mean it could not happen. Experiential sanctification is supernatural and not merely moral persuasion, and God is not prevented from entirely changing a person’s disposition. But Scottish Common Sense Realists believe God can only change a person’s nature by “truth impressions” on the rational mind, so an entirely pure nature is out of the question. Another way of stating this is a rational mind can never be entirely sin free, while a nature could be. It all depends of whether you have a Biblical view of the nature of man or a Scottish Common Sense Realism view of the nature of man.
Because Scottish Common Sense Realists identify man’s nature entirely with the operations of the mind, and since a mind can never be entirely sin free, a saint can never be entirely sin free. John Witherspoon, who changed the course of American new Light Calvinism in America, defined “sincerity” and “true” as relative terms, since, according to Scottish Common Sense realism, the mind determines what is truth, and God will not change the mind by the immediate activity of the Holy Spirit.
Augustine compares other supernatural possibilities with the possibility that God could make a saint entirely sin free. Augustine can do this because he had a Biblical view of regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy spirit as supernatural, and not merely moral persuasion of the rational mind.
I suppose you would not hesitate to admit that no camel ever passed through a needle's eye, and yet He said that even this was possible with God; you may read, too, that twelve thousand legions 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 children of Israel, and yet that God willed it to be gradually effected. 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 have existed.
2) Augustine identifies how some claim that God is necessary for sanctification, but do so in such a way that limits God to moral persuasion, an a priori basis of Scottish Common Sense Realism’s regeneration.
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.
3) Augustine believes sanctification is by the immediate activity of the Holy Spirit while Scottish Common Sense Realism limits the Holy Spirit to “truth impressions”.
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;" 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 knows 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."
4) Augustine says the immediate activity of the Holy Spirit is necessary for sanctification, something Scottish Common Sense Realism denies. The activity of the Holy Spirit described by Augustine in this section is completely alien to Scottish common Sense Realism. Notice how the Holy Spirit is the immediate force that determines success or failure.
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, 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." …
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.
5) God can do what He wants with man… he has not limited Himself to “truth impressions”; He is not bound by the “verbal restrictive” theory.
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 all things are possible with God, - 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.
6) Knowledge given to an evil concupiense, that is, knowledge given to an unregenerate mind is deadly, furthering our sin. Unless the Holy Spirit supernaturally changes the sinner into a saint and immediately helps the saint, knowledge kills. I like to point out that Paul goes into great detail of how the law kills the rational mind in Romans 7, ending with “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”.
Attend, then, 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," 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.
7) The Jews rationalized that their physical circumcision was evidence of implicit faith in the covenant. Augustine takes the side of Paul saying the only circumcision useful for salvation is circumcision of the heart that is DONE IMMEDIATELY BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. It matters not how the rational mind sees itself…what matters is the condition of the heart. The debate between the Bible Way of salvation and Scottish Common Sense Realism is the same debate Paul had with the Jews. Is salvation merely a tipping point when one sees his obedience to Scripture as implicit faith in God? Is there anything more to salvation than how man sees himself and God? Paul and Augustine say YES!
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" 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;" and to whom it is said, "My praise shall be of Thee:" but those are not such who would have God praised because they are men; but themselves, because they are righteous.
8) Saving faith is a gift of God given immediately by the Holy Spirit.
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 Christ," 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 uponher tongue," - the "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 God" -not 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? Well, then, they come short of the glory of God; now observe what follows: "Being justified freely by His grace." 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…
“The just shall live by faith." 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," 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.
9) The “verbal restrictive” theory limits the Holy Spirit, making regeneration merely the “tipping point” when the mind has had sufficient “truth impressions” to be convinced to begin to serve God over self AND denies the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as an immediate force in the saint. Scottish Common Sense Realism limits God’s grace to helping man with knowledge the same way the Jews limited God grace to helping man with knowledge. But knowledge alone is not sufficient to change the will. The Jews and Scottish Common Sense Realists, in "going about to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God."
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," 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;" - 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 God."
10) Augustine makes a point about saving faith that eliminates confusion. Saving faith is in God, not one’s mental condition. Saving faith always points to the activity of God, not man.
