The GOSPEL TRUTH
AN HISTORICAL PRESENTATION OF
AUGUSTINISM AND PELAGIANISM
G. F. WIGGERS, D. D.
CHAPTER XIX: View of the Augustinian and Pelagian systems, in their main features.
I. INFANT BAPTISM.
Aug. The baptism of infants as well as of adults, is for the forgiveness of sin. Children have, indeed, committed no actual sins, yet, by original sin, they are under the power of the devil, from which they are freed by baptism. Hence Christian children who die before baptism, no more escape positive punishment in the future life, than do all who are not Christians.
Pel. The baptism of children takes place, in order to their receiving the benefits of Christianity, and particularly to procure for them the salvation of Christians. Even without baptism, they may obtain salvation in general (salus); but baptism is the necessary condition to the salvation of Christians, or the kingdom of heaven. But by no means is the forgiveness of original sin the object of baptism.
II. ORIGINAL SIN.
Aug. By Adam's sin, in whom all men jointly sinned together, sin and the other positive punishments of Adam's sin, came into the world. By it, human nature has been both physically and morally corrupted. Every man brings into the world with him a nature already so corrupt, that he can do nothing but sin. The propagation of this quality of his nature, is by concupiscence.
Pel. By his transgression, Adam injured only himself, not his posterity. In respect to his moral nature, every man is born in precisely the same condition in which Adam was created. There is therefore no original sin.
Aug. By Adam's transgression, the freedom of the human will has been entirely lost. In his present corrupt state, man can will and do only evil.
Pel. Man's will is free. Every man has the power to will and to do good, as well as the opposite. Hence it depends on himself, whether he will be good or evil.
Aug. If, nevertheless, man, in his present state, wills and does good, it is merely the work of grace. It is an inward, secret, and wonderful operation of God upon man. It is a preceding as well as an accompanying work. By preceding grace, man attains faith, by which he comes to an insight of good, and by which power is given him to will the good. He needs cooperating grace for the performance of every individual good act. As man can do nothing without grace, so he can do nothing against it. It is irresistible. And as man by nature has no merit at all, no respect at all can be had to man's moral disposition, in imparting grace, but God acts according to his own freewill.
Pel. Although by freewill, which is a gift of God, man has the capacity of willing and doing good, without God's special aid, yet, for the easier performance of it. God revealed the law; for the easier performance, the instruction and example of Christ aid him; and for the easier performance, even the supernatural operations of grace fire imparted to him. Grace, in the most limited sense (gracious influence), is given to those only who deserve it by the faithful employment of their own powers. But man can resist it.
V. PREDESTINATION AND REDEMPTION.
Aug. From eternity, God made a free and unconditional decree to save a few from the mass that was corrupted and subjected to damnation. To those whom he predestinated to this salvation, he gives the requisite means for the purpose. But on the rest, who to not belong to this small number of the elect, the merited ruin falls. Christ came into the world and died for the elect only.
Pel. God's decree of election and reprobation, is founded on prescience. Those, of whom God foresaw that they would keep his commands, he predestinated to salvation; the others to damnation. Christ's redemption is general. But those only need his atoning death, which have actually sinned. All, however, by his instruction and example, may be led to higher perfection and virtue.
These were the grand principles in the systems of Augustine and the Pelagians. We cannot but perceive the great consistency of each system. If one doctrine is adopted, all the doctrines must be adopted; for they stand in indissoluble connection. In Augustine's system, the doctrine of original sin is to be regarded as peculiarly the central point, from which his doctrines of grace and predestination necessarily spring. Predestination forms as it were the keystone of the structure, from which the theory of redemption may be regarded as a corollary. The doctrine of Pelagius, too, is distinguished for its consistency, or, as I have not undesignedly expressed it, the Pelagian doctrine, since several opinions, which incontrovertibly lie in the grand principles of Pelagius, cannot he historically exhibited as announced by him, though Caelestius and other Pelagians expressly acknowledged them.
As man is not by nature corrupt, but finds himself in the same state in which Adam was created, he needs no special grace in order to be saved. It is not, however, inconsistent with this, that he may thereby obtain a higher degree of morality, and consequently a higher degree of felicity.
By this system, redemption must be general, and acquire a more comprehensive import than it could have according to Augustine's assumption, which always confined it to the elect few. And even these, according to Augustine's view, not the bare example and doctrine of Jesus could ever induce to good, if the irresistible inworking of divine grace was not added for each individual act.
Predestination, according to the doctrine of Pelagius, acquired a better import, as not casting the holiness and justice of God into the shade, and also not impairing the freedom of man. By predestination founded on foreknowledge, it depends on man, how he shall act; and God can by no means be charged with injustice, when he suffers the consequences of transgression to fall on him who does not act according to the moral law.
If we justly acknowledge the consistency of the Augustinian system, particularly as it is displayed and developed in the later anti-pelagian works, yet we cannot thereby maintain the consistency of Augustine himself. He sometimes departed, as we have seen, from his own principles, as set forth in his theory, when applying them to practice. So strove his just moral sense to lead to life again, where an austere theory of the school stood in contradiction to it.
But the question now arises, how Augustine and Pelagius endeavored to prove their opinions, or what were the grounds on which they relied. By the consistency of each system, the question turns mainly on the reasons by which each justified the main position on which his other opinions rested, or from which they could be derived as consequences. And these positions were, with Augustine, the doctrine of original sin; and with Pelagius, that of the uncorrupted state of human nature.
[We may, however, with perhaps equal propriety, affirm the doctrine of gracious influences to lie at the foundation of each system. For if not the first in the order of philosophical speculation when reasoning from cause to effect, yet it is first when reasoning from effect to cause. And in all probability, it is the first, in the order of time, that is established in a large majority of minds, and the one from which they are respectively led to their conclusions on the other kindred topics. Thus one man first becomes convinced, from the Bible or from self-inspection and effort, that he is dependent on the direct agency of God for a change of heart and for the work of righteousness, and is hence prepared to adopt strong views of original depravity; while another comes to a different conclusion in respect to his moral dependence, and is thence led to adopt different views of man's native state. And surely the doctrine of gracious influences, or man's need of them, is the more immediately practical point. It is here that the two systems are found in the most frequent and severe collision, and put themselves forth in the most tangible results, both in the style of preaching and the modes of religious action. TR.]
The reasons which each employed, were partly philosophical and partly derived from the Bible. On the latter, and particularly on Paul's epistle to the Romans, Augustine chiefly relied to prove the main position of his whole system, the doctrine of original sin.
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