After having set aside in the former books the calumnies hurled against the Catholics, Augustin here proceeds to open up the snares which lie hidden in the remaining part of the second epistle of the Pelagians, in the five heads of their doctrine—in the praise, to wit, of the creature, the praise of marriage, the praise of the law, the praise of free will, and the praise of the saints; in connection with which heads the Pelagians malignantly boast that they are at issue not more with the Manicheans than with the Catholics. Hence these five points may bring us back to this, that they put forward their threefold error—namely, the two first, the denial of original sin; the two following, the assertion that grace is given according to merits; the fifth, their statement that the saints had not sinned in this life. Augustin shows that both heresies, that of the Manicheans and that of the Pelagians, are opposed and equally odious to the Catholic faith, whereby we profess, first, that the nature created by a good God was good, but that, nevertheless, it is in need of a Saviour because of original sin, which passed into all men from the transgression of the first man: then secondly, that marriage is good, truly instituted by God, but that that concupiscence is evil which was associated with marriage by sin: also thirdly that the law of God is good, but in such wise as only to manifest sin, not to take it away: that fourthly free will is assuredly inherent in the nature of man, but that now, however, it is so enslaved that it does not avail to the doing of righteousness, unless when it shall have been made free by grace: but that fifthly the saints, whether of the Old or New Testament, were indeed endued with a righteousness, which was true but not perfect, nor so full that they should be free from all sin. In conclusion, he brings forward the testimonies of Cyprian and Ambrose on behalf of the Catholic faith, some concerning original sin, others about the assistance of grace, and the last concerning the imperfection of present righteousness.
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