A Treatise on rebuke and grace,
by aurelius augustin, bishop of hippo;
In One Book,
addressed to valentine, and with him to the monks of adrumetum.
a.d. 426 or 427
In the beginning the writer sets forth what is the Catholic faith concerning law, concerning free will, and concerning grace. He teaches that the grace of God by Jesus Christ is that by which alone men are delivered from evil, and without which they do absolutely no good; and this not only by the fact that it points out what is to be done, but that it also supplies the means of doing it with love, since God bestows on men the inspiration of a good will and deed. He teaches that the rebuke of evil men who have not received this grace is neither unjust—since they are evil by their own will—nor useless, although it must be confessed that it is only by Gods agency that it can avail. That perseverance in good is truly a great gift of God, but that still the rebuke of one who has not persevered must not on that account be neglected; and that if a man who has not received this gift should relapse of his own will into sin, he is not only deserving of rebuke, but if he should continue in evil until his death, he is moreover worthy of eternal damnation. That it is inscrutable why one should receive this gift and another should not receive it. That of those who are predestinated none can perish. And that the perseverance, which all do not receive who are here called children of God, is constantly given to all those who are truly children by Gods foreknowledge and predestination. He answers the question which suggests itself concerning Adam—in what way he sinned by not persevering, since he did not receive perseverance. He shows that such assistance was at the first given to him, as that without it he could not continue if he would, not as that with it it must result that he would. But that now through Christ is given us not only such help as that without it we cannot continue even if we will, but moreover such and so great as that by it we will. He proves that the number of the predestinated, to whom a gift of this kind is appropriated, is certain, and can neither be increased nor p. 472 diminished. And since it is unknown who belongs to that number, and who does not, that medicinal rebuke must be applied to all who sin, lest they should either themselves perish, or be the ruin of others. Finally, he concludes that neither is rebuke prohibited by grace, nor is grace denied by rebuke.