Tuesday, February 9, 2010

St. Augustine and the merit of human works

I have often appealed to St. Augustine’s teaching that when God rewards us, he is rewarding what he has given us. The point of course is that the Christian life is a life of grace, even with regard to the obedience that we offer to God. But the Doctor does not say this to the exclusion of the fact that our works are also our own, and that our good deeds merit reward no less than our sins merit punishment.

When we take pity upon a man and care for him, it is for his advantage we do so; but somehow or other our own advantage follows by a sort of natural consequence, for God does not leave the mercy we show to him who needs it to go without reward. Now this is our highest reward, that we should fully enjoy Him, and that all who enjoy Him should enjoy one another in Him. [On Christian Doctrine, I.32; emphasis added]

So we see once again that St. Augustine was not some sort of proto-neo-crypto-quasi-Protestant. Protestants (generally) deny that the good works of Christians merit reward, an error that Trent rightly condemns. But St. Augustine affirms that our works will receive a reward. He was a Catholic.

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