I was myself so entangled and constrained by the very many errors of my former life that I could not believe it possible for me to escape from them, so much was I subservient to the faults which clung to me; and in despair of improvement I cherished these evils of mine as if they had been my dearest possessions.
But when the stain of my earlier life had been washed away by the help of the water of birth, and light from above had poured down upon my heart, now cleansed and purified; when I had drunk the Spirit from heaven, and the second birth had restored me so as to make me a new man; then straightway in a marvellous manner doubts began to be resolved, closed doors to open, dark places to grow light; what before had seemed difficult was now easy, what I had thought impossible was now capable of accomplishment.
So that I could now see that what had been born after the flesh and lived at the mercy of sin belonged to the earth, while that which the Holy Spirit was enlivening had begun to belong to God. You know, to be sure, and are as aware as I am of all that this death of sin and new life of virtue has removed from us, and all that it has conferred upon us.
You yourself know, and I do not hold forth about it. Boasting directed to one’s own praise is odious; and yet it may be a sign of gratitude rather than boasting if it is proclaimed as due to the gift of God and not ascribed to a man’s virtue, so that freedom from sin is derived from God, the former sin from human error.
All our power for good is derived from God. From God, I say; for he is the source of our life and our strength; from him we gain vitality so that in our present position we recognise beforehand the signs of things that are to come.
Only let fear be the guardian of innocence, so that the Lord, who in his kindness has streamed into our minds with the inflowing of his heavenly mercy, may through righteous activity be retained as a guest of the soul that delights in him, lest the security we have received should produce heedlessness and the old enemy creep in unawares once more.