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 in 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, entered in that the offence might abound, 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,"
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." 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."
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." 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." 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?"
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;" 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."
This indeed is the very wisdom which is called piety (holiness in regeneration), in which is worshipped "the Father of lights, from whom is every best giving and perfect gift." 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. 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.
11) Augustine makes a clear distinction between the mind of man and the Spirit of God. A fatal flaw of Scottish Common Sense Realism is the equating of spirit with mind in order to change the meaning of Scriptures that describe salvation as the immediate activity of the Holy Spirit.
"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." 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 not as God, by giving Him thanks. 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.
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 righteousness.
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 free grace.
11) Saving faith is of, by and through the immediate activity of the Holy Spirit, the finger of God. The Holy Spirit writes on the hearts of saints as the finger of God wrote on tablets of stone. The immediate activity of the Holy Spirit in saints is supernatural.
"Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." 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." 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, 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, so, in like manner, from the death and resurrection of Him who was led as a lamb to the slaughter, there were fifty complete days up to the time when the finger of God - that is, the Holy Spirit-gathered together in one perfect company those who believed.
Note: All this means nothing to the Scottish Common Sense Realist because of his “verbal restrictive” theory. For the Scottish Common Sense Realist, Pentecost was just the day a temporary season of miracles was given for the expansion of the church until the “perfect” canon of Scripture was completed, at which time the hearing and reading of Scripture was the only way the Holy Spirit could change minds. The tablets for the Scottish Common Sense Realist correspond to the mind, and the finger of God writing on the tablets correspond to “truth impressions” on the mind…BUT THOSE “TRUTH IMPRESSIONS” COME ONLY BY HEARING OR READING SCRIPTURE…NO CHANGE OF NATURE NEEDED, OR MORE ACCURATELY PUT, THE CHANGE IN THE MIND IS THE CHANGE OF NATURE. This was the psychological view of salvation that replaced the Biblical view of “ye must be born again”.
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." God's law, therefore, is love. "To it the carnal mind is not subject, neither indeed can be;" 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 loves.
The Scottish Common Sense Realist does not believe the Holy Spirit immediately sheds love in hearts. Rather the Holy Spirit is limited to “quickening scripture” to the heart, and when a Scottish Common Sense Realist says “heart”, they mean the “higher rational mind”. Regeneration is not a supernatural change of heart as Scripture says, but merely a mind that has reached a 51% “tipping point” of being convinced that it is best, considering the “truth impressions” received, to serve God over self.
Now, observe how consonant this diversity is with those words of the apostle which I quoted not long ago in another connection, and which I 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." 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, -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," 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."
The Scottish Common Sense Realist does not understand what Augustine is saying. For Augustine, “the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life" means the Holy Spirit IS the Person that gives life immediately to the saint, which IS New Testament salvation. For the Scottish Common Sense Realist, the agent of life IS scripture helped by the Holy Spirit as a mere influence. Scottish Common Sense Realists have made scripture the ONLY medium by which the Holy Spirit can change the mind. When they replaced faith in the Lord Jesus Christ with faith in the facts of scripture as the causa sine qua non of salvation, they set the stage for the heresy of decisional regeneration.
Now, since, as he says in another passage, "the law was added because of transgression," meaning the law which is written externally to man, he therefore designates it both as "the ministration of death," and "the ministration of condemnation;" but the other, that is, the law of the New Testament, he calls "the ministration of the Spirit" and "the ministration of righteousness," because through the Spirit we work righteousness, and are delivered from the condemnation due to transgression.
Note: Scottish Common Sense Realists believe the ONLY way “through the Spirit we work righteousness” is by the Holy Spirit gradually changing the mind until it reaches a “tipping point” when it is convinced to serve God over self.
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 liberty." 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." 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." 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."
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."
Note: The Holy Spirit is IN the saint immediately. To say the only way the Holy Spirit has influence is in changing the mind gradually is a repudiation of the New Testament.
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;" - 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;" and after a little he thus briefly draws the conclusion of the matter: "That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." This is not the righteousness whereby God is Himself righteous, but that whereby we are made righteous by Him.
