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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Predestination of the...: Chapter 8

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 8 [IV.]—What Augustin Wrote to Simplicianus, the Successor of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan.

You see plainly what was at that time my opinion concerning faith and works, although I was labouring in commending God’s grace; and in this opinion I see that those brethren of ours now are, because they have not been as careful to make progress with me in my writings as they were in reading them. For if they had been so careful, they would have found that question solved in accordance with the truth of the divine Scriptures in the first book of the two which I wrote in the very beginning of my episcopate to Simplicianus, of blessed memory, Bishop of the Church of Milan, and successor to St. Ambrose. Unless, perchance, they may not have known these books; in which case, take care that they do know them. Of this first of those two books, I first spoke in the second book of the Retractations; and what I said is as follows: “Of the books, I say, on which, as a bishop, I have laboured, the first two are addressed to Simplicianus, president of the Church of Milan, who succeeded the most blessed Ambrose, concerning divers questions, two of which I gathered into the first book from the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans. The former of them is about what is written: ‘What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? By no means;’ 3441 as far as the passage where he says, ‘Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The p. 502 grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ 3442 And therein I have expounded those words of the apostle: ‘The law is spiritual; but I am carnal,’ 3443 and others in which the flesh is declared to be in conflict against the Spirit in such a way as if a man were there described as still under law, and not yet established under grace. For, long afterwards, I perceived that those words might even be (and probably were) the utterance of a spiritual man. The latter question in this book is gathered from that passage where the apostle says, ‘And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one act of intercourse, even by our father Isaac,’ 3444 as far as that place where he says, ‘Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we should be as Sodoma, and should have been like unto Gomorrah.’ 3445 In the solution of this question I laboured indeed on behalf of the free choice of the human will, but God’s grace overcame, and I could only reach that point where the apostle is perceived to have said with the most evident truth, ‘For who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou hast not received? Now, if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou receivedst it not?’ 3446 And this the martyr Cyprian was also desirous of setting forth when he compressed the whole of it in that title: ‘That we must boast in nothing, since nothing is our own.’” 3447 This is why I previously said that it was chiefly by this apostolic testimony that I myself had been convinced, when I thought otherwise concerning this matter; and this God revealed to me as I sought to solve this question when I was writing, as I said, to the Bishop Simplicianus. This testimony, therefore, of the apostle, when for the sake of repressing man’s conceit he said, “For what hast thou which thou hast not received?” 3448 does not allow any believer to say, I have faith which I received not. All the arrogance of this answer is absolutely repressed by these apostolic words. Moreover, it cannot even be said, “Although I have not a perfected faith, yet I have its beginning, whereby I first of all believed in Christ.” Because here also is answered: “But what hast thou that thou hast not received? Now, if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou receivedst it not?”



Rom. vii. 7.


Rom. vii. 24.


Rom. vii. 14.


Rom. ix. 10.


Rom. ix. 29.


1 Cor. iv. 7.


Cypr. Test. Book iii. ch. 4; see The Ante-Nicene Fathers, p 528. Augustin’s Retractations, II. i. 1.


1 Cor. iv. 7.

Next: Chapter 9

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