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Faith, Hope, and Love, 22 - The Two Causes of Sin

By St. Augustine


      CHAPTER XXII. The Two Causes of Sin

      81. I shall now mention what I have often discussed before in other places in my short treatises. [186] We sin from two causes: either from not seeing what we ought to do, or else from not doing what we have already seen we ought to do. Of these two, the first is ignorance of the evil; the second, weakness.

      We must surely fight against both; but we shall as surely be defeated unless we are divinely helped, not only to see what we ought to do, but also, as sound judgment increases, to make our love of righteousness victor over our love of those things because of which-either by desiring to possess them or by fearing to lose them-we fall, open-eyed, into known sin. In this latter case, we are not only sinners-which we are even when we sin through ignorance-but also lawbreakers: for we do not do what we should, and we do what we know already we should not.

      Accordingly, we should pray for pardon if we have sinned, as we do when we say, "Forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors." But we should also pray that God should guide us away from sin, and this we do when we say, "Lead us not into temptation"-and we should make our petitions to Him of whom it is said in the psalm, "The Lord is my light and my salvation" [187] ; that, as Light, he may take away our ignorance, as Salvation, our weakness.

      82. Now, penance itself is often omitted because of weakness, even when in Church custom there is an adequate reason why it should be performed. For shame is the fear of displeasing men, when a man loves their good opinion more than he regards judgment, which would make him humble himself in penitence. Wherefore, not only for one to repent, but also in order that he may be enabled to do so, the mercy of God is prerequisite. Otherwise, the apostle would not say of some men, "In case God giveth them repentance." [188] And, similarly, that Peter might be enabled to weep bitterly, the Evangelist tells, "The Lord looked at him." [189]

      83. But the man who does not believe that sins are forgiven in the Church, who despises so great a bounty of the divine gifts and ends, and persists to his last day in such an obstinacy of mind-that man is guilty of the unpardonable sin against the Holy Spirit, in whom Christ forgiveth sins. [190] I have discussed this difficult question, as clearly as I could, in a little book devoted exclusively to this very point. [191]

      NOTES:

      [186] For example, Contra Faust., XXII, 78; De pecc. meritis et remissione, I, xxxix, 70; ibid., II, xxii, 26; Quaest. in Heptateuch, 4:24; De libero arbitrio, 3:18, 55; De div. quaest., 83:26; De natura et gratia, 67:81; Contra duas ep. Pelag., I:3, 7; I:13:27.

      [187] Ps. 27:1.

      [188] II Tim. 2:25 (mixed text).

      [189] Cf. Luke 22:61.

      [190] Cf. John 20:22, 23.

      [191] This libellus is included in Augustine's Sermons (LXXI, PL, 38, col. 445-467), to which Possidius gave the title De blasphemia in Spiritum Sanctum. English translation in N-PNF, 1st Series, Vol. VI, Sermon XXI, pp. 318-332.

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See Also:
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 1 - The Occasion and Purpose of this Manual
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 2 - The Creed and the Lord's Prayer as Guides
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 3 - God the Creator of All; and the Goodness of All Creation
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 4 - The Problem of Evil
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 5 - The Kinds and Degrees of Error
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 6 - The Problem of Lying
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 7 - Disputed Questions about the Limits of Knowledge and Certainty
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 8 - The Plight of Man After the Fall
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 9 - The Replacement of the Fallen Angels By Elect Men
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 10 - Jesus Christ the Mediator
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 11 - The Incarnation as Example of God's Grace
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 12 - The Role of the Holy Spirit
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 13 - Baptism and Original Sin
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 14 - he Mysteries of Christ's Mediatorial Work and Justification
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 15 - The Holy Spirit and the Church
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 16 - Problems About Heavenly and Earthly Divisions of the Church
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 17 - Forgiveness of Sins in the Church
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 18 - Faith and Works
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 19 - Almsgiving and Forgiveness
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 20 - Spiritual Almsgiving
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 21 - Problems of Casuistry
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 22 - The Two Causes of Sin
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 23 - Reality of the Resurrection
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 24 - Solution to Present Spiritual Enigmas
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 25 - Predestination and the Justice of God
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 26 - Triumph of God's Sovereign Good Will
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 27 - Limits of God's Plan for Human Salvation
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 28 - The Destiny of Man
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 29 - The Last Things
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 30 - The Principles of Christian Living: Faith and Hope
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 31 - Love
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 32 - The End of All the Law
   Faith, Hope, and Love, 33 - Conclusion

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