Note: Remember the purpose of this discourse was to argue that sinless living was possible for the saint. For Augustine, “we are made righteous by Him” is limitless because saints are changed by supernatural regeneration, and continue to be changed in a synergistic way in sanctification by the immediate activity of the Holy Spirit. For the Scottish Common Sense Realist “we are made righteous by Him” just means having the rational mind changed gradually until it reaches a “tipping point”, so since there is always going to be some sin left in the rational mind, sinless living is impossible.
For Augustine, "this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us" means sinless living is possible because the earthen vessel is NOT the determining factor. For the Scottish Common Sense Realist, the earthen pot IS the determining factor.
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 say 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.
Note: “But when the life-giving spirit is present, the law causes that to be loved as written within” makes no sense if the Holy spirit does not work in the saint immediately.
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."
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 the new.
Note: Scottish Common Sense Realism was promoted by a state church (church of Scotland), the Presbyterian Church. State churches have a metaphysical view of regeneration tied to infant baptism that requires everyone who is baptized as an infant to be enrolled in a process of education called catechism, and after this education, the candidate prays a prayer of consecration similar to the Puritan “owning the covenant”.
Salvation by “Owning the covenant” without experiential regeneration was condemned by Luther and Calvin as “implicit faith” in the Catholic Church. But by the seventeenth century, the Protestant state churches had evolved to the point that Whitefield and Wesley were locked out for telling people who assumed they were saved under the catechumen system that they must be experientially born again to be saved.
Augustine clearly delineates the difference between the Old and New Testament as the supernatural activity of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, thus eliminating the confidence in the catechumen system.
After saying, "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."
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." 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?" 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."
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 Judah," - and 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."
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 not covet," is fulfilled by the New Testament? "Because," says the prophet, "they continued not in my covenant, I have also rejected them, saith the Lord." 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." 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," because "not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God." 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."
Note: Scottish Common Sense realists believe the “verbal restrictive” theory of the Holy Spirit.
They do not believe that the Holy Spirit changes the nature of the heart by supernatural regeneration and do not believe the Holy Spirit indwells the saint except in a poetic or figurative sense.
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, and the end of the commandment? 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 certain meats, 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," "and whatsoever other commandment is briefly comprehended in the saying, Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself."
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," - 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.
He then went on to state the reward: "I will be their God, and they shall be my people." This corresponds to the Psalmist's words to God: "It is good for me to hold me fast by God." "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? Of this life the Lord Himself speaks in these words: "This is life eternal that they may know Thee the only true God, land Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent," - that 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" - 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." Then also shall" the wicked go into everlasting punishment, and the righteous into life eternal." Now this eternal life, as I have just mentioned, has been defined to be, that they may know the one true God. 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." 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.
But what is this change, and how great, in comparison 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 childish things." 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."
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." 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," 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?"
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," 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 Himself?
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 eider shall serve the younger." 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," 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.
"They shall all know me," He says,-"All," the house of Israel and house of Judah. "All," however, "are not Israel which are of Israel," but they only to whom it is said in "the psalm concerning the morning aid" (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." 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. "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."
"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 thee the father of many nations." 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.
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," -even that imperfect knowledge of "the child" in which this present life is passed, and which is but "in part," "by means of a mirror darkly."
Note: Augustine did not see “the perfect” as the completion of the canon of Scripture. He did not believe the “verbal restrictive” theory of the Holy Spirit. He believed in the necessity of supernatural regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
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," 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; then shall we be like Him, because "we shall then know, even as we are known;" 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."
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. 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. 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.
Note: The Holy Spirit within the saint is the “earnest” of the Blessed Hope. The earthen vessels have not been changed completely, but the change to come is seen darkly. “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:4-5).
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. their hearts, 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 heart;" 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, but God Himself, "to whom it is good to hold fast," 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." By the law of works, then, the Lord says, "Thou shalt not covet: "but by the law of faith He says, "Without me ye can do nothing;" for He was treating of good works, even the fruit of the vine-branches. It is therefore apparent what difference 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.
