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Enchiridion On Faith, Hope and Love
by Saint 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

181Matt. 5:22, 23.

182Gal. 4:11 (Vulgate).

183Ps. 10:3 (Vulgate).

184Isa. 5:7 (LXX).

185Gen. 18:20 (Vulgate with one change).

186For 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.


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









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