Note: The life–giving Holy Spirit does more than what is allowed by the “verbal restrictive” theory.
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," is by externally addressing to our faculties precepts of holiness; for He gives His increase internally, by shedding love abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given to us."
Romans 5:5: “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us”.
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 hearts," 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, 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?"
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." 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 thankful. 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."
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," 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." 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;" 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.
Note: Augustine believes these gentiles are regenerated and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
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, and since it is not the hearers of the law, but the doers thereof, that are justified, 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 short of the glory of God: being justified freely by His grace." How then could he say that any Gentile person, who was a doer of the law, was justified without the Saviour's grace?
Now he could not mean to contradict himself in saying, "The doers of the law shall be justified," 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 law, 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 grace." But the statement that "the doers of the law shall be justified " 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.
Note: God creates new men supernaturally.
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," - 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; " 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.
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, intended those to be understood who believed in Christ,
Note: It should be remembered that Augustine is refuting the Pelagian idea that unregenerate man, with only common grace, can come to God. If he allows that unregenerate man does with an unregenerate nature the things contained in the law, he undermines his argument.
- 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 hearts, inasmuch as they too, by the grafting which he says had been made of the wild olive, belong to the self-same olive-tree, -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. 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," 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," 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."
Now what the apostle attributed to Gentiles of this character,-how that "they have the work of the law written in their hearts;" must be some such thing as what he says to the Corinthians: "not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart." 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 excision 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?" And therefore in the house of the true Israel, in which is no guile, 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 love which is the" fulfilling of the law."
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.
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." Therefore it is by nature that men do the things which are contained in the law; 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;" wherefore "there is no difference: they all come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace." 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."
Note: Augustine now considers a different interpretation of Romans 1… that the gentiles “do by nature” refers to a damaged, but not completely corrupt, fallen nature. He must still refute the Pelagian idea that fallen man can come to God with only common grace, but he allows that they can still see truth, and act according to that truth.
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.
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," 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," 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." 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 a ransom for all."
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," of what use will be their "excusing thoughts" to them "in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men," 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,
Note: Venial sins were not mortal sins. Mortal sins were sins that caused one to go to hell. Venial sins would be those unrepented sins when one dies that would not prevent one from going to heaven.
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, so likewise, in the condemnation of everlasting punishment, it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that other city; whilst some men will be twofold more the children of hell than others. 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.
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," -immediately afterwards speaking of them "which, having not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law," 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," and had afterwards said that "God is not the God of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles," -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. This is the gift of the Holy Ghost, by which love is shed abroad in our hearts, -not, indeed, any kind of love, but the love of God, "out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and an unfeigned faith," 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. 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.
Note: Augustine sums up the section saying whether unregenerate man has “no good” within him, or has a residual “goodness, without being good”, in order to be saved with new testament salvation, the heart of unregenerate man must be supernaturally changed by the gift of the Holy Spirit, or as modern theology puts it, “ye must be born again” and be indwelt by that same Spirit. This is a different view than that of Scottish Common Sense Realism, that does not believe in supernatural change by the Holy Spirit and does not believe in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Let no man therefore boast of that which he seems to possess, as if he had not received it; 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 vain." 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, 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.
Note: having proven that unregenerate man must be saved by the gift of the Holy Spirit, Augustine goes on to define the many meanings of faith in scripture.
"For it is one God which justifies the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith;" 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;" 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." Observe, he says that both the uncircumcision are justified by faith, 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 by faith, -by 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 works -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." And hereby "they stumbled at the stumbling-stone." For what he said, "not by faith, but as it were by works," 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 believeth."
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?"
Note: Augustine has equated “the help and gift of God” with “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;" because, as the apostle says, Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness." 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," 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 believeth."
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."
Note: Augustine has categorically said that saving faith is the help and gift of God in the Holy Spirit, without which the saint can do nothing. This salvation is a different species of salvation than the psychological “tipping point” salvation of Scottish Common Sense Realism.
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."
As far as he is saved, so far is he righteous.
Note: New Testament salvation is an all or nothing gift of the Holy Spirit – it not just a psychological tipping point.
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 of life."
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 saved." "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!" 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.
Note: having clearly said numerous times that salvation by faith is the gift of Holy Spirit in regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Augustine is not now contradicting himself. Augustine refers to Law Works driving unregenerate man to the point of despair before regeneration. “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” is a soul changed by supernatural regeneration, not merely moral persuasion.
In this manner it is that the great abundance of His sweetness,- that 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.
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 established. 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.
Note: Supernatural regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the grace that “cures the will whereby righteousness is freely loved”. Augustine now places saving faith, saving grace, spiritual health, a free will that is good, and love of righteousness in the saved by supernatural regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit category. Free will is only free in those that experience "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" and "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed".
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." Faith says: "Heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee." Grace says: "Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee." Health says: "O Lord my God, I cried unto Thee, and Thou hast healed me." Free will says: "I will freely sacrifice unto Thee." Love of righteousness says: "Transgressors told me pleasant tales, but not according to Thy law, O Lord." 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 liberty."
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. 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;" and "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed?"
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. 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.
Note: Augustine is speaking of disposition, not cause and effect. A cat could probably be forced to make a barking sound, but that would not make the cat into a dog. The post-modern reader may have a difficult time understanding Augustine because he has not been educated to see different species as having different dispositions. If the modern reader can apply his understanding of the disposition of a dog that makes the dog act like a dog and the disposition of a cat that makes the cat act like a cat, he can understand Augustine’s starting point when discussing sinners that gave a corrupt heart ruled by the old man versus saints that have a regenerated heart ruled by the new man.
Ephesians 4:22-24: “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness”.
Colossians 3:9-10: “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him”.
The new man is NOT merely a psychological phenomenon. Only God can create a new man. Being born again is NOT merely a psychological phenomenon. Born again is born of the Holy Spirit. God determines when and under what circumstances a person is born again. Believing facts in the Bible is not being born again.
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 dislikes.
Note: In the same way a barking cat is not a dog, a sinner that does good works is not a saint. The most extreme example of this is in 1 Corinthians 13:2-3: “though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
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. 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."
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 righteousness." And again, "To him that believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."
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 from God," what reason then is there why it may not be said to us even of this: "What hast thou which thou hast not received?" -for it is God who gave us even to believe.
Note: Augustine now zeros in on why God is not responsible for sin even as He IS responsible for saving faith.
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.
Note: the word “volition” is the Latin word for “will”. Will is the desire or motivation of the heart that causes . The motivation of an unregenerate heart is to do evil even if it has been stopped from doing evil, it is still evil.
But when the evil volition receives ability to accomplish its intention, this proceeds from the judgment of God, with whom there is no unrighteousness. 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." Accordingly, the Lord also said to Pilate: "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above." 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. 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.
Note: Not all faith is saving faith
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 of God." Nor must the clause in commendation of love, that it "believeth all things," 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 God.
Note: But is all belief in God saving belief? Augustine makes the distinction by pointing out saving faith is motivated by love from a regenerate heart while common faith is motivated by fear from an unregenerate heart. Remember he said earlier that a disposition that is forced to do something is not doing it willingly. Fear forces unregenerate hearts to do things they do not want to do.
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 which 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."
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; since there is "one God, which justifieth the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith." 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?" 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;" 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, 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?" When, therefore, that strength of sin, the law, inflamed the sting of death, even sin, to take occasion and by the commandment work all manner of concupiscence in them, of whom were they to ask for the gift of continence but of Him who knows how to give good gifts to His children?
Note: The Holy Spirit is the gift that changes the unregenerate heart into a regenerate heart that is motivated by love of God with saving faith.
Luke 11:9-13: “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”
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. 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; " 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? "
This is the faith by which the just man lives; this is the faith whereby he believes on Him who justifies the ungodly; this is the faith through which boasting is excluded, 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 faith."
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, 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."
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." This, in short, is the faith which works not by fear, but by love; 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.
Note: Augustine saw New Testament salvation as supernatural regeneration by the Holy Spirit and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. A heart changed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit is not merely a mind which has had sufficient “truth impressions” to reach a 51% tipping point to begin serving God over self. The gift of the Holy Spirit is real, not a figurative way of explaining a psychological change of mind.
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" is used in the sense of our being made righteous by His gift; and "the salvation of the Lord," in that we are saved by Him; and "the faith of Jesus Christ," 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.
Note: Here is a systematic examination of the claims of Pelagius and Augustine’s rebuttal. It important to understand that Pelagius believed man is born with a spirit that is innocent while his soul is corrupted (or can be corrupted because it has the disposition to be corrupt) by original sin. The Western Christian Church, in large part because of the fleshing out of salvation theology between Pelagius and Augustine, adopted the view that man is born with a spirit that is inexorably tied to the soul, and as such, the spirit of man is also corrupted (or can be corrupted because it had the disposition to be corrupt) by virtue of original sin. This distinction between the East and West Christian church is today described in terms of bi-part man in the West and tri-part man in the East.
1) Is free will and common grace all that is necessary for man to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in a saving way, or is the will that produces saving faith a gift of God?
A gift is axiomatic something not deserved. If it is not deserved, in what way does God determine who to give the gift to? Another significant fact is the gift is not salvation by any means, but salvation in, by and through the gift of the Holy Spirit. If someone understands the gift as coming as the person of God, “believing in the Lord Jesus Christ” is not just having your ticket stamped “saved”, but a marriage by which the saint become one spirit with God (1 Corinthians 6:17).
Galatians 5:22-25: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit”.
Augustine defines saving grace as God’s work in regeneration that changes the disposition of the soul from faith motivated by the fear of God to faith motivated by the love of God “to will and to do of His own good pleasure”... that is, a change of disposition of the soul and spirit (because, according to the bi-part theory, the spirit is inexorably tied to the soul) by the creation of the New Man. "It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His own good pleasure," 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.
But it remains for us briefly to inquire,
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. 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." He therefore will be guilty unto condemnation under God's power, who shall think too contemptuously of His mercy to believe in Him.
8) 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 them 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 understand.
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 things." 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;" 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; because 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; whilst also another law in our members wars against the law of our mind; whilst to will is present indeed to us but not how to perform that which is good.
Note: Augustine is endorsing the view that Paul in the seventh chapter of Romans is speaking of a regenerate man, since the “will is present” to serve God out of love and not out of fear. His comment, “this is effected by the believer” indicates Augustine’s belief that the struggle of conscience in the seventh chapter of Romans is that of a regenerate believer between his flesh and spirit, and the solution to that struggle in chapter 8 is synergistic cooperation with the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Paul sums the problem of Romans 7: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:24-25). It sound like he endorsing Gnostic idea of the spirit of man being holy while the flesh of man is evil (and never the two shall meet) that Paul condemned in Romans 6: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid”.
Paul uses a rhetorical device at the beginning of Romans 6 and the same rhetorical device at the end of Romans 7. He shocks the reader into paying attention... so he can provide a new solution to the problem. In Romans 6, the solution is regenerate believers are dead to sin, as symbolized in baptism, whereby the old man dies under the water and the new man comes up filled with the Holy Spirit. But Paul holds off talking about the Holy Spirit so he can flesh out the problem of the struggle of the residual old man and the new man all through Romans 7.
Romans 6:4 gives us a categorical statement without explaining how the regenerate believer walks in newness of life: “Therefore we are 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” does not tell us the way of the newness of life, just that we have newness of life after baptism.
The 15 explanations of the newness of life will have to wait till Romans 8. First Paul must fully explain 13 ways the problem of the residual Old Man fighting with the rational mind of the regenerate believer in Romans 7:
In Romans 8, the solution comes as 15 things the indwelling Holy Spirit does in the regenerate believer.
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them…, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Scottish Common Sense Realism does not allow for the immediate activity and indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer except in a poetic sense. The “verbal restrictive” theory limits the activity of the Holy Spirit to “truth impressions” on the rational mind and “quickening scripture to the heart”. For that reason, Scottish Common Sense Realism ignores the lessons of Romans 8 in favor of a gradual change of mind, something the Apostle Paul says happens as well, but in addition to , and not instead of the immediate activity of the Holy Spirit.
The problems of Romans 7 could never be solved without the immediate activity of the Holy Spirit, because the rational mind is not able to fight the old man without the immediate activity of the Holy Spirit. That is the main reason Scottish Common Sense realism is DEAD WRONG. It was this error that led to the BIST system which replaced the BEST system after the American Civil War.
The BIST system presumes the FALSE HOPE that the rational mind can overcome the old man without the immediate activity of the Holy Spirit. This false hope has been the undoing of Evangelical salvation. The BIST system holds that if a seeker agreed to the truth of Scripture, they possessed saving faith. This false hope became the reason Billy Sunday eliminated the Inquiry Room altogether because he reasoned that if people came forward in altar calls because they believed salvation scriptures, there was no more need for Inquiry Rooms.
The BEST (Biblical Evidence of Salvation Test) system looked for evidence of supernatural regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, so there would never be a reason to eliminate Inquiry Rooms. But the BIST (Belief In Scripture Test) system tried to get seekers to agree with salvation scriptures, even having them read the words of scriptures three times so they could experience a “Eureka!” moment when they supposedly “realized” the scripture applied to them, thought to be evidence of saving faith.
In 1812, most New Light Calvinist evangelists were Hopkinsians, but after 1813 (when the Presbyterian Princeton Theological Seminary was started), disciples of Scottish Common Sense Realism gradually replaced Hopkinsian and Bellamite ministers as the leading evangelists (Beecher and Nettleton were Hopkinsians, Finney was educated in Scottish Common Sense Realism). By the Civil War, the BIST system was used mostly by Presbyterian ministers (Finney was ordained as a Presbyterian), but many ministers of other denominations, including Congregationalist D. L. Moody were affected.
Moody used BIST system on church people who were unsure of their salvation and the BEST system with everyone else. But the BIST system work much better than the BEST system with the post-Civil War zeitgeist.
The North saw itself as the rational mind trusting scripture overcoming the superstitious South that trusted in the sovereignty of God of the South…psychology was replacing the Biblical view of man… evangelists gradually accepted the FALSE HOPE that the rational mind could overcome the old man without the immediate activity of the Holy Spirit, or put another way, regeneration was increasingly seen as merely a change of mind towards the truths of Scripture.
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. "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." There will, however, be also "judgment without mercy;" but it will be for him" that hath not showed mercy." But "blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy" 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, because He says: "This is life eternal, that they may know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent."
9) 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." 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 recompenses; nor does it, in ignorance of God's righteousness, wish to set up one of its own; but it believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, and until it arrives at sight, it lives by faith,-even the faith which works by love. 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 us.
10) 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?" 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;
Note: This is the closest Augustine gets to endorsing the Scottish Common Sense Realism view of regeneration. I believe he is merely giving the reader a way of seeing regeneration as a gift, even if the gift was merely by giving the corrupted nature the will to start heading in the right direction. THE ONLY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THIS THEORY AND THAT OF PELAGIUS IS A MATTER OF ACKNOWLEDGING THE CHANGE OF THE WILL BEING BY GRACE NOT AVAILABLE IN NATURAL MAN.
This grace provides a forensic or legal a priori basis, without any reference to a species difference between natural and supernatural, soulish and spiritual. This de facto basis of grace would become the reason Scottish Common Sense Realism was not identified as heresy the way Locke’s “bare faith” salvation was identified as heresy. Has Locke stated that his “bare faith” could not come from natural man, he would have avoided the charge of heresy.
Scottish Common Sense Realsim uses the “truth impression” and the “quickening scripture to the heart” as their forensic grace basis while jettisoning the Biblical view of saving grace being a different species than common grace.
Augustine will not stay in this conciliatory tone for long. He will return to saving grace being a different species than common grace in the arguments that follow.
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?" 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 persuaded 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!" and "Is there unrighteousness with God?" If the man is displeased with such an answer, he must seek more learned disputants; but let him beware lest he find presumptuous